Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm thinking.....no

I was flipping through radio stations the other day and there was an advertisement for some fundraiser/benefit/etc. that was promoting the fact that REO Speedwagon was going to be the entertainment. The cost? $35.00. 35.00??? Only if Gary Richrath was still in the band. But the thing that "got" me was the REO music they were playing in the backgound...all "old school" Speedwagon with Richrath on guitar.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A couple of Announcements

Yeah, shameless self promotion



For Mother's Day at the winery we are hosting a brunch. Here are the details:

Mother’s Day Brunch
Willett’s Winery & Cellar
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
(by prior reservation only – Reservations only accepted at the winery; not the Ironstone Room – please call 309-968-7070 for reservations)


Juices & Coffee
Assorted Pastries
Fresh Fruit Bowl
Lettuce and Vegetable Salad
(tossed with our Seyval-Mediterranean Dressing)
Biscuits with Butter and Jelly
Sausage Gravy
Chicken A la King
Scrambled Eggs
Bacon
Sausage Links
Home Fries
Breakfast Potato Skins
(potato skins filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, green onions and cheddar cheese)
French Toast with Maple Syrup
Roasted and Sliced Ironstone Room’s Butcher’s Tender
Macaroni & Cheese

Dessert Table

$16.95 (adults)
$7.95 (Children 7-12)
Under 7 - $1 per year old

Gratuity not included.

And to get your summer off to a G-R-E-A-T start, come to Manito for the Wine, Art, Balloon and Jazz Festival. Last year was attended by several thousand people. Not mentioned in the flyer below, there will be various food vendors. The hot air balloons are an afternoon/evening attraction.



See You Around The Table in Manito.....

Of Cameras, 12 Gauges, Barbed Wire and Railroad Spikes

15 years ago I bought this house. I loved the house then, I still do.

But I'm tired. I'm tired of fixing things up, just to have someone, something, some something f**k it up (sorry, I usually try to keep this PG-13, but this shit is getting the best of me). If it isn't the city, kids, wildlife, it is something...

Today, I was going to work on the side of my retaining wall in my backyard that has riverrock on it. It is a hillside and I understand rocks do roll downhill. However, these rocks didn't roll by themselves.

Early last year, to keep kids (I know this for fact) off the rocks (apparently fun to slide down on them) I put up a wrought iron fence. Now if you want to go up and down the rocks, it is a little more difficult, yet not impossible. To further keep the rocks from rolling, I built small retaining walls built out of wood and stakes. Rocks haven't rolled for over a year. So why am I working on the rocks? They are mostly at the bottom of the hill along with my wooden retaining walls. Did I miss the earthquake?

On the other side of the wall is another wrought iron fence designed to keep those who deem it necessary to climb the hill off the landscaping...like the side with the river rock. This is odd because if they would go 25 feet up the alley there is a stairway..... This fence has been hit and knocked out of the ground...and the one side is/was cemented in. The red paint from some vehicle left its mark. Maybe from one of the trucks working down at the end of Nebraska? Lots of red ones. Can't prove it though.

Thusly, the title of this blog. I just need the cameras.

I simply don't know how much more of this shit I can take. There are so many shitholes in the East Bluff, so why not one more? At least when my property taxes go up at least I know it isn't because I keep improving things and keep them looking neat. I'd have far more money to do other things with. I've got more $$ in this house than I'll ever get out of it, but I'm seriously thinking about getting out.

Cutting Food Service Training Hours

There is a bill in front of our state legislators that would reduce the number of hours that Food Service Safety Managers (those with food sanitation licenses) would have to spend in class to get said license.

http://centralillinoisproud.com/fulltext/?nxd_id=110255

In the article there are two things I don't "buy". First is the 11 year old who got e-coli (Ok, I buy he had e-coli...just the reasoning I have a hard time with). I want to know where he got it. Follow me here. Over the last decade, we've seen numerous reports in the news regarding large recalls of spinach and meat being recalled due to e-coli. I'm sure some has "slipped through the cracks" and got to consumers. If you are serving a raw spinach salad, all the training in the world isn't going to help the Food Safety Manager with this; they don't have microscopic vision. With the beef, supposedly cooking it to 160 degrees for 15 seconds will do the trick. Or will it? I have a hard time believing that if the concentration of e-coli is high enough to get you sick that 160 degrees for 15 seconds will kill all of those. I read a report and wish I could find it online, where 158 for 20 minutes left inconclusive amounts. Scary, huh? So, 2 degrees more for 19 minutes and 45 seconds less is supposed to make me feel better? Yikes. Once again, although it would fall under a Food Service Manager/sanitation license holder to ensure beef is cooked to 160 degrees for 15 seconds, why is the food being provided not safe in the first place? I think 160 for 15 seconds is a good additional check in the system but I think the source of food is bigger issue than the Food Safety Manager can be held accountable. And then you have the customer who is always right (isn't that the saying??) who demands a medium rare burger. OOOPS! There went your safety check point. OTOH, trichinosis (which was found in pork) is rarely reported in the US anymore. Better practices to keep our pork safe? I know more and more "foodies" who are eating the pork chops, etc. on the medium side....

Second. Is 15 hours going to make or break your business to send your people to a class to protect public safety, Mr. & Mrs. Restaurant owner? Please. This is a lame excuse by proponents of the bill. If public safety isn't a high enough concern for you and your business to send your people to a food safety course (and take it yourself), please close your doors.

So, now my thoughts. I've taken the 15 hour class and the 5 hour refresher course many times at several different health departments and in a seven day class at the Culinary Institute of America. The times I have taken the 15 hour class weren't 15 hours of training. We seemed to start on time, but lunch seemed to run long, breaks long, got out early, on going stories by the instructors and specific site issues/problems brought up by people that had little to do with the benefit of the whole class and should have been addressed at a later time with the instructor instead of wasting class time probably diluted the REAL class time to around 10-12 hours. I also think things like knowing how many times a fly pukes a minute is a waste of time, too. Simple rule..get rid of the damned flies and you don't have to worry about fly puke. Which brings about what is wrong with a lot of people these days:

The lack of common sense.

Unfortunately the Illinois Department of Public Health can't teach that. You don't need multiple PhDs in microbiology and chemistry to know 3/4 of the stuff necessary to pass the IDPH test to become a Food Safety Manager: you need common sense. Run a clean "ship". WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN. Wash and sanitize ALL surfaces, equipment and serviceware often which gives you clean surfaces and doesn't provide reasons for bugs or rodents to show up. Good for you if you are using gloves, but you need to change them about as often as you should be washing your hands. Keep raw meats away and below ready to eat products. Cook things to proper temeratures. Don't cross-contaminate. You could memorize the codes (which is 100s of pages) but if you can't (don't want to, too lazy to) apply them, what good is it? Some people could take 1000's of hours of classes and little good it would do. We all know people like that regardless of which field you are in.

I also think it is a good idea to have a good working relationship with your health department inspector. Be polite. Work together. Don't make up excuses or try to hide things. Just do what you are supposed to be doing in the first place. Ask questions. Call them up if you aren't sure of something. I've heard "Oh, watch out for (fill in the blank) she's such a bitch" (refering to particular inspectors). I've really not encountered that "bitch" thing (and can tell one funny as hell story). As much as food service people talk about inspectors, I'm sure inspectors pass along information about owners/kitchen staff/etc. when they change territories. HOWEVER (and now I'm probably going to get into REAL trouble if my current health inspector reads this - HI, Karen!) there IS (not seems or could be) a lot of difference between inspectors. Things that are OK with one inspector isn't by another, which does make it harder on the people in the kitchen. Case in point. I was the chef at the IVY Club for 5+ years. There was a chip out of one of the tiles in the kitchen. For the first few years, never noted on a health department inspection. One day, a new inspector docked us 5 (I believe) points. Supposedly, this WAS NOT some new regulation. This sent the club manager into a furious frenzy. We asked the longest tenured employees about the missing piece and as far as they knew, it was always missing (Ok, that meant about 15 years previous). The club manager had YEARS of past inspections, never a write up about this missing tile piece). OK, why NOW is this an issue? If it was against "code" and was an infraction, why was it never written up? The phone call from the club manager to the Director of the Peoria County Health Department wasn't a polite one and I'm sure to this day his pants still don't fit right as part of his ass is still missing. Thusly, if you want consistent results from inspections, you should have consistent inspections.

So, in a perfect world where owners, chefs, cooks, cleaning people care and use common sense, work WITH inspectors instead of complaining about them and inspectors being more consistent, yeah, the five hour class would work. However, as a realist, this won't happen. It won't happen with the current 15 hour class and it won't happen with 150 hours or 1500 hours. What will work? Two things: 1. ALL owners, partners, etc. are required to take "the class" and THEY are responsible for THEIR establishments as much as the hired help. So, the things that go wrong, that the Chef, etc. has little to no control over, THEY are held accountable. 2. Fines. Stick with the 15 hour class. Make it a 15 hour class. Ensure the BS I wrote about above doesn't happen in class. Then, if your establishment falls below an 80 on an inspection, let the fines begin. If you fall below an 80, you as an owner or the in charge kitchen people, just don't care. Maybe a few $$ out of your pocket would add a positive swing to the "Care-meter".

I've seen kitchens where few, if anyone had a Food Safety Manager's license and you could eat off of any surface. And I've seen lots of licenses and well,...... No, I'm not perfect. I have received scores of which I am not proud (but to me that is anything less than a 90..I think 86 was my lowest and I was ashamed and angry). I know I have room for improvement and maybe I shouldn't talk (but I did get a 100 once from Peoria County and a 98 from Tazewell County so I can pat my own back a bit), but until our food sources are safe and everyone works together, uses some common sense and consistency to keep the public safe, will a 15 hour class, 100 hour class, 2 minute class really make a difference? I'm thinking "NO".

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Could It Be??

In this post, I mentioned the fact that the "S" curve around O'Brien Field wasn't marked very well, traffic just sort of drove all willy-nilly through there and depending on the size of your vehicle, you could be in serious peril. Well, lo AND behold, it is now striped. Could it be that the powers that are in Peoria actually read my blog and listened to Chef Kevin? Well, it was either that or...

The Peoria Pundit, The Peoria Chronicle, Peoria Anti-Pundit, PeoriaIllinoisan or someone that has all those super secretive phone numbers and e-mail addresses of those in charge of things like painting white lines on streets, used said information to inform those people "Hey, Chef Kevin is calling you guys out about the lack of white lines on Jefferson Street by O'Brien Field". These people thought "We better get on that because he's a chef and probably has sharp knives".

Maybe a street striping kit came with the new palm trees.

It was a twisted fraternity prank and the lines will be gone tomorrow or fushia colored ones will appear or they will run perpendicularly..

The guys at Born Paint were bored.

It was "on the list of things to do", but they (whoever "they" are) were waiting for the most inconvenient time to do so to snarl up traffic.

Naw... let me believe I have an influential blog.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

R-E-A-L-L-Y Direct TV

Last month, I thought my DirectTV bill seemed high. After doing a little research, I found a cheaper package that would suit my needs. I don't watch a heck of a lot of TV and thought I could save a few bucks considering most of the channels I watch were available in the cheaper package.

Well, well, well. After several attempts to downgrade, Direct TV will NOT let you do that online, you have to call them. After sitting on hold for 1/2 of forever, I hung up. Kinda reminded me of the old days of trying to cancel off of AOL.

Today, I'm paying the bill again. I try to find the cheaper package I want and guess what? It is no longer to be found. So, I sign out of my account, log into Direct TV directly and still can't find it. Hmmmm....

So, apparently my options are: Stay with my 155+ channels "Total Choice" package for $54.49 a month or "upgrade" (get this) to the "choice" 145+ channel package for $55.99 a month. Let's see: Upgrade to 10 less channels for $1.50 more per month.
Hmmmmm....what to do, what to do.

Direct TV. I have a H-A-R-D time believing for one second that the cheapest package you offer your current customers is $55.99 a month. If so, then I like this package: 0 channels for $0.00 a month. For that kind of money, I can buy a bigger digital computer monitor and probably watch most of the stuff online.

Murder Mystery Dinner

Ever wanted to know "Who dun it?" Here is your chance to find out.

Every other month, Willett's Winery & Cellar hosts a Murder Mystery dinner. Usually these dinners are a sell-out months in advance, but for whatever reason, the one coming up Saturday, April 17th still has several seats available. The cost is $40 per person and includes the audience interactive "Clue-like" murder mystery production & a 3 course meal by yours truly which includes beverages, but wine is an additional cost. Start time is 6:00 PM Call 968-7070 for more information or reservations.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Bad Day of Driving

WOW...so many things happened on the road today.

First, on my way to work around 7:15 this morning, I notice this clump of stuff ahead in the curb/gutter. As I got closer, I noticed it was garbage...like the type of stuff in a car just hurled out into the street type garbage. Fast food bags, plastic soda bottles, a newspaper and other assorted stuff. As it was still a bit drizzly and windy out, I don't think it could have been there that long. What the hell is the matter with people? What kind of filthy pig does this? No, no, this would give filthy pigs a bad name. Unfortunately it make me wonder what sort of nastiness is probably growing in this persons car next to the fossilized French fries and sticky soda puddle with the Cheese-Its stuck to it.

Next on my hit list. Driving south on Jefferson at 7:15 am on a Saturday morning, why are all the lights red when there is obviously no traffic coming from either direction on streets like Main? Emtronics needs to add this to his FUTL (F-up traffic lights) file.

Speaking of FUTL, why heading north on Adams, when the light at Lincoln f-i-n-a-l-l-y turns green, the light at McArthur immediately turns red? This happens morning, noon & night without fail.

Something else that bugs me. Driving down Jefferson, the lanes are clearly marked. However, you get to the "S" going around O'Brien Field and the lane markings cease. All of a sudden, people get stupid and think it becomes Formula 1 racing and are all over the freeking place. I don't dare drive the Metro through there during rush hour, I'd get killed. Lets see...right at the beginning of that "S" is Born Paint Company....Hmmmm.....

Speaking of killed, what is with all the dead, flattened skunks around the Pekin prison area to just past Powerton? I've bet I've seen (and unfortunately smelled) at least 8 "pancaked to the pavement" skunks in that 2+ mile stretch of road since it has warmed up. I think they need to put up yellow warning signs that have skunks on them kinda like they do for deer.

Now the grand piss-me-off-while-driving award of the day:

I'm crawling past K-Mart in Evergreen Shopping Center to get to PetsCo. Out of nowhere shoot these two little kids across the lane of traffic out of the parking lot. I can't believe I didn't hit the "trailing" one. I wanted to light some parent up, but I didn't see any adult like person around that looked too excited about what had just happened. I'm sure if I would have tagged the last one, they would have been in my face so fast I wouldn't have had time to check to see if I had soiled my pants. I seriously doubt the parent(s) of these two will read this, but it may make me feel better. However, Mr., Mrs., Ms. (whomever you are), not only did you allow the endangerment of your children, you endangered me. You endangered the people driving behind me. You endangered the people who were in the car coming out of one of the lane to which I swerved, but stopped. I don't know WHAT you were doing that was more important than ensuring your children wouldn't run out into traffic in a busy shopping center but I can't believe it was DEAD CHILD important.

No, I still don't feel better.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Metro

No, not some city train/subway somewhere...my second car.










Its been awhile, so I thought I'd check what type of mileage "Put" is getting these days. Well, 34.5 mpg isn't anything to sneeze at. Yeah, yeah, it isn't the most appealing looking automobile on the road, but it gets the job done. Not bad for a 1990 3 cylinder automatic that the odometer has spun around more times than a Las Vegas slot machine.