RAGBRAI 2012: 471 miles, the gourmet way
Team Gourmet, the group of 30 RAGBRAI riders who travel with their own chefs and dine nightly on watermelon-champagne soup, leek salad and crab legs, is not above a pork chop served in a napkin.
“We’re just like everybody else on the road,” team manager Janet Kowal said of riders’ day diets. “We eat the Mr. Pork Chop and the Beekman’s Ice Cream. The difference is that at night, we dine.”
The 2012 Team Gourmet is the 20th or so iteration of the Chicago-based RAGBRAI group, made up mostly of friends and friends of friends who all love fine foods and bikes.
Between the team’s dinner costs, transport and registration fees, members pay between $850-$900 for the cycling and cuisine.
Each day of RAGBRAI, the team’s three paid chefs hit up the closest Hy-Vee for groceries at 7 a.m. Those are transported in a rented semi truck complete with freezer and refrigerator capacities before the team’s staff set up at a host home and proceed to prepare a meal until six that night.
“Dinner’s at six, showered or not,” said Kowal, who grew up in West Des Moines.
Last night in Anamosa, six o’ clock brought boiled crab, a flaming corn bake and skirt steak in a pineapple and parsley sauce. Chef Maggie Amerpohl, also of Chicago, cooked from a menu finalized and approved by the team last March.
Amerpohl’s been doing this for a few years now. The semi hauls a large grill and two burners so a kitchen can assemble outside if a host’s home is lacking. She’s also used to shopping in small Iowa towns that be shy an ingredient or two. There’s always room to improvise, she said.
“It’s a lot of stuff to get together, to pack and remember,” Amerpohl said, but “I look forward to it every year.”
On Friday, the cyclists ate seated in folding chairs at folding tables in a driveway of a home across from the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
“Basically, we’re just looking for a little floor space,” said Kowal. “And we always clean everything up.”
Wally Roach, who works in real estate in the Chicago area, joined Team Gourmet this year after moving next door to a member. Roach, 48, said he wouldn’t do the ride any other way, especially after visiting friends who spent RAGBRAI roughing it, relatively speaking.
“I went and saw their camp tonight,” he said. “I was biking up here like, ‘Thank God for Team Gourmet.'”