Nostalgia soda rack at Candy Clubhouse.
Candy Clubhouse and Twisted Joe’s are
both located at Valley West Mall. Hours
are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to
9 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Cheese Shop of Des Moines, 833 42nd St.
Hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m.
to 7 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 10 a.m.
After half century of losing ground to supermarkets
and franchise restaurants with 32-page menus,
specialization is coming back in the food sector.
Three new local businesses are riding this bandwagon.
Candy Clubhouse appeals as much to senior citizens
as to kids. They feature nostalgia lines of
candies and soft drinks, including brands I
had not seen in decades: Twin Bings, Bit-o-Honeys,
Clark bars, Abba-zabbas, Neccos, Red Hots, Bonomo
Turkish Taffy and PEZ with numerous dispensers,
etc. They also carry a number of European and
regional candies from Vosges, Cote d’or Dolfin,
Chocolove, Wai Lana, Drost Roland, Hachey, New
Tree (quince flax chocolate is definitely from
a new tree), etc. Caramel apples were made fresh
in 11 flavors.
Soft drinks were replicated in museum-quality
bottles. Most used nostalgic recipes, meaning
cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup,
which replaced sugar industry-wide in the early
1980s. Many were regional specialties like North
Carolina’s Cheerwine, Seattle’s Pig Iron Cola,
Milwaukee’s Sprecher, central Texas’ Big Red
and Kiss, Connecticut’s Avery’s, Maryland’s
Frostie, England’s Calypso, the Cascade Mountain
range’s Huckleberry, Colorado’s Tommy Knocker,
Australia’s Bundaberg and name sake sodas from
Death Valley, Sioux City and Fargo.
Other sodas were from new companies trying
to create 21st century flavors with old fashioned
methods — Reed’s Flying Cauldron Butterscotch
and Eat Me Now’s Jack Black Blue Cream for instance.
Jelly Belly was represented with a long line
of such sodas, plus a large section of candies.
Fluids and Rocket Fizz sodas were produced by
Rocket Fizz, a franchise candy store very similar
to Candy Clubhouse. Bulldog sodas advertised
high-end ingredients like pure vanilla. Lester
Fixins’ odd flavors included peanut butter and
jelly, pumpkin pie, bacon and sweet corn. Cucumber
soda tasted like half of a gin-seeking summer
Some sodas came with interesting back-stories.
Nesbitt’s Orange soda was the most popular orange
drink in America till the late 1960s. Its 1940s
ads featured an unknown spokeswoman named Marilyn
Monroe. Jolt has been called the prototype of
Red Bull. Leninade sodas are Russian-made spoofs
of Communist era propaganda – “If it’s in a
tomb, you must exhume.” Los Angeles’ Rat Bastard
Root Beer could have been concocted in a Chinatown
herbal store, employing jasmine, dong quai,
three kinds of ginseng, mad dog weed, skullcap,
yohimbe, ginko bilboa, gotu kola, golden seal,
echinacea, capsicum, reishi, plus shitaki and
Elsewhere in Valley West Mall, Twisted Joe’s
opened in the food court, a solitary unique
store amidst a number of franchises. It offered
good burgers and Johnsonville brats, with excellent
hand-cut fries. My half-pound burger was well
seared and served on a toasted buttered bun.
In the Shops at Roosevelt, The Cheese Shop
of Des Moines has begun serving hot lunches,
all cheese of course. A toasted cheese sandwich
epitomized the best of that genre. It was made
with high fat butter, La Mie bread and a combination
of three Iowa cheeses — Frisian Farms gouda,
Milton Creamery’s Quark and Prairie Breeze.
One can add prosciutto, salami, pepper jam or
homemade arugula pesto. Cast iron skillet mac
and cheese was made with Frisian Farms gouda.
Side salads featured lemon vinaigrettes, olives,
Jack cheese and almonds. Gus Soda, a New York
brand I did not see at Candy Clubhouse, was
featured in three flavors, along with Peace
Tree root beer and the usual wines and beers
that are sold at bargain, retail prices all
Taste of Thailand founder Prasong “Pak” Nurack
is currently serving his second term in Thailand’s
Senate. His former Internet service provider
disabled his old email address book and he wants
to reconnect with his friends in Iowa. Contact
him at email@example.com.