THE DISH- Restaurant scene in winter boom

By Jim Duncan

The 2013 food year went out in blaze of irony and weirdness. Cape Cod fishing towns, once the busiest fishing ports of the world, reported that cod had virtually disappeared. Cape Cod restaurants began importing cod from Iceland. Area fishermen switched to dogfish, almost all of which is sold in Europe, because Americans won’t eat anything that reminds them of dogs.

Prisons across America reported reduced violence after instigating diets of “nutraloaf” as punishment for disorderly inmates. Different facilities came up with different recipes, but, for example, in Pennsylvania state prisons it was made with ground-up leftovers of milk, rice, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, oatmeal, beans and margarine. Reports on NPR claimed that even lifers convicted for child murder realized they had something to lose after being put on a diet of that stuff. Locally, the food scene blazed ahead with openings overwhelming closings.

The Good News

Baggio Querimi and Toni Vesseli opened Luigi’s on Southeast 14th Street, featuring cuisine of Querimi’s northern Italy and no corkage fees… Lisa LaValle (Des Moines Art Center Café) opened Trellis at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden on Robert D. Ray Drive… Catherine Drummond launched Della Dolce bakery on University Avenue in Clive… Kum and Go debuted a new convenience store at Douglas Avenue in Urbandale… Caribou Coffee launched a new outlet in Valley West Mall… Perkins announced a new store will open this spring on Adventureland Dive in Altoona… Scooters announced plans to open 10 stores in the Des Moines metro… Aileen and Shaw Mahmood opened East Village Pantry on East Grand Avenue in East Village… Java Joes debuted a new store in the DART depot… Mike Roberts and Jason Crimmins (owners of Charlie Yoke’s in Ames) opened Firehouse Wings in the food court at Merle Hay Mall…. New Nutrition Business named “nutritional functionality” and “the rebirth of dairy” as the top two food trends of 2014… David Baruthio opened Blue Tomato, a pizza and pasta café on First Street in West Des Moines, with Nick lllingworth (Flying Mango, Bistro Montage, Cheese Shop) as chef… Jason Simon’s A2, a pizza and pasta restaurant on Ingersoll, was scheduled to open soon after press time… Sweet Rewards Bakery moved to a brick-and-mortar on Dartmoor Drive in Waukee… Pizza Ranch opened a store on 86th Street in Urbandale.

Transitions

Angelo’s moved into the former Jimmy’s on Eighth Street in West Des Moines… Nick’s moved to Army Post Road, into the former Tavern Pizza… Aldi opened a new supermarket on Southeast 14th Street, replacing its store on East Army Post Road… Fernando Martinez closed the former Garden Grill in Johnston and opened El Torito Mexican restaurant in the former Fat Boyz Saloon and Grill in Grimes; Cozy Cafe then opened a new store in the former Garden Grill venue… Trostel’s Greenbriar received a complete makeover… Casey’s General Stores Inc. introduced flatbread pizza at its Pleasant Hill Pizza Express store… Centro announced new “casual dining experiences” in its South Union annex… The all-Italian coffeehouse Amici closed its last shops in the metro.

Industrial News

Chipotle partnered with two restaurateurs to launch Pizzeria Locale with its prototype store opening in Denver… Willie Theisen, the Clinton High School and University of Northern Iowa graduate who founded the Godfather’s Pizza chain, has come out of retirement and launched a new chain called Pitch, featuring 1,000-degree coal-oven pizza and mesquite-grilled meats and fish — the original is a big hit in Omaha’s Dundy neighborhood. Theisen told Relish he plans to open new stores in Austin, Madison, Denver and Las Vegas this year… Kentucky Fried Chicken’s much ballyhooed new product, described by the company as “bold action,” turned out to be fried boneless chicken served in a go-cup. We’re guessing they think the go-cup boldly adds to its environmental footprint… International House of Pancakes brought back its “all you can eat pancake” specials but only through Feb. 9. Hopefully warmer temperatures will reduce the need to load carbs after that.

Wine Events

Wine Fest announced its wine flight class schedule with South Union Bread Cafe hosting a “Wine cocktails” course on Feb. 20, Splash hosting a “Chardonnay and Pinot Noir” class on March 20, Ingersoll Wine and Spirits holding a class on “Pairings with Asian classics” on April 17 and Sbrocco hosting a “dinner party with wine pairings” on May 15. ($40 at www.midwestix.com)… C and S Brew Supply, a beer-brewing and wine-fermenting supply store, opened on Southwest Maple in Ankeny… First Thursday (of the month) wine classes at Django ($25, 6:30 p.m.) will include: “Branching off Burgundy,” a tour of old and new world Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, in February, “Wine and Cheese Connection” in March, “Global Family of Red Rhones — Syrah, Grenache, Malbec and Tannat” in April, “Unexpected Roses and Sparkling Wines” in May and “New School Summer Wines” in June. Reservations 288-0268… Last Tuesday (of the month) wine education events at Splash ($40 with food pairings) will cover Loire Valley wines in February, South American wines in March, Northern Italian wines in April and Washington state wines in May (244-5686)… Visiting Loire Valley chefs will prepare wine dinners Jan. 30-31, ($125 with $50 tax deductible) with proceeds funding programs at Iowa Culinary Institute, the host of the dinners.

Honors and Legacies

Scott Carlson (Court Avenue Brewing Company, Americana) was elected to the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors. The head of the Iowa Restaurant Association, Carlson has for decades been the most prominent lobby for Iowa restaurants at the statehouse. His contacts with people of influence could be rising if Americana landlord Jack Hatch becomes the next governor… Café di Scala was named Cityview Food Dude’s restaurant of the year and that restaurant’s Phil Shires the chef of the year. Wasabi Tao was tabbed as the top new restaurant. Holiday Inn Mercy Campus’ Genevieve’s got a nod for the year’s top restaurant design and its chef Kris van Tuyl as the rising star of 2013… Sbrocco was Iowa’s only restaurant named to OpenTable’s “Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S. with the most notable wine lists”… Joe Tripp of Alba won the Battledish competition for best food dish, and Sean Wilson of Proof won for best cocktail… Sam Auen (“Crowding the Pan”) and Shari Clark (“Fork in the Road”) premiered cooking shows on channel 8.2… Cyd Koehn of Catering by Cyd won the March of Dimes’ Signature Chefs Auction competition… Smokey D’s Darren Wirth capped off an incredible year in competition barbecue by taking the Kingsford Invitational Grand Championship and its $50,000 top prize… Skip Bachman died in late December. His legacy to Des Moines (Skip’s, Urban Grill, Wall Street) lives… Chuck’s Restaurant owner Linda Bisignano died in November too soon at age 64, but the Highland Park legacy lives on… Legendary chef Thomas Keller praised a grilled salmon lunch last year at Skip’s… Mexican restaurants El Rey and Taqueria Sonora, in West Des Moines, both closed, probably due to the loss of business that came with the Grand Avenue/Walnut Creek Bridge closure.

Scientific News

Bill Gates advocated developing artificial eggs made out of plants… The American Humane Society certified that the number of humanely-raised livestock animals in the U.S. had reached one billion… Research nutritionists at University of California Davis published a “meta-analysis” concluding that cinnamon lowers blood glucose between three and five percent — the same level of reduction found in the older generation of diabetes drugs… Nature magazine reported that a highly-contagious form of fungus called Panama disease has devastated fruit crops in Asia and spread to Africa. The report suggested the world’s banana crop was in peril. RELISH

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