- Sebastian and I finished the seventh book in the Great Brain series. There's one more, but it wasn't written by John D. Fitzgerald; I suspect it will be a letdown. But the seventh book was a perfect bittersweet ending to the series. Sebastian found it a bit embarrassing, but all in all he loved it and the whole series. I hope the library has the eighth book in stock somewhere!
- Teri and I were doing some shopping today. One of the places we stopped at was the Wal-Mart in Attleboro. It's a "Super" Wal-Mart, with a complete grocery section. We weren't buying groceries, but I was curious so I looked through it a bit - and was stunned. I've been looking for Underwood Deviled Roast Beef spread in supermarkets for over twenty years now. I haven't seen it in New England for decades. I'd resorted to the internet, buying a case of the stuff (two dozen cans) once a year for about $60. But Wal-Mart had them for $1.72 each! I bought ten. Guess what I had for dinner?
- We went to a "Books are Wings" party at the Library on Friday or Saturday. The audience seemed a bit young. But when we were looking through the books (each child gets a free one) I let out a gasp of amazement. They had a copy of Mr. Penny! But we'd already picked out another rare book, and weren't allowed to make a second pick. Still, it's amazing that they'd have such a wonderful book.
Warning, it's not for the faint of heart! It's really funny, but doesn't hold back at all. It will try to turn you into a life-long vegetarian.
Without further ado, here's The Story of Beef!
It was another good day. Sebastian had his first day at summer camp; it's the day care/kindergarten that he went to for several years after he turned two. He'd begged to go again for summer camp this year (they take kids older than him, too).
I couldn't go along to drop him off, since I was working. But Teri said that when they got there, a lot of kids recognized him and shouted "Sebastian!" and the look on his face was priceless; he didn't know what to do! Of course he had a great time and was trying to arrange a play date with one of his friends when we came to pick him up.
Teri had suggested that we work out at the Y tonight, and had me call them to reserve a place for Sebastian in the 5:30 kid's exercise class. They told me that the 4:30 class was nearly full, but that no one else had called for the 5:30 class; unless they had at least two kids, there wouldn't BE a class tonight. They said they'd call me at 5 and let me know.
But they didn't. So I called back. It turned out that we'd screwed up; there were NO classes on Tuesday night, as I should have remembered! But there was a new program for kids aged 6-12; an hour of supervised activity in the gym, and then an hour of supervised swimming. Sebastian begged to go. Teri initially said no, but eventually we got her to change her mind.
We dropped him off, and then went over to Chelo's for dinner. It was delicious; I've really come to enjoy their light grilled chicken dinner! I wish I knew how they made the chicken taste so good.
After dinner we headed back to the gym, worked out for a while (I put in 37 good hard minutes on the elliptical machine), and then took Sebastian home. He'd had a lot of fun, although he'd fallen and hit his shin rather badly while he was there. There's a large red bump on his leg, but it doesn't hurt him much and doesn't seem to be restricting his movement at all. We'll take a look at it tomorrow, and if we're at all unsure we'll call his doctor.
Earlier tonight, I did an experiment of sorts. I mixed equal amounts of ground turkey and ground beef together, made it into hamburgers, and barbecued them.
I didn't like the way the meats mixed together; they weren't homogenous, but seemed like very moist clay. The texture seemed wrong. I mixed in a small amount of my soy sauce & Worcestershire marinade, but was very dubious about the whole thing - so much so that I grabbed some hot dogs and threw them on the grill too.
The burgers had the color of chicken breasts, and didn't smell quite right. I was psyching myself into nausea. But when I finally tried one, I have to admit: it was virtually indistinguishable from a regular beef burger. And I think it was probably a good bit healthier, since it had half the red meat of my usual burgers!
There had been another restaurant there for years, but a month or two ago I noticed that it was gone; the new restaurant was an ice-cream stand plus (apparently) a restaurant. We ate there tonight, and I was so pleased at the experience that I went over to Yelp. They didn't have a listing for the new restaurant, so I marked that the old one was closed, and added the details for the new one. I also wrote an extensive review of the new place.
And when I clicked on "Submit", goddamn Yelp told me that the restaurant had already been added - and showed me the listing for the OLD restaurant! Maybe the problem was that they had the same address. But what really pissed me off was that they apparently deleted the review, too.
But this isn't my first time around the block. I saved it before submitting.
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I wrote to Yelp support. We'll see what happens.
The white chocolate chips were pretty old, though, and to tell you the truth they're not very good-tasting. So I used the new bag of chocolate chips instead. It wasn't hard to make the cookie dough chocolate; I just added 2/3 of a cup of powdered baking cocoa. They smell delicious. It should be a pretty intense chocolate experience!
Too damned tired.
They changed their Fribbles, too. I remember when I was a kid, my mother would take me there. I'd order a chocolate Fribble, and a long spoon. There'd usually be a few lumps of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of the glass, and I'd fish them out and eat them. Yum!
That's because the Fribbles were made with hard vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, of course. Now, unfortunately, they're just made with some soft-serve-like stuff. It's nowhere near as good, and it's boringly consistent all the way through.
I like Friendly's hot dogs, too. But I loved Brigham's ice cream and food even more. Their burgers, fries, and hot dogs were outstanding, and they had a delicious pea soup sometimes; I could literally stick a fork in it and it would stay standing up! As for their hot fudge sundaes, well, they were perfect. And I used to buy their hand-packed ice cream as a special treat; it cost twice what it did in the supermarkets, but it was three times as good.
The chain went bankrupt a few years ago. Hood makes the Brigham's ice cream that you see in supermarkets now. I don't know if any of the stores are still open; if they are, there aren't many of them.
Lots of wonderful old things are gone, or have been replaced with ersatz and homogenized out of existence.
autumn00™:0), did you ever try Newport Creamery? They're another New England ice cream/food chain, much like Friendly's and Brighams. They're based out of Newport, Rhode Island. For a while they were expanding into Massachusetts and possibly elsewhere in New England, but they almost went out of business a few years ago. They managed to hang on, fortunately.
They make excellent burgers/fries/hot dogs/etc., but what they're best known for is Awful Awfuls. Those are big, thick ice cream shakes which are a lot like the classic old Fribbles. They were almost made the state drink of Rhode Island, but lost out to coffee milk.
Newport Creamery's chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches are really memorable too. It's $10 for a pack of four, but they're totally worth it - particularly when filled with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
God, I'm so hungry!!!
What do you use in your ground beef to make your hamburgers the best? I like to use a little Worcestershire sauce and salt & pepper. But I am always looking for that perfect hamburger. Please let me know your favorites.
I’ve been questing for the perfect hamburger for more than thirty years now. I have a remarkably narrow palate - I don't eat fish, or any sort of birds if I can help it, and I'm not comfortable with the texture of steak - so I’ve probably eaten more hamburgers than almost anyone else in the world. Here’s how I cook mine.
P.S. - Leftover burgers can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for much longer. They re-heat best either on the grill (be careful not to overcook!) or by being wrapped in aluminum foil with bit of marinade and put in the oven at around 450 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes (this is handy to do if you're making french fries in the oven as well). They'll be on the well-done side, but still very flavorful! I've also had excellent results using leftover hamburgers to make dirty rice. The smokiness of the burgers adds a nice extra kick.
I must admit that I was inspired by something I had at the Great Pumpkin Festival over in North Smithfield (which adjoins Woonsocket) on Saturday.
It was a dynamite, made by the North Smithfield firefighters. Very spicy, but very good. I looked up a few recipes online, and then went and basically winged my own version. It came out pretty good!
- 2.5 lbs 80% lean ground beef
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 large red pepper, coarsely chopped (green is traditional, but cooked green peppers disagree with Teri)
- 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 16-oz can tomato sauce, Italian style
- 1 8-0z. can tomato paste
- Minced gtarlic (I forgot this, and added dried minced garlic later; at a guess, 3-4 cloves would have been good)
- Sea salt and black pepper (red might have been better) to taste
In a very large frying pan, brown beef with the onions. Once most of the pink is gone from the meat and the onions are starting to turn clear, add the red pepper and celery. Continue to cook at a medium heat until the peppers and celery are soft - the red peppers will start losing their skins. At this point most of the fat should have cooked off (do not cover the pan while cooking!). Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, plenty of pepper (black and/or red), and salt to taste. Stir and simmer for another 10-20 minutes. Serve sandwich-style in soft, fresh Italian torpedo rolls. Leftovers can be stored or frozen.
I have to say, it was easier to make than I expected! And pretty good, too. It was my idea to not drain the meat before adding the peppers and celery, and it turned out to be a good one. They cooked very nicely in the hot fat.
Of course I have to admit that it's not the healthiest dish in the world...
P.S. - Of course I've had dynamites many times before. Chelos (a small Rhode Island chain of family restaurants) used to make an excellent one, although only at two of their locations. But they changed their recipe a while back, and it's nowhere near as good.
I can't remember what the dynamites were like at The Castle, but either I haven't tried them or they didn't make a big impression on me.
The dynamites at Bellingham Palace didn't work for me. The pieces of vegetable were far too big, and the whole thing didn't taste right. That's the only time I've had anything at Bellingham Palace that wasn't really good, though.
Dynamites are often served at local carnivals and festivals. Woonsocket also has at least one dynamite cook-off each year, and probably more (and no, I will not be entering).
Argh! I'm starving!
Teri got a grapefruit-flavored frozen lemonade. She liked it very much. I had a regular, which was also good.
I was interested to see that they also sold Del's Frozen Lemonade mix; "Just add water and ice". It was $9.95. Maybe if we go there again sometime, I'll try it.
They also had hot dogs and such, by the way.
24 East Southern Avenue
Williamsport, PA 17702
Four out of five stars
A nice surprise. Really good Italian food, far better than the usual pizzeria fare. I ordered a meatball sub and garlic bread, and was delighted that both were made from what was clearly fresh-baked bread - excellent! The sauce was a little sweet but very good.
There was a broad selection in the menu; this is the only restaurant I can recall that specifically offered cheese and no-cheese options for meatball subs, for example. The portions were large, and the service was excellent (our waitress was Erica). I just wish there was a place like this closer to my home! As it is, it's unlikely that I'll ever get to go back.
I, my wife, and our little boy had dinner there for $31.15, not including the tip.
I have to say that Dunkin' Donuts is also very variable. Particularly in their coffee Coolattas. Sometimes they're excellent, but sometimes they're pretty bad - and once in a while they're awful. I knew someone who manages a Dunkin' Donuts, and he said that the problem was that many DD employees don't know how to make a Coolatta. I guess they're often not trained properly. That's why the Chocolate Coolatta was discontinued; too many DD workers screwed it up too often. I guess it was a little harder to make.
Also, whenever I order a bagel with butter on it, about 1/3 of the time they just toss those butter packets in the bag along with a dry toasted bagel. I find that really annoying.
Years ago some guy wrote a complaint on his blog about DD not having skim milk. The search engines caught it. People started coming to his site to complain about DD. It turned into dunkindonuts.org, and became HUGE. There were lots of really interesting and funny complaints about DD there.
DD wrote the guy, and threatened him with legal action if he didn't give them the site. He was a law student, so he laughed in their faces. Eventually they paid him a large (undisclosed) sum for the site, and killed it off immediately.
I remember some of those stories, though...like the many people who found a mouse (or a mouse skeleton) in their donut. Or the guy who went into an all-night DD late one night for coffee and a donut. No one was behind the counter, so he looked around. The manager was having intercourse with some woman right on the donut prep table in the back.
1013 Cass Ave
Woonsocket, RI 02895
Ah, Kay's. What am I going to say about you? I'm giving you three stars. But if I could, I would give you a split decision: two stars and four stars.
The place is, I'll admit, really cool: it's the antithesis of a chain restaurant. Step into Kay's, and you've stepped back in time. It's quiet, dim, and tastefully decorated, yet not overly formal. The atmosphere is incredible.
Ample parking is available in a free lot across the street, and on the street itself.
The menu is, as others have mentioned, on a napkin. A SMALL napkin. There aren't many choices; five or six sandwiches, and nachos as an appetizer. Most sandwiches can be ordered hot or cold, and all come with excellent wavy chips, sour dill pickle slices, and pepperoncini (spicy!).
There's a wide selection of drinks; the soft drinks used to come in tiny cups, but now are closer to standard restaurant-size. You may want to ask for water as well when you order a soft drink if you're the thirsty type, because there are no free refills.
The sandwiches are simply PILED with meat. I usually stick to their ham or (more often) roast beef, but they also have steak, pastrami, and (sometimes, at least) lobster. The usual add-ons such as cheese, mushrooms, and onions are available.
But here's the thing: sometimes the sandwiches are great, but sometimes they're awful. I'm specifically talking about the roast beef sandwiches in this case. I've had great ones, hot and juicy, a dauntingly high and aggressively meaty pile of beef. But I've also had roast beef sandwiches at Kay's that had a lot of gristle and were simply inedible - in fact, I had gristle-beef sandwiches on three visits in a row.
Three times in a row is too damned many. I refused to go back to Kay's for a year. Recently I agreed to give them another try (my wife loves their food) and was pleased and surprised to get a good roast beef sandwich. But I'm not sure I'll ever feel comfortable taking that first bite at Kay's again, because I can't know if they're having a good day or a bad one.
I've been questing for donuts for some time now. Jonesing for them, too.
Dunkin' has become a sad, sad joke. Their donuts are tiny, relatively flavorless, and usually stale.
In the general Woonsocket area, there are a few other options:
Betty's Donuts. I list them only because it's funny that a place called "Betty's Donuts" hasn't actually sold donuts in several years. They have pastries and muffins; no donuts.
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420 Social St
Woonsocket, RI 02895
5 out of 5 stars
Excellent local food, definitely not "chain" food. An extensive menu, including seafood, standard American fare, Italian food, and local favorites such as dynamite sandwiches (a mildly spicy meat mixture with peppers and onions, if you didn't know). The prices are *extremely* reasonable.
I'm partial to their meatball subs. My son likes their franks and beans. Their french fries deserve special mention: they're hand-cut, home-made, and the portions are HUGE.
Not long ago they started serving breakfast, at least on the weekends. I'm not sure how that worked out for them, and they may not still be doing it. But we gave them a try. The food was excellent, better than we expected, and very reasonably priced.
A bit of history: The Castle was closed for nearly a year (or perhaps more) because they had a fire (I believe it was a fire in the exhaust system above the kitchen) and their insurance agency apparently dragged their heels. I feared that they wouldn't be coming back, but eventually they did - with an improved dining area, to boot.
This is the opposite of the usual boring, standardized fare that you get at the chain restaurants; it's cheaper and better. Service is pleasant and friendly. It's definitely worth coming back again and again.
River Falls is an outstanding addition to the Woonsocket area. Located on the opposite side of the bridge from the waterfall that gave the town its name, it would command a spectacular view of the river if the stone walls of the building weren't so very thick, and if the deep-set windows weren't so relatively high and narrow. If they could have a deck built overhanging the river, the view of the river would be absolutely incredible - but their prices would probably have to go up, I suppose.
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River Falls has picked up on one of the nicer features that Box Seats had, by offering unlimited soup - although that might only come with certain meals, I'm not sure. They also managed to add to their menu the authentic berched chicken that used to be served at the famous but now-closed Ma Glockner's Restaurant, although that's available on Sundays only.
All in all, River Falls is a top-notch restaurant, well worth repeated visits.
A hidden treasure, and a real gem. I didn't like roast beef until I tried Beef Barn. Their hot roast beef sandwiches are like none other: small (about hamburger-sized) on soft grilled rolls, piled high with perfectly-cooked thin-sliced roast beef.
On some days the roast beef is better than others, I think; I try to go on Thursdays through Sundays.
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They only accept cash, and there is no ATM machine on the premises. The closest machine is at the Stop & Shop a few minutes up the street.
What can I say? The Beef Barn is a really special place. There's nowhere else like it!
A classic burger place. The burgers are large, plump, and delicious; there's a huge variety, too. They're not cheap, though! The fries, onion rings, and sweet potato fries are all likewise outstanding. Try the sweet red pepper relish at the tables; it's great.
It's almost always hopelessly crowded, though. There's often a long line to get in. Once in, expect to get jostled and bumped quite a bit. My seven-year-old son was hit once in the head by a chair that a waitress was moving, and bonked several times on the head by elbows (he's okay). Odds are you'll end up at the long central table, seated shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face with strangers if it's at all busy.
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There's a small dish of parsley by the cash register "for fresh breath". It works really well, but occasionally I've found a grain or two of sand while chewing. Just an FYI in case you have delicate dental work.
All that said, a day spent shopping and hanging out with friends in Harvard Square punctuated by lunch or dinner at Bartley's was my idea of heaven for many years!
That much cheerfullness is hard to cope with, particularly early in the morning when I'm as tired as this...