fighting the lack of good ideas

mellowing a mushroom

I’ve been working for one of our larger customers near Atlanta recently. When I arrived last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find out there’s a Mellow Mushroom a mile from their office in Vinings.

I was first introduced to the Mellow Mushroom in Durham a couple years ago. I’ve since started enjoying the one in Raleigh, too.

Tonight I’m trying one of their ginormous salads for dinner. Typically I’d go for one of their specialty pizzas or calzones, but it’s hot: and I’m in the mood for something light.

I don’t usually write-up chains or quasi-chains, but the Mushroom is one worth going to.

growler’s pub

I’ll be coming back to Growler’s Pub next week (the one at 783 Old Ballas Road). To date (and I haven’t been to S’Mac in Manhattan, yet), Growler’s has the best macaroni and cheese I’ve had out.

Yesterday afternoon I was discussing where to go for food with Mike, and started searching for pubs near 63017. Growler’s jumped out due to its proximity to the customer we’re working on this week, and the glowing reviews when doing a local search on Google didn’t hurt 😉

When we rolled-in at about 6p, a scant 12 minutes after leaving our customer site, we were seated, and had menus – both for food and beer – and set to scouring them for what we wanted. Mike found a steak, and the corn-on-the-cob that came with it looked mighty tasty. We do have slightly differing tastes in how moo-ey we like our meat, so I can’t say that the steak looked all that great to me, but I like mine hot, whereas he likes his towards charcoal.

I don’t even know what kind of soup I had last night, because the mac & cheese was so good. My cohort in crime had seconds on the macaroni. I should have, but was feeling a little off due to allergies here in St Louis 🙁

Their beer selection isn’t as large as that of the Flying Saucer, but they still have about 130 to pick from. As I’ve mentioned previously, I love a good Scotch. Scotch whisky is a drink you respect – you can’t slam it, and why would you want to? They  have such rich flavor contours that you savor it. Growler’s Single Malt Scotch list has about 30 choices, from all over Scotland. They have a few blended Scotches available, too – but I wouldn’t order any of them, personally.

Our waitress, Courtney, was very friendly – acting like she actually appreciated having customers, whereas some places I’ve been recently acted like they didn’t care if you were there or not. Places such as the latter I tend to not give repeat business to. Growler’s has an overall friendly, neighborhood feel to it, and has menu choices ranging down to kid-size portions.

Oh, and one more thing. Growler’s has a Bathtub Dessert option.

For the low low price of only $1500, they’ll come fill your bathtub with any of their dessert items.

So far no one has ordered said item, that Courtney knew of, but maybe you could be the first! 😀


Dishdash is a small mediterranean restaurant on Murphy Avenue in downtown Sunnyvale California.

I went there last week with some of my coworkers at our bootcamp. Their menu offers a wide variety of choices, though I only sampled their lentil soup and mohmoh.

Their lentil soup was very filling – the medium-sized bowl really was enough for a light dinner, which is what I had in mind.

The mohmoh, a mushroom appetizer, was also very filling for such a small plate of food.

My coworkers all tried something different: lamb, kebab, hummus, and more, and we all left full. We didn’t try anything too unusual, but there are plenty of choices from plain to exotic on their menu for any taste.

The entree prices range up to $28, but most are well under $20. If you’re looking for a quick, friendly place to eat in Sunnyvale, this is one spot you should put on your list to try.


I love paella. Whoever it was that thought to harvest crocus pollen for flavor was a genius.

Last night after arriving in Sunnyvale CA for a training class, I started Googling for tapas places nearby. I had been looking forward to going to a restaurant in San Francisco, but driving an hour for dinner, when the folks I had originally planned to eat with were at work, wasn’t worth it to me.

I found one close-by in Mountain View. Cascal is located at 400 Castro St. They have extensive outdoor seating, as well as dozens of tables indoors.

One of my co-workers and I headed over to Cascal at about 8:15p, and when we sat down and perused the menu, I had the enjoyable, but somewhat unusual, task of getting to explain large chunks of the menu (thanks to both a food & culture class, and a Spanish culture class I took at Elon). We both ordered paella, which is roughly a Spanish saffron rice casserole. I ordered the Paella Rustica, which had chicken and rabbit, and he ordered the Paella Cascal, the house special which included sausage, and interesting vegetables. Our meals were about $25 each.

The small size orders, which we had, came out in pans about 10″ across. I was afraid to ask how big the “large” orders were, but they were about twice the cost. They must be meals for two or three. As it was, I wasn’t even able to make it through the whole small order, and I can pack food away.

Our waiter was attentive enough to make sure we had everything we needed, but didn’t hover. Overall, it was a pleasant meal with quick service, and I would recommend Cascal to anyone visiting or living in Silicon Valley.

cash cab

I’m a huge fan of the Discovery Channel series, Cash Cab. While in New York this week, I kept looking for the elusive 1-in-13000 cabs that Ben Bailey drives, hoping for the opportunity to hop in and play the game.

Well, I didn’t have a chance to get in, but I saw the cab Tuesday night: a minivan complete with flashing ceiling, and Ben driving with his ear piece in place.

It’s obviously not as cool as being on the show, but still pretty exciting.

bridge cafe

From 273 W 38th St to 279 Water St in Manhattan is a bit of a hike. The way I walked was about 5.4 miles. Yes, I walked. If I’d known better how to get there, I could have done it in 4.2 miles. But I didn’t, so I walked the long way.

The only reason I wanted to go to the Bridge Cafe was because I had seen it on a Food Network special a couple weeks back, where they had highlighted the fact that it has been in continual operation as a business since 1794, making it (most likely) the oldest bar/restaurant in New York City.

When I got there, though, I saw a sign on the door indicating that food was unavailable because of a kitchen fire. “Great,” I thought, “I walked all this way and can’t even have a sandwich.” Well, I had walked all that way, and figured I should at least go in, since I was there. I walked in just as a couple other folks were leaving the bar, and asked the bar tender for a drink: after a walk that long, I needed one.

The bar tender drew me a Sam Adams Summer, and I sat down to enjoy a little break before heading out to find “real” food. That was at about 8pm. At the end of the bar, a couple seats down from myself, there was a woman sitting who asked how I’d gotten there because she hadn’t heard a cab door close. I told her I had walked. From 38th & 8th. From midtown – all the way down to below the Brooklyn Bridge. On foot. Just then, the bar tender wandered back over, since there were no other customers, and he and Lisa were in shock over how far I walked. Then he asked me why I had come, because, after all, it was one heck of a hike: and I told him I’d seen the place showcased on the Food Network, and wanted to give it a shot.

New York, especially Manhattan, is an eminently walkable city – it’s just that “normal” people take the subway, bus, or a cab if they have to go more than 8 or 10 blocks, apparently. Guess I’m not normal.

Adam, the bar tender, who also turned out to be the owner, started chatting with myself and Lisa, who had arrived only a few minutes before I had (but by bus and a short walk). Turns out that Lisa is a pharmaceutical editor who lives mere blocks from where I ate Monday, Virage. Don’t quite know what that means, but that’s what she does. Lisa’s also a hobbyist filmmaker. Adam’s an eclectic music aficionado. For five and a half hours I sat at the bar chatting with Adam and Lisa, and the couple other folks who wandered in later.

I mentioned, in passing, that I nearly stopped at a place on 2d, but the waitress whom I’d had Monday wasn’t there, so I kept walking. When pressed for details on the name of the place, I told them it was Virage, and Lisa then launched into a lengthy discourse on all the food places within a couple blocks of where I had been Monday, down to a place that only serves macaroni and cheese, called S’Mac.

Topics ranged from funky music (including Tom Waits) to film festivals. Discussions of Scotch, cake, bourbon, beer, Korean chefs, and the list goes on and on. As a side note, it turns out I know more about whiskeys, scotches, and beer than any of Adam’s bar tenders – he even told me (half-jokingly, I think, but maybe not) I should come work there if I have free time when I’m in New York.

Having been told about S’Mac, my grand plan was to finish my drink, get a cab or bus back uptown a ways, and go try some of this off-the-wall mac & cheese. That plan gradually faded through the evening. At 00:24 I checked my cell phone for the time, and realized I had long since missed the opportunity to get food. At least, to get food and still get back to the hotel for at least a solid nap before my last day at my customer’s site.

Fortunately, though, when I sat down I sat at the Scotch end of the bar. I am a huge fan of Scotch, and I think I went into some form of intermittent nirvana when looking-over the choices. I had a Laphroaig 15. I’ve had the 10 before, but the 15 was so much smoother I was amazed – I hadn’t yet met a Scotch that outdid my favorite Laphroaig 10, and now I have. A little later, Adam poured a pony of Bruichladdich Infinity to try. The smoky depth was palate-sparking.

Having enjoyed the Laphroaig, and sampled the Bruichladdich, I slid back to something less heavy, and tried the Six Points Ale on tap. Six Points is in Brooklyn, and smacks the pants of Brooklyn Brewery any day of the week.

At 1:24 I finally had to call it a night so that I could get a couple hours’ sleep before work today. As I was standing to leave, though, Lisa announced that she needed to find an ATM so she could get a ride home. Her apartment is literally a half block out of the way for the ride I was going to need, so we did a very un-New Yorker thing to do, and split the ride back uptown.

I don’t quite know when I finally hit the sack this morning, but I know it was after 2. The next time I’m in Manhattan for more than a few hours, I’m definitely going back to the Bridge Cafe, and see what kind of food they do have.

Thanks, Adam (and Lisa) for an entertaining, enjoyable, enlightening evening. It was the best night I’ve had out “by myself” in years.

charley o’s

I’ve now been to 1611 Broadway twice. Once last December when I was interviewing at FogCreek, and then again Tuesday this week after hitting the Museum Mile Festival in Manhattan. As a side note,walking down the middle of 5th Avenue is a blast – what’s normally a bustling, jam-packed 20 blocks was cordoned-off by the NYPD, and open to pedestrians wanting to see the various museums on the mile-long stretch. I went into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and though several areas were closed-off to the throngs massing through the giant block party outside, it was still kind of interesting.

They advertise themselves as offering lunch, dinner, and pre/post theater drinks.

Both times I have been impressed. And both times I got nearly the same thing: portobello mushroom sticks. Last night I ordered a bowl of vegetable beef soup, too.

Mushroom sticks sound pretty weird first-off, but were awesome (both times!). They take strips of portobello mushroom, wrap them in cheese, coat them in batter, and deep-fry them – they’re like mozzarella sticks, but with no mozzarella and they add mushrooms.

I must say that I wasn’t as impressed by their vegetable beef soup, though, as I was the mushroom sticks. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t spectacular.

For you beer folks, they only have a couple on tap. Last night it was Guinness, Stella Artois, Bass, and Bud Light. (Not that the last one is “beer”, but it was there.)

I have no idea how their entrees are, as I’ve only sampled their appetizer menu, but the dishes I saw being brought out looked good.

When I eat out by myself (which happens a lot when I’m traveling), I like to sit at the bar because it’s not weird to just start chatting with the bar tender, other patrons, or passers-by. Whereas if you sit at a table, it’s kinda weird to just start chatting with someone a table or two over. As a little bit of “it’s a small world”, the bar tender grew up about 2 miles from where I did in upstate NY – he’s from Waterford, and I grew up across the bridge in Cohoes.