Pork Paradise

While driving down Poplar Avenue, a little over an hour after arriving in the wonderful city of Memphis for our annual Spring Break trip, a small SUV passed us on the right. Among the ten or twelve bumper stickers plastered across the back of the bright blue vehicle, one immediately caught our eyes. It said “MEAT IS GROSS”. I looked over at the driver and said, “No. No, meat is wonderful. While I respect your right to have an opinion, in this case you are just wrong. We just drove FOUR hours in order to spend FOUR days consuming as much barbecued meat as humanly possible in the world capital of smoked pork. Meat is most certainly NOT gross!”

Of course, no one heard me say any of this besides my wife, who just giggled and rolled her eyes.

We decided to begin this year’s visit with a quick stop at Leonard’s Pit Barbecue for a hearty meal before checking into our hotel downtown. We had been to Leonard’s before, but only for the buffet. We ordered off the menu this time – and in a rare move, we ended up ordering the exact same thing; the rib and pork shoulder combo platters. We also ordered a basket of onion rings for an appetizer, which honestly was a mistake on our part. They were delicious, but there were too many of them and our bodies just aren’t used to that much fried food. We barely ate half of the basket.

The ribs were very good, but not quite knock-your-socks-off good. We ordered them dry, and they were tender and juicy. I only had two complaints; first, even though it had a very visible pink smoke ring, I didn’t get a strong smoky flavor from the meat. My second complaint was with the rub. It was very seasoned-salt heavy which really made it a bit too salty for my taste. The pork shoulder was better though. Probably the best bite I had was when I made my own slider by piling some of the meat on a small dinner roll with a little of their sauce and a fork-full of slaw. It was an overall above-average barbecue meal, even with my few minor complaints.

We then made our way to our hotel and finished the night off with a high-energy Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at the FedEx Forum. I’m sure that helped us work off any excess calories we consumed with those onion rings (not).

On day two, we started early with a quick sandwich at what is apparently a Memphis institution, but one we had never actually tried, Tops BBQ. I learned quickly that there is a reason they’ve been around for 60 years and have 14 locations – and it’s definitely NOT the service, which was frankly rude and impatient. Fortunately the food made up for it. It was an honest-to-goodness Memphis-style BBQ sandwich served lightning fast. It was a nice way to start the day.

Later on we found our way to Cozy Corner, another place we had been to before, but just had to try again. I ordered the large rib plate and she got the Cornish hen – then we split the meat so that we could each try both. They don’t serve their meat dry, which I prefer, but instead covered in their signature sweet and spicy sauce (more spicy than sweet actually, which works for me). I will say this – if I have to eat “wet” ribs, these are the ones I want! Both entrees were outstanding – even if they’re impossible to eat with even an ounce of decorum.

We laid pretty low on Saturday, choosing instead to walk around downtown, make the obligatory trip up Beale Street, and ride the trolley around the loop before enjoying a large mid-day meal at one of our favorite que joints; Charlie Vegos’ Rendezvous. Unlike some people, we like the fact that there are virtually no choices at the ‘Vous. We want ribs and they come dry (just like we like them), there’s no such thing as unsweetened tea, and every meal is served with slaw & beans (period). But it has yet to disappoint us.

Before heading home on Sunday, we had to try somewhere we had never been, so on the advice of the blogger over at Memphis Que, we went to a place we might’ve passed right by otherwise; Double J Smokehouse & Saloon. It’s not just “new” to the Memphis barbecue landscape, it just officially opened in March – but it was immediately obvious that they knew what they were doing. I ordered ribs (duh) and the wife got pork steak. I am usually suspicious of too many options at a place that is supposed to be a BBQ joint, fearing that what I’m there for will suffer from lack of attention. But that wasn’t the case at the Double J. Everything we had there was amazing, from the BBQ Egg Rolls appetizer to the grilled asparagus. But the star of the show, as it should be, was the meat. The ribs were tender and juicy. I could be wrong, but I think they were a different, slightly fattier cut than most of the ribs in town which gave it kind of a bacon flavor – not that I’m complaining. And the pork steak was equally tender and delicious. What a great way to end our 2012 spring break!

Of course, we also went to two Redbirds ballgames, and though they lost both nights, we did get to partake in one of the best reasons to go to AutoZone Park – Rendezvous BBQ Nachos. We have always just got the standard pulled pork ones in the past so we decided to mix it up by ordering the smoked sausage one night and the pulled chicken the next. Both were amazing. That’s right, we ate barbecue in one form or another seven times in four days.

So, NO – meat is absolutely NOT gross.

Especially in Memphis.

Mascot Madness – A Silly List

I am a man who lives by lists.

I have multiple lists going at any given time; to-do lists for both work and home, lists of stuff to buy or look for the next time I get a chance to stop at a specific store, lists of things I need to get done for school, lists of calls I need to make and bills I have to pay.

One of David Letterman’s bits on The Late Show that I find consistently funny is the nightly Top 10 List.

I watch the VH1 Top 20 Countdown nearly every week even though there is rarely a song or video on the list that I will admit to liking even a little bit.

Lists keep me informed in a neat, concise, easy-reading kind of format that doesn’t require much, if any, explanation. They’re entertaining. And they help keep my scattered, easily distracted brain on track.

I like lists.

And occasionally, for no apparent reason, I find myself making stupid, random lists.

Like the other day, I was thinking about baseball. It’s March. It’s been months since the end of last season and the new 2010 season is quickly approaching. To say that I am ready for some baseball is an understatement. I get like this every March. But why I decided to jot down a list of Major League mascots that I think are goofy is beyond me.

The obvious question is why I put so much thought into such a ridiculous, disposable list. I don’t have an answer. I have absolutely no idea.

Welcome to my brain.

There are certain mascots that just make sense. Fredbird is obviously a Cardinal so St. Louis is the only place he could work. Billy the Marlin could only be from Florida. The same would go for Detroit’s Paws (a tiger), Washington’s Screech (a bald eagle), and even Kansas City’s Sluggerrr (a lion wearing a crown).

I intentionally ignored the nondescript muppet-like characters that could easily be from any team such as the Phillie Phanatic, Tampa Bay’s Raymond and Cleveland’s Slider. I also avoided the almost interchangeable baseball-head guys like Atlanta’s Homer, New York’s Mr. Met, and Mr. Redlegs of Cincinnati. Both of these categories just seem so utterly forgettable to me.

But here are some of my favorites:

Lefty & Righty – Boston Red Sox:

Socks. Dirty laundry as mascots. I understand that they’re anthropomorphic versions of Boston’s logo, but seriously, there are certain things that should not be brought to life. Socks are one of those things.

Junction Jack – Houston Astros:

The former Astros mascot, Orbit, made sense. He was an alien, which drew obvious associations with Houston, the NASA space program, and Space City. Even the train engineer part of Jack makes sense, since the ballpark was built on the former site of Union Station. But a big, Harvey-esque rabbit? Really?

Dinger – Colorado Rockies:

Dinger is a purple dinosaur similar to the ball-cap wearing B.J., the yellow Protoceratops from the kid’s show Barney & Friends. I can’t help but expect him to burst out into a chorus of “I love you – You love me” at any given moment. (I also can’t stand how he tends to spend time in the stands, right behind the batter’s box, while the opposing team is pitching. Seems like that would be an intentional distraction. If it wasn’t for the net above the backstop he probably would’ve been “accidentally” nailed by a stray fastball more than once by now.)

Bernie Brewer – Milwaukee Brewers:

Ahh Wisconsin, with your cheese-heads and racing sausages. What could be a more fitting mascot than a creepy looking, beer-swilling dude with an enormous yellow handlebar mustache occasionally gliding down a big yellow sliding board? At least he doesn’t live on top of a giant keg and plunge into a huge beer mug after every home run and Brewer’s victory anymore.

The Swinging Friar – San Diego Padres:

Contrary to popular belief, the Chicken was never an official mascot of any San Diego sports team. Nope. The Padres are represented by none other than a friar. Similar to monks, friars took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in order to serve their community. Yup – sounds just like professional baseball players, right?

Trade Winds Are Blowin’

I have often laughed at the expense of Padres Shortstop Khalil Greene for looking like everyone’s favorite stoner from Ridgemont High, and have always expected him at any moment during an interview to hit himself in the head with his own shoe and say “That was my skull! I am so wasted!

khalil_1

And now it seems that he is on the verge of being traded to my beloved Cardinals.

Will I still be able to make fun and laugh at his expense if he is on the team that I root for? Or will I take the higher ground and appreciate him for the ballplayer that he is, regardless of his Fast Times persona? I suppose that will depend on whether he plays at his 2007 caliber or relives a below average 2008 season.

Who am I kidding? No it won’t – I will still make fun! That’s just how I am!

At least he will feel at home with fellow classic high school movie character, Ferris Bueller’s best friend Cameron (aka outfielder Ryan Ludwick).

cameron-ludwick

So, even though the deal isn’t complete yet this morning, let me be the first to offer a sincere, “Aloha” to Mr. Khalil Spicoli. Welcome to Redbird Nation, dude.

Monday Miscellany

A Century of Futility, 1908-2008

So, which is worse?

1) Your team not making the Playoffs, but getting much closer than you expected. Or…

2) Your team making the Playoffs with the best record in the entire league, and getting swept in three quick games in the first round?

Sorry Cubs fans, I shouldn’t take such delight in your 100 years of failure. But I do. And I hate myself for it.

(Not really.)

(¯`’•.¸(¯`’•.¸(¯`’•.¸ MM ¸.•’´¯)¸.•’´¯)¸.•’´¯)

What Kind of Energy?

I’m only going to make one comment about the VP Debate last week. I found it very difficult not to blog about the whole fiasco, but I resisted. It’s not like I could bring anything up that everyone else hadn’t already pounced on. Or could I?

The one thing that bugged me all night that nobody else seemed to notice – or if they did, they didn’t mention it – was a simple mispronunciation. But one that has made headlines in the past. If Governor Palin really wants to separate herself and the McCain ticket from the President, then she really needs to quit pronouncing NUCLEAR the same way Bush does.

For crying out loud! How hard is NUCLEAR to say? It’s not NUCULAR! And she just kept repeating it over and over and over. It really got under my skin!

So, even if Biden only opens his mouth occasionally to switch feet, at least he can pronounce words correctly. So, based solely on that criteria, “Can I call you” Joe wins the debate – you betcha!

(¯`’•.¸(¯`’•.¸(¯`’•.¸ MM ¸.•’´¯)¸.•’´¯)¸.•’´¯)

Monday Music

The way you eat that oatmeal pie makes me just want to DIE!

(So wrong – you know it just has to be right!)

Hail to the Chief

It’s finally over! We now know with a good degree of certainty who will be the next President of the United States! And it’s all based on the very democratic method of… (drum roll please)… Minor League Baseball Stadium Giveaways!

Choose your bobblehead as you enter the stadium…
Choose the next leader of the free world!

Find out which candidate got the nod HERE!

Little Cardboard Rectangles

My earliest memories of baseball are centered around large family road trips to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play.

My Grandpa had an obvious youthful love for the game. He shared our excitement when Ozzie back-flipped to his position at shortstop, or when Willie McGee came to bat. My Grandma on the other hand had an obvious youthful love for ballpark food. I remember us spending an inordinate amount of time running back and forth between our seats and the concession stands in a futile attempt to try every item they had to offer; “You like peanuts? Let’s get some peanuts. We’re going to get peanuts. You like pretzels? Let’s get a pretzel. How about ice cream? Crackerjacks? Hot dogs?…”

I suppose I inherited both passions.

Somewhere along the way I fell out of love with baseball though. Maybe it was the strike. Maybe it was before that. I’m not sure, and I’m not sure that it even matters now. But several years passed between the exuberant excitement of catching a game with my Grandparents and my reintroduction to the sport, which came in 1998. One of the first dates I went on with the lady that now calls me her husband (among other things) was a Cardinals Home Opener. That’s right. I wasn’t a baseball fan, but she was! So much for gender roles, huh? And I’m not talking about a casual fan either. No, she was die-hard! I will admit however that I didn’t find the player’s “tight white pants” nearly as intriguing as she did. (Darn you Jim Edmonds!)

It was just coincidence that my reintroduction happened to be the same year as the historic Home-Run record chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. And if that race didn’t excite you, someone should’ve checked you for a pulse! I was hooked almost instantly. We followed it religiously, watched the games on TV, and went to Busch several times. Later that year, but before the season was over, we were married. I guess I fell in love with my wife, and back in love with baseball almost simultaneously. I’m sure there’s some sort of bizarre correlation but I’m not sure what it would be.

One thing that my wife always did back then was to assemble a Cardinals team set of baseball cards each year and arrange them in a series of binders that she kept in her closet. Naturally, I started helping her. One thing led to another and suddenly I’m the one addicted to the hobby.

My name is Scott, and I’m a card collector!

“Hi Scott”

Years later, after Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved into an assisted living facility, while cleaning out their house my Dad found a stack of old cards in his dresser drawer. None of us knew he had any cards at all until that moment. So he gathered them all up and gave them to me. They’re pretty random and probably not worth much, just some of the players that he liked. But to me they’re priceless. I now have several things that belonged to my grandparents; dishes, steins, hats. But it just makes sense that the ones that mean the most to me are a handful of old baseball cards and a stadium full of memories.

Monday Miscellany

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “double M” but I’m feeling very miscellaneous today. Maybe scattered is a better word. Or unable to focus. Regardless, here goes;

Baseball Blues

My team seems to be waning. After dropping two of three to the Phillies this weekend the Cards are six games behind the improbable Cubs and one behind the team I thought was going to run away with it, the Brewers. I know Yogi, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. But I’m starting to get that gut feeling when I watch them play now. It’s almost painful, even when they have a small lead. Heck, especially when they have a small lead!

But this is baseball! The sport where the expected almost never happens. The Cubs could have a historic collapse like the Mets did last year. Or the Cards could barely scrape through the regular season and dominate the playoffs circa 2006. But (and I’m sorry to all the other, more optimistic fans out there) I’m not holding my breath.

A Kitchen in Disarray

The kitchen remodel moves forward this week. We emptied out all of the cabinets last night and I just got off the phone with my wife who said that they are completely gone now. The “they” in that sentence refers both to the cabinets and to the guys who ripped them out. She’s not sure where either is now, but they’re not in our kitchen. I should probably feel some sort of loss or apprehension about this endeavor, but I don’t. Maybe it’s just because the wife seems to be feeling enough of it all for the both of us.

You may have to put up with a few pictures on here in the coming days since this project is completely disrupting our lives right now. Maybe I should apologize in advance.

Entertainment News! (groan)

New photos of fifteen year old superstar Miley Cyrus showing off her underwear are circulating on the internet! …Again. The buzz from the last time was starting to grow silent, so she had to do something to get our attention! Is anyone surprised? Not hardly. Does anyone care? Unfortunately so many people care so much that the sites hosting the shots can’t keep up with the bandwidth. She’s fifteen for crying out loud. Our society is going to hell! And don’t start with the whole “train-wreck” theory that you want to see them just so you can look away in disgust. It doesn’t fly with me.

Did you know there’s a war going on? Gas prices have dropped to under $4 gallon and we think we’re getting some sort of sick bargain? Crazies are kidnapping their own kids and killing each other at alarming rates? But somehow the top “news” stories are about Miss Cyrus, Brett Favre and the Brangelina twins! Did I mention that our society is going to hell? Yeah, I thought so.