Anchor’s Schane Gross opening new College Hill restaurant

The Anchor's Schane Gross is planning to open Fork & Fennel in the old Taco Tinga space in August.

The Anchor’s Schane Gross is planning to open Fork & Fennel in the old Taco Tinga space in August.

The Anchor’s Schane Gross, who just opened her Douglas Avenue Chop Shop at 1113 E. Douglas, is about to open another restaurant.

Fork & Fennel is the name of the restaurant Gross is putting in to the old Taco Tinga/ Taco Tico building at 3425 E. Douglas, which is right next door to College Hill Deli & Catering.

The restaurant will showcase the locally produced products Gross has become excited about while supplying her new butcher shop: Creekstone Farms beef, Red Wattle pork, Good Shepherd poultry and Heritage eggs. She also plans to plant a garden near the restaurant and grow her own herbs and other produce. She’s already hired a gardener to work on that part of the project.

The menu will feature Parisian-style sandwiches on baguette plus entrees made with the local meats. She’ll have locally-made beers on draft and bottled craft beers and also will feature a menu of cocktails.

Fork & Fennel will be open for lunch and dinner, and Gross, who lives nearby, is hoping to attract a neighborhood crowd. She’s even planning to turn the area where the drive through is now into a bike rack.

The building needs a lot of cleaning, Gross said, but she is planning on an inexpensive remodel. She’ll document her efforts at “opening a restaurant on a dime” on a blog that she’s setting up.

Gross hopes to have the restaurant ready by August. Stay tuned for details.

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.

Oskar Blues’ arrival a big deal for craft beer lovers

Oskar-Blues-Brewing-Logo2A popular craft beer from Colorado arrived in Wichita restaurants and liquor stores last week and is causing much excitement among local beer lovers said Jerrod Gearhart, who works for local liquor distributor House of Schwan.

Oskar Blues Brewery is based in Longmont, Colo., and also has a location in Brevard, N.C. It’s produces some of the country’s most popular craft beer and recently decided that Kansas would become the 34th state to be able to sell it.

Starting on March 10, liquor stores and restaurants statewide started introducing the beer with big release parties.

It’s now available at The Anchor, The Monarch and River City Brewing Company. Oskar Blues is the the first beer River City has ever tapped that it didn’t make itself. The restaurant also has it in cans and will continue to serve the beer until it runs out.

People also can buy Oskar Blues brews, which are served from stores in cans only — no bottles —  in liquor stores such as Goebel, Jacob, R&J and ABC.

Oskar Blues makes several different brews with fun names such as Mama’s Little Yellow Pils, Old Chub Scotch Ale and G’Knight Imperial Red IPA. Its Dale’s Pale Ale is the most common beer served in bars on tap.

The beer is being sold all over the state and is another sign that Kansas has made it as a beer state, Gearhart said.

“It shows that Kansas is really catching on to the craft beer scene,” he said.

Strong Ale Fest 5 is on Saturday

unnamed (35)I’m mostly a wine girl, so I always assumed that the Strong Ale Fest was a celebration of beers that tasted really, really strong. The dark stuff that makes my mouth pucker and that I can handle only about four sips of before giving up.

Not so, I learned this week when interviewing its founder and organizer, Anchor owner Schane Gross. Strong Ale simply has a high alcohol contest — 8 percent or higher — and beers that fit its definition can have a deceptively light flavor.

On Saturday afternoon, 200 beer fans will storm the Anchor at 1109 E. Douglas to sample more than 100 super strong beers. Some of it is rare stuff that can cost up to 90 cents an ounce.

I have a story coming out in Friday’s Go! section about the festival, but you can read it now. Tickets are $40. And word to the wise — don’t try to visit the Anchor for non-Strong Ale Fest business on Saturday afternoon. It’s closed to the non-attending public until 5 p.m.

Chop Shop will make the Anchor more delicious

Schane Gross’ Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, a high-end butcher shop she’s opening next to her popular bar/restaurant the Anchor, is close to finished. She’s aiming for a soft-opening on Feb. 11 and 12 that will include an artisan cheese and wine tasting. (The grand opening won’t be until late March.)

In the meantime, she’s talking about how the new meat shop will benefit diners at the Anchor.

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Gross has plans to add steak specials to the menu next door. The Anchor has lots of good bar food at the moment, but steak isn’t on the menu.

The Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, 1113 E. Douglas, also will be able to produce its own sausages, which will be added to the menu next door. Gross is working on signing up local restaurant/bars to purchase their own signature sausages from the shop. She envisions future “sausage fests” where diners could travel from restaurant to restaurant, sampling sausages and tasting beer.

Other additions to the Anchor menu that the Chop Shop will make possible include meatballs and samples of high-end cheeses.

The Douglas Avenue Chop Shop at 1113 E. Douglas is coming right along.

The Douglas Avenue Chop Shop at 1113 E. Douglas is coming right along.

Gross has a million ideas for her new business, including a cheese club where customers would be able to sample fancy cheeses and buy them at cost. She says she’ll be selling thin-sliced meat appropriate for making pho at home, and she’ll also have hard-to-get items such as rabbit.

When the Chop Shop is up and running, Gross will sell Creekstone Farms meat and other fancy cuts.

For information on the Chop Shop opening and the wine and cheese party, check the Douglas Avenue Chop Shop Facebook page.

Midwest Beerfest is this weekend

The only thing I like better than the Midwest Beerfest is the Midwest Winefest, but that’s not until April. So this is just going to have to do.

The annual beerfest, put on by local chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food, starts on Friday with a series of wine dinners. But the main event is the Grand Tasting, which is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s in Century II’s giant Expo Hall and will offer samples of 350 beers, ciders, hard lemonades and more.

The Midwest Wingfest, a chicken wing contest between local restaurants, also will be a part of the event. The Anchor will be there, defending its title from last year. Usually, I’m a judge, but this year, I’m out of town. Word on the street is that Miss Kansas Theresa Vail will be on the panel instead. Attendees can sample all the wings for $5.

For all the info on the Beerfest, check out my story, which is coming out in the Go! section on Friday but is online right now.

The burgers battled… and Fizz won

The Fizz burger fixers, hard at work.

Saturday night’s Battle of the Burgers, a first-time fundraiser put on by KETCH at Old Cowtown, was fun. I know I’ve never eaten so many burgers in one sitting.

I joined a panel of three other judges, and we blind tasted at least 14 different burgers and ranked them, looking for winners in three categories: Traditional, contemporary and gourmet.

Judges. Can’t. Move. Too. Full.

The participants were Fizz Burgers & Bottles, Mooyah, The Anchor, Public at the Brickyard, the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen/Bar and Heroes Sports Bar & Grill, and they topped their burgers with sauces, pickles, onions, pickled onions, onion strings, bacon and more.

The evening’s big winner was Fizz Burgers & Bottles, which is at 7718 E. 37th St. N. Their burger, which was topped with chopped lettuce and a nice sauce, was not only the judges’ choice for “best traditional” burger, but it also earned the People’s Choice trophy.

A bit of the burger submitted by Public at the Brickard.

The Anchor, which grilled up a very big, beefy burger on an onion bun, won the best gourmet category.

And Mooyah, the new burger restaurant that opened last fall at 352 S. West St,  had the best contemporary burger.

KETCH employees say they hope to make the event an annual happening. It’d be fun to see even more burger cookers there next year.

Old Cowtown overflowing with food, drink

Old Cowtown Museum will be full of food and drink lovers this weekend. The venue at 1865 W. Museum Blvd. has two big food events scheduled.

Local restaurants will be competing for these beautiful burger trophies this weekend.

On Saturday, a new fundraiser called Battle of the Burger will fill the grounds.  The event, a fundraiser for KETCH, starts at 6 p.m. Saturday and will have six local restaurants serving samples of their burgers, trying to claim the title of best burger maker.

The participating restaurants all have good burgers, so competition should be fierce: Fizz Burgers & Bottles, Mooyah, The Anchor, Public at the Brickyard, the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen/Bar and Heroes Sports Bar & Grill.

In addition to sampling the burgers, attendees also get a beer, dessert, chips and access to  car show, wagon rides and live music by the band Turnback Creek. I’m a judge at the event, so I’ll see you there.

Tickets are $35, available at the door or by visiting ictburgerbattle.com or by calling 316-383-8889.

Just look at these folks, moseying with their wine.

Then, on Sunday, the fifth annual Wine Mosey will move in.  It’s scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. and will feature hors d’oeuvres provided by the Double Tree by Hilton Airport and a barbecue dinner by Wichita Wagonmasters. It also will feature stagecoach rides, saloon girls, antique bowling and gunfights plus a live auction and music by the Diamond Wranglers. Admission is $40 a person at www.wichitatix.com or by calling 316-350-3323.

Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys and brrrrrrrrrrs

The Flying Stove’s Jeff Schauf at last year’s Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys

I’m excited about attending Friday night’s Second Annual Blooms, Brews & Bloody Marys at Botanica– though I’m not very excited about the non-springlike forecast. A 51 degree high on May 3? Unacceptable!

The event was fun last year and featured local restaurants such as Newport Grill, The Anchor and Scotch & Sirloin, competing to make the best Bloody Mary. The Candle Club won with a traditional concoction floating with green beans, gherkins and a hunk of beef jerky.

Those who have a $40 ticket will be invited to roam the grounds sampling each of the Bloody Marys, or if they choose, stopping for a beer. The best part: The Flying Stove food truck is catering, which means the Schauf boys will put out a whole lot of their best dishes, which patrons can just walk up and take. That’s worth the price of admission all on its own.

This year’s event starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Botainca, 701 N. Amidon It will include live music by Spirit of the Stairs, beer provided by Wichita Brewing Company and River City Brewery, and lots of Bloody Marys, made using sponsor Pinnacle’s vodka.

Tickets are $40 and available at 316-264-0448 or by visiting botanica.org.

The Candle Club’s winning Blood Mary from last year

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!