Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Copper Works

Copper Works is the new restaurant in the ex-Jim's Restaurant North location located in the same strip mall as 2 Chez. I've been there twice and both with positive reviews.

The first time was for appetizers with a group of friends. I had the beef carpaccio. Very thin, nay, shaved slices of raw beef tenderloin garnished with a mushroom salad, diced tomatoes and capers. Not your usual garni for carpaccio, but a little bucking of tradition is good. Very tasty. As a community app, we had the baked brie. It had a wonderful sweetness to its gooey warmth that I attribute to apricot. The restaurant also brought out a complimentary cheese plate. Others were loving their apps as well.

The second time I was there was for dinner. I had the skirt steak Mojito which the menu said was Latin flavored. I started with a glass of Greg Norman Petite Sirah. Petite is one of my favorite wines and this did not disappoint. The house salad that came with the meal was quite interesting. It comes with the house dressing, which was barely noticeable on the mixture of lettuces and greens. So those of you that need to have your iceberg lettuce stuggling to survive in a sea of ranch dressing will hate this. I LOVED it. You could taste the greens and barely taste the dressing. The steak was fairly good. A skirt steak is usually fairly thin (as this was) and I ordered it rare. It was more medium-ish. From a chef's perspective, it's not easy to cook something wafer thin rare and not have it appear raw. Another friend of mine had the filet, rare, and it WAS rare. Now for Latin flavors. It had a descript flavor, but I wouldn't say it had a distinctive Latin\Cuban flavor. If I were to have tried this blind, I wouldn't have said "this is very Latin in it's flavoring" but nonetheless it had a very complementary flavor to the beef. It was served with (real) mashed potatoes flavored with roasted red bell pepper puree and a few stalks of asparagus.

The bar and lobby area are nice. The dining room is too, but it's sort of wide open giving you the feeling of eating in an upscale banquet room.

As you may have guessed, this joint is on the upscale\white table cloth side. Very polished and attentive waitstaff both times. The menu reminds me of one I used to produce: American with creative international twists. They are currently open for all three meals and plan to go 24/7.

See you around the table...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ruby Tuesdays - quick review

Most of us have probably been there, so I'm not elaborating too much.

The only reason I'm posting this is because as much as I love Schooner's burgers, the burger I had at R.T. was pretty damned good. It was topped with BBQ Sauce, grilled onions, bacon and smoked cheddar cheese. Messy & Burgerlicious.

Enough of plugging chain restaurants.

Getting all messy around the table....

A couple of re-visits

Ah, you probably have been wondering where I've been eating. I should weigh about 130 pounds right now. Well, I've gone back to some of my favorites and to re-try another place that I wasn't overly impressed with the first time.

The Smo-King Pit in Northwoods Mall. I know I have not eaten at every BBQ joint in this city. Maybe I should make that a goal for 2006. HHmmm... But I love the Smo-King Pit and find it hard to believe, for my tastes anyway, there can be much better in P-town...not saying there isn't... Everything I've had there has been between pretty darn good to impressive. I wish the city would allow mixed zoning so Mike could buy the house next to me, knock it down and build another Smo-King Pit. If I could just talk Mike into using Crusen's fries.....

Po' Boys. The only thing I'm still dismayed about, but can live with, is the plastic plates and "silverware". I've been here 4 times plus once for drinks. Still wanna try the gator, but things like the etouffe and the beans & rice were calling my name louder.... YUMMEEE!!!

Grandpa John's Rib Shack. I stopped about two weeks ago and had every intention of getting some rib tips as it was suggested to me by Peoria's second district councilwoman. Well, I didn't. Something else caught my eye: Hot Bites. I ordered 2 orders. Turns out they are little square pieces of boneless pork heavily dusted with appears and somewhat tastes like a heavy paprika based coating. Dip one in some BBQ Sauce and WHAP! These things are SPIIICCEEE and a tad chewy. Whew. Now I can handle it, but if you aren't a heat freak, avoid these. I had some nice onion buns at home, so I loaded 2 up with my Hot Bites, topped with BBQ, some jack cheese and sat on my front porch and ate...and sweated and burned. I was on fire and enjoyed every minute of it. I think the mail lady thought I was having a seizure. Eventually, I'll get to the rib tips. I'm sure I'll have to get to the hardware store next door for something.

Burning up around the table.....

Beef O'Brady's

Saw this joint a week or so ago while going to Circuit City. The outside was still partially under construction, but open for business. It is touted as a neighborhood sports bar. Now, I know I'm not usually into decor, but this doesn't resemble, in my opinion, a sports bar. Four walls, 80 zillion TV's and some very generic tables\chairs do a sports bar make. Maybe they are still so new they have ongoing projects, dunno.

Looking at the menu, reminds me pretty much of Applebees\Chili's\Ruby Tuesdays\insert your favorite chain family restaurant here type menu. A slight difference is, well, you guessed it, with a name like BEEF O' Brady's, it's pretty loaded with beef. I'm a lousy journalist. I don't remembered what I ordered. But by my description, you'll find it on the menu: beef, white cheese, red onions on some fancy schmancy bread. It comes with chips, fries are extra. They have quite a beer selection, but as it was mid day and I had home improvement projects to work on, I selected iced tea so I would remember how to operate a level when I got home. It came out and it was a very large looking sandwich. And it was more than filling. And it was fairly tasty. My only gripe is that a place called Beef O' Brady's is they used that pressed deli beef like Arby's uses. Disappointing. This was about a week ago, and I don't remember much about the fries..obviously not as memorable as Crusen's fries (which by the way I found out which fries they use...they are some of the most expensive fries on the market). Run of the mill iced tea, refreshing, but nothing to get excited about.

I'd go back if someone wanted to go there. The sandwich concepts they have there sound interesting and the one I had was tasy, but I just think the atmosphere could use a boost and they should forego the deli style beef and use a good split top round.

See you around the table....

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Now I know why.

I've been doing some catering of late. I also just did a Mother's Day brunch. Every so often I'm tempted to go back to the restaurant business. Events of recent were a reminder of one of the big reasons I got out.

I'm doing an off premise catering event. I have to bring the food with me and cook it there. I've done this type of catering often. Consult with the event person, set menu & price, etc. I get the food, I go cook, I serve and am told by a guest that she can't eat this because (I'm leaving this alone to protect the guilty and possibly naming someone) and if she could have something else. There is no something else; there is no walk-in cooler with additional food...what I have is what I have. I wasn't told I was going to need anything else. This is what your group's planning committee wanted; this is what I prepared. "There HAS to be SOMETHING else that you could cook!!!!". No, there isn't. I tried the "I Dream of Jeanie" cross the arms and blink and the "Bewitched" nose wiggle, but they didn't work. There was some remark made to my inpreparedness, to which my response was "Apparently the coordinators of your food committee weren't considerate enough of your needs to report them to me beforehand. Maybe you need to speak to them".

If the event starts at 7:00, this means Mickey's little hand is on the 7 and his big hand is on the 12; not on the 9 with the little hand pushing the 8. I was ready to serve at 7:00 PM as you requested. I've done my best to keep your vegetables from looking like baby shit, but unless God intervenes: baby shit. And overcooked chicken. And Sticky rice (which is OK IF I was serving #37 with garlic sauce). If you thought your group was going to run late, how 'bout a heads up and not at 7:15...too late. Tell everyone to sit down and shut the fuck up or vice versa if it helps. The food sucks because of you and the lack of control over your guests...not me. Thanks for screwing with my reputation.

We serve from 8-12. This does not mean 7:30 or 12:15. Don't act offended when told no. ("oh, Hi, Mrs. Jones, the bank doesn't open until 9:00, but since you're special we'll let YOU in early...HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! - yeah, right) Before hand, I'm doing last minute prep and afterwards, well, I have a life that I would like to go live and cooking for you isn't part of it. I'm sorry that you think that I am some uneducated, minimum wage, lower than thou art on the society pecking chain fry cook that you think I should hang out and wait for your dumb procrastinating ass to show up and cook for your royal highness (or is that hind-end ass). Sorry, I don't need the extra $3.25 before taxes. If that's what you want, I'll be at your beckon call for $100,000 a year, health insurance and every other weekend off.

Does the menu SAY cheese? No, it doesn't. You ASSUMED it. Why, when people ask for extra (fill in the blank), they act astonished that they would be charged for it? You want extra gas for your car, will they give that to you free, too? When you go out, do you get an extra beer for free? Oh, Mr. Dentist, while you're at it, can I get a free whitening? I'm buying these jeans, can I get a free T-shirt? Contractor: "Hey Caterpillar, can I get a free thingybobber attached to my new earthmover?" Caterpillar: "oh, sure, have two, they're FREE". (Right, more like give us $120,000 each.) Shit, you can't even get extra cheese on your Dominos pizza without costing something. Why is it expected in a restaurant that extras are free?

If I don't have it, I can't put it in your food or on your plate...quit pouting. Get over it. If I make 20 specials and 20 muffins to go with my 20 specials, you can't have one. They aren't for sale unless you buy the special. What do I tell the person who orders the 20th special? "Sorry, someone (who thot they are) more important than you wanted your muffin." How 'bout I give you the muffin and you give me your cell phone number and address to give to the person who gets special no. 20. "Well, why didn't you make more!?!?!?!? (common response)" Do you make extra shit at your job in hopes of using, selling, dispensing it just IN CASE someone MIGHT want it just so you can throw it away later? If you do, I'm sure your boss\owner is happy with your ass.

Ok, I'm sure I'm setting a few people off. I'm not talking about simple requests that aren't feasible for whatever reason, people just accept it and call it a day. For polite people, I'm actually sad that I can't accommodate their (reasonable) request. Its people who get indignant about it as it's owed to them or something.

I think I'm done bitching and I'm sure this was a good enough of a reminder to keep my ass out of a commercial kitchen a few more years.