Posts Tagged food

Credit Card Game

Let’s say you are out to lunch or dinner with a group of friends. Maybe this is even a subset of the people you normally go out with. Unfortunately, not everyone has cash on them! Splitting the bill is a hassle for the server and for the group, so instead: use the Credit Card Game (sometimes called “Credit Card Roulette”).

Each player puts their credit card in the middle. Players may opt out – they pay cash to the central pot instead. The cards are shuffled and removed one by one, usually with the most recent player out to name a number (1 through “number of cards left”) for the next player out. Whoever remains at the end pays the entire bill for the table.

(Remember the cash in the middle? The original version of the game gives that cash to the “winner” – so that the game is only for the amount owed by all players – but since then, the popular “next level” game has taken hold, and instead the cash goes to the second-to-last player. In the next-level game, you can actually MAKE money! I’ve been trying to get the next level of variance – recruit other tables in the restaurant and add their bills to the mix – but nobody’s biting.)

The credit card game is an interesting risk study, because assuming everyone orders comparable amounts, the expected value between playing and not playing is equal – you pay the cost of your meal – but the variance in playing is MUCH higher: a (N-1)/N chance of paying $0 and a 1/N chance of paying the full N times the cost of your meal!

I’ve had the credit card game on my mind because we are eating pre-Cruise tonight at famous Brazilian Steakhouse Fogo de Chao, and I expect I’ll get pressured into playing this particularly high-stakes and ill-timed game. Can I afford to? Can I afford NOT to? (In terms of excitement and hilarity, that is!)

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I love fishes ’cause they’re soooo delicious / and that’s what sushi is!

I used to hate eating fish. I couldn’t stand eating any sort of cooked fish, and I assumed that raw fish would be like 300x worse. I did enjoy an occasional fish stick, because we used to have those back when I was a young lad. I had avoided learning what fish are good because I just wouldn’t eat any.

Then, one day, I was coerced into going to a birthday party at a sushi restaurant, and there was basically no reason not to sample some rolls. They were in fact delicious. Since then, I have been expanding my sushi tastes and now I enjoy a wide variety of nigiri (fish on rice) and rolls – especially salmon, tuna (mmm toro), eel and a smattering of others.

Last night, I had a wonderful salmon-filled meal with my friend Alyson at Chiso, a sushi place in Fremont that had been recommended to me. So here are some of my quick-tips about various awesome sushi places I’ve been to in the Seattle area!

  • Chiso (Fremont) – great selection of nigiri but not a ton of roll variety; excellent miso soup and sake; good service but a little pricy.
  • Umi Sake House (Belltown) – insane sake selection; intriguing rolls, though many are spicy (not a fan); late night service, but I would stick mostly to rolls personally.
  • Mashiko (West Seattle) – small space, so reservations important; truly excellent quality fish; huge variety of rolls; sustainable fish is their plan, so some things aren’t available, but still amazing. Really personable staff.
  • Wasabi (Belltown, Pacific Place) – pretty “mass market” feel; expensive; good for a quick bite though, especially if you want sake + sushi and price is not of much concern.

I’ve heard good things about Shiro’s (Belltown) but haven’t been there yet. Next on the list!

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Card Kingdom and Cafe Mox

There is a mecca of gaming in the Seattle area. It arrived about a year and a half ago now, I think, and it is truly outstanding. This haven is Card Kingdom’s store in Ballard, just north of Seattle, and their attached “gamer bar” Cafe Mox. I went there yesterday with some awesome co-workers to play games for like 6 hours and (as always) enjoyed every minute of it.

Card Kingdom’s store space is laid out in a somewhat unusual way for a game store. Rather than packing as many games as possible into as little space as possible, and leaving play/demo space to a minimum, there are large aisles, well organized and categorized sections of product, and many tables on which to play. There’s even an entire three rooms devoted to card games, miniature games and roleplaying games respectively, each with their own appropriate table space! It’s really amazing.

But the reason I keep returning there is actually Cafe Mox, the bar right next door owned and operated by the same folk. In this bar, there are a large variety of beers, wines, mead and even food – sandwiches, salads, some delicious fried stuff. You can check games out from Card Kingdom and play them in Mox, plus there are even two large rooms off the bar you can book for long sessions with big groups (I’ve done so for day-long drafting, for example.)

I highly recommend anyone in town who has any inclination toward playing ANY games at all (and honestly, that means everyone who reads this AT LEAST) to visit and relax there for a few hours. If you come visit me, let me know and I’ll be sure to set up a trip!

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#3: Good Eats

Getting fit is a many-layered process, and exercise is only one piece of the puzzle.  Another equally important piece is eating right, which I am definitely not doing in any thought-out way right now.  I really enjoy eating with friends while at work, obviously, but it’s something that I think would be better in moderation, not just to keep myself eating a little better than “eating out” all the time, but because it’ll cost me less and free up some time (and also make sure I don’t burn out on friend time!)

I’ll admit, I have wanted to steal Tom’s excellent “cut up fruit and eat it at work” plan for a while, but felt like I was just being a copycat.  Which is an absurd feeling, so I’m putting my foot down and planning to do the fruit thing myself!  In addition to that, I think I want to set aside a few days a week (2-3, maybe average 2.5 over many weeks) to bring my own lunch – I enjoy making myself lunch and I think I can arrange it so I’m eating a bit healthier that way, too.  Finally, I eat out a LOT and I think having a meal plan for home (including “out with friends” or “out myself” worked in) would do a great deal to make me happier (and I’ll cook more, which I also enjoy.)

Whew.  That’s a lot of strands to weave together.  Let’s go with:

#3. I resolve to plan no more than six meals “out” each week for a month, with a “these meals planned” calendar on my fridge at home.

I think the best implementation detail I can think of right now (and will therefore record for posterity!) is that I don’t want to be explicit about which days I am going to eat what, because my appetite can vary day-to-day.

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Review: Panera Bread

Panera is a chain of bakery/sandwich/soup/salad places, but it’s at the healthier/more respectable end of chains (like Chipotle or even Starbucks).  There’s one basically in between home and work, in the Tukwila Southcenter mall area, and I have taken to (a) getting breakfast there infrequently and (b) eating the soup/salad combo there, also infrequently.  I have now gone there for a sufficient variety of meals that I feel capable of reviewing it, and in addition, I can talk about their rewards program!

One thing I really like about Panera is that their meal selection is interesting enough that you feel like the choices are different (sandwich selections feel very different, and they always have 5-7 soups available), but you aren’t overwhelmed with choice like you might be at a sit-down restaurant.  It fits in that perfect niche between fast-fast food and the slower Whistle Stop style venues.  Also, bread bowls for soup are like the best thing ever and they are EQUAL in price to regular bowls there – mindboggle!  My recommendation for breakfast is their French Toast Bagel, but their breakfast sandwiches are quite good as well.  Price is where I’d expect it, around +$0 to +$1 over Starbucks or so for equivalent items.  I rarely pay more than $6 for a breakfast or $10 for a lunch there.

Their rewards program, My Panera, has got to be the best thing ever.  Or maybe it’s just intended to seem like the best thing ever.  There are no points or plans involved – just sometimes, you get free stuff.  Very Skinneresque in nature, quite effective.  I got a free espresso drink and a free pastry fairly quickly toward the beginning of my purchases (within 5 meals or so?) so my guess is they weight newcomers more highly, which makes a lot of sense.  Regardless, it seems to be a great way to convince people to keep coming back, so props to them.

Overall: A-
Bread Bowl Bonus: 5 pts
Added Loyalty Due to Operant Conditioning: Moderate

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Review: Raisin Nut Bran

I was at the supermarket the other day, and I thought to myself, I haven’t had dry cereal in a while as a breakfast.  So I wandered down that aisle and couldn’t find anything particularly interesting… until I wandered by Raisin Nut Bran.  I used to love getting this cereal when I was in school, mostly because (1) it feels healthy because there are so many wheat/bran flakes involved, and (2) it’s delicious because of the raisins in a sweet nut shell.  So I purchased a large box, and even as I now snack on it, I wanted to talk about how it measured up.

My thoughts:

  • It still delivers on the raisin covered in delicious nut shell promise.
  • It doesn’t hold up well (well, the flakes don’t) in milk for any significant period of time, and in air when I accidentally left the box open.
  • I find myself searching for the raisins, which means the base cereal is not doing its job of being “good enough” in a bowl for regular bites.  I normally expect a “highlight” item like the raisins to make some bites much more enjoyable, but not be a requirement for each bite.

I would stay stick with Honey Nut Cheerios or equivalent; they did not live up to my fond memories.  A cereal of all nut-covered raisins, however…

Overall: C+
Sweet Nuts (That’s What She Said): A-
Half-Life in Milk: ~10 minutes (below average)

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Review: Whistle Stop Ale House

There’s a restaurant near Wizards, I’ll call it a “classic lunch-style diner,” called Whistle Stop, which can essentially be described as the Wizards’ cafeteria.  I have certainly frequented it a bunch, and it’s been my go-to place for a burger or sandwich or salad or soup (of the day).  I know a fair number of people at work who also enjoy it, but recently a few of my friends have decided it is actually crappy and are boycotting it.  What is going on?  I intend to dig up the truth of the matter… in this review!

Whistle Stop’s got a large delta in its serving staff; that is, some are great and some are terrible.  I don’t want to name names (also I don’t really know their names), but I am very appreciative when I frequent a place and when I sit down, they already know my, e.g., drink order.  About half the staff at Whistle Stop does that for me.  Now, granted, the other half extends the meal by about half an hour because of delays in service, and that’s frequently a problem. So this is a hit-or-miss proposition, and that can often be a dealbreaker for lunchtime choices when you need to be sure to get back by a certain time.  I can see this being an argument for crappitude, and recently it seems like more of the bad staff are present and less of the good staff (bad trend).

Also one of their waitstaff is a dead ringer for Amanda Peet.

On the other hand, I have never had a problem with quality of food there, and one of Whistle Stop’s great triumphs is that everyone I know is capable of finding a (good) meal there.  Vegans, vegetarians, can’t-eat-bread, only-eat-meat — all of them have options, or at least a good option.  The food is also good every time.  It’s also the kind of simple restaurant fare I enjoy – maybe it’s my upbringing, but I’m not a fan of like, Thai or Indian frequently.  Once a while, sure, but I’m a burger/sandwich kind of guy.

Overall: B- (B+ for medium sized groups)
Guskingestion Factor: A-
Service, Averaged: B+
Service, Recently: C+

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Home Cookin’

I’ve been doing pretty well, making food for myself this past week.  I am patting myself on the back because it is super easy for me to resort to “no, I’ll go hang out and go eat out with friends,” rather than make meals with the food I have already bought.  I’ve been making real breakfasts, occasionally packing a lunch, and about every other dinner has been home.

Here are some things I have made already:

  • Cheddar Omelette
  • Cheeseburger
  • Steak
  • Chicken Caesar Salad
  • Soup

Here are some things that I am looking forward to making soon — hopefully next week!

  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Portobello Mushroom “steaks”
  • Pork Chop and Sweet Potato – don’t know, this one is just a “feels right” kind of combination
  • really good soup – I think the secret is herbs and creme fresh!
  • Noodle Kugel – usually reserve this one for Jewish holidays, but man is it good!

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Sushi Rolling

I’m here (reporting live) from Madison, getting tours from the lovely, amazing Amanda, and also some Magic nerds. (sorry, I mean “intellectual badasses”). Last night, though, rather than go out for food, Danner convinced us to roll our own sushi.

It was awesome that he already knew what the pieces to the puzzle were: what materials we needed, where to get high-grade fish, and things like great avocados and rice cookers. Other than once hanging out at Ralph and Ayeh’s and there being sushi making going on, I never really felt motivated to make sushi on my own, so having Danner leading the charge was great.

Amanda and I were discussing how cooking/preparing food can often feel like a chore (albeit one resulting in deliciousness!) but social cooking does not. Time to start thinking about ways to involve friends more in my trying-to-cook process… 😉

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Food Variance

(alternative heading: Ingredient Kwality)

I was eating at Eats Market Cafe (an excellent little brunch place in Westwood Village near me in West Seattle) and got a tomato basil soup.  But the story doesn’t end there!  The soup was DELICIOUS – I could say “with a capital etc.” here but, as you can see, I have already capitalized everything.  The key reason was the quality of the tomatoes – insane!  It got me thinking about the scale of “goodness” of various foods, and how steep a slope it is from edible to delectable.

For tomatoes, I think, the quality range is huge.  I love love love high-quality tomatoes (like what I get from a quality restaurant and assumedly from fresh grocers), I don’t really like grocery tomatoes (e.g. the ones at Safeway), and I actively avoid having anything to do with fast food tomatoes.  For some foods, the range doesn’t appear large at first look – take milk, or steak, for example.  The difference between medium and good quality is minor.

…or so I thought when I was first framing this discussion.  I realized that it is a sort of acquired subjectivity: I used to think most fish and steak was the same, but then I had really high quality sushi (in Japan) and really high quality steak (in a high-end steakhouse, probably in Manhattan), and realized the error of my ways.  Thinking about spice/hotness level, the range can also be quite precise but narrow – my ability to detect and discern between low amounts of spice is quite good, but past a certain point, I don’t notice any difference (because my mouth has already burned off).  But for someone like Wedge or Zac, who literally subsist off of spicy, the reverse is probably true – it’s the high amounts of spice they can discern between.

I wonder if this is a good thing or not – clearly, it can become more expensive if you begin to prefer the high-end stuff, but how much of this acquired subjectivity is tolerance and how much is precision?  Can the two be separated?

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