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I used to assume that when one of my blog posts receives a comment that just says “moooooo” it must be spam, or maybe it’s that one friend from high school that used to imitate a cow during math class, but probably just spam. But now it looks like it might be actual cows.  The cows are on the interwebs!  Scotland’s cows, anyway; I’m not sure any American cows are hooked up yet.  If not, they need to get with the program. Of course, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, U.S. broadband is both expensive and slow, and our cows may just not have the time or funds.

This could be a great opportunity for when they rebuild downtown Wheaton. Just off the nice new grassy public square (triangle?), there could be an internet cafe where the cows and the humans can mingle and share computers and dairy products. The cows can graze in the herbalicious geometric area, and then trundle indoors when they feel like giving milk or checking their portfolios.  Cows get internets, we get fresh cream in our coffee.  And if we can somehow harness Bessie’s copious methane emissions to power the whole thing, we might even come out ahead.

Anyway.  Hello to my bovine Scots readers.  And lest anyone think I am overestimating the intelligence of cows, think again.  As Gary Larson suggested, the cows have you right where they want you.


Odder Still, Fewer Ends

Friday! About time to embark on an hour of happiness somewhere in DC.

One hears about food deserts, in the context of certain low-income areas lacking grocery stores or other sources of fresh meats and produce, but I fear the demise of Cowgirl Creamery’s DC outpost has left me in a cheese desert.  This is the opposite of a cheese dessert, which would be delicious.

Sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread; sweetmeats contain no meat.*  Talk amongst yourselves.

* Unless you are talking about this guy.

Now we can wake up to the smell of sizzling bacon every day.*  Bacon alarm clock is right up there with Strawberry Alarm Clock in the all-time top tier of alarm clocks. Incense and Bacon Bits?

* except you have to apply, and be chosen, and blah blah blah marketing BS.  I will have to stick with the preexisting plan: get rich and hire a minion to wake me up by cooking actual bacon at my bedside.

We have eaten at Thai Taste by Kob (new Wheaton Thai food, behind Hung Phat) and liked it, review “coming soon”…

Update: someone requested a photo of Hung Phat.  This is the only one I have, several years old:

Everybody Hung Phat Tonight

Hung Phat Market

Odds and Ends

Rios Taqueria (2302 Price) has its signage up on the awning now.  We went back again for lunch — we were the only ones there, naturally — and while the service is quite friendly, mistakes were made: Mrs. Me’s burrito arrived cold, and my enchiladas arrived sans the advertised beans.  Quality okay, nothing special.  Good chicken tamale, and above-average chips (crisp and thick) and salsa (thin and garlicky).  Lesson: stick with appetizers and (probably) Salvadoran specialties (lots of soups and seafood dishes on the menu), not more Mex-y things like enchiladas and burritos.  That’ll teach us.  Maybe.

We recently ate at El Golfo (8739 Flower Ave., Silver Spring) for the first time, though it’s been there for years.  Decor seems a little tired.  Banner outside advertising a weekly jazz night mentions “marguritas” and the website offers “margarita’s” so I had to try one, and I guess their creative spelling and grammar was appropriate enough because the erstwhile margarita was all sweet-and-sour-mix-badness, undeserving of correct nomenclature, though it was not quite as bad as the neon green, saccharine daiquiri (!) that someone else made the mistake of ordering. Double bogey for the drinks.  The food was good though: casitas de puerco, perfectly cooked carne asada, even pretty good nachos.

Washington CityPaper reports on what the local industry knows and thinks about restaurant critics. An interesting read.  They mention bloggers only in passing; we “often know little of food and even less of writing” but “do occasionally reach respectable audiences” — hmmm.  What do I know?  Are you respectable?

Breakfast tacos for dinner tonight, at home.  Bacon makes everything better.

I Hate This Winter

Apparently I saw my shadow on New Year’s Eve, which meant six more weeks of no blogging.

Then I got the flu — DO NOT GET THE FLU.  This year’s flu has been widespread and unusually virulent, and the shot isn’t working so well.  Mrs. Me got the shot, and then she got the flu anyway, and then she gave the flu to me.   But I can’t use that as an excuse for six weeks of no blogging.  Maybe a week, tops.  That was early January; I’m better now.

But there’s really not been that much to blog about, especially Wheaton-wise.  We haven’t been eating out all that much.  Royal Mile Pub closed, to the surprise of few.  After the ownership issues from a few years ago, it hadn’t been quite the same quality.  Taco Loco is still “coming soon” (right?).

Safeway continues to be pretty empty, even before the most recent storm when most grocery stores would have been teeming with emergency purchasers.  Also, Safeway has a guy in the parking garage taking photos of all the cars’ license plates — what’s up with that?  I don’t like it.  I assume they would say it’s for security reasons (I have been meaning to ask a manager but never seem to remember at the right time),  but to me it’s a huge invasion of privacy and kind of creepy.

Cowgirl Creamery closed downtown, sad although probably good for my cholesterol.  Ashby Inn is still very good but not as good as it used to be. This winter has just been bad all around.  I am so ready for April.  But maybe I won’t wait until April to post more…

Brobdingnagian Burmese Beaver Burns Bodega?

No.  At least, not likely.

But the Crisp & Juicy at Westfield Wheaton mall did catch fire yesterday. We saw multiple fire engines rushing up Georgia around noon, while we were on our way to BGR in Bethesda.* The entire mall was evacuated for a couple of hours, but all was soon well (though maybe not for C&J — extent of damage unclear at this time).

* BGR, where the fries are crisp & fluffy, better than they used to be, and the burger is still above average but not as great as it used to be, e.g. more likely to be overcooked, and the customer service has gone downhill: the tables don’t get cleaned, and when you are given the wrong burger and you find a hair in your fries, they’ll begrudgingly fix the problems but they won’t seem happy about it.  Just for example..

And authorities found a 50-pound beaver hanging out in Alexandria yesterday.  That is a lot of beaver.  Could the beaver have gnawed through wiring in the Wheaton mall and then lumbered all the way to Alexandria? Possibly with the help of an extensive network of squirrel accomplices?  Stranger things have happened.

Finally, as a follow-up to my recent note on the mediocrity of Burma (the restaurant in DC, not the country, where conversely things may (?) be on the upswing), we learned from the Post this week that the restaurant is about to close and many people will miss it.  I had no idea it was run by a princess and was such a gathering place for the cognoscenti. The Post article linked two sentences above is thoroughly interesting, recommended.  I wonder if the building upgrades will affect other eateries on that block like Kanlaya.

Wheaton Safeway is a Safeway

Wheaton Safeway has limes, so it must be okay

Wheaton Safeway has limes, so it must be okay

Now that our long local nightmare is over and the Wheaton Safeway is open, you may ask yourself, how is that new Safeway?  And you may say to yourself, my God, what have they done? Then again, maybe not.

Wheaton’s Safeway turns out to be perfectly Safeway in its Safewayness, with a few quirks.  First, I like the parking garage, spacious and well-signed and well-lit, but then again I have already heard complaints that it is too tight to navigate comfortably.  I had no trouble,* but it was mostly empty when I was parking. I don’t know if the garage will be big enough at busy times, and they need to work out some vertical kinks: the escalator, including the cart-mover, isn’t always working, and the elevators are spacious but the doors like to close before you’re fully past them, which seems dangerous but, who knows, maybe it’s part of Safeway’s master plan.

* Some fool did leave a cart right in the middle of one driving area, forcing me to take a longer route out — why do people have such trouble returning carts to appropriate places? Not an unusual occurance.  It’s things like that that make me hate people. 

The store itself is laid out unusually, with the deli (and Starbucks) immediately to the left inside the front doors, the checkout lines ahead and to the right, dairy and frozen foods immediately ahead, and the rest of the store continuing back.  Now that I’m typing it, it doesn’t seem so different than usual, but when you’re there it feels a little odd.  But the decor and the products and everything are exactly what one expects.

In these initial weeks, they’re overstaffed, offering lots of samples and being super-helpful.  We will see how long that lasts.  On one of my visits, the number of Starbucks employees (six) nearly exceeded the number of shoppers (in the whole store, not just Starbucks).  That may be the biggest danger with this store: I hope Safeway is prepared to be not super-busy for a while, until all those apartments above the Safeway are lived in and other Wheatonians internalize the fact that Safeway is open for business again.

Oh, and there are limes at the new Safeway, 4 for $1 (“Every Day!” allegedly), good price but mediocre quality, mostly small and hard.  Of course it is not currently lime season, and most other sources struggle from November through March.  Hung Phat remains the current lime go-t0 of choice.

That’s about it.  As Freud said: “Sometimes a Safeway is just a Safeway.”  Or if you prefer Gertrude Stein: “Safeway is Safeway is Safeway is Safeway.”  But would a Safeway by any other name still shop as sweet?  Okay, stopping now.  The important thing is, it’s there across from the Metro, shiny and clean and new, open 24 hours for Wheaton’s collective convenience. And now I will stop writing about it for a while.  Probably.

Asi Es Mi Disco Halloween

Asi Es MI Disco Dia de los Muertos

Asi Es MI Disco Dia de los Muertos

When most people think of Wheaton restaurants, they think of Thai (for quality) and Salvadoran (for volume).  I think.  And fair enough.  But less well known are Wheaton’s Peruvian places — at least five (not even including the chicken-only places like El Pollo Rico), I have eaten at four, and would recommend three.  In short, a good selection.  We took friends last week to arguably the best of them, as well as the newest, Asi Es Mi Tierra (2559 Ennals, in  the strip near Little Caesar’s).  I’d been before, not long after it opened in spring 2011, and liked it a lot. And I’m not the only one — for example, the Washingtonian raved about the Asi Es seafood.

So naturally we all mostly skipped the seafood, aside from one (excellent) ceviche (I like the pucker-inducing marinated onions even more than the fish) and another fried fish dish left mostly uneaten for unexplained reasons.  I tried to order a beef stew but our server wouldn’t let me — unclear if they were out of it, or if it would have taken too long, or if she didn’t think I would like it.  Probably the middle thing, but who knows.  She directed me instead to a beef rib dish that turned out to be too chewy and lacking in beef (lots of bone), but otherwise rich and flavorful with plenty of rice and beans.  I also got the papas rellenas again, although this time it wasn’t quite as exciting — still excelente, but not muy.  The first bite of the apple is always best.

Others ordered the reliably good lomo saltado, and something chickeny…I didn’t take good (mental) notes because the ambience was too overwhelming.  Asi Es Mi Tierra is normally a minimally decorated unassuming strip mall cafe, but on this night (and I guess all weekend nights) it transforms into a gleeful party bistro, flouncing from retro to modern and back with aplomb.  Within 15 minutes of arriving, we had seen — on the big screen above the main entrance — the original music videos for Nazareth “Love Hurts,” the Village People “YMCA,” and Psy “Gangnam Style”…sublime.  And as if that weren’t enough, they soon started in with the karaoke, mostly in Spanish, and the host was surprisingly good — and then a guy from one of the other tables got up to sing, and he was practically operatic.   Nobody from our party sang, not with that kind of competition.  Okay, we did dance to YMCA, and I said “opa gangnam style” under my breath a few times. But we did enjoy it all, mostly, although it was awfully loud and conversation-inhibiting.

And as if THAT weren’t enough, the restaurant was all decorated for Halloween (btw, happy Halloween, the candy bowl is waiting for the marauding children), with flying Death and Dia de los Muertos paraphernalia all over the walls and ceiling.  AND there were disco lights.  Disco Dia de los Muertos!!  Or to put it in DC terms, Cool “Disco” Dia!!

A unique experience.  We had two eight-year-old boys in our party, and they tried  some chicha morada (a Peruvian sweet corn beverage, bright purple and a decidedly acquired taste) in lieu of soft drinks.  One took a sip and refused to so much as look at the glass again, much less drink more; the other (who had had chicha morada before) said “this drink is both horrible and delicious at the same time.”  That sums up the whole night — not the horrible part, it wasn’t horrible at all, just dichotomy and eras/cultures colliding.  Disco papas.  How lomo can you go?

Road Trip Trio

Arrrr, cap'n

Arrrr, cap’n – Fish, chips, slaw, rings, TARTAR at BBC

Finally catching up to a few decent/good out-of-town restaurants visited in the past month or so.

British Beer Company is a Massachusetts chain; we visited the Framingham location (120 Worcester Road).  Framingham is not exactly rife with quality lunch  spots, and this kind of local chain can be very very bad, especially ones like this with multiple cavernous rooms — too much territory for staff to cover — but the BBC turns out to be decent.  Nobody at the host stand – slackers! – but after that, service was excellent. They have a good selection of national and international beers on tap (even some British, surprise surprise).  Fish and chips includes a huge slab of (probably pre-fab frozen, but still not bad) fish, in crunchy batter, with solid fries, onion rings, and cole slaw plus a tureen of above-average tartar sauce to drown it all in.  All portions seem to be oversized, again not surprising at a chain.  Mrs. Me tried to order the Wensleydale Chicken Salad without the Wensleydale, which confused our server; they ended up striking a bargain with the cheese on the side, and the dressing on the side, and the salad was big and good and everyone was satisfied.  We like a win-win.  Prices not bad, atmosphere not bad, not groundbreaking cuisine but one could do a lot worse.

Lancaster, Pa.’s The Pressroom is in the “historic Steinman Hardware Building” (26-28 W. King Street), and is kind of a muddle of industrial and art deco and I felt like I should have been wearing a green visor while I was there.  But it was comfortable, and the food was generally good: interesting pizzas (mediocre crust and some of the topping combos didn’t work but otherwise decent), fine salads, tasty crab bisque.  Short but sweet draught beer list, we enjoyed the local-ish Sly Fox pale ale.  Our server was both too chatty and sometimes MIA, but overall experience was good.

The Richwood Grill (318 Richwood Avenue) is one of the best restaurants in Morgantown, WV. We appreciate their emphasis on local ingredients; we liked the extensive wine list and interesting cocktail suggestions (blue corn whiskey was a winner, while the hibiscus-infused cava turned out to be overrated).  While the food is just about best in class for West Virginia, it is only okay for the price by normal standards.  Braised rabbit doesn’t have much going on, although the gravy nearly had me licking the bowl.  Coq au vin is a huge portion, at least.  But none of it matters, because Richwood is going out of business in about a week due to a dispute with the landlord over a pending massive rent increase, something to which erstwhile Wheaton and MoCo restaurateurs can relate.  They hope to open a new bistro in a new location but probably not for a couple of years.

Coming Already Safeway Swag

New Safeway, Free Stuff

New Safeway, Free Stuff

It is Safeway Week here at GEIW, how am I supposed to resist posting about the onslaught of swag appearing on my doorstep?  I am a sucker for swag. Coupon books upon coupon books, and today a FABULOUS NEW CAR reusable grocery bag, branded with the Wheaton Safeway at The Exchange logo.

But wait, there’s more: another coupon for ANOTHER FABULOUS NEW reusable grocery bag!  That’s two bags — NOW how much Wheaton Safeway at The Exchange shopping will I do?  Dunno about “will” but I am certainly well equipped in the event.  Well played, Safeway, well played.  Although the free bag coupon asks me “Have you checked out our new Safeway yet? There’s so much to explore and discover…” No, I have not, because it is not open yet.  Or should I be reading between the lines, breaking into the building and doing a little pre-shopping shopping?  I don’t think so.  So they’re ahead of themselves.   Must…wait…Friday…

All ready with the mood lighting

All ready with the mood lighting

I now have two copies of the fat Grand Opening coupon book.  One for Mrs. Me and one for me equals double the savings!  The coupons are pretty good actually, a bunch of free items with $20 purchase, which will be no problem.  I just hope they don’t immediately sell out of the potentially free items in the first few hours.  Rain checks are a pain.

Anyway.  Looking forward to the Friday grand opening, in spirit if not in person.

Charboneau! Schlabotnik! Chill!

I have a serious case of blogging burnout.  Not giving up, but posting may be light for a while.

As a wine appreciator and a long-suffering Mariners fan, this USS Mariner post made me laugh, especially since I vividly remember the heady 1980s days of Joe Charboneau hype.  Remember when Topps made special edition cards that were disseminated with Squirt, a Mountain Dew competitor?  (Probably you do not! But it did happen) Despite my mom surely not purchasing a Squirt six-pack, I somehow acquired the Topps/Squirt version of Joe Charboneau.  Why do I remember?  Hype!  I guess.  He may as well have been Joe Schlabotnik.

While I’m here, ‘splaining things, this article made me feel better about my iced coffee habit.  I’ve always suspected I was totally getting fleeced by Starbucks (although more often I make my own at home, using imported Peet’s), but evidently the profit margin on iced coffee is tougher than I realized.

Also, when I typed “‘splaining things” above, autocorrect wanted me to change it to “spraining things” which is probably not untrue, but still irritating.  I hate autocorrect.  Get off my lawn, autocorrect!