Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

by Nick
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Published on: October 3, 2013

I get excited when I hear of a new burger place.  I was surprised to hear about a new place, a chain no less that has been open for quite some time and is just down the way.  I guess I don’t get out as much as I used to, but I checked out the menu and decided, oh hell, I have to try this place.  Not only do I love burgers, but frozen custard?  The only reason I didn’t go that night is because I had a huge lunch with friends that day and couldn’t bring myself to go out to eat again on the same day.

So three days I got my chance and went to Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.

FreddysRestaurant1 

Located on Paseo Del Norte and San Pedro, it’s a little out of the way, but for a lot of people, It’s on the commute home.  The place was packed when we got there and it was quite noisy.  I’m not sure what it is about places doing nothing to reduce ambient noise in their restaurants but this place certainly suffers.  With the relatively small dining area compared to the size of the place and about 2 dozen people behind the counter, it’s difficult to have a conversation with anyone, including the cashier, unless you feel like snuggling up and whisper sweet somethings in their ear.  Though you may not want to whisper, or perhaps just sit outside.

Custard1The first thing I noticed when standing at the counter was the totally awesome frozen custard machine. Long ribbons of frozen goodness dumping out of a machine in a long flowing strand.  How can you NOT order custard at this point?  Well played Freddy’s, we’ll played. 

On the topic of custards, they have two kinds, a sunday and a “concrete”.  The concrete looks similar to a shake, they take the custard and all the toppings and blend it up.  It’s not.  Their description is apt in that no amount of sucking through a straw will ever provide anything but frustration and a crushed straw, but I’ll get to that more in a minute.

TurtleSunday_edited-2

If you go, you have to get a frozen custard.  The ice cream is so smooth and creamy and the portions are larger than you’d expect.  I couldn’t finish mine and neither did my friend.  I got the concrete, which turns out to mean, everything blended into a smooth emulsion so there are no identifiable flavors.  Next time I’ll try the sunday.  My friend had the Classic turtle sunday and it looked awesome.  He gave the thumbs up.

This is a burger place, so of course I had to get a burger.  Of course no burger is complete without bacon, so I got the bacon double with green chile, mayo, mustard and ketchup.  I have to make a sad face here Sad smile as you actually have to pay extra for lettuce and tomato.  You can get all the sauerkraut you want, but if you want a single slice of tomato, it’s going to cost you.  Not cool.

Whenever you look at a picture from a fast food place, you see the perfect example of handcrafted, meticulous, exquisite, delight.  A photo of the item they brought to the very first investor and said, "Here, a feast for your eyes, a feast for your stomach.  The perfect balance, served in a plastic basket, something to inspire people to stand in line for hours just for one bite."

Bacon-Cheese-Double1This is one of the few cases where the picture is right.  The meat may be shifted slightly to one side, or not all condiments showing squeezing out from the edge with surgical precision, but it’s close.  The meat looks the same, the bun looks even better as it’s slightly toasted on the griddle. 

The burger is soft, very soft, almost like you are eating meat marshmallow.  Ok that sounds gross, but believe me, this isn’t.  The burger doesn’t give you this satisfying chew, but the taste is really good.  Well seasoned, I really like the smashed burger way of cooking and this one delivers. It is a very very thin patty, if that isn’t your thing, then don’t bother.   Is it the best burger in the world?  Of course not, but this is a fast food place and it is one of the better fast food burgers I’ve had.  I’m actually craving another one and will likely be going back sometime within the week, maybe today. 

As much as I am a fan of burgers, part of that is they usually come with fries.  I love fries of all kinds, thick, thin, screwy, covered in cheese, plain, you name it, I love it.  These are shoestring fries, which you can’t really get anywhere else in town.  They are crispy and salty and as much as I want to try their onion rings, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go and not get the fries.  The only downside is they get cold fast.  By the time I sat down, the fries were at best lukewarm. This didn’t actually bother me all that much though.  Normally when fries get cold, they get soggy and limp.  These stayed crispy and tasty through the very last scrap.  And of course they had fry sauce, which is basically mayo and ketchup mixed, which is pretty awesome.

Chile-FriesI also, of course, had to try their chili cheese fries.  I ordered a side, but what I got was a meal all on it’s own.  They use a cheese sauce instead of the traditional melted cheddar so you end up with a big pile of goo on top of a big pile of goo sitting on top of a bunch of crispy fries, which after sitting there for a few minutes turn into a big pile of goo…er…mush.  This goo covered mush isn’t bad, but I’ve had better.  Given the choice between a giant mess of mushy gooiness and the crisp salty fries ready for dipping, I’m going to have to choose the plain fries every time.

All in all, this is a fast food place.  Even though it has “steak” in the name, this isn’t a place to bring a prom date, unless she/he really likes burgers, then why not, go for it. 

I don’t’ eat at places like McD’s or BK, not because I have anything against them philosophically, I just don’t like their food.  This place I would gladly eat at again.  It satisfies a craving.  If you are only going to go out to eat once a month, you may want to save your special occasion for a slightly more upscale local, but if you like burgers and tired of the same ole same ole, then this is definitely worth the trip. 

 

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First garden

by Nick
Categories: Garden
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Published on: March 23, 2013

I’ve started working on my garden and I have to say, it’s an ambitious plan. I have planted 4 fruit trees and have 2 more to go, 5 berry bushes and have at least 3 more to go (up to 8 if the other 5 survive), and several dozen plant starts.  I just started a new round of seed germination as a good bunch of what I originally planted didn’t make it. 

I bought 3 greenhouses from Home Depot and if you are planning on starting from seed, I highly suggest it.  When I started planting seeds, they germinated without any issue.  Then they started getting really really tall and most of them eventually collapsed on themselves.  I think it was a mixture of things, but after doing a little research, I found that they grew really long looking for light.  As soon as I got them into the seed starting greenhouse and put them outside, they stopped growing up and started “bulking up.”  So now the ones that survived how sprouted their first set of “true” leaves and have a strong set of roots and ready for transplanting. 

Home Depot Seed Starting greenhouse   This will hold quite a lot of seed starting trays, so you really only need one and for 25 bucks, it’s definitely worth the investment.  I’m not sure how long they’ll last, but even if it only lasts a season (which I think it was last several if I take care of it) it will be worth it.  Buying plants from starters is a lot more expensive than buying seeds.  I want to try a LOT of different plants, so I’m not going to find everything I want as a starter anyway.  I may end up getting some kind of grow light setup, but I think instead of that, I’ll just setup a full size greenhouse and do my starts in there. 

I’ll be doing a video soon, but trying to figure out my camera setup so that I get you guys a high quality video.  Let me know what you are growing and how you start your garden!

New Direction

by Nick
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Published on: March 6, 2013

When I originally was coming up with ideas for a website, I couldn’t  imagine what I could possibly talk about that I could consider myself an expert it.  Then it hit me, food.  I’m a big foodie and I eat out a LOT!  I remember the moment when it hit me too. I had just gone out to a new burger joint, Lumpy’s.  It was so unique and interesting, I hadn’t seen or had anything else like it in Albuquerque.  I have to tell people about this, Eureka!!!!  I really enjoyed writing the reviews, taking pictures and doing what I loved, eating.  But then things got in the way

Last year, about this time I was stressing over buying a new home.  I had spent months looking for a place, I must have seen several dozens of homes and finally picked one.  Well, that one fell through, then I decided on house two, then someone bought that one.  House three, four and five were similar stories.  I finally got to house 6 and was ready to go, put in an offer, just waiting for the bank.  Then another house and finally got in an offer that I felt comfortable with on a house I liked. 

I had several issues with the house, started a new relationship, helped start a new choir, got married, a new job, last year was certainly a year of change.  Why am I telling you this?  Because this site has suffered in my absence.  I have a list of restaurants to review, but It’s been more than a year on most of them and I can’t possible post reviews for places that old.  I don’t go out often enough now to write these reviews anymore so it’s time for a change. 

I’ve come to realize that I had it all wrong.  I’m not a food expert, I have no classical training, I’m just a guy who likes food.  That’s it, that’s what I should be focusing on and that is my new direction. 

With this new house, I’m starting up a new garden.  I am clueless when it comes to gardening, but what I am really good at is diving in head first and exploring the murky depths of whatever project I decide to focus on next.  I’ve done a lot of research already and I’m putting a lot of what I learned into practice.  Does this mean I’m going to have the most beautiful garden in Albuquerque?  Well, yes, of course it does.  Now, I just have to figure out how to get there and I’m going to be doing videos of my journey.  I’ve already got several in the works and my focus is on growing a sustainable garden in Albuquerque.  I want to share with you what I learn and I want you to share with me the things that have worked for you!   What plants grow well in our climate?  What plants need more shade?  What do I need to start growing, do I have to go buy special soil?  All of these things and ton more!  Join me on this journey and let me know how it’s going on the way. 

Supercool

by Nick
Categories: Science
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Published on: March 25, 2012

I made this video a while back when I left a case of water in my trunk overnight.  I get to work and realized I forgot my water bottle, so I just grab one out of the trunk.  When I went to take a drink, there was no water, just a block of ice.  I thought maybe I was going a little crazy, maybe I only THOUGHT it was water.  So I check the rest of the bottles and they are all water, so I grabbed another.  I go to take a drink, the same thing happened. 

I’ve seen this happen with coke before, the sudden drop in pressure from opening the container drops it an extra degree or two, just enough for the crystallization of the ice to occur. Only problem is, water bottles are not pressurized, so how is this happening?

Inside the surface of a water bottle, there are no scratches or faults in the surface, nothing for a seed crystal to catalyze from.  So water can be super cooled, and done at the right rate, made very very cold while still remaining liquid.  This happens in the atmosphere where water droplets cool to below freezing.  You get a nice jumbo-jet flying through that and instant ice all over the wings. 

So as interesting as all that is, here it is for you, not sped up, just my camera and a bottle of water.  Who ever thought watching water freeze could be so interesting?

Mulligan

by Nick
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Published on: October 24, 2011

I started this project on blogspot once upon a time, then moved to WordPress, then moved to a server that I didn’t have to pay a dime for (don’t they always say you get what you pay for?).  So one day I go in and check the site to update a new review and the site is down.  Alright, got to get that fixed, ok, NOW to post a new review.  The site is running SO slowly!  What’s going on?  Fixed, down again, fixed, down again, fixed…..  It’s been down for a while now and there doesn’t appear to be a fix in sight.  This just isn’t working out.  Enter new hosting company and hopefully a much more stable and responsive Foodtasted.com. 

For those of you have previously visited the page, I want to thank you for your patients and your patronage.  This project cost money before, in the cost of food and significant portions of time editing pictures, writing blogs, making sure the site is up.  Now to add another bill to the process, but hey, what people do for the love of food. 

CinematoastI am working on many many reviews as well as updates to the site, but first, I need to fix what’s already here.  The pictures didn’t transfer over, so I need to redo the images.  I know I have a backup somewhere, but at the moment, I think it’s roughly 1000 miles away on a computer that is powered off.  It will likely just have to wait until I get home by next weekend, but soon my precious, soon.  For now, enjoy come Cinema Toast

The Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Brothers – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: November 12, 2010

Chocolate.  Even the word itself fills me with the warm fuzzies of my childhood.  I think that is the reason Halloween is my favorite holiday.  The thought of dressing up in an elaborate costume for the sake of getting gobs and gobs of sweet, delicious and rich chocolate made all those caramels, chews, and sweet tarts extraordinarily disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, when I was a kid, sweets were sweets, but chocolate has always been chocolate.

Years have past, and though my affinity for dressing up on the best day of the years has not changed, my taste in chocolate has.  No longer is it about the sugar rush or the caffeine high, it’s about the flavor, the texture, the aroma.

ChocolateCartel

There used to be a Gelato place in town that had the absolute best gelato I have ever had.  I waited for the place to open, then went there every week to get my fix.  Then it got cold and I stopped going, but as the warmer months approached, I decided it was time for my ritual to start anew.  It was closed.  No warning, no notifications, just a sign on the door saying goodbye.  I was distraught, where in the world was I supposed to get my gelato fix?

SignThat is when I found it, Van Rixel Bros Gelato and Sorbeto.  Or is it The Chocolate Cartel?  I don’t really care, I have to try it.

In the corner of what appears to be a warehouse is a tiny shop, easily missed by the average passerby, including myself.  I have driven by this place a hundred times before and not once did I see the word chocolate OR gelato.

When I entered this unusual location the inside was far different than the outside.  Cases of chocolate, chocolate on the wall, shelves full of the stuff.  I was in heaven.

chocolatesWhat to try first?  Well that was decided very shortly by the owner, or one of Van Rixel Bros anyway.  “Here, try this truffle base, this is what we use in all our truffles.”  It was smooth and creamy, such a simple thing elevated to heights I had not previously known.  Super rich chocolate flavor, not too sweet, not too dark, just intense and smooth.  I had to try as many of them as I could.

With flavors like Vanilla Lavender and Wildflower, I wasn’t sure this was going to be my kind of place after all. Worry not, they also have a dark chocolate, blood orange, cinnamon, smoked chile and Sea Salt Caramel.  Their flavors change regularly, there is always something new to try when I go in.  All of their truffles are beautifully designed and hand crafted.

chocolates2I nearly tried one of each the first time I went and let me just say, they were ALL awesome.  The smoked chile seemed very mild at first, then the heat kicked in.  The Blood Orange had a nice strong citrus flavor without being overpowering, peppermint, butterscotch!  The chocolate has a very crisp bit to it on the outside, but the truffle inside is soft and rich and decadent.

For all you nut lovers out there, you have not been forgotten.  Caramel, Giandujas (nut pastes) and fruits also fill their perfectly tempered chocolate.

A must when getting a box of sweets, is the sea salt caramel.  The salt is like a punch in the mouth, taking all of the chocolate and caramel and turning the flavor knob to 11.  There is just something about that salty/sweet mix that really puts a smile on my face.  Shelf

This store has more than just truffles too.  Toffee, chocolate covered almonds, cocoa powder, drink mixes, even chocolate covered parmesan cheese!  A treat I attempted to get a friend of mine to taste, but he chickened out.  Pfft, some parmesan lover HE is.

I got the cocoa powder too and it’s intensely rich and made some of the best brownies I’ve ever had.  I also used it to make a Cocoa Syrup per Alton Brown, which makes the perfect accompaniment to any bowl of ice cream, or gelato.

Another bit of the chocolate that you can buy is in bar form.  Most of which have a light dusting of toppings like cocoa nips, espresso beans, toffee, puffed rice, salt, and Bacon.

This list and combinations just seem to go on and on.  I will give you one warning though, if you see on a package, the label: El Diabo, that means it’s really stupid hot!  Or maybe I just wasn’t expecting it to be as hot as it was, but you have been warned.  Their chocolate, as with anything in the store is phenomenal.  The perfect snap, the salted chocolates and the cocoa nibs are my favorites, I’m still debating on the bacon.

Barsa

Ok ok ok, so what about the Gelato?  They don’t have a case for the Gelato, it’s all sold pre packaged.  The good thing though, they have a 4 oz pack, as well as Pints and Quarts.

They didn’t have the standard Gelato flavors that I was accustom to.  What they DO have are ever changing.  Chocolate and Sea Salt appear to stay on the menu, but the seasonal changes make for a very tough decision.  I also got the smores and for my girlfriend a Lemoncello.

The Lemoncello was such a tart gelato, it took me by surprise.  With that said, it’s very clean and refreshing.  Like drinking a lemonade, freshly squeezed, on a hot summer day.  The orange was a bit sweeter, but just as refreshing.

Gelatoa

Give me a scoop of smores, chocolate and sea salt and I’m a happy camper.  As with all gelato, the flavors are intense and a little goes a long way.

If you’ve never had gelato, it’s denser than regular ice cream, containing only about 20%-35% air, compared to ice creams which can have up to 50% air.

Each flavor was unique in texture as well as flavor.  The sea salt almost tasted like butterscotch.  The chocolate was rich and  decadent.

The flavors may be closer to ice cream than gelato, but this is definitely gelato at it’s finest.  You can also find the pints at Whole Foods, but I prefer to go to the source as that is the only place you can find the chocolates, at least here in Albuquerque.  There is nothing about this store that I do not like.  The chocolate is amazing, the gelato, the guys running the place.  With an emphasis on quality, you are assured to have a very happy Halloween, though these are treats you will want to keep for yourself.

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Brio Grille Restaurant – Radisson Hotel, Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Categories: Bar, Restaurant Reviews
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Published on: September 27, 2010

Brio2

This weekend my brother’s family, my girlfriend and I went to the Water Park at the Radisson Hotel.  That’s right, a water park INSIDE of a hotel.  We spent several hours in the water, going on slides, the Lazy River, hot tub, pools and of course the FlowRider.  So this review starts, not with food, but with a story.  If you don’t care to read the story, then by all means, skip ahead.  The review will be marked as to where it begins, but I should tell you, this is the story of legend.

FlowriderMy brother and I decided to strut our way on over to the FlowRider and do some body boarding.  What is the FlowRider you ask?  It’s a Surf simulator that pumps 100,000 gallons of water per minute, 30MPH in a 3 inch sheet up a padded hill.   The picture is pull from their website.  Though they do have the flowboards, most of the people use the bodyboard, which is basically a boogie board.

The first thing you notice when walking in the room is the amount of water the thing shoots out the top, it’s intense!  The second thing is how much fun the life guards are having!  They love helping people and they have lots of practice, so they make it look easy.

My nephew went first and he did great, building my confidence in the process.  The lifeguards help you your first time out.  You lay down on the board and they slide you out onto the turbulent water and the fun begins!  Having seen several kids go before me and watched as each of them go flying over the back, I was less nervous about that when it was my turn as I weigh considerably more.  More enough in fact to feel my legs push through the water a few times and stick to the padded surface.

As long as I kept moving though, I had a good time.  swinging back and forth, I got up on me knees and started showing my previous years of experience being pulled behind my dad’s boat all summer on kneeboards, skis, inner tubes, and of course, the boogie board.  the lifeguard jumps out on her board and says, “Ok, now do a barrel roll!”  “Ah what?!”  “Here, watch.”  She proceeds to show me her months of experience and expertly pulls of a barrel roll, making it look as easy as can be.

Ok, so here it goes.  I swing back and forth, to make sure I’m not sticking again and getting ready to show the world my skills.  As I spin over on to my back, I feel this sinking sensation.  The sensation starts not with my heart, but with my pants, shortly followed by my stomach.  The great rush of water had grabbed a hold of my now, loosely fitting shorts and pulled them halfway down my thighs.  In a sequence I still have yet to understand, I managed to finish the roll, still hanging on to the board, pants halfway down my legs and thinking, what do I do if they come off completely?  Maybe the water will shoot me over the top of the rider and I’ll be hidden from view in the great wash as the water sinks back down through the grates at the top into the depths below.

No such luck, my substantial weight of course propels me back down the ramp toward the front, my pants hanging on my sheer force of will.  If I turn, they will come off completely exposing not only by very pale behind to the world, but the rest of which needs not to be seen.  I managed to grab hold of the shorts somehow, and slowly pull them against the great force of water, back to decency.

Ok, I think it’s time I exit this thing.  I pull off to the side, where the rather attractive female lifeguard who was so helpful earlier asks, “Are you ok?”  “Oh yeah, I’m fine, I’m good.”  At this point I was laughing my head off because really, what else are you supposed to do?  I laughed even harder though as I turned around and saw every single guy in line tightening the drawstrings on his shorts, including my brother.

I returned the next day, triumphant in having gone to the store and purchased new shorts, with a drawstring of sufficient tightness.  As I go through the routine, back and forth, up on to the knees and showing off my skill.  I prepare myself for a second attempt.  Will I brave the trick that depants me one day prior?  You bet your ass I will.  Or maybe I’m betting my ass I will.  As I prepared to lay back down and start the roll, the water suddenly stops and propels me toward the bottom.  Maybe the knew I would try again, maybe they decided, “you know, we just can’t risk it.”  I had my fun, time to let another step forward and claim his glory.  Maybe one day I will brave the 3” depths and try my skills again, but for now I sit defeated, having given a full moon to my family and a room full of strangers.

REVIEW TIME:

So after the eventful evening of sliding down slides, floating in the lazy river, losing my pants on the FlowRider, it was time for dinner. My mom not only paid for the rooms so we could go to the water park, but also gave us money for dinner.  Dinner was a given, Brio Grille Restaurant inside the Radisson.  She was told by a good friend that they had the best pizza in Albuquerque.  I’ve got to try it!  I’m a big fan of pizza and in my life I’ve had a LOT of it.  Best pizza in Albuquerque is a bold statement, but I have high hopes.

Brio

They have 2 restaurants.  The first, as you walk into the Radisson is a bar, featuring Karaoke and a pool table.  The second entrance is a restaurant entirely, complete with excellent lighting, and an upscale feel that makes you want to change out of your wet swimsuit and flip flops to have a nice sit down dinner.

I’m slightly confused, it’s a Grill that serves pizza?  Ok, I’ll go with it.  The menu is pretty simple, having given one paper sheet to a table of 8, we all had to fight to take a glance and decide what we wanted.  Pizza, salads, breadsticks.  Well that makes it easy, let’s try them all!

They have a menu on their website, and I’m not sure if that menu has changed or if they have a separate option if you just want pizza.  So out first is the salad

Salad

Before I even have a chance to grab my fork, I’m struck immediately with the thought, “huh, my salad is frozen.”  I glance at my girlfriend’s dish, yep, the telltale signs of frozen lettuce are everywhere.  You can see it, plain as day.  When lettuce freezes, it turns slightly translucent.  My brother and sister-in-law dig in to theirs and retreat with a mouthful of ice.

We tell the server and they apologize profusely and offer new salads.  Mine was only mostly frozen, so I decide to just deal with it, but for the other 3, they brought out new dishes with fresh lettuce.  I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I really want to be nice here and say, oh well they made a mistake and fixed it as soon as they found out, but I’m not going to do it.  I’m going to remain firm here and say when lettuce is frozen it changes appearance.  Any Chef, cook, server, person who eats salad, should be able to grab a handful of the stuff and say, wait a minute, something doesn’t feel right, something doesn’t look right.  Why would you serve poor quality food to your guests, knowing full well that there is something wrong?  I could see it before they had even set my bowl down, why couldn’t someone who get’s paid to prepare food for a living?

PizzaOn to the pizza.  When they set the pizzas down, my first impression was, there is something not right here.  We ordered pepperoni extra cheese, but the cheese seemed to be pulling away from the sauce in the middle. I’ve seen a pizza like this before, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  It looks pretty good, but something just didn’t quite feel right about it.

I grab a couple slices and on first examination, the dough is awfully thick, and a little too even.  The cheese looks like a mix of cheddar and maybe mozzarella, but it was hard to tell.  It’s all about the taste, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, they always say.  This is not the best pizza in Albuquerque.  There is a hint of yeast flavor in the dough, but the texture is very familiar.

It tastes like an over-sized, “self-rising” frozen pizza that you buy at the grocery store, you know the one, “It’s Not Delivery…”  I’m not going to say the pizza is bad, but if held to any standard of pizzeria where you see the guy at the counter tossing the dough in the air, making the ultimate thin and crispy crust, bubbly from a super hot oven with melty cheese and fresh toppings, this would probably be the worst pizza in town.  It’s completely even, doughy and I would be surprised if this didn’t come into the building pre-prepared and frozen. They do bake them in a hot oven, so they get crispy around the edges, but I’m in shock.  The kids loved the pizza, though I still wonder how they can call this extra cheese.

Pizza2

They screwed up my brother’s pizza as well.  Though looking at his, at least the green chile looked good.  He ordered half and half, which they mixed up and put half the toppings on the wrong half.  The sausage look like the frozen pellets you get from any fast food pizzamart.

Breadsticks

Let us not forget about the breadsticks.  Is there something here that they really excel at? No.

These are store bought breadsticks, frozen at some point, dry in the middle, hard on the outside, with crappy pre-shredded parmesan sprinkled over the top.  The “marinara” is more like salsa.  This chunky mess has a bitter tasted that not even the kids liked.  Just try dipping these hardened sticks that at one point used to be something resembling bread and get anything to stick.  The weight of each chunk is enough to drip every bit of “sauce” so all you are left is the clinging water left behind.  These are the worst breadsticks I have ever had.  Olive Garden uses the same type of breadsticks and they make them something you might ask for.  This place, takes the same thing, minus the flavor and makes you want to send them back.

All in all, the food was less than appealing.  The Dr. Pepper was the highlight of the meal for me.  The pizza came in a distant second and I would rather have been slapped in the face than served the rest.  Perhaps they have something else on the menu besides pizza, if you go, try something else.  Let me know how it was.  I would love to find out they actually do something right, but for now, I’d rather buy a bake at home pizza than spend 4 times as much eating the same thing here.

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New Mexico State Fair – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: September 20, 2010

When I was a kid, my mother would take us to the State Fair.  We would marvel over the giant vegetables, trains, animals, performances and of course the food.  We didn’t eat a lot while we were there as it was always over priced and with 3 growing boys, it adds up quick.  We never went on the rides, didn’t even go to the midway, there was no point.  There was however, a lot of art, crafts, people’s heart and soul displayed in a shiny glass case waiting for people to walk by and admire the hard work and dedication they put in to their specific craft.

Midway

It’s been a few years since I have gone to the fair with my mother and a fair few more since I was a kid, but I still love the fair. The sites, the sounds, the crowded streets, it’s all still there, well ALMOST all still there.

Now for anyone who has attended the New Mexico State Fair before (or pretty much any fair anywhere for that matter), it would be obvious why, on a food blog, I am writing about it.  For me, and most of my friends, the fair has become more about food than it is about anything else.  I’m sad to say that for a lot of people, it’s more about the fair.  This year seemed a little more sparse than previous years.  With the fair closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and no more Park N Ride service, it seems I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Well, lets get on with the food. The first think you notice, besides the big rides hovering over you after all, is the food.  You are almost immediately bombarded with the smells and sounds of cooking and it is fantastic.  If they could make a cologne of that smell, I’d buy it.  Then again, that would make me constantly hungry, so it’s probably a good thing.

Mainstreet

What to get?  So many choices?  Do I go with the Mega Corndog? The giant Pretzels?  Curly fries, Barbeque, Corn, something battered and fried?  Pizza, Hamburger, Hot dog?  All the greasy fast food you can possibly think of and more is at your beck and call.  Well as I went with a couple good friends of mine and they already got the Mega Corndog: (Something that I would only order if I were feeding  a very large family… or small country)

Megadog

TurkeyLegI will revert to the one request made of me on my trek to the Fair.  I have to get a turkey leg.   This massive smoky bit of caveman goodness is brought to you by several stands at pretty much any fair around the country.  Reminiscent of Victorian movies displaying the favorite of kings, a giant hunk o meat, slightly dried on the outside requiring a good solid tug from the teeth.  It tastes almost like ham, with the amount of smoky saltiness inside something that is usually lacking in any kind of flavor.  I didn’t finish.  As a matter of fact, with 4 of us there, between the Turkey leg, Mega Corndog, sausage on a stick and a giant order of curly fries, we were stuffed and ended up throwing a bit away.  Sad, but that is the fair for you.  Sausage

 

 

 

 

 

 

CurlyFries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much more food to try, how in the world are we going to get through it all?  For my readers, I do what I have to, but for the moment, we’ll take a short break from food to discuss, the rides.  Every year they have a big ride, something to scare the crap out of any but the most diehard adventure seekers.  This year they had two.  The slingshot, a personal favorite of mine, which I didn’t get a chance to go on this year for the belly full of food review I didn’t feel like tasting a second time.  New this year is Bungee Jumping.  Churro

This 130 ft tower sports a very nice airbag at the bottom, incase something goes wrong.  To the left of the tower?  My hand holding a churro, sadly to say there was no airbag for that in case something went wrong.  Had I known the churro had been sitting in a heater case slowly evacuating any and all excess (and all necessary) moisture as well, I was left in desperate need of something to drink.  Add the fact that it was probably around 90 degrees outside and it’s time to try out one of the dozen and a half lemonade stands around the park.

Tell me this Albuquerque, why is it, in an area as densely populated with refreshing beverage stands as a rock concert is with over aged groupies trying to relive their glory days, is it so hard to find a good and refreshing lemonade?  I tried several and they had about as much to do with lemons as a fried Twinkie has to do with Health food.  Everything is made from a syrup, it’s time to take a different path.

Fortunately, in the sea of oddly shaped bottles, there is another stand with oddly shaped bottles dispensing slushies.  With several different flavors to choose from, you are welcome to pick your combinationSlushy .

I chose grape and strawberry, my gf chose orange.  Both were delicious and cold.  Though it’s also made from a syrup, that is where my expectation is and that is exactly what I got.

The tube of icy goodness gave us time to walk around the fair, see the sites.  The art there is amazing.  Sadly, no one is allowed to take pictures, but if you go to the fair, you really should look at the art.  Several buildings full of crafts, paintings, sculptures, carvings and more will help you pass the time between first and second meal.

Knowing I had to pace myself, it’s time for cotton candy.  There is no finer cotton candy in all the land than at the Dairy Barn on the north end.  An Added bonus, they also have ice cream and cows.

On the way in I had a lovely conversation with a lady who taught me all about the process of making yarn.  She was, in herself a living display.  The tools, different stages of the process and final products all around, she was happy to give an explanation of how you go from a sheep to a sweater and all the steps in between.  It truly was fascinating to hear here get excited about something she had obviously done since she was a kid.  I highly suggest you stop by and say hello and really take in what the fair is all about, the farmers and craftsmen.

Now, on to the cotton candy!….Wait, what does that sign say?

CottonCandy

RetiredLet me give you a closer look….

Devastation, heartache, murderous rebellion!  How could they?  What happened?  Every time I went, for years, they were busy, slammed. Take a ticket and wait for your cotton candy, fresh and slightly warm from the machine.  Piled as high as an elephants eye and oh so light and fluffy.  Panic, desperation, sugar low!!!  It’s a sad year.

They retired.  Let us take a moment of silence and pay our respects….

 

Food is only one of the reasons to go to the fair.  One of my big draws every year is the Blacksmith.  I can stand at the Blacksmith blacksmith stand for hours just watching as they heat metal until it’s red hot, manipulate it with hammers, vices, chisels, pliers and their own two hands into beautiful artwork.  Fire

 

 

 

 

 

Mesmerized by the dancing fire, this is an art form that I am glad some people are keeping alive.

They have beautiful pieces of hand worked metal for sale as well as constant demonstrations of their work and skill.

I asked one of them as I watched him bend and hammer metal into an interesting shape, “What are you making?”

“The most useful tool known to man, a bottle opener with a cork screw.”

 

After testing my friend’s patients to their limits, it was best to get back to the food.  They were all still full from lunch, but for me, I had a review to write.  I needed to eat the food, not for myself, but for you.  As much as I am willing to give of myself, sadly I have to say I didn’t not have a chance to try everything at the fair.  Here are some of the highlights of what I DID get a chance to try though:

Tom Tom Donuts.  Light, crisp, made in a special machine right in front of your eyes.  They do not get any fresher than this.

Donuts

Cheese Fries from the Hand Cut Fries:  Store bought nacho cheese, I’m always happy to partake.  Fresh cut fries, hot, fresh, lightly salted.  Though not as good as I remember from last year, still quite tasty.

Fries

You can’t go to the fair and not get corn.  There are several places around in which you can get your fill, but my favorite, by far is the Cornfield.  Cooked just enough, hot and still had a nice crunch.  Your choice of seasonings from salt to garlic powder to parmesan cheese, you can make any kind of Corn you want.  Whatever you do, eat this last, or bring dental floss, you’ll need it.

 

Corn

A few things I didn’t get to try, but something you should think about while you are there:

CaramelApple

CandiedApples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NutRolls

 

 

 

 

I didn’t get a chance to go down Fry alley, which heads to the Hispanic and Indian Villages.  The food is amazing in these areas.  I always get the fry bread in the Indian Village, but this year, there just wasn’t enough time in the day.  On the way there, along with all the shops, you can get deep fried Twinkies, snickers, Oreos and all sorts of other crazy things you wouldn’t normally want to add calories to.

There are so many things to see at the fair, that even though several exhibits are not as active as they once were, there is always something new to try.  Liquid Nitrogen ice cream for example.  Oh why can’t I have 4 stomachs like a Flowerscow?  Sadly I had to pass.  Go check out the vendors, get some ice cream or checkout the wooden flowers.  See a show, like the guy on the 6 foot high Unicycle that rides around a juggles hatchets and knives, or go bungee jumping, (before lunch please).

Unicycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KettleCorn

 

 

The last thing to get before leaving the fair is Kettle corn.  Never had kettle corn?  It’s a salty and sweet popcorn that is just about the best thing ever.  This year I got a small bag as I always have too much, but it’s well worth it.

The fair is a good time, even if the only cotton candy they have are in little bags, pre-smashed for your annoyance.  Drink lots of water, wear a lot of sunscreen and get your cotton candy inside the Exhibit Center along with your candied apples. Go and see what New Mexico has to offer,  I mean, how often is it you get to see a 325 lbs pumpkin?

Pumpkins


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Which Wich – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: August 23, 2010

I have never come across a more aptly named place than Which Wich.  I highly suggest, the day before you go, check out their menu, figure out what you want to have because the selection process takes a while.  With over 50 Sandwiches to choose from, it’s tough to decide.

P1010266

My friend Marcus invited me to dinner one night, and of course begins the debate, where to go?  Hey, have you ever been to Which Wich he asks?  No, what do they have?…Oh, right.  And thus begins my journey downtown to try a new chain restaurant.  Not really feeling like driving halfway across town just for a sandwich, of course I grab my camera and decide, we’ll give it a go.

Menu1

The conversation was a tad more extensive and involved some rather long winded convincing of my girlfriend, but eventually we get there and the ordering process begins.  This is not your standard menu, you don’t walk up to a counter and say, “I want a number 6 with Dr Pepper.”

BagThere are 10 categories to chose from.  With everyting from Turkey to beef, Vegetarian to Seafood, Classics which include BLT, Club and Gyro, Italian includes Meatball and Muffuletta, the options are quite daunting.  Within each of the 10 categories are 5 sandwiches, and then a special of the week.

For me, the choice was easy, I’ll have the Chicken Parma, no wait, the Club, or maybe the Bac-Hammon (Bacon and Ham), the Beef Cheesesteak!!!  Oh no, I see what I’m having, the French Dip.  How could pass up the Ultimate Beefy goodness?  The sandwich I got at every restaurant when I was in high school, the sandwich my friends would order for me before I even showed up?  That is what I will have.

So to place an order, you grab a bag. Menu2

Not just any bag, they are numbered. Choose your bag carefully, then it’s time to choose your options.  You pick your sandwich type from the category, the type of break, cheese and then toppings.  If your sandwich sucks, you have no one to blame but yourself!  My girlfriend made the mistake of ordering the BLT, but didn’t check the boxes for Lettuce or Tomato, so what did she get?  A loaf of bread full of bacon and a bit of melty cheese.  An order which they quickly remedied by explaining we assumed the L and T would be included, given the name.

French DipThey give you what you want, so make sure to order it, even if you would assume it should be included.  I notice, out of the corner of my eye, Milkshakes.  What goes better with a sandwich than a milkshake?  So we sit and wait impatiently for our order.  My name is called, and out comes, in the bag you wrote your order on:

French Dip on Wheat, crispy onions with pepper jack, salt pepper and garlic oil. A cup of the Au Jus and a bag of their house made salt and pepper chips, it looks promising.  And I was not disappointed.  The bread was fresh, soft in the middle, but crisp all the way around.  The Au Jus wasn’t even enough to completely soggy up this bread.  Such flavor I have not had, almost too much flavor actually.  A little heavy on the salt, but I was ok with that.  There is something to be said about a well made sandwich, you just can’t beat it.

Gyro

My girlfriend got the Gyro and she was pleasantly surprised.  A place like this which specializes in all different kinds of sandwiches, you’d expect that have a few that fall short.  I have not tried them all, not even close.  As a matter of fact, I have only tried a few sandwiches and they have all been excellent.

As good as the sandwiches are though, they also have milkshakes.  I am a huge fan of chocolate, but when it comes to ice cream, give me vanilla.  I don’t know where they get their ice cream, but give me a bucket of it!  That’s some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.  So good in fact that every time I go, I take my camera with me.  Every time I get my camera out to take a picture, all that is left is an empty cup.

The last time I went, I had a vanilla malt and it was stupendous!  I took my family to this place for Father’s day and am happy to report that everyone thoroughly enjoyed their sandwiches and shakes.  The best part, they have a buy 10 get one free deal, so I filled that card up quite rapidly and had a free sandwich waiting on my next trip.

With it’s variety of options, nearly endless combination of selections, this place has hit very high on my top places to go for a sandwich.  The prices are reasonable and all the sandwiches cost the same, the portions are perfect, not overly huge, but certainly not skimpy.  With the option to get pretty much any sandwich you want, made any way you want it, this place is definitely worth the obscene half hour of driving around trying to find a parking place down by UNM.

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Something new

by Nick
Categories: Uncategorized
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Published on: August 15, 2010

Any of my friend’s (and my mom) would tell you, I am a picky eater.  Which is actually one of the reasons I started this site as well.  I figure, how can I review places when there is so many things out there that I am currently unwilling to try?  Which brings the question, why should you trust me to review a place if I refuse to eat half of what is on their menu?  Well the answer will come in two parts. 

First of all, I am pushing myself to try new things.  The more I find out about food, the more fascinated I get and the more I want to try.  If humans have been eating these things for hundreds of years and seem to be doing alright for themselves, why can’t I?  There is a certain level of difficulty in getting over prejudices when it comes to trying new things and I am sure there are many things that I will probably just never try.  Snails, really?  Be honest with yourself, there are things out there that you will never try as well, unless you are a REALLY adventurous eater, in which case send me an email, I would love to add your point of view to my blog. 

HotandSourThis weekend for instance, my girlfriend wanted to go to a new Chinese food place.  I had read a little  about them and they supposedly had a really good hot and sour soup.  I will write a review on the place soon, but for now I want to focus on my dedication to the food experience.  A year ago, heck even a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have touched the stuff, not really my kind of thing.  But why not?  What was in it that was so bad?  All mental, so I tried it and much to my surprise, given there were several elements within the soup I normally would have avoided, I tried it all.  On top of that, I enjoyed it.  So here is to trying new things. 

Like I mentioned a second ago, there are things that I will just not eat, I know that.  As much as I hate to admit it, eggs, I just can’t do it.  I’ve tried, several times.  I even tried the egg drop soup this weekend.  I could appreciate it for what it was, even if I didn’t really enjoy the soup myself.  With that said, it’s not just my opinion anymore.  I have a lot of friends who enjoy food just as much as I do.  I have begun enlisting their help in my reviews for those things that I am not as familiar with.  I want to make sure to find people who are on the same level as I am, so that I’m not bringing in opinions that are contradictory to what I feel.

In the end, part of the experience is trying something new and that is what I intend to do.  Move out of my comfort zone, experience the world in food. 

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