Thursday, June 29, 2006


Place: Red Robin
Lunch: Barbecue burger, steak fries, chili, "Freckled" lemonade

I haven't been to a Red Robin in a decade or more. I remember them having ridiculously slow service and ridiculously high prices.

I remember correctly.

Burgers start at $7.99. Eight bucks for a BURGER. I don't care if it comes with unlimited steak fries (which translates to around 13 on the plate and more if you demand later). Strawberry lemonade is $3.99. It's a buck higher than a cup of chili. This is "cinema snack bar" bad. Red Robin makes Fuddruckers and Fatburger look like relative bargains.

Having said that, everything IS really good. There's a reason this place is as busy as it is. And I suppose if you just had a bowl of chili and water, you could get out of here for around $5 instead of the $20 I dropped after the tax and tip. A generous tip, mind you, but I couldn't wait around for change. I've had cheaper lunches at the Cheesecake Factory.

And what's with this "How do you want your burger cooked" crap? The guy a table across from me was asked this, ordered his burger "medium", and that's what he got. A pink center. He freaked out. "This is raw hamburger!" he exclaimed to the manager, who comped him, even if it IS what he ordered. Debate e-coli all you want...Even if there is minimal risk, a public terrorzied by the media doesn't want pink hamburger meat.

Ever notice that you can order chili at five different restaurants and have the results be five completely different tastes and textures?

It hasn't rained a day since last week's office lunch. Figures.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

First Day of Summer

Place: The Office
Lunch: Hamburger, bratwurst, potato salad, cookie, water

Being the first day of summer and all, the company decided to throw a catered outdoor lunch. This is the third company function of the year. The first one was delayed due to weather. The second one was moved indoors due to weather. But it's been sunny, hot, and dry for weeks. What could go wrong on the first day of summer, right?

So yesterday as the sky disappeared over a thick dark layer of clouds, I heard one of the organizers say "The forecast calls for showers tomorrow afternoon."

Co-organizer says in a flustered tone "You know, it's been dry for HOW long? The ONE day it has to rain!"

The lunch went on. It rained about an hour in, but we survived. We had a big tent anyway. My department sat together, as did most departments. This frustrated at least one organizer who kept saying "You're supposed to MINGLE! Get to know your co-workers!" Yeah. They already know me and mostly hate my guts, except when they need something from me.

One of today's perks was an encouragement to "dress festive" and shorts would be allowed. People are wearing shorts and sandals to work today.

Some of them maybe should have re-thought that decision.

Mmmm. Good cookies.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Miracle of Breadless Pizza

Place: Fuddruckers
Lunch: 1/2 lb Original burger, chili, chocolate shake

Several years ago, I heard the news guy on a morning radio show tell the feel-good story of an elderly man who had walked out of a restaurant without his briefcase, which contained his six-figure life savings. He apparently didn't believe in banks. His server noticed and returned every penny to him. The guy hosting the morning show commented..."If he wanted to lose all his money in a restaurant, he should have just dropped his family off at Fuddruckers."

Fuddruckers is a pricey hamburger joint that looks much better on paper than in execution. You order from a menu board, choosing from 1/3-to-1 pound hamburgers and other sandwiches that include buffalo and ostrich burgers and chicken sandwiches. They give you a pager, you come back when it goes off, get your sandwich, go to the topping bar, and top it yourself. They hype fresh ingredients both on the topping bar and otherwise. They bake all their buns on site.

This is my first time at one. Beef was plain, dry, and hardly seasoned. The liquid cheddar cheese on the topping bar wasn't very good. The chili was...okay. The fresh-baked garlic bread piece that came with it wasn't. The milkshake was pretty good, but not great. It was all pretty plain. $12 for the whole thing won't exactly bankrupt anybody, but I can do a whole lot better at Steak n Shake for that or less.

I might come back and try the chili dog.

The host of a completely different morning radio show has been hyping an invention of his all week. It's a pizza with a crust entirely made of cheese.

No bread. Cheese.
He has big ambitions of marketing this.

Admit it...You're as curious as I am.

They debuted today in "ready-made for home baking" format at a single supermarket. There was a small crowd looking at them and discussing the idea of a pizza with "no crust" (which is wrong...there IS a crust, it's just not made out of bread), but nobody seemed courageous enough to actually buy one. Screw that. I'm getting one. I grabbed a Pepperoni and headed for the checkout.

Checkout Girl with a name tag called Sarah beckoned me over because nobody's at her line and she's cool like that. I gave her the $7.99 pizza and a twenty dollar bill. She said "This is all anybody's buying and everybody's been giving me twenties" with a smirk. She had to open a batch of fives wrapped in plastic. "I'll have to give you fives, and you'll have to wait while I get these open." She finally got them open. "Cool! These are brand new!"

She gave me my change, and I said "Thank you, Sarah." And she said "Thank you, Brown Shirt Guy."

The pizza itself looks like an ordinary pizza with a crust that might have been partly pre-baked....maybe closely toasted from the top. The crust has a sort-of breadlike quality to it, but there's no flour listed in the ingredients. It's topped like any other pizza...sauce, cheese, and toppings. The top listed ingredient: Pizza cheese. As such, expect it to be fatty. The nutrition facts list states a single serving contains 14g saturated fat, 70 percent of your daily recommended limit. A full pizza equals "6 servings". HA HA HA HA! You KNOW I'm eating the whole thing. Tragically, it's topped in the same sub-par grocery store pizza toppings the store uses on all their in-store made pizzas. The proprietary part apparently only applies to the crust. Actually, I question whether or not the crust ingredients were part of the list at all.

The thing doesn't take long to bake....five to eight minutes. You have to put it on the high rack in your oven ("at least eight inches from the heat element" say the instructions) and you have to let it sit for five minutes after it cooks. Then cut it and serve like any other pizza.

It was a little weird pulling out the first piece, because the bottom side suddenly FELT like cheese. But the piece slid out onto a plate okay and could be held in your hand. The pieces are droopy. The texture would best be described as "greasy pizza". It's soggy, but it holds together. The only crunch is the outer crust edge, so if you like a crisp, crunchy pizza, stay away. You can fold pieces if you wish with fine results.

I suppose the key to pulling this off was finding the right cheese. I'm tempted to mess around with the concept and figure it out for myself, but I'm a pretty big fan of my existing crust recipe anyway.