Eating local has become a buzz phrase for foodies of all sizes, shapes and colors. The masses haven’t a clue, but we’re working on getting the word out. We’re going to meander around this phrase during this post and bring it all together in the end.
I read an article by Michael Pollan, in the New York Times, a fwe weeks ago and it’s got me thinking. I think Mr. Pollan has it right about not cooking for ourselves. A lot of people don’t cook, they watch it on TV. It makes them feel better about pulling something from the freezer, or stopping off and picking up prepared foods or ordering in for meals. There have many a night I’ve sat and watched a chef prepare something fabulous only to go stir up a simple linguini and mushrooms with Paul Newman preparing my Alfredo sauce (I also feel guilty while consuming it knowing I could have made it myself).
I also watch a lot of Guy Fieri. He’s got charisma! He’s got his hand on the pulse of what real America is eating. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They’re packed on any given day with loyal customers, so it seems. Eating local, supporting the neighborhood and supporting friends most have known as the owners of these establishments for years. It’s a great thing to be able to walk into a local diner, have some home cooked food, say hi to friends also dining, and chat with the owner about their family and community and its struggles in today’s economy.
We’ve used our 100 mile goal to visit a few of the places Guy has visited. 5 to be accurate. The first was a family favorite long before Guy Fieri was born most likely. El Indio, as I’ve blogged about in the past, has been a family favorite since the 1970s. My brother-in-law introduced me to them when I was attending San Diego State. I could pick up lunch or dinner for $1.25. Two chicken taquitos and a small drink. We, as a family, have been a part of the El Indio family since then. 3 generations of us trading with 4 generations of the Pesqueria family. Their food represents them and their pride of preparing food for everyone shows in every plate. We are seldom, disappointed by them.
That takes us to the other 4. One was on our travel to Arizona. Arizona will soon be our home, and we’re trying to get acquainted with the new neighbors. We stopped in Phoenix to grab a bit, twice, only to find both restaurants closed during holiday weekends. That bites.
Another we visited in Flagstaff on Guy’s recommendation. It was a hole in the wall for sure, Brandy’s Diner. Way off the beaten path of downtown Flagstaff, but since Guy said it was worth it, we ventured forth. Support local business and Mom and Pop’s like ourselves. Hmmmm. Way to disappoint. The food did not resemble anything like what Guy experienced. It was a quiet afternoon, not buzzing like it was when Guy visited, but they still had the replay in the video recorder playing as evidenced Guy had been there and loved it! Well, we didn’t love it. I had the fish and chips. The cole slaw was so bad, it tasted of the refrigerator. The fish overcooked to a crunchy greasy disappointment. I did see the chef there that appeared in the video, but he looked like it was a bad day. We aren’t the only people to be disappointed, the Yelp reviews are pretty much right up there with ours.
So far Guy is 0 for 3, not counting El Indio. The next restaurant is in our local 100 mile neighborhood in Los Angeles. We wanted to go to Polka. However, they were closed. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We’ll catch them another day. So we look up another restaurant on Guy list. Only 3.7 miles away and worth a try. Mom’s Tamales. We drive on over, find a place to park and step inside. There are only about 12 tables in their dining room. Each had a patron, so we stood around waiting for a table to free up. After a 10 minute wait we grabbed a table and waited for a waitress to take our order. I decided to try the green chicken tamale with jalapeno and tomotillo, and a pork tamale. I asked for a medium coke and was told they no longer had soda in anything but a can, but I could have a pepsi, no coke. Okay. The husband ordered a pork tamale, a chicken mole tamale and a diet pepsi. I then asked for a dessert tamale – a pineapple tamale. Oh, sorry we’re out. boo.
The waitresses gave the impression that they’d rather be anywhere but at work. The didn’t even speak to each other. The music was so loud it interfered with conversation, and I’m hard of hearing. The tamales were served with rice and beans. The green chicken tamale was the best of the lot. The chicken in both tamales was tough, nut the flavor good. The pork tamales were nothing to write home about. The masa was light, which I found good, but the husband likes his tamales a bit more heavy, to each his own. The beans were a bean puree more than a refried bean. Made me think they were reconstituted, I sure hope not. The rice was good. I mentioned to my husband this was not a restaurant to revisit and that made me sad. Not crybaby sad, just disappointed to think this restaurant may not be able to stay ahead of the economy due to their own attitude. Yes, we did have to wait for a table, and most of the locals seemed to be pleased, however, with my pick of the LA basin to choose from, why waste my time with a restaurant that acted as if they really wish they’d just get a day off once in a while.
So what’s my long winded point? Eat local. Support your local Mom and Pops. They’re trying hard and we can help them if we’re not going to cook for ourselves. However, if you are a local diner, drive-in or dive that Guy Fieri has taken the time to visit, be what you say you are. It isn’t cheap having a national show cover you, they spent a bit of money to come out, do a review and get you on the map, so to speak. Do Your Part! Keep up the enthusiasm and be that restaurant you were when he was visiting. Good grief, local people want to support you, but they won’t if they are continually disappointed with your food. Cook from scratch. Use locally grown products. Scratch an item that just isn’t working, or isn’t consistent. We’d rather have ten good items to choose from than 50 crappy, sloppily put together choices. And, man smile. It’s food, and it should be fun. If it’s not, go find what you love and do that.
We’re 1 in 5 on the Guy Fieri scale and I can’t really blame Guy. He did his job. Now the restaurants in question need to do theirs. Guy can only carry you so far guys.