Joe Tripp and other new year blessings12/24/2014
The old year goes out bestowing gifts to the local food scene. Michael Leo’s Strudl Haus returned after years in limbo. This time the Austrian chef’s divine pastries set tables on the south side (1951 Indianola Ave.) instead of in Altoona. Leo also features a line of sausages (Grobe brats, cheese brats, etc.) made in Tulsa by an Austrian butcher. Tamale queen Rosa Martinez reopened her La Rosa after a couple years of being mostly closed. Gusto Pizza announced a new store in Johnston, and co-owner Tony Lemmo planned a new retro speakeasy near the original store on Ingersoll. Louie’s Wine Dive debuted a new store in Waukee.
Culinary Fight Night declared it was coming to Des Moines with Dom Iannarelli (Splash) and Mike Holman (Dos Rios) squaring off to benefit Central Iowa Shelter Services. The Jan.11 event will be at the Downtown Marriott ($125) and will include six courses and one winner. West End Architectural Salvage announced a Jan. 17 date for Indulge, a wine, cheese and chocolate event to celebrate the new year ($30 at tikly.com). Django previewed a New Year’s Eve prix fixe ($41) that includes a choice of roast asparagus salad or goat cheese and potao croquettes, a choice of halibut Oscar or ribeye and any dessert on the menu. Le Jardin’s New Year’s Eve menu offers four course plus an amuse bouche. A choice amongst lobster ravioli, mustard crusted chicken, short ribs and gnocchi comprise the main course ($59). Malo’s New Year special combines King crab legs with wood grilled filet mignon ($65 with wine pairings). El Bait Shop celebrated the holidays with three new offerings of He’Brew beers from Schmaltz Brewing Company.
At Alba, chef Joe Tripp announced several new dishes to celebrate his favorite season of the year. Tripp is our choice for Chef of the Year. Since returning from Denver and taking over the kitchen at Alba, he has instigated some brilliant prix fixe events that feature local farmers’ best work. He also introduces rarely-used ingredients to the local diet. Sweetbreads, tongue and cheeks are as apt to appear as the most commonly-used animal parts. He has won a pair of significant culinary competitions (Battledish and Iowa Public Radio’s Battle of the Chefs). He keeps tweaking his menus to let local foods star.
Last week his new winter menu featured cardoons. Also known as artichoke thistle, this is plant that Tripp thinks is the perfect pairing for snails. His new dish matches them with escargot persillade and pecorino vinaigrette (a mix of finely chopped pecorino, oregano, parsley, lemon, shallot, and olive oil). He also debuted his beef tongue pastrami with rye, fermented Brussels sprouts and mustard. That’s a dish he has worked with for years; last year he featured a lamb’s tongue version. New to the menu is Tripp’s play on pork and beans with braised belly seared and served with braised cranberry beans, leeks, bacon jam and kale jus. Also new for winter: a confit of pork shank with brûlée parsnips and tart cherries, pan-roasted bavette steak with lobster mac and cheese and scallops with curried lentil porridge. Tripp says Alba will offer a prix fix menu for New Years, likely five courses plus amuse bouche, for $80. Check out the website (www.albadsm.com ) for details.
Tripp thinks his best work is done in smaller doses.
“I must be honest: I get more excited about appetizers than entrees just because they offer me a place to really surprise the guests,” he said. “I get bored with large portions. After the third or fourth bite, I am over the dish. I love the idea of tasting menus and small plates of food. They encourage our guests to try new things and keep things a little more lively for the palate. I always want my guests craving just one more bite.” CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
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