Category Archives: Uncategorized

Helen, John, Judy and Susan: The Blaskos in the 40’s and 50’s

Over Memorial Day weekend 2018, Raven and I got look thru photos of Bop Bop from the World War 2 days. I captured and edited some of the photos on my iphone. Enjoy the Blasko memories!

 

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Los Surfos

Los Surfos photo archive

Here are many collected photos from the first 2 years of operation at the Chef Rick Bayless restaurants, Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca. They are grouped so as to offer a deeper appreciation of the Mexican fine art from the Bayless’ collection, currently on display at 900 W. Randolph St.  Spend enough time at this archive, and you will learn all about the artists who made them, their inspiration, and much more. Enjoy!

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 Cumbia de Los Surfos film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFhvZBmmdU0

Feature length “cumbia-mentary” on the first 2 years of Chef Rick Bayless’ restaurants at 900 W. Randolph St., Chicago

Real talk: everybody who worked at 900 over the past 2 years has contributed to making something special. While the speed of life makes it challenging to find the time for reflection, please consider my amateur filmmaking an offering of 1 hour, 43 minutes. All of the staff deserve to feel proud for opening 2 amazing restaurants that will stand the test of time. The efforts put forth have compelled me to believe more than ever before, that anything is possible.” –Arturo La Cago

Watch the movie and celebrate 2 years of the people behind-the-scenes (Los Surfos) bringing to life the restaurants at 900 W. Randolph Street. This feature length cumbia documentary (cumbia-mentary?) is coming in hot… 

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Who are Los Surfos?

Los Surfos, a word meaning “surfers” in the Spanish language, here refers to the staff who worked during the first two years of operation (2016-2018) for the Chef Rick Bayless restaurants, Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca at 900 W. Randolph St. in Chicago. As for the meta-meaning, before I worked for Chef Rick Bayless (2011-2018), I worked for Chef Chris Schlesinger (2005-2011) in Cambridge, MA, at his restaurant, the East Coast Grill & Raw Bar, which centered around wood fire grilling and seafood. The map of the world with flames encircling the dark blue equatorial zone, pictured above, was the brunch menu cover for this restaurant, where I was the brunch captain. Amongst many positive attributes shared between these 2 amazing chefs, I am struck by their like-minded focus on staff education to achieve the best guest experience. And I was only employable in the first place due to the chefs’ joint promotion of an environment within their restaurants where people are allowed to shine by being themselves.

Anyway, back to the meta-meaning of Los Surfos. From what I have learned, Baja California Norte cuisine, is mostly unique amongst Mexican cuisine for its inclusion of ingredients from Asia, from which the region has received many migrants. It has also been called, “Baja Med,” due in part to the climatological synergy with the Mediterranean: hot days, cool nights, great wine-growing conditions.  One day while I was sitting in a staff education class about Baja cuisine taught by Leña Brava chef / San Diego native Stephen Sandoval, it all clicked in my mind. The old brunch menu cover map from the East Coast Grill highlighted regions of the world linked by cuisine that featured cooking with chile peppers. This equatorial region colonized by Mexico’s amazing chile pepper, is also where to find most of the world’s beaches most natural for surfing. Baja cuisine is kind of like a post-modern global-cuisine-conquering chile pepper surfer returning to its native Mexico, rediscovering the old truism, “You can’t go home again.”

In the restaurants opening, the staff shared daily updates on a now long-defunct private Facebook Group, set up to gel the communication and culture by sharing laughter. Many of the funny staff photos in the above archive, as well as the bonus video clips from the second hour of the cumbia-mentary, are from there. We called it Los Surfos: a digital meeting place for all of us surfing the big waves of Chef Rick’s newly opened restaurants at 900 Randolph.

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Hot Sauce Time Machine

Go back in time and have a look at some of the first Rick Bayless web content: mild, medium and spicy!

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Any Major Dude Will Tell You

1981 – Walter’s GF died in his apartment of heroin overdose and a month later he got hit by a car. Steely Dan disbanded. Ship wrecked on the rocks: the lowest point. That’s the kind of moment that i believe this song arrived on. I imagine Walter lashed out at Donald, what do you know about my struggle, you’re just a “major dude” now. And rather than say, “Fuck you” slamming the door forever, a song was written and the door was left open a crack. 


Ten years of heavy drug addiction and depression ended with Walter moving to Maui and becoming an avocado farmer. With enough sunlight and water, the avocado pit of their musical partnership re-sprouted. Donald and Walter’s personal history going back to Bard college, the shared musical vocabulary, the empathy and patience of “major dude” Donald, brought Walter back to that door and he opened it as a mostly demonless man in 1993. Citizen Steely Dan was reborn. The world of Steely Dan studio albums and live shows (including Shane Lucipher Fischler on drums) had come together again, this time forever.


When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone dude dies but TWO AGAINST NATURE survives.

Poolpartyendo

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Here is a 2.5 hours reggae and cumbia mix for your Q2 session. This is tropical bass making it appropriate soundtrack for summer in general, and poolpartyendo in particular: https://www.mixcloud.com/dondeq2/poolpartyendo/

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These images are from the map “A Towel for Tuba,” which is thetowel.bsp and also features several “solariums” in addition to the swimming pool with high dive. No idea who Tuba might be, but let’s get that guy a towel for heaven’s sake.

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And heeeeere’s the “meta data” all songs available individually on Soundcloud:

01 El Paso Del Gigante (Ghost X Cesarrodrb Remix)
02 Sonido Satanas – El Paso del Tamal (Original Mix)
03 Mos Def & Djtzinas – Travellin Man (Bruce Missile Blend)
04 DMX – Give It To Ya (Bruce Missile ReRub)
05 Anthony B ‘Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk’ ft Jahdan – Bleepolar’s Bogota Cumbia remix
06 El Muerto_Sonidos Profundos
07 iLLBiLLY HiTEC ft. Longfingah & Cheshire Cat – Reggae Not Dead
08 Beenie Man & Lady Saw – Dancehall Queen (Kevin D Latin Bootleg)
09 Curura (AndresDigitalRemix)
10 RudeboysCumbia (ADRemix)
11 Method Man – Uh Huh (Bruce Missile ReRub)
12 Soltera – ETC!ETC!
13 MESSY- LENTO
14 Cutty Ranks – Limb By Limb (Dungeon Sound RFX _ DCMJr)
15 Controlla (KKing Kong Bootleg)
16 16 Francisco y Madero – poolpartyndo
17 Casi me pierdo en Niuyolk
18 Borchi – Vodu!
19 SADE – LOVE IS STRONGER THAN PRIDE – 6BLOCC RMX
20 Zona Norte – Cumbia Atack
21 DJ CAUTION – MEMORIZA MI LECCION
22 Cumbia disco viejo

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23 Morenita (Sonido Satanas Remix)
24 Made Men ft. Biggie & Sadat X – De Ja Vu (Bruce Missile ReRub)
25 Busta Rhymes – Break Ya Neck (DUTTY Remix)
26 iLLBiLLY HiTEC ft. La Kinky Beat – Barna Mexico Conection_50801427_soundcloud.mp3
27 Ackeejuice Rockers – Murderer (Original Mix)
28 Esclavo Moderno (Sonidos Profundos RMX)_Manuel Alvarez y sus dangers
29 KARDINAL OFFISHALL & BOUNTY KILLER – DANGEROUS SLANG (NARAM Version – DCMJr RFX)
30 1er GAOU Magic System – remixed by FARAON BANTU – Champeta-Man & Sargento Garcia
31 Dub Unit feat Speng Bond – Ganjaman (Alguacil Dubkilla Remix)
32 SUPERSAN – Buscandote
33 ERICK JAIMEZ – ENTRE REJAS
34 iLLBiLLY HiTEC ft. Longfingah & Kinetical MC – Chase
35 Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley – Make It Bun Dem (Bruce Missile`s Stop That, Skrillex Blend)
36 Muevelo duro
37 La Yegros – Viene de Mi (Lascivio Bohemia resabó)
38 Los Tigres -Pasito Tun Tun- Remix
39 Bounty Killer & Djtzinas – Real Killa (Bruce Missile Blend)
40 DDD – Simiolo- Sonidos Profundos Rmx
41 Dengue Dengue Dengue – Guarida (feat. Sara Van) [Branko Remix]
42 Carla Morrison – Disfruto (Edsited Refix)
43 Micropapitas – A que no puedes comer sólo

Garden of the Phoenix

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The Japanese Garden aka Garden of the Phoenix is a treasured sanctuary in the belly of the urban beast of Chicago.

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The intelligent landscaping obscures lines of sight to the industry and commerce lurking nearby, thus out of sight is out of mind.

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Unique species of plant and tree are serene and well cared for on this island, apparently having attained if not enlightenment, at least equilibrium.

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The waterfall is probably Chicago’s largest now that the waterfall on the North Branch of the Chicago River is being reconfigured.

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I like to think there is still a peace to be found out here, perhaps beside the falling water.

Thomas Ethelbert Skilling III

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Temps in the mid to high nineties and the graduation season at schools and colleges meant for a hot and action packed Sunday with many large parties, mostly families celebrating an achievement. The heat wave again brought us a few cancellations, and we were ready cutting 1 bar and 1 server on the second floor, which ensured staff energy was high on both floors.

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Shoutout:  Shoutout to LLL for recommending the closure of the door into the second floor entryway from the main stairs: this blocked the warm air’s journey from the first floor brewery zone (wide open windows zone, hot humid air, active wild yeast fermentation) to the fine dining restaurant second floor (closed window AC zone, fresh just living fish served on crushed ice) and made a big difference in cooling on a hot day. Definitely would recommend putting this tip in the back pocket for future heat waves.

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True Champion: Luis on the dish team was scheduled for a mid shift today. When we all looked at the schedule and realized there was only 1 dish closer, Luis immediately changed his plans to help us close out tonight.  This is not the first time Luis has stepped up, and knowing him, will not be the last. Luis and Yo-Yo are our true champions for going beyond the hard work to show us how much they care for each other, the squad, and 900.

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Wink wrote in his report, “Coconut El Train and White Tea Guava Palm Shade were big hits today and should be huge crowdpleasers over the weekend when Brant Miller, Chicago’s most reputable meteorologist, predicts the weather will be hot to quite hot.

With Grace

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Full and robust Friday without the wave every cresting overhead: restaurant was firing on all cylinders, as it must to make 250+ covers feel in control and smooth. Great job by BOH and FOH.

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Shoutout:  In service tonight we demoed the steps of service to make a decaf Americano (and all decaf expresso drinks) for Maria our newest SA in training. In the explanation I got the sense that Maria had confidence already in this department, and when asked Maria let me know she has worked previously as a barista and is capable of making a heart with foamed milk. Shoutout to Maria coming in with barista (and latte art) experience.

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True Champion: Brigitte handled as many covers as the LB1 closer Oscar, and brought all her tables through the full Lena experience (if they opt for it) with precision, wit and the all too rare, even old school, true champion quality that Brigitte amazingly manages to bring to her service every single day we’ve worked together… with grace.

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Tom Skilling says… Chicago’s 2nd official 90 degree day (and possibly 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) likely as early summer hot spell gets underway.​

San Quintin Menu Change

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Today was one beautiful June day and an exciting and well executed menu change. While brewery side had their hands full with special events, our restaurant was fully sat with high energy carrying over from the menu change which translated to resonant vibes in the dining rooms.

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Shoutout:  Salmon Veracruz and Paella San Qintin were neck and neck in sales throughout their first dinner service. Shoutout to Paella (15 sold) which edged out Salmon Veracruz (14 sold) by 1 unit!

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True Champion: The BOH is the true champion for crushing a new menu, with tons of expert techniques and big bold flavors. The staff loved the food, the guests tonight were loving the food and that all starts with the dedication, passion and creativity of the true champion squad.

Tom Skilling says… mostly sunny June Thursday coming in hot.

Tom Skilling Says… Meteorological Summah

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Beautiful sunny blue skies for the first weekend of meteorological summer brought us a big energy Friday, with both dining rooms abuzz. The second floor took on many of the large parties, kudos to the team for adapting their service to the challenges of serving larger parties.  Big thank you to Chef Andres for ensuring a smooth service from the helm, and Chef Stephen for managing the prep, and getting ready all the delicious new dishes for menu change.

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Shoutout:  It was Emily R’s last service with us, and the way reservations arrived, it impacted her station with a handful of tables beginning concurrently. LLL stepping in and began tables and supported Emily and made sure she was still standing AND smiling at the end.

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True Champion: Caesar the new food runner, tonight was with Jose on hot, very impressive with his dedication to teamwork, fast on the uptake for menu knowledge, already rumbling and humming with LB power – I believe what we are seeing is the formation of a new True Champion.

Tom Skilling says… sunniest 2 day period since the Cubs won the World Series.