Atlanta symphony violinist Helen Hwaya Kim is among the visiting artists performing in this year's Zenith Chamber Music Festival.


The Zenith Chamber Music Festival returns for its fourth season Aug. 14-18. The free, family-friendly concert series brings world-class musicians to local venues.

"Zenith continues to bring classical music out of the traditional concert halls and into the community for an exceptionally accessible and memorable experience," notes artistic director Ashley Sidon, a professor of cello at Drake University. (The festival is a nonprofit entity of Drake, funded by grants and donations.)

The schedule:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 14: Temple for Performing Arts, 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 15: Jasper Winery, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 16: Johnston Library, 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 17: Plymouth United Church, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 18: Drake University's Sheslow Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.

Featured artists this year include musicians from orchestras in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Houston and Chicago.

More information about the festival and its featured musicians is available at

Shimmering Pool & Deck Remodel of a Midcentury Ranch Frosted glass and aluminum deck railing adds privacy while a new extended roof area creates an outdoor living room with vaulted ceiling. See how new and old were blended in this spectacular backyard makeover in the Waterbury neighborhood. ... Read more »

By Design presents dsmDining —

Who wouldn't love to be Anna, treated to this sweet creation? Doré Bakery will specialize in such custom confections.

By Wini Moranville

A former boulangerie (bread bakery) is being transformed into a pâtisserie (pastry shop), with a projected opening date of end-August. Des Moines food industry veteran Michael LaValle plans to operate Doré Bakery in the Union Street site of the former South Union Bakery, the bread bakery that LaValle and George Formaro opened in 1996. (South Union Bakery now operates out of Gateway Market.)

Doré means "golden" in French, and executive chef Nik Pugmire says he chose the term because it "relates to a product that is high quality and perfect as it can be." The term also relates to the art of pastry making. "Golden is usually the peak timing of desserts—golden brown cookies or a cake that looks golden before you take it out of the oven, or caramel that has a golden color."

Pugmire is currently the executive pastry chef with the Port of Des Moines, LaValle’s catering and events business. He comes by way of Chicago, where at a young age he helped his mother craft wedding cakes out of her home-based business. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas in 2007, Pugmire gained a decade-plus of experience in kitchens including the Westin O’Hare, Marriott Chicago Downtown and Allium Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.

According to spokesman Jake Miller, the goal of Doré is to raise the level of desserts in Des Moines by offering custom-ordered scratch-made special-occasion confections. "This will not be another cupcake joint," Miller says. "Nik produces wonderful macaroons, layered tea cakes, rustic tarts and elaborate wedding cakes along with other more classic dessert options with a modern spin and presentation."

When it opens, the bakery will operate at 1701 S. Union St.—but don’t just pop in for a cookie. To start, the bakery will not offer retail (i.e., grab and go) sales; rather, custom orders will need to be placed in advance. Currently, to inquire about placing an order, call the Port of Des Moines office at 515-330-1517.

Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts have all been set up @dorebakerydsm. Pug’s professional Instagram page—with dozens of photos of his work—is @nikpugpastry.

My dear friend Kristi moved to Sioux Falls recently, and even though I’m so sad she moved, I’m so happy she let us help her design her new living room! ... Read more »

Olson-Larsen Galleries presents dsmArts —

Patricia Arvanis, Adam Yankowy, Charlie Reese and Brett Spahr sang a number from the Des Moines Community Playhouse production of "Young Frankenstein" during the 2017 Cloris Awards ceremony at Hoyt Sherman Place. Photo: Dan Welk.

By Michael Morain

OK, it’s pop-quiz time: How many local theater companies can you name? Two or three? Maybe four?

Even die-hard theater fans might be hard-pressed to list all 12 companies in the running for this year’s Cloris Awards: Ankeny Community Theatre, Carousel Theatre of Indianola, Des Moines Community Playhouse, Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre, Epic Stage Productions, Iowa Shakespeare Experience, Iowa Stage Theatre, Kata Klysmic Productions, Noce, Open Door Rep, Pyramid Theatre and Tallgrass Theatre.

Together, they produced no fewer than 43 shows over the past season, ranging from "Misery" to "Mamma Mia!"

The Cloris Leachman Excellence in Theatre Arts Awards were first presented in 2015 to celebrate local talent both onstage and behind the scenessort of Des Moines’ version of the Tonys in New York or the Jeffs in Chicago. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the judges.) The awards were named, of course, after the Oscar-winning actress who was just 7 years old when she landed her first role in a children’s production at Drake University. She returned to town as a guest of honor at the second annual Cloris Awards ceremony, back in 2016.

This year, nominees in 20 categoriesfor acting, scenic design, choreography and so onwill be announced during a nominations party at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Basement at the Des Moines Social Club, followed by the full-on awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at Hoyt Sherman Place, where Steve Berry and Gina Gedler will serve as hosts.

Admission to both events is free this year, thanks in part to a gift from Leachman Lumber (which is run by Cloris’ cousin John Leachman and his kids) and a GoFundMe campaign to #FreeCloris.

Django is making a comeback, with a mix of new and delightfully familiar fare, just a few blocks from its former location.


By Wini Moranville

Django is set to reopen next week at 1420 Locust St. I recently toured the space, and even though the location is entirely new—with a bonus of natural light streaming through the two-story windows—the interior offers familiar touchstones: the U-shaped bar, the red banquette booths, handsome drum-shaped chandeliers, the artful copper pot installation and that giant, mesmerizing map of Paris.

So what’s new? I sat down for a Q&A with new executive chef/partner Derek Eidson, who was previously executive chef at Centro, and founding chef/partner George Formaro. Here’s what I gleaned (answers have been edited for brevity):

Q: You’re opening very soon. What are you most excited about?

Eidson: The mussels! We’re going to try to bring more Belgian influence in—we’re making a version with gueuze (a Belgian beer) instead of wine. We’ll have 10 beers on tap, including a Belgian gueuze and a Belgian saison. We’re also doing a curried version of mussels—something I discovered when traveling in France.

Formaro: I’m really excited about the patio—I always wanted a patio for this restaurant. I’m also excited about offering brunch on Saturdays [as well as Sundays], complete with raw bar options. That’s new.

Q: Tell me about some of the things that are new or newly revised on the menu.

Eidson: We’re doing a classic crab Louie salad, as well as a curried chicken salad that’s a re-imagined Cobb. We have a roast chicken served with a chicken-liver sauce. We’ll do a foie gras torchon (a classic French version of a foie gras terrine). We’re also doing new versions of pâté and rillettes on our charcuterie plates.

Formaro: The beef Bourguignon is now made with short ribs; our macaroni gratin has changed—it now has Gruyère, Comté, and Reblochon cheeses.

Q: Any long-standing favorites on the menu that went unchanged?

Eidson and Fomaro (in unison): The scallops!

Eidson: Those, and the blue cheese mussels will return. Everyone I run into on the streets tell me they want those. The steak-frites and their sauces, the New York au Poivre and the steak Rossini haven’t changed. In fact, quite a few things didn’t change at all.

Formaro: We didn’t change things just because there’s a new sheriff in town. If we thought we could do better with a dish, we did. That was the only motivation behind what changed.

Django is now at 1420 Locust St.; 515-288-0268;

Thoughtful artist Mitchell Squire explores a link between 1950s Des Moines portraits, old glass vases and an atomic bomb test.

By Christine Riccelli

I always enjoy catching up with artist and architect Mitchell Squire because I know he’ll challenge me with his intellect, inspire me with his insights and wow me with his work. A recent visit to his Des Moines studio was no exception, where I found him preparing for an exhibition currently showing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Arresting photo portraits from the mid-20th century that capture that era’s idealized notion of young women were lined up in front of his packed bookcases, while a photo of an atomic bomb test hung on a wall. Brightly colored glass vases and bottles were clustered in the middle of the floor.

"I was interested in asking the question, ‘When did our present begin?’ " Squire told me, explaining why he brought these seemingly disparate elements together. The answer, as the Santa Fe installation suggests, is with the detonation of an atomic bomb, which heralded the arrival of the nuclear age. "Fantasies of the good life, the democratic process and the American dream are embedded in the photographs of the women," Squire said, "while the backdrop is the protection our military might [provides]."

Squire incorporated the glassware, which he found at a local antiques mall, after he researched the story of the 1945 Trinity test in New Mexico. The atomic blast was so hot that the desert sand swept up in the fireball liquefied and turned into particles of bright glass, which fell back to the ground in irregular forms. In the installation, the photo of the explosion hangs behind the glass sculpture. (To read a review of the show and see photos of the installation, click here.)

The back story of the photo portraits—all of which are of Des Moines women—intrigued me as much as the overall project. Squire and his wife, Martha Selby, inherited some 75 such portraits from Martha’s grandfather, Rodney Selby, a reporter at the Des Moines Register who pursued photography as a hobby, often showing his work at the Iowa State Fair. A military veteran, he also took the photo of the atomic blast that’s part of the Santa Fe installation. The contrast between the innocence served up in Selby’s portraits and the annihilation of innocence represented in the bomb image is riveting.

The Santa Fe show is the first version of the installation, said Squire, who’s also a professor of architecture at Iowa State University. He plans to expand it as he continues his research of that time period and of Selby, who died in 1978 and whom Squire never met. I’ll look forward to discovering how the work evolvesand to Squire sharing it with the Des Moines community.

Des Moines native and Pyramid Theatre veteran Davida E. Williams plays the pivotal role of Esther in "Intimate Apparel," Aug. 17-26.


Pyramid Theatre Company presents celebrated playwright Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" Aug. 17-26 at the Civic Center's Stoner Theater.

At the center of this drama is Esther, who sees other residents of their boarding house marry and move away, while she remains, lonely and longing for a husband and a future. Her plan is to find the right man and use the money she's saved to open a beauty parlor where black women will be treated as royally as the white clients for whom she sews.

Performance times and dates vary throughout the show's run. Tickets are $16.50 to $26.50. For tickets, times and other details, click here.

LEGO kits are fun, of course, but imagine what you could do with giant bricks on a grand scale. That's the experience coming to SCI.


A new interactive exhibit featuring giant Lego building blocks will be a permanent feature of the Science Center of Iowa, a first for this downtown institution.

"It’s a shift in our exhibit strategy," comfirms Curt Simmons, SCI president and CEO. "We’re making an investment in the experience that our visitors can expect on a daily basis. It’s a chance to engage our community around the topics of engineering and architecturebut equally importantly, around the concepts of creativity and innovation."

The exhibit, "Brick by Brick," will open on Labor Day (Sept. 3) in conjunction with SCI’s fifth annual Des Moines Mini Maker Faire. It pairs giant Lego-built structures with hands-on building challenges to demonstrate principles of engineering, construction and architecture and encourage creativity.

The structures include engineering marvels like a 60-foot Golden Gate Bridge, St. Louis Gateway Arch, Hoover Dam and the Roman Colosseum.

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