Monday, October 25, 2010

The "new" Hy Vee sucks

I had a chance to visit the "new" Hy Vee store at 57th and Cliff this past weekend. If this is supposed to be an improvement over the Sunshine that previously occupied the space, I am yet to see it. Honestly, Sunshine wasn't much to crow about, but they did have a few nice things that Hy Vee didn't, like honestly priced meat that isn't wrapped in mini-gas chambers.

Amazingly, the same people that brought the Taj Mahal of grocery shopping to Sioux Falls at 37th and Minnesota have apparently managed in one acquisition and "remodeling" to immediately establish the weakest link in its Sioux Falls chain. Maybe Hy Vee just got this location going to make 26th and Sycamore look more glamorous.

Whatever. It sucks. I could go on and explain myself, but no sense in being too negative. Check it out and see if you agree.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Food Chains

For some time I have been observing what I have come to call the over-homogenization of food. You really cannot go anywhere and not, more or less, find exactly the same things. Is that good? Is that bad? Maybe some of both. However you feel about it, the trend is here to stay.

So what am I talking about? Well, if you live here in Sioux Falls, you have probably eaten at Texas Roadhouse, Applebee's, Granite City, Outback Steakhouse, McDonald's, Ground Round, Olive Garden, etc. Chances are, if you have traveled you have, or could have, eaten at the same places. The fact that you can get about the same thing, about everywhere, disturbs me a little.

To cut to the chase, let's start with something near and dear to my forking heart: Beer. Let's go way back. Far enough to a point in time where people will wonder how old I might be. Once upon a time, there was a beer brewed in a small town, outside Denver, called Coors. It was distributed in Colorado and a few other western states like California and Wyoming. If you lived in South Dakota or Minnesota, you couldn't get Coors, which probably made you want it more. You had to wait until your no-account brother in law brought a case or two when he came back for a family reunion at Lake Poinsett. Naturally, everyone treated the dumb jackass like a hero and ohhed and ahhed over the deliciousness of the contraband beverage. Well, Coors finally got here, and how many people do youknow that main-line the Banquet beer? Exactly.

Same thing happened recently with another beer from Colorado, Ft. Collins to be exact: Fat Tire from New Belgium. Good stuff? Sure. As good as it was when you had to bootleg the stuff in? Not so much.

Now, you can get a beer that was only available for those rare trips to Texas- Shiner Bock. It's on tap at the Attic, and probably a bunch of other places around town.

My point is, these few beers used to seem much better when they were forbidden fruit. Something to be enjoyed on a trip to Houston or San Antonio, or a special run to Beulah, WY, to pick up a case of Fat Tire. Now, you can pick them up at Hy Vee.

I swear, the day Yuengling shows up on tap in Sioux Falls, I might just stick a fork in my eye.

Looking at the whole beer experience makes me think of the food. It seems we, as people, always want what we don't have, and the few times we get it, it seems so much better than anything else. If Coors, Fat Tire, and Shiner Bock don't prove that, I don't know what will. But the same thing is likely true for food.

Case in point. If there is one thing people have come to enjoy over the last 5-10 years, it is big Mission-style burritos. These thigh-sized suckers were born in San Francisco, but as it turns out, no one exactly has a patent on 1200 calories of grippable foil-wrapped meat, cheese, beans, rice, and goo. Enter Qdoba. But alas, I am yet to hear from a Qdoba patron who does not decry the fact that the almighty Chipotle has not yet made it to our fair city. "Ohhh, Chipotle is soooo much better than Qdoba! The flavors are better." Well, the jury is out on that one, kids. Been there. Done that. Good? You bet. I was starving and badly in need of a bottle of cerveza because I had already been at the damned Mall of America for 10 minutes. End all be all of big forking burritos? No. Sorry. Did it taste better because I can't get one on the corner of 57th and Louise? Probably.

My point is, I sometimes think some of this stuff tastes better because it is a special treat. You cannot get it at home and, when you are out of town, unless it is for non-stop meetings, this stuff is a treat. When it comes to town, not so much. When was the last time you ordered a straight Coors on tap? See?

This is what I mean by overly-homogenized. Everything is getting to be too "the same" everywhere. Granted, it is nice to occasionally find a safe place to eat, where you know exactly what you are going to get before you go in, but is that really what life is about?

Take a chance, and eat local, my friends. Find places that are not franchises. Eat somewhere that is not advertised in an airline magazine in the seat-back of the plane. Go somewhere you haven't heard of. And soak it up. It will always taste better than a Coors on tap.

Monday, October 4, 2010

RIP: Joey's

The local daily paper is reporting that Joe's Seafood has closed. It's always somewhat sad when we lose a dining option in Sioux Falls, but with all due respect, this one comes as no surprise.

I had a couple of meals at Joey's over the few years it was open. Nothing particularly bad, but nothing particularly good. Overall, a sort of Red-Lobsteresque kind of meal. The times I was there, I thought the service was a little spotty and the beverage choices, particualrly the wine choices were less than stellar.

Ok, one story. A couple of years ago, a friend and I were dining at Joey's. We decided to order mussels as an appetizer. When they appeared, at least a third of them weren't open, which is not really a good sign. We ate the ones that had opened and they were fine. Returning to check on us, the server offered to take the unopened ones back to the kitchen to receive a little more steam time so they would open. Now, anyone who knows why shellfish, like mussels, don't open when they are cooked. If you don't know, it's because shellfish should be live when purchased. When they are cooked, they open. If they don't open, they were dead when they went into the pot and no amount of further cooking can reverse that process. If you are daring enough to pry one open and consume it you will find yourself remembering that particualr meal for a very long time. Very long. Anyway, I was amused to overhear the conversation in the kitchen about the possibility of re-steaming more mussels. To the manager's credit, he offered us a whole new order, which was very nice.

We need more seafood in this town. Good seafood. The sushi places prove it is possible to lay hands on very good fish. Now we just need someone to make the jump on preparing and presenting it properly.