Locally Grown


Finally, A Properly Titled Book About Amateur Food Writing
2012/04/12, 3:25 pm
Filed under: restaurant reviews | Tags: , , ,

This month Wiley Publishing will be throwing down yet another “For Dummies” title aimed towards a group of people whom feel the need to share their views on food.  “Food Blogging For Dummies” (how appropriate considering the average food blog is well below average) will drop April 17th, and if you are a current or aspiring blogger it should be worth a look, especially if there is a chapter entitled “For Those Without Service Industry Experience: Please Stop Acting Like You Know What It Is Like” or a chapter entitled “How To React To A Bad Restaurant Experience Without Looking Like An Asshole,” a seriously needed class for the layman food blogger.  Below is a link to Eater Nationals write up on the book.

http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/04/eater_book_club_17.php

The Cook



Biggie Smalls: Worlds Best Food Rapper?
2012/03/09, 8:22 am
Filed under: Personal | Tags: , , , , , ,

Hello, Tens.  Today marks the anniversary of the death of one of my favorite “fat kid” artists (musicians/rappers who like to tuck food references into their songs) I didn’t think much of his music at first listen, it was just another dude rapping on the radio, complete with radio ready hits with samples of old songs that I already enjoyed.  I didn’t feel that this cat was doing anything for me with his lyrics about being tougher than you, smoother than you, getting more money than you, more ladies than you.  It felt freshly played out, then I heard this line:

Now honeys play me close like butter played toast.

That line woke me up to the world of Biggie and his lyrical buffet.  I started listening closer, finding more and more food references.  He wasn’t just singing about a particular dish for the sake of naming it, he was bookmarking his place in life by what he was able to afford to eat and rapping about the things that gave him joy during his rough childhood.  It was inspiring.

I wanted to write an entire article on his food lyrics, but someone beet…um..beat me to it by a few days.   Francis Lam is a writer over at Salon and he has written a piece on the subject that I think you should all take time to read.  He echoes my sentiments about the late rap artist.  Here is the link, go read the article.

Now go out and have a great weekend!  It should be a nice time to go enjoy some local dining at some of your favorite spots.  We will try to get back to you again on Monday…REPRESENT BABY BAAABY.

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.

 



He Who Controls The Friday Spice…

Dearest Tens,

So many things to write about, and so little time.  Today we will have fun in a different kind of way.  A way that we have never had fun here at the LG before.  I am going to personally go on record as agreeing with the DD on her review of the newly owner-ized Library Cafe.  It was a nice preliminary visit write up and made me want to go pay them a visit.  I also have it on good information that they have a great beer selection, including a stand alone tap of my personal favorite brew, Pabst.  I may go there tonight in some skinny jeans riding a fixie to get the hippest experience from my long time love of a beer.  We shall see.

Great Job FCP! You did not invoke the French Connection!

So here is a link to this ground breaking piece of food writing (it does not mention Star Bar or France even in a remote way) (although in a twitter conversation DD did admit that she wishes it was on Ingersoll, which I just figured out was most likely a humor joke related to the SB thing.  That is funny.  I am a little slow on the uptake some days). (Ever seem like there are too many parenthetical statements on this blog?  I thought so.)

Link To Datebook Diner Library Write Up

Go read and enjoy for yourself.  I bet you feel like going there to eat after you read.  Nice job to the Library Cafe staff and the fine folks of Full Court Press for doing a great job.  Making everything in-house is legit.  I will be there soon for some good times.

I love cats and Frank Herbert. And this picture.

See you next week, tens.  I have a few things half written in the que for you all.  It is sure to piss in many many bowls of round oat-laden breakfast cereal.

The Cook.



A (re)Beginning Is A Delicate Thing
2012/02/01, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dearest Tens,
…the Greater Known Universe plays host to the planet Earth which, for a very short portion of its existence, has played host to a race of creatures known as humans.  During their short lived (and current) stay on this blue-green marble humans have had an ever-evolving diet first consisting of plant things found within their immediate suroundings, then after the invention of the Barbecue Grill (aka fire) craftier bipeds found ways of spearing, snaring, or otherwise killing other living creatures for which to share the heat of the barbecue, albeit in much closer proximity than the hunters themselves.  These were simpler times, with the mortality of these humans mainly dictated by the surrounding environment.

Then one day, many thousands and thousands of days ago, a few humans thought to themselves “there must be a way to live in one place, yet still manage to feed our people.” This is the day that the concept of agriculture was born.  Agriculture would prove to be one of the most powerful forces in developing the various cultures and cuisines of the humans around the Marble.  Our ancestral upright walking/thinking organism worked their respective lands growing the crops supported by local climates and dined upon a constant regional cuisine

As time drew forth some of the humans saw much more in agriculture than just feeding one another…they saw that it could be a BIG BUSINESS.  More land, more workers, more food (for the wealthy classes), more profit, more greed all followed.  First there were those that worked the lands of the powerfull, then the industrial age came and paved the road to where we are now. 

The current year relative to time known by we, the people is two thousand no hundreds and twelve.  The current state of agriculture is that of power, money, pollution,  corruption, lobbyists, politics, and laws made by giant companies which are designed to strip the small farmer of their rights to work the land if they raise but a word against the powers that be.  BUT on the other hand the dining community has been trying to move towards a diet of locally raised produce, humanely treated livestock…a diet free of the chemicals and genetically modified dna fund in the products of Big Agriculture.  People are trying to move back to the beginnigg, when things were simple, where every single meal was a “100 mile” meal, and where you either raised your food yourself or you knew the farmer that did.  Big Ag doesn’t like this insolence. 

People, Big Ag has been trying to kill you for your entire life.  Maybe this isn’t the intended outcome of their greed, but you can can look at the state of world health versus the “advancements” in agriculture over recent history and see that as agriculture advances (and more chemical laden, cheap, processed foods are made available), the state of human health slowly declines (cancer, obesity, more cancer, more obesity). 

It makes this cook think hard about what the world would be like today if agriculture had remained as it was, a way of subsisiting off the land instead of a huge money business. 

What would a world without clothing, restaurants, late-breaking news items, or blogs hyping “locally grown” foods be like?

I suppose if everything was local, this blog would just be called “Grown” to avoid redundancy (like we ever avoid THAT).

Or maybe just “Groan.”

The Cook.



The Truth Comes Out

My Dearest Tens,

This week’s newfound return to the LG blogisphere has yielded an interesting development: You aren’t nearly as interested in reading about Agriculture here as you are witnessing my tirades towards food critics, food bloggers, and dim-witted diners.  The numbers don’t lie, and lucky for you I have a forthcoming opportunity to write about sustainable dining on another furum, freeing the “LG Brand” up for more constant crappy commentary and policing of those in the dining community whom need policed.  To this end I thank you.  Coming back to this blog was not easy, and there was consideration given to tranforming into a voice for positive change in local, sustainable food.  This would have been a giant work load involving interviewing, research, and late nights making sure that every word is just just right, so as to most effectively pass the point of each post. 

Thank you for not making me do that here (I will let you whom want to read my writings on those subjects know where to read said articles once we get started).

Yesterday while I was sitting at one of my favorite wifi spots having a liquid lunch and writing about farmers, I spied the mighty (thin) Des Moines Register, home of our favorite critical Francophile.  You may recall that the LG posts of the prior two days dealt with the DD and her narrowly waving Magic Food Scene Judgement Wand passing um…judgement on the kitchens of Our Fair City and their inability to serve any desserts which aren’t cheesecake or “chocolate fall -down cake,”  which I took to mean that lovely “worn out” dessert the Chocolate Lava Cake. 

The front page of the Living section, or whatever it is called, has a feature on desserts…and what is dessert #2 of the feature?  CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE FROM ALBA.  AND IT IS BEING CAST IN A FAVORABLE LIGHT.  Wait, what?  How can this be?  Have Jason and his team at Alba (who are all awesome, btw) somehow ressurected what was earlier in the week deemed one of the two most boring and tired desserts in all of MetroLand? 

And

on the third day the lava cake arose from its tired tomb to bring forth new light unto post-dining patrons.

.

.

OR has this other food writer started a war with the DD, and I remember the last time a register food writer crossed her.  This could get ugly…

More later.  My WP app is making this a very unpleasant experience.

Thank you again, tens, for showing me what you REALLY want to read about. 

The cook.

(Please excuse any formatting problems, WordPress of Android app can suck it.)



Food Criticism: It’s Not Horseplay

It’s refreshing to see that so many of you have such strong opinions regarding the desired credentials of the people who have been charged with the task of influencing your opinion with their…opinion.
Some of you have tried making a distinction between Food Writers, Food Critics, Restaurant Critics, Restaurant Reviewers, Entertainment Writers, and Yelpers, BUT you can toss around words like Foal, Mare, Colt, Filly, or Stallion, but a horse is still a horse.  If you choose to review food or a restaurant (professionally or on a user-reviewed site like Yelp), you are really trying to throw yourself into the same stable as the rest of the neighing nay-sayers.  This is one of the reasons I don’t “review” restaurants here, and if you took a look at the first Locally Grown post which i re-posted last week, you would maybe understand where I am coming from.

Do we need restaurant reviewists?  We do. Do we need sweeping food review reform? Probably not.  Unlike the policies force-fed to us by our elected officials, the word of a reviewer can and should be taken with a little subjectivity.  Ok, maybe my coffee intake has overtaken my ability to turn a sensible sentence.

We DO need people who are willing to venture out to new dining spots and share the story of their experience with others who may not be able to get out as often to try new spots, or may not have the financial or time resources to spare on an unknown venture.  There is nothing wrong with being careful with your wallet/purse or your tastebuds, and you careful diners have to be thankful for those who would help you avoid making a dining experience into your own personal tar baby.

Reviews can help you ensure your next dining experience doesn't end up like this.

In this case a review can be a valuable asset.  BUT the problem is trust.  Should you trust a particular reviewer or publication?  Should you put the fate of your hard earned money and free time in the hands of a stranger?  Have you ever been disappointed by a restaurant after reading a glowing review?  I have.  Hell, I have even gone to work at a particular kitchen because of its popularity within the reviewer crowd only to be fully let down.

What does all of this gibberish mean?  (it’s funny, you would think that stepping away from the bottle for a length of time would make for more coherent posts) I will try to sum this up one more time:

LG Tips For Successful Ventures Into Unknown Dining

  • Friends – First and foremost you should have, or find, a friend or colleague whom has similar taste as you, and has an adventurous spirit which propels them into the dining world.
  • Social Media – Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to your advantage.  You can begin networking with like-minded diners from your area and find some hidden gems that would have otherwise escaped your grasp.
  • User Review Sites – Yes, read reviews on popular web search sites in addition to user-reviewer sites such as Yelp and the like.  Yes, I warn you about trusting these sites…but not all of the reviews are from deck stacking restaurant staff or disgruntled diners/former employees.  With a little reading and research you can find some trustworthy folks.  Right, Jordan?
  • The Print Press – The Physically Printed On Paper crew are a good resource for finding newly opened or soon-to-open spots.  Your local newspaper (sometimes) has an entertainment staff with ears to the ground listening for the faint footsteps of an approaching restaurant opening.  You can also get a valuable history lesson on the dining scene from people who have been dining…professionally…for a number of years. You can also be misled by someone with years of “beef” built up with the local Restaurateurs and Chefs.  Approach the words of the “pro” with the same caution you would use as the “Yelper.”
  • Food Bloggers – Local food bloggers are a valuable resource.  These people have invested the time and money in their own web presence and generally take their writing serious.  This is another avenue which you have to explore carefully, read their blogs and get to know their taste.  If they have written about a restaurant you frequented, compare your experience with theirs.  If there are discrepancies contact the blogger and open a discussion.  Most bloggers are more than helpful when it comes to explaining what they have written about.
  • Insiders – Do you know someone on the “inside?”  Shirley Surely you know someone who works in a restaurant (this seems elementary to me as all of my friends know someone who works in a restaurant).  This doesn’t really pertain to chains, those folks IMO and experience know nothing about the local dining scene.  I am talking about insiders who work at places like Django, Alba, Centro, 801, and the like.  These folks usually have worked at a few of the local spots and know the food and service provided.  Pick their brains, even when dining at their restaurants. I know this sounds a little tacky, but I am sure anyone reading this has the ability to wind a yarn around the situation.

The message here is such:  You have to do some research, spend a little time poking around.  Your money and time is valuable, and Our Fair City has an almost inordinate amount of restaurants vying for your financial attention.  Don’t trust just one source, there is no “Food Guru” (although one guy tried convincing you of this) which can espouse every bit of knowledge you need to make a decision.  Don’t trust a “star” system, trust your own taste and ingenuity.

My last bit of advice is DON’T TRUST ANONYMOUS INTERWEB REVIEWERS.  If you don’t have the cajones to attach your real identity to your opinion, it must not matter that much to you.  These people are what I often like to refer to as “Culinary Cowards” (not to be confused with Culinary Cow) are often just talking a bunch of crap.  Go back to AOL chat rooms with your BS, CC.  We don’t need you here.

Culinary Cow Sez: Trust your tastebuds, but keep them away from ME!

Now get out there and eat (Local)!

The Cook.

P.S. feel free to ask me for dining ideas (FB Sam Auen, Twitter @VegChefDSM, Email locallygrowndsm@gmail.com).  I HAVE most of the information you need at my disposal