Tuesday, 02 November 2010
While half a billion Iowa eggs were being recalled, our mailbox filled with reader inquiries about drunken baboons, cannibals, happy hour deals and kid’s meals. Grateful to not be chasing the egg story, I determined to investigate their more esoteric concerns.
Newly protected as endangered species, baboons are now running amok in mountain vineyards outside Cape Town, South Africa. They feast on grapes that have turned alcoholic on the ground and then terrorize the town‘s best neighborhoods. This caused one Cityview reader to worry about raccoons eating his fallen grapes. We asked Jasper Winery’s Jean Groben if there was cause for concern.
“Lately in the early morning hours. we’ve been observing deer dancing, quite awkwardly, with raccoons in our vineyards. So yes, you’re right to worry,” she responded.
Another reader, recently returned from summer travels, wondered why happy hour food deals were relatively hard to find in Des Moines. Last summer we wrote about good bargains at Fleming’s so we revisited to find lesser deals this year. They still run a “five (items) for six (dollars) till seven (p.m.)” special but without the fabulous crab cakes that used to grace that menu. We did find $1 oysters at Splash, 801 Steak & Chop, and Django. 801 impressed us as the best overall happy hour food deal with $1 cheese burger sliders, $2 oyster po boys, and $3 steak sliders. They offered no deals on drinks though. Centro took the opposite tack, with martinis going for $5 across the board but no food deals. Gateway Market Café offered $3 glasses of wine (up $1 from a year ago) but no food deals. Django matched Centro’s martini deal and also offered fabulous half price charcuterie and cheese platters.
Kid’s menus inspired rather different inquiries. One parent lamented the state of kids’ menus and asked “Why can’t they be healthier than the same old corn dogs, chicken nuggets, burgers and melted cheese sandwiches, all with fries, and dreadful OREO sundaes?” We discovered that Panera’s kid’s menu included organic breads, low fat deli meats, and fruit sides. Cosi Cucina and Centro offered grilled chicken, good pizza and pasta options. Star Bar offered a grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Denny’s presented the best value - free kids’ meals in the evening, including fruit sides, vegetables of the day, pasta, and chocolate chip pancakes. La Mie had the best kids deal of all though. For $4-5, kids could choose a soup, salad, jello or vegetable plate as well as amongst an egg dish, pasta, turkey antipasti, or a grilled ham & cheese.
A second kid’s menu inquiry pondered why it’s sometimes necessary to order from a kid’s menu to get an adult sized grilled cheese sandwich with fries. That reader asked “Who decides these things?” We went to the ultimate authority, Mintel Menu Service’s Director of Research Eric Giandelone.
“There is no man behind the curtain. At chains the corporate chef decides. At independent restaurants, the executive chef does. They just seem to all copy each other based on the premise that kids will only eat a few things,” he said.
Another reader worried about “compassionate cannibalism,” the philosophy behind Flime restaurant in Berlin, Germany which has asked diner members to "donate any part of their body" through an "open-minded surgeon” for other members to eat. So far the location of their restaurant has not been disclosed. Figuring this to be the ultimate rendition of both pop-up and underground cafés, our reader asked if those trends were now dead. We went to Hal Jasa, Des Moines original underground chef.
“I think the base underground restaurant like I ran is dead as dead can be. The money is not there as well as the fact anymore it’s not the new hip thing. I would not consider “pop up” dining to be the same thing as everything is legit with real kitchens, liquor licenses, insurance, etc. We’ll see. You just may see a pop up here very soon,” he teased.
210 10th St., 288-0268
Happy Hour: Mon., - Fri. 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
801 Steak and Chop House
801 Grand Ave., 288-6000
Happy Hour Mon - Fri. 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
303 Locust St , 244-5686
Happy Hour 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.