My Last Full Day in Philly

Today was my last full day in Philadelphia before returning home from my business trip. We were able to wrap things up a little early today. This gave me the opportunity to do a little sight seeing. I took a cab to the Liberty Bell. After visiting that sight, I wandered around the area for a little while, visiting the tomb of the unknown Revolutionary War soldier, and walking by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the United States Mint. Also during this walk, I stopped at the Independence Hall visitor center where I got a free ticket to tour Independence Hall.

At 4:00, I took my tour of Independence Hall. It really isn't much of a tour as there are only two rooms in Independence Hall, the courtroom and the room in which the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed. That's not to say that the tour wasn't worth it. The tour guide did an excellent job describing what happened when the Second Continental Congress met there.

Later this evening, my colleagues and I all went to Misconduct Tavern for dinner. I had some really good homemade macaroni and cheese there. In addition to the variety of cheeses in the mac and cheese, I had them add grilled chicken. It was yummy, and not too much food. Tomorrow morning I have a few things to finish up for work, and then I will be headed to the airport to return to Minnesota.

Whose Cuisine Reigns Supreme?

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, Monday night, after my colleagues and I arrived in Philadelphia for our meeting, we went to dinner at Morimoto, the restaurant of Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto. In ordering dinner, I had to choose between ordering a specific item from the menu or omakase, in which the chef prepared a variety of dishes of his choice. Wanting to get the full experience, I had the omakase.

The first course of my dinner was hamachi tartare with fresh wasabi and osetra caviar.

The next course was whitefish carpaccio seared with hot olive and sesame oils, yuzu - citrus soy, finished with shiso, ginger, mitsuba, and chives.

 The third course was sashimi salad, mixed greens, yuzu vinaigrette, shaved bonito.

After the first three courses came the intermezzo, a palate cleanser, almond-spearmint soda.

Fourth came the first of the hot courses, black cod miso with su miso mustard.

The fifth course was pan seared duck breast and foie gras with port wine glazed ginger reduction.

Next came the chef's selection of sushi. I do not recall what they all were but one of them, the one shown on the top left, was tuna, and the sushi at the bottom right was octopus.

The dinner concluded with desert. For desert we were served chocolate strawberry bavaroise and white chocolate shiso mouse.

Each of these dishes was fantastic, and they were all very tasty! I have been trying to pick a favorite of the courses, but such a decision has proved to be impossible. Everything was so flavorful and delectable. I am not likely to return to Moromoto Restaurant any time in the future, so I will savor this visit.


Cheese Steak!

Last night my colleagues and I had dinner at Moromoto Restaurant in Philadelphia. I will be blogging about that, but that will have to wait until I get the menu of what we had to eat back from one of my colleagues. In the meantime, I am going to write about today's meeting and dinner. The meeting which I facilitated today went very well. We made a lot of progress at getting finished what we needed to work on. I am very pleased with what we accomplished.

This evening, a couple of colleagues, a few of our committee members, and I all went to get cheese steak for dinner. I got cheese steak from Geno's Steaks while a couple of the people in our group got their cheese steaks from Pat's King of Steaks across the street. Our cab driver said that he prefers Geno's, which it why I chose that for my dinner. Geno's is the restaurant which was controversial a few years back for having signs up in their windows telling people that this is America, so they should order in English. I was certain to place my order in English as I didn't want to anger the employees. Besides, I wasn't sure how to say "cheese steak" in Klingon. I had my cheese steak with onions and Cheez Whiz. It was good, but I also had a taste of a sandwich from Pat's. I think the meat at Pat's tasted better, but I thought the cheese was better on Geno's. That could be because the steak sandwich from Pat's had provolone instead of Cheez Whiz.


I Dislike Flying

I do not understand why, but I do not particularly care for flying. Oh, I know it's supposedly the safest way to travel, and without flying, it would be a lot less practical to go places that aren't as nearby, and while I wouldn't way that I have a fear of flying, I just can not get over the fact that there is a possibility that the plane will crash. Of course, the probability of that happening is very slim, and it it much more likely that I would get in a car accident if driving a long distance.

Anyway, I had a rather uneventful trip to Philadelphia earlier today. Everything went according to schedule. I even got an entire row to myself on the plane! I have checked into my hotel room at the Embassy Suites, and am currently waiting for my colleagues to arrive so we can figure out what our dinner plans are. This hotel is interesting. Each floor of the hotel is dodecagonal in shape. I have found it to be somewhat confusing finding my room upon exiting the elevator, having to sweep around a whole 360 degrees until I located my room. It might take me until my stay is over before I get a hang of finding my room.

While I am writing about things I dislike, I should also mention that I very much hate heights. Heights don't always bother me. Really the only time I hate heights is when I am not fully enclosed in a structure. For some reason I fear falling over whatever railing there is. I know this fear isn't completely rational, but I seem to get by having it. I did manage to walk up to the railing of the balcony of my nineteenth-floor room, holding my camera over the edge so I could take this photo of a building I have yet to identify. I think I have had enough time on the balcony for the rest of my stay now.


Three Months

Maximus turned three months old this past Friday. It doesn't seem like it's been that long already. Anyway, we took him to the Sears Portrait Studio at the Mall of America yesterday to get some pictures taken of him. They turned out really well. He did a much better job of getting his pictures taken than Emma did when she was his age.


Aaron Doubles Down

For weeks I have seen ads for the latest fast food monstrosity, the Double Down from KFC. And while this creation appears very unhealthy, I have had a strong desire to try it. I am going to resume watching what I eat in an attempt to lose weight once I return home from a business trip, so I figured this was my only opportunity to give this "sandwich" a try. Before I continue, I am not sure if I can really call the Double Down a sandwich, despite the fact that KFC does use that term. In its definition of the word sandwich, Merriam-Webster makes it pretty clear that sandwiches involve bread, something that the Double Down is lacking, unless you consider the breading on the deep-fried chicken breasts to be bread, which I do not.

When I ordered this composite of meats and cheeses for lunch, I actually felt a bit of embarrassment for ordering it. I was worried that the person taking my order would judge me for my willingness to eat this fat-laden conglomeration. I got over that and took the item home, along with my order of potato wedges, and Diet Pepsi. Yes, I ordered a Diet Pepsi with this. Some might think that there was little point in ordering a diet soft drink if I was already planning on subjecting myself to this wad of meat, but I didn't want to add on one hundred more calories than I needed to.

Since this sandwich contains no bread, eating it was somewhat messy. Yes, it did have a paper wrap with which I could hold it, but that only lasted so long. Eventually the amount of remaining chicken was reduced to the point that I had to discard the paper, unless I wanted to eat that as well. If there had been any doubt in my mind about how much fat was in this item, the greasy feeling left on my fingers took care of that. Looking at the Double Down, I was expecting to really like it. After all, I do love chicken breasts, bacon, and cheese. The Double Down did not live up to my expectations however. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the orgy of flavors that I expected either. It was simply adequate. Now from previous experience, I know that my local KFC isn't one of the best ones out there. We have gotten some less-than-terrific food from them before, but now that I have tried this culinary atrocity, I will never eat one again. Maybe I will try the grilled variety. Okay, I don't think that it necessary either.

While the media would have us think that KFC's Double Down is a crime against humanity, destined to kill us all, nutritionally it isn't really any worse than a lot of what fast food restaurants offer. According to information I have found online, the Double Down has 590 calories and 31 grams of fat. Now if I were counting Weight Watchers points, this would have been about 15 points. I am estimating this number as I do not want to dig out the Weight Watchers points calculator. Besides, I don't think it goes that high. While that is a lot of points, it's hardly record-breaking. In fact, Mel was looking up the points for Dairy Queen Blizzards tonight, and several flavors of large Blizzards have over 30 points.

So let's compare the Double Down with chicken items from other leading fast food restaurants. The Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich from McDonald's has 630 calories and 28 grams of fat. From Burger King, the Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich has 800 calories and 46 grams of fat. This appears to be significantly less good for the eater than the Double Down, yet it does not seem to garner the same publicity. Finally, let's look into the nutritional information from a chicken sandwich from Hardee's. Their Big Chicken Fillet Sandwich has 710 calories and 38 grams of fat. All three of these sandwiches should be more of a concern than the KFC Double Down. I guess the Double Down's lack of bread gives it the appearance of being more gluttonous than these alternative fast food chicken choices. Now that I have looked up these other sandwiches, I think I may strike them from my future fast food choices as well.

Update (4/22/10 3:37 PM): I may have to reconsider what I said about the calorie and fat count of the Double Down. Here's an article that says KFC has grossly underrepresented these numbers: http://cityrag.com/2010/04/kentucky-fried-bullshit-2/


What Are You Waiting For?

If you haven't yet completed and mailed back your Census 2010 form, do it now! Mailing in your form saves the Census Bureau, and thus taxpayers, a lot of money.


Cedar Rapids

Mel, the kids, and I spent this past weekend in Iowa. It was the fifth consecutive weekend I was in Iowa, and fortunately it will be the last for a while. The driving is getting to be a bit much, and travel with two kids under the age of four can be challenging. On this trip, we visited a friend and former coworker of Mel's, Penny. Spending time with Penny and her son really made Mel want to be living back in Cedar Rapids, preferably in a house across the street from Penny. I admit that, while I do like living in the Twin Cities, I would gladly move back to eastern Iowa if we had the opportunity.

While Mel didn't really care for Cedar Rapids all that much when we lived there, after moving to Minnesota, she attributes her dislike for the town mainly on the fact that she did not like her job. So, the main obstacle to moving back to Cedar Rapids would be Mel finding a job she thinks she'll like there which pays enough. One other thing standing in the way would be being able to sell our house in Minnesota.

I still enjoy the benefits that working from home full time has to offer, but I would not mind giving them up to return to the office in which I worked in Iowa City. That is one nice thing about keeping the job I had when we were living in Iowa. If we were to move back, or even somewhere else in the country, I would not need to find new employment.

I do not want to get the hopes up of any of my Iowa friends and family by making you think this blog posting is an indication that we will be returning to Iowa in the near future. It is possible that we could move back within a year, but it is also just as likely that we will stay where we currently are for many more years. Of course, if we do decide to make the move back to the City of Five Seasons, you will be able to read about it here.


Missing Severe Weather

Okay, maybe this sounds wrong, but I really miss severe weather. Oh, I do not miss the property damage and loss of life that can come with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but I miss seeing such weather. In general, the thunderstorms here where I live now in Minnesota seem so boring. Sure, there is an occasional thunderstorm worth watching, but for the most part, the storms here are very weak. On the other hand, the storms I experienced in eastern Iowa were much more worthy of attention, and fun to watch. Here's a storm a recorded from my front door in Cedar Rapids in July 2007.


To Friend, Or Not To Friend

I have a bit of a dilemma that I am dealing with. Okay, maybe calling it a dilemma is a bit of an overstatement, but I have an issue with which I am dealing nonetheless. Should I be friends with my manager at work on Facebook? Here is some background on this issue. A while back, I became friends with one of my coworkers who had about the same position with the company that I had. This is a coworker whom I have never actually met, since we have three offices in two states, as well as several employees, including myself, who work completely offsite. We do seem to have a lot in common however, so I have enjoyed viewing his activity on Facebook, and he has made several comments on my activity. Several months after we became friends on Facebook, he was promoted at work and soon after that he became the person to whom I report for general work-related things. Perhaps this is really a non-issue as I can easily modify my Facebook privacy settings on a case-by-case basis to exclude him from seeing anything I wish to keep from my manager. However, any input my readers have would be greatly appreciated.

Happy Easter!

I hope all of my readers have a happy Easter. Here's a picture of Emma with the Easter Bunny at the Minnesota Zoo yesterday.


Farm Babies!

During the month of April, the Minnesota Zoo is featuring farm animal babies at the Wells Fargo Family Farm. As we had nothing else planned for today, we decided to go to the zoo to check them, and the other animals, out. This was Max's first trip to the zoo, however he ended up sleeping through most of it. At just ten weeks of age though, he probably wouldn't have gotten much out of the experience even if he had been awake. Emma had a great time though. She was a bit apprehensive about looking at the bears. For some reason she has been having bad dreams about bears roaming around outside the house. These often coincide with when they sing the bear hunt song at daycare. On our way to the zoo, Mel told Emma that the bears couldn't get her because they'd be locked up in a cage. Emma did eventually go up to the glass to see the bears, and she did enjoy watching them swim. As we looked at other animals at the zoo, Emma just kept wanting to move along to the next animal. She continued to do that until we got to the prairie dogs. She just wanted to keep looking and looking at them. Prairie dogs must be one of her favorite animals.

When we got to the farm area of the zoo, Emma at first did not want to pet any of the animals, but when we got around to where the goats were, she decided that she did want to feed them. Fortunately Mel had a couple of quarters in her wallet, so we were able to buy a handful of food for the goats. Emma had a great time feeding the goats. I thought she might not like the goats licking her hand, but she did not mind it one bit. In fact, once the food was gone, she wanted to get some more to continue feeding the goats.

After viewing the farm animals, we had our lunch and then went through the Tropics Trail portion of the zoo. It was very crowded there this afternoon, and the animals were especially active. We had a good time watching one of the gibbons swinging through the trees. I don't think I have seen a gibbon that active at the zoo in a while. Of course, the last time I was at the zoo, the gibbons were not on display. I am looking forward to the new animals they are adding to the Tropics Trail this summer. Emma is especially looking forward to seeing the crocodiles!


Grammar at the Grocery

Thank you "Weird Al" Yankovic for making this grammar correction at your grocery store. I hope everyone takes your lead and starts correcting all such signs they encounter.