Monthly Archives: February 2012

Lincoln Wine Bar – Mount Vernon, Iowa

Now that I have your attention…let me tell you a bit about the Lincoln Wine Bar.  The Lincoln Wine Bar was opened in 2003 by another family, and reclaimed and re-opened by Matt Steigerwald in 2006.    Then closed again on New Years Eve for renovations.  The Wine Bar is new again as of the week of the 20th of February 2012, with a facelift, double the space, and pizza made in a brand new, hand-made in Italy, Brick Wood Fire Oven.

“The oven was hand-built in Naples, Italy by Stefano Ferrara to our specs. It’s a wood oven, 6000 pounds, and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds at about 900 degrees.  It’s kind of the Rolls Royce of wood ovens and we love it.” 

He’s right, it’s a beautiful oven and turns out some mighty fine pies.  Matt also gets his flour out of Naples, Italy.  Caputo 00, is said to be the best flour for pizza making.   You might wonder why that is.  Flours from Italy (and Europe in general) are much different from the flour we use here in the states.  For one thing, the gluten content varies greatly in different flours and from different regions.  The flour Matt uses in his pizza crust is specific to pizza making and contains a high gluten content of about 11% to 12%.  It’s that high gluten content that gives the crust it’s delightful “chew” without being tough.  That tenderness also has to do with how much the dough is worked.  And that’s surely not to be overlooked in this kitchen.  These folks know what they’re doing.


The restaurant offers four permanent pizzas, and offers two to three specialty pizzas daily – posted on the board.  Andrew and I had two pizzas, because, well, we had to try more than just one (for the sake of the blog, you know.)  Andrew ordered a sausage (homemade sausage from their other restaurant down the street, The Lincoln Cafe) and I ordered a Margherita pizza.  Both were adorned with a homemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.  This is the kind of pizza that you finish there.  Don’t be demure, be bold.  Have a beer, loosen your pants, and eat the whole thing.  This isn’t the type of pizza that stuffs you full to the gills with two pieces, and it doesn’t keep well in the fridge (though it’s still good the day after – just a bit soggy.)   The crust was bubbly and chewy (due to the high gluten content – and I’m guessing it also helps it cook quickly in the wood fire oven, just like in Italy.)  The ingredients were fresh and flavorful.  Both pizzas were delicious.  Both were reasonably priced, mine was $12 Andrew’s $15.  Which you might think high-priced for a pizza, but both were 12 inches, and when you consider that you’re getting a–100% hand-made in front of you with fresh ingredients fired in an imported brick oven–the price is reasonable.  There were two specials on the board (always look at the board) for little over $16.  I’m willing to pay that price for good real whole food.


The wine list was great, though I was disappointed that there were no Iowa wines, and that the wine list is rather pricey.  Good, but pricey.  Available wines are typically from the West Coast of the US, Europe, Australia, or Argentina.  Matt personally chooses the wines sold at the wine bar.

 “Basically I’m the sommelier at the bar. No special certificate.  Wines just need to taste great to get on our list.”  

I didn’t look much at the wine list but I noticed the least expensive wine was around $27 per bottle and I saw one for over $80 per bottle.  I have no doubt these are exceptional wines, and for our little date night that was more than we wanted to or planned to spend.

Andrew and I chose the less expensive option of beer, for a couple of reasons.  We found the selection fresh and well, exciting.  As silly as that may sound.  But we also really enjoy beer.   My husband brews his own, so we like to experiment and try different infusions.  On the beer list we found brews from all over Europe, the States, Canada, Japan, and two from Iowa – Millstream and one of our favorites, Peace Tree. I enjoyed thoroughly the Hitachino Sweet Stout from Japan.  Andrew had a Peace Tree Hop Wrangler, which was too hoppy for me, but he enjoyed it-a lot.  The wine and beer lists change so if you find something you like, write it down.


Overall the experience was good, except that we stood outside for almost 10 minutes in the cold before they opened the doors.  Granted, we were there early, but my good ol’ Iowa hospitality bristled a little at that.  But once we got in the door, we were greeted with friendly wait and host staff and served very quickly.  I will say, if you do go, I would suggest you go early.  It really started to pick up at about 6 pm.  Matt was gracious in answering my questions, and welcomed photos.

OVERALL COST  $$$ (out of $$$$$)

OVERALL EXPERIENCE  🙂 🙂 🙂  (out of 5 🙂  )



More infomation about the Lincoln Wine Bar can be found on their website:

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Cheese Making Part 1 – Buttah

Before I say anything, I have to give major kudos to my husband for staying home with our two sick kids today. Usually we try to tag team when the kids are sick so one of us doesn’t become overwhelmed, but because this project has been in the works for a couple of weeks, and I had the non-homogenized milk, we kinda had to do it – this weekend. So thank you Husband for sacrificing your sanity for cheese.

Read the rest of this entry

Brrr Fest Coralville, Iowa

Who knew Coralville, a small but mighty town near Iowa City, would host 1800 people to drink beer? So we’re calling this a Drink Local Iowa blog post. Coralville hosts several events a year including 4th Fest, Winterfest, A Local Farmers Market (hey, we all know these Farmers Markets can get OUT-OF-CONTROL,) Music in The Park, and several other great activities that keep the town of Coralville’s residents hoppin’ (uh, no pun intended).

Coralville’s first Winter Beer Celebration was held on Saturday January 28 2012 at the beautiful new Coralville Marriott and Conference Center Exhibit Hall. From 11-1, you could go on an exclusive hard-hat tour of the new (to Coralville) local brewery, Back Pocket, also in the newly renovated Iowa River Landing District. Though it was a bit chilly, the wait was short, the sun was out, and we walked into a huge building with heat. So it all worked out. Backpocket is not new to brewing. In fact, Back Pocket currently operates it’s German-Style beer (or should I say bier) brewing operation at Old Man River Restaurant & Brewery in McGregor. The new building is a whopping 15,000 square feet, with an option to double that space if needed. My guess is they’re going to need it.

There were forty-one microbrewers at Brrr Fest, twenty of them from Iowa. Everything from small (but popular) breweries like Sutliff Cider (which was technically classified as a mix between a beer and a champagne or wine-so what the heck, let’s call it a beer for now) to well known breweries like Rock Bottom.

How we Landed at the Brrr Fest

My husband has a micro-micro-micro brewing operation out of our basement that is meant for our own enjoyment and we’ve become sort of beer snobs. The likes of Busch Light never see the light of our refrigerator. In fact, one corner of our fridge is dedicated to those beautiful amber bottles with fun lables – or no labels. I’ve grown to enjoy less hoppy and more intense beers like stouts and bocks. My husband likes more hoppy varieties like American Pale Ales and Reds. So that is what we tasted. Time was limited, and our livers could only work so fast, so we tried what we liked in moderation. But you can read more about our beer adventures on My Husband’s Homebrew. So naturally, my husband couldn’t resist the temptation to attend (he would get TWO glasses if we both got tasting tickets…) and was looking forward to the hard hat tour of Back Pocket.


On With The Tasting

I am only going to list my top three, because you can’t sit here all day and read about every one that I tasted. And I tried to stick with tasting from Iowa Breweries, though there were breweries from all over the midwest. Microbrew crews traveled from Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and of course came from all parts of Iowa.

Peace Tree Brewing

ImageIn my opinion, the star of the show, the belle of the ball, the bon vivant was Peace Tree Brewing Company out of Knoxville. Don’t get me wrong, there were a LOT of beers that were wonderful by other brewers, and some that I even liked a little better. But the fun and fresh merchantry of Peace Tree’s uber hip staff (not to mention the cocoa-nator…yeah, you read that right…) made Peace Tree one of the breweries with the longest lines and happiest tasters. Not only are they interesting and fun and hip, they know their beer and they know how to sell it. Most importantly, they’re not afraid to try new things. As I bumbled my way to the front, I saw it. The cocoa infuser dubbed the cocoa-nator. I’m not exactly sure how they spell it, because frankly I was more interested in the process of infusing beer and chocolate. Brilliant!

The Black River Gumbo Stout was wonderfully chocolaty and smooth with a slight but pleasant aftertaste. The complex flavor created by six different malts and three varieties of hops made the stout interesting and full bodied. This is a beer to drink with a big steak, a slice of dark chocolate, or to add into a hearty stew. The Blonde Fatale, a Belgian style unfiltered blond ale with light hops and light but full flavor and high ABV (Alcohol By Volume) of 8.5% (most beers are 4-6% ABV.) was also very tasty and is one I will definitely look for this summer.

We didn’t spend a lot of time here, because we’ve tried many of their beers they had at the fest already, and the lines were long and getting longer. So we tried a couple we hadn’t and bought some merch. Which you can also do on their website. I did wait to stroke the brewmaster’s beard for $1 (I’ll do just about anything for this blog) but alas we ran out of time, and he was quite busy.

Raccoon River Brewing Company


David Coy Brewmaster Raccoon River Brewing Company

Raccoon River Brewing Company out of Des Moines takes a more culinary approach to brewing with interesting combinations, food pairings, and the beer equivalent of a brew rainbow with brews ranging from a “tall grass” light to a flavorful vanilla ale to the more heavy dark stone crusher stouts. Another brewery with long lines and hoppy tasters, (har har) Raccoon River had everything from a whisky barrel aged stout to a very popular (and favorite of this gal) vanilla cream ale. At first, I tried the Stone Crusher Imperial Stout, which was complex and full bodied with a pleasant aftertaste. Andrew tried the Vanilla Cream Ale, which he didn’t care for (but he doesn’t like sweet flavored beers) but I loved. It was a cross between a light beer and a cream soda. Next up was the Barrel Aged Stone Crusher Imperial Stout. This stout was similar in flavor to the original Imperial Stout, but being aged in Templeton Rye oak barrels added an interesting (but wonderful) whisky flavor to the background of the smoky foreground of the stout. This beer packs a punch at a whopping 12.5% APV. The type of beer to savor with a nice hearty meal. Then the brewmaster, David Coy, suggested I step aside and he would let me try their “Black and Tan,” a combination of the Barrel Aged Stone Crusher Imperial Stout and the Vanilla Cream Ale. WOW! What a combination! The mellow sweet flavor of the Vanilla Cream Ale cut the more heavy flavor of the Barrel Aged Stone Crusher Imperial Stout, making it very easy to drink. Raccoon River will be on my list of places to stop the next time we go to Des Moines.

Keg Creek Brewing Company

Keg Creek Brewing C ompany @ Brrr Fest

Keg Creek Brewing Company from Glenwood had probably my favorite stout of the event. The Sharp Street Stout. Andrew decided to try the Keg Creek IPA, which he noted on his sheet as “good IPA” which is a high compliment coming from “the man of few words.” Keg Creek Brewing Company seems to be a smaller, but up and coming local microbrewery with a ton of talent and potential. The people working the event were very friendly, knowledgeable, and beer-focused showing a definite love for their craft. At the event, this brewery had a very local, unpretentious, very comfortable, but very knowledgeable well-crafted feel. According to their website, the brewery hosts many events in their taproom, including everything from book signings to tastings featuring other microbreweries. Keg Creek prides itself on their “history as home brewers” and their love of the process, experimentation, and education. Which may be part of why I enjoyed their booth. Keg Creek offers four regular brews, with seasonal or specialty brews on occasion. Wabash Wheat, Breakdown Brown Ale, Keg Creek IPA, and Sharp Street Stout. They also featured a specialty batch of Black Lager that I didn’t get to taste, but wish I would have. The Sharp Street Stout was an outstanding stout with a strong coffee/cocoa flavor but not over powering and very smooth. As a fan of both coffee and chocolate, this immediately made it’s way into my palate memory. Their motto that day was “don’t be afraid of the dark” and they were right. The Keg Creek IPA was a hoppy American IPA (or more appropriate, APA) that was less hoppy than an India Pale Ale but more hoppy than some of the other APA’s I’ve tried. It was darker than most Pale Ales and had a good sweet (caramel) flavor, with little aftertaste. Even though this was a fairly bold APA, it is good for the intermediate beer connoisseur to break into the wide world of Pale Ale beers.

ImageLike I said, there were 17 other Iowa Microbrews at this event. I wasn’t able to hit them all, but most of the ones I did hit, had pretty good beer. The 1800+ people who showed up at the sold-out event can corroborate my claims.

If you visit any of these breweries, please tell them you saw them here! Drink Safe and Smart so you can enjoy your beer for longer!