Perhaps Never Again

June 30, 2011 by cynick | Posted in haute-cuisine

[Note: Of late, I’ve been spending way too much time automating my infrastructure, and also, I’ve been a bit waylaid by the constant extrication of various tree pollens from my nasal cavities via torrents of.. well, you get the picture.]

On a recent Sunday morning, I found myself with an open breakfast schedule. Driving around St. Paul, I couldn’t think of anything really appealing, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and lift a ten year ban on a particular local establishment.

As a hedge against possible incompetence, I brought along not only the Sunday newspaper, but also the Saturday paper, which, as the case was, had gone unread, and, also, a copy of the City Pages.

I strolled on in there, and placed what in my opinion should be a simple order: Waffle, Hash Browns (crispy, please!), and Coffee.

My main beef with this place is that orders tend to lounge in the window between the dining area and the kitchen, and by the time they are actually brought out, they are no longer hot enough to melt butter.

A pancake that cannot melt butter is a foul breakfast travesty, indeed!

I read the Saturday, and then got through half the Sunday, and I started thinking that a cold, sad, rubbery waffle would be imminently arriving.

Head down, I heard someone approaching. It was the waiter, frustratingly empty handed, and at his heels, the woman who manages – and possibly owns – the place. “I’m so sorry sir, they’ve tried three times now, but they just can’t seem to get the waffles out of the waffle iron!” “Would you like to order something else?”"


But, as a long-running practitioner of the Church of Minnesota Nice, I deigned to smooth over the situation by delivering a kind of “shit happens” remark: “Aw, well, that’s okay, when I was a kid, the waffles always stuck to the waffle iron, so, at some point before I turned ten, Mom stopped making them, and instead, I’ve always relied on restaurants for a good waffle!”

Sadly, they took me completely the wrong way. “My word, he’s been sitting here all of this time, waiting for a waffle, and he came here ’cause he can’t get them at home! Poor, poor, guy!”

They insisted I order something else. “Okay, Three Buttermilk”, I shrugged.

I continued on with my reading. I heard a bit of yelling from the direction of the kitchen, but I only made out the words “pry” and “grease”.

Five minutes later, I was amazed to find plunked down in front of me.. drum roll.. wait for it.. An enormous Belgian Waffle, all golden and crispy, and, best of all, hot enough to fry an egg on!

Except that it was accompanied with several rounds of apologies, and later on, a plate of not-crispy Hash Browns.

And, five minutes after that, a plate of Pancakes the size of Frisbees! “No, no,” I protested, “I don’t need these!” “Oh, take them home! Eat what you can, and take the rest home for later! Here, I’ll get you some strawberry jam for them!”

By the time I had finished my waffle, I was just about ready to shit my guts out; a single bite of pancake would have turned me into Mr. Creosote.

I finished my coffee, hastily paid the bill, and got the hell out of there. Further to my Minnesota Nice credo, I left a heftier tip than usual.

Maybe, if they stay in business, I’ll give them another chance.. .. in the year 2023.

One More Avenue of Pleasure Closed

August 19, 2010 by cynick | Posted in haute-cuisine

In days gone by, I’d occasionally spend an evening down by the Hastings, MN riverfront, banging away on my laptop writing code and looking up whenever a train would come banging over the lift bridge.

Such outings were often capped with a trip to the M&H; gas station for some
Genuine Broasted Chicken.

Let me paint a picture.

This M&H; station, in addition to being a full-service convenience store with everything one could need, also has a counter where full blown chicken dinners can be purchased. Working at this counter must rank pretty high in the worst jobs in the world: hot, greasy, and smelly – and that’s only a depiction of the average customer (har, rar, rar!).

For several years, the chicken worker was a man whose name tag said “Mohammed”, but whose slovenly and corpulent appearance didn’t exactly fit the stereotype of a devout Islam adherent, except for his oily, bushy beard, which was covered by a hair net. He moved and spoke very slowly, lest the heat lamps start cooking him like a chicken. I always imagined that by day, he was a fixture in his mom’s basement, roach clip in one hand, video game controller in the other.

Recognizing that people don’t necessarily want a whole dinner – I mean, it’s a seriously industrial amount of food! – they also offer “snacks”. For $5 and a half, one can buy a “two breast snack, with potato wedges”, what a deal! Depending on the time of night, and condition of the wedges, the counter man might really fix you up with wedges in order to get rid of a old batch.

I bought one of these the other night. Seriously, there must have been a pound of starch in that box.

I went back down to the railroad tracks, eating potato wedges all along the way. I could already feel my blood pressure rising from all the sodium.

I took a bite of the chicken. It was at the same time delicious and sickening. You ever notice how every food item from a gas station – even down to the candy bars and the soda – tastes like it’s full of motor oil?

I finished one breast, and moved to the other, and.. ugh. I just couldn’t continue. I drank a bunch of water, but still, nothing. could. make. me. take. another. bite.

The box probably had 2/3 of the food left inside when I dumped it in a nearby trashcan. Maybe some raccoon will feast upon it, and have a heart attack.

For myself, I find that the smaller waisted pants that I recently slimmed down to no longer fit! And I feel like utter crap!

Another aspect of my former diet has now been banished forever, I think. Next time I’m in Hastings, I might have to step up to the level of Bar Food.