Friday, September 27, 2013

Season Premiere

Place: Arby's
Lunch: Smokehouse Brisket sandwich, potato cakes, Pepsi

YESTERDAY AT ARBY'S: Went in, ordered my usual large Beef n' Cheddar.

Mediocre Counter Girl: "The number 9?"

(The number 9 is a non Beef n' Cheddar roast beef.)

Me: "The large Beef n' Cheddar."

Mediocre Counter Girl: "Oh, the Beef n' Cheddar."

Me: "Right. Large."

Mediocre Counter Girl: "Large?"

Manager, behind her: "Sir, do you mean the Max?"

Apparently, they've changed the names of their sandwiches.  What was called "large" the last time I was here is called "Max" now.  And just like the counter help at Hardee's and Taco John's have proven on many occasions, the minute they make a little change, the counter help immediately forgets the previous names ever existed.

And yet I'm back today anyway, because after I got my food, I noticed the new LTO offering known as the "Smokehouse Brisket", and I had to try it.  But to be fair, I'm now at a completely different Arby's.  Because there's like seventy Arby's within a ten minute drive of my office.

The ordering process is uneventful.  But then they call my name, I head to the counter to pick up my food, and there's nothing there.  There is an elderly man walking off with what appears to be my order, though.  And he is.

Frowning Counter Girl: "Wait...aren't YOU Sam?"

Me: "Yep."

Frowning Counter Girl: "Sir!  That's not your food!"

He's ignoring her, so I intervene.  "Sir, that's actually MY food."

Elderly Food Thief:  "Oh!  It is?  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

He gives me the tray.  Frowning Counter Girl produces his food.  He slowly shuffles back to the counter.

All is well.  Especially with this sandwich.  If you like smoky, this one's for you.  It probably gets a lot of its flavor from sodium, unfortunately (though Arby's claims the brisket is smoked for 13 hours).  In any case, it's really tasty.  The smoked gouda cheese only helps.  It also has crispy onion strings, barbecue sauce, and mayo.  It may be the second best briskety thing I've ever had (behind Taco Cabana's Brisket Tacos).  I'll be grabbing a lot of these while it's around.

In a non-lunch related food note, Hardee's finally put a chicken biscuit breakfast sandwich on their menu, something I've been screaming at them to do for years.  Tried it this morning.  And it's a home run.  Perfectly buttery.  Just awesome.

The new Fall TV season is underway.   With several of my regular shows from last season cancelled, and the fact I'm now antenna only (I gave up satellite last Spring), I gave a few new shows a try this week.  And checked out my usual returning ones.  Here's some random thoughts.  I'll skip "Bones" and "Sleepy Hollow" since I ranted about them in the last blog post.

The Blacklist: It would be a milestone on NBC's part to have a show I'll actually watch regularly.  I can't remember the last time such a show existed.  I will occasionally watch "Community", but not regularly, though it has its moments of brilliance.  In the case of "The Blacklist", I tuned in because of James Spader.  And I like what I see.  It's clear this guy can run over the feds and manipulate them in any way he wants.  He has an agenda.  So I'm in so far.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: This was the most interesting of the new shows.  I didn't get to see it on Tuesday because my favorite band was performing in the state (which they never ever do) and I don't own a DVR.  But ABC repeated the debut last night, so I got to watch it anyway.  Thanks for not making me buy a DVR, ABC.  Anyway, I'm in with this one too.  It feels sort of like a US version of "Torchwood", but that's okay.  Sorry, NCIS.  You''ve lost me to new time slot competition.

Criminal Minds:  So there's a serial killer, and people die and stuff know, I really just have this on in the background while I read Twitter or something.  It's the same show every week, really.  But nothing else is on, so...

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:  This show is REALLY going through the motions anymore.  I wish they'd cancelled this one and kept CSI:NY and moved it to Wednesday nights.

And...uh...that's about it.  I'll check out the new "Ironside" when it debuts (they did a 2-hour "Law & Order" this week) and "Arrow", my favorite show on currently, starts Season 2 in two weeks.

Other than that, it's movies and football.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bad Television

Place: Quizno's
Lunch: Mesquite chicken w/bacon (no tomato), cup of chili, Coke

It's cold and rainy today, making it a sammich and soup kind of day.  Or sammich and chili.  Chili is a soup, right?  Soup-ish, I guess.  Anyway, this chili tastes strangely home made.  Like I think I've actually made this recipe before.  Good, though.

The new television season is here.  While the traditional networks start their new shows next week, most syndicated shows and Fox start this week.  Last night, "Bones" had its season premiere.

"Bones" is a pretty light but fun crime show.  The FBI and a fictional museum of natural history that has a department specializing in bones and forensics and stuff work together to solve murders involving horribly decomposed bodies.   It's done okay enough ratings to stick around nine seasons, though two of those seasons were half orders.  The program also serves up some of the most shameless product tie-ins in the history of the medium.  Federal agents driving Toyotas?  Everyone carries a Windows Phone?

The leads, FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and renowned bones expert Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel...yes, Zooey's sister) went through the usual relationship tension crap for several seasons before finally hooking up, having a child, and making a home together (yes, in that order).  Towards the end of the last season, Brennan finally asked Booth to marry her.  (Yes, she asked him.  Far too long to explain.)

Enter super villain Chrstopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds).  First off, I HATE super villains.  I've hated them in every show they show up in.  Super villains are recurring characters who can impossibly and inexplicably watch everything going on and manipulate any character in a show.  They usually show up several years into a show's run as a way to...I don't know...keep the show fresh?  They usually last a half season or so before being ridiculously easily uncovered and killed or, worse, imprisoned (because if they're alive, they're escaping and coming back).  Criminal Minds and all of the CSI's have had some dumb ones.  But the writing for Pelant on Bones has REALLY been ridiculous and has WAY overstayed its welcome (if it had a welcome at all).  Which brings us to the season finale a few months back when Pelant called Booth and told him he had to call off the wedding and couldn't tell Bones why or people would die, and Booth TOTALLY WENT ALONG WITH IT.

It was far worse than I can possibly describe.  It was atrocious, inexcusable writing.  I was absolutely furious, as were others.  If I were head of Fox, I would have cancelled the show immediately in the name of putting an end to bad taste.

Fox didn't, of course.  Last night's season premiere led with tension between the leads and stupid this and stupid that and ultimately peace between them while Pelant listened into their obviously bugged house.

While watching this, I came up with my own alternate season premiere script.

This is that script.

BONES: SEASON 9, EPISODE 1 (tesg alternate script which totally rocks)

Upon being shocked by Booth's announcement at the cliffhanger, Brennan walks away and boards public transit.  Pelant, who of course called Booth from nearby because he has to watch everything, happens to be on board.  Brennan sees him, pulls out a gun, and confronts him.

Brennan, being far too smart to not figure out Pelant had something to do with Booth's action: "WHAT DID YOU SAY TO BOOTH?"

Pelant: "I...uh..."

Brennan shoots Pelant between the eyes.  Pelant falls dead to the floor.  The passengers are shocked.

Brennan: "Wow.  That was surprisingly simple.  Suddenly, my troubles are gone!  NO MORE SUPER VILLAINS!"

The bus passengers erupt in cheers.  They surround Pelant's body and trample it into an unrecognizable pile of mush while Brennan does a happy dance.

Brennan makes plane reservations on her Windows Phone, the entire process shown in intricate detail, then calls Booth.

Brennan: "Booth?  Pelant's dead.  Pick me up in your federally-issued Toyota.  I just made plane reservations on my Windows Phone and we need to get to the airport."

Booth and Brennan fly to Los Angeles.  Brennan spends the entire flight explaining to Booth how important trust is.  "You taught me that."  Booth sleeps through it all.  Upon arrival, they take a cab to the 20th Century Fox lot and find the Bones writing offices.  The writers are meeting in a conference room around an oval table covered in pizza boxes when Booth and Brennan storm in the door.

Brennan, gun drawn: "Who is the head writer?"

Some Guy, sheepishly: "Um, I am?"

Brennan shoots him in the head.  His lifeless body falls out of his chair to the ground.  The bus passengers from back in Washington inexplicably enter the room and trample the head writer's body into an unrecognizable pile of mush.

Brennan, waving the gun around: "NO MORE SUPER VILLAINS!  DON'T EVEN THINK I'M F(bleep)ING KIDDING!"

The writers all shout "Okay!" while peeing themselves.

Booth: "Ew."

One of the bus passengers: "Is there any pizza left?"

Brennan uses her Windows Phone to rent a Toyota and reserve a wraparound terrace suite at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.  The process is shown in intricate detail.  Booth and Brennan drive to Las Vegas, where they are married.  They check into the Cosmopolitan, where they make mad passionate love in the bed and again in the bubble tub, flooding the bathroom, before relaxing with drinks on the terrace, totally naked.

Brennan: "You know, this episode had surprisingly little dialogue."

The end.

Then they could hire better writers and do a season of normal episodes.

See?  Was that so hard?

After "Bones", the new series "Sleepy Hollow" premiered.  Ichabod Crane gets somehow transported to the future where he helps modern cops solve crimes.

Surprisingly watchable, and sort of supernatural.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Place: Taco John's, Cherry Berry
Lunch: Four hard shells, small Super Ole (no tomato, no guac), Pepsi, fro-yo

Me: "Four hard shells..."

Mediocre Counter Guy: "Did you want the special?" pointing to the "Taco Tuesday" promotion where they charge $.79 for hard shells.  There's nothing special you need to do and nobody should be charged regular price, so there's absolutely no reason to ask me this.

Me: "Yes."

Me in my head: "No.  Charge me full-price.  I DARE you."

Taco John's has always been by far the dominant player in fast food Mexican in this market, largely thanks to years of gross neglect of the market on Taco Bell's part.  Taco John's has about as many units as all the other top players in town combined and they've been expanding lately.

The local TJ's franchisee has always tried new ideas to grow the business, including co-branding some stores with Noble Roman's Pizza for awhile.  There was also talk they were going to co-brand some stores with Colorado's Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard (which would have been awesome), but that never happened.

Finally the self-serve fro-yo concept came along, and our franchisee is running with it.  New TJ's are popping up on the end of strip malls (so they can still have a drive-thru).  In the same strip mall?  A Cherry Berry, also operated by the TJ's franchisee.  There's at least five such locations in town set up this way now.  In the case of this location, there's even a door between the two so you can just hop from one to the other.

This is working out very very well, as you might imagine.

It's practically mid-September and it was over 100 yesterday.

Seriously, Fall.  Get here.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

International Dog

Place: Buldogis
Lunch: Chili cheese dog, Euro fries, Coke

In the days when I had a big fast food review guide on my personal website, I was asked on a few occasions what would MY restaurant be like if I opened one.  I always said I'd never actually open a restaurant because I'm just not the type of personality who should be dealing directly with the public.  Especially the stupid public.

But there was a very detailed concept in my head.  A concept known as "the evil sam graham's international chili dog counter".  It would be a long, narrow all-glass storefront right on the sidewalk that would look in at the all counter stool seating facing the open kitchen with the logo spanning the entire length above in an old airport-style font (something like a wide courier-type font in all lower case).  Behind the counter visible to the exterior would be a large mural of a winged flying hot dog.  The mural would be lit up at night so passers-by could admire it.

The menu?  Probably not so international, unless I had Polish and Italian sausages and German brats, I suppose.

Leave it to somebody in Las Vegas to truly put an international spin on hot dogs.  Buldogis, founded by former executive chef Boyzie Milner, resides in the old Quizno's space at Village Square.  They just celebrated their second anniversary of serving up dogs topped in kimchi, pork belly, bulgogi, corn relish, Asian slaw, Banh-Mi slaw, and several other things you've never heard of.  It's described as an all-American concept with an Asian influence.  The influence is mostly Korean, I'm told.

Don't want a dog?  You can get a burger with the same toppings.  They also have a variety of topped fries, including these "Euro fries", topped with pork belly bacon, cheddar, garlic mayo, and an herb blend.  There's chicken wings and tenders and other sauces (there's like a half dozen mayo sauces alone) and stuff.  They even have a "Dragon Kimchi Dog" food challenge that involves eating a very very very spicy concoction in a limited amount of time.

Walk in and you'll immediately know by the aroma and the sizzle, crackles, and pops coming from the kitchen that you're not in any ordinary hot dog place.  Even if that doesn't tip their hand, the bill will...mine was north of $14 for a chili dog, Euro fries, and a soda.  But when you see what you get, you'll be fine with it.

The dog is a nice big premium all-beef dog similar to an Eisenberg.  It was topped in a hearty but sort of plain beef chili, cheese, and green onions.  The Euro fries were great with the toppings, but once you conquered the first layer, you really just had plain fries.  But the portion is so big, you're already full anyway.

Anyway, people are loving them.  The place was packed.  Some people were new to the place and raving about their food.  This wouldn't be my go-to place for a hot dog, but it's a nice diversion once in awhile.  It's certainly an adventure I'd recommend.

It's the end-of-summer Vegas weekend.

A Barstow Taco run is a certainty.