Saturday, June 24, 2017

Des Moines: George the Chili King

I finally made it to George the Chili King and I'm really glad I did. It sits at the edge of the Merle Hay neighborhood, low-key but ever present. It is an honest-to-goodness drive-in, complete with "turn on lights for car service" sign. Because I was in a bit of a rush, I went in to order my food and brought it back to the car.

I just needed a small snack so I ordered a cup of chili. This is classic thin chili, the type made to go with hot dogs and burgers. It has the perfect cumin flavor that this type of chili calls for. And when they pulled out a bag and carefully loaded it with oyster crackers, I knew they cared about their chili. This is great food made by nice people. My next visit will be to eat a coney dog loaded with that wonderful chili.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Oh, dear reader, I must report grave and serious events. These events occurred at the Red Lobster in West Des Moines, Iowa. The nature of these was unfortunate to experience and sad to remember. Beware, dear reader! Now that the homage to Lemony Snicket is over, let me explain why I was in Red Lobster. We had limited choices in the neighborhood and Mom likes seafood. Red Lobster was actually an important force to introduce seafood to Americans who knew only fish sticks. Mom has fond memories. I ordered the blackened salmon. (Perhaps you think blackening is an insult to good fish. All I can say is that I enjoy blackened fish every once in awhile.) The server asked if I wanted the small or large portion and I replied large. The other meals came in good order. My dish, however, had a small piece of salmon and a heap of shrimp with sauce. Our server explained that this was a New Orleans style. I reminded her that I had ordered the large piece of salmon. She asked me if I wanted to eat the dish she brought out instead. I reminded her that no, I did not. She took it back. A moment later, a manager appeared and tried to convince me to eat their mistake. I declined. Then I waited and waited. Once everyone else was close to finishing their meals, I explained to our server that if my dish did not arrive soon, I would cancel my order and eat down the street. A few minutes later, she came back to explain that my dish was not yet ready. I cancelled my order and asked for our check. A couple of minutes later, another manager appeared with a long story. I reminded him that I simply wanted my check. He eventually brought it and I gave him sufficient cash to require change. He took some time to return. When he did, he did not directly hand me my change but instead launched into a story. I asked him for the check. When I received it, I took my change and left. Mistakes do happen. But asking a customer to eat your mistake is not good restauranting. Repeatedly doing so over several layers of management compounds the error. Is it any surprise that the Red Lobster chain is in difficult circumstances?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pella IA

Pella is aobut 45 minutes southeast of Des Moines. It is a cute town with a strong Dutch heritage as you can see from this monument to flowers in the town square. It is also the home of Pella windows.

The Dutch are the carb kings---chocolate, baked goods, pancakes, they do it all. I sampled the wares of a local bakery and chocolate shop while I was in town. The bakery bills itself as "the other bakery on the square" having been there for only 120 years; the chocolate shop is new.

This is a Dutch letter, something that I hadn't noticed before but is common in Iowa. It has a flaky pastry and is filled with almond paste. This one had a nice, strong almond flavor and was very enjoyable.

I waited until evening to try these dark chocolate caramels. They were sweet and creamy and nicely chocolate.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Des Moines: Strudl Haus

My sister recommended Strudl Haus for its great breakfast pastries. It turns out to be a full service restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The décor and atmosphere are what you would expect in an elegant European restaurant. They hearken back to a day in which eating out was an occasional special event, not a thrice-daily habit. The chef seems to be Austrian, although I could be wrong.

They certainly do have a tantalizing array of pastries. I suspect that they serve breakfast in part because they are busy making pastries and breads for the rest of the day.

My coffee was served on this elegant tray.

Here are a selection of pastries that I was able to try: apple, vanilla, and apple strudel. The flaky crust was superb. The filling on the strudel was very apple-y, not overly sweet.

But the pastries were only a starter. For my main dish, I ordered an omelet with sausage. It came with this delicious roll and spreads. It also came with a glass of apple juice. The omelet was very tender. The sausage was wonderfully porky and just spicy enough to give the dish a good zing. The combination was outstanding. The service was very elegant and welcoming. My breakfast was a wonderful experience and I look forward to dinner on some other evening.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Des Moines: Classic Frozen Custard

My brother-in-law suggested that I try this frozen custard stand. He couldn't remember their name but their ice cream left a strong impression. The stand is simple and classic, with tables outside, a walkup window, and a drive-thru window. It's a great place to spend a summer afternoon.

And my lemon custard was superb. You don't find this flavor every day so I always jump at the chance to have some. The custard was rich and creamy. The lemon flavor was smooth. I can see why my brother-in-law drives across town for this treat.

West Des Moines IA: Nan's Nummies

West Des Moines has a well-preserved downtown, filled with cute little shops. I stopped by Nan's Nummies for a treat and a rest.

As you can see, they stock a wide variety of treats, all in an old-fashioned décor.

I went for this kettle corn, coated with just a taste of sugar. The popcorn was very fresh and flavorful. A nice treat for a summer afternoon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Des Moines IA: Breakfast at Perkins

Perkins is a long-running Midwestern chain restaurant. THeir original name, Perkins Cake 'n Steak, suggests their emphasis on breakfast. I ordered a frittata, which came with a healthy dose of vegetables.

Since it was Pie Society Monday, I also received a free slice of pie. Here is my cherry pie, which was the perfect way to wrap up breakfast.