Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - 7-Eleven

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley 

The 24 hour convenience mart of edible Americana is where we went for our most recent pizza rating adventure. Long known for its hot dogs cooked on rollers and microwave burritos, the “Sevey” has branched recently into creative made-to-order offerings such as the “Loaded Doritos” and the pizza we sampled. We’ve been holding out a while on this dining experience to be sure our palettes were fully prepared to capture the culinary nuances this enduring establishment provided.



Aisles of candy and chips to choose from. Beer cooler. Beef jerky, cigarettes, and stale donuts. The concrete outside sitting area (sidewalk) was pleasantly free of cigarette butts. Mild gas fumes wafting from fuel pumps add to down-home feel of the food and urgent feeding vibe. Cold and ornery children add to the excitement of the dining area (parking lot).

Sam: If this place is open 24 hours a day, then why do they have locks on the doors?



Selection was astounding, including sports drinks, soft drinks, juices, coffee, and beer (all bottled, none on tap). But despite a dizzying array of options we still opted for the signature Slurpees, all Coke flavored, of course, because the other ones are just gross.

Price of one large cheese



Unlike the 7-11 experiences of my youth the checkout guy was not of Indian descent, but he may have been Native American. Upon ordering, the clerk quickly grabbed a pizza from the cooler and popped it into the little micro oven they cook the pie in. "Fresh" pizza smells fill the establishment. At least, we'll pretend confidence that odor was from a pizza

Pizza Impressions

Was made to order (fresh!) and actually disappointingly edible. Doughy crust, soft with little to no crunch, mix of mozzarella and random yellow cheese on top. Leaned towards saucy with mild tomato tones, but enough cheese to be cheesy.

The longer it sits the worse it gets. Consume quickly or not at all. Horrifying appetizer of “Loaded Doritos” made pizza seem a whole lot better by comparison.

Feel dirty and unwholesome after finishing a slice, like no amount of crying in the fetal position in a running shower will wash away that internal grimy feel. 7-Eleven!? What was I thinking?


2/6 Slices

Cooking the pizza to order does make it taste better. We were really hoping for a zero-slice rating with this one, but the Sevey does manage to pull off a decent pie. If it was 3 a.m. and I really needed a pizza, I would pay for the experience again.

I'm not sure how the slices that were sitting there longer in the warming case would compare, but I’m not stupid or masochistic enough to eat one of those. Well, not without some serious dare money on the line.

As a reminder, here's our rating scale:

0 slices - I would not eat this at any price
1 slices - It’s not good but at least its pizza
2 slices - I would consider coming back if every other pizza place was closed
3 slices - Cheap enough and edible enough for my kid’s birthday party
4 slices - I’ll come back, but Dad is buying
5 slices - Somewhere between 4 and 6
6 slices - Stuffing some in my pockets to eat later

Monday, September 29, 2014

Other Meals of Note

We've been spending a lot of time this fall eating crappy pizza and writing about it. It's exhausting work. I had no idea how much mediocre-to-truly-awful pizza could be had within mere miles of my home.

But consuming and documenting deeply meh pizza for your amusement isn't all we've been up to in the last few months!

Notable Meal 1

This year we successfully harvested a few red, ripe watermelons from our garden, much to the girls' delight. They were suitably thrilled.

Notable Meal 2

We are still searching for a restaurant that has truly earned the "honor" of our first zero-slice ("I would not eat this pizza at any price") rating, but meanwhile Ben successfully created a horrific set of english muffin pizzas a few weeks ago.

Here's his special recipe: Combine four soggy english muffins with a ton of sauce and a poorly chosen cheese (colby jack? really?). Heat to lukewarm. Attempt to consume.

The result? He successfully choked down two.

Notable Meal 3

As a belated anniversary dinner we headed up to the first (hopefully the first of many!) Bearclaw Supper Club at Sundance.

We figured we'd earn our dinner and so rather than taking Arrowhead lift up to Bearclaw we hiked ourselves on up. It was a perfect, beautiful afternoon with my very favorite person.

And just look at what awaited us at the top! This is definitely the best dinner-with-a-view that we've ever enjoyed!

Ok, fun over, time to get back to eating astoundingly awful pizza.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Podium Finish - The Tour de Donut

WanYing Describes the Tour de Donut

So what we do at the Tour of Donut is what we do is eat lots of donuts and ride to each stop and have donuts and go to the last stop and sometimes we even get water bottles at the end. You want to eat donuts because it's fun to eat donuts and it's good time to watch movies at home after you have a lot of energy out.

The weather today was really rainy and it even rained after the Tour of Donuts. The rain was soaking wet and I even hadded to change my pants and underwear after it since it was soaking wet.

It was 3 miles. That was really far and we got soaking each time we went to a stop. And it was really cold and when it rained after just like a little second it was soaking on my pants.

My dad worked really hard of pedaling.

And at the end of the Tour of Donut I got a medal!

It was really tiring and we ate lots of donuts and I ate one at each stop and my dad like eated a whole entire row and smooshed it and eated it and eated it and took a drink after every bite he had.

I think you should really do it because it's so fun and next time it might not be rainy and if it's raining you can just bring rain jackets and if you can you can bring your rain umbrellas and you can get a teeny rope and tie it to your holder and then you'll be not rainy really much.

Mommy Fills in Some Details

Every once in a while an event comes along and evokes the uncanny feeling that you were born for just such a moment.  For the Morningstar family, the Utah Tour de Donut was one such experience.

Here's the premise:
  • Three 7-mile laps (for a total of 21 miles)
  • 2 donut stops, one each after lap 1 and 2
  • 3 minutes deducted for each donut consumed
  • All for fun, glory, and to benefit the American Fork Rotary Club

And here's how we fared:
  • 2 boys DNF after the first (soaking) 7-mile loop. It's hard to blame them... it was pretty miserable. At least they did 7 miles, right?
  • Both tandem teams (Steve + WanYing on the Xtracycle and Jamie + Sasha on the Trail-a-Bike) persevered, dug deep, and finished strong
  • Daddy lead the way in donut consumption with a thoroughly nauseating 14 donuts consumed, beating his goal of a baker's dozen. Gross (yes, incredibly gross) calories consumed: 3780
  • Mommy hit her goal, shoving down 9 donuts. Gross calories of 2430
  • The girls had an admittedly weak showing with 2 donuts for WanYing and 1 for Sasha, although Sasha did make up for it by pedaling strong on the second half
  • We are pleased to report zero "reversals"
  • As of the writing of this post 7 hours after finishing, the concept of food is still nauseating

We know that you've come to expect the very best from us, especially when it comes to competitive cycling. We did not disappoint in our first Tour de Donut appearance.

Registration was a little complicated since the girls couldn't register as individuals since they wouldn't be riding alone; so instead we registered as two tandem teams. This meant that we were up against adult tandem teams with two actual contributing members on both the pedaling and donut consumption fronts. But we were up for the challenge.

We are proud to report that Team Morningstar A (Mommy and Sasha) crammed in enough donuts and rode hard enough to take 3rd in the tandem division! There was a little confusion since originally we had signed up for Mommy and WanYing to ride together and ended up switching riders for the actual race so technically WanYing was awarded Sasha's medal but it all worked out in the end when we just gave both girls medals.

Because, really, when it comes to biking and donuts, aren't we all champions?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Pizza Pie Cafe

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley 

This week we branched out to the Pizza Pie Cafe, a pizza buffet.

Lots of value to be provided here if you like the concept of all-you-can-eat dining and need food right away. Pizza, pasta, and salad bar await you inside the former storefront of a Hollywood Video. Pizza styles ranging from humble pepperoni to "exotic" chicken alfredo.


Plenty of booths with room for six, small enclosed private booths good for small groups or couples in love who have given up trying to impress each other with their dining choices.

The wall was decorated with license plates and large decorative tin stars, hooks galore to hang coats or small children from, wood scroll-cut painted words. The words read from left to right: Family, Friends, Kitchen, Live, Love, Laugh, Gourmet. Yeah, we don't get it either.


Pepsi fountain drinks, including fancy choices like apple beer and Mountain Dew Code Red. Beverages made super-cool by the addition of DIY crazy straw kits Mom brought home from her recent trip to Chicago.

Price for one large cheese

$35 for 6 of us.  That can be anywhere from one large to infinite large pizzas, but, alas, no leftovers.

Pizza Impressions

Spongy crust, adequate grease content, formerly white chromebook keys now a pale red from grease. No reason to eat the crust because a) it wasn't good and b) you can always go back for more pizza.

Sam: Nice and homely pizza. This is definitely “American pizza;” cheap and pretty tasty.

Dad: Ben, you can’t start with the Oreo pizza.
Ben: Dessert first!

Sam: Can’t get enough of these garlic knots! Pretty sure they put in cocaine to make them addictive.

WanYing: This is a buffet so this is really fancy. It’s fancy because they have stars all around and you can choose what you want. (Sundance’s brunch buffet may be effecting her ideas about buffets being fancy)

Mom: It’s not good, but there is a lot of it.



If you are looking for large quantities of mid-priced pizza ranging in quality from not that great to inedible, than this is the restaurant for you. It's bad; but it's still better than Denny's.

As a reminder, here's our rating scale:

0 slices - I would not eat this at any price
1 slices - It’s not good but at least its pizza
2 slices - I would consider coming back if every other pizza place was closed
3 slices - Cheap enough and edible enough for my kid’s birthday party
4 slices - I’ll come back, but Dad is buying
5 slices - Somewhere between 4 and 6
6 slices - Stuffing some in my pockets to eat later

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Chuck E Cheese

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley

This week we decided to sample the finest mouse-supplied pizza in town. Chuck E Cheese built his empire of pizza wonderlands in the early 80’s during the arcade boomtimes (begun by the venerable classic, Pong). Pairing high-technology with mass produced low quality pizza, Chuck E Cheese has been a staple of children’s birthday parties for many years.

Until this week we had escaped the pizza-scourge that is Chuck E Cheese for about a decade. I'd say that visiting approximately every 10 years is plenty.

Price of a large cheese

$13 (not counting game tokens, ouch)

Quick order process made wallet vacuuming seem less painful, was hoping a costumed Chuck would deliver pizza to the table, but no such luck. He did make a meet and greet appearance for the birthday kids who were celebrating at the restaurant. It was simultaneously mesmerizing and mortifying.


Arcade games, play ground with habitrail tubes for kids, Animatronic animal rock band to entertain those too pooped to play arcade games. Arcade games to entertain those too smart to fall for animatronic animal band that hadn't been serviced or updated for dozens of years. Most animatronic animals had only one functional eyelid, enhancing their superb creepiness.

Pizza impressions

As good as we remember, which may account for the reason we haven’t been here in a decade. Stretchy tasty cheese-like topping. Crust is greasy premade slab, quite greasy, translucent napkin type. Crust rather thin.
Pizza cut into many small slices to accommodate the fast and furious eat-just-enough-to-be-able-to-go-back-and-play-thanks-mom-and-dad, if only they were cut all the way through to enable the fast delivery they designed for. Quality greatly diminished the colder the pizza became. Feel dirty inside after consuming.

Sam: Pretty sure this sauce is NOT organic. Might not even be tomato.


3/6 slices

Honestly the pizza was closer to a 2, but the built-in child care made it taste a whole notch better.

If we play our cards right, we won't have to return until we have grandkids.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Lucy's New York Style Pizzaria

Leaping from our California experience, we go to the east coast for our pizza inspiration with a New York Style pizzeria. Very apropos since we had one of our favorite east coast dwellers join us for dinner. Grammy joined us for this adventure and since she grew up in the state next to New York, she must be an expert in pizza that is New York style.

Ben: It’s not that New Yorkish.
Sam: How would you know?
Ben: There’s Mount Timpanogos over there! That’s not in New York.

Sasha’s analysis: “The pickle plate was really good and the olives were great. Grammy liked the olives the most. The mozzarella is really good. The drinks are really good. Grammy, what is your number for the olive and pickles appetizers?”
Grammy: “7”.
Sasha: “It only goes to 6!”


Exposed brick wall with unframed pictures of New York, Sparse layout. Alternative music playing. Generously sized booth a good size for seven people. USB charging outlets! Wifi wasn’t working for us. Plastic pizza peels to draw on. Great view of Squaw Peak over the Smith's parking lot.

Ben: They’re trying too hard to be New York. (points to black and white picture of some random clock) That’s the tower of London!
Sam: (points to different picture) Do you mean the Statue of Liberty cause that is IN New York.

Sam: How sexist! Only a baby changing station in the women’s restroom.

Price for a large cheese: $12


Thin crust, very crispy, So floppy you have to fold it, Super cheese, stretchy, high quality with lots of flavor

Sam: Leaving a trace of grease on my plate! This is gunna be good. Greasius maximus.

Sasha: I like cheese.

Sam: Wow, hot hot hot. Nuculear grease.
Mom: Don’t you mean nuclear?
Sam: Sowwy, it haad ta say wid a burnt tounge.

Ben: My crust bubble looks like a spider built a nest inside. Wait a minute! There are tomato pieces in the sauce. Gross!
Dad: You know sauce is made of tomatoes, right?


4/6 Slices

But we’ll have to go to New York and compare just to be sure.

Sam: I’m just not sure that Utah Valley’s signature dish is New York style pizza.

And Grammy was nice enough to pay for dinner. Maybe she’ll fly with us all out to New York to try out authentic New York Style Pizza straight from the source!
WanYing was not a huge fan of the cannoli. More for the rest of us! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

How Many Bikes Does One Family Need?

The old adage rings true: How many bikes do you need? One more!

This weekend we added another one to the stable - an Xtracycle EdgeRunner 27D LUX. With a 20" rear tire, upright ride, 27 gears, hydraulic brakes, and extended frame this baby is ready to roll with any load and in any condition.

Xtracycle only makes cargo bikes and their expertise shows in every detail of our new steed. The load rides nice and low, the gearing is perfect for starting with extra weight, the tires are wide, and the ride is smooth and easy. If this bike can't replace a car for at least 9 months of the year, nothing can!

And you know that since this bike is primarily for Steve (although I'll be allowed to ride if I ask nicely) we had to sprint for the integrated 6v dynamo hub and ridiculous 70 lux dynamo-powered headlight, matching taillight, and USB port. I give it 3 days until the dynamo has been hacked to provide energy for a multitude of other necessities.

Like father, like son

I can't wait for the rest of our accessories to come and, never fear, a full photo tour of our EdgeRunner is coming soon. She will be fully and truly ours once she takes her first trip to Costco - I'm guessing that seeing this baby riding down the street fully loaded and with a case of MexiCoke strapped to the back will be quite entertaining for all. Not the least of whom the rider :)

You know, I'm pretty sure that bikes are the finest sure-fire way to exchange money for smiles.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars

Ben has recently committed himself to excellence in no-handlebar bike riding, the icing on the cake being his recent accomplishment of no-hands riding while patting his head and rubbing his tummy.

And while hands-free riding can get a little annoying (on a recent ride, Me: Ben, why are you riding so slowly? Are you feeling ok? Ben: (with his perfected tween "how did you get so dense, Mom?" face) It's hard to ride fast when you're doing the whole thing with no hands!) we have to admit immense pride and a bit of jealousy at Ben's new skills.

When the boy puts his mind to something, he really can accomplish just about anything! I think it's time to get that kid a unicycle. Do they come in junior sizing?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - California Pizza Kitchen

So we know this shouldn’t be a bad pizza restaurant by any stretch, but after our Denny’s experience we needed a reprieve. You know, something worth eating. Also our friends the Kytes really like this place and they are from California. At least Laura is... so that counts as authentic in our book.



Ben: Are all restaurants like this in California? Booths, tables, chairs, just like you’d find in sunny fancy California. Salt and Pepper on the table, just like in California. Popular upbeat music playing, just like in California. Sweets instead of “Desserts”, just like in California.

For reasons we cannot comprehend, we were given only yellow, black, and white crayons with which to color the children's menus. But the kids decided that was just to match the CPK color scheme.


Soft drinks, beer, and wine, just like in California


Very attentive server who is way too cool looking to actually belong in Utah Valley, he kind of looked like a California native. And they brought us bread, a very big hit with any kid. Ben was actually able to change his drink order without it getting fouled up and for some reason that always seems to happen to him. [Editor's note - Ben's drink order is consistently delivered incorrectly because he likes to change soft drinks with every refill, and he gets a lot of refills. No server can keep up with his constantly changing whims]


Crust appropriately crunchy and chewy at the same time. Had green things on it (basil) that the boys were able to pick off. A tad greasy, but not off putting. And due to an inattentive Dad ordering pizza, our cheese pizza came without sauce.

Ben: No sauce? Dad is an idiot! It’s too dry without sauce.

Sasha: I like the cheese.

WanYing: I like the stringy bits (cheese).

Sam: Not having sauce was a pleasant twist that didn’t effect the taste at all.

Dad: This is a damn fine Margarita. Makes me forget about my sore butt. [Editor's note: Jamie may have taken Steve bike riding to the top of Mt. Timpanogos today and Steve may not be fully embracing the beautiful masochism of the sport]

Price of large cheese - $11.49

The kids were well behaved enough to get sweets (dessert for you non-Californians) this time.


5 out of 6 slices

As a reminder, here's our rating scale:

0 slices - I would not eat this at any price
1 slices - It’s not good but at least its pizza
2 slices - I would consider coming back if every other pizza place was closed
3 slices - Cheap enough and edible enough for my kid’s birthday party
4 slices - I’ll come back, but Dad is buying
5 slices - Somewhere between 4 and 6
6 slices - Stuffing some in my pockets to eat later


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