Friday, July 12th, 2013

We just had to eat dinner at Grampa’s Pizzeria last night because it’s on Willy Street and it’s new and we’ve been chomping at the bit to see what it looks like inside and we love pizza and we were out shopping for furniture and we hate shopping and it was guy night and I didn’t have the slightest idea what to make for dinner so pizza.

Grampa’s pizza is da bomb, especially when paired with a glass of Argentinian merlot. There, that’s out of the way.

Grampa’s Pizzeria used to be Grampa’s Gun Shop. I’m not sure but I think Grampa used to live in the back and work in the small shop in the front of the building where he had a work bench set up in front of a picture window so you could see what he was working on. In all the years walking by that place, I never once spotted Grampa at work. The bench was usually strewn with tools and usually a light was on over the bench, but that was the only sign I saw that Grampa was at work in there.

When Grampa retired the place was almost immediately sold, the picture window was papered over and hints began to appear in the news that it would be turned into a restaurant. I have to admit I had my doubts. The place looked tiny. What kind of a restaurant could they possibly put in there? But we heard that Gil Altschul, the new owner, was the kitchen manager at Mickey’s Tavern, one of our favorite Willy Street hangouts, and after we heard it would be a pizza place I made sure I strolled past it every couple of days during my lunch hour to see when it would be opening so we could be one of the first customers to try it out.

The place is a lot bigger inside than I thought it was. They gutted the whole thing and the rebuild looks great. The place in the front where Grampa’s work bench used to be is a party room now; we ate dinner there last night at a communal table that appeared to be made out of six-by-six hardwood lumber salvaged from, I don’t know, a barn? A Great Lakes schooner? It was pretty substantial and pretty old, whatever it was. There’s an old-timey tin ceiling and some pretty art on the walls, and the big picture window lets in lots of light. It’s a very friendly space.

The service was great and the staff gets big bonus points for never letting our water glasses go dry. It’s a small thing but we’ve learned that there really is no better way to gauge the level of attention the staff gives you.

We ordered a pork confit for starters and that bottle of merlot I was talking about earlier. They let you cork the bottle and take it home, so we splurged and just bought the whole thing. The confit was about a dozen chunks of artisanal pork in a tiny cast-iron frying pan served with mustard and peppers, and would have been a good, light meal in itself if we both hadn’t brought big appetites. Watch out for those peppers. They seem mild at first but they sneak up on you and take you by the throat if you’re not careful.

And back to the pizza. After a bit of haggling we chose the peperone and it was awesome because it wasn’t buried in cheese, the crust was thin and crispy and the ingredients were delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen olives so green or tasted sauce so tomatoey, if that’s a word. Autocorrect says it isn’t, but to hell with that.

If I were forced to complain about just one thing, and unfortunately for me I rarely have to be forced to complain even a little bit, I’d have to say that the piped-in music was too loud. It was delightful, it complimented the place very nicely, but background music should never be so loud that it forces me to repeat myself while carrying on a conversation with my date. We who are trying to woo women do not appreciate that.

But that’s a nitpick. The experience of dining at Grampa’s left us both so supremely satisfied that we couldn’t stop telling one another how satisfied we were. Mazel tov, Grampa’s! Well done.

grampa’s | 6:48 pm CDT
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Saturday, April 6th, 2013

I’m happy to report 100% success at Our Humble O’Bode’s first cookout of the season. I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to pull it off at first when the Weber, which I had broken down to pieces to make it easier to store, stubbornly resisted all attempts to reassemble it, but when I figured out how the pieces went back together, the rest went smoothly.

Dinner was not great big fat meat patties on toasted buns, I’m a bit embarrassed to say. That would have been the right and proper way to start the cookout season, but we were hungry for fish last night, so I slapped a thick salmon steak on the grill and carefully cooked it to flaky perfection. Served with a side of rice and green peas. *bliss!*

fishy | 7:09 am CDT
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Friday, December 14th, 2012

I had no plan for dinner last night and no idea what I could have scrounged up from the pantry even if I’d come up with a plan at the last minute. I couldn’t even suggest a place to go eat when My Darling B posed the customary Thursday night question, “What’s for dinner?” I was totally blocked, so she picked it. We had dinner at Alchemy. (Too bad I can’t see the future or I’d have simply met her there.)

I wasn’t especially hungry, so I asked for a salad. “Small or large?” the waitress wanted to know, and since I wasn’t that hungry I asked for the small. She followed up with, “Do you want chicken on it?” Picturing a small salad with diced-up bits of chicken appealed to me, hungry or no, so I said sure, and then I relaxed and enjoyed a few pulls off the frosty-cold beer she’d brought me only minutes before.

She brought me a whole chicken — no, two whole chickens on a salad as big as a wedding cake! And that was the small.

chicken | 4:38 pm CDT
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Thursday, September 20th, 2012

It’s guy night! Otherwise known as We’re going out to eat, honey!

My Darling B usually has the car and picks me up from work, but tonight I had the car and picked B up, putting us both on the west side of town at exactly the time that both our tummies started growling in unison.

“What are we doing for dinner tonight?” she asked, as we pulled out of the parking lot. I suggested that we could either stop at the grocery store on the way home, where I’d pick up a salmon fillet, take it home and broil it for dinner, OR we could drive just three minutes down the road to our favorite Italian restaurant, Lombardino’s, where we could both enjoy a refreshing cocktail and a big plate of spaghetti.

“Which would you rather do?” My Darling B asked me.

Wow. Talk about a no-brainer.

It just so happened that we showed up at that certain time of the evening on that certain night of the week that they were offering a special on three different kinds of wine by the glass, according to the lovely young lady who brought us samples to taste. My only regret of the evening is that I should have splurged and ordered a glass of the delicious third glass that I’ve already forgotten the name of because I thought, Hell, I’ll never forget a name as distinctive as that and didn’t write it down.

Instead of a glass of wine I ordered a pomegranate martini, partly because B ordered one, too, and I thought it’d be cute if we both had the same drink, and partly because the name of the drink had “martini” in it, despite the fact that there wasn’t a drop of gin or vermouth within a hundred feet of it. I should’ve known it would only disappoint me.

That huge plate of spaghetti sure didn’t disappoint me, though, and neither did the plate of calamari we ordered for an appetizer. I thought maybe we’d munch a couple of those as we sipped our cocktails but we ended up wolfing down the whole serving, yummy as they were. The marinara sauce, garnished with horseradish, really did the trick there. Couldn’t finish the entree, though. Didn’t even try.

Lombardino’s | 9:05 pm CDT
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Thursday, July 5th, 2012

image of One Barrel BrewingI took My Darling B to dinner at Alchemy because it’s Thursday, which means it’s Guy Night and I’m responsible for serving dinner, but it’s way too hot to cook on the grill, the only way I can cook an edible dinner, so I took her to Alchemy, same as I always do. They were serving a delicious 1/3 lb bison burger that they served to perfection, grilled to a very tasty medium-well and dished up with a side of very crispy fries. *bliss!* My Darling B went with the old dependable walleye fish fry and wasn’t disappointed, then ordered a cream puff just to make the night perfect.

After dinner, we crossed the street to see what was going on at One Barrel Brewing, which was scheduled to host their grand opening tomorrow night but is apparently having a “soft opening” tonight and serving up anybody curious enough to press their faces to the window and peer into the depths of their shop. At least that’s what they did when I did. Besides the guest taps they were pulling three of their own brews: a session beer, a kolsch and an ale that I was especially partial to. A very helpful young lady poured us samples of all three and, after tasting them, we settled into our bar stools for an enjoyable stay.

While I was soaking up the suds I couldn’t help but notice that One Barrel Brewing bore the mark of a genuine Wisconsin tavern: the head of a jackalope was mounted on the wall. I haven’t seen one of those since my last visit to Club 161 in Waupaca County many, many moons ago. It warmed the cockles of my heart to know that some die-hard Wisconsin traditions still live on.

1bbl | 7:53 pm CDT
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Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I drove in to work today instead of riding my bike. The weather forecast called for high winds this afternoon and evening, and I hate biking against a headwind more than I hate biking through the rain, so I gave it a miss. Still left work at four-thirty, though.

This being Thursday, it’s customary for us to stop at our favorite pub, Alchemy, for dinner, not to mention hoist a beer or two. I don’t know how they manage to fit so much talent into such a little kitchen, but their food has never disappointed either of us, and we’ve eaten out in quite a lot of places in this crazy town. The beer’s never disappointed us, either, come to that.

So on the way to work, I suggested to B that, if it wasn’t pouring down rain when she left the office, she should just plan on meeting me at Alchemy. She was very agreeable to the idea, and it wasn’t raining after work, so I quit promptly at four-thirty and hoofed it on over, Alchemy being just five or six blocks from the office where I work.

The place was pretty quiet when I got there, not unusual as it was still early. Justin was at the bar and came right on over when I sat down to see what I wanted. There was an ESB on tap from Left Hand Brewing out of Longmont, CO, that sounded pretty good, and darned if it wasn’t just what I needed after a very long day of shuffling papers and answering phones.

I was almost halfway to the bottom of my glass by the time B showed up. I’d snagged our usual table by then, so she knew just where to find me. Not that it’s a very big place. Still, don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be.

The special tonight was NY strip sirloin marinated in bourbon, served on mashed potatoes and sour cream, with a side of radishes baked in butter. Doesn’t that make you drool like an idiot? Me, too. We goth ordered it, and we both loved it. To go with hers, B ordered an oatmeal stout and let me have a sip. It was so perfect with the steak that I ordered a glass myself, so we had to stay long enough for me to finish it off. Since we were staying anyway, I finished off our visit with a slice of double chocolate cake. What decadence.

decadence | 8:28 pm CDT
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Friday, April 6th, 2012

I ate the tastiest meatball sandwich for dinner last night. We swung by the Alchemy Cafe because it was Thursday, and on Thursday nights I’m in charge of coming up with the dinner, so I usually come up with the suggestion to stop at Alchemy. We have yet to be disappointed by anything we’ve eaten there, and they have a specialty beer menu that changes every week. Can’t beat that.

And although I had the tastiest meatball sandwich ever, My Darling B ordered something even more phenomenal: bacon-wrapped meatloaf in gravy. That’s right: Meatloaf, wrapped in bacon, dripping with gravy. ZOMG. And the portion was large enough that she could cut it in half, put it aside and take it to work for lunch. It just gets better and better.

BMAG | 5:57 am CDT
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Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Thursday night is guy night, the night I’m in charge of putting food on the family, and while I could have taken My Darling B straight home and burned some animal flesh on the Weber, instead I suggested that we spend the evening relaxing on the patio at Mickey’s Tavern with a couple of beers and some really great food, because tonight is destined to be the last really nice Thursday evening of the year before the weather takes a turn toward the truly craptastic.

It’s still early in the season, but nearly all the leaves that are going to turn color have already turned, and quite a few of them have taken their death dive to lie all dried up on the ground, waiting to crunch under the eager shoes of kids everywhere. We’ve already had quite a few dark and stormy weeks, but the last few days have been warm and sunny, probably to lull us into a false sense of security, then WHAM! comes the ice and snow.

So I figured, Let’s enjoy it while we’ve got it. I had the MickeyBurger (I think that’s what it’s called), a third-pound of deliciously spiced beef on a sourdough roll. I thought I’d be able to save half of it for lunch, but I must have been hungrier that I thought because I finished it off. B tried the special, beef tacos. She almost, but not quite, finished hers off – not that it wasn’t scrumptious; it was just more taco than she could handle.

The patio was only half-full when we got there but, by the time we left about an hour later, it was packed with lots of happily noisy guests who must’ve had the same feeling I had when they got out of work for the day and couldn’t bear to be shut up inside on such a beautiful evening.

lull | 9:48 pm CDT
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Friday, August 26th, 2011

My Darling B lucked out big time last night: she didn’t have to prepare a special dinner for our anniversary. Thursday night is guy night, so I put my awesomely manly talents to good use, fired up my trusty Weber grill, and burned some burgers for our celebratory meal. We had some sweet corn in the fridge, too, so I steamed that and served it as a side for bonus points.

Twenty-two years of wedded bliss. Here’s to twenty-two more. (I wonder when people stop saying that, not because they’re sick of it or marriage, but simply because it no longer seems possible. I mean, when we’ve been married fifty years I probably won’t be saying, “Here’s to fifty more,” because unless I get just about every organ replaced and they fit me with robotic legs, I doubt very much I’ll still be tottering around when I’m one-hundred thirty years old. Just sayin’.)

22 | 6:12 am CDT
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Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Dinner on Thursday night is my job, so it’s been known as guy night for many, many moons here in Our Humble O’Bode. I gave up trying to cook anything that couldn’t be grilled over hot charcoal, and most of the time I take the easy way out and treat My Darling B to dinner at one of our lovely local restaurants, which is how things worked out tonight. Around about three o’clock in the afternoon I thought, We haven’t eaten dinner at Mickey’s in ages, and immediately the thought was stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon: A hot sandwich, or maybe a pizza, with a cold beer on the patio at Mickey’s. It was a no-brainer.

At about quarter to five I started cleaning off my desk so that, by ten till five, I was marching up the hallway toward the front door, where I would normally wait by the curb for B to come pick me up. Humming a happy tune, still thinking about that sandwich and cold beer on the patio, I hit the front door and stepped out onto the side walk … then turned on my heel and went right back inside to wait in the lobby after I hit the wall of humidity that was waiting for me just outside the door. There was no way they’d have enough beer at Mickey’s to lure me out onto the patio tonight.

We still went there for dinner, though, and sat right under the air conditioner.

hum ditty | 8:11 pm CDT
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Thursday, November 4th, 2010

It’s guy night and I said I was feeling like having runny eggs on something, so My Darling B and I stopped at the co-op on the way home to pick up some bacon and I served all that on a plate with a side of toast and called it dinner. B loved it anyway. How lucky can a guy be?

That’s all I got. Let’s hear what Leo’s got.

Guy Night | 10:07 pm CDT
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Friday, March 19th, 2010

I had to come up with something quick and easy to serve for guy night because I had to have plenty of time to perform a minor plumbing unblockage on the pipe that the kitchen sink drains into. When it’s blocked all the goop backs up and pools in the basement sink. It’s pretty gross.

So we stopped at the co-op on the way home to buy some sliced ham and some cheese and I pan-fried some ham & cheese sandwiches. Voila! Dinner! We even splurged and I served them with Tater Tots because we called Tim on the way home to invite him over for ham and cheese and plumbing fun, but he didn’t answer his phone and apparently doesn’t check his messages, so we had the Tater Tots all to ourselves.

We also picked up copies of the Isthmus, a weekly advertising tabloid that just printed the schedule for the Wisconsin Film Festival that My Darling B and I started going to last year and will now go to each year until we’re too decrepit to move under our own power because it’s that much fun. We even asked for several days off from work so we could see more films this year. After our delicious, nutritious dinner we sat reading the film schedule for almost an hour, ticking off the films that interested us. We haven’t compared notes yet so I don’t even know whether or not B got through the whole schedule yet. I didn’t.

Then it was on to plumbing fun! I’ve carried out this particular operation before so I knew just what to do, and exactly how much I didn’t like to do it. First thing was to take apart the p-trap under the kitchen sink and the basement sink. Pretty straightforward, smells a bit, gets the hands very dirty. Next step: Bring in a garden hose, hook it up to the spigot in the laundry. That part really sucks because I have to either move the wash machine out of the way, which I’m not going to do unless I have all afternoon or a trained gorilla to move it, or I can work in the four-inch space between the machine and the wall. Takes forever to work a wrench in that four-inch space and I usually bark my knuckles bloody.

I hooked up another hose downstairs for the basement sink. To the end of each hose I attached a black rubber bulb. The bulb goes in the drain pipe and fills with water when the hose is turned on so that the bulb blocks the pipe and forms a plug from which, theoretically, no water can escape. A small hole in the end of the bulb shoots a jet of water down the drain. Turn both hoses on, let the water run for a while and, theoretically again, the water will push the blockage down the pipe and into the sewer. Worked last time I tried it. And worked again this time.

It’s a pretty simple, cheap fix, really. We already have garden hose, and the little black rubber bulbs cost about a buck fifty each at the hardware store. Saved us a couple hundred dollars getting a plumber out here, who would probably have done what I did.

The part I really hate is the clean-up. The hoses always dribble all over the floor no matter how care I am while I unhook them. I have to drag the long hose outside to drain it, and it weighs something like a thousand pounds when it’s full of water. The rubber bulbs get covered with nasty sewer pipe gunk that has to be washed off because it smells like Satan’s farts. I’d be tempted to just throw them away and get new ones if I didn’t use them so often. And finally, I have to put the p-traps back together. My fingernails are gray for a week after all this.

But the drains work and we can wash clothes again, yay.

guy night | 6:33 am CDT
Category: adventures in plumbing, daily drivel, entertainment, festivals, food & drink, Guy Night, movies, Our Humble O'Bode, play, Wisc Film Fest
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