An Iowa Swabian Hall pig, picked to the
bone at Centro.
Last year in this annual review, we praised
22 new food businesses that opened despite economic
challenges. Eight of those places closed in
2011, along with older establishments such as
Suzette’s, Urbandale Café, AK O’Connor’s, Brick’s,
Casa di Vino, Nana’s, the Altoona Kin Folk’s,
The Game, Jasmine Bowl, Tandoor, Banh Thai and
Timothy’s. La Pizza House re-opened and then
closed again. Chefs also moved at a frenetic
pace. Scott Stroud (Food Dude’s Rising Star
of 2007) started 2011 at Orchestrate, moved
to Hy-Vee, then to Tartine before finishing
the year back at Orchestrate. Hy-Vee also poached
top chefs Dean Richardson (Phat Chefs), Alex
Strauss (Gateway) and Matt Pearson (Dish, Skybox).
In Iowa’s Kardashian affair of the year, all
four barbecues in the West Des Moines-Clive
area divorced their venues in the same two months.
Amidst the chaos, our food scene also produced
a surprising amount of happy news. Standouts
Top New Market. Saigon Market upgraded our grocery
scene much like Gateway and La Tapatia did in
other years. It’s immaculate, friendly and stocked
with delicacies and bargains that one used to
have to drive to Chicago to find.
Top New Specialty Shop. Cheese Shoppe of Des
Moines is a European-style store where one can
shop for the best charcuterie, pâtés and cheeses,
or idle away an afternoon enjoying them with
something from a marvelous, inexpensive wine
New Chain of the Year. Abelardo’s (Omaha) changed
the city’s late night dining habits with 24-7
drive through service.
Design of the Year. Americana, by architect
Van Hunt, is one of the best looking places
in years. Honorable mentions go to Patton’s,
Haiku and Zombie Burger + Drink Lab.
Rising Star of the Year. Bree Ann Leighton of
Alba, 22, has already plucked wisdom from three
of Des Moines best chefs — Sean Wilson, David
Baruthio and Jason Simon. On her own, she also
began a series of dazzling tasting menus.
Farmer of the Year & Top New Food. Carl
Blake recreated a legendary 19th century bloodline
by crossing Chinese Meishan pigs with Russian
wild boars. The nation’s best chefs and charcuterie
makers responded overwhelmingly to his Iowa
Swabian Hall, comparing its meat to a cross
between pork and duck.
New Beverage of the Year. Peace Tree brought
us Kolsch without the expense of a trip to Cologne.
Boldest Advertising. Heartland corporations
Post & Hy-Vee hired Australian sex symbol
Curtis Stone to represent their middle-American
values after Stone had incurred the wrath of
PETA by touting battery-raised hen’s eggs.
New Cuisines of the Year. Thanks to Hung Suan
(Simply Asian) and Cesar Miranda (Mi Patria),
Burmese and Ecuadorian cuisines debuted in the
Trend of the Year. Longer hours. Abelardo’s
rocked the town with 24-7 service. Bistro at
ICI and Luna added dinner service. Kelly’s Little
Nipper added breakfast. The Palms instigated
a four-hour “happy hour.” Gino’s West added
weekend brunch. We could go on and on.
Hottest New Service. Americana’s Bombshell Brunch
and Bloody Mary bar became a weekend ritual.
Iowa Food Blog of the Year. Jess Jones (www.jonesing-for.com)
pairs photos one wants to eat with recipes that
makes that possible.
Book of the Year. “1493: Uncovering the New
World Columbus Created” by Charles Mann argues
brilliantly that Columbus’ most dramatic discovery
was bird piss, which led through a little known
American war to the invention of industrial
Cookbook of the Year. “Heartland,” by Judith
Fertig, shows deep respect for the great food
artisans of the Midwest including many whom
Cityview has been touting for decades.
Lift a Cup of Kindness for… Paul Trostel revolutionized
dining in Des Moines, introducing or upgrading
things like appetizer menus, wine cellars and
tapas at Colorado Feed & Grain, Rosie’s
Cantina, The Greenbriar and Dish. Bobby Braverman
popularized organic and natural foods at his
Watch for our restaurateur, chef, restaurant
and new restaurant of the year in two weeks.