Monday, September 21, 2015

Food in America: George style

Hey everyone,

It's been a busy summer, full of fun, slothfulness, and visiting lots of people.  For those wondering, George and I had a great time visiting the United States.  In addition to seeing family and friends, I got to introduce George to America, the home of the brave and free.

For those who know George, he is just a 'little bit' judgmental.  Alright, he is so judgmental that two people who know him spit out food laughing hysterically when George mentioned he isn't that judgmental.  Pretty much, George is the Donald Trump of the liberals for Bulgaria, except he had a hard time voting for a lesbian organic mussel farmer near Pleven a few years back.  He wanted to vote for her, but knew she had absolutely no chance of winning.

For the 'George in America' blogs, I have decided to try and organize these into a few issues, because there is a lot of material.  This one is the food and restaurant guide.  This is a first, but I maintained weight in the U.S. and didn't become more fat and fabulous this summer, thanks to George giving glaring stares at anything that didn't look like real food.

This are actually quotes from George, with commentary from me to try to explain the situation.  There are hits and misses, so enjoy what George had to say about American food.  Yes, he loved America, and what until you find out what he had to say about Buffalo.

"They try to be all fancy with salad forks and give us water in a plastic cup. "- at The Cheesecake Factory

George's fish tacos with his vegetables were not a big hit.  The fact there was a waiting list, suburban women trying to act fancy wearing 'clothes found out of a dumpster', and the fact there were plastic cups and knives didn't make the Cheesecake factory a favorite.  

To be honest, my chicken salad sandwich wasn't that great either.  They buttered the bread too much, so I just ate the chicken salad with a fork.  Adding insult to injury, the Cheesecake Factory's cheesecake wasn't good, and they're adding something to the cheesecake which distorts the true taste of cheesecake (from a cheesecake baking expert).  There is too much sugar, or even possibly corn syrup added to it, which takes away from a true cheesecake taste. 

"You know what would be funny? Me being a restaurant critic and giving the fancy restaurants one star" - at the Cheesecake Factory 

That would be really funny, and brutal as well.  George as an American restaurant critic would be an internet sensation.  At the Cheesecake factory, the one star rating wasn't helped by the fact we had a disinterested waitress who was training a new gay guy, who was about 30, was nervous, terrible at the remembering things, and had a total crush on George.  Adding insult to injury, it didn't help that the training waiter forgot George's cheesecake for home.  After this experience and eating the food, I must admit I will probably never set foot in a Cheesecake Factory ever again.  

"Are we going to get industrial sized milk?" - on the way to the grocery store for my aunt

The sizes of the milk is indeed pretty overwhelming for Europeans, whose largest container of milk is a liter, and doesn't get used much.  

"Wegman's is awesome!" - to anyone he can talk to, including Richard and Ivo.

"A Wegman's needs to come to Sofia." - me

Yes, Wegman's, a grocery store founded in Rochester, NY, was a gigantic hit, which I knew it would be.  When I showed him Alec's Baldwin talking about how his mother didn't want to leave Wegman's and move to LA in the spring, George thought I was crazy, but he got converted.  

Why?  There is no other supermarket like Wegman's anywhere in the U.S. or the world for that matter.  There is a reason why people in NYC were ecstatic when Wegman's decided to build in Brooklyn and open in 2017.  Wegman's is a unique grocery store, with a large prepared food section best seen in the video below.  They have a produce section the size of a regular grocery store, and a turnover of 2-3 days.  Not only that, but they usually are the cheapest prices for regular groceries and pay their staff a decent wage, which makes the staff actually want to work there.  In Virginia, they have a huge wine shop with aisles of wine from all over the world. 

For those in the U.S. who don't know about Wegman's, here is why you should go there sometime.  It's totally worth it, and makes any other grocery store seem lame by comparison.  We ate a few times from the prepared food section, and George wasn't disappointed once.  George appreciated real food, and any artificial food was pounced upon with an

"I don't get the free refills thing but I find it fascinating."- at Anchor Bar

Anchor Bar was a big hit, and George loved the chicken wings, and he just LOVED me taking photos of him and the food.  For those people not from Buffalo, I would get disowned from the city if I dared called them Buffalo wings, as no person from the area would dare call them that.  We got two types, and it also helped we had a great server in Carm, who made sure we got lots of free refills.  

"How is everything?" - Hipster waiter in Boston ( or any server who asked us this countless times)

George - Silent (but his eyes say "Leave me the fuck alone")

Me - "Good, thanks" (but not daring to tell the waiter that George hates the super thick French toast that he thinks is bad because the syrup will not go through the bread) - at some fancy breakfast place in Boston

My good friend Todd recommended this place in Cambridge, and it was one of his few misses in food.  The servers are overly friendly in the U.S, and sometimes we'd rather be left alone, as this is what we're used to all throughout Europe.  While the decor was good of this diner rated at the fourth best breakfast in the United States, the food pretty much sucked.  I have to admit I tried a piece of the french toast, and it felt like eating a rubber tire.  My omelet wasn't much better, as it had too much stuff, especially pecans), and no egg.  Luckily, Todd's other food choice recommendations were great, including a Brazilian diner.
The Thai restaurant was indeed a great choice in Boston.  Thanks Todd!

"How in hell is this a panini?"   - at Panera Bread 

While it didn't quite match the definition of a panini, this became our 'safe' place to go to when traveling on the road.  First, the food was acceptable, although these were more like sandwiches and not panini.  More importantly, it was one of the few places we knew for sure had free wifii when traveling to update maps when meeting people.  

Pizza was not a big hit for George, who prefers the Italian style pizza better.  We went to Mazia's in Clarence, which used to be the best place in Buffalo to get pizza and wings.  I took Rossi a few years back and had some great stuff.  This time was a disaster, and I should have known we were in trouble when they said the olives on the Around the World Pizza came from Ireland.  Yes, Ireland, a great climate to grow olives.  Well, maybe it was the Irish olives, but the two specialty pizzas were pretty just overdone with too much toppings, and created a pretty bad pizza.  Luckily, the kids ate the supreme pizza, but the white pizza was pretty hard to give away.

Orazio's in Clarence is the 'fancy restaurant', an is a nice place for Italian.  It was also a safety place, since no one eats Thai or Mexican food.  We must say the food was great, but the portion sizes were of gargantuan proportions.  Jimmy's mozzarella sticks were like they used half a kilo of cheese to make them, while our garlic bread with cheese was an entire loaf of bread.  

Below, George's Chicken Parmesan had me burst out laughing, and I had to take this picture as proof.  The chicken is at least two chicken's worth of breast meat, and came with a side of pasta.  The look on his face is priceless, as he's trying to figure out how 1.5 kilos worth of food is a portion side for one person.  While the chicken parm and lasagna were fantastic, we obviously took these portions home to be for future meals.  

"Everything was good and fresh except for the cheese.  I liked it."  - at Five Guys

Five Guys was a huge hit, which was nice because Mighty Taco's food tasted like plastic to him.  George loved everything about his burger, except for the American cheese.  American cheese was not a favorite for George, who pretty much said this type of cheese sucks.  To be honest, I only like it on a burger, and even prefer Swiss or cheddar in my grilled cheese.  With the leftover french fries, we gave them to the chickens at the farm, who devoured them.  
George's dinner of loaded fries with pulled pork and barbeque sauce in Corfu, NY.  This was dinner at 5pm, which is cray cray to do in Bulgaria.  As a result, he later got hungry at 10pm.  

George did not quite get the fascination Americans have with bacon, but he participated and enjoyed taste testing bacon chocolate.  

"This is actually a pretty good breakfast." - at Silver Diner in Arlington, VA

It was an awesome breakfast to be honest.  Breakfast is a type of food Americans do well, but also explains while most of us are a little 'husky'.  Richard took us here for breakfast, and it delivered like Domino's.  It has lots of free range, organic, you insert whatever the buzz word is for food right now in America.  Great food all around, as George has caramel french toast which was fantastic, while I had a simple bacon and cheddar omelet which was perfectly made.  Hmm, hmm, good.  

Our last night at Denny's traveling back to Buffalo

The crazy part of our trip, where we drove 7.5 hours from D.C. to Buffalo to save $600 USD in car rental, plus somehow have flying from Buffalo to Sofia be cheaper than D.C. to Sofia.  This Denny's in Horseheads, NY was pretty tame, and had a few divas serving us who were kind, but nothing that was too 'over the top' like you could find at Denny's.  George had a Grand Slam breakfast for dinner, and he found the food acceptable.  Plus, it helped there was free wifii there.  Denny's rating could also be helped by the fact we were both exhausted from traveling around the U.S. for a month, and we were totally ready to come home to our own place.  Applebee's also got a free pass, which was meant George had acclimated to what American food was like.  Bravo America!  You converted George into liking some of your restaurants!