Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Oh, come on, Mom (no, not MY mom), GET REAL!!

I'm reading this story about the 25 yr. old female teacher in FL who had sex several times with a 14 yr. male old student. She has pleaded guilty to two lesser charges of lewd behavior (or something of the sort).

Ok, here comes my thoughts, no facts. There are very young teens willingly having sex. We know this. We see this (well, not really, but when you see a 15 year old girl pushing her kid in a stroller, ya got a clue it isn't Jesus, part 2). I'm not 100% confident they are fully aware of all the consequences (mental, emotional, physical)of their actions, but it's happening. I don't know about young women, but high school freshman guys' hormones are starting to be in pretty high gear at about this age. So, this 14 year old kid in FL has this fairly attractive 25 year old blonde teacher getting in his pants. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, appropriate or not (but I know if it was a 25 year old male teacher & a 14 year old female student, I'd bet $5 the guy wouldn't be getting off on two counts of lewd behavior charges, ya think?) But I can't help thinking that a. he probably wasn't was forced into it (especially more than once) b. he had too many objections since it happened several times c. he was probably braggin' to his buddies what he was "gettin'". Which leads to:

His mother said after the plea bargaining (paraphrased): He is a pretty emotionally stable kid, he doesn't seem traumatized by it. I'm sure he's glad it's over.

Say what?!? Glad what is over and traumatized by what? Having sex with an older woman or all the flippin' media coverage that has been hounding him\his family\the school\the teacher for the last 3 months? I dunno, I just don't think too many 14 year old guys would be complaining (or being traumatized, no less) about having sex with an older, attractive woman. I guess maybe the idea of her husband finding out could prove traumatic. But now I'm sure the poor boy is going to need all sorts of counseling.......Yeah, right.

But the REAL FUNNY part is this: Apparently one of their sexual escapades happened in the back seat of a car WHILE this kid's 15 year old cousin was driving them around. Why is a 15 year old driving? Is it because there was an adult in the car? Great. A 15 year old driving around town with people having sex in the back seat PLUS all the 80 year olds in their Cadillacs running amuck on the same streets. If all the hurricanes aren't bad enough, here's one more reason NOT to go to Florida.

I have no clue to why I am blogging about this. While the subject itself is of a serious matter the "mom comment" and the sexual escapades tour guide was just far too wacky for me not to comment.

Gotta have a glass of wine after this one....

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Restaurant Wine Prices

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've dined (not just eaten) at some pretty spiffy Peoria restaurants. I still have to post on one. I've been looking at wine prices by the bottle.

Come 'on people, I've seen bottles at 3-4 times RETAIL let alone wholesale. Tired of gouging me? I am. Now, if you had nice glassware like the Wine Experience and I never had to pick up the bottle because the wait person was keeping it full, maybe, just maybe I could see it.

Think I'm full of sh*t? Foppiano Petite Sirah retails around $15.00 and Beringer's Knight's Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $22ish. At an upscale New York Hudson Valley restaurant (where dinner runs about $55...per person), these sell for $32 and $48 respectively. But a $16 retail bottle of recent vintage California Cab selling for $47 on a Peoria area wine list? That's bending me (and others) over.

So, in the future I'm going to call and ask what their corkage fee is. I'll bring my own. If you follow in my footsteps make sure you have the decency to bring something that is NOT on their wine list. Also, bringing something like Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio or Sutter Home White Zinfandel makes no sense, either. Why pay $15 corkage fee on a $5 bottle of wine? Bring 1966 Pichon Lalande and get them to decant it for you, too for the $15.

See you around the table.....

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Seven, part two

So, I've gone back under the "arm twisting" of a close personal friend who vehemently claimed we previously had a horrid experience and "much better" was the norm. Without going into a lot of detail, things were much better this time and were more what I would have expected. Am I posting a retraction? No.

Obviously, from this trip there is smoking allowed in the bar where we were seated both times. I guess this is "partly" our fault because we wanted to view the entertainment. Either grin and bear the smoke or just listen from afar.

Thusly, I will most likely go back again, but probably mostly for drinks. Gets a bit pricey eating there twice in one week. I'm still eager to try the beef carpaccio.

See you around the table......

Friday, November 18, 2005

Seven

I've heard nothing but good reports and have always wanted to go. Many moons ago, when the space was occupied by a bicycle shop, I thought that it would be a great place for a restaurant. It is a good place for a restaurant. But I'm sitting here, almost 24 hours after the event wondering how do I write this review. I don't pull many punches in my other reviews, why would I start now? Do I know the owners? Do I owe them money? Do I want to work there? Will they pay me to be nice? Somehow, I think the answer is the same to all of the above: NO. I have had friends who have lot better experiences than last night. Does that mean I should give them a second chance? Do I give anyone else a second chance? I guess I should work with David Spade On the Capital One commercial.

So, Seven has to really step up to impress me. I had lot higher expectations. I was told "it's usually better". Well you get one chance to make a good impression and well... I'm sure my thoughts will be in the minority of public opinion and may not be well received. Oh, frickin' well...get your own blog site.

Our reservation was at 7:15. We finished our appetizer at 8:20. It wasn't because we were indecisive. Then I lost track of how long it took until dinner showed up. No apologies or explanations except that it was noticeable that there was a party upstairs and we overheard that it was their first attempt at it. Personally, I don't think it was a wait person issue...the food was too "fresh"...obviously wasn't sitting under a light for ages. Thank God for great conversationalists at the table. The food was pretty darn good, but pinches of salt here and there made it better. We started with Napa Nachos...house made tortilla chips topped with a white cheese sauce and a pico de gallo with grilled chicken bits. Pretty tasty. I had the halibut special. Steamed (or poached) in an Asian influenced broth with ginger, straw mushrooms and some rice noodles. Served moderately warm, but not hot. I sampled the tuna menu item. The slaw was a bit bland until a pinch of salt was added and the flavors jumped alive. The sesame crusted rare tuna had a nice flavor. We had a bottle of Mia's Playground Zinfandel. Nice Zin. A dining companion brought a bottle of Bogle Phantom. Best under $20 bottle of red there is.

After dinner, we were asked twice by staff\management if the table next to us could smoke or if we would mind moving. The second time they asked, they said "We could ask them to move". Well, why didn't you? We moved. No comp'ed drink, nothing. I thought this rude. If you allow smoking in the bar, then why are you asking? If you don't allow smoking, why are you asking? I don't know, this just set me off the wrong way.

Sorry, Seven. While the food was very tasty, it wasn't so impressive that it made up for the wait, the lack of explanation by the waitperson or owner to why things were taking forever AND THEN having the balls to ask if we could move so other patrons could smoke. You have given me no real reason for wanting to go back. Since the best part of the experience (besides the company and the entertainment)is something I can do equally well or most likely better at home, I'll just have the company & entertainment over instead.........

See you around the table.....

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Schooners

After a hard morning of intensive wine shopping, I found the need for lunch. Not feeling like venturing too far from my abode, I went to Schooners on War Drive. Of course, I did have an alternate reason: Super Liquors is across the street and I may have to wine shop some more. They also have Earthquake Petite Sirah now. It's $11 a glass at The Wine Experience (yikes!!), but it's $23 in the store. If you need a wine that will turn everything it touches an inky purple black, get you feeling no pain (15.5% alcohol) and just flat out blow your socks off taste wise, this is it. They don't call it Earthquake for nuthin'. Oh, wait, this isn't a wine review (hmmm...there is a whole 'nuther blog).

Anyway, back to Schooners, the joint known for tenderloins as big as the spinners on a tricked out Escalade. As I had domestic chores to eventually get to when I got home, I consumed Pepsi. Whooppee. I ordered the Italian beef with fries. It took about 10 minutes and I entertained my self by watching a news report about some fairly attractive woman robbing banks while on her cellphone. Anyway, The fries were those generic, out of the bag plank-style fries, a ton of them and hotter than hell. The Italian beef looked like broken up pot roast - you know those bits, pieces and chunks that always seem to fall off the main roast - those tender little morsels? A plentiful portion that, along with el generic fries, more than filled me up. While I've had more flavorful Italian Beef, this wasn't too bad - I'd have it again. It was 12:45 and kinda busy but the bartender kept up and the whole experience went pretty quick (so I could go home and put off my domestic chores). Some helpful hints: order the onion rings. The guy next to me was smart enough to do so. They are obviously house battered, huge and lots of them. Sit at the middle of the bar or in the middle of the room. Schooners was toasty warm until some inconsiderate person opened the door.

Oh, and I got out for $7 + tip.

See you around the table.....

Monday, November 14, 2005

Big announcements

Well, as some of you may know (since you are privvy to my ultra exclusive e-mailings), I am trying to get a bit back in the public eye. I'm cooking at Panache on Sunday, Nov. 27 and catering Jingle & Jazz at Luthy Botanical Gardens on Thursday, December 1.

However, starting in January, I am again going to teach cooking classes. This is something I always enjoyed, but the rigors of owning my restaurant caused it not to be fun anymore. As there is a new venue in town, The Bronze Frog (in one of "out" buildings by Grand Prairie), I'm all excited. I did one for them "spur of the moment" and it was a BLAST!! It was such a good time. I certainly come out of my shell and just go nuts. Reminds me of my days fresh out of the CIA!! I just go back to cooking with reckless abandon and never shut up. My classes are already turned in for Jan. - March. If you have class topic you would like to attend, e-mail me and I will see if I can work it into April - June. Plus, they do private classes, so if you want to get a group together and have your own class by yours truly, let them know!!!

I am also going to get back to catering again. It is something that I have shyed away from over the last few years, but I'm going to "somewhat actively" search for events to cater. I don't want to do community events; moreso private in home or smaller private events. My usual mantra here is that I won't do anything that would take me much more than a day to prep, deliver\serve and clean up.

I really miss cooking people, but I've had a taste of the "good life" (not stuck in a kitchen every night and weekend while the rest of you are out having a good time) and I really have no aspirations to go back to it full on a full time basis. But Dammit...cooking is racing through my blood.

See you around the table.....

Saturday, November 12, 2005

2 Chez

Mother's birthday. So, what do you buy a woman who could buy my worth several times over? Absolutely nothing. Like dad, she wants it, she buys it. They are in their late 60's\mid 70's. They don't need anymore stuff. Mom always says it makes her happy just to sit and have lunch and chat. This is a ploy. You end up shopping too, if things aren't planned correctly, meaning you have to meet her somewhere. That somewhere for lunch was 2 Chez.

Ok, I may be a bit biased as Bill and I are both CIA grads and have known each other for years. We know that secret CIA graduate handshake and all that other good stuff. We were sat immediately and looked over them menu. Mother is making gagging noises when she finds out what calamari is. Our waiter, who I believe had a Jamaican accent, constantly confused mom...she couldn't understand him...gotta realize she lives with an old German who still sounds like an old German...in Germany. We get our iced tea and coffee. Mom orders the opened face pecan crusted chicken with honey dijon glaze and carmelized onions...without the onions. It came with a small salad. I had the spinach & duck salad with carmelized onions and toasted goat cheese. It took about 15 minutes for the food to arrive. We were entertained in the meantime by some average bread and unsalted butter. My spinach salad was a layer of de-stemmed baby spinach leaves drizzled with red wine vinaigrette with slices of rare duck breast geometrically dispersed around the plate. The breaded, toasted goat cheese sat in the middle of the plate atop the onions. Very tasty. Mother said I HAD to try the chicken as it was wonderful. Yeah, it was. All in all a very good lunch. Now, I spent $22 + tip. A bit up there for lunch, but for a nice occasion, well worth it. Chef Bill, kudos, my friend.

See you around the table.....

Whose $$ at work?

I'm driving past Glen Oak Park. It's 9:00 PM on Wednesday November 9. It's 44 degrees and the wind is cruising at about 15 mph out of the northwest. In otherwords, probably not the best night to be playing tennis. So why are courts next to Prospect all lit up like a Motley Crue concert is going on? Seems a bit wasteful, doesn't it?

I must add to this!! It is 7:15 PM Saturday 11/12. It is raining like hell, it's 55 degrees and the wind is cruising faster than Wednesday night...and the lights are on !!! There must be some really die hard tennis players in Peoria...except none were playing tonight!!

Just an observation and wondering how that fits into to my always increasing property taxes...

See you around the ping pong table......

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thai House

I went with a group of people to the Thai House in Bloomington. Thank God someone else was driving or I probably wouldn't have found it. Anyway, this is kind of a quasi-review as I didn't take good mental notes as my head was on fire. All I remember is that you turn off Veteran's Parkway across the street from a car dealership. Maybe if someone who was with me reads this they can provide some more defined directions.

There were 9 of us. I'm not a big fan of groups this size going out together, but as it was a bit later, there weren't too many tables behind us that had to wait for their food.

I think it was out waitresses's first night waiting tables. We waited for her to show up, waited for our drinks, one drink was incorrect, well, let's say a misunderstanding, and we waited some more. We waited to order. the food came out in shifts (nobody to help this poor girl carry some food?). So, the service was a bit lacking. She seemed a bit disorganized and nervous. Far from the worse service I've ever had though and she didn't spill anything on anyone which is always a plus.

I had a spicy shrimp with basil. I think it was number 37. Lord knows I couldn't pronounce it...well, I could, but without the proper tonation, I would have probably ordered a lime green bathrobe stuffed with tricycle spokes and dipped in tartar sauce.

The food didn't take too long. My shrimp were nice sized and there were some other vegetables in the mix besides the basil. WOOOOHOOOO!! This stuff has some FIRE. I gotta love this. This is a culinary wake-up call to the senses. Other diners at the table seemed equally pleased with their choices and the chef's abilitites. Had Thailand beer..not as light as a Budweiser, not as heavy as a Sam Adams. Had a more defined hops flavor than your standard American beer...Kinda like a weak Heineken or Dortmunder DAB.

All in all, if I were in Bloomington, I'd go back and try something else, but you won't catch me driving from Peoria.

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

Friday, November 04, 2005

There Should Be Clapping

After that last post I began to think (well, I always think, I guess thinking differently) about clapping. I did mention clapping.

Now, no disrespect to my musician friends, I love you guys (OK, Cassie - and gal), but when they, as probably most musicians, end a song, there is clapping (unless patrons are passed out from drinking too much).

Michael Jordan does a 360, behind the back, over the head, between the legs, enough time in the air to turn the channel a few times, blindfolded slam dunk over half the opposing team and there is clapping.

Jay Leno makes a joke and there is clapping.

The president ends his speech and there is clapping (probably some egg throwing, gagging noises and other rudities).

Tiger Woods sinks a 96 yard putt for an eagle in a blinding snowstorm to win the Siberian Open and there is clapping.

The opera ends and there is clapping (I think, I fell asleep).

A 135 pound freshman frat pledge guzzles 2 gallons of blatz light and passes out between a pair of endowed bosoms, and there is clapping (and possibly envy).

Kate Moss struts her coked up self down the runway and there is clapping.

Graduates graduate and there is clapping.

I send out a beautifully prepared 8 oz. Certified Hereford Beef Filet Mignon with herb butter, port demi glace, crispy leeks, Maytag Blue Cheese Whipped Potatoes, perfectly seasoned, lightly carmelized baby carrots and someone asks for ketchup. There is no clapping. No clapping in the culinary arts. Why is that? Oh, live Food Network TV shows don't count...the "Applause" light comes on. People clap for other fine performances, but not for finely prepared food. Hmmm...I must investigate.

Hmmm...will it disturb the other diners? Probably not near as much as ringing cell phones, screaming children and drunk people at the next table dazzling you with their prolific knowledge of four letter words AND their uncanny ability to string them together so well that it would impress George Carlin.

Maybe you would clap before you eat it? Premature clapping. Now there is an issue, especially if you don't like it. How about clapping right before you get the bill?

I think in some cultures that is how they signal the wait person to their table and may cause some confusion. This shouldn't be confused with rude people snapping their fingers, whistling or screaming "Missss".

No clapping at Old Country Buffet. That's wrong.

Now let's say for instance there was clapping. You eat your shrimp scampi, get up, start clapping and loudly vocalizing "Yeah, chef, nice garlic!! Tender shrimp!! WOOOOOHOOOOO!! The tomatoes on my bruschetta were perfectly spaced!!! What a beautifully poached egg!!

Ok, that's all wrong. Nevermind. Forget I mentioned it. My brain is fried being over a hot stove too much. Hit the "delete" button. Runaway.

Obviously, people, I'm joking. Really, I am. Don't believe or practice this clapping. Please believe me, I'm not serious.







Well, maybe a teenie bit....

See you around the table.....

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Elmwood Brewing Company

AH, if you read my last post, you see that I am keeping my promise.

A trip west of the 474 circle to Elmwood. Have been to Elmwood twice to talk\do food demos for seniors at Elmwood High's Home Ec. (or whatever they call it now) class. Wowed them with dicing an onion with my eyes closed. But that is not the subject of this blog.

This joint has been here for awhile and I've always wanted to try it...just never remember it when I'm thinking "where the hell should I eat?". When I'm at home eating some strange pasta creation I'm half afraid to try myself I think "Elmwood Brewing Company". And when I'm eating away from home and not enjoying it, I'm wishing for strange pasta creations at home. Ya know, I'm starting to ramble more than some of the PJS food critics about unimportant information. However, I can type all day...they are limited. Sorry Danielle if you are reading this...not referring to you. I better not start another restaurant or the food crew at the JS will crucify me.

Anyway, after sneaking through the back roads to Elmwood ignoring the IDOT signs on how to get there, we arrived at 6:35 ish. Fairly quickly seated. The dining room was fairly full and there was just one waitress..and the two tables surrounding us sounded pretty demanding. If you are going to be a bunch of wait person time hogs with your "I'd rather have this than what I ordered" stupidity, either go home or go to Old Country Buffet..at least there you can change your mind and nobody gives a shit. After a small wait, she shows up and asked us if we were ready to order. I'm having crawfish cakes with Cajun Remoulade and one of the nightly specials: Grilled pork loin with horseradish infused whipped sweet potatoes. My dining accomplice had the roasted red bell pepper spread with warm wheat bread and pasta with shrimp, andouille, mushrooms and scallions in a red bell pepper cream sauce. Of course when you are in a brew pub...drink the home brew...nut brown ale.

The crawfish cakes came out and I was a little apprehensive..they were fairly dark and looked like they might be a weeeeee bit crunchy. Not at all. They came out at a very nice edible temperature and were filled with many pieces of crawfish and were darn tasty. The cajun remoulade (fancy name for tartar sauce on steroids)had a pleasing kick. The roasted bell pepper spread had a nice creamy texture and was well flavored with the peppers. The main courses. DAMN!! Is that a pork loin chop or is that a pork loin chop?!?!? A perfectly chargrilled, tastefully seasoned (about) 10 oz. butterflied pork chop that was just done and very juicy and tender. Let there be clapping...clapping everyone. The sweet potatoes had a bit too much horseradish in them for my taste..and I like horseradish. It came with green beans. Now I usually don't get too excited about vegetables, but these were some GREAT green beans. I'm putting $5 to say they were frozen, not fresh, but nicely sauteed in some butter with onion bits plus nicely seasoned AND a perfect crisp\tender. The pasta dish was deemed awesome as well. I did taste the sauce and it was velvety, not overly rich and had a light smoky essence to it. (Sometimes the pepper roaster(ee) just chars the hell out of them and they add almost a bitter flavor, but definitely not the case here.) Nice looking shrimp and andouille and a generous portion at that! The pasta was a shape I was unfamiliar with (remember, I'm old school German, it's all about the spaeztle, baby) called campanelle which resembles a black trumpet mushroom (that didn't help you, did it? ) except it isn't black. Very nice shape as it appears to hold the sauce well. The bread that accompanied the meal was in a loaf, but sort of reminded me of Roman Meal in flavor...a touch of honey wheat bread. Nice, but nothing special.

The place is nicely done...I was looking for sort of a Kellehers set up, but it's nicer. I was also expecting more bar type food and I was happily surprised it wasn't. Granted, they HAVE burgers, etc., but that fare is in the minority. What "got" me is that this place is very nice except that it had 2 or three tables\chairs that were horribly mismatched to the rest of the very tastefully matched decor. Why? EBC, WHY?

They have a gorgeous banquet room and bar upstairs.

My thoughts: get the poor waitress some help. Get rid of the mismatched furniture. Keep your cook\chef. Give everyone a raise and free beer. Give me a free dinner (oh, and free beer). How long before the Monte heads west again? Not long. Oh, did I mention the cost of the above (which was more food than two (normal) people could eat) and one beer? $32.00. And no flippin' 10% tax rate like in Peoria.

Slap 118 E. Main Street Elmwood, IL into Mapquest and go.

See you around the table.....