Fun Conversion Buttermilk Math

For safekeeping, we froze leftover buttermilk into an ice cube tray. 14 cubes.

Now I need 2 cups of buttermilk.

Weigh a glass using my trusty triple beam balance. 280g

Add two random cubes. 340g

Add two more. 400g

So it looks like each cube is 30g

And by this table of buttermilk equivalent values it looks like 2 cups is 480g.

SO I need 480/30 cubes, or 16 cubes. I only got 14. Close enough.

Melt them in the measuring cup. 1-3/4 cups. Top it off with milk. Done.

Bien Trucha in Geneva IL

We tried to eat here last year, but the line was out the door. This time we arrived well before 5 o’clock opening on a weekday and sat outside in the crazily-warm November breeze in the al-fresco area watching traffic go by. A woman came out to light our votive candles on the table; sorry we were not able to order a drink. Presently a gentleman came out and asked if we had reservations, we did not. He explained there was the “fancy” dining room with more large-plate selections, and the main room with small plates – he would try to get us into the dining room.

Come 5 PM we were escorted by the same gentleman (who as it turns out was an assistant manager) into the small room — he was not able to get us into the main room. Bummer, On the way in he described briefly the history of the space. We sat at a nice table for two at the window – good to be early. A busboy brought wonderful chips and a black bean dip with a subtle spice — nice change from the usual salsa. I ordered a guacamole-of-the-day with pomegranate pips – one of the best guacs I have had. I will say again, chips were excellent.

The server Jessica introduced herself and her trainee at her hip, and pointed at the wall full of different tequilas. I ordered a Tradicional margarita, she asked if I wanted to try an “upgrade” tequila and described the differences. I stuck with the stock version. My wife had a Coladita, pineapple juice and coconut liquor. Both were good; the margarita was not great, and for $10 seemed small. I have trouble identifying good tequila, so it may be better than I can tell.

The server described the dishes available. I chose the Bien Trucha tacos, with grilled skirt steak & chorizo. Wonderful. My wife had the a la Diabla with sauteed shrimp and a butter-mojo de ajo. The tacos came 4 to a plate, sized to be easy to eat. We traded a taco (food is very shareable) and we both liked the other’s dish.

For our dinner drinks, I had a Michelada with Negra Modelo Dark and various flavorings in a salted glass, as I had discovered in Cancun, and it was as good as I remember – reminiscent of a Bloody Mary with a Mexican twist. My wife had the Chelada which was basically Negra Modelo Dark in a salted glass with lime. She preferred the Michelada. I forgot how good they are, especially in summer.

Summary: wonderful meal and drinks, fun, loud atmosphere, impeccable casual service. I would not hesitate to return, perhaps with a reservation to try the larger-plate dining room.  They also have a lunch time “LIL DONKEYS” menu that really looks good. Recommended.

Also reviewed on Yelp

Lodge Seconds

For those traveling to Florida or other points, make sure to stop in the Lodge factory store in Sevierville TN. The traffic and construction made it a bit tough, but it was worth it.

We got a 12″ Carbon Steel Skillet for $40, a blemished cast iron 10″ skillet (absolutely perfect for corn bread) for only $12, and a blemished cast iron two-burner (e.g. pancake) griddle for only $40. The blemished items are completely don’t care – as far as I can tell, they are perfect.

Worth the trip. You are there anyway!

Lab burgers: it’s what’s for dinner (The Economist)

Memories of Chicken Little in Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants I first read in high school. The older I get, the more that novel gets everything right.

Hamburger junction
Lab burgers: it’s what’s for dinner A QUARTER of a million euros is rather a lot to pay for a hamburger, but that will be the cost of the patty which Mark Post proposes to stick in a bun this October.

Dinner and Theater in St Charles

Bette’s friend/colleague Shannon Mayhall was appearing in a small theater, Steel Beam Theater, in St Charles, IL. We invited Karen and Nick and headed down to St Charles to meet them.

The theater area is on a courtyard off of First Street off of North Ave., right along the Fox River, and was already jumping when we got there. We drove about a bit to find street parking, then found the conveniently located garage on the fourth floor. We walked down the steps, turned right, and there was Prasino. We entered, set up our reservation, and found a funky bar, laminate tables, glass on the walls, big windows overlooking the river, wine bottles everywhere, and interesting seats; I felt like one of those science museum exhibits where you sit in huge furniture to feel like a child again.

I had a Goose Island Matilda — bottled, not draft — and Bette had a nice Sauvignon Blanc while we waited for Nick and Karen. They soon walked up along the river and we went to our table in the dining room.

We ordered some drinks. Karen likes a sweeter wine and could not decide between some of the options, so the waitress server brought out small tasters of three different wines – she ended up with a Moscato. Nick got a Flat Tire. As time was fleeting, we soon ordered the meals, Bette and I split a roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese. I ordered the braised beef short ribs, Bette the broiled Tasmanian salmon, Nick the ancho braised lamb shank, and Karen a salmon salad.

The short ribs were excellence, tender, and in a wonderful truffle mushroom cabernet sauce. It was served with a cauliflower cheddar gratin, and greens. Nick’s grass fed lamb shank was huge, with olive oil smashed potatoes, greens, feta, spiced olives, and lamb jus. He thought the greens were a bit spicy, but loved the lamb – I even got to taste it. Karen’s smoked sockeye salmon salad had a nice salmon hunk, with spinach, apples, pecans, red onions, bleu cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette. Bette’s salmon was served with avocado, mango salsa, and crispy plantains.

All the dishes were well presented, and very tasty. The staff was informative, attentive, but left us alone. We thought the price was a bit high, but since a lot of the food items were grass fed and local sourced perhaps that makes up for the difference. All in all, a nice place.

Then it was off to the Steel Beam Theater, where Shannon was appearing in Edward Albee’s “At Home At The Zoo”. It is a beautiful space, with the typical exposed brick and a large steel beam over the stage.

Shannon loves to sing and perform in musicals, so this part was a bit of a stretch for her. The material is serious adult stuff, small girl in the front row notwithstanding — her father had the sense to realize this is not about zoos before the bad parts really hit. Shannon and her costar were great — we have seen her in her bicycle production in Elgin, but this was even more intense. For the second act, the actor walks out of the stage and heads to the park to read. The audience, gets up and follows him down North Ave. (past a very nice homebrewing store) to the park which is several blocks to the west. Outdoor seating was provided and small portable lights, and Peter started reading his book on the park bench, and the next second half of the play begins with the third actor playing Jerry the “street person” who had been to the zoo. The bugs weren’t too bad, but Shannon called us ahead of time to warn us that we should bring bug spray.

After the play ended, we headed back to the theater area, which was very crowded by now. We ended up in Pizzeria Neo, an Italian restaurant that had some seating room, for a glass of wine.

I recommend this production. It was intense, but the outdoor staging was fun, and this is a great area to hang out in. Very lively, interesting shops and restaurants and lots of parking for free. Too bad it’s so far from home. Unfortunately, its last show is tonite, so see it if you can.


Got an email from Dr Weil re wasabi. I like it on sushi, but his article scoffs at US store-bought wasabi – as it is really wasabi, horseradish and coloring. The real stuff is the superfine ground root, like horseradish.

He tried growing it, and it looked cool. Maybe I can do this. Head over to the website. 1 lb of plants = $100. Yow. Looks like I won’t be growing this anytime soon. Sigh.

LA Burritos, circa 1985

Back in the dark ages, circa 1985 or so, I worked for Richard Spielman Precision Electronics, on the north side of Chicago. The owner, Richard Spielman, was a great guy, an atheist, an entrepreneur, and a foodie before his time, as trips to restaurants were part of our all-night construction binges. (He has also disappeared from the face of the earth.) We made light-beam devices for counting linen, and one of our installations was at ALS ? (Associated Laundry Services? Systems?) in Los Angeles.

So when install time came, we shipped 30 boxes via UPS, checked a box of tools and an oscilloscope, and the 386 PC that ran the thing, 100 floppy disks (3 sets of backups because something always went wrong) and flew to Los Angeles.

Commercial laundries are generally very industrial, but this place was forbidding. Even the hotel parking lot was behind barbed wire, and you had to push a button to open the gate. Not a good neighborhood.

But that didn’t stop us from venturing out in search of food. Richie found this burrito place, and I was wondering about it the other day. I can’t remember what happened ten minutes ago, how will I remember this?

So google “Los Angeles Burritos”. They flip up. I find Rick’s, a longtime favorite of Steve Dahl. Ten pages later, click off to Yelp. Same search. On page 11, “El Rey Tacos“. I remember Tacos El Rey. Boy that whacks a brain cell. Read the 2nd review. “I wasn’t brave enough to try the GARBAGE BURRITO.” I think this is it…

King Blvd and Normandie (again with Normandie…) Bad neighborhood. So far everything fits. Check Google Street View. Could be. As the Magic 8-Ball says, “Answer Hazy”.

AFAIK, this is it. One piece of history, complete.

Bayless Chicken – sort of

I bought a package of chicken at Jones’ Country Meats recently, on sale, and looked for a good recipe to make. I found an interesting one in Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday, called Chicken in Tangy Escabeche of Caramelized Onions, Carrots, and Jalapenos. It is basically a skillet dish with lots of good stuff, sounded good.

Reviewing the recipe, Rick suggests refried black beans, which we love, so I tried to find his recipe. It was not in the book, strangely, but I was able to find it online in two parts, first to cook the beans, then to make the refried beans. Kind of a pain, I will merge the recipes. I started cooking the dried beans in the afternoon, since they take two hours.

I opened up the chicken package and found connected thigh-leg parts. I thought they would be split. SO first, break out Aunt Lynn’s Cutco cleaver and hack off the back and try to find the joint in the still-frozen chicken. Complete with no lost fingers – success!

Then I started the spice rub, with pepper, allspice, oregano and salt. First a bit of olive oil, then added the rub. Smelled good. It was hot outside, and I did not want to heat the kitchen with cooking a skillet dish, so I decided to just grill it as is.

We grilled some corn on the cob from a local farmer, make a nice salad from our CSA spinach and the chicken slow grilled wonderfully. Skin not burnt, meat done well but not dry. Good Saturday project, and leftovers for lunch!