Chinese style ribs

I’m home sick today with some sort of upper respiratory viral infection. I thought it was my allergies, being as I ran out of my normal antihistamine Saturday and thought it a wise idea to use up the back store I had of less than ideal antihistamine. So when I got a sore throat, I chalked it up to post nasal drip. And when I started feeling fatigued, I chalked it up to my allergies, which if not kept in check, make me fatigued. Monday I remembered I had some nasal spray that I thought should have helped the post nasal drip. Tuesday night I decided I’d had enough, and stopped to get my usual antihistamine after I went to my meeting. And last night, when I still wasn’t feeling any better, I decided to actually look into my mouth and see what was going on. It wasn’t good, and I decided it looked like I could have strep throat. So I called urgent care and they got me in for an appointment this morning. The rapid strep test was negative, and the PA who saw me said my symptoms actually more likely were from a viral infection. The white stuff in my throat didn’t really look like that of strep throat. So I’ll just have to wait this out. I’m just fatigued enough that I don’t really feel like doing anything, but I’m not so fatigued that all I want to do is sleep. It’s really annoying. And if I sit for long enough, I start to feel better, but the minute I’m up and trying to do something, all I want to do is sit back down. Cleaning the kitchen tonight was torture, and now I’m paying for it.

Chinese style ribs
Spare ribs were on sale at the Butchery last week for $2.50 a pound. The only package they had left was 2.5 lbs; I bought them with no clear plan in mind. So early this week when I opened up the package to see what they actually looked like, I instantly wanted chinese style ribs. Like the ones my parents used to order for me from the chinese food place that was behind our house when I was younger (which was actually run by a really nice Korean family). You know, sticky, sweet, tangy, slightly spicy. I could eat an entire bag of them myself. I found a recipe on allrecipes that looked reasonable taste wise, altered to what we had on hand, and mashed it with a cooking technique that seemed like it would work. I’d call the sauce recipe a work in progress. The ManBeast liked it, but I think it could use some more tweaking. The other thing I’d do different next time would be to cut the ribs apart prior to cooking. Yes, it would likely make them more of a pain to baste and turn, but I think it would get the taste of the sauce into the meat better. You could also marinate the meat, but I never seem to remember. I also didn’t actually measure out all the 2.5 T below. I guesstimated as a bit under 3T.

Here’s your teaser picture:

This is for 2.5 lbs spare ribs.
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a small bowl mix:
1/2 c hoisin sauce
2.5 T ketchup
2.5 T honey
2.5 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
2 T ume plum vinegar
2.5 t lemon juice
2.5 t minced ginger
1 clove minced garlic
a rounded .5 t five spice powder
3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (yes, this is definitely a good idea, and so would spraying it with cooking oil).
4. Place the ribs meaty side up and brush liberally, but not sopping wet, with sauce. Turn over, and brush the ‘bottom’ side.
5. Bake for 20 minutes and then brush with more sauce. Bake 20 more minutes.
6. Turn ribs over and baste with more sauce. Bake 20 minutes. Then baste with more sauce. Bake a final 20 minutes.
7. If your oven is the right temperature, the ribs should be perfectly cooked at this point. If not, you might want to cook them more.
We had extra sauce, which I boiled down a bit, and then completely forgot about. Next time we’ll use it for dipping sauce (though if the ribs were cut apart, I don’t imagine there would be as much left over sauce as there would be more surface area to cover).

Alchemy Cafe – restaurant review

I struggle with how to write this review. If I were writing it purely about the taste of the food, it would be written one way. If I were writing purely about their gluten free-ness, it would be written another way. I will try my best to meld the two.

The ManBeast, myself, and four dining partners were at Alchemy Cafe last weekend as one of our friends was keen to try the fish fry. Being a restaurant in the Willy St neighborhood, and this being Madison, I didn’t think too much about them not being able to handle a gluten free meal for me. So many places I can just walk into here, and they will at minimum know how to answer my questions, once I ask the right ones, and at best, already have a gluten free menu.

So I’m torn on how to write this review. When I asked about gluten free menu options, the waitress gave me a laminated sheet that detailed how EVERYTHING on their menu could be either cross contaminated with gluten, or already contained gluten. This partly tells me that they don’t really understand gluten free dining issues. On the one hand, they were incredibly honest with their gluten free sheet that essentially states that NOTHING can be made gluten free, and that they are horrible with cross contamination (if you have true food allergies, I would highly suggest you avoid this place). I have to give them props for this honesty. On the other hand, a food establishment that isn’t willing to use a clean cutting board and knife to prep my food ranks pretty low on my list. It really isn’t hard to make a bunless burger gluten free, as long as clean prep surfaces and utensils are used (which for their burgers, is where they said gluten would likely be introduced).

Apparently this is indeed asking too much of Alchemy, as I did suffer from a glutening the days following eating there. That said, the burger I did chance eating was actually quite tasty (TinShack Smokehouse Burger). I’m not sure I’ve had bison before, but it was quite tasty, the cheese was a perfect complement to the taste of the burger itself. The whole thing was perfectly done to my liking. While I don’t blame them for my illness, as I knew I was taking a chance eating what they clearly stated would likely be cross contaminated, I’m also slightly appalled that they are that bad at cross contaminating food. I would fear for my life if I ate there with food allergies, and I would also fear for many people if they ever had problems with food borne pathogens.

The atmosphere was incredibly too loud for a meal, and our waitress ended up squeezing 6 of us onto a four top. The general set up of the place is odd and not great at efficient use of space. Add in cold weather in Wisconsin, and every time the front door opened, you could feel a strong waft of cold air. Our waitress was competent, but nothing special, and deserves not extra accolades. She was a bit slow, and less than enthusiastic about making sure we were taken care of. On yelp, I didn’t give them a one star, because my food was tasty, but I cannot in good faith rate a restaurant higher that is that bad at cross contamination. While my food was good, I will never eat at this place again. And due to how loud the place was and how small the bar area is, I’m not even sure I’d want to go there for drinks.

Vintage Brewing Company – restaurant review

I don’t hold out much hope for brewing companies. My experience with them thus far has ranged from mediocre to poor at best. But the ManBeast really wanted to try a sandwich at Vintage Brewing Company on Whitney Way. Being a ribs person, I was interested to see what they offered. So this afternoon I called to see if their ribs were indeed gluten free. The person who answered my phone call assured me they were, but just to order it without corn bread, and to make sure our server knew that I needed a gluten free meal.

When we got there close to 7pm this evening, the bar area was packed. I guess it’s popular with the after work ‘happy hour’ crowd. We only waited about 20 minutes for our table, not long enough to even order a drink and finish it. The ManBeast and I both knew what we wanted, so ordering was quick. He ordered the grilled cheese cheese burger with a side of steak fries, and I ordered a full rack of ribs with the maple whipped sweet potatoes and the slaw. Our server was professional and prompt, making sure we were well taken care of without being overbearing.

Our food was delivered promptly, and I was impressed that the person who brought our food out knew to ask ‘Who has the gluten free ribs?’ Turns out, they change gloves in the back when prepping gluten free meals. That gave me a bit more confidence. Afterall, brewing companies are not known for keeping the gluten out of things. The ManBeast’s grilled cheese cheese burger also looked quite impressive.

This is the one time I wish I was more of a photographer, so I could show you what our food looked like. Not that it looked like anything special, but so I could show you what delicious food looks like. Give you some visual food porn to go along with these words. The ribs were incredibly succulent fall off the bone slightly sweet but incredibly smokey. In other words, exactly how I like my ribs. I was easily able to just pull the bones out, and suck off the extra BBQ sauce. The maple whipped sweet potatoes were very buttery and bizarrely light and fluffy, in a way I wasn’t expecting sweet potatoes to ever be. The slaw was nothing impressive.

The ManBeast was quite content with his grilled cheese cheese burger. If I could eat gluten, it is the kind of menu item I would try just to try (plus my slight obsession with grilled cheese). His comment was that with a second burger, this could easily be a Man v. Food challenge. The entire plate plus fries in under a 1/2 hour would be difficult to do, simply because of the amount of carbs on the plate.

All told, with tax and tip, our food came to $42 and drinks to $25. The two glasses of wine (merlot and malbec) I had were nothing impressive, though they were definitely decent. The ManBeast said the IPA he ordered first got better the more he drank it, but that the second (I think the strong Scotch ale, though it could have been the Belgian pale ale) was better.

All together, this is a place we’ll be back to. Hopefully with friends. The atmosphere was great. The seating area was roomy, and not so incredibly loud that the ManBeast and I couldn’t have a great conversation about science (what? what else did you think we talk about?). As I told someone on facebook, we give it the best rating we can: the, we’ll be back, rating.

This is NOT what democracy looks like

This is NOT what democracy looks like.

Yesterday when I left work on the 5:30 bus, things on the political front were kind of quiet. But I arrived home to a fire storm. Yesterday, our senate republicans created a new committee, it met, voted on a modified version of the budget repair bill, and then the senate voted on it. In an afternoon. No 24 hours notice as per open meetings laws in Wisconsin. No discussion. Nothing. Just a BUDGET repair bill, stripped of most things fiscal, and then voted on with less than a quorum of senators.

What really interests me at this point is, who do these senators look at themselves in the mirror at night after days like this? How have their families been treating them? I’d really LOVE to know what the thought process is that goes on in their heads when they pull bullshit like this.

When local elected officials need to leave amidst heavy police presence to cries of ‘shame’ and ‘you lied, you lied to Wisconsin’ and lots of booing, to me that says they should really know that what they are doing is WRONG.

What can you do?

Rather than sit and needlessly argue with idiots on the internet about things that we in the end agree about, I thought I’d come up with a constructive list of things people can do rather than needlessly arguing on the internet. To keep it shorter, I’m going to make it specifically about the issues here in Wisconsin, but the basic principles apply to any community in the US.

This list is in no particular order.

1. Go vote in the next election. And then the one after that. And the one after that. If you live in Wisconsin, you can go to the State of Wisconsin Voter Public Access Site to find your polling location, who your current elected officials are, and a sample ballot for the next election. Our next election is April 5th. This is a democracy people, and if you don’t like the people in office, do your civic duty to get them out and someone else in there.

2. Contact your current elected officials. Think they should know what you think about an issue? Think they aren’t doing a good job representing you? Think they are doing a fabulous job representing you? Call, email, or snail mail them and tell them so.

It took me less time to write that email than it will for me to write this post. Hopefully it will bring a smile to someone’s face and it lets Senator Risser know that I think he rocks!

3. Talk to your friends, families, and coworkers about the issues. I’m surrounded daily by people who think pretty much the same as I do on the problems Wisconsin is currently facing, but they aren’t always up to date on what is happening or what has happened. Take the time to talk about the facts. And encourage people to talk to their families about it too.

4. Speak with your wallet. This can be a few different things. Donate to groups doing work you agree with (ACLU, Democratic party, etc). This can also be supporting businesses that support what you believe in. This doesn’t have to be a lot of money. While $5 might barely effect your finances, $5 from a bunch of people adds up. Of course, if you can give more, go for it. This also means avoiding places that are openly against what you believe in (Menards, Walmart, I’m looking at you).

5. Pay your taxes. Seriously. Yes it sucks that some rich assholes think they are above the law and it means the rest of us have to shoulder a bit more burden then we really should have to. Hopefully karma will be a bitch to them. But in the mean time, if you are caught not paying your taxes, it is you who will pay the consequence for that action. Besides, your taxes support things like teachers, snow plow drivers, police, and all those things people are up at the capitol chanting about having funding taken away from.

6. Follow the law. Just like 5, yes it sucks that certain people (Republican senators and representatives I’m looking at you) think they are above the law (and yes, Walker, I’m looking at you too), but much like taxes, if you don’t follow the law and you get caught, it’s you who will pay the price, not the others. Want to rally and march around the Capitol Building? Great, file for permits. Want to be heard at a public hearing at the Capitol? Great, put your name down and stand in line. Don’t be an ass just because you think you have a right to be one.

7. Volunteer. Whether this is volunteering with a political campaign or to be legal observer with the ACLU. You could also help out the groups that are looking to recall Walker or the recall the 8 Wisconsin Republican Senators.

8. Really don’t like how things are going? Well, you’ve essentially got two options left then. Move out of the country, or run for office and we’ll see how much better of a job you do.

If I missed something, let me know and I’ll add it in.