Every year, the Iowa Restaurant Association puts on what they call a Culinary Affair. It’s an outstanding night of wine, food, and conversations. On this night, a number of the top chefs in Des Moines prepare dishes for a 7 course dinner + wine pairings. Here are 7 reasons why this year was one of the best.
1. The views.
Ever since they switched the event Embassy Club in the Ruan building, the views of downtown have been absolutely beautiful. Last year, it was a sunny, cloudless day but this year, the event was on a rainy and grey day. That didn’t hinder any of views because you were left looking for some of the iconic building of Des Moines and it definitely didn’t hinder the attitude of the event.
2. The People
The guests at your table can really make your night. And that night, my wife and I were placed with fellow food writer, Winni Moranville and her husband. We had a great night of laughing, eating, sharing our favorite spots for drinks and food, and learning more about each other. It’s also great to catch up with the IRA staff. They do so much for the industry not only in Des Moines, but across the state.
3. Hors d’oeuvre prepared by High School ProStart Culinary Students
To kick off the night, an elaborate Hors d’oeuvre table is prepared by Chef John Andres and his students at the Des Moines Central Campus High School and ProStart Culinary students.
This year, we enjoyed butternut squash rangoons, poblano-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates, lamb gyro lettuce cups, and applewood-smoked salmon on wild rice pancakes.
4. The Wine
For the past several years, Ben Muehr from Johnson Brothers, has been providing excellent wine pairings to go along with the Hors d’oeuvre, and the dishes that are presented. There was one winery that really stood out to me this year. J Vineyards showed up twice that night. Once with Chef Dom’s dish, and the other time it showed up was with the key lime tart. If you’re a fan of pinot noirs, I would highly recommend picking up a bottle of J Vineyards Coastal Range Pino Noir. Also, the J Vineyard Cuvee 20 Brut, Russian River Valley, was delicious.
5. Surf and Turf
Back to back, there were two plates that were simply fantastic. The first one that really stood out to me was the dish from Chef Dom Iannarelli, from Splash Seafood Bar & Grill. He served salmon and scallop osso bucco (a giant scallop wrapped with a perfectly cooked piece of salmon) with market vegetables and horseradish parsnip puree.
The entree that followed this, after an Intermezzo of strawberry sorbet, was Dr. Pepper braised short ribs prepared by Chef of the Year, Courtney Oberender. She was formerly with Gateway Market but is now with Bubba’s in Des Moines. No knife was needed to enjoy this perfectly prepared Dr. Pepper short rib.
6. Sweet Treats
You can always count on Chef Holly Evans from Creme Cupcake + Dessert to create a delicious dessert. This year, she treated us with a key lime tart. It was so beautiful and delicious that I forgot to take a photo. Also, Table 128 left a little dessert treat on the table too with a little box of their unforgettable chocolate chip cookies.
7. Who the event benefits
Although it is an evening of culinary artistry translated through the creativity of Central Iowa’s most accomplished chefs. The proceeds from the silent auction that goes on during the event benefits the Iowa Restaurant Association Education Foundation (IRAEF). The following is taken from the IRAEF description:
The Iowa Restaurant Association Education Foundation works to help continue career opportunities in the hospitality industry through education, scholarships, and community involvement. The IRAEF serves as the charitable arm of the Iowa Restaurant Association. Along with the ProStart career and technical education high school program, the IRAEF also focuses on strengthening today’s workforce by providing educational opportunities for professional development and employee retention for those already working in the industry.