Locally Grown

The Datebook Diner Retires….
2012/03/08, 3:39 pm
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dearest Tens,

I regret to inform you that the most popular person featured in this blog is stepping down from her food reviewing post to concentrate on other Frenchness.  I mean endeavors…  In true DD style, I will just repost her words for you.

From the Des Moines Register Datebook Diner Blog from March 6th, 2012:

I’m Ready to Pass the Plate!

9:04 AM, Mar 6, 2012 | by W.E. Moranville |
A few weeks ago, I visited a class of third graders to explain the ins and outs of restaurant reviewing. Kids ask the cutest questions, such as, “Has the food ever made you barf?” (For the record, no.)

At one point, after I had mentioned that I had been writing the column for 14-plus years, one kid raised his hand and asked, “So, when will you stop being the Datebook Diner?”

Interesting question. But what it reveals is that even a third-grader sensed that 14 years was a really long time to be doing this job.

And he’s right. In fact, I’d been thinking it was time to move on for a little while now. While it’s hard to give up a gig that combines two things I love to do (eat and write), it’s time for me to—in the lingo of people who move on from jobs—“pursue other opportunities.”

As much as that sounds like a cliché, it’s true. I’ve recently published a cookbook (The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day), and I need to continue in my efforts promoting that and possibly following it up with another book.

I also want to focus on more healthful dining, both in my career and my personal life. And let’s face it, that isn’t easy to do when you’re the restaurant reviewer—it’s not the focus of most restaurants.

Finally, I simply think it’s time to let someone else give a fresh perspective on the restaurant scene.

My last review will run next month.

It’s been a pleasure.


There you have it, folks.  WEM managed to squeeze in a few jabs about how long she has been subjected to the grueling lifestyle of a food reviewing person, pimp out her new cookbook in yet another Register forum, throw a subtle punch about how unhealthy it is to dine in DSM (damn portion sizes) ,  and then claim that she thinks it’s time for someone else to bring a fresh take on the scene.

Who should that be?  Any ideas?

Winnie, we are going to miss you here at Locally Grown.  In fact, we may have to change our whole format back to what it was intended now that you are not going to be around…especially Ace Editor Bathory (here’s a picture for old time’s sake)

Gonna Miss Mew.

Next month will be her final review.  I hope there is at least one during that time that is worth an old school picking apart.  Keep your fingers crossed.

The Cook.



Why Tigers Love Pepper, Especially On Val-Day

Happy Day To Spend Money On Someone Who You Hang Out With!  We of the Restaurant Industry love this day sooooo much.  So much.  We appreciate your business.  We appreciate your easy going attitudes and low expectations on this day.  The greatest part of the end of the Holiday Season in restaurants is the Last Holiday, Valentine’s Day.

Let's hope you didn't get this card from anyone this year.

We here at Locally Grown hope that you and your loved ones enjoy wherever it is that you choose to eat your prix-fixe choice of Steak, Chicken, Shrimp, or Pork.  May your evening end with some sort of chocolate dessert incorporating something heart shaped.

See you tomorrow for some actual posting, if we all make it through this, the most *cough* romantic of holidays.

The cook

Artificial Dissemination (Attn Vegans)

Happy Tuesday, all…or as I like to call it “The Day I Finally Forget Last Thursday.” This is usually my grumpiest day of the week (well, at least the grumpiest day of the week I am allowed in public).  This morning was a little different than other Tuesday mornings…or so it seemed…

(Note to Michael Libbe:  Maybe if you have me return to your show, we should try it on a Tuesday.  I would probably be at the normal rumored level of grumpiness)

So I wake up and realize that the bedroom temperature has bottomed out at around 60 degrees, and even wrapped up in a down comforter the shivers could not be shaken. (I have strategically placed window air units in the Pink House, which was built in 1886…a few years before the cool sins of central air were felt. One of them is thigh-high and four feet from my bed.)  The heat-oppression of the past few days has kept me running to turn the air colder and colder.  ok, you get it.  It was cold. (tangental modulation) I walk out into the kitchen heat-wave to turn on my daily NPR soundtrack and feed my Editor and the World’s Second-Most Storm Shy Dog.  I check on the prep for Taco Tuesday (which I am serving my new recipe Vegan Chorizo tacos on hand made corn tortillas with cortida, a Salvadorian slaw…or you can have the braised pork tacos which I also made…at the Cumming Tap [117 N 44th St. Cumming, Iowa 50061] tonight from 4 until 10ish. A good chance to try out my cooking for the uninitiated.  Yes, I can put my money where my mouth is, but tacos are much better tasting and contain 100% less contaminates.  Come out to the Tap tonight for tacos!)  All temperatures checked out, and I thought it about time to have a little sample of my new soy chorizo recipe.  Excellent, it turned out even better than I had hoped.  So far this is playing out like that Ice Cube song.  So fast forward a little to my first Twitter check of the day.  What do I see?

(From Twitter)


@GatewayMarket will serve vegan fair-inspired food. From @DatebookDiner: http://is.gd/ebAvW

Sounds good, as I am in the mood for both the State Fair and some Vegan food, so I click on the link.  It takes you to the blog of our Illustrious Datebook Diner, .   This is what it held:

(From the Datebook Diner Blog)

More from Christopher Diebel [Orchestrate Information/Marketing administerer- ed.]. It seems that Gateway Market is going to offer vegan fair food at the market (not the fair)….I suppose it’s a way for vegans to not feel left out. Anyway, this is by no means an endorsement [good call, DD], but here’s the info, from Diebel:

In honor of the Iowa State Fair, Gateway Market will feature three vegetarian takes on classic fair staples. From August 11-22, café patrons can try a vegetarian gyro, tenderloin, or grinder for $7.50 (includes fries). Chef George Formaro and his culinary team have been working on these unique recipes for weeks and can’t wait to debut them for the 2010 fair season. Please see full descriptions below:

  • Seitan Gyro– Seasoned slices of seitan with yogurt sauce, onion, tomato, feta cheese and shredded lettuce on Gateway flatbread.
  • Iowas Best Tenderloin– Breaded and fried veggie patty on an South Union egg bun with pickles, onion and tomato.
  • State Fair Veggie Grinder– Seasoned tempeh sausage, secret sauce and mozzarella cheese on South Union hoagie bun.

**Each served with fries for $7.50 during lunch and dinner.

Seems kind of suspicious…Egg Bun, Yogurt, Feta and Mozzarella Cheese.  These items are not Vegan, but they ARE Vegetarian.  For those of you who are not sure of the difference between the two here is the lowdown, in my words:

A person who practices Veganism or is a Vegan subsists on a diet solely of vegetable-based foods, taking special care not to purchase, wear, or ingest any animal based products.  Simplified, a Vegan does not eat any meat, dairy, fish, or egg products and does not wear any leather or other animal hides.

This differs from a Vegetarian in that Vegetarians may choose to eat eggs (ovo-) or dairy products (Lacto-), and some do not shy away from wearing animal hides.

So what has happened here, besides some very lackluster menu item naming, is that somewhere along the line (and I am pretty sure it wasn’t the Gateway Market kitchen or Chef Formaro) someone got their facts a little futzed up, leading to a widely dispersed mis-information bomb.  When Vegans hear about something culinarily new, it’s exciting and they will get our there and try it…and if this “new thing” is disappointing, they will make sure all of their friends know about the problem.  When you start throwing around the word Vegan when you clearly don’t know (or seem to care) what you are talking about, people’s feelings and stomachs get hurt (try eating dairy after abstaining for a few years…it’s not pretty), not to mention the hurt put on the trust for the restaurant in question.

So, I will leave it to you, the reader, to peruse through the chain of information presented and make your decision as to where the breakdown happened. (hint: listen for the chugga chugga part and watch for kids in khaki shorts, running shoes, and straight edge t-shirts to start spin-kicking)

This was all meant to be a word of warning to the makers, advertisers, and devourers of Vegan foods out there.  You have to really watch what goes in to not only the food, but the words describing it.  Please, take care to learn about Vegan and Vegetarian and present them properly.  The Veg-Heads out there insist on/deserve it.

Grumpily Yours,

The Cook.

Don’t forget to come out for some tacos and to share some of my cooking.  Most of you out there only know me from the words emanating from the interschweb.  Let us fix that problem!

Tomorrow night there is a State Fair bike ride from Orlondo’s on Park Ave to The Cumming Tap starting at 6 pm.  I will be there, you should be too. Or show up after the parade.

Yeah, I haven’t figured out the connection between today supposedly being different from other Tuesdays and this article either.  In fact, it is a pretty stock Tuesday so far.  I would have to say it was a good day...

Climbing From The A-hole Hole

After reviewing the last few weeks of sporadic postings, I realized that there is somewhat of an overlying A-hole theme that has crept into this sexy little otter of a blog. All of my posts have sounded like a hyper-cranky Andy Rooney wanna-be has taken over the writing duties. Am I really that mad from the chafe of cockamamie culinary culprits? I think the answer is clear, but should I let this chain of venting turn borderline-obsessive like that whole month of Gateway Market stuff? This revelation was then passed on to my hiatal editor, Bathory, who had this to say…

The Eyes of a Concerned Friend and Editor.


You know, he’s right, I need to just chill out and write about something a little less stressful.  He also has a right to be concerned now that his meal ticket is exerting signs of manic madness.  (You can only get so many cans of Super Supper on a Karaoke King’s winnings, so he has to live off my creative output, like any good editor does)

My latest rants have been oft misconstrued by readers, both human and feline, and while my real talent lies not in writing good, solid articles, but in writing retractions and explanations and basically back-tracking all over the place, I still insist on trying to bring you news in the guise of opinion.  The facts are sometimes colorfully re-arranged or totally skewed/backwards (I referred to SAMOSAS As PAPUSAS ONCE).  Well, now that I have had someone holding my attention for the last twenty minutes (with something better than me just whining about whatever it is I was whining about), I forgot my point.  Shocking.

OH!  The point was that I need to maybe chill out and bring you some real news for a few days.  We will see how that goes.

So without further skidoo, here is your Monday LG News, albeit a day late:

On August 2nd, 2010 from Noon until 1:30 p.m. I will have the honor of holding court with Michael Libbe of daily webcast Insight On Business , where Michael and I will be talking about local food, marketing, and probably local food.  Tune in to hear Micheal every Monday to Thursday at Insight On Business.

Next Friday, August 6th, from 6 til 9 (I like where this is going so far), the Great Western Gateway Al Fresco Dining Event will be held on 15th street between Locust and Grand and will feature ingredients from Cleverly Farms in Mingo, Iowa and a collaborative menu from George Formaro, Tony Lemmo, Carly Groban, and will feature the baristas of Ritual Cafe.  The price is $100 a head. You can read more about it here. I think I just went from 6 to midnight.

What else is going on?  Tuesday, August 3rd will see this year’s edition of National Night Out which you can read about here.  I hear that some local chefs are preparing food for the event to be served at Nollen Plaza.

well, that is your news for now.

I don’t feel right doing the news.  I think talking sh#t may be in order for tomorrow.

that is all for now.

The Cook

Oh, you can follow me on stinking Twitter if you really want to know what I am up to while shirking my write-a-torial duties at @VegChefDSM.

I Done Told You Twice: Answering A Question
2010/03/09, 12:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Due to the overwhelming (one) response to my last posting (which I don’t actually remember writing), it seems I am going to be needing to be providing some answers to my own questioning. After sitting back, taking it all in, then watching some Gallagher videos (or as I like to call him, Senor Aplastido), the answers came shimmering forth from the dark, kinda like a Majic 8-Ball®.

Oh, you forgot the question?

The question is this, what can be done to spruce up the food criticism in Our Town©? Further, our Dubious D.D. wonders “What Qualities Would You Like In A Food Critic?” Oh, viddy well me foodie droogies, viddy well, for I, your humble narrator, am about to molotov ye yarbles. (Sorry, Anthony Burgess)

“Qualities I Would Like In A Food Critic” by T.Cook

Here are a few, if not all
of the qualities I require
Therein a good critic call
For one you should hire

Humor, yes humor
Humor is a glorious thing
When used properly
And honestly
sprinkled with sugar
And no sacharine

Tell me my food is remarkable, unsinkable
Unthinkable to long for anyone else’s
Eat to contentment, no resentment please
You’re getting fatter not thinner eating your dinner…

Ok, ok. I had a realllly long hilly bike ride today and am a little prone to writing to tunes from Mary Poppins© or the Magic Toaster®. Here is the real list:

1. Honesty. When something is going wrong don’t ride it out, bring it to the attention of a management type (this doesn’t work if you are a Teacher) so that they may attempt to screw it up worse. (Maybe an even better list here would be qualities I would like to see in a FOH manager) I think that sometimes I read reviews of places I have been knowing there is some bullshit in the review.

2. Funny, like reeeaaalllly funny. Like the opposite of that show tune you just were subjected to. Everyone likes laughing.

3. Entertaining. See Funny.

4. Creative. Um, do YOU write in show tune? Good, get your own schtick. I would like to see new ideas, better concepts, cooler articles. Everyone in town has their own format. Fuck format, make people look around a page for info. Speaking of formats…Juice’s “Lunch Skywalker” format is thumbs down.

5. Very active in the local food scene. We have countless CSA’s, local dairies, livestock producers, fabulous chefs, and more. Why don’t we hear about them more than a blurb at the end of some food news?

6. A Positive Attitude. Huh?


Also, many of the people who are making this food worked very hard to open a restaurant, make a menu, train a staff, and so forth so be fair. They aren’t all good, but the ones that are putting out good food should be noticed. There are a lot of “favorites” played in this town, and a lot of politics in the food scene period. Being or not being fair and objective sometimes means making or breaking someone’s livelyhood.

I want all of this and more. I want to be wowed, educated, and enticed into trying new things. Who is doing that in OUR TOWN?