Locally Grown

Cochon555 Part IV: Neighbor Of The Beast

So by now most of you have probably heard about the Great PDX Cochon 555 Fracas of 2010 incident involving, among other folks, event owner and promoter Brady Lowe and Portland Douche/Celebrity Chef Eric Bechard. I really had no intention of ever writing about this as I feel strongly that Supreme Immaturity such as this should not be rewarded with words and face it, these mug shots are worth at least a thousand words apiece:

Victims of a (Pork) Lover's Quarrel?

Luckily Kelly Clarke of the Willamette Week Online, Portland’s Ultimate Fighting Guide to Chef Competitions, has done as bang up of a job at covering the Douche Bowl as Chef Eric Bechard has making himself look like the Biggest Loser. You can read Clarke’s original post here, and then the subsequent update with police report commentary here.

I think that everyone involved in the “Fracas” should get a standing ovation.

Keep up the great work, we're all counting on you

Now, as far as the Des Moines or DMI or DSM or whatever you prefer, Cochon 555 finale here, I was quoted in this week’s Juice (DSM’s answer to all things for the Children of the Corn Age Demographic) as to the future of Cochon555 contestant and local chef Hal Jasa’s planned restaurant, Homage. The last time I spoke with Chef Jasa about his plans it included the East Village.  I cannot at this time confirm nor deny his interest in that neighborhood. I DO confirm that I wuold like this restaurant to get off the ground soon.

Speaking of new restaurants…

OH, I should probably wait on that little chestnut of information.

Until next time, go to the TimberPine web site and steal my Cilantro Pesto recipe.


The Cook

Des Moines’ Lost Tribe Part 1.1 “Missing In Fraction”

Yesterday I took a chance posting from my new platform (a netbook) in a new location (Downtown Public Library).  One or both of these factors contributed to the deportation of over half the post to a place famous for breeding mysterious professional wrestlers…PARTS UNKNOWN.  The result was a rant about being vegetarian in DSM(DMI) and a small blurb about ONE RESTAURANT, which probably seems to some readers as pretty normal behavior on my part.  Not the case. Today I will attempt to recapture the magic lost at the Public Library yesterday (just MY particular magic, not the other magic I witnessed being lost during my library-ular stay).

Ok, here we go…


I think that starting semi-fresh would be the way to stay today.  I have a new  location (The Incredible Locust Tap…great Wifi) and a new attitude.  Before we get back to the nuts and boltz of the situation, I would like to address the ONE comment left by a reader “Christa” from Tuesday’s mishap of a post.  Christa sez…

“I’ve found Des Moines to be surprisingly veggie-friendly, so long as you stay away from the obvious non-herbivorous spots (BBQ places, steak houses, Machine Shed, etc). I’ve also found that any place that *doesn’t* have obvious vegetarian choices will usually be willing to whip up something special if you ask nicely (and tip well).”

First I would like to thank Christa for her comment.  I value your opinion and readership.  Thank you, Christa.  Now, Christa, I wouldn’t call Our Fair City Veggie Friendly.  I think of it more as Veggie Tolerant. Des Moines lacks the restaurant, co-op, and general support that a good vegetarian friendly city enjoys.  Whole Foods (the Wal-Mart of natural food stuffs) has done a series of studies in DSM and has determined that we will not be ready for a Whole Foods/Co-op or a vegetarian restaurant for 5 or more years.  I call bullshit on that study, the people I talk to on a daily basis are ready for a real Co-op (ala New Pioneer in Iowa City) and a true sit-down vegetarian/vegan dining experience.  Iowa City has been blessed with The Red Avocado, the aforementioned New Pioneer Co-Op, and Masala (vegetarian Indian cuisine). Des Moines has Ritual Cafe and Fresh Cafe (1721 25th street, West Des Moines) which are great in their own right, but we lack a dining experience akin to one you can find even in smaller cities like Laramie, WY of all places. (Anyone want to step up to the plate?)Yes, we also have Campbell’s and New City Market (hey guys, see you for some Gluten soon), but nothing that compares in size to New Pi.  We even have a few Raw Foodist Chefs including Sherri Clark (what up!).  A few chefs have done what they can to raise awareness/fight the fight of vegetarian cuisine in fine dining, namely George Formaro and yours truly (I know, lame self-service) but Des Moines is still in the Vegetarian Dark Ages in comparison to the rest of the country.  Vegetarian Tolerant. Remember that phrase.

Now, in response to Christa’s claim that you can just show up and get vegetarian food wherever and reader Maria’s question as to why she can’t get vegetarian dishes unless is all about the cream and cheese (or cream cheese in La Mie’s case).  Here is the proper way to go about dining out at a locally owned fine dining (or casual dining) restaurant.

  1. Don’t be afraid to use the telephone: If you know in advance that you will be dining at a particular restaurant and you have special dietary requirements, call during off-peak hours (maybe in the morning before lunch or between 2-4pm) and ask about the menu.  Let the person on the phone know what you desire (don’t ask for Thai food in an Italian joint though) and what limitations you have.  If you are REALLY afraid of calling, try e-mail, but it isn’t the recommended protocol.
  2. Be serious about being serious about calling: Don’t procrastinate, if you need special attention from the chef/cook staff the worst way to go about it is to just show up for your reservation and expect the green carpet rolled out for you.  As a chef, I am always up for the challenge but always appreciate when people make it a little less challenging by giving a little fair warning.  Extra time gives the chef a chance to formulate a game plan and maybe pick some supplies up from the store. Small kitchens/restaurants have small menus and keep a small stock of provisions usually tailored toward their current menu.
  3. Seriously, call ahead: or maybe visit if you are in the neighborhood.

That’s how it is done.  Now, as far as casual places or chains go, you are at the mercy of your own creativity.  Look at what is on the menu and deviate where necessary.  One major word of caution is CHICKEN STOCK.  Wait, that’s two words.  There are a few soups out there that contain chicken stock that you wouldn’t suspect.  Two culprits off the top of my head are the house soups at Centro and South Union Cafe.  The tomato-basil-tortellini soup and the Potato Pepperjack are, to my knowledge (I used to make it on a daily basis and tried to change the recipe to no avail) still being made with chicken stock.  You really have to watch for this.  I was drug off to the Quiznos on Grand Ave for lunch one day and the staff there went way out of there way to check with some higher up office as to whether their soup du jour was fowl-free.  It wasn’t, and I was saved from a few extra trips to the rest room that day.  Thank you, ladies.

We do have a number of Vegetarian-Friendly restaurants in the city.  My original post yesterday contained some blurbs about a few of them, but we all know what happened with that little chestnut of info.  Here is another short list, sans blurbs but with the normally absent location information, of a few of my recommended restaurants.

Fresh Cafe, 1721 Twenty Fifth Street Suite 110, West Des Moines  515 440 4700  This place was recommended to me by the cast of Lion King when they were in town.  Fresh Vegan and Vegetarian fare including catering, and fresh Wheat Grass shots.

Gateway Market Cafe, 2002 Woodland Avenue, Des Moines 515 243 1754  Gateway has not only a cafe with clearly marked vegetarian menu items, but a hot case, cold case, grab-n-go, and entire grocery section with plenty of veggie items.  If you can’t decide where to eat, it is a pretty good spot to end your hapless hunting.

Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust St, Des Moines  515 288 4872  Refer back to here for the info.

A-Dong, 1511 High Street, Des Moines  515 284 5632  Good, basic Vietnamese cuisine with a seperate Vegetarian menu.  Best Veggie Eggrolls (1C) in town.

These are just a few of the places I will be talking about over the next few weeks (Note: this will not be pre-empting my normal bull-honkery).

Eat Your Vegetables,

The Cook

Des Moines’ Lost Dining Tribe, The Herbivores

I have been meaning to address the Vegetarian/Vegan scene (or lack thereof) here in Des Moines for quite some time now.  We have seen the local food-writing (pro, am, or reluctant) attempt to put in their two cents…to varied degrees of unsuccess.  Let’s face it, writing about a subject you know little about is a very daunting task (I once tried to write an article about horse training.  Laughable) and any effort made to inform the Citizenry of the DSM(DMI) of their vegetarian dining options prior to this point in history should be applauded.  Kinda.

I have spent all but 6 months of my time in Des Moines living in the vegetarian and vegan realm and have experienced just about all of the joys and frustrations this city has to offer.  Being Veggie is very frustrating from a dining out standpoint.  Many times you are an outcast, an inconvenience, a dining anomaly to the people preparing or serving your food.  Conversely, once in a while you find a place that really gets what you are going for (which is NOT just a plate of bland, over-cooked steamed vegetables) which is seriously a pleasant surprise.  For all of you non-vegetarians out there, imagine your eating habits and lifestyle being constantly questioned.  I hope this is making sense.  For once.

So with that said, this will be an ongoing series for all of you Veg or Veg-curious folks looking to do a little dining out.  I welcome any input from you tens of readers out there.  I know you just want my opinion, but lets make this about community.  Isn’t that what eating is all about?

With all of that said, let’s get down to some real information.  Here is a short list off the top of my head of local spots that do a good job of catering to Veg-folk directly from their menus.

1. Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust St. 288-4872 This is DEMoynes’ only vegetarian-only spot.  It’s the ONLY place in town where the menu is sans-meat.  Ritual is a coffee shop that serves an assortment of Panini, Quiche, baked goods, and a darn fine Hummus.  No meat. ever.  Did I mention this is the ONLY ALL-VEGETARIAN PLACE IN recommend you support them, because they are carrying the torch for the rest of you.

Thank you wordpress for not publishing the other 600 words in this post.  I have about f*cking had it with this.  I apologize for the truncated post.  I was not intending on only listing Ritual Cafe, although it would have mad for a great short list.  i will attempt to post a revision listing the missing information later.  It’s break time.

The Cook

Oops, I Did It Again…
2010/05/23, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We all make mistakes and I make them constantly.  As my editor is currently suspended, the facts on that last news related article were not checked.  Yes, an incorrect link was listed for my contribution to the Timber Pine web site leading to all of you to be sent on a wild goose chase.  All apologies.  Here is the proper link:


Again, very sorry.  Almost as sorry as this guy

Until some other point in our joint time line,

The Cook

Locally Located News and Thanks.
2010/05/19, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

First off today I would like to thank all of you who take time from your reading of other, more important publications such as US Weekly (always MY #1 news source) or anything owned by Gannett (my last resort) and spending that time with me. Seriously, I appreciate the readership, comments, and feedback. So…Thank You. I wouldn’t do it without you.

A SUPER BIG THANKS TO MY GOOD FRIEND AND FELLOW CYCLIST CRAIG L. FOR HIS SUPPORT OF THIS BLOG. Craig recently provided me with a laptop which will enable me to stretch this thing out a little bit. You see, I have written this blog solely on my HTC G1 Android phone with the WordPress To Go app up until this very post. Honestly, it gets pretty tiring tip tap typing away the day, thumbing my nose while thumbing my phone. Craig, you are a bad ass and I owe you big time. This means more photos, links, and fun. I think it will refered to as being “feature rich” or something. There are also two gentelmen out there who have volunteered to do some design (you know who you are) who I will be hitting up soon.

Some other fun news:

Timber Pine Nursery has chosen me to partner with them to provide recipes and tips for gardeners wanting to get the most out of their summer bounty. Check it out at www.timberpine.com

I have been interviewed, photogged, and further pressly treated by none other than Juice. Thank you Brianne “Falafel” Sanchez and Eric Rowley for the fun times. I am not sure when it “drops” or whether it is internet-only or in actual real-time print (I really tried to ask as few questions as possible, I LOVE SUPRISES), but I am sure it will be a hoot. I have suspended all griping about Juice food reviews until the article hits the stands.

Speaking of suspended…this morning I awoke to Bathory performing what seemed to be some kind “Feline Breath Stealing Ritual” on Mrs. The Cook. He has been put on administative leave pending investigation of this particular superstition. He claims he was just out of breath from jumping on the bed. Doubtful.

The Cook

The French Connector/A Tale Of Two Tastings
2010/05/17, 4:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Last Wednesday a small group of chef-types took some time off to get out and “Get Frenched.” (Thanks for the rediculous ad campaign, Django). It’s a rare treat to enjoy a great dinner (Especially of this caliber) together with my fellow chefs rather than cook for others, so we made a real night of it.

The Targets: Bistro Montage and Baru66.

The Diners: Three Dudes with Appetites for Deconstruction.

The Goal: Get “Frenched”? (Although those ads are slightly funny, they pretty low-rent)

You are probably expecting me to give some Looooong synopsis on what went down during our outing, but I only offer this:

Cue up “New Kid In Town” by The Eagles

First stop was Baru66. The food was amazing, especially or first course and the Chef’s Amuse Buche offering for the night, Asparagus Creme Brule. The Stuffed Quail was also a standout along with both Pate’s we sampled. The atmosphere was a little cold for my taste and sorely lacking Newly-Crowned Chef Leon, but the food…oh the food. Lovely, precise, spot-on flavors, perfectly executed technique. Great Job, David, Mike, Bri, Nick, and Kelly. Pricing is as you would expect to pay for French Food of this Caliber, and if I had an expense account I would find reasons to review this place twice a month (also, if I was in fact a reviewer-type)

Second Stop, The Alpine to cleanse our palates then on to our Final French Destination:

Bistro Montage was in wind down mode, and we barely caught chef Enosh Kelley before he trotted off for the night (not to be confused with “foffing off”). Our server Ben readied a table as we talked shop with Enosh and verbally assaulted some familiar faces in the kitchen. The place was populated by a few tables of VERY happy people (always a good sign) who were swearing like baseball coaches and enjoying the evening. Enosh joined us and taught a little impromptu class on Sous Vide cooking and its benefits. The food here was also amazing. Sous Vide Pork Belly, super fresh vegetables, amazing pate’s (I was dining with a Pate Hound), great flavors and technique. We stayed a little late while finishing some bottles of wine and chatting with the staff. Overall a very warm, comforting experience that left us all as friends (our server even joined us at Carl’s for the post-game). We left as the patrons before us that night, happy, full, satisfied, and swearing quite a bit.

There has been talk of Baru Vs. Montage buzzing around the food scene since weeks before Baru’s opening and I would like to set the record straight-ish. In the words of one of my dining partners,

“The only losers in this are the people who don’t eat at both places”

Top notch job, everyone. Now go out and get…

Some beautiful french food. You deserve it.

The Cook

The Print Press Posed Purported…Pressed In Print?
2010/05/14, 5:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

I was recently contacted by a Very Nice Young Lady who is in the employ of a local weekly publication with a request to sit down for a bite to eat and a little Q’n’A session. It will be out sometime soon, and I seriously expect this to be a “reviewer retribution” type situation.

Great questions, a nice lunch at a local spot, and a chance for me to REALLY think about what the crap the whole point of this ranting and raving BS is trying to accomplish.

My question is this: What do you, my tens of readers, get out of this whole mess of run-on sentences and feline-regulated smart-assedness?

I can tell you what I get: some great comments, a few laughs, one free lunch, and 3 beers. Total satisfaction. Feels like living in a Foghat song.

More Tomorrow…all about French Food Hopping DSM (or DMI) Style.

Live from Carl’s Place,

The Cook


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