Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita restaurants, food trucks win big

It was a competitive culinary weekend in Wichita for local restaurants and food trucks.

More than 30 of them were participating on Saturday in two different cook offs: Wingapalooza, a chicken wing eating event at Intrust Bank Arena, and the Iron Chile Head Cookoff, an increasingly popular beer and food truck competition at Johnson’s Garden Center.

I was a judge at the Iron Chile Head contest, in its fourth year at Johnson’s Garden Center at 2707 W. 13th St. It’s put on to celebrate the arrival of hatch green chile season, one of owner Marty Johnson’s favorite times of the year. He always drives to Hatch, N.M., to pick up loads of green chiles then roasts and sells them at his gardening stores.

On Saturday, the judges were asked to taste dishes made by local food trucks incorporating hatch green chilies. We sampled some amazing things, including a pizza put together by Wichita Brewing Company’s Hopperoni Express that had a ring of stuffed chiles in place of the crust. We chose Funky Monkey Munchies’ green chile popper roll made with local andoulli sausage, cream cheese, shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses, hatch chiles and spices fried in an egg roll wrapper and served with a sweet chili sauce. Our runners up were that wild pizza from Hopperoni Express and a green chile feast prepared by Rebecca Amos from Garden of Eatin’, which included green chile-topped cheesecake, green chile infused mac and cheese topped with pork carnitas, and green chile lemonade.

Attendees also were able to sample beers from a long list of local breweries, each of which had brewed a beer infused with the chiles. People in attendance voted for a winner in that competition, and Central Standard Brewing took the prize for its sour hatch green chile beer, which had a spiciness that hit you at the end. The beer garden was packed, and people were dancing to a wildly fun polka band from Nebraska called Bolzen Beer Band. You can hear their music and watch a video recap of the event on this post.

Over at Wingapalooza, judges and attendees also crowned winners. More than 20 restaurants participated in the second-annual event, which featured all-you-can-eat chicken wings. The judges’ choice award was JayRod’s, a couple of local wing enthusiasts who entered the competition, followed by Gianni Bacci’s and Savor, Intrust Bank Arena’s food team. The People’s choice awards went to Valerie’s Wings & Things, followed by The Hungry Heart and Blarney Stone Pub.