Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eatin in the Neighborhood

Applebee's Bar and Restaurant
Bellevue, WA.

I love me some Bruce Willis. Granted the man is a total parody of himself: bic'ing his dome to avoid male pattern balding, a co-conspirator in the sacreligious House of Blues (home to fat overpaid white male jagoff movie stars who think they're blues musicians at heart), a divorcee, and as of late, a silver screen hack. However, his latest venture is a Die Hard film which, to THIS particular boy, gives me a glimmer of hope for some shamelessly cheesegrater one-liners, World War II sized body counts, and some good-ol glass shattering, concrete crumbling, elevator shaft rappelling Bruce Willis action.

But what does one eat before one watches an Audi careen off the road and explode a hovering helicopter? Sea Urchin ceviche? Goat Cheese Fritters? Veal Osso-Bucco? Nah. What I was in need of was something as unabashedly American as gratuitous violence itself. But where can one find such cuisine amidst the glistening waters and lush rainforests of the Pacific Northwest? Why at a mutha-fuckin Applebee's Bar and Restaurant in beautiful Bellevue, WA, THATS where. . .just a short jaunt east across the floating bridge into hellish strip mall expansiveness.

We were greeted not only with a Bellhopesque opening of the front door but the assurance that a table for two would be ready in "under 3 minutes" (undoubtedly exit surveys were conducted that showed that the average guest is 5 times more likely to look elsewhere for their lardy needs should their wait time exceed this nice round figure). Surely enough we were escorted to our stained glass soaked table (EVERYTHING in A-bee's is stained glass... reminds people of the homey familiarity of grandmothers parlour) for two in their signature timely fashion.

Step 1: peruse the menu. HOLY GOD! ACK! Its Tyler Florence of FoodTV Network fame and his primary orange tanning booth botoxed face and bedroom eyes (the guy is all but dry humping your leg through the menu) are hypnotizing me into taking venturing into his "Signature Items", conveniently included as an insert in A-Bee's trifolded list of fatty standards. We felt compelled to dive head-first into the brain-shattering concrete at the bottom of his empty pool of culinary wizardry by, frankly, little else than his raw sexual energy. "Here's something", ventured my handcuffed company, "onion rings". Onion Rings eh? Tyler, really are a rising gastronomic star. When our circles of batter arrived we noticed that, despite the straight-forwardness of the dish, ol Ty had added TWO count them TWO "signature" embellishments: 1) they were coated in parmesan cheese post fry (read: straight from the "green tube", if you catch my drift) 2) A peculiar gelatinous and seperated sauce that looked like the surface of Jupiter upon arrival and KC Masterpiece once married was flanking his rings of love. Frankly it all tasted like Burger King to me and we instantly agreed that Ty's signature dishes would start and stop right here for us. Ty, we're so disappointed in you.

Lady Macbeth opted initially for a burger (whose chuck, Applebee's was "proud to announce", had been inspected and approved by the FDA) but opted out after realizing that perhaps she is deserving of something slightly more special than government cleared chow. So she regrouped and finally went for this drippy, smothered, covered, cheese/bacon/mayonaise/friend chicken breast/buffalo wing sauce sandwichy thing with a side of fries. . . and defibrillator paddles. The good news is that she lived. . .in fact, the arterial nightmare was, according to her lard coated gullet "pretty fucking good, actually" (see photo).

As for me I was too shitfaced off two "top-shelf" Long Island Iced Teas and a 22 ounce beer to care much about anything other than watching Lady M stuff her face and containing my completely condescending laughter at the all-encompassing ridiculousness of where we were. I did not do a very good job at the latter and am sure that our server-a tall gangly awkward lad who kept pushing booze and chocolatey deserts on us and who furthermore scraped and flicked a dried up piece of god knows what off of our "shared plates" for our onion rings literally behind my back I was later informed- gave me a lil somethin special in my second L.I.I.T. As for food for moi, out of sheer feelings of guilt and insulin shock I did, in fact, order something for lunch: an aggressively mediocre and totally unmemorable wrap of sorts that was part fajita, part blt, part just plain fucking nasty. I had one bite and a fry.

Point being, as much as I wanted to walk out of Applebee's Disneyland of domesticality exclaiming " I ATE GOOD IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD!!!", the most I can say with a straight face is that "I ate food in Bellevue". "Good" is a reaaaaal stretch and "neighborhood" is just plain too decent of a word for that bastion of bogusness, but the sugar rush and rampant obesity was no doubt the wine to my cheese of American explosiveness.

Oh, and incidentally, go see Die fucking ROCKED.

Monday, July 9, 2007

On Hamburgers

The Backyards of Greenlake and Ballard
Seattle, WA.

Here's a new concept: the summer in July. Here's another new concept: friends with backyards. Put em together and what have you got? No, not "bippity boppity boop", but rather the spontaneous and relatively rampant sprouting of the most american of american gastro-indulgences, the mighty BBQ into my sun shocked keester.

Up until very very recently me and BBQ's have been somewhat at odds insofar as I've never quite followed suit due to, as many of you know, certain pesky vegetarian tendencies clinging to my proverbial palate like so many barnacles (unless of course said barnacles happen to be Prince Edward Island mussels in which case I encourage said clingning.....yummmmmmm). The majority of these hang-ups are seemingly irrational and isolated fears of various meaty textures: the all-too-visceral reaction to slicing into a steak, the ruby fleshyness of sushi, and, the piece de resistance, the mealy pearly fatty meaty pattyness of bbq'd chuck.

But dear readers, recently something has shifted. I dont know if it is acute sunstroke or the rather credible encouragements of a few of the pacific northwest's more credible and carniverous foodie friends, but I'll be DAMNED if this particular brutha hasn't chowed down not one but TWO of the aforementioned wretched meat-disks in the past week. For those of you NOT conducting research for my biography, that is two more burger pies than I've crammed down in the last 12 years and as such I must say, I've got it bad.....real real bad.

I was spoiled though. My chopped-chuck-cherry was popped not by a soggy Big Mac but by hand made patties of 20% fat content beef lovingly littered with beautifully forward chunks of bleu cheese and bacon and grilled over a smoking hot charcoal ( NOT propane but charcoal) grill by, frankly, folks who know what the fuck they be doin. Burger numero uno down. Check. No remorse, no food phobic guilt or self-induced sickness, just good old fashioned cowey goodness.

Burger numero deux came a mere few days later at yet another BBQ ( two BBQ's in one week....who knew?!). This was, as I quickly found out, an inadvertently Coors sponsored event which filled me with both a sense of pride AND overwhelming dread (akin only the transcendental thrill of becoming a father yet tragically simultaneously becoming a father to a really really really FUGGGGGGGGGGGGLY baby). Anyway, 17 or 18 cold activated bottles later and I'm practically tearing chunks out of party-goers rear ends I want some red meat so bad. So to the grill with me....this time with SHIT ASS tubular pre-packaged and pattied Costo-esque hunks (the radically opposite and yet equally delicious end of the burger spectrum, fyi). Thick cut olive oil soaked sweet onions on the grill, charcoal licked white buns, dijon, mixed greens, and a little melted cheddar and I sware to my dear hobbling christ that I was ready to convert forever to bloody church of burgerism (though, tragically, pickles were missing....EH it a Jew thing I ask you?)

What the FRICK is my point you ask?! My point is that cow tastes god damn splendid....ESPECIALLY when its all ground up and humiliated and barely recognizable. I hear, in fact, it is PARTICULARLY muy delicioso when served mid-rare....all drippy and moist and faintly bloody. But hey, I'm still warming up to the whole process so just take er easy on me will ya and keep the god damn Coors Light's sure to help