The go-to place for detox dining8/12/2015
Chef George Formaro recently discovered a 1922 menu from a Fort Des Moines Hotel restaurant. The fare offered was far more classically French than anything I remember here growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. Appetizer menus in my youth consisted of maybe four things. The Fort Des Moines’ menu included 24, including stuffed mangos, lobster cocktails, multiple kinds of clams, meunières and “India Relish.” The latter refers to a product made with pickled cucumbers, green tomatoes, cauliflower, white onions, red bell peppers, celery, mustard seed, cinnamon and allspice. In 1910, the Food and Drug Administration forbid Heinz from branding by that name because “it did not come from India.” Heinz went to court, for several years, to win the right to use the word generically.
Other than India relish, menus from a century ago did not offer much for vegetarians, let alone ethical vegans, dietary vegans, environmental vegans or gluten-free, low-fat, low-carbohydrate or raw dieters. In fact, today is the golden age for substance-avoidance dining — unless the substances you’d like to avoid are genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, herbicides and pesticides. The contemporary FDA tries to stop companies from disclosing the absence of those things. Still, the number of places serving vegetarian, etc. menus is exploding. So is use of local, natural and organic produce. Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese restaurants now offer a lot. So do hip downtown restaurants, from casual joints like Tacopopalypse and Krunkwich Ramen House to fine dining cafés like HoQ, Django and Centro.
My go-to spot for detox dining is Fresh Café & Market. The place looks like an extension of a Sticks showroom. Even the blackboard handwriting appears to be in Sticks’ font. Colors are as bright and cheery as the workers, most of whom look healthy as ski instructors minus the sunglasses. After ordering, instead of a number, one is given a word once spoken by a famous Indian guru — truth, justice, tranquility, etc. I have never seen anyone here fight about who represents the truth, either.
Wheatgrass is the lifeblood of this business. It’s 70 percent chlorophyll, which is a good thing. One mantra here is that an ounce of wheatgrass delivers the vitamins, minerals and amino acids found in 2.5 pounds of leafy greens. Wheatgrass shots ($3) are an acquired taste but are far more tolerable than eating kale in poundage. They are served with orange wedge chasers. Other shots are made with orange juice-turmeric-pineapple or cayenne-lemon-ginger.
Large juices ($5) are more palatable. All are freshly squeezed. The orange with beet juice combo is addictive. Carrot, orange and ginger is called “the detox.” Lemonade can be made with wheatgrass or beet juice. Smoothies ($5) include one called “balance,” which means equal parts of mango, spinach and kale. Do not try to do this at home. One called “recover” balanced aronia (“the wheatgrass of the berry world”) with three other berries, wheatgrass and beets.
Salads ($5) are organic with superb house-made dressings. Sandwiches ($5-$8) and macaroni and cheese can be made gluten-free (raw tacos are wrapped in Romaine) or on wheat bread.
Side Dishes: After four generations in the same family, Kwong Tung will close its doors sometime in December. That will leave a big dim sum void in Des Moines… Wine Spectator’s August issue includes the magazine’s 2015 wine awards. 801 ChopHouse won the only “best of excellence” award in Iowa. Eleven others won awards of excellence with Trostel’s Dish and Trostel’s Greenbriar each scoring five-star ratings with readers, Fleming’s scoring four stars and Splash three stars. Other Iowa restaurants to win awards, but with fewer stars, included Woodfire Grill of Dubuque, Bix of Davenport, Bourbon Street, Ferrari’s and Montage of Cedar Falls, Linn Street Café of Iowa City and Rubaiyat of Decorah. CV
FRESH CAFÉ & MARKET
6151 Thornton Ave., 440-4700
Mon. – Fri. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.