fighting the lack of good ideas

burger king “coffee” isn’t

I went through a Burger King drive-thru recently on my way to a customer office to get a drink. It being relatively early in the day, I thought getting a coffee would be a Good Ideaâ„¢.

It was not.

It was bad. Really bad.

It was coffee-colored and -scented hot water.

I cannot recall the last time I had something so mislabeled sold to me.

char steakhouse, raritan nj

I got taken out (along with several other people) recently to Char Steakhouse in Raritan NJ.

The food was nice, and the service was decent – but for $50+ per person, it should be AMAZING. And it wasn’t.

There was nothing wrong with the food, and indeed the sides were several steps above a Logan’s or Outback … but the steaks were no better. Which is sad.

If someone else is paying, though, it’s an ok place to go.

gardening efficiently – for fun and profit

I have gardened off and on for most of my life. Back in the 1980s, there was a show called “Square Foot Gardening” on PBS hosted by Mel Bartholomew. Now there is a website. When we lived in Albany, we purchased the book Square Foot Gardening (which has been updated and simplified even further by Mel Bartholomew in the intervening years, and is now titled All New Square Foot Gardening (I reviewed SFG a while back)). I also own a copy of the companion text, CA$H from Square Foot Gardening – though I never put any of the suggestions into practice for personal money-making.

In college, I took a course on the culture of food, and my term paper was entitled, “Eating off the Grid” (intro page and associated diagrams). The basic premise of the paper was that an efficiently-designed, efficiently-grown, and strategically-planned small garden can provide for individuals, families, or even whole neighborhoods – all with minimal up-front investment, and reduced on-going care cost and effort.

With a recent rise on the popularity of “locavore” eating, and the relative increase in observed popularity of canning, farmer’s markets, etc, it seems that for many people, growing at least some of their own food should be a “no brainer”.

My wife and I have had a small (6×6) garden in our backyard for a couple years. Out of that space, we [typically] get not only a substantially better harvest than her dad does using a 50×100 plot in “garden farming” (aka, the “traditional” method of gardening, wherein folks try to grow miniaturized farms instead of scaling-up window gardens) – just a small example, the dozen or so hand melon vines he had took 1/4 of the total ground space of his garden … which is nuts!

I love making salsa, for example – this past summer out of just 4 plants, I got 4x more serrano peppers than I could use … and I can use a lot of serrano peppers 🙂

The basics of SFG are easy – build a 4’x4′ box at least 6″ deep (full plans and kits are available in the books and on the website – or you can see the end of the paper I wrote). The soil mix is also easy – peat moss, compost (which you will be able to create on your own going forward once you start gardening, if you have a small space in the back part of your yard), and vermiculite. Everything is organic, and because the individual plots are so small, keeping-up with weeds is a cinch.

I’m not going to replicate everything in the books here – they’re just too chock-full to do full justice in a blog post, and they’re so accessible without being condescending, that I can’t give a higher recommendation to read and own them.

replace the restaturant buzzer

Somebody needs to replace the ubiquitous restaurant buzzer with either an SMS- or smartphone-based tool: when you put your name on the waiting list, you give them your phone number.

When your table is ready, they can buzz your phone.

Fewer moving parts for the restaurant. Fewer chances to lose stuff. Less crap to carry if you’re a customer.

And if you don’t have a phone anywhere in your party? Well, those few folks can get a buzzer.

bagel [thin] burgers

Several years ago I had the good fortune to have a burger paired with cream cheese on a rye bun.

And a few years later I had a burger on a bagel. I’ve also enjoyed bagels on Arnold sandwich thins.

Combining the best of both of these ideas, try bagel burgers (or on bagel thins) – with cream cheese.

Grill your burger to desired doneness while lightly toasting your bagel [thin].

Apply cream cheese to bagel and add your freshly-grilled burger.


Of course, other favorite condiments and pairings could be added Рbacon, mushrooms, jalape̱o coins, etc.

creamy, cheesy baked potatoes

I don’t like sour cream (not when I know it’s there, at least).

However, I do like creamy baked potatoes.

And I like cheesy baked potatoes.

My solution?

Cream cheese instead of sour cream!


  • bake potato(es) to desired doneness
  • split in “Wendy’s” fashion (perforate with a fork, and squeeze the ends perpendicular to the perforations)
  • dollop whipped cream cheese into opening
  • mix in
  • add bacon bits, other cheese, chives, etc to taste

The cream cheese also does a good job of substituting for any butter you might otherwise have planned to add to the potato.

Be sure the cream cheese is of the whipped variety – solid cream cheese takes too long to mix in 🙂

1401 argentinean bistro


It’s truly that good.

This week I was working in Fort Lauderdale. It’s been over 4 years since I was last in the area, and I’ve always wanted to visit Miami – at least once.

As I am wont to do, I checked-out OpenTable to see what interesting food places were available. One of them was 1401 Argentinean Bistro. It’s a fusion restaurant selling Argentinian food with Italian influences (the owner/chef’s dual heritages).

I went with a coworker and the customer contact with whom we were working. We all ordered the skirt steak, and LOVED it!

Our waiter was the chef, Fabio Pizelman: he enjoys tending tables 2-3 nights a week to get a better feel for what his customers like, don’t like, want, etc. We arrived late enough Tuesday that we were [effectively] the only customers. So I do realize that our service was perhaps slightly more attentive than it may be when the place is packed, but it was still a phenomenal place to eat.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we ended up leaving work late, and had to move our reservation a couple times – but that worked to our advantage in that we had the place to ourselves.

The outdoor seating was excellent on the balmy fall evening, and we decided by the end of the rolls that we had to go back.

While waiting on our entrees to arrive, I rebooked us for Wednesday – when we planned to sample the non-steak portions of Chef Fabio’s menu.

Due to some more unforeseen (and unavoidable delays), we had to no-show Wednesday – but Thursday was our night.

Alas! Senor Pizelman must think we’re flakes! Last night we didn’t get to leave the office until it was almost today 🙁

And with my return home imminent, it also means that I won’t have a chance to eat at the Bistro again for some time – a true shame. Chef Fabio’s food, service, and personality couldn’t be better.

And so, with this, I must wait to return to 1401 Bistro until my next trip to south Florida.

I wish Mssr Pizelman all success until (and after) then.