Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

28 February, 2007

"What's Happening to the News"

This morning I watched Part III of Frontline's four-part series News War. Last night's episode was called "What's Happening to the News". It began by noting that television news relies more on "soft" news today than it has in the past. Soft news being a variety of things but exemplified most recently by the hubbub over Anna Nicole Smith. (Which John Gibson of Faux News recently defended.) The real meat & potatoes of the episode was about how newspapers are dealing with the advent of the Internet. I say newspapers instead of the MSM generally because the program notes that most people still get their news from television but that TV news is largely soft news and opinion as opposed to investigative journalism. Newspaper sales are dropping as young folks hesitate to follow in the footsteps of their parents and instead turn to the Internet and to satirical programs (i.e. - The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) to keep abreast to the day's events.

It's not unfair to say that "What's Happening to the News" wallowed a bit in nostalgia for the days of Edward R. Murrow when men were men and men smoked filterless Camels on the air as they read the news and there were no bloggers or "citizen journalists". At the same time, the program had some very revealing interviews which justified these feelings to an extent. For instance, one of the producers of The Daily Show indicated that he was appalled that anyone would consider the show to be news instead of satire. Executives from Yahoo and Google were both very open on how indebted their news sites are traditional news media, especially print. In fact, without the traditional sources, there would be no Yahoo or Google news sites.

All in all the show was interesting. I suppose the debate over traditional vs. Internet news sources wasn't new to anyone who's followed it to any degree but sometimes we denizens of the Net forget that there still are lots of folks who have no idea what a blog is and do not seek news online. What I found more interesting was how the show traced the recent fate of the Los Angeles Times after it was sold by the family who had owned it for so long. A buyout by the Tribune Company followed by a resurgence and then downsizing. The trend for newspapers these days is to become "hyper-local" meaning to concentrate almost exclusively on local news and leave the national and international reporting to the AP, Reuters, NYT, etc.

The final part of the series airs next Tuesday.
|| Palmer, 12:12 PM || link || (4) comments |


Everyone in the company at which I work got an email this morning from the president indicating that there would be an all-company meeting in the mid-morning. Folks are trickling back from it now. The word is that the manufacturing section of the company is moving to the Pacific Rim. Fifty people are going to lose their jobs this summer/fall. And now there's this pall hanging over the place as people wonder what they're going to do next, where they are going to go, and the like. I feel terribly for those folks. I was surprised that the manufacturing arm of the company was here as long as it was. Would this have happened had the company not been bought out by an even larger entity last year? I don't know. I do know that there's a lot of work ahead in transforming the factory floor into an office space.
|| Palmer, 12:02 PM || link || (0) comments |

New Star Trek Film in '08

Trekkies the world over are rejoicing with the recent announcement that a new Star Trek film is due next year.

Paramount Pictures today officially announced the return of Star Trek on Christmas Day 2008.

"If there’s something I’m dying to see, it’s the brilliance and optimism of Roddenberry’s world brought back to the big screen," J.J. Abrams was quoted in a Paramount press release, which in its title again confirmed Abrams will be directing the new Trek film. Abrams continued: "[Alex Kurtzman] and Roberto Orci] wrote an amazing script that embraces and respects Trek canon, but charts its own course. Our goal is to make a picture for everyone — life-long fans and the uninitiated. Needless to say, I am honored and excited to be part of this next chapter of Star Trek."
|| Palmer, 11:07 AM || link || (0) comments |

FFRF Hit Front Page

A profile of Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation was featured on the cover of this past Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal. It was nice to see godless heathens like me get some decent press. It notes that oral arguments in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation start today but it doesn't really give much of an understanding about the case itself. Check out this page for more. The key issue:

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was set up in 2001 to help religious groups compete with secular organizations for federal grants to provide social services.

The case before the justices focuses on regional conferences that promoted the initiative. The Freedom From Religion Foundation likened the conferences to "revival meetings" and said they boosted the grant prospects for religious groups "without similar advocacy for secular community-based organizations."

The legal question is not whether those conferences violated the constitutional separation of church and state, but more fundamentally when a taxpayer may even get into court to challenge such mingling of government and religion.

As with everything the Bush administration does, it says that executive branch decisions in this area are immune from taxpayer litigation.

Presumably arguments are going on right now.

EDIT: A rather more in-depth look at the case can be found here.
|| Palmer, 10:45 AM || link || (0) comments |

27 February, 2007

War in the Cheddarsphere: The South-Central Theater

The online community wars here in Madison have really heated up in the past month or so. The latest series of skirmishes began last month when Madison's alt-weekly, Isthmus, mentioned that Capital Newspapers, who publish Madison's dailies, was going to put out a new free weekly called Post. Post also happens to be a section of the group's online presence (madison.com) which features a coterie of blogs exclusive to the site and links to other local bloggers. The print version of Post debuted last week to mixed reviews. Concomitant to this, the online version of Post received a facelift.

A couple weeks ago a group called Madison Interactive had its first meeting. Adam Powell, a Post blogger, led a panel discussion which included, amongst others, Todd Lekan, another denizen of madison.com. The event drew criticism from Kristian Knudsen of Isthmus' online presence, The Daily Page. Here's his comment:

However the event might “work out” to be, the money came from some budget line at Capital Newspapers, and my guess it’s marketing. It’s no coincidence that you are kicking off this group in conjunction — almost to the day — of your brand new publication, and not long after the launch of your revamped site.

I too think that this kind of group and discussion is a great idea. Unfortunately, given that you made no serious effort to include participation from your online competitors in the Madison market, it’s pretty clear that Capital Newspapers sees this as an opportunity to promote their new product and recruit more people to blog for them (and build ad impressions). That makes you a less than credible organizer.

This event isn’t about commerce in online communities, it’s about building commerce for a single online community, one owned by one of the largest newspaper chains in the nation.

And today Jason Joyce made a remark at The Daily Page which indicates that something is happening on this front over at Isthmus. The piece was about Madison blogger Ann Althouse and her latest piece in the New York Times. Joyce concludes:

In her Times piece, Althouse addresses the conversations that occur among those leaving comments on her site, suggesting bloggers "let life on the blog unfold like off-blog life."

That thought is particularly interesting due to some work we're completing this week right here at TDP, but more on that later.

The Daily Page and Post along with Dane101 are the major local blog aggregators for the Madison area. Dane101 has seemed to be able to stay above the fray thus far. (Although The Daily Page did see fit to take a snipe at it recently.) Unlike the other two, it is not tied to a print publication. Listening to Dane101 editor Jesse Russell speak at the Madison Interactive event about advertising at the site, it seems that he has the best of intentions (i.e. – not constantly looking at the bottom line) in creating an online community, if not a genuinely quixotic drive. However, TDP and Post are very much for-profit ventures. All 3 sites link to one another yet there's so much bad blood.

Dane101 is quite explicit in stating its purpose but Post and TDP's Miscellany section aren't. How do they fit into the larger goals of the print publications of which they are a part? What purpose do they serve other than getting folks to see and click on ads? More generally, who should care about blogs and why should anyone read them? Dane101 is part blog aggregator and part indie journalism and it gives its answer to these questions. Post and TDP haven't answered them yet, at least not fully.

I think we've gotten to the point where just throwing up a list of blog posts with some kind of local content is not enough. If you take blogs (or at least certain blogs or blog posts) seriously enough to use them as content for your website, then they should be treated more seriously than they are now. Instead of just lumping them all together divorced from any context, segregate posts by content and allow comments. Perhaps certain bloggers could be followed over time or, if a suitable blogger is found, then all posts relating to a topic of interest could be brought together. Are any rival blogs slugging it out online? Maybe exchanges between blogs could be highlighted. Right now I'll take just about anything over winnowing through a dozen posts with "analysis" of Badger games in order to find something I find interesting.

Only time will tell what these sites will be like as they mature. Hopefully they will all take varied approaches and differentiate themselves from one another in some fashion. I think this would benefit those of us who do try to keep abreast of the blogosphere here in the Madison area but might also draw in folks who have never bothered to see for themselves what all the hubbub is about.

I'll be keeping an eye out for the work that the folks at TDP are doing this week.
|| Palmer, 2:07 PM || link || (15) comments |

26 February, 2007

On the Gramophone

This week at my podcast I feature Junior Wells.

|| Palmer, 10:56 AM || link || (0) comments |

Gambrinus Smiles Down

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, if a bit cloudy, when The Dulcinea, M., and I arrived at the biergarten of Capital Brewery for the 10th Annual Bockfest. At just after 11 we found the place rather sparsely populated. Food stands were still readying themselves but the beer was generously flowing and the porta-potty seats were suitably chilled. (The brewery's website indicated that beer would start being served at noon but I guess they got the party going early.) Island Wheat, Maibock, and Amber would be available all day but the first kegs of this year's Blonde Doppelbock, a limited spring release, were to be tapped at about 12:30 after it had been blessed by brewmaster Kirby Nelson.

I grabbed a couple brews while M. hit the piles of snow and quickly proceeded to wedge himself between a mound and the fence requiring a bit of a hand to get freed. This got The Dulcinea worried and she was constantly telling him to stay away from the top of the mound lest he accidentally tumble over the fence. Not being his father, I restrained myself and didn't tell him to play as he liked. I tried explaining to The Dulcinea that, if he were to fall, he'd land in another mound of snow. This was met with angry looks and a series of he-could-break-his-necks. My pleas to let a seven year-old be a seven year-old went nowhere.

A half a dozen friends of mine were due to show but there was no sign of them. Watching The Dulcinea attack her frosty cup of Amber, I saw her designated driver status fade with every sip. I made a call and found that Charles and Dan had gotten there quite early (for the free stein) but, since things were slow, they headed out to run a couple errands. It wasn’t long before Dogger, Old Man Standiford, and Steve showed up and our group staked out a spot as more folks started to pile in the gates. It was great to see them again and we haven't spent time together swilling beer together in many a moon. While the near freezing temperatures prompted many to bundle themselves in snowmobile suits, a couple especially brave souls wore kilts. I got a wee bit cold myself but a couple liters of Maibock drove the chill away. Dan and Charles arrived soon enough and I found myself surrounded by friends, my ladyfriend, and lots of great bier. I don't know that it could get any better.

At about a quarter after noon, the PA system sprung to life and it was announced that the first 1K Running of the Blondes would start anon. This involved 10 guys donning blonde wigs and taking a brisk run around the neighborhood. Amongst the contestants were these guys donning breasts in addition to hairpieces.

It didn't take too long for the runners to return. Indeed, boos emerged from the crowed when told that some of them had taken a shortcut. This little breach of sportsmanship was forgiven as it meant that the Blonde Doppelbock would be tapped sooner than expected.

It wasn't long before Nelson took to the stage and greeted us. He gave a very brief lecture on the history of doppelbock. It extends back into the Middle Ages when monks brewed the stuff to tide them over through the fasting of Lent. The original doppelbock, Nelson explained, was called Salvator, meaning "savior". This understandably brought a big cheer from the garden full of drinkers. He then lamented the death of one of the brewery's old fermentation tanks and sought its blessing for the brewery's recent expansion. Here's a video of the moment.

(Download from the picture or this link..)

Gambrinus and any other patron saints of beer you can think of were smiling down on us because the blessing was given. With the brewmaster's blessing, the taps of Blonde were let loose. This was also the cue for the country stylings of Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky Tonk to begin. I was near the stage during all of this and was surprised to see local muso Henry Boehm readying his bass. I got to know Henry when his gal Toby opened the Toad Hill Coffeehouse near my home. (I still lament its closing.)

Those medieval monks had three weeks of Lenten fasting to survive and the beer they made was a heady drink. With an alcohol content of 8% or so, the crowd grew less sober and Capital staff warmed the crowd up for the fish toss by throwing Mardi Gras beads from the roof. I caught a couple including one in my stein. This was followed by a mashie-laden staff member teeing off and hitting foam golf balls into the crowd.

I'd been kind of worried about keeping M. occupied while we drank but this proved to be no problem. He attacked the slopes with glee and made a nice slide down one mound of snow. Plus he found companionship with other kids his age who were similarly abandoned by their parents. Every so often he come over to us seeking a sip of root beer and perhaps a re-tying of the scarf. And, when The Dulcinea would head inside to use the bathroom or just to get warm, M.'s extended network of doppelbock drinking uncles managed to keep an eye on him just fine.

Around 3, the other moment that the crowd had been waiting for arrived – the fish fly. A fanfare greeted Nelson as he appeared on the roof riding atop a greenish-yellow dinosaur (or was that Nessie?) and clutching a stein of the doppelbock.

The tradition of tossing fish started in 1998, a bad year for ice fishing. To make up for the poor catch, Nelson threw some chub into the crowd. Nine Bockfests later, people eagerly reached out in hopes to catch one of the fish tossed from the roof, which usually explode when caught. A gentleman in front of me caught one but, when all was said and done, he was left holding only the head in his gloved hand. Immediately he prompted his friend to take a picture. Here's some more video.

(The pic is active or you can grab it here.)

The four o'clock hour approached and we had to head out in order to get M. over to his father's house. A $20 parking ticket couldn't spoil the mood as we'd had great fun. It just doesn't get any better than standing around in the cold with a blizzard on the way to greet the year's doppelbock. Throw in a smoked chub toss and you've got pure Wisconsin.
|| Palmer, 7:46 AM || link || (0) comments |

25 February, 2007

kaniktshaq moritlkatsio atsuniartoq!!

I woke up early this morning to find our deck snowbound.

I found out that my day's plans were going to have to be modified a bit as the International Festival down at the Overture Center had been canceled. I shoveled yesterday and my back is killing me so I let Stevie fire up the snowblower only to have it die after a few minutes. While he attempted to breathe life into it once again, I snapped a few pictures.

There's a retaining pond out back and the ducks were all hanging out on the far shore.

The creek that handles the runoff was calm. I found some paw prints near the footbridge so I assume that someone's hound was out having a blast in the snow.

|| Palmer, 9:02 AM || link || (0) comments |

The Rush of Winter

That was a quite a storm last night. I even saw some lightning. Good thing I didn't attempt to hit the trivia contest in Cottage Grove after having consumed at Bockfest. The WI DOT is saying that I43 from Mukwonago to Green Bay and Highway 14 from Richland Center to La Crosse are "Impassable". Today is the perfect day for those lucky folks amongst us with a hedge maze to reenact The Shining.
|| Palmer, 8:05 AM || link || (0) comments |

23 February, 2007

Friday Skin

|| Palmer, 4:45 PM || link || (0) comments |

A New Facade

Over at Pixelated Imagination you can see the new façade of the Associated Band building downtown at Fairchild and State. Personally, I think it looks great. In fact, something similar should be done to the public library downtown to get rid of its modern Ikea primitive look.
|| Palmer, 1:31 PM || link || (1) comments |

Larder and Freezers Are Full

So what of the booty from my shopping trek in Chicago?

The cheesecakes are long gone and were quite tasty. The meatballs from Serrelli's were good. Their sauce was really fine as it wasn't at all sweet. It tasted like marinara sauce should – like tomatoes. The Italian beef got polished off earlier this week. That stuff is like crack. Here are some other tasty things.

Firstly there's this carrot pound cake that I got at Andy's.

The stuff is moist and buttery and oh so good! Also in the realm of sweets:

I got the rum cordials at Delicatessen Meyer and they complemented the rum balls very well indeed. The top candy bar was chocolate filled with hazelnut butter and was given to us free at Andy's. I don't know why it is, but Polish grocery stores, including Alex Polish American Deli here in Madison, give away free candy bars at the check-out. This is definitely something that other ethnic grocers should emulate. The Dr. Chocolate was given to me by my mom. It came from Australia and was excellent dark chocolate. It gave fast relief to my chocolate cravings.

Mmmm…domowa…If memory serves, domowa is made with beef as well as pork and is just tasty as all get-out.

Wiejska (vee-ES-ka) generally has ground veal added to it and is of a larger diameter than the domowa. This stuff is probably closest to the American kielbasa that you'd find on grocery store shelves here in town. Remember "kielbasa" is Polish for sausage and is not really a variety.

Jalowcowa (ja-WOK-so-va) is made with juniper berries and, quite frankly, this is my favorite so far. Then again, I've only ever eaten about 7 or 8 types of kielbasa and, with dozens of variations, I've got a long way to go. Aside from the addition of juniper berries, the main differences between the sausage that I buy at Andy's (which is where Alex Polish American Deli here in Madison gets its sausage) and the stuff you'll find on the supermarket shelf are texture and smokiness. Andy's tends to grind the meat more coarsely than companies like Hillshire Farms and this gives their sausage a very different mouthfeel. In addition, American commercial kielbasa tends to be smoked less than the stuff at Andy's. This is a matter of personal preference so I leave it to the eater to decide how much smoke she likes with her garlic, pepper, and marjoram. One last difference is that the stuff at the supermarket tends to be saltier.

This is a hunk of smoked pork loin. Jason and I split a whole loin. I am still trying to get this eaten and I think I'm going to have to start putting it in my breakfast cereal to make sure it disappears from the refrigerator.

More kvas.

Since there was no bacon & pork loaf to be found at Andy's I got a couple tins of other processed meats. Here's what the one on the right, a breakfast sausage, looks like:

I fried it up and slapped it on some rye bread. The best way I can describe it is as a cross between SPAM and the sage-laced breakfast sausage we Americans are familiar with.

I have tried neither of these yet and only recently found out what the stuff on the left was. There isn't much on the label in English so I turned to Julia, a former co-worker who is Russian. She told me that it is a plum sauce: "It's tkemali, used a lot by Georgian kitchen. I love it!!! One of my fav…Used good with meat - like meat dumplings or even with meat broth soup or just with meat."

More sweets.

This is zalewajka which, I was told by a very tall and very beautiful Polish woman, is basically Polish cream of potato soup. I also bought some pickle soup which I think is going to be my dinner tonight along with smoked pork loin.

That's a close-up of Salat Wiejska. While various salads can be found in a jar here in Madison at places such as Alex's and Woodman's, it pales in comparison to the fresh stuff. You're looking at cabbage, celery, green onion, and carrot all in a very tasty vinegar dressing. Oh, and of course there's dill too. I don't think Poles serve a vegetable without dill. Stevie thought this stuff was fantastic and I agree with him.

Lastly there's beer. Andy's has a good selection of beers from Poland as well as Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and other Slavic countries. They tend to be lagers – crisp with a modicum of bitterness and often times some yeast is left in the mix. For folks familiar with local brews, a rough approximation is New Glarus' Yokel.

I've been using some of the sausage lately in Cajun food. I made gumbo a couple weekends ago and then jambalaya on Fat Tuesday but have plenty more to go. Looking at the pictures above, I again get a hankering to make my own sausage. I swear that someone I know has a meat grinder attachment for a Kitchen Aid. The sausage stuffing one is quite cheap so I can just buy that. I've got some of the Polish sausage seasoning from Penzey's and think it's pretty good. If anyone wants to help me out by holding onto some pig intestine one of these days, please let me know.
|| Palmer, 10:12 AM || link || (0) comments |

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

This weekend looks to be exciting. Saturday is the 10th Annual Bockfest over at Capital Brewery. The gates open at 11 and the taps start flowing an hour later. Brewmaster Kirby Nelson will bless this year's batch of Blonde Doppelbock at 12:30 and expect it to start flowing shortly thereafter. This will be out in the biergarten. The forecasted high tomorrow is around 30 with light snow of up to 2 inches in the afternoon. But fret not! Capital's Maibock will keep you warm until the Blonde's bung is tapped. The Teuton in me is looking forward to drinking beer outside as the snow falls. There's just something manly and rugged and Visigothy about the whole idea.

You might have to dig your car out Sunday morning as we're supposed to get several inches on Saturday night. On Sunday, take shelter from the storm at the Overture Center and enjoy International Fest which will feature food, music, dance, and whatever may happen when Swiss alphorns are in the same room as Ghananian dancers. The event lasts from 11-5 so check out the event schedule.
|| Palmer, 8:30 AM || link || (0) comments |

22 February, 2007

Buckley's Sorry Apologetic

I've always enjoyed William F. Buckley, Jr. While I disagree with him on many an occasion, his patrician manners and bold use of words not in our vernacular has always been a pleasure to hear & watch. I recall watching Firing Line as a boy and getting immense pleasure from the banter even if I didn't understand much of it.

Buckley wrote a recent opinion column called "So Help Us Darwin" in which he uses his typical erudition to defend John McCain as the presidential hopeful prepares to deliver the keynote address at a function of the Discovery Institute, the shameless group of religious fanatics who would poison our school's biology classrooms with their religious bullshit. It is unfortunate that someone as intelligent and reasonable should stoop to the level of the DI in defending McCain. Or, at the very least, wallow in ignorance, something he has decried for many decades.

Buckley's near-apologetic lets loose the BS near the beginning.

Fifteen minutes after Charles Darwin explained his theory of evolution, his disciples -- apostles -- ruled out any heresy on the subject of the naturalist explanation for human life.

His use of "disciples" was ambiguous enough but Buckley just has to reinforce his own notion of materialism as a religion by including "apostles". In addition to positing his own ridiculous notion, Buckley fails to mention that within fifteen minutes after Charles Darwin explained his theory of evolution, disciples of another stripe were declaring heresy on the subject of the naturalist explanation of human life, some even declaring that his theory was equivalent to (gasp!) atheism, that dreaded affliction which renders people resistant to claims that some deity is out there smiling with approval as disciples kill in His name.

Buckley's view further descends into myopia when he relates how he hosted an episode on the evolution vs. creationism debate. The scientists on the panel left him feeling "that not only is naturalism established as verified science, but any interposition into the picture -- of inquisitiveness, let alone conviction that there might have been design in the evolution of our world -- is excluded." The author of God and Man at Yale here laments that science will not harbor all points of view. What he really means is that scientists are big bullies (not unlike Buckley himself) who will not allow their pursuit to become infested with the supernatural, specifically Buckley's Yahweh. Buckley would no doubt defend astronomers who create bulwarks against the intrusion of astrology into their field but biologists are evil because they would defend their own field similarly. It's just that Buckley has his own bullshit that he wishes to interject.

The penultimate paragraph reads:

But the intelligent liberal community should not impose on anyone a requirement of believing that there is only the single, materialist word on the subject, and that only contempt is merited by those who consent to appear at think tanks composed of men and women prepared to explore ultimate questions, which certainly include the question, Did God have a hand in creating all of this? Including the great messes we live with?

Either Buckley eagerly waves his flag of ignorance or his description of the Discovery Institute is highly disingenuous. While the men and women of the DI may very well be prepared to explore ultimate questions, their manifesto is decidedly unapologetic about their desire to see scientific exploration subjugated to religion. Buckley's description of the DI as merely being folks who want to pursue pure inquiry is foolish and I take it, quite frankly, as pure unadulterated bullshit. The DI and its adherents are not about an honest pursuit of knowledge; they are about imposing their version of Christianity upon everyone.

When John McCain delivers his speech tomorrow, he will not be advocating on behalf of multiple points of view, but rather for theocracy. He will be declaring that he favors the intrusion of religion into public education and that non-believers and non-Christians alike should be beholden to Christians. Regardless of what McCain says in his address, his mere appearance there is tacit approval of the notion that people who have a belief in tridentine transubstantiation are somehow morally superior to those who do not. How many altar boys have to be sexually assaulted by priests? How many daughters have to be molested by their fathers, like Robert Hale, a "self-styled preacher", who pled no contest to, not only molesting his daughter, but 14 other children? How many pastors have to sell a church to buy a BMW? How about Rev. Athanase Seromba who willingly had his church turned into an abattoir during the Rwandan genocide in 1994? Exactly what kind of moral superiority does it take to help commit genocide? It doesn't even have to be about rape or murder. How about that good Christian, Kenneth Lay? On and on it goes. How many Christians have to murder, rape, steal, etc. before the folks at the DI and the William F. Buckleys of the world can understand that being a Christian gives no moral authority?
|| Palmer, 7:25 PM || link || (0) comments |

The Culinary Adventure Continues and Concludes

Having procured two kinds of mettwurst, we left Lincoln Square and headed for Devon Avenue. Our first stop was the Argo Georgian Bakery.

I bought my friend Charles a decent supply of pelmeni and I grabbed a couple hachapuri for myself. Jason wandered over to a butcher, my mom to a bakery, and I went into the Three Sisters Delicatessen, a Russian joint, since the last time I was there I came home with a can of lard with bacon. The 2 or 3 times I'd been there previously it was very crowded and this day was no different. And also like those past visits, I was by far the youngest person there and the only English speaker. There was a lengthy line comprised mostly of old women who talked amongst themselves and pointed at various things in the deli case. I ended up grabbing a few things from the shelf including another 2 liter of kvas and a bottle of this ketchup-like sauce made from plums and, of all things, mashed potatoes. When we met up on the sidewalk, Jason was clutching a bag full of goat while my mom had bought some rum balls for me.

We drove back to the Jefferson Park neighborhood, where my mother lives, and hit Andy's Deli. I've given a lengthy account of shopping there previously so I won't rehash much here.

We noticed that there were no cans of bacon & pork loaf to be had. Lots of other SPAM-like tins, but not the primo stuff. I'm not sure if this is because it's very popular and hard to keep on the shelf or whether it sells so slowly that they never bothered to restock the shelf after Jason and I bought every last can back in September. Another missing item was the Polish version of Playboy. I had told STevie that I'd get him a copy as a souvenir but, alas and alack, they too were out.

It wasn't too crowded this time and so we never had to grab a ticket for service at the meat counter which meant we were spared standing around like idiots because we have no idea how to count in Polish. Jason found about a million varieties of pickled herring and I highly suspect that his father made a glutton of himself in the recent past. Each of us bought some Slavic beer and I think we did a good job of not repeating ourselves from last trip.

Despite still being quite full from lunch, the sight of a pan full of ribs placed curiously at about eye-level still managed to get me salivating. In addition to countless pounds of sausage, I bought soups, a salad, carrot pound cake, and much more. And there's just something about 30 gallon barrels of kraut and pickles that moves the Slavic parts inside of me. The urge to try one of everything in the store becomes difficult to control.

We ended up spending quite a bit less at Andy's this time – only about $130. Still, we got our free chocolate bar the check out which was manned by two pulchritudinous Polish women and were off to our final destination.

While they didn't have raw olives as I'd been hoping, they did have pomegranates and quinces of which I availed myself.

And with that, the day was over. We'd spent about seven and a half hours trekking around town buying comestibles. My mom took the scenic route a couple times including a long haul down Belmont which took us through Polish neighborhood. I'm looking forward to our next trip, presumably a spring run.

I am told that the mettwurst was quite good as my co-worker's father gave it his seal of approval.
|| Palmer, 5:53 PM || link || (0) comments |

On a Mission for Mettwurst

A couple weeks ago my friend Jason and I headed south on another Chicago Meat Run. I'd told my co-worker, who is German, about the trip and he requested mettwurst as he doesn't care for the stuff at Bavaria Sausage Company. And so the drive down was the first (and probably last) time I'd ever spent 20 minutes talking about the intricacies of mettwurst. In addition, Jason's dad had been helping him remodel his condo and thusly Jason was going to purchase a year's supply of his dad's favorite, herring in wine sauce.

My mom had volunteered to chauffeur us around town and buy us lunch which was quite a coup since she has a minivan and the five coolers we had with us barely fit it Jason's car. When we arrived at my mom's, she was warming up her van so, after we threw the coolers in, we were off.

Our first stop was to be Serrelli's but Jason and I were informed that the Eli's Cheesecake factory was on the way and that they had a retail store there. How could we say no? Walking in, I immediately caught sight of a familiar figure.

There was a little café in the joint which had coffee, sandwiches, and lots of sweets.

Over by the coolers of cheesecakes was a group of elementary schools kids who were at the beginning of their tour of the place. As I peered through the glass cases at the cakes lying in wait, I overheard the guide say that Eli's sometimes does special orders and that one company had requested jalapeno cheesecake. All the kids said "Ewww!" but not me. Personally I think that sounds remarkably tasty. Something to think of for my wedding cake.

One section was devoted to "Sweet Imperfections", i.e. – cakes that weren't perfect and were sold at a discount. Now, Eli's cheesecakes usually start at $25 and go up depending on size and flavor. I'm not proud. An imperfect looking cheesecake still tastes great and many cakes were only $6.95. I walked out with a large plain and an 8" Turtle for under $15. That's like a billion calories for just a fraction of a penny per! While I could have spent all the money I'd brought down with me there, I decided to save some for our other stops. On our way out, we ran into Marc Schulman, the president of the company who was an amiable chap.

It didn't take us long to get to Serrelli's and we passed by the M&M factory.

The Metra (commuter rail) stop near it was called "Mars" and I can just imagine hearing the conductor say, "Next stop – Mars". Walking into Serrelli's, it was really nice because there was only one other person there and, being a small, cramped store, we had plenty of room to run the cart through the aisles. Jason had introduced the delights of their Italian beef to friends and so he was filling about 4 orders. The stuff is so lean & tender and the gravy is the best around. Nothing in Madison compares. Jason bought some of their frozen manicotti and ravioli last time and his wife really enjoyed the stuff so he bought tons more in addition to about 30 pounds of beef. He had also bought their meatballs and so I got me some of them. When we got to the deli case, we found the butchers hard at work.

My mom asked one of them a question about the neighborhood and the gentleman replied that he didn't know since he did not live in the area. She asked where he lived and found out that it was her. I hoped that she flirted some more because I'd imagine that dating a Serrelli's butcher could have benefits for me in the form of discounted Italian beef. Alas, that conversation ended and we started stockpiling.

Jason and I ended up getting a country ton of their garlic Italian sausage which Jason swears is some of the best stuff he's ever had, in addition to repelling vampires in a 1-mile radius. I can't wait to try the stuff. In addition to it and Italian beef, I grabbed a small tub of their meatballs and I can vouch for their tastiness. I hit the motherlode over in one of the aisles which had super-family size containers of sport peppers and hot giardinara.

Back at the minivan, I think we managed to fill up two of our coolers. From there, we were off to Paulina's. When we got there, we found that it was closed for remodeling. Bummer. And so we went up Lincoln Avenue to Lincoln Square where German food stuffs awaited us. Our first stop was Lincoln Quality Meat Market.

They had mettwurst in addition to oodles of sausage, most of which I'd never heard of. There was this Hungarian garlic sausage that I just had to get. The link was about 3" in diameter, a huge sucker. Plus there were Romanian and Bulgarian varieties that intrigued me.

I went with the Kebapceta as it featured cumin and I already had a ton of garlic sausage. The stuff is in my freezer now but I'm looking forward to busting it out.

The snack we had on the road was wearing off and any further shopping could have seriously drained our wallets so we had lunch at the Chicago Brauhaus. It's a nice enough place. Sie haben gut bier on tap und there's always folks there speaking German, including the folks at the table next to ours. My 3 semesters of German paid off as I understood them when the waitress took their order auf Deutsch as well as snippets of their conversation. It was much better than hearing some loud mouth off to our right going on and on about how bad liberals are.

Here's my pork goulash mit spaetzle:

My mother got the weisswurst platter which had 3 links and she put down 2 of them. I haven't seen her eat that much in years. When we finished lunch, we stepped over to Merz Apothecary, which has a really neat storefront.

And the interior ain't so shabby either.

There are all kinds of beauty and hygiene products there. It's just like The Soap Opera here in Madison except Merz carries a full line of German products including all kinds of good, Teutonic shower gels.

I bought a bottle of cherry-scented gel for The Dulcinea and some of the kinder-friendly raspberry-scented stuff for her youngest, M. After this brief sojourn into the world of cleanliness, it was down the street to Delicatessen Meyer.

I bought some salami and also found another brand of mettwurst. Now, I was being helped by the Frau who was sehr schön, so I had to wonder what this was all about.

I walked over and found him looking intently at the booze.

A woman came over and started making suggestions. Jason bought a bottle of something I cannot recall for his old man. Apparently his dad and uncles used to drink the stuff all the time when he was a kid but it was nowhere to be found in Madison any longer. It was probably equivalent to diesel fuel but it would no doubt bring back happy memories, not to mention a nice buzz. Upon selecting the bottle, the woman told Jason that it was a good choice as "no house should be without it".

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