July 2007

Monthly Archive

Zankou Chicken

Posted by on 19 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    There is not quite enough competition in the market of Lebanese-inspired fast food to label one example of it “average,” but “par” will do just as well.

    Zankou’s falafels, arguably the best thing on the small, simple menu, are better then most, but even they cannot escape the all-pervasive dryness of the place.

    The chicken, Zankou’s professed specialty, is as good as fresh rotisserie chicken inherently is, but no more so. Little is added to it but excessive salt. The hummus is only fair, but the garlic sauce can give flavor and moisture to the chicken if one requests extra.

    There are also equally parched steak options, and the steak, chicken, and falafels are also available as wraps. Everything is accompanied by pickled turnips, which, although not suitable for all palates, are good for what they are.

    For a similar style of food of a much higher quality, Daphne’s Greek Café would be the way to go, but its prices also differ from Zankou’s accordingly. For an alternative to fast food hamburgers within the same price range, Zankou Chicken does well enough, and I give it three stars out of five.

Movie Review of Nancy Drew

Posted by on 16 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Movie Review

This is a review of Nancy Drew.
Previews do not prepare you for the fear you will feel but the film itself is not to blame.
This believable mixture of mystery and every day life is shown by the loveable sleuth everybody knows as Nancy Drew. Well represented by comedic, recognizable and just plain good at what she does Emma Roberts, this young girl with a talent for detective work is given every opportunity to solve a mystery after she has promised her dad she will hang up the magnifying glass while in New York. Finally she gives up trying to be a normal teen and solves the mystery to help a single mother and her child.

Well cast, the film is well scripted, well directed, well preformed, and well done.

Daphne’s Greek Cafe

Posted by on 15 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Halfway between sit-down and fast food, Daphne’s serves top of the line Greek food in a casual atmosphere. The kebabs are fresh and substantial, and the gyro exemplifies the full potential for flavor of the right blend of beef and lamb.

    Of the two sides that accompany most of the items on the menu, the rice pilaf, although good in its own right, is overshadowed by the Greek salad, thick with olives, vinegar, and feta cheese.

    The falafels are decent, but because they are flat instead of spherical, they have too much surface area, which has a negative effect on their texture as a whole. The calamari, on the other hand, is the ideal texture, solid but not rubbery, and is cooked in just the right amount of batter.

    There are several Greek sauces including authentic classic hummus, which can cause one to make short work of large stacks of pita, and on which there need be no improvement. Baklava is the only dessert available, but it makes for a highly enjoyable experience as long as there are napkins readily available.

    Although Daphne’s’ prices are more sit-down than fast food, so are its portions and quality, and I give it four and a half stars out of five.

Golden Palace Mongol’s BBQ

Posted by on 13 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    By far the best of the Mongolian style restaurants that I am aware of, Golden Palace allows the customer to fill a bowl with his or her choice of several kinds of meat and vegetables, including bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and, although not strictly speaking a vegetable, pineapple chunks.

    He or she can add a custom combination of sauces, and then see the work of art stir-fried to perfection in a few minutes in plain sight. Meanwhile, fresh steamed rice and sesame pocket bread that complement any meal are brought to the table.

    Before this main course, each customer is served rice flour chips and egg soup that is very good as is, but can be improved with a little soy sauce, which included in the table setting, next to the salt and pepper.

    At dinnertime, prices are higher, but the customer may fill as many bowls at the grill as he or she wishes, and is also served an egg roll and a pot sticker with sweet and sour sauce as appetizers. Green tea is available at any time of day as well as soft drinks, but since it has been made with teabags instead of tealeaves as it once was, it has ceased to be worth much mention.

    For before the meal, after, or both, there is a small salad and dessert bar with fruit, greens, and several flavors of Jello. The strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, and even almond varieties are each at least par, but the grass Jello is even less appetizing than it sounds.

    One drawback to the procedure of cooking everything on the same grill is that there can be minimal mingling of flavors, which can be an issue for militant vegetarians and parties with varying spice level preferences. In most cases, however, its simplicity is perfection, and I give it four and a half stars out of five.

August Book of the Month: The Tortilla Curtain

Posted by on 12 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Book Review

     The Tortilla Curtain by T.C Boyle is the story of two couples in Topanga Canyon, Candido and America, a pair of Mexican illegal immigrants, and Delaney and Kyra, a pair of upper middle class white democrats, the inextricable link between their lives, and their sharply contrasting interpretations of and quests for the American dream.

    Boyle takes neither side in his very open political commentary on illegal immigration, but presents them both with more than enough insight and heart to demonstrate how very far from black and white the subject is. The four main characters are all likable and flawed, and as alike and as different as it is possible to be.

    With the same high stakes in their minds and the minds of the readers, Kyra, a workaholic real-estate agent, contemplates what makes the perfect home while America dreams of a bed and running water, Delaney and Kyra struggle with their dispassion, disconnection, and existential crises while Candido and America battle the elements, the odds, and the old fashioned nature of their own relationship, all in the same place at the same time but in two worlds.

    Far from being only political for the sake of political, it is also an intricate character-driven piece and a good read even without its strong relevance.

Mandarin Garden

Posted by on 10 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Many businesses share the name Mandarin Garden, but the one to which I refer is on North Fair Oaks in Pasadena.

    In terms of quality, it is a run of the mill Chinese-American fast food restaurant. The orange chicken is adequate, if a little runny and bland. The white rice is on the dry side, and the fried rice is mildly greasy, but available with beef, pork, shrimp, or chicken cooked in.

    The selection, on the other hand, goes well beyond the norm for similar places. There are more flavors, including almond, cashew, curry, and sweet and pungent, and more different kinds of meat are served with each one. The range of seafood is excellent. There is sweet and sour shrimp, cooked much the way sweet and sour pork or chicken traditionally is and with just as much success, scallops done many different ways, and, for the more calorie-conscious, shrimp with snow peas or a number of other vegetables. There are even a few duck and lobster options.

    The building itself is in a rather uncomfortable area, but free delivery is offered. Par in many ways and above in a few, I give it three and a half stars out of five.

In-N-Out Burger

Posted by on 10 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    A California favorite in fast food, In-N-Out Burger has one of the shortest menus in existence, which somehow seems to suit it best. There are hamburgers and cheeseburgers (single, double, triple, or quadruple), fries, soft drinks, and milkshakes (chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry), and they are all perfect in their simplicity.

    There are no veggie patties, but there is a “grilled cheese,” not listed on the menu, that is simply a cheeseburger with extra cheese but without the burger. Grilled onions are added to any burger on request.

    The fries are always fresh, and one can often see them being made from scratch through the kitchen window, but they are sometimes in need of extra salt.

    The staff is cheerful and courteous. Most In-N-Outs are simply drive-throughs with a few outdoor tables, but some of them have indoor seating as well. In accordance with the needs of the customers, the food can be packaged in a box for eating in a car, or a bag for taking home.

    With its low prices and high quality, In-N-Out projects the feeling that it need not be any more than what it is, and I give it five stars out of five.

Goldstein’s Bagels

Posted by on 10 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    A casual place with a light, summery feel, Goldstein’s Bagels adheres to its field of bagels and bagel sandwiches. It is not a place for the carb-conscious, but has some combination of fillings to suit just about anyone else.

    The pricing is somewhat deceptive. The pre-designed bagel sandwiches are reasonable, but with the prices of the individual fillings, a custom bagel can come to as much as six dollars.

    The bagels themselves come in a variety of flavors. The cheese bagels have cheese mixed all the way through them. They all have substance enough to hold their fillings well, but can sometimes border on stale.

    The menu also features the “bageldog,” a hotdog baked inside a sesame bagel, which turns out to be a successful if unique idea. The bagels do not come with sides, but are surprisingly satisfying on their own.

    For dessert there are chocolate and blueberry bagels, and a variety of sturdy but tasty fruit-and-cream-filled bagelish pastries. The soda machine is never watery.

    The service is only so-so, so I give the place three and a half stars out of five.

Dave & Buster’s

Posted by on 09 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    The prices may be daunting for those on a budget, but the quantity and quality for the money are both well above average. Although even one who eats only a main course at Dave & Busters will not feel hungry again for the rest of the day, the appetizers deserve a mention.

    The combination plate includes Buffalo wings and bacon potato wedges that taste exactly as one imagines they should when not faced with an imitation. Also available are mushrooms deep-fried in a crispy, flaky, buttery batter that adds to their flavor instead of replacing it.

    The menu includes beef and veggie burgers, steaks, chicken, and seafood, all of them juicy, well seasoned, and in extremely generous portions. The fish of the fish and chips is battered with the same care and balance as the appetizer mushrooms, and just enough seasoned salt baked in.

    Dave & Buster’s also has an enormous arcade area, a sort of Chucky Cheese that caters to adults as well, and it is frighteningly easy to spend the equivalent of several meals on it in an afternoon and hardly notice. Along with the classics, there are a few unusual games, including a multiplayer quiz show.

    A perfect special occasion treat, I give it five stars out of five.

Cameron’s Seafood

Posted by on 08 Jul 2007 | Tagged as: Food Review

    Although pricey, as good seafood always is, Cameron’s Seafood is well worth the sporadic or special occasion splurge.

    Featuring every usually eaten type of fish, including thick steaks of swordfish and other moderately hard-to-find species (in the economical and not the ecological sense, of course), it always rewards the challenging task of deciding, whatever the decision may be. All the varieties are perfectly seasoned to compliment their own individual flavors.

    While the sides could not be mistaken for more than that in the presence of the fish, the “smashed potatoes” in particular could easily overshadow the main dishes of other similar restaurants. The fish and chips achieve the elusive, delicate balance of the right fish to batter ratio.

    The menu has recently been expanded to include high-quality beefsteaks and burgers, and the restaurant also includes a fish market for cooking at home.

    The staff is cheerful and courteous, and the nautical atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. Expert in its field and all it dabbles in, I give Cameron’s Seafood five stars out of five.

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