Friday, January 29, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Good Cheesesteak in Pittsburgh?

There are those who will say that there are only two places that serve a good cheesesteak, and they're both in Philadelphia. I've never been to Pat's or Geno's (yeah, I watch a lot of Food Network), so I can't argue that directly. I can, however say that I've had a few very good non-Philly cheesesteaks in my time. Admittedly, there have also been a few not-so-good ones, but they're not worth mentioning.

There aren't a lot of cheesesteak places in Pittsburgh, probably because of some corss-state rivalry thing (Pittsburgh has Primanti Bros.). Sure, there are restaurants that happen to serve a cheesesteak, but I think we can agree that it's just not the same thing. Recently, however, I found a good cheesesteak place right in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh.

The place is called Cory's Subs, and they do indeed make a damn good cheesesteak. It's a pretty new restaurant, too. So new, in fact, that Google Maps Street View still shows the place that was there before. Unfortunately, they don't have a website for me to link to but this link will do a Google search for you, so if they do get a website up...well, you get the idea.

I've eaten at Cory's twice (It's clear across town from where I work, or I'd go more), and both times, I enjoyed a fantastic cheesesteak with peppers and onions (they offer mushrooms as well, but I'm not a mushroom guy). The staff is friendly, the food is good...if it was closer to where I work, I'd be in trouble.

I'm not going to try to compare it to Pat's or Geno's (Never had them, remember?), but I will say that if you find yourself in Pittsburgh and craving a cheesesteak, this is where you gotta go.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Delivery is Key

On my way home from work today, i was listening to the Galactic Watercooler podcast (which you should probably go check out right now). The hosts were discussing The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951, not 2008), and an interesting thought coalesced in my brain.

The basic concept of The Day the Earth Stood Still is that humanity, despite being on the verge of exploring beyond the limits of our own world, is a very warlike race. To any extraterrestrial intelligence that may be watching, this is probably a very dangerous combination. In an attempt to pacify humanity, aliens come to Earth with a warning: Humanity must abandon its warlike ways.

The reason The Day the Earth Stood Still stands up as a classic is the way in which the material was presented. This is clearly underscored by another movie that told the same basic tale some nine years later, but with much less panache.

Plan 9 From Outer Space, often referred to as the worst movie of all time, told essentially the same story as The Day the Earth Stood Still. A group of extraterrestrials are afraid that, combined with its rapid scientific advancement, humanity's destructive nature will inevitably lead to a weapon capable of annihilating the universe. They journey to Earth in an attempt to stop this from happening.

The difference, of course, is in how these two movies present this story. In The Day the Earth Stood Still, the aliens send an emissary (and his scary robot) to deliver an ulitmatum, one which falls on deaf ears. In Plan 9, the aliens opt for creating an army of zombies (they only manage to create three). The Day the Earth Stood Still was well written, well acted and well filmed. Plan 9 had plot holes that you could squeeze Jupiter through, some of the most hilariously poor acting you're ever likely to see, and was filled with so much stock footage that one begins to wonder why they even had a director.

In movies, delivery is key. Even the best concepts will fall flat if they're poorly presented.

I'll leave you with quotes from the films' protagonists:
"The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression." -- Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still
"You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!" -- Eros, Plan 9 From Outer Space

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Potent Potables

At a recent Christmas party, I found myself discussing adult beverages with one of my wife's colleagues. As we are both bourbon drinkers, it wasn't long before the Manhattan came up.

My Manhattan

After establishing our preferred bourbon for such a drink (we both agreed that "top shelf" is preferred, but Jim Beam is an affordable "standard"), we found ourselves pondering the Angostura bitters. Specifically, we wondered whether Angostura bitters were, like quinine, originally developed as a medicinal tonic.

A brief trip to Wikipedia later, and I had my answer.

As it turns out, the answer is yes. Angostura bitters were originally developed in the 1820's by Doctor Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, surgeon-general Simon Bolivar's army. His goal was to develop a tonic to improve the appetite and digestive well-being of the Venezuelan soldiers. According to the Angostura website, the transition from medicine to cocktail companion was aided by Dr. Siegert's son, Carlos:

Don Carlos, as Carlos became known, recognised that he was in possession of the secret to a unique product. Bon vivant, impeccable in his dress and manners, he was among the first advertisers.
He exhibited in London in 1862 and sampled his product. It was applauded with gin, the monotony of which was forever altered. It became the magic ingredient, to be used in exotic concoctions. He exhibited in Paris in 1867 and in Vienna in 1873. He visited Philadelphia in the united States in 1876 and Australia in 1879. The hallmark of Angostura® aromatic bitters was firmly established.

So, there you have it. Angostura bitters have been around for nearly two centuries; originally as a medicine to settle the stomach, now as a flavor additive to please the palate.