All posts by ReasonablySober

Chicago: Days 4 & 5

I was too fucking tired to write last night.

The International Housewares Show started and by the time the day ended, I was the only person from my company who didn’t go out with others for dinner and drinks. I got back to the room, put on sweats, ordered room service and proceeded to watch Battleship, The Fast and Furious and fell asleep to Inception. There was a brief moment where I contemplated walking a couple blocks to watch the Bucks, but the sweats won out.

I’m not here to sell. For all intents and purposes, I’m a grunt. I’m the person who handles all web design, development, and marketing for a top 20 Forbes company, but I get invited to these because I’m the youngest person in the company, I can lift things and work hard, and I’m good at making food for people. I get a break from web-work to travel with the rest of Advertising and Sales so long as I do all the things no one else can or won’t do, and I love it. The first half of the week I and a couple others set everything up, and the remaining days I cook for dozens of people, make runs when needed and it’s like I’m operating my own kitchen. It’s fun when there’s people to feed.

But it’s also hella exhausting and after three days of set-up here’s all you get for Day 3:

Dinner

Where: My hotel room
Kind: Pretty dope
Crowd: Party of one, y’all
Atmosphere: Missing a candle or two, but relaxing
Food: Pulled chicken nachos from Hub 51, room service
Drink: Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon
Verdict: FUCKING PERFECT.

I just needed a night off my feet to refresh the batteries. Mission-fucking-accomplished. Having dumbass movies like Battleship and Fast and Furious on helped. Number of regrets I have for staying in my room in downtown Chicago on a Saturday night for the third straight year? ZERO.

Day 4

Day 4 is when it picks up at the show. I probably cooked for 80 people today and it made the day go by quick.

A couple posts ago I mentioned how I’d probably meet a number of celebrity chefs; I’ll be honest, this year I barely give a shit. Yesterday I could have met Ming Sai (again), Rick Bayless and Fabio Vivani (again). Today it would have been Paula Deen (again), Todd English, Masaharu Morimoto (again) Gail Simmons and Duff Goldman. All cool people, but I’m celebrity-chef’d out.

I am, however, making an exception tomorrow for a guy who I’ve made it a habit to stalk: chef Chris Cosentino. Two years ago I had his steak tartar and talked to him after a show. Last year I recognized him walking the floor (NO ONE ELSE DID WTF HE’S CHRIS COSENTINO) and followed him for a couple minutes until I thought I could approach him for a picture, which he obliged because he’s awesome. He’s doing a demo tomorrow and I imagine he’ll be like, “OH HEY I REMEMBER YOU HOW YA BEEN, BUD.”*

Dinner
Where: Shaw’s
Kind: Hella famous seafood
Crowd: Not young.
Atmosphere: Like an old time steak and seafood joint. For my Eau Claire pals, think a wide open Houligans.
Food: Oysters, Lobster Bisque, Perch
Drink: Sapphire Martini extra dirty w/ two blue cheese olives, Rye Old Fashioned, sweet, no fruit x 2
Verdict: My favorite night of the week.

I got lucky. Like, really, really lucky.

Some back-story…

Two years ago I was a shit-ass who didn’t know anyone at my first of these shows. I had an office and the same title that I do now, but I was still new as hell. We had our 1st meal out and at some point it got out that I was also a scotch drinker, same as the VP. Well end of the night everyone is taking elevators up to their rooms and I’m in one with this VP and his 2nd and they ask if I want to join them for a glass of MacCallan 15 in his room. I’m a young dipshit but I say sure and I end up sitting in this room with these two guys, getting boozy while listening to them tell stories. Just me a couple months into the job and two guys who have been around the company for 40+ years each. It was great.

I bring this up tonight because tonight was awesome on a similar level.

Like I said, I got lucky. I sat at the end of an eight person table. At my left was that same VP from earlier in the story, across from me is his successor, a salesman that has more experience than anyone, and to my right is my boss.

Over the next two hours I listened to them tell stories about dinners with John Besh and Julia Child, driving Orville Redenbacher to and from these shows, staying at the Drake, surviving teamster strikes and -22 degree temps. They traded barbs about restaurants and where the best food was served. I just sat in the middle, enjoyed my drinks and listened.

At one point I interrupted the three so I could ask how long each had worked at the company. The answer for these four:

164 years.

The food was good. I could have killed two dozen of the oysters, the lobster bisque was great, my younger brother Ben makes better perch and there wouldn’t be bones. The drinks were idiot-proof.

*doubt he says that, but man that would be dope.

Chicago: Day 3

I’m more exhausted than I remember being in recent trips. I was thrilled that dinner tonight was at 6:00 because I figured I’d be back in my room by 7:30. But I had to excuse myself from a group of 20 at the three hour mark because the thought of sweats and my bed out-weighed however socially unacceptable it might have been.

Ugh, fuck this.

We hit our mark. We again got up early as hell and kicked it in the ass. We ran into one setback and I had to replace and clean 25 shelves for product, but we were still out by 10:00 am. I spent the rest of the day shopping on Michigan Ave, which is pretty legit.

Lunch
Where: Hub 51
Kind: Young and trendy, known for their sushi
Crowd: Business crowd
Atmosphere: Whatever.
Food: 1/2 crunchy tuna roll, deconstructed tuna salad
Drink: Cucumber cuatro. It was fucking awesome.
Verdict: Solid lunch spot. I tried other sushi and it was great. I’ve had it before and I’ll probably have it again on Monday night.

Over lunch we had an overly friendly young waiter “straight out of GQ” according to my female co-worker. Really nice guy, very helpful. He was especially pleased with my drink of choice and when he came back a couple minutes after serving us he said it was because he noticed I was looking at the menu closely and guessing how I could make it at home. He was also a bartender and he was happy to tell me:

1 1/2 oz Effen Cucumber Vodka
1/2 oz Saint Germain
1 1/2 oz lemonade
1 1/2 oz ginger ale

Over the next twenty minutes he’d come by and spark conversations. He’s from Wisconsin too. He likes the Milwaukee area. He has a cousin from Eau Claire who plays soccer for the UW.

End of the deal I see my lady co-worker whispering to her husband and I ask what’s up. She tells me a story of how when she was with her daughter in the mall and a boy working kept coming by, looking to get her attention. Mom would engage and try and get her daughter to say something because of this poor adorable boy. When they left her daughter asks what the hell that was about, mom says that boy liked you and you should have said something.

“Oh Matt, he had a crush” she says. Speaking of the waiter, now.

“There were…glances.” her husband says.

“Ohhhh, those were more than glances. But hey, take it as a compliment! There’s been some women who’ve done the same to me.”

So yup, that was my lunch. Feeling secure in my manhood I went to Michigan Ave and bought new spring clothes at Express.

Dinner:

Where: Rosebud
Kind: American-Italian
Crowd: No idea, we were in a private room.
Atmosphere: See above.
Food: Caprese, Lobster ravioli
Drink: Sapphire martini extra dirty, Makers neat x 3
Verdict: Baseball was my sport, and I was a really good pitcher. I knew I could get guys out, but my one legit worry was the umpire. It was an element I couldn’t control. I knew everyone in the conference or league and I knew which ones were going to make the game about them, not the players. It made for a miserable game when they were behind the plate. Often it didn’t matter if a pitch was perfect, they’d show you up and call a ball and make a big deal out of it. The crowd would yell and they’d just yuck it up even more.

I bring it up because our waiter tonight was the equivalent of that kind of umpire. Nobody ordered, you were just brought food that he thought we would like. And it kept. fucking. coming. I didn’t have a lot of interest in salads or fried everything or meatballs the size of baseballs or plates of pasta. I just kept drinking, waiting for the chance to order my grilled salmon. Eventually the fucker won and my good sense was gone. LOBSTER IN RAVIOLI. WITH SHRIMP. RIDICULOUS SAUCE ON EVERYTHING. FUCK THE CALORIES JUST ORDER THAT SHIT. So I did.

It was good and I was the first to leave. Three hour dinners are not okay.

Chicago: Day 2

Six of the seven days I’m down here are going to suck but today, the second, is the hell-day. We wake up long before the sun comes up, we get going long before the morning traffic is remotely an issue, and we bust our fucking asses. It’s getting supplies for the rest of the week, boxing and moving shit from one location to another, cleaning, assembling, lifting, organizing, trashing, showcasing, setting up electronics, more boxing, more cleaning.

The goal is to fit about 26 hours of work into 14, or one day. Today. We know that if we don’t stop moving, that if we’re efficient as fucking hell, every hour we kill today means one less we have to work tomorrow. Every year the goal is to be done by Friday at noon (making it the one day that doesn’t suck). Because of today’s work, and we worked our asses off, I’ll be surprised if we aren’t done by 10:00 am if we get up at that same crack of dawn. We were awesome.

I’m tired. Every muscle in my lower body hurts. My knees are a joke and my hands are loaded with cuts.

I only bring this up because my two meals today made it entirely worth it.

Lunch

Where: Eleven City Diner
Kind: Jewish deli, on steroids
Crowd: Mid-20s, business crowd
Atmosphere: Perfect. Place was huge, big bar, friendly staff.
Food: Half corned beef on rye, bowl of tomato basil
Drink: Bloody Mary
Verdict: Place is amazing. The portions are huge and the prices are fine. The staff acts like an upscale restaurant would but the setting is relaxing as hell. They make everything in house so the meats, cheeses, matzoh, bread…it’s all fresh. My food selections were alright. The corn beef was stacked huge and the bread was great. I make better soup. Many would like the bloody mary, I wouldn’t have finished it if there wasn’t vodka in it. I like mine Clamato based, this was a house mix.

While we were eating they got a call and a vallet immediately got up and cleared a bunch of space in front of the place. A few minutes later three attractive young women pulled up and settled into a booth next to our table. I didn’t recognized any, but the owner was constantly asking for fashion tips because he was apparently going to be on a food nextwork special that day.

Dinner

Where: RPM (on Tuesday Lady Gaga ate here. Last night the First Lady was enjoying a meal
Kind: Upscale, trendy Italian
Crowd: Dressy, young, trendy, rich.
Atmosphere: The group liked it, it wasn’t for me.
Food: In order: Lobster Caprese, 600 day old Prosciutto, Sea Bass Crudo in Olive Oil and Fennel, Warm Bread with fresh Ricotta and Semolina Toast, Spicy King Crab with Squid Ink Spaghetti
Drink: Taylor Street Manhattan
Verdict: It’s tough to say this about what might have been the best meal of my life, but I feel like I could have made what I ate tonight. The thing about everything on the plates that came out is the chef let the ingredients speak for themselves, and the ingredients were awesome. So the dishes were relatively simple but holy shit every last thing was perfect. And now I definitely have a new way of making my Caprese this summer.

The drink was just a manhattan. Good, not as good as my Jim Beam Rye Old Fashioned’s , hella more expensive.

Chicago: Day 1

Filing this one under FOOD! because here’s where I’m gonna keep track of what it is I’m shoveling into my face over the next seven days. I promise you it won’t be interesting, but it’ll go a long ways to helping me remember what I loved and where I ate it. I didn’t do this last year and I’m killing myself because I had a goat-sausage risotto that made me see the face of God and I have no idea where I ate it.

This is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite week of the year. The room I’m shacked up in is awesome. The food and drinks I’ll put down are amazing, and I see a lot of co-workers I don’t get to catch up with regularly. I’m gonna meet a lot of great celebrity chefs and eat some of their food (last two years I can remember Michael Symon, Chris Cosentino, Guy Fieri, Paula Dean, Morimoto and I kinda stalked Kat Cora and Mario Battali for like five minutes. There were others, I can’t remember). The work on the other-hand is exhausting, the days are long and I’m constantly around people. Inevitably, my favorite time of the day will be the end, when I’m alone in my room on top of Chicago.

We got in today and the weather was shitty. I had three hours to myself, which I used to iron a week’s worth of clothes, go shopping for some extra clothes and suite supplies: cheep red wine, vodka, limes and almonds. This, and some sleep meds, are what I’ll be relying on when I get “home” at 9:00 pm each night. That doesn’t seem like it would be late to a guy with the freedom to do whatever he wants in a city he’s unfamiliar with. Maybe others could muster the energy to go back out after an exhausting day at the expense of calling it an experience, something to do in a new city; out my window are lines of people trying to get into a half dozen clubs, restaurants or bars. I can’t. I’m in my sweats, a glass of wine is poured and ESPN is on in 30 seconds.

Anyway, I love it all, even the work. It’s just so fucking exhausting.

Where: Bub City
Kind: BBQ, let-us-entertain-you, joint.
Crowd: Holy shit, young as hell. Surprised us all.
Atmosphere: Awesome. Totally relaxing.
Food: Lobster roll, corn off the cob.
Drink: Wild Turkey 101, double, neat
Verdict: Loved it. Every aspect. Everyone loved their food and my lobster roll was the best I’ve ever had. Over the last two years I’ve day dreamed of the lobster roll up the block at the Hubbard Inn, and this one blew it the hell away. Grilled corn is my favorite staple of summer so I knew I’d love this side. It had cilantro, diced tomatoes, olive oil and lime juice. Absolutely perfect.

I’d heard the Wild Turkey 101 bourbon was good, but it was a lot better than I anticipated. It’s better than Four Roses Single Barrel, and hell, I might switch from Makers. Gonna need a lot more sampling.

You should be watching Archer

If you made your way here via my Twitter feed you already know Archer is probably my favorite thing on TV. It’s brilliant, profane, offensive and the funniest thing on television, and it’s not close.

I was late to Archer. I didn’t start watching on a week to week basis until season three when the first two hit Netflix. I think I watched every episode in two days.

Anyway, I bring this up for two reasons:

1 – A new episode of Archer is on right now, I can’t watch it until later, and my Twitter timeline is blowing up. I closed it to write this post.

2 – Youtube suggested I’d like a video, “Archer – The Best of Pam Pt. 1”. Some national hero went through the first three seasons of Archer and made compilation videos for the best of Pam and Cheryl, two of the show’s best characters (they’re all amazing).

Here’s the 2nd of the three videos. I chose it instead of the 1st because by this time Pam’s become a fully fleshed out character. There’s some spoilerish stuff but it doesn’t matter because all you’ll remember is that Archer is hilarious and you need to watch it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCG6xGGMEwc&w=560&h=315]

Get yourself an immersion blender.

1 – I was really, really late to guacamole because I’ve always been lukewarm on the avocado. I’m a texture guy and it wasn’t until I started making my own guac with a consistency I liked that I really became obsessed.

It actually started last summer. I was watching a food network episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Michael Symon professed his love for a version of guacamole that had sage, blue cheese and bacon. Blue cheese and bacon? SOLD. I found a copy-cat recipe online, whipped up a double-batch and brought it to a birthday party. It was gone in under an hour and I had a new go-to for ball games and other get togethers. Traditionalists scoffed. I pushed back. How could adding bacon and blue cheese to anything be bad?

That said, there were problems. I often play fast and loose with my ingredients. A dash of this, a pinch of that. That looks like a [tablespoon/cup/ounce]. When playing around with something that had about 15 ingredients, the final outcome never tasted consistent.

The second problem was I finally tried a version that didn’t have all those extra ingredients and it blew me the hell away.

2 – I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite kitchen items in the past, but never the one that I’ve found the most useful in the past year. Immersion blenders are awesome. They’re powerful, versatile, efficient, easy to clean and store. The good ones will replace your regular blender and food processor. You’ll use them when you want to puree sauces or smooth out your soups. For example, when I’m making tortilla soups I like to use whole tomatoes instead of crushed. They go in the pot to cook and I use the immersion blender to smooth everything out.

I bring this up because it also helps make hella good guac.

Like I said, I’m very big on texture and consistency in my food. Sliced or chunky avocado is a non-starter for me. If it’s smooth and creamy? Now I’m on board. It’s with that in mind I give you my method of making quick and easy traditional guac that you’ll end up making all the goddamn time. I sure as shit do.

Ingredients:
2 avocados
1/4 red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 jalapeno
juice of one lime
1 tbsp cilantro
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

I generally buy double what I need, make a batch on Sunday, saving the onion and jalapeno, and make another in the middle of the week. I go through a lot of this stuff.

1 – Put everything in a bowl:

guac1

2 – And use your awesome immersion blender to mix it until you get the consistency you like:

guac2

I don’t know enough about guac to say whether or not this is normal, but I think this stuff is best the next day (or even the day after that) provided you kept it in an air-tight container. The ingredients have had time to work together and the jalapeno has opened up. It just seems more flavorful.

But yea, I’ll go through two of these batches a week, putting it on sandwiches as a spread, or used as a garnishment for soups. Of course I’ll wolf down a bowl with pretzels. Hell I’ll eat it with a spoon. I brought some to a movie night with friends a couple weeks ago. It went from sitting on the counter to sitting in a friend’s lap as they ate it all. It’s so freaking delicious.

3 – If an immersion blender seems like something you’d find useful, this is the one I have. It comes with a variety of attachments and bowls, including the one above I used to make the guac. I can’t imagine you’ll be disapointed in it.

The best bacon you’ve ever made

I had my dual burner non-stick grill pan for six years, and I’ve used it more than any other tool in the kitchen. I think so much of it I bought ’em for friends and family. It’s quick and easy to clean, it doesn’t warp and it cooks incredibly well. But what I love most about it? It’s a bacon-cooking machine.

I used to suck when it came to frying bacon. It didn’t cook evenly, curled and I would end up with burns from grease spattering. Then, a couple years ago, I started making bacon in the oven on my grill pan, and all it did was easily make the best bacon I’d ever tasted.

After some trial and error I decided this was best method:

(note: oven temps vary. You may have to use a little trial and error too.)

1 – Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2 – Line your sheet with bacon, either across the grill marks or with them. It doesn’t seem to matter.

bacon1

3 – When the oven is up to temperature (my oven takes about seven minutes), pop it in the oven.

4 – Set your timer to 18 minutes. This is probably the max if you want firm, crispy bacon. I like mine just a shade under this and I’ll generally take the bacon out of the oven with a minute to go.

When you do so it looks like this:

bacon2

5 – Transfer the bacon to paper towels…

bacon3

6 – …and transfer the grease to a mason jar for storage in your fridge.

bacon4

7 – INJEST BACON.

bacon5

When you’re done, wait until the pan is okay to touch and give it a quick cleaning. Since the surface is non-stick the clean-up is a brease.

Pick yourself up one of these awesome little bacon machines here.

Thoughtful writing regarding Newtown

Everyone has weighed in on what happened last Friday in Newtown, and I don’t have any kind of unique perspective or insight. Even if I did, it’s probably been written elsewhere and done-so more eloquently. Here is some excellent reading if you’re so inclined.

• A food blogger across the pond weighs in on her native country.

• Actually, yes, now is the time to talk politics.

• “The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children.

• Drew Magary says Down with Big Gun.

All of these should be read, the New Yorker piece in particular. They say all that I want to in a much better way.

Some last minute Thanksgiving advice

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday of the year. Next to the NFL draft, it may just be my favorite day, period. As someone whose two favorite things are cooking and sports, of course it is. Many of my favorite meals and memories have come on this day. From the good (virtually every dinner my late grandpa made), to the disastrous (my mom’s first introduction to a convection oven – R.I.P. good turkey that day) to the horrifying (you made duck, aunt Cindy? REALLY?).

But last year’s Thanksgiving was exceptional, a revelation, a masterpiece. It couldn’t have gone any better and left all of us wondering why we hadn’t thought of it earlier and it was because of two words:

Thanksgiving lunch.

As much as I try and help on Thanksgiving, I’m usually pretty useless; my grandpa used to own the kitchen when he cooked and now my mom’s got it handled. I ask what I can do, I get a shrug and and a shoo. Last year was no different with one exception: my mom had enough of daytime cooking and missing all the good football. She got up at the crack of dawn to put the turkey in. She made sides the night before. She started a loaf of bread in the morning and finished the potatoes when the turkey came out. At 11:30 am. Thanksgiving dinner turned into Thanksgiving all-day buffet. And it was AWESOME.

Guys, I know it’s last minute, but if you have the ability to do so I implore you to give it a shot. You’re going to love grabbing that first plate of turkey and stuffing and settling in to watch Houston vs Detroit at 12:30pm ET. THAT’S STILL MORNING FOR MOST OF YOU GUYS.

And then? Have a nap! Have a drink or two!! Before you know it the Patriots will be playing the Jets and it’ll be time for SECONDS (or thirds, ya’ll).

Anyway, it’s been a great year. I’ve got hella amounts to be thankful for. So, with a deep breath (seriously, this is a big deal), I’m gonna share a recipe that’s been the centerpiece of every (good) Thanksgiving I’ve ever been apart of: my grandpa’s dressing.

It’s always the first thing people go for when the meal starts, particularly the stuffing that comes out of the dead bird’s ass. It’s so good. My family may disagree with me, but I like to think my grandpa would want this recipe shared with others. It’s too good to keep in the family.

Dressing – (20 lb turkey)

3 qts bread crumbs
5 cups chopped celery
3 cups diced onion
1 1/2 tbsp sage
3/4 tbsp salt
3/4 tsp white pepper
1.5 cups butter
2.5 cups chicken broth (3 cubes)

Directions:
Melt better & sauté onions and celery in it.
Add spices.
Add to bread crumbs & pour the broth over the top. Mix.

Cool stuffing for at least 3 hours before using to stuff turkey.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.