Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just How Rainy WAS It???

If you live in the Chicagoland area (or watch the news), you may remember, painfully, the horrific rains we had here when the remnants of Hurricane Ike worked their way north this September. We had a record 11" of rain in three days in our town, and many people in Northwest Indiana lost their homes due to floods. It was a sobering, difficult time for everyone in the region.

It was that weekend - day two of the rains, that the Chicago Beer Society held its annual cookout in a park on the north side of the city (yep - there really IS such a thing as a beer society, and though I, a fuzzy yellow cat, cannot join, Jeff and Deb are actually card-carrying members).

Well - you would have thought that a big rain such as this would have caused the picnic to be canceled. NOT SO!!!!!!This annual event includes a rib cook-off, a chili cook-off, a salsa cook-off, and a dessert cook-off. Competition brings out the "strange" in people, I guess, and also the fact that people have already bought and prepared the food, and maybe also a little hope that the rain would subside at least sometime during the day.

So, we coped, each in our own different ways. Deb and Jeff wore rain ponchos. I'm not sure whether most people thought they were total dorks, or if they were envious, lol. Below, left to right, are Thomas (we'll miss you and Jen!), Jeff (modeling the beautiful rain poncho, purchased at an amusement park), Chris, and Pudgy. Below: Jonathan, Thomas, and Jeff. (I love taking pictures of guys who don't want to be photographed. You can SO see it on their expressions!!!!)Many people brought canopies, and lined them up around the perimeter of the picnic shelter. One guy just decided that getting soaked was a given, so he went and did a couple of belly slides in the flooded field. I unfortunately didn't get a shot of it, but here's what the field looked like:
And here's what he looked like after he did it:

Many set up grills under the canopies, and proceeded to cook.

Others managed to set up inside the shelter and cook in there. Here's Thomas - who had the most unusual chili, I think. He served it with sunflower seeds and an amazing cornbread that he baked in a skillet. Loved that!!!

Food and drinks were set up inside the shelter, Randy Moser brought his homemade, battery operated (amazing) sound system, and it all worked out.

The shadow box full of interesting items (below) is actually the trophy that gets passed along each year to the winner of one of the cook-offs (though I can't remember which one - perhaps someone will enlighten me by adding a comment!!! Based on the items in it, my guess is chili). My understanding of it is that it's a tradition that the winner takes it home, adds something to it, and then hands it off to the winner (if it be a different person) the following year. Too funny!!!

Here's just a sampling of some of the foods that people brought (not for the competitions):

The worst part of the rainy picnic was trying to figure out how to get there from your car while keeping the food dry. Or - maybe it was trying to figure out how to wade through the ankle-deep water to use the restrooms - see below!!!!. This is where plastic shoes come in handy.
What made the day fun were the hearty souls who braved the monsoons and managed to figure out a way to still cook their ribs, bring in their baked goods, homemade chili (look at the steam rising off this chili - mmmmmm - it was good!!!!), and homemade salsa: Here's a couple of pictures of a temporary break in the rain. It got everyone outside:
There was an amazing array of goodies - and of course, beer. And even some homebrews that weren't really beer - like this root beer!

For the dessert competition, Deb made a Black Forest cake, using cherries soaked in Kasteel Rouge beer (that's the brewery we visited in Ingelmunster, Belgium, this summer - the one in the castle!). It came out pretty nice, but the cherries needed a stickier syrup. Still tasted yummy!Here's me, striking a pose with the cake. We'll try that one again soon!

The winning dessert was bacon chocolate chip cookies. They were pretty good. There's been a weird thing going around among the Chicago area beer geeks this year about bacon and chocolate. So it seemed natural that a dessert pairing these two flavors would be a crowd pleaser. If you don't know what I'm talkin' about, try a Mo's Bacon Bar from Vosges ( Yummy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The guacamole was also outstanding. All that was left when I went back for more was these avocado pits!!! Whoever made that, I'd love the recipe!!!
This one I didn't try, but it sounds like something a cat would adore. I admit it didn't look too appetizing, but smelled really, really good:

When all was said and done, it was a good day. The empty cornbread skillet just about says it all.
My apologies to those of you who have been waiting for more photos of Europe. I just wanted to get these pics out there, for those who went to the picnic and want to see the pictures, and for those who wanted to go to the picnic but were unable (many people couldn't even get to it, because some of the expressways were closed!!!).

Next time, I'll show ya a couple of fine establishments that you'll want to visit if you ever go to picturesque Brugge, Belgium, and a crappy hotel to avoid (unless they remodel sometime soon)!!!!!