Locally Grown

The Things The Datebook Diner Should Miss.

Dearest Tens,

Yes, we have been absent again after a big push to start things back up fool time. Full time. BUT DON’T GET SALTY!  The weather blossomed into an early spring which caused me, The Cook, to do my job of cooking again.  Last time we checked in our main subject of honor had announced her retirement from reviewing the restaurants in Our Fair City to pursue her other, more Francophilic, interests.  I, along with my cohorts, have been poring over her increasingly truncated reviews, trying to find something LG-worthy to share.  No luck there, until yesterday.  Last night I fired up my Android (uggg) powered Google Reader application and among my plethora of news items from Cat Fancy and Milk Chugger’s Magazine I found a little post from our beloved DD concerning what she will not be missing upon her leaving the eating scene of the DMZ (Des Moines Zone).

First I would like to state that a person whom after nearly 14 YEARS of writing about a dining scene publishes one of their final articles regarding said scene and chooses only NEGATIVES to outline her nearly 14 YEARS of writing about said dining scene maybe shouldn’t have been writing about our city to begin with.  After all of that time and all those hundreds of reviews all she has to say to the diners, restauranteurs, chefs, cooks, and servers is THREE NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT WHAT SHE WON’T BE MISSING ABOUT WHAT DES MOINES HAS BEEN DOING WITH FOOD OVER THE LAST NEARLY 14 YEARS.  What will she not miss?  Read Here.  We have all spent a long time reading about her complaints, and I personally think she could have come up with a better list.  (on a little tangent, I can’t help but think when she took the job, nearly 14 years ago, she was in another city with a less French Name and saw an opportunity to live in the “Midwest Riviera” but upon arrival found the dread of gloppy soup, iceberg lettuce, and giant wasteful portions to be so oppressive that she decided that if she has to do this 13 or 14 more times, she is out of here)

Seriously, you serve me gloppy soup 13 or 14 more times, and I am OUT OF HERE! -Datebook Diner

So what do we here at the world’s most dangerous food blog (about Des Moines) think that the list should have included?  First off, it should be a POSITIVE list that doesn’t read like an elementary report card that says “Your kid will never learn, they are hopeless and you should just give up for there is no hope for change.”  Maybe after blah blah blah years said food reviewist could find at least three things to miss about Our Fair City and those whom bring you publicly consumed food?  Here are three-ish things that, after our NEARLY THREE YEARS of writing about the DD, we would expect to see in a list written by her, if she wasn’t being a constant “negative nancy.”  (btw, just because your job title includes the word “critic,” it doesn’t preclude you from making positive statements) So here it is, the….

Three-ish Things We Feel The Datebook Diner Should Miss About DSM Dining

(if she wasn’t being such a negative-pants)

  1. The growing of French cuisine in Des Moines.  Back when DD started out in Des Moines there were very few choices for French dining.  Over the years French has come and French has gone, but our current state of French Dining in the city of the monks finds us a plethora of French-based restaurants.  Bistro Montage, Django, Tartine, La Mie, Baru 66…these are all places that should bring joy to a Francophile’s heart.
  2. The Farmers’ Markets.  The Farmer’s Market isn’t a wholly French concept, but it is French enough for a Francophile to come enjoy.  On Saturday mornings you can walk through the market, sample prepared foods, buy fresh baked breads and locally grown produce and meats, and see some of our more ambitious Chefs of des Moines chatting with local farmers and picking out the freshest goods for their menus.  It is my understanding that the DD never really liked the Farmers Market (at least the Down town iteration) and kept visits to a minimum.  The Farmers Market is the life of our Dining Scene during the summer…but maybe now that her job isn’t reviewing food she will stop down more often.
  3. Watching A City Grow.  You get a job reviewing restaurants in Chicago, New York, LA, SF, any larger city and you get to jump right in to a dining scene which has been thriving for many decades.  If you took a job doing the same thing NEARLY 14 YEARS AGO, you were in a very special position to watch what was once a chain restaurant hell with a few local choices, most of which probably served gloppy soup, to what it is now: A growing community of chefs and restaurateurs whom are constantly working to raise the bar in the dining scene.  We have a respected culinary program just to the north in Ankeny (Iowa Culinary Institute/DMACC) and the students of that program are staying in town with increasing frequency, seeing an opportunity for growth…or even of a fast rise to ownership.  It’s a much different world from the day George Formaro was baking bread on South Union to this day after Chef Formaro and his cohorts at Orchestrate worked for over a decade to change the face of what and how we eat (even if he has been damned for portion size).  Things are much different now, and are growing at an increased rate.  DD had the opportunity to watch all of this from the inside, yet it doesn’t seem to matter in the context of her career in DSM.
  4. Influence.  Maybe she should miss the somewhat misguided influence she wielded over the dining public?  Her words have had noticeable impact on the lives of restaurants.  In fact I have watched a few close with a quickness after a Datebook Diner review (not that a few of those few weren’t warranted).  Whatever.

There are many more, but alas, I am out of time and have to go do my actual job.  Keep following along, there are only two more weeks of our current DD’s reign of terror…then it’s time for to pick on the new guy/gal.

Rep Local.

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

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

DSM Food Cart Law Backlash Update

While you are enjoying the holiday season and preparing the list of things you will most likely not be accomplishing next year (aka resolutions), many others are looking toward the future with you.  This year we shall be looking toward a future with at least one less late night dining option, thanks to the Des Moines City Council.

The New Enemy Of The State

I spoke with sources close to the owner of the food cart which formerly took residence in the parking lot across from the Royal Mile on 4th street in down town DMZ.  It seems that due to the new “crackdown” on the troublesome food vendor sector that this food cart will never return to operation.  No, it wasn’t shut down by the city.  It was a decision by the the owner/operator, who is fed up with the treatment that has been doled out upon the food cart dining scene.

That’s right, the Des Moines City Council has made moves that have caused at least one business owner to shut down operations.  Reasons cited by the cart owner include increasingly rising licensing fees, the new hour restriction which takes away the busiest 90 minutes of the service evening, and some new “hoop jumping” put in place by the new laws. Evidently the 1:30 am law isn’t the time you stop serving, but you have to be packed up and out of the area by that time.

I am sickened by this whole situation.  Drunks can’t get a taco or a grill cheese on the streets, but they can get a sloppy beef sandwich or slice pizza then drunkenly spill back out onto the streets to cause the same problems cited by the city in their complaint about the street vendors.  Bullshit.  First the Taco Trucks, now the food carts.

What about the people who get done at work late, bike commute, and find it more convenient to ride up to a food cart, eat without dismounting, then continue on to the next destination?  What about the income lost by the food cart owners who have invested time and money in their venture hoping to one day have a “brick and mortar” spot?  What about the tax revenue lost by the city due to their treatment of small business owners?

What’s next?  No more drive through food after 1?

The Cook

Locally Grown Ain’t Nuthin To F* Wit!

Good afternoon, tens of readers!  It is once again a glorious, warm, sunshiny day here in the DMZ (Des Moines Zone), and word on the public radio waves is that this will be the norm for us central Iowans for at least a few more weeks.  This is great news for local cyclists, runners, dog walkists, restaurateurs, donut makers, meteorologists (they won’t be dodging any Frostee’s for a while longer), campers, hikers, kayak-iacs, and especially the Farmers.  According to a few sources close to LG the growing season this year “sucked.”  The too-wet weather wreaked havoc on planting and maintaining the veggies you crave, but due, to a miracle of nature the crops will be coming out of the fields on time this year, you can read the harvest report here, courtesy of The Messenger.  I am happy that these hard working women and men will be able to remove their bounty in a timely manner…and maybe this year the harvest won’t mess with the propane prices too much, and the kids will all be listening to the Wu in shorts well into November.

This was NOT a scene from this weekend's World Food Festival, but it would be cooler if it was!

So, yes, it is nice out.  You get the picture.  Let’s all rejoice that the weather is nice and that the last paragraph has ended.  And so has this one.

Last week a few things happened in the world that were of great importance to the local food scene here in the DMZ.  The World Food Prize/World Food Festival took place in the lovely East Village in downtown DSM.  The WFP was founded in 1986 by Iowa native and Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, a hero to the nations of the world plagued by hunger. Dr. Borlaug was a great man who is credited with saving one billion lives, more than anyone else in history.  He is also the creator of what is popularly known as the “Green Movement.”  I urge you to read more about Dr. Borlaug and the World Food Prize at the World Food Prize site. There you can learn about the man, the movement, and how you can get involved, if you should choose to do so.

The World Food Festival is a separate event held in conjunction with the WFP summit to celebrate the diverse reaches of our local culinary tapestry.  Each vendor offered a $1 “taste” item along with their regular menu.  There were also live demonstrations from local chefs (?), including the Iowa Machine Shed?  hmmm.  Alohana? Isn’t that a franchise chain?  Yep.  Oh, and I see my buddy DH was on the roster too.  Fun.  I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that a certain local chef and blogger should have been doing a demonstration on the stage.  Maybe next year.  I could demonstrate how to cook something and talk trash it on the interdork at the same time…

And speaking of talking trash on the interwebs

After a soon-to-be-really-obese-television-host went round after round with a local sandwich, the DMZ food press was asked to give a a little piece of there time and influence to help raise national awareness of the food scene that I had, up til last week, thought they were a part of, but I am getting more of a “bystander” feel from a few.  That’s fine and dandy.  I can see where the mistake was made.  Food Critics can eat the food and write about the food, for better or worse, sort of creating an involuntary PR department for restaurants.  BUT if you ask your local food writer to maybe possibly “pump up” the things they see as kicking ass on the local scene to other people in other food scenes, that is OVER THE LINE, even though it is just more PR.  Journalism, especially entertainment jounalism, at its most basic level is public relations between the news source and the reader?  Am I wrong?  Should I stop typing with my tongs and read a book about journalism? Am I taking this too far?  I heard from the Illustrious Datebook Diner and the Food Dude, but what of the other 8 or 9 folks who seemingly reluctantly write about restaurants for part of their living?  Y’all didn’t get the memo?  DD, what was that MUST EAT AT spot you were referring to?  I gave you mine, time to ante up.

So many questions, so many beatings of the dead horse/brokening of the record.  I just want some community to start happening between the writers and the cooks.  There is a huge disparity between the talent and work level our local chefs and the recognition they get from the people in charge of recognizing.  Cripes, I suppose that just picked another fight.  Maybe I should just go back to sharing recipes.

Ok, we have to cut today short, as I am due to help lead “Write Club” in a little while, and I shouldn’t miss my writer’s collective meeting to actually write stuff.

I hope at least some of that made sense-ish.

the Cook

P.S. I hear that someone has recently earned a Locally Grown Bush League Food Un-writer Award!  Will it be a two-peat?

Sweet Baby G-bus! It’s A Miracle!/The Assigment
2010/10/04, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Here it is, a wonderful October Monday Morning, the Sun is embracing the DezMoz/DMI/DSM/DeM Metro Area in a glorious hug of warm rays, the cool autumn air crisp and clean, and some other nice things, including NO COMPLAINTS FROM ME.  Yes, a miracle has truly taken place this weekend…it was very much like that Ice Cube song, “Today Was A Good Day,” but more like “Todays Was Some Good Days.”

This is where you would have seen the chart I had prepared based on the happenings of Ice Cube’s Good Day vs. an Average Day vs. A Bad Day vs. This past weekend, but since I use Ubuntu/Open Office, I could not save the graph as a WordPress-friendly file type.  If anyone has any advice regarding this problem, other than switching my OS, let me know.

Instead, you get this partial flow chart from www.geekologie.com

Today DOES Seem Kinda Odd...

My chart was more situation-specific, but whatever.  Thankfully the Geekologie geeks know how to utilize graphic editing software.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of complaints from the last week, but this weekend trumped/erased from memory said issues.  Instead, let’s do something different.

This week I would like all of you to visit your favorite restaurant, you can do this solo or bring a group.  Doesn’t sound to difficult so far, does it?  I would like you to enjoy your favorite meal served by your favorite server/cashier/drive-thru attendant/lunch lady/sandwich artist/etc (hey, not everyone’s favorite restaurant is fine dining, you would be shocked to find out my favorite spot to eat, as I would possibly be shocked to find out yours).  When the meal is over, thank the people who prepared (the chef, the burger flipper, the taco guy, etc) and served your food.  I mean REALLY thank them.  Not in the “this is the best service I have had, then leave a crappy tip” kind of way, but in the “I truly and sincerely appreciate all that you have done to make me a happy repeat customer then tip well, if it is a tipping situation” kinda way.  A light sprinkling of complements on top of the Donut Of Food Service-itude goes a long way.

The Donut Of Foodservice-itude Awaits Your Sprinkles

Let’s review the steps:

  1. Go to favorite restaurant
  2. Enjoy meal and service
  3. Let the people responsible know how much you appreciate them and their food.

You could even take this a step further and contact the establishment via the mail or interweb to compliment them a second time (after you have complimented in person).  These people have worked hard to make you happy.  Show them some love.

That is assignment number one.  Assignment number two is as follows:

  1. Think of a restaurant you enjoy which you “discovered” through a print review.
  2. Send the Reviewer/Critic an email or “tweet” thanking them for turning you on to said eatery.

Even easier (unless you can’t think of an instance where a food critic/restaurant reviewer steered you to a good restaurant, which I find highly unlikely) than assignment one.

You have your assignments, now get out there and spread the love!

The Cook

The Incredible Inedible Egg (Acosted By DeCoster)
2010/08/31, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Congratulations to us!  Iowa agriculture has made the news in a big way thanks to the A-holes at DeCoster and state agriculture “regulators.”  It seems, according to newly released legend, that 75 year old Austin “Jack” DeCoster is a person of very questionable business practices and should not be trusted with any type of agriculture venture.

"Jack" DeCoster, One Bad Egg in a Sea of Salmonella

Even former/aspiring future Governor Terry Branstad admits of DeCoster that “He’s been trouble ever since he came here from Maine.”  When did he come to Iowa?  In the 1980’s.  He has been trouble since the 1980’s, is listed as a habitual violator of EPA regulations, has expanded his business even after being banned from operating ag business in our state.  This “person” is a greedy bastard who has been putting people’s lives at risk since entering Iowa in the 80’s, and now after around 30 years of dangerous practices and a few fines and slaps on the wrist, DeCoster has managed to cause the salmonella poisoning of over 1,300 innocent people, the recall of a mind-boggling number of eggs, and the tarnishing of Iowa’s Agricultural reputation.  I want you to notice the emphasis on the time frame of Jack’s reign of ag-terror.  Where were the authorities who are supposed to be looking out for your safety?  Why was there no real reinforcement of laws, and what about the new regulations which took effect around the same time the poison eggs were being shipped?  And what of our illustrious former governor’s admission that DeCoster has been a problem all this time?

It doesn’t seem that these public officials are looking out for your safety at all.  They have allowed at least 1,300 people to be maimed by an avoidable salmonella outbreak, and the tarnishing of the reputation of our local agriculture.

This is why you have to know your food, people!  The government can and will only do so much to ensure your safety (and it really shouldn’t have to, I do realize it’s the a-holes contaminating the food supply who are really to blame).  Buying local, educating yourself, and knowing exactly where your food comes from is very important in this day of food-borne illness outbreaks.

You can go read all of the data from recent inspections of these tainted egg merchants if you feel the need, but what you should really do is take a good look at what you will do to keep YOUR food supply clean, for you and your family.

Buy Local, Eat Local, Be Local.  For your safety and health.

The Cook