Monday, January 30, 2012

Slobblog: Capital Grille - Keeping it Classy

Yeah, I'll have the porterhouse and Juan Pierre's head on a plate.
The first Slobfest of 2012 took place at the Capital Grille. It's quite a step up in $$$$ for the Slobfest crew, as one of the main tenants of Slobfest is to not break the bank. The reason for choosing the steakhouse chain is that Center City was having it's semi-annual Restaurant Week.

Now, unless you're a snobby Philadelphian or Marc Vetri, restaurant week is a good deal. It provides an opportunity to try out a new place that maybe you wouldn't normally go to. Maybe Del Frisco's is too pricey, or there's a new restaurant out there you're not totally sold on, well, RW provides a chance to sample the menu and not feel like you wasted your time.

Menus are usually scaled down compared to the usual selection, but some restaurants really put their best foot forward. Capital Grille was one of those menus.

The spread.
We all arrived on a rainy night in Philadelphia. A full party of 8, who were all ready to eat a lot of food and dig into some steak. As I mentioned the menu was pretty impressive, and as a caveat the waiter told us they added lobster bisque and a lobster tail to any main course at a nominal price.

As we all ordered the breakdown went 6 14oz kona rubbed sirloin steaks, 1 filet mignon, and 1 porterhouse. The porterhouse was not on the restaurant week menu, but one slob was feeling frisky and went off the menu all night long.

In addition to the steaks, apps, and sides we added some lobster mac & cheese, au gratin potatoes, and seasonal corn app, which was odd as corn is nowhere near in season, but nonetheless were delicious.

As for drinks there were some beers, wine, a martini, gin and tonics, and of course a diet coke. Once the food got out it was apparent we were all intent on eating and digging in as there was an extended period of silence for the first 5-10 minutes after the steaks were placed in front of us.

This food is great LOL!! :) :P xoxo
We put on quite a spectacle, and despite Chef Vetri's complaints about non $135 per person tasting menus, the food was great all around. The food was so great some of us couldn't stop texting everyone someone about it.

The service was great, the bar and restaurant were packed and we were able to be our loud, obnoxious selves without having to be concerned about ruining the evening for whomever was sitting around us. As a matter of fact it's probably one of the minimal times we haven't completely ruined the evening for some unsuspecting diners. Unlike say Koo Zee Doo or Amada, when we certainly, definitely made people's dining experience less than enjoyable.

That's really one of the great things about steakhouses that people don't think about, even if it is a fancy or upscale place, steakhouses provide a festive atmosphere where you almost need to be loud and boisterous. I guess when your objective is to dig into a pound of nearly raw meat, well, polish and stiffness don't really go hand and hand.

No Slobfest would be complete without the jokes and the messing around. Things started early with inappropriate jokes around the crowded bar. There were a lot of people, and when you're not attempting to get a Slobfest member to hit on a girl at the bar, when one shows up in v-neck scrubs, well you know you're going to be mentioning how he saves lives, is a doctor, and mock him for "custom" v-neck scrubs.

We were seated at a circular table that barely held all of us, but did provide enough space. The problem with a circular table is that each person has a limited view, and this came into play as soon as we sat down. Not long into dinner, Phillies' GM and general bad ass Ruben Amaro walked by. Alas, the member that had site on Mr. Amaro failed to react in a normal time due to being stunned by the presence and I'm assuming aura of the man that re-signed Clifton Lee. So by the time he was able to say, "That's Ruben Amaro," all we could see was the side and back view of Rube. Behind him followed an older man in one of the worst sweaters you will ever see. We could only assume this was Phils advisor, Hall of Famer GM, and architect of multiple World Series teams - most significantly those 2008 Phils, Pat Gillick. But again, this is only an assumption as we had limited reaction time.

There was also the invention of Babe Alerts. Babe Alerts always existed in guy circles as a nudge, wink or subtle gesture. But when one slob overreacted to a Babe Alert, we took it as our duty to verbally say Babe Alert whenever an worthy lady walked by. As we continued to get louder and more buzzed, those Babe Alerts weren't so subtle at all.

All in all, the Capital Grille handled our nonsense great. We didn't feel embarrassed or embarrass ourselves. A win when you can look back on your night and not feel a ping of shame. Good form, and for a chain restaurant, great food.

The food was good. The spelling, not so good.

One last thing. We parked at a lot near McGillin's Olde Ale House (a great bar). Now, I've been to McGillin's plenty of times, but have no recollection of this parking structure. It definitely looked new and what made it so crazy is that it was all automated. You would park your car in the designated area, take your keys, swipe your credit card, and it would take your car into the vertical lot for storage. Somehow. Now to get your car back, you go to the other side of the lot, swipe your same credit card and the lot automatically gets your car and spits it out the other end. Incredibly easy and convenient, and definitely cool. Ah, technology.

Slobs Out.

The future.

Hey, it's Ruben Amaro.

The Capital Grille
1338 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

UFC on FOX 2: Biggest Upset Ever?

Chael took the spotlight. As if he would want it any other way.
When the UFC's second card on Fox was announced, the buzz was around two title contention fights. The main event of Rashad Evans v. Phil Davis, with Rashad getting his long-awaited title fight against frenemy Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen v. Mark Munoz with the winner getting the most anticipated rematch/easy victory (respectively) for Anderson Silva. In Brazil. In a soccer stadium.
No offense to my Asian persuasion brethren Mark Munoz, but could there be a bigger drop in anticipation for that fight that from Chael to Munoz?
Due to an injury any plummet in anticipation won't be Munoz but rather late replacement fan-favorite (oh, sarcasm font how I need you...although his Sherdog message board gifs are the gifts that keep on giving) Michael Bisping. Bisping, the long-groomed face (and chest hair) of British MMA, has been hyped, pampered and coddled by the UFC to gain popularity overseas. Aside from a last second loss to a near end of the line Wanderlei Silva and getting his clock cleaned by Dan Henderson, Bisping has defeated such hot properties as Jason MillerJorge RiveraYoshihiro AkiyamaDan MillerDenis Kang, and infamously beating (sarcasm font!!) Mark Hamill. 

Most people are aware of this about Bisping, although the UFC will certainly deny it. Perhaps it is undermining Bisping a bit, but it does say a lot that the two biggest name and challenges he faced in his career have ended with his opponent's hand getting raised.

With his match-up against Sonnen on Saturday night, it's undoubtedly a fight no one wants Bisping to win. Even more, it's a fight no one expects him to win as a 4-to-1 underdog. Basically, people are saying that the closest Bisping can come to Sonnen is the verbal sparring they are doing leading up to the fight. With these big talkers going at it, and lots of people that love/hate both fighters to the tenth degree, its no wonder that this fight has taken much of the pub away from the actual main event...even though this fight has been on the card for about 2 weeks.

Sonnen has perfected MMA-style wrestling.
Mounting skepticism, his opponent, the audience, and what's on the line all seem to fall heavily against Bisping, so it's interesting to think that if Bisping can beat Chael, this would be the biggest upset in UFC history.

There is a bit of irony in saying that since Chael Sonnen was a minute away from beating Anderson Silva and attempting to pull off an epic upset of his own. However, what makes this potential upset so unconventional is that both fighters are well respected and have won fights. There's no dream scenario like Serra v. GSP or Frankie Edgar taking down BJ Penn. This isn't for a title, only a shot at the title. Neither fighter has an air of invincibility, in fact, both have lost fights recently. Bisping can't finish fights and has a questionable chin, while Chael's greatest weakness is his submission defense. The problem is that is tied to his greatest strength, his wrestling.

But when you see the fighting styles and the surrounding factors, it's hard to imagine Bisping beating Chael.Like most fights in MMA, anyone has a chance, but with Sonnen's elite wrestling against Bisping's horrid take down defense seems like too much to overcome. Sonnen has truly perfected wrestling for the Octagon. He is a big 185 lbs and uses his strength, speed, and leverage to get inside an opponent and take him down to the mat. Once he gets people to the mat, he's even more of a burden with great cardio and a relentless pace.

Bisping, taking the fight on short notice, probably hasn't learned enough over the past couple of weeks to stop Chael from taking him to the mat. He can try to sub him, but that's not Bisping's game either. He has one opportunity, and that's when the round starts and they touch gloves to catch Sonnen. Again, even if he does that, Sonnen has a great chin and isn't easy to hit. All the while, he'll be aggressively coming at Bisping with strikes to set up his take down. Strikes that Bisping tends to back up and move away from rather than stay in the pocket and counter. When Bisping starts getting happy feet, that'll leave Chael a big opening to shoot in for the take down. It's not out of the questions Chael could do so with only a single leg.

The opportunity was too great for Bisping to pass up, but he has a long night ahead of him if he survives Chael's onslaught and doesn't get finished. Munoz would have provided some interesting obstacles for Chael, but Bisping doesn't pose much of a threat. The outcome seems predetermined, but if Bisping wants to have his first major win be a historic one and validate his career, here's his shot.

Seriously, they're really funny.

Friday, January 20, 2012

UFC on FX 1: His Way

Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller will be looking for a win to get back in the lightweight hunt.
The UFC's first official (official meaning contractual) foray under their new Fox contract will take place Friday night in Nashville on the home of Louie CK, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The League, FX. While more known for their comedies, a Friday night fight card is no joke ahead of next weeks Rashad Evans v. Phil Davis card on the mother ship Fox.

While the names may not jump out at you the UFC has put together a card with exciting fighters worthy, at least, of the 30% or so of DVR space it'll take up. The headline is Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller. For previewing the fight, I'm sure this does a far better job than I could, but I did want to say a couple things about the Young Assassin, Mr. Guillard.

Guillard's sordid past is no secret, but he has rounded into more professional form over the past year, with several impressive and flashy wins that put him on the cusp of title consideration in a very bogged down lightweight division. However, true to form, Guillard did a classic Guillard goof and ended up losing to Joe Lauzon to close out his 2011. In that fight, a fight he wanted in Houston, Guillard showed his confidence that bordered on arrogance. He didn't exactly have the demeanor of a fighter entering the ring, but rather a celebratory state and one that was unfocused. 47-seconds later, Lauzon finished Guillard off.

As much talent as Guillard has and has shown, he had a costly mistake that derailed his momentum. Hey, this is mixed martial arts. Anyone can lose at any time. Slip ups happen, but for Guillard it's become more of a habit than a chance encounter. Whether it's related or not to the loss, Guillard soon left Greg Jackson's camp on good terms to join the Blackzilians in Florida. Leaving Jackson's, which is universally regarded as the most prestigious camp in all of MMA, for a relatively new group (albeit with some Jackson alumni: Rashad Evans and Mike Van Arsdale) was a strange move. One that Guillard presumably predicates to comfort rather than strategy, but with his history, you have to wonder if this is part of Guillard being his own worst enemy. Making choices to run away from conflict rather than face his own flaws. Something he appeared to be doing in Jackson's.

This is not meant as a knock on the Blackzilian camp, but for a new group who just had one of their top fighters, Anthony Johnson (ahem.) show up a possibly record breaking 11 lbs. over the required weight limit, you wonder if the camp has not the discipline, but the structure to properly work with a force like Guillard. Someone who needs his fair share of hand holding.

Friday night will tell what kind of fighter Guillard will be moving forward. His camp may change again, but this is more about how he has matured from his first major loss since he matured from his previous immaturity...if you follow. He's on his way to being on his own and making his own decisions. He's on his way to seeing if his has what it takes to be a champion.

Friday, January 13, 2012

UFC 142: Worth the Weight

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson will enter the Octagon as a middleweight for the first time in his career. 
EDITOR'S NOTE: This was written hours before Anthony Johnson failed to make weight for UFC 142 by coming in 11 pounds over the required weight of 186 pounds for a non-title middleweight fight. Johnson's camp insists he was not able to make weight due to an illness, but with so many past indiscretions it's hard to accept this as true. By request of Vitor Belfort, the fight would go on so long as Johnson weighed in at under 205 pounds on fight day. He made that weight, then went on to gas and be subbed by Vitor in the 1st round of their fight. 

Now, I'm a big Rumble Johnson fan. I think he has the tools to be exciting and fun and maybe a champ. But with all of this nonsense, a poor showing, and now reports he has been released by the UFC, I can only wish him well. The UFC has a history of being forgiving, so maybe we'll see him soon. But in the meantime, get your act together, Rumble.

The last event the UFC had in Brazil was the first in a couple decades. They return only a couple of months later to Rio and UFC 142: Aldo v Mendes. While there isn't he same fanfare as when Anderson Silva was headlining, true to geographic form, the UFC has put several other high profile Brazilians on the card.

And if you are Brazilian, you probably want to be on this card not only to fight in front of your home country, but also because every Brazilian won on the previous card (every fight was a finish as Brazilian).

There is definitely an energy that Brazilians took to the fight, and that will be the same when MMA legend and Rio native Vitor Belfort takes the ring on Saturday night. However, when his opponent is in there to meet him, Vitor may need to double check with his manager to make sure he is indeed scheduled to fight at 185 lbs.

The reason odds makers and experts are picking Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, the middleweight debutant, is because middleweight is probably where Johnson should have been fighting all along.

At 6'2 and a self-proclaimed lover of the night life and a good fast food burger, Johnson made or tried to make it a habit to shed nearly 55 pounds from his walking around weight to fight at the welterweight limit (170 lbs.). The physical toll on his body didn't necessarily show in the ring as he has a 10-3 record with enough KO finishes that he could lend some out to Jon Ftich. But in the biggest fight of his career against Josh Koscheck, the Dublin, GA raised Johnson had trouble keeping up with the lighter and endurance filled wrestling style of Kos. Something he would only see more of  at 170 if he had hopes of earning a title.

Along with that, Johnson also missed weight numerous times which resulted in KO's for him, but a lighter purse. Combined with a smaller pay day, Johnson has been injury prone. Some freakish like an eye poke and unrelated to weight cuts, but others like damaged knees could very well lend itself to arduous calorie dumping and weakening the body only to blow it back up again.

When the UFC gave him this opportunity to fight Vitor as a co-main event at 185, Rumble said he had to take it. What may have started as a guest spot at 185 could be his permanent home.

Being able to train with his Blackzilians camp in Florida and walk around at 215-225 lbs and only worry about dropping 40ish as opposed to 55 put Johnson at ease. All reports from camp indicate that his healthy, happy, and in the best shape of his life. Cardio shouldn't be an issue for the former collegiate wrestler, and the fatigue and stress associated with not only losing the weight pre-fight but re-hydrating post-fight will be a mere formality aside from the gigantic burden it used to be.

The fact that Rumble is favored is surprising, but the reasoning is all there. At 170 Johnson was always going to be extremely heavier than his opponent, which showcased his power and strength. At 185 he will more than likely always be bigger and stronger than his opponent, but now he'll be healthy and not have to worry about the excessive wrestling (except for Chael of course) that runs the welterweight division. The middleweight class is built on heavy hands and clean, smooth striking. Rumble has that.

Staying close to Vitor shouldn't be in anyone's game plan, but if Rumble is as ready as he says he is, there's no reason to think he can't have his way at 185 and become a threat in the division. He will face a steep challenge in Vitor, but should he come out in decisive fashion, we can let Yoshiyuki Yoshida finally sleep soundly at night that Rumble won't be in his town anymore. He's moved on to bigger and better things.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thierry Henry's Return

Thierry Henry celebrates in front of his people.
I was going to write about Thierry Henry's return about sports really delivering a moment. Then I saw many people beat me to the punch. I'm glad there was such praise for the moment itself. A historic clubs all-time leading scorer returning to his club only to net the game winning goal after being on the pitch for 15 minutes.

What makes this great, and really what makes being a sports fan so great is when moments like this fulfill expectations. Your thought goes from "Wouldn't it be great if..." to "No he couldn't..." to the rapturous moment of "He did!" Nothing can really rival that feeling as a sports fan. It can happen in every game, but some times it happens on grand stages that are remembered forever.

Henry's return in the FA Cup probably falls somewhere in the middle, but in the game of soccer where there are so few goals scored, so few opportunities to make a difference, for the "over the hill" Henry to return and emphatically mark his return (on loan from MLS' NY Red Bulls) surely gave all the fans watching chills. 

Sadly, my history with Henry is short. I knew of him before I began getting really into European soccer, but no sooner did I proclaim the team I would follow would be Arsenal, they shipped him off to Barcelona. Seemingly ending the greatest career of any Arsenal player ever. For many Gooners, they will have many different memories of Henry that spans any one of his 226 goals, but goal 227 was my first experience. Knowing what I know about the moment, on top of the situation within the game, made it something I will remember as a great example of why I love sports.

Fans don't get to play, they don't earn millions for watching teams day in and day out, but what fans do get in payment are moments like this that make watching sports so worth it.