Locally Grown

Super Kitchen Ultra Workout Video
2011/04/21, 1:20 am
Filed under: Total Rubbish | Tags: , ,

Ok, so. I talk a lot about what it is like to work in a professional kitchen.  It is a challenging (sometimes shitty) yet rewarding job that would send “common folk” back to their cubicles in one dinner service.  (This is true, there is a kitchen in town which employs one of those hopeful ex-cubiclist types.  He looks really out of place and miserable whenever I see him.  The same look I would have if you saw me in a corporate hamster cage). 

This is all about to change with the introduction of a new line of workout videos designed to get you pumped up about cooking. 

Your Humble Cook and Cafe Di Scala owner Tony Lemmo have joined forces to bring you…well…this:

Complete this workout twice daily and you will be well on your way to becoming a professional cook.

The Actual Cook


Locally Grown Monday News

I forgot to start the dryer last night.

As I sit waiting for my panticular clothing items to dry before heading out into the wild gray abyss that is our dreary little Monday, a few non-pants-related thoughts come to mind.  How is our food scene doing, DMZ?  I see some of our local food-blog types have stepped up their dining-opinion-spouting, most likely due to a constant cropping up of new or redesignated restaurants (thus is the circle of restaurant life, eating establishments begin anew only to be barnacled by the words of reviewers, or their own service/food ball dropping, business slows, and some other restaurateur purchases the failed business only to start the whole process over again). I still stand by my opinion that amateur restaurant reviewists, whether by Yelp or by Blog, are exactly what the name states, amateurs.  But some are slowwwwwly starting to get it.  And by slow, I mean evolution of the cosmos slow.  Oops!  Did I just say evolution?  Better watch it before I start getting attacked for violating the Separation of Church and Steak laws.

ooh.  that joke was almost as painful as reading some bush league foodie rantings.  On with the news.

-Chef Hal Jasa of Zingaro has stayed true to the “Gypsy” theme of his Pop-Up dining experience’s name (thanks to the Our Fair City’s City Officials) and has changed locations, taking up home inside of the Kirkwood Lounge (400 Walnut Street) (formerly Azalea).  Hal is using their abundance of kitchen space and mezzanine seating to offer his constantly changing menu to a select few who are able to snatch up reservations.

-You have probably already heard about this, but I am pretty excited for you to hear about it again. Chef George Formaro’s Zombie Burger will be opening in the near future (possibly August) at the e300 building in the East Village.  What the heck is a Zombie Burger?  Read about it here. 

-A new daily deal web site launches today, DSM Daily. DSM Daily offers an email based discount and incentive system to encourage you, the consumer, to frequent businesses but UNLIKE the established daily discount sites, DSMD is locally owned and features only locally owned businesses.  Their focus is keeping local dollars local and introducing people to businesses that would otherwise stay under the radar due to lack of “big marketing” dollars employed by national chains.  Their launch party is tonight at the Bombay Bicycle Club.  I encourage you to sign up and support this local business which supports local business.

Well, the pants-are-dry buzzer just went off, which means our news session is over for todah. today.  Remember to keep things really real you have to really keep things local.

We Love you, Des Moines!  Good Night!

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.


Hooooly Chow! A Hairy Carry!

Yesterday LG covered the aftermath of what is currently Our Fair City’s “Defining Moment of International Culinary Capacity,” the Adam Emmenecker Sandwich challenge as sort-of-tackled by Travel Channel star and Slop Jockey Adam Richman.  In the end what/who tackled what/who was lost in the fray of yet another ploy to illicit the help of the city’s “Food Press” to further the global acknowledgement of our locavore-istas and the chef-driven local food scene here in Iowa.  We heard from the Food Dude (via my facebook account, you can “friend me” there for more musings.)  regarding his dealings with food television producers, and the Illustrious Datebook Diner, who was as inquisitive as ever.  Let’s see if we can turn back time and find a way to cull forth her comment…(The following is in no way an attack on DD, but since she summed up many good points in her comment, this is happening.)

[rubs magic jaunty light fixture]

La Bonne Femme: Well, maybe there’s an adverse connection between our “gluttonous portion lack of control” and the finesse/precision/creativity of our cuisine. When quantity is valued over quality, bi-coastal food scouts aren’t going to pay much attention.

I see the point, but quantity is valued over quality in every city around the country, in one restaurant or another.  Food Scouts go either to the “Big 5,” NYC, SF, LA, PDX, CHI, or to Places Of Interest As Promoted By Said Places Of Interest.  You have to create a “buzz” or “rattle” around your food scene to get noticed, especially in a small market such as Des Moines.  This is where the “credibility” of the actual print press can come in handy, hence the call to um…arms? pens? You get the point.

Also, on the chef-driven local food scene, what can you get here that you can’t find at good restaurants in many places? What makes DSM stand out? Lots of cities in the country lie close to agricultural abundance….

All True, except that Iowa is supposed to be the Agricultural Center of this Tootsie Pop we call America.  How many licks will it take to get to the center? Huh?

it’s what chefs do with the goods that makes news.

Yes, but it is really what the NEWS WRITERS do with the news of what the chefs are doing with the goods that makes a difference.  News is just marketing with a little more credibility in this equation, so get out there and spread the words.  There are chefs that are kicking some culinary ass around here, and they aren’t getting the due that they deserve.  This is a problem.  You can’t get noticed if your head is buried in the sand.  Just ask any ostrich.

Don’t get me wrong–I love the food scene here, but I just wonder what you think would be worth the country’s attention, as in, You HAVE to go to Des Moines to eat at __________.

(I have an answer, but you go first.)

Ok, I will go first.  In fact, the first draft of yesterday’s nonsense-a-thon included a list.  Here is another version of it, in not much of an order:

  1. Alba
  2. Cafe Di Scala
  3. Azalea
  4. Baru 66
  5. The entire Asian Cuisine phenomenon (I realize this is not a restaurant)
  6. Lincoln Cafe

There are many others, but I am on a time constraint here.

Here is MY point:  The writers of Juice, the Register, Cityview, and all other major news outlet type things: Please listen to what I am saying here.  I, along with many local chefs and restaurateurs, implore you to use your influence and maybe a little of your free time to lift up the Food Scene.  Help elevate it to the “next level” by working with other media outlets, in other cities, to form some kind of partnership…and maybe, now that we have our proverbial foot in television’s door, we can let the world know what is happening in the great city of Des Moines.



The Cook

Restaurant Weak Is Coming
2010/07/08, 12:53 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: ,

(Whistling sounds)

*tumbleweeds blow by*

Uh…*clears throat* ummmm…. *thunk thunk thunk*

“Is this thing on?”

Oh…ok. it’s working.

So I was trolling the Mighty And Infallible Information Super-duper Highway for information regarding Our Fair City’s foodular news and happenings and TO NO AVAIL. A trusted source dropped the dime on the Datebook Diner. Seems she has been talking about Star Bar again (not that there is anything wrong with that). I could not find the article.

Well, WTF ever, here is some news and other (censored) stuff.

This weekend we (you) will see the debut of the new Cafe Di Scala Summer Menu, designed and executed by myself and Nicest motherflippin Chef in DMI, The Phil Shires. I think you will motherflippin uh…flip when you stick it in your face.

More news…

I will still be NOT reporting on that one thing.



Here is the deal with Restaurant Week from (maybe) the restaurant’s standpoint:

“Thank you for taking advantage of the special savings and sampling a little (or big) taste of what we have cooking. We hope that the small percentage of you that aren’t doing this as an excuse to get out of the house become valued return customers.”

This is a “mash-up” of opinionz that have been spouted towards mine ears the past few years this event has been held, and as a restaurant employee/employer I hold this opinionz to be true and self-evident.

We love the fact that people get out of the house for a little sump-sumpin different. There are some sacrifices made to make these specials happen. There are, IMHO and experience, not enough diners who take it seriously. I have seen the event, which in other cities is a REALLY BIG DEAL involving chef demos and cooking classes, do practically nothing for restaurateurs. Most people treat it as they would the Sunday Newspaper coupon flier for TGI Fridays or freaking Applebees.

What I am saying here is that THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE EDUCATION AND INTERACTIVENESS INVOLVED IN THIS EVENT. People will skirt the edges of good local cuisine as long as they are allowed. Why on Earth would they go take a chance on an actual local spot if they are guaranteed the super-consistancy of chain filth? (There are even chain filth-dealers participating) Why would you go to Sbrocco, Azalea, Centro, Proof, or any other participating legitimate locally owned business at a discounted price…if you weren’t already inclined to do so on a special night…and be a return customer?

Motherflippin Discuss.

The Cook.

BTW… I DO support the event. It needs a little *Ooomph+

Today’s Lil Tidbits…

As mentioned yesterday, Pho All Seasons (1100 East 9th Street) will be closing at the end of this week. If you are into the Banh Mi your stomach is owed at least one, be it your first or last, trip to PAS for a #47 (a resounding favorite amongst my friends. Yes, I have friends!) Before the doors are closed.

And onother thing:

I would like to recognize Jim Duncan and his creation, CityView’s “Relish” for all that it is for local food community in The DSM, which is generally a reliable summary of local food happenings and gives a little exposure to those stuck in the kitchens making your food. Thank you, Mr. Duncan.

But I would like to award the (insert fanfare):

Locally Grown Occasionally Awarded “Bush League Food (un)Writer of the However Long It has Been Since The Last Time We Awarded This Award”

to Relish contributor Matt Miller for his Cavatelli “article” on page 10 of the Spring 2010 issue of said magazine. First off, the chef at Cafe Di Scala is Phil Shires, not Phil Shire. There is also no mention that the Cavatelli pasta served at the restaurants listed in the article is actually all HAND MADE at Cafe Di Scala. Hundreds of pounds a week are mixed, sheeted, and rolled by the staff of Di Scala and served at Centro, Ranallo’s, Di Scala, and sold retail at Taste Of Italy. In fact it seems Mr. Miller tried to imply this, but was too stuck in an eggshell-full of knowledge on the subject to pull it off. I would like a show of hands for anyone reading this who has ever mistaken Cavatelli for Casareccior can even give a description of said pasta without resorting to a well known search engine (as it seems Miller did for this article).
Way to nail it, Matt Miller. I am constantly ordering Casarecci accidently only to have my server pull out the “WikiPasta E-Flash Cards of Dismay” and lightly beat me about the head and neck area with said cards in a corrective fit. If only this wisdom had been imparted as a good shoe-tying lesson or multiplication table had in my early childhood things would be different.

Where was I?

I hope all of you have been flipping over to the TimberPine website to rip my recipes from the interweb’s virtual grip and cram them into your (or friends’/family’s) faces. I think about you all often, and what I would like to see you making for face stuffing/belly filling time. Humor this cook and check it out.

This is the part I had reserved to tell a story of a little local restaurant and an even dubbed as “40 Friday,” but it seems the Locally Grown Occasionally Awarded “Bush League Food (un)Writer of the However Long It has Been Since The Last Time We Awarded This Award” bit ran a little long. Too bad, it was actually funny.

Until our collective non-congruent cyberspace retinal candy provider brings us together again,

The Cook

Some Specials & Weekend Fun…
2010/05/09, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,


I am generally sort of known more for Vegetarian Cheffery, but in the real world I am not always able to talk my employers into running amazing veggie specials as much as I would like. In the not so rare moments where I am expected to “color inside the lines,” I get to have fun with whatever ball is tossed my way. This week I got to play with some locally raised Duroc Pork belly from Iowa Farm Families based in Marshalltown, IA and some less-than-24 hour out of the water Ahi Tuna from Waterfront in West Des Moines (Thank you, Morgan)

Seared Ahi Tuna over Saffron Cous Cous with a grilled vegetable salad of Asparagus, Zucchini, carrots, and eggplant (Credit to Chef Phil Shires, I only cut the fish). (The pictured special. Turns out I didn’t get a picture of the Pork! Whoops!)

Fennel Braised Duroc Pork Belly over Panzanilla (Italian Bread and Vegetable Salad) with house made Orange-Tarragon Marmalade. (This one was all me.)

Sold out of both, everyone was smiling.

A good time was had by all.

Cafe Di Scala
644 18th St. Des Moines, IA