Opal Carew – Total Abandon

Opal Carew - Total Abandon

Opal Carew – Total Abandon

After 50 Shades of Grey, the erotica genre really exploded and became mainstream. Everyone and their mother was reading about Ana and Christian, and it really was kind of gross, like watching pornography with your mother and your kids’ teachers. I don’t read erotica, but many of my coworkers do. I’m told that Opal Carew was one of the dirtiest writer, so of course this had to be my pick for my erotica read.

The Spiel

A woman gives up sex for a year after her divorce. On the anniversary of the divorce, she gets drunk with her friend and comes up with a list of her most desired sexual fantasies. She experiences a sexual awakening as she missions to cross off all the dirty deeds on her list, in explicit detail.

Why should I read this?

If you like erotica, then you will love this book. There are sex scenes every other page, with a loose backstory, and it touches on many of the most common sexual fantasies. Threesomes, voyeurism, bondage, dominance, and submission are common themes.

Pitfalls

While the sex scenes are great, I found the characters unrealistic and the love story subplot ridiculous. While I understand that these books are a fantasy of what women want men and sex to be like sometimes, I could not enjoy the book due to my chortling at how one dimensional all the characters were, and how unrealistically they evolved. It’s like watching a really cheesy horror movie.

Myself, I prefer Judith McNaught’s books, because while there are good sex scenes, the plots are much more captivating. There is character development, and there is real conflict and resolution. Her characters are wild, funny, passionate, and charismatic, as opposed to the characters in Total Abandon who were purely sex-driven.

Conclusion

Read this if you want to read some porn (or erotic literature), but don’t read it for plot or characters beyond their physical appearances, because there are none.

This is the book 2 of my 50 Book Pledge.

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Modern Dating Pitfalls or Playing Victim?

While crawling through the mudpit that is Facebook, I came upon a link to a blog post titled, “18 Ugly Truths About Modern Dating That You Have To Deal With.” from Thought Catalog, and written by Christopher Hudspeth. I’m not sure if I’m just not sympathizing with the dating pool these days because I’m not in it, or if the people who follow these nuggets of advice are dooming themselves to the single life if they are actively trying to find a significant other. I’ll admit, I got quite lucky with finding my boyfriend, but I’d also been single long enough that I didn’t beat around the bush. I didn’t overanalyze everything, I was myself. But I also don’t discount the fact that I found someone who I really connected with, and judging by all my friends now who are unable to find someone who isn’t crazy, those chances were really slim. I won the lottery.

Moving on, reading that article, I couldn’t help but think to myself, the people who take this advice and act on it are only making themselves seem like the crazy ones. Maybe if they lived in the moment and actually tried to find someone they enjoy hanging out with — someone compatible — they’d see that not everyone is trying to screw you over. Maybe try to determine if you can be someone’s friend first — enjoy spending time with them without overthinking everything — before jumping into labels.

The person who cares less has all the power. Nobody wants to be the one who’s more interested.

I’m not going to lie. I used to think like this too, but really, who wants to be in a relationship where both people are afraid to love fully. Both are trying to show the other how little they care. Isn’t that the opposite of a fulfilling relationship?

The only reason people repeat this mantra to themselves is that they’re afraid to unveil themselves, and fully invest themselves into a relationship. This one hit me closest to home because when I was following this “rule”, it was because I had been hurt in relationships before and I was trying my best to not be hurt again. However, in trying not to get hurt, I also didn’t let the other person in enough to make us both as happy as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to take the leap, but once you do, you’ll find that everything gets easier. You live with the belief that your significant other is there to make you happy and you are there to make them happy. If you’re too scared of getting hurt and you’re holding yourself back, the other person isn’t getting to know the real you anyway. And who wants to spend the rest of their lives behind a facade?

Of course this can go the other way, and you can misjudge them, and it will hurt so much. We’ve all been hurt before, but we all know that with time, hurt will heal. However, when they hurt you, do you want to think back to the weeks/months/years that you were together shielding yourself and not having the most possible fun and feeling the most love? Either way, you’d get hurt. One way, you’ll at least loved fully and felt love. The other way, you’ve spent the whole relationship being bitter and paranoid, not really enjoying the relationship because you’re afraid that they’ll turn at any second. And for what reason? To say “I knew it” at the end?

  • The only difference between your actions being romantic and creepy is how attractive the other person finds you. That’s it, that’s all.
  • The text message you sent went through. If they didn’t respond, it wasn’t because of malfunctioning phone carrier services.
  • Social media creates new temptations and opportunities to cheat. The private messaging and options for subtle flirtation (e.g. liking of pictures) aren’t an excuse or validation for cheating, but they certainly increase the chances of it happening.

Many of the “modern dating truths” represented really are just about how shitty some people are. I used to overthink it if a guy didn’t like me back, but then I got to thinking. Why would I want to be with someone who doesn’t want me? And that has become my mantra for nearly everything. You don’t want to be the only person putting forth an effort in any relationship. If that person doesn’t want to be with you, your relationship would be superficial. You deserve to be with someone who wants to be with you. Someone who wants to make you happy. Sometimes it feels like that person is impossible to find, but there are so many people out there, and I’m sure, so many decent people.

One quote I came across online that really aided in me cutting out toxic relationships is, “Don’t treat someone like a priority when they treat you like an option.” Don’t ignore the signs. Often times, courtships fail because people aren’t clear about what they’re looking for. You’re not going to be able to dig a serious relationship out of someone who’s just looking for a fling.

All the advice given in the article are about people playing games. They blame the other person for how hard it is to find a significant other. However if you’re following these “rules” and thinking the worst of the other person right off the bat, aren’t you adding to the problem? Maybe you’re unconsciously pushing them away. By thinking they’re playing games, you obviously try to counteract that by playing games right back. Bringing a bitter mentality just brings people down and wards them all away. Would you want to date a negative Nancy?

If you’re looking for a serious relationship. Don’t play games. It’s exhausting, it gets you nowhere, and it’s basically starting a relationship based on lies. Ignore the people who do play games. They aren’t worth your time. There’s just so many ways to break a relationship through modern technology and not enough ways to keep them together. How do we avoid playing games with people? I think the problem is people jumping into getting to know someone as a boyfriend before getting to know them as a person and a friend. It just doesn’t work. It makes it too awkward, and too much pressure. I try to get to know someone as a friend before seeing if there’s a romantic link. To see if the conversation flows smoothly and if you have the same outward views on the world.

Over the years, I’ve listened to countless friends’ dating horror stories. People who have looked online for love, who’ve exhausted their supply of friends’ friends, to no avail. My advice has always been the same.

  • Don’t overthink it.
  • Be yourself.
  • If you like them, put yourself out there. Be forward (but not aggressive). If they don’t respond to it, fuck it, your relationship wouldn’t be that great anyway. Find someone who loves you for you (however cheesy that sounds, it’s true.)

My friend S put the last few points better than I could. People need to get over themselves. You’re not a princess that deserves to be spoiled. You’re not any better than anyone else. It’s not about one person spoiling the other, it’s about finding a partnership that works. You’re not going to find the person that’s 100% perfect. You’re going to find someone who’s 70%-80%-90% compatible with you, and you work at the other percentages with compromise and communication. Because relationships are not rainbows and fairy dust, they are work, but it’s so worth it.

Good luck out there, all you brave brave people of the single world. Don’t be bitter, and I hope you find the person who’s willing to work at being happy with you.

Amy Tintera – Rebel

Amy Tintera Rebel

Amy Tintera – Rebel

For the first book of my 50 Book Pledge, I decided to stick to something I already knew. Rebel is the sequel to Amy Tintera’s “Reboot” which I picked up randomly a few months ago. Considering how the first one ended, I should have seen a sequel coming; nonetheless, I was surprised when I saw Rebel come out.

As you are probably very well aware, dystopian teen fiction is ALL the rage right now. Goodbye vampires, angels, and werewolves! Honestly, before the Hunger Games came out, I didn’t even know what dystopian meant. If you don’t either, here’s a definition for you, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:

dys·to·pia

noun \(ˌ)dis-ˈtō-pē-ə\

an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly

I always described dystopian teen fiction as an alternate-universe with a post-apocalyptic feel. There is always action and usually an overthrow of whatever government or entity is in power.

The Spiel

The Reboot series is set in a world where an unknown virus takes over and starts killing people, kind of like a super aggressive flu. However, kids and teenagers with the virus start coming back to life after they die. The longer they’re dead, the stronger they are when they come back. The government rounds up these “reboots”, contain them, and force them to capture criminals for the government. They are treated like animals. The book follows the story of Wren, number 178 (the number of minutes she was dead), who was one of the highest numbers anyone had ever seen, and therefore one of the strongest reboots. The story is full of action and excitement.

Why should I read this?

I love that the female lead is portrayed as a strong and independent, albeit stubborn girl. I really love zombie movies, and even though it’s not about mindless drones coming back to eat brains, I really enjoy reading about how a society would deal with the dead coming back to life. These two books explore both how a powerful entity would deal with these beings coming back, stronger than regular humans, as well as how families react to their children becoming both dead and alive. Schrodinger’s Zombie. Teen books are great for a nice light read. This sequel had some nice twists and big shocks.

Pitfalls

Of course, being a teen fiction novel with a female lead, there’s a love interest somewhere. Eventually all the blushing and “I kissed his lips lightly” get a little annoying. At one point in Reboot, it seemed to happen all the time, but thankfully, the author toned it down in Rebel. I usually just roll my eyes and barf a little every time I read a line about some PG teen romance. I get it, I get it, your heart flutters, goddamn. However, I did enjoy that even though they were in this weird relationship, both partners evolved into better, stronger individuals because of it, instead of becoming increasingly codependent and destructive.

Do not read if you don’t like reading series because it looks like this is going to be a trilogy. But, if you’re reading teen fiction, then you know it always takes teen authors more than one book to complete a story arc.

Conclusion

Read this if you like the Divergent series and Mockingjay, or if you’re looking for an action book that doesn’t require a lot of thinking.

Smoque & Bones

Smoque & Bones

869 Queen St. West, Toronto

Smoque ‘n’ Bones opened up last week on Queen West, just across the street from Trinity Bellwoods and the always delicious Nadège. I was invited by Dave (of the Goat Roti Chronicles), along with Chanry and Adrienne, to sample some of their wonderful barbecue (touted as Toronto’s answer to authentic Southern BBQ) and jumped at the chance. I am always down for some meat sweats. I parked on a side street and as I got out of the car, I could instantly smell the smoky barbecue luring me into the restaurant. I was already drooling. As I walked up to the restaurant at 7, I went to take a picture of the sign with my DSLR, only to be greeted with the wonderful message, “No Memory Card Inserted.” So please, enjoy the following post accompanied with photos taken with a drunk potato.

sides

Side Dishes – Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Collard Greens, Mac & Cheese, Baked Beans, Candied Yams – $3.90 each

We started out with their range of side dishes. The two stand-out ones for me were definitely the candied yams – soft and sweet – and the mac and cheese, topped with homemade parmesan breadcrumbs. It was creamy, the noodles had a nice bite to them, and the breadcrumbs were so perfectly seasoned. The baked beans were very ketchup-y but it grew on me as it I ate it. The coleslaw grew on me as well, but there was a very strong dillweed flavour to it. The collard greens were nice and bitter. The potato salad had some pulled pork mixed into it; it was good, but I found it to be a little too dense.

Smoque N Bones Fries

Shoestring Fries, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Waffle Fries – $3.90 each

These three fry baskets were served with a side of chipotle mayo. I can’t tell you which of them I liked more because I honestly loved all of them. They were all so crispy and delicious. The shoestring fries were delightfully crispy, though still with a potatoey mouth-feel to them despite being so thin. The onion rings were crunchy, without scratching the roof of your mouth, and not over-salted. So delicious. And then the sweet potato waffles, which I’m sure would turn my sweet potato hating boyfriend into a lover. All three of these were done oh-so-right.

pickles

Pickle Jar – $3.90

The pickle jar is a mix of chow chow, watermelon rinds, okra spears, jalapeño, and green beans. I was most excited to try the watermelon rinds, but I found them unremarkable. The okra spears were great. Nice and crunchy with the right amount of sour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any pickled green beans (my fave!).

pulled pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich – 1/2 pound – $11.90

I have always been of the school of thought that pulled pork sandwiches (and sloppy joes, and “gourmet” burgers) are meant to be messy affairs. Although I didn’t get to eat this, just the look of it promises to be a wrist-wetting adventure. I am told that it was “very good.”

Smoque N Bones Bread Basket

Bread Basket – $3.90

This creative bread basket came with all my favourite things. Cheese straws, corn bread, a biscuit, and hush puppies! The first three because I’d had them before and they’re delicious; the last because puppies. The cheese straws were light, cheesy, and flaky. Great bite without filling up. Because they’re so light, they’re probably like zero calories. The biscuit was crumbly, buttery, soft, warm, and delicious. The hush puppies tasted like they should, like deep-fried cornmeal batter. Unfortunately, the one I was looking forward to the most, the cornbread, did not live up to my imagination. Less like a savoury cornbread, I bit into it and could have sworn I was eating a pound cake. It could have been more savoury, maybe with some cheese and jalapeño inside. Oh man, now I’m drooling.

Smoque N Bones Ribs and Drinks

Pork Side Ribs – 1/2 rack – $16.90 // Lemonade & Sweet Tea

Judy, you went to a barbecue place and it took forever to get to the meat!!! Yes, it did. And it was so worth it. These pork ribs are served “naked” straight from the smoker, and you’re given a tin of the barbecue sauce with a brush to paint on yourself. The sauce was great, and you can make them super saucy if that’s the way you roll. I’m usually a saucy person, but hooooly. These ribs were so good that I couldn’t even bear to stop eating to paint more sauce on them. They are good both with and without! The meat is super tender and has such a nice bite to it, I’m starting to think that “fall off the bone” ribs are overhyped. There was so much lovely flavour in the meat and the barbecue sauce was on point too. Not too tart, not too sweet, but the perfect complimentary smoky flavour. I would have liked to try any of their other meats, but unfortunately this was all we had for their barbecued meats.

Now that I’m done hailing the ribs, let’s talk about the drinks. The lemonade had been all buzz, so we simply had to try their “famous” lemonade. Only open a few days, and their lemonade was already famous, so of course we had to try it. The waitress also recommended we try their sweet tea. The lemonade is made from a smoked lemon mixed in with muddle mint. It was nice and minty, and would go well with some gin. It is a nice, light summer drink. However, let’s get at the sweet tea. It’s made with black tea, (mild) black liquorice liqueur, muddled orange, and orange bitters, and it is beyond anything I’ve ever had before. It blows my mind how delicious this drink was, and I definitely see myself walking down Queen West in the summer, having this refreshing drink, and dying happy.

Smoque N Bones Crepe

Bourbon Cherry Crepe – $6.90

A vanilla crepe filled with marscapone cheese, topped with bourbon cherries and icing sugar. It might be the Montrealer in me, but the crepe was a bit rubbery, and didn’t have the delicious crispy edge. The cherries were great, but the marscapone inside was a little bit lacking. It could have had a bit more substance maybe if there was an orange or lemon or something citrusy to heighten the flavour inside. Maybe some ice cream on top, with the cherries and bourbon drizzled on. Unless something was changed, I wouldn’t order this again.

Smoque N Bones Upside Down Pineapple Spice Cake

Upside Down Pineapple Spice Cake – $6.90

Looking like a witch’s hat, this pumpkin spice cake has pineapples at the bottom, and is drizzled with syrup. The cake was nice, but it went beyond when you finally get a forkful of cake, pineapple, and syrup. The sticky sweet of the syrup makes for a moist cake, and the sweet pineapples gave a wonderfully fruity fresh flavour to it all. A perfect ending to a heavy barbecue meal.

I really would have liked to try the Bourbon Banana Foster ($6.90) as well. It sounded so delicious, with coconut custard and puff pastry.

All in all, Smoque N Bones is a wonderful addition to the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood, and already so busy (be prepared to wait if you’re visiting), they’re sure to have a successful opening summer and beyond. I will definitely be back.

NàRoma Pizza Bar

Do you remember that episode in the first season of Futurama (which I am currently marathoning on Netflix) where Fry finds out that he’s a billionaire due to interest accrued in his bank account over 1000 years and then he buys the last tin of anchovies for $50 million? Well, it inspired me because I’ve never eaten a pizza with anchovies on it before. I didn’t even know if pizza places still had them as an option because I’ve never ordered them before. Of course, this would happen at 1 o’clock in the morning so I had to stave off the inspiration until the next morning. Enter the new challenger: NàRoma Pizza Bar located in the hip Locke St. of Hamilton.

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 215 Locke St S, Hamilton, ON

NàRoma is one of those places in Hamilton that consistently gets rated as the one of the top places you’ve got to visit. It was a toss-up between NàRoma and Earth to Table Bread Bar, but Bread bar did not have any mention in their menu about anchovies except in their caesar salad. Both located on Locke Street but would have to be an adventure for another time.

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When eating here, you have two choices: order by the slice at the counter, or pick your own pizza. The premade slices are great if you want to grab a quick slice on the go. Their website boasts authentic Italian pizza, but I have never been to Italy so I can’t judge.

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They have some set pizzas with very fun flavour combinations and you can also add or take away ingredients to your liking, both meat and vegetarian options. I swear, the menu is extensive. The waitress was super friendly and helpful. I informed her of my anchovy pizza virginity and asked for suggestions. At first she suggested the Napolitana pizza which comes with tomato sauce, black olives, anchovies, and chilli flakes, but try as I might, I just am not a fan of olives. She said that anchovies pair well with red tomato sauces and with my affinity for spiciness, we settled for the Calabrese: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, cacciatore sausage, and hot pepper oil, adding anchovies on half of the pizza, just in case I didn’t like it.

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Calabrese, Coppia size ($17)

Being by myself, I don’t know why I didn’t order by the slice or something, because even though I saw that their smallest size, Coppia, came in 12 slices and served 2-3 people, I still ordered it. I thought I was a beast. I thought I was sooooo cool. It was huge. I did manage to eat a third of it though, which I am proud of.

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Latte ($3.90)

I also ordered a latte because I thought it was the thing to do. In my mind, coffee doesn’t go very well with pizza, but they’re both Italian (right? or is that espresso…). She also asked me if I wanted some dipping sauces. It’s like she knew I was a sucker for sauces. I ended up getting the creamy pesto and the spicy Caesar. They were both very nice. The pesto didn’t really taste like pesto to me, but the Caesar was very garlicky and right on. Unfortunately, I didn’t know they cost about a dollar each until I got the bill.

Get to the point, Judy. How were the anchovies? Was it horrible? Did you throw your pizza at the waitress and pee on the floor???

Because usual “hate it or love it” opinion on anchovies, I honestly thought I wasn’t going to like it. I’m usually pretty sensitive to salt, but wow oh wow! After comparing the anchovy slice and the non-anchovy slice, the anchovies definitely bring a whole new dimension to the pizza. I had the slice with anchovies first, and the second one just didn’t have as much POW to my mouth. It elevated the other flavours to a whole other level. I think it’s safe to say that I will now include anchovies in my pizza repertoire.

The rest of the pizza was great too. The cheese wasn’t a soggy mess.  The base was thick, but not dense and made for a nice solid base for the toppings. The sausage was great, nice and meaty, and the chilli oil was actually quite spicy! And I am not averse to spice! However, the crust was dense, but not crispy, which was a downer for me.

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Nutella Slice ($2.50)

I always have room for dessert. This was basically a pizza base, warmed up (the bottom was toasty and crispy!), with a generous spread of nutella, topped with some cannoli cream filling, and sprinkled with icing sugar. It was a great way to end the meal. You can also order these in bigger sizes to share with a group. Yummy yummy!

I wish I had gotten a pizza with fancy cheeses, or the margherita pizza which I’ve always wanted to try, or something with a lettuce (like arugula!) on it because those are on my pizza bucket list too. I guess that’ll just be another reason for me to come back to NàRoma.

I did not pee on the floor.

Nick Cutter – The Troop

Cover art of The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop by Nick Cutter

I have never read a horror novel before. This is admittedly my first. I don’t know why I didn’t start with Stephen King, but this one was endorsed by him, so that makes it okay, right? Nick Cutter is a pseudonym of Craig Davidson, a Canadian author of novels and short stories. 

From the jacket of the book:

Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons.

Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.

Let me just say that this book was all kinds of messed up. Of course, the summary intrigued me, especially after my zombie movie marathon a few months ago. The biggest advice I could give to someone who is looking to pick up this book is: Do not read if you have a weak stomach. The storyline is a mish-mash of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, action flick/video game Resident Evil, and a writing style that is reminiscent of David Wong’s John Dies at the End.

I am not usually a squeamish person, but the descriptions of these creatures and what they do to the human body, well, that would make anyone hurl. Not only does Nick Cutter appeal to our visceral responses, but the things that he forces these young boys to do and the situations that he puts them in is horrifying; quite fitting for its genre.

This book was a rollercoaster, not fast-paced, but the twists and turns you take as you’re unearthing what is really happening on this previously uninhabited island will make you squirm, and the gut-wrenching feelings you get when you see this group of young boys struggle to survive are heart-breaking. 

There were so many times I would be reading this book with a look of pure disgust on my face, and every so often an “Eww…” would slip out, that boyfriend would ask what happened in the book. I would read out the passage, and he would immediately regret asking. It happened quite a few times before he had to struggle between satisfying his curiosity or keeping his lunch.

That being said, if you are a fan of morbidity and the human condition, and are looking for a light, fun read, don’t be too afraid to pick up this book.

Click here to check out other books I’ve read on my Good Reads profile here!

Memphis Fire BBQ

headerIt’s apparently season for BBQ restaurant eatins!

Oh Memphis Fire BBQ. I’d been hearing about this place from everyone. The must try place. The oasis in the wasteland of Steel Town. Located on Queenston Road, 15 minutes east of the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a wonderful wonderful place that I had to bring everyone to. They smoke their chicken, ribs, pork, everything for at least 6 hours. They serve chicken and waffles at the beginning of the week, and it’s amazing. Though, I am happily stuffed after munching on just a few appetizers. Completely worth it.

ribs

First up, entree. Ribs, served Thursday – Sunday. Soft, meaty, huge portions of ribs on ribs on ribs. The sauce was a little too tangy and sour for my liking, but it was good nonetheless. Boyfriend and I shared just one entree together, and we were completely stuffed by the end.

mac

Chili mac and cheese. Um… YUM?! Gooey, soft, ultra-cheesy mac and cheese below a generous helping lovely smokey chili topped with more cheddar and onions. Chili mac and cheese. Why didn’t I think about that? The combination of the two is just lovely. And of course, to up the ante, I went ahead and started mixing my ribs with my mac and cheese. It just pushed it over the top. So damn yommy.

ranch friesThis is what everyone has to has to has to try:

Ranch fries.

Crispy, thick cut french fries, topped with ranch dressing, cheddar, onions, bacon, and more cheddar. It’s like Jesus jizzed on a pile of fries in the best way possible. Honestly, the best pile of fries I’ve ever had. It’s tangy, bacony, cheesy, carby, best things in the world.

pieLastly, they have an impressive selection of pies. A list of at least 10 different ones. I really wanted to try the banana cream pie, but I had a little princess with me who “doesn’t like bananas” or some ridiculous excuse, so we settled on the pecan pie, a princess favourite. The staff here are really extraordinarily nice. I asked for a buttload of extra whipped cream. Really overemphasizing the amount I wanted (a whole can, please) and they gave us a huge pile with an extra plate of whipped cream!

Both times I went to eat here, I left very happy and very satisfied. The prices aren’t exorbitant, and the food is fabulous!