Sunday, September 23, 2012

Foodie Field Trip: Big day in the city- the World Food Festival

Not much going on in my little corner of the world on a Saturday, so when my nephew asked me to go with the World Food Festival in Des Moines, I couldn't say yes fast enough! Mother Nature cooperated as well, with a beautiful 60ish degree day, sunny, with a nice breeze. Perfect day out.

The World Food Festival is an annual event in Des Moines and offers a diverse menu of foods from all over the world, from local restaurants, ethnic stores and other organizations. Visitors can choose from several menu items anywhere from $2 to $5 or a "taste" for $1.

We decided to forego the usual around-town things like Italian sausage sandwiches and pasta dishes and made our first stop at the Cafe Fuzion booth. Cafe Fuzion offers a variety of Thai, Korean, Japanese and Chinese foods. Rather than just the taste item, we chose the Fuzion Sampler- tempura vegetables, crab rangoon, egg rolls and purple passion rice. It was a hit! The tempura vegetables were just from the fryer fresh, zucchini and sweet potato slices- were oh so delicious. The purple passion rice was a mystery- it was sweet and sticky and delicious, with no clue as to how the purple color got there.

The Ethiopian Association of Iowa's booth was our next stop. We had a hard time deciding what to try, not being familiar with Ethiopian cooking whatsoever, but we again passed on the $1 taste and chose "Wot", a spicy red sauce with chunks of beef simmered til tender, served with a sauteed mixture of cabbage, green beans and onions, which was so delicious I could have eaten an entire plate of just that! The food was served on an odd crepe-like pancake that was a little unusual in texture, I would have passed on that part.

A couple booths away we stopped at Mi Patria Restaurant. Ecuadorian cuisine was also very foreign to me so I decided to go with the $1 taste- arroz con pollo. Wow !! It was fantastic !

The thing about eating foreign food- you're bound to find something you don't like. We found it at Papillon Bosnian Food's booth. The $1 taste item was a sarma- beef and rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf and served with a thin tomato broth that was way too vinegary for me. I didn't even finish, it was just too tart.

We walked along, passing on several booths from places we'd already eaten at or, again, something we can have anytime. BUT........around the corner was a booth we just HAD TO stop at. Gusto Pizza had several of their many unusual combos available to taste. Jeremy tried the Spartacus, which was a thin crust, red sauce, Graziano's sausage, pepperoni, banana pepper and cremini mushroom flavor blast, and the Fromage-a-trois- exactly what it is, a three cheese pizza on a cracker thin crust. I bravely tried the "#24"- creamed jalapeno corn, chopped smoked beef brisket, mozzarella, bleu cheese, sweet corn and red onion. It was sooooo delicious.

After Gusto we hit the Hawaiian Grill for some crab rangoon that were unlike any I have ever had- lots of cilantro and an amazing ginger dipping sauce. Bacon Wrapped Des Moines offered a giant jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, and charred on the grill. Ok, but more for a Superbowl party. The Pacific Rim Noodle House offered wok-fired veggies tossed with soba noodles, and we finished up our tasting tour with a trip to Pronto/Tami's Tarts for a bowl of Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel. O.M.G. The pudding was sooooo lush and rich and amazingly fluffy, and the caramel- wow, you could taste the bourbon !! Loved it !!

In the middle of all this yummy food was a stage with live entertainment. While we were there, World Port was on stage with an awesome instrumental show.

We couldn't leave the Festival without attending at least one cooking demonstration and we were lucky enough to be in time for George Formaro's demonstration. Unlike his other endeavors, Centro, Django, Zombie Burger+Drink Lab and Gateway Market, his demo was Mexican ! George is one of the best chefs in the United States with a keen business mind and a brilliant imagination and creativity. Barbecoa with Roasted Tomato Salsa was the recipe he prepared and the audience each got to sample- it was fabulous.

So I will share Mr. Formaro's recipes (hey, he passed out copies so I guess it's alright) so you can try it at home.

Barbecoa (George likes to make it at home in the crock pot)

3-4 lb chuck beef roast, trimmed of fat and cut in cubes
2-3 teaspoons salt
2 c flour
oil or lard for browning (George prefers lard for flavor)
1 onion, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mexican oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tb chopped fresh garlic
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 can fire roasted tomatoes

One night in advance, salt beef and place in fridge overnight.

Heat a large dutch oven, add oil or lard. Dredge the meat and shake off excess. Cook without crowding until well browned. Mix the meat with all remaining ingredients in crock pot. Turn on high for about 3 hours and hold at least 3 more hours at low. Stir occasionally. Serve on tortillas with salsa or toppings of choice.

George's Roasted Tomato Salsa

6 roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut in half
1/2 onion, minced
1 poblano pepper, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced
4 cloves garlic
2 tb olive oil
1 tb salt
2 tsp chipotle powder
2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 mexican oregano
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 tb vinegar

Heat a large saucepan on stove, add olive oil. Add vegetables and cook on high heat until vegetables start to brown. Add rest of ingredients. Remove from heat and blend with immersion blender or blender until smooth.

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