Jen Chen | KCUR

Jen Chen

Associate Producer, Central Standard

Ways to Connect

Jules / Flickr -- CC

What's not to like about cheese? First of all, it's probably the one food item for which "ooey-gooey" was invented. (And if not, let's just say it was).

Whether you like it melted in a sandwich or by itself with a glass of wine or beer, cheese is having quite a moment in KC.

Cheese + Beer

Dec 8, 2017
Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife / Flickr -- CC

Forget wine and cheese ... now there's beer and cheese. A local cheese expert tells us about the best beer and cheese pairings. Plus: a visit to a classic KC restaurant that brought back its fondue nights from the 1970s, then the Food Critics search out the best cheese dishes in and around town.

Guests:

On this December arts show: the story behind "Uplift," a new exhibit that's inspired by ladders, and a local science fiction writer on her book, which takes place in the aftermath of the second civil war in the United States.

Plus: pajamas and punk rock at the museum? The Nelson hosts a pj party for grown-ups, featuring the music of The Architects. We catch up with drummer Adam Phillips ... and talk about fuzzy onesies.

Guests:

The McFadden brothers are musicians, singers and tap dancers. They learned how to tap from their father, the legendary Smilin' Jimmy McFadden, and they've just received a 2017 Living Legends awards from the Tapology Music Institute, a national organization. Hear their story, which starts at 29th and Euclid.

Guests:

ilaria / Flickr -- CC

Italian food. Those two words may bring up images of a pasta dish with red sauce, or perhaps a thick square of lasagna. Throw in a glass of wine, and you're set for a cold winter night.

Some local chefs are also putting a creative spin on the cuisine. From old-school favorites to some new takes, our food critics on KCUR’s Central Standard searched out the best Italian food in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

alanagkelly / Flickr -- CC

Hear the story behind a classic Kansas City restaurant, then visit a new cafe that's located inside an antique mall. Plus: our Food Critics search out the best Italian food in and around KC, from beloved old-school favorites to interesting new takes on the cuisine.

Guests:

Phil Prater / Public Domain

On KCUR’s Central Standard, host Gina Kaufmann spoke to Reverend Debbie Buchholz, co-founder of Deaf International, and William Ennis, assistant professor of history at Gallaudet University, about the history of persecution against people with deafness in this country — and the milestones along the path to equal rights.

We talk with artist Amy Sherald, who has two paintings at the Kemper Museum (one of which is part of a new portraiture exhibit). Sherald is also painting the official portrait of Michelle Obama for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

In food circles, there have been a lot of questions about the idea of authenticity and appropriation. We explore the intersection of food, race and culture.

Guests:

Joy / Flickr -- CC

It’s a great time of year for pie.

Whether you’re celebrating the holidays with a traditional pumpkin pie, or warding off the chill with a hearty chicken pot pie, it’s amazing what can go under, over or between flaky, golden crusts.

On KCUR’s Central Standard, our Food Critics searched out the best pies — both sweet and savory — in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Pumpkin + Pies

Oct 27, 2017
Ervins Strauhmanis / Flickr -- CC

Pumpkins are everywhere. They're being carved, painted and eaten by squirrels all over town. But what about cooking them? Two local chefs share their tips for savory pumpkin dishes.

Plus: a visit to Rye to learn more about pie crusts, then the Food Critics search out the best pies — both sweet and savory — in and around KC.

Guests:

Keith Stanfield

Oct 20, 2017
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

He started playing the violin at age 3, then he taught himself how to play soccer at 12. Meet local violinist Keith Stanfield, who not only went to music school, but he also played soccer for Western Samoa's World Cup team.

Guest:

Aaron Leimkuehler

Restaurants come and go. On KCUR’s Central Standard, our Food Critics — Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara — have kept up with the latest goings-on in our local dining scene from over the past several months.

Jun Seita / Flickr -- CC

Dining out can be a form of entertainment. We take a look at the trends that play into this experience, from communal tables to open kitchens and more.

Then, the Food Critics discuss the latest restaurant news in KC: openings, closing, new menus and chefs.

Guests:

Gordon C. James / Courtesy of Agate Publishing

Sometimes, a haircut isn’t just a haircut.

When he was growing up in Kansas City, author Derrick Barnes felt like a new kid after visiting his barber.

“Man, to get my haircut on Thursday means that when I showed up to school on Friday, I would look so fresh, and people would pay attention to me,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

He's a jazz trombonist with an 18-piece big band, and he also tours with Janelle Monae. Meet Marcus Lewis, who has collaborated with two local rappers to put a new spin on their songs.

Plus: A new arts residency program on Troost, and we catch up with Sike Style, the man behind the colorful murals around town.

Guests:

Rob Bertholf / Flickr -- CC

It's one of the best times of the year to be outside. It's officially fall on the calendar, and after a hot September, it has finally cooled down.

In that spirit, KCUR’s Food Critics searched out the best outdoor dining spots on Friday's Central Standard. From a see-and-be-seen sidewalk café to something that's more secluded and romantic, they found a plethora of spots in and around KC to enjoy the outdoors with food and drink in hand.

Here are their recommendations:

Steve Bozak / Flickr -- CC

It's finally feeling like fall. To celebrate the start of crisp-weather season: a cocktail blogger shares her seasonal drink, The Early Fall Lowball, and we also talk to the 2017 winner of the World Champion Squirrel Cook Off. Then, a visit to a Bavarian-style biergarten, and the Food Critics search out the best outdoor dining spots in and around KC.

Guests:

Vanessa Thomas

Sep 22, 2017
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

Vanessa Thomas is a singer who is living her dream life in Lawrence. She's a vocal coach, a church music director and a mom of four. Oh, and she also tours the country to perform with the legendary Doc Severinsen. Hear her story: how she overcame the trauma of abuse through music, and how her hometown of Clay Center, Kansas, played a big part in connecting her to the world.

Guest:

m01229 / Flickr -- CC

When it comes to food, everyone has a guilty pleasure.

According to KCUR Food Critic Jenny Vergara, it may be something that’s full of fat and calories. Or it could be a retro throwback (like spinach artichoke dip) or a childhood favorite.

It could also be something that you like but everyone else thinks is gross (who else mixed Hawaiian Punch and milk? Anyone?). Or maybe it's that one dish from a chain restaurant that you crave.

Sebastian Dooris / Flickr -- CC

Our reporter re-visits Foo's Fabulous Frozen Custard, where she worked during high school, then the Food Critics search out the best guilty pleasures on local menus.

Guests:

Tory Garcia / Courtesy of Kemet Coleman

The Phantastics describe themselves as “dance floor activators.”

For the last six years, they’ve been activating local dance floors with songs that meld rap, jazz, gospel, funk and more.

“We definitely try to incorporate as many genres as possible to create not chaos, but a winding river of music,” rapper Kemet Coleman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Julián Zugazagoitia runs a classic Kansas City institution, but his own story is international. His grandparents fled fascism in Europe, and he grew up in Mexico as the son of a renowned actress. Hear more of his story.

Guest:

Meet the creative forces behind some of the exciting art stuff going on in September. We talk to the director of a play where ten manly explorers are played by women. Then, the dance troupe that choreographs shows off the sides of buildings. Finally, a KC musician who activates local dance floors and local politics.

Guests:

surtr / Flickr -- CC

We’ve been eating out of bowls for thousands of years.

However, the idea of serving meals in bowls has become trendy in the United States. And it's not for people who don't like their food to touch.

“I think the bowl trend comes out of an idea of more healthy, mindful eating,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Bowl meals are also portable and convenient — and they’re also Instagrammable.

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr -- CC

Filipino food in Kansas City, a visit to a local restaurant that specializes in poke bowls, then the Food Critics search out the best bowl dishes in and around KC.

Guests:

Paul Andrews PAUL ANDREWS / Paulandrewsphotography.com

For his day job, he smoked ribs at a barbecue joint. But his secret identity was a playwright. Hear Nathan Louis Jackson's journey to becoming a writer for television and stage, including the Netflix series Luke Cage.

Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play and Stitcher.

Jack Hummel, Western Music Association

On a sunny summer afternoon, a group of cowboys took to the outdoor stage in front of the Raphael Hotel on the Plaza and started singing in four-part harmonies.

That band, 3 Trails West, is one of the only practitioners of cowboy music in Kansas City — and has been named the band of the year by the Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association.

But what exactly is cowboy music? It isn’t country music. Or country-western.

Ron Megee (R)

Aug 18, 2017
Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

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 fairly recently, he couldn't perform onstage without throwing up.

Guest:

"The Wizard of Oz" (1939) / MGM

When you start a show called "Midwesternish," at some point there'll be an episode about The Wizard of Oz. If this film defines Kansas for the entire world, what exactly does it say and do we believe it? 

Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play and Stitcher.

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