From the category archives:


By Kelley Nelson

It may seem elementary but don’t move your tassel before learning your ABCs. Here, we’ve complied a list of the top 26 foods from some of the area’s best eateries, all outlined from A to Z. So kick your TV tray habit, break the Ramen rut, and go explore what Northeast Kansas has to offer. Welcome to your tastiest four-year plan yet.

A is for apple cider at Louisburg Cider Mill.

APPLE CIDER. Louisburg Cider Mill, Louisburg. 135 miles. The mill has been around since the ‘70s and owners Tom and Shelly Schierman have been busy perfecting their cider ever since. You can tour the mill itself, but if you’re just there for the food, head straight to the Country Store where you’ll find fresh cider and donuts. Of course, in the 34 years since swingin’ open the barn doors, the Schiermans expanded. Now take your pick of regular, sparkling, or flavored ciders—a pack of four 12 oz. bottles is $9.95.  Or try their own Lost Trail sodas, whose recipes come from Shelly’s great-great-grandfather.

BLACK COWS. Mr. K’s Farmhouse, Abilene. 46 miles. After being deserted for almost two decades, the Kuntz family breathed life back into the old “Farmhouse on the Hill.” Formerly called “Lena’s,” the establishment has served former President Eisenhower and even has a paddle signed by him displayed on the wall. Try their black cows, more commonly known as root beer floats. The Kuntzs were gracious enough to list these as a drink instead of a dessert so pair it with the regular cows they serve and enjoy.

CINNAMON ROLLS. Mrs. Powell’s, Manhattan. 2 miles. In the corner of the Manhattan Town Center food court, many might mistake this gem for just another chain bakery. In reality, the counter serves a wide variety of food for cheap, not least of which, the locally renowned cinnamon rolls. You can also grab a quick lunch of sandwiches or soups, usually finished off by a homemade cookie all for around $5. The only downside is that their menu changes daily, so you can never count on a favorite dish to be there. Their newest addition to rotate through? Chocolate chip cookies with pieces of pretzel right in the mix.

DUCK-FAT FRENCH FRIES. The Burger Stand at The Casbah, Lawrence. 74 miles. Or truffle, or drowned in cheese and gravy.  All in all, The Burger Stand serves six varieties of fries to accompany their mouth-watering burgers. Lawrence natives swear by the Black & Blue, whose tart granny smith apple chutney mixed with crumbly Maytag blue cheese sets it apart. Customer Leslie Reece says, “it’s beyond delicious.” Not ones to be exclusive, co-owners Robert and Molly Krause and Simon and Codi Bates recently expanded their menu for the less-carnivorous. With lentil, falafel, or Asian tofu burgers now vegetarians can feel included, too.

ELK RIBEYE. Bunker Hill Café, Bunker. 126 miles. The abandoned-looking limestone building might make you want to run the other way. But give its no-frills attitude a chance. A true shrine to hunting, the deer, fish, and bobcats along the walls keep you company while you enjoy meats from the surrounding area. The elk is from Scott City’s herd but you can also get buffalo or traditional beef. If you can’t make up your mind, get the mini portions and try all three. It’s only open Wednesday through Saturday if people are willing to fill their tables, so call ahead for a reservation.

F is for the fried chicken dinner at the Brookville Hotel in Abilene.

FRIED CHICKEN. Brookville Hotel, Abilene. 43 miles. The historic restaurant that used to reside in, you guessed it, Brookville, flew the coop in 1999 to re-nest in Abilene, a mere 127 years after its grand opening. It was 1915 when Helen Martin, the owners’ daughter, perfected the menu you still enjoy today. The meal of good ol’ boy favorites like fried chicken, whipped coleslaw, baking powder biscuits, creamed corn, and more is served up family-style. Waitresses clad in blue-striped dresses and frilly white aprons still buzz around to offer a glimpse of old fashioned charm.

GREEN RIVER. Bankes’ Soda Fountain, Abilene. 45 miles. One of only a handful of old fashioned soda counters left in the whole state, Bankes’ (pronounce Bank-ees) hides out in the back corner of a Health Mart. Refuel from shopping with their classic Green River, made with Sierra Mist and lime syrup, or make a Phosphate of club soda and a flavor of your choice. The ‘50s style vinyl booths make a nice place to sip your drink or you can take your soda to go. Just remember, the styrofoam cup will cost you an extra quarter.

H is for hamburger at Big D's in Manhattan.

HAMBURGERS. Big D’s Burger Shack, Manhattan. 2 miles. Owner Ewing Evans, affectionately known as “Big D” takes great pride in his shack. Everything he serves is fresh. Thecheese hails from the Alma creamery and the beef arrives straight from Clay Center. It’s not just his local ingredients that draw people to Big D but his larger-than-life personality. As a customer grabbed her brown paper bag, which had already started showing hints of grease seeping through the bottom, she leaned in and whispered, “Don’t tell my heart doctor about this, but I just can’t resist.” With a sly smile Big D responded, “No worries, we keep a strict confidentiality policy. Plus, doctors don’t know anything, that’s why they have to ‘practice’ all day long.” The whole restaurant—if you could call the two tables and three barstools that—let out a lighthearted chuckle before happily settling back into their delicious burgers.

ICE. Tad’s Tropical Sno, Manhattan. 2 miles. Well, fancy ice, really. Tad’s makes theirs lighter than air before drizzling it with any combination of 40 flavors. Not for the indecisive customer, Tad’s also gives you upwards of 100 pre-tested combinations to get your creative juices flowing. These range from the tame Berries ‘n Cream to the more daring concoction, Tiger’s Blood.

JERK CHICKEN. The Little Grill, Manhattan. 5 miles. One word comes to mind when thinking of The Little Grill: atmosphere. When you’re in the open-air seating, relaxing in the warmth of the sun, close your eyes and let your mind drift to somewhere tropical. Owner Kenrick will help you get there by entertaining you with live reggae-style performances before serving you fresh, authentic Jamaican food. The Jerk Chicken is the local recommendation, and rumor has it goes on special every Tuesday.

K is for Kung-Pao Chicken at Teagarden in Olathe.

KUNG-PAO CHICKEN. Teagarden, Olathe. 126 miles. Next to a Pizza Hut and a liquor store, the red sign advertising this Chinese restaurant makes it seem relatively unassuming. However, the food is a far cry from the usual greasy Chinese most establishments seem to serve from giant, metal buffet baskets. Instead, Teagarden lightly batters their meats and let the sauces do the work of creating a flavorful meal. The chicken in this dish is soft and spicy. A combo plate runs for around $10 and comes with unlimited rice. Another bonus? The service here is impeccable. Go more than twice, and the host greets you by name.

LASAGNE. Basil Lead Café, Lawrence. 82 miles.  For most people, Phillips 66 gas stations conjure up images of over-used restrooms or maybe a sad, forgotten hot dog forever spinning on its warming rack. However, the one off of 6th street in Lawrence has its own claim to fame: Italian food, served fresh from the oven. True to its convenience store locale, though, the food can be taken to go or even ordered via drive thru. The five-layer lasagne is a local favorite, but the true treasure is the breakfast version. Owner Brad “Walt” Walters no longer opens early, but this holy grail of a dish still makes an occasional appearance in the lunch specials.

M is for Marcon pie, made in Washington but available throughout Kansas.

MARCON PIES. Mayberry’s, Washington. 66 miles. MarCon pies still salutes its roots by purposely keeping the operation small, despite their growing popularity. The factory only has about 20 employees, who all “act like family,” according to one of the bakers. Regardless to their 500 pies-per-day output, the women in the kitchen still “carry on like they would if they were cooking at home.” They ship their pies anywhere within a 150 mile radius and now offer 90 different flavors. For the freshest slices, go to Mayberry’s, which also resides in Washington, and get one for $2. To step out of the box, try the gooseberry or sweet potato. Don’t forget to make it a la mode.

NUT ROLLS. Tasty Pastry Bakery, Clay Center. 39 miles. Locals line up as early as 5:00 to be the first to snag these homemade doughnuts when doors unlock at 6.  Even if you’re a late riser, the rolls are just as warm and soft well into the afternoon.  The bakery itself is a plain, serve-your-own coffee sort of joint, so just assume they’re focusing on making delicious pastries instead. Before you head out, pick up a loaf of  butterflake bread or a dozen cream-filled nut rolls and you’ll be the new residence-hall hero without breaking the bank: a whole breakfast for two cost under three bucks.

O is for Orange Slice Cookies at Our Daily Bread.

ORANGE SLICE COOKIES. Our Daily Bread, Barnes. 49 miles. The Drebes family put their sleepy Kansas town of under 200 people on the map with the launching of Our Daily Bread. Initially, they ran the bakery through their two car garage, but after a wildly successful first year, the family moved it to its current location on Main Street and opened The Garden eating area and event center where the family also hosts a monthly supper club. Their orange slice cookies are just one of about 10 different varieties the bakery whips up regularly.

PEANUT BUTTER AND BACON BURGERS. Tomfooleries, Kansas City, MO. 125 miles. Just hearing the name will start clogging your arteries.  Like it sounds, the half-pound of beef is slathered in creamy peanut butter and garnished with crispy bacon strips. For those watching their weight, you can also sample the peanut butter fried chicken “salad.”

QUICHE. The Friendship House, Wamego. 17 miles. Maroon wallpaper and fake floral wreaths might evoke memories of Grandma’s house. If you find yourself feeling anticipation for homemade goods, don’t worry, you will be rewarded here. Signatures include the quiche with its flaky crust, warm eggs, and veggies. The breakfast bierock, with melted cheese, eggs, and your choice of sausage, bacon, or ham enclosed in a pocket of pastry is another hit. In the fall of 2010, they decided to save students the drive to Wamego by serving their goods at most home K-State sporting events.

RASPBERRY CHIPOTLE BEAN DIP. So Long Saloon, Manhattan. 1 mile. Maybe the worst-kept secret in all of Manhattan, the restaurants’ Dia de Los Muertos themed décor and cowboy-like lingo makes for an odd combination that somehow comes off as more comfortable than tacky. The ceramic plate of piping hot cream cheese, chipotle raspberry sauce, and black beans is a local must. You can track down a do it yourself recipe but nothing beats the original. One Manhattanite claims she eats it at least once every time she flies home from California. So go on already…git.

STUFFED FRENCH TOAST CUPCAKES. Cupcake A La Mode, Kansas City, MO. 125 miles. Just like their website says, “cupcakes aren’t just for kids anymore!” At the Country Club Plaza’s newest bakery, these designer cupcakes are certainly made for an adult crowd. Here, it’s okay to have cake for breakfast with the stuffed French toast cupcake. It’s topped with maple and cinnamon buttercream icing and a dusting of powdered sugar. Go ahead and have two. It is the most important meal of the day.

TERRA SOL. Radina’s, Manhattan. 1 mile. Terra sol is one of Radina’s more darkly roasted blends, and an easy customer favorite. Anymore, coffeehouses are a place for people to sip, study, or socialize. Radina’s is no exception and now offers four different locations, including their newest spot nestled downtown. They do all of their own roasting and blending. The massive roaster can be seen in the Aggieville shop. When the beans circle through, the whole neighborhood can smell the strong aroma seeping through the air.

UNAGI. Sakura, Shawnee. 121 miles. The fresh-water eel isn’t the only thing worth trying on the menu but it’s a good start for those who are new to the sushi scene (and if you grew up in Kansas, you probably are). The mild-tasting rolls absorb more flavor from the soy or wasabi sauce you pair them with than from the actual eel. If eel weirds you out, Sakura has an expansive offering of sashimi, nigiri, and rolls to sample. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, try iidako, which is baby octopus, or even the unisea urchins.

VEGAN COOKIES. Blue Planet Café, Topeka. 49 miles. An environmentally-conscious bakery isn’t something you see everyday but the Blue Plant Café aims to be just that. Their Facebook description reads, “maybe we can’t change the world, but we can put a smile on your face.” Here, vegans can chose from yummy baked goods or even delicious mac ‘n’ cheese to fit their lifestyle. You can take your treats to go and grab a cup of coffee guilt-free since the top lid is now fully compostable.

W is for Wild Thing ice cream, available by the cone or the carton at K-State's Call Hall.

WILD THING ICE CREAM. Call Hall Dairy Bar, Manhattan. On Campus. This flavor is modeled off of a banana split and blends five different fruits: banana, cherry, peach, pineapple, and strawberry for one wild ride. Milk used in the Dairy Bar ice creams is from cows housed at the university. Food science students can even compete in a product development class to create the newest flavor. Call Hall also stocks milk, cheese, eggs and a variety of meats produced on campus.

XXX CHILI AND PICKLES. C.W. Porubsky Grocery, Topeka. 61 miles. The chili is so hot that the Porubsky family refuses to even serve it during summer months. You can always  gnaw on one of their legendary (and super spicy!) pickles to fill your thrill. The little restaurant has been around for 65 years and is still in the original building in “Little Russia” under the rule of its first family. To cool your palate, get a plate of cold cuts which includes a variety of deli meats, cheeses, and bread, served on a plastic plate.

YELLOW BRICK ROAD BURRITO. Toto’s Tacoz, Wamego. 17 miles. The owners agree there’s no place like home, which is why they brought their Baja cooking with them to Wamego. It doesn’t get much more shameless than this: Tex-Mex meals, brightly colored décor, and the Wizard of Oz. After you try their cheese sauce-covered Yellow Brick Road Burrito you’ll be clicking your heels three times to come back. Plus who can resist terriers and Tex-Mex? Remind me, Toto, are we still in Kansas?

ZITI PIE. AJ’s NY Pizzeria, Manhattan. 2 miles. Ziti pasta is dumped over the crust before a blanket of melted mozzarella cheese is carefully laid over the top. The dough recipe originated in the Mastandos’ kitchen in Brooklyn, NY but has been tweaked since its journey from the Big Apple. AJ’s consulted American Institute of Baking’s Tom Lehmann, the “dough doctor,” to ensure their pizza fits Little Apple appetites. Slice prices range from $3 for basics to $5 for specialties. There’s both a Poyntz location and a station in Aggieville that’s only open from 10 p.m. – 3 a.m. for late-night snackers.

Distances are rounded to the nearest mile, starting from the K-State Student Union.


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By Ben Marshall

Scott Benjamin speaks to Food Writing students about the history of cocktails. Benjamin is owner and executive chef of 4 Olives Wine Bar in Manhattan.

Propped up on a bar stool, Scott Benjamin watches intently as bartender Griff  Letch carefully bruises a few sprigs of mint at the bottom of a mixing cup containing simple syrup.

“You don’t want to rip or tear the mint leaves, because if you tear the leaf of an herb, it releases a foul taste as a defense mechanism,” Benjamin said. “That’s where you get a bitter flavor.”

So Letch sure-handedly presses the leaves with a pestle-like tool, called a muddler, gently releasing the aromatic flavors. Next, he takes a wooden mallet to a canvas bag full of ice, beating it for about 30 seconds.

“The material of the bag soaks up a lot of the excess water, so this technique gives you a nice fine, dry ice,” Benjamin said, “almost like a Sonic ice.”

Adding Knob Creek Bourbon to the mint, syrup combination, Griff stirs deliberately for another 20-30 seconds. He pours the concoction over a classic julep metal cup teeming with ice, garnishes it with a few more sprigs of mint and passes it off to Benjamin for a sip. Benjamin swallows, satisfied.

“We stir our classic cocktails, rather than shake them. They’re just not as good shaken – it waters them down,” Benjamin said.

As owner and executive chef at 4 Olives Wine Bar in Manhattan, Benjamin brings an extensive passion for and knowledge of cocktails to his tiny and tucked-away fine dining restaurant. He said initially he was drawn to the study of cocktails because, out of all food inventions, he considers the cocktail “completely, uniquely American.”

With a stack of notes in hand, Benjamin spilled the history of great American cocktails, from pre-colonial times to post-prohibition. As Benjamin talked,  Letch concocted – pouring, stirring, zesting and serving; from a classic 1790s mint julep, to a fiery Blue Blazer from 1850, to a fruity 1940s Mai Tai and, fittingly, a Manhattan from the 1870s.

Benjamin said he likes to study the way cocktails were made in the past to provide a more classic drinking experience at his restaurant. And diners have responded positively. Prior to this year, the classic cocktail menu was only available behind the bar at 4 Olives. The drinks had become so popular, however, Benjamin decided to include the classic cocktail menu on all restaurant tables.

In addition to adhering to classic techniques, 4 Olives also makes a lot of its cocktail components in house, including many of its own bitters, ginger ales, tonics and brandied cherries.

Griff Letch the bartender bruises sprigs of mint leaf as he prepares a classic mint julep.

As Letch prepares another cocktail, Benjamin explained how, in pre-colonial times, water-purification techniques were not yet mastered and the water was unsafe to consume. So people drank alcohol as a means to survive. Today, drinking alcohol is less about survival, and more about unwinding and having a good time. Or – in the case of 4 Olives – celebrating the end of Prohibition every year.

“Drinks at 4 Olives are made classically, they’re made with a lot alcohol, they’re made with a lot of heart,” Benjamin said, “and it’s a lot of fun.”

(Editor’s note: Scott Benjamin was host and guest lecturer in the Food Writing class on March 3 at his restaurant, the 4 Olives. His topic was the history of the cocktail.  Students chose how to cover the afternoon.  Chef Benjamin served a light lunch, too.)

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By Annarose Hart

PAOLA – Find a way to get to the county seat of Miami County home of 5,000 people. Stop by the town square and walk around the park. Take Pearl Street from the square, and there will be boutiques, antique shops, several banks, and an art gallery. Walk another block to a building with an old fashioned burnt orange sign proclaiming Molly’s Table.

The Paola restaurant keeps its customers satisfied.

Inside there is a warm glow that streams into the dining room from a lime green kitchen. Sit down on one of the dark stained wooden chairs and prepare your taste buds.

“My mouth is watering right now! I wish I was eating Molly’s Table instead of the Derb,” Johanna Ryckert, freshmen in agricultural education, said. “I eat at Molly’s Table every time I come home.”

Molly’s Table is home of an evolving menu, and always has the edge on the next food trend, energizing and entertaining locals and tourists.

Donna Nagle created Molly’s Table, named after her daughter Molly, as a catering business, market, and deli for the local community. Her son J.T. comes home from college often to assist with the daily activities.

Nagle has more than 20 years of experience in the food business. Good friends and high school students create an enthusiastic staff. Dressed in all black, they are friendly and efficient.

“I always feel welcome walking into Molly’s Table,” Ryckert said.

Donna Nagle named her restaurant after daughter.

Before Molly’s Table existed several cafés and restaurants attempted to create a similar energy in Paola, but all failed. Nagle started out as a self-taught hobby chef who catered on the side for friends. The reception hall, Evergreen Events, approached Nagle with an offer to do in-house catering. Nagle accepted and created many opportunities for the future.

After several successful years mentors, clients, and friends encouraged Nagle to expand her catering business. “I thought there was a need in downtown Paola,” she said.

Chef Michael Hursey, owner of Casa Somerset, a local bed and breakfast, blogged about his excitement when she opened, “I have been waiting for Donna Nagle to open her dream.” Chef Michael writes, “We have been friends for years; she and her husband Bill are such good, wonderful people.” Engaging the community is a top priority for Nagle.

Local celebrities come to cook their specialty dish at Molly’s Table during the annual Local Chef Celebrity Week. It is held the week of Spring Break so everyone can participate. Profits are donated to the celebrity’s favorite charity. A different celebrity is invited each day. Mike Dumpert, Paola High School head football coach, served last year’s favorite dish of fried macaroni and cheese. “It was amazing,” Ryckert said.

Molly’s Table will have 150 – 200 catering events in a year; 40 will be wedding events.

“My menu was brisket with rolls, potato chips, fruit salad, and coleslaw. Perfect in my opinion for a hot summer July night,” said Kelsie Kirk, a wedding client of Molly’s Table. Nagle does wedding menus from fancy picnic foods to gourmet wedding dinners of sea bass and sushi.

New experiences are always happening at Molly’s Table. “My boss is amazing. I get to try all kinds of new foods, like today I just tried a date filled with blue cheese and baked with prosciutto ham on it!” Nathan Laudan, employee since October of 2008, said. He suggests ordering the blackened chicken sandwich or strawberry turkey wrap at the restaurant, or the chipotle chicken and horseradish mashed potatoes for the catering.

“I like to get the daily quiche and soup,” Ryckert said. “Deloris, her pie lady makes the curst for the quiche. It is so flaky and delicious!”

This summer Ryckert will work at Molly’s Table. “I am excited to learn all the secrets of Donna Nagle,” she said.

One of Nagle’s favorite events was a wine tasting with Somerset Ridge Winery. It was difficult, because Molly’s Table does not have a liquor license, so Nagle had to fill out lots of paperwork to secure a two-day city wine permit. In the future Nagle hopes to include a local wine and beer list as a part of her menu.

Nagle dreams of a more organized network to purchase the local ingredients she needs for her menu. She uses as much local ingredients as she can, but sometimes it is difficult to find enough of specific ingredients. Nagle enjoys using local farmers markets, and other local producers. “Donna just bought over 22 pounds of our asparagus,” Julie Zoller, avid gardener and local real estate agent said. When she cannot access enough local ingredients she uses a variety of stores such as US Food Service, Cosco, Price Chopper and Sam’s Club to complete her menu.

Nagle looks forward to working with new food trends. “I would like to play with grass fed beef,” Nagle said. For now she will focus on planning menus seasonally using as many local ingredients as possible.

Her website is

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Mint Julep

By Kelley Nelson

Scott Benjamin, owner of 4 Olives Wine Bar, is an artist.  To him, a cocktail isn’t a drink; it’s an experience.

Take a rather simple drink: the mint julep.  With its short ingredient list (simple syrup, mint, ice, and brandy), many bartenders don’t give it a second thought.  At 4 Olives, however, it is meticulously perfected.

Ice is frozen water: unassuming and unnoticed. Except when it’s destined for Benjamin’s bar.  Then it’s placed in canvas and pounded with a small mallet.  The porous bag ensures what Benjamin calls “dry ice”—ice without excess moisture, the kind that keeps a beverage cold without diluting the flavor.  His crushed “sonic ice” also gives the mint julep the look of a sophisticated, adult sno cone.

Mint is carefully used, too.  “Mint,” Benjamin says, “is like any herb.  If you tear it, it releases a defense through a bitter, foul taste.”  To pull out pleasant, refreshing aromas instead, Benjamin gently “bruises” the mint.

Even the mint julep’s presentation was perfected. True to its southern roots, Benjamin serves the drink in a silver tumbler.  He says, “With silver, the cup forms a frost.  Glass is too poor a conductor to produce the effect.”

Once the drink is assembled and the mint garnish is slapped and planted in the ice, Benjamin takes a sip, gives a sly smile, and says “Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?”

With a drink that perfect, it certainly is.

(Editor’s note: Scott Benjamin was host and guest lecturer in the Food Writing class on March 3 at his restaurant, the 4 Olives. His topic was the history of the cocktail.  Students chose how to cover the afternoon.  Chef Benjamin served a light lunch, too.)

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By Katelin Schmedemann

Bitter, absinthe, and a lemon twist, oh my.


Scott Benjamin, the owner of 4 Olives in Manhattan, has researched and perfected the art of cocktails, taking his customers to a more eloquent time.  “The history of cocktails is completely American,” Benjamin said as he started the tale of cocktails.

The only beverages available during the times of settlement were ales, wines, and brandies. Ales had been the number one drink of choice, but in the 1630s, hard cider took the top spot.

Although, Columbus had brought sugar cane to America, it wasn’t until the trade triangle and slavery that colonists discovered that they could distill their own rum. It was popular until British raised the tax on molasses, which in turn, raised the tax on rum, causing rum to be dismissed and whiskey to rise in popularity.

In 1777, distillers annoyed over the taxes began to move to Pennsylvania and Kentucky to create whiskey. This is how Kentucky whiskey came about, and according to Benjamin, “It is the perfect whiskey; just perfect.”  At this time brandies and rums were extremely limited, and this caused the consumption of whiskey to go crazy.

The first mix beverages in an individual service started in the 1790s. Benjamin said the Mint Julep was one of the first mix drinks; a flavored enhanced sling. It combines fresh bruised mint, simple syrup, bourbon whiskey, and a petite metal glass full of crushed ice, which Benjamin jokingly calls, “Sonic styled ice.”

The first cocktail came about in the early 1800’s, the original whiskey cocktail, or otherwise known as an Old Fashioned. This includes rye whiskey, a sugar cube, forty drops of bitters (all cocktails need to contain bitters), and soda water. This is then poured over a large ice cube in a simple glass.

Cocktails began to take shape, now, causing the status of bartenders to be as prestigious as being a doctor or lawyer.

Behind the dark wood bar at 4 Olives, the bartender, continuously creates a variety of beautifully executed cocktails as Benjamin goes through each one. He starts with the Mint Julep, then The Old Fashioned, followed by the Sazerac, Absinthe, Blue Blazer, and a Manhattan.

It wasn’t until prohibition that the cocktail took a steady decline almost into non-existences, but thanks to people like Benjamin, the cocktail has been brought back with a new vengeance.

(Editor’s note: Scott Benjamin was host and guest lecturer in the Food Writing class on March 3 at his restaurant, the 4 Olives. His topic was the history of the cocktail.  Students chose how to cover the afternoon.  Chef Benjamin served a light lunch, too.)

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Little Apples offers a variety of homemade brews

By Katelin Schmedemann

Mounted horns, pictures of the area’s past, a hearty lineup of libations: the décor in the Little Apple Brewing Company, Manhattan, befits Kansas cattle country. Club members hang their beer mugs from pegs on a vacant wall.

Behind the bar, thick glass opens up a view of the beer kettles, their contents carrying Kansas names like Bison Brown and Wildcat Wheat.

The Little Apple Brewing Company serves Angus beef and a variety of homemade brews. Located at 1110 Westloop Place, the establishment has been co-owned by Russ and Kelly Loub and Galen and Lori Fink since 1995.  Their beers are hand-crafted by the head brewer Kris Bruzina, and his assistants Roger McAllister and Jeff Durrenberger.

The flagship brews of The Little Apple are named by the brewers, and consist of the Black Angus Stout, named in honor of the Finks who own and raise the Angus that the restaurant serves. The beer has a dark chocolate color with subtle smells of caramel. The consistency is thicker than their ales and hints of coffee, chocolate, and caramel.

The Wildcat Wheat Ale is garnished with a lemon wedge and is the color of golden wheat. The taste has a mild citrus flavor. Steve Hummel, a regular patron of The Little Apple Brewery, said, “We call that a lawn mower beer,” referring to the light refreshing taste that is easily drank after a day of hard labor out in the pounding summer sun.

The next flagship is the Prairie Pale Ale, named after the regional landscape in which it was created. It has a dark honey color and leaves a fruity flavor and then a bitter hops aftertaste.

The Riley’s Red Beer, which was named for Bennett C. Riley, one of the supposed founders of Fort Riley and the Big Red One that is stationed at Fort Riley. This beer has an auburn tint to it with a mild flavoring and a hit of hops on the aftertaste.

The Bison Brown Ale is named with a familiar Kansas symbol in mind.  It is similar to the stout in the caramel hints and dark coloring, but it is not as thick and when drank the consistency of the flavor is balanced throughout the entire tasting.

The last of the flagships are the seasonal brews. The newest to these is the Kilt Lifter, named after The Little Apple Brewery 2011 Beer Drinker of the Year who has a habit of wearing a kilt about town. It has a slightly thicker consistence than the other ales with a dark auburn color similar to the Riley’s Red.

This is not to say that beer is all The Little Apple Brewing Co. does.  Add special themed dinners, concerts, holiday events, and beer competition (notably, the yearly Beer Drinker of the Year, and Hall of Fame awards). Kelly Loub comments, “We are more than just a brewery and more than just a restaurant.”

Their main menu has an array of food consisting of hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and their signature steaks. Occasionally the restaurant announces a special menu, such as a March Tuscan-styled dinner that cost $125 a head. Antipasto, Wild Boar Ragu, Bistecca Fiorentina, and polenta cake were served.

“On St. Patrick’s Day, we had a Catholic priest come in and say a prayer, toasting the day,” Loub reminisced. She said that “staying true to tradition” was a big part of the holiday festivities.

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By Michele Carlyon

A rock of a restaurant in Junction City

JUNCTION CITY – If walls told secrets, the walls of Stacy’s Restaurant would have 60 years worth of tales.

In 1953 Graham Stevens and his mother Leal opened Plaza Truck Stop in Grandview Plaza off Interstate 70. The truck stop was a 24-hour-a-day operation. The little restaurant has been a community gathering place since then, serving typical diner type foods that fill the Junction City-area farmers.

The menu consisted of the home cooked meals. This included everything from bacon and eggs to homemade biscuits and gravy.

In 1969 Mary Sanders and her husband Stacy purchased the Plaza Truck Stop. Once they took ownership the official name of Stacy’s Restaurant was adapted.

Sanders and her husband made other changes as well.  Possibly the biggest change was the decision to close Stacy’s every evening at 6. They also made some cosmetic changes and added seating areas. Over time they did away with the truck stop.

French toast is on the breakfast menu.

“One of the main reasons that people have continued to go to Stacy’s through the years is because of the food,” Sanders said. “Basic, regional and typical farm type foods.” Most of the breakfast recipes have been around from the very beginning and some of the other recipes have been created from trial and error.

While the menu, hosts a variety of different options that are available all day, there are some items that seem to be customer favorites. Biscuits and gravy as well as the typical breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausage tend to be favorites.

When it comes to lunch food, the customers tend to lead to the chicken fried steak and the hot beef sandwich. Although these foods may be at the top of the list, nothing is more popular than the Stacy’s burger with fries.

Diners dig into plain cookin' at Stacy's.

Although food is the primary draw to Stacy’s Restaurant, it also provides a social outlet for many of the farmers of Junction City and surrounding areas. According to Sanders, Stacy’s gives customers the opportunity to see people that they otherwise wouldn’t get to see on a regular basis.

Stacy’s is minimally decorated with black and white checkered floors and tables whose tops display pictures of customers from Stacy’s past.

Stacy’s Restaurant is located off Interstate 70 at exit 299. The hours of operation are Monday through Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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