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: 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

presidential chicken

as you all know, i’m almost always up for trying a new recipe, and a few weeks ago was one of those nights.  my inspiration was from my dear friend jamie and his fiance caleb.  they have been dabbling in the podcast world and have multiple times mentioned the famous presidential chicken recipe from michigan state university, which is where jamie attended college.  after hearing them describe it as chicken with puff pastry, sour cream, and cream cheese, i demanded a copy of the recipe so that i could try it myself.

so, being the obliging podcast hosts they are, they sent me a link and off i went to kroger to get everything we would need.  as i took over the kitchen with pots and pans and knives and cutting boards, phillip walked in and asked, “what are you making?”

“presidential chicken!” i replied, as if he should have known all along.

he politely said “okay” and left me to my work.

making the stuffing was no big deal, but trying to get the puff pastry looking all nice and on purpose was not as successful.  i may have even ended up with some precious little mini pouches, over there, on the right…oh well!

while these bad boys baked away in the oven, i got to start on the sauce.  now, as i started on the sauce, i found myself confused.  my sauce was not thickening up at all and, with a taste here and there, was quite bland to me.  i double-checked the directions and was doing everything right, but perhaps there’s an msu trick to getting it to thicken properly.  i’ll just have to let one of you show me how it’s done!

eventually the puffs were baked to near-golden perfection.  ah, who doesn’t love a nicely browned, flaky pastry crust?

i plated the chicken up with some broccoli and a little bit of the sauce, but honestly, my sauce wasn’t even necessary (and promptly wound up going down the drain).  those heavenly pouches can stand on their own with piping hot chicken and a creamy, rich sour cream and cream cheese mixture.  this dish is easily one i can see us enjoying time and time again.  🙂

so, if you enjoyed this post, there are two things you need to do:

  1. go get the recipe and enjoy this dish yourself
  2. go listen to jamie and caleb’s podcast

for both, you’ll thank me later.

the wedding chronicles | decision #21

THE FOOD

Hello, all!  It’s Kelsey’s dad again, back to share with you thoughts of the recent menu tasting for Kelsey and Phillip’s upcoming wedding.

First of all let me start with this:  I was honored and flattered to be invited to this event.  Since Kelsey is my only daughter I have never been to a wedding  menu tasting before.  As such I had no idea what to expect.  From my position, though, everything turned out terrifically!

Setting the Stage

As you might know, the wedding is going to be in Peachtree City, GA.  There were three of us at the tasting, Kelsey, Phillip, and me.  Prior to the actual tasting I suggested that the two of them “narrow the field” of what we would be trying, and for the sake of this post I am going to focus on the entree options.  At the beginning I believe there were approximately 20 entree options.  This is way too many options for me!  Kelsey and Phillip narrowed the entree options down to six.  Thank you, both!  Phillip designed, printed, and brought “score sheets” for us to rank the entree options.  Thank you, Phillip.  This helped me greatly to focus and stay on course.  Jena at the Manor, for lack of a better description, runs the Manor.  Jena’s dad owns the Manor.  She was at the tasting and provided descriptions of each dish, sharing various dining etiquette protocol, for example, for each sample.  Thank you, Jena.  However, I have been sworn to secrecy and will not share any specific details for any menu items you will enjoy at the reception.

Entree Tasting

Jena brought out and shared ingredient information about each entree option.  She also shared the preparation details for each.  This was very, very helpful.

My Role

I saw my role as a sort of “tie-breaker.”  If Kelsey and Phillip were tied on an entree, then and only then would I share my vote, comments, etc…In my opinion, the menu selections were ultimately Kelsey and Phillip’s decisions.  The only point that I would have stepped forward on was the type of entree selection.  I thought options would be a good idea.  I would have said “no” to two chicken entrees.  I would have said “no” to two meat entrees, etc…As it finished, Kelsey and Phillip decided on two different types of entrees, and you will love them both!

Suggestions

I have never been part of a wedding menu tasting, so I learned a lot.  Jena had a great sense of humor that really, really helped.  If you are planning or have scheduled a wedding menu tasting I would STRONGLY suggest the following, which Kelsey and I have talked about on many occasions:  INVITE/TAKE THE FEWEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE POSSIBLE.  You don’t want an entire posse with you for the menu tasting.  The bride and groom are under enough pressure already and do not need 10 different tasting opinions to muddy the decision-making process.  The fewer people the better.  My suggestion would be the bride, groom, and father of the bride.  🙂

Speaking of father of the bride…Jena, bless her heart, during the tasting mentioned that on the wedding day the father of the bride (that would be me) “is a celebrity at the event.”  Guilty as charged, this is the last thing I needed to hear!  Kelsey has already given me very strict instructions as to what to say, what not to say, etc…And even though I will have a microphone at the wedding, I promised Kelsey that I would not do anything to offend or embarrass her.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the menu tasting and hope that this blog helps you if you are invited to a wedding menu tasting.

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 3

One of if not the most important activities I plan for when traveling is eating!  What is <insert name of destination> best known for?  Where do the locals go?  Most of the time you can find those places via a quick online search, but sometimes you find them just by looking around and keeping your eyes open.  I’ve found a couple places like that in Christchurch, so here are my recommendations for future travelers!

First things first, breakfast, the most important meal of the day.  Unfortunately it’s not a meal I usually have while traveling for work because I’m so focused on getting to the client site.  A quick run to the local ‘bucks is usually all I have time for.  However, since this trip has me staying over weekends, I have ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, and I found a good spot to do so at Tap N Grind.  While busy, it didn’t have the hustle and bustle, get-out-of-my-way-I-just-want-my-coffee feel to it.  Much more relaxed and casual.  My desire for my Waffle House Peachtree Road Race waffle must have been sending me subliminal messages, as I spotted the waffle and bacon and decided that was the dish for me.  As you can see, it looked awesome and it also tasted awesome.  The waffle was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The citrus mascarpone acted like butter to make the waffle soft but not soggy.  The caramelized banana gave it that little something extra and the variety of nuts a little crunch.  It was so good that I made a point to tell the waitress, who sheepishly said, “We just assume everything in America is better than what we have here.”  I told her she was dead wrong on this; it was hands down the best waffle I have ever had, and even in the top three as far as breakfast dishes go!  When I went back the next week, I had the same waitress and she smiled and asked if I would be having the waffle again, which, of course, I did!

For dinner, I recommend you check out O.G.B. (aka Old Government Building), as it hosted various government departments from 1913 to the 1980s.  After being vacant for some time, the building was threatened to be demolished but eventually made it to a real estate developer.  Today, the bar and Heritage Hotel call this place home.  They have a traditional restaurant space with the bar being in a separate area.  Eating in the bar is the way to go with a speakeasy feel consisting of a wood bar, dark colored walls, and the staff being dressed in 1920s and 1930s attire.  I had the beef rib burger, but just to be clear, we would call this a sandwich in the States.  In New Zealand they call a burger anything where protein (beef, lamb, chicken, etc…) is served between two pieces of bread.  The protein doesn’t even necessarily have to be formed into the traditional patty shape.  To flip it the other way, what we call a pulled pork sandwich, a Kiwi would call a pork burger.  Enough on semantics and onto the food!

The “burger” was cooked very well and had this molasses-like sauce that put it over the top.  It was paired with potato wedges and a house-made ketchup that tasted much more tomato based than American ketchup and, to be honest, tasted better than American ketchup.  The final reason you should go to O.G.B.?  Well, any place that uses a sousaphone as part of its decor is well worth the trip!

hattie b’s hot chicken – birmingham, al

this past weekend, phillip and i made a swift drive west to visit my parents in birmingham for a couple of days.  it was a belated birthday celebration for my father as well as an early valentine’s day gathering for all four of us.

my mom was occupied at the school for a show choir event all day saturday, so phillip and i helped my dad run errands around town and then take kramer for a lovely afternoon walk over at heardmont park.  this place brings back countless memories of my brothers during the baseball days, and my father and i reminisced as we strolled from field to field.

the day crept into the evening, and i’d say all four of us had worked up quite an appetite for dinner.  so, we all hopped in phillip’s mazda and my dad navigated us to downtown birmingham where we joined the crowd in line at hattie b’s for some hot chicken.

20170211_190506

future son-in-law with his future father-in-law. 🙂

we waited in line for about ten minutes, but it wasn’t so bad since that gave us time to look over the menu.  now, mom and dad have been here before, and both testified that the medium sauce made their heads sweat.  per their recommendation, i then knew that the mild would be the way to go.  in addition to choosing your heat level, you also have several chicken choices.  from breasts to wings to tenders, surely there’s something on this menu that can satisfy.

at seven o’clock on a saturday night, you can probably imagine how busy this place already was.  so, when a table opened up, i sprinted to claim it for us.  as i settled in and took a look around, it was clear by the simple atmosphere and the line out the door that tasty eating was awaiting us.

mom, dad, and phillip arrived with our number and our drinks and we chatted as we waited on our food.  i’m going to guess that they try to make everything fresh to order, because we had plenty of time to discuss wedding plans.  oh, did i mention phillip and i are engaged?  well, if you didn’t know before, you’re in the know now!  🙂  more on all that fun to come later.

in the end, the food was certainly worth the wait.  between the sides and the chicken, there was hardly anything left on our plates!  the pimento cheese mac’n’cheese was creamy with a little kick, the collard greens were well-cooked (and i’d recommend throwing some hot sauce on them to spice things up), and i heard the potato salad, fries, and coleslaw were also delicious.

my mild tenders were, first of all, humongous.  i actually needed help finishing them!  although delicious when dipped in either the honey mustard or bleu cheese, a bite on its own was quite flavorful.  i’m glad i went with the mild because although the heat may not be in-your-face at first, you definitely start feeling it after two or three tenders.  phillip also had the mild tenders and didn’t leave a single bite uneaten.  mom said her southern chicken tenders were wonderful and dad could not get enough of the mild wings he ordered.

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i’d say if i find myself back at hattie b’s (which i’m sure i will) i think i’ll go for the wings.  the tenders are awesome if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but the wings really looked like they might be this restaurant’s specialty.  i also don’t doubt i’d try the potato salad (it looked awesome on my mom’s plate) and i would certainly get an order of the banana pudding.  my mom says it is heavenly, and i don’t think i’ll forgive myself if i forget to get it next time.