Sunday, July 24, 2005

Crack Must Now Be Legal

I warned all of you that there may be an occasional tirade about something other than food on this blog. Hopefully, there will not be many, but this is going to be the first.

As I had the whole weekend off, I decided that I would take up my friend Carrie's invitation to a cook out at her house in Indianapolis. So, Saturday morning around 8:30, I hop into the Monte Carlo and pretend I'm a mouse in a maze navigating through downtown Peoria and East Peoria to get to east-bound I-74. Once situated heading east, I arm the radar detector, pop in Indigenous' "Long Way Home" CD and set the cruise control at a speed that would make Dale Earnhart, Jr. envious in pit row. As soon as I get to Goodfield, there it is: road construction..down to one lane all the way to the Mackinaw River Bridge. I head up the hill by the rest area, and lo and behold, MORE road construction for seemingly endless miles. And if that isn't bad enough, whatever the semi in front of me was hauling smelled like it had been in Mexico last night eating refried beans and drinking tequila - WHEW!! I get to Bloomington and the same road construction that has been going on there since chariot times, is STILL going on. By then, my nerves are shattered. I have musician friends who live in Bloomington but frequent Peoria. You people must be saints driving through this all the time without impaling a flute through someone's head.

I would really like to know who is responsible for this. I mean what normal, common sense, non-bribed, unadulterated by any substance, legal or otherwise, person would approve three major road construction projects at the same time within a 45 mile stretch between two of the largest cities in downstate Illinois? Did this person actually think that motorist and commercial trafficers wouldn't notice? Did they think that we would enjoy slowing down to take in the spectacular scenery of corn plants withering in 100 degree heat? A sane person could not be responsible. At this point, I can only venture guesses to why someone would do this and this is what I came up with: 1. the people are responsible are actually outerspace aliens and don't rely on roads for transportation, thusly not understanding the inconvenience. 2. They live in Chicago and thought we'd enjoy some crappy driving conditions for awhile. 3. they are on mind and judgement altering substances. I'll venture into this one a bit. I know it's not alcohol, because I've been beyond intoxicated many times and even in this state I would never have approved this crap. I can't say that I've used enough illegal drugs to have a knowledgeable opinion of their effects, but at no time under their influence would I ever have committed this trifecta of heinous acts of roadwork debauchery. So, I haven't tried crack, heroin or crystal meth. I know they aren't on heroin, because if you look at Keith Richards, he is usually incapable of knowing which end of his guitar to strum, let alone sign his name, so heroin is out. Most of our legislators look too overweight and speak coherently enough (even though they really don't SAY anything) so that rules out meth. That leaves crack. Now as far as I know, crack is still illegal. But since our legislators, their appointees and other governmental fruitloops and flunkies would NEVER do ANYTHING illegal or unscrupulous to cause them shame if caught, my thought is that they have secretly made smoking crack legal and THAT explains why the idiot who thought making I-74 through Peoria all the way through Bloomington look like Iraq was a good idea: he was smoking legal crack. There is no other possible explanation.

In this heat, which causes more irribility than normal, I would be very cautious of this stretch of road due to increased chances of road rage. If you happen to fall victim, I'd sue IDOT.

While I'm at it, a few more observations and ridicules:

1. Giant pickup trucks pulling huge campers - south. Isn't it hot enough here that you feel the need to get 1 mile to the gallon to go somewhere HOTTER?

2. I've been driving for miles without any interaction with any other vehicles. I come up behind two semis following each other. What in the world, at the last second, possesses the rear semi to suddenly think he needs to pass the leading semi....uphill..blocking both lanes..going 55 mph for the next 7 miles. Think they need to go to AA...Assholes Annonymous. Also goes for those who tool around in the left, ie PASSING, lane at 64.5 miles per hour. GET IN THE RIGHT LANE!!!

3. "Hit a worker, $10,000 fine, 14 years in jail" signs. I really hope no one gets hurt building or maintaining our roads. But it irritates the hell out of me. Why do they get a sign and special treatment? Where was my grandfather's sign? I didn't see any "Dislocate farmer of 45 years, he has a stroke within a month of relocation and dies, get a $10,000 fine and 14 years in prison" signs anywhere. No $10,000 fines and 14 years in Pontiac Correctional Facility for killing farmers. Are construction workers more important than farmers? The unposted sign outside Jim Thompson's governor office read something like: "We government people responsible for getting I-155 built get a frikkin' Cristal party since we managed to build a nice shiny highway connecting those two major business and economical powerhouse cities of Morton and Lincoln at the expense of farmers". I'm sure the state is much better off. Yes, I'm still bitter.

4. I noticed that Indiana has a 70 mile per hour speed limit. So does Iowa. And Missouri. So Illinois is like a giant speed trap. Come' on Gov. B, gets some "big ones" & put some ink on some paper and at least lower the embarrasment level of Illinois roads by raising the speed limit; well at least on those 2 roads somewhere in the state that have no road construction going on.

See you stuck in traffic.....

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yamamoto Japanese Grill & Sushi

Recently, one of the associates (read: people I boss around) at GFS asked me if I had eaten at Yamamoto's yet. I replied Yamawhata's?? So, I decided to check the joint out. Located in the old Lums building on Knoxville (for you Peoria newbies, 1621 N. Knoxville, just south of Cub Foods). Anyway, going in the door, I noticed today's "Dining Out" review from the Peoria Journal Star hanging on the wall. Lotsa stars...my favorite...stars. Anyway, read the PJS review at http://www.pjstar.com/stories/072105/DIN_B70D465V.027.shtml Sorry Ms. Howard, I gotta pick at you a bit, even though you did give me a whole lot of stars when you reviewed my restaurant 3 years ago. What's wrong with this article people?? I'll post my "what's wrong with this article" gripe at the end of this blog.

Anyway, it certainly does not resemble Lums or any other restaurants in this building since Lums...thank God. Since this was a spur of the moment idea, I'm dining by myself. So, I get seated with a family and a few of their friends at one of the giant flat tops. One of the guys & I recognize each other from where I work. There is quite of bit of stuff on this menu...not as expansive as Sushi Popo, though. About 25 appetizers\sushi\sashimi offerings and the same amount of dinner entrees. Most entrees start at $14 and run to mid $30's. I opted for the Chicken & Shrimp combo and iced tea. Yep, the usual watery iced tea you get at most Pacific Rim style restaurants. But it was refilled constantly. Dinner starts by the waitress bringing me a Japanese onion soup. Light, tasty, refreshing, little onion, garnished with chives and raw sliced white mushrooms. The salad came next. Thought that a bit odd...an American style iceberg lettuce salad (at a Japanese restaurant) with an orange\ginger\sesame oil dressing. There was enough left over dressing at the bottom of my bowl to toss with the whole lettuce section at Schnucks with, but nevertheless, it was tasty, too. While starting my salad, which I attempted with chopsticks, the Hibachi grill chef shows up and starts his speil. He poured our dipping sauces into individual bowls and distributed them to each person. Then the flipping and banging of utensils start. Well, the one utensil breaks loose from his control and carreens right at me knocking over my dipping sauces. He stops his routine, apologizes and half-ass cleans it up. He proceeds with darn good skill at fixing the shrimp\veggie appetizer and distributing it amongst the six of us. The shrimp were perfectly prepared and lightly seasoned with what is probably a combination of soy and teriyaki sauces. The veggies the same way. Just kind of non descript flavor...I guess that is what the two dipping sauces are for (if you have any left after accidental spatula flinging incidents). The waitress appears with the obligatory white luke warm sticky rice. He prepares everyone's order at once actually taking cooking temps for beef. My shrimp arrived a bit before the chicken and then he whooped up some cabbage. Same non descript flavors. Chicken is a little dry and cut into some pretty diminutive pieces, though a lot of them. OK. I know some of you are going to say "Hey, jerk-off, Japanese cuisine is SUPPOSED to be delicately seasoned!!" To which I would respond "Maybe so, but they do season foods with DIFFERENT ingredients!". The ginger sauce goes well with the seasonings on the chix and shrimp, the horseradish sauce, not so. So, I'm done. The show was fun but I'm not overly impressed for $22 & change. I'm going to go back to try the sushi, but if I want banging, chopping, flipping, and stir frying, I'll do so at home instead of doing this again. Usually, I don't go to restaurants until they have been open awhile so they can work the quirks out, so maybe I'm judging harshly.

So what's wrong with Ms. Howard's article besides I don't agree with all her stars (except the service ones)? Except for a few minor descriptors, does she REALLY tell you anything about the food? Why are you there?

See you around the table.....

Monday, July 18, 2005

Don't Forget The Little Guys.

This past Sunday (July 17) I cooked brunch at Panache. It was a hot and humid scorcher of a day (not to be confused with "it was a dark and stormy night"). I'm sorry to report that it was probably the worst sales day that I encountered while working Sundays at Panache. What is worse, is that food wise, I outdid myself. Yeah, yeah, it's one of those rare instances where I actually pat myself on the back. The "Poor Knights" were exquisite: Fedora's bread, lightly battered then dusted with cornflake crumbs, sautee'd in butter until golden brown and topped with a highly flavored apple compote. As well as that sounds, the Seafood Etouffee with poached eggs was probably one of the two best Creole style dishes I've ever created: rich, flavorful with a sneaky amount of Cajun heat. Not to be left behind, I don't know when I created as many omelettes that I would consider perfect as I did Sunday. Oh, well.

Now that I've got you slobbering like a St. Bernard after a 5 mile run which causes your keyboard electrical failure, the point of this isn't to WOW you with my culinary talents. Nor is it an attempt to drum up biz for Panache. I'm not really even trying to make you feel bad. But what am am trying to do is this: Don't forget the "little guys" this summer and fall. Yes, there are many one time fairs, festivals and riverfront events going on this time of year that you can only enjoy when they are here and now. However, when I go past a little independently owned restaurant on a Saturday night at 7 pm and see 4 cars in the parking lot, I wince. I hear so much bitching that there are more and more chain restaurants and less "good" places to eat in Peoria, yet the support to keep the little guy alive in the summer and early fall is damned near non existent. I pledge that this summer and fall, I am not going to eat at any big chain restaurants, so don't bother to ask me to go.

So, if you are going to go blow your hard earned dollars on $4 lemonade shake ups, greasy elephant ears and riverfront gyros on the weekend, at least during the week, blow off the big chain joints and keep the little guy going. Join me in my pledge. If you want the nice little independent guy there this fall & winter when there isn't a damned thing going on in this city, you got to support them in the summer, too. I see\hear the slogan "Support the Arts in Peoria"..to me, that means the culinary arts, too. And I'm not talking about the Chili's and Applebees of the world, either.

See you around the table......

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fedoras

I'm sure some of you have been wondering "why hasn't Kevin posted any reviews lately? Obviously, he's eating as he isn't thin yet." Well, I had this 3rd of July social gathering at my house and there were some leftovers, so I'm finishing those off. It's already paid for, so I'm sort of eating cheap for the week.

Anyway, tired of the leftover scene, I decided to stop at one of my occasional places to grab a quick bite on the way home...well, it's really not on my way home..I can go home that way, but not the preferred route. Fedora's. Now, I guess this really isn't a review...it's more of a commercial that Nabil & his dad aren't paying me for. I love Fedora's. I think we probably have all been there at one time or another, or have had their food, and it's just a joint we (shouldn't) forget about. So, I figure that if I give them a jingle before leaving work and place my order, it should be ready & waiting when I get there. Don't get me wrong, it never really takes them long to get it ready if you just stop in, but I might have to rush right home to avoid cleaning my carpets or dusting. I rarely eat there...talk about totally void of any decor plus the outside surroundings aren't much to look at either unless you are staking out your next drive by of BP\Amoco gas stations.

Anyway, I almost always order the New Yorker: corned beef, pastrami, swiss cheese, kraut, mustard, Fedora sauce all on their wonderful home made bread and served toasty warm. They hollow the bread out a bit so the ingredients stay nicely tucked inside the bread while you are eating it. A side note about their bread: It's got a hint of sweetness to it, but not as sweet like Avanti's, that makes it interesting (and far better than Avanti's). You can get tomatoes for an extra quarter, but why? This sandwich is very tasty as is, you're lucky to finish it all and you get a few pennies back from a paper Lincoln. And it is loaded with stuff..not like Subway (which after eating there several months ago, I now realize why that Jared guy lost so much weight...there is hardly anything on their sandwiches!!). Other recommendations are the Spicy Italian and the Superior Sub...good luck eating 1/2 of Superior Sub on your own. You can also buy a loaf (or more, I guess) of their bread. I always forget about this when I need good bread. I must have good bread dementia.

Of course, this sandwich is making the Monte Carlo smell good all the way home. I can't stand it and start picking at it while waiting to turn right onto Prospect from McClure behind some guy who doesn't understand the "right on red" concept. I've heard a bizillion times that Fedora's pizza is wonderful so I'm gonna have to try it someday. I've also have been told by someone who eats out far more than I do, that they also have really good gyros. But since this info. comes from a person who is on my "last 5 people I care to be around" list, I'm refraining from any endorsement. In case you're wondering where this "beat the hell out of Avanti's and Subway" sandwich joint is, it's at the corner of University and McClure.

See you around the table........