Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Return of the Buffet

So one of my favorite gourmet spots over the years has been the Great Plaza Buffet in Pacific Beach. Last October, much to my surprise, the restaurant abruptly closed for remodeling that would take them into January. Naturally the project lasted longer than it was supposed to and went into March. Due to the initial crowds, I didn't get a chance to try it until about May or June. It was fine but I wanted to try it again to really get a sense of the changes that were made. And yes, there were changes.

Let's start off very simple. The old restaurant was a dump for all intensive purposes, and then new management bought it over and invested a lot of money to clean it up. They also invested money into finally getting a working website (my virus scanner would alert me of Trojans whenever I'd try to visit the old website). But some programmer clearly jerked them out of their money, because look at this picture that's in the main slider of their site:

The American Beauty tagline is "look closer..."

Look closely at this picture. Something here doesn't make sense.

Do you see it yet? Apparently the Great Plaza Buffet is the only buffet in the United States that also offers an unlimited supply of mint Milano cookies and Goldfish crackers. SERIOUSLY GUYS??? I would LOVE to see how this website was built and how exactly this picture got placed on the main slider. Was it the owner? Was it a programmer? I mean, I'd love to see the butthole who thought out loud "HEY! Let's put a picture of a SUPER MARKET on our restaurant's website! YEAH!!!" When I update my Yelp review I'm going to include this picture.

Anyway. The food is the same for the most part. Let's get right into it:

Okay...something is wrong with this picture too, and it's not the redness of the meat

Yeah, one thing they got rid of was the mashed potatoes which makes about as much sense as a Progressive commercial that doesn't star Flo. How can you have steak but no mashed potatoes? And it's not like they're real, I'm sure they're powdered. So instead we get...French fries. Which were pretty good anyway but still.

The "Asian Sensation" plate

Another change: as far as I can tell they no longer have white rice. Con. But the Teriyaki chicken is now cut into smaller pieces and not served on a skewer. Pro.

The Transition Plate

Another possible change: The steak that they put out seems to be cooked medium rare at the highest. While many people may not like this, I enjoy red meat very much. Pro.

Fruity Tootie

Fruit. Nothing much has changed there.


They have a few more dessert offerings but the main difference is the chocolate fountain. They give you marshmallows and skewers and you can dunk whatever you want in there. Naturally when I went to get my dessert they were conveniently out of skewers but whatever. Oh, and here's another waste of their money. They invest thousands in renovations and then when they finally get the menu together, this happens:

I bet Cholocate tastes really good

Seriously? Thousands of dollars invested and you're not even gonna proofread the front of your menu? 

So there are a couple lazy changes that I don't particularly like as noted above. The meals are about $2 more expensive and a drink is not included which is ridiculous. Last night the floors were also filthy. There was a frickin' piece of pineapple that was just sitting there for 20 minutes. Not good. Oh, and the menu also says that they still carry lamb ribs, though I haven't seen that item in the restaurant in years. 

Overall it's still good for what it is. I enjoyed my meal last night and would go back again. But I don't think it's as high up as it once was. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This Video Has Turned Me Off of Fast Food

Everyone knows fast food and processed foods aren't good for you but the problem is they're just so damn good. Guilty pleasures. So what if I want some processed food every now and then? Who really cares? But once in a while a video comes along that will completely change your way of thinking. Maybe you're the type that subscribes to those slaughterhouse videos. Or perhaps you're of the kind who preaches to the choir of how the food industry knowingly fills our bodies with crap because we're either too oblivious or just don't care.

But me? This is the video that completely changed my mind: Angry Grandpa HATES Taco Bell Breakfast. Go to 3:54 to see the eating. Features strong language.

Let's set up the stage: Angry Grandpa (Charles) is a popular YouTube vlogger made famous by his violent temper, his tendency to destroy things when he gets mad, and gratuitous usage of profanity. He is regularly engaged in an endless pranking war with is son, Pickleboy (Michael), and Pickleboy's girlfriend, Princess (Bridgette). While most of the videos feature him yelling and swearing and breaking various kitchen appliances, there's also a certain charm about him, especially in the non-prank videos as well as videos where he interacts with fans. 

So in this video he's trying Taco Bell's new breakfast. He gets a Waffle Taco, a Bacon AM Crunch Wrap, a 12 piece Cinnabon Delight, and a coffee. Now, I love watching videos of people eat. Sickening or weird? Perhaps. But the sound, the visuals, the reaction - taste test videos always make me hungry. Even that video of Morgan Spurlock spewing up his lunch in Super Size Me gets me hungry. However, sitting here watching the toothless fellow gum down this processed creation of egg, sausage, and waffle made me feel like there was a three-headed cockroach in my stomach. I felt sick watching this. I got that disgusted feeling you get after stepping in a huge pile of dogcrap, like why did this just happen? Why do people not pick up after their dog? Why does Taco Bell's breakfast look so disgusting and why are they pushing it on us?

It just got me thinking. This taste test is disgusting on so many levels. It's well known how much crap is put into our food but at what point do we start fighting back and refusing to accept this? Look, let me be clear: I love junk food. I love it. I have to go to McDonald's once a month to fight cravings. But I'm starting to think there are places I can really cut out the crap, just so I don't feel the dirty feeling I felt while watching Angry Grandpa gumming down his processed scrambled eggs. For a few dollars more get some real non-processed meat and fruit or something. Over the long run your body will thank you. Or I can just pretend I never saw this video. 

So damn gross. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Collage of Gordon Ramsay Expressions

You'd think with the way he wrinkles his face in some of these expressions that his skin is made from that super elastic rubber material that's used in those stretchy action figures. Here's a compilation of some of the stills that I've taken over the past two seasons of Hell's Kitchen that I used for my nightly recaps. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The All American Dessert, What Else?

The All-American Dessert has become a 4th of July tradition, like the Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Twilight Zone Marathon. Its layer after layer of sugary goodness can give you cavities just by looking at it. Just the presence of it in a room inspires staunch patriotism. My friends...the All American Dessert:

I guess this isn't a good post to follow up my cavity questioning post with

This was probably one of the more tastier versions of "The Dessert" recent years. I found a useful trick is using Jello brand gelatin rather than the store brand. For whatever reason the store brand doesn't settle as firm so you get a much softer product. Jello firms very well and as a result it holds things together. 

The assembly line

In the past I've taken pictures of the step-by-step procedure, but here's what all of the ingredients look like together. Two big boxes of Jello (red and blue coloring), a pound cake, two pounds of strawberries, one thing a piece of raspberries, blue berries, and maraschino cherries, and three things of whipped cream just to be safe. You may be able to get away with two but I like to be generous. 

This dessert and I go back years when I was a kid and my mom made it. It was always the hit of the party. In recent years I've tried applying the dessert for different holidays but have had varying success:

All American Dessert - Thanksgiving Edition

The Thanksgiving Edition has worked decently the two times I've made it. Instead of red and blue Jello I went with orange and black (black cherry) and for fruit I went with blackberries, bananas, and kiwis. I might consider trying this combination again. 

All American Dessert - Christmas Edition

The Christmas Edition completely flunked. It looks gorgeous and the green and red Jello is an attractive combo, but the complementary fruit of grapes, canned cherries, and kiwis just didn't work. Like at all. I think the leftover of this guy rested in the fridge for about a week before being thrown out and as far as I can tell it's the only version of "The Dessert" to be thrown out. It just lacked the sweetness and cohesiveness of the other two. 

I was looking through the Greg's Gourmet archives and found that I also made a Christmas Edition dessert one year prior and was also disappointed primarily due to the ingredients:

All American Dessert - Another Christmas Edition

In this version I actually forgot the grapes, which you think would have helped the dessert's cause but unfortunately I also used a sub-par poundcake which didn't absorb the cake well at all, so basically this thing turned into one big giant mess when trying to scoop it out. 

Maybe I'll try a red, white, and blue version at the holidays and just gamble on finding decent berries. If I recall correctly, the blackberries for Thanksgiving actually worked out nicely. Maybe use them against the blue Jello? I don't know. But I'm sure you'll be hearing about it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Can Cavities Disappear?

I went to the dentist yesterday. Obviously being a huge foodie as well as maintaining a massive sweet tooth, the checkups every six months are integral to good oral hygiene. Being a 90s kid, oral hygiene was bestowed upon my peers and I as if it were the Holy Grail. Getting a cavity was the equivalent of shooting up heroin and if you didn't have to get braces then you were like Bruce Willis from Unbreakable - the only guy who survived the train wreck that is teenage orthodontics. I've always managed to get good reports from my dentists over the years. Never had a cavity as a kid and clean checkups have been routine. But that wasn't always so.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, but I wanted to include it to let you know that this is serious business

In the summer of 2005 I went to my dentist in Rocklin. It was my second visit to him and he found one or two cavities. I was crushed as they were the first blemishes on an otherwise perfect oral career. How could this have happened? It could have been all the Jones Soda I was drinking at the time but I always took care of my teeth. Finally I relented and figured these things just happen, so I went in to get them drilled. Six months later I go in for my next checkup and this time he finds THREE cavities. THREE!! WTF!?!?! He takes a picture of one of the teeth and shows it off on the big screen. Let me tell you, seeing a tooth up close is really disgusting even if it is pearly white. Sure enough there was a tiny hole on one of my back molars but it still didn't make sense to me. I was even MORE careful with my oral hygiene following the first cavities. After having anything with sugar I would rinse my mouth out with water. And now I have three more of these things?

Cavities aside, I didn't really like this dentist or the office. Didn't like their approach, didn't like their bedside manner, and I didn't like how they told my sister during her checkup that "oooh, your brother has some cavities!" HELLO, DOCTOR-PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY!!! Why don't you gossip about the stench coming out of my ass while you're at it? Anyway, my whole family switched dentists because we just didn't like them so, needless to say, I did not go back to get those three cavities drilled. I figured I'd just let the next guy find them.

But it never happened.

I've been to three dentists since the three cavity exam and NONE of them have spotted anything. I purposely don't say anything because part of me is curious to see if they can even spot them, but lo and behold it has been eight years and not a thing has been heard of from those cavities. I've had my wisdoms out, I've had retainers built, I've had about 16 exams since 2006 and nothing has surfaced. It leads me to wonder if the cavities were so tiny that good oral hygiene was simply enough to close them up.

That being said, if that's all it takes to close up a tiny cavity, then why was the dentist so insistent that we drill them? I figure it's been long enough to determine that if these cavities were a threat then they'd mobilize by now, and surely one of the three dentists since then would have spotted something. But instead it's been all quiet on the oral front. I've had no issues, no pain, no nothing. It also makes me question the validity of getting those first cavities drilled. Was it necessary? Were they the same size as the others? I really don't know. Maybe that particular dentist was applying some kind of tooth decay formula onto my teeth which was causing the cavities to form, thus a way to line his pockets with all of our hard earned money. I mean, my first checkup with him went fine, no cavities there. It was the second and third checkups where the cavities were found.

Eh. Doubtful. But it's a cool storyline anyway.