A festive time of the year

By Jim Duncan

For the food and hospitality industry, this is the season of seasons. Holidays are — more than ever before — occasions when families spend time in restaurants rather than at home cooking. Mike Whalen, both a former Iowa Restaurant Association president and a National Restaurant Association president, says the greatest blessing of working in the hospitality industry is that “people choose to share the most important and special occasions of their lives with us.” Whalen gave up a successful Beverley Hills law practice to move to Davenport and open a family-friendly restaurant. In our cover story, Prairie Meadows Executive Chef Patti Weidner mentions that she would rather be in Iowa’s largest professional kitchen on holidays than cooking at home.

Festivity is not what it used to be. Parties of 1,000 are as common now as parties for 100 were two generations ago. Many new restaurants today are raging steroidal freaks compared to their mid 20th century compatriots. Places with 300 seats plus party rooms are becoming common. In central Iowa, the restaurant business is zooming high without anyone supervising from the flight control tower. Our Dish column reports on a record number of new restaurant openings — in an economy stuck on less than 2 percent growth for eight years.

Whether this works or not is a question for next year. This is the festive time for office parties, family parties, going out and having food catered in. From Halloween to the Chinese New Year, this is the season of celebration and optimism. This issue of Relish is dedicated to the good tidings of the festive time of year. We delve into holiday traditions from seasonal cocktails to iconic traditions like turkey with all the trimmings. We visit Prairie Meadows to give you a behind-the-scenes tour of the state’s largest food and beverage facility. As always, The Dish returns with three months of news, gossip, honors and milestones.

Bon Appétit.

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Categories: From the Editor

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