Locally Grown


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.



When UrbanSpork Yelps Wolf
2012/02/07, 3:40 pm
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here at LG, we have focused much of our attention and energy on avoiding writing blog posts.  When our energy is diverted and we get duped into writing actual blog posts our attention has been almost solely focused on a small handful (aka one) of people who do a fantastic (aka piss poor) job of reviewing (aka we don’t really know what to call what they do…but it isn’t reviewing) our local DMZ food scene.  With those (that) people (person) currently in France (Dear France: can you please keep her this time, she loves you and belongs amongst your inferior boots,  long, crusty loaves of bread and mini-desserts), our subject base has been truncated at best.

So with no recent reviews deserving of our heavy handed attention leaking forth unto your eyes through the soy ink stained pages of the Register, our attention was turned to the hundreds of fine folks who share their opinion with other fine folks via the really awesome user-review sites found all over the splinternet.  I registered on the UrbanSpoon web site (and yes, you can find me there under the name of “the cook,” go ahead and be my friend there.  I have already posted some poorly written reviews of a couple spots) and took to the virtual streets, looking for the real jems, those with that certain little something (isn’t there a French phrase for that?).

(this is getting way to long and pointless again. thanks for following along if you made it this far)

It always meh-mazes me how much opinion people are willing to spout out with an adjoining small bit of thought.  So many of the reviews that were encountered  were just knee-jerk-off reactions to one specific event involving a disgruntled customer and a misunderstanding.  So many of the misunderstandings/situations seem so easily remedied.  Sometimes just talking to the staff like a human being can go a long way.

Okay, this is going to have to be continued tomorrow.  I am losing track of the subject matter…seems to be a constant problem around here these days.

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.



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



Life’s (really) Little Questions:
2011/10/24, 7:58 am
Filed under: Dining Tips | Tags: , , , ,

Hello, tens.  It has been a long-ish six months in all of our lives, mine consisting of being too busy to really get any writing of this sort accomplished due to being busy with business, and yours consisting of wondering when you will get some snarky remarks regarding dining out and maybe a funny cat picture or two from yours truly.  Don’t hold your breath, tens, we aren’t out of the proverbial woods yet. (Although if you do decide to  hold your breath, you are lucky that Mom Nature built in that failsafe that causes you to pass out and continue breathing instead of exiting this mortal coil.  Just make sure you are sitting down so as not to fall and bump your little head)

Now, on to our very short subject today:  Questions.

During the last six months I, along with my staff, have heard some questions which have pushed the limits of the old adage that “there are no stupid questions.”  I am here to break it to you now, THERE ARE SOME VERY STUPID QUESTIONS.  I understand that there is a small portion of the population that knows absolutely nothing about the things you encounter in adult life, especially the phenomonon known as solid food.  By small portion I am talking about infants.  Regular sized (or even over- or under-sized) adult humans have all had enough life experience when dealing with solid food and the people whom serve said solids that there should be some expectation as to the direction of questioning directed towards said solid food servers.  Here are a few of my favorites as of late:

  • “So, how does this work?”  This is really the number one bone head question.  You walk up to a business which has food for sale.  Better yet, you are waiting in line for food and get to your goal, the person taking your order.  You then utter the phrase “so, how does this work?”  This is enough to Simon Cowel-ize anyone forced to confront such a situation.  Here is how it works:  Order Food.  Get Food.  Eat Food.  Repeat When Hungry.
  • What is that?” (while pointing to an item with a 12″x8″ label written in chalk beneath it) COME ON PEOPLE!  No matter what time of day, you should always approach this situation like you would approach an intersection: Look Before Crossing.   This is a pretty harmless situation, and made especially entertaining when the person has a dining partner who does the work of making fun of the question asker for the service staff.  Everyone can laugh, and the food staff doesn’t have to say a thing…until later when they talk a bunch of smack.
  • “Is that tofu?” (while pointing at shredded pork) Seriously?

What should you do if you find yourself about to ask a really bone headed question?  Here is a simple guide:

  1. Pause.
  2. Observe.
  3. Evaluate.
  4. Revise
  5. Ask.

Learn It.  Know It.  Live It.

Until next time, mind your manners and your something that rhymes with manners.

The cook




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