Why most restaurants suck

In the search for gastronomic excitement and true culinary enjoyment, I think it is a truism that more often than not, you are going to be disappointed in many of the restaurants that are out there. At least that is what our latest foray into some new food has led me to believe.

Now, I'm not some new aged foodie or any type of a food snob, but I do enjoy good, well paired and well prepared foods. More often than not, the best foods that I get to enjoy aren't from a shi-shi-poo-poo, high priced restaurants, but instead are small, independently owned restaurants that are run and managed by one or two people (a partnership of sorts) or by a family. In actuality, I have yet to find a high-priced restaurant that makes me believe that the meal is worth the price. Some of the absolute greatest restaurant foods that I have eaten have either come from a tiny hole-in-the-wall, or even a food truck.

I think the reason behind this is because the small holes-in-the-wall are all owned and operated by people who, for lack of a better phrase, actually give a shit (not usually a word you'd prefer to see in an article about food...but there it is)! These are people that want to make and serve great food, and their passion is not only demonstrated by the food they prepare, but also the people they employ.

This entire three paragraph preamble is simply a build-up to say that we had a really lousy dining experience today. We went to a fairly new restaurant that opened up recently called Five Burroughs. As you might gather by the name, Five Burroughs is a New York style restaurant that "specialises" in types of food you'd expect to find in New York: Burgers, fries, pizza (no pizza was on the menu), etc. Plain and simple fare, that if done well, could really satisfy you. Unfortunately, it wasn't done well...at all.

When we arrived, the restaurant wasn't very busy; there were probably three parties seated when we got in. We were seated (not really greeted) by a very young, very attractive, and extremely aloof hostess who didn't seem to want to be there. She disappeared without a word and brought our menus over a minute or so later, and then disappeared again after asking if we wanted a drink to start. As it was a warm day, and we had just been on a long (2 hr) trek, we ordered a couple of milk-shakes; real New York fare!

The milk-shakes that we received were nothing like what we would expect from a place that had it's roots in New York, although it did match my expectations of a Kiwi milk-shake. In my experience, a good milk-shake, a really good milk-shake is a thick slurry of partially melted ice-cream mixed with a little bit of milk. It should give you brain freeze with every sip. Alas, Kiwis went the other way with it, and decided that it should be mostly milk, and be cool to drink, but not ice cold. Guess which one this one was? Yep, they went the Kiwi route, and while it tasted OK, it wasn't what I had in mind.

Originally, we were going to the restaurant to try their take at poutine; they offered cheesy fries and gravy. Also, because of the long walk, I was feeling pretty hungry and I was thinking of trying a burger, or Reuben or maybe a hot dog of some sort. But after the lack-lustre service, and the lacker-lustre-re milk-shake, we thought best to stick to the original idea of cheesy fries and gravy.

Ok, before I go on with the the fries, I just wanted to make a quick note a about poutine. For those who have never tried true French Canadian poutine, you are missing out on a delicacy; poutine is thick-home-cut fries drowning in gravy, and smothered in cheese curds. Now on paper, it sure doesn't sound great, and to be honest, if someone served true poutine to the uninitiated, it wouldn't look good sitting in front of them either. But true poutine, is something that everyone should experience in their lifetime. Ok, poutine preamble complete.

What we were served was prefrozen, packaged shoestring fries with a bit of Swiss cheese melted cheese on top (see image below), that were sitting in a little puddle of...I can't even call it gravy!

Think of this: When I say the word gravy to you, what comes to mind? For me, it is a thick concoction of meat juices that has been reduced down and thickened with some sort of starch so that it is viscous and sticks to whatever it comes into contact with. The stuff that was served in this dish, could best be described as watered down au jus. To be honest, until we got towards the bottom of the dish, we weren't sure they had included the gravy! The worse part of this whole thing was the little portion of "food" they served us cost twelve bucks!

As you can tell by this review, the food that we were served was absolutely horrible, and we will not ever go back. If this is indicative of the type of food they normally serve, I don't think they will last over six months.

Come on people! Have some pride in what you do. If you go into the restaurant business, do it with the idea that you can offer great food that nobody else can. Don't go into hoping to make a quick buck based on a theme.

I'm THAT Guy

Image courtesy of: Grant Williamson
Today, I was walking back from checking out our new office space, which we're moving into on February 2nd. I stepped out the door of the main building, and started to plug into my phone so that I could listen to podcasts as I walked back to the office. So I'm standing there, in the middle of the sidewalk, stuffing my earbuds into my earholes, and punching in my code to unlock my phone, when this woman walks around me from behind, and shoots me a VERY unfavourable glance, obviously quite upset that I have decided to do this task in her way.

I noticed that she gave me an angry look, and immediately apologized...because I'm Canadian. Anyway, I said sorry, and stepped off to the side so that I wouldn't be in anyone else's way...on the virtually empty sidewalk. But what I found very rude, was the fact that after apologizing, this lady just shook her head as if she had stepped in dog poo, by some unthinking, and uncaring jerk!

But you know what really pissed me off about this whole encounter? The fact that I realized that I have been her! I've been the one casting grumpy glances at anyone who should have the audacity to get in my direct line of motion, and I've been the one shaking my head in disgust at these self-absorbed and self-centred people!

It made me see, not that I didn't implicitly know this anyway, that people aren't being rude; they aren't trying to get in my way; they aren't trying to be jerks. They are simply not thinking outside their own little worlds. I wasn't trying to get in that lady's way, but I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts, that it never even dawned on me that I might be in other people's way.

Anyway, long story short, I'm going to try to keep in mind that most people aren't out to piss me off. Most inconveniences have very little to do with me, and have nothing to do with making my day better or worse.

Bitter Sweet Fi-n-Chi

No more home-cut fries
Kristie had a haircut today at 5:00 p.m. so we planned to meet up at my work with the dogs at about 6:00 p.m. After taking the dogs for a walk in the Botanic Gardens, we thought it would be too late to go home and get something prepared for dinner, so we thought we'd get some Fi-n-Chi takeaway.

There is a little shop on the Miramar Peninsula called Huckle & Co. that we enjoy going to because they make these wonderful, home-cut fries. I've actually mentioned the place before as the fries reminded me of the kind of fries you'd get at a chip wagon in Ottawa. So we got there at about 7:00 p.m., placed our order and were told that it would be about a half hour as they were busy. No problem, their fries are worth the wait...or so we thought.

It didn't dawn on us, until we returned for our order that we didn't recognise any of the staff who were in there. Then, while still waiting, Kristie noticed, that on their menu, they had covered up the word "home" on their "home-cut" fries and replaced it with the word "thick". Which got our fri-die senses tingling. We still had a few minutes to kill before our order, so we went outside and that is when we noticed a...notice posted on the window that said Huckle & Co. was under new management, and they weren't making the home-cut fries.

How can I put this, without sounding overly dramatic....NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, sadly, they had switched to McCain superfries, or some variant thereof.

We were supremely disappointed.

On the bright side however, the fish, which was crumbed tarakihi, was better than other fish we've had there under the new owners.

Still, we don't think that we'll be going back any time soon, unless they bring back their home-cut fries.

Really? Really?

So as many of you probably know by now, the new Star Wars trailer came out a few days ago, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the internet pretty much shit themselves. Seriously, some people went into convulsions of sheer joy, while others started riots akin to the Arab Springs uprising.

I've seen the trailer, and I liked it. Now, I could talk about the fact that the internet went ape-shit over a black storm trooper, or I could talk about how there were virtual riots in the streets about the light saber broad sword, but that has been done to death. Honestly, listen to any geek podcast out there, and they've pretty much dedicated entire shows to the new trailer. But I don't want to talk about that. No, what I want to talk about is the mashups or parodies that many people have created for the trailer.

In the few days that the trailer has been out, there have already been a plethora of spoof trailers; like the JJ Abrams lens-flare trailer, or the George Lucas, director's cut trailer, in which virtually every bad George Lucas trope was thrown into the trailer along side the good stuff. But the one I haven't seen yet, and was really looking forward to, was the Lego trailer.

In this version, some  superfan of Star Wars took the audio from the original trailer and overlay it against a recreation of the original trailer, only all done in stop-motion animation using Lego.

So, I googled...Googled? (Should the verb be capitalised if the verb was derived from the proper noun?) So I did a Google search (better!) for the Lego Star Wars preview, and the first video result that popped up was on on Yahoo News. So, I click the link, and this is what I get (see image below):

It says:
This video is not available in your location due to provider license restrictions.

I've got news for you Yahoo...News: The entire video should be against provider license restrictions! It is a fan made, recreation of a Disney made movie; Disney, the most litigious and tight-fisted corporation out there when it comes to managing their brand. Technically, this mashup/parody breaks all forms of copyright restrictions, but has Disney forced a take-down notice? No, because it does nothing to hurt the brand, and can easily be argued that it elevates the brand. But Yahoo News doesn't say that I can't view the video because of all the other copyright restrictions. Nope, apparently, the straw that breaks the camel's back is that they think they might get in trouble if this video is viewed in New Zealand!

I don't think I will ever understand how in the internet age, why content creators are continuing to restrict content to willing (and often paying) fans.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go scream at some kids to get off my lawn.