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Food Dude

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By Jim Duncan

Dude’s Best of 2007

Top New Restaurant — Dos Rios

George Formaro, chef of 2007.

During the 14 years of these reviews, this category presented some tough choices. Sage, Bistro Montage, 43, Mezzodi’s, Danielle and Yamananem’s all opened in 2001. Four years later Dish, Café di Scala, Star Bar and Chef’s Kitchen all debuted. This year tops them all though with Absolute Flavors & Smokey D’s, AJ’s, Azalea, El Corita, Gateway Market Café, Grand Piano Bistro, Lemongrass, Miyabi 9, Splash Raw Bar, DuBay’s and Zen Sushi & Noodle. A handful of those places are good enough to win this distinction some years. Azalea, Gateway and Miyabi 9 all could have won most years.

Dos Rios flooded the competition this year. Karl Alterman’s Court Avenue restaurant combines commitment to sustainable and local foods with devotion to the traditions of Jalisco. Some foods (huitlacoche) had never been served before in Iowa restaurants. Some tequilas had never been sold before in the U.S. The restaurant opened in October while its building was still under construction. Remarkable improvements have been made since in acoustics, commitment to sustainability, in tweaking recipes, and in creating new specials.

Chef of the Year — George Formaro

Formaro kept Centro among the top local restaurants and South Union at the top of deli choices while also opening Gateway Market Café — serving the city’s best-ever, and most eclectic, comfort food. In his spare time he created a menu for the late-winter opening of a new French restaurant.

Rising Star — Scott Stroud, Dos Rios

This 22-year-old brings Bouchon experience to Dos Rios specials, which can out-rock the live music.

Top Chain Restaurant — Fleming’s

In greater Des Moines, Fleming’s has become the Warren Buffet of corporate restaurants — a big powerful player who behaves like an ordinary good neighbor.

Top New Fast Food Joint — Sushi Box

Reasonable sushi for the bargain prices in Kaleidoscope Food Court.

Service Trend of the Year — shorter hours

After years of expanded service, many places reduced hours in 2007, mostly after the new minimum wage law.

Business Trend of 2007 — independence

The ratio of new independent restaurants to corporate chain restaurants increased dramatically in the metro.

Local Kitchen Trend of 2007 — charcuterie

Norwalk’s La Quercia introduced several new products to America. Brasserie announced that charcuterie would be a focus of its new kitchen. Bistro Montage, Gateway Market Café, Dos Rios, Sage, Mojo’s and several ethnic cafés all delved deeper into the old art.

Fast Food Trend of the Year — diversified menus

What’s good for McDonald’s is good for the industry. That means espresso with fried chicken, salads at burger joints, burritos and ice cream for breakfast, etc.

Top Food Stories

Specialty markets come and go. Four specialty grocery markets opened in the metro this year but two closed before cold weather.

Farm Bill turns Democrats into Republicans and vice versa. The Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved Farm Bill legislation that a Republican president from Texas kept threatening to veto because of lavish breaks for the rich.

3. Big Ethanol demonizes Holocaust hero. Swiss statesman Jean Ziegler became a Nobel Prize candidate for retrieving stolen assets for Holocaust victims. When he questioned the morality of ethanol subsidies in rich nations, which drive up food prices in poor nations, Big Ag and their flunkies in the Iowa press attacked, and smeared, the messenger.

Conspiracy Theory of the Year — Swift raids

A year after the federal government raided ConAgra’s Swift plants (and only Swift plants) across America, suspicion grew that Tyson and Cargill had been rewarded for their superior acumen at insider-politics.

Quote & Book of the Year

“Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you.” Danny Meyer, “Setting the Table.”

Thanks for the Memories

Rick Murillo, Garcia’s, 25th Street Café, Beggar’s Banquet, Pat’s Corner Café, Cookery, Off the Hook, Stella’s Blue Sky Diner, 43, Dolce Vita, several library coffeehouses. 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) Smokey D's BBQ (8-2-07)
Gourmet Burgers (8-9-07) Iowa State Fair (8-16-07)
Rolling Wok (8-23-07) Sports Bars (8-30-07)
Dragon House West (9-6-07) Carr’s Soul Food Cafe (9-13-07)
The Sushi Surge(9-20-07) B & B Grocery Meat & Deli (9-27-07)
Redefining Pizza (10-4-07) Café Su (10-11-07)
Providence Café (10-18-07) Firkin & Fox (10-25-07)
Dos Rios (11-01-07) AYCE buffet (11-08-07)
Fast Food (11-15-07) Grand Piano Bistro (11-22-07)
O'Charley's (11-29-07) DuBay's (12-06-07)
Iron Wok (12-13-07) Miyabi 9 (12-20-07)

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