thx for the memories, asheville

to celebrate my birthday earlier this month, phillip and i decided to enjoy a getaway weekend just a few hours northeast in asheville, nc. phillip hadn’t been, and it feels like a lifetime ago since i visited for a bachelorette weekend. so, with really no reason not to go and a junk ton of breweries ready to welcome us, to asheville we went!

we were a bit parched from our travels, so after dropping our luggage, we hit downtown by foot and started taking in the city. it was a bustling thursday night, and eager to up our own energy, phillip’s eye was caught by double d’s coffee & desserts bus. what a lovely, unexpected surprise to begin our adventures!

i mean, how can you walk by this and not stop. 🙂 phillip ordered an iced mocha, of course, and i tried their unsweetened peach tea, which was perfectly refreshing on a warm summer evening. there were plenty of tables and benches around, so we sat back and relaxed as we enjoyed this little oasis plopped right in the middle of the city. i highly recommend you put this bus on your list!

caffeinated and ready for more, we strolled down to wicked weed brewing. this place seems like an asheville staple to me, and instead of sitting in the main dining room, we walked downstairs to find a couple stools at a hightop. there were lots of folks with their doggies nearby, and i noticed throughout our trip that all of asheville seems to be pretty pet-friendly. perhaps next time grace can join us!

known very much as a beer town, asheville has lots to offer in this category, so we wasted no more time. we both ordered a flight, grabbed some pretzels and yellow mustard, and took a seat. it was not too long before we were chatting with the folks at the other end of the table, getting their stories. you just never know who you might meet! we were lucky enough to get to know chase and tiffany over the course of a few more hours and a couple more rounds of beer. they are a pleasant couple from ohio and vacation to asheville every year, so we lucked out with our own tour guides! and although it was their last night in town, they shared with us the inside scoop on all their favorite places that we had to try during our visit. spoiler alert! everything they recommended was incredible. 🙂

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i think i’m ready for my close up

to unofficially kick off summer, each year my company holds our grillmaster cook-off to encourage a little friendly competition. the prompt was to cook a burger (whatever burger means to you) and create a short video to accompany it that would be shown at the company-wide townhall meeting. somehow my name was thrown into the mix, and before i knew it, i was dirtying up the kitchen, trying recipe after recipe until getting it just right. i won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say i had a big ‘ole time getting creative and thinking outside the box.

now, i need to give credit where credit is due. the patty was largely inspired by allison at up beet kitchen. the only addition i made was some liquid smoke, which helped create that meaty flavor i wanted for this particular burger. next, the folks at mashed ensured i had all the right ingredients (and their ratios) for a bite that will satisfy until you can get yourself far west enough to go to in-n-out in person and order the real deal.

the entire video was shot on my samsung galaxy s9 and fully edited using adobe premiere rush. someone tell padma i’ll meet her wherever for the next season of top chef!

an mcu journey: quite a grudge & quite a mess

i am torn on how to rate this week’s movie and restaurant. on both i was initially extremely critical; i’d had a long week, i was tired, we didn’t start the movie until very late. all factors perfectly poised to set me up for disappointment. however, after a little further consideration, i think we may come out with a better, more accurate rating overall. i wouldn’t say either skyrocketed themselves to first place, but both were worth a second take.

there’s a new-ish spot in town called rose & olives, and since we had a coupon (who doesn’t love a good coupon?), we decided to give them our business. i’ll be honest, it felt like we ordered the entire menu, which is saying something because their menu is HUGE. i mean it. if you go online to view their menu, you’ll be scrolling for hours. we went all in on appetizers, entrees, and dessert. of everything we ate, i’ll go ahead and declare the feta dip was my favorite and could easily have eaten the whole thing myself with no shame at all. the caprese salad was mediocre at best, and i wish we’d simply done two orders of feta dip instead.

as for the entrees, phillip’s gyro was delicious (i may have snagged a bite or two), and jenn’s tabbouleh salad with grilled salmon looked very satisfying. on the other hand, the restaurant forgot to pack dave’s cornish hen kabob plate, and my chicken kabob platter felt a little on the dry side. the dessert sampler tried to make up for things, and the chocolate truffle did a decent job. part of me wants to give them another chance (perhaps eat in the restaurant instead of picking up), and another part of me really thinks life’s too short for restaurants that don’t spin your spurs. if we ever go back, i’ll let you know.

with full bellies that were semi-satisfied, we settled into our movie-watching spots for avengers: age of ultron. again, my initial review of this movie was that it was one of the worse ones in the universe. i felt like it dragged on for so long and required a lot of information from other movies about other characters that it was at times difficult and un-fun to stay engaged. it probably doesn’t help that i nodded off a time or two, likely during parts critical to the storyline. like some of the other movies, some things here just seemed too convenient or too predictable. ultron, with no prior knowledge of anything, suddenly has a huge grudge against all mankind and wants to destroy everyone. poor bruce banner gets riled up by his teammates to unleash a power he cannot control but must use for the greater good. and nick fury suddenly appears right at the right time at the end with his big ship full of perfectly sized smaller ships that have just enough seats for all sokovian citizens. i’m sensing a theme…

the good news is i think were a handful of redeeming moments throughout, such as towards the start when everyone tries to pick up thor’s hammer at the party or thor’s weird but amusing mindwarp scene. i wasn’t thrilled when jarvis died but understand not all the heroes can survive, and the fight scenes in this film were pretty legit. i think more than anything, though, i appreciate that this movie sets us up for whatever may be next. someone’s on the hunt for the infinity stones, and it’s up to the avengers to assemble and find out.

so, here we are, easily halfway through the journey and countless other restaurants to try. how did the avengers place this time around?

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. alebrije mexican restaurant
  3. burger 21
  4. jerusalem bakery
  5. armando’s caribe
  6. cue barbecue
  7. lon u
  8. rose and olive
  9. wayback burger
  10. 2 nyers pizza
  11. tokyo shokudo

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. ant-man
  3. guardians of the galaxy
  4. captain america: the first avenger
  5. thor: the dark world
  6. thor
  7. avengers: age of ultron
  8. captain america: the winter soldier
  9. iron man 3
  10. the avengers
  11. iron man 2

an mcu journey: teamwork & piles of pork

another mcu night called for another sequel, this time for the one and only thor. and like chris hemsworth, our dinner that evening was beefy. we were craving some barbecue and ordered from nearby cue. on the verge of becoming unpleasantly hangry, i only had time to snap a couple photos of my meal, the fresh garden salad with shredded pork on top. did this salad change my life? not quite, but with enough chipotle ranch and bbq sauce slathered on top of that generous mound of meat, it was a pretty enjoyable bite. dave also had a salad but went for the southwestern barbecue chicken salad, and jenn and phillip both had platters. i’d be lying if i said phillip’s brisket and jenn’s side of mac’n’cheese didn’t make me a little jealous. good thing i can always hop in the car and go get some for myself!

but what about thor: the dark world? was it as mildly enjoyable as our dinner? i’d actually say it was better than expected. generally i feel like thor’s films have gotten sour reviews, but after watching the movie and catching it a couple more times on tv, i came to really like it. i was pleased to see that thor was much less self-involved this time around, and i don’t know that i’ll ever be able to get enough tom hiddleston. despite some selfish motives, the brothers came together to set aside their differences for the greater good, giving us plenty reason to root for them both. i was glad that jane generally wasn’t the center of the story, as she’s never been my favorite, but her rag-tag team of scientists are always a joy to watch.

our commitment to new movies and new restaurants is stronger than ever, so bring on the rankings!

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. alebrije mexican restaurant
  3. burger 21
  4. jerusalem bakery
  5. armando’s caribe
  6. cue barbecue
  7. lon u
  8. wayback burger
  9. 2 nyers pizza
  10. tokyo shokudo

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. ant-man
  3. guardians of the galaxy
  4. captain america: the first avenger
  5. thor: the dark world
  6. thor
  7. captain america: the winter soldier
  8. iron man 3
  9. the avengers
  10. iron man 2

an mcu journey: gobs of queso & goofy guardians

we’ve been chugging right along through the restaurants in our city and the films of the marvel cinematic universe, and after winter solider we decided to take to lighten the mood a bit with guardians. before the movie, though, came dinner, and before dinner came a shot of tequila to get the party goin’. ole!

everybody that night was on board for mexican, so we ordered from a spot new to all of us, alebrije mexican restaurant. i don’t think any mexican meal is complete without a queso appetizer, so we ordered two bowlfuls and ate every last melty drop. you know how sometimes when you order dip there aren’t enough chips? definitely not the case here; we had plenty of chips for the queso and then some to spare! our entrees were just as satisfying as the queso, from the taco combo dinner to the shredded lettuce salad dinner to the steak ancho pepper fajita dinner and the pollo yucateco dinner, everything was so delicious that there were hardly any leftovers to box up. can you ask for more?

yes, you can ask for more. you can ask for a movie that ticks just about all the boxes for what a fun movie should be. guardians of the galaxy felt like the perfect balance of heavy (i like how all the misfits had their own backstory) and comedy (“bunch of jackasses, standing in a circle.”). i do think i saw the movie ages ago after it first came out and all the hype had built it up, but i remember not loving it then. the good news is that tastes change, and i thoroughly enjoyed the film this second time around. the soundtrack, yes, was refreshing, and that jail breakout scene was a joy to watch. the guardians are an unexpected bunch, which i guess is part of their draw, and i’d gladly sit through the film again any time. 🙂

with all that, how have alebrije and the guardians shook up the ratings? let’s see!

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. alebrije mexican restaurant
  3. burger 21
  4. jerusalem bakery
  5. armando’s caribe
  6. lon u
  7. wayback burger
  8. 2 nyers pizza
  9. tokyo shokudo

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. ant-man
  3. guardians of the galaxy
  4. captain america: the first avenger
  5. thor
  6. captain america: the winter soldier
  7. iron man 3
  8. the avengers
  9. iron man 2

an mcu journey: mega ships & raw fish

well, last week i mentioned to you that i was ready to mix things up. i felt like we were getting in a character and food rut, so we definitely got a taste of something different this week. we’ll get the bad news out of the way first, not that there’s particularly stellar news to share afterwards…

i told dave that burgers and pizza were out of the question, so he suggested we do japanese for dinner. it’s been a while since i’ve had a good roll of sushi, so i was game. we did some searching online and decided to give tokyo shokudo a chance. looking back, there were plenty of red flags and, in hindsight, we should have run in the other direction. no, not just run. we should have sprinted away.

first, i’m not saying that every restaurant needs to have a fancy website, but the only way to view their menu is through three pictures on their google maps profile. i get that sometimes the best places to eat are those that aren’t glitzy and are those hole-in-the-wall type of joints, but in viewing the menu, i was already questioning our choice. not wanting to be a debbie downer, though, i went with the flow and let phillip know what i wanted so that he could call and place the order.

jenn and i stayed at home with grace and gwen while the boys went to go get dinner. conversation was pleasant (as always), the weather outside was lovely, and the dogs were getting in some good zoomies, but we both started wondering what was taking so long. i wouldn’t say we were hangry, but tokyo shokudo is right down the street, and it’s not like we ordered one of everything. no sooner were those thoughts in our mind than they returned, shaking their heads. we knew there was a story to tell!

the guys arrived at tokyo shokudo, and it sounds like no one greeted them at all. not a good start. the sushi chef asked who they were, they replied, and he said it would be 20 minutes before the food was ready. the guys decided to go on a quick white claw run while waiting, and upon returning to the restaurant, the food still was not ready. the chef gestured to phillip and dave to have a seat, and although it sounds like he meant to come across nicely, his demeanor was just plain prickly. finally, everything was ready and packed up and we sat down at the dinner table to chow down. dave’s sashimi bowl looked very appetizing, and the sushi rolls phillip and i ordered were bright and colorful and just what i was in the mood for. i eagerly snapped apart my chopsticks, poured myself a little soy sauce, and grabbed a piece of the spicy tuna roll. i’ll say it was perfectly spicy and perfectly tasty. i always love getting tuna with my sushi. i then went to grab a piece of the yummy yummy roll but frowned as i discovered a nice little piece of plastic wrap clinging to the top of the salmon slice. if the service had been impeccable and speedy, i would have been able to forgive what was probably an honest oversight. however, the experience overall was pretty disappointing, and it is hard to come back from plastic wrap on your sushi. i think it’s safe to say we’ll be looking for another sushi spot in town to satisfy our raw fish craving.

i wish i could say things with the movie improved greatly, but at least the evening didn’t deteriorate into anything worse than plastic wrap covered sushi. dave had suggested we watch captain america: the winter soldier next, so that is exactly what we did. i feel like i am generally inclined to like captain america simply because he seems to be the most grounded of all the marvel heroes, and even though his characterization proved to be true throughout this movie, i feel like the plot took some eye roll-inducing turns when that creepy-ass zola consciousness started talking, when bucky barnes (whom i didn’t recognize at all) made a “dramatic” reappearance, and when the super-critical controller chips on these humongous ships were being guarded by no one. again, whatever makes the storyline work…

if there is anything i liked about this movie, it was getting to know a little bit more about sam wilson (falcon) and seeing more of black widow. i wasn’t so sure about her during our first encounter, but she’s starting to grow on me. let’s see how it affects the rankings!

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. burger 21
  3. jerusalem bakery
  4. armando’s caribe
  5. lon u
  6. wayback burger
  7. 2 nyers pizza
  8. tokyo shokudo

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. ant-man
  3. captain america: the first avenger
  4. thor
  5. captain america: the winter soldier
  6. iron man 3
  7. the avengers
  8. iron man 2

an mcu journey: fan boys & chewy dough

we decided it was time to keep on with iron man’s personal saga and forged ahead through iron man 3. as most of these movies have started, people who were insecure decided to use good technology and science for less than good motives, manipulate others to rise to “power,” and then take out their grudges on the innocent. sound familiar? i think my favorite parts were when tony stark crossed paths with harley in his garage and then gary in the news van. gotta love a good boy crush. oh, and happy getting better. 🙂 that was a nice touch. my less favorite parts? killian shooting hansen, pepper just having to survive her extremis treatment so that she can perfectly intervene to save tony, and all the suits blowing up. again, necessary? no. a little “forced” to make the storyline work? probably.

something else that felt forced that night was our dinner. we picked up a couple of pizzas from the local pizza place up the street, 2 nyers pizza. now, i have had their pizza before, and the first time we tried them was via delivery. it was okay, in all honesty. then, i thought we should give them another chance and we ate at the restaurant, and it was like a whole different experience. the bianca and meat lovers pizzas are hands down our favorites, and the staff is so friendly! but this night the pies weren’t as flavorful as they usually are, the dough was very chewy and not light and slightly crisp like i’d come to expect. it definitely was not their best performance, and i think i’ve determined they are one of the places that is best to enjoy at the restaurant.

i think at this point in the journey, i am ready to meet some new heroes and try some new types of food. we need to mix it up a little bit!

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. burger 21
  3. jerusalem bakery
  4. armando’s caribe
  5. lon u
  6. wayback burger
  7. 2 nyers pizza

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. ant-man
  3. captain america: the first avenger
  4. thor
  5. iron man 3
  6. the avengers
  7. iron man 2

an mcu journey: all the ants and all the meats

after a brief hiatus, we are back on our mcu journey, and this weekend phillip picked the eats while dave and jenn picked the flick. as always, let’s start with dinner.

phillip said he was in the mood for burgers, so we decided to try wayback burgers. when the boys brought dinner home and we unwrapped our meals, i was at first very excited. the double patty burger was loaded with all the classic burger toppings and even real strips of bacon. i chomped down on my double bacon everything in ravenous fashion and at first thought, “wow, this is what a classic burger should be!” dave and phillip had the same, and even though we all three ate our entire meals, we decided at the end they weren’t as satisfying as we had hoped. jenn was also underwhelmed, not even finishing her classic burger. the bacon on both the burgers and the bacon cheese fries was not nearly crispy enough, and overall it was as though it was too much of a good thing. if there is a saving grace here, it was the mac’n’cheese bites. those were pretty fun. oh, and dave’s watermelon-pineapple frozen margaritas. those kinda saved the day.

the better news from this mcu evening is that the movie was a hit! we dove into the world of ant-man, a new mcu movie to me, and i really do not think i could have been more pleased. paul rudd? love him. michael pena? never seen him in a movie i didn’t like. the super extra shrinking and enlarging and honestly ridiculously silly parts towards the end? totally okay with it all in this film! i feel like this movie embraced its quirky side and could not have cast the characters better, in my expert mcu opinion. although it felt like it dragged there a little in the middle, it was worth the two hours to watch that gigantic thomas the tank engine and his googly eyes at the end. am i right?

despite the polar opposites between the meal and the movie, the rankings are now a little shook up and getting interesting!

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. burger 21
  3. jerusalem bakery
  4. armando’s caribe
  5. wayback burger
  6. lon u

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. ant-man
  3. captain america: the first avenger
  4. thor
  5. the avengers
  6. iron man 2

an mcu journey: bitter bad guys and lots of rice

our next movie was our first sequel of the mcu with iron man 2. dave and jenn had declared ahead of time their disdain of this sequel, and even before seeing it myself i could partly understand where they were coming from. i mean, hardly ever is the second in a series as good as the original. having seen iron man 2 now, though, what is my review? generally speaking it certainly was not as good as the first but definitely could have been worse. ah, see that little rhyme-y rhyme i did for you there?

was that opening scene with the scantily-clad iron man dancers super extra? oh yeah. was tony stark’s vomit-inducing ego even more disgusting in the second movie than the first? i’d say so. and was pepper potts a little whiny? i’ll give you all of that. but did things like don cheadle and tony’s vulnerable humanity and that pretty parrot make up for it all? almost. i liked that in this film there were two villains looking to take down iron man, and they increased the thrill and suspense, even if just a little bit.

as for dinner that evening, i’d say it was solidly mediocre, kind of like the movie. we ordered delivery from lon u. i actually didn’t mind my sesame chicken, white rice, and broccoli, but the rest of the group seemed underwhelmed with this go round of asian american. phillip ordered the chicken fried rice, one of his favorite dishes, and he barely put a dent in it. in fact, he was sneaking bites from my bowl instead! i did try his and agree it was pretty flavorless. but guess what? later that weekend i reheated some of it, and somehow it tasted better than before. strange, yes? do you think there’s some science behind why some dishes taste better the next day? maybe that’s lon u’s secret and we just don’t know it…

we are close to finishing up phase one of the mcu and are on a roll with these reviews! here is how the rankings shake out five movies and restaurants in.

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. burger 21
  3. jerusalem bakery
  4. armando’s caribe
  5. lon u

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. captain america: the first avenger
  3. thor
  4. the avengers
  5. iron man 2

an mcu journey: big egos and big burritos

last week dave, jenn, phillip, and i settled into the comfy sectional sofas to watch the avengers. they told me i’d probably be inclined to like it because some of the characters i have already met come together in this film. honestly, though, i was underwhelmed. to start, i spent the first 40 minutes of the movie just trying to understand what was happening. everyone’s voices were so low, we are thrown right into the middle of a crisis, there is a new monster army that loki decides to “befriend,” and it took me several minutes to understand that the glowing rock thing had a name. but then again, this is the marvel universe, so why shouldn’t it have a name!

as the storyline progresses, the collision of each hero’s ginormous ego is no surprise, but i did find the moments between tony stark and bruce banner quite tender. anyone else? speaking of bruce, i found it highly convenient that on the ship he cannot control his rage but suddenly can when they are in new york city and he needs to use his powers for good. sure, whatever you have to do to make it work, i guess…kind of like hawkeye’s uncanny accuracy with his fancy arrows. my favorite (and least favorite) scene is when agent coulson decides to get in on the action. i think i was saddest about his death more than anything else in the movie! maybe he’ll reincarnate and show up in another film? i wouldn’t put it past this series.

generally it was fun to see all the heroes come together and use their forces against a common enemy, but it is starting to feel like every movie will be loki scheming a new plan to take over earth and someone trying to stop him. time will tell!

now, the only thing bigger than the avengers’ egos were the size of the meals we ordered from armando’s caribe for dinner. phillip and dave had steak quesadillas, and they were so full of tender meat and cheese that the tortilla could barely hold itself together. jenn had a stuffed burrito that made my mouth water, and i decided to try the media noche. it was basically a classic cuban sandwich but on sweet egg bread instead of cuban bread. i did like it but have had better dishes there (such as the tilapia tacos or the seared tuna, which is to die for). although not a new restaurant, at least i tried something new! and that is something.

four movies in, about a million to go. here are the rankings!

EATS

  1. gordo’s pizza
  2. burger 21
  3. jerusalem bakery
  4. armando’s caribe

MOVIES

  1. iron man
  2. captain america: the first avenger
  3. thor
  4. the avengers