From the category archives:

Food businesses

Richard Pallucca

By Allie Coulter
FRONTENAC – In 2012, Pallucca and Son’s Super Market will celebrate its 100 year anniversary. In 1912, Attilio Pallucca, an immigrated from San Pellegrino, Rome, opened the Italian shop in Southeast Kansas.

The meat market and grocery store is located off highway 69 in Frontenac, a town of around     3,000 residents. Within a 4 mile radius of Pallucca’s stands a Wal-Mart superstore, Dillions and a Walgreens. These are all large corporate stores that have forced many small, locally owned stores out of business. But not Pallucca’s.

Pallucca’s success over the years could be “hard work and customer loyalty,” said Pallucca, 72, although, he admits “a lot of times I wanted to say the hell with it.”

The store originally opened by Pallucca’s grandfather and partner Enrico Moriconi. Later the family bought Moriconi’s share. It has been passed down three generations in the Pallucca family:  grandfather Attilio, Joe, and now Richard.

Frontenac is filled with Italian heritage.  Pallucca’s offers a large selection of Italian foods.  They are known for Italian sausage. Pallucca learned to make sausage from his father. The recipe was derived from Richard and his uncle Mannoni.  They experimented until they came up with something that was exactly what they wanted.

In 2009, Pallucca decided it was time to scale back because business was slowing down and he was reaching his 70s. “I have been working 80-90 hour work weeks since as long as I can remember and had been a butcher for around 50 years,” he said.

He is tired.

The grocery part of Pallucca’s down-sized.  Currently, the store focuses on the meat department and catering.  They also have small area with five tables for daily lunches.  For the lunch crowd, they serve anything from paninis to rigatonis.

The majority of Pallucca’s meats come from a wholesale. Angus beef the only beef that is used in their store.

Will Pallucca’s survive another generation?

He has two sons, Bill and Joe, and a daughter, Becky. Both of his sons work in Kansas City while Becky is a police officer in nearby Pittsburg.  “If anyone takes over the store it would likely be Becky,” he said. She helps close the store some nights when she is not on duty.

Keeping Pallucca’s in the family is something that is important to him. If someone in the family is not able to take over the store he said, “I’d lock her up and go home or die in here.”

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Browne's, Irish in Kansas City since 1877.

By Stephany Moore
KANSAS CITY – There is a steady buzz of noise in the air, marked with laughter, jubilant conversation, and a few voices that have surpassed a socially acceptable volume, most likely due to one too many draws of Guinness, even though it’s just past 11 a.m.

People of all ages sit shoulder to shoulder inside the cozy restaurant. Even more are seated along plastic foldout tables beneath a large white tent outside.  None seem to mind as they eat their traditional Irish breakfasts of bangers and rashers and drink [those of age] their traditional Irish beers.

Periodically, John Feehan, clad in an authentic kilt, will bring out his bagpipes and plays a jig for daughters Nellie and Shannon to dance to.  This is a tradition started when they were toddlers and continues 17 years later.  Enthused customers at Browne’s Irish Marketplace clap and cheer.

For many Kansas City dwellers, St. Patrick’s Day is a day to spend listening to Irish music, watching the parade, but most importantly, drinking excessive amounts of Irish beer.

But for the extended family that has owned and operated Browne’s for the past 124 years,  it is a day to honor the family heritage and play host to loyal customers. According to the Irish Trade Board, Browne’s is North America’s oldest Irish business.

Ed and Mary Flavin, immigrants from County Kerry, Ireland, opened Browne’s Irish Marketplace in 1887.   Flavin’s, as the store was named back then, was a quaint grocery store and corner butcher shop.  The store was renamed Browne’s after Falvin’s daughter, Margaret, and husband, James R. (Jim) Browne (also an immigrant from County Kerry), took over the store.

Browne’s evolved into an Irish delicatessen and marketplace.  They are rated by several Kansas City magazines and newspapers as the best sandwiches and cookies around.  The Browne’s Reuben was No. 9 placed on the Top 10 KC foods to eat before you die list.

The 4th generation is now at work in the family business.

Browne’s continues to sell an assortment of imported foods from canned Ambrosia Custard to Odlum’s Brown Bread Mix, continuing the tradition Ed and Mary Flavin started.

In 2008, Kerry Browne, 4th generation owner and operator, made a big change.  She transformed the adjoining apartment, where previous owners had lived, into an Irish and Celtic gift shop.  Most of the clothing, homewares, and jewelry are imported directly from Ireland to maintain the Browne’s proud authenticity.

The business philosophy remains the same. “Our store was founded on family values and trust in our customers,” says Browne, “and we still run the store the same today.”

According to Browne, during the Depression local businesses and neighbors had to help each other out to make it through.  Jim Browne often let customers pay what they could for meat and groceries in exchange for their loyalty.  This generosity is still prevalent today.

“Other businesses pride themselves on being owner-operated, but here at Browne’s you see the proprietors every day interacting with the customers and forming relationships with them,” Browne explains.

The aroma of freshly brewed Roasterie coffee ( “1887 Blend” named after the founding date) and freshly baked soda bread fill the air, worn oak floors creak softly, family pictures testify to a respect for the past. A visit to Browne’s is like going to Grandma’s house; at least that is how fifth generation sales manager, Nellie Feehan, explains it.

“Our family has such a close bond because of the store. Usually when a grandparent dies, you lose a lot of contact with distant relatives, but the store brings us all together. It’s like a living legacy,”  Freehan adds. She is Brown’s niece; most of the family is involved with the store.

Nothing brings the family together more than the holiday that celebrates their family heritage.

To say St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal for Browne’s is a vast understatement. “I can’t remember a year when we woke up later than 5 a.m.,” says Feehan.  The entire extended family works together in the early morning hours to get breakfast ready and start preparations for lunch.

At the end of the day, the hard work pays off.  “Stack ‘em high, watch ‘em fall,” is the old saying of Feehan’s grandpa, James R., Jr. (Bob) Browne regarding the rapid inventory turnover.  Browne’s Irish Marketplace has made it through rougher times, but has remained standing strong, and will continue to host memories for future generations to come.

Browne’s Irish Marketplace is located at the corner of 33rd and Pennsylvania in midtown Kansas City, Missouri.  They are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays until 7 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, with seasonal extended hours.

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By Annarose Hart
Every foodie has a gold standard to measure culinary brilliance and pleasurable eating experiences by. What is the secret to captivating the attention, palette, and imagination of an eater? Dr. Edgar Chambers IV, distinguished professor of sensory analysis and consumer behavior and director of the Sensory Analysis Center of Kansas State University, has the answers to determining gold standards.

“Everyone has a sensory vocabulary,” Chambers believes. To explain, he pulls out from his bookshelf a deep red box. Not just an ordinary box; it is a Le Nuz du Vin.    Le Nuz du Vin is a guide to wine sensory analysis developed by French wine expert Jean Lenoir as an instructional and educational sensory guide for wine people.  Chambers sets it on the table, and  gingerly reveals the content.

Too many lemons

“Some wines taste like notes of vegetable, fruit, and citrus,” he says. He pulls out #16, and passes it around. “What are the secrets of the scent?” Peach? No, raspberry. “But what type of raspberry?” he asks. “Fresh? Jam? Sweetened? Candied? You must be specific. For instance, in Pepsi there is a lemon flavor.”

Chambers elaborates; when discussing sensory matters with industry professionals, trained panel members, or academia simply saying ‘lemon’ is not good enough.

“Be specific: it smells like the lemon drops.” To describe the spark of the scent of a lemon, think. Is it candy, juice, zest, dishwasher detergent, or furniture polish? What is it?

People will be able to taste the difference between the Pepsi with the furniture polish lemon fragrance or the Pepsi with the fragrance of the zest of a lemon. People don’t need to know the specifics, but it is important for professionals reviewing products to be specific. Producers want to paint the flavor landscape for the consumer.

In the pursuit for the perfect lemon flavor for Pepsi, the panel and faculty at Kansas State created a set of 45 lemon scenes. Unlike the Master Kit with Le Nuz du Vin, you cannot purchase all the lemon scents at one place, but have to go through multiple levels and fragrance manufacturers. It pays to invest in the flavor of the product.

According to Chambers, “You get what you pay for.” It is imperative to only use fragrances with appropriate personalities for the product in creation.

It is not necessary for the average person to distinguish between the available 45 fragrances of lemon. Industry professionals must be committed to the pursuit for the perfect lemon, or the success of the creation is in limbo and the gold standard, never reached.

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Kansas wheat milled for Kansas bakers

By Tatum Bartsch

HUDSON – When the Stafford County Flour Mill opened more than 100 years ago, the mill produced 75 barrels of flour a day. Today the milling capacity has increased to more than 2,400 cwt (hundredweight) a day, all processed from Kansas red winter wheat.

Gustaz Krug emigrated from Germany with his family in 1882 and settled in the town founded by Daniel Updegraff in 1887. Krug learned milling from his father in Germany; instead of farming like other immigrants he opened the Hudson Milling Company with his brother-in-law Otto Sondregger in 1904.

In 1909, Krug and Sondregger faced finical problems forcing them to work with a group of investors who changed the name to Stafford County Flour Mills Company.

When the mill burned down in 1913 Krug borrowed funds to build one of the most modern mills in Kansas. When it reopened a year later production was up to 300 barrels of flour a day.

Since the start of the mill, Hudson Cream flour has been made with a method call “short patent” milling process. This means that the wheat is ground more times and sifted with finer-meshed sieves than in standard milling. During the sifting process, the heart of the wheat kernel remains and the by-product is eliminated.

Using only the heart of the kernel makes a smooth consistency, which helps to give that light and fluffy texture to baked goods, says company president Alvin Bernsing.

When a consumer looks at the packaged product they see a cow and the word Hudson Cream. Because the companies’ customers were home bakers, Krug came up with the word “cream” to represent the smooth texture, white richness, and high quality of their flour. The cow logo comes from early settlers of the town owned a cow for milking. Common believe was the Jersey cow produced the best milk and cream, hence the cow on every package.

Stafford County Flour Mill produces many different types of baking products. They are known for Hudson Cream flour for baking, which they have two varieties bleached or unbleached.

Also the company has a self-rising flour for making foods such as biscuits. Some other products are whole wheat flour, bread flour, corn meal, cornbread and biscuit mix, and also gravy mixes.

A 5-pound bag of flour costs about $3. Hudson cream flour is sold in stores in 15 states.

According to Bernsing, Stafford County Flour Mills Company employ a steady 34 employees. Being located in a small community such as Hudson, population 125, the company takes pride in giving back. Many of organizations in town are involved in fundraisers such as a pancake feed, for which Stafford County Flour Mills provides the flour.

 

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By Ben Marshall

Steven Raichlen shares a lot of recipes.

Steven Raichlen stands in front of his library in his home in Miami, Florida. Photo by Alissa Christine for Reed College.

From his Kansas City-style ribs with spicy apple barbecue sauce, to his Sunday morning smoked salmon, the “Grill Guru,” as he is known, has made a living off of teaching ordinary folks how to grill good food.  Thursday afternoon, Raichlen shared his most sacred recipe to date: his personal recipe for success.

Raichlen adapted this recipe from his own life experiences.

“I used to write for a lot of magazines and newspapers,” Raichlen said.  “But I got to thinking and decided, you know, I think I’d rather write a book full of my ideas, rather than writing articles about someone else’s ideas.”

So Raichlen set out on a 4-year, 200,000-mile journey around the world that resulted in the publication of his first book, The Barbecue! Bible, in 1998.  To date, Raichlen’s Barbecue Bible series has sold more than 4 million copies and has been translated into a dozen languages.

Raichlen has written 28 books on grilling.  He hosts popular television shows: Barbecue University, which started in 2003, and The Primal Grill, which first aired in 2008.  He also hosts a French-language cooking show that airs in Quebec and he has his own line of sauces and grilling products.

“I never set out to become a grilling authority,” he said.  “But I always had a love of food.”

Raichlen said it’s that passion for food that kept him motivated – especially during his initial project when he worked four straight years, without a day off.

“When you love what you do so much, you lose all sense of time,” he said.

In addition to love and passion, Raichlen said his secrets to success include pinches more than pinches I think of hard work and curiosity.

“People who are really successful in life work really hard.  Under-promise and over-deliver; always try to exceed expectations,” he said.  “And nothing keeps you young and alive like learning new things and asking good questions.  Asking thoughtful questions is the most important way to learn.”

Raichlen takes that spirit of improving oneself and applies it to his recipes as well.  He said he brings in a team of recipe testers to try each of the recipes in his books prior to publication.  Even if the recipe is good, Raichlen said, there might be a way to make it better, and the only way to do that is to taste test it.

“Most (home cooks) assume that if the recipe doesn’t work the first time, it’s their fault,” Raichlen said.  “But the truth is, most of the time, recipes are not tested ahead of time.  It’s probably the recipe’s fault.”

That’s not the case for Raichlen’s recipes, though.  Even his recipe for success has been tested.

(Editor’s note: Steven Raichlen spoke to the Food Writing class via Skype from his home in Miami, Fla., during class on March 10. His topic was “How to write a cookbook,” but he addressed a variety of subjects as he answered the students’ questions.)

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Nearly 40 years of watermelon and petunias

 

By Kristen Harvey
“Sharing a passion for plants and produce. Customer service.” That is what Terry Olson, owner of Eastside and Westside Market located in Manhattan, said about the keys to her success.

That success did not happen overnight. Olson has been building her business for more than 30 years. It all started with a little shack on east highway 24.

The original owner of the Eastside Market was Edith Bush, who sold it to Mike and Karen McKeeman, aunt and uncle of Olson’s husband. The summer of 1974, while she was a student at Kansas State University, Olson worked for the McKeemans. Two years later, the McKeemans gave Olson and her sister, Chris Edmunds, the opportunity to run the market on their own for the summer. The sisters hoped to eventually be able to buy Eastside Market. They saw growing interest in homegrown produce and an even greater demand for great tasting food.

Once they purchased the shack, they moved it across the highway, where it is now  located.

Terry Olson, owner of Eastside and Westside markets

Olson said that she has always had a “passion for gardening and fresh fruits and veggies.” It began with her father, Leon Edmunds, a research plant pathologist for the USDA.

Olson grew up witnessing the “boot strapping,” as she called it, of her family while they were creating the Kaw Valley Greenhouses in the 1960s. Still owned by her family, Olson’s siblings run the Kaw Valley Greenhouses which distribute across Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. This example of a successful business helped Olson when she decided to buy the Eastside Market.

In 1979, the Eastside Market was expanded to the west side of town when Olson purchased the lot where Cox, Shop-Quik and Westside Market are now located. The original Westside Market building was a small drive-in food joint. Olson then sold the area so that a new strip center could be built. The Westside Market is located in that strip and sells the same products as its sister store.

The Eastside Market started out selling a few popular items, such as peaches and watermelons, and expanded its business to include some health food products, giftware, fruit baskets, and bedding plants. The shop also sells K-State baskets which include various cheeses, meats, sauces, and jellies from all over Kansas.

When she first purchased Eastside Market in the ‘70s, Olson said that they often sold about 30,000 pounds of watermelon per week, while in season. It was not unheard of for them to need two dozen cases of naked lettuce (head lettuce) just for a special.

But over the years, she stated that people’s habits have changed. Instead of purchasing a whole watermelon, consumers today purchase cut-up portions.

The popularity of certain items has changed as well. The bedding plants, Olson said, have become bigger than produce. Some of their most popular include the K-State recommended tomato and pepper plants, as well as the Proven Winners flowers and foliage. Herbs are also passion of Olson’s, and are some of her best sellers. Many of the bedded plants sold at the Eastside and Westside Market are purchased from the Kaw Valley Greenhouses and a wide selection, from snapdragons to sweet basil, are available.

Will she expand with new locations? Olson answered with a simple “No.” Her plan is to adapt to the changes as they come.

What does Olson hope will change in the future? “I hope people make healthier choices and use more produce in their diet. There should be an emphasis on nutrition instead of empty calories,” she says. When it comes down to it, Olson stated that a better tasting product will win out no matter where it comes from.

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By Chell Gardner

TOPEKA  – “At my age, most people want to retire…but I started a whole new career,” stated Jay Ives, owner of Blind Tiger Brewery.  With no experience, Ives turned BTB into a successful brewpub.

Although the brewery opened in 1995, Ives bought his new business in February 2007.  “The business was doing poor…I had a feeling that it [BTB] could come back.”  He vowed to improve service, food, marketing, cleanliness, and atmosphere.

He learned the ropes of the brewing process and restaurant management.  “As a salesman, I have had to make companies better…I had to be good at learning new businesses,” he said.

“Beer is food,” Ives said. “We want to bring back the purpose of beer, the way the original civilization meant it to be—for sociability.”

Thirteen originals on tap

Every beer found at BTB is original.  They have around 13 beers on tap.  “We have a lot of fresh brew… the taps run directly to tanks located beneath the bar,” he explained.

Beers on the menu are classified as flagship or seasonal.  Flagship beers are regular beers such as Tiger Bite IPA.   Seasonal beers are chosen by the time of year.  “Currently, we feature spring beers such as the Top Gun IPA,” stated Ives.  “It is kinda like the [McDonald’s] ‘McRib’ of Blind Tiger.”   It is an item demanded by consumers when it goes off the menu.

The beer menu is evaluated based on three elements: hop, color, and malt flavor.  “We have a saying: beer brewed for your mood,” Ives said.  “We strive for having a beer that fits everyone’s palate.”

The brewing team consists of the brew master and two full time assistants.  John Dean, brew master, is responsible for beer selection and creation.  “The brew master is an artist and an engineer… ¾ janitor and ¼ mad scientist,” said Ives.  “Having everything clean makes beer good.”

BTB produced over 1,200 barrels of beer for 2010.  The production placed this brewpub in the top 20 per cent of all microbreweries in America.   “This production fills our capacity now…by adding another fermentation tank [this summer], we will produce much more,” Ives said.

In ordinance with the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) for the State of Kansas, BTB distributes to 6-7 local places throughout Topeka.  “With more production this summer, we hope to add more retailers”

The food menu

The food menu at BTB has a large selection.  “From steak, pasta, seafood, and BBQ… everyone in the family will like something,” said Ives.

Food menu choices are based on Ives knowledge of the community.  “I think that Manhattan and Topeka have similar tastes, but not Lawrence.  I don’t know what to call it, maybe ‘prairie cuisine.’  People in the area want a meat, potato, a salad, and they are happy,” explained Ives.

The atmosphere welcomes large crowds with a large multi-level space, reaching a capacity at 350 people.  “Today, we fill our capacity on a busy night, before the seats were empty,” said Ives.

Attractions

Large fermentation tanks are located in the middle of the main seating area, as well as the side of BTB.  As guests walk to their table, they peer down through a glass window to more brewing machinery.

Ives uses the yellow pages, the Topeka visitor guide, and two local television channels to advertise BTB.

BTB attracts a cliental of all ranges.  “We want families, we want children, we want workers catching a beer after work, we want retired people… we want everyone,” Ives said.

Ives hopes for continued growth in the future.  Under Ives ownership, staff has tripled, beer production and sales have doubled, and food revenue has doubled.

“Revenue has been rising every year for the past four years and I don’t know the limit,” stated Ives.  “Our goal is that Blind Tiger Brewery is the best brewpub in the world.”

 

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