Sunday, August 26, 2007

Enjoyment of Food

Hat tip to Reno for the suggestion:

Here is a direct quote from the late Peter Michael, Certified Master Chef \ Certified Culinary Educator \ Certified Master Chef Exam Judge: "My wife & I always get invited over to friends' homes for after dinner drinks. Guess why that is? But, I like a burger off the grill just as much as the next guy."

Well, everyone knew the answer...this man wasn't "just" a chef; his credentials were impressively intimidating. However, we ran into him and his wife one day at local fair and he was munching on a hot dog. Yet, his friends were too intimidated to cook for him. Kinda funny, isn't it. The man is happy with a fair food hotdog. Think the hot dog guy knew he was one of the most highly decorated chefs of the late 20th century?? I'd bet Chef Michael couldn't have cared less.

So, what is this all about?

For me, culinary words & wisdom to live by. Chef Michael didn't just teach the culinary arts; he taught life. He was by far the most influential instructor I had at the CIA....and he taught us how to dice onions and make stock :) And the above quote has a far deeper connotation. I only had one friend who would cook for me when I graduated from the CIA. She knew that I was there to enjoy, not to critique. My mother who had cooked for me all my life, even felt intimidated. Why? I don't know. I don't pass judgement in those cases. It is all about enjoyment and appreciation. And you have to let your friends & family know that. Conversely, I also tell them not to ask for my professional opinion. I'm at your home enjoying food, wine, company, etc. I don't want to "work". I don't want to critique. I don't want to take a chance at hurting someone's feelings because something may not be technically correct and then cause an awkward situation. If I enjoyed it, I say so, much like anyone else would. But you never hear me say negative (because I'm sure it would be taken wrong) or overly positive (because once again, it may sound like I'm critiquing) because I feel either extreme would make me sound judgemental. Now, even if (insert the name of the best chef in the world in your opinion here) made a cauliflower-pea-sweetbread salad with pickled beet dressing, I wouldn't eat it. Four things I do not like. However, it doesn't mean I'm not eating it because it sucks: it is because I hate the main ingredients & nothing to do with anyone's cooking ability. God, I just want to relax and enjoy just like anyone else!!!! Believe me, critiquing is the last thing I want to do!

At restaurants it is the same thing. I ask if I'm not familiar with something. If the menu doesn't specify how a particular fish is cooked, I will ask as I'm not that big of a "fried fish in Peoria" fan (I've seen fish come out that looked entombed in crust; I prefer a "just barely breaded" fried fish). But after that, it is expectation and enjoyment. If I go to Captian Rons, I have certain expectations. I don't expect to have elaborate table settings, heavily reduced sauces and Art Culinare designed food. At French Toast, I do. I enjoy both for what they are and the experience they are trying to create. I pick the place to enhance the mood. Casual bite to eat with friends; Captain Ron's. Romantic evening out; French Toast. I seriously doubt the type of tomato is going to change those things much. So, when I post about restaurants here, I write about how they faired to my expectations. I will be a little more critical about the upscale white tablecloth places versus the mom & pop sandwich joint.

As the main thing is enjoyment, when I do my little reviews, I don't try to get too in depth. What I enjoyed, and didn't, and why. And yes, I do use a little "restaurant knowledge" when I write them, but not to sound like I'm from Zagats. Which brings me to a point: I've never understood those "star" ratings anyway. Two stars...is that two stars in comparison to what you expected, two stars compared to all the other meals you've ever eaten in your life or two stars compared to all of the exact same items you've eaten elsewhere? It may be the best meatloaf a critic has ever eaten and gives it 5 stars, but is it better than a perfectly prepared 10 oz. USDA Prime filet mignon from St. Elmo's in Indianapolis (it's probably CHEAPER)? I just don't get "stars".

Unfortunately, as Chef Michael suggested, we are in a profession that is vital to sustain life. People need to eat. Granted, not everyone needs or has to eat in a restaurant, etc. But as it is our profession, people sometimes rely on us for varied information about the betterment a life sustaining necessity. It is our obligation to provide them, to the best of our ability, with that information. (Doesn't mean I have to give you my secret BBQ sauce recipe, though....nice try :))

I think if you become a culinary militant on either side of the kitchen, you are going to have a hard life. In the kitchen, people won't want to work with you. At the table, people won't want to dine with you.


Eat and dine well, my friends. And don't forget to have your favorite Chef over for a burger.

See you around the table.....

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Captain Ron's

As it was too nice of an evening to eat inside, my D.A. and I set out to enjoy the natural beauty of the river by having dinner at Captain Ron's. Captain Ron's is on Wesley Road in Creve Coeur. Guys, you'll miss your turn-off if you are gawking at wondering what the heck is going on at .

Nice night to sit on the deck. The waitress was friendly and was with us almost immediately with menus and if we knew what we wanted to drink. Isn't "Sam Adams, please" tattooed on my forehead? Nevermind. I had the grilled Grouper dinner with coleslaw and sweet potato fries. My D.A. had the fried Alaskan Walleye dinner with S.P.F.s and a house salad. The house salad was basically iceberg lettuce topped with red onion strips and cuke slices. The creamy bacon dressing was pronounced "pretty good". My coleslaw was coleslaw...nothing fancy, not disappointing. Doesn't measure up to Tybee Island coleslaw, but if you serve coleslaw in the S.E., ya better have some mighty good slaw. Our sweet potato fries were just crispy and lightly seasoned. They came with a brown sugar\cinnamon\(my guess) butter dipping sauce. My D.A. walleye came in a medium thick breading..not barely coated, not entombed. My grouper was perfectly done: nice grill marks, moist and flaky and a generous 12 ounce portion. Not a big fan of lemon pepper that was on it, but it wasn't saturated with the stuff so it wasn't overly noticeable.

Dinners, with two Sams and a Bacardi\Pineapple was $32.00 plus tip. the only bad thing about this dinner was the uninvited flies, but I guess that is part of eating outside by the river.

See You Around The Table....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Revitalizing Older Peoria Neighborhhoods

I read the article in the Journal Star about councilman Bob Manning wanting to give tax breaks to certain areas of the city to help increase home ownership. The only thing I have ever disagreed with my councilman was the water company buyout, but applaud him for his efforts on various other matters. However, I'm not sure if his current plan would work as intended. Its intentions are good, but I would like to add some ideas that would (in my opinion) make it better.


The only problem I see with freezing property taxes is that a lot of people will put the extra money into Schlitz instead of shingles. Or in my case Sam Adams instead of sidewalks. Or single malt instead of siding. You get the picture. Personally, I think you lock current HOMEOWNERS in for 3 years. HOMEOWNERS moving in gets 5 years as an incentive. As a current East Bluff home owner, I could live with newbies receiving that incentive as it will eventually benefit me. After those 3/5 years, the lock is off unless you can prove that you spent (this is a arbitrary number) $2,000 in home improvement during the previous tax year. You've had ample time to save and get some work done, so no moaning or bitching. Either a statement from a KNOWN contractor who pays taxes or if you are handy and can do it yourself, the receipts. All work is subject to inspection without prior notice. So if you turn in receipts or contractor bills for 4 new windows, you better have 4 new windows. If you prove these improvements, the property tax lock stays on. If not, oh, well. If you have 10 years of continuous home improvement, you may have run out of things to improve and the lock stays on for 5 years regardless if you improve anything or not. However, this is for home-owner occupied homes only. I'm sure this will bring moans and groans. Sorry, if you cannot afford to take care for and upkeep your property, maybe you should move into something you can really afford. This would give you a jump start if you use the break as intended.


There are people who will squander their tax breaks and not use the "procedes" for what they are intended. 10 years of tax breaks are too long. Reward those who make the improvements, not those who squander it away. Those squandering type people are probably even too lazy to take fake receipts to the assessment office.


Now, you have the Scott Janz's of Peoria who do a nice job with their rental properties. Personally, I think you give them the same break. How do you know who are the "good" ones and the "bad" ones. Hell, I'm sure the city knows. I'm sure the city has been through several of Mr. Janz's rentals and knows he does nice rehabs and rents to people who won't tear his places up causing him more work. I'm sure there are more Scott Janzs around. If your renters are tearing your place up so it looks like shit and the city decides "no tax break for you", well, time to stick a size 12 up your renters ass and get them the hell out. And the city has to make it easier for you to size 12 them.


Now how to make up lost property tax money. That is easy. Say we start with the East Bluff (of course I'm biased, I live there) Keep jacking up the property taxes of slumlords and the "exist and do nothing" homeowners until they can't afford to live there or pay the taxes anymore. When they are paying $5,000 tax on a $30,000 home..... OH! BUT THAT ISN'T FAIR!!!!! A. As a homeowner, you had the same opportunity as everyone else, but spent your property tax break money on steak, monster tires for your truck and a better brand of cigarettes instead of its intended purpose. b. Is it fair to your neighbors to look at your shithole everyday while they are trying to improve their neighborhood?

Bob, give people a break to get started. Reward those who use the break for its intended purpose, take care of their properties and earn the tax freeze......and make it hard as hell on those who do not.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What is and What is Not.

There is quite a debate on what is and is not a taco going on here and here.

I grew up in a household that was deeply rooted in SW German heritage. I learned to cook from these people. However, in later years, I was told that what I was cooking wasn't true German cuisine. HUH? How do old, from Germany, women NOT cook "real" German food?

Same holds true with the arguments above. When I learned more about Mexican cuisine than from my formal CIA training from my friends Doug and Cheri (who lived and worked there) there were very few things they made that were tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, etc. Most everything they made were stews. Now if Doug & Cheri came to Peoria and opened a Mexican restaurant with the foods they learned how to make in Mexico (and New Mexico), I'm sure there would be naysayers with the mantra of "that isn't "REAL" Mexican food".

Obviously, just like the good ol' US of A, it is all about regional cuisine. It might even be a mixture of two regions. But it doesn't make either right or wrong, one "real" and the other shit. Hell, East North Carolina and West North Carolina will fight to the death over whose BBQ is the "REAL" BBQ, but they will join forces to laugh at, criticize and denounce Memphis, St. Louis and Kansas City styles of "Q". So, OK, whose "Q" is the "REAL" "Q"?

Granted, there is a lot of nepotism in the Mexican (and Chinese) restaurant biz in Peoria and why a lot of places' food tastes the same...or remarkably close. It doesn't help matters that a lot of food is *probably* Americanized. As with the Mexican example above, I had the good fortune of having (at the time) one of only two certified master female Chinese chefs as an instructor at the CIA. She demo'ed a lot of regional styles of Chinese cooking and let me tell you...it didn't taste like local buffet food. But is one more "REAL" than the other, or is it because of her upbringing, professionalism and regional influence? The fact that she could de-bone a chicken with a Chinese cleaver faster than the old German butchers in meat fabrication class make her method more "REAL" or right?

So basically, what is one person's perception of what is and is not "TRUE" (fill in the blank) cuisine will always be their perception and what they enjoy.

Now I'm not an expert on all things food and I will never profess to be. I believe that Auguste Escoffier was once quoted (paraphrased here) that once you think you have learned everything about cooking, you become a fool. No truer words spoken.

But without running to Wikipedia, etc. what is the difference between salsa and Pico do Gallo? I'm sure I will get as many answers as there are opinions :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HOT! HOT!! HOT!!!

I'm not talking about the weather, folks. Last night I was getting the urge for wings. Now I could go out for wings or make them myself. If I make them myself and make 'em the way I really like to make them, it is a two day effort. Seriously. So, I settled for make shift beef and noodles and decided wings tonight.

My sauce is fairly hot. Sometimes I make it even hotter by adding some Pure Cap. The stuff has no flavor, just heat....I can make enough flavor. So, I decide I want very hot.

Well, I did it. It might as well be 120 outside for how bad I'm sweating. I think my eyeballs are going to pop out and my lips are numb. The National Weather Service is going to have to issue a flood warning for how much my nose is running.

But did I mention....HOT DAMN those are good wings!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Mean No Disrespect

There has been some keyboard lashing on various blogs at the Peoria Journal Star for their unwanted coverage of Danny Dahlquist's funeral service. The Dahlquists had asked that there were to be no media. Apparently the PJS didn't get the memo, didn't care or thought they knew better.

However, and nothing against the Dahlquist family as I do not know them, but why does the media find Danny's death so much more important or newsworthy than the 15 murder victims in Peoria? How about Katrina Kelley?

Danny may have been a swell guy. The Dahlquists may be great people. I hope I never have to suffer through anything so tragic.

Yet, why is this death, which is no less tragic than the aforementioned to their respective family members, so publicized by the media?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Going on a Rant

I've cooled off after yesterday. I had visions of me landing up in Peoria County Jail. Why? Beating the hell out of rude people.

Does it really make your balls or boobs bigger to berate a general, hourly service person who is following company policy with your issue or does not have access to the resources available to help you? Does it make you feel good? Do you sleep better at night knowing you have verbally "beat up" someone? Did you get off on it?I had an employee damned near in tears because of your mouth. Wimp. Puss. Step up to the big boy (girl) plate and let one of the managers or owners deal with you. Run your trap now. I have the authority to kick your ass out if for using inappropriate language or become threatening. Don't like my response? Corporate's number is on my business card. Call. Call twice. Call all day. Trouble is I'll get to the "complaint department" faaar before you will. My question is "do you want your issue resolved or do you want to pick a fight"?

I didn't force you to buy the wrong item. So, if you do not like our corporate return policy: tough. Call THEM and tell THEM. I'm not going against it because YOU think YOU are above it (I'm not going against it anyway, but certainly not for your beligierent ass). Violation of return policy is tracked and one too many mess-ups or disregard of policy starts hitting my bonus check.

Thank God I have the day off.

Monday, August 13, 2007

And The Best Pizza In Peoria Is......

HA! I knew that would get a lot of attention with the Leonardo's fiasco going on. And there have been debates on other sites who is \was the best maker of pizza in Peoria. Leonardos, Agatuccis, Avantis, etc. I like Fedoras, but I most likely wouldn't sit there and eat it...no beer :) Everyone seems to have differing opinions on what great pizza should be.

So, what, in your opnion makes a good "pie". Don't type things like "Peoria needs a place like Zeppie's Pizza in Philadephia". Well, hell, only YOU would know what that tastes like....but WHAT makes it SO great.

Personally, I do not think there is a definitive answer. There are so many styles, flavor profiles, etc., that I doubt one place could be hailed "The Best Pizza Joint In Peoria".

I, myself, am not found of the wafer thin crusts like Penquin Tap serves. For a reference point (since you've all probably have had it), I like the thickness of Dominos original hand tossed (doesn't mean I'm thrilled with their pizza) crust. I like a sauce with a little natural sweetness to it (which means a little more expensive sauce as it probably isn't loaded with citric acid to bring out the flavor of an inferior product) but also has a good amount seasoning and definitely some "zip"..not spicy..."zip". I think ingredients should be bite sized...not whole pieces of bell peppers, but not found of the mini diced ingredients that you can not distinguish one flavor from another. Cheese: I'm sorry, but plain ol' mozzarella doesn't do it for me...just doesn't have much flavor. Give me a mozz\provolone\fontina\asiago blend or something. Soggy crusts sucks. If I wanted everything to slide off the piece of pizza onto my shirt, I'll just go to the kitchen and have them put the ingredients on my clothes and spare myself the agony of a burnt chin and scalded thighs. My roommate at the CIA mother was Italian. She said she always baked the crust a few minutes before putting on the ingredients. This logic was to prevent any excess liquid from the sauce or watery ingredients (like fresh mushrooms and onions) from soaking and sogging the crust...kind of the same theory when baking fruit pies.

Ok, you know what pizza would get me going back and back and back....what pizza style does it for you?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Time Is Running Out

I get occasional requests to let people know where I'm cooking. I try to keep those people updated via e-mail and list all my upcoming cooking gigs at http://chefkevincooks.com.

Awhile back ago, I posted the next event at Willett's Winery in Manito. There are only three seats left for this October 27th event. If you are or were thinking about, you better grab the phone fast.....

Friday, August 10, 2007

Watch Out For The Stampede

Via Yahoo News: "Light, sweet crude fell 80 cents to $70.79 per barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange."

I'm sure all the gas station owners are just RUSHING out to their signs to DROP their prices as fast as they do to RAISE them on news like this........ :)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More Governmental Crap That Makes Me Shake My Head

Now, it is raw, unpasteurized milk. Oh, Lord, it MIGHT kill you or make you sick. Its sale is banned in many states and highly restricted in most.

HOLY SHIT!! I'm typing this! I didn't die! My sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews are alive, too. And we don't have any strange illnesses. We drank raw milk from my grandfather's Holstein cattle all the time!!!!! We took it home with us and it sat in the refrigerator SEVERAL DAYS before it was all consumed.

Maybe it is to blame for my bald spot. Maybe if I drank pasteurized, homogonized milk I wouldn't have shattered the bones in my hand. Maybe I'd have grown an inch taller. Maybe my teeth might be a bit whiter or straighter. Maybe I wouldn't be overweight. Maybe I might have 20/20 vision. Maybe I wouldn't have missed so many days of school (1 in HOW many years...?) Maybe my ass might turn purple, spontaneously combust and then resemble Mr. Kool-Aid.

The government has nothing better to do than ban unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk? Go pluck some nosehairs or something.

Good God :(

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I Wonder How Long This Will Last?

It is reported that Van Halen will
start an arena tour this fall
. Joining Eddie & Alex will be former frontman David Lee Roth. OOOPS! There is a noticeable ommission there: Where is original bassist Michael Anthony? He is going to replaced by Eddie's kid, Wolfgang.

Where to start. From what is\was reported, the mighty VH was supposed to start this tour earlier this year. However, Eddie was again in rehab. The last time I saw VH was with Sammy Hagar in St. Louis. I hope to God that Eddie remembers how to play the guitar...the St. Louis show (and especially Eddie's guitar solo) was borderline pathetic.

Next, DLR & VH. Eddie seems to fire DLR every other day when they are together. And Dave, please give up the tight leather pants, attempts to do the high kicks and put a shirt on....the last time I saw you (with Sammy Hagar in Peoria), none of the above was a pretty sight. And when I saw this quote ("I see it absolutely as an inevitability," Roth told Billboard.com more than a year ago regarding a tour with his ex- bandmates. "To me, it's not rocket surgery. It's very simple to put together.), you wonder how long Eddie will endure some of the strangeness that comes out of DLH's mouth and starts looking for Gary Cherone's phone number.

No Michael Anthony. Either or is speculation, but here are two thoughts: Eddie has fired Michael Anthony because he hangs out with Sammy Hagar too much and is actually on tour with Hagar right now. Or MA got tired of sitting around waiting for Eddie being in rehab and sitting on his butt. Since Eddie went back into rehab instead of going out on tour, maybe MA decided that he would rather be out on tour, playing some music, having some fun and partying with Hagar than waiting for EH to get his act together. Since he has made committments to Hagar's tour since there was no VH tour, maybe he didn't want to come back to join VH.

I guess if I did some research, I could find out how old Eddie's son, Wolfgang is. Hopefully, he has seen was alcohol and drug abuse has done to his uber-talented father and stays cleaner than dad.

Well, best of luck to VH on their tour. I think they are going to need it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Blogger Bash Final Note.

I ran into Molly Donnelly, the matriarch of Donnelly's pub. I told her that I was part of the group that occupied the back room last Tuesday night and that we really enjoyed the accommodations and food. She thought for a second and said "Yeah, I heard we had a fairly lively group in there".

We're branded :)

Friday, August 03, 2007

More Tomfoolery along Prospect

My friends used to live at 2212 N. Prospect a few years before the last owner sold it to Mr. Hinton and Co. for an obscene amount of cash. I usually sigh while driving by wondering if a house that is in such nice condition is going to see the wrecking ball.

Now, I don't know if the park district is trying to spruce it up so it looks nice since it is right next to Glen Oak Park, or what is going on, but all the landscaping around the house and side yard has been beautified, recently re-mulched and cleaned up. Also, noticed a light on the other night which makes me wonder why the electricity is on.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, says I.

Two New Peoria Bloggers

Hey everyone. Normally, I don't get the "scoop" on things like this, but there are two new bloggers in Peoria. These two blognewbies are part of the zany forum group over at Peoria.com so check them out.

Reno's Blargen Blog and Linda's Grandma's Attic are just starting up, so, check 'em out.

See you around the table....

Thursday, August 02, 2007

One of those dreaded "N" words.

There has been an increased use of the word Nazi on various blogsites of late.

Why I bring it up is that it sort of hits home with me. I know some readers' eyeballs just probably popped out of their heads saying "WHAT???".

I tend to keep my family out of my blogs, but I'm going stray a bit from that. A little history, if you will. When everyone was in school, we most likely had to do History reports. I'm sure the teachers (before the vast resources of the internet) had heard and read every possible history report imaginable, because the resources were the same libraries, same books. I always thought it would be so cool to write a history paper on the average German's life during WW2. What better resource than my father who's childhood and early teen years in Germany were in fear of occupying armies, bombing raids, Hitler Youth...you know, just average everyday stuff. And of course the fear of REAL Nazis; not soup, tit, wannabe, etc. "Nazis", the REAL McCoy Nazis.

That report never happened. About the only thing my dad mentioned about the war years was that the bombing raids of a nearby manufacturing town that shook stuff off the shelves of their home. Scary shit for a 12 year old, huh? If anyone ever asked him about the war, he would change the subject. It almost became a taboo.

So, the more I saw the word nazi, the more I thought about writing this. Maybe some of you think I'm over-reacting, some may think I may need another six pack of Sam Adams and a Prozac. I realize some of you are using it in a fun or mocking way, but think of the true connotation next time you do. The Nazis were responsible for a lot of vile shit and their actions still haunt people today. Maybe the word fanatic, zealot, bigot, radical or even lunatic might be a better choice of words.

Oh and if you are going to post pro-"Nazi" things here, it will be deleted.

Weed Killaz

As I'm driving up Prospect going to work yesterday, I couldn't help but to notice that all the weeds growing out of the sidewalks, curbs, etc. were all dead. Ok, I realize that it has been hot and dry, but the weeds growing in those locations on MY street look (unfortunately) all alive and happy. Was there some city-wide weed killing going on? Or did someone living on Prospect win 500 gallons of industrial strength Round-Up as a consolation prize on "The Price is Right" and decide to spruce up the neighborhood?

You know whats coming next. They missed the hollyhock. Doesn't matter. The hollyhock has already had its glory this year.

Funny & Sad at the same time

I'm sure Angie and her hubby Rob, Kriss's hubby Jim and I could tell some wild tales of restaurant customers who have had too much to drink. On one hand it is sad as people get all juiced up (and sometimes drinking fairly expensive alcohols) and make fools of themselves. However, the entertainment factor is huge. Unfortunately, I'm sure we can all attest the mean drunk is a scary situation. I know I've had to call the police once. I'm probably lucky.

Anyway, I'm reading some of my favorite food blogs, and I come across this article about some of New York & Philadelphia's top restaurants and some of the alcohol infused shenannigans that go on the with the "too much $$ for their own good" crowd. I just hope they weren't driving. Its a funny 10 minute read.

See you around the table.....