Tag Archives: des moines dining

Des Moines Dates: Strudl Haus

Ever since I’d heard about the Austrian restaurant Strudl Haus opening, I’ve wanted to try it. My tastebuds were craving the flavors we experienced on our Austrian honeymoon in 2010, and I’d heard it was a delightful spot.

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This morning, Joe and I decided to take advantage of Emmett’s playdate and make a day-date for brunch, with baby carrier in tow. What a difference five and a half years can make in a marriage! While we aren’t currently in a position to book a flight to Salzburg, it’s a mini-escape to hop on Indianola Avenue for a taste of Europe on Des Moines’ near south side.

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The small, sunshine-colored cafe opens into a compact dining room of unexpected elegance. A case of pastries catches the eye as you walk in – convenient if you’re just swinging by for a simple breakfast or dessert treat.

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We navigated the narrow room and took a seat in the burgundy-upholstered back booth, where we were quickly greeted. The crowd was an mix of couples and families with well-behaved small children who seemed excited about an after-Church treat.

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For starters, we split Nutella crepes, and for brunch I opted for the omelette with sausage and Joe went for the Strudl Haus eggs (served over easy and smothered in hollendaise sauce). The food was delicious, but the little details – like the coffee service on silver trays and petite chandeliers on the ceiling – made the meal feel special. We reminisced about all of the food we enjoyed on our honeymoon, and were in-and-out in about an hour.

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The spot impresses me as super-versatile — as perfect for a weekday morning coffee and croissant as I imagine it would be for one of their more expensive themed wine dinners. Since Strudl Haus specials change frequently, it would be smart to check their Facebook page or call to see what the weekly offering may be. Prost!

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Des Moines Dates: Temple Theater Day Date

I love a good Sunday afternoon date. Joe won tickets to see “Whirled New Tonight” at the Temple Theater through the Des Moines Performing Arts e-newsletter, and we were able to send Emmett to a babysitting co-op house, so it was a fun and nearly free afternoon of entertainment. We grabbed pizza and salad at Centro next door afterward.

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I’m kind of a snob about comedy (my taste is toward more witty than slapstick humor) and I genuinely laughed at this. When you walk in, the audience is asked to clip newspaper stories from the day’s papers and pin them to a bulletin board. The first half is improv, based on the headlines.

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The second half, they ask the audience to raise their hands and ask questions. The questions themselves were painfully awkward (“Should we have a second child?” “What should you do if your parents clearly have a favorite? – asked by a 17 year old who was sitting between her sister and parents; “What if you feel like the third wheel when you hang out with your boyfriend and his best friend?”) but the improv was even funnier than the news-related stuff.

Sunday was the last day of the Whirled News residency in Des Moines (at least for now), but the performance is based out of the iO Chicago Theater, so my Windy City readers can catch it anytime.

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Weekend recap

Finally: A long weekend that actually felt like a long weekend! And not a moment too soon, as I’ll be going back to working Fridays with my new gig. My mom and aunt flew in from Chicago on Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening, so we had lots of time to both be productive and relax and try to make Emmett giggle.

We went straight to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden from the airport and had lunch at Trellis, the new cafe by the talented Lisa LaValle.

20140228_134313Our plates were a bright contrast to the snowscape out the window, and the chance to walk around in 50% humidity and 80 degree temps was just what I needed headed into more freezing weather.

Friday night, I ditched the fam for my ladies’ book club. Seriously such a great group of women. I think we met for more than four hours, and discussed the book for maybe 20 percent of the time. Our next read is The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I enjoyed The Namesake, so I’m looking forward to this.

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Saturday, we ran a few errands, which included popping into Stitch to get a few more fabrics for a quilting project my mom and I are collaborating on. I joked on Instagram that we were having a mother-daughter stripping session this weekend. (Gross, sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

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We love to get Jethro’s carryout when they visit because two of the “Dinner for Two” selections is enough for four adults to eat a hearty dinner with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Emmett definitely approved. He wasn’t into meat before this, but loved himself some smoked, pulled chicken.

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(I gave him plain corn, but if you’ve never had Jethro’s jalapeño creamed corn it is ridiculously good.) Thankfully the meat didn’t shock his little tastebuds too much and he still ate his typical sweet potato dinner the next night.

While the ladies crafted and the baby slept, Joe worked on our beadboard banister project, which we’re hoping to complete before E figures how to crawl forward. He’s been scooting backwards and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. He also started to take some steps when we were “walking” holding his hands. Eeek. We have a long way to go before our house is baby-proof.

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Sunday afternoon we made a batch of pretzels – our second in as many weeks. Joe and I made them for a Downton Abbey “picnic dinner” last Sunday from Alton Brown’s recipe. They turned out awesome:

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Joe made the dough, which is the hard part, but I got into the dunking-in-boiling-water bit. We ate them with queso because we’re real fond of “light” dining options. 

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A fancy $10 dinner in Des Moines

Don’t you love finding “hidden gem” spots? I used to stumble upon a lot of great places in my Juice magazine reporting days, but it’s been awhile. This week, I got to experience the amazing dinner deal at the DMACC Culinary Institute. Students prepare and serve what might just be the fanciest $10 three-course meal in the metro at the Bistro. (The Culinary Institute is on the DMACC Ankeny campus in a conference center building. Reservations are required.)

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We hosted the  “I Have a Dream” mentor appreciation dinner at the bistro on Wednesday night, and it was a great place to provide the kids with training in good table manners. We were able to have a semi-private area partitioned off and Tyson from Dardis Communications put together a dining etiquette program for us. Even I learned something new: Apparently you’re supposed to spoon your soup away from you? Can’t take me anywhere.

The etiquette focus also meant I couldn’t spend the evening snapping photos of the gourmet food. I’ll have to use my words to convince you. We started with a garden salad that featured a decoratively cut deviled egg and fresh shredded carrots, onions, peanuts and other goodies atop a bed of various greens. I ordered pork osso bucco, which arrived terrifically tender on a plate pooled with a rich, brothy gravy. On the side were a white (jasmine?) rice and carrots cooked with cinnamon. The dessert was cheesecake or a berry pie. Our group didn’t order wine, but it’s available for $5 a glass.

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Quite the menu for $10, I’d say! The ICI also has options for lunch and a $90 gourmet dinner, which I’ve heard is quite the experience.

The dinner itself was delicious, but for me, the occasion was bittersweet. After the last bite of cheesecake, I let my Dreamer friends know I’m starting a new job in March. I hate goodbyes, but I know that because I live in the neighborhood, I’ll continue to see the students.

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The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation has opened up the Des Moines community for me. I’ve met some really great kids, mentors, board members, donors and community partners through my work. I’m excited for my next adventure!

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Lunch date: Hotshots Hotdoggery

Joe and I had been itching to try Hotshots, the new “craft hotdog” joint downtown, so his second-to-last day of paternity leave, we decided to squeeze in a lunch date and let Emmett tag along.

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Overall, I really like the concept (maybe I’m just a sucker for menus with clever naming?) and the look of the place, but I think there’s room for improvement in the dog-finishing department.

I ordered the Valentino Rossi ($6.95), an Italian link with Scala Sunday gravy, provolone, Romano, caramelized peppers & onions and tater tots on the side. It sounded like it had all of the components of a delicious grinder like the ones I love to get at the State Fair. Unfortunately, the bun couldn’t handle all that goodness, and got soggy and completely fell apart. (Toasting the bun may have helped?) I’d also kind of expected the cheese to have a broiled, melty and browned effect, but it was drizzled on cold. I ended up eating mine with a fork. The tater tots were nicely spiced, but nothing addictingly special.

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Joe was more pleased with his dog (he snarfed half of it before I could snap a photo), the Marlon Brando – $7.50 (kielbasa, spicy mayo, bologna, cilantro, jalapeno, pickled carrots, onion & radish), which he got with a side of pasta salad. We ate outside and the pasta had a nice summer picnic feel to it.

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Both of us agreed that we expected the dogs to come grilled; I think that touch of char marks and burnt crunch could be the missing link to a great dog.

To celebrate the countdown to the State Fair and satisfy my lingering craving for a good grinder, I got all of the components to make them at home this weekend as a special treat! I’ll let you in on the recipe, too. Joe entered a lemon basil beer into the State Fair contest this year, which sounds like the perfect sip to pair with it – don’t you think?

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