Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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The Dish

Lost legends, rising farmland prices and virtual reality glasses for dairy cows


Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar took the top spot in an annual Iowa cooking competition.

This year was a time of Dickensian bests and worsts. Des Moines’ food scene lost some legends. Innovative restaurateur Ralph Compiano, State Fair food division guru Arlette Hollister, Noah’s head Jimmy Lacona, pizza man and restaurateur Rocky LaValle, French restaurant Baru 66 and Beaverdale pathfinders Reed’s Hollow and Chef’s Kitchen all left us. On the other side of the moon dance, we gained Panka, RI, Dirt Burger, Bartender’s Handshake, Motley School Tavern and Burger Shack.

In likely the strangest contrast of events, advertisers for pet foods went all in on meat products, while burger outlets pushed the envelop on meatless products. It was like humans were trying to relinquish their position on top of the food chain after several thousand years.

In Iowa, farm incomes continued sliding from their 2013 highs, yet Iowa farmland prices jumped to an average of $7,432 an acre. Northwest counties O’Brien and Sioux led the state while south-central counties picked up the bottom. Northeast Iowa showed the only declines in farmland values, probably because of dairy farm concentrations. Dairy farmers were hit hard by low prices.

The Trump administration in 2018 began spending $28 billion to help offset the damage from ongoing trade disputes with China and other countries. The program provides direct aid to farmers, buys surplus milk, pork and other commodities to send to schools and food banks, and works to expand farm export markets. In the first round of payments, Iowa farmers received about $1 billion with $767 million more coming so far in the second round. Iowa farmers also realized surprisingly good yields despite record rainfall that prevented 463,339 acres from being planted — the most acreage since USDA began reporting the data in 2007.



Des Moines Area Community College launched a one-year baking degree program at its Newton campus… Lua Brewing Company, a new restaurant and craft brewery specializing in German hefeweizen and pilsners, opened in Sherman Hill… Magee’s Irish Pub opened in The District at Prairie Trail in Ankeny… Full Court Press announced a new café and bar in the former Crazy Horse Guitars store in Dogtown… Increased sales of frozen pizza drove Humboldt’s Pasquale’s to quadruple its size.


The General Store Eatery closed after nearly 20 years in Valley Junction… Chicago Dog closed in Dogtown.


Scientists at Tufts University discovered an affordable way to create D-tagatose, a rare sugar found in small quantities in some dairy products and fruits. It is nearly as sweet as sucrose but has only 38 percent of the calories. In addition, the natural sweetener has a low glycemic index and acts as a prebiotic to nourish beneficial gut bacteria… Scientists at Yale discovered that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet like the Keto regimen combats the influenza virus, at least in mice… Scientists at Harvard are encouraged that their research on genetic coding might be able to make humans immune to all viruses… Scientists in the Netherlands and farmers in Russia collaborated to introduce virtual reality glasses for dairy cows. The cows see summer meadows in winter, and this decreases their anxiety and increases their milk production.


Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar took the top spot in an annual Iowa cooking competition hosted by the Iowa Restaurant Association, the Soyfoods Council and the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The winners were: Matt Drennan, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in first place; Alex Beltran, Rathbun Lakeshore Grille at Honey Creek Resort in second; Nick Marino, Park Street Kitchen + Bar in the Downtown Hilton in third. Anthony Nace, Blu Toro Cantina & Grill in West Des Moines, won the peoples’ choice award. ♦

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