My week of Wawa

When they began development on a vacant lot about a quarter mile off my usual commute I didn’t pay much mind. Not too surprisingly they started to dig up the ground to put in some tanks. A gas station seemed to be the obvious choice for the location. If nothing else it might add a little convenience – but a new gas station in New Jersey isn’t something to get excited about.

And then the building began to take shape. There seemed to be a familiar feeling to the store front. A particular angled roof appeared that hearkened back to a place that heavily populated my childhood.

No. It couldn’t be. Not here in north Jersey…

Yes, yes it was. A WAWA! Not just anywhere, but right along my daily commute!

It may seem silly, but in a land populated with Dunkin Donuts every 5 miles, Starbucks on every corner and crappy 7-11s and their ilk in the most inconvenient locations one thing I have certainly missed is Wawa. Growing up you could hardly swing proverbially dead cats without hitting them. But like many of the great Philly treats, they dried up once you crossed I78 or so.

But the grand opening last Friday signaled a new era in my professional life. One that includes a chance to stop off for cheap and tasty built-to-order hoagies, pork roll sandwiches and fresh-brewed roadside coffee whenever I so desire. And with coffee being free this week, I have most definitely been in the desirin’ mood. Everyday has offered me the chance to sample a different variety of greasy breakfast goods with questionable nutritional value. How many other places give me the opportunity to bite into a ciabatta roll filled with philly cheesesteak and sauteed onions (oh yeah, and egg) before 9 am?

Once the free coffee dries up I’ll need to limit myself, but in the meantime… oh the times I shall have…

That’s a spicy meat… chicken sandwich

What a lovely holiday weekend – filled with beautiful weather, some much needed yard work, and a whole lot of quality time with the wee little one and the rest of my family. But there’s plenty of time to talk about that, instead I need to address a more pressing mattter: Chick-fil-A’s new spicy chicken sandwich.

Certainly I have spoken of my love for all things Chick-fil-A in the past, but there’s always good reason to emphasize the point. And the latest reason is their method for promoting a new product. In case you hadn’t seen the link passed around last month, they have a website to reserve one of the new sandwiches. So for starters, they’re giving out a ton of these things for free at every location (sorry to my fellow North Jersey readers, but all 3 nearby locations are booked); but rather than simply giving you a coupon to go get one whenever, you are asked to literally book a reservation for a select time period – 3 each day from Memorial Day to the 5th. A little odd but…

Since there was little chance of making one of the “local” Chick-fil-As during the limited time preview, I jumped on the chance to stop by one before heading over to a BBQ yesterday. As I said, you “make a reservation” and when you get there they give you the “VIP treatment.” We’re talking fast food here, but they had one register set aside just for those with reservations, designated a section of the eating area as “VIP Reserved” complete with red table clothes and vases with flowers and even brought our food out to us.

Seriously. Alright, I know it’s dorky. I’m excited by a pretend fancy dining experience at a fast food joint, but it struck me as clever. And clever easily trumps dorky for me. As for the new sandwich… I still prefer the regular one. But it’s got some real heat on it, and if I’m in the mood for spicy it would more than fit the bill. And as hot as it was, The Woman (a fairly timid creature when it comes to hot and spicy) was able to eat most of hers.

Now that I have somewhat endorsed a product received for free is my integrity as a blogger shot? I sure hope so…

Celebrate with leather

Did you know that the third wedding anniversary is “leather”? That sounds far more exciting than a third anniversary with a 12 month-old child can be. That’s right, The Woman and I celebrated our third anniversary… uh… a week ago? Well, the actual celebration took place a week from last Saturday.

Believe it or not, this was only the second time since Kayleigh’s birth that the two of us have ventured out together… alone… You know, without the little un in tow. Can you guess the other time? That’s right, a year ago on our second anniversary. Seems kind of crazy, but the distance of relatives and the current lack of daycare need has allowed us the freedom to trap ourselves. Fortunately Kayleigh is warming up to my in-laws enough that we decided on a trial run for a celebratory brunch. Nights are still way too traumatic to hand off to the uninitiated.

Thus we frantically scrambled to find a decent destination so as not to waste our golden opportunity. Our old standby, Anthony David’s, was out of the question because travel into and out of Hoboken is just way too unpredictable. After debating about a couple other spots (some of which had closed since our last visit), we stumbled upon a review of Market Restaurant in Montclair – which had taken over the former location of another old standby.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I do enjoy a certain element of the “hippie/granola” lifestyle. Lots of organic this and free range that purchased locally when possible. So the idea of a restaurant that specializes in such cuisine definitely intrigued me. Sure it was a gamble for our lone meal, but one that seemed like a good bet. And if only I was a better wordsmith my review might come across as more than just “YUM!”

Let me put it to you this way: I got a turkey burger and thought it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Take that in for a second. Anyone who has eaten with me knows that health is not necessarily a concern when I choose an entree and blood-red beef reigns supreme. Picking a turkey burger when out at a restaurant is practically sacrilege for me. More like… nevermind… that joke is just too played out. Anyway, this thing had the most perfect grill marks on it and was topped with thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon and a slice of avocado. Once again, YUM!

The Woman had Moroccan eggs, which were poached in an onion and tomato sauce. I just remember you could really taste the spices. But for the most part I was distracted from her dish by mine and the ridiculously awesome frozen mint lemonade. Tons of fresh mint leaves gave the drink a wonderful taste.

And then there was the dessert… she still hasn’t let me forget that I said no to a second plate of cupcakes. We split a plate of 3 cupcakes: chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet. The icing, it is safe to say, was probably the richest I’ve ever had. If not for the gargantuan size of the burger, a second plate would have just been the start.

All in all, it was a fantastic meal. The next hour was spent walking around Montclair and doing a little shopping without any carriers or strollers. It was, what’s the word? Relaxing.

Difficult decisions

Sometimes life gets pretty complicated. There are lots of options, and you have to weigh the pros and cons for all of them. Ignoring the issues just won’t make them go away. And so this morning I must decide between a free chicken biscuit (with purchase of a drink) from McDonald’s or a free iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. College did not prepare me for challenges like this…

Wait a second… The free biscuit is from 7AM – 10:30AM while the free iced coffee is from 10AM – 10 PM. Nevermind. Decision is made. I’ve got breakfast covered, as well as an afternoon pick-me-up. Whew! I really dodged a bullet there.

Ah, my beefy temptress

The seed was planted in my mind a couple weeks ago. While waiting around for some techs at one of our facilities, someone walked in with a bag of Mickey D’s for lunch. Now I’ve gone from eating fast food on a semi-regular basis to not even having stepped foot in a McDonald’s in at least 6 months, but man did it smell amazing. Honestly I think I had licked any kind of craving for such unwholesome grub… until that moment…

And so we reach today… er… I guess yesterday. I found myself sans lunch having emptied the deli drawer at home. For some odd reason I decided it was time to succumb to the weakness and visit the nearest purveyor of fast and greasy fare. Oddly enough, over the last few years the only thing I would pick up from such places were chicken-based products; but when I entered the drive-thru this time a sign greeted me suggesting an “Angus Third Pounder.” And thus my fate was sealed as I ordered the bacon and cheese variety…

Let me quickly explain something. I’ve always enjoyed McDonald’s hamburgers. There’s something oddly appealing about them. But they have absolutely nothing to do with a real hamburger. I can enjoy them knowing that they are in a category all by themselves and should be appreciated according to separate criteria. Until now.

For starters, the thing was on a real roll. Not some dinky little bun that has lost all of its form in some freezing/reheating process. There was a sens of pride in eating a burger contained by this bready edifice. And the meat contained therein had an actual taste of well-cooked beef – complete with just a slight hint of charring. I swear that the burger had real bacon, pickles and red onion on it, all of them equally contributing to a well-rounded flavor. Certainly not the best hamburger I’ve ever had but, dammit, that was one awesome sammich!

Does this mean the craving is back for good? I mean, it’s not like I was even praying for death in the bathroom the rest of the afternoon. No… must… resist… will visit Panera… reaffirm healthy choices… Whole Foods! Why hast thou forsaken me? ARGH!

How to win me over…

If you’re a waitress, and you see me looking over a menu indecisively, and you’re about to offer me a special that includes the words “three meat” and “wrapped in bacon”, just stop. Turn around. Go back to the kitchen and get me one. Don’t waste our time pretending that I might order the scallop and shrimp combo or something as trivial as a hamburger. You put together 3 different animals and then still felt the need to wrap it in bacon – that is what I call dedication to my satisfaction.

This message has been brought to you by the brilliant staff of Nicky Fischer’s who served me a three meat meatloaf… you guessed it… wrapped in bacon. Genius.

The Woman and I were down that way Saturday night to see the Pat Metheny Trio at the Keswick Theatre. I’m not going to tell you about the show, because I already posted about it on my other blog. Remember that one? I’ve actually been posting to it (despite my lengthy, vacation-driven absence on both sites) – and that includes some cool concert info that I recently discovered. Ha ha! Now you have to check it out or you’ll never know what it is!