THE DISH – Falling Arches and Other Food News

By Jim Duncan

The previous quarter was baffling. As oil, gas and corn prices fell precipitously, food inflation continued mysteriously to rise. Fast food in general, and McDonalds in particular, remained in long slumps. Mickey D’s CEO Don Thompson, who took over a thriving company from Iowan Jim Skinner two-and-a-half-years ago, finally admitted a problem after four months of sharp drops in profits and same-store sales. Among the fiascos on his watch was an infamous chicken wings promotion. McDonalds, famous for low prices, offered wings for $1 apiece or $2 per wing. They contracted a company to produce 8-pound freaks of nature to supply them. When they shut down the wings promo, they lost nearly a third of their inventory.

Oddly, the most successful national restaurant story of the quarter belonged to Chipotle, a “fast casual” sector business known for organic and humanely raised foods. They posted nearly 20 percent gains in same-store sales. McDonalds used to own Chipotle. Thompson announced Mickey’s latest strategy to turn the tide — a customer dialog on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube where people can ask unflattering questions about the healthiness of McFood. The local food news was more encouraging.

The Good News

Austrian pastry guru Michael Leo opened Strudl Haus in the building previously housing Findlay’s Smokehouse… Omaha’s acclaimed Salween Thai café opened a Des Moines store on Douglas Avenue… Java Joes Coffee House opened its third Des Moines store, in a former Kum & Go on Douglas Avenue … Wobbly Boots Roadhouse, a barbecue and sports bar chain from Missouri, opened its first area store on Northwest 114th St. in Clive… Mars coffeeshop announced a March opening for its second store, in East Village… Kerri Rush opened her second Fresh Market & Café in St. Gregory’s Retreat Center on the southside… Joe Formaro opened Djonuts, a specialty donut store in the former Crème building on South Union… Gusto Pizza Co. announced it would be opening a third location in 2015, on Chambery Boulevard in Johnston… Pastry chef Katy Nelson (Table 128) prepared to open Scenic Route Bakery in the East Village… Sam Auen prepared to open the Krunkwich Ramen House in the former site of Tacopocalypse. He will serve the same smoked miso ramen that won him the most creative award at Battledish. He will also serve pho and banh mis. In addition, Auen announced he would open a pizza shop next summer just north of downtown in River Bend… Tomato Lady Jennie Smith began a new career with Kemin as a sales rep… Joe and Kristina Logsdon expanded their La Mie, buying out the former Sweet Binney’s, and hiring Sweet Binney’s owner Ryan Binney. Then they opened a downtown store on Locust across from the sculpture garden… David Baruthio (Baru66, Blue Tomato) planned to open his Prime Steakhouse on Seventh Street north of Mulberry… Persis Biryanni Indian Grill (Ohio) opened its first area outlet by the Jordan Creek Costco. That’s just down the street from the only area outlet of Paradise Biryanni Pointe (New York)… Louie’s Wine Dive opened a store in Waukee… H Pho and Restaurant also opened in Waukee.

The Bad News

Dahl’s filed for bankruptcy and closed its Prospect Avenue store in West Des Moines… African International Restaurant shut down… The Quiznos restaurant at 15700 Hickman Road closed… Six CherryBerry Yogurt stores in the Des Moines metro closed. In the stores paired with Taco John’s outlets, the latter remained open. The CherryBerry store on Southeast Destination Avenue in Grimes remained open… Angelo’s closed its last remaining store, on Eighth St. in West Des Moines.

Milestones and Honors

Woody’s won Cityview’s Ultimate Place for Barbecue challenge… Jethro’s BBQ & Bacon Bacon served five tons of bacon in its first two months… Smokey D’s and Big Tz Q Cru from Ames tied for the grand championship at the King of the Smoker competition in Palm Springs, California. Smokey D’s donated its $10,500 portion of winnings to a charity that benefits children with pediatric kidney failure… Lion Bridge Brewing Company of Cedar Rapids took the gold medal for English-style mild ales with its Workman’s Compensation beer at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. West O Beer of West Okoboji won the gold medal for cream stouts with its West O Coco Stout in the same festival, which drew 5,700 entries from more than 700 breweries, plus 49,000 people… Peace Tree Brewing Company of Knoxville won the gold medal for Belgian blondes and pale ales in the 2014 World Beer Cup… Des Moines chefs swept the awards at the Iowa Restaurant Association’s Dine Iowa Grand Tasting Gala. Troy Trostel of Trostel’s Greenbriar won first place honors, Mike Holman of Dos Rios Cantina and Tequila Lounge placed second, and Augustin Quintana of Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino won People’s Choice honors. Trostel won with Trostel’s Two Generations Rib-eye — a filet with horseradish, parsnips and potato puree and a pinwheel ribeye cap with roasted sweet corn and pepper croutons and tofu-stuffed beets. It was plated with a merlot reduction and poblano cream sauce… Food Channel superstar Guy Fieri came to town with his production staff and filmed at Patton’s, George the Chili King, Smokey D’s, Flying Mango, Tacopocalypse and Mi Patria. All segments about Des Moines restaurants should have aired on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” by publication of this Relish. Fieri dined at Malo on his visit… Joe Tripp (Alba) was named Chef of the Year by Cityview Food Dude. Nic Gonwa (Eatery A) was named the top young chef (under 30). Eatery A was tabbed the new restaurant of the year… Glen Oak’s Country Club hired a new executive chef, North Carolinian Monte Davis, who had been working in Philadelphia for a decade.

Transitions

Something Italian added Friday evening hours at its skywalk store… Front Row moved from Windsor Heights to the former Phil’s Bar and Grill venue in the Creekside Shopping Center… Fresh Market, a North Carolina-based healthy grocery chain, secured the Hacienda property on Ingersoll and several adjoining properties on 31st Street. Construction will begin this spring. Hacienda will operate until then…

The Cozy Cafe at 5405 Douglas reopened after a fire last spring… Flix Brewhouse opened in the former Merle Hay theatre… Jukebox Saturday Night reopened, this time near 86th and Hickman with a full kitchen specializing in fried chicken and deep-dish pizza… Lucca and Café di Scala both completed upstairs party rooms… 1908 Draught House opened a second store, Draught House 50, off 50th Street in West Des Moines.

New Stuff We Like

James Beard Foundation and Food Tank, along with an advisory group of food system experts, developed the first annual “Good Food Org Guide.” Five organizations from Iowa were chosen to be included: Eat Greater Des Moines, Food Bank of Iowa, the Iowa Food Hub, the Iowa Food Systems Council and Table to Table… “The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams,” by Rosana Wan (Shiffer), is both an historically-researched Colonial cookbook and a culinary history of the Adams’ lives… “Pie School — Lessons in Fruit, Flour and Butter,” by Kate Lebo (Sasquatch), contains everything one could want to know about baking fruit pies; it’s written by an award-winning poet who charmed Iowans this November at Kitchen Collage.

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