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March 17, 2015
 
Little Morocco's pop-up dinner was a feast of Mediterranean fare for a mere $30 per person.  
We Were There: The Little Morocco Pop-Up Restaurant  

By Wini Moranville

 

What makes pop-up restaurants so much fun for the diner makes them somewhat frustrating for the food journalist. Although their moving-target menu keeps them fresh and unpredictable, it's hard for us writer-types to give specific recommendations (as in, "you must order the ______.").

 

But I can say this: Follow Little Morocco on Facebook, and if you catch wind of a pop-up dinner, gather a group of your favorite food lovers and sign up.  

 

You may know of Little Morocco for its pastries, sold at the Downtown Farmers Market on most Saturdays. Husband-and-wife duo Taoufik Assaidi and Jenna Irving own the business; while she's the pastry chef and baker, Assaidi is the Moroccan behind Little Morocco. The Casablanca-born chef received a culinary diploma at the Hotel Institute of Management and Tourism in Agadir, Morocco, and worked as a chef in Calgary and Montreal for 10 years before moving to Iowa.

 

The pop-up dinner I attended earlier this month started with one of those fresh and simple salads that Mediterraneans do so well. This one brought a trio of carrot, beet and olive/garbanzo-bean salads. The main course was a seafood dish reminiscent of bouillabaise, though with warmer spices. I particularly liked the Harissa-aoili that added extra flavor and richness to the already-heady fish broth.

 

The trio of desserts proved equally delightful, with a semolina cake, an almond-phyllo pastry and a rice pudding. Perhaps one of my favorite moments of the meal, however, was when Assaidi poured us the after-dinner mint tea, arcing the flow of the tea high from his silver teapot into the colorful gilded glasses. The beverage was as refreshing and stimulating as any digestive I've ever had, and the warmth of the gesture was unmistakable.

 

The meal cost an incredibly reasonable $30 per person and was held at Red China Bistro.

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fyi: Mark Your Calendar   

  • The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines is accepting nominations for the 2015 Better Together Award, which recognizes nonprofit organizations, civic groups, collaborative partnerships and individuals who are building "social capital" in our community. To complete a nomination form, click here between now and March 31. Recipients of the award will receive funding to support their efforts and will be recognized at the Community Foundation's 2015 Celebration Luncheon and Report to the Community on May 7.
     
  • Do you remember how exciting show and tell days were in grade school? Show & Tell Des Moines will re-create the fun tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Felix and Oscar's (4050 Merle Hay Road). The theme of the night is "ancestors." Helen and Herb Phillips of the Iowa Genealogical Society will share resources and ideas on how to discover your genealogy, and Robert Boldrige will talk about his experiences growing up in the only African-American farm family in Iowa during the 1950s. After the presentation, guests are invited to share their own photos, letters and other family mementos. The event is free. For more information, click here.
     
  • Des Moines Symphony will present Masterworks 5: Chopin Piano Concerto at 7:30 p.m. March 28 and at 2:30 p.m. March 29 at the Des Moines Civic Center. Conductor Joseph Giunta will also announce details about the symphony's 2015-16 season. Tickets cost $15 to $55 ($7.50 to $27.50 for students) and can be purchased here or at the door. Arrive 45 minutes early to each performance for a talk about the composers and music. For more information, visit dmsymphony.org.
     
  • The Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) will hold the 23rd Annual Raise Your Paw Auction on April 25 at The Meadows Events & Conference Center at Prairie Meadows (1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona). This year's event will feature a wine raffle, more than 300 silent auction items and 100 live auction items. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. The event is expected to sell out; tickets cost $65 per person or $500 for a table of 10 and can be purchased here

Malo's Fickle Cactus is only available today for the St. Patty's Day celebration. 

P.S. Beyond Green Beer 

   

The unseasonably warm weather of the past week inspired Malo to add a tropical twist to its St. Patrick's Day cocktail feature. This play on a "Fickle Pickle" was developed and shared with us by bar manager Bjorn Carlson. Malo's Fickle Cactus combines the holiday's standard Irish whiskey with classic Latin American flavors and is perfect for sipping while relaxing on Malo's patio.

In a shaker, combine the following:
  • 1.5 ounces Powers Irish Whiskey
  • 0.75 ounce Midori Mexican Melon Liqueur
  • 0.75 ounce Gran Gala
  • 3 ounces lime agua fresca

Pour over ice in a pint glass and garnish with an orange slice. 

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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