Thursday, March 30, 2006

Po Boys

Saw an article in the Journal Star about this place several weeks ago and it now is open for business. It is located in the Community Bingo Center on Dries Lane across the alley\street\parking lot from Wally World on University.

My D.A. & I arrived at just before 7 PM...there was one other table beside us. There is a small area looking into the the semi open kitchen. The next room is a small but unique bar area. The next room is quite amazing. It is painted, decorated, etc. to look like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It is sweet. At one end is a stage where they have entertainment on the weekends. All the tables are metal round patio tables giving the impression of eating at a sidewalk cafe' on one of the world's most notorious party streets.

Except for it being a little too dimly lit, there is nothing that I don't like about this place. The waitress was very friendly and when asked, gave us her favorites. Of course, a Sam Adams accompanies any meal I order. We started with the crab cakes. Two very nice sized cakes, especially for the $7.95 menu price. Lightly breaded, lots of crab and barely holding together.They were more than warm, but short of hot, making them the perfect temperature to devour too quickly. They are served with a drizzle of remoulade and a lemon twist. Very nice flavor..not the best I've had, however I've had many others fail in comparison to these.

I had the jambalaya. Large chunks of shredded chicken and sliced of smoked andouille in a base of what appeared (once again, a bit dark) to be tomatoes, celery and onions with rice. Good amount of cajun spice. Not spicy, but I will say zippy. My D.A. had a pasta dish..the name escapes me. Rotini noodles tosed with jambalaya ingredients in a creamy sauce. For dessert, the warm blueberry cream cheese bread pudding. Kind of an odd texture, but very good and flavorful.

Here is the funky part: Except for my D.A.'s beverage and my Sam Adams glass, everything is served on\with paper and plastic...even the "silverware".

They have some neat items on the menu that make me want to go back. That said, I'd go back even if there wasn't anything tempting...just a cool place. An alligator appetizer and a variety of Po' Boys.

It's funky, it's casual, it's different from any thing else in Peoria...THANK GOD.

(In your best Justin Wilson imitation) See ya'll 'round the table.....

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Blog Links

I know quite a few Peoria area bloggers read and have linked me to their blog sites. I wanted to return the favor, but my Html knowledge equals my knowledge of the 102nd element on the Periodic Table of Elements Chart. Thusly, my blogmentor (between work, jazz gigs and giving birth) sent me a lengthy e-mail on how to do this.

Sorry if you aren't on this...I'm trying...hell, I'm lucky if they work. I'll get to everyone I read....eventually.

Formatting around the table.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Just Culinary Stuff I Feel The Need to Ramble On About

I was reading a blog by a fellow Peorian blogger (http://pollypeoria.blogspot.com)about some issues she encountered at a local restaurant. Instead of filling up her blog with my rants, I decided to post them here.

I've already touched on children in restaurants in my blog about the proposed smoking ban. Unfortunately, there is an increasing amount of parents who do not have control over their children in restaurants. Before I get 1000's of mad responses, if your children are well behaved, this doesn't apply to you and your family. I have seen a waitress drop a tray of food because some unattended child ran, and I mean ran, smack dab into her. I've seen near misses. Parents...what the hell are you thinking letting your kids run loose in ANY restaurant? You are probably the same people who would have sued the restaurant if that tray would have came crashing down on your unattended kid's head.

There are restaurants that do not have children's menus. There may be several reasons for this: they are (or want or pretend to be) upscale\fine dining establishment, their business isn't geared toward or isn't in a location that conducive to children (a children's lunch menu at Richard's, per se) or maybe the owner wants to discourage children for whatever reason. And since this is my blog, I'm putting in my 2 shiny Lincolns. As a former restaurant owner and someone who likes to dine (and I'm not talking about just eating...AH, another former blog o' mine) I cringe when I go to a place like Lindsay's, 2 Chez, French Toast, Jim's Downtown, Seven, F. Scott's, etc. and hear kids screaming and running around. To me, places like this are not places to take your kids 99% of the time. I'm sure most people are there to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, conversation and environment that these places provide, not listening to a 2 year old crying at top lung. Hey, if your, or anyone else's kids, can behave in a manner befitting the establishment, GOOD FOR THEM, GOOD FOR YOU and the restaurant should even reward them with free dessert or something for their appropriate behavior. There are plenty of restaurants in Peoria that cater to general\family dining that one doesn't need to drag 3 tired kids into French Toast at 8:30 PM on a Thursday night. A lot of places of the upscale variety are charging a split plate charge. I'm fully in agreement with this. But if you offer no children's menu, that's a bit of a stretch. Some offer 1/2 portions, however some items are easy to make a half portion, some not (what should the restaurant do with the other half of a 12 oz. Strip steak or the other half of the 1/2 roasted chicken?)

So, I'm done with my kids rant. Now I'm off to drunk or loud people. I think Tim Simpson should always be on call. Hey Tim, if you are reading this, it's a compliment, dude. The first time some drunk fool curses, Tim is called. BTW, some of you might remember Tim..the all state (I believe) offensive tackle for EP High School and a top prospect for the NFL out of Illinois. In other words, Tim is a big, strong and reasonably fast guy. Tim shows up and tosses their drunk ass out onto the street, no questions asked. There isn't any reason other paying patrons need to put up with foul language. And this doesn't go for just the "nice" places, it's for ALL places. Tim's gonna be busy.

Another thing Polly was talking about was snooty behavior of waitstaff\establishments, etc. and that we are in Peoria, in the midwest, not Manhattan. Yes,we ARE in the midwest. There are people in this city that treat waitstaff like shit; like they are a slave. They switch around menu items like it's a mix & match menu even requesting items that aren't on the menu. It's horrendous. They are doing you a FAVOR waiting on you and cooking for you. I ended up waiting tables at my own restaurant one day. I'm not a decent waiter by any means...someone like Rob At F. Scotts could handle 15 tables to my one on my best day. Some guy asked me for a bottle of ketchup WHILE I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF TAKING AN ORDER of the two people next to him. I finished taking the order, picked up a dirty plate at a nearby table, and as I'm heading back to the kitchen I hear: "did you forget about the ketchup or do I need to go to the kitchen and get it myself?". To which my reply was, "I'll send the owner right out with it with apologies". Imagine the guy's look..... But if he did that in Manhattan, he would REALLY have received some attitude. Do people talk\act that way to their doctor, lawyer, dentist, stockbroker, librarian, kid's teacher, mechanic or do they just beat up on waitstaff? Try changing around Charlie Trotters menu to suit your fancy...see what the response is (yes, I know Charlie Trotters is in Chicago). We ate at The Inn at Beekman Arms (which is upstate NY). A member of our party wanted the blue cheese mashed potatoes instead of wild rice and was told, "Ma'am, the entree is served with rice". Want an extra side of 1000 Island dressing for your Reuben sandwich? The Hudson River Club will charge you $3.00 for it. Oh, this one is precious. We ate at this trendy little French joint with a few of our instructors from the Culinary Institute. I can't for the life of me remember what the place's name was, but it was in the northern part of Manhattan. One of our instructors looked, but didn't find a salt shaker. He asked the waiter for one. My instructor was rebuffed with "there are no salt and pepper shakers here...the chef prepares the food the way it's SUPPOSE to taste" (and there was a definite stressing in the pronunciation of suppose). Now if any restaurant in Peoria would try any of the above...... Yes, there may be waitpeople that are grouchy, dismayed, upset, etc. with a diner's attitude, request, etc., but I have YET to get attitude in Peoria like I've seen in NY\NYCC. Personally, I don't know how Rob and some of the other REALLY good waitpeople in this town put up with\deal with it.

So, take your unruly kids to Applebee's, don't get drunk, loud and swear, treat your waitperson with respect and if there is something wrong with every or almost every restaurant you go to, maybe you need to stay home and cook.

Bitching around the table.....

Butcher's Block

Why I always forget about this place just perplexes me. I work nearby, I'm in the Metro Cente twice a week, yet I just zoom on by. The sad thing is that I used to work with the owner and his "right hand man".

Stopped in for a sandwich late last week. Most of what they do is sandwiches, so if you are looking for veal picatta for lunch, better keep going. Had a sandwich called the Hot Sicilian. The bread was of the sweet variety like Avanti's but a little denser in texture. It was layered with salami and pepperoni, topped with marinara and melted provolone cheese. I got it to go. When I opened up your standard square take out container, the sandwich was cut in half and it was still necessary for them to "make it fit". It was like pizza bread on steroids. This proved enough sandwich for lunch and dinner. It cost about $6.00.

I've had lots of sandwiches there and none have ever disappointed. And for you deepfried food junkies, they now have a deep fryer to do fries, etc. The boys at the Block are making a darned good sandwich now, but in the summer when those two guys get the grill fired up....

Getting rounder around the table....

Thursday, March 16, 2006

testing testing

Umm...blogger doesn't like one of my posts I want to post....

ATTENTION WINE LOVERS!!!! PLEASE READ!!!

This was sent to me by a wine group to which I belong. Once again, liquor distributors are trying to severely restrict what wines you can by directly from wineries or out of state retailers. If this passes, and you want a certain wine that is not available in your market, you will have to travel, maybe out of state or break some laws to obtain it. Several years ago when I wanted to obtain a certain wine to serve at the restaurant at which I was working, I was told TO MY FACE by a local distributor, that it wasn't profitable for them to do so. Here is the e-mail I received. If you want an e-mail list of legislators to e-mail them to defeat SB2180, just post a reply and an e-mail address.

Wine lovers in Illinois are in jeopardy of having higher prices and a smaller selection of wine foisted upon them thanks to legislation quietly working its way through the General Assembly in Springfield. The legislation (Senate Bill 2180) in essence seeks to funnel control of the distribution and sale of wine in this state to a handful of liquor distributors. It would accomplish this by severely limiting your rights to buy direct from out-of-state, well known wine sellers and/or specialty wine retailers. Instead, these distributors want to have absolute control over how much wine you can buy from your favorite winery and ban purchases from online retailers.

Experts agree that this legislation will not only limit the availability of hundreds of wines in Illinois, but also raise the prices by an estimated 18-25 percent, and will provide a windfall of profits for a relative few insiders at your expense.

And if successful, what freedom of choice will the General Assembly decide to strip away next?

You can help stop this outrageous attempt to regulate your freedom to enjoy fine wines from anywhere you want. We urge you to email members of the Illinois House of Representatives TODAY urging them to vote against Senate Bill 2180 to protect your rights as an American consumer of wine.

New Chef Kevin Blog!!

Can you believe it? I have enough stuff for TWO blogs? No, not really. From now on, anything non-food, beverage, etc. related will be posted at http://itjustslaysme.blogspot.com/ It just slays me: It's a place where I'm going to post all my other gripes, complaints, things I notice, etc. So, you might want to "favorite place" it until I figure out how to link it. I'll have to e-mail my blogmentor and ask.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

CiCi's Pizza

Had the opportunity to eat at CiCi's Pizza recently. Now before you think I've driven to someplace exotic like Monmouth, no, CiCi's is in Peoria's Evergreen Shopping Center. It's been there almost two weeks. Normally, I like to give new places a chance to get their bearings about them before reviewing, but sometimes I just want to get the first scoop before they come out in the mass media.

CiCi's is an all you can eat salad, pasta and pizza joint for $4.99. Yeah, $4.99. That should fit right in with Peoria's "all you can stuff in your face at a cheap price is better" eating mentality. I did find out it is a chain, so, of course I did have to slap the shit out of myself for eating there. I'll have to eat more frequently at Fedora's and the Smoking Pit (ah, too bad for me - that's dripping sarcasm, btw) for penance for my supporting a chain restaurant.

As you step in the door, I was enthusiastically greeted by the young woman at the counter. "Welcome to Cici's!!" Other employees heard her and chimed in "Welcome to CiCi's". WOW. Ok, I've been welcomed. She explained the process, took my cash and I was on my merry way to the buffet line. No salad bar; three pre-made salads: Italian, Asian and BLT. I tried the latter two. Nice flavors, a little heavy on the dressing, but nothing to WOW you. There was one pasta and two sauces: cavatappi (corkscrews) marinara and alfredo. Marinara has a little zip, alfredo pretty basic. There had to be about 10 pizzas available plus a few dessert pizzas. The veggie pizza was made (or so it appeared and tasted) with alfredo sauce and next to the taco, probably my favorite. The taco pizza had enough zip that most people may consider it spicy. The pepperoni was pepperoni. Nothing overly exciting or fancy with any of the pizzas I tried.

But two things I REALLY liked: one is I HATE whimpy crust. If the crust can't support the sauce, ingredients and cheese, it sucks in my opinion. Whimpy crusts saggin' causing all your stuff to slide off onto your plate or Ralph Lauren's ain't cool. CiCi's crust gets an A+..it could hold up twice the toppings while still being flavorful and slightly chewy. They also offered a thick crust or pan version that also held up well. BIG plus for da crusts. Two, the sauce had zip. I hate non descript pizza sauce that will never wow or offend anyone...I've drawn the conclusion that some places just slap on some tomato paste. This sauce has zip to the point that those who think BBQ Sauce is spicy may have issues and deem it spicy. Quit whining. BIG plus for the sauce.

The place is definitely geared to kids and families. A game room, decor with TVs and many candy machines. The music was R& B which I found interesting. There was a LOT of staff on hand checking if they could get you a refill, take dirty plates and check if everything tasted OK to the point of almost, but not quite, being annoying.

While it won't be a hang out of mine, I probably will go back even if I have to slap myself around again.

See you around the table.....

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Where am I?"

I had some "face to face" comments that I haven't been posting many restaurant reviews lately. WOW, if your life revolves around my restaurant reviews, may I suggest taking up model railroading or some other hobby? I guess I should be appreciative that someone is actually READING this blog. But it's true. While it's fun to go out and experience new places, I like some of my favorites, too, and lately, I've been frequenting them. I've also been cooking at home a bit more. I had some free samples from food brokers that I've been playing with and in cleaning out my freezer, I found about a dozen filet mignons I forgot I had. (I know, How could I forget about filet mignons?) Screw eating out. Free food and filets? Uh, huh. Albiet, the maid (umm..me) needs to do some dishes and find a bottle of 409.

So, look out for some posts in the near future as I have my eye on a few joints.

Eating cheap or in familiarity around the table....

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Upcoming Cooking Classes

If you have been following this blog since it's inception, you know that I teach some cooking classes at The Bronze Frog. If interested, call "The Frog" at 692-4707. Classes are from 6-9 PM, are $30 and must be paid within 3 days of making a reservation. Last "semester", I did a dinner party while the very talented Joe Metzka provided some smooth jazz & standards tunes and Vino 100 poured four different wines. As soon as Joe, The Bronze Frog & I can get our collective acts together and we can all get the same night free, we plan to do this again (and probably again and again and again.....) Stay tuned.

Here is my schedule for April, May & June:

Indoor Beef. Need some cold weather month beef recipes until you can get the grill out? How about Traditional Hungarian Goulash, Hoisin Beef with Crispy Vegetables, Steak Salad with A-1 Vinaigrette, Strip Loin “Star of Texas” & Beer Braised Pot Roast. April 4

Lotsa Lettuce. Tonight Kevin will be putting together some big salads that are definitely a meal by themselves. Southwest Chicken Salad; Baby Greens with Grilled Scallops, Pineapple & Kielbasa; Romaine & Apple Salad with Blue Cheese & Walnuts; Flaming Spinach Salad with Shiitakes, Bacon & Cheddar and a Thai Beef Salad. Each salad will have its own special dressing. April 18

Summer Grillin’. The unofficial start of the grilling season is upon us, so here are some recipes that will keep the Weber rollin’ until the leaves are gone and the snow is flyin’! Southern Comfort Salmon, Caribbean Spiced Chicken, Beer & Bacon Burgers, Margarita Pork Chops & Ahi Tuna Lomi-Lomi Style. Not only will be sampling some great food, but Kevin will be sharing some grilling tips that will sure to be helpful. May 9

Wok-ing Around China. This class is going to take you on a quick culinary tour of some of the styles and regions of Chinese cooking. Crispy Shrimp & Vegetables in Chili Sauce; Aromatic Chicken with Garden Treasures; Pearl Balls with Sweet Ginger Soy; Beef & Peppers in Black Bean Sauce and Sweet & Sour Pork. May 30

Kitchen Basics. In this class, Kevin will be doing some very basic preparations. These simple, but effective, recipes, tips and tricks will save you time in the kitchen and make you look like a pro. How to make perfect rice pilaf, great mashed potatoes, a basic cream soup recipe which can be modified to make many cream soups, how to keep your cooked vegetables’ colors brilliant, the perfect sautéed chicken breast and how two basic sauces can make many sauces. June 13


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