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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.

FOOD

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.

WINE AND BEER

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.

EXPERIENCE

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 🙂  )

 

PLEASE SEE THE NEW EAT LOCAL IOWA PAGE TO FIND OUT WHAT THOSE SILLY SYMBOLS MEAN

More infomation about the Lincoln Wine Bar can be found on their website:  http://www.foodisimportant.com

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Dittos Stanwood, Iowa

Ditto’s is one of those wonderful restaurants that you find in almost every small town.  Especially in Iowa. You can order a skillet breakfast any time of the day, have a porkchop home style lunch complete with mashed potatoes, and supper of liver and onions with a hand dipped milk shake and finish off with a huge slice of homemade pies (if you’re lucky enough to get one before they’re gone.)

Brighton and I and occasionally Andrew, can be found on a lazy Sunday morning having breakfast.  We occasionally go there for lunch or dinner and scoop up their huge nummy tenderloin.

Service is usually pretty good, they’re often busy and so it may take a while to get your first cup of coffee, but besides that, you won’t wait long.  The owner can often be found in the kitchen in the morning and early afternoons.  Speaking of coffee, they serve Farmers Brothers coffee, which is usually served at these kinds of little diners.

Dittos is located on Highway 30 on your way out of Stanwood or on your way into Stanwood – depending on which way you’re coming – or going.  Stanwood is on the north side of Hwy 30.  You can’t really miss it.   And you shouldn’t.