Strong prices, glass ceilings and ANCIENT HISTORY

By Jim Duncan

Summer was good to Iowa agriculture. Despite lower feed corn prices, beef prices stood strong on demand.
Pork did, too. “The vegans were finally halted at the gates of Vienna,” joked one commodities trader. Exports helped sustain all this, especially to Japan, China and the southside of Korea. McDonalds and Wendy’s were the big winners in the fast food chain wars. McD is still seeing huge gains from its “breakfast all day” policy, and Wendy’s revitalized
sales after beginning an aggressive remodeling program that had been completed in more than one third of its stores. Overall, this industry continued to suffer from over saturation.

Cucumber pickles found respect after PBS’s “The History Kitchen” reported their origins began in 2030, B.C., in India, making them possibly the oldest processed food in the world.

Women in the distillery business gained new esteem from several sources: Marianne Barnes, Kentucky’s first female master distiller since Prohibition, busted that glass ceiling when Old Taylor hired her away from her master taster position at Woodford Reserve; Joyce and Autumn Nethery opened the “ground to glass” Jeptha Creed, which
produces whiskey made from rare heirloom Bloody Butcher corn grown on their farm; Pamela Heilmann succeeded Willie Pratt as master distiller at Michter’s Distillery, and Lisa Wicker filled the same role at Preservation Distillery. The movie “Bourbon Babes of the Bluegrass” told the stories of seven women who contributed to Kentucky’s bourbon history.
Des Moines’ growing reputation for barbecue credibility continued to surge as two locals increased their national profiles as spokesmen for the art form. Steve Berry covered coastal BBQ events as the Green Mountain man while Moe Cason added Pappajohn’s Pizza national spokesman to his repertoire of smoky honors.

Locally it was a better season for openings than closings.

The Big News

Mike Whalen, the Harvard-educated, former- Beverly-Hills-lawyer-turned-Iowa-restaurateur (Machine Shed, Thunder Bay, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse) and developer (Heart of America Group), announced his plans for Prairie Crossing in Altoona. That 230-acre development south of the Bass Pro Shop, will be anchored by a 70-store outlet
mall opening this month. It will include the original store of a new Whalen restaurant concept called Burger Shed. The casual, sit-down café will seat about 100 and will have lakeside seating, featuring dishes not too different from Machine Shed’s. A Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse is already open, as is a Fairfield Inn. Whalen announced plans for a Hilton, multifamily housing and more unnamed restaurants. Whalen is completing about $6 million in road, sewer
and electrical improvements along with grading to the site that will allow additional development in the previously vacant parcel… Hy-Vee said it would eliminate more than 200 artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals from 1,000 of the company’s 3,000 Hy-Vee-labeled products by July 2018. Included in the list of about 210 excluded ingredients are artificial flavors and colors, hydrogenated oils, parabens and others. High fructose corn sweetener,
connected at least by startling coincidences to rising diabetes and obesity rates, is one of the ingredients on
the hit list. Corn producers are not happy.

The Good News

The centenarian Graziano’s Brothers finally began serving sandwiches in its deli. Response has been huge… Shorts BBQ is set to open on 86th Street in Johnston… Jersey Mike’s opened a new store on Merle Hay Road… Andrea and Bryan McGinnessof Wine Styles introduced Beer Styles Taproom & Gastropub on Mills Civic Parkway in West
Des Moines with 104 assorted beers on tap and an elevated gastropub menu with lots of beer-pairing cuisines. It’s the first of three dining concepts under one roof that will include an upscale fine dining crown, Salt of the Hearth… Lu Li and Shuyu Wang opened Grandpa Noodle Gallery in Ames. The place emulates the pulled noodle cafés popular in Vancouver and Hong Kong. Build-your-own noodle bowls and interchangeable noodles come with beef, chicken, tofu, sliced pork, ground beef and ground pork… Adi Bothsa opened Spice Pot, an Indian restaurant, in the former Taj Mahal location on 100th Street… Alexander Hall opened St. Kilda’s Bakery and Café in the Harbach Building on MLK. Named for his native town in Australia, the café brings New York style coffeehouse vibes to town… R Taco (Texas) opened its first local outlet store on University in West Des Moines… Sarah Cattoor and Ryan Greening debuted the casual family style Eggs & Jam in the former Jeremiah Bullfrogs… Big Al’s opened a second venue for its excellent BBQ, in the southside Ramada Inn… Phat Daddy’s reopened on S.W. Ninth… Eat Fit Go opened its third location in the area, in West Des Moines. The restaurant pre-packages meals daily… Dave and Jean Thompson
(The Urban Grill) opened District 36 Wine Bar in Ankeny’s Prairie Trails.


2017 Iowa Restaurant Association award winners included Restaurateur Paul Rottenberg of Orchestrate Hospitality, Emerging Hospitality Leader Mike Utley of Americana and Restaurant Neighbor Philanthropy winner Trostel’s Greenbriar.

The Bad News

Vanessa Lacona closed her popular Bambino’s in West Des Moines… RDQ closed its Jordan Creek store in the same venue where Mavericks and Saints also failed, reviving the myth of doomed locations… Burger King closed its Grand Avenue store in West Des Moines, which reopened as Abelardo’s, which closed a much smaller store half a block away… Several downtown restaurants struggled with sales down considerably from a year ago. The loss of parking garages and the large number of street closures were blamed.

The Science News

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division announced that the state has adopted a Federal Food & Drug Administration code prohibiting copper from coming into direct contact with foods that have a pH below 6.0. That includes fruit juices, wine, Moscow Mules and vinegar. Mules can still be served in copper mugs that are coated on the inside with nickel or stainless steel.

The GMO News

Just in time for the 172nd anniversary of the Irish Potato Famine, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Food & Drug Administration gave potato super giant JR Simplot permission to plant, harvest and sell three kinds of spuds (Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic) genetically engineered to resist the virus that caused the famine. More significantly, the new potatoes do not turn black when cooked after being refrigerated. These
things will be in supermarkets this fall.

The Small Industry News

Dr. Carmelita and Taufeek Shah, a mother and son from Winthrop, have seen fast growth for their four all-natural varieties of Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce. Hy-Vee, Fareway, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, Gateway Market and Price Chopper all stock it now. Kroger, with its 3,000 stores, is joining the list soon. Des Moines restaurants like Gateway Market Café, Mullet’s, Fong’s Pizza and Court Avenue Brewing Company are featuring Lola on their tables. That
gives people a chance to taste for themselves if it’s worth its premium price. ♦

Categories: The Dish

%d bloggers like this: