Monday, August 27, 2012

A Quick Restaurant Review - Bocado

My Saturday was originally planned to be uneventful. It was to be whiling away the hours hoping my little fortress didn't run out of water OR trying to lead my virtual basketball team to a make believe NBA championship.  Neither are particularly satisfying, I should be writing and although story ideas and dialogue dance through my mind I have been less than inclined to write. It's a certain ennui. So when my brother and his paramour, who shall be referred to by his old nickname for her - Sal - said they would be stopping through it was at least something different.

I cleaned up, and they swung by after jaunting through some nearby neighborhood they'd heard was nice, but wasn't. After some sage career advice from Sal, a successful lawyer for quite some time, they decided to pop around the corner for lunch. In my neighborhood. Ha ha ha. For some reason I couldn't talk them trying the Chinese restaurant where you got served from behind the security glass. Instead they invited me along,and we decided to hit the Westside of Atlanta, an area with a more than burgeoning dining scene. As you know, I don't really go out like that since Sporty left, she's the perfect dinner date, so my dining selections weren't very helpful. And since I couldn't talk them into Curly's Fried Chicken, we decided on Five Season's Brewery.

I know I said Bocado. Hang on. 

Five Seasons on West Marietta is at the corner of what I imagine Buckhead must have looked like before the bars, which they have since torn down, moved in.  There is a coffee house, a pottery place, gym and plethora of other eating spots all right there in walking distance (or just over walking distance) of some nice townhouses and lofts, in one of which Sal's daughter, Little Sal, makes her home. Oh the modern college student. My brother joked that Lil Sal would pop up before long since she knew they were in the area, her being a student she probably couldn't pass up a free meal.  We got a spot on their upper deck Sky Bar and opened our menus.

It was about here I find out that my brother has apparently become somewhat of a gourmand over the past few years.  I say this because I one time in his life he was overjoyed to eat undefined meat over his rice from one of our home town bistros (read: hole in the wall joints), but now finds that the taste of grass fed beef is untenable to his sensitive palate.  That and sweet wines like Moscato and Reiselings may as well be sugar water. The wines I knew about but the beef preference was new, and became an issue because as it turns out, Five Season's Brewery is an all organic restaurant.  Grass fed beef all around. Considering I've dined their several times, that I'm just now finding that out may indicate a lack of inquisitive depth on my part.

As luck would have it,  we could see Bocado from our perch on the balcony.  The burger there had been touted by Lil Sal as the best in Atlanta, so my brother consulted his phone to check the menu, called and confirmed the beef was regular beef and having been so informed, decided we should decamp and head over.  I simply followed their lead.

So, Bocado is...well, every other high end restaurant I've seen in the past few years on those occasions I've been out for drinks.  I don't get out much anymore, so maybe there is some diversity somewhere, but I haven't seen it. Somewhere in Atlanta the designers got together and said "let's see how little we can do and still get paid." Bocado uses the ubiquitous single room concept. Concrete floors. Bare tables and plastic chairs. And that's about it. They at least had the decency to paint the brick this time, a nice off pale beige.  The crowd was a mix of upscale suburbanite couples, the people in the know and, um...people of a slightly advanced age. The couple that walked in beside us could have been older than my parents. They were among friends. That aspect was admittedly different.

We got a table on the patio in the back then, in a unique twist on my usual dining experiences, everybody got the same thing: The burger. It's in the Five Guys mold, with two patties on a soft bun, only Bocado's burger is less greasy and the bun a little stronger than the affable chain. I will have to admit, it is a much better burger than I anticipated, even though you can't get all the toppings (full disclosure, I only ever get ketchup and mustard). I even had my first few bites sans my usual addition of french fries just to be sure. And the fries are good too! They come with garlic if you ask, and it actually makes them taste better. I'm a little sad I opted for no fries with mine. And no, I didn't filch fries, I was offered.

Just as we were finishing up, as sure as the sun rises in the east, Lil Sal appeared from around the corner. I use her as a measuring stick for my brother's relationship, in that when I first met her she was four or five, and now she's of drinking age.  My brother and Sal been hanging out for a long time. It was the usual mother-daughter conversations, the we used to be in college and you don't know how good you got it conversations, and the man that food was good conversations. Actually rather pleasant.

For dessert, me and lil' Sal split the "chocolate cake with sea salt." No seriously, it had sea salt sprinkled on the top. Was supposed to be amazing. Supposed to be. In reality, not so much. But overall, it was nice experience. Good burger, good company, good conversation. Might have go back by there one day. Take a friend. If she's in town. I will be like old times. And hopefully times to come.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

More of the game I should have stopped playing

Ramblings Post #197
That it requires you to search for the silk webs to make the cloth to make the clothes that you then have to trade for weapons you'll have to get your warriors trained on, after you've kitted them out with armor made from metal you had to smelt from the ore you had to mine is what makes the game epic. Conversely, those same elements are also what make it a headache. 

This is an invasion. For me, this is would happen about four years in.  

My on-again off-again love affair with Dwarf Fortress maybe headed back off again. I realize that the game's tag line is that it's fun to lose, but I'm getting sick and tired of it. Sick and tired.

I think that the longest one of my little fortresses has lasted is maybe six or seven years.  Maybe ten, I'm not sure. Now, through trial and error, I've gotten fairly decent at layout and design - workspaces partitioned off, storage piles for materials close, craftdwarves turning out masterpieces by the dozen, legendary hall arrangements with kitchens and ale brewing nearby, fully stocked hospitals, dorms, public and private gardens, armories, barracks, and war dogs trained, catapults at the ready. I've figured out for the most part how utilize managers and bookkeepers, get my walls, gates and fortifications in place, forge a few of the harder metals, and discovered the intricacies of the weapons, training and armor equipping.  I've even had four squads training at the same time when the population was just over one hundred, including a archery squad, fitted out with quivers, bolts and  waterskins.

I've even figured out that if you don't build bedrooms until you got everything else squared away, you can generally delay migrants which conserves most resources, plus delays the inevitable invasions.

I like doing this part. The first ambush happens and I can get through that with barely a scrape. A few wounded from time to time so the diagnosers and wound dressers get in a little practice. Even the first siege or two I can break. There was a memorable one that broke as soon as I'd taken out all the trolls that made up the first wave. Good times. And after I'd scoured the battlefield for the the spoils, I'm usually sitting pretty when the traders show up.

Until say, something crazy happens. Like a two sieges back to back - each one over a year.  They come in sixty strong, riding on something crazy, from four different directions, so I wisely just decide to wait it out.  And then water, which is always a problem for me, starts to run low. And with no water, issues start arising. I'm talking lots of infections because the docs can't clean the wounds from the last battle (like I said, very detailed game) and dwarves dying of thirst. Or then you find a cavern with a large body of water and a fire breathing forgotten beast shows up. I have yet to figure out how to fight fire breathing beasts. You couple one of those with no migrants and the tantrum spirals, and pretty soon you're looking at a mess.

My advice to newbies: Figure out the water system early. Really. Because nothing hurts worse than seeing the glimmer of something nice start to develop only to have your dwarves start to die of thirst because the lakes freeze over when it's cold. Really. After one winter I looked around and couldn't find any of my dwarves...because they were ALL outside trying to get a drink of fresh water!

Clear the wagon, make your first dig and get your stuff secure, get some crops going, start building your walls for defense, build a depot, make some crafts for that first trade, and then build a nice water system...  before you build a legendary hall or start designing apartment blocks. Before you establish your gypsum empire. YOU NEED WATER.

Second, take your time. Because although it looks like it, this isn't the fast button pushing kinda game you're used to playing. This long term strategy and forethought. Planning and execution. Read the write-ups on the dwarves closely. Think about your layout before you commit to it. I tend to always leave in space for expansion.

There are a lot more tips I had planned to impart....but then half the fun is figuring it out on your own. Well, maybe not.

Barkeep. Some of that ale we brewed a mug I had them make.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Food I shouldn't be eating

Ramblings Post #196 
Things in motion, and while there is motion I've been seriously slacking on the old diet. Now I still buy the watermelon slices and grapes, eat mostly chicken and drink that Crystal Light faithfully, but the gaping holes in my eating habits may be starting the catch up with me. And since I have yet to find my way the gym (it's over there somewhere), I need to get a grasp on this before it comes an issue.  In the past two weeks I've eaten two meals that might be considered noteworthy.

Last week I rode down in the middle of the week to see the folks.  There was a job interview too, but that's a whole different story. Anyhow, when I head that way,  there are a number of places the bring back the feeling of home, that strike that mental comfort trigger.  Oddly enough, all of them seem to involve food.  Places like the The Brown Derby. Earl Dukes BBQ. Biddie Banquet. The House of Pizza. But the one I have to go is the one and only Dairy - O.

In my little hometown, the Dairy - O is legendary. It is a little restaurant on the main drag, in a nondescript brown brick building. The interior is bereft of decoration, featuring maybe ten hard plastic booths and a counter where they serve food. And this is the upgrade. It used to be a even smaller nondescript roadside stand with no interior at all. That said, it is a bad habit of mine that whenever I slide back through the homestead, I stop in and get a burger, fries and the vanilla malted. Or at least a chili dog.

When I was younger, I worked in my father's dry cleaners which was just up the street, and on Saturday mornings I worked from 6am to 10am on the front counter. The Dairy - O was my late breakfast or early lunch spot, depending on how you look at it. A couple of sausage biscuits with mustard or a quick burger were the norm. The taste just brings back that feeling of home. It might be the only hamburger I can eat without putting fries on it.

The burger itself, when I think about, is an oddity. It most resembles the more well known Whataburger, as the sandwich isn't fluffed up but apparently cooked in a two sided press, which mashes the bread down firmly onto the meat. Same for the sausage biscuits. And the meat tastes odd as well. Not an all beef patty but one with obvious filler. Unless of course it is an all beef patty and everyone else has filler. Or meat from SC just tastes different. In any case, it's in my opinion ...a very good burger. And not just because it evokes in me a taste memory of my teenage years. 

If perchance you ever end up in my hometown...and are hungry...and want something good, you might want to swing by the Dairy - O. Good stuff.

I like to believe that meal was an aberration. After all, my mother, who stopped cooking regularly about 10 years ago because "she's tired, and we're grown" baked a chicken and made some green peas (no seasoning). So I ate properly for most of the time. And my car doesn't have that AC thing, so my pores were nice and open when I got back. So I vowed to continue eating better...again. Again. Unless of course, I was back in the homestead.

Which brings us to Curly's Fried Chicken.

I don't remember the first time I saw the spot. It is a walk up stand (how throwback ) on the now trendy end of Howell Mill Road in Atlanta, over by the spot where Spanky went on her furniture shopping spree that time. Across from the original Chow Baby, or at least where it used to be, I'm not sure, I just realized I didn't see the sign (but then I didn't really look either). It's in a little white building, with four parking slots up front and a large wooden sign and it is the antithesis of the upscale modern design of area, including the Spanish restaurant next door with the cool floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the supply yard.

But something about it said stop, it will be good. So, the other day I stopped. 

To say it was like being back in the homestead would be silly, but here I am. The smell of the fried chicken was ...different, not the factory smell you get from some places, but a aroma of spices that took me back not only to the homestead, but back to the small town where my grandmother lives. I don't know if its the spices, or a brine they might soak the chicken in or what, but that smell hit my sense memory like a hammer. I scanned the combos, which had the most ethnic names I've every seen, and I got a tender basket so I wouldn't waste too much if wasn't good. I thought it would be a off - brand Zaxby's or maybe even Guthrie's, but I was wrong.

The chicken tenders were large and tasty, with that dark brown hue from the breading all over that you expect from the larger chains because that's what the commercials tout, but never actually shows up in your order.  And they were cooked all the way through, not that extra greasy feel you get from some chicken places. To dip I got the house sauce, which was good although a little thin, but I'll have it again when I go. Now, if you make it over that way, get the Cajun Rice as one of your sides, because I don't think they realize there isn't supposed to be that much meat in dirty rice you don't make yourself.  It's a thick rice mix.  Now this was the small meal, not one of the larger combos, and it almost put me to sleep.

That used to mean a lot, just means there was a little bit more food that you would think.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'm going to give up the ghost or my Oak Hill shirts. I've found that although tasty, I feel better when what I eat is mostly the stuff off my old diet. They tricked me I tell you, they tricked me!

Oh, well. Barkeep. Since I'm eating what I shouldn't be eating, I'm going to drink what I shouldn't be drinking. Let me have a milkshake!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Odd Quotes

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

~ Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Olympics get shady

Ramblings Post #195
Sometimes you just have to find something a little off the beaten path to write about, so you can get your mind back to flowing the way it should. I've had a few things mulling over in my mind the past few days, and this is the first one that popped out. Well, the first one that popped out that looked finished. Well, the first one that looked forget it.

I don't really watch the Olympics. Not even the women's volleyball competition. Yes, I'm still salty about that Big Mac from twenty five years ago, and although I bear the games no ill just doesn't dazzle me. The last time I got excited about was when the games were in Atlanta, and I could have (but didn't) ridden down and seen the world. And the opening ceremonies in Bejing were nice. But I really don't get into the sports like that...too many, too fast, where I end up cheering for reasons I'm not sure. Do I yell to sweep faster in the curling competition, or to use longer strokes. In the boxing the guy who got the knock down lost...on points. I get confused easily.

But what happened to Shin was troubling. 

In the NFL, they have fifteen angles of instant replay and will overturn a heinously bad call. In the NBA they will wave off a shot after the buzzer if the tape is clear. In the NHL, they can give you three angles of the puck in crease. In tennis, they will go to the cameras with frickin' lasers if there is a serious question of on the line or not.  So here at the Olympics, you figure they at least will have replay. Or least VHS. Super 8 maybe? So on the world stage, possibly the biggest fencing stage it will see for the next four years, what happened should not have happened.

If you're unfamiliar with what occurred, Shin A Lam (South Korea) fought Bitta Heidemann (Germany) into what is in fencing, overtime.  Whoever won would proceed to the gold medal match.  In "sudden death" with one second left and the pair still locked in steely duel, the match paused.  When the judge called "engarde" to commence the action, Heidemann dipped inside, lunged and scored a touch...only the clock hadn't moved. Looking at the replay, that she had scored the touch in one second was highly doubtful. 

The South Korean coach immediately went to the judges. And apparently instead of going to the booth..or even looking at the film...they declared Heidemann the winner. The dubious nature of the touch, considering the gold medal is at stake should have given weight to the idea of a clear and undisputed winner.

Shin Lam, defiant.

Upset, with cause in my opinion, Lam refused to leave the platform. In fencing, leaving the platform is an acceptance of the judges ruling. She waited for more than 45 minutes, until her coach's further appeal was denied...and stayed defiant until security had to escort her out. I understand how the ruling on the floor was made, but how the appeal was denied I am baffled. An athlete trains for years for a moment in the sun...only to be denied because someone does not want to admit they made an error? One we could all see on the replay? For shame Olympic judges.

And they hold out on Big Mac's too. Oh, wait, that's just an Olympic sponsor.

Barkeep....something ruddy. I'm not sure what it means either, ruddy.