Locally Grown


Baby Boomers RIP.
2012/04/29, 9:20 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I really hate to see good local businesses close their doors. Tom and Rodney Maxfield, owners of Baby Boomers in the East Village have declared today to be their last day in business, and not for financial reasons but for the simple fact that the last 7ish years of running a restaurant has been tiring and they are ready to move on.  I totally understand that sentiment, but it is a sad day for those of us who will miss Tom and Rodney and their giant omelets, great pancakes, and fun (most of the time) staff.  They became famous nationally when the Presidential person and his family fell in love with their chocolate chip cookies (which they will continue to produce and sell), but what they are known for is a great breakfast and lunch spot where you can have some privacy (I hid in a corner and wrote many posts for this blogular device at their location) or to run into friends and public figures.

I will miss BB’s, Tom and Rodney, and their staff.  I had some good times at your restaurant, thank you.  I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

The Cook.



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.

 



France>Des Moines?!

Tens, first a thank you for taking your time to read and comment on yesterday’s France/DD/Dessert diatribe.  It’s good to know that some of you have stuck around.  It’s good to have you all back on the bus.

Secondly, I agree with every one of your comments.  All of them.  I have been “out of the loop” for a while with all of my other dealings and haven’t really been paying attention to any of the food writings being shat out on paper as of late.  You clearly haven’t had the same problem.  Glad someone is keeping their eyes open, and I am rejoining your ranks.  Clearly we have a lot to talk about, old (and new) friends.

FR>DSM?

(please excuse the swearing about to fall from my fingers into your eyes)

One thing that really makes me sick about this ongoing problem of food criticism is that the local food isn’t being given proper consideration by the Register’s Food Captain.  It is a fucking travesty that someone who has been charged with guiding the Metro’s diners by the area’s largest print outlet has glossed over what is really at the heart of our food scene (which is HEART) and instead has become the self appointed travel spokesperson for France and New York…and everywhere but the city she is writing about.  According to yesterday’s comments and a few other messages from the interrab she has been focusing too much attention on one particular Chef Whom Doesn’t Care For Me Much (CWDCFMM) and much too little time really researching the local food and its movers/shakers/background.

I see where the information comes from in the form of regular lacksadasical (how do you even spell that?) emails/tweets/blog posts stating “I am working on an article about _____, anyone know anything about that?”  and by reading multiple blog posts which are just reprints of press releases from the area restaurant whom bother sending her press releases.

Even though it isn't funny

Is this the type of person YOU are trusting your dining dollars to?  Or are you trusting the other jokers writing nothing but positive internet reviews of every restaurant they visit?  Whichever, and I have to cut this rant short, you are chosing is probably wrong.  Some of you have voiced an opinion that some people need to be replaced.  I suggest not only filing that complaint here, but to contact the “proper authorities.”  You don’t have to stand for this bullshit.  Seriously.  I have to go, sorry to not have time to elaborate further.

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



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



Correction Junction/Gusto Pizza Opening
2011/01/26, 7:28 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , ,

Any “news” source (and this term can be used VERY loosely for almost any information outlet these days) has its good and bad days.  Some days are spot on, others are full of hiccups and literary “nip slips,” but the mark of a true (not really) professional (huh?) publication is the ability to admit those mistakes and go the extra mile to print the correction/retraction and not move on to a distraction (ala certain talk radio hosts).

Locally Grown strives to provide you, the valued reader, with the correctest most correct information possible, but during our journey to local food/dining informational glory we too trip over a few roots in the path, much like other, more legitimate, news sources.

This week we tripped over the same root twice.  Whoops!  Now it is ticertain talk radio hostsme for a correction:

Gusto Pizza Co. (1905 Ingersoll Ave) will not be opening tomorrow, January 27th.  Gusto will be announcing their opening date via Twitter tonight.  Follow them (@GustoPizzaDM) for the announcement and further updates.

Sorry to you, and to the fine women and men of Gusto Pizza, for the confusion.

The Cook.



Locally Grown Classics: Critical Of The Critics/DSM’s Finest Complainers

About a year ago, on a day not unlike today (but with about 16 inches more snow on the ground) I awoke to an interesting message in my inbox.  A very close friend of mine had, via FaceBook, posed the query “If Star Bar was a dude would the [Food Critic Name Withheld] eat its ass?”  Now, had I been a coffee drinker, this statement would have resulted in a mildly injurious explosion of steaming black fluids from my nostrils.  Lucky for me and my trusty editor and feline companion Bathory (who was napping on my chest at the time of the reading) I had not sunken back in to the coffee pit.  So as I lay on my couch, cat perched on my chest, laughing wildly at the very disturbing visions forming, playing, and fading in my head I decided to finally point my T-mobile G-1 with Android towards the interweb and address a real problem in dining today: Restaurant Critics.  Here is the foundation for all that has been written within the confines of this particular blog, the first official post from Locally Grown dating back to January 2010. Enjoy.

-The Cook

 

Critical Of The Critics: Des Moines’ Finest Complainers

It has come to my attention through the observations of more than a few local restaurant goers/owners/staffers that the local food scene, albeit struggling in the wake of the country’s financial crisis, is lacking only a few things: better food critics.
Cityview’s “Food Dude” always seems to be fair and accurate, and is willing to thumb his nose at convention by reviewing anything from fast food chains to sushi. (I have been tickled by his reviews of Popeye’s Chicken and Wendy’s – and not in a bad way). His recent review of Sake21 was touching, he could have really slammed that place but instead chose careful words that are more of a parental caution than a fog horn. I have rarely heard a bad word from industry people about Mr. Duncan (every food writer has an enemy somwhere in the business). My only real complaint here is that he doesn’t stay up to date on new spots, and doesn’t seem to get “out there” to the people due to Cityview losing some ground to the more young-person-savvy Juice.

When it comes to Juice, they believe that less is more. What I mean here is that less skill and experience must mean more to them. Often the restaurant reviews read as if they were written by 10th graders from a poorly taught journalism class. I will go as far as to call most of the reviews bullshit, giving no real information or true objective opinion. The readers don’t really care what your date was wearing or where you were headed to, or that you ordered the same thing as the table next to you and it reminded you of something you had at a similar place in Omaha. Juice, you just need to get a real food writer and let the music geeks write about music, or the um…crafting geeks write about crafting. Scratch that, crafting geeks should just stick to knitting and stop trying to BS the public by writing. Maybe you could have Ms. Wagemann from your parent Des Moines Register to contribute. She seems capable. I think.

On to the Register. The illustrious datebook diner seems to wield the brunt of the power in the food critic community here in the Metro DSM. This is a shame. I have seen her reviews make or break restaurants. People listen to her, and the people she is writing about don’t always deserve the fate she tries to dish out. Ms. Moranville seems to have the power to either completely trash talk a new spot, talk about how the East Coast is doing something that whatever restaurant she is reviewing isn’t doing and how much better the East Coast is than here, or to compare every bar-and-grill-type place to Star Bar. If you are an Orchestrate restaurant or (in the past) a Jeremy Morrow venture then you are golden. If you are anyone else (besides Star Bar), then beware of the wrath of Winnie. Take her recent review of Saints in West Des Moines. She begins by comparing the place to Star Bar, then ends by comparing the place to Star Bar*. Redundantly delicious? She also ran an interesting article about Vegetarian Dining in the city which featured a few variations on the old Butternut Squash/Sage/Butter song and dance, then panned Cafe Di Scala for their Butternut Squash Cappelaci dish. (I will be writing my own expose on Dining Vegetarian Style in Des Moines next week). She doesn’t mention that they have been doing the dish seasonally (as many other spots are doing currently), or that it is totally hand made, or that they probably listen to John Lennon albums while hand forming each pasta hat, adding to the love in the dish. That doesn’t count. Also regarding this fascination with the food comparisons to “big cities,” one of my cohorts said it best. If you want New York Food at New York Prices then go to New York. We think Des Moines should continue developing itself into what Des Moines should be, a place with access to some of the greatest fresh ingredients in the world with some established and up-and-coming Chefs using these ingredients to full potential. We don’t really give a sh*t about the price of pasta dishes in NYC. Doesn’t really matter. This is Des Moines.
Ok, let me sum this up as it is late and my own deadline is coming up (bed time). Food Critics of Des Moines, if you want to go in to a new spot and bombard it with overwrought criticism, go for it. The owners, chefs, managers, and other staff of whatever place you blast can read your review and try to adapt your philosophies into their restaurant to please you while your readers just avoid the place all together. Or maybe you could lighten up, encourage businesses to grow, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, then review a different restaurant (thanks Easy-P). Those are real people that you are undermining out there, they have worked hard to open a restaurant (there is nothing easy about opening your own business), and deserve a fair shake.

We need to be more critical of our “critics.” Readers, go out and try our local places for youself. Trust your own taste buds. They have gotten you this far, haven’t they?

*I do like Star Bar, I just don’t feel as fuzzy about it as Ms. Moranville.