I only rarely go to McDonaldʼs; maybe three or four times a year. So I was surprised and delighted to find itʼs McRib season!
The McRib is the finest fast food sandwich there is. Better than a double Fisch Mac. Better than Starbuckʼs Thanksgiving panini. Yes, better than Chick-fil-a.
Itʼs never McRib season in Las Vegas, so for the seven years I lived there, I had to make my own — Driving three hours across the Mojave Desert to the nearest McDonaldʼs that had them, in Barstow, California. I never did find out why the McDonaldʼs franchises in Vegas donʼt carry McRibs.
Here, in Houston, McRib does exist, so I grabbed a loaf of that sweet, smokey, salty, crunchy, sesame seeded goodness.
Pro tip: Serve the sandwich on top of a pile of fries so that the sauce drips onto the fries, and you donʼt waste any of it on the plate.
Hope is that human condition that compels us to continue eating barren Cool Ranch Dorito after barren Cool Ranch Dorito, just in case the next chip out of the bag is one of the five lucky chips that are laden with the seasonings promised in the picture on the outside of the bag.
A neighbor I’ve never met before knocked on my door tonight and gave me this. She’s moving out, and found it in her refrigerator. She’s admired the garden on my balcony, and thought I might take care of it, since she’s leaving.
Over my wife’s objections, I have put it in a pot with some dirt, and we’ll see what happens when it has sunlight to work with, and not just the dim bulb of a refrigerator.
I can’t imagine what the rest of her refrigerator looks like.
What kind of a person eats pizza from a vending machine? Well… me.
Thereʼs a pizza ATM across the street from my home now, so I tried it for lunch, and it wasn't bad. It wasn't excellent, but it's pizza from a vending machine, not a bistro in Ischia Porte. I don't think anyone who knowingly buys pizza from a vending machine is in a place to complain about quality. Not even on the internet.
There are seven pizzas to choose from. I went with pepperoni because it's a good basic benchmark.
After three minutes, the machine ejects a pizza, like a 1981 Sanyo VCR. The result is not perfect, but it's perfectly edible.
There wasn't much pepperoni flavor. Perhaps some of the other choices are a little more pronounced. But the crust was quite good. Overall, it reminds me of pizza from the California chain Pieology.
The downside is that all you get is a pizza. If you don't already have a drink, that might be problematic. I happened to have a bottle of water with me, just like I knew what I was doing.
I took my pizza to the Harris County Employee Smoking Lounge (a.k.a. the alley by the sally[port]), and it managed to stay hot and crispy the whole way there.
I suspect the vending machine isnʼt doing too bad. I saw someone leaving with a pizza as I was walking toward it. When I was waiting for the bake, someone asked me about it. And when I was coming back from eating, there was a young couple waiting for their Hawaiian pie to cook. Thatʼs three customers in about 40 minutes. Not bad for an out-of-the-way location with zero advertising.
There's a slot on the machine that has cello-wrapped plastic knives. Take one. The crust is pre-sliced before the pizza bakes, so the cheese runs across the seams, and you'll have to cut the cheese to get pie-shaped wedges out of it.
When H.E.B. says the grocery delivery person is 17 minutes away, thatʼs how I know he's standing outside my door unloading his cart. It's always exactly 17 minutes. I get the text message, look for the cat acting up, and can see the shadow of the delivery person outside my door.
Consistency is a good thing. And “consistently wrong” is a type of consistency, right?
An object can be both well done, and not good at the same time. To wit: “Holiday Stuffing” favor potato chips from H.E.B.
The San Antonio supermarket chain has leapfrogged pumpkin spice season and landed firmly in the fuzzy, nostalgic quagmire of Thanksmas season.
Opening the bag, I took my usual deep breath of snackmosphere to preview what was ahead, and I nearly gagged. It really does smell very much like Stove-Top stuffing. It also tastes more like stuffing than a lot of brandsʼ actual boxed stuffing does these days.
So H.E.B. gets an A+ for execution, because when someone said “make stuffing-flavored potato chips,” someone else made it happen. But as food goes, itʼs just not good, because when you eat it, you expect one thing and get another.
Iʼll still finish the bag, though. And let the “Holiday” term slide because stuffing is traditional for both Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Sold by weight not number of crackers, blah, blah, blah…
Sunday, September 25th, 2022Alive18,779days
The delightful thing about the Fresh Stacks version of Ritz crackers isn't that by putting the crackers in smaller sleeves, they stay fresher longer. It's that you never know how many crackers there are going to be in each sleeve.
In the photograph above, you can see that one sleeve has 14 crackers, while the other has 11. It's all the fun of a food lottery, but with a bonus side of vaguely feeling like you're being cheated.
After months of research involving 1,0000 Splenda packets, 400 H.E.B. “Sweetener” packets, and 1,640 cups of coffee, I can personally confirm that it takes three H.E.B. packets to do the same job as two Splenda packets. You're welcome.
I was surprised to learn recently that a good number of people in Chicago donʼt know what this is. And many people donʼt even notice that theyʼre there.
Iʼm old enough to remember when these underground kiosks thrived at CTA stations all over Chicago. Some were newsstands. Some were Dunkinʼ Donuts shops. Some sold other kinds of food to passengers. I always thought that was funny, because at the time, you werenʼt allowed to eat or drink on a CTA train. But the CTA was happy to sell you both inside its own stations.
I remember lines at the Dunkinʼ Donuts kiosks would sometimes be long enough to block the turnstiles.
Today, theyʼre all boarded up with stainless steel plates. Some, like this one, are decorated. As if to pretend that they never existed at all.
I am sad to report that time, economy, and pandemic have not been kind to the place. It seems to have lowered its standards in order to bring in more foot traffic.
There are dinner specials. The wait staff is spread thin. Tourists are allowed in all dining rooms not only without a jacket, but in T-shirts and sockless. Any of this would have been absolutely unthinkable not that many years ago.
The food remains solid, if smaller. On the plus side, the baked Alaska remains among the best I've tried, even if it's been tarted up for the Instygram age.
Then again, when Iʼm 182 years old, I will probably make some concessions, too.
I donʼt know if lunch at Galatoireʼs was the finest meal Iʼve ever eaten, but it is certainly in the top two of all time.
Part of it was the food, which was excellent. But most of it was the people. Both the staff, and the other customers.
The wait staff were the most professional Iʼve ever seen. They have mastered the art of being exactly where they should be at exactly the right time. Of being invisible, yet always on hand. Of being friendly, while being anonymous. Of putting the “serve” into service. And not just the ones attending my table. Watching the others around the dining room, I could see similar attention being given to everyone.
When the entire staff from the butter-and-rolls guy to the manager visits a pair of regulars over the course of an hour and greets them like old friends, it shows why those people keep coming back.
And thatʼs just it — this was a room of regulars. Each part of an individual knot of friends, but in a room full of friends new, old, and not yet met. And everyone so interesting to look at and listen to that my wife were silent with each other as we eagerly devoured multiple conversations from multiple tables at the same time.
There was a table of what looked like old school lawyers and politicians discussing local issues in a way I couldn't comprehend.
One of them went over to the table behind me to congratulate a debutante who was celebrating becoming a newly minted lawyer with her friend.
There was a gaggle of ladies who lunch, celebrating the 70th birthday of a woman who didnʼt look a day over 45 — a good 45.
A pair of 30-something gentlemen in subtle but designer clothes with impeccable table manners, looking like a cross between old plantation trust fund babies and rock stars.
Plus a scattering of people who looked like writers, playwrights, bankers, fashion designers, and a 30ish woman eating alone that the staff ensured was never lonely during her meal.
An in this age when too many American restaurants think “hospitality” means putting a time limit on your visit so they can “turn” the table for a new revenue source, my wife and I never felt rushed. We were there for two-and-a-half hours, and could easily have stayed longer. That was also true for everyone else. Most of the parties were already seated when we arrived, and when we left were still there talking, reminiscing, conspiring, and engaging in fruitful human-to-human contact in a way that has been largely lost elsewhere.
As a restauranteur, when a hundred people gather in your room, and nobody takes out their smartphone, you know youʼve done your job right.
Museum cafes are almost universally overpriced. I figure that Iʼm paying a premium for the convenience of giving my feet a break, having a snack, and then resuming my mental stimulation with minimal delay.
A lot of museums think their food has to look like art, cater to waifs, and embrace the ”less is more” cliché.
But the New Orleans Museum of Art is different. Portions are large, prices are reasonable, and its fried chicken sandwich is quite good.
Also, thereʼs paintings and stuff in the other rooms of the building.
My wife and I had dinner at The Court of Two Sisters. I got the pork chop, with came with a side of cornbread and a drizzle of pecan syrup.
O.K., maybe not a drizzle. More like a deluge. Perhaps a flood.
There was so much syrup in the dish, that I couldn't taste the pork, so I canʼt even say if it was good. With the cornbread absorbing the syrup puddle, it was more like breakfast than dinner.
I have a rule about meat: The only reason to drown it in sauce is to hide a bad cut of beef. I donʼt know if that applies to pork, as well.
All that said, The Court of Two Sisters deserves credit for at least being open. The pandemic has ruined dining in New Orleans. If you don't want fast food, or to eat in an ear-splitting bar, or something made of alligator, there are startling few options. Of those that remain, very few are open during the week; and even fewer on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays.
The Sisters isnʼt excellent, but itʼs open. And when everything else is closed, that makes it the best restaurant in New Orleans that night.
The bar at the Hotel Monteleone puts out quite a nice meat-and-cheese tray. “Charcuterie” if youʼre trying to be fancy-schmancy.
There are a dozen reasons to waste four to six hours in the Monteleone bar: Watching the people on the carousel; watching the tourists perambulate outside; absorbing the art, music, and food New Orleans proffered throughout the morning. But the smörgås-on-a-board encourages you to linger, to sip your drinks slowly, and to chew as often as youʼre supposed to.
I wonʼt pretend to know or like every item on offer, but thereʼs enough variety for both me and my wife to find things we like, and we have very different tastes.
Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Coke. Pepsi.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2022Alive18,653days
Amtrak makes a better cheeseburger on a train than I can make in my car. Almost as good as I can make on a grill. It's a hefty sammitch, with good char and flavor. Chips, though, not french fries. I guess vats of boiling oil are a bad idea in a moving conveyance.
The bowl is deeper than it looks, and submerged beneath the sauce is way more grits than one digestive tract can process.
Shrimp and grits at the Grand Galvez Hotel is Gulf shrimp, smoked cheddar grits, andouille sausage, peppers, and onions under a green chili sauce.
Itʼs food that sticks to your ribs. And your pancreas. And all of the rest of your major organs. A good way to replenish your energy if youʼve just wrestled a shark out of the maw of an alligator while snorkeling off Seawolf Park.
Itʼs always a shame when bad people happen to good coffee. That seems to be whatʼs happening at the Canary Cafe location on Fulton just north of Cavalcade.
The store is nice. Good decoration. Good furniture. Even a cozy backyard in which to savor and chill.
The coffee is good. The sweets are excellent. I had something that was something like a cross between a peanut butter sandwich and baklava. Trés scrummy.
But the people running the place donʼt really seem to know what theyʼre doing. Itʼs like they came from another planet where everything they know about serving coffee came from watching reruns of Friends. As if theyʼve never actually been to a coffee shop, themselves.
Maybe itʼs a new location, and these are just growing pains. The newspapers are full of stories about how restaurants canʼt find quality workers, so maybe this is evidence of that problem.
But Iʼll certainly go back. The coffee is solid, and the pastries would make a firefighter bite a Dalmatian. Hopefully, the people problems will be worked out by then.
The egg farmer brought brown eggs this Easter. This is the first year Iʼve died brown eggs. The colors seem richer, but also muddy. It seems to work best with light-colored dyes. Yellow comes out gold, but blue comes out black.
Carnival food can be really awful, but the pizza on a stick at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is really good. Flavorful, moist, and easy to handle without getting greasy. The amount of pizza you get on a single stick is a full meal, so as carnival food goes, itʼs good value for money.
After a day at the tree museum, I like to stop at Food D'lite on the way home. Itʼs a combination hamburger stand and Chinese food joint.
Itʼs my understanding that in the early part of the last century, it was common for Chinese immigrants who opened restaurants to serve both Chinese and American cuisine, in order to expand their customer base and to ingratiate themselves with the locals. Iʼve also noticed it in a number of old movies from the 1940ʼs, so it seems to be a little slice of Americana that is fading away as restaurants now strive to pigeonhole themselves into a particular category, rather than attract the largest number of people they can.
As you can tell from the picture, Food D'lite is small, old, and garishly-painted. So, naturally my expectations were high the first time I went here.
I have never gotten a hamburger from this stand, but I am happy to report that the Chinese food is excellent. Itʼs very much in the style of the heavy, muddy East Coast Cantonese I grew up with, and very far from the fresh-crispy-sprouts-and-heat of the West Coast Szechuan Iʼve had to make do with for the last decade.
If the Metro Green Line ran just another 4.8 miles eastward, Iʼd probably have lunch here every other day.
Thereʼs a weird kind of hybrid bar -slash- epicurean bodega near my home called District Market that gives free coffee to cops and other essential workers. Thatʼs nice.
People make a lot of jokes about cops and doughnut shops thinking that itʼs nothing more than a lame stereotype, but few understand that thereʼs a historical reason for that association.
America used to be littered with all-night coffee shops. This was because people used to stay out later, as they didnʼt have much entertainment at home. People also used to work later because a lot of once-massive industries demanded it. And more people worked overnight shifts than they do now. Stopping at a coffee shop or a diner on the way home at 2am was a perfectly normal thing to do. People also used to work harder, so in some cities there were 24-hour cheap steak joints, but thatʼs a story for another time.
Because these coffee shops were open in the small hours, they were often the targets of criminals. A clever way to attract police officers to your late-night noshery in order to repel criminals was to offer the badged free coffee, and sometimes free doughnuts.
Whether District Market is giving away free coffee in lieu of paying for improved security doesnʼt really matter, because itʼs still a nice thing to do. And the whole notion of “free coffee” which used to be ubiquitous in American society has almost disappeared today.
My apartment building has a Stockwell vending machine in the basement.
Unlike the vending machines of yore, this one is just an open cabinet with a camera that watches what you take off the shelves and uses magic A.I. fairies to send you a bill. That is, if it works. Which it doesnʼt.
I canʼt even get the Stockwell app to acknowledge that the Stockwell machine in my building exists.
I guess Iʼll spend my snack money at the convenience store across the street, instead. Where I can pay by cash, or credit card, or Apple Pay, or even food stamps if I had them. And if something goes wrong, there are intermittently friendly people to help me out, and not some Silicon Valley robot barking, “object has no attribute.”
Darcie likes when I make her pizza from scratch. I donʼt do it as often as I should because the dough is a lot of work.
But when I do accede to her cravings, I also make myself a “cowboy pizza.” Itʼs made from whatever I happen to find in the refrigerator that is remotely pizza-like. Peppers, onions, tomatoes, bits of random leftover meats and cheeses.
I call it “cowboy” pizza because I cook it in a cast iron skillet, since I only have one pizza pan.
A hundred people in the stand-by line to maybe, possibly, potentially buy an iPhone if there are any left at the end of the day. Two hundred people in this line for people who pre-paid and have an appointment to pick one up. We get snacks.
My well-intentioned ex-pat sister-in-law sent me real Cadbury chocolate from Ireland. +1 for thoughtfulness. But no points awarded for not realizing that a metal mailbox in 120° desert heat in the sun will turn a candy bar into a 360 gram purple bag of goo.