Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quick Hits...

I got a lot of feedback from you readers out there about my experience with the Outback. I am happy to report that the manager of the Westborough location was man enough to call me last week and discuss my experience, after one of you readers pointed him to the blog, and he read my email to “corporate.” He acknowledged how awful the experience must have been, and will be forwarding some additional “correspondence” on the matter. I will keep you posted.

I know what I am about to say will come as a complete shock to most of you…we’ve been eating out quite a bit lately!

We went to John Harvard’s last week with a large group of people. We generally like it there, and consider it a step above TGI Fridays (then again, what isn’t?) or Bugaboo Creek. John Harvard’s is a fine place to have a burger (so I thought), a sandwich or a salad. Oddly, I didn’t include it in my “Burger Quest 2008”, but a week later I noticed that the menu now claimed “the best burgers in Framingham”. I’ll be the judge of that. Not them…me!

The menu says…

I ordered the “AU POIVRE BURGER 
1/2 lb burger with green peppercorns, Swiss cheese, mushrooms and lemon garlic aioli $10.99”

As they said in Project Bluebook, “Ezekiel saw a wheel…this is the wheel he said he saw.” Well, as Eric says, this is the burger I thought I ordered, and this is my assessment: my sister, a vegetarian, can make a better burger. When I read “au poivre”, I expected peppery pleasure. It seems that “green peppercorns” are the ugly stepchild of caper berries. This wasn’t peppery/spicy at all, but was salty, from cured capers, and slimy, from the “aioli”, which is just a fancy name for “mayonnaise.”

More to the point, my burger was cold when it hit the table, and even more interesting, in order to determine which burger belonged to whom, our waiter lifted the bun top off mine to inspect it…with his bare hands. Hey, I’m no fool, and having worked in restaurants, I know what goes on in back…but I don’t need to see him man-handling it tableside.

Well John Harvard, let me tell you…1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and 2. Tell your wait staff to keep their hands off my buns!!!

I have consumed a lot of ground beef to review for the consuming public, and taken a lot of flack for it from my Gastroenterologist…and my mother, and I can tell you I tried one today, and tasted the difference, which is that yours aren’t nearly as good as other places.

You’ve been great…enjoy Frank Zappa and “cruising for burgers”…

Monday, December 15, 2008


The economy is in the tank…big box retailers closing, unemployment going up…only the strong will survive. Chain restaurants aren’t great, and in fact, some have become utterly awful (see blog posts from Holidays past on the Olive Garden.) Eric Schlosser (author of “Fast Food Nation”) operates on the thesis that chains survive because they breed consistency and familiarity. No matter what Burger King you eat at, the Whopper theoretically should taste the same. So too, the pizza at Pizza Hut or the Chalupa at Taco Hell (someone told me “chalupa” is slang for “Chihuahua intestine”). Table service restaurants are no different-that’s why many use commissary, partially prepared pre-cooked portioned foods-so the diced vegetables at the Olive Garden in Linden, NJ are the same size and taste of those in Pawtucket, RI (as if anyone would ever admit they went to either place).

But now, inconsistency reigns supreme…we had a really bad meal at the Outback Steakhouse, which followed my friend Hugh’s warning about their bad meal (we passed as they were leaving and we were coming), which followed another friend’s tale of woe from last week. It seems that the new slogan is Outback Steakhouse…No Rules, Just Wrong.

So we order, and any of you that have read this with any frequency or listened to me on the radio, know how much I can’t stand it when a restaurant makes a point of inviting you to tell them your food allergies and then proceeds to give you food laden with offending foods. What is wrong with these places? So I ask, “Outback, what is wrong with you?”

I’ll cut to it-Mrs. Palate ordered a salad off the menu--Fresh chicken breast salad on a bed of mixed greens with Monterey Jack and Cheddar, bacon, diced egg, tomatoes and toasted almonds. We told the waitress what she’s allergic to, and had her hold, the cheeses, bacon and almonds. The first salad came full-blown, right off the menu description, and even included the extra ingredient of blue cheese. Why, we can’t figure, but hey, if we tell you she’s allergic to cheese, just add more.

We sent it back, after giving the server a VERY detailed explanation of what she can’t have on the salad. The second time it came back, it was the same chicken salad, on new lettuce, no cheese, but with bacon and candied pecans. Did I mention that “candied pecans” are not on the menu!!! And they’re nuts!!! Sent this one back, and the third time, it came out on a plain bed of lettuce, but it was clear they used the same chicken salad, because when we took a closer look, it still had some bacon and cheese shreds on the bottom. It is absolutely crazy that they would just keep moving the chicken, containing all the allergens, from plate to plate. Were they hoping we wouldn’t notice? Were they hoping that when Mrs. Palate was in the ambulance having an allergic reaction, she wouldn’t realize it was something they served her? Can you really hide bacon???

The manager finally came over, and we now explained for the third time how she wanted the salad, and thankfully, the 4th time was the charm. While this is all going on, we had sent another meal back (a quesadilla) because it came with bacon in it, but we had been very specific about requesting “no bacon” in that too. And, when they brought my appetizer salad out, it was covered in bacon, which is not described on the menu (since there no description at all.) It was a pork parade! A soiree of swine!

The manager was pretty clinical in her handling of it, and when she brought the salad and new quesadilla out, the rest of us had finished eating and the manager offered us some desserts, which we declined. I just asked for the check so I could “chew and screw” out of there. I have to admit, I was a little surprised when the bill came and we were charged for the salad.

I told the waitress that I was a little perplexed why were being charged for my wife’s salad, since it took four attempts and a visit from the manager to ensure she could consume it without needing to wash it down with an epi-pen. Her response-“the manager offered you a free dessert, right?” I told her that it was puzzling, and I didn’t think I should be paying for that experience. To her credit, she brought me a new bill, and she had removed the salad and the quesadilla.

My buddy, who is not a complainer, told me as he was leaving that the service was utterly awful and that it was such a bad experience for them (replete with rude, forgetful wait staff and poorly prepared food) that he decided not to buy several gift cards for his staff (saving him a couple hundred dollars, but costing the Outhouse.) Our friends who had a bad meal there the week before were very dissatisfied with the quality of the meal, going so far as to say that their steak tasted and looked “steamed”.

In a world where the economy is crumbling, and restaurants should be tripping over themselves to get, and retain, your business, the Outback seems to be taking the position that you’ll come to them no matter what type of experience they serve up. It had been a long time since I had eaten at an Outback…I think it will be ever longer before I go back.

You’ve been great…enjoy the Little River Band.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Internet Radio

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 9 at 9:00pm-ish, I'll be interviewed by Greg Rempe from BBQ Central, on his internet radio show. You can tune in and hear us live at about 9:10pm.

Click here: LA Talk Radio

Click on the "listen live" button up top.

If you can't tune in live, you can pick it up the same web site in archives during the week or subscribe to the BBQ Central podcast on ITunes.

We'll be talking kosher bbq, beef ribs and brisket!

The Palate

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Goodbye Vinny T’s, we hardly knew ye..

Many years ago, “Vinny Testa’s” opened in Natick, MA with a lot of fanfare, garlic and pasta. This was not “The Paradise” in “Big Night”, and there wasn’t any “timpano”, but for the uninitiated, “VT’s” was an Italian restaurant that served food in HUGE portions…or at least that’s what they wanted you to believe. In reality, it was a normal portion of food served with an abnormally large amount of pasta.

The prices, in today’s world, were pretty unreasonable (because frankly, I can buy a pound of pasta at Stop & Shop for $1.09), but they introduced the roasted garlic bulb to the consuming public. They had a couple of dishes that I actually enjoyed but the place itself was just adequate. It was the first place I had “Farfalle Con Pollo” or bowtie pasta with chicken and broccoli. That dish was quite good, in its day. Loaded with garlic…it was a gift that kept on giving for days and days. In fact, there was so much garlic that my co-workers could tell that I had eaten there, before I even came to work.

A few years ago, something changed. I think the parent company was sold, and the name was changed to “Vinny T’s of Boston.” I think the mix of a new parent company and the upswing of anti-pasta (pretty punny, eh?) diets such as Atkins and South Beach sounded the death knell for restaurants that relied so much on the consumption of pasta. “Vinny T’s” changed up their menu a little, but they never regained the status from their glory days, if there ever were any. Driving by the Natick location, I noticed the place was dark. Dark, as in the casket lid is down and nailed shut. Visiting their web site, they regret to inform us that the Natick location has closed. Though I don’t know if it’s the menu, the economy or the lease, can the other locations be far behind? Alas, poor Vinny T, I knew him well.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Louis Prima…

Seasons' Eatings...

Karen Carpenter once sang:

"Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
'Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays you can't beat home, sweet home..."

This has been my mantra forever. I want to spend the holidays at home. It doesn’t need to be my home-it could be yours, or anyone’s for that matter; I just don’t want to be eating out and spending the holidays at a restaurant.

Restaurants serve a solid purpose on the holidays-there are people that perhaps are stuck here for business, or maybe just moved to the area and don’t have any real connection to other people locally. But for life-long New Englanders, the last thing I want to do is go out for Thanksgiving.

I eat out all the time (big surprise, right?) and having worked in restaurants growing up, I can tell you it’s the last place staff want to be on holidays. The front-end people don’t want to be there, the wait-staff don’t want to be there, and the cooks/chefs don’t want to be there. If they’re serving you, when do they get to eat? Believe me, they’re figuring out some way to take it out on you.

Sooooooo, due to a number of circumstances, we found ourselves planning on eating out for Thanksgiving this year. I think of a number of surgical procedures I’d rather have, but you know me, “Mr. Silver Lining”…and we got a reservation for Bergson’s 1790 House in Westboro, MA.

I have to tell you…like an innocent country boy stumbling onto an old fashion revival, I’ve seen the light and maybe been converted. The 1790 House really pulled it off well. The food was served buffet style, but unlike the massive “super buffets” that are a blight on our roadsides, this was a buffet of chafing dishes holding freshly prepared food, followed by cut-to-order turkey and prime rib. The picture is of the Senior Palate’s plate, with a hunk of beef just carved off the cow. “SP” likes it a little rare.

Grammy Palate observed that they placed small doilies on the saucers under the tea cups…that was a big hit with her. A big hit with me was that Mrs. Palate had plenty of items she could eat, since they weren’t all swimming in butter, and the turkey was fresh, and not coated in butter, and the prime rib was perfectly done and cu to order. The staff seemed genuinely happy to be there and working hard to make you want to come back again, and the price was right, including a kids’ price (for 13 and under) that was less than half of an adult. All in all, the 1790 House was a hit…so good that the Pilgrims wish they were there to celebrate their freedom by oppressing others.

You've been great...enjoy The Carpenters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I've got Flair!!!

First there were video games…then the internet…then blogging…now, the ultimate black hole time sink…it’s got style, it’s got “flair”…it’s f-ing Facebook.com!!!!

I know I can waste time with the best of them…if only I could harness this power for good and not evil…but Facebook is like that lady in a fudge shop offering you a little sample (or a crack dealer)…she sucks you in with the sublime taste of fresh fudge (or fresh crack), like Facebook, with new friends you haven’t seen or heard from in 20 years. It’s awesome, yet it sucks beyond words.

Frankly, I enjoy connecting and re-connecting with old friends and those happy accidents of stumbling upon someone you haven’t spoken with in years. By the way, I am available for “friending.”

But it’s not just the friends. Sure, I like wine, but every now and then, I like some hard liquor. So when I don’t want to “friend” anyone for a while, I go to the hard liquor of Facebook-the games. Word Twist, Challenge Sudoku, Pathwords and now Mindjolt games (thanks, M-Gran!) I am sensing my evenings slipping away, while playing “just one more game”. I can quit anytime…I don’t have a problem…really.

Random thoughts (just to keep me off Facebook for a while)—

What’s up with the “his and hers” bathtubs at the end of the Cialis commercial? Wouldn’t it be better if they were in the same one? Is Cialis that potent, or were they showing us hour “37”?

Shouldn’t Damien Woodie be the Cialis spokeman?

Now that I’m not on the “Burger Quest”, I am really in the mood for a burger.

BTW, I did get a talking to by my doctor…and my mother.

In this time of economic turmoil, I think it was the perfect time for Starbucks to roll out its new “Clover” machine and charge $3.00 for a cup of coffee. Anyone want to tell them they lost 97% of their value last quarter?

For those of you interested in my appearance on Jordan’s show, I have CDs available for shipping, free of charge. Email me and I’ll drop one in the mail to you. I can barely keep up with the requests, so get yours in time for Hanukah!

Thanks to Jordan, for having me on and putting together a high-quality recording.

You’ve been great. Now please welcome…Gerry Williams.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Breaking down the 4th wall

For those of you interested in what it looks like on the "inside", here's a peek.

And for the grand Host himself...


Thanks to Jordan for a great time tonight (this morning) on WBZ. Had lots of fun.

For you listeners, here's a picture of my set-up for my smoker...so lonely, that I had to add two more grills.

and here's what real brisket looks like:

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Apex..or Nadir, depending on perspective

For 30 days, Morgan Spurlock ate only McDonalds and documented his physiological decline in the movie “Super Size Me.” Friends, for you I have become Morgan Spurlock, but I will spare you the video.

I have completed the Burger Quest, and while I have yet to find the burger that made me want to sew my ass shut, a few were very satisfying and harkened me back to the good old days when I could eat anything without fear of my body breaking down. But alas, like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of my life…and I now need to be more health conscious. If I see another burger, it’ll be too soon…until next week at least.

Today, I finished with the Quest at The Met Bar at the Natick “Collection”. For those of you unfamiliar with the “Collection”, it’s just a fancy mall, full of it’s own publicity, but not many patrons. Just what Natick needed in a bad economy: a mall featuring Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom’s, Tourneau Watches and a whole bunch of useless, overpriced stores where no one will shop. Add to that over-priced unsold condos above the mall, and it’s a cocktail for misery. It reminds me of a nicer version of the “dead mall” on Route 9 in Hadley, MA, but the fixtures in the empty stores are nicer.

This location of the Met is apparently known for their “burger bar.” The place has a huge burger menu, which includes choices of regular beef, Kobe beef, turkey and veggie burgers. The menu is a little confusing. Click here to see part of it yourself.

I went with a vegetarian friend, who lives vicariously through my meaty experiences. He got a veggie burger (I tried a small bite, and honestly, it was very good), and I got the usual-a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and red onion, and we shared a side of sweet potato chips and onion rings. Observation-staff is very attentive. My friend mentioned that he is a vegetarian, and he ordered the “Met Sauce” on his veggie burger. Later, the waiter came by and said that he checked and the Met Sauce has chicken stock in it, so he told them to leave off the sauce. That was a good call on his part, and he even brought a few other “clean” sauces for my friend to try.

As advertised by some of my friends, the burger was excellent. Nice lean/fat ratio, served hot from the grill, done right, and served nicely on a clean plate. It was thick, juicy and full of meataliciousness. The sides were good, but I’ve been punishing myself too much lately, and need a break from these “infarctions on a plate”, so I merely tasted them, and didn’t dive in head-first like I would normally.

I give the Met Bar, as far as their burgers go, a big meaty thumb up. But, be forewarned, it’s full of ambiance, and you pay for that privilege. Two burgers, a side of rings/fries, 2 sodas and tip came to $38.00. Not for the weak. I would say that Bartley’s has ambiance too, but of a different kind, and their prices aren’t too far off. I guess it’s the price of a good burger, regardless where you consume it.

Epilogue for this Burger Quest: If I see another burger, it’ll be too soon…until next week, of course.

You’ve been great…and now showing in Theatre 1-“Goodburger”.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Burger Bomber

The senior Palate was a member of the “Climactic Crusaders”, an Army division assigned to the Natick Army Labs in Natick, Massachusetts. These American heroes put their lives at risk testing the weather resistance of the linings of spacesuits, boots and helmets (for the then up and coming space program in the late 50s). These are the men that are featured in Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” and in a wing of The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. These are men that were sent into pressure and high wind chambers, dunked into sub-zero water, and lit on fire, all in the name of the people of he United States of America.

It is with that spirit, that I bring my “Burger Quest 2008” to a close. Like the “Climactic Crusaders”, I have given myself for you, my country. While my gastroenterologist, and mother, have pleaded with me not to go, I serve a higher calling-one that will not rest until I have sampled the burgerliciousness of some of the well known, and not so well known, joints in the area. Though I come out of these places on a proverbial stretcher, I do so to serve and salute you, because I am…a “Cow Crusader”.

I decided to go back to British Beer Works to give a burger a whirl. It was much better than the “Pasty” I had a couple of weeks ago. It was one of the better burgers I’ve had locally recently. I have decided to forego the fried sides, and got a Thai Asian Cole Slaw. That was a terrible mix of flavors-the traditional beefy burger with a sweet vinegary Cole slaw. Standing alone, they both tasted good…but together, it was like Sheriff Cole on one side and Billy Jack on the other side of my mouth. Go for the burger, get the fries…it’s the Fred and Barney, Darren and Samantha or Jerry and George of food. Some things just go together.

Tomorrow, I hope to get to the Met Bar for their lunch burger, and put the final nail in the Burger Quest coffin. Until then…please welcome…Mayor McCheese.

Palate Live!!!

Just a reminder that I will be appearing on "The Jordan Rich Show" on WBZ 1030AM on Saturday night at midnight. Tune in, or listen to it stream live on the internet at wbz1030.com

We'll be talking burgers and BBQ.

Monday, October 27, 2008

To life...

Gratuitous shout-out and Happy 18th Anniversary to M & J, charter and long-distance subscribers to my blog, from Oklahoma. They knew me when I was just "Critical" or "Palate". Here's to you...and Rocky Top!


On Air

I'll be back on The Jordan Rich Show on WBZ1030 AM on November 8 from midnight to 3:30 a.m. We'll be talking burgers and BBQ.

Tune in, or listen to us live on the internet.

Peace, love and burgers...


The Pasty...All American Treat...or Trick?

I don’t like pastys…what guy does? Guys don’t go out to joints for the pastys…

Oops, wrong kind of “pasty”.

Continuing on my personal quest for the Mount Everest of burgers, like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, I dined at “British Beer Company” in Framingham, the latest location for the local chain.

I was thinking to myself that I’d like to have a burger, but perhaps, I should try something different. Then I saw this on the menu: “THE ALL AMERICAN PASTY-a grilled burger, cheddar cheese, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and our traditional English steak sauce. Served with French fries and coleslaw.” I figured, it was pretty much a burger I’d eat, except stuffed inside piecrust and served calzone-style. Close enough for this food quest, so I thought.

There’s not much to say about this thing, or this place-not sure what to make of it. The pasty certainly wasn’t as described-it wasn’t so much a burger as it was ground meat stuffed inside this pastry, and not much of it, at that. I am also not a fan of steak sauce, and it was already mixed in. Not the flavor profile I was looking for or expected, and given the amount of dough, I fell into a food coma the rest of the day.

I guess I wouldn’t bad mouth BBC too much-they could clarify the item so you don’t expect a burger when in reality it’s just small pieces of ground beef, and I just should have stuck to my own plan. I’ll give it a second try sometime, but not rushing back.

There was a moment, this past weekend, bringing me close to burger nirvana or “bur-vana”. This past Saturday, after much time away, I succumbed to the siren song of burgers sizzling on a grill and fries and onion rings in all their greasy goodness in a fry-o-lator …a bunch us of caravanned into Cambridge to “Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage.”

I imagine this caravan was similar to the one the Jews had leaving Egypt…including a voice-over from Cecil B. DeMille. “In world of oppression…where people survive on unleavened bread and unleavened bread alone, there exists an oasis of sublime ground meat, that people will wander 40 years just to taste its essence...there is no joy without meat, and there is only joy at…Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage.”

As their website says: Mr Bartley´s Gourmet Burgers, 7 ounces of choice beef, ground fresh daily. A Boston landmark since 1960.

Need I say any more? These pictures are just a hint of the gluttonous glory that awaits you and the firm of Gall, Bladder, Pancreas & Liver, which will be working to help process this meal. Hold on, my phone is ringing…it must be my pharmacist calling with my Lipitor prescription. Thankfully, it’s not Flomax or Cialis….

Only Mrs. Palate has enough self-control and got this good looking salad.

Bartley’s gets a meaty thumbs up. I do think the pictures say it all. But be forewarned…it’s very noisy, very crowded, you may have to wait outside for a while, and…and wait for it…no bathrooms! But, “… 7 ounces of choice beef, ground fresh daily…” Joyous.

You’ve been great. Enjoy the Sugar Hill Gang…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Call the plumber...

Apparently, Brad Sciullo of Uniontown, PA really enjoys a hamburger; he is the first person to ever eat the “Beer Barrel Belly Bruiser”, a 15-pound burger with toppings and a bun that weighed more than 20 pounds, from Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, PA.

The burger included a bun, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, mild banana peppers and a cup each of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and relish.

I know, you’re thinking the same thing: Why would anyone put relish on a burger?

Burger Quest 2008

FWIW, I heard this slogan tonight: “Fill up with a foot long at Subway…” oh, that’s so ripe…

A few weeks ago, on “How I Met Your Mother”, there was an episode entirely dedicated to the quest for the perfect burger in New York City. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the burgers in New York, but the show had a number of funny lines, as each character waxed poetic about their burger experiences. Regardless of my repulsion for NYC, I started wondering about the best burger I’ve had locally. What is it about the burger, the sandwich staple of most bars and restaurants that causes us to recall with fondness the best burgers we’ve ever had?

Could it be the sublime combination of meat and toppings, ranging from a slab of tomato and a leaf of lettuce, or could it be the combination of cheese and bacon (for you traife-eating heathens)? Is it a charcoal-grilled burger, kissed by flame, or a griddle seared burger, cooking in its own fat that makes your mouth water (remember, as the senior Palate says-“the flavaaaaaah’s in the faaaaaaat!”)? Do chain restaurants have any hope? Will Luke finally marry Laura? Will anyone actually recognize Miley as Hannah Montana? Stay tuned…

So, within the past month, and for the next few weeks, I have been, and will continue to journey across the MetroWest and Boston area in search of a great burger. While I will report on some of them here, and over the next few posts, the full narrative report will be heard on the Jordan Rich Show on WBZ 1030AM, midnight, on November 8/9. Tune in, for the dulcet tones of the Critical Palate!

Watch City Brewery, Waltham, MA—I met a friend for lunch there a few weeks ago, and decided to throw caution to the wind and get a burger for lunch. I usually avoid heavy lunches, because I have found that limits your afternoon work more than a heavy lunch. An hour after finishing, it’s “hello, food coma.” But, I was going to be out for a while, and I figure the worst that could happen would just be a car crash. (Mom, stop reading here) So I dove into a mushroom cheeseburger, with onion rings (which, for my mother’s benefit, I didn’t finish).

The burger was good, really good. Not the winner in my personal “sew my ass shut” sweepstakes, but a solid entry in the burger sampling, and a good way to start “Burger Quest-2008”.

Nobscot’s, Framingham, MA--In an earlier posting about my trip to NH, I talked about those hidden jewels, the diamonds in the rough that you might otherwise skip. Thinking Nobscot’s was one, we ventured inside.

The food was adequate, but not exceptional in any way. Nobscot’s is a bar, with a dining room attached. One of the junior Palates had Buffalo Tenders, and they were tasty, but the rest of the food was just ok. You can never really embrace a place that serves their mushroom and onion burger with canned mushrooms. I bet you even Brother Ezekiel of the Pennsylvania Dutch eats fresh mushrooms on his burgers. One last insult-I didn’t want fries (although I saw, from a distance, that these were “steak” fries, which I really like), and asked to substitute cole slaw. The waitress told me that it would be a $1.50 side dish, because they don’t substitute (this is always a bad sign at a restaurant-one that doesn’t care enough about their patrons to allow them to swap out a relatively inexpensive item for a cheaper one). I decided that $1.50 was a small price to pay for my cardiac health, and was cheaper than a Lipitor, but I thought that was pretty cheesy of them to up charge you for cole slaw, which I’m sure is cheaper than the frozen steak fries from Bayonne, NJ. The burger wasn’t good enough for me to rush back.

Ted’s Montana Grill, Westboro, MA--Third time back to Ted’s was fine too. I got, no surprise here, a mushroom cheeseburger, with salt and pepper onion rings (once again, for my mother’s benefit, some left behind on the plate). Of the two times I’ve gotten burgers here, they’ve both been prepared right, and the onion rings have been delicious. If you can get beyond Hanoi Jane and the eco-friendly happy horse crap, it’s a pretty good burger experience, though pricey. Saving the environment costs a lot of money, along with those paper straws.

Some of kind readers have made some suggestions-Wild Willy’s in Watertown, Kennedy’s Pub in Marlboro, and one of you, apparently jerking me around, suggested that Ruby Tuesday’s “Triple Prime” burger was a real winner. Yeah, a winner of the Kentucky Derby-I didn’t know frozen horsemeat packed in Secaucus, NJ came graded as “prime.” Keep the suggestions coming.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Weird Al Yankovic…

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Taste of the Palate-Part 3

After a brief “High Holiday Hiatus”, I’m back, gearing up for a new year of sin-free postings. I have begun to repent, and am feeling cleansed enough to write again. I was feeling very lethargic, being bogged down with so much sin…

A few of you readers (too many to count), were hanging on every word regarding my gastronomical tour of the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire…and all came to me with the same question: “Critical Palate do you do anything other than eat?” Assuming the “drink coffee” wasn’t the response you were looking for, I assure you all that I am not a couch potato…more like a couch potato puff! We did a bunch of things while away, and here are some of the highlights, or lowlights.

Clark’s Trading Post

No trip is complete to the White Mountains unless you spend an afternoon at “Clark’s”. This is small town, hokey entertainment at its best, and worst. Trained bears that don’t eat their trainers, steam train ride to the highway, past an old “prospector” that makes Ernest T. Bass look like a brain surgeon, bumper boats and a family of female Russian contortionists that had every 15 year old boy wondering about things…

Flume Gorge

The “Flume Gorge” is a natural rock formation and waterfall that has formed over thousands of years, or since the NH Division of Forestry and Wildlife blasted away some of the rocks. Actually, unlike the scam that was “The Old Man in the Mountain”, this does seem to be fairly natural. It’s very scenic, popular with tourists to the White Mountain region, and apparently, very popular with Hasidic Jews.

Here’s small snippet from their web site:
“The Flume is a natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at 
the base of Mount Liberty
Towering granite walls rise to a spectacular height of 90 feet
The Flume Gorge was discovered in 1808”

It is a nice hike-we all did it. But, the state of New Hampshire has a lot of nerve charging a bucket of cash to get in for that schlep. It would be like the Egyptians charging the Jews to go into the desert!

Nonetheless, having never been in, I felt compelled to see the sights, and so we soldiered up and in. Here’s a picture for your perusal.

Attitash Alpine Slides

We took the Junior Palates to Attitash for a day of outdoor fun and frivolity. The main feature/attraction there is the “Alpine Slide”. Imagine a slightly tamer Luge ride-a sled, with a brake, on a cement slide, for a mile-long, high-speed ride down the mountain. To get there, you have ride up a high-speed chair lift, so if you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip it!

Once you’re on the slide, and getting up a head of steam, watch out, and hold on. Not quite Olympic track speed, it’s a lot of fun, but riders are susceptible are susceptible to getting a “Wedgie” or “V-eggie”, depending on gender.

Chutters in Littleton, NH

The Guinness Book of World Record holder for longest penny candy counter. I don’t think there’s much more to say.

FunSpot/Go-Karts in Meredith, NH

The Guinness Book of World Record Holder for largest indoor arcade. Please, pass the Tylenol, or rat poison.

Across the street: go-karts. The kids finally got a chance to drive their own cars, at least for the 4 laps. This was a real hoot, as was my daughter’s airbrush tattoo. “Look Dad, my own tramp stamp!”

Alpine Adventures Zip Line in Lincoln, NH

This was the “money shot” of the vacation, literally and figuratively. I had read about this in the Boston Globe before vacation, and I figured if I can ride in a hot air balloon, I can strap myself into a climbing harness, latch myself onto a thin wire, and zip across the treetops and zoom down the backside of Loon Mountain. Though expensive, the Junior Palate and I decided that this was one of the best things ever. Also one of the scariest! Like a tightrope walker, one word of advice-don’t look down! Click here for more details…

It’s great to be back. Enjoy Ozark Mountain Daredevils…

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Taste of the Palate, New Hampshire Style

I never expected the response I received regarding the White Mountain region of New Hampshire and all the great, and not so great, places to eat. I clearly have struck a nerve with all of you, so I am completing my gastronomic tour of Lincoln-Woodstock, NH.

Brittany’s Café at the Kancamagus Motor Lodge
How many times have you passed a motel, see their little diner/café and thought to yourselves “gee, I should stop here for a meal, maybe a T-bone, of filet mignon.” Of course you haven’t, because most of these places look like joints where you wouldn’t be caught dead, more because of the location than the décor.

So, as I have said, some places just call out, and when you go, it’s a real surprise…and in this case, a good way. Years back, some Cousin Palates discovered Brittany’s for breakfast, and after we sampled it, we decided that this was a pleasant, decent place to dine, and we’ve been there for dinner too. We all give it a “thumb up” even though it looks like a place at which you’d never think about stopping.

Truant’s in Woodstock, NH.

This place looks like a joint where former “truants” would hang out, replete with video games, tabletop shuffleboard, darts and pool tables. But you know, looks can be deceiving. To get to the dining room at Truant’s, you go down two steps, physically and socially. But, the food is good. It’s a step up from pub food, with some decent selections, and an extensive kids’ menu. It’s funny how places in vacation spots cater more to kids than the places around where we love. Normally, I wouldn’t really think of taking the kids into a glorified biker bar (they prefer opium dens), but with a decent dining room downstairs, and the kids’ menu, they have created a welcoming joint that the whole family can enjoy, and afford. While we’ve dropped “Dad’s” from our “preferred” list, we’ve put “Truant’s” on the “Palatable” list.

Shorty’s Roadhouse Café

Shorty’s is down in the Nashua/Brookline area, and perfectly pleasant Tex-Mex restaurant. We stopped there on our way home, and it was a nice way to end the week of sumptuous repasts. Without getting into gory details (because by the time we were eating there, I was bloated and burnt out), the nice menu feature is that they have a number of quesadillas, and you can order a “half.” If you’re really hungry, you can order “halves” of two different ones, or if you want to go light, just order a “half.” We also had a great waitress, and overall, Shorty’s wasn’t ...er...“Crappy.”

While none of the places we ate were 5-star or Michelin rated, almost all were enjoyable, decent quality, family-friendly places, that diverted from the standard chain paradigm of pre-fab, pre-cooked, pre-tend food. While some of the menu items were the types of things you’d find at a chain (Buffalo chicken sandwich, burger sliders), the food was fresh and real, with none of the pseudo-essence of food you get at the major chains.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the dining experiences in the White Mountains of NH. You’ve been great. Now, please welcome Buffalo Springfield.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Taste of the Palate—New Hampshire style-Part Deux

Because of the server-killing response, I am continuing with my review of the best, average and worst of the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire.

The thing about going to places like the White Mountains is that there aren’t any chains to lure you in with the scent of pre-fabricated food from East Trashdump, PA. A week away from Route 9, Chain Restaurant Mecca, is just what the gastroenterologist ordered.

We recently ate twice at Woodstock Station in Woodstock, NH. The station is a local brew pub-sort of what “John Harvard’s” wants us to think it is-that serves very fresh and highly acclaimed beer, and has a huge menu, and there is something for everyone on this menu for everyone. I tried one of the stranger items-the “chicken salad melt”. The description: “Our famous all breast chicken salad with chutney and walnuts baked on an English muffin with tomatoes and cheese.” It was late, and after a long day in the hot sun, I decided to go for it. While it does sound weird, it was surprisingly delicious. Since we were staying in a condo with a full kitchen, we could bring leftovers home and I enjoyed it the next day. Like the plague, it was a gift that kept on giving, except tastier.
A special menu item that caught my eye-“Death by Burger”; an 18 oz. cheeseburger, B.L.T on the bottom, with onions on the top. The menu says “For real men only”-I assure you, no women would want to be around after one is consumed.

One warning about the station-there is live music after 9:00pm. It’s usually local musicians and quite good, but it makes for difficult for table conversation at times, and difficult for the wait-staff to hear and understand what you’re saying. Be forewarned about the noise, but overall, Siskel gives it a thumb up!

Dad’s at the Beacon Resort is a throwback to the heyday of beach clubs, Poconos and the Catskills, except without any of the charm. At this place, it looks like everyone puts Baby in a corner.

The Beacon is on Route 3 in Lincoln, next to the Whale’s Tale water park. It’s a small “resort”, with outer-lying small cabins and some motel-like buildings. Dad’s is in a central building that also houses their nightclub, where on the night we dined there, after dinner you could enjoy the sweet sounds of Ivan Putski and his Magic Accordion, playing Abba’s hits from “Mama Mia.”

One of the reasons we used to like Dad’s was because it was one of the rare places you could get “all you can keep down” beef ribs, and they were usually pretty good. Alas, like all good things, Dad’s has seen better days. While the menu is extensive, they have decided that they cannot accommodate any food allergy alterations to the dishes, so Mrs. Palate got stuck with a tasteless, plain piece of chicken. While I had the ribs, the ribs never stopped coming the whole night, euphemistically.

Another annoyance-wait staff that doesn’t write things down. This drives me nuts, especially when there are food allergies and modifications. I don’t know who the staff thinks they’re impressing, because it sure isn’t me when they have to come back and ask- “what did you get again?”

One last observation on Dad’s—beware of any place that has a “make your own sundae bar.” While we were sitting at our table, another family nearby got up to make their sundaes. While there, the father not only put a spoon into the cherries and ate some, right from the spoon at the bar, but then stuck his finger into the hot fudge, and licked it off!!! The Critical Palate gives Dad’s, unfortunately, after sticking it in the hot fudge, a big thumb’s down.

More later, but for now, enjoy “Malt Shoppe Memories” by Time-Life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Taste of the Palate—New Hampshire style

The Palate is expanding to New Hampshire…

As I mentioned in my radio appearance, I like ice cream, particularly “soft serve”. For some of the best soft served ice cream in all the world, try “Coneheads” in Woodstock, NH. We discovered “Coneheads” about 6 years ago on vacation, and it has been a frequent stop for us whenever we are in that area. 30 plus flavors of soft serve, plus Gifford’s hard packed, for those of you so inclined. Heaven in your mouth. Like Michelob, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Junior Palateers love it!

Half Baked and Fully Brewed

Trying to find a Starbucks in the White Mountain Region is like trying to find a loincloth at a Nudist resort. This is the only area in America where the Starbucks are more than a block apart. A favored motto has always been “When in Crete, go where the Cretins go”. So, I found a place-“Half-Baked and Fully Brewed”. Not as potent as Starbucks, but, in a pinch, it’ll do.

Honestly, I do like the homey, neighborhood feel, which is slightly different than the forced familiarity of Starbucks. That’s not to say I’m rebelling from my home away from home, it’s just that when you go to a place that feels homey, because that’s the way it is, and not because the CEO in his ivory tower tells you it needs to be, it’s a pleasant surprise. And it actually smelled like fresh ground coffee!

Speaking of surprises, Chinese food in NH. As we know, when you think “gourmet Chinese food”, you have to think Woodstock, NH. Nothing says “Apres Skiing” like “Kung Pao Chicken.” I heard that after a long day on the slopes, Franz Klammer liked to warm up in the lodge with some Hot and Sour Soup.

In the past, eating Chinese food in the mountains of New Hampshire was like eating a cheeseburger bought at a gas station Cumberland Farms-you took your life in your hands. But, the Junior Palateers, not knowing any better, encouraged us to try the new “Imperial Gardens” in Woodstock, right across from Coneheads, and you know-it was good, and the bathrooms were cleaner than the House of Roy’s, so we give it four thumbs up.

There’s so little to say and so much time…strike that, reverse it. I’ll be back soon, but in the meantime, enjoy The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The List of Jordan...

From Saturday Night's show, Jordan complied a list of the places we talked about, along with some comments from Jordan, myself or the callers. Bon Appetite...

" 2008 Jordan Rich Restaurant Guide

Ted’s Montana Grill: Yes, it’s the TNT Atlanta Braves’ owner himself with locations around the country including Westboro, Massachusetts. Great beef and bison burgers.

Scales and Shells Restaurant and Bar: serving great fish in Newport, R.I.

Sibling Rivalry combines the simple elegance of classical cooking with the rich, bold flavors of Modern American cuisine. Chef's David and Bob Kinkead created a 'dueling' menu that showcases their talents with different interpretations of seasonal ingredients. www.siblingrivalryboston.com

The Met Bar and Grill: Now at the new Natick Mall boasts a strong menu with French Fry maven Laurel highly recommending their burgers. www.metbarandgrill.com

The Bee Hive: Located in Boston’s South End, this place features great sandwiches, burgers and entrees with live jazz, cabaret and more. www.beehiveboston.com

Arnold’s on the Cape: The Best Clam Shack on Cape Cod in Eastham.

Toscano Restaurant: A great destination on Beacon Hill, know for its outstanding Tuscany cuisine and atmosphere. www.toscanoboston.com

Sibling Rivalry: A wonderful concept in Boston’s South End...David and Bob Kinkead create a “dueling” menu showcasing their individual talents as chefs.

The Flippin’ Burger: Now in Newton, it’s a burger lover’s paradise.

Willy’s Steak House Grill and Sushi Bar: In Shrewsbury, one of the best steak houses in central Massachusetts. www.willyssteakhouse.com

The Elephant Walk: With several locations in the Boston area, check out this wonderful restaurant serving Cambodian food with a French flare.

The Anchor Bar: The original home of world-famous Buffalo Wings. Why not make it a field trip? www.anchorbar.com

Viola Restaurant: Italian fare and lots of fun in Braintree at 1209 Washington Street. Call 781-848-8980.

J.J. Mulligan’s Sports Bar and Grille: Another fine establishment in Braintree at 941 Washington Street. Call 781-849-7007.

Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage: Choice hamburgers served the old-fashioned way, huge and juicy. www.bartleysburgers.com

The Sugar Bakery: Look out, this is cupcake heaven…amazing bakery in West Roxbury serving up wonderful Raspberry Lime Rickeys as well. www.sugarbakery.net

Moe’s Deli : One has to go to Montreal for a great deli with some of the world’s finest fries!

The Stockyard Restaurant: A great place to watch a ballgame and enjoy delicious lunches and dinners in Brighton. www.stockyardrestaurant.com

The Jewel of India: Located in Biddeford, Maine for the finest in exotic Indian cuisine.

On the Marsh: Indulge in fine cuisine in the picturesque town of Kennebunk, Maine at this classic restaurant. www.onthemarsh.com

Ron’s Landing at Rocky Bend: Spectacular dining in a casual atmosphere at beautiful Hampton Beach, N.H. www.ronslanding.com

Z Square: Creative American Home Cooking in Cambridge.

R.F. O’Sullivan’s: A hidden gem in Somerville known for great burgers and taters, superb saloon fare. www.rf-osullivan.com

The Wok: You’ll find superb gourmet Chinese food at the intersection of Routes 128 and 9 in Wellesley. www.wokwellesley.com

The Royal East: For authentic Cantonese and Szechwan food you cannot beat this spot right by M.I.T. www.royaleast.com

The Sunny Day Diner: If it’s road food you want and you find yourself in N.H., head for the White Mountains and this famous diner. www.geocities.com/sunnydaydiner

Radio Free Palate...

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea...

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me on his show on WBZ 1030 this past Saturday night. I hope that you listeners enjoyed it as much as Jordan and I did; it was a lot of fun. Look for more updates about future appearances.

For those of you that couldn't tune in, a CD of all 3 1/2 hours may be available in the future. Watch for details...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kiss My Grits...

I love diners…almost as much as I love fire (read the post below). It’s a real taste of Americana…but not for my kids.

My kids like diners as much as they like tetanus shots and I can’t figure out why. Most diners have an extensive menu of things that I would think kids would like, but my kids run from diners like the Japanese from Godzilla…

Eric’s rant-I think chain restaurants have had the same impact on small local restaurants as Wal-Mart has had on small local shops. Locals just can’t compete, and kids are bombarded with images of food from Unos, Outback, Betucci’s, etc…when’s the last time B.J.’s Diner advertised? Kids become familiar with the mass-produced food, and in the process, don’t learn to appreciate or enjoy a mom and pop style place.

When asked why he doesn’t like diners, my son frequently complains about the smell. The smell???!!! That’s part of the charm-bacon and sausage grease (though I don’t eat either anymore) and potatoes sizzling on the grill. Heap on top of that some pancake batter, eggs and maybe some corned beef hash, and wow, that’s an olfactory orgy! Not an odor easily forgotten.

I really like diners and come from a diner family, since my father owned one while I was in high school. Not Tom Stahl’s diner in “A History of Violence (though my dad probably wanted to beat some customers with a coffee pot), but a small 19 seat joint, just like you would imagine. $1.99-2 eggs, homefries, bacon/sausage, toast and coffee. Can’t beat it. That was back in the 80s; now, the same thing costs $5.99.

There is one particular diner I like-the Sunny Day Diner in Lincoln-Woodstock, New Hampshire. It’s been featured on The Food Network and some other shows, and it lives up to its billing. You can always tell the diner by the quality of their homefries, and these did not disappoint. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, with a nice set of spices.

My father is partial to Lloyd’s Diner here in Framingham. The problem with Lloyd’s is that its only open about 4 hours a week, and not consecutive. When you drive by, you have to look at the board outside that has the hours posted, because it seems that they change weekly. Last week, I think it was Mon. 11:15-11:48AM, Fri. 6:02-8:25AM, and Sunday from “Open to close”. Actually, they are currently open 3 days a week, but you have to make sure. I will admit that their food is good and plentiful, and you won’t need to eat lunch if you have breakfast there, if they’re open.

Actually, my favorite was B.J.’s Diner, gone, but not forgotten. The surly old bastard working the grill could drive you nuts, and no Flo, Vera or Alice, but at least the food was good.

You’ve been great…Enjoy Arlo Guthrie…

Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't Forget...

I'll be ranting live with Jordan on "The Jordan Rich Show" on WBZ 1030 AM here in Boston. Saturday night at midnight, until 4:00 a.m. Tune in, or listen to it live streaming across the internet...The Critical Palate goes live, spanning the globe!


Ooooooooooooh, Fire

I am not a “Pyromaniac”, but I love fire. I love everything about fire. The smell, the look, the way it cooks…(there’s got to be a song in here somewhere.) I don’t love fire in the Tom Cruise-“Endless Love” way (Cruise’s first role was in “Endless Love” as a soccer buddy of Martin Hewitt who suggests the fatal idea of lighting wet newspaper on fire outside the Butterfield’s home and then putting it out, to appear to be a hero to the Butterfield family. I think a giving them a pamphlet on Scientology might have been a better idea), but I love to cook over open flame, or smoke something over low heat and a slow fire. So when I travel, I always hope to find a BBQ joint, and I do mean “joint” in the best possible sense of the word.

Back in August 2002, Elayne and I were traveling through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Staying in Jackson, NH, we ventured down past “Storyland” into North Conway. On the way to the shops, we drove past a house that had a giant offset smoker in front, next to a half dozen Harley Davidsons. The sign said "Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company" and I said to Elayne “we should eat here” to which she responded “no (unable to print) way!” I think something about the bikes, the leather, the smoke wafting from the building was a put-off for her. So I pulled in.

Boy, was she glad I did. Now, whenever we go up that way, we go out of our way to grab a bite there. The BBQ Salmon is sublime-so much so, that I requested their recipe (and they were more than happy to offer it up), and the brisket is excellent. The prices and quality make this a good value. We strongly recommend Moat Mountain.

Getting back to Jackson, NH for a minute. A beautiful, picturesque New England town. Elayne I have stayed at a few places, but The Wentworth is one of the nicest. If you stay in the Arden House, there are beautiful rooms, along with modern amenities. The dining is superb, and we strongly recommend staying here when in the White Mountain region.

Speaking of fire…a friend of mine just got back from the mid-west, and at my insistence, dined at the Weber Grill restaurant. The Weber-Stephen Products Company, the same company that manufactures the grills, owns this place. This is my personal Mecca, calling me with its siren song of the snap, crackle and pop of open fire. They cook, indoors, over open charcoal flame!!! I’ve got to get there soon, and the report from my friend was a big “fork up” for the steak. Tell me, how can you beat the “flavah” of a steak cooked over open fire? My mouth is watering just writing this. Add in décor that is focused on Weber grill products, lampshades made from kettle grill covers, and you have a winning concept in my book. I am starting to plan my next road trip by the places I need to eat and this is Number 1.

Apropos of nothing-if the girls on the Chinese women gymnastics team are 16 or older, I’m beating Michael Phelps in the 400m individual medley! The twelve year olds on the Dominican little league teams are older.

Speaking of Olympics, I actually would prefer a little play for the archers, riflemen and ultimate Frisbee heads…frankly, I’d like to see more of the unsung sports, along with beer pong and Maypole dancing.

Anyone else creeped out by the old guys coaching the young girls in gymnastics? For a great treatise on this sport, and the abusing of these young girls, read “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters” by Joan Ryan. You will never let your daughters near a gym again.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Chuck Mangione…

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On the air!

Don't forget that once again, I will be the in-studio guest on WBZ 1030 AM here in Boston, midnight to 4:00 a.m. this coming Saturday/Sunday on the Jordan Rich show. We'll be talking food, and I encrouage you all to tune in, and even call in.

If you're out of radio-wave distance, tune in live on the internet, at WBZ1030.Com.


Emptying out the foot locker of my brain…

Clark Rockefeller-the guy looks like a sociopathic Danny Bonaduce. Oh wait, that’s what Danny Bonaduce looks like.

I love the Olympics…I could watch Synchronized Diving and Rhythmic Gymnastics all day…but what is up with the Mens’ Swimming Unitard??? They look like the women, except with more curves…

Chewing gum was invented in 1870 by Thomas Adams. How’d you like to be his tester? “Here, chew on this and let me know what you think?” How many times did someone have to chew some garbage before they hit a winner. It’s like the guy that tested Preparations A-G!

My Starbucks has reopened and proper balance has been restored to the coffee universe in Framingham. They made some nice improvements, and now that I’m back on the Starbucks bandwagon, I can tell you it’s not just about the feng shui of their stores, but the coffee is good!

What’s up with Olympic Beach Volleyball? This qualifies as an Olympic sport? Every March, thousands of people are playing this in Fort Lauderdale or Daytona. Does that mean they could qualify for the Olympics? At least their cheerleaders are likely have come over from a wet t-shirt contest…I think that’s what’s missing in Beijing.

If beach volleyball can qualify, I’d like to petition the USOC for “television watching” to become an Olympic sport. I can hear the announcer now: “Here comes Weinstein. He’s been working his wrist and flexing his fingers; they call him “The Intimidator”. Just look at the muscular hands. When asked how he trains, he said “Bela Karolyi trains me like those little girls. He says in order to be a champion, he must break me. He took away my Cheetos.” Here it is…He picks up the remote, and Oh My G-d he’s clinched it! He changed the channels without even looking at the remote. Weinstein is a man among boys here. No one had a chance! I don’t think we will ever see skills like this again.”

Actually I do love the Olympics, but only the amateur sports, and I miss Jim McKay, the voice of the Olympics. On this 36th (double-chai) anniversary of the Munich Massacre, let’s not forget those Israeli athletes that gave their lives in the name of their country and in the name of amateur sports.

Now, if we could only go back to the real tradition of playing all Olympic games in the nude.


Now that Paparazzi and British Beer Works are opened, it means one thing: Framingham has even more restaurants and nowhere to eat. While I haven’t been to either yet, I’m not rushing because deep down inside me, in places we don’t talk about at parties, I know it’ll just be more of the same.

One of the more pleasant surprises in Framingham is The Aegean. This place has been around since Homer’s Odyssey, which may have even led him here for traditional Greek food.

The Aegean used to be a place for the “blue hairs”; people who ate here probably voted for John Adams. The menu had a decent selection of both Greek and American specialties (if you call a cheeseburger an “American Specialty”) and the prices were reasonable. Whenever we were sick growing up, my mother would always bring home some “chicken, egg, lemon soup” to make us feel better. Greek, not Jewish, penicillin.

A few years ago, The Aegean embarked on a move from the small crappy plaza to the former site of Chi-Chi’s. You know, nothing says “Baklava” like early Aztec kitsch décor. The Aegean gutted the place, rebuilt it, and re-opened their restaurant about 5 times the size of their previous location. With a beautiful bar and dining room, it became the place to go for the slightly younger than blue hair generation.

We don’t go often because they do not have a kid’s menu, and it is now a little pricey (someone has to pay for the HDTVs and Grecian urns). We did go there last week, and as always, the food was excellent and the service prompt and professional.

This time, I ordered “Mousaka”, which is like Greek lasagna. It’s ground beef, on top of potatoes, covered with a layer of eggplant and béchamel sauce. Served with rice or veggies, and with a Greek salad (with or without “fetid” cheese), it was a party in my mouth. Much better than “Christo’s” in Brockton. There is nothing “Stepford” about this place. With abundant, fresh and flavorful food, The Critical Palate gives The Aegean dyo anticheiros pano!

You’ve been great…enjoy Nana Mouskouri!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goin' Live

Once again, I will be the in-studio guest on WBZ 1030 AM here in Boston, midnight to 4:00 a.m. this coming Saturday/Sunday on the Jordan Rich show. We'll be talking food, and I encrouage you all to tune in, and even call in.

If you're out of radio-wave distance, tune in live on the internet, at WBZ1030.Com.

Come on "Palateers", you know you're out there. Now's your chance to hear me rant live!


Up, Up and Away...

Little do you people know that I am a huge Fifth Dimension fan. It goes further back than “Solid Gold” with Marilyn McCoo; it actually goes back to growing up in Hyannisport and hearing their greatest hits play on my parents radio.

Forever tattooed on my brain (everybody sing along…):

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly…

So, it was with that song in mind as I awoke on Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m. and drove to Hudson for a sunrise ascension and flight on the RE/MAX hot air balloon.

I admit, at first, I was a little nervous about going, and even turned down the invitation, but I came to my senses, with some urging from my wife.

The pilot, Chris Mooney, was a terrific pilot and great company, as were my flying companions. The beauty and grandeur of the blue sky, dotted with balloons, and the smooth, silent sailing cannot be adequately described on this page.
The ground crew was extraordinarily friendly, and I very much enjoyed our celebratory champagne, cheese and crackers…at 8:00 a.m.

The picture above was a view from our balloon.

While I am a little young to have a “bucket list”, I am glad I had the opportunity, and encourage you all to “sing a song and sail along the silver sky…” if you have the chance.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Boffo! Bam! Pow!

What kid didn’t love those words? Plastered across the canted screen, Batman and Robin opened up a can of whoop-ass on a villain “du jour”. You would think these guys would watch the other episodes, where the henchmen always get their asses kicked. Oftentimes funny, in a tongue in cheek way.

Not so for “The Dark Night.” This movie is dead serious, and I mean “dead”. Really high body count, and a beautiful makeup job by Max Factor. There’s nothing subtly funny about this movie, except maybe the way Hollywood has embraced the ghost of Heath Ledger as the second coming of John Cazale.

Aside-of the six films John Cazale appeared in (the three “Godfather” movies (last one in flashback), “The Conversation”, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “The Deer Hunter”), all 6 were nominated for “Best Picture” Oscars. This is a guy who could a) choose a great movie, and b) act (and couldn’t choose his women-he was engaged to Meryl Streep, the most overrated actress in Hollywood, at the time of his death). The fact that many of these movies also starred DeNiro, Pacino, Duvall and were directed by such esteemed directors as Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola probably helped, but when you reflect back on actors lost before their prime, think about John Cazale, who tragically died from bone cancer when he was 43, not Heath Ledger, some depressed prescription drug hound who was apparently “filling” one of the Olsen twins’ “house.”

Back to Gotham City-I guess I give the movie 3 stars, because if I don’t, I’ll hear it from you, and the Hollywood Establishment (big readers of “TCP”-The Critical Palate). Honestly, I like action movies, and I was really looking forward to this one, but there were a lot of aspects of this movie that didn’t resonate with me. First, Aaron Eckhart-am I supposed to think he can act? He is the least compelling actor in this movie. I was actually glad when the Joker did his number on him. And what’s up with Maggie Gyllenhaal? In a “Dick York-Dick Sargent” swap, she’s now Rachel Dawes, not Katie Holmes. I bring more to this movie than she does. And what’s up with Christian Bale’s voice when he puts the rubber suit on? You can barely understand him-it’s a low snarl, with some words thrown in, but hard to understand. Linda Lovelace was easier to understand…while she was “working”.

Nonetheless, I don’t regret giving the movie my 2 hours and 40 minutes. Lots of explosions and ass whooping, filmed in a bleak, colorless style. A real pick-me-up. The hell with Aruba…I’m taking my next vacation in Gotham!

Hollywood seems to be locked in on the “blockbuster” type movie, equating big-budgets with quality. I’m sure Batman was a lot of money, and since Heath Ledger killed himself before it was released, he must be great in it, right? Frankly, I don’t buy into the whole “tortured soul” thing, but most critics seem to be.

There are great movies out there, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money to make, or make a lot of money at the box office to be great movies (don’t get me started on the “Titanic” vs. “Good Will Hunting” debate. Let’s just agree that “…Will…” got screwed by the Academy because they felt they needed to reward James Cameron, the wife abuser, for his fine work on the “Terminator” movies). Just last week, I watched an extremely underrated “Eastern Promises.”

The combination of Actor Viggo Mortensen and Director David Cronenberg is similar to Scorcese and his muse DeNiro, or the relationship between Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen. First together in “A History of Violence” and now back together in “Eastern Promises”, I could watch this combination for years.

This movie was released last fall to critical acclaim, but alas, without the big car chases and explosions of a “Bourne” or “Batman” movie, it was destined to fade in the box office. I assure you, it is well worth your time to find this on cable or satellite. The Russian bathhouse scene alone is worth the price of admission. Don’t miss “Eastern Promises.”

You’ve been great. Enjoy the Flying Karamazov Brothers…

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They’ve got Panache’

There is a major crisis here in the MetroWest. A crisis of epic proportions, of a magnitude that has never been experienced here before. The Great Chicago Fire…The Great Molasses Flood…Meryl Streep, the most overrated actress in Hollywood, nominated 14 times for an Oscar…none of that arises to the seismic shift in the balance of MetroWest universe.

My Starbucks is closed.

For two weeks.

I need time to recover from the shock of it all.

So this morning, we (me, and my people-yes, I have people) went to a new, locally owned coffee shop called “Panache”. Is it a compliment or an insult when one of my peeps asked, “is this a chain?” We call this, the “complisult”.

I guess that’s the real question: chain, or not.

I asked if they were a chain, and he told me that it was a local, one location shop. It was very clean, with professional decorating. Some nice pictures on the wall, and a mix of nice furniture and standard Starbucks’ issued wooden chairs and tables. The coffee tasted fine, and the nice touch…when I came back a second time, the “barista” (if they use the term here) remembered me and only charged me the refill price for my iced coffee. By the way, Panache’ only serves two sizes, “regular” and “large”. For you people who don’t like the fake Italian words like “venti”, Panache’ might be your place.

While I didn’t LOVE it, it might be a decent two-week placeholder while my home away from home rebuilds and reconfigures. I did try another Starbucks yesterday, but it felt like a Stepford Starbucks…the vibe was all wrong. Not all Starbucks are created equal, which is odd, because chains rely on the inherent similarity in all of its outlets. This may be a problem for Starbucks. A house divided cannot stand...

I thought Howard Shultz might have called me to get permission to close for ten days. When they re-open, I better have a seat with my name on it! Otherwise, maybe I’ll have to go to Dunkin’ Donuts.

You've been great. Enjoy The Commodores.

Calling all "Palateers..."

Someone asked me how many readers I have, and you know what? I have no idea!!!

So, I am wondering if you would indulge me, and if you're a reader of this blog, send an email to:


and let me know you're reading, and how you stumbled upon this blog.


Chief Critic

Lassie, come home...

Sometimes a restaurant surprises you in way you can never imagine, and so too, the Critical Palate. Last Saturday, kind readers, we went to “The Elephant Walk” in Cambridge (Massachusetts) with some friends, which features “French-Cambodian” cuisine. This is probably different from “French-Asian” or “Frasian”, and I tell you, I don’t think there was one of us who weren’t nervous. Not so much that the Khmer Rouge was going to take over the place, but with dishes with names like “Trey Tuk Peng Pah” (one of the easier ones to spell…and say), I’m surprised the bill didn’t say “that wasn’t chicken” or “hope you enjoyed Lassie”. Pleasantly, no such surprises were sprung upon us.

Without a doubt, I am glad we went, and had an excellent meal. In fact, we give it eight thumbs up (because 8 of us went, not because I’m an octopus). All of us had some sort of starter (I had an excellent chicken soup-“B’baw Mouan”-a hearty rice soup with chicken breast, cilantro, scallion, bean sprouts, fried garlic and lime) and “Loc Lac”, which contrary to you Scottish readers, is not “Lake Milk” but caramelized peppered beef. Every dish on the table was presented nicely, and by all accounts, tasted just as it looked.

One criticism, because this isn’t the “Critical Palate” for nothing, was the waitress. She was aloof, and hence, annoying. In the middle of talking our order, she left to bag some leftovers for a different table, and bring drinks to another. Then she came back and finished taking our order without so much as a weak apology. She just seemed a little disconnected, which appeared to be her affect. Other than the fear that the food might have previously contained the essence of “Milkbone”, it was a great meal with equally enjoyable company.


Ode to a Dog…

No, I’m not referring to Winston the Wonder Dog…I am referring to everyone’s favorite dog…the Hot Dog!

I am a big, BIG fan of the hot dog. Let me say right out…only Kosher dogs! The last thing I want to eat is rat hair and pork “by-product”. What part of the pig is the “by-product” anyways?

Years ago, my in-laws introduced me to “Best Kosher”, formerly available at B.J.’s Wholesale Club. Over the years, I’ve grown fond of “Shofar” brand, and of course, number one in your hearts and in your stomachs…Hebrew National. I’ve tried others along my journey to hot dog Nirvana, and though the Heeb National dogs available in your local supermarket pale in comparison, about a year ago, I discovered the King of the Hot Dog Hill, so to speak—Hebrew National, deli-style, natural casing hot dogs. People, you have no idea what you’re missing!!! These dogs have completed my “gastronomical” life.

Admittedly, kids and some other weak-minded souls may not like the “natural casing”, because we all know where that comes from. Also, whereas a normal dog has a soft feel when you bite it, when you bite into a natural casing dog, it practically bites back. A real snap. While it probably sounds questionable, I assure you, is quite delicious. Then again, we’re people that eat “kishke”. Google that!

Last summer, I bought 72 of these bad boys from my kosher butcher. Right now, after several refill orders, I have about 48 in my freezer, vacuum packed (and hermetically sealed) for my pleasure. An orgiastic feast for the senses…

Back by popular demand…The Gratuitous Shout-Out:

Next time you’re in the mood for a dog, call Larry Levine's Kosher Meats and Deli. 474 Lowell Street, Peabody, MA, 01960. Tel: 617-884-1406-speak with Todd. Tell him I sent you.

You’ve been a great audience…enjoy the magical feats of Kobayashi!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trailer for sale or rent...

A disturbing trend, especially in today’s economy, is the apparent decision by many restaurants, even the mid-level ones, to raise their prices, turning what used to be an average mid-week meal into the equivalent of a big Saturday night out. More disturbing is 1) portions are getting smaller, and 2) the food is just as mediocre as it was when it was cheaper.

Recently, I went to Firefly’s with some friends, though I am generally ambivalent about their food and their menu. It is kid-friendly, and noisy, which is good for the people sitting near us. Perusing their menu, my choices are moderately limited, since we don’t eat pork products. I usually default to one of 3 things: beef ribs, a hamburger or steak tips (I’m a big fan of chicken apparently…). I would have ordered the beef ribs, but the last couple of times I’ve had them there, they have been poorly prepared (very fatty and chewy, which tells me that they haven’t been smoked long enough), with a rub that screams with notes of cinnamon/coffee. Just weird. I was almost willing to take a chance again, until I saw that on their new menus, no longer were they $18.99 (which already pushed the boundary of acceptability), but $22.99!!! GMAB (“Give me a break” for you text-challenged). This is a casual craphole, and I’m paying $22.99 for mediocrity?!? I passed on the ribs, and ordered a fatty and tasteless brisket platter, which only left me with the conclusion that I can do much better. At least the company was good.

I took our daughter and her friend to see “Kitt Kittredge, An American Girl”. It was a feel-good story for the ages: a little girl’s father loses his luxury car dealership during the Great Depression, he leaves home to find work in Chicago and doesn’t stay in contact with the family, all while his wife and daughter are forced to take in strangers as boarders, sell eggs and make sackcloth dresses to pay the mortgage, and hire hobos to work around the yard. Nothing says good family entertainment, or brings a smile to your face, like the Depression!

Actually, the movie was quite good, and very well made. In a small, but important role, Stanley Tucci. I have enjoyed him since his “Ricky Pinzolo” days on “Wiseguy”, and I don’t care what others say, who doesn’t love hobos?

What’s especially nice, in today’s economy, is that it’s a movie without any commercial marketing tie-ins. If only I could find a “Kitt” doll…

You’ve been a great audience. Enjoy Boxcar Willie…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hail to the Chief

Now that my time as President of the temple has come to an end, some of you have been promoting this idea, and I thank you for your support:

Click here. Eric in 08!

Once again, went to Willy’s Steakhouse in Shrewsbury last night. You know, we are never disappointed there. The mark of an attentive restaurant, and one that appreciates your business-when we sat down, the hostess placed two black cloth napkins at the ladies’ seats, and left the white ones at the men’s’. We realized it was because the women were wearing black, and the men were wearing khaki. The white cloth napkins tend to leave lint, which is obvious on dark colors. The hostess didn’t say anything-she just swapped them out. An excellent touch, with an excellent meal, and excellent company.

Its too bad more casual places can’t at least get the basics right. With so many places to choose from for lunch, you would think the quick-dining establishments would be falling over themselves to do the simple things right. Instead, places that I have frequented in the past just keep doing stupid things.

Exhibit A-“Fresh City”: It’s neither fresh, nor a city…discuss. Well, here’s my story. Last week, I ordered the Baja Ranchero salad. It comes with lettuce, tomato, red onion, carrots, shredded cheese, turkey and guacamole. I asked that the dressing be mixed in, even though I was taking it to go. I wasn’t watching the kid, big mistake there, and when I got back to my office and opened up the container, not only was the dressing mixed in, but he had mixed in the scoop of guacamole, instead of just putting on the edge of the salad. Now, I like guacamole just as much as the next person, but between the dressing and the guacamole, I was drowning in condiments! Plus, for $8.49, they should not only make it right, but also come to my office, feed it to me, and wipe my chin with a napkin once I’m done.

Exhibit B-“Boloco”: This place is like Jekyll and Hyde. I like their food, but they keep stumbling in little, yet annoying ways. Friday, we went for lunch. For the first time there, I ordered a salad. When the guy puts it in a bag, he drops it in sideways, so as you can imagine, the whole things shifts to one end of the container. Then, when I get to the office and open it up, there’s no dressing on it, or in the bag. At Fresh City they drown you in dressing, and at Boloco, they don’t give you any. It just doesn’t make sense. If quick-serve places expect you to patronize their shop at lunch, yes you want it quick, but is it too much to ask that it be right, and include the full list of ingredients, like salad dressing?

Keep the change:

Is anyone else puzzled about the “Keep the Change” promotion by Bank of America? I think this is how it works: you buy something and pay for it with your BofA debit card. Bank of America says “keep the change” but how it works is this-if the item costs $5.49 after tax, BofA rounds up to $6.00, and puts the extra 51 cents in your savings account. Basically, they shift the money from checking to savings. Sure, you “keep the change” because you know what? It’s your money to begin with!!! Who the hell do they think we are? How stupid are we to fall for this ridiculous promotion. I will give them some credit, because for the first few months, they match the transferred change, so you make a couple of bucks on it, but after the 3 month promotion period, BofA is just moving your money around from one account to the other, but you’ll be happy to know it’s “free of charge.” You’ll also be happy to know that they’re also offering free air in all their branches, and access to their ATM machines where you'll be given free access to your money.

Lastly, I know I am not alone when I wonder what the hell Peter Cook is thinking. From MSNBC.com regarding the divorce trial from Christie Brinkley: “The trial found Cook admitting to having an affair with then-18-year-old Diana Bianchi and spending thousands of dollars on Internet porn.” Did anyone ever tell him the naked chick lying next to him was CHRISTIE BRINKLEY!!!! Apparently, for reason unknown to us, she might have been his “girl”, but he couldn’t go “uptown.”

You’ve been a great audience; I’ll be here all week. Enjoy Simply Red.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The best of…comfort food

I recently had the pleasure of receiving an email from a woman named Betsy, who found me through “The Jordan Rich Show”, and she runs an internet-based food service company; she sent me a sample of her product, which I gladly consumed, over a few days.

Chicken soup!!! You hear me? Chicken soup, with Matzah balls and noodles!!! This was good stuff. Believe me, if it wasn’t good, I’d say so…but it didn’t. Not even close to sucking. Ate it on a cold, rainy June day, and I highly recommend Grandma's Chicken Soup.com! Visit their website (the link is also down in my favorite sites on the lower left), where not only can you sign up for “soup of the month”, but you can order the soup delivered anywhere in the continental U.S. by a real “grandma”! Previously featured on Food Networks “Unwrapped” and on Jordan’s show, and now featured here…Next time, don’t say it with flowers; say it with a matzah ball!

Washing out the soup bowl of my mind:

Is it me, or is the video quality for the NBA playoffs a throwback to the 1970s? In this day of digital TV, you’d think the production values would exceed that of “The Munsters”.

Speaking of the broadcast, per usual, the national media loves any team and player, NOT from Boston. It’s like the Celtics filmed the Lakers’ walk-through. Magic this, Kobe that…yes, the national media loves Kobe. What’s not to love? Great player, well spoken…rapist! Put Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Clubber Lang in a Lakers uniform and the media would eat it up!

The Red Sox are tearing he cover off the ball lately, and apparently each other. Nothing like a brouhaha between Manny and Jewwwwwwwk to get the blood boiling. Manny must have forgotten the Shabbat candles again and Youk was just letting him know not to forget the Havdalah kit Saturday. Just the usual mishugas…

Saw Iron Man last night-better than I expected, and frankly, better than “Indiana Jones…”. With a co-star like Gwyneth Paltrow (she’s half a tribe member, on her late father’s side), I think Iron Man needs x-ray vision!

That’s all I got for now. You’ve been great. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses. Enjoy Phoebe Snow.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I am not an animal...

As promised, I went to a late showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Almost Washed-Up Has Beens (and in the case of Shia LaBeouf, “Never Was”). I disliked it so much, I saw it again on Saturday with my son and some friends. Its now 4 hours of my life I’ll never get back, so I feel doubly qualified to give you a brief review.

It wasn’t real good. Not awful either. 2 ½ stars.

As I’ve said to a few of you, it reminded me of the oldies concerts on PBS; its fun to watch these groups try to re-live the glory days of their youth, but they’re a few steps behind and a little off-key. So, too, the cast of Indiana Jones. Add in a convoluted story line and Shia LaBeouf (his best days were in “Even Stevens” of the “Battle for Shaker Heights”), and it’s not a cocktail for disaster, but definitely an appetizer for trouble.

As an aside, the years in Lee, Massachusetts have been kind to Karen Allen, but not so much for John Hurt; he looked better in “The Elephant Man” and made more sense.

Unfortunately, the movie was just the “essence” of an Indiana Jones movie, and didn’t do too much for me. I had high hopes, given that the critics have been pushing a three-star rating. Then again, the critics loved “Children of Men” too. For more on my opinion on the current state of movies, check out some very early posting of mine in January and February 2007.

The fun thing about this iteration was watching for the little inside jokes or tribute, “shout-outs” to earlier Spielberg or Lucas movies. (Semi-spoiler alert) From the “American Graffiti” beginning, to the “Close Encounters” ending, with everything in between, it was fun to see what might pop up next. As much fun as that was, the movie was missing the great “a-ha!” moments and when it’s all said and done, there’s nothing left to say and there’s nothing left to do. I wasn’t real sad it was over.

I am loco for “Boloco”, a local burrito chain with a location in Natick. Really good value for the money, and quality fresh-made burritos. After a recent mis-step when they put sour cream in my burrito (I like sour cream on my burrito about as much as Harry Callahan like ketchup on a hot dog) and a few other little things, I reached out to the management to share my concerns (sounds so polite, right?) They responded in a proper way, with a refund and a credit, and I am pleased to report that 1) they have straightened things out, and 2) as much as I enjoy the burritos, I enjoy free burritos even more. They did right by me, and deserve to get credit for it.
I wish “Fresh City” would re-evaluate their menu and price structure; talk about over-priced and poor price to value ratio. I’ve noticed the very few times I’ve been there in recent months that the crowds have thinned and I have to believe their numbers are down. With so many other places giving better value (Boloco and Panera Bread among them), they must be thinking about new ideas. Here’s one-lower your prices. By the way, stay away from the cinnamon pita chips. First, cinnamon stimulates the appetite, so you end up spending more money and 2) you ever see anyone use the tongs to pick up those chips? Think about it. Bathrooms at the House of Roy were cleaner than those chip baskets.

You’ve been a great audience. Enjoy the Eurythmics.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Idol and other things...who gives a crap?

For the two or three of you that have missed me, I’m back. The rest of you, I’m sure, are saying, “who gives a crap.” That’s why I’m here, for you to give a crap about…

There’s so much time, so little to do…strike that, reverse it.

So much to complain about or comment on, let me start by saying: Am I the only person in America that thought this was one of the worst American Idol seasons ever? Ok, I get it; keep telling us how good they are and maybe we’ll start believing it. Sure, you can keep telling me the mole on my arm looks like Nixon’s profile, but I know better (Not a tooooomah), just like I do with the one-trick ponies on AI. Come on, whenever Archuletta sings, he looks like he’s gonna cry, and the songs all sound the same. Why are the teeny-boppers so high on this kid? He’s got no rhythm, no ability to sing something upbeat, and a stage father that makes Lebron’s mother look tame. I’m telling you, that guy was throwing down the “East Side” at David Cook’s mother. I thought we were gonna have an American Idol “smackdown”. With Michael Buffer in the house, I was hoping we were getting ready to rumble.

No matter, because in a week or two, no one will remember, or care about, who won American Idol. To me, it’s gone the way of Survivor: scripted predictability.

Sidney Pollack died this week. He directed several great movies (Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were, They Shoot Horses Don’t They…) and he had a gift of getting the most out of actors. Twelve actors or actresses that were featured in his films were nominated or won Academy Awards for those roles. He also directed “Tootsie” and for those of you that know me personally, you know that I can’t stand cross-dressing jokes-the cheapest laugh in show businesses. “Oh yeah, that’s funny. A guy in a dress and another guy lusting after him/her not realizing he’s a guy. Damn, that’s brilliant.” From Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, to Dustin Hoffman to Martin Lawrence…that joke sucks.

Went to Ted Turner’s “Ted’s Montana Grill” in Westborough this past weekend for our 17th anniversary. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking-what went wrong? 20 years ago, apparently Elayne’s good sense the day I proposed. It must have been the liquor back then…or the heroin.

Back to Ted’s…I had a Bison rib-eye steak, with sautéed mushrooms and onion and (Mom, stop reading here) onion rings! I’ve had my share of greasy “Bloomin’ Onions” in my day, but these rings were the best I’ve ever had. The steak was ok, and next time, I’ll order regular cow, without the lemon butter finish, but all in all, a good dining experience and I look forward to taking our kids there because our son will enjoy it. Thankfully, I’ve raised carnivores, though my sister has been working hard on the vegetarian thing with Tofurkey and Tofu Pups (veggie hot dogs for the uninitiated.) No serving death for her. She’ll leave that to me.

I’m not done yet, but I am leaving in a few minutes to go see “Indiana Jones and the Legend of the Crystal Skull Cap.” He’s half-Jewish, you know. Not sure which though…the bottom or the top. So’s Shia LaBeouf…of course, with a name like that.

Tonight will be like going back in a time warp a little. I till remember seeing the second movie “…Temple of Doom” back in 1984 with Hugh, Lou, Steve and our late friend John. This is the same theatre where we saw Scarface…oh, the good times.

Over the next few days, watch for more posts, especially my review of “Indiana…”

You’ve been great. For now, enjoy Human League…

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sitting at the Seder Table of my mind…

Just a few thoughts, while I sit around the next few weeks letting the matzah move at a glacial pace through my system…

Is anyone rushing to KFC to try its new “KFC Famous Bowls”? I think the only thing that makes them famous is that every bowl comes with a surprise hidden at the bottom: a hermetically sealed Lipitor.

You have three delectable buckets of swill to choose from, but here’s one description from KFC’s website-“a generous serving of our creamy mashed potatoes, layered with sweet corn and loaded with bite-sized pieces of crispy chicken. Then we drizzle it all with our signature home-style gravy and top it off with a shredded three-cheese blend. It's all your favorite flavors coming together. (Subject to availability)”.

Eric says: Its like an orgiastic feast for the senses…and you better come to your senses before you eat this. Mashed potatoes, then corn, then deep fried chicken, then gravy then cheese…I think a deep-fried Twinkie would be healthier.

740 calories, 54% of your RDA fat intake, 46% of your RDA saturated fat intake, 98% of your RDA sodium intake, 21% of your cholesterol intake. You’ll be happy to know that it does have 10% of your RDA Vitamin C and 20% of your RDA calcium (no doubt from the heavy cream in the potatoes).

“Subject to availability”? Why? Because the person working the food line (not really a “cook” or “chef”, more like an “assemblyman”) might have a stroke making this thing. Just smelling this thing might put you in a food coma.

I’m sure one of you, my cast of thousands of anonymous readers have eaten one. If you have lived to tell about it, let me know how it is. I live vicariously through you.

Unlike a blog, where you are practically mandated to post a response (a habit many of you readers have not yet adopted), one feature of electronic versions of newspapers that is driving me nuts is the ability to post comments after stories. Why do we need this? I don’t mind reading an article written by someone trained to be a journalist, and maybe someone who will win a Pulitzer someday, but do I need to read comments by “Anonymous” or some other ridiculous screen name. Most of the comments border on the pathetic, and never reach sublime. As a colleague notes, these comments after the articles are like the bathroom graffiti of yesteryear. I half expect to read, “here I sit now broken hearted…”


Passover began Saturday night, and we used a new Haggadah (book used to lead the service and re-tell the Exodus from Egypt.) The “Seder” or “service” can last anywhere from a half hour to several hours. However, I’ve seen an email circulating that has a one-minute Seder. This is catching fire, like “8 Minute Abs”.

My version of the 5-second Seder is like every Jewish holiday, which can be summed up in the following manner:

They tried to oppress us;
We beat them;
Let’s eat.

The problem is that with Passover, the punishment keeps on coming. No longer are we in bondage in Egypt, but we are still “bound” by Streit’s (a brand of matzah for those of you not of the faith). Beware of any holiday where prunes are served as dessert.

Speaking of Passover, the great Charlton Heston has gone to the great chariot race in the sky.

So, I say to you dear readers…”take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

You’ve been a great audience. Try the soylent green.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Coffee Cup Philosophy

This may come as a surprise for you, but I spend some time each day at Starbucks. It is truly part of my “Third Realm”, that place where no one bothers you and you can regroup, re-assess and look to your inner Juan Valdez for guidance. It’s also a place where you can pick up a bit of philosophy, found on the side of the Starbucks’ coffee cups, called “The Way I See It.”

Last week, I read “The Way I See It”-the author writes about how she and her cousin were born a week apart, but the cousin was raised by illiterate farmers in Cambodia, and stayed on the family farm, while the author moved from Cambodia to Southern California and has now received her Ph.D. Separated by a week in age, and thousands of miles of geography, the two cousins come from the same stock, but their lives have, and will continue to take wildly divergent paths.

The same day, in a moment of synergistic serendipity, there was a special shout out to “Doogie Houser, MD” on…wait for it…”How I Met Your Mother.” At the end of the show, Barney (played by “Doogie” himself-Neil Patrick Harris) types, sitting at a blue “DOS” screen, about the lessons he learned that day. I love these little “in jokes” (a Doogie Houser tribute 20 years since it was broadcast), but this was done in a moment of self-reflection by Barney…so it got me thinking.

At any point in my life, I could have taken a different turn…a different path. I wonder how lucky I am, that I grew up in a moderately upper-middle-class town, with exposure to culture and educational resources not available everywhere, even in this country (to hammer this point home, I recommend Rory Kennedy’s documentary “American Hollow” about Appalachia). I can thank my parents for that, and frankly, since my father served in the Army in Korea, I’m very lucky I didn’t grow up in a suburb of Seoul, South Korea instead of Boston. Oddly, at any moment in anyone’s lives, any little decision made by people beyond your control could impact your life forever.

Tonight, I participated in a first time homebuyer forum. In the faces of these potential buyers, the single people or the young couples, I see the hope of a new generation of homeowners. But I can’t help but think that for each of them, or of us, there’s an illiterate cousin farmer somewhere, not nearly as lucky as we, even if we don’t see that.

You’ve been a great audience. Now, for a few words from Richard Gere-“Free Tibet”.