Thursday, June 24, 2021

ZB's YouTube Cavern #9: The Great Alex Turner


Awesome acoustic cover of Tame Impala's "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" by Alex Turner. He totally makes it his own and knocks it out of the park. Such a G.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Banquet Bunch - Cheesecake Factory


Welcome to The Banquet Bunch Review, where recent restaurant meals are discussed and/or reviewed by one of The Double B attendees. Today I’m going to take on the mighty task of summarizing a trip to the hallowed Cheesecake Factory in Peabody. It was a monumental occasion for many different reasons, which I’ll get into below. Hope you enjoy it.

May 30th, 2021 - Peabody, MA

This past Sunday it was a rainy day and there wasn’t much to do, so of course The Double B pounced on the opportunity to dine out. It was a big moment in Massachusetts - the first weekend with no mask mandate anymore - and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to usher in this new American era than the mall (plus I had a $50 gift card lol). Nothing says freedom quite like a chaotic chain restaurant surrounded by retail stores.

The Venue

As we got there and went inside, immediately you could feel an artificial and distinctly American energy. For some reason the Cheesecake architecture is basically a nod to all previous empires. There’s Egyptian sphinxes, Roman columns, and some Elizabethan era structures all washed over with a desert tan color. There are intricate light fixtures everywhere and the lighting is dim, which gives the whole place a Southwestern America illumination (Tay called it an "Arizona energy"). It’s a marvelous and colossal hodgepodge that’s over-the-top and corny - like a romanticized dream of a dream of what ancient times were like. The imitation vibes are so heavy that it almost makes Cheesecake Factory come across as a theme restaurant and not a chain. All in all it’s very strange and pure Americana.

But that’s the whole shtick and charm of the place at the end of the day. The second you walk in there you know what you’re in for. The stakes couldn’t be any lower, which helps the guest avoid the daunting pressure that comes with going to super nice restaurants. There's also a guilty comfort knowing that it's a chain - in the back of your mind you know that it's not going to be horrible as there are corporate standards that need to be met. So for a first big meal out with no masks, this felt right. A safe step back into the real world with the American people, packed into a pastiche jungle gym of a restaurant ready for the troth. USA! USA!

The Meal

They made us download the menus on our phones, much to me and Taylor’s chagrin. I thought that maybe having the menu in digital form would help with navigating their notoriously massive list of options, but it didn’t. It took me up until the final few seconds before I knew what I wanted. Just so much to choose from - Thai food, Mexican food, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, seafood, pizza, their “skinnylicious” entrees, and about a million side dishes/apps. So overwhelming. In the end we went with this (from what I recall):


  • - Bread and butter (they included some tasty brown bread. Possibly pumpernickel? Not hundo sure)

  • Factory Nachos (no chicken)


Carol - 2 Coors Lights and a water

Taylor - Multiple waters with a lemon slice

Hinchey - 4 Cheesecake Factory Special Lemonades (free refills)

Tim - 3 Cheesecake Factory Special Lemonades (free refills)

Zach - Multiple waters with a lemon slice


Carol - Chicken Parmesan Sandwich (w/ fries)

Taylor - Caesar Salad (appetizer size, he wasn’t hungry/ate before we went)

Hinchey - Fettuccine Alfredo

Tim - The Lettuce Wraps (w/ grilled avocado) and a Beet and Avocado Salad

Zach - Chicken Taquitos and a Cuban Sandwich (w/ fries)


  • Slice of Original Cheesecake (shared by all)

  • Slice of Tiramisu (upon Taylor’s insistence, shared by all)


Looking back I certainly enjoyed the occasion, and the highlight for me was the Factory Nachos. Great presentation that had a well balanced layering. The key is the shallowness to the nacho - if it’s too mountainous some chips get buried by cheese/salsa while others are bone dry. With this nacho each chip had an acceptable cheese/salsa ratio and it was all thanks to the thin bedding. Well done by the Factory. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention how delicious both desserts were. Their original cheesecake is as good as it gets, and the tiramisu was to die for. Brilliant baking.

It was also nice to get out and do something on an otherwise dreary weekend filled with crummy weather. In an interesting twist the meal itself took a long time to come to a close, which I’m guessing is because the staff was swamped. There was a general sense of discombobulation, especially at the front desk, which was also noteworthy. It added to that classic hilarity/notoriety that comes with a Cheesecake Factory night. And as for the lengthy wait for the check - I’d rather have a stretched out meal than a quick one. To just hang and chat as we contemplated the final bill price was a delight (I was pretty close with my guess of $150). Lastly, our waiter was a good dude that earned his tip. He was happy-go-lucky and dealt with our demands quite well (Tim dropped his napkin...big party foul).

Thank you so much Cheesecake, you're always a top notch basic choice. Until next time!

- ZB James