Sunday, May 1, 2011

Out Of The Culinary Restaurant Awards!!

Good evening everyone. We're normally going to feature the news from around the culinary world on Sunday/Monday nights. The key there is, of course, normally. Over the past few weeks, the culinary world has been...a bit...well, boring to be honest. The news has been rather inconsequential or bland, with most of the sites we visit simply featuring recipes or quirky little tales. We try to make the best of weeks like that and feature what we can. This week has been particularly horrid - so we're trying something completely different.

Even though Maggie and I are big supporters of cooking at home and making food fresh, we still do enjoy eating out on occasion. One of the things you quickly learn after you start cooking fresh, however, is that the food you used to eat may not appeal to you anymore. We've found that mass produced fast food simply tastes 'off' and certain restaurant's menu items actually taste like preservatives and sodium. It's amazing how quickly your pallet can adjust to natural flavors and fresh food.

We've been asked multiple times by our friends, followers and family - where do you guys eat out? The implication of these questions obviously being, "If your pallets are so picky now, how can you find good fast food or restaurant food?" So, tonight we thought we'd share our favorite places to eat, when not cooking for ourselves. Just for fun, we're dubbing it the 'Out Of The Culinary Restaurant Awards' where the winners come home with...well, nothing really - but we will say nice things about them, so they've got that going for them. (These are regional - by the way, we're not world travelers!) Without further ado, let's jump into the 'awards'

Best Pizza 

Winner: Black Market Pizza
Located: Ames Iowa

Black Market Pizza, tucked away in Ames Iowa is, hands down, the best pizza Maggie and I have ever had. Not only is their menu diverse and full of interesting new pizza options that you don't see anywhere else (such as the Rueben Pizza, Chicken Alfredo Pizza, Maui Waui Pizza - and many, many more) but they don't sacrifice quality for quirkiness. Their Bacon Double Cheeseburger pizza, packed with onions, pickles, and a custom 'cheeseburger sauce' in place of the standard tomato sauce, is simply the best thing you can ever feed your pizza hungry tummy. Great flavors, new pizzas - it doesn't get any better than Black Market Pizza

Close Second: 

Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company - The wheat pizza crust combined with honey to dip it in (it sounds weird - don't knock it to you try it) makes Great Plains' pizza a fantastic runner up to Black Market - and, as a bonus - it's also in Ames!

Best Barbecue 

Winner: Hickory Park
Location: Ames, Iowa

Continuing on ourAmes theme, we arrive at the quintessential BBQ joint - Hickory Park. Simply put, it doesn't get any better than Hickory Park. Great sauces, smoked turkey, pork and beef that simply bursts with flavor. The prices are low, the atmosphere is great (get there early if you're stopping in on a weekend, the joint may be big - but it's big for a reason - this is a VERY popular weekend stop) If you're hankering for BBQ, Hickory Park is the clear winner. Be sure to try one of the smoked sandwiches (pork, turkey or beef) they are, in our opinion, the best thing on the menu.

Runner Up: Jethro's BBQ - located in the Drake University neighborhood, this BBQ joint was a favorite stop of mine while I was in college. Great menu options, great atmosphere (and close to campus if you're attending Drake like I was...) It's not Hickory Park, but if you don't feel like making the trek to Ames, it's a great second option.

Best Sandwiches (Deli style) 

Winner: Jason's Deli
Location: West Des Moines, Iowa

If you're looking for great deli style food - you can't beat Jason's Deli in West Des Moines. With a wide array of options and a wallet friendly price point, Jason's Deli is the destination for you. Our favorite item, the Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich, is a unique blending of chicken, guacamole and russian dressing that blows your taste buds away.

Runner(s) Up: Pickerman's Deli and Palmer's Deli (Both in West Des Moines) - This was a tight race, all three places are very similar and are great alternatives to each other. In the end, Palmer's menu is slightly smaller than Jason's Deli and Pickerman's has some customer unfriendly hours - making Jason's Deli the slight winner.

Best Burger (Fast Food or Other) 

Winner: SmashBurger
Location: West Des Moines, Iowa

If you haven't tried SmashBurger yet, you owe it to yourself to track one down and dive into what is simply the best fast food burger to cross your lips. They cook the burgers by smashing them onto a searing hot grill, quickly cooking the beef to perfection. The result is a delicious, juicy burger that is topped with an amazing 'smash sauce' and placed on a fresh bun. Order the classic and get a side of (garlic and rosemary infused) smash fries and enjoy the heaven your mouth will encounter.

Best Seafood 

Winner: BoneFish Grill
Location: West Des Moines, Iowa

Surprisingly the greater Des Moines area is full of great sea food options. (Being so close to the ocean after all - it makes sense right?!) But Bonefish Grill tops them all. While it is NOT a budget friendly option (this is a 'nice occasion' destination only) the menu is chocked full of amazing fresh fish delights. Our favorite option is the Tilapia with lemon butter sauce. Melt in your mouth delicious fish - cooked on a wood smoke grill makes Bonefish the best in Des Moines.

Best Pasta 

Winner: Z'Mariks
Location: West Des Moines, Iowa

Maggie's personal favorite, Z'Mariks Noodle Cafe is an interesting little diversion from the standard restaurant fare you find in most cities. A menu based entirely around pasta and noodles, Z'Mariks has a diverse and delicious lineup sure to please any craving. Our personal favorite dish is the Udon - stir fried noodles, veggies and a spicy chili garlic sauce. Delicious!

Best Ice Cream 

Winner: Scoopy Doo's
Location: Forest City, Iowa

Sometimes, you can't beat small town parlors. Forest City based Scoopy Doo's has a great lineup of unique ice cream flavors, delicious homemade waffle cones and a friendly staff that make a trip to the local ice cream parlor a fun event. Affordable prices, a wide menu and great main street location make Scoopy Doo's a winner in our book.

There you have it folks, the first ever "Out Of The Culinary Restaurant Awards" - our favorite places to eat in the greater Iowa area. Here's hoping you give some of these great eateries a try if you're in the area.

Of course, it's not the beginning of the week without a few culinary stories - so here are the highlights:

Around The Culinary World (Speed Edition) 

The Government wants food companies to limit their marketing towards kids. STORY

What does the 'Proof' of an alcoholic beverage actually mean? STORY

20 Kitchen habits you should be using / learn to use STORY

How to watch out for genetically modified foods STORY

There you have it folks. All the news that's fit to blog about, plus a bonus feature on our favorite eateries. Hopefully you found it as entertaining to read as it was to type. It was a close contest in some of our categories - we had a good debate picking our favorites. We're got another full week of recipes planned - Maggie is cooking Tuesday, and I'll close us out on Thursday. We'll see you Tuesday night with a new dish - until then,


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