Friday, June 15, 2018

Biscuits and Gravy Bonus Review: Cracker Barrel

I wasn't raised on biscuits and gravy. In fact, I didn't try them until I was well into my teens. However probably my first experience with this heavenly combination was at Cracker Barrel. They haven't changed much in the last thirty years... but I have. I used to love, love, love Cracker Barrel's biscuits and gravy but... Let's take a look at them and see how they stack up, eh?

Well, not actually a look because I didn't have my camera with me. If you've had 'em you know how they are... these buggers are amazingly consistent.

First up is the biscuit. They are on the small side, somewhat dense, and uniformly shaped. They are also buttery, rich, and slightly salty. You can eat one or two and not feel like there's concrete in your aorta. An order of biscuits and gravy will net you three such gentlemanly rounds while you get two gratis with most meals.

The gravy is devoid of meat. Sawmill, I think it's called. It has an almost pudding-like consistency, is as polite and un-offending in flavor as the biscuits, and comes in a small bowl. Small is the key here because I doubt you get even a cup of the stuff, but the biscuits are so dainty that this amount is usually enough.

For $3.99 it's a bit disappointing, value-wise. If you get the biscuits with your meal and add a side of gravy (for nearly two bucks) then it's a nice bonus. I'd say these are pleasant, every-day biscuits and gravy, not sometime to rave about but good enough to look forward to.

Biscuits - 8
Gravy - 6
Value - 3
Service - 5

Monday, June 11, 2018

Biscuits and Gravy Review: Comfort Food Cafe

I was originally going to try Revitalize Health Bar because I have been seeing Biscuits and Gravy on their sidewalk sign for months. However it turns out that last week was their last week for serving Biscuits and Gravy. Come back in the fall, they said. Such is life.

So instead I went to the Comfort Food Cafe. This sounds like a diner but it's in the basement of Citizens Square, the office building that houses the mayor, his minions, and other various public employees. Which is to say that the digs are not glamorous.

Comfort Food Cafe used to be the cafeteria for a local insurance company before they consolidated and no longer needed the building, so it looks like a cafeteria. At 9:00 AM on a Monday the place was a complete ghost town. I looked around, peeked in the back, and finally saw a bell by the cash register. One ringy-dingy. Someone came out of the back pronto. I gave my order and it was served up and paid for within about ninety seconds. Speedy!

With that kind of speed there's obviously no time for toasting the biscuits. I could see them clearly when he pulled them from either a refrigerator or a hot box, probably the later. The gravy was in a big metal tub on the grill.

As you can see, the emphasis it not on appearance. Yes, it kind of looks like a Styrofoam tray filled with vomit. Let's dig in, shall we?

Their sign says "Homemade" and it's possible that the biscuits are homemade. There's nothing wrong with them but they don't stand out. The gravy was of a very nice consistency and was full of sausage. It was also full of pepper. I know lots of guys like lots of pepper but I'm not one of them. It's two hours later and I'm still feeling a slight sting on the roof of my mouth. It wasn't way over the top spicy, just more than I'm inclined to enjoy. But flavor-wise, it was quite good and appeared to be homemade. It was also ladled up in an amazing quantity such that I had some left over, which isn't normal.

I mean, there was so much food for $5.25 that I was full after just one biscuit. However I soldiered on and finished, thus earning my yet another medal in the clean plate club.

Biscuits - 5
Gravy - 6
Value - 8
Service - 9

UPDATE: I was so full that I skipped lunch and didn't eat again until almost three o-clock. A half-order is definitely the way to go.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

More Black Kow Magic

Last year Black Kow sent me a T shirt and hat emblazoned with their logo because I sent them pictures of how great their product worked. And just like their manure, the shirt was high quality... thick fabric and the image has not faded one bit.

So this year I again picked up some Black Kow compost, plus some inferior no-name stuff. The proof, as Bill Cosby will never say, is in the pudding.

Here are watermelon seeds planted in a three-year old bag of Black Kow, with a handy quarter for size reference.

Here are the same seeds (and the same quarter) in a brand new bag. Both are doing great but the sprouts in the new bag are just a bit bigger.

And here's one of those generic bags of compost. Wimpy wimpy wimpy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Thoughts Part ?

So I guess I'm probably suffering from low-level depression. Or male mid-life stuff. Or just the doldrums. Or maybe I just "live in my head" too much. But whatever it is, I'm just not enjoying life. To be honest I've never been one of those people who are packed to the gills with joy, though I've prayed for it often enough. No, I just kind of persist through life.

In other words, I feel very beige. Very bland. I used to think I was a deep person but I was probably just full of myself. For years now I just feel very thin and that I don't have anything creative to offer to others or myself. Creativity used to be my identity. I would create art and music and video and I realize that I got into computers because they were tools for creation. Now I'm lucky if I painstakingly pull one or two short stories from my brain per year and maybe a cover song. Original songs? They used to gush forth from the boredom of sitting in a classroom and now that well has gone dry. So what to do when that which was your identity is gone?

I'm tried and am trying various things to boost myself up. I mean, there's prayer. And I have a great wife and kids and I enjoy doing things with all of them. Lately I've been trying new things, such as last year when I became a secret shopper. And a couple of weeks ago when I climbed up the hill and spent about ten minutes going down the railroad tracks that run by the place where I've been parking my vehicle for work for the past fourteen years. Funny, it's been there all this time but it never occurred to me to check them out. There were tracks behind the house I grew up in and a number of times I would travel down them, exploring. And alone.

That's the other thing. Alone. Other than my wife and kids I have no friends. Growing up I usually had one friend at a time, the last one being in college. Since then it's been a desert of friendlessness. This whole stupid Facebook/email thing makes you seem like you have friends but there's no one I hang out with. But I suck at hanging out. I'm a doer. So maybe guys just like to "hang out" like the men in King of the Hill. I can't do that. When I think back to it, the person who I consider the best and longest of people I considered my friends, well, we only hung out now and then. Most of our time was centered on recording songs at my wee little studio. I've lost track of the guys I've reached out to these past 20+ years. Sometimes the guys wife didn't care for me and I was out of the picture. That still hurts.

I hope I'm not coming off as complaining. I know that God hates whining and I hate it when my kids do it. Journaling is supposed to help and I'm just trying to get this out of my head so maybe I stop living inside my head so much. I don't like that I'm a wet blanket for my wife and kids and wish I could be a different person. I'll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rallys Eat-It-All #20: Bacon Cheese Champ

There I was, eager all weekend to get a free stacker, only to find out that my coupon had expired. ARG! It's not like I hadn't picked up an Oreo Fudge stacker on Friday (no camera so no pic). It was good, with mostly ice cream but about 1.5 oreo cookies crumbled up on top and one spot in the middle, plus a squirt of fudge. But that only whetted my appetite and heightened my disappointment.

So I got a swirl cone instead for a buck. I hadn't noticed it with the stacker but the ice cream wasn't very creamy. It wasn't as ice-laden and flavorless as the cones you get at a Chinese buffet but it was in the same class. So it ain't no DQ but it was decently sized and very, very cold.

And they no longer have a Bacon Double Rallyburger with Cheese on the 2 for $5 menu. The manager said they could make one up for me, charging me for a regular Double Rallyburger with Cheese and then adding bacon for a dollar, but I declined because it wouldn't be eligible for the 2 for $5 menu and I'm cheap. Also I double checked the menu and there is no mention of a chili cheeseburger (double or otherwise), though I suspect again they could make one up for me if I asked the right person the rigth way. If it weren't for disappointments I wouldn't have any appointment. Oh well. But I'm not here to do secret menu items which left me with one option:

The Bacon Cheese Champ. As you can see, it's a messy fella. And there were barely two strips of bacon. Flavorwise it was about average, as far as their burgers go, and it was enhanced greatly by the medium fries I added and the SIXTEEN PACKETS OF KETCHUP I was handed when I asked for a few ketchup packets. Sometimes they give you two, sometimes they give you a double handful.

So that's it. Just like that, eleven months in and I'm done*. I've eaten every burger/entree option on their menu. Favorites include the Deep Sea Double, the Fry Lovers Burger (properly fried), the Bacon Cheddar Crisp, and the Baconzilla. Because there are only a couple I'll likely finish up trying the sides and because it's summer I'll probably be trying some milkshakes and slushies and smoothies, that is if I can find time between trying biscuits and gravy.

* Except I'm not. I'll probably never be done because as I walked up to order I saw signs for the New Bacon Double Bistro Stacker. One thing I really like about Rallys is that they are always coming up with new things. Such as the Apple Pie milkshake/stacker, though I only know this from their web site due to there being no signs in the walk-up area. However the end is definitely near.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Biscuits and Gravy Review: City View Cafe

Because I'm only two items away from finishing the Rally's Eat-It-All challenge (and because I forgot to bring something for breakfast) I thought it would be a good day to start up my next life goal.*

This aforementioned goal is to find (drum roll please) THE BEST BISCUITS AND GRAVY IN DOWNTOWN FORT WAYNE.

It's long been my position that a simple order of biscuits and gravy is a good litmus test for any restaurant. Are the biscuits hand made or (gasp) from a tube**? Likewise is the gravy made from scratch or is it from a can? How much sausage does it contain? Is it greasy? How plentiful is the portion? I think you catch my drift.

For my first foray into gustatory delight I ventured up, up, up to the City View Cafe, which is on the 13th floor of the second tallest building in Fort Wayne. This space used to be called the Window Garden Cafe and it has great views of the city. Currently it's run by a local catering/food service company.

First off, ordering was kind of weird. There's a hot bar area and you fill out your order on a small square of paper, checking the appropriate boxes, and lay the paper on top of the counter. The only other human was the cashier and a lady who arrived mere moments before me. After a full minute or so a young man showed up who looked like his best friend had died. He took our two slips of paper and got to work. Eventually he left and came back a minute or so later with a box of food service biscuits. It wasn't looking good.

Even though you're standing mere feet away the food preparation area is hidden behind a wall of frosted glass so you don't get the diner experience of watching your food prepared. I kid you not but it took almost ten full minutes to get my food. TEN MINUTES. And there was only one other person ahead of me!

I took my carry out order to the cashier who rang it up and said "Five dollars? Sheesh! Open that up will ya? I want to make sure he gave you enough." I wasn't the only one who thought that $5.07 was steep (including Fort Wayne's generous 8% food tax). But apparently the depressed young lad was generous enough because I was allowed to leave without further delay.

But the big question is how was it?

Surprisingly the star of the show was the pre-made biscuits. The young man split them, slathered them with butter and plopped them on the grill until they had a nice crisp on them, plus the fantastic flavor of butter. The gravy was of medium viscosity and didn't have much flavor. What it did have was a slightly strange taste such that halfway through my breakfast I could have been done eating, but being a member in good standing of The Clean Plate Club I made sure that I finished. There was a small amount of sausage bits, probably fried up on the premises and added to what was very likely canned gravy, but they tasted good and were also crisp. Sadly, I ran out of gravy with two bites left, although I'm not sure how more gravy could have been stuffed into the carry out container.

Biscuits - 8
Gravy - 4
Value - 5
Service - 2

* And yes, it's good to think small.

** I had tube biscuits served to me once. Obviously it scarred me for life.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rallys Update

I am 94.3% done with my goal. Yesterday I found that Rallys no longer sells the classic wings... it's all "boneless" wings a.k.a. chicken nuggets. So that's one off my list. They also don't sell the Chili Cheeseburger, even if asked politely.

Which means I'm down to a Bacon Cheese Champ and a Bacon Double Rallyburger with Cheese, although this last one may also be extinct. Yep, the end is near.

But not near enough. Yesterday I needed some extra sustenance so picked up a quick Fry Lovers Burger. It had three fries on it. Really, Rally's? Three? And they were soggy to boot! Fortunately I had used a coupon for a free medium fry so I just added some of my own instead of having to complain to someone who didn't make the sammich in the first place.