Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Eat Local - Brandy's (Home of the Gyro)

First Look

One of the nice things about (the ease of) blogging, is the ability to write about things that matter to, well not many. In this case, a hyper-localized look at the new fast food restaurant that opened up about across the street from me. Otherwise, there was nothing local, sustainable or organic about this place.

I was surprised and not surprised about Brandy's; not the food, I hardly found anything surprising with Brandy's food. I was surprised by the capital invested. I guess from their materials this is the third Brandy's, and they also seem connected to something called Chiggy's Gyro's. They seem to be plowing some profits into the new operation. It's a brightly lit, high ceiling-ed space, panted reds and yellow, two flat panel TVs, neon; and big, not Portillo's big, but bigger than the average hot dog stand.

Brandy's has a vast menu. Missing only an olive burger and a Monte Cristo and it would be a typical "Local Greek" diner. The menu spans at least three countries worth of fast food, Italian (beefs, pasta), Greek (including something over $14 called My Big Fat Greek Plate), and Mexican (tacos, nachos, carne asada). A treat for all, there is a whole display case of jello.

Although this is the home of the gyro, I chickened out. I saw they were cutting from the cone and then griddling, one of my pet peeves. I tried instead a burger. It was one of those charred things, well cooked, with a hint of the natural gas, but neither completely broiled to death, nor too propane tasting. The roll was one of those corn dusted fluffy things. Fries, fake skin on, but don't worry Brandy's, Thomas Keller uses the same trick. These fries were mildly crispy and a bit starchy. The sliced pickles on the burger were deli style and good. I saw a few gyros go out the hatch, and griddled be damn, they at least looked worth a try.

What was most interesting (I guess) about Brandy's, was how many people were there for lunch. I never realized there was such a latent demand for fast food around the 6500 block of North Avenue. Perhaps some of that capital also went into market research. On first pass, a decent enough place to have in the 'hood.

6518 W. North
Chicago, IL

The Bears

Pick Your Shots

A week ago, the Bears killed Buffalo. It was very satisfying because Dick Jauron's Bills played a lot like Dick Jauron's Bears. Timid. The announcers mentioned during the Bills game that Jauron had said something to the extent of, "I do not mind punting." That's Dick. Any play can turn out bad; let's just avoid them. If we can punt, punt. At the end of nearly every quarter, Jauron's team always let the clock run out. I mean, one less play is one less chance for...

Lovie Smith does a lot of things not that different from Dick Jauron. Except. He plays to win. He is not afraid. What a different message that sends to his team. Which is why his team is winning.

Which is oddly enough, something I think he did wrong last night. Down two touchdowns in the 4th Quarter, on 4th down, within field goal range, with the unstoppable Robbie good as Gould, he went for it. A winning mentality. Go down giving it our best shot (Jauron would have put some points on the board and hoped). Yet, yesterday, Sexxy Rexxy, gosh he sucked. I knew the defense had a better chance of scoring. The perverse way the Bears played and the game went yesterday, those three points really could have mattered. On any other day, that 4th and call was right. Not last night.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Eat Local - This Thanksgiving

100 Mile Thanksgiving

More here

Does Jim Hendry Eat Local?

I hope so.

Maybe he'd find his way to this little blog, and he would read my advice, as a very (very) long time suffering Cubs fan--emphasis on the suffering.
Don't Hire Lou Pinella

Lou's probably a great manager. He would be a very good choice if Joe Torre did not return to the Yankees. He is the wrong choice for the Cubs. He is Dusty re-visited. Really.

Remember how good a choice Dusty seemed. I loved it. And maybe Dusty is a good manager despite all that has happened. I give him credit for the run in 2003, and I especially remember how he finagled a Shawn Estes [ed. is that how it's spelled?] win in the stretch. I also realize no manager could have won with the cast of pitchers he had this year. Still, Dusty was not a good manager for the Cubs. These Cubs. Neither will Lou.

Could Lou get any performance out of the Tampa Bay Devil thingees? Hardly. Dusty and Lou are both managers for mature, complacent teams. The Cubs need to be anything but complacent. They are surely not mature. In fact, what the Cubs need to do is live with a bit of immaturity. Stop these cockeyed win-now, plug-in, attempts. Instead, build a team. Hire the manager that can build. That's Joe, Joe Girardi.

And Jim, to celebrate the hiring, I'm sure you'd love dinner at Vie in Western Springs. I hear Chicago Magazine upped their rating by another star.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's Local this Week at Costco (Oak Brook)


Of tiny hydroponic bell peppers and triple washed (but washed enough?) lettuce, Costco? While I pledge (or hope) that a deformed "baby" carrot never again touches the tender lips of my precious offspring, I still find plenty of reasons to shop at Costco. After all, it's a leading Blue company. And you never know what you might find.

Yesterday was the second time I've run into a Wisconsin cheese extravaganza at Costco. As I noted on my last post on the Eat Local Challenge Blog, I've come to find that the very fact that something is local makes it taste especially good for me. Some times I wonder if my love for local cheeses is delusional. Plenty of foodies seem more interested in Red Hawk this or Vermont that. Me, I'm plenty satisfied with what I find around me--and at sale at Costco in Oak Brook, Illinois this week.

How much am I brainwashed on local, well, what got us to the Wisconsin cheese display in the first place were samples of pepper jack. A very typical, cheap, commercial type Wisconsin cheese. Yet, like 97% of cheese spreads and cheddar shaped like footballs, it tasted darn good. We took. It was not just cheesy cheeses. For instance Costco was also offering a Carr Valley, Cocoa Cardona, for a reasonable price of $12/lb. We got pretty much all of the varieties on sale yesterday, about five types of Wisconsin cheese.

Not just cheese, Costco was also selling big ol' Wisconsin smoked hams that ran about $50 per. If I was having a Christmas party, I'd surely buy one.

Local is where you find it. In a world where some version of mozzarella can go with some version of tomato every day of the year, it's nice to know that there is also something unique, regional, even there at your Costco. Seek this out. Your brain might turn as mushy as mine.