Archive for December, 2009

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit surprisingly authentic

photo by Danielle Cushing

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a chain restaurant with locations all across the U.S., so I didn’t go in expecting to be wowed by its mass produced food. But I was pleasantly surprised.

There were eight meats on the menu, but only the southern pulled pork is “pulled” in the traditional southern way. I also ordered the signature chopped beef brisket because it sounded close enough to “pulled” – and it was.

The pork barbecue was the best I’ve tasted so far. Usually I find pork too dry, but this was really juicy and tender. There was also a hint of a smoky flavor.

The beef brisket was so tender that the slices just fell apart at the touch of a fork. It also had an interesting woody flavor that I enjoyed.

The meat didn’t need it, but there was a wide array of sauces to go on the side. I tried Dickey’s original sauce and the southern barbecue sauce (of course). The original sauce was much different than any bottled sauce I’ve ever tried. It was really sweet and then got mildly spicy and made my tongue tingle. I don’t think it was vinegar based, but it tasted like apple cider vinegar to me.

I was really excited for the vinegar-based southern sauce, because I love southern coleslaw. But I didn’t like the sauce at all. It had red pepper flakes in it and just tasted like spicy white vinegar. It could be good drizzled on a sandwich, with the bread to offset the flavor a little bit, but I didn’t like my meat dipped in it.

Hushpuppies come with every meal at Dickey’s, and they’re good – freshly made and too big to eat in one bite. However, I was a little disappointed with them (though not as disappointed as I was that Jim’s Famous BBQ didn’t have them at all) because they lacked the right texture. Superb hushpuppies have a crunchy outside and a light crust, but these were kind of uniform and the crust was a little too oily for me.

There were 12 other side items, of which I chose the green beans and bacon and the dill potato salad. I always order a vegetable so I have something green and healthy on my plate, and I hate it when I end up with something green and greasy or green and buttery. The green beans here were excellent! The bacon gave them a great flavor.

The potato salad was delicious too. I love anything dill-flavored because it’s such a fresh flavor. This dish reminded me of my mom’s potato salad, which she makes with dill pickle relish.

Overall, I’m going to mark Dickey’s one step behind Q Shack, but one step ahead of Jim’s Famous BBQ. The meat was delicious, they at least had hushpuppies, and they have a wide variety of sides, so anyone can find something they will enjoy.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

5218 New Hope Commons Drive (near Wal-Mart)

Durham, NC 27707

(919) 419-1101

-Danielle Cushing


New Moon: Bad moon on the rise

Hate is a strong word. Hatred should be associated with intangible notions or vague persons: the waiting room at the doctor’s office, Al Qaeda, the word “hullaballoo.” I personally don’t see the point in hating a movie, a book, Miley Cyrus. Why waste any time or energy hating something that won’t care enough to hate you back?

Just saying. ‘Cause, despite that logic, the futility of dislike has never stopped me before. So, here goes: I hated “New Moon.”

The second movie adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s culture-rocking book series had a few redeeming qualities. Taylor Lautner’s body, Kristen Stewart’s awkwardness (it kinda grows on you) and a general lack of Robert Pattinson are all working in the movie’s favor. The actors, however, can’t save the movie from a dull storyline and an equally uninspired script.

I read the entire “Twilight” series during the summer of 2008, getting my head in the game just in time for the release of the final volume, “Breaking Dawn,” at the end of July. While I knew a “Twilight” movie was in the works, it was hardly something I giddily obsessed over. It was spontaneity more than anything else that drove me and my roommate Binita – who had never read the books, barely heard of the movie, and responded “what kind of messed up crap is that?” when I tried to explain the plot to her – to the “Twilight” midnight premiere last November. I left the theater thinking the movie was lousy and mis-casted; Bini left in love with R Patz.

But of course, you know the rest of the story. “Twilight” went on to become a worldwide sensation, the sensationally introverted Robert Pattinson somehow became a sex symbol, sexy vampires became the “it” phenomenon, and the rest of us non-Twihards became phenomenally fed up. Yeah, it’s been a fun year.

Despite my obvious bias against “Twilight,” I was pretty excited for “New Moon.” “New Moon” actually had a big budget. I thought this would mean improved acting, a beefed-up version of the book’s mediocre plot, a vibrant, energy and cinematic tone and an emphasis on Bella’s emotional torment.

Maybe I just expected too much.

The movie tails the book’s plot in a painstaking fashion, hardly daring to take any liberties. It’s a shame director Chris Weitz was too afraid to experiment with elements such as humor and intelligence, because it’s been proven that moviegoers actually like such things.

As a big “Harry Potter” fan, I know I complain when the movies write in scenes that aren’t in the book or royally corrupt entire plot points (good job leaving the Elder Wand lying out in the open at the end of movie six, instead of burying it with Dumbledore, geez). But at least the “Harry Potter” movies know how to build toward a climax using emotion, intensity and cleverness.

The “Twilight” movies, on the other hand, expect us to swallow exactly what they spoon-feed us without giving us any reason to do so. I guess we are supposed to buy it because Stephanie Meyer wrote it, but so freaking what if that’s how Meyer wrote it? The movies should improve upon her mediocre writing rather than just feeding her lines to actors. In “Twilight,” Meyer detailed how Edward, the vampire who can read minds, falls in love with Bella Swan. Readers never quite understand why he falls in love with her; she may possess the one mind his powers cannot penetrate, but using that logic, I’m going to fall in love with the next dude that passes me on the street, simply because we fail to read each other’s minds. It ain’t gonna happen.

The “Twilight” movie could have delved into how Edward came to love Bella, why Bella loved him back, all the throes of teenage romance that “Dawson’s Creek” explored oh-so-well, but instead… nada. The movie introduced us to the pale, lipstick-wearing Edward, made him hardcore stare at Bella for 10 minutes, and then pronounced the two were in love.

“New Moon” employs the same formula. Edward breaks Bella’s heart about 15 minutes into the movie, leaving her stranded in the woods like the classy gentleman he is. While this scene is actually one of the most emotionally compelling in the book, the movie again fails to capitalize. Meyer’s words were powerful and touching. Weitz’s visualization tries for heartbreak, but rather than showing us emotional intensity, he tells us about it. Why are viewers supposed to care that Edward leaves Bella? Oh that’s right, because you told us we should.

While the movie completely mishandles the Edward/Bella romance – it’s only what the series is known for, no big – the Jacob storyline is actually adequately explored. Once Edward vacates, the next hour treats viewers to the characterization of Jacob Black, a loyal, dependable friend who provides the emotional support that Bella needs.

Taylor Lautner, I am happy to say, pleasantly surprises as a convincing actor behind his chiseled body. Lautner deftly portrays the multiple facets of Jacob: the anger he feels toward Edward for wounding Bella, the residual longing Jacob has for Bella despite her undying love for Edward, and, most importantly, the severity of his sadness as Bella twice rejects him for the lipstick-wearing vamp.

I like a few of Weitz’s cinematographic choices. The first is his panoramic camera shot of a depressed Bella sitting in her room watching the months pass quite literally before her eyes. Edward has left her, she sees no point in functioning, and although her voice-over is of the emo-screamo, cheesy Meredith Grey variety, the unbroken camera shot is a good artistic choice. The second notable scene is Bella confronting Jacob about his really bad skills at returning phone calls. She yells at him over the pouring rain, neither of them caring how soaked they’re getting. The rain complements both Bella’s seclusion, now virtually dumped by two guys in six months, and the cold change in Jacob’s once-cheery demeanor. The third notable scene cuts intermittently between Bella climbing to the top of a cliff she intends to jump off while her father Charlie, police chief, hunts a killer “bear” in the woods. “Hearing Damage” by Thom Yorke creeps over the dark, unsettling scene, which climaxes with Bella catapulting herself into the sea below and evil vampire Victoria strangling Harry Clearwater.

Still, three artsy scenes are hardly worth my $7.50 ticket and two and a half hours of boredom. It’s too bad “New Moon” fails to capitalize on its buzz and daringly create the romantic thriller it should have been. It is too bad Bella becomes an adrenaline junkie but Weitz fails to transfer that exhilaration to his viewers. It’s too bad the “Twilight” saga is about the raw emotional lust between Edward and Bella, but the scenes with Jacob pack more of an emotional punch than Edward ever does. It’s too bad my only thought at the end was, “wow, Bella’s a bitch.”

And it’s too bad so many teen girls idolize Edward and Bella’s relationship, when she’s the epitome of a weak, pitiful girl who can only survive if she has a “man” in her life, and he personifies an emotionally abusive male who will drive his girl into a four-month depression and has only to revoke his words to make her fall back into his arms.

-Sonya Chudgar