This week, finally, The Webster opened in Iowa City, Iowa.
The Webster is the long-delayed restaurant owned and operated by my daughter Riene and her chef, husband Sam Gelman. They named the restaurant after Sam’s paternal grandfather.
The kids moved to Iowa City – Sam’s hometown – after long stints in NYC and in Boston where they met. Sam worked at Momofuku restaurants working his way up to Chief Culinary Officer. He’s a fabulous chef and I can honestly say the meals he’s created for us over the years have been memorable. I still dream about his cassoulet.
Riene started slinging pizzas here in Tucson. Her specialty was the front of the house and by the time she moved to New York she was working as a manager at Tom Colicchio’s Craft. Her knowledge of wine is impressive. She always seems to find exactly what I’m looking for.
Anyway, they moved to Iowa City to open their own place. They had a pretty specific idea of what they wanted: Fresh and local quality ingredients prepared with finesse and passion and a distinctly Midwestern touch.
Things were moving along at a decent pace when covid hit and everything came to a screeching slow down.
Little by little Iowa City reopened and then they were able to put the finishing touches on The Webster.
The first dinner service was on May 11th. The only thing missing was us.
Iowa is a bountiful place. Green fields spread in every direction growing corn and wheat and other essential crops. Rivers and lakes are filled with all manner of fish. Pork reigns supreme, but quality grown beef is plentiful. In recent years, young artisans have begun growing and producing craft provisions of all kinds.
The menu brings these products to the table all under Sam’s steady hand.
There are handmade breads, cornbread and biscuits, vegetable-focused small plates, seasonally-inspired house made fresh pasta dishes, and larger plates for two to three people. That’s a fun way to eat, adding to a spirited conviviality to the meal.
One of the pasta offerings, duck egg tagliatelle, cultured butter and reserve Midwest cheese, is a take on fettuccini alfredo and the buckwheat chitarra, spring peas, guanciale, egg is Sam’s ode to pasta carbonara.
The shareable large plates include roasted Iowa chicken, crispy leg, miche, jus supreme is available half or whole.
I’m hoping the whole Wisconsin trout with spring pea & radish, buttermilk and smoked roe will still be on the menu when visit later in the year. The fish might be but I’m sure, given the seasonality of the menu, the accompaniments will be different.
Sides have their own section and include warm nugget potato salad, pella bologna, scallion, togarashi (a sweet, spicy condiment that is popping up on modern menus.)
I sure wish we could be there….