Take Time To Stop And Smell The Garlic Fries

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:23 pm

This has been a rotten month or so for me, blogwise. That’s not to say that I’ve been in some kind of deep blue funk or something; just that my life and my outlook have not lately been conducive to sitting down and putting word to silicon in my—oh copious!—spare time. I’ve had some really amazing kerfuffles at work in the last two or three weeks, including a couple of all- or near-all-nighters I’ve had to put in when key pieces of hardware decided to crap themselves for no particular reason. First our central file/application server went down, ultimately resulting in my having to blaze up to Tukwila to my favorite computer store to purchase a brand-new machine (off topic: if you need a server package and are not the type to want to configure a Linux box from the ground up for a mixed-platform environment [ooh, me, me!], Windows Server 2008 is a great upgrade to the venerable but long-in-the-tooth Server 2003. Sure, it’s based around Vista, which may give some folks pause—sure did me—but my experience so far with this box has me agreeing with those folks who say that Vista is actually Vista Beta, and Server 2008 is Vista 1.0) and spend most of the night configuring it before muling it down to the office in the morning.

Then, on Superbowl Sunday, while helping to move our company server rack to its new home, our mail/fax/time clock server decided to start bluesecreening as soon as the desktop loaded. I and my cohort sat there for a couple of hours tickling the system volume to no good effect, until it finally grew bored and decided to burn itself flat to the ground….still don’t know quite what happened. Frankensteining a new mail server together from parts lying around (remember, this as around nine o’clock on a Sunday) took the rest of the night, and I got home around 5:30 Monday morning. I actually hit morning commute traffic on my way home.

These sorts of abventures really mess with my system, and it takes a good long time to get myself back on a reasonable vector each time it happens.

After the epic adventure of Mail Server 2: Son of Mail Server, I found that my carpal tunnel—well, I assume it’s carpal tunnel; I haven’t had it diagnosed yet—had flared up like a bastard. I think it has something to do with eighteen hours of off-and-on screwdriver use. Now I understand why every hardcore system-builder geek I know has one of those manini lithium ion driver guns….gotta go get me one of those. My hands have really been killing me for the last week or so. I have an appointment to get them up on the lift for a tuneup this week, and I’m hoping to Baal that the doctor says, “Oh, this is no problem whatsoever! We just have to unscrew your elbows one-quarter turn per side to loosen up your tendons and you’ll be good as new. In fact, when I’m done, you’ll also have gained the ability to fly!” Man, that’d be sweet. But I’d settle for a non-surgical option to deal with the pain.

On top of all of this, I just haven’t felt very amusing, insightful, didactic, loquacious or versificatory as of late. I think of things I’d like to say, but when I sit down to blog about them I can’t seem to string the words together. Everything I type seems uninteresting, hackneyed, no better and often much worse than what has been posted on a quillion other web sites already. This is something I’ve talked about previously. I really do think that some of this must have to do with the antidepressant I’m taking, given that my dropoff in writing perfectly coincides with the start of my prescription—although, as Slashot tag submitters are wont to point out, “correlationisnotcausation”. But given the other benefits I’ve enjoyed from being on the things, I’m leery of switching to another script, much less discontinuing them wholesale.

All of this is to say that, given my physical, mental  and emotional telemetry at the moment, the last thing I usually feel like doing is sitting down at my trusty computer for yet another hour or two to immortalize my somewhat fractured musings for posterity. Hell, I’m not even dedicating the time I should be to my video games, let alone my marriage. (Fallout 3 is just sitting there, staring at me accusingly. Make it go away!)

But I felt like I simply had to get this one down, because there’s potentially so much riding on it. An entire other family’s very livelihood may depend on my efforts (this is complete hyperbole, but then again kind of not; read on to find out why), and those of like-minded Internet-based nanocontent providers. I can’t let them down. So here goes.

If you happen to be in proximity of the greater Burien/Normandy Park/Des Moines axis any time in the future, I wholeheartedly endorse dropping by Benson’s Best Bites, Normandy Park’s newest—hell, only—gourmet sandwich shop and deli. Best Bites is kind of hard to find the first time, situated as it is in the crook of the elbow of the mildly unprepossessing Manhattan Village shopping center. But they’re worth overshooting the first time or two. Keep an eye out for their A-board placed out at street level.

It might help to characterize Best Bites by comparing to another established shop, in which case I think I would call it a scaled down cousin to DeLaurenti, purveyor of a dizzying array of uptown-typey specialty foods at the Pike Place Market. Folks what live ’round these parts—and many a Seattle tourist—know exactly the place I’m talking about. For those in the know, just picture DeLaurenti at about one-third or one-quarter scale: high-quality meats and cheeses (a truly epic cheese selection!), both for munching on-premises or on the go and for taking home in bulk, desserts, ready-to-cook fresh and frozen pasta and baked goods, a decent selection of nonalcoholic beverages (including one of the best ginger beers I have ever tasted—none of that Jamaican lime hooey, just pure sweet knock-your-tonsils-out gingery goodness), plus exotic packaged sweets, crackers, oils, spices, grains, cooking and baking tools and supplies….everything but a big ol’ brass-eagle-topped espresso machine. They seem to have eschewed, or at least waylaid, the investment in an espresso rig for the store—probably a good thing, since there are (count them) two Starbucks located in this very micromall; one standalone shop at the front of the parking lot and one in the QFC. They’re so close they’re practically conjoined.

Best Bites is owned and operated by Ezra and Loie Benson, with help from their three daughters on the weekends. This joint is truly a Mom ‘N Pop operation, which opened up only a few scant months ago after much preparation. The Bensons really seem to love the food that they serve, and are always pressing free samples of something new or fun or both on the customers. This is no grocery-store “deli”, stocked with myriad variants of the “chopped/rolled/pressed conglomerate-O-parts” genus. The Bensons stock only the good stuff: real pastrami, roast beef, prosciutto, salami, sopresata, pancetta to name a few, even caviar and other exotic foodie feed. They get in new stuff all the time and use it to concoct novel and yummy sandwiches and sides. Just last Saturday we popped in there to pick up an order, and Ezra had had himself a gem of an idea: he set up a prep table and cook stove out front of the shop and was taking advantage of the unseasonably sunny weather to cook up batch after batch of garlic fries. The aroma was carried out into the parking lot by the laminar sheet of wind that pours down the drive between their shop and the side of the QFC, attracting folks from as far away as the main thoroughfare. Best advertising they could have invested in that day.

If there is one thing I wish I could change about Best Bites, it would be the speed of the service. Ezra and Loie are attentive and solicitous businessfolk, with an eye on quality and getting things done right. Not necessarily right now. Watching Ezra make a sandwich is like watching a jeweler clean and set a watch; everything is just so and just right, just not very fast. Expect your order to take about 15 or 20 minutes to get to you. This isn’t a problem for me as I budget in the wait time, but it could be a bad surprise for someone on a 30-minute lunch break with ten minutes of commute time to and from work, used to the pay-N-punt service at their local dispensary for extruded polyurethane based insta-comestibles like McDonald’s or Subway. I rather expect that, should this place really take off, the Bensons’ll either learn to crank their speed up a notch or two or—better yet—they’ll be able to hire some help to staff the actual sandwich foundry so Ezra and Loie can schmooze with the customers.

And I’m really hoping that Best Bites takes off. Needless to say, this is not the best economy in which to launch a new business, let alone a business in as fickle a market and with as anemic a profit margin as food service. The Bensons seem to have put their hearts—and probably their savings—into this place, and it shows. I’m optimistic that the mildly affluent, north of the marina/west of the airport Normandy Park community can sustain a mid-to-upscale lunchtime eatery like Best Bites, and hope that they will do so enthusiastically. Half the battle is just helping people to find the place. Another small portion, perhaps a tenth of the battle or less, is making people aware of the good eats available practically under their noses, and hopefully helping to promulgate a groundswell of positive reviews, both word of mouth and word of machine. Hence this post.

So if you’re in the Normandy Park neighborhood, mosey over to Manhattan Village on 1st Avenue South, pull into the parking lot, head past the Starbucks and down along the north side of the QFC, and stop in at Benson’s Best Bites. I recommend the genoa salami with coarse mustard and banana peppers. Or the New Orleans style panini with three meats and olive spread. Or the mortadella and provolone. Oh hell, get whatever you want; it’s all good. And a ginger beer.

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