Tag Archives: summer

Corazones de Melones

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Today the temperature is 97 and it’s Sunday following a long hot week. We changed the menu at the restaurant, which takes a lot of effort. The day of the menu change was Thursday it was like 100 degrees and our PM Chef Glenn was at home sick so Chef Alonso worked all day.

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We are down a manager in Topolobampo (Oliver flew the coop) so I had to close Tuesday and Wednesday, and then come back in super early Thursday. Chef Alonso worked a 15 hour days Thursday. We were both running on fumes. During the dinner service, around 6 or 7PM, Chef Alonso and I shared a moment outside in the back alley.

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A delivery driver was blocking a UPS driver from exiting the alley. They were yelling names and hurling obscenities at one another. Chef Alonso and I, not even talking to each other, nevermind these idiots, stared out at the back of the restaurant as if 1000 yards away it were waves crashing peacefully on a sandy beach. The UPS driver hawked a lugie into the drivers side window of the car, and the two men started beating on each other, smashing the UPS guys glasses, in a headlock, wailing away. Without a word, Chef Alonso and I went back inside.

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Alfred’s Basement

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Chef Richard and Fabiola invited me to their house for a Sunday BBQ on the South Side of Chicago. I was to be introduced to the entire gang, including Alfred, of Alfred’s basement fame. The only other folks I knew were Kyle, Chef Mel, and Chuck, of Chuck’s restaurant, who I was more or less afraid to talk to the entire time. I did manage to awkwardly tell Chuck how much I love his chili.

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Chef Richard smoked rib tips for just under 8 hours that morning, beside the biggest tree I have seen in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin combined (I was unable to frame a photo to do it justice – it’s really unbelievable), which happens to be growing in his South Side backyard. Chef made an amazing potato salad with jalapenos as well as some sweet Italian sausage.

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Kyle and I met Chef Richard’s core group of friends, all from the same South Side block growing up, all of whom were good people. Dave is the best at videogames. Brian introduced Richard to good hip hop, like Blacksheep, the tastemaker.

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It was great to hang with Garfield, Richard’s brother I had never met, and of course Kelly, Richard’s brother who used to work at Xoco, who riled up their sweet tiger striped dog Chiquita. Chef Mel bucked me up with some good old school Xoco wisdom and I got a small glimpse at Fabiola’s tortoise collection… before I drove home to play Quake 2 with my friends. It was an awesome Sunday!

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Nichols Family

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We visited Nichols Farm as a restaurant staff to see where our beautiful fruits and vegetables are grown, and to see the Nichols family 2015 investment in a new distribution center with winter greenhouses, the entire facility powered by geothermal and solar energy.

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I rented and drove the 12-seat passenger van that included Chefs Rick and Deann Bayless. We left Xoco at 8AM on a Sunday morning and arrived in Marengo about 9:30AM to begin our tour.

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Doreen Nichols welcomed us with water, a farm visit essential. Lloyd Nichols, one of my favorite people, began by showing us the bulletin board used to categorize the many hundred if not thousand of varieties of heirloom species of fruits and vegetables growing in their orchard and fields.

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Sons Nick and Todd, with their close friend our chef Hector Cotorra, drove us through the farm on all terrain vehicles, stopping occasionally for the best part – small bites in the field. Nick and Todd are lifelong farmers and when I showed them my bb gunshots, they laughed and said they shot each other with bb guns all the time growing up.

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As the afternoon sun blazed overhead (giving me quite the sunburn,) the chefs prepared a summer feast of fruits and vegetables (and hamburgers made from Topolo’s ridiculous grass-fed sirloin) for the staff and Nichols family.

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Soft Bulletin

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I got back from my Connecticut trip and hit the ground running: we had a menu change on the day of my return, bringing local melon, sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes to the menu for August. Shane brought me a box of taffy from the Smoky Mountains. Roly Poly flattened himself on my legs and refused to budge. I felt needed and loved. A busy summer week at the restaurant followed, with Chicago’s annual air and water show that next weekend.

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I was riding my bike home from work. It’s a short trip (15 minute ride) and I take caution, always using lights and a helmet. I was on Grand Ave. crossing over the Kennedy when a black SUV pulled up behind me. I heard two loud explosions and I roared in pain. The SUV shot forward, swerved around a turning car and sped off. I kept riding and didn’t notice my arm was dripping blood until a block from my house.

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In the aftermath of getting shot twice by idiots with a bb gun, a stupid act of random violence, I have cried and I have taken time off from work. I have been to a farm and rehabilitated with corn on the cob and a hamburger. Mostly I have been emotionally overwhelmed by the people in my life, some of whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in many years, reaching out and wishing me well. Thank you for making me feel needed and loved.

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Bluefish Hobo Pack

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I’m a big fan of yelp and an even bigger fan of The Place, my favorite restaurant in Connecticut, maybe the world. It bugs me that The Place’s review average has dropped to 3.5 stars, seemingly on the back of a single one star rating from a night when they were short-staffed. I know that’s the nature of the restaurant business: you’re only as good as your last service.

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The Place deserves more respect, putting out delicious and unduplicable offerings from a huge backyard firepit since the early seventies! I returned this summer with my aunt for dinner. The clams were briny and spicy, hot off that blazing fire pit. I burned my tongue on a hot clam because I seriously JUST COULD NOT WAIT. The bluefish was one of the best pieces of fish I have ever had: it was unbelievably fresh and cooked to perfection in its hobo pack.

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The owner (man with beard) was everywhere, making sure all details from the kitchen and in the stump-filled dining room were on point. That’s the recipe for success! It was the best dinner of my summer so far. This the one Place I tell my restaurant industry colleagues in Chicago HAVE to visit when they find themselves on the Connecticut shore.

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The cooks were super nice (over the top enthusiastic, actually!) to answer a couple questions at the end of dinner about their old school firing board. Basically they’re marking long domino-like tiles with pencil to group tables’ orders into pick-ups. Refreshingly old school, unique and with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mentality, just like The Place!

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Connecticut Style

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Aunty was worried when I slept for something like 14 continuous hours the second night of my visit. That’s what happens when you finally get to go home for a break! It took me a day or two to settle down and hit the reset button.

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The best potato salad in the world (along with my favorite egg salad in life) were able to revive me to the point I was ready to tackle my list of chores. The sweet reward was a piece of Aunty’s amazing chocolate cream pie!

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Lobster in the Rough

noank connecticut abbotts lobster in the rough lobster roll connecticut style 3rdarm arthur mullen

Aunt Judy and I had not been to Abbott’s in roughly (see what I did there?!) 20 years. We drove up the CT shore from Guilford for dinner one summer night. Noank is a trip, literally, and well worth the 45 minute drive for one of the world’s best Connecticut-style (read: hot butterered) lobster rolls. Instead of a traditional hotdog bun, Abbott’s serves their legendary version on a toasted sesame seed bun.

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Aunty and I agreed the lobster rolls were absolutely delicious, and the local sweet corn was a perfect side for this summer treat. The people watching (tourists who don’t understand the counter-style ordering system common at New England clam shacks) was just as good as the natural beauty of Long Island Sound and Fischer’s Island.

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We joked that if I worked at Abbott’s, it would be in the separate Dessert Hut (this is actually not a joke, in a different life I am known as Jabba the Dessert Hut.) The only thing I would change, if I ruled the world (or at least had some influence on a Connecticut foodie institution like Abbott’s) would be the elimination of styrofoam cups and plates.

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I understand the need to keep costs low… and more and more businesses are starting to understand that we have to keep environmental costs low to preserve nature’s beauty. It would be awesome if Abbott’s got on board! In any event, it was a real treat for my aunt and me. We will be back!

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Summer Solstice

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Sunday was the summer solstice, the lightest day of the year, and before that old sun finally relented she illuminated a W-shaped cloud (possibly reppin’ Wu-Tang Clan) on the horizon.

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In Spring Green I had a juicy bacon cheeseburger at Freddy Valentine’s Public House.

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State Park Ice Cream

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I love that Governor Dodge State Park sells ice cream cones. Marcia got a peanut butter turtle and I got blueberry pie, with buttery crust.

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Torpy Park

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Torpy Park is located on the “island” of downtown Minocqua, in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. This picturesque park was a perfect locale for watching the sunset on our early June trip up north.

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The beach was deserted and while Etta stayed in the car, using the park’s free wi-fi to download the previous night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I climbed atop the lifeguard chair to take in the day’s last light.

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There are some beautiful old trees here, and it would be a great place for a swim.

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