The holidays can be extraordinarily stressful for even the most spirit-filled person. If you are the one doing the cooking, replicating a giant, fancy holiday meal can bring one to wit’s end, particularly if you just did another elaborate dinner at Thanksgiving.
I love Asian grocery stores. All of those mysterious, oddly named ingredients-- stinky tofu, anyone? Anyone?-- the smell of rice and soy and dried mushrooms. I visit Asian Market on Central, near Hydraulic, often, because it is close to both the restaurant and home.
I have been going to Hana Café since it was a little Rock Road hole in the wall. It was tiny then, and very simple and Japanese-looking, complete with a waving kitty and blue and white curtains. The menu was small but excellent, serving sushi, pork tonkatsu, miso soup, and other Japanese specialties. One might also order a few Korean dishes, all well prepared.
According to Pinterest, Thanksgiving is upon us. I know that it seems like several weeks away, but for those of us in charge of the meal, the planning begins now. I grew up eating the same huge meal, very traditional-- turkey and all the trimmings, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, the works. We had so many dishes to do, and so many courses. My mother is from the east coast and she made all the things from her childhood. We ate oyster casserole with creamed corn and saltines, bread stuffing with sage, sweet sweet sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows.
The Wichita Asian Festival is coming up this weekend, and I’m excited about it. I have attended nearly every year since it started 32 years ago. What began as a small celebration with a smattering of food vendors and a beauty pageant has grown into a huge multicultural event. There’s still a pageant, but now the entertainment ranges from East Indian dance troupes to martial arts demonstrations. It’s a blast, but the best part for me has always been the food.
When you work in a restaurant, sometimes the only thing you want to eat is something that you, yourself, did not prepare. You could be surrounded by delicious food all day long and desire none of it. I know the feeling well.
Sometimes I’ll go out and get pizza or tacos for my staff, just for a change of pace. I did that yesterday, when I went out to check on my friends at MMM Sandwiches, a food truck serving… sandwiches. Really good sandwiches. Sandwiches we didn’t make ourselves. I ordered one of everything and got an appetizer just for kicks.
I will admit, very readily, that when I heard about the “gluten free” diet a few years ago, I thought it was a trend or just another weird excuse for an eating disorder. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and their cousins. Gluten intolerance makes drinking regular beer or eating soy sauce impossible. For the gluten intolerant, eating regular bread or pizza or pasta is simply not in the plan. The horror.
Want to step into a time machine? I know how. Go to Doc’s Steakhouse on North Broadway and hold onto your hat. Doc’s is retro all the way, from cobbled exterior to entirely brown interior. This is old-school Wichita.
Doc’s is a real experience, in every sense of the word. It is located on North Broadway, between a couple of Mexican restaurants, a Vietnamese market, and a pawn shop. It is a part of Wichita history, where our Mad Men would drink and eat meat and drink martinis, and deals of all kinds were brokered. Nothing about it is modern in any way, except for the televisions.
I have talked often of my love for very spicy food. I like to eat things so chili-hot that my eyes water and I get a sort of sparkly endorphin rush. I don’t like heat for heat’s sake, though, so the dish itself has to be delicious and well made, and the chilies need to enhance rather than obscure the flavors within. You aren’t going to see me judging jalapeno eating contests any time soon. I’d much rather be slurping up Thai noodles and curries at Chiang Mai.