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Cote de "Shades"
a boy named "sous" ... again
News Gazette Web Extra "Bar of the Week"
Probably most famous for their beer garden, Mike 'n' Molly's has been a staple of the downtown bar scene since 1998. Unofficial home to the "drinking frat" of Pi Omega Omega and host to the "Mr Mustache Competition" (some clips available on their MySpace page) Mike 'n' Molly's has a large selection of beers with 10 taps and numerous bottled/canned offerings.

It is a good place to hang out with friends after work or go for a quiet drink by yourself. The staff are efficient, friendly and some of the fastest servers in town. After 10 p.m., Mike 'n' Molly's plays host to many customers that work in the service industry and has a DJ on Tuesdays and Fridays.
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We entered the thirteenth annual B.U.Z.Z. brew-off this weekend.

Punchy and I won a blue ribbon for our American Pale Ale and an Honorable mention for Best of Show.

The lambic scored a third in the Belgian, French, and Sour ale combined category. A hard fought combined category.

Lucky for us, we have a few more bottles to share.
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And so we begin the annual attempt at preserving 100 jar of farmer's market goodies (and hopfully a few things from the garden).

7 down, 91 to go. Punchy brought home three pounds of asparagus from the hippy stand (there are a few other growers of asparagus, but his are notoriously tasty). We split the brine and spicing to give us 2 jars of tarragon-redwine, curried garlic, hot escabche, and dilled.

I hear that next week there'll be beans of all kinds, the last of the aparagus, rhubarb, and cooking greens. Punchy wants to make rhubarb syrup and possibly jam, and while I'd serve it on a menu, rhubarb just doesn't do it for me. My pleasure will be in playing with the greens; I'm thinking kimchee. Anyone ever can kimchee? Will a 15 min boiling bath be safe enough, or do I have to buy a pressure canner?
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  • seared buckhead filet, marscarpone potatoes, sauteed rapini, balsamic
  • tempura soft shell crabs, gingered rice, stir-fry asparagus, miso sauce
  • lamb carnitas, blackberry mustard, radish-arrugula salad

Long and short of intersession is hopefully over. I stepped off line a little early Saturday night in lieu of giving the boys extra hours. We'll see how the summer progresses, but I still need to tighten our budgets.

The rumor mill is flying. The current owner plans on leaving for San Francisco as his wife got a stellar job offer. No one seems to know if he's selling the place, or leaving management is someone's hands.

In other news, I just have to stop saying yes to everyone who needs help. Yesterday, I worked at Classic Events Catering from 8am till I had to be at Cafe Luna, and then (of course) I shot over to Mike 'n Molly's at 9PM to work the door. Home by 4AM. Enough, Shades.

Feelin' way: mellow mellow

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Started my shift by trying to fix the flat-top while also trying to work on the beer lines. Certainly frustrating, and slowed my prep down to a near stand still.

An unexpected shipment of blackberries gave me the opportunity to make some blackberry liquer, spiced blackberry brandy, and blackberry mustard. Any other suggestions for extending the shelf life?

After Tuesday's debacle of an evening, I had my old ass handed to me on a platter: Large girl's night out in the back room, a small group of one of the cook's friends who wanted "interesting" stuff, a tasting menu for two, and the welcome reservation from one of my favorite gourmand couples in town.

Tasting menu:
  • manchego pistou
  • dry martini risotto
  • soft shell crab crostini, blackberry mustard
  • copper river sockeye, miso buerre blanc
  • cheese board
  • chocolate flourless

I've got a tasting menu tonight for five. And I'm running behind already.

Oh, and the $50 rueben challenge is Friday. Anyone hungry?
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Specials 5/29/07


  • Sockeye Salmon, sesame crust, wasabi mash potatoes, bok choy, miso buerre blanc
  • Southwest rubbed pork chop, potato gnocchi, arrugula, avocado

  • Bison chili
  • House-cured salmon crostini, lemon aioli

Media Credit: Amelia Moore
Luke Bergkoetter, of Urbana, rolls goatballs, balls made of goatcheese, egg and flour, Tuesday afternoon at Cafe Luna in Champaign. "I'm making these goatballs look pretty under the demanding instruction of 'Shades,' the head chef," razzed Bergkoetter.

In the Daily Illini's Buzz
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Business at  Cafe Luna is not too bad during lunch, but dinner is weak in extremis. The cafe sits a little off campus, but no where near downtown, so the owners have already failed in following the magic rule of "location, location, location."

I'm uncertain what we can do this summer. Slim down, cut costs, spread word. Muddle through for the time being and gear up for the fall.

Meanwhile, I'm slowly changing the menu and suppliers. I want to remove the entrees from the menu and run two or three specials a night. There's been some resistance, but I figure I can get away with the experiment while things are quiet.

The burger experiment is still in effect, but I might pick up some bison brats from the Mools instead of the patties and try something different this weekend. Next week I start flying in fresh fish from Maine and switch to locally raised meats. Produce from our farms are getting a little more exciting, and asparagus will be around for a few weeks. After that, I don't care how much people love the asparagus, I'm not buying it from Meijer just to appease them.

Other thoughts include adding some more draft towers, opening later, and running a little bar service into the late hours. Just me and someone to help.

PS: Last night's special - "Salmon wrapped asparagus with house-made hollandaise powder". The hollandaise powder is mostly dehydrated lemon peel with malto-dextrin and salt.
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Ultimate Burger Experiment #1

Mool Farm Bison patty, fois gras, peach-blueberry compote, gruyere
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It's getting late to plant the hop rhizomes. I need to fell two more trees, build the raised bed out of the wet lumber, and then fill with good soil and manure.

And then there's the pile of branches to shred.