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lastnamstanding

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[29 Apr 2010|07:56am]
7 years later, I still like how you smile when I kiss you while you're asleep.
1 dreamer ›› What dreams may come

Cafe Mix Grill, Mesa AZ [30 Mar 2010|12:55pm]
Some would argue that the Greeks should be revered for their contributions to history, and producing such influential philosophers as Plato and Aristotle. Some would argue the same reverence should be placed upon their helping lay the foundations for democracy, and for the debt we owe to their contribution to the arts as well.

Sparta would come to overtake Athens and leave Athens a forgotten memory for a thousand years. However, in the present and reaching out to the far future, it is Greece that is taking over the world. What weapon you ask do they utilize to overpower us, albeit quite willingly?

It is the Gyro. Doesn't it seem like they are everywhere?

Greek restaurants and I have a relationship akin to one of my neighbor's as a young boy- I couldn't pronounce his name when I first met him, and I was kinda afraid because he was so different and from another country. It would take about 5 years for me to summon the courage to try to be friends, and my first attempt ended in disaster. Grisly dried out bits of alleged lamb in some strip mall in Minnesota. I swore, never again.

Time has a way of healing all wounds however, and my heart would try to open up again. I wanted to be friends again. We found out we had a lot in common! Strong, bold flavoring is how we like to live. We want to live balanced lives, so yea don't throw solely some gamey meat in like that likely-abandoned "restaurant" in MN, put in some onions, tomatoes. And you always have to have your friend that is the life of the party, Tzaziki! He's the kind of friend that no matter how much you hang out, you never want to say no when he wants to hit the town.

Once I became friends with my neighbor, I realized Hey, these people are EVERYWHERE! I have been living in a box. What a wonderful world with so much variety and life!

Little Greek restaurants are popping up all over the country the last decade or so it seems. I have been friends with some and sworn enemies of others. However, I have not forgotten my lesson as a young boy that realized there were more than just Asians and Caucasians in the world- Cafe Mix, will you be my friend too?

Pulling up to Cafe Mix is a relaxing experience. A colorful depiction of a Chicken Greek Salad surrounded by Pita greets you, tempting you right away. Opening the doors, there is a vast ceiling with a very nice beige color, and depictions of Greek culture and art are everywhere. Tasty, Healthy, Food! is blazoned above the cooking area, and you can watch the chef at his work on the grill. It could probably seat about 50 people, but the layout makes you feel like it could fit double that. It is not a sit and order restaurant however, you place your order at the counter, although a helpful young lady approached us and other newcomers streaming in, letting us know how it worked.

As much as I love the Gyro however, I wanted to try out as much as I could. Eying the Mix's Combination, which would net me Lamb gyro, Chicken Gyro-style, Tenderloin Kabob, and Chicken Kabob, I felt that was the broadest way to get acquainted. At 11.99, it included basmati rice, salad, hummus, and pita. Thinking the price was lower at a place I frequent in Phoenix, I inquired if the serving size was enough for me ( I audition for the Before Guy in those Slim-Fast commercials ). I literally overhead the table behind me laugh, and the server smiled with quiet confidence, saying "I'm pretty sure it will be enough." I also ordered a bottomless fountain drink/ ice tea, for 1.75. My girlfriend was less adventurous, opting for the Bacon Cheeseburger adding fries, with the burger being $6.50 and another $2.50 to add fries and a drink.

This confidence came to be well-founded. After getting some green tea and picking our seats, barely a minute passed before I was brought the salad that came with my meal. It was a worthy rendition, with a great balance of Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, onions. Not too much dressing which I approved of, the olives and onions gave it a tart kick, balanced by the cheese. I forgot to take a picture, but the serving size was much larger than most salads thrown in with your entree.

Our entrees arrived, and my Mix Combination looked great, with a faint vapor rising from the freshly grilled meats. I tried the lamb first, and was satisfied, but not that amazed. It had the right flavor, and I wouldn't say it was dry, but, it was approaching it. Then the beef tenderloin- this was nicer, with a nice juicy pinkish center. I would've liked the outside to be almost charred but that is a personal preference, this had more than adequate moisture and definitely a valued member of this meal. The chicken-gyro style was better than the lamb, but still not quite out of this world. Then the chicken kabob came and put all the others to shame. I don't understand how, but it put up plenty of resistance when I cut it with my knife, but it came apart in my mouth. This was the best chicken I've had in my life that was under $10 at a restaurant. Just crazy good. The rice was straightforward, cooked competently. The hummus was colorful, but not as flavorful as some I've had before, and the pita bread was also fine, but was almost a little too hard for dipping in hummus.

Toni's burger was fine, with a hand-molded patty, bun finished on the grill with some butter, bacon nice and crispy. Lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion also packed in, I'd say this burger is about equal to the burgers you could get at Red Robin. The fries were out of this world! Seasoned perfectly, crunchy on the outside and pillowly wonderfulness within, this is about as good as a thinly sliced piece of potato can get.

Sometimes a first impression is so good that you know, then and there, that you are friends for life. Cafe Mix is joining my circle. And so the legacy of Athens claims another victim. And I hope you will join us!
What dreams may come

double check [11 Feb 2010|08:05am]
[ mood | groggy ]

I'm amazed at some of the sentences I wrote while dangerously intoxicated. Unfortunately, pretty much a run from 6pm to 2am non-stop- I think I would write all that sober, except for the prologue. Definitely see all those tangents there. Maybe I will have the protagonist be a special needs kid too... nah that's just dumb. Will just keep writing, and will edit when done.

What dreams may come

First Steps [11 Feb 2010|03:35am]
With all that written, I really don't feel like it can count towards my commitment, and that I want to amend it anyways, and that I want to write as much as possible.

I've had an idea swimming around in my head, which is part fantasy of how to conduct my life, and what I think would be a cute story. The premise is about a person, I haven't decided middle-schooler, high school graduate/dropout, college graduate/dropout, or even car salesman- that wants to open a business to cater to a demand for heroes. It's likely influenced in the vain belief that I have stillborn qualities of the heroic inside, and have allowed them to atrophy. Regardless of the motive, and regardless of the manga-feeling to it, it's something I'm going to pursue until the finish.

"Heroes Inc."

Prologue

It's a cool autumn afternoon, I think it was 1990. I got lost sooooo many times growing up, because all the houses had the same garage and half design, 2 and a half stories, six houses to a cul-de-sac. What's with all those and a halfs? Was two not enough and 3 too many for my neighborhood? Even the Hudsons got caught up in the two and half thing. They had two kids but kept fighting over a third, Mr. Hudson said it would complete the family, and Mrs. Hudson said if he wanted another kid so bad he could spend 9 months miserable and fat. I don't get why that is a big deal, I try to hug him and my hands won't reach, but he never seems sad, he always laughs when I try! I wish he would laugh when Mrs. Hudson tried, he just moves his mouth to make it sorta seem like a smile, but it really looks like he's trying to stay away. Anyways, they got a dog and that was their and a half. I don't get that either, but that's what they decided, so that's what it is.

School is out for everyone, so I want to go to the park. It's a really pretty park, it has a dramatic castle feeling to it. It's in the very center of our neighborhood, but there's no houses near it! It's made out of wood, not that dumb foamy plasticy stuff they have us play on during recess. I counted once, there's 7 platforms, and a pole like a fireman, a really long slide, monkey bars, and a tire swing! Sometimes the woodchips hurt, but when the woodchips hurt it's okay but you can feel like a man cause that's what woodchips do, but when foam hurts you are saying that you're a little girl who is knocked over when someone sneezes. At least that's what my brother says! I told him that when I hit him with a styrafoam box and broke his toy airplane, but he just got mad and made me eat the dirt outside by the flowers.

The park is pretty far from home, so my brother takes me. As soon as we got there, we started playing Tag. I kept running but he's so much faster! But every time right before he could catch me I guess he got tired cause he always missed grabbing me. He finally caught me by the tire swing, and then he started pushing me on it.

That's when Tyson showed up.

His house isn't like the others in the neighborhood. The grass is taller than I am, Mom says it's because they're too lazy to cut it. Dad says something about people with nothing to hide don't, and those that do, do. I try not to look at it, cause I feel sad when I do. I don't know if a house can cry, but if it could, it would look like Tyson's. The paint is falling off the sides, and when the wind blows hard a shingle falls from his roof. Last summer during a baseball game Kendrick hit a ball into a window in their living room, but it's still broken with only plastic covering the hole.

And Tyson! He's in fourth grade, but he's really big. He's actually bigger than anyone else in fourth grade! He's really lucky, because he got to do it three times now, and the fourth graders get to play on the big playground! I hope when I get to be a fourthie I can do it three times. My dad tries to look mad when I say that, but Mom smiles. She wouldn't smile if she saw Tyson today. His face was really red, which is too bad, because he has really red hair and lots of freckles. I think he got into a fight too, cause his clothes look like they've been rolled around in dirt, and there are threads loose everywhere.

"Hey, whaddya think you're doing? Your kind can't play here," Tyson says loudly.

"You don't tell us what to do," my brother said. "And what do you mean 'your kind'"?

"Gooks, that's what you are," Tyson smiles. And then he stops smiling. "And you better do what I tell you to do."

My brother starts to look scared. I know I am! Tyson is so big, I think that if he was really hungry he could eat us both.

----------------------

Obviously the prologue keeps going. I'm just really tired, and now my restlessness derived from being emotionally wound up is finally surrendering to general tiredness. More to come.
What dreams may come

time for the part that you dread [11 Feb 2010|02:26am]
Finally, my thoughts turn to you. I shouldn't say finally, they've always lingered, but always been suppressed or ignored in favor of being happy. As we are now, I feel that we are equally contemptible people. What I think of myself I haven't ( appearances to the contrary ) gone into depth yet, but YOU. I look back at our interaction, I look back at the good times, but I look back at a constant theme of mockery. Be it an incompetent model, hell's kitchen contestant, ugly cosplayer, etc. etc.- upon reflection I have more respect for them than you. They tried. You didn't. They fought, oftentimes failed against their fears. You've changed, but insufficiently. And you're static. The path of least resistance is your and mine most traveled path. Out of the 80 months we've lived together, you've worked ( I feel I use that term generously ) for 20. We are bad for each other in the sense that we do not improve each other. In pursuit of happiness without confrontation. It's an admittedly addicting joy we shared, a blissfully childish life consisting of laughter, meows, Boggle, silliness. An escape. An aversion to all things requiring effort.

Of course, the simplest answer is usually the best. The only thing I can concretely say is unacceptable is the grand total of nearly five years of devotion to marneons, than antm, gaia, all things that happened to grab your attention online, at the cost of living like the vast majority of twenty-somethings, which is to say most of us work. Maybe I'm wrong to condemn the form of our happiness- maybe being childish is a great thing, maybe the love we have for each other is something unique, special, amazing, unmatched because of it. Who knows. I just have a nagging sensation that it contributed to your and mine incredible irresponsibility to all things life.
What dreams may come

the theme is a dreamer, after all [11 Feb 2010|02:15am]
Examining further the contents of my heart, I struggle with defining what exactly it is I want. I have a vague desire to start a family. I want to have money. What exactly am I good at that I can do to make money that I enjoy and will cherish as establishing my identity?

The only thing I can think of is writing. I loved the nuances I (likely pretentiously) found in my work. Oh, I also love food. I love the thought of the work, study, effort that someone has put into a restaurant or amazing dish. I love the history of it, and I love the evolution of cuisine to what it is today and what it strives to become. I sorta love table tennis, Go, but I don't think those are realistic or even unrealistic avenues to build my life. Study of any kind has always eluded me, but maybe I need to in order to become better versed in what I believe to be my loves, maybe become a food critic, restaurateur. I definitely feel that my writing, esp in regards to food is childish, unrefined. But alluding to my previously stated faith in the human spirit, and even allowing for what I think of my tarnished spirit, I feel I can change.

So despite how terrible it is, I am committing to writing everyday for the rest of my life, about Something, preferably something that expands my writing ability, but anything will do to start.
What dreams may come

What have I become... [11 Feb 2010|02:02am]
[ mood | blank ]

Everything I could have been never bothered me so much as it does now. Before I set out for life, I was renowned (legitimately) for my integrity foremost and my intelligence secondly. What's left now? Change is no one's responsibility but his/her own. At 26 I feel far inferior to what I was at 16. Living day to day, contributing nothing, of no significance is anything I do. I'm just another guy trying to get by.

So are billions of others. Is it pride then, that is my fatal weakness? Is it conceit that compels me into guilt at what I am and laziness that is the prime device that got me there?

I don't think so. I think it's the pursuit of satisfaction. I think it's the mentality that when it is enough, I stop. I think it's the deception that I (maybe anyone) can have a fulfilling life based on obeying simple desires, without building a foundation. For the last eight years or so, I've been living with complete focus on things that make me happy and nearly complete avoidance at things that need to be dealt with or suffer future misery. I never registered to vote ( a small thing, but irksome). I am about to go into default after losing almost $2000 to get caught up to my student loans. I haven't been working for nearly two months, and lost about $2300 between taxes and losing on the unvested portion of my 401k. Due to laziness/fear?/discomfort/paranoia/mostly laziness, I've probably accumulated $5000 in legal fees over lack of insurance. Over the last two years I have been a twice-weekly alcoholic who goofed off at work, even at times drinking while I was supposed to be working. I'm cruder than I was. The values I had have corroded as the issues that mattered to me faded away in favor of day-to-day concerns. My health has never been worse. I've lost my self-respect, and I don't know if I'll ever get it back. Everything I've ever despised I feel like I've become.

How do I fix these things? What do I do to reclaim my identity of someone I can live with?

I (maybe everyone?) dreams of a simple, coherent, panacea to their problems. Who wants to confront their failures daily, who wants to change everything about their lives? I don't. I don't want the heartache and the stress. I just want things to be better. I want to close my eyes and pretend the last eight years didn't happen and that tomorrow everything will change. I want to pretend that everything I am isn't my fault.

But it is. I have no epiphany that is bursting from my heart. I can honestly say I don't feel hopelessness at my situation, because I maintain the belief that the human spirit isn't something that can be measured, and is only self-contained. I just feel numb.

What dreams may come

More food [31 Jan 2010|09:54pm]
Siam Orchid- Gilbert AZ Northeast corner of Gilbert and Guadelupe Roads

Returning to somewhere that has a fond place in your memory can be a treacherous proposition. In the rosy glow of nostalgia, everything is seen as better than it was. I loved the house I grew up in, but when I went back I can see all the cracks in the shutters, the tiles on the roof not quite aligned after all the hail punched through, the faded paint on the fence and the siding of my Minnesotan home, pummeled for 30 years. Coming back, there's that voice in the back of your mind that says Stop! - don't ruin something great. I kinda wish I had listened in regards to my childhood home. Of course, with food, you want to share your experiences, so in recommending somewhere you do have to re-examine your judgment if it's been awhile.

This restaurant is a mom and dad operation, and at one point their daughter was a server/cashier nearly 5 years ago, the last time I was there. The decor is lovely, with a very light pink coloring on the walls, and some bolder Thai decorations in the form of a huge screen, Buddha figurine and a small shrine in the center rear of the restaurant. There are a bunch of Thailand tourism guides and brochures in the corner too, which makes for nice reading material during a meal. I bring up the 5 years because after I ordered my favorite roast duck curry incarnation, pin poy brought out her husband ( sorry, name escapes me ) and said I knew he was going to order this dish! We shared some nice laughs, caught up, she explained about the only change I noticed, which is that the eastern wall is covered with drawings from the children of her customers. With anyone that oozed a hint of smarmy character it wouldn't work, but these two are so genuine that it's very endearing.

I wrote all that because I do think that a when thinking about a great restaurant, one's experience is not exclusive to the food. You can have great food but still retain a poor experience due to inattentiveness, surroundings that make you want to cry, cleanliness, etc. Of course, you can't have a great restaurant experience without great food, so I'm ecstatic to say I was not let down in that arena either. I had the everlastingly popular and delicious roast duck curry, which had a great sized portion of sliced duck, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, grape in a red curry sauce garnished with mint on top. It hit all the right notes in terms of sweetness ( a hint ), spiciness ( background but constantly aware of ), and savoriness. My only quibble is that I wasn't thrilled with the amount of rice that came with it, but then again I sometimes am accused of mistaking rice for air as I inhale both all day. I also had the coconut ice cream which came ringed with crushed peanuts for a soothing ending to a great meal. I also want to mention that all the food is presented beautifully, with the curry holder, rice bowl, plate to mix ingredients, ice cream, all having distinctive containers.

Accompanying my meal I had a pot of jasmine tea 1.95, nothing special but tasty. The roast duck curry is 11.95, which is about right. This isn't one of those you get two meals sized portions, but I am 5'9'' and weigh 240 lbs, and didn't leave hungry. They gave me a free desert, but the normal price for the coconut ice cream is 2.95.

The only shortcoming I have to mention is the wait time- the service is unfailingly kind, focused, and engaging but it does take awhile to get your food, probably 15 minutes for mine.

This is the kind of place where you will love the food, and feel the care put into it. The fears of nostalgia have vanished, and I'm planning to make as many new memories as I can, and invite you to as well!

http://www.siamorchid-az.com/
50 E Guadelupe Road
Gilbert AZ 85234
1 dreamer ›› What dreams may come

J. Ruggs Southern BBQ [28 Jan 2010|06:33pm]
Using urbanspoon's list by popularity function, I was pleased to find this place in Mesa, which people claim lacks quality non-chain restaurants. Well, we do have quite a few hidden gems, and here is another one.

Sandwiched between a half-dead strip mall and a drive-through smoothie place, and with honey baked ham cafe around the corner, this was a hard place to find. It's about a block west of power and baseline on the north side. Looking upwards, the signage for the restaurant looked very modern with some flair. Walking in, you have some very bare bones interior, with a tv in the upper corner with fox news playing, the o'reilly show was on. This place feels pretty tall too with really high ceilings. There is a drink station near the entrance, and then an area with sauces, utensils, and napkins. One thing made me smile when I saw the entire roll of paper towels each table (probably 8 or so) had. Looks like its okay to be messy!

This is a mother, father, and son from Georgia who decided to open a BBQ restaurant in Mesa, which J Ruggs has been at for about 2.5 months. They all were very nice and cared greatly about their food.

On to the food. I had the two meat plate, which for 9.75 INCLUDING a drink I thought was a great deal along with 2 sides. I think it was a dollar less if you only wanted one side. It was $1 more if you wanted to go with ribs or brisket, so I got the pulled pork, 1/4 ribs (also pork), mac n cheese, and coleslaw.

One thing to note about this place is you need to sauce the meats yourself, if you want sauce on it. I expected to have the juices of the pulled pork require no sauce and the ribs to require plenty. I was pretty surprised- the pulled pork was thoroughly average. Meaty flavor but dry, I first applied a spoonful of the hot sauce, and was not too much happier. After bathing the pulled pork in hot sauce, it became a good dish, but I really do think it needed more in the moisture department, and that you shouldn't have to drown pulled pork in sauce.

6/10 flavor with the sauce, 4/10 without.

Fearing of the ribs, I tackled my sides. Wow what a reversal! The mac n cheese was nearly perfect. The texture felt like a baked layer on the outside and then a tender pasta inside. It was also liberally sprinkled with pepper which I was initially skeptical of but after that first bite, approved. One of my biggest pet peeves about BBQ places are they're lazy with the sides- not here. This mac-n-cheese disappeared in record time, and I was astonished to note that there was nearly no residue of oil at the bottom of my dish. The only reason this doesn't get a perfect 10 is because the cheese flavor was very very good but not quite the bold, rich, cheesy flavor.

Still- 9/10

I don't have quite as much to say about the coleslaw. It tasted very fresh and was a nice counterpoint to the heaviness of the rest of my food. Very crispy greenery, and they didn't commit to the cardinal sin of drowning it in mayo.

7/10 (Very competently made, but not extraordinary, and to be honest I don't think I will ever give coleslaw more than this score)

And finally, the ribs. I ate these last because I ate an edge piece and found it disappointingly dry. The owner's son happened to ask me what I thought of my meal, and told him what I've written thus far, basically. He was very upset but not confrontational- just very hurt that someone didn't think his ribs were that great. He offered to get me another piece, but I told him that wasn't necessary. Luckily for me, it turned out it wasn't, and how. An incredible amount of meat for only 3 ribs, and I didn't get cheated like some places do by getting you ridiculously fatty cuts of meat (you know who you are!). Being a sauce-less preparation, I was prepared to also soak this in the pulled pork bath remains, but was incredibly blissful that I didn't have to. These ribs stood on their own in flavor and I dribbled a few drops of hot sauce on them. Heavenly!

9.5/10 (it can't be perfect because of that first stray morsel, but I'm pretty sure if I went again I could give it a 10)

Overall Restaurant Experience: 8.5/10. You gotta love when people obviously care and when their hard work shows.
3 dreamers ›› What dreams may come

Food! [27 Jan 2010|10:44pm]
[ mood | Full but still craving ]

My pictures and commentary on a pair of restaurants that I've frequented multiple times but never put into written form how I felt.

Here is all the good stuff! I dare you to leave not hungry. If somehow you are not hungry you are a horrible human being. Or maybe you already ate.Collapse )

Places like these are what I think about when someone talks to me about the pursuit of happiness.

What dreams may come

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