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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Last Burger on Earth

IMG_3587About two weeks ago, in my never-ending search for the best burger in Memphis, my brother-in-law went to lunch at a midtown burger joint, that I’d been wanting to try for a while. I know I recently claimed that the Hickory Burger at Houston’s was the best burger I’ve ever had, and I stand behind that statement, I will continue to search far and wide to see if there is a burger in existence that can topple the Hickory Burger from its throne at the top of the mountain. We pulled into the parking lot behind LBOE, which stands for Last Burger on Earth, and walked into the restaurant about eleven thirty, where we were seated immediately. There was one other party dining there at the time, and they were seated out on the patio, so my first impression of the empty restaurant left me a little nervous, wondering if the food was really that good, given that we made up half of the people eating here. I looked over the menu, which contained a pretty good variety of different kinds of hamburgers, but decided since it was my first time there, I’d go with the burger the restaurant was named for, and told the waitress I wanted the LBOE burger cooked medium.

The waitress was very good and attentive and the food came out pretty quickly, a perk of eating at an almost empty restaurant. The LBOE burger was placed before me on the table, and I can honestly say that it was the largest burger that I’d ever been served before, so I was even more excited than I had been about trying this restaurant in the first place. In between the buns and on top of the gigantic meat patty was havarti cheese, roasted garlic cream cheese, hardwood smoked bacon, green chiles, and corn chips. I picked up the burger and wedged the corner of it into my mouth, which was a challenge in itself, and took a big bite, as cheese covered toppings slid out the back of the bun and into the basket. The burger was overcooked, well done, rather than medium like I’d ordered, which deprived me of all the natural juices that could have made it spectacular.

Honestly I felt that all of the toppings were a little much, a combination of flavors that left my palate somewhat overwhelmed. It undoubtedly would have been better had the burger been cooked correctly, but as it was, I found the much anticipated LBOE burger to be disappointing and it left a lot to be desired. I’m not completely writing off LBOE, in fact I’m pretty eager to go back and try some of the other burgers. I just hope that next time, whoever is in the kitchen actually gives me a medium cooked burger, because I really think that simple distinction of how it’s cooked, can make or break the meal. If you haven’t been to LBOE, I would recommend giving it a try so you can come away with your own conclusions, and if you want fast service without a wait, I’d recommend going on the weekend about eleven thirty. I would love to hear your opinions on what you think of LBOE so tell me in the comments what I can do next time, to make sure that I have a better experience.

The Affects of Watching Burn Notice

Have you ever been walking down one of the frozen food aisles of the grocery store, minding your own business while you browse the selection of frozen waffles, trying to decide whether to get blueberry or chocolate chip, thinking how much better your life would be at the very moment if you’d been to culinary school and knew how to make waffles from scratch and didn’t have to rely on the food packaging experts at Eggo to bring you the delicious breakfast that you so desperately want, nay, deserve? As you look through the foggy glass trying to come to terms with the horrible decisions that have brought you this moment in your life, you see, out of the corner of your eye, a man in a suit slowly approaching you. He’s talking quietly into a cellphone but you get the distinct feeling that he’s talking about you. Soon your suspicions are confirmed as he, standing directly beside you now, reaches into the waistband of his black pants and pulls out a gun. What do you do?

If you haven’t found yourself planning for this scenario or at least being aware of the suspicious looking people around you, then chances are, you probably haven’t watched “Burn Notice.” It’s the story of Michael Westin, a former US spy who got burned, or blacklisted, in the middle of one of his jobs, meaning he couldn’t work as a spy anymore. Throughout the seven seasons of the show, which is available on Netflix and you should go watch immediately, he tries to track down the person who got him burned with the help of his ex-girlfriend, who has a passion for guns and making things explode, and his best friend. Not an episode goes by where they don’t find themselves in a dangerous situation, usually someone trying to kill them forcing them to make an incredible escape. I’ve never been one for action movies, thinking that a lot of them lack the substance to keep me interested, but “Burn Notice” has great plot lines every episode that will have you hooked from the very start, however I have noticed a very strange effect that seems to come from watching the show. In virtually every situation I’m in, I think about what I would do, how I would protect myself if someone were trying to kill me.

In the case of the man in the suit approaching me at the grocery store, I would swing open the freezer door, slamming it into his face, knocking him backwards and catching off guard. By the time he regained his composure and steadied his gun on me I would be rounding the corner of the aisle out of sight, or if he got the shot off quicker than expected, I would still have the open door between him and me, and hopefully that would provide me with some kind of protection. At the movie theater concession stand, if someone tried to grab me from behind, I would aim twist the nozzle in the hot butter towards my face and press the pump, ducking out of the way just in time so that he gets an eyeful of burning hot liquid, stunning him just long enough so I would have time to make my escape. My mind is working like this everywhere I go, so if nothing else, watching “Burn Notice” is guaranteed to bring excitement even to the most mundane activities in your daily life.

Movie Review: The Circle

IMG_3551If you only have twenty-four hours left to live and you want to see one more movie here on this earth, I would highly recommend going to see “The Circle”…if you would like to die a very disappointed person. I considered typing this movie review all in emojis so I could give it the appropriate amount of thumbs down and poop symbols that it deserves. First words are pretty monumental in a person’s life, and upon the movie finishing, my first words were “that was terrible.” That’s really all you need to know about “The Circle” but if you want to continue reading I’ll gladly tell you all about its awfulness. The book by Dave Eggers was one that I really enjoyed, and when I saw the preview for the movie I thought it looked absolutely incredible. I love Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, and they were as good as they could be in such a terrible movie, and even Patton Oswalt played his role well, but some of the other actors cast were absolute train wrecks. The actor who played Mercer (I could easily look up his name, but don’t want to put any extra effort into finding out who this horrible actor is) was painful to watch. Each scene he was in, it felt like he was in the audition reading the lines for the first time, awkwardly stumbling through the dialogue like someone who shouldn’t have been in a high school play, let alone a major motion picture. The one upside about this horribly portrayed character is that (spoiler alert) he eventually dies by driving his truck off a bridge. To be honest if I was such a bad actor, I would probably consider doing the same thing.

There wasn’t much flow to the movie at all and it seemed like it was just a bunch of scenes pieced together in a poor effort to form a movie. “The Circle” had so much potential to be an edge of your seat type of thriller, but the only thrill I got was when the movie ended and I was no longer subjected to this massive waste of time. I literally sat through the movie hoping with every fiber of my being that it would end soon. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this way because as soon as the opening credits started to roll, the theater emptied before the lights even came up. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and was the last person to leave the theater. I haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast yet, but I hope for the sake of Emma Watson it was a much better movie than this one so she can continue to get starring roles, because she really is a good actress. The director really screwed over the respected actors who were in this movie by making it so terrible. I don’t know his name, but I should probably find that out so I don’t make the mistake of seeing another of his movies. On a scale of 1 to 5 I give “The Circle” a 1. Don’t go see the movie…that is unless of course you enjoy torturing yourself.

Room: A Book Review

IMG_3442Over the past couple of months I have strayed away from dedicating an entire blog post to a single book for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, it’s not all that easy to write a complete book review while giving absolutely nothing away. Secondly, I read so much that if I were to do a book review each time I read something new I would theoretically be doing one every week which would I’m not too eager to do, because lastly and perhaps most importantly, very few people seem to care what I think about books, based on the number of link clicks I get for my blogs on the topic. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing what I’ve been reading, but if it’s just not something my readers are interested in, then it makes very little sense to write about books as often as I had been. That being said, I just got through reading a book so good that a blog post hardly does it justice, but it will have to do, because I’m not sure how else to honor its greatness, but I did know that it deserved its own post, rather than being crammed in with a bunch of other books I read for the month, so that’s what this is.

The book is called “Room” and if you’re like me you probably had never heard of it until the movie came out last year, and perhaps maybe you still haven’t, but you are in luck tonight, because by becoming aware of this fantastic novel, you are no longer living in the dark. The story begins for us, on the fifth birthday of Jack, but the real story had been happening long before we meet the young narrator. Told from the perspective of the five year old boy, “Room” is captivating from the very beginning and a book that is truly hard to put down because with each turn of the page you get closer to finding out what happens to Jack and Ma. Some parts are tragic and you feel the pain that Ma feels trapped in her boxed in life with only her son to keep her company each day. The innocence of Jack is so wonderful that sometimes I found myself laughing at his contentment in the horrible situation that he was born into.

I’ve been fortunate to read quite a few good books so far this year, and I’m not sure where “Room” ranks on the list, but it is a very good book that I highly recommend. Overall I give it a 5 out of 5 because of the great story that is full of suspense and also because the voice of the narrator that speaks to the reader through the pages has the ability to inflict his emotions and feelings upon us, and it’s absolutely incredible. It’s a pretty quick read because you won’t want to put it down, so if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you definitely won’t be disappointed if you go pick up a copy of “Room” by Emma Donoghue.

Holey Moley

It’s not like this came as any big surprise to me, sneaking up on me out of the blue. I’ve seen it happening for years now, time after time, but still today when I got home from work and saw it, I couldn’t help but feel a bit upset about it. When I arrived home I do what I normally do and get out of my work clothes as quickly as possible. It’s not that I hate them but I do have my limits on how long I can wear dress clothes without going crazy. My sweater and button down shirt were off by the time I reached the bedroom and my pants followed, shortly after kicking off my shoes. I pulled on some white shorts made out of the same beautiful material as sweat pants and put on my blue polo t-shirt, and let out a deep breath. I could finally relax. I walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and that is when it caught my attention, two small holes on both sides of the pocket on my shirt.

These holes have been forming on every single polo t-shirt that I own with a pocket and they are always in the same place, right above both of the top corners of the pocket. This has been happening for as long as I can remember, but today looking in the mirror it really annoyed me more than usual, and is why I’m calling out Ralph Lauren. If this had just happened to one shirt or even two, I might have written it off as a fluke mistake and thought nothing else of it, but it has happened without exception on every single one, which is very revealing about the quality of clothing at one of the world’s biggest fashion brands. I realize that polo t-shirts aren’t the most expensive in the world, but they do cost more than most of my other t-shirts.

I am of the belief that as a consumer I can pay more for a higher quality item. If I choose to buy something cheap, then I can’t be surprised to find out that it’s made of cheap materials and comes apart easily, but when I choose to spend more on something, I should be able to assume that it will hold up better than other products that cost less. None of my other shirts, not the three pack I bought from Walmart, or the fifteen dollar t-shirt from Dillards, have the visible signs of wear that my polo t-shirts do, and I’ve had some of those other shirts for years longer than I’ve had some of the Polos. I’m not going to boycott Ralph Lauren, because when it comes down to it, I love most of their clothes but the next time I’m in the store and need to buy a t-shirt, I’m almost one hundred percent certain that I won’t be purchasing a polo, at least not one with a pocket anyway.

Movies to Watch

Since going to see “La La Land” in theaters a couple of weeks ago I have been watching quite a few more movies than I normally do. I’ve just been really in the mood to watch movies lately, so in the spirit of being the nice person that I am, I’m going to use today’s blog to let you know what I’ve been watching and also give you some recommendations. If you haven’t seen the movie “Zootopia” then you definitely need to add that to your to-do list, probably near the top right after “feed the kids” but before “take a shower.” It’s an animated film but one that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s actually pretty funny and I found myself laughing out loud at these intriguing cartoon characters. Keeping with the animation theme I then watched “Sausage Party”, and while it was funny, this is not one that should be viewed by the entire family unless everyone in said family is an adult. It’s a great concept about items in a grocery store who dream about being taken to the great beyond (outside the store). They think it’s a magical place but when an item is returned with tales of what he saw, horror ensues in a very hilarious fashion.

When my brothers were here over the weekend we watched a couple of oldies, the first being “Dumb & Dumber.” While I’m sure most of you reading have already seen this one, it is definitely one worth going back and watching again, especially if you, like me, haven’t seen it in a few years. The other older movie we watched was “Uncle Buck”, one my brothers had never seen before, and until a few years ago, neither had I. It’s a John Hughes film, starring John Candy and Macauley Culkin before “Home Alone”. It is very funny and if you haven’t seen it I’d highly recommend it. It’s good for the whole family and features Culkin’s trademark child wit that will have you laughing throughout.

Last night my wife and I rented “War Dogs”, a movie that came out last year. It is a story based on true events about these two guys in Miami that make millions of dollars selling supplies to the military in the Iraqi war. Jonah Hill and his co-star, who’s name I’m forgetting at the moment, are fantastic in their roles and will keep you captivated throughout the entirety of the movie. A lot of films seem to hit dull spots, but this one is interesting and funny all the way through. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend picking it up at Redbox and giving it a try. Although it’s about events that happen during the war, it’s not an action movie and can be enjoyed by all mature audiences. I really do enjoy movies and my hope is that I can have a blog post on the subject every once in awhile keeping you apprised of what I’m watching and what I think you’d enjoy, so be sure to come back next time you’re looking for a good movie to watch and I’ll give you my amateur opinions.