Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday (Restaurant) Review: Bobby's Burger Palace, Burlington Mall, Burlington, MA

Yes, I am late posting this today. Usually, I write the post up on Thursday, and schedule it to post on Friday morning. I've been behind in my reading lately, and needed something to put up here for my Friday Review post. We went to the newest Bobby's Burger Palace just last night, so I am writing this now.

I think everyone probably knows Bobby Flay, the red-haired TV personality and chef-owner of upscale restaurants like Mesa Grill and Bar Americain. He is well known for his love of Southwest food and many of his recipes feature chilies and other Southwest ingredients. Lately, he has opened a string of steak places, and the burger palaces. The latest of the burger restaurants opened about a week ago at the Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA. We decided to take a ride down there last night and check it out. I am a fan of Chef Flay. We have several of his cookbooks and have enjoyed everything we have made from them, so I was eager to try his burgers. I was not disappointed.

The restaurant is fairly small, with large tables and a curved bar-like counter. The decor is bright, in apple green, deep orange, and gold, with brown accents. A long light fixture, curved like the counter seating it hangs over, echoes the color scheme. Large, modern, food oriented artwork hangs on the walls. It is open and inviting. You come into the restaurant, place your order at the counter, and get a number sign to put on your table. Find a table, sit down, and when your order is ready, the waitstaff brings it to your table. Service was quick and efficient, although the place was not crowded when we were there, so I don't know if it bogs down when it is.

The food was excellent. The menu is burgers only. You can get beef, turkey, or chicken burgers. There are a number of different choices on the menu, with different sets of garnishes and sauces. Any burger can be "crunchified," the signature embellishment of the chain. This involves adding a stack of potato chips to the burger. None of us tried that option. Sides are fries, onion rings, and sweet potato fries. There is a kids' burger option. The usual array of soft drinks, iced tea, and water are offered. This particular restaurant does not offer alcohol, which was a bit disappointing, as I do like a good, cold beer with my burgers. Not a big deal, however.

I ordered the Napa Valley burger, which is topped with goat cheese and watercress. I asked for mine cooked medium, and that is exactly what I got. The burger was crusted nicely, and the entire interior was pink but cooked, and very juicy. The goat cheese was tangy, but not overly so, and didn't overpower the burger. The watercress added a nice bit of crispness. The Meyer lemon honey mustard was slightly sweet, but balanced. The fries were very good, and served with a dipping sauce that seemed a cross between a remoulade and aioli, without the strong garlic of a typical aioli. The onion rings were huge, and the beer batter crisp. You could taste the beer in the batter, unlike some I have had. I even enjoyed the sweet potato fries, and I am not usually a fan of those. They were served with a honey mustard horseradish dipping sauce that was very tasty, but I didn't feel it enhanced the fries.

Prices are reasonable, with all the burgers under $8. Sides are $3.

All in all, I enjoyed the meal, and will likely go there again, when I am in the Burlington area. Next time, I will try the crunchified burger!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Old Dog's Life

No, nothing is wrong with Murphy. Well, other than the usual, that is. For those who don't know him, Murphy is our chocolate Labrador retriever. He is somewhere in the vicinity of twelve years old. We have had him since he showed up on our porch in December of 2003. He is mostly deaf, his eyesight is a bit cloudy so he doesn't see well in the dark, and he has problems with his rear legs. Mostly, I refer to him as Old Dog. But, as I tell him every day, he is the best dog in the whole world.

I've gotten used to his mobility issues. He has significant arthritis in the rear legs and spine, and most likely some myelopathy, as well. He can't do the mile or mile and a half walks we used to. He gets two short ones these days. He also loses control of the rear legs, and falls sometimes. If he gets them too splayed out when he does, he can't get himself back up. He often needs help climbing up the deck stairs.

For a while this winter, I was thinking he was getting worse- he seemed to need help more and more often. Lately, he seems much better. Not miracle better, mind you, but more active and alert. He wants to walk more, and hates it when I tell him it's time to head home. I know he wouldn't make it much further than we go without really having difficulty on the way back, but he wants to keep going. He seems more- sprightly, I guess is the word. Oh, he still walks with that funny gate because of the bad legs, and when he runs, he sort of rabbit hops on the rear legs. The right rear foot knuckles over a fair amount. But I've noticed when we don't have deep snow in the yard, he does run more than he used to. He sleeps a lot when he's in here, but he is a senior and deserves it.

I wish I could say it was something I am doing, because, believe me, I would keep it up. He gets the same food, the same supplement, the same everything. I'm not complaining. I'm loving it. I hope he keeps it up for years.

I know too many people who have lost pets recently. It makes me worry a bit about the old guy. But he's doing well right now, and he's happy, so I'm going to enjoy our walks and excursions to the chicken coop. Best dog in the whole world, for sure.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel

Bouchon BakeryBouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't baked everything in this book, but I think there will be many recipes that get made before long. Thomas Keller is a renowned chef and owner of very upscale restaurants including per se and the French Laundry. He wanted to start baking the breads for his restaurants, and opened the first Bouchon Bakery in 2003. He wanted to provide the bread for the restaurants, of course, but also to have a small cafe to sell pastries and breads similar to the ones he'd loved so working in Paris. He hired Matthew McDonald to run the bakery operation, and Sebastian Rouxel as pastry chef. The Bouchon Bakery has expanded to five bakeries.

Keller is mainly a savory chef, but he grew to love the aroma and flavors of bread and baked goods in Paris, as well as growing up where cookies were an everyday treat. The bakeries recreate some of these childhood memories in their own way. There are versions of Oreos, Nutter Butters, and Pecan Sandies, among others, in the book. I've made the Pecan Sandies, and they are delicious.

The book is beautiful, with clean, white pages, and stunning photography. It is large and a bit heavy. The recipes are clearly written, with ingredient lists in both metric weight measures (which Keller highly recommends using, and I do, too), and the more usual volume measures. Some recipes use specific ingredients, but there is a source listing in the back of the book. There are sections on Cookies, Scones and Muffins, Cakes, Tarts, Pate a Choux, Brioche and Doughnuts, Puff Pastry and Croissants, Breads, and Confections. There is also a chapter on Basics which gives recipes for frostings, fillings, glazes, and other things that don't necessarily fit in the other chapters, but are things every baker should know.

This is not a learn to bake book. Some of the recipes are a bit involved, and some are not, probably, for the novice baker. It certainly has a place on the cookbook shelf of anyone who loves to bake and wants to make some really wonderful treats.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

23 In 2013 Update

Remember the 23 in 2013 Challenge I decided to do? This is my latest update post, now that February is well under way. I got the short story I was working on out to readers, and got some really good feedback. I'll be working on editing and revising so it can get out to where it needs to be by the end of the month. I started a new short story that is coming along very nicely right now. That will be ready for crit reading soon, I hope. I'm pleased with this one, and I hope it feels that way to others. The short piece I wrote for this month is actually just a quick scene. I had an idea for a much longer story (I'm going to say probably novel length) that I started basic plotting on early this month. I doubt I will get to starting it for a while yet, but I needed to get the idea on paper so I don't forget. That also allows me to start outlining a bit at a time, as I can fit it in. Meanwhile, I wrote a quick scene that will probably make it into the longer work in some form, but for right now, it gives me an idea of the main characters and a little about the story itself.

Here it is:

Mary Alice Kropp 
            Father Tim pulled the stiff white band out of his shirt collar and let it fall to the side table. He picked up a crystal tumbler and swirled the amber liquid inside, making the two ice cubes clink against the glass. He sat slowly in the upholstered arm chair and settled back. Taking a sip of his drink, he regarded his companion, seated across from him on a matching sofa.
            “What do you get out of all this?” he asked. “I know what I do, but what about you?”
            The demon sat with his legs crossed, one cloven hoof resting on the dark mottled carpet; the other swinging gently. He was muscular, deep copper-red in color, with a blocky body and thick, corded neck. His face was lined, with eyes that glowed red-gold in the light from the fireplace. His head was bald, with two straight horns growing up from his forehead. When he smiled, he showed two rows of short, sharp fangs. He raised his glass toward the priest.
            “Good Scotch?” The demon’s voice was a deep, rumbling bass. Fr. Tim sighed and shook his head. The priest was in his mid-thirties, with short reddish-brown hair and beard, just showing traces of gray. He had blue eyes behind dark rimmed glasses. He was in good physical shape, although next to the demon’s corded muscles, he looked almost puny.
            “Seriously, Oscar,” Fr. Tim said. “This can’t be an ideal situation for you, but here you are.” The demon grinned again, and drained his glass in a gulp.
            “You ask a question of one you call the Great Deceiver, Trickster, Liar, and you expect a serious answer? C’mon, Timothy, we make a good team, don’t you think?” Fr. Tim opened his mouth to say something more, but the strident ringing of the telephone interrupted. He set his glass on the table, and walked over to the desk in the corner and picked up the receiver.
            “Yes?” He paused to listen. A frown creased his face. “Another one?” He listened a moment. “I see. Okay, w--- I’ll be right there.” He hung up and turned around to see Oscar standing at the table, finishing Fr. Tim’s drink. He gave the demon a look.
            “You need your head if this is real.” The demon spoke with a shrug of huge shoulders. Standing, he was slightly shorter than Fr. Tim’s almost six feet. “I gather we’re on assignment again? This is getting to be an epidemic, isn’t it?” Fr. Tim walked around to the other side of the desk and picked up a black leather briefcase. He came back to stand in front of the demon.
            “Ready?” Oscar asked. At Fr. Tim’s nod, the demon began to fade to a thin column of smoke. Fr. Tim inhaled deeply, and the smoke was drawn into his body. He gave a slight shudder as the demon settled, and opened his eyes. There was a faint scent of brimstone and incense hanging on the air.
            “Do you have to do that every time?” Fr. Tim muttered as he picked up the briefcase and walked to the door. A bellow of deep laughter echoed in the back of his mind.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow, Snow, and Even More Snow

We got some snow this week. It started on Friday, and finished up Saturday afternoon. All told, it looks like we got about 2 feet or so, with drifts a bit higher in spots. It's also windy, so the stuff is blowing all over. We did not lose power at all this storm. A good thing. I slept in on Saturday morning. Hey, what else did I have to do? Shovel snow? No hurry on that. I did go out and shovel a quick path so that Murphy could go out and do his thing more easily. Time was, he'd have just plowed through whatever was out there, but with his legs not doing well, it's easier on him if there's some cleared area. Of course, I took him out later while I was shoveling the rest of the walk, and he refused to even leave the deck! Here he is, stylin' in the fleece coat I made for him out of an old vest I rarely wore:

I do have a peeve with the weather folks. Why is everything Stormageddon or Snowpocalypse these days? Do we need all that extra drama? I understand: big storm, folks should prepare, and all that. But it's not like this has never happened before. Yes, we don't get this much all the time, but really, we don't need the over-dramatization. There are some really good words we already have for stuff like this: storm and blizzard come to mind. And they can even be modified by words like severe, threatening, huge, or even dangerous. No need to make it sound like something out of a comic book. Just my opinion.

Here are a few pictures I took on Saturday morning when we went out to clear the walk and driveway:

The garden is under there somewhere!

The front porch. It's sort of buried.

Me, knee deep in snow on the way to the chicken coop. The chickens did not even try to come out of the coop today. They are not fond of walking around in snow.

The front yard.
Yeah, we got a little snow. There was a driving ban in Massachusetts starting Friday at 4PM. It was partially lifted on Saturday afternoon, and fully lifted early Saturday evening. But it stranded poor Stephanie in Leominster. She decided (wisely) to stay at a hotel there on Friday night since she has an hour drive to get back here in good weather, and it was not going to be anywhere near good. And not knowing when the ban would be lifted, or if her store was going to open, she decided to stay Saturday night, as well. Inconvenient, but it does let the crews get out and clear roads to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Of course, New Hampshire, being the Live Free or Die state, did not have an actual ban with fines and/or jail time as a consequence like MA. It was just advised for folk to stay off the roads. We'll be back to normal tomorrow, for sure. 

So, just hanging out here at home, doing some research, and some writing, and just enjoying a little winter wonderland. Have you dug out yet?

Monday, February 4, 2013

How Are Things in Your Corner of the Universe?

Around here, things are... weird. It's February, typically one of my least favorite months of the year. February is gray and gloomy. Everyone is sick of winter, and spring seems so far off. We just had two days of 50 degree temperatures, and now it is back to more typical winter cold. The whole world feels confused and a bit disoriented. We had a whole boatload of snow, and it is all gone now. I am sure we will get more before winter is fully gone.

I did get to go to dinner with some former co-workers last week. I do so enjoy those little get-togethers, and must thank the person who always sets them up and pushes us to come. It is a good time. For all the problems, I worked with some really nice people, and we always have a good time. Lots of laughing and catching up. We will probably do it again in six months or so.

We also found out that we are going to be grandparents again! Krysta and Kleber are going to have another baby. Their first, Will, is four now. She is due in early October. They kind of want a girl this time, I think, but Will says he wants a brother and a sister! Mom says "NO!"  Not that I blame her. Just so long as the baby is not born while we are in CA at Worlds!

Update on the 23 in 2013 Challenge Update:

I finished the first draft on the short story, and now am planning an edit run through it this week, to get it out to readers by the end of the week. It needs finishing by the end of the month if it is to go where I intend it to. And the short short one was posted here. So on to February. One thing will be a very short bit (probably just a scene) for an idea that I am starting to flesh out. The other will either be to finish a partly done short story or work on the novella again. But since I did get two things done in January, that puts me right on schedule, right? How is everyone else doing?

As far as this challenge goes, I am going to have to make myself a schedule of some sort. There are things I should be doing that I know will not be finished in the confines of the challenge, but I don't want to just let them slide, either. I think I will start printing out calendars, and setting up what I want to work on each day. A little OCD? Maybe. Of course, I've never been a "pantser." I work best from a plan, so a plan it will be.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: Croaked: Tales of the Firefly Witch by Alex Bledsoe

Croaked (Witch Tales #2)Croaked by Alex Bledsoe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book I read by this author was the first Eddie LaCrosse novel, which I enjoyed very much. When I saw these collections of short stories by him, I decided to give them a read, also.

The Firefly Witch stories are not the same noir, hard-boiled, detective stories as Eddie's adventures, but they are quite a fun read themselves. Dr. Tanna Tully is a professor, and blind, and a practicing Witch. When fireflies are around, she can see. Ry, her husband, is a newspaperman. Together, they solve paranormal mysteries.

There are four stories in the collection, and each is just as much fun as the next. They are light and quick to read, with engaging characters, and interesting plots. One has frogs going missing from our world in large numbers, and another involves a missing teenager on a devilish amusement park ride. There's the mysterious package that may or may not contain a dangerous mythological beast, and a redneck country star with his Daddy's haunted guitar. Tanna finds the paranormal aspect to each mystery, and sets about solving each with her own special abilities.

This is the second in the Firefly Witch series, but I don't think you have to read the first to enjoy the stories. Sure, there is some backstory to fill in from the first, but the individual stories stand on their own as complete tales. I plan on reading the rest of Tanna and Ry's stories.

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