Friday, June 26, 2009

Taste of Peoria

I was talking to a local restaurnateur yesterday about his participation in Taste of Peoria. He wasn't planning on it. He said it had become too much of a hassle for one day. Which made me think: When I lived in Rockford for a short bit, wasn't Taste of Rockford 2 or 3 days? I looked it up and this year it is a 2 day event held at an outdoor stadium (it used to be held in a HUGE parking lot). It is open 5-11 PM on Friday and all day Saturday. Several different bands throughout. The cost (I believe) was $5 to get in for both days or there was a one day charge as well. I know myself, I start to get full and can't quite try everything I'd like to, so the two day pass worked for me. There has to be SOME weekend that there isn't something going on at the Riverfront Park.....


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Last Time For The Holly Hock Story?

It is that time of year again. The annual re-visit to the hollyhock saga. In a nutshell for those of you who have no clue to what I'm talking about: Several years ago I got a letter from the city that the weeds in my backyard along the alley were too high and I needed to cut them or get fined. Here was the issue. Except for a few low growing ferns, mosses, etc., the only thing growing back there were some rogue, yet to bloom, hollyhocks that were towering 6-8' high. Livid with the notice, I berated some poor soul at city hall and was told if they weren't weeds, I had nothing to worry about. My response was if the same inspector who is obviously botanically challenged does the re-inspection, I, in fact, DO have something to worry about. I let them grow and I received no fine (kind of surprised).

The next year, the ages old retaining wall in my back yard started to crumble. I had a new one built and assumed all plant life was destroyed. At the base of the retaining wall (which is set back further from the alley than the previous, crumbling one), I decided to re-landscape with some lower growing ferns, trees and shrubs. As I liked the hollyhocks, I bought a new one. In fact, one of the rarest colors: black (which is more a very dark purple). I planted it at the edge of said landscaping. As the summer approached, the holly hocks grew. To my horror, I came home one day and someone had WEEDWACKED the entire alley and took out the hollyhocks. I'm assuming it was the city or CILCO as my overly industrious retired parents, who would, in fact, weedwack an entire alley to make the whole thing look better, wouldn't have weedwacked hollyhocks. My neighbors, well, if you looked at their properties going up to the alley, you would recognize they weren't responsible. "Weedwacko" didn't touch the ferns, trees or shrubs. Two years ago, I put a sign out pointing out that hollyhocks AREN'T weeds. Last year, I lucked out and actually had some grow to over 9' tall towering over the retaining wall. This spring, I put up a fence and they are starting to bloom but no Yao Mings of hollyhocks this year. But guess what? LO & f-in behold, someone came through, weedwacked the alley, cut off some overgrown trees and left the hollyhocks alone!! FINALLY, those responsible for this weedwacking extravaganza have hired someone who is not botanically challenged (that or they were just lazy not to reach over the fence). I think I've got the cure for the hollyhock blues (and you know what tune to sing that to).

And if that isn't enough to celebrate (I'm soo breaking out the Perrier Jouet) after years of dealing with an evil plant devouring groundhog, I evicted its arse from under the shed. Where it has gone??? Who cares. He used by rock garden flowers for a buffet. So this year I finally can see my Raspberry plant (called beesbaum by my knowsallthingsflowering mother) bloom.

Kick-ass sundail available from Peoria's own Rome Industries at fine garden centers everywhere.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Food Items of Note.

First, I am slipping at my yearly (self-imposed) responsibility. Every year around Memorial Day, I post something like the following: As the summer months are approaching (well, now here due to my tardiness), there are a lot more options in the culinary world due to temporary vendors, fairs, festivals and other outdoor events. Of course, I'm not asking you forego these seasonal pleasures. However, I am asking you to remember the local independent restaurants and try to frequent them this summer whether they be a quick bite or a full blown sit down fine dining experience. IF you want these places to be around this late fall, winter and early spring when little else is going on, you got to help support them now, as well. And, as usual, this becomes my form of Lent. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I do not dine at any chain restaurants. Yes, they have employees, too, that need financial support, but I would rather support the "Local little guy and his/her staff" exclusively for three months.

Last night, I cooked for the Wine & Dine Experience at Willett's Winery and Cellars in Manito. Joe Metzka was the entertainment. I got an e-mail this morning on how nice an evening it was. OK, I'm not tooting the Willett's, Joe's or my own horn here. The e-mail was how nice it was to sit, visit and be entertained and enjoy several courses over a couple of hours and not rushing off to another event, getting to the (insert event here) on time if dinner went too slowly, etc. Yep, its called dining, which seems to be a lost art. Just let your waitperson know that you are in no hurry and plan to spend some time enjoying and relaxing. They are too used to people making dinner a quick, second thought stop before the opera or WWE event.

Now, if you combine these two thoughts, you can go to an independent restaurant, stay there a few hours, relax and soak up THEIR air conditioning instead of sweating to death at outside events. Just make sure you compensate the waitstaff accordingly for "hogging" one of their tables.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dive bombed

I decided to take a ride today on bike down by the river along the Pimiteoui Trail starting at the Post Office and going to and turning around and going back from Woodruff Park. Of course, there are a few side trails such as the break water at Detweiller Marina.

So, remember the dive bombing blackbird or starling that was attacking people's heads in downtown Peoria obviously in an attempt to defend her nest a few years ago? Well, she and groups of her feathered friends are now located along this trail. Four times I got "buzzed" on the way to Woodruff and three (same areas as before) going back. So, if you are heading out to this trail, pack your football helmet and a large flyswatter.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Good and the Bad

Two things happened today that made me stop in a bit of awe. One really good thing and one not so good. How some people can be almost overconsiderate and others just plain dickheads.

I'll start with the good. About two months ago, I helped my sister cater the food for the "grand opening" of a new wing at the establishment for which she works. All the corporate "big boys & girls" were going to be there from world headquarters. Things went very well and the gentleman who is in charge of the branch at which my sister works was very appreciative and wanted to take my sister and I out for dinner. Apparently, the CEO phoned him and specifically mentioned that the food was stellar. Unfortunately, this is a 2+ hour drive for me and while I appreciated the thought, I just told him "I'll let you know the next time I'm in Rockford". Today an envelope arrived via my mother who was visiting my sister. In it, a $75 gift card from my sister's boss. I did it to help out my sis. Heck, I would have been happy with a tank of gas at best. but, hey....

Now the bad. I live on a "place" which is sort of a dead end boulevard. Occasionally, there are areas in the boulevard that are open and you can turn around before getting to the end. At either end of these "boulevard island", some of the neighbors, including myself, have taken it upon ourselves to plant and take care of various flowers, bushes, small flowering trees, etc. Well, some person with less driving ability and even less responsibility, drove over the edge and through part of the area I take care of basically flattening several flowers and a dwarf flowering almond tree. I don't know what the hell they were driving, but unless it was a city bus or one of the huge Caterpillar earth moving machines, I don't see how they could not get through without taking out the mini flower garden. Just never sitting out on my front porch with the 12 gauge at the "right" moment. I'll probably fix it, but this time there will be come cleverly disguised spikes.

Speaking of trashing things...the hollyhocks are coming up and will be blooming shortly. If you don't know the story...stay tuned: it is an annual thing with me.