Entries Tagged as 'Food and Drink'

$20 Challenge: Downtown Dining

1.22.2016

By Cassidy Ritter

After eating home cooked meals over break, it’s tough to face microwave ramen or the dining hall menu again. But as a college student, you have the ultimate superpower: thriftiness. Time to dust off that budget sheet and see how far you can make your dollar stretch. This weekend, we’ve got a brand new $20 challenge to keep you from going hungry or going broke.

On average, KU students say they spend $10 to $30 eating out on the weekend. College students’ time is spread thin and their wallets are even thinner. With an average meal costing $12.75 according to The Simple Dollar, it is often a challenge for college students to eat out. So, I left my credit card at home and hit the streets of Lawrence with only $20 in hand. My goal was to eat out all weekend, a total of six meals, on a $20 budget.

Bagel-meal1

I spent $3 at Einstein Bros Bagels on a plain bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. For lunch I enjoyed two chicken tacos at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop totaling $4.34­­– my most expensive meal of the day. Spending only $9.84 on Saturday, day one, I felt I was off to a good start.

For Saturday’s dinner, my roommates and I went to McAlister’s Deli. We used our student football tickets to get $5 off our meals. With the coupon, the Stud Max, a baked potato, cost $2.50. This meal was a large portion of two loaded potatoes that could easily count for two meals.

potato-meal3

Student Money Management Services employee Deanna Ambrose, a junior from Frankfort, Kansas, says if students are going to eat out they are better off paying more money for a filling meal that can result in leftovers for a second meal.

On Sunday I knew I needed to be picky about where I ate if I was going to make it through the weekend with $10.16 left in my pocket. My roommates suggested I indulge in fast food restaurants. Andrea Fogarty, a junior from Chicago, and Abbey Leis, a senior from Leawood, Kansas, say they eat at Wendy’s or Taco Bell when they need to save money. I steered clear of fast food restaurants because in my eyes, they were a cop-out.

Choosing not to eat breakfast at a fast food restaurant, I spent $1.72 on a strawberry knot and glazed doughnut at Munchers Bakery Sunday morning. For lunch I enjoyed two slices of pepperoni pizza and free honey at Pyramid Pizza. The pizza cost $6.01. For dinner, I ordered a single burger at BurgerFi where add-ons like cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato are free. I paid $5.95 for the burger, borrowing $3.52 from my friend to cover what was left to pay when my $20 bill ran out.

burger-meal6

Over the course of the weekend I spent $23.52 on meals in Lawrence. After looking at receipts from the weekend, I talked to students at Student Money Management Services who had a few suggestions to other students eating out on a budget. Alex Alexander, a sophomore from Shawnee, Kansas, says if students can wait to eat dinner after 9 p.m. they should go to Chili’s for half price appetizers.

   Tips to Save $$$
Ask for a Student Discount: Though not many restaurants in Lawrence offer them, it never hurts to ask.
Drink water: Most places charge $2 to $2.50 for a soda, so always ask for a water cup.
Choose Carry-Out: Get meals to go to avoid adding a tip to your bill.
Use coupons: Whenever you can! Look for coupons in the student coupon book or planner, with football tickets, and through apps like Eat Street.

Ambrose recommends students to use the app Eat Street. “The more you use it to order food, the more coupons you get,” says Ambrose.

While it is nearly possible to eat out in Lawrence on just $20, it’s not the healthiest option. After six meals of doughnuts, pizza and any other bready delight Lawrence had to offer, I was ready to eat a homemade meal. My body and mind were sluggish and in desperate need of a detox. I ate bad meals because they were the cheaper option. I probably would not have made it through six healthy meals at restaurants on a $20 budget.

 

 

 

The Breakdown:

Saturday:

1)   Einstein Bros Bagels: Bagel with smear, water cup = $3
2)   Fuzzy’s Taco Shop: Two chicken tacos, water cup = $4.34
3)   McAlister’s Deli: baked potato (Spud Max), water cup = $2.50 (w/ $5 coupon from football ticket), could have counted as two meals

Sunday:

1)   Muncher’s Bakery: strawberry knot (.90), glazed doughnut (.60) = $1.72
2)   Pyramid Pizza: Two slices of pepperoni pizza (walk in), water cup, free honey = $6.01
3)   BurgerFi: single cheeseburger with onions, lettuce, tomato (all free add-ons) = $5.95

Total weekend costs = $23.52

LFK’s Best Kept Secret? Pie.

10.15.2015

Pie display

By Cassidy Ritter

Ladybird Diner, at 721 Mass. St., is known for its specialty pies. We went behind the scenes with Ladybird bakers to see how the magic happens.

Walking into Ladybird Diner, I am welcomed by smiling faces, upbeat music and loud chattering throughout the room. To my left is a white bar with red, circular stools. Waitresses gracefully slide from the bar to tables throughout the room. I’ve walked into a 70s diner with a modern day twist.

Homemade pie is one of the life’s simple delicacies many people take for granted. That is, until you are a college student who no longer gets the luxury of homemade meals much less homemade pie. Luckily, this is what Ladybird is known for.

Ladybird was closed for almost five months after a fire ripped through the diner on March 3, 2015. Megan Heirford, owner of Ladybird, says the thought of staying closed never entered her mind. The diner reopened on August 13, 2015 bringing customers new and old through the door. “This time around I’m blown away by how people must have really missed it because we are selling more pies than ever.”

Once introduced to the staff, I am led downstairs to an unfinished hallway with a bright white room at the end. This is where the pie magic begins. Heirford introduces me to two bakers. They will show me the ins and outs of crafting the perfect homemade pie.   

On the weekends Ladybird serves about 600-700 customers and goes through about 250 pies a week. “We just fly through pies,” says Heirford. “There are some days we’re throwing them in the oven as quickly as we’re selling them. We run out of a flavor or two a day.”

Due to the high demand for pie, Ladybird bakes 45 pies at a time. “We start with frozen butter and keep everything as cold as we can,” says Heirford. The frozen butter is mixed into the dough and individually wrapped into 11-ounce portions, says Chris Shaw, baker at Ladybird. The dough then freezes for two to 12 hours while the filling is made.

Cherry filling

“You can’t just whip out a pie really,” says Heirford. “When you’re talking about dough if what you want is a result that’s going to be flaky but still have good structure then it needs to not be overworked and not rushed so things need to stay cold. So we start with really cold ingredients.”

Megan Lees, baker at Ladybird, mixes frozen fruit, cornstarch and about 14 cups of sugar over a conduction burner. When this mix begins to bubble the smell of sweet strawberries, rhubarb or cherry fills the air. Lees says this is about a 45-minute process.

Once the filling is cooled, the frozen dough is rolled out and placed in a pie tray. The filling is then added and crust is delicately placed on top of the colorful filling. The pie is then placed in the freezer overnight. The next morning the pie is placed in a 400-degree oven for 40 minutes ready to be served by 8 a.m.

Adding pie topping

Ladybird offers six to eight pies at a time, but has 50 pie variations. “One day it’s cherry rhubarb, and the next it’s blueberry rhubarb, and then it’s strawberry rhubarb,” says Heirford. “So it all kind of circles around this core group of fruits and custard bases that we work from but we combine them different ways so that it stays lively.”

Eric Pahls, senior from Beloit, Kan., visited Ladybird with his mother for a Sunday brunch that promised huge portions, a home cooked meal and a pie with a twist. Pahls ordered a slice of the Brown Butter Whisky pie topped with fluffy whip cream.

“I actually got a couple pieces and still have one in my refrigerator and I’m just waiting for a time where it’s socially acceptable to eat it,” he says.

The pie was “euphoric,” he says. The texture is similar to that of a pumpkin pie, but not as thick, and the sweet caramel taste is balanced well with the bitter whisky. Pahls says he’s had classic homemade pies before, like cherry and apple, but never anything like this.  

Ladybird Diner

Aside from their famous pies, Ladybird offers an assortment of food ranging from breakfasts, burgers, and home cooked meals like pea-less chicken pot pie, doughnuts and hand-dipped milkshakes.

A piece of advice around town: “Get there early, they run out of pie.”

Photos by Cassidy Ritter

It’s Called Impromptu for a Reason

6.09.2015

By Alec Weaver

Impromptu Cafe

It comes as a welcome shock that I’ve found myself enjoying a crispy pork belly gyro with a cup of tomato bisque in the Kansas Union. Like many students, my experience with food on campus has pretty much been limited to grabbing a chicken-cheddar wrap or a mass–produced plastic box of sushi between classes, but here at the Impromptu café in the Kansas Union, the hustle of campus seems miles away.

The Impromptu Café is a bizarre culinary entity at KU. It is staffed by the university’s catering service and students, and yet retains its identity as a genuine restaurant. After spending some time with the staff, who are more a family than co-workers, I am ashamed to admit that this is the first time I’ve actually stepped foot into the place and eaten the food prepared as ordered by the Impromptu’s head cook Chris Clark.

Clark, like others who make the impromptu tick, comes from a restaurant background. The line cook, who looks a lot like comedian Jon Lajoie, learned his trade from growing up in the restaurants his parents started. “I’ve been doing restaurant stuff for about eight to 10 years now,” he tells me while stocking his prep station with ice to keep all of the cooler ingredients as fresh as possible until plating. The Wichita native took a brief hiatus from the culinary world when he accepted a job doing tech support for the university, but in July of 2014 found himself right back in food service and accepted a position with KU’s Dining Services. “I guess I just can’t leave it. It’s in my blood,” he tells me.

Clark is just about the most easy-going guy you’ll meet. It seems nothing gets to him, even when Kim Nixon, manager for the Impromptu comes to him in the middle of the lunch rush to tell him that they have a customer with 32 food allergies. Nixon and Clark manage to hammer out a special order in a little under a minute, plain grilled chicken breast and wilted greens. As Chris gets the order started, Nixon returns to the dining room, what’s commonly referred to in the restaurant industry as the “front of the house.”  She tells me that in addition to two groups of six from the university, she also saw a lot of visiting “nametags” walking around on campus. “We shouldn’t be too busy today,” she told me, “but then again, you can’t ever be certain of anything in a restaurant,” Nixon says “It’s called Impromptu for a reason.”

                    Impromptu Cafe
Hours: 11 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, when classes are in session + Stop Day and Finals Week
Location: Level 3 of Kansas Union
Price: $10 or less! View the full menu here.

Nixon is simultaneously mother hen and Don Corleone of the Impromptu, and like Clark, she too has a long history in the foodservice industry. “As you can see, I never really had a chance,” she says, her blue eyes beaming from behind her multi-colored glasses as she holds a picture of her father sitting in the kitchen with her as an infant. “I was literally raised in the kitchen.” For the first few years of her life, her crib was in the kitchen of her family’s small apartment. It is apparent that her father, a cook in the National Guard and later for BSNF railroad, was a great influence on her. She takes down a hardback, railroad recipe book from the bookshelf behind the cash register and flips to a bookmarked recipe, a published recipe of her father’s.

Since her childhood in the kitchen, Nixon has spent 31 years in the restaurant industry, mainly sticking to front-of-house positions, and it is her veteran mettle that has made her an integral part of the Impromptu since it opened in February 2008. Her day starts at 8 am Two hours before anyone else arrives to work the restaurant. Between 8 and 9 a.m. Nixon has already checked the dates on the prepped food in the refrigerator, made notes on what she needs made fresh and what she needs to order for the next big shipment of food. Once she’s taken stock of what’s in Impromptu’s kitchen, she’s off to what Nixon describes as the “Mother Ship” next door.

Across the hall, in the belly of KU dining services’ massive kitchen hub, a buzzing hive of cooks, bakers and dishwashers are all hard at work performing the various tasks needed to feed the university. Kim must snake her way back to the walk-in cooler where she must once again note what’s available before writes her final food order on the whiteboard next to the heavy metal door. She works her way to the back of the kitchen, where the chef de cuisine describes the day’s specials to her. There will be a roasted tomato and bell pepper bisque today as well as a shrimp nacho plate with chipotle black beans  and what Nixon jokes are “the usual suspects,” i.e. salsa and cilantro.

Once we finish up in the “Mother Ship,” its back over to the dining room of the Impromptu where Kim makes the necessary preparations for her serving crew who will be arriving shortly. She stock’s their bill folders with plenty of tickets and draws up their zones on a laminated chart of the 16-table brasserie. Later I will come to find out that these dry-erase borders don’t mean much, as the close-knit crew operates with maximum efficiency. Each of the three servers help wherever they are needed, while Kim floats from table to table taking care of guests’ needs in between visits from their respective waiter or waitress. “It really is like a family here,” says Paige Kime, one of the seniors on the Impromptu’s wait staff. While I ate with them at the end of the work shift, her co-workers echoed her sentiment, especially Ben Honeycutt, a junior who applied to serve at the Impromptu for two years before finally being hired in February. “I just really wanted to work here,” he says, “I was just blown away by the work environment.”

The Impromptu is not the first restaurant to inhabit the Kansas Union. Before it opened its doors seven years ago, the union has been home to five other restaurants, three of which have occupied the space that Impromptu currently calls home, and with its student-budget friendly menu ($10.00 and under) the Impromptu isn’t going anywhere soon. Despite only being open for lunch between 11 a.m. to 2  p.m, Nixon is there for a full eight hours, making preparations so that the day can run smoothly without a hitch.

Aside from the food itself, the environment of the Impromptu is truly remarkable. The warm palate of decor complements the warmth of the staff; it is an oasis for students, faculty and visitors alike. A place to just have a little time for yourself away from the mad rush of the campus that can at times feel like a micro-city. I know that as I sat, eating off of an actual plate, using actual silverware, I wasn’t thinking of graduation or finals or careers, in that moment I was merely thinking of how good that pork belly gyro tasted.

Photo courtesy of Impromptu Cafe.

The Tart Trend of Sour Beers

3.04.2015

By Alec Weaver

On a hot day last June my friend Corbin and I were spending some time at our favorite watering-hole. Trying to decide what to drink, the young woman behind the counter recommended we try the new “sour beer.” At first I was skeptical but after taking my first sip of the refreshing, lemony beverage I was sold. There is definitely something in the spectrum for everyone. From fruity Lambics to tart, crisp Berliner Weisses, Food and Wine has called the budding sour beer trend “the most exciting brewing trend right now.”

At first the phrase “sour beer ” might raise a few eyebrows, but the term is just a catch-all for five distinct styles of brew namely; Gose, Berliner Weisse, American Wild Ale, Lambic and Flanders Red Ale.

“Each style is going to have varying degrees of tartness and funkiness depending on the different strains of bacteria and yeast that are used” says Chris Cordero, who works for Cork & Barrel at 9th and Massachusetts.

Sour beers are by no means new, but there is a gathering interest in this style of beer. At Kansas Crown Discount Liquor, employee Kyle Wolfe says that he has seen this growing interest first hand. “I’ve definitely had more people asking about sour beers over the past year, it seems that more and more people want to try them.” Kansas Crown currently offers four different styles of sour beer; a Gose from Anderson Valley Brewing, a Berliner Weisse from Eviltwin, an American Wild ale from Boulevard and several Lambics.

Cork & Barrel offers the same beers in addition to a second Berliner Weisse from Eviltwin and several Flanders Reds and Cordero says that while there hasn’t been a sour beer boom in Lawrence, they have been getting more variety over the past year, with their popularity peaking last spring.

“We sold more sour beers during the warmer weather because they are really refreshing and work well as more of a session beer,” says Cordero.

So what gives sour beer that distinct taste? The secret lies in the bacteria. Geoff Deman, head of downtown brewing at Free State Brewing Co. says that sour beers get their distinct taste from two types of volatile bacteria which produce high amounts of acid during the brewing process. These yeasts can be added deliberately or can be cultivated from “wild” bacteria that occur when the beer is exposed to the open-air during the fermentation process. According to Deman these bacteria can be finicky and can even “infect” other beers, turning them sour.

“For this reason, breweries producing Sour Beers will dedicate specific fermenters, hosing, parts, and even entire packaging lines to the production of Sour Beers,” says Deman.

So are sour beers merely a fad among foodies or should you expect to see more cropping up?

“I think that sour beers are here to stay, but like all things food and beverage will likely see peaks and valleys with regards to popularity,” says Deman. “Classic beer styles that were popular over a decade ago, like Brown Ale, or Stouts, are less so now, with beer styles that push the envelope becoming more and more popular.”

 

If you’re curious about sour beers, you might want to give one of these brews a try, all of which are available locally.

pic 1

Name: Lovechild No.4
Brewery: Boulevard Brewing Company
Style: American Wild
Sourness rating: 8
Purchase at: Kansas Crown Discount Liquor, $17.99, 750ml
Description: Man oh man, this beer is funkier than James Brown in a paisley cape. Aged in both whiskey and wine barrels, Lovechild No.4 is without a doubt the most complex beverage that will ever pass your lips. The aroma of this beer is reminiscent of a good white wine, similar in astringency to chardonnay. The taste opens with a pleasant tartness before giving way to a more pungent flavor, similar to Roquefort cheese. This quickly fades to a subtle fruity sweetness that begs you to take another sip.


pic 2

Name: Justin Blåbær
Brewery: Evil Twin Brewing
Style: Berliner Weisse
Sourness rating: 5
Purchase at: Cork & Barrel, $9.99, 22 FlOz
Description:
This offering from Evil Twin Brewing is exactly what you’d expect a sour beer to taste like. Pronounced tartness at first sip gives way to the familiar maltiness of a macro lager. The Label claims that this beer is brewed with blueberries, but that flavor didn’t really come through.

 

pic 3

Name: Blood Orange Gose
Brewery: Anderson Valley
Style: Gose
Sourness rating: 6
Purchase at: Kansas Crown Discount Liquor, $8.99, 6 cans
Description:
A very refreshing session beer for the impending heat of summer. This offering from Anderson valley has a very bright and crisp orange flavor throughout.

 

pic 4

Name: Duchesse De Bourgogne
Brewery: Verhaeghe
Style: Flanders Red
Sourness rating: 10
Purchase at: Cork & Barrel, $4.89, 11.2 Fl Oz
Description:
This is a very intense sour beer. The initial sip is a huge fruity affair with a grape and red berries being the most prominent flavors. This then fades into a very tart punch, much like expensive balsamic vinegar.

 

pic 5

Name: Kriek Lambic
Brewery: Lindemans
Style: Lambic
Sourness rating: 1
Where to buy: Alvin’s Wines & Spirits, $9.71, 750 ml
Description:
Kriek is Flemish for cherry, and this traditional Lambic doesn’t lack for cherry flavor. Think of an Italian soda with a splash of alcohol and you’ll have the just of what this beer tastes like. There are several other flavors of Lambics (Peach, Raspberry, Grape) and the Lindemans Lambics are fairly easy to find around town.

 

pic 6

Name: Nomader Weisse
Brewery: Eviltwin
Style: Berliner Weisse
Sourness rating: 8
Where to buy: Mass Liqour, $18.00, 6 cans
Description:
Eviltwin’s Nomader Weisse is a little too tart to be a true session beer, but nevertheless it has a very crisp, clean flavor. Don’t let the exorbitant price tag fool you, there was very little complexity to the flavor and absolutely zero maltiness. In other words buy something cheaper and more drinkable or spend your money on one of the better brews listed above.

 

Photos by Jordan Thompson

Edited by Katie Gilbaugh

The U.S. Bourbon Boom: How a Man’s Drink Became Everyone’s Drink

4.23.2014

By Duncan McHenry

Reserve Bourbon

As a bartender working in her hometown of Wichita, University of Kansas junior Rachael Dowding fell in love with her favorite drink — American bourbon whiskey — from the bottom up.

She started by sampling her bar’s bottom-shelf whiskeys, from “the well” in bar terminology, and soon moved up to premium, top-shelf whiskeys. Maker’s Mark quickly became her favorite, and, since then, she has even traveled to the company’s Kentucky distillery and dipped her own bottle in their signature dripping red wax.

For her, the rich flavor of a good bourbon whiskey like Maker’s Mark is the draw. She started off drinking bourbon with Dr. Pepper, but now prefers it with water.

The Wide World of Bourbon Whiskey: A Price and Style Comparison

“Whiskey” and “whisky” are both correct spellings. “Whiskey” typically is applied to variants distilled in the U.S. and Ireland, whereas “whisky” is usually used for whiskies distilled in Scotland, Wales, Canada, Japan and other countries. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, however, as some distilleries, such as “Marker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky,” choose to spell it differently on their bottles.

Popular American Bourbon Whiskeys:

Wild Turkey 80 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price: $29.99
ABV: 40%

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Price: $36.99
ABV: 45%

Dark Horse Distillery Reserve Bourbon
Price: $54.99
ABV: 44.5%

Evan Williams Black Label Kentucky Bourbon
Price: $24.99
ABV: 43%

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price: $46.99
ABV: 43.2%

Sources: Broken Secrets, LoveScotch, DrinkUpNY

“Maker’s Mark is a small-batch distillery,” Dowding said. “They told us on our tour that the creator of their recipe baked bread to figure out what kind of grains he wanted to use to make it, and whatever made the best-tasting bread is what he used to make his bourbon. If it’s something you can drink with water, you really can appreciate it.”

Dowding is not alone in her love for the dark, amber-colored, flavorful drink distilled from a mixture of corn and other grains such as barley, malt and rye. According to Euromonitor International, whiskey sales in the U.S. have climbed by 40 percent in the last five years alone. And, based on February numbers from the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., people also love bourbon overseas as American distillers exported $1 billion in whiskey in 2013 compared to $376 million in 2002.

Along with this so-called “bourbon boom,” as it has been labeled in the media, has come an influx of smaller, craft distilleries — much like what happened in the craft beer industry over the last couple of decades.

Dark Horse Distillery is one such small-time company that was founded in Lenexa in 2010 by siblings Damian, Eric, Mary and Patrick Garcia. The four divide the labor needed to run the business evenly among themselves, with Damian serving as director of sales and marketing, Patrick as master distiller, Mary as head of their event space and Eric handling distribution and legalities. Another major player in Dark Horse’s operation is its copper still, which is affectionately named “Chester Copperpot.”

As Damian discussed Dark Horse’s signature Reserve Bourbon — made with a unique mash of 80 percent corn and 20 percent rye, when U.S. law only mandates a mix of at least 51 percent corn to warrant classification as bourbon — he said several things likely play into the drink’s booming sales. People’s overall affinity for more locally made products and more transparency in production, he said, also helps explain the success of small-batch distilleries like Dark Horse.

“The craft movement is within beer, wine, cocktails and it’s within food, of course,” he said. “You see a lot of people that are starting to gravitate toward that small-batch, handcrafted product. We do some different things that some of the big guys aren’t doing. A lot of consumers are looking for stuff that’s local.”

And as bourbon — and all types of whiskey — has traditionally been thought of as more of a put-some-hair-on-your-chest type of “man’s” drink, it seems logical that its growing popularity has brought a wider range of buyers. Damian said he would attribute this, in part, to a resurgence of creative cocktails in the bar and restaurant scene.

“The traditional cocktails of your Manhattans to the whiskey sours have really been making a comeback for years now,” he said. “[The cocktail movement] is now starting to gain traction even more. People are starting to do what they want with cocktails. They want to have something that’s delicious, and, in a good whiskey cocktail, the whiskey shines through especially nicely.”

Dark Horse Still

Dowding said she has noticed some of her more adventurous girl friends trying bourbon instead of their usual mixed drinks made with clear alcohols like vodka and gin. She attributed many women’s usual affinity for clear drinks to the mentality of “not wanting to look like an old man” more so than from a desire to cut back on calories or from flavor preferences. In fact, according to drinksmixer.com, Maker’s Mark and plain Smirnoff Vodka have the same number of calories and carbohydrates per one-ounce serving — 69 and zero grams.

While Damian added that it has been an “uphill battle” for Dark Horse in the competitive craft beverage industry, he’s confident moving forward with the company. Dark Horse has recently won numerous awards, including a bronze medal for its Reserve Bourbon at the prestigious 2014 World Whiskies Awards in Europe.

Relaxing on her porch swing with a book on a sunny March afternoon after a day of classes, Dowding mixed her favorite Maker’s and water. Although bourbon can be a bit pricey for a college student, she said, it’s her go-to when she’s in the mood for “something distinguished.”

“I drink Maker’s and water,” she said. “It’s just what I like.”

 

Edited by Hannah Swank

Photos courtesy of Dark Horse Distillery

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