Sunday, November 28, 2010

Restaurant Review-The Wildflower Cafe & Coffee House

A couple of weeks ago we were looking for a good place to go to a family dinner for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We would have 8 people, my wife, our children (ages 22, 20 and 17), my father and my brother and sister-in-law. We live North of Cincinnati, in Liberty Township, Ohio.

8 is a tough number to go to dinner with during the holiday season. We wanted a place that took reservations, and would be a treat for everyone. My wife had heard about the Wildflower Cafe & Coffee House located in Mason, Ohio, so we decided to give it a try on Saturday night, November 27th, 2010.

What a great place. It is very small (located in a former private home). They took reservations. It has a very quaint and casual feel about it, with the menu posted on chalk boards.

Wildflower boasts a great selection of wines and craft beers. What is most unique about this place is that they strive to use locally sourced and/or organic ingredients in all of their dishes.

With 8 people we were able to try multiple dishes. We started with the Organic Cheese Board (cheeses, olive medley etc.) and the Shrimp Fonduta, served with crusty grilled bread. Both were absolutely delicious.

Two of us had the soup of the day, a white bean and cilantro soup which we enjoyed very much.

Of the entrees we had as a group, the consensus was that the hamburger (served on a pretzel bun and rated #1 in Cincinnati by Cincinnati Magazine) lived up to it's billing. In addition, the quiche served with homemade potato salad and crusty bread with a raspberry jam and the spinach and walnut ravioli were excellent. I very much enjoyed the grilled chicken breast with walnuts and a champagne sauce served over risotto. My father had the Apple Pork chops with potatoes and sauteed vegetables, which he would recommend. My sister-in-law had the Gourmet Grilled Cheese, which for her tasted just ok. My brother had the short rib special, which he enjoyed very much.

Service was very good. They have a very nice patio in the back of the restaurant which I imagine would be very nice to dine at in the summer.

I highly recommend the Wildflower Cafe & Coffee house. You can go and enjoy a very casual sandwich and soup, or try one of their higher-end entree's. My experience on this particular evening is that both are excellent. I look forward to a return visit very soon!

Wildflower Cafe & Coffee House
207 E Main
Mason, Ohio 45040
(513) 492-7514
Wildflower Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Major League Soccer Can Improve It's Product! Part 3

My worldwide blog readership of 17 is starting to have an impact.

Maybe not, but these two bloggers get it:

The One in a Million Bird

Late night in New York City. Had taken the New Jersey Path train in earlier in the evening to get a bite to eat at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park and get couple of table tennis matches in at SPIN, a local table tennis club.

My roommate (Jerold) and I didn't anticipate that SPIN would be closed to the public that night due to a private party. After stopping at a local bar for a couple of beers we decided to call it a night and head back to our apartment in Harrison, New Jersey.

After taking the NYC Subway to the New Jersey PATH station, we boarded a train heading to Harrison. As it was late at night, we would be waiting for about 15 minutes in the station before the train would leave for New Jersey stops.

Jerold and I were the first who boarded the car, but as we waited, the late-night crowd heading back to New Jersey started filing in. Best part of public transportation is the people, usually an eclectic crowd consisting of people going home from late shift jobs at hotels and restaurants in the city and the full-on drunk social crowd looking to let loose on a Saturday.

On this night, we were treated to some new characters on the New Jersey PATH. First to join us was a well-dressed young man with a Tumi backpack. My guess is that he had worked on this Saturday, but as he reached into his backpack, pulled out a 40 ounce bottle of Colt-45 Malt Liquor wrapped in a paper bag and started drinking, I wondered how he had actually spent his day.

Second to join us was a middle-aged man with a scraggly beard, wearing a raggedy grey Columbia University sweatshirt and bike shorts, carrying his 1970's vintage bicycle. He had saddle bags attached to his bike, so I assumed he was a bicycle messenger who worked weekends in the city.

Finally, the most unique of the characters joined us. Another middle-aged man, wearing high-top converse shoes, khaki pants that were cut at the calf, "gaucho" style and a rugby shirt. What set this guy apart from the others was an aquamarine colored parakeet sitting on his shoulder.

He sat next to "Colt-45". Colt-45 barely looked up, but the bike dude definitely noticed the bird. Interestingly, the parakeet would walk along his owner's shoulders, curious about his surroundings, but perfectly content to hang out there.

Bike dude was the first to speak. "That's quite a bird you have there..."

"Oh yeah. Had him for 3 years. Goes everywhere I go. Stays on my shoulder. He's a one-in-a-million bird."

Colt-45 perked up. He sat up quickly, startling the bird. At this point we had not left the station, so the train car doors were still open. The bird took flight, but stopped short of the open door and landed on the handlebars of the bicycle.

"Shit, that was close."Said the bike dude.

"Ahh, nothing to worry about. As I said, he's a one-in-a million bird. He's ridden the subway hundreds of times. Never had a problem."

The bird flew back and landed on it's owners shoulders.

"This bird props me up when I'm feeling down, sings when he senses I feel sad and even whistles when pretty girls walk by." said the bird's owner.

Suddenly, a ferret jumped out of Colt-45's Tumi backpack. It grabbed the parakeet and skittered under my seat. Just as suddenly, the parakeet burst into flames startling the ferret. Scared, it scampered back into the Tumi bag. Colt-45, acting quickly, doused the flames with his malt liquor.

The train had still not left the station. Bike dude, Jerold and I sat stunned. Colt-45 was beside himself. "I'm sorry! Oh, I'm so sorry!" he lamented.

Interestingly, the bird's owner remained calm. "Watch."

The wet pile of ashes began to spark. Yellow, green, blue and turquoise! Within seconds, a parakeet rose from the ashes, identical to the one that had burst into flames moments before. It stretched it's tiny wings, and took flight. After doing a circle around the train car, it landed on it's owner's shoulder.

Colt-45 sobbed quietly. Bike dude, taking a deep breath, exclaimed, "It's a Phoenix! It rose from it's ashes!"

The owner of the bird stood-up and quietly walked off the train, with the Phoenix still on it's shoulder, chirping happily. Within moments, the train doors closed and the train left the station.

The Harrison, New Jersey station was only 10 minutes away. Jerold and I got off the train and walked home silently. I was trying to figure out the meaning of what I had just witnessed...

I couldn't sleep that night. A Phoenix! Symbol of renewal! Of life! OF IMMORTALITY!

The next morning I wandered into the kitchen. Grabbing a Red Bull out of the refrigerator, I noticed Jerold sitting at the kitchen table, head in hands. He obviously had not slept either. I think he had been at the table all night.

"Jerold,"I said, "are you ok?"

"I couldn't sleep." he replied. "I just can't stop thinking about last night, what we saw on the train..."

"I know." I sighed. "I can't believe it!"

Jerold looked up. Eyes bloodshot, his face becoming red with emotion..."I can't believe that guy with the bike didn't have a helmut!"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Major League Soccer Can Improve It's Product! Part 2

Just watched the MLS Cup on ESPN. Colorado won 2-1 in overtime on an own goal by FC Dallas. Match was a little ugly by soccer standards, but very exciting!

ESPN did a good job covering the match. The best move they made was bringing in Ian Darke for match play-by-play.

Building on my previous post, here are some additional recommendations for MLS:

Play the MLS Cup Championship at the home field of the team with the best seed coming into the MLS Cup Playoffs. It is obviously nice to reward BMO Field with the Championship match, but the neutral crowd is taking away from the atmosphere that would be much better in one of the team's home field.

Also, Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, announced at half time that the MLS would play a balanced schedule next year (18 team league with the addition of Vancouver and Portland). This means that each team will play a home-and-home against every other team for 34 matches total. Good move.

Now the bad news. Mr. Garber also announced ten teams would make the MLS Cup playoffs next year, further diluting the regular season. Bad move.

I still would advocate for a single table, rather than two divisions. Top 8 make the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Best Multitasker Ever! (As reported by my brother Mike)

All credit goes to my brother Mike on this one.

"So, I’m taking care of some important business in a Seattle Airport restroom a few minutes ago and the guy sitting in the stall next to me, I notice, is talking on the phone.   Okay, kind of unusual, but I roll with it; besides, I’ve got other things to do.

Then I hear something down by my foot.  I look and see that he’s set down a cup of coffee.  Okay . . .

His voice starts getting kind of odd at this point, kind of mumbly.  I’m done with my business, but decide I’ll take my time washing my hands.

Guy comes out cradling his phone between his ear and shoulder, cup of coffee in his hand, bag slung over his shoulder, munching on a bagel sandwich.  I guess he was in a hurry because he walked out of the restroom without washing his hands.

Best multitasker ever, just not too into personal hygiene."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Support Your Domestic Soccer League-MLS Cup 2010

This is pretty much a shameless plug, but having a relevant domestic soccer league is important to the USA's standing in International soccer.

Tomorrow night (Sunday, November 21st) at 8:30pm EST on ESPN the 2010 MLS Cup will be played between Colorado and FC Dallas. Watch it. It won't be the quality of an EPL or La Liga match, but it will be exciting!

Here is a link to everything you would want to know about the match:

MLS Cup 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

US Soccer Development Academy Begins To Pay Dividends!

Juan Agudelo and Gale Abossoumonde were the first players to get capped with the US Men's National Team who played in the US Soccer Development Academy Program. Juan Agudelo scored the winning goal in a 1-0 defeat of South Africa. Looks like the program is starting to pay dividends!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Sad Day For The Columbus Crew

Looks like the Columbus Crew declined to pick up the options on Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk and Gino Padula among others. These guys were the heart and soul of the 2008 MLS Championship team. It's not unexpected, but still a little sad. I loved watching Schelotto orchestrate play from his attacking midfield play, and Hejduk's energy making runs from the right back position.

Here is a link to a great article on Schelotto's place in Columbus Sports lore:

Bob Hunter, Columbus Dispatch

Also, an article supporting bringing Schelotto back:

Mike Arace, Columbus Dispatch

Monday, November 15, 2010

My DVR List

Thought I'd share the TV shows I currently DVR and actually watch:

Boardwalk Empire
Modern Family
The Walking Dead
ESPN College Gameday
Major League Soccer Playoffs
Survivor: Nicaragua
Eastbound and Down
Real Time With Bill Maher
Friday Night Lights

Now the books I have recently read:

I also just read (on my Kindle) "The Last Boy" (the new Mickey Mantle Biography) by Jane Leavy and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson.

Finally the movies I just saw:

The Social Network (outstanding) and Up In The Air (very good)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Great Weekend!

What a great weekend! My wife and I were able to go to Columbus and meet our great friends Beth and Jon McIntyre for the Ohio State/Penn State football game.

A little background. Jon and I graduated from Lakota High School in West Chester Ohio in 1981. Tammy, my wife, and Beth graduated from the same High School in 1982. Tammy and Beth graduated from Ohio State together, while Jon and I went to different schools.

Both of us got married in 1986. We have stayed friends ever since! It's hard to get together as much as we used to, with all of our kids being older (we each have three). In addition, we live in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, while Jon and Beth have recently moved to Connecticut.

Living so far apart is what made getting together this weekend so special! We all arrived Friday afternoon, had dinner at Haiku (in the Short North area of Columbus) and then went to the Big Bang Piano Bar and Gordon Biersch (where my daughter, Mallory, a senior at Ohio State met up with us and brought along her friends).

Saturday was breakfast and off to campus to check out ESPN Gameday and then to the game.

Of course, Ohio State won (not without a battle in the first half from Penn State). After the game we went to Rubino's Pizza in Bexley, and had a little carry out desert from Mitchell's Steakhouse.

It was such a nice weekend. We were able to catch up on our kids, our jobs, quotes from our favorite movies ("that's a YP, not an MP" guess the movie), and our families.

It is great to have friends like Beth and Jon! Just wish we could get together more often!

Go Bucks!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Walking Dead!

AMC Channel has hit another home run! I have been a huge fan of Mad Men ever since it's premier in July of 2007. I didn't think another show could live up to the outstanding writing and the great characters in the show.

Now comes The Walking Dead.  Based on the graphic novels/comics of the same name and written by Robert Kirkman, this show follows several characters in a post apocalyptic world where zombies rule. Just two shows have aired and I am hooked. Oh, and by the way, I have subscribed to the comics via the Image Comics App on my Ipad, and I highly recommend them too!

AMC 10pm EST on Sunday nights!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Major League Soccer Can Improve It's Product!

Yesterday I had a great time attending the second leg of the Columbus Crew/Colorado Rockie Eastern Conference semi-final.  The Crew were down one goal after the first leg in Colorado, won the second leg 2-1, making the aggregate 2-2. After 30 minutes of overtime, the game went into penalty kicks, with Colorado ultimately winning 5-4 and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The match was exciting, the Crew Supporters Group (Nordecke) was in full force and although the result was disappointing to me as a Crew fan, I still had a great time.

I woke up this morning thinking that the MLS needs to make some fundamental changes next season to capitalize on it's recent success. Vancouver and Portland expansion teams will be added to the league next season, there will be a 34 game regular season, and the product on the field has improved dramatically!

But here's the thing. It's time to get in line with the rest of the World regarding the make-up of the league table, the importance of the playoffs and the MLS Cup, and the fixture congestion that happens in September and October for many of the clubs:

1) Two of the best clubs in the regular season were upset in the Conference semi-finals, the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake. What do these two teams have in common? They both prioritized success in the Concacaf Champions League, and advanced out of their respective groups to make it to the knock-out stage beginning in February 2011. Each team not only played a full slate of MLS matches in September and October, but also played six Concacaf Champions League matches. Both teams looked tired in the MLS playoffs and lost to fresher teams.  Neither team now has a chance to qualify for the 2011-2012 Concacaf Champions League.

2) Although the MLS Cup has traditionally been the trophy to win in MLS, it now seems as though more emphasis should be placed on winning the Supporter's Shield, given to the team who has the most points in MLS play at the end of the season (Los Angeles Galaxy this year). The rest of the World, with the exception of Mexico recognizes the regular season winner as Champion-time for MLS to do the same.

3) Of course, how does it work out that Colorado and San Jose are competing for the Eastern Conference championship, yet neither is located East of the Mississippi?

I propose:

1) A single table format for MLS. The regular season champion will be given the Supporter's Shield and be recognized as League Champion.

2) The MLS Cup will be played as an end of season tournament, with the top eight teams qualifying and playing. The first two rounds will be two leg aggregate goal knockout rounds (1st vs 8th, 2nd vs 7th, 3rd vs 6th, 4th vs 5th etc) with a single game MLS Cup Championship Match played at a neutral site.

3) MLS will lift the restriction on charter planes for travel to away matches in the Concacaf Champions League.

4) Expand rosters.

5) To emphasize the importance of winning the regular season Championship, the first and second place teams will automatically qualify for the Concacaf Group Stage. The MLS Cup end of season tournament winner and US Open Cup winner will be put into the Concacaf qualifying stage.

6) Place emphasis on local rivalry trophies, like the Trillium Cup and the Rocky Mountain Cup. Add a cup for the regular season points leader for the Pacific Northwest Teams (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver) and a little cash prize to go with them for the players.

The changes above won't change the fact that there will be a lot of games in September and October for those teams that qualify for the group stage of the Concacaf Champions league, but those same teams will be able to manage their season to prioritize winning the Champions League and the MLS regular season (and the rewards that go with it), rather than coming into the late October/November MLS Cup worn out, with less of a chance than weaker teams who didn't play so many games.

Commissioner Garber, what do you think?