Sunday, July 25, 2021

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The Dish

Early spring is full of bad news


No one has thought to extend the definition of endangered species to include small family farmers.

During a time when astronomers and physicists celebrated a photograph of an “unphotographable” black hole as a “vision of the gates of hell at the end of time and space,” Midwesterners wondered about the floodgates of hell. African swine flu worries forced Pork Expo to cancel this year’s event, one of the top hotel and restaurant events of the year. Sudden melting of snow and unseasonable heavy rains devastated farming, particularly along the Missouri River south of Sioux City. Entire seasons of crops will be lost, and livestock already is.

Farmers complained that the Army Corps of Engineers should have done more to contain floodwaters. The Army Corps of Engineers said they would have liked to but were shut down frequently by lawsuits brought on behalf of endangered species. No one has thought to extend the definition of endangered species to include small family farmers.

In Des Moines we said goodbye to longtime treasures. Arlette Hollister died in March. She ran the Iowa State Fair’s Food Division, the nation’s largest food competition. In her 30-year tenure, Arlette raised the food department’s profile, working year-round to secure new sponsors, streamline entry forms and engage younger cooks. Almost singlehandedly, she grew her department from just another fair contest to the pinnacle of culinary competitions nationwide, expanding the two dozen contests the fair had when she started into more than 200, which now run simultaneously all day, every day on four different stages. Sambetti’s longtime owner Sam Strome died of a heart attack in late March. The building that most recently housed Prime and previously Eighth Street Seafood, Fratelli’s, Raul’s and Skybox was leveled. It just disappeared overnight, like farms in Hamburg.


David and Sarah Baruthio plus Marc Navailles opened the long-awaited Bistro Nomad on the south side of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The trans Mediterranean menu will deliver things not often found on the prairie: octopus, branzino, paella, tajines, etc… The place is well named. Baruthio is a Strasbourg native who found his way to Iowa after stints in England, France, Belgium and Mongolia. Navailles is a San Sebastian (Spain) native who has also worked in kitchens across the world, including France, Spain, Argentina and Miami. The restaurant is also across Locust Street from “Nomad,” the Jaime Plensa sculpture that is the most photographed work in the park… Wasabi opened their fifth area store, in Ankeny’s The District… Cara Huloick opened Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea on Jordan Creek Parkway in West Des Moines. The signature coffee is called Dragon Eye and features sweetened condensed milk. The Ann Arbor-based chain is expanding fast… Riley Drive, the people behind Saint’s and several other local places, opened Union 29 in the Jordan Creek Town Center. The restaurant will focus on locally sourced foods and Midwestern dishes… The wind-grieved Luigi’s reopened as Baggio, in Knoxville.


While most reasonable minds realize there is no sure fire cure for devastating floods, arguments exploded about when information becomes too much information. At the core of this controversy were corn growers and Anheuser Busch. The brewer began advertising the fact they list their ingredients and other big scale brewers do not. Specifically, Bud called attention to the lack of corn syrup in its brew and that they use whole hops instead of hops extract. Corn growers are furious, calling for boycotts and lawsuits. Believe it or not, there is a precedent. Milk producers have been successfully sued on the East Coast for advertising “No hormones or GMOs.”

The National Organics Program decided that foods grown hydroponically could be labeled organic even if they use glyphosate (Roundup). That created more than a little controversy by hydroponic organic growers who use no chemicals.


Whole Foods Market revealed its choices of the most innovative food trends for 2019. Look for more Pacific Rim flavors, from Filipino pork sausage to passion fruit, jackfruit and cuttlefish. Fats are making a comeback with the keto, Paleo, grain-free and even “pegan” (paleo + vegan) diets. Hemp hearts, seeds and oils are now in everything from waffle mix to dried pastas. Faux meat, particularly mushrooms, will contend with rinds and jerky in snack foods.

Avocado, hummus, tahini and coconut water provide a fresh take on vanilla ice cream. Sea greens are showing up in dishes, such as seaweed butter and kelp noodles. Portable snack packages will feature bites, such as prosciutto and aged mozzarella. ♦

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