Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Cadillac Grille is a House of Lies

Part of my day job is letting salesfolks pretend to like me. There are a select few that can pull it off (and some I even consider friends), but for the most part, I think there's a mutual understanding of obligation. I'm sure these dudes actually hate me because I actually hate me. One the easiest ways to pretend to like me (or anyone, really) is sporting events. There's food, booze, and root-root-rooting for the home team. And since it's loud and you need to keep one eye on the action so you can cheer when everybody else does, you only kinda sorta need to pay attention to whatever products or services are being offered underneath that layer of cheese on your free nachos.

Last night was one of these sales calls, and we dined at the Cadillac Grille before the game. There were numerous indicators that this place would be shit: it's in the stadium; it's sponsored by Cadillac; the bartender flat out ignored me when I tried to get a drink; but I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth (what an odd, yet beautiful expression), and I couldn't really pull the plug on it since we were already in the stadium. Plus, I checked out the menu beforehand and it actually looked good.

My first instinct was to get the lamb shank, but the place had this whole steakhouse vibe going and the dude I was with ordered a filet so then I changed my mind and got the 30-day dry-aged bone-in ribeye for $55. I have no problem paying (or letting someone else pay) that much for a steak, so long as it shows up as advertised. Unfortunately, what I got was neither ribeye nor bone-in (I'd bet $55 it was a sirloin), nor did it possess any of the opulent qualities I would expect in a $55 steak. The dude who dropped it off must have seen the disappointment on my face, quickly commenting, "Yeah, these ones showed up without a bone this time." Huh? Typically, when a menu says "bone-in," the goddamn thing shows up with a bone, right? Although Serious Eats has debunked the myth that bones don't actually add flavor, how much more badass does your steak look when it's on the bone? That's really what I'm going for when I order a bone-in ribeye. I'm a motherfucking captain of industry and I have conquered the cow! But nope, not this time. It was cooked to temperature, so it had that going for it, but it was underseasoned and was thinner than something you'd get at Sizzler. The sides were another example of mismanaged expectations. The asparagus was as thin and limp as overcooked vermicelli, and the poor maitake mushrooms were cooked into a rubbery stringy pile of "those are mushrooms?"

It's not that the place is bad. The service was great (except for that bartender. He was a dick), as was the atmosphere (it's a fancy restaurant that overlooks the ice/court/stage). It's just way overpriced. Then again, when I'm with the gen pop, I pay $8 for a shitty beer and another $10 for some bullshit chicken fingers, so I suppose I just need to manage my expectations a little better. If you happen to find yourself there, I'd probably steer clear of the steak, however. Buen provecho.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Infinite Sadness of the All You Can Eat Buffet

Freedom, loosely translated into anytime breakfast

Of the many things that makes the rest of the world hate us, the All You Can Eat Buffet has to be in the Top 10. What a terrible fucking idea. Steam tables as far as the eye can see housing hotel pans loaded with low margin meats and starches. Another island of cold foods: salad, beets fresh out of the can, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, and Jell-O salad. Untouched, a still life of excess. An hour into service, an absolute wasteland. The salad dressings have turned into a tie-dye of unholy mixtures, there are bacon bits in the croutons, and a film has settled atop the oversalted and untouched mysteries lying in the hotel pans. The kids have attacked the self-serve soft serve, which now only dispenses a warm cream and sugar mixture slipping hazard.

And for what? Are you really beating the system when you pay twelve bucks to make yourself feel like shit for eating pile after pile of shit?

I remember our local buffet, a place called Chuck-A-Rama. In the late 80s/early 90s, if you were younger than 12, your folks payed 50 cents for every year you've graced the earth. They paid an absurdly low $9.99. There were two separate dining rooms with two separate buffets to maximize the amount of consumption, and we spent many a Friday easily tripling or quadrupling our recommended daily caloric intake. I don't directly blame Chuck-A-Rama for my huskiness, but I'm sure it didn't help. I suppose if you're poor (and boy were we ever), it was (and continues to be) a great deal. But I loathe the concept. That might make me a hyprocrite considering the general tone of this blog. Not sure I really care. Not sure there's even a point to this post. Just felt like complaining, I guess. Buen provecho.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hiding in Plain Sight: El Poquito's Taco Tuesday

Picture stolen from El Poquito's website
Happy New Year, readers! 2016 should prove to be a lot of the same from me: sporadic posts, a heavy reliance on Twitter and Instagram to maintain some semblance of relevance, and everybody's favorite internet pastime, self-deprecation!

So, while you occupy yourself with time-lapse videos of allegedly super easy recipes that you'll never make, I implore you to stop by once in a while for some actual words, be they hot takes on cold food, cold disses on fast food, the ever popular "let's hate Guy Fieri" mob mentality, and an occasional food review.

First up, a random Tuesday night in Chestnut Hill. Mrs. Gastro and I packed up the kids for a round of tacos and beers at El Poquito, our local fancy Mexican joint. Housed in what was once Solaris Grille (many many years ago at this point) and then CH7 (a terrible waste of money by the City Tap House guys who called me to politely ask that I not pan the place like they were the goddamn Blogger Police), their tenure thus far has been impressive, and they've been a welcome addition to the neighborhood. While not cheap any other day of the week, their Taco Tuesday special is a deal akin to buying Apple stock in the late 90s (shoulda, coulda, woulda). For $4, you get 3 tacos of their choosing, which amounts to 3 or 4 times the tacos you would get at regular menu prices. And while basic when it comes to fancy Mexican, it's really all you need on a Tuesday night, especially when you want a sit-down dining experience without the guilt of spending $100 on dinner at the beginning of the week (yes, this is the going rate for 2 adults and 2 kids and 2 4 drinks). Throw in the fact that it's not crowded, and you've got a damn near perfect family meal without having to do the dishes. I'm sure they'll eventually realize what a scorching deal this is and 86 it, but until then, the Gastros have decided that Tuesday is the new Friday. I recommend you all do the same. Buen provecho.