Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Burt's Place: 10 Down, 15 to Go

Plenty of ink has already been spilled on Burt's Place and the delicious pizza Burt himself serves up, so I won't go into a long-winded review.  I *will* however tell you that Burt's is the place that we'll be bringing our out-of-town guests when they say that they want to eat deep dish pizza.    As most of you folks know, my preferred pizza is a thin crust tavern-cut crispy pizza.  NOT deep dish.  I'll eat it, but I prefer others.  There are just a few Deep Dishes on the list, but Burt's does NOT take the top spot in my mind.  That still is held by Louisa's in Crestwood

Here's the full list of pizza places we're trying

If I had to sum up this place in one word, it would be:  Character.

The place has character. 
The guy (Burt!) is a character.
And...most importantly:  The pies have character. 

We followed the rules and called the kitchen at about noon the day we went to pre-order our pie.  Within 10 minutes of walking in the door, this beauty arrived.  Have Spinach (the house recommendation) and half Sausage and Pepperoni (my baseline pie).





Burt is the pioneer of the 'carmelized crust' and started it at Pequod's before selling the joint off.  He's doing much the same here at Burt's but either he was just a bit off his game, or he's toned his carmelization down a bit because the stuff at Pequod's is better and there's more of it.  Nat and I both liked Pequod's crust a bit better.  And..the funny thing is that *this* is the guy who invented that?!?!



We were offered to "sit anywhere" when we got there.  There was a few small parties and one rowdy one.  There were 3 or four booths open.  Having watched the Anthony Bourdain review of the place that morning (YouTube Video here), I knew we had to sit in the same booth he did!  Here's Nat sitting in the 'Bourdain Booth' as we called it. 




Burt himself cooks every pie and his wife (who's EXTRAORDINARILY NICE if not a bit too nice) works the front of the house.  Like an old-grey ghost, Burt appeared a few times to make small talk with some folks. 




If you're going to Burt's, make sure you bring cash.  No Credit Cards accepted!




And...like I said:  this isn't my favorite deep dish (Louisa's!), but Burt the man cranks out great pies and he has his devoted followers.  Consider us some of them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Shipshewana Purchase

While Nat came away with a little loveseat/couch, a shirt, and a neat map to go on our wall, all I got from Shipshewana was these 4 tire valve chromies.  At least that's what we used to call them when we were young and attempted to steal them off of cars in the Apples Grocery Store parking lot so we could put them on our bmx's.

Ever been to the Shipshewana Flea Market?  It's billed as the "Midwest's Largest".    This was (at least) my second visit.  And I tell you what....I wasn't that impressed.  Loads of junk.  Absolute junk.  All the action is in the auction barn where they're hording all the good stuff including furniture and such.   I don't think we need to go back for a while just because the booths were full of a lot of nothing, but the Amish are kinda interesting to gawk at, though.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Elmhurst Olive Oil Company

It was this past January that "Let's Have a Party" closed in the spot on York Street just north of the York Theatre.  As we were walking by this weekend, we spotted the marquee up for a new shop:  The Elmhurst Olive Oil Company.  From the looks of the set up inside, they're going to have various stations around the small space.  The signage all calls out that they're going to selling not just oils, but also vinegars and spices. 

Nat heads to Oak Park every once in a while for Penzey's, so perhaps this place can supplement those trips.  That would be nice. 

As I pointed out in my post when "Lets Have a Party" closed, this was a big - high profile - opportunity.  I'm thrilled that it isn't a salon, aren't you? 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Equation Boy/Man Rocks the 2011 Chicago Triathlon

Equation Boy/Man finished the 2011 Chicago Triathlon with a personal record best time today.    Last year he ran the Sprint Distance, but this year he kicked it up with the International Distance which included:
  • 1.5K swim (just under a mile)
  • 40K bike (just under 25 miles)
  • 10K run (6.2 miles)
Really very impressive stuff all around.   He said he was struggling on the end of his run, but from the looks of his time, he did just fine.  Killed it in his age group and overall. 

I shamelessly cribbed this photo from my sister Vic's FB page, but I thought it was a great shot of him after the race with 2 of 3 of his kids. I couldn't imagine doing those stairs after the race!

He's clearly caught the bug and after spending some time with him this afternoon, sounds like he's already plotting his training for the 2012 race.  He's really committed to getting the most out of his fitness routine and all his hard work has clearly paid off.

Congrats, Marc!  We're all really proud of you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Keno at The Board of Trade in Watervliet

When we were up in Michigan we stopped by a restaurant that we've long been eying - The Board of Trade.   It is on the other side of the lake from us, but right in this little pocket of homes that we call "Summer Rental" because it has a distinct feel that is different than the rest of the lake.  Small, cozy cottages that are really close together.

The Board of Trade restaurant itself was fine - nothing crazy, but at least as good as the Friendly - so it gives us another option. 

But the food isn't the reason that I'd go back.  It's the Keno.  Yes....Keno at your table.
I had never played Keno, but I plunked down eight bucks and had fun for 16 minutes.  There's a draw every 4 minutes so you can really spend some dough.  I'm not a gambling fiend, so it was just enough to wet my whistle.  Now....I won't go into this at length, but I suppose there is some issue with this being available.  I *get* that the state is trying to generate some revenue (and a beach/lake house town is a pretty good place to do that), but with Michigan being in such poor shape (unemployment just topped 10%), I'm not sure gambling is a great fit for the residents. 

But...will I go back? You betcha.  And I'll get the burger again.  And play some numbers!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Convicts Cleaning Up Silver Beach in St. Joe's

I don't know why, but I found this endlessly fascinating:  there was a group of three women prisoners from the Michigan Department of Corrections cleaning up/shoveling up the sand in the parking lots/roads on Silver Beach in St. Joe's Michigan yesterday. 

I wanted to go ask them "what they were in for", but I couldn't quite get up the courage.  They'd likely be packing a shiv at the very least, right?  Sticking it to loudmouths like me would be fun, I'm sure. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sunflowers in the Backyard

My sister Vic gave me some Sunflower seeds for my birthday back in April.  I didn't get around to planting them until sometime in June, but they've sprung up big time.  Well...some of them have at least.  We got back from vacation this evening and a bunch of the flowers have budded and these big beautiful yellow flowers have emerged.  I wonder if they'll darken like the commercially-available ones?

I have them tucked away back behind the swingset and I think I'll try to make this a tradition of planting the seeds there each year. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Autumn Favorite: Trader Joe's Maple Cookies


I took the liberty of introducing the Babe to one of my very favorite Autumn treats:  Trader Joe's Maple Cookies.  Sure...they have them for sale (now) all year around, but let's be honest:  they taste best when the air is crisp and the leaves are turning color. 

The calendar may still say August, but my mind is already on fall:  football, pumpkins, and the early on-set of Christmas Creep. 

Oh...and yes.  She *is* in the cart at TJ's while she's eating this.  I think between the two of us, we pounded through an entire 'row' of these babies while we were waiting for Nat to fill the cart with the various groceries. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Michigan Donut Peaches

We went out plum picking at Jollay's in Michigan this weekend and came across these things:
They're called Donut Peaches or Saturn Peaches.  They (apparently) came from China more than 100 years ago and gained some popularity in the 1990's.  I don't remember ever hearing about them, but seeing them on the tree, they're kind of a novelty.  

Seems like it would be a fun tree to grow in the yard - especially because they're described as 'frost hardy'.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Second Visit: Pazzi Di Pizza Elmhurst

A few days ago, we went back to the 'newest' pizza joint in Elmhurst: Pazzi Di Pizza.  I chronicled our first visit here.  I had this to say back in mid-June:
It has been open for a few weeks and there's a bit of a buzz about the place. I've heard from others that they went or are going, so the word-of-mouth is working for them. But, while they're clearly working to get the kinks out of their operation, the place shows some promise. They'll need to improve the main event - the pizza pies - but they're not that far off.  
I ordered the same pie as I ordered last time:  The Diavola.  And this time?  It was markedly better.    While there is still something weird going on with the cutting/distribution of the meat, the pie was cooked longer/deeper and the cheese applied more generously.  Most surprisingly, the crust held up and wasn't floppy - which is what I hate most with Neapolitan pies. 
Critically, the upskirt also improved.  This time it had a much better char on the bottom.

I received one obnoxious comment on the first post, and if that person is still reading/trolling, I can happily tell them that things have improved and the pies have gotten better.  They still have a nice crowd (maybe because of the big outdoor seating area?), so they're still doing good.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Elijah's Moving into First Cup in Downtown Elmhurst

On a tip from my sister Vic, we went down to check out what was doin' with the old First Cup Coffee shop.  Turns out, the (apparently!) successful Elijah's Coffee - which has a location down in South Elmhurst near Spring/Vallette (closer to York) is opening up a second shop. 

I've never been inside, but I hear they serve up your Latte with a side of Jesus, so it has a, shall we say, devoted set of customers.  When "That Coffee Shop" opened across the tracks, I speculated that the downtown was too small for four shops (Starbucks, Caribou, First Cup and That), but didn't think that First Cup would be the place to fold.  Time will tell if the folks behind Elijah's can make the location work.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mice Eating My Corn

How incredibly frustrating!  These stinkin' mice have decimated our sweet corn crop.  They are so voracious that they eat through the green husks, eat the silk, then just hoss-down on every single kernel of corn.  At this point more than 1/2 of the crop is gone and the rest is getting over-taken by ants.  The mice have pierced enough corn to create a sweet mess - which is attracting the ants - and they're feasting too. 

I've tried trapping them and even (gasp!) poisoning them, but the food supply is far too abundant for them to die off.  I'm in real trouble here because once they exhaust the corn, what's next?  Our tomatoes?  Or maybe even the pumpkins that we have growing.  I'm fearful that these little jerks will run the rest of the harvest. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Basement Cleanout - 10 Yards of Junk

I'm *trying* to get serious about finishing our basement in the coming months but before we can do anything, we have to waterproof the space.  When it rains, we don't get water, but there's definitely seepage at the cove, so that means that before I invest a cent in the basement, I want to solve that problem. 

In order to solve that seepage problem, we have to completely clear the space out.  I've started to pull out the stuff we want to keep (Christmas Decorations, Halloween stuff, etc), but there is still so much to sort through. 

Much of it was pure junk.  Left over bricks and boards and old kitchen cabinets that I thought I would use during the construction/renovation but upon reflection I just don't want to deal with.  Because of that, I called the Junk Platoon.  For a few hundred bucks, they sent out two guys who cleaned out everything - and drug it through the half door on the side of our house. We filled a 10 yard truck pretty easily.   Here's some a shot of the truck as it started to fill up.  You'll note a few dozen half-cut brick pavers from our patio in the truck, too.  I figured if they were here filling the truck, I might as well get that junk out from next to our garage, too.  I called a few dumpster companies and for the same size as this big truck, I could get a dumpster dropped on my driveway.  Add in permits AND (most importantly) the fact that I'd have to drag the junk up and out, and it didn't make any sense to go with the dumpster. 
Hopefully by this next Saturday I'll have the basement MOSTLY cleared out, so we can get the waterproofers in to start their work.  I am going to try to do much of the work myself, so time is going to be tight.  We have a deadline:  December 18th - the Babe's second Birthday party.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Frankenstein Candy Jar

This handsome guy was (guess where?  Yup...Menards) on display and I had a hard time resisting the temptation to buy him.  See that flat head of his?  Inside there is a pretty deep bucket that one uses for candy.  I can see some folks using something like this outside on their front porch - if they aren't home for trick-or-treaters - but that's not what I want it for!  I want him inside our house - to greet visitors when they come over.   It isn't cheap ($79.99), so I'll have to pick my battles with Nat when it comes to Halloween decor.  Do we want this?  Or...perhaps a few spooky buildings to add to the village at Mantleburg!?!?!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Look: JakeParrillo.com

The old template was throwing off an error up top with the Twitter stream integration, so I had to try to make some fixes.  Instead of monkeying around in the old template, I just swapped out to this new one.

Looks pretty good, imo.  Here's how the site looked 6+ years ago.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Early Halloween + The Babe's Scarecrow

As I said a few days ago, Menards has gone all out this year with a huge Halloween display.  With all these pumpkins and skeletons around it is kind of interesting that The Babe gravitated toward that turquoise dog toy and not any of the seasonal items.  She wouldn't let go of him.  No matter what I tried to replace him with. 

Those plastic pumpkins behind her reminded me that I need to build a third scarecrow - in her likeness - ahead of this coming fall.  Time to get busy assembling the various parts and clothes. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mushroom Season in Elmhurst

I went out for an early morning walk/run with Maisy.  You can really tell the season's are starting to change - mostly because of the later arrival of the sunrise.  While out on the walk, on the lot of the house that I think is getting torn down, I spotted this HUGE mushroom.  It is easily 12" in diameter.  I actually have never witnessed one this big.  Ever.  Our lot is lit up with lots of little 'shrooms, so the conditions must be right for them right now. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Menards Has Gone Halloween - Already


I took the Babe to Menards this morning and guess what I found?  The entire seasonal section has been overtaken by Halloween.  Yes...six+ weeks out.  And...you know what else?  I love it.  I love it so much.  And...I love that right after this, Christmas - and Menard's Enchanted Forest of Christmas delights will be up by November 1st.  All those folks who hate "Christmas Creep" probably hate this "Halloween Creep", but I'm not one of them. 

In fact...I think were going to have to step up our game with these blowmolds.  I like that they're kind of old-fashioned - in a '1970's old-fashioned' sense.  Especially with inflatables ruling the front lawns of so many Americans these days, these things harken back to years ago when folks were decorating their lawns on Bungalow row in the city and 'burbs.

The witch one on the right is particularly cute.  There's Dracula too, but I didn't include him in the photo.  I'll have to try to convince Nat that we should buy a few of these. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My First Trip to the Ames Straw Poll - 2011

Today, central Iowa is the epicenter of presidential politics.  I'm pretty excited to be here.  More later this week on what we did, how it turned out and if I've fully caught the political bug!

Friday, August 12, 2011

House On Our Block Getting Razed?

There's an old bungalow on our block that was up for sale for the better part of 2011 when suddenly - about 3 weeks ago - the For Sale sign disappeared.  No "Sold" sign ever appeared.  But the family moved out.  The house was empty for 3 weeks when this fencing went up.  I'm guessing that a builder bought it, right?  And...they're going to tear it down.  That's good for house values, but I'm surprised that they're able to move that fast.  I figured someone would try to rent it for a while, but perhaps they have a buyer for the house they are set to build?

Does anyone in the neighborhood know?  I've heard lots of speculation, but no confirmation

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Tomotoes of 2011

A few yellow cherries and a bunch of Romas came in today.  Mostly from the standard Roma variety, but there's a few Sausage and Amish Paste variety too.  There's a lot of green fruit on the plants still, and it is mid August, so I'm a bit concerned that I'm too far behind?  Anyone else having a late-blooming crop this summer in Illinois?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Should we go 'blue' with these?

Sounds like all it takes is a bit of aluminum and we might be able to turn our pink hydrangeas over to the much-prized blue ones. 
See the little bee hidden in the flower there?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Any Tips for Stronger Anchors?


I've tried multiple times - and even with these heavy-duty anchors, but our child-proofing gate keeps pulling out of the way.  The holes keep getting bigger and bigger.  The only option I see is to put up a piece of wood that connects with the stud (8 inches away - of course) that we paint to match our trim.  Then this clip gets screwed right into that wood block. 

Does anyone have any other ideas on wall anchors?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Anemone Flower Blooming - 2011

Nat's wedding bouquet was lifted by some turd at our wedding, so as a surprise, her mom re-created the bouquet for her as a gift.  One of the flowers in the original bouquet was an Anemone - but for some reason the florist needed to have Nat's mom secure non-cut versions of the plants.  I think she lopped off the blooms/buds and then was left with a few plants without buds.  So...we took one home and planted it - thinking that there was no way it would come back.  Didn't even give it much thought.

But then this summer...guess what?  It started going nuts.  It is really quite pretty and has grown very big and strong.  This one should be around for many years to come.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Corn Growing Tall - 2011

The birds are getting to it, though.   Looks like - if things keep going - we'll have a few dozen ears of corn come September.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Greetings from Phila!

They sure do love their Ben Franklin in this town.  (and..so does the Babe!)

Here she is at Ben's grave.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Pumpkins Growing - 2011

I'm going to fertilize the heck out of these so they get to be 'competition' size. 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Pat's *is* the King of Steaks

I come down squarely on the side of Pat's in the Geno's/Pat's debate.  Isn't even close.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ha. Ha. Punters are Dumb.


If it were really *only* that easy.    And besides...why pick on punters?  A well hit punt is the MOST beautiful play in all of football.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Cauliflower Budding - 2011

Well, well, well.  Look what we have here:  some of my cauliflower plants are starting to bud the white crown.  It is pretty small right now (just bigger than a golf ball) but growing everyday.  Pretty exciting to see another of the rotation picks (things that I wasn't sure if they'd grow, but wanted to rotate the crops) doing really well. 

Too bad we don't eat a heckuva lot of cauliflower, though.  Maybe this one will end up down the street at my sister's place.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sauceech from Pepe's Tacos

I ordered a quesadilla with chorizo from Pepe's last night and when the container arrived, it was marked like this:
That's kind of how my dad says it.
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