After this long winter, the Iowa food and lifestyle bloggers are also celebrating summer. They come from all corners of the state and write about a wide variety of topics including farming, restaurant reviews, parenthood, food and DIY projects. What they all have in common is that they love writing about Iowa! Join six of them as they take you on a tour of their favorite summer flavors in Iowa.
Whippy Dip, Decorah
When I think of Iowa summer treats, I automatically think of traveling to The Whippy Dip in Decorah, Iowa. The Whippy Dip is a seasonal stand that serves creamy and rich soft serve ice cream. A neat side note is that the Whippy Dip sources its milk from a local dairy. You wouldn’t expect anything different in Iowa‘s dairy country! Whippy Dip keeps its ice cream simple by offering only vanilla and chocolate flavors then letting you make your dish unique by providing many mix-ins. I always go for a Cookie Dough Tornado with chocolate ice cream. They double layer the delicious chocolate soft serve with real cookie dough (not the cookie dough balls found at other ice cream places. I’m talking about a scoopful of real cookie dough so you can have some in every bite) and mix it up. Then they add a little extra cookie dough on top! If you’re passing through Decorah this summer, or if you’re within an hour’s drive, be sure to make a stop at the Whippy Dip. You won’t be disappointed in this small town, walk-up ice cream stand that’s become a nostalgic landmark.
QDogs BBQ Company, Marion
Got a hankering for some smoky, saucy, fall-apart brisket on a soft bun? What about a juicy pork loin wrapped in bacon and slow-smoked? Or some perfectly seasoned wings? QDogs BBQ Company is a locally owned food truck that specializes in mouth-watering smoked pork, wings, and made-from-scratch sides based out of Marion, Iowa. Formerly parked a few blocks from Marion’s Uptown District, the flashy food truck was slinging up some grub for lunch-goers, oftentimes running out and closing up shop a few hours later. If you find yourself in Marion, we recommend first trying a brisket sandwich at QDogs with one or two of their sides. The seasoned chicken wings are ‘dry’, rather than wet and also don’t disappoint. Later this summer QDogs will open their restaurant, also in Marion, which will offer more extensive options than offered in their food truck, as well as more stable hours that aren’t found in the food truck industry. You can connect with QDogs on Facebook or at their newly developed website.
Kelli is the voice behind The Sustainable Couple, a blog that documents the eco-friendly, sustainable living pursuits of a young Eastern Iowa couple. You can find from-scratch recipes, gardening posts, eco-friendly and frugal DIY projects, as well as stories about living part-time in a camper as Kelli and her husband travel the country for work. Connect with The Sustainable Couple on Facebook or on Pinterest.
Red Granite Farm, Boone County & Ames
I love the taste of veggies straight from the garden…warm cherry tomatoes, fresh peppers and onions for homemade pizza or fajitas. Don’t get me wrong, I also love buying these things in the grocery store in January, when there’s no way to grow them in Iowa, but nothing beats that fresh-from-the-garden taste! You know what I don’t love? Gardening. So, I just let my neighbors do it for me. And when I want some fresh veggies, or a cantaloupe or watermelon for a sweet treat, I run over to Red Granite Farm and take advantage of their expertise and delicious produce.
Nicole and Steve both have horticulture degrees from Iowa State and they offer the best fresh produce (and sweet corn!) around. Their farm is open every Friday, but they also set up at the North Grand Farmers Market in Ames on Saturday mornings. And for those of you who DO garden, Nicole sells hundreds of varieties of Proven Winners perennials, too!
Heartland Farms, Waterloo & Fat Tuesdays, Dubuque
Since moving to the Cedar Valley, my favorite taste of summer is, hands down, picking strawberries at Heartland Farms. Located just outside Waterloo, this quaint family farm is a popular family destination all year round.
One hot summer day last June, I brought my toddler son to pick strawberries at Heartland Farms. Not only was it fun to pick our own, but these tiny berries also tasted so sweet and satisfying when eaten in the warm sun. Strawberries purchased in a grocery store just cannot compare. We purchased a TON of strawberries to take home for a reasonable price and enjoyed them for several days after.
I moved to Iowa in 2001 to attend college in Dubuque. My favorite “ taste of summer” in Dubuque are the tacos at Fat Tuesday’s. It is a great place to just hang out with some amazing friends. I am sure you will leave Fat’s with a few more friends than when you walked in. And the tacos, they’re amazingly good.
Kristen Greazel is a creative foodie and vegetable lover who blogs at Make The Best Of Everything. She writes about mostly food, but also about her family and crafts. She is a Chicago area transplant who moved to Iowa to attend college and stayed. She is married to an Iowa native and is raising two young Iowa native boys. Check out her recipes on Facebook.
JR Donuts, Iowa State Fair, Des Moines
The Iowa State Fair is the biggest to-do in our family during the year. All within a close proximity to our home we can participate in livestock shows, food competitions, and, most importantly, make our sacred State Fair food pilgrimage. As a family, we attend every day of the Iowa State Fair. I typically enter multiple baking contests daily and we have various livestock shows that we attend as exhibitors and friends of exhibitors. The single mainstay in each trip to the Iowa State Fair since I’ve been a young child is the bag of JR Donuts I purchase every single day up on the Rock Island ‘triangle’ east of the Administration Building.
They are created before your eyes the second you order them. They’re magnificently fried, piping hot, perfectly tender in texture, dripping in cinnamon sugar and the all-around best Fair anytime treat. You’ll be sure to find me inhaling a bag on the way to the Swine barn or wandering around the grounds at any time of the day with sugar-laden fingertips.
Cristen Clark is a farm-Mom and hog producer in Central Iowa. She’s a passionate contest cook who blogs about agriculture and heritage recipes at Food and Swine.
Farmers Market Brats, Mason City
I’m excited for my first, real summer living in Iowa. Last summer, my husband and I were living in a hotel while we searched for a house so we hope to take advantage of all that Iowa has to offer this time around. One experience I was able to enjoy last summer was the little farmers market in Mason City. It’s not a large farmers market, but it’s certainly vibrant. When we lived in the hotel, I bought baked goods, jam and berries, and when we moved into our house, I cooked our first meals with fresh vegetables.
A unique item I remember are these Greek Koulouria cookies sold by a couple of friendly ladies. I’m especially excited to visit the market for the first time this season for my first taste of grilled meat. There’s a stand that always sells grilled bratwursts with trays of chopped onion and saurkraut and I can rarely resist. It’s a simple pleasure, but one I can’t wait to revisit.