Ambassador Forbes

“I could talk about this stuff all day.”

That’s the phrase on one of Cathy’s old Apple t-shirts. I feel that way about wine and food. Which helps me tremendously in my job as a server at a winery/restaurant.

While it could be argued that every employee at Cooper’s Hawk is an ambassador of the company, many only focus on food and service. I promote the culture, the brand, wine appreciation and education, and much more. I’m passionate and excited, and with my diverse work history (a nice way of saying I’ve had a lot of jobs), I can honestly say it’s the best company I’ve worked for to date.

So hopefully I’ll find more and better ways to represent the company to more than three tables at a time. In the meantime, I’ll keep talking and see where it leads. Enjoy!

Search Criteria

Sometimes, I have some ingredient left over from a previous meal, or I’m looking for new inspiration in the kitchen, and I want to use a specific ingredient. That’s when I turn to my favorite cooking app. The app for comes with some great features, but the main one I use is the search feature. Now, I’m sure plenty of cooking apps have that option, but I’ve been using this app for a couple years now, and I’ve built a nice little collection of “favorites” to try.

Monday night, I had about a pound of boneless pork loin. We also had an abundance of peanut butter. So I searched in the app and found a recipe for pork in peanut sauce. I had most of the ingredients, but the recipe called for fresh, minced ginger. I hadn’t worked with ginger before so I bought a small piece that I hoped would cover the two teaspoons I needed. Dinner turned out great, but I had probably three teaspoons of the ginger left over and no idea what to do with it.

Last night, I had ground turkey, potatoes, and the ginger. Most of the results for all three required whole turkey, so I decided to just search on turkey and ginger. When two different recipes came up for turkey burgers, I decided burgers and fries were the order of the day. I made a few modifications, so we had turkey burgers seasoned with garlic and ginger, topped with horseradish cheddar, balsamic ketchup, coarse ground mustard, and mixed greens. On the side, there were tangy baked potato wedges. I made one mistake when I read the recipe and accidentally added the oil to the burger mixture instead of the pan. So I used our grilling pan with the raised ridges and everything turned out fine.

I was missing a few ingredients here and there, but Cathy and I didn’t really notice. I did have fun reminding her about the fact that all I do lately is cook from scratch, so she should be more appreciative. While I was just entertaining myself with teasing her, I was also fascinated with the notion, that I have come to a point where I rarely rely on ready-made, packaged food anymore when I’m cooking. That’s actually kind of exciting. More work, to be sure, but liberating as well. Enjoy!

Burdened to blog.

I’ve traditionally been reticent to start blogging because I feel a certain obligation to my subscribers and the public in general, even if there are only currently fourteen people reading my blog with any frequency. Journaling of any kind has never been a habit I’ve successfully achieved with regularity. I think there are several factors that contribute to this.

1. I dislike repetition. I remember as a kid telling with my parents I could eat pizza every meal. They told me they would go to the store and buy a month’s supply of store-brand cheese pizzas to test my resolve. I tried to explain that I didn’t mean one kind of pizza in particular, but the whole wide variety of pizza in general. They didn’t get it. The point is, I crave diversity.

2. I get distracted. Not ADD/ADHD distracted, but I tend to have a number of irons in the fire, and often, the “now” of current events supersedes the “then” of the recently passed. If I don’t blog about something while it’s fresh, the passion to blog about it wanes significantly.

3. I wonder if it matters. As much as I want to say I write for myself, I still suffer the weakness of craving attention like others. I know I’m intelligent enough to express myself with significance, but I’m not arrogant enough to think my expressions are automatically fit for public consumption and should be required reading.

4. I fear irrelevance. If I don’t keep the blog fresh, will I become obsolete? Will I and others lose interest? Will it be just another in a long string of unfinished projects, and is it already doomed to be such by virtue of it being a neverending process?

This all became particularly poignant to me in the last week or so, when over ten days passed between posts. As long as I haven’t decided what this blog will be, I keep entertaining thoughts on what it could be. However, until it can be something else, I need to just let it be what it is and relax. Enjoy!

Failure IS an option.

Last night, I paid a visit to my best friends, JB and Lindsey Bougher. Lindsey is one of the subscribers to my blog. We had missed an opportunity to get together around my birthday, so she set out to cook a fun dinner to celebrate.

Her goal was to make three dishes. Prep time proved to be so long on one of them that she opted for just two. The asian-inspired salad was chock full of great veggies like baby corn and bok choy and topped with a delicious homemade dressing. The homemade potstickers were the real winner, though. I must have eaten fourteen of them; I lost count! The dipping sauce seemed slightly thicker than the traditional sauce found in restaurants, but the flavor was spot on across the dish. They might have been the best potstickers I’ve ever had.

As the first batch was cooking, Lindsey became a bit distraught at their appearance. They didn’t seem to have the correct traditional shape and she feared they would be unappetizing. She said something to the effect that she never learns the lesson of not trying new things when entertaining friends. I insisted that was the best time to try new things, because unlike spouses, friends will give kinder yet honest critiques of the food. Of course, the first batch tasted incredible, so her fears were unrealized.

Presentation is almost as important an ingredient in successful dishes as flavor and aroma. At least, that’s what the cooking shows would have us believe. I think that makes us afraid to try making for ourselves some dishes because we don’t think we can achieve the same level of success across the board as the famous chefs and cooks do. Sure, it’s fun to “nail it” and have a recipe turn out just the way you expect. I also think it’s fun to eat a disaster and laugh about the experience later. So, take risks, change ingredients, use the wrong pan or the wrong utensil. Sometimes, catastrophic failures are just stunning successes in disguise. Enjoy!

Raising the “bar”

Tonight, I visited Duffy’s On Diversey in Chicago to watch Cathy compete in an annual singing competition. There was a new menu to go with a remodel in progress. Apps were half price on Mondays, so I tried two for a nicely priced meal.

The Pork on Pork Fries needed more flavor, as they were a bit underwhelming. The Jambalaya Fritters, on the other hand, were scrumptious and generously portioned, done in a hush puppy-style, topped with scallions and laid on bed of tangy sauce. They were delightful! Cathy’s house salad was pretty impressive, too.

Which got me to thinking. Is it just me or have more and more establishments been upping their culinary games in recent years? For example, Crosstown Pub in Naperville serves up some stellar, spicy deviled eggs. (Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for deviled eggs.) Popular watering holes seem to be offering ever expanding appetizer menus with ingredients lists that read like trendy downtown eateries. Even one of my oldest, favorite, underwhelming establishments for over 20 years has recently rolled out a new menu that’s been getting decent reviews from the locals.

I’m convinced that much of this game changing can be accredited to the popularity of reality shows about food and cooking. From the Food Network’s many competitions to shows like “Kitchen Nightmares”, it seems like everyone is expecting better fare, and the fare-providers are rising to the occasion. Personally, I’m all for it. It’s nice to see more than wings, nachos, and deep-fried (insert proteins here) to go with my newest beverage discovery. I just found out Stella Artois makes a cider! So good! Enjoy!