Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quantum of Solace

I love Daniel Craig.

- Cassaendra

Friday, November 21, 2008

NO! Bird is NOT the @#$@# Word!!

I swear Bug was trying to nudge me to the loony bin last month randomly interjecting the following in conversations.

Bug: Did you hear?
Me: What?
Bug: Bbb-bird, bird, bird is the word. O-mow-mow...
Me: (sigh)

I saw the dark spirals expand over me as I felt myself sinking into insanity. I felt like Charlie Brown lying on the ground every time he duped me. I'm glad that fad is over with. For now, I just have to deal with random "I like turtles" occasionally.

We've been meaning to eat at Brown Bag Burgers (BBB) at Great Northern for months, but after our excursion to Fatburger nearly 2 years ago, we've been pretty hesitant to try another fad burger joint.

Fatburger was suggested by Bug's co-worker to be the best burger in town. It could have been the location, but their service was fast food like, without the fast. The prices were ridiculous for what you get -- unfrozen ground beef. We spent $35 for a couple of hamburgers, a hot dog, fries, and two drinks. I told Bug, after that meal, that I wanted to give that place a fat finger.

3 weeks ago, after buying ourselves outfits for a formal cocktail party and fundraiser to honor one of my coworkers, we made it a point to go to BBB for a late afternoon meal. The place was crowded, but not overbearing, probably because there were no kids.

I had reviewed their menu online a week prior to visiting the restaurant and decided what I would get. I planned on getting a custom made burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard, and a bowl of mushroom bisque. The thought of getting a shrimp sandwich was tantalizing.

We walked in and I immediately felt like a fish out of water. There were more things available than the website displayed. I asked the person up front how big the portobello mushroom was in their Tree Hugger sandwich. She took 2 steps back and asked the cook at the grill. He quickly reached over and showed me an enormous fresh mushroom cap, larger than the size of a CD. My eyeballs almost fell out of its sockets.

I sighed at the unraveling of what I thought would be an easy order that would not make me look so incompetent.

Bug ordered a Bandito burger ($5) with pico de gallo, lettuce, chopped red onions, guacamole, pepper jack cheese with chipotle mayonnaise.

I ordered my custom burger and a Tree Hugger ($5 each). The burger included lettuce, tomato, burgundy mushrooms, pepper jack cheese, with mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. I was so enthralled that I forgot the pickles! With the Tree Hugger, I scaled the extras down so I could taste the portobello, so I ordered it with lettuce and tomato, with mayonnaise.

All the added ingredients come with the cost of the burger, including a slice of cheese. An extra slice costs $0.49 each.

We also ordered a large Foo Foo fries ($4) and a lemonade smoothie ($3) to share. I figured it couldn't be that large an order for $4. A bowl of mushroom bisque was singing out to me, but Bug said this sounded like a lot of food.

Bug was right.

The burgers did not disappoint. They were perfectly cooked, just 'til the pink disappears, so it was not a charred hockey puck, remaining juicy and tasty. The add-ons were given in generous portions. The burgundy mushrooms were meaty and tasty, not the usual flat 3 pieces of dirt you get at most places. My burger was heavenly.

BBB also advertises that their buns are fresh baked daily. It does make a difference having fresh, good bread. Most of the time, when I eat burgers, I discard the bread half way through and eat the innards because I get tired of what feels like eating socks with a side of meat. The bread to meat + goodies proportion was just right that my mouth never felt like it was being gagged with Styrofoam.

The mushroom burger was very meaty. I was quite impressed and swooning at the wonderful taste of M U S H R O O M. It was brought up when we ordered the Tree Hugger that some also order the burgundy mushrooms. I declined, wanting to keep it simple this time. I might do that the next time!

The basketful of perfectly cut fries with skin were topped with gobs of chili, cheese, and jalapeno peppers. It was 3 times the amount I had expected. We couldn't finish it.

There is also the capability to order burgers "junior" sized ($4). I should have done that so I could have tried more things. Ha!

It was refreshing to go to a place where I didn't feel like I was ruining someone's day by showing up. The service was friendly and patient for glaringly obvious newbs like us. Everyone I came in contact with -- the front register people, cooks, and a person cleaning up -- spoke to me respectfully. It appeared they enjoyed what they were doing.

The small, carpeted dining room was quite tidy, especially considering the number of people dining in. The meal came up in less that 10 minutes. It didn't seem very long because of all the witty and sarcastic knick knacks posted up on the walls.

For months, I've been mumbling that I need to start carrying my camera around more. However, when I do carry my camera, I am too embarrassed to get kicked out of a restaurant for taking 500 pictures of our food, even without a flash. Despite having a black body, my camera isn't a stealthy one. I can't play like a spy, hide it under the palm of my hand, and slip it up my sleeve.

This was an amazing amount of food, especially for the price. Since we know the portion size, the next time we go, we will likely not be ordering quite so much, thus making me further saddened that I wasn't able to capture this meal pictorially.

BBB is awesome. I have never been so satisfied with a burger in my life, from the flavor to the experience. Sorry Hamburger Mary and W&M!

- Cassaendra

Great Northern Plaza
North Olmsted, OH 44070
Tel: (440) 801-1122

Monday, November 17, 2008

First snow

Bug took Akemi out to poop this morning. It was our first sticking snow. Akemi pranced around in the fluff, and when she finally stopped, she licked the snow.

I wish I was there to witness that, and have pictures to share.

- Cassaendra

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pizza the Hut

In my quest to introduce Bug to a decent AND authentic (as possible) deep dish pizza joint in Cleveland, we landed at Angelo's while doing a Google search for "deep dish pizza Cleveland."

A little history...

I don't like pizza. After years of eating Pizza Hut's super supreme pan pizzas every Sunday with my family, it ruined pizza for me. I despise buttery, thick pizza crusts. I hate raw onions. I can't stand raw bell peppers. These weekly torture sessions further reinforced my dislikes, since I was forced to eat the raw onions and occasionally gagged when I wasn't able to fully swallowed them. Once, I had to pull a particularly long string of onion, 3/4-swallowed, from my throat because it wouldn't go down.

Despite my disdain for pizza, for the past few months, I've been fondly describing to Bug the amazing deep dish pizzas we used to eat when I was a child. There was an awesome Chicago-style pizza place in Niu Valley that disappeared not long after.

I have a feeling that people back then were boxed into their definition of pizza, with only Pizza Hut and Shakey's pizzas as the major pizza joints in Hawaii, and Pizza Hut's now infamous "pan pizza" had not yet been marketed anywhere, which led to the demise of that Chicago-style pizzeria. I had never been to the restaurant, since we always ate it at home. I have no recollection how they got to the house -- delivery or pick-up. Magic?

Their deep dish pizza was filled at least 2" high with intertwining vegetables, cheese, and meat. It was like a baked casserole, except with a thin breaded crust on the bottom and sides. It was so massive that, even ordering a small, our family of three had leftovers. Eating it was like struggling in quicksand or watching Pizza the Hut (Spaceballs) talking, but more pleasant. Oodles of gooey cheese and vegetables all over the place. While they probably had onions in them, these are, after all, "fond memories" so that trauma has been smudged from memory.

A few years after my memory of the pizzeria faded, I found myself eating at a bustling pizza place in California with my mother and her friend -- Uno's. It was packed. Apparently, reservations were required. We still had to wait to get in. I remember being told this was a famous place, which was rather redundant by how frenetic it was.

There was a large party of people who were near our table. I would occasionally catch a stray murmur against the drone and clanking of diners that it was the LA Lakers. *shrug* I wouldn't know the difference. It's not like pro basketball players wear their jerseys while they're out and about. And in the unlikely chance I recognized someone and they wore their jersey, I'd roll my eyes. These people were really, really tall, really, really big people. Plus, people were pretending to not notice them and stealing glances occasionally, so the story seemed plausible.

Fast forward over 25 years later with Bug and I sitting at Angelo's in Lakewood. I wanted to check out some pizzas that probably sound utterly disgusting to most people...

- Seafood pizza: "lobster cream sauce, shrimp, crabmeat, fresh spinach and provolone cheese"
- Artichoke pizza: "roasted red pepper pesto sauce, artichokes, red peppers, roma tomatoes" -- hold the red onions

Bug, the pizza fan, wants to try:
- Bourbon chicken pizza: "chicken marinated in bourbon sauce, traditional sauce, provolone cheese and roasted veggies"
- Taco pizza: "taco meat smothered with Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, topped with black olive and onion, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream on the side"

The Bourbon chicken pizza actually scared me, since I had this feeling it would taste nothing like the awesome bourbon chicken at all the cajun places at malls run by Chinese people. And if it did, I don't know if I'd like it without rice. I ordered a small deep dish bourbon chicken pizza anyway.

Bug loves taco pizza, so he ordered a small deep dish taco pizza. He retells his adoration for taco pizza that he had back home - back when he ate taco pizza at Pizza Hut every week with his buddies.

We ordered battered, deep fried mushrooms as an appetizer. They were pretty good. The mushrooms were molten. Their marinara sauce wasn't bad. It was a little peppery and umm tomatoey. From what my scalded tongue detected, the breading was tasty. Without setting it aflame and making a Cirque du Soleil show of it, or using a variety of gourmet mushrooms, it's impossible for deep-fried mushrooms to be memorable.

30 minutes later, a large taco pizza and a small bourbon chicken pizza arrive. I looked at the taco pizza and then our server quizzically. She confirmed that we ordered two small pizzas and amended the check to reflect the order.

The bourbon chicken didn't taste like bourbon chicken at the mall. It tasted like marinated brown sauce chicken. The crust was doughy, not too different from "pan pizza." The pizza wasn't particularly bad, but not being a fan of chicken to begin with set the bar impossibly high to be satisfying. Stuff wasn't slithering around in my plate oozing to escape. I quietly ate 1 slice of my bourbon chicken pizza.

The taco pizza was not bad. I took a small slice and ate it. I like lettuce.

Bug was disappointed. I'm not sure if anyone will ever make a great taco pizza to match his fond memories. I keep nudging him to make his own pizzas, since he adores them.

Based on the marinara sauce from the breaded mushroom appetizer, I'd be tempted to try their spaghetti. I'm really not sure if I'll get that chance. The more we try other pizza places around town, the more Donato's solidifies its place in Bug's heart as the best, most consistent pizza place in town...even though they don't have his beloved taco pizza.

- Cassaendra

13715 Madison Ave
Lakewood, OH
Tel: (216) 221-0440

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

The forecast was that polling stations were going to be ugly today. I'm sure there were some people who took advantage of voting early at the Board of Elections to avoid the lines and ended up waiting in line for up to 4 hours!

For us, it was rather anticlimactic. I took a few days off from work, so we sauntered to our polling station at 8 this morning. Bug packed us a bottle of tea, so we wouldn't get dehydrated waiting in line.

No line.

We were in and out within 15 minutes. Crazy, huh? We didn't even take a swig of tea.

I'm betting that Bug will have to wait in a longer line to buy our copies of Wrath of the Lich King, the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, next Friday.

- Cassaendra

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