Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Farm Rich breaded cheese sticks

Somebody told me Farm Rich mozzarella breaded cheese sticks were good—somebody lied.  Now, I don’t know about you all (especially the guy in the “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt with an arrow pointing towards his general crotch area) but when I bite into a cheese stick, I want it to equal the combined awesomeness of Captain America’s shield and Thor’s mighty hammer.  Do you comprehend?

What does Farm Rich mean, anyhow?  Are we talking about a rich farm, and if so, my studies in Anthropology would have me believe that’d be referring to the quality of the soil on said farm.  Anyway, I digress, as now I can’t shake the mental image of some farmer tickling cattle with my breaded sticks of cheese.

Here you get a view of the sticks in my oven right as I put them in for cooking purposes.  It’s pretty self explanatory, really; but don’t ask about what other things I’ve breaded and baked in there.  My culinary adventures are best kept secret, at this time, for all of our collective sake.

This picture actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Farm Rich cheese sticks.  Amanda just happened to be cooking while I was working on this review, too, and this image enticed me enough on aesthetic value alone to warrant its inclusion.

This is the famed marinara dipping sauce, a true selling point for the Farm Rich brand, as most of its competitors didn’t include sauce with their sticks.  After peeling off the foil lid, I popped this bad boy into the microwave, and let the magic happen.

The finished product!  You’ll notice that one of the cheese sticks came out looking strangely like a narrow Santa Claus figurine—I’m still trying to figure that out for myself, in all honesty.  Judging from the picture, you’d probably guess these things were pretty damn delicious, but boy, would you ever be erroneous!  Don’t get me wrong, these things weren’t appalling; the texture, however, was kind of dry, and the overall taste was lacking a lot in the flavor department.  I’d rather gnaw on Silver Surfer’s galaxy traversing surfboard than eat Farm Rich’s breaded cheese sticks.

Overall Grade: C- 

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Parkway Pancake House (Pigeon Forge, TN)

I first visited Parkway Pancake House in November of 2004.  Looking at the image above, centering on the building’s visage, you may wander what auspicious things hide behind this humble exterior.  Breaking away from the comedic tone of the last dozen or so articles, I’m going back to my roots with a substantial restaurant review.

First though, a little background information on Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and on my trip in general.  As a child, my family took one of our only vacations to Gatlinburg.  It’s a relatively tiny tourist town, sat amongst the Great Smokey Mountains.  There’s shops galore, schilling everything from candy and shirts, to swords and hot sauce.  Pigeon Forge is its neighbor town, it’s a lot more spaced out, with dozens of gaudy arcades and miniature theme parks, as well as ice creameries, go-kart tracks, and miniature golf galore.  It’s a nice weekend getaway spot, frequented predominantly by families and the elderly.  Since my family trip as a kid, I’ve gone back a couple times with friends, and just recently, Amanda and I escaped school and work, and ventured out there.  Over the next couple months, I’m going to be posting a handful of restaurant reviews from the places we ate at during our trip.  Let’s begin, shall we?

On our far left, is the restaurant’s interior.  Comfort is key here, with the rich wood paneling, fireplace, and smug lighting.  It truly feels like you’re eating inside a wealthy Southern estate.  For our beverages, Amanda went with coffee, while I opted for orange juice.  The next picture has a bit of glare in it, but I wanted to capture the view we had from our booth of outside.  It was extremely early in the morning; notice the heavy layer of fog in the background.

It’s time to eat!  The first time I ate here  in 2004 with my friends Nick and Jessie I went with a more traditional breakfast of eggs, sausage, etc.  However, given the name of the place, we felt it necessary to order pancakes.  The menu hosted at least 20 varieties of pancakes, the majority of which I’d never seen available anywhere else.  Amanda got the strawberry pancakes, which came with humongous succulent strawberries, and the largest serving of whipped cream I’ve ever seen firsthand.  I got the blueberry pancakes, which look humble in comparison but was equally enthralling and tasty.  We had several syrup options, and as my picture (below) suggests, I went with the blueberry syrup, which was divine and the perfect compliment to my choice.

Amanda is all grins while surveying the menu before ordering.  I’m simultaneously relaxed and excited, prepared for pancake pandemonium.  My first trip here, last year, was a pretty chaotic scene.  Needless to say, this place has established a reputation, and his popular with both locals and visitors.  Amanda and I beat the crowds, though, and had the place mostly to us.

Amanda enjoyed her strawberry pancakes immensely, but as the first thing to eat in the morning, found herself unable to finish off the enormous order.  I almost finished off my blueberry pancakes, but couldn’t complete the task.  In closing, this is exactly the type of place you’d want to attend when taking a little trip like ours.  Great for families, friends, or couples; the combination of cozy ambiance and delicious pancakes makes Parkway Pancake House a must for those hungry for a big and hearty breakfast.

Overall Grade: A- 

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Megaman (and his kitchen adventure)

When most people think of old school video game icons, they’re likely to recall Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Pac-Man, etc.  Today, we’re going to give another legend his rightful due, and I’m talking about our favorite boy in blue… Megaman!  Megaman blasted into many of our prepubescent hearts in the 1980’s—since then, his likeliness has given birth to dozens of video game sequels, merchandise galore, several cartoon series’, etc.  In terms of sheer fame alone, there’s not many game goliaths that can rank alongside Megaman; with the obvious exception, of course, being Mario himself, and maybe Sonic the Hedgehog, if you’re silly.

If you’d like to know more about Megaman, and would like to laugh while doing so, the notorious Seanbaby did a feature on Megaman years back—it’s still riotously entertaining.  Today, I’m going to be looking at a specific Megaman item; they released a slew of Megaman toys, depicting several different variations and versions of our hero.  Although there were many available choices, I followed my heart, and choose the original Megaman.  I wanted to open the package right then, in the middle of the mall, and take my new buddy for a pretzel and milkshake, but alas, the unveiling of my new toy took place at home.

Instead of doing your typical review, looking at the toy’s sculpt and articulation, Megaman and I both agreed he deserved something a little better… something a little different.  In his games, in pursuit of stopping the villainous and nefarious evil genius Dr. Wily, Megaman is in a constant state of adventure.  I sent Megaman on a scavenger hunt from my kitchen to roam my apartment, in search of my House Party DVD.  I figured this way, we’d see if he deserved to be modeled after the legit Megaman—let’s see how he did, shall we?

Here, we see Megaman, poised and posed amidst canisters of crushed red peppers and a potentially dangerous electric outlet.  Will he survive this sordid ordeal?

Whoops!  It appears he’s off to a rough start.  After battling through the soapy sink, and making his way through the microwave maze, our blue pal found himself dangling in a very precarious position.  He was mindful not to insult my interior decorating choices, which would have deducted points from his final evaluation.  He’s kicked Gutsman’s butt a dozen times, and continually makes Woodman look like a punk-ass bitch; but the question remains, can he survive?

I’m sorry you have to see him like this, but, alas, while waging war in the frozen confines of the freezer domain Megaman got frostbite and his adventure was put on a permanent hold.  His grave is alongside countless TV dinners, but not too close to the Salisbury steak one—that’s mine.  I said a few kind words at the funeral, read an excerpt from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and then proceeded to close the door on Megaman’s short legacy.

“It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.”

In the end, as a toy I give you mad props, but as an adventurer, you let me down.  Luckily, I found my copy of House Party; it was underneath the futon the entire time--thanks anyway, Megaman!

Overall Grade: B 

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Spaghettio's (w/ Meatballs & Batman fun shapes)

The kind folk at Campbell’s delivered upon us Spaghettio’s and the world’s never been the same; well, at least mine hasn’t.  Everyone enjoys eating spaghetti, I mean; it’s a real blast, right?  But, Spaghettio’s aggressively took the stakes up another notch, and chanced the concept of turning our favorite Italian dish into proverbial playtime.  As a kid, I ate my share of Spaghettio’s, but the sauce was so bland that they never really stuck a major cord with my powerhouse of a palate and I.  So, as an adult, I’ll usually skip over Spaghettio’s; instead, I’ll grab a couple random TV dinners, because they’re just so simple to prepare, and that means more time on the futon watching Scrubs, and less time in the kitchen fussing with stoves and things.

What possessed me to go out of my way and purchase Spaghettio’s?  They signed a deal with the devil, that’s why!  Okay, not the devil exactly, that just sounded cool; they have, however, inked a temporary partnership with DC Comics, or some Warner Bros. subsidiary, giving birth to the greatest team-up since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin dominated courts in Chicago in the mid-90’s… of course, I’m talking about freaking Batman and Spaghettio’s!

What do you do while you’re preparing something in the microwave?  Now, that’d be a study I would be interested in.  For instance, do you just stand there, silently observing the wonder of technology?  Do you do something to occupy the time, like a small dance, or flipping through the newspaper?  As you can see, my microwave hosts a variety of objects on the top of its surface.  We usually discard random restaurant takeout menus there, etc.  I guess it’s my apartment’s temple of trivialities.  Well, there and under my bed, but you don’t want to see what’s underneath that…

Anyway, below we’re going to take a look at the six elusive “fun shapes” Campbell’s sold me on; they didn’t totally disappoint, but they certainly didn’t hit a homerun, either.  These oddly shaped pastas will definitely leave a lasting impression upon me, but I’m not saying that’s an entirely good thing.


Batman – The dark knight himself, cape and cowl, and all of that jazz.  I need to first mention that all of these pasta interpretations of characters are of those from the relatively new animated series The Batman; thus, some of their signature looks are altered from their original counterparts.  This particular Batman and his subsequent suit are much more sleek and slender, and his pasta equivalent is arguably the best of the entire bunch.

Batmobile – In no matter what incarnation that’s done, whether it’s a comic book, motion picture, cartoon, or pasta shape… you’ve got to include the greatest vehicle of all time!  No, I’m not talking about Knight Rider; I’m speaking of the trusty Batmobile, of course.  Batman has always been known for his countless array of gimmicks, weapons, and ridiculously expensive vehicles.  The Batmobile was his magnum opus, his masterwork, so to speak.  Now, it’ll be forever immortalized as a pasta shape.

The Joker – We’re not talking about your daddy’s Joker, in the series The Batman, this new version of the classic villain has wild hair and a penchant for being truly maniacal.  Although to the untrained eye, his pasta counterpart may look a little like comedian Carrot Top, it’s actually a pretty accurate representation of Joker’s macabre visage.

The Penguin – Yes, believe it or not, that is in fact The Penguin himself.  The only clue that’s noticeable enough to call attention onto itself is the signature eyeglass, and perhaps also, the perfunctory hat.  Out of all the comic book characters ever, The Penguin’s real name is near the top of my list of favorites, the nefarious name Oswald Cobblepot just rolls off of my tongue.

Batwave – I honestly have no clue what a Batwave is, so, I can’t really comment on its respective pasta shape.  I tried to do a little research online, but only came upon a bunch of sites unveiling the news of an interactive Batwave toy; so, I’m assuming in the series it’s utilized as some sort of communication device by Batman.  Looks like I’ve got the first item for my Christmas list…

Bane – Last, and certainly not least, is the villain Bane.  Made popular in the comic books for being a huge powerhouse, who went on to break Bruce Wayne’s back, and almost end the career of Batman; in the new cartoon, as a human he was a volunteer for genetic testing, which went awry (of course) and he became a virtually indestructible juggernaut.  Although his pasta shape is one of the more obscure, it’s a personal favorite of mine; although, I’d be awfully hard pressed to come up with a reason why.

For those of you living in a cave the past decade, there’s a picture of what your typical Spaghettio’s look like; also pictured, a delicious meatball, which looks strangely like a dog testicle.  I’ve been working on this article for days, am extremely tired, and have my first day of work at my new job in the morning, so I’m going to wrap it up now.  In conclusion, as you can see from the final image, it isn’t a complete meal, nor tastes particularly pleasant.  But, it isn’t often you get an opportunity to tell your friends you spent your Friday night eating the Batmobile, is it?

Overall Grade: B-