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By Jim Duncan

Absolute Flavors/Smokey D’s BBQ

Absolute Flavors/Smokey D’s (AFSD) is an odd name for an authentic barbecue. Fortunately, few people pay attention to the literal meaning of words anymore. Unfortunately, we do at Cityview, so for the record, “absolute flavors” are by definition “extracted with solvents and further distilled with ethanol.” They are a billion dollar segment of the industrial food complex in which scientists labor with all sorts of things to simulate something natural. And they have absolutely nothing to do with the new Q on the north edge of town. Like “killer chili,” Absolute Flavors is an antagonym, a part of speech that holds contradictory meanings.

That’s not the only odd thing about this place. Typical barbecues don’t serve croissants, or “portabello and boursin wraps.” Because AFSD does, you can call them the first “metro sexual barbecue” and “carry-out tea room” in Iowa, except that the teas are all bottled the way barbecue people like them.

More importantly, AFSD is a barbecue of extraordinary repute. Both owner-chefs, Darren Warth and Shad Kirton, are professional competition circuit heavyweights. Warth is without question the “baddest” Iowan on the circuit. He’s won major awards at both The Jack Daniels and The American Royal. Those are to Q what The Masters and The Open are to golf. Kirton has his share of ribbons, too, but until recently he was handicapped by also running David’s Milwaukee Diner in the Hotel Pattee, one of the state’s best restaurants before the hotel folded last year. Now he can smoke meat 24-7.

Smoking to impress judges is different from smoking for the lunch rush hour. That’s why barbecue champs don’t always have good restaurants. It’s also why dining on Q requires more work out of the customer. For instance, smoked brisket is best when sliced warm after resting from its long smoky toil. You can’t expect that during lunch hour. You can expect it by appointment. Also, ribs have an incredibly short window of perfection, when they are tender enough to pull easily from the bone, but not so mushy that they fall off the bone. Pulled pork is more forgiving. Smoked boneless turkey breasts are metro sexual barbecue that we won’t discuss today.

Given all that, AFSD is the best among the zillion new barbecues in town. My first visit produced perfect ribs, which was no surprise since ribs put the most medals on Warth’s chest. It also produced mediocre brisket, which had been cooled and sliced and reheated. However, when I asked, I was told how and when I could get some sliced fresh and warm. My second visit delivered the kind of brisket that I dream about between trips to Luling, Llano and Lockhart, the holy Texas trinity of brisket towns. The crunch of perfectly smoked deckle sealed the deal. I also enjoyed burnt ends that could have impersonated those that Calvin Trillin famously dreamed about while dining at Maxim’s in Paris. A third visit delivered pulled-pork which was quite good, but needed the option of a good vinegar-based sauce.

AFSD makes no sauce. “Why try to reinvent the wheel?” Warth explained. They rely here (and in competition) on Russ & Franks, a sweet, tomato-based sauce made locally. That’s OK for brisket and ribs and the super lean turkey breast, but not for pulled pork. The side dishes din’t re-invent any wheels either. Potato salad and cucumber-onion slaw were best (the latter made a surrogate topping for the pulled pork), marinated veggies (broccoli dominant) were the most metro sexual, and baked beans and cole slaw the most familiar.

Other tearoom items included Greek salads and chicken salad with grapes and almonds. Cookies, brownies and “Dodie bars” (Shad’s Aunt Dodie invented them) provided the essential third course that makes state of the art Q well rounded.

Side dish

Blue Gate Organic Farm of Columbia was nearly wiped out by a row crop farmer spraying pesticides on a windy day. The poisonous drift killed about 80 percent of Blue Gate’s entire gardens. It will take years before they can again qualify as organic again. … Café di Scala celebrates its second anniversary this week. Owner/chef Tony Lemmo will offer special dinners this weekend and Hot Club of Des Moines will perform. CV

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) Trostel’s Greenbriar (2-22-07)
Acapulco (3-1-07) Aryana (3-8-07)
AJ's (3-15-07) Ban Thai (3-22-07)
Two Crop Palace(3-29-07) Mo Q x 2 (4-5-07)
What's In A Name?(4-12-07) Lemongrass (4-19-07)
Chef Joe's Place (5-3-07) Suburban Restaurant (5-10-07)
Gateway Market Café (5-17-07) Irina’s Restaurant Bar (5-24-07)
Trailer Tripe (5-31-07) Azalea (6-07-07)
Pho All Seasons (6-14-07) Farmers Market (6-21-07)
El Sabor Latino (6-28-07) Crouse Café (7-5-07)
Bistro Montage (7-12-07) Jaliscolita rebounds (7-19-07)
New Saigon (7-26-07)  

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