Discredit Eater.com

Eater.com (specifically the Chicago chapter) has swooped in to play the unbiased mediator to a predictably heated slew of commentary that was posted by readers in response to Eater.com’s ongoing series of “articles” about Craig Schoettler leaving The Aviary.

After multiple posts in the span of a few days on Craig leaving/getting canned which garnered way too many responses from catty restaurant goers, ex-coworkers (and most likely some ex girlfriends and former friends) eater posted this somewhat contrived article asking their readers to “keep it civil.”

Bravo, guys. Play the “let’s keep it civil” card in a situation that you knowingly created for the umpteenth time. These so-called “Chef Shuffles” are Eater.com’s bread and butter.

It’s one thing to feel bad for causing commotion unwittingly, but let’s face it: this is precisely the business you people are in. Eater.com is pretty much the Enquirer or US weekly for the restaurant industry. I recognize its place and am absolutely guilty of following Eater.com on a daily basis, but let’s call a spade a spade.

Don’t be coy, Eater, you aren’t fooling anyone.

Discredit- Radio Silence

After a few weeks of utter silence on the world wide web, it’s time to kick it back into gear.

This is my announcement of posts to come:

1. My thoughts on my wonderful experience at Goosefoot

2. The first steps on my plans and feasibility to develop a destination restaurant/small scale inn to bring a touch of crazy to a midwestern farming community. (They’ll thank me in the end) I’ll start by announcing my bid to volunteer my services on any working farm to learn the ropes.

3. Coverage of my cooking escapades in Laguna Beach with my California family.

Let the writing begin! More soon.

Who Ate My Potstickers?, I Was Told There Would Be Ham… and other tales from beyond the operating table.

Vignettes from the last two weeks of my life:

December 5, 8am: No food or drink since yesterday at noon. No coffee. I wonder if it counts if it’s administered intravenously… Worst. Day. Ever.

December 6-9: I was wrong. This is WAY worse. Don’t speak to me, don’t even look at me. The thought of interaction makes my throat want to jump out of my body and run away.

December 10, 10am: Apparently your body acclimates to a strict diet of codeine and shaved ice. Will try to eat soup tomorrow.

December 11, 7pm: Christmas party. There is ham. Can barely swallow water, but might steal the leftover ham and weigh the possibilities of making a ham smoothie. Need. Ham. Now.

December 12, 3pm: Still no ham, puréed peach and ice is taking its toll.

December 13, 1pm: scrambled eggs… puréed with water. Can I get a side of puréed bacon?

December 14: Venture out of doors to get chinese food. Order egg drop soup, eat entire bowl meant to serve a family of 4. Take potstickers home in carry out container with another gallon of egg drop soup for tomorrow.

December 15, 7:30: Egg drop soup for lunch… dinner time. Tore apart fridge, one question remains to be answered: Who ate my potstickers?

December 16: Can someone explain to me why everything tastes like gummy bears?

December 17: Mentally and emotionally preparing myself for the prospect of Honey Baked Ham (Round 2) at one of three holiday parties I must attend.

December 18, 4pm: I was told there would be ham. Holiday Party #2 boasts a beautiful spiral cut ham…. I watch it being glazed…. I watch it emerge from the oven… and I have to leave to make it to the next party without so much as a mouthful of the glorious beast.

December 19: Still sour about the ham.

Discredit- An angry letter

To whom it may concern,

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the unfortunate situation of requiring your services. I have chosen to place emphasis on the term by italicizing it due to the fact that, already, I find myself in need of an ironic tone. This should indicate immediately that what follows is not complimentary. If you should choose not to read on, in light of the negative tone being set so early, I would understand. However, I would caution you against this reaction. Although I subscribe to very few biblical idioms, one I quite enjoy and find incredibly a propos, is “an eye for an eye…”[Matthew 5:38. King James]

Weeks ago, I spent 3 hours trapped inside one of your parking structures due to an error message telling me my ticket was unreadable, and I intend to return the favor of lost time. If that means that I flood your inbox with letters and/or emails until I get an appropriate response, then so be it. If I call your offices and leave messages playing inane elevator music, taking care to accompany the wretched smooth jazz by static noise so as to replicate the response I got from your ludicrous little box claiming to connect me to a human “in case of emergency,” then so it shall be. My only talent that overshadows my gift for ironic prose and angry letter writing is my persistence when it comes to retribution.

That said, I wonder what you could possibly do for me to compensate me for the 3 hours of my life I spent waiting for the Chicago Police Department to respond to a non-emergency call to a parking lot in Lincoln Park. If you know anything at all about the police force in question, you know that I could have very well been waiting there over night. Immediately after calling the police (after trying to reach someone on your pathetic little box for over an hour) did I regret the decision to call in the authorities.

Why the regret? It was not because I was guilt stricken by the prospect of wasting the valuable time of the Chicago Police Department, but rather because I no longer felt secure getting away with busting through the flimsy barricade that was keeping me from resuming my life.

So I waited.

Finally, 2 hours later, an officer arrived on the scene. And you know what we did? After several attempts to trick your machine with a highly evolved pressure sensor system considering the lack of a functioning emergency call system, the officer sent to uphold the law actually suggested sneaking under the barricade at the same time on a ticket she had just purchased. By this time you should realize that a customer doesn’t pay for a ticket time-stamped at under 10 minutes… and the bureaucratic entrapment spirit of yours should quiver at the very thought that not only I, but a badge wearing member of the Chicago Police Department conned you out of not only one egregiously expensive parking fee, but two.

As I do not anticipate being compensated in any way by your painfully dysfunctional company, I will take comfort in knowing that you now share my frustration. This shared frustration has a dual impact. On my end, I have learned to never again park in one of your structures, and on yours, you might learn that even the Chicago Police Department will go out of its way to screw you if you don’t stop screwing your customers.

Good day,

Leigh M. Hansen

Discredit- Collateral Damage from Business Meetings AND the return of my anti fast food challenge

The other day I had meeting, which was incidentally totally unrelated to food. My clients suggested meeting at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods. This may seem like a strange place to conduct business, but if you’ve been there you know that the place has everything but a bowling alley. They have features ranging from test kitchens and sushi bars to wine bars and massage parlors. It borders on bizarre, honestly.

In any case, after my hour long meeting with a lovely French man who distributes wine in Chicago and his wife, I paid the price of doing business…. and by that I mean I beelined for the Kombucha section, making (approximately 80) stops on the way, picking up everything from Spanish anchovies to produce I could have gotten at half the price at Stanley’s. I’m not sure what it is about Whole Foods, but they have my number and they won’t stop pressing redial.

For the record, the price of doing business at a Whole Foods is $289. 30…

… which makes me miss the days when I couldn’t get out of Whole Foods for under $80

Speaking of overpaying for one’s obsessions, this brings me full circle to a stance I threatened to take many weeks ago. After reading an article in the NY Times on the very issue, I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is and cook two meals a day for the same cost as eating at [insert chain fast food restaurant here]. Since I understand that not everyone has the luxury of farmers’ markets and high end chains (not to mention it doesn’t serve my own purposes to buy expensive food whilst trying to prove a point on thrift) I will buy my groceries for the week at Target. A caviat: I will be going to a Target that offers fresh food; many have this feature now. I figure they have items one might find at Walmart, Kmart or whatever other discount establishment we are up to our eyeballs in ’round here.

Finally, the terms of my personal challenge:

If you follow the link I provided above, you’ll see that author Mark Bittman (a personal idol of mine) estimates the price of a meal for a family of 4 at McDonald’s at between $23 and $28. I’m happy to use his math, and to show some good faith, I’ll take on the challenge for $20, which means that I can spend $10 per meal for two. For those of you following along, that means I have $20 per day… giving me $140 for the week.

So let the challenge begin… and trust me if I hadn’t lost my favorite minimalist Mark Bittman’s cookbook to an unmarked box in my storage unit during the moving process, I would be thrilled to pay homage to him by using some of his recipes along the way.

Perhaps a visit to my storage unit is in order before the official launch of this challenge.

Discredit- Shameless Self-promotion

Thanks to Brett Hickman you can read more of my blither on his fabulous website Rock ‘n Roll Ghost! His layouts are so much cooler than mine.

He posted a gussied up version of the review of Maude’s Liquor Bar:

http://rocknrollghost.com/2011/09/30/restaurant-experience-maudes-liquor-bar-chicago

And here’s the one that goes directly to the D’Artagnan Piece:

http://rocknrollghost.com/2011/09/30/dartagnan-meat-and-mingle-announces-arrival-of-company-to-chicago

Credit- Whole Foods, Discredit- Decision to go there at 3pm

Here’s the deal. I secretly love going to Whole Foods… and it’s a good thing too. For almost a year I went on weekly runs there because we needed lemongrass, personal pumpkins or seven tons of beet greens… well that, and I happened not to have a crippling fear of grocery stores. But luckily for all involved, former roommates included, my bark is worse than my bite…and as it turns out my bark was more for show than anything else. I’ll go on record, right here and right now, and say that I love going to Whole Foods. I will be my loved ones’ personal whole foods goer any day of the week!

There’s something about its incredibly confusing and illogical layout that makes the veteran Whole Food shoppers relish the ease with which we turn down an aisle that would appear to contain only canned goods to find the tea leaves, pasta and rice. We also secretly cherish the forlorn and perplexed looks on the less seasoned shoppers’ faces. Why would they put cereal so far away from the other grains and breads? Welcome to the next dimension, you’re in our world now!

But I will say this: I will never return to Whole foods between the hours of 3pm and 8pm. 

The 5-8pm timeframe makes sense. It’s hectic and busy, people are off work and they are stopping in for things on the way home…. but 3-5pm? I’m not sure how to say this in a nice way, but it’s when all hell breaks loose with the elderly customers. I won’t pretend to understand why they’ve chosen this timeframe as their witching hour, but, mark my words, they’re lurking.

I drove over to Whole Foods to pick up fresh thyme and gruyère… I actually stopped at the Dominick’s on the corner of Fullerton and Sheffield, thinking: “What grocery store wouldn’t carry a commonly used herb and some pretty ordinary cheese?” Well, I’ll tell you who doesn’t. It’s Dominick’s on the corner of Fullerton and Sheffield. You know, I don’t know why I bother… I went there for lentils once and was disappointed then too.

But back to Whole Foods and the perils of shopping there between 3 and 5pm. I was waiting patiently for some lady in a minivan to pull out of her space. She was taking her sweet time unloading her cart. During this process, an older woman walked by with a bag which she loaded into the car parked directly besides where I was waiting. She made eye contact with me after shutting her trunk. The minivan’s break lights came on as it prepared to emerge from its space. Just as Minivan starts backing out, I am startled by a new pair of break lights to my right. I think: she knows I’m here… though I secretly scan my surroundings. I can’t pull up as Minivan is backing out. I can’t reverse as someone else is right behind me. So I allow myself to trust that this fine elderly lady does indeed a) remember seeing my car as she walked right by me to hers b)remembers making eye contact with me as she shut her trunk and c) FREAKING SEE ME IN HER REARVIEW MIRROR.

None of the above turned out to be safe assumptions. She comes backing out of her space right into my car. Fortunately, I and two other people waiting for spaces honked in time for her to stop, but seriously. Who on EARTH renewed her driver’s license? I want his or her name. I have an angry letter to write.

I’ve survived to tell the harrowing tale, so it’s time to make my gougères using a ziplock bag as a pastry bag (sweet!) Update soon on those.

Enjoy the thunder storm, Chicago. I know I will.

Credit- Farmers’ Market

There are many reasons that it’s lovely to be back in a big city, but the farmers’ markets available to Chicagoans almost every day of the week are the clencher.

Sure, it could be considered a very girly thing to love, I saw many a man being dragged by his significant other pretending this was a great substitute for college football. But there’s something about the crisp fall air and the crunching sounds your footsteps make that really should make you happy. Grabbing a cup of refreshingly-not-overpriced coffee then taking a few recon’ trips around the entire market always appeals to my peaceful side, while my more aggressive side finds satisfaction staking out the last bunch of French breakfast radishes whilst being sized up by the overdressed 30-something mothers, warpaint caked on their faces, that think they can intimidate people with their ridiculous jogging strollers. I see you have your adorable child with you, but could you please avoid rolling over my feet while using Bobby as a bulldozer?

Oh dear, this post has actually gone South a lot quicker than I would have imagined. I didn’t start this post with the intention of being quite so snarky, but you have to admit those people make you want to beat their heads against the nearest wall in an attempt to help Darwinism make up some of the obvious slack.

On that note, let’s throw people who go out in public and make a mockery of their pets into that pile of people:

Yeah, the freaking dog is wearing a skirt.

That said, I’m endlessly pleased to report that I stocked up on the entirely (non)essential items to which my spoiled urban self is accustomed and will post the results of brunch in due course!

Can anyone explain….

What the big deal with Seamless.com?

I feel like I’ve been seeing nothing but promos for Seamless lately.They’re making it out to be this new-fangled invention of epic proportion that will change the way we order our delivery….

is anyone else a bit perplexed?

Isn’t this what delivery.com, grubhub.com, diningin.com, eat24hours have been doing for years?

UPDATE: I’ll be the first to admit when I’ve jumped to conclusions! Mistakes have been made…

I’ve been spending some time familiarizing myself with seamless.com

As it turns out, seamless differs from other delivery sites in a few ways, the most important being new content. It has many of the same features we know and love about grubhub.com, but it also has a rather clever blog (which, for some reason, I can no longer access– still working out the kinks, perhaps?) plus they also boast a few new features.

The ones I find particularly novel are the wait time estimates available BEFORE you place your order and a blog with reviews and news about the restaurants they are acquiring.

They also have some of the old features we’ve all grown to rely upon. The “scroll over info” feature that lists ingredients and preparation methods to folks that might not be as familiar with the ins and outs of Korean BBQ, for instance.

I take back my snarky claims of redundancy, I see what they’ve done here.

Mea culpa, seamless.com. You have made a convert out of me.

(Dis)credit- Jeeves

First things first, Jeeves is a cat… my cat. But he’s not just a cat, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a crazy cat lady. Well, some might argue that I am, but if you knew my cat you’d know I’m entirely justified.

Let me put it this way, even MEN like my cat. A guy once said that he was “tits.” So that’s clearly a good thing.

Why the credit to Jeeves? He remembered me after my month-long absence.

Why the discredit? He’s PISSED.

He’d doing that thing that cats do where they lay just out of reach of you, acting all cute, daring you to try to pet them. The second you extend that olive branch in the form of a scratch they bolt like you were the spawn of Satan. Speaking of Satan, I came across Hell: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler while I was away, finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (who I’m all set to see at the Chicago Humanities Festival in November) and started a book by Douglas Coupland called All Families are Psychotic. Unsolicited opinions to follow, fret not.

All of this to say that I’m back in Chicago after a prolonged hiatus from reality. I haven’t had the chance to really “be one” with my decision to leave my program. Not having much of a plan is an understatement, but I have had job offers. That’s gotta count for something.

I am working on my children’s lit series and am about to embark upon a journey in which I will cook two DELECTABLE meals a day and force feed them to my mother who has the good fortune (?) of being my roommate until I am ready to accept that I might need a day job.