Dining With Denise Neil

Burgers, beer and green chiles: Two food events return for third go-rounds

Jay Miller of Five Guys Burgers and Fries participates in the 2014 Wichita Burger Battle.
Jay Miller of Five Guys Burgers and Fries participates in the 2014 Wichita Burger Battle. File photo

Two Wichita food events, both in their third years, are scheduled for Saturday – and both are changing things up.

Wichita food fans won’t have to choose between the two events, though. One starts exactly when the other ends.

The first is the Iron ChileHead Competition, a food and beer event that happens from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Johnson’s Garden Center at 2707 W. 13th St. It was dreamed up by owner Marty Johnson’s adult children in 2013. They wanted to create an event to tie in with Johnson’s annual Chile Fest, during which the stores sell green chiles that Johnson drives to Hatch, N.M., to retrieve each year. The chiles are a popular attraction, and customers can buy them by the bushel, half-bushel or bag and watch them being roasted on site.

“I don’t remember which one of us mentioned it,” said Kristen Chalfant of her brother, Jeremy. “But we decided, ‘Let’s do a chile cook-off, kind of ‘Iron-Chef’ like.”

They reached out to local food trucks – and there were far fewer of them two years ago – and invited them to use the green chiles to create dishes they would then submit to a panel of judges. While there, the food trucks also could sell their food.

The event went well, but last year, Chalfant thought of a way to make it better. Her husband is a beer brewer in St. Louis, where they live, so Chalfant wanted to add a craft beer component. The second-year crowd was far bigger than the Johnson family expected as beer fans crowded into the parking lot for free samples of beers offered by six area breweries. They ran out of the 300 tasting cups they’d ordered in about 15 minutes.

“We were really surprised and a little caught off guard, but we made it work,” Chalfant said.

This year, the food trucks will be back – and so will the brewers. But to try the beers this year, attendees will need a $10 tasting ticket that will get them unlimited beer samples, a commemorative glass and a $5 gift card to the garden center. This year, Johnson has ordered 500 tasting glasses. The breweries on site Saturday will be Hank Is Wiser Brewery, Hopping Gnome Brewing, River City Brewing, Walnut River Brewing, Tallgrass Brewing Company, Wichita Brewing Co. and Central Standard, a new brewery at 156 S. Greenwood that also will be celebrating its grand opening this weekend. Wheat State Distilling also will be there. Each of the breweries will offer one beer brewed specially for the event using green chiles in the recipe, but they’ll also serve other varieties.

The list of food trucks competing and serving also is long and includes a few new ones – The Kamayan Truck, Ms. Tosha’s Fried Chicken and Mr. Natural Soul Kitchen as well as last year’s champion, Chino’s Parrilla, plus B.S. Sandwich Press, Let’m Eat Brats, Lynn’s Curbside Cookout, Hopperoni Express and Kind Kravings. I’ll be one of the judges helping to choose both the best green chile dish and the best green chile beer.

Peppers will be available in plastic bags for $10 or less and come either roasted or unroasted. They’re available in larger quantities as well and can be used in dishes such as chile verde, chile rellenos, salsa verde and more. The chiles usually are available at least through mid-September at the Johnson’s on 13th Street and the one at 6225 E. Shadybrook.

The beer-tasting tickets are available at www.johnsonsgarden.com/chilefest or at the store the day of the event.

As soon as the Iron ChileHead competition ends, the Wichita Burger Battle, formerly known as Battle of the Burgers, will commence at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The event, a fundraiser for KETCH, runs from 3 to 6 p.m.

It invites attendees to sample burgers prepared by local restaurants. The event also is seeing changes in its third year. The 2013 and 2014 burger battles happened at Old Cowtown Museum in October. But organizers at KETCH had always wanted to put it on at the baseball stadium. Lawrence-Dumont agreed this year, but the only date that worked was in late August. So organizers moved the event up by several weeks and added an incentive: Attendees who buy tickets to the burger competition can stay and watch the 7 p.m. Wingnuts vs. the Laredo Lemurs game at no extra charge.

“Lawrence-Dumont was really excited about partnering with us, so it worked out really well,” said Ashley Ruckman, KETCH’s special events coordinator. “So far, everyone’s really excited about the pairing of baseball and burgers.”

The burger samples, provided by Fizz Burgers & Bottles, Five Guys, Mooyah, Intrust Bank Arena, Emerson Biggin’s Old Town, The Hyatt, Burnout Bar and Grill and Eurest Dining, will be set up on the west concourse of Lawrence-Dumont. Kids’ activities and exhibits will be on the south concourse.

Organizers decided to ditch the car show they tied in to the burger battle for the first two years since it will be happening at the same time as the big car event in downtown this weekend, BlackTop Nationals. But they’re adding a few new features, including a raffle and a special burger cook-off between members of the Wichita police and fire departments.

Two top burgers will be named at the end of the event. Attendees will vote for their favorite burgers, and a separate award will be decided by VIP ticket holders. They’ll also get early entry, five free raffle tickets and a meet-and-greet with the Wingnuts.

Side items, desserts and beverages will be free, and Lawrence-Dumont will offer a cash bar. Tickets are $40 for VIP, $25 for adults and $5 for ages 3 to 12. They’re available at the door. For more information, visit ictburgerbattle.com or call 316-383-8889.

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