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Krunkwich Ramen House

IMG_5895 IMG_5891Ramen in Des Moines is here….and it is darn good.  Actually, my favorite part of my meal at the new Krunkwich Ramen House, which sits in the location of the original Tacopocalypse (before it moved) on E. 6th street and is also owned by famed local Chef Sam Auen, was the fried rice.

I really didn’t think I was going to like this ramen based on the one time I tried Chef Sam’s ramen at an event last year that he served ramen.  It was just ok that time so I wasn’t getting my hopes up for Krunkwich to deliver.  But I was wrong.  I tried the chicken ramen and the fried rice.  This was hands down the best fried rice I’ve found since leaving Boston 9 years ago.  I just haven’t found fried rice that comes close, until now.  I would come back just for the rice, but will come back to try more ramen too of course.

IMG_5911IMG_5900The only part of the ramen I didn’t like was the fried corn.  Aside from the fact that it was a little hard to eat on the cob, it wasn’t very flavorful.  Hopefully when sweet corn is in season, it will be better.  But the broth was great, the noodles were firm and not mushy, there was plenty of chicken and it was feel-good soul-warming all around…even with pictures of cats adorning the restaurant.  And did I mention how good the fried rice was?   You just have to try it.  That is all.

IMG_5890Here is a photo of the current menu…The permanent one isn’t up yet, so here is an idea of what is being offered.  Just go.  And get there early before the lunch rush if you want to sit to eat!

 

Oh and don’t not order the egg.  If you are standing at the counter debating spending the extra .75, debate no more, just do it.  The slightly runny yoke just makes a bowl of ramen complete.  You need it.

Noodle Zoo

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I’m fortunate enough to be able to meet the hubby downtown often on his lunch break.  We try to stick close by his work so we often end up at one of the fabulous East Village eateries like Alba, Open Sesame, Olympic Flame, Miyabi 9….my list could on, but I’ll spare you.

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Anyway, Josh eats at Noodle Zoo a lot.  It’s conveniently located at 601 East Locust Street and they have an Ankeny Location as well.  Usually when he suggests this as a lunch option, I’m thinking that soup, salad or pasta doesn’t sound quite as appealing as sushi or gyros.  But, I think he really wanted me to try it because he got me a gift card for Christmas.  Annnd…I’m starting to think about lightning things up for spring and he said they have great salads.  But I’m not lightning up too much though…I promise.

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But he was right (and it’s not often that I say that)!  I’m hooked on Noodle Zoo.  I ordered the fruited spinach salad and Josh ordered the fajita chicken salad.  These were some of the most beautiful salads I’ve seen in a while.  The fruited spinach salad came with oranges, grapes, spinach, celery, pecans, a tarragon vinaigrette (which I got on the side and didn’t even need to use because everything was so flavorful without it) and sun-dried tomato crusted chicken…yes, it was as good as it sounds AND it was gluten-free!

Josh’s fajita salad was equally as flavorful with seasoned chicken, red and green peppers and onions with fiesta ranch dressing and a spinach tortilla on the side incase you wanted to make it into a wrap  And these salads were huge!

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Watching everyone’s sandwich and pasta orders pass by in the dining room got me really anxious to try other menu items here as well.  If you’re thinking that this will be just another sandwich and pasta shop, go check it out  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Ugly Sweater Par-tay

So….You might think we are out and about ALL the time….Not true!!  We love to host parties at our house too.  Our latest swaray was our Second Annual Ugly Sweater Party.  And it was a blast if we might say so ourselves!

Just because it was so fun, I thought I’d share a few photos with you and some of the things we did to make out party a blast.  I’d love to hear your ideas too because we are always trying to make our parties more awesome!

We ordered some food from Hy-vee and I made a few things.  Red and green deviled eggs are always a must for our sweater parties to add to the tackiness.

We hired Brianna Dawson Photography to set up a photo booth this year because I wanted to enjoy the party and not worry about the most important of the party…taking pictures to document the tackiness!  She was fantastic and I’d highly recommend her for your party.  She brought in a 10 foot backdrop and even had silly pose ideas for everyone.  Check out her Facebook page and more photos from our party here.

Our cocktail of the evening was candy cane shots.  So easy and so good!  Just white chocolate liquor and peppermint vodka.  We also had cheesecakes from Sugar Creek Baking (My favorite cheesecake EVER).  If you love cheesecake or are in the market for the most fantastic pecan pie ever, check them out.  Here is our past review of Sugar Creek.  And don’t forget about the Ugly Sweater cookies made by Three Chicks Bakery.  These awesome cookies exceeded my expectations when I told them I wanted Ugly Sweater cookies.  I loved them.

And to round out the unhealthy food smorgasbord, we did a chocolate fountain this year.  We of course had tacky prizes like leg lamps and fruit cakes for the winners of each Ugly Sweater Category.

Did you have an awesome Ugly Sweater Party this year?!  Share your tips!

 

Up-Down Vintage Arcade-bar

The newest addition to the ever-growing East Village area in downtown Des Moines, Up-Down, is best described as a playground for adults.  It’s located at 500 E. Locust St.

You must be 21+ to enter this “Barcade” that boasts just about every video game from your youth that you can think of like Mortal Combat, PacMan and The Simpsons.

Life-sized Jenga games and Connect-four can keep you busy for hours as you enjoy the wide craft beer selection as well as retro-inspired drinks like “Princess Punch” and “Super Mario-garitas”.

Play some Skee-ball or see how your pin-ball machine skills are holding up.  I have faith that I was much better at Street Fighter when I was 15 than I am now.  But it’s looks like I’ll get to practice a lot more now that Up-down is open.

Games are all a quarter except for a corner where a Super-Nintendo has a spot in a complete

living room set-up with coffee-table and all, where you can choose your game and play your heart out for free.  Jenga and Connect four are also free.

Drink prices are reasonable and that’s a total plus since I can see a lot of young professionals spending many evenings getting reacquainted with the games of their childhood here.

The “Barcade” will be open 5pm to 2am every day starting Friday, October 11th.  On the 11th they’ll

hold a grand opening where the first 50 customers will get 10 free tokens each to play.

Check out Up-down for your next date-night, girls night out, or send the guys out for an evening of bonding.  You’re sure to have some fun and most likely take a trip down memory lane.

 

The Continental

The Continental is on E. Locust street in the East Village.  I’ve heard some great things about it and when I got word that they had Taco Tuesday’s where tacos are $1.75 and margaritas are $4.  My mom and I ran down for lunch to check it out.  They don’t have a blender so the margaritas were on the rocks which was OK because they were very tasty.

We had a choice between pork and tilapia for the tacos and I ordered two pork and a tilapia because fish isn’t my favorite, but I wanted to try it.  The tilapia one was actually awesome!  They were topped with a mango salsa and were really good.  The pork were good too, but I was really impressed with the tilapia.

They also had sangria on the menu for $5 so I decided to try one of those too. Love.

This was my first meal of the day, so at this point I was getting a little drunk, and a little nervous since I had to pick up my son from school soon and they usually frown upon drunk parents at pick-up.  So I decided to cut myself off.

Seriously though, this was a satisfying lunch for a Tuesday afternoon special.  We’ll come back soon to try some of the other menu items.  They had an impressive list of tapas and small plate items which I’m excited to try because I hate to just order one meal, I like to sample it all.

My biggest complaint was just how dark it was in the restaurant.  I mean beyond ambient, we were literally sitting in the dark since the only open seat when we got there was in the way back of the restaurant near the bathrooms.  Up front near the window would have been just fine, but literally my mom and I couldn’t see each other, but maybe it’s a good thing it you are perhaps on a first date….

Des Moines World Food and Music Festival


Great food, awesome music, cooking demonstrations from some of the best Chefs in Des Moines.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  Except that you can get a “taste” portion at any of the 45+ food vendors for only a $1! And all entries are priced at $5 or less!

This annual event is definitely one of the best festivals of the year.  The 2013 festival runs September 19th to 21st Downtown on the Walnut Street Bridge

For more information including a complete list of vendors, hours, parking info, music schedules and cooking demonstration schedules, visit their website here.

As lots of the food vendors don’t have brick and mortar restaurants and only participate in this festival each year, it might be the only time you get to try some of their delicacies.

You can get some wonderful Italian, BBQ, Mexican or Thai food, but you can also venture out and try something like Ethiopian, Korean, Czechoslovakian, Mesopotamian or Filipino cuisine!  There is something for everyone.

Some of my favorites last year were:

1. Hawaiian Chicken from Alohana

2. Chicken Stew from Czech up Time

3.Pasta from Street of Europe

4. Larp from Blu

5. Tabsi Tayuk from Afiyet Olsun
(Mesopotamian)

6. Chicken Kabob from Yanni’s

7. Chickencubes from The Ethiopian assoc.

8. Fried banana roll from Cafe Fuzion

9. Fried fish and potato on a stick with juice
and chocolate covered strawberry from Sims

10. Beef taco from Taco Loco

And every item I had was only $1!  Can’t wait til this year’s fest!

 

Alba

I just love Alba Restaurant in the East Village on Des Moines Street downtown.  It’s much bigger inside than it appears from the outside.

 

 
We got to interview Chef Joe Tripp as he’s competing in Battledish on October 5th along with 6 other local Chefs!  He was born and raised in DSM and moved to Colorado to attend culinary school, but instead was offered a job and mentorship by Chef Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant.  After studying with Alex he moved back to DSM and started working at Alba.  Chef Joe is driven by new adventures everyday and growing and getting better, to be stronger and faster than the day before. Oh, and he loves to eat!

We stopped in for lunch last week and I was sad to see how slow they were. There is a lot of competition in the area now, so I hope they continue to do well.  I know the evenings are busier though.



Anyway, our server was very knowledge, friendly and eager to share the specials of the day and give recommendations.  We started out with the deviled eggs which we loved on our last visit, but they were slightly on the warm side this time so we didn’t enjoy them quite as much, but they were still tasty.

 
We both had cups of the soup of the day which was sweet corn and we both thought it was very good.  I really loved my entree which was very creative.  It was the paella, but instead of being cooked with rice, there was a rice patty on top which you broke open over the meat and veggie mixture to eat, the seafood was blended into the sauce so it was present but didn’t overpower the dish.  I thought it was fantastic.

The Hubby had the special of the day which was a braised short rib sandwich with dragonfire sauce and he said the meat was tender and well spiced and really enjoyed it.

We were also presented with oatmeal cranberry cookies for dessert, a very nice touch and though we were full to the brim ate them anyway because they were so good.

Chef Joe posing with the amazing
dining room art.  An Alba tree.

I’d suggest Alba to anyone for an upscale lunch or nice dinner out.  They use lots of local ingredients to make innovative dishes.  We love it.

This might be one to leave the kids at home and enjoy a date-night or girls night out.

Chef Joe is excited to compete in The Battledish competion on October 5th to showcase fantastic dishes all including ingredients right from here in Iowa.  Even the cocktail will include include local beets!

What he’ll be serving up for Battle: Braised Eden Farms Pork Belly, Grade A Farms Squash puree, Charred Brussels sprouts
Cocktail : By Shannon Emerson – Bourbon Street Beet- Bourbon, Beet Juice, Beets, Ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice, Peychaud’s Bitter

Interview with Chef Sam from Tacopocalypse

After getting its start at the Cumming Tap three years ago, Tacopocalypse is already ridiculously successful in its new location in the East Village.

Sam and his crew serve hundreds of hungry customers, innovative taco, burrito and nacho creations each day.  If you’ve read my blog before you know how awesome I think Tacopocalypse food is.  You can read our review about Brunchpocalypse here.

But his story doesn’t begin there.  He’s been cooking for himself since he was a little kid.  However, a bout of the stomach flu kept him away from eating tacos for about 5 years!  I couldn’t believe someone who stayed away from tacos for so long can cook up some of the best around.

Chef Sam has chosen to compete in Battledish Des Moines 2013 because he has no doubts that his food can stand up to the best.  He is also excited to try some new recipes out on the Battledish attendees.  There are no guarantees, but Battledish goers might just get a chance to sample some of the first Tacopoca-noodles!  (I just made that name up, but I think it’s pretty ingenious.)

Sam is a pretty interesting guy.  For a long time he was Vegan. He had a big impact on the Vegan restaurant scene in Des Moines as he worked in a ton of local restaurants and introduced his creative elements to lots of them.

Sometimes Sam is underestimated, like when he was hired at Centro to be a salad guy and was promoted within weeks to Sous Chef because they admitted they made a mistake.  But Sam has a style of his own.  He taught himself to make sushi and was highly successful as Executive Chef at Zen until its closing.  He didn’t last long at Miyabi 9 though because he just wouldn’t conform to someone else’s style of doing things.  Sam feels that the best food isn’t going to be found in the most expensive restaurants, but maybe in a gas station in Louisiana, or a taco stand at a bar in a town of 50.

I asked Sam where his drive comes from to take Tacopocalypse to such a high level in such a short amount of time and to open two restaurants at the same time.  Sam says he’s just crazy about food.  He just can’t stop thinking about it.

We can’t wait for the battle!  But if you can’t wait either, you can always stop into Tacopocalypse on E 6th street in the East Village any day of the week!

Liberty’s-An Iowa Grill

I’m proud to present the next BattleDish competitor, Executive Chef from Liberty’s-

An Iowa Grill, Jeff Deets!  Liberty’s is located in the Embassy Suites in the East Village area in downtown Des Moines.  Even though this restaurant is hidden inside the hotel, this restaurant is a hidden gem.

During our interview I got to have lunch a lovely lunch of roasted corn chowder, which was superb.  Thick and creamy with chunks of thick bacon, soft potatoes and lots of roasted sweet corn.  I ate the whole bowl and that would have been a satisfying lunch in itself.

We also had the Liberty’s best burger.  Because well, if it said Liberty’s best, it seemed like the item to try to get a taste for the place.  We weren’t disappointed.  At first glance it looked heavy on the cole slaw and light on the pulled pork, but the creamy slaw

 

 

 

was really the highlight of the burger with the slightly sweet and soft bun.  It was reallygood.  And I loved the sweet potato/regular potato fry mix that came in the cute paper bag.  Extra points for presentation.

Our server was friendly and attentive and our meal arrived very quickly but hot and fresh.

Chef Deets was fun to get to know.  He grew up and graduated from high school in Johnston and attended Le Cordon Bleu and Iowa Culinary Institute.  He began his career at Hyperion Country Club in Johnston before working as Sous Chef under Chef John Andres from BOS for 3 years. As you can see this BattleDish will be some heated competition!!

Chef Deets later joined the John Q. Hammons hotel family at the Sheraton of West Des Moines as Executive Sous Chef before just a month ago receiving the honor of Executive Chef here at Liberty’s at the Embassy Suites.

Chef Deets lives to work in the kitchen.  He has a passion for working long hours and having a hand in everything.  He’s most excited about BattleDish to showcase one of his new menu items!  A brand new, Chef-inspired menu of his own creation, will be released on October 1st and BattleDish guests will be some of the first to get to try it.

Come out and try lunch or dinner here at Liberty’s, you won’t be disappointed.  And if you want to witness the battle between mentor, Chef Andres and former Student, Chef Deets, come to BattleDish on October 5th!  More info here.

Blu Thai & Sushi

So last week I drove by A Taste of Thai at 215 E Walnut street in the East Village and it was there.  This week, it had a new name, Blu Thai & Sushi.  So of course we had to stop in to try it out.  I couldn’t find a website for it yet, but I’ll update this post when it has one.

 

 

Aside from the signs, the inside was pretty much the same, so I’m thinking they just changed management.

I really liked the daily specials that were on each table (under the glass actually so the are semi-permanent fixtures on each table) they offered a different dish with side and drink every day at a reduced price.

 

We started our meal with a Thai coffee which is my husband’s favorite. They didn’t use condensed milk that is often used, but rather a sweet cream that was also very good.

We ordered the chicken satay for an appetizer and while it took quite a while for it to come out, it was worth the wait because they were hot off the grill and seasoned to perfection.  SO good with the sweet peanut sauce.

 

Our entrees followed soon after and I was surprised by the richness of my yellow curry that was more savory than sweet like I’m used to.  It was also spicier than I expected since I ordered a zero on their scale of 1 to 5 for spiciness.  But I really liked it and had no problem eating every bite.

The hubby ordered the sweet basil noodles and also said it was very good.

We’d definitely come back, especially for lunch since the prices are reasonable (about $8 for entrees), the portions were good and the food was tasty.  I can’t wait to try more offering from Blu Thai, especially their sushi and pad Thai.  Check it out!