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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Minions Review




Surely a candidate for numerous Oscars, “Minions” (3D) is one of the best movies of 2015. From Illumination Entertainment, the ‘prequel’ of 2010’s “Despicable Me,” follows the Minions from the first moment of their existence, then crawling out of the primordial ooze, to fulfill their destiny of serving the world’s most evil people, and the launch on a tour through the centuries to do that.The predecessor films, “Despicable Me 1, and 2.” grossed a half billion and one billion worldwide. Minions is sure to topple that, with an opening weekend (US) of $115 million. “Despicable 2” became the most profitable film in the 100 year history of Universal Studios.

The film opens with the Universal logo, of course, and the Minions “singing” the Universal  theme, much like “Ralph” did the Fox theme at the beginning of the Simpsons Movie. The Minions work for some pretty nasty evil doers, both four legged and two legged, including Napoleon. Ultimately finding themselves with no one to serve, three of the boys (?) set out to find a new master, and end up in New York City in 1968; the first visual is a billboard of Nixon’s candidacy for President, and one might naturally think they are going to work for him. But no.

After seeing an ad on tv for a gathering of the world’s most evil persons (Villain-Con) to be held in Orlando, they set out for the convention knowing that they will meet a new master there, and they do, in Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock, in a career defining role).

They follow their new employer to England, and there the fun (and action ) really begins. In addition to the top notch acting chops of the cast, including Bullock, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael Keaton (Batman) and Allison Janey (West Wing), you’ll be very surprised at the location shots the director, DP, and location scout managed to arrange, including inside Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Amazing shots.

The final segment borrows heavily from the final scene of the first Star Wars, which in turn borrowed from some classic movie scene I have since forgotten.

Marvelous. 3 thumbs up. Yes, I know this wasn’t about food, but it kinda is. I love my local movie chain. $5 for first run movies, and unlimited refills of soda and popcorn. Quite different than an $80 movie night in LA or other places!

(Some scenes of violence, cartoonish, not graphic, may upset the wee ones).







Minions Review


Fresh Grill Beaverton Reviews


 There’s another new burger in town, and you say, so?  The latest entry in the new segment of “not fast food – good food fast” are the burgers, chicken, and salads at Fresh Grill, in the out lot by Best Buy and Burlington Coat Factory, across 217 from Washington Square Mall.

When you start with fresh ground beef from Fulton Meats, and daily deliveries of great rolls from Portland French , it’s hard to go wrong.  When you add “cooked to order” and “secret seasonings”, you’ve got it made.

Veteran Portland restaurateur Jerry Pardo gets it right, and I’m predicting you’ll start to see this concept spring up faster than you can say “Five Guys”, cause he has them beat, hands down.

Today, my 3rd visit, I had the Greek burger, great seasoned beef patty with feta, olives, and roasted garlic.  Along with shoestrings, a fantastic meal.  Mrs. BurgerDogBoy had the club with sweet potato fries, and was all grins.  I like that at the counter when you order, they have the patter down to a science, like “pink or not pink.”  Add hand-dipped shakes, smoothies, and espresso drinks – what’s not to like?

I’ve got the menu posted on this site,  drool over your selections prior to your arrival.  Since the food is cooked to order, call ahead if you are in a hurry.

Bottled beer, glasses of wine,  and milkshakes available as well, but not mixed, as far as I know.

Will I be back?  Weekly, dude.

Fresh Grill Beaverton Review

Grilled Chicken Salad

Fresh Gill Beaverton Review

Burger w/ Blue Cheese


Fresh Grill Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

 Fresh Grill Beaverton Reviews


Musselmans Pie Filling


Musselman Pie Filling ReviewI don’t bake much anymore, too much trouble for one person; oh, i’ll make a loaf of bread or pizza crust for company, but I kind of got fried on baking when I lived in Paris, and thought it was required to be able to make great croissants and other pastries. I’d rise at 4 AM or so, and while my girlfriend lingered in dreamland, I’d destroy the kitchen working on recipes. Kinda nailed it, and that was satisfaction enough.

So the concept of me making a pie is out of the question, even tho I love pie. But I spotted canned fillings on the grocery shelf the other day, made by Musselmans, so I grabbed the Banana Cream, and Key Lime. I love Key Lime pie, I can remember the first time I had it even, at the Fontainbleu hotel in Miami. Good times. Good pie.

Armed with these two cans and two frozen pie shells, i made two pies I will never eat. Bake the shells, plop in the filling, top with whipped cream, or not, voila. You are in pie heaven.

I think the toppings were adequate, despite being heavy on corn syrup as an ingredient. They were cheaper than trying to make it from scratch, for sure.

Musselmans started in Pennsylvania in 1907 and is “grower owned.” In addition to pie fillings, they make canned fruit, juices, and fruit vinegar. Each can of pie filling makes one standard size pie and costs around $3.00.

This is good enough for most company.  Even your mother in law.  (I never met my last one, which was perfect on so many levels. She may have even been a figment of my ex’s imagination).

Add chunks of real fruit if you must.

Musselmans Pie Filling


Vidalia Onion “Everything”


20150205_180622Before there was “siracha” and “chipotle” everything,  there was Vidalia Onion everything.  Vidalia onions are sweet, and grown in certain areas of the U.S. state of Georgia, only.  It has been Georgia’s official state vegetable for 25 years.  Who knew states had official vegetables? Not many do, here’s as complete a list as we have found.

While the onions can only be grown in a small geographical area, products with their flavoring can be made anywhere, by anybody, as long as they meet certain content requirements.  One can order the onions or said products online, of course.

There are any number of co-packers or contract manufacturers willing to slap your  store or establishment name on their Vidalia onion product, and one that I picked up was from an Illinois farm product store, “Vidalia Onion Cucumber Dill” Salad Dressing.

Ingredients include:  Soybean oil, Cucumbers, Water, Vidalia Onions, Cane Sugar, Vinegar, Egg Yolk, spices and preservatives, and comes in a 12 oz bottle.

The onion flavor is pronounced, and the dill subtle.  For my taste, reversing those would be better.  It’s very creamy tho, and will certainly please many.  Vidalia Onion products are here to stay, not sure we can say the same for siracha and chipotle.  One hopes not.

I eat fair amount of salad, especially with garden grown ingredients, and no matter how many different flavors are rolled out, my favorite dressing is still Litehouse Chunky Blue Cheese.








Vidalia Onion


The Varsity Reviews – Atlanta, GA


The Varsity AtlantaAlthough I had heard about it for years, in all the times I have been to , I had never made time to visit the Varsity. I was there last week, and oh, so many years wasted.

For the unwashed, the Varsity is the world’s largest hot dog stand. Covering two acres in downtown , with parking for 600 cars, and seating for 800, the Varsity has been dishing up dogs, burgers, fries, rings, and their famous “Frosted Orange” beverage since 1928 under the watchful eye of Frank Gordy and his descendants.

Initially operating under the name “The Yellow Jacket” Gordy served hot dogs and bottled Coca-Cola (what else in ?) to Georgia Tech students. Not wishing to limit his clientele to one particular school, the name change came shortly thereafter, along with the move to the present location.

When you sidle up to the counter, and hear the famous cry from the clerks: “What’ll ya have, what’ll ya have?” it helps to know the proper retort. There’s much more, but this will get you past the basics of ordering:

  • Hot Dog: Hot dog with chili and mustard
  • Heavy weight: Same as hot dog but with extra chili
  • Naked Dog: Plain hot dog in a bun
  • MK Dog: Hot dog with mustard and ketchup
  • Regular C Dog: Hot dog with chili, mustard and ketchup
  • Red Dog: Ketchup only
  • Yellow Dog: Mustard only
  • Yankee Dog: Same as a yellow dog
  • Walk a Dog (or Steak): Hot dog to go
  • Steak: Hamburger with mustard, ketchup, and pickle
  • Chili Steak: Hamburger with Varsity chili
  • Glorified Steak: Hamburger with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato

There are 5 locations these days . But the original is the place for the complete Varsity experience. Bring the kids, but not much money. A meal at the Varsity is well under five bucks. Unless you order like I do.

The Varsity on Urbanspoon


varsity atlanta reviews


Huntley, IL – Papa G’s Diner


(Originally published July 2013)  Second visit in a few months. You’re unlikely to just wander by here, Huntley is kind of out of the way from everything.

I love “country breakfasts” in the Upper Midwest.  My definition of that phrase is – from a rural mom and pop type establishment that serves ample quantities of good food, for low prices.  Especially those places with ‘farm-fresh’ eggs, bright yellow yolks, instead of the pale yolks one experiences from the giant egg farms.  There’s a place in Illinois that is so proud of its eggs, they give you a dozen on the way out the door, free with every meal.

Huntley used to be a very rural town in Northern Illinois, rolling horse pastures, bucolic countryside, small businesses. It’s on its way to becoming a suburb of Chicago, even tho it would be at least a 90 minute drive into the city under the best of conditions.

Illinois 47 is a major north-south artery that runs through the heart of Huntley, and on the way out of town towards the north sits Papa G’s, a typical country diner.

Many diners in the Chicago area seemed to be owned by Greeks, and Papa G’s, though I don’t know for sure, would seem to fit that description as well, as they have numerous Greek specialties on the menu.

While the restaurant does a brisk business for weekend breakfast, with every table full, if there’s a wait, it’s only a matter of minutes usually.  Compare this to Portland, Oregon, where going to brunch is a “thing” and at some places you can expect a two hour wait. And people do it.

This morning, at Papa G’s, I went with the egg breakfast with ham.  Three eggs on a plate are standard here, and the massive ham steak was touted as “off the bone.”  Hashbrowns and in-house baked breads for toast were included. They bake a variety of breads, and cut it thick for toast.  It’s great.  I love ham in any form or fashion, and this is a nice piece. It’s slightly sweet, just FYI.

I suspect it won’t be my last visit. Maybe next time I can meet Papa.

Papa G Huntley


Papa G's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Papa G review


Portland, OR – Wagsys Hot Beef Sandwiches


Wagsy's Hot Beef Sandwiches

( 5th and Oak St., downtown Portland, OR)

I’ve been blessed to have lived in some of the great food cities of the world; and there’s always at least one local favorite I miss when I have moved away from those burgs – Italian beef from Chicago, po-boys from New Orleans to mention two.

Heating roast beef correctly in au jus is an art form, if the temp is just a 1/10th of a degree too hot (it seems to me) it’s easy for your beef to end up curled and chewy.   Many in Portland have tried to master the art of the basic dip sandwich, purportedly invented in Los Angeles at either Cole’s or Philippes, both of whom claim bragging rights.

In both Chicago and New Orleans, who has the best beef dip (respectively, “Italian Beef” or “Roast Beef Po-Boy”) can lead to heated arguments, if not downright brawls.

In Portland, there can seem to be no question, the title goes to  “Wagsy’s Hot Beef Sandwiches”, a cart at SW Fifth and Oak.  I’ve tried the rest, and now I’ve found the best.

These guys have created a menu based around different variations of beef dip, and after the first bite of the “Chi-Town”, I was hooked.   An ample quantity of quality, thin-sliced roast beef, on very fresh bread, served “wet”, and in beef dip terms, that means the loaf is dipped in the au jus slightly for a taste and texture sensation.

The home town version in Chicago is highly flavored with garlic and herbs, but Wagsy’s have toned this down, I suspect, for a wider audience, and for my palate, it’s just perfect.

For five bucks, it’s a very filling sandwich, and it comes with a small ramekin of a vegetable medley (giardiniera) which you may dress the sandwich with if that’s your preference.

A nice finishing touch is provided with a wet nap and toothpick taped to the sandwich box.

Wagsy’s offers some other interpretations of the dip, a Philly style, and a BBQ one, as well as a veggie choice.

Good job guys.  You’ve a winning combination.  I can easily see a leap to multiple city brick and mortars in your future.  Find Wagsy’s on Facebook, too.

Wagsy's Hot Beef Sandwiches

Wagsys Hot Beef


Utterly Confused about Andersen’s Pea Soup


It’s as “thick as pea soup”, an old adage goes. Well, just how thick IS pea soup supposed to be? And what WAS as “thick as pea soup?”

To the latter, it was a reference to the fogs that use to settle in on the United Kingdom, back in the days when factories and homes burned coal for fuel. If one used yellow peas, instead of green, it was referred to as “London Particular”, after that yellow hued smog of coal-burning days. To the former? As thick as your personal taste requires!

In literature, pea soup is often referred to as food for the poor. Cheap and easy to fix. The recipe doesn’t vary much around the world, but the significance it plays in cuisines varies. It’s an “important “dish in Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. In the US, it is simply one of a variety of the hundreds of soups we have available to us in restaurants or supermarkets.

So what’s the hubbub?

Somewhere recently, I came across a couple of cans of “Andersen’s Creamy Split Pea” soup. Now in the US, usually “split pea” would refer to there being bits of peas in the soap, whereas “regular pea soup”. would be a puree.  Such is the case with Andersen’s, manufactured by Advanced Food Products of Visalia, CA.

But where does the “Andersens” come from? One would assume it to be a relatively easy question for residents or tourists to the West Coast of America. They are used to seeing outdoor posters along the highways for “Pea Soup Andersen’s” – with the cartoon characters of “Hap-pea“ and “Pea-Wee” adorning the boards, and usually a visual of the trademark “windmill” that adorned the Buellton location.

In trying to research this….I became nothing but confused. The reason I started the quest was because of the canned soup, which was pretty good. And I assumed since it was called “Andersens”, it more than likely was a licensed product of the restaurant in Buellton. But there is no reference to that on the soup website.

Nor is there a reference to the soup on the restaurant website. Nor is there a reference to the restaurant on the website of Pea Soup Andersen’s Motel. Nor is there a reference anywhere to the San Diego restaurant of the same name.

What happened here? Family disagreement? Partnership dissolution? Intellectual property mayhem? I don’t know.

I do know I like the canned variety of Andersen’s Pea Soup, and the restaurant variety as well.  They are both adequate subsitutes when Mrs. Burgerdogboy hasn’t whipped up a pot of her home-made pea soup, which is da bomb!  That’s all.


Pea Soup Andersen's

Andersen’s Pea Soup

Pea Soup Andersens


Tarzana, CA – Morts Delicatessen


Bada bing! Mort’s has been around so long, I am sure they catered to Moses at some point.

Tucked in a strip mall, at the back of a grocery store parking lot, Mort’s is a full-service traditional delicatessen (restaurant and meat counter) with an attached bakery.

This used to be a regular haunt of mine when I lived in the ‘hood, and I don’t get back there often enough, tho this trip, I managed to squeeze out two visits, once for a sandwich, and another time to load up on hard salami and ham to tote home.

A plain, lean, over-stuffed corned beef sandwich is an item that is (surprisingly) difficult to find (prepared, that is) in my town, so I welcomed the chance to grab one to go at Mort’s.

It didn’t disappoint.

Mort’s menu is online.  When traveling the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, check out Mort’s sometime.  On the other coast, in New York, be sure grab a sammich from the Carnegie Deli –  they also distribute their beef rounds to selected groceries.

Mort's Delicatessen, Encino, CA

Mort's Delicatessen & on Urbanspoon


Morts Tarzana


Cincinnati, OH – Jean Robert


(From our travel archives) Every time I go to Cincinnati, I just want to hit the chili dog stands. There are hundreds of them, and I’ve written about them before in this space. This trip, we skipped the hot dogs in favor of the hottest new places in town – Jean Robert at Pigall’s.

This essay could be subtitled, “the case of the chef that skipped,” for Jean Robert Cavel was formerly the chef at the five star Maisonette, one of the most well known eateries in Cincy. Classy but unpretentious, Jean Robert has the city talking – and eating. The restaurant offers creative, but not outlandish preparations of classic French cuisine, and seafood choices dominate.

Diners have two choices of prix fixe menus – a three course selection at $75 each, which does not include beverages, or a five course experience at $140 per person, which includes wine with each course.

The restaurant is comfortably appointed with woods, chandeliers, and neutral tones. The room gives an airy, not crowded feeling. Service is attentive but not overbearing.

I opted for the three course plate, as our host had specific wines that he wanted us to try. I started with an interesting twist on my old favorite of escargot, which was served in a slightly sweet “savory” sauce, much akin to Emeril’s version of barbecued shrimp. From there, I moved to veal medallions, which the server suggested be served at medium rare, and it was some of the best veal I have ever tasted.

While my fellow diners opted for desserts on the sweet, but heavenly side, I opted for Jean Robert’s cheese plate, which presented six contrasting cheeses splayed out in order of sharpness.

Jean-Robert at Pigall’s was named one of the top 75 new restaurants in the world by Conde-Nast, just six months after opening. That was two years ago. I’m sure a repeat visit by the judges would find it the same. A wonderful experience.

Dinner, Tues-Sat. Jean Robert at Pigall’s is located at 127 W. Fourth St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-721-1345 . Proper attire required.

Jean-Robert's Table Cincinnati Review

Jean-Robert's Table on Urbanspoon

jean robert cincinnati

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