Four area restaurants that beg you to leave room for dessert
Big Grove Brewery
101 Main St, Solon
Big Grove Brewery has made itself indispensable as the only brew pub in Solon and Iowa City and one of the most popular local breweries to carry on tap across the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor. While many come for the delicious and ever-changing beers as well as the Midwest cuisine with a twist, the desserts should not be passed over. Specifically the one which seems too simple to be good: cookies & milk. These three chocolate chip cookies are served warm and gooey (dare I say, perfectly underdone?) alongside a creamy glass of malted milk. Some may say its regressive; I say it’s a classic perfected. Share it with your family and friends or fight your siblings for the last cookie on the plate; believe me, no one would blame you.
1301 5th St, Coralville
A late night munchies shop has been missing from the area for far too long. Hurts Donuts was the answer to many college students’ and hungry donut fiends’ prayers. Open 24/7, this donut shop features a wacky array of fried goodies, from fritters and cinnamon rolls the size of a dinner plate and two inches thick to traditionally sized donuts topped with breakfast cereals, gumballs and bacon. Don’t fret—they also have traditional long johns, glazed cake donuts and classic Bismarcks. You can definitely pick your own options but the best way to go about your sugary adventure is to hand your fate over to the “donut gurus” and let them select your “Hurts a Lot” dozen randomly. These are a crowd pleaser at study fests and shindigs, all hours of the day.
The Pig and Porter
1028 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids
The Pig and Porter blends big city finesse with food cozy enough to remind you of home. A meal of slow-braised beef cheeks or a hot bologna sandwich may seem like more than enough, but you’ll definitely want to save room for their famous bourbon apple cake. This moist, luscious confection seamlessly blends the warm, bold bourbon with the tart granny smith apples, enveloped by the pillow-soft sweet cake. Honestly, get an order to-go if you can’t eat it in-house. Wash down this dessert with an Irish coffee, topped with fresh whipped cream. (Note: No to-go options for the Irish coffee, obviously.)
Jon’s Ice Cream Store and Restaurant
231 W Marengo Rd, Tiffin
This quaint little ice cream shop doesn’t seem like much. The simple yellow building with Americana buntings draped from the awning is en route from Iowa City/Coralville to Oxford, and after a long day swimming or hiking out at F.W. Kent County Park, Jon’s is the perfect respite from the heat. They have a wide selection of soft-serve ice cream and yogurts. All of these can be used to make sundaes or Superwhippers, blended treats which usually feature a baked good such as homemade apple crisp (included in their Caramel Apple Superwhipper) and birthday cake.
Recipe: Panna Cotta
Developed by Ari Ariel, Serves 8
Sorry vegans, gelatin is magical. Nothing proves that more readily that panna cotta. It turns cream and sugar into a luscious but simple dessert. Panna cotta is also exceptionally versatile. Add your favorite spice or herb to the cream as it heats, and you turn this simple mixture into something fancy. I’ve chosen to add a few cardamom pods to mine, but cinnamon, ginger or mint would be great too. You can even get a bit more creative, perhaps adding some rosemary or saffron. Really the sky’s the limit.
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons sugar
8 whole cardamom pods, lightly cracked
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
Neutral oil or non-stick spray
1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream, milk, sugar and cardamom to a simmer. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Remover the saucepan from the heat, cover and let infuse for 30 minutes. Then strain the cream mixture to remove the pods. (You could also pick out the 8 pods.)
2. Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let it stand for a few minutes to dissolve.
3. Reheat the cream mixture until very warm but not boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture. Make sure the gelatin is fully dissolved.
4. Coat eight custard cups with oil or non-stick spray.
5. Pour the mixture into the custard cups and then refrigerate them until set, at least 4 hours.
6. Either serve the panna cotta in the custard cups, or to unmold, run a paring knife around the inside of the cups and then turn them over onto a serving dish.