Locally Grown


The Occasionally Awarded LocallyGrown20 Food Critics Poll Edition Part 1
2010/02/26, 6:01 am
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What IS a LocallyGrown20?

It IS my attempt at possibly clearing up the slop called opinion polls. It is not really an opinion poll as under normal circumstance it would just be MY opinion and no poll needs to be conducted for that. There are no real rewards to those chosen or to those doing the choosing (except for the extreme personal satisfaction of making decisions and having them posted on the Interrwebb or having your name plastered all over the interdork for tens of people to see of course), and the list will happen at random intervals as I, or maybe as suggestive (like idea for a list, not wink wink nudge nudge) readers, see fit. An LG20 is a list of 20, Twenty, of the best whatevers according to me or a specially chosen “theme pannel” of my…choosing.

So for this installment I have chosen a very specific group to prod, DSM’s Food Critictistas.

A number of our elite Food Writing Types have been posed this question:

What are your TOP 20 DSM METRO AREA EATING ESTABLISHMENTS.

What will they choose? Will this be honest answers time, or will we just see a pander-burger-helper to their readers’ poll results?

Where do they all go when eating out off the clock?

I bet you are all on the edge of your eating-seating apparati in anticipation. You will (maybe) not disappointed.

Sing out loud to the tune of famous Gloved Ground Cow Box Meal theme

“Pander-burger helper
Helps your panderer
Help you
Pick a great meal”

Hearts n Stuff,

The Cook

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A (very) short poll-post
2010/02/23, 3:15 am
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[Stay with me people, I have been so wrapped up in worrying about Jack Bauer that my collumn has suffered!]

I am giving serious thought to this “SkyMazeGraze” idea.

How many of you out there would be interested in an educated guide to Skywalk Cuisine?

This is a real question to which I expect tens of answers. Seriously, leave me a comment, give me some motivation to ‘get up in there’ and show you the Skywalk’s stuff.

Here’s a fun game for you to do while you ponder whether or not this Cook should eat his way around the Maze for your benefit. I like to call this the Tour De Pizza. See how many places on the skywalk you can hit for one slice of pizza in one lunch break. It is a fun game.

And seriously, I want some answers.

Stay tuned for my ‘coverage’ of last week’s Cityview awards and the upcoming Beloved Blue Ribbon Baconfest (an event which sold out in 25 minutes. Paul McCartney didn’t even sell that fast last time in town.).

The Cook



Reviewing a Review, Calling Out The Cons
2010/02/12, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When reviewing a restaurant there are many pieces of information to take in to consideration. You want your readers to know first and foremost the basics about the establishment such as hours of operation, address, and phone number. You may want to add some spice such as the eatery’s history and a little about the neighborhood it calls home. Sounds like a good start, right?

Moving deeper into the review we should find a “first impression” of the “atmosphere” then on to initial contact with the service staff and blah blah blah.

Ok, if you are reading this right now, chances are you have had your eyes glued to at least one restaurant review in your lifetime. You probably understand what “need to know” information is (in this context, this isn’t a military operation), and what the reviewer thinks you need to know (in the DSM, I call this “Reviewer Mallow Fluff Pad”)

Here is some recent RMFP found weakly disguised as review.

B Sanchez Gets an RMFP “Like, OMG” Airhead award for the Feb 12th review of Indian Grill in DSM’s Downtown Skywalk.

(The Skywalk is the Great Hamster Maze for humans to seek food and warmth in Downtown DSM. I will write more on the subject another time).

The review is what I assume to be the first in a series of “Lunch Skywalker” peices. (Nice name, does it come in your size?) I gather that this is supposed to inform SkyMaze inhabitants of what they have in store, both for lunch and for Metromix/Juice sponsored “humor.”

Now, the necessary basic info is given, then on to the review. This is where everything takes a nose dive. B.S. mentions the posters on the walls. She makes comments that she is not going to order the chicken or whatever is advertised. Does she tell you that the spot was once occupied by Champps Chicken, or that the owners of Indian Grill decided to not only serve top-notch indian food but to also KEEP THE OLD CHAMPPS CHICKEN MENU ALIVE? Nope, just comment on the posters and move on. Nothing to see here. Does she ask the person who came to her table if she was the owner or not? Nope, just throws out a sideways assumtion and moves on. Speed Of Service. At the Buffet. Why Waste Words? It is a buffet, of course it is a logical choice for those in a time crunch.

There are many more shortcomings, but I have already written more words about the review than were actually contained within its…uh…paragraph. Maybe the Lunch Skywalker crew should just assemble a list of Skywalk Restaurants grouped by maze regions and skip the soul-stealing review attempts. Or maybe just learen to ask questions ( I am probably correct in assuming you were taught some sort of question-asking thingy in journalism school) Or maybe a “readers’ choice” poll is the way to go. The Register’s Grate Top Fifty SkyMaze Lunch Restaurant Poll Giveaway Sweepstakes.

I may just have to do my own series and call it the “SkyMazeGraze”

For this, B.S., you get a RMFP Award. Enjoy it. Shoot for the stars and you may reach Super-pap-dom.

On to our favorite, the Datebook Diner. Reviewed a Steak Caesar Salad. Nuff Said. Or “Fluff Sad”

Restaurant reviewers, quit conning the readers. Readers, find out for yourself by going out and TRYING these places.

Hugs and kisses.

The Cook



Padding The Words/Coddling The Cooks.
2010/02/10, 12:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

First off I would like to thank all of you whom have taken time out of your…time to read the words of this cook. It is nice to know there are some like-minded individuals in Des Moines. Keep the feedback coming, and I will keep spouting opinions.

I have some words regarding last week’s Blog, something about Chefs getting along. Apparently this concept has been deemed HORSESHIT in DSM, so please disregard the late night ramblings of a Kitchen Peace Activist. I still urge you non-chefs to pass along the words to any working chefs as I suspect most of the Chefs Of Des Moines have not seen nor have the time to search for this blog. In fact, let all of your friends – in or out of the restaurant industry- know what words have been spit out and encourage them taste the fresh barnyard flavor of Inter-Kitchen Peace.

“What is this HORSESHIT in front of me? I did not realize the internet was powerful enough to carry such a large load of HORSESHIT all the way to my eyes.”

I still think it is a good idea, at least it is a concept that could be locally grown.

On to TODAY’S subject (Notice this says today, not ‘this week’ for I may have MORE THAN ONE POST IN ME THIS WEEK).

Growing up in Iowa is much like growing up any place in the U.S. in that you have to eat food, usually a few times per day. At least once in a while you will eat one of these meals rather reluctantly due to it being mis-represented as food by the crook – er – Cook. Anyone following yet? What I am saying here is that sometime in your life you have had to eat a meal prepared by a family member or family friend and PRETEND IT WAS OK TO EAT. Dry burgers, stringy chicken, bland lumpy gravies, CANNED VEGETABLES, and the like are all culprits here. Crunchy mac and cheese (and not due to toasted bread crumbs), disintigrated lasagne noodles, you all can add a few to the list. What did you do in such situations? More often than not we are taught to grin and bear it. Bad Idea.

“Nathan, how is that yummy meatloaf? Huh?”
“Oh *retch* it’s good, Aunt Geri”
Scene cuts to under the table. Nathan stuffing meatloaf in his pockets for a later rondevouz with the outside trash can or neighborhood dogs.

Nothing good becomes of this passive eating technique. Teaching children to communicate is a very important job which adults drop the ball on when forcing kids to accept the inevitable bland chicken and dumplings as delicious. Showing kids at an early age that it is ok to disagree with food choices, within reason, could mean all the difference in the youngsters’ lives. A child taught to convey their feelings about food can help a future friend discover that they were missing something in their cooking, could lead to happier interpersonal relationships in adulthood, and will ultimately guide them through life as an honest contributing member of society. Allowing a child’s tastebuds to create lies to coddle the cook could turn them into a bitter, passive aggressive adult or worse…a FOOD CRITIC.

Anyway, until next time. Bon Apetite for Destruction.



Chefs of Des Moines: Can’t we all just get along?
2010/02/04, 8:48 am
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(Note: The Vegetarian Expose scheduled for this week has been pre-empted for this important message)

I was talking to a friend of mine a few months ago about the local food scene (ok, this could apply to almost any conversation on any day with any one of my friends, but I am specifically speaking of this CERTAIN time), and what would make it a better place for us Chefs-types. Maybe it was the booze talking (yes, after-work cocktails and reflecting on the industry you are a part of is a fact everyday life for people in our field), but there were some silly ideas thrown out there. “Let’s f**king ban food writers until they learn how to play nice”(I have expanded on that idea in the past), “why don’t we sue the entire population of DSM and have them COURT ORDERED to have to come in to our restaurants”, “Give the servers a brain”, “Food Industry Bailout!” (I mean, what should be more important to America – Cooks or Crooks?), and many more. All great ideas, but a little outside of our abilities and normal sensibility. My friend then had a brilliant flash of brilliance- all the chefs of DSM should GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER. We should stop the back stabbing, quit the trash talking, share ideas with each other, feed and FEED OFF of each other to further one another’s understanding of our craft. The braisers and the barbecuers holding hands in a field of daisies with the vegetarians and the raw foodists who are talking to the Italianites and Francophiles working to form a kinship that absolutley pushes everyone forward ten fold. How does one do such a thing?

By simply GETTING ALONG. Bury those hatchets, forgive the wrong doers, open up to those who you have written off and ignored, put aside your egos or paranoia, or whatever else is keeping you from sharing a glass of wine and some good conversation with your peers. Hell, even if you don’t consider them your peers try this out. Impart some knowlege or relate some stories. Share some ideas or just some laughs. We should all be constantly striving to learn, striving to teach, and pushing our culinary community forward. WE HAVE A FINE CITY AND GOOD FOOD, BOTH OF WHICH COULD BE EVEN BETTER IF WE WOULD JUST LEARN TO FOSTER INTER-KITCHEN COMARADERIE.

There are chef based activist movements, groups of chefs holding dinner parties for one another, some cities even have late night spots where chefs and cooks gather for some grub after their long days. Just going in to have a bite to eat at a neighboring restaurant and speaking with the chef is a good start. Maybe when you find out that a chef or restauratuer is in your dining room, stop out and have a chat. I propose a breakfast club or some such venture.

Some of you may be thinking this whole idea is B.S., but it isn’t. This is how things should be from here on out. I am interested in hearing some feedback. What do you think we can do to turn this around?

We love DSM, and We love our food. Can’t We all just get along?

It’s all true, you just read it on the internet, and the internet doesn’t lie.