In re: No Reservations Cleveland Edition

As I mentioned earlier the TV show No Reservations had filmed last January an episode in Cleveland (also has a link to book travel to Cleveland – how exiciting!) and I was under the impression that it was going to premier in September.  I was thus pleasantly surprised to see it at the top of the list on my Tivo yesterday.  I quickly set about to watch it (and avoid unpacking from my recent trip out to Nevada/Utah).  The locales for the episode were of course already known for the most part.  The show surprisingly started with Skyline Chili, which isn’t from Cleveland, isn’t very prevalent around town (Michael Ruhlman who invited Tony to come had never been)  Tony Bourdain had already known and had the famous Cincy chili (if you’ve never had its not like the chili you may be thinking of, this chili has no beans, no tomatoes (brown colored sauce, hint of cinnamon). 

 While Ruhlman railed against the strange dish (most commonly served as a 3 way (on spaghetti with cheese) although I get a five way with beans and onions, Bourdain was quite happy with himself and would use future meals at the place as a threat to Ruhlman.  The Skyline that they went to is out in Lyndhurt on Mayfield road and Rulhman correctly points out that Tony had brought him to one of the more soulless places in Cleveland (actually Mayfield road reminds me of the current development style as seen in much of Las Vegas, Orlando, generic suburbs around the country.  The difference is that Mayfield reflects ‘bands’ of ethnic arrival and age, as Mayfield in Cleveland Heights is quite different then Mayfield and S.O.M. )

 Anyway, putting Skyline behind them, Tony gets to meet Harvey Pekar, Tobby (who you know if you’ve seen American Splendor) who take him on a brief tour of Cleveland, ending for lunch at Sokolowski’s for some Eastern European fare.  As I mentioned before Tony gets an indepth taste of the creations of the Sausage Shop, and then a tour of the Rock Hall with Marky Ramone (Bourdain is correct that there is something strange about a museum to Rock and Roll, especially one with no bar and no smoking). 

 Ramone and Bourdain then dine at Lola, downtown, and is treated to an abundance of heavy food that Ramone has no problem polishing off.  One of the more interesting dishes I hadn’t known of (all were referencing Cleveland) was a foie gras bratwurst that came with a Great Lakes beer cheese soup and some stadium mustard.  A famous dish of Lola that they also enjoyed was a beef cheek pierogi.   Later, with chef Michael Symon (of Lola) Tony visits Hot Sauce Williams, where they order up all kinds of stuff and experience what happens when Southern Soul Food, mixes with a city full of Eastern Europeans.

The final meal on the show is one made by Bourdain and Ruhlman, who get to show off their respective skills (Ruhlman from his Charcuterie publishing fame, and Tony making cassoulet) both featuring a high pork that they butchered. 

Overall verdict of all this?  Well, I love to see anything on Cleveland and applaud Ruhlman for getting some attention on the city that he loves.  As the show points out Cleveland is authentic and has a treasure trove of things that even big cities would be jealous of (as Tony points out on their trip to the West Side Market).  Still the episode has some flaws (its not a film and I don’t mean to dissect it so much) but the faux feud between Ruhlman and Bourdain isn’t that entertaining and the fake drag racing scene (yeah you heard me right) also is pretty stupid and didn’t add much, could have snuck in something more interesting in that time.  Minor complaints, recommend you check it out on one of its inevitable replays.

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In re: AT&T DSL customer service fun…

After my time spent with many AT&T customer services folks I became pretty annoyed and penned this up.  This all stemmed from stopping voice service with AT&T and switching to ‘no voice’ or dry loop service, something they didn’t really make me aware of (apparently AT&T denies people want so called naked service and doesn’t mention it – see Techdirt post and SF Gate Article) but when I found out about wanted to switch.  The process wasn’t so simple and in the end there were countless calls and days waiting for a fix (my DSL had worked for the 3 years prior).  Anyway this is based on my recent dealings with AT&T online services, whose phone personel are generall both incompetent and very polite (they read a script though which makes calls 3, 4 and 5 sound very phony.  Further agrevating is their horrible interactive phone system that ‘tries’ to help you but really just delays you from doing anything. 

 I tried to find an email address to send a complaint but they don’t list one and instead make one fill out a web form and limit your characters.  So instead I’ll post what I was going to send them here, so you can enjoy it.

 “AT&T DSL/No Voice – A heroes journey sans a hero.”

To Whom It May Concern:

My experience with AT&T residential has truly been one of the worst
customer and customer service experiences I have had with any product
of service.  To begin with, this whole series of interactions with
your company began with a phone call to your sales department
regarding package pricing since I had voice, data and cell packages,
the savings they offered me were to increase the price $10, but the
whole point of my call was to see if I could lower the price (I only
had the voice, 15 metered calls a month, in order to have the DSL
line)  The representative didn’t understand this very clearly, but
eventually mentioned that I could have no voice and just DSL, which
was exactly what I was looking for as I use my AT&T cell phone for all
calls.  She told me that it would take about a week to drop the voice
and then I would only have data.  At no point did she allude in any
fashion to the process I would need to go through.

A few days following this I received a letter that looked like more
marketing, but opened it a few days later to see a listing of
equipment, installation costs and the like (mind you I have had your
high speed modem for over 3 years at this point) so this seemed like a
big mistake, this letter stated that I was starting new service, not
just ‘dropping voice’ as the sales rep had explained to me.  So I made
another call and after punching in keys in your phone system, I
finally talked to a rep who explained the letter was sent to everyone
and that it wouldn’t apply – there was no explanation of why you
couldn’t customize the letter to tell me I wasn’t being billed for all
these pieces of equipment.  I was assured all was fine.  (oh how n>aïve I was…)

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In re: Is it wrong to customize?

Some restaurants make it abundantly clear that there are ‘no substitutions’ other restaurants make it the reverse, that they are willing to whip up anything you want.  Is it wrong to go to a restaurant and order something that isn’t on the menu?  I have two modes of thinking  on this, one is that at a restaurant you are putting yourself in the chefs hands and you are paying for his creations, not just something you envision.  On the other hand, why not?  Why not have them make something you prefer.

Then you get strange situations, years ago up in Cleveland I was at Hyde Park Steakhouse and a lady basically had them bring her salad ingredients so she could make her salad exactly the way she wanted.  I thought this was a strange way to go about your dining.

Advance to recently and my dealings at Chinese restaurants who are usually pretty adept and customizing their dishes (since most times its quick cooking and not combined yet you could get them to do almost anything I found).  As someone who was looking to get General Tso’s sauce on almost anything, but not wanting the deep fried dish itself I would ask places either for some of the sauce, or to put it on non-fried chicken.  Yau’s Chinese Bistro (just south of the gateway stuff and campus on high street) is more than happy to add veggies, and my tso sauce on the side to fried rice, which became a staple during bar studying for me.

On the other hand, Tai’s Asian Bistro (why are these all bistros now?) was very firm about their inability to customize, and wouldn’t make me an orange chicken dish using non fried chicken (they do have non fried chicken for other dishes).  Still Tai’s is pretty good, they have way too many fried dishes on the menu, but their noodle dishes were pretty good and they have a salad that while not my General Tso’s salad, is a Chinese salad of that direction.

In re: On the 8th day he created the iPhone

Okay, so maybe the iPhone is not so perfect that it has some kind of godly origin, but I have been so impressed by the iPhone I decided that I could no longer live without one.  The iPhone has plenty of limitations right now (hopefully many are addressed by future software updates) but the many things it does amazingly well, so much so that it is head and shoulders above any phone I’ve seen or used before.  (My previous phone the Nokia N80 actually has pretty much all the functions of the iPhone, web, email, WIFI, music player, video, but the usefulness of these functions and the ease of use makes for no comparison) 

A few of the iPhones features that may not go with mainstream notice but I have come to love are the dedicated silent mode / ringer mode switch that without needing to come out of hibernate shows you whether you are silent (most phones require at least a few keystrokes or opening the phone), the navigation of contacts, music or anything else by ‘flicking’ your finger is so easy and intuitive that it is amazing to use.   Viewing photos on the amazing screen, and zooming and moving with simple motions of your fingers is also truly amazing. 

One thing that I feel a lot of people didn’t know about, or at least I didn’t, that has proved quite useful is the iPhones ability to dock w/ more than one computer.  This has limitations, as you can’t sync music with more than one computer for example (piracy issues I would think) , or contacts with more than one computer, but you can sync your music on your home computer and your calendar and contacts on your work computer with no problem.  (Video on Macworld showing this in action) 

The last thing I will mention I was truly impressed with is the headphones it comes with, they are simple, standard white iPod headphones, that also feature a tiny mic on one cord.  If you pinch the mic it answers the phone, or pauses your music or two presses skip to the next track.  While its simple and offers only those few controls it is really great while walking the dog, listening to music and being able to grab your calls with no hassle.  Of course one may not truly be so connected, but then the iPhone might not be for you.

 Of course the iPhone has flaws, no cut and paste is one, of course the much hearlded 3G lacking is another, but I think the lack of a dedicated keyboard isn’t as bad as folks made it out, as your speed improves quickly on it.  If the iphone gets push email (true push) later it may intrude into some Blackberry or Treo users.   The battery (non removable) and screen (smudging)  are both issues that have also been brought up a lot,  and I have discussed earlier. 

In re: Friendliness does not pay (an update on the tipping debate)

So you may remember the In re: blog tipping debate.  Well if your interested in the subject (I always think its a really strange system, tipping wait staff that is)  Anyway, I was listening to This American Life (an great radio show on PRI)  episode #245 ‘The allure of the mean friend’ where in segment number 2 they go undercover to conduct a non scientific experiment to find out if being ‘less friendly’ brings in better tips.  You may be surprised to know that almost always the waitress received a higher tip for being less friendly (one instance was with a guy who always tipped 15%, but after being not ‘nice’ to him she got over 20%). 

In re: Oh those overstated copyrights

If you’ve ever watch practically any major sporting even you are probably aware of those little breaks where they mention that ‘this broadcast and any descriptions may not be used without the express authority of the commissioner…’ or something of that nature.  Without really thinking about it people may somehow think that wow, these sports control a whole lot.  In reality they are grossly misstating what their copyright entitles them too and now Google and Microsoft among others (a trade group they are in is actually the entity) have decided to file a complaint with the FTC on this topic.

The complaint alleges “a nationwide pattern of unfair and deceptive trade practices by misrepresenting consumer rights under copyright law.”

What anyone with even a brief intro into copyright law knows is that a copyright does not give one exclusive dominion over their publication or work.  Other users are allowed ‘fair use’ a vague and shifting amount depending on the work and the usage.  Essentially what the NFL or MLB are telling you that you can’t do anything with their work, but really you can, you can use it to criticize it or critique it, you may use it in a derivative work and you may make any ‘fair use’ of it, usually meaning some small portion.  See more on this at BetaNews and Defendfairuse.org

In re: Cilantro sauce, inspired by El Arepazo

If you work in downtown Columbus, you hopefully already know and frequently visit El Arepazo for lunch in Pearl Alley, the Venezuelan restaurant that puts out really good Arepas, as well as other Latin food.  One of the things that ijt seems so many of us know about the place is that anything they make is good covered in their cilantro hot sauce.  The sauce comes with everything in a little side cup and is pale green in color and is so good I could drink it (seriously).

Last night I grilled up in advance some skirt steak and chicken for a little taco night I am hosting tonight at my place.  I decided to whip up my own stab at this sauce.  While I didn’t really know what was in it, my guess was that it had some mayo or sour-cream as its base, or maybe both.  So just throwing some stuff in I came up with a recipe that I thought was really good and was from my memory at least really similar to the sauce they have at El Arepazo (don’t worry I’ll still be going for lunch, even with the sauce now at home!)

In my Cuisinart mini-prep I put in a whole bunch of cilantro (well actually not the whole bunch, but almost an entire large bunch of cilantro, this sauce uses much more then I  expected) then I put in a clove of smashed garlic, salt, pepper, Tabasco jalapeno sauce (their green version) a little lime juice, mayonnaise and sour cream in about equal proportions and then, while possibly not in theirs I threw in some basil from my front porch (there is so much out there now I gotta put it in everything).  I ran the chopper for a while to get it all nicely blended and presto, a pretty good cilantro sauce ready for tacos (or drinking).

For more on El Arepazo if your interested (and some photos of Arepas, mmm)  check out a blog post on Restaurant Widow: El Arepazo.