Hanging Out in Rockford: About nothing

July 1, 1993

It is early on a Saturday. I am at the Water Street Café for my morning cup of coffee. Jay Graham is here, looking all perfect in an immaculate outfit. He looks trim, tanned and professional. Really, I can’t stand how good he looks, and then he is nice to me, telling me how much he enjoys my column. It’s like Seinfeld, he says, about nothing. Well, sometimes, I suppose.

My cook Marco went on vacation to California last week. I am jealous. He has been gone almost two weeks now and is to return soon; that’s why I didn’t write a column last week. His wife Martha will be almost as glad to have him back as I will. He does everything around here, including repairs, and having him gone has really made me aware of how much I depend on him. Besides all that, I miss him personally. Marco is a really good man.

On Sunday, spurred by a moment’s impulse, I scratch a Carpaccio. I slice Calvetti tenderloin tails paper-thin and arrange them around the plate. In the middle I put a homemade mayonnaise that Miguel assists me in. One egg yolk, the juice of half a lemon, a pinch of raw garlic, and then Miguel drizzles in the olive oil as I beat, beat, beat. Dawn likes it immediately. Christa claims not to but then sits eating, cornering, commandeering the plate.

I am waiting for Izzy. Izzy is going to be a regular part of the Irish Rose crew now, we have decided. She ran her own business across the street, and the only thing she did wrong (in my opinion) was to be underfunded. In the past, I was underfunded myself, so I tend to be tolerant of such things. Better to try something and fail than never to try anything at all.

We do a lot of things right at the Irish Rose; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have been around so long. We also have a long way to go. I am not a people person, I am the first to admit it. I am not the charming, happy guy who always makes you feel welcome. It is one of my weakest spots. I’m fine at hanging out with my friends, but I am not always ready to talk to people, especially strangers. It is my perception that that is holding us back. That is precisely why I have hired my friend Izzy to fill that gap.

Rockford is not a city that is about gourmet food. In fact, most of the higher-end things we do go unrecognized unless there are people from out of town, or people who have been out of town. We intend to present ourselves better in that respect, and Izzy is going to be our point man.

This is a time of re-evaluation. This is a time of re-creation. This is a time of the new and different. This is a time for me to change what I do. A year from now, I will be doing something different. A year from now, hopefully there will still be an Irish Rose; it depends on others; are they willing? Will we be able to get a good cup of coffee? Only we who live here can decide.

A column about nothing. Or is it a column about something? Is it about the most important thing of ALL, rejecting your ego? And whose ego is it that should be rejected, yours or mine? Probably mine, and that is the most difficult part of all. We, none of us, like to admit the ego thing. That is about other people, and we are always right. Right?

I type my son an e-mail. How about my birthday? Turning 58 in Budapest on Oct. 27th? There is a goal! He writes me back excitedly. At least, someone is glad to see this old man. I had better get my butt over to Morrison Travel now.

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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