Friday, October 14, 2011

Frozen Yogurt and Cupcake Overload

We seem to be having an extraordinary run on a couple of concepts lately. Frozen yogurt and bakeries seem to be the next big thing. And why, I have no idea. Bakeries, I can understand a little bit. You can expand on that by selling to restaurants things like rolls and artisanal breads. But frozen yogurt? It's like someone thinks, "Hey, I can't cook, but I want to open a restaurant!". "How can I do that?". "I know, frozen yogurt!". And to make it even worse, most are of the variety where the customer serves themselves and the result is weighed for the final price. So, the owners don't even have to be creative. It's like a restaurant where you choose the ingredients for your dinner and hope it comes out well. I don't think it will work. I see failures.

I see old ladies shrieking, "Take off 3 pieces of pineapple to get me under $2.00!"

Bakeries are also on the rise. A couple years ago, one of the last bakeries in town closed down. It was located downtown on a pricey street, so that probably had something to do with it. Rents down there can be prohibitive for the limited hours a bakery is open. Now, within the last 1-1/2 years, three have opened, with more on the way. Is there a national cupcake shortage or what? Once again, I blame Food Network. These damn shows make semi-talented home bakers think that they can make a fortune turning out red velvet cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies. Store-front bakeries like that will not survive in my opinion. Too much cost, not enough pay-out. Most should stick to catering and special orders. Store-front places have too much up-front cost to support cookies and cupcake sales. Unless you have something REALLY special.

And REALLY special has been outlawed in 49 states so far.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dinner at "Buddy's"

It was a dark, blustery night (All apologies to Snoopy). Anyways, Tropical Wave Lee was moving ashore as we chose to spend my aunt's birthday at 'Buddy's'. As befalls the Good Nephew, I picked up my aunt and then went to pick up the parents. As we pulled up outfront, I observed that this place doesn't really show all that well from the road, doesn't grab the attention. Non-descript building with small lit-up letters over the door. In an area not known for restaurants, you have to make your presence known. Being ever gentlemanly, I dropped off everyone at the front door, and made my way to a parking space. It wasn't difficult, there were only about five cars in the lot. At 6 o'clock on a Saturday. Mmmmm. Good thing I made a reservation. Oh, wait, they don't take reservations, only call- aheads. At least that's what the person answering the phone thinks. She's not sure, even thought they've been open two weeks.

Once inside from the storm, I'm impressed by the decor. It looks surprisingly professional and well done. Tall booths rim the walls with a nice muted color scheme that is far from the schlocky Jersey-Italiano scheme I was envisioning, given the proprietors. We were shown to a nice booth and given menus...thick paper menus because they were too cheap to buy menu covers. One menu was skewed sideways so we could tell they were just copied on a copier. These people spent thousands on nice booth seats and nice tables, and gave us copier menus. I'm sorry, but when you charge what they charge for pizza, pinching those pennys makes one pause. I guess I probably obsessed over this because we had a good 10 minutes to peruse this menu before our waitress came to get a drink order. Drink, meaning soda pop or tea. No beer (pizza's proper partner), wine, or liquor.

So, sweet tea it is! And we get it in about, oh, five minutes or so. Now, I'm all about giving new places a break when it comes to service, because I've been there. But, when there's four tables and two servers, my patience wears thin. Which means that we had PLENTY of time to peruse the menu. Pizza, calzones, and strombolis. Maybe we should have asked for more time to look over the menu. (That's sarcasm, don't you know)

The advertisement online says to mention the ad to get a free order of their famous garlic knots. So I did. Mmmmm, garlic knots! I had a small lunch, because I knew we would be eating big Italian food for dinner. Those garlic knots would certainly hit the spot! They also listed Caesar salads for $5.95. Mmmmm, Caesar salad and garlic knots! That should slake the hunger I was feeling. That was a large sum for Caesar salad, but surely for $5.95, I should have some left over to take home along with left over pizza.

So, my plan was thus. Expensive Caesar salad with free garlic knots for appetizer. Then, they had White Pizza on the menu. I haven't had White Pizza since I spent a year on Long Island. I freakin' love White Pizza, at least the White Pizza I had on Long Island. My hopes were high since the "chef" told me at my store that he makes the best pizza around. And since he 'tawks like dis', I thought he was for real.

And, my salad comes out pretty quick. Not bad, I think. Finally, their timing is starting to come around. And then I investigate further. For $5.95, I expect more than this meager little mound of romaine. And then I fork a mouthful. Never had I experienced a more worked-over salad...ever. A small handful of romaine with 1/2 teaspoon of dressing worked until every square millimeter was covered. Good job covering the lettuce, but it was worked so much, it was actually dry. A couple of dry croutons on top only added to the dryness. No parm on top and none offered. Or fresh-ground pepper offered. Bobby Flay pricing with McDonalds execution. And where were those damn garlic knots? We were hungry, I'd passed up lunch expecting a big Italian meal and all. I set aside the salad until I could wave down the waitress for some dressing on the side. *crickets* Five minutes later she ventured near enough where I could wave her down. She brought the dressing quick enough, but where were the garlic knots? Soon, she said, the kitchen was a little behind. With four tables, the kitchen was behind?

Luckily, my aunt has the gift of gab to keep us pre-occupied. But, not enough for us to realize that our pizzas were taking a long, long time. As in, an hour's time. My parent's pizza and my aunt's stromboli arrived exactly an hour after we gave our order. Still waiting on our garlic knots and my White Pizza. Five minutes later my White Pizza arrived via the "Chef", aka JS. "So sorry to take so long, we accidentally made a large instead of a small for you". Yeah, that's what must have taken an hour. Five minutes later, the garlic knots arrived, our "appetizer".

Worst. White. Pizza. Ever. Oily crust, a few dabs of "white". Chewy, obviously not fresh dough. My aunt's stromboli had little stuffing. My parents pizza was actually all right, it was their "house special" with everything. I had to have a piece since I was hungrily waiting for mine.

Why, oh why I didn't say anything, I don't know. Maybe, it's because they were so rude on their visits to our store. Maybe because they didn't recognize me even though I helped them many times to get their smallwares just right at the right price. Hours by my side asking "How much is that?", "Is that your best price?", "Where's my china?", and they didn't recognize me standing in front of them?

I made a point to go up to the owners after the dinner and wish them well, and got that far-away look of no recognition. JS, the "chef", thought I was their Sysco rep and wanted to give me their order. SP (She-Pants) asked our server who I was, that I looked familiar. I'm only the person that makes sure your orders and deliveries make it to you on time. In other words, one of the little people that you depend upon to make you a success. And I'll do my best, but I will not go out of my way to do that. Since going beyond is not in your vocabulary.