Tag Archives: local food

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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What if… Restaurants Promoted Cooking at Home?

23 Jan
by Deanne

It seems like a crazy idea for a restaurant to promote cooking at home.  But being concerned about the quality of prepared food that is normally served in restaurants, we instigated a promotion during the month of August and September called The FarmerChef Project. Photo of Pickle Recipe  We recruited two other restaurants to join our restaurant in offering recipes of dishes that we prepared using local ingredients.  Then offered recipes for customers to prepare the dish at home.  Even though the promotion is officially over, you can check out the recipes by clicking on our icon which will take you to the  pinterest page. Logo for FarmerChefs

As part of the promotion we worked with University of Minnesota Extension to help us survey restaurant customers about their preferences for local food and cooking. There is a myth that says people won’t pay for better quality ingredients. Our survey respondents reported that they were willing to pay from 5% to 25% more for a meal prepared with local ingredients?

Would you like to see more restaurants promote cooking at home with local products?  If they did, would it help to repair our broken food system?

What if… Your Neighbor Was an Organic Farmer ?

15 Jan Photo of Pinterest Board
by Deanne

What if… your neighbor was an organic farmer?  Photo of Pinterest Board

The lead article in yesterday’s Des Moines Register begins with this line:

A Des Moines-area developer is betting Iowans not only want to know the farmer who grows their food, they will also want to live next door to him.

I would change “him” to “him/her” because there is also another trend that says women farmers are on the rise.

The article doesn’t mention the location that the developers are considering.  There is a realization that housing developers have moved away from golf courses because they are expensive to maintain.  It is exciting to see this trend develop.  I actually know two farmers who are in the process of building an organic farm and teaching center on 10 acres near Ankeny.  In fact, we had dinner them last night and had a chance to see their plans.  As their story unfolds I look forward to sharing more. 

In the meantime we can all dream about these types of developments by looking at the ones that already exist.  Check out the pins on our FarmerChefs Pinterest account.

What if… Real Food was Convenient?

8 Jan
by Deanne

What if… real food was as convenient as picking it up at the end of a busy day? You know, kind of like a personal chef but a bit more affordable.

Good news!  There is an expansion going on in the good food movement.  As I wrote this post I got an email with a link to this article. To me, the article shows that there is a growing demand for better quality food that is convenient.

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Lueders who owns The Grateful Chef in Des Moines.  She is the real deal in terms of a chef creating a business that supports her family doing what she loves.  Not to mention that she uses wholesome ingredients for those that want good food but don’t have the time in their day to make it.  I am kinda lucky because I live with a chef, but hey, even he needs a break.

thegratefulchefOn my way home from my volunteer work, I picked up two dishes that I ordered earlier in the week.  The way it works:  1. A person signs up to receive an email with the selections each week.  2.  Once you get the email, you decide if you want to order that week and place the order by Monday evening. 

Brandy uses the commercial kitchen at The Wallace House on 16th Street here in Des Moines.  She prepares the food to order and on Wednesday evenings her customers stop by the kitchen to pick up their food on their way home from work.  Today she also had farm fresh eggs available for sale from a local farmer.

Photo of orderI couldn’t wait till dinner, I just had to dig into the nutty quinoa apple salad.  Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all, I saved some for Steve.  I also ordered a Moroccan Style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew.  Both of these dishes were vegan friendly for those that want to eat their #phytosfirst.   We are that new breed of eater who is not strictly vegan but like to order it whenever possible.  In our case we like to learn what you can do with veggies.

Please share with me any kind of service you find in your community that is similar, I would like to do a follow-up post and share ideas to support concept of eating real food.

Photo of Quinoa Salad

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