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!!!!

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 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

We'll be talking burgers and BBQ.