Food Critics

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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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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:

Francis Bourgouin / Flickr -- CC

What sets a truly great happy hour apart?

Well, delicious food and drinks, for one. There’s also the vibe of the place.

“The social aspect of this cannot be discounted, even in the discounted world of happy hour,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Plus, she added, it’s just good way to get to familiarize yourself with a new cuisine or try a restaurant that might normally be out of your price range.

Sam-H-A / Flickr -- CC

A visit to a trendy restaurant that makes "church basement coffee;" and a local bar owner shows us how to make frozen drinks without a blender. Then, the Food Critics search out the best happy hour specials in and around KC.

Guests:

Isabelle Hurbain-Palatin / Flickr -- CC

There once was a time when "sausage" meant links or patties served with pancakes.

Not anymore, especially in Kansas City. We’ve seen a lot more sausage variety over the past few years.

“I think it’s part of the butchery trend,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. “We have more and more chefs who are opening great butcher shops. With this return to artisan do-it-yourself butchery, sausage is a really incredible way to use up all the pieces and parts.”

Timothy Vollmer / Flickr -- CC

A local chef tells us about the white barbecue sauce that he'll be serving at his new restaurant; a New York food writer discovered that Kansas City has the best cinnamon rolls; then the Food Critics search out the best sausages in and around town.

Guests:

Pauline Mak / Flickr -- CC

What’s the mark of a good bakery?

“You can taste when butter is used,” Food Critic Carlton Logan told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. “You can tell when real ingredients are used. It has a very different taste compared to something you get in a supermarket.”

Logan, along with critics Charles Ferruzza and Jenny Vergara, searched out the best bakeries — and best baked goods — in and around Kansas City this year.

Here are their recommendations:

Lexi Churchill / KCUR 89.3

From hearty loaves of bread to sweets from around the world, local bakeries are doing interesting things.

We talk to a local bakery customer about his weekly order for a loaf of challah — and about the tradition and ritual around buying bread. We also visit a bakery that makes treats from around the Americas, then the Food Critics search out the best baked goods in and around Kansas City.

Guests:

Lara604 / Flickr -- CC

In this encore presentation: 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:

Stacy Spensley / Flickr -- CC

Once, our idea of healthy eating revolved around the salad bowl.

But we’ve discovered that some salads can be deceptively unhealthy … and that there are other satisfying options on local menus.

On Friday’s Central Standard, KCUR's Food Critics explored what “healthy eating” really means.

“I believe there are so many personal definitions of what ‘healthy’ is,” Lisa Murphy told host Gina Kaufmann. “Every individual has to make their own choice and have their own personal philosophy.”

Pseph / Flickr -- CC

What exactly is healthy food? Definitions can vary. On this show: a visit to T. Loft, then a local scientist says that salt has gotten a bad rap for years; many of us should eat more salt, not less.

We also look into the healthy restaurant trend, and our Food Critics and a dietitian search out the best healthy dishes in and around KC.

Guests:

Ralph Daily / Flickr -- CC

Summer grilling season is upon us. Over this Memorial Day weekend, we’ll be firing up the backyard grill, cold beverage in hand.

But what exactly is grilling? KCUR’s Food Critics defined it on Friday’s Central Standard.

“It’s over hot fire or coals,” Carlton Logan told host Gina Kaufmann.

“Grilling is not barbeque,” added Charles Ferruzza. “The main difference is the speed. Grilling can be pretty fast. Barbeque is a slow-cooker thing.”

Grilling In KC

May 26, 2017
Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

To kick off the summer grilling season: a visit to a Brazilian steakhouse, where the meat goes from grill to table in under 15 minutes; how to grill non-meat items (romaine lettuce and eggs in the shell); then our Food Critics search out the best grilled dishes in and around Kansas City.

Guests:

The Marmot / Flickr -- CC

Summer's on the horizon. And as temperatures start to rise, our thoughts turn to the drinks and dishes that'll help keep us cool.

From an old-school shrimp cocktail to spring rolls — and, of course, don't forget ice cream and shaved ice — KCUR's Food Critics searched out the best iced and chilled dishes in Kansas City on Central Standard.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Cecilia Rodriguez / Flickr -- CC

We got a little a preview of summer this week, and man, it was hot. To help keep us cool when the humidity kicks in: a visit to Polly's Soda Pop, an iconic Independence soft drink company that re-opened last year, then a local coffee shop owner talks about nitro coffee (and other cold beverages).

The Food Critics searched out the best iced and chilled dishes in KC, plus the latest restaurant news from this past spring.

Guests:

Karen Neoh / Flickr -- CC

There’s a lot that can go between two slices of bread.

Portable and fuss-free — no need for utensils — sandwiches are perfect for work lunches or picnics.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

Why did the old-school Jewish deli go away ... and why are people interested in reviving it now? Then, KCUR's Food Critics search out the best sandwiches in and around Kansas City in 2017.

Guests:

stu_spivack / Flickr -- CC

It’s hard to go wrong with fries.

They come in all sorts of shapes and textures, and they’re a great vehicle for dipping sauces, seasonings or even gravy.

Whether you prefer thin and crispy, thick and pillowy-soft inside — or waffle-shaped, crinkle-cut or curly — on Friday's Central Standard, KCUR’s Food Critics searched out the best fries in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Joselu Blanco / Flickr -- CC

The story behind the off-menu extra-crispy French fries at Gates, then KCUR's Food Critics search out the best fries in and around KC.

Guests:

Erin / Flickr -- CC

Brunch can take on many different forms.

There’s the all-you-can-eat buffet, complete with waffle and omelet stations.

And don’t forget the boozy brunch — quite possibly the only time of the week where one could have a drink in the morning without feeling too guilty.

On Friday's Central Standard, KCUR's Food Critics took their annual look at the best brunch dishes in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Bonjwing Lee

Brunch: part-breakfast, part-lunch ... and all-delicious. KCUR's Food Critics search out the best brunch dishes in and around KC.

Plus, a dim sum outing, and a lesson in making fresh pawpaw fruit jam.

Guests:

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Chicken isn't the most exciting protein.

“It’s like the vodka of the food world,” Food Critic Jenny Vergara told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR's Central Standard. “It takes on the flavor of whatever you put in it or put with it.”

But that’s the beauty of chicken — and why it’s a beloved staple in many cultures. Whether you like it fried, roasted or grilled, in strips or shredded (and, for the kids, in nugget form), you can find chicken at all price points.

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