Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 184 - Grand Canyon National Park

I just returned yesterday from a wonderful three-day visit to the Grand Canyon . . . here's a teaser pano.

Day 183 - Corn on the Cob

It's not fried (grilled, actually), but this was my personal favorite. And so we end the gastronomic adventure of the San Diego County Fair . . .

Day 182 - Fried Klondike Bar

Chicken Charlie's is the premier destination for all things fried, and the hands-down winner was the fried Klondike bar. My guess is that they're frozen way below the normal temperature for ice cream so they don't melt in the oil, but it was a perfect combination of hot and cold, with sweet & creamy mixed in.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 181 - Funnel Cake

A fair classic, although I miss the ones with boysenberries from Knott's Berry Farm.

Day 180 - Texas Tater Twister

This was a new one - a foot-long hotdog wrapped in a twisted fried potato. I had mine dusted with garlic parmesan, but it still lacked a lot of flavor.

Day 179 - Aussie Beer Battered Potatoes

These were surprisingly good, although a little heavy, especially when coated in the cheese sauce.

Day 178 - Fried Kool-Aid

Apparently this is the hot (no pun intended) fried thing on the fair circuit this year - Kool-Aid powder mixed into sweet batter & dropped into the hot oil. How they're different from doughnuts, I'm not sure, but people were snapping 'em up for the sheer novelty.

Day 177 - Fried Cheese

And as we enter the fried foods section of our county fair excursion, the weak of stomach may now be excused.

Day 176 - General Lee

What's a county fair without the General Lee? "Just some good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm, beats all ya ever saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they was born . . ."

Day 175 - Pig Mania?

I recently spent a day at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, and when I saw these piglets, I tried to remember what their point value would be in Pig Mania . . .

Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field

I suppose the recent calls to replace Wrigley Field are to be expected; today's society always wants what's new, improved, and modern. But there's something that's just so . . . historic when you step off the El at the Addison Street exit and there it is. The oldest stadium in the National League, the second oldest in baseball. It was built in 1914, which is why you'll never see a stadium built like it (or Fenway Park in Boston) ever again. It's shoehorned into an actual neighborhood, bordered on all four sides by Addison and Clark Streets in the front, and Waveland and Sheffield Avenues in the back. At the corner of Waveland and Sheffield is a statue of the Cubs' late broadcaster Harry Carey, fittingly underneath the "Bud Light Bleachers" sign, as Carey had the tendency to drink heavily before and during games.

There's also a statue of Cubs' legend Ernie Banks along the Clark side; sadly his mantra of "Let's play two!" has become as obsolete as Wrigley surely will.

Inside, Wrigley lives up to its nickname of the "Friendly Confines," as it certainly isn't a big park. But what a park it is. Those ivy covered brick outfield walls, that magnificent hand-operated scoreboard, the lack of advertising, ribbon boards, and video replay give Wrigley such character, that, when coupled with the intimate seating, we could have been watching a game from the 1940's or 50's.

The food was good, although the lack of a pickle spear on the Chicago dog was a glaring omission, but then again, I was there to see the Cubs in their home environment, and wasn't that concerned with my meal - an overindulgence of fried Wisconsin cheese curds can do that to a person.

It was a fitting end to a whirlwind trip - four baseball games in four days in four different stadiums. I do miss my "brother" Thom; he truly is like family to me, and our shared love of baseball makes our strong friendship even stronger. It was also good to see Margie and Dave again, and to quote The Turtles, I'm glad they're so happy together. So thanks, Wrigley, and thanks to all of Chicago. It's a great city, but the weather precludes me from saying I'd like to live there. Cubs fans are a special lot, and to be a part of it, even for just one night, is something every baseball fan should experience.

It's baseball. Pure. Perfect.

Mars Cheese Castle

We left Milwaukee Monday morning and headed back to Chicago, but made a quick stop at the Mars' Cheese Castle in Kenosha, just off the I-94 freeway. It looked a lot more impressive than it was, and with the exception of some rather unique cheese products, wasn't all that exciting. And since I was leaving the following day and only had carry-on luggage, I wasn't going to run the risk of some glassy-eyed TSA agent making me dump the cheese or mustard I wanted in the trash. 'Cause "frying cheese" certainly piqued my interest . . .

Day 174 - Milwaukee River

Looking the other way up the river from The Harp . . .

Day 173 - Milwaukee River

The Milwaukee River runs right through the city, and businesses on the riverfront have great views, like this one from The Harp.

Day 172 - Brats & Curds

Knocked this back at the Milwaukee Brat House . . .

Day 171 - Beer

After the Brewers game, we started our nocturnal activities at the Water Street Brewery with this eight-beer sampler. The raspberry weiss was surprisingly good - tart, without any artificial raspberry flavor or cloying sweetness.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Milwaukee Brewers - Miller Park

The morning after seeing the White Sox in Chicago, Thom, Dave and I drove 90 minutes north up I-94 to Milwaukee to see the Brewers host Thom's hometown St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller Park, with its unique retractable roof, looks nothing like any other ballpark I've ever seen; my boss said it looked like an observatory. Out front is a statue of Henry Aaron, who played for many years with the Milwaukee Braves, then finished his career as a Brewer.

The scoreboard is well-designed, well laid out, and easy to read, especially with the roof partially open (or closed) so that the mound and home plate were both in the shade. Good for the hitters and pitchers, not so good for a photographer.

The iconic sausage race (Polish, Italian, Brat, Hot Dog, and Chorizo) was fun to look at, but the Presidents' Race at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. is basically the same thing.

But the food . . . my goodness. In addition to all five sausages in the sausage race (I tried the brat and chorizo), Dave had the barbecue sliders (brisket and pulled pork) and I had to have the authentic Wisconsin fried cheese curds (and yes, they really do squeak when you eat them, and yes, they're served in a paper canoe.)

And when Prince Fielder hit the eventual game-winning homer in the bottom of the eighth, I even got to see Bernie Brewer go down his slide and wave the flag. Granted, it's not into a giant beer stein, like it was in old Milwaukee County Stadium, but it's fun nonetheless.

And in the end, in a tribute to my dad, I raised a glass of his favorite beer, Miller Genuine Draft to Miller Park. And the clouds even masked the roof's shadow, even for just a bit.

Unique stadium, great food, awesome environment, overall, we had a blast.