Friday, February 27, 2009

Snoring Dirty

In December, we did a show in Columbia, MO for an ISP’s holiday party. We had some friends we wanted to spend some time with afterward, and once we did the math we found it made more sense to just stay overnight and come back in the morning.

I went on Hotwire and found a 2-star hotel for under $40, so I went ahead and booked it. Their “example” properties at that level are Comfort Inn and La Quinta. I have spent well over 100 nights in those properties, and even the worst of those would have met my needs (especially for the price).

If you’re not familiar with Hotwire, they give you a price and a star rating, and you don’t get the name of the property until you book it. I was PISSED when I saw they had put me in a Travelodge, because there is no way in hell that is on the same level as those other brands.

Upon arrival, it was even worse than I feared—stained carpets, suspect bedspreads, and walls so thin you could hear every word and slamming door related to whatever drug/prostitution activity was happening a few rooms down.

Anyway, long story short, I complained back and forth with Hotwire several times and said they were doing their customers a disservice by calling that a 2-star property. They said they’d look into it, but they’ve done nothing.

My point? I’ll never again use Hotwire for less than a 3.5-star hotel.

And the inspiration for this post? The most excellent TripAdvisor (added to “Stuff I Like”) has released this list of the dirtiest hotels in the world. Yikes. Click these links for tales of bedbugs, unknown substances smeared on walls, and a Travelodge from hell.

Reading the reviews at TripAdvisor will keep you away from places like this, as well as offer great recommendations on restaurants, which snorkeling outfitter gives you the best experience, and what attractions are tourist traps.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Keepin' it Local

Cosentino's downtown isn't the only new grocery store in the urban core.

Not long before that jewel opened, we in the 'Dotte got a gift of our own--Ball's Sun Fresh, which opened at I-70 and 18th Street. I read that this was KCK's first new grocery store east of I-635 in over THIRTY years. Talk about overdue!

There is something invigorating about walking into a grocery store where some thought has been given to lighting and merchandising. Those who live in outlying areas (or, really, anywhere but KCK) are accustomed to nice stores. We have had to make do with the crappy, ubiquitous vinyl tile and yellow fluorescent lights (the ones that make people look ill) for a long time.

The produce selection is fabulous, as is the meat counter. In a nod to area demographics, there is an emphasis on Mexican meats/condiments/vegetables. All in all, we are thrilled.

Now if we could just talk them into carrying Roasterie coffee and Belfonte yogurt...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Be Clubbin'

You read that right. I went to an actual, real-deal-Holyfield dance club. The many years that have passed since my last club visit have only served to increase my sense of how effing surreal that whole scene is.

We started at the Foundry and had a few drinks there with friends (Oatmeal Stout, Hopslam, Brother Thelonious; hello BUZZ).

It was then suggested that we go to Mint, the club formerly known as the Empire Room. The space has been rearranged, but the décor/lighting felt about the same. I don’t know how packed the club is most of the time. The night we went, the club never felt empty, but never felt crowded either. Crowd demographics (my best guess): 60% straight, 40% gay. 50% “scenester”, 50% dorks like me (and I’m fairly certain I was the only one in an ironic/punny t-shirt)

Also, I’d wager that 90% were younger than me. The Chris Rock bit about the old guy in the club came to mind more than once.

At most clubs you can find a place to have at least some semblance of a conversation; there was no such escape here. House and techno was a-blarin’ at a high level. The dance floor was a mix of gay guys dancing suggestively with each other and straight girls…dancing suggestively with each other. We stayed just off to the side since we found a couch to sit on.

I tend to harbor a lot of nervous energy, especially when I’m drinking. Usually it manifests itself as pacing, fidgeting, and talking a lot.

My friends got a rare treat when they got a full-blown helping of Get Down.

I reached the infrequently-visited intersection of “buzzed enough” and “wide freaking awake enough”, and the dancing began. It started innocuously enough, but quickly spiraled into bigger movements until I was pretty much covering the entire expanse of the raised seating area we were in. I wasn’t being a total spaz (hey, I can move a little when called upon), but I certainly wasn’t dancing seriously by any stretch of the imagination.

Apparently someone was impressed, because a random girl came up and started talking to me…while I was sitting on the couch with my hand on my fiancee’s leg. Random Girl was making awkward small talk until I looked at her like she was crazy and said, “I’m engaged. To her. The person I’m touching right now.”

Weird, although it served a purpose: my fiancee now MUST know that if she were to leave me, I could have a considerably less-attractive, less-articulate, less-stylish, less-socially-graceful version of her lined up faster than Cher could believe in life after love.

Like dummies, we stayed until 3am and got to bed around 4. But in retrospect, I guess I’m kinda glad we did this—we made the best of it, and sometimes you’ve got to take a self-inventory to see what you’re about.

CONFIRMED--I’m not about clubs, and I’m more than fine with that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Massive Tassel Bellydance and alacartoona this weekend

Have plans this Saturday night (2/28)? You do now.

Head to Crosstown Station to see the lovely and talented ladies of Massive Tassel Bellydance as part of a post-Mardi Gras extravaganza! Stick around for the highly entertaining cabaret stylings of alacartoona. Also on the bill: Ernest James and the Zydeco Jubilee and Two Gun Tease Burlesque Revue.

Show starts at 9.
Want a preview? Click here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Check, Please!

If you haven’t been watching Check, Please! Kansas City, you should start. It airs Thursdays at 7:30pm on KCPT-19. The premise is this: there are three local guests and a host (Doug Frost, sommelier extraordinaire). Each of the guests selects one of his/her favorite restaurants. The other two guests visit and have a discussion about their experience over wine. They also tape a brief segment at the restaurant with the owner and/or chef.

The spots they have featured run the gamut from the highbrow (Krause Dining and the fabulous Justus Drugstore) to the comfortable (Succotash and the delightful Max’s Burgers and Gyros). It’s a great way to find a new place to visit or see if you agree with what the guests have to say.

Sidebar: Last week’s episode featured only two restaurants, because one of the guest’s choices had closed since the episode was taped. Based on how they described it in the open (something like “a fashionable, stylish restaurant in the River Market”) I deduced it had to be Vivace since that description doesn’t apply to Delaware Café and it sure as hell didn’t apply to River Market Brewery. I never visited Vivace because it never seemed like my kind of place—when you have a bar made of ice, I feel like you’re trying to create a heavy nightclub vibe. That’s just not where I typically go for a meal. Nevertheless, everyone I know who has been there said it was a nice place with good food…I just hate to see locally-owned places close if they were doing things well, and by all accounts Vivace fit that bill. (To be fair, they’re planning on reopening as a bar/lounge in the near future.)

Which leads me to the Phillips Chophouse. I had one of my best meals there on our anniversary a couple years ago. The steak was exquisite and the service was tremendous. Now that I hear they closed, I regret that we never went back. You can debate whether the economy or P&L was a bigger factor in its demise, but it certainly wasn’t the food or service.

To echo what the host said in his introduction last week, go out and support your favorite local restaurants if you have the means to do so. They need you more than ever!

Food (Drink?) for Thought

One of the blogs I read just posted something FANTASTIC. If you are a fan of beer and/or the Royals, do yourself a favor: go to KC Beer Blog and read The Beer Roster. You're welcome (and thank you to Bull for writing such a great piece).

UPDATE: link fixed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Four More Beers, Yo

Along with our visit to Cosentino’s, we stopped in the Flying Saucer because I saw they had Rogue’s Imperial Porter on tap. I’m a big fan of their brews, and apparently others are as well because it seems like everything they come up with wins multiple medals. The downside is that we would have to set foot in the P&L District, which is a wretched, wretched place. After a brief risk/reward analysis, we figured we’d survive a quick Sunday afternoon jaunt into the dark side.

The beer was worth it. It’s everything you love about a porter times 3. Big, robust flavors with the intense presence of malt sweetness and hop bitterness, but in great balance. A fantastic beer.

She had an Anchor Our Special Ale (2008) which was a nice, smooth, spicy counterpoint to the porter. If you’ve had this in the bottle, the tap version is even tastier with its hints of nutmeg and cinnamon coming through a bit more.

When we got home, we finally opened the bottle of Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad we had been sitting on for a few months. It pours a nice pale red, with a really oaky nose with some cherry in the background. There are lots of flavors present in the beer: bourbon, wood, caramel, vanilla, cherry, toffee…it’s like a beer for wine lovers. I thought it was fantastic. There are still a few bottles floating around here and there, but—in keeping with the wine theme—they go for about $15. Yeah, I know.

Oh – and McCoy’s has an outstanding Oatmeal Stout on tap right now. The beers there can vary greatly from batch to batch, but right now that beer is pouring beautifully.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Downtown Sunday

We typically get cabin fever Sunday afternoon. If we’re not literally snowed/iced in, we have to get out of the house. But what to do?

I forgot to take a couple steaks out of the freezer the day before, so we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner. For her birthday this past December, I enrolled her (us) in a Sushi Class. We proceeded to buy just about everything we needed the next weekend…except the actual fish because the Asian market we visited no longer carried tuna and Whole Foods was out, and we were hungry and gave up.

It was time to try again. Where to go? We made our maiden voyage to Cosentino's Downtown Market. Good LORD, it’s a fantastic grocery store. If you’ve been to the one in Brookside, you know what Cosentino’s brings to the table. This one is even more impressive. They play beautifully to their demographic (downtown residents and workers on their way home) with a huge selection of ready-to-eat meals, pizza to go, and the largest salad bar I’ve seen in Kansas City. They also have the gourmet element covered with artisan cheeses, a deceptively large wine selection, and easily the best beer selection I’ve ever seen in a grocery store. (Oak Aged Yeti? Maudite? Seriously?) We walked around with big ol’ smiles on our faces. We were highly impressed.

Anyway, we got our yellowfin tuna (among other things) and went home to see what we could do. Honestly, I’m pretty impressed with how things turned out. We done good for our first time making sushi on our own! If you’ve never made it before, give it a try. It’s rewarding, and even if you put too much rice in your roll or your nigiri “footballs” fall apart, it still tastes fantastic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day Dinner

Saturday was Valentine’s Day, which means it was my turn to be surprised by where we’d eat dinner. We plan four "special" dinners a year; I plan our anniversary and her birthday while she does Valentine’s Day and my birthday.

We ended up at Michael Smith (19th and Main). It was one of those restaurants about which I’ve always been curious; needless to say, I was excited about the opportunity to dine there.

After a brief reservation snafu (they spelled her name wrong on the computer), we were seated and presented with the menus. Our attentive server announced we had the option of ordering off the regular menu OR the prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu. After reviewing the five courses we would be served on the prix fixe, we both decided on that option. Oh, and a bottle of pinot.

They started us with a butternut squash risotto with diced apples. Great texture, really nice wintery flavor. That was followed with an arugula salad with marcona almonds and a pear vinaigrette, which was very refreshing.

Next was a grilled John Dory with crab-stuffed onions. I never used to like seafood…funny how that has changed now that I’ve tasted fresh, well-prepared fish. I’d never tried John Dory (or heard of it, for that matter) but it was delicious. I believe I’ll look for it again.

This was followed by a roasted beef tenderloin with a mushroom wine sauce and gratin potatoes. ‘Nuff said.

Finally, we had a dark chocolate/caramel tart with passion fruit gelee. It tasted even better than it sounds.
We went next door afterward to his more casual, tapas-style restaurant Extra Virgin. We just had a drink at the bar, but there was LOTS of interesting stuff coming out of that kitchen as well. It’s now on our list…

If you ever have a chance to visit Michael Smith, don’t pass it up! The food is fantastic and the service is impeccable, even on a busy night like Valentine’s Day. If you like trying interesting, new flavors with fresh ingredients, this is an excellent place.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tantrum Wednesday Night

Tantrum put on another fun show Friday night. Our monologist, Kevin Dilmore, gave us some great material. Come down to the Plaza library at 7pm Wednesday, 2/18 for a free encore performance! Tantrum Info


I started this blog as an outlet to get me back to writing a little. My intentions were to talk about things I like and don’t like, and to keep it from being weighty at all.

With that said, I’ve found I also have to say this…the stimulus package scares the crap out of me.

First off, there is too much random spending in the bill. This is not a place for your wish list items.

Thankfully, the Senate trimmed it down somewhat, but I am still having a very difficult time understanding this: how the hell does borrowing and spending cure an economy that is a victim of too much borrowing and spending?

And my issue with corporate bailout money? Debate whether that money is necessary, but ask yourself this: what lesson is really being taught when the government tells them, “We will not allow you to fail”?

I’m starting to believe the U.S. has some secret agreement that we will never have to actually pay our debt. It’s monopoly money. We can spend whatever we want, whenever we want. That’s the only way our fiscal policy makes sense to me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Travel Promotions

Here are a couple deals for the frequent flyers/hotel stayers out there.

If you're a member of Choice Privileges (Comfort Inn/Suites, Quality Inn, et. al.) two separate stays will earn you a free night. Note this is two STAYS - whether they last one night or one week. This deal is good for arrivals through 4/30/09.

For past promotions similar to this, your blog author has been known to stay in two separate properties 1/10 of a mile apart on consecutive nights to get the bonus. Worth it.

If you're a member of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (and if you live in Kansas City, you're crazy if you're not), you can get quadruple credit when renting from Hertz. Any rental of two days or more gets you 2.0 credits instead of the usual 0.5 credits. Use:
CDP 205418
Promotion Code 124806

This is a great deal--2.0 credits is typically what you'd earn for a roundtrip flight, and when you consider that you only need 16 credits over TWO YEARS to get a free ticket, a lot of people would rack up enough travel to go gratis at some point. The Hertz deal is good until 8/31/09, so use it and abuse it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thoughts I've Had During OSHA Training Today

1. Our monologist for the show tomorrow night, Kevin Dilmore, is a natural. He should be highly entertaining, which means everyone should come see him. Tantrum info
2. Corporate gigs can be weird. It's hard to have people play big, bright, shiny, fun basketball games (not to mention drink beer) at the CBE and then make them sit down and watch us.
3. They just showed a picture of a dude finishing the edge of a roof. He's tied off, of a large Hispanic man. Is that a violation?
4. What am I going to do Monday? President's Day's a comin'...
5. Once I get a company phone in a couple weeks, is call forwarding free from my personal phone? No way in HELL I'm carrying two phones, considering I don't even like having ONE.
6. The carpet tiles in our office were installed two months ago. They already look like crap.
7. Stop asking so many questions, dude--you're only prolonging the agony.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Avery's New World Porter

I am a big fan of just about everything Avery Brewing does, and I'm a big fan of porters in general. So when a beautiful Saturday led to a meandering road trip to Martin City (and therefore Lukas Liquors), do you really think I'd pass up a six-pack of Avery's New World Porter?

I got to drink one Monday, This beer is HOPPY, much more so than one would expect from the style. There are the hints of chocolate and sweetness you typically get in a porter, but with the dry, almost floral finish you would get from an IPA.
In fact, that is how I would describe this beer: a delightful porter/IPA hybrid. I really haven't tasted a beer quite like this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

'Roid Update

Okay, so A-Rod has actually admitted he did 'roids. I'm pleasantly surprised that he confessed to this, even though it was after he got caught.
So how messed up was baseball in 2001? He said he doesn't even know exactly what he was putting into his body...and I BELIEVE HIM. He knows it was an illicit substance, but there was such a laissez faire attitude toward the use of PEDs that he basically just said, "Give me whatever you think is best, Mr. 'Roid Salesman," and shot himself up with it.
Make no mistake - this was (is?) the best player in baseball, and he felt like he needed an edge. It still blows my mind that he signed the largest contract in the history of team sports, and he did it 8 years ago. Given the way salaries tend to grow exponentially in baseball, that's stunning to me.
The bigger issue is that baseball is an absolute mess. I love how they toot their own horn about how they have the toughest testing policy in sports now. That's akin to ValuJet telling us they have now adopted the most stringent safety inspections and pilot screening in the airline industry.
I told friends several months ago that I have never cared less about the game of baseball in my life. I think the low just keeps getting lower.

Monday, February 9, 2009


1. A visit to Westport last night confirmed that, in addition to the fabulous beer selection and service, The Foundry also has WiFi. This was universally lauded by...well, the two of us, but it raises more questions:
Can I work from "home" from the Foundry?
Moreover, will I ever again set foot in a coffee shop after noon?

2. Radiohead's performance at the Grammys was very good. If you didn't catch it, they played "15 Step" with the USC marching band. It was a somewhat questionable choice of songs, since it's probably the least accessible tune on "In Rainbows". Ah, what they hell do they care? They're freaking Radiohead.
The sound mix was highly suspect all night, which is pretty piss-poor for "the biggest night in music".

And I'm sorry, but can we stop with the "musical generations come together" motif? Between the Jonas Brothers performing with Stevie Wonder and the Pepsi commercial mashing Will.I.Am with Bob Dylan, I've been nauseated since the Super Bowl.

3. A-Rod allegedly did 'roids. Not that I ever cared much for the guy, but can we just strike 1994-2005 from the record books and pretend they never happened? I don't even want my money back. I just want to forget those years ever happened in baseball. Maybe give me a targeted MiB mind-wiping or something.

Monday, February 2, 2009

He Talks In Math

I am already basically done with my taxes and those of my fiancée.

I am a pretty hardcore math dork in that I actually enjoy doing taxes.

Not only do I enjoy doing them—I enjoy running the numbers multiple ways to see, for example, if I should take a credit or a deduction.

The only thing more gratifying/frustrating is finding flaws in the tax code. The one I found this year falls under the latter category.

In doing some research, I looked at the “contribution to retirement account” credit. Form 8880 if you’re scoring at home (and if you’ve read this far, you most assuredly aren’t).

In simple terms, this is an incentive for low-income-earning Americans to contribute to a 401(k) or IRA.

Here’s the problem: if you file as “single” and your adjusted gross income is $16,000, and you contributed $2000 to an IRA, you are ostensibly eligible for a tax credit of $1000 (50% of your contributions). Good deal, right?

But if your AGI is $16,001, you’re eligible for a credit of only $400!

Seriously—if you earned one additional dollar, you would LOSE $600 worth of tax credits. This is why we have marginal tax rates, folks. This is why every other credit on the books has a linear phaseout, not a big freaking step like this.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that it would be almost impossible to get the full credit anyway because your tax liability for the year at that income level would be less than $1000.

Stupid tax code writers.