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Food Dude

July 26, 2012
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The Giuseppe, #fakevegan and the mother of all wine clubs

By Jim Duncan

Half of The Giuseppe at East 14th Street Tavern, 3418 East 14th St., 266-3446. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 to 2 a.m., Saturday from 10 to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 11 to 2 a.m.

Reader tips took me around the metro last week checking out a tavern legend, a super-sized wine dinner and cynicism. Let’s start with the latter matter. Chef George Formaro hosted a forum at his Django restaurant to address anonymous social media attacks against him for: 1.) his experiments with vegan diets and 2.) Django’s use of foie gras. Facebook and Twitter users have apparently revived dormant account names to post derogatory messages and Photoshopped pictures superimposing Formaro’s face on the bodies of people torturing animals. He was also dubbed with the hash tag “fakevegan.”

Ironically, Formaro has never claimed to be a vegan and has probably provided the most comprehensive vegan-friendly menus of any fine dining restaurants in town at Django, Centro and Gateway Market Café. He even carries multiple vegan wines. (To keep wines from becoming cloudy, wine makers “fine” them with animal products such as bone, shrimp shells, egg whites and dried fish bladders. Vegan wines substitute things like carbon, limestone and clay.) Formaro also provided a Power Point presentation of photos he made from La Belle Farms, his foie gras provider and one he believes raises ducks more humanely than others. They are never caged, nor fed hormones or vaccines. Their feeding tubes appeared considerably less intrusive than others that have been distributed in media. Formaro served vegan grinders. Some attendees ordered Django dogs and Rossini burgers, both of which include foie gras. I don’t recommend pairing them with the vegan grinders.

Tip No. 2 took me to the East 14th St. Tavern where an extra large parking lot included a motorcycle-only section, multiple grills and a smoker. Inside, the walls and ceilings were completely covered with signs and witticisms. A surprising number of homemade items were prepared in a relatively small kitchen. Servings were big, too. The smallest burgers included a third of pound of beef. Tenderloins overlapped their buns. Graziano’s sausage sandwiches and grinders were the opposite of vegan. Tacos were so large they would be illegal in New York City. All pizza was homemade. An appetizer menu included most of the industry’s best sellers. A $10 steak dinner is featured every Tuesday night and nearly every item on the menu is steeply discounted at least once a week.

I visited though, for a legendary sandwich that is offered only once a month (on first Tuesdays) and only until it sells out. I got the last one this month at 1 p.m. The Giusepppe’s reputation is well deserved. It’s made with equal parts of capicola, mortadella, garlic sausage, provolone, swiss and roasted peppers on a grilled piece of South Union foccacia.

Tip No. 3 took me to a West Lakes’ Hy-Vee Club dinner. These regular events are too big for even the largest Hy-Vee in the metro. They pack folks into the Spring Hill Suites as 148 showed up for a dinner with wines from Edna Valley, a small appellation in San Luis Obispo County that is endowed with a dramatically cool microclimate. My $30 dinner included eight glasses of wines, some of which are normally only sold at the winery. Chef Alex Strauss paired each with a dish including: crab cake with a corn soup shooter; shrimp skewers with fried rice; pan-seared salmon in pinot noir reduction with cous cous; pork loin with shitakes reduced in Cabernet with polenta; a cheese course that included a blue mousse and an aged chevre from Midnight Moon; and a chocolate tart with cherry sauce. Attendees who could drive to the supermarket after dinner could buy sampled bottles at deep discounts. The next such event is Aug. 1-2. Make reservations at the store.

Side Dishes

Whole Foods opened their first Iowa store, in West Des Moines… Jethro’s opened their fourth, in Ankeny. CV

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