By Jim Duncan CVFDude@aol.com
Restaurateurs, restaurants and chefs of the year
Restaurateurs of the Year — Shad Kirton & Darren Warth of Smokey D’s
These partners grew their barbecue business the slow, smart way. They built a client base catering from a virtual shack in Saylor Township, where alcohol licenses are relative bargains. Then they opened a skywalk venue, later a second downtown store while establishing their brand on the competition circuit. This summer Warth completed his personal grand slam by winning all four categories at the American Royale, the U.S. Open of competitive barbecue. Kirton then won the largest prize in competition history, a $100,000 Grand Master award on national TV.
Soon after, the partners moved their mother store two blocks, into a sprawling three-room, 500-seat restaurant on I-35/80. From day one, the store was so busy that demand kept three 1,000 pound smokers operating around the clock. That meant that smoked meats were always sliced fresh, never cooled and “re-thermaled.” Kirton and Warth also added a talented full-time pastry chef. Their biggest problem now is parking, as truckers and Tweeters have spread the word about this magnetic restaurant.
Chef of the Year & New Restaurant of the Year — David Baruthio & Baru
Soon after Baru’s opening last spring, this reviewer compared owner-chef David Baruthio to the holy trinity of Alsatian culinary genius in America (Vongerictern, Keller and Joho) and wrote that his palate, and Iowa’s first Pacojet, coaxed amazing textures out of foams, mousses, terrines and ice creams. Since then, things have gotten even better. Rising star Andrew Newburg has been promoted to Chef de Cuisine and Jessica Dunn to Pastry Chef.
They have taken on more challenges, freeing Baruthio and partner Sara Hill to explore new territory. They teamed up with Sunstead Farms in a very French manner. Instead of having deliveries made, Baruthio goes to the farm and does his own harvesting. Hill, an accomplished artist, began cutting granite to adorn Baru’s stunning dinnerware repertoire. Baruthio made trips to Alsace to keep up with the evolving gastropub scene there. He also tweaked his menu to Iowa tastes, adding home-cured Speck (juniper cured ham) and Alsatian sausages among other things.
“Iowa is a challenge,” he explained. “Sweetbreads wouldn’t sell till we mixed them with escargot. We could not sell squab. It was a fabulous dish, boned and cooked sous vide, but no one would order it. On the other hand, we can’t get enough pheasant. Iowans loves steak so much we had to add more.”
Restaurant of the Year — La Mie
Joe and Christina Logsdon’s French patisserie has long been serving fresh artisan breads and pastries that can take one’s breath away. They break their own butter and fold it in, carrying their dough from sheeting to usage — a two-to-three hour process that few American bakeries bother with anymore. They also hand roll baguettes and practice true lamination — two other lost arts. That’s been enough to make La Mie one of the state’s favorite spots for breakfast and lunch.
This year, the Logsdons added a dinner service that perfectly fit the spirit of 2010 and filled two local voids in the food scene — healthy, low priced bistro fare and pairings geared to white wine drinkers. Dinners began with exquisite, complimentary bread service that might include French cheeses, tapanade or seafood spreads. Starch options introduced healthy things like “teff with sunflower and flax seeds plus rye berries,” “buckwheat groats,” “savory oatmeal” or “delicata of squash.” Most seafoods were poached in bone stocks and, as a balm to the year’s hard times, they cost only about $15, while most other dinners were priced $10 or less. CV
Man can’t live by bread alone, but it’s the foundation of Restaurant of the Year La Mie, 841 42nd St., 255-1625. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday, 4 to 9 p.m.
Smokey D’s, 5055 N.W. 2nd St. 243-2747. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Baru, 6587 University Ave., Windsor Heights, 277-6627. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.