Formosa Iowa City

Living in the Midwest, it sometimes seems like you can never get the fresh sushi you oh so desire. I searched around the downtown area to find a sushi restaurant that doesn’t cost you your week’s pay. I came across the very social-media-present Formosa, and can say for myself that their food not only looked great, but it tasted even better!

I sat down with manager Vita Liya, who has worked there over 5 years, in the restaurant’s lounge area just after close to talk a little about the restaurant. There was upbeat music with no words playing in the background – something you would hear in a high-end fast-paced restaurant. There are two entrances – one through the ped mall, and the other from Hotel Vetro’s lobby.

The look of Formosa may imply you would be paying big bucks for the food you’re getting, but don’t be fooled by the fancy appaulstry and folded napkins. They are very aware their biggest percentage customers are college students from the University of Iowa, and their prices reflect that. They have a lot of great deals, such as $4 rolls, to gain more customers who will then see their already low prices and want to come back.

I asked Liya how Formosa tries to keep their connection to the study body, and her answer didn’t surprise me because they are constantly popping up on my Facebook account and Twitter already.

Liya said to keep their social media presence constant they host a lot of contests, posts on “how to” on their Facebook, and encourage interaction with followers by asking questions. Their “how to” posts consist of things such as how to use chopsticks, how to do a saki bomb, or how to eat sushi properly. They try to post educational things on their page as well, for example, they will give information on why fish is healthy for your diet.

Another way they connect to the student body is by giving some of their profits as donations for student organizations, events, foundations, and greek houses. One way they do this is by creating a roll for a specific organization, such as Dance Marathon, and a certain percentage of that sell goes directly back to that organization.

What Formosa has to offer that most similar Iowa City restaurants don’t is a fun and young atmosphere that also is welcoming to families, and is more upbeat rather than relaxing.

A unique factor about their menu items, more specifically their sushi selection, is that they incorporate things that are familiar. Names of their rolls are informal, but they are used to create a visual of what the roll looks like. If you order the caterpillar roll, your sushi is going to be designed to look like a caterpillar.

Sushi is not the only thing found on their menu. They also carry common appetizers, fresh asian wraps, spicy crab salad, entrees with chicken, baked fish, soups, drinks, and more.

Liya insisted that a lot of people are intimidated by sushi or afraid to try sushi, but a lot their menu is first-timer friendly. They have cooked sushi options so you’re not going to eat a piece of salmon right away. There are a lot of options to ease your way into it.

Some great news for lazy college students or those who are stuck at work is that they just began a delivery service at the beginning of March. (319-338-8880)

So, for those of us who are craving some sushi, want a fun place to go to, and are in the Iowa City area, Formosa is the place to be.

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Moonrakers & one.twenty.six : A profile on meat done right.

It’s somewhat hard to miss – the narrow entryway leading up steep steps to a city-like restaurant called Moonrakers. The circular purple and yellow sign hanging just above the door. Next door you find small windows, and the words ” one twenty six” spelled out. Twin doors reflect each other, one going in, and one going up.

One twenty six, which opened it’s doors in 2000, is owned by the same person, Mathew Chackalackal, as Moonrakers, which opened in 2011.

They are two separate restaurants, but share the same quality of food: vegetarian fed meat, local produce (when possible), and homemade bread.

I sat down with Mathew and talked about his restaurant’s concept, and why he does things a bit different than most restaurants in the Iowa City area. His meat is vegetarian fed, it’s hormone free, it’s antibiotic free. His reasoning?

“We can verify the source,” says Mathew.“I got into this largely because when I take my kids out I make sure it meets all this criteria, and it’s really hard to find.”

He stated that when he opened up Moonrackers he still wanted to keep those standards.

“I was hoping that I could get young people to be able to differentiate. Not just purely by the taste, but by what goes into it and the reasons for going with that. Even if you look at our hamburger buns they are made in-house fresh. All it has in it are eggs, canola oil, flour, yeast, salt, and sugar, that’s it.”

Mathew explained, “When we get it, we get meat that has met all this criteria – no hormones, no antibiotics.We know what goes into it, we butcher the meat in-house, and we grind it in-house fresh.”

To provide clarity as to why this is so important to him, Mathew came up with a possible situation.

“If there is some sort of outbreak, and if you know that this came from one particular farm, I can tell with certainty to my customers “Don’t worry you can eat this.” But usually what happens is meat comes from so many different places. So let’s say you go to the local meat locker, they sell all the nice cuts of meat you know the tenderloin, your rib eye, your round steak- all those they are taking out, and then they take what you cannot use for anything and it all goes into a meat grinder, and it comes out looking like ground beef. And it could be local, it could be all those things, but it could have come from 20 different farms, they don’t know what cut went into it, and out comes this burger which when you taste it if you add enough stuff to it you can’t even tell. That’s most of the burgers you find in most places.”

Mathew encourages people to ask questions about the meat they use, and one of his number one goals is to have students ask more, and not just his restaurant but in all other restaurants they are consuming food in.

“I kind of want students to ask “What is this meat and why does it have to be vegetarian fed?” That’s my goal,” Mathew said. “To have young people try it and ask. When they go to other places they should ask “Where did this beef come from?” “Which cow did it come from?” “Which farm did it come from?” “What if there is a recall?” “Am I going to get madcow disease from this?” he encouraged.

He stated that what he would like to do is to serve healthy, high-quality, tasty food, preferably local if available. That his restaurants try to be organic, natural, and local whenever possible.

“When my kids come in and eat it it is no different then what they would be eating at home. So it gives me a certain comfort,” Mathew said. “To me, that means I can say with certainty, there’s nothing bad in our meat.”

Moonrakers and one twenty six both decline any advertising opportunities. Mathew explained that they highly rely on word-of-mouth. He wants to attract a younger crowd, and to do so, he keeps his prices as low as he can.

During dinner, a burger and fries is only $8, but if you are wanting lunch, the price is lowered to $6.

Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

 

A friend of mine is spending her time in Costa Rica lately (jealous!). She was inspired by my blog to begin her own, and boy does she have some GREAT recipes. Her blog is entitled “Pure Life” and caters to the artistic person with a love of food and travel.

If I could travel the world just as she does, I would be a pretty happy person, but instead I will just reside in Iowa City, which still has it’s positives.

I’ve heard Iowa City referred to as the “melting pot” of Iowa. There are so many foreign students who come to the University of Iowa, and the clash of this creates some pretty interesting restaurants to pop up. I think I should feel lucky to have the beautiful ped mall just blocks away from where I live!

Although I would love to eat out here every day (which is an extremely hard thing to resist), I know that I am a college student on a budget. I also realize that eating out every single day would not be the greatest decision for my health.

One of the biggest reasons I want to eat out all the time though is convenience. I am always on a tight schedule, so finding the time to cook everyday is extremely difficult.

But, with fresh ingredients, lots of color, and easy to follow directions, Joanna’s blog makes my mouth water, and want to attempt the recipes she has posted.

Her recent post on “Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin”  seems like the perfect fit for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare food.

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Although it takes two hours total to cook, the preparation is simple, and it would be easy to do other things while the delicious dish is in the oven.

I suggest you give it a try!

An Interview on Meat with Midori Gingerich- HyVee Dietitian

Brianna Sudrla:

In recent years there has been a sparked debate about the industrialized meat market and whether or not the new methods are causing negative affects on the health of it’s consumers.

Today I am speaking with Midori Gingerich about this issue.  Midori is a registered dietitian at the Coralville, Iowa, Hy-Vee.

Well thank you for talking with me today about this Midori.

Midori Gingerich:

Sure!

Brianna:

Just to jump right into it, my first question was do you believe that food additives affect our hormones and our health?

Midori:

A long time ago we didn’t even have to worry about that because people grew their own food and made their own product, and we weren’t as concerned with the hormones and additives and things that were added into food. And, as we become more industrialized in this country, that has become more of an issue. It may affect our health. There definitely needs to be more research done on the topic.

Brianna:

Does meat like chicken’s with added steroids to make them grow faster and larger have an affect on our bodies?

Midori:

They have done some studies where they kind of linked that the steroids in the chickens is leading to early puberty in girls, but there’s been semi links. It has not been concrete I guess I would say. So, they definitely need more research in that area is what I was picking up on. And also, what else is different in their environment than say 10 20 50 years ago as well? So is it just the hormones or is it other things we’re doing in our environment as well? But, “A” more studies need to be done, and “B” finding out what are the other causes or other things that may be causing that as well too.

You know being aware of those kinds of things, and trying to choose the lean cuts of beef as far as for our health more whole foods, staying away from the fattier cuts of beef as well.

Brianna:

Do you think there are certain types of meats we should sort of steer clear from?

Midori:

As far as health, we want to be choosing the leaner cuts of beef like a loin or a round cut is going to be our more lean cuts. It’s not that I can’t have that porterhouse steak, but definitely monitoring how often I’m having it and what’s my serving size. But, just making sure we’re getting a variety too. I mean you can eat lean beef everyday and that’s great lean beef can actually be very good for the heart, but also making sure we’re getting in the omega-3’s from the salmon, and getting some variety in with the pork, the chicken, and the turkey as well.

Brianna:

Okay, would you say meat is still essential to our diet though?

Midori:

Um, yeah! Meat is definitely still essential as a part of a well-balanced plate and a well-balanced meal. I mean obviously meat fits in as part of the protein portion of our diet. And, there’s other things besides meat that we can use for well-balanced protein source, but meat does offer a lot of vitamins and minerals. I mean there are people who are vegans and vegetarians for different personal reasons and that’s not a bad thing. It’s definitely about them getting a balance in their diet. But, if someone was going strictly vegan or vegetarian strictly because they think it’s healthier, you can still have a very healthy diet incorporating meat. Beef for instance, since I’m talking about that one, has a lot of iron, has B vitamins, B6 and B12, it has phosphorus, and zinc. It has a lot of essential nutrients that we wouldn’t find in our beans and starchy vegetables and things like that.

Brianna:

When purchasing meat is there things we should look out for?

Midori:

We used to think that it was the big thing was looking at the cholesterol in the meat and food in particular for it’s effects on our heart health. We’re finding more and more cholesterol, it is important we want to monitor how much cholesterol we are taking in through dietary means, but one thing that is even more of a factor is saturated fat. So checking out for the saturated fat content in the different cuts of meat, looking for more of those lean cuts, watching for the portion sizes, or remembering the size of the palm of my hand, or the size of a deck of cards that’s one portion size. Typically your fresh meat coming out of the case, it’s again less processed than the frozen or the canned ones.

Brianna:

So which meat do you buy and eat?

Midori:

All of the above to be honest. I’ll do the lean beef, but I do chicken, turkey, salmon and fish, here in the Midwest we don’t eat enough of that. Just trying to get the lean cuts of beef, get the plain cuts, and then I season it up when I go home too. I can marinate it myself at home, and then I know exactly what’s going on my food too.

Brianna:

What lunchmeat would you recommend to college students who makes sandwiches three times a week?

Midori:

Yeah, yeah! And lunchmeat is a great source of protein. It tends to be, well depends what kind you buy, but there’s like the roast beef, there’s the chicken and turkey, they’re leaner cuts of meat, which is great. So I would say sticking to more of the sliced lunchmeats.

Brianna:

Well thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to me, I really appreciate it.

Midori:

Yeah I’m glad it worked out!

**For more information on Midori Gingerich, please visit her profile on the HyVee webpage**

**Below you can find the full unedited interview**

A Reference For My Fellow Iowans

I thankfully came across this blog about a year ago. Ever since then, I keep coming back. Whether it be for some great recipes, a workout idea, or for advice on places to travel, this girl knows her stuff.

It’s so awesome that I have it as a tab on the top of my browser so it’s just one click away!

I am talking about Kristin Porter. Her blog is entitled “Iowa Girl Eats” and that is truly what it’s all about. She is like any other person in the Midwest who loves to eat! Sounds a lot like me.

She breaks her blog up into three parts – Eat Well, Run Often and Travel Far.

My personal Favorite- Eat Well.

Kristin does a phenomenal job of connecting her recipes to stories. It creates a relationship with her readers, and, for me, influences me to actually try the recipes.

When I read any random recipe online I sometimes feel like it is too advanced for me, or that the ingredients are not an everyday thing I can get at the store. Because Kristin is from Des Moines, I know that what she can’t find at the grocery store I can. I also love her voice. She is so relaxed and down-to-earth. It makes it seem like it doesn’t matter where I live, I can eat something fancy that is usually only served in the “big cities”.

The most recent post that exhibits this type of writing is “Spicy Sausage Pasta Skillet” where she begins her recipe talking about her weekend.

Kristin’s workout tab really caters to runners who need progressive training. Personally I am not a runner, but according to this article by KGAN-TV, Kristin’s blog is having a positive impact on the health of her readers.

Finally, the travel aspect of her blog – great for someone who lives in the Midwest, wants to travel on a budget, and not go overseas. Although there are some foreign travel writings, her main travels stay within the American borders to places like Minneapolis, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Las Vegas, and New York.

I hope you take some time to look at Kristin Porter’s “Iowa Girl Eats” and fall in love with her numerous recipes for all appetites, love of travel, and stabilization of health.

“Easy as That” Sloppy Joe

Buying a bunch of individual pound of beef packages, and throwing it in the freezer is something all college students should do. The amount of things you can do with a pound of hamburger are almost limitless. You can cook it up and add it to a Hamburger Helper meal, you can make it into taco meat in which you could make quesadillas or tacos, or you could simply add some seasoning and make hamburgers.

What I do is take the pound of meat out of the freezer and place it into a bowl then into my fridge. This is when I know I will be cooking it up to make something.

You can very easily take the meat from the package and place it into the microwave on the defrost setting. Either will work.

Tonight, I had some meat I had thawed out, and decided to make some Sloppy Joes. The ingredients are simple:

  • 1 Pound Hamburger Meat
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Chili Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper

**I never make it the same way twice, so there are no specific measurements. I will talk you through the process though.**

First, brown the thawed hamburger meat in a pan. Add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder for tasting. If you want a little kick you can add a lot of chili powder as well. I usually add about 2 pinches worth.

Drain the meat. I learned a tip from the dietitian at the local HyVee store that if you want to reduce fat, you can rinse the meat with hot water in the step.

If you rinse the meat, add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder after.

Add about a 1/3 cup ketchup to the meat. Then, drizzle mustard over the top layer. Depending on how saucy you want the meat to be, add as much BBQ sauce as you would like.

Mix it all together, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

Next, slather the meat on some bread. If desired you can add some ketchup, mustard, and pickles.

The "Easy as That" sloppy joe sandwich!

The “Easy as That” sloppy joe sandwich!

Now, ENJOY!