Locally Grown

It’s Been A Rough Week For Writing
2011/02/25, 1:41 am
Filed under: Personal

Like an unexpected bad weather front riding in a storm not unlike the contents of an over-flowing septic system, my week has been somewhat a shit storm of activities, both expected and unexpected. Ok, my week was nothing like an exploding septic tank, but it WAS full of events worth writing about but which kept me from the keys of my trusty thing on which I write this blog.  What am I saying here?  Yes, another freaking excuse.

This week I participated in cooking for two Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest events, I also had the good fortune to work in a restaurant which was nominated for 7 Cityview Best Of awards, and attended the awards banquet on Tuesday.  I had to work a couple other jobs, organize a benefit ride, do some commuting, and spend time thinking of and then writing this excuse.  Tomorrow I have a bicycle race to participate in, then Sunday I plan on writing my dissertation on why I deserved to not have to do anything on Sunday but write dissertations.  At least for this week.

I appreciate that the few of you left who considered reading these words were probably just loitering around your local convenience store perusing copies of weekly gossip mags or possibly frequenting the url’s of some other less entertaining and much less informative blogs waiting for your Cook to return. You only need wait for one or two more days.

Until then, I ask you a simple question: Would you rather be a part of creating something which causes a culinary stir, or part of the crowd it feeds?  Or the crowd which judges?

See you soon,

The Cook

News! (Kirkwood Lounge, Bacon Fest, Chef Groben)

The question of the day around my brain is this:  What the heck is going on at Locally Grown?  Has focus been un-focused?  What happened to all the updates and pissing-off of other people who mint words attempting to describe what the food world feels like from the standpoint of the old “hand in the bag” what’s that object trick?  Here is a partial answer/cop/out:  I am busy.  I have been busy working a few jobs (because as crazy as it may seem I don’t make a living from being a non-anonymous interweb scribe), and the new job effectively fills almost all of the hours previously allocated to entertaining you, my Faithful Tens of readers.  What is going to be done about this problem?  More coffee, less television, and less laying around on the couch.  This is my pledge to you.

So many subjects have been flying past my eyes…so many things to snark at.  So many laughable happenings which would undoubtedly tickle your morose funny bone.  Today, though, we start with baby steps.  Yes, another edition of Locally Grown News. Or as I like to call it:  something to write about instead of being creative.

The Kirkwood Lounge Will Be Opening In The Next Few Days

Yes, according to my sources (which for this blurb is the Craigslist Help Wanted Ads), we are about to be clobbered by a new-to-the-DMZ concept, the Gastro Pub.  The Kirkwood Lounge, occupying the former Azalea space at 400 Walnut Street, will be the first restaurant to officially claim the moniker “Gastro Pub.” (Note: a Gastro Pub is a bar/meeting house which generally carries a wide beer selection, a chef-driven drinks menu, and a chef-driven bar food menu which includes twists on bar and comfort food classics.  It is meant as a hang out spot with excellent food and drinks)  Chef Sean Wilson has a new simplified menu of classed-up bar foods, which is indicative of the GP concept, along with a drinks menu, beer, and wine.  The new concept is a much more casual venture than Azalea, but the inclusion of Wilson should assure diners and loungers that the food quality will be at a similar level.  Contact the restaurant to inquire about the actual opening date, I do not have that information right now.

Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest Kicks Off Next Week

The Universe’s Ultimate Ode to Bacon, Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest is set to kick off next week, including a number of events such as Bacon Taco Happy Hour on Monday, Bacon Elegance Dinner on Wednesday, and the Big Daddy,http://www.blueribbonbaconfestival.com/blog/ Bacon Fest on Saturday.  Click on the links for more information (the Bacon Taco Happy Hour features Tacopocalypse Tacos made by me, your humble cook)

Carly Groben Of Proof/Flour Up For Best New Chef Award

Carly Groben of Proof and Four restaurants has been nominated for Food and Wine Magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef, Midwest” award.  I encourage you to vote for Ms. Groben, and so does F&W (one of the qualifiers for voting is that you have dined at the restaurant of the chef you have chosen).  Read through the blurbs for each chef, there are some real characters up for the win, but there is only one character from Our Fair City nominated and I expect you to support the local scene and give her your vote.  I already cast mine.

Cityview Best Of Awards Gala and Announcement Next Week

Weekly free-press Newsertainment mag Cityview conducts a yearly reader poll to recognize what the people of the DMZ have deemed as the Best Of Des Moines.  The time has come for the results of this year’s poll to be un-sheathed and weilded mightily around the personal spaces of the general public.  The Gala (invite only, you have to be named in the top three runners for a category to attend) will be held Tuesday night, with the following day seeing the release of the printed poll results to you, the reader.  I am proud to say that a certain restaurant in which I cook has been nominated for no less than seven awards, and that I will be at the Gala.  I will take notes and share the experience with the tens of you reading this blog.


Tens, I hope that you continue being patient with this here alleged writer and cooking machine.  I have many reading pleasure units for your faces, just need to find the time to get it all out in the open.


The Cook

Hoppy Valencia Day From Locally Grown!
2011/02/14, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Personal

This is the day of the year when the Great Valencia Rabbit hops his orange-hued self from house to house dividing the Citrus of Love betwixt loverz of all things lovey.  GVR even visitz those lacking the sweet yet acidic tang of love in their hearts, hoping and hopping that amidst the consumeristic tendencies of another holiday purportedly taking place today (celebrating candy, flowers, and the assaultive tendencies of a projectile weilding diaper clad baby like Chucky of the Chucky movie series fame, if chucky only wore a diaper) that you remember to squeeze every last drop of love out of life, just like you would a Sweet Valencia Orange from the Florida Orange Growers Assoc. Of Florida.

No matter your relationship status, Bathory the Cat, Hank the Chimp, Freak Dog 2, and me…your humble The Cook® would like to remind you that we love you.  And that may be…all you need…to knooooooooooow.

Hoppy Valencia Day! 

The Cook

Locally Grown Classics: Cochon 555 Coverage, Aftermath Style!
2011/02/09, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Locally Grown Classics

Hello, Tens. Today’s Locally Grown Classic is brought in remembrance of an event which visited Our Fair City during the course if its first two years, bringing with it a celebration of, as it is billed, 5 Local Chefs, 5 Local Wines, and 5 Heritage Pigs. This year the Festival has decided to skip Des Moines (which is attributed to a low turnout last year). Do the people of the DMZ feel slighted? Maybe. Do the chefs that would maybe be invited to compete feel slighted? Kinda. Luckily the Chefs of the DMZ have plenty to keep themselves busy in the absence of competitive cooking, but there are still some grumblings around town regarding what said Chefs would do with their Heritage Hog.

It doesn’t matter. The festival isn’t coming, and all we have left are the memories. Here is a transcript of some of my memories from the 2010 event held at the Hotel Ft. Des Moines. Enjoy another Locally Grown Classic.

The Cook

Cochon 555 Coverage, Aftermath Style







Congratulations to Matt Steigerwald of Lincoln Cafe in Mt. Vernon, Iowa for winning the coveted “Prince Of Pork” title for the second year in a row. Matt and his crew will be traveling to Aspen, Colorado to compete with other winners from around the country at the Food&Wine magazine Aspen Classic Cochon çhampionship. They will have a chance to hang with Jaques, Giada, Mario, Tom C., and other food luminaries. Sounds fun! We here at Locally Grown wish Chef Matt and his Team all the best when representing the #1 pork producing state in the world in Colorado.

Good Job.

Now as you may recall, I was on self-assigned assignment to LiveBlog the Cochon555 event. This did not happen. Not even a little bit. After spending tens of minutes typing emails and texts, having local celebrities text organizers, and other assorted tomfoolery, hoping to get a free pass to cover the event (and nearly securing a judge’s spot) I was called upon by a friend, Chef Hal Jasa of the soon-to-be realized restaurant Homage. Hal was down a crew member and invited me to come help. So instead of spending time spitting out words I turned out plates, 11 courses on 3 plates for 22 judges. Oh, in one hour. It was a great time punctuated by Templeton Rye, laughter, quenelles of heart pate, liquid nitrogen pork ice cream, Two Dudes in D&G glasses, meeting new friends, and the clearest pork consume I have ever seen. The work kept me, thankfully, from boring you to death every 15 minutes from 4pm to 9pm Saturday. It did not, however, keep me from having a grand old time with some great friends.

Cochon isn’t just a contest for chefs, it is also a showcase for local wine and brewers, with a special visit from Tempelton Rye, Mad House Brewery, and Madrigal Wines to name a few.

As soon as I find my notes, look forward to part 3…

Kudos to all the chefs, wineries, judges, and heritage pigs that took part in Cochon555.

Locally Grown News Extrava-Danza!

It’s time once again to get down to the real nitty gritty.  Yes, it is Monday here in Our Fair Freezey Pop of a City (or Tuesday if you are tuning in even later than our already late post time), and that means one of many things: Locally Grown News is probably/maybe going to happen.  And today, in honor of nothing remotely related to America’s Third Favorite Male Television Housekeeper, Tony Danza, the Royal We bring You, the Royal Tens, this week’s edition of local food news entitled

Locally Grown Monday News Extrava-Danza!


Any ladies want some of this ExtravaDanza? Not you, Mona.

-Chef/Owner of Lincoln Cafe and Reigning Prince Of Pork (a title which will never expire now that Cochon555 has deemed the DMZ an unworthy host) Matt Steigerwald has taken cue from the latest creation of Grant Achatz, chef at Alinea in Chicago.  Achatz’s next restaurant venture, aptly named Next, will not be taking reservations but will be selling tickets to dinner.  Matt has decided to sell tickets to select special dinners held at Lincoln Cafe in the future.  In Chef Steigerwald’s own words, “The reason for this is simply that even with a reservation for a special dinner we end up with cancellations at the last minute. This always leaves us to scramble with calls to numerous guests on the waitlist, sometimes filling the table but sometimes not. One empty table at a dinner with only ten tables is bad news. Especially when so many people wanted that table.”  This seems more than fair in today’s economy.  I just wonder if this will open up a whole new market…Dinner Scalping.

Zingaro, the “Pop-up” restaurant operated by local chef Hal Jasa has Popped Up on the Datebook Diner’s radar, who gave the new-to-the-DMZ concept a favorable initial visit review type thing.  She has some kind and well-founded words for Hal’s concept, cuisine, and location.

-Bestaurants and Worstaurants, an investigative venture of KCCI’s Patrick Bell, has arrived to inform the dining public of the greater DMZ of the health inspection status of local eateries.  It is the public’s right to know if they are dining in a safe establishment and a great way to find out restaurant inspection results is to check out the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals interwebular site where you can search for a restaurant and read the results of their latest inspection.  I also feel that the you, the public, should have a right to “enjoy” the Video Press without having your intelligence insulted by what could possibly be the Worst Title Of A Food Related Video Broadcast of 2011.  It’s hard to tell at such an early point in the year if the stupid standing of B&W can hold on to take the honors, but whether it wins or not Bestaurants and Worstaurants has set the bar pretty darn high.

The bar has been set awfully high.

Gusto Pizza opened one week ago to a flurry of business.  Most businesses expect to be busy upon grand opening, but this opening was a little different.  Gusto Pizza has used ONLY social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Four Square) to advertise and judging by the opening week and a soft opening which was ONLY announced by social media and resulted in almost 100 pizzas served in two and a half hours.  Who is behind the raw and hilarious YouTube commercials and internet promotion?  New restaurant social media marketing company Good Milkshake (@GoodMilkshake on Twitter and Good Milkshake, LLC on FB), run by local business person and handsome devil Phil James, is taking the reigns of local restaurant marketing and steering eateries and eaters towards each other manning the restaurants’ Twitter accounts and offering spur of the moment specials, information, and instant feedback to patrons.  Restaurants, you could benefit greatly from the services of the Milkshake.  If you have any question of the effectiveness of social media marketing, check out the winter success of Cafe Di Scala (business has been well beyond the norm, even through a brutally cold January and a still-flacid economy) and the Gusto opening…both fueled by Good Milkshake.  Get Some.

-Groupon, the not-so-local local business discount advertising behemoth, has suffered a little bad press due to some seemingly callous commercials during the Stuper Bowl this past Sunday.  I didn’t enjoy the commercials and found them a bit offensive (yes, even to ME), but what I enjoy less is a giant corporation that makes light of the suffering of humans or animals while “promoting local business.”  Groupon, you aren’t local.  Keep your mitts off my scene.

Well, tens, that was the last Danz for today.  I hope you felt this week’s news was truly Boss.

The Cook.

A Tale Of Two A-Holes
2011/02/02, 10:53 am
Filed under: Dining Tips | Tags: ,

It was the best of double dates, it was the worst of double dates.  Two women and two men entered into agreement that dining together in a fine dining setting would seem to be…um… agreeable, and set out to find a destination worthy of their like.

“A lord and lady such as myself and my esteemed date shall be in need of a quaint and cozy dining location with lighting such as to set a mood of romantic-icized devourment” spat Man 1.

Man 2 added, “Yes, yes!  And such special patrons you are!  Me and Mine are in agreement with your requests and shall dispatch our internet search thusly.”

The women spoke not, but their time would come soon enough.

Men 1 and 2 were both of the type which felt that money was an object, but not one to be fearful of parting with (and especially when entertaining such fair maidens as Women 1 and 2) as more was just around the bend waiting to hop into the vest pocket of their multi-piece suits.  The internetular restaurant search yielded a restaurant which had earned collectively, through various user review outlets, 4 Spoons, 3.5 out of 5 stars, 7.75 Stars out of 10 Stars, 6 Pasta Spinners, One Golden Egg, and an overall affordability rating of $$$$.  All of these factors were like analice to the eye holes of our two couples.

Exclaimed Woman 2, “We must hurry!  They close in one hour!”

Women and Men both 1 and 2 loaded into their respective semi-unaffordable chariot choices and headed, separately, to this restaurant.  They arrived thirty minutes before close.

“Oh, what a beautiful place in which to spend our bounty of cash,” spewed Woman 1

“But this place seems to be mostly empty and full of only worker-peasants,” belched Woman 2

“Let us stand at the bar for a few cocktails whilst they wrangle us a table which is already set and prepared for dining,” Orally farted Man 2

Man 1 vomited “Agreed!”

So the two couples stood at the bar of the mostly empty, about-to-close restaurant to imbibe some libations.  Two rounds of Cosmo-colored fruity alcoholic filth later it was decided that the couples were indeed ready to be waited on by the serfs of the land (restaurant).

[let’s see…page turn, page turn, ruffle.  Hmmm. Where DOES this story head off to…maybe HERE]

(you have just witnessed what we in the modern writing world as a literary fast forward.  Ok, nobody really uses that term because it isn’t a real thing.)

Man 1 and Man 2 order the most manly and meaty dishes the restaurant can sear and pan-roast for them.  This is a showing of not only wealth, but of their virility which will be thrust upon the world and possibly their dates before the night’s end.

were not speakingWomen 1 and 2 both decide on a seasonal stuffed pasta dish, Winter Squash Ravioli in a Burnt Butter and Sage sauce, which sounds rather light since the sauce for the dish not assigned an “alfredo” designator of which is their normal preference when ordering pasta.  W1 and W2 making an attempt to comply with their “new year’s resolutions” which included, as to be expected, losing weight.

Four expertly prepared and beautifully plated dishes are whisked to the last four remaining diners at their table in the restaurant which has been closed for forty minutes.

The men, nay… the MEN, ogle their meat-platters with ill intent, bent on coating their intestines and manly aura with a carnivorous um…coating.

The Women give their tandem dishes a stare not unlike the stare they give the Von Maur shoe lady upon being informed their precious Pliner pumps are not in stock in the necessary size.

“Waitress, waitress!” harkens Woman 1

“Yes, miss, is there something I can do for you?” offers the SERVER.

“How can I eat this pasta dish?  For it is soaked in Butter!” exclaimed Woman 1.

The server attempts to educate the Women, “The sauce is made of browned butter as stated within the confines of the menu description.  That means the sauce is butter.  Simply butter.”

“Well, it is soaked in butter and we can not eat such buttery filth for we are bound by the ideals of a New Year’s Resolution!” Seethes Woman 2

The Men pay this exchange no mind, for they are feasting contently upon their manly-meals and discussing the non-object money and their fearless ability to pay for meals that remain uneaten.  Which they did.

The Server expressed her intent to box up their butter-bathed dishes, presumably to be saved for eating in a few days when the New Year’s Resolution became less of an ideal and more of a memory.  This offer was refused, as was the offer to prepare another less buttery dish for the ladies.

Food was wasted, thrown into a waste receptacle.  Money was spent.  Two diners were full and happy, two were still burdened with hunger and the need to verbally stab away at the girl who, they thought, had led them to a butter pool from which they could not drink.

For the satisfied Men and wholly unsatisfied Women of this Best of/Worst of double date of double, yet opposite, satisfaction no lesson was learned.

Can you see the lessons that were to be learned in our story today?

The Cook

*The names of dishes in this story may have been changed to preserve anonymity*


Locally Grown Snow Day!
2011/02/02, 9:47 am
Filed under: Total Rubbish

If you are in the DMZ, you have woken up to a dismal disappointment of snow-ular dishitude.  While other cities such as Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Chicago, and even Iowa City got there wish for a deliciously inconvenient snow day, Des Moines has been treated by Person Nature* as we have been treated by the Culinary World.  Poorly.

We had the Taco Trucks, I mean we still have Taco Trucks but the City Council sided with some a-holes who were hating on the TT scene so they are relegated to certain areas and regulated with a stealthy iron-ish fist.  That was one “blizzard” that passed us.  Taco Trucks were starting to gain momentum, but we all woke up one morning to a dissapointment.

We had Food Carts, of course we can still have food carts but the City Council deemed them too dangerous for consenting drunk adults to cross streets to purchase food from after the hour of 1:30 am.  Now those drunks (in the Court Ave District), if looking for something to “soak up the booze,” have to either go to Fong’s Pizza or Tommy Farrel’s Italian Beef OR drunkenly get into their cars and drive to Big Tomato, Los Laurales, Jimmy John’s, Perkins, or some other late night restaurant.  Now everyone is safer.  Food carts tried to pick up steam, but fell short due to the City Council.

I am not saying the City Council is responsible for the lack of snow.  In fact, they would probably regulate snow fall citing that it is too dangerous to cross the street when it is snowing or that snowball fights could escalate into riots.  You know, they are just looking out for your safety.

How does this all tie together?  I doesn’t.  But I tried.

What I am trying to say is this:  If you are reading this, you are probably a fan of eating food.  Or at the very least you have some masochistic need to subject yourself to lock groove food ranting.  If you are a member of the former group you have a right to stay informed as to what is happening to your food and within your dining scene.  If you pay close attention to the food scene these City Council rulings can be fought before they are put into action. Those hidden gems of the dining scene won’t be so hidden to your eyes and mouths.  You will see that the “food trends” you are reading about (like dining local and eating more vegetables) aren’t really trends and have been happening right under your palate.

I personally feel that the DMZ is over-saturated with bullshit in the form of Chain Restaurants, poorly constructed restrictive laws on when and where you can obtain food, and mis-guiding “best of” lists and tainted critic opinions.

What can you do about it?  Seek knowledge from many sources, be adventurous in your dining…um…adventures, and DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.  Because if someone is limiting your culinary enjoyment, They must be on the pipe, right?

Enjoy your snow day.

The Cook

*in the spirit of equality NOT shown by the Iowa House this week, LG will from here on out (today) refer to “Mother Nature” as “Person Nature” signifying our belief that women and men are equally able to represent the personification of our planet. But maybe not Captain Planet.