Sunday, May 23, 2010

#24 Strawberry Festival - St. Jacob, IL - May 23, 2010

#24 - Strawberry Festival - St. Jacob, IL - May 23, 2010

It was a beautiful Spring day that felt like the middle of Summer. It was the first day of the year to break 90 degrees, and you could hear people crying for miles. Personally, I love the heat and 80 degrees is about my minimum. I'm not sure it was necessary for the sign to read "berry glad", but it's that down home charm that I love about getting out of town. Or maybe I'm getting soft.

Nothing sounded more refreshing on a hot day than a nice crate of cool strawberries. I could almost picture the dew drops on the fresh berries. This festival did not disappoint (well more on that in the next pic). On the left is a slice of homemade strawberry pie and on the right a slice of yellow cake slathered with sweetened berries. The cake and strawberries tasted like cake and berries. But the pie was amazing. It had chunks of berries on top, softly bobbing in a strangely gelatinous goo that seemed unnatural in color. Yet it tasted amazing. It also had a layer of whipped cream atop the crust, which balanced out the sweetness perfectly. If I could bake, I might have to make a pie this weekend.

Waiter, there's a fly in my cake. It was almost too perfect, so something had to give. I moved my first berry on the cake only to find the following. As a
Festivaler, sometimes you have to play the conditions. Having little shame, I cut out the small section and devoured the rest. Delicious. I'm sure we have all done worse, knowingly or not. I'll keep telling myself that.

has been a kind of resurgence of the sno-cone as of late, and pictured is a strawberry one. A kid had commandeered making these treats, and I thought she would douse that poor ice with syrup. Yet I was wrong. Oh well, one more dollar out of my pocket that goes to this little festival. I can live with that. That kid knew her food costs when it comes to ice vs. syrup, and she will make a great business woman someday.

Car shows are a staple at these smaller festivals. They are pure money makers for towns, as people pay them to park their cars. That's
ok with me, and there's something about a Corvette that just looks cool. They just don't make 'em like those old Stingrays anymore.

Festival Trinket of the Week:
Ok, so this trinket has nothing to do with strawberries, but it was so ingenious I had to have it. It's a finger oven mitt. You put a couple fingers in one sleeve and your thumb in the other, and whamo you have a heat-proof pincher. Perfect for grabbing a cookie sheet or pan without having to put on a whole glove. Maybe these exist all over and everyone has one, but I hadn't ever seen it before and now I have one too. My first usable trinket, solid.

Video of the week: Meet Paul Jarvis and Don Curtis. This is the two of them doing an eerily spot on cover of "Crazy" by Willie Nelson. If you look closely enough, you can even see Paul is playing a bass and snare drum with his feet while playing the guitar. Apparently these two play the last Thursday at a small club right by where I live the last Thursday of every month. I might have to go check them out, but here is a song from one of their gigs if you can't make it.

This was a fun little festival, and only a 40 minute drive from home. I hadn't even heard of St. Jacob but had driven by it plenty in the past. Further proof that if you're looking, these opportunities of silliness are all around you. Sometimes you have to look a little harder.

In all honesty, the festival wasn't even the big draw to this event. There was a large bicycle race in the morning, and everyone seemed to have those horrid bike shorts on at the festival. Surprisingly, there are a lot of out of shape bikers who should reconsider the look. The race, combined with the heat, even claimed a rider that day. As I was enjoying my strawberry treats one older gentleman fell over in exhaustion. A small crowd gathered, the paramedics arrived, and I returned to my treats. Don't worry, he had heat exhaustion and was being treated by professionals. One guy at my table even joked that it was good he collapsed there, rather than on the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere Illinois.

Now I know what you're thinking, "But Riz where can I find a video of a guy that looks like Neal Patrick Harris in a red jumpsuit doing a silly dance and a rap about a strawberry slurpee?" The answer, right here. Did you know that strawberries are actually in the rose family? Or that strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside? Find other great facts and excellent growing tips from the University of Illinois. Or maybe you're more concerned with the history of strawberries or wonder where they got their name. Then this is a great resource for you.

Personally, I love strawberries. But nothing ends a warm summer night better than a tall glass of strawberry milk with Nestle's Strawberry Powder (It has to be the powder, the syrup is not the same). Next week is Memorial Day, which is the unofficial start of Festival Season. I'm still waiting to see if Brett Michaels will show for RibFest on Saturday. After that, I need a Horseradish Recipe to defend my title on June 5th. Ideas? Thanks berry much for reading. Sorry, I had to.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#23 Rhubarb Festival - Kankakee, IL - May 15, 2010

#23 - Rhubarb Festival, Kankakee, IL, May 15, 2010

This sad looking sign should have prepared me for the disappointment to come. As a veteran festival goer, I should have known not to arrive late. Alas, all of the rhubarb treats had been sold out for hours by the time I hungrily checked in. People regaled me about the rhubarb pies stacked one on top of each other on window sills as far as the eye can see. I could almost smell it. Even a city Alderman I met claimed to have not received a slice. Disappointing on a hungry stomach, and even more disappointing after driving almost 300 miles.

I mentioned I was hungry right? Sadly, there were only two vendor booths. One ice cream vendor (Of course no rhubarb flavored ones) and a regular 'ol Carnie style wagon. Seeing nothing original nor intriguing, I settled on this order of chili cheese fries. The chili had an inexplicable sweet taste and the cheese was inexplicably bland, but the fries were great. Yet, it was not what I came for.

Festival Trinket of the Week: I would not be denied in finding something rhubarb related. Little did I know that I would actually leave with an actual rhubarb plant. Obviously I wasn't going to get something ready to eat, so I'll plant this little guy, I've named Rusty, and make something myself in the next 3 months or so.

I was disappointed thus far in my trip, and I put out an open call to my friends in the Chicagoland Area to meet up. Luckily my friend Lisa answered that call and met me at the Golden Corral in Joliet, IL for this plate 'o food. In my defense I was really hungry as I hadn't eaten before the rhubarb debacle. Seen here are the following: cornbread stuffing, sauteed mushroom, broccoli with cheese, mashed potato, some type of steak, a half roast chicken, and a healthy salad. Please respect my buffet plate stacking skill. Needless to say plate one hit the spot.

I was able to catch up with Lisa after the meal, and being the green thumb she is, she suggested we split Rusty the Rhubarb in two. Now there are twins: one residing in Chicago and one in St. Louis. Now if only the citizens of each city would learn from this example when it comes to our sports teams. I have a strange feeling her rhubarb is going to get the better of this deal.

The website had also proudly announced a collection of original James Bond cars used in the films. Apparently there were only two. I was assured the collector had quite a collection in his warehouse, but couldn't transport them here (even a submarine from what I hear). This is a Jaguar used in the film Dr. No, notice the little missiles in the front grill and the mounted machine gun in back.

It could have been so different. I was originally scheduled to go to this Frog festival in Waynesville, MO. It is a festival created around this rock painted as a frog named, W.H. Croaker. This is festival pure gold. I mean they were even to have frog legs and all sorts of frog follies. I drove halfway there on Saturday, but turned around at Meramec Caverns when I saw this sad message on Waynesville's website, Due to high water in the City park, caused by the recent heavy rains, Frog Fest has been rescheduled to 9 October 2010. I shall not forget you in October my froggy friend, I shall not forget. "

Video of the Week: The trellis sure didn't help in exposing this band to the public. Here is the Heartland Bluegrass Band doing their own special rendition of one of my favorites, "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash. Visit Heartland's Facebook Page!

All told, I drove about 800 miles in search of these two festivals. The disappointment of the frog festival left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I researched all night for another festival on Sunday. I expanded my normal travel radius, and set sail for Kankakee. I knew the festival was from 10-4, and I didn't show up until 2:00. It's my fault really that I didn't get pie, but fault does not pie make. The elusive rhubarb has escaped me once again.

Having never used it before, I picked up some rhubarb 2 weeks ago but had no idea what to do with it. Which is why I was so set on this festival once I found it. Fear not, for this site called savour the rhubarb has plenty of great ideas to use the sour plant. But I still have to wait for Rusty to grow, and if you are interested in growing your own rhubarb then this site is a must read. As always if you want to know more about rhubarb than anyone ever should, then this is your site. To get the basics about the rhubarb plant then click here, apparently the leaves contain oxalic acid and are poisonous to eat. Maybe someone should have informed me earlier. If you are wondering what rhubarb, philosophy and John Cleese have in common, the answer is this song about a rhubarb tart. If that isn't enough, then heed Jack Nicholson as the Joker warning about people's rhubarb.

Rhubarb is just a funny word to say. Say it three times and see if you can say it without some sort of twang. Heck, Kankakee is no slouch either. Almost sounds like an exotic bird call. Apparently there are more rhubarb lovers than I imagined, and for you there is even a line of clothing with crafty rhubarb sayings. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks rhubarb is a funny name, and I'll look forward to meeting Rhubarb the Reindeer if I ever make it to a Tacoma Rainiers AAA baseball game.

I essentially went 1/2 out of 2 festivals this week. That's ok, as festival season goes into full swing starting Memorial Day Weekend. Will Bret Michaels make it to Rib America in St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend? Stay tuned.