Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: a-holes, chefs, datebook diner, Django, downtown, fine dining, Food Critics, George Formaro, Jim Duncan, local, manners, some other stuff.
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)
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: Bathory, Cats, datebook diner, des moines, food, Food Critics, hugs
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!
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)
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.
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: a-holes, Datebook, datebook diner, des moines, Food Blogs, Food Critics, Jersey shore, Kittens, Kula Grill, le bonne Femme, Prison Slop, some other stuff., Trevor fisher
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.
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.
Trevor Fisher, you have just landed yourself an award from Locally Grown. I just can’t remember what we used to call it.
Filed under: Dining Tips, Local Food Commentary | Tags: chefs, fine dining, food, Food Blogs, Food Critics, local, some other stuff.
It’s refreshing to see that so many of you have such strong opinions regarding the desired credentials of the people who have been charged with the task of influencing your opinion with their…opinion.
Some of you have tried making a distinction between Food Writers, Food Critics, Restaurant Critics, Restaurant Reviewers, Entertainment Writers, and Yelpers, BUT you can toss around words like Foal, Mare, Colt, Filly, or Stallion, but a horse is still a horse. If you choose to review food or a restaurant (professionally or on a user-reviewed site like Yelp), you are really trying to throw yourself into the same stable as the rest of the neighing nay-sayers. This is one of the reasons I don’t “review” restaurants here, and if you took a look at the first Locally Grown post which i re-posted last week, you would maybe understand where I am coming from.
Do we need restaurant reviewists? We do. Do we need sweeping food review reform? Probably not. Unlike the policies force-fed to us by our elected officials, the word of a reviewer can and should be taken with a little subjectivity. Ok, maybe my coffee intake has overtaken my ability to turn a sensible sentence.
We DO need people who are willing to venture out to new dining spots and share the story of their experience with others who may not be able to get out as often to try new spots, or may not have the financial or time resources to spare on an unknown venture. There is nothing wrong with being careful with your wallet/purse or your tastebuds, and you careful diners have to be thankful for those who would help you avoid making a dining experience into your own personal tar baby.
In this case a review can be a valuable asset. BUT the problem is trust. Should you trust a particular reviewer or publication? Should you put the fate of your hard earned money and free time in the hands of a stranger? Have you ever been disappointed by a restaurant after reading a glowing review? I have. Hell, I have even gone to work at a particular kitchen because of its popularity within the reviewer crowd only to be fully let down.
What does all of this gibberish mean? (it’s funny, you would think that stepping away from the bottle for a length of time would make for more coherent posts) I will try to sum this up one more time:
LG Tips For Successful Ventures Into Unknown Dining
- Friends - First and foremost you should have, or find, a friend or colleague whom has similar taste as you, and has an adventurous spirit which propels them into the dining world.
- Social Media – Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to your advantage. You can begin networking with like-minded diners from your area and find some hidden gems that would have otherwise escaped your grasp.
- User Review Sites – Yes, read reviews on popular web search sites in addition to user-reviewer sites such as Yelp and the like. Yes, I warn you about trusting these sites…but not all of the reviews are from deck stacking restaurant staff or disgruntled diners/former employees. With a little reading and research you can find some trustworthy folks. Right, Jordan?
- The Print Press - The Physically Printed On Paper crew are a good resource for finding newly opened or soon-to-open spots. Your local newspaper (sometimes) has an entertainment staff with ears to the ground listening for the faint footsteps of an approaching restaurant opening. You can also get a valuable history lesson on the dining scene from people who have been dining…professionally…for a number of years. You can also be misled by someone with years of “beef” built up with the local Restaurateurs and Chefs. Approach the words of the “pro” with the same caution you would use as the “Yelper.”
- Food Bloggers – Local food bloggers are a valuable resource. These people have invested the time and money in their own web presence and generally take their writing serious. This is another avenue which you have to explore carefully, read their blogs and get to know their taste. If they have written about a restaurant you frequented, compare your experience with theirs. If there are discrepancies contact the blogger and open a discussion. Most bloggers are more than helpful when it comes to explaining what they have written about.
- Insiders - Do you know someone on the “inside?”
ShirleySurely you know someone who works in a restaurant (this seems elementary to me as all of my friends know someone who works in a restaurant). This doesn’t really pertain to chains, those folks IMO and experience know nothing about the local dining scene. I am talking about insiders who work at places like Django, Alba, Centro, 801, and the like. These folks usually have worked at a few of the local spots and know the food and service provided. Pick their brains, even when dining at their restaurants. I know this sounds a little tacky, but I am sure anyone reading this has the ability to wind a yarn around the situation.
The message here is such: You have to do some research, spend a little time poking around. Your money and time is valuable, and Our Fair City has an almost inordinate amount of restaurants vying for your financial attention. Don’t trust just one source, there is no “Food Guru” (although one guy tried convincing you of this) which can espouse every bit of knowledge you need to make a decision. Don’t trust a “star” system, trust your own taste and ingenuity.
My last bit of advice is DON’T TRUST ANONYMOUS INTERWEB REVIEWERS. If you don’t have the cajones to attach your real identity to your opinion, it must not matter that much to you. These people are what I often like to refer to as “Culinary Cowards” (not to be confused with Culinary Cow) are often just talking a bunch of crap. Go back to AOL chat rooms with your BS, CC. We don’t need you here.
Now get out there and eat (Local)!
P.S. feel free to ask me for dining ideas (FB Sam Auen, Twitter @VegChefDSM, Email email@example.com). I HAVE most of the information you need at my disposal
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: a-holes, Food Blogs, Food Critics, New York Times, Noah Ellis, Red Medicine, S. Irene Virbila
OH, I love it when restaurateurs take their fate into their own hands! They might be undermining themselves, they may be poising themselves for a “Person Of The Year” award from local diners, or they might just be kicking out another paying customer. Such is life, when making decisions regarding your own fate compounded with the inclusion of another person/group of people you can only predict the outcome to so many decimals. That is what makes life interesting, and in this case:
In this episode of Restaurant Life we encounter an uh…encounter betwixt a Restaurant Owner and a Restaurant Critic who are at odds as to whether said Critic should be seated. This scenario may sound VERY familiar to you tens of readers who experienced “Wini-Gate” in all of its Meh-ness.
Here is the tale as told by the New York Times:
December 22, 2010, 6:04 pm
<!– — Updated: 6:29 pm –>
Restaurateur Ejects Los Angeles Times Critic
By PETE WELLS
If you are an owner of a restaurant that keeps a critic waiting for a table, you could spend the rest of the night trying to make it all better. Or you could just throw the critic out on the street.
Noah Ellis chose the second route when the Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbila came into Red Medicine last night. Mr. Ellis recounted the episode on the restaurant’s Tumblr, and posted a photo of Ms. Virbila that he snapped just before expelling her. Here’s how he explained making that call:
Our purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her. We find that some of her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational, and that they have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs — we don’t feel that they should be blind-sided by someone with no understanding of what it takes to run or work in a restaurant.
Ms. Virbila told Daily Dish, her paper’s food blog, that she and her party had been waiting 45 minutes past their reservation time when Mr. Ellis walked up, carrying a camera. Her editor, Russ Parsons, told Daily Dish that Ms. Virbila was unsettled by the encounter and by having her picture taken without her permission. Most of all, he said, “She was upset because she has worked extremely hard for more than 15 years to maintain her anonymity in the L.A. restaurant scene.”
He also told Daily Dish that the Times will continue with its plans to review Red Medicine. The blog did not state whether he intends to have the review carried out by Ms. Virbila or by another critic.
6:25 p.m. | Updated In a phone interview with Glenn Collins, Mr. Parsons said that Ms. Virbila preferred not to speak about the incident. “She would rather let her writing speak for itself,” she said.
He confirmed that the paper intends to have the restaurant reviewed, either by Ms. Virbila or by another staffer. “We may dress her up in a clown uniform,” he said with a laugh, “or enlist one of Ruth Reichl’s makeup artists.”
This is the part I have found to be the most profound, and is almost the thesis statement on which this blog was founded on one year ago:
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: a-holes, Food Critics, La Mie, ten easy steps, Wini-Gate
Well, Tens, I can honestly say that Wini-Gate has come to an anti-climactic end. I am calling it, time of death 9:36 December 9, 20 ought 10. I can only hope that everyone involved, and those who have injected themselves into the situation, have learned two valuable lessons: 1) Watch what you blog about if you are high-ish profile or employed by actual publishers and 2) Restaurant owners are mad as hell and are [possibly] not going to take it any more.
- Food Criticism isn’t the Truth! Food Criticism is a goddamn Amusement Park!
We have also learned that being an a-hole customer is just that, being an a-hole customer. You show up at closing time, you may be poking the snake. If you think that you are cutting it close or have a question about closing time, use that “stupid phone” in your hand, swipe your greezy finger across its beautiful super amoled screen and “Lougle” search for a phone number. Touch the number that magically appears and, if your phone is as stupify-ing as mine, it will automatically dial the restaurant. Ask the human on the other end of airspace, assuming that humans aren’t obsolete by the time you decide to actually dial a phone number to contact said eatery, what time they close and if you are close to arriving and they are almost closed, ask if they mind serving you at such a late hour (not that 8pm is late for anyone under 70 years old). If they opt to continue closing, they may have a suggestion (other than growing up and having some kids) as to where else you could experience the feeling of food in your mouth at such an hour.
Here is a quick guide:
Locally Grown’s Steps To Avoid Closing Time Scorn
- It seems close to closing time for the restaurant you chose to visit.
- Look up the Inderdork site or phone number for the restaurant.
- Call. Do Not Email. Email will more than likely be not returned in time.
- BONUS TECHIE STEP: If you and the restaurant are both on Twitter or a similar Social Media outlet, send them a message, you will get a pretty immediate answer (although not as effective as calling the restuarant for this purpose). Some eateries have gone past the point of just having a Twitter account and are actually using it to COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR GUESTS. This is also a good option for those of you who thought emailing was a good idea in step 3, probably due to a societal based fear of actual human interaction.
- Ask what time they close.
- If they are within 15-20 minutes of closing ask if they would be willing to acomodate you and your party. The smaller your party, the better the chances of success. Unless you are Wini and you are trying to eat at La Mie.
- If they are unable to fit you in to their closing time frame (although they really should as a general good neighbor rule), ask for a suggestion of a different location.
- Thank them for either staying open to serve you, or for their help in finding an alternate dining establishment.
- Do not give ultimatums or act like an a-hole.
It is really that simple to avoid feeling the chapped hide of a Pony Express rider when dining late in the DMZ. Or anywhere.
Wini-Gate is over. If you want updates, subscribe to her comments section. Her readers have gone beyond the call of whatever.
Speaking of dining, I have to get going to beat the noon rush for a downtown lunch…
Filed under: Local Food Commentary, Total Rubbish, Uncategorized | Tags: Bathory, chefs, datebook diner, des moines, Food Critics, hugs, Joe Logsdon, La Mie, local, Winni-Gate
Note: This post was originally written on Thursday, but due to time constraints was not finished or posted. I am including the original post, but more of the story has unfolded…so now this is happening:
Wini-Gate part 1
Being inside the kitchen-sphere gives one a great insider view into the hearts and minds of those who have decided that they have what it takes to please the palates of the eating public. One of the common complaints from these hard working owners and chefs, after bad customers and slow business, is the dreaded Restaurant Reviewer. Cries of foul play, unfairness, favorites, and the like can escalate into the more-popular-than-you-would-think “well, if I see that so-and-so come into MY restaurant, I will just tell them to leave.” This is a comment that is generally prefaced by much drinking or similar shenanigans, and is always a tough talking empty threat…until now.
La Mie Owner Joe Logsdon ended what could be hundreds of years of threats of denial towards Reviewers this week with the shocking treatment of our very own Datebook Diner. DD and her Husband attempted to enjoy dinner at La Mie (Now that La Mie has purged itself of Le Jardin, which was a restaurant which served dinner in the La Mie spot and was owned by former Grand Piano Bistro chef Tag Grandgeorge), when they were met with the Brick Wall of Denial from Mr. Logsdon. To get the inside story on what happened you should read DD’s account of the event. My truncated version is this: Winni and her husband showed up very close to closing time, were met by owner Logsdon, and were turned away. I, for one, and pretty shocked at this brazen denial of not only someone who would like some food, but someone who’s opinion on food is generally trusted by the general public.
But does the general public (that means you) need to rely on the opinion of a few professional foodies, or are we ready to trust our digital peers?
Added Friday, Dec 3:
There has been much dicussion/argument regarding Wini-Gate as to who was right or wrong in this situation and I firmly stand on the side of Mr. Logsdon. I know that those of you who follow me on twitter were treated to a “you don’t know the whole story” while trying to argue for the DD’s valor, and I am sticking to my story. I WILL share the other side of this incident when and if I speak to the guy who reached down, grabbed his stuff, squeezed a little, and felt that pain that lets you know that you have cajones to fly that Mission Accomplished flag, Joe Logsdon. Joe, who may go down as a hero to anyone out there in the industry who wanted to treat their local food critic to a little bird watching.
Anyhoo, i suppose I should go earn a real living at my actual job. This will earn you all a special Saturday edition of Locally Grown, as we aim to stir the turd in the punch bowl until it is properly incorporated in the punch party we call the DMZ Dining Scene.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: des moines, downtown, Food Critics, hugs, manners, questions, show tunes, some other stuff., The Greatest Love Of All, W, Wu-tang Clan
Good afternoon, tens of readers! It is once again a glorious, warm, sunshiny day here in the DMZ (Des Moines Zone), and word on the public radio waves is that this will be the norm for us central Iowans for at least a few more weeks. This is great news for local cyclists, runners, dog walkists, restaurateurs, donut makers, meteorologists (they won’t be dodging any Frostee’s for a while longer), campers, hikers, kayak-iacs, and especially the Farmers. According to a few sources close to LG the growing season this year “sucked.” The too-wet weather wreaked havoc on planting and maintaining the veggies you crave, but due, to a miracle of nature the crops will be coming out of the fields on time this year, you can read the harvest report here, courtesy of The Messenger. I am happy that these hard working women and men will be able to remove their bounty in a timely manner…and maybe this year the harvest won’t mess with the propane prices too much, and the kids will all be listening to the Wu in shorts well into November.
So, yes, it is nice out. You get the picture. Let’s all rejoice that the weather is nice and that the last paragraph has ended. And so has this one.
Last week a few things happened in the world that were of great importance to the local food scene here in the DMZ. The World Food Prize/World Food Festival took place in the lovely East Village in downtown DSM. The WFP was founded in 1986 by Iowa native and Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, a hero to the nations of the world plagued by hunger. Dr. Borlaug was a great man who is credited with saving one billion lives, more than anyone else in history. He is also the creator of what is popularly known as the “Green Movement.” I urge you to read more about Dr. Borlaug and the World Food Prize at the World Food Prize site. There you can learn about the man, the movement, and how you can get involved, if you should choose to do so.
The World Food Festival is a separate event held in conjunction with the WFP summit to celebrate the diverse reaches of our local culinary tapestry. Each vendor offered a $1 “taste” item along with their regular menu. There were also live demonstrations from local chefs (?), including the Iowa Machine Shed? hmmm. Alohana? Isn’t that a franchise chain? Yep. Oh, and I see my buddy DH was on the roster too. Fun. I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that a certain local chef and blogger should have been doing a demonstration on the stage. Maybe next year. I could demonstrate how to cook something and talk trash it on the interdork at the same time…
And speaking of talking trash on the interwebs
After a soon-to-be-really-obese-television-host went round after round with a local sandwich, the DMZ food press was asked to give a a little piece of there time and influence to help raise national awareness of the food scene that I had, up til last week, thought they were a part of, but I am getting more of a “bystander” feel from a few. That’s fine and dandy. I can see where the mistake was made. Food Critics can eat the food and write about the food, for better or worse, sort of creating an involuntary PR department for restaurants. BUT if you ask your local food writer to maybe possibly “pump up” the things they see as kicking ass on the local scene to other people in other food scenes, that is OVER THE LINE, even though it is just more PR. Journalism, especially entertainment jounalism, at its most basic level is public relations between the news source and the reader? Am I wrong? Should I stop typing with my tongs and read a book about journalism? Am I taking this too far? I heard from the Illustrious Datebook Diner and the Food Dude, but what of the other 8 or 9 folks who seemingly reluctantly write about restaurants for part of their living? Y’all didn’t get the memo? DD, what was that MUST EAT AT spot you were referring to? I gave you mine, time to ante up.
So many questions, so many beatings of the dead horse/brokening of the record. I just want some community to start happening between the writers and the cooks. There is a huge disparity between the talent and work level our local chefs and the recognition they get from the people in charge of recognizing. Cripes, I suppose that just picked another fight. Maybe I should just go back to sharing recipes.
Ok, we have to cut today short, as I am due to help lead “Write Club” in a little while, and I shouldn’t miss my writer’s collective meeting to actually write stuff.
I hope at least some of that made sense-ish.
P.S. I hear that someone has recently earned a Locally Grown Bush League Food Un-writer Award! Will it be a two-peat?
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: A-dong, Andrew Meek, Banh Mi, cafe di scala, chefs, datebook diner, des moines, dining, downtown, fine dining, Food Blogs, Food Critics, Hal Jasa, Jack Bauer, Jim Duncan, local, questions
Yesterday LG covered the aftermath of what is currently Our Fair City’s “Defining Moment of International Culinary Capacity,” the Adam Emmenecker Sandwich challenge as sort-of-tackled by Travel Channel star and Slop Jockey Adam Richman. In the end what/who tackled what/who was lost in the fray of yet another ploy to illicit the help of the city’s “Food Press” to further the global acknowledgement of our locavore-istas and the chef-driven local food scene here in Iowa. We heard from the Food Dude (via my facebook account, you can “friend me” there for more musings.) regarding his dealings with food television producers, and the Illustrious Datebook Diner, who was as inquisitive as ever. Let’s see if we can turn back time and find a way to cull forth her comment…(The following is in no way an attack on DD, but since she summed up many good points in her comment, this is happening.)
[rubs magic jaunty light fixture]
La Bonne Femme: Well, maybe there’s an adverse connection between our “gluttonous portion lack of control” and the finesse/precision/creativity of our cuisine. When quantity is valued over quality, bi-coastal food scouts aren’t going to pay much attention.
I see the point, but quantity is valued over quality in every city around the country, in one restaurant or another. Food Scouts go either to the “Big 5,” NYC, SF, LA, PDX, CHI, or to Places Of Interest As Promoted By Said Places Of Interest. You have to create a “buzz” or “rattle” around your food scene to get noticed, especially in a small market such as Des Moines. This is where the “credibility” of the actual print press can come in handy, hence the call to um…arms? pens? You get the point.
Also, on the chef-driven local food scene, what can you get here that you can’t find at good restaurants in many places? What makes DSM stand out? Lots of cities in the country lie close to agricultural abundance….
All True, except that Iowa is supposed to be the Agricultural Center of this Tootsie Pop we call America. How many licks will it take to get to the center? Huh?
it’s what chefs do with the goods that makes news.
Yes, but it is really what the NEWS WRITERS do with the news of what the chefs are doing with the goods that makes a difference. News is just marketing with a little more credibility in this equation, so get out there and spread the words. There are chefs that are kicking some culinary ass around here, and they aren’t getting the due that they deserve. This is a problem. You can’t get noticed if your head is buried in the sand. Just ask any ostrich.
Don’t get me wrong–I love the food scene here, but I just wonder what you think would be worth the country’s attention, as in, You HAVE to go to Des Moines to eat at __________.
(I have an answer, but you go first.)
Ok, I will go first. In fact, the first draft of yesterday’s nonsense-a-thon included a list. Here is another version of it, in not much of an order:
- Cafe Di Scala
- Baru 66
- The entire Asian Cuisine phenomenon (I realize this is not a restaurant)
- Lincoln Cafe
There are many others, but I am on a time constraint here.
Here is MY point: The writers of Juice, the Register, Cityview, and all other major news outlet type things: Please listen to what I am saying here. I, along with many local chefs and restaurateurs, implore you to use your influence and maybe a little of your free time to lift up the Food Scene. Help elevate it to the “next level” by working with other media outlets, in other cities, to form some kind of partnership…and maybe, now that we have our proverbial foot in television’s door, we can let the world know what is happening in the great city of Des Moines.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: chefs, dining, food, Food Critics, manners, servers, some other stuff., taco bell, tacos
Here it is, a wonderful October Monday Morning, the Sun is embracing the DezMoz/DMI/DSM/DeM Metro Area in a glorious hug of warm rays, the cool autumn air crisp and clean, and some other nice things, including NO COMPLAINTS FROM ME. Yes, a miracle has truly taken place this weekend…it was very much like that Ice Cube song, “Today Was A Good Day,” but more like “Todays Was Some Good Days.”
This is where you would have seen the chart I had prepared based on the happenings of Ice Cube’s Good Day vs. an Average Day vs. A Bad Day vs. This past weekend, but since I use Ubuntu/Open Office, I could not save the graph as a WordPress-friendly file type. If anyone has any advice regarding this problem, other than switching my OS, let me know.
Instead, you get this partial flow chart from www.geekologie.com
My chart was more situation-specific, but whatever. Thankfully the Geekologie geeks know how to utilize graphic editing software.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of complaints from the last week, but this weekend trumped/erased from memory said issues. Instead, let’s do something different.
This week I would like all of you to visit your favorite restaurant, you can do this solo or bring a group. Doesn’t sound to difficult so far, does it? I would like you to enjoy your favorite meal served by your favorite server/cashier/drive-thru attendant/lunch lady/sandwich artist/etc (hey, not everyone’s favorite restaurant is fine dining, you would be shocked to find out my favorite spot to eat, as I would possibly be shocked to find out yours). When the meal is over, thank the people who prepared (the chef, the burger flipper, the taco guy, etc) and served your food. I mean REALLY thank them. Not in the “this is the best service I have had, then leave a crappy tip” kind of way, but in the “I truly and sincerely appreciate all that you have done to make me a happy repeat customer then tip well, if it is a tipping situation” kinda way. A light sprinkling of complements on top of the Donut Of Food Service-itude goes a long way.
Let’s review the steps:
- Go to favorite restaurant
- Enjoy meal and service
- Let the people responsible know how much you appreciate them and their food.
You could even take this a step further and contact the establishment via the mail or interweb to compliment them a second time (after you have complimented in person). These people have worked hard to make you happy. Show them some love.
That is assignment number one. Assignment number two is as follows:
- Think of a restaurant you enjoy which you “discovered” through a print review.
- Send the Reviewer/Critic an email or “tweet” thanking them for turning you on to said eatery.
Even easier (unless you can’t think of an instance where a food critic/restaurant reviewer steered you to a good restaurant, which I find highly unlikely) than assignment one.
You have your assignments, now get out there and spread the love!