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Good news for the outskirts

Trostel’s Greenbriar recently marked its 20th anniversary in Johnston. When Paul Trostel opened the place in 1987, it was on “the outskirts of town,” in the literal and the Van Morrison-B.B. King-Warren Zevon sense of that phrase. The rugby-player, rodeo-cowboy-chef broke most of the rules about what would fly in Des Moines. Back then this was pretty much an all-Calabrese restaurant town. Trostel believed that first courses could offer “more than shrimp cocktails and garlic bread” and that the town would support an upgraded wine cellar. Since then, Greenbriar has been key in establishing a food identity here. I’m often asked to play concierge for out of town visitors looking for distinctive dining experiences; I recommend several places. The most thanks I hear come from the people who went to the Greenbriar.

In late November, 71 people who had eaten at Greenbriar came down with a food borne norovirus. That was a small fraction of more than 1,000 who reported contracting the virus to the Iowa Department of Public Health that week, but media coverage stigmatized the restaurant. Even after state inspectors found the kitchen clean and safe, the linkage had done some damage. Trostel said that December business was down $80,000 from the previous year and January business was down half that much. He also believes it would have been worse in most other places. He thanked some 200 loyal customers recently with a little party.

“They knew we were hurting and that’s why they came out to help. That’s the kind of place Iowa is, people still care about their neighbors here,” he explained with something resembling tears in his eye. Old cowboys don’t cry though.

We found more bittersweet reasons to return to the Greenbriar. When Perry’s Hotel Pattee closed, many of the best farmer-vendors in Iowa lost their main customer. Greenbriar chef Troy Trostel picked several of those plums. He’s now using a naturally raised lamb from Jefferson that has impressed gourmets and chefs from coast to coast. He’s also lined up the Pattee’s fresh greens supplier. He’s long shared the same elk ranch. That news was enough to get me to order something other than prime rib, which has to be the most popular in Iowa.

More good news comes to the suburbs. The Market at Jordan Creek (MJC) looks to be on schedule for their grand opening on March 21, the first day of spring for symbolism. The store could change the way Des Moines shops, especially in concert with similarly conscientious grocery stores opening soon in Sherman Hill and on Court Avenue. MJC might also change the way suburbanites eat lunch. Store Manager Troy Bond teased us with a glimpse of their 40-foot-long deli case, wood-burning pizza ovens and in-house gelato creamery. The deli will use Boar’s Head as the house sandwich meat and will have the likes of La Quercia prosciutto and Niman Ranch hams as call brands. There will be some 200 wheel-cut cheeses and over 20 kinds of olives, plus salads as cosmopolitan as tabouli, hummus and pickled seaweed, which is to say there will be sushi.

Bond previously managed the Central Market in Austin, the nation’s best grocery stores to my mind. That is where he met the Paciugo family of gelato makers from Turin, whose recipes will be used at MJC. They opened their first shop outside Italy earlier this decade in Texas. This will be their second shop in the Midwest, joining the region’s ultimate foodie town — Madison.

(Editor’s note: Just as Cityview went to press, Troy Bond announced he was no longer with the Market at Jordan Creek.)

Side dishes

Troy Trostel’s former sous chef Scott Bailey is executive chef at AJ’s, Prairie Meadows’ fine dining establishment. AJ’s has more state of the art restaurant trappings than any place in Iowa history and foodies are raving… Iowa Soybean Association has eight $2,000 scholarships for high school seniors seeking a degree in agriculture or ag-related fields. Deadline is March 1. Call (800) 383-1423… The Iowa Egg Council’s Egg Cooking Contest calls for original recipes. Prizes are up to $500. Deadline is March 1. Call (877) 469-2344. Finals will be March 31 at the Botanical Center. CV

By Jim Duncan
Past Food Dude Reviews
Amici Espresso (1-4-07) Bandana's (1-11-07)
Perry hotel (1-18-07) Beyond frozen (1-25-07)
Centro (2-1-07) KC BBQ (2-8-07)
Planet Sub (2-15-07)  

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