Calamity and prosperity

By Jim Duncan

The autumn of 2017 was a time of contention, price relief and denial. Regional organic farming associations across the country felt betrayed by the National Organic Standards Board, which advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for relaxing organic standards to include hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables. In Des Moines, a clean water, anti-Farm Bureau city council candidate replaced a Farm Bureau lackey promoting attack ads on Des Moines Water Works

A Farm Bureau annual survey of the cost of Thanksgiving dinner revealed the lowest prices in five years, with prices for turkey, milk, butter, dinner rolls, sweet potatoes, pie shells and peas all down significantly, mostly due to large supplies in cold storage.

The Florida citrus industry reeled after Hurricane Irma wiped out perhaps half of this season’s orange and grapefruit
harvest with long-term damage putting future harvests in jeopardy. People who drink freshly squeezed orange juice in Des Moines reported giving it up because it suddenly doesn’t taste much different from concentrate. As if orange juice didn’t have enough problems, Moms Across America revealed test results showing that all five of the top OJ brands were rife with glyphosate, the original “killer ap” that made Ankeny rich and famous while making Roundup
weed killer possible. Before Monsanto scientists discovered it could be used to kill foxtail, ragweed, velvet leaf and kochia, glyphosate was best known as the key ingredient in a syphilis treating cocktail. What took science so long? If a chemical can kill venereal disease without killing dumb love, then why not kill weeds without killing soybeans or corn? Does the phrase “no brainer” have no brains?

For the local dining scene, autumn brought exciting transformations. A railcar storage warehouse became a beer hall serviced by a number of local food trucks. Another popular food truck graduated to brick-and mortar status. A new outlet mall included a store featuring the world’s most stylish cast iron cookware. And woodfired rotisserie
chicken came back from years in exile.

The Good News

Nick Kuhn splashed into the limelight of the local food scene. The owner of Urbandale’s The Beerhouse, and 515 Pi
food truck, brought notoriety for the Justice League of Food and The Legion of Food DSM. The Justice League is a charity that serves the homeless and hungry population by providing education and job training in the food and beverage industry. Kuhn is its chairman. The Legion of Food is an organization representing the food trucks of
central Iowa. Kuhn is its legislative liaison.

To promote both organizations, he opened The Hall in Valley Junction. That 280-seat multi-purpose commissary is
situated in a refurbished railcar storage warehouse. Tables are communal and made of railroad cargo planks. An outdoor beer garden will seat 140 come warm weather. The Hall is serviced by a rotating series of top food trucks: Top Bun is a gourmet burger stop; Karam’s Mediterranean Grill features Greek style fare; Banh Me is a more
Korean than Vietnamese sandwich stop; Big Red Food Truck specializes in Philly-style sandwiches of beef, chicken and pork; 515 Pi is a fresh-pressed-dough pizzeria; Curbin’ Cuisine features healthy, even vegan fare; Street Eats DSM offers fresh cut french fries with poutines and heavy sandwiches; Up in Smoke serves BBQ.

Ben Norris, of The Spot fame, opened The Walnut at 14th and Walnut St… Andrea and Bryan McGinness, owners
of the WineStyles franchise, along with Bryan’s brother, Jeff McGinness, opened Salt of the Hearth on Mills Civic Pkwy… John and Katy Holman, and Katy’s father, Brad Dopler opened Hometown Pizza in Normandy Plaza in West Des Moines. They call their pies Quad Cities style, with scissor cut strips, homemade sausage and dark malt in the crispy crust… Enosh Kelley, the former James Beard Award semifinalist  at Bistro Montage, and survivor from the
Windows on the World in the World Trade Center Towers on 9-11, became head of Pillar Technology’s Forge Des Moines… Jared Demars took over the kitchen at Marlene’s at Sevastopol Station after stints at Micheline starred restaurants Elizabeth and Spiaggia, both in Chicago, plus time in top cafes of Charleston and Denver. Like many other top Des Moines chefs, he came to us for the love of a woman… After 36 years in Texas, Cowboy Chicken opened
its first Iowa store in Ankeny on Oralabor Road. They offer wood-fired rotisserie birds and seat 69… Serious foodies rejoiced when Frontier airlines announced the first-ever direct flights from Des Moines to San Francisco… Mars Café opened a new shop on the ground floor of Capitol Square… Teriyaki Boys opened a new store in Outlets of Des Moines. The new mall also houses: a Le Creuset outlet, the world’s most famous cast iron cookware maker; Charley’s, a Columbus, Ohio-based chain specializing in Philly steaks (which also has a walk-up restaurant in Jordan Creek
Town Center mall’s food court in West Des Moines); and a Kitchen Collection store… Kelly and Denny Sharp opened Vino 219 in Valley Junction… The Other Place opened in the former Okoboji Grill space in Ankeny… Heavenly Asian opened in Valley Junction with superb Szechuan and Gansu cuisine from the old silk route… Pot Belly, the Chicago based sub sandwich chain, expanded into West Des Moines… Urban Grille owners opened District 36 Wine Bar and Grille in Ankeny’s Prairie Trail community.


Confluence Brewery added a beer garden… Aposto returned to walk-in hours Wednesdays through Saturdays… Hy-Vee expanded its excellent charcuterie stations to several more stores… El Sabor Peruano locked their door and shut down their phone, though a sign in the window still reads “open”… Exile added a pink guava Bohemian to its repertoire… Coach’s introduced savory kolaches.

Accolades & Milestones

Proof was named Iowa’s top café by Time… Exile celebrated its fifth anniversary by throwing a block party… Stock Market guru Motley Fool announced that the top-selling overall restaurant franchises had slipped considerably in sales per store. McDonald’s  and Subway now lag behind the industry’s more efficient money makers Chik-Fil-A,
Panera, Whataburger and Jason’s Deli…

The Sad News

Amigos closed their Capitol Center café… Noodle Zoo closed its final metro store, ending a 17-year run… Guru BBQ closed its downtown store.

The Scientific News

Apple scientists concluded nine years of development by harvesting the first crop of Pazazz, a Honeycrisp varietal engineered for winter harvest… Moms Across America founder Zen Honeycutt crusaded against orange juice after a U.S. Geological Survey discovered that glyphosate residue existed in the top five brands. Glyphosate, declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2015, is the active chemical ingredient in Roundup, manufactured
by Monsanto and 750 other brands of herbicides. The average person in America consumes 2.7 gallons of orange juice and three pounds of oranges each year. The European Union is currently reviewing evidence of cover-ups by glyphosate manufacturers and is considering banning the use of glyphosate herbicides. USGS tests found glyphosate in orangejuice ranged from 4.33 parts per billion (“ppb”) to an alarming 26.05 ppb. Studieshave shown that only 0.1 ppb of glyphosate destroys beneficial gut bacteria, weakening the immune system and leads to a wide variety of health and neurological issues. Additionally, one part per trillion has been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. The USGS showed that counties in Florida had as much as two tons per square mile of residual glyphosate in their soil. ♦


Categories: The Dish

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