Sunday, December 28, 2008

Food Tour of California: Farmers Markets and Sisterly Crepes

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I realize I hadn't posted this yet: allow me to quote the Des Moines Cityview Newspaper:

Best New Food Photographer: Ben Gordon (
This Grinnell College student and Phoenix Café line chef created a well-researched, photographically splendid Iowa food journal.
However, to say that I merely felt remiss when my last post- in which I regal my dear readers with tempting prose-based glimpses into the life of culinary opulence I have been leading- contained no pictures! Therefore, this post is dedicated to the writer of the article quoted above.

Anyway, on this wonderful Sunday morning before I head off to Barcelona and my sister heads off to camp, we decided to stop by the wonderful local farmers market, grab some fruits and make ourselves some delicious crepes!
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Above: My favorite salsa guy's selection. The one on the far right- the jalapeno and garlic- is particularly delicious.

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Above: My dad grabbed a tamale on the way out. We haven't indulged yet due to the crepes, but I am sure it will be delicious. (EDIT: Have now indulged. Was excellent.)

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Above: Gratuitous food porn to tease poor snow locked Iowans. And yes, all that food is as good as it looks.

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Above: Close up shot of the pomegranates and avocados. It was from this same vendor that we bought the apples and pears which would be swaddled in a delectable crepe.

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Above: Some more greenstuffs. I love swiss chard.MOD_4209 copy.jpg

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Above: Two shots from the sprouted salad stand. He has all sorts of seeds that have sprouted that are delicious mixed into salads. During the summer I buy ample quantities to mix into my lunch salads all week. However, during this break I have regressed into some of the WORST eating habits. No salads for me!

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This is a shot that I couldn't get in Iowa. After my family and I got back from the market, my sister and I whipped up some crepes.

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As you can see, I just sauteed some pears and apples with a little lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla. They didn't need any sugar: they were absolutely delectable without it. For those that love varietal names, I only ever buy Fuji apples and asian pears. In the back left is a simple blueberry syrup I made. The ingredients were similarly simple: 1 tablespoon maple syrup, the juice of a lemon and a pouch of frozen blueberries. I threw in a tiny bit of water and cooked the entire thing down until it was reduced to about 60% of the original volume.

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For my crepes, I just threw in some pears and blueberries. My sister and dad went for the apples. I apologize for the lack of pictures of the crepes: I was either too busy cooking or eating. Let me tell you right now, it took serious will power to whip out the camera to take the above shot rather than a fork.

Tomorrow I leave for Barcelona, so don't expect any updates for about 3 weeks. However, I want to take pictures of everything I eat. For those interested, here is my itinerary:

  • Barcelona
  • Zaragoza
  • San Sebastian
  • Bordeaux
  • Berlin
  • Copenhagen

Food tour of MY VACATION: Part I

Hey everyone--

I have been bad about posting- mostly because I have been so busy with family and friends I haven't had the time nor inclination to talk about what I have been up to. Here is a quick roundup of my culinary experiences so far:

  • Senor Fish: Delicious fish tacos and shrimp burritoes
  • Manna Korean BBQ: My friends Andy, Chris, Konrad, his 3 buddies consumed a tremendous amount of food between the 8 of us. It was ridiculous. Probably my favorite meal by company of the break
  • Dim Sum: Nuff said. I love Dim Sum so much. Probably my largest culinary regret of living in Iowa is the lack of good dim sum.
  • Cafe Bariloche: A South American restaurant near my beach house in Ventura. We had 3 outstandingly different dishes, which is a new one for me. The amount of times a restaurant serves me a truly original dish now is so rare. Cafe Bariloche was a breathe of fresh air
  • HC Seafood: a little hole in the wall fish market near my beach house. My friends and I ordered all sorts of fried delights: scallops, calamari, fish and chips. You watch them dunk the pieces into the batter and fry. Please note: this is a very japanese place, they bread everything with Panko bread crumbs. Those are the japanese super bread crumbs.
  • Sushi Midori: My friends Andy and Chris return. The refrain between the three of us on this trip is "Are you hungry!". It is part battle cry, part query about the availablity of them for lunch. Anyway, we packed away a ridiculous amount of all you can eat sushi. Notable highlights: delicious unagi (eel), hawaaian king mackerel, some of the most tender salmon I have had in a while, as well as a delightful selection of hand and cut rolls.
  • Dish in La Canada: had a delectable belgian waffle with strawberry compote: a tradition of mine.
  • Apple Crisp. I am sinfully fond of a great apple crisp, and will eat the entire thing if not watched. We made a really fun one, which my family and I decoured while watching old episodes of Julia Child.
  • Home-made oatmeal with an apple-cranberry compote. As soon as I woke up and came upstairs to find a pot of oats simmering away, I immediately lept into action (clad only in boxers and glasses) to make a cranberry apple compote.
  • Venison loin with a raspberry vinegar sauce. I made this to take to a friend (Kyle's) party upon his return fron Copenhagen. It was called a Hyggefest, which is apparently a type of Danish party in which everyone brings loads of food and you sit around and catch up. It was a great party, with some incredible food, and I want to recognize the entire culinary lineup:

    • Swedish Meatballs with gravy (delicious)
    • Asparagus and potato salad (a welcome spin on potato salad)
    • Cheddar and pecan bread (great)
    • Chocolate and marshmallow bundt cake (this sounds really plain, but was in fact INCREDIBLE)

I think that is everything- one more anecdote before I leave regarding probably the best family dinner I have had. Yesterday night, my sister and dad and I went to a movie (Valkyrie) and then out to dinner at Cafe Bariloche. I want to tell this story to illustrate how my family does business. We walk into the restaurant, having already combed the menu online. We sit down, and order our three dishes, my dad ordering for all of us. The waitress compliments us on our familial togetherness, to which I reply with something like, "We don't mess around with food". We share all three main dishes, with my sister, who I should mention is 15, tucking into the food like a champ and discussing it right a long with us. She is already a gourmet with more distinction and adventurous habits than many will be in their entire lives (at sushi over Fall break she ate octopus- quite the feat for a girl her age!)

After eating dinner, we spend the entire car ride home discussing the three foods with which we could not live without. If you are curious, they were something like: pizza, good green salads, great cheese (my sister's selection), pasta, noodle bowls (either pho or ramen) and candy lands. For desert, I whipped up some candy lands, which are essentially ice cream with all the toppings. Quite the great dinner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Red Avocado, Iowa City

I am just posting away today, mostly because I am playing catch-up with reviews.

Anyway, this last Saturday my friend Tyrone and I took an excursion to the bustling metropolis of Iowa City, to get some lunch and chat. We stopped first at the New Pioneer Co-Op, the original. I have already profiled their Coralville branch, which I like much more- bigger and better equipped. However, this one had a lot of character.


It also had the advantage of being right across the street from our brunch spot- an all vegetarian restaurant called the Red Avocado, of which I had heard a lot.


The interior was very cool as well. We sat down, and the very attentive waitress (she really was very good) fetched us two Americano's, which were just the thing for a cold and wet morning. We waited for our food nursing our coffee, and I don't mind saying I was very happy when my sampler plate came.


On the top is the french toast, with some jam. Below that in the middle is a tofu scramble. Bottom right is a barley and black bean salad, and to the left is marinated tempeh.

Let me start by saying I wish I enjoyed this meal.

Don't get me wrong; it was perfectly decent, if a little expensive. It just wasn't very good, and at 10 dollars for the meal, I was expecting much better. For all the items on the plate, I got bored after a bite.It was just...flavorless. For all the items except the french toast, the seasoning seemed to consist of a mild level of curry, and then nothing. The french toast was good, but I mean, its fried bread: of course it was good!

Bottom line: if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you will enjoy the Red Avocado. If you eat meat, don't waste your time here.

Pancake Dinner

Hey Everyone-

This wasn't so much a food visit as a study break at college. But there was food. And it was awesome. I will let the pictures speak for themselves on this one honestly, because basically all it entailed were firefighters making us some delicious pancakes!

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Above: Some of Grinnell's finest at the helm of one of the two tremendous griddles they ported in to cook pancakes with.

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Above: The toppings! Although this doesn't do it justice, we had:

Chocolate Chips


Chocolate Sauce

Syrups of all sorts

Three types of milk and two types of juice

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The Grinnell humance society brought in therapy dogs for us to pet! One such adorable example, above.

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They also gave us tons of games- the event was in the auditorium. Above, hungry hungry hippos

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An example of a incredibly crafted pancake. Strawberries and whipped cream

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Behind the scenes: Another fire(wo)man mixes up some delicious pancake batter, with the aid of a drill.

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The dead soldiers that gave their contents to fill our tummies!

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Cooking up some blueberry pancakes.

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You can see their dispenser on the far right, which rolled on tracks and dispensed batter from a reservoir. Very cool.

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Houston Dougherty dispenses whipped cream

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My friend Collin brought in Nutella with which to slather his chocolate chip pancakes. This was the best idea ever.

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Lyle Bauman, who is also the head supervisor of student employees in the Grinnell Dining Hall. He is an incredibly nice man.

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A student (my friend Stephanie) enjoying her pancake and games.

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Neo Morake, our Student Government President loves her some pancakes!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gateway Market and Cafe


The Gateway market and café in Des Moines is a visit to which I always look forward. There is nothing more pleasant than browsing their interesting and diversely stocked shelves, enjoying the ample samples with which they thoughtfully provide their patrons along the way, and then settling down by the fire in the attached café with a big bowl of their delicious ramen.


Gateway Market was started by George Fomaro, the same genius behind Django, one of my Des Moines faves, and South Union Bakery. His talent and business acumen extend to the stores; the bakery is delicious, and the selection of food manages to mix practicality with diversity. It is the kind of place where you can do everyday shopping for your bread, butter and produce, but still find new and exciting things with which to spice up dinner. I do not know who looks for their products, but he or she should be given a metal.

The café is similarly good. I have had the opportunity to sample most of their selection, but in the winter I cannot resist the appeal of their ramen. The broth is rich and hearty, although I had one unpleasant experience (at their West Des Moines store, which I would not recommend) in which the broth was much too salty from soy sauce- something that has yet to happen to me in their downtown location. Their slider sampler is similarly excellent, containing 3 different sandwiches in small portions, and their breakfast options all are sure to please.