Hanging Out in Rockford: The first show

I have a really good week. I have been sick for some time and not going out all that much. This week I make up for it in a rush. On Sunday, Elisha and I try a chain, which shall remain nameless. Let’s just say it starts with underdone brown-and-serve rolls and doesn’t progress much from there. I really shouldn’t expect too much from a chain restaurant, I guess, but I check every one out in the hope that one will fool me. Really, their food is right on the mark for most of the Rockford public that grew up eating out of the Logli and Hilander freezer cases. They should do very well.

Tuesday night, we are trying to think of a place to go eat that is a little different. We settle on Singapore Grill and aren’t disappointed. Marc Rapp, the new chef from Paragon, sits near us at the bar and buys our first round of drinks. I remark to Elisha about what a nice guy he is and vow to make plans to sit at his Sushi bar in the near future. We eat chicken satay, caramelized short ribs and shrimp in a spicy orange sauce. Bruce stops by and is his usual charming self.

Wednesday night, Dan Scoggins, my new Rockton manager, and I have plans to go to the Everett’s Liquor wine tasting. I have never been there before. Before going, we taste Australian wines from Distinctive Wines with our salesman Dan Walsh and Tom, who imports them. On a last-minute impulse, I call Elisha and ask if she wants to go to the wine tasting. She turns up almost immediately, and we are off. As we drive north, I call Dan at the Rockton restaurant (he has gone ahead of us to have some dinner before the tasting) and ask him if he wants to accompany us to dinner at the FireHouse in Beloit (on Prairie Road).

At the FireHouse, Dan and I have big steaks. Elisha has the Wednesday night ribs special. Bill, the co-owner and the brother-in-law of my good friend Jim Hughes, stops by the table to chat (with his two sons). The steaks are succulent. They get them from a small, independent supplier (I think it is called Creekstone Farms). They are certified Angus. The steak fries are good, too.

Then it is off to the Beloit Businessman’s Club and the wine tasting. It is just down the hill from the wonderful old mansion that hides on the back streets of South Beloit. Once inside, we run into all sorts of people we know. We hang out, and drink wine and talk to everyone. I see Bill Benson, whom I have known since high school. He is best buddies with Dave Homewood, our Harlem High classmate, and the renowned California winemaker.

Thursday night, I am supposed to have a date after the Rock Valley wine appreciation class, but Elisha calls while I am at the market and tries to change it to Friday. Initially, I think this will be OK and call Paragon to make reservations to sit at the Sushi bar at 8:30. But then, I remember that we are filming at Kryptonite Friday. Holland is there with the Snaggs. It will be our first night out with the new crew, Brett and Allison. I have to call and express my regrets and then call Paragon to cancel my reservation.

Then I have a brainstorm. I call Brett and ask if he and Allison can come early. I want to tape the Rock Valley College wine appreciation class as the first part of the show. They are both into it and show up in plenty of time. Brian Lynch is there; so are Tony Artale and Brian Black. We get all sorts of good interviews with them and with Megan Gallagher, who teaches the class. We are really excited about the video we get.

Then Allison has a genius idea, and we walk to Kryptonite. Past Bacchus; past Little Italy; past Carlyle Brewing Company and Paragon; filming as we go. At Kryptonite, all goes very well. Brett has the whole technical thing planned out. Elisha stops by and does a cameo interview with Holland Zander. We all really like the interview. I can hardly wait to see it on the screen.

Afterward, I walk over to Paragon and sit with some friends for a glass of wine. I am so excited about our filming session that I wax rhapsodic to the assemblage at my table. I just can’t stop talking about how wonderfully I think it has all gone.

Then I wander slowly back to the Irish Rose. Troy is still there, and he makes me eggs out of the kindness of his heart. I walk upstairs to my little apartment and look out the window at the little flag atop the Faust. It is blowing straight south.

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 WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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