Locally Grown

Food Courting The Groceries
2017/03/14, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In all of my time living downtown here in Des Moines, I have wanted a grocery store that I could call my own.  A store that would take about 5 minutes to ride a bike to, some place that sold all of the little things you need to get a grocery store, save for cat supplies which I buy at my local bulk membership box of fun. I live close to two Asian Markets, and down the street from La Tapatia, a large Mexican Market, and across the river two miles there is Gateway Market, and Price Chopper lives on Ingersoll Ave.  There are options, but none that really fit the bill completely. Last year locally based Hy Vee and some developers sold us downtown residents on the promise of a full on grocery store at the venerable 4th & Court intersection.  They would be building atop what was a main parking lot for the eating/entertainment district, but the structure would include a parking garage that would replace those parking spots.  I was initially very against this idea, mainly due to my inability to accept change, but also the fact that this whole deal seemed a little off.  Take all the parking, one of the last great commodities, add a full grocery store. I don’t know.

What we actually got from Hy Vee was a full on food court, complete with taco shop, sushi shop, bagel shop, Italian Street food shop, Asian Foods Shop, gourmet cupcake shop, a fucking New York Deli (which I hear is the best of these places), a Salad Bar, a full bar, a Market Grille, a Fresh Pasta stand, a liquor store with 40 different varieties of Vodka alone, a Growler fill station, and somewhere hidden along the periphery of all of this prepared food and booze madness, there are some groceries.

Hy Vee did a good old fashioned bait and switch on us downtown folk, promising a grocery store and instead making, what I overheard one of their employees saying, the prototype for future stores for small towns/city centers.  Sounds like a great plan. Local Grocery Chain eyes the jugulars of surrounding local restaurants and bars with a serrated sandwich knife in one hand and the key to the city in the other.  Hy Vee got a 20 year tax abatement from the City of Des Moines, and the City also did not require them to build the extra parking spaces which were originally called for. Hy Vee put in food concepts that seem to be strategic direct competition to the restaurants on the surrounding blocks, like they took inventory of what the neighborhood had to offer, then pretty much made their own version.  I suppose it can be hard being a grocery store with a big dream of becoming a restaurant. I mean, it’s fucking mad genius on their part, they don’t have to worry about distributors jacking up prices, they just buy from themselves.  They have had prepared foods for decades, and recently added their “Market Grille” concept to their existing stores, blah blah blah.  Whatever. The grocery selection is just ok.

I’ve shopped there three times, by bike, to check the place out, and was only left hanging on a few items. Their Vegan selections are decent, and the produce section is probably the standout section of the store. It takes about 4 minutes to get there from my house by bicycle. It’s convenient and close. The bike parking is lackluster, but it works. I’m not happy with how the businesses of the area have been treated by the Hy Vee corporation, but it’s kind of a grocery store and frankly I’m tired of writing about the goddamn thing.

Rep Local. Shop Wherever.

This Is The End, My Friends.
2012/04/05, 7:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Tens! I had a whole diatribe prepared for this day, the airing of the Current Datebook Diner’s “last supper,” the day she finally just gets on with marketing her “cook book” on her own time. I decided to just let it lie. This is the last day of school for a food bully whom decided to award four stars to her favorite place to drink for her last review, and in the past months trash restaurants with real, honest chefs whom have been making the food that has pushed our dining scene to where it is today. It shows the disrespect she has had for Des Moines’ hard working restaurant professionals and her disrespect for you, the reader. Her personal bias has been a factor (more than is should be) for nearly 14 years, and I hope that all of you whom have cherished her opinions have finally seen the light through her BS.

Thank you, Winni, for your (dis-)service to our dining scene for so many grueling years of huge portions, gloppy soups, and places that are not Star Bar.  (we have covered this Star Bar thing before, in fact in our first few posts)

I personally was hoping/expecting DD’s last published Datebook article to be some sort of overview of what she has seen come and go over the decade plus watching the city grow, and maybe a list of things that she might miss about watching the culinary scene grow further…from a professional standpoint.  But no, although she really does talk up her favorite spot, one she has used (oddly) as a bench mark to which all other “bars” have been compared.

Datebook Diner, Exit stage left.

The Cook.

It’s Explanation Time Once Again!
2011/07/17, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello, tens.  And by tens, I mean there may only be literally tens of you out there.  Way to lend some truth to a statement.  Anyway, I want the few of you left waiting patiently for some words from this Cook to know that this little critter of a blog is nowhere near the end of its run into the sun.

Little Critter

No, we  here at Locally Grown have not let out our last Local Groan about the dining scene for which you crave an insider’s view.  Here is a little explanation of what is keeping the most revered local lips pursed in silence:

Back a few months ago the Cook became the wearer of the Chef/Owner badge, which comes with many time consuming daily activities such as stressing out, focusing on your business, forgetting a lot of the extraneous shit people tell you that may be blog-worthy, and other such activities as trying to stay creative, marketing of the business, cooking, ordering, more stress.  All of this leaves very little time for telling you, the adored tens of readers how things are from behind the scenes and how stupid some of the local oh, whatever

we will be back probably sometime in the fall.  maybe.

Monday News!
2011/01/24, 11:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Good Afternoon, Tens!  You have all survived the 9-5 M-F world’s worst nightmare, the dreaded Monday Morning.  High five the person next to you, then read on…

– Gusto Pizza Opens This Week!  The word on the street is Thursday, Jan 27th…but stay tuned.  Ingersoll Ave and MLK will be treated to some REAL pizza!

– Tacopocalypse Lands At All Play!  Those of you out there who have enjoyed tacos from yours truly will be thrilled to know that this Saturday the fine folks at the Central Iowa Trails Association are hosting a party benefiting Iowa’s dirt trails and celebrating dirty cycling with tacos.  Party Begins at 5pm, Check out the CITA web site for more details.

– BaconFest is upon us.  Rumor has it that after DOUBLING the number of tickets available and expanding the event to a whole week, Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest sold out in FOUR MINUTES this past Friday.  That is 18 minutes less than last year’s event sell out time.  Des Moines, you really want your cured pork!  Wow.  Click the link for the particulars.

– Bacon Week is rumored to be kicking off with a Bacon Taco Extravaganza with a selection of bacon themed…tacos…from Tacopocalypse.

The Cook

Rep Local For The Holidays
2010/12/22, 9:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I bet you expected another wordy treatise on local shopping/eating/stuff today.  Or maybe the two articles that were promised last week. Or maybe some peace and quiet.  You get only this, as I have to finish my last minute shopping.


the cook.

Last Minute Local Holiday Shopping
2010/12/21, 8:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you are like me, and have a large beard, people expect a lot from you around this holiday time of the year.  Yes, it is time for that mythical fat bearded man whom allegedly invades your home and brings you presents while leaving your family and belongings safely planted right where you left them to visit you and do all those things, and possibly eat your cookies.  Many children in the US believe in this system (others believe that brightly lit trees simply poop out presents upon reaching full maturity on the night of December 24th), and I see the way children stare at my beard while it is out shopping for my family, their eyes telling me that their minds are trying to grasp why this Santa looking man is shopping in the same store as their parents.  In time they will figure out what anyone old enough to be reading this knows already, the real story of holiday gift giving: Santa is broke, has been for a while, and we adults have to cover for him until that glorious day when he gets his sh*t together and pays us all back with a few freebies)

This is for the adults who have managed to stick themselves into the mire of the last minute shopping frenzy, whether it be through laziness, being too busy, or financial hardship.  I sympathize with all of your situations, I have been there.  You adults who have decided to go out into the bumper car world out there have a few options.  You can either risk your life and vehicle (possibly your sanity) to enter the Big Box Gauntlet, or you can shop at a locally owned business.  You all know that buying generic gifts elicits generic responses.  “Oh, thanks for the video game…I guess you didn’t know that I already have a time-management problem,”  Or “Thank you for the eight slice mega toaster, I guess you didn’t know I was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease.”

Don’t let this happen to you!  You only have 2.76 days of shopping left, use your time wisely by shopping at a locally owned business.  The gifts you find there will be much “cooler” than grabbing one of the No-Friendo Wee’s off the stack of 100 and delivering it to your loved ones.  Here is a list of a few local spots/Ideas to shop locally.

  • Gift cards from one of your favorite local eating/drinking spots such as Cafe Di Scala, Alba, Azalea, Sbrocco, Django, Cosi Cucina, Tally’s, Mars Cafe, Ritual Cafe, etc.
  • AllSpice – 400 E Locust St, DMZ – Specialty herbs, spices, oils, vinegars…and gift sets.  I buy all of my specialty spices here.  A food lovers dream.
  • Kitchen Collage – 430 E Locust St, DMZ – Everything the cook in your life has wanted is in this store.  If it isn’t, they can order it for you.  I shop here, you should too.
  • Rasmussen Bike Shop – 301 Grand Ave, WDSM – You all know I bike, and you probably have a cyclist or aspiring cyclist in your bubble.  This is my go-to shop for parts, bikes, repairs, sports nutrition, snow shoes, accessories, etc.  Everything from Carbon Fiber bikes on the high $ end, to t-shirts, bike bells, and other accessories on the lower $ end.  Give your loved one a gift that promotes their health (and cycling is a great way to burn off those giant Des Moines- sized portions, right Wini?)  Shop at Rasmussen.
  • Tandem Brick – 2722 Ingersoll Ave, DMZ – Good place for quirky or arty gifts, or to shop after eating at the Datebook Diner’s favorite spot, Star Bar.
  • Domestica – 321 E Walnut St #150, DMZ –  If you want to get mad cool points, shop here.  Amazing hand made gifts for home, body, kitchen, etc.  I was just looking at their web site and found something for my sister-in-law and for my office.  It is really that easy.  I will be visiting the shop today.
  • Back Country – 2702 Beaver Ave, DMZ – Awesome place for outdoor gear, clothing, and accessories.  Forget Sheel’s, shop local.  They can reportedly gift wrap a yak.
  • For the discerning adult, buy them a tab at their favorite liquoring hole.  This may take some work, as many times bartenders don’t know full names unless your friend is a true regular.  The best way to expedite this is take them out for a drink at their favorite bar, while they are not paying attention (bathroom, conversation, juke box), tell the bartender that you would like to buy a tab for your friend.  Then get them a small card, or even make a card on a bar napkin to stay in theme, telling them of your liver cuddling act of holiday cheer.  Very Classy

This is by no means a complete list, but these are places that I personally have shopped or will be shopping at in the next two days.

Well, out of time.  I need to get to Domestica and Kitchen Collage to complete my Santa Bail Out.

The Cook

The Big Meh!
2010/12/19, 1:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:


Loko For Four Loko
2010/12/14, 10:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last night in the city of Philadelphia an unprecedented event took place.  No, a Philly Pro Sports team didn’t win a championship, nor did Gino’s finally win over any Pat’s fans down on Passyunk.  Last night at Adsum in Philly chef/owner Matt Levin did the unspeakable…a four course Four Loko themed tasting dinner!  We have dabbled in Four Loko at my restaurant, but only in the back of the house (and mostly just drank by me, as everyone else agreed that the Loko is a no no when it comes to taste).

the Real-Deal Holyfield

But some people just can’t get enough of the nasty stuff, which was pulled from the shelves in Philadelphia yesterday, December 13th.  (Four Loko was pulled from our shelves on the 3rd but will be back here in Iowa in a few weeks, without the caffeine) blah blah blah.  One of those people is Chef Levin.  He decided to get down and dirty with this “dangerous” beverage, pairing the various flavors with suchs such as Morrocan lamb and pickled watermelon.

No hospitalizations were reported due to the dinner, and judging by the Twitter buzz, people in attendance were fricken pumped about the event and are hoping for another Loko Dinner in the future.  Think about it, four courses for $35 with cocktails is pretty reasonable in any city.  Pair this with a hip hop party and more Four Loko, makes me wish I had been in Philly and at this dinner!  (For those of you who don’t know, I have dabbled in Four Loko myself and have a little stockpile in the beverage fridge at home). I tried to reach Chef Levin today, but I imagine he needs some rest after playing Loko host.

Anyone in the DMZ want to give this a go?  Hal?

Anyway, I have a Watermelon Four Loko staring me in the liver right now.  TTFN.

The Cook.

Defection, Deflection, Datebook Dissection aka Wini-Gate

Note: This post was originally written on Thursday, but due to time constraints was not finished or posted.  I am including the original post, but more of the story has unfolded…so now this is happening:

Wini-Gate part 1

Being inside the kitchen-sphere gives one a great insider view into the hearts and minds of those who have decided that they have what it takes to please the palates of the eating public.  One of the common complaints from these hard working owners and chefs, after bad customers and slow business, is the dreaded Restaurant Reviewer.  Cries of foul play, unfairness, favorites, and the like can escalate into the more-popular-than-you-would-think “well, if I see that so-and-so come into MY restaurant, I will just tell them to leave.”  This is a comment that is generally prefaced by much drinking or similar shenanigans, and is always a tough talking empty threat…until now.


La Mie Owner Joe Logsdon ended what could be hundreds of years of threats of denial towards Reviewers this week with the shocking treatment of our very own Datebook Diner.  DD and her Husband attempted to enjoy dinner at La Mie (Now that La Mie has purged itself of Le Jardin, which was a restaurant which served dinner in the La Mie spot and was owned by former Grand Piano Bistro chef Tag Grandgeorge), when they were met with the Brick Wall of Denial from Mr. Logsdon.  To get the inside story on what happened you should read DD’s account of the event. My truncated version is this:  Winni and her husband showed up very close to closing time, were met by owner Logsdon, and were turned away.  I, for one, and pretty shocked at this brazen denial of not only someone who would like some food, but someone who’s opinion on food is generally trusted by the general public.

But does the general public (that means you) need to rely on the opinion of a few professional foodies, or are we ready to trust our digital peers?

Added Friday, Dec 3:

There has been much dicussion/argument regarding Wini-Gate as to who was right or wrong in this situation and I firmly stand on the side of Mr. Logsdon.  I know that those of you who follow me on twitter were treated to a “you don’t know the whole story” while trying to argue for the DD’s valor, and I am sticking to my story.  I WILL share the other side of this incident when and if I speak to the guy who reached down, grabbed his stuff, squeezed a little, and felt that pain that lets you know that you have cajones to fly that Mission Accomplished flag, Joe Logsdon.  Joe, who may go down as a hero to anyone out there in the industry who wanted to treat their local food critic to a little bird watching.

Anyhoo, i suppose I should go earn a real living at my actual job.  This will earn you all a special Saturday edition of Locally Grown, as we aim to stir the turd in the punch bowl until it is properly incorporated in the punch party we call the DMZ Dining Scene.

The Cook

Locally Grown Salutes Our Veterans
2010/11/11, 7:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,


Today we will be skipping the normal nonsensical twisting and turning of the English language to honor to those who have served our county, in any capacity, in the Armed Services.  I ask that you take a few moments of your time to thank those around you who have served or are currently serving, and a moment of silence for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending the land and ideals of the United States of America.

I would like to thank all of my fellow Veterans for their service, their families for the sacrifices they have made, and send my heart out to all who are serving our country both on native soil and and abroad during this continued time of war.  None of us would be where we are today without the service, sacrifice, and valor of our Veterans.

Happy Veterans Day, Thank you for your service.