By Jim Duncan
The spring quarter was a time of alarm and espionage. Mo Yun, the wife of a billionaire Chinese seed magnate, was indicted on intellectual property theft after her brother and another man were caught digging up and stealing patented seedlings in an Iowa farm field. Food inflation began to raise its ugly head again with fruit, vegetable and beef prices soaring in America while being blamed on last year’s drought and increased demand overseas — particularly in China. Government price fixing in Venezuela created a flood of that country’s groceries into Columbia which created a crisis of hording and black market inflation in Venezuela.
Back here in the nation’s No. 1 egg producing state, Quality Egg (run by infamous businessmen Austin and Peter DeCoster) agreed to pay $6.8 million in fines for crimes that included selling the tainted eggs that caused 2010’s salmonella outbreak. Corn and soybean farmers trembled before the news that pigweed Palmer amaranth has invaded some of Iowa’s border counties after decimating cotton crops in the south the last few years. Palmer amaranth moves with frightening alacrity — it can carry a million seeds and grow more than 6 feet tall. This pigweed won’t fly away when sprayed with Round-up or any other form of glyphosate. Industrial news was not all cynical though. Agribusiness giant Cargill agreed to end the use of gestation crates in the pork industry.
Our restaurant and beverage scene took a whack when Thrillist ranked Iowa No. 47 among states in the quality of our food and drink. We beat the Dakotas and Utah but lost to West Virginia and Wyoming. To add insult, Missouri came in at No. 12, Minnesota at No. 23, Wisconsin at No. 22 and Illinois No. 5. Contrary to rumors, the Iowa Restaurant Association did not request legislation to close bridges on the Illinois border. No one in Des Moines showed signs of worry. Restaurant openings outnumbered closings by the widest margin since we began keeping track of such things seven years ago.
Mimi’s Cafe (Texas) closed its West Des Moines store… Nellis Management of Urbandale closed 16 of its 31 Long John Silver’s stores, including ones in Des Moines, West Des Moines and Ankeny.
Thu Phan returned from five years in the Arizona desert to reopen Pho All Seasons with her signature carpaccio, chao tom (shrimp sticks) and banh xeo (rice crepes)… Rosa Martinez reopened her La Rosa… Samane Vongphakly opened Golden Triangle in Macvilay Plaza serving foods of southeast Asia. El Cafecito Bakery and El Centroamericano store also opened in the same strip mall on E. Ninth… Sheikh Naseem (Tandoor) opened Taj Mahal on 100th St. in Urbandale… The Greenwood Market opened the area’s first indoor farmers market, in the food court at Merle Hay Mall, every Wednesday through Sept. 3… Melinda and Denny Strable opened Sorriso Grille in a former convenience store on N.E. 14th St., just north of Des Moines… Paradise Biryani Pointe (New Jersey) opened their first Iowa store on Mills Civic Parkkway… Johan Larsson left Django to take over the kitchen at Trostel’s Dish… George Formaro opened Malo in the Des Moines Social Club with Scot Stroud as chef… Agrilicious launched a website to introduce the best local farmers, food hubs, food delivery companies, locally focused restaurants and leading suppliers that support local farmers… Drake Law School volunteers began operating a program to recycle left over industry and restaurant food to homeless shelters. Their pre launch project on Drake Relays weekend saved $5000 worth of food… Jeff Kelderman and Lori Kelderman High opened a new Dunkin’ Donuts store on E. University Avenue on the site formerly occupied by Clayton’s Arts & Crafts… Bar Louie (Texas) opened an outlet store in the Village at Jordan Creek… Magnolia Kitchen & Grocery joined the local food truck wars with upscale versions of American comfort food… Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse opened a new store in Altoona with private cabanas… Jethro’s announced its Bacon Bacon version of the BBQ will open in the former Hooters in West Des Moines… Edible Arrangements/Edible To Go opened a new store on S.E. Delaware Avenue in Ankeny… Mason Groben opened a Madhouse Brewing Company tasting room on Scott Avenue… Barmuda (Cedar Falls) took over The Standard and opened a Stuffed Olive and Voodoo Lounge, both in the Court Avenue district.
Menchie’s (California) opened a frozen yogurt shop on Eighth Street S.W. in Altoona… Woody’s Smoke Shack began serving BBQ on the patio on Court Avenue next to the former Buzzard Billy’s. The new outdoor venue is called The Levee on Court… Tamale’s Industry closed its restaurant at New York and Sixth Ave. and reopened in the food court at Merle Hay Mall… Curt and Amanda Gomes bought the Clive Rookies Sports Bar & Grill… Jasper Winery renewed its Thursday night music and wine events, with Gusto Pizza and Madhouse Brewing Co. also involved… Beer Bucket and Burgers changed its name to “Mom’s Place Bar and Grill” and added a dessert menu… El Bait Shop and the High Life Lounge combined their menus, they already shared a kitchen… Nickolas Illingworth left Blue Tomato to open Magnolia Kitchen & Market… Paul Durr bought Prairie Canary from Carlyn Groben… RoCA replaced Sbrocco on Court Avenue, with a more casual atmosphere and menu. Jason Kapela (Louie’s Wine Dive) is part of the ownership and management team. Sbrocco chef Aaron Holt will serve as chef… Shorty’s, the Schlitz-themed bar in the basement, will remain open during the renovation.
Honors and milestones
Peace Tree Brewing’s Blonde Fatale won a gold medal in the World Beer Cup as the best Belgian blonde. More than 5,000 beers entered the contest… The Cheese Shop of Des Moines (chef Julie Henningson) won both the classic and glorified categories in Living History Farms’ Grilled Cheese contest. Say Cheese (Sydney Williams) won the anything goes category and Hy-Vee Pleasant Hill (Anthony Formaro) won the people’s choice award… Martha Stewart Living magazine featured the Willis Family Farm of Thornton and their free range pigs… Christina Moffatt and her Crème Cupcake + Dessert Bar was featured in Pastry & Baking North America… El Bait Shop made Thrillist’s list of America’s 33 best beer bars… Casey’s recorded more than a 7 percent increase in sales in the second quarter, due to strong increases expanded prepared food sales… Shad Kirton and Darren Warth, owners of Smokey D’s, continued to dominate the national competition barbecue circuit. After winning two grand championships and one reserve grand championship in last fall’s big three events (the Jack Daniel’s Invitational, the Kingsford Invitational and the American Royale) they began their 2014 season with six more state championships in the early going and have now won more than 600 competitions between them.
New stuff we like
Miracle Grill Mats (www.gwmproducts.com) are non-stick, flat tops that fit on top of an outdoor grill, allowing the cooking of eggs, pancakes, etc… National Geographic magazine began a fantastic series of stories about the future of food production. Ignore at your peril… BeetElite’s concentrated beet crystals deliver the nutritional equivalence of six organic beet roots in the convenience of a shot glass. www.neogenis.com/beetelite.html. RELISH