PLATED Take a fresh look at apples at an Iowa orchard where the hard cider flows and a chef puts a global twist on autumn cooking.
Perched above an Iowa APPLE orchard, Rapid Creek Cidery promises farmstead libations and SEASONAL dishes that are as American as, well, you know—with a few GLOBAL twists.
A round 4:30 every afternoon, chef Matt Steigerwald steps outside. A valley drapes before him, fringed by oaks, striped with apple trees and carved down the middle by Rapid Creek, his restaurant’s namesake. Matt listens for a pair of woodpeckers that have hung around since the orchard was dappled in bloom. And he breathes.
“That’s not something every chef gets,” he explains. “So many kitchens that I have worked in have more urban settings. Some don’t even have windows. Here, we are in this beautiful orchard, and when I look up from my cutting board, I can see the patio. The space, the outdoors … it’s just more calming. We’re here to make people happy. And that all translates to the plate.”
Matt has a long history of making eastern Iowans happy. About 17 years ago, his Lincoln Cafe brought fine dining to the town of Mount Vernon. He earned three James Beard nominations there (and launched the careers of several area chefs). When the cafe shuttered in 2013, people missed driving into the countryside for a memorable meal. Matt worked next at a nearby co-op market, quietly plugging more deeply into the local agricultural scene. Then, in 2016, he received an offer to helm a new restaurant at Wilson’s Orchard on the outskirts of Iowa City. The chef agreed—as long as he could keep cooking creatively.
Katie Goering, whose parents own the orchard, wanted nothing less. In fact, her dad already had a few culinary passion projects. In addition to selling the usual pies and doughnuts, Paul Rasch bottles top-quality raw cider vinegar. In 2015, he launched a knockout line of hard cider. And he’s using the nutrient-rich waste left after pressing apples to feed a herd of sheep and his neighbor’s cattle. Katie wanted her baby, a new restaurant called Rapid Creek Cidery, to showcase all of that. Housed in a modern, cathedral-like barn, it ties Wilson’s Orchard and its products to other Iowa farms, with a menu featuring local vegetables, cheeses, meats and even tofu.
Chef Matt Steigerwald, Rapid Creek Cidery