You know, it really isn’t that bad. The South side that is, or even Des Moines in general. I was reminded today of just how lucky we are here in our little, quiet neighborhood. I feel so fortunate that I can go less than five minutes by car, or 15 minutes by foot, and find myself at my favorite Butcher Shop, Italian market, and Bakery.

It is true, I have developed a love affair with Findley’s Butcher Shop, Graziano’s Italian Market, and Florene’s Bakery and Coffee Shop. Since Findley’s opened about a year ago, I slowly have learned from the husband and wife owners, that they get all their meat locally. Not organic, but here in Iowa. I should mention that it is really good meat too,I can definatly live with that. Plus, since I am a sucker for great prices, I always like the fact that I leave feeling like I just got a really great deal. The best shaved pit ham from here in Iowa for only $3.99/lb!! Lunch meat for the week. Also the pork baby back ribs, Delish! Gabe can vouch for the fact that they were hands down the best he’s ever had. (Recipes to follow).

Ok, so you probably think I’ve gone mad, right? Have I become a traditional meat eating Iowan? I like to think not. But if I’m going to eat it, I am going to support my very local butcher in the process. And now for why I love Graziano’s. If you are not familiar with the south side of Des Moines, not that you really should be, but this is the Italian neighborhood. And Graziano’s is the food mecca for all your cooking and baking needs. You walk in and instantly get the most amazing whiff of spices, pungent cheeses and freshly ground Italian sausage. I can find practically anything I might be looking for including farro, which is a grain that I used to cook a lot when I lived in Portland, but since have never been able to find it. Local Italians sell their specialties there including sauces, fresh pasta, delectible little cookies, even fresh yeast cake!

Florene’s has been here for a couple of years and we happily tripped over it the weekend we were moving into our house. I must add that I believe what really happened was that I was just complaining to Gabe that I would have to drive at least 15 minutes for a pastry and a good cup of coffee, not to mention the conversation, and it was like-Whoa…what is this little gem we have stumbled upon? Could there really be something like this so close to our house? I remember feeling giddy. I still am. I have formed a great relationship with Tom the baker, and Kelly who runs the front of the house. She watched Gabe and I as we were buying a house together, then the belly bump appeared, and each week she watched as it grew larger. Florene’s was my very first outing with Ethan after he was born one cold January day last year, and since Kelly has become a great friend. I should say that besides conversing with Tom and Kelly, I also am a huge fan of the cinnamon raisin swirl bread and the delicate, flaky danish. Ahh, life is good.

I like to support my local community. It makes me feel good to know that I am not supporting another greedy corporate chain, and I am helping a small business succeed. I am also proud to be an Iowan. Yes, vacations are nice, but coming home to our little corner on the South Side is the best feeling of all.