Leawood

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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:

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:

Level 5 Motorsports / Wikimedia Commons

Scott Tucker of Leawood goes on trial this week in New York for what has been called one of the nation’s biggest cases of payday-lending fraud.

In recent years, Tucker made a meteoric rise in the world of sports car racing and became one of the most well-known team owners and drivers on the circuit. But on the Kansas City sports scene, Tucker’s racing accomplishments received very little attention, and that’s the way he liked it.

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.

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.

Plantlady233 / Wikimedia Commons

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. to include the comments of the plaintiffs' attorney.  

A Leawood, Kansas, couple whose home was raided by a police tactical team in a bungled SWAT-like search for marijuana will get their day in court after all.

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:

Broch Slabach

The health care plan unveiled last month by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate met with fierce opposition from hospital, doctor and patient advocacy groups. Among them was the National Rural Health Association, which is based in Leawood, Kansas, and represents doctors, nurses and hospitals in rural areas nationwide. 

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.”

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:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

Meet two violinists. One started Kansas City's tango scene before moving to Argentina, and the other is a prominent jazz fiddler. Then, hear the story behind the song, "Under the Sun."

Guests:

Courtesy of Gracie Schram

The artist: Gracie Schram

The song: Under The Sun

Background: Gracie Schram of Leawood, Kansas, has been writing songs since she was a little girl. She released her first album when she was 10 years old. And this past year has been busy and full of change. She graduated high school from Blue Valley North, released the album Dear Fall, and started college in Nashville, Tennessee.

Almost every town, no matter how big or small, has a mayor. But what it means to be mayor in a small town might be different than it is in a prosperous suburb of 35,000 ... or is it? A conversation with four Kansas mayors.

Guests:

Candice Millard

Apr 14, 2017
Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

She's a bestselling author who has written books about James Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. We talk with Candice Millard about how she found her niche of writing about the lesser-known incidents in a historical figure's life, and how her work and her life have intersected.

Guest:

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:

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.

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.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Despite her lifelong Muslim faith, Sofia Khan didn't always wear a head scarf. She was a spiritual person but considered herself a moderate practitioner of Islam, wearing a head scarf on certain occasions.

That changed after the 9/11 terror attacks.

"I realized a negative image was coming on my faith," Khan says. "I wanted to make a statement and show people this not what Islam is. There are so many Muslims living around you, you just don’t know who they are."

Alissa Walker / Flickr - CC

Before LaCroix Sparking Water became a trendy drink, it was a favorite of Midwestern moms.

That’s according to Vox.com reporter Libby Nelson, author of "Why LaCroix Sparkling Water Is Suddenly Everywhere."

In her article, she traces how the bubbly drink  — which she remembers from her Kansas City childhood as “the pastel cases of tasteless soda that my Girl Scout leader packed into her minivan” — went from a Midwestern staple to a status symbol.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James joined city leaders and educators from Missouri and Kansas Saturday at the Kauffman Foundation for the Municipal Summit on Afterschool and Expanded Learning to discuss the importance of after-school and summer programs for students.

James says once students are out of school for the summer, there’s not always a lot for them to do — which he says puts them at risk for participating in dangerous activities.

James said across Missouri and Kansas, only 14 percent of school-aged kids participate in after-school events.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

United Methodist leaders are trying to avoid a church schism over gay rights.

“We have gay and lesbian people who are married,” says Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. “They have children. We welcome them. We’re not going to tell them they should get divorced and divide up the children. We’re going to say, ‘We’re glad you made a lifelong covenant.’”

But Hamilton acknowledges that his congregation, the largest of United Methodists in the United States, has many conservative members who believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

On Tuesday, voters go to the polls in Kansas and Missouri. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Kansas, and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Missouri.