July 20th, 2006


Treated myself to lunch today ...

I usually survive on a "scavenger diet" of leftovers, various canned soups, on-sale TV dinners, and more leftovers (I seem to be the only person in the house who will happily eat that last half-cup of jambalaya or the remaining quarter of a quiche). However, today I did a Big Thing on the job search (see separate post), went to pick up a new job-search book, and found myself looking for lunch, relatively near this Thai/Vietnamese place, "Quang Noodle", that I always want to go to but somehow don't make it there.

Now, I grew up in the "culinary" world, and have been exposed to all sorts of foods from all sorts of places, so it's a RARE thing when I find something on my plate that I've never had before. And, given that I've ordered the same dish as I had today several times previously (although, admittedly, not in a year or so), I was very surprised to find stuff in my Muc Xao Hanh (squid with onions, or, more directly, #26) that I was initially unable to identify. Tempting fate, I loaded one of these strange small green pods (looking something like an over-sized elongated caper or a short miniature okra) onto my fork and bit into it ... Cardamom!

I recognized the flavor immediately, but was amazed because I'd never encountered this spice in its fresh form. Back in my "Indian Sweet Cookery" phase, I'd frequently shelled out the seeds from dried Cardamom pods to grind up for various puddings, Barfis, etc., and I'd never even thought that it came any other way (well, except for powdered). Needless to say, I was delighted (it was quite a burst of delicious flavor). Emboldened by this discovery, I also ventured to taste the other "mystery ingredient" on my plate, small rectangles of black/brown woody looking stuff ... again, one bite and I knew ... that was chopped up bits of Star Anise, which I likewise could not recall having encountered "in chunks" like that in a dish like this. Both of these ingredients brought depth and subtlety to a dish which also featured Jalepeno peppers, white and green onion, and (if I'm recalling correctly) some cilantro.

The best part? This is on their Lunch Special, where for $6.95 you get Spring Rolls (or Eggrolls), a cup of a very nice chicken/spice broth soup, and your entree ... such a deal! Unfortunately, that deal is only Monday through Friday (11am-3pm), and I kept missing those windows of opportunity (which is why I'd not been there for a while). Anyway, if you're looking for some great tasty food and a very good deal for a mid-week lunch in Chicago, keep Quang in mind ... they're also easy to get to, being just a half block north of the Chicago/State Red Line El stop!

Yummmmmmm ....

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Job search stuff ...

OK, so I "graduated" from Bartending School on March 13th ... and have been trying to get a job doing bartending now for four months. I have applied to over 80 hotels/bars/restaurants/cruiseships, etc. and have only gotten a less-than-one-gig-a-week temp deal and 3 callbacks (one of which resulted in that temp thing, one is still "up in the air", and one went with somebody else). I think I can safely say that I've FAILED in my quest to become a full-time bartender. This is not to say that I'm not going to be still applying places, but I'm at the point where I think (after eighty places have taken a pass on me!) that it's fair to say that it looks like the odds of my getting hired as a bartender are pretty slim.

I've been "stewing in my juices" about this for the past several weeks. Obviously, the whole "bartending thing" was a major step down from what's on my resume, and a significant waste of most of my supposedly "marketable skills". Unfortunately, I was plain out of ideas. Drawing a blank for a "Plan Z" to switch over to. Nada. "I got nuthin'"-land, big time.

Anyway, The Wife had suggested yet another new thing that I could get "retrained" in (that I could study on-line and do from home once certified), but I was less than enthused (although the particulars of it didn't seem too horrible), because, well, my track record with getting re-trained (and then being able to find work) is less than inspiring. So, before I jumped into that, I decided to have another go with a group that I'd worked with twice previously in this seemingly un-ending "find Brendan a job" quest ... a non-profit organization called the Career Transitions Center. I went down to their west Loop location this morning and had my "incoming" interview. The guy reviewed my previous files, checked out my current resumes, and listened while I detailed the sorry story of the past fifteen years of my life.

At least this guy was enthusiastic about my resume, my educational background, and my efforts (as pointless as they've been) so far, and indicated that he thought that they probably could do a lot to get me moving in the right direction. I have 3 or 4 workshops, networking events, and "coaching" sessions to get to next week, plus he suggested that I pick up (and work through) a copy of the delightfully-titled "I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This" which does seem to be a career-change book targeted to people in situations not vastly dissimilar to that in which I find myself.

I mean, if I was making decent money bartending, I could live with it ... but since that plan doesn't seem to be working out, I figure I'll give it another go (despite over five years of fruitless effort) on trying to find a "real job" which would make use of some combination of my Public Relations, Publishing, Meeting Planning, Programming, etc. skills, and hopefully get me back to earning a professional salary.

Anyway, picking up the aforementioned book was what had me up at the Michigan Avenue Borders, and led me to go have the delightful lunch detailed in my previous post.

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