Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nathan's Hot Dogs...Simply the Best!

According to a recent taste test performed by Cook's Illustrated (The Consumer's Report of the kitchen), Nathan's hot dogs were the "Best in Show". They are dogs, aren't they, so why not use the jargon of the Westminster Kennel Club?

I'm not surprised. They have always been a favorite of our family. Still, its nice to have our taste buds' opinion confirmed by such a prestigious organizaion as America's Test Kitchen.

But, eating 53 3/4 Nathan's hot dogs in 12 minutes, as the winner of the hot dog-eating contest did at Coney Island on the 4th of July, seems a bit much. I prefer to eat just a couple on steamed buns with mustard, chili, onions, +/- slaw, over a period of 10 - 15 minutes. This allows me to savor every bite.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Made in the USA, a Thing of the Past?

As I reported in my last blog posting, I bought a pair of Bass Weejuns this past weekend. Got them at a Bass Outlet in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Not much different than the first pair I bought in high school. Cost $39 now, vs. about $19 then. Not bad, when one sees how much other things have gone up over the years.

Could not help but notice that they were made in Brazil. I guess that is how the price has been held down.

About 90% of all golf club grips used to be made right here in my hometown by GolfPride. Now a large majority are manufactured by GolfPride and its competitors in the Far East.

Abbott closed its I.V. components plant here and moved a lot of the production to Puerto Rico and other Central American plants.

GolfPride representative on plane to China struck up conversation with representative of Timberline Boots, and was surprised to learn that not a single Timberline boot has ever been made in the USA.

Furniture and textiles, once, along with tobacco, the backbone of the N.C. economy are going, going, gone...never to return.

The Big Three U.S. automakers are encouraging early retirements and closing plants, and still posting staggering losses.

There are many other examples as we now dwell in a "global economy".

We supposedly now live in a service economy. But, much of service is being provided by undocumented workers who do the work that "Americans won't do." Meanwhile, the welfare rolls grow. And, to my simple way of thinking, not everyone who seeks employment in the U.S. can be accomodated by the service industry. There is just so much service that needs providing. And, if the economy tanks, who can afford service.

Is the day approaching when nothing will be made in the U.S.A.?

Who or what is the blame? Look in the mirror. The American consumer who demands low prices...always looking for a bargain, whether at WalMart or the outlet mall. I got my Weejuns, what have you gotten recently that used to be "Made in America"?

Sea Island, an Inn at the Beach...Redux

Here we are, once again, at the Beach, Myrtle Beach, S.C., to be more specific. By “we” I mean my bride, my mom, and myself. Three-of-a-kind (senior-citizen travelers) beats two pair (young whipper-snappers) any time, at least in poker. That’s what I continue to tell myself, anyhow. What else can one say once the days of youth have passed?

We have come down here to patronize and try out an old favorite get-away spot and try something new at the same time. The old 4-story hotel-based Sea Island Inn at the Beach was torn down and replaced with a much larger 13-story condominium-based complex on the same site. For years we have come to the old Inn (not to be confused with The Cloisters, the blue-blood resort island on the coast of Georgia) for long restful weekends. Located on the ocean front in the middle of an upscale residential neighborhood, it is a unique anomaly in a very busy Myrtle Beach. We were anxious to see how the new Inn compared to the comforts and amenities of the old. Would it still offer that “special” atmosphere so prevalent in days past?

By and large the answer is “yes”.

All rooms in the old Inn were ocean front with a balcony. Ditto the condos, which range from one to four bedrooms. Price for a two bedroom condo is a little more, but not that much more, than we previously paid for 2 rooms. When we look at the prices for the off season, when we really enjoy coming down, it is still a great deal.

Dining: Equally good menu, preparation, presentation, and service. The $40 per day American meal plan is a deal. One gets a five-course dinner, with many choices of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. Also included is a wonderful breakfast with choices including omelets, eggs Benedict, and waffles, as well as eggs done any way, bacon, ham, sausage, grits, hash-browns, fruits and juices. Not an Egg Mc Muffin in site.

I was a little disappointed in the loosening of the dress code for dinner. Previously jackets, usually a blue blazer for me, with a collarded shirt (golf shirts permitted) were the rule. Now "vacation casual" is the code. I felt so bad that I had forgoten to pack some leather shoes that I went out and bought a pair of Bass Weejuns to wear to dinner. While the wait staff remained in coat & tie, and most patrons wore nice casual dinner attire, there were present in the dining room men clad in T-shirts of various designs, shorts, and tennis shoes or sandles. Not what one expects to encounter in a first-class restaurant. I guess "vacation casual" is open to interpretation. Or perhaps, the men were looking for a Big Mac with fries, supersized. The women accompanying these men were all more appropriately dressed for the dinner. I guess I am really getting old when I notice such things.

Pools, splash pads, pool-side accommodations with bar service upgraded. Enough chairs and recliners to accommodate guests. Umbrellas, chairs, and Life Guard on duty down on the beach.

You can still check in and stay here with no need to leave the premises, unless you choose to do so, until time to go home. And, unlike the Hotel California, you can check out and leave.

It is not the same, but it is still special. We will be back.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Must be Something in the Soil

As I mentioned in my last posting, one of the last things I did during my last days off was to replant the gebera daisy bed. The old ones did not come up this year.

The new ones were beautiful for about a week to ten days, rich green foliage and a rainbow of colors. New buds almost daily. Then, no more new flower buds. Next, wilting sick looking plants. I thought the intense heat was getting to them, although they love sunshine. I watered them religiously. Used some Miracle Grow, by package instructions. Applied some insecticide. All to no avail. They are dying right before my eyes. I am still trying to save them. If one or more actually die, I'll dig it up and inspect the roots for nematodes, although the yard and garden treatment plan through TruGreen/Chemlawn is supposed to take care of that problem.

If they all die, I'll have to abandon the idea of geberas in that area. I'll hate that. Any ideas or suggestions.