Here are my picks for what I will call my Best Brains Awards, named in honor of those ribald founders of the show I would most love to see on TV Land, Mystery Science Theater 3000. These awards go to the restaurants, recipes and foodie shows that are most deserving of ridicule by a human and two robots on a satellite floating around the universe.
It's even got crappy production numbers (indicated with a *** by the link)! The worst of the worst, and the most average of the most average! Tom Servo, the envelope please...***
The Best Brains "It looked better in the dressing room" Award for a second-guessed dining experience - I was wrong, baby, I was wrong.
Golden West Cafe (Western / American / eclectic / "slow food" movement, Hampden) - I admit that I was quite enchanted by the place when I first went, as you can see. So if I liked it so much, why am I listing it here? Well, it sank in: tasty as the food is, charming as the place is, a half an hour wait for a hamburger with sweet potato fries is still unreasonable, and God forbid they allowed for substitutions! I have tried to go back, yes, but there are usually shorter lines at better places than this. And I'm not a patient person. So if I have a few hours I'll go back. But the only reason I put it here is the wait. That and the slight arrogance and pretentiousness (again, no substitutions? Jeez).
The Best Brains "Bottom line? I'M the best***" Award for an exceptionally overrated dining experience - They're not really all that after all.
The Grand Sichuan (Szechuan / Chinese, Manhattan, New York, NY) - All the reviews I read in my travel books simply raved about the Grand Sichuan in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. So I looked forward to it! Then I ordered the cold conch. I admit that it might've been my choice of meal - this is so far my first exposure to conch - but I was still left underwhelmed.
Double T Diner (diner, Catonsville) - Unlike the Grand Sichuan up in NYC, I knew what I was getting myself into here. Or at least I thought I did. Aren't they an area institution? If so, then the burger and fries I had there are proof that they are slacking. Edible, but that's about it.
The Best Brains "NoDoz" Award for an exceptionally average dining experience - Wake me up in 2008.
The Big Cheese (pizza / subs / Greek, Owings Mills) - A hell of a lot of food for the price. And good enough fries. But remind me: there is meat somewhere under all this tzatziki sauce, right? Right? (I admit - it's probably the type of business as a collective whole more than this one particular sub shop that deserves the criticism.)
Rose Restaurant (American, Linthicum Heights) - A truly average meal. I could've gotten a better one from the salad bar at Mars.
The Best Brains "Did I do thaaaaaat?***" Award for the recipe that got lost in translation
Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies*** - I don't blame Jolene Sugarbaker (even if y'all do). Or maybe you're right - maybe it is an inherently disgusting premise for a cookie. But it probably could've been executed better on my part anyway.
The Best Brains "WE GOT MOVIE SIIIIIIGN!" Award for the worst in food on television - This is why I wish MST3K was still on the air.
Anthony Bourdain - Not for his food or his television show. It's only because he's a prick (and yeah you're right - he's proud of that fact). I love his show, though. Watch him in LA!*** Next time I'm in SoCal, I am so going to the Saap Noodle House in Thaitown (thanks, Noodle Whore)! And at least Bourdain doesn't have it in for food bloggers like some orange-clogged chefs do.
Iron Chef America Holiday Challenge***: Cora/Deen vs. Florence/Irvine - I think I hate sugar now. And puppies (Okay that last one was gratuitous.) On the other hand, I love this photo from the Food Network Addict. It kind of puts things in perspective.
Top Chef Season 3*** - Season 1 was awesome. It peaked then, and it hasn't looked back since. Season 2 was okay. This season was barely watchable. There seemed to be so much more of a de-emphasis on the food on the part of Bravo, and so much more of an emphasis on the bitchiness and arguing. At least in the episodes that I watched - I really lost interest after about episode five. I tuned in on occasion to see how the chefs were doing. My word - they had to redo their restaurant challenge! Mind you, I'd probably fail the first time I tried to set up a restaurant, too. But they didn't give the first two groups that kind of a break. If I should give it a second look, please tell me so. Otherwise, I am not planning to tune in for TC4 in Chicago.
The Best Brains "Grill Art Cafe" Award for an exceptionally horrible dining experience - If you want a wonderful and satisfying dining experience, these places and products are not for you.
Lake Trout (trout, Woodlawn) - I think I spent more time picking bones out of my teeth than I did eating. And that super intensely sweet Yankee cornbread tastes like it came out of a Hostess box.
Most hole-in-the-wall Chinese places (Chinese, just about everywhere) - There were lots of things that surprised me this year: The one and only consistent thing I found in 2007 was that you should avoid the greasy wok Chinese take-outs. Almost to a one, they are nasty. Hunan Joy, Hong Kong Restaurant and Grace Café, all in the southwest quadrant of the Beltway, are classic examples. But why single them out? I could shoot off half a dozen others that come to mind. Note that the larger ones seem to give a damn about what they serve - it's the itty-bitty Mom and Pop establishments that seem to suck, and I just don't know why. The one glaring exception: Golden Gate on Maiden Choice Lane in Arbutus. I keep going back for their General Tso's Chicken when I can.
Pre-frozen slow cooker meals - Add a stick of butter and half a bottle of wine. It still tastes like yesterday's cream of styrofoam soup. Minus the flavor.
Sonar Gaow (Indian / Bengali, Manhattan, New York, NY) - I thought it was a pretty good deal at first, but in retrospect, it just wasn't worth my time. My God, how can you mess up plain basmati rice?
That's it! The worst of the worst and the averagest of the averagest. And unlike those awards shows, I welcome any and all input you have. Cue the MST3K Satellite of Love Theme***, and Happy New Year!