Locally Grown


Breaking News: Judged Worthy By Food Critics.

well, AMAZING TENS, it’s been a good long while since we have shared screen to screen moments.  When our eyes meet over the same words at different times…it’s like a deliciously delayed serendipity.

A lot has happened in the cook’s life over the last tens of months, I worked my buns off at cooking instead of making up words and ended up opening my own restaurant in the lovely East Village of the most amazing town west of the Mississippi and east of the Missouri, Des Moines.  Things are going swimingly so far (we are only just over a month in), and we have received our first few PRINT REVIEWS FROM FOOD CRITICS.  This is a moment I have been pretty nervous for, as some of you know I have been less than forgiving towards the writers of food article type things.  I sat in anticipation, knowing that my restaurant is doing things NEARLY up to my standards (if you are doing things right as a chef/owner/kitchen cat herder the nothing is going to be up to your standard…because of obsessing and raising the mental bar every day.), and also knowing that I have potentially upset a number of people who would be finally maybe writing/judging my true body of word, Tacopocalypse.  Turns out, either I am a little paranoid about the whole food reviewer thing (duh), or my crew is really doing the job that I am perceiving that they do.  Probably both.  All reviews have been very kind and positive at this point.  Thank you, we have truly worked hard to make sure that the dining experience is top notch for every person walking in the front door.  I know it’s all about personal perception, and the persons perceiving so far have been very happy.  Thank you, again.

Here’s the thing about personal perception: It’s personal.  Every single individual sees similar situations in slightly (or wildly) different ways.  Creating an experience that keeps a majority of the poplulace is a challenge because of this.  What keeps one happy can ultimately infuriate the next.  It’s some really frustrating shit, the kind of frustrating shit that birthed that keeps restaurant folk on their toes and continually aging faster than the rest of the populace, the kind of frustrating shit that caused this blog.  It’s the kind of shit, that if you encounter it for a long enough period of time, you might start finding the humor rather than the stomach grinding pain of it all.

Thank you to all who have visited my new restaurant and have elevated it to a level of medium-ish success with your shining faces, and especially to you critics…I hope that you come back and continue your positive personal perception of what we here are doing.

You know what, I might just start writing this blog again.  It feels good.  Just hope it doesn’t get me into any trouble…hahaha.

 

The Cook



Baby Boomers RIP.
2012/04/29, 9:20 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I really hate to see good local businesses close their doors. Tom and Rodney Maxfield, owners of Baby Boomers in the East Village have declared today to be their last day in business, and not for financial reasons but for the simple fact that the last 7ish years of running a restaurant has been tiring and they are ready to move on.  I totally understand that sentiment, but it is a sad day for those of us who will miss Tom and Rodney and their giant omelets, great pancakes, and fun (most of the time) staff.  They became famous nationally when the Presidential person and his family fell in love with their chocolate chip cookies (which they will continue to produce and sell), but what they are known for is a great breakfast and lunch spot where you can have some privacy (I hid in a corner and wrote many posts for this blogular device at their location) or to run into friends and public figures.

I will miss BB’s, Tom and Rodney, and their staff.  I had some good times at your restaurant, thank you.  I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

The Cook.



The Things The Datebook Diner Should Miss.

Dearest Tens,

Yes, we have been absent again after a big push to start things back up fool time. Full time. BUT DON’T GET SALTY!  The weather blossomed into an early spring which caused me, The Cook, to do my job of cooking again.  Last time we checked in our main subject of honor had announced her retirement from reviewing the restaurants in Our Fair City to pursue her other, more Francophilic, interests.  I, along with my cohorts, have been poring over her increasingly truncated reviews, trying to find something LG-worthy to share.  No luck there, until yesterday.  Last night I fired up my Android (uggg) powered Google Reader application and among my plethora of news items from Cat Fancy and Milk Chugger’s Magazine I found a little post from our beloved DD concerning what she will not be missing upon her leaving the eating scene of the DMZ (Des Moines Zone).

First I would like to state that a person whom after nearly 14 YEARS of writing about a dining scene publishes one of their final articles regarding said scene and chooses only NEGATIVES to outline her nearly 14 YEARS of writing about said dining scene maybe shouldn’t have been writing about our city to begin with.  After all of that time and all those hundreds of reviews all she has to say to the diners, restauranteurs, chefs, cooks, and servers is THREE NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT WHAT SHE WON’T BE MISSING ABOUT WHAT DES MOINES HAS BEEN DOING WITH FOOD OVER THE LAST NEARLY 14 YEARS.  What will she not miss?  Read Here.  We have all spent a long time reading about her complaints, and I personally think she could have come up with a better list.  (on a little tangent, I can’t help but think when she took the job, nearly 14 years ago, she was in another city with a less French Name and saw an opportunity to live in the “Midwest Riviera” but upon arrival found the dread of gloppy soup, iceberg lettuce, and giant wasteful portions to be so oppressive that she decided that if she has to do this 13 or 14 more times, she is out of here)

Seriously, you serve me gloppy soup 13 or 14 more times, and I am OUT OF HERE! -Datebook Diner

So what do we here at the world’s most dangerous food blog (about Des Moines) think that the list should have included?  First off, it should be a POSITIVE list that doesn’t read like an elementary report card that says “Your kid will never learn, they are hopeless and you should just give up for there is no hope for change.”  Maybe after blah blah blah years said food reviewist could find at least three things to miss about Our Fair City and those whom bring you publicly consumed food?  Here are three-ish things that, after our NEARLY THREE YEARS of writing about the DD, we would expect to see in a list written by her, if she wasn’t being a constant “negative nancy.”  (btw, just because your job title includes the word “critic,” it doesn’t preclude you from making positive statements) So here it is, the….

Three-ish Things We Feel The Datebook Diner Should Miss About DSM Dining

(if she wasn’t being such a negative-pants)

  1. The growing of French cuisine in Des Moines.  Back when DD started out in Des Moines there were very few choices for French dining.  Over the years French has come and French has gone, but our current state of French Dining in the city of the monks finds us a plethora of French-based restaurants.  Bistro Montage, Django, Tartine, La Mie, Baru 66…these are all places that should bring joy to a Francophile’s heart.
  2. The Farmers’ Markets.  The Farmer’s Market isn’t a wholly French concept, but it is French enough for a Francophile to come enjoy.  On Saturday mornings you can walk through the market, sample prepared foods, buy fresh baked breads and locally grown produce and meats, and see some of our more ambitious Chefs of des Moines chatting with local farmers and picking out the freshest goods for their menus.  It is my understanding that the DD never really liked the Farmers Market (at least the Down town iteration) and kept visits to a minimum.  The Farmers Market is the life of our Dining Scene during the summer…but maybe now that her job isn’t reviewing food she will stop down more often.
  3. Watching A City Grow.  You get a job reviewing restaurants in Chicago, New York, LA, SF, any larger city and you get to jump right in to a dining scene which has been thriving for many decades.  If you took a job doing the same thing NEARLY 14 YEARS AGO, you were in a very special position to watch what was once a chain restaurant hell with a few local choices, most of which probably served gloppy soup, to what it is now: A growing community of chefs and restaurateurs whom are constantly working to raise the bar in the dining scene.  We have a respected culinary program just to the north in Ankeny (Iowa Culinary Institute/DMACC) and the students of that program are staying in town with increasing frequency, seeing an opportunity for growth…or even of a fast rise to ownership.  It’s a much different world from the day George Formaro was baking bread on South Union to this day after Chef Formaro and his cohorts at Orchestrate worked for over a decade to change the face of what and how we eat (even if he has been damned for portion size).  Things are much different now, and are growing at an increased rate.  DD had the opportunity to watch all of this from the inside, yet it doesn’t seem to matter in the context of her career in DSM.
  4. Influence.  Maybe she should miss the somewhat misguided influence she wielded over the dining public?  Her words have had noticeable impact on the lives of restaurants.  In fact I have watched a few close with a quickness after a Datebook Diner review (not that a few of those few weren’t warranted).  Whatever.

There are many more, but alas, I am out of time and have to go do my actual job.  Keep following along, there are only two more weeks of our current DD’s reign of terror…then it’s time for to pick on the new guy/gal.

Rep Local.

The Cook.



Urban Spork Yelps Wolf, Part Deux
2012/02/08, 1:34 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , ,

As we were attempting to state yesterday, we here at LG are very much interested in the internetular knee jerk reactions some diners have when um…dining out…and ESPECIALLY the anonymous negative reviewers…

Let’s start off with something I like to call the “I like my restaurant, created an account to tell the world, and also to say that I don’t like the restaurant that is my closest competition” Here is a textbook example:

The best food , the best service , chef baru thank you for giving us such a good restaurant .

The person responsible for this review goes by the handle David, sort-of-ironically the same name as the chef at said restaurant.  This person registered, left one review of one restaurant, and gave a “thumbs down” to another restaurant of the same cuisine.  Now, you are probably thinking to yourself “why would someone use their own name when doing said deed” and yes, it is a common name.  Do I have any hard proof?  No.  But the body of evidence speaks loudly.  This happens more than you would think, and I have actually witnessed two different restaurant professionals perpetrate this childish act.  (disclaimer: not people I have worked for)  Watch out for these types of reviews, they are usually vague one-offs which are designed as ego-strokers.  Judging by the other glowing reviews, internet and printed, no ego stroke is needed in this case.

Next are the “Negative Nasty Nancies.”  These are people who seem to have a bad experience at every single establishment that they visit, and make it a point to leave a negative review for any minor service infraction.  I recently came across the worst of these N3’s, the “I Heart Chain Restaurants and Hate Local Business-ist,” a heinous brood dedicated to the abolition of all local food, a deviant group dedicated to places like Cheescake Factory or Legends…or worse.  They want nothing more than to be able to have the exact same dish in any town they might happen upon, and use extreme prejudice when dealing with local restaurants.  In fact, I am surprised when one of these folks even bothers eating a local spot.  I digress.  The N3’s have a mission to tell the world just how bad whatever little problem they have encountered has affected their tragic lives.  Spot on their spoon?  Bad Review.  Food took 45 minutes on a Friday night in a packed restaurant?  Bad Review.   Kitchen didn’t have ranch dressing?  Bad Review (no shit, I have actually seen this happen).  It doesn’t take much of anything to get the motor started on this group, just a rude host and a smart phone.  Thanks, US/Yelp

Another horrible group is the “Can’t Say Enough Nice Things” party.  I fall under this heading on Urban Spoon, but I have only written about places I actually like.  Sue me.  Wait!  That wasn’t a real invitation…the LG Legal Fund was drained long ago…  I don’t doubt people who leave only positive reviews, but when they are almost the same exact review for every restaurant…what exactly are they doing?  Are they helping you pick a place to eat, or just practising their superlatives?  It’s hard to tell, but beware of the Overly Positive…that’s how people get sucked into cults…

What is the point here?  The point is that I personally believe that sites like Urban Spoon and Yelp at best a list of restaurants in each city.  The reviews are shoddy and unreliable.  Yes, US has different categories for Bloggers/Pros/Diners. Nice touch, but those other groups are not always the most trustworthy. Yelp…tyrants.  Nothing more.  There was controversy when Yelp was accused numerous times of extorting small businesses.  Yelp was also named in a class action suit, which was later dropped.  This makes me believe all that I read on their site as truth, yes?

So should you trust your dining dollar to the Inderrwebular Restaurant Reviewing Illuminati?  Can you trust anonymous reviews?  Nope.  Don’t do it.

Go forth unto the local dining world and discover for yourself.  Rep Local.

the Cook.



A (re)Beginning Is A Delicate Thing
2012/02/01, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dearest Tens,
…the Greater Known Universe plays host to the planet Earth which, for a very short portion of its existence, has played host to a race of creatures known as humans.  During their short lived (and current) stay on this blue-green marble humans have had an ever-evolving diet first consisting of plant things found within their immediate suroundings, then after the invention of the Barbecue Grill (aka fire) craftier bipeds found ways of spearing, snaring, or otherwise killing other living creatures for which to share the heat of the barbecue, albeit in much closer proximity than the hunters themselves.  These were simpler times, with the mortality of these humans mainly dictated by the surrounding environment.

Then one day, many thousands and thousands of days ago, a few humans thought to themselves “there must be a way to live in one place, yet still manage to feed our people.” This is the day that the concept of agriculture was born.  Agriculture would prove to be one of the most powerful forces in developing the various cultures and cuisines of the humans around the Marble.  Our ancestral upright walking/thinking organism worked their respective lands growing the crops supported by local climates and dined upon a constant regional cuisine

As time drew forth some of the humans saw much more in agriculture than just feeding one another…they saw that it could be a BIG BUSINESS.  More land, more workers, more food (for the wealthy classes), more profit, more greed all followed.  First there were those that worked the lands of the powerfull, then the industrial age came and paved the road to where we are now. 

The current year relative to time known by we, the people is two thousand no hundreds and twelve.  The current state of agriculture is that of power, money, pollution,  corruption, lobbyists, politics, and laws made by giant companies which are designed to strip the small farmer of their rights to work the land if they raise but a word against the powers that be.  BUT on the other hand the dining community has been trying to move towards a diet of locally raised produce, humanely treated livestock…a diet free of the chemicals and genetically modified dna fund in the products of Big Agriculture.  People are trying to move back to the beginnigg, when things were simple, where every single meal was a “100 mile” meal, and where you either raised your food yourself or you knew the farmer that did.  Big Ag doesn’t like this insolence. 

People, Big Ag has been trying to kill you for your entire life.  Maybe this isn’t the intended outcome of their greed, but you can can look at the state of world health versus the “advancements” in agriculture over recent history and see that as agriculture advances (and more chemical laden, cheap, processed foods are made available), the state of human health slowly declines (cancer, obesity, more cancer, more obesity). 

It makes this cook think hard about what the world would be like today if agriculture had remained as it was, a way of subsisiting off the land instead of a huge money business. 

What would a world without clothing, restaurants, late-breaking news items, or blogs hyping “locally grown” foods be like?

I suppose if everything was local, this blog would just be called “Grown” to avoid redundancy (like we ever avoid THAT).

Or maybe just “Groan.”

The Cook.



The Truth Comes Out

My Dearest Tens,

This week’s newfound return to the LG blogisphere has yielded an interesting development: You aren’t nearly as interested in reading about Agriculture here as you are witnessing my tirades towards food critics, food bloggers, and dim-witted diners.  The numbers don’t lie, and lucky for you I have a forthcoming opportunity to write about sustainable dining on another furum, freeing the “LG Brand” up for more constant crappy commentary and policing of those in the dining community whom need policed.  To this end I thank you.  Coming back to this blog was not easy, and there was consideration given to tranforming into a voice for positive change in local, sustainable food.  This would have been a giant work load involving interviewing, research, and late nights making sure that every word is just just right, so as to most effectively pass the point of each post. 

Thank you for not making me do that here (I will let you whom want to read my writings on those subjects know where to read said articles once we get started).

Yesterday while I was sitting at one of my favorite wifi spots having a liquid lunch and writing about farmers, I spied the mighty (thin) Des Moines Register, home of our favorite critical Francophile.  You may recall that the LG posts of the prior two days dealt with the DD and her narrowly waving Magic Food Scene Judgement Wand passing um…judgement on the kitchens of Our Fair City and their inability to serve any desserts which aren’t cheesecake or “chocolate fall -down cake,”  which I took to mean that lovely “worn out” dessert the Chocolate Lava Cake. 

The front page of the Living section, or whatever it is called, has a feature on desserts…and what is dessert #2 of the feature?  CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE FROM ALBA.  AND IT IS BEING CAST IN A FAVORABLE LIGHT.  Wait, what?  How can this be?  Have Jason and his team at Alba (who are all awesome, btw) somehow ressurected what was earlier in the week deemed one of the two most boring and tired desserts in all of MetroLand? 

And

on the third day the lava cake arose from its tired tomb to bring forth new light unto post-dining patrons.

.

.

OR has this other food writer started a war with the DD, and I remember the last time a register food writer crossed her.  This could get ugly…

More later.  My WP app is making this a very unpleasant experience.

Thank you again, tens, for showing me what you REALLY want to read about. 

The cook.

(Please excuse any formatting problems, WordPress of Android app can suck it.)



Who Are Your Heroes? Mine Are Farmers.

Hero: he·ro/ˈhi(ə)rō/, noun:

  1. A person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.
  2. One who saves lives

 

Our society is based on a “hero mentality,” with us commoners daydreaming about those who would be there to save us from whatever evils would befall us.  There are movie and comic-book (sorry, graphic novel) based super heroes with otherworldly powers saving puny humans from natural disasters, historical bad guys, and other super people whom have chosen to live a life of utter evil.  There are every day heroes like doctors and nurses and the mortal humans whom keep you healthy and safe.  There are even celebrity heroes such as Steven Tyler, whom work diligently to save you from having to listen to the wrong singing talent on your television.  Thanks, ST.  These heroes all serve their purpose in life, from stopping your gaping bleeding wounds, to saving your sanity, to keeping your house from burning to the ground, to just simply giving you hope that giant flying magnetically charged creatures from another dimension will not be descending upon your city to devour or enslave its population.

Larry Cleverley of Cleverley Farms in Mingo, Iowa watching the sun set over the farm. Larry is a real hero.

But who are the real heroes of our lives?  The people raising the food you (should) be eating.  There is really no more noble, humble, or courageous a profession than to be a farmer.  A real farmer, someone concerned with the well-being of not their bank accounts or the happiness of corporate overlords, but with the health of the land they farm and the people being fed from that land, and of the welfare of the community surrounding their farm.

Does this make you hungry?

My hero’s a farmer.  A real farmer.  A person whom I can talk to, have a conversation about what they are raising, and not be given the run-around due to someone above them putting restrictions on what they can or can’t say about their operation.  I see these people as the real heroes of our world, sustainable raising nourishing items that can feed our population…without creating more health-realated problems.  The farmers who understand what to do with the food they raise, the ones whom can teach cooks or chefs what to do with their wares, the farmers that spend their lives feeding you FROM THE HEART, making sacrifices, getting out to the markets to sell to and meet produce/meat buyers face to face.  THIS is a real hero.  People like this guy:

Because THIS is what makes me hungry.

Today’s rant isn’t supposed to be some wildly informative treatise on local sustainable farming/food, but just to get you in that mindset.  Spring is around the corner and we will be talking more in the near future about ways to enrich your lives through these heroes of agriculture.

I hope that you are as excited as we are…

The cook.

 



France>Des Moines?!

Tens, first a thank you for taking your time to read and comment on yesterday’s France/DD/Dessert diatribe.  It’s good to know that some of you have stuck around.  It’s good to have you all back on the bus.

Secondly, I agree with every one of your comments.  All of them.  I have been “out of the loop” for a while with all of my other dealings and haven’t really been paying attention to any of the food writings being shat out on paper as of late.  You clearly haven’t had the same problem.  Glad someone is keeping their eyes open, and I am rejoining your ranks.  Clearly we have a lot to talk about, old (and new) friends.

FR>DSM?

(please excuse the swearing about to fall from my fingers into your eyes)

One thing that really makes me sick about this ongoing problem of food criticism is that the local food isn’t being given proper consideration by the Register’s Food Captain.  It is a fucking travesty that someone who has been charged with guiding the Metro’s diners by the area’s largest print outlet has glossed over what is really at the heart of our food scene (which is HEART) and instead has become the self appointed travel spokesperson for France and New York…and everywhere but the city she is writing about.  According to yesterday’s comments and a few other messages from the interrab she has been focusing too much attention on one particular Chef Whom Doesn’t Care For Me Much (CWDCFMM) and much too little time really researching the local food and its movers/shakers/background.

I see where the information comes from in the form of regular lacksadasical (how do you even spell that?) emails/tweets/blog posts stating “I am working on an article about _____, anyone know anything about that?”  and by reading multiple blog posts which are just reprints of press releases from the area restaurant whom bother sending her press releases.

Even though it isn't funny

Is this the type of person YOU are trusting your dining dollars to?  Or are you trusting the other jokers writing nothing but positive internet reviews of every restaurant they visit?  Whichever, and I have to cut this rant short, you are chosing is probably wrong.  Some of you have voiced an opinion that some people need to be replaced.  I suggest not only filing that complaint here, but to contact the “proper authorities.”  You don’t have to stand for this bullshit.  Seriously.  I have to go, sorry to not have time to elaborate further.

The Cook



Something Something Just Desserts.
2012/01/23, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , ,

Hello, Tens!  I know, I know, it has been way too long since we got visually and verbally busy with each other,and there may be a few of you out there who aren’t really familiar with what we have going on up in here. The rest of this paragraph is for you people.  This blog was originally fueled by disdain.  And frustration.  And a urge to share that disdain and frustration.  And a love for all things local.  Yep, I think that is about it.  It turned into so many other things, like a good way to piss off food critics, a nice forum for people to be assholes about vegetarianism, and the perfect place for diners to learn how to properly approach the act of dining in public.

Moving on…

Today a very good friend of mine emailed me a link to an article which brought back all of those old feelings, and article that reminded me that my work is not done within the realm of LG.  This article was from our old friend, DD and definitely portrayed her normal “Blinders-On, Geographically Unaware” attitude.  What was the subject?  I am glad you asked (and made it all the way to this point. Sorry for all the prefacing).  Said food writer claims that the only desserts you can get in this town are either some kind of chocolate “fall down” cake (which I read as Lava Cake and caught a craving) or Cheescake.  That’s it.  She black/white’s the Des Moines dining scene again with a vast generalisation, AND THEN, true to form, whips out her culinary retort: A French (of course) dessert of poached merengue and creme anglaise Submitted by a certain French chef whom is also not a fan of yours truly.  The dessert was admittedly not a real “seller” by any means, and didn’t look as spectacular as I would expect from DB, but I am sure it was delicious.

So what was the whole point of her rant?  Is she trying to tell DMZ (Des Moines Zone) restaurants that they are boring her to death with their alleged “Two Dessert System” or is she trying to encourage chefs and restaurateurs to break out of the mold which she thinks they are all currently occupying? Is she stating that we, The People Of Des Moines, are all a bunch of rubes and could only be saved by selling all of our worldly possessions for a one way ticket to her Mecca, France?  Are TPODM a bunch of self loathing a-holes whom wouldn’t know a good dessert if it bit them in the tukus, I mean if there were any more choices to sneak up and bite them?

I have prepared a list of things to do with this stuff.

  1. Des Moines only has two desserts available to the dining public.

  2. France is still better than Des Moines

  3. No one really bought the dessert she thought was better than the current options, but featured it regardless.

  4. Des Moines must be stupid because they didn’t buy said dessert.

  5. France>Des Moines

  6. Alba also has interesting dessert choices, but no examples were given.

  7. Viva La Francais!

  8. French.

  9. French

  10. France

Let's Not Foget Category 4: France Is Not Des Moines

I hope that the Chefs and Restaurant Owners and Diners of our Fair City start paying attention to what this person is saying.  Yeah, we get it, you released a French cookbook.  Good For You.  You also most likely think that you are helping culture the heathen masses of Central Iowa with your Francophilic ways.  Maybe you should take a poll of your readers to see how many of them really give a rat’s patoot about France as it relates to our local dining scene.

I would instead like to see a published writer who revels in our constantly growing local food scene instead of constantly complaining that it just isn’t as good as New York or France.  Yeah, no shit, it’s not.  But in my travels during the last year I found myself thinking more than a few times “I wish I was in Des Moines right now so I could go to ______”

Now THAT should speak volumes to those of you who know me personally.  I guess that’s the difference between a food lover and a food critic… Lovers love to love, and critics are just a-holes.

Didn’t I used to do a sign off thing at the end of posts?  I forget.

the cook



Local Dining…Is It Winning?
2011/05/26, 7:53 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary

Quick post today…

Are you dining locally?  Are you dining locally at locally owned restaurants which use locally sourced produce and meats?  Are you keeping your family dollars flowing into the larger family of your local economy?  Take a hard look at yourself.  Take a look around you.  Do your friends and co-workers strive to rep local, or are they stuck on the chain gang?

Wait, what?  You didn’t know that dining locally doesn’t necessarily mean that you are eating local products?  This is true, and a sad truth at that.  How can you tell that you are getting legitimate, local food?  Ask questions.  Get informed.  Call the restaurant and ask (politely) what local products they use and from what purveyors.  Ask your server.  Ask food professionals and/or food bloggers.  But Get To Know Your Food and Rep Local.

Dining locally isn’t winning unless you are really getting local foods.  Truth.




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