Two Stars Means Good

As soon as I get a little bit of money, I spend it on some novel dining experience. One time my brother and I hit 4 restaurants in the same night. Another time I drunkenly slammed 40 dollars on a bar counter to purchase all the little bags of chips at a bar in Pittsburgh. I've picked up a lot of checks just to look and feel cool. Nothing feels better than saying the words, "I got it.” I’m not going to mince words here: Spending money is impressive to me, especially because I usually have so little of it to manage. One rare evening in Chicago, though, I got the opportunity to do something several degrees above my pay grade and social status.

In 2014 I ate at L20, a two Michelin starred restaurant where the chef de cuisine just so happened to be our friend, Bob Broskey (the only thing cooler than saying “I got it” is “I know the guy”). My brother, Anthony, was getting married and instead of a bachelor party he wanted to have a private, drunken gorge affair of the highest quality. Anthony's best man, Rod, would also be in attendance. Rod's the type of guy that would wear a Steeler's jersey to dinner if he could. When he showed up to the rooftop of the Lincoln hotel in Chicago, I'll never forget that he ordered a Yuengling and our server just stared at him with blank disdain. Rod wasn't a foodie. He didn't care that the chefs at L20 worked with Laurent Gras or that we'd be dining in one of the best restaurants in America. My man had no clue what a Michelin guide was and I loved that he was in the mix. Not a one of us had ever been to a Michelin starred restaurant before, but how different could it be? You sit, you eat, then you leave. We were boozed up and high before we even got in the cab.  

big doors for big restaurant

big doors for big restaurant

As soon as I walked through the cartoonishly large wooden doors of L20, I immediately lost my buzz. It was like being pulled over by the cops. "Oh, shit," I probably whispered out loud. There was almost no noise. Most restaurants have at least a little bit of chatter, but this seemed like a sensory deprivation tank. It was so quiet, dark, and ominous that I thought for a second this was going to be one of those scenarios where it turns out that I was the one being eaten. I was blindsided by the ambiance. The lighting portrayed a secret society and I was to be in consideration for membership. Everything screamed, “This is the last meal you will ever eat.” Also, I was having this crazy week and forgot to put on a belt before we left the hotel. I did that move where I casually had my hand in my pocket but really I was holding up my pants. We sat down. I looked at my brother, who looked at his best man, who looked at me. We all communicated telepathically. "We shouldn't be here," we whispered to each other's minds.  

They bring hot towels, and the waiter presides over our table as he watches us use them. The only problem is we didn’t use them at all. We were so high that we had no clue what to do with the towels. We just looked at them, then looked at each other, then the waiter who is just standing there like a god damn prison guard. Eventually he just took them away. I imagine he sighed heavily. Immediately, I became worried that we brought shame to Bob and his restaurant. Then, the first course comes out. It's a crab chip glued to a wooden orb with an apple cider fluid gel. It tastes like Maryland, a place I'd never been. We eat one single chip, and they take away the wooden orb. My paranoia subsides. My high stabilizes. I felt elation because I knew that we were about to go for a ride. 17 courses paired with wine. That's what chef Bob Broskey had in store for us. 

The very worn L20 menu from our visit

The very worn L20 menu from our visit

Anthony and I know Bob because the three of us got very drunk one Christmas Eve morning in Pittsburgh. We posted up on the back docks of a deli, at 7AM, and drank a lot of hush-hush free homemade wine brewed by the employees and served in Dixie cups. Now, I won’t disclose the name of the deli publicly, but if you contact me I will more than happily tell you where to meet us every Christmas Eve for free wine and the best meats and cheeses in the city. We got drunk, bought produce, and I think we talked to every stranger that crossed our path on Penn Avenue. Bob's incredibly down to earth. This wasn't some maniac from Chef's Table. This was Bob. This was the guy telling people at a fish market that I was John Stamos' nephew. It was bizarre to me that he was a chef of this caliber. Maybe I have a stigma that guys like him are supposed to be pretentious. My hesitance with fine dining and the chefs who produce it usually amounts to, "Who's this for?" When you start to look at the bill, it becomes clear that it’s not you or I. Artistic and thoughtful meals usually come with a hefty price tag. A lot of times it feels like cooking with money instead of cooking with love. Bob serving this type of food felt like an anomaly. Entering L20 felt like I was infiltrating high society. I was lower class trash masquerading as a wealthy man (still in poor people’s clothes, mind you). I was a spy. That’s how it started, anyway. By the end of the meal what I actually thought was, “I would be such a good rich person.”

At a place like L20, so much damn thought that goes into each dish. If you love food, you're going to pick up on those thoughts. You're going to see exactly what the chefs are trying to communicate without saying it. The lobster minestrone, for instance, tasted like the ocean. As I slurped the consommé I thought, "This is like drinkable sea water." Later, when Bob said, "I wanted it to taste like the ocean," I felt validated in understanding his intentions. Fun story about the minestrone: Each little vegetable - the carrots, celery, all of it – is cut so small and shaped like the tiny ditalini pasta that you would see floating around in soup. "I give that job to whoever I hate the most at the time," Bob said about the precisely cut micro circles. Without a doubt, cutting those vegetables takes the discipline of somebody fresh out of culinary school who is willing to take a beating just to obtain some sacred kitchen knowledge. What the minestrone made me realize is that that fine dining is cooking with love, but it’s not the love of your grandmother, it’s a love and appreciation of high art.

Punishment for the young

Punishment for the young

At about 9 courses in, our friend, Rod, turns to us with agony and says, "I'm so full." I looked at my brother, then our friend, and whispered, "Rodney, I don't think you understand. We have to finish this." There was no wall for me or my brother. We knew what had to be done, and we helped Rod finish his salad gourmande soon after. The salade gourmande was one of the heaviest dishes of the evening. It was a precise, tweezer-constructed French "salad" of foie, haricots verts, truffle, and mojama - a Spanish salt cured tuna. It was snorting umami off a broken mirror. It almost felt like a joke to give us a salad course this heavy. "You're serving them foie two courses in a row? Why?" That is apparently what chef Matthew Kirkley said to Bob as he prepared our dinner. Bob knew what he was doing. He knew Anthony and I were pirates like him. There wasn’t going to be any empty plates, even if it meant discomfort. Being too full from foie and jamón ibérico and truffles and geoduck is as intense as it sounds. “My body is filled with….treasure?” I can still feel the time sensitive mussel tart melt away in my mouth like some sort of decadent seafood candy. I can remember the smells and tastes like they were something I ate a thousand times after baseball practice. I had to question my upbringing. "Wait, did I grow up near the ocean?" In a word, L20 was memorable, even moreso because I knew that I'd never be back. It was a vacation. I wasn't married to eating like this. 

The bill was close to $800 and it should have been way more. I think we estimated $1,400 or something. Point is, this wasn't affordable even with the "I know a guy" discount. We paid and tipped not nearly as much as we should have. I think it was a cool 20% but when somebody gives you a discount of $600, that warrants a lot more than industry standard. We were scum, and we didn’t belong. Bob invited us to see the kitchen, then I used the bathroom (hilarious to me that people use toilets at high-end establishments). After three hours of eating and drinking, the host finally waved us a cab. I took it back to a friend's apartment. It was towards the end of this wonderful week in August that I spent doing shows and connecting with somebody I hadn't seen in almost 10 years. We were both going through bad break ups and found comfort in each other for the week. I was too full to have sex and thankfully she was asleep by the time I got back. I crawled into her bed. The next morning, as I was packing, she said, "I’m not really ready for you to leave yet." I felt the same way. We talked about seeing each other again, but it never happened. It wouldn't have made much sense. That week was so good, I haven't been back to Chicago or seen her since. Matter of fact, I haven’t seen Bob or been to another fancy restaurant either. Maybe that’s what fine dining is - an unsustainable, but perfectly in the moment Summer fling.

L20 closed less than a year after our visit - but Bob’s new restaurant in Chicago is Beacon Tavern

Better Than Cake

A cookie table for your wedding

A cookie table for your wedding

I love a good wedding. I also love a bad one. To know what's good, well, we must understand what is bad. We must embrace bad. We must study it. I've seen wedding menus so bland they seemed computer generated. Salad with raspberry vinaigrette and chicken cordon bleu, that sort of thing. One decision that is usually consistent and idiot proof (that means very hard to fuck up) is the wedding cake. Nobody complains about cake. To me, though, the wedding cake seems boring. Isn't it kind of dull? I mean, this one type of cake has to be something everyone in the room can enjoy. It's the laugh track sitcom of desserts, and yet, we accept it as tradition. Wedding cake gets ratings. 

But friend, there's an alternative to wedding cake that you're missing out on: It's called a cookie table. It's a stupendously vast array of cookies, a truly a spectacular display of treats. It's fantastical in presentation and conception. A good cookie table looks like overkill. It should be the mirage of a desert straggler. It should feel royal. You should be afraid to touch one cookie for fear of the whole thing falling apart like the later stages of a Jenga session. Growing up I remember pizelles, Hungarian butterhorns, biscotti, buckeyes, lemon custard bars, peanut butter blossoms, and so many more being spread out on fancy, yet cheap plastic trays and paper doilies. A true symbol of community, the cookie table has roots in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. It's supposedly an immigrant tradition. The assumption is that when couples were too poor to afford a traditional wedding cake, they had both families contribute an absurd amount of cookies to compensate. Its origins are disputed; the exact kind of thing people from Ohio and Pennsylvania fight over. But, I'm not here to talk about where the cookie table came from. Who cares? It's already arrived. We live in this reality. I'm here to tell you why you should have it at your wedding. 

Can I put my hand on your shoulder and call you that shortened version of your name that nobody else calls you? Great. I'm a numbers guy, Al. I like facts. Right now, we're discussing one type of cake versus dozens of different cookies. The cookie table vastly outdoes the wedding cake in terms of variety and flavor. There's something for everybody, and the best part? There's no rules. Just go have a cookie. You don't have to wait. Not like cake. Cake takes an eternity to arrive and leaves in a few short minutes, but cookies at a wedding are eternal. From the beginning of the reception till the end of the night, the cookies are there for you. They're the last person to leave, and get this, you get to take them home. That's right, a traditional cookie table has takeout containers or bags. You can take them home or eat them in the car to sober up. You'll be a hero. People will say, "God damn, remember that cookie table?" and they'll think of you fondly. 

Coffee? No, I don't, but I can run to the AutoZone next door and they usually let me take some from the pot. You sure? OK. Where was I? Oh yeah, remember how poor you are? Remember how you caved into the pressure of society and planned a wedding? While you insist on getting "married" or whatever, you might as well save some cash, and this dessert won't cost a dime. All you have to do is commission your family to bake. In its purest form, the cookie table is a dessert potluck, and you can bet on your relatives taking it way too damn seriously. You're essentially setting up a competition for your family to engage in while you tie the knot. Remember, everyone who bakes for your wedding is trying to have the best cookie, so there's tons of room for conflict. This is the big day. Some will fold under pressure, but someone, probably your grandma, will be completely on top of her shit. The end result of all this familial competitiveness is one of the most awe-inspiring displays of treats you've ever seen. I've seen cookie tables so beautiful I cried at the mere sight.

Now, I know you've got your suspicions, and hell, I would too, but I've seen a whole lot of weddings and the ones with cookie tables are the most successful. I'm not trying to sell you a bunch of bells and whistles; I can promise you that. There's nothing in it for me. I don't make a commission here anymore, and I sure don't have any cookies to sell you. I'm just a guy on an hourly wage that's passionate about his job. I like hospitality. Treat your guests, Al. Ditch the cake, and plan a cookie table. 

A New Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving I feel the same. At the end of the night, when that lukewarm malaise of gravy and watching people watch football washes over me in bed, I think, “What the hell just happened?” I seemingly can’t discern whether or not my day was good. Did I enjoy myself? Was it fun? Did it even happen? I never nail the holiday; it always feels like something is missing. Thanksgiving is like leaving the house and forgetting to put on deodorant. It’s also watching YouTube videos with a laptop on my belly at 9PM on a Friday night. The feeling is always uncomfortable sedation. As a kid, I must have pondered the holiday on my first go-around, 

“OK, so this isn’t Christmas. There aren’t any presents as far as I can tell. Also, no signs of Jesus, so, this is just...dinner? Super special extra thankful dinner without Jesus – got it, got it.”  

I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving with family in over 7 years. Good Lord, I’m not flying home to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving – that's insane. My family would smell the desperation. I think if I showed up in my hometown for Thanksgiving my Mom would say, “Tone it down, will ya?” For me, Christmas is the main attraction. It doesn’t get any better than episode 1 of Jesus. How good is Christmas? It's actually two holidays, and if it was up to me, every celebration would be a Feast of the Seven Fishes. That’s right, I brought salted cod instead of cake for your office birthday party, Zach. Also, look, Thanksgiving is a month before Christmas. Do we really need to be celebrating a pre-Christmas? I thought that’s what Christmas Eve was. Like President’s Day – Thanksgiving has just been another confusing excuse for me to get drunk for the last 5 years. 

In the last half decade, I’ve done a Friends-giving and they’ve all been refreshing and needed. Taking a holiday and turning it into a drunken gorge fest has been a highlight of my late 20’s and early 30’s. Everyone’s busting chops and inside jokes are flying around recklessly. Friends talking shit and shop. Two years ago, Avery Moore and I made lasagna, and that day started with bourbon shots at 11AM. It’s always been a huge party where nobody gets laid. Actually, that sounds like the tagline for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving: You Won’t Be Fuckin’. So, my usual tradition has been hanging out with friends on Thanksgiving. But, this year, I’ve decided to do something different. This year, I’m going to volunteer. Why? My friends suck. 

That’s right. My friends are now so bad, I’ve decided to go volunteer my time in a kitchen to avoid them. That’s how much I hate my friends. They’re always whining about how things in their life aren’t perfect or they’ll say something like, “We should play a board game!” Ugh. Shut up. Honestly, I wouldn’t have to go volunteer for Thanksgiving if my friends were at least a little bit interesting. But no, they’re always going on about some movie they just saw or this new album they really like. Somebody I barely know will inevitably say, “Hey, we should hang out sometime, like outside of Thanksgiving,” then I’ll have to slip away with my trusty line, “Oh, shit. Hang on, my Mom is calling and she has cancer.” This line has never failed me, and I will continue to use it so long as my Mom has cancer.  

Also, none of my friends know how to cook. As far as I can tell, they only eat boiled hot dogs. Recently, a peer had the audacity to say to me at a party, “Oh man, if I knew they were going to have hot dogs here I wouldn’t have eaten hot dogs at home.” I never think it’s possible to hate my friends more than I already do, then somebody will make green bean casserole but forget to blanche the green beans first. They’ll just throw it in the oven and wonder why the green beans taste like candle sticks, and then I end up excusing myself to the bathroom to scream into a shower curtain. Two things I know for sure: I’m not flying home for Thanksgiving, and I'm tired of having to repeat myself because one of my self-absorbed acquaintances is buried into his phone.  

So, I’m going to volunteer this year. I just can't imagine a scenario where I’ll miss Thanksgiving. It just isn’t special to me. If it isn’t special to you, maybe give volunteering a try. Maybe you’ll want to do it more often. At the very least, you’ll likely make some new friends. 

If you’re in Austin, the folks over at Do512 have compiled a great list of places you can contribute here.

I Know The Guy: Ham Hung in Koreatown

"Eh, Italian food. You add clams to some pasta and charge $25." That was the reaction that Sam, the owner of Ham Hung in Koreatown, had when I told him that I used to cook in Italian restaurants. I keeled over laughing because I knew he was right. Sam's funny and painfully aware about the restaurant business. Ham Hung has been around since 1985. They went to their new location off Olympic in 2011, so he's seen the evolution of Korean food in Los Angeles. Every time I see Sam he's wearing a pair of light blue jeans with a tucked in shirt and belt. His cellphone case is attached to his hip so he knows where it is at all times. He's serving traditional food, and baby that cellphone clip matches the menu. The conversation is easy; talking to weathered restaurant owners is usually where I feel most comfortable. We discuss growing up in Seoul, coming to the States, and why he doesn't do sashimi anymore, "I was driving to Santa Barbra every morning. Too much work, man." I circle the conversation back to overcharging for low quality Italian food and he laments, "I can't do that here." He's right again. 

The first time I met Sam, my friend and I had stumbled into Ham Hung and ordered veal intestine. The server said, “It’s spicy” and I responded, “That’s great.” Then, she went to get Sam so that he could explain to me that it was not just spicy, but “pretty spicy.” I imagine this happens a lot at Ham Hung: A guy like me walks in, orders something with chili sauce, then complains because the nothing-in-English menu full of food that isn't for you didn't have a picture of a fucking pepper on it to signify it was hot. We finish our veal intestine, and Sam brings us 2 dishes of cold naengmyeon (North Korean cold noodles). My friend doesn't understand why we've been brought free food, but I do. We got the, "good hungry boy" treatment. You see – my friend and I showed that we loved food, that we appreciated the restaurant, and that we could eat well. I was a cook, once. Anytime a customer showed the slightest bit of taste or passion, I always gave them the good stuff. Sam knew we were good hungry boys, so he brought us the dish he was proud of, what he hangs his hat on. It's also possible that the restaurant was slow and he just wanted to find how much we could eat before tapping out. I once fed a friend an entire plate of seared diver scallops, piled high like fat stacks of cash, just to see if he could finish them all. I get it. 

I'm back at Ham Hung today. It was 109 degrees just 16 hours ago, and the place is packed at 10AM. It's cooler, but that lingering threat of 109 didn't just suddenly go away, either. The restaurant is packed with people who want naengmyeon. Most of Sam's naengmyeon is served Hamhung style. Hamhung is the 2nd largest city in North Korea, and also the restaurant's namesake (The restaurant is spelled Ham Hung, the city spelled Hamhung). What exactly is Hamhung style naengmyeon? Well, that depends on who you talk to. To explain his dish, Sam immediately offers up some musings about its rival, Pyongyang naengmyeon. The distinctions are coastal. Pyongyang is North Korea's capital and Hamhung's west coast counterpart. The Pyongyang style cold noodles involve a tangy beef broth served with Korean pear, cucumber, protein, and boiled egg. The broth and noodle are the key difference to each coasts' serving style. In Pyongyang, the noodles are made from buckwheat, and when coupled with that flavorful, chilly beef broth – it begins to vaguely resemble ramen. The noodles are submerged in tasty liquid. There is a version of Pyongyang style naengmyeon at Ham Hung, and that mellow broth is vitalizing. Sam is reluctant to call it Pyongyang style because he doesn't use buckwheat noodles. "They're harder to digest," he argues. He mentions that Kim Jon-un recently brought Pyongyang style naengmyeon to the summit in South Korea. Pyongyang style is getting the hot press right now, but what Sam specializes in is potato starch noodle. What he's proud of is his Hamhung style naengmyeon. 

To make the potato starch noodle, Sam uses an extruder; one of only 10 in Los Angeles made specifically for naengmyeon, he says. He emphasizes the labor-intensive process to create the noodles from scratch, "Google 100 restaurants that serve naengmyeon, and I bet 90 of them use frozen noodles. I would bet you. It's too much labor. Kitchens are too small." The potato starch mixture, which goes through an extruder several times, creates an elastic, bonded noodle that is indestructible in comparison to the buckwheat. Sam's noodles are delightfully chewy, filling, and seemingly endless. They come right out of the extruder and into boiling water before they are shocked in an ice bath (in case you had any questions about freshness, it doesn't get any better than a machine churning out noodles directly into a pot). They cook in mere seconds, and the result is what feels like an invincible piece of food; a texture you've likely never had, and one that isn't all that common to begin with. It's one of the best noodles I've ever eaten, and few people are doing it right. 

Ham Hung Naengmyeon

Ham Hung Naengmyeon

Hamhung naengmyeon shines through its east coast qualities. It doesn't woo you with a tangy, refreshing broth like the west coast style. Hamhung naengmyeon is dressed in a red chili sauce, and Sam's red chili sauce has just a bit of the Pyongyang style beef broth – a compromise of sorts, giving his naengmyeon a more soup-like quality, "So the noodles absorb the sauce." It gets served in a stainless-steel bowl to help keep everything cold. Mixed with skate, pork, or beef, and served with a thermos pitcher of hot beef broth, the naengmyeon Sam makes represents the perfect summer meal: A constant cooling and warming of your body that feels surprisingly pleasant on a warm day, but also one that can be enjoyed year-round, unlike the Pyongyang style which is more of a Summer dish. 

Sam beams when he talks about version of naengmyeon. His father grew up just outside Hamhung, and it's how he learned to cook the classic North Korean dish. He thinks the style his father showed him is often underappreciated, "Nobody makes it like I do. Some people don't even acknowledge Hamhung style exists. But my friend's Uncle had a restaurant [serving Hamhung style noodles], so, explain that."  It makes sense that a dish like Hamhung naengmyeon would get lost a bit. It was a city damaged by the Korean War only to later be ravaged by famine in the 90's. Sam uses the landscape to describe his dish – the modest potato that makes the full and nourishing noodle, the spicy red chili sauce needed to get through Winter – Hamhung was a desolate place of exile. Sam muses, "When you're in exile, where do they send you? Fucking Timbuctoo." He later confides to me that that they get Hamhung style wrong in Seoul, where he grew up, "They put the sauce on the side." He's now rubbing his temples and I'm smiling, "You wouldn't just top pasta with sauce, would you? You'd toss it in the pan." Sam's talking to me like I only understand Italian food, and he's not wrong. A noodle not tossed in sauce is a missed opportunity. It thrives when it becomes infused with the flavors of the pan. He then eases up on the South Korean interpretation, "But, they do a lot of business in Seoul. Here, we have time to toss everything." 50% of Sam's sales are his naengmyeon, but still he runs into problems with customers. The noodles often require to be cut with scissors, but I get the sense that's for people who aren't gamers. "I don't cut mine when I eat them," he tells me. Naengmyeon is an old school dish. Most people don't grow up eating it, and they especially aren't familiar with the rubber band-like potato starch noodle, "We get complaints all the time because the younger generation isn't used to it." You can look at Sam's face and see a hundred Yelp reviews. 

"Business is OK," he tells me. Finally, I see an opportunity to bust Sam's balls, "Hey man, this place should be filled with white people." We're outside now because he wants a cigarette. He laughs, tilts his head, and says with modesty, "They don't know yet."  

Smelt Lady

At the first restaurant I worked, we paid an old Italian lady to clean smelts for us. Buckets full. She would just sit in front of her TV at night and rip the spine out of these little Lake Erie sardines. Over and over. Truly, cleaning smelts is a pain in the ass. No clue how we even found this woman to do it - it was just a reality I walked into. It was a work responsibility. "Drop the smelts off to the smelt lady,” then my car smelled like fish for a week. Years later, at another restaurant, the chef dropped a large bucket full of uncleaned smelts in front me, and I brought up that "actually" I knew somebody who would clean them for cheap. He said, "Oh, the smelt lady? She's dead." Then I repeatedly ripped out the spine of about 500 smelts. 

Here’s a poem I wrote 10 years ago about the Smelt Lady. It is the only poem I’ve ever written. Enjoy.

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Watermelon + Feta Salad

watermelon-feta-mint-salad.jpg

I was eating a watermelon and feta salad the other day and thinking about my total willingness to eat foods that I'm not crazy about. I can't throw away food. I have to finish everything, even if I made a regretful decision. Also, I just flat out choose to eat bad food a lot. Sometimes I eat Triscuits and mayonnaise late at night. Even when food's good, I fuck it up by not knowing when to stop. I have lost entire days by eating too much barbeque when I know I have things to do. At this point, I think I know bad food more than I know good food. I cooked bad food for a long time. I cooked in restaurants I didn't respect while serving dishes I knew were bad. It resulted in a strange fascination with the mediocre. I'm fascinated about why we don't eat bad food, and why we're so judgmental about people who do. I would love to see the person – hungry on a sad, drunk, and lonely night, who earlier this year lampooned Donald Trump for eating a well done steak with ketchup – ravaging through their cupboards looking for the perfect snack, and when they don't find it, settling for some cold cheese and bread with mustard. I announce foolishly that if somebody served me an overcooked steak, I would eat it. Now's probably a good time to tell you that I get sick a lot. I got food poisoning at a restaurant in Austin once and went back the next week because I thought they deserved a second chance. Point is, I'll eat almost anything terrible if I'm hungry enough, but recently I had a very hard time finishing a watermelon and feta salad. 

My main complaint about the watermelon and feta salad is that the cheese gets juicy. Say that out loud. "The cheese is juicy." Oh no, right? Watermelon is, what, 92% water? That's like if you poured some feta cheese in your Brita pitcher. Feta by itself? Wonderful. For me, salty cheeses are the best cheeses. Feta sold out and went pop in the last 20 years for sure, but it's still very good even when it's produced by some made up farm and sold at a grocery store that has birds flying through the aisles. Solo watermelon? Mamma mia, few foods in their natural state are as enjoyable and comical as eating a watermelon. It's a cartoon fruit. A classic. Spitting seeds everywhere is a great activity if you're a problem child. Watermelon and feta together? It feels like an arranged marriage. Neither watermelon nor feta seem happy. The popularity of the watermelon and feta salad is troublesome. What's really going, here? What politician benefits from putting these two together? Who had the most to gain from the death of summer salads? I apologize if this takes a gross turn, but the two in my mouth at the same time, quite frankly, felt like eating ass. To be clear, I'm not saying it tastes like ass; I don't think that watermelon and feta salad bears any likeness in flavor to a butthole. It just feels like it. Does that make sense? Probably not. OK, let me explain, and don't walk away. 

If somebody asked you to eat their butthole and you said no, well, you're a bad person. I just picture you discarding tomatoes and olives from your plate saying, "Ew, gross! Things have to be the way I want them always!" I also get why you wouldn't want to. It's definitely not the first thing I look forward to during sex. It's fine. You do it because you love somebody. It's like picking up a friend from the airport. It's only a big deal if you make it one. Oh, and the people that love eating ass and talk about it constantly? They are also full of it. There's a little bit of projection there. You don't have to say you love it. Yeah yeah, we get it, Andrew Zimmern. You eat bugs. I'm not saying it can't be enjoyable. You should feel good and be happy about doing anything that makes another person cum for Christ's sake. But, the people that talk about how much they enjoy it and now everyone is doing it because it's trendy, well partner, now we're talking about watermelon and feta salad. 

Here's what I'm saying: Don't believe the hype. It's good, not great. You should eat it if it's there or if somebody's serving it to you. You should also smile and say how great it is so that the other person feels OK about themselves. But, it's got some problems. Everybody will tell you what food is "epic" or what is "essential" but sometimes food is just OK, and that's fine. 

Also, the watermelon and the feta together does kind of taste like somebody's sweaty butthole after they went jogging. 

Italian Fest: What To Wear

It's that time of year! Soon, the smell of tank top sweat and meatball subs will be permeating the air because people all across the Midwest will be celebrating Italian Fest! Italian Fest is a wonderful celebration filled with lost children, fighting, and bocce. The date of Italian Fest varies from city to city, so If you're going to this celebratory event this Summer, Fall, Winter, or Spring, you'll want to be prepared. That's why I’ve developed a short Italian Fest fashion guide to help you look your best! 

One thing we know for sure: Italians are the sassiest people on earth. Michael Corleone, Tony Soprano, Henry Hill – they were all adventurous, free spirits that were a little saucy. They also dressed the part. Italian fashion is bold and always makes a statement, and nothing says, "I'm Italian" like a t-shirt that says, "I'm Italian." News flash my Medigan friend, there's no such thing as TOO much Italian pride. So, when it comes time to dress yourself the morning of the biggest festival of the year, don't worry, you've got a wide selection of t-shirts that will let everybody know, "Hey! I'm Italian!" 

I'm not yelling. I'm Italian

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Look, Italians yell a lot. It's a fact of life that we all have to just deal with. Do you find yourself being overly aggressive in public and don't feel like explaining why? Do you never want to deal with your issues? Pop one of these babies on and let the shirt do the "I'm not really apologizing" for you! 

FBI  

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No, this doesn't mean Federal Bureau of Investigation. This shirt means Full Blooded Italian. That literally translates to, "I'm the most Italian.” What a power move. Wear this shirt, puff out your chest, and let everyone else at Italian fest know that their best-case-scenario is being the same amount of Italian as you.  

I survived an Italian father 

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Your Dad hit you because he’s Italian. People will say, “No, that’s not true. Come on, Frank’s a good guy.” Then, you’ll point out that “Survived” is written in blood red. This shirt is a cry for help but also gets the point across: You are in fact Italian.

Pray for me. My Wife is Italian.

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Your wife hit you because she’s Italian. Bummer. The good news is this shirt will help make light of a tough situation. They don’t make any “Pray for me my husband is Italian” shirts because the implications are much more sinister.

That's my fashion guide for this year's Italian Fest! Don’t forget, even though you've never been to Italy, make sure to call it the “Old Country.” Ciao!