At Harbinger, the dish Spring's Fresh Spinach offers multiple delights, including "mushroom bacon." Photos:Byron Jones
FIRST LOOK: HARBINGER'S NEW AMERICAN CUISINE
By Wini Moranville
Harbinger's bar is well stocked, but food is the star.
-- the new restaurant opened by
, owner and former executive chef of
, respectively -- is set to open tomorrow (
Wednesday, April 19
). I'll cut to the chase: You'll want to make a reservation ASAP. I predict this snug spot will make a big splash and will likely be jampacked for weeks to come.
The rustic New American overhaul of the former Bistro Montage space will, I hope, help straighten out a common misperception about the place: People, this is
not an Asian restaurant.
Yes, Tripp's flavor patterns are unmistakably inspired by his culinary journeys to Southeast Asia; words like yakitori, nam jim and yuzu kocho pervade the menu. But the highly original food here should not be viewed through the lens of your favorite Thai or Vietnamese spot. You'd be missing the point.
Rather, the focus is on New American food. The ingredients, as locally purveyed as possible, come first, and seasonality stars on every plate. On a recent soft-opening visit, spring's vibrancy shined in the asparagus, spring garlic, ramps, alliums, fava beans and the earliest leaves of locally grown spinach.
One standout, among many, was a dish called Spring's First Spinach. The crinkly leaves arrived slick, lightly wilted and sparkling green, with a scattering of sautéed mushrooms, all sunny-ed up by a soft-cooked egg yolk. The plate was garnished with this crazy-amazing thing called "mushroom bacon" -- thin, brittle planks of flattened mushrooms that ate like crisp bacon but tasted intensely like the woodsy mushrooms they were. A soy-ginger vinaigrette may be where the Asian angle comes in, but it wasn't the point. Spring in Iowa, with all its surprises and exuberance, was the point.
Our table of four tasted through almost the entire menu of small plates, and dish after dish brought such inventive, finely detailed, unmistakably fresh and seasonal food. The prices and portions of these small plates -- most priced under $16 -- invite you to eat in courses. I suggest choosing a couple of veggie-centric options to start with, then moving on to a heartier plate, such as heritage chicken, beef strip loin or pork belly.
Champagne flowed through an ice sculpture at our last unveiling party at the very convivial AC Hotel Des Moines, home of the Republic on Grand.
IT'LL BE AN EVEN BETTER PARTY IF YOU'RE THERE
The best time for a party? Now! Second best: Soon. Let's go with that. You're invited to join us in celebrating the arrival of our next issue.
It's coming up
Tuesday, April 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Kirkwood Hotel, 400 Walnut St., now filled with fine apartments. We'll be in the lobby to greet you from 5 to 7 p.m., with the unveiling and distribution of our new issue at 6 p.m. Appetizers and drinks will be catered by Vivian's, and valet parking will be available.
If you haven't attended one of these events, they're honestly lots of fun -- things to see, people to meet, foods to try. And if you're a regular, you know what to expect -- and we won't let you down.
We have some wonderful words for Maureen Corrigan, engaging book critic from NPR's "Fresh Air" program, who will be one of the featured speakers at the Wonder of Words Festival Saturday. (She might even hang out with Terry Gross.)
THE WONDERFUL 'WONDER OF WORDS'
Wonder of Words Festival
returns to Des Moines' downtown library
Saturday, April 22
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Programs for readers and writers (sorry, no 'rithmatic) fill the day, including
, billed as "America''s most
trusted and beloved book critic," speaking at 4 p.m.
Corrigan's reviews are featured prominently on NPR's "Fresh Air." She is also a columnist for The Washington Post and teaches at Georgetown University. As a lecturer she's been described as "brilliant," "hilarious," "passionate" and "eloquent." Somewhere she found time to write two books of her own: "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading" and "So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why it Endures," which was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Library Journal.
Her one-hour appearance Saturday is part of Des Moines Public Library's AViD lecture series (Authors Visiting in Des Moines). Among other Wonder of Words presentations Saturday:
- 10 - 11 a.m. -- Caron Levis, author of the children's picture book "Ida Always."
- Noon - 1:30 p.m. -- Debra Prinzing, Seattle-based author of "Slow Flowers."
The complete lineup of presentations is available here. Admission to all of the presentations is free.
Steve Berry will be master of ceremonies as Des Moines Community Playhouse celebrates the final decades of the
PLAYHOUSE EVENT SALUTES THE 1980s & '90s
Go retro with Des Moines Community Playhouse Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22. As it approaches its 100th anniversary in 1919, the Playhouse has scheduled annual fundraising events, each themed to a specific era and theatrical style. This weekend you're invited to revisit the 1980s and '90s in style and song, with a focus on Broadway musicals.
The celebration begins with hors d'oeuvres and drinks at 6:30 p.m. Friday, followed by the musical revue at 7:30 p.m. featuring past and present Playhouse performers. The revue will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Playhouse lobby will be transformed into a piano lounge following the performance both nights. Audience members can sing along with show tunes or get up and perform by themselves.
Tickets (ranging from $35 to $98) are available online at dmplayhouse.com and at the Playhouse ticket office, 515-277-6261.
With creative can-work, you can create structures or portraits -- and feed the hungry, too.
INSTEAD OF FILM, IT'S THE CAN FOOD FESTIVAL
A scavenger hunt kicks off
today (Tuesday, April 18) and winners will receive tickets to a one-time event celebrating the 35th anniversary of the
Food Bank of Iowa and the 20th anniversary of Central Iowa Canstruction. This first-of-its kind event for Food Bank of Iowa will take place at the State Historical Museum of Iowa on Saturday,
Canstruction is a unique exhibition of artistry rendered in packaged nonperishable food products. Volunteers design and create their artistic work primarily using canned goods they have collected for donation. During the Food Bank's A-CAN-EMY Awards celebration, participants will compete against one another to win titles for the best structure.
This year, the People's Choice award will be named after Des Moines architect Chick Herbert and will be selected by the attendees of the A-CAN-EMY Awards. After the event, all of the food used to construct these sculptures will be donated to the Food Bank of Iowa. Through the years, Canstruction's sculpture competition has donated over 325,000 pounds of food to Food Bank of Iowa, which
has provided more than 163 million meals to Iowans in need.
For scavenger hunt clues, check the Food Bank's
. For more information about the A-CAN-EMY Awards event,