31 July 2007
If you thought that lawmakers in Washington were glowing over their accomplishments last week, you might not have thought a raise in their exposure to radiation was responsible for their warm glow. A one sentence provision in a recently passed energy bill drastically increases funding for new nuclear power projects in the U.S. It seemed like nuclear power was already doing quite well, especially after the successful weekend "The Simpsons" film had at the box office. Montgomery Burns, it appears, should make out well on all fronts.
The Huffington Post has identified the newest beam of support for the White House case for a continued presence in Iraq...General David Petraeus. The good general is expected to issue a report on the situation in Iraq that addresses some of the shortcomings of the last few months worth of fighting the war on terror in Iraq while at the same time praising the results of the surge. This comes on the heels of a report given by the NYTimes that identified a U.S. intention to keep troop numbers up in Iraq through 2009. If this report were a musical, Petraeus would be singing "Cockeyed Optimist" while Bush and Cheney offer a duet of "The Song that Never Ends" with the word "war" superimposed in the places where "song" would be sung.
Ex Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch is the first of many expected to be tried for human rights abuses that occurred in Cambodia in the 1970s. While Pol Pot escaped the harsh punishment his actions deserved through death, at least the long-suffering victims will get a chance to see a few of his more notorious minions pan fried.
Chief Justice John Roberts recovered quickly after he had an unexplained seizure that sent him to the hospital. I'm not a doctor, but I'd blame the episode on Roberts standing within five miles of Alberto "It's Good to Have Known You" Gonzales' testimony in Congress. That logic could make concrete have a grand mal seizure.
Hootan Roozrokh has become what is believed to be the nation's first doctor charged with a felony for his role in a transplant. The transplant surgeon is accused of using drugs to hasten the demise of a patient in order to harvest his organs sooner. Dr. Roozrohk may also have become the first organ transplant surgeon in the United States to succeed in making people feel suspicious of a service that is meant to save their lives. You can bet that Doctor Demented will not be appearing in any of next year's public service announcements about organ transplantation.
Morbid coverage continues with the story of the death of the architect of the west coast offense Bill Walsh. Walsh, winner of three Super Bowls as coach of the San Francisco 49ers, died of leukemia at the age of 75. As a Bears fan, little pleased me quite as much as the stifling defense in 1985 coupled with the debut of the William Perry wrecking ball from the backfield, crushing your well oiled machine at Candlestick Park 26-10. But football wouldn't be like it is today without you, regardless of what team you coached. You were a great foe, and an even better friend to the game.
Chelsea Clinton is aiming to be the first two-time First Daughter with Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. I'd prefer that Obama and his relatives inherit all of the First titles, but I'll take Chelsea Part Deux along with the Hillary in Charge show on the following, non-negotiable conditions:
A). I get to hang out at a bar two Saturdays a month on the Georgetown campus with Bill Clinton, canoodeling and cavorting the night away. I can crash in the Lincoln Bedroom afterward. B). I am given permission to misuse executive authority against Brett Favre in any way I see fit. C). Chelsea Clinton at least gives me some serious consideration as the future First Son-In-Law. If I achieve the rank of First Son-in-Law, I can crash in the Lincoln Bedroom whenever I have the need. And I can call Hillary mom. It's a small list of demands to get me into the fold. Like the Timberwolves, you'd probably better take the offer when it's on the table.
Finally, in the crazy news department, University of Texas researchers came up with 237 reasons why people have sex. They left off a couple of my favorites ("to celebrate the Bears going to the Super Bowl" and "it was either that or watching another episode of The O'Reilly Factor") while proving that no research is worthless so long as it gets you a news brief next to the story about Britney Spears' latest public foibles.
30 July 2007
Flatlanders is a derogatory term used by people in hilly Wisconsin to deride people from glaciated Illinois. Flatlander's is an establishment with great brews and very good food located down on the plain in Lincolnshire, Ill. Sample across the menu, because their wares are top notch.
This is another of the Chicago area's finest brew pubs. The nitrogenated stout (called the Locomotive Stout) is made in the style of Guinness without the enormous production quantities, and it tastes very, very good. It's cappuccino notes are cleansed nicely by the creamy texture of the frothy nitrogen. The Abe's Honest Ale is a clean beer with a delicate sweetness and a hint of flowery hops that balance the flavor profile.
The brew pub also offers great seasonal beers that change regularly. The 90 Shilling Ale and the Grand Cru were both excellent. The building is enormous, with a bar area with multiple tables, patio seating and a cavernous dining area equipped with fireplaces and nicely appointed areas that are completely separate from the bar area.
The pub is located just north of Half Day Road (so named because of it's distance in a horse-drawn carriage ride back in the day to Chicago) on Milwaukee Avenue. I could walk there from my hotel facility while drinking tasty beer and eating good food, so the horse-drawn carriage was not necessary.
They do serve their full menu very late, so you can enjoy the food with it's clearly marked vegetarian selections (I love it!) and order on your first beer or your 14th. The bar also features a great whisky and whiskey selection, alongside a nice range of mixed drinks that includes an entire menu of Big Ten school martinis.
This is a fantastic restaurant with great beer, so it's a great place to eat and drink at any hour before 2 a.m. It is located slightly north of the mainstream of Chicago, but offers options that are well worth sampling if you get the chance.The bands can run the gamut from terrible to not so terrible, so reading the local media might help determine if the entertainment will ruin your evening. Aside from these warnings, if you like beer and well-crafted American dining options, Flatlander's should work for you.
The news leads of with the death of iconoclastic filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Bergman created more than 50 films that explored the subjects that vanilla Hollywood was afraid to touch in a way that was uniquely his own style of expression. He died on a remote island, proving that the American film industry had gotten so vapid in the last few years that a genius director had to find a small piece of land floating around in the water in order to escape Hollywood's ignominious influence.
Britain and the United States have a new B and B duo. Instead of the combination of across-the-pond cowboys Bush and Blair, the new tag team is Bush and freshly-minted Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown, who is trying to win friends both in the U.K. and the U.S., called America Britain's strongest ally. His most important task is to keep relations between American and Britain friendly but not too friendly (because too friendly got Tony Blair kicked out of office). At this point in Bush's tenure, even the Atlantic Ocean may not be enough distance to keep his abrasive foreign policies from upsetting the new Killer B in London.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party suffered a major setback in a recent election that may cost Abe his seat as PM. His party lost seats in areas that they almost always win, and the defeat is blamed on Abe's policies as well as scandals that have kept his actions in the spotlight. If Mr. Abe doesn't right the ship, the opposing party may issue the ominous battle cry "All Your Base Are Belong To Us."
The 95-0 Senate vote to change the way the government puts poor college students in debt is one step in the right direction. Of course, it's a little too late as I am poor and already in crippling college debt. Better late than never, I guess.
Media news starts with video piracy hub YouTube pledging to install content filtering software that will prevent posting of copyrighted material...whenever they get around to it. Once the copyrighted materials are removed, the site will still have all of those banal video blogs , shots of guys getting hit in the nuts or drinking horrible things, and stupid pet tricks for you to enjoy. What a service!
The sports wires were bursting with news today. Cooperstown inaugurated two new members. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken joined the ranks of Babe Ruth and Cy Young in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ripken, with his slight build, and Gwynn, who is built like he ate Ty Cobb, may make up one of the last elected classes for some time that won't have to have to answer questions about performance enhancing drugs. Hopefully Commissioner Selig got an opportunity to practice his secret escape from the induction so he can duplicate the exodus after Bonds hits his record-breaking home run.
On the heels of Vernon Forrest's victory over Carlos Baldomir for the WBC super welterweight title comes a New York Times report on the shortcomings in health care for professional boxers. In a given week, I typically agree with John McCain as often as I agree with Charles Manson, but this time he had a pretty good idea.This was one of his pet issues that was spurned by the sport and underreported by the media (and not mentioned in the Times' coverage). Don King and the boxing governing bodies look like such scum that they make John McCain and his Crazy Train actually seem more like the Straight Talk Express.
Nascar bad boy Tony Stewart crossed the finish line as the victor in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Those who live in civilization and think that Nascar is an excuse for hillbillies to get together and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon while inhaling auto exhaust rolled over and continued sleeping.
Finally, researchers have determined through use of statistical modeling that the 2003 Florida Marlins should not have won the World Series. Using careful analysis, the researchers found that the Yankees were a better team than the Marlins in 2003. The Marlins were determined to be the worst team in 30 years to win an MLB championship. Finally Cubs fans will have a statistical anomaly not named Steve Bartman to blame for coming up a day late and a dollar short in their neverending quest for a Series title.
29 July 2007
These are two words that seldom run together in a news story--Iraq and success. But those two words perfectly described the Iraqi soccer team and its 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup championship match. President Bush will probably be remembered as the George Steinbrenner of Iraqi soccer. In order to keep the good news in check, celebrating soccer fans in Baghdad partied away with explosions of gun fire that killed two and wounded 40.
The White House is planning on asking Congress to pay for all sorts of weaponry. They will send the things that go boom to Saudi Arabia to soften the blow of their crushing soccer defeat. The policy also will arm Israel to the teeth as part of the overall platformed plan of mutual assured destruction as diplomacy in the Middle East. Pow--to the moon, Abbas!
The major sticking point in our domestic spying program turned out to be data mining in the continuing Alberto Gonzales headache on Capital Hill. Congress is turning the screws on the embattled Attorney General. Chances are, his defense will be one of the following: A). Gonzales will forget about the data mining. B). He'll claim executive privilege for the judicial branch. C). Dick Cheney will dissolve the legislative branch so that Gonzales doesn't have to answer any more of these pesky questions.
The Taliban in Afghanistan is threatening to kill the 22 South Korean hostages they have captured if specific prisoners the Taliban leaders have named are not released. The Taliban brass has given a deadline of Monday for the swap. Hostage negotiators countered the proposal with an offer of an even exchange of Michael Vick for the hostages in order to minimize casualties in addition to improving the lives of Home Depot and the Falcons' public relations staff.
Scientists has identified a way to generate stem cells that don't harm embryos. This will still be opposed by Bush's shortsighted stem cell policy based upon the idea that Bush hates people with Parkinson's, diabetes and organ failure, but loves aborted baby goop. It should take Bush and his folk scientists two minutes to dismiss the potentially lifesaving developments.
It is getting difficult to argue with a White House that refuses to release recommendations by the Surgeon General because the language wasn't politicized enough. That track record coupled with the current Iraq debacle makes it difficult to imagine anybody, even a group of scientists, that could break the momentum of the Oval Office and its active campaign of disinformation and reactionary policies. Hopefully somebody finds a way around the Bush built blockade.
27 July 2007
Michael Lachowicz is, as would be no surprise, the boss at the restaurant that shares his name. Michael is located on Green Bay Road in Winneta and offers well-priced French cuisine. Lachowicz honed his skills under the tutiledge of the masters (Jean Banchet and Roland Liccioni) at the Chicago area's original home of haute cuisine, Le Francais. Michael is a great spot that offers fine dining priced below your typical four-star Chicago dining outpost without skimping on all the bells and whistles that come with haute cuisine.
The menu has few vegetarian options. However, we had called ahead and the staff assured us that veggie options would in fact be available. After making a comment about the shortage of vegetarian options on the menu, a jovial man at the next table guaranteed us that the chef could do great vegetarian food. That jovial man turned out to be none other than chef Michael Lachowicz.
The staff was equally as friendly and helpful as Lachowicz, deftly explaining the food and drinks while providing great, timely service. The wine list is Gallic-heavy, but it is balanced with a great selection of fairly-priced international options that compliment the beautifully prepared courses.
My starter course was a chilled tomato vodka soup (pictured above). The cold soup was refreshing on a hot summer day, and provided an herbal undertone that followed through on the rich finish. The vegetables in the center of the soup provided a great textural contrast to the silky smooth tomato base.
My main entree was a special order not featured on the menu, but the staff actually gave me two different options that fit my strict vegetarian world view. Lachowicz prepared a selection of grilled vegetables prepared with a mushroom risotto, garlic mashed potatoes and a cold gazpacho-like sauce as a garnish. It was outstanding.
The after dinner menu features a number of classic desserts as well as a library list of dessert wine, cognac, armagnac and calvados. The selections are very good, and like everything else on the menu, well priced.
This is the type of restaurant for people on the North Shore who want top-notch cuisine but don't have the time to drive downtown to get their fine dining. They can even spend the money they saved at dinner from Michael on lunch the next day. Great food, great price, great deal.
25 July 2007
Culinary whiz kid Grant Achatz, 33, the guy in charge of the hyped temple of gastronomy Alinea, recently received a grim diagnosis of Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth. The disease has a treatment that will come with a price. At the minimum, it may cost the chef his sense of taste. At the maximum, it could also cost him his life.
Achatz has received numerous accolades throughout his life that make this more interesting. In 2002, he was named one of the Best New Chefs in "Food and Wine" magazine when he was the executive chef at Trio in Evanston. "Gourmet" magazine rated his new restaurant Alinea as the best restaurant in the United States last year. He was named one of Chicago's sexiest singles in this year's Chicago magazine feature.
Two of the greatest meals I ever ate in my life were served at Achatz establishments. My birthday meal at Trio years ago was beyond words. The amuse bouche was a parmesan cheese ice cream sandwich. I also distinctly remember that he made a hot and cold coconut soup served on a glass sculpture that was divine in both contrast and flavor. Achatz made world class cuisine at Trio that impressed vegetarians and carnivores alike. The restaurant hasn't been the same since Achatz's departure.
I also got an opportunity to eat at Alinea, his palace of fine dining that is as distinctive as something you would expect to experience on an alien planet. Exploding coconut butter orbs in celery juice. Foamed cheese and herbs served beside grilled watermelon (pictured above). Even the bread and butters were out of this world. A peeled piece of tomato with every manner of taste and texture present in the dish was as exciting to eat as it was to view. The wine, which included a glass of Remezieres Hermitage Cuvee Emile, was perfect.
Apparently, his very talented pastry chef left one week after I ate there. The desserts at the meal that night were other worldly. His culinary flair is matched by the quality of his service, which is as impressive as it gets. Dining at Alinea was easily one of the greatest experiences I've ever had in my life, eating or otherwise. I wish Grant nothing but the best. Hopefully diners had a chance to experience his magic touch, and hopefully Achatz will come out and be able to continue in his inimitable style so you can taste his passion for food once in your life.
I was especially touched by his reference to Beethoven composing one of his greatest works after falling deaf. Achatz compared this story to the idea of a master chef like himself losing his sense of taste, looking optimistically at the future. However he comes out, he changed the way that I think about food. Achatz opened doors for me that I would never have known about otherwise. If Achatz doesn't survive, his legacy will shine on. If he sticks around, the world (and my stomach) will be a better place.
I'm a few days behind here, but it's about time for me to give my two cents about my short stay at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park in Chicago. I didn't get to go beginning to end like I did last year, but what I caught was fun. I ate well and got a little sun. Dollar for dollar, this is always one of the greatest bargains in music festivals. My five hours there were well worth the price of admission.
I rode the Metra train to Union Station and walked ten blocks west. Before I got to Chicago, I spent an hour talking to Brian, a nut job who had some convoluted story about taking a cab to get to the Northbrook train station in order to catch another train downtown to get to Elmwood Park to see his girlfriend. I now know every bit of his personal history, and I feel dumber for it.
I got a little hungry on the walk over, and I stopped at a restaurant in Greek Town to get some cheese sticks, an authentic Greek delicacy. (On a side note, Artopolis is a great restaurant in the area that is well worth checking out.) I picked up my tickets at will call, and ran full speed ahead to the side stage to see Powerhouse Sound perform.
The Powerhouse Sound album has two faces. The new release was a double album with a European version and a U.S. version on two disks. The stateside incarnation was performing in the first slot at Pitchfork Festival. There is also a European version of Powerhouse Sound that obviously did not play today.
Multi-reedist Ken Vandermark is the band leader for both incarnations of the band, including today's Chicago-based group. Nate McBride plays electronic bass. The guitar/drums in the band are played by two members of Chicago jazzbo heavy-hitters Tortoise. Jeff Parker manned the guitar and John Herndon played the drum kit.
The set was a definite showcase for Vandermark, who I would guess may have been playing for much of the crowd for the first time. Powerhouse Sound has a very high energy dynamic that hopefully will regroup for another album or show in the future. It was great to see these kind of crowds give this kind of reaction to these outstanding performers. The energy of the crowd trumps the could-care-less vibe that permeated some of the Empty Bottle shows in the past. Hopefully the show turns more people on to the undiscovered treasure that is the community of Chicago improvisers.
Next, I went to explore the fantastic dining options available at the festival. Pitchfork always has magnificent options for the vegetarian and vegan community. I had organic lentils served with onions, tomatoes and Indian spices on a bed of rice from Bombay Station. I also enjoyed a watermelon lemonade from the Southern outpost Wishbone, as well as vegan soy chocolate chip "ice cream" from Chicago Soy Dairy Temptation.
There were other options as well, from hummus, tabouli and spicy seitan at Big Bite catering, the vegetarian pad Thai at Star of Siam, and the veggie quesadillas and roasted corn at the Goose Island booth served along with their summer beer offerings at another tent. There was even a Chipotle there. You could eat five vegetarian meals at the event and not repeat anything once.
After my lunch, I caught a bit of the Califone set. Califone rose from the ashes of the band Red Red Meat. The band offers a beautiful take on American folk music, with a bluegrass root coming through on the diverse array of songs they play. The band played an absolutely amazing set with Wilco on a previous tour, and they seem poised to make a major breakthrough at some unknown future date.
Next, I went back to the side stage to catch the William Parker Quartet. If Powerhouse Sound was all about explosive energy, William Parker's outfit was about understatement and restraint. The band is led by Parker, a bass player who has recorded with many of the titans of free jazz. He plays alongside Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Rob Brown on alto sax and Hamid Drake on the drums. The set was good, though hardly the best I've seen the quartet perform. The sound quality was poor at best, with a 10 minute blast of unexplained feedback that apparently plagued the stage all weekend. Really, though, after Hamid Drake's solo that mimics an assault on the senses, all was forgiven.
The next band was Voxtrot. A couple of their songs (particularly "Kid Gloves") get tons of play on Sirius. The show was nothing special. I preferred the studio product to its live counterpart.
The underwhelming Voxtrot set gave me some time to check out the goods for sale in the market and at Flatstock. The market contained many craft products as well as a pile of independent music in any format imaginable. Flatstock was an on-site concert poster gallery that has tons of great artwork by a variety of artists.
Grizzly Bear played next, and they were excellent. The lead singer was playing this crazy dulcimer instrument that gave the songs a fairy tale quality. The Brooklyn band played a strong set that explains what all the buzz they have created is all about. This band is definitely worth checking out. The Girl Talk remix of the song "Knife" gives two Pitchfork sweethearts a chance to share talents, and it is also a great starting point to check the band out.
The slow drone of the band Beach House could have bored me to tears. It was a dark, depressing, morose soundtrack that was closer to ambient electronic minimalism than the typical singer/instrumentalist duo puts out. This duo was about as exciting as any part of the Tour de France or statistics class.
There was no way Beach House could compete when the band following them was Battles. Guitarist/laptop master/vocalist (if that is the right term for his indistinguishably processed vocals) Tyondai Braxton played at last year's Pitchfork Festival. The other members of the group (John Stanier on drums, Ian Williams on guitar and keyboards, and Dave Konopka on guitar and bass) make this outfit one of math rock's most formidable units, and their live show is all energy. This show was great, and if this band is within 400 miles of you, drive there and check it out. (Also, as a free taste, check out the YouTube clip of their video "Atlas", a clip which may be the best video of the year by a mile and a half.)
I also saw Fujiya and Miyagi, the trio who released one of my favorite dance tracks of the year in "Collarbone". I thought these guys were more electronic than analog, but they actually play infectious dance music live, and it's sure to get the floor moving.
In addition, I saw the beginning of the Iron and Wine set. It was too bad I had to leave early to go to dinner. Their music (truly they are soloist Sam Beam who sometimes plays alongside other musicians) is a soothing folk-tinged rock that runs the gamut from country to folk to prison songs performed with beautiful emotion, taking a few stops between that break up the sweet emotion evoked in the last ballad.
I also wanted to (but didn't get a chance to) see Clipse and Girl Talk to see what all the hype was about. I might have liked to have seen the Lightbox Orchestra at the beginning of day three.I might also have killed somebody to get a chance to see the GZA do "Liquid Swords" alongside Sonic Youth's full rendition of "Daydream Nation". But my five hours at the fest were well worth it, those things considered. Luckily I escaped before headliner Yoko Ono went on. All in all, the show was great,and I'll be there with bells on for next year's Fork. All of my photographs are in the Picasa link below.
23 July 2007
Chef Michael Taus steers the ship at the River North dining outpost Zealous. The soothing oasis offers spectacular cuisine that is interesting enough to separate it from its high-end neighbors.
Zealous offers a five-course vegetarian degustation that retails for about $75. The marinated seitan with gnocchi, mushrooms and brussel sprouts was the third course of the night and is pictured above. Dinner began with a mango cube amuse bouche, followed by a lentil dish served beneath mushrooms and pureed peas. This was before the second dish, a vegetable lasagna served beside a French radish salad, which was followed by the aforementioned seitan course.
The fruit sorbet was a refreshing course that was excellent in quality but probably not worthy of being considered a legitimate course before the dessert. Sorbet is often a freebie like the amuse bouche, and while it was a pleasant palate cleaner, I wouldn't have minded a cheese course or another small plate presented in its place. The dessert was a blueberry tart and a soft dark chocolate cake that had a little more sugar than my diabetic palate is used to, but it was delicious.
The wine list at Zealous offers top notch selections, with all of the trophies from Bordeaux and the Rhone in France, many well-picked wines from Germany, Spain and Italy as well as the New World trend setters from Australia and the United States. There is something for everybody, and the helpful staff will be sure to select the perfect glass or bottle for whatever you are eating.
The chef is a great guy. He grew up in the Chicago area, and brought his talents back after a short stint on the West Coast. Chicago Magazine had a great story about Taus' night at another Chicago dining nirvana downtown--Tru. Gale Gand, Tru's pastry chef, told the story of when Taus was served by none other than Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams in her restaurant. Apparently Williams enjoyed Tru so much he wanted to work their for the night, and Zealous' chef was the only free table. Taus might have taken some of the experience home with him, and it helped him craft a masterpiece in downtown Chicago.
The dining room is inviting and relaxing, well designed in almost all respects. Zealous is definitely a great place to check out if you are dining in downtown Chicago.
22 July 2007
I spent my second day in Illinois checking out the area around the resort I was staying in and the surrounding communities by the resort. All of the exploring made me hungry, and hunger made me eat.
Lunch was at Himalayan Restaurant in Niles. They offer a ridiculous $7.95 lunch buffet that has eight or more vegetarian options as well as dessert. Indian food is conducive to vegetarian dining, but the cuisine also provides carnivorous options. The buffet at Himalayan is shaped like the letter 'L', with the long portion of the L being vegetarian and the short part having the veggie-hater entrees and veggie-friendly desserts. The buffet comes with free naan, while drinks are extra.
The buffet consists of about four staples and four rotating items that change at least daily. Chana masala, the traditional chickpea dish, is a regular item, alongside palak paneer (cubed cheese in spinach) and other items. The specials this day included a divine mushroom curry with multicolored peppers, and a creamy dumpling with earthy vegetables and a mildly sweet finish. The chana, the creamy dumpling and the mushroom curry are visible in my photographs.
Rice pudding and the Indian doughnuts are on the after dinner options list. The sauces and chutneys are rich and flavorful, and the super cheap price makes the meal a steal.
Dinner was at Simon Lin's (pictured above), about six or eight golf strokes from the resort. The restaurant offers some interesting tropical drinks including one made with candied pineapple garnishes, as well as the more adventurous Saketini. My starting appetizer (vegetarian pot stickers) had a great presentation, both in my photograph and on the Web site for Simon Lin's.
My entree was the chef's spicy tofu, which is the photograph that tops this post. It is served with your choice of basmati and brown rice. The menu also has 80 million sushi options that are served in large portions and do include a vegi-roll. The chef of the Asian Bistro being reviewed in this post also owns Little Szechwan, an everyday takeout Chinese place. Simon Lin's displays a greater Pan-Asian flair than does Little Szechwan.
I'll post the Picasa slideshow link below. You can scroll through and find the pictures linked in the article and more in the gallery.
My first night in Illinois, dinner was at La Tasca, a tapas restaurant in Arlington Heights. The dining rooms are rather large, but that made sense as the place was very busy. There was also a fairly lively bar crowd having drinks and small plates of olives, cheese and bread. The bar offers basic beer selections, a decent Spanish wine list, and a wide variety of spirits including some fantastic PX brandies. There is also 50 million variations of the martini available in many different ridiculous flavor combinations.
La Tasca offers a number of excellently prepared vegetarian selections. Tapas are typically offered in hot and cold formats. The cold (tapas frias) vary from the fire roasted tri-colored peppers peppers in an olive oil vinaigrette to the garlicky potato salad to the tomato and mozzarella salad. There is also a cheese plate with a cow, goat, sheep and blue cheese served alongside various accoutrements, in addition to the Spanish omelet that is available for gross vegetarians who eat eggs.
The hot tapas include fried potatoes in a creamy hot sauce (very good), herbed goat cheese baked in tomato basil sauce (also very good and pictured above), a grilled vegetable plate, and vegetable paella.
After eating 80 million little plates, I had no room for dessert. That being said, this is a very nice place located in the middle of downtown Arlington Heights. It's a great dinner spot.
21 July 2007
It's getting easier and easier to tackle Michael Vick. Perhaps he should attempt to move himself out of the way of all this controversy before the league takes him out for good.
Speaking of easy targets, a federal appeals court has ordered the U.S. to turn all Gitmo information over to those who are challenging their detentions in the controversial facility. It is definitely time for somebody to make contact with the pitch before the bleeding obvious goes down.
The U.S.A. isn't the only country whose decision making is being called into question by the judicial system. Whipping boy Pervez Musharraf had his decision to remove chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry from office overturned. The move is expected to further erode the embattled President's base of support. Musharraf is learning in much the same way that Tony Blair did how ineffective siding with Generalissimo Bush can be.
Israel has attempted to bolster the credibility of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas by freeing 250 prisoners. Only in the Middle East and Paul Brown Stadium do more criminals give you a better chance at victory.
Mariane Pearl, widow of journalist Daniel Pearl, has filed a lawsuit against those responsible for the crime of murdering Daniel in Pakistan. She is suing a bank that she alleges is responsible for orchestrating and supporting the senseless act. In all of my future endeavors, my banking centers will not have blood on their hands as it will make me feel guiltier than usual when I'm paying my bills.
Democratic representatives in the legislature have been forced to push back voting reforms until the 2012 election. Based upon the last two Presidential elections coupled with the current batch of Republican candidates, the only chance the Republicans have to win the 2008 election is to push election reform back to 2012.
Google owns just about everything, and if they have their way, they'll be a Google phone coming soon to a theater near you. Google is proposing changes in the legislation regarding cell phone use. The next step is most likely for Google to send somebody over to your house to hang out and monitor you all day, thus effectively giving Google control over everything you do.
The Los Angeles Times profiled a family from New Hampshire who refuses to pay taxes and is challenging the government to come and get the back taxes. I have to admire the Bruce Campbell-like tenacity of some people's convictions.
Finally, NBA referee Tim Donaghy got in a bit of trouble when he was snared in a federal investigation alleging he made calls in games in order to influence the point spread for mobsters who were involved in gambling. I don't know for sure, but I bet that his career is over. Odds are he is a complete screw up. I'd wager his next job is going to be getting fouled by his cell mate.
20 July 2007
19 July 2007
18 July 2007
Part two of Ohio Brew Fest for me started at the Pub. The Athens institution features a full service menu with a limited vegetarian selection (warning: their beer cheese soup is NOT vegetarian) and drink specials that include enormous beers served in a glass referred to as an aquarium.
The Pub is hosting Rocky River Brewing Company from the Cleveland area. Rocky River marks their vegetarian selections on their menu. Their beers at the Pub include the Blueberry Trails Blueberry Ale and the Cabin Fever English style Sharp Ale. The Blueberry Ale had a rich, dark roasted flavor with hints of tart blueberries on the finish. The Sharp Ale is light and clean if uninspiring.
Sports bar Pigskin has huge televisions tuned to the game, and they often have a few good beer choices in bottle and draft alongside a voluminous menu of shots. The menu is pretty veggie unfriendly...pretty much limited to a grilled cheese sandwich. The main attraction to Pigskin is the sports and the drinks. At this point in the evening, I realized that most every bar in the brew week was offering sample glasses for about $1.
The $1 sample allows me to sample every beer from Willoughby Brewing, a brew pub and cigar bar in Willoughby, Ohio. The menu at Willoughby features a few vegetarian appetizers with entrees that include Asian portabello sandwiches and pizzas that are meatless. They feature eight beers in the brew pub, and four of those beers are available at Pigskin.
The Pride of Willoughby is a porter that shows loads of dark chocolate and grilled notes with a long, tapered finish. The Daisy Cutter IPA is made to accent high alpha hops content, with an IBU rating of 75 that bursts through the floral aromas and explodes out of the glass. The Northern Trail Nut Brown was clean but lacked the punch of the porter. The Rapier Wit (one of my favorite names) has the refreshing citrus zing of the traditional summer favorite.
The bar staff was exceptionally helpful, and the shot of pineapple upside down cake that somebody sent over was much appreciated.
Lucky's is also a sports bar participating in Ohio Brew Week. Lucky's is Athens' local Pittsburgh Steelers bar. Browns and Bengals fans can, however, enjoy beer there without the threat of being ridiculed too badly.
Contrary to the Web site, Lucky's features beer from Columbus' Elevator Brewing, a restaurant profiled in the last Ohio Brew Week post. The food at Elevator is absolutely outstanding, at least a step and a half above most of the rest of the brew pub grub crowd. The pub offers nine beers year round in addition to a cadre of seasonal offerings.
The beer I tried at Lucky's was the Vienna Lager Hubris. The beer was ruby hued with a medium body and a smooth finish. Lucky's also has the Belgian Wit and the Buckeye Red, also by Elevator Brewing.
I could continue watching the games at Red Brick Tavern, another stop on the Brew Week train. Red Brick has the classic, vegetarian-hating bar menu. Luckily for me, they also feature beer from Cincinnati's Barrel House Brewing. Barrel House lists five beers, and although they were included on the menu at Red Brick, some of the beers were not in yet. I don't know if they will have the full line of Barrel House products this week or not.
The Boss Cox Double Dark IPA is well hopped and slightly sweet, with a full-bodied malt character. The Duveneck's Dortmunder Style Lager was a medium bodied golden beer that makes for a pleasant quaff. I was a little disappointed that the RedLegg Ale was not on hand, because I'm guessing that this year's batch of RedLegg Ale is probably much better than this year's batch of the Cincinnati Redlegs.
There are a few other spots that are worth checking out. Great Lakes Brewing Company, probably Ohio's greatest brewer, is featured in many locations around Athens. Luckily, my favorite vegetarian Tex Mex spot Casa Nueva (formerly reviewed in this very blog) features Great Lakes beers along with a few others. The Dortmunder Gold is the classic beer from Great Lakes, and the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is another winner. They also feature products from Marietta Brewing, Jackie O's and the Shade Winery.
Further down the street is Broney's, a bar with tons of drink specials and a pretty decent collection of high-end liquors. They also feature two breweries on tap for the brew week.
They have many of the same Great Lakes beers, as well as the seasonal Prohibition Pilsner, which is a beer with real character made in the style of the European macro-brews. It is very good, and it is served alongside Burning River Pale Ale, Commodore Perry IPA, Elliot Ness Amber Lager and Holy Moses White Ale.
Mt. Carmel Brewing from Cincinnati is also featured at Broney's. The Nut Brown is round, sweet and fairly one-dimensional. The Blonde is light and balanced. The Copper is probably the most distinctive of the three beers.
My final goal is to make it by the Oak Room Sunday because they have a pretty wide selection of beers that should provide a great night cap for the Ohio Brew Week festivities. Enjoy the photographs available below.
|Ohio Brew Week 2|
The one true church continues its one true path to public relations purgatory. The real theological quandary centers around the question of why the intermediaries between God and man can't keep their grubby fingers off the children, and why the church continues to fund a campaign of mass-pedophilia.
A new intelligence report questions the decision to steer the war on terrorism into Iraq. This comes on the tails of lawmakers being unable to derive an exit scenario for the pullout in Iraq. Following afterward, the all-night session in Congress failed to produce a pull out plan. Our efforts have created a stronger and more able enemy that is a threat to homeland security. Summarizing all the findings, we had no business in Iraq, we can't get out of Iraq, and no part of the government can do anything to fix the situation.
If the efforts in Iraq are completely failing, it would be remiss if the failures in Afghanistan weren't mentioned. Bush aides are describing the efforts in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda as failures. They describe the war on terror with the same terminology that historians describe the Bush Presidency.
Robert Sheer describes the Bush reign as imperialistic and misguided, calling him America's second King George. The only positive thing in the U.S. is that our monarchs are limited to an eight-year period of control.
Everybody's favorite neo-con cowboy Bill O'Reilly has picked a new opponent: the blogosphere. O'Reilly characterizes left-leaning blog the Daily Kos as a bastion for hate speech, and goes after JetBlue Airlines, a company that sponsored a Daily Kos event. If satirical political discourse qualifies as hate speech, it would only be fair if Bill O'Reilly steps down alongside the Daily Kos. Imagine what would happen if people kept track of the hateful, stupid things O'Reilly said in the past.
An airplane crash in Brazil has claimed more than 200 victims. Bill O'Reilly blamed the crash on the plane's liberal bias.
NFL superstar/walking controversy Michael Vick has been indicted on charges stemming from an investigation into his involvement in dog fighting. Vick was allegedly consulted before a wounded dog was coated in water and electrocuted. The stories are so brutal that Vick, the Falcons and Home Depot should expect a vicious PETA protest at their doorstep in the next few weeks.
In stories of the bleeding obvious, steroids and drugs were found in Chris Benoit's system before he murdered his wife and son. In other news, water is wet and Yao Ming is tall.
In entertainment news, funny man Jon Lovitz beat the crap out of crazy man Andy Dick. If Lovitz has trouble breaking back into show business, they will probably be casting for a new season of the Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV soon. I predict that a Jon Lovitz/Tim Meadows would be a great mixed martial arts competition finale.
17 July 2007
Beer has been credited with playing a vital role in civilization. It has also been blamed for creating mayhem in sports in addition to a host of other social maladies. With the college kids about to head out of town until the next school year, brewers will get a chance to show off the positive culture associated with their wares as part of Ohio Brew Week. I will get a chance to enjoy the benefits of civilization by walking from bar to bar to bar enjoying the character of Ohio's finest beers.
I started the night out at Skipper's. Skipper's is Athens' equivalent of Fridays, offering a wide selection of faux-bistro cuisine with tons of drink specials. They feature a wide selection of vegetarian dining options, as well as 42-ounce margaritas for two (or one heavy drinker).
They also offer a good selection of bottled and draft beer. Their brew week selections come from all over Ohio, and they can be sampled in $4 pints or $1 5-ounce pours. I met the brewer from Black Box Brewery in Lakewood. The operation makes both wine and beer, and the beer was very distinctive and interesting.
The Plumber's Crack Ale was medium-bodied, with a fresh, clean malt finish. The beer is described as an ale that finishes like a lager, and it is built for summer consumption.
Also from the north end of the state comes Berea's Cornerstone Brewing Company. I have never been there, but the menu does feature a few vegetarian options. One of their standout beers was the Angry Gorilla hefeweizen. The beer picks up banana notes from the esters formed in the fermentation process. The fruity character straddles the line between traditional wheat beer and bottle-conditioned Belgian flavors.
Skipper's also offers selections from Columbus' two-headed brewpub monster Barley's. Interestingly, the beers and menus are different at both locations. The Alehouse offers more vegetarian selections than the Smokehouse does. These brews are available in growlers at some of the area's higher end bodegas.
There is also beer from Great Lakes, Marietta Brewing and Brew Kettle on tap at Skipper's during brew week. The Commodore Perry IPA by Great Lakes is probably left over from before brew week, but it is a hop lovers delight (80 IBU) all the same. Marietta Brewing has their Raspberry Wheat featured in multiple locations around Southeastern Ohio during the school year, and most of their beers are solidly made. The Brew Kettle 4C's Pale Ale is an American style pale ale that is a pleasant contrast to their more ostentatious Imperial IPA.
Right next door to Skipper's is Athens' contribution to brewpub culture Jackie O's. Jackie O's used to be called O'Hooley's. The name of the establishment refers to the mother of the pub's owner, a woman who died of cancer shortly before the name change, as well as the wife of John Kennedy. The bar is often crowded with people listening to the live music that includes weekly performances of Irish tunes in addition to other folk and jam band formats.
The bar debuted a few new beers in addition to a few beers that are offered year round. The featured beer is the Sparbock, a beer brewed in tribute to the late owner of the Oak Room and Toscano's Jon Sparhawk. Sparhawk was also the founder of Ohio Brew Fest. The dark beer had a rich flavor and a medium- to full-bodied character.
The brewpub also offers fruit-infused beers most of the year. The newest beer is a Dark Cherry Wheat, which is relatively dark in color with bing cherry and citrus aromas. It is actually very different from the Razz Wheat, which seems to be offered all year. The ChomoLungMa Organic Honey Nut Brown is very sweet and smoky. The Magic Mama IPA is rich and bracingly bitter.
The bar also offers food during the day. There are many vegetarian selections including the pizza, which is made from leftover spent grain used in the brewing process. Jackie O's has other special food offerings during Ohio Brew Week. Jackie O's had a bluegrass band playing during the evening. They often feature live music during the week, although it is probably less frequent when school is out.
The Athens local biker bar the Smiling Skull is also participating in the event. They always have a few options in decent beer. This week they have beer from the Arena District brewpub Elevator. The Xtra Kolsch is a pale beer brewed in the style of the German classic. This is the kind of beer for people who typically order Bud Light at the bar but want to experience craft beers that are compatible with the macro-beers that they started drinking. Elevator also features outstanding food that pairs well with the wide array of beers.
I heard high recommendations for the Calamity Jane Pale Ale from the Brown Derby Roadhouse. There will always be another chance to try that and a couple others later this week. You can check out the other odds and ends of everything from the first night in the Picasa photo album below.
|Ohio Brew Week 1|
For those of us who don't pay attention to the MLS (most if not all of America), David Beckham has landed. The New Republic does its best to blow through the hype and explain why Beckham is an overrated one trick pony. The opponents of that assertion believe that Beckham is to soccer what Michael Jordan was to baseball...an ambassador that will help sell minor league tickets.
War games strategies propose that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would lead to Iraq splintering into three states rather than Iraq becoming a pawn under the control of radical Iran. This runs contrary to White House predictions that exiting Iraq would create absolute anarchy. Prognostications from professionals never stop those in power from doing something crazy like throwing money at militant groups in Iraq to battle other militants. I don't know why I expected the will of the people and common sense to overrule Bush's tenacious disregard for the obvious.
The sand is dropping through the hour glass, and Bush needs to make it look like he accomplished something during his last four years in office. He has chosen the always popular peace in Israel plan as his new way of keeping busy. The betting pool involves picking what happens last--peace in Israel, peace in Iraq, or peace in Columbus, Ohio during the Michigan football game.
Two earthquakes in Japan caused leakage at a nuclear facility near Tokyo. According to cinematic tradition, it is now time for Mothra to battle Godzilla for domination of the island nation.
The L.A. Times profiled a Frenchman who spent years in Iranian jail after accidentally becoming mired in a territorial battle. The article, while critical of the shortcomings of the Iranian legal system, still leads one to believe that the only place preferable to Gitmo is in fact Iranian prison.
The Democrats and fiscal responsibility seem to be mutually exclusive, but campaign research shows that Clinton and Obama are balancing their budgets while the Republicans are raising less money and spending it irresponsibly. Apparently the new Republican party is socially conservative and fiscally retarded.
Russia and Great Britain are at odds, with Russia promising swift retribution to Britain expelling diplomats after officials stated that they would refuse the extradition of a Russian accused of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London. Analysts predict that this will escalate to the point where Lennox Lewis will have to fight Fedor Emelianenko to the death in order to determine which country is right.
Finally, if the idea of a bunch of jerkoffs winning millions playing poker doesn't upset you enough, perhaps the idea of paying to watch these jerkoffs win millions will truly irritate you. The only sporting events more boring than competitive poker will be played at the Home Depot Center with the team trying to bend it like Beckham.
16 July 2007
Well, I'm back from the Windy City. Pitchfork was great. I'll have pictures of me enjoying Powerhouse Sound, Grizzly Bear and Battles up soon. I ate well. Zealous and Michael are fantastic. I will also post these pictures and reviews of these restaurants soon. I'll get this all ready for your enjoyment soon.
The USA Today starts off with the military requesting vehicles made to withstand the increasingly deadly improvised explosive devices in Iraq years ago, but Robert Gates and his predecessors at the Pentagon decided there were more important considerations to make in Iraq. The mounting evidence to the contrary finally forced Gates to change his mind. The Department of Defense and its protocol are the only type of oversight that makes the NFL's policy on concussions look humane.
Pakistan's longstanding truce is in jeopardy, and the government may have lost the tenuous agreement they had with tribal leaders. Al Qaeda is establishing control in Pakistan, and a U.S. plan to quash the problem with a torrent of money is being met with great skepticism. The problems in Pakistan may stream across the border and create greater problems for our troops fighting the "war on terror" in Afghanistan. It isn't like things have been going well since we packed up and sent half of the troops' support to fight unprepared in Iraq.
U.N. inspectors have confirmed that North Korea has shut down a controversial nuclear reactor. Kim Jong-il still reserves the right to antagonize and annoy anybody who will stand around and listen to his ramblings.
The Democrats are running away from the Clinton years much like every Presidential candidate is running from the current Bush administration. Candidates are advocating an economic policy that supports the people more than big business. Since I am a person and not a big business, I support it. When I get in an upper tier tax bracket, I reserve the right to reconsider.
The Los Angeles chapter of NAMBLA (a.k.a. the Catholic archdiocese) is coming under more fire after their record $660 million dollar settlement to victims of priest-driven molestation. The Cardinal was slated to testify in the law suit brought against the Los Angeles archdiocese, but he quashed that chance by reaching the costly settlement. I wonder how the churchgoers feel about financially supporting a religious order's taste in young boys and irresponsible sex.
The threat of crushing royalty rates were stopped at the last minute with the future of independent internet radio hanging in the balance. Keep track of this issue before internet radio starts to sound like stale commercial radio. Your grandmother's playlist looks a lot like the Clear Channel playlist.
Finally, the Boo Birds finally got their due when Philadelphia lost their 10,000 baseball game, becoming the first team to reach that dubious distinction. Much like a Philly fans in the postseason, I'm sure that ownership celebrated by drinking themselves into oblivion.