Melad Stephan buys Caffe Moderne, puts Hopping Pita on hold

The Hopping Pita is closed for now. Future: Uncertain.

Melad Stephan’s Empire Restaurant Management group is in flux at the moment as he tries to prioritize the needs at his various businesses, he said.

About 10 days ago, he said, he finalized a deal to completely buy out Janet and Grant Rine, the founders of Caffe Moderne at 300 N. Mead. Stephan partnered with them in June of 2011 and has been running the restaurant ever since. Now that it’s all his, he’s going to start using its kitchen for his Empire catering business and stop using the one at Revolution Rock Bar.

Another change: He’s put the Hopping Pita, a food truck he started with chef Roni Attari in April, on hold. He wants a bigger, more efficient truck, he said, and he’s put his original truck on Craigslist, asking for $20,000 or the best offer he can get.

He’s also not sure if Attari is still planning to work for him. The chef was interviewing for another job, he said, and he hasn’t heard what the outcome was. (I’ve left two messages for Attari but haven’t heard back.)

Stephan says he plans to reopen the Hopping Pita eventually but that it’s not at the top of his priority list right now.

“I’m so busy, I don’t know which direction I’m going these days,” he said.

As for Caffe Moderne, Stephan said he plans to keep the name and the concept the same. He may eventually get a new sign and plans to add new menu items for fall.

Stephan also owns Sabor and Oeno Wine Bar in Old Town Square. He closed his fine dining Italian restaurant, Luca Italian Kitchen, in August.

Stay tuned for updates on the fate of The Hopping Pita.

Food trucks opening and expanding

There’s all sorts of food truck news to report.

First, a new one is about to hit the road. The Rolling Dough, a wood-fired pizza food truck owned by Joseph and Cherry Nestelroad, will have its first service tonight outside of  Reverie Coffee Roasters, 2611 E. Douglas. They’ll be there from 6 to 8:30 p.m. serving a Mexi-pizza inspired menu that includes a chicken enchilada pizza, a nacho pizza and a guacamole pizza, each of which costs $7.

Mmmmm. Nacho pizza.

Then, on Saturday, the truck will be at the Delano Block Party, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at  200 N. Sycamore. After that, the Nestelroads will go out on weekends for a while then transition into weekday service. People can find The Rolling Dough by checking  its Facebook page.

The Rolling Dough bought its trailer from the Cake Face folks, who were selling it because they were ready for a size upgrade. The new truck, which owners Summer and Dave Schoenhals affectionately calls “Jane,”  hit the streets on Thursday, and so far, the Schoenhals are enjoying the upgrade.

Cake Face’s new, bigger “Jane”

Jane is especially pretty at night, Summer said, because she has blue, glowing under-lighting. Cake Face will be serving lunch at Builder’s Inc. in Parklane Shopping Center at Lincoln and Oliver from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today and then will serve sweets only at tonight’s Maize High School football game.

Finally, it appears that The Hopping Pita is getting a new, bigger truck. A notice on the food truck’s Facebook page said that it’s closed for vacation as it “makes this transition to a bigger truck.” I’ve left messages for chef Roni Attari and for owner Melad Stephan and will let you know what I hear about that move.

The winner: Hatch green chile hummus

Saturday’s Chile Fest and Food Truck Iron ChileHead Cookoff at Johnson’s Garden Centers was as fabulous as it was sweaty.

The winning dish

I sat on a judges’ panel that also included local foodies Guy Bower and Joe Stumpe.

Our job was to choose a winning dish from among several created by a group of food truckers using Johnson’s roasted Hatch green chiles.

It wasn’t easy, but we picked a winner: The Hopping Pita chef Roni Attari’s Hatch green chile hummus served with pita chips coated in Hatch green chile oil.

Chef Roni Attari and his ChileHead trophy.

The dish was spicy and flavorful and fabulous. My second-favorite dish: A peanut butter cookie sandwich filled with chocolate ganache spiked with Hatch green chiles. The amazing Cake Face bakers were responsible for that one.

We also had a great green chile pizza made Hopperoni Express, and MMM Sandwiches made an MMM taco that was full of all kinds of meat and green chile flavor.

Me, my mini-me Alexis, Guy and Marty Johnson broadcasting live Saturday at the Johnson’s Garden Centers Chile Fest.

I took home a bag of the green chiles Johnson’s was roasting on spot and on Sunday night whipped up my own amazing batch of chile verde, using the chiles plus tomatillos and pork. Here’s the recipe I used.

Johnson’s will have the chiles on sale at least through mid-September at all three of its locations: 2707 W. 13th St., 6225 E. Shadybrook and 802 N. Ridge Road. A bag of peppers costs $7.99.

The green chile pizza created by Hopperoni Express

 

Talkin chiles live on air with the Good Life Guy

Dinner last night, which I made using a bag of Hatch green chiles I got at the event.

Food truckers rallying again on Sunday

The Flying Stove food truck

Wichita’s food truckers, headed up by the guys at the Flying Stovehave decided to start putting on monthly food truck rallies, usually on the last Sunday of the month.

This month, to avoid Memorial Day weekend, the truckers are gathering a Sunday early. The usual suspects, including the Flying Stove plus B.S. Sandwich Press, Cakeface, Espresso To Go Go, and R&J Concessions will gather from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at WaterWalk Pavilion. The rally is starting to attract festival-type concessionaires, too. This month, Bakerman Concessions, which specializes in cinnamon rolls, will join the crowd.

The gathering will also have live music, and representatives from the Kansas Humane Society will be there ready to perform on-site adoptions.

Expect the rally to grow in June. Two new trucks, The Hopping Pita and Let’m Eat Brats, have said they’d like to join in, too.

Schwarma truck to be called The Hopping Pita

Initially, they were going to call it Pita Hut.

Then, Melad Stephan, his son, Jordan, and chef Roni Attari thought better of it.

They’ve decided to call their Lebanese food truck, which should take to the streets soon, The Hopping Pita. 

That name beat out several other clever runners up, including my personal favorite — Eat a Pita.

The Hopping Pita’s launch has been slightly delayed by recent weather developments, but it’s close, Stephan said. He shared this photo of the finished, green product.

I’ll let you know when it’s ready to go.