Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal

This is kind of a mishmosh post about some stuff I ate this weekend, some stuff I'm going to eat today, and some stuff I wish I was eating. I don't really have anything specific I feel like focusing on beacuse its noon and I'm getting stoned and I'm not feeling too inspired on this Christmas day.

Today almost all the restaurants and grocery stores are closed but Chinese food takeout is still open. I plan on getting some sesame chicken, some wonton soup, and a pork eggroll. I wish I was down in NYC or Long Island so I could eat some decent Jewish deli, or eat better Chinese food but I'm in Albany where any good food is always worse than it should be. When I lived at my parents house in Long Beach, NY we would get Chinese food almost every Christmas and go to the movies, like the rest of the Jews.

Saturday was BBQ day. My friend Greg, who spends his days watching movies, playing video games, and most of all, cooking, came over. We decided to make some ribs and some coleslaw. He was the rib man and I was the slaw man for this endeavor. We went to the store and got the necessary ingredients which was mostly payed for by a gift certificate I got from the EVR secret santa (thanks Buddy).

The ribs were cooked with a dry rub and a sweet BBQ sauce. The coleslaw was my mother's recipe which is probably the best slaw I've ever eaten. I wouldn't normally say anything my mother made is the best anything because it's so cliche (though she is a wonderful cook) but her slaw is perfect. When the ribs came out of the oven about 4 hours later (after a viewing of Big Trouble in Little China) the smell of delicious pork filled my house and basically killed my vegan roommate.

Here's another cliche, the meat on the ribs was falling off the bone. I'm not just saying that to be cute. I put my knife in to cut a rib off and it sliced through like butter and then landed on my plate when I picked up the rib bone. The taste was perfect. We were afraid that the BBQ sauce we used (Jack Daniels Maple Brown Sugar I think) was too sweet but after cooking with the dry rub the sweetness got locked into the meat. Instead of overpowering the pork flavor it created a nice blend with the dry rub. My coleslaw was not as good as my mother's but it was the first time I made it. Next time I think I know what to do to make it better. That was a great meal.

Yesterday I went to Taco Bell to get some grub. It was the shitty TBell on Central Ave. but I figured all the shitty employees would have taken Christmas eve off and only people who were hard workers would be on call that day. I pulled up to the window, ordered a grilled stuft burrito and a christmas gordita crunch. The cute girl who took my order laughed. (Don't you think its weird when attractive people work in fast food?) I was correct in my assumption and my food was prepared correctly and it all tasted great. I was feeling a little sick at the end of my burrito so I threw it out the window of my moving car but luckily I didn't get into an Anchorman-esqe scuffle with a fat actor.

BACON! I made a bunch of bacon yesterday at my house. That was the other half of my gift for secret santa at EVR (thanks again Buddy). It was pretty good but not as good as the bacon that they make at Cafe 217 in Albany. Everything I have gotten at this fine establishment is incredible. You can tell by the presentation and consistency of the taste that they really care about food. Cafe 217 is owned by my friend Brendan's cousin, Susie, who also owns my favorite bar in that area, named Susie's.

I have got to say that this place cooks their bacon perfectly. Each strip is crisp and flavorful and not dried out in the least. I got my usual, a bacon egg and cheese (cheddar) on a hard roll. The homefries were well done, which I love, and the mozzarella sticks I split with my lovely friend Emily were incredible. Most places just buy frozen mozzarella sticks but you can tell that these overstuffed sticks are fresh mozzarella that are breaded and fried on the premesis. Even the tangy marinara sauce tastes fresh.

The food at 217 isn't going to kill your wallet either. Most of the items are between five and eight dollars and the portions are big enough that a normal human (aka not me) will be full. It is a late night/morning eatery and they hold strange hours but that shouldn't stop you from going there. I forgot to mention how nice this place looks inside. I almost feel too scummy when I go there, like I am sullying up the establishment. Anyways, please go there and give Susie your money.

12 1/2 Delaware Avenue (on the corner of Jefferson)
Albany, NY 12210

Phone: (518) 462-0050

Closed Monday and Tuesday
Open Wednesday -Sunday
9 p.m. through 2 p.m.

(EDIT: To clear up some confusion, Cafe 217 opens at 9PM and closes the following day at 2PM. It's open all night.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Taco Bell

This is not Mexican food, this is Taco Bell.

Taco Bell is the best place to go if you want the most delicious and cheapest meal made by the absolute lowest form of human ever to be spawned. Tacos are less than a dollar, they have half pound burritos for under two dollars and the value meals are priced economically for people on a budget. Most of these meals are tasty and all of them come with enough carbonated beverage to last you for a week, plus refills!

The heart of Taco Bell lies in its heartless employees. Each one is more angry, depressed, lazy, ignorant, smart-mouthed, careless, slovenly, negligent, and just plain uglier than the last. These are the ONLY people that work at Taco Bell. Case in point, the Taco Bell at Crossgates Mall in Albany, NY has an employee with a tattoo of a barcode on his forehead. If you order something off the menu without any stipulations you will most likely receive your meal as the Taco Bell gods intended it to be.

However, once you delve into the lactose intolerant, vegetarian, vegan or just plain picky orders 99.99% of TBell employees fall from grace. You will not get your burrito without cheese the first time. You will not get potatoes instead of beef the first time. You will not get a quesadilla without chicken the first time. Oh, did you want a grilled stuft burrito without fiesta salsa? THINK AGAIN JACK. THAT SHITS GONNA HAVE DOUBLE THE SALSA AND THE DRIVE THROUGH OPERATOR IS GONNA HAVE DOUBLE THE ATTITUDE. So unless you're friends with someone that works at taco bell or you're a stubborn ass, just order things the way the employees are trained to make them.

For me, Taco Bell has had three ages. The first age is the Rice Age. During the Rice Age I would order multiple cups of rice with cheese, and a taco or two. If i was feeling crazy I'd get a bean burrito but it was usually rice and cheese, and lots of it. When I worked for a men's touch football league (no homo) we would spend our earnings on TBell and all mine went straight to the rice man. This period lasted roughly from my tenth birthday until I was about thirteen when they took the rice off the menu. It was a sad day. I stopped going to Taco Bell for a while because I quit my job working for the league and there was no taco bell within walking distance to my house.

The second age of Taco Bell is the Dark Age. It was a dark time in my life because I had made the horrible choice to become vegetarian. This lasted five whole years. The most tasteless years of my life, but that is a story for another time. During the Dark Age I would mostly get seven layer burritos, cinnamon twists, and occasionally try to get the mexican pizza without beef but more often than not I would be unsuccessful in that endeavor.

As dark as these times were, there was a spark of light ignited by the Taco Bell research and development team. That spark was the cheesy gordita crunch. Never before have so many unique flavors and consistencies melted together to create the perfect fast food item. If a double decker taco and a grande soft taco took turns raping a baja gordita, its delicious bastard child would be the cheesy gordita crunch. Unfortunately for me, I was still a veggie-fool and could not get the full CGC experience.

One other notable event happened during the Dark Age: the merger. Taco Bell merged with Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut. Soon combined restaurants started popping up all over the place. TBell/KFC is my favorite; the ability to get a cheesy gordita crunch, potato wedges, and a biscuit all on the same tray is revolutionary. TBell/Pizza Hut is less good but has those breadsticks which is nothing to scoff at.

Flash back to the winter of 2003. This is the beginning of the golden age, the Taco Bell Age of Reason. I had finally begun to eat meat again, (at a furious pace) and went from skinny monkey boy to rotund mountain man in a matter of months. I would convince anyone and everyone to drive me to Taco Bell and eat as many cheesy gordita crunches as I could afford. The real ones, not substituted with beans. The way that god intended them to be: with zesty baja sauce and all.

The Age of Reason has brought many other wonderful items into our lives. The grilled stuft burrito is probably the best burrito Taco Bell has to offer, with the new cheesy beefy melt burrito in a close second, and the half pound beef and potato burrito not far behind. Another great item which borrows a lot of ideas from the cheesy gordita crunch but is implemented totally differently is the crunchwrap supreme. I was enjoying these for a moment but the novelty wore off rather quickly. Other wonderful items that have popped up in the last few years include cheesy fiesta potatoes, spicy chicken soft taco, and the caramel apple empanada for desert.

The most important date during the Age of Reason, a date that brought us what we all wanted, free tacos. Free Taco Day was October 30, 2007. During the 2007 Major League Baseball World Series there was a promotion that if any player were to steal a base in any game Taco Bell would give each American one free beef taco. One player stole a base, Tacoby Bellsbury. As a rookie on my most hated team I was conflicted at first but I realized that free taco's are more important that rivalries. I think one day we can all set our differences aside and enjoy free taco's together.

For anyone that lives in Albany or plans on visiting the capital district region I will give a quick rundown of the Taco Bell locations I have been to and a star rating:

Wolf Rd. in Colonie ***
Latham ***
Troy near HVCC ***
Crossgates Mall **1/2
Central Ave. in Albany *1/2
Delaware Ave. in Albany 1/2

None of these places deserve a four star rating, but if I ever found one that did I'd be there for every TBell experience.

I usually get one of two orders when I go to Taco Bell these days. If I'm not very hungry I will get a grilled stuft burrito and a cheesy gordita crunch. If I'm more hungry I will get a T3 (three taco supremes) sometimes hard, sometimes soft depending on my mood, and a cheesy gordita crunch. I always eat my cheesy gordita crunch first otherwise the melting cheese will soften up the taco shell and it won't be crunchy at all.

Honestly, if you go to Taco Bell and you don't get a cheesy gordita crunch then why did you go to Taco Bell in the first place? It makes no sense. It's the same as going to a football game and playing gameboy. It is embarrassing. I urge you, get a cheesy gordita crunch. Get five if you can afford it, even if you can't finished them all. This holiday season give the gift of greatness. Give a cheesy gordita crunch.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is my favorite place to eat when I go to Manhattan. It's called Mamoun's Falafel and it has been open since 1971. There are three other locations, one in NYC, one in Connecticut, and one right where I live in Albany, NY. The one I always go to, the original restaurant, is a hole in the wall on MacDougal St. between Bleeker and West 3rd. They make the best falafel sandwich I have ever had and you will ever have. If you're in the area and you don't get a falafel sandwich you're a fool. The balls are fried the perfect amount. The tahini is perfect. The veggies are always fresh. I've been there countless times and the taste is so consistent, so wonderful, so fantastical, that there is almost always a line out the door. Plus the damned thing only costs two dollars and fifty cents. All this goodness occurs every day but just 150 miles north a travesty has struck, the Albany 'Mamoun's.'

I've been to the Albany location of 'Mamoun's' a few times. I really want their food to live up to the NYC version. I really want to like their food. I really want to eat good falafel. However, none of this will come to pass. This fake Mamoun's is a cheap, yet somehow overpriced, impostor. It is a sit down restaurant that barely has patrons which leads me to believe that the food is probably not fresh. Once you sit down a squirrelly man nervously takes your order; and if that isn't off-putting enough, the whole places stinks like coffee. That aroma may be pleasant to some but it is very bothersome to me; especially since I'm in a restaurant, not a fucking coffee house. If you order a soda it comes in this strange ten once glass bottle and costs twice as much as a coke would in any place ever.

Now to the falafel. Before I stated that a travesty had occurred but that was being modest. This falafel is more like a war crime. The first thing that jumps out at you if you ever have the displeasure of eating at this establishment is they cut your falafel sandwich in half. I've eaten at quite a few falafel restaurants and stands and never once has this been done anywhere except 'Mamoun's.' Next you take a bite hoping for a decent facsimile of the wonderful falafel they make on MacDougal St. and what is the prominent flavor? MOTHERFUCKING CARROTS. Whichever genius decided to put carrots in the falafel should be publicly executed. There is absolutely no excuse for ruining my sandwich with a fucking carrot. I don't even hate carrots, they have their place in salads and as a snack, but this is too much. Plus the tahini is flavorless and the balls either over- or under- fried depending on the visit. It is quite possibly the worst imitation of a falafel sandwich I have ever encountered.

Please, if you are in the Village go to Mamoun's and get a falafel sandwich. Even if you are not hungry get one. Even if you just ate a huge meal get one. Even if you have no money just sit in Washington Square Park and beg for change until you have enough ($2.50) and get one. And please, if you are in Albany pass 'Mamoun's' and go somewhere else.


Sunday, December 16, 2007


My name is Jamie. People call me Beardo. I am always hungry. All the time. I would say that 80% of my thoughts are about previous meals, the current meal, or meals to come in the future. I am consumed by food. When I wake up in the morning, I'm thinking about what I will eat for each meal that day and sometimes I'll think even farther ahead to food I will eat during the weekend.

Even though I am obsessed with what I eat and what other people are eating, I have been able to maintain a somewhat normal human weight. I am approximately 5'11 and 187 lbs. right now which most doctors would tell you is average. I have been overweight for some of my life and underweight for a much larger part of my life. None of that really matters though.

The point of all this is to write about food that I eat. I'll write about the restaurants I eat at. I'll write about meals that I cook for myself. I'll write about a Big Mac that I ate drunk off my ass if I can remember it. You will know what food is good. You will know which restaurants to eat at and what to eat at them. You will learn that bacon goes with almost anything.