Monday, June 29, 2015

Recent eats at Famous Dave's and Cheng's Garden.

If you're a fan of Famous Dave's corn muffins, I've news to report. Its been replaced with a less sweet corn bread, pictured above left with smoked sausage and a side of Wilbur beans. I was told by a server that patrons complained about the muffins sticking to the paper muffin cups. Onion strands, right, served with burnt ends were overwhelmed with a seasoning salt blend. I could only pick at them to confirm my initial assessment, leaving most uneaten.

A craving for wonton soup brought me to Cheng's Garden at 1246 E. 14th. Toothy wontons, clear broth. Scalding hot for dine-in though, and served in a carry-out container. Egg rolls were big and filling, but mono-dimensional in flavor and texture. Good for cold leftovers though.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Adventures of LEGO Venom Clone Trooper at Capes Kafé!

LEGO Venom Clone Trooper stumbles onto an icy enclave, then seeks warmth under the silhouette of Vader before standing in awe of the Punisher.

Venom Clone Trooper checks out the comics selection, and is happy to offer you a stirring straw for your beverage.

"Look at me! I'm Darth Maul!" Venom Clone Trooper is always the life of the party, even when raiding the Death Star funds to score an espresso.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Firetrucker heralds the summer, and their first anniversary, with seasonal brews.

Firetrucker Brewery's Tropical Burn Double Mango IPA, left, is loaded with hoppy, citrusy aromas and flavors. and a pleasing bitterness. The 'burn' is the 9.1% ABV, but you won't notice it. The Ladder 317 Irish Style Cream Ale, right, provides a creamy head and a light body that's bright with a kiss of bitterness. A perfect beer for the spring when many slough off heavy stouts and porters for lighter beverages.

Another bright beer, especially suited for warmer weather, is the Honey Brewbarb, left. Honey notes flow smoothly over the palate, with some rhubarb bitterness on the finish. Right, drinking the color spectrum while reacquainting with Firetrucker's core beers. You can go home again.

Returning just in time for the dog days is the Cat in a Tree Ginger, left, the perfect brew for a hangover, according to anonymous sources. So light and clear, with a palate pleasing base of ginger. The Lemon Cooler, right, pairs Firetrucker's Steam Engine with lemonade. Oh… its summer in Bavaria, quaffing a refreshing radler.

For snacking Cruisin' Cuisine Catering of Ankeny Cruisin' BBQ kettle-style potato chips, left, are perfect with a Steam Engine. Also available in Spicy Cruisin' flavor, center. The best pizza is gifted leftovers, especially a slice of the Bubbie from nearby Leaning Tower of Pizza, right, with Italian sausage, pepperoni, sauerkraut, plus bacon on the build I enjoyed.

A happy occasion to note is Firetrucker Brewery's First Anniversary, a celebration coinciding with the Fourth of July. Festivities begin at 2 p.m. with ribs, chicken, and other American favorites available from Honeybadger BBQ, while throughout the day Firetrucker will be re-releasing every beer they have made in the past year. An excellent opportunity to revisit their magnficent black walnut ale, plus a limited small batch of Darth (cherry) Porter will be availble. Bands, a fire baton show, giveaways, a bags competition, and more antics are in store for the day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

El Rey: The Granddaddy of Burritos

Long before burrito crafters such as Bandit Burrito, Fighting Burrito, Tacopocalypse, and the chains Abelardo's, Panchero's and Chipotle began to dominate the local landscape, El Rey Burritos in West Des Moines was known for their legendary big burritos, culminating in the two-foot-long Rey Rey. But El Rey also makes great guacamole, along with enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, breakfast dishes and more.

Having a hankering for some good guacamole after sampling the disappointing goo at Abelardo’s [see blog post], I visited El Rey to reacquaint myself with the food after a long absence.

The table salsa served with tortilla chips is thick, tomatoey and mild. In appearance and texture its like eating a thick tomato sauce mixed with pico de gallo. The burly tomato overpowers the cilantro and onion. Guacamole is chunky, yet velvety. Onion comes through with a nice crunch. A delight to eat.

The Burrito Vegetariano is a fiesta of starch, with potato, beans and rice all within a large flour tortilla. The abundant lettuce that all of El Rey’s burritos sport adds a much needed contrast in texture, but doesn't provide much for flavor. The chorizo in my second burrito had a vinegary bite that stood out over the otherwise dominating lettuce and sour cream.

Salsa verde is tangy and vibrant with the refreshing tart taste of tomatillo. What little heat it boasts fades quickly on the palate. Little dabs to every other bite of the chorizo burrito compliments it. The spicy salsa roja is the very essence of red chile. Good heat that builds fast in the throat, and lingers long. My favorite of the three salsas offered and an excellent addition to the otherwise mild veggie burrito.

El Rey’s service on this visit was very friendly and accommodating. I asked for my burritos to be cut in half so that I could save half of each for carryout. The server brought out the halves to go after I had finished my meal, each half wrapped tightly in foil and obviously kept warm. A nice touch.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

"What what, in the Hut? You wanna donut in the Hut, in the Hut?"

Its all 'smiles' at the Donut Hut on the corner of 50th and Douglas. The most popular baked good here is the apple fritter, and I can taste why. Crisp glazing, lightly sweet. Solid, balanced flavor throughout. Magnificent!

For doughnuts the Coconut Crunch, left, is substantial with a dense, moist cake, enrobed with a simple glaze affixed with toasted coconut. The Cinnamon Crumb, right, easily sates a jonesin' for cinnamon toast.

Donut Hut's Double Chocolate, left, is a little on the sweet side. Hiland Bakery's offering is the clear superior in this town [see blog post]. The Red Velvet, right, is much better than Dunkin' Donuts offering, but Topped Doughnuts' over-the-top build is still my favorite [see blog post].

The Chocolate Chip, left, has a few mini chips dashed about, only a hint of chocolate flavor comes through. For raised doughnuts I tried a fine lemon bismarck, right. Boasting structure while giving up a soft chew, the tart lemon filling perks things up.

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