Fired up for the Fair
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August 10, 2022

Whether it's enclosing an existing porch or adding on to your home, creating a three season’s porch is a great way to bring the indoors out to get the most out of your home and yard. Read more.
Rateb Aburas' Pretzel Poutine features pretzel bites loaded with braised lamb, lamb gravy and Frisian Farms cheese curds. It's a mash-up of his mom’s Canadian heritage and his favorite snack, soft pretzels.

6 Places to Savor State Fair Flavors

Writer: Karla Walsh

When Mulberry Street Tavern’s new chef Rateb Aburas thinks back to his childhood, many of his favorite memories involve the ultimate comfort cuisine: fair foods. Think “corn dogs, Dippin’ Dots, nachos—and all the grease a little kid could consume,” Aburas says. “We went to the Missouri State Fair as a kid, and the food was always more interesting to me than the rides.”

So with that in mind, he created a new lineup of elevated State Fair-inspired features that will be available at Mulberry Street Tavern and in the Surety Courtyard Aug. 11-21. That’s perfectly timed for anyone who’s in the mood for State Fair fare, minus the actual fairground trip, crowds and parking headaches.

Giving a nod to some of the past Iowa State Fair food favorites, “coupled with some of my own experiences, I wanted to elevate the menu while still keeping it approachable and fun. Just honest wholesome ingredients prepared in a playful manner,” he says.

His favorite is the Pretzel Poutine, a mash-up of Aburas’ mom’s Canadian heritage and his all-time go-to snack: soft pretzels. It features pretzel bites loaded with braised lamb, lamb gravy and Frisian Farms cheese curds.

Other fair-inspired menu items include a chorizo corn dog, cornmeal-battered house chorizo served with chimi chimichurri; chopped beef topped with American cheese, harissa and hot honey, all tucked inside naan bread; and Yukon gold potatoes smothered in Gruyere fondue with bacon-and-scallion aioli, caviar and crème fraiche. For dessert, indulge in a deep-fried pineapple upside down cake, a funnel cake batter with pineapple, cherries and powdered sugar.

In addition to these playful specials,
click here for five more fair-ish favorites from around Greater Des Moines.
The fair set an attendance record in 2019 with a total of 1,170,375 visitors. With a stacked lineup of things to do, plus musical guests like Brooks and Dunn, Nelly, and Demi Lovato drawing a crowd this weekend, could the fair be on its way to setting a new high? Photo: courtesy of Travel Iowa.


Iowa State Fair Kicks Off First Weekend

The Iowa summer staple is finally here, and with no shortage of things to do, animals to see and delicacies to taste. Whether you’re a one-and-done visitor or preparing several days' worth of activities, we have some suggestions for an action-packed first weekend.

On Friday, head to the Elwell Family Food Center to view culinary competitions or attend a food seminar. The morning’s “Cooking With Coffee” event should be a great way to start the day. Then take some line dancing lessons in Farm Bureau Pioneer Hall to brush up on your moves. Iowa rock band the Nadas will perform in the evening at the MidAmerican Energy Stage.

Saturday is the perfect day to shop the vast number of creations for purchase in the Cultural
Center, Walnut Center or the Grandstand Shoppers Mart. Take a break from shopping and grab a glass (or two) at the “Wine Down in the Garden” event from 7 to 9 p.m.

Then check out “Reusapalooza” on Sunday in the DNR Building for upcycling activities all afternoon. Or learn about honey and beekeeping, Christmas tree production and bonsai techniques, all at the John Deere Agriculture Building. End the weekend with a musical performance from pop star Demi Lovato at the Grandstand.

To see complete schedules for each day of the fair and purchase tickets, head to
Comfort Sleeper Sale

The finest sleeper on the planet is now on sale. Styles from transitional to contemporary. Sizes from King to cot. Even sectionals.
Read more.

Iowa Cubs vs Louisville Bats (all weekend, times vary): Swap fair food for peanuts and Cracker Jacks at the ballpark as the Iowa Cubs take on Louisville this weekend. Friday night will feature post-game fireworks (and mascot Cubbie Bear’s birthday).

Moberg Gallery opening reception (Friday, 4 p.m.): A new exhibit will open at Moberg Gallery featuring work by artists Karen Strohbeen and Bill Luchsinger. Strohbeen’s art will also soon be showcased at four DART bus shelters along Ingersoll Avenue. The reception is free, with artists' remarks beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Project One fundraising event (Saturday, 2-6 p.m.): The Turnwell Foundation for for Mental Health is hosting “Project One: One Community. One Family,” a fundraising event to benefit clinical, educational and community organizations focusing on mental health support efforts around Iowa. The event will take place at Curate (322 E. Court Ave.) and feature food and drinks by Taste! To Go, photo booths, live music and guest speakers. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

Vegan Summer Market (Sunday, noon-3 p.m.): Head to Cowles Commons on Sunday to shop from local farmers, foodies and makers at VegLife Des Moines’ monthly summer market this weekend. Find organic and home-grown produce, try a plant-based lunch or buy sustainably made household items. Check out VegLife Des Moines’ Facebook page for an updated list of vendors.

Exhibit reception: On Aug. 15, the juried art show “Iowa Exhibited XXXVII” will open at Polk County Heritage Gallery. Then, on Aug, 18, an awards ceremony and open house will be held to honor the 49 Iowa artists selected to exhibit in the show. Click here to see the list of artists participating and to find more details about the exhibit.
Science and society: The Science Center of Iowa will host the annual SCI Gala on Aug. 26 to raise money for early childhood science education and celebrate 50 years of the SCI preschool. The event will feature interactive experiences, shows in the center’s theaters and a silent auction. Plus, geek out over themed hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Tickets are on sale here.
Winefest party: Tickets are now available for the Green State Iowa Lawn Party, which will be Aug. 28 at Salisbury House & Gardens. Wineries and breweries from across the state will share samples, and a cash bar will have full glasses for purchase. Vouchers for a lunch item from Top Bun or Veggie Thumper are included with tickets. If you’re still feeling snacky, additional food trucks will be on hand. Check the event page for tickets and details.
Think tank series: Envision Iowa is an economic development initiative created by dsm’s parent company, Business Publications Corp., to help Iowa’s businesses and communities thrive through strategic connections and storytelling. The initiative is designed to foster visionary ideas to propel our state’s growth and enable our communities to thrive. The second think tank virtual event, “Business Opportunities: Innovation and Public/Private Partnerships,” will be held Aug. 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register here.
Fairy Cakes, dating from the early 1900s, are a precursor to today’s cupcakes. A light glaze, fresh berries and candied fruit add sweet decoration. Find the recipe online at dsm. Photo: Duane Tinkey.

Baking Back in Time: State Fair Cookbook

Writer: Wini Moranville

“If a picture can paint a thousand words, recipes can tell a thousand stories,” says Kay Fenton Smith. It’s a truth she endearingly illustrates throughout her new book, “Baking Blue Ribbons: Stories and Recipes from the Iowa State Fair Food Competitions.”

A few years ago, Smith, a passionate cook and avid State Fair enthusiast with a professional background in marketing, was surprised that while there are many great books about the Iowa State Fair and cookbooks with State Fair recipes, no one had ever told the history of the fair’s food department and competitions.

“Here we were, the No. 1 state fair food competition in the nation,” Smith says. “Why wasn’t there a book about it?”

So she decided to write one.

For help, she teamed up with Carol McGarvey, who worked for the Des Moines Register for 33 years as a features reporter on the food, gardening and home beats; come each August, she reported on the food competitions at the fair. She also has served as a State Fair food judge for 36 years and counting.

Together, the duo dug deeply into the archives of the State Fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation, read through hundreds of pages of Iowa newspapers, and spoke with dozens of judges and ribbon-winners and their descendants to uncover the history, recipes and stories of “Iowa’s greatest treasure in food.”

The resulting tome brings more than 150 recipes that will get avid cooks rushing to the kitchen. But first they’ll have to tear themselves away from the compelling stories that each recipe tells, not only of the talented prizewinner who crafted it but also of bygone days and of the 168-year history of the competitions themselves.

To learn about the extensive research and creation process behind “Baking Blue Ribbons,” and to find a dessert recipe from the early 1900s, read the full story on our website.

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