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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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Alger’s Pizza Palace Mount Vernon, Iowa

Located on the Main Street in the Historic College town (Home of Cornell College) of Mount Vernon, (we all know College kids take their pizza very VERY seriously) lies a Royal little pizza place called Pizza Palace.

Hawaiian Thick Crust Pizza

Hawaiian Thick Crust Pizza

Oh yum.  Is all I have to say.  Andrew, Brighton, and I stopped by there on a Thursday evening.  The place was almost empty less a few late comers such as ourselves, but the pizza (we ordered the Hawaiian with a thick crust) was absolutely outstanding.

Made by the owner himself, Rawley Alger, the cheese was perfectly melted and browned, the crust was crispy and full of flavor, the ingredients including pineapple and Canadian bacon, didn’t “wet” the pizza down like Hawaiian pizza can sometimes be.  Instead, it was wonderfully fresh and just about the most perfect pizza I have ever had.    In addition, the price is extremely reasonable, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is fun and feels very historic and homey.  A large Hawaiian pizza costs the same, maybe a dollar more, than a large Casey’s specialty pizza on sale.  And for the price of about $14, you get local service, great food, and you get to support a locally and family owned (since 1986) business.  Which just makes it taste a little better… 🙂

Alger’s Pizza Palace is located at 106 1st Street West in Mount Vernon Iowa.  Their phone number (for carry out!) is (319) 895-6971.  If you visit, you can pass the time by searching the mural on the wall for the treasure hunt items listed in the middle on the list. Extra points if you can find the mice (of which only 3 people know the locations of…)

If any coupons are available, you can find them here.

Find out more about Mount Vernon here.

Find out more about Mount Vernon Commerce here.

Fuel Espresso Mount Vernon, Iowa

August 18 2008

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a fascination with Fuel. The place. I can often be seen with a fuel mug or to go cup in my hand on my way to work, on a lazy Sunday Afternoon, on a Saturday getting some work done. I admit it, Fuel is my weakness. The proprietor, Tommie, is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. And if you ever met her mom, (the one who’s great pastry recipes grace the food platters) you’ll know why. And the staff is just as sweet and considerate.

Mount Vernon was chosen as one of Iowa’s Main Street Communities. And Fuel is most definitely a tribute to the town.  Along with other eclectic shops and many antique stores, Mount Vernon is a nice day get away.

Fuel offers several different kinds of independently roasted coffee including: Grumpy Monkey, Organic Love, House, Rocket Fuel, and they make their special Black and Tan. They have a full menu of coffee drinks, hot and cold as well as a counter full of mom’s made from scratch homemade goodness. Which includes fruit cream scones, carrot bars topped with a cream cheese frosting, rice krispie treats, a variety of home made cookies and the occasional Texas Sheet Cake. They also carry an assortment of organic teas, caffeinated and decaf.

The gift part of the shop is just as wonderful. With everything from assorted antique wooden bread bowls to dia de muerto gifts to french soap. If you are looking for something unique, stop here. And have a great cup of joe with a carrot bar.

Kids are always welcome at Fuel, but it’s a little touch and go if you have an antsy toddler from a mom’s point of view. The first time I ever visited fuel, it was after a long walk around Mount Vernon with my then <1 year old child (I think) Anyway, he was in a stroller, a Jeep stroller, made to go on rough terrain. So it’s not small. Tommie, the owner, and her mom welcomed me in and even helped me carry the stroller into the shop. Since then, my son has grown and no longer needs a stroller, and really enjoys going to Fuel. That said, I still keep an eagle eye on him in the shop because he likes all the pretties just as much as mom does 🙂

However, don’t go driving to Mount Vernon expecting Fuel to be open into the wee hours in the morning.  Fuel is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 AM to 5 PM.  So get your java on early in the day.