Tag Archives: food

When Good Restaurants Go Bad!

SarahRocks.jpgWe just returned from a wonderful trip to Willsboro, NY after a wonderfully relaxing family vacation on the shore of Lake Champlain.

After settling in and unpacking we headed out for something to eat.  We stopped first at a small grocery store attached to a gas station (which seems to be the norm in this neck of the woods) and asked the employees for a good family place to eat. Two of them recommended Zeke’s pub and, not seeing a huge amount of options, we decided to give it a try.

From the start the signs were not good.  A surly waitress waved a hand to the near empty restaurant and indicated we should take our pick.

(Warning sign #1)  The fact the restaurant was empty at dinnertime on a Saturday should have been a sign to turn tail and run, but we toughed it out and sat down at the only table that could fit five.

The menu contained the usual pub fare and so the men selected the usual assortment of burgers, while my daughter and wife went for pizza and fish and chips respectively.

(Warning sign #2) We were a little surprised when the french fry options were presented as “hand cut or frozen”.  I honestly thought I had not heard correctly because I have never been to a restaurant that offers you frozen french fries, even if that is what many of them actually do provide.  We all opted for the hand cut.  Perhaps that was a mistake as we will see later.

There followed a long delay in which we sat in direct line of the A/C and tried to stave off hypothermia.  We made it…just.

The food finally arrived and we tucked with gusto. It had been a long day and we were famished.  That enthusiasm soon faded when we discovered the food was tasteless. The menu said that Joanne was supposed to get two pieces of fish with her fish & chips, but she only got one. She was going to complain, until she tasted it and decided to just let it be.  Then we found the first long black hair in Joanne’s fries…then Greg found a long BLONDE hair in his burger…and at that point we were pretty much done.  We paid the bill and left vowing NEVER to return to Zeke’s again.

A couple of days later we stopped at Johnny’s Family Smokehouse just a little way down the road from Zeke’s.  What a difference!  The place was packed and we had to eat in the bar area.  We were greeted warmly, the menu was interesting and the food was excellent.  The pulled pork sandwiches were wonderful, the calzone tasty and we left feeling full and happy with a new discovery.  This place definitely warranted a second visit before we headed home!

As always happens on vacations the last day arrived far too quickly and, before we knew it, we were heading out for the last meal of the trip.  We asked the kids where they wanted to go and Johhny’s was a unanimous and resounding favorite.  They received no argument from us and off we went.

(Warning sign #1)  We pulled into the parking lot and, despite being Friday night, it was mostly empty.  Odd but this meant that the large open air section near the carpark was available and we opted to sit outside as it was a beautiful night.

zekesAs we walked to the door one of the kids pointed at the new sign which read “Johnny’s and Zeke’s”! The “Zeke’s” part was more of a footnote at the bottom of the sign… they seemed to be trying to make that part look unnoticeable. We should have turned around right then but the sign nearby read “The best of both worlds” so we figured that they must surely have kept all the good stuff…right?

(Warning sign #2) The menus arrived…they were the menus from Zeke’s. They were even the same cheap white paper, rather than the high-quality Johnny’s menus. The glasses were the cheap plastic glasses from Zeke’s also.  Both places had pulled pork so Joanne asked if this was the pulled pork we had the other night only to be told “No, this is a different recipe”.  I eyed the car parked nearby and absentmindedly fingered the car keys.

(Warning sign #3) The first thing out of the waiter’s mouth was a long list of things they were out of, which covered about half of the menu.

(Warning sign #4) The french fry options…you guessed it…now it was hand cut or frozen! Not only that, but you now had to pay an extra two dollars to just get the french fries, unless you would prefer your burger with cheap Lay’s potato chips straight from the bag (a Zeke’s specialty) .

I chanted the optimistic mantra that surely they would keep the best while we waited for the food to arrive.

(Neon warning sign #5) My optimism lasted right up to the point where the only other table requested to speak with the manager and then spent the next 30 minutes blasting her and then what I presume to be the co-owner with phrases such as “Disgusting and unsanitary”.  He reminded them that “shrimp scampi isn’t normally served as a soup” and that it was “not normal for the chef to decide what he would serve someone after realizing that they were out of what he had ordered.”

(Flashing neon warning sign #6) Our neighbor said he couldn’t understand it because he knew the chef…and that was when we heard that we heard that the old chef had quit because he didn’t like the new arrangement.  Yes…it seems we were back to the “Chef” from Zeke’s!

We had plenty of time to listen to this tirade in detail because about 45 minutes had passed since we placed our order with still no sign of it appearing.  The waiter did come and tell us they were backed up, which was hard to understand considering they place was nearly empty.

I was now actively campaigning for an immediate exit after leaving enough cash to cover the drinks.  Joanne was much more hesitant as she had never left a place after ordering food.  That continued right up to the point where we pointed out that one of the things our neighbor complained about (and the reason for the disgusting comment) was that he found hair in his food.  The look on her face was priceless, followed by a comic swirling dust cloud as she headed for the car at top speed.  I pushed some money under a glass and, without a second glance, peeled out of there in a tire smoking dash for safety. We went to another restaurant and, admittedly, the food there wasn’t that great either. But it was hairless, and that was good enough for us.

As we were driving home from that other restaurant, we passed by the sad building that was once home to a wonderful restaurant. The parking lot of this PUB was completely deserted… at 9:30 on a Friday night. That was a sure sign that something had gone horribly wrong.

We now have a new phrase in the household.  To be “Zeke’d” is to take a great restaurant…and destroy it thoroughly. Also, whenever we pull into a restaurant, we double-check to make sure there’s no “and Zeke’s” on the sign.

Ahh, family vacations, they are all about making memories…and this one is going to stick with the family for a while!

 

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Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, Travel

An Unexpected Discovery!

Don’t you love it when a simple activity turns into an unexpected discovery?

Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I just had to take the bike out for a run and, with no particular destination, I just pointed the front wheel down the roads that looked fun.

Around noon I found myself near Greenwood Lake…and hungry.

A small triangular island with a café on it appeared and I decided to stop for a quick bite.

Little more than a kitchen with a couple of tables and a tiny parking area I wasn’t expecting much but the proprietor (Jason) was very friendly and the place clean.  I ordered bacon, egg and cheese on a roll and a coffee and was told the coffee comes with it.  Great!

While the sandwich was made I helped myself to a coffee from the nearby stand and was stunned to find that it was actually good coffee!  I didn’t see that coming.

I settled at the table and was presented with a sandwich nicely presented on a clean white china plate. No paper plates here.  I tucked in and…it was fantastic!  OK, I know we are not talking about high-end food here but it was tasty, perfectly cooked, not greasy.  Really…it was exactly what I was looking for.

I was enjoying a nice chat with my neighbor when Jason when brought over a little container of bar-b-q sauce and said to us “Try it…it has strawberries in it”.  It was delicious!  Tangy and sweet but not too much of either.  Apparently they have a smoker coming in soon and will be offering a variety of BBQ fare.  I’ll have to remember to stop in and try that once they are up and running.

My neighbor was raving about his potato salad and Jason asked if I wanted to try some of that too.  Another hit!  And it was fun to see someone so excited about the foods he was preparing.

Finally it was time to pay and the grande total for the unexpected culinary experience and friendly conversation – a whopping $4.27!  I was so impressed I even did a Facebook check-in there…which I never do.

I left with a smile on my face, refreshed and ready to hit the road again – not bad for under $5.

If you’re interested in trying them out you can find them at:

3 Corners Cafe
160 Windermere Ave
Greenwood Lake NY 10925
845-595-1664 
threecornerscafe@yahoo.com

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, Travel

A Thrilling Ride of a Lifetime

Most motorcycle rides usually start with a pre-ride check.  Depending on how anal the rider is, this can be anything from a thorough inspection to merely a squeeze of the tires to make sure they have air in them.  But this past Sunday, ride preparations involved slicing fruit and making a quiche from scratch!  Now I make a mean quiche, but how did these strange bedfellows come together?   Well, as is often the case when things get a little weird, this all started from a desire to try to please the fairer sex.

Listen up men, because I am about to give you one of the most important life lessons you are likely to hear…Men and Women are NOT the same! I know some men think that women are like men but with different ‘bits’…they are not.  Women are different in ways that we men will never comprehend, and the best we can do is try to keep up with their likes, dislikes and strange social mores.  Pretending to listen is an excellent way to keep your woman happy, but this takes years of study to truly master.  In fact, I am pretty sure that full mastery ends with shaving your head and ritually branding dragon shapes onto your forearms using a cauldron of hot coals. Those able to master these dark arts are rewarded with copious amounts of action…or so legend has it.

Now that we have that important life lesson out-of-the-way, I’ll get back to the story.  Some time ago one of Joanne’s friends said that she had always wanted to go for a ride on the back of a motorcycle.  I suspect she hoped Joanne would drive but, since Joanne is not a confident enough rider to do that, I volunteered my services.

Here’s another important fact about women – they talk to each other (sic) and will actively seek out opportunities to do so.  In fact I am told that if women don’t use up their daily quota of words then they will, quite literally, explode!  Men, on the other hand, need either beer or technology to lubricate the conversation. For example, it is OK to text a question to your friend, or to mumble your question drunkenly into a beer bottle, but you can’t just ask a man something outright…even if they are sitting next to you.

Joanne mentioned her friend’s request to some other ladies and, before you knew it, we had eleven women, ranging in age from thirties to eighties, lined up for rides! This made coordinating things very difficult, because even a short ride would mean several hours between the first and last person.  In order to keep things civilized, I came up with the idea of having a nice Sunday brunch so that, while waiting their turns, the women could talk and eat – tasks they are well designed (through millenia of evolution) to handle.

Now when I said “brunch”, I had in mind a box of Joe and some bagels/donuts.  But this was to be a women’s brunch, and so preparations needed to start several days in advance.  By the time the guests arrived, “brunch” consisted of two kinds of coffee, a variety of bagels, freshly baked quiche, fresh fruit salad, pasta, salmon, cream cheese, grapes, fruit juices, wine coolers, mimosas, muffins, croissants, cheese, crackers, flowers on the table…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

Fran gets a tattoo

I had provided two route options – a quick ride around the block, or a longer ride that took in a few twistier roads and a short blast on the highway.  Joanne and Sarah dressed each guest in a leather motorcycle jacket, a do-rag (to keep their hair looking nice), gloves, and a full faced helmet.  All riders also then received the obligatory tattoo from Sarah before they were allowed to climb aboard.

It was interesting to see how different these eight women (three dropped out at the last-minute) behaved on the back.  Most of them started out very nervous and holding on tight but, after a short while, started to relax and enjoy the ride.  I won’t name any names here but there were several notable passengers:  Ms. Fidget didn’t stop moving around and, despite being rather petite, had the bike jerking from side to side, even when traveling in a straight line on the highway.  Ms. Nervous held on so tightly that I was jammed up against the tank and ended up with a cramp in my leg, and Ms. Natural  felt so at home that I could have sworn she already had thousands of miles under her belt.  I had told most of them that it was OK to hold onto me, but that experienced passengers held on to the bar at the back.  One person held onto me and then switched to the bar  about 20ft from the driveway…hmmm.  You know who you are…

It isn’t easy to talk when you are moving, but anytime we stopped I would make a point of asking how they were doing.  I was not surprised when Ms. Natural replied enthusiastically, “I WANT ONE OF THESE!”

S sports her new tattoo

Back at base camp, the conversation was going hot and heavy.  Had this been men, they would have been texting each other on things like how far over they leaned, speeds attained, commenting on the acceleration etc.  But the women would greet each returnee with a loud cheer and then get down the business of discussing schools, teachers, food, weight, exercise classes, etc.  Huh?  These women have just had their first experience on the back of a machine with the power to weight ratio of a Ferrari, and with nothing but  a layer of leather between them and the elements and…nothing!

Since I was riding most of the time I had to get my information third hand from Joanne, and it was like pulling teeth!  However, after some verbal waterboarding, I finally managed

to eek out that most women felt as though they were going to fall over going around the turns, and that those who went on the highway found that the most exhilarating part.  Personally, I find highways dull, and use them as little as possible, but I guess it was the only place where we saw any real speed.  I did hear that Ms. Natural was frustrated by the traffic, and wanted me to overtake – clearly someone born to ride, since motorcycles are the perfect overtaking vehicle.  (Maybe I’ll lend her my copy of The Perfect Vehicle?)

A couple of emails arrived after the event, thanking us and including a couple of classic quotes including:

“Wearing all of the gear really added to the reality of the ride!”, and

“I will never look at Rt. 208 the same way again!”…the interesting part here is that I have no idea if that is a good or a bad thing…hmmm…

I also received a very nice thank you note from our octogenarian saying that it was a “thrilling ride of a lifetime” which arrived on some pink, monogrammed, paper…most unmanly…but welcome nonetheless.  I hope I’m still up for new experiences when I reach my golden years.

In all, it turned out to be a very fun event.  I think most of the women enjoyed themselves and managed to check another item off of the bucket list.  As for me, I’m going to send some text messages to see who is interested in joining me for a twenty year apprenticeship at a mountain retreat to learn why women cry so easily.

And if there are any other people out there that want to check this activity off of your own bucket list…text me!

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it