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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sweet dreams are made of these treats… well, maybe two out of three.

The sinful-looking Cherry Delight from a Mast Candy Kitchen kiosk at Merle Hay Mall over the holidays. Looks like a cousin to cherry nougat candy bars I've enjoyed in the past [see blog post]. I regret not buying some.


Wild Ophelia’s milk chocolate studded with bits of beef jerky. Not unpleasant, but not worth revisiting. The mouthfeel of the jerky felt so foreign in this application


Kyle Munson is the Iowa columnist for The Des Moines Register, and self-described 'reformed pop music critic’, but around the holidays Kyle also dabbles into the peanut brittle arts. I always look forward to a shard or two, or more.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Recent eats at favorite haunts: Wig and Pen; Zanzibar's; Mr. Filet.

Some smaller bites enjoyed recently at the Wig and Pen in Ankeny includes their spinach lasagna, and the Minitoni – a smaller serving of their signature baked pasta, the Wigatoni [see blog post]. The lasagna was a little dry but still enjoyable. The Minitoni exhibits everything I like about its big brother: a thick melty cap of cheese with crusty sides, large chunks of Italian sausage, and firm pasta swimming in flavorful red sauce.


Steamed eggs with scallion tops and white cheddar, plus a toasty Linda Special at Zanizbar's Coffee Adventure. A favorite breakfast of mine! If available, get your Linda on a slice of potato-rosemary bread.


A hearty ham and cheese omelet at Mr. Filet; some Louisiana Hot Sauce and a dash of black pepper completes it for me. Also from Mr. Filet, a plate of hand-grated hash browns plus eggs over easy. How many places do you know of that grate potatoes? Or better yet, baked potatoes left overnight in the fridge to firm up.

Wig and Pen on Urbanspoon Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure on Urbanspoon Mr Filet Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Recent fast-food disappointments: Burger King's Big Knock-Off; A&W… sorta; Maid-Rong.

Burger King's Big King is the saddest McDonald’s Big Mac knockoff I've seen. Not as overburdened with 'special’ sauce as the Big Mac. Rather quite the opposite. The top side has a faint smear of sauce on the bun top and the upper side of the middle slice, whereas the bottoms are bone dry. And you see that half-ring of onion? That was it for the whole sandwich. In the final analysis, I'll take a double In-N-Out Burger, slathered with Animal sauce [see blog post], over either the Big King or the Big Mac.


A bacon cheeseburger from the Eastside Long John Silver's/A&W unholy union. Cool, crisp, abundant vegetables are a positive, but the hamburger patty wasn't anything exciting. The doughy bun was the least enjoyable aspect.


A franchise Maid-Rite namesake sandwich. Microwaved bun comes off chewy, and the seasoned meat has a sour aftertaste. If you must have a Maid-Rite, drive the extra mile to Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown. Taylor’s doesn’t flavor their meat with Maid-Rite’s proprietary seasoning, nor is it microwaved, so the sandwich has a much cleaner flavor. Or better yet, go visit Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa for a far-superior loose-meat sandwich [see blog post].

Burger King on Urbanspoon Long John Silver's / A&W on Urbanspoon Maid-Rite on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 4, 2014

Who knows what lurks beneath the surface at George The Chili King? The chili knows!

At George The Chili King, the wicked alchemy they practice starts with a simple bowl of the brown stuff, a style of chili sauce generally served on hot dogs that traces its roots to Greek immigrants turned restauranteurs. Indeed, the Midwest is peppered with local chili dog houses, sometimes referred to as Coney Islands – such as both Ted’s and Jim’s Coney Islands here in Des Moines, and the famous rivalry of Lafayette and American Coney Islands in Detroit.

The chili at George’s pretty much fits the standard of such stews – a brown-hued gravy thats flavored more of spices like allspice, oregano and bay leaf than of chili powder. Nonetheless, George’s family recipe is a secret so I can only venture a guess of its true composition.

Of course the most popular application of George’s chili is atop a wiener on bun, ideally with a slather of mustard, a sprinkle of chopped onion, and a sliver of pickle.

Its not all chili and coneys at George’s. They also offer French fries, handmade onion rings, burgers, and sizable pork tenderloins. The onion rings - thinly-sliced and lightly breaded - are pretty darn good. Dipping them in ketchup makes me weep.

The French fries are unique in that they're thin like shoestring fries, but are also crinkle-cut. Its a perfect combination for a crisper and more thoroughly cooked fry, IMHO. There’d be no room for improvement if not for a sprinkle of finely shredded cheddar and a ladle of chili atop. Poutine lovers that notice! George’s Chili Cheese Fries are a shameful delight.

Hot dogs and French fries aren't the only things lurking beneath the surface of George’s chili. There’s macaroni for starters. I can hear its pitiful cry as I bring it up from the bowl’s depths, “Help me! Help me! I can’t swim!” Its pleas are short-lived as I bring the fork up to my mouth and… GULP!

A sandwich that benefits from a douse in sauce is the Beefburger. The meat is highly spiced and a ladle of chili helps to temper its zest.

George the Chili King on Urbanspoon

Coffee haikus

Coffee and comics at Capes KafĂ©. Both embrace dark subjects.  

Wisps of vapor dance
above the coffee's surface.
The java beckons.

Bitter black liquid
washes past my lips, teeth, tongue.
Warming from within.

Wicked alchemy,
that roasting of the bean. Ma'am?
Pour me another.

What sinister lust,
that bewitching brew enrapts.
Don't fuck with my fix.