everyone’s a critic

Questioning everything, trying not to whine.

On the way out of the “health food” store this morning, stranded in a long line, I succumbed and picked up a packaged cookie from the display by the register. Sitting down outside to nibble, I read the label more thoroughly. I should have learned by now to be less surprised by these things…

While it might prove too difficult for me, I support anyone else in a decision to go vegan or vegetarian. There’s many compelling reasons for either option, but I’m getting sick of the “health excuse”, especially coming from folks who go out of their way to consume organic vegan junk food.

Vegan junk food: that’s exactly what this cookie amounted to. Listen to this: the single cookie contained 12g of fat, 460mg of sodium, 32g of sugar, and topped out at 460 calories. The supposed benefits? No dairy, no eggs, no honey, no hydrogenated oils, no cholesterol, no preservatives, no refined sugar.

I can’t help but think that (next to no cookie at all) a better healthier choice would be some “carnivore” cookie made with fresh organic ingredients, at half the size. Butter, flour, eggs, and sugar, please, without the vegan-specified grain dextrins and non-hydrogenated soybean lecithins.

Maria at Newport Wine Cellar donated a quartet of beers from Cavalry Brewing Company to be submitted to my ire and disdain. Here are my snap judgements:

First on the chopping block is the Dog Soldier Golden Ale. Simply put, there is nothing to recommend this beer. Foamy, shallow, and without substance.

Next up is the Hatch Plug Ale. This is a decent food beer, richer and approachable. I wouldn’t be ashamed to offer this one to friends, preferably accompanied by a burger or two.

Onto the Marauder IPA. This, unfortunately, seems to follow the ugliest IPA formula of taking an otherwise B- beer and ruining it with an exaggerated alcohol content and/or sense of self-importance. Pass on it.

Lastly, the Nomad Stout. in my critical opinion, this one is 60% meh, 40% bleh. Not unlike a Guinness that’s been re-engineered to accentuate the crappier parts and neglect the good ones. Bitterness without balance or complexity, topped by a ridiculous lacey head.

I like a start-up business, especially a (relatively) local one. But Cavalry’s fancy labels and exaggerated military tie-ins are no substitute for experience and restraint.


This morning we made a trip to the reconstructed, renovated, reinvented Atlantic Grille in Middletown. While the restaurant re-opened a week ago, I’m not sure it has survived the transition so well.

First, it’s important to understand what we always liked about the “old” Atlantic Grille. Besides proper-good greased-up morning diner fare, there was that excitement and energy you only get from a crowded counter and an open kitchen window. Breakfast theater at its best! Despite the inevitable weekend-morning crush, we could always find a seat, mingle with the throng, enjoy the show, enjoy the food, enjoy the atmosphere, and heartily tip this fine entertainment.

It was, no doubt, the crush and bustle that had the ownership looking to expand; more room to handle the covers, and a lounge/bar area to bring in the after-breakfast crowd. In many ways, “on paper”, it looks like they have achieved that goal. The new layout is clean, efficient, organized, and obviously expertly planned and executed. It is indeed a fine amalgam of modern food-service design principles, commercial interior design, and thoughtful craftsmanship. This is also why it just happens to suck balls.

The new Atlantic Grille is as close to a TGI Fridays-by-the-sea as I can imagine. The new decor and even the new cutlery and flatware contrast all-too-sharply with what has always been otherwise excellent working-man fare. When I watch a cook sweat and a server hustle, I empathize and understand, I expect only the best of their efforts in that particular space and place in time. In the bustling and oft-times turgid world of the short-order breakfast fare, customers and patrons earn one another’s respect in a certain theatrical round.

On the other hand, I expect nothing from a molded and pressed cookie-cutter franchise. In such a place, I expect my food and service to come to me smooth and facelessly, and as such, it is an experience I most often choose to avoid. Put it this way: while the Atlantic Grille has done a beautiful and exacting job of reinventing itself, it now has less character than a Newport Creamery.

Still, they are local, and the food isn’t bad. There’s little fear of finding room for that last-minute breakfast party when friends/family come calling. Unfortunately, for me at least, it seems as though the Atlantic Grille may have sold it’s soul, and in doing so, lost my heart.

Awhile back, I wrote a bit about incoming gadgets, etc. “…A new deba, crankset, pedals, bottom bracket, sprockets, a bluetooth card…” Since all this shit has arrived and been in use for awhile, I thought I’d jot down a quickie review, if for no other reason than I’ve had spotty luck finding good consumer product criticism online (at least re: these things).

First up: The Kershaw Knives Shun Pro II 105mm Deba. This knife has been my introduction to quality Japanese kitchen cutlery. Right out of the box, into my greedy clutches, this knife is immediately and obviously the two things everybody else has already mentioned, ie., sexy beautiful and sharp as fuck. Being my first single-bevel working knife (having previously used steep double-bevel German-style knives), I was taken for a ride as soon as I sliced up my fist veggie with it. The combination of the deep hollow grind on one side of the blade and the shallow single bevel on the other works to pull the blade deeper into the cut as you go; you can start a slice as this as you please, and this blade will not skip out the end of the veg and turn your paper-this sliver into a wedgey chunk. In fact, it took me awhile to stop angling my cuts to compensate as I would with a double-bevel blade and just let the sharp as fuck edge do it’s thang. First dish prepared? Paper-thin beet carpaccio with tiny slivers of Rainier cheery.
An aside: my girlfriend was first attracted to me by seeing my way with a sharp knife and a board full of veggie prep. Honest! To this day, we both get a wee bit mushy when I cut the cucumber…
Anyway, I’m pretty happy with the knife. Not sure why they call it a Deba; too hollow and too thin in the body. I guess it’s because the belly of the edge curves too much to be a mini-santoku. I liked it enough to go ahead and pull the trigger on a Pro II 165mm Nakiri (also a misnomer; the single edge properly makes this a usuba-bocho). (Whatever, ya knife-nerd.)

Next on the list: Bike parts. After literally months of agonizing, I whacked the gadget-tree with my cheap-hammer and let the cheapest crankset and BB fall out to the ground. I ended up with an Origin 8 170mm crankset and BB. Installed with the accompanying 46T ring, 18T freewheel cog, and Origin 8 track pedals, I was off to the races. Something stank down there from the very start… I pulled, inspected, and reinstalled the cranks… upped the torque on the crankbolts a wee bit… and still something weird. Finally figured it out a week later: the crankarms aren’t 180 degrees apart. Close, but not quite. Hard to say if it’s the tapers on the BB or the machining on the arms, but it’s gotta be out no few degrees. Unridable, no. Disconcerting, yes. Well I got what I paid for: $80 for cranks, ring, and BB clearly doesn’t buy perfection. We’ll get it “right” later, folks; for now, fuck it let’s ride!

Oh yeah, the BT card for “Lappy No. Dos”: Plug’n’played, recognised a-okay in Ubuntu 9.04, syncing phone and Palm files minutes later. Didn’t even have to rebootload the works a la Windoze.

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