A cartload of goodies at Gateway Market, a natural and organic food store on Woodland Avenue in Des Moines.
George Formaro never stints. You’ll never get a meager portion at any restaurant the chef/partner oversees (Django, Centro, Malo, et al); ask him to lend you a few vintage matchbooks to illustrate an article on 40 Years of Des Moines Dining, and he’ll hand over his entire collection of hundreds.
So it came as no surprise that when I asked him to tell me about a few of his favorite things at Gateway Market, he sent photos of 25 fascinating products to consider. I whittled down his list to a mere cartload; while everything I purchased proved delightful, here’s what I keep thinking about most:
Crushed Aleppo Pepper: “When you look at these chile flakes, you think they’re going to be hot, but instead they have this unique earthy flavor,” Formaro says. The burnished-red flakes also remind him of the chiles his father used to grow and dry—chiles his mother added to “almost every vegetable dish she would make.” I personally thought they were divine sprinkled atop a Tuscan-esque white-bean salad just before serving. ($6.99/2 ounces)
Nueske’s Smoked Bacon: Smoked is the operative word here—when I sizzled this bacon up, my kitchen smelled (irresistibly) like a smokehouse. Formaro says this is one of his favorite bacons, and it’s great for BLT season. He recommends not cooking to uber-crisp, stiff-as-a-plank form. “It’s great when it has some give to it,” he says. ($10.99/12 ounces)
Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter: Why was one bacon-loving carnivore telling another bacon-loving carnivore to buy vegan butter? “I want to continue to eat meat and bacon for as long as I can,” Formaro says. “So I try to balance this by eating more plant-based foods when I can, especially when they taste really good.” He loves spreading this butter on toast made from his multigrain bread for breakfast. I used the coconut-oil and cashew-milk-anchored butter for simple fried potatoes; they browned and crisped beautifully and tasted impossibly good. ($7.99/8 ounces)
Other must-haves included Mimolette cheese—a mild, nutty-sweet, strikingly red-orange cheese that, Formaro says, “you’ll wonder why you don’t buy more often”—and the Rustichella d’Abruzzo brand of pasta, a life-changing product I’ve lauded in the past.
Gateway Market is at 2002 Woodland Ave.; 515-243-1754; gatewaymarket.com.