Table for six, please

27 01 2009

This past Saturday was the first time we actually asked for a table for six at a restaurant.  Nathaniel is just now learning how to sit up, and Ben is just now staying seated without trying to climb out.  Apparently an unexpected benefit of us spending all that time with Ben at the high chair at home is that he likes sitting at a table and playing with toys now.  So we sat them together and ate our lunch.

ben thought it was the wine list, nate thought it was onion rings

And Ben looks awesome in his new glasses.

Special guest and a quiz

23 09 2008

In this week’s episode of Twosday Tuesday, little boy #2 makes a special guest appearance.

Now for the quiz:  What did Jonathan have to drink for lunch on Monday?

(A) Beer
(B) Chocolate Milk
(C) Red Bull

Not sure how you answered my question, but the answer to your question is yes, he stayed in that shirt all afternoon, even though he’s got a change of clothes at school.

My real culinary roots

30 06 2008

Alton Brown has a show on the Food Network called Feasting on Asphalt, in which he travels the country, avoiding interstate highways, and samples local road food. So far he’s traveled Route 66 and the Mississippi River in seasons 1 and 2. Apparently he’s going to the Caribbean for season 3 so I hope to see roti and doubles when it airs in September. But should Alton ever in the future travel the Ohio River I have a suggestion for the perfect stop on his trip.

Just like on the show

This is a really bad map I pulled from yahoo. If you start at Pittsburgh you can see the Ohio river snaking its way northwest. At the point where the Ohio River stops going north and decides to head south it is met by a tributary, the Beaver River. Travel up this waterway several miles to New Brighton and you will come to the birthplace of a western Pennsylvania icon.

The Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe is a cultural phenomenon, centered mostly in Beaver County. Yes, I said “centered mostly.” They have 11 locations.

I know what you’re thinking. Anyone can do hot dogs, what’s so special? Come inside and you will see. Enter in the middle of the lunch rush and you will pick your way through the teeming mass of people to the order counter. You don’t have a lot of choices, to be honest, and you will most likely order what will turn out to be an unremarkable hot dog. But on the side, in its own little plastic basket (or Styrofoam container if your oder is to go) waits the pinnacle in road food eatery:

Chili cheese fries.

This is what I miss most about home. Made daily on location, these skin-on french fries are a thing of beauty. Back when I was a kid my hometown didn’t have a McDonald’s until I was 12 years old. When they finally showed up they set up shop right next door to the Hot Dog Shoppe. This was very convenient for us, because we used to hit the McDonald’s drive thru for the burgers and then swing next door for the fries.  Ask anyone in town, we’ve all done it.

But it’s not just the dogs and fries that made this establishment the local legend that it is. Why is it that everywhere you turn you’re talking to someone who just ate there last week? One word: Marketing. No, not marketing. Branding. When you leave the Hot Dog Shoppe you take a piece of it with you.

Every now and then they change designs, but the basic theme remains the same. Hot dogs with arms and legs doing all sorts of things.  There’s usually a seasonal theme, and here they are at a picnic cooking, well, hot dogs. Reminiscent of Eskimo Joe’s out in Oklahoma, the Hot Dog Shoppe has its own merchandise. Except here they take it a step further. To ensure that you’ll remember where you ate that last meal, every drink is served in a to-go cup just like this one. And I’m not stretching the truth too much when I tell you there’s at least one of these in almost every pantry in the county.

So there you have it. The first rule of being a successful restaurateur. Good fries plus really weird cups equals a gold mine.

Alton, are you listening?

Ben’s reach

21 04 2008

Monday was Panera day since nobody wanted to cook. We brought home our wonderful goodness, and since it was kind of cool and rainy I got potato soup. Ben didn’t want to sit in his high chair so he was sitting on my lap as I ate. It was an interesting exchange. Ben was holding a spoon because he likes to hold things, and I was trying to see if he’d let me feed him. He was squirming and not cooperating. In all honesty these days he’s a little more adverse to oral stimulation. Ben’s getting in a few teeth and he’s been making such progress with physical development that I guess the oral motor skills took a back seat. And that’s my fault.

At one point during dinner Ben dropped the spoon he was holding. It fell to my right, so I leaned over to get it. As that happened I guess I leaned Ben forward just a bit, and he saw something else that he wanted to play with. The Styrofoam bowl that the soup was in. By the time I came back up with the spoon (total elapsed time: 0.7 seconds) the bowl was tipped all the way over, and the soup dripping off the table.

So Benjamin is coming up with some pretty creative ways to put an end to any physical / occupational therapy sessions Mom and Dad try on occasion. Luckily it was a thick soup, so it didn’t all land on Ben and my lap.

In other news, Jared quits Subway for Pizza Hut

1 04 2008

Jonathan’s preschool spent a week talking about eating healthy things. To kick things off they went to Pizza Hut on Monday for a field trip. Pizza Hut. When I think about healthy eating Pizza Hut is the first thing that comes to mind, right after McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Isaac had this same preschool teacher so I know this Pizza Hut trip is one of her favorites.

Quick question: what time would you schedule a field trip to Pizza Hut for a bunch of 4-5 year olds? That’s right, 9:00am. The kids just had breakfast and they’re full of energy, and they’re asked to come in and sit still at booths and tables. In the meantime the parents hope they don’t start pulling the light fixtures from the ceiling.

For God’s sake Jon, sit down!

So we all pile into this tiny little dining room in a restaurant that is really designed for delivery. We’re waiting and the kids are starting to act up a bit when I notice the teachers huddled in a circle talking in hushed voices. Then they start counting kids and adults. They’re seeing about fire codes and all that. I hear one teacher report 31 kids (including siblings) and another report 34 adults (including six teachers). Maximum occupancy for the restaurant? 54.

Four teachers head back to the school. I start thinking “I am so blogging this.” Apparently they didn’t have to send any of the students home. They take the kids back to show them how they make the dough, and the different stages it goes through. I was impressed at the size of their stand mixer. Then they let the kids make their own pizzas.

Leave some for your classmates please

What I meant to say was the pizzas already had sauce and cheese on them, and the kids could put more cheese and / or pepperoni on them. And when you ask a 5 year old to put pepperoni on a pizza you get lots and lots of pepperoni. Much more pepperoni than any pizza should have. In the end, the kids picked most of it off.

i didn’t want it anyway

The kids ended up having a good time. Of course they did, they got to eat pizza at 10:00am. I can’t wait for the next great field trip idea: tooth care week at the chocolate factory.

This is my resume. Eat it.

10 06 2007

On Memorial Day weekend we went out as a family for dinner and a movie. We saw Shrek 3 and we had dinner at Red Robin. As bad as the movie was, the dinner made a much more lasting impression.  Red Robin says on their menu that they have the best bacon cheeeseburger “in the world.” And it oughta be for $8.79, dontcha think?

Bacon cheeseburgers are in the top 3 of my favorite foods.  I won’t even tell you how to do it, what else goes on it, just do it well and I will stand on the tables and sing your praises.

I asked the waitress if it was really the best bacon cheeseburger in the world. Guess what she said.  So I ordered it.  It arrives (hooray!) and after we get the boys situated with their meals I dig in. Immediately I’m disappointed. Shredded lettuce? Really? How much do I have to pay to get some green leaf lettuce?  I’ll save you time and just say that all I really tasted was the mayo and tomato, everything else was just there for texture. Honestly I could’ve done better at Burger King. I was losing faith in humanity so I came to a decision. I’ve got to make one of my own and restore balance to the universe. Karen didn’t care; she thinks I’m crazy but she agreed to get some bacon at the local butcher’s when she gets everything else.

Remember when I said I just don’t get gas grills? I think I figured out why. This thing just doesn’t get as hot as charcoal. I’ve got to close the lid to make the chicken brown at all, and if I leave it closed too long this happens:

chicken with a side of cancer

I made everyone else’s food first, and then set to work on my masterpiece.  I got this cast iron skillet at Target with a removable handle.  Awesome!  Here’s my cheese melting over my perfectly cooked burger and my bacon sizzling next to it. Don’t they look happy together?

oh yeah!  Build the whole thing outside!

It wasn’t perfect but it was certainly better than theirs. If I were to start cooking at Red Robin their food sales would instantly triple I’m sure. All I’d have to do is bring in one of these and I wouldn’t even need an application.

yummy bacon yummy cheese yummy burger

It’s still missing something, I’m thinking perhaps a mushroom sauce. If anybody has any ideas for making one I would be very grateful.

Also of note: Last week we went to Fuddrucker’s and I ordered their bacon cheeseburger.  It was definitely better than Red Robin’s but it took so long for the food to come out that I forgot to pay attention to how it tasted.  If the dining room is deserted it shouldn’t take 20 minutes to make three sandwiches and some fries.  The kids will only sit still for so long.

Indisputable Visual Evidence – Burger King hates parents

18 02 2007

Remember my post about taking the kids to Burger King last week?  Opening the kids meals for Isaac and Jonathan I was greeted with this:


This just screams “Super Bowl,” doesn’t it?  Tell me, Burger King, who is supposed to think this is cool?  Granted, the boys were interested in these marketing gimmicks for at least two minutes, but I could have thrown them in the trash that night and no one would have cared.  Burger King has officially crossed the line; they are no longer pandering to kids, they are simply giving them a commercial for Burger King.  Not that a happy meal toy ever got much play time in our house.  I take that back.  Our boys still play with those Super Mario action figures that we got a year or so ago. 

Anyway, I did end up making the burgers.  There are few things in this world better than a bacon cheeseburger.  I did, however, decide that I shouldn’t cook burgers in the house, ever, even with a cast iron skillet.  It just produces too much smoke, but the results were very good.  At least I didn’t burn the house down.


Don’t ya just miss the BBQ grill right about now?  I really wish it was summer.

The Invisible String

2 02 2007

You know, sometimes you’ll do just about anything to keep your kids occupied, if not quiet, while out to eat. Karen working late tonight and I just wasn’t up to cooking, so we went to Pizza Hut. Immediately Jonathan is LOUD LOUD LOUD and asking for this, asking for that, and bothering Isaac and messing with his hair and just being a total nuisance. (NO, not him!)

Since I’m the only parent at the table I realize that I can’t take on my usual demonic tone of voice and threaten them with sleeping in the basement until they’re 20. (We have a really creepy basement, the kids won’t even go down there, and I don’t think Karen’s ever been there either.) So I think back, back into my childhood and I remember this little trick someone showed me when I was, oh, 9 or so.

You take your “invisible string” and you wrap it around, in this case, a crayon. You make your knot, and you pull it tight. Then you place the crayon on the table in front of you and “pull the string” away from you, while blowing the crayon so that it follows your hand dutifully. You can do it overtly since all eyes are on the crayon anyway.

Isaac spent the rest of dinner trying to duplicate the trick, or trying to pick up the crayon with the string, or asking me where we could get some more. While trying to drag his crayon across the table with his string, Isaac knocked Jonathan’s milk to the floor. I suppose that’s my fault.

Isaac’s last words before bed to me were “Daddy, when can we go to the store to get more invisible string?”