Monthly Archives: May 2008

Dinner with Top Chef?

Well, not quite. But close!

You see, rasslor was passing through town and wanted to get together for dinner. takaza and I met him and linnaeus at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling to have dinner at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood. Once we walked in and talked to the hostess, we found out that they were also hosting a viewing party for tonight’s episode of Top Chef, which was filmed in the restaurant last year! This of course isn’t the first time we’ve eaten at Tramonto’s, and the meal was excellent as usual. Here’s what I had:

Cocktail: Sake mojito
Appetizer: Hamachi sashimi in a miso-pineapple emulsion with chili oil
Entree: Roasted halibut with organic spring peas, fava beans, and pea tendrils
Side dish: Fire-roasted asparagus with Hollandaise sauce
Wine: A Bourdeaux sec (yes, a white – very rare for me!)
Dessert: Malted milk chocolate souffle with Ovaltine ice cream

After walking around the hotel a bit, we parted ways and came home to watch said episode of Top Chef. I was amused to see our waitress from this evening shown prominently a few times in the episode, and Dan recognized enough faces to guess that the “patrons” in the restaurant when they filmed were all employees of Cenitare (the part-Tramonto-owned company that own Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood and Osteria de Tramonto) or their guests. It was a good episode, and I agree with their choice for elimination, though when it came down to the final two it could have gone either way (and the person who didn’t get eliminated should really be the next to go).

And now, we’re off to bed.

URGENT Anthrocon Help Needed: Artists Alley/Con Store

Talk about your good news/bad news situations. I recently found out that the Artists Alley at Anthrocon is going to have a lot more seats than I had originally thought. That’s great! Except that my staffing levels were based on a smaller Alley. That’s not so great. So here’s the deal: I need two more people for the Artists Alley/Con Store staff, and I need firm commitments by June 1st! What’s in it for you? You get a free membership to Anthrocon, a free 2008 Anthrocon T-shirt, admission to the (very tasty!) staff dinner on Sunday night, and admission to the Super Sponsor Lounge for the whole weekend.

What am I asking in return? 12-15 hours of your time over the course of the weekend. You would be running a cash register in the Artists Alley or the Con Store, as well as assisting with end-of-day artist payout as well as setup and teardown (as your schedule allows). Plus, you’ll have an ideal seat in Hall C to watch the entire convention walk by and be in a single place that makes it easy for your friends to find you! I create a set schedule that you will have in hand a week before the convention, and I am willing to work with you to make sure you don’t miss any panels or events that you want to see.

Interested? You can either leave a comment here or e-mail me at alley-2008@anthrocon.org no later than June 1!

Wow.

It’s very, very late, and I’m just thinking about the last two days. A fantastic party, followed by a day of relaxing, games, and a crappy movie at a great drive-in theater with good friends. This has been a wonderful weekend, and I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time with friends tomorrow before we have to get back to mundane things like doing laundry and housecleaning.

If I’m lucky I’ll be able to sleep in come morning, though…

The Calm Before The Storm

Before the craziness of this week’s preparations for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we had a very nice weekend. On Friday we met up with linnaeus, roho, and genet for dinner in Antioch. We had originally planned to try out a BBQ joint I had read about, except we found that it was not only closed, the space was vacant and available for rent. Well. Instead, we walked down to the little Italian place a few doors down, Petrucci’s. As we were standing outside debating, one of the employees came out to cajole us into coming in. After she went inside, Linnaeus took a deep whiff and said, “Smell that? That’s Calvin Kline’s Desperation.” We shrugged and went inside.

After being seated, the waitress asked what we wanted to drink. I asked what beers they had on tap, and she…didn’t know. The manager came over and told us the beers they had: Michelob, Heineken, and Moretti (sure, they had a Peroni neon sign out front but they didn’t actually, you know, carry it). Evidently the three-beer beer list was too much to remember. Drinks arrived, and many giggles were had as we admired the Dunkin Donuts straws we were given. That was when I started pushing for just getting appetizers (a selection of fine frozen, fried cheese sticks, onion rings, etc.) and getting dinner elsewhere. I got outvoted, but we ordered the simplest possible thing we could: one sausage pizza, and one pepperoni pizza. To their credit, the pizza sauce wasn’t bad, and the toppings were OK. The crust, though, was terrible. It reminded me for all the world of cheap frozen pizza. Needless to say, we won’t be going back.

Saturday saw me at work in the morning while Dan slept in. He was awake and showered when I got home, and we headed out to run some errands. We happened upon a local coffee house now in its third incarnation since we’ve been in the area, and had a very tasty lunch there (they carry Intelligentsia Coffee! Yay!). Then it was up to Antioch Packing House to gather information on buying a side or quarter of a cow to fill up our freezer. We also picked up some excellent bacon and a couple of fantastic steaks. Once we got home we were joined by tozier_wah for the evening, and introduced him into how we have a small dinner for company: grilled NY strip steaks, baked potatoes with Monterey Jack and Parmesan, and grilled asparagus with rosemary and goat cheese, all accompanied with an excellent Australian shiraz blend. The evening ended with me nodding off on the sofa while Dan and Toz played Mario Kart Wii.

Sunday was the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. It was lightly-attended, as expected, but we got some good stuff done. perro has done a great job of fitting all the major events into the allotted space; now he can start thinking about the smaller panels. Afterwards we went over to Cafe Mistiko, a curious “European sports bar” that I really wanted to like more than I did. They made killer smoothies, and the saganaki was quite tasty. My crepe, “The Zembekiko” (Loukaniko [Greek sausage], tomatoes, peppers, and feta cheese) was only so-so, though. I’d be willing to go back and try something else on the menu, though. And lest you think of crepes as dainty little things, these suckers were huge, taking up three-quarters of the plate. I did also pick up a copy of the menu for the Japanese sushi joint next door and it looks like that may be next on the list of places in the area to try.

This week, we’re cleaning and shopping in preparation for the coming weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing some of our out-of-town friends, and hopefully repeating the fantastic time we had last year. Never a dull moment!

China Earthquake Reporting

Last night on my way home from work I was listening to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Their hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block were originally in China to do a series of reports on Chinese culture and state of the country leading up to the Summer Olympics – then the earthquake happened.

Last night’s story by Melissa Block was, without a doubt, some of the most amazing and heart-wrenching journalism I have ever heard on NPR. It put a human face on the tragedy, as we followed the efforts of a husband and wife in the city Dujiangyan as they attempted to find someone to help dig out their parents and their two-year-old son. I would urge you to listen to the story – it’s difficult listening, but it is very worthwhile.

Here’s two ways to help:
American Red Cross – China Response
Americares

Massages and A Trip Behind The Cheddar Curtain

Right, it’s time for the weekend wrap-up! After working Saturday morning, takaza and I met up with Linnaeus at the Massage Envy in Palatine (which is conveniently owned by Dan’s brother). Dan and Paul each got one-hour massages; I went for a 90-minutes massage, choosing a deep tissue massage this time (I usually just stick with relaxation). It was…effective. But wow – she found some trigger points in my back that I didn’t know I had!

Following a quick lunch, we all headed back up to our stomping grounds, stopping by the game shop in downtown Grayslake to browse a bit. Then it was back to our place to play a little Wii Sports and hang out for a bit. After that we decided it was time to get a new game, so it was off to Gamestop to pick up Mario Kart Wii. Dan cooked up some tasty turkey burgers and we spent the rest of the evening driving like madmen around itty bitty tracks. Oh, and since people have asked, our Wii console number is 0640 0380 8682 3927, Takaza’s Mario Kart ID is 3523-2801-2341, and mine is 2578-3899-6783.

Sunday Dan and I were off to Milwaukee to spend the afternoon touring the area with tozier_wah and jet_der_hund (sadly, little_wolf had to work). We started out with an incredibly yummy lunch at Kopp’s Frozen Custard. When they say “jumbo burgers”, they mean it! Wow, those were good though, as was the frozen custard (Quote of the day: “Someone call Culver’s and tell them I want a divorce!”).

After that, we took the short drive down to the Sprecher Brewery for their brewery tour. The tour was fun, and the tasting afterwards was great. For $3, you (normally) get four 8 oz. samples of their beers or unlimited pours of their sodas. It pretty much confirmed that, for me, while their beers aren’t bad, I much prefer their sodas. Just a few weeks ago they introduced a cherry cola; while their regular Puma Cola doesn’t do much for me, this cherry cola was really, really good! Dan bought a case of it for us to take home 🙂

From there it was on to The Spice House (where Toz learned not to inhale the Latino spices) and then we finished off the day with a visit to Alterra At The Lake, my favorite coffee shop in Milwaukee. We had a lot of fun making the circuit of the town, and I look forward to going back again soon!

As for this week, work is keeping me busy on various projects. I’ve also got a few things that I need to take care of before this weekend’s Midwest FurFest staff meeting. OK, and maybe play a little Mario Kart in the meantime…

Ugh

It’s a documented fact: Internet forums and message boards make you stupid.

See also: If you make it easy enough for any idiot to use it, any idiot is going to use it.

Lots To Do, Lots To Do…

Another quiet week rolls past. Still, I’ve gotten a lot done, particularly with Anthrocon stuff.

The new registers for Artists Alley are mostly programmed; we just need to replicate the changes out across all three registers. I’ve revamped my spreadsheets to incorporate changes we’re going to need to upload each day’s artist names into the registers, which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each morning. I’ve also started to document some of the processes required in the off chance that I’m pulled away or hit by a bus or something. And I’ve firmed up my staff, as well. Last year I had seven people on Artists Alley/Con Store staff; this year I’ve got nine people with two others available part-time. That’s going to make scheduling a lot easier.

There’s still a lot to do, though. Takaza and I need to revise the receipt forms and get those to uncle_kage by the end of the weekend. I need to figure out how to put together a map of the Alley on a whiteboard so we can write who’s sitting where (legibly!) each morning to help people find artists, and I need to make up a similar template that we can print out so it can be easily and quickly filled in once artists are seated and then transfer the information to the whiteboard. I need to pick up supplies for the Alley as well, and print and laminate the barcodes for the Con Store once I get them from Kage, and…and…

Man, it’s amazing the stuff we do for fun, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, we’ve been having a blast playing with our new Wii. The only game I’m really playing a lot of so far is Wii Sports, but I’m sure in the near future we’ll be thinking about buying another game. Whether that’s Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Boom Blox, or something else, we’ll see…

Beer and Cheese!

Two great things go great together!

Yesterday, after a long day spent running back and forth across campus working on various projects, I got out from work just a little late and headed north to Milwaukee. I met up with tozier_wah and little_wolf near their place, then we carpooled in to downtown Milwaukee, taking the scenic route up I-794 along the lakefront. We had a few wrong turns along the way – did you know the Marquette Interchange is partially open now? Neither did I! We inadvertently drove through it twice. Finally we arrived at our destination, Milwaukee Public Market.

We were the for Mooo & Brew, a beer and cheese tasting to benefit the Hunger Task Force. Predictably, the place was a mob scene, but we had a lot of fun. We were joined at the last minute by jet_der_hund, and we had a great time critiquing the various cheese (yum!) and beers (mostly yum, though there were a few clunkers). My favorite was (of course) the Unibroue lineup, which featured a wheat beer (Blanche de Chambly), then the same beer flavored with apples (Éphémère Apple) and cranberries (Éphémère Cranberry). Best of all was the Don de Dieu triple wheat ale, which just knocked my socks off (easy to do, at 9% alcohol!).

After we had enjoyed all the beers and decided that it was probably really a good time to get some dinner, we wandered around the Market a bit and I introduced everyone to The Spice House and we hit a couple of other places. We visited the small wine shop there, which was doing great business selling the beers which were being tasted upstairs. I hadn’t intended to buy anything, but when they mentioned a free Unibroue glass with every Unibroue beer, I had to pick up a bottle of the Don de Dieu! The guys working the shop were very friendly and we had a lot of fun joking around with them. We asked for recommendations on places fro dinner and they steered us away from our original choice and recommended a couple of others instead.

So off we went into the rapidly-gentrifying Third Ward, admiring the art shops and oh-so-trendy bars. We stopped by Hinterlands Gastropub, but were scared off by the entrees that started at $30. We wound up taking the wine shop guys’ advice and settled on Water Buffalo. Dinner was delightful, with great conversation and very tasty food. I had a blast and I think everyone else did as well. And I learned all about IML! 🙂 Afterwards, we walked down to the Foundry location of Alterra, but alas they closed a half hour before we go there. So we walked back to our cars and said our good-nights.

What a great evening! My only regret is that I didn’t get home until 11, so I’m dragging a bit today. It was worth it, though! I look forward to getting up to Milwaukee more and exploring with friends.