Food And Drink

Then-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue visits the U.S. embassy in Uruguay in 2010.
usembassy_montevideo / Flickr

President-elect Donald Trump plans to pick former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department, a transition official and a source close to the process confirmed to NPR.

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday, ending a months-long process that left Agriculture Secretary as the final Cabinet post to be filled.

Sweet potato consumption in the U.S. nearly doubled over 15  years, from about 4 pounds per person in 2000.
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

War Effort

“A lot of things were hard to get during World War II and potatoes were easier to raise than some of the other vegetables,” my grandmother Joyce Heise tells me.

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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.

The Rieger / Facebook

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:

Before the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration puts the election to rest, we ask, does Midwestern representation in national politics depend on the Electoral College?

Plus, Kansas City recently lost a long-time member of its culinary community: Jennifer Maloney. With her passing, we take a moment to consider the character of the chef.

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:

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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.

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:

scott1346 / Flickr -- CC

Is the family farm changing? As the farming industry's wealth is consolidated into the hands of just a few multinational companies, three family farmers discuss the challenges they face and how they're adapting.

Guests:

Signs for and against construction of a proposed Costco chicken processing plant, nicknamed Project Rawhide.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A proposal that would jumpstart the chicken business in Nebraska has some residents concerned about the potential impact on the environment and are trying to block or delay its construction.

Costco, the warehouse retailer and grocery chain, plans to build a giant $300 million chicken slaughterhouse on the south side of the town of Fremont in eastern Nebraska.

Many hydroponic operations want to certify as organic to take advantage of the growing organics market.
(File: Pat Blank / for Harvest Public Media)

There is a battle going on in the organic industry over hydroponics, the technique of growing plants without soil. The debate gets at the very heart of what it means to be “organic” and may change the organic food available to grocery store shoppers.

To be labeled as organic, fruits and vegetables are required to be grown without genetic modification or synthetic chemicals, and to meet other rules set out by the Agriculture Department. But what about produce that isn’t grown in the dirt?  

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:

Wine And Food Fit For A Holiday Party

Dec 9, 2016
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The holiday season is here! That means tasty treats, good wine and great conversations. From pairings like a Trento sparkling wine with shrimp ceviche, Master of Wine Doug Frost and Room 39 owner, Chef Ted Habiger join us to share their expertise for hosting a party you won't soon forget. 

The wines and beer tasted during the program:

  • Giulio Ferrari - Fratelli Lunelli (Extra Brut)
  • Brian Carter Cellars - Oriana 2014
  • Elk Cove Vineyards - Pinot Noir 2014
  • Emperial Brewery - Kölsch

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:

Tens of thousands of black soldier fly larvae munch on juice pulp at Mad Agriculture's pilot facility in Boulder County, Colorado.
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Americans waste a staggering amount of food. Instead of letting it rot and wreck the environment, some entrepreneurs want to put it to work feeding insects, and see the potential to revolutionize how we feed some of the livestock that provide us our meat.

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:

Photo illustration by BigStock Images

Ask food critic Charles Ferruzza what restaurants in Kansas City might look like in 30 years, and he envisions places where “farm-to-table” has gone to the extreme.

“Can you see the day people will come in with their very own sorghum from their backyard and ask you to cook it?” Ferruzza asked chef Ted Habiger on a recent episode of Central Standard

Kansas City has made quite a name for itself as a foodie town. We're internationally known for our barbecue, and our chefs are getting nominated for James Beard awards.

But it wasn't always this way. We used to call ourselves a cowtown, back when steakhouses were our specialty, and only vacations held the promise of 'adventurous' food. So how did we did make it onto the map as an emerging food town, up on, even ahead of, the latest trends?

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.

Kenny Louie / Flickr -- CC

Nothing says “It’s fall!” like a delicious dessert to accompany a warm cup of cocoa. From fried apple pies to good ol' carrot cake, we’ve got the treats that will make your season sweet.

On Central Standard’s food show this week, KCUR's Food Critics searched out the best desserts in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

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.

All students at Battle Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri, have access to a free breakfast every school day.
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Chantelle DosRemedios was pregnant with her second child when she and her husband both lost their jobs in Rhode Island. Like millions of others, she depended on a federal program designed to aid in early childhood development to keep her children fed.

Moms and kids who qualify can participate in a federal program called Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. The program provides nutritious food packages and other benefits to some 8 million moms and young kids nationwide.

Paul Andrews / http://paulandrewsphotography.com/

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

But to her fans, her classes are more than just about learning how to cook; she shares health tips and personal stories ... such as how she defied expectations on arranged marriage and on going to med school.

Guest:

  • Jyoti Mukharji, local culinary instructor

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