Name: Jason Patocka
Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa
Occupation: Founder and Managing Director
1. Where do you like to flirt?
Before starting my own gift experience and employee benefits company in Des Moines, I was an international IT jockey that spent a lot of time saving server meltdowns, averting client revolts, and slumming around various airport lounges in Europe. When I actually got to stay home in London, and (god forbid) go on a date, I made sure that my date’s curiosity was not only inspired by my words, but also in my actions. That means planning ahead, and ensuring an environment suited to seduce.
These selected venues are hand selected for a systematic and planned assault on all 5 senses, and it would involve a surprise flight to London because I sorely miss it and would love to share my favorite haunts. I would start the day suggesting a walk through the Tate Modern Museum, which showcases some amazing works of contemporary art, and gives me an opportunity to show that I am more cultured than I may actually look.
Combine this with window shopping around Soho with tea at Yauatcha. Dinner reservations would be at Zuma, the ever so contemporary scene and be seen sushi mecca in Knightsbridge. The sushi is 007 decadent, décor modern, and the atmosphere strictly sophistique.
Afterwards, I would recommend the Sugar Hut in Fulham. The Thai influenced cuisine, lychee martinis, and aesthetic are bound to make a good impression, and dates marvel at the fact that I know London well enough to know what actually exists outside of Zone 1. Cheers, indeed.
2. What are your favorite places to eat and drink?
People might write Des Moines and Iowa off as a travel destination, but the fact is that there is something interesting going on in your own backyard every day. You just have to look for it. My philosophy is that if you don’t find it, create it. I love to entertain and my favorite place to eat and drink is in the kitchen of my own home. You can travel over the entire globe, but the reality is that hospitality is a gift best experienced in the home of a friend or stranger.
For my guests, I go gourmet because truth be told, I am a perfectionist. This obsession manifests itself publicly from time to time. Recently it was at the Des Moines Art Center, which has a running Men Who Cook fundraiser that I have participated in over the last two years. During our last culinary spectacle, we featured an Iron Chef battle using a theme ingredient of chocolate. (You can read about it
here on the dmJuice.com site.
My team’s menu featured a chocolate-rimmed pomegranate liquor with pepper infused vodka cooled with liquid nitrogen, a chocolate encrusted waffle cone filled with brie and pork confit, and pan seared chocolate and coffee encrusted duck breasts as part of our 9 course free for all.
3. Where should we stay when we visit?
I would challenge you to find a community with more quirk than Des Moines. You see, Des Moines has quirk in spades. If you happened to visit Des Moines, I would recommend staying at The Suites of 800 Locust. The hotel was developed by an actual original member of REO Speedwagon, who happens to be a native Des Moines property and real estate developer. His goal was to take the best elements of his experience on tour and incorporate them into a boutique property in the heart of town.
See? Quirk. While there, you can see that the face of Des Moines is changing. Construction and development everywhere, with 10,000 new residential units currently being built downtown. This has spawned several new restaurants, bars and has revitalized Des Moines downtown entertainment areas. Traffic jams are nonexistent, and there is plenty to get involved in to keep you busy. If you’re bored you quickly learn to make your own fun.
As an example, I would expect that you probably don’t even own a mullet photo album yet. You should see the colorful plumage that struts around the State Fair in August. It’s quite breathtaking, really. Your coffee table needs one. Is Des Moines New York? No, but if you want to experience New York why would you travel to Des Moines in the first place?
4. What qualities do you find irresistible in a woman?
I look for an intelligent, creative, sophisticated, I-just-roll-out-of-bed-in-the-morning-and-manage-to-look-this-good-all-the-time supervixen. I fully expect her to roll her eyes at me on a regular basis and be my full time partner in crime. Our mischief will be interplanetary.
5. Where can we find you on a free Sunday afternoon?
My best Sundays are ideally spent with the following sequential formula: No Alarm Clock. Great sex. A long run. Spinning records while making Coffee and a Breakfast Recipe from my shelf of cookbooks. This is enjoyed over The New York Times, New Scientist, & The Economist . The food coma is avoided with Japanese lessons and two undisturbed hours in front of my computer working on my novel.
My afternoons are usually spent catching up with my brothers who live in Boise and Chicago, respectively. The rest of the day is preferably spent outdoors—soccer, hiking, picnics, you name it.
6. What do you love most about your hometown (besides our arrival)?
What do I love most about my hometown? Rural obliviousness. Genuine people. The ability to see the clouds of the Milky Way at night with the naked eye. Fireflies.
7. What should we bring when we visit? What should we leave with?
You should bring the following things:
1) An appetite. Both for my cooking and that of my fellow Iowans. We actually have space for gardens, and that means delicious fresh produce. Check out our Farmer’s Market every Saturday downtown in the spring, summer and late fall.
2) A digital camera. For State Fair fashion SWAT.
3) A stargazing blanket. For obvious reasons.
4) A bicycle. For RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa)…Lance Armstrong was a big fan last year.
5) Visa, MasterCard or American Express. For the Des Moines Art Festival which is one of the nation’s largest and most organized Art Festivals in America. We draw talent from all over North America, and it’s a sight to behold.
6) Time to Volunteer. I sit on the boards for two volunteer organizations in Des Moines, one for the fabulous Des Moines Art Center and another for the Des Moines 20/30 Society. I am extremely passionate about making Des Moines a better place to live, work, and create for young people. I also spend my days increasing my city’s global awareness through the American Red Cross programs and organizations like Des Moines for Darfur. I am extremely politically active.
8. What do we absolutely have to see while we’re there?
You absolutely need to see a triple A Iowa Cub’s baseball game. You can either watch it at the ballpark with hot dogs, beer, and nachos or you can go with me to my friend Kevin’s adjacent loft building and watch the game with us on the roof of Browncamp Lofts. Our menu is usually Thai chili mojitos (a recipe I picked up from Rye in San Francisco on last year’s 4th of July, cheers guys!), champagne, and whatever we imagine plating that day. It’s a spectacle.
I would also encourage you to join me on the annual Dam to Dam run, which is a half marathon precursor to the Des Moines Marathon. Personally, I am training to run in Chicago this year, partly because I really want to check out Millennium Park again, but honestly I just want to see my brother perform improv at the Annoyance Theater.
You also want to be sure to plan a visit around my friend Liza’s Grey Market. Liza’s a Tango Diva of the highest caliber, and she puts on a temporary shopping emporium called The Grey Market. The Grey Market features unique designers with ties in Iowa, and it’s very much like a creative homecoming. The event usually kicks off with a huge fashion show, cocktails, and a surprisingly hip & personable crowd. It’s a great time for fashionistas, and it’s a great place to find one of a kind stuff.
9. Any areas of town we should avoid?
Avoid West Des Moines. You will drown in the khaki & beige.
10. Any local secrets you want to share?
Local secrets I want to share? What’s in it for me? :P