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DMACC Dinner – Mardi Gras

IMG_3060 IMG_3067So, I’ve told you before that we enjoy having dinner a few times a semester at the DMACC Culinary Institute.  Here is my last post explaining more about the dinners: http://eatplaylovedesmoines.com/2013/03/amazing-dinners-at-iowa-culinary.html

 

 

 

IMG_3087 IMG_3070We like supporting the institute, it’s a great date night and a portion of the meal is tax-deductible.  Oh, and the food is great.  We particularly enjoyed the Mardi Gras themed meal last weekend so I thought I’d share some photos.

The top photos are the appetizer course(s) of a pretzel coated (and they really meant pretzel) crab cake and their take on a fried green tomato club salad to the right.  We loved both.

 

IMG_3080 IMG_3072There is always homemade bread, a soup course (tonight’s was “snapper”), a cheese course, an intermezzo/cleanser (sorbet usually) and dessert in addition to the main entrée, so you go home pretty darn full!  And of course there are wine pairings with each course.  Not to mention that you are greated with passed appetizers and Champaign in the lobby while you are waiting to be seated.

 

I was a little bummed that I didn’t make it to a crawfish boil this year like the one we went to last year at Rock Bottom: http://eatplaylovedesmoines.com/2014/03/mardi-gras-party-crawfish-boil-rock-bottom.html , so it was nice to have one here at the dinner tonight in honor of Mardi Gras.  Hey, I like any reason to celebrate!  This was a shrimp and andouille-stuffed quail with creole rice and haricots verts (green beans) and it was delicious.

 

IMG_3091Anyway, there are a few dinner left this semester if you are interested in getting in on one.  You can find the info here: https://go.dmacc.edu/ici/pages/gourmetdinners.aspx.

And if you aren’t wanting to commit to a full dinner, you can visit their Bistro for lunch or dinner on select days.  Check out that info here: https://go.dmacc.edu/ici/Pages/bistro.aspx.  We haven’t tried it yet, so if you have, let us know what you had and how you liked it!

 

 

 

 

Fun at The Farmer’s Market

The Farmer’s Markets in town kick off their seasons this week!  It might be a chilly start, but better weather is in sight and it’s worth it to brave the weather anyway!  If you want the freshest local produce, prepared food and specialty items, the Farmer’s Market is where to get them.

How awesome is it that we have such great Farmer’s Markets in Iowa.  Where else can you find such a wide variety of ethnic delicacies alongside the best of Iowa.  The Downtown Des Moines market is the largest one, followed by the Valley Junction one.  It’s wonderful because Downtown includes Breakfast burritos, breakfast pizza, pasties along with BBQ, Indian, Moroccan, Bosnian (and many more!) delights for lunch.  Valley Junction will take care of your dinner and you can buy the baked goods and pastries to take him for breakfast the next day!  Of course don’t forget all of your produce and local meat!

A few of my “must haves” at the market are 1. A cutlet form Saloo’s India (a potato cake filled with meat or veggies-gluten free) 2. A breakfast burrito or bowl from Farm Boys. YUM! 3. A gluten-free crepe from Sweet Treat Without Wheat.  4. A burger from Local Yocals.

Oh, and of course it’s not all about the food.  Vendors also have handmade items of all kinds like clothing, jewelry, soap, decorations and much more.

Here is a list and info from their websites for some of the larger local ones.  Check your town to see if they host one too. I know Waukee, Johnston and many others have them too!  Merle Hay Mall is startign an Indor Farmer’s Market…Here are the dates for those:  The Green Wood Market (Merle Hay Mall) is from 4:30pm-8:30pm on dates listed below.

  • Wednesday, May 28
  • Wednesday, June 4
  • Wednesday, June 11
  • Wednesday, June 18
  • Wednesday, June 25

Ames: Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 12 noon Starting May 3

Fresh fruits, veggies, meats & breads. Hand crafted goods. Family entertainment. The Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market has it all!  www.amesmainstreetfarmersmarket.com

Ankeny: 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Uptown Ankeny. The Uptown Ankeny Farmer’s Market vendors provide a wide variety of products to the public. In the past, the market has seen everything from fresh seasonal produce, home-made baked goods, specialty food items, BBQ cooked on-site, perennial plants, hand-made items, and much more.www.uptownankeny.org.

Downtown Des Moines:   7am-noon (8am-noon in Oct.) Support local agriculture and buy direct from Iowa farmers while shopping the Downtown Farmers’ Market – presented by UnityPoint Health – Des Moines. The Downtown Farmers’ Market presents Iowa producers from 51 counties across Iowa, offering fresh fruit, vegetables and so much more. You’ll find fresh herbs, beautiful flowers, farm fresh eggs, local wineries, a delicious assortment of goat cheese, an endless selection of baked goods, and many varieties of Iowa raised meat such as beef, pork, chicken, lamb, buffalo, ostrich, and tilapia. http://desmoinesfarmersmarket.com

Southridge Mall: Mondays 3:30 to 6:30pm, Meet us in the parking lot North of Sears every Monday for fresh produce, yummy treats and MUCH MORE! http://www.shopsouthridgemall.com/events/Details/164417?startDate=4%2F13%2F2013

West Des Moines: 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, Valley Junction. Farmers Market is home to over 100 weekly vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, plants and flowers, arts and crafts and prepared foods. Join your friends and neighbors. www.valleyjunction.com.

Palmer’s

If you live anywhere near Des Moines, you’ve probably eaten at a Palmer’s Deli by now.

There are now locations in West Des Moines, Urbandale, Downtown, Ankeny and Ingersol Ave in Des Moines.

While I have always been a fan of their tasty soups, large salad selection and fresh sandwiches, what I’m most is excited about is that now most of their menu can be prepared gluten-free. Even the soups and sandwiches.

On my last visit I ordered the apple orchard sandwich on gluten-free bread and it included roasted turkey, provolone, granny smith apples and apple butter.  Yum!  They even had gluten-free cookies for dessert.
They also have spectacular egg salad which the hubby ordered.  Just fresh eggs, the right amount of Mayo and not too many fillers.  Awesome.
I will warn you that they get pretty busy during the lunch hour, so try to go when you can get there early or have a few extra minutes to wait in line.  Well worth the wait though.

You are sure to enjoy anything you order.  Make sure to try a brownie for dessert if you aren’t gluten-free…Ah-ma-zing!
Don’t forget about their breakfast!  The omelets are awesome and so is the Challah french toast!

Ankeny Cafe

I honestly didn’t know the Ankeny Cafe on Ankeny Boulevard (in Ankeny) even existed until last week!

We were making the trip up to Center Grove Orchard for some cider donuts and apples and thought we’d stop along the way for breakfast.  A quick google search came up with Ankeny Cafe so we decided to give it a shot.

 

What a nicely decorated place.  A little retro, clean and inviting.  Table or booth seating and lots of seating at the “bar” too.

We were pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.  Our server was maybe high school aged and very sweet and the owner kept coming by to check on us to make sure everything was right.

 

 The menu had your regular selection of diner breakfast items like french toast, omelets, pancakes, etc.  The prices were all very reasonable and our meals came out quickly.

I enjoyed the sausage omelet with a pancake substituted for toast at no extra charge.  My son and hubby enjoyed the french toast.  My son loved the generous amount of powdered sugar on his. The hash browns were definitely homemade and were very tasty.   The bacon was crispy and hot.  All around a good meal.

You aren’t going to find fancy-schmancy dishes here, but you are going to get good portions of good food at a reasonable price.  A great place to go for friendly service and a break from cooking at home.

They are also open for lunch offering your typical greasy-spoon favorites like tenderloins and burgers and fries.

Chips

I had a really great lunch at Chips restaurant in Ankeny the other day.  It’s on SE Tones drive and you can’t miss it if you’re traveling up 35n.

 

 

 

 

Up until just last month Chips was one of the Trostel’s trio of restaurants and is under new

management.  I was a little weary because I’ve always relied on a Trostel’s restaurant to be good, so I didn’t know what to expect now that it’s changed hands.

 

 

 

They were doing quite a bit of renovations on the outside and front entrance of the building which is great because it’s starting to show it’s wear a bit and I can’t fault them for a little less than stellar appearance when they are making improvements.  The restaurant was clean and causal as usual.  It was the lunch hour so it was busy, but we were seated right away and greeted promptly.  In no time we were chomping on our yummy free chips.  I prefer them slightly hotter, but they were crunchy and salty and hit the spot with a cold diet pepsi.

They had a great lunch menu that included soup, salad, sandwich, pizza or pasta combos plus their signature rotisserie chicken dinners and more.

I ordered the soup, salad and sandwich combo which was a steal at $8.  The best part my my meal was the chicken and white bean chili that was chock full of their pulled rotisserie chicken.  It was probably the best chicken and white bean chili I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  Ever.  I was craving more at dinner time.  The chicken salad (which I got sans croissant) was especially delicious too.  Fresh pieces of diced red and green pepper mixed in with a rich, but not over-bearing mayo and more of their awesome rotisserie chicken.  I was very impressed with both preparation of the chicken.

They have a great selection on the kids menu even though my son opted for an early lunch before we came.  He opted for a hot chocolate to drink which I wouldn’t have ordered had I known that the 6 ounce cup of water with powdered chocolate would run $4.25! Heck that was more than half of what my entree cost! That was the most disappointing part of the meal.  But, the rest of the meal certainly made up for the disappointment.

I’ll certainly be back for more of the chicken chili and chips soon!  Can’t wait to see it in a few weeks when the renovations are complete!

Swine Fest

Swine Festival is a wonderful collaboration of Iowa’s wineries and Iowa’s local restaurants teaming up to bring you pork dishes and wine samples all hosted by The Iowa Culinary Institute at DMACC in Ankeny.  It’s actually a benefit for the viticulture and enology program at DMACC, so you can drink up happily knowing it’s for a good cause!
Basically, you show up and get your map, wine glass and ticket for your bottle of wine and start sampling.  All wine samples, food samples and your bottle of wine are included in the ticket price (Which was $35 for 2013).  Designated driver/children’s tickets can be purchased as well (For $20 this year) which included food samples, but not wine samples.
After you find your favorite wine you can trade your wine bottle ticket in at that winery’s booth for your bottle of wine to take home.  I suppose you could drink it there, but with hundreds of wine samples, I’m not sure why you would.

Tip: get there early.  The lines start getting longer as the day goes on.

Some of the wineries there were Jasper Winery, Vida Loca Winery, Snus Hill Winery and many more. Some of the restaurants present were, Tacopocalypse, Tamales Industry, Mo Rub, Flemmings and many more.  You won’t go hungry at this event!!

The rain held out long enough for spend a few hours basking in the porky goodness and washing it down with the juice of the Gods.  Hope you can make it out to next year’s event!  I’ll make sure to let you all know when it’s time to buy your tickets!

 

Cafe Diem: Seize the Day with Good Coffee!

We love local coffee shops (and I don’t even like coffee!) and Cafe Diem become a second home to us. We are on a first name basis with the staff and they know our children, their birthdays, and my hubby’s favorite drink before he ever orders. Cafe Diem is located just north of Oralabor Drive on S Ankeny Blvd. It’s in a strip mall across from the DMACC campus. 

Here’s why we love Cafe Diem:

  • High quality coffee and drinks mixed perfectly. 
  • Great selection of coffees, teas, cold drinks, smoothies, and yummy treats
  • Fun atmosphere–everything from couches to tables
  • Great Staff!!
  • Rewards program–Buy 10 drinks and get one free! This is a major perk for my husband. 
  • Limited photos from this visit because the walls are covered
    with awesome LOCAL art! (Copyrighted Art) 
  • Drive-thru window with speedy service
I’ve had interviews, business meetings, ladies’ small groups, breakfast date with my hubby, after-school dates with my boys, and worked by myself at Cafe Diem. I always see college students studying there too. 

Whether you are driving through Ankeny and need a coffee or need a place to meet up with some friends, give Cafe Diem a try! 

So you wanna be a pilot?

What kid doesn’t love airplanes?!  Did you know that The Ankeny Regional Airport will provide tours of the airport including up close looks at planes and helicopters at the facilities for free!?

 

 

They ask that you call and make an appointment and limit your group to not more than 20 to 25 people since there will just be one person giving you the tour.  The contact Phone number is 515-965-1020.
This tour is great for kids of any age they have coloring pages and model planes to give out at the end of the tour.  The tour is pretty informal and you can go through quickly or take your time depending on the age of the kids.
58285_10150249979245276_116620_nGet a group together and make an appointment.  Your kids (and you) will have a great time.

Ps. Check out flying lessons for adults too!!

Let out your inner cowboy (or girl) at Pizza Ranch!

There are a few Pizza Ranches in the area, including Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola and Waukee.  While Pizza Ranch is a chain, I love how much they do for the community.  They are always doing fundraising events to support local schools, sports, churches and other community organizations.  They donate a portion of a nights sales, or let the organization participants clear tables to earn tips that go to the organization.  Very cool.

They have a lot of selection on the buffet and you can request pizza toppings to be prepared for the buffet as well.  They also offer gluten-free pizza and take allergies seriously.

The environment is fun and very family-friendly.  We are fans of the cactus bread on the dessert table. Yum!  It’s strudel and fruit-topping pizza and goes great with the vanilla ice cream also on the buffet.

The fried chicken is also popular and I’ve even witnessed fights over pieces of fresh chicken as it comes out from the kitchen.  Ok, maybe not actual fights, but people are really passionate about this chicken I tell you.

There are some online coupons here.  And the full menu can be viewed right on the website.

For a reasonably priced family meal, check out your nearest Pizza Ranch.  The kids will love it and you may just like it too.  You pay at the counter and can immediately start getting your food, so no waiting for hungry kiddos.  The food is pretty good and if you go on a fundraising night, you might be supporting a good cause too.  Check it out.

Creative Treasures

I have two boys and therefore don’t get as much “crafting/creating” time as I wish I had. I’m blessed with three goddaughters who are perfect for doing such outings with!

I gave one goddaughter a gift certificate for Creative Treasures in Ankeny for her Christmas present. We also took my oldest son (6yrs) with us and we had a blast! The staff was very helpful and their projects turned out beautifully. 

Here’s the basics. First, you pick out your project. Do you want to make a mug, plate, cup, magnet, wine holder, or something a big more complicated? Then you select your paints and paint your masterpiece taking as much time as you need. Next, leave it for the staff to fire it in their kiln. One week later you pick up your creation and take it home to enjoy. 


They also have a jewelry-making area. I’ve used this area before to make a grandmother’s bracelet for my mom. And I used them again after the latest grand-baby was born. I took back the original bracelet, added the new name/birthstone, and they restrung it for me (at a small cost). 

Need a birthday party idea? Check out Creative Treasures! Need a wedding gift idea? Check out Creative Treasures!

Hint: 
Jewelry Section–
thousands of beads!

  • Be sure to check their weekly schedule. Some days they have free or 1/2 price studio fees which can save a lot of money. 
  • Need collegiate or high school accessories? They had some ideas that would be great gifts for any type of fans. 
Paint Selection

Party Area
Finished Projects!