Eating in Iowa is a combination of tradition and experimentation.
Those who live and eat here know this. Outsiders are catching up, thanks in large part to exposure on national television.
This past summer, three Eastern Iowa restaurants were invaded by Travel Channel camera crews.
Chef Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods America” was at Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Cafe in July to film a future episode. A month later, Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” filmed segments at Ox Yoke Inn Restaurant in Amana and Walcott’s Iowa 80 Kitchen, the full-service restaurant inside the World’s Largest Truckstop.
Even the Cooking Channel joined the party, sending Chef Roger Mooking to Iowa City to check out Chef Kurt Michael Friese’s “Lambapalooza.”
Mooking’s show, “Man Fire Food,” focuses on the inventive ways Americans cook with fire. “Lambapalooza” features a whole lamb cooked on an unusual rotisserie Friese built in his backyard. Lamb from a local farm is stuffed with aromatics and cooked over a fire throughout the day, and potatoes harvested that morning are baked directly in the coals.
But it’s not only national television shining a spotlight on Iowa food. Iowa Public Television will debut a new series, “Iowa Ingredient,” in February.
Described as a “journey through the fields and flavors of our state,” “Iowa Ingredient” will showcase Iowa’s farmers, chefs, and, of course, food.
“Iowa is ripe for this,” said Jennifer Glover Konfrst, communications manager for Iowa Public Television. “It’s our heritage. It’s where we come from.”
Each show will focus on a specific ingredient, such as spinach or rhubarb, and feature a producer who grows it. The camera will then visit a restaurant that utilizes the chosen ingredient before the chef visits Iowa Public Television’s kitchen to share recipes featuring the ingredient.
The show’s host is Charity Nebbe, who also is the host of Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa.”
“The idea is to tell the story of Iowa food and how it’s prepared here,” Glover Konfrst said.
Each segment also will include an “on-the-side” feature that highlights a local food movement program or event.
“It’s another way for us to feel connected with our own state, our own land,” Glover Konfrst said.
Several Eastern Iowa restaurants and chefs will appear on the show, including Chef Nate Jiroutek of Zins in Cedar Rapids, Chef Matt Steigerwald of Lincoln Cafe in Mount Vernon, Chef Mattias Kriemelmeyer of the Water Street Cafe at the Oneota Community Food Cooperative in Decorah and Chef James Adrian of Atlas in Iowa City.
A sneak preview episode of “Iowa Ingredient,” will air at 10 a.m. Dec. 1.