Friday, March 20, 2009

Chevy's Vs. Abuelo's

Back when I lived in Chicago, I learned how to love good Mexican food. Or perhaps I should say, good authentic Mexican food. I liked some of the Americanized stuff, too, like the old Chi Chi's chain, but it wasn't in the same league with good old-fashioned Mexican home cooking from the neighborhood restaurants. Actually, there is one local chain called Pepe's that is usually quite good, depending on the owner/manager. They even had sopa de fideo for a very short time, although most Americans are clueless as to what that is so I was probably the only one ordering it.

In Florida, I've rarely found authentic Mexican food, other than one little hole in the wall (aren't those always the best?) way out past the airport. For close-by food, we contented ourselves for a long time with Chevy's. Mind you, I love Chevy's, but most of it is not authentic by any stretch of the imagination (portabello fajitas? nope!). The only problem is that Chevy's is located on the other side of Disney World, at the Crossroads just outside the Lake Buena Vista gate. That means the special hell of navigating a section of I-4 that is usually akin to a parking lot. As an alternate, you can play "dodge the tourists" by driving across Disney property, complete with the Downtown Disney stoplight gauntlet. Either way, getting in and out of the Crossroads shopping center with a traffic light that stays green for maybe 3 seconds is an adventure all on its own. Still, we did it pretty often because my appetite for Mexican food is insatiable.

Then, one happy day, a new restaurant arose from the ground next door to BJ's Brewhouse over at the Loop shopping center. At first I thought the sign said "Aurelio's," and I nearly fainted as that's one of my favorite Chicago pizza chains. Alas, they hadn't expanded over to Florida. It was Abuelo's, apparently a Mexican restaurant. I didn't hold up much hope, but it went on the "Try eventually" list.

Eventually took quite a while, since BJ's tends to draw us in. Finally one day I had a wild taste for Mexican, so we have Abuelo's a go. Mmmmmmmm! Delicious! Still not as authentic as a Mexican neighborhood in Chicago, but moreso than Chevy's and so much easier to get to. Not that I like it more than Chevy's...I like them equally in their own ways. But the simple drive down Osceola Parkway is so much easier than I-4 Hell.

For a long time we stuck with Abuelo's, even though my mind would wistfully turn to Chevy's seafood enchilada once in awhile, as Abuelo's has no equivalent. Then Chevy's sent me a coupon and it finally drew hubby and I to make the dreaded journey. The internet said that I-4 was clear....wrong. We inched along, watching snails jog by us, until we finally got to the Lake Buena Vista exit. As we pulled into the Chevy's parking lot, I imagined that if we had gone to Abuelo's, in the same length of time we'd probably already have been tucking into our main course. Thankfully we managed to beat the dinner crowd, and I ordered my favorite enchilada, along with a fish taco since those are the current special. It felt so good to chow down on my old favorite...but, surprisingly, not quite as good as I thought. I had honestly thought that going back to Chevy's would remind me of why I loved it and draw me back for more. But as good as their food is, the drive was so miserable that all I could think is, "Now I see why we've switched to Abuelo's."

I felt a bit melancholy on the way home (although at least I-4 had cleared up some). Chevy's had been a staple for us ever since the days when Duloc Manor was still being built and we'd come down to FL for weekend progress checks. At that time, the Loop had been a cow pasture, and I never imagined that a shopping center would spring up out of the dirt.

Oh well, it's nice to have Abuelo's nearby, and I don't think the traffic will ever get too bad since Osceola is a tollway that charges $1.00 per way. Pricey, but worth it for the convenience. In the meantime, I'm afraid that Chevy's will have to be an off-season indulgence.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Search for Cat Crack and Rolaids

My husband and I went on a rather odd quest last week. We wandered outside of the Bubble and through the greater Kissimmee area in search of Cat Crack and Rolaids. Yes, it's an odd combination, but let me explain. Until recently, I had no idea that Target, the unassuming big box store, sold cat toys apparently made in Columbia. We buy our cat litter there because they have the cheapest store-brand crytal litter anywhere, and last time I also grabbed a catnip toy on a lark. I love to get our cats high and watch their insane antics. Usually I buy toys at the pet store, and I kind of doubted the nip would be fresh or reactive, but I thought what the heck.

When I gave my cats the toy, they went on a total bender. Within mere minutes, it was a mass of teeth marks as they tried frantically to get at the cat crack inside. One of them even bathed it in his water bowl, apparently trying to brew some sort of psychoactive tea. I resolved to get more of the toys on my next trip to Target.

Meanwhile, my husband had discovered that the Rolaids multi-symptom chewable tablets we like had suddenly disappeared from every pharmacy shelf, as well as from online retailers. Poof, they were gone, with no signs of a recall or being discontinued or any other logical explanation. We did find a stash at one boofoo Walgreens way out on West 192, but other than that we came up empty handed at the usual stores. I take a medication that tends to make me bloated so they are a lifesaver for me, and they're the only brand with their particular blend of ingredients. I even went to the brand-new Target that had just opened on 192, looking for both cat crack and Rolaids, but neither graced their shelves.

Hubby and I finally decided that we would head out on a mission. I had called the manufacturer of Rolaids and was told they had moved production, resulting in a shortage. Fortunately, that is supposed to be resolved in April, and in the meantime they gave me the names and addresses of several places that might have stock.

I should probably explain that 192 is a tourist strip, which means that it has a Walgreens and CVS drugstore every other block. Most of the addresses that I was given were for the various drugstores lining East 192. I was also told that the godforsaken K-Mart out there might have 'em, and I figured that might be true since I rarely see many people shopping there. On the way, there are also two Targets within literally maybe a mile of each other, which I've never understood (the 20 or so Wal-Marts try to stay at least a mile and a half apart). But hey, we could make it a dual effort and pick up some cat crack while we were out.

Thus we begain our mission, little knowing how futile it would prove on both fronts. Every few blocks we pulled over into a Walgreen's or CVS and came out empty handed. Even the K-Mart was bare of the coveted Multi-Symptom Rolaids, although I did manage to pull some sort of weird Mardi Gras colored stuffed animal out of the claw machine. Fortunately a little kid was watching me, so I pawned it off on her.

Meanwhile, the older of the two Targets had cat toys, but not THE crack toys. And sadly, the closest ones they had were on close-out. The government must have figured it out and shut 'em. Argh! I bought as many of the similar toys as I could; at least they were only a dollar. Now it made sense why the brand new Target had none at all and why our usual Target hadn't restocked since the last time I cleaned 'em out.

We still stopped by our usual Target, as hope springs eternal. Nope, no crack toys. Once the close-out goodies are gone, I'll have to send all three cats to rehab, then they'll have to content themselves with the "methadone" toys we get at Petsmart. In the meantime, we actually did find some of our favored Rolaids, albeit in pocket-sized rolls. Hopefully that will be enough to get us through till April when the new manufacturing facility clicks into full gear.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Creepy King Comes to Florida

I'll admit it, I like weird commercials. Cutsey stuff makes me roll my eyes, and the Charmin Bears with their dingleberries and group pooping make me shudder. But give me something like those freaky hamster-looking things that used to sing off-tune for Quiznos and you've got my attention.

With my odd taste in ads, I supposed it should be no surprise that I am a big fan of Burger King's Creepy King. Unlike the clownishness of Ronald McDonald or the affable previous Burger King who appeared in the ads of my youth (I can still hear the jingle in my head: "He's the marvelous, magical Burger King and he can do most anything"), the Creepy King is just...well, creepy. He's got that frozen plastic smile, modeled after the king head that used to top tanks of helium used to blow up balloons at Burger King franchises for various promotions back in the day. You can't help but wonder what's going on behind that rigid smirk and whether he's going to show up in your bed with a breakfast sandwich someday.

I've seen him on various Burger King commercials, showing up unannounced to present frightened people with food or slip money into their pockets. I've also watched him be pummeled by a group of angry mothers, although I can't remember why. Little did I suspect that I'd ever get a chance to see him in person, but now I can say that I've met the Burger King:

I am a reporter for, an online news and feature publication that includes coverage by locals on various "citizen journalist" beats. Mine is Orlando Theme Parks, which means I mainly cover Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and the like. As a result, I go to various media events to cover the latest happenings at the parks and their peripheries. When I was invited to the opening of the world's first Whopper Bar at Universal Orlando's CityWalk, it never crossed my mind that the King himself might be in attendance. I expected the usual company officials, but not the Creepy King with his bling, royal-robes, and plastered-on plastic smile.

Surprise, surprise! There he was! I was a bit disappointed that he didn't chase people around and try to give them food, but he was on his best behavior. He simply posed for photographs before being the first person into the new Whopper Bar with an excited crowd close behind. You can read about the full experience by clicking here to visit my page.

If you've never seen a Creepy King commercial, you can check out "Wake Up With the King" below:

And here are the Quiznos rats ("They got a pepper bar!"), lest we forget one of the creepiest commercials ever:

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Disney Brand...Eggs?

Granted, it's not as exciting as Spotted Dick Pudding, but another product caught my eye in Publix today. This was in the Publix near Celebration, where we have no obscenely named foods but where people make milk sacrifices to God (if you're not sure what I'm babbling about, just read the previous blog entry). What we do have is Disney Brand Eggs. Yes, Disney Brand Eggs, complete with Mickey on the box and characters neatly stamped onto each shell:

I was innocently choosing some yogurt when Mickey caught my eye. When you stay at your first on-site Disney resort, they implant a powerful chip that will draw you to such things like a beacon, and when you move to Celebration I suspect they somehow upgrade it, or else the close proximity to the Home of the Mouse just makes it stronger. I did a double take...yes, I was looking at Disney eggs, produced by chickens who eat nothing but vegetarian feed, with no hormones, chemicals, or antibiotics. According to the description inside the carton lid, they have "bright, clear egg whites and rich, plump yokes, making them more distinct than ordinary eggs." I can't say I've ever really looked an an egg close enough to make any comparison. As long as the yolk reasonably yellow and soft enough to smoosh my toast in, I'm covered. A bit of exploring on the internet revealed the following commercial, featuring a somewhat scary Mickey head made from a fried egg, although I supposed it would be rather tasty with Mickey waffles, and a Mickey ice cream bar for dessert:

Alas, I didn't see the groovy Mickey shaper included in the carton of eggs, so you're on your own to create egg artwork for your breakfast table. I'm close enough to Disney World to get a dose whenever I want it, but if you live farther away, a taste of Mickey (literally) is just as close to the refrigerator case in your local store. You may even get a few extra eggs down the kids' gullets before they realize that stamped-characters still don't make them as desirable to young palates as sugar-laden cereals.