Monday, October 31, 2005

I've been bad.

That's right, I've been bad. In fact, I've been bad several times of late. You know, sometimes bad is good, but not necessarily in this case. I feel like I should be in some culinary confessional...forgive me Escoffier, for I have sinned. Eh, that's a bit much.

I said in a previous blog that I wouldn't eat at any chain restaurants this summer\fall. Well, I did...actually twice. Old Chicago. Truth be known, though, both times were before Civic Center events on Sundays. Not too many independents around downtown open on Sunday night. I don't blame them, I wouldn't be open either if I was "a little guy" in the downtown area on Sunday night.

And I've been bad again. I haven't done an area restaurant review in ages. Actually, folks, I haven't been eating out. For some strange reason I just have felt like cooking at home. Whether it be leftovers from a social gathering, getting a good deal (or free - which I guess could still be considered a good deal) on something at work, or mom bringing over a sample of some new recipe she found (mom, throw that hamball recipe, on second thought, put it in the don't want anyone to find that one). Don't think I'm harsh on mom here; she told me it sucked. (and brings me some anyway...feel the love, feel the love) So I shall make an attempt to nourish myself at some locale and post upon it. I have a feeling it may be in a bar-like location as I'm working late most of the week.

And yes, I've been bad a third time. A few weeks ago I did eat at Jalapeno's on Pioneer Parkway and completely forgot about writing a review. I don't remember what I had..some sort of pork tenderloin smothered in peppers. All I can say is Cinco de Mayo, watch yourself. I've received slower service going through a fast food drive through. I couldn't believe how fast the food came out and it was really couldn't have taken more than a few minutes. Speaking for my accomplice in culinary spying, reviewing, etc., I'm sure she would agree. So, unless viewing walls that look like someone with 6 colors of paint was painting while on ecstasy and speed at the same time bothers you, go to Jalapenos.

You guessed it. Four times is one time more than a charm. Yep, bad for a fourth and I'm pretty sure, a final time, well at least for now, anyway. Well, I don't know if I'm actually bad. I quit drinking so much Sam Adams. Been bouncing around drinking Dortmunder DAB and every so often Heineken. It confuses bartenders. They look at me in disbelief when they reach for my beloved SA and I say, "no, I'm kinda in the mood for a DAB". They look like deer caught in headlights. I apologize..just need to spice up my life a bit and thought I'd start with my beer. However, I think I'm going to stop this practice. It slows things down. Sometimes there are lines of people waiting for service, but they see me coming and just pop a Sam for waiting. Gotta love that. But now, with beer confusion.....

So, those are my culinary confessions. Hope there is no penance...think I've stated my case well.

See you around the table....

Monday, October 17, 2005

On Vacation

Yep - I've been out of P-town. First true vacation in a looooong time. What I mean by true is actually going somewhere; just not staying away from work for several days so I could stay home and yank crabgrass out of my yard. Went to Tybee island GA...yeah some dinky island off the coast of Savannah. So, I'm going to do my critique of Tybee Island and a few non T.I. joints. Not that anyone is going to go there that I know of, but it will be a fun way to waste some time reading this at work, huh?

First place we went was Bahama Bob's. At 3:30 pm on a Tuesday it was pretty dead. The happiest waitress we had on the whole trip was here. We had a starter of "spicy" Caribbean mussels. Nothing spicy or Caribbean about them. Actually, quite French. Served in a broth of wine, tons of garlic, butter and parsley. My friend had a baked pasta and crab augratin. Different idea and pretty tasty. I had an oyster and crawfish Po'Boy. Wasn't too exciting...think they fried the water critters a bit too long and just plopped them on a hoagie roll. Slaw was pretty good. You'll find a lot of slaw in these's like a prerequisite for all seafood offerings on Tybee. The waitpeople should just come up to the table and say "And what would you like with your coleslaw, sir?" She did bring us a sample of each of their daily soups: a seafood stew and a crab chowder. Both were worthy of ordering a bowl, but I refrained.

Late night we went down to Fannie's, which is about a half block to the ocean from where we stayed (I know, I suck) and had oysters on the half shell and a pizza called the "Chic from Gorgonzola". We went from the friendliest server to the grouchiest (do you know that when you spell check grouchiest that "gassiest" comes up as the the suggested replacement word...hmmm... maybe THAT explains her attitude) in the matter of hours. The oysters sucked. think they cooked them. Didn't say anything about cooked on the menu. The pizza had chicken, pecans, yellow bell peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. It was supposed to have gorgonzola, but I was hard pressed to find it and would have put $$ against it. We found out one thing about Fannie''s close...that's all I can say for it. The food eventually got better, but the service was sporadic at best.

Next day we scooted off to my old stomping grounds of Hilton Head Island. Lots has changed. We had lunch at the British Open Pub serving, you guessed it, British (or at least that whole Isle up there, Scottish, etc.) food. There were quite a few people there speaking the Queen's English and proclaiming the fish & chips were excellent. So, we tried the fish & chips. It was a very light beer battered flounder and the Brits were right. The "chips" i.e. fries, were some very oddly cut potato...looked like two fries fused together and more dense and crispy than normal fries..maybe they have some undersea connection with a black market British "chips" company. I had the beef tenderloin tips with mushrooms in gravy and mashed potatoes. Tasty and tender beef, fresh mushrooms and real mashed tators. The Beamish Stout draft ran out and they didn't have another keg cold. What kind of English joint is this? That's OK, the other beer (can't remember, something I had not heard of) was pretty good. Not much slaw here, apparently the English don't eat slaw or they call it something else to disguise it (sort of the "chips" vs. "fries" thing).

After a hard day of shopping Hilton Head, we went to the Old Oyster Factory. Ended up dropping some serious dime here and well worth it. Sat outside overlooking an inner island salt marsh water way. Started off with a crabcake appetizer with chile-lime tartar sauce. A 4 oz. cake with a nice amount of seasoning, lightly browned and contained a good amount of lump crabmeat. Next was the special of the night: wolffish. I remember having this at culinary school, but that was the extent of my recollection. Anyway, it was perfectly sauteed and served with basil laced mashed potatoes, seafood demi glace and properly cooked green beans..not too crisp, not limp. My dining companion had the Neptune array of lightly fried seafoods. After two glasses of wine and all this food, I still couldn't resist dessert. Mascarpone ice cream with mango and raspberry sauces garnished with fresh berries. Damn!! Accompanied by a glass of German Beerenauslese!! AAAYYHHH!!! Waistline increased, wallet decreased, but feeling fine drivin' back to Tybee.

Up at the crack of 9:30 am we headed off to Savannah. Not a big day of eating but they are changing kegs at The Warehouse Bar. Lunch was at One Eyed Lizzy's which is a Mexican joint of all things. Had the crab chowder to start. VERY GOOD...wouldn't expect something this good at a bar. Loaded with crab and potatoes. We were discussing that we thought the menu said crab & corn chowder, but we didn't see any corn, which means more crab, right? Cool. And the reason we picked this place? There was a menu items we saw on their menu posted outside called a Grouper Reuben. Toasted rye bread, 1000 Island, slaw (what else?) and a lightly breaded piece of fried grouper. Kinda hard to eat, but thumbs up. Almost too much food. While waiting for the sandwiches to arrive, we were entertained by a group of secret service looking people hovering around outside. Guess someone important was around, but the employees couldn't find any info. Why I say S.S. looking was that they didn't look too secret service wannabes or BR549 secret service or Police Academy Secret Service. This was it for food today.

Slow day again for food. Had three beers at Sting Rays and a Crabcake Sandwich at some joint I don't remember...and that is all I remember about the sandwich and the bar: both were pretty nondescript. Too exhausted from climbing the stairs to the top of the Tybee Island Lighthouse which is the oldest and highest lighthouse in Georgia...Guess Sherman burned down all the lighthouses in Atlanta. Nevermind. Great view from up there.

I think it's Saturday now and off we go to the much ballyhooed Crab Shack. Oysters on the half shell with sour cream and caviar. How Ruusky is that? Damned huge oysters... Jose Canseco must have been juicin' these O's up!! Juicy, sweet and salty MMMMMMM. Followed by boiled shrimp and a devilled crab cake (and two Sam Adams) Boiled Shrimp were really good, the coleslaw third best of all we tried and the crabcake, while having a good flavor, was a bit dry, I'm guessing bread crumbs are cheaper than crab.

Somewhere during the day I think we stopped at a few places for beers and went to Fannie's and had nachos. Interesting...had chili on them. Homemade chips. NO SLAW. How can you eat nachos in Tybee without slaw?!?! Server was lost most of the time spent there.

Dinner at Cafe Loco. It's right where you get on the island of Tybee. Old rundown lookin joint, but pretty funky inside. I was looking forward towards their Low Country boiled dinner all week. After listening to some loud drunk yahoo who just drank beer and kept ordering extra crackers and was eating them with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce instead of ordering anything, I was disappointed with my "boiled dinner" which took FOREVER. Nice shrimp, tasty sausage, soggy ass corn on the cob, and what appeared to be a sliced baked potato all served dry. Now, I'm not an expert on Low Country Boiled Dinners but this is what I remember fixin' on Hilton Head 12 years ago: Ya saute some onion, carrot and celery. Ya add yer smoked sausage and pre-BOILED quartered new potatoes. Saute a bit more. Add yer corn on the cob. Add just enough seafood stock to come up about 1/4 way up the corn. Add spices. Cover the pan. Cook 8 minutes shaking ocassionally. Add shrimp and\or other seafood. Cover. Cook about 4 minutes. Remove food into bowl and ladle about 6 oz. of liquid on top. Serve with some crusty bread. Obviously mine sounds better. Guess there has been some changes in Low Country boils since I left. Now, for the most part, I've only been commenting on my food as I didn't take notes...I was on vacation. BUT, my dining companion's flounder was tied for best fried anything while we were there. Very lightly breaded with a great seasoning and very moist. Second best coleslaw...yeah, we were keeping track.

Went back to Fannie's (think we would learn a lesson here) as they were having entertainment on the upstairs desk overlooking the ocean (I know, I suck again). Forgettable opening act. The next guy could turn any song into Boogie woogie style of blues...even Fur Elise by Beethoven. Some people are entertainers, this guy was entertaining. Even though, give me Kevin Hart doing some Latin Jazz or Joe Metzka makin' his Strat scream some vintage blues anyday.

Sunday before leaving: Sting Rays. Go here first and you will be spoiled the rest of your trip. Can't say much about the server..OK. The night I stopped there for a few beers, the bartendress (Ali) was as southern friendly as they get. However, The oysters there were also hooked up by Jose, but a little watery. Was a bit disappointed they didn't loosen the oysters from the shell. A touch of salt and Tabasco brought out the flavors of these monsters. Boiled we had. Sweet, juicy, great seasoning. Grouper Po'Boy. This grouper was as equally as good as the previous night's flounder..pitted side by side, it would have been a rough choice as to which was better. Very lightly breaded and fried. I went with a Po'Boy again as I was slightly disappointed with the first day's Po'Boy. Same M.O. Fried fish on a Hoagie bun. Lettuce, tomato, onion, tartar sauce, etc. all served on the side. I guess you could fry up a boneless, skinless chicken breast, toss it on a hoagie roll and call it a chicken Po'Boy. Fries were pretty good. Out of a bag, I'm sure, but somewhere in size between your usual McDonald's size and Steak & Shake's shoestrings and uniquely seasoned.

So, a few observations.

1. Somewhere nearby, there has to be a cabbage plantation the size of Alaska...slaw, slaw, slaw.

2. If you go to Tybee, order boiled shrimp. If you follow Rachael Ray on the Food Network, she does a show called $40 a day or something like that. $28 of boiled shrimp and $12 of beer works for me and why the hell not?

3. Learn to appreciate slaw.

4. After having some incredible fried fish there, I wonder why us Peorians have to have enough breading on our fish to mummify it until 3097. Maybe because it's catfish...I mean I've seen fried catfish in Peoria encrusted in breading so stiff and thick that L.A. and New Orleans police departments are ordering them by the hundreds for beating devices. "No, judge, a fried catfish is not a lethal weapon". Some poor victim would look stupid claiming they were beat silly with a catfish.

5. We never refused the slaw...the rating system became a running joke. I'm sure if we refused slaw, the place would be in chaos and might as well have been hit by Katrina.

6. Now usually, I'm the first person to seek out the places where the locals hang out. This ain't the case. Maybe it's because it's "after the season" and they have had one too many 40 year old, semi balding damned Yankees perched in their joint. These places seemed to house the most inattentive, grouchy, salty (just had to use the term) people we encountered. Go to the tourist trap restaurants...they know what side their bread is buttered on.

7. No more slaw references, I promise. And I promise, the next time I cook I won't prepare any slaw.

6. On Tybee, you can walk down the street, beach, where ever (the police station might be pushing it) with a drink (& I do mean alcohol, baby) in your hand!!! How cool is that? It has to be in a plastic cup though.

6. Sorry. No Starbucks, McDonald's or Dominos. Thank God. If for no other reason this is why I would move there. Culinary integrity. There is an Arby's (which we saw the employees sitting outside on a park bench more than we saw them inside and the building and grounds looked like it could use some assistance), a Blimpie's and what looked like an out of business Subway, or maybe it was just closed for the season. There is an IGA grocery store that looks like it has been there awhile. This is a cool culinary place. Now if I could sell my house for $350,000 so I could buy a 850 square foot, one bedroom hut for the same amount on Tybee.

Well, this is getting lengthy for a blog that will probably be of use to few to no people. However, it does allow me to write about some tasty culinary memories.

See you around the table....

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm badmouthin' someone again....

What the hell does this mean:

"Nagin (mayor of New Orleans) announced with "great sadness" that he had been unable to find the money to keep the workers (N.O. governmental employees) on the payroll. He said only non-essential workers will be laid off and that no firefighters or police will be among those let go. "I wish I didn't have to do this. I wish we had the money, the resources to keep these people," Nagin said. "The problem we have is we have no revenue streams." Nagin described the layoffs as "pretty permanent" and said that the city will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to notify municipal employees who fled the city in the aftermath of Katrina, which struck about a month ago. The mayor said the move will save about $5 million to $8 million of the monthly payroll...."

WTF??? Why the heck do we have non-essential workers making 5-8 million a month? No wonder the government is broke. If they are non-essential, why are they "working" and drawing a paycheck in the first place? What exactly do non essential workers do for $8 million? I know!! They develop the laws that make crack legal in certain locales!! Stoopid me!! The city of N.O. has no money but are going to spend Lord knows how much money they don't have to notify the people who abandoned their jobs that they no longer have a job? Please God, give me one percent of the money that our government spends in a month on sheer ignorant stupidity.

See you around the table (if I'm not under it from drinking too much trying to figure this one out)....

Sunday, October 02, 2005

On My Soapbox - Once Again

Yep, another blog that is non-food related; but I warned you, didn't I? Nod yes.

My latest "you have got to be kidding me" rant is with the DCFS. Not so much the DCFS, but those people crying for reform of the agency. While I'm sure it's not perfect, I'm projecting it's efforts and end results are probably more beneficial for the children than the situations from which the child is removed. Oh, I'm speaking out of my ass (ala Jim Carey)? My sister is a foster parent...I've heard the stories from which her kids were pulled and unbelievably the conditions that exist that the parents want to bring them back to. YIKES!! (Once again, a possible legal crack smoking incident - I must investigate, post haste.) Granted, they may be DCFS's version vs. the parents' version, but I have little faith in what would be the parents' versions when I've seen the results of their child rearing "efforts".

Recent PJ Star articles suggest that the DCFS targets the poor, especially blacks. I'm not saying it does or does not. What I am saying is this: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, baby. There are several layers of needs in a person's life. The first are the basic necessities in life: food, water, shelter, clothes and love. And if you want my dime store psychology, Maslow probably should have thrown in basic education in there somewhere, but hey, he's the brainiac between the two of us. Now if you have, or choose to have children and you can't provide (and notice I didn't say afford - love costs little to nothing) them with the very basics in life, maybe you shouldn't have, choose to have or produce more children. People may be able to afford children, but if they provide anything from a loveless to a dangerous environment and\or expose their children to it....well? The age old saying is that children are a product of their environment. I've seen first hand what some environments are producing. To mock quote one of my unfavorite celebrities "It's not a good thing".

I love this statement. It was in the Peoria Journal Star (and helped prompt this blog) "Clark's grandchildren then were placed on a farm with white foster parents in Peoria County, far from other family members, their African-American culture and their community, Clark said." Fair enough. I don't why Clark's grandchildren were taken away. Whatever reason(s) or condition(s) that existed which caused DCFS to pull these kids was probably not teaching them anything positive about "their family members, their African-American culture and their community" in the first place. Opps! Before you call me a racist, I didn't make the initial race comment, I didn't bring it up, I'm just commenting on what Ms. Clark was lamenting. And to add to that, the children my sis has fostered have been white, thusly white folk have negative issues of some sort just as well.

After reading the article, it is apparent more and more cases are happening and the "system" can't keep up. What's that telling us? We need to pay more lawyers, judges, case workers, etc.? Well, I guess that depends on what side of the fence you sit. Not on my side of the fence. The side on which I sit says if you can't properly provide, care for, love and educate your children, do not have any or do not have more. If you can't provide, seek help from your family. After that, your option become the government and with the government, you've got to play by their rules, like it or not. If I choose to drive 95 mph through a school zone and get my license yanked, well I screwed with Uncle Sammy & lost. People complain they want less government in their life...until they want something or feel their rights have been violated; then they want more government. When the government doesn't side with them, they want less government again. Believe me, in one sense or another, I've been there.

See you around the table......