Post #534 #Bad Wendy’s

June 27, 2017 at 9:53 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

We don’t usually eat any of the fast food fare that goes on these days.  We prefer to have more control over what we eat, and we prefer not to pay high prices for junk.  But the other day we were out running errands in between rain storms and it was slightly after noon and we were both feeling a little hungry.  As we discussed logistics of getting something while we were out and about or waiting until we got home, we happened to be passing a group of fast food places.  I suggested going to one that was several minutes out of the way for what we were doing.  Neither of us felt like spending the extra time, plus with Partner/Spouse’s diabetes, we needed to get him some food pretty quickly.  Since all I was after was a quick burger (and yes , there are places to get a quick, high quality, inexpensive burger accompanied by a boatload of fresh made fries), we compromised by choosing one that didn’t have a reputation for being terribly bad for you.  We pulled into Wendy’s.

Neither of us had been to a Wendy’s in probably decades.  Back in my home town, it was big news when a Wendy’s opened.  At that time, they had an all-you-can-eat salad bar, and I at the hell out of that salad bar.  I knew that salad bar no longer existed, but wasn’t prepared for what Wendy’s had become.  At one time, you went in and ordered the burger and told them what toppings you wanted on it.  Not anymore.  We walked in and no one was waiting in line, although the restaurant itself was moderately full.  About what you’d expect at this time of day on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  We perused the menu and both ordered the same thing:  a single burger combo, one with cheese and one without.  The girl at the counter looked unenthusiastic, but I didn’t think too much of it.  She was probably tired and nearing the end of her shift.  The kitchen crew looked busy scuttling around to get food prepped and drinks made for the drive through.

We took our drink cups, but as we turned to go to the soda fountain, another customer walking towards us said, “Forget it, it’s broken.”  Another customer was right behind him heading to the counter.  We all turned back to the one girl at the counter who chose that moment to provide backup to the drive thru.  A moment later, a young guy who couldn’t be much past 18 if he was that old was sent out to fix the soda machine.  He worked diligently but to no success.

Eventually, there were six people standing at the counter waiting for the drink machine to get fixed, or for the girl at the counter to take our cups and fill them with our choice of drink.  She ignored us.  And she ignored the poor kid trying to fix the soda fountain.  He finally went around the counter to ask her directly.  She told him what to do; he replied it wasn’t working; she instructed him to do it again because that’s what fixes it.  He sighed and went back to the soda fountain.

The first gentleman got his food and asked for his drink.  Her shoulders slumped in defeat and she filled it for him.  The second customer insisted on his drink before she got his order ready.  By the time she called our name, she was resigned to getting our drink orders — wrong.  She had to dump them and redo them.  I mean really, how hard is it to get one small regular soda, and one medium diet soda?  Apparently pretty hard since she had to refill our cups.  I hope she used new ones, but it’s hard to say.  Mine didn’t taste like diet so I guess that was a plus.  I noticed during our time standing around waiting for something to drink that while everyone “busy” it didn’t seem like a team.  There was one older man in a different uniform who appeared to be the manager who was pointedly ignoring what was going on at the counter while he made fries in full view of that counter and the growing number of discontented people waiting for drinks, much less food.

We sat down at a table with Partner/Spouse facing the counter, and near the soda fountain which the young guy had finally given up on.  It finally registered on me just how rundown this place was.  When I got the napkins and straws, that area wasn’t dirty but it was neglected.  It looked like it hadn’t been wiped down since they opened that morning.  Partner/Spouse commented on how beat-down everyone behind the counter looked.  We couldn’t tell if it was the heat of grills or lack of morale.  I started noticing the rug wasn’t clean and was coming up at all the seams and edges.  Every booth had large chunks torn out with exposed craters of particle board.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a Wendy’s,” I said.  “I may try one more before making up my mind, but this may be the last time.”

He nodded.  “All they had to say was the soda machine wasn’t working and ask what we wanted to drink.  It’s like they’re not being trained to think about the customer.”

The food was good.  It was fresh.  It was well made.  The tomatoes weren’t as ripe as I’d like but that’s more due to a seasonal thing.  The fries were hot and crisp.  It was worth the price we paid.  I mean, we went to a fast food place so our expectations on food quality weren’t the same as thought we’d gone to a high end sit down restaurant.  So we got what we paid for as far as the food was concerned.  No complaints there at all.  But the rest of the experience was sadly lacking.

Just before we left, we both checked our sodas, debating whether we wanted to go back to the counter for a refill.

“I’ve got a bottle of water in the car, ” I said.

“There’s still plenty left in this cup,” he said.

We got up to leave and he said, “This is going into the blog, isn’t it?”

I had to laugh as I nodded.  “I was just thinking about how I was going to write it up.”

We’ll probably stay away from fast food for a while.

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Post #533 A Day Full of Errors

June 23, 2017 at 9:01 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I don’t know what happened yesterday, but it felt like everything I did was done wrong or late.  I won’t go into details, but I felt at odds all day.  And even though I had thought about dinner plans, for whatever reason, I had not taken action of dinner plans.  So at 2pm, I suddenly blitzed to the realization that I had to get dinner started for what I wanted to make and everything was frozen.

To be honest, that wasn’t a big problem.  I can thaw out a chunk of beef roast in a sink full of hot water in about 45 minutes, but since I wanted to cut it into smaller pieces, I really only needed it partially thawed.  After that, it was going to stew in its own juices for several hours and it didn’t need to be thawed for that.  So I cut the thawing time to 30 minutes, and got some onion and garlic chopped up in prep for cooking.  But it still left me feeling at odds with myself because I’m normally pretty organized.  So dinner was taken care of.

This was going to be stewed beef and onions in gravy over mashed potatoes with sautéed fresh veggies.  Partner/Spouse wanted corn on the cob so it was soaking.  I was going to have broccoli and it didn’t need anything but chopping before sautéing it.  So I fried up some onion until it was translucent and added some chopped garlic.  While it was finishing up, I cut the beef into small cubes, about bite sized.  I wanted it to cook quicker so smaller pieces.  I put the beef into the pan and seared it by stirring it around, coating it with the flavors of the olive oil, garlic and onion.  I added some salt and pepper and some grated nutmeg (not a lot cuz that stuff can be powerful) then I added about six cups of water.  I brought it to a boil, then lowered the temp.  I left the lid off so the broth would thicken as it cooked the meat.  A couple of hours later, it had reduced to the perfect consistency and made a thick sauce.  I thinned it just a bit with some water, and tasted it.

And then I spit it out.  Something happened to it, and it was like drinking brine!  It was so salty it was nearly inedible.  Well, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce the salty flavor in food.  No, you don’t add sugar.  That makes it disgusting.  Add some lemon juice.  The acidic flavor will help mask the salty flavor.  It helped but not nearly enough.  So I thought some more, added more water, and thickened it with mashed potato mix, the low sodium kind since I didn’t want to add any more salt.  Potato will help absorb the flavors, mute them a little, and thicken the sauce.  And in this case, they both helped, but not nearly enough.

I gave a taste to Partner/Spouse who had a great idea to fix it.

“Let’s order pizza.”  And the dogs are eating the beef stuff with their dog food.

But the place we got the pizza from!  What a great restaurant.  It’s called Bill’s Place and it’s right here on Main St. about a quarter of a mile down the street.  What a place this is!

First of all, it’s a family style restaurant.  One side has a bar and the other has a view into the kitchen.  They serve basic Italian fare, but it’s made so well and so fresh.  It’s not like being in Italy, but it’s a far cry from going to Pizza Hut.

When you go in, you get to decide where you want to sit.  That’s a little problematic because they’re busy all the time.  Parking is puzzle, too.  I’ve seen people parked in our apartment complex walking down to the restaurant.  Any restaurant that busy is going to be good.  And they’re so up to date, they have an app for you to order online.

So we walked down, along the river, taking our time.  It was cooler and the trees shaded the narrow sidewalk.  We walked by a tavern we haven’t been to yet even though its barely sixteen steps away.  There was a car repair place just shutting down for the night.  And just before we got to the restaurant we walked by a closed and abandoned fire station.  One we’d love to buy and renovate.

So we walked to the kitchen counter and waited for someone to notice us and that didn’t take long.  We sat back and watched the show.  The owner/manager/head cook was a trip.  The young girl had a mouth and a half and gave the guys in the kitchen as hard a time as they gave her.  We watched and tried not to laugh out loud.  In the meantime, we watched a steady stream of customers come and go, and each one was character and long time customer.  The wait staff were routinely young, late teens to early twenties.  They added their own peculiar charm to the place.

This was our third or fourth time at the place.  We’ve only been in this apartment four weeks.  We’ve had the pizza twice, and we’ve had their ribeye steaks once.  I’ve also had their mushroom and swiss burger.  So far, everything has been delicious.  My guess is that we’re going to end up there many more times.

It was a good substitute for a dinner gone bad, on a day full of errors.  A fun place full of character and characters.

Post #532 The Second Date

June 17, 2017 at 4:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Partner/Spouse and I have been together for nearly a decade, but sometimes it feels like we met yesterday.  We met online after I stopped the traveling part of my job, and he moved to the east coast from the western desert.  After going through all the hoops for the online service (which back in those days was wasn’t just a hookup process as it is now) we decided to meet at a local national park and hike a couple of trails with my dog.  That date, which should have lasted 45 minutes tops, stretched out to nearly three hours as we talked and ate at a diner and played with my dog.  (If any of you are friends on FB the dog picture I posted yesterday was that dog.)  We reluctantly parted, but agreed we wanted to see each other again.  He was work busy, and I was work busy, and neither of us wanted to seem pushy, but finally about mid-week I invited him to a nearby bar/restaurant that I wanted to go experience.

So, first date at a park that segued to a restaurant; second date at a bar/restaurant which lasted literally for hours.  Our lives seem to revolve around food.  Good thing we’re both such good cooks.

The b/r we went to was attached to a hotel right next to an exit from a main artery which traveled through Northern Virginia going east-west.  At the time, I lived near a national park dedicated to a civil war battlefield.  I knew nothing about this restaurant, but had been wanting to try it for some time.  Our second date seemed like the perfect time.  I figured we’d sit for a few hours, eat appetizers, drink wine, and get to know each better than we had the previous time we’d been together.  He was amenable so about 7:30 we walked into the place which was DESERTED!  Honestly, apart from the wait staff, it was just the two of us.  Not a good sign.

But we sat down, told the waitress we wanted to do appetizers all night which made her smile, and we perused the menu.  I liked the wine list, although it was not extensive or sophisticated.  They had a few good reliable labels and he let me order the wine.  Kendall Jackson Chardonnay to start and we were off.  I was still looking at the appetizers when the wine arrived so we ordered one order of chicken wings while discussed what else we’d be trying.

Then I saw a hot crab and cheese dip that also had artichokes in it.  The last time I had that was at a friend’s Christmas Eve party but it was wonderful.  Just the right next “course”.  He ordered another round of chicken wings.

When the hot dip was set in front of us, we also got a variety of dippers.  We had sliced baguette, assorted crackers, and some tortilla chips.  There were also a few veggies to go with it.  It didn’t smell exactly like the dip I had before, but I was still open to it.  I took a baguette slice and used a knife to smear a goodly helping.  I took a big bite, and immediately regretted it.  The hot cheese tasted fine.  Nothing else did.  I thought maybe I remembered it wrong and decided to give it a chance.

We talked, drank, ate, shared.  I asked him to try the dip insisting that it didn’t taste fishy.  He hates fish for very valid reasons I will not bore you with.  He was hesitant, but such was our desire to impress each other, he took a healthy bite.

“I hate this stuff.”  I had to laugh.

“It’s not the best I’ve ever had.”

Our waitress came by about then and I asked her to take it away.  “It’s really not good.”

“Yeah,” she said.  “No one really likes it.  It always gets sent back.  I don’t know why it’s on the menu.”

To this day, I have no idea why she didn’t tell us before we ordered it.  However, it wasn’t on the bill so that was okay.  I tasted like cheddar cheese, tuna, and spinach; all things I like, but in a combination that was oily and gross.  So we filled up on chicken wings, and chips and salsa.  The next time we went there, a few months later, the dip was not on the menu.  So all’s well  . . . .

Today is Saturday and we had some errands we wanted to run.  There was a focus to them.  We had arranged our route so we ended up at an antique bookstore with the solemn promise to each other that we wouldn’t overdo it.  We lied to each other.

We started at a farmer’s market which turned out to be pretty small, but we still managed to spend a ton.  We got two loaves of bread, some pastries, a ton of veggies, and some honey.  We stopped at a hardware store but that turned out to be a bust since they didn’t have the part we needed.  We stopped at another farmer’s market to get some more pastries because they have this shortbread cookie filled with raspberry preserve and dusted with confectioner sugar that I have become addicted to.  You only get four in a box, but boy are they good!  If anyone has a recipe for that, let me know.

And, of course, there was the book store.  We spent far below $100 but we got some treasures.  One of them I want to share with you.

Ever hear of Mrs. Beeton?  She’s a British icon, well known to anyone who cooks.  She was the foremost authority on cooking and household management in her day which was the mid to late 1800s.  She wrote several books on the subject but it’s her first one that made her name so well known.  Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management.  It was the go-to volume for all new housewives and was eagerly anticipated by all new brides.  She taught generations the art of running their household efficiently and frugally.  I found a reprint of that book, and the lady at the store told me she had one more, the one pictured.  Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Everyday Cookery.  I can’t find a date on it anywhere, but I know old books and this is an old book.  I don’t think I’ve got a first edition, but I certainly got one on the level of a century old.  It’s got original color plates in it showing how to butcher animals, cut veggies, decorate a table.  I haven’t read through the whole thing yet, but I’m going to have some fun with this.

The lady who owns the store knew that she’d met two kindred spirits so she ended up giving us a deal on everything we got.  I love small towns.

Post #531 Mock Baloney Casserole

June 14, 2017 at 3:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I was watching something on TV recently and they mentioned fried baloney sandwiches.  I had to grin; I used to love those things!  Fry up a piece of baloney; watch it bubble up in the middle; put it on a piece of bread with some mustard; roll it all up and jam it into your mouth.  Perfect kid food, perfect summer food.  I wouldn’t do that now unless I was feeding a kid in the summer.  To be honest, I haven’t eaten a piece of baloney in decades.

But it made me think of baloney which is not usually on my radar.  When these things happen, I usually end up in my mom’s kitchen of my memory and remembering a dish of one kind or another.  Sometimes, I share the memories with Partner/Spouse to see if his mom made the same things.  Usually she did, so it has to be a generational thing.  What I remembered this time was a casserole my mom used to make.  His didn’t so it was probably more a regional thing.

Mom would take several pieces of baloney and dice it up.  She would then fry it in butter and add onions.  When it was ready, she’d add a big can of pork and beans.  She’d add a can of mixed vegetables, pour the heated mixture into a baking dish and cover it with cheese.  Then she’d bake it for what felt like forever, until the cheese was melted and crusty and golden brown.  She’d give that to us for lunch on cold and rainy days.  We thought it was wonderful, but we were only 5, 6, and 9.

I supposed we grew out of it.  Or maybe she did.  But it was always there, in the confines of disused synapse waiting for the day when it could fire up and remind me.  Which it did.

The odd thing is, I’ve made a different version of that many times.

So, here it is, my Mock Baloney Casserole.

Heat the oven to 375.  While that’s heating, cube about a pound to a pound and a half of ham.  The pieces can be as big or small as you like.  Chop up half a large onion, or a whole small onion, to get about a half cup to a cup.  It’s entirely up to you.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and fry the onions until they start to sweat.  Add a half tsp crushed garlic, a pinch of thyme, and a scrape of nutmeg.  Stir it around then add the ham.  Brown the ham on all sides if possible.  When it brown and crispy, add one can each of cannelloni beans (drained), Ranch style beans, and black beans.  Add the barest pinch of red pepper flakes if you like it spicier.  Let it heat to bubbling on the edges while stirring then pour into a treated baking dish.  Spread a half cup to a cup of grate cheese of your favorite kind over the top.  Cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  I serve it as a side usually, but I’ve also added fresh veggies like corn, asparagus, or broccoli to it and made it the main course.

What got me to giggling over this was the fact that I hate baloney now.  And in my subconscious, I was already editing the recipe to leave out the things I don’t like, and substitute the things I do.  And my subconscious even added things to make it seem healthier.

It just occurred to me that I haven’t made this in a long time.  Partner/Spouse doesn’t care much for beans or cheese.  But if I made this, and rolled it into a flour tortilla I could probably slip it by him.  And I wonder how it would be with some seen garnish on top of the cheese, say sesame or sunflower?

Or some other protein instead of ham?

Anyway,

Post #530 A Brand New Beginning — Again

June 9, 2017 at 5:22 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

If anyone has kept up with the blog over the last five years (!) (and happy birthday blog!), they’ve watched us go through a couple of major home moves.  I started the blog while we were still living in Oklahoma, then we moved to Tucson.  After a couple of years, the east coast was calling so we moved back to our old stomping grounds, but to an area we’d never been before, the Delmarva Peninsula, or Maryland’s Eastern Shore, as it’s known.  It’s called the Eastern Shore because it’s the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay which is the largest estuary in the world.  We were quite happy with rural small town life, but Partner/Spouse’s job had other plans for him to make use of his PhD.  When an opening to expand their business into the New England area popped up out of the blue, they offered him a promotion and massive raise to be the “liaison” of the new venture.  He came up and reviewed the hospital(s) they were partnering with, and to talk with the other company’s people and decided to take the offer.

We had two and a half weeks to get the move done.  That being said, his company bent over backwards for us to get the move accomplished.  They have us temporary housing until we found a place of our own; they assisted with getting us into the place we selected; they hired a moving company to get our stuff from Maryland to here where it is now in storage.  And we’re in this new place trying to acclimate to a new environment.

And we switched Buddy over from a collar to a harness and he refused to poop for two days because he hated it.  He’s getting used to now, and to the every-other-daily walks we take along the riverfront park across the street.  It’s life.

So we got here and stayed in the smallest efficiency I’ve ever seen.  But after just two weeks, we got into the apartment we wanted.  We switched up this time and opted for an apartment rather than a house.  We wanted the convenience of apartment living.  No snow to shovel, no yard to maintain, no plumbing to fix.  But what a place we got!

First, we wanted to live in a small town again because we like the ambience of small town life.  Next, we wanted a place with history, charm, and character.  We ended up in an old factory conversion loft apartment.  Here’s some pics, with what little furniture we have at the moment.

First, a long hallway to the living room and kitchen:

To the left is the bathroom and the spiral metal stairs going to the loft.  The bathroom is also the laundry room, hence the pile of clothes.  I’m constantly doing laundry since most of our clothes are still packed.

Once you’re out of the hallway, the kitchen is on the left.  It’s actually not a bad set up.  It’s very efficient and has more space than you’d think.  Just not enough space for two people to be working at once.

On the opposite side of the counter is our dining area.

We decided to get a new table since it fit with the overall look and got a pub style glass top cuz the sound of a wine bottle being set on a glass table is unique and pleasant, similar to the sound of it being set on a granite top.  Pub style is a medium height, slightly higher than a regular table and slightly lower than a bar table.  Here’s another view:

And then there’s the loft.  It runs the entire length of the apartment except for the living room and it’s completely open.  We already have our desks and main computers up there.  Mine is the one on the right.

So we’re settling in, but there’s lots more to do.  And we’ve done a lot of walking since we’ve been here.  We’ve already found three of our favorite restaurants which I’ll be posting about in more detail later.  But for now, there’s a pizza joint about a block down the road.  There’s a wine/spirits store about 600 feet from the front of our complex.  There’s a GREAT diner at the other end of the village, about a half mile.  There’s a “store” of sorts at the gas station.  Our post office is about a mile in the other direction in another village.  We’ve already found our local butcher and bakery but those require a trip in a car.  Oh, and we found our local hardware store.  There are a couple of antique stores nearby, too, but when they see us come in they double their prices for some reason.

Cute story.  Our local dry cleaner is near the diner at the other end of the village.  We’ve been there twice now.  I needed to drop off some work pants and a new lab coat for Partner/Spouse.  The coat only needed pressing.  When the guy took everything, he wrote down the prices for the pants but didn’t know the price for the pressing.  We assumed it would be free since A) it was on the receipt, and B) it was a simple press job.  When I went to pick it up, I had enough for the regular cleaning, but not for the pressing.  But when I started searching my pockets, I couldn’t find the money I’d brought with me.  I’d made several stops in my walking journey that day (total of about two miles and less than an hour) so the old guy, the owner, said to take the cleaning and bring the money later.  While he was saying that, I found my money, but didn’t have enough.  He laughed and told me to bring back the rest another day.  So I brought it back the next day and he didn’t even remember.  I had to convince him to take it.

So what to expect in the upcoming posts?  More restaurant reviews because around here, local restaurants and venues outshine the chains.  I’ll be posting more of this area’s regional cooking which tends to run to seafood, and about local events, things like fairs, public picnics and celebrations, musicals.  I’ll be taking forays into the “big city” since Boston is only an hour and a half away, and NYC only an hour more than that.  And with any luck, more funny stories.

So, here’s a recipe I made last week from the current Milk Street magazine.  I made some changes due to our personal tastes and requirements but it still tasted great.

Thai Beef Salad –

  • 1/2 pound lean steak per person (I used sirloin)
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 limes, juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons lite soy sauce (fish sauce can be used for a more authentic taste)
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 bunch scallions cleaned and cut into half inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup each of various vegetables to your tastes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch of mint chopped roughly
  • 1 bunch of cilantro chopped roughly

In a large bowl, combine the lime juice and shallots and let soak for 30 minutes.  Slice the steak into very thin, bite-sized pieces and place in a large zip lock bag.  Combine brown sugar, pepper, and kosher salt thoroughly then add to steak.  Close bag tightly and shake, rattle, and roll until well coated.  Set aside.  Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.  This salad is perfect with just the scallions and tomatoes.  We added celery, cucumber, radishes, and asparagus.  Set the veggies aside.  When thirty minutes is up, add heat one tablespoon of canola oil in a skillet.  Add the soy sauce and pepper flakes to the shallots and lime and stir.  When the oil is hot, fry the steak in batches until seared on the outside but red on the inside.  This will be quick.  Set the steak on a plate to cool as it is done searing.  Add all the vegetables, mint, and cilantro to the lime dressing and shake to coat evenly.  When the steak is done and slightly above room temperature add it to the salad along with any juices that have collected.  Combine thoroughly, serve at room temp, or chill.  Store leftovers in an air tight container in the fridge.  Also very good the next day.

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