Rapid Creek brings farm-to-table food, special ciders

Chef Matt Steigerwald and owner Katie Goering bring a restaurant, cider-tasting room and event space to Wilson’s Orchard this spring with the opening of Rapid Creek Cidery.

The cidery is housed in an antique barn, meticulously reconstructed by Wilson’s owner Paul Rasch (Goering’s father). The event space offers full-service catering for up to 250 people, and there is a ceremony site for extra-special occasions. The tasting room will be the only location where guests can find single-varietal ciders made from apples grown at the orchard, which visitors can admire from the balcony or tromp down the hill and explore.

Photo courtesy of Rapid Creek Cidery

Rapid Creek Cidery

4823 Dingleberry Rd NE, Iowa City

Steigerwald said that the restaurant is farm-to-table simply because it’s the most logical choice. “The local thing is not really a headline for it because I think any restaurant that’s worth its salt these days is doing that, but it’s something that makes sense on every level,” he said.

Working directly with local farmers means Steigerwald can tell them exactly what he’d like in the kitchen, and they can usually grow it for him. He joked that he has no green thumb, but does plan to try his hand at an herb garden at the cidery.

Rasch’s family has grown fruit for four generations, but began raising livestock just two years ago. He now has about 22 pigs, heritage breeds like large blacks and berkshires, and 38 sheep, a meat breed called katahdin.

“These are hardy breeds,” Rasch said. “They’re not in confinement; they’re out on pasture.”

The livestock and cidery help each other out by adding apple pomace to the animals’ diet, a nutritious by-product of cider production that doesn’t compost well on its own. They also eat non-GMO soy and corn, and whatever they can forage. Rasch said the breeds he uses and their diet result in a more flavorful product.

A friend down the road raises cattle, and his and Rasch’s animals will appear on the restaurant’s menu. “We’re really committed to using all parts of those animals,” Steigerwald said.

Ingredients will also include local dairy, eggs, corn and wheat products. “There’s a lot of good stuff around here that I think is being under-utilized that we’ll work hard to get in,” Steigerwald said.

“It’s sustainable,” Goering said of the farm-to-table concept. “I think that’s one of the main reasons to do it. Quality — you can control where it comes from. You know the farmers; it builds a community.”

Steigerwald said he has simplified his style over the years. “Not a lot of fancy tricks, just good, solid cooking. I really like strong flavors, big flavors.” Diners can expect those flavors to include Spanish, Italian, Southern and Latin American elements, and “elaborate dishes, but also stuff for people who might just want a sandwich. Always using good ingredients, always making sure we care about what we’re making.”

The cidery is nearly ready to open its doors, in April, and will serve dinner Wednesday through Saturday and brunch on weekends. It will also host special dinners one Sunday a month featuring live music (kicking off with the Remains on May 7) and a set menu.

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This article was originally published in Little Village issue 216.

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