Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hole in the Wall (Literally)

Of all the places I've lived in, L.A. has perhaps the best burgers of all of 'em. Granted, I haven't tried EVERY single burger out there, but when you consider that In-N-Out, Five Guys, Father's Office, and The Apple Pan are all relatively accessible, well, let's just say that it takes a good strong dose of willpower to avoid a weekly burger fix.

Which makes that much harder when I discover a new place that does nothing but burgers. And does 'em well. REALLY well.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant SL, I was introduced to Hole in the Wall and was blown away. You fill out an order slip, turn it in and pay, and then your burger is cooked to order. Along with a variety of burger breads (including a pretzel roll) and toppings, they offer both regular fries and sweet potato fries. The dipping sauces for the fries (homemade ranch, ketchup, and chipotle mayo) are unbelievably good, with the chipotle mayo being the hands-down favorite. They also have a weekday "Grumpy Bill's Stimulus Package," where a freebie or discount comes with your burger.

Hole in the Wall is on Santa Monica Blvd. just east of Sepulveda in Westwood.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Steel Cut Oats

I've been remiss in posting about food, but here's a little something that's become a breakfast staple for me: steel cut oats. They're nothing like the mushy glop of regular rolled oats (the Quaker kind) and because they're whole grain, they can stand the time of a slow cooker. I tend to assemble everything at night, turn the slow cooker on when I go to bed, and breakfast is ready to eat when I wake up. So here goes . . .

I use the "Irish Style" steel cut oats from Trader Joe's, which as you can see, are completely different from rolled oats. I use a ½ cup of oats, which go into my slow cooker. Then I add a big handful of dried cranberries, and dice up about eight slices of dried mango. After that I loosely chop a handful of shelled walnuts, and for good measure, sprinkle in some flax seed for heart health. All into the cooker.

For the liquid, I've found that a Mexican staple called horchata works the best. It's a rice and milk drink (flavored with sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg) that's kinda like drinking smooth rice pudding. I've always seen it in the type of recirculating self-serve dispensers that also house Orange Bang. Kern's makes a plain version; the mango works equally well - they're found in the refrigerated orange juice section of the grocery store.

3½ cups of the horchata gets added (use about three cups if you use less dried fruit), and everything gets mixed up. Then turn the slow cooker on low, and eight hours later - breakfast! It's a hearty meal - this makes two big servings (or one if you're really hungry) and is high in fiber.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grand Theft Base

When the Dodgers were playing the Rockies last weekend, Vin Scully mentioned the athletic ability of the Rockies' rookie CF and lead-off hitter Dexter Fowler. Aside from having a pretty cool name, young Mr. Fowler was apparently on his way to Harvard to play basketball before being waylaid by the pull of a Colorado paycheck. And seeing that (according to his official stats) he's 6'-4" and only 173 pounds, Vinnie mentioned that he was quite the speedster.

San Diego (apologies to the loverly JS) found this out the hard way last night, as Dexter Fowler proceeded to steal five bases against the hapless friars, tying a rookie record. And seeing as how the major league record for steals in a game is seven (set by George Gore of the 1881 Chicago White Stockings and tied in 1894 by the Philadelphia Phillies' Billy Hamilton), Dexter Fowler had a pretty good night.

And I know, I know, that's a picture of Fowler against the Phillies from last season, but believe it or not, neither or the Denver News Post had any photos of Fowler running amok last night. He's not that fast . . . let's get on the ball, shutterbugs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Airport Travelers

Given my recent travel experiences back East, I found this "analysis" of the ten types of airport travelers hilarious:

10. VP of Business Importance

“I just came from a very important business meeting. I exchanged many business cards. My laptop can fit in a manila envelope. Of course I’m in first class. Don’t make eye contact with me. I went to business school. No, my facial expression will never change, people need to know how focused I am on this spreadsheet.”

9. Airport Dad

Airport Dad is signified by his official travel uniform - jeans and a sport coat. Is often found with Disney Family (see #1)

8. We’re So In Love!

“We live together but let’s PDA like we haven’t seen each other in months! Let’s go play Idaho Senator in the bathroom! We’re going to make sure everyone in this place knows how much we do it. A lot. Nothing in this world matters to me except you and our matching outfits. I’m so lost in your eyes, I don’t even care if my muffin top becomes exposed.”

7. J-Lo

“I’m so comfortable! Feel how soft my pants are! Don’t touch me you creep.”

J-Lo is all about wearing her fashionable pajamas in public, likely paired with Uggs, a Starbucks latte, and plenty of annoying chatter. (And let's not forget the endless stack of gossip and fashion magazines, stuffed to the gills with sneeze-inducing perfume samples.)

6. Tubby 2 Seat

(Also known as a COS - Customer of Size) As soon as you see this guy waiting at your gate, you cross your fingers that he won’t have the seat next to you. No one likes spillover rolls on their leg or armrest.

5. I’m Boarding Before You (or not)

There’s 2 types of this character:

  • “I fly a lot or have so much money that I have a special roped off line to board the plane first. That’s right, not only do I board before you, but I can’t walk through the same line as you commoners.”
  • “First! Not only am I that person when commenting on the internet, but I take pride in being the first person from Group 4 to board.”
4. Mr./Ms. Selective Hearing

Minutes after the desk representative announces that they won’t have more information for another 15 minutes, this person storms up and demands more information.

3. Bluetooth Jones

Bluetooth Jones can be male or female, douche or oblivious. Either way, they are way more efficient than you - talking to grandma or closing deals while making stuff happen with 2 free hands.

2. Coughy Cough

Sick guy always ends up next to you on the return flight that’s days before an important event.

1. Disney Family

These families are two-faced at the airport, depending on whether they’re going on vacation or coming back. The coming back group is sedated and asleep, but the outgoing family is a ball of annoying energy. Whichever direction they're going, beware the mounds of luggage, both checked and carry-on, and if seated near the Disney-bound family, keep your distance and make sure you have noise canceling headphones.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Depressing Times Mean Comfort Food

At a department meeting this morning, it was announced that today there would be a fourth round of layoffs, and while my department was unaffected by staff reductions, we were also informed that all employees making $50K or more would be subject to a mandatory 8% salary reduction. Given the cost of living in Los Angeles, $50K a year is like making $30K elsewhere in the country . . . and while I can't confirm this, the rumor going around was the CEO was on a Caribbean cruise while all this was going down. And Nero fiddled while Rome burned . . .

So while it might be a while before I include fast food (or restaurants in general) in my budgets, here's to better times, when Five Guys was something I could actually afford.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Box Scores

I know it's only two weeks into the season, but when I look at a box score and see a pitching line like this, I gotta wonder:

0.1IP 3H 6R 6ER 1BB 0K 0HR 67.50ERA

Lookit that ERA! Holy moly!

So this atrocity put up today by the Orioles' Radhames Liz (that's him on the left) against Boston in the Patriots' Day game earned El Señor Liz the following reward, courtesy The Baltimore Sun:

Radhames Liz optioned to Norfolk

And thanks for playing . . . enjoy the International League, which, by the way, is really a misnomer, since none of its 14 teams reside outside of the U.S. The last non-American team to play in the IL was the Ottawa Lynx, who moved to Allentown, PA after the 2007 season to become the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Uniform Musings . . . and Other Stuff

There's a great blog that I read daily called Uni Watch, which is run by an excellent New York writer named Paul Lukas, that focuses on sports uniforms and logos. Much of the early baseball chatter has been about the New York Mets' competing stadium patches, with one for their jerseys, and one for their caps. I also support Mr. Lukas' contention that these are the Mets only true home uniforms, and not these or these. These look awful too.

There's also been discussion about the Red Sox' new road uniforms, specifically that they're wearing navy socks. If they're not going to wear red, then at least wear these.

And not to offend the loverly JS, but the Padres' road, alternate, and military-alts (and here too) look, well . . . bad. Home uni's are ok, but the rest . . . bleh. Not that San Diego has a history of bad uniforms or anything, but . . . well . . .

And I know that picture of Sandy Koufax over there has nothing to do with anything on this page, other than it's one of the best uniforms in the history of baseball. Take that, Yankees . . .

Since today is Jackie Robinson Day around the majors, I realize that all the teams need to recognize him, but I think rather than have EVERY player wear #42, perhaps only one should. Especially since there's at least one player who can wear it as his regular number, as he was grandfathered in before the majors retired it.

I'd also like to thank the über-talented SL for linking to me through his website. If I had half the talent he does, as a photographer, computer guru, and writer, I'd be a lot further ahead in the world.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Whole Lotta Baseball

It's been a rough first week of the season, with the Angels' Nick Adenhart dying last week, and then the Phillies' Hall-of-Fame announcer Harry Kalas died today after collapsing in the Nationals' press box in Washington. I hate to admit it, but after watching Vin Scully throw out the first pitch for the Dodgers earlier today, I just can't see myself watching or listening to them as much as I do if he wasn't calling the game. I certainly don't listen to them on the radio past the third inning, when Charley Steiner and Rick Monday take over, and when the Dodgers are on the road, I rarely listen to Steiner and Steve Lyons. It's just not the same.

But in perusing today's early box scores during lunch, I noticed that the Pirates' Zach Duke threw 120 pitches in a 7-0 CG /SHO over Houston. 120 pitches? In his second start of the season? Yikes. Who's the Pittsburgh manager again? John Russell - I actually had to look it up. But considering Duke went 5-14 last year, I somehow don't think Russell really wanted to burn up all Duke's wins this early, but hey, what do I know?

UPDATE - What the hell!!! Now I see former Tiger Rookie-of-the-Year Mark "The Bird" Fidrych died today in an accident on his farm in Massachusetts. And Orlando Hudson just hit for the cycle, the first time a Dodger's done it since Wes Parker did it in 1970. THAT'S why I like listening to Vin Scully.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Smoked Meatloaf

So I was back in Maryland for my dad's birthday this weekend, and knowing his food likes (meat & potatoes, comfort food) I decided to make a meatloaf for him that we could cook together on his smoker. I found instructions and recipe that fit Dad's tastes (no chunks of onions or other "fancy stuff") and Mom was more than happy to go to the store with me to get the ingredients.

And holy cow, is this thing ever scrump-dilly-icious. I glazed half with the recipe's "meatloaf sauce" and left the other side plain (far left photo - the left side has sauce), but the trademark pink smoke ring that's visible in smoked meats was present throughout the entire meatloaf (middle and right photos)

Granted, it took four hours to cook, and smoking meats means you have to pay closer attention to stoking the coals and keeping the temperature constant, but man oh man, the taste. Slightly sweet, a little smoky (the recipe says to go easy on the smoke wood, since ground meat absorbs smoke more than whole cuts of meat), tender and juicy. And since we also smoked thick pork chops and I roasted a pork shoulder that turned into pulled pork sandwiches (sorry, no pix), Mom gave me the rest of the meatloaf to take home. Best carry-on luggage EVER. Dinner is gonna be good tonight . . .

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More Travel

I'm sitting in the Denver airport (delayed) waiting to get back home, and using the completely free wi-fi. Why don't all airports have this? I've been in airports that make you pay to use the wi-fi, and that totally bites, especially if they don't have per-minute pricing. If I'm only here for 20 minutes, I don't want to pay for an hour of usage time. No, check that, I don't want to pay for it PERIOD.

And it's frickin' cold here in Denver too - there's snow on the ground. Maryland was absolutely beautiful, and as much as I love L.A. weather, there are few things as pretty as a true Spring.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Travel Gripe

So I'm back in Maryland to visit my dad for his birthday, and as I was flying from L.A. to Baltimore yesterday, I have this to say to people flying Southwest Airlines: KNOW THE FRICKIN' SYSTEM!

Southwest doesn't offer assigned seating like most other airlines - it's open seating based on the time you check in. So if you check in exactly 24 hours before your flight, you get a better choice of seating than someone who, say, checked in at the airport. And it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone flying Southwest; they've always had open seating.

I checked in on-line two days ago and got one of the up-front "A" boarding groups, like I have almost every single time I've flown Southwest, which means I got one of the emergency exit-row aisle seats that have the extra legroom. The flight went from LAX to Las Vegas, but I didn't have to change planes, so I just kept my same seat. The flight from Vegas to Baltimore was jam-packed and here's where I have my gripe. If you're a COS (Customer of Size - Southwest's PC way of saying "fat"), or generally large or tall passenger, check in early so you can get an aisle or window seat. All the COS and big passengers, including the high school basketball team that was on the flight, were the last ones boarding, meaning they were all stuck into the middle seats, forcing the window and aisle passengers (like me) to do the lean-to, because they were spilling out of their seats into the other two.

It's not Southwest's fault at all - they're right upfront about how they do business. But if you know you have a hard time fitting into a middle seat, check in early and give yourself a better chance at an aisle or window seat. If I was that 6'10" high school basketball player who got stuck in a middle seat, I'd have questioned the coach or traveling secretary who got such crappy boarding times.

Know the system, people, and you'll do yourself and the rest of us a big favor.