Author Archives: davidnscott

Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints

We are really enjoying the themed Junior Mints this year. I mean, it isn’t really a world-changer but they are a nice snack and a good bit of variety from their usual. So far, we have had the Valentines Day Junior Mints (really liked these – thicker filling with a bit more sugar) and the Easter mints (did not like the coating, overall was a thumbs down). So, we approached the Peppermint Crunch with a 50% success rate.

The Peppermint Crunch differed from the others in that they didn’t really change the core formula – they had the normal filling and the normal chocolate coating. However, what they added was a crunchy sprinkling that vaguely related a candy cane in flavor. Not in the sense that they tasted artificial or cloying, but just that it was a slightly gentler taste than you would get from literally eating a Junior Mint sprinkled with candy cane bits.

Adding a bit of crunch to a Junior Mint added a lot to the experience (such as it is) of eating them, which didn’t shock me due to our habit of eating them in movie popcorn. They didn’t magically morph into gourmet candies or anything but they were definitely a step up from the normal Junior Mints, with no particular price premium or irritation (unlike the cloying aftertaste from the Easter mints), so I would recommend them heartily.

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House of Blues San Diego – Review

House of Blues San Diego the restaurant is an attempt to attach a restaurant to an intimate concert venue. Though you might expect them to just phone in as far as food preparation due to the captive audience, they have obviously made a big effort to have some really good food, enlisting Food Network celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez.

The first thing I noticed as the portions.  I often complain about restaurant portions ; Burgandy and I were literally just discussing if the leftovers from a big Cheesecake Factory lunch would be enough  to feed our little three person family a dinner. It seems to me that most restaurants give you a double portion and charge you one and a half times what you should really pay, which bothers me. Turns out it is better than what HoB does, which is charge you one and a half times and then serve a normal portion.

I had the buttermilk-fried chicken. I noticed first that the meat was a mixture of white and dark, which disappointed me a bit – at close to $20 for the portion I had expected  chicken breast, as I would have gotten at Cheesecake Factory, Lucille’s, or CPK. The coating was quite good, though, nice and spicy. Almost too spicy, but I got through it and actually enjoyed it after all. The sides were less spectacular – the mashed potatoes were fine, but you only received about a coffee mug-full and they weren’t outstandingly tasteful (though they were a nice contrast to the super spicy chicken). The cole slaw seemed out of place and I didn’t eat it.

Burgandy had the jambalaya, which was similar to mine – maybe too spicy, somewhat small portions, could have used some bread or another side. We had meatball sliders as an appetizer – for almost $10 we received only two small sliders (literally small enough to fit a decent-sized meatball).  They were tasty and had good cheese, for all that they were tiny. I do not want to repeat the size complaint over and over again but I will have to give special mention to the molten chocolate cake. It was more warm than hot, though it did taste good, and the ice cream it came with literally was less than a teaspoon, such a small amount it almost seemed like a joke.

The sum total was $75, with no drinks and a shared dessert. Nothing shocking. The ambience was nice – I would sum it up as trying very hard to look different  but not necessarily failing  – it was a decent impersonation of some roadside restaurant somewhere, old and folksy. The food was a bit more than I would have liked to have paid but the main benefit of eating there is that you get to skip the line for your concert (HoB the venue does not have assigned seating). We showed up and hour and a half before the doors opened, with a line down the block, but with the line skipping we ended up front and center – the very front of the pit, close enough to almost touch the band.

Bottom line – if you’re on your way to a HoB concert, you can have a mildly overpriced meal with the ability to skip the line in a venue with no assigned seating. You are very likely to end up in a VERY good position to see the show. Given that $75 for two isn’t a horrific amount of money to pay in the first place and the food is tasty, I would strongly recommend this option.

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Elder Scrolls – SKYRIM (XBOX 360)

Skyrim is a surpassing RPG experience, and one Burgandy and I have both been logging long hours on. It’s the latest in a long series of games, but in my mind it’s basically a sequel to Oblivion, with all of the good and bad things that entails. It is a sandbox game – a lot of time is just spent wandering around a large game world, looking for trouble to get into and for things to do. You have plenty of things to do on a good / evil / political axis, as well.

Bethesda also does the modern Fallout games, which are another great experience – I remember thinking, after playing Fallout 3 after a long absence from gaming, that I finally understood why ‘the kids’ were largely over table top gaming. Bethesda RPGs have such immersive environments and freedom of action that they start to seem like a full role playing experience.

Now, one thing about Fallout and (even more so, say, Dragon Age), is that they have fully-formed NPCs and exciting plots. The Elder Scrolls games are a lot more ambient – there is lot of detail, but it’s more likely to be environmental – towns with realistic weather and beautiful scenery with plants you can harvest and bugs you can catch. The people you meet are pretty flat, which can be disappointing, though I understand why with the huge mass of people you can run into.

The main thing about this game is all of the stuff you can do – there are a half dozen different crafting systems which, unlike in most games I have played, have a lot of practical use in the game, not least of which the ability to gain experience and money from it. You can also fight with archery, magic, swords, two-handed swords, sword and shield, and even one hand with a spell and the other with a sword, which is great fun.

The combat is fun, but tough – you really have to use your brain and choose your spells, weapons, and companions carefully. You spend a lot of time fighting, but a lot of time just wandering, too. This could be a grind, but the game is so beautiful that I often would grab passerby and tell them to look at a bridge or waterfall I found, and there are strange things and mystical bits everywhere.

Basically, if any of the above sounds fun to you or if you just enjoy computer RPGs, I couldn’t recommend this one more. It is the most fun I have had with an RPG or really any video  game in general in years, and rivals some of the better tabletop gaming for sheer immersiveness.

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Pink’s Hot Dogs – Knott’s Berry Farm Location

Pink’s Hot Dogs is a moderately famous place, especially in recent years, with the expansions out in Vegas and in Buena Park. I have not eaten at the original Pink’s, but I have eaten their catering once and their Buena Park location once. Fair disclaimers if they are necessary. Pink’s Buena Park has a pretty standard fast food vibe, albeit with a lot more celebrity pictures than you would expect to see in your average mom and pop fast food place. The line wasn’t too bad but, again, being fast food there was no particular service to talk about.

Pink’s is pretty simple – other than the fries, there are four basic ingredients: turkey dog, hot dog, chili, and cheese. The hot dogs are good but perhaps a bit odd, at least to my palate. This is due to their having a moderately thick casing, enough to pop when you bite through it. This combined with what at least had a mouth feel of better meat, led it verging on seeming more like a sausage dog than a hot dog. I found this good in small doses but the bacon burrito dog, which contains three dogs and thus three times the casing, started to wear me out after a while. Too much work, though the cheese, chili, and tortilla were all quite tasty.

I found myself preferring the turkey dogs – they were tasty and easier to eat, without so much effort in the biting. Now, it certainly isn’t an inherently bad thing to load up on casing and I think a fair number of people actually prefer it, and it’s not really physically difficult to eat – I just prefer a simpler, easier to eat hot dog than the beef dogs at Pink’s, especially when they were packed on top of each other in an appalling but delicious fast food concoction. As a side note, their chili cheese fries were very forgettable. I would definitely take Weinerschnitzel or Tommy’s chili fries instead of these, and I believe they are cheaper, as well.

One warning, though – I am not sure if this is exclusive to the Buena Park locale since that happens to be inside Knott’s Berry Farm’s little shopping area, but the prices were quite expensive for what I would really struggle to call anything other than high quality fast food. On the plus side, Knott’s actually has a handful of free historical exhibits like Independence Hall and a replica of George Washington’s fireplace, so you can make an afternoon out of it. I believe the original Hollywood location may be cheaper, but in the past when trying to go there the line was literally around the block and I can’t imagine waiting that long for hot dogs.

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Slater’s 50/50

Before I explain anything about Slater’s to you, understand that this is a place where you’re going to pay $20-30ish a head to have a burger, a beer, and a side. Now, where I live, there is a lot  of competition. In-N-Out, the Habit, Grill Em All, Tommy Burgers and Red Robin all come immediately to mind as eateries that are at the very least very competitive with Slater’s on a price point basis. I think most people would  agree that Slater’s is better than In-N-Out, for instance, but is it 3-5x as good? This I am not sure of.  But, now that that is out of the way, consider this review to be pricing blind.

I had the Slater’s 50/50, which is a burger patty that is half bacon (really it seemed more like pork belly). Though I had the unfortunate experience of eating one of these patties that had the approximate consistency of a burger / cold cut hybrid, this (new and improved according to a few Slater’s regulars) 50/50 actually hit the spot – it tasted and had the texture of a burger but it also had a tasty, subtle, smoky flavor that I really enjoyed. The burgers came in 1/3 lb, 2/3 lb and full pound sizes, which was a small bit frustrating due to 2/3 being massive and 1/3 being a bit small (why not a half pounder?)

The toppings had good variety, though for comparison’s sake I will mention that gourmet burger rival the Counter seems to have a bit more variety, from glancing over their menu. Now, to step back, this isn’t a big deal for me personally since I like simple burgers anyway, but then again Burgandy wished for more varieties of jelly and I would have preferred some kind of chipotle BBQ. On the other hand, they do have a cheese sauce option, so I went for bacon, cheese sauce, and American cheese.

Slater’s doesn’t seem too big on fries outside of an $5 appetizer – we ate in a group and almost no one had anything but the burger itself. I thought this was a bit of a gyp considering that you already paid for the burger and extra for the bacon and the alcohol isn’t cheap, but I guess it worked considering that the burgers were massive. We did spring for a couple of appetizers – the most notable was a quesadilla with cheese, bacon, and mashed  potatoes that was almost as good as it sounded but a bit lacking in spice.

So, having in mind that the above is a little on the stream of consciousness side, the summary is as follows:

Apple beer. Delicious. I believe it was $9 for a GLASS, though.

Mashed potato quesadilla. I honestly really liked this one. But Burgandy did make a good point that it was very lacking in spice, or at least tasty dipping sauces. It also had to serve as a side since the burgers don’t come with them.

Burger. Expensive. Delicious patty. Toppings expensive yet lacking in two in a couple of things I would have expected. Bacon was good and so was American cheese and cheese sauce. Huge patty (though I tire of the trick of giving you a bigger portion than you wanted and then charging you proportionately but then trying to turn it into a net positive – ‘look at all the food I treated you with!’

That’s… basically it. And though I really liked my burger and it was as big as my daughter’s head, I still felt a bit gypped because given the price point and the wait. The whole thing took almost two hours, a long time for a burger without much else. Seems like you could at least get a soup or salad? Or at least some fries?

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Three Musketeers: the (newest) movie review

Well, by luck and happenstance we ended up seeing a screening of the Three Musketeers today.

Now, I am going to disclaim my feelings about this movie a little.

I am a big fan of the Milla Jovovich / Paul W S Anderson Resident Evil movies, which this basically serves as the steampunk version of. If you’ve seen those movies, you know of what I speak – wild technology, slow motion fighting, action that every once in a while is actually really good but can also get really campy, etc. If you like that, you will like this.

Also, if you’ve ever hummed Abney Park’s “Airship Pirates”, you’ll find some goodness in here. I don’t want to get spoiler-ish but there is some really, really great fan service in here for those who like airships.

Paul W S Anderson has a habit of making movies that look like the exact movies my inner 13 year old would film if he could. This is definitely one of those movies.

I am a bit sad about the PG13 rating – other than a bit of language here and there the movie was almost kid-oriented, with a very high wacky factor, relatively nonviolent fights (especially compared to the R rated Resident Evil movies). There are some quite funny character / comic relief characters.

Another important note – the movie was shot in 3D and the 3D was quite good, unlike quite a bit of bad 3D I saw this summer. Pirates 4 comes to mind – the 3D was super disappointing in that one in particular (and they both had a lot of 3D swords, so I think it is a fair comparison).  I’m not thinking I’ll see any oscar noms for the effects, but they were really pretty good and not entirely dependent on CGI.

So, in summary – if you like Steampunk, slightly westernized martial arts movies, slow motion fight scenes, Milla Jovovich, airships, anachronistic technology, or any of the Resident Evil movies you should catch this one for sure! If not… maybe not? It did have a bit of a B movie vibe, just one that I happened to really like.

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The new 52 – DC Comics Reboot

The background – Burgandy and I decided to get pulled in by a publicity stunt and pick up some of the DC reboot. See, we used to read comics back in the day, mostly stopping after the mid 2000s when DC finished one Infinite Crisis whilst raring up for another one. We did, actually, miss them and were not entirely happy with only seeing comics through the prism of movies and cartoons, so when we heard DC was cutting some of the crud and aiming for a more newbie friendly event we signed up!

Due to the huge number of comics released (52, plus some #2s by now, some of which we have read and some of which have not) I will probably be posting impressions over a few different posts. So, here are some quick takes.

Good–

Stormwatch. I mostly missed this title the first time through and so I enjoyed the reboot, especially with a meaner-than-before Martian Manhunter grounding things a bit. Fair disclaimer – I know almost nothing about this title, save a vague familiarity with the main characters left over from reading one of their trade paperbacks ages ago, so as far as I know this whole issue was a complete rehash. Still, liked the art and the story seemed super-epic without being too confusing.

Action Comics. This was great! Grant Morrison brings it – we have a Superman who is younger, a bit weaker, but still super fun to read. Unlike some of the other comics, I genuinely got the feeling that something new and exciting was being created – it didn’t seem at all like a rehash. The first meeting of Superman and Lex was especially fun. The character was contemporized a bit but nothing too jarring – plus a more populist / less law and order friendly Superman is both a new idea and a return to the character’s roots. Lois and Jimmy seemed fun, too.

Demon Knights – This was pretty much the comic book of the ultimate DND game – Conan mixed with Superheroes! I didn’t expect anything at all of this but ended up totally loving it. I am a bit of an Etrigan fan, but it was actually the little things that I liked – a part where a bunch of marauders invade the city thinking they’re going to overthrow it only to run into five very annoyed superhero / warriors who just wanted a drink was one of my favorite comic moments of the whole set.

Eh–

Green Lantern. For all that this issue has a #1 stamped on it, it seemed to just be another Green Lantern story, no hint of a reboot whatsoever. (Internet research shows that they did not, actually, reboot this comic… why the new #1, then?). I actually enjoyed it, given the premise – Hal losing the Ring, the Guardians deciding to reinstate Sinestro for some reason – but Burgandy, who is less familiar with the Green Lantern Mythos, was completely checked out.

JLA / Justice League – Uh. This seemed like the first third or maybe even fourth of what would actually be a pretty good comic. But as it is, two characters meeting, and debating a bit, then running into a third character, who is only in a splash and has one line of dialogue, isn’t too exciting. Especially with no particular overarching threat or villain – it’s literally one guy visiting another guy and then the two of them deciding to take a road trip and see a third guy. Not too epic so far – nothing was bad about it, but nothing really happened, either.

Bad –

Red Lantern Corps. I think this probably made sense to someone, but to me (who is not familiar with Red Lanterns beyond an understanding that they are the embodiment of rage) it carried basically no information whatsoever. Just a lot of weird looking creatures and critters foaming at the mouth and sometimes punching each other. Considering the implied promise of slapping a #1 on a cover to make a story a new person could actually read, I was super disappointed.

Batman – Detective Comics #1. Think it would be fun to see a new take on Batman? What about if it was his first fight with the Joker? Great, right? Well… unless Joker is basically a sideline to some weirdo family take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre who likes to cut people’s faces off (probably for some fiendish reason or another). Oh, and Joker gets his face cut off. Which of course is obviously some sort of weird stunt and also bizarrely out of place in one of the theoretically non-dark books.

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