Sweet Corn and Sushi

Travels with Smartacus. Part 5.

The Midwest is a good novel: smart, layered and with lots of heart. I hope to find some fresh peaches before I leave, with that little blush people here get in their cheeks when it turns cool. Or blueberries. Or Midwestern sweet corn that generates its own butter from within — a movie glow you don’t see anywhere but here.

More on corn in a moment.

Needless to say, it’s been a great summer for a road trip, in these afraid-to-fly times. River rides and long lazy days in the big backyard. Could stay here all summer, listening to John Prine’s ode to Twin Lakes, or hanging with my nephew and nieces. Or listening to the robust cicadas growling from the trees.

The Midwest has been so rich, so fresh, almost creamy, like something they give kids after they have their wisdom teeth out. You could sip it through a straw.

So glad we came.

There were risks to the road trip, but generally folks were masked on the way here, and the motel rooms were well scrubbed, with the whiff of alcohol to them (much like me).

In Jackson Hole, one of our first stops, everyone was masked. At Rushmore, hardly anyone. Wyoming was vigilant. South Dakota wild and free. The ‘burbs of Chicago follow the rules, even if they grumble about them a bit. Better safe than sorry.

Among our stops, the sensational sushi place across from the Catlow Theater in my hometown of Barrington. The Tudor-Revival Catlow is legendary – dates to the silent-movie era and still looks like an elegant Welsh roadhouse.

Now this hipper-than-thou sushi place thrives right across the street, serving up a fairly traditional menu – nothing too outlandish – to big-batch Midwesterners craving fresh tuna.

The music’s too loud, too electronic, but the wait staff is totally professional. I’d put it on a par with any fish house in LA, but I haven’t been to all the fish houses in LA. Just the bars. Some of them twice.

Also visited the liquor aisles of the Midwestern supermarkets, the best liquor aisles in the world. They go on for about 300 yards, and include all brands of bourbon and scotch, brandy and moonshine. The tequilas are a little light, the only weak spot. Honestly, you could make a summer of it

Took Susie Kelly to dinner, the one with the Irish eyes and supermodel hair. Talk about movie glow. Kelly coulda had a career.

Now, I don’t seek much in the company I keep, though I prefer down-to-earth supermodel types. “You’re weird,” Kelly told me at one point. It’s as if she can read my thoughts.

As you know, I’m always trying to be the best version of myself. After the date, I reviewed what I did, how Kelly dodged my goodnight kiss like a woman fleeing hornets. Remember the quick-twitch head feints of Allen Iverson? Kelly was even quicker. I went right, she went left…back and forth. You have to respect that.

Worst though, was that I overtipped at Chessie’s, another local eatery, despite the fact that the service wasn’t all that swell. The server brought G & T’s with no lime, no nuthin’, then disappeared for 20 minutes, when it wasn’t that busy. Thought I was gonna die.

Give me your crumbs, or some little morsel the other diners left behind? Maybe a slice of lime?

I’m always trying to be the best version of myself. After the date, I reviewed what I did, how Kelly dodged my goodnight kiss like a woman fleeing hornets #ChrisErskineLA #Roadtrips #Romance

Yet, I tipped 25% anyway, following my self-promise to help restaurant workers as best I can. I tend to overtip while on vacation. Well, I overtip almost everywhere.

I even tipped Kelly 5 bucks for almost kissing me.

Meanwhile, someone asked for my gin and tonic recipe, and here in the sweaty war zone of a Midwestern summer, it varies a little bit.


  1. Bang a bunch of limes with an old hammer, then funnel the juice into a glass with too much ice.
  2. Add a spoon of simple syrup (optional)
  3. Fill glass with Bombay or Hendrick’s till it tickles the rim.
  4. Pour the tonic in the gardenias, for you don’t need tonic. In fact, I’m not even sure you need the limes.


If you like that recipe, you will like my niece’s corn-on-the-cob recipe even more. Inspired by Mexican street corn, Mel’s recipe goes something like this:

  1. Combine a cup of mayo and a generous tablespoon of sour cream and a dash of garlic powder.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix grated parmesan with cilantro, chili powder, garlic powder (again), salt, pepper and cayenne (not too much cayenne).
  3. Boil corn 10 minutes, then toss on grill for 5 minutes, till it starts to brown a little.
  4. Once off the grill, spackle the corn with mayo-sour cream, pretty thick.
  5. Generously sprinkle on the spice mix
  6. Drizzle with lime juice (this is key).

You’re welcome.

Climb aboard for our 5,000-mile road trip into the heartland and back. Next stop: Iowa City.

13 thoughts on “Sweet Corn and Sushi

  1. Thank you, Chris, for taking us along on your road trip! It’s a real treat for those of us who are staying home! I really MISS traveling!!!!!

  2. You are so lucky to be out ther among the living! So happy for you and all the people you’re getting reacquainted with! And they, you! I’m sure they’re loving it, too!
    Can’t complain, 76 and still doing water volley ball with similiarly-aged friends!
    Bet you have bugs at night outside. California living has been beautiful so far this summer. Don’t wish you were here! Stay where you are! Keep writing!

  3. How fun!
    Thank you for writing. Really love your thoughts & words. I share them with my 95 year old Irish Mom who lives in a Palos Verdes, CA nursing home & she smiles & laughs! The best medicine!
    Thank you for brightening our day!
    Safe trip back to LA!

  4. seems like some things don’t change, we Irish Catholic lasses was well schooled to never kiss on the first date! Come home safe! and KIT!

  5. I gotta learn to drink G&T’s. Never had one (are we still friends?) But these whiskey cokes are getting old and I need a new drink. I will try your recipes. Five or ten times to get it right. Love seeing the midwest with fresh eyes. Old, but fresh 🙂 Say hello to my ocean for me when you get back, please? Peace.

  6. Thanks, Chris! It is so nice to read about
    traveling. It sounds like you are having
    a great time. I still haven’t switched
    from martinis to g&t, but I’m very
    tempted after reading your recipe,
    although I guess I will need a
    gardenia plant nearby. Safe travels.

  7. So enjoying your trip! You are a Godsend sharing your pics and adventures. Love California – but you sure make the mid west look very appealing!

  8. Wow…I remember travel, and now I can remember why it was so much fun. Thanks for taking us along.

  9. Loved your trip. Your comments about masks worn or not worn. You said “Better safe, than sorry” I say, “Better safe, than stupid”

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