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Brooks Saves the Day

February 26, 2018

Day trips can be a killer. Last week I made two separate drives to central Massachusetts, and another one to Binghamton. Spending four hours behind the wheel of a car really eats through the day. But these are just some of the things we do for family.

As much as I can, I try to make the most out of these situations. In Millbury I got to explore the sweet, savory, and coffee menus of Cake Shop Cafe. There my mom also brought me a stash of meatballs from Venda Ravioli in Providence, for which we’ve found no equal in the Capital Region. And on the way back I was able to stop at Tree House Brewing’s newer facility in Charlton.

That was nice.

Ordinarily I would be jazzed to take a day trip to Binghamton and explore another one of New York’s small cities, on the hunt for interesting foodstuffs. Heck, I just recently found out one of my old friends lives around there. But instead, I was condemned to sit in a hall—all day—surrounded by cubers.

I even ended up doing the unthinkable. That’s right. I bought a couple of things from Dunkin Donuts out of sheer desperation. Please allow me to explain.

So my son and his friend were competing in their very first cubing competition. There I met a six year old from Rochester who could solve the puzzles blindfolded. And we were also graced with the presence of the Czech electrical engineer who popularized something called CFOP which I’m told opened the door to speed-cubing.

The median time in the finals at the Binghamton event was ten seconds. It would take me ten days.

Given the kids’ competition times and volunteer judging slots, I knew we were going to be stuck in that room for lunch. And I couldn’t very well leave them there, so I was compelled to find some kind of food delivery option.

Delivery is something in which I have very little experience. Fortunately, since working for Yelp, I’ve learned that there’s a delivery function baked right into the app. So I decided to give it a go for the first time ever.

We had three choices: not so great halal, not so great Chinese, and not so great Italian. We went with Chinese. I was just amazed that the technology worked! The food arrived reasonably hot, and it was edible.

Well, for most of us.

My son is undergoing the first stages of orthodonture, and it turns out his teeth were remarkably sensitive. He could neither bite through the tender sesame chicken nor chew the bland fried rice.

That’s where Dunkin Donuts came in. That was the only food choice within view of the competition hall. So I sent the young man out to explore what kind of milkshake-like calorie-bombs he might be able to suck down and ease his hunger.

There’s something called a Vanilla Coolatta® and some kind of take on a frozen hot chocolate. Feeling badly for the kid, and his disappointment of not being able to eat, I told him to get one of each. My thought was that in the end, I might be able to sample what was left. You know, for science.

Man, those were bad. Surprisingly, the vanilla was the better of the two, but I suspect most of the calories in the drink are from sugar and not from fat. I was expecting them to be a bit richer. Seriously, I have to wonder why anybody orders these monstrosities.

Oh yeah. I also made another bad decision.

I simply couldn’t bear to throw away a full order of the kid’s food. So after eating my beef with broccoli, I ate a bunch of sesame chicken. The bigger problem than being over full was that I was experiencing sodium overload and had a deep thirst.

So I went back to Dunkin’ for a large iced tea. Which I have to say wasn’t bad. It just kills me to give that evil organization any money at all.

Thankfully, we were able to leave Binghamton at around 7:30, and that large lunch kept the boys full until 8:30 when we were able to pull into Brooks House of Barbecue. Man, I love this place. Of course, my kid couldn’t eat chicken either. Although he was reasonably happy with a side order of baked beans.

Me? I was delighted. This stop made everything worthwhile. So much so that after scarfing down my half chicken ala carte, we got back on the road, and I was giddy all the way home. My only concern is that too many people stop into this hallowed dining room and don’t quite realize what it is that makes the place so special.

For those who may not know, I wrote a separate piece on that here.

In the end, I might have been exhausted from all the driving, but I got a Brooks chicken dinner, a freezer full of meatballs, and a bunch of Tree House beer out of the deal. So all in all, not a bad week. And let me tell you, all of that driving makes the trip from Albany to Schenectady feel like a quick outing to the grocery store. Which is also fortunate, because I’ll be there a bunch this week.

But more on that later.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2018 11:51 am

    Kugel is a good post-orthodontist visit food.

  2. February 26, 2018 1:49 pm

    So why didn’t you eat spiedies in Binghamton?The meat may be chewy, but the bread is very soft…

    • February 26, 2018 2:49 pm

      Couldn’t drag the kids away from the competition for long enough to make it to one of the bars that still does spiedies right.

  3. February 26, 2018 4:18 pm

    If you’re ever going to Binghamton again – my in-laws run an incredible catering company out of their home and I definitely could’ve gotten someone to drop some extras off for you!

  4. Ewan permalink
    February 26, 2018 5:36 pm

    We also have a cuber. Would be neat to get them together.

    Lots to discuss about Italian food, too…

  5. Bob W. permalink
    February 26, 2018 8:14 pm

    We’ve been toying with the idea of going to a competition for our cuber. How did your son enjoy the experience? The videos my son has shown me make it seem comparable to the chess tournaments we’ve attended with him, which were pretty fascinating.

  6. February 27, 2018 9:08 pm

    Cubing? Like a Rubik’s cube?

    • February 28, 2018 1:08 am

      Rubik’s is one brand of twisty puzzles. But in the world of speed cubers it’s a particularly awful one. My son’s competition 3×3 has magnets embedded in it, so when you flick a layer with your finger it spins around, but self adjusts to help stay squared.

      They are crazy those kids.

      He solves the 2×2, the 3×3, the 4×4, the pyraminx, the megaminx, and more.

      • Bob W. permalink
        February 28, 2018 10:51 am

        Yes, those crazy kids, indeed. The Rubik’s Cube of our childhood is equivalent to the first generation of cellular phones that were carried in a bag — quaint artifacts.

        Over the school break my cuber ordered tacos from the Bombers location in the ESP. They had a scrambled OG Rubik’s on the counter, so he started fiddling with it while they worked on his order. The girl making them noticed and told him: “If you can solve that before I finish making your tacos, they are on me.” The boy was positively giddy eating his free taco lunch.

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