October 7, 2008
So I had all these thoughts inside my head to write about. More on the economy and those crazy credit default swaps, Zogby Research, the upcoming presidential debate, Geoge Bush’s recent words to soothe America (or perhaps himself; notice how the phrase “The fundamentals are sound” isn’t being said anymore)?
All that has been put aside while I recover from what I think is a bad case of food poisoning, brought on by my wife, the chaplain. Actually, it was probably brought on by some Maryland crabs she bought while in Baltimore. They were delicious, for about an hour or so. Since then I’ve been dividing my time between laying on the couch in a fetal position and running to the bathroom to vomit. Ooh; too much information there. I won’t mention that that’s not the only bodily orifice that’s seen more than enough action for a while.
I can’t eat, and the general weakness that goes along with that is probably more a revelation than the nausea. It’s only been a day since I’ve been able to digest anything and already the fatigue and inability to stay focused has set in.
Pity the many poor whose lack of a next meal is a constant, whose life under these conditions is not rare, but commonplace.
September 29, 2008
From my perch here at Reagan National Airport I can see Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Gorden Biersch Brewery, Ranch 1 Grilled Chicken, California Tortilla, Auntie Anne’s Preztels and a Dunkin Donuts (hmmmm, donuts). It’s dinner time, and I’m stuck here for a couple hours waiting for my flight because the airport recommends I get here two hours early (or else). Yet there is nothing here that I could consider healthy food. I should’ve called my brother and asked him to bring me something.
We are flooded with blatant imagery – from TV commercials to magazine ads to at-store signage – and even though we talk a good talk about the growing obestity crisis (pun intended) we do little to change the social and economic principles that are driving it.
Like the sub-prime crisis, a “cure” will not be found until the problem reaches epidemic proportions. By then it will be a multi-trillion dollar issue, requiring lifetime care for those unfortunate fat X and Y-genners.
This is the crisis that will bankrupt America. The sub-prime problem is just a warm up.
February 26, 2008
I wouldn’t normally blog about meal recipes, but this meal is so delicious that I had to write something about it, if for no other reason than perhaps to help guarantee that it will not be lost to history.
The following recipe is from Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook, by Ellen Schrecker (1976). It is one of the very best meals – perhaps the very best – I have ever had. If you enjoy spicy Chinese food, then this recipe is well worth the effort required to prepare it.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 25, 2008
I am not overweight.
I am, however, paying significant health insurance premiums subsidizing many less-healthy people who are so grossly overweight that they are experiencing chronic medical problems. The obesifying of America is only going to make it worse as deaths from weight-related illnesses like diabetes are increasing at alarming rates. As an employer I grow tired of paying out $4K+ for employee health insurance premiums and then, as an employee, another $4K+ for the remainder of my health insurance premiums.
Getting health insurance companies to recognize me as a healthy, low-risk individual and putting me into a low-risk pool (as good drivers are able to do with auto insurance) is not likely to become an option in the near future, while I am still healthy enough to take advantage of it.
So here’s my idea. Add a surcharge to every restaurant and fast-food meal that is based on the average “health rating” for that restaurant. The health rating is simply the total number of calories of food purchased by the restaurant, divided by the number of meals served – giving an average caloric count per meal. The surcharge is to be collected as a direct reimbursement to lower overall insurance costs. If we can’t get insurance companies to lower their premiums or health care providers to reduce their costs, then we can at least come up with a more creative way to pay those costs than simply increasing premiums by 20% year after year. Think of it as a cigarette tax on gluttony.
This is not to penalize restaurants but rather to force people who are habitual gluttons (or simply bad eaters) to pay more for the health costs that we will all eventually incur for their bad habits. I imagine that McDonalds will need to add hefty surcharges, as well any place that sells chicken wings, pizza or Chinese food.
The hefty taxes added to cigarettes were certainly one reason that cigarette use has decreased in America. Maybe charging us for choosing unhealthy eating will have the same effect on our consumption of stuff that is not good for us.
November 12, 2007
There is a short but interesting article in today’s British press about obesity striking not just the U.S. but the rest of the world as well. In fact, the article goes on to say that “There are more dangerously obese people in the world (over 1 billion) than there are people starving (800,000,000).” This article backs that up with a reference to the World Health Organization’s web site, containing a plethora of reports and statistics.
In the midst of greed, politics, war and indifference the distribution of food is a real problem for those people lacking it, and barely on the radars of those getting fat. [This should be yet another Pro-Life movement issue (see previous blog), since about 6 million children die from malnutrition every year. Where are the Pro-lifers on this?]
Becoming fat, dumb and indifferent is no way to remain a world leader, and it appears that the rest of the world is learning some really bad habits from us.
September 28, 2007
Corn ethanol production was subsidized $7 billion in 2006. That was about $1.45 per gallon of ethanol. Since it sold for around $0.38 more than the equivalent amount of gasoline, where did the other $1.07 go? To the farmers, ethanol producers and distributors, of course. ADM got drunk on it. ADM made a ton of money on it, for no good reason other than their ability to get Congress to create such a lucrative Ethanol subsidy in the first place back in 2003.
Corn is already, by far, the most subsidized grain in America. Yet Congress’ mandate to increase ethanol production (from corn, specifically) to 8 billion gallons by 2012 is showing nothing but ugly unintended consequences:
- It is costing us taxpayers plenty because of the ever-increasing subsidy;
- It is chewing up 20% of the available corn crop, causing demand to outstrip supply and increasing prices across the board for animal feed stocks, sweeteners and virtually everything else made from corn which we, as consumers, are paying for.
- It is doing virtually nothing to reduce the cost of gasoline
- It has done virtually nothing to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
I am an advocate of ethanol production. However, I am not at all in favor of paying for it twice, which is what is happening.
Once again, Congress has provided a handout which has quickly become an entitlement. They will struggle to turn off that money spigot, even when it’s open far too wide to ever rationally justify.
September 23, 2007
The Left Bank, on Rhode Island Street in Buffalo, is a phenomenal restaurant. My wife and I struggled to select just one meal from the menu, which means we’ll be going back to try others that looked just as sumptuous. Even though I thought that the Left Bank refers to a particular section of Paris, the food was mostly Italian with lots of other European/Continental fixings.
Portions are huge – way too much – but at least we got to take the leftovers home. I had mine for lunch today.
Don’t go there if you’re looking for a hamburger. Go there if you want food that challenges the pallette.
August 14, 2007
Last Saturday I met up with friends and took a ride on the Moondance, the catamaran excursion docked behind Shanghai Reds. The ride was great but, as it was a gorgeous afternoon, way too short.
We hung out afterward around the outdoor patio talking about where to go to eat (Shanghai Reds provides only a minimalist menu on its outdoor patio), and it dawned on us that between Harry’s Harbour Place Restaurant about 5 miles north and Hoak’s or Root 5 Restaurant about 10 miles south, there were no other waterfront restaurants that we could name. Marco’s on the West Side and Santasiero’s on Niagara Street might have a view of the water but for the elevated Niagara Thruway’s concrete and incessant noise blocking it off. [A Thruway right along the river. We have Robert Moses to thank for that.] And Dock at the Bay (and all its previous incarnations) is so inaccessible that no one goes there, with the expected resulting frequent turnover. Besides, the reviews are always bad.
I can’t imagine anyplace else in the U.S. where there would not be waterfront restaurants every few hundred yards apart. In Buffalo, the waterfront is practically undevelopable because of past sins.
After an hour of debating we ended up eating at the Greyside Grill in West Seneca, and watched Tiger Woods on TV instead of the sunset on the lake.
My comments on Canal Side notwithstanding, it is painful that even on the most beautiful of summer evenings, we do not have a vibrant waterfront.
August 9, 2007
About every 4-6 weeks I need a sushi fix. I’m due real soon now for another foray into Japanese cuisine. Places that I know about:
Kunis To Go: Never been there. I hear it’s great. His previous restaurant (Kuni’s) was the best in WNY, I would expect nothing less from this place. He even put in the effort to create a unique web site; quality all the way.
Papaya Restaurant: Never been here either, but it’s on my to-do list.
Shogun: Palatable and especially useful at times, like New Year’s Eve, when you simply want to get something to bring home and nibble on while waiting for the ball to drop.
O: This is definitely a unique sushi bar; at least it was the last time my wife and I ate there, what with the live Salsa music playing in the background. Expensive and good.
Fuji Grill in Amherst: Ate lunch there. Excellent food and service. Don’t try the coffee.
Sakura: My favorite because of its variety. For taste, it’s probably more middle of the pack but hey, it’s in Cheektowaga and not far from anywhere.
Sea Bar: Opened in July of 2007. It’s run by Mike Andrzejewski, so it’s bound for greatness. It’s also on Main Street in Williamsville; how convenient. I will be going there for lunch any day now.
Wasabi: Never been there and had only heard of it very recently. Reviews of the place are interesting.
Wegmans: Only if you are desperate.
There are probably several other sushi places in the Buffalo area that I have not yet heard about. My near-term plans include trying them all, especially now that my wife are I are soon to be empty-nesters.
July 25, 2007
Cheektowaga is not known for its collective culinary tastes. It’s the local heartland of the fast food joint. The town where non-Pizza Hut pizza would be considered exotic food. Where there’s a twenty-minute wait at the McDonald’s drive-in. Where breakfast waitresses will ask “Want fries with that oatmeal?”
On Union Road just north of Walden Avenue sits the Sakura Japanese restaurant. It has the usual sushi items, and additionally a long list of specialty rolls. My first experience there, shortly after it opened, was okay but not great. Since then it’s become my sushi place of choice, although I’m really not sure if that’s due to convenience (it’s the closest sushi place to both work and home) or if it really stands head-to-toe with the others. Excepting the first encounter, the food there has been good enough for me to keep coming back.
Regardless, the ambiance is great (just stay away from the front door: too distracting), the service is quite fast, the variety is remarkable, and the prices are very reasonable.
Sakura is highly recommended.
An absolutely delightful Pacific Rim restaurant is the Lemon Grass in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. The owner/chef, Bob Love, has opened a few restaurants around Lake Winnipesaukee, all of which are highly praised. Lemon Grass is yet another great find and highly recommended should you be traveling to central New Hampshire. It’s well worth going out of your way for.
July 14, 2007
My wife and I went to a really good Asian-Pacific restaurant the other day. The menu was refreshingly original and we struggled to pick from the selection of entrées.
We had a great conversation with our waiter over hot spices (the more the better!) to the point where the owner got involved with finding out just how spicy we wanted our meal. The waiter proceeded to provide us a small bowl of Thai bird chiles which he suggested we use as a garnish. We eventually got an even larger bowl, as we used up the original bowl on the appetizers alone.
The chiles made a great meal even better, but here’s the kicker. After we had finished the meal the owner came by and picked up the bowl, saying something like “I need this back”.
Did he intend to reuse the leftover peppers? If so, either they are very expensive (they’re not) or his place isn’t cutting it financially. It left me a little dismayed as to why he would do this. After all, my wife and I both stuck our fingers in the bowl to pinch enough peppers to sprinkle on the food. I don’t think the Health Department would sign off on this.
I hope this isn’t a regular thing in restaurants.
June 25, 2007
Virgil’s Micro Brewed.
Decent flavor, only lightly carbonated, doesn’t burn when it goes down. I had to drink two bottles because the first one wasn’t enough.
June 17, 2007
Ronco filed for bankruptcy. According to today’s Buffalo News, Ronco just isn’t selling enough Veg-O-Matics and Ronco knives (can’t compete with Ginsu, I guess) to support the costs to manufacture and advertise them. They should’ve gotten some MySpace friends and gone after the kids who needed to buy something for mom and dad.
June 17, 2007
Dunkin’ Donuts is definitely taking over. In some parts of the Northeast there is a shop on almost every other corner. They are springing up like Baptist churches in Georgia. If you Google Dunkin Donuts Warwick, RI, for example, you’ll get maps showing 20 of them within a 2-mile radius. Starbucks still has more stores nationally, but it’s only a matter of time before the Dunk overtakes it.
Around Western New York, the Dunk’s only real competition is Tim Hortons, with Starbucks probably running third in popularity with the crowds I hang out with. Most of my acquaintances might argue about whether or not Dunk coffee is better than Hortons, but pretty much everyone agrees that Starbucks just doesn’t cut it when it comes to plain old Joe.
I understand that McDonalds also makes really good coffee. I need to make a mental note to remember to try it some day.
May 24, 2007
Stick with the local restaurants.
May 21, 2007
As if invasive species of all types weren’t bad enough, the Great Lakes are beginning to suffer through a threat of a different type.
Birth control pills. Estrogen, specifically. The average concentrations are now detectable, and even though they are typically measured in parts per trillion, the effect on fish is being seen near Detroit and other places. The synthetic estrogen in birth control pills is far more potent than naturally occurring estrogen, and with 100 million women worldwide taking the pill, our waterways are slowly being feminized. The Great Lakes basin is no exception. The effects of estrogen on male fish take time and if the pollution were to stop today, several generations of fish will come and go before the concentrations drop detectably. We eat that fish.
Estrogens and estrogen-mimics (like Atrazine and other pesticides) are a serious concern since so many people – around 5 million – eat fish caught from the lakes. The chemicals accumulate in the fatty parts of the fish, and we also accumulate them. I wonder if this is one reason guys get man-boobs.
The EPA pretty much ignores the effects of birth control pills in our waterways but does express concern for pesticides and other estrogen-mimics. I have no doubt that the EPA will do little to change this, until at least the next Administration takes over.
Very little to date has been written about the feminization of our water. Guess there are better fear-mongering topics elsewhere.
May 20, 2007
The Saigon Café patio on Elmwood is one place to be on a warm sunny day.
Not only is the Thai and Vietnamese food of excellent quality (try the caramel catfish sometime) but so is soaking up the life going by!
On Saturday I watched the skateboarders, the girl on her bike, the two buffaloes on their roofs, some kid with a hockey stick, cars beeping on Elmwood to the rhythm of the Sabres’ “Let’s Go Buffalo” chant (didn’t help), and the flurry of activity at Art Voice next door.
May 9, 2007
Every 4 to 6 weeks I get a real craving for sushi. Today is one of those days. I hear Wegmans Supermarket now has in-store sushi chefs making the stuff fresh; I might go and check that out some day.
In the meantime: Sakura in Cheektowaga is the most-convenient place for me, close to work and close to home. Despite some negative comments in this review my wife and I have never had a bad experience there. They also have a much wider variety of rolls than most places. I’m also waiting for an excuse to try Kuni’s To Go takeout before he decides to go do something else.
Most of the sushi places in Buffalo are quite good and some are great; I thing we’ve tried them all at least once. I’ve eaten sushi as far west as Honolulu and as far east as Boston, and not found any significant differences in quality – but plenty of differences in price! It’s comparatively cheap around here. I wonder how it is in Tulsa?
Not ever having been to Japan I can’t compare my experiences to the authentic, but I have no reason to believe that sushi made in the U.S. by Japanese-trained chefs would taste any different. Maybe more variety; that would be fun.
Far too many people cringe at the idea of eating raw fish. These are probably the same people who insist and having steaks prepared well-done. They have no idea what they are missing.
That’s okay. More for me.
May 7, 2007
Coca-Cola used to be made in the U.S. with cane sugar. 25 years ago the agriculture sector successfully lobbied to keep imported sugar tariffs high and corn prices subsidized, which created such a price difference between cane sugar and corn syrup that bottlers gladly switched to formulas containing high fructose corn syrup exclusively. “New Coke” was, in part, created to get us to buy into the switch. After New Coke failed to gain much market share, classic Coke was brought back re-formulated with corn syrup. Classic Coke is, therefore, not classic Coke – that’s a myth. Today’s Coke is a product that tastes slightly off, like almost all other carbonated beverages. And I thought it was just my taste buds changing with age.
Bring on the Mexicans.
Mexican immigrants noticed the difference between Coke in the U.S. and the Coke they drank in their homeland. It’s now become a bit of an underground effort to get Mexican Coke into the U.S. There’s nothing illegal about doing this but Coke doesn’t like it and refuses to change their marketing practices to provide a better-tasting product to the U.S. consumer. In other parts of the globe Coke has a poor reputation for other, much worse, reasons.
I would have thought that despite its near-monopoly, Coca-Cola would do whatever it took to make its product even more popular in the U.S. But like Microsoft and other near-monopolies, product quality is not generally a very high priority; why bother when there’s barely any competition? Profit is far and above the overriding concern, to the point where in some cases, business ethics may be compromised.
It’s always amazing how in many different ways the greed factor affects our lives.
May 6, 2007
I have to put in a plug for Jasmine on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst. Great Thai food at reasonable prices. I ordered the Tofu Panang. Now my wife thinks I’m on a tofu craze; she said she didn’t know I liked tofu so much. Funny, I don’t like it any more or any less than I did before I ate at Jasmine.
But I did eat the leftovers a few hours later at home.
Ambiance and food are both wonderful. The company was good, too. 5 stars.