The fertile soil of the Loess Hills boasts a rich history, dating back to 1857, of sprouting wine-yielding fruit. Under the umbrella of the Western Iowa Grape Growers Association, a confederacy of local wineries opens its doors to host informative tours, tastings, and seminars on extracting rumors from grapevines. Palate-broadening enophiles can peruse the listings of area award winners, and at-home winemakers will enjoy Pick Your Own Grapes get-togethers and amateur-level awards. Other events include annual festivals, contests, and elegant wine dinners.
There's a reason why the sandwiches at Keller's Deli and Cafe have brought local customers and food critics back for seconds and thirds. Owner and head baker Cameron Keller studied artisan and sourdough baking at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, learning the ins and outs of classic European recipes. He begins his bordalais bread with a 100-year-old German sourdough starter to impart maximum flavor, and he tops the hot, chewy bread with deli meats. Of the house-brined corned-beef brisket, Cityview Food Dude Jim Duncan says, "No other corned beef in town compares for tenderness and flavor." And after biting into the thick slices of it on the reuben sandwich, the author of the Distilled Opinion food blog remarked, "I was amazed because I’d never had corned beef quite like this." Other sandwiches of note include the handcrafted meatloaf, which boasts ground beef and an apple-cider-vinegar tomato sauce. The outdoor patio is an ideal spot to read a book or construct a sun visor out of a baguette.
The shifting seasons bring beauty and bounty to Ditmars Orchard & Vineyard, from the baby buds and bursting petals of spring to the branches heavy with peaches, apricots, cherries, and apples during summer and autumn. In 1994, the Ditmars family laid 300 trees into the ground as a family project, but slowly expanded their hobby into a full-time orchard, now cultivating almost 4,000 trees.
In the summer, fat juicy strawberries nestle in rows ready to be picked, and in fall, fields overflow with acres of bulbous orange pumpkins ready to become jack-o’-lanterns or a horseman’s fancy new hat. Amid fiery foliage and crisp autumn air, families adventure through the onsite corn maze and attend fun fall festivals that feature face painting and hayrides. Kids can clamber over tractor tires and whoosh down slides in the orchard’s large playground. Guests reenergize at the country kitchen, where lunch selections include apple cider, frozen fruit pies, and fresh-made chicken-salad sandwiches, as well as native Iowa wines available by the bottle or glass.
Chefs at Friendship Chinese Restaurant forge their pan-Chinese dishes with an intense pride and dedication to the tradition of well-crafted cuisine. Entrees include macadamia-nut-crusted fresh cod, almond-crusted shrimp, and "barbarian" steak with sauteed asparagus, mushroom, and chili cabernet sauce. The eatery's authentic tastes and modern twists are available for delivery as well as dine-in eating amid the dining room's dark hardwood decor and rows of Buddha-head statues.