Food Critics

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 As I’m sure you heard, Chipotle will be closed on Monday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m, for a company-wide meeting on food safety after E. coli, salmonella and norovirus were linked to illnesses at its restaurants

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Italian food isn't just pasta in red sauce or hearty slabs of lasagna.

From fish that's served very simply to bucatini alla gricia (pasta with pork jowl), Kansas City's Italian restaurants range from the old-school to places that veer towards lighter fare.

On KCUR's Central Standard, the Food Critics discussed the difference between Italian and Italian-American food — then they searched for the best Italian food in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Red

Feb 5, 2016

From red hearts to red sauce: In this Valentine's Day-inspired show, we start out at V's Italiano Restaurant, where many Kansas Citians have gotten engaged. Not feeling it? We also have tips for what to do when you're about to cry in a restaurant (and yes, we've all done it). Then, KCUR's Food Critics uncover the best Italian food in Kansas City.

Guests:

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Warning: The following recommendations are going to make you really, really hungry. But that’s OK because it’s Restaurant Week here in Kansas City, and there’s plenty to eat at an affordable price.

Before I hand it off to the critics, they wanted me to remind you to tip your bar and wait staff and, of course, have fun. 

And now, here are the recommendations. Try not to drool on yourself ...

Mary Bloch:

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

When it’s cold and snowing — or if you’re feeling under the weather — there’s just something that’s so comforting about a hot bowl of soup or stew.

From pho to pozole to chicken noodle and chicken pot pies, KCUR’s Food Critics uncovered the best soup and stew dishes in Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Charles Ferruzza:

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

If soup is the answer to your cold weather woes, you're not alone. A doctor explains why soup makes us feel better, then our critics guide us to the best soups and stews in town, including insights into the new ramen craze. Bonus: what's new and noteworthy in the Kansas City restaurant scene? Our critics let us in on the people and places to watch right now.

Guests:

Jen Chen/KCUR

From coffee to cocktails, Kansas City’s drink options exploded in 2015.

“I just think this year had been really incredible in terms of the number of distilleries, wineries, breweries and roasteries that have popped up on the scene,” Food Critic Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard on Friday.

“2015 feels like the Year of the Drink,” Vergara added.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Let's be clear, pierogi is not a Thanksgiving food. But you may notice that in some spellings of the word (like the one used in the previous sentence), it has the word 'pie' in it.

That's not a sorry joke. The Slavic origins of the word pierogi, or pirogi (as it is also commonly spelled) yields the translation "pie." Really, they're dumplings but consider them little Slavic pies, too, and they become an eminently appropriate Thanksgiving dish. 

Jeffreyw/Flickr --CC

Cold weather and chili go hand-in-hand.

Hot and hearty, and eminently customizable, it’s an American classic and a perfect winter meal.

But what is chili? There are many recipes that vary by region, including a Kansas City loose-meat assemble-it-yourself style of chili.

“I think it’s chili if you think it’s chili,” Food Critic Jill Silva told guest host Sylvia Maria Gross Friday on KCUR's Central Standard.

We visit Dixon's Famous Chili, a KC institution since 1919; a hot sauce expert recommends the best way to add heat to chili; then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best chili dishes in and around Kansas City.

Guests:

Layers

Oct 30, 2015
Jen Chen/KCUR

Crunchy vegetables, tangy dressing, melted cheese, warm and tender meat (or not), encompassed in soft, chewy bread ... sandwiches have it all.

A grilled cheese expert shows demonstrates the art of cooking them low and slow; we visit a kitchen that pickles all sorts of things in-house; then KCUR's Food Critics search for the best sandwiches in and around Kansas City.

Guests:

Jen Chen/KCUR

Sandwiches — they’re portable, and practically anything can go between two slices of bread (or even atop just one piece of bread).

From banh mi to Cubans to Reubens, local restaurants are offering traditional versions and riffs of the good ol’ hand-held.

Amy/Flickr - -CC

They can’t be greasy, they should be fresh and fluffy, and they taste best when they’re fresh out of the oven or fryer.

You can get them topped with frosting, icing, sprinkles, nuts and more. Then, there’s glaze.

“Glaze is practically natural, like herbs!” Food Critic Charles Ferruzza told Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Esther Honig/KCUR

Kansas City's food truck scene has exploded over the past few years.

If you crave international fare, like Australian meat pies, Cuban sandwiches or Spanish tapas — or more down-home grub, like barbecue, tacos or waffles — you can get it from one of our local food trucks.

Truckin'

Oct 2, 2015
Esther Honig/KCUR

The popularity of food trucks has soared in Kansas City, especially over the past few years. We visit a truck that serves boneless chicken wings that are stuffed with fried rice, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best food truck offerings in Kansas City.

Guests:

Arnold Gatilao/Flickr -- CC

Arepas, pupusas, pão de queijo … there’s more to Latin American food than massive burritos and hard-shell tacos.

Beyond Burritos

Sep 18, 2015

We explore KC's diverse Latin American food scene. A local chef shows us how to prepare cactus (and cooks his specialty dish, chicken with cactus, in the studio), then KCUR's Food Critics uncover the best Latin American dishes in and around Kansas City.

Guests:

From high-end restaurants to drive-through eateries, fried chicken is a staple on local menus. And some places are putting a spin on that nostalgic comfort dish. We invite the chef from Blvd Tavern to talk about his Korean fried chicken, then the Food Critics uncover the best fried chicken dishes in and around KC.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

What’s not to love about fried chicken? There’s the crispy, crackling exterior and a juicy interior. It’s portable and best eaten with your hands, making it the perfect picnic fare — especially for this holiday weekend.

It can be served hot or cold, and don’t forget the sides: Mashed potatoes, green beans, pasta salad, fresh corn and tomatoes, biscuits and so much more (cinnamon rolls, anyone?).

“It’s the ultimate comfort food,” Food Critic Charles Ferruzza told Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard.

And don’t worry the health factor, despite what Ferruzza says —“It’s a guilty pleasure because you should feel guilty eating it!”

On Friday’s Central Standard, chef Derek Nacey from Blvd Tavern told us about his Korean fried chicken dish, then the Food Critics searched out the best fried chicken in and around Kansas City — here's what they came up with.

Sylvia Maria Gross/KCUR

Sweet tomatoes served with soft mozzarella cheese, an arugula salad with a watermelon vinaigrette, even an ice cream made with sweet corn ... the best of summer's bounty is ripe for harvesting.

Garden Bounty

Aug 21, 2015

Summer is winding down, and the garden is flourishing. We learn how to make a sponge corn cake in the microwave at Affäre (and we got the recipe, too), a plant sciences professor talks about the agricultural side of corn, then our Food Critics search out the best corn and seasonal vegetable dishes in Kansas City.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR

Quantity over quality used to be the mantra for brunch spreads in the past. And who can forget the decorative ice sculptures that presided over a seemingly endless row of buffet tables?

Not anymore.

From chilaquiles to chicken confit hash (along with coffee and cocktails) — that leisurely, mid-morning meal gets a makeover on local menus.

On Friday’s Central Standard, our Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Emily Farris uncover the best brunch dishes in Kansas City.

Long and leisurely and sometimes boozy, brunch is a delicious mid-morning ritual. A food historian talks about how the egg became an American breakfast staple, and our Food Critics search out the best brunch dishes in Kansas City.

Bake-Off

Jul 24, 2015
Katie Knight/KCUR

We explore the landmark case of pie vs. cake. Two baking experts — one pro-pie, the other pro-cake — defend their desserts in a lively debate, then our Food Critics search for the best pies and cakes in Kansas City.

Katie Knight/KCUR

It’s an age-old question: In the battle of pie vs. cake, which is superior?

Some contend that cake is a great vehicle for frosting. Others say that pie can incorporate more seasonal ingredients, like fresh fruit.

Fork-Free

Jul 10, 2015

Chocolate hazelnut sea salt, pimento cheese, cilantro pesto aioli ... dips and spreads have gotten fancy on area menus. We talk with a local hummus purveyor, then our food critics uncover the best dips and spreads in Kansas City.

Abdulla Al Muhairi/Flickr -- CC

Dips and spreads are possibly the perfect accompaniment to any meal. They’re relatively easy to make, they’re crowd-pleasers at parties and they’re great showcases for fresh herbs. And really, who doesn’t like a grown-up version of Fun Dip, that candy where you used a chalky tablet as a vehicle to scoop flavored powder into your mouth?

From hummus to pesto to pimento cheese, Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Bonjwing Lee search out the best dips and spreads in Kansas City.

Maureen Didde/Flickr -- CC

“Happy hours are the early-bird specials of the 21st century,” said Food Critic Charles Ferruzza. “If you eat early enough, you get an inexpensive meal.”

Smabs Sputzer/Flickr -- CC

It’s almost officially summer, which means it’s time for fresh herbs from the garden. From lavender-scented lemonade to basil chocolate chip cookies, local chefs and mixologists are finding ways to add a kicky punch — or a subtle depth of flavor — to savory and sweet dishes, drinks and dessert.

On this week’s show, our Food Critics Mary Bloch, Charles Ferruzza and Jenny Vergara put together their ideal herb-friendly meals — and explore the best herb dishes in Kansas City.

April showers bring May flowers ... and herbs. We take a trip to Powell Gardens, then our food critics uncover the best herb dishes in town.

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