2016 Culinary Affair 1

There is no doubt that one of the best night’s for eating in Des Moines happens when the Iowa Restaurant Association throws their annual Culinary Affair. It’s a night full of laughter, fun, fantastic food and a great opportunity for aspiring chefs in the ProStart Program. 

Last year, the 2015 Culinary Affair was held at the Embassy Club in West Des Moines. The 2016 event was held at the Embassy Club again but this year it was held at their downtown location at the top of the Ruan Building.

A view of downtown Des Moines from the Ruan Buidling

A beautiful view of downtown Des Moines.


Like I said, it is one of the best nights of eating in Des Moines and it was honestly true that night because the chef lineup was (insert 100 emoji) outstanding. Every chef that night had earned an award at least once during their career. Most of the chefs either had been Chef of the Year or Restauranteur of the Year. There were also a few contest winners present like the winner of the Soy Salad Dressing contest and a runner-up from the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

You’ll get to see who those are below as I highlight the plates that were served during this 7 course and 7 wine pairing event. 

Let’s dive in.

Hors d’oeuvres

To start the night, we grabbed a picture from an outstanding photographer, Justin Rogers.

L to R: Tom (Des Moines Brewster), Missy, Anna, Nick (Des Moines Foodster)

L to R: Tom (Des Moines Brewster), Missy, Anna, Nick (Des Moines Foodster)


L to R: Tom, Des Moines Brewster; Nick, Des Moines Foodster

L to R: Tom Hardinge, Des Moines Brewster; Nick Lucs, Des Moines Foodster

After we picked up our jaws from gazing at the views, we moved to the hors d’oeuvres table.

Chef Patti Weidner (2010 IRA Chef of the Year), Chef John Andres (2012 IRA Chef of the Year), and the Des Moines Central Campus High School ProStart Culinary Team prepared a great preview of what was in store for the rest of the night. This team created:

Crispy Lobster Tofu Wonton

with Nam Chim Kai sauce

Oven Dried Marinated Tomato & La Quercia Prosciutto Crisps

with a Pale Ale apricot glaze

Deviled Quail Eggs

with Nueske’s (Wisconsin) Canadian bacon on a brioche crostini

Mediterranean Display

featuring olives, tomato with mozzarella & balsamic vinegarette. 



Wine Pairings

The wines that were paired with the hors d’oeuvres were a William Hill Winery -Central Coast Cabernet and a Central Coast Chardonnay.

After the appetizers, we headed to the dining room which was full of wine glasses.


File Apr 04, 12 38 24 PM


Culinary affair menu and table



The soup was prepared by Chef Michael LeValle (2011 IRA Restauranteur of the Year) and Chef Lisa LeValle (2014 Business Record’s Women of the Influence). The two are from Des Moines Embassy Club and Embassy Club West and Trellis Cafe in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Spring Asparagus Soup

with pancetta ciabatta sticks.

First course meal



The pairing for this dish came from Pieropan Winery – Soave Pieropan. This wine opens with nuanced aromas reminiscent of almond blossoms, marzipan, white peach and honeysuckle. It concludes with a lingering finish that offers both length and concentration wrapping up delicious notes of honeycomb and marzipan, energetic minerality, and creamy lift. 



The salad of the night was prepared by Chef Scott Stroud (2015 The Soyfoods Council and IRA Soy Salad Dressing Professional Chef Contest Champion). He can be found cooking at Jethro’s BBQ’n Jambalaya. 

Farmers Market Salad

with heirloom tomatoes, Prairie Breeze white cheddar cheese, La Quercia Prosciutto, Iowa sweet corn, and arugula served with smoked tomato & tofu vinaigrette and crispy tofu croutons.

first salad


Wine Pairing

The pairing with the salad was J Vineyards & Winery – Pinot Gris

Begins with delightful aromas of roasted pineapple, candied lemon rind and honeysuckle. The palate is complex with notes of honeydew, jasmine and a sliver of minerality. 



Chef George Formaro headed up this dish. You might know him from several other restaurant establishments throughout downtown Des Moines. He was also awarded the IRA Chef of the Year in 2011. 

A Spin On 19th Century Fish Chowder

with sauteed white fish, fish fumet, cream, house cured bacon, diced potato and fried oyster.

Chef Formaro and his team assembling plates for Culinary Affair

Chef Formaro and his team assembling plates for Culinary Affair


This dish was simply outstanding. 


The wine pairing with this dish was from the winery Maso Canali – Pino Grigio.

Radiant with a pale straw hue. Crisp citrus aromas are backed by floral notes on the nose, where ripe nectarine also emerges. The palate delivers flavors of rich peach alongside delicate citrus notes and musk.


This dish is part of the evening to cleanse the palate. Chef George Migliero (2014 IRA Restauranteur of the Year) created this dish. You can find him at G. Mig’s 5th Street Pub in West Des Moines.

Orange Rosemary Granite

with a mandarin orange martini. This treat, to get the flavor, took about 5 hours of orange peel in a simple syrup + some solid sledgehammer whacks to break down the ice. 


Just when you think you had enough alcohol in this drink, there was a wine pairing to go along with it!


A delicious La Marca – Prosecco. 

It opens with aromas of fresh citrus, honey, and white flowers. The palate is fresh and clean with ripe lemon, green apple, and grapefruit flavors, framed by mineral undertones. The finish is light, refreshing and crisp.


The next chef that prepared the entree is one that all of Des Moines needs to keep an eye on over the next couple of years. Chef Lynn Pritchard (2015 IRA Restauranteur of the Year) of Table 128 + Bar in Clive, Iowa, knocked it out of the building.

Braised Pork Shoulder

with crispy pork belly rillettes, fava bean puree, sassafras, and foi gras foam.

Pork shoulder



Pork shoulder and pork belly


A Palazzo della Torre from Allegrini was paired with this dish.

Velvety and well-balanced the Palazzo della Torre showcases a profound character of mature fruit and carries an againing potential of at least 10 years. 


To wrap up the evening, Chef Holly Evans (2012 The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars Runner-Up) of Creme Cupcake + Dessert in Des Moines created a delicious cake.

Warm Almond Cake

with local aronia berries and roasted pineapple.

Plating desserts





To wrap up the night, we enjoyed a Brut Rose from J Vineyards & Winery. This rose offers layered aromas of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and apples. 



About Nick Lucs

Nick is the founder of Des Moines Foodster. He was born and raised in Des Moines and has always had a passion for being creative in the kitchen. Des Moines Foodster has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Juice Magazine, amNY, Travel Iowa and the Greater Des Moines Convention & Visitors Bureau blog. He believes that coffee and craft beer make the world go 'round .

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