Ohio State looks to improve to 10-0 and enter the bye week in style, which can only be accomplished by beating the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday. You may recall that the Buckeyes completed only one pass at Illinois last year. Although Ohio State continues to struggle at times in the passing game, we’re confident in at least doubling last year’s completion total. Actually, the Buckeyes keep coming closer and closer to putting together a complete game. It hasn’t happened yet, but just a few small improvements could make the difference. It’s hard to believe, but this is the penultimate home game for the 2012 season. Just a quarter of the season remains, with a road trip to Wisconsin two weeks from tomorrow and the home finale against TTUN on Nov. 24. You’re running out of tailgating opportunities so it’s time to make the most of your chances. We’ve got what it takes to keep your perfect season going.
About 50 miles from the University of Illinois campus, lies a town called Bloomington, which makes up the more populous entity in the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area. In 1937, Bloomington had a confectionery called Caramel Crisp, out of which Edward Shirk and his son Arlo sold a snack food called Redskins. Redskins were peanuts with the red skin still attached. In 1950, Redskins were repackaged as Shirk’s Glazed Peanuts and were sold in liquor stores. Three years later, the brand changed names again and went national, as Beer Nuts. Today there are more than a dozen snack products under the Beer Nuts banner, allowing you a wide variety of pre-game snacks to choose from this week. Beer Nuts, as the name suggests, go great with beer.
You might need something a little more filling than peanuts to tide you over until the main course is ready. That’s fine, because in the Chicago suburb of Northfield, IL, is a company that can more than satisfy your morning and early afternoon cravings. The Kraft Foods Group is a multinational food conglomerate with its mitts in all kinds of good eats. Fig Newtons, Cracker Barrel cheese, Cheese Nips, Better Cheddars, Chips Ahoy cookies, Oreos, Triscuits, Wheat Thins, and Ritz crackers are just a few of the offerings from which to choose. The sharp cheddar Cracker Barrel sliced thick on a cracker makes a great snack. Eat a lot. Next week’s a bye week, so you’re eating for two (games).
Chicago was once considered the “hog butcher for the world” until the Union Stock Yards closed in 1970. Pork products are still plentiful in Illinois, and so this week we’re making pork ribs. More specifically, we’re making spare ribs (bear in mind, you don’t cook ribs quickly—give yourself time). Although spare ribs are not the meatiest form of rib (there is more bone than meat), it is often more tender than back ribs, owing to a high fat content. You can make these on a grill, in a smoker or even in the oven. Start with a good rib rub. If you don’t already have a go-to rub, here’s an article that talks a bit about rib rubs, with links to a few different recipes. Assuming many of you who read this are grilling, this recipe talks about some important things you’ll need to know, such as grilling indirectly, using wood chips (always soak these before using, because duh) and using a drip pan half full of water. Cooking will take about three hours. The meat should easily pull from the bone when finished. If you’re using your kitchen, here’s a recipe that covers that. If you regularly use a smoker, you probably don’t need any instructions from us but we’d appreciate it if you’d share some of your delicacies. For your side dishes, any of the standard barbecue sides are fine: baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, cornbread, etc. Should you sauce your ribs? Some meat snobs opine that you should not—it only ruins a quality cut of meat, they say. I say go with what tastes good to you. A good rub on a good cut of meat is pretty darn tasty on its own, but I do enjoy the taste of a good barbecue sauce. Locally I grab a bottle from 4 Rivers Smokehouse here in Orlando . Their hot version is simply magical (seriously, order some online). Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Spicy is my preferred national brand.
Those who rely on this section really got screwed this week. Typically, McDonald’s brings back the McRib in the fall, but this year the fast food giant put the McRib’s return on hold to introduce their new “CBO” (cheddar, bacon and onions) Angus burger and chicken sandwich. So, the main course substitute this week for those strapped for cash and/or time is a pulled pork sandwich at your favorite local barbecue eatery. This could be genuinely high quality fare, such as you’d find at City Barbeque in Columbus, or average chain restaurant food, as with Sonny’s. The important thing is to get some pig in you. If you’re really broke, grab a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese (see “Starters” section).
The top five on the list of the best beers brewed in Illinois at ratebeer.com, and seven of the top 10, come from the Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago. Goose Island brews are available in 36 states and in Europe, but you may have to call around to find a distributor in your area. If possible, go with the top choice on ratebeer’s list, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. This brew won a gold medal in the Barrel Aged Beer category at the 2006 World Beer Cup, as well as a bronze medal in the 2010 Great American Beer Festival (Wood & Barrel Aged Strong Stout category). Beer aficionados will salivate at the very description:
A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.
Because the Bourbon County Stout is a limited release brew, it may be unavailable to you locally, even if you have access to Goose Island products. Any of their ales or Bourbon County brews are fine. If Goose Island proves elusive to find, substitute your favorite stout or ale. Ales may pair better than darker beers if you’re putting barbecue sauce on your ribs.
Ramzy says this week’s #SituationalBourbon is something called The Double-Inverted Modified Hot Toddy XL™. Sounds both dangerous and delicious. Mixed drink choices include the Chicago cocktail, the Chicago Fizz, or a little number called the Ice Bomb that is reportedly big with students at the University of Illinois. We’re skipping the wine this week after all the “whine” that came out of Happy Valley about the officiating last Saturday.
On his first night at the University of Illinois, in the fall of 1966, a man named Neal Doughty met a young drummer named Alan Gratzer. Gratzer was an established drummer in a band, while Doughty was just a dabbler on piano. By the end of the school year, Gratzer and a couple of band mates left behind their band leader/keyboard player and decided to form a band with Doughty on keys. By the time the members of the band returned to school in 1967, Doughty had purchased a Farfisa organ and had named the band REO Speedwagon, after a truck he had studied in transportation history—the REO Speed Wagon. They soon found their first gig at a frat party, where, predictably, a food fight broke out. The band did mostly covers and added singer Terry Luttrell in 1968. The next couple of years saw a few more lineup changes, including an important one. Guitarist Gary Richrath, a prolific songwriter, joined in 1970. Richrath would pen the band’s anthem “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” The band started to gather a following.
The band released a self-titled debut album in 1971 on Epic Records. It didn’t do a whole lot and the band started a revolving door at lead singer when Luttrell left, eventually forming the progressive rock band Starcastle, which sounded an awful lot like Yes. Kevin Cronin was brought in for the 1972 album R.E.O./T.W.O. but left during the recording of Ridin’ the Storm Out, which saw Michael Bryan Murphy on lead vocals. Murphy hung around for two more albums and Cronin returned to record R.E.O. in 1976. In 1977 Epic allowed the band to release a live album, owing to their great concert following and energetic performances. Live: You Get What You Play For went platinum. In 1977, bassist Bruce Hall joined for the recording of the outstanding 1978 release, You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish. The album went double platinum, cracked the top 40, and yielded songs that still receive heavy airplay on classic rock radio: “Time for Me to Fly” and “Roll With the Changes.”
Following the harder rocking Nine Lives album in 1979, REO Speedwagon exploded into the mainstream consciousness with their 1980 release, and this week’s Tailgatin’ tunage, Hi Infidelity. Released in November of 1980, Hi Infidelity was the best selling rock album of 1981. It eventually sold more than ten million copies and produced the band’s first No. 1 hit, “Keep on Lovin’ You.” Other hits on the pop singles chart included: “Take it On the Run” (No. 5), “Don’t Let Him Go” (No. 24), and “In Your Letter” (No. 20). These are all quality songs, but the album’s real strength lies in some of the deeper cuts, including “Tough Guys,” “Out of Season,” and the Hall-voiced “Someone Tonight.”
Cronin, Doughty and Hall are all still a part of REO Speedwagon today and they continue to tour and produce new albums. The success of Hi Infidelity spoiled the band a little, as they continued to churn out power ballads after the success of “Keep on Lovin’ You.” Still, the next three albums—Good Trouble, Wheels are Turnin’ and Life as We Know It—are all pretty decent.
Enjoy the game, and this gem from REO Speedwagon: