Uncorked in the Rock River Valley, Part Two
By By Mike Leifheit
The night before Uncorked, the wine and food tasting at Davis Park, I tell my traveling companion that I am not going to drink tonight because I have such a huge day tomorrow. Yeah, right. I start out the right way by cooking at the Irish Rose Norte (North), but then we are on our way home and decide to stop for a drink. We are coming back the back way and decide to check out Scanlons. The place is packed with young people. So much for sobriety.
Then we stop at Big Cities for one last cocktail. Pistol Pete is playing. I havent seen him in years. I had forgotten how good he is. I dont recognize him, and my companion has to tell me who he is. Neither of us has any money, and Nino grudgingly accepts a check from my woman friend.
The next day starts too early. I have to do all the normal Saturday morning things, and then I have to get ready for Uncorked. Fortunately, Marco, my head cook at the Rose, has done much of the organization. But still, there are all the last-minute details and faux pas. At three oclock, the starting time, we are still not completely set up. Finally, we pass our health inspection and start to cook omelets. Fortunately, the crowd is slow to start.
It is stiflingly hot in our tent, and we take a chance and roll up the back flap. A nice breeze rolls off the river; it feels like air conditioning. Then the crowd starts to come, and it is all we can do to cook omelets fast enough. Finally, we develop a system with Raymon, my daytime host and waiter, taking orders and collecting, and Marco and I just making the omelets as fast as we can. During the course of the early and late evening, we cook more than 400 individual orders.
Scott Lawler from Galena Cellars stops by our tent to have an omelet. I tell him I will come up to his tasting booth when I get a break. Anj and Julie Ann from Fantini stop to say that they appreciated the mention in my column the week before. Mike Coppotelli from the Riverboat stops to visit, too. Everyone talks about what a nice event it is and how nice the crowd is.
My companion from the previous evening arrives, and I chide her for not coming earlier. She seems almost miffed with me. She doesnt realize I am kidding. The crowd is slowing, and I use her arrival as an excuse for a break. I want to look at the total festival, so we wander around and visit and sample. Scott Lawler gives me a taste of a wonderful Cabernet Merlot. My woman friend buys a bottle of his Seyval Blanc, slightly sweet, fruity, and made from a hybridized grape grown in Illinois. They give her a ticket to retrieve it at the gate. When we do, Steve and Sue Cooter are operating the volunteer booth to distribute the wine.
Then we walk down to the food area and visit with Marsha Liou at the Singapore Grill tent. Marsha says they had a line all night for the chicken satay. We bump into Mike Coppotelli again, and he tells me that he sold every single dessert he brought. Its too early to start loading, so we walk over to Toms Tap to sit in the air conditioning and have a cool one.
We bump into John Phelps, who is there helping to promote the Carlyle Brewing Company. That is the brewpub that is being built in the old Possession Placers Antiques building. John is providing part of the financing in his position as director of the Rockford Local Development Corp. It comes time to put things on the truck, and I leave him with my lovely companion and head back to Davis Park to load up. I see Megan Gallagher, the organizer of Uncorked, and she gives me a hug. She is so excited about the success of the event.
When I get to the tent, Raymon and Marco have everything but the cooler loaded. Thank Heaven! I head back to the Irish Rose. The whole place is packed with people from Uncorked. I am so tired, it is all I can do to unload the food from the van. We leave the cooler on the truck for the next morning, and I go next door to Bacchus to have a glass of wine and wind down. I am sitting at the bar with my glass of wine thinking the night is over when my lovely friend shows up. What a perfect end to a perfect day.
Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheits Hanging Out In Rockford reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330