Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reflections and Goals

It's been about 10 months since Greg's Gourmet first launched and it's been an interesting experience.  Yeah, this is gonna be one of those "classic" blog entries, so for pictures of really good food or funny stories, scroll down.  Actually, wait, here's a picture just for good measure:

Egg salad, Fritos, and a scone.  A terrific meal for when you don't feel like doing anything.  Just FYI I didn't eat the scone with it.  It was just for effect

It's funny - when I first launched I had no idea what my goals or plans were.  The basic idea was to just post pictures of what I eat.  That's it.  But then I started to really get interested in it.  Then I got fans.  Then my readership kept going up.  Now I'm thinking up new things to do.  Such as this:

I think what I like most about the site is that it serves as a sort of portfolio for me and definitely creates a solid web presence.  It shows examples of writing, marketing, photography, graphic design (if you noticed the new banner then I may consider buying you lunch), HTML, Flash, and, hey, I have my own shirt!  How many people can say that?  It's also not just the mindless posting of pictures - it's writing and analysis with my moderately witty commentary.  Sometimes instead of writing about food I'll write about food related topics, such as the Justin Bieber singing toothbrush, bad Halloween treats, or Dick's Liquor.  

I've also learned a lot about the food industry in general.  Everything from pricing to portion size to, oh yeah, customer service.  In my opinion, customer service has improved with the evolution of the Internet.  I guess with everyone having a voice, companies pretty much have to listen otherwise they're gonna be in trouble.  But I've also learned that some companies don't care, as evidenced by Vons, who were inducted into the Hall of Shame due to the multiple shelved products that were weeks, if not months, past their "best by" dates (not to mention when they were returned the clerk guy was a jerk).  I actually attached that link in one of those complaint forms on their corporate website.  They didn't click it.  I received the canned garbage of "we're sorrrrrrrry" and that was it.  Meanwhile, that post continues to regularly receive views from Google searches and thus giving Vons plenty of not great publicity. 

If they had actually treated it as an individual issue and, you know, checked out why this person was flaming them online (and why the hell one of their stores is selling a product that's 8 months past its "best by" date)...I would have updated it appropriately.  If they had given me quality service I would have met them halfway.  But no.  That's the kind of junk you still get.  Here's a good idea: Don't make a blogger upset.  

Case in point with Cafe Press.  I created my own shirt (as well as other products) with one of three logos on it.  I personally have two shirts, one of which I can't comfortably wear anymore, which is a pity because those are expensive.  I sent an e-mail to Cafe Press telling them how disappointed I was and you know what they did?  Even though it was after the return period, they still refunded me and didn't even ask for me to send the shirt back.  That's customer service, that's standing behind their company, and that's wanting to keep everyone happy.  They're an Internet-based company, so I'm thinking they're more in touch with how to keep their users happy.  

I've encouraged other people to start blogs or create their own brand of whatever.  It's useful and fun.'s hard.  You see Greg's Gourmet and you may think it's a sinch to keep up and in reality it's not.  The thing is - I can only post so many pictures of hamburgers.  I can only post so many sandwiches or meals that I order over and over again before people get bored and stop reading.  It's boring for the reader and it's also boring for me.  That's part of the reason I've expanded my horizon and have gradually featured seafood.  I guess it's also because I've been so involved with food since launch that I have a new appreciation for it and am willing to try all sorts of new things.  

I still like the idea of starting a vlog.  The thing is - it would need to have some sort of story or purpose.  It can't just be me eating things.  No one except my stalkers will care about that.  

And by the way - any and all reader interaction - I love it.  I love it when people send me restaurant recommendations, pictures of food, and discussions of food in general.  


Reach a million views.  It's harder for a blog to reach those kinds of numbers than a video, but it's possible.  I mean, if the video of the Tourettes Guy yelling at the Wendy's drive-thru can get a million views, then why can't I?

More comments.  It's not uncommon for blogs to receive next to no comments, but that's not a reflection of lack of readership.  It's kind of like those cheesy commercials that are advertising something you don't need and they give you the phone number 96 times in an effort to get you to call.  The idea is that if you see it enough then maybe you'll give in.  Comments are kind of the same way.  I think the longer a blog is around and the more it establishes itself (as well as readership) then the comments will come.  One of my favorite blogs, Basketbawful (the best of the worst of professional basketball), seldom ever received comments during his first year on the net.  Now it's not unusual for him to receive hundreds of comments for one little post.  

Word of mouth.  Whenever someone tells me they showed my blog to someone, that pretty much makes my day.  To know that someone thinks enough of your product or brand to share it with people they know means you're doing something right, and I appreciate everyone who's spread the word.  

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Halloween Assault That Wasn't

Halloween is one of the holiest days of the kid calendar, behind only Christmas and the last day of school.  Christmas = presents.  Last day of school = freedom.  Halloween = junk food.  However, as childhood continued on, you may have learned that Halloween meant something else: that "trick-or-treat" isn't just a greeting - it's a warning.  And when you turn 13 you suddenly realize, hey, not only can you eat a lot of candy on Halloween, but you can also hellraise and not get in trouble!!!  This post is about an assault of silly string and other nonsense that my friend, The Cup (a character he played in one of our childhood movies), and I planned for Halloween 2000 but never actually fulfilled.  This, my The Plan.

This epic Halloween attack received an ingenious title that took seconds, possibly even minutes to come up with

So here you go, in full, the complete battle map of The Plan:

Click for a larger view - you'll wanna see this penmanship

At 13 you're at the age where simple things take on a greater definition. Looking back, I don't know exactly why we came up with this plan, but if I had to guess it would be that at the time there was a lot of moving going on in the neighborhood and a bunch of babies were moving in.  This was unacceptable, so The Cup and I had to establish ourselves as the bosses of the neighborhood.  One way to do this was to launch assaults on Halloween...or something.  By the way, regarding the map - due to the size of the paper, I had to scan it in fourths and then put it back together in Photoshop.

Anyway, this is a map of our neighborhood.  It's basically a circle of houses harbored beside Highlands Park.  Truth be told, trying to decipher the symbols and coding on this map is like deciphering Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.  While I'm not 100% sure on any of this, here's the color coding key to the best of my ability:

Purple = Starting point
Blue = Base
Green = Stringing
Orange = Hiding Place
Black = Some sort of mayhem?

I'm guessing black was another mischievous deed, like egging or t-peeing or something.  The problem is the black X's are in pretty arbitrary spots so I'm not exactly sure what the dealio is.  The starting point was at the dead end where Rolf Geezen used to live up until 4 months prior to the scheduled assault.  My house was to be used as a base and you'll see that I blurred out a few other houses that had names attached.  These were considered "allies", or, houses of people we knew who we figured wouldn't be offended if we hid in their bushes while the cops scope out the kids who were silly stringing 4th graders.  

The starting point as well as our base

This section clearly shows how serious we were

As you can see, we went into great detail for the park drawing, including little pictures for the tennis courts, bathrooms, and the Snack Shack (a place we were regulars at).  Again we also find several orange and black X's as well as a rare green one that I had previously overlooked.  Best guess - the orange is hiding, the green is for silly string, and black is for I don't know.  

A stringing target in the middle of the street.  I'm sure that would have had zero repercussions

So the plan of The Plan was to circle around the neighborhood, launching these rogue attacks...because in the event we get caught, no one would be smart enough to figure out that we're just going in a circle.   

We drew The Plan up in mid-October and, due to its intense secrecy, decided it would be wise not to have our names on it.  So we white-ed out our names since no one would notice the blotched white stuff and wrote our aliases, Joe Schwartz and Rob Schmit, founder and co-founder, respectively.  But wait!  We couldn't leave this plan in clear plain site for anybody to find.  That would be like inviting the Nazis to a meeting about the Manhattan Project.  So we rolled it up and hid the bushes in front of my house...since no one will EVER think to look there and even if they find it, ha!  Our names aren't even on it anymore!!!  Flawless, perfectly executed plan.  

At the end of the day this plan was pretty much an afterthought.  We had a can of silly string but I think it was defective.  In reality, the plan was about as legit as saying that Ashton Kutcher is a valid replacement for Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men.   It's funny; when you're 13 the world is a big place and everyday you explore something new.  On this particular day we thought we could be tough guys but in reality...we were good kids.  It was all talk.  We were both brought up right.  Throughout childhood you think up crazy ideas and plots no matter how bizarre, inconceivable, and nutty they may be.  Childhood is a time for wonder...The Wonder Years, if you will.    This was our bizarre, inconceivable, and nutty plan for that one day.  Sure, in another dimension we probably went through with it and wound up in juvenile hall, but that's neither here nor there.

Again, maybe we were a little upset because there weren't a heck of a lot of kids our age in the neighborhood and Rolf Geezen had just moved away, so thinking of a way to "take over the neighborhood" was our response.  That's really my only logic for it, as that philosophy also paved way for the formation of the Gatorade Mafia, a gang of 14 year olds who would regularly be at Highlands Park during baseball season and do tough guy things such as eat candy, drink Gatorade, and talk trash to the players from behind the backstop.  But that's a story for another time.  

You're probably wondering what we wound up doing instead on that Halloween night.  Well, isn't it obvious?

We went trick-or-treating!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

What's better than eating McDonald's while playing Monopoly?  Eating McDonald's and playing Monopoly!  McDonald's Monopoly is back in full swing with prizes galore and one in four winning something as well as the chance to win a million bucks!  How can you go wrong with this?!?!?!  Well, believe it or not, there's a lot of ways!

My recent McDonald's trip - a quarter pounder with cheese and double cheeseburger

Let me just start by saying that I love this promotion.  I think it's fun, I think it's good for business, and I think it's a wise builder of partnerships and networks.  However, upon doing a little research, I stumbled upon some stuff that, well, really sucks for the company.

Firstly, did you know that between 1995 and 2000 (and even as early as the 80s) you had absolutely no chance at winning the grand prize? Or even the next biggest prize?  That's because the company that helped to organize and promote the game, Simon Marketing, took the most expensive pieces and distributed them to people within their organization.  That's right, for at least 5 years the grand prizes were frickin' fixed.  Granted, McDonald's did their part to clean up the mess, but, I mean, how could it take YEARS, allegations from as early as 1989 up to 2001, to discover this nonsense?  This was before social media and easily accessible information on anyone and everyone, so I guess it was a little harder to discover that all of the winners worked for the company that's supposedly promoting the game.  But still.  This is messed up.  And it's on Wikipedia so it must be true.  

And what ticks me off even more is that I was REALLY into the 2000 game as were all of my friends.  We all had our game boards that we pasted our pieces to.  We'd trade pieces, we sold pieces, we'd go to McDonald's just to see if we could get that lucky winner.  My friend once pulled out his game board and said "be careful.  This is worth a lot of money!"  He had all the gimmes and a surplus of extras, worth the equivalent of a jar of slugs, but still.  Imagine going back in time to tell all of our 13 year old selves that the game is fixed and there's no shot at winning.  Can you just see the frowns on our faces??? HORRIBLE.  Anyway, here's my game board so far.  I've also won 2 free breakfast sandwiches!

Pretty good so far.  Looking for Kentucky Avenue along with 96 million other people

What's kind of funny though is when I was about 13 I thought I may have had a legitimate shot at winning the million.  I had an acquaintance, we'll call him Asshat, a kid who I had known for a while and he was always friendly to everyone.  Anyway, Asshat and I were talking about the Monopoly game and I told him I needed Boardwalk (like everyone else except it didn't exist).  He claimed to have it and said he'd trade it straight up for Pennsylvania, the piece he needed to win a prize (one of the three green properties and a very common one at that.  So basically he's claiming that he has two of the rarest pieces on the board at this point).  So the trade was the uber-rare Boardwalk for the uber-common Pennsylvania.  I was ready to make it...but day after day he "forgot" to bring the piece and then it just kinda dissipated.  There's other stories I could tell about Asshat, but they're not food related and he's a big fat liar, so I'll just continue on. 

Anyway, scroll back up to that picture for a second.  See those fries?  Those are MEDIUM fries that came with my meal.  MEDIUM.  Meals have ALWAYS come with LARGE fries.  Why am I not consuming more trans-fatty acids, damnit?  What happened here?  I looked this phenomenon up online to see if McDonald's is pulling something, but all I was able to find was that they shrunk the fries size for Happy Meals.  There's no information about smaller fries in meals.  Maybe this was a mistake?  But that's another thing - McDonald's shrinking the fries and giving into pressure to offer fruit as a way to provide "healthier" alternatives for children.

Hey, to all the people who are complaining about McDonald's being unhealthy - IF YOU'RE SO CONCERNED ABOUT IT THEN DON'T GO THERE!!!!!  Is it really any surprise that fast food is unhealthy?  Is it any surprise that burgers are high in fat and French fries are cooked in who knows what kind of grease and oil???  That's how McDonald's makes its money - it provides cheap, unhealthy food because it's just that - cheap and unhealthy.  If you're looking to go to McDonald's for something healthy and then complain when you miraculously discover that the menu is really unhealthy then please don't visit this blog again.  There's just no pleasing you.  

Oh, and speaking of free breakfast sandwiches:

Bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and a pair of hash browns at about 5:30 in the morning

You know what's really good to do?  Take half of the hash brown and stick it in the sandwich.  It provides another layer of taste, texture, and awesome.  

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Real Bieber Fever

This is a food blog.  It wouldn't be the place to go on a random rant about Justin Bieber, no matter how deserving it would be.  But today, my friends, I have an appropriate reason.  Oh yes I do:

Don't these pictures just say "Please beat the crap out of me"?

A toothbrush that plays the tunes of Bieber while you brush your teeth.  You know that feeling you get when you get a really bad stomach ache and think "I shouldn't have eaten that"?  Yeah, that's how I feel about this.  Now, while Greg's Gourmet fully endorses good oral hygiene habits, I think I would rather dip my teeth into a batter of coagulated motor oil that's been sitting in the stomach of a decaying pig before I'd stick that toothbrush in my mouth.  I mean seriously, what is this?

If you really have to listen to Justin Bieber while you brush your teeth (and somehow manage to avoid gagging yourself), why don't you just, like, bring his song up on the computer?  Or your phone?  Or your MP3 player?  Or your tablet?  Or one of the many other technological mediums that can stream music?  Why you need to resort to sticking a singing Justin Bieber toothbrush inside your mouth while scraping your whites is beyond me.

But that's just my opinion.  Onto a more attractive food item:

Pigs feet!

I've never had pigs feet but I have to wonder who invented the concept of actually turning these things into a culinary item.  "Hey, that animal over there has some attractive feet.  Let's eat them!"  I will say this, though: if some random cannibal is planning to eat me and gives me the choice to determine which body part they get, I'd probably say my foot.  And I would definitely eat these before brushing my teeth with the Bieber brush.

The food posting department has been kind of slow lately, but here's a Polish Kielbasa I had at the Del Mar Pet Expo the other day, courtesy of Just A Dog Pit Bull Rescue:

Oh yeah

Those Poles know how to eat, I tell you what.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top 5 Worst "Treats" I've Received On Halloween

Happy birthday to BONE CRUSHER!  And many more!  Bone Crusher's been one of Greg's Gourmet's biggest supporters and has directly and indirectly contributed to some of the most popular posts on the site.  Best wishes and thoughts!

If you were fortunate to spend most of your childhood in one house in one neighborhood then chances are that every Halloween you had an idea of which houses gave out the good stuff and which gave out crap.  At Highlands Park, people were generally pretty good about what they passed out, but every so often you'd cross some party pooper who would hand out something so weird, so bizarre, or so amazingly awful that it would leave a sour taste in your mouth that no sweet candy could fix.  So, let's get into it - the worst things I've ever received for Halloween, circa ages 7-14:


I never thought there'd be another cover out there funnier than the demo tape one, but this is pretty close...

EYC, or Express Yourself Clearly, was a boy band pop group thing whose final album was released around the time we received the demo tape (1999).  The lady had a stack of these things, so I'm guessing she was an agent or something and they had just broken up so she was trying to get rid of them.  She also gave out a bunch of good candy so I'm not dinging her in any way.  But man, I was with a couple friends and we just stood there for a minute to inspect what the hell the lady gave us and immediately cracked up.  

When we got back home we played the tape and couldn't stop laughing.  The songs were bad, the lyrics were terrible, and the cover art was goofy.  As Rolf Geezen said, "This guy is a crossdresser, this guy is crazy, and this guy is a girl" (hey, we were 13).  I've linked the album on Amazon a few times so you can listen to these masterpieces.  The songs on the demo tape were "Baby Be There", "Are You Ready", "Time To Party", and I think "I Feel It" was the fourth.


Every Halloween you get at least one house that gives out change of some sort.  Usually it's quarters, which is more acceptable because a quarter can still get you a piece of candy in most candy shops.  But PENNIES????  Brad Penny?? Miss Moneypenny???? There's A SALE AT PENNEYS???  

Look, if we were three years old then I could understand this but handing out pennies to kids of all ages?  Unacceptable.  What's even more galling is that the specific house I'm thinking of probably spent a small fortune to completely decorate their house and purchase costumes.  Seriously, their house was one of the best, if not the best, decorated in the neighborhood.  I guess they then relay the "savings" onto the "customers", right? 


"You can do your math homework with them!"  says the person who happily passes them out.  Being given something to do my math homework with on Halloween is like hearing Jared from Subway using health food to pick up hot women - it makes me want to vomit. 


A glass of water to be exact.  There was a house in the neighborhood that would give you a glass of water to drink when you came around.  We purposely avoided this house.


Yeah, cause we're little hyper kids going around getting all this candy and we're gonna need to clean our teeth hur hur hur, oh what clever sarcasm!  The above toothbrushes actually look like royalty compared to the ones this house passed out.  I'm talking about those single use brushes like my orthodontist would buy by the billion and have them in this bowl in the brushing area of the office.  And they're always really ugly colors, too.  I just think handing out toothbrushes on Halloween, a day where it's acceptable to eat large quantities of candy, is like a slap in the face to sugar fanatics everywhere.

Had a lot of good times with those Halloweens despite the defecation of tooth brushes and the tunes of EYC.  But hey, that's what makes Halloween fun!  

And happy birthday again to Bone Crusher!  And many more!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taquitos of Doom

Here's a Gourmet Classics feature from 2007.  You'll wanna check this out!

All I wanted were some taquitos.  Very simple dish, really.  Just roll some beef up in a tortilla and cook it and you're done.  How anyone could royally screw this up as much as the UT Grill at SDSU did is beyond me.  Just.  Look.  At.  This:

Yes, contrary to all logic and common sense, those are taquitos

That's a still taken from the video.  For the full effect of a meal that looks like moose regurgitation, check out this 40 second video clip.  Trust me, you wanna see this:

What in the world?!?!?! I would be honored to meet the person that assembled this meal and ask them either A) What hallucinogenic drugs are you taking to make this look like an acceptable meal?  or B) Did you have to go the bathroom and just couldn't hold it?

What happened here?!?!?!  Imagine if a dish like that was cooked in Gordon Ramsay's kitchen and the absolute fit he would throw if he saw it.  Probably something like this: (contains uncensored language)

For the record, I did make a feeble attempt to try and dig at least one of the taquitos out but quickly gave up and tossed them.  I also heard last week that the UT Grill is now out of business.  With poster dishes such as these taquitos, I'm really not surprised.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


If you've been reading this blog for a while then you know of my disdain for seafood.  It's funny - when I first started Greg's Gourmet I crusaded against any and all seafood, but as the site has developed I find myself trying different things that live under the sea and actually enjoying them.  Today's seafood fear that was conquered: Octopus.  What we have here is called Takoyaki, or as I originally called it, Taco Yucky, with all ingredients purchased from Nijiya Market in San Diego, CA and cooked by Chef LandonWhereBrandon and assisted by Josh in Japan:

Taco Yucky grillin'

Seriously - I enjoyed this a lot.  What happens is you take a piece of octopus:

Just the sight of octopus used to creep me out

You chop the octopus into a bunch of small pieces and then mix together a batter that's kind of like a pancake mix.  When that's all done, you pour the batter onto the grill as so:

After the batter is poured, the small chunks of octopus are placed in each little egg-sized-griller.  Topping it with green onion is also popular:

You get something like this as it begins to cook

If all goes well, in the end you'll have something like this:

Topped with a really good steak sauce and Japanese mayo

It's funny - in one of my previous posts I mentioned how "Mayo is one of those foods that you have to be careful with.  Too much can easily overpower the other ingredients and make whatever you're eating taste like the thought of Justin Bieber being successful."  However, as was pointed out to me, Japanese mayo is really, really good.  It serves to enhance the flavor rather than overpower it, kind of like cooking with barbecue sauce.  

Anyway, the goal is to eat the balls pretty much as soon as they come off the grill, so they're hot and, naturally, if you can't take the heat you get made fun of.  At one point I wanted to try just the octopus without the batter around it - conquer one of my fears.  And I gotta say - octopus is pretty good.  It's kind of tough and chewy, but I think the flavors from the batter really enhanced it and it was delicious.  Interesting turn of events.  

Oh, and here's what it looks like as a work in progress:

Those sloppy balls down there are mine

So in order to properly grill these things you have to skillfully flip them halfway through.  It takes practice to master this art that few have been able to achieve since the beginning of time.  

We also ventured to Tapioca Express, which serves, as their websites says, "Exotic coffee and tea drinks, including boba."  I got a Strawberry-Banana Snow Bubble with boba.  It was pretty good:

Snow Bubble with boba

And just to provide a little artery-clogging greasy fun, a cheeseburger from Ruby's in Mission Valley:

Cheeseburger with supposedly "salt produced from ancient underwater deposits" or some mumbo jumbo

So it was a monumental gourmet effort with the octopus.  It's pretty good stuff.  I'd still order steak over it in a restaurant, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it.

Thanks for reading!