Posts Tagged restaurant

NoVACon 2011 Recap

I finally took the time to go through the photos from my trip to D.C. for NoVACon and post them to my Albums site. I had a great trip and was happy to finally meet Cissa and Metalmom, as well as getting to hang out with Rachel, Bellaventa, Bubblewench, BlondeBlogger, Shiny, Poppy and Dawg again. Plus, several non-bloggers who were somehow still able to attend. I kid, it was great to meet them as well!

After my late arrival Friday night, I went into the city and met up with Cissa and her minions (aka kids) to watch the Cherry Blossom parade. We were eventually joined by her friend Courtney in time to watch an engine fire break out on one of the (under-powered) tow vehicles in the parade.

After a 30-minute delay for the fire, we watched the parade for a bit longer until we decided to head to the nearby Japanese Street Festival. We got some lunch there and Shiny met up with us to tour the festival for a while.

Eventually, we all went our separate ways and did our own things until the official meet-up in the evening. I accompanied Cissa and her kids on a quick tour of a couple of the exhibits at the American History Museum. Then, I walked around D.C. for a bit before heading to my (new) hotel to get ready for dinner.

Not Cherry Blossoms

As it happens, several of the other attendees were staying at the same hotel, so we got together before dinner and had a blast.

Eventually, it was time for dinner and we made our way to Otani Japanese Steakhouse where we met up with the rest of the attendees and had fun with fire. The group-agreed highlight of the event was when Wayne almost magically converted from a video image via Skype to an in-person appearance! Surprise! I’d been hiding Wayne’s presence in town until this moment.

Fire Demon - Not Wayne!

Back at the hotel after dinner the fun continued, though occasionally tempered (Think of the children!). A short rest later, much of the group met of for a last hurrah at the local Silver Diner for a late breakfast. Most of the remaining group headed home after breakfast; all good things must end, after all.

I, however, wasn’t headed home just yet. Instead, I accompanied Cissa and her kids to the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival on the National Mall. There, we met up with more of Cissa’s friends along with Shiny and his family. While I was walking around the festival taking pictures, a group of four international college kids asked me to take their picture in front of the Washington Monument. Without “any annoying kites”. With my camera. They were in high spirits and I can only assume it was some sort of prank, but I was happy to play along. I took a few shots including one I particularly liked, so I showed it to them. This resulted in a request to use their camera to take the same shot, which I gladly did. I have no idea what the point of the prank was.

As always, I’m already ready for another trip!

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Spring Break Ski Trip

We spent Spring Break skiing Copper Mountain with Travis and his two sons. Despite some minor injuries, we had a great time. Read on for my summary, journal-style. Also, in case my account is too long and boring to get through, I’ll point out that there’s a pretty cool 90-second video at the end of the post. Read the rest of this entry »

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BK Stuffed Steakhouse

Based on the appeal of a coupon (with a picture), and possibly a TV ad, I decided to try Burger King’s new BK Stuffed Steakhouse for lunch yesterday. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, apart from 600 calories (not counting the onion rings and sauce that I also had – yikes!).

Here’s how Burger King describes it:

When you take a flame-broiled patty, stuff it with jalapeños and cheddar cheese on the inside, top it with spicy poblano sauce, ripe tomato and crisp iceberg lettuce, and put it all inside a toasted, corn-dusted bun … well, you’ve got yourself a fire hazard. What we’re saying is we had to get the fire marshal’s permission to sell this thing.

Here’s how I describe it:

Yum!

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Roaring Fork

I’m sitting in my car watching Bridget Jones’s Diary on my iPad waiting for the buzz from my last margarita to wear off. I just finished enjoying a nice happy hour at The Roaring Fork.

I’m writing this post to praise the Green Chile Pork Stew, which is, in a word, delightful. Spicy and savory, it is served with flour tortillas and I eat it as fajitas. Yum! Happy Hour price is $6 (normally $10) and a portion fills all six tortillas that are served with it.

As the stew was shared among three people, I also had the Tortilla Soup. I was happy to discover that they serve it by pouring the base of the soup over the chicken, avocado, etc. at the table. The soup was also delicious, though I was a flight of three 2-ounce margaritas in at that point, plus a portion of a full-size one, so my opinion could have been slightly suspect. 🙂 Once I have a slight buzz, I think I tend to really enjoy food.

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New Burger: Elevation Burger

elevation-burgerI happened to notice a new burger place the other day and decided to give it a try today. I’d never heard of Elevation Burger before, and a little post-lunch research reveals why. They’ve only been in the franchise business since last year and this is their first location that’s not in Virginia or Maryland.

The claim-to-fame of this chain (sorry!) is their organic, grass-fed beef. They also use olive oil to cook their fries and offer two types of veggie burgers. My understanding is that grass-fed beef is less greasy than traditional (well, traditional these days) corn-fed beef.

Upon entering, I was happy to discover that this is one of the apparently trendy burger places where there is a long list of available free toppings. I really like this style as I like to have a bunch of toppings on my burger. For this test, I chose pretty much what I’ve been getting at Five Guys lately, except that sauteed mushrooms were not offered, nor was any hot sauce. Jalapenos were not on the list, but were offered to me and brought out separately.

They also have shakes and malts, with a choice of ingredients that can be added. Depsite the inevitable impact on my diet, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a vanilla shake blended with fresh strawberries. Because of this, I skipped the fries on this visit, though I did try a few of my lunchmate’s fries. I thought there were good and reminded me of old-style McDonald’s fries, though fresher and with less salt.

The burger itself? Quite tatsy. I definitely enjoyed it more than Mooyah, but probably not as much as Five Guys. It certainly seemed like I was eating a healthier burger, though I was unable to find any nutritional information, so I’m not really sure. As with Mooyah, I would credit the toppings more than the burger, but I did try a plain bite of meat and found that it actually had a pretty good flavor.

I really liked the fresh strawberry taste of the shake, but I found it overall to be not very satisfying. I’m hopeful that that’s an indication that the 16 oz. is at least slightly on the lower side calorie-wise. I doubt I’ll get a shake again — certainly next time I’m more likely to get fries.

I’ll definitely try Elevation Burger again some time, and it’s quite a bit closer to work than my still-favorite, Five Guys. Although, Five Guys’ web site indicates that a new location is coming soon, very close to where Elevation Burger is.

Elevation Burger on Urbanspoon

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New Burger: Freddy’s Frozen Custard

freddylogoBased on a recommendation from my father, I stopped by the new-to-our-area Freddy’s Frozen Custard to try their burger. I had the Single Steakburger without cheese (still watching my calories). Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. To my surprise, however, it was quite tasty.

I wasn’t in the mood for ice cream at the time, so I didn’t try their Concrete. Plus, the 651 calories advertised on their web site for their Mini Heath Concrete scared me away. Not much “Mini” about that! I will need to try it at some point so that I can add it to my mix-in-ice-cream spectrum, formerly topped by Dairy Queen’s Blizzard until surpassed by Wally’s Wallybanger (local place). Not sure when that will be, as there aren’t many days when I have as many available calories as I did that day, having done 20 miles cycling beforehand. Oh, well.

Anyway, back to the burger. The key to its taste was that the meat patty itself was very good. The rest of the ingredients were fresh and good as well, but it’s the meat that sold the burger. This is in stark contrast to my experience at Mooyah. I wouldn’t put Freddy’s on the same level as Five Guys, but then, Five Guys doesn’t have ice cream….

Freddy's Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

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Mooyah

logo-mooyahI finally got around to making a return visit to the Mooyah Burgers that recently opened in our area. I had been there once, but honestly couldn’t remember what I thought. Plus, it was before my first visit to Five Guys. Along with the local Mighty Fine Burgers (owned by the wonderful Rudy’s “Country Store” and Bar-B-Q), these are apparently fairly direct copies of In-N-Out Burger, though I’ve never been to one of those and none of these have drive-thrus.

Anyway, based on the lack of a memorable first visit, I didn’t have high hopes, but the Mooyah is so much closer to work than the Five Guys, I felt that I needed to make a more direct comparison. Like Five Guys, there is a large list of free toppings from which you can choose (with bacon and cheese being the only extras with a price). I was able to order the same toppings I generally get at Five Guys, so it would be a pretty direct comparison.

The result? Well, the bun is good, the topping fresh and tasty and the fries are fine. But the burger just didn’t quite do it for me. I tasted a bit of the patty alone and confirmed that the problem was there. It was bland. It tasted exactly like the ground beef I fry at home for spaghetti sauce, before adding any seasonings.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say that I disliked the burger, just that I wasn’t impressed with it. Also, they offer A1 in their topping list, which could make a huge difference. Five Guys is a long way to drive for lunch, so if I’m eating with others that want a not-quite-fast-food burger, I’d be happy to try Mooyah again with some A1 sauce.

On the other hand, I see from their web site that Five Guys is opening another location that is much closer to my office. Happy, happy, joy, joy! 🙂

Mooyah Burgers and Fries on UrbanspoonFive Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

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Helpful Calorie Information – Red Robin, Quiznos and Wendy’s

I just want to highlight a set of blog entries I found at Counting Calories where the interactive nutrition information from a few chain restaurant web sites have been compiled into lists so that they can be more easily perused to find good choices.

Red Robin

Quiznos

Wendy’s

The Red Robin data is particularly useful to me as the original web site uses Flash and therefore doesn’t work on the iPhone.

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Fast Food Diet

OK, two ostensibly weight-loss related posts in a row. But the previous one was just humor whereas this one is at least a bit serious. About five years ago, a friend and I lost a good amount of weight by, for the most part, simply tracking the calories that we ate. Obviously, we had to actually reduce the calories as well, but tracking them made that very easy. Notably, I also switched from regular to diet soda at that time. I went from a high of maybe as high as 240 down to about 170.

The thing about tracking calories is that it makes you want to eat meals where you know what the calories are. Conveniently, almost all fast food chains publish the caloric content of their foods. Therefore, I found that I would actually eat more fast food rather than less while on this diet. Of course, in many cases this was in lieu of equally unhealthy comfort food from other, non-fast-food chains like Chili’s (I love Chili’s).

Well, in the intervening five years I had slowly gained about 25 pounds back (which isn’t too bad, I think), and I’ve decided it’s time to get serious again. I used to track calories with a couple of different programs for Palm, but not that I’ve moved to the iPhone I needed a new program. I’ve settled on the free app, Lose It!.

The database doesn’t seem quite as extensive as I’d like, but the interface is pretty nice. I’ve created custom foods and recipes (collections of foods) and you can reuse previous meals. One feature I’d like would be to create hierarchies of custom foods — this was something that I wanted in the Palm apps as well.

One big difference between now and then is that now I am addicted to breakfast tacos. Thus, instead of a breakfast of < 200 calories, I end up with a breakfast of 300-500 calories. I've considered giving this up, but it's one of the highlights of my day so I've decided to make sacrifices elsewhere. Sometimes, like yesterday, that ends up being that I skip dinner and go to bed hungry. Actually, going to bed a bit hungry was a hallmark of my diet the previous time and is usually a good indicator that I'm going to weigh less the next day.

One thing that using calorie tracking as a diet definitely drives home is that the reason to exercise is less directly about losing weight and much more about allowing you to eat more. 🙂 Which reminds me, I really need to start riding my bike to work again. Tomorrow should be a good day for that, I think. Oops, I have an 8am meeting, so perhaps not….

I wonder what's for lunch today. Whataburger? Jack-in-the-Box? Or maybe it's a Chili's day after all. Breakfast was 428 calories out of my 1554 budget for today, so I need to try to keep lunch fairly small.

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Mardi Gras

I’ve ridden in the Endymion Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans for four of the last five years. The year I skipped turned out to be the Mardi Gras immediately after Katrina, which I heard was, understandably, quite subdued. When I first went as a guest, I joined in on some existing traditions and I have continued to participate in them since then. After my second ride as a guest — in 2007 — I decided to become a member. This is actually the reason I rode last year despite the overall plan to go every other year (my spot for next year has, in fact, already been sold).

One part of these traditions is that we do not stick around for Fat Tuesday, opting instead to head home on Sunday. But we make the most of our time there, which usually starts on Thursday. I previously gave a rundown of our traditional events and I posted pictures a couple of days ago. So in this post I will instead focus on specific things that happened rather than giving an overview.

The Miconic 10 elevator system

Key card for room, with elevator instructions

Key card for room, with elevator instructions

We stayed at the Marriott New Orleans (which offered free wireless in the lobby for four hours a day, but charged $15/day for in-room wired Internet access) where we encountered the first elevators I’ve ever used that needed instructions. Instead of an “up” or “down” button there was a keypad where you entered your floor number. A letter was then displayed on the LCD to tell you which elevator to board.

Other than a moment of confusion, this isn’t too bad — unless there’s an open elevator, or even just people waiting, the first time you encounter this. What happens then is that you walk onto the elevator as normal and then get this really confused look on your face as the door is closing and you are realizing that there are no floor buttons. There are some LED screens by the door that show which floors the elevator will stop at — which most likely doesn’t include your floor.

Obviously, this happened to me, and I’m tired of writing in the third person. I got off the elevator at the first stop thinking that I this elevator just didn’t service my floor. I had yet to realize that there was a system and just figured this was an express elevator and that I needed to go back to the lobby and get on a different elevator. Conveniently, a couple came to the elevator right then and explained the system to me, so I was able to go directly to my floor. The best part was probably that the couple was older and the woman was thrilled that she got to explain technology to “a younger person.”

I’d say there are a few issues with this system, though some of these are just things that aren’t fixed by this system. An example of that is when there are more people wanting to go to a given floor (like the lobby) than will fit on an elevator. As long as the elevator is this complicated, it seems like it ought to have an additional facility for determining when an additional elevator would be needed. The other issue is that, at least to me, it gave the impression that the system was optimized for something, but not necessarily for the individual riders.

Crazy Johnnie’s

We managed to visit Crazy Johnnie’s twice on this trip. Once for lunch right after we arrived, and then again on Saturday morning for our traditional pre-parade lunch. I love this place, though I’ve had a bit of hit-or-miss results with the steak. I had the prime rib on the first visit, for the first time, and it was delicious. The Remoulade, on the other hand, is to-die-for. The atmosphere is perfect for our pre-parade gathering (around 20 people, probably).

Mother’s

mothers-signI’m surprised I didn’t mention breakfast at Mother’s in the Coronation Ball trip update, but we went again on Sunday before leaving town. I think Mother’s is a great place to go, but this year was the first time we went for breakfast. Wow, what I was missing! The Crawfish Etouffee Omelet is amazing. The Shrimp Creole Omelet is also pretty good, though not quite on the same level. One of us also had the recommended Black Ham and Swiss Omelet (and Mother’s is certainly proud of their ham, as attested to by their sign in the image at right), and found it to be nothing special.

Kid Rock

Kid Rock dancing with The Zippers at Endymion Beans & Jeans Pre-Parade Party

Kid Rock dancing with The Zippers at Endymion Beans & Jeans Pre-Parade Party

I’ve never really listened to Kid Rock — I couldn’t name a single song — but he was sure fun to watch at Beans & Jeans. We weren’t at all close to the stage the next night at the Extravaganza, and we called it a night soon after he took the stage (long day), but I did enjoy the few songs he performed while we were there. He was preceded on stage by REO Speedwagon, whom I found to not quite sound right. I presume it’s just their age affecting their voices.

Humorously — at least to me — after walking back to our hotel several of us went back down to the lobby for about an hour, mostly for Internet access. We were disappointed to find that the hotel bar was closed even though there were tons of people around. Oh, well.

People, massive numbers of people

Crowd of people along the Endymion parade route

Crowd of people along the Endymion parade route

Interior view of the Superdome at the end of the Endymion parade route

Interior view of the Superdome at the end of the Endymion parade route

Riding in a Mardi Gras parade is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Someone described it as “facing a huge, hungry bead-eating monster that is never satiated” and I would add that it clearly enjoys every bite. It’s a blast and the hours (and tens to hundreds of dozens of strings of beads, per thrower) fly by. Highly recommended.

(Clicking on most of these images will take you to a larger version in my photo album.)

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