Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Appreciation

I just got done reading my friend Cassie's blog at http://jazzwriter.blogspot.com/ concerning the dwindling number of places offering live music, especially jazz. It comes down to one word: appreciation. Appreciation for those things we want to love and preserve.

It's kinda odd, really. I was at a recent food show seminar and the guest speaker was talking about the same thing...no, not the dwindling number of places offering live jazz. As I mentioned in a blog many moons ago, nobody really dines anymore...its a lost art. It's why you read in the paper, internet, etc. of some of the grandest of the grandest restaurants in NY & Chicago (like Berghof's) closing their doors...dining institutions that have celebrated more birthdays than Gerald Ford. Why? Nobody dines anymore. And as the speaker said: technology is getting so good that Bennigans serves Eggs Benedict...something that 10 years ago you would only get at some white tablecloth joint. Now, I doubt most $9.00 line cooks know the first thing about making hollandaise or bernaise sauce from scratch...either they are making it with a dry mix or it comes already made in a cryovac bag (brimming with all sort of chemicals, stabilizers and coloring agents) and they warm it up. YUM!!! I was at a restaurant recently and saw Steak Diane. What the descriptor read was not Steak Diane. "Diane" is a very specific classical preparation and ingredients and this joint wasn't offering either. (OK, so I'm a classical purist...the whole Caesar Salad thing gets my tour de la Couer all twistied up, too.) Escoffier is rolling in his grave. But hey, I can get "Steak Diane" at my local chain restaurant now. The speaker's point is that food items you could only get in white tablecloth restaurants are now being served in some bastardized form at TGIFridays or some similar joint. Somehow, I doubt we'll ever see Veal Prince Orloff anytime soon at Applebees as it is far too complicated.

So, jazz and fine dining may be slowing slipping away. It's a bad thing. The blues bother me, too. The legendary performers are getting older, or worse, dying, and who is carrying on the torch? Some of the greatest hopes have altered their genre to become more mainstream, while lesser known (while probably more talented, i.e. Mato of the band Indigenous) toil away in near anonymity to keep the art alive.

But things always will change and evolve. I'm sure that food and music forms that were popular in the 1920's have changed, evolved or faded in complete obscurity like Windows 3.1. Even though my musical tastes have changed, nothing moves me like a great guitar. Now it's a great blues guitar. But every once in awhile, I have to load the CD player with REO Speedwagon's "You Get What You Play For" and crank up the volume on the live version of Golden Country, and listen to Gary Richrath just torture the bejeezes out of his '59 Les Paul (with none of that trickery which Mr. VanHalen uses). But nobody plays guitar like that anymore.

So, for those of us who are on the enjoying end of things, we have to support the things we appreciate or they will be a faded memory like the horse and buggy.

See you around the table (unless it becomes obsolete....)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

BIG UPDATE!!

Ok, it's not as thrilling as the title sounds. However, I did drive from Peoria to Indianapolis with very minimal road construction in Illinois. Kudos to IDOT's crack dealer for cutting off their supply until they got it finished.

See you driving unobstructedly....

Tequila's

Made the trip to Chillicothe to the much ballyhooed Tequila's. Sitting in a strip mall on the right hand side of the road (that is, if you are heading north) you have to watch for it..it's one of those "Damn!!! There's the sign!!"

Anyway, my D.A. (and if you don't know what that means, shame on you for not reading my previous posts - GO DO YOUR CHEF KEVIN BLOGSITE HOMEWORK!!) and we were quickly seated...the place was about 1/3rd full at 7:15ish. The menu has a bit of everything; even buffalo wings for those who must have buffalo wings at every meal. It has your traditional "Americanized" offerings like tacos, nachos, fajitas, enchiladas, etc. I'm not saying, as I did not try, that they are prepared like most other Mexican restaurants, just offering their version of...they could be better. It also has some interesting lunch\brunch items with eggs. It offers a "Famous" Taco salad which makes me chuckle...the joints been open a month or two and this salad is already famous. WOW!!

But on a more serious note. This menu reminds me a bit (even though not as large) as Agave in Springfield. Items you just don't see on other Mexican menus: Sopes, Molcajete, Fundidos, Parrillada, plus some grilled chicken breasts and steak.

We started out with Margaritas. Nothing special, but good. I guess when I'm used to making mine with CaboWabo Respasado, Grand Marnier, real limes and a blessing of Cointreau.... The complimentary chips and salsa were tasty. The salsa was a bit thicker than most Mexican joints, but no more flavorful or descript. The chips were. They were thicker, crispier and not overly salty. I opted for the Molcajete, my DA had Shrimp Quesadillas. The Molcajete was served blistering hot in an earthenware looking pot and was loaded with strip of grilled steak strips swimming in red salsa then topped with a couple of grilled green onions and gooey oaxaca cheese plus a side of pico de gallo and tortillas. This was a bit on the spicy side so all you heat whimps, beware. I loved this and would have it again. My only "beef" was that there was quite a bit of salsa left in the bottom of the bowl and it would have been great to have some good Fedoras bread to "sop" it up. My DA's shrimp Queso was equally tasty but no heat. It came with a side of Mexican rice.

Now one thing I did notice. There are Mexican restaurants in Peoria that whip out the food so fast, you have got to believe that you are getting a different table's food as it come out sooo fast. Tequilas was just the opposite and I was starting to wonder. Wasn't NEAR as long as my first visit to Seven, but after I saw the presentation of my entree, I knew why this took awhile.

We passed on dessert in favor of another Margarita. I'm tempted to go back to try many things. So, if you are craving Mexican food, it's worth the drive to Chilli.

See you around the table.....

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Things are not heating up.

Well, well, well....

Are you feeling a little chillier this winter? Has CILCO\Ameren got you, and your thermostat, down? Is the only thing warming you up is your blood boiling when you see your utility bill? Ameren is claiming it is falling on hard times. They need to raise the rates. Well, really. Let's take a look at a few things.

1. The price of Ameren stock has taken a little bit of a poopie since September after about a 1 1/2 year rise. Not good. Cranky stockholders. As a business with stockholders, the key responsibility of the CEO\board of directors is to maximize stockholders' profitability. 1+1= consumers getting screwed (blame new math).

2. Advertising. Now, why does CILCO\Ameren need to advertise? They are basically a monopoly. Like you see an Ameren billboard and think "Hmmm...I'm going to call and see if their rates are cheaper than who I am getting my electricity & gas from now."? No, you think "I want to kill those rate raising rat bastards". Want us to feel warm and fuzzy? Save us some money, kill the advertising.

3. Donations: On their website they are offering a $10 donation to the Salvation Army if you sign up for online bill paying. This isn't online billing..you still would get a paper bill, so no cost saving there. So, they have $10 to give to the S.A., but can't drop my bill $10. And all the grants. $350,000 to people who can't afford to pay their cooling bill this past summer. The list goes on. Don't go to their websites (http://www.ameren.com/ http://www.ameren.com/AboutUs/ADC_AU_Recent_News.asp http://www.ameren.com/AboutUs/ADC_news.asp) cause if you see all of these, you'll piss your pants, which will run down your leg, short out your computer, fry the wiring in your house only to knock out a transformer and Ameren will send you a $250,000 bill.

4. Sponsorships. Where do they get the money for that? Now don't get me wrong. The Race for the Cure and other events are worthwhile causes. But ain't it nice to have AMEREN splashed as "top billing" for sponsorships? Just trying to "one up" and start a "I'm bigger, more powerful, care more about the community" pissing match with Caterpillar. However, those big corporate sponsorships can run 5 figures. That's right, 5 figures. How many big events in Peoria (and other places Ameren provides sevices to) do you see AMEREN plastered across sponsorship banners, posters, shirts, and the like. Once again, why? To let all of us broke, freezing people know that you support the fight against chickenpox?

5. If I see one more Ameren truck\vehicle, etc. that is newer than '04, I'm going to shit (or maybe call 911 and report it driving erratically). If you can afford to have a fleet of new\newer vehicles, then you can afford NOT to raise rates. Pesronally, I don't care about how good it makes the company look. Who are you trying to impress? Are there spys from Rhode Island Public Utilities Company lurking around? Please, I'd rather not have to huddle around the pilot light on my stove in lieu of a fleet of new Dodge Ram trucks...drive the old ones a few more years.

So, I can probably sit here shivering awhile and find more things to fume about (which may warm me up), but I think you probably get my point. It is more important for Ameren to maximize stockholder profitability, drive around in new vehicles and to let us know how wonderfully charitable they are with our money than to provide us with reasonable utility costs.

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

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Hungry Moose

So, mom calls and inquires about my dining plans for lunch. I don't have any..most likely going to have a grilled ham & cheese with some cream of poato soup that's been lurking in the 'fridge for a day or two. It's always strange: can think of a million places that you haven't been to go out to eat when you aren't going out to eat. So, I'm searching through old Peoria Journal Star reviews on line and remember The Hungry Moose.

Located on Farmington Road up the hill from the Speedway, the Moose is a little joint right across from some lighting center. It's open from 6 am until 2 PM. We got there a touch after 1 PM. It's a sit anywhere place, so we sat away from a table of smokers. The waiter seemed kinda impatient..like he may have had plans at 2 PM and we weren't part of them. Got that impression as after he took our order he was sweeping and mopping the dining room floor. So, mom had pancakes and I a swiss\mushroom burger with fries and an iced tea. The place looks nice from the outside and the indoor decor is like an old lodge, but the waitstation and semi open kitchen kinda took away from the homey, backwoods diner theme they are working on. I'm not expecting the dining room at the Ritz Carlton. The iced tea was nothing special and was a bit stronger than your typical "all you can eat Asian restaurant" iced tea. Mom got three whopping pancakes. Golden in color and light as air, but according to mom, very filling. My burger was of the Steak n' Shake style, but thicker and larger around. The grilled onions and 'shrooms could have used a touch of seasoning. But, it was a good burger. The fries were thicker than shoestrings but not as thick as say McDonalds. Crispy, but cooled off quickly.

All in all, the Moose is OK if you can avoid the smokers (if that bothers you). I'm not going to be a regular, but if I'm hungry & in the area, I'd stop and try one of their other sandwiches. The "Hungry Moose" burger sounds tempting: 1/2 lb. of burger, bbq sauce, bacon and fried onion straws.

Mom & I had lunch for less than I have paid for an appetizer at some fancy schmancy restaurant. That's right, $10.26 plus tip.

See you around the table.....