Locally Grown


Locally Grown Ain’t Nuthin To F* Wit!

Good afternoon, tens of readers!  It is once again a glorious, warm, sunshiny day here in the DMZ (Des Moines Zone), and word on the public radio waves is that this will be the norm for us central Iowans for at least a few more weeks.  This is great news for local cyclists, runners, dog walkists, restaurateurs, donut makers, meteorologists (they won’t be dodging any Frostee’s for a while longer), campers, hikers, kayak-iacs, and especially the Farmers.  According to a few sources close to LG the growing season this year “sucked.”  The too-wet weather wreaked havoc on planting and maintaining the veggies you crave, but due, to a miracle of nature the crops will be coming out of the fields on time this year, you can read the harvest report here, courtesy of The Messenger.  I am happy that these hard working women and men will be able to remove their bounty in a timely manner…and maybe this year the harvest won’t mess with the propane prices too much, and the kids will all be listening to the Wu in shorts well into November.

This was NOT a scene from this weekend's World Food Festival, but it would be cooler if it was!

So, yes, it is nice out.  You get the picture.  Let’s all rejoice that the weather is nice and that the last paragraph has ended.  And so has this one.

Last week a few things happened in the world that were of great importance to the local food scene here in the DMZ.  The World Food Prize/World Food Festival took place in the lovely East Village in downtown DSM.  The WFP was founded in 1986 by Iowa native and Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, a hero to the nations of the world plagued by hunger. Dr. Borlaug was a great man who is credited with saving one billion lives, more than anyone else in history.  He is also the creator of what is popularly known as the “Green Movement.”  I urge you to read more about Dr. Borlaug and the World Food Prize at the World Food Prize site. There you can learn about the man, the movement, and how you can get involved, if you should choose to do so.

The World Food Festival is a separate event held in conjunction with the WFP summit to celebrate the diverse reaches of our local culinary tapestry.  Each vendor offered a $1 “taste” item along with their regular menu.  There were also live demonstrations from local chefs (?), including the Iowa Machine Shed?  hmmm.  Alohana? Isn’t that a franchise chain?  Yep.  Oh, and I see my buddy DH was on the roster too.  Fun.  I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that a certain local chef and blogger should have been doing a demonstration on the stage.  Maybe next year.  I could demonstrate how to cook something and talk trash it on the interdork at the same time…

And speaking of talking trash on the interwebs

After a soon-to-be-really-obese-television-host went round after round with a local sandwich, the DMZ food press was asked to give a a little piece of there time and influence to help raise national awareness of the food scene that I had, up til last week, thought they were a part of, but I am getting more of a “bystander” feel from a few.  That’s fine and dandy.  I can see where the mistake was made.  Food Critics can eat the food and write about the food, for better or worse, sort of creating an involuntary PR department for restaurants.  BUT if you ask your local food writer to maybe possibly “pump up” the things they see as kicking ass on the local scene to other people in other food scenes, that is OVER THE LINE, even though it is just more PR.  Journalism, especially entertainment jounalism, at its most basic level is public relations between the news source and the reader?  Am I wrong?  Should I stop typing with my tongs and read a book about journalism? Am I taking this too far?  I heard from the Illustrious Datebook Diner and the Food Dude, but what of the other 8 or 9 folks who seemingly reluctantly write about restaurants for part of their living?  Y’all didn’t get the memo?  DD, what was that MUST EAT AT spot you were referring to?  I gave you mine, time to ante up.

So many questions, so many beatings of the dead horse/brokening of the record.  I just want some community to start happening between the writers and the cooks.  There is a huge disparity between the talent and work level our local chefs and the recognition they get from the people in charge of recognizing.  Cripes, I suppose that just picked another fight.  Maybe I should just go back to sharing recipes.

Ok, we have to cut today short, as I am due to help lead “Write Club” in a little while, and I shouldn’t miss my writer’s collective meeting to actually write stuff.

I hope at least some of that made sense-ish.

the Cook

P.S. I hear that someone has recently earned a Locally Grown Bush League Food Un-writer Award!  Will it be a two-peat?

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8 Comments so far
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On a deadline right now….will respond soon.

Comment by La Bonne Femme

God you are such a baby! Waah waah waah, I don’t get enough credit. Waah waah waah, why wasn’t I on stage? Waah waah waah, why won’t everyone respond to me? I am IMPORTANT!

I said it before, get over yourself already, you’re making a German spectacle of yourself.

Comment by Pat Mearson

ok, Pat. Whatever you say, buddy.

Comment by locallygrown

Datebook Diner here. You know.

Comment by Datebook Diner

Okay, to quote Oliver Douglas on Green Acres: “Oh for the love of–”

To quote you:
“Journalism, especially entertainment journalism, at its most basic level is public relations between the news source and the reader…..”

Where did you get that idea?

Look, restaurant reviewing is no Woodward/Bernstein stuff, but it is not PR either. My job, believe it or not, is not, is not to promote restaurants. It is to write about restaurants in a way that makes a reader decide whether or not a visit there is worth his/her hard-earned money.

My allegiance is to the reader, not to the restaurant, the chef, the local food scene and such. Sure, when it works out that I get to connect a reader with a great spot, that’s the best-case scenario. I love it when that happens. But when things aren’t so great, I have to tell it like I see it. No PR rep is going to do that, my friend.

On occasion, when editors/writers of national food magazines and big-city newspapers ask me about the scene, I give them an honest assessment that often serves as their itinerary if/when they visit. But even in that case, my goal is not to promote the local food scene, but to help these editors/writers (whom I consider colleagues) lead THEIR readers to restaurants they might enjoy.

It’s all about the reader.

Do now you get why journalism isn’t PR?

Second question, which I think you are obliquely asking: Do I think our chef-driven restaurants truly merit a TV segment by the national press? Baru 66 most definitely does. Lincoln Café does, but Oprah’s already been all over that. The Southeast Asian dining scene is a great story. If I were to do a story on the DSM Dining scene as a whole, I would also include Azalea and Alba.

Café di Scala is many fine things, but is not in that group. Would it even be open the night of a national reporter’s visit? Sometimes I think it’s less a restaurant and more a catering venue that happens to offer dinner on the nights it can’t get a catering gig. (How many nights were they open last week?)

But truly, Baru 66 is the place I was thinking of in my earlier post.

Comment by Datebook Diner

Really? You too? I thought you, of all people, would be able to read and digest my nonsense. I was wrong. From now on I will only write in a boring, direct way…with proper sentence construction. You didn’t really “get” what I was talking about, did you?

I really like the comments about Cafe Di Scala. You think it’s more of a catering venue? Wow. You and the ostrich have a lot in common.

Comment by locallygrown

I think Scala’s exclusivity makes it unique. It makes people want to be there more — seems like brilliant marketing to me.

Comment by Phil K. James

Baru 66 will need to change a lot to sustain a position as a leader in des moines. Mainly losing the pretentious arogant attitude and actually utilize some of the great talent and products in the area. Anyone can make it work for under a year with a massive bank roll and a special supply of talent from around the world. Besides…anyone can make foie gras and tenderloin taste good…where is the rest of the duck and the cow?

Cafe di Scala is a popular restaurant for that exclusivity and it works budget wise. You go into Baru or any restaurant on a monday or tuesday it is serving 20 people max. Catering those days makes sense and for the sake of product storage and kitchen space, I am sure the fine fellows of cafe di scala considered opening more and put research into their final decision of only 3 days a week. Azalea is a great location that is under utilized because of its clientele it is trying to attract. Alba is “unique” and the owner is just as……”unique” for political sake, and remaining in the village really attracts the food culture of Des Moines.

There needs to be more development either way in Des Moines and in the metro among a massive amount of other changes before Des Moines becomes a viable food scene nation wide.

We know they mean business, now use that mentality to actually do something, anything…But than again I am just a professional about to move away

Comment by A hard working chef




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