Spotlight Iowa City: Sally Mason


The UI’s 20th president is far too busy to sweat over the stove. But luckily for her, an executive chef — and a town full of phenomenal restaurants — satisfies the presidential palate.

After eating at one of her favorite new breakfast spots, the Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St., Mason seemed more than happy to use one of only two breaks on Aug. 21 to discuss her infatuation with food.

Although Mason doesn’t have much time to prepare meals aside from the occasional grilled brat, she can count on her chef Barry Greenberg, who is also the executive chef for the UI residence halls.
Greenberg cooks for all events hosted at her house and is very good at leaving a few leftovers, Mason said.

“He is one of the best chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Mason said with a cheery smile. “Which is why we don’t cook anymore.”

Greenberg has worked at the UI for 17 years and has cooked for Mason the past two and a half. He said it’s great working for the president, and she is “very supportive” and encourages creativity.
He said Mason’s favorite meal is a veal dish called osso bucco, though he has not made that dish for her yet. And she enjoys his desserts.

“Anything with chocolate for dessert is always well-received,” Greenberg said.

Mason couldn’t settle on one favorite dish. While her top-choice cuisine is Indian food, she said, her “trapped on a deserted island” dish is macaroni and cheese from Z’Mariks Noodle Cafe, 19 S. Dubuque St.

In general, her favorite eateries are concentrated downtown including: Linn Street Cafe, OneTwentySix, Taste on Melrose, Motley Cow Café, and Chef’s Table.

“This may be the best restaurant town I’ve ever lived in,” she said.

Most of those places may be a little pricey for the average college student, but Mason said she also enjoys some hot spots students frequent. The place for a “killer burger,” she said, is Shorts Burger, 18 S. Clinton St.

Mason recently frequented the H.I.M. Hearth-N-Home Cooking, which opened a branch in Iowa City, and fell in love with their Alsatian onion tart with smoked bacon and gruyère cheese. It reminds her of the Tarte Flambee she ate while traveling in the Alsace region in France, she said.

But with arguably little time to scope out the restaurants, Mason admitted she turns to the Corridor Business Journal’s weekly reviews.

“If I read a review of a restaurant we haven’t tried, I’ll almost immediately go out and put it on our list of places we have to try,” Mason said.

To round out her meals, she takes pleasure in a big, full-bodied, glass of red or white wine.

“It’s got to be a big wine,” she says. “I don’t like wimpy wines.”

If Mason is not in the mood for a heavy wine, a Diet Coke will trade places on the table.

“I can’t think of anything [Sally] doesn’t like,” said Mason’s husband, Ken Mason.

But beware, even though there is not much that Mason doesn’t like, there is one thing the UI president hopes to never find on her plate.

“Mushy vegetables,” she said.

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