Occasionally I travel for my "real" job and most of the time it's to eastern Iowa... not exactly the capitol of luxury travel or five star restaurants (or four stars for that matter). But on my most recent trip, I stumbled across true foodie gold at The Red Crow Grill and have been dreaming about my incredible meal ever since.
On the last night of the trip, my colleague and I booked the Chef's Table (yeah, I was shocked that even existed in Iowa!) for only $99 a person; a steal compared to the $250+/pp I'm used to in major cities. We were led to our intimate table literally in front of the kitchen where we were greeted by Executive Chef Erik and Chef Darren and that's where the magic began.
These guys are not your typical boring Chef's that just make the same old thing night after night or the egotistical guys who sit behind a pedestal and make everyone around them do the real cooking. They're young, they're creative, they take risks and Erik has a diagram of pork parts tooted on his forearm... if that's not a sign of a guy obsessed with food I don't know what is. Combine Erik's drive for creating perfect dishes and genius flavor combos with Darren's Chemistry degree and artistic eye, these best friends develop a menu with depth and sophistication that you'd be hard pressed to find at any five star restaurant.
For over three hours, my friend and I were spoiled by the beautiful dishes that came pouring out of the kitchen; I honestly lost count after the 13th dish so who knows how many we ate that night. These guys aren't afraid to take risks in an area where meat and potatoes reign as king; they served everything from rabbit to kobe beef along side their homemade jams, cheeses and a plethora of Asian flavors and unique ingredients all perfectly plated to the left (you heard me right, always plated to the left!). Every gorgeous dish was like a fancy present waiting to be unwrapped by my fork and not so daintily shoved into my mouth.
What made our meal unforgettable was the intimate and intentional conversations we had with the guys throughout the entire evening. Even when they were slammed with orders, they took time to thoughtfully explain every dish and answer all of our questions along the way - never making us feel like we were in the way or interrupting. We felt like we got a front row seat the the best show in the city and it was just for us; it couldn't have been better. And to top it off, the Pastry Chef, Jeff Tertipes, sent us home with a box of decadent homemade cookie dough to enjoy later in the week - so sweet and unexpected!
I don't know if many of you will be taking a trip to Iowa anytime soon, but if you want a glimpse of these rising stars before they end up at some swanky New York City spot that you'll never be able to get reservations to anyway, go soon. I'm just thankful that I had the opportunity to experience their talent in such a special way early on and you can guarantee that I will continue to go back every single time I'm in town as long as these guys are running the kitchen.