Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taste of Dallas 2011

The family got an invitation to attend Taste of Dallas this weekend. We were given free tickets so it was worth trying something we may not otherwise have done. The price on the ticket was $8.00 but I read a few minutes ago that you could get them at Albertsons (which when there I surmised was a major sponsor because of the all their banners) for $5.00.

We decided to go at open (11:00 a.m.) because it wouldn't be so hot. Luckily, Saturday morning started out breezy and slightly overcast. Once we got to Fair Park, we quickly found out that parking was not included. Friday night when thinking about going to Taste of Dallas I thought about taking the DART rail because it's convenient and cheap. But when we left Saturday morning, I had forgotten. So did the wife. Because of this, we ended up paying $12.00 for parking. Fucking $12.00! We figured it was better than paying $12 on top of $32 but that would have never happened anyway because I'm a cheap ass! So, we parked and walked in to the fair grounds.

Initially, we just walked around to see what all was offered and to get a gauge on the price for "tastes." We also were heading for a specific booth because my oldest was helping a friend and her mother for the restaurant the mother works for. While walking around, we found that there were a lot of restaurants we've never even heard of. We aren't dining out that often but when we do, we typically stick to a few places we know and like with once in a blue moon trying some place new. With two kids, it's tough to go "new" because if they don't like it then we waste some money.

Everything was priced from $1 to $5. I don't think I saw any of the food items at each booth higher than $5. They did sell beer, soda and water but I don't recall seeing the price of beer. Soda and water were like $5.

So, let me see if I can remember the break down of the booths/foods I tried.

Celebration Restaurant was the booth of that my oldest's friend's mother worked for. They had a chicken kabob for $3, a tomato and basil salad for $4 and fresh cantaloupe or watermelon slices for $1. The friend's mother gave us samples for free. We tried to pay but she refused. We weren't there to mooch but she said that she doesn't mind because they bargain with all the other vendors all the time so it's no big deal. We thanked her and enjoyed the kabob and a few slices each of cantaloupe and watermelon. The fruit was refreshing on a warm, overcast day.

Asador was selling $3 brisket sliders. They were pretty good. There wasn't a lot of brisket in them and I don't know how much they cost or if the meat is more at the restaurant. The brisket was flavorful and served on ciabatta bread. I've never heard of this restaurant so I asked where they were located. The girl in the booth said it was located inside the Dallas Renaissance Hotel which I don't think I've ever been in or will ever find the need to be in.

Afghan Grill had a variety of dishes to taste. We went with the Kofta Chalao which is sauteed meatballs in some kind of sauce and they served it over rice. It too was $3. The wife and I shared it and we both thought it was fairly tasty.

I didn't have any but we bought one each for my kids and the friend of cake balls from The Cake Ball Company. I've had cake balls before but I was not looking for dessert on a day like this or with the food vendors available to taste. I didn't want to fill up too soon. The kids said they loved the cake balls though.

Hedary's was next to the Celebration booth. I tried their sirloin on a stick for $3. It wasn't too bad though it wasn't memorable either. It tasted just like any ordinary steak you might cook on a grill or skillet without using spices or flavoring. They were bragging that it was "top sirloin" and they may have been but it wasn't anything special. Again, it tasted fine but it wasn't something I have to say you need to experience.

Longhorn BBQ was offering pulled pork sliders for $3. I ordered one and added the nondescript barbecue sauce they provided. The sauce was tasty and added to the flavor of the pulled pork which taste very heavily of the wood they used to smoke it, I guess. It wasn't bad it just wasn't spiced or flavored. Overall the pulled pork slider was good but I'm not sure if I'd make a drive from North Dallas to Cedar Hill for their barbecue. I'll stick with the all-you-can-eat at North Main BBQ

Texas de Brazil is a restaurant I've seen/heard of before but never had the desire to try. I still don't have that desire. They were offering bacon-wrapped chicken with a roll for $3. They offered other things like steak but I went for the chicken since I had already had quite a bit of steak from other booths. The bacon-wrapped chicken was pretty good. I'm a big bacon fan and so is my youngest. The chicken was pretty good too but I think they could have wrapped a slightly thinner piece of chicken. Once you got past the bacon and initial layer of chicken, the rest of it just tasted like grilled chicken. The roll was very, very disappointing and someone should lose their job in the "promotional" department because of it. The roll seemed like it was bought from the grocery store and heated in the oven...and whoever did it didn't do a good job AT ALL. The roll was dry and seemed like it was sitting in the open for some time before it was placed on my plate. I mean there was no butter, not flavoring, no nothing on the roll. Hell, I've made better rolls that were bought from the grocery store.

McDonald's had a booth and I think they did it right out of all the booths. They weren't selling samples of their food items but they were giving away samples of their new fruit smoothie, mango pineapple, and then a strawberry smoothie (which I don't know if it was new or not). They were giving freebies out left and right for the 3 hours we were there. They had lines of people waiting for the samples. All for FREE mind you.

I think the other vendors may have to rethink their approach to the way they want people to sample their food. I think they should give it away free or mostly free. I think they should build in an expected loss and let people flavor their foods because if the people like it, they will visit the restaurant and pay full price for it. I saw so many people pass on the foods at Celebration Restaurant, Asador, Lockhart Barbecue, and other vendors because of the price comparison they would do in their minds like "how much will I get for my $3 and is it worth it?" I can tell you that I would have preferred free or half-price for many of the foods I tasted. They were all fairly good but they weren't wowing me or many others. The vendors were too worried about giving to much filling in each slider, or sandwich or whatever. That in turn made the product smaller, lamer and much less inticing to the customer. It's just poor marketing on weekend that should have been all about the marketing. I know they have a budget but if they are really business people running these businesses, they would have been able to create a projected profit/loss forecast and decided what was feasible or not. Personally, for my first time, I really didn't see many people carrying around or purchasing a lot of the samples from any of the booths. I saw a lot of people carrying McDonald's smoothies, Scope and even that nasty Yakult drink becaue they were FREE.

I guess that's about it for the food and beverage vendors.

There was this guy doing on-the-spot Krylon spray paint "paintings." (inset)

He was quick, good and very creative for a cosmic artist. That's what he was called, "The Cosmic Artist." He mainly, or only, did space or cosmic paintings. They were pretty darn cool and the high you can get from the spray paint was awesome. LOL!

He even had his little black car (like a Miata I think) with his personalized designs on the hood, trunk...hell, almost all over it but in a tactful way. I don't how lasting they would be on a vehicle's paint job but a framed picture would be cool. I'm just too much of a cheap ass. :-)

Anyway, Taste of Dallas was an interesting experience for us. I don't think I'll ever feel the need to attend it again although if someone gave me free tickets again and I remember to take the DART (for free because of my job) then I might consider it. It wasn't a bad experience. It just wasn't one of those "Damn, I've been missing out" moments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In the news 07/13/2011

From the Star-Telegram:
Widow of pizza deliveryman who was fatally beaten sues Domino's

Borchardt [widow's attorney] said the teens' phony pizza order was made on a prepaid cellphone and involved an uninhabited address to which Domino's had never delivered a pizza. "They should have known this was going to be an unsafe delivery at that point," he said.

Click here for the article while it lasts.
Domino's should have known this was coming. This freaking attorney is an ambulance chaser-type. This is going to be a waste of tax payer money. It should be shot down before it even goes to jury selection or whatever.

Number 1: How is someone calling in on a prepaid cellphone a flag for "unsafe delivery?" I know tons of people that have prepaid cellphones. Hell, my father-in-law is on a prepaid cellphone. WTF, idiot attorney!?

Number 2: Is money really going to help this widow with her grieving? Well, hell yes...especially if it's a lot! But seriously, it wasn't Domino's that beat the crap out of this guy. Granted they may have unsafe areas but what areas these days aren't unsafe in some form or fashion?

I think Domino's should have stepped up and given a lump sum of money to the widow. It should be a policy. He got injured, killed, on the job out of no fault of his own and they should have "donated" something to the widow. I think $10,000 is what the government deems as the worth of a human. Domino's could have doubled that and been done with it. Every business should have an "in case of death on the job" fund.

Unfortunately, businesses typically don't give a rat's ass about their employees until they are no longer producing revenue for said business.


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Red Dawn...remake?

Can they really be making a remake of Red Dawn?

Apparently so.

There's just no replacement for Patrick Swayze for Jed, Charlie Sheen for Matt, Lea Thompson for Erica, C. Thomas Howell for Robert and Powers Boothe for Lt. Col. Tanner.

Some movies just shouldn't be remade. Footloose. Bad News Bears. Clash of the Titans. The Hitcher. Anyway...

WOLVERINES!


Drive Angry (2011)

Drive Angry (2011). I read some reviews before watching this movie on Blockbuster.com and a lot of them didn't like this movie. They compared it a lot to campy movies from the likes of the Grindhouse series. I thought it was a better movie than that when seeing the promos but I really didn't know the premise behind this movie. I tried to keep an open mind when starting it.

After watching it, I must say that it wasn't as bad as the comments/reviews on Blockbuster.com. I usually have low expectation of any of the movies I watch that way I can only go up...a lot or slightly...as the movie progresses.

Yes, some of the graphics, dialogue and action is like the Grindhouse movies or even Machete. I don't think it took away from the movie. There wasn't a whole lot of gross gore but there were moments of blood splatter from heads being shot and hands and/or legs being blown off. Nothing over the top like some of the movies I've seen. Some comments mentioned gratuitous boobs but I have to disagree. There were maybe 2-3 times I saw boobs for a max of 3-5 minutes and they totally went along with the scene...except maybe the last one where this skinny, naked girl gets tagged by Cage's character's shotgun near the end of the movie. That nakedness probably didn't need to be shown at the time.

It's a pity that Amber Heard didn't have a reason to disrobe. She's one fine woman and it would have made my rating of this movie much higher.

If you like quite a bit of action with a few shots of T&A thrown in, then you'll probably enjoy this movie. I won't be recommending it to anyone but if you happen to have the opportunity to watch it (for free-ish) then it's not a total waste of a couple of hours.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Season of the Witch (2011)

Season of the Witch (2011). Yesterday I picked up this movie. There wasn't a lot to choose from since it was Thursday and it's summertime. I should go earlier in the week.

Spoiler Alert!

Anyway, this movie turned out to be not what I expected. I mean the title has "witch" in it but it turns out there really is no witch. Instead there is a demon that has possessed a female and they think she's a witch...back in those witch-killing days of like 1300 AD.

Overall the movie wasn't too bad. The action was alright. The story was alright. So, I guess the movie was overall alright.

Funny thing is I got two movies at the same time. This one and Drive Angry which both just happened to have Nicolas Cage in them.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

No Strings Attached (2011), Battle Los Angeles (2011), Sucker Punch (2011), Cats & Dogs The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010)

Now that class is over, I have had a little bit of time to catch up on my movie watching. I've watched some movies that are recent and not so recent as well as adult-themed and kid-themed. I make a list of movies and I try to watch them as I get them or when I can. So, here are my thoughts on the ones I've watched:

No Strings Attached (2011). What can I say positive about this movie? It's very, very hard. It has Natalie Portman. She looks good in it and we get to see a little bit of her in just a bra and panty. Sort of worth it. Other than that, I don't think there is any else.

I think the problem with this movie is it's WAY too predictable and it has already been done before as well as been done again (I've read there is almost an exact story in Friends With Benefits).

I mean how many times can we see a movie about a slacker-type male that pursues or one-night-stands with a Type A personality, very smart, overly educated, somewhat successful female who doesn't want a relationship with him but he tries to be cute, romantic or whatever and eventually wins her affection!?

Been there, done that...a gazillion times! Even though this movie has my woman, Natalie, in it I would have to say it's a pass. Ashton Kutcher cannot pull off the lovestruck slacker-type male. He can pull off slacker-type but that's it! I think the relationship that was between the two best friends of Portman and Kutcher was more interesting and more fun to see and they had minimal screen time.

Anyway, watch this movie at a friends, or view it for cheap like if you already have Netflix of Blockbuster Total Access Plan. I really don't think this is worth a regularly priced rental.
 
Battle Los Angeles (2011). This movie reminded me a lot, a whole lot, of Independence Day but without garnering as much interest during the "slow" times and then slow to start action thereafter. It also had a hint of Transformers and even District 9.

I don't know if it's because I have seen the previews or knew what to expect but the movie seemed too familiar and known to me. It felt like I was watching something I had literally already seen. The humans fighting back was predictable and expected. Finding out that the flying alien ships were drones, that there was a "control center" for these drones and knocking it out should/would give humans the advantage they were looking for was so Independence Day not to mention a few of the aliens had tentacles just like those in Independence Day. So this movie could have been called "A-Different-But-Still-Very-Similar Independence Day remake."

I can't really say it was a horrible movie but I can't say it was that good either because of the too-close comparisons. If you go in knowing this movie is very similar, it probably is a good movie. If you start to compare it to others, you may start to think why you rented it.
 
Sucker Punch (2011). I blindly "rented" this movie based on the fact that it looked like it had interesting cinematography and the comments I've read from a techie blog that was tracking this movie before and after its release. After seeing the movie, I Googled it and found that it is another interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. I can sort of see this correlation but I can also say, "WTF ever!"

Being that I didn't go into this movie knowing the background or anything, I would have to say it wasn't too bad. The cinematography was very interesting. The characters were interestingly matched from the "real world" to the "fantasy world" Babydoll creates. The action was fairly non-stop when those scenes were going on. The female characters were smoking hot and kicked ass.

If I thought of this movie as anything more than an action flick with hot chicks, I would probably have been disappointed. As it is, I am disappointed that the female characters did not show a little bare T & A here or there because it kind of went with the plot line of the "job" they did in the fantasy prison.

In the end, I was a bit confused on Babydoll's status: is she a vegetable or is she still aware even though she had a sort of lobotomy? It wasn't totally conclusive in my opinion which makes me think they could make a sequel of sorts.

Anyway, I would rent it for cheap or borrow it from a buddy. I'm a tight wad and not many movies are worth the $1.99-$3.99 rental fee at Blockbuster. Maybe rent it at the Red or Blue Box for a $1, right?
 
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010). I put this on my queue a long time ago when I thought my kids or the neighborhood kids would all want to watch it. I saw part of it on TV a few weeks ago and thought it looked cheesy. I was going to say that I saw it (even though not all of it) and remove it from my queue but I forgot. Once it came in the mail, I had to watch it because that's what I do.

This is another one of those "don't take it too seriously" movies. For what it is...a kid's movie...it wasn't too bad. The bald cat, aka Kitty Galore, is just hilarious and gross looking at the same time. The acting by the human cast wasn't the greatest but the voice-over wasn't too bad. Again, it's a kid movie and that's the way I had to watch it.

Kids around the ages of 4-7 might like the movie a lot. Anyone older may be wasting time and money renting it.
 

I guess that's all I got for now. On to the next round of movies until my vacation and then the start of the fall semester a few weeks later. Man summer has flown by!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Crazy Heart (2009)

Crazy Heart (2009). Finally got around to watching this movie. I had it at my home for almost two weeks but I had been busy with summer school, kids, family, and work. All good times but at least now I have been able to catch up on my movie watching.

I don't know what the big deal is about this movie. I think I remember Jeff Bridges being nominated for an Oscar or some movie award. Don't get me wrong. I think Jeff Bridges is a very good actor and he's played some great roles in some good movies. He's played some shit too but what thespian hasn't?

This movie was pretty slow to start and didn't pick up much pace to the end. It's a been-there-done-that-seen-it storyline and the performances of Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal didn't add any excitement to a tired, over-used plot. I don't think Bridges' acting was Oscar-worthy but what do I know. It's not like he lost weight, gained weight, or did any drastic physical changes for the role. He played a has-been, drunk country singer/songwriter.

It was neat to see/hear the singing "talent" of Bridges, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell. I wouldn't have believed Farrell sang anything if I didn't see the song credits run with him listed as "performed by." It's not far-fetched to think he could pull off "country singing" since he's had to change his natural dialect (Irish, I think) for his various movie roles. But it was still weird to see him with a pony tail singing country music.

I personally think this movie is passable and forgettable. I'm not saying it was horrible but I am saying that given a choice, I'd much rather watch reruns of The Brady Bunch and I was never a fan of 'the Bunch.'

Monday, July 04, 2011

In-N-Out Burger in Dallas

Drive-thruWent for a drive today looking for an idea on dinner. Chipotle was closed for the 4th...I'm not sure if they closed early but they were closed when I swung by around 5pm. I pulled out of the Chipotle parking lot onto the US75 service road and saw the cones for the new In-N-Out Burger.

The youngest and I decided to take a chance and see what the traffic there was like. It didn't look too busy but that was before I entered the drive-thru/parking lot area. Turns out they had four lanes of cars where they were taking orders before you get to enter the actual drive-thru (pic 1).

I ordered two Double-Double Meals for me and the child and a Cheeseburger Meal for the wife. They quoted a tab to me of $18.89.

About 30 minutes later, I got my order. I could wait 30 minutes for food. I've done it in sit-down restaurants before and we weren't in any hurry today. More than 30 minutes for fast food, and I would have driven away.

So, I paid and then got my food. This is what the burgers looked like (pic 2). It was interesting to see how I got my order to-go and yet the burgers aren't entirely wrapped. Know what I mean? I guess they don't expect the burgers to set too long. This time, they were right. I got home in about 5-10 minutes and they were quickly removed from the bag.

My youngest tasted the fries on the way home and said they weren't bad. I think "I like them" was the actual words used. The wife had the same initial response to the fries but later used "eh, they were alright." My initial reaction was "What's the big deal? I think Burger House fries are better and McDonald's has always been a favorite of mine." I felt the fries seemed a bit limp and flavorless other than quite a bit of salt on top. The youngest was digging the salt which is what was liked more than the fries themselves, I thinks.

Anyway, the wife and I stood around the kitchen counter so we could take a bite of our individual burgers and give an assessment. She bit first into her cheeseburger and her initial reaction was, "That's pretty good." I took a bite of my double-double and thought, "Not bad but what does the taste remind me of? Burger House. Sort of."

Without knowing how they actually cook the patties, I would say they have the taste and texture of hamburger meat that has been cooked on a flat grill (like the one you see in just about all restaurants: fast food and sit-down)...not like flame broiled. Know what I mean? Anyway, my burger came plenty loaded with Iceberg lettuce, two big slices of tomato and plenty cheesy.

I would have to say the burger was good but I wouldn't say it was anything exciting or something to yearn for. I wouldn't wait more than the 30 minutes it took to line up, order, enter the drive-thru, pay, and then pick up my order. I even think that 30 minutes is way too long especially when I can get a comparable, if not better burger, in half the time from places like Sonic, Burger House, Wendys, Keller's Hamburgers and yes, even McDonald's. I waited the 30 minutes this time and only this time because this place was new and I wanted to see what all the hooplah was about.

After having it, I'm still wondering what the hell all the hooplah is about!


UPDATE: Went to Keller's today for lunch. I got the #5 Double-Meat "Special" for $2.49, tator tots for $1.25, and a medium drink for $1.19. That's about $4.93 plus tax. The order was taken and delivered within 10-12 minutes. I would have to say that after having In-N-Out yesterday and Keller's today that I can make a better assessment in a taste test with the conclusion being Keller's burger was much better and is overall a better bang for your buck.

The Double-Double meal at In-N-Out is $4.99 plus tax which is also the same price if you buy the items in the meal separately ($2.75 for the double-double, $1.09 for fries, and $1.15 for a medium drink) according to the guy that took my order. My thought was that the meal was supposed to be more of a value (even though it's not advertised as a 'value meal') because you are ordering more than just a single item. But, I guess that's why the state of California is bankrupt because they aren't very smart with finances. Or maybe they are since they get people to pay the same price for a la carte items as they would if it's sold as a meal.

In conclusion, I'll stick with my local choices here versus returning to In-N-Out for my burgers and fries. I will return to see how their shakes match up to other local shake/malt providers but I just don't have that desire for their burgers and fries.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

2011 Wimbledon Championship

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic for beating Rafael Nadal for the 2011 Wimbledon Men's Championship. He is well-deserving but for some reason I still dislike him somewhat. I can't pinpoint why but he just isn't someone I want to win. Maybe that will change in the future.


Also, congratulations to Petra Kvitova for beating (and shutting up) Maria Sharapova for the 2011 Wimbledon Women's Championship. She is well-deserving too. I don't know if I could handle "the screamer" winning another tournament. Sharapova is a very good player but he screeching takes away from enjoying her skills and the match in general. Please! Please! Someone do something about the screaming/yelling from the women players of the WTA!