Sunday, August 31, 2014

Steak N' Eggs

Quickie food update here. Went to Watson Drugs & Soda Fountain in Orange the other day and got a dish I enjoyed several months earlier, the steak n' eggs:

The lighting was weird so I couldn't really see that the picture was off-center

The first time I had this it was really, really good. This time? Eh. The steak was overcooked and dry and the potatoes taste like they came right out of the freezer. I ate it all of course but it was just eh. Another random thought for those who appreciate good punctuation: I always refer to this place as Watsons but I have no idea if it's "Watsons" or "Watson's". I go to their website and what's the first thing I see? "Welcome to Watsons Drug & Soda Fountain. Watson's reminds us of the best of our past and gives us something to take with us into the future." To confuse matters even more, the seal simply says Watson. I really have no idea how to properly spell this out so I'll just use its formal name.

Happy eating. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Whatever Happened to Gobblestix?

I was browsing through a collection of hilarious problems that only 90s kids would understand at the expense of James Van Der Beek when I read a brand name that I hadn't heard in years: Dunk-a-roos. While these are still in circulation, they hit their peak popularity when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure the whole "too many cookies, not enough icing" was a problem I frequently encountered.

That said, it got me thinking about another popular snack that has all but disappeared: Gobblestix. Whatever happened to Gobblestix? I think Jennie-O manufactured them and they were around for a few years in the 90s but then seemingly vanished into thin air. Outside of nostalgic postings such as this, there's not a whole lot posted on the Internets about this once legendary compilation of processed turkey parts and decroded sodium...except this:

GOBBLESTIX!

Digging the burps. You wouldn't see that today. But seriously, what happened to these things? Anyone know?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Wanted Robin Williams to Star in My Video Game as a Kid

I want to take a step back from my normal blogging nonsense to touch on the untimely passing of Robin Williams. New details came out yesterday confirming that his death was a suicide and reports have also included the grisly examiner's details over what happened that I won't go into here. When someone takes their own life it's always tragic. When someone takes their own life that has spent decades entertaining the world and filling our lives with laughter it feels like the world collectively became a little quieter.

Robin Williams is one of the greatest entertainers and talented actors of all time. I grew up watching him in a slew of children's films like Flubber and Jack but also appreciated his serious work such as his Academy Award winning performance in Good Will Hunting and his bone-chilling portrayal as a department store photo guy/stalker in the underrated One Hour Photo. The character of Mrs. Doubtfire is possibly one of the most recognizable personas in cinema over the last 20 years and any kid growing up in the 90s has likely played at least one game of Jumanji.

Williams' performance of "Blame Canada" from the 2000 Oscars

While I know he had substance abuse issues over the years that he went to rehab for, I don't think anyone knew just how much of a tortured soul he obviously was. I will be the first to admit that I do not fully understand depression and I think it's impossible for me to be able to completely comprehend what someone who is clinically depressed is going through. I have had friends who were clinically depressed (and some who were undiagnosed at the time) whom I tried to understand but failed miserably. Their reactions to something that was out of their control would take its toll on me which would result in a split in friendship, which isn't fair at all to the people I called friends. Thankfully these people are still in my life and I feel I can better support them with the knowledge I have now.

You can't "cure" depression by saying "oh, it'll be okay, don't worry." That's something I learned the hard way from some of my friends. Depression is like a battle and every day is a new field with fresh artillery. There's great treatment out there but there's still a feeling of shame and embarrassment that people with these conditions face when wanting to seek help. I can't force anyone to seek out help, but I can offer my support so that you know you are not alone. If you are struggling with something then I will listen to you. I will hear you out. I can't feel what you feel but I can do my best to try and understand where you are coming from. You are not alone. Robin Williams is a global icon yet probably felt like the loneliest man in the world and NO ONE should have to feel that way. I would never judge anyone because of something they're struggling with just as I wouldn't judge anybody based on their religion, race, or sexuality. If you're a douchebag then yeah, you just suck. But whatever you're made up of, that's who you are. Be loud and proud.

A failed attempt to rob Mrs. Doubtfire - I used to laugh hysterically as a kid to the "BACK OFF, ASSHOLE!" line

The other thing I wanted to briefly share is a little drawing from my childhood. My friend Trey has always looked up to Robin Williams. I, too, admired his brand of comedy but he was a hero to Trey ever since he was a little boy. As kids, Trey and I would regularly come up with ideas for movies, TV shows, and video games, knowing that one day we'd become the youngest child directors in history. One such idea for a video game was set in an interactive world a-la Spyro the Dragon, but centered around a dolphin named Tux who goes through this world freeing captive animals and kicking ass. We were only about 11 or 12 but made several drawings and storyboards and for a day or two were convinced that we'd get all this work done and pitch it to Sony and they'd make the game available on Playstation the following Spring. And the guy we wanted to voice our main dolphin character? Robin Williams.


Thanks, Mr. Williams, for all the laughs. I'm sorry that through all the laughter and smiles there was a great struggle taking place. I know you are now at peace, but I also know there's much more we can learn to better serve others in the future.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Return of the Buffet

So one of my favorite gourmet spots over the years has been the Great Plaza Buffet in Pacific Beach. Last October, much to my surprise, the restaurant abruptly closed for remodeling that would take them into January. Naturally the project lasted longer than it was supposed to and went into March. Due to the initial crowds, I didn't get a chance to try it until about May or June. It was fine but I wanted to try it again to really get a sense of the changes that were made. And yes, there were changes.

Let's start off very simple. The old restaurant was a dump for all intensive purposes, and then new management bought it over and invested a lot of money to clean it up. They also invested money into finally getting a working website (my virus scanner would alert me of Trojans whenever I'd try to visit the old website). But some programmer clearly jerked them out of their money, because look at this picture that's in the main slider of their site:

The American Beauty tagline is "look closer..."

Look closely at this picture. Something here doesn't make sense.

Do you see it yet? Apparently the Great Plaza Buffet is the only buffet in the United States that also offers an unlimited supply of mint Milano cookies and Goldfish crackers. SERIOUSLY GUYS??? I would LOVE to see how this website was built and how exactly this picture got placed on the main slider. Was it the owner? Was it a programmer? I mean, I'd love to see the butthole who thought out loud "HEY! Let's put a picture of a SUPER MARKET on our restaurant's website! YEAH!!!" When I update my Yelp review I'm going to include this picture.

Anyway. The food is the same for the most part. Let's get right into it:

Okay...something is wrong with this picture too, and it's not the redness of the meat

Yeah, one thing they got rid of was the mashed potatoes which makes about as much sense as a Progressive commercial that doesn't star Flo. How can you have steak but no mashed potatoes? And it's not like they're real, I'm sure they're powdered. So instead we get...French fries. Which were pretty good anyway but still.

The "Asian Sensation" plate

Another change: as far as I can tell they no longer have white rice. Con. But the Teriyaki chicken is now cut into smaller pieces and not served on a skewer. Pro.

The Transition Plate

Another possible change: The steak that they put out seems to be cooked medium rare at the highest. While many people may not like this, I enjoy red meat very much. Pro.

Fruity Tootie

Fruit. Nothing much has changed there.

Dessert

They have a few more dessert offerings but the main difference is the chocolate fountain. They give you marshmallows and skewers and you can dunk whatever you want in there. Naturally when I went to get my dessert they were conveniently out of skewers but whatever. Oh, and here's another waste of their money. They invest thousands in renovations and then when they finally get the menu together, this happens:

I bet Cholocate tastes really good

Seriously? Thousands of dollars invested and you're not even gonna proofread the front of your menu? 

So there are a couple lazy changes that I don't particularly like as noted above. The meals are about $2 more expensive and a drink is not included which is ridiculous. Last night the floors were also filthy. There was a frickin' piece of pineapple that was just sitting there for 20 minutes. Not good. Oh, and the menu also says that they still carry lamb ribs, though I haven't seen that item in the restaurant in years. 

Overall it's still good for what it is. I enjoyed my meal last night and would go back again. But I don't think it's as high up as it once was. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This Video Has Turned Me Off of Fast Food

Everyone knows fast food and processed foods aren't good for you but the problem is they're just so damn good. Guilty pleasures. So what if I want some processed food every now and then? Who really cares? But once in a while a video comes along that will completely change your way of thinking. Maybe you're the type that subscribes to those slaughterhouse videos. Or perhaps you're of the kind who preaches to the choir of how the food industry knowingly fills our bodies with crap because we're either too oblivious or just don't care.

But me? This is the video that completely changed my mind: Angry Grandpa HATES Taco Bell Breakfast. Go to 3:54 to see the eating. Features strong language.


Let's set up the stage: Angry Grandpa (Charles) is a popular YouTube vlogger made famous by his violent temper, his tendency to destroy things when he gets mad, and gratuitous usage of profanity. He is regularly engaged in an endless pranking war with is son, Pickleboy (Michael), and Pickleboy's girlfriend, Princess (Bridgette). While most of the videos feature him yelling and swearing and breaking various kitchen appliances, there's also a certain charm about him, especially in the non-prank videos as well as videos where he interacts with fans. 

So in this video he's trying Taco Bell's new breakfast. He gets a Waffle Taco, a Bacon AM Crunch Wrap, a 12 piece Cinnabon Delight, and a coffee. Now, I love watching videos of people eat. Sickening or weird? Perhaps. But the sound, the visuals, the reaction - taste test videos always make me hungry. Even that video of Morgan Spurlock spewing up his lunch in Super Size Me gets me hungry. However, sitting here watching the toothless fellow gum down this processed creation of egg, sausage, and waffle made me feel like there was a three-headed cockroach in my stomach. I felt sick watching this. I got that disgusted feeling you get after stepping in a huge pile of dogcrap, like why did this just happen? Why do people not pick up after their dog? Why does Taco Bell's breakfast look so disgusting and why are they pushing it on us?

It just got me thinking. This taste test is disgusting on so many levels. It's well known how much crap is put into our food but at what point do we start fighting back and refusing to accept this? Look, let me be clear: I love junk food. I love it. I have to go to McDonald's once a month to fight cravings. But I'm starting to think there are places I can really cut out the crap, just so I don't feel the dirty feeling I felt while watching Angry Grandpa gumming down his processed scrambled eggs. For a few dollars more get some real non-processed meat and fruit or something. Over the long run your body will thank you. Or I can just pretend I never saw this video. 

So damn gross. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Collage of Gordon Ramsay Expressions

You'd think with the way he wrinkles his face in some of these expressions that his skin is made from that super elastic rubber material that's used in those stretchy action figures. Here's a compilation of some of the stills that I've taken over the past two seasons of Hell's Kitchen that I used for my nightly recaps. Enjoy!


Monday, July 14, 2014

The All American Dessert, What Else?

The All-American Dessert has become a 4th of July tradition, like the Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Twilight Zone Marathon. Its layer after layer of sugary goodness can give you cavities just by looking at it. Just the presence of it in a room inspires staunch patriotism. My friends...the All American Dessert:

I guess this isn't a good post to follow up my cavity questioning post with

This was probably one of the more tastier versions of "The Dessert" recent years. I found a useful trick is using Jello brand gelatin rather than the store brand. For whatever reason the store brand doesn't settle as firm so you get a much softer product. Jello firms very well and as a result it holds things together. 

The assembly line

In the past I've taken pictures of the step-by-step procedure, but here's what all of the ingredients look like together. Two big boxes of Jello (red and blue coloring), a pound cake, two pounds of strawberries, one thing a piece of raspberries, blue berries, and maraschino cherries, and three things of whipped cream just to be safe. You may be able to get away with two but I like to be generous. 

This dessert and I go back years when I was a kid and my mom made it. It was always the hit of the party. In recent years I've tried applying the dessert for different holidays but have had varying success:

All American Dessert - Thanksgiving Edition

The Thanksgiving Edition has worked decently the two times I've made it. Instead of red and blue Jello I went with orange and black (black cherry) and for fruit I went with blackberries, bananas, and kiwis. I might consider trying this combination again. 

All American Dessert - Christmas Edition

The Christmas Edition completely flunked. It looks gorgeous and the green and red Jello is an attractive combo, but the complementary fruit of grapes, canned cherries, and kiwis just didn't work. Like at all. I think the leftover of this guy rested in the fridge for about a week before being thrown out and as far as I can tell it's the only version of "The Dessert" to be thrown out. It just lacked the sweetness and cohesiveness of the other two. 

I was looking through the Greg's Gourmet archives and found that I also made a Christmas Edition dessert one year prior and was also disappointed primarily due to the ingredients:

All American Dessert - Another Christmas Edition

In this version I actually forgot the grapes, which you think would have helped the dessert's cause but unfortunately I also used a sub-par poundcake which didn't absorb the cake well at all, so basically this thing turned into one big giant mess when trying to scoop it out. 

Maybe I'll try a red, white, and blue version at the holidays and just gamble on finding decent berries. If I recall correctly, the blackberries for Thanksgiving actually worked out nicely. Maybe use them against the blue Jello? I don't know. But I'm sure you'll be hearing about it.