Althea’s a team player (and New Fuji’s more tasty than Yummy)

Now this is a Happy Family.

Now this is a Happy Family.

At the latest installment of my Vanity Appointment, my good friend Theresa Constantine pinned me down to the specific night.

“You and your dear wife Karen meet me, David and Althea at New Fuji Buffet on Erie Boulevard at 6:30,” my hair and beard stylist implored. “I’ve got coupons.”

Indeed we did. It had been since April that we’d all dined at Yummy, the Chinese buffet closer by our Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood. That’s too long in the life of an 11-year-old, and Karen and I wanted to catch up with Althea. Oh, yeah, David, too, who’d switched from an evening shift to days with his job at St. Joe’s Hospital. Karen also doesn’t get to gab with Theresa on those every-four-week intervals like I do. And although we’d never been to New Fuji, Theresa assured me it was better than Yummy, hands-down.

All you want. Really. And 99 cent draft beers with dinner!

All you want. Really. And 99 cent draft beers with dinner!

It looked inviting from the outside, with its coating of new snow.

Karen got out of work a tad late, and we showed up five minutes past the appointed time, but Theresa was smiling in the lobby to lead us to the table where David and Althea awaited.

They said that indeed they’d only been there a moment or two, and completely understood the work thing. David had a full draft beer sitting in front of him, and Karen ordered one, too. I stuck with water, which was what Theresa and Althea had in front of them. When the bill came (and when I turned around and noticed the five-by-five-foot sign that stared at me when we walked in) I realized those 16-ounce drafts were only 99 cents with the buffet dinner, and I immediately developed beverage regret.

Why'd the chicken limp across the road?

Why’d the chicken limp across the road?

We all went up to be dazzled by the rows of stocked serving tables.

I immediately grabbled two bowls of soup, one wonton and one hot and sour, because I am a soup guy. After dropping those back at the table, I stacked a plate with a spring roll, some bone-in pork barbecued spare ribs, vegetable lo mein, pepper steak with onions, pork fried rice, General Tso’s chicken, sesame chicken … yeah, I think that’s it.

Sparks fly at New Fuji.

Sparks fly at New Fuji.

We all free-styled, food-wise. Althea was the sole adventurer who grabbed one of the chicken feet on her second trip up. I made a lame why’d-the-chicken-cross-the-road joke, and we all look wide-eyed as she took a bite, made a face, and handed the wicked looking red thing to her father. David put it down, somewhere. I didn’t want to look anymore.

We talked about Althea’s budding basketball career as a fifth-grader on the St. Rose de Lima girls team. Her squad is undefeated this season, and Althea has enjoyed something of a breakthrough after scoring her first basket, increasing her point total to double-digits in a game, and even swishing a shot from three-point range. She’s enjoying the season very much, and we all speculated that perhaps St. Rose de Lima has been so successful because her team has only six players while the rest of the schools in the league have had 10, 12, 15 or more. Everybody plays, so perhaps those squads have less chance to develop the familiarity that Althea and her teammates have.

She was also quite happy about a birthday trip with her mom to see the Syracuse University men’s team play at the Carrier Dome. Not only did did her name and a Happy Birthday wish get posted on the big video screen during halftime, but a camera person caught Althea during another break and put her joyous face up on the screens during that parade of fan shots.

She knows that life is more than basketball. Althea assured us she likes a lot about her school, and figures she want to continue her Catholic education, moving on to Bishop Grimes, when she enters seventh grade. David and Theresa smiled.

The adults talked about our next get-together, for Syracuse Dining Week, which is actually two weeks during February. Our next visit will be soon. Mark and Karen smiled.

Is there a child in your life that you enjoy marking the growing process with periodic social occasions, and if so, what years do you see the biggest changes? Did you play basketball in grade school, and if so, did you enjoy a burst of confidence after your first basket? Would you or have you ever tried chicken feet, and what’s your opinion on that as a food?

42 thoughts on “Althea’s a team player (and New Fuji’s more tasty than Yummy)

  1. Never tried a chicken foot or plural, so I can’t really say what I think of it as a food option….though I’m thinking it would be slim pickins! And you know I already think you are the world’s best neighbor and all around good guy any way! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Chinese buffets are fun, but dangerous as I usually end up eating too much, then feeling overfull. But hunger returns in about a half-hour as it’s pretty much all veggies in those stir-fries. I’d try chicken feet, sure, but wouldn’t expect to like them.

    Althea seems an extremely well-adjusted kiddo. Glad she’s have such a great experience on the court. Love that you’re dining buddies with your stylist and her family ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Yes, the overfull at a Chinese buffet goes away fairly fast, Liz. You are brave for even attempting a single chicken toe, I say. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Althea is a very good kiddo. And at this point in my life, David and Theresa are our friends, and Theresa also happens to be my hair-and-beard stylist. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. I saw the chicken feet sign on the buffet and thought, nope, not me. The Jamaicans around here serve them fried. I’ve tried them, gristle and not much else. The place does look warm and inviting in the blanket of snow though. I’m sure I could have found something on the buffet. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Chicken feet – well at laest they are eating all the bird rather than wasting any. I love the phrase ‘beverage regret’. I shall be using it whenever i can ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. Okay, uh chicken feet = GROSS! Althea sounds like a treasure! That is nice that her team is so small she gets to play more often, and her birthday trip sounds amazing! What struck me most of all though was kudos to Theresa and David! It’s (sadly) not often anymore, I see or hear about a child having dinner with four adults and being able to interact and conduct themselves with such panache (and without a video game stuck to their face!). They did a great job of raising such a remarkable young lady! And I’m sure she was extra flattered to get you, THE sports guy, to talk to her and ask about her game. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. The chicken guy is no longer at the local Tuesday farmers market, don’t know why… but I used to buy his pasture-raised whole chickens. The first one I bought I was surprised, that is, shocked, when I took it out of the package and the head flopped down… never bought a chicken with a head before! Put it in a dish and in the oven without (evidently) thoroughly checking all the chicken parts. Half an hour later I opened the over to check and the chicken was attempting to escape! Or so it looked as the feet had popped out of a pocket of skin and were dangling over the side of the pan! After talking to the chicken guy he assured me that the head, neck and feet were the best for making soup so that’s what I did…

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  7. At first, I was going to say how adventurous Althea was, but then she only ate one bite. One more than I would, though. Whose idea was it to ever taste them in the first place? The rest of the buffet looks great. And I can’t believe the buck beer. I thought I was getting a steal on $2 pints last night, but buddy, was I wrong. I have an 11 yr old in my life, and the years are flying by. A faint trace of childhood lingers, being replaced by puberty, indifference, Instagram accounts, hours invested in MineCraft, and a desire to be left the heck alone on a Target bean bag chair. Did she at least get a child priced buffet? I find more and more that kid’s meals are 10 and under, so you have to pay full price for a your 70 lb kid to eat 8 bites of food.

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  8. Anybody brave enough to take a bite out of a chicken foot…well I’m impressed! Love how social you and Karen are!

    I was never much of an athlete. I was quite tall so I played basketball in grade 4. The one and only time I got a basket (I was so excited) but I’d shot on the wrong basket….

    Diana xo

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  9. Mmmm…Chines buffet…yes please! You know, I guess since my son is in the rock school community, it’s always fun to come to the shows and see everyone (about 3 times a year) and then you see how much each child grew as a person and as a musician since the last show.

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  10. I keep it to the soup and one plate (maybe a tiny bit of seconds) and fruit for desert nowadays, Paul, but in the wayback, I could put a dent in the Chinese buffet profit margin, most certainly.

    As a teen, I grew to 5-foot-11 in the ninth grade and my father saw a basketball future in me. I never grew another inch, nor got any better in basketball than I was then. (Hold my own but always a final cut from the school team.) Destined for husky, in other words. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • You sprang up a lot earlier than I did Mark. Grade 9 would be about 14 or 15 years old, wouldn’t it? I was losing hope at 18, so I didn’t do very much in the way of high school sporrts – although I played a mean game of badminton. And altough I held the height, I have since retuned to “husky”.

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  11. Ah, No, I don’t do chicken’s feet. Thanks anyway. That buffet looks deliscious Mark. It’s been a while, but i love a good Chinese Buffet. There are two or three wonderful buffets like that here in Ottawa. I don’t know how they make money with the plate fulls each person eats, but I guess women and children make up for it with smaller portions. I ususally waddle out of such establishments and take a nap.

    i didn’t do basketball, I was far too clumsy when I was a teen. I was short and tubby until I was 19 and then I grew 6 inches in one summer -it almost killed me with bone pain at night. I grew another 3 inches over the next 2 years so I ended up at 6’3″. A latebloomer – I was worried at 18 when I was short and “husky”. Definitely not a sporty frame..

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