July 23, 2007

Random Thoughts on a Monday

DEAR GOD, I COULD GO for a double-double right about now. That and one of those perfect orders of fresh-cut French fries and a nice soda. Unfortunately, the nearest In-N-Out Burger location is 2,681 miles away from my house.

Thus, it would take me roughly 40 hours of driving -- each way -- for me to get a No. 1 Combo from the In-N-Out Burger in Prescott, Ariz. Alternatively, I could fly to Sky Harbor in Phoenix, which would probably take about eight hours with connections and an extra hour's worth of driving around Phoenix -- again, each way -- to satisfy my fix. Some might suggest this would be inappropriate, given the financial expense and envrionmental costs related in making such a journey, but I do not agree. In this case, I think we can all agree the market would bear the costs; sadly, it is the time issue that makes it impractical.

So this got me to thinking. If I can't get to an In-N-Out Burger, there must somehow be a way to get an In-N-Out Burger to me. Some Westerners, taking pity on their Eastern brethren, have cleverly brought double-doubles aboard aircraft for delivery upon arrival. However, this solution is clearly imperfect, because a double-double must be served hot and right off the grill. Also, while there is talk the chain will soon expand, its plans only call for opening up shops in southern Utah next year.

The natural places for the chain's first Utah stores, to my mind, would be in St. George and Cedar City. The most-easterly store in Nevada is in Las Vegas; it opened in 1992. Unfortunately, depending on where the stores are located, this represents a pace of eastward expansion of 7.43 miles per year for a St. George location and 10.63 miles per year for a Cedar City location. Thus, the chain will reach Manchester sometime between February 2250 and December 2356. Although I have an Internal Reserve of Spite that should keep me alive for a downright amazing length of time, I find it doubtful that I'll make it to 2250, even with the amazing advances in medical technology we're seeing.

So clearly the only option is to somehow convince In-N-Out Burgers Inc. to make a reasonable expansion to the East Coast. To be sure, this would be a difficult operation. Since the company relies on all-fresh ingredients, even going so far as to set up its own meat-packing plant, it would have to replicate its operation from the ground up. It would also have to take care not to over-expand, as that has killed even popular chains, such as Krispy Kreme.

However, I came up with a really clever idea. As it happens, we have an abandoned meat-packing plant here in Manchester, which Tyson Foods Inc. shut down a while back. This would be a perfect place for In-N-Out Burger to set up an East Coast operation. We're only 90 minutes from Boston and four hours to New York, and New Hampshire has a great business and tax climate. As a former Los Angeles resident, I can assure the executives of In-N-Out Burgers Inc. that New Hampshire rules.

What's that? Well, OK, yes -- so the Tyson plant is already being redeveloped, and plans have already been drawn up for its new use and the land has already been sold. But surely those are just minor technical matters. I'm sure that were In-N-Out executives were to come in and say, "Hey, you know what? This would be a good home for a meat-packing plant," some sort of deal could be worked out. Plus, it would create a special Meatpacking District right here in Manchester -- and with actual meatpacking, no less! -- that would undoubtedly turn into a thriving residential and commercial district, thus satisfying the original redevelopment goals.

I mean, it's worth a shot, anyway. And if that plan isn't a good one, I'm sure the good people at In-N-Out Burgers Inc. could come up with their own plan. Quite frankly, I don't care what it takes. Does it mean filling in acres of wetlands? Delaying a housing project? Tearing down a school? Moving a freeway? Fine with me.

Please. I'm begging you. You can't get a decent fast-food burger here for love or money and I don't know how much longer I can hold out. Please, In-N-Out -- for the love of God, come back east!

***

FOR THE RECORD, this clever idea sure beats the hell of having the neighbor's teenaged son come over and mow the lawn.

A MAN WHOSE hay wagon recently caught on fire did what any American would do in such a situation: he drove around frantically looking for a hose to put out the fire. Unfortunately, the flaming hay wagon sparked several other fires as he drove around the countryside looking for aid. You have one guess as to where this took place.

THIS IS ALL WELL AND GOOD -- but why does Philadelphia's mayor have bodyguards?

THERE'S A COUNTRY SONG in this somewhere. Just a hunch.

***

IT'D BE A LOT EASIER to have some sympathy -- any sympathy, really -- for Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee under investigation for allegedly being a crooked, dirty, mobbed-up louse, if the guy wasn't apparently such a douchebag of the highest degree. You've got to love any guy who tries to get his mail carrier cashiered.

***

THE MANCHESTER WOLVES, my city's minor-league arena football team, is in the playoffs. Hell yeah. On Saturday we beat the Albany Conquest, who despite their name make the French look like military geniuses. And this Saturday, if we beat the Florida Firecats, we should be golden for an opening home playoff game. Yeah.

Unfortunately, beating Florida will be tough. They're 11-4 for a reason and are a consistently powerful team. If we don't manage to pull it off, though, there's still hope -- we'll need Bakersfield to beat the (Fresno) Central Valley Coyotes and the Fort Wayne Fusion to knock off the Quad Cities Steamwheelers. Both these outcomes are well within the realm of probability and it would be VERY cool if we got at least one -- and perhaps more -- playoff games at home.

The ArenaCup championship game is being played this year in Bossier City, La., so I won't be able to travel to the game if Manchester makes it, but I'm hopeful it will be televised here.

***

A WHILE BACK, I was having dinner with Simon From Jersey at Palace of Asia in Lawrenceville, N.J., and among the topics of discussion that night was a key issue affecting Americans everywhere: the amazing difficulty people have in finding a consistently decent Indian lunch buffet.

To be sure, there are great Indian buffets out there. For instance, when I lived in Los Angeles, I frequently dined at Jaipur: Cuisine of India, which had a downright oustanding buffet day in and day out. Don't just take my word for it either. Jaipur, for those of you who are wondering, is on West Pico near that giant mall; you will not be disappointed if you try it!

Also, while I haven't had the lunch buffet at Palace of Asia, the dinners there are so outstanding that I must believe its lunch buffet is at least good and likely excellent. (Our dinner, for those who wonder, included naan, puri, chicken saagwala, lamb korma, beef vindaloo and bengan bhartha, an eggplant dish. Heavenly. And yes, they do beef -- which was a surprise but a welcome one).

Still, let's be blunt. It's tough finding a good Indian buffet. This is largely because many of the buffets are small, and only have a selection of perhaps six or seven dishes -- and arguably only four, when one leaves out the old standards like chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken. Often times, one will encounter weak curries, and bread pakora, and vegetarian dishes that range from the grim to the godawful. Simon and I, for instance, both detest that one dish with cauliflower and peas served up in a particularly unappetizing sauce. We both agree there's nothing inherently wrong with the dish per se-- after all, other diners gladly eat it -- but we're just not fans of it.

I am proud to report, however, that I recently scored a jackpot with the lunch buffet at Palace of India, one of Manchester's two Indian restaurants. The standbys were there as always, but they excelled with the other dishes: saag paneer, mixed vegetable korma, vegetable pakoras, chicken curry and -- God be praised -- chicken vindaloo. The only down side was that it was lunch, and as such the vindaloo was not very vindaloo, i.e., painfully and fiery hot. But wow. 9.5 out of 10 for my repast two weeks ago.

***

SO FOOTBALL SEASON is almost here and I can't wait. Thinking about the upcoming season today, I was reminded of a conversation I had a while back that truly shows how American football has an ecumenical appeal. I had been dining out at Cafe Momo, a Nepalese -- yes, Nepalese -- restaurant here in Manchester.

My sinuses had been acting up and I figured the fiery Nepali cuisine would help clear things out. I had no idea. I ordered a bowl of the gundruk soup, a spicy dish made from cured mustard leaves. Holy Mother of God, I have never had anything so hot in my life. This statement, I would add, comes from a man who frequently eats jalapeno peppers and famously writhed about in pain after eating super-spicy chicken wings. I mean, it was scorchingly, utterly, completely hot; the type of heat that leaves you drenched in sweat and begging for water, but God! so good. So so so so good afterwards, when the spice buzz takes effect.

Anyway, as I was suffering through the initial stages, I noticed the waiter/maitre'd -- it is a very small restaurant -- was wearing a Green Bay Packers jacket. Fittingly too, as it was quite cold outside. This intrigued me, and I inquired as to how long he had been a Packers fan.

"Oh," he said, "My wife got this for me. You know who I really like? The Raiders."

I was taken aback for a moment. After all, my team (the Pittsburgh Steelers) and his team are traditional enemies, and there's a bit of bad blood stemming from our great rivalry in the Seventies. But still, when you're living in Patriots Nation, you tend to bond with fans from elsewhere who also root for teams other than New England. So we got to talking and had a great conversation about football and our triumphs and disappointments and where we hoped things would go in the future. Fantastic. I felt the restaurant feeling great not only from the food but the conversation, and who would have expected it?

***

WELL, THAT'S ALL for now. Keep an eye out this week for some site changes -- including the banner and the blogroll -- and as we get closer to September, expect more in the way of football blogging. I plan to spend a good portion of my Sundays down at my local sports bar, cheering on the Steelers (provided I can get one of the roughly 57 TVs there tuned into the game).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 23, 2007 05:04 PM | TrackBack
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