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July 7, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Food & Drink | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sakura (Tanque Verde) Review

Cleanliness of restaurant

For those of you who have never been to Sakura, let me tell you a little something about the way they prepare your food. You have a choice between sitting at a nice table with your family, or sitting around a grill with a cook throwing things at you. Of course we took the second option.

You would think a restaurant that prepared food at your table would be a little messy, but to my surprise, it wasn’t. I even went to the bathroom to try to find something wrong! Besides a crack in the sink, I couldn’t find anything wrong in the cleanliness department. (And I was really trying!)

Quality and speed of service

We called ahead to make a reservation, but we found out that they don’t do reservations, but they do have a “call ahead” program – which we did. When we arrived we got to walk in front of all the other people waiting and sat right at our table. (I am sure this made them very happy.)

We sat at our table for what seemed like a long time before our server came around to get our drink order. I am not sure if she knew the hostess had sat us there or not. (I was getting thirsty without my Diet Coke.)

Unfortunately for me, this is another Pepsi restaurant. (If you have been reading my other review, you will remember that I consume more Diet Coke than most small countries.) So today I had to have Diet Pepsi. I am sure my server appreciated the fact that I had only 6 refills.

Besides the little wait at the start, the service was fine. She was quick with the refills and the check was presented at the proper time.

Quality of food

Let me tell you how it works. Your table places their order and your server gives the information to your chef. Your chef gets your uncooked food all prepared and brings everything right to your table.

After playing a few “egg” tricks (yes, raw egg tricks) he starts cooking up your food.
If you have never seen this before, it can be a lot of fun!

My wife ordered the Teppan Shrimp and I ordered the New York Steak and an appetizer of fried calamari. Before our meal they delivered a type of broth soup which we thought was really good (after we picked out the mushrooms – sorry).

The calamari was good. Even my wife who has been afraid to eat calamari thought it was good! They threw in a couple extra goodies on our appetizer plate: a fried mushroom, fried cauliflower, a fried zuccini, an onion ring and a fried carrot. Yes, that is right, a fried carrot. (I lost my sense of adventure on the carrot.) Everything so far was good.

Our chef was young and a little inexperienced when it came to his show. (I actually watched a different cook part of the time!) But he did give a nice show and cooked our food very well. You get a choice between white rice or fried rice for $2.00 more. The fried rice is worth it! We were very happy with the fried rice.

Somehow our chef ended up preparing an extra steak and we all enjoyed eating more steak than we paid for. But he asked us to not tell anyone so if you are reading this, shhhhhhhh, keep the secret. So my portion was very generous and it tasted wonderful! My wife’s shrimp portion was also generous and she enjoyed her shrimp as much as I did my steak.

They like to give you “freebies” here – like the extra goodies with the calamari, extra steak -everyone got a little steak even those who didn’t order it – and everyone also got a little shrimp – even if you didn’t order it.

Overall Dining Experience

We enjoyed going here. The price was fine – 2 meals, 2 soft drinks and an appetizer for about $60.00. After the check was presented I leaned over and asked my wife if she had her coupon and, to my surprise, her response was, “Sorry, no coupon”. (If you have been following along on other reviews, you will remember my wife almost ALWAYS has a coupon!.) So anyway, besides the slow start everything else ran smoothly and tasted great.

Oh, before I forget, we got a visit from the manager. He just wanted to make sure we had a good experience. Nice touch!

I recommend Sakura for anyone who wants a different type of experience, wants to have fun and wants to enjoy good food.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | Food & Drink | , , , , | 1 Comment

Did a Child Pick Your Strawberries?

Meet Luz, a 9-year-old American who worked 13-hour days in the fields, skipping school and poisoned by pesticides. Zama Coursen-Neff on the shameful fate of hundreds of thousands of kids.

BS Top - Coursen-Neff Child Farm Workers

“Luz” was 9 when she began working in the fields. Her employer paid her not by the hour, but according to how much fruit she picked. On many days, she would not even stop and rest. “We keep on going because if we were to sit down and take a break we’d make even less,” she told me during a Human Rights Watch investigation. Even so, Luz earned well below minimum wage.

By the time she was a teenager, Luz was often working 13-hour days, when she wasn’t in school. Her employer gave her no choice about hours. “No one can leave. They block the exits and say everyone has to help out.” She fell behind in school and said most of her friends had dropped out. She was often sick from exposure to pesticides. “You could see it all around, and you were breathing it. … My stomach was always heaving. Every single day.”

The conditions Luz describes are typical of child laborers I have interviewed in India, El Salvador, Indonesia, and other poor countries around the world. Luz, however, now 18, works in the United States.

For hundreds of thousands of child farm workers, the U.S. might as well be a developing country. These children aren’t working on their families’ farms. They work for hire, hoeing cotton and sorghum in scorching heat, cutting collard greens and kale with sharp knives, and stooping for hours picking zucchini and cucumbers. Luz began picking strawberries in Florida, then started migrating in the summers to Michigan to pick blueberries. Like Luz’s friends, at least 45 percent of child farm workers never finish high school. Without an education, they face a lifetime of back-breaking work and poverty-level wages. And while most of these children, shockingly, are in the United States legally, those who are undocumented are especially vulnerable to exploitation from employers who know they won’t complain.

Over the last year, I have interviewed dozens of children who did farm work in 14 states across the country. Most began working full-time at age 11 or 12 on days they weren’t in school—and some on days when they should have been. They said that 10-hour days were typical, and during peak harvest season, they sometimes worked 14 hours or more. Some told me that at the end of the day, they were so exhausted they could barely change out of their clothes before falling asleep.

Shockingly, these conditions are perfectly legal under U.S. law, which allows children to work on farms at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than in other jobs. American teenagers have to be at least 14 to get even a cashier’s job at McDonald’s, where on a school day they are only allowed to work for three hours. But to pick the food that is served in fast food restaurants, children can work at age 12 for unlimited hours, day or night—as long as they don’t work during school hours. Even that rule often goes unenforced.

These disparities in the law are even more disturbing considering that agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Working with sharp tools and heavy machinery, exposed to dangerous pesticides, climbing up tall ladders, lugging heavy buckets and sacks, children get hurt and sometimes they die. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the risk of fatal injuries for farm workers ages 15 to 17 is 4.4 times that of other young workers.

Despite the risks and grueling work, many child farm workers feel compelled to help their parents pay the bills. According to the most recent data, the average adult crop worker makes less than $13,000 a year, leaving many farm worker families desperately poor. Better enforcement of minimum-wage laws would reduce the pressure many farm workers feel to take their children into the fields. But the fact that exploitative child labor in agriculture is legal also presents it as a legitimate choice for parents, children, and employers. Some parents later regret their decision when they see its toll on their children’s health and education. In Texas, one mother said to me, “I tell my daughter, ‘I’m so sorry I stole your childhood from you.’”

The United States’ failure to protect child farm workers not only puts children at risk, but is deeply hypocritical. The U.S. spends over $25 million every year—more than all other countries combined—to eliminate child labor in other countries, yet it tolerates exploitative child labor in its own backyard.

For over a decade, members of Congress have repeatedly introduced legislation to update U.S. laws and eliminate the dangerous double standard that puts child farm workers’ health, safety, and education in jeopardy. Such a bill is pending now. But child farm workers like Luz have no powerful lobbyists, and their concerns are not considered politically pressing.

As the new growing season starts, children like Luz are already leaving school to pick lettuce, spinach, asparagus, and other crops. Without action in Washington, their futures will not be much better than those of children toiling in the developing world.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Home & Family | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Things You Need to Know About Grass-Fed Beef

The organic movement has taken the world by storm. But what’s truly healthy and what’s just hype? The manager of a grass-fed beef farm breaks it down.

BS Top - Maynard Grass Fed Beef

With skeptical, beef-centric films like Food, Inc. and Fast Food Nation encouraging the American consumer to question the source of their meat, how do you know what to ask? Mark Maynard, farm manager of the Greyledge grass-fed beef farm, offers five basic queries that will help clear up a lot.

Why is grass-fed beef better?
Beef cattle that are pasture-raised and grass-fed are a healthier and safer source of meat because they are eating a diet naturally suited to their anatomy. As a result, the herd is content, healthy, and the beef is high in Vitamin E, Omega-3s, and conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies have shown has cancer-fighting properties and could lower cholesterol. What’s more, pasture-raised beef is usually free of hormones and antibiotics.

Is it important for grass-fed beef to be certified organic?
No. Often, small, local farmers do not have the capacity to undergo organic certification. My recommendation is to find a farmer you can trust, try the beef, and make it your go-to for healthy, farm-fresh meats.

Where is the beef coming from?
Did your beef come from 3,000 miles away or even another country like Argentina? There is no way to ensure that the beef you and your family consume is healthy and humanely raised without being able to verify its place of origin. Again, it’s best to find a farmer you know and trust. The best farms and purveyors employ a source verification process, in which the record keeping of livestock includes health records, feed records, and genetic history.

Why is beef sometimes flash frozen and does that affect the taste?
Flash freezing is a process when products are rapidly frozen and then vacuum sealed in air-tight packages. This process enriches all the flavors, juices, vitamins, and minerals and allows the beef to keep perfectly for long periods. The beef remains in this condition until it is thawed, ensuring the freshness and quality from when it was originally frozen.

What is the difference between dry-aged and wet-aged beef?
These are the two techniques used for aging beef and they yield very different flavors and textures. Dry-aged beef tends to be richer, more aromatic, and pungent in flavor, and is generally regarded as a superior-tasting beef. Odds are that you have tasted wet-aged beef, as it dominates the commercial market. It also tends to be less expensive, but is no match to the taste of dry-aged beef.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Food & Drink | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Truffles

Difficult to find and divine to eat, there is much to be gleaned from one of nature’s most delicious delicacies.

BS Top - Safina Truffles 

1. Real truffle oil really does exist
There are many products out there purporting to be made from truffles, but unless you’re a label detective, searching for true truffle oil can be very misleading. Here’s a hint: if the label says USDA 100% Certified Organic, you can bet there are real, organic truffle pieces inside.

2. Dogs are the real truffle hounds
While it’s true that pigs have long been used to scare up truffles, they were also greedy little animals who often ate them as soon as they found them. After WWII, truffle hunters started using dogs, which were easier to pack in the car and preferred a meaty snack to the tasty truffle. Interestingly, because the characteristics of the ideal truffle-hunting dog aren’t specific to any one breed, mutts are usually preferred.

3. You don’t have to be a great cook to serve a truffle dish
While I enjoy cooking an elaborate truffle dinner as much as anyone, I get the biggest pleasure out of adding truffle products to everyday dishes like grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, white pizza, and salads.

4. White truffles can’t be cultivated
Both white and black truffles are found in the wild, in parts of the world where they form symbiotic relationships with oak and hazelnut trees. But while recent efforts to cultivate black truffles look promising, no one has successfully grown a white truffle.

5. Not all truffles are created equal
Beware of dishes using fresh truffles in the warmer months—summer truffles (tuber aestivum) are a poor and flavorless substitute for the real thing, black winter truffles (tuber melanosporum), also known as black Périgord truffles. It’s easy to spot the difference: summer truffles are light gray instead of charcoal-colored inside.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Off Topig | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Best cat food for Senior Cats

While it can sometimes be harder to tell that a cat is becoming a senior citizen, and at other times it appears to happen overnight, these seniors do have requirements that are different to an adult cat. In order to keep a senior cat healthy, it is important to know what the best cat food to feed it.

Keeping it Moist!
The problem is that many older cats drink less and less water as they age, making it much easier for them to become dehydrated.

It’s always important to provide a moist diet for all cat’s health, but it is particularly important for the senior cat. Creating an age appropriate homemade diet is sometimes the best cat food for these cats, as you can gauge the moisture level of the cat food, as well as the type of ingredients. Diets lower in carbohydrates always have a higher moisture content.

Softer Cat Foods
For many older cats, problems arise with their teeth and progressing dental disease. This makes the senior cat more likely to skip meals, especially if they are hard in texture or too tough to chew.

Dry cat food and even raw meals may prove too challenging for a senior cat. The best cat food is one that recognizes this likely issue. A homemade meal that can be minced or puréed can provide the cat with a pleasing texture that is easy to eat.

To keep its teeth in order, you can provide the occasional dental chewing treat. Homemade jerkies, cat chews, or even raw meat (like a small poultry neck) allows the cat to chew at his own pace for dental health..

Tastier and Smellier Cat Foods
As a cat ages, it often slowly loses its appetite. The main reason, assuming no illness, is that the senior cat is losing its ability to smell its food. This loss of smell decreases the chances of it wanting to eat it in the first place.

The best cat food for a senior cat is one that is both tasty and smells aromatic. This often means a warmed meal, as warm food gives off more odors. A homemade meal that relies heavily on fresh ingredients is also likely to have a more pleasing aroma and including strong meat scents is one way to entice the older cat to eat its meals.

Maintain a Good Weight
Obesity is one of the biggest problems facing typical housecats all over the world, but the odds of obesity goes up as the cat ages. Senior cats are less physically active and tend to sleep more. If the diet doesn’t change or is not appropriate to its needs, the cat will slowly pack on weight.

Unfortunately, obesity robs a cat of valuable life. It puts a strain on the heart and lungs, makes mobility more difficult, stresses the joints, and tires the cat out. Additionally, there are increased health risks like diabetes that is more prevalent in older, fatter cats.

The best cat food manages a cat’s weight by providing the necessary nutrients and energy needs without overdoing it. Dry cat foods tend to add weight to a cat with excess carbohydrates that are largely grain-based.

A homemade cat food that focuses primarily on protein keeps a cat in better physical shape by allowing the cat to eat more naturally. Protein, instead of excess carbohydrates, is used for energy. This means that there aren’t any carbohydrates to turn into sugar and be stored as fat.

Any senior cat can live a long, healthy life if it is maintained at a good weight, receives regular vetinary care, and is fed a proper diet into old age. Homemade cat food are often the most appropriate choice for the best cat food for a senior cat. 

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Cat, Pets & Animals | , , , , , | Leave a comment