Sunday, November 26, 2006

Who Knew??

I did a guest chef thing cooking plated brunch at Panache. It has definitely been busier. Every so often, I do something a little off beat. This was one of those days.

Blackened eggs on cornbread with seafood etouffee. It was my biggest selller. Huh. Would have never thought that it would outsell my omelets...usually sell a LOT of omelets.

Oh, well. Peoria still keeps me guessin'

See you around the table (that, is, if I can see you through all the blackening smoke.....)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Possible Chef Kevin Sighting

OK, I know this is going to be a grab a bucket of ice and cool down. How did that Heinz commercial go? Anticipaaaaation is making me wait....

There are plans in the works that will find me back in the kitchen for one night....for the first time publicly (minus the infrequent Sunday brunches I cook) in 4 1/2 years. Yeah, I can do it. No big thing. As plans aren't definite, I'm not saying anything. Well, except, don't quite make dinner plans for New Years Eve yet...........

Give me a hot saute pan, some butter, a great chunk of beef, a bottle of brandy and lets get to COOKIN'!!! WOOOHOOOO!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blogger Boil

No, no...we aren't going to be deep poaching area bloggers like a piece of salmon (but that does not apply to anonymous commenters :)). And no, it isn't going to be a version of a Dean Martin roast, either.

Over at O'Brien's Briar Patch, I was a co-winner in both food categories in the Peoria blo-o-sphere "bloggies". One of the categories, Group of Bloggers To Have a Backyard Crabfest With, gave me an idea. A Peoria Blog-o-sphere Low Country Seafood Boil.

Now, I have this giant wok. Maybe some of you might remember it. There was a place called the Proper Pan. Near the back of the store there was a display of Asian products, cookware and utensils displayed in this giant wok. Well, I'm now the owner that wok. Its about 30" across and 10"-12" deep. It fits perfectly on top of a charcoal\wood Weber Grill. It has been the cooking apparatus for a batch of chili and a batch of Jambalaya cooked over said Weber.

Why a Low Country Seafood Boil, you ask. Well, I got to cook a hell of a lot of them on Hilton Head Island while working down there. That, and its just damned tasty and isn't labor intensive. Some shrimp, some crab legs, some grouper chunks, maybe some scallops and oysters or mussels. Chunks of onion, celery and carrots. Andouille sausage. Gotta have some new red potatoes and corn on the cob. Some shrimp stock, some white wine, Old Bay Seasoning, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, garlic and some lemon wedges. Cook up some rice for a side and toast up some garlic bread made with Fedora's bread, crank up some blues and we are good to go.

Gonna have to be a BOYB, though.

I was thinking early October. Now I'm thinking differently. Its just too damned good of an idea to wait that long and it might have to occur in late April. Maybe someone can host a chili bash in the fall.

Great idea Scott!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I get the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year. One would think this would happen every year as I have the biggest dining room table. And no, I don't cook. I know, your jaw just dropped. There is a reason, but it isn't the issue behind this post, so I won't elaborate.

I miss Thanksgiving. If you don't know what I mean, read this post. I also miss it because it is glossed over by the overglamourization and financial marketing blitzes that are associated with Christmas that start the day after Halloween. Which brings me to a tirade. The supposed "official" shopping day for Christmas is\was traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. You hear local retailers crying that sales are down every year. Well, duh. If you wouldn't start advertising Christmas in July maybe you would reach your projected holiday goals. Miss that day in Marketing 101, didjya?

We always go around the table and express what we were thankful for over the past year. I'm always thankful for my job. It is by far the best one I've had including owning my own joint. It allows me a lot more free time, some weekends off and time to pursue some cooking classes, guest chef appearances and consulting work. And a great benefits package. I'm always thankful for my family. My sisters and I feed off each other professionally as are careers are intertwined (I cook, one is a dietician, the other a pharmacist) and we always lend a listening ear for the other's bad (fill in the blank). My parents are awesome; the net doesn't have enough GB to hold their praise. Among other things, when owning an older home as I do, their knowledge of "how to fix it" is valuable. Dad can plumb or electrically wire anything. Mom is a wizard with staining woodwork, light plastering, paint and wallpaper. Both have green thumbs. They both grew up on farms in the late Great Depression era either here or in Germany and had to learn things to which most people have no clue. Dad as a former auto mechanic practiced his art in the days before fuel injection and computers when you actually had to drive and listen to a car to figure out what was wrong with it. While those days are gone, that knack comes in handy diagnosing what is wrong with my aging Monte Carlo. And if I "farmed" any of this out to have done, I'd never hear the end of the lectures. Better to keep the peace.

I found two great health care professionals this year who I would recommend to anyone and remembered a construction guy who does fabulous work instead of screwing up my house.

I'm always thankful for friends especially from the socialization aspect.

I don't know if I'm thankful, but I'm amazed at how the Chef Kevin personae has grown. Its getting to the point where I'm running into people (many that I have no clue to whom they are) who recognize me, remember me, heard of me, "oh, that was YOU?", etc. I guess its cool. But, what is weird is that I don't think I'm doing anything differently in that last year than blogging (even though I started out last year). I've always done PJ Star articles, taught cooking classes and some light catering. I've maybe done a bit more this year than in the past, but the recognition factor is far exponentially greater than the effort to obtain it.

Looking forward to 2007, I need to set some goals. Taking advantage of the previous paragraph, 2007 would be a good year to seriously start (have always tinkered with) my first cookbook. Maybe auction off the "first" signed copy to help with the self publication costs (if my mother didn't get the first, well, I'm out of the will...just kidding, but ya get the point).

Lose some weight. My weight has always yoyoed in the food business, but now I'm almost as heavy as I have ever been. I guess all the running around, stress, sweating like a pig in a kitchen 14 hours a day works as well as Tony Little exercise program.

Finish the landscaping in my backyard. Ok, I'll be realistic: finish what I've started.

One thing I have thought about for a few years (and now that it is down "on paper" with a "time stamp" (so to speak)) so if someone steals my idea, I can sue 'em is this: I know a lot of talented musicians in town. I think it would be awesome to put together a Peoria area jazz\blues 2007 Christmas CD. I can hear some of the songs in my head already. Kevin Hart playing a Latin jazz\reggae version of Winter Wonderland and Little Drummer Boy on vibes(with some "drummer assistance" from Jeff Magby or Dr. Bob), Dave Hoffman playing trumpet on Gloria (In Excelsis Deo), Joe Metzka doing a (thank you Bob Seger) strung out from the road, tired from touring, Ray Charles-esque version of Silent Night (which I've heard him do and brought tears to my eyes) and a blues version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Now here is a stretch: If you saw this guy playing bass Friday night at the Rhythm Kitchen, you know Tim Brickner on bass guitar could do a whole bass lead playing "Up on the Housetop" and pull this off. It's a jolly sort of song and Tim could turn this into masterpiece of Holiday cheer (with a few well placed solos and dropping a few "gifts for Nell type" verses). Twist my friend Grace's arm to sing "O Holy Night", "No. 9 Champion" Mike Nellas and John Miller in a guitar duo playing a montage of Greensleeves (What Child is This), phase into The First Noel then God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. That is just made for a quiet, snowing night with hot chocolate by the fireplace. I wish I could "hear in my head" a trio of of local sax players Cassie Hart, Dave Parkinson and Larry Harms playing a song together, but nothing quite pops in my head. South Side Cindy & the Sliptones playing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus". Nobody comes to mind to cover one of my favorite songs, the Smashing Pumpkins version of Christmastime. I'd like to hear Peoria native Brianna Thomas contribute (because I think she'd sound fantastic with her bluesy vocal range) Away In A Manger. Maybe I could talk my childhood through High school friend John Metzger to come down from Chicago and belt out a tune. Now, this could bring up some trouble. Could a local area blogger and this person be one in the same?? And maybe some sort of contribution?? Lots of coincidences if it isn't. Anyway, its a thought. Might be more of a hassle trying to bring together than its worth. Would try to do this for some sort of fundraiser donating the proceeds. Who knows.

Well, that is a lot of rambling, not to mention html codes. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and don't eat too much turkey.

See you around the Thanksgiving table...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Roadhouse

No, no, no...not Texas Roadhouse. The Roadhouse. It's somewhere between NE of Farmington and SE of Elmwood on North Stone School Road...4903 to be exact, but I seriously doubt that will help you. Go out 116 and about two miles before Farmington hang a right on the above mentioned road and drive about 3.6 miles. There is a sign on the left that says Pleasant Valley Lakes...turn left in there. Now why the hell am I going way out there? Well, we had tried to go there once before but it didn't quite happen. I had heard they had smoked turkey sandwiches. This obviously was a lie. Also be forewarned they are only open for dinner 5-9 Thursday-Saturday and noon to 8:00 PM on Sunday. Many apps, several sandwiches and dinners.

This place is in an old barn. It is multi-leveled and you don't feel like you are in a barn, but not quite a restaurant either. My DA and I started with the Roadhouse Turkey strips. Not some knock off of deep-fried chicken strips that you find on kiddie menus. These are turkey breasts strips that are char grilled and basted with a "secret sauce" that is kinda like a teriyaki, but not quite. Very interesting and pretty darn tasty. I had a creation called a Roadhouse Roadie with beer battered fries. An interesting combination. When explained to us, it was just too "different" that my culinary inquisitiveness forced me to order it. On something reminiscent of Avanti's bread was marinara sauce, sausage crumbles, mozzarella cheese, ham and American cheese. Odd, but tasty. I'd order it again. Well, I don't have to, I brought some home. Beer battered fries. Once again, the descriptors got the best of me. There was some kinda crunchy coating on these fries, but if you blindfolded me and said "Ok, what's on these?", I would have never guessed beer batter. Don't really know if they are worth the extra charge.

My DA had the Deep fried 6 oz. Butterflied Pork Chop Sandwich with regular fries. She declared it yummy, juicy and tender. Fries were the skin on variety.

With two beers we are out the door under $35 inclding tip (but not gasoline) and we both have lunch tomorrow.

And we are in rural Farmington. At the end of their meal, the woman at the next table said "Excuse me, but are you Chef Kevin?". Kinda stunned, I responded "Yes". "Oh, I've taken quite a few of your cooking classes. Are you teaching anywhere now?" Next its gonna be the damn paparazzi.;)

See you around the table.....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm in The Peoria Journal Star Again

Yes, I once again grace the pages of the Peoria Journal Star. Seems like I have more notoriety AFTER quitting the cooking business than during it. huh. Anyway, its about Thanksgiving and family recipes.

Here is the link: Chef Kevin's Thanksgiving

Two things about the article. I know John couldn't put EVERYTHING in the article we talked about, but it doesn't get across (as well as I thought I expressed) that Thanksgiving on the farm has a real significance. It is probably as close to the Pilgrims as it gets. You plant in the spring, pull weeds in the late spring, harvest wheat, put up hay and straw, raise chickens, harvest the soybeans in the fall followed by the corn harvest that could go on for days loading up the corn crib. Put up snow fences. Harvest items out of the garden for canning and freezing. Butchering. You go through the seasons until late fall and enjoy the fruits of your year long labor. Very little came from the grocery store. And you appreciated the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Second: there is no picture of Chef Kevin!! I'm an enigma! Ha. They called me to do a photo shoot three days before the deadline. Between work, other commitments and the photographer's schedule....not happenin'.

Today it is glossed over by prepackaged everything and overlooked by the over commercialism of Christmas. Its kinda sad, really.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It Isn't Making A Difference.

In this post I mentioned the fact that I was saddened by the fact that ex-Ram, Kurt Warner may retire at the end of the season. Worse he was benched so that rookie Matt Leinart could play and supposedly make a difference (?). Personally, I don't think it makes a difference who is at the QB helm for the AZ Cardinals...they always find a way to lose. Peyton Manning on his best day couldn't help the Arizona Cardinals.

Hey Coach Green. You have one of the most prolific passers in the past 10 years sitting on your bench who lead your team last year to the highest rated passing offense in the NFL, but you could only manage a 5-12 record. You added one of the top running backs in the NFL in your backfield. A Pro Bowl wide out. How the F... are you 1-8? You had to work REALLY hard at losing to the Bears a few weeks ago. I think FIRED is the word after this season.

Kurt, get released from these clowns and find a team who can use you and doesn't need you to have a hot shot rookie QB needing you to hold his hand. The Bears come to mind..Miami....Minnesota....Maybe Green Bay next year...Detroit.....

And What is a Burrito?

Apparently, Panera Bread thinks a burrito is a sandwich. They are trying to get a judge to declare a burrito a sandwich so a Mexican restaurant would not be able to open a restaurant in said mall because it would be in violation of a non compete clause in their lease with the mall.

Well, the judge ruled against them saying a burrito isn't a sandwich and its a go for the Mexican restaurant.

Now, maybe in MEXICO a burrito is considered a sandwich, but where are we? Whether or not it is or not, I think this is the better test: You are in said mall. You say: "Man, I really want a sandwich". Do you go to El Mexico (or whatever the Mexican restaurant's name is) or even think of going there for a sandwich because you're thinking a burrito is a sandwich? No, you wouldn't, you'd head for Panera for a turkey & swiss on rye sandwich. When was the last time you ate a burrito and said "Damn, that was a GREAT sandwich?" You probably haven't.

So, Panera, Judge Chef Kevin says quit your whining. BAM!! Case closed!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

This One Is For Scott Janz

I gotta give a shout out here. It has nothing to do with food. I, as many others, are always looking for reliable construction or re-modeling companies. And in some cases, even bemoan the lack of any effort on some of their parts. However, I’ve gotta tell a positive story. Several years ago, I started replacing the original windows in my house. This was a very hard decision for me as I am S-L-O-W-L-Y trying to remodel\restore the house to its “built in 1922” glory. All the original UNPAINTED OAK woodwork, crown moldings, French doors, built in cabinets, buffets, pillars and fireplace mantel are still in gorgeous shape. Through the years, various contractors have found quite a bit of TRUE 4X4 in the house. In other words, except for a little erosion problem in the back yard (which I’m working on) I want to keep it as original as I can…no funky wallpaper designs, loud paint (well, except in the basement work room) or contemporary decorating that one would find in a house built today out in Dunlap, because this baby ain’t going nowhere, it is in very good shape and "new" decorating just would look wrong with the insane amount of red oak that inundates this house. Thusly, to rip out the (old inefficient) original windows was a painful decision. After much searching, I decided on a particular Pella design. As these custom made babies are really expensive, I’m only replacing a few at a time. At the time, Pella had contracts with individual contractors who were “certified Pella installers”. The guy who replaced the first 9 windows was a guy named Howard Lundell. It took him and his one man crew a few days as these were all second floor windows, but DAMN he did a nice job. Pella then switched to having their own installers. The next 2 windows were replaced without incident. However, two of the next four windows were a WTF nightmare that Scott Janz could fully "appreciate" and the cause of more of my hair loss. Long story short, I didn’t want Pella and their merry band of destruction artists or "contractors” touching my house and there are still 11 windows left. What to do? I didn’t want mismatched windows by getting them from Andersen or some other window company. I get out an old bill and find Howard’s name. I called and asked “can you get these windows from Pella and install them?” Yes was the answer and how happy I was. Well, not QUITE happy. Those Pella f-ers discontinued the line of windows I had previously put in my house…GGRRRR. Happier yet when Mr. Lundell charged me FAR less in labor than Pella. Long story short again: Two days later (three remaining windows on the 2nd floor, & 3 on the main), he’s done. Beautiful work. Cleaned up after himself between day 1 & 2 and if I wouldn’t have known better, wouldn’t have thought there was any any construction done (well, except the obvious). I’m not quite sure what else this guy does. I did mention that my neighbor’s house is exactly like mine except they have a sunroom off the dining room. His reply was “We can do that for you”. Hmmm… maybe turn that into a bigger kitchen (see, I somehow knew I could turn this into a food blog) and turn the old 9x13 kitchen into…hmmm…a BAR!! So, Scott & the rest of you who may need some work done, Howard Lundell (Lundell Construction in Morton) is in the book.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Now I Feel Old

Have we been "Running With The Devil" this long?

The Associated Press

Van Halen is trying to make their biggest "jump" yet — into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with potential 2007 classmates such as R.E.M., Chic, Patti Smith, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

All are among the nine nominees for enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. A panel of 500 industry experts will select five to be inducted at the annual ceremony, to be held March 12 in New York City.

To be eligible, artists must have issued a first single or album at least 25 years prior to nomination.

Van Halen and R.E.M. came from opposite sides of the 1980s rock 'n' roll spectrum. Led by cartoonish frontman David Lee Roth and fleet-fingered guitarist Eddie Van Halen, the California quartet was a hard rock favorite with songs like "Jump" and "Hot for Teacher." R.E.M., meanwhile, was the quintessential indie rock band until breaking through to mass success in the early 1990s.

(The story continued but I just stopped it here...sorry)

At the time, I was attending East Peoria High School. If you were a "rocker" (so to speak) you worshipped the hallowed halls that Gary Richrath once trod. Who was this sacrilegious evil guitar demon known as Eddie Van Halen attempting to overthrow our guitar "god"? Even though he didn't overly affect other genre of guitarists, he did spawn a whole new generation of little Eddie Van Halen wannabe rock guitarists. (Although the last time I saw him play, he was a shell of his former self.)

However, like Gary & Eddie, the rock guitar is fading away. To me, musically, there is nothing better than a great guitar solo. As I've said in several posts frequently, in MY opinion (and it may be somewhat jaded as I walked the same hallowed halls) one of the best is still Gary Richrath's live recording of "Golden Country". Ah, yes, I'm sure I will hear that so & so's solo in such and such a song was better. And maybe it is, but there is something about that G.C. solo that almost brings tears to my eyes...maybe it is the song itself, maybe it is its intensity, maybe it puts a loud, angry punctuation mark on what the song is trying to say.

As I get older and there are fewer and fewer guitarists that earn my respect (even though I'm sure the others don't give a rat's ass what I think), I've come to appreciate the blues. A whole genre of guitar work that I'm slowly discovering. Although blues itself doesn't have the following it once did, I'm sure there will be enough screaming GS335's, Strats, Les Paul Customs & L7's to keep me happy until I die. Then all the talentless Britney Spears\Kayne West wannabes can rule the musical world. Just bury me with the ALBUMN version of "Live - You Get What You Play For".

Friday, November 03, 2006

More Peoria Culinary News

Straight from the source herself, I understand the daughter of Chef John is now at the culinary reign (or is that range) in her late father's kitchen. This is good news for us epicureans. So, give her some time to get things rolling and her bearings about her and get out there. She does sometimes post here, so maybe she will give us the 411. I'm excited.

I've heard from a reliable source that the former Roxy's building on the waterfront will now be Tavern On The Water, an English Style Pub. Well, good and fine. I do wish them the best. Something really needs to be there and I hope this works. Supposedly, late January is the target date....which if it is like any other culinary rehab I've been involved with from my own experiences or others, this means March. And then I heard this: The kitchen will be open until 11 p.m. weekdays and to midnight on weekends. Ummmm....any one else think this not the best idea ever? Maybe in the summer. Anyway, yeah for another independent restaurant\bar in Peoria!!!

I hear there may be some chef jobs in Peoria area soon. One has been advertised. No, I'm not interested in anything I have heard. Now, if Rizzi's on Sheridan wants to be a hibachi\sushi\food on a stick joint, I'm there.

OK, Non-Smokers, Put Your Money Where Your Lungs Are.

Or Something like that.

I read in the Peoria Journal Star that the Prairie Building is changing concepts. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Prairie Building, it's Lindsay On Liberty and whatever else is in that building. Lindsay's itself is going to become an Italian (or fresh pasta and pizza) restaurant, the Bistro is going to be re-invented again (and again and again and again). There is going to be a bakery AND the Liberty Street Pub.

From working there for a bit of time, I'd be willing to bet, even though I could be wrong, that this will be a non smoking pub. Why I says this is the building's owner was very, very, very (did I say very) against ANY cigarette smoking in that building. Next, the ownership has not changed. However, maybe the new(ish) management has twisted his arm. Who knows. Supposedly they will serve bar food. Now WHERE in the Prairie Building will they put this? Well, it obviously won't be in Lindsay's or Bistro 320 so my guess is WHERE THEY TRIED IT BEFORE and didn't work the first time. In the old bank area which is on the corner of Jefferson & Liberty.

So, I'll bet $10 it will be a non smoking bar.

Ok, before you go off on me about me being a non smoker why won't you go many of you go back to a place of employment that abused you? I'll go fry my lungs at F. Scotts or someplace first.

Cooking Shows You Won't See on The Food Network

Ya gotta waste 40 minutes of your life and watch these two videos from Mr. Cook. 40 MINUTES, you say?? Well, CSI is an hour with commercials, so stop whining. I don't remember when I've laughed so hard. And I've learned a new way to marinate lamb!!! (Spent 40K at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and they don't teach you things like this) The one video doesn't have a You Tube feed, you'll have to click on the link. Oh, and I can't say I agree or am a proponent of most of his methods.

WARNING: One, this guy isn't subtle..he curses and borders on slightly crude at times, etc. Two, don't get grossed out by the titles, like "Making Babies"..he isn't making or cooking Human babies. But funny, he is.

The second video: (warning: kinda starts with a weird tiki intro) WHAT HE DOES WITH A COCONUT IS OUTFUKKINRAGEOUS!!!:

Not eating around the table today....