BoNkErS’ LAN Party

q2ctf quake 2 lan party 3rdarm 2014

Bonkers, an amazing guy who I have been playing the game with since well before 9/11, hosted the Q2CTF LAN party at his house. His wife was super gracious (and smart) and cleared out with the kids and dog to Mississippi for the weekend to stay with grandma and grandpa.

quake 2 lan party q2ctf 3rdarm

Bonkers set me up on his spare computer and we played at side-by-side desks. It was an honor to play next to one of the best players of all time, and a great opportunity to look over at his screen to help me kill him. Bonkers and I both got high scores on the ACME server for the map Base3: my first high score on the server on a map I hadn’t played since I was back in my mom’s house in Connecticut.

q2ctf lan bonkers waggz the cleaner rusty 3rdarm reefer

Unfortunately, Rusty”’s choice of cabbage, sauerkraut and all that meat disagreed with some of the guys digestion, including Bonkers, leading to flatulence. That’s all I have to say about that.

Huntsville, AL

q2ctf lan sausage 3rdarm

A larger group than last year flew and drove in to Huntsville, AL, the seat of NASA in the Deep South, to play our game, Quake 2 Capture the Flag, aka Q2CTF.

q2ctf lan webers horseradish mustard 3rdarm

Rusty”’ brought an assortment of German food from Buffalo, including three different kinds of sausage, thick cut bacon, German potato salad, sauerkraut and cabbage, and Weber’s Horseradish Mustard.

q2ctf lan rusty'''; 3rdarm reefer

The mustard had been a hit last year at Ulrich’s Tavern, the longest continuously operating tavern in Buffalo, for well over a hundred years, which closed after our last LAN party!

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

chocolate wild berry lavender jenis ice cream chicago 3rdarm

There’s the theory of how if you pay top dollar you get high quality: that’s what I found here, on first impression, which was a little rushed. Etta and I stopped at Jeni’s on the way back from farther North. Outside an unattended dog had his dog leg caught and twisted Ina leash and a pedestrian stopped and helped him before we could take action.

etta early spring chicago walk 3rdarm

The line was efficient and we got tastes. I got a strong push from the ice cream server in the direction of combining dark chocolate with wild berry lavender and was satisfied with the result. My ice cream cup and a pint of salted caramel for home was almost $17, which made me confident that I had the best ice cream in town.

Cookies and Carnitas

tacos cookies and carnitas chicago 3rdarm

David Tamarkin recommended Cookies and Carnitas based on good word of mouth about good cookies and carnitas to mouth. I had to go because cookies and carnitas describes my body type. Cookies and carnitas and backfat. The only thing I ate that morning were chocolate eggs, and after walking and driving errands, I was ready for the Beefy Cheezy. Etta got tacos, and we got a pizza to go, because it’s that far up North that it felt necessary.

beefy cheezy carnitas and cookies 3rdarm chicago

The Beefy Cheezy is brisket with that same sharp tangy orangeish-crumbly cheddar spread from Wisconsin that Phil uses on his char dogs. It came with well seasoned steak fries. The tacos were juicy with homemade red salsa and sour cream. Later we discovered Cookies and Carnitas pizza has a 9:1 cheese sauce ratio, which is good for me, not so good for her. The kitchen floor cookie is the must-get, perfectly baked, rolled in coffee and salt and whatever else was on the kitchen floor. The white chocolate nut cookie, more vanilla, just as satisfying.

Mexique

seafood tamal 3rdarm mexique chicago top chef

Our friends Andrea and Julie moved in around the corner, probably the closest good friends have lived since way back in the era of the next door neighbor. They suggested Etta and I join them for dinner at Mexique to cheers the nearness, and so we did on a Sunday night.

shrimp ceviche mexique chicago 3rdarm

The ladies shared a pitcher of Jamaica sangria and I had a glass of nonalcoholic Jamaica, it was tasty and had stuff going on in the complexity of flavor. After putting in the order for appetizers, we learned that night the top six contestants from this season of Top Chef would be coming that night. They were all in town for a special event at the Union League Club the next night.

beef tartar mexique chicago 3rdarm

The seafood tamal dish where crab mousse stands in for corn masa in a earthy, savory dark chile sauce was so good I realized Chef Carlos getting eliminated from Top Chef for this dish was like Rick Bayless losing by one point to Bobby Flay in the first episode of America’s Iron Chef: some people still don’t get Mexican cuisine.

chicken tinga tostada mexique chicago 3rdarm

That night’s shrimp ceviche with flowers and light purée and the plate got scraped clean. The beef tartar got me with salty capers, spicy chile, and perfectly seasoned umami. Juicy chicken tostadas. We were having that kind of dinner where we kept saying this is the best dish of the night.

mahi mahi pozole chicago mexique 3rdarm

Mahi mahi crusted in salty crunch of chicharron, red from guajillo pozole corn in a velvety green chile sauce, perfectly cooked fish in the middle of a story of flavors was my favorite. The pork crusted fish and saturated colors were unexpected and it tasted like it came from his grandmothers kitchen. The women however unanimously decided the intense mole duo of scallops and pork belly was the best. Dessert of creme brûlée, chocolate crepes and Julius Meinl coffee was a great ending.

I used to work with Chef Carlos at the Union League Club, my first restaurant job. Back in the day, he would carve ice sculptures and I was part of the team of stewards who would move them from the freezer to the banquet halls. Before the Top Chef contestants arrived in a super long white limo, I got to shake hands with Chef Michael Garbin, the executive chef at the Union League Club, while he waited for the chefs at the bar. It is inspiring that more than a decade on Chef Carlos and Chef Garbin are both crushing it.

TL:DR Mexique was awesome and want to go back.

Tiger Auto Parts

willie 3rdarm dog chicago

Tiger auto parts gets a bad rep and I think it deserves better. I live around the corner and on more than one occasion have turned to Tiger for a little help with my car.

3rdarm arthur mullen III clown chicago

Recently I needed a 7mm socket wrench to take apart my dashboard. The Tiger auto parts guy talked to me on the phone and had it ready.

west town winter 2014 etta 3rdarm

When the socket wrench rang in at thirty dollars he stopped the cashier and went to the sale table for one for $5. A year ago the same guy helped me troubleshoot the starter problem that Saturn Ions were just recalled for.

Quetzalcoatl

xoco chocolate tour 3rdarm cacao tabasco quetzalcoatl

I just finished giving about a hundred people a chocolate tour. It was actually five chocolate tours over 3 weeks. On the tables and counters I had centerpieces of raw cacao, in the agave fiber sacks from the farm by the Gulf of Mexico in Tabasco, Mx. The latitude at which you can grow coffee beans you can also grow cacao beans, and they have similar dietary properties. People on the tour kept eating the bitter beans, which is bad. The farmers let some of the natural sugars from the pod ferment these guys, but they are not sweet.

xoco chicago chocolate tour citysprawl chocolate crawl 2014 3rdarm

At the end of every tour, while the guests enjoy champurrado and a small churro, I told the Promethean story of Quetzalcoatl and the origins of cacao. God of light, he taught the Toltecs how to harvest, roast, grind, drink and trade with cacao beans. Xocolatl was the drink of the Gods, sacred stuff, and they were not happy to see human beings enjoy it. They sent down the God of darkness and night, Tezcatlipoca. In the square, he posed as a merchant and convinced Quetzalcoatl to drink a potion. Queztalcoatl got out of his mind, yelling, dancing.

arthur mullen xoco chicago 3rdarm bill blair the aroma of chocolate mexicana artist art

He woke up the next morning full of regret for humiliating himself, hungover from the intoxicant pulque. Having made a fool of himself before the Gods and people, Quetzalcoatl decided to leave the Toltecs. On his way out of town, he saw all the cacao trees had grown cactus-y barbs and transformed into agave. Quetzalcoatl walked all the way to the sea by the Gulf of Mexico, what is now Tabasco. The God of Light paused at the shore, reached into his pocket and finding a few stray cacao beans, tossed them over of his shoulder, and disappeared.

Fat Rice

fat rice fat rice manager dinner 3rdarm

We had our manager dinner at Fat Rice. It was a double treat because our restaurants keep the same hours: thus it has been impossible for me to go.

rick bayless alonso sotelo 3rdarm xoco chicago fat rice manager dinner

I won’t go into the food, it was so delicious that I only remember a few things:

chef richard fabiola james frontera grill fat rice 3rdarm manager dinner

The upside down cooked dumplings were amazing, as was a small dish of eggplant, the fat rice itself, and the desserts were killer.

jen fite carlos alverez fat rice manager dinner 3rdarm

I ate all the seaweed rice krispie treats.

Sun Cats

etta roly poly 3rdarm sun cats

I am in the middle of a monthlong photography class: it’s 3 hours every Monday night. At work, I have become the expert on web ordering systems. The Cuban, the Cuban’s assistant, two accountants and myself make up an advisory council. We have been meeting with representatives from all the leading companies. Etta cut Roly’s fur back down to a lion cut. Spring is right around the corner!

Gunthorp Farm

gunthorp farm chicago 3rdarm indiana frontera grill

Chef Hector has been wearing this atomic lime green sweatshirt underneath his faux fur hoodie. Gunthorp Farms humanely raise the chickens and pigs we serve in the restaurant down in Indiana. Greg Gunthorp is a national expert and leader in organic farming. He will be one of the featured farmers on a panel at a sustainability conference at Harvard Law School in March 2014.

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