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Wednesday Potluck: Serving up Turnovers

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Can Northwestern’s Lucky Streak Continue in 2019?

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl - Northwestern v Utah Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Not being much of a cook myself, or at least not someone who greatly enjoys the endeavor, I’m a firm believer in the concept that the best tasting food is food that you didn’t make yourself. Unfortunately, I’m a lowly Cornell grad, so that means I have to make my own food like the plebe that I am. I also have to serve it to myself, it’s a whole deal. Northwestern grads, of course, have manservants to bring them their victuals, attractively arranged and promptly served with the utmost attention to detail.

Today’s question is: what’s the best dining experience you’ve had in a restaurant? Maybe it was because of the food, or maybe because of the service, or maybe both! And a follow-up: if you had a manservant, what would you make him do?

BrianB2: I definitely cannot think of a single specific incident that blew me away in terms of a remarkable dining experience. I am certainly not drawn to grandiose restaurants that cater to those with the most peculiar set of standards. Maybe it’s the price, maybe it’s the commitment, maybe it’s because I am smelly slob that thinks a cummerbund is that dude that played Doctor Strange in those superhero movies.

Give me some outdoor seating on a pleasant day, a food truck and a brewery and I am probably going to walk away happy.

When I hear the term “manservant” my mind pretty much defaults to an image of “Mr. Slave” from South Park. I don’t know what that means, perhaps I have some inner-self-discovery to do, but that is neither here nor there.

LPW: Oh man, it has to be the top-notch service I’ve gotten at Halls Chophouse in Charleston, South Carolina. Also, the steaks are out of this world amazing. Seriously, if you go to do Charleston and do anything, get a steak there!

MNW: Excellent question about the local cuisine, WSR, thank you for asking.

As Noah noted in our InsideNU interview earlier today, downtown Evanston has changed a lot in the last decade, as colorful local places from Nevin’s to The Keg (RIP) have closed down in favor of development and the urban bourgeois high-rise #lyfe that white suburbanites are all over. Hell, even local New American bar Prairie Moon had the audacity to move across downtown, while overpriced (but still delicious, but they know it) Bat 17 remains a good place for sandwiches and beer towers.

For my money, if you’ve got a little time in Evanston before or after the game, check out Sketchbook Brewing Company off the Purple Line stop at Main Street for an excellent range of beers, especially some good sours. There’s decent barbecue (RIP Merle’s) at Smylie Bros. Brewing, as well, along with what I recall as a Raspberry Wheat beer of some kind that I rather enjoyed. For more traditional bar experiences, the aforementioned Prairie Moon is a winner, and the Celtic Knot does the dingy Irish pub thing pretty well. AND for fried chicken, it’s Chicken Shack on Ridge Ave (disclaimer: I used to live about a block north of The Shack, and it got me through some of the worst hangovers of my life. Cash only, eat the bread).

Boilerman: I don’t really get to eat out much anymore unless I’m traveling. Customer Service isn’t really a high priority in Europe so while the food is quite good, the experience isn’t anything near what you find in the States.

That said, nothing beats the experience of a steakhouse in Vegas. Cash is King and they go the extra mile to provide top notch service. Tapas in Aria is excellent, as is Andiamo’s at The D if you’re downtown.

On the local scene at Purdue, head across the river into downtown. My personal favorite is DT Kirby’s. If you’re a Cubs fan, it has a distinct Wrigley feel to it, complete with Old Style on tap. Get the fried mushrooms and if Don’s around and you’re sitting at the bar, have yourself a shot of Jamo.

Creighton: The taco truck I go to for lunch once or twice a week is my favorite place to eat in town. There are some bougie taco restaurants in Charlottesville that charge $5 or $6 per taco, and none of them are as good as the truck by my office. I usually get 2 chorizo and 2 al pastor and it comes out to under $9. Bonus points for the guy working in the truck knowing me by name and throwing in the extra hot sauce without me asking.

BRT: I agree with my colleagues that the quality of the food ultimately matters more than the service, but I do love good, attentive service on the rare occasions I’m eating fancy. My most memorable experience of this was having afternoon tea at The Ritz in London. You pay out the nose for it, but the service is impeccable in every way, and it’s a memorable experience (the food is good too).

Football

Yesterday, we talked about how Northwestern had a surprisingly successful year, given rather lackluster offensive statistics. One explanation of this was that they turned out to be rather good at ending up on the right side of the turnover equation. This wasn’t true early in the season: they were -2 vs. Duke, and -3 vs. Akron, and both were games that they lost. But as the season went on, they improved, ending up with +5 turnovers in conference play. Perhaps not coincidentally, they only lost one conference game.

Will Northwestern be able to continue its turnover luck in 2019, or was this a lucky blip on the radar? Where does your team find good luck? Is it in one opponent consistently being terrible when they play you, or in a certain statistical category?

BrianB2: I would have to think that turnover “luck”/turnover margin would have to be about the most difficult thing to predict. I will just resort to the law of averages and say that since last year was “okay” on the turnover front, they are bound to regress this year.

Good fortune and Maryland football are polar opposites, it is an outright impossibility that those two things will ever be brought together. Former 5-star linebacker from Alabama, a shoe-in to come home to Maryland...goes to Houston, reminding us of that time Jalen Hurts was also a shoe-in to transfer here. Jeshaun Jones, probably our number 1 wide-out this year...torn ACL. Lorenzo Harrison, very talented depth back… carted off the field during practice. All of this is within the last like four days, three weeks before the season even starts.

LPW: There might be a little dropoff with Montre Hartage now on the Dolphins. I’ll further dig into this when I write my defense preview later today.

MNW: The world holds its breath.

There should be a drop-off, yeah, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the fabled Pat Fitzgerald Close Game Record statistic pretty well parallels Northwestern “winning” the turnover battle. In part, though, those margins are a much a reflection on the offense as they are the defense: When Clayton Thorson couldn’t be game-manager and the few times Justin Jackson the Ball-Carrier or Jeremy Larkin or Isaiah Bowser couldn’t hold onto the ball, Northwestern lost. I hardly find that surprising. Interception God JR Pace (a junior safety) does return, but the Wildcats’ corners will make me nervous until the end of time.

Overall on defense, though, the ‘Cats will rely on their linebacking corps to anchor both the secondary with their ability to cover across the middle and their defensive line with their propensity to plug gaps and make tackles. That’s a high-wire act, but if there’s one thing Pat Fitzgerald’s teams have excelled at, it’s playing disciplined football. There’s a reason Blake Gallagher seamlessly succeeded still-playing Paddy Fisher as the Big Ten’s leading tackler -- Northwestern’s linebackers have reacted well and covered up a lot of deficiencies. If that middle can hold, it’s Joe Gaziano chance to get to the quarterback.

And ask Brian Lewerke -- watch out if he does.

Boilerman: There’s bound to be some regression to the mean, right? I think a more impressive stat is that the Wildcats were the least penalized team in the nation last year [MNW: Ooh, helluva stat/call, Bman]. Playing disciplined ball may be as important as turnovers when it comes to sustaining drives and getting off the field on defense. If they’re able to maintain that discipline, it should bring some measure of success.

Purdue obviously finds good luck in exposing Ohio State in Ross-Ade. Never forget a proper Purdue Harbor’ing.

BRT: I don’t think turnover recovery is straight up luck, so I don’t expect Northwestern to turn in a catastrophic year this year in that respect. As far as Nebraska goes, they’ve been really lucky regarding Michigan State since they’ve joined the Big Ten. Nebraska has won far more matchups than they really should have, given the state of each program during that time frame.