What’s Wrong With An Old-Fashioned Hamburger?

Anyone want to guess what this is?

Butter

If you guessed butter, you’d be partially correct. The official name for this is “pork fat butter with a hint of honey,” and you can get it at Husk, a trendy new farm-to-table restaurant in Nashville. I took my dinner group of senior citizens there recently, and I have to tell you that “pork fat butter with a hint of honey” is wasted on them. It’s wasted on me, too. Perhaps my palate is not discerning enough or perhaps it just tasted a whole lot like regular butter, but I’d prefer to spend my $40 fancy dinner budget at a restaurant with exotic cheesecakes instead of at a restaurant with snooty butter.

I’ve noticed an alarming trend with higher end, uber-hip, painfully trendy restaurants lately. The number of descriptives found on the menu directly correlates with the price of the dinner. “Hand-torn lettuce” will add an extra two dollars to that regular old chicken sandwich you just ordered, and “house-made ranch” will cost an extra dollar seventy-five no matter if it’s poured over the crappy old iceberg or over the “embered artichoke hearts,” of which you get one and that one will cost you three dollars. In addition, farm-to-table concepts offer wildly expensive menu items even though the restaurant saves money on shipping and refrigeration by growing half the menu in the back yard. Not only are the storage costs reduced because everything you need to prepare all side items is found in the garden, but you no longer need handlers and middlemen as the staff can just pick a few tomatoes for the grass-fed, organically-milked, humanely killed bison burger that was manually processed and skillfully yet tenderly patted into a “ground meat round” for your consumption.

Also, the fact that all these restaurants have now begun to refer to the head guy as “Chef” is a tad disconcerting. “Chef has requested no substitutions as the menu he created is of a specific design and intent. Removing the basil harms the integrity of Chef’s dish. Chef is certain you understand.”

Now I’m not one to throw ketchup on a steak, of course, but if Joe wants Heinz 57 on his fried catfish, Joe should be allowed to have Heinz 57 on his fried catfish, especially if he’s going to pay $34 of his hard-earned retirement money for that catfish. Wait, his “corporate-saved post-career lifestyle funds.” Also, I’m going to need all of you to start referring to me as “Executive Assistant.”

“Executive Assistant, would you like to go to dinner?” Yes, like that.

Isn't it gorgeous?  It was . . . . okay . . . . Totally had a fancy name, though.

Isn’t it gorgeous? It was . . . . okay . . . . Totally had a fancy name, though.

And speaking of Joe, bless his heart, I’ve got a story to tell. Joe has been coming to these dinners for the last four years. He signs up every month and will go anywhere we choose. He brings his budgeted $28 every time, so when we go somewhere fancy, I have to call and let him know to bring more money. This upsets him. When Joe gets upset, he goes on a rant, and I’ve learned that the only thing I can do is let that rant run its course. Two months ago Joe was upset with Kroger and for the entire three hours we were together, our conversation went something like this.

“Jimmie, where do you shop for groceries?”

“Well, several places actually. I like Trader Joe’s, Publix and Kroger. I probably do most of my shopping at Kroger, though. Why, Joe? Where do you shop?”

“Never at Kroger! I hate Kroger! I’d be so embarrassed if my friends ever saw me set foot in Kroger. Kroger is embarrassing. They are terrible. I don’t want to give them a dime. It’s awful. Do you agree it’s awful? Publix is so much better. I think one of my friends saw me going in to Kroger the other day and I can’t even talk to him, I’m so embarrassed. Jimmie, it’s just terrible.”

(Note the distinct lack of explanation for Kroger’s inadequacy as a grocery store.)

I was surprised. Just the month before Joe was telling us how Kroger had their ice cream on sale and how he bought so much that he wasn’t even going to splurge on dessert that night. He was going home after the dinner to eat a big bowl of ice cream, it was so good.

Another thing about Joe’s rants is just when you think he has wound down and found something else to occupy his attention, his food, for example, he’ll pick back up where he left off between bites.

“Jimmie, I just can’t believe how embarrassing Kroger is. I cannot be seen in there. My life’s value will decrease if I go in there. I’d be mortified.” And then he will resume eating. This discourse continues until he exits the van for the night and clambers into his own vehicle for his quarter of a mile journey home.

This past month, his rant was about shingles, how you must receive a shot to get rid of them but the shot doesn’t work. If any of you want to know about shingles shots, let me know. I’m well versed in that subject. I’m certain next month will be a series of gripes about our expensive dinners of late. I can feel that one coming.

Actually, this month I took the group to the Omni Hut. I’ve written about it before. It’s a great little place. There are no surprises with the menu – it’s been the same for 54 years. The staff has been there for 54 years also, as has the décor. The cost has probably gone up due to inflation but again, no one is caught off guard. Omni Hut is a Fifty Forward favorite and for once, I got a group photo. Well, I sort of got a group shot. You can see the top four inches of my head in the back, towards the middle. Aren’t we the cutest group?

Mood lighting at Omni Hut

Mood lighting at Omni Hut

Below is the list of places we’ve recently eaten and my opinion of whether or not you should try them yourself.

Omni Hut – Of course you should go there. As long as you like teriyaki and pineapple, it’s fabulous.

Husk – Do not bother. The concept is outstanding. The execution is not. I did try curds and whey there. It was far better than I expected but nothing I’d ever need to have again.

Urban Grub – Go, absolutely. Just don’t listen to Chef when he tells you that half-cooking the salmon is the best way to prepare it.

Ted’s Montana Grill – Add this to your yes list. Get the cranberry chicken. Whimper.

I’ve got our restaurants planned for the next month or so, but anyone got other suggestions? Most of us are totally game.

Now this was delicious.  Pavlova, one of Woney's favorites.

Now this was delicious. Pavlova, one of Woney’s favorites.

All my best advice . . .

Love,
Executive Assistant

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Oh, Yes I Did

Fried Stuff With Chocolate

“Can you point me in the direction of the pig races?” I asked the police officer standing next to the information booth.

Daisy and I were at the fair, and currently she was standing somewhere behind me, looking earnestly off into the distance, pretending she didn’t know me.

“Did you really just ask me that?” the police officer wanted to know. His eyes were crinkly and he sort of laughed but sort of didn’t.

“That’s what my friend said!” I said, pointing to Daisy who was sneaking a look at me but then whipped around with her arms crossed like she didn’t know me again. “But you are standing here next to this information booth and I thought you might know.”

He continued to almost but not really laugh at me, and then headed over to someone more knowledgeable that the three of us to ask where the pig races were. As I waited for him to amble back, I said to Daisy, “What is that smell? It’s awful, isn’t it? Gross.”

She hissed from the side of her mouth, her back still turned towards me, “Yes, and I told you not to ask him that. I can’t believe you asked a police officer about a pig race!”

I wanted to see it, although not as desperately as I wanted to see the monkey rodeo. I’d heard from Woney that the piggies run for Oreos, and how can you not love a pig that runs for Oreos? And then Capuchins wearing racing gear whilst riding dogs around a race track? Come on, that’s genius! I had a plan at the ready: we would see the monkey rodeo and we would top that off with the pig races, and while we were at it, we were going to eat corndogs as big as our heads and some roasted corn. Perhaps I would cap the night off with fried banana pudding on a stick and then take some boiled peanuts home for later. In the midst of all that, we’d wander around looking at the rides we used to ride and lament the fact that those rides now make us barf due to age-related motion sickness. We’d check out the cloggers and the guy who carves bears out of logs of wood with a chainsaw. If we did all of that without getting food poisoning or an injury, it would be the best night of our lives.

Barber Shop

Sand Sculpture Competition

Unfortunately, Daisy and I were having difficulty having the best night of our lives because we could not find the pig races. We walked around the fairgrounds multiple times looking for that race track, literally from one end to the other. We found the corndogs as big as our heads. We found the roasted corn. We found the clogging stage and the sweet shop. We found the giant potato on the back of an 18-wheeler that they drove up and down interstate. What we could not find were the pig races.

“What is that smell,” Daisy asked as we walked by the police officer again, wrinkling her nose. “My gosh, it’s terrible!”

“I know,” I said. “We’ve smelled this before. How do we keep ending up here?” I noticed the police officer eyeballing us, so we scuttled off quickly. We lurched around, a little lost. The fairgrounds were beginning to look the same what with the barnyard animals and tractors everywhere.

Tractor

Donkey?

I heart this donkey

“Let’s just go back to the monkey rodeo area. At least we’ll get to see that, and honestly, if I don’t get a good seat, I’ll whine.” Daisy, humoring me, agreed and off we trotted, passing the sewage-like area again.

“Man, that really smells bad,” I said. “What IS that?”

Once we arrived at the monkey rodeo area, and I have to tell you, it’s officially called the Banana Derby, I ran squealing over to Gilligan the monkey and dug a dollar out of my pocket to give him. In return, I received a crappy postcard and a handshake from Gilligan who, quite frankly, could not give a shit. He took my dollar, threw it into the bucket, snatched the postcard from its resting place and walked it over to me. He was not nearly as moved by the handshake as I was and stared off into the distance, dreaming of mango. The race, which we sat 30 minutes on the bleachers in advance for, lasted about three minutes. The crowd was packed in around the racing fence and cheered in a collective holler. It was the best three minutes of my life and even Daisy, who had originally questioned my desire to see the racing monkeys, was enamored, I could tell.

I want!

Capuchins

The team on the left won

Once the Banana Derby ended, the crowd shifted over to the next trailer, and much to my chagrin, I realized that the pig races were less than 100 feet from the monkey rodeo. Good grief. I don’t know why you people let me drive anywhere.

The pig races were much more exciting than the Banana Derby, and it turns out that piggies run for Oreos in California, not in Tennessee. In Tennessee, piggies run for cheez doodlez. So do ducks, goats, and baby piggies. See how fast they run? Not a clear shot in the bunch.

Goats, I think

Definitely pigs

Geese

Daisy and I had eaten the corndogs as big as our heads already, but after all the racing excitement, we realized we were far too full for roasted corn, fried desserts on sticks, or cotton candy. The sweet shop was going to soldier on without our money. The boiled peanut vendor would not see our faces at all. It was a sad moment to think of all the fair food we were going to leave behind, but we perked right up when the roasted corn vendor assured us he could wrap some up for us to take home. We collected our corn and walked tiredly to the exit gate, the same gate where I had nearly gotten arrested by a police officer, and the same gate that was near the awful smell.

We neared the pathway and Daisy said again, “How does anyone stand that smell? It’s the most gruesome thing I’ve ever experienced in my life!” We walked around the curve, into the foul odor, and down the same path we had traveled three times already. Just as we neared the exit, we heard an announcer, right in that curve, holler, “Pig Races Countdown begins now!” Yep. We’d missed the big race, the one where the piggies probably run for Oreos. Oh, we’d seen the little race, the redneck one, the one over by the monkeys and the giant potato. Three times we’d walked by this pig arena, three times we nearly threw up our corndogs because of the pig smell, and three times we didn’t even see the sign, didn’t understand that the eau de manure was the pig pen. Good grief, I don’t even know how Daisy stands me, do you?

Oink

Potato

Rooster?