Monday, May 26, 2008


Here at Boilermaker Kitchen, most of the time I talk about cooking food. But this time I want to talk about eating it. More importantly, I want to talk about and eating experience I had this past weekend in Chicago. Some friends and I decided to try out Avec, one of the top restaurants in Chicago known for tapas with an Italian and French Flare. The chef has been featured on Top Chef (as was the owner), it gets good reviews, and really interests me in terms of new cuisine. We put in for a table at about six, told it would be an hour, enjoyed a drink, and thought nothing of it. Two and a half hours later we were sat. Now, let me be the first to say that waiting a long time stinks, but I understand that it happens. It was a Saturday over Memorial Day. No problem. What I did have a problem with was the tables that walked up over an hour after us (they take no reservations) and were seated almost immediately after it was revealed they knew some of the staff. Hmmm, not cool. Treat your regulars nice, sure, but shafting your other customers is not a great idea.

After we were seated the service was mediocre at best. The waitress was in such a hurry to turn our table it seemed that she forgot one of our dishes and barely spoke to us. And the food? It was ok. The chorizo stuffed dates were tasty, though I was a bit disappointed when my gnocchi came with a pretty stringy pesto and popcorn sized shrimp. So it was just alright. Oh, and I almost forgot the foil experience. In my lovely glass of water that was refilled at top speed (complete with splashing all over me), I was treated to a nice big piece of foil in my water glass. I guess that was their way of telling me to drink wine.

I think I would have enjoyed the meal more had the service been a bit better. This just goes to show how important service and treatment of the customer can affect a meal. We were all a little preoccupied with what was going on with our wait staff instead of focusing more on our meal. It is not just the food in a restaurant that make it wonderful. And it's not just the treatment of the high rolling regulars that frequent it. It is the way the average, everyday customer is received and made to feel welcome at the establishment. Without service the food is just stuff on a plate. Nothing more. Sadly, I will not return to this place as I was pretty soured by the experience. Hopefully they note their behavior and try to bring some great service into an otherwise nice place.

On a separate note, I had lunch at Little Louie's Red Hots in Northbrook, IL (north of Chicago). One of the best hot dogs I have ever eaten, period. Go check it out, you will not be sorry.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's Not a Party Without a Cheese Ball

It's not a party without a cheese ball.

This is simply a fact. Salsa is super, guacamole is great, and that veggie tray is very nice, but the party cannot truly begin without a ball of cheese. I do not know who first came up with this idea, but I applaud them for creating a true party food. A cheese ball is not something I make for dinner, or pretty much any time I am not having guests. But if people are coming over, you better believe one is coming out.

So what makes a good cheese ball? Well, if you buy them from the store, that would be processed cheddar cheese, chemicals, and that odd red color they manage to obtain by some unnatural process. As you have witnessed many times before, I am not a fan of this. I prefer to make my own. And why not? It takes about ten minutes to make, probably costs less, and sure tastes a lot better. Plus you can tailor a ball o' cheese to whatever party you are throwing or attending. Italian night? Throw in some Parmesan and basil! Mexican? Green chiles and a little cumin, please. Asian inspired? Make something else! Just kidding, but a little hoisin and chili paste will do wonders.

The basic cheese ball consists of two types of cheeses, some seasonings and additions which are then all rolled into ball and coated with chopped nuts. That is pretty much the whole picture. The main component of a cheese ball is cream cheese. This gives you the texture you want, a creamy and mild flavor, and brings most of the bulk. Its offset by a sharper cheese, I use cheddar. A little seasoning and you are pretty much done. The last thing to do is to roll it in nuts. I like pecans, but walnuts work just fine. Just make sure they are pretty fine, you want a little bit of crunch but not enough to offset all of the creaminess of the cheese. Oh, and doubling this recipe is pretty much the norm for parties

Cheese Ball
1-8 oz package of cream cheese
1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 T minced pimento (do not leave this out)
2-3 T grated cheddar cheese
few pinches of garlic powder
pinch of pepper
pinch of salt
chopped walnuts or pecans

Soften cream cheese and blend in mixer. When whipped, add the rest of the ingredients (except for nuts). mix slowly until combined, remove and shape into a ball. Roll in the nuts and refrigerate for about an hour (or more) before serving. Enjoy!


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP