Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visit to BGR and Updated HoCo Burger Standings

Anyone who knows me knows that I crave a good hamburger all the time.  I'm like Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon.  I could eat one every day and if I were an el cheapo, "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." 

Well to my excitement, there has been some buzz in HoCo blogosphere about a new burger joint coming to Howard County (see HowChow, Sarah Says and Kitchen Scribble).  The name of this place is BGR The Burger Joint.  Reviews on other BGRs locations on Yelp.com weren't too bad, but weren't too great.  I had to try it out myself though before passing judgment.  

With new restaurants, my rule of thumb is to not visit them on their first week of being open.  The reason being the staff rarely has a clue as to what they are doing, the food is usually under/over cooked, and the restaurants are usually really crowded.  So I give it a week or so before going.  In this case, I think BGR opened officially on May 17th and I had my chance to visit it on the first time on May 27th.  

We (a crowd of 6 of us) arrived at 6:00pm and found plenty of open seats in there.  We all went up to place our order and the girl working the register was really well trained and had no problem taking the complex orders.  I ordered a Southwestern Burger (description from website:  A 9oz burger infused with southwestern influences, like chipotles, poblanos, onion and chilis. Topped with pepper jack and served atop our black bean salsa. Served on a fresh, buttery-toasted brioche bun with our mojo sauce.), done medium, with a side of Rosemary Parmesan Yukon gold fries.  My wife ordered the Veggie Burger (description from website:  Our fresh house-made recipe including brown rice, black beans, oats and molasses. Served on a fresh, buttery-toasted brioche bun.) and shared my fries.  Being that she's a chowing lightweight, I got to sample both of them.

Service time was just ok.  It was a little slow for a burger joint and the crowd wasn't large, but the burgers are fresh and cooked to order, so waiting 12 or so minutes wasn't too bad.  

The Southwest burger was a little more well done than I typically think of a burger that is done medium.  It was not dry though and tasted pretty good.  It was an absolute mess to eat though with pieces of the toppings and hamburger falling all over my plate.  
The Veggie Burger that I had was pretty damn good when it comes to veggie burgers.  It was thick, moist, and filling.  I am not a veggie burger fan, but I really enjoyed this.  My wife was happy too.

The fries were about average.  I thought a rosemary Parmesan fry would be something special.  It was just a pile of fries with rosemary and parmesan sprinkled on top.  Had the fries been fresh out of the fryer, they might have been moist enough for the rosemary and parmesan to stick to, but it wasn't.  Total bummer.  
A friend got the onion rings and they were enormous.  I was able to snag one of these bad boys and thought it was pretty good.  It was super greasy, but still really good.  

Another friend got the parmesan asparagus spears.  Although I didn't taste them, they were a total rip off.  Almost $4 and she only got like 6 spears.  What about a decent serving size folks?!?!?

New Coke Machines
The soda machine there is a total trip.  You can get one of like 15-20 different types of Coca-Cola products.  To each soda you can add a syrup.  My first time through I got a Grape Fanta (yeah I'm a dork) and the second time through I got a Cherry Lemonade.  The combinations are endless.  The only problem is that it is slow for people to navigate around the touch screen menu to find what they want. 

Interface on new Coke machine.
As were were leaving there was almost a brawl over the table we were sitting at.  I said we had no problem getting a seat when we arrived and that was true, but as time went on, the place began to fill up.  Tables along the right hand wall of BGR are 6 seaters and packed in pretty tight.  So seating is at a premium there.  As we were leaving two female vultures both jumped at our table claiming it was rightfully theirs.  I wasn't in to the drama so we just left as they started yelling at each other.

So bottom line, this place is pretty good, but it still doesn't beat my favorite burger joints in HoCo.  
  1. King Burger at Fat Burger with Skinny Fries
  2. Black Angus Burger at Victoria Gastro Pub with Poutine Duck Fat Fries
  3. Burnin Love Burger at Red Robin with Onion Ring Tower
  4. Southwestern Burger with onion rings at BGR
  5. 1/2 lb burger at Fuddruckers with a basket of fries (thick ones)
  6. Serious burger at Cheeburger Cheeburger with a Frings basket
Before everyone jumps up saying "Where's Five Guys?" let me explain.  I think the fries there are nasty and the presentation of the burger just makes the burgers look unappetizing and cheap.  

Oh and by the way, nothing beats my homemade "Madison Burger."  What's a Madison burger you ask?  ‎"The Madison" consists of a 3/4 lb burger, served on a bagel, with a slice of onion, a fried egg doused with Franks Hot Sauce, a heaping slab of macaroni salad, and topped with ketchup and mayo.

Eating the inaugural Madison Burger
So what do you think?  What are your favorite burger joints in Howard County?  I'd love to know.  Am I missing something?  Any local joints I have to try?


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Randy "Macho Man" Savage (1952-2011)

Fridays are usually always a great day for me.  Not just because the weekend is right around the corner, but also because I get to telework from home.  Who doesn't like telework?

Well sometime around 11:30am yesterday morning, as I was just getting ready to head downstairs for "Lunch with Mariska" (yes, this is what I call my telework lunch breaks because I watch half a Law and Order:  SVU episode), I clicked over to FoxNews.com to see if anything important was going on in the world.  I was absolutely horrified to see "Former Wrestler Macho Man Killed in Car Accident."  No joke, I immediately got a huge pit in my stomach.  I thought someone was playing a cruel joke on me.

Lets go back in time.  I grew up in Westminster, MA during the 80s.  Very few of us had cable TV or video game systems.  This was back in a time where playing meant you were outside with your friends hitting each other with rocks, sticks, big red kickballs, or in my case, an elbow off the top turnbuckle.  Why an elbow off the top turnbuckle you ask?  Because my friends and I loooooooooooved professional wrestling and that was our life.

School days always started off with questions like....

"Did you see that tag team match with the Hart Foundation this weekend?" 
"Wow the Junk Yard Dog really wailed on Nikolai Volkoff last night!"  
"How amazing was that Ricky the Dragon Steamboat match against Macho Man?!?!?!"

We were obsessed.  Every one of us.  We bugged our parents to buy us rubber Big John Stud and Hillbilly Jim action figures and we would pretend they were wrestling, but that just didn't cut it.  We needed to head out to the back yard and wail on each other like our heroes did.  We all had our favorites and we pretended we were them.  My favorites were Hacksaw Jim Dugan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Junk Yard Dog, and The Macho Man Randy Savage....but then again, all of us wanted to be Macho Man.  Why?  He was hilarious.  He'd come up with these one liners from out of nowhere and would leave you doubled over on the floor.  Stuff like...
"Hulkamania is like a single grain of sand in the Sahara desert that is Macho Madness."
"We're in space and space is the place!"
"The same fire the Dragon breathes, he shall burn by."
"You will eat my rear rockets and like it! Ohhhh yeahhh!"
"Hulk Hogan has got the biggest arms in the world.  Yeah, but these arm's aren't chopped liver.  Someone likes chopped liver out there."
and my absolute favorite..
"The tower of power, too sweet to be sour, ohhhh yeahh!"
So it is with great sadness, but fond memories, that I say thanks to Macho Man for giving us all that he had to offer.  And although his death brought great amounts of sadness to many of us, he still made us laugh as we reflected back on his life and wrestling career though the many videos of him available on Youtube.com.

I'll leave you with a few that you might want to check out.

Here's a really funny interview Macho did with Mean Gene Okerlund.

Here's Macho on Arsenio Hall with Morgan Fairchild.

A two part video of his legendary match vs. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat back at Wrestlemania III.   I watch this and I remember it like yesterday.

And we can we ever forget to snap into a Slim Jim?  "Art thou bored?!?!" 

I leave you with this great tribute video produced by WWE.

Oooooooh yeeeeaah!!!

I've transformed into Macho Man!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Best! Spring! Ever!!!

What I look like when I get
into the office first thing in the
 morning during the summer
Having grown up and spent 22 years of my live in New England, I was kind of forced to enjoy long Winters, longer than normal Spring and Fall, and short Summers.  So it is no doubt I'm the type of guy who enjoys cooler weather and not the brutal furnace known as the Summer in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Now that I'm living here in Maryland, by the time May comes around, I'm already complaining to anyone who will listen (and a few who won't) about how I feel robbed of a legitimate Spring season.  It seems like the minute the trees start to bud and the robins arrive Mother Nature turns on the heat and doesn't let up until October.  It's downright rude and unfair.  Not this year though.  Daytime highs in the mid-70s, absolutely no humidity, and a slight breeze is what she has on the menu every day and this "husky gentleman" is eating every last morsel.   

The Adirondack chairs getting
no love from the snow
This all hit me this past Sunday afternoon.  My wife and I were able to do something we've never actually done since moving to Elkridge in July of 2009.  We sat on the front porch together, in the beautiful Adirondack chairs my Dad made for us as a housewarming gift, enjoying a spectacular afternoon.  She had a book in hand and I just sat there cherishing every minute of what I consider the best weather ever.  And it was apparent we weren't the only ones taking in the exceptional afternoon.  Neighbors walked around, enjoying themselves like something you'd expect to see in a modern day Norman Rockwell painting.  This was suburbia at its best.  This was a perfect snapshot into my American Dream.  

So as I sit here soaking up every minute that this Spring has to offer, I'm reminded of one of my favorite songs by the Canadian power trio, Rush.  Their song Time Stand Still always serves to me as a reminder that sometimes you need to slow down in life and just soak up everything you can in the moment.  Here's an excerpt from the song that really says it all.
Time stand still.  I'm not looking back, but I want to look around me now.  Time stand still.  See more of the people and the places that surround me now.  Freeze this moment a little bit longer.  Make each sensation a little bit stronger.   
I refuse to put a picture of the mulleted band that recorded
Time Stand Still back in 1987, so you get this classic from 1978.
So as you go about doing what you love to do in the Spring time, please take a minute or two to sit back and think about how exceptional the weather has been around Maryland so far this year.  Trust me.  It will give you something pleasant to think back to as you sit in a puddle of sweat brought on by the brutal temperatures coming to area again in another couple months.


Friday, May 6, 2011

My Favorite Holiday....National Homebrew Day!

When I was a kid, my favorite holiday was Christmas.  For weeks on end I would dream about running downstairs on Christmas morning and finding an Optimus Prime Transformer under the Christmas tree with my name on it.

Not me on Halloween, but close!
As I became a teenager my favorite holiday became Halloween.  I just loved getting dressed up, looking like Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, and terrorizing children or raising hell in and around the town of Westminster, MA.

Finally once I was in my twenties, I loved any holiday that meant my friends and I could go drinking (i.e., St. Patrick's Day, Cinco De Mayo, Marti Gras, Oktoberfest, National Weatherman's Day, National Adopt a Kitten Day, Grandparent's Day, um I think you catch my drift).

Well now that I'm in my thirties, I've moved on to having another favorite holiday.  And although I still love and have a lot of fun celebrating all the holidays previously mentioned, my new favorite holiday is National Homebrew Day.

Saturday, May 7th, is Big Brew!!!
Saturday, May 7th is National Homebrew Day.  It is celebrated around the US (and probably the world) by homebrewers of all skill levels gathering to brew together.  This social gathering is known as "Big Brew."

We are fortunate here in Howard County, and Maryland for that matter, to have what I consider one of the best Big Brew events in the US.  Every year brewers from all over Maryland gather in the parking lot behind Maryland Homebrew in Columbia, MD for a day of socializing, showing off their homemade equipment, grilling, drinking beer, and most importantly, brewing!  These are not just your run of the mill guys and gals playing around with a Mr. Beer kit.  These are some hardcore, award winning brewers living in our own neighborhoods. 

Brewing my first batch 4 years ago
Having only been homebrewing for a little under 4 years now, I've learned a lot from some amazing brewers...all of which have been right here in Maryland.  It has been awesome guys like Pete D., Chris G., Brandon M., Matt B., and a handful of others who have given me the confidence to go from extract brewing to all-grain brewing in what many consider a very short time.  No wonder my beer doesn't taste like crap (which by the way I though all homebrew tasted like until I moved to Maryland in 1999).  I learned from some outstanding brewers and I'm very thankful to have met them. 

So if you are a homebrewer looking for some tips or someone wanting to get into homebrewing, but don't know where to start, I definitely suggest going to Big Brew tomorrow.  There will be some pretty impressive homebrew systems there and some great people who can tell you all about homebrewing.  Chris and the guys at Maryland Homebrew will also be on hand to get you the equipment and ingredients to get you on your way to brewing your first batch.

Here's the information on Big Brew.

Date / Time:  Saturday, May 7th at 10am - 4pm
Parking lot behind Maryland Homebrew
6770 Oak Hall Ln # 115
Columbia, MD 21045
Admission:  Free 

Hopefully I'll see the faces of some of my readers out there.  If you don't know me personally, be sure to stop by and say hi.  I'm the big guy with the goatee and Red Sox cap.  If you can't find me, ask someone and they should be able to point you in my direction.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Damn Restaurant.com For Making Me Fat!!!

I think one of the coolest blogs for Marylanders is done at the BaltimoreSun.com in Carson Porter's Deal$ blog.  This Carson guy puts together a blog on deals in the local area.  One of them that he highlighted just this week was for 80% off at Restaurant.com.  To get the deal, you just enter the promo code of "MOM" at the checkout.  I did it today and it worked!

For those who don't know, Restaurant.com can be great and it can be sucky.  There's a few rules that you have to deal with when using the gift certificates from here.  They range from only being able to dine on certain nights of the week, to a minimum bill amount, and sometimes even the dreaded "may not be used for alcohol."  DOH!

Also, the quality of several of the "local" restaurants on there look to be somewhat questionable, but once and a while you find a few gems.  Today I found several gems for those of us in HoCo and the surrounding area.


Can anyone say anything bad about Eggspectation?  Ok maybe the benches and chairs are weirdly shaped and your ass hurts after sitting in them for an hour.  Oh well, the food there is soooooooooo worth it.  My wife and I love eating there and we try to make it over there every month or so.  I bought 4 of these and will definitely use them within the next few months.

My go-to meals:  For breakfast - Chesapeake Omelet.  For lunch - Cuban Panini.  For dinner - Maple Glazed Rib Eye

The deal:  $5 for a $10 gift certificate or $10 for a $25 gift certificate.

The rules:  Minimum purchase of $20 for the $10 gift certificate or $35 for the $25 gift certificate.  18% gratuity added prior to discount.  Valid for Dinner and Dine In.

The link:  http://www.restaurant.com/rdc/eggspectation-ellicott-city-american-restaurant-rid=409144

Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro

I'm not sure how I found Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro, but I think it is some of the best Chinese food around!  It's popular with the MacAloney's because of the excellent vegetarian options for the wifey.  Me?  I like to tackle the many flavorful meat dishes that they have to offer.  They even have a great piano player who plays music while you eat dinner.  What more can you ask for?

My go-to meals:  Appetizer - Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles or Pan Fried Pork Dumplings.  For dinner - Chef Xu's Chicken or Chef's Hot Crispy Beef

The deal:  $5 for a $10 gift certificate or $10 for a $25 gift certificate.  Higher denominations available as well.

The rules:  Minimum purchase of $20 for the $10 gift certificate or $35 for the $25 gift certificate.  18% gratuity added prior to discount.  Not valid on holidays or special events.

Stained Glass Pub

This is my neighborhood bar!  It's right around the corner from my house and has amazing pizza.  It's homemade "momma style" pizza.  The wings there aren't too bad either.  The only upgrade I'd make here is to their beer selection.  It's not all just Bud and Miller, but there's not much in the way of craft beer here.  Mondays and Tuesdays bring half price pizza (cannot get deal in conjunction with Restaurants.com gift certificate) and Tuesday night is trivia night.  Sure I haven't done trivia night yet, but I plan on hitting it this summer once Manina is on Summer vacation since we make a super smart team and will own the place!!!

My go-to meals:  Appetizer - Old Bay Wings.  For dinner - Pepperoni, Hamburger, and Onion Pizza

The deal:  $17.50 for a $25 gift certificate.  Not the best deal normally, but with the 80% off discount code, it's a great deal!

The rules:  Minimum purchase of $35 for the $25 gift certificate.  18% gratuity added prior to discount.  Dine in only.  Not valid on specials.

Anyways, I hope you get a chance to get over there and enjoy the deals that Restaurant.com has to offer.  If you are in the Howard County or Baltimore area, tell me what your favorite restaurants on Restaurant.com are.  I'm always looking for new places to check out so I love recommendations.

Note:  I totally screwed up the title of this blog.  It's Restaurant.com, not RestaurantS.com.  Not sure why I threw an "S" in there.  Guess I need to lay off the homebrew for a while.  Haha.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MacAloney Randomness

Go figure.  After my last entry I said how I was going to do a better job of updating my blog.  That was back on April 7th.  And here I sit on May 3rd and nothing much has been updated around these parts.  It's not due to lack of wanting to write about things, it's just that I've been on vacation and also dealing with tornadoes.  So here are some random thoughts that have gathered in my mind that I figure I would toss out there for your reading pleasure.

Oakland is a Dump?  
Oakland Crime Map
Practically my whole life I have been lead to believe that Oakland, CA is one of the worst places to visit in the USA.  I heard a million things about crime, nasty people, and overall ugliness on a scale that makes the toughest areas of Washington, DC seem like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.  Having just visited there though, I'm really not sure where this reputation came from.  The people there were not only pleasant, but friendly and for the most part happy.  At no point of walking around downtown Oakland at night did Manina or I feel unsafe or uneasy.  In going to the Oakland Colosseum to watch the Boston Red Sox play against the Athletics, the fans were really nice.  I'm pretty sure I didn't even hear one profanity yelled the whole game.  Amazing!!!  So if in your travels to the left coast you are given the opportunity to visit Oakland, I highly recommend it and do so with an open mind.

There's Nothing to Look at Here!
Is it just me or am I the only person who feels bad for the poor victims of the tornado super outbreak last week?  It was like the rest of the USA could care less about the suffering of our own citizens and more about a stupid wedding in England.  I mean seriously folks!  Why aren't the knuckleheads from Hollywood lining up to lend their appearances to charity events for the victims?  Why don't you see a crawl at the bottom of the television screen asking people to send a text message to a number to donate $10 to the Red Cross for the victims of the deadliest tornado outbreak in almost 40 years?  Oh wait, cause everyone was waking up at 4am on a Friday morning to watch some awkward looking tool wed a girl who is clearly too hot for him, but is doing it for the money and status.  Well done America!

National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) product captures rotation tracks of April 27-28 tornado outbreak

Down on the Farm
I saw on HowChow yesterday that farmers markets are opening up this week in Howard County.  That is awesome.  I plan on visiting the farmers markets a lot more this summer.  In fact, I'm going this week in search of some vegetable plants to plant on the side of the house.  Last year a picked up a pepper plant that grew like crazy.  Green peppers and basil plants, here I come!

If you want more information on the Farmers Markets in Howard County, you can visit their Facebook page.

Fighting Fat?  Fund the National Parks!
Last week I did a great 4.5 mile hike in Muir Woods, which is located just outside of San Francisco, CA.  If you have never been there, it is an amazing place to visit.  You feel like you are in the village of the Ewoks on the planet of Endor.

Muir Woods, as well as other National Parks, was celebrating "National Parks Week" and admission fees were waived to all parks.  The place was absolutely packed!  Now I'm not sure if it is always like this at Muir Woods, but I got to wondering if the place was packed because it was free.  There were tons of families out there enjoying a beautiful day in the park.

All I hear now a days is how the Government wants to intervene on your life and tell you how to raise your kids.  Whether its forcing you to buy your kid's school lunch or putting taxes on soda and snack food, we are all being told what to eat.  How about this?  How about we use some tax dollars to fund the National Parks system to an appropriate level so that they can remain open for free, year round.  Imagine the possibilities here.  Families would definitely take advantage of this to get out and enjoy some of our national treasures on a regular basis. This would get the kids out and cut back on childhood obesity.  Great!

Oh well, that is all I got on my mind right now.  Glad you took time to read it.  I'm open to any comments you got on anything posted here.  Have a great week!