Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Insulting or Funny?

There is a Nationwide Insurance commerical starring ex-Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, that is to air during the Superbowl that has some people upset. Apparently, the National Restaurant Association is "one" of them. The "food" NRA has written a letter to Nationwide expressing their view. The link to the NRA's response to the commercial and link to the letter sent to Nationwide is here. I read it as they are saying he has fallen from grace and now works in fast food. Other commentary I've also read says that this commercial and K-Fed are an insult to everyone working in the fast food business.

I tend to agree more with the second statement. The letter from the NRA seems backwards to me. He isn't going from the life of a rapper (if he EVER HAD one) to a fast food worker. He is portraying a fast food worker daydreaming to be a rapper (and not a particularly good one at that). It kinda appears that he may be looking into a monitor, but even so, what food joint would be playing videos in the kitchen? It's gotta be (like it has always been) in his head. He is a parody of himself. On the other hand, maybe it is a REAL K-Fed video...I wouldn't know. The manager guy sees him goofing off in the "manager" monitor yells at him to get some fries.

You be the judge: is it an insult, just funny, deserving for K-Fed... The video is here : their embedded link doesn't work.

Listenin' to some REAL music around the table...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sports Notes

Ok, sticking up for the New Orleans Saints' running back Reggie Bush probably isn't going to sit well with all you Bears fans out here. Minus the "he deserved it" comments can someone please explain this to me:

"MIAMI - Reggie Bush was fined $5,000 by the NFL for taunting during his 88-yard touchdown reception in New Orleans' NFC championship game loss at Chicago last week.
Although the rookie running back was not penalized for pointing back at Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher or for somersaulting into the end zone, he subsequently received the league's standard punishment for taunting.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the fine Sunday.

So, the refs didn't throw a flag or slap on penalty yards on the PAT or ensuing kickoff at the game, but the league fines him anyway? Has that been done before? In otherwords, if you score a TD, get a monsterous sack, block a game winning field goal, then do a little dance and the refs don't flag you, you can still get fined a week after the fact? That seems a bit backassward. Hell, if that is the case, might as well carry a Sharpie on you and get busted big time. At least you know it would be coming.

And my man, Roger Federer wins another Grand Slam tennis event. The cool Swiss did what very few tennis players have ever done: gone through a whole Grand Slam tournament and not lose a set. Hasn't been done since Bjorn Borg did it in 1980. But he needs to do it three more times to beat Borg's record of 3. Speaking of Borg, as I said in this blog, Borg\Federer would be one heck of a match. When asked if you could play anyone from any era, who would it be, Federer replied: Borg.

Speaking of accomplishments, and not to be outdone in the "I dominate my sport" mantra of Federer, Tiger Woods rallies to take Buick Open. Pressure to keep the streak alive, puts a lot of pressure on Tiger, which is exponentially passed on to his opponents.

While I'm typing about "dominating their sport", IBF heavyweight boxing champ Wladimir Klitschko's brother, Vitali, is coming out of retirement. And first match back is against current WBC Heavyweight champ Oleg Maskaev. I don't think anyone could have beaten Vitali if he would have stayed healthy. Wladimir is supposed to be on this quest to unify the heavyweight titles. He ain't got it. He gets hit and he gets fear in his eyes. Not only that, I don't think his "chin" has really been tested of late. Chris Byrd, Sam Peter? Please. A big shot from WBA Heavyweight champ, 7 foot, 325 pound undefeated Nikolai Valuev, will prove whether or not I'm right. However, Vitali isn't afraid to get hit. Watch their matches, tell me I'm wrong. Look at Vitali's face after the Lewis fight and he was still beating Lewis...he ain't "scairt".

While I'm talking bout boxing, I've watched a lot of boxing matches. I've seen boxers get viciously knocked out to the point they barely move on the canvas. I've seen heads snapped back and eyes rolling back. I've seen reruns of boxers getting beat bad and that beating causing their death. I saw the fight where Tyson hit a guy so hard with an uppercut, it lifted him 6" off the ground. But I've never seen "Out on their feet" until last night's fight between Kelly Pavlik vs. Jose Luis Zertuche. Pavlik had put down Zertuche two rounds earlier and Zertuche pretty much popped right back up. But Pavlik caught him with a BIG right and you could see Zertuche "fall asleep standing up". He looked like some really drunk guy frozen in time, but with a little sway to him. The amazing thing is that Pavlik caught him again with another big shot and he still didn't fall over. He finally fell when the ref tried to stop the fight, appeared to trip over Pavlik and stumbled\fell into\tackled Zertuche knocking him to the canvas. So, I'm guessing that is a TKO instead of a KO if you get tackled by the ref and not fall down on your own?

Well, the Bears are 10 point "dogs". If last weeks team shows up, poor Colts. However, if the team that squeaked by a few games this year shows up, well, Manning gets his ring. There is a lot of discussion and analyzation of the up coming game and I'm tired of listening to it. It all comes down to this: If the Bears are error free, they win. Nuff said.

Sportscasting from around the table...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Peoria City Council Candidates' Surveys

In case you are wondering about the candidates running for the at-large seats in the Peoria Council, here is a link to their surveys they filled out.

Happy reading around the table!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

EuroJacks

Ah, yes, the new eatery downtown on Main Street across from the Pere Marquette formerly hosting places like Babe's and SOPs. I've noticed the "Now Open" sign for the last few weeks, so, I decided to give it a shot. I e-mailed up one of my more frequent and happy to participate DAs and off we went.

The place still has the same floor pattern, but has been completely re-done and looks really nice. We were quickly seated and our cheery waitress was soon upon us asking about drinks and quoting off the dinner special. I had the Danish ribs with a homemade pasta salad and my DA had a "Mitch" burger with Eurochips (wedge cut fries). After about 15 minutes, the food came out. All the time I'm wondering "What the heck are Danish ribs?" My ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender. It appeared they were of the boiled variety, not smoked and had a faint seasoning to them. They had a light basting of what appeared to be a commercially made BBQ sauce. The bowtie pasta salad was a good sized serving and it had bits of red onion, carrot, tomato and kalamata olives in what could be described as a slighty sweet Italian dressing. My DA ordered the burger well done...and it was. It was topped with white cheddar cheese. It was proclaimed to be very tasty, lightly crispy on the outside but still with moisture on the inside. The fries were hot & crisp on the outside. Our waitress was friendly, checked often, but not intrusive.

To be honest, I thought this was going to be another downtown bar with bar food. It isn't. Some nice apps, though mostly seafood. Burgers, salads, steaks and sandwiches with just enough of a twist to be interesting, but not enough to get Peorians to go running for their favorite fried tenderloin joint. With a Sam Adams, the bill came to just shy of $28...then add tip.

I hope this place makes it. It is a nice, casual spot that isn't going to break your wallet nor inundate you with bar food.

See you around the table.....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Blues

I'm talking about the music. As some of my faithful readers know, I'm getting more and more into the blues, mainly because I love a good guitar solo and today's "music" (I sound like my parents when I was 16) just doesn't offer too much of that. I prefer the harder, rock style of blues, Clapton's early stuff, Indigenous, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, SRV, Marc Broussard, Anders Osborne, etc.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed in Kenny Wayne Shepherd's last CD. Kenny pretty much abandoned what made him and released a record that sounded more like Audioslave (not that there is anything wrong with Audioslave..I own some of their stuff).

I've been waiting for the new KWS CD "10 Days Out: Blues From The Backroads" to hit the stores (today). What I didn't realize was this really isn't a KWS CD. It is KWS, in most cases (as far as I can tell) Double Trouble (of Stevie Ray Vaughan fame) and Noah Hunt (KWS vocalist), cruising by bus from place to place in the south, ending up in Salina Kansas. During this road trip, they stop and record with people like BB King, Jerry McCain, Cootie Stark, Neal Pattman, Buddy Flett, Gatemouth Brown, Bryan Lee, John Dee Holeman, Etta Baker, Henry Townsend, Honeyboy Edwards, Hubert Sumlin, Henry Gray, Pinetop Perkins, Calvin Jones and Wild Child Butler. Somewhere along the line they hook up with Howlin' Wolf's Band. Some of these people are in their 80's & 90's, still palying the blues and as one person said "Are most likely the originators of some of the different style of blues sounds". Henry Townsend holds the record of recording an album every decade for 8, yes, 8 decades: his first was in 1929, his last in 2004...which was a LIVE album!! He died in 2006 about a month short of his 97 birthday. Someone still maintains his MySpace page!!


Anyway, this is an awesome idea KWS had and accomplished. It comes with a DVD and you can see he just sets up equipment in these people's backyard, kitchen, etc. and lets the tape roll. There are very few Strat rippin' KWS riffs here; he just blends in for the most part. There are a few uptempo numbers where he solos that you can pick out his sound. Oh, sure, Eddie Van Halen used to be able to make the guitar make sounds that it probably was never intended to make, but the differing styles these old guys (and one 92 year old woman) have are just priceless...things you just don't hear anymore.

So, while no strat shredding riffs from one of the new young gun blues slingers, I gotta say I really like this CD. Just the CD is available to download from all the usual sites for about $10. The CD\DVD was $24 at Barnes and Noble and there is a "Barnes & Noble only" extra 2 song CD packaged with it. I'm glad I didn't do the download and bought the package.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Now Wouldn't This Be A Great Job?

I have subscriptions to various culinary sites. One is Tabasco. I click on the link and I get a faceful of cool looking recipes for wings, chili, pizza, etc. all using various Tabasco products. First thing that goes through my mind is "WOW! Some of these sound REALLY good!!" And the second thing that goes through my mind is: "How cool would it be to be a chef in the test kitchens for Tabasco?" Working to create new Tabasco products, recipe development, taste testing spicy food, etc.? Kinda ranks up there with thinking it would be awesome to be the corporate chef for Sam Adams or a winery.

Gee...I'm bloggy today.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hard Decisions

I was presented with a HUGE dilemna tonight. Finish watching the Bears game (they were ahead 18-14 at the time) or go to the Smo-King Pit (one of my favorite joints to eat in Peoria) and eat as much as I could shove in my face FOR FREE. It was a dilemna as I know "The Pit" doesn't have a TV. Bears or ribs, brisket, pulled pork, beans, slaw, cheesecake. Watching the Bears playing for the opportunity of going to the Superbowl or all the BBQ I can eat and someone else picks up the tab for it. What to do? What would you do. Well, here was my decision:

DAMN! That was good and I got some Smo-King Pit BBQ to take home, for free, too. Sorry Bears, I'll watch ya in two weeks.

Feeling larger than a Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade Balloon around the table...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New Restaurant?

Catchy title to get your attention, huh?

What kind of restaurant does Peoria need? And where?

My two cents. It needs a lot more independent versions of what Vonachen's was before it's current Bud's\Vonachen's merger. Maybe some versions that are a bit more upscale or have a bit of ethniticity (is that a word?) to them, but that general feel and price range. A step up from the Applebees, Chili's, etc. but not French Toast, Seven, Jim's Steakhouse, either.

OK...two things. NO, I'M NOT STARTING ANOTHER RESTAURANT!!! and this isn't market research. Don't tell me "NO SMOKING", fried catfish or Avanti gondolas. Give it some REAL thought....

I'll check back after rolling some sushi :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Playing in the Kitchen

Made obvious by the lack of restaurant posts, I've either been eating at all my favorite places or I have been cooking a lot at home. A bit of the former, a lot of the latter. So, not that you are going to be riveted to your seat concerning what I had for dinner last night, however, if you are a "foodie", you might find it interesting.

It seems like the beef industry is always coming up with new cuts of beef. Two in recent years are the Flat Iron Steak and the Chuck Tender. Actually, the have always been around, they've just changed the names to make them more marketable. To get it out of the way, I have never tried cooking a flat iron. I did have one in a St. Louis restaurant a few years ago and thought (at the time) I would rather pay a few extra bucks and got a NY Strip. Next time I see one in the meat counter, I'll buy it and try it myself. I've been playing around with the chuck tender. It LOOKS like a filet, has the consistency (if cooked medium rare) of a strip and tastes more like a sirloin. Pretty tasty. I wouldn't recommend cooking this more than medium though as it does have a reputation for getting tough.

Wings. They are pretty easy to make if you have a deep fryer. They crisp up nicely on the outside, toss 'em with your fav wing sauce and good to go. If the "wings" are fresh or thawed, toss'em in a little seasoned flour before frying and this seems to leave a bit of a coating that helps get the sauce to stick better without leaving a heavy "breading-like" crust. I have a fry daddy like thing, but trying to find an optional way. I have, but it takes some time and wouldn't do it unless I was making a large batch. I put a pot of chicken stock on the stove and add a bunch of hot pepper flakes...kinda infuses heat into the wings instead of all in the sauce itself. Simmer'em 'til done. Drain'em and cool them in the 'fridge...overnight works best. Pat'em dry when cool, heat the oven to 425, brown'em up, toss'em with sauce and put them back in the oven a bit. It is a bit of work, but it does two things: distributes the "love" from the caspicum throughout the whole wing, just not the sauce and I've found that it makes a more tender wing. Ever have wings you feel like you have to practice caveman knawing tactics to eat? Not this way. My sauce...a bit of Sweet Baby Ray's Spicy, some Frank's Hot Sauce, a bit of ketchup, a touch of cayenne and a good dose of Garlic Chile sauce. Not a "Traditional" wing sauce, but I like it.

Duck breasts. Nothing overly exciting, just new recipe development. Dinner a few nights ago was extremely good (SORRY). I did a pan seared Asian 5 Spice powder dusted duck breast finished with a bit of a teriyaki glaze and took Napa cabbage and made a warm mock Kim Chee out of it with napa cabbage, mirin, rice wine vinegar and garlic chile paste. In hind sight, a few julienned carrots and shiitake mushrooms would be good in this. The rich, slightly sweet flavor of the duck went well with the spiciness of the "Chee".

Pork Chops. I don't know....I have this "problem". I get in a rut as I like a good pork rib chop a certain way. Ok, I like a certain sauce with pork. A little bacon, some shiitake mushrooms, a little shallot or onion, some finely diced apple, a dollop of stone ground brown mustard, some salt pepper, thyme and some chicken stock. Sometimes, I'll crush some caraway seed and toss it into the mix. It has become boring, but I still love the flavor.

Italian Gravy. I did this for a dinner party I hosted in December. I did it at 2 Chez, NYE. I made another batch. I "borrowed" Jeff "the Frugal Gourmet" Smith's recipe and have modified it. I still give him credit, even though what I have come up with doesn't resemble his orginal version. I delete the beef he starts with and use the same weight of meat except it an even split of bacon and Italian Sausage. I use demi-glace instead of beef stock...makes it a bit richer. I left out the mushrooms this time and can't say it made a difference. Maybe next time I'll saute some up and add them at the last minute. So, what it comes down to is this: It is a "spaghetti sauce" that resembles 75% Bolognese cut with 25% demi glace. A bit rich to eat with straight pasta (even though that is what I do with it) but makes a great lasagne or a braising "liquid" for beef or pork.

I know...I get it all the time. "If I could cook like that, I'd never go out to eat". That maybe true until you see how many dirty dishes I create and it looks like a food bomb went off in my kitchen.

For those looking for reviews....I see one on the horizon.......

See you around the table.....

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chipotle

No, I'm not talking about a restaurant chain by the name Chipotle, I'm talking about the chile itself.

Several years ago I was at a food show\convention and the very esteemed Culinary Institute of America President Emeritus Ferdinand Metz, CMC, MBA said: "One culinary trend I'm glad to see starting to fade is that everything doesn't have chipotle in it anymore". It was getting a bit overused...it was showing up in desserts!!

Anyway, I love chipotle chiles. A chipotle is a smoked and dried Jalapeno pepper. They have a slight sweetness, lots of smoke and have a good amount of kick. Hydrated, they obtain a certain richness. Canned, in adobo sauce, they can be warm and smoky to rich and seemingly hotter than a standard jalapeno.

So, what is the point of this blog? If you are going to put something like Chipotle Chicken on your menu, to me it should be smoky, peppery, spicy, rich, bold flavored chicken not something that resembles sweet BBQ sauce with a dash of Tabasco or something. Call it Essence of Chipotle marinated Chicken or something but don't go diss'n the Chipotle, dammit.

I'm not saying 100% Chipotle infusion either, because that could kill the capsicum meek. I would like it.

So, all you restaurants out there: Chipotle up or chipotle off. No more weeny Chipotle.

See you around the table trying to find where the hell the chipotle went....

I'm Calling In Well.

Despite the nice weather we've enjoyed so far this winter, there seems to be a lot of sick people..you know, colds, sore throats, flu, etc. I realize some people need to work so they can pay their bills. I know I am currently working with some people who have cold, and maybe flu, symptoms. I like these people; I have nothing bad to say about them except stay home with your germs until you get well. I don't want your illness. So, if they continue to come in sick, I think I'm going to start calling in well to avoid their constantly mutating germs jumping back and forth between each other. I imagine the following conversation taking place:

Me: "Hey, (My Boss's Boss, which will now be referred to as BOB), I'm calling in well today and I won't be in for my shift".
BOB: "Huh, what? Calling in well. What the heck is that about?"
Me: "Well, there are just too many sick people working and I don't want to catch whatever nasties they have. As some of them are managers, I can't make them go home. Either you tell them to burn their sick time and stay home or I'm staying away from them. Sorry."
BOB: "You're kidding, right?"
Me: (Talking to friend) Hey, pass that bottle of Cabo Wabo over here. Uh, no BOB, I'm not."
Phone: Click

Might as well enjoy all those sick days I've accumulated instead of using them up being miserable.

Chevy's Fresh Mexican

Dropped in for lunch today after a completely painless visit (if you can believe it) to the DMV to renew my license plate sticker.

As you know, I'm not a big chain restaurant person. I ordered ice tea and the beef & pork enchilada platter. Of course, complimentary chips & salsa appear. The chips are light and crispy, which I guess is OK, but I loaded a few up with salsa and SNAP! Just happy that none landed on the new J. Garcia tie I was wearing or I would have SNAPPED. The salsa is tasty and had a darker hue to it than most you find around here and more flavorful that most. Here comes the food. Ah, the beans remind me of those at Walt's Dos...not mashed to death..there are still beans in them. These were deep and rich tasting. The rice was the usual red tinged stuff that is sort of non descript but these had a hint of butter to them. The enchiladas: The pork one was very good with the chipotle cream sauce smothered in cheese. The beef one, I wasn't as excited about. The beef inside was tasty, but the red chile sauce didn't do it for me...kinda tasted like jazzed up ketchup. Maybe after a painless stop at the DMV that was all the excitement I needed to make me happy for the day. I'm not saying it was bad, just not to my liking. My waitress was friendly,efficient and we discussed the finer art of making Manhattans...odd for a Mexican joint, huh?

Anyway, I'm out the door at $14 with tip. If this was an independent restaurant, I'd be sure to go back and have the pork enchiladas again...but I really hate supporting chains....

See you around the table.....