Pancho’s: Dinner with the Grandparents

IMG_3720It was raining tonight, which meant it was the perfect time to sit in a dimly lit restaurant and eat Mexican food, but if I’m being completely honest, any night is a good night to do that. My wife and I went out with my grandparents to Pancho’s, their favorite Mexican restaurant in Memphis, a place that is quickly growing on me. We wanted to see them before leaving town on Saturday to head to the beach for a week (this is completely unnecessary information but I thought I might as well rub it in) and they suggested dinner, and since I’ve never in my life turned down cheese dip, and wasn’t about to start today, I agreed. We arrived at the restaurant and sat in a corner booth that was in the section of a waitress my grandparents knew by name. It really is astounding to me that basically no matter where we go to eat, they always have a favorite waitress that they ask for, because when I’m out at a restaurant I rarely engage in anything more than pleasantries with the waitstaff, much less know about their personal lives or ask about their grandchildren, but my grandparents are just those sort of people who make friends wherever they go.

My wife and I both ordered nachos, which neither of us had tried here before, and when the plates arrived I was shocked at how big the portion was. It looked incredible. On a bed of chips was ground taco beef, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños, with two separate bowls made of a giant tortilla chip holding sour cream and guacamole. For good measure I dumped out the remainder of my cheese dip on top, and dove in fork first. It was really good, and really filling, and my wife and I realized pretty quickly that we could have shared the plate of nachos, and that there was no way we would come close to finishing our own, which is saying something for me, who more often than not finishes the food I order.

Over dinner we talked about the first time Leticia had ever eaten at Pancho’s. It was the first time I brought her to Memphis to meet the family in 2012 after we’d been dating for about six months. I remember that most of my dad’s family was there, my two grandparents, my uncle Brett and his family, and of course my dad. Leticia, whose parents are both Mexican, ordered a chicken sandwich that night at the Mexican restaurant, which everyone thought was pretty funny, given that they thought her of all people would get something Mexican. I occasionally joke about this with my wife and she defends her decision saying she was just in the mood for a chicken sandwich that night. It was a good dinner and it’s always good to spend time with my grandparents, so overall it was a great night. Maybe when we return from vacation we can do it again, because if I’m being completely honest, I’m already in the mood for more cheese dip.

Accused of Animal Abuse

I would never physically harm my dogs. I feel like that’s a weird thing for me to have to clarify, but evidently it’s imperative that I do so, because yesterday, someone who was practically a complete stranger, looked down at Mocha, my three pound chihuahua, and asked “what have they done to you?” and “are they hurting you?” in a very excusatory tone. This lady couldn’t comprehend why our dog didn’t want anything to do with a stranger approaching her and yelling “look at the baby!” If you were a dog in that situation, would you not feel uncomfortable and not willing to jump happily up in the arms of this lunatic reaching out to grab you? I realize there are dogs that are very friendly and playful, and I love those dogs, because, well, I’m human, but Mocha is not one of them. Shortly after she was born, her mom tried to eat her, but was heroically saved by my wife, so yeah, that is where Mocha’s inner fear comes from, and although I’m afraid of many things now, I can’t imagine how terrified of a person I’d be if my mom had tried to make a meal of me.

This woman who happens to live in the same apartment complex that I do, knows none of this, but still she likes to act like it’s our fault that mocha is the way she is. Inside our apartment she is much more comfortable than she’s ever been around me, following me around and licking my ankles, but once she crosses the threshold to the scary world, she becomes traumatized of what might happen, often deciding to lie down on the ground rather than continuing to walk. Without asking this woman picked Mocha up and started asking questions about the “baby.” My wife told her that she is actually six years old, and the woman’s jaw dropped before asking the dog whether or not we were feeding her. Mocha didn’t respond but the woman’s assumption was pretty apparent, and then she asked how long we thought until she would die. I’m constantly saying things that I wish I’d thought more about before verbalizing them, but never have I ever asked someone when I thought their pet would die. That’s a morbid question which I can only assume is asked by someone possessed by some evil spirit, which is now what I assume our neighbor is.

My point is this; I know I joke a lot about the dogs when they are in my blogs, and sometimes they can be a bit of a nuisance, but I would never do anything to hurt the dogs, because the truth is that I kind of like having someone who will follow me around the house, or jump up and peek over the side of the bed where I’m lying down and reading. If I had my pick of any dog in the world, these two loudmouthed chihuahuas would not have been at the top of my list, but now that they’re here and part of my crazy household, it would probably seem weird if they weren’t around.

Amerigo: An Italian Father’s Day Dinner

IMG_3703Well today is father’s day and I didn’t see my dad at all, but before you go casting stones at the ungrateful son, let me clarify that I did take him to dinner last night as our way of celebration. Why didn’t I take my dad to dinner on the actual father’s day? He had planned to take his father out to dinner that night, and there are only so many meals to go around, so I told my dad to pick wherever he wanted to go and my wife and I would meet him for dinner the night before. We settled on Amerigo, one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Memphis, and said we would meet him there at seven. I showed up right at seven o’clock, my wife left behind at home with her sore back not feeling up to dining out, and my dad was already there for standing in the dimly lit waiting area. We told the hostess I had arrived, and like a celebrity seated immediately upon arrival, we were ushered directly to our seats without a wait.

We quickly looked over the menu, deciding what we wanted before the waiter even arrived to introduce himself and take the drink orders, so by the time he showed up, we were prepared. My dad got the goat cheese and walnut salad with smoked salmon, while I got the goat cheese penne pasta with grilled shrimp. We talked for a little while, the only interruption being the loud family at the table behind us who had taken it upon themselves to do some sort of happy birthday chant, paired with rhythmic clapping that echoed against the walls throughout the restaurant, completely unprovoked by an employee, the first time I can ever remember seeing this take place. It was annoying but over soon enough, and before long the food arrived. The first thing I thought as I looked down at the plate before me was “that looks like a lot of tomatoes”, and it really was. With each bite of pasta I tried to get one or two tomato pieces on the fork with it so that I wouldn’t be left with an excess of tomato scraps at the end of the meal, but that is exactly what ended up happening, about a third of my plate completely covered once everything else was eaten.

The pasta itself was pretty bland, which would account for the excess tomatoes and goat cheese trying to hide that obvious and glaring flaw. The star of the dish were the grilled shrimp, four perfectly cooked and seasoned crustaceans at the corners of my plate. I cut each of them up into little pieces, trying to get as many bites with a piece of shrimp as possible, but I certainly would have opted for more. The service was fantastic, my water glass never less than half full before the waiter would arrive with a refill, and it was a nice dinner with my dad, despite my food being altogether disappointing. The important thing about last night was taking time to appreciate and honor my wonderful father, and everything else, including the food, didn’t really matter all that much.

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The Lease Renewal

IMG_3693My wife and I renewed our apartment lease today. Now before you start breaking out the champagne and confetti poppers, let me be perfectly clear in assuring you that this is no cause for celebration. I’ve come to realize over the course of my life that I’m possibly one of the laziest people in the world, and it is for that reason that we signed on the dotted line this afternoon, opting to spend another year in this apartment rather than go through the hassle of moving. In the town we moved to a year ago, there are several different areas that I would prefer to live in over where we do now, and it wouldn’t be much of a price difference if there was any at all, so money really wasn’t a deciding factor. We would however have to spend a day lugging furniture down the stairs of our second story apartment, then subsequently taking them back up stairs at our new place, and for us, that was the deal breaker. Maybe over the next year we can psyche ourselves up to the challenge by the time our new lease expires, but until then, we’re stuck here.

This is the place that told us, the day we sat down to sign our lease, after days spent dreaming of grilling burgers and steaks on our balcony in the summer, that grills were now prohibited in the apartment complex, because a resident set fire to one of the units. People ruin everything. This is the place that left a letter outside my door, fining me for the Grizzlies flag I had hanging off of my balcony, citing the section in my lease that prohibits debris from being left outside. We’ve had animals scratching inside our walls for as long as I can remember, and recently heard them beneath our bathtub, which the management company assured us that we’re not the only residents who have complained about it, as if that was supposed to make me feel better about the whole ordeal.

The day we moved in last July we noted all of the deficiencies in our apartment, and gave a detailed list of what needed to be fixed, the whole in the closet ceiling and the electrical outlets not working, among other things, that still have not been taken care of. Our water has been turned off on numerous occasions, oftentimes without warning, which happens to be really inconvenient when you need to take a shower before work, but we signed up for another year of this madness any way. I suppose there are some good aspects about the apartment, the close proximity to the park, and the trash seems to be picked up on a regular basis unlike the apartment complex across the street whose dumpsters are overflowing with trash all over the ground every time that we drive by, but as I sit here in my bedroom writing, burning up because the vents in our room aren’t working, I’m finding it a little difficult to be positive. Maybe things will get better, or perhaps they won’t. Only time will tell.

Family Trip to the Ballpark

IMG_3679My brothers came to Memphis for a quick visit today, and with them they brought three of my cousins, Andrew, Easton, and Zeke, the third of which is going off to start school at Westpoint next month and I won’t be able to see him for a while, so I was glad they came. We met for lunch at Central Barbecue, one of my favorite places in town, and me and my brother Logan got the pulled pork sandwich, the rest of the group got the barbecue nachos, something that I myself, should have done. In all the times I’ve been to Central, I’ve either gotten the nachos or ribs and it has always been spectacular, but being who I am, in my ever infinite quest to find out if there is something better, I stray from the things that made me grow to love the restaurant in the first place, and more often than not, it’s a mistake. The sandwich I had wasn’t terrible by any means, but it just didn’t live up to the nachos or the ribs, and I’m fairly convinced that nothing ever will. We left Central and headed downtown to go watch the Redbirds, who is the Triple A minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, play a game this afternoon.

We left my car at the Bass Pro Pyramid, and I rode with the rest of the family to the game, figuring taking one car would be a wise choice so we’d only have to pay for parking one car. I’m very aware that given the right effort and determination, one can generally find a free parking spot downtown, especially on a Sunday afternoon, but for all the things I do well, I’m not at all savvy when it comes to finding a parking spot, always paranoid that I’m going to return a few hours later to find that my car had been towed and I would have to pay an outrageous fee that I would struggle to afford, so I opt to pay a few dollars up front for a secured parking space, with some assurance of my car being there when I return for it. We spent a good ten minutes trying to usher my mom’s bulbous car, that my brother had borrowed for the extra seats, into the tight fitting space of the parking garage. I stood in front offering little help but to hold up my hand when he was about to hit either the concrete side of the garage or the blue sports car on the other side. When he eventually put the car in park and turned off the ignition, it was quickly apparent that he would not be able to exit the car in a normal fashion, through the drivers side door, but rather had to climb out of the trunk like a raccoon out of a dumpster, and it was pretty funny to watch.

We bought our tickets, which were really good seats, right behind home plate, my brother’s reasoning being that he wanted to be able to tell if the pitches were balls or strikes, like there weren’t professional umpires calling out that information after every pitch anyway. The seats were good, but the stadium had more empty seats than not, and we realized that we could have bought the cheapest tickets and sit anywhere that we pleased. Live and learn. The ballpark was beautiful, as was the day, albeit a little bit hot, the temperature topping off at a swelteringly ninety-one degrees, but for most of the game we were in the shade of the stadium and a gentle breeze occasionally came through the stadium, refreshing us all over again. It was a fun and action packed game with quite a few runs scored, and we even got to see one of the Cardinals players, Randal Grichuk, who had been sent down to work on his swing, play, so that was pretty cool. Overall it was a really fun day spent with family, and I’m absolutely convinced that there’s no better way to spend a summer Sunday afternoon than at the ballpark.

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Mulan Asian Bistro: Dinner with Dad

IMG_3655Last night after work, eager to catch up with my dad after returning from his trip to Denmark, we went to dinner at Mulan Asian Bistro in Memphis, the former burger place, that was formerly Dan McGuiness, an Irish style pub whose club sandwich I miss very much. We arrived about seven thirty, and it immediately struck me as odd that this restaurant was so empty on a Friday evening, perhaps a bad sign, but nevertheless we were led to our table and seated right away. The waiter brought over the menu, that was very large and contained sections of food from several Asian countries, reminding me of the Seinfeld episode where Babu Bhatt opens up the dream cafe that features a myriad of different cuisines from around the world. We looked through the menu for a while, and decided to order a few appetizers to share rather than picking a single dish, thus allowing us to try several different options to get a general feel of whether we liked this restaurant or not.

While we waited for the food to arrive, I scrolled through pictures my dad had taken on his two week vacation, as he told me all about his trip, mostly spent in Copenhagen, while venturing further into Denmark on several occasions to check out some art museums that sounded absolutely fascinating. The food arrived, teriyaki chicken skewers, vietnamese spring rolls, fried shrimp, and crab and cream cheese wontons, the table now full of delicious food for us to try. As we ate, we talked more about the trip, and how the only downside was the food in Denmark, which sounded pretty terrible, a complete contrast from the meal we were enjoying. As someone who can’t stand mayonnaise, my dad quickly found that Danish food was not something he particularly enjoyed, as they tended to put mayonnaise on everything, including pizza, which sounds positively revolting.

Our meal was delicious, the teriyaki chicken being the standout performer of the evening, perfectly cooked and tender, full of great flavor, however the vietnamese spring rolls were something both of us could have gone without, a cold wrap of lettuce, white noodles, and shrimp, that fell apart and littered the plate after the first bite. Perhaps there are people out there, healthier than I, that enjoy a mouthful of assorted greens with each bite, but I’m the type of person who would have preferred a better ratio of shrimp to lettuce. The fried shrimp was okay, as it’s a hard dish to mess up, but it was pretty bland and didn’t have the explosion of fresh flavors I’d come to expect in shrimp in my years of dining in Orange Beach, off the Gulf of Mexico. The crab and cream cheese wontons were delicious, and the sweet sauce provided a nice contrast to the savory flavors of the filling. Overall the meal was good and I would definitely return to Mulan to eat again, next time staying far away from the vietnamese spring rolls.

Trapped in the Drive Thru: BBQ Edition

IMG_3635Last night I was craving barbecue, and once a craving hits it’s irresponsible not to indulge in it, so I began thinking about what exactly I wanted to eat, and where to order it from. I haven’t had ribs in a while, in fact I’m not even sure that I’ve had ribs this year, which is complete blasphemy and entirely unacceptable, so that is what I was going to eat. My mouth was already watering. I really like Corky’s dry rub barbecue ribs, so I asked Siri to find me the phone number for the location nearest me, and after several failed attempts, the idiot inside my phone found the information I was looking for and asked me if I wanted her to dial it, which is pretty absurd to me. Why on earth would anyone ask for a phone number if they had no intention of calling it? Are there people out there that look up random phone numbers for fun? I called her an idiot and hit the call button myself, tired of her antics for the day.

After seven rings and no answer, it was becoming pretty apparent that I wasn’t going to be calling in my order to Corky’s, and had to decide whether to show up and order there, which held the potential for a long wait situation, or go somewhere else for dinner. I went with the latter. I don’t love Tops, a barbecue restaurant here in town, but it’s decent, and even better is the fact that it’s just right down the street from where I live, so I went there, all intentions of eating ribs for dinner diminished. I’ve had the ribs from Tops once and they were very disappointing, so as I pulled into the parking lot I decide I would get the barbecue nachos, something I’d seen advertised on the sign for a while but had not yet tried. At this point it had started to rain so rather than go in, I opted for the simpler option of drive-thru ordering, and took my place in line behind a few other cars, a mistake I quickly came to regret.

I’ve had to wait in line in the drive thru at barbecue joints before, but last night took so much longer than I could have ever anticipated. I was in line for so long that I legitimately thought I might run out of gas. Why not leave the line and just go inside to order the food? That’s an excellent question, one I thought of myself right before another car pulled up behind me, trapping me in the drive thru. In the midst of my predicament I came up with a solution to solve the barbecue drive thru waiting crises that is plaguing the nation; call ahead and place the order and use the drive thru for pick up only. If you arrive before your food is ready you have to drive around and get back in line, eliminating the long waits while other people wait for their party platters to be ready. Once all was said in done I’d waited in line for over half an hour before pulling away from Tops with my barbecue nachos, that smelled delicious on the short ride home. I was prepared for the worst, thinking that the nachos would disappoint me because my night just seemed to be full of unpleasant situations, but I’m pleased to say, that they were absolutely delicious. From the pulled pork to the cheese sauce, everything tasted great and was still piping hot when I ate it at home, almost forty-five minutes after ordering. I still prefer Central BBQ for barbecue nachos, but it’s nice to know I have a place so close to my apartment that has an adequate substitute should the craving hit me unexpectedly in the future.

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