Tag Archives: Saint Louis

Recipe: Red Hot Riplets Chicken

During our first married Christmas, Mary and I brought back a bag of Saint Louis’s famous Red Hot Riplets chips back home to enjoy. As far as chips go, these are some of the best in the country, so we always bring some back. Unfortunately, we thought the bag was partially crushed on the last leg — the drive from Cleveland to Washington.

Mary was sad that the chips might have been destroyed. So, I suggested we use it to coat some chicken breasts and bake them in the oven. Tonight we opened the bag to find them unharmed (the air saved them) but went forward anyway.

Here was the delicious result:



* 2 eggs, beaten
* 1/2 big bag of Old Vienna LLC’s Red Hot Riplets (Order online)
* 2 large chicken breasts, halved into four pieces.


1. Preheat oven.
2. Beat eggs in mixing bowl.
3. Crush to desired texture 1/2 bag of Riplets.
4. Toss individually with care and place on Pam’d, tinfoil-covered tray.
5. Bake at 375º for about 40 minutes, or until fully cooked and serve.

“Thanks, friend. Yours, Patrick Wessel”

My late friend Patrick Wessel was a hipster years before hipsterism was cool. I think he’d probably regard most modern hipsters as phonies.

Since today would have been his 27th birthday, I figured I should share a memory. A facebook message he sent me and others. Patrick was always the entrepreneur.

Patrick Wessel
  • hello friend

    hello friend, i am selling my keyboard. before i put it on ebay, i thought i might let you know. the price is 695. it is a roland e-200 intelligent keyboard. go to http://www.keyboardmag.com/story.asp?storycode=117 to see a review of this keyboard. it is a great keyboard and the retail price is 1200. but, at 695, i am giving you one hell of a deal, friend.

    THIS GREAT KEYBOARD INCLUDES a roland dynamic footpedal priced at 50 dollars FOR FREE! also included is a keyboard stand, valued at 100 dollars, FOR FREE! this is a bargain you can’t pass up! if you are interested, let me know as soon as possible, because this baby will be up on ebay very soon, where bidders will probably send the price to about 1000 dollars.

    ALSO, now available from me is also a KEYTAR. That synthesizer sound from the 80s is back as can be, and YOU NEED a KEYTAR. RIGHT NOW. Made in Italy, this Roland AX-7 (see http://createdigitalmusic.com/2005/04/21/keytar-lives-rolands-ax-7/ for a review), is hip, and now you can be hip to it! If you don’t have a keytar, you’re not a hipster…you’re a hipster doofus!

    The Roland AX-7 is now going for the low-low price of $195, even though it is valued at $495, and is ACTUALLY PRICELESS! It includes a strap and a midi cable. You’re not going to find this keytar this cheap, anywhere else!

    Both of these instruments are in near-mint condition. Just slight use, which includes a few very small scratches. Nothing noticeable.

    This is one great deal that you can’t pass up. If you or anyone you know is interested in making a purchase before I put these babies up on Ebay, let me know, ASAFP.

    Thanks, friend. Yours, Patrick Wessel

My LaRussa Story

Deadspin is running a comment-themed post on former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa called Tony La Russa: Asshole Or Dipshit? Let’s Discuss! Clearly, they’ve drawn their own conclusion already.

For two years, I lived in the same building as Tony LaRussa (Dave Duncan, Reggie Walker, Larry Walker, and Tony Womack). The Chase Park Plaza is a lovely hotel in the Central West End that had a nice high rise apartment complex. The players lived in the apartments, which were affordable (I paid more to live in an Alexandria basement) and the coaches lived in the hotel.

Tony LaRussa was not the kind of guy who spent a lot of time in the public places at the Chase. I saw him on a handful of occasions, and he always stopped if somebody asked him for an autograph.

The other Cardinals were very polite as well, and in summer of 2004 I closed the bar with Larry Walker and his wife. Larry has a hilarious comedy bit on being a Canadian in the MLB. My next door neighbor was Reggie Sanders, though I rarely saw him, he was a gentleman.

Here’s the LaRussa story. The Chase had 3 restaurants, the Tenderloin Room (highly recommend), Cafe Eau, and Eau Bistro. I was pals with the Bistro’s manager, Sara.

I went over for a drink with a friend one night and she said (paraphrasing):

Jim, you’ll never guess what happened to me in the parking garage. I was walking from my car into the building, and there was a sports car blasting rock music. I stopped, and the music stopped and Tony LaRussa walked out.

He looked at me strangely, and said:

“What, you don’t like YES?”

Sara replied that she did. He nodded, and she walked on to work.

Draw whatever conclusion you want, but in my experience, Tony LaRussa is neither an asshole or a dipshit. He’s a stand up guy.

As a child, my girlfriend wrote him a fan letter. She made suggestions on how to improve the team, and he responded with a detailed handwritten note that she treasures to this day. 

Rest in Peace, Jerry

Today, a friend of mine is being laid to rest. Jerry Wamser was a mentor to many youth, including me. He died 65 years young. I wish I could be there.

Much better tributes have already been written, so I won’t re-create the wheel.

All I will say is this:

Jerry changed my life. He gave me sage advice. For that, I am eternally grateful to be one of “Jerry’s Kids.”

I will continue to use the term “Yankee Dollars” with pride and remembrance of this great man. Maybe I’ll even take up racquetball. America has lost a great Patriot.

Crony Capitalism in Saint Louis?

Stl Food Truck Map

See this map? Imagine if you, as a Saint Louisan wanted to get food from delicious food trucks for lunch. Reason informs us:

The text is a little hard to read, so let me help you out. Vendors can’t park in the red parts. Or the blue parts. Or the yellow parts. Also, stay away from hydrants and bus stops.

The Post Dispatch also notes:

City officials emailed a map Thursday to about 20 food-truck owners and operators that details the large portions of downtown that are off-limits for them to park.

The updated map draws a 200-foot no-parking-zone around every brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Downtown Vending District, which runs roughly from 18th Street east to Interstate 70/55 and from Cole Street south to Chouteau Avenue.

The trucks also are not allowed within 200 feet of other types of street vendors or within several blocks of Busch Stadium, America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome. A previous version of the map included suggested areas where food trucks could park; the new version does not.

In short, Saint Louis has been bought by restaurants who don’t want you to have the choice of food trucks. That’s how I see it. Businesses cozying up with government to stifle competition is crony capitalism, and it is wrong.

SLU Alumni and famed restaurateur, Chris Sommers tells the Post Dispatch:

“Like any new industry or trend, as soon as everyone jumps in, the regulations follow, which often makes sense. In this case, I think the city is over-regulating,” Pi Pizzeria owner Chris Sommers said. “They do need to protect existing businesses, but the 200-foot rule plus the silly Cardinals and Convention Zones are too much.”

Of course, I agree with him that the regulations go too far, but disagree that it’s the role of any government to “protect existing businesses.” Sommers’s politics are a tad different than mine, though.

Sommers’s Pi Pizzeria (which is in DC) also operates food trucks both in Saint Louis and in Washington, D.C. — so for him, he has potentially conflicting interests. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Vote and sound off in the comments…

[poll id=”19″]

UPDATE: Thanks to the Show Me Institute  for the link. Check out their story: Papa John’s and The Case of the Over-Regulated Food Trucks

TIF Financing is a Band-Aid for Saint Louis’s Economic Woes

Recently, STL Today (the webpage of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) asked readers whether or not TIFs are a good idea. I said no.

Now, I don’t even care what this project is. It could be a factory that makes labradoodle Build-A-Bears or one that offers a cure for meth addiction (a big problem for Missouri and Illinois.) It could be condos, apartments, a thriving artisan district. I don’t care what it is: taxpayer-funded incentives for development are never a good idea. But I think those entities should be allowed to make those mistakes.

Earlier in the day a friend of mine called me “insane” for positing that people calling Albert Pujols greedy should never take a job that offers them substantially more money at the risk of being hypocritical. So, maybe today is one of those days for me.

But back to Tax Increment Financing, or TIFs. These are common in virtually all states, and states, cities, and counties also often have separate programs that do very similar things: mainly give a benefit to an individual, group, or company for doing a certain thing. In short, TIFs are a form of incentives borne by taxpayers either directly or indirectly. They are subsidies, and they distort markets.

Example: Ohio Governor John Kasich worked out a deal to keep American Greetings in Northeast Ohio. The city of Brooklyn, Ohio raised its city income tax, which was a factor in American Greetings seeking alternate opportunities. So, Ohio will spend (or forgo in revenues) nearly $100 million over 15 years to keep the company in Ohio.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Advocates of a regional approach to economic development were thrilled that American Greetings will stay in the area. But they said competitive courting of the company could hurt the region’s economy.

“We are pitted against ourselves,” said Hudson Mayor William Currin, who is active with the Regional Prosperity Initiative, a 4-year-old group dedicated to regional land-use planning, revenue sharing and cooperation among cities.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Competition is a good thing. Regional planning has gotten Cleveland, well, nowhere. Cuyahoga County and Cleveland City have lost a lot of people since 1990. The wrong answer is saying “competitive courting” (i.e. competition) hurts the region and having the state come in to have the entire state’s taxpayers foot the bill or give a discount to one company (American Greetings) over thousands of other companies to stay.

If American Greetings wants to leave Cleveland, Brooklyn, or Ohio all together. Who cares? Why is it people in downstate Ohio’s responsibility to provide incentives for people closer to Canada than they are Kentucky? Or any Ohioan for that matter?

Same goes for Missouri. I read a while back about two suburbs in a sort of feud because Wal-Mart got incentives to locate in city “X.” The incentives expired. Wal- Mart noticed there were 4 other suburbs down the way lacking a Wal-Mart. “Hey! Wouldn’t you like some commerce and jobs? Why not hook us up with some tax incentives and we’ll move down the street!” And that’s what they did. City “Y” got the new Wal-Mart and City “X” now has a vacant lot.

Now, I’m all for allowing companies to accept these handouts and for government to make these stupid decisions. A society is not free if people don’t have the right to make mistakes. But I think they’re malarkey. And yes, state vs. state TIF battles are indeed competition, but they’re inefficient competition that does not provide long-term growth in the aggregate economy.

A city, state, or county, only has a finite amount of tax revenue it can either give or forgo to attract commerce. That makes sense because if a small suburb’s budget outlays are $20 million and their revenues are $22 million, clearly they cannot offer $20 million in loans or forgone tax revenue.

My biggest problem with such incentives is that they are the very definition of picking winners and losers. So, Ohio gives benefits to American Greetings — but what about all of the other businesses? Later on, they’ll give other incentives to bring in other companies, but when American Greetings’ incentives expire or other companies are offered such deals in other places, how will those communities in NE Ohio be able to offer similar deals to keep them? They won’t always be able to do that. And, at some point, they’ll have to raise tax rates to offset their previous follies.

The merry-go-round of taxpayer-funded incentives works in theory, but it is not the most economically efficient method for sustainable growth. And we’re only discussing a small part of the picture here. The federal government offers a variety of such incentives, too, dispersed sporadically throughout the tax code.

The best solution, in my view, is to offer companies this: a stable tax rate and regulatory climate. Brooklyn, Ohio raised its city tax (which is an intrinsically bad idea, if you ask me) and American Greetings around that time decided to leave. It’s a vicious cycle. However, there are many cities that just say “no special benefits, we are what we are and that’s not going to change.” Those cities may achieve slower growth rates than some places that go TIF or incentive crazy, but they are more likely to have sustainable tax rates and do a better job of retaining jobs because of it. Nothing is more disconcerting to a CFO than a region that is volatile, offers crazy amounts of incentives, and then has to kill their local economy with painful tax increases to pay for their previous mistakes. Businesses like certainty more than they like crony capitalism, as hard as it may be to believe. The biggest companies can play this game best, since relocating is easier.

If all cities, counties, and states didn’t play the incentive handout game, the competition would be centered around tax rates and regulatory and zoning burdens. The most efficient cities at providing public services at lowest cost and highest benefit (and those with propitious climates for agriculture, yadda yadda) would benefit. The markets would do what they do best: allocate resources in the most efficient possible manner. Subsidies only distort those markets, which is why I think they’re never the right solution, even if they produce Build-A-Bear Labradoodles that everybody loves.

(Note: I don’t think Build-A-Bear actually makes Labradoodles.)