Pop Culture Odds and Ends – On the DL Edition

We’re now on day 4 of my stint on the disabled list due to a sprained ankle and I’m really pretty much over this injury. I am a pretty terrible patient and if I wasn’t trying to get myself healed up for my big weekend plans I probably wouldn’t be taking it as easy as I currently am. Of course, my idea of “taking it easy” is actually following instructions and even going so far as to take a sick day from work to rest up, but there seems to be progress in my recovery. I even let my mom bring me some groceries yesterday, which was a pretty big concession since I really don’t like having to ask for help. I’m also feeling well enough to overanalyze who has and has not been quick to check in on me and how I’m doing; that’s a good sign – that means I’m not in as much pain if I can read way too much into things.

But even a sprained ankle couldn’t keep me from getting you the pop culture roundup. Since I’ve had a lot of downtime, I was able to spend most of my recovery time searching high and low on the internet for stories that you might have missed in the last seven days. So while I remember to keep my leg elevated and iced throughout the day, enjoy the fruits of my labors with this week’s roundup.

  • Jimmy Fallon and Taraji P. Henson play “Fast Family Feud”:

 

Time for some trailers……

  • Bradley Cooper in Burnt:

 

  • Matt Damon in The Martian:

 

  • The first teaser for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah:

 

  • Robert Pattison as James Dean in Life:

 

  • Bryan Cranston in Trumbo:

 

  • Doctor Who: Series 9:

 

  • New promos for The Muppets:

 

 

  • Manhattan season two:

 

  • Sundance hit The Witch reveals its first trailer:

 

  • The Flash, season 2:

 

  • ABC’s Wicked City:

 

  • Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein:

 

  • Netflix’s Narcos:

 

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  • Downton Abbey fans will like this reunion on Instagram:

Reunited. @thatdanstevens I've missed this face #bafta #LastDaysOfDownton #matthewandmary

A post shared by Michelle Dockery (@theladydockers) on

 

  • Josh Groban sang Donald Trump tweets on Jimmy Kimmel Live!:

 

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  • Amy Schumer, Bill Hader and I all have something in common – Sitting in clogs:

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  • Beyoncé is on the cover of the September issue of Vogue:

 

  •  This is an actual video released by the Philadelphia police department; it might seem familiar:

 

  • Julianne Hough is engaged to NHL player Brooks Laich.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts….

  • District 9 gets the 8-bit treatment:

 

  • What if Werner Herzong directed Ant-Man?:

 

  • Bern Your Enthusiasm:

 

  • “Seven Nation Army” gets a vintage New Orleans dirge cover:

 

  • Another cover –Jane Lynch covers “Anaconda”:

 

  • 100 TV theme songs on guitar:

 

  • The Hateful Eight vs The Thing:

 

  • What if True Detective was a sitcom?

 

  • Game of Thrones will the Sesame Street theme song:

 

  • And finally, The Muppets cover N.W.A:

 

 

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Heather Visits Ben and Jerry’s

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My road trippin’ ways continued this past weekend with a visit to Burlington, Vermont. I hadn’t been to Burlington in a long time and the last time I was there I was really only passing through. I’ve been wanting to go back for a while, so when a friend from college and I were trying to come up with a place to meet up for the weekend, Burlington was at the top of my list. The craft beer brewery industry is strong in Vermont and I do love sampling beers, but the main reason that I wanted to go to Burlington was because that put me in close proximity to the Ben and Jerry’s factory. If you know me even a little, you know how much I love ice cream in general, but Ben and Jerry’s ice cream specifically. Blame that on growing up in a city with its own scoop shop or the omnipresence of their pints, but in my lifetime I have consumed a disturbing number of Ben and Jerry’s flavors. I’ve been trying to get someone to go to the factory with me for years, but with no success; it was either too far to drive (it’s over 3 hours from Albany) or people just don’t want to see me happy. So I was beyond thrilled when my friend Michelle, my big sister in my sorority, was game to go, even though she’s been on the factory tour before. She’s a good egg.

We arrived at the factory shortly after 11, which seemed like a perfectly acceptable hour to me to start eating ice cream. We were able to hop on the 11:10 am tour, so our wait time was pretty minimal. Our tour guide was great – very enthusiastic and full of the showmanship and corny jokes that make tours like this entertaining. The first part of the tour was a short video about the history of the company and their corporate philosophy. I knew a lot of this already – I actually used Ben and Jerry’s as an example in my college courses when we discussed models of corporations – but it was still informative and not too long. I didn’t know, for example, that the first national attention that the company got was because the Ben and Jerry’s bus that they were touring the country with caught on fire and burned to the ground. That’s some unexpected publicity.

Next up was a tour of the actual factory, which was not in production because it was the weekend. Still, it was interesting to see the steps that they go through to create a pint of ice cream. There was another video which helped illustrate what each station does in the factory; they had helpfully numbered all the machines so it was easy to follow each stop that the ice cream makes along the way. I don’t know why I was so impressed to see that the machines that fill the ice cream pints twist the package as they are filled to insure equal distribution of the goodies inside – in retrospect that seems like common sense – but that was the fact that stood out to me the most. This portion of the tour was also relatively brief – possibly ten minutes maximum – and then it was on to the best part of the tour: the free sample.

I had secretly been hoping that we would get to try either a new flavor that wasn’t out yet or something that they were testing out, but that was probably not very likely. Instead, we received a health sample of Spectacular Speculoos, which might have been new to most people on the tour who don’t stalk new Ben and Jerry’s flavors like I do. It didn’t make it any less delicious – it’s hard to go wrong with cookie butter in anything – so it was a nice way to end the tour. In the sample room we also discovered that Ben and Jerry’s is trying out two new flavors in Texas: Bar-b-que Peach and Bourbon Pecan Pie. People will get to vote on which flavor they like best and the winner will be a limited batch only available in the Lone Star state. This piqued my interest, as I am a sucker for food that you can only get for a limited time (see also my obsession with all the new Oreo flavors and seasonal M&Ms). I also have friends in Texas who I am overdue to visit, so they may be getting a request to throw a pint in their freezer with the knowledge that I’ll eventually be on my way to claim it (especially if it is Bourbon Pecan Pie is the winner). Now I’m interested in finding out what other limited regional ice creams are out there that I don’t know about. This is a rabbit hole that I probably shouldn’t be going down. Ben and Jerry’s has more tricks up their sleeve than I realized.

The tour was over after the sample room, but since we were still in the mood for ice cream we took advantage of the scoop shop in the front of the building. They seemed to have every flavor currently in production, which of course makes sense, and it was kind of alarming to see how many of them that I had actually tried. It was a lot. I decided to take advantage of the fact that they had all the SNL inspired ice creams which are somewhat harder to find – I don’t think they are available outside of Scoop Shops – and try something that I hadn’t had before. I got one scoop of Wayne’s Swirled (dark caramel and vanilla ice creams with caramel and fudge swirls) and Lazy Sunday (Vanilla cake batter ice cream with chocolate and yellow cupcake pieces & a chocolate frosting swirl). I liked them both, but I REALLY liked Lazy Sunday, which really isn’t a good thing for me since the last thing that I need is another Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that I like. I’ll have to seek this one out again before they retire it from Scoop Shops.

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The final stop at the factory wasn’t part of the tour, but was only a short walk away – a visit to the flavor graveyard. This is where they pay homage to some of the Ben and Jerry’s flavors that have been retired. It’s not an inclusive list – not every retired flavor has a tombstone – but it was an interesting sample of some of the flavors that they have tried that didn’t quite catch on with the public. Someone was apparently particularly bummed out about the retirement of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt since that was the only “grave” that had flowers placed on it. That made us laugh.

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There were some flavors that I was bummed out that I never had the chance to try; I’m guessing that I would have really liked Crème Brûlée, Aloha Macadamia or Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.

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Others I’m less surprised didn’t survive. Tennessee Mud and Peanuts! Popcorn! are creative but too specialized for mass consumption, and I say this as someone who likes the salty/sweet combination that the latter flavor would have provided.

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Some of the flavors in the graveyard have found a new life in a slightly different flavor: Peanut Butter and Jelly is retired, but Peanut Butter Jam Session lives on. There were some other flavors that I could see poised for a reincarnation in the near future: Fossil Fuel would make sense to bring back in some capacity now since Jurassic World is about to be released.

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All in all, it was a fun day at the Ben and Jerry’s factory and I’m glad that I can cross it off my long list of things that I want to do. It might not have been the life changing experience that I had built it up to be, but any day that involves ice cream is aces in my book. Worth making the pilgrimage just to say that I did it and I got to try some new ice cream to boot. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

The Ben and Jerry’s Factory is in located in Waterbury, Vermont.

Heather Visits Wahlburgers

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Mark and Donnie Wahlberg have managed to make a name for themselves both in the music and acting business – Donnie most recently with his work on CBS’s Blue Bloods and his ongoing participation in New Kids on the Block while Mark is of course a movie star (Boogie Nights, Shooter, Ted, The Oher Guys) and producer (Entourage, Boardwalk Empire) whose humble beginnings started in Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. The siblings have decided to further expand their empire by going into the restaurant business with their brother Paul for the burger joint Wahlburgers. The restaurant is also a subject of an A&E reality show by the same name. I watched a few episodes of the show out of curiosity and while reality TV really isn’t for me, it was mildly amusing. By reality show standards it’s pretty tame and it feels pretty staged, but the interaction between the brothers, their other siblings and their mother Alma is generally relatable and fun. It’s mindless entertainment, but it’s still entertainment. I don’t watch the show regularly, but if I happen to come across it while surfing the channels, I’ll stop and watch a few minutes before moving on to greener pastures. Both Mark and Donnie are consistently featured on the show – the latter more than the former – which was a little surprising, as I figured their presence would taper off over time. You’d think that neither of them would have a lot of time or interest in a reality show on A&E, but family loyalty (and brand recognition) runs deep with this crew.

My friend Staci have been discussing for a while making the road trip to visit Wahlburgers; while the restaurant has plans for a rapid expansion into various new locations, currently the only spot that is open (according to their website) is in Hingham, MA (the family hails from Dorchester). It seemed like a win-win for us: we’d get to spend some time together while Staci would get a little NKOTB fix and I’d get to try a new burger. I could pretty much live on burgers if that was permissible without ever getting sick of them, so the opportunity to have a burger with a side of some pop culture made the three hour drive to the restaurant seem like an excellent way to spend a day. We hit the road at 8 am on Saturday to get to Wahlburgers shortly after it opened for lunch; we had bundled a visit to a spa in Boston in as part of the road trip as well, so we weren’t just driving six hours roundtrip to go to a casual dining establishment (though I have done dumber things).

Wahlburgers is located in a small plaza that is the home to many other restaurants, a movie theater, a brewpub and some retail stores. It was a little cooler and more overcast than we would have liked, but I’m guessing on a warm Friday or Saturday night the plaza would have been really hoping. It would be a nice one-stop shop for dinner and a movie and the plaza is located near a dock filled with either large boats or small yachts (I am not a nautical person). It was overall a pretty location and while it’s hard to make a plaza feel very exciting, it wouldn’t be a bad place to spend some time.

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Wahlburgers is located directly across from the family’s other restaurant, Alma Nove. We arrived shortly after 11 am, when they opened, and it was already fairly crowded. The restaurant was slightly bigger than I anticipated; one side was for “quick service” where customers order at the counter and pick the food up and the other side had wait staff that took care of individual tables. There is also outside seating with a fireplace. We opted for the full Wahlburgers experience and the hostess directed us to a high top to await our server. We were over by the bar and there were plenty of TVs to watch, though that early on a Saturday, there wasn’t much on other than soccer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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Since I wasn’t driving, I decided to go all out and have one of the restaurant’s adult frappes. I opted for the Fluffanuttah: vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, marshmallow vodka and crème de banana. It was a little pricey at $12, but since it’s not like I can go to Wahlburgers all the time I decided to go for it. I’m always a little wary of the dairy and alcohol combo – I still have PTSD from one too many Girl Scout cookie cocktails at a sorority formal in college – but the Fluffanuttah was pretty darn tasty. My only complaint was that there was a little bit of an alcohol after taste, so while the drink went down pretty smoothly, I was quickly reminded that this was not a frappe for kids. It was pretty filling as well, so one was more than enough, though I would have liked to try the s’more frappe as well.

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Though Wahlburgers is primarily a burger joint, the small menu does offer patrons plenty of options. In addition to the generic house burger, there are four specialty burgers on the menu as well as a burger of the month that rotates. The menu also has several sandwich and salads choices as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. So while the menu isn’t extensive, they manage to offer meals that would appeal to most people. The burgers don’t come with any sides, but those can be added a la carte. It dawned on me during the ride to Wahlburgers that in the 20+ years that we’ve been friends, I wasn’t even sure that I’d ever seen Staci eat a burger. So it would have been kind of hysterical if we drove all the way to Hingham and she ordered a salad. It turns out that she doesn’t have a beef with burgers (ha!); Staci ordered the “Originally from Dorchester” burger (1/2 lb burger with homemade tomato jam, bacon, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms) with a side of fires. I opted for “The Melt” burger (1/3 lb burger, served between thick-cut bread and grilled with government cheese, pickles caramelized onions, bacon and mustard sauce) with a side of sweet potato tots. Because reading comprehension is not always my strong suit, I completely skipped over the part of my burger’s description that discussed the bread, so I was super confused when my burger came out. It’s amazing that I did as well on the SATs as I did.

The Melt and Sweet Potato Tots

The Melt and Sweet Potato Tots

Fries and the OFD Burger

Fries and the OFD Burger

My main concern about Wahlburgers was that we would have driven all that way for a sub-par burger, which would have been a real drag. Thankfully, that was not the case; while my burger wasn’t the best that I’ve ever had (I love you In-N-Out), it wasn’t too shabby either. As confused as I was about the bread, it definitely added something to the burger; it was like having a burger inside a grilled cheese, which is not a bad thing in my book. My whole burger was tasty, but the pickles particularly stood out. They were just the right level of crispy and tangy. I’m a big fan of tater tots and my tots were also very good; I like my tots on the crispy side (rather than mushy) and these fit the bill. Staci enjoyed her meal as well, so it the trip was overall a success. We didn’t have any actual Wahlberg sightings, which I wasn’t really expecting anyway. Our timing probably didn’t help, since we were there so early; I’m guessing out likelihood of seeing at least Paul or Alma would have been better in the late afternoon or evening. Staci and I have both already met Donnie and it’s probably for the best that we didn’t run into Mark since I would have had to ask him for my money back for his movie Pain & Gain. Man, I really hated that movie. The staff that we did interact with were all nice and helpful; before we left we stopped by the counter to pick up some souvenirs – a Wahlburgers t-shirt for Staci and a Wahlburgers pint glass for me (because – of course).

All in all, it was a nice way to spend a Saturday, other than our close proximity to Fenway Park when we went into Boston for our spa visit on Newbury Street. I don’t know that I’d ever feel obligated to make a special trip to Wahlburgers again, but if I happened to be in the vicinity of the restaurant locations I would definitely stop in again. I wouldn’t put the Wahlburgers burger ahead of In-N-Out or Five Guys, but it’s way better than a lot of burgers that I’ve consumed in my travels. Good company and good food is not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

The full Wahlburgers menu is available at http://www.wahlburgersrestaurant.com. The Wahlburgers reality show has wrapped its third season on A&E.