Locally Grown

Breaking News: Judged Worthy By Food Critics.

well, AMAZING TENS, it’s been a good long while since we have shared screen to screen moments.  When our eyes meet over the same words at different times…it’s like a deliciously delayed serendipity.

A lot has happened in the cook’s life over the last tens of months, I worked my buns off at cooking instead of making up words and ended up opening my own restaurant in the lovely East Village of the most amazing town west of the Mississippi and east of the Missouri, Des Moines.  Things are going swimingly so far (we are only just over a month in), and we have received our first few PRINT REVIEWS FROM FOOD CRITICS.  This is a moment I have been pretty nervous for, as some of you know I have been less than forgiving towards the writers of food article type things.  I sat in anticipation, knowing that my restaurant is doing things NEARLY up to my standards (if you are doing things right as a chef/owner/kitchen cat herder the nothing is going to be up to your standard…because of obsessing and raising the mental bar every day.), and also knowing that I have potentially upset a number of people who would be finally maybe writing/judging my true body of word, Tacopocalypse.  Turns out, either I am a little paranoid about the whole food reviewer thing (duh), or my crew is really doing the job that I am perceiving that they do.  Probably both.  All reviews have been very kind and positive at this point.  Thank you, we have truly worked hard to make sure that the dining experience is top notch for every person walking in the front door.  I know it’s all about personal perception, and the persons perceiving so far have been very happy.  Thank you, again.

Here’s the thing about personal perception: It’s personal.  Every single individual sees similar situations in slightly (or wildly) different ways.  Creating an experience that keeps a majority of the poplulace is a challenge because of this.  What keeps one happy can ultimately infuriate the next.  It’s some really frustrating shit, the kind of frustrating shit that birthed that keeps restaurant folk on their toes and continually aging faster than the rest of the populace, the kind of frustrating shit that caused this blog.  It’s the kind of shit, that if you encounter it for a long enough period of time, you might start finding the humor rather than the stomach grinding pain of it all.

Thank you to all who have visited my new restaurant and have elevated it to a level of medium-ish success with your shining faces, and especially to you critics…I hope that you come back and continue your positive personal perception of what we here are doing.

You know what, I might just start writing this blog again.  It feels good.  Just hope it doesn’t get me into any trouble…hahaha.


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

When UrbanSpork Yelps Wolf
2012/02/07, 3:40 pm
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here at LG, we have focused much of our attention and energy on avoiding writing blog posts.  When our energy is diverted and we get duped into writing actual blog posts our attention has been almost solely focused on a small handful (aka one) of people who do a fantastic (aka piss poor) job of reviewing (aka we don’t really know what to call what they do…but it isn’t reviewing) our local DMZ food scene.  With those (that) people (person) currently in France (Dear France: can you please keep her this time, she loves you and belongs amongst your inferior boots,  long, crusty loaves of bread and mini-desserts), our subject base has been truncated at best.

So with no recent reviews deserving of our heavy handed attention leaking forth unto your eyes through the soy ink stained pages of the Register, our attention was turned to the hundreds of fine folks who share their opinion with other fine folks via the really awesome user-review sites found all over the splinternet.  I registered on the UrbanSpoon web site (and yes, you can find me there under the name of “the cook,” go ahead and be my friend there.  I have already posted some poorly written reviews of a couple spots) and took to the virtual streets, looking for the real jems, those with that certain little something (isn’t there a French phrase for that?).

(this is getting way to long and pointless again. thanks for following along if you made it this far)

It always meh-mazes me how much opinion people are willing to spout out with an adjoining small bit of thought.  So many of the reviews that were encountered  were just knee-jerk-off reactions to one specific event involving a disgruntled customer and a misunderstanding.  So many of the misunderstandings/situations seem so easily remedied.  Sometimes just talking to the staff like a human being can go a long way.

Okay, this is going to have to be continued tomorrow.  I am losing track of the subject matter…seems to be a constant problem around here these days.

The Cook

Who Are Your Heroes? Mine Are Farmers.

Hero: he·ro/ˈhi(ə)rō/, noun:

  1. A person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.
  2. One who saves lives


Our society is based on a “hero mentality,” with us commoners daydreaming about those who would be there to save us from whatever evils would befall us.  There are movie and comic-book (sorry, graphic novel) based super heroes with otherworldly powers saving puny humans from natural disasters, historical bad guys, and other super people whom have chosen to live a life of utter evil.  There are every day heroes like doctors and nurses and the mortal humans whom keep you healthy and safe.  There are even celebrity heroes such as Steven Tyler, whom work diligently to save you from having to listen to the wrong singing talent on your television.  Thanks, ST.  These heroes all serve their purpose in life, from stopping your gaping bleeding wounds, to saving your sanity, to keeping your house from burning to the ground, to just simply giving you hope that giant flying magnetically charged creatures from another dimension will not be descending upon your city to devour or enslave its population.

Larry Cleverley of Cleverley Farms in Mingo, Iowa watching the sun set over the farm. Larry is a real hero.

But who are the real heroes of our lives?  The people raising the food you (should) be eating.  There is really no more noble, humble, or courageous a profession than to be a farmer.  A real farmer, someone concerned with the well-being of not their bank accounts or the happiness of corporate overlords, but with the health of the land they farm and the people being fed from that land, and of the welfare of the community surrounding their farm.

Does this make you hungry?

My hero’s a farmer.  A real farmer.  A person whom I can talk to, have a conversation about what they are raising, and not be given the run-around due to someone above them putting restrictions on what they can or can’t say about their operation.  I see these people as the real heroes of our world, sustainable raising nourishing items that can feed our population…without creating more health-realated problems.  The farmers who understand what to do with the food they raise, the ones whom can teach cooks or chefs what to do with their wares, the farmers that spend their lives feeding you FROM THE HEART, making sacrifices, getting out to the markets to sell to and meet produce/meat buyers face to face.  THIS is a real hero.  People like this guy:

Because THIS is what makes me hungry.

Today’s rant isn’t supposed to be some wildly informative treatise on local sustainable farming/food, but just to get you in that mindset.  Spring is around the corner and we will be talking more in the near future about ways to enrich your lives through these heroes of agriculture.

I hope that you are as excited as we are…

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.


(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

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

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’s Gift Card Guide For A-holes
2011/01/13, 8:09 am
Filed under: Dining Tips, Local Food Commentary | Tags: ,

Gift Card Kitty says "Don't be a dick."

Staring out my “office” window surveying the frozen Iowegian tundra my thoughts turn from snow removal and proper layering of my winter cycling gear (and how to convince my dog to go outside for more than 15 seconds) to the gift cards that were hurled in my direction during this past holiday season.  Mind you, all of my cards are for super hot spots such as JC Penney and Sears, 0ddly I don’t receive any gift cards for restaurants, the kind of cards which are the focus of today’s frosty little number that I like to call…

LG’s Guide To Using Your Local Restaurant Gift Cards Without Being A Dick

Yes, there are some until-now unwritten rules on how to use your restaurant gift cards.  Some of you won’t like what you are about to read, but I am bringing you the cold hard facts when it comes to avoiding blunders which will make your presence unwanted.  It should be pointed out that this is a guide for LOCAL INDEPENDENT restaurants, not chains like Chilis or Applebeez. If you receive a gift card for a chain restaurant I would like to offer this advice:  visit a “Cash for gift card” site such as Cardpool, get your money back, and use that money to dine at a local spot.

Let’s make this short, simple, and sweet.

  1. Look at the gift card in your hand.  Read the name of the restaurant.  If it is a local restaurant, proceed to step 2.  If not, see above paragraph.
  2. Decide when you want to dine at the restaurant named on the gift card you are holding in your hand.  I mean really decide on a date and time, preferably during the eatery’s operating hours.
  3. MAKE A RESERVATION.  Yes, call, email, or Tweet…whatever communication meh-thod your restaurant of choice uses for reservations.
  4. Show up 5-10 early for your reservation, especially on a busy weekend night.  This lets your host know that it is time to get serious about setting up that table.
  5. At this point, after your server has greeted and watered your table you can either inform them that you have a gift card and have been very excited to use it, or you can opt for the surprise attack method, or the “tuck it in with your bill” method.  It is your choice, and neither method is wrong.
  6. Enjoy your meal.
  7. After enjoying your meal, it’s time to settle up.  this is where the “Don’t be a dick” advice comes in handy.  Place your gift card, along with any other payment method required to settle up the bill.
  8. TIPPING.  You should tip on the original total BEFORE GIFT CARD REDUCTION.  That means you look at the total, disregard your discount due to gift card, and tip your server on the original amount.  Heck, since you are getting something free…why not tip your server extra-well, especially if they really took care of you.  While you are at it and spectacularly wow-ed…send some scrill back to the kitchen.  We don’t mind!
  9. Leave The Restaurant with a smile.
  10. Go Back For Another Visit.

There, how hard is that?  You don’t tip on the discounted check.  That isn’t cool at all.  You don’t give your server a hard time.  You just sit back, enjoy your discounted meal, then reciprocate the pleasure by acting like a proper adult guest with manners and an understanding of gratuity etiquette.

So, faithful tens (and you three new readers), get out there and do some (local) dining.  I wasn’t kidding about selling your corporate chain cards…or you could donate them as an after-prom raffle prize for your neighbor’s high school.  Or just use the card as a back-up ice scraper.  I mean, it IS pretty cold out there…

The Cook

Magnetically Violent: Des Moines’ Food Carts

Yesterday we covered the possible origins of this holiday called “Thanks-Giving” as told by my intoxicated friend Burt.  Cold turkeys, rich kids, French cream, and the “Peace Pipe” (which also seemed to play a part in Burt’s glassy-eyed story telling style) all contributed, in one way or another, to this food-ular celebration of American History.  And even though I don’t particularly care for rich kids or the French, and certainly not Rich French Kids, and I have gone Cold Turkey on the Peace Pipe years ago, Burt’s telling of our country’s founding invaders touches me and makes me proud of the accomplishments accomplished by land theft, invasion, and colonialism.  I will thusly be dining in the honor of all that is Thanksgiving.

Dr. Peter Venkman's Worst Thanksgiving Nightmare

We also covered the newly minted battle between the City and Food Cart Operators.  A few of you have wondered why closing by 1:30 is such a big deal, and the answer is THE NEW RULES ARE BASED ON A BUNCH OF BULLHONKEY AND SHOULDN’T HAVE EVEN BEEN MADE.  I stick by my story that at least one small “Food Truck In A Store Front” owner who has given the Food Carts downtown previous grief is possibly part of the problem here.  Food Carts are not the enemy of downtown.  The real A-hole factories: 4th Down, Surf Shack, Liar’s Club, 101, have made more of a nuisance in the streets than a thousand anarchist revolutionary food carts could ever hope to.  (This is not to say that our food carts are anarcho)  One incident outside Club 101 in July of ’09 left a man almost beaten to death in front of a crowd of 60, all witnessed by the operator of the Mooncheez grilled cheese cart (who was not responsible for the incident).  A letter written by a Des Moines Police Detective to Des Moines City Clerk Diane Rauh on July 9 of 2010 (one year from the beating incident) referencing the request for Liquor License Renewal for 101 Lounge supports the fact that the real problem is not the Food Carts. (original .pdf file can be found here)

Reference 101 Lounge over the last year: 70 total trips, 31 fights or disputes, 5 intoxicated persons, 6 accidents, 3 DPQ, 3 vandalism, 2 larceny of motor vehicles, 11 misc. trips.  The owner hires off duty police officers on the weekends which may be some of the reason for this many tips.  The numbers are on the high side but not out of line with some of the other bars down town.

The numbers are on the high side but not out of line with some of the other bars down town?  So, is the City trying to push the blame for congestion and violence off on the Food Cart operators?  I haven’t been able to find one official statistic for Food Cart related incidents, yet the Council seems to think that the Downtown’s problems are rooted in the presence of food carts AFTER 1:30 AM AND BEFORE 5:30 AM. Do you see what is going on here?

I am not trying to single out 101, but to show you, as stated by the authorities, that these kind of numbers are not uncommon within the down town bar scene.  Remember also that these are the number of reported incidents, a number which is known to be much lower than actual incidents.

What I am saying is that Food Cart Operators are being unfairly and unjustly targeted, and that this new ruling by the Des Moines City Council is about as ludicrous as the City of Des Moines 1942 ban on dancing from 2am to 6am.  There are still some facts that need to be uncovered regarding this decision, but it smells to me that the Council is trying to once again move Our Fair City in reverse.

On a side note, the Crusader Against Ingersoll Bike Lanes, Chris Coleman was the only council member voting “nay” on this issue.  Thanks for your marginal support.

The Cook