"nature of the dream," Locally Sourced Meat, Spicy Shrimp Soup
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February 16, 2021  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
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A basement remodel for a sleek wine cellar grew into a fulfilling renovation roadmap for this Des Moines home. Additional successful projects followed, including a curvy new deck and a kitchen remodel. The dining room even got a custom-built table to seat this family of 12!
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Still of Mar Feitelson (front) and Alexandra Gray, two actors in the new "nature of the dream" film.


Writer: Luke Manderfeld

A new film commissioned by Des Moines Community Playhouse takes a look at Black identity in Iowa. The film, “nature of the dream,” directed by Miriam Randolph and produced by her company, Two Steps to the Left, is a work of devised theater, a free-form style that means all members of the team write the script as filming progresses. The film debuts virtually on Feb. 25 and runs through March 7.

With a mix of monologue and narrative, “nature of the dream” will take viewers through the concept of the American Dream and its applications for Black Americans. The story derives from Black actors, all of whom live in Central Iowa, and their personal experiences or feelings. They were prompted by questions like “What do you dream about?” and “What do you fear?”

“With our cast, and even our crew, too many times we’ve been the only Black people in the room,” Randolph says. “We’ve had to maintain our Blackness, but also find ways to be comfortable in that room when we don’t feel represented. [This film shows] what that struggle is like. How do we maintain our identity in predominately white spaces?”

The film also brings the Black Lives Matter conversation to the forefront, something Randolph was passionate about when conceptualizing the idea last fall. In October, she met with Katy Merriman, the Playhouse's artistic director, who was interested in supporting the project. Filming took place in January at the Playhouse's Kate Goldman Theatre and locations around Des Moines, including the Des Moines Art Center.

“Those initial conversations were just so exciting,” Merriman says. “For us, and I know for a lot of other theaters, this summer was more of a catalyst. We knew [racial inequalities] were a problem and an issue, but this summer made it much more public. And for us, it didn’t count to just make a post on social media. We wanted to be an example of how to help spread that message.”

The leaders behind the project are thrilled to share perspectives of Black Iowans, many of whom are usually the only minority in any given theater or movie cast. That’s not the case with “nature of the dream,” which was directed, produced and acted by a majority Black team.

“I’m most excited about uplifting Black voices,” says Kierra Lewis, the film’s assistant director. “My family’s initially from Chicago, but we moved to West Des Moines a few years ago. It’s very rare to see Black creatives and Black performers, specifically in Des Moines.”

Ticket prices for “nature of the dream” range from $1 to $100, depending on what you’re most comfortable paying. The money raised will be allocated to Urban Dreams and the artists behind the film. Find more information here.
So many new desk, shelf and storage designs! Your home can be both more functional and more beautiful.
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Old Station Craft Meats has a wide selection of beef products as well as cured meats, pork, poultry and more.


Writer: Karla Walsh

Early in the pandemic, amid food shortages, Nick Lenters noticed a problem. And he thought he had a solution.

“I grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa, and my brother still works there," he says. "I knew he had 200 cows he couldn’t sell because of meatpacking plant closures, but when I went to Target there was no beef on the shelves."

So he decided to kick a long-term dream into high gear. The result: Old Station Craft Meats (450 Sixth St., Waukee), which opened on Dec. 15 and sells everything from beef, pork and poultry to cooking accessories.

“Previous to opening the shop, I didn’t have any butchering experience. I grew up on a farm, and I loved to grill and smoke, but didn’t know much about the process in between," Lenters says. But he adds that he’s learning a lot from the two butchers he hired, who have a combined 30 years of experience.

Old Station Craft Meats promises to “connect customers with their food and educate them about where their food comes from, trying to get it as local as possible,” Lenters adds. To that end, he sources all of his beef, lamb and pork from farms nearby (including Upper Iowa Beef, Beeler’s Pure Pork, Arcadia Meats and Dayton Meat Products), filling that supply chain gap to connect farmers to shoppers—and, eventually, eaters.

“We want to be able to say that we know where the product comes from, have talked with the producer, know their story and are familiar with their product," Lenters says. "Our focus is on end consumers. That’s our greatest opportunity to educate people about how their food is sourced and where it comes from."

As part of the “more engaged customer experience” than your typical supermarket meat counter, Lenters hopes to introduce customers to unique cuts that will “help us utilize the whole animal better” and reduce food waste. Watch their Facebook page for details about new products, and eventually, meat education classes.
Jalapeños give a spicy kick to Kristin Porter’s shrimp soup.


Writer: Karla Walsh

With 103,000 Facebook fans and counting following her every meal move, Kristin Porter—the food writer, recipe developer and creator of the website Iowa Girl Eats—has a full plate.

“My love for cooking was triggered by the fact that I love to eat,” says Porter, who lives in Urbandale with her husband and three children. “My appetite has always been oversized. Plus, when I was growing up, my parents always placed a heavy emphasis on eating homemade meals together, so cooking has always been a source of comfort and sense of home for me.”

She launched Iowa Girl Eats in 2009 as a lifestyle blog, and after she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2013, it transitioned into a food and recipe-focused website with an emphasis on all things family-friendly and gluten-free. With greatest hits including Cheesy Chicken Burrito Skillet and oh-so-Midwest Pickle Wrap Dip, Porter has a lock on comfort food—often crazy-quick and with a twist. And she’s confident you can nail every one of the nearly 1,000 recipes on her site.

“I usually test two recipes each week, oftentimes on my family at dinner or snack time to gauge if it’s going to be worth testing a second, third or fourth time,” Porter says. “Testing recipes multiple times is an essential part of my process. The thought of a reader wasting their money on ingredients, or wasting time in the kitchen, is unbearable.”

She often draws ideas from her childhood, travels or restaurant meals, and the latter is the inspiration for this tested-and-tasty soup. “It was love at first bite,” she says of the shrimp soup at Mi Patria, a West Des Moines Ecuadorian restaurant. “The soup contained ingredients that I was familiar with, but they were combined in an unexpected way. That tickled me right out of the gate, and each spoonful kept me going back for more and more.”

Find the full recipe for Porter's spicy shrimp soup, with tips, in our January/February issue here.
    Tayari Jones, a New York Times bestselling author, kicks off the DSM Book Festival's speaker series on March 27.
    Photo: DSM Book Festival


    After the pandemic forced its cancellation last year, the Des Moines Book Festival is back in 2021 with a mix of in-person and virtual activities and presentations. The event will take place at 9 a.m.-5 p.m. over four Saturdays (March 27, April 3, April 10 and April 17).

    Each Saturday at 3 p.m., a nationally acclaimed author will give a virtual presentation, starting with Tayari Jones, author of "An American Marriage," which won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction, on March 27. Chuck Klosterman, author of "But What If We're Wrong?" presents on April 3, followed by Lara Prescott, author of "The Secrets We Kept," on April 10. Taylor Jenkins Read, who wrote "Daisy Jones and the Six," caps off the series on April 17.

    Other activities include writers' workshops and children's activities. You can stay up to date on event details here.
    Nick and Heather Leo have opened up Cave DSM, a wine shop with a limited food menu.


    Writer: Karla Walsh

    Craving a trip to Paris? We’re right there with you. Luckily, we can all now get a taste of a similar cafe and bistro lifestyle at the Cave DSM (1437 Walnut St.).

    “Our model is a popular type of shop in Paris called a cave à manger—a wine bar that also sells bottles for retail or for on-site consumption, along with a limited food menu,” says Nick Leo, the Cave’s co-owner and manager. “They tend to be informal, warm and intimate.”

    Nick and his wife, Heather—an avid home baker and cook who spent a year living in northwest Spain, where she developed a new appreciation for food and vino—originally planned to open their wine shop in March. But due to pandemic-related delays, they opened for retail sales in late August.

    So what sets the Cave DSM apart from other wine shops in town, besides the Parisian vibe? “The primary difference is our selection and the philosophy behind how we curate our inventory,” Nick says. “We’re completely devoted to natural wines and celebrate the diversity and variety of styles that exist within the category. We want to be a place that encourages curiosity in a casual and unpretentious manner.”

    Natural wine is “more a philosophy of farming and winemaking rather than a prescriptive set of rules or definitions,” he explains. Typically, it means the grapes were organically farmed and fermented with native yeast. The wines are free of additives, chemicals, pesticides or technical manipulations.

    “The common thread of natural wines is that they tend to have a greater freshness and vitality compared to wines that are adjusted to match a predetermined flavor profile,” he says. “Some styles are meant to be young and refreshing, and others are completely age-worthy.”

    They source wine—currently more than 60 different varietals—from around the globe. Organic farming practices and small-production vineyards take more resources than typical production methods, but the Leos make it a priority to offer value-minded (less than $20) bottles.

    Watch for a small food menu and a constantly evolving wine selection to keep things fresh all winter, spring and beyond.

    Read more stories from the January issue here.

    Robert Moore has used his creations to support the Black Lives Matter movement throughout Iowa.


    2020 was a banner year for Robert Moore. The local artist's "Harvesting Humanity" project, which projected civil rights icons on structures around Iowa during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, helped him rise in prominence in the summer and fall. On the latest dsm CultureCast podcast, he said that of his more than 370 customers last year, nearly half were new collectors.

    For the "Harvesting Humanity" project, Moore said he wanted to extend the Black Lives Matter message to rural Iowa, which is primarily white. The response was overwhelmingly positive: "The most consistent feedback was thank you," Moore said. "Even during the project, a lady pulled over, stopped, was in tears, crying and said, 'Thank you.' She was white and had a biracial son. [The project] was needed."

    He hopes to make a similar difference in 2021, with two projection series he's planning. Though he doesn't want to reveal the specifics yet, he said one will focus on social justice and the other will be what he calls a "social experiment." He also wants to host a few art shows and launch a business supporting underrepresented creators like himself.

    You can stay up to date with Moore on his Instagram page. Read our 2020 profile on Moore, "Raw and Real," from our November/December 2019 issue. And listen to the full podcast episode here. Subscribe to the dsm CultureCast on Apple Podcast, Spotify and more.
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