Jen Chen

Associate Producer, Central Standard

Ways to Connect

The New York Times calls him "one of the most acclaimed travel writers of his time." A chat with William Least Heat-Moon about his Kansas City roots, his new novel and how he got his name.

Guest:

  • William Least Heat-Moon

Fally Afani

If you went out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you probably heard Matt Pryor in venues around town.

He was the lead singer of the indie pop-punk band, The Get Up Kids, and he was also the front man for its spin-off, The New Amsterdams.

Now, the Lawrence-based musician is making solo records, and his new album, Memento Mori, takes a different turn.

Michael Korcuska / Flickr -- CC

From the old classics to “interactive” cocktails — and don't forget mocktails — there’s a drink for everyone in KC.

Whether you like your drinks fancy (made with local spirits, fresh herbs and juices and more) or something more simple (usually involving just one type of liquor), KCUR's Food Critics searched out the best cocktails in and around Kansas City in our annual look at libations.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Some Valentine's Day tips for making a meal romantic, then KCUR's food critics search out the best cocktails in and around KC.

Guests:

Courtesy of Des Moines Metro Opera

Most people are familiar with Dead Man Walking, the book and movie that's based on Sister Helen Prejean's interaction with a death row inmate. Well, there's also an opera that's inspired by her story.

We talk to some people from the Lyric Opera about their upcoming performance of this contemporary American work ... and the community outreach they've planned around it.

Lara604 / Flickr -- CC

Many Kansas Citians are familiar with hummus by now. Available at Costco and other area grocery stores, this chickpea puree has become as ubiquitous as guacamole.

But what are some other Middle Eastern dishes that are on local menus?

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A visit to Nazareth Sweets, which is in a part of Lenexa that's becoming a "Middle Eastern strip," and a culinary instructor talks about a beloved Syrian dish that she grew up eating.

Then, the Food Critics search out the best Middle Eastern food in and around KC.

Guests:

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When he was 4 years old, Ed Dwight built an airplane out of orange crates from Safeway in the backyard of his house in Kansas City, Kansas.

But while growing up in a segregated Kansas City in the 1930s and 1940s, he never dreamed that he could be an airplane pilot.

And he certainly didn't think he'd be the first African-American to train as an astronaut for NASA.

But then, a local newspaper changed the course of his life.

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Happy new year! KCUR’s Food Critics — Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara — have been keeping up with the latest news from KC’s restaurant scene.

They shared their picks with guest host Brian Ellison on Friday’s Central Standard.

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When it’s cold out, a big, hearty bowl of pasta really hits the spot.

Whether it’s a creamy mac and cheese or something a little more sophisticated (squid-ink noodles, anyone?), KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best pasta dishes in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Smabs Sputzer / Flickr -- CC

A visit to a local olive oil shop, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best pasta dishes in and around KC.

Plus, the latest news from KC's restaurant scene.

Guests:

Rain Rannu / Flickr -- CC

A new documentary about hummus explores the role of this simple dish in two cultures, plus a sculptor on Decade, her 10-year retrospective that opens Friday.

Then, a chat with two local musicians on how they're paying tribute to David Bowie.

Guests:

http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures

John F. Kennedy had a dream of sending a white man, a black man and an Asian to the moon. Ed Dwight, a KCK native, came close to being the black man on that mission.

Inspired by the upcoming film, Hidden Figures, we hear his story. Plus, a chat with a molecular biologist and our film critics.

Guests:

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Why do you get one Tater Tot in your order of fries at Winstead’s?

According to Kathy Fern, the general manager at the Winstead’s near the Plaza, that’s not a mistake.

About five years ago, they started adding the lone tot as a promotional thing, but then it stuck. It’s something they strive to do with each order, she said, though that renegade tot doesn’t always appear.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

She's an acclaimed singer-songwriter who has been compared to Nina Simone and Roberta Flack. Rufus Wainwright has called her "one of the greatest living singers at the moment." From her home base in Paris, she tours the world . . . yet one of her favorite spots is still the Midtown porch of her 8th grade teacher.

In this encore presentation of Central Standard, meet Kansas City native Krystle Warren.

Guest:

Paul Andrews

In this encore presentation of Central Standard, local artist and pastor Dylan Mortimer discusses his art, his faith and his battle with cystic fibrosis, which he faced head on in his exhibit last January called "Cure."

Guest:

Steven Depolo / Flickr -- CC

Why is comfort food so … well … comforting?

“Carbohydrates,” said KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza.

“I think comfort food is heavy, filling, fattening food that you know you probably shouldn’t be eating,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard. “But if you’re sick or depressed or cold, it really hits the spot.”

For Food Critic Carmen Gramajo, though, it’s also the memories associated with those dishes.

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It's an especially good time of year for comfort food. It's cold out, and it's the holidays, when traditional, hearty, no-frills dishes show up on our tables. KCUR's Food Critics search out the best comforting dishes (outside of grandma's house) in and around KC.

Plus, one reporter's memories of Winstead's (and why you get one tater tot in your order of fries there), and a visit to Sugar Creek, where a former mayor and his wife throw an annual holiday party — a tradition that came with their hilltop house.

Guests:

Meet the KCK native who is the resident playwright at the KC Rep and one of the writers for "Marvel's Luke Cage" on Netflix.

Guest:

Star Athena / Flickr -- CC

Some people have strict rules when it comes to cookies.

"Can we agree ... any cookie that does not have butter as an ingredient should never be made?" Charles Ferruzza asked host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

Ferruzza, with our other Food Critics, searched out the best cookies in and around Kansas City — with and without butter.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

C Is For Cookie

Dec 9, 2016
Deborah Lee Soltesz / Flickr -- CC

It's the holiday season, which means it's time for cookies. Whether you like them soft and chewy or hard and crunchy, KCUR's Food Critics search out the best cookies in and around KC.

Guests:

Régine Debatty / Flickr -- CC

Even though he was born in the United States, artist Roger Shimomura still gets asked where he’s from. Or he’s told that he speaks English really well.

“The presumption is that if you’re Asian, you must be foreign to this country,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Paul Andrews

A chat with the local actor and director about being an out teen in Blue Springs, how he helped create the campy and irreverent Late Night Theatre group and how, until recently, he couldn't perform onstage without throwing up.

Guest:

Courtesy of Craig Jones

Where do you get your hard-shell taco? You know, the kind that's filled with seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce and cheese and a soupy red sauce?

Well, for some Kansas Citians, it depends on where you grew up.

According to Craig Jones, In-A-Tub is a Northland tradition.

"For a lot of people that grew up north of the river, that was their first foray into Mexican food," he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

The DLC / Flickr -- CC

Seasoned ground beef, lettuce and shredded cheese in a crunchy shell. Or braised and shredded pork wrapped in a soft corn or flour tortilla and topped with cilantro, diced onions and salsa. Whichever kind you grew up on, there's a taco for everyone in KC.

On KCUR's Central Standard, our Food Critics searched out the best tacos in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

The hard-shell taco as comfort food at beloved local institutions In-A-Tub and Taco Via, then the executive chef of a Mexican fusion restaurant on putting new twists on traditional recipes and ingredients.

Plus, KCUR's Food Critics search out the best tacos in and around KC.

Guests:

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As a contestant on the Food Network's “Cutthroat Kitchen: Tournament of Terror,” local chef Janet Ross had to cook with tools that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie.

“The dishes themselves you think, ‘Well, no problem.’ But it’s a problem if you’re wearing claws that are barely sharp enough to cut and totally curved to where you are just ripping at food,” she told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

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Sluggerrr's handler weighs in on Mascots, Christopher Guest's new mockumentary, then KCUR's political podcast host discusses competition in sports and politics.

Also: sportswriter Joe Posnanski on the Cubs-Royals connection, curses, underdogs and more.

Guests:

Fruit And Desserts

Oct 28, 2016
Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A local orchard owner talks about agritourism (corn mazes, pumpkin patches, the corn pit and more), a pastry chef fries up some apple pie, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best desserts in and around KC.

Guests:

Paul Andrews/paulandrewsphotography.com

For the past six years, Jyoti Mukharji has opened her home kitchen to teach Kansas Citians about Indian cuisine.

But to her fans, her classes are more than just about cooking. Mukharji peppers her talk with personal stories and health tips, then the class ends in a dinner party around her dining room table.

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