Restaurant Review: Bimini

 

bimini

Dining Date: 3/17/16

I hadn’t had a chance to go out to eat to celebrate my new job.  As anyone who has ever moved can attest, you are just way too busy to do much of anything other than pack.  For anyone who has never moved, I highly recommend it if you living a stress free life or really looking to make your life more complicated.  During my first week in Reno, I went to a casino to watch the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.  My nominal bets were going poorly and I needed to eat, so I found a board with menus for all eight restaurants in the casino, and after 15 minutes I narrowed my choices to two – Oceano and Bimini.  seafood or a steakhouse.  Given that I couldn’t decide between the two, I wanted a surf & turf option and only Bimini, the steakhouse, offered that.

My first experience was a positive one.  They asked my last name when I asked for a table, so the waiter called me Mr. [Last Name] for the entire evening.  It was a nice touch, even if completely unnecessary.  They had a couple managers walking the floor, to ensure that the service was top-notch.  They only had one minor misstep with the service: After dinner, I ordered a coffee; when it came I went to the bathroom only to have it completely cleared when I returned – before I had taken a single sip.  The busboy was apologetic, and quickly returned with a new cup of coffee.  It is a hazard of dining as a singleton.  Other than that the service was exceptional.

The bread was not warm, but it was very clearly freshly made.  The focaccia was soft and delicious, and there was a raisin crisp that was also very good – they were served with olive oil, vinegar and parmesan cheese.  I devoured the bread – a sign that I was extremely hungry.  As a proponent of “the quality of bread is directly proportional to the quality of the restaurant,” it was a good start.

The amuse bouche was a shot of a raspberry smoothie.  It was more of a palate cleanser than an amuse, but I still found it tasty.

As discussed, I wanted surf & turf.  They had two options; I chose the 8oz Filet Mignon & 16oz. Alaskan King Crab Legs.  The Filet was fantastic – perfectly seasoned.  It came with a creamy horseradish sauce that complemented the steak well.  I asked for it to be cooked medium, but I think it was more medium rare [frankly, half the reason I order it “medium” is in case it is under cooked.]  The King Crab Legs were good, but they were lukewarm at best – I don’t know if that was a me problem, because I ate my entire Filet before cracking into the Crab Legs.

Everything is served a la carte, so if you want veggies or a side dish you need to order it separately.  A minor exception was a dish of olives that came with my meal.  I love olives, but I have no idea how they related to my surf & turf meal.  For a side, I ordered a crock pot of Mac and Cheese (with a creamy white cheddar cheese sauce and diced black forest ham).  It was everything that a mac and cheese should be.  It was topped with some crispy bread crumbs for textural contrast, the ham was top notch and “white” cheddar is cheddar as it should be not with yellow food coloring.

I was stuffed after this meal.  All the flavors were spot on.  The few minor missteps (medium rare Filet, Crab Legs were cool, clearing the coffee before I even started it) were enough to deter from a great meal – even the bill was completely reasonable considering it is an a la carte selection – sure you can spend a lot at Bimini if you try, but I have spent multiples more at other restaurants than I spent on this night.

WWYT Rating: 8.4

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Book Review: Howard’s End

Howard the duck
This is not Howard’s End

Published: 1910

Author: EM Forster

For some reason I think of Howard the Duck when I hear Howard’s End.  There is absolutely no connection between the two and there are plenty of other “Howard’s” that I can associate with, but my mind is not always logical, despite my borderline neurotic need for it to be so.

Perhaps I have grown tired of “classic” novels such as Howard’s End, because they are all starting to seem to be the same.  The last few I have read, Anna Karenina, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and now Howard’s End, I haven’t liked.  Howard’s End is about two poor little rich girls, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, who sit around all day living off their daddy’s money, even long after he dies.  Basically, it is a story about the Hilton sisters (though I got the impression that the Schlegel’s aren’t that rich).

The conflict isn’t very strong, the plot seems to be centered upon the house, Howard’s End.  However, the house makes very little appearance in the novel.  It is alluded to several times in the book that the house is more a living thing than inanimate object.  This would be great if Forster ever followed up on this line, instead of just telling us.

The main male character is a sexist, elitist, jerk and somehow these are good qualities to Margaret, because she ends up marrying him.  I can tolerate the sexism, because that is the way it was, but it was the very “rightness” of that sexism that the novel conveyed that bothered me.  For example, women’s suffrage was a hot topic for the characters; the men just dismissed it without a good reason.  The women accepted this and to make it worse, suggested that if a woman can’t convince her husband to vote her way then she doesn’t deserve a vote anyway.  Which is offensive to everyone involved.

I’m sure Howard’s End has its positive notes, and I am just dulled by the repetitive plot of the “classics.”  The sexism is just a product of the times that it was published.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Which is good, because I don’t like it at all.

WWYT Rating: 3.0

Goodreads Rating: 3.94/5

Restaurant Review: South Creek Pizza Co.

SouthCreek_Logo_Square_For_Social_Media-e1442606026121

 

Dined: 3/13/16

I have moved to Reno and for my first official dining experience I was a cliché and ate pizza.  [Technically I went out to eat when I was here for the interview, but unless you want a review of my interview answers, you won’t get a review of the meal.]  This wasn’t your normal Domino’s delivery, South Creek Pizza Co. is more of a gourmet pizza pub.

The free appetizer on the table was “CeCi” Chickpeas with EVOO, Parmesan, Onion, Basil, Cracked Pepper, and Chili Flakes.  It was different and unique and a good way to start off the evening.

I ordered the Paulie Gee pizza – Fresh Mozzarella, Hot Sopressata, Italian Sausage, Basil, Garlic, Sliced Red Onion, Sea Salt.  Finished with “Mike’s Hot Honey.”  My first bite I only caught a hint of the honey, which made it all the more intriguing.  As I ate more, the honey tended to overwhelm the rest of the ingredients (e.g. I didn’t even taste the fresh mozzarella).  The honey was good, but it oddly had me craving more spice (despite the sopressata, sausage, red chili flakes and being “hot honey” it needed more spice – though I like my food spicy).  [I had to look up sopressata from the Google search it looked like salami, but the taste (when not overwhelmed by the honey), was closer in my mind to a prosciutto (though not as salty).  It was served on flat bread – it wasn’t as dough-y as a regular crust, which is a good thing in my mind, though I think the flat bread could have been even better (maybe a bit more butter if there was any at all).

I got an amber ale to wash it all down.  It’s a bit hoppier than I prefer and with the sweeter pizza, it didn’t actually go that well together (bitter and sweet).

South Creek Pizza Co. is a bit pricier than delivery pizza, but it also has more unique pizza options that are much more flavorful.  The pizza I ate was a bit out of balance, but I could clearly tell the difference between the ingredients on this pizza and those from a more “traditional” pizza place.  I would definitely eat there again, just not once a week.

WWYT Rating: 7.4

 

Bracketology: 2016

bracketologyThis isn’t like other Bracketology sites.  They all like to brag that they got 64/65 or some such number.  This is false.  They are literally given 29 through automatic bids.  There are only 36 at-large bids, and most of those are pretty obvious, regardless of who wins tomorrow between Michigan State or Purdue, the loser will still go on.  Getting that pick correct is hardly worthy of adulation.  It really comes down to getting the 5 or so truly open spots remaining so missing one is more egregious.

This one is what the tournament field should look like, not what it will look like.  This is how the field would look if I were in charge.  I have made certain assumptions since all the conference championships haven’t completed yet, and they will end very late tonight and I have an early flight.

First, my criteria:

Div-I wins:  It should be obvious, but the more you win, the more likely you are in the field.  But only D-I wins count.  D-II doesn’t mean didly.

Top 25 Wins: Some wins mean more than others, if you beat top 25 teams that means you are capable of beating anyone.

Top 50 Wins: Same as above, but a closer comparison to your peer group if you want to get in.

Top 100 Wins: Good solid wins.  Wins you should have if you want to get in.

Bad Losses: Don’t lose to teams below RPI 100

Last 10: This is no longer used by the committee, but I think you want a team playing well coming in.  It is a small weight though.

Road/Neutral Wins: The tournament isn’t played on your home court.  Teams that perform on the road or on neutral sites should be rewarded.

Computer Average: Wins and losses are all well and good, but sometimes it really is how you play the game.  I take an average of several computer rankings.

So here we go:

1s – Kansas, Virginia, Oregon*, MSU*

2s – Villanova, Oklahoma, West Virginia, North Carolina

3s – Utah, Xavier, Miami, Texas A&M

4s – Purdue, Duke, Arizona, Seton Hall

5s – Iowa State, California, Indiana, Kentucky

6s – Texas, Maryland, Baylor, Iowa

7s – St Joseph’s, Gonzaga, UConn, Notre Dame

8s – Dayton, Wichita St, VCU, St Mary’s

9s – Cincinnati, Providence, Colorado, Wisconsin

10s – Michigan, Texas Tech, Butler, San Diego St.

11s – USC, Florida, Vanderbilt, Valpraiso, Pitt, Arkansas Little Rock/Louisiana Monroe (probably a 15 if they won)

12s – Yale, Stephen F Austin, Hawaii/Long Beach St (probably a 14 if they won), Chattanooga

13s – South Dakota St, UNC Wilmington, Northern Iowa, Iona

14s – Stony Brook, Fresno St, New Mexico St./Cal St. Bakersfield, Middle Tennessee St

15s – Weber St./Montana, Buffalo, UNC Asheville, Hampton

16s – Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast, Austin Peay, Southern U., Fairleigh Dickinson, Holy Cross

Last 4 IN – Pittsburgh, Valparaiso, Vanderbilt, Florida

Last 4 OUT – Syracuse, South Carolina, Monmouth, Oregon St.

Let’s take a look at some of the big differences (>2 seed lines) in my bracket versus the projected bracket.

Seton Hall (4 vs. ~7)– They just won the Big East Tournament.  25 wins, plus 12 road and neutral wins is a favorable comparison to other teams on the 4 line

Gonzaga (7 vs ~11)—Won their conference tournament.  Have a great computer average relative to their peers and huge 14 road/neutral wins (2nd most in the country)

UConn (7 vs. ~11) – Have a very good computer average and 23 wins.

Michigan (10 vs. 1st 4 out) – First, I am a Michigan grad and fan.  Those that have them out, point to having only 4 Top 100 wins, but with a closer look you see that all 4 are top 25 wins (only 7 teams in the country have more) and that they only have 3 losses outside the top 40, and none of those were played at home.  They also have zero bad losses, which nearly every single team has.  However, Mark Hollis of MSU is on the selection committee and MSU would do anything to screw Michigan over.

USC (11 vs ~8) – Only 3 wins in their last 10, only 5 road and neutral wins.

Florida (11 vs OUT) – I was a little surprised about this one, but a solid computer average buoys them.

Valparaiso (11 vs OUT) – 12 road/neutral wins are better than their peers.

South Carolina (OUT vs 9) – They only have 1 Top 50 win, and 3 bad losses.  Any time you have more bad losses than really good wins, maybe you aren’t a good team.  ESPN loves them some SEC so they will pump them up any chance they get.

Oregon St (OUT vs 8) – Only 5 road and neutral wins and a poor computer average hurts them.

St Bonaventure (OUT vs 10) – Dreadful computer average.

 

Enjoy the games everyone.

Meta: Life is funny

Life is funny.  Five years ago, I was planning to leave the actuarial profession and start my own triathlon coaching business in Denver, Colorado.  I imagined that by this point in time, my business would be up and fully running with a studio and dozens of clients.  Insert any adage you want about plans and how well they usually go.  Needless to say things did not go according to plan.  I immediately discovered that it was going to be very difficult to bring in clients.  My personality does not lend itself to marketing me or my business.

Here I am five years later, and I am ready to take the next step in my career.  I am returning to the actuarial profession and moving to Reno, Nevada.  Starting March 14, I will be working for Employers Insurance – they provide workers compensation insurance to small businesses around the country.  They continue to add new states in which they do business.  I am very excited to join a growing business.  It is a smaller company than the one I used to work for, and should be a great environment for me.

Am I sad that my business didn’t work out?  A little.  Do I regret it?  Not for a single second.  During this time, I met the sweetest woman in the world and she agreed to be my wife.  So even though I didn’t make any money with my coaching business, it is still the best thing I have ever done.

Now I am sure many of you don’t care about my personal life and want to know what this means for this blog.  It means that posts will be far less frequent.  I will be shooting for one post per week.  It may be a bit less if work gets in the way, or more if I can churn out some additional reviews.  I don’t know, because life is funny.

Restaurant Review: The Berkshire

berkshire

Date reviewed: 3/5/16

Denver celebrated restaurant week from February 26 through March 6, 2016.  With an out of town guest in town, it was a great time to try a new restaurant.  It was a very complicated selection process.  I selected the restaurant based on what had reservations available that evening.  The Berkshire, by virtual of being high in the alphabetical order and having reservations available that same evening was the winner.  The Berkshire is a restaurant based on the pig and all the delicious cuts that come from the magical animal.

Since it was restaurant week, they had a prix fixe menu for $30 – One appetizer, one main course, and one dessert.  I obviously had to start with the Bacon Wrapped Bacon.  Pork Belly wrapped with bacon, served with an apple puree and arugula.  While it was good in concept there was something missing from the dish, and I can’t put my finger on exactly what was missing.  Not to say it was bad, but it is probably impossible to live up to the name of Bacon Wrapped Bacon.

For my entrée, I had Jalapeno Pork Tenderloin.  This was a better dish than the Bacon Wrapped Bacon.  The tenderloin was recommended to be cooked to medium – that was the way I had it, and the way I would recommend it as well.  The jalapeno was the perfect complement for the pork, adding spice without overpowering the tenderloin.  The cilantro rice and black beans had more flavor in it than the Bacon Wrapped Bacon.

For dessert, I had Bacon Sticky Toffee Pudding.  On the restaurant week menu, it was just labeled sticky toffee pudding (on the regular full menu it is labeled with bacon).  We wondered if people were surprised when they got the dish and it had bacon in it.  Salty and sweet is a classic combination – think salted caramel. I didn’t notice the bacon unless I got a bite of it, then it smacked me in the face.  It was a little out of balance as a result of the no-bacon/heavy-bacon bites.  Though it was definitely a better dish with the bacon.

The wine pairing recommended for the jalapeno pork was the Tempranillo from Dacu, Spain.  It was a robust red, with a spice similar to a Shiraz or a Malbec, and it did pair well with the pork dish.

It’s hard to go wrong with a restaurant centered around bacon.  The Berkshire didn’t disappoint.  It is nearly impossible to live up to the name of Bacon Wrapped Bacon, but it was still tasty and wasn’t even the best dish I had.  If you like pork of any kind, you’ll love The Berkshire

WWYT Rating: 7.95

Gayot: 13/20

Hallmark Movie Review: Appetite for Love

appetite-for-love

Aired: 2/6/16 on Hallmark Channel

In my last Hallmark review, I pointed out how much I liked how the lead fell in love with the area, then found a job she loved, then fell in love with the guy.  Appetite for Love is the exact opposite.  The lead, Mina, has a job she loves, loves living in the city, (in fact, couldn’t wait to get out of her small hometown after high school), but of course ends up there, because they always do.

Mina is named the brand manager for a new franchise restaurant, Hart’s, that her company just bought.  Hart’s is owned by her high school sweetheart, Clay, in her hometown in Tennessee.  Clay inherited the diner from his father who passed away suddenly after selling the diner to ICB (the company Mina works for.)  If you have seen a Hallmark movie before, you know where this is headed.  She butts heads with Clay at first, but eventually comes around to love him and the small town, which she hated so much at the beginning of the movie.  How long before she gets bored with it again?  A year?  Two?

The entire premise is shaky at best.  I don’t understand why the deal was made in the first place.  It makes no sense from either party’s perspective.  ICB buys this tiny diner in the middle of nowhere Tennessee – why?  Even the executives realize that the food from the franchise is terrible, and they claim people will go there for familiarity of “Americana.”  Except that the movie makes it pretty clear that this isn’t a tourist destination, so who exactly would be going to the franchise restaurant for “familiarity?”  If you aren’t going there for the food or for the atmosphere, why did they think they would get any money out of this deal?

On the other side, why did Clay’s father sell the place to a giant heartless corporation?  His son is more than willing and able to run the business, why wouldn’t he just let his son take over?  If they were struggling for cash, they could do a number of things to improve profits before selling to a company that will completely change your business model for the worse.  Frozen meat?  Lousy food?  What part of that sounds like a winning strategy, especially when you have local farm fresh ingredients available?

Appetite for Love makes little sense from a logical standpoint, and I don’t see why Mina would stay in the small town she couldn’t wait to leave as a teenager.

Rating: 5.75

Ranking: 53

48t. Banner 4th of July

48t. Love by the Book

48t. The Sweeter Side of Life

48t. Uncorked

54. Love Begins (Series of movies)