Though nicknamed “The Tall Corn State”, Iowa, one of America’s Heartland states, has more to boast when it comes to food than just golden ears. In fact, thanks to a rich history shaped by foreign immigrants, Iowa’s urban centers offer specialties that range from Bosnian coffee to blue cheese, hand-made chocolates to German Mettwurst (cured sausage) and Mexican migas (a breakfast dish of scrambled eggs, corn tortillas and chorizo, amongst other things). Clearly there’s no cause to lose one’s self indefinitely in the corn maze.
In fact, there are so many regional specialities that it creates problems when it comes time to label anything “Iowan” in general, though the loose meat sandwiches popularized by Maid-Rite (also known in similar form as “Taverns” in Sioux City) come close, as does the ever present pork tenderloin, whether it’s in roast form or making an appearance breaded, in a sandwich. Beyond that it’s a smorgasboard. Dutch pastries and recipes prevail in towns like Pella, while in Waverly the trend is Bavarian and German cuisine. Newton is known for its association with Maytag blue cheese, Marshalltown gets a nod for its fabulous Lillie Mae Chocolates and Lynnville for the production of sweet sorghum cane. Beyond ethnic eats, seek out in season sweet Muscatine melons, juicy berries, plump tomatoes and a range of locally farmed meats at a nearby Farmer’s Market.
Despite a series of set-backs in the early 20th century, Iowa’s wineries have well recovered and now produce an intriguing selection of less common varietals, from Steuben, a light red, to Chancellor, North, St. Croix and Edelweiss, the latter a pleasant fruity white. Ice Wine, made from grapes frozen on the vine, hails here from Ames, but venture on to the Amana Colonies near Cedar Rapids for a taste of Dandelion Wine, or an Old Time Root Beer and draft beer at the state’s oldest microbrewery, Millstream Brewing Co., before calling it a day.