Locally Grown

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


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

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

Laying Down The Slaw/Holiday Meal Education

We stand here this crisp and sunny Monday morning looking to the East, soaking in the beautiful, inspiring sunrise cresting the skyline, then to the horizon West, where October stands ready to bring us the cool of fall, the threat of snow, and the beginning of the Holiday Season.  For many this time of year marks the start of family gatherings, team sports watching with friends (and all their fantasy equivalents), teaching their children holiday traditions, warm apple cider, pie, presents, and a good reason to re-decorate their houses each month with new holiday themes, including a dazzling light show.

Another Issue To Debate...Global Warming Due To Holiday Lighting.

For some people, it’s even a good time to just invent new holidays (because you can’t have enough holidays during the holiday season).  For those who have decided to make the plunge into non-meat-eating waters it is also a time to educate family on what constitutes a Vegan or Vegetarian lifestyle.  For many of you within that realm, it adds to the stress of the season.  Gone are the days when you could just show up at family dinner and eat, eat, eat.  Now there is a little worry that goes with your meal, and beyond the scope of uncomfortable family discussion moments.

The Royal We here at Locally Grown understand this plight, as your Kinda Humble Cook spent his Vegan years returning home to Mother Cook’s house for holidays to find her stocked up on bananas and animal crackers, and tempting me with meatloaf.  This was all in good nature, of course, but I have also been to holiday dinners with friends (who were also VEG), only to be berated for being Veg, or even worse been secretly fed tainted food only to find out minutes later while running to the bathroom.  I would like to think these mistakes were out of lack of knowledge than spite, and to narrow that margin of Holiday Dinner error for you all this year, I would like to open a discussion with you tens of readers as to how you have educated your families, how you can better educate your families, and MY NUMBER ONE GOAL which is how we can all get along and celebrate together, without arguing, name-calling, and without leaving people out of the celebration because of their dietary convictions.

I will start this discussion with a short list of

Top ? Reasons/Ways To Culinarily Coexist With Others

  1. Sharing IS Caring – Sharing is the reason for the holiday season, or so I am told.  Learning from each other and sharing in the foods of your veg-minded friend/family member is a great way to show you care about their lives.
  2. Exclusion is NOT caring – Giving someone the “here’s some beans, that’s all we have for you.” line is not caring.  If you don’t know how to prepare, or don’t care to prepare, proper food for your Veg guest, encourage them to bring a dish or two for themselves, and for other people to try.  I personally have always had better luck just bringing my own Vegan dishes to family dinners, and having enough on hand for the adventurous diners to try (and sometimes to completely finish off).
  3. Quit name calling.  I once went to a girlfriend’s family Thankgrubbing meal out in the country.  I brought my tofu-stuffing casserole thing (which has been discontinued), and many of the family members on hand at least tried a bite, some of them actually ate whole portions.  Everything was going well until the Drunk Uncle decided to start questioning my sexuality because of my Veg tendencies.  Totally uncalled for, and spoke more of DU’s own personal struggles, but this is not totally uncommon.  If you don’t like the fact that someone chooses not to eat meat, just fucking deal with it.  You don’t need to be an asshole about it, unless you are being attacked by one of those “Preachy Vegans

That’s enough for now.  Please, allow yourselves to share any stories or tips or to please ask questions.  The royal We are more than happy to answer question.

On to some Monday News:

I hereby declare that the DSM Register, Juice, Cityview, and Metromix sites need to be made more user friendly.  How am I supposed to complain about their content if I can’t even get to it?

In last week’s Datebook, a certain somebody extolled the virtues of the Baked Cavatelli from Ranallo’s in Ankeny.  (I would link this, but see above note).  What the Certain Somebody did not state is that those home-made noodles were made in the home of Cafe Di Scala, as are the cavatelli from Centro.  I know that Pete Ranallo’s Cav dish is delicious, and I love you guys, but maybe the food press could give credit/do their research a little bit better.

I, without announcement, took the last week off from Locally Grown.  I would like to apologize, and to give you an explanation.  I built a new bike, and rode the crap out of it.  Honestly, I didn’t really feel like writing anyway.  I think the Seasonal Laziness Syndrome might be kicking in a little early!

I awoke from a wicked dream this morning, remembering only that I had shaved off my beard and somehow smoooshed a chihuahua by rolling over in my sleep.  Neither one of these events happened, but I am still reeling from the perceived experience.

Yep, time to get back to riding.  Enjoy this wonderful day.

The Cook

(C)Hump Day Massacre& Birthday Announcement!

Yesterday we saw what has amounted to DeMo’s culinary version of a U.S. invasion of Canada, via Twitter and This Here Blog.  The main players, myself and DH, have since called a truce seeing as it was just all a big misunderstanding (kinda like an episode of Three’s Company or a Genesis Song).

See, eveything always works out in the end!

The drama which ensued was rather unfortunate and some things were said that can’t be taken back by either side, but I believe we can let that water just pass on under the bridge called teamwork.  We will be putting together a dining event in the near future, and I assure you that everyone wins at this event.  Even you poor rubbernecking types who insist on competition over collaboration.

As a self-professed expert in Soy products and vegan/vegetarian food (I have dedicated most of the last 10 years of my life working to improve vegetarian options/food/dining) I felt a little slighted by the recent Relish article on soy foods, as should other notable vegetarian/vegan/raw foods chefs in DeMo.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mike Yamamoto and George Formaro, two refreshing pillars of excellence and integrity in the chef world , but they are not the only players in the soy game.  For the second month in a row, Relish, you have outdone yourself.  Will it be three?

Oh yes! Restaurant Week is coming (August 20 to August 29)…only now the name has changed to the Greater Des Moines Restaurant Week.  What are you going to be doing for restaurant week, my little diners?  Will you be taking advantage of this event to find new regular spots to dine, or will you be doing what a seeming majority do and just show up for a one-shot prix fixe dinner and never return again?  I believe the point of this is to showcase local restaurants and to maybe influence/change the dining out habits of the masses.  Admittedly it is a great deal, especially in this continuing Time Of Economic Trouble, but far to many people treat this as a cheap-o coupon-date night out.  Choose your dining spots wisely, visit all that you can, and return for regular dining.  That is what every restaurant taking part is hoping for.  And don’t forget to take care of your server!  Menus are being posted online now….

*A Message To Restaurants* Ensure you are properly staffed for Restaurant week.  Diners will be expecting not only top notch food, but also the service to accompany.

Things I would like to see during restaurant week:  Food education seminars, cooking classes/demonstrations, a meet and greet event with all of the top local chefs, a “Waiting Tables” simulator to be used as punishment for unruly customers, and a step towards really furthering local dining.  It is all feasible, except that simulator…although any of you tech folks out there are more than welcome to start working towards its realization.

Another Local Culinary Event/Tradition starts next week…on a stick.  Yes, it is time again for Games, Gluttony, Gawking, and a little dash of Vanilla(Ice…although I prefer Ton Loc).  I speak of the Iowa State Fair (Aug 12-22).  You don’t need me to tell you about what is going on there…

And one more thing…I will be hosting a Birthday Ride tonight at Mullet’s (1300 SE 1st Street) beginning at 5 ish.  You don’t need a bike (bicycle, not motorcycle), but we will be leaving around 6:30 is to ride south to the Cumming Tap via Orlondo’s, some trail stops, and maybe even the Pink House. Come meet up for some libations and to celebrate me marching ever so closer to the age my writing attitude portrays.  This is open to real-life friends, interweb friends (a great time to become real-life friends), and even my frickin enemies(no weapons please!) Everyone is welcome!   See you tonight!

Get em, Birthday Cat

Happy Birthday To Me,

The Cook

A (very) short poll-post
2010/02/23, 3:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

[Stay with me people, I have been so wrapped up in worrying about Jack Bauer that my collumn has suffered!]

I am giving serious thought to this “SkyMazeGraze” idea.

How many of you out there would be interested in an educated guide to Skywalk Cuisine?

This is a real question to which I expect tens of answers. Seriously, leave me a comment, give me some motivation to ‘get up in there’ and show you the Skywalk’s stuff.

Here’s a fun game for you to do while you ponder whether or not this Cook should eat his way around the Maze for your benefit. I like to call this the Tour De Pizza. See how many places on the skywalk you can hit for one slice of pizza in one lunch break. It is a fun game.

And seriously, I want some answers.

Stay tuned for my ‘coverage’ of last week’s Cityview awards and the upcoming Beloved Blue Ribbon Baconfest (an event which sold out in 25 minutes. Paul McCartney didn’t even sell that fast last time in town.).

The Cook