Breathing New Life Into the Weber Spirit E-210 Grill

I’ve been using this thing for going on 7+ years now, and as I’ve noted in the past, it keeps on performing. Recently, I picked up a QuliMetal cast iron grill griddle, built for various Weber models including my own. Why?

  1. This one was available to buy immediately versus the official Weber one
  2. Its portfolio of similar products had received great, genuine (sounding) reviews
  3. Moreover, I wanted to use a griddle on my grill, and I wanted to do it now

For the last several years, we had been bringing out a cast iron pan and setting it atop the slated grill currently built into the Weber to cook various meats, including salmon and steaks. This has been working fairly well, but bringing a pan out to the grill and setting it atop a grate that separates the cast iron from direct flame seemed inefficient and a lousy way of heating the vessel (which is absolutely required for searing meats). And secondly, if we were to use the original slatted grate to cook a steak on, for instance, there’s zero chance of providing each side a comprehensive sear — you have to settle for grill lines.

I’ll admit these reasons may not satisfy under scrutiny, but they’re the primary drivers for investing in this new piece of hardware. And as a bonus, I get to use the flat top griddle for diner-style smashed patties, eggs, bacon, etc. without resorting to polluting the air quality in our home (of which is something we're ever more conscious). Besides, grilling is one of the best things to do in the summer. I’d rather get more use from it and be outdoors.

So how does it perform? In as few words as possible:

  • It does a fine job.
  • It requires aggressive scraping and scrubbing to clear the debris and grease from it after use, but so does a cast iron pan
  • I'm wagering I'll need to re-season it throughout its usage, but to me this still seems very much worth it.
  • The first sears of a steak were, as anticipated, much better than what I was netting with the cast iron pan. Just need to dial in the timing and heat application.

Buying it was a good bet, and highly recommended if you're looking to do something similar here. Cheers. 👨‍🍳

🌱 Not sure what kind of carrot we grew here…

A strange looking carrot from the garden

The Weber Spirit E-210 Seven Years Later

It's been seven years since I started grilling on this beast, and it has held up remarkably well. The Weber Spirit E-210 is reliable, sturdy hardware that works just like the day I fired it up for the first time.

The Good:

  • Still works amazingly well, operates like it should without any degradation of intrinsic components/operating elements
  • The modularity of this grill is exceptional -- there are several great additions, add-ons, and readily available replacement parts because it's such a standardized, long-running model
  • This thing can typically exceed 500º degrees F if you let the burners roll at the highest setting, which suits 100% of my grilling needs
  • It's easy to clean. Grill takes apart in three pieces, flavorizer bars (three) are very easy to pull out, and you can spray/wipe just about everything inside and out without worry of ruining anything critical.

The So-So:

  • Speaking of the flavorizer bars, I've done the due diligence of replacing them twice over the course of my ownership. They're easy to buy and replace, and will set you back about $40-50. I probably could have cleaned them, but they really got butchered by dripping cheeses and all kind of other nasty bits where it seemed more appropriate to just replace.
  • The grill cover. For the cost of this thing, you'd think it would have better hardware, but alas, the velcro (hook and loop) to tie the sides against the grill itself do deteriorate over time (maybe the elements?), and I now resort to just tying the two straps in a soft knot. And trust me, if it's windy, I've had this thing blow off the grill before, so keep it tight. Other than this small issue, it hasn't ripped at all, and still perfectly protects the grill.

Is It Still Worth It?

Still kicks ass. Still highly recommended.

An Attempt at Making Kimchi

This is my first go at making kimchi, the beloved Korean use-everywhere fermented cabbage dish. I like it spicy. Very spicy. And that's what I attempted here without much knowledge or craft experience in the space of fermenting.

Actually, I have zero experience.

So pulling off a great batch of kimchi sounded appealing and challenging -- the selective choices in ingredients, the ability to tweak the recipe to the right spice levels, and of course, the sense of accomplishment. These are all great reasons to try it, or so I told myself six days ago.

Astonishingly, I was able to pull this off.

Getting the Ingredients

This was a fairly straightforward operation, but I was lazy on a number of things.

First things first, I needed to build the "kimchi paste", the base layer. I could have been really disingenuous and bought a bottle of kimchi paste online somewhere, but I wanted to "customize" my own, so I went to the nearby Dragon Star Oriental Foods grocery store to find some powdered chili peppers. Since I am so accustomed to finding things myself online, and because I couldn't actually find anyone who worked at the store, I marauded around the chili and condiments aisles hunting for Korean Gochugaru. I couldn't find it, so I found a few chili packets that looked spicy and I had used in a Bloody Mary mix a few years ago. That's probably fine, I told myself. This is an experiment.

For non-kimchi activities, I also picked up some frozen wontons and reloaded on chili sauce. And a few hot sauces. And also some Japanese spicy salt. Something is wrong with me.

I then picked up plain old cabbage (couldn't find Napa cabbage at this or the other grocery store), amd also green onion, ginger, garlic, and daikon radish.

Yes, I was following a recipe from a Fermenting book.

No, I wasn't weighing anything I was buying.

Yes, I misfired on the amount of ingredients. Yes, you guessed right: I didn't get enough cabbage.

Building the Kimchi

I was excited to use the food blender to make the paste. It a was a nice looking attachment to a blender system we got a while back, but never got around to using. After throwing all the kimchi paste ingredients into the blender, it took all of three seconds to whip it into perfect harmony. So that was short-lived.

I then carefully cut and threw into a large bowl all the other kimchi primary materials, including the ratio-adjusted paste (after realizing my cabbage was about a third of what I needed), and used some gloves to mix and squeeze and mash everything together. This was fun.

And that was basically it.

I put the amalgamation into a half-gallon Balls jar and screwed a fermenting lid on, then put it downstairs next to all the booze, and waited.

Waiting to Taste the Kimchi

Specifically, I waited six days. I didn't touch the jar, but I did pass by it a few times when going downstairs, and it had a light, funky emanating smell.

I checked it a few times for bubbling (which was happening), and for mold (which was not happening).

I was pleased with how it had been progressing.

How the Kimchi Turned Out

On the sixth day, I opened the container, sniffed the rich, soggy, spicy cabbage odor, and snagged a spoon out of the drawer to taste my creation.

It was potent. It was spicy. It was tangy. It was, through and through, a fairly good tasting kimchi. Not correctly made by any means, as I took shortcuts, but I'm quite pleased with a first trial run of making it at home. Would I gather the right amount of ingredients, including the correct Korean chilis next time? Yes. Would I do anything else differently? No.

Would I recommend making at home? Yes. This is far less expensive than buying the stuff I usually do, even though I need to try and dial in the flavor profile. But the canvas for modifying and adjusting ingredients is wide, and I'm already plotting my next version.

Lava Cheese

Exploring Iceland’s Snack Directly (But Indirectly)

My wife recently jetted over to Iceland for a quick few days with her sister and a friend. When she arrived back, she left a few goodies for me, one of which was a curious, “handmade” concoction called Smoked Lava Cheese. Though I won’t claim I’m a connoisseur of cheese by any stretch, I would consider myself an enthusiast for the age-old custom of melting a pile of cheese into a merged form and eating with a fork. This may sound strange, or maybe you’ve done it (either way, I recommend doing it, now?), these little circular cheese bites remind me exactly of this practice. Except in portable, snack form. And that’s a good thing.


An Icelandic snack made from “pure” cheese, Lava Cheese is a brand that began in Iceland back in December of 2016, engineered by the founders Guðmundur Páll Líndal and Jósep Birgir Þórhallsson. As they state in their origin story:

The idea of a snack made from pure cheese came to us when we realized the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich is the melted cheese which hits the grill.

So right you are. I’ve always loves the crunchiness of the slightly hardened cheese bits from microwaving or oven-heating nachos (the shredded pieces that missed the tortilla chips and get a heat-flash during the warm-up), which gave me the idea of doing this when I was a kid. Skip the chips and just toss a pile of shredded cheese on a plate, microwave for 1:30, and there you go. Pure cheese. I’ve since migrated to using a small egg-sized pan to do the heating work, and at this age, it’s only once and a while. But… Lava Cheese. These Icelandic guys came up with a few variations, and I’m very thankful Ashley brought me home a box.


Since the cheese has been “smoked”, there is a slightly different flavor than when I’d do it. You can feel the hardened cheese texture with your tongue, which nails the first part of the idea of crispier cheese. I suppose, according to the company’s naming convention, this texture reflects the Icelandic lava fields. I’m terrible at describing tastes, so from here, you’ll likely experience a harsher aroma of cheddar, and a sharper association with the cheese you’re likely most familiar with, just restructured in harder, less dairy-like form. It delivers, though, and I have to imagine it’s a better snack than some faux bullshit cheese flavorings from Cheetohs or whatever other hell-spawn snack food from PepsiCo/Nabisco/Mars.

While I was able to enjoy the Smoked Cheddar version, I found that after researching the company’s other products, they also have a Crunchy Cheese series that includes Licorice Root and With Chili. The largest hurdle here is that line of snacks is only available at retail in Iceland, though they hint that new locations are coming soon. I certainly hope so, as I can attest to the magic of this stuff, and think it would do well in any other country on the planet. In the meantime, fry some cheese on your own, toss bacon in there, whatever it takes — it’s an easy, decadent, go-to late-night snack.


Gaslight Coffee Roasters

Gaslight Coffee Roasters is the latest entrant near Milwaukee Ave in Logan Square, the street that is slowly becoming a coffee mecca for Chicago. I finally got around to visiting it on a dreary Sunday in January, right around the time the weather decided to shit both snow and sleet intermittently on my walk up Humboldt Blvd. Thankfully, Gaslight sits comfortably at Fullerton and Milwaukee, so the sticky ice didn’t have long to cling unwanted atop my mop of hair.


Seated at this pointed corner of the intersection permits Gaslight to receive a welcome bloom of natural light along its wall of glass. This draws you into the open, breathable spacing of tables and coffee bar — enough to detract you from mistaking the place for a prohibition-era speakeasy. Gaslight’s stark, brick-on-wood aesthetic with sparingly hung taxidermy reinforces a notion of both minimalism and straight business -- the baristas here aren't screwing around, and neither is their coffee. Without the slightest whiff of pretentious1 bullshit (leave that to Cafe Mustache, a stone's throw south), the staff bustles behind the horseshoe-shaped coffee bar: ringing at the iPad register, scurrying to-go cups to commuters, channeling the Strada espresso machine, measuring freshly roasted beans into brown bags, shuttling plates of charcuterie, holstering readily accessible smiles. You get it. And all the while they bustle, crooning tunes waft over the place from an LP spinner in the far corner.

But let's not get distracted. I came here to buy beans. Freshly roasted beans. For the last few months, I'd been getting my fill from Tonx (specialty roasters with an online-only business that ships out bi-weekly, single origin beans to subscribers), but I was right on the edge of my next shipment, so I needed a fix. Zak Rye (former Metropolis roaster) and Tristan Coulter's new coffee shop seemed like a good enough answer. And so I took the bait.

All of Gaslight's beans are roasted in the back of the space, and come from a few different origins: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Rwanda. Not sure if these will rotate throughout the year, but as of January 2013, this is it. The rear roasting space is appararently communal, as the beans also get used by Wormhole, which is located much father down Milwaukee just south of North Ave in Wicker Park. I like Wormhole, and I already dig the new Gaslight. Let's support these local players with a purchase, shall we?

You pay $15 for a 12oz bag. This is standard fare for anything above the oily shit Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts stuff into retail packaging. It's even less expensive than the slightly inflated Tonx, so I have no problem paying this for locally roasted beans. To reinforce buyer's satisfaction, the packaging is beautifully done up in brown paper, sealed with an office-grade paper binder, and decorated with an insignia-pressed wax badge.2

Fighting the elements back home, I fired up the kettle with 340g of water and coarse-ground 25g of the newly acquired Guatemalan coffee. Figured the best way to try this new batch was with a pour-over method (in this case a Chemex), so that's exactly how I did it.

And it was delicious.

Since my nose is always stuffy, I can't rightly claim to detect the nuances of flavor like some self-aggrandizing connoisseur, but of what I could discern: pleasant hints of nut and wood, neither of which took a backseat to an unsuspecting cocoa veil. This is really good coffee, such that I could easily live off this for my evening cup. I'll no doubt return to Gaslight Coffee Roasters on more occasion than this (and ideally in less deplorable weather). And if you know what’s good for you, your health, your metabolism, your libido, and your sanity, you'll do the same.

  1. Aren't too pretentious, either. As stated in an interview with the owners on DailyCandy, Zak reinforces this notion: "We’ll do whatever customers want: pour over, siphon, cowboy coffee. You want a shot of espresso in a bowl of soup? Done." If only they served soup.
  2. I suppose at this point I should share one last thing about presentation -- they wrap scarves around their Chemex beakers (or perhaps these are beakers topped with V60s, I can't rightly say). Quite pointless, aside from probably keeping the brewed coffee a degree warmer during the cold months. Gaslight takes presentation and detail seriously, and so we must commend their efforts.