Locally Grown

Perception or Deception? Tell Me, Are You Local?
2010/11/30, 12:51 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary, restaurant reviews, Vegetarian Dining



This is going to be a quickie today, tacos are a callin.  Oh, and I stole this graphic for you.

I think this is maybe relevent to today's rant.

I read somewhere yesterday where someone was touting Gino’s West as a breath of independent fresh air to the chain restaurant addled scenery of WDSM and that “Finally some local dining” had come to that area.  I would like to remind whomever wrote that semi-nonsensical comment somwhere on the internerd that the two prior occupants (Graze and Ciao) of the current home of Gino’s West (5513 Mills Civic Pkwy # 100 WDSM, IA 50266 515-226-2320) were both local-ish and independent-ish and unfortunately for them lasted about as long as the restaurant world’s equivalent to an okay bull ride.  Is Gino’s local?  Absolutely, and many of the people I have shared employers with were in some way connected to the Gino’s empire.  But this isn’t about how local Gino’s is, or how (here we go) the one time I went there for lunch it was pretty meh (yes, one visit doesn’t make a “review,” but I am not a reviewist, but a customer.  One visit CAN lose you customers).  This little rant is brought about by the general public’s continuing unwillingness to support the existing local business framework.  Yes, the economy still sucks like an Electrolux even though the powers that be have declared that there is no more problem while millions of out of work Americans will be losing their unemployment benefits (due to funding) by the end of 2010 as the financial sector that screwed/ripped off everyone and caused an enormous chunk of that unemployment laughs all the way to the money counting machine and the “Average Jane/Joe” type gets relegated to shopping at big discount chains for all their home goods, stopping by McD’s for some drive through bilge and somehow they are expected to support local business????? WHEW!

Yes, some of the recently failed local businesses had some problems both internal and external which caused their demise.  Whatever the problems, the bottom line is that the customers just weren’t there.  The chains stand strong because they have figured out a way to bleed a little from some stores and lick their wounds with other more profitable locations because for some fucking strange reason, even though most folks these days are crying “buy local,” the general public still has enough trust in the chains that brings them back to deposit what little entertainment dollar they have managed to scrape up into the pockets of some folks that are probably incorporated in the state of Delaware.  Don’t shake your head.  You all do it.  I even do it.  I will admit that sometimes I get down non-locally.  And we give the chains our money and watch as the local businesses sink.  We will get back to this.

Here are three local restaurants that are opening in the next two days: Zingaro (Thursday at 5p), Flour (Thursday 11a), and Big City Burgers and Greens*  (although BCBAG seems to be a template for future franchising) but for RIGHT NOW they are local, downtown, and I want to see them succeed.  All you locavore wanna-be WDSM folks who work in the downtown DMZ had better get your butts in their chairs at least once, give them a chance.  Don’t cause them to be the next Gateway Market West, Ciao, Graze (so help me if we ever get something else like Graze plz shoot me), uh, or all those other places that closed in the last twelve years since Winni has been doing her dance.

You want more local, then f-ing rep local.

The Cook.

Yes, I have my underpants in a bunch.  But at least I bought them locally.  And they are bunched quite locally.

* BCBAG is located at 400 Locust St, Suite 195, DMZ.  They open tomorrow at 11a.  I will be going there for lunch and telling you “less fortunate people,” the vegetarians, all about the Veg options there.



Monday Update. Seriously.
2010/11/29, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary, Total Rubbish, Vegetarian Dining | Tags:

Here’s something unprecedented in the halls of LG history, a second follow up supplemental Monday news post.  But enough with the normal nonsense, let’s get down to biznass.



I stopped by Proof for a little lunch break today and managed to catch a quick convo with a very busy Carly Groben.  The word is that Flour Pizza (mentioned in our earlier post) will be opening Thursday at 11a.  Be there and eat square.  You know, like square slices of pizza. 1220 Locust St in the DMZ. Thursday.


I also stopped in to Allspice for a little earlier announced shopping trip.  Owner Alex Rhoads was manning the helm as your slightly soggy cook sauntered across the heavily spice scented threshold.  Let’s see, Locally Owned, Friendly, Fair trade, Vegan friendly, Gluten Free, Fairly priced, Spices, Specialty Olive Oils. Check. Check. Check.  I walked out with some smoked paprika for the Tacopacalypse Vegan Chorizo, some Crushed Urfa Chile (a Turkish pepper from the town of Urfa) , and a mission to tell you Tens to make it a point to get in to see Alex at Allspice for some good good lovin for your cooking.  You may find a new spice that will inspire you to cook something different this week, any week really. 4oo E. Locust, Suite 5, the DMZ

Olive Oils at Allspice

People, support your locally owned businesses.  You should treat it as your civic duty to support your fellow DMZ-ians who have decided to take the plunge into the depths of business ownership and deliver the goods.

“And remember to thank us and yourselves for everything and everyone.” – James V. Sarcone

Hasta Manana

the Cook


Zingaro, Flour, Allspice, and Every News Nice

It is amazing how that one holiday that happened last week, which was given too much attention by a certain cook, has turned into something of a week long celebration like Hannukah, Festivus, or my Fake Birthday.  Well, it’s not really celebrated proper past its Thursday do-date, but the SHOPPING party lasts from Friday until today, which has become what we confusedly refer to as “Cyber Monday.”  “Cyber” was used more as a term for adult-oriented interweb chat activities back in the AOL days or the toddler stage of remote digital exchanges, but now it has been “re-branded” to focus us on the salacious act of bargain shopping until dropping.  Rest assured that today’s internet shopping holiday will no doubt cap the end of our economy’s reccessing, and will net a whole crap load of shipping jobs for the USPS, FedHex, and UPS.  I heard they could all use a little help.

Speaking of help, it’s time for those of us here at LG to put on our Monday News And Interdork Shopping Pageant.  You may want to use the restrooms now.  There is no intemission.

First up is the opening of Chef Hal Jasa’s new “popup” restaurant Zingaro this Thursday night (Dec 2nd) at 1605 Woodland avenue in the glorious Sherman Hill district of the DMZ.  Hal has some great ideas and I am excited to see him have a chance to realize those ideas unhindered from the control of others.  The format is 20 people at a time, 3 courses, $30 dollars, and is BYOB.  This is a great deal for a meal prepared and presented by professionals (I hear that Jenny Smith aka Butcher Crick Farms and the one and only Chef Leon will be helping out from time to time) using local products, cutting edge techniques, and served in a beautiful historic building.  Sounds like a win win win win win…win.  Zingaro will only be serving on Thursday and Friday evenings, and you need reservations.  Step outside the Des Moines Dining Box and check this spot out.  www.zingarocuisine.com / 515-661-4371  Don’t forget to hug your chef.

And now you are thinking “what is a “pop-up” restaurant?”  I am glad you asked.  Pop-ups are popping up in larger cities (shocker) and play on a chef’s creativity.  It’s a way for those chefs without big money backing to expose the world to the product of their obsessive culinary nature.  The goal of these places is not to become a fixture, but to burn brightly then move on to something new.  Sometimes these ventures are a testing ground for the viability of a concept or to showcase an intended static restaurant concept to the public and especially to people who may want to invest in the particular chef’s future.  Did you catch that one?  This is awesome semi-guerilla dining at its rawest.  Here is an article from the NYT which gives a run-down of the POR scene in San Francisco.  Did I mention that I am excited for this to start happening here in Des Moines?

A few weeks ago a valued and LG reader Matt suggested that a petition be started for the repeal or re-revision of the new City of Des Moines Food Cart Rules.  I hear that is in the works.  Spend the winter letting the City council know that when spring hits, you want them to keep their laws off your body…of dining options.  Remember, food carts don’t cause drunken shenaningans, drunks do.

I Still don’t even know how to address this Relish issue.  Maybe a letter to the editor about checking the qualifications of that Miller fellow…

Carly Groben of Proof is about to open a pizza spot called Flour (and is rumored to be opening an MMA workout gym called Rolling Pin.  Ok, nobody laugh at that.) between Smokey D’s BBQ and Jimmy John’s at 1220 Locust Street in the Western Gateway.  The seating is communal, the atmosphere sparse, and the pizza is served in square slices.  Flour is slotted to open sometime between today and Dec 6th.  You can reach the Flour headquarters at 515-288-2935 or on the dork-sphere at www.flourpizza.com

I will be there for their opening day (unless it happens on Friday, as I have a hot lunch date with the DMACC/ICI Bistro folks.  You will be reading about that next Monday), pretty curious about this downtown New Pizza Boom ala the Sushi Boom of ought 8 and the current tail end of the BBQ Craze.  Former Groben cohort Steve Logsdon opened Bagni Di Lucca in the old East Village Basil Prosperi spot this summer, and Cafe Di Scala owner Tony Lemmo’s Gusto Pizza (the new “Frank’s Pizza” of Dogtown fame) is slated to open soon in Ingersoll Square, then you have Fong’s, Mullet’s, and all of the pizza on the skywalk…hm.


There is also a new Sheriff of Spice in the East Village, Allspice.  I will be going there this afternoon for a little shopping trip.  Here is an article about Allspice and one of my favorite shops, Kitchen Collage from my favorite newspaper in the world, the Des Moines Register.  Anyone need a tissue after that one? contact/visit Allspice at 400 E. Locust St., Suite 5, 515-868-0808  www.allspiceonline.com


That wasn’t so hard, was it?  Nice and easy.  I am on the way to lunch at Proof and to find a little more about this mysterious floating open date for Flour.

And to eat some Felafel.

The Cook.


Ban Thai, Banh Mi, and BLACK FRYDAY!!!!!

Here it is, the yin to T-day’s yang, the number one shopping day of the year and the most ironically placed “holiday” on our current holiday calendar (A day of thanks followed by a day of trampling strangers in the name of greed or giving).  I know that most of you celebratorians of the Turkey probably think that whatever you ate yesterday will carry you through the rigors of draining your holiday savings today, but you are kinda sorta wrong.  At some point today you are going to feel a little bonk from all those laps around Mal-Wart waiting for those timed specials to drop and you are going to need some real food.

Black Friday Post-Thanksgiving Meal Group Depository

I urge you to either stop in at a local eatery for a bite of lunch or a small snack, or to pack a sandwich or similar portable item to take with you along the road to bargain shopping.  I know, this is all information you could have used YESTERDAY.  I understand.

With all of that said, I hope that if you are out in the Thunderdome we call Black Friday you are being safe and exercising compassion towards others.  I have already read via Twitter of a few people being trampled early this morning and of security guards having to use force to keep crowds in check.  Come on, people.  Even though this is a tough time for finances and you want to get the most for what dollars you have to spend, don’t drive up health care costs by injuring other people.  Next thing you know the Insurance Industry will recognize the danger of Black Friday shopping and require special insurance coverage for just that day, sort of like flood or fire insurance.  Then saving a little money off your LCD TV turns into more national debt, as the less fortunate who are currently receiving Medicare or Medicaid will benefit most from the sales on Black Friday, but the government will have to pay a higher premium to insure those people for said day.  It’s not that far fetched, and my speculation here put into the wrong hands may be the butterfly effect that pushes this insurance nonsense forward.

But I digress.

This year our Lovely Datebook Diner, formerly known here as She Who Shall Not Be Named, compiled a list of restaurants which have closed during her twelve year tenure at the super awesome Des Moines Register.  Since that list was released, so were a few more eateries released from the hands of their owners.  One of the closings that has been buzzing on my Twitter Feed (sounds like a very inappropriate gathering) is the closing of none other than Ban Thai (normally I would list the contact info here, but they are closed), a Thai restaurant in the southern quadrant of the DMZ’s East Village.  I used to frequent this spot often, and have a really wicked scar on my left leg from a bicycle accident/failed attempt to make it to Ban Thai in time for lunch service.  I never did make it there for lunch that day, and now there will forever be a void where those vegetable spring rolls once occupied.  Rumor has it that the food had gone way down hill over the last few months before its final demise, and I had noticed the parking lot growing emptier during my travels through that neighborhood.  The owners had been shopping around for a new location (rumor has it that it was to be located in a vacated 4th street dining spot), and some people had been trying to sell off the Ban Thai business for about a year.  Well, all problems aside, you are missed, Ban Thai.  Sorry you had to make “The List.”

Another rumor has dropped that A-dong (1511 High Street,Des Moines, IA 50309 515-284-5632) has decided to throw their hat into the Banh Mi circle.  You may remember this Vietnamese sandwich from such moments as the Banh Mi Craze of Summer ’10, and from numerous articles written by your various food critics (and myself).  A-dong will be selling these happy little sandwiches in to-go form only from a cold case.  I am really excited to see what the A-dong Banh Mi will entail, I have been a fan of that place for years and pass by it every day on the way to Cafe Di Scala, where we have been known to devour our share of Banh Mi.  Banh Mi.  I am not sure when A-dong will officially drop their sandwiches, but rest assured you will be kept posted.

OH yeah, I still haven’t wrapped my tiny brain around how to address this Relish issue.  Maybe Monday.

Well, folks, I am off to Iowa City for the weekend for some New Pioneer Co-op sandwiches to enjoy the Jingle Cross Rock cyclocross festivities.  Maybe I will see you there.

The Cook


Relishing The Moment, Slathering On The Thanks
2010/11/24, 4:14 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary, restaurant reviews, Vegetarian Dining

First things first, those of you who are still hanging on in hopes that the LG will fill your eyeballs with knowledge on a more regular basis may be in lunch. I mean luck.  Many of you know that I am an avid cyclist and a little out of my mind about riding, and i have been the last two weeks cheating on you, my tens of readers.  Cheating on you with my bike, some new cold weather gear, and the almighty road.  I have to say it’s been fun, but those things in your eye-holes have certainly been in need of some juicy giblets of information delivered by the gravy boat we call LG.  Here is your first installment of our return to what we like to call:

“Our Regular Programming”

Let’s start off with a little recap of the story of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday as told by a very unruly and intoxicated friend of mine named Burt.  This story originally ran back a few weeks ago, and those of you who missed it certainly missed something really special.  You can stop missing it right…about…now:

Some a-holes from Europe decided to float their boats toward China but the dumbasses didn’t know that America was in the way.  A lot of people say that they left Spain or England or whatever so they could practice their religion, but that’s a load of crap.  Who loads up a bunch of boats and people for a million mile trip when they could just move to France, where nobody gives a shit about anything but butter and cream anyway.  I say they were just bored rich people like those teenagers who decided that they would try to sail around the world until their parents were like “oh no you aint” and the courts agreed and there were a few failures.  It’s amazing what bored rich people are capable of.  So they got in their fancy boats and went for a trip.  They landed here, and met some Indians who were like “oh, these guys don’t have cool red beards and fancy animals carved on their boats [I think he is talking about the Vikings at this point], they look awfully uptight and probably need to chill out” so these Indians, you see, have the peace pipe and they offer it to the Pilgrims and they smoked.  The pilgrims, used to “snuff” and uppers got really high and paranoid.  They asked if the Indians had any snacks, and were like “hey, you don’t look like yer from China.”  The Indians brought the Pilgrims some potatoes and berries and gave them directions to their “guy” in case they needed the hook up later.  The Indians went about their business, but the Pilgrims were high, paranoid, and freaking out.  So they gave them Smallpox.  Not a very cool trade if  you ask me…hey, can I get another shot? So anyway, the Pilgrims start taking out these Indians like they were all gangsta.  They were doing some real damage, then decided to take over the whole country.  Most of the Indians moved away from the East Coast because the hostile ass Pilgrims were always acting up, this is also why the East Coast is so much more hard core than the West Coast.  It was the pilgrims, man!  The Pilgrims then started killing turkeys.  The TURKEYS are a symbol of the Indian.  That’s why we can’t eat the Turkey man, it’s totally racist.  We should only DRINK the turkey. Then the Pilgrims got into a big war with the French over some shit that wasn’t theirs in the first place, totally a white man thing to do, and shit they should have just moved to France to begin with and taken over France.  Then maybe Paris would be New York City and America would be safer.


Now, I don’t know if or how you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, but I think it is safe to say that we all know how our friend Burt will be celebrating this year.  No matter if or how you celebrate, or what history lesson you believe about the origin of this holiday, we at Locally Grown ask you to take a moment to think about what you are thankful for.  Now take that list of what you are thankful for and actually thank anyone who is directly connected to what you have to give thanks.  You might even be thankful for this lil Turkey of a blog.  I know I am.

I recently picked up the new issue of Relish.  More to come on that.  For now, eat yo damn meal.

Oh, and one more thing.  Don’t forget the Vegans and Vegetarians at your holiday meal.


The Cook

Dear Diary: Lunch
2010/11/18, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Personal | Tags: ,

Dear Diahree: Today I went on a long, long bicycle ride to blow off some steam and recharge the writing engine.  Steam Engine.  I was passing by the place which gave me my first job upon moving to Des Moines at about mile 40, and thought that lunch there later would be interesting.  After a few more miles, I turned back and headed for the place which gave me my first job upon moving to Des Moines. You know, Dieary, I often have read that when you are spinning your wheels and need to “get your groove back” that it is good to re-visit your roots.  This was some great advice.  The moment I walked in the door of the place which gave me my first job upon moving to Des Moines that familiar smell smacked me in the nostrils.  I was transported back 8 years in a matter of 8 seconds, and nothing had changed except the staff.  I kind of wish at least one of the old managers was still around to chat with, maybe have some “remember when I used to drink beer out of the to go cups while on the job” memory moments.  Those familiar tastes, smells, sights, sounds…all brought me close to tears.  I have forgotten how far I have come in the years since I worked at the place which gave me my first job upon moving to Des Moines and this was my problem all along.  I just couldn’t see the starting line through the trials of the race.

Never forget where you come from.

The Cook


Vegan Profiling: Enemies Of The Steak
2010/11/14, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Total Rubbish, Vegetarian Dining | Tags: , ,

Most of you have likely been invited to and attended an eating function such as a banquet or dinner party, but have you ever been at a Dining Event where one of THOSE people is hanging out? You know, the “oddball” Vegetarian or Vegan who was probably placed there by some higher power just to test everyone’s ability to tolerate those of the needy nature.  The people who invoke the cussing of the chef upon reading a BEO (Banquet Event Order) which states something like “one vegetarian option” or the manic Interweb-Search-Engine-ing of what the hell a Vegan or Vegetarian even eats (and how on Earth do you pronounce that…is it vay-gahn, vee-jun, V-gun?).  You may have even been in a public eating establishment and noticed the word “Vegan” has leaked its unholy recycled soy ink self all over a corner of the menu.  Is this what YOUR America is turning into?  A bunch of Hemp wearing, plant eating, bicycle riding annoyers of the Meat Eating Public?

"Put 'em on a boat and ship em to the Rain Forest, there's plenty of plants for them Damn Hippies to eat down there!"

The answer is YES

These natural fiber loving freaks of nature who choose to abstain from the Meat Loving Culture of your world are coming for you.  They are poised to take your jobs (at the local natural foods grocery), drive down property values (with their Natural Prairie Grass Lawns. “Don’t you people own a lawn mower?”), wreak havoc on the economy (“they are driving up corn and soy prices, dammit!”), ruin the landscape of your country (with evil bike lanes), and provide safety and shelter for stray or injured animals.  How dare these Plant Eaters defame the glory of the Meat which this great country was founded on!  The meat industry which has paved the roads with the blood of your enemies, the cows, pigs, and chickens who would otherwise run rampant and overpopulate the world leaving no room for humans to exist, creating a “Planet of the Livestock” situation which we CANNOT ALLOW TO HAPPEN.  THEY would allow this to happen, as Vegans are so overly concerned about plants and the so-called “Mother Earth” that they would fight for the extinction of humans just to save this planet.

To be continued…