Archive for December, 2009

Pappasito’s disaster – Now with extra glass in your margarita!

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

So, this isn’t a full review, per se, because I wasn’t the one there — my parents live in Houston, and they ate at Pappasito’s on the Southwest Freeway (yesterday, December 30th) on their trip back from visiting us here in Boston.  When I lived in Houston, I ate at Pappasito’s regularly.  Generally, it’s a quality mid-range Tex-Mex option that’s run by the Pappas family.  (They own several mid-to-high-end restaurants in Texas, all of which started in Houston).  I realize that this week is very busy for restaurants, but there is no excuse for what happened to them last evening:  they were served a margarita with a rather large chunk of broken glass in it.  When my dad bit into it, he spit it out, and they called the manager over.  To make matters worse, the manager rather flippantly offered, “I’ll bring you another one — minus the broken glass of course, hah hah”.  Yeah, really funny, asshole.  Overall, my parents said the food was good (thankfully that hasn’t changed), but that the service was terrible, including their waitress who was flirting with the customers at the table next to them, using their phone to text message.  (Memo to her:  Hooter’s is further north on 59.  Perhaps you should consider employment there instead).  The manager should have immediately apologized for the incident with the glass, but apparently he didn’t even do that.  He also should have promised to find out how this happened and make sure it didn’t happen again.  How on earth can you eat someplace where you’re not sure if the food isn’t going to literally destroy your insides?  I’d have walked out, and needless to say, I won’t return to Pappasito’s when I visit Houston.

Tosca Review

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Tosca is a higher-end restaurant in Hingham, near where I live.  It’s owned by the group that also owns Stars, which is across the street.  (My wife and I really like Stars, which is an affordable, quality casual dining experience that’s perfect if you have a family).  We went on December 29th, which apparently is a busy time, which was fine.  I had a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon, and we started with some risotto.  The portion size was reasonably large for an appetizer, and it was quite good.  It was a bit heavy on the oil, but not too bad, and the amount of parmesan in it was just right — not overwhelming.  For entrees, my wife had a dry-aged boneless ribeye, and I had the “entree” portion of lobster ravioli.  The chef made the questionable choice of pairing the shallots, steak, and red-wine reduction sauce with cabbage, so my wife (wisely) substituted out the cabbage for some garlic mashed potatoes, which were delicious.  Her steak was large — perhaps 12 or 16oz — and quite carefully made and presented, and the sauce was just perfect with it.

My lobster ravioli was presented on a long rectangular plate, with each ravioli lined up.  The mild wine-reduction-and-cream sauce and sauted vegetables were flavorful and good, but there was a glaring problem with my ravioli:  there were only 5 of them.  For $27.  I am not cheap — I have no problem paying $50+ a head for a quality meal out, but this was ridiculous.  The ravioli portion size is wildly disproportionate to everything else offered as a meal at Tosca.  I’d have been much happier if they gave me 7 or 8 of them & charged me $35 instead of misleading me into believing I was ordering an entire meal.  The ravioli is marked as “entree sized” because Tosca rather obnoxiously notes on their menu that there’s an additional $11 charge to order pasta as an entree.  One would think that, since they conscientiously distinguish between smaller and larger portions, that the larger portion would be appropriate.  I noted this to the waitress, who seemed to indicate that they’d heard this before.  I definitely did not get the impression that they were going to change it any time soon, however.  Overall, the food was quite good, but there were some odd choices by the chef here (portion size being the primary among them, but also the questionable pairing of cabbage with steak & wine sauce).  Given that Bernard’s is nearby, I think I’ll be skipping another trip to Tosca in favor of going there instead — in fact, we would have gone to Bernard’s if it was open, but it’s a smaller establishment that is not open Monday or Tuesday.  Ah well.

Whole Foods Christmas Dinner Review

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

My wife & I ordered Christmas Dinner from Whole Foods again this year.  We’ve ordered Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there before and have been impressed.  It’s a decent value for what you get, and the food is usually quite good.  This year, $79.99 bought me some green beans with almonds, bread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and 4 to 6 pounds in turkey.  This is designed to feed 4 people.  The mushroom gravy (“vegan”) is really delicious, so I like to substitute that out for the default turkey gravy.  Unfortunately, my Whole Foods (in Hingham, MA) seems to be slipping in its execution for this.  Things started off badly this year when I went to pick up my food (on Christmas Eve), and they were unable to provide me any kind of meaningful instructions for reheating my turkey.  I’ve gotten this before, so I thought my meal would be the same, but the turkey they provided was not the prepped, bagged turkey — it was catered turkey in a roasting pan.  Both are pre-cooked, but the preparation was different, and this one lacked the turkey farm’s bag that had instructions printed on it.  So, they gave me the Whole Foods instructions — which were blatantly incorrect.  After 3 calls to the deli to try to get instructions, the lady working there decided that I should preheat my oven to 325 and heat my turkey for 20 to 30 minutes.  For 4 to 6 pounds of meat.  Yeah, no.  Okay, I’m from Texas, and I know a bit about both cooking and heating meat, and that isn’t even close.  I wanted the instructions from them about how to prepare it with seasoning & not dry it out, but they were hopeless.  I kept insisting it was wrong, and she was oblivious, so I just paid & left.  (Preheating to 350, putting the bird on a roasting rack, covering with foil, and putting 2 cups of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan while heating for 2 hours did the trick — came out moist & delicious).

On the day of heating (Christmas), I discovered several new problems with my meal.  First, the amount of potatoes was both skimpy and seemingly wrong.  I bought a 4-person meal for Thanksgiving from Whole Foods, and they gave me at least twice as many potatoes.  This was confirmed when I looked at the portion size — 8oz — and noted the package size:  24oz.  That’s right, they gave me 3 servings of potatoes for 4 people.  Next, I discovered the sell-by date for my cranberries:  November 30th.  Yes, they really did give me cranberries that were 4 weeks past their sell-by date.  I quickly double-checked the rest of the dates to make sure they were ok, but I had to throw out the cranberries.  Maybe they froze them.  Maybe they didn’t — I have no way of knowing, and that’s the point.  Overall, the food was good (especially the pecan pie I bought at Whole Foods to add to it) and easy to prepare, but I won’t buy another meal from them after this disaster.  My parents ran out of potatoes during the meal, and the bad service at the store just isn’t worth it.  Honeybaked Ham Company does pre-made holiday meals as well, so I’ll give them a shot next time.

Restaurant/food reviews

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

My wife & I like to eat out fairly often, and over the holidays we do so a bit more than usual.  We live in the South Shore area of Boston, which is somewhere between a suburb and urban in terms of its gastronomical landscape.  Practically speaking, that means that there is some crap, and there are some diamonds in the rough.  In the next few posts, I’m going to highlight some of each, and then hopefully keep up with it in the coming months.

Pac-10 laying an egg

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Not a good start for the Pac-10 in their bowl season.  After going undefeated last year, they’re winless so far.  I’m hoping USC doesn’t embarrass itself further this year with a loss to BC in the prestigious “Emerald” Bowl this week.  It’s in San Francisco — about as close to a home game as you’re going to get, short of either the Holiday Bowl (San Diego) or Las Vegas Bowl.  (Notice my lack of mention of the Rose Bowl — yeah, this team isn’t in that conversation).

Avatar in Depth

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Blue cat people — in SPACE! — with some vaguely technological angle, and a sprinkle of superficial political allegory regarding colonialism — presented in THREE DEEEEEEEEEE!

Still.  Do.  Not.  Care.

People who claim that James Cameron can do no wrong since, after all, he made freaking TERMINATOR TWO! (word, that was awesome) sound just like everyone before George Lucas shat out Jar Jar Binks.  And who never saw Howard the Duck.  And who don’t realize who wrote “Rambo:  First Blood Part Two” (hint, it’s James Cameron).


Monday, December 14th, 2009

Blue cat-people — in SPACE!


Big 12 Championship

Friday, December 4th, 2009

go Nebraska.

(I can’t stand UT nor UT fans — seriously, if you live in New England and are below college age, you should not be wearing UT gear — and the amusement of watching the fallout from self-entitled UT fans getting denied a BCS championship berth would be delicious.  Also, Texas hasn’t played anyone & does not deserve a BCS championship berth any more than Cincinnati or Boise).

USC v UCLA redux

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

This year’s installment of the cross-town rivalry was a bit boring.  USC showed its 2009-signature lack of offense, again, scoring nothing until late in the 4th quarter.  It was USC’s defense that really won this game, scoring twice and holding that 14-7 lead until the offense finally broke through.  UCLA looked schizophrenic on offense, whereas USC was its 2009 ineffectual norm.

The boredom ended late in the game with 52 seconds left.  USC had the ball with a 21-7 lead, and attempted to run out the clock by having the (caretaker) quarterback take a knee.  This put UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel in a tough spot.  He’s got 3 timeouts left, which means that if he takes them all and stops USC, he can get at least one more possession.  This game in particular is important to both teams’ recruiting efforts in Southern California.  Many, many would-be recruits are at this game.  So, I get that UCLA can’t exactly just give up.  That said, I interpreted this as something of a dare from Rick Neuheisel.  I’ve heard the guy in interviews on Dan Patrick‘s radio show, and it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t like Pete Carroll.  If you just read what he says, it all reads as polite and professional.  But, hearing him makes it clear why UCLA was so comfortable putting Neuheisel’s mug on its “The football monopoly in Los Angeles is officially over” billboards.

So, Neuheisel has painted himself into a corner.  He’s cultivated this persona of wanting to challenge/needle Pete Carroll, but I also think he likes it.  He calls time-out.  The crowd in the Coliseum rains down boos.  Pete Carroll is animated.  He takes Neuheisel’s dare and one ups him on the next play:  play-action fake, long pass down the field for a score.  The USC team is fired up, doing their (annoying, IMO) pre-game “fire-it-up” bounce thing.  Inexplicably, this is reported as “taunting”.  I watched the game.  This isn’t taunting.  That makes no sense.  Ever see a USC practice?  I have.  They do the same (annoying) thing.  Who are they taunting then?  Answer:  nobody, because it’s not taunting, you morons.  What some individual players did (making faces, etc) was taunting, but the press has reported this as some team-orchestrated taunting ritual, which just isn’t the case.  USC wasn’t the team that cleared its bench afterward & postured itself across midfield — that was UCLA.  Does it suck to have your rival beat you?  Yes it does.  I would know.  I was at USC when the eight year drought against UCLA was going on (and thankfully ended in 1999).  It happens.  UCLA ran up the score when they could.  That’s the nature of the rivalry.  But USC didn’t try to start a fight, and they didn’t whine about it afterward.  (Ok, actually, I did whine about it in 1996, when at the Rose Bowl, the UCLA fans cheered and celebrated when UCLA managed to injure USC quarterback Brad Otton, eventually leading to an overtime loss for USC after leading 38-17).  Rick Neuheisel actually seems to get that, since he’s not whining about it.  But, the UCLA fans should grow the hell up.  It didn’t particularly bother me when Stanford attempted to run up the score on USC this year, because I figure that over time, that’s just going to bite them in the rear — who is more likely to step on the other team’s throat in coming years?  Yeah, nice win this year, great team for Stanford, but that doesn’t bother me.  As a side note, I’ll take criticism from UCLA fans about “classlessness” approximately never.  Both teams have boorish fans, to be sure, but my opinion about the height of UCLA-fan classiness stems from an incident in 1996 (after the aforementioned overtime win for UCLA).  I watched some bratty UCLA fans actually push an older guy in USC regalia to the ground in the parking lot as he attempted to get in his car.  Seriously.  YOU JUST WON.  And yet, you’re pushing a geezer on the ground.  I’m sure that some drunken USC fan has done boorish crap before, too.  But don’t lecture me as though UCLA is some pinnacle of sportsmanship and good-natured competition, and that this incident somehow mars what is otherwise a high-brow affair.

Would I have preferred that Pete Carroll take the high road & rush the ball instead?  Yeah, definitely.  After all, this is supposedly “tailback U”.  But, USC’s definitely down this year (for them), and so I can’t entirely fault Pete Carroll for ripping one down the field when he saw the chance.  Despite his focus on defense, the dude likes offense (he’s commented about how it was “fun again” last year when Sanchez was throwing TDs left and right), and there hasn’t been any this year.  It was a gamble, but what really was on the line?  It’s not like this was the Rose Bowl and the national championship was at stake on a 4th-and-2 against UT.  (D’oh — still, that was statistically the right call).  I do hope that both teams cool down a bit before next year, however.