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Weber Vegetable Grill Basket

Yeah, a pan for the grill.

We bought the Weber Vegetable Grill Basket a few weeks ago. It was well worth the $20. Previously, we had to used skewers to cook most of our vegetables on the grill.  This pan is much better. We can cut the vegetables up smaller and they cook much more uniformly. We can cook the vegetables with garlic or shallots without having them falling into the grill.  I think this pan also would be good for smaller shrimp or other seafood, but I haven't tried that yet.

On our Weber Genesis 'B' gas grill, the basket takes up a little less than half of the grill, so it's easy to cook whatever type of meat we are having with the veggies. When you flip the meat, give the veggies a stir. I've found that most things, when cut up, take around 10-12 minutes to cook.

With the pan, I highly recommend using a good oven mitt, as the pan gets really (over 400F) hot. We have Orca BBQ Mitts, which do a good job of protecting your hands. You just have to be careful to hold the pan with the ribbed part of the glove, the thinner part will get hot in less than 30 seconds if the pan is resting on it.


Country of Origin

I've been thinking about where the heck my food comes from.


I am by no means some sort of hippie localvore vegan guy, but I am finally coming around to realize that it does matter at least a little.

Living in Chicago, we are basically local vegetable free for most of the year, so there is no way I am going to only eat local all winter. I don't have a root cellar, and I'm not really into canning, so come November I'm going to buy the California or South American produce. Have you noticed how most of the localvore people come from California, where you can pretty much get every vegetable year round?

That being said, it does matter where you get your food from when you have choices. This summer, I am trying to stick with local (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin or Michigan) grown fruit and vegetables. You'll now see me every Saturday at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. This time of year I'd rather pay a little more to help out local farmers, rather than to buy corporate-farm food from someplace far away.

Where the far away food really worries me is seafood. I was at Trader Joe's yesterday, and all of their seafood came from the Philippines, Singapore or Hong Kong. I have no idea what farm raised scallops or shrimp eat in the Philippines. Even at the foodie bastion of Whole Foods, I had a hard time finding seafood not sourced from the far east. They had one bag of frozen shrimp from US, and it was, not surprisingly, much more expensive than the foreign shrimp. It was very good, though. After the BP mess in the gulf, I'm trying to buy more US seafood to do what I can to keep the fishermen and shrimpers in business.

Anthony Bourdain's new book Medium Raw was an eye opener in regards to one of my other favorite things, the hamburger. Low grade hamburger can include all sorts of bad stuff. Thanks to him, I now am a little wary of eating burgers in cheap restaurants. Ammonia cured burger meat isn't very appetizing. So I've started skipping the burger at the more divey places I go for lunch. Don't worry, I'm not getting healthy food, but I'm picking things I trust more, like Vienna Beef hotdogs or Italian beef sandwiches.

As an aside, Medium Raw is a great book. I loved the Audible version, it's like a 9 hour long uncensored episode of No Reservations.

I'm not sure what to do in restaurants in regards to seafood & meat.

The waitstaff have no clue in many places where their food comes from and I can't afford to only eat in places that only buy from 'name' local producers. For an example of that, check out the menu at The Publican, one of my favorite restaurants. For now, I'm probably not buying burgers and shrimp from most chain places, and I'll be a little more careful with other seafood. There's nothing wrong with eating more steak :)


Tony Packo's Hot Dog Sauce

Two months ago, I bought a new car.

Well, not a new car, it's a 1992 Mazda Miata. When I was finishing college, I really wanted a Miata, but it really wasn't practical at the time. Now it's my fun, cheap 2nd car. The car was in Pennslvania, so we flew down there & drove it back.

On the way back, we took a small detour and went to Tony Packo's restaurant in Toledo. Like most people my age, I learned of Tony Packo's from the episode of M*A*S*H where their food was featured. The food at their restaurant was very good, and we ordered way more than we could eat.

While we were there, I bought a can of their hot dog sauce. The sauce is basically no bean chili. I finally opened it up a few days ago.

The can was $2.50 for 7 1/2 ounces of sauce. Not a bargain.


I heated the sauce up on the stovetop, and put it on an all beef dog with mustard and some chopped up jalapeno.


How was it? I liked it alot. The sauce was even better on Tony Packo's sausages in their restaurant, but the sauce tasted the same. The jalapenos were a minor mistake, they were very fresh and very spicy, and my lips burned for an hour afterwards.

One thing I recommend even more than the sauce is Tony Packo's pickles. They are super. We've been buying their sweet hot pickles & peppers for years. They cost a little more than normal pickles, but they sure are worth it.


Welcome to Drinking + Eating

Since I've stopped posting to my 'regular' blog, I was thinking of starting something new.  Also, I've become somewhat more food-focused over the past few years, between a minor craft beer addiction and my love for cooking on the grill.

My hope is this will become a very informal Chicago based group blog focused on food & drink (not necessarily all alcoholic). No Google ads and no begging for pageviews. No shakedowns for free meals, either.

Why Drinking + Eating? Well, mostly it's because the domain was available :). I also think that the drinks that go with a meal, or occationally instead of a meal, are important. As much as I am a beer guy, I love a well made cocktail.

As a start, here are a few food pictures I've taken over the past few years.

Chorizo Burger I made last fall.


Here are a couple of pictures from Baconfest Chicago:

Pork belly & waffle


Bacon beer, and yes it was very good.


Bacon & Egg


Here's about the favorite thing I came up with in the past few years, a quesadilla burger, where two mini bacon & cheese quesadillas are the buns.

If you want to join up, please shoot me a message on Twitter.  I'm @MattVolk



Did Somebody Say Cocktails?

Nothing puts me in a summer mood like sitting in the shade sipping a cocktail.  Oh sure, you can make cocktails anytime, but for some reason, summer and cocktails just go together like “chips and dip” or “Zambrano and meltdown hissyfit”.  On a recent trip to Kith & Kin, I strayed from my usual glass-of-wine-with-dinner and had a cocktail, their version of the Pimm’s Cup.  Do a quick Google search and you’ll find myriad variations on the Pimm’s Cup, using lemonade or ginger ale, mint, cucumber, etc.  The Kith & Kin version uses muddled cucumber and Thai basil, and made me feel like I was sipping the essence of summer in liquid format. 

Just as mint juleps are a staple at the Kentucky Derby, Pimm’s Cup is the official drink of Wimbledon (side note – is there an official drink for the World’s Cup?)  While I never got around to watching any of the Wimbledon tournaments this year, I did manage to make a Pimm’s Cup and it may be my new favorite summer cocktail.  I used this recipe from and was very pleased with the results. 

Some tips for making restaurant-quality cocktails at home. 

  • The best restaurants use the same care in preparing cocktails as any item on the menu.  They don’t use pre-made “mixers” with a lot of artificial colors and ingredients.  The best food is always made with fresh ingredients and cocktails are no different.  If the recipe calls for lime juice, don’t buy the crap in the plastic lime-shaped bottle at the grocery store.  Buy real limes and squeeze them yourself.  Trust me, you can taste the difference. 
  • Fresh herbs can add a lot to the finished cocktail.  I used mint (which I grow in our back yard) for the Pimm’s Cup, but at Kith & Kin they used Thai basil.  Experiment with your favorites. 
  • Simple syrup is a staple of many cocktails.  It’s easy to make and keeps forever in the fridge.  There seems to be 2 recipes, one uses a ratio of 2:1 sugar/water, and another 1:1 sugar/water.  I go with the 2:1 sugar/water version, but I tend to like things sweeter.  Whichever you choose, put the ingredients in a saucepan on the stove, bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves (don’t let it boil too long), then let cool.  Transfer to the storage container of your choice (I use little plastic condiment bottles) and store in the fridge. 

Have fun, experiment & remember, even if it doesn't turn out perfect, it's still booze!

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