Category Archives: Food


The package reads:

“Pronounced Grape-Els, these tasty treats look like an apple, but taste like a Concord grape.”

Has anyone ever had these? Are they any good? I’m not allowed to buy them because they are ‘genetically modified’ says Miss Possible. What a bummer.

Casual dining my ass!

A desperate Swedish Girl and I went to a Friendly’s restaurant recently.  We had been shopping and running errands for a few hours and our blood sugar was dropping and we just needed some, ahem, nutrients pronto.  What an awful experience.  First, we were guided to the very first wind-blown table you see when you enter the establishment.  The one where the crowd of losers ordering ice cream practically sits in your cole slaw.  Borrowing a page from my dad, I asked the waitress for another table.  She was kind enough to lead us to a booth with sticky seats.  We were off to a great start.
Next, on her way to the ladies room, Swedish Girl heard the cook yelling at our waitress about my order:  “YOU WANT A F–KIN’ TUNA MELT!?!  I’M GETTIN’ TO YOUR F–KIN’ TUNA MELT RIGHT NOW, OKAY!!!”  I really didn’t want to eat an angry tuna melt after that.  Food is supposed to be prepared with love.  Later, I went to the men’s room to wash my hands and discovered there were no paper towels.  I was so furious that I shook my arms and hands VIOLENTLY to get soapy water all over the mirror (revenge, ya know?) and my wedding band (which is too big) flew off my finger, bounced off the mirror, and I caught it like a wide receiver before it could riccochet into the toilet.  All this occured before even getting our food, mind you.
When the food came, we had to eat while having the assorted slackjawed yokels stare, glare, and drool at us from 13 feet away as they waited for their ice cream.  Since then, I’m tempted to carry crackers and Gatorade with me at all times

Your Last Meal

Okay, you have to pick your last meal.  It can be anything you want, however many courses you want, and comes with any beverage (alcoholic or not) you want.  What will it be?

As for me, I have very little idea.  I’ve had discussions with friends about what our favorite foods are and I’ve never really been able to nail anything down.  I know I’ve had some dishes that have knocked my socks off, but I’ll be darned if I can remember them all.  In a pinch, I might go with clam chowder, fried clams with tartar sauce, cole slaw, french fries, chocolate mousse cake, and enough champagne to choke a horse.

What about you?  What’ll you have?

Check, please

Is it okay to simply leave cash (and tip, if applicable) on the table and leave the restaurant if you’ve been left waiting an excruciatingly long time for the check?  Do you get stuck in this unenviable situation as often as I do (which is quite often, I assure you)?  The problem is that this is a debit card world and I rarely go to a restaurant with the intention of paying cash, so I’m stuck waiting for the waiter or waitress anyway.  But, if I do have cash, is there anything wrong with just leaving the money on the table and taking off?  The main reason I haven’t attempted this before is because I’m scarred from that January 1996 incident (Captain, you know what I’m saying) at the “Cafe,” and I figure that if the server saw me leaving the restaurant, he/she would think I was skipping out on the bill and it would lead to an uncomfortable incident.

I’m thinking of turning over a new leaf in 2007 and trying to be more cash-oriented.  This will require me to stick to more of a budget.  Best of all, it will give me peace of mind when eating out, knowing that I’ll never again be held prisoner by the waitstaff.  Freedom!

The first Thanksgiving

Our First Thanksgiving
Originally uploaded by brandonjs.

After our recent relocation to the West Coast, MP and I had decided not to take the trip back East for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, we opted to have our own Thanksgiving (just the two of us) here in Santa Clara. Last Sunday we did all our shopping and the menu looked something like this:

Turkey, of course
Darlene’s Crockpot Stuffing®
Apple-Cranberry Chutney
Sweet Potato Mash
Two-Potato Mash
Green Beans
and MP’s favorite — Hot Rolls.
Apple Pie w/ Vanilla Ice Cream
Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

With the exception of a minor snafu with the Turkey (not knowing how long to cook it for, and without a meat thermometer things got a little dicey), everything went according to plan. After all was said and done, the dinner table was set and everything was delicious. Looking at the picture, it’s hard to imagine that all this food was for just two people — but it was. And boy do we have leftovers.

I guess that’s what Thanksgiving is for, though, right? More Thanksgiving photos

Trebeck Gets it Right…A Decade Later

I was watching Jeopardy! the other evening, and one of the answers (in case you live in a cave, on Jeopardy!, the answers are given first and the contestants supply the questions) involved something about “quahogs.” I scanned the answer on the screen before Alex Trebeck got to that word and I waited. But to my surprise, he pronounced it correctly. I said to Swedish Girl, “He pronounced it right this time. Good to see he learned from his mistake.” I then explained how nearly 10 years earlier, I was watching Jeopardy! (with Captain Larby, I believe) and Trebeck mispronounced “quahog” as it looks (kwah-hog), which is not the correct pronunciation (ko-hog). I cringed when I heard it the first time because this is the man who is supposed to know everything…or at least pretend that he knows everything (hey, it’s not like we don’t know that he has all the answers on those blue index cards). Trebeck is the man I love to hate (well, hate is much too strong a word, so I’ll say I like to pick on him). He relishes showing off his over-the-top French pronunciation and he shows no shame when he breaks out his Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation (or any other outlandish-sounding celebrity), but apparently he possesses no knowledge of shellfish. But he came through a decade later and made my day.

My Summer Treat

A few weeks back, while I was at the grocery store I stumbled upon a treat that I hadn’t had since I was a kid. They come 24 in a box, and they’re the simplest frozen treat you can find — Fla-Vor-Ice.

When I first brought them home, I’d have one or two a night.. but it’s become an out-of-control problem. I’m now up to 4,5,6 popsicles per night — especially with the latest heat wave that’s hit the New York area. I’ve practically worn a path between the couch and the freezer, during my many trips back and forth to get (yet another) popsicle.

The best thing about this, though, is that there’s nothing to these things. I used to have a bowl of Soy Ice Cream for dessert (450 Calories, 26g of Fat). Fla-Vor-Ice pops (even 6 of them) are still so much better for you than ice cream. These things are 25 calories per popsicle, and 0 grams of fat. What a nice treat!

Just the other night, MP asked me “Hey, why is it that every time I come into the kitchen, the scissors are out on the counter?” To this, I had no response — just a guilty smile. She eventually figured it out. But that’s how bad these things have gotten.

My only concern is that the last time I was at the store, they only had two boxes left. I should’ve bought both of them while I had the chance. I just hope that they still have them when I head back this on Sunday. If not, I might need to scour the city of Hoboken on a Fla-Vor-Ice rampage.

Now, if you’ll excuse me.. I’ve got to make another run to the kitchen.

Ripped off and pissed off

I may not have mentioned this before, but Swedish Girl has a penchant for cheap eats. Don’t get me wrong, she loves fine dining, but she’s strangely fond of dives like IHOP. I’ve tried to put my foot down several times, but we keep finding ourselves at IHOP. The one in my old neighborhood is filled with thugs, punks, crying babies, angry waitresses, annoyed patrons, and after sitting in maple syrup for the last time, I think I’m safe from ever having to go back there. But that only means more trips to Bickford’s! Yeah for me. While in my old neighborhood yesterday, Swedish Girl had a hankering for breakfast and we found ourselves in a marginally more civilized version of IHOP.

We walked in to find the place empty, save for one table of diners, so I thought we were in good shape. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The teenage waitress, Marie, was a nightmare. From the opening bell, we were in for trouble. The glass of water she brought Swedish Girl had some black specks in it. Strike 1. I encouraged Swedish Girl to ask for another glass. Afterall, why put up with that nonsense, right? Next, she brought my sandwich without the fries that come with it. Strike 2. It took me 10 minutes to get that rectified. Then, the cranberry sauce (Cool Jesus can’t live without cranberry sauce, soy sauce, and garlic powder) was left off my hot turkey sandwich. Strike 3. That was a quick fix, but her spit might have been consealed within. Once all this was taken care of, I had to ask for my raspberry iced tea that I had ordered 25 minutes earlier. Strike 4. With each request, this girl was getting more and more exasperated. And that’s putting it kindly. Her short “okay” retorts were sufficiently vicious. “Can I get anything else for you?” No, Marie, you’ve done quite enough already.

I won’t really call this strike 5, but Marie put so much whipped cream on Swedish Girl’s strawberry pancakes, that one would have thought that Swedish Girl requested extra, extra, super duper, keep it coming whipped cream. I asked her to scoop all the excess right onto the table so Marie would have to clean it up, but she wouldn’t do it. Eventually, we finished our food, Marie’s spit and all, and got the check. By my calculations, lovely Marie overcharged us by over $5. Strike 5. Taking my life into my hands, I brought this to Marie’s attention and asked her to double-check it for me. My stupid error was to also leave the money on the table, which she grabbed, returned with our “change,” and told me she was right all along. I should have pressed further, but I backed down. I regret it still. We should have left no tip or a teeny tiny tip, since she already pocketed a sweet tip by overcharging us, but I broke down and left a borderline standard tip (a shade less than 15%, but if you factor in what she stole from us, she made out with over 40%).

We couldn’t approach the manager, because he looked to be no more than a couple of years older than Marie, in addition to looking pretty chummy with her. We knew he’d side with her. I regret not leaving a pocket change tip, but I had the opening sequence from Reservoir Dogs racing through my head, not to mention The Incident. Cool Jesus has zero luck with waitresses. Thanks for letting me rant. I’m off to Arbie’s!

General, what be thy name?

I was craving Chinese food all day on Saturday.  At one point, I even invented kung pao chicken pizza in my mind (the result of having less-than-satisfying pizza for lunch).  So, I wanted to take Swedish Girl to one of the better Chinese restaurants in my fair city.  At the last second, she called an audible, however, and suggested a buffet.  Since my city has a large Asian population, there also happens to be a Chinese buffet of some acclaim.  I thought it was worth checking out.  I wasn’t too hungry, so when I saw the sign reading “$4.25/pound,” I was happy. 

Perhaps I didn’t read the fine print (it was probably printed in Mandarin), but that $4.25/pound was merely a hoax.  Turns out we were charged a stiff flat rate that in no way equaled the slim pickins we had to scrape out of the nearly-empty food bins.  And someone put crab nuggets into the chicken nugget tray, which just isn’t cool.  Let’s just say the best part of the meal was the $2.00 Bud Light.  But I digress…

While eating my General Gao’s chicken, Swedish Girl asked me if it was General Gao or General Tso.  I couldn’t remember, but I thought the sign read General Gao.  I proceded to tell her of conversations I had had with Captain Larby (and others) regarding the same query.  Why do some restaurants offer General Gao’s chicken, which others cook up General Tso’s chicken?  Is it due to the difference between Chinese dialects/languages?  Is it that some regions honor their favorite general, while other regions honor a different general?  Both types of chicken taste the same, look the same, and are prepared the same.  I really must know. 

If you have the answer, drop me a reply here.  There’s a $2.00 Bud Light in it for you. 

My blood ran cold

Setting:  Boston, Massachusetts – Back Bay to be exact – January 1996.

It was a frigid winter Saturday afternoon when Captain Larby, his girlfriend Greenhair (because the dorm shower water turned her blonde hair green), Dr. Little (our best friend next door), and I decided to venture out into the city for some lunch and shopping.  Our favorite little haunt was a cafe that I cannot bring myself to name (I’ll call it simply Cafe), wedged halfway between BU and Northeastern at the end of Newbury and Boylston.  It was a hip cafe full of health food, vegetarians, vegans, hippies, bohemians, and we felt cooler just walking through the door.

Either Dr. Little or Captain Larby got credit for finding that place and Larby was eager to share it with Greenhair.  Fast-forwarding a bit, at the end of our meal, the decision was made to put Greenhair in charge of handling the money and calculating a tip.  I don’t recall what her major was, but it was apparent that she was better equipped to handle math than two Political Science majors and a Psychology major.  Nevertheless, we were all actively involved in making sure we left the waitress a good tip.  Afterall, we dug that place and wanted to return many times.  So, Greenhair left somewhere in the vicinity of 18% to 22%, we bundled up for the freezing temps outside, and were about to cross Mass Ave for Newbury Street when the unspeakable happened.

Our waitress, who had not even put on a coat, came running outside, yelling, “Hey!  Hey!  Hey you!”  We all turned around and my first thought was that one of us left something inside.  Dr. Little, bringing up the rear, had the misfortune of being closest to her, so she grabbed his hand, put some coins and a couple of $1 bills in it, and hissed, “Here, you take it!  It’s not even 10%!  You obviously need it more than me!”  After taking great pleasure in reciting her lines with great vengeance and furious anger, she ran back into the Cafe. 

Dr. Little stood there, arm outstretched, frozen.  It was as if the waitress had placed tarantulas in his hand and he was afraid to move a muscle.  We all stood there.  It was 18 degrees outside, but we were burning up with embarrassment.  I don’t know how much time passed before someone spoke up, but it felt like a long, long time.

Greenhair was positive that she had left an above-average tip and we were all sure that we had given her ample tip money.  The only explanation was that the waitress mixed us up with another table.  That is the only logical scenario.  When we returned to our dorm that night, Dr. Little deposited the two $1 bills and assorted coins on a shelf in Captain Larby’s and my room.  It was January.  That money remained there until May or June when we decided to give it to our favorite bum, Jazz Man.  It was blood money and we felt that even if we used it to buy a bottle of water, that we would choke on it and die. 

None of us ever went to the Cafe after that.  Until, that is, I revisited the Cafe two years later.  That was a pseudo-date with the immortal Jamm Murph, who I never saw again after that day. (I need a moment…)

What makes me bring all this up and relive this painful memory?  Swedish Girl and I rented Waiting (starring Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long, David Koechner, Anna Farris) over the weekend.  In that underrated, and actually entertaining, film, is a scene where a redneck patron leaves a pathetically small tip.  The waiter runs after him, placing the money in his hand, and recites almost the exact same words that the Cafe waitress screeched at us.  Is there a script that waiters and waitresses are given that covers them in the case of all sorts of restaurant incidents?  I had to pause the movie, catch my breath, and tell Swedish Girl the story of the Cafe.

In Waiting, the patron complains to the manager that he was insulted and degraded by the waiter.  But it didn’t even dawn on four naive college freshman that we could have complained to the Cafe manager.  Instead, we tucked our tails between our legs, slinked away, and whenever we happened to have to cross the Cafe, we looked away and hurried our stride as if we were passing the Boo Radley house.