Festival-goers couldn’t ask for better weather for the World Food Festival of Des Moines. It was a smorgasbord of international delicious cuisine, to say the least.
The smells of cooking, frying and sautéing gave the nose a whirlwind. The festival was lively and colorful. Flags from around the world marked different stands for the melting pot downtown Des Moines this past weekend. There were 20 countries represented by 33 food vendors at the sixth annual festival sponsored by Nationwide. All the vendors had their own stories to tell about their love and desire for their food specialty.
The World Food Festival is held every October in Downtown Des Moines’s East Village. It coincides with the World Food Prize Foundation. The festival is a celebration of Iowa’s different cultures and heritages, and is filled with music, dancing and of course eating. At night there is live music and dancing.
Brandmeyer Popcorn Company, based out of Ankeny, had an array of bagged popcorn for sale and many samples to taste. The best seller is the caramel apple popcorn. The company started in 1969 on the family farm and grew to be the processor and packager of Iowa State and Lotta-Pop popcorn. Brandmeyer grows, makes and sells Lotta-Pop popcorn. If you missed Brandmeyer Popcorn Company this year, they have plans to return next time.
“We will definitely be back next year,” said family friend RaeAnne Johnson. “The people are so nice and it’s a great atmosphere.”
There was a lot of buzz about the L & L European Delight stand, which specializes in European cooking in Chariton. Luda Kosmin, originally from Kiev, Ukraine, informed festival-goers about the tradition of European cooking. The company has brought its family roots to create a one-of-a-kind eatery of mainly Ukrainian and Russian food. L & L’s bestseller is its signature pelmeni—chicken dumplings served with butter and sour cream sauce. The stand also served a better-known dish called borscht, a traditional Ukrainian vegetable soup. This weekend was L & L’s second year at the festival.
Visitors could venture over to the Philippines and to the family business of the Filipino Store. Benilda Roberts moved from the Philippines to America 13 years ago to be with her husband Dwight, where the two started the business in Southridge Mall. They have had a stand at the festival for the past two years.
Roberts said their bestseller is their pork dumpling. The dumplings are made with ground pork, vegetables and carrots wrapped in a wonton wrapper made of flour and steamed pork egg roll shanghai. People might be surprised to find out that another specialty of theirs, chocolate soup, is not a chocolate lover’s paradise, but pork meat cooked in pork blood.
One of the last stops of the day was Saloo’s Cooking, where, surprisingly, Doug Uhlman, Biology laboratory assistant, from Drake University could be found. Uhlman has helped his friend at the Farmers Market on Court Avenue for many years. There, he met Saloo Sadiq and Aisha Syed, owners of Saloo’s Cooking. Uhlman enjoys learning about culture and food, and loves to help whenever he can. Saloo’s Cooking is “a titillation for your taste buds.” Their signature item is a “yet to be named” creamy meat-based lentil soup with naan, an Indian bread.
Sadiq moved from Hyderabad, India, in 1972. She has called Clive home ever since. Sadiq was invited to be a part of the festival, its first year in 2004. Sadiq and her daughter were very welcoming and forthcoming.
Citizens of Des Moines say it a great festival for the fall. Larry and Sharron Hoskinsson, residents of Des Moines, have been coming since the first festival. They come for the atmosphere and tastings and both agree that their favorite stands are anything from Asia.
The World Food Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply, anything from food and agriculture science and technology, to manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and social sciences.
The World Food Prize Foundation is based out of Des Moines and was established in 1994. This week is the annual World Food Prize Week. The Iowa Hunger Summit this Tuesday is the official kick-off to the World Food Prize events. The summit is an all-day event in Des Moines featuring sessions on hunger issues, a “hunger luncheon” (attendees are served meals used by Iowa organizations in hunger alleviation programs) and information about organizations working on projects for food for all. Hunger Summit attracts about 500 people each year.
The event is free and open to the public. If interested in attending, it is held at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown Hotel from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The festival attracts an average of 25,000 people a year. If you didn’t make it to the World Food Festival this year, be sure to make it next October. You can’t beat the $1 samples and lively atmosphere.
“It is a great way for Drake students to come out and get involved in the community, while learning about other cultures—and eating, lots of eating,” said sophomore Michael Boomershine, who attended this year.