Saturday, September 29, 2007


Sorry for the lack of updates. It's been quite a busy week.

The big news this week is that I've interviewed for and been offered a line cook position at the new Trump Hotel, which is opening here in Chicago in early December. I'd be working at the 120 seat fine-dining restaurant there. I probably will take the job, mostly because it'll definitely be a challenge. The chef (with whom I interviewed on Thursday) is Frank Brunacci, and he seems like a crazy, crazy guy. But crazy is good if it's in the right context. And, for once, the food actually seems like it'll be interesting. They'll be changing the menu daily and doing an a la carte, tasting, and blind tasting menu. So that should be fun.

In the news this week: the Chicago Sun Times reported Tuesday:
"...Now comes word President Bush takes it personally when he spots a fly buzzing around the Oval Office...Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow claims when the president spots one, he chases it around the Oval Office. 'It drives him crazy when flies get in,' said Snow."

I'd like all of you just to take a minute to think about that one. Do we need any more proof that the leader of the free world isn't as...well...mentally stable as he'd like us to think? If a man gets all bent out of shape about a FLY in his office, is he really of sound mind to lead a country?

Can I discuss Rudy Giuliani for a minute? I'm really struggling with the mere idea that this man could be the leading choice of Republican voters. Now, I know the Republicans don't have much to work with anyways (Giuliani? Fred Thompson? Mitt Romney? The RNC just WANTS to lose this one, don't they?), but this guy is a certified idiot. Ask him any question, any question at all, and he'll make you remember who was in charge on September 11. If you asked the guy how he thought the Yankees would do in the playoffs this year. he'd probably start with, "If there's one thing I've learned since that fateful day when our towers fell, it's that..."

Don't believe me? In a July visit to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he was "asked about increasing support for HIV medications."
Obviously, the response was:

"My general experience has been that the federal government works best when it helps and assists and encourages and sets guidelines… on a state-by-state, locality-by-locality basis. It's no different from the way I look at homeland security. Maybe having been mayor of the city, I know that your first defense against terrorist attack is that local police station, or that local firehouse."


In a speech last week to the National Rifle Association, that bastion of the Republican Party, Giuliani cut himself short to answer his cell phone. This is rather odd behavior for someone that wants to run the country. I don't know why his advisers didn't, well, advise him that this is going to make one's potential supporters feel ignored and unimportant, like they're on a date in which the guy keeps interrupting to make plans with his bros for later in the night. You're interviewing for a job here, Rudy, do you really think this is appropriate?
Oh, but it was. In an interview posted this morning with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Giuliani explained his lack of familiarity with the "silent" feature with...what else? (If you said 9/11, you win...but the country loses. Funny how that works.)

Giuliani explained that, since 9/11, he and the missus always chat before flying.

"Quite honestly, since Sept. 11, most of the time when we get on a plane, we talk to each other and just reaffirm the fact that we love each other," the Republican presidential hopeful told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

I find it quite ironic that Giuliani wants to remind voters who was in office on September 11. "I'll keep you safe from terrorism...this time." If he wants to knight himself and the Republican party as the great protectors of the United States, I'd like to know what they did to try to prevent the attacks from ever happening, because, from what I hear, Giuliani's first response was "Thank God George Bush is President," while the aforementioned Mr. Bush continued to read "My Pet Goat." Why SHOULD I feel safe in your hands? Because you did NOTHING the first time? Or because you call the capture of the man who initiated these attacks "irrelevant," instead choosing to focus your time and resources on an escalating series of lies leading to the capture and execution of a dictator, who, while not quite innocent, had nothing to do with the collapse of the Twin Towers, and now, condemning Columbia University for hosting the president of Iran, all the while comparing him to Hitler as a slaughterer of American soldiers, while not even digging yourself out of your ethnocentric hole enough to realize that Ahmadinejad doesn't even control the Iranian military and is not much more powerful than the Queen of England.

Whew. Sorry about that. I went back to read what I just wrote and it could be a little more clear,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm only happy when it rains..."

It's the end of September and my air conditioning is on full blast. Are there any cities in this country that actually have SEASONS? I know this subject just another tired cliche, but my biannual frustration with the weather is pulling in right on time, so bear with me, please. I've been ready for three weeks to walk out of my house and feel a brisk chill, to throw on a sweater and leave the windows open, for a drenching rainstorm...please, anything but this!

And as September draws to a close, I feel more and more nerve wracked. You see, my beloved Red Sox are still in first place by two games over the hated, despised New York Yankees, but with one week of the season to play, anything could happen. As much as I love baseball, I'll be happy when the season's over. It's six months of heartbreak, honestly. I'm a wreck during baseball season. I check scores constantly on my phone, watch practically every game that's on (regardless of who's playing - I'm probably the only guy on the face of the planet who could plunk down on the couch in front of a Nationals/Marlins game and be perfectly okay). So, the end of baseball season spells for me a time of calm - until the trading season starts, at least.

Have you guys seen Barry Bonds' rookie card? It's shocking how much weight he's gained.

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And with that, I'm off to work.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Familiarity breeds contempt...

And I'm way too familiar with this city. Chicago, you and I have had a great run, but I think it's time for us to go our separate ways. I don't feel right staying in this relationship when, to be completely honest, I've had my eye on other cities for a while now, and quite frankly, they have a bit more to offer. I'm sorry it has to be like this, but hopefully we can still be friends.
Or maybe I'm just talking out of hurt. Maybe I'll be back eventually, but I'm hoping for now we can just be friends until I can figure out what exactly it is I'm looking for.

Ahem. "So there's that..."

I stumbled across this today and it absolutely REQUIRES that I share it.
(Unfortunately, Blogspot won't show the entire image - it cuts it off about halfway - so I've got to link it instead here. A flowchart which asks: what would George W. Bush do?

As well as a passionate rebuttal addressed to conservatives.

And, I suppose that's it for today.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The rants and raves of my job.

I have to leave for work in an hour and a half, so naturally, that's what's on my mind. It's Saturday, so I've already got the beginnings of a prep list and some minor concerns running through my head, as well as the nervous anticipation of a busy night. And if you could excuse my disjointed ramblings...well, if you all know me well enough, you've probably come to expect this, because you also know that 1. This is truly how I think - occasionally having problems spitting out a coherent thought - "it makes sense in my head!" is one of my oft-used phrases (see previous post?), usually because of 2. the quarter-full, lukewarm (yes, I'm an optimist) venti Starbucks-brand liquid crack sitting in front of me. But everyone has a vice, and I guess I should consider myself lucky that mine are few and far between.

Anyways. Yesterday was one of those days where I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to play with food for a living (and the knives and fire are just an added bonus). I really do honestly love my job, despite the stress, despite the mosaic of burns cascading down my arms (which make strangers think that I've got a nice-sized heroin addiction to go with my rail-thin stature), despite the you-work-when-everyone-else-plays scheduling. After spending nearly five years knowing most of the answers on the savory side of the line, I almost feel like a small-scale Sherlock Holmes (sans the AWESOME hat) or Dr. House (sans the Vicodin addiction - which makes three drug references in the last two paragraphs - see if you can find them all, kids!) - with only six months of pastry under my belt, in the words of Operation Ivy, "all I know is that I don't know nothin'." However, I'm slowly but surely starting to figure things out.

Pastry cooks are better scientists than savory cooks. Why didn't my creme brulee set right? (The base needs more egg yolks.) This tuile batter got screwed up. (It got too hot, causing the butter to separate.) What purpose does this glucose, dextrose, sorbet stabilizer, and trimoline serve? (I'm not even going to get into that.) It's like learning a new language. Once you understand how one is structured, and the basic rules and laws that govern each, a new world opens up, and you finally begin to find solutions for those problems that have vexed you for so long.

Ah, externs. Let's talk about externs for a minute. For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, an extern is what the rest of the world calls an "intern." (I don't understand why the hospitality industry chooses to screw with the prefix, either. Like a lot of things in this business, that's just the way it is.) An extern comes into a restaurant or hotel, sent by their culinary school, to spend a few months working in a kitchen for both college credit and experience (of which they generally have none). Externs generally get the low-man-on-the-line jobs - why should a restaurant spend the time and money to thoroughly train someone who's going to be gone in three months? But despite their lack of experience, a lot of externs are known to have a false sense of bravado and confidence. They just spent $25,000 on what really amounts to no more than a crash course in classical cooking, but think they're worth more than they are and think they know more than they do. In their world, cooking is strictly divided into "culinary" (savory) and "baking." The culinary students are the tough guys. They play with knives, they play with fire, they endure 120 degree heat for hours at a time while staying focused through a busy five or six hour service. The pastry students are the delicate ones. They make cookies, play with chocolate, and don't have to deal with the stress or heat of a savory kitchen. Pastry's referred to by the macho savory side as "dairy aisle." It's a ridiculous stereotype, especially since a lot of savory cooks don't have the patience to attempt to understand the logic that goes behind a good dessert. I can't tell you how many times I've suggested to a fellow cook that they get into pastry for a little while, only to hear "Oh, no, I don't have the patience for that," "I don't have that gentle of a touch," or worse, simply a sneer and an eyeroll.

So where were we? Externs. Right. So we've had a bunch of them in lately. It's hard to talk to them when they say "'re the pastry cook?" with an almost imperceptible smirk. You can almost see the words "dairy aisle...dairy aisle..." running through their heads. I usually shoot back with "Yup. I've worked every station up in the restaurant and decided I wanted to learn pastry, so here I am. It's really going to come in handy when I want to open a restaurant someday." The smirk fades, and I get a little respect. But after everything I've just said, isn't it crazy that I need to use my previous experience on the line to get it? We can use my roommate as a perfect example. She comes into work every day and works hard. That girl is smart as a whip and knows her stuff to a T. She's always the one I go to for answers because I trust her advice and know that she won't make something up if she doesn't have the answer. But she gets it even worse than I do, because she's a she (it's a fact, women make up the majority of pastry cooks), because she came into the restaurant as a pastry cook (at least there are a few cooks in the restaurant who respect me a bit for my work on the line), and because she's just so good at her job. But little do they know that she's got a great palate, a great work ethic, and could run circles around pretty much anyone on that line thanks to her experience with some great restaurants and chefs in Chicago. It's an unfortunate situation, but what do you do? Take the high road and just know that you're better? Or do as I (maybe shouldn't) do and take the opportunity to wipe a smirk of some brat's face?

Phew. A couple more food related things before I finish up for the afternoon. First, please take a look at the new Food and Farm Bill and do what you can to support it. (Information and links can be found here). This is really important, everyone. As it stands, quickly-spreading factory slaughterhouses are destroying the way we should be eating, and cumbersome bureaucratic idiocy is NOT helping the situation (as evidenced by Joel Salatin - read the article here ). Finally, a video featuring Tony Maws of Craigie Street Bistrot in Cambridge, Massachusetts (whose restaurant I was lucky enough to visit last fall), giving a tour of the kitchen and discussing the importance of sustainable agriculture and local farms, not only for the environmental sense it makes, but for our palates as well. That video can be found here .

Have a great day, everyone. I know I will.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is there anything Ty Pennington can't do?

Third post in two days, don't think this'll become a habit.

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I want to join this live chat for the unintentional comedy GOLD that is sure to result.

"When my ADHD kicks in, I feel look, a squirrel!"

I had to look up Ty Pennington on Wikipedia. I guess I'd know who he was if I were a fan of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Oh, he's a carpenter - if I had a nickel for every time I'm sure he's gotten distracted and accidentally nailed his thumb to a wooden plank, I could pay every ADHD doctor in the country to market my new program called "SIT DOWN AND STUDY! SHUT UP AND PAY ATTENTION!"
Not that I'm insensitive. But I see ADHD as one of those diseases that pharmaceutical companies come up with to explain to annoyed parents why their kids act like...well...children. I'm sure some kids do have problems paying attention in school, but I'd bet hundred dollar bills to Jewel-Osco brand doughnuts that the number of kids prescribed with Ritalin and such is wayyyy above what's necessary.

Some people turn into their parents...

And apparently I've turned into my grandmother. Nothing against my parents, who are great people, but I suppose it's possible that traits like this skip a generation. Yes, my friends, over the past few weeks, I've become inexplicably addicted to crossword puzzles. On the train, at home with a pot of strong coffee, on my union-mandated breaks, it's becoming ridiculous. The odd thing is that it just seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Like a kid who stumbles across his father's pack of Marlboros and becomes a lifelong addict, I hopped on a southbound Blue Line train a few weeks ago and found a discarded Redeye on the seat next to me, and now am bound by a habit I can't seem to shake. If you'd believe it, I'm finishing up today's Tribune puzzle as I type this.


It must be the masochistic side in me yearning for a chance to escape. It's not like I'm great at the things, especially when the obscure clues like "1976 Indy 500 winner" or "Eponymous rink jump" keep popping up and frustrating the heck out of me.


The ones that really get me are the puns. Answers like "SQUIDINKLING" and "WITHALLDUELINGRESPECT" may make me feel better for solving them, but then I have to admit that I have a jokester uncle's sense of humor for even being able to solve these. These clues annoy me the most because they're like those jokes that can run on for ten minutes. I fight to stay awake, thinking all the while, "This punch line had better be good," until I'm eventually playing the role of the boy who never learns his lesson, groaning or ready to punch something, because the punch line (or in this case, the answer) has finally revealed itself and it really wasn't worth the wait.


But they're a good exercise for the brain, help to wake me up in the morning, and I suppose, better than playing Guitar Hero all day. My neighbor caught me on the back porch a few days ago with the Sunday edition and asked if I was staving off Alzheimer's. I guess so. And if I did end up turning into my grandmother, I have to admit, it wouldn't be a bad thing. As always, real life beckons, and I have to go break up a fight between two rambunctious cats. But if someone could just help me out with a four letter word for an expression of disapproval...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In the beginning...

So what exactly is the point of a blog? I'm not coming into this expecting a long and loyal readership - really, the story of my life isn't interesting enough to warrant a "fanbase" outside of the people who know me. But do the people who know me really care about the mundane details? Probably not. Regardless...
Blogging as a whole could be defined in a number of ways: 1: an outlet for the author to express a whole host of issues, problems, and aforementioned mundane details (see: "I went to Starbucks today," "my roommates are driving me up the wall," "work today sucked.") 2: a method of conveying information (see: Daily Kos, Delicious Days, et cetera), or 3: a way of keeping in touch with people who you're bad at keeping in touch with on a more "normal" level.
Right now, I'm planning on this blog being a combination of the three, but mostly the first, with no specific theme, mood, or instruction. Plan on a lot of run-on sentences, a lot of tangents, some links, pictures, or whatever strikes my fancy. It's going to be boring - don't say I didn't warn you - and but you will get a glimpse of what's going on with me - the second best thing to being my actual friend!