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In the Kitchen with... Mike Taylor
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
IN THE KITCHEN WITH... June/July 2017
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Mike Taylor
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Check out these recipes from Mike Taylor:

Baked Beans

Smoked Egg Salad Sandwich

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This Clive cook enjoys the hospitality aspect of food.

This time of year grills and smokers go a long way in helping put food on the table. There’s something primal about man or woman and smoke and fire. But for some foodies, like Mike Taylor of Clive, it’s a year-round relationship. He enjoys preparing ribs, steak, pulled pork, and, of course, brats and burgers. “It’s just a fun thing to do,” he says. He likes to use prime brisket from Costco.

The Mason City native and his wife, Linda, moved to Des Moines in 1983, when Mike worked for Hallmark. Then in 1993 he started the popular catering service called In the Bag. If you have been to meetings or conferences, you likely have enjoyed the company’s lunches. Mike sold the company in 2015 but still helps out as needed with large catering orders. And about those In the Bag brownies—“Everyone always mentions them,” Mike says—he says it’s simple: “Always just use the best ingredients you can.”

Mike came by his foodie tendencies naturally. Two brothers owned restaurants, and another was in the food service industry. Plus, his father liked to cook.

He savors another aspect of hospitality. He loves the water and watched for eagles and for properties for sale along the Des Moines River. He saw a sign listing a home on Arlington Avenue in the River Bend Area of Des Moines, near Sixth Avenue. “It was built in the late 1930s, and I just felt I had to own it.”

He’s only the home’s second owner; the 87-year-old woman who had owned it moved to the Great Lakes area to be closer to family. “As I was contemplating buying it, eagles circled the property,” Mike explains. “I took that as a sign. The song ‘On Eagles’ Wings’ was played at both my parents’ funerals. I knew there was a message there.”

He cleaned up the lodge-style home, a two-story with walk-out lower level, and it has become a river retreat he calls Eagles’ Wings. He rents it out for meetings, events, and retreats, and In the Bag uses it for a catering site. “It’s just a great place for my friends to escape,” Mike explains. With its huge patio right on the river, the home’s charm is easy to see. It’s all part of the hospitality.

Plus, the location is downright fun. He cites the early-morning rowers and the River Regatta in September, when 300 to 400 boats cruise down the river. “It’s fun to have brunch with bloody Marys and watch the river traffic,” he points out. “This is one of only 25 houses on the river, so it’s a pretty special vantage point.”

The lower level of the retreat, where meetings and events can take place, is also an homage to wine corks. “I vow to drink more wine so I can do something crafty with the corks,” a sign says. Words to live by, no doubt. As he has done in his home’s family room, this gathering room has an interesting twist. No, it’s not exactly crown molding at the ceiling. It’s cork molding. Mike painstakingly created a design with corks. Other details with corks decorate the room, including a huge Plexiglas case filled with corks. It was an auction purchase when the Wine Experience in Des Moines went out of business.

Mike enjoys preparing meats, and he totally enjoys working on creative and interesting side dishes for the main meats. He has had fun trying recipes from Treager Grills/Smokers. For one recipe he shares here, special Baked Beans, for more flavor he added small pieces of brisket he had smoked earlier.

He and Linda enjoy eating out, trying new spots for barbecue and other dishes. One of his latest passions is exploring various cheeses. “Linda and daughter Nicole of Denver went to a cooking school in France and learned a lot about cheeses. I have picked up on that, so we’re having fun with that whole area, too. It’s really great.”

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