Locally Grown

Climbing From The A-hole Hole

After reviewing the last few weeks of sporadic postings, I realized that there is somewhat of an overlying A-hole theme that has crept into this sexy little otter of a blog. All of my posts have sounded like a hyper-cranky Andy Rooney wanna-be has taken over the writing duties. Am I really that mad from the chafe of cockamamie culinary culprits? I think the answer is clear, but should I let this chain of venting turn borderline-obsessive like that whole month of Gateway Market stuff? This revelation was then passed on to my hiatal editor, Bathory, who had this to say…

The Eyes of a Concerned Friend and Editor.


You know, he’s right, I need to just chill out and write about something a little less stressful.  He also has a right to be concerned now that his meal ticket is exerting signs of manic madness.  (You can only get so many cans of Super Supper on a Karaoke King’s winnings, so he has to live off my creative output, like any good editor does)

My latest rants have been oft misconstrued by readers, both human and feline, and while my real talent lies not in writing good, solid articles, but in writing retractions and explanations and basically back-tracking all over the place, I still insist on trying to bring you news in the guise of opinion.  The facts are sometimes colorfully re-arranged or totally skewed/backwards (I referred to SAMOSAS As PAPUSAS ONCE).  Well, now that I have had someone holding my attention for the last twenty minutes (with something better than me just whining about whatever it is I was whining about), I forgot my point.  Shocking.

OH!  The point was that I need to maybe chill out and bring you some real news for a few days.  We will see how that goes.

So without further skidoo, here is your Monday LG News, albeit a day late:

On August 2nd, 2010 from Noon until 1:30 p.m. I will have the honor of holding court with Michael Libbe of daily webcast Insight On Business , where Michael and I will be talking about local food, marketing, and probably local food.  Tune in to hear Micheal every Monday to Thursday at Insight On Business.

Next Friday, August 6th, from 6 til 9 (I like where this is going so far), the Great Western Gateway Al Fresco Dining Event will be held on 15th street between Locust and Grand and will feature ingredients from Cleverly Farms in Mingo, Iowa and a collaborative menu from George Formaro, Tony Lemmo, Carly Groban, and will feature the baristas of Ritual Cafe.  The price is $100 a head. You can read more about it here. I think I just went from 6 to midnight.

What else is going on?  Tuesday, August 3rd will see this year’s edition of National Night Out which you can read about here.  I hear that some local chefs are preparing food for the event to be served at Nollen Plaza.

well, that is your news for now.

I don’t feel right doing the news.  I think talking sh#t may be in order for tomorrow.

that is all for now.

The Cook

Oh, you can follow me on stinking Twitter if you really want to know what I am up to while shirking my write-a-torial duties at @VegChefDSM.


Fumbled! Farmers Marketed!
2010/07/21, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

So the true meaning of my Friday post wasn’t WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK, and maybe I got a little carried away.  I do that sometimes.  The real point was to TRUST THE CHEF.  This person (or group of people) worked hard at putting out that menu you hold in front of you.  There is also a little ego involved, as there is in any artistic realm.  If the menu is not an “ala carte” menu, then don’t treat it as such.  Don’t pull the culinary “dick move.”

For those of you with actual dietary restrictions, this does not apply to you and I have written two full blog posts regarding your situation.  Vegans, Vegetarians, Celiacs, Koshers, etc…your chef is usually up to the challenge of meeting your needs, as long as there is product in-house to facilitate a special needs non-menu victory.  I suppose that the majority of the public that does not require such special attention could possibly get a little jealous of those who do, then act as they do by designing their own version of the menu.

Another tentacle of this “problem” is the Server. Many kitchens have encountered the servist whom seems to have not even allowed their table look at the menu.  Here’s a scenario.

Server to table:

“Hello, I am Rupert, and will be taking care of your needs tonight.  Oh, my!  What are these horrid things doing on the table?  Let me take those dreadful menus far away from you poor, poor people!  Now, what is everyone feeling like eating this evening?”

Sever to kitchen:

“They don’t really like anything on the menu, do you think we could whip up some ____ or maybe ___ for them?”

Truthfully, this scenario doesn’t REALLY happen, but is more of a fantasy scenario the kitchen has written regarding servers who never seem to order anything from the menu without substitutions.

I am done with this subject for now.  It bores me.

I think it’s time for some “Fudge Beef Sticks.”  Doesn’t that sound refreshing?

Fusion Gone Wrong, the Dreaded Delicious Fudge Beef Sticks!

Yes, you guessed it.  Your Humble Crabinator actually got up at a decent hour this past Saturday and went to the Downtown Farmers Market.  It was super laid back, I was even able to walk with my touring bike next to me without incident.  Everyone was smiling and having a good time, especially the Juggler Guy (unfortunately my video didn’t capture properly.  I am going to work on this problem).  There were Papusas and Tacos and Breakfast Burritos oh my!

I picked up some root veggies for stock making.  Look for that recipe at the Timber Pine web site this Friday.

Until We MeatStick Again,

The Cook

Plan Breaker, Ride Canceller
2010/07/20, 1:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well, folks…it looks as if Adult Life has raised its hand in the classroom of my life, and I called upon it for an answer.  AL (not to be confused with allegedly doped-up pro cyclist LA) has decided to dish out a few problems that will unfortunately keep yours truly from carrying through with the culinary coverage of The Ragbrai.  I apologize for getting three or four of you all riled up, but I have some things to take care of, and…how much more coverage of that monstrosity do you really need?  I have an even better plan in store, but let’s wait on giving that one away.

Now, on to more news…

Sometimes people aren’t so good at saying what they really mean.  This happens to everyone at some point in our short time on the planet, and one of the thousands of times this affliction has plagued ME happened (in print at least) last Friday.  Oh, I think it’s happening again. Never mind.  I will try again tomorrow.

The Cook

The Burnt Question(period)
2010/07/16, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Have you ever found yourself in the company of a chef, celebrity or not-so-celebrity, struggling for a conversation topic?  In my experience on the Chef end, most people go for one of two strategies.  The first strategy is the “Ask A Cooking Question,” which generally acceptable as long as you keep it to more of a simple troubleshooting type scenario.  For instance, “I really have been having trouble overcooking my asparagus, what can I do to fix the problem?” totally works.  “I was wondering how to make Cassoulet” is probably a little over the line, unless you are in a situation where time is of no concern.

The Second Strategy is to “Ask A Stupid Question.”  Yes, people, no matter what your third grade teacher told you, there is such thing as a stupid question.  Here are some examples of questions that most People Of The Chef World absolutely don’t need to here:

  1. What’s Your Signature Dish?” Why do people assume that every person who works in a kitchen has a “signature dish?” What, do I look like goddamn Rachel Ray or Emirilla? (I do however resemble a bald and bearded Paula Deen first thing in the morning) Chefs work tirelessly to come up with new and hopefully exciting foods and flavor combinations to tickle your happy little taste buds, they generally don’t come up with a “Signature Dish,” but guests sometimes turn dishes into somewhat of a signature dish by refusing to allow said dish to be excluded from any new menu.  Whatever.  My signature dish would be a large plate of paste to be fed to the next Signature Dish Question Asking Offender.  How does that sound?
  2. “What Do You Cook Best?” First off, I don’t even like the sentence structure of this sweet one-liner. This gem is nearly identical to Stupid Question #1, with the exception of the small air of vagueness.  This question is just begging for a snappy “Ask Your Mom What I Was Cooking Last Night” comeback.
  3. “What Is Your Favorite Food?” Whenever I hear this question, I want to suggest that the inquisitor try my ‘signature’ dish, the “Paste Express.”

Such vague-ery will get you no where with most chefs or really any professional in any field.  Chefs are busy and have about 30,000 things going through their minds at the same time, from food and labor numbers to specials to vendor issues, employee problems, owner issues, trying to figure out when sleep will be an option, planning new menus, thinking about that last REALLY good meal they had and the ideas that they took away from the table, bills, getting invoices done, more employee problems, and tons of other extraneous thoughts.  It’s a real mess in there sometime, and to have someone come along and ask such broad-based questions could throw everything off what balance it has eliciting some very strange and off kilter answers or maybe it just gets you blown off.

Do you know what questions chefs don’t get asked enough?  I will spare you the rambling commentary and just give you #1:

“What Really Pisses You Off?”

This is the #1 question to ask a Chef if you want a good, honest answer.  They may tell you that it is people asking questions, but my bet is on this answer which is the whole purpose for all these WORDS.

“People Creating Their Own Menu”

What really pisses us off, people, is the guest who comes in to the restaurant, and I am talking about your more upscale places, not Village Inn,and takes a quick look at the menu.  They take a look at this MENU that was created after hours of agonizing, planning, and testing (or sometimes just over a few beers at a local bar) and decide that it just doesn’t work for them.  This guest then, usually during a dinner or lunch rush, deconstructs each dish and starts re-assembling to their liking.  More often than not the choices don’t even go together.  A message from your chefs:

This isn’t Burger Kwing, and this certainly isn’t Papa Jorns Pizza.

Yes, this seems like a “you’ll get what we give you and like it” scenario, and…wait…that’s exactly what it is.  Your chef has taken much time and has years of experience/training, trust the chef…trust the chef…trust your chef…

Are you picking up what I am putting down?

The Cook

Eating The A-hole Sandwich

I would like to take a moment to pass on a marginally amusing story of cooking and a brush with a VIMF (Very Important Man Folk) dot dot dot

  Once upon a time there was a boy who cooked at a local downtown DSM brunch hot spot. (record needle scratch) Ok, so I used to cook brunch at this “central” place.  We drew a good amount of politicians and celebrities (especially around caucus time), but on this particular Sunday it was quite unexpected to be visited by a person of such stature.

It was a hot, sweaty, heated Sunday morning with tempers on the line flaring and the printer spitting out tickets in a seemingly mocking rate.  I was having an issue with breaking egg yolks.  I assure you this was quite out of the ordinary.  Frustration ran high, every cook and sous chef for themselves kind of atmosphere.  I think you get the point. During the heat of what we like to call a “rush” (not to be confused with a “frush”), the printer craps out the ultimate special order:

“eggwhite and sausage omelette sandwich with cheddar on ciabatta roll”

I, as you may have guessed, was the “egg man” (but now I more resemble the walrus) and this egg man wasn’t in the mood for any eggwhite omelette action right at that moment. So I ask

“who ordered the asshole sandwich?”

There was no answer to that question just yet…

So I make the finest tasting, most visually appealing eggwhite and sausage sandwich (i forgot to mention that the asshole sandwich is not on the regular,or ANY menu) my happy little hands could muster.  Said sandwich was carefully placed into a to go container and sent out.

Seconds later one of the floor managers came back to my station and posed what could have been chalked up as the $5 question of the day.

“Hey Sam, do you know who Quincy Jones is?”

“Who doesn’t!” I spit back, shooting my most heinous stare of non-plusitude through the back of his seemingly empty skull.

I then proceed to let him in on the big secret called “Quincy Jones,” you know…um. Only the greatest producer of all time.  The manager tells me the Esteemed Mr. Jones is sitting in the bar area.  Stumbling through the back kitchen and around to the front of the restaurant I see the King Of Pop Producers being mugged by admirers and decide too hang back and not be another “that guy.” Other guests were all over him asking for autographs and hugs…he was wearing a “Cosby Sweater” (which was probably a gift from Bill himself), and appeared to be as kind and  humble as could be.

It was at this point in my observations when  I noticed the half-eaten eggwhit e-sausage omelette sandwich with cheddar cheese on ciabatta in a to go container resting by Mr. Jones’ left Cosby-clad elbow. 

Yes, it was the “asshole sandwich” only it wasn’t ordered by one, but MADE by one.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  No, not that.

Sandwichingly Yours,

The Cook

Dining A-holes, You’ve Just Been Served
2010/07/13, 7:09 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Being a person who is employed in and around restaurants, I have the pleasure/displeasure to have made the aquaintance of many servers.  Servers are people just like you and me, they just make a larger percentage of their living in cash.  In many cases the people serving you are college students, mothers trying to make some extra cash for their kids’ care, people trying to pay their bills and sometimes they are just dudes and ladies trying to make some cash to party on.  Whatever the motivation for this job choice, these are people.  People who, for the love of cripes, deserve to be treated as human beings.

So why do certain people still insist on being assholes to these regular working-class people?

This is to the employers who make their servers pay the customers’ credit card fees, to the rude people who take your frustrations out on strangers, to the demanding customers that can’t seem to grasp the fact that your server may have other guests to attend to, and my personal favorite, the people who call a restaurant to have the phone answerer tell the history of the place or rattle off the entire menu.

Way to be a bunch of A-holes

We of the restaurant industry thank you for frequenting our respective establishments (and to the employers for employing us), but please try using your adult-type manners when dining.

Remember to “Treat your servers as you would have them treat you.”

That is all for meow now (nice try, Bathory)

The Cook

Restaurant Weak Is Coming
2010/07/08, 12:53 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: ,

(Whistling sounds)

*tumbleweeds blow by*

Uh…*clears throat* ummmm…. *thunk thunk thunk*

“Is this thing on?”

Oh…ok. it’s working.

So I was trolling the Mighty And Infallible Information Super-duper Highway for information regarding Our Fair City’s foodular news and happenings and TO NO AVAIL. A trusted source dropped the dime on the Datebook Diner. Seems she has been talking about Star Bar again (not that there is anything wrong with that). I could not find the article.

Well, WTF ever, here is some news and other (censored) stuff.

This weekend we (you) will see the debut of the new Cafe Di Scala Summer Menu, designed and executed by myself and Nicest motherflippin Chef in DMI, The Phil Shires. I think you will motherflippin uh…flip when you stick it in your face.

More news…

I will still be NOT reporting on that one thing.



Here is the deal with Restaurant Week from (maybe) the restaurant’s standpoint:

“Thank you for taking advantage of the special savings and sampling a little (or big) taste of what we have cooking. We hope that the small percentage of you that aren’t doing this as an excuse to get out of the house become valued return customers.”

This is a “mash-up” of opinionz that have been spouted towards mine ears the past few years this event has been held, and as a restaurant employee/employer I hold this opinionz to be true and self-evident.

We love the fact that people get out of the house for a little sump-sumpin different. There are some sacrifices made to make these specials happen. There are, IMHO and experience, not enough diners who take it seriously. I have seen the event, which in other cities is a REALLY BIG DEAL involving chef demos and cooking classes, do practically nothing for restaurateurs. Most people treat it as they would the Sunday Newspaper coupon flier for TGI Fridays or freaking Applebees.

What I am saying here is that THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE EDUCATION AND INTERACTIVENESS INVOLVED IN THIS EVENT. People will skirt the edges of good local cuisine as long as they are allowed. Why on Earth would they go take a chance on an actual local spot if they are guaranteed the super-consistancy of chain filth? (There are even chain filth-dealers participating) Why would you go to Sbrocco, Azalea, Centro, Proof, or any other participating legitimate locally owned business at a discounted price…if you weren’t already inclined to do so on a special night…and be a return customer?

Motherflippin Discuss.

The Cook.

BTW… I DO support the event. It needs a little *Ooomph+