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Monday, August 31, 2009

A Weekend of Sisterhood + Fabulous Eats

Hello there! I took the past few days off from blogging as my lovely sister Annie was in town. She was here for less than 48 hours, however it feels like a lot longer as we packed activities into each day and evening!
Among other things, we experienced some great food. We ate out... I don't know... three times? Lol. 
Saturday started with a lunch at Fratello's, a restaurant overlooking the Milwaukee River in the Historic 3rd Ward. Here are some photos from the restaurant's website - it was too cold out for us to sit on the patio, but the interior has a modern, warm vibe.
Special guests were my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Dave, who were in town from Eau Claire for a Jimmy Buffet concert! My family also chose Fratello's for my Mom's birthday dinner earlier this year, and while the server was great, the food was so-so. This time around, the service was poor but the food was a bit better. 
The problem with service, started with too little bread being brought out for the dip trio that was ordered for an appetizer. I was late to lunch and did not get a photo of this... but it looked like mini garlic toasts and pita wedges were offered alongside hummus, bruschetta topping and a third mystery dip. 
When I got there, there was about 50% of the dips left but we were out of bread. My Mom requested some more and we did this 2x. It wasn't until later when we had the bill, that the waitress had charged an extra dollar for each tiny basket of bread! Sure, an extra dollar isn't that bad - but she should have mentioned we were being charged each time. 
I started with a cup of broccoli soup - it was nice and hot, but pretty bland. Tasted fine after I added some salt + pepper.
For an entree, I chose the Blackened Halibut Salad. 
The fish was great - perfectly done, warm and spicy with the blackened seasoning. The salad was pretty standard, next time I'd probably request the mixed greens vs. the romaine lettuce base. There were black olives and feta cheese in the mix; the feta was good but the black olives tasted can-ny. It's a big pet peeve of mine that restaurants cut corners by using canned black olives instead of kalamata olives in Greek-type of salads. I digress...
My sister ordered the margherita pizza. They key to this simple dish is fresh ingredients for fresh flavors - ripe tomato, tangy basil, fresh sweet mozzarella cheese.
She said that it was not very good... the tomatoes were mushy, there wasn't enough cheese, the basil wasn't fresh and there was too little. Annie is a foodie and loves her pizza, so this was a disappointment. 
For dessert, we ordered the trio of cupcakes for the table. Fratello's has a lovely cupcake menu with lots of options!
We chose the Turtle, the Peanut Butter Cup, and the Chocolate Fixx.
These were great - frostings were the highlight - however the cake parts tasted pretty stale. I enjoyed a few spoonfuls of the Turtle, and tasted the frostings only for the Peanut Butter Cup and Chocolate Fixx. A sweet ending to the meal.
I usually keep an open mind with restaurants... however have to comment that the server was absolutely horrible to my Mom. When we received the bill, the waitress rudely (and I do mean rudely) and loudly proclaimed that "We DON'T accept Discover cards, actually MOST restaurants DO NOT accept them." She also cleared the table of every utensil - water glasses which we were still drinking out of, every last piece of cutlery - while all of us were still sitting there. Many times she interrupted our personal space by stacking plates, slamming stuff around - inches from our shoulders or arms! What a rude gal. I hope that whatever was bugging her, she gets over quickly because WE will not be headed back to the place anytime soon!
Sorry for the rant. I insist on being honest on this blog, and that was my honest opinion :-)
Coming up - a recap of our visit to the Milwaukee Public Market, and Saturday's dinner + dessert!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Artist Riders: From boring to hilarious, and please - no brown M&M's.

Since this is a "Backstage Pass" themed blog, and a food-themed blog at that, I thought it appropriate to rap a little bit on the wonderful world that I work in: the entertainment industry.
When a musician comes to perform at our venues, they send us a document called a "performance rider." This includes stage and equipment specifications, contacts for the tour, and information about what kind of food and drinks they'd like to have in their dressing rooms and backstage.
Now, I will not be writing about any personal experiences I've had - sorry, this would break my confidentiality agreement - however it's possible to view real artist riders online. I love TheSmokingGun.com for its hilarious articles about celebs... another fun feature on the site is their compilation of artist riders, aptly titled "Backstage Pass."
Disclaimer: None of the artists featured in this post have appeared at any of my venues :-)
Here are a few highlights that I found:
Will Ferrell:
While promoting his movie "Semi-Pro," Will included the following requirements on his hospitality rider (found here on TheSmokingGun.com):
Stage:
- One (1) headset microphone (Janet Jackson style)
- One (1) electric mobility scooter
- One (1) rainbow on wheels
Hilarious!
Backstage:
- Raw almonds (kinda boring but at least he's into healthy snacks)
Lady Gaga: 
I just love Lady Gaga, and had to check out her required items. The items are pretty healthy but boring, dried mangoes and roasted chicken and whatnot, but I find humor in the large note across the top: NOTE: THE HONEY IS VERY IMPORTANT.
Wayne Newton:
This guy is, in my opinion, an American treasure. Why is it that Mr. Vegas asks for a cold deli tray and some lame carnations? Coors Lite, really? Can't this guy get a fancy steak dinner and long-stemmed roses? Danke Shoen, my foot.
My two cents about artist riders is that some promoters do not pay enough attention to them, and they often stiff the artist on their requirements. Famously, Van Halen's brown M&M story illustrates this discrepancy. The band didn't really need for the brown M&M's to be removed from the bowl in the dressing room, but had it on the rider to make sure the promoter was paying close enough attention to all items listed. Chances are, if they got to a venue and lo and behold, brown M&M's were in the bowl... a more important detail may have also been overlooked, perhaps on a larger scale like rigging, lighting or sound. The whole story is here on Snopes.com along with snippets from David Lee Roth's autobiography. NPR's Monkey See Blog has a story and some links here, as well.
Let's hear from you - leave some comments, please!
What items would you demand as a rock star?
Have you heard any crazy stories of artist demands?

The stuff that dreams are made of... Shah Jee's takeout, take two.

Last week, I attempted a lunch from my favorite local joint, Shah Jee's Pakistani, that kinda failed. I got to the restaurant too late and all of my favorite entree, chana masala, was gone. I had to settle for some bland Saag Paneer (potatoes with spinach) and a bizzare mix of greasy vegetables.
Today, all was redeemed and lunch happiness was brought to me via a takeout box.
Spicy, savory Chana Masala. 
Sweet peas with cheese. 
Fluffy, perfectly done basmati rice. 
What a dream. Props to Kyle for making this happen!
Milwaukeeans can check out Shah Jee's for themselves: 770 North Jefferson St. (located in the basement food court). Open 11:30AM - 2PM, Monday - Friday. Note: There is usually a massive and slow-moving line from 11:50 - 12:30, fair warning.
Want to take a quick sec right here to thank all of the Foodie Blogroll readers for your support! My hits today and yesterday are off the charts, and I really appreciate your checking out my blog :-) Cheers to being part of such a supportive and amazing creative community! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm on a [Blog]roll...

Just got the great news from FoodBuzz that my little blog here has been approved for the Foodie Blogroll!
Please click here to check out their website, it's full of awesome features and has links to some great blogs!
Cheers :-)

Good Morning, Larabar...

Had a truncated breakfast this AM, en route to work. 
Alas, I have discovered my true love Larabar flavor... Key Lime Pie!
Delicious tangy lime, toasted coconut and roasted almond flavors. A little crunch, and an overall dense texture. Yummy and perfect!
I won't go too far into analytics... this bar has 10g fat (3.5 saturated, 4g monounsaturated, 1.5g polyunsaturated) and 200 calories. Good for a quick meal on the go.
Just 4g of protein and 4g of fiber... so I will need some lean protein for a snack in a couple hours. 
And going with the typical Larabar trend... this bar is a great source of Copper. 20% of your daily value. Lol!
Here are some stats from Nurtros.com about Copper and its nutritional value:
Copper Essential Micronutrient

Summary

Necessary for energy and respiratory function, copper also supports the formation of bone, collagen, red blood cells, healthy nerves and joints, hair and skin coloring, plus many enzymatic functions of the human body. It's seldom supplemented by itself as most people get enough from a multivitamin/mineral.

Where to find Copper

Copper can be found in oysters, liver, nuts, legumes, and grains.

Popup: Foods highest in Copper

Daily Value

The Daily Value for Copper is 2 mg.

Why athletes use Copper

As copper is lost through sweat and is necessary for the health of all connective tissues, active people might want to make sure it's included in their multivitamin/mineral supplement to counteract possible deficiencies.

Ways that Copper can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:

  • Ensure the health of collagen and elastin, which are necessary for bone and connective-tissue formation
  • Alleviate pain of arthritis by supporting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions in the body

Ways that Copper can enhance Energy & Endurance:

  • Support respiratory function by aiding the utilization of iron
  • Necessary for optimal energy levels, supporting iron utilization and ATP production

There you have it!

My on-the-go breakfast from yesterday - one slice of Sargento Chipotle Cheddar cheese and Kashi Heart-to-Heart whole grain crackers. About 10g fat, 200 cal, 4g fiber and 8g protein. Kept me full for a few hours.

What is your favorite on-the-go breakfast?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where did the day go?

Yikes this was a busy Monday... lots going on at work. Here's a quick recap of yesterday's fabulous post-workout lunch:
Amy's Southwestern frozen burrito with a big salad: spinach, green peppers, grape tomatoes and black beans.
I like this burrito a lot because of the "corn masa" and refried beans. It's a little high in fat - 10g total, 3.5 of which are saturated - however this meal kept me full for hours! Foods containing some fat are worth it for that very reason, they actually fill you up.
Topped off with Mrs. Renfro's green salsa. Zak and I can't get enough of this stuff. 
Rufus had some lunch too...
I am off to a post-work marathon meeting and will blog a bit later tonight. Cheers!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Best Workout of 2009!

My friends, I am flying high today!!!
(yep, so good that it deserves not one but three exclamation points)
I just got home from the gym, where I literally had my best workout to date in 2009. As it's August 23rd, it's about effing time, yes? 
Inspired by Zak's sister Jem, the triathlete who regularly does open-water Lake Michigan swims; and the September edition of SELF Magazine - with its new 'REACH YOUR GOAL!' plan to 'Try a Triathlon' - I woke up raring to go today! I wanted to do a treadmill workout, then SWIM.
In high school, I was on the swim team my freshman and part of my sophomore year. My Mom suggested I sign up at freshman orientation as a means of meeting new friends, and I quickly grew to love the sport! Since then I haven't done much swimming, but love how invigorating it is.
Breakfast was a quick bowl of oatmeal - I ate about 1/2 of the bowl. 
1/2 cup oats, 1 cup soy milk, ground flaxseed, blueberries, scoop of PB. Perfect combo.
Then, I headed to Bally's and did about 30 minutes of a run / walk combo... then changed into my suit and hit the pool. I am going to take a moment here to divulge something embarrassing - this was the first time I have used my gym's pool. Ever. And it was fantastic! Granted, there were a couple creeper old guys just hanging out in the jacuzzi when I walked in -  thank goodness for  a large beach towel - but once I got started doing laps, I barely noticed them. When I was done, they weren't even there anymore!
In the pool, I swam about 5 laps - 3 breaststroke, 2 freestyle. I haven't swam laps for a long time, and I quickly remembered that swimming is a total-body workout! Swimming is hard. After just one lap of breaststroke, I was out of breath! I kept my water bottle near the side of the lane, and stopped to take a sip after each lap. 
Somewhere in the middle of my pool workout - I had this great moment of clarity. I literally started to smile while my head was in the water, lol. I felt empowered and alive. I was pushing my body to the max of its cardiovascular ability, and it felt so good. I've been kind of down lately and the endorphins gained from this workout are pushing that cloud away!
I feel glowy... still warm from my steam at the gym. This is my favorite water bottle, it says "My glass is ALWAYS half full."
Time to eat... we've got a fridge full of yummy-ness. More on that later :-)
Who / what inspires your workouts?
Have you experienced a similar moment of clarity mid-workout?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Windy Luncheon

Snuck out of the office for a short lunch break. It was raining out earlier today, but now the weather is sunny and windy! I stopped by Shah Jee's for some Pakistani food, and found a nice picnic table next to Milwaukee's City Hall.
The view was great - that's the Pabst Theater that has the show signs on the windows. I rarely see the Theater from this perspective! Usually I am stuck inside.
Sad to say, I did not much enjoy the Shah Jee selections. The basmati rice was good, but the two entrees - Saag Paneer (spinach cooked with cheese and herbs) and "mix" of carrots, potatoes and peas - tasted bland and were really oily. My usual pick here is the Chana Masala, which is chickpeas cooked in a savory tomato-based sauce. It's always got a great spicy kick, and these two just didn't possess that.
Anyhow... I ate most of the "Mix" and only attempted a few spoonfuls of the Saag.
I wanted to share a post from Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point - she has some good tips for aiming to do everything with purpose. I've been pretty stressed lately and found these to make a lot of sense.
  • Realize that everything is not an emergency.  Sometimes, it's better to sit on a decision (or an e-mail!) before sending it out.
  • Create a "Plan of Attack" for big decisions.  Lay out the steps you must follow to succeed.  Identify potential roadblocks ahead of time.
  • Realize WHAT and WHO really matters to you.  Don't spend all your emotional cash on a job you hate; save some for your significant other or friends.
  • Seek advice.  Talk to your friends, loved ones, or spiritual guide for advice on tough decisions.  Weigh the pro's and con's of their advice against your own knowledge of the situation.
  • Organize your life!  When your life is less cluttered, it's easier to move forward with purpose.  Get a datebook (or an iPhone) and rank your to-do's in order of importance.
For more on this topic, please visit Caitlin's blog at HealthyTippingPoint.com
Today I am especially identifying with realizing who and what really matter to me. 
Back to work - headed to a cake tasting with my friend Stefanie and her fiance this evening!

When life gives you lemons....

As Atmosphere says, "...you paint that SH*T gold!" This week has been stressing me out. I didn't get to post at all yesterday, which is fine but GEEZ. Work stuff, some personal stuff and thank goodness that Zak and the pets have been keeping me sane.
I did not get motivated to work out early in the AM on Tuesday... however after work, had a great 35 minute run / walk treadmill workout. I am attempting to get myself into running shape and while it will be a long journey, I am thrilled that I can run for 8 minutes :-D
Some things that I am lovin' this week:
Organic plums that were on sale at Woodman's - it's Thursday and we've already gone through an entire bag! Will have to get some more soon.
Watermellon. This will be out of season soon, and this is by far my favorite summertime produce treat. Mmmm...
Frugal living / coupon blogs like Being Frugal is Fabulous and Krazy Coupon Lady. BFF (love the name) linked to a great weekly deal from Walgreens (today's deal - 20 free photo prints!) and KCL has great how-to advice for coupon usage and deal alerts. I estimate that Zak & I will save at least $5 weekly on groceries due to tips I've learned... and $5 x 52 weeks = $260, people. That's one heck of a start!
I hope to post more later... ciao.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: Metro Bar & Cafe at Hotel Metro

Currently Listening to: "California" by Lucero
Today, I had the pleasure of joining my lovely parents for lunch at Metro Bar & Cafe, at Hotel Metro!
Hotel Metro is an elegant boutique-style hotel, fashionably located in Downtown Milwaukee on Mason & Milwaukee Streets. I've been to Metro Bar & Cafe a few times for their Happy Hour specials, but only once before for lunch.
The summer menu boasted some intriguing beverage options!
My Mom selected the Ginger Fizz - "house made ginger ale with fresh ginger, seltzer and a shot of lime juice." I tried a little and it had a strong, refreshing ginger taste. This was my favorite out of our three drinks, I want to figure out how to make it at home!
I tried out the Peach Ice tea, which included fresh peach puree - very mellow in taste with a hint of spicy black tea.
My Dad had the Mango Ice tea, same as mine but with delicious fresh mango puree. Smooth and sweet (sorry no pic).
The waitress brought a bread bowl - I had half of a white roll. The thin, crispy cheese breadsticks looked good as well.
For entrees, a special of the day was a Blue Crab Grilled Cheese. My parents love crab so they both ordered it!
I tried out the Roasted Vegetable Melt sandwich with fries.
While I was impressed with my Peach Ice tea, I did not much care for the sandwich. It arrived on some thick, whole grain bread but was coated with butter. I should have asked for them to hold the butter. The vegetables were overdone to the point of being kinda mushy, and it was a weird combination of squash, artichoke pieces (which I don't much like - too bitter), with just a few tiny pieces of mushroom and red pepper. My body was craving a salad and I guess I should have listened! I ate 1/2 the sandwich and about 2/3 of the fries, which were hot and crispy and pretty good.
Overall, a good meal at a great value. My favorite part of it was spending time with my parents! My Mom is back to school soon, I can't believe how fast the summer has gone by.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Special Discount - Coldwater Creek

Coldwater Creek discount tip! Save $25 of orders of $100 or more - use the code GLM2054
Happy shopping :-)

Still Cruisin'

Currently Listening to "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed
Having an energized and mellow afternoon. Lunch was delectable leftover Hers pizza from yesterday. I packed 3 slices, but so far have only eaten 2 of them. All of the veggies make the pizza very filling!
Enjoyed an Honest Tea in "Lori's Lemon" alongside...
I just love Honest Tea. It's USDA Organic certified, and they have fun little stories on the label. Did you know that iced tea is an American invention? The label says "... first served at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair." When my sister lived in St. Louis, she loved hanging out in the city's Central West End, a neighborhood that was built up during the same time with gorgeous turn of the Century mansions and townhomes. The area is full of great local restaurants, bars and shops - and the feel is sophisticated, elegant yet energized. Reading about this on the Honest Tea label took me to a fun memory of visiting Annie in that neighborhood of St. Louis this June. Anyway, if the tea can remind me of this, it's very refreshing indeed!

Brain Fog

Happy Monday to all! This morning I've had a dull headache that I can't seem to shake. Not pleasant but am otherwise in a great mood.
Every Sunday evening, I seem to go through a similar scenario. I get myself psyched up to get up early and work out early in the morning on Monday. My gym is literally less than 1 mile from our house! I lay in bed thinking of what time I will wake up, what outfit I will wear to the gym, and what type of workout I might do. Then I wake up on Monday, too late with no time to head to the gym! Argh, so frustrating.
It's like the psychology of the matter gets to me... I know that when I work out early on in the day, I feel great and have WAY more energy for the entire day. This article from Active.com talks about the effect that early AM exercise has on the body's metabolism and also how its a great way to fit in your "me" time.
Do you prefer working out at a certain time of day?
I am going to try something new... instead of ruminating over the details of what I'll wear or what I'll do at the gym, I will take 1 minute to 1. LAY OUT the clothes I will wear to the gym. 2. Make sure that my iPhone is charged up and ready to go. 3. Wake up, get dressed and stop making excuses! I will be trying this out tomorrow morning. Exciting!
Mondays are pretty hectic at work, thus the late post. Breakfast this AM was 3/4 cup of Barbara's Puffins (my fave), about 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries and 1/2 cup of soy milk. 
On the way in to the office, I stopped into Starbucks for my usual 'Grande' Iced Coffee with Soy. What is your favorite AM beverage to get you jazzed up for a work day?
Took this photo of the lovely fog over Downtown as I drove in via the Hoan Bridge. Isn't it gorgeous?