January 13, 2015
Competition winner Chef Mike Holman wowed the judges with his duck breast with a honey glaze. 

Were You There? Culinary Fight Night

By Wini Moranville

At the city's first Culinary Fight Night, which was was held Sunday night at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, chefs Dominic Iannarelli of Splash Seafood Bar & Grill and Mike Holman of Dos Rios Cantina and Tequila Lounge battled it out in a Las Vegas-style boxing ring setting, preparing a three-course meal for a panel of judges (including yours truly). Behind the scene, their sous-chefs prepared the same meal for an audience of around 150 people.


Chef Dominic Iannarelli's first course was a crispy sugar-cane shrimp and rocket salad with Manchego dresssing.

As the winners were set to be announced, one of the other judges, reigning Miss Iowa Aly Olson, said, "This is so sad! I want them both to win!"


I couldn't have agreed more. While Iannarelli's stunningly plated first course (crispy sugar-cane shrimp and rocket salad with Manchego dressing) tasted wonderful and handily won the most points for presentation, one bite of Holman's Tabasco-seared scallop with gingered sweet potato, warm white chocolate sauce and bacon sent us all swooning, in spite of its plain-Jane appearance.


Main courses were equally close: Iannarelli served up a Szechuan peppercorn-crusted filet (perfectly cooked medium rare) with lobster sauce and sea urchin risotto, and added a few judge-swaying shavings of black truffles for a dish that was all about opulence and seduction. It was going to be hard to beat.


But in a daring move, Holman rolled the dice with a duck breast (a risky choice, considering not everyone around here loves duck). The breast, cooked to rosy-pink succulence, brought a wonderful play of contrasts: a honey glaze against dynamic warm spices; and the rich, tender meat against the bright, crisp baby bok choy and fried leeks. "OMG! The duck!" was a general consensus.


The dessert course was equally close, but in a different way: The judges agreed the finales were neither chef's forte that night.


In the end, by a nail-bitingly slim margin of points (359 to 357), Mike Holman took home the title. Another winner was  Central Iowa Shelter and Services, as proceeds from each ticket were donated to the charity. 


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You never know where a good book can take you.

Bookworms, Unite!    

By Belle Du Chene


Dr. Seuss once wrote: "The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." This winter, you can take those literary journeys with others who share your interests.


The Animal Rescue League of Iowa's Bow Wow Meow Book Club members read a different animal-related book each month and then gather to discuss it on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the library at ARL Main (5452 N.E. 22nd St.). RSVP is not required. This month's book is "Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves" by Laurel Braitman and will be discussed Feb. 3. Past favorites have included "Secretariat" by William Nack, "Life of Pi" by Yana Martel and "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend" by Susan Orlean. Click here for more information on the club. 


The Des Moines Art Center's Members' Book Club joins art enthusiasts and book lovers the second Sunday of each month from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Art Center conference room (4700 Grand Ave.). Members discuss books that complement the art on view at the Art Center. February's selection is "I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism" by Michael Cannell, which will be discussed Feb. 8. The book club is exclusive to Art Center members. To join or learn more about the club, contact Jenna Ekstrom by email  or call 271-0327.    

fyi: Mark Your Calendar   

  • Tonight dsm will unveil the January/February issue from 5 to 7 p.m. (comments at 6 p.m.) at Des Moines Community Playhouse (831 42nd St.). Skin Iowa is hosting the event, and we have no doubt the party (and the issue!) will be well worth braving the cold. We look forward to seeing you there!
  • Forget those New Year's resolutions to count calories. Tassel Ridge Winery (1681 220th St. in Leighton, about 50 miles southeast of Des Moines) will host Wine & Pasta al Forno Jan. 16. The event starts at 6 p.m. with a wine tasting; dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $30 for the winery's Harvest Club members and $35 for nonmembers and include dinner, wine with each course, and gratuity. Purchase tickets before 3 p.m this Thursday by calling 641-672-9463.
  • The Des Moines Symphony and the Magic Circle Mime Company will open Des Moines Performing Arts' Wellmark Family Series with "The Listener," which will be performed Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Des Moines Civic Center. The program introduces young audiences to the workings of a concert orchestra and some of the challenges of preparing a music program. Ticket holders can attend a free event in the lobby one hour before the show that includes art-making activities, an "instrument petting zoo" and animals from both Paws & Effect and Blank Park Zoo. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased here.
Belle Du Chene is senior editor of dsm magazine.

Wini Moranville, author of "The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day," is a food, wine and travel writer who covers the dining scene for dsm magazine. Follow her at All Things Food DSM - Wini Moranville and catch her food segment on Fridays at 6:40 a.m. on KCWI-23's "Great Day" morning show.
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