Monday, November 30, 2009

Graffiti Junktion = Awesome

When we landed in Orlando, Bryan, Joe, and DJ picked us up. We weren't in a hurry, and I had read about a newer place that had great reviews, so we headed over to the downtown area for a late dinner.

When we arrived at Graffiti Junktion, the place was hopping! It was seat-yourself, and we were quite fortunate to grab what looked like the last four-person table in the place (we added a chair on the end). Our waitress was awesome (her name was either Shannon or Melissa... we can't remember which), and we quickly had our drinks and placed an order. The restaurant was realllly loud at first, but we realized that was because there was a basketball game on (the Magic was playing), but there were less than 20 seconds to go, and after they won the place quieted a lot and emptied out some as well.

Their mojito is supposed to be really good, and Bryan, DJ, and Joe all liked it. I tried a sip, but I'm not a big mojito fan so I can't give it a fair review. The appetizer we got was potato skins. They were big and pretty standard as far as toppings and preparations go, but they came with sides of sour cream and Texas-style chili. There were only four, but they were pretty big. We all liked them.

Their burgers are their big draw, and that's what we all got. DJ got a turkey burger with sprouts, I had a regular burger with smoked gouda, and the rest of the group all got the buffalo burgers with various toppings. Joe and JB both got fried egg and canadian bacon on theirs. I'm not stretching the truth at all by saying that everybody was more than pleased with their meals. The entire way home and part of the next couple days we reminisced about how good those burgers were! The bun wasn't anything special, and I have never seen pickles sliced so thin, but it made for a great burger.

The fries were diner-ish... cut with skins on them and a little greasy... but still pretty okay. Get the barbecue sauce on the side... it is among the best I've ever had. I was the only one with anything left over to take home, and my microwaved burger was just as delicious the next day for lunch! What a winner we found!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Live Diggnation in NYC

Diggnation is a podcast where two guys talk about some of the cool stories that made Digg.com that week. Every once in a while they do the show live from various locations. Last week they did it from the Manhattan Center, so we took the train into NY to see it.

We've now got the whole train thing down. We've figured out parking details and buying tickets and finding the tracks at the Trenton Transit Center. We know the stops on the way. Once you get off at Penn Station there's some confusion, just because the place is monstrously huge and there's a million different trains and subways and exits, but it doesn't really matter since once you're above ground you can re-orient yourself anyway. We grabbed some Chipotle burritos (burritos may be the only food in the entire world that we both take the same way, LoL) and headed over to stand in line for an hour. The doors opened at 7 for an 8:30pm show, and we arrived a few minutes after 6. There were a couple hundred people in line already, but the queue went all the way down the block and around the corner by the time we actually started moving.

The show was on the 8th floor, so there were tons of steps that we were all practically running up to get good spots, LoL. There was fruit and cheese, but I can't comment on their quality since we didn't have any. The stage was already surrounded 7 or 8-deep in people, so we opted to go up to the balcony to watch the show from a seated position at least. We still had a very good view, but we didn't get any of the prizes that were tossed out into the audience at random points in the show.
view from the floorview from the balcony squarespace gave out iPod Touches by remote-controlled blimp!

Now, Jonathan is a big fan of Diggnation, and I've only seen the podcasts twice (and once was on the train headed to see the live show, haha). But, I had a good time because I treated it like a comedy club and just had a good time laughing at everything.
Alex & Kevin, the DiggNation guys

After the show we were able to go down to the main level, and Jonathan shook hands with Kevin Rose. I got a picture of the two of them, and Jonathan got his autograph on the back of his phone.
The episode is on the internet already, check it out here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Running

I haven't mentioned it on this blog, but I've talked about it on my Twitter and in real life. I took up running in January, pretty much as soon as we moved to California. I decided that my goal was to run a 5K on Thanksgiving. I had heard about "Turkey Trot" charity races for years, and decided it was a reasonable goal.

Well, now that "reasonable goal" is in less than a week. And before I beg for tips and advice, I'll start with some background (you should've seen that comin'!)

I ran track & field when I was nine years old. There was a Little League of sorts for track where we lived, and my brother and I were both on teams in the spring of 1993. Neither of us were very good. My main events were the mile run (the "big endurance" race for kids) and the shotput, but I did some long-jumping in a few meets. In fourth and fifth grade (when I moved to FL), running was a big part of PE, and I was among the fastest girls in class. But that was the end of mandatory running for PE. When I was in seventh grade I considered doing cross country at school, but my sister had just started kindergarten so extracurriculars weren't an option at the time. In eighth grade my best friend and I went as far as actually going to the "track & field interest meeting" before opting not to actually join. So unless it was part of a game, I didn't really run between the ages of eleven and twenty-five.

I have had a ton of friends who run for fun, for stress relief, or for exercise. To me, that just sounded incredibly boring. So what made me decide to take it up? Honestly, I was curious. I had no idea how long it would take me to run a mile. I had no idea how hard it would be to run three (point one) miles. I didn't understand the joy people got from running and wanted to see if I could derive the same pleasure.

I cannot. In the ten months that I have been doing the running thing, I can tell you that I enjoyed it approximately three times. Every other time it was incredibly boring, among other things. I tried watching television while I ran (nothing worked except Jeopardy! and that's a very time-sensitive program). I tried music (but I have to have a really good playlist or that's out the window). I tried talking (I kinda knew that one wasn't gonna work... and it didn't). But it doesn't really matter... I just gave up trying to enjoy it and just plain wanted to stick to the Turkey Trot goal.

That brings us to this moment. Thanksgiving is Thursday and I'm not prepared. If you can answer any of the following questions, it's bound to help!

1) I'm concerned about the humidity. I've only run outside once in Florida (last April), and am afraid it'll make it much more difficult than CA or PA. Anyone know what I should expect or how it compares?
2) I'm a big water-drinker. As in, I polish off 25oz easy during a 3-mile run (I already cut down... I used to drink 25 oz during 1 mile of running!). I understand that in real running, people only get a cup of water at a station or two. Anything I can do to cope with this??
3) What's the etiquette in wearing/using an mp3 player in an actual race? do people do it? is it rude?
4) Either way, recommend some of your favorite running songs! :)
4) Where do you put your stuff? At minimum, the key to your car... ?
5) What else should I expect? What tips do you have? Has anyone done the 5k specific to Vero?

Many thanks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brother's Pizza

We needed to go to Lowe's to pick up something, so we decided to pick up a pizza from that area while we were out. Now, "that area" isn't anything special... about fifteen minutes from us, near the Denny's.

We found Brother's Pizza online and phoned in a simple order... a large pepperoni pizza and 8 garlic knots. We took it home. I was appalled by the sight of the pizza when we lifted the lid... the most grease I've ever seen on a pizza, I'm pretty sure. I walked away and came back a few minutes later to actually grab a slice. It took two whole paper towels to blot out the majority of grease. The crust was good. The pepperoni was thick in comparison to the pizza. The sauce was average. But the cheese was salty... and that bothers me. So between the grease and the salt, I was not a fan. I had one slice and swore them off. Jonathan thought it was okay, but made no truly positive comments about the taste. And it wasn't uber-cheap pizza or anything... we paid like $13 for the large.

The garlic knots were pretty good. Could have used some parmesan cheese, but at a quarter per knot, the taste was unbeatable. The menu is pretty large, and they do have several Italian baked dinners as well, but I can't really say I'd go back.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Savor Saigon Restaurant & H-Mart

It's hard to believe that the wedding was two and a half years ago already. It makes me want to watch the DVD for a twentieth time, LoL. But, sure enough, last Wednesday marked another anniversary for us. We went out to eat in celebration.

We hit the jackpot on this venture, really. We found delicious Vietnamese food not fifteen minutes from our apartment, at Savor Saigon. It's across the street from the Walgreens I usually go to, but I had never noticed the places in that plaza. Jonathan was in the mood for pho, and found a restaurant in Levittown, so we headed out there.

We arrived about 7:35pm, and the place was nearly empty. I was afraid that was a bad omen, but it wasn't. We were seated promptly and water was brought out before I had a chance to even open the menu. It's quite a few pages, and on the front it mentions that there is a $25 minimum for credit cards (an important bit to know since very few places require more than a $10 bill). We ordered summer rolls for an appetizer. They were very good (the best I've had since California), and quite thick. Jonathan really liked their house peanut sauce, nearly finishing the small dish of it.

Jonathan had beef pho, of course. He said it could have used more cilantro, but it was okay. The price was a tad high for pho, but since it is not in any sort of Asian neighborhood, it's not badly priced. He noted that there were a ton more noodles than usual. I was feeling shrimp pad thai at first, but after reading their ingredients and realizing I'd need to ask for three substitutions, I moved on. I ended up ordering a combination pan-fried noodle dish. It came with beef, chicken, shrimp, scallops, calamari, bok choy, broccoli, chinese broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots (I asked for no snow peas). The dish was very large when they brought it out (I didn't even eat half), and the sauce was absolutely fantastic. The noodles were crispy for the most part, but did soak up the sauce for a nice texture as well. I was very pleased with my meal, and the fact that it made two leftover dishes as well!

When we left dinner, we walked through the rest of the plaza. There's a martial arts place, an ice cream cakery, a pizza place (of course), and an H-Mart. We stopped inside there for about fifteen minutes. H-Marts are an Asian grocery chain, and are filled with tons of specialty products. There are great prices on meat in so many cuts (and animals for that matter). There were aisles of spices and powders and sauces. We saw thai tea mix (very helpful since we've come to resort to buying it on the internet), honey-flavored bread crumbs, and curry pastes that will certainly come in handy. I was pretty impressed with the prices in the bakery (tho not the selection), and the food court (Chinese and Korean) looked pretty good, too. There is a small selection of household goods that we didn't really look through (and it only drew our attention because we could feel the heat lamps at the front of the section), but another time.

We came home and did homemade chocolate fondue for dessert. It was fun to use the chocolate melter again, and we feasted upon strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, pretzel sticks, and pound cake in the dutch chocolate. Definitely a sentimental dessert for me (we had a chocolate fountain at our reception).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Langhorne Ale House

We had planned to go to JB Dawson's for the game last weekend, but when we got there we realized that there were only a few televisions, so we decided to go to Chili's. But on the way to Chili's we passed the Langhorne Ale House, and pulled in there. I found out much later that it's owned by Miller's, for those familiar with that chain.

We waited about twenty minutes, but they were nice enough to put the game on one of their two foyer televisions, so although it was quite cold, we were able to watch the game while we sat. The place was really busy (we arrived just before 8pm), but we were eventually seated at a table large enough for six people. With the hockey game on the larger screens, we had a little difficulty getting the server to change one of the sets to the FSU-Clemson game (the hostess had assured me that there would be no problem in getting a television changed), but eventually got a screen changed that we could both see.

We decided not to have an appetizer, basically because they were kinda pricey. I ordered a Bistro burger, Jonathan had the porterhouse steak. The wait was about average, and I would have expected to need to be much more patient, given the size of the restaurants and number of patrons.

Mine came with pretty good fries, Jonathan's had fries and average corn. My burger was on ciabatta bread with an onion ring, bacon, cheddar cheese, the thinnest pickle slice ever, tomato, and delightful bistro sauce (red pepper and garlic). It was very tasty; I'd recommend it. Jonathan spent a long time on his steak (not his usual cut of meat), and in the end decided it was pretty good, but strange/rough.

Service was fair until it was time for the check, when our server did twelve other things beside handing us the bill. But all in all, a decent place. They have a very wide beer selection (which is hard to find in the area, aside from places like Isaac Newton's), and one drink that I'd like to try (which sounds rather ridiculous, since they have thirty pages of beverages), so I'm fairly certain we'll be back before 2010.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Newtown Farmer's Market

Another couple in our apartment complex mentioned the Newtown Farmer's Market to us about a week ago, so we wanted to check it out. Jonathan took a long lunch on Friday and we went over to eat there and see what the place was all about. I then went back the next day for shopping. :)

The place is only open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so parking was rather scarce (we arrived around 12:40pm). Walking up to the entrance, it felt a lot like the the Pennsylvania Dutch places that we stopped at when we visited the Lancaster area. There are fewer than twenty vendors... some selling dry goods (pastas, candy, spices, etc.), a few selling meat (ground beef, turkey, chicken pieces, sausage, etc.), a fish stand (with soups and chowders!), a cheese and dairy area, a bakery (cakes, pies, cookies, breads, donuts, the whole shebang), and so much more.

For lunch we ate at the Greek place, King of Falafel. Jonathan went with a combo platter, with hummus and gyro. It came with a pita. I ordered the vegetarian special, which included two pieces of falafel, some hummus, some baba ghanoush, very fresh tabouli salad, a couple grape leaves, a pita, and a lemonade. Jonathan and I both really enjoyed the hummus (it is one of our favorite snacks!), and he liked the gyro pretty well. The tzaziki sauce was very good, and I'm usualyl not a big fan. It was my first falafel, and I liked it pretty well with the baba ghanoush, but not by itself. The grape leaves weren't a favorite, but they never really are for me. Overall, I'd definitely place this among the BEST Greek food that I've ever had, and Jonathan agrees that it is really good.

Sidenote, for those not familiar with Greek food, hummus is made with ground chickpeas; baba ghanoush is ground eggplant; gyro is lamb; tabouli is a parsley-tomato-cucumber-lemon juice combo (with a few other things I can't remember).

Well, since Jonathan needed to head back to work, I didn't get to meander the shops much. The next morning while Jonathan played racquetball (there's a round-robin tournament that they do on Saturday mornings), I headed over there again. There really are a few neat places. I bought some cheesecake cupcakes with cherries for Jonathan, and a cream-filled chocolate chip sandwich cookie for myself. The cookie was very good, especially for $1. The cupcakes I also picked up a half-pound of roasted onion cheese. It tastes kinda like a havarti-american blend, heavy on the onion. good stuff. The cookie was good, well worth a dollar. I wouldn't get it again tho, the cream was too much. I might but plain cookies tho. Jonathan liked the cherry cheesecupcake as well.

I can definitely say we'll be back to try the other eateries. And to have more of the baked goods. And probably pick up a few gifts there as well. :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Golden Garden Chinese

I think it is safe to say that our number one complaint about living in Pennsylvania is the lack of good Asian food. While we have a good Japanese hibachi place and a decent Vietnamese place (but that one's not very close) we have yet to find good sushi or Chinese. And I haven't even seen a Mongolian place at all.

Well, we really felt like Chinese food. Again. It was lunchtime on a Sunday and Jonathan looked up a dim sum place online. We headed out to northeast Philly to find it... but it was gone. We seemed to be in an Asian area, but every place was closed. We used the GPS to find some general Chinese place, but the ones in the area it sent us to were also all closed. We just drove until we found one that was open (passing at least another three closed places on the way). I'm at a loss to explain why there are that many closed places at lunchtime on Sunday, but whatever.

We found a parking spot a hundred yards or so from Golden Garden Chinese Restaurant on Rising Sun Avenue. We walked in and looked at the menu a bit before making a big order (planning on feasting upon lunch and dinner from this place). Given that fact, I'm gonna bullet-point the items and our thoughts on them.


*Crab Rangoon - Jonathan liked it. He thought it was light on the crab, but I still didn't care for it. They were big pieces, and we got 10 for $3.50, so it was a really good deal.
*Shrimp Eggroll - it was okay. It was very thick and a little longer than the average, so a steal for $1.20 (or possibly free, it's hard to tell since we didn't receive an itemized receipt). It was very garlicky, which was surprising. There were two small shrimp inside, but otherwise it was pure cabbage. It was fried really well, so it made for a tasty appetizer. I'd try the pork next time.
*Egg Drop Soup - pretty good, Jonathan said.
*Wonton Soup - plain. The broth was good but very plain. Very few scallions, which is a downside for me. The wontons themselves were quite large, but nothing super-special. General soup note - the "crunchies" they give you weren't the standard kind... they were more like smooth, enclosed pieces of penne... only baked. Still good.
*Beef Szechuan - good. Jonathan wolfed down a good portion of it before taking a break to tell me how it was, LoL.
*Chicken Szechuan - disappointing. It wasn't spicy-hot at all, despite having two markings as such in the menu. It wasn't bad, and we did only pay like $4.25 for it, but still sad.
*Chicken Chow Mein - remind me not to order this in the Northeast again! They just don't seem to make it the same as other place at all! As with Osaka, there were no noodles. It had that same junky sauce. The flavor was again very moo goo gai pan. After I picked out all of the cabbage it was edible.
*General Tso's Chicken - not really even worth talking about. It had a nice flavor, but was boring and (again) not spicy.
*Pork Fried Rice - came with the meals. It had onions and beansprouts, no other veggies. Kinda plain, but not bad. After I added soy sauce, it improved some, but not a lot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween 2009

Halloween is a fantastic time of year. I'd say it's my favorite, but my birthday, Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving all come before it. But I love it so much that it's hard for me to believe it actually falls fourth on my list. I'm not as big into the "scary" as I am into the "costumes." Still, I've been doing the scary stuff along with the dressing up for pretty much forever. Last year we went to Halloween Horror Nights (that actually links to my other blog, before it was television-only) and had a Halloween Party with a Disney theme (link to a photo album).

This year, we decided to do something a bit different. Jonathan heard about this huge parade that they do in New York City for Halloween. It's called New York's Village Halloween Parade, and it has fantastic reviews. It's even on that "1,001 things to do before you die" list. It began at 7pm, and went along Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) from Spring Street up to 21st. Our friend Rob went with us, and we took the NJ Transit from Trenton into Penn Station, then the subway over to the parade area. We missed the train out of Trenton that we wanted and ended up getting into NYC about half an hour later than we were planning, and then had to wait to buy a metrocard and all that, but anyway...

It was really neat to see almost every single person out in costume. I can't say that I've ever experienced that phenomenon before... usually there's a ton of people walking around in everyday clothes. The subway was jam-packed with people heading out to Halloween parties and the like... the creativity of the costumes was astounding.

When we got out of the subway, we found that it was raining moderately. We continued the two blocks over to the parade, and began wading through the other spectators, looking for a decent spot. We find an okay spot (using a curb to boost our heights a few inches), but then decide to move down a few blocks (toward the end of the route) for a better view. We stopped just after 19th street and were only about 3-4 people deep. Luckily, not only was it raining, but the Yankees-Phillies game started after a rain delay so a bunch of people left. We were right up against the bars after maybe half an hour, and stayed in that front-row position until we left. While the parade was still moving along at 10:20pm, we decided to be on our way since the majority of the great costumes had gone by, and there were no more floats left in sight.

There were a few dozen Michael Jackson costumes, a good Octomom, two Balloon Boys, a ton of Mario & Luigi pairs, way too many Fred Flintstones, and a lot of unique stuff (including some funny H1N1 costumes). I think my favorite might have been a group doing Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (the band from The Muppets), since that was creative, homemade, and clever. With the rain, it was very hard to get good photos, but here are some of the best I got...

Gizmo Duck from DuckTales (complete with a unicycle!)

Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Guy on a Wheaties Box
Shotgun wedding!
All That and a Bag of Chips!
Just a general shot, but it included a couple of the large puppets that you could hold and maneuver in the parade

We walked back to Penn Station (underneath Madison Square Garden if you didn't know... I didn't), grabbing some Sabrett hot dogs from a cart along the way. Our trip back to Trenton was no picnic... there was a disabled train on the tracks, so we had to follow a longer route and go around three scheduled stops, so it took us a little over an hour and forty minutes to get back, as opposed to the hour and five minutes or so to get there.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mama Mia Trattoria

Jonathan had been out of town on business for most of the week, so when he got home we went out to eat together. I had picked up a buy-one-entree-get-one-free coupon for Mama Mia Trattoria, so we went there. You may remember that this is another Carlucci restaurant, as was Villa Rosa, which we tried about two weeks ago.

We got there shortly before 9, but since it was open until 10:30, that was no concern. We were seated immediately, and the place was moderately full. No booths, just tables that are a bit close together. The menu was pretty vast, and we were a little taken by surprise that many of the entrees were $14+. I reread the coupon and saw that it covered up to $12 on the free meal - interesting, since we only saw two or three that were under $12. I really wanted a shrimp alfredo dish... but they had very few seafood options (maybe ten total, only half of which were shrimp-related). All of the pasta dishes were either linguine, angel hair, rigatoni, or penne.

I had the salad and Jonathan had the soup. The salad was a plain garden salad, and the dressing I chose (honey mustard) was very thick (but still good). The pasta fazul soup was okay, nothing special. The complimentary bread had a nice bottom, but the top was rather saucy and soggy. It wasn't a bruschetta, but it wasn't anything else, either. Our food came fairly quickly, especially considering the number of patrons in the restaurant. I had the chicken parmigiana over penne... Jonathan had the pasta al forno - with tons of sausage and meatballs cut up in the dish.

While the pasta in both of our meals was absolutely al dente and delicious, mine fell short of my expectations. Jonathan found his to be delightful, but my chicken was over-cooked and the sauce was too overwhelming for the amount of cheese I was given. Neither of us really made a dent in our plates, and most of our food was boxed for home, despite the fact that we were both quite hungry when we arrived. I wouldn't recommend the place, but Jonathan said he'd return. On a final note, we did have amazing service... we were checked on frequently, offered more bread, parmesan cheese, and water, and were generally just treated very friendly.