Locally Grown


It’s Not Nearly Over…The Foodmare Continues

Okay, a few of you yesterday spoke your minds regarding my thin threat that I will no longer be posting “things” here at Locally Grown.  I was half full/half empty of crap in stating that due to a change in subject matter that I may not continue to publish this blog. After minutes of deliberation it has been decided that I will continue on with LG, but with a focus on the original intended subject matter: Local food, farmers, markets, chefs, and a little news from around the world.  The rants will also continue, and I know that you tens are most happy to hear that your angry “bi-polar” cook will still be educating the A-Holes of the world how to tame their inflamed dining sphincters.  So, with that said, we will be seeing each other soon with a little report about one of the most important entities within our DMZ, the Downtown Farmers Market and some news about a certain cook’s campaign to be on the show Chopped.

I will leave you with this, a video of the band Tacocat playing their song “Bike Party” which combines four of my favorite things: Cats, Tacos, Bikes, and Palindromes.

Come one, Tens, I couldn’t just leave you all.  It’s been too much fun over the last few years.  Smooch!

The Cook.

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Writing About The DD Is OVER.

Well, Tens, it’s been almost a week now.  A whole week without the non-rythmic word stylings of the Artist Formerly Known As The Datebook Diner.  A whole week which we learned that she will still indeed be writing for the Register, albeit on a monthly basis, and that she will continue to milk her Register-hosted blog for all its cook book marketing worth.  I also learned that she will be acting as a server at the newly-taken-over Proof restaurant in the Western Gateway.  Incredible, I can’t wait to have her wait on my table.  I am sure the service will be French-tastic.

whatevs.

Tens, I am here to call the whole thing off.  We have had a good run with Winni as our main subject here, and I am thankful for my friends who slip little notes into my email in-hole early in the morning to tip me off to her…things she does.  I know that the fun contained within the digital confines of this blogular entity has been lost on her for about two years, she doesn’t return my tweets or comments ever, and I am sure that if we were to actually run into each other in public she would either ignore me or give me that “whatevs” look.

Sure, in a movie about the Datebook Diner I would cast Kristin Stewart, And The Cook would be a hybrid shiny vampiristic wherebear who was her sidekick, kinda like a really fucked up Chewbaca. They would argue constantly because The Cookbaca would always substitute olive oil for butter, which isn't very French.

And that is fine, I have earned that look (even if it actually comes from Kristin Stewart) but I would rather meet up with Winni and have this kind of situation transpire:

This is a better, more peaceful, scenario in which I would like to encounter the Artist Formerly Know As The Datebook Diner.

With all of that sort of said, I think that ragging on the AFKATDD is OVER.  Winni, if you are out there, I leave you to market your super amazing cook book and spread the French in peace.  It’s been a great time witnessing and reacting to all of the…stuff…over the years but it is time for this Cook to move on.  Enjoy your not really new life doing pretty much what you were doing before, with the addition of pretending you are a restaurant worker (I did think your old waitress picture was damn adorable), and you can continue ignoring what I write because it…well…I will probably just retire this blog.   So, farewell, see you down the road.

The Cook



The Things The Datebook Diner Should Miss.

Dearest Tens,

Yes, we have been absent again after a big push to start things back up fool time. Full time. BUT DON’T GET SALTY!  The weather blossomed into an early spring which caused me, The Cook, to do my job of cooking again.  Last time we checked in our main subject of honor had announced her retirement from reviewing the restaurants in Our Fair City to pursue her other, more Francophilic, interests.  I, along with my cohorts, have been poring over her increasingly truncated reviews, trying to find something LG-worthy to share.  No luck there, until yesterday.  Last night I fired up my Android (uggg) powered Google Reader application and among my plethora of news items from Cat Fancy and Milk Chugger’s Magazine I found a little post from our beloved DD concerning what she will not be missing upon her leaving the eating scene of the DMZ (Des Moines Zone).

First I would like to state that a person whom after nearly 14 YEARS of writing about a dining scene publishes one of their final articles regarding said scene and chooses only NEGATIVES to outline her nearly 14 YEARS of writing about said dining scene maybe shouldn’t have been writing about our city to begin with.  After all of that time and all those hundreds of reviews all she has to say to the diners, restauranteurs, chefs, cooks, and servers is THREE NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT WHAT SHE WON’T BE MISSING ABOUT WHAT DES MOINES HAS BEEN DOING WITH FOOD OVER THE LAST NEARLY 14 YEARS.  What will she not miss?  Read Here.  We have all spent a long time reading about her complaints, and I personally think she could have come up with a better list.  (on a little tangent, I can’t help but think when she took the job, nearly 14 years ago, she was in another city with a less French Name and saw an opportunity to live in the “Midwest Riviera” but upon arrival found the dread of gloppy soup, iceberg lettuce, and giant wasteful portions to be so oppressive that she decided that if she has to do this 13 or 14 more times, she is out of here)

Seriously, you serve me gloppy soup 13 or 14 more times, and I am OUT OF HERE! -Datebook Diner

So what do we here at the world’s most dangerous food blog (about Des Moines) think that the list should have included?  First off, it should be a POSITIVE list that doesn’t read like an elementary report card that says “Your kid will never learn, they are hopeless and you should just give up for there is no hope for change.”  Maybe after blah blah blah years said food reviewist could find at least three things to miss about Our Fair City and those whom bring you publicly consumed food?  Here are three-ish things that, after our NEARLY THREE YEARS of writing about the DD, we would expect to see in a list written by her, if she wasn’t being a constant “negative nancy.”  (btw, just because your job title includes the word “critic,” it doesn’t preclude you from making positive statements) So here it is, the….

Three-ish Things We Feel The Datebook Diner Should Miss About DSM Dining

(if she wasn’t being such a negative-pants)

  1. The growing of French cuisine in Des Moines.  Back when DD started out in Des Moines there were very few choices for French dining.  Over the years French has come and French has gone, but our current state of French Dining in the city of the monks finds us a plethora of French-based restaurants.  Bistro Montage, Django, Tartine, La Mie, Baru 66…these are all places that should bring joy to a Francophile’s heart.
  2. The Farmers’ Markets.  The Farmer’s Market isn’t a wholly French concept, but it is French enough for a Francophile to come enjoy.  On Saturday mornings you can walk through the market, sample prepared foods, buy fresh baked breads and locally grown produce and meats, and see some of our more ambitious Chefs of des Moines chatting with local farmers and picking out the freshest goods for their menus.  It is my understanding that the DD never really liked the Farmers Market (at least the Down town iteration) and kept visits to a minimum.  The Farmers Market is the life of our Dining Scene during the summer…but maybe now that her job isn’t reviewing food she will stop down more often.
  3. Watching A City Grow.  You get a job reviewing restaurants in Chicago, New York, LA, SF, any larger city and you get to jump right in to a dining scene which has been thriving for many decades.  If you took a job doing the same thing NEARLY 14 YEARS AGO, you were in a very special position to watch what was once a chain restaurant hell with a few local choices, most of which probably served gloppy soup, to what it is now: A growing community of chefs and restaurateurs whom are constantly working to raise the bar in the dining scene.  We have a respected culinary program just to the north in Ankeny (Iowa Culinary Institute/DMACC) and the students of that program are staying in town with increasing frequency, seeing an opportunity for growth…or even of a fast rise to ownership.  It’s a much different world from the day George Formaro was baking bread on South Union to this day after Chef Formaro and his cohorts at Orchestrate worked for over a decade to change the face of what and how we eat (even if he has been damned for portion size).  Things are much different now, and are growing at an increased rate.  DD had the opportunity to watch all of this from the inside, yet it doesn’t seem to matter in the context of her career in DSM.
  4. Influence.  Maybe she should miss the somewhat misguided influence she wielded over the dining public?  Her words have had noticeable impact on the lives of restaurants.  In fact I have watched a few close with a quickness after a Datebook Diner review (not that a few of those few weren’t warranted).  Whatever.

There are many more, but alas, I am out of time and have to go do my actual job.  Keep following along, there are only two more weeks of our current DD’s reign of terror…then it’s time for to pick on the new guy/gal.

Rep Local.

The Cook.



Something Something Just Desserts.
2012/01/23, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , ,

Hello, Tens!  I know, I know, it has been way too long since we got visually and verbally busy with each other,and there may be a few of you out there who aren’t really familiar with what we have going on up in here. The rest of this paragraph is for you people.  This blog was originally fueled by disdain.  And frustration.  And a urge to share that disdain and frustration.  And a love for all things local.  Yep, I think that is about it.  It turned into so many other things, like a good way to piss off food critics, a nice forum for people to be assholes about vegetarianism, and the perfect place for diners to learn how to properly approach the act of dining in public.

Moving on…

Today a very good friend of mine emailed me a link to an article which brought back all of those old feelings, and article that reminded me that my work is not done within the realm of LG.  This article was from our old friend, DD and definitely portrayed her normal “Blinders-On, Geographically Unaware” attitude.  What was the subject?  I am glad you asked (and made it all the way to this point. Sorry for all the prefacing).  Said food writer claims that the only desserts you can get in this town are either some kind of chocolate “fall down” cake (which I read as Lava Cake and caught a craving) or Cheescake.  That’s it.  She black/white’s the Des Moines dining scene again with a vast generalisation, AND THEN, true to form, whips out her culinary retort: A French (of course) dessert of poached merengue and creme anglaise Submitted by a certain French chef whom is also not a fan of yours truly.  The dessert was admittedly not a real “seller” by any means, and didn’t look as spectacular as I would expect from DB, but I am sure it was delicious.

So what was the whole point of her rant?  Is she trying to tell DMZ (Des Moines Zone) restaurants that they are boring her to death with their alleged “Two Dessert System” or is she trying to encourage chefs and restaurateurs to break out of the mold which she thinks they are all currently occupying? Is she stating that we, The People Of Des Moines, are all a bunch of rubes and could only be saved by selling all of our worldly possessions for a one way ticket to her Mecca, France?  Are TPODM a bunch of self loathing a-holes whom wouldn’t know a good dessert if it bit them in the tukus, I mean if there were any more choices to sneak up and bite them?

I have prepared a list of things to do with this stuff.

  1. Des Moines only has two desserts available to the dining public.

  2. France is still better than Des Moines

  3. No one really bought the dessert she thought was better than the current options, but featured it regardless.

  4. Des Moines must be stupid because they didn’t buy said dessert.

  5. France>Des Moines

  6. Alba also has interesting dessert choices, but no examples were given.

  7. Viva La Francais!

  8. French.

  9. French

  10. France

Let's Not Foget Category 4: France Is Not Des Moines

I hope that the Chefs and Restaurant Owners and Diners of our Fair City start paying attention to what this person is saying.  Yeah, we get it, you released a French cookbook.  Good For You.  You also most likely think that you are helping culture the heathen masses of Central Iowa with your Francophilic ways.  Maybe you should take a poll of your readers to see how many of them really give a rat’s patoot about France as it relates to our local dining scene.

I would instead like to see a published writer who revels in our constantly growing local food scene instead of constantly complaining that it just isn’t as good as New York or France.  Yeah, no shit, it’s not.  But in my travels during the last year I found myself thinking more than a few times “I wish I was in Des Moines right now so I could go to ______”

Now THAT should speak volumes to those of you who know me personally.  I guess that’s the difference between a food lover and a food critic… Lovers love to love, and critics are just a-holes.

Didn’t I used to do a sign off thing at the end of posts?  I forget.

the cook



Life’s (really) Little Questions:
2011/10/24, 7:58 am
Filed under: Dining Tips | Tags: , , , ,

Hello, tens.  It has been a long-ish six months in all of our lives, mine consisting of being too busy to really get any writing of this sort accomplished due to being busy with business, and yours consisting of wondering when you will get some snarky remarks regarding dining out and maybe a funny cat picture or two from yours truly.  Don’t hold your breath, tens, we aren’t out of the proverbial woods yet. (Although if you do decide to  hold your breath, you are lucky that Mom Nature built in that failsafe that causes you to pass out and continue breathing instead of exiting this mortal coil.  Just make sure you are sitting down so as not to fall and bump your little head)

Now, on to our very short subject today:  Questions.

During the last six months I, along with my staff, have heard some questions which have pushed the limits of the old adage that “there are no stupid questions.”  I am here to break it to you now, THERE ARE SOME VERY STUPID QUESTIONS.  I understand that there is a small portion of the population that knows absolutely nothing about the things you encounter in adult life, especially the phenomonon known as solid food.  By small portion I am talking about infants.  Regular sized (or even over- or under-sized) adult humans have all had enough life experience when dealing with solid food and the people whom serve said solids that there should be some expectation as to the direction of questioning directed towards said solid food servers.  Here are a few of my favorites as of late:

  • “So, how does this work?”  This is really the number one bone head question.  You walk up to a business which has food for sale.  Better yet, you are waiting in line for food and get to your goal, the person taking your order.  You then utter the phrase “so, how does this work?”  This is enough to Simon Cowel-ize anyone forced to confront such a situation.  Here is how it works:  Order Food.  Get Food.  Eat Food.  Repeat When Hungry.
  • What is that?” (while pointing to an item with a 12″x8″ label written in chalk beneath it) COME ON PEOPLE!  No matter what time of day, you should always approach this situation like you would approach an intersection: Look Before Crossing.   This is a pretty harmless situation, and made especially entertaining when the person has a dining partner who does the work of making fun of the question asker for the service staff.  Everyone can laugh, and the food staff doesn’t have to say a thing…until later when they talk a bunch of smack.
  • “Is that tofu?” (while pointing at shredded pork) Seriously?

What should you do if you find yourself about to ask a really bone headed question?  Here is a simple guide:

  1. Pause.
  2. Observe.
  3. Evaluate.
  4. Revise
  5. Ask.

Learn It.  Know It.  Live It.

Until next time, mind your manners and your something that rhymes with manners.

The cook



LG Two Cents On Two For $20

Hello, Tens.  I have once again made a small clearing in the haystack of my precious-esque time to bring you a little gripe regarding a poorly performed food review job-type-thing.  It has been a while since I have had a complaint about food writing that I deemed worth the energy to spout forth towards your internerd browsing ocular apparati, a fact to be taken not-so-lightly when the news about to be broken to you is finally broken to you in the next paragraph, just after this upcoming title thing. I present to you:

The Great Datebook 2 For $20 Debacle Of Ought 11

Let me re-start by saying that the staff of the Des Moines Register (save for the Illustrious Datebook Diner, who is most likely too busy planning her cooking-book promotional tour of the Greater DMZ this fall to stop by the Farmers’ Market and visit my booth) and DSM Register published Juice magazine have been more than amazing to me during the last few weeks of my fledgling foray into chef/ownership.  Thank you to all who have become friends and regular stoppers-by.  This debacle has nothing to do with you.  Unless one of you happens to be Trevor Fisher.  If one of you happens to be TF, please accept my light backhand slap to your face for your writing infractions and continue on with your taco liking.

(Finally) The story: This past Friday I was enjoying a sub-standard breakfast during the course of an unplanned “ride of shame” brought on by hanging out with a very good chef-friend until the wee hours, when I spotted the day-old-doughnut Datebook in the newspaper rack at the never-to-be-named restaurant of choice.  It has been a number of weeks since I have peeled apart the pages of DSM’s # 1,2,or3 weekly events magazine, so I said “What the heck.”

I opened up directly to an article written by TF (who I don’t know or recognize, is this guy a regular contributor?) entitled “Two for $20” which is meant to outline a good place to get lunch/dinner/a meal for two human adults for around the $20 price point. TF chose/had chosen for him the task of reviewing American/Bosnian cafe Kula Grill.  Here is a link to the original article, in case you are into that sort of stuff.

TF opens up with the standard review fare, and the writing is solid (no Matt Miller-isms here), then we get to the food.  Now, before we go forward let me axe you a question.  If you were going to review food from a cuisine of which you had no knowledge whatsoever, in the Year Of Our Gourd 2011, the age of Interdork Information Searches, for an ACTUAL PRINTED PUBLICATION WITH A SERIOUS DISTRIBUTION, would you not at least do some research as to what the basics of said cuisine entail so as not to be the one bringing the pointed stick to the gun fight?  Not TF.  TF don’t need no posse of information, as shown by this excerpt from said infractuous artice:

Possessing no knowledge of, or experience with Bosnian food, we deferred to the waiter, who suggested the goulash if we craved genuine homestyle Bosnian. When in Sarajevo, right?

Un-f’ing-believable.  This is just stupid. But it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what comes next, which is the description of Kula Grill’s goulash:

The first thing you notice about Kula’s goulash — mashed potatoes and hunks of beef smothered in a thick gravy — is it resembles prison-cafeteria slop.

What?  Seriously?  This is printed in our #1 newspaper?  NOBODY along the chain of writer-to-printer read this and found anything wrong?  Nobody said “um…why does TF know what prison cafeteria slop looks like, and why is he invoking its visual vehemence in the confines of a restaurant review?”  Maybe the summary line softened the blow?

Sounds gross, looks worse, tastes great.

Clearly, TF should forego the attempts and restaurant reviews and slip directly into a comfortable marketing executive position.

Bosnian Goulash at Kula Grill: Sounds gross, looks worse, tastes great. (photo by actually awesome photo editor Eric Rowley)

The rest of the review is of equal tragedy to both the restaurant and to the credibility of TF’s writing career.  If you haven’t read it, check it out for yourself.

As a restaurant professional, if I were to read a review of this caliber in a print publication of the food I was serving to the public, I would probably

A.  Call my lawyer to ask for legal advice

B. Call the editor of the register and lodge a formal complaint, and request the reviewer be tossed from the nearest window accessible from his/her cubicle.

C. In the words of N.W.A., Start some shit.

I can not believe this review  written by someone who possesses even less candor and skill than even the most amateur of amateur food blogists was allowed to be printed in an actual paper.  I would expect those words from maybe a cast member of Jersey Shore.

Kitteh Want To Smush-smush! (I was going to post a picture of the JS cast with a funny line, but realized that nothing in the world makes JS funny or worth promoting. They are kind of like Prison Slop)

 

Trevor Fisher, you have just landed yourself an award from Locally Grown.  I just can’t remember what we used to call it.

The Cook



Farmers’ Market Pre-Game Pep Talk!
2011/05/04, 8:30 am
Filed under: Dining Tips, Local Food Commentary | Tags: ,

As a grandperson said to me once in my childicular years, “Excuses are like dentures.  Everybody here has them, and the harder you bite down the worse they hurt you.”  Thusly I will not be biting down on or spitting out any excuses as to why this Blog has become wordly arid.  Instead, we here at Locally Grown have decided to break another stretch of muted bloggedness with your very own

Farmers’ Market Guide To Attending The Farmers’ Market!!

(and pep talk)

  • The DMZ (That is Des Moines Zone for all of you who have forgotten the jargon used up in this piece) has one of the largest farmers’ markets in the country.  This giant mess of goodness attracts from 10,000 to 25,000 people to the Court Avenue district in Downtown Des Moines every Saturday from 7am to noon.  It is complete madness, a mob of people with giant dogs and strollers, and hangovers, and babies, and big sunglasses, and stainless steel water bottles, and reuseable shopping bags, and messenger bags, and sometimes even under-the-eyes bags all converging on the same few blocks to buy fresh produce, watch musicians perform, find some good hangover food, show off their really cool triple-wide baby strollers, walk their giant bear-dogs, buy some cupcakes, beef jerky, salsa, hand-made textile-type items…etc, etc, etc.  The Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market is nothing short of a spectacle all rolled up in a not very neat package meant to deliver you from your homes earlier than you probably want to be out of your home and around 24,999 other people.  It’s an amazing experience, and I urge you to get your possibly-sorry buns out of your toasty oven of a bed and EXPERIENCE IT.

    Now, those tens of you who were with me at this time last year may remember my attitude towards the market being…let’s say…slightly askew from this year’s cheery-esque something or other.

    (I was going to post some links to last year’s blog posts regarding this subject here, but can’t seem to find them due to the distraction of reading other posts and laughing out loud.  Just go to the left and click on the may or june 2010 links in the “compost heap”)

    Well, I am a little excited for the Farmerz Market due to this: I will be working it under my own employ.  Come visit me at 3rd and Court Ave.

    Oh, this isn’t really about that.  This is about you enjoying your Market Experience.

    Keys to a good DTFM Experience:

    • Have some patience.  This is definitely #1 on the list
    • Check under produce sellers’ tables for freshly opened boxes from Loffredo’s Produce.  These people are fine to buy from , but you will be better served by ACTUALLY buying locally grown food which is what the Market was founded on.
    • Step out of your comfort zone.  Try foods and drinks that you wouldn’t normally seek out on your own.  DO YOU REALLY NEED TO EAT ANOTHER BREAKFAST BURRITO?
    • Have a loose game plan.  This may take a few trips to formulate, but plotting your parking, point of entry, and having an idea of what vendors you definitely want to visit  will keep you on point and out of the Zombie Zone. (the mindless wanderers who seem to not notice the other tens of thousands trying to get around them)
    • Check the Weather Forecast but don’t marry it.  We all know how fickle the South Central Iowa weather patterns can be, and how un-accurate our local weather people can be.  Don’t be scared off by a little drizzle or a chilly morning, just dress appropriately and follow your game plan.  The market goes on rain or shine, and the vendors work very hard to serve you.  Also, a “bad” day is the perfect time for you agoraphobes to get  your DTFM fix, as the attendance is markedly sparse…and you can hide under your rain ponch and pretend you are the only one there.
    • Ask Questions It is ok to engage in conversation with your market vendors, in fact most of them are very enthusiastic about answering customer questions.  You may get some good tips or recipes for using the produce you have aquired, or find out what local stores carry that home made jam for which you might have a late night emergency craving.
    • BRING YOUR OWN BAGS to carry your purchases.  don’t be “that” person at the Farmers’ Market carrying a bunch of plastic bags.  Uncool.
    • Pay attention to your surroundings and remember that you are not the only person walking along at your own pace.  There are thousands of other paces being paced and people tend to run in to each other or run over feet with strollers, or trip over dogs.  Watch where you are going, and pull over to let faster peoples pass.
    • Don’t be a dick.
    • Applaud the performers.
    • Buy Things

    and most of all, HAVE FUN.

The Cook.