Tag Archives: farm to table

New World Cafe: Des Moines, IA

11 Feb
by Deanne

New World Cafe: Des Moines, IA

On the edge of funky East Village in downtown Des Moines, you will find this shining example of the good food movement. It is a small cafe open for lunch, some evenings, and since the first of the year, they are now open for brunch on Saturdays. The cafe is closed on Sundays.  

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

New World Cafe’s mission, stated on the first page of their website, is to support local organic farms. They have an all vegan menu and compost all food scraps.  Photo of Green Burger Windows at New World Cafe

Flavour: 5

Back in November, Luke had been visiting from California and we ate here. He ordered a burger and really liked it. On the first visit I ordered the Mexican Bowl. This time, I had this beautiful Green Burger. All the food choices were made with great ingredients, fresh and served fast.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

I was to surprised to discover the clarity of the mission for this restaurant. They have at least one option a day for people to pay what they can afford. Another interesting factor in their concept is they use volunteers to cover shifts and preparation times. As a former restaurant owner, I have found that running a small independent restaurant, especially one that has a bit of an educational mission, is incredibly hard work.  The rewards are the stories people share about the food and what it means to them.  I am impressed with their goal to educate people about why eating vegan is a smart choice in many ways.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

The service was efficient and friendly. When my food arrived it was presented with pride; a beautifully crafted work of culinary art. The cafe is located in an older attractive building that has nice windows. I savored the warmth of the sun on a cold winter day.

Overall Rating: 13.5+

Brunch on a lazy Saturday morning is brewing on an upcoming weekend. Many people I have met since moving to town have an affinity for this place and I can see the appeal. Who won’t want to eat at a place where they really, really care about the food they serve?

Photo of Education Table

New World Café on Urbanspoon

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Fresh Cafe and Market: West Des Moines

31 Dec
by Deanne

Fresh Cafe and Market: West Des Moines, IA

After a few months of scouting out potential restaurants to review in the Des Moines metro area, I begin with a review of this gem tucked away in a professional building.  I first became aware of this place when I saw their booth at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market.  Photo of Wheatgrass A tray of fresh wheatgrass, sitting in the booth, caught my attention. 

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4.5

What a story there is to be told about local food. According to a bio I found:

Kerri Rush, “the wheatgrass girl” is the owner, farmer and chef at Fresh Wheatgrass Farm in Carlisle, Iowa and Fresh Cafe & Market in West Des Moines, Iowa. She started growing wheatgrass in 1996 when her Mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon, liver and lymph node cancer. After researching “alternative” healthy ways to give her immune system a boost she found it in wheatgrass and juicing. (her mother is now cancer free!) Kerri became hooked on all of the benefits of wheatgrass and her business started growing!

According to the menu the rest of the food is organic, local, gmo and synthetic-free.  They proclaim that they change their menu often because they work with fresh, seasonal products.

FreshChorizoFlavour: 5

This vegan chorizo is loaded with flavor and you can see the presentation is attractive.  The “chorizo meat” is made with quinoa and roasted potatoes, poblano peppers, and corn.  I had a choice of whole wheat or gluten-free tortilla.  I selected the whole wheat.  The topping is cilantro-chile crema and fresh scallions and tomatoes.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

Photo of Fresh signIt was a surprise to find such yummy food in an odd looking professional building.  At first I was excited because I saw a woman with five little girls come out and get in a van.  I thought maybe they were Girl Scouts working on their locavore badge.  Photo of Locavore BadgeYou know, touring the kitchen to learn about food.  Then I realized they had not been at the cafe, they had been dancing in the room next door.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

Three of the walls are each painted a different bright color and the fourth wall is glass which makes for a dramatic and vibrant cafe.  The tables are sturdy wood with substantial chairs.  You order at the counter and the food arrives quickly.

Overall Rating: 13.5+

I’d like to see Fresh Cafe and Market or other favorites like Desert Roots Kitchen, populate the malls, downtowns, and suburban intersections of every city in America.  Making food this good takes a huge amount of effort.  The commitment to quality is the reason we do not often see these types restaurants that offer truly fresh food at a lower this price point.    I leave you with this picture that proves you can get something fresh on an Iowa winter day.Photo of Green Juice

Fresh Cafe & Market on Urbanspoon

Wolf Peach: Milwaukee, WI

5 Dec
by Deanne

Wolf Peach: Milwaukee, WI

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Steve and I went to Milwaukee. Our goal was to volunteer at Will Allen’s urban farm called Growing Power.  

Before our journey, I researched a variety of good options for locally sourced food.  The restaurant that captured my attention was Wolf Peach.  The unusual name that tells a story.  According to their website, the scientific name for tomato translates, literally:  Wolf Peach. 

Photos of Wolf Peach, Milwaukee
This photo of Wolf Peach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

A quote from the executive chef explains the concept further:

I love the idea of turning peasant food into something that people love. Nothing overworked. Nothing crazy. Just really good food.” – Chef Dan Jacobs

Peasant food is something Steve has been talking about for awhile now, so I figured this was our chance to see how one restaurant interprets the concept.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

Local ingredients are the whole premise of the restaurant. It appears, by reading articles in the press, that they preserve tomatoes for use in dishes served this time of year.  Many dishes have tomatoes incorporated into them in some form.  According to the article I read, the restaurant has a farm in Sheboygan County, where they grow their own produce.   If you are looking for meat that is raised on local farms, they mention Yuppie Hill Farms and Hometown Sausage Kitchen.

Flavour: 5

The two of us shared a total of three small plates and one dessert.  For a starter, we had a chickpea bruschetta, with preserved lemon, garlic, and chile.  It was very good and my first time to taste preserved lemons.  The flavor drew out my curiosity without overpowering my senses.  

The next item was pan seared shishito peppers with romesco.  When I got home I looked up romesco and discovered it is a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, roasted pepper, and nuts.  I think it also contained smoked paprika.  When ordering I asked about shishito peppers.  The wait person explained that they are mostly mild but that eating them would be a bit like playing Russian Roulette, because every once in a while a person gets a very hot pepper.  We avoided the lurking loaded cylinder because all  the peppers on our shared plate were pleasantly mild. 

The final small plate was wood-roasted broccoli, apricot with calabrian chile and almonds.  This dish took the flavor scale over the top.  We soured to new heights of broccoli love.  Who knew broccoli could taste so good?

For dessert we had an excellent, but maybe just a tad too sweet rice pudding.

Photos of Wolf Peach, Milwaukee

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The decor was a pleasant surprise.  It is rustic with rough woods elements and community high top tables.  That goes with the peasant food theme. But just when I thought I had the decor figured out, I turned to see a crystal chandelier hanging above our table.  It is whimsical and makes me think the peasants stole a chandelier from a nearby manor house.

This photo of Wolf Peach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

When I arrived Friday night without a reservation, I was prepared to be turned away because the place was buzzing.  The host was very helpful.  He invited me to go downstairs and decide if we would want to sit at the bar but order the full dinner menu.  When I checked it out and suggested Steve park the car, I wondered if the downstairs host might have other opinions about the two of us showing up.  She was equally friendly and suggested we sit at a community table.  We joined a table with seven diners as our wait person arrived.  She was helpful by explaining their service concept of “Como Viene” which means “as it comes.” The food and conversation flowed which made for a fun evening.

Overall Rating: 14+

There are a lot of farm-to-table or locally sourced options in Milwaukee.  I am sad that I didn’t get to try more, based on our time frame.  However, I am supremely happy with our whimsically romantic evening of good food and lovely laid back service at Wolf Peach.  The affordable pricing for ample small-plate portions that can be shared by two or more diners. If you are dining with people who choose different types of diets, there is plenty to choose from for all: vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters.

Wolf Peach on Urbanspoon

Verdant Tea: Minneapolis, MN

14 Nov
by Deanne

Verdant Tea: Minneapolis Tasting RoomPhoto of Verdant Tea

The last time I wrote the word verdant I was speaking of my garden and all the possibilities when it grows with abandon in midsummer.  This time, I am referring to a place I heard on MPR about the growth of the Seward neighborhood for good food. We had a quick trip planned to Minneapolis so I looked up Verdant Tea. Intrigued by the elegant selection of offerings, we arrived for breakfast last Saturday morning.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Verdant Tea does serve local food.  They have partnered with Birchwood Cafe which many readers will recognize from our past reviews.  Verdant’s focus is on tea.  They source their teas from small farmers in China.  The business began as on online tea business and has now expanded to include the tasting room.

Flavour: 5

We ordered chai tea and another kind of tea that we didn’t quite catch when it was given. Both were good, but the food was what we enjoyed most.  I ordered the sweet Congee, Steve had the Soba Noodles, and Luke ordered the Birchwood Granola with Fruit and Yogurt. Photo of Rice PorridgeCongee is a porridge and the sweet version had wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, burdock root, gogi berries, walnuts, and a coconut ginger sauce.   I was able to sneak a taste of the two other options and was equally impressed with both.  The yogurt was excellent.  It appeared to be the kind of yogurt one makes at home on the counter rather than the kind one dumps from a plastic container.

Photo of Hot Soba Noodle

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The food was surprisingly good.  Since it is a tea room that has food we were not really sure what to expect.  We went hoping the food would be decent.  It was stellar!  We talked about it for days afterward and discussed how to recreate it at home.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4.5

When we walked through the doors we were greeted immediately.  The environment is serene and makes for a peaceful calm retreat or gathering place for quiet conversation.  The staff was friendly but a bit more explanation about the options would have been helpful. They explained that they didn’t have tea flights at that time and they were in the process of changing their menu.  Having owned a restaurant, I have sympathy toward the situation they are currently finding themselves but others might be more put off by that kind of response.

Photo of Birchwood Granola

Overall Rating: 12.5+

I strongly recommend visiting Verdant Tea.  I look forward to returning and learning more about tea next time I visit.  In addition to partnering with Birchwood Cafe, they also sell Sweet Science Ice Cream.  We heard about them last year at an event for new food producers.  I look forward to trying some interesting flavors like salted caramel or toasted coconut.

Verdant Tea on Urbanspoon

Kitchen Table: Omaha, NE

8 Nov
by Deanne

Kitchen Table: Omaha, NE

logo for kitchen table

When I hear about the possibility of a road trip, I start searching for a restaurant worth reviewing.  Eating at a restaurant that serves real food, added with the bonus finding a place that sources local food, is my kind of fun.  A few clicks of the computer produced a few possibilities but I was drawn to Kitchen Table because I liked their font.  Yes, a font is a small thing, but that is how advertising works. I also found a favorable review from the Omaha World Herald.

Slow food fast is how they described themselves on their website.  Once we arrived in Omaha, I took a quick drive by and yes, the place looked worth visiting. They have nice windows in the front of the restaurant and the building looked interesting. Photo of Kitchen Table's thoughts on food

Everything was in place for me to love this restaurant.   However,  I have been disappointed before so you never really know till you walk through the doors and finally taste the food.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

Kitchen Table does support local, sustainable and organic businesses to procure their food. It is cool to discover new farms such as:

Big Muddy Urban Farm, Blooms Organics, Blue Valley Aquaculture, Branched Oak Farm, Burbach’s Dairy, Camp Creek Acres, GreenLeaf Farms, Myo Lean Piedmontese – Moenning Family Farm, Plum Creek Farm, Soup-N-More, Squeaky Green Organics, Truebridge Foods, Turner Acres.

As I look through these different companies I think about how a small restaurant has the potential to introduce people to many individual family owned business.  Each business is unique and worth checking out.

Flavour: 5

The dinner special was a choice of regular grass fed beef or a vegetarian burger. We ordered the vegetarian burger. We have been ordering vegetarian more and more because we find that vegetarian chefs create flavors that are more inventive and interesting.   I guess when you take away the fat and salt with many meat-y meals you have to add some seasonings and use great cooking techniques.  We also had  a sweet potato jam sandwich which came with popcorn. It was served on a excellent whole grain bread that might have even been sourdough.  A kale salad with a lemon dressing was good because of the flavor and the way the kale was cut.  The food was GOOD!  If there were any improvements to be made, it would be in the choice of bun for the burger.  It was a little crusty which works perfect for a juicy burger, but not so good for a vegetarian burger that falls apart on first bite.  It is a complaint I have explained before.  I left feeling full, satisfied and wanting to go back the next day.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The flavor of the popcorn was a pleasant surprise.  I noticed a bit of a licorice-y flavor which made me think:  Fennel.  When Steve stopped by to talk with the chef about the carrot “bacon” he mentioned the seasoning for the popcorn being the same as the seasoning he used to make the bacon.  “Bacon” made from a thinly sliced carrot and baked with spices and added to the burger.  See what I mean about vegetarian chefs being inventive.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

When we walked through the doors we were greeted immediately and directed to the menu on the wall.  The two specials were described in fine detail.  The restaurant is in a long narrow space with exposed brick on one side, concrete floors, and wood covered walls and a bit of green from the plant display.  The kitchen is open and one could easily see what is happening. When our food arrived the whole staff delivered it to our table so as to make sure it arrived as quickly as possible.  They did live up to their pledge of serving slow food fast.

While ordering I noticed a business card for a company that takes down old barns for no charge.  Later I discovered that this company made all their lovely wood tables.  It all made sense, the name:  Kitchen Table.  They serve real food on real plates, and we sat at real wood tables.

Overall Rating: 14+

One thing that made me sad about my visit to Kitchen Table was that there were very few diners enjoying the place.  Perhaps they are busier at lunch time since it is located in the Old Market District at 1415 Farnam Street.

Kitchen Table on Urbanspoon

Moose & Sadies: Minneapolis, MN

31 Jul
by Deanne

Moose & Sadies: Minneapolis, MN

Another Monday off from our running our cafe, led Steve and I to Minneapolis/St. Paul to pick up Joia Soda Pop and to visit United Noodle (that fun Asian grocery store that Francine introduced us to after she returned from living in China.)  We also had time to visit a new-to-us cafe. We selected Moose & Sadies because it was located near one of our stops and the online menu looked interesting.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Moose&Sadie’s supports local/sustainable/organic purveyors and on  their website they have a list with some links: 

Larry Schultz:  organic chicken and eggs
Tim Fischer:  hormone-free/humanely-raised pork
Riverbend Farm: organic produce

Flavour: 3

We ordered two items and were quite satisfied.  We had a Black Bean Burger with chipotle gouda, roasted green pepper-avocado spread, vidalia onions and alfalfa sprouts on a toasted bun and a salad called Greens Vinaigrette.  The burger did not have quite the right bun.  It had too hard of a bite for the squishy-ness of the black bean burger. Imagine this… pick up the burger, take a bite and black beans land on your new shirt.  You get the picture. The burger was good and flavorful and in my opinion needed a soft bun rather than a hard roll.  We solved that small challenge by eating the burger with a fork and noshing on toasted hard roll with our hands.  

m&S1

Even though I rate the flavour as a three, to match our criteria, I would come back again to try other items.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

Our last trip to the Twin Cities got off to a bad start with a disappointing visit to a restaurant that was highly rated on some of the online communities. We were served greasy, sloppy food.  It wasn’t even worth mentioning or remembering.  This food was enjoyable and didn’t leave us feeling like we needed a shower to remove all the grease.  It made for a great start to our day off and our little adventure to the cities.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

Photo of sunny patio at Moose and Sadies

Awesome is the best word to describe the service.   I say that because that word was used three to four times  by my order taker during the process of ordering. 

The decor of the place is a two tone, cool cucumber green with my all time favorite decor choice: painted brick.  The white brick with matching white painted exposed beams added comfort. 

We ate outside in the sun on a perfect summer day.  Not hot, not cold and no bugs.  What is more perfect than that? 

The server who delivered the food was not Ms. Awesome, but she was equally friendly and exuded her own form of awesomeness. 

Overall Rating: 11+

Moose & Sadies, in the warehouse district of Minneapolis is a place we look forward to stopping the next time we are in the neighborhood.

Moose & Sadie's on Urbanspoon

We Break For Farm Shops

25 Nov
by DeannePhoto of Wall Quote at Farm Shop

Remember when we first heard about farm shops?   Francine wrote about the Village Greens Farm Shop in June.  My first visit to a real UK style Farm Shop and Tea Room was on day one of our 13 day trip to visit her earlier this month.

Steve and I arrived in Edinburgh on a Tuesday morning and Francine, Scott, and Luke  met us at the airport.  After a quick visit to the dramatic Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, they drove us 17 miles south to Whitmuir Farm. Photo One of Whitmuir Farms

We loved eating a wholesome meal in their organic restaurant and tea room and then we bundled up for a self-guided tour of the farm. Photo of Farm Shop Produce  It didn’t take long to get a little Scotland mud on shoes.

After a wander around the farm we shopped in the store and settled back into the tea room for a pudding with another round of tea before we started our drive to our bed and breakfast. For those who live in the US, a pudding is more than just the smooth creamy stuff we eat.  It is more like a rich baked dessert.

The next farm shop we found was on day four of our trip.  We discovered  it as we were driving toward Barnard Castle just outside of the Yorkshire Dales park. 

Photo of Sheep on a Roof

Scott, being an agile driver, quickly turned the car around so we could check to see if we really did see sheep on a roof. The sheep were on the green roof of  Cross Lanes Organic Farm.  They also had a cafe but unfortunately we weren’t hungry yet.  So we just purchased a few items in the store and took lots of pictures.

Photo of Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop

The third farm shop we visited was called Manor FarmA photo of Manor FarmSince it was Sunday we ordered roast beef dinners.  The food was outstanding and after our meal we meandered around until we found a barn.  Inside there were pigs who played a game of chase the pumpkin after an employee tossed them one.

A photo of pigs playing pumpkin

Have you ever visited a farm shop?   Each one is unique and special because they are real farms which make them even more fun to discover.   If I visit the UK again, I’d plan the whole trip around Farm Shops.