Locally Grown


[here’s something you’re used to by now, which is an apology.  This post should have “dropped” last Tuesday, right around the same time as the new Liza Minelli Album, and I wouldn’t want to compete with that.]

Did you hear that? There's a new Liza Album...C'mon, screw this blog, let's hit the record store!

I recently completed my first cyclocross race in beautiful, dreary, rainy North Liberty, Iowa.  The race was a great experience for all participants, even the guy who borrowed a bike then proceeded to “Taco” said borrowed bike’s front wheel. (For those of you not familiar with the term “Taco” as it relates to bike wheel terminology, it is the end result of smashing a wheel into an object, making it into a “Taco” shape.  The rim of the wheel is considered un-salvageable) Enough about that, you can read about the actual race at that “cyclocross race” link back in the first sentence of this paragraph.

The race was held around a Bar&Grill/Marina aptly named Bobber’s Bar and Grill.  They were more than happy to dish us out shots of red-bull spiked booze and the occasional beer.  They probably weren’t aware of the cycling scene’s policy of “let’s see who can by more people drinks,” which is another sort of race which I try to stay on the receiving end, or “back of the pack,” just like in my races.  They didn’t even complain that a few of us were walking around with our own beer (it was allowed in the by-laws that people in RV’s could carry their own beer, and I happened to actually travel to N.L.I.A. in an RV). There was no problem until I tried to eat the dinner that I had ordered.  THAT is where the problems began.

Now, I like to tell people how to be good customers, but those rules are optimized for situations when dealing with a rational server/manager/person.  This was not one of those “control subjects” nor did I have my wits about me (refer back to the drink-buying game).

I ordered a “BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger” from the “Grill” portion of the Menu…Big Burger, Bacon, BBQ Sauce, some other stuff, and Waffle Fries.  After about 35 minutes my burger finally showed up, well after the rest of the entres ordered by my 12 dining partners.  It’s ok, they had Tall Boys, which make a good appetizers when in our particular situation.  The burger looked suspect, but I was hungry and started eating.  about a third the way through I noticed an interesting flavor.  It tasted as I had been chewing on the remains of a day-old bonfire.  When I finally flagged the server down, she explained that she recognized that particular burger, and that the cooks had used the “weight” on it.  I was tempted to ask exactly what the f that meant, but I already know, and I don’t like being the guy that asks questions that he already knows the answers to.  It means the cooks are amateur cooks, but professional assholes and had purposely burnt the living shit out of my burger with a “Steak Weight” on a super hot grill.  I explain that it is inedible, and that I will not be finishing it.  I asked for the burger to be removed from my check.  I was informed that the “Manager” would still require my half payment for the half eaten atrocity.

This was the manager’s “deal”

  1. I had eaten about half of the burger in question.
  2. I will be required to pay for the half that I ate.
  3. Sorry, that’s just how it is.

I tried to explain to her that it was the nastiest piece of burnt hockey-puck I had ever attempted to eat, that is was making me mildly ill, and that I would absolutely NOT pay for half of something that my server acknowledged as inedible before it left the kitchen.  The manager then said “well, I will get you another burger.”  My buddies all scoffed at the idea right along with me.   As my friend Carl put it so succinctly to our manager friend, “who eats a burger and a half?”  I finally had to break out the “I’m a pro chef, and I would never require someone to pay for something this bad, let alone knowingly let it leave my kitchen” line.  Still no give from the Manager.  She seemed hell-bent on ruining the experience for the other dozen at the table with her total bullshit attitude.  Finally I gave her the ultimatum.  I would pay for two drinks, and no burger, and that was my final offer, flashing her the pursed-lip half-smile sideways glance of dismay.  She finally conceded, and I handed my server a ten for my two drinks.  I tipped her exactly what my half of the burnt burger would have cost, and retreated to the RV for some more refreshments, a game of dominos, and a safe ride home from our designated driver.

So what can we gather from the actions of the Management and Service Staff of Bobber’s Bar and Grill?

  1. Always waste your customers’ time and argue for at least 15 minutes about $4 worth of food that you know is inedible.
  2. No matter what, don’t back down from the customer, as they are mindless a-holes who are ONLY there to give you money.
  3. Even if the customer already spent over $40 in your bar, you need to waste their time on $4 more
  4. If you have a table of unsatisfied diners, because their food also sucked (everyone at the table who had a burger had similar issues, but not quite as bad as mine), you should offer them more food that sucks.
  5. Talk to customers as if they are your children, and assume they know nothing of food service.
  6. Storm away from the table, stomping your feet as you go to discount their shitty food.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?  These people need to get it together.  There is another ‘Cross race at Bobber’s on October 16th, and I know that MY group will be bringing our own food.  I will NOT give that place another penny of my money, and if you happen to be around their “parts,” would encourage you to think twice before handing them yours.

Thank you to the Bobber’s staff for trying to ruin an awesome day.

The Cook.

I am not happy about doing this next blurb, but since there was a cry for public disclosure of this mysterious spot, here it is:

P.S. The Restaurant that has pissed me off is Baru 66.  I have dined there, the food is amazing, but we were treated like we walked up to a Denny’s host stand upon entering (we walked in, stood at the door for about 5 minutes, the woman who was seating us came over, answered the phone, but didn’t acknowledge us until the phone call was complete, then we waited even longer for a table even though they only had two tables sat at the time. Very bush league.). They have also mistreat their staff, and require the servers to pay the credit card fees incurred by the customers.  If you go there, bring cash, or tip an extra 5% to your server’s cost to run your credit card.  Pretty poor business practice, especially at a “fine dining” establishment.  I would have never put this out on LG, but you all who called me out and drug me down to the “Yelp” level can now rest assured that I have “helped” some people.  Anyone from Baru who would like to argue this, don’t bother.  I know the facts of the matter, and am disappointed in you.  You should be, too.

P.P.S. Rainbows, Unicorns, Cotton Candy.


Laying Down The Slaw/Holiday Meal Education

We stand here this crisp and sunny Monday morning looking to the East, soaking in the beautiful, inspiring sunrise cresting the skyline, then to the horizon West, where October stands ready to bring us the cool of fall, the threat of snow, and the beginning of the Holiday Season.  For many this time of year marks the start of family gatherings, team sports watching with friends (and all their fantasy equivalents), teaching their children holiday traditions, warm apple cider, pie, presents, and a good reason to re-decorate their houses each month with new holiday themes, including a dazzling light show.

Another Issue To Debate...Global Warming Due To Holiday Lighting.

For some people, it’s even a good time to just invent new holidays (because you can’t have enough holidays during the holiday season).  For those who have decided to make the plunge into non-meat-eating waters it is also a time to educate family on what constitutes a Vegan or Vegetarian lifestyle.  For many of you within that realm, it adds to the stress of the season.  Gone are the days when you could just show up at family dinner and eat, eat, eat.  Now there is a little worry that goes with your meal, and beyond the scope of uncomfortable family discussion moments.

The Royal We here at Locally Grown understand this plight, as your Kinda Humble Cook spent his Vegan years returning home to Mother Cook’s house for holidays to find her stocked up on bananas and animal crackers, and tempting me with meatloaf.  This was all in good nature, of course, but I have also been to holiday dinners with friends (who were also VEG), only to be berated for being Veg, or even worse been secretly fed tainted food only to find out minutes later while running to the bathroom.  I would like to think these mistakes were out of lack of knowledge than spite, and to narrow that margin of Holiday Dinner error for you all this year, I would like to open a discussion with you tens of readers as to how you have educated your families, how you can better educate your families, and MY NUMBER ONE GOAL which is how we can all get along and celebrate together, without arguing, name-calling, and without leaving people out of the celebration because of their dietary convictions.

I will start this discussion with a short list of

Top ? Reasons/Ways To Culinarily Coexist With Others

  1. Sharing IS Caring – Sharing is the reason for the holiday season, or so I am told.  Learning from each other and sharing in the foods of your veg-minded friend/family member is a great way to show you care about their lives.
  2. Exclusion is NOT caring – Giving someone the “here’s some beans, that’s all we have for you.” line is not caring.  If you don’t know how to prepare, or don’t care to prepare, proper food for your Veg guest, encourage them to bring a dish or two for themselves, and for other people to try.  I personally have always had better luck just bringing my own Vegan dishes to family dinners, and having enough on hand for the adventurous diners to try (and sometimes to completely finish off).
  3. Quit name calling.  I once went to a girlfriend’s family Thankgrubbing meal out in the country.  I brought my tofu-stuffing casserole thing (which has been discontinued), and many of the family members on hand at least tried a bite, some of them actually ate whole portions.  Everything was going well until the Drunk Uncle decided to start questioning my sexuality because of my Veg tendencies.  Totally uncalled for, and spoke more of DU’s own personal struggles, but this is not totally uncommon.  If you don’t like the fact that someone chooses not to eat meat, just fucking deal with it.  You don’t need to be an asshole about it, unless you are being attacked by one of those “Preachy Vegans

That’s enough for now.  Please, allow yourselves to share any stories or tips or to please ask questions.  The royal We are more than happy to answer question.

On to some Monday News:

I hereby declare that the DSM Register, Juice, Cityview, and Metromix sites need to be made more user friendly.  How am I supposed to complain about their content if I can’t even get to it?

In last week’s Datebook, a certain somebody extolled the virtues of the Baked Cavatelli from Ranallo’s in Ankeny.  (I would link this, but see above note).  What the Certain Somebody did not state is that those home-made noodles were made in the home of Cafe Di Scala, as are the cavatelli from Centro.  I know that Pete Ranallo’s Cav dish is delicious, and I love you guys, but maybe the food press could give credit/do their research a little bit better.

I, without announcement, took the last week off from Locally Grown.  I would like to apologize, and to give you an explanation.  I built a new bike, and rode the crap out of it.  Honestly, I didn’t really feel like writing anyway.  I think the Seasonal Laziness Syndrome might be kicking in a little early!

I awoke from a wicked dream this morning, remembering only that I had shaved off my beard and somehow smoooshed a chihuahua by rolling over in my sleep.  Neither one of these events happened, but I am still reeling from the perceived experience.

Yep, time to get back to riding.  Enjoy this wonderful day.

The Cook

The Last Brain To SnarksVille
2010/09/17, 4:43 pm
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Hello, all.  Now that Locally Grown has been turned into a soapbox for Vegan vs. Carnivore debate i have really lost interest.  Having spent a crap tastic amount of years living this debate, the current arguments are about as enjoyable as if I participated in Civil War Reinactment, which wouldn’t be enjoyable to me.  All of this because I wrote a post claiming that Pizza is a good common ground for Vegetarians and Omnivores dining out together.  Now this is happening.

Did I say that people who eat meat are bad people?  No.  Did I say that independent livestock farmers are bad people? No.  Did I say that big business raping the earth and selling you lies is bad?  That was kinda the point.  Did I say that I am concerned with what YOU are eating currently?  No.  Did I say that people from different walks of culinary/dietary life could probably go eat pizza together?  Yes.

I don’t know why those few of you are so anti-vegetarian.  Maybe you could share with the class just what it is that Vegetarians did to you.

In other news…there is a well known and celebrated restaurant in Clive that has really pissed me off.  They are assholes to their staff and have questionable business practices and ethics.  Yep, so bad I can’t even hide this in a thin Crepe of Humor.  You might want to know, but you will have to ask me personally.  My goal here isn’t to slag businesses (too much).

Anyway, sorry I am so damn sensitive.

The Cook

Sweeping Up The Split Hairs
2010/09/16, 2:42 pm
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Monday’s Mundane Pizza Post created some great conversation about pizza, and some amazing name calling towards some unknown Vegan individual who may or may not exist in the real world, as the story told of said Vegan was third hand and smacks of a classic “Stock Scenario”/”Old Vegan Wives Tale.”  People, I am here to clear up some of your skewed notions of what Vegans are and are not.

A Rabid Meat Party Activist Gettin' "Maverick"

This is all brought on by a reader named Pat who, by grace of his righteous heart, blessed this blog’s comments section with some very bigoted statements and inferences.  Pat, you are an asshole, and not just the kind that tips poorly or is condescending to their server (although I have a sneaky suspicion that you might be that kind also).   Thank you for making me have to ditch the post I was working on and write this post.  I appreciate it.  We all do.

First and foremost, Vegans are people too.  Keep this in mind as we take this journey together.  Yes, Vegans can be gay, straight, right wing, left wing, a-holes, nice folks, moms, dads, kids, bus drivers, activists, and sometimes a major pain in the ass to dine out with.  This is why I try to educate those on both sides on good common ground dining spots and how to approach dining together in a manner which all parties are satisfied.  We should all be able to get along, and without name calling, stereotypes, and comments which generate such animosity towards one’s dietary/life choices.

If you look at the facts from all sides of the meat planet vs. veggie planet argument, and read extensively you will notice a few things.  The argument for a Veg planet is made mainly by people of science who have come from a “normal” background, but have decided that the scientific facts have shown their analytical minds some information supporting the need for humans to change their ways or suffer grave consequences, be it Environmental or Personal Health.  The meat-side argument is generally made by everyone else. These people are basically lobbyists for the meat industry, without actually holding the job title. That is a lot of free lobyist hours! Let’s take a closer look.

Vegan “Whackos” Vs. Meat Industry Con Vs. Con

  • Vegan “Whackos” have been known to piss off people with their over-demanding ways and self righteous attitude.
  • Meat Industry has been known to poison the world’s food supply with tainted animal products that have sickened tens of thousands of people.
  • Vegan “Whackos” do things like throw red paint of fur coat wearing folks, destroying a piece of clothing worth thousands of dollars.
  • Meat Industry does things like slaughter billions of animals every year, many times holding them in conditions that not only make the animal suffer (not a care for you manly meat eaters, of course), but create conditions which breed the diseases which get passed on to the food supply.
  • Vegan “Whackos” may choose to lighten their “carbon footprint” by riding a bike to work or maybe buying a hybrid vehicle (which is not really a Vegan thing, as most hybrid owners are just “regular joes” who are trying to wean themselves from expensive fossil fuel)
  • Meat Industry may choose to lighten their “carbon footprint” by lobbying to have laws made which say that what they are doing doesn’t really use up all that much of our natural resources.
  • Vegan “Whackos” sometimes won’t even buy certain furniture if it is known the company uses animal based glues
  • Meat Industry really doesn’t care, glue is a great way to use all those scraps left from the butchering process.
  • Vegan “Whackos” may volunteer to serve food at a homeless shelter, or become active in Food Not Bombs, which takes donations of unwanted food from local business and turns it into (mostly) vegetarian meals for the homeless, or any passer by.  This is how they try to make a small dent in the world hunger.
  • Meat Industry has had a large hand in creating the world hunger epidemic, using an enormous percentage of the world’s farm land and water to grow feed crops for the animals you eat, but poor people don’t.  You can look all those numbers up yourself.
  • Vegan “Whackos” write books, make videos, and generally try to make their stance known as they feel that the planet could use a change of pace if it is going to survive.
  • Meat Industry well, they are so afraid of being called out on their bullshit, that they even sued OPRAH…and she settled.  Look that one up.  Powerful enough to silence OPRAH.
  • Vegan “Whackos” have been known to be attacked both with words and physically for their choices and beliefs, often time being called homophobic names even though they are straight.  But what heterosexual wouldn’t eat meat?
  • Meat Industry sponsors nursing programs and hospitals and big events against world hunger, thinly masking…just enough…their role in disease, sickness, and hunger.
  • Vegan “Whackos” are often extreme and may be motivated by something more of an inferiority complex or some other personality disorder.
  • Meat Industry is motivated by greed
  • Vegan “Whackos” sometimes have potlucks and enjoy sharing with friends
  • Meat Industry has packing plants where hundreds of people die each year just to process that meat you need to eat.

But after all that the “liberal media” has revealed about the questionable ethics and business practices, people generally still feel that the Meat Industry is their friend and that non-meat eaters are conspiring to take the average person’s dining rights away, forcing a mixture of greens, beans, and grains down the throats of diners like water fowl being fattened for Foie Gras.

I think everyone can, and should, get along.

…to be continued…

The Cook.

Marginal Monday Veggie Dining-ish Time

Ah, yes…crossing the threshold of a favorite pizzeria, running forth into the sweet smell of a deck oven baking circularly shaped yeasty dough flats topped with some congealed dairy product and possibly a tomato-basil-garlic-pepper-flake-oregano-dash-of-thyme sauce.  The mind, body, and soul of your dining self feels that familiar sense of comfort, of safety, afforded to the good little eater who has chosen wisely by their taste buds.  Every resident of the North-Western hemisphere has likely encountered this situation at one time in their life, with the residents of our particular section of said Quadroshpere being the (mostly) lucky residents of this real-life dining dream more often than others.

Serious Pizza Party.

With that said, pizza is a particularly universal solution in any large group of people eating out, and makes a great compromise betwixt Vegetarians and Omnivores when it comes down to the sometimes painful crunch of Dining Decision Time, or DDT.  This realization bloomed during my own pizza experience, which happened to take place at CiCi’s Pizza in Urbandale.  Ok, this is not a “local, sustainable, blah blah blah” spot the like which would be written about, but when dining with a group of people which includes a young hyper child, a young teen, and a mom that may have forgotten her wallet, you have to make compromises.  Which is exactly what the last 200 words were trying to get through to you.  (After reading the last paragraph, it would seem I would be an Editors Worst Nightmare.  Luckily I feed mine quality wet food, which keeps him from biting the literal hand that feeds him.  That might even work for you other writers looking to sneak some nonsense in under YOUR editors’ noses.  Might I suggest Super Supper?)

The short of the long is this: if you are with a large (or small) group of people with varied dining tastes and restrictions (unless your group includes any wheat allergy types), consider pizza.  Do you get that point or do I need to ramble on for another few paragraphs?  Good. (i do) This post is NOT endorsing you vegetarians having pizza unwantedly thrust upon you as all of your friends are gnawing on steaks.  This is all about Pizza Equality.

Sorry, my Vegan Friends…There is really no good Vegan Pizza in town.  Anyone interested in changing this problem?

Here are a few places to consider during the course of DDT which serve pizza and may be a good place for the meats to meet the veggies:

Note: The places being listed are known by LG to not use non-vegetarian product in their sauce or crust (although some specialty sauces such as BBQ may contain hints of anchovy or other unwanted ingredients).  As Always, when in doubt, ask your server whether a particular sauce/product is safe for you.

Fong’s Pizza – 223 4th Street. Des Moines, IA 50309-2205. (515) 323-3333. Fong’s not only has good pizza, awesome cheese sticks (I know, but they are good enough to be called that), and kitcsh, but they also employ known vegetarians and they will look out for you.  They also serve slices for lunch, during happy hour (4pm to 6pm M-F) and from 10pm to 3am.  I love Fong’s. I may go there for lunch today after completing this post.

Mullet’s – 1300 Southeast 1st St. Des Moines, IA 50315. (515)244-1443. Yes, Mullet’s has pizza.  You should try it sometime.

CiCi’s Pizza Buffet – multiple locations. Yes, You can beat me up about this all you want, but I still believe in the power of a $4.99 pizza buffet.  They even take requests aka will make you whatever you want.  Not the best pizza, but if you have a large group or are on a budget this should be a consideration.

Red Rossa – 12695 University Avenue. Suite 100. Clive, Iowa 50325. (515)221-2529.  Good Wood-fired pizza.  Yes, it is a chain, but a chain of two locations (to my knowledge)  Not bad for a small gathering or a casual date night.

Bagni Di Lucca – 404 East 5th St. Des Moines, IA 50309. Nice, small spot for pizza dining.  Decent selection of vegetarian options (my favorite is the Potato Pesto Pizza. Great flavor, and I love alliteration).  This is a mostly-lunch-only type deal, and good for any dining lunch sitch from a shopping break to business.

Big Tomato – 2613 Ingersoll Avenue. Des Moines, IA 50312-5237. (515) 288-7227I really don’t support this place because of the late night fights and the ominous/wholly true “crappy service” sign, but they do have a great ingredient list for vegetarians including midwestern-approved corn, peas, and potato along with a plethora of other veggies.

This is just a TINY list of pizza purveyors in town, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section!

There are also plenty of chains out there such as Pizza Hot, Gosh Father’s, Pappy John’s, Duhmino’s, Little Skeezers, and the like.  You have probably already had some experience with one or more of these places and can eat their on your own accord.  I will not endorse nor denounce these actions.

So, faithful readers, I hope this has helped you just enough to get through your DDT.  If anything, when confronted with a particularly difficult DDT, you could always use this as leverage to coax friends towards your first choice restaurant.  Pull out the classic “well, if no one can decide on a restaurant, we could always just go get PIZZA” line, and when any one of your dining partners let out a groan or grumble…guide them to your first choice…even if it IS pizza!


The Cook

Oh, no Monday news today.  It was a wild weekend, and I don’t really remember any of the conversations held about dining for some strange reason…

Busy, Busy…Nothing To See Here!
2010/09/09, 3:14 pm
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Wow, it has been a busy couple of weeks. We here at Locally Grown have been missing out on some prime complaining, but I promise everything will be back to normal 3 posts a week soon! Until then, catch up with me on twitter at @VegChefDSM . Oh, and eat tacos.