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By Jim Duncan Reviews

Festival vendors such as Papilon move on to become full time sit-down restaurants.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Beyond the World Food Fest

This month’s World Food Festival was an incubator for Iowa entrepreneurs and a good indicator of future food trends. It also helped counter the black tie elitism that has overtaken the original populism of the World Food Prize — by emphasizing the multi-ethnic flavor of third millennium Iowa. In a two-day effort to test the future, I sampled more than 30 festival dishes. The best vendors provided foods that Central Iowa lacks. The Ethiopian Association made fresh injera (teff flour bread) with wot and atkilt (curries and vegetables). Teff is a grain that grew only in Ethiopia before it was declared a “wonder” health food recently. Injera is its greatest application. That vendor said they hoped to serve at more events next year, “If we get invited.” Also new in Central Iowa, Mi Ecuador served arroz con leche (rice in milk) that was rich enough to wean a baby and bolas de verde — fabulous stuffed plantain cakes. They promised to be at the Latino Festival and Des Moines Arts Fest next year.

Old Castle (86th Street, Johnston) prepared fabulous, fresh-off-the grill flat breads with cevapi (homemade sausages) or pljeskavica (meatballs), as well as good goulash. Papilon also served cevapi, plus sirnica (cheese pies), sarma (stuffed cabbage) and vurek (stuffed phyllo). All were good enough to entice me into Saric Dzelvid’s café on Douglas Avenue. Samosas (stuffed phyllo with veggie curry) at Taste of India (86th Street, Clive) were even better than the vureks. Kir (rice pudding) at Saloo’s made me pine for her long-abandoned, sit-down restaurant in Windsor Heights. Indian Delights brought good vindaloo (Portuguese style curry) to this party and said they are seriously looking at opening a restaurant in Ames. Asian Express served kim chee (pickled cabbage) with mildly seasoned meats and promised to be at next year’s “Art Inside Out” and Des Moines Arts Festival. I took a tame taste of Philippino food (no embryonic duck eggs) from JoJo’s Oriental Store of Cedar Rapids. Their pancit (baby angel hair) and pork dumplings are worth a 120-mile drive. New Oriental Food Store served fabulous fried taro and fried plantain dishes that occasionally appear on the good take-out menu in their East Village grocery. Banh Mi (barbecue pork) Sandwiches won my friendliest service award and promised to open a café in downtown in Des Moines next year.

Fat Tuesday’s said their Louisiana recipes will be regularly available at a sit down store at Army Post Road and Southwest 9th Street in January, with the same fine etouffee, gumbo, red beans & rice, catfish and jambalaya that they served at the festival. Barbecue was well represented by Woody’s (Cottage Grove) and by Nadine & Dad. Dad is purist pit master Duhvall Veasley, who told us he’s switched to local cherry wood in his smoker “but never pellets or charcoal.” His turkey drumsticks were the best I ever tasted. Veasley promised to become a regular vendor at Ankeny farmers markets.
Hacienda brought good tostones (double fried plantains) and said their restaurant is doing better than ever since moving into a much larger building on Army Post Road. Perry’s Taqueria Villa served Yucatan style cochinita pibil (citrus and annatto marinated pork that is slow roasted in banana leaves). Tres Hermanos said they hope to be serving their fresh fruit and tacos as “semi-regularly as the law allows” at East Ninth Street and University Avenue. Taste of Mexico’s “Yummy Churros” put truth in advertising. They said they’d be at the Latino Festival next year, plus the Downtown Farmers Market and the Festival of Pride. Suzette’s Candies brought their legendary caramel apples and said that their Ingersoll Avenue store makes so many this time of year that they can no longer count them.

One vendor’s sign sent a different kind of message: “All American Food… and we wash our hands, too.” I asked what that implied and was told, “It explains itself. You don’t see any of those other people washing their hands.” I passed on “All American foods” such as tacos, nachos and kosher dogs. The more Iowa changes, the more it doesn’t.

Side dishes
Thai Flavors new store in Ankeny offers their familiar menu… The Tournament Club’s new “What I Learned This Summer” menu includes things monkfish routage, lemongrass beef and tofu paneer. CV

Food Dude Reviews 2008 2007 Reviews
Splash Raw Oyster Bar (1-3-08) Flavors of India(1-10-08)
Uncle Wendell's (1-17-08) Jesse's Embers (1-24-08)
Taste of Elegance (1-31-08) Old Country Buffet (2-7-08)
Baker’s Food & Fuel (2-14-08) Coffee (2-21-08)
Cool Basil (2-28-08) Sports Bars (3-06-08)
Daddy O’s Bodacious Foods (3-13-08) Maverick Grill (3-20-08)
Phat Chef’s (4-03-08) Shotz & Grill Cordoba (4-10-08)
Radish (4-17-08) Alba (4-24-08)
Billy Mack's (5-01-08) Jethro’s BBQ & Sports Bar (5-15-08)
Viva los Forasteros (5-22-08) Torocco! (5-29-08)
The King and I (6-05-08) Chipotle Mexican Grill (6-12-08)
Django (6-26-08) Swine (7-03-08)
Sbrocco (7-17-08) Zuzap (8-14-08)
Le Jardin (8-21-08) Samurai Sushi & Hibachi (8-28-08)
Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano (9-4-08) Old Castle (9-11-08)
Old Mexic, New Mexico (9-18-08) Bistro at ICI (9-25-08)
Transmigration of the soul (food) (10-02-08) Boilin' Crawfish 4 (10-09-08)
Comfort food (10-16-08)  

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