Friday, November 29, 2013

Random Photos of Mayhem

Smurf is good food.
Batman seems unusually startled.

"Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…"

Photos taken at Mayhem Comics in Clive.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Random Bites of Dessert: Thelma's Treats, Topped Doughnuts, Bauder Pharmacy.

With Amici Espresso closing its doors next month after seven years on the corner of Sixth & Mulberry, I'll not only miss the baristas, but a few of the treats served there as well.

Thelma's Treats has made a favorable impression in the Metro the few short years they've been offering fresh baked cookies for delivery, and ice cream cookie sandwiches available at a handful of venues. You're probably familiar with the them at the Downtown Farmers Market, but they can be purchased year-round from Mars Cafe, Gateway Market, Jersey Freeze in Monroe, and lastly at Amici until Dec. 13.

Thelma's peanut butter cookie and chocolate ice cream sandwich is a classic combination that pairs well with strong coffee. Its a substantial dessert and a fun treat that's hard to beat.

People in these parts pretty much lost their freaking minds when Dunkin' Donuts returned to Iowa a year ago after a decades-long absence. And there was a similar hubbub a few years back when Krispy Kreme opened up shop here.

We quickly forget about our local doughnut purveyors, who still garner loyal followings: Hiland Bakery, Donut King, Donut Hut, and certainly the most eye-catching – Topped Doughnuts.

Sure, doughnuts like the Red Velvet and the Maple Bacon get all the attention, but have you tried their simple chocolate frosted doughnut? Chocolatey ganache, the cake doughnut sports a slight crisp with a dense interior. Its pure and simple comfort food.

I will miss the convenience of their availability when Amici closes.

A rare treat is Bauder Pharmacy's Mocha Latte ice cream bar. Bar is an understatement, its a brick! Available only during the Iowa State Fair, at their stand or the pharmacy, the bar offers several inches of coffee-flavored ice cream sandwiched within two layers of Oreo cookie crumb crust.

Though not available year round, an ice cream pie version is available as a special order. I should also point out that Bauder's is the rare purveyor of housemade ice cream year-round. Folks in the Beaverdale neighborhood pining for Snookies Malt Shop should swing down to this Ingersoll fixture for a cool creamy fix. Bauder's fruit flavored ice creams are a personal favorite.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Looking back at local brews enjoyed in warmer months.

Left: Exile Brewing's summer seasonal, Isabelle, a K├Âlsch style ale conditioned in lager tanks for over a month. Light enough for the dog days, but with enough bitterness to take notice. Goes down easy. Right: Exile's GKP. Bitter finish but refreshing. Sat well with my udon & chili bean breakfast.

Left: Peace Tree's Blonde Fatale, an unfiltered Belgian style blonde ale. Mouthful of floral hides the high alcohol content of 8.5% ABV. In short, it'll fuck you up. Right: 515 Brewing's Hopititis B, a 9.2% ABV American Imperial ale. Floral nose, fruit on the palate. A smooth quaff.

Left: 515's Belgian Dubbel B. Tart, easy to drink. I'm more partial to the Hopititis B though. Right: Lastly, also from 515, is the Numb Nut, a highly spiced brown ale. Allspice dominates! I wanna make chili and loose-meat sammies with this stuff.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Egg rolls on a pizza. Really?

The building on the southwest corner of First and State in Ankeny that currently houses the Wheel House Pizzeria and Pub has a storied history, having been previously the site of a bowling alley that had been around since the 1960s, but had fallen into hard times and eventually closed in 2011.

On my first visit I spied a bottle of Absolut Cilantro behind the bar. Intrigued I ordered up a shot and struck up a conversation with the barkeep about what kind of cocktail this would work with. I had an idea about a salsa Martini, and before I knew it a cocktail was superbly made on the fly. With cilantro and citrus vodkas shaken with tomato juice, it tastes like an elegant salsa. All this needs is a cocktail onion, and perhaps a rub of cut jalapeno on the inside of the glass.

But what had brought me to the Wheel House in the first place was word-of-mouth at the Yankee Clipper about the Egg Roll pizza – an inspired fusion of Italian/Asian cuisine – with sliced egg rolls, Graziano's Italian sausage, and just enough teriyaki and Sriracha mixed in the red sauce for umami and zest.

Another pizza I tried was the Traveler – which is practically a Greek salad – replete with spinach, kalamata olive and copious feta, plus beef, onion, mushroom, and diced tomato. The beef doesn't stand out much on this veggie-laden build, bursting with the pungent flavor of feta cheese. I'd suggest skipping the beef if you're looking to go vegetarian.

On my next visit I sampled the polar opposite of the Traveler – the Carnivore. Built with Italian sausage, both streaky and Canadian bacon, beef and pepperoni, the Carnivore brought on the meat sweats.

All three pizzas I tried were on the blonde side. If you like more browning on your pizza, I'd suggest asking for a well bake.

Wheel House Pizza Pub on Urbanspoon

When life beats you down, chili dogs and beer helps.

After a particularly grueling day at work, I needed a comforting treat – a bottle of beer and a couple of chili dogs from Jim's Coney Island. One of my favorite guilty pleasures. Looking to keep the good times rolling, I took a couple of city buses via a transfer at Southridge Mall to Classic Frozen Custard for dessert. I order up a scoop each of lime and an orange-hued lemon. Together they taste like Froot Loops.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Michaelangelo's: Another pizzeria tests its mettle in a checkered location.

Several pizzerias have occupied the northeast corner of The Food Court at downtown Des Moines' Kaleidoscope at The Hub. The space began as a Sbarro, and at one time fostered the proverbial Flying Dutchman of Metro pizzerias, Corigliano's.

This year, a new venture called Michaelangelo's moved into the space, offering thick, bready slices of pizza, stromboli, breadsticks, pastas and salads. I've visited a few times for some slices.

The veggie is a personal favorite with generous amounts of spinach, with mushroom and two kinds of cheese atop Michaelangelo's hand-tossed crust.

Slices of veggie, and pepperoni with meatball.

Other slices I've tried include pepperoni, cheese, and meatball with pepperoni. Of the latter, the pieces are tasty enough but are finely chopped and spare on the slice. I've also tried stuffed pizza, which is in all practical sense a calzone. Ask for marinara sauce, you'll need it.

Slices of pepperoni and cheese, plus slices of stuffed crust with pepperoni and sausage.

Michaelangelo's has enjoyed some success with the downtown lunch crowd and is considering other locations in the Metro.

Michaelangelo's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Recent Bites at Ankeny's Wig and Pen

A meaty Carnivore stuffed crust with Italian sausage, ground beef, pepperoni, and a considerable amount of Canadian bacon.

From left: A thin-crust Pub Special. The thin-crust has become my favorite of all Wig and Pen's pizza styles; and a side salad with crisp vegetables. The house Creamy Parmesan dressing is thick, smooth, garlicky and sweet.

A Flying Tomato, i.e., a thin-crust pizza with high sides, a thick cap of cheese, and topped with tomato slices. Toppings under the cheese are customizable.

A thin-crust with pepperoni and onion, cut tavern-style.

Tomato basil ravioli soup with Italian sausage. Mushy pasta is a surprising disappointment. Seeking to turn things around after the soup I ordered a Pizookie for dessert: a chocolate chip cookie baked in a bowl, then topped with vanilla ice cream.

Wig and Pen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Random Bites of Detritus: Greek Omelet, Spam Musubi, Deli Stack, Gummi Cola, Sonoran Dog

I like splashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce mixed with my tzatziki atop the Greek Omelet served at Mr. Filet. Its one of the best breakfast items served in Des Moines.
One of my favorite bites: Spam Musubi at Alohana Hawaiian Grill in Ankeny.

Lunch from Palmer's Deli downtown. A Deli Stack with salami, tomato, lettuce, red onion, provolone with garlic spread on pumpernickel rye, with a tortellini salad.

Mmm! These cola-flavored gummis are good!
A tasty bacon-wrapped dog with beans, onions, mayo, ketchup, mustard, and salsa verde, from a cart outside of La Tapatia at E. 15th & Des Moines.Closest thing to a Sonoran Dog in these parts.

La Tapatia Tienda Mexicana on Urbanspoon