Iowa State Fair

The Fair is here!! The Iowa State Fair funs August 7th to 17th in 2014.  From cows made from butter to everything you ever wanted that you didn’t know you’d ever want on-a-stick, it’s fair time!

Some people like to avoid the

craziness, but I like to dive right in.  Have you ever seen so many mullets in one place before?

Kids love it too.  There are the over-priced carnival-rides of course.  But, if you can keep your kid occupied


with the plethora of animals, the free give-aways (mostly fake tattoos that they want to be covered with from head to toe) in the varied industries building from hundreds of vendors and the little hands on the farm exhibit which is one of our favorites, you can possibly avoid spending too long in line for

a $4 ride that they may or may not puke on. The hands on the farm exhibit is where kids go through the motions of being a farmer and milking a (fake) cow to earn (fake) money to buy something in the store at the end.  I’d say kids at least up to age 9 or 10 would like this.

And then there is the food….ahhhh the glorious food.  Three things I never miss are 1. A pork chop on a stick.  That hard to find french cut of goodness smothered with BBQ sauce. 2. A frozen apple cider slush.  Overly sweet, yet tart and perfect for the hot days at the fair.  They sell them in the same building where you find the butter cow and get your

egg on a stick.  3. those darn buckets of chocolate chips cookies that you can’t resist.  Why are they so good!? With so many choices, why would we pick cookies?  Because they are that good!  We finally came to our senses that we don’t have to eat the whole darn bucket in the few days following the fair, they actually freeze really well and pulling out a Ziploc bag of cookies 3 months after the fair and popping them in the microwave for 20 seconds is like re-living the fair all over again.  Do it I tell you.

Well, that’s all you are going to get about the fair from me….I am far from a fair expert, but I know there are some of you out there with tried and true tips, like “make sure to come on Eat Side night” so, please share with the rest of us what YOUR favorite parts/foods of the fair are.  Thanks!

The Italian Heritage Festival

We always have a great time at the Italian Heritage Festival in Des Moines.  The 2014 event will be held on July 25th & 26th, 2014.  2013 was a great year for the event, it was the largest one yet and 2014 looks to be shaping up to be even better.  Lots of great food vendors, free inflatables, crafts, face painting and balloon animals for the kids, live music and lots of fun contests like pasta-eating and bocce ball tournaments.  The festival is free


from opening until 5pm when there is a $5 cover charge to get in.  Children 12 and under are always free to get in.

Of course we sampled everything from pizzelles to meatballs to Italian Nachos (which I highly recommend) to gelato and fresh squeezed lemonade.

The highlight (food-wise) was the Italian Nachos that were topped with beef and sausage, tomato sauce and mozzarella.  There was a topping bar of peppers as well.  So good!  My sons favorite was the Italian cookies.

While kids spent most of the time bouncing on the inflatables (I also really appreciated that they had boxes full of socks available for kids since in the middle of July a lot of kids wear sandals and sock are required for the bounce houses.) and doing crafts, they seemed to really enjoy the entertainment that we caught that day too which included a bagpipe player and dancers.

If you missed this year’s event, mark your calendar for next year!  A great, free (during the day) family outing or a great inexpensive date-night!  Alway wonderful to be able to learn a little about Italian heritage, have some great food and have some fun.



get-attachment-25.aspxget-attachment-12.aspxI admit it, even though this year marked The 80/35 music festival‘s 7th festival, it’s the first year I attended.  Yup.  It may have been Cake (the bad, not the dessert) that enticed me enough to come out for the fest.  Even though I have a degree in music, sitting and watching music for long periods of time just isn’t my thing.  I thought I might be bored, so I never went.  Boy was I wrong!  I’m kicking myself for not coming to this event sooner.

get-attachment-13.aspx get-attachment-14.aspxThe event takes place in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park and while you have to pay admission for the main stage, their is lots of free fun to be had too.  It’s so much more than just bands (on three separate stages) playing all day.  There are lots of food vendors and art merchants, a kids play area and beer gardens.  Access to everything but the main stage is free.

Man, this was so fun, even my almost 7 year old had a great time and he even liked Cake as much as I did (in the 90’s at least =)!

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Things to bring that made this two-day festival a great experience for us were ear plugs and cash (lots of vendors didn’t take credit) and our friends came equipped with lawn chairs, a blanket and glow sticks so we had everything we needed to have a comfortable spot to relax and enjoy and had a base to return to when we were off enjoying the vendors.  I can’t wait til next year now! What a cool July 4th weekend tradition.

National Balloon Classic – Indianola

One of my very favorite festivals of the summer is the National Balloon Classic in Indianola.  The 2014 festival runs July 25th to August 2nd.  Activities for the week include a 5k walk/run, morning balloon flights that are free, evening balloons flights that are $5 per person admission (children under 12 are free). Entrance includes the nightly entertainment, the ability to watch the night glows, which are really cool where you can go right onto the field, all of the balloons light up in the dark and it’s fun to watch. And there are food vendors and kids games there nightly as well.  You can even camp at the field for $5 per night.
On Saturday the 26th at 11:00am there will be the annual Balloon Classic Parade in Indianola City Aqaure.  You can schedule a Balloon ride in advance by contacting the official balloon ride operation for the event “On the Fly” at 1-800-690-1287.
The weekday evenings are usually less busy, plan some time to get there as there is often a line to get in to park.
Here is the 2014 Schedule on the National Balloon Classic Website.

1st Annual Grilled Cheese Fest @ LHF

get-attachment-25.aspxI was excited to be asked to be on the Grilled Cheese Board for the first annual Grilled Cheese Festival at Living History Farms.  Of course the event took place on National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12, 2014) and it was part of the Cabin Fever Series (all events 21+) that LHF does each year to get people out of the house and enjoying local food, beer, wine and more.


The Grilled Cheese Board was made up of Wini Moranville (author of Chez Bonne Femme and former Datebook diner), Joe Lawler (food and music writer for Juice Magazine, Grant Chapin (fellow food blogger from Iowa Foodie) and myself.   Check us out to the right! ————->

Starting soon after we arrived, the judging began.  We were presented with 6 sandwiches from 6 chefs in the following categories: Classic, Glorified and Anything Goes.  Ticket-holders were also treated to samples of each sandwich and got to vote for the crowd favorite.

get-attachment-23.aspxTickets were $20 for non-(LHF)members and $16 for members.  Ticket prices also included 2 drink tickets good for beer, wine or soda.  Pretty good deal!


While none of us found a sandwich we didn’t like, some sure stood out! There were sandwiches with chocolate, bacon jam, and some loaded with jalapeños.  Spicy Cheetos even made an appearance!

The Cheese Shop of Des Moines took the prizes in Classic and Glorified while Say Cheese (a newer food truck in the area) took Anything Goes.  And the crowd favorite…Hy-vee!


Other competitors included, Americana, Local Yocals and Whole Foods.  That’s some tough competition!

If you couldn’t get tickets to this sold-out event this year, make sure to purchase your tickets early for next year.  I’ll of course let you know as soon as they are available!

What a fun and tasty way to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day!

Sweet Treat Without Wheat

You may have noticed a new vendor at the Downtown Farmer’s Market this season…Sweet Treat Without Wheat.  While they leave out the gluten, their products don’t lack in taste.

Owner/Chef Sarah came up with the idea for the business after creating some tasty gluten-free treats for her daughter who has celiac disease and thought others would enjoy these items too.  There is certainly a need with the number of people on gluten-free diets growing.

Her donuts, cookies, cheesecakes and even crepes have been really popular at the Farmer’s Market and while the market is over for the season, you can still order these items and more by contacting them on Facebook here.

I’ve stopped by their tent at the market a few times and was lucky enough to stop by last month for the last Downtown Market of the season for a Hawaiian crepe (awesome choice for lunch) and a donut, yum!  Certainly a treat for those with gluten intolerance’s or celiac disease, but just as good tasting for those without!

The crepes are made to order and you’d never know they were gluten-free.  Try a neutella and banana! Yum!

If you or a friend are in the market for some gluten-free deliciousness, check out Sweet Treat Without Wheat’s Facebook page for more info and and to order!  You can pick up or she will deliver in the DSM area.

Their products have been so popular that they are looking to expand and in a recent Facebook Post they proclaimed that their resolution for 2014 is to spread more gluten-free goodness!  Cool!

EPLDSM Night @ Confluence Brewery

We are pleased to announce that our event on November 7th at Confluence Brewery raised $500 to donate to Greater Des Moines Buy Fresh, Buy Local.
There was plenty of food, beer and fun and we appreciated each and every one of you who came out to the event!
A Huge THANK YOU to all of the vendors, entertainers and donors that made this evening happen!!
Kritter Knits & More
Peace Tree Brewing

Moonbugs Art Classes
Padded Little Seats
Grounds For Celebration

Radiant Om Yoga
Dishcrawl Des Moines
The Durr Family
Vander Sluis Chiropractic
Chick –fil-a Paradise Pointe
Tarre De’Amore Farms
515 Brewing Co.
Rogue Sweets
Noodles & Co. – Jordan Creek
J Sayles Design Company
Buy Fresh Buy Local
Confluence Brewing Company
Confluence Brewing
Tamales Industry
Noodles & Co. – Jordan Creek
Rogue Sweets
Jerry Lorenson
Dishcrawl Des Moines
Des Moines Derby Dames

Eat Play Love Des Moines Night @ Confluence Brewery!

Don’t miss it!  Proceeds from this evening’s event will go to Buy Fresh Buy Local Des Moines!  This is a family-friendly event!  Please RSVP on our facebook page:


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

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!



Illumifest held on September 28th, 2013 at 4200 Mills Civic Parkway (West Des Moines City School Campus) is A Fall Festival of Light. It offers a variety of activities and events for people of all ages!  The excitement begins Saturday afternoon with the inagural edition of the Illumifest Car Show.  The carnival rides and games will open Saturday morning and run throughout the day, and well as a wide variety of food stands.  Saturday evening will feature many of the Illumifest events that have made this festival the fastest growing community event in West Des Monies.

*all information taken directly from Illumifest website.

Schedule of Events
4200 Mills Civic Parkway
Saturday – September 28, 2013
  Illumifest Car Show Registration  11:00-2:00pm
 Carnival/Food Vendors Open 1:00pm
 Illumifest Car Show 2:00-4:00pm
FREE Paddle Boat Rides 3:00-8:00pm
Chinese Association Displays and Exhibits 4:00pm
 FREE Lantern Making (Limited to first 1,000 people) 5:00pm
FREE Hot Air Balloon Rides
(Rides are limited  & allow only two people per ride, riders must meet height restriction to ride)
 FREE Facepainting by Library Teen Board in the    WDM Library Cafe. 6:00pm
 FREE Outdoor Movie – Disney’s  “Brave” 7:30pm
Fireworks Extravaganza over the Campus Pond 9:00pm
Festival Concludes 9:15pm

The hands-on lantern making activity starts at 5:00 pm.  Get creative and decorate a paper lantern to light the night!  Each lantern comes with its own LED light to illuminate your creation!  Supplies are limited to the first 1,000 people, and when they are gone…they are gone.

FREE Disney/Pixar movie “Brave” will be shown on a HUGE outdoor screen Saturday evening!  Bring your blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy this fun movie on the lawn of the WDM Library at 7:30 pm.
FREE hot-air balloon rides will be available Saturday evening starting at 5:30 pm.  Three balloons this year for shorter waiting lines!  Weather can play a huge role in the number of rides available.  Rides are limited to only 2 people per ride, and riders must meet a height restriction in order to ride.