Friday, August 7, 2009

Today's Secret Ingredient is.....

About a decade ago I stumbled upon a cooking competition on The Food Network called Iron Chef which was an imported show from Japan. I was fascinated by the frenzied pace of the cooking and by the hilariously bad voice-overs during the judging process. Iron Chef became the gateway drug for the Food Network and 10 years later I am watching way more Food Network shows than I should.

In 2005, Iron Chef America debuted on the network. Gone were the cooky Japanese judges and the whimsical voice-overs. At first I wasn't into the show because of the Americanization of the program. After watching a few episodes I completely changed my opinion of the show. What was lost in the judging department was more than made up for in the hosting department. The Chairman (the show emcee) of Iron Chef America is far and away the star of the show. Forget about the bevy of Iron Chefs including such luminaries as Bobby Flay and Mario Batali. The Chairman (portrayed by Hawaiian actor Mark Dacascos) is quality television at its best.

Before each episode of Iron Chef America, the Chairman presents the "secret ingredient" of the competition. This ingredient must be used in all dishes that are prepared and plated for the judges after the hour-long timed cooking portion of the show. Dacascos waits until the screen is lifted from the container of ingredients and after the camera pans across the spread of Lobster, Corn, Rice, what-have-you, he gives the camera a goofy-serious glare and screams the name of the ingredient. His delivery is classic and reminiscent of a sensei at a karate dojo. He keeps a straight face throughout (with the occasional quirky grin) and you really feel that the battle at Kitchen Stadium is for life or death.

Even though the Chairman claims to be the nephew of the original host of Iron Chef Japan, Dascacos is of Japanese ancestry at all. I'd love to have him over to my house for a week and announce the key ingredient in our dinner at home every night.

Enjoy some quality clips from YouTube that illustrate just how brilliant and comical the Chairman is on the show. I'm thinking of setting my DVR to record the first 10 minutes of every show just for the comedy factor. The next new episode airs on Sunday night. Much like Simon Cowell on Idol, I wouldn't watch Iron Chef America if Mark Dacascos leaves the show.

Did someone say Montage?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coconut M&Ms

After dropping Alex off this morning I hit 7-11 for some breakfast and noticed a new flavor of M&Ms on checkout. Now it didn't really matter if what the flavor was. If it was barbecue I would have bought it. The fact that the package is different and has the word "NEW" or "Limited Edition" on it, I am going to buy it. It just so happened that the latest flavor is also one of my favorite flavors.

Coconut M&M's are here for a limited time. I tried them at lunch and I must say they are quite tasty. Not quite as good as the recent Transformers Strawberry/Peanut Butter M&Ms, but still a solid entry. I have to hand it to Mars for keeping things fresh with their M&Ms brand.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is it Beer or Water?

A few months ago I sampled a bottle of MGD 64 at a restaurant. Of course since it was a new beer that I hadn't tried before I had to give it a shot. I'll try every new drink once (even the god-awful Pepsi Blue). MGD 64 tasted more like water than beer and I haven't bought another bottle since. At 2.6% alcohol it's getting close to O'Douls territory. The N/A brew actually has 0.5% alcohol content.

Now in the ongoing beer wars between Miller and Anheuser-Busch, Bud is fighting back with Bud Select 55. Apparently this 55 calorie offering will have 2.4% alcohol per volume (less than two percentage points away from a non-alcoholic beer). Count me out on this one. Why pay $6 for a six-pack of bottles of Bud Select 55 when you can spend $5 at your local grocery store and buy a case of Deer Park water.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pictures from Beach Week

As promised, I present to you a slide show of some shots from our vacation last week. It's about time I started doing this embedded Picasa thing. Click the picture to see a larger version. Thanks to Aunt Noelle for providing the photos.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Shore Thing

I will preface this recap with the disclaimer that I did not take any personal pictures outside of my camera phone during our vacation. Lori's sister Noelle took some good ones but I forgot to consume said pictures from her camera while we were down the shore. Once I do obtain the pics I will post some of the good ones in a follow-on post.

Yesterday we returned from our week-long stay in Lavallette, NJ. Every year the Gecik family makes a pilgrimage "down the shore" in an effort to take a break from it all. When you're the Roses right now, it's kinda hard to take a real break from "it all" as kid-wrangling is still a part of Beach Week. Overall we had a great time though and it was a good break from work for me. The condo we stayed at was MUCH better than last year's one across the street. We had larger rooms, a nice back patio/deck, HDTV and more comfortable couches. We were even CLOSER to the Quick Chek (renamed Quick Stop this year) where we stumbled over to get morning coffee and newspapers each day. To go over the highlights, I'll break it down with day-by-day moments of note.

Saturday (July 25th) - After a nearly six-hour trek we arrived
at the house. Just a little afternoon Wii and a nice dinner at the condo for the first day. Stogies with Bob (father-in-law) and Ross (boyfriend of Noelle) on the deck after the kids went down.

Sunday - The first day of beach-going for me. Lori went nearly every day but the kids and I only went three days. I tried bringing Josh into the waves with me, carrying him like I did last year. He's really grown in a year (or I've gotten weaker). It was tough holding him in the pounding surf for more than 10 minutes so we cut that experiment short. Alex and Josh had fun playing in the sand although Alex wanted no part of the ocean ("too loud... ocean gonna come get me").
Sunday evening, Ross and I headed West to Philadelphia for the WWE Pay Per View event Night of Champions at the Wachovia Center. I used to be a WWE fanatic about 7 years ago but hadn't watched in a while. Ross had free tickets as his friend is currently a writer for WWE. Noelle wasn't really intrigued to give up any beach time and go see the show so I took her ticket instead. Ross and I had a great drive there and back and enjoyed our stellar seats (pictured) of the event. Props to Ross' friend for the hookup! Our trip to Philly included a stop at Target to buy the much anticipated Wii Sports Resort (may have to do a review of this game in another post). Needless to say, the new Wii Sports game was a big hit with everyone at the condo for the rest of the trip. Thanks Nintendo. Money well spent.

Monday - A mostly uneventful day featuring another trip to the beach and some good food and drink at night. Josh and I spent some time building a sand castle and a surrounding wall to fight the impending tide. We managed to keep our castle operational for nearly two hours.

Tuesday - In an attempt to build upon my successful outing with Lori's Dad last year, Bob, Josh, Ross and myself set out in the morning on a crabbing trip. We rented a boat and bought some crab lines and bait. After about 2-3 hours on the boat, Josh wanted to head back. We had only caught 3 crabs thus-far and were pretty disappointed with the lack of crab action. Josh did have a good time initially as he helped catch a few small ones that we had to throw back. After stopping for a lunch break (and leaving Josh at the condo so he could nap), the three remaining men headed back out to sea (the bay). We were inspired by watching The Deadliest Catch at lunch time and eating some fresh clams at the local fishery. Despite all attempts to finally strike crab-gold we struck out and I only was able to add one more crab to our four-crab overall haul. A far cry from the 20 or so we scored in 2008. I blame it on Ross messing up our crabbing mojo. It was fun to be out on the boat for most of the day though and I'm already looking forward to turning our crabbing luck around next year.

Wednesday - After my final trip to the beach in the morning (Josh and I spent some good time throwing a small toy football deep into the ocean and having the waves return it), the whole 9-person crew set out for the boardwalk for some rides for the kids.
It turned out to really be rides for Josh and I as Alex really didn't want to partake in more than 2 or 3 rides. The Casino Pier in NJ offered a deal we took advantage of last year. On Wednesdays you can buy a $15 wristband for all-you-can-ride on all rides from Noon until 6 PM. After realizing that Alex wouldn't use his band much and that Josh was at the age where he wanted to start distancing himself from the "kiddie rides", I decided to buy a band for myself to go on rides with Josh. We started with a small Pirate mini coaster, the kind that can fold up into a tractor trailer and be moved from carnival to carnival. He really enjoyed the speed and turns of the ride so I decided to step things up a notch. We then went on the Mighty Mouse ride that was a much larger coaster complete with some steep drops. He totally loved this one and wanted to go on more coasters. I completely thought he would be too scared to go on any of these but he proved me wrong for sure. We finished up our coaster-fest by riding the StarJet (pictured). This one was a legitimate coaster similar to the smaller ones at King's Dominion. Josh loved most of it and thought it was cool that we climbed so high up to see the full beach and boardwalk scene from above. The first few drops and turns were OK but once we hit some really jerky ones he seemed like he wanted the ride to stop (he had just hurt his neck the day before and I think that factored in). But as we ended the ride he got back into it saying it was awesome when we finished up. He really did enjoy it even if it was a little much for him at his age. As we were leaving he said to me "Dad, that was so cool but I think I'm all coastered out for today." That's my boy! We finished our father-son thrill-fest with a little bumper car action. I tried to mix-in a ride with Alex as we rode a kiddie coaster, but he cried through most of it. After we were done, Lori asked him if he had fun and he nodded yes. He said it was fun and scary at the same time. We finished up the boardwalk trip by ordering pizza on the way back and eating it at the condo.

That evening, Ross, Lori and I went to the local movie theatre to watch the new Harry Potter film. Ross (an honorary member of Gryffindor) had seen it already but Lori and I were biding our time until her parents could watch the kids so we could go see it. A 10:30 PM showing and two-hour-plus runtime contributed to a few blackouts as I fell asleep a couple of times. Overall the movie was pretty good but not one of the better Potter efforts thus-far. I may review it later if I have time but I'd have to give it 3.5 out of 5 JR's. I'm hoping for bigger and better things with the final two Potter movies (spanning the 7th book). We got home and went to bed at 2 AM.

Thursday - Four hours later I was up with the boys trying to prevent them from waking the entire house up. Lori headed to the beach in the morning while I watched the kids. I then went with Ross to play 18 holes at nearby Bey Lea course. Ross didn't bring clubs so he rented them. He had also warned me that he was terrible at golf. I laughed thinking he would be able to hold his own at times, but he really was terrible. He whiffed on his first shot and took 4 or 5 holes to actually get a ball in the air. He did improve on the back-nine and sailed in for a score of 138. If I didn't like hanging out with the guy it would have been a real drag :) We brought some beers on the course and had a good time overall. My putting deserted me and I scrambled home with a 95. I am trying my best not to creep over 100 this season. After returning home, we were treated to a very tasty batch of ribs. Bob made a homemade BBQ sauce and the ribs were totally outstanding. Probably the best I've ever had outside of a very fine restaurant.

Friday - More kid-corralling (and Wii Sports Resort playing) in the A.M. during beach time for others. I didn't mind as the whole beach experience is a little overrated in my book. In the afternoon, Ross, Bob and I headed back to the fish market for some beer, oysters and clams to celebrate Ross' 26th birthday. Ross went shopping with Noelle in the afternoon to complete his birthday experience. I ended up buying and enjoying a bottle of Choco Vine in the evening. We had sampled the weird combination of red wine and chocolate earlier in the week at the local liquor store. At $9.99 I couldn't resist buying a bottle on our trip to the fish market. I just finished up the last glass as I type. It really is delicious and tastes very similar to Bailey's Irish Cream. We finished up the wonderful week of food with a tasty spaghetti dinner provided by Bob and Emelia.

Saturday - Stuffed and relaxed after a week away from it all, I made one more trip to Quick Stop and we were off on our five-hour trip back home. The highlight of this day was the shrieking cry-off between Alex and Rebecca for a solid 20 minutes. Good times!

Back to work and reality tomorrow. Next year's trip should be interesting and we'll have three mobile kids to keep track of.

Ridley Scott back for more Alien!

I know most of you are clamoring for a full vacation recap. I hope to get that done later today depending on when I can get some pictures ready.

In the meantime, I stumbled across this bit of news yesterday. An Alien prequel is in the works and none other than Ridley Scott is set to direct. Aliens is my 2nd favorite movie of all-time and Alien is probably firmly in my top 50. I had heard rumors for a few weeks now that a prequel to Alien was being green-lit. Scott (who directed the 1979 Alien classic) had not been linked to the director's chair until now. I'm very excited about this news as I desperately want to wash the taste out of my mouth of Alien 3, Alien Resurrection and the two terrible Alien vs. Predator films. I'm confident that Scott can give the proper treatment to a prequel that deals with the roots of the Alien creature.