Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Slobblog: Han Dynasty Episode II: Han Strikes Back

No, he will not let you fucking ruin his family recipe because you don't like mushrooms.

Since Slobfest began there has never been a repeat visit to a restaurant...until now. One of the most unique places to have a meal is Han Dynasty in Old City. Nearly every write up you will find about the 3rd of Han Chiang's restaurants will invariably discuss the spice and the owner himself. And after having the privilege of having him serve us during Han Dynasty Episode I: A New Roll of Toilet Paper, I'm sure that's exactly how Han prefers it.

He doesn't pull any punches, and while his quick to insult demeanor can be hard to adjust to, even for a bunch of guys like us, it soon becomes entertaining and enjoyable. The best part is, the food backs up anything he recommends.

Some quick stories to add to the legend of Han from our first Slobfest:
  1. One Slobfest member was denied some alterations to his meal and engaged in about a 10 minute back and forth on what to get that by the time Han left with our orders (which he didn't write down and there were like 8 total items) the Slobfest member literally could not tell you what he got due to Han's insistence on certain things.
  2. As all Slobfest members were leaving Han, he comes up to me and goes, "Next time, bring some hot bitches." (since we were all guys...see Slobfest rules). To which I said, "These are my hot bitches."
Now onto the second trip. With 3 Slobfest members that weren't at the initial Han Slobfest, they were already prepped for the service, spice, and the dan dan noodles.

We all arrived with a bottle of wine, so there was more than enough to go around. Although with Han's new liquor license, they still let you bring your own, but there is a corking fee. 

As we sat down at a large circular table in the restaurant we began to peruse the menu. With the many different options and spices (ranked 1-10; lowest to highest spice) there were a lot of options. The portions are family style, so you can easily share with others in your party. We did take note of a tasting menu and along with the promise of dan dan noodles, spicy food, and half of corkage, we were sold. 

Han Dynasty tasting menu
Regrettably our server was not Han, but on the plus side, didn't give us nearly as hard a time as Han would have. Although our obnoxious demands for spicy and weird stuff would have been eagerly met by the man himself were he present.

The courses kept on coming, about 20 dishes in all, complete with 2 orders of dan dan noodles. If you haven't noticed dan dan noodles are a must there. The food ran the range of the menu from cool and refreshing to hot and spicy. While there was doubt from our server if we could finish the food, we adequately destroyed all Han Dynasty had to offer with great joy.

We were all sweating and drinking vast amounts of wine and water to cool ourselves down. 

As a spice fan myself, I find Han not to be the spiciest, but more of a tasty spice. The special import spice Han uses along with the delicious chili-oils add flavor without totally making your mouth a blazing inferno. 

Those that love Chinese food are probably ready to make reservations already, but for those that don't, Han is not your typical Americanized Chinese food. It's not greasy or dense with breading. The food is fresh, flavorful, and quite simply, the best Chinese food I have ever had. 

Han Dynasty II was yet another success. We were all pleased and happy, but not quite gluttonous enough.

What do you do when you've just eaten a large amount of spicy food? You get ice cream of course! And with Franklin Fountain right down the street, how could we resist?

Banana split...
Franklin Fountain is an old school ice cream shop, established about 7 years ago, but feels like it was around for 10x that long. They have handmade ice cream and a crazy amount of delicious toppings.

We all got way more ice cream than we needed with only a couple people actually finishing their sundaes. The sundaes pictured were not completed.

I'll go into detail regarding my sundae below, and fellow Slobs are welcomed to chime in, but I went with the Southern Sympathizer. I had already had the Franklin Mint as mint chocolate chip is one of my favorite ice cream flavors, however, pistachio has quickly come on as a close second. The second ice cream flavor was rum raisin, which I have limited experience with, so in true Slobfest fashion, I subbed out the rum raisin for their specialty seasonal ice cream...pumpkin. To date, I have never had anything pumpkin related that wasn't awesome. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin curry, and certainly pumpkin ice cream.The praline brittle and pecans were incredible, but it was the carmel and whip cream that pushed me over the edge to full grossness. But it was so good, that I had no remorse what-so-ever.

After that, we parted ways off to our own lives. We did bump into a sketchy looking guy asking us if we knew where the "parking garage" was. In our lameness we immediately pointed him in the direction of an array of parking garages, even asking, "Is it a covered lot or open lot?" only to be met by this man lighting a cigarette and slowly slinking away. It was only after this reaction that we were all convinced he was asking about drugs. We were just too lame to know this. So ends another Slobfest.

Looks horrible. I'll pass.

108 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 922.1888
BYO/Liquor license/Corking fee

Franklin Fountain
116 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 627.1899

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why Not Kemp?

Matt Kemp's 2011: .329 AVG/39 HR/126 RBI/115 R/40 SB; Gold Glove
Ryan Braun won the NL MVP Award Wednesday, and he probably should have. Braun was the best player on a Brewers team that captured their first division title in 30 years and the first Brewer to win the MVP since Robin Yount. While both have similar hair related issues, they were both deserving MVP candidates.

While the numbers and advanced stats are debatable, what isn't in question is whose team did better, and that ultimately was the biggest factor in Braun getting the nod over Kemp. I heard from an industry insider, ex-girlfriends were not considered as part of a player's MVP-ness, otherwise it might have been a different story.

As a side note, my favorite thing about Kemp's season is that two years ago (2010), when he was dating Rihanna, he had his worst year to date, and was being lambasted as lazy and not capitalizing on his immense talent. You can totally see his thought process, "Hmmm, 100 extra swings in the cage and work on tracking fly balls or head out to see Ri-Ri on a yacht?" Hence you have a WARP of 1.5 as compared to 8.9 this year.

You won't mull over many 0-4 nights if this is waiting at home for you. 

Now for those of you paying attention while the article title appears to speak in favor of Kemp getting the MVP trophy, you may be confused as to why I spent the first two paragraphs saying Braun is the right choice. Well I say, "Why Not Kemp?" simply because the seemingly same criteria that damned his chances benefited his Dodger teammate Clayton Kershaw's Cy Young victory just days earlier.

Not knocking Mr. Kershaw.
Kershaw won 2/3rds of the pitching triple crown (tying wins) and Kemp won 2/3rds of the hitting triple crown (losing to future Miami Marlin, Jose Reyes in batting average). They both played on the same team, and yet the voters were compelled to elect Kershaw the most elite pitcher, but not Kemp as the most elite position player.

The debate between what the 'valuable' means in MVP has been discussed time and time again, but what I'm interested in is that with virtually similar seasonal resumes as pitcher and hitter, one was penalized where the other was not. 

What appears to be the case is that these baseball writers view a pitcher's accomplishments as more of a singular performance, regardless of team, while the everyday position player has the added expectation of carrying that team to a winning record and, more than likely, the playoffs. 

Where does that burden lie? If the feeling is that the position player has more of an impact in a season, then why should Justin Verlander win the MVP (Cy Young was a lock for him)? Shouldn't Jacoby Ellsbury or Miguel Cabrera get more consideration for that added burden?

This NL MVP race was much more "up for grabs" than the NL Cy Young. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Ian Kennedy all had comparable figures to Kershaw, and they were on winning/playoff teams (remember voting takes place at the end of the year, so the Phils collapse would have no impact). This is no knock on Kershaw, as he is probably the best young pitcher in baseball. He'll get many more Cy's to add to this, but I was surprised how these baseball experts treated two similar situations so differently.

There is an innate difference in the way the writers view position and everyday players. Why not Kemp? Because his team did not accomplish what makes a position player the Most Valuable in the league. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Slobblog: Oh, You Didn't Know?

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...
Welcome to the world of Slobfest. One of the key parts I mentioned for starting Lockration. is beginning Slobblog to chronicle my friends and my monthly feast at eateries around Philadelphia. Before I start doing any of that, it only makes sense to provide a brief history of what Slobfest is and how it came to be over a steak at Union Trust.

Slobfest has a godfather; he just wears sweatpants.
Slobfest was the original idea of the Godfather. He moved into the Philadelphia and noticed two things...a group of friends that probably didn't hang out as much as they should and a lot of great restaurants. What do geniuses do when they see two great things that belong together? They combine them into one, even greater thing.

Now, going out to eat with a group of friends on a regular basis is nothing ground breaking. Everyone from soccer mom's to book clubs probably have some sort of culinary concordance. So here's what sets Slobfest apart from cocktails with the ladies.

I guess first thing is, there are no ladies. This is a guys only meal. No wives, girlfriends, escorts, strippers, or hookers. This meal is for guys to hang out and be themselves without women confusing the mix. Hey, I hear it works for Catholic high school.

Second, we rotate the selection of Slobfest locals. Each member of the Slobfest crew selects a place in their given month and then the baton is passed to the next individual. The goal of selecting a great spot is the food, the atmosphere, the drinks (BYO or good cocktail menu), and uniqueness are key.

Last, we try to schedule it for a Wednesday or Thursday so as not to mess with our weekend and avoid big crowds at the restaurant. Also we usually schedule them from the middle to later in the month.

Mmm, Fogo. Yeah, I'll have the whole thing.
With these rather basic ground rules in place, the first Slobfest took place over a year ago at Delmonico's. Since the success of that first encounter, Slobfest has gone all over Philadelphia. Lolita, El Vez, Fogo de Chao, Davio's, Amada, Han Dynasty and many more. There have been good places and bad places. Places that were decent and places that were overrated. But what makes Slobfest so great is that the group of people that come together like to have fun and crack each other up. While the food can be hit or miss at times, the company is what you keep going back for.

Initially, Slobfest was only 5 people, but has expanded to 7, and soon 8. This growing group will add to the good times, but almost certainly make us an even more intolerable group to anyone trying to enjoy their meal around us. It's not that we go out of our way to bother people, but the gathering of all of us just creates such a noise it's probably really annoying. Along with that we have pretty off-color humor which probably doesn't mesh very well with some of the places we go to. All in all, it's a group of guys that just like to rag on each other and enjoy massive amounts of food. The unwritten rule, or rather the implicit rule of Slobfest, is that you eat a lot. No salads or small amounts of food here. You get an app, a main (or two main courses), and dessert. Drinking alcohol is optional, but highly recommended.

That's enough background to whet your appetite. Every month, I'll post the location and some stories and pics from the evening that was had. Jealous? Think it's a good idea? Start your own Slobfest and enjoy.

-Slobs out

UFC 139: The Pride Champ

Silva lasted only a couple of seconds before being knocked out by Chris Leben.

The past year MMA has seen a lot of change over. Legends of the sport have moved on to prevent them from waking up to arena lights with their back on a Safe Auto advertisement. Chuck Liddell, Mirko Cro Cop, Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture, and possibly BJ Penn and Matt Hughes have either walked away from the sport that made them famous or were forced to no longer compete at the top level.

Saturday night at UFC 139, the song might remain the same as Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva steps into the octagon to face Cung Le (yes, Cung Le put together spells "cungle") making his UFC debut. While the idea of Wandy’s prolific fight career come to an end at the hands feet of a guy with an IMDb page is a tough one to accept, but it’s a reality that many will have to brace for.

Any fighter and any person can be removed from consciousness if hit "on the button" as UFC commentator Joe Rogan aptly describes it. So losing by KO isn't as much the issue as is the fact that while most fighters' button is the chin or behind the ear, Silva's has become his entire face. Silva came up fighting in bare-knuckle street fights on the, little redundant but, streets of Brazil. He started organized fighting at a very young age in Pride, swung by the UFC when it was still in its infancy, and continued to hard charge his way through the toughest guys in MMA for a decade. And when he wasn't being paid to fight, he was sparring in the roughest MMA gym on the planet, Chute Boxe. Housing some of the craziest Brazilians in the area. 

35 years old.
As the wear and tear and physical abuse mounted on Silva, he still kept his straight forward, vicious striking approach to curb many opponents he faced. However, by the time he joined the UFC after it bought out Pride, the sport was different that what he knew. The fighters were more skilled and diverse in their attacks. Defensive striking became just as important as offensive, and any one that was a one dimensional fighter that left their chin out there was toast. 

While Silva began to realize this and change his training and regiment to become a more contemporary fighter, when the octagon door closed, his natural venom and desire to please the fans overwhelmed anything his coaches and training could have taught him. You don't get nicknamed the Axe Murderer for nothing. The beginning of the end was when he suffered a devastating KO at the hands of Quentin "Rampage" Jackson, who like Silva is primarily a striker. Silva had a game plan to utilize his kicks and pick his spots against Rampage, but wouldn't you know it, within minutes he was trading hooks and ending up on the losing end. 

He just could not change his mentality that he's had since he was a teenager in Brazil, it was all he knew.

It's not unusual for an athlete's body to give out on him. Many times it's the first thing to go. At that point, when an athlete has had a long career professionally succeeding at the highest level the mental side becomes so much stronger. Every athlete that's retired and tried to come back has done so not because he or she can run faster, jump higher, or throw a ball harder than when they were 22, but because their brain tells them they can still do this. In the lead up to this Saturday, Silva is still mentally convinced he is capable of continuing to fight.

“It happened to [Cain] Velasquez last week,” Silva said. “You never know. In the first two minutes, everybody has power. The gloves are very small. “[Leben] punched me in the ear and after that first punch, I didn’t see nothing. I’ve had a couple knockouts, but I feel good. I receive punches stronger than that in the gym and I’m here, you know?” 

For someone that has meant so much to the sport and someone that wants to deliver for himself and his fans, we all want to see Wanderlei end things on his terms and his way. We want him to score that last KO and hop on the fence like he did against Keith Jardine. We want that to happen for him, but Silva knows it will happen. 

A KO loss to Cung Le would hardly be the way any MMA fan would want the Axe Murderer to go out, but should that happen, then the UFC, Dana White, and hopefully Silva himself will realize it's time to go. But maybe...just maybe..he'll get that KO he's searching for.

We're all hoping to see this on Saturday.

Monday, November 14, 2011

UFC on FOX: The Network Debut is Another Nail in Boxing's Coffin

The UFC made its network debut on FOX Saturday night with the heavyweight title of the world on the line. Defending champ Cain Velazquez had his first title defense against the No. 1 contender Junior Dos Santos. All-in-all the fight was over in 64-seconds as JDS was able to drop Velasquez with a big overhand right ending the momentous evening rather abruptly. The hour long special was viewed in 5.6M homes and generally viewed as a success in spite of the quick stoppage.

In the aftermath, there were questions about if this was exciting, good, or something more could have been done. That's all hindsight, but what the night did represent is the beginning of a new era for mixed martial arts and the UFC.

A couple hours after JDS was answering questions at a post fight press conference another combat sport you might have heard of, boxing, was having a rather large fight of its own; the third and final fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao is a transcendent athlete that has more star power than any other boxer than maybe his fellow contender for pound for pound boxing supremacy, Floyd Mayweather. The fight, as I've heard, was tightly contested, heated, and entertaining. Everything that boxing can be when it's going well. The problem is boxing hasn't been going well for quite some time.

The travails of boxing have been analyzed and discussed, and whether it is too many titles, not enough stars, long-term health concerns, or money corrupting everything, Saturday night was a night for boxing to show it still has some legs before the UFC swallows it up entirely.

Arum is part of boxing's problem.
Now, I am in the party that agrees boxing and MMA can co-exist in their own realm, but due to boxings exceedingly lack of self-awareness and arrogance, key figureheads of boxing, specifically Bob Arum, one of boxings most powerful promoters and handler of Manny Pacquiao, has drawn this line in the sand where fans have to choose one over the other.

The reason UFC on FOX is so important for the growth of MMA is that it opens up the sport to fans that don't follow regularly or plop down $55 every month on a pay-per-view by airing free, live fights. You know, like boxing did 30 years ago. Even without the love of a network broadcast, UFC has grown year over year with a virtually unlimited potential between the TV shows, PPV, and free fights they are now able to get to the public.

The UFC probably won't have the widespread appeal of the NFL or the rich tradition of Major League Baseball, but what it can be is not only a replacement of boxing for the planet's pugilistic observation sport, but a major sport in its own niche way.

Pacquiao Marquez III was an entertaining boxing match. But over the past 5 years and seemingly for the next 5 years, unless Pacquiao or Mayweather is in the main event, boxing has nothing to interest the casual fan.

Dana White will see his hard work pay off.
What the UFC offers is a great depth of fighters and interesting match-ups. Instead of relying on a couple of marquee names, the UFC has many popular fighters across all weight classes. This leads to interest year round and along with the nature of the sport, a great fight doesn't have to be a main event. Even on Saturday night, the fight of the night wasn't the championship bout, but rather the co-main event Ben Henderson v. Clay Guida that was bumped to Facebook and The sense of anything can happen at anytime is something boxing just cannot replicate.

As the stars in boxing fade, perhaps a couple more will sprout up to carry the tired legs of an outdated sport. Whereas the UFC hasn't even seen some of the greats of a relatively young sport. More dynamic, skilled, and exciting fighters will build on what past and current fighters have already done for MMA.

The page is turning on boxing. It's a demise which didn't need to happen, but it is survival of the fittest and people like Bob Arum just can't compete with Dana White.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Welcome to Lockration.

Lockration. was started as a way for my friends and I to share their thoughts and opinions about various subjects. By various, I mean largely sports and food. That's like half of life anyway, right?

Previously, I had a blog which stopped, but I just started to write again on the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and I found myself wanting an avenue to post my thoughts quickly and without Yahoo! regulations.

Not coincidentally, a group of my friends and I had the idea to begin posting write-ups of our monthly dinner gatherings, respectfully titled Slobfest. One participant in this dinner volunteered to start up this "Slobblog," but needless to say failed.

That in combination with my new found efforts in writing somethings for Yahoo! led me to create this blog as an all encompassing site for my or any of my friends rants along with a monthly Slobblog review.

Maybe this will grow moving forward, maybe it will stop dead after one or two Slobfests, but at the very least I wanted to get this going and see what happens.

Any topic can pop up on here, but the one commonality will be entertaining stuff put up for everyone's enjoyment. So onward!