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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Random Bites of Detritus: Graziano Brothers, Walnut Café, B-Bop's, Capes Kafé.

This sign below at Graziano Brothers suggests that “Pasta makes you sterile”, but they still sell tons of it off their shelves. A recent snack I purchased at Graziano’s comprised of delicious Campofrio cured Spanish chorizo with oak smoked paprika, paired with Laack's Double Jalapeño cheddar. With the natural casing intact the chorizo was quite chewy. After stripping off the casing, the cubed chorizo was tender enough to make soup with.

A recent daily lunch special at the Walnut Café in the Neal Smith Federal Building featured a “Graziano” grinder. It tasted like a 50/50 blend of Italian sausage with ground beef. Its an okay build, but Something Italian just down the street offers a far superior lunchtime grinder [see blog post] for about the same price. What I much prefer at the Café is the cheap steam table breakfast offerings, like the cheesy eggs with crisp bacon, below right. On Wednesdays they top the eggs with ground breakfast sausage, otherwise its accented with cubes of ham.

Poor judgment on when and where to have breakfast on a Sunday morning compelled me to seek out the B-Bop’s in Altoona for a burger to get me thru the midday hours. The half-pound BBQ Bacon Cheddar burger would have been more enjoyable if it weren’t for the syrupy barbecue sauce that dripped off of it. I should have played it safe and ordered the chili instead. While enjoying my usual double Americano at Capes Kafé inside the Des Moines Social Club, I was privy to the baristas making a Cup O' Kryptonite milkshake, made with mint chocolate ice cream, espresso, and squirts of milk, dark, and white chocolate syrups, A wee taste of the remainder left in the blender was delicious.

Capes Kafé on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rust never sleeps, even for love.

But it can’t escape the dispassionate judgment of industrial-strength bolt cutters. All these locks have since been removed.

Combo Plate at Olympic Flame: Little bites, bold flavors.

On a visit to Olympic Flame in the East Village, I ordered up a Combo Plate dinner of pastitsio, moussaka, tiropita, spanakopeta, dolma, and orzo pasta. Dinners at Olympic Flame include soup, salad, and bread.

The lemony chicken soup with orzo would be the perfect dish to combat the common cold, if it only came in quarts. A side salad of lettuce, tomato, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, swimming in a simple red wine vinaigrette, is a palate cleanser.

Pastitsio, below left, offers macaroni and seasoned ground beef, topped with a custardy cream sauce and baked. I could wreck a pan of this! Moussaka, below right, is a classic Greek casserole made of layered fried eggplant slices with seasoned ground beef, tomato, and capped with a mixture of Parmesan and ricotta. Opa!

Spanakopita, below left, is a phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Tiropeta is another phyllo pastry, but stuffed with feta and ricotta instead. Spanakopita is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve had it as crispy triangles, as squares cut from both baking pans and sheet pans, and in one instance as a hot pocket of the damned. Olympic Flame’s spana is light and crispy, with a tasty pouch of filling within. Its as good as you’ll find it in these parts, beyond the Greek Food Fair held each year on the first weekend in June.

Olympic Flame’s dolma is a delightful bite-sized ball of grape leaves wrapped around a ground beef filling, topped with melted cheese. Its too bad you only get one on the Combo Plate. A half-dozen would make a nice snack.

Olympic Flame on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 30, 2014

Random Bites of Detritus: Jersey Guys Pizza, Café Baratta's, Big Daddy's.

Here's a Cheesesteak pizza from Jersey Guys Pizza. No slouching on this build. Its not just the finely chopped beef, fried onions, and cheese wiz that you see on top, but also an honest-to-goodness cheese pizza underneath. You get a taste of both cheesesteak and pizza.

Below left is a substantial Blue Plate Lasagna from Café Baratta's in the State Historical Sociery Building. Though served in a white bowl, it is no less delicious. At right, Big Daddy's Cherries Flambé hot sauce is resplendent in both cherry flavor and heat! What could this accentuate? Chops? A mild bratwurst? Vanilla ice cream even? Give it a try.

Cafe Baratta's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Something Italian This Way Comes

Living in close proximity of Something Italian is a blessing. But there’s not many occasions I can visit while trying to seek out dining pleasures elsewhere. And with my weight loss of the last seven months, opportunities are even fewer. So here’s what I’ve compiled over the half dozen visits I’ve made over the spring months.

First and foremost Something Italian is the original purveyor of pizza-by-the-slice in downtown Des Moines, serving up lunch-time slices since 1999. Its what they excel at and the pizza that defines Something Italian best is the Papa Luigi. With a red tomato sauce topped with mozzarella, pepperoni, Graziano’s Italian sausage, black and green olives, mushrooms, and yellow pepper rings, its practically a meal. They’re no slouches on the basics either… a simple slice of Pepperoni is thin and foldable, cheesy, zesty, and quite comforting. Something Italian also offers a ridiculously good Spicy pizza, with a solid base of Italian sausage, topped with pepperoni and home-grown peppers.

On one happy occasion I popped into Something Italian as the first slices of a Ham and Alfredo deep dish pizza was being cut. Creamy, crispy, hammy, and so decadent. And being so fresh from the oven it was piping hot… yipes!

While losing weight I’ve had to cut back on the amount of pasta I eat. At home its easy enough to pre-measure and dispense as needed. While eating out I generally avoid it, or at the least plan my day around a meal to accommodate such indulgence. One such treat was a Something Italian daily pasta special of penne in a cheese sauce cobbled together from Alfredo and a handful of shredded cheddar, tossed with bacon and salami. It was so decadent I could only eat half a plate, saving the leftovers for the next day’s breakfast.

Along the way I also tried a thin crust version of the Ham and Alfredo pizza, which benefited from a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. The zing tempered its richness nicely. And a deep-dish Pepperoni I noshed on-the-go was so saucy, just one napkin couldn't repel a mess of that magnitude! As a dabbed away at the corners of my mouth with the now red-tinged wad of damp paper, I spotted an interesting vanity plate on a vehicle parked nearby. Coincidence? I think not.

On top of pizzas and pastas, Something Italian offers a number of toasty sandwiches. On my last visit for lunch I enjoyed a marvelously simple sausage (grinder) sandwich – a hoagie bun chocked full of saucy Italian sausage, topped with mozzarella and toasted. Not too spicy, but quite flavorful. Get a fork, you’ll need it!

Something Italian on Urbanspoon