Ben George the new chef at Siena Tuscan Steakhouse

Ben George, right, competing in a local chef competition

Ben George, right, competing in a local chef competition

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, the restaurant inside the Ambassador Hotel at 104 S. Broadway,  has hired a chef to replace Marshall Roth, who left the restaurant earlier this month.

And the new chef’s face is familiar to Wichita foodies.

It’s Ben George, who most recently worked as the executive chef of Treat America at Beech Activity Center. Before that, he was at Tallgrass Country Club, and he also has worked at The Anchor. (Interesting trivia: George was in the running for the Siena job when the restaurant first opened. When the restaurant hired Roth, George took his old job at Treat America.)

George, famous for the magic he works with smoked pork and for his willingness to participate in all the various chef competitions around town, said he is planning major overhauls of the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. He’ll make the changes in about a month, he said, and he’ll focus on the type of food Wichitans wants at prices they want to pay.

Stay tuned for news on the new menus.

Fresh bread at Siena, Ambassador

Fresh loaves made by Siena's new bread man.

Fresh loaves made by Siena’s new bread man.

When Chef Marshall Roth crunched the numbers, he liked what he saw.

He could continue to supply his Siena Tuscan Steakhouse and the Ambassador Hotel with high-end bread ordered from La Brea Bakery in California. Or he could hire the man standing in his kitchen, experienced bread man Nicholas Maya, to make the bread fresh daily.

Roth picked Maya and realized in the process that he’d save money.

Maya now is baking dozens of loaves daily for Roth to serve throughout the  hotel. He’s making a sun dried tomato roasted garlic loaf, black olive table bread, brioche for French toast and bread pudding and ciabatta rolls for sandwiches. Roth plans to put him on dinner roll duty soon, too.

Roth said he’d be willing to sell loaves to customers to take home, though he’s working on a pricing structure.

In the meantime, he’s excited about his new employee. “Having fresh baked bread in you restaurant is every chef’s dream,” he said.

Restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving

ILLUSTRATION: ThanksgivingWithout further adieu, I offer you the 2013 list of restaurants open and serving on Thanksgiving Day.

Most are buffets, and there are new additions to the list. Siena Tuscan Steakhouse is joining in this year, and Newport Grill, which did plated meals last Thanksgiving, also has a buffet this year.

Also open: Many of the chain diners that rarely close, including IHOP, Denny’s and Villlage Inn.

Some of the Thanksgiving restaurants take reservations. Others don’t. Peruse the list and make your plans.

Twin wine dinners at ICT/KC Ambassador hotels

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse Chef Marshall Roth is partnering with Justin Winery — and with his counterpart at the Kansas City Ambassador Hotel — to put on a special wine dinner.

Roth and Shaun Brady, the executive chef at The Reserve at Kansas City’s Ambassador, both are putting on the same wine dinner, one day apart. Brady’s will be on Monday in Kansas City, and Roth’s will be on Tuesday at Siena, 104 S. Broadway. Both dinners are $90 a person and include a martini reception at 6 p.m. followed by a dinner with wine pairings at 6:30 p.m.

Among the dishes on the menus: Prime Creekstone Farms KC Strip with wild mushrooms and bone marrow red wine butter honey roasted root vegetables. (Thatsa lota adjectives.)

To make reservations for the Wichita dinner, call 316-239-7110. Or, if by chance you are reading this in Kansas City, call 816-298-7700 for reservations.

Siena’s patio will open this weekend

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, the fine dining restaurant that opened in January inside the Ambassador Hotel at 104 S. Broadway, is adding a patio.

The gated off area, which has room for about 24 seats, is right on Douglas and looks at over the bustling intersection of Douglas and Broadway. It should be ready to go by Friday, said executive chef Marshall Roth.

The patio is pretty close to Douglas, and during daytime hours, it’s pretty traffic-noisy. The Ambassador staff will be adding tall plants that should help cut down a bit on the noise. The patio also is on the north side of the hotel, meaning that it’s shaded during lunch and dinner hours.

I made him do this.

Another recent addition is a “Chef tasting menu,” which Roth introduced last week. The option allows diners to sample a multi-course menu, which changes every day on Roth’s whim. Five courses are $75, or $110 with wine pairings. Eight courses are $95, or $145 with wine pairings.

For a reservation at Siena, call 316-440-5300.

Anchor, Siena teaming up for monthly beer dinners

Gross and Roth, living the dream

Schane Gross knows beer.

Marshall Roth knows food.

Now Gross, the owner of The Anchor at 1109 E. Douglas, and Roth, the executive chef at the new Siena Tuscan Steakhouse in the Ambassador Hotel at 104 S. Broadway, are activating their wonder twin powers for a new beer dinner series that will launch in a couple of weeks.

The monthly dinners will take place on the second Tuesday of each month in the Siena’s well-appointed dining room. They’ll feature multiple fine dining courses prepared by Roth and his staff, each course paired with a high-end beer that Gross selected.

Mmmm. Ribeye.

The first dinner is scheduled for April 9, and the duo is already taking reservations. Though they haven’t settled on a price or an exact menu yet, at a tasting a few minutes ago, the two were throwing around words such as “foie gras creme brulee” and “bananas Foster.”

Those who want to make a reservation should call Siena at 316-239-7100. Roth has clearance to offer a $119 room rate for beer dinner attendees who want to spend the night.

Also, Roth recently got a good deal on a shipment of Creekstone Farms  14-oz. rib eyes and is selling the beautifully marbled steaks, paired with mashed potatoes and asparagus, for $25 through the month of March.

Look how much he loves his steaks!

Valentine’s meal: a week, three days away

This week, I’m busy gathering up information on all the special Valentine’s Day meals being offered around Wichita, and it seems like there are more than usual this year.

The options range from fancy prix fixe meals at places such as The Ambassador’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse and the Kansas Star Casino’s Woodfire Grille to a funky cheese and beer pairing/ movie screening by Tallgrass Film Festival at the Anchor. A couple of places are putting on wine dinners, including Oeno Wine Bar, which is calling its “Crush.”

Look for the completed list on this blog by Wednesday and in the paper on Friday, then make your reservations.

E-mail me if you are aware of an event that should be included.

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse opens Friday

Check out the awesome ice balls used at Siena Tuscan Steakhouse’s bar.

They’d originally hoped for a New Year’s Day opening. But managers of Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, the new restaurant inside the Ambassador Hotel at 104 S. Broadway, say it won’t open until dinnertime on Friday.

Its first time to be open to the public and serving from the menu will be Friday evening, when it will open for dinner. (There’s a big party in the hotel tonight, but the restaurant won’t be open in its usual capacity.)

The restaurant is now taking reservations. Starting on Saturday, the restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. It also will join the big Sunday brunch fray.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago outlining what would be on the menu, but I did not mention this very interesting ice ball making device the restaurant has. These balls are supposed to to be superior to cubes for chilling your whiskey and other drinks.

Here’s the restaurant’s new Facebook page, which features food shots, info and more. For reservations, call 316-239-7100.

A sneak peek at Siena Tuscan Steakhouse

Every time I’ve driven past the under-construction Ambassador Hotel at Douglas and Broadway over the past few months, I’ve wondered what’s going on behind the paper in the windows.

This afternoon, Marshall Roth, the executive chef at the hotel’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, offered to show me.

He gave me a tour first of the 14th floor “Rock Star” suite (amazing), followed by a look at some of the more standard guest rooms plus the hotel’s new banquet and meeting rooms.

Chef Marshall Roth tests out a just-installed banquette in the bar of the about-to-open Siena Tuscan Steakhouse inside the Ambassador Hotel.

We finished the tour at the almost-complete restaurant, where workers were busy putting together bar tables, rolling in new banquette seating and unpacking dishes in the shiny and sparkly kitchen. The dining room is classy and comfortable, with a black/red/grey color scheme. It seats 60, and the bar has another 35 seats.

The plates, bowls, platters and more were the most exciting part for Roth, who said that opening the boxes was like Christmas for him. He spent weeks choosing exactly the right silverware and German made-dishware he wanted. The ones he chose, he said, will give guests a feeling of quality and luxury as soon as they sit down.

Chairs waiting to find their spots inside Siena Tuscan Steakhouse.

He also let me peruse the menu he’s working on, which won’t be set until he does final-stage recipe testing and VIP tastings during the next several weeks. At the moment, it contains several interesting dishes, such as a panzanella salad, first-course pasta dishes such as mushroom risotto, several steaks, a pork osso bucco dish, a seafood stew known as cioppino, and “duck fat fries,” which are French fries cooked in duck fat.

Chef Roth’s beloved German clay dishes, which just arrived.

The restaurant will have a “soft opening” after Christmas, which is for invited guests. Then, it’ll be used as part of the hotel’s grand opening New Year’s Eve event. It should be open for regular service to the public on Jan. 1, Roth said.

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. I’ll update you as construction gets closer to complete.

Wichita “Restaurant Week” planned

Now this is a cool idea.

The  Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas is teaming up with Go Wichita and the Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association to put on a “Restaurant Week” in Wichita. They’re planning it for June 21 to 30 and hope to get 25 local restaurants involved.

Restaurant Weeks are big deals in big cities, where many of the more expensive, trendy, hard-to-get-into restaurants agree to spend a week offering prix fixe meals to participants. A prix fixe (price fixed) meal is a set, multi-course meal that costs one price. About 30 big cities around the country, including Dallas, New York and Chicago, put on popular Restaurant Weeks. I attended a Restaurant Week dinner at a fancy place in Dallas years ago, and it was memorable. (Even though I can’t remember the name of the restaurant I visited. Ha.)

Restaurant Week won’t be quite the same animal in a smaller city like Wichita, but it could still be fun and offer Wichitans an excuse to try places they haven’t been to. Though organizers haven’t signed up any participants yet, they’ll ask restaurants on the list to donate 10 percent of each meal back to the Boys & Girls Club.

I already know who I’d put on a dream list. The new Siena Tuscan Steakhouse  that will open in the Ambassador Hotel in December has to join in. Harvest Kitchen/Bar inside the Hyatt should, too. I could see Luciano’s on this bill as well as some of Wichita’s ethnic restaurants such as Pho Hot Bistro and Taqueria El Paisa. Maybe this would be a good way for Lakeside Club and Candle Club to lure potential new members, too.

The organizers have promised to keep me updated as plans progress. I’ll keep you updated, too.

In the meantime, let me know which restaurants you think should participate in a Wichita restaurant week. Tell me in the comments section below.