Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Morning Fog in the Loop

Morning Fog in the Loop
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

With Jim's recent goings-on with Betty the Beagle fresh in my mind, I resolved to take care of something I'd been meaning to do for weeks now with Emmy.

I hired a dog walker. One of my neighbor's sons, very responsible. He'll be coming in to check on Emmy around 4 p.m. every day and walk her around McGuane Park for a couple loops to make sure she's alright while I'm at work. He comes by tomorrow for the keys and starts Thursday.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Moneymoneymoneymoney... mon-AY

I've been meaning to post this photo for a while now; after telling Scott and Erin about this over dinner at Gio's Tuesday night I was reminded of why. If I get audited in the future, how do I explain what the "wooooooot" is for? While I'm at it, who the hell puts that in the meme section of a company check?

Anyhoo, in the week that was, you should check out my profile of BJ's Market and Bakery owner John Meyer while it's still up at the Sun-Times' website. I was inspired to write the story years ago after reading Timuel Black's Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration (volume 2 comes out in April). I wanted to trace one family's recipes as an example of how the Great Migration affected Chicago in specific ways. It's still an idea I'd like to expound on, maybe for a magazine at some future point, and touch on more than Chicago. Maybe look at Detroit and other parts of the industrial Midwest. I simply find how the Great Migration transformed Chicago fascinating. Many thanks to everyone who wrote in with kind words congratulating me on the piece, in particular Mike Nagrant for linking to it on Hungry Mag. It was one of my favorite pieces to write and I probably would have done it for free. Well...

What else was fascinating? The Vintage Strong Ale Festival at Delilah's yesterday. I'll save my suggestions on how to improve it for tomorrow, you know where. You know, for a weekend where I was mainly trying to focus on this other story I have planned for the Sun-Times, it certainly seems like I lost my focus. I've got the festival review tomorrow; the next two weeks of the Chicagoist "One Great Sandwich" series locked in; mapped out "BotW" for at least the next month; working to get the new foodies up to speed; pitches to send in to Malt Advocate and, of all places, a medical newspaper; waiting for final edits from Shea on the second of two pieces I sent in to her; and coming up with more pitches for the Sun-Times. All this on top of work this week.

Thankfully, I've planned nights to decompress. Brady's back from China, so he, Brian, hopefully David Chavez at Uncommon Ground and myself are meeting at Sola tomorrow night for dinner and - inevitably - trading old HotHouse war stories. Thursday, which normally would be reserved for the monthly Chicagoist staff Happy Hour, will go on without me, as I have, um, other plans. Sorry, especially to the newbies.

Meanwhile, I read this interview with Thax Douglas (via)and don't know who I feel more sorry for, the interviewer or Thax. From Tankboy, I read this jagoff's account of being a bartender, and Jim's friend Ellie's rebuttal. Personally, I think the guy just plagiarized the best of Tucker Max's writings, which isn't saying much.

Months after Alpana Singh recommended it to me, I've started reading Bill Buford's Heat and I'm hooked. It's worth it just for this quote from Marco Pierre White on a young Mario Batali, who'd he hired as his kitchen slave: "'Joy Division was his favorite band. And that says it all. White put his finger to his nose and sniffed, 'Know what I mean?'" I'll never be able to make penance to her for foisting Pizza Red on her.

What else? Oh, yeah. Shelby Lynne does Dusty Springfield, and it kills with its intimacy.

That should tide y'all over until the next time, or unless I Twitter.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm Not Sure What These Guys Want

After watching this, I'll never speak ill of "The Super Bowl Shuffle" again.

I Want to Blind Myself Right Now

Some observations from watching clips of the alleged Gene Simmons sex tape:

  • When engaging in sex with an energy drink model, the God of Thunder sheathes his lightning rod.
  • The God of Thunder also doesn't have the patience or courtesy of taking his boots off and just lets his pants hang around his ankles. Shannon Tweed should be so proud.
  • At least he kept his shirt on
  • I like the bustier and flip-flop combination that "Elsa," the woman in the tape, is sporting throughout.
  • Simmons' tongue has the added length his dick lacks
  • I always wondered if that tongue hid some funky swamp breath. Elsa turning away from Simmons' attempts to kiss her fuels that speculation.
  • Sex ed instructors could probably use the clips I watched to scare teenagers into abstinence.
  • Elsa has some nice ramekins for breasts
  • The inclusion of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" makes for an ironic contrast to the passionless humping caught on tape.
  • The only sex tape I would look forward to less would be one involving Ace Frehley

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Finer Things

Printer's Row Under a Chill
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

It's a wonderful surprise to come home from an hour-long Evanston-To-Bridgeport commute to find season premiere of "Top Chef 4" waiting at your doorstep.

Now that Laura's left Chicagoist, I need to keep up on the coverage on the show until the new foodies get acclimated (which reminds me that I need to check in with them and see when they're gonna start). It'll be easier to do now that I have a Hulu pass and can catch up with episodes online.

The major local angle of "Top Chef 4" is the participation of former Scylla owner Stephanie Izard. I loved her cooking at Scylla - the Greek mythology fan in me hopes that she names her next restaurant Charybdis - and , if what I've heard from former employees and associates of Scylla are true, Izard acquits herself very well in the competition. Having viewed the premiere I can't divulge much until after the season starts, but she will be staying at least past the premiere.

Two other chefs with local ties are in the competition. Valerie Bolon, a personal chef who's worked on the line with Shawn McClain at Spring and Mindy Segal at Hot Chocolate, needs to step up her game if she intends to be a factor in the competition. Chicago native Dale Talde, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who helped Jean-Georges Vongerichten open Vong's Thai Kitchen and now works at Buddokan in New York City, has the confidence and skills to go far in the competition. I wrote on Chicagoist when the contestants were announced that Talde seemed the most likely to have the smirk smacked off his face with a hot spatula. Yeah, I was wrong there.

For now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cool the Engines

Halsted South Fork at Sunset (Low Exposure)
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Y'know, sometimes when I'm excited about something I'm like an overeager puppy just humping to please. If that doesn't work, then I'm pissing on the kitchen floor and chewing up the couch to keep your attention.

It's real hard for me to rein things in and go with the flow, but I try.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

And Now Annabelle Will Sing "We Three Kings" With a Camel Tow

I really hope that there is an "Arrested Development" movie.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Slow Road to Solvency

South Blvd. and Chicago Ave., Evanston
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I'm paying bills online as I write this. One of the first things I resolved to do when I started working again was to open a checking account again, as it had been years since I had one.

The last time I had one, I had to close it down as NSF fees from HotHouse paychecks were eating into the balance. I remember the first time my paycheck from HotHouse bounced. The bank sent returned the check to me in the mail and I brought it and the NSF notices to work, where I wrote a payout for the full amount from the bar receipts for payment.

The next day I come to work and Marguerite starts reading me the riot act for essentially expecting an honest wage for honest work. "It's against organizational protocols," she said.

And I could see her point, certainly. You've got to keep controls in place, otherwise everyone who had a bounced paycheck - and there were way more than should have been during my time at HotHouse - would have just grabbed theirs from the till. In my defense, at least I had the documentation to prove that I needed my pay. Then again, "organizational protocols" never stopped her from dipping her hand in the tills and taking payouts without documenting them (let me state now that I am not accusing her of impropriety in any way doing this). Her impulses made our job closing the books at night much harder than necessary.

After I finished the AIDS Ride in 2000 (and I have a Marguerite story about that for another time), I had another bounced check. My bank finally had enough and closed my account, after I paid back the fees I owed them.

Slowly, I put together a network of currency exchanges where I would stagger cashing my paychecks, since I never knew when would make like a trampoline. If one had a bad check on record, I'd head to another. This dance went on until the place closed; by then I was starting to receive freelance checks from the Sun-Times and Time Out Chicago, but those were going directly to bills. I couldn't tell you the exact amount I lost over the years to check cashing fees, money orders, and wire transfer fees for paying bills. But I'm sure it's a sizable number well into the thousands of dollars.

I guess that's why I'm sitting here enthralled that I can just go online and authorize a payment directly from my checking account now, and wishing I had done that years ago.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Bruno Back on Italian Restaurant Express

Nagrant and I were going back and forth on Pat Bruno's revelatory visit to Vong's Thai Kitchen and its affordable Thai. Wonder what he thinks of Arun's? (/sarcasm).

It was fresh in my mind when I read Bruno's review of Cafe Bionda yesterday. Now, I like Bionda. It's competent Italian, with the occasional flash of brilliance (the best steak I had last year was at Bionda, with an amazing balsamic demi-glace that just clung to the meat). However, this was a lazy, glad-handing review

Bruno was in awe at the meatball salad.

"Putting together a meatball as big as a tennis ball with a romaine lettuce salad is not something you see every day, but it was one fine appetizer."

"Not something you see every day?" When was the last time Bruno visited an Alex Dana restaurant? Since I brought up Rosebud, could it have hurt Pat to have at least mentioned Bionda owner Joe Farina's long tenure with Dana as executive chef of the Rosebud properties? Or that Cafe Bionda's flagship location is on South State? This city has a wealth of history. I thought that mentioning Farina's pedigree would have put the review in a focused context, instead of cheeky proclamations of "Nanna's gravy." Overall, Bruno and I have similar ratings for Bionda; I just thought his review was lazy.

The more I read it at lunch, the more frustrated I became? Mike was hoping that Bruno's VTK review at least signaled a shift from the constant Italian he's been covering lately. And it still might: Bruno also reviewed Friendship Chinese, but got the review totally wrong.

From Winchell's Donut House to the Brown Derby... a Good Start

AT&T Building in a Fog in B&W
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

It seems like change is in the air all around. In addition to my date on the Ice Planet Hoth the other night (my first one in years, literally, and with someone mentioned near the end of this blog entry), I finally made my choices for the new food and drink writers at Chicagoist, just as Oppenploppen tendered her resignation. They're gonna be on a fast learning curve, and I'm excited for the new blood to come aboard on all the beats. But it'll be nice to distribute the load more evenly on food and drink. I've gotten back into the swing of things with restaurant reviews, and I like the curiosity factor of the new writers. Now if I can just come up with something witty to update my editor profile, you know, since HotHouse is closed and all.

I've got a deadline for the Sun-Times on Monday, and if the subjects I chose for the article turn out the way I hope, it's gonna be an amazing piece. I've long been curious about how the Great Migration of blacks from the deep south to the industrial Midwest affected not only the overall culture of cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, but local food culture specifically. I've got feelers into owners of a few soul food restaurants for interview, and placed a call into an old friend or two for some quotes. If all goes well I should be able to let their words to the work.

Heading to the Soul Queen now.