Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Pedestrians" Beware

There is a certain, well known shopping center in the heart of Peoria whose pedestrian IQ isn't very high. I travel through said shopping center almost daily and it rarely seems to fail that someone just walks out of a business and while paying little to no attention, just keeps walking, steps off the curb into the traffic lane to get to the parking lot. I don't know how many times I've had to slam on the brakes to avoid these people. I'm really tired of this. Yes, you are a pedestrian. Yes, you have some rights that I think need re-thinking. You just can't blindly walk out into traffic without looking or paying attention (and obviously not thinking) and think you are in the right and if I turn you into pate' I'm in the wrong.

It isn't like I'm driving fast. Most of the time it is a speedy crawl following someone else.

In the future, I don't know if I'm going to try so hard to stop. The little SUV I drive just doesn't have the braking prowess of a Bugatti Veyron or SSC Ultimate Aero and I'm tired of being damned near strangled by my seatbelt because you feel you have some fictional God given right to walk how you want, when you want, where you want.

IF I hit you, I'm putting the damned thing in 4 wheel drive low gear and just back up over you to see if you are OK.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wine & Dine Experience

The next Willett's Winery & Cellars Wine & Dine Experience is October 24, 6:30 PM, at the winery in Manito. Cost is $50 per person. It is a four course dinner prepared by yours truly, four different glasses of wine that pair with each course and music by Joe Metzka. The menu is:

Devilled Crab Cake on a bed of Tri-color Orzo Picatta with Willett’s Winery & Cellars Seyval Blanc

Baby Greens topped with Seared Muscovy Duck Breast, Red Onions, Roasted Corn, Grapes, Pecans, Feta Cheese and a Lingonberry Vinaigrette with Willett’s Winery & Cellars Hometown Red

Pork Two Ways:
Elderberry-infused Demi-glace braised Pork Shank and Pan Seared Pork Loin Medallion
with Smoked Gouda & Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Autumn Squash Medley with Willett’s Winery & Cellars Oak Aged Leon Millot

Apple Cobbler with Bourbon-Apple Cider Sauce with Willett’s Winery & Cellars Apple Splash

Call the winery at 309-968-7070 to make your reservation now as these usually fill up quickly. This is the last Wine & Dine for the year.

See You Around The Table....


Not that I have a word of the month, but this is it. Stupes.

I think my father coined it. He used it the other day and I thought "what the heck did he just say"? Those of you who have met my father know that even though he has been in the US over 5 decades, he still has (in your best Monty Python French guard) an o-u-t-r-a-g-e-o-u-s accent...although it German, not Monty Python French.

So, here it is in Webster's Dictionary format (though not in any dictionary):

Stupes (stewps) 1. a group of people who have no common sense. 2. a group of people who would be considered stupid or capable of doing stupid things by their peers.

I'm sure most of you could form a sentence using the word for spelling bee purposes.

Out of Town Eats

It has been f-o-r-e-v-e-r since I've posted a restaurant review which was one of the main reasons I started this blog. However, I guess I have been a creature of habit and have pretty much been sticking to my usual haunts and cooking at home. So while Schooners, Sullivans, Panache, Crusens, Smo-King Pit and Fedoras have seen me on a somewhat frequent basis, I don't have much to report except I love the outside dining area that Donnelly's have constructed!

Recently though, I've eaten at two establishments outside the Peoria area that are worth the drive or if you are in their area, a must "go and eat".

The first is in Sheffield, IL. It is called ZBest Cafe. Chef-Owner Eran Salzman and I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America together and after traveling the states, he has settled in Sheffield, IL. The night I was there, I had the Samuel Adams Steamed Mussels and one of the nightly specials, the Pork Prime Rib with Blazin' Blueberry BBQ Sauce. My DA had the 14 ounce Flat Iron Steak which is a menu item. Both portions of appetizer and main courses were huge but were delicious. My DA's steak was more medium rare than medium was the only shortcoming of the night. I waddled out with leftovers. It is a cool little place with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and an open kitchen.

The second is Amici's Ristorante in Peru. The place reminded me of a cross of Rizzi's on Sheridan, Rhythm Kitchen and the old Po' Boys. Really good Italian food in a casual, light atmosphere with some awesome artwork and fake balonies overlooking the dining room...kind of like you are eating on a sidewalk cafe in Italy. I'm not going into eveyone's dinner, but all was wonderful. I went back to check their menu to report what I had, but it appears that they have changed their menu as I can not find what I had. It was pretty much shrimp and scallops, penne and vegetables in "pink" sauce. Pink sauce is approximately 1/2 red sauce (marinara) and 1/2 ricotta cheese. Hold on, before someone fires off a nasty-o-comment, yes, it can be made with cream instead of ricotta or some combination of cream and ricotta and it would surprise me a bit if someone, somewhere incorporates some sort of other Italian cheeses into this dish. It was piping hot and the flavors of each component of the dish stood out well. There were seven of us (two children) and the bill including beverages was under $120.

Yeah, both of these places are over an hour away which doesn't put them on the "lets go out to eat tonight" list. These places were chosen for family functions that are sort of equal driving destinations for all family members involved. But if you are in their respective areas or are in need of a road trip, check these two out.

See You Around The Table....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

COP strikes again.

By now, most of my few faithful readers know about the hollyhock saga. Well, here is a new one.

Now the COP has whacked my redbud tree in my front yard that hung over the sidewalk. Granted, if you were taller than 6' you would catch some branches and would have to duck. While that wasn't the optimal situation, I didn't want to cut them for two reasons. 1. it would make the tree odd shaped and leave the possibility of having a "hole" in the side of the tree when it gets older and taller if it doesn't re-grow from the "whacking". 2. as the tree is 11 years old, it has some growing to do and eventually would have grown tall enough that this wouldn't be an issue; that these lower branches would be at 8 feet, then 10 feet and then even higher. And I did trim out the really low branches as I know that redbud trees usually do not grow more than 30-40 feet and the ones I cut wouldn't affect the shape of the tree

It isn't like I don't take care of my yard and landscaping. I spend countless hours and buckets of $$. Anyone who has seen my yard knows it isn't perfect, but it is obvious that someone (me) is really making one heck of an effort. The tree that got whacked today has an issue with wanting to grow at an angle and twice a year, I re-tie it (with fairly thick ropes and a come-a-long) to train it to grow how I want. Now this all really pisses me off as there are countless yards and properties in the city that look like shit, have dead and dying trees, plants and the like, but the city (and I'll get to this in a second) deems it necessary to whack mine because it is hanging over the sidewalk? Meanwhile, you can barely drive in the alley behind my house as a handful of neighbors backyards look like South American jungles that have grown out and over into the alley to the point that you can't drive through without scratching up your car. Not only that, but the city, park district, whomever, who planted new trees in the boulevard a few years ago did such a shitty job, the trees are growing at angles except for the ones some of we neighbors have staked and tied to grow straight. There is still one in front of my house that is growing at a 20 degree angle. The city has FAR MORE wayward, unkept, dismal botanical eyesores in this city than my small tree.

Oh, and for the city who is millions in the financial hole. Nice new city logos on the trucks and bright yellow vests the guys were wearing. How much did that cost?

I'm at the point of not giving a shit anymore. Why bother spending time and money trying to keep a nice yard and landscaping when it just gets butchered?

Friday, September 11, 2009

More Walls Come Tumbling Down

In my travels today, I noticed that the Metro Centre is tearing down the old Ponderosa Building. It hosted Ponderosa for years then a few restaurants followed and none seemed to last (including yours truly's).

On one hand, I hate to see the building go as it held some great memories but a lot of heartache as well. On the other hand, one would have to have a financial death wish to start a restaurant there. Not that I believe it was a bad location, the building was old, wasn't upkept very well and it had no or very little insulation. When I had my restaurant, I topped out CILCO bills in the $5000 range several times in the winter and summer months. That is 450 $16.50 entrees (minus food cost) just to pay CILCO let alone rent, salaries, licenses, etc. And I didn't even run the big walk in freezer that was the size of some people's living room. I can't imagine what it would have cost to heat/air condition that place today.

Oh, well. Maybe another chain restaurant will build there. Or another Quick Care place. Maybe another "wing" of Metro Centre shops.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Chili Cook-off

Think your chili is "da bomb"? Does everyone rave how good your chili is? Do you guard your chili recipe moreso than your valuables?

Here is the opportunity to put your money where your chili pot is.

Announcing the 2nd annual Willett's Winery & Cellars Chili Cook-off to be held at the winery in Manito on Sunday Oct. 25 at 1:00 PM.

There will be 3 categories. Traditional style, non-traditional (chicken, seafood, vegetarian, etc.) and spicy. The spicy category isn't the spiciest; it is chili that the contestant deems spicy and how well they blend the heat with the flavor. Those in the spicy category have to be able to eat their creations.

While there isn't a cost to participate, you must be registered in advance and there are a limited number of spaces per each category.

Yours truly along with fellow food/chef blogger, Keith Shank, will be the judges. There will be a people's choice award, also, so bring enough to sample to a hungry crowd.

E-mail Cris Willett at or call 309-968-7070 if you want to particpate.

UPDATE to Pissed OFF (better known as the previous post)

UPDATE!! Ok, so I talk to one of the guys installing the sidewalks and he told me the situation. According to city code, all new sidewalks have to be 6" above the street. My old ones are currently about 4 1/2 " thusly, the backwards slope is in place to get from the new 6" code height to 4 1/2" height regardless of how water will flow or how backasswards it looks. Of course, if I want to replace the rest of the sidewalk in front of my house, they would have to rip out the backasswards reverse water flowing section and re-pour it level.

So, it flows wrong, looks stupid to the point that most people will giggle behind my back and say "Who did Chef Kevin have pour that section of concrete? They must have failed "How to use a level 101" class in Contractor School". But DAMMIT, it is to code and THAT is the MOST important thing :eyeroll, mutter, mutter, steewwwpid, mutter:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Beyond Pissed Off...and getting worse.

A couple of weeks ago I came home from work and noticed yellow paint in the street and in my yard. I figure the water company is up to something again and think no more about it. (Had some issues several years ago, but nothing since. However, they replaced the water main on Prospect a few weeks ago, so who knows?)

Anyway, these pink arrows appeared on the sidewalk. I talk to my neighbor and asked if he knows what is going on. He replied that he and the two houses on the end of the street were going to have their curbs & sidewalks replaced as well as part of their driveways.

A week or so later at a very impromptu gathering of neighbors I overhear the conversation that this, indeed is true. So, I'm wondering since two of the sections that are in front of my house are marked, if they are going to be replaced.

Well, indeed they were and now are. This REALLY PISSES me off!!!

1. Nobody asked me if I wanted them replaced. And why would I as they were perfectly cracks, good slope, etc.

2. Not only are they replaced, but one is replaced wrong. It isn't sloped so the water will run down the street/sidewalk to the storm drain, it is sloped so the water will run UP the street. It is so obvious that Stevie Wonder could see it. In total shock and disbelief and thinking maybe it was an optical illusion, I went downstairs and got my big level. No optical illusion...its not even close. So the water will run down the sidewalk from the west and the east to meet at the low point where the old cement meets the new. Hope these people aren't pouring house foundations. Peoria will suffer from Dr. Seuss architecture.

3. Its ugly. Now I'm going to have two different color concretes in front of my house.

Here is the kicker. My mother dropped by while I was at work. Seeing the process she talks to the neighbor at the end of the street who I believe is the spearhead of this project. She made the comment that I had no idea what was going on and the reply was that I should have received a letter.

I received no letter.

Mother, who loves to ask questions, asked "Well, who is paying for this"? The response was the homeowners as per the city's 70/30 plan.

Thusly this makes me responsible for 30% of the cost to replace a sidewalk that didn't need replacing, I wouldn't of had replaced, of which I was not informed, nor asked and slopes the wrong damned way.

I don't fucking think so.

With so many sidewalks and curbs in deplorable conditions JUST IN THE EAST BLUFF, why the hell are they ripping out perfectly good ones (and replace them with ill slanting ones)? Obviously with a 10 million dollar deficit, the city still finds ways to waste money. Of course, now my property taxes will go up for the "improvement".