Entries from blogs tagged with “food”

Local chefs preparing for eggplant battle at Douglas County Fair

Last year, Rick Martin beat out fellow gastronomic greats Rafael and Kate Gonzales of Global Café in the Douglas County Fair’s annual Chefs Challenge.

On Wednesday, the Limestone Pizza owner/executive chef will return to the fairground showdown not as a competitor but as a “culinary interpreter” a la Ted Allen in Food Network’s “Chopped.”

During the event, which is slated for 5 to 7:30 p.m., Martin will chat with competing chefs — Brad Brown, of the Bird Dog Bar in the Oread, Simon Bates of the Burger Stand, and Vaughn Good of Hank Charcuterie — about their culinary techniques, offering up tips on integrating seasonal, local ingredients in everyday meals.

Rick Martin, head chef and owner of Limestone Pizza, plates his pork carnitas chopped salad served with the flat bread as he participates in the fourth annual Chef's Challenge on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, at the Douglas County fair. Martin won first place with his dish.

Rick Martin, head chef and owner of Limestone Pizza, plates his pork carnitas chopped salad served with the flat bread as he participates in the fourth annual Chef's Challenge on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, at the Douglas County fair. Martin won first place with his dish. by John Young

As in years past, Wednesday’s competition — which is organized by Master Food Volunteers and Master Gardeners, both with the Douglas County Extension office — will spotlight a particular ingredient.

This year's star ingredient is eggplant, and chefs will use it, as well as other foods cultivated from local farms and school gardens, to create simple, fast dishes that anyone might recreate easily at home. And as in years past, any audience member whose taste buds need convincing can munch on samples.

It’s all about getting people excited about foods grown or produced right here in Douglas County, says Elizabeth Stewart, an at-large appointee of the Douglas County Food Policy Council, which sponsors the event.

“We’re really trying to appeal to a wide audience, ranging from your foodies to your hardcore cooks to busy families that don’t have a lot of time,” says Stewart, who hopes folks will be inspired to revisit the “misunderstood and misaligned” eggplant. There’s more to it than just eggplant Parmesan, she says.

With help from city mayors of Eudora, Baldwin City and Lecompton, competitors' dishes will be judged on taste, presentation, creativity and the all-important “applause-o-meter” from the audience.

The winner gets bragging rights and a plaque to hang in their restaurant, though all participating chefs will share their recipes from the event online, Stewart says. You can stop by the Douglas County Fair’s fifth annual Chefs Challenge at 5 p.m. Wednesday south of the backdrop in the shelter area of the fairgrounds.

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Celebrate National Hot Dog Day with some fancy franks

Today is National Hot Dog Day, and lovers of encased meats are rejoicing across the country. Here are four places in Lawrence with special kinds of frankfurters on their menus to help you celebrate this special day.

The Burger Stand at The Casbah's Photos - The Burger Stand at The Casbah | Facebook

The Burger Stand at The Casbah's Photos - The Burger Stand at The Casbah | Facebook

Burger Stand

At a restaurant best known for its gourmet burgers and fries, it's easy to overlook the hot dog portion of the menu at Burger Stand at the Casbah, 803 Massachusetts St., or as they call them: "Hawt Doggz." A classic and Chicago dog are always on the menu that also features a new hot dog special each month. This month's is the New York Minute, with caramelized onions, homemade sauerkraut and mustard. For those of you who prefer your encased meat on a stick, Burger Stand also serves a (pretty sizable) corn dog.

BURGERFI - Timeline Photos | Facebook

BURGERFI - Timeline Photos | Facebook

BurgerFi

For folks who like their hot dogs grass-fed, BurgerFi, 918 Massachusetts St., is another place with "burger" in the name that also sneaks hot dogs onto their menu. The eco-minded chain serves three kinds of dogs — kobe beef, chicken apple, and Vienna beef — that can be ordered in three different styles: New York (basic), Texas (chili) and Chicago (pretty much everything but ketchup).

Leeway Franks - Timeline Photos | Facebook

Leeway Franks - Timeline Photos | Facebook

Leeway Franks

New to the hot dog party in Lawrence is Leeway Franks, which opened last week at 935 Iowa St. #7. The restaurant styles itself as a butcher-shop-meets-concession-stand and specializes in gourmet franks and sausages, with takes on a classic coney, chili dog and bratwurst on this week's menu. But we'd go with the Polish sausage ($7) that features smoked pork sausage, sauteed onions, barbecue sauce and pickles on a hoagie bun, paired with tater tots.

Fat Freddy's

Fat Freddy's, 1445 W. 23rd St., is not a restaurant known for its subtlety, with pretty much every item on the menu being over the top in some way or another. No exception is Freddy's Crazy Cat Dog ($5.99), which the menu describes as a "Quarter Pound Deep Fried Hot Dog, Fried Egg, American Bacon, Spicy Jalapenos and Cream Cheese. That's one crazy cat...dog." Hey, the place isn't called "Thin Freddy's."

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Website names Free State best craft brewery in Kansas

Entertainment website Thrillist has named Free State Brewing Co. the best craft brewery in Kansas.

Entertainment website Thrillist has named Free State Brewing Co. the best craft brewery in Kansas.

As if you needed another excuse to go to Free State Brewing Co.'s cheap pint night on Mondays, entertainment website Thrillist has named the longtime Lawrence restaurant and beer-maker as the best craft brewery in Kansas.

The site recently made a list of the best craft brewers in every state, and the inclusion of Free State should come as no surprise to Lawrencians. It's not exactly a secret how much people love brews like the John Brown, Free State Golden and, one of the 9 Drink Wonders of Lawrence, the Ad Astra Ale.

Here's what Thrillist had to say: "Tallgrass has a bit bigger profile and reach, but there simply isn't a finer beer in the land than the exceedingly complex, yet balanced Old Backus Barleywine from Kansas' original craft kingpin, Free State, which has been keeping Lawrence's collective thirst quenched since 1989. Rock Chalk!"

Employees at Thrillist must have done some bar-hopping in Lawrence before, because the website also recently gave some love to Johnny's Tavern as the most iconic bar in Kansas.

For more on Free State, check out this story by Caitlin Doornbos on how the brewery is pairing up with some Lawrence High School graduates to make a special beer for their 20-year reunion this weekend.

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Hank Charcuterie teaming up with Dark Horse Distillery, Wood + Salt for food and cocktail event

Hank Charcuterie is partnering with the folks at Wood + Salt and Dark Horse Distillery to host an evening of hors d'oeuvres and cocktails next week.

The event, which will take place at Hank Charcuterie (1900 Massachusetts St.) at 7 p.m. Thursday, will feature four food-drink pairings created by Hank Charcuterie chefs and Kansas City-based seasonings startup Wood + Salt, respectively. KC's Dark Horse Distillery will provide the booze.

Here's one pairing you'll find on the event's menu: a blackberry julep served with duck galantine (apparently, this French dish consists of de-boned meat that is poached, served cold and coated with aspic — from my repeated viewings of "Julie and Julia," I can tell you an aspic is a sort of savory gelatin) and guajillo, sun gold tomatoes and blackberries.

Hungry for more? Snag your tickets (they're $50 for four courses) at Hank Charcuterie or by calling 832-8688.

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Magazine honors two Lawrence restaurants for wine selections

Bird Dog Bar/Five 21 and Ten restaurants have received a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award for 2015.

Bird Dog Bar/Five 21 and Ten restaurants have received a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award for 2015.

Two Lawrence restaurants have earned mentions in Wine Spectator's 2015 Restaurant Awards.

The annual awards, which highlight eateries all over the globe for having exceptional wine selections, included The Eldridge Hotel's Ten restaurant and the Bird Dog Bar/Five 21 Restaurant at The Oread in Wine Spectator's Aug. 31 issue.

The Lawrence honorees join a dozen other Kansas restaurants on the list. You can read the full list of winners (more than 3,600 were honored this year) when the magazine hits newsstands July 21.

For more information on this year's winners, check out WineSpectator.com's Restaurant Search.

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Recently opened Yeah Sushi offers whimsical take on Japanese staple

Yuyuan Jiang worked as a sushi chef for eight years, serving up the Japanese delicacy in Houston, Palm Springs, New Orleans, Miami, New York City, and even a stint in Korea — both North and South.

Now, he's rolling up (that's my attempt at a sushi joke) everything he learned from those experiences into his new restaurant, Yeah Sushi, which opened in late May at The Malls Shopping Center along 23rd Street.

Yeah Sushi - Yeah Sushi's Photos | Facebook

Yeah Sushi - Yeah Sushi's Photos | Facebook

Sandwiched between Westlake Ace Hardware and Radio Shack, the compact eatery at 711 W. 23rd St. offers more than 50 varieties of sushi, plus soups, salads and appetizers such as edamame and fried calamari.

Customers are often “surprised” when they first see their order arrive on the table, Jiang says — and for good reason.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in Lawrence,” he says. “Or the state.”

Each dish involves the kind of colorful, elaborate presentation Jiang picked up during his time on the coasts, with sauces carefully applied to the plate to create whimsical designs (fish are a recurring motif) and glowing LED lights to brighten up the food.

That’s the case with Yeah Sushi’s Sweetheart Roll: each bundle of tuna, shrimp tempura, crab meat and cucumber is wrapped in pink soybean paper and rolled into a heart shape. It’s served with a martini glass filled with pink LED lights, and nothing else.

Yeah Sushi - Yeah Sushi's Photos | Facebook

Yeah Sushi - Yeah Sushi's Photos | Facebook

Jiang says he bought the former Thai House space (its owners were retiring, he says) in the hope that his unusual creations would bring in college students. So far, business has been slow, but Jiang is optimistic that it'll pick up when classes resume in August.

Yeah Sushi - Mobile Uploads | Facebook

Yeah Sushi - Mobile Uploads | Facebook

In the meantime, he’ll continue offering lunch specials every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We’re not busy, but every customer who comes here to eat — they’ll be back,” Jiang says. “Right now, we just need more customers.”

Yeah Sushi is open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

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WheatFields, Bread Bakers Guild of America to host open house Saturday

WheatFields Bakery Café: Best Bakery, Best of Lawrence 2015

WheatFields Bakery Café: Best Bakery, Best of Lawrence 2015 by Jason Dailey

The people's choice for Lawrence's best bakery is giving the public a glimpse of the bread-making process Saturday afternoon during a Bakery Open House at WheatFields Bakery, 904 Vermont St.

WheatFields and the Bread Bakers Guild of America are teaming up to host the event, in which "everyone is welcome to stop by and see where we produce your favorite breads, meet with some of our bakers and talk about bread, baking or anything else," reads a Facebook post from WheatFields.

No reservations are needed for the open house; just stop by anytime between 3 and 5 p.m. for bread samples, light refreshments and some carbalicious fun.

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Ladybird Diner owner keeping busy with doughnuts while restaurant is closed

Lawrence, apparently, is a town that loves its doughnuts. It's a love that, when said doughnuts are offered up for free on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon at the now-closed Pachamamas patio, reaches biblical proportions.

"It was like a plague of locusts," Ladybird Diner owner Meg Heriford tells two women approaching her makeshift doughnut-giveaway area. Other doughnut seekers follow, and Heriford has to break the news to them, too: "Sorry, they're all gone."

Less than 30 minutes after announcing via Twitter that she would be giving away doughnuts "all you can carry" to anyone, all 400 of Heriford's colorful confections had been snatched up, leaving only crumbs on the sidewalk as proof of their existence.

None by Ladybird Diner

Ladybird Diner was forced to close after a March 3 fire at its neighbor Bigg's on Mass. Since then, crews have been working to remove smoke damage and replace interior furnishings.

Luckily for foodies, Heriford has spent that time "fine-tuning" her menu, and has rented out Pachamamas to use as a test kitchen for the newest addition to Ladybird: doughnuts.

Heriford is taking an optimistic approach to the fire fallout, saying it has given her time to figure out how many doughnuts she'll need to churn out in order to keep up with demand when her restaurant opens back up later this summer. She declined to give a specific date, though she expects it to happen by the time college students are back in town.

She's kept her hand in the Lawrence dining scene during the interim period, selling Ladybird pies at The Bourgeois Pig for about a month earlier this summer, and also delivering doughnuts to local nonprofit organizations via her "doughnut mobile" in honor of National Doughnut Day on June 5.

In the meantime, Heriford said there will be more doughnut giveaways in the future.

None by Ladybird Diner

Her lemon-filled doughnuts were a hit at Tuesday's event, which Heriford described as a dress rehearsal for when the doughnuts' debut at Ladybird. Other flavors leaned toward the traditional (chocolate cake doughnuts, coconut, peanut butter, and several varieties of old-fashioned, from vanilla to blackberry to salted caramel) while some were more wacky.

The "Triple-Decker Birthday" variety, for example, entailed three doughnuts stacked on top of each other — Heriford particularly enjoyed watching people figure out how to eat that one.

"We've got a good idea of what it'll take to produce a case full of doughnuts," Heriford says. "But I think pie will always be the star of the show. Pie is what we do."

According to Twitter, another doughnut giveaway may be in the works soon. Watch Ladybird's Twitter and Facebook for updates.

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Foodies can eat, drink, eat some more during the Free State Festival

The Free State Festival's Lawrence Mixology event June 23 at John Brown's Underground will feature a panel of local cocktail experts.

The Free State Festival's Lawrence Mixology event June 23 at John Brown's Underground will feature a panel of local cocktail experts.

Attendees of next week's Free State Festival should have their fill of music, art, film and ideas. And the festival's making sure all the foodies out there get their fill of food and drinks as well, with three dining-related events on this year's roster. Here's a breakdown:

Lawrence Mixology

Cocktail-crazy? Check out this rundown of the latest bartending trends from a panel of local experts from 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 23 at John Brown's Underground, 7 E. Seventh St.

"Mezcal aficionado" Adam Clary will guide participants on Oaxacan drinking culture and tradition, while 715's Katrina Weiss will discuss "history's greatest punches" and share how to create cocktails fit for hosting a large group.

Rounding out the panel is Kate Brubacher of John Brown's Underground. The festival's Lawrence Mixology description mentions her enthusiasm for "clean drinking" (think cocktails with herbs, plants, essential oils and fresh produce — much of which Brubacher grows in her own backyard), so perhaps we'll see a bit of greenery when it comes to her portion of the event.

For obvious reasons, this event is for those 21 and up. Tickets cost $25 and include "cutting-edge cocktails and nibbles."

Lawrence Eats!

Lawrence Eats!, a discussion of "food trends, food favorites and food fanaticism," is slated for 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 24 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

This free event invites foodies to meet some of Lawrence's greatest culinary minds, including Mel Roeder of Cafe Beautiful, Matt Hyde of 715, Jesse Bonebrake of Mariscos and Rick Martin of Limestone Pizza, and learn what they're cooking up in their kitchens.

Stella Artois Presents the Free State Festival Beer Dinner

For the hardcore foodies (or those with the deeper pockets), there's the first annual Free State Festival Beer Dinner on June 26 at Maceli's Banquet Hall and Catering, 1031 New Hampshire St. Tickets to the dinner cost $100 and include a five-course meal of beer-based recipes from local chefs and food-beer pairings by Anheuser-Busch brewmaster George Reisch.

Participating chefs include Mark Gregory of Maceli's, Nick Wysong of Ingredient/Five Bar and Tables, T.K. Peterson of Merchants Pub and Plate, Dave Nigro of Maceli's and Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda, who will respectively handle the bread, soup, salad, entree and dessert courses.

Attendees will get the chance to learn about beer-meal pairings and collect new recipes to try at home, and they'll also have a chance to win door prizes.

"Beertails" commence at 5:30 p.m., while dinner will take place between 6 and 8 p.m. Visit the festival's website for a full menu.

Tickets for Lawrence Mixology and the Free State Festival Beer Dinner can be purchased online at freestatefestival.org.

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Waffle Iron taking things slow at new location, with sweet and savory surprises in store

The Hank Benedict at Waffle Iron, 7 E. Seventh St.

The Hank Benedict at Waffle Iron, 7 E. Seventh St.

When it comes to mastering the art of waffles — or, to clarify, a waffle house — it’s best to take things slowly.

That’s the approach Sam Donnell’s taking over at The Waffle Iron, which opened in its new location at 7 E. Seventh St. four weeks ago. Foodies may remember the original home of the waffle business at Decade Coffee Shop in East Lawrence, where it operated from January to early May.

The Waffle Iron, now housed at 7 E. Seventh St., shares its space with John Brown's Underground.

The Waffle Iron, now housed at 7 E. Seventh St., shares its space with John Brown's Underground. by Joanna Hlavacek

“This went from my first pop-up to a full-blown location in three months,” says Donnell, the Waffle Iron's owner/chef. “There’s still a lot I’m learning.”

Donnell’s sharing his new home in the upstairs space of the speakeasy-themed bar John Brown’s Underground. Thanks to the pairing, customers can now enjoy Donnell’s signature waffles with brunch-y cocktails such as bloody marys and mimosas from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The Waffle Iron, now housed at 7 E. Seventh St., shares its space with John Brown's Underground.

The Waffle Iron, now housed at 7 E. Seventh St., shares its space with John Brown's Underground. by Joanna Hlavacek

John Brown's, which mainly operates on the basement level of the building, occasionally uses the upstairs space — an expanse of old wood floors with a golden-hued tin ceiling, a chandelier and giant windows overlooking Seventh Street — for private events in the evenings, though Donnell says bar staffers are letting him use it for night-time events once a month.

Donnell is currently in talks with Basil Leaf Cafe and Hank Charcuterie to host a “chicken and waffles night” at some point this summer. Also on the radar: Donnell says John Brown's has plans to install a fully functioning commercial kitchen in the space sometime in the next few months, at which point he’ll temporarily close the shop. (The Waffle Iron will also be closed the last weekend of June, Donnell says.)

As of right now, Donnell and his staff (he’s still the only cook cranking out waffles on the restaurant’s two waffle irons, though he’s got someone to wash dishes and John Brown's bartenders helping him out with drinks) are serving “just the classics,” though he plans on debuting more of his zany creations once he gets more settled in.

The popular Hank Benedict — essentially a waffle topped with eggs Benedict, which you may remember as the Waffle Benedict from Off the Beaten Plate a few months back — has moved from Fridays only to being available Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Sweeter waffle varieties like vanilla bean maple, blueberry lemon curd and s’mores have made appearances, too.

The restaurant also has cold-brew coffee on tap from Alchemy Coffee and Bake House. Also coming soon: table-side French press from Kansas City’s Messenger Coffee Co.

Donnell says business has been slower than it was at Decade so far, which he’s ultimately OK with. Had he opened a month or two earlier with the KU crowd still in town, it may have been too much to handle in the midst of figuring out all the logistics that come with opening a new restaurant — especially in a space that has never housed one before, he points out.

“Without students here, it’s allowed me to open in a quiet way. I’m taking it slow, and I want it to grow naturally,” Donnell says. After all, “It was only this week that I got a coffee grinder.”

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Artisan bakery 1900 Barker holds soft opening

None by 1900 Barker

After more than a year in the works, 1900 Barker Bakery and Cafe is finally open for business in East Lawrence. The artisan bakery, located at — you guessed it — 1900 Barker Ave., is holding a soft opening with limited menu from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

As Chad Lawhorn reported back in January, 1900 Barker is owned by Lawrence pastry chef Taylor Petrehn and his brother Reagan. Back then, Petrehn said the focus would be on breads, though he planned to offer a few pastries as well.

From the looks of its Facebook page, the business (which used to house a laundromat) is on track to have fresh loaves of its "Utility Loaf, Seeded Utility and Raisin/Pecan" varieties ready by Friday afternoon. The business aims to use naturally occurring yeasts and without additives to make a healthier, longer-lasting bread.

"Once though [sic] the weekend we'll be continuing on starting the middle of next week with limited hours as we figure out the new rhythm," 1900 Barker posted Wednesday. "See you guys soon!"

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Lawrence bars serving up cocktails for charity during Negroni Week

This Negroni cocktail at John Brown's Underground features a twist on the classic recipe by adding Herbsaint and orange essential oil along with the traditional ingredients of gin, vermouth and Campari with a lemon twist. John Brown's is one of several Lawrence bars participating in Negroni Week to raise money for local charities through June 7.

This Negroni cocktail at John Brown's Underground features a twist on the classic recipe by adding Herbsaint and orange essential oil along with the traditional ingredients of gin, vermouth and Campari with a lemon twist. John Brown's is one of several Lawrence bars participating in Negroni Week to raise money for local charities through June 7.

About a dozen Lawrence restaurants and bars are inviting customers to drink for a good cause this week.

Negroni Week, a yearly event presented by Campari and Imbibe Magazine, enlists the help of bars around the world to mix up their favorite variations of the timeless cocktail that traditionally features gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. For each Negroni sold at participating bars, a portion of the proceeds will go toward a local charity of the bar's choice.

At Mariscos, bartenders are doing a standard Negroni with a splash of gin-barrel-aged orange bitters plus a garnish of "flamed orange twist," all served with an extra large ice cube. (The restaurant is donating $1 per drink to Just Food; a few other participants said they hadn't decided on a precise number.)

The Bourgeois Pig, John Brown's Underground and 715 are all teaming up to benefit the Lawrence Humane Society by creating different twists on the drink.

715 will feature the classic Negroni all week long, with new variations offered each day. Tuesday, bartenders will be serving up The Jasmine (with rum and Cointreau orange liqueur). The next day, it's the Perfect Sherroni (sherry instead of the standard gin, plus both sweet and dry vermouths).

On Monday, John Brown's was serving a "New Orleans twist" on the drink, with Herbsaint and orange essential oil mixed in with the traditional ingredients. The bar also plans to add a new take on the drink for a $5 special each day this week.

Other Lawrence locations, like Genovese and The Burger Stand, are sticking with the classic recipe.

From now until June 7, you can stop by any of these local establishments for a refreshing Negroni — and a bit of positive karma (the local charity each location is benefiting is in parenthesis):

715 (Lawrence Humane Society)

The Burger Stand (Lawrence Humane Society)

Genovese (Help Nepal Foundation)

Henry's (Lawrence Humane Society)

John Brown's Underground (Lawrence Humane Society)

Legends (Boys & Girls Club)

Mariscos (Just Food)

Minsky's (March of Dimes)

• The Salty Iguana (Newhouse Shelter)

Six Mile Tavern (Newhouse Shelter)

The Bourgeois Pig (Lawrence Humane Society)

For more information on Negroni Week, including a full list of participants, check out the event's website.

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Outdoor dining event celebrates arrival of rare cicadas with an eating adventure

Lawrence seems to be cicada-crazy these days, and for good reason: Periodical cicadas, unlike the annual cicadas that we're used to hearing on balmy summer nights, only emerge once every 17 years. And lo and behold, 2015 is their year, and they're coming to Lawrence.

With the arrival of the tens of millions of cicadas expected any day now, the folks at Kansas University's Natural History Museum, Hank Charcuterie and Free State Brewing Co. are teaming up to host an event called Summer Sirens at 7 p.m June 4 in South Park.

There, under the shade of the trees, "daring diners" will have the chance to learn about the science behind these insects while sampling wine, Free State beer and meats prepared by Hank Charcuterie.

"Daring" is an appropriate word in this case, as the menu includes goat barbacoa and lengua (that would be tongue) with jalapeno kale slaw; pork heart carnitas with local black beans, grilled romaine and pickled red onion; and fermented green tomatoes with elote (Mexican corn on the cob) and smoked pecans.

Tickets are $30, and can be purchased on Free State's website here.

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La Prima Tazza celebrates 25th birthday with special deals

One of La Prima Tazza's coffee offerings

One of La Prima Tazza's coffee offerings by Nick Krug

As I've made everyone in the newsroom — and the Journal-World's online readership — aware, I don't drink coffee. But I know plenty of you out there do, so I have a bit of coffee-centric news for you.

La Prima Tazza, 638 Massachusetts St., is turning 25 this weekend. To celebrate its silver anniversary, the coffee shop is offering a special deal to customers: 25 percent off lattes, plus La Prima Tazza travel mugs and T-shirts marked down to $5.

A perennial Best of Lawrence winner, La Prima Tazza calls itself the "first and oldest coffee shop in town." Since 1990, it's won over customers with its signature espresso and longtime favorites like the Grasshopper, a minty coffee drink that landed a spot on our "9 drink wonders of Lawrence" article last fall.

The 25th birthday offer stands Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so snag your discounted goodies while you still can.

La Prima Tazza is celebrating its 25th anniversary with some 25-percent-off discounts this weekend.

La Prima Tazza is celebrating its 25th anniversary with some 25-percent-off discounts this weekend.

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Taco Zone opens new restaurant location downtown

From left, a torta with roasted pork and a variety of tacos are pictured at Taco Zone at 13 E. Eighth St.

From left, a torta with roasted pork and a variety of tacos are pictured at Taco Zone at 13 E. Eighth St. by Richard Gwin

Just in time to appease the Taco Tuesday masses, Taco Zone has opened its new restaurant space at 13 E. Eighth St. in downtown Lawrence.

Taco Zone got its start by serving Southern California-style tacos on the patio of the Replay Lounge during warm-weather months for the last couple of years. It quickly became popular, so much so that owners decided to expand its reach into its own restaurant space earlier this year.

Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St.

Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St. by Nick Gerik

A bigger space also means a bigger menu for the taqueria. On top of the three-taco option that was available at Replay, the new location serves tortas, burritos and quesadillas ($7 each) with a choice of fillings ranging from chicken, steak, pork and shrimp to vegetarian options such as black beans and mushrooms. There's also a drink menu featuring a Cadillac margarita and various flavors of aguas frescas, as well as chips with pico de gallo or guacamole.

Taco Zone co-owner Brad Shanks says the torta — refried black beans, Oaxaca cheese, pico de gallo, avocado and a filling on a telera roll — was the most popular order on a busy first day.

Shanks says the restaurant plans to rotate fillings on a regular basis, but will always include the basic proteins in some form. He also said that dessert options — such as a Mexican ice cream cookie sandwich — are in the pipe for when summer heats up.

Those who still like live music with their tacos shouldn't worry, as the Taco Zone stand at the Replay Lounge patio will still be in operation on the weekends, Shanks says.

Taco Zone is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and until 2 a.m. on weekends to accommodate the late-night crowd, which should be sizable with Henry's, Sandbar and the Eighth Street Taproom nearby.

Taco Zone co-owner Brad Shanks talks about the restaurant's first day of business Tuesday.

Taco Zone co-owner Brad Shanks talks about the restaurant's first day of business Tuesday. by Richard Gwin

The menu at Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St.

The menu at Taco Zone, 13 E. Eighth St. by Richard Gwin

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with restaurant specials

Happy Cinco de Mayo, readers! If you're anything like me, you've probably never met a Mexican foodstuff you didn't like. To help you celebrate the day, I've compiled a list of restaurants in town offering Cinco de Mayo specials.

This isn't a complete list, of course, and if I'm missing any places, make sure to let me know. As you might've guessed, all the restaurants mentioned here are running some kind of special on margaritas or imported beers, but I thought I'd focus on what's truly important: the food.

Genovese, 941 Massachusetts St.

Genovese's annual Cinco de Mayo Tequila Dinner is slated for 6:30 p.m. Four different varieties from Mexico's Don Julio brand will be served, paired with dishes from the Yucatan Peninsula. The menu includes shrimp ceviche, a traditional thin chicken tamale wrapped in banana leaves and cochinita pibil, a pulled-pork dish marinated in sour orange, red onions, garlic, tomatoes and achiote.

The cost of the meal is $59 per person. Call 842-0300 for reservations.

Tortas Jalisco, 534 Frontier Road

The west Lawrence eatery is celebrating Cinco de Mayo with "all the traditional dishes from Mexico" throughout the month, says Tortas owner Angel Alvarez. Expect tasty south-of-the-border classics like tamales, pozole, chicken and mole sauce, and potato tacos. If you're in the mood for something super patriotic, try the "Mexican flag enchiladas." Green tomatillo sauce, melted white cheese and red salsa mimic the color's Mexico's flag, while a dollop of sour cream and pico de gallo symbolize the eagle in the center of the flag.

Mexquisito, 712 Massachusetts St.

Over at Mexquisito, Tortas' sister restaurant, specials also include bandera (Spanish for "flag") enchiladas, available in pork, chicken or beef.

El Potro, 3333 Iowa St.

Order up a "Cinco Burrito" in honor of the holiday. Along with meat (you can choose between chicken or steak), the burrito is stuffed with veggies and topped with chorizo.

La Parilla, 724 Massachusetts St.

Festive Mexican favorites abound today at La Parilla, such as the tri-color nachos (chicken, peppers and onions, topped with pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole), shrimp diablo and chicken mole.

La Familia, 733 New Hampshire St.

Perennial downtown Mexican cafe and cantina La Familia is serving mole with rice, beans and tortillas to pair with its margarita and Mexican beer specials.

Wash down your meal with a festive drink. Guava juice and reposada tequila flavor the Guavarita from Tortas Jalisco, 534 Frontier Rd.

Wash down your meal with a festive drink. Guava juice and reposada tequila flavor the Guavarita from Tortas Jalisco, 534 Frontier Rd. by Sara Shepherd

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What came first, the chicken or the egg? Cracking a mystery at Frank’s North Star Tavern

Frank's North Star Tavern is going to the birds. One bird in particular, actually.

A chicken, thought to belong to one of the bar's neighbors, has been hanging around Frank's parking lot for months, says tavern owner Frank Dorsey. He hadn't seen the little red hen for a while, he recalls, until stumbling upon evidence earlier this week that his fine-feathered friend may have paid another visit.

Dorsey says he was doing routine yard work behind the bar, 508 Locust St., when he spotted nearly a dozen undisturbed eggs nestled in a thicket of foot-tall grass near a couple shipping containers.

Frank Dorsey, owner of Frank's North Star Tavern, was doing some yard work behind his bar at 508 Locust St. earlier this week when he discovered these eggs nestled in the tall grass.

Frank Dorsey, owner of Frank's North Star Tavern, was doing some yard work behind his bar at 508 Locust St. earlier this week when he discovered these eggs nestled in the tall grass.

"At first I thought someone was getting rid of them," he says. "Then I realized none of them were broken, so that didn't make sense."

As for the fate of the eggs — and the chicken they came from — Dorsey's not certain. Not knowing how old the eggs were by the time he'd found them, Dorsey ended up throwing them in the dumpster.

He's been "half-jokingly" telling folks that the bar should start making whiskey flips (a cocktail resembling eggnog minus the cream), though he admits "using raw eggs in recipes can be kind of problematic" from a health-code standpoint.

If you'd like to try out the whiskey flip at home, Dorsey shared a recipe with us. In the meantime, keep an eye out for this chicken. Who knows, you may get some free eggs out of the deal.

This little red hen has been a frequent visitor to Frank's North Star Tavern in recent months.

This little red hen has been a frequent visitor to Frank's North Star Tavern in recent months.

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As morels spring up, so do restaurant specials

None by 715 Restaurant

It's springtime in northeast Kansas, and for the past few weeks, the Journal-World newsroom has been abuzz with talk of a very special fungus: the morel mushroom.

Journal-World photographer and resident mushroom hunter Richard Gwin is particularly enthused, and every few days he'll show off iPhone snapshots of his most recent morel haul. You may remember this gem of a video from 2011, in which he illustrates how to track down and cook morels.

A number of restaurants in town share Richard's appreciation for the elusive (but richly flavored) mushroom, serving up a variety of morel-centric dishes while they're still plentiful along Lawrence-area river banks and hillsides.

At Merchants Pub and Plate, chef/owner T.K. Peterson has been foraging for morels for about a week now, though he estimates it'll be another week before the mushrooms start popping up on the Merchants menu. The plan is to rotate morel specials for the duration of the season, Peterson says.

Right now, he's got a few ideas: a simple pasta with shallots, wine wine, butter, garlic and maybe a bit of cream; perhaps a flatbread with fresh herbs and cheese. He's also made a jam from the mushrooms and served it with grilled meats in the past.

Rick Martin, chef-owner of Limestone Pizza, plans to offer a morel pizza topped with Gruyere cheese and cream. It was a big hit last year with customers, he says.

Last Tuesday, Genovese offered a lunch special of house-made spinach ricotta gnocchi with locally foraged morels and beef short ribs. I also saw a Facebook post from 715 on Monday advertising a dish of shiitakes and morels. Hank Charcuterie introduced a morel special of its own: sherry agave cream, poached egg, charred carrot and roasted pepitas via Facebook last Friday.

Have you tried any of these specials yet? Any I missed out on? We've still got at least a few weeks until morel season ends — when temperatures hit 80 degrees, from what Richard tells me — so I'll keep an eye on social media to see what dishes pop up at local restaurants.

A morel from one of T.K. Peterson's recent mushroom-hunting jaunts.

A morel from one of T.K. Peterson's recent mushroom-hunting jaunts. by Photo courtesy of T.K. Peterson

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Sunrise Project fundraiser draws prominent local culinary talents

Some of Lawrence's best and brightest culinary minds are coming together to raise money for the Sunrise Project.

The Lawrence organization, which garnered its nonprofit status earlier this year, aims to "provide education and community engagement around the intersection of food, the environment and social justice," according to its website.

A Chefs' Table Dinner fundraiser, scheduled for May 12 at the Lied Center Pavilion, will entail a "seasonal, locally sourced and inspired five-course menu" created by Lawrence chefs.

The roster of participating chefs includes T.K. Peterson of Merchants; Vaughn Good of Hank Charcuterie; Rick Martin of Limestone Pizza; Zach Thompson of 715; Jay Tovar-Ballagh of Hank Charcuterie and Limestone Pizza; and Ken Baker of the now-closed Pachamamas.

No details yet on what will be served, but we'll keep you updated. To receive an invitation for the meal, email info@sunriseprojectks.org.

Meanwhile, Liberty Hall is hosting a special screening of "Growing Cities," a 2013 documentary about the role of urban farming in America, at 4 p.m. Sunday as part of the Sunrise Project’s fundraising efforts.

Sunday's screening will be followed by dinner from 23rd Street Brewery, after which attendees can stick around to hear a panel discussion with leaders from the worlds of food and social justice.

Proceeds from the event will go toward the establishment of Sunrise Project and securing space at the former Sunrise Garden Center, which organizers envision as the site of a community greenhouse and educational workshops.

The garden center, located near 15th and New York streets, has been vacant since 2013.

(You may remember hearing this first from Chad Lawhorn, who chronicled the group's beginnings in his Town Talk blog last month.)

Tickets for Sunday's screening event, which cost $40, can be purchased at the Liberty Hall website or box office, 644 Massachusetts St. For more information about the group and its fundraising efforts, check out Sunrise Project's Facebook page.

Rick Martin, executive chef and owner of Limestone Pizza, is one of several local culinary professionals participating in the Chefs' Table Dinner, a fundraiser for the Sunrise Project slated for May 12.

Rick Martin, executive chef and owner of Limestone Pizza, is one of several local culinary professionals participating in the Chefs' Table Dinner, a fundraiser for the Sunrise Project slated for May 12. by Nick Krug

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Johnny’s Tavern named most iconic bar in Kansas by Thrillist

Johnny's Tavern, pictured here in 2013 with owner Rick Renfro, has been named the most iconic bar in Kansas by the website Thrillist.

Johnny's Tavern, pictured here in 2013 with owner Rick Renfro, has been named the most iconic bar in Kansas by the website Thrillist. by Richard Gwin

"Serving Up Tradition Since 1953." So reads the weather-worn, metal sign outside Johnny's Tavern, the north Lawrence establishment that men's lifestyle website Thrillist recently named the most iconic bar in Kansas.

Thrillist praised Johnny's, located across the river at 401 N. Second St., for its colorful history and ability to attract a diverse crowd of "local townies, bank presidents, and college kids."

And, from the looks of Thrillist's roundup, the Lawrence bar has some pretty good company. The list includes gems from every state (plus Washington, D.C.), like Chicago's Green Mill (reportedly one of Al Capone's favorite hangouts) and a 239-year-old Connecticut tavern that used to function as a Redcoat command center during the American Revolution.

Johnny's, of course, boasts a pretty interesting history of its own. Originally built as a hotel/grocery store back in 1910, the building evolved from a pool hall to a Prohibition-era gin joint to eventually, in 1953, the Johnny's Tavern we know today.

The bar-restaurant has another location in west Lawrence, at 721 Wakarusa Drive, as well as seven Kansas City-area branches.

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