Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blogger Topics (I'm Griping Again About HB 429)

There are several local bloggers who seem to have topics they like to re-visit. Billy and the (as he puts it) "award winning (snicker) editorial staff" at the Peoria Journal Star, C.J. Summers blog finds a lot of Kellar Branch material and Scott O'Brien questions our presence in Iraq. One would think mine to be food, but lately it is not. Is is House Bill 429.

Unfortunately, it has passed and is on its way to the Senate.

For those of you who haven't read my ramblings about HB 429, it makes it illegal for out of state wine retailers to ship wine to private individuals into IL. Of course, the Illinois Liquor distributors have padded Illinois legislators pockets with $5.4 million over the last few years so that those legislators believe that this law is, in part, protecting the IL consumer. Protect them from what? Bad packaging? Cork Taint?

OK, given the state loses some tax money. So, force out of state retailers to collect IL sales tax; the state plans on doing it with out of state wineries. Force them to buy a license to sell to IL consumers; the state plans on doing it to out of state wineries, also. It is supposedly to help protect Illinois wineries. Seriously, I'm not going to forego a bottle of Mackinaw Valley Alexanders Red just because I'm buying a bottle of Palari Santa Ne, that I can't find in IL, from a wine shop in CA. The fear of an underage kid buying it and having it shipped? They can't provide one single incident of that happening. And that means they can protect a kid from ordering it from a winery, but not a retailer? MMM...how's that? Protect IL alcohol stores' sales? OK, maybe a few out of state liquor stores sell things a few $ cheaper. But who in their right mind would order a bottle on line, wait three days for it, pay $4-5 to have it shipped to save $2 a bottle? I surely wouldn't.

But here is the stupidest part: They claim all these things will hurt Illinois if out of state retailers CONTINUE (they have been doing so for 12 years), however, allowing out of state wineries WON'T? Out of state wineries are still allowed to ship to private individuals in IL. Now can someone PLEASE explain the sense or logic behind that (lack of) thought process?

It isn't just wine, folks. It is any alcohol. Illinois Liquor Distributors only want you to have what makes them money. I said it before: When I had my restaurant I asked several distributors to get me a few wines for which I would have liked to serve. They told me it wasn't profitable to do so, so I was SOL.

There are wines I KNOW are NOT imported to Illinois by Illinois liquor distributors. If they refuse to bring them in, why shouldn't I have the right to acquire those wines by any means possible? Because it will take money out of their pockets to bribe our legislators with? I would like all of our area legislators, Ackerman, Leitch, and especially bill co-sponsor Shock, who all voted for this stupid anti-shipping law to start shopping for my annual purchases of Knebel Winninger Rottgen Spatlese, Palari Santa Ne and that elusive magnum of 1962 Pichon Lalande for which I am looking. Those liquor distributors lined your pockets boys, better start calling in those favors. And if they didn't line your pockets, I would like an explanation for why you voted yes.

The thing is that I only buy about 12 bottles or so from out of state retailers as the wines I buy are very limited, the distribution is tiny and they are usually from Germany or Italy. It isn't like I'm buying Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. I'd be happy to pay sales tax.

And for those of you who like to know how our state government wastes money: There are two other states who did this and they are currently being sued by consumer groups for violating a Supreme Court decision on this. Now instead of just collecting tax money and licensing money to put money INTO the state coffers, now the state can spend how much defending itself as there are already groups waiting to sue the state of IL over this if it passes.

Lacking certain wines around the table.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

First: Smoking. Then: transfats. Now what?

Yes, Smoking, transfats, foie gras and other items have been banned from restaurants depending on where you live. Now: Garlic. That is correct: Garlic. Don't believe me:

http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2007/06/26/features/food_and_wine/doc4680a6b7a9468179435897.txt

I keep saying brussel sprouts and corn, people. It is all a matter of time before all that is available to eat at any restaurant will be brussel sprouts and corn.

Enjoy that big bowl of brussel spouts stuffed with corn mousse......

Beliefs vs. Purchases

A bit of an ethics question just to see what people do & think.

Lets say that you go to Bob Carpets. You have been looking e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e for new carpet for your dining room. FINALLY Bob has exactly the carpet you want. You take a sample home and DAMN that carpet is just awesome. Better Homes & Gardens is already calling you for a photo shoot. Excitedly, you go to return the sample and place an order. However, upon going in, you notice a sign in the window that states: "We support cause X". Now you are a stout supporter AGAINST cause X. Do you still buy carpet from Bob?

Now the cause could be anything from national, local, religious, etc.

My thought as a business owner is why would you openly support a cause that could hurt your business? I tried not to as not to support nor discriminate against anyone, but didn't think until recently about how supporting a cause could hurt your business.

Thoughts?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

While it SOUNDS like it would only happen it Peoria....

...my dad tells me that my sis, who lives in Kewanee, is having this issue:

In the ongoing process of beautifying the interior and exterior of her property, she has done some nice landscaping work, planted trees, got the grass to grow, etc. Now, I realize in error she planted a tree on city property. Well, the city never complained. Nor do they complain that she maintains their property, cleans it up when necessary, removes garbage and other debris including limbs from city owned trees that fall. Well, the tree she planted died. And if it would fall in the wrong direction, it could feasibly take out some sort of public utility line or passing by car. So, she was going to have our chainsaw wielding father take it down. This is a medium small tree and dad could take this thing down without any incident....in his sleep...blindfolded. However, the city has informed her she NEEDS A PERMIT as it is city land. When I heard that, I thought I was in Peoria.

She plants the tree, they don't object. She takes care of tree (maybe not well enough), they don't object. She takes care of THEIR property, they don't object. But she wants to take down the dead tree, that she planted, so it causes no potential damage to her property, the utility or a car that may pass by if something would cause said tree to fall over. And dad would take the wood with him so the mess would even be cleaned up. Yet she needs a permit. My head is shaking and eyes are rolling.

Obviously, Kewanee city government has stolen Peoria City governments crack pipe.

Happy Anniversary To Me

Yep, I've been blogging for two years. Hard to believe. I wonder how much more productive I would have been if I didn't get started and didn't read so many other blogs and reply so much? Ahhh....who cares?

I feel I have a better insight of what goes on in P-town, especially the area in which I live and various topics in general because of blogging. I'm not saying it makes me a better person; just more informed.

And, another milestone: I'm averaging 50 hits a day. I know it isn't much...Billy gets more hits than that while pouring milk on his morning cornflakes, but its all good.

I've met and talked with some great people. I've been hugely insulted. Guess it is all part of the online world and having an opinion, no matter how right I am :)

So, for another year, I'll just keep reviewing restaurants, bitching about things that make no sense, antagonizing other bloggers and try to get people to show up where I'm cooking.

See you around the table.....

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Your Illinois Tax Dollars at Work

This is a Yahoo! article...just thought I would cut and paste it here.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. Rod Blagojevich's practice of flying from his Chicago home to the Capitol in Springfield and back for daily budget negotiations is costing Illinois taxpayers more than $5,800 a day — roughly $76,000 since late May and climbing.

An Associated Press analysis of state flight records shows Blagojevich made nine round trips on state airplanes from May 22 to June 7, and he appears to have made at least four more since then.

Several of those flights came while the governor's aides were admonishing lawmakers for not spending enough time in the Capitol working on the budget.

With the first eight flights, Blagojevich averaged less than five hours in Springfield per trip. On the ninth, he stayed two nights as lawmakers tried to meet a May 31 budget-approval deadline. They missed that deadline, and the Democrats who dominate Illinois government remained deadlocked Thursday, which likely means more flights for the governor, a fellow Democrat.

Based on the state auditor's calculations, the actual cost of flying the governor's plane between Chicago and Springfield is $9.81 per mile.

That puts the cost of Blagojevich's nine flights for which official records are available at $52,540. Detailed records aren't available for the flights since June 7, but averages from previous day trips suggest an additional cost of $23,300.

Blagojevich's office refused to answer questions about the matter.

Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican who serves as co-chairman of the Legislative Audit Commission, called the governor's travel an "enormous waste" and noted that it amounted to more than a teacher's annual salary.

Illinois has an Executive Mansion in Springfield, and past governors have either lived in the capital at least stayed there while the Legislature was in session. Blagojevich lives in Chicago and prefers to go home at the end of each day.

Lawmakers typically meet in Springfield three days a week, and Blagojevich has been flying to Springfield each day. If he arrived at the start of each week's session and stayed at the Executive Mansion until the end, the cost of his flights would be about two-thirds less.

I'm not even going to comment....you all know what the comment would be.




Traffic on War

Is it me, or does there seem to be more and more traffic on War Drive? On my way to work two days ago, I was heading west from Prospect to University. The traffic was backed up from the light at Knoxville almost to Schooners!! It took 3 green lights until I got through while noticing the traffic on Knoxville was pretty light.

Just me hitting bad traffic more frequently or is this something anyone else is noticing?

Sitting in my car...not around a table :(

Its Summer, so here comes my annual summer rant..

Something I usually mention this time of year. Obviously, summer and early fall are great times to enjoy the outdoors (unless its 95 degrees). Lots of fairs, festivals, riverfront events to be enjoyed. However, don't forget the little independent restaurant guys (and gals) during this time. With so many other temporary food outlet options out there, it gets a bit rough in the summer for some restaurants. So, if you want them around this late fall and winter for your holiday get togethers and when there is little else to do, remember to support them now so they are around later. You aren't just supporting the owner, but the people who work there, too.

Disclaimer: No, I'm not being paid by anyone...just know how it is :)

See you around the table.....

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Peoria Women's Club

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew of any nice, small places to have a wedding and reception for 50-ish people. As I had catered a few events in the past at The Peoria Women's Club, I suggested contacting them. As they needed a reception food provider, I received another call.

I have to tell you, if you need a space for 75 people or less, this is the place; unless you don't mind your crowd separated into two rooms, then 150 would max it out. First, it is a gorgeous, old building that is meticulously cared for. Second, the people are very friendly and easy to work with. You enter the building and walk into a large reception area and on either side, there is a room that will seat (my guess) 70-ish theater style and probably 60-ish (comfortably) for a luncheon or dinner. Speaking of food, they do have a nice sized commercially equipped kitchen albeit lacks major refrigeration\freezer space. However, if you hire a caterer, or bring in food yourself, you'll appreciate the space. And in tribute to either the building itself or IDOT's re-design of I-74, you don't hear any highway noise.

Now the down side. If you want it, you best bring it with you. In the past, they (for whatever reasons) chose not to promote the place for rental. And really, folks, I could see why...I wouldn't want to see this place get beat up. However, they have had a change of plans and are slowly opening the doors (so to speak). Thusly, if you need A\V equipment, pots and pans or other cooking supplies, plates, silver, etc., well you need to bring 'em. However, there is a beautiful sounding grand piano. They do have the tables and chairs.

I'm sure many of you have seen or driven by this old stately brick building sitting on the corner of Fayette and Madison (301 NE Madison - which is odd as it really faces Fayette). PeoriaIllinoisan's "Name This Peoria Landmark - #127" provides some "scary" looking pictures, but it isn't so on the inside. Did you know on the second floor is a 440 seat theater complete with orante curved back spring loaded folding wood seats, a vaudeville stage and small orchestra pit?? And leading up to it is one of the most grand staircases you'll ever climb? No you can't use it. It has a nasty peeling lead paint problem (and I've heard astronomical numbers to rectify and update this grand theater).

Now I seriously doubt that the leaders of the club would think that rental fees are going to garnish enough $$ to update (I'm not using the word restore as it is in great physical shape) this hidden gem. Maybe the city could guarantee another loan to a entity that has been here over 100 years. Maybe some local arts societies or preservation groups could hold some fundraisers. I say sell naming rights to the chairs starting at $250 a crack. $250. When you see this awe-inspiring spectacle for the first time, you'll feel your pocketbook open or billfold come out. No, you don't get a bronze named plated screwed to the back of a chair like a vanity plate on a car. Somewhere, there would be a chart of the donors. Yeah, some of you may be doing the math in your head and that isn't enough. I just say no more than 10% is sold to any one person or identity to prevent "naming" of the theater.

In the meantime, if you need some space for a smaller gathering e-mail me at kevin@chefkevincooks.com and I will forward you the contact information or you can call the Peoria Women's Club directly.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What Happened Here?

I'm searching local news sites this morning to no avail? Any one have any info. on what happened around 10:15 last night on War Drive in front of Schooners\Super Liquors (not saying those businesses were involved...just a reference point)? There had to be 8-10 squad cars and they were diverting traffic off of War.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Playing" in Peoria

Yeah, I know it is an old saying, but I think it to be appropriate.

There are a lot of great musicians in Peoria. Some have played in very well known bands. Some still do. Some are trying to make it to that level. I am going to take a cue from Support Your Central Illinois Businesses and recommend you check this guy out. I am not trying to slight any other Peoria musicians here, but Dave just simply astounds me every time I hear him play.

Dave Hoffman was the trumpet soloist for the Ray Charles Orchestra for 13 years. Guess where he lives now? Outskirts of Peoria. He plays frequently in the Peoria area. I caught him recently (even though I hear him play frequently) and was reminded how good this guy is. Who ever developed the trumpet, coronet, flugelhorn, etc. never dreamed that sounds could be tweaked out of their inventions as to how Dave produces some amazing tones.

Granted, it helps if you like Jazz. However, if you are a person who can appreciate "great" when you are subjected to "great", then you should enjoy listening to David.

You can catch him most Fridays at Panache from 5:00 pm - 7:30pm, however, the place is usually packed. You can find his summer schedule here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

OK, OK, OK

Yeah, I know...I haven't posted any restaurant reviews lately. Well, I haven't been overly inclined until just recently and now I have a cornucopia of them. So, without further adieu......

Firehouse Pizza

For those who may not know, Firehouse Pizza has moved into bigger digs by relocating from its miniscule location on Pioneer Park to Northpoint Shopping Center.

I've had Firehouse Pizza several times. However, I personally never think to go there (the old location) as it just wasn't comfortable. the new joint kicks that excuse to the curb. My DA and I got there just as it appeared that a couple of groups were just leaving and we found just one booth open...nice timing.

We ordered a large, handtossed Firehouse Special...one half without green peppers. We noticed that if you are homesick or a lousy conversationalist or by yourself, they have TVs mounted at each booth so you can pick what you want to watch.

the pizza arrived and nothing new...Firehouse pizza never disappoints. The sauce is slightly sweet, which is a bit odd, but nevertheless, it is a good pie.

Now, a word to the wise. I'm not the only one who thinks this...I've had a few people concur with my assessment. For some reason, Firehouse Pizza just isn't near as good heated up the next day. I don't know if I don't have a bad enough hangover going on or what, but....it just isn't. So, don't over order. However, don't let that little glitch dissuade you from trying Firehouse Pizza.

See You Around The Table.....

River Beach Pub & Eatery

As of this past Monday, The River Beach Pub has a new owner. So, on Tuesday, my DA & I head for South Rome. A nice evening to sit on the deck, over look the river, enjoy a Sam Adams and get some dinner.

My DA had a wrap that consisted of Hummus, feta cheese and vegetables. Not my thing, but to each their own. It looked like a pretty good sized portion, but it disappeared. After wanting a burger and very tempted by some southwest styled burger, I switched my choice at the last minute to the brisket sandwich. I kicked out a few extra quarters to have it topped with grilled onions and pepperjack cheese. Besides being a bit sloppy to eat (after I increased it "sloppability" by adding some BBQ sauce), it was a very tasty, moist and tender sandwich.

We both order the River Crisps which are homemade potato chips with a light dusting of seasoned salt. My DA who had been there before, recognized a carryover item from the previous menu, a honey jalapeno sauce, that we requested to use as a dipping sauce for the crisps.

Still want that burger though. Gotta go back....

See You Around The Table......

River Station

Went to the River Station for lunch today. What a nice day to have lunch, sit outside and enjoy the weather and view of the river.

Our waitress was very cheery and quick to get our beverage order. My DA just had water (boring) and I had an iced tea. Very cloudy ice tea. Had a good flavor, but it made the river look clear. Anyway, I had the Jamaican Chicken Sandwich with fries and my DA the Chef Salad. The food came out quickly. The salad appeared to be of the standard Chef Salad variety on a bed of what appeared to be mostly iceberg lettuce. My DA was quite happy with her choice. My chicken sandwich contained two seasoned (with Jamaican seasoning, perhaps) that were char-grilled on a large bun. The chicken was tasty, but it was basically chicken on a bun..no mayo, special sauce, etc. The fries were of the plank variety, hot and crisp, but nothing special.

There were a few other interesting items on the menu of interest which may draw me back on another nice day to eat outside with good company and conversation.

See You Around The Table....

Eamon Patricks

Went on a Tuesday night. Think there was a Chiefs game so the room was kinda busy. My DA (dining accomplice) & I picked a table against the wall opposite the bar. We made the mistake of picking the table that was (apparently) next to the subwoofer for the sound system. Our bad. Anyway, our cheerful waitress quickly took our drink order. I ordered the Reuben pizza and my DA ordered a "pick your ingredients to design your own pizza" pizza. Place has the ambience of Irish pub\sports bar. My pizza showed up first. So, being polite, I waited. My DA's pizza showed up. After "digging in", my DA announced that this couldn't be the pizza ordered as it had all the wrong ingredients on it. We flag down on waitress and explained the situation. Eventually, the right pizza showed up. Both pizzas were very tasty and I would order the Reuben version again and would definitely return before a Civic Center event.

Now, here is the strange part. My DA went with a different group of people at a later date....they goofed her "pick your ingredients to design your own pizza" pizza AGAIN!! I guess the moral of the story is don't order a "design your own pizza".

See You Around The Table......

Giving The City "The Finger".

As many of you may have read from previous posts here or my other blog "It Just Slays Me", I have a gripe with the city. Two years ago they sent me a notice that the weeds along my property exceeded 9" and if I didn't bring them into compliance, I would get a fine. The "weeds" were hollyhocks which means that the inspector must be botanically challenged. After re-vamping the retaining wall, the process removed the hollyhocks. Liking the hollyhocks, I found and planted a "rarer" version: the black hollyhock. Well, some other botanically challenged yahoo with a weed eater weedwacked it last year even though it was part of a nicely maintained landscape. I figured it was either the city, cable, phone as the whole alley appeared weedwacked.

Well, the hollyhock is pissed. Last year it had two stems with flowers. This year:






































It is well over 6' tall, 14 stems, more buds ready to pop open than I care to count and many blooming black hollyhocks saying "(BLEEP) YOU, WEEDWACKO!!!