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

Writing About The DD Is OVER.

Well, Tens, it’s been almost a week now.  A whole week without the non-rythmic word stylings of the Artist Formerly Known As The Datebook Diner.  A whole week which we learned that she will still indeed be writing for the Register, albeit on a monthly basis, and that she will continue to milk her Register-hosted blog for all its cook book marketing worth.  I also learned that she will be acting as a server at the newly-taken-over Proof restaurant in the Western Gateway.  Incredible, I can’t wait to have her wait on my table.  I am sure the service will be French-tastic.


Tens, I am here to call the whole thing off.  We have had a good run with Winni as our main subject here, and I am thankful for my friends who slip little notes into my email in-hole early in the morning to tip me off to her…things she does.  I know that the fun contained within the digital confines of this blogular entity has been lost on her for about two years, she doesn’t return my tweets or comments ever, and I am sure that if we were to actually run into each other in public she would either ignore me or give me that “whatevs” look.

Sure, in a movie about the Datebook Diner I would cast Kristin Stewart, And The Cook would be a hybrid shiny vampiristic wherebear who was her sidekick, kinda like a really fucked up Chewbaca. They would argue constantly because The Cookbaca would always substitute olive oil for butter, which isn't very French.

And that is fine, I have earned that look (even if it actually comes from Kristin Stewart) but I would rather meet up with Winni and have this kind of situation transpire:

This is a better, more peaceful, scenario in which I would like to encounter the Artist Formerly Know As The Datebook Diner.

With all of that sort of said, I think that ragging on the AFKATDD is OVER.  Winni, if you are out there, I leave you to market your super amazing cook book and spread the French in peace.  It’s been a great time witnessing and reacting to all of the…stuff…over the years but it is time for this Cook to move on.  Enjoy your not really new life doing pretty much what you were doing before, with the addition of pretending you are a restaurant worker (I did think your old waitress picture was damn adorable), and you can continue ignoring what I write because it…well…I will probably just retire this blog.   So, farewell, see you down the road.

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.

The Datebook Diner Retires….
2012/03/08, 3:39 pm
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dearest Tens,

I regret to inform you that the most popular person featured in this blog is stepping down from her food reviewing post to concentrate on other Frenchness.  I mean endeavors…  In true DD style, I will just repost her words for you.

From the Des Moines Register Datebook Diner Blog from March 6th, 2012:

I’m Ready to Pass the Plate!

9:04 AM, Mar 6, 2012 | by W.E. Moranville |
A few weeks ago, I visited a class of third graders to explain the ins and outs of restaurant reviewing. Kids ask the cutest questions, such as, “Has the food ever made you barf?” (For the record, no.)

At one point, after I had mentioned that I had been writing the column for 14-plus years, one kid raised his hand and asked, “So, when will you stop being the Datebook Diner?”

Interesting question. But what it reveals is that even a third-grader sensed that 14 years was a really long time to be doing this job.

And he’s right. In fact, I’d been thinking it was time to move on for a little while now. While it’s hard to give up a gig that combines two things I love to do (eat and write), it’s time for me to—in the lingo of people who move on from jobs—“pursue other opportunities.”

As much as that sounds like a cliché, it’s true. I’ve recently published a cookbook (The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day), and I need to continue in my efforts promoting that and possibly following it up with another book.

I also want to focus on more healthful dining, both in my career and my personal life. And let’s face it, that isn’t easy to do when you’re the restaurant reviewer—it’s not the focus of most restaurants.

Finally, I simply think it’s time to let someone else give a fresh perspective on the restaurant scene.

My last review will run next month.

It’s been a pleasure.


There you have it, folks.  WEM managed to squeeze in a few jabs about how long she has been subjected to the grueling lifestyle of a food reviewing person, pimp out her new cookbook in yet another Register forum, throw a subtle punch about how unhealthy it is to dine in DSM (damn portion sizes) ,  and then claim that she thinks it’s time for someone else to bring a fresh take on the scene.

Who should that be?  Any ideas?

Winnie, we are going to miss you here at Locally Grown.  In fact, we may have to change our whole format back to what it was intended now that you are not going to be around…especially Ace Editor Bathory (here’s a picture for old time’s sake)

Gonna Miss Mew.

Next month will be her final review.  I hope there is at least one during that time that is worth an old school picking apart.  Keep your fingers crossed.

The Cook.


He Who Controls The Friday Spice…

Dearest Tens,

So many things to write about, and so little time.  Today we will have fun in a different kind of way.  A way that we have never had fun here at the LG before.  I am going to personally go on record as agreeing with the DD on her review of the newly owner-ized Library Cafe.  It was a nice preliminary visit write up and made me want to go pay them a visit.  I also have it on good information that they have a great beer selection, including a stand alone tap of my personal favorite brew, Pabst.  I may go there tonight in some skinny jeans riding a fixie to get the hippest experience from my long time love of a beer.  We shall see.

Great Job FCP! You did not invoke the French Connection!

So here is a link to this ground breaking piece of food writing (it does not mention Star Bar or France even in a remote way) (although in a twitter conversation DD did admit that she wishes it was on Ingersoll, which I just figured out was most likely a humor joke related to the SB thing.  That is funny.  I am a little slow on the uptake some days). (Ever seem like there are too many parenthetical statements on this blog?  I thought so.)

Link To Datebook Diner Library Write Up

Go read and enjoy for yourself.  I bet you feel like going there to eat after you read.  Nice job to the Library Cafe staff and the fine folks of Full Court Press for doing a great job.  Making everything in-house is legit.  I will be there soon for some good times.

I love cats and Frank Herbert. And this picture.

See you next week, tens.  I have a few things half written in the que for you all.  It is sure to piss in many many bowls of round oat-laden breakfast cereal.

The Cook.

LG Two Cents On Two For $20

Hello, Tens.  I have once again made a small clearing in the haystack of my precious-esque time to bring you a little gripe regarding a poorly performed food review job-type-thing.  It has been a while since I have had a complaint about food writing that I deemed worth the energy to spout forth towards your internerd browsing ocular apparati, a fact to be taken not-so-lightly when the news about to be broken to you is finally broken to you in the next paragraph, just after this upcoming title thing. I present to you:

The Great Datebook 2 For $20 Debacle Of Ought 11

Let me re-start by saying that the staff of the Des Moines Register (save for the Illustrious Datebook Diner, who is most likely too busy planning her cooking-book promotional tour of the Greater DMZ this fall to stop by the Farmers’ Market and visit my booth) and DSM Register published Juice magazine have been more than amazing to me during the last few weeks of my fledgling foray into chef/ownership.  Thank you to all who have become friends and regular stoppers-by.  This debacle has nothing to do with you.  Unless one of you happens to be Trevor Fisher.  If one of you happens to be TF, please accept my light backhand slap to your face for your writing infractions and continue on with your taco liking.

(Finally) The story: This past Friday I was enjoying a sub-standard breakfast during the course of an unplanned “ride of shame” brought on by hanging out with a very good chef-friend until the wee hours, when I spotted the day-old-doughnut Datebook in the newspaper rack at the never-to-be-named restaurant of choice.  It has been a number of weeks since I have peeled apart the pages of DSM’s # 1,2,or3 weekly events magazine, so I said “What the heck.”

I opened up directly to an article written by TF (who I don’t know or recognize, is this guy a regular contributor?) entitled “Two for $20″ which is meant to outline a good place to get lunch/dinner/a meal for two human adults for around the $20 price point. TF chose/had chosen for him the task of reviewing American/Bosnian cafe Kula Grill.  Here is a link to the original article, in case you are into that sort of stuff.

TF opens up with the standard review fare, and the writing is solid (no Matt Miller-isms here), then we get to the food.  Now, before we go forward let me axe you a question.  If you were going to review food from a cuisine of which you had no knowledge whatsoever, in the Year Of Our Gourd 2011, the age of Interdork Information Searches, for an ACTUAL PRINTED PUBLICATION WITH A SERIOUS DISTRIBUTION, would you not at least do some research as to what the basics of said cuisine entail so as not to be the one bringing the pointed stick to the gun fight?  Not TF.  TF don’t need no posse of information, as shown by this excerpt from said infractuous artice:

Possessing no knowledge of, or experience with Bosnian food, we deferred to the waiter, who suggested the goulash if we craved genuine homestyle Bosnian. When in Sarajevo, right?

Un-f’ing-believable.  This is just stupid. But it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what comes next, which is the description of Kula Grill’s goulash:

The first thing you notice about Kula’s goulash — mashed potatoes and hunks of beef smothered in a thick gravy — is it resembles prison-cafeteria slop.

What?  Seriously?  This is printed in our #1 newspaper?  NOBODY along the chain of writer-to-printer read this and found anything wrong?  Nobody said “um…why does TF know what prison cafeteria slop looks like, and why is he invoking its visual vehemence in the confines of a restaurant review?”  Maybe the summary line softened the blow?

Sounds gross, looks worse, tastes great.

Clearly, TF should forego the attempts and restaurant reviews and slip directly into a comfortable marketing executive position.

Bosnian Goulash at Kula Grill: Sounds gross, looks worse, tastes great. (photo by actually awesome photo editor Eric Rowley)

The rest of the review is of equal tragedy to both the restaurant and to the credibility of TF’s writing career.  If you haven’t read it, check it out for yourself.

As a restaurant professional, if I were to read a review of this caliber in a print publication of the food I was serving to the public, I would probably

A.  Call my lawyer to ask for legal advice

B. Call the editor of the register and lodge a formal complaint, and request the reviewer be tossed from the nearest window accessible from his/her cubicle.

C. In the words of N.W.A., Start some shit.

I can not believe this review  written by someone who possesses even less candor and skill than even the most amateur of amateur food blogists was allowed to be printed in an actual paper.  I would expect those words from maybe a cast member of Jersey Shore.

Kitteh Want To Smush-smush! (I was going to post a picture of the JS cast with a funny line, but realized that nothing in the world makes JS funny or worth promoting. They are kind of like Prison Slop)


Trevor Fisher, you have just landed yourself an award from Locally Grown.  I just can’t remember what we used to call it.

The Cook

Servers, Critics Think You Have It Easy.
2011/03/01, 10:09 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , ,

Ahhh...life without Locally Grown has been picturesque for many of you...

Welcome back, Awesome Tens!  I trust that your one week vacation was relaxing, maybe even invigorating.  But all good things, as they say, must come to an end, and this is the end of your good thing.  I am back from my not-vacation and ready to pollute your eye-streams.  Hank the Chimp has fired up the popcorn popper, Bathory has brewed the World’s Third Worst Pot Of Coffee, and the tiny keyboard of The Thing On Which I Write This Blog has been properly warmed up by a thick layer of hot towels.  Vacation is over, it’s time to get back into the swang of thangs.

What Do Critics Know About Waiting Tables?

Yes, Tens!  The Datebook Diner has doped done it again!  Winni’s Wisdom regarding working in the restaurant industry overflows its thimble-sized vessel every so often, and this time her vast experience working as a county club server in the (judging by her polyester uniform) Late 1070′s has inspired her to belittle the servers of this century with a piece titled “Why Waiting Tables Today Is Better Than It Used To Be.”  Servers Of This Century should take great offense at being told by someone who hasn’t seen the “other side of the counter” for a few decades that what they are doing today is a far easier profession than in days of old.  But HOW is it easier? Let’s take a look…

5. Computers have made everything easier.  Yes, modern day computer systems have made handling large amounts of menu information and ticket computations much easier, but in using a computer or POS System you have invited in a larger number of new problems such as printer failure, credit card systems going down (not like that), system failure, improper programming, mis-priced items, and the classic, “still life with server standing in front of the computer trying to figure out how to key in special order.”  Now, when used properly and in working order a computer system is “better” than the old way, but I work in a place with handwritten and computed tickets and we have an incredibly low rate of mistakes. I think that computer systems aren’t worth the headaches in full service restaurants.

4. Automatic Tip (for large parties).  I agree.  One luxury afforded to the modern server that cannot be argued with is the “Auto-Grat.”  I spent 8 year in front of the house positions, managing, bartending, and waiting,  and would say that the large party automatic gratuity saved my ass from angry servers (and a few days of financial ruin).  BUT I have also seen the AG policy allow lazy servers to give diners a less-than-tip-worthy experience.  Auto-grat is a policy that will be debated until the day servers become obsolete.

3. Respect.  People are just as demanding and demeaning as in years past, and more so in the upper echelons of diners.  Maybe the general mystique of working in a restaurant has been elevated a few steps, but people are still assholes.  The level of respect for CHEFS has definitely been transformed into a cushy cloud, but those who deliver the food are looked down upon almost equal to their peers from the past.

2. Tipping Percentage. So normal tipping percentage has gone up from 10% to 20%. Cost of Living has increased WELL beyond the 10% increase in tip percentage.  Do servers make decent money?  They make liveable wages most of the time, but they are still at the mercy of the Owners, the Customers, and the financial climate of the time.  During the financial crisis of 2009 many of my friends who were waiting tables felt the crunch of a failing economy as much as, if not more than, the general “9-5″ public.  When times are bad, people cut out expenses such as eating out in a full service environment, which eats away at the financial stability of restaurant owners and staff, most notably the tipped employees.  But that is worthy of its own diatribe.

And Now To Bring You the #1 Reason Why Waiting Tables Is Easier Today Than It Was In The Past:

No More Ugly Uniforms.Evidently she hasn’t eaten at Noah’s Ark recently.  Suggesting that the quality of workplace life due to lack of polyester content of the uniforms is a tad ridiculous.  Not totally baseless, but a bit ridiculous.

Personally, I don’t think Winni looks bad at all in her old polyester, in fact she looks adorable.

you can see why they need that fire extiguisher handy (photo via Des Moines Register Datebook Diner Blog)

I invite you to go to her blog and read for yourself. 

Well, yes.  That is it for now.  Welcome back from your vacation from this blog.  Time to get back to the ocular toil of belonging to its readership.

The Cook

Locally Grown News Extrava-Danza!

It’s time once again to get down to the real nitty gritty.  Yes, it is Monday here in Our Fair Freezey Pop of a City (or Tuesday if you are tuning in even later than our already late post time), and that means one of many things: Locally Grown News is probably/maybe going to happen.  And today, in honor of nothing remotely related to America’s Third Favorite Male Television Housekeeper, Tony Danza, the Royal We bring You, the Royal Tens, this week’s edition of local food news entitled

Locally Grown Monday News Extrava-Danza!


Any ladies want some of this ExtravaDanza? Not you, Mona.

-Chef/Owner of Lincoln Cafe and Reigning Prince Of Pork (a title which will never expire now that Cochon555 has deemed the DMZ an unworthy host) Matt Steigerwald has taken cue from the latest creation of Grant Achatz, chef at Alinea in Chicago.  Achatz’s next restaurant venture, aptly named Next, will not be taking reservations but will be selling tickets to dinner.  Matt has decided to sell tickets to select special dinners held at Lincoln Cafe in the future.  In Chef Steigerwald’s own words, “The reason for this is simply that even with a reservation for a special dinner we end up with cancellations at the last minute. This always leaves us to scramble with calls to numerous guests on the waitlist, sometimes filling the table but sometimes not. One empty table at a dinner with only ten tables is bad news. Especially when so many people wanted that table.”  This seems more than fair in today’s economy.  I just wonder if this will open up a whole new market…Dinner Scalping.

-Zingaro, the “Pop-up” restaurant operated by local chef Hal Jasa has Popped Up on the Datebook Diner’s radar, who gave the new-to-the-DMZ concept a favorable initial visit review type thing.  She has some kind and well-founded words for Hal’s concept, cuisine, and location.

-Bestaurants and Worstaurants, an investigative venture of KCCI’s Patrick Bell, has arrived to inform the dining public of the greater DMZ of the health inspection status of local eateries.  It is the public’s right to know if they are dining in a safe establishment and a great way to find out restaurant inspection results is to check out the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals interwebular site where you can search for a restaurant and read the results of their latest inspection.  I also feel that the you, the public, should have a right to “enjoy” the Video Press without having your intelligence insulted by what could possibly be the Worst Title Of A Food Related Video Broadcast of 2011.  It’s hard to tell at such an early point in the year if the stupid standing of B&W can hold on to take the honors, but whether it wins or not Bestaurants and Worstaurants has set the bar pretty darn high.

The bar has been set awfully high.

-Gusto Pizza opened one week ago to a flurry of business.  Most businesses expect to be busy upon grand opening, but this opening was a little different.  Gusto Pizza has used ONLY social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Four Square) to advertise and judging by the opening week and a soft opening which was ONLY announced by social media and resulted in almost 100 pizzas served in two and a half hours.  Who is behind the raw and hilarious YouTube commercials and internet promotion?  New restaurant social media marketing company Good Milkshake (@GoodMilkshake on Twitter and Good Milkshake, LLC on FB), run by local business person and handsome devil Phil James, is taking the reigns of local restaurant marketing and steering eateries and eaters towards each other manning the restaurants’ Twitter accounts and offering spur of the moment specials, information, and instant feedback to patrons.  Restaurants, you could benefit greatly from the services of the Milkshake.  If you have any question of the effectiveness of social media marketing, check out the winter success of Cafe Di Scala (business has been well beyond the norm, even through a brutally cold January and a still-flacid economy) and the Gusto opening…both fueled by Good Milkshake.  Get Some.

-Groupon, the not-so-local local business discount advertising behemoth, has suffered a little bad press due to some seemingly callous commercials during the Stuper Bowl this past Sunday.  I didn’t enjoy the commercials and found them a bit offensive (yes, even to ME), but what I enjoy less is a giant corporation that makes light of the suffering of humans or animals while “promoting local business.”  Groupon, you aren’t local.  Keep your mitts off my scene.

Well, tens, that was the last Danz for today.  I hope you felt this week’s news was truly Boss.

The Cook.

Locally Grown Classics: Critical Of The Critics/DSM’s Finest Complainers

About a year ago, on a day not unlike today (but with about 16 inches more snow on the ground) I awoke to an interesting message in my inbox.  A very close friend of mine had, via FaceBook, posed the query “If Star Bar was a dude would the [Food Critic Name Withheld] eat its ass?”  Now, had I been a coffee drinker, this statement would have resulted in a mildly injurious explosion of steaming black fluids from my nostrils.  Lucky for me and my trusty editor and feline companion Bathory (who was napping on my chest at the time of the reading) I had not sunken back in to the coffee pit.  So as I lay on my couch, cat perched on my chest, laughing wildly at the very disturbing visions forming, playing, and fading in my head I decided to finally point my T-mobile G-1 with Android towards the interweb and address a real problem in dining today: Restaurant Critics.  Here is the foundation for all that has been written within the confines of this particular blog, the first official post from Locally Grown dating back to January 2010. Enjoy.

-The Cook


Critical Of The Critics: Des Moines’ Finest Complainers

It has come to my attention through the observations of more than a few local restaurant goers/owners/staffers that the local food scene, albeit struggling in the wake of the country’s financial crisis, is lacking only a few things: better food critics.
Cityview’s “Food Dude” always seems to be fair and accurate, and is willing to thumb his nose at convention by reviewing anything from fast food chains to sushi. (I have been tickled by his reviews of Popeye’s Chicken and Wendy’s – and not in a bad way). His recent review of Sake21 was touching, he could have really slammed that place but instead chose careful words that are more of a parental caution than a fog horn. I have rarely heard a bad word from industry people about Mr. Duncan (every food writer has an enemy somwhere in the business). My only real complaint here is that he doesn’t stay up to date on new spots, and doesn’t seem to get “out there” to the people due to Cityview losing some ground to the more young-person-savvy Juice.

When it comes to Juice, they believe that less is more. What I mean here is that less skill and experience must mean more to them. Often the restaurant reviews read as if they were written by 10th graders from a poorly taught journalism class. I will go as far as to call most of the reviews bullshit, giving no real information or true objective opinion. The readers don’t really care what your date was wearing or where you were headed to, or that you ordered the same thing as the table next to you and it reminded you of something you had at a similar place in Omaha. Juice, you just need to get a real food writer and let the music geeks write about music, or the um…crafting geeks write about crafting. Scratch that, crafting geeks should just stick to knitting and stop trying to BS the public by writing. Maybe you could have Ms. Wagemann from your parent Des Moines Register to contribute. She seems capable. I think.

On to the Register. The illustrious datebook diner seems to wield the brunt of the power in the food critic community here in the Metro DSM. This is a shame. I have seen her reviews make or break restaurants. People listen to her, and the people she is writing about don’t always deserve the fate she tries to dish out. Ms. Moranville seems to have the power to either completely trash talk a new spot, talk about how the East Coast is doing something that whatever restaurant she is reviewing isn’t doing and how much better the East Coast is than here, or to compare every bar-and-grill-type place to Star Bar. If you are an Orchestrate restaurant or (in the past) a Jeremy Morrow venture then you are golden. If you are anyone else (besides Star Bar), then beware of the wrath of Winnie. Take her recent review of Saints in West Des Moines. She begins by comparing the place to Star Bar, then ends by comparing the place to Star Bar*. Redundantly delicious? She also ran an interesting article about Vegetarian Dining in the city which featured a few variations on the old Butternut Squash/Sage/Butter song and dance, then panned Cafe Di Scala for their Butternut Squash Cappelaci dish. (I will be writing my own expose on Dining Vegetarian Style in Des Moines next week). She doesn’t mention that they have been doing the dish seasonally (as many other spots are doing currently), or that it is totally hand made, or that they probably listen to John Lennon albums while hand forming each pasta hat, adding to the love in the dish. That doesn’t count. Also regarding this fascination with the food comparisons to “big cities,” one of my cohorts said it best. If you want New York Food at New York Prices then go to New York. We think Des Moines should continue developing itself into what Des Moines should be, a place with access to some of the greatest fresh ingredients in the world with some established and up-and-coming Chefs using these ingredients to full potential. We don’t really give a sh*t about the price of pasta dishes in NYC. Doesn’t really matter. This is Des Moines.
Ok, let me sum this up as it is late and my own deadline is coming up (bed time). Food Critics of Des Moines, if you want to go in to a new spot and bombard it with overwrought criticism, go for it. The owners, chefs, managers, and other staff of whatever place you blast can read your review and try to adapt your philosophies into their restaurant to please you while your readers just avoid the place all together. Or maybe you could lighten up, encourage businesses to grow, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, then review a different restaurant (thanks Easy-P). Those are real people that you are undermining out there, they have worked hard to open a restaurant (there is nothing easy about opening your own business), and deserve a fair shake.

We need to be more critical of our “critics.” Readers, go out and try our local places for youself. Trust your own taste buds. They have gotten you this far, haven’t they?

*I do like Star Bar, I just don’t feel as fuzzy about it as Ms. Moranville.

Wini-Gate Day 2

While today isn’t the actual day two of what has come to be refered to as “Wini-Gate,” we here at Locally Grown often take liberties with the space/time continuum and this is one of those moments.  Regardless of what day it is or isn’t within the time line of W-G, there is still a crap load of controversy surrounding this unprecedented dining schmoozle.

I have yet to talk with La Mie owner Joe Logsdon about what happened and don’t want to just sit back and speculate as to what his meaning/intention was towards his potential late night diners.  I invite  you to go back a few days and read the comments sections of the last two posts, and on the Datebook Diner’s blog to see what your peers have to say about this flipped up incident until I can get the “other side” of the story or at least have been given the go ahead to speculate the shit out of things.

Wini-Gate brings up a few good questions which I would like you all to think about whilst I prepare a treatise on said subjects:


1.  Was Wini being out of line as a journalist by bloggin about the incident?

2.  Do Print Journalist Food Reviewists have too much power over the fate of/forming the public opinion of a restaurant?

3.  Is it wrong to turn away any customer when you are ready to close?

4.  How long will this controversy last?

5.  What will question 7 be?

6,  Will this new precedent set by Mr. Logsdon cause a revolt of restaurant owners against the Food Writing Establishiary?

7.  See question 5.

8.  What did Joe mean by “Grow up and have some kids”?

Those are but a few of the questions drawn from the vein of this recent controversy.  Stay tuned for more actual information.

We are also drawing near to the ONE YEAR BIRTH ANNIVERSARY of Locally Grown.  Beginning next week Locally Grown Classics revisited will begin to appear in your reader.  13 of what we feel are the classic posts which you should have read to understand the scope of what is going on in this sexy little moo moo of a blog.  Yes, the original “Critical of the Critics” to an exchange with shithead Pat Mearson to the introduction of my Editor and Cat, Bathory will be back with a special preface from either this cook or guest readers explaining why they enjoyed the post/what they learned about not wanting to read blogs from the post.

Until Tomorrow, keep Repping Local!

The Cook



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