Deconstructed beet salad at Proof, 1301
Locust St., 244-0655. Hours are Monday through
Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday
from 5 to 10 p.m.
Spring brought renewal to the local food industry
this year. Some of it was obvious like Eastern
Buffet replacing Joseph’s Steak House and Host
following Flour, both after considerable remodeling.
Other things bloomed subtly, like Proof changing
hands without missing a single meal.
Carly Groben built a considerable reputation
there the last three years, including a nod
from the James Beard Foundation as one of the
top young 20 chefs in America. She plans to
travel in Central America now and sold both
Flour and Proof, the latter to Sean Wilson and
Zach Mannheimer. Carolinian Wilson is a chef
of considerable skills, having worked in the
kitchens of renowned chefs in New York and Seattle
before running Azalea, Kirkwood Lounge and Cuatro
in Des Moines. New Yorker Mannheimer served
as maitre d’ and sommelier at Embassy Club before
organizing the Des Moines Social Club. They
hired Hal Jasa, well known here as the Underground
Chef and owner of Zingaro.
They bring camaraderie to this 64-seat café.
Wilson and Jasa founded Boucherie, a two-year-old,
weekend-long celebration of whole animal cooking.
Mannheimer worked for Jasa at Zingaro and Jasa
for Mannheimer at DMSC. Most impressively, they’ve
restrained themselves from making big changes
to a popular menu that was heavily influenced
by Groben’s earlier travels in North Africa.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” explained
Their lunch menu looked much as it did before,
with three salads, five sandwiches (served ironically
on unproofed breads) and five grain dishes.
What did change was the method of preparation
— all lunch dishes are made “à la minute” (prepared
to order, rather than being prepped in advance
and held for service). Flatbreads changed, too,
to resist breaking apart in ones hands.
I particularly appreciated the “à la minute”
approach with a Moroccan chicken sandwich, something
I rarely order because prepped chicken is almost
always overcooked. Proof delivered a juicy breast,
heavily spiced and served with a sauce of caramelized
onions, tomatoes, arugula and raisins. A bowl
of tomato soup was filled with black cous cous
and sausage. A merguez (lamb) sandwich delivered
scratch made sausage.
The new crew is expanding Proof’s dinner service,
to both Friday and Saturday nights for now,
perhaps a third night soon. The menu changes
weekly to keep the chefs interested. All dinners
are fixed price, three course meals ($35, $50
with wine pairings). Stand out first courses
recently featured rghaif, a popular North African
street food. Fried semolina dumplings were stuffed
with lamb and accompanied by ratatouille and
freshly minted yogurt. A gorgeous, deconstructed
beet salad presented various colored beets,
beet puree, balsamic marshmallows, fresh micro
greens, chevre and pistachios. An equally lovely
pâté plate was served with mustard, puree of
asparagus, micro greens and a quail egg yolk.
A galantine of roasted chicken delivered seared
and boned chicken coated with vadouvan (curry)
spices on a bed of quinoa, with carrot puree
and baby carrots of many colors. An outstanding
dessert presented a hazelnut dacquoise with
burnt honey ice cream, fresh poached pears and
freshly whipped cream. Cheese flights were served
in three sizes for an extra charge.
Glenda Reiling won the Food Feud for a Cause
challenge with a theatrical sweet potato mousse
in a spun sugar nest with candied corn and chocolate
ganache. She spun her sugar on a ladder to create
“angel tears” and much applause. The event was
held at Lotus Moments Events Center, a unique
facility that does not charge additional fees
to cater your own event, or for using a “non-preferred