New Year, New Food; Dinner Party; Oakridge Canvas
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December 29, 2020  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
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The delivery-only George’s Burger Joint specializes in updated classic-style burgers and sides.


Writer: Wini Moranville

As we all (happily) say goodbye to 2020, here are some trends and movements to look for in 2021:

Ghost Kitchens Continue: In 2020, some restaurants made ultra-creative pivots to offer a very limited handful of specialties that, in some cases, have little or nothing to do with what they normally offer. Harbinger brought us Basic Bird, while Orchestrate Hospitality launched George’s Burger Joint, Batter Up Des Moines and Kaiju Ramen. These (mostly) delivery-only micro-restaurants are known in the food world as "ghost kitchens," and you can expect to see more in the new year. Formaro and team expect to unveil a fourth concept, while Bubba owner Chris Diebel is looking to debut a ghost kitchen of his own.

Whiskey Is the New Beer: Des Moines beer kingpin/Full Court Press partner Jeff Bruning recently confided to me that these days he’s more into whiskey than beer. Some FCP venues are following suit: He recently debuted Des Moines Whiskey Club: The membership--valued at $120 but on sale for $85 until the end of 2020--gets you 10 whiskey drinks divided between Royal Mile, Red Monk and Ken’s—A Not So Secret Speakeasy, plus admission to 10 "Whiskey Club Nights" with representatives from distilleries on hand to offer samples and insights. Bruning also mentioned that the Red Monk will transition from a Belgian beer bar to a Belgian beer and cocktail bar and will feature a strong whiskey selection. He’s also amped up the whiskey selection at the University Library Cafe.

In more whiskey news: Bubba will launch its own whiskey in the first quarter of the new year. "Whiskey fans will be excited to hear that we've created a unique four-grain mash bill (corn, rye, malted barley and sorghum)," Diebel said in an email. "It has been small-barrel aged in charred American oak."

Also look for top-shelf whiskey selections at Django, where chef Derek Eidson (also a well-known beer buff) has been hand-selecting some hard-to-find bottles.

Flying Mango to Reopen (and we can thank Guy Fieri for that): According to owner Mike Wedeking, this popular Beaverdale restaurant has seen great success with its weekly takeout pop-ups. Sometime in the new year, however, the venue will be open for takeout three nights a week. Wedeking says that he’ll be featured (for the third time!) on Guy Fieri’s "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." A condition of his appearance is that his restaurant must be open.

"Well have 15 to 20 menu items instead of 60," says Wedeking. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be slacking: He’s working on some new sauces (e.g., jalapeño-orange marmalade) as well as a few new dishes (e.g., collards gratin, smoked tomato rice casserole and smoked beef tenderloin with a tomatillo sauce).
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The River Center is hosting the January dsm Dinner Party, where you can get a meal and a behind-the-scenes look at the newest issue.


Our dsm Dinner Party is just a couple of weeks away (7 p.m., Jan. 14), and the take-home dinner menu, created by chef Michael LaValle and virtual host the River Center, is in! The starter will be seafood bisque, followed by the entree of duck confit with truffle sauce and sides of spinach spaetzle, roasted winter root vegetables and a South Union Bakery demi baguette. The vegetarian option is curried tofu with lemon grass farro.

And dessert? A dark chocolate-orange tea cake, served with a side of blood orange coulis and a spice citrus French macaron from Dore Bakery.

Place your order by Jan. 12. Pickup is 5-6 p.m. on Jan. 14 at the River Center. The cost is $36 per meal, excluding drinks. (The add-on drink options include Purveyor Wine Growler for $25 or the River Center Season Cocktail for $9.) You'll also be one of the first to receive a copy of our January/February issue. Find registration information here. We can't wait to celebrate!
    Suad Avdela lives with her parents and two sisters at Oakridge Neighborhood. Photographer: Paige Peterson.


    Here’s an idea for New Year’s Eve that’s risk-free but still gets you out of the house: Take a drive to view a temporary art installation by artist Robert Moore at Oakridge Neighborhood.

    Called "50 Faces Celebrating 50 Years of Oakridge Neighborhood," the work will consist of photo portraits of Oakridge residents projected on the three-story side of the Silver Oaks senior living apartment building, which faces the 1300 block of Keosauqua Way and Interstate 235. The projection, from 6 to 6:30 p.m., will be visible from both Keo and the freeway.

    Moore gained national notice this past summer for his project "Harvesting Humanity," ethereal images of George Floyd, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and local youths that were projected onto Dallas County grain silos. Another video installation, "Projecting Pride," displayed portraits of local and national LGBTQ leaders in downtown Des Moines. Read more about Moore in this dsm story from our current issue.

    The Oakridge photos are by Des Moines photographer and longtime dsm contributor Paige Peterson, who first shot the portraits for this dsm story on Oakridge Neighborhood. Scott Kaven of Distracted Ideas will assist with the video projection work.

    "We love this celebration of Oakridge Neighborhood’s 50 years and the beautiful diversity of residents we impact every day, a fitting recap of 2020 reminding us of the importance of all lives," said Teree Caldwell-Johnson, Oakridge's president and CEO.

    While Onnalee Kelley says her first love is improv, she also performs stand-up comedy, here at Lefty’s in pre-pandemic times. Photographer: Duane Tinkey.


    Pandemic or no pandemic, dsm's editors and contributors strive to bring you stories that highlight the intriguing people, places and things in our community. Here are a few stories that generated the most interest and feedback among our readers in 2020:

    Before COVID-19 forced the closure of bars and performance venues, contributing writer Chad Taylor spent more than a year inside the local stand-up comedy scene, providing an intimate and evocative look at the people who live to make you laugh.

    In "Heroes of Hope," we introduced you to some of the courageous people who have put their own lives at risk in order to keep the rest of us safe during the pandemic, including those who treat the sick and feed the hungry.

    In our arts and cultural coverage, two stories particularly resonated with you: In July, local cultural leaders and artists shared what they turn to for comfort, inspiration and joy in the face of isolation and stress. And in September, we covered the timely, relevant and provocative exhibit, "Black Stories," which will remain on display at the Des Moines Art Center through Jan. 17.
    This Neapolitan-style pizza is what you can expect at Alex and Whitney Hall’s newest restaurant concept, Franka Pizzeria.


    One thing we know for sure about you, our dsm readers: You're passionate about the local food and dining scene. Restaurant and food news consistently lands at the top of our most-read digital stories. Here are some of this year's most popular ones.

    As the Black Lives Matter movement emerged in early summer, we made it a priority to add more diversity to our food coverage. We started by showcasing six local Black-owned eateries. Since then, contributor Karla Walsh has written a regular "At the Table" series, highlighting Black-owned food businesses.

    Talericos' new concept was our most-read story of the year. Jerry Talerico is a legend in the local dining scene from his days operating Sam & Gabe’s restaurant. His new concept, Tally-Ho to Go, created with his daughter Sophia, is doing to-go orders only. Check out the Facebook page here.

    Local restaurateurs have been forced to pivot during the pandemic, trying new concepts to survive and thrive. They include ghost kitchens (see Wini Moranville's story at the top of this newsletter), St. Kilda's East Village pizza place, and Fresko, a new downtown restaurant. We've also seen a new Drake-area burger and beer spot and St. Kilda's fourth location in Historic Valley Junction.
    Ballet Des Moines performed "Sleeping Beauty" last March. In the first quarter of next year, the company will perform two triple bills, which will air on Iowa PBS in February and March. Photographer: Jami Milne.


    If you're like us, and we bet you are, you're eager to fill your 2021 calendar with arts and cultural performances and events. For the first half of the year, most shows will still be virtual, but we've all learned not to let that stop us from enjoying the rich and diverse offerings our cultural community presents. Here are just a few in the first quarter that we're looking forward to:  

    "Live From the Temple: Dance, Rhythm and Blues," Des Moines Symphony, livestreamed Jan. 21: We know this concert will give us a lift, as the wide-ranging program spans a century of dance music, from Stravinsky’s "L’Histoire du Soldat" to the ragtime riffs of Joplin’s "The Entertainer." The Symphony will perform additional livestreamed concerts on Feb. 11, March 18, April 15 and May 13.

    "Acts of Resilience II: Vision," Ballet Des Moines, airing on Iowa PBS Feb. 5:
    This triple bill includes a collaboration with the Roseman String Quartet; the premiere of a contemporary ballet by Oklahoma City Ballet master Ryan Nye; and a live performance alongside Max Wellman and his band. Then on March 12, "Acts of Resilience III: Spirit" will air on PBS. This trio of works features a cutting-edge modern piece by renowned choreographer Ma Cong; excerpts from classical ballets; and the romantic storytelling of Edith Piaf.

    "Judith Schaechter: Path to Paradise," Des Moines Art Center, opening Feb. 12: Called the "post-punk stained-glass sorceress," the Philadelphia-based Schaechter creates vibrant panels depicting a feminist sensibility and nonstandard visions of beauty. As one art catalog describes, she "has stretched the medium of stained glass into an incisive art form for the 21st century."
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