By Jim Duncan CVFDude@aol.com
Ringing in the new — Part II
Within the local food scene, 2010 went out with a bang. In the final quarter, people opened new restaurants and created new products at a pace unseen for years. It’s a good news, better news situation for a change.
Flour is the latest minimalist café to open in the Western Gateway. Communal seating and self-service ordering don’t appeal to everyone, but they help a small place function efficiently during lunch rush. Owner Carly Groben says she opened this pizzeria to cover an underserved niche.
“I just didn’t see much here in the way of Sfincione (Sicilian style pizza), especially sold by the slice. So I spent some time in New York City eating at as many Sicilian pizzerias as I could,” Groben said, adding that she synthesized her own creation from those experiences.
Her dough was made with a recipe for focaccia and was proofed for several hours, then rolled into rectangles on large baking sheets (Sicilian style). Both the dough and pans were brushed with olive oil. Pies are covered with five different combinations each day: sun dried tomatoes and artichokes; shrimp and red peppers; cherry tomato with clams and Brie; fresh herbs and potato; pears and blue cheese, sausage with marinara, etc.
On three different occasions, my crusts were consistently super crisp. Significant air holes kept the dough from taking on that heavy, breadstick-like texture of most thick crust pies. Toppings, including herbs, were fresh and hefty. All my slices were oven-finished after I ordered them, and served hot. Because they were heavy on cheeses, that was essential. Flour also makes two “Cañadas de azucar” daily with proofed dough rather than flatbread. Those sugar sprinkled pies were covered with savory toppings (salami, pesto and Brie; hummus and Brie, etc.). Salads offered a choice of greens and homemade dressings. Brownies and cookies completed the menu. Drink options included Peace Tree root beer, an Iowa product.
Sticking to the flour theme, Angelica Tejeda has been making corundas and expects to add them to the wonderful Tamales Industry menu this month. Much prized in Morelia, corundas are made with a masa similar to tamales but are usually formed into in triangular shapes and eaten with chicken or turkey broth — a Michoacan version of tortellini en brodo. Like Tamale Industry’s tamales, they are made with white corn that is coarsely ground in the kitchen.
Although it opened in October, I made my first visit to Players Sports Bar & Grill during football bowl week. I think I had a subconscious issue with the name, assuming it referred to slang defined as an “individual skilled at sexual seduction or a male that will date a female and then dump her almost immediately.” I couldn’t have been further off the mark. Instead of hairy chests covered in golden bling-bling, I found a family café with a small town vibe. Owner Chelsie Lyons, just 27, is simply a big sports fan. She’s from Humboldt County, so her ideas of “players” are NFL homeboys Bruce Reimers and Dallas Clark. Iowa State University is also enshrined here with pennants, named dishes and specials during Cyclone games. The menu had an old-fashioned, small-town virtue, too, with generous portions, ice cream fountain drinks (ever see a purple cow?), and beer-battered fried foods dominating. Flame-grilled burgers employed prime beef, and full dinners cost just $8 to $15 with kid’s meals going for $3.50.
Sometimes what’s new is old. Randy Boswell, owner of the wind-grieved Boswells, has been rediscovered making his legendary hash browns at Grandma Max’s truck stop in Urbandale… Waterfront has two big nights coming for Francophiles. Jan. 19 will be Bouillabaisse (legendary seafood stew of Marseilles) night, and Jan. 26 will be their annual French Night. CV
Sicilian pizza at Flour, 1220 Locust St. 288-2935. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Players Sports Bar & Grill, 1760 Beaver Ave., 274-8639. Hours are 11 to 2 a.m., daily.