Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Looking For Something To Do This Weekend?

As many of your know, I am the Executive Chef for Willett's Winery & Cellar and the Ironstone Room Restaurant in Manito, IL, so, yes, this is some sort of a shameless self promotion blog post. However, something that I think that some may find interesting this weekend is: THE WALL: American Veterans Traveling Tribute. The flyer for it is below. Excuse my picture editing skills. Double clicking on it will make it more readable for those who have bad eyes like myself.

Not only is this going on, but so is the 37th annual Manito Popcorn Festival which you can get all the 411 here

Also, the winery will be hosting a few events at the winery complex. Of course, there will be wine tastings including the recently bottle Frontenac Rose' which won the Governor's Cup two years ago as the best blush wine made in Illinois. Food will be available from the Ironstone Room Restaurant which on Saturday and Sunday will include our 1/2 pound hamburger, which we grind the top round, season it and char-grill it....none of these frozen hamburger patties from us and we also make our own bratwurst which we will also be serving those two days along with other selected items off our menu. From 8 pm - 11 pm on Friday, Cousin Eddie will take the stage and on Saturday, The Flying D'Rito Brothers take the stage from 8 pm - 11 pm. Both nights food, wine and beer will be available.

Hope to see you around a table in Manito this weekend.....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Day Has Been Fullfilled.

I was told today by the local distributor of Sam Adams that Samuel Adams Black Lager will once again be available in Peoria. This is a great day. Maybe tomorrow the (real) beer drinkers of Peoria will be treated to Saranac Brewing company announcing that they will once again distribute their Saranac Black and Tan to the region. One can dream. Maybe Kurt Warner is sitting at home watching the AZ Cardinal's offense stink up the place and think, I can Brett Favre.

Chef Kevin's Top Ten Red Wines Under $20.

With cooler weather upon us (even though it doesn't feel like it today), I thought I'd get away from Peoria politics for awhile and post something of useful fun: My top ten red wines under $20. Now what makes them my top 10.

I look for a couple of things. 1. I can get them locally. It does no one any good if they aren't available here and can't get them shipped from California, etc. 2. I can usually find them in several different places, but that isn't as important as 1. 3. Well balanced. Real fruit bombs or oak monsters may be tasty in their own right and the critics may wet their pants over them and they may even reach my normal top ten, but I'm looking for well balanced and well made wines for the buck. These are in no particular order.

Bogle Phantom (Old Vine Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Petit Sirah Blend)
Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha (Grenache)
Edgebaston "The Pepper Pot" (Mourvedre, Tannat and Syrah Blend)
Ridge "Three Valleys" Zinfandel
Four Vines "Old Vines" Zinfandel
Bodegas Olivares Jumilla Panarroz (Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah Blend)
Bodegas Tarima Monastrell (Mourvedre)
Lapostolle Casa Carmenere (Carmenere Merlot Blend)
Los Rocas Vinas Viejas (Old Vine Grenache)
Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz

Going through my notes, it became increasingly hard to remember all the great attributes of these wines and single them out from a few others. So, if you act now and call in the next ten minutes, I'll include free and at no extra charge, not one, not two, not even three (kinda sounds like Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade) but FIVE, yes, FIVE runner ups.

Dehesa de Rubiales "Alaia". (Prieto Picudo (a Spanish indigenous varietal), Tempranillo, Merlot) Note: Can't say I've seen this of late, but haven't really looked for it either.
Vinos Sin Ley Traza Gra2. (100% Graciano)
Castano Monastrell
Bodegas Castano "Solanera" Vinas Viejas (Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha)
Bodegas Atalaya (Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, and other "Indigenous" red grapes)

So, there are 15 red wines, under $20, for drinking enjoyment this fall and winter.

BUT HOLD THE PHONE!! If you drag your mouse farther down the page, there are TWO (yes a whole 2) more red wine suggestions!!

For $2 extra bucks over the $20 limit (plus the few extra cents in tax) is the Four Vines Sophisticate Zinfandel. This bad boy will REALLY slap your tastebuds around and call them Sally. And this fall, I gotta plug my boss's latest, which is sitting in tanks right now, waiting label approval. It is a wine called Noiret (which is a grape). Medium-heavy bodied red with black fruit flavors and some light oak. Will be a great BBQ wine.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs vs. Peoria

Pretty much to the day four years ago, I wrote this on another blog of mine, which I will reprint below. I'm reprinting it now as the city council has once again approved plans that will not fix our crumbling basic needs infrastructure while we continue to build giant palaces that arguably may draw visitors to Peoria, but will do little to permanently draw and keep people here and stop the exodus of taxpayers to surrounding communities and beyond. As I re-read the article, I found a few passages that were a bit confusing, so I cleaned them up a bit. However, I've not changed the content. It is amazing that after 4 years, we are still battling the same things as we were then. No wonder the city never seems to progress. Without further ado:

"We keep being told that we need things like the Civic Center expansion, zoo, regional museum, etc. to help draw people to Peoria. But let's get real. Is this what is going to permanently draw people to Peoria? What do you think people first look for when they move to a new city due to a new job or any other reason? Cost and standard of living, good schools, low crime, housing costs and general amenities. Sounds like some pretty basic stuff. WOW...the basics, the essentials. Sounds like the stuff some behaviorist developed that we were preached to about over and over and over again in college management classes. Abraham Maslow said you need to achieve and sustain the basics then move to and sustain each new level until you reach self fulfillment. Thusly, we need to look at, and apply, Maslow's hierarchy of needs to Peoria.

First, you need your very basic needs. Sleep, food, shelter, oxygen and water. I'm going to forego this one, because, hopefully, you can get this in most cities. However, I'm going to use this section for basic qualities of living in a city. How are the schools? Ease of shopping for necessities, general resources for the basic standards of living and the resources to get around?

Second is safety. With crime rising in Peoria, will prospective Peorians feel safe here? Do we have jobs here that will make people feel financially safe? Police,Fire and ambulance services?

Third falls into belongingness and love. This is hard to relate to a city, but this is where I would put things like hospitals, city essentials like garbage pick-up, water quality, quality of roads & sidewalks, transportation, the opportunities to raise a family here. How does our cost of living compare? I guess one could add here are there religious, social and ethnic groups here that a prospective Peorian could associate with?

Fourth is esteem needs. Do we have a growing economy? Are people generally happy with Peoria? Does it offer not only good employment, but steady employment with opportunity for advancement. In other words, can you more than just live here, can you thrive and succeed here? Are there enough "things to do" here that interest you?

Last is self actualization: It is something we say at work. "It's just extra gravy on top of the 'tators", which means if all things are equal between us and some other city, what is Peoria's "extra gravy"? The cherry on the sundae? The knock out punch. The ace on match point, the hole in one on the 18th?" Does Peoria offer more or less extras than a comparatively sized city". What is the cost involved to be part of these extras?

We can have Denver's view of the Rockies to our west, Savannah, GA's riverfront, St. Charles, MO's downtown, Hawaii's beaches to the south and the pristineness of upper Minnesota to our north, but would that make a heck of a lot of difference if your kids go to declining schools, you are in fear of getting shot, a stagnant job base and roads and sidewalks falling to decay? No. You wouldn't want to live in a place like that.

The old saying is "build it and they will come". That may be true, but will they stay? It seems Peoria is working on Maslow's four and five needs and figure one through three will eventually follow. I don't think that is how Maslow intended it to work" (and it obviously hasn't worked in the 4 years since I wrote this).