Food & Dining
THE MENSA’S OF MEAT: A TRIBUTE TO BACKYARD GRILLERS WHO MAKE IOWA GREAT! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Laurie Johns   
Friday, 14 June 2013 14:09

There are some things we can agree on that we don’t like about summers in Iowa: mosquitos, humidity, road construction.  But all are quickly forgotten once we catch the waft of juicy meat sizzling on the grill or pork ribs slowly smoking in the Cookshack.

Neighbors who were previously only seen waving from their cars in winter magically appear in our backyard to debate the finer points of meat rub recipes and barbeque sauces.  “Do you make your own rub? Do you sear the meat first? What’s the internal temperature?”  Such conversations are done in the same serious tones of nuclear physicists measuring alpha particles.  These are the Mensa’s of Meat.

Mensa’s of Meat congregate and compete each year at the Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest (www.iowafarmbureau.com) at the Iowa State Fair.  This year will be the 50th Cookout Contest and I’m sure competition will be stiff as county Farm Bureaus begin their contests.   It’s intense, but it’s just as fun to stand on the sidelines and watch; hundreds of State Fair-goers do that (and get free samples in the meantime).

I, and other women in my neighborhood, have surrendered the whole meat grilling/smoking endeavor to our husbands.   Some of these men, who admittedly can’t seem to do a single load of laundry without turning everything gray, are transformed into subject matter Experts on Everything, simply by standing at their backyard smoker/grills.  They gather to debate every culinary detail and nuance of spice rubs and sauces: “You’ve added one teaspoon of cayenne, right? I use two, and a touch of cumin.”

It’s refreshing to surrender the evening meal to the Mensa’s of Meat.  No challenge is offered, no criticisms leveled.  None dare; although I heard one year, one spouse got tired of waiting for dinner to start, so she went on the patio, lifted the lid of the smoker and complained loudly.  She hasn’t been seen since.

But seriously, I don’t  interrupt the bliss, the adventure, or traditional domain of the Mensa’s of Meat gathering.  Any attempt to enter the backyard and I get waved away by my husband, who is gamely armed with a rather ominous-looking stainless steel seasoning injector.  Our two small dogs hover nearby, sniffing the air, respected ancestral members of the same carnivorous pack, bound by a mutual pursuit of the perfect steak.

Tonight, we’re having smoked pork ribs.  Or, so I’m told.  Don’t ask me how they’re done, or when they’ll be done, but the men and dogs are gathering.  The way I look at it; what better tribute to Father’s Day than to patiently pay homage to the Mensa’s of Meat?

 
STATE’S TOP GRILLERS TO COMPETE FOR TITLE AT THE 50TH ANNUAL IOWA FARM BUREAU COOKOUT CONTEST AT THE IOWA STATE FAIR PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Andrew Wheeler   
Friday, 14 June 2013 10:00

County Contests Kick Off June 15th

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – June 13, 2013 – The sweet smell of barbeque and smoked meat will soon be wafting in the air when the state’s best grillers gather to compete in the 50th annual Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest on August 13 during the 2013 Iowa State Fair.

The championship pursuit begins in June when county Farm Bureaus host local contests to determine winners in several categories of outdoor cooking. Interested grillers and attendees should contact their county Farm Bureau office for more details and information on rules and local contests.

Local finalists from around the state will compete at the state fair for the coveted 2013 Cookout Contest Championship and cash prizes.  A gas grill, donated by Iowa Propane Gas Association (valued at $1,000), will be given to the winner in the youth category.

“Iowans take their grilling seriously and every year contestants from around the state look forward to showcasing their skills at our annual state cookout contest,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Coordinator Denny Harding.  “It’s a great way for grillers to demonstrate their creativity while preparing high-quality meats produced here in Iowa.”

Contestants will compete in six categories: beef, pork, lamb, poultry, turkey, and combo/specialty.  Entries in the beef category will be limited to chuck or round primal cuts, including ground chuck or ground round.  Combo recipes combine two or more meats from the five other categories.  Specialty recipes may feature venison or any other Iowa domestically raised product.  All wild game is excluded.  Dishes will be judged on taste, appearance, and originality.  Special recognition will go to contestants in showmanship, youth and team cooking categories.  Youth grillers must be between the ages of 13 and 18 years, as of August 1, 2013.  Farm Bureau or affiliated company employees are not eligible to compete.

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About Iowa Farm Bureau

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, statewide organization dedicated to helping farm families prosper and improve their quality of life.  More than 153,000 families in Iowa are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve economic growth, educational improvement, and environmental quality in their communities.  For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit the online media center at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

 
Corndog Kickoff: The Grandest Show Around PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Allyson Krull   
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 13:52

DES MOINES, IA (06/12/2013)(readMedia)-- It's sure to be the "Grandest Show Around," as the Blue Ribbon Foundation plays host to the seventeenth annual Corndog Kickoff Benefit Auction and Fair Food Grazing Party on Saturday, July 13 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Doors to the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building will open at 6:30 p.m. for a night filled with exciting auction packages, entertainment and all of your favorite Fair foods; all while helping raise funds to restore the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds!

Nearly 200 enticing auction packages fill the live and silent auctions. See the finest in sprint car racing with four passes to the Knoxville Nationals, August 7-10. Experience a private tour for eight of the Quilted Gardens, an elaborate nursery filled with unique plantings, while sampling a selection of craft beers and hors d'oeuvres. Or, take home a beautiful heirloom quality grandfather's clock handmade from native Iowa red oak.

The Corndog Kickoff has been a pre-fair tradition since it began in 1997. First held in Pioneer Hall, 480 people were in attendance. Since then, the event has grown to raise more than $2.7 million for the restoration and preservation of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The 2012 event brought in a crowd of 1,400 and raised a record high of $350,000!

"We are excited to grow our event each year and get more people involved in our pre-Fair tradition," said John Putney, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. "The Kickoff is the Foundation's largest annual fundraising event and we are grateful for the support to continue our mission of restoring and preserving our historic Fairgrounds."

Take advantage of the advance ticket price by ordering now. All inclusive Corndog Kickoff tickets are $75 each until June 30. After that date, tickets will be $100. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Blue Ribbon Foundation at (800) 450-3732, online at www.blueribbonfoundation.org or at the door the night of the event.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation has generated more than $95 million for renovations and improvements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. For more information on the Corndog Kickoff, please contact the Foundation at (800) 450-3732 or bluerf@blueribbonfoundation.org.

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Old Chicago- Bettendorf location to Unveil New Brand Direction Including Expanded Menu and Updated Design PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Samantha Gange   
Monday, 10 June 2013 14:47

Restaurant Stays True to Roots of Handmade Pizzas and Craft Beers

While Expanding Appeal to Wider Audience

Bettendorf, June, 2013Old Chicago’s Bettendorf location is implementing updates to its brand, menu and design. The restaurant will unveil the New Old Chicago on June 27th.

According to Old Chicago’s Director of Brand Marketing, Will Powers, the change is meant to re-emphasize the restaurant’s commitment to quality food, great value and a welcoming atmosphere for a broad variety of customers and occasions.

“Walk into any Old Chicago location and you’ll find our kitchen staff making dough, chopping ingredients and preparing our guests’ meals, and that has been our practice since we opened 36 years ago,” said Powers.

The Old Chicago menu has been revamped to shine the spotlight on the restaurant’s commitment to crafted, “craveable” items. Forty new product offerings have been introduced through this rebranding effort. Among the new menu changes, a new tavern-style thin crust was introduced to complement the existing deep dish pizzas and the restaurant nearly doubled its salad selection with a combination of chopped and tossed salads, all with homemade dressings. Old Chicago guests may also choose from seven new appetizers, Panini sandwiches and an expanded pasta section.

Old Chicago was one of the first restaurant chains in the United States to offer a wide variety of craft beers from around the world. Similar to the updated food menu, Old Chicago will unveil a new draft system with 25+ taps that ensure the highest quality beer delivery system available today. Old Chicago has also developed a comprehensive “Beer Guide” that lists all the restaurant’s beer offerings. The restaurants will host exclusive brewery events and pre-release beers throughout the year.

Old Chicago Bettendorf:   3030 Utica Ridge Road,  Bettendorf, IA 52722.   563-355-9494

For more information, visit www.oldchicago.com

About Old Chicago:

A traditional, casual dining restaurant specializing in made from scratch Chicago-style pizzas, pastas, calzones and salads. The Old Chicago brand has more than three decades of proven success. With 96 restaurants operating in 22 states, Old Chicago is a model for the casual dining segment. The Old Chicago World Beer Tour allows its more than 1 million and growing members to enjoy 110 of the best beers from across the globe. Old Chicago features 24 new unique craft beers rotating daily from the selection of over 40 bottled beers, and 36 draft choices available. Visit www.oldchicago.com to learn more and to find the restaurant nearest you. For information about franchise opportunities, visit ocfranchising.com.

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Turn Your Balcony into an Edible Garden PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 07 June 2013 14:10
Tips for Growing Farm-fresh Herbs & Veggies in the City

Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries.

“There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, CEO of Greenbo, www.greenbo.co, a company that designs award-winning innovative products for urban gardening including the new Greenbo XL flowerbox.

“Plants add a great deal to our quality of life – from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they’re convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.”

While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.

He offers these tips especially for balcony gardeners:

Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have:

Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun?

• Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day.)

Some partial shade herbs: cilantro and parsley (both prefer cooler weather); dill, bee balm, spearmint chamomile.
Some light shade herbs: garlic chives, peppermint, rosemary.
Some partial or light shade veggies: lettuce, broccoli, green onion, collards, cabbage, peas, carrots, strawberries, beans, sweet potatoes.

• Remember, pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive. Plants in regions with short growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.

Choose the right pots:

• Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where the winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Non-porous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.

• Most vegetable plants require even watering – don’t let them dry out completely and don’t keep them soggy. Apply water directly to the soil.

• Make sure your containers have drainage holes or a drainage system. If they have an attached tray to catch excess water, don’t allow the plants’ roots to sit in the water, which promotes rot and fungus. Either empty the tray regularly, or use a design that holds the water away from the roots.

Use the right dirt:

• It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted – a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots out. You can buy a sterile soilless potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix up your own batch using 1 part compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part potting soil.

• Don’t use garden soil or top soil, which won’t allow adequate drainage.

• On windy balconies, top-dress your container with small rocks to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.

Joulus offers one more tip for high-rise dwellers: Rely on self-pollinating plants, or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate.

“You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” he says.

Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.

About Roy Joulus

Roy Joulus is CEO of Greenbo, which was founded in 2012 in Florida with a focus on simplicity, efficiency and innovation in creating urban agricultural products. Its Greenbo XL flowerbox, designed to hang securely on any balcony railing up to 6 inches wide, won the prestigious 2012 Red Dot Design Award. Greenbo products are manufactured in a multi-cultural Israeli-Arab setting using sustainable and recyclable materials, and with safety the No. 1 priority. Find Greenbo products at garden centers and independent nurseries in the United States and Europe, and online at amazon.com.

 
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