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!

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

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.

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!

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.

Noodle Zoo


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.


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.


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!


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!

New York Pizza Cafe


get-attachment-25.aspxMy go-to gluten-free pizza joints are usually Gusto  or Fong’s.  But, I have to admit, NYC Pizza Cafe gives them some competition for me.  I had a chance to visit NYC last week, which is on Mills Civic Parkway in WDM near the Jordan Creek mall.  Of course all of these restaurants serve non-gf pizza and sandwiches, salads, etc. too.  But, I stick to gluten-free when it comes to pizza.

I went in for lunch and noticed they have a variety of lunch specials which were good deals, but I was in for the pizza and wanted to try the specialty ones.  I couldn’t decide between the Iowan and the Guggenheim.  The Iowan has pulled pork, corn, honey and BBQ sauce.  The Guggenheim has chicken, mozzarella & feta, tomatoes, green peppers and a basic red sauce.  Luckily when I told them I couldn’t decide, they recommended both!  Duh!  So I got half and half on a gluten-free crust and I couldn’t have been happier with my choices.


I was first impressed by the freshness of the veggies.  These were not canned tomatoes or peppers and they were certainly not skimpy on the toppings.

I have to say that my fave was the Iowan.  But I love BBQ pizza and the sweetness of the honey on the crust was just delectable. If you prefer savory, the Guggenheim was lovely too though.  It was a great balance with the sweetness of the Iowan to eat them together.  Like I said, the fresh, abundant topping make a world of difference and the chicken was nicely seasoned.

get-attachment-27.aspxThis pizza won me over all-around.  I’m anxious to try their taco and cheeseburger pizzas soon.  Good job NYC Pizza Cafe.  We’ll be back.



Viva La Bamba

I’m hard-pressed to pass up a fajita Friday.  So fortunately, Viva la Bamba (this time the location on Grand Ave, there is also one in Urbandale) stood up to the challenge.
Unfortunately, Viva La Bamba is one of the restaurants losing a lot of business because of the bridge closure at 63rd and

Grand since it’s location just over the bridge, on the Des Moines side.

Another interesting tid-bit is that, this summer a chain in Chicago called the owners and told him the name was infringing on their Mexican food chain’s name copyright and he had to change it.  They agreed to change the name to just “Viva Mexican Restaurant”, but the signs still boast Viva La Bamba for now.

So, today, I took detour around the construction and it was totally worth it.  I just love the Mexican restaurants who serve bean dip along with chips and salsa for an appetizer.  Honestly, I could probably just eat the whole basket of warm chips with their chunky (and very fresh) salsa and bean dip for lunch and be a happy camper.

But, alas, it was Friday (so fajitas were a must) and they’d probably not appreciate it if I only ate the free stuff and left.

Anyway, These were some darn good fajitas.  A huge portion of good quality chicken and fresh veggies accompanied by the familiar rice, beans, salad and tortilla that most restaurants serve.

A solid fajita Friday at Viva la Bamba.  Give them some love, especially since the bridge will now be closed until at least the middle of December.  Prices are great and they have margarita specials often!  They need our support!

Buy Fresh Buy Local Harvest Party

October 13, 2013 marked the Buy Fresh Buy Local-Iowa Chapter’s 4th annual Harvest Party.  What a fantastic event!

Buy Fresh Buy Local is a campaign project of the Drake University

Law Center that

helps connect the community to local, farm-fresh food. Local farms, businesses and restaurants can become members to help support the project and connect with the public about getting easy access to local, fresh products.
The event is held at the Olmstead building at Drake University.

Drake University is home to the

organization and there are lots of opportunities for students to get involved in the project.




The Harvest Party is Buy Fresh Buy Local’s yearly fundraiser and

what a party it is!  Supporting farms, restaurants and businesses donate local food items and time for preparation and serving. The public can buy tickets to the event to partake in lots of dishes prepared for them from all of these fresh, local ingredients.  There is a raffle with donated items from businesses as well, and all of the profits go to support this great organization. Tickets were $20 or $50 per family.

Part of the fun is getting to chat with farmers and business

owners about their products and put a face with the person behind what you’re eating.  It’s so nice to know where your food is coming from and that it is the very best to be feeding yourself and your family.

Sponsors for the event include: The Des Moines Farmer’s Market, Maytag Dairy Farms, Kitchen Collage, Campbell’s Nutrition, Devour

 Des Moines, HoQ Restaurant, Drake University, Iowa Heartland Resource Conservation & Development, The Richard Deming Foundation and Sodexo.


Follow Buy Fresh Buy Local Greater Des Moines on Facebook for updates about upcoming events and about next year’s

Harvest Party, because you don’t want to miss it!

Here is the wonderful menu for the evening (just click on it to view it

larger).  Everything was fantastic!  About 200 people purchased tickets to the event and it has gotten bigger and better every year!  —————>

Some of our favorite dishes of the evening included lamb meatballs and beet chocolate cake.

There are too many to mention, but we loved them all!

Eat, Play, Love Des Moines is hosting an event on November 7, 2013 at Confluence Brewing Company to benefit Buy Fresh Buy Local! This free, family-friendly event will offer local vendors and lots of fun and prizes Click here for more info!  Come out for dinner to support this awesome organization and eat some more great local food!

Noodles & Co. Jordan Creek

I had the opportunity to check out the brand new Noodles & Co. location at Jordan Creek today!  The official opening day is Monday, September 30th, but I got a little sneak preview of some of the new fall dishes available. What makes it even more special is that these dishes can’t be found at any other Noodles location in Iowa right now either!  With the new location, they rolled out the new fall items early and the other stores won’t get them for a few more weeks. And you’re in for treat with these new dishes!


We got to try the Thai Hot Pot first.  Wow! It’s a curry broth with fresh veggies, rice noodles chicken and pork and served with a side of Asian flatbread.  I loved this dish!

We also tried the new Alfredo MontAmore which was surprisingly decadent. Not a soupy Alfredo like you get at some other chains.  This rich and cheesy sauce stuck to the spaghetti noodles because of the four cheese blend they use. With the added mushrooms, tomatoes and chicken, this is a complete meal and I really enjoyed it.

Their third new item is totally cool.  It’s a Pork Adobo flatbread.  To add to their list of culture-inspired dishes, this one is Spicy Latin with flavors of toasted cumin, spicy Fresno peppers and fire-roasted tomatoes.  This dish packs some heat!  Very flavorful.  I think this one will be a hit.

It’s really nice to see them branching out with different flavor combinations and meal choices.  Noodles is great for the indecisive family who can’t choose between Thai, Italian, Japanese, etc. for diner.   You can literally just come here and have it all. There is something for everyone.

Like I said in my last write-up (which you can read here) I appreciate that they source locally whoever possible and really give back to the community they are in.  For example, Eat, Play, Love Des Moines is hosting an event on November 7th to benefit Buy Fresh, Buy Local Des Moines and the Jordan Creek Noodles location had generously offered to serve noodle bowls at the event and donate 100% of the profits to Buy Fresh, Buy Local. How awesome!

The staff at the Jordan Creek location was super friendly and you could tell they were excited about their offerings and giving customers a great experience.  Welcome to West Des Moines Noodles & Co.!

Bang Bang

If you haven’t visited BangBang Mongolian Grill on Mills Civic in West Des Moines across from Red Robin, in a while, you might notice some changes.

If you haven’t been to BangBang before, it’s a lot like HuHot Mongolian Grill with some neat additions.  The main

meal is a meat and veggie station where you gather everything you want in your dish, pick your sauces and bring them to the grill to be cooked up right in front of you.

In addition to the grill items. they have soups, salads, appetizers you can order, a kids menu for kids who’d rather not do the grill, a chips

and queso station and a frozen yogurt bar.  The appetizers, kids menu, chips station and yogurt station are additional charges from the grill price.  The grill is around $12.99 on weekends and $10.99 on weekdays I believe.

They have $2 martinis on Monday nights and kids eat free on Tuesday night.  They also just began doing Sunday Brunch where in addition to everything they normally have they have an omelet station set up and buffet including breakfast items like egg casserole, biscuits and gravy, French toast, donuts and fruit.

The chips and queso station also had flour tortilla available to make fajitas from your grill items if you wish.  This station is an additional $2.49 to partake in, but that gives the whole table access for that one price.  It is actually a great deal for us because our picky 6 year old makes his whole meal out of tortilla and cheese and chips and we do not buy him a separate meal from that.

If you have a big appetite, come to BangBang, you’ll definitely get a bang for your buck since you can take as many trips to the grill as you like.

The frozen yogurt station is also set up pretty nicely with at least 30 toppings available all included in the $3.49 (ish) price

The only downside I’ve experienced is that you can go through the whole process of picking out

your items for you meal, picking out sauces and waiting for your meal to be cooked and then maybe not like what you picked.  The good part is that you can just go through the process until you find a combination you like.  The bad part is that you have to go through the process again until you find a combination you like.  Luckily they have lots of recipes posted above the sauce station so you can play it safe and follow those and you’ll usually come up with something you enjoy the first time around.

Sakura Sushi

So the temperature hit 100+ degrees this week as you all are well aware.  I still wanted some good eats, but not something that would weigh me down make me regret it.  I decided to check out the bento box at Sakura Sushi in West Des Moines.  It’s right in the same plaza as Hy-vee at Grand and Ep True.



This restaurant was so cute!  I had never been there before even though I drive by all the time.

I pulled a seat up to the sushi bar to watch the action and chat a bit.    There was only one other table seated when I was there during the lunch hour, but the sushi chef assured me it would get much busier later.

I can totally see why he said it would get crazy in there!  It was great!  I ordered the chicken teriyaki bento box which included miso soup or salad, teriyaki chicken, rice, half of a California roll, sliced oranges and two pot stickers.  All for only $7.95!  Options like shrimp and tempura were a little more expensive, but not much,


I always love a good salad with ginger dressing and this one did not disappoint.  They were generous with the dressing and it was a nice starter.  I was so impressed with my bento box.  The chicken was moist and piping hot served over veggies and the tastiest sweet sauce.  It was maybe the best teriyaki chicken I’ve had in a bento box.  My California roll was fresh and the pot stickers were crispy.  I thoroughly enjoyed this meal

I was too full for dessert (event though I was aiming for a light meal) but the fried bananas would have been my choice even though the ice cream options sounded good as well.

They have all-you-can eat sushi on Mondays for $19.95 and all of the special rolls are only $9.95 on Wednesdays.  These awesome bento boxes are served every day for lunch and are a great deal.

If you love sushi, or any of the Japanese specialties they offer and don’t want to fight the crowds downtown, check out Sakura.  You’ll like it!

Gateway Market…and more!

So normally I stop into Gateway Market Cafe just off of the MLK exit off of 235 to eat a leisurely lunch of a panini and soup or lobster mac & cheese and salad or sometimes the pad thai, yum.  Just about everything in the cafe is awesome.  They also serve breakfast everyday which is fabulous because there aren’t a ton of breakfast places on this side of town.
Anyway, this particular day the temperature outside was upwards of 104 degrees and I had some wonderful Cleverly Farms tomatoes and some goat cheese that I got at the Cheese Shop the night before and I was itching to make something yummy, but that was easy and didn’t require much cooking on this already toasty day.

By the way, if you haven’t taken a class at the Cheese Shop yet, you really must.

particular evening, Larry from Cleverly Farms was

showcasing his tomatoes and it was amazing.  All of the classes include wine and/or beer pairings and a cheese tray all about $30 or so, a steal!!  (See the top left photo for photos from the class).
So from Gateway I picked up some bread, Niman Ranch maple bacon, (yum), lettuce, and of course some Thelma’s Treats Ice Cream sandwiches for dessert.  At 104 degrees, how can you not eat ice cream?!

Anyway, I’m sure you can guess, I made BLT panini’s.  I fried assembled my bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes and in the same pan heated my sandwiches on both sides. Heaven!
Super easy, super fresh and super amazing!  So there you go.  All of my favorite places for the week include Cleverly Farms for the amazing tomatoes (which I now a fan of even though for 30 years I’ve claimed to not like tomatoes), The Cheese Shop (My personal Disneyland) and Gateway market for providing me with a plethora of my favorite Farmer’s Market ingredients that I can get anytime of day, everyday.


Big City Burgers and Greens

I’ve been trying to get into lunch at Big City Burgers and Greens for months now and it just hasn’t lined up for me, but I finally made it in the other day and of course I’ve been missing out.
Big City is located at 400 locust street downtown (right near Nolan Plaza).

They are only open for lunch

Monday – Friday so they are mad busy during lunch.  But they really have it down to a science to get everyone in and out and back to work in under an hour.  They have seating inside, outside and even in the lobby of the main building it’s inside of.  You can order online before you come down to expedite your process or stand in line that moves pretty fast but can be long.

We didn’t order ahead and stood in line for about 10 minutes and ordered two burgers and Big City Fries (OMG the Big City and were in and out in about 40 minutes.
Josh got the blue cheese burger and I got a cheddar and mushroom burger.  Both were really good.  But the highlight of the meal was thin cut fries with with asiago cheese and white truffle oil. Totally crave-able.
Other menu items include a variety of impressive salads like the DSM with steak, sweet corn, bacon and goat cheese.  I can’t wait to go back to try some salad combinations, but I’ll still be getting the Big City Fries to go with.  That good.
They also have a kids menu with grilled cheese, chicken bites, etc so you can totally make this a family outting.  Perhaps meet your significant other who works downtown here for lunch.
They use hormone and antibiotic free beef and there is a real emphasis on local ingredients and environmentally friendly packing here.  I also noticed root beer floats, soft serve and milkshakes on the menu.  You can really round out your environmentally friendly meal here and I suggest you do!
Hope you get a chance to check it out soon if you haven’t already!