July 2009 Archives

Today's Agenda: Fair to Curdy

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With the chance of riding my bike slim to none, I slept in a bit (until around 8:00-ish) and then hit the road for a long run. After wracking-up a little more than 8 miles (I ran for about an hour), the bike was loaded into the car and I made my way down to the bike store to see what they'd have to say about the crack that I discovered in my bottom bracket last night.

Thankfully the shop is open seven days a week; I showed the crack to one of the mechanics on duty. He looked at it for a while, threw out a few ideas, and ultimately said the shop would have to show the damage to Cervelo. So, I'm bikeless. Ugh. During the best part of the summer, the best time to ride, and about a month before I hoped to do another triathlon. Yay me.

With the bike dropped off and my heart broken, it was down to New Glarus to check out the brand new facilities at the New Glarus Brewing Company. Apparently the beer business is good for the fine folks in New Glarus; they just opened a $20-million dollar facility a month ago, and it is quite amazing.

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That's just a small section of it... I've yet to take a tour of the New Glarus Brewery; that record didn't change today. There was a huge group of Harley riders that arrived just seconds earlier, so once again, it was a quick spin through the gift shop and then back to the road.

Why the rush? Well, you all remember Jed - one of my friends from "the good 'ole days." Jed is a fellow cheese curd aficionado, and if there's one thing that he's been adamant about it's how great the curds from the Monroe Cheese Days are. He swears they can't be beat, but unfortunately for me, Cheese Days only take place once every two years. Turns out the Green County Fair was taking place this weekend, and Monroe happens to be in Green County...

Paid the entry fee and sought out the cheese curd booth. Within minutes, there was a small container of curds and some New Glarus Naked sitting in front of me:

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The curds were.... good - really good. They tasted a lot like a grilled cheese sandwhich, which was a bit of a shock. They had a buttery flavor to them, the batter was fairly thick and crunchy, and they weren't really too greasy. Very good curds.

With the belly full of cheesy goodness, it was time to stroll the fair. Here are a few highlights:

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Hung around the fair for a bit longer, then went back to Madison. Enjoyed an old familiar feast for dinner:

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Pizza Pit! So greasy. So bad for you. But so good. Not to worry, I'll work it off this week... and I vow to eat better all week.

With any luck, I'll hear from the bike shop by Tuesday or Wednesday. Until then...

I have a new love.

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And they're called potato pancakes. And they're from The Nite Cap Inn in Palmyra. Yummo!!!

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Mark, my friend from work, convinced me to drive to Palmyra for fish on Friday night. Fully aware of my quest to find the best fish fry in Wisconsin, Mark was certain the Nite Cap Inn would be a successful venture. Turns out he was partially right.

Truth be told, he raved about the potato pancakes and said that the fish was "decent." So, we hopped in the car and drove an hour to Palmyra, where we easily found The Nite Cap:

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The Nite Cap is a true Wisconsin Supper Club. Definitely attracts the older, local crowd - I saw more than a few Brandy Old Fashioneds being served up. We put in our name and had a seat on the porch. While sitting on the porch I spied this little gem:

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Within an hour or so, we were seated and ready to dig in. Here's Mark as we prepared for the feast:

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Notice the Old Fashioneds? Yeah, when in Rome...

So on to the chow. The fish? The baked fish was unreal. Easily the best baked fish I've had in quite some time. It was light, wasn't slathered/covered/drowning in butter (in fact, it was totally dry), flaky, flavorful, moist, and seasoned with a great mix of herbs and seasoned salts. Oh, so good.

The fried fish was average - nothing too great to write about. Good, solid fish, but not amazing.

The potato pancakes: WOW. WOW. WOW. I've never been a huge fan of potato pancakes but these were beyond amazing. I simply can't explain them - they had a great flavor (mix of potato, onion, and mild seasoning). They were crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. No hint of grease anywhere. We ate dozens of them, and I could've ate dozens more. Holy cow.

Turns out (after chatting up the waitress) that the potato pancakes are an old family recipe that involves a meat grinder (for shredding the potatoes and onions) and some 100+ year old cast iron pans. Whatever the secret is, it works. They're so good.

So after dinner, I was happy:

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...but full. So, it was off to ride and run this morning. I managed to get in a ton of miles this morning - I wound-up literally in the middle of nowhere, so I took a few photos of Wisconsin's gorgeous (and ample) farmlands:

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I rode for about 3 hours, then took a quick run to help loosen up the back. Spent the rest of the day cleaning the bike, only to discover a major problem with my frame... I'm lucky it didn't break. I believe the repair shop over-torqued the new bottom bracket that I bought from them, and it appears to have cracked my frame. If that's the case, and they won't take responsibility for the crack, I'm out a *lot* of money for a new frame.

Carbon fiber can't be fixed - it has to be replaced, so that means I'd need a new frame... and that would stink big time, because I can't afford to buy a new frame. I'm going to visit with the shop tomorrow and will see what they say. I'm not sure I'll sleep much tonight... the idea of spending 3 mortgage payments worth of money on a replacement frame has me feeling quite ill. :-(

Happy to report that this past weekend was quite enjoyable - got to do a bunch of fun things, ate some great food, and generally had a good time.

Kicked things off with fish fry at The Avenue Bar.

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The Avenue Bar is located on East Washington Avenue, near Ingersol Street, and has been around for quite a while - I want to say since the 1960s. It has become a bit of an institution; on any given weekday, you might find the local politicians having lunch alongside mechanics and housewives. On Friday nights, the place is absolutely crazy - it's not uncommon to find people waiting 2-3 hours for a table.

Despite having reservations, there was still a 20+ minute delay/wait. But the wait was worth it - upon being seated, cheese curds were ordered and they arrived promptly. I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier or not, but I'm becoming a bit of a cheese curd snob... battered curds are worlds better than breaded curds. The Avenue features battered curds:

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I had heard and read a lot about The Avenue's fish fry, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. Some people raved; others said it was greasy. From what I had seen on the plates around me, the fish looked solid, so I decided to order a few extra pieces of fish - the only downside to the Avenue is their fish is not "all you can eat" - $11.50 gets you 2 pieces of fish with sides; extra pieces are $2.50 each. Not cheap, but that's the price you pay for good fish, I guess.

And I'm happy to report that the Avenue does indeed have good fish. In fact, I'd place it easily in my "top 3" fish fry places. Absolutely fantastic fish:

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The beer battered, deep fried cod was thick cut, perfectly fried to a golden crisp, and delicious. The fish was flaky and fresh, very mild, very "meaty" thanks to the thick cut, and spectacular. I could quite easily stop searching for "the best fish fry" and just settle in to The Avenue Bar. But, alas, I owe it to myself (and my fellow blog followers) to keep searching.

After fish, it was over to The Greenbush Bakery for a....

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Apple fritter. Check out that monster. So good. But, it gave me fritter poisoning - I ate too much on Friday night and wanted to die. It definitely made it very difficult to get up and go for a bike ride on Saturday morning, but with 5500 calories of food sitting in my gut, I had to do something, so I forced myself out of bed at 6:30am and hit the road.

60-ish miles later, I was feeling a little better, but I was also freezing. It was unbelievably cold on Saturday... when I hit the road at 6:30am, it was 51-degrees. When I got back at around 9:00 and went for a quick run, it was still below 60. And it was July 18th!!! That's unreal.

A small group of us went to see another production of Michael Feldman's Whadya' Know show, and I actually got on the air. I asked the question, "It's July 18 and I'm wearing long underwear. Why?!" Michael asked me if I was wearing long-johns or just a long top - I confessed it was just the top. Nothing too exciting, but fun, nonetheless.

From the radio show, it was down to State Street, where Maxwell Street Days were taking place. Fought the crowds and eventually landed in Dotty Dumplings Dowry, where I had an ostrich burger and a "fried sampler."

The burger was great! I'd never had ostrich before, but it was super good. Tasted just like beef, but with a fraction of the calories. 6oz of grilled ostrich is 160-calories.

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The sampler included fried mac-n-cheese, onion rings, cheese curds, mushrooms, and fries. I tried a couple of each, mindful of my Friday night binge...

Bummed around Madison the rest of the day and then hit La Bamba for dinner. La Bamba is known for being an uber-cheap restaurant that caters to the late night, drunken university crowd, but for some reason, they closed their State Street location (which perfectly fits the bill for the above mentioned crowd) and now have only east side and west side locations. The west side location is about 5 minutes from the apartment, so it made sense to stop there for a late night dinner.

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Steak burrito with lettuce, tomato, onion, and hot sauce. Yummo. And just $5. Not bad.

Woke up Sunday morning and went for another long ride - 60-ish miles. I've found a good set of roads that run from the apartment up to Waunakee, toward Mazomainee, and back. There are some killer, killer hills, and the traffic is fairly light, so it's a good ride. I got a bit of a late start on Sunday morning, and wanted to go to the Come Back Inn for breakfast, so I rushed back, hopped in the shower and then raced over to the CBI for some grub.

Turns out there was no need to hurry; they serve breakfast until 2pm... oh well. Ordered "The Big Breakfast" - 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 4 slices of roasted bacon, and some breakfast potatoes. Washed it down with some fantastic coffee and was absolutely in heaven:

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Went back to the apartment and felt so guilty about breakfast that I hit the road for a run. I don't normally like to run after having ate something, but wow - I had a fantastic run. Nearly 8 miles at an average pace of 7:11/mile. I've never done that before; maybe before my next race I should "fuel up" with some CBI breakfast!

With the better part of the day done and not wanting to sit around the apartment, it was over to Warner Park to watch a Madison Mallards game.

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For $12 a seat you can get into the "Home Plate Club" - the first two rows of seats located directly behind the catcher - and it's quite a good deal. You're literally 5 yards from the catcher/batter/umpire, in a reserved seat, and it's only $12!!

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The camera angle didn't really do the seats justice; I had to sneak the lens between the chain links on the fence, so the angle is wrong - trust me when I say the seats were close!! It was Susan G Komen day at the game, which is why the Mallards were in pink jerseys and hitting with pink bats. They auctioned the bats and jerseys after the game, with all proceeds benefiting the Susan G Komen organization.

Started the game off with some pork nachos (I'm a glutton, I know it!!!):

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And they were superb. The chips were crisp, the pork was slightly sweet and perfectly smoked, and the nacho cheese was spicy but not out of control. And, they were reasonably priced at $4.

The Mallards have a nice little set-up, actually. Just behind home plate is a food court area that features several different food venues, a couple of drink venues, a souvenir stand, and a bunch of picnic tables:

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Sat and watched the game for a bit - I'm not quite sure what division of baseball the Mallards are in, but it was a fun game to watch. Yeah, there were a few errors here and there, but it kept things interesting. Only one inning ran "long" - I think it was the 4th or 5th. Otherwise, things moved quickly and the Mallards did a great job of keeping the crowd entertained. Here's the Quench Gum truck driving around and shooting t-shirts:

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Bad picture, I know - the sun was in the wrong spot... I did score a decent picture of one of the mascots, Millie:

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While the nachos were good, you can't really go to a Wisconsin game (of any type) and not have a brat... so, it was back out to the food court for a garlic brat and some hand-dipped cheese curds. They looked great:

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And, I'm happy to report, they tasted as good as they looked. I love having long arms, because I can take pictures like this without any assistance:

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That's a happy (but getting fatter by the inning) me, enjoying that brat and curds. I really, seriously, need to stop binge-eating on the weekends. I'm completely out of control. But everything is so good... it's hard to sit at the apartment knowing that there are places like the Greenbush, Culvers, and so on all within a stones' throw... I'm hoping that I'll get my fill of these places and then settle down.

So that's it for now. Lots of food this weekend, lots of miles on the bike and by foot, lots of calories, and lots of good times. Rumor has it this Friday's fish fry will come by way of Palmyra, so stay tuned.

Oh yeah, almost forgot - the Mallards won - they beat the Eau Claire Express 9-7. There was even a home run.

Alright, I've calmed down a bit, and am going to give this entry one more try. If it fails anywhere along the way, you won't be reading this, and I'm shutting down my blog for good. I can't tell you how maddening it is to spend nearly two hours on an entry only to have this horrible software wreck the post and mess-up the pictures. So without any further ado, here we go...

Q: What's the only thing worse than a Texas driver?

A: A Wisconsin Road.

Q: What's the only thing worse than a Wisconsin Road?

A: A Wisconsin Sidewalk.

I'm dead serious when I say that Wisconsin roads are the worst roads I've ever driven on. And it doesn't make any sense to me - Wisconsin property taxes are through the roof, and yet the roads make even the worst dirt roads from Arkansas seem as smooth as glass.

And it's not just side roads or back roads; nope - it's I-90, I-94, The Beltline, East Washington Avenue, University Avenue - all of the "regular" roads. They're awful! I challenge anyone to try to drive on those roads with a cup of coffee (without a lid). You'll burn and/or stain yourself within the first 100 yards of driving, I guarantee it. Potholes, heaves, ruts, missing sections that are more than 10" in diameter - it's unreal. And people just fly over these crappy roads like they're driving down a Californian boulevard...

And the sidewalks? Forget about it. I really am surprised that the cities around here haven't had their pants sued off over the poor quality of the sidewalks. It's not uncommon to find sections of a sidewalk that stick up 4-6 inches higher than the previous and/or following sections. Chunks of cement are missing from the sidewalks; rebar is exposed - it's ridiculous. I smell a letter or six in my future - I just have to figure out who to write to with my observations and complaints about the road and sidewalk quality (and lack thereof).

To give you an idea of just how bad the roads are, I had to spend nearly $300 fixing my bike last week as a result of the bad roads. The potholes are so many and so big that I wrecked my headset. I put on more than 3500 miles on my bike in Arkansas and Texas without incident; my first 100 miles in Wisconsin cost me $300. Unreal.


Ok, rant over. Now let's talk about work. It's going well - still busy, and my projects are cranking along. I've been becoming more familiar with the layout of the building - it's 13 stories in total and has some cool features, but it is a bit tricky to navigate at times. My office is on the third floor, where there are 17 conference rooms alone - the main conference room that we use overlooks the entryway/atrium:

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As I mentioned, my "office" is on the 3rd floor, but it's not really an office. Most of the building is set-up as a big cube farm, and there aren't many real offices to speak of. Executive-level management has offices along the window sides of the building, but most everyone else is in a cube. Here's part of our cube farm:

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I'm in the second cube on the left, and my workspace looks like this:

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Nothing too exciting. But, I did manage to score a nice new HP laptop and a new HP 19" LCD, so that's nice. Our cubes are also near one of the half-dozen or so break areas that are on each floor. These break areas are pretty great - each has several refrigerators, vending machines, filtered water, "Filter-Fresh" coffee machines (the machines custom make you a cup of coffee on demand), pizza makers, iced tea, and so on. Everything is free except for the candy machines. Here's what a typical break area looks like:

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Oh, there are also free newspapers and magazines in the break areas as well - it's nice to be able to grab a quick peek at the headlines or to look at the "weekend" section of the paper to find something to do.

We also have our own full service cafeteria, complete with a full kitchen that offers a full menu, along with daily lunch specials. Rumor has it that Monday's Sloppy Joes and Friday's burgers are fantastic; I haven't had lunch there yet, but I do stop down fairly regularly for a snack. Here I enjoyed a Diet Coke, a Vitamin Water, and a yogurt:

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I usually grab a snack like that (they also have things like fruit salad, fresh fruit, cookies, and so on) about once or twice a week - it's a nice change of pace and only costs $2.05. Here's what the main entrance to the cafeteria looks like:

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The building also has a free, full-service health club, but I didn't take any pictures as there were people working out in there, and I would've felt weird snapping a picture of them. So, as you can see, the office is a pretty decent place.

I've also managed to make friends with a few folks at work, and one of the coolest people that I've met there so far is a guy by the name of Mark. Mark is a few years older than me; he grew up in the metropolis of Palmyra, and we've managed to hit it off. We go to lunch and/or dinner fairly regularly, and it's always a good time. He's got a bunch of senior level project management experience, so with any luck I'll pick up some tips and tricks from him as well.

Last week, we decided to grab a late lunch at Roman Candle Pizza on Williamson Street. It was the day before our Fourth of July break started, so we left work a little early and grabbed some 'za. It was fantastic - they have a "firecracker sauce" which has a little bit of a kick to it, the crust is reminiscent of a New York pizza, and the toppings were fresh and tasty.

While enjoying our pizza and Spotted Cow, we kicked around the crazy idea of running over to Summerfest to catch Judas Priest. So, on a whim, we hopped in his 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee (lovingly nicknamed "Nitschke") and drove over to Milwaukee. We managed to find a parking spot (for only $20) near the festival grounds, and within a matter of minutes were walking the Summerfest grounds.

We stopped by the US Cellular stage, where I believe Le Disko was playing:

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And then we headed over to the Harley Davidson stage to see an aging Rob Halford and Judas Priest perform. The show as loud, bright, and entertaining, even if we couldn't really see the stage from where we were standing... there were thousands of people crammed into the stage area, and mullets were everywhere. This photo is the best I could do:

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It was pretty fun to watch a classic band like Judas Priest crank out some familiar hits, and they didn't sound bad at all. With a better sound system, they probably would've been really fantastic to watch, which is surprising when you consider they're all probably in their sixties.

On Monday night, with the apartment still in complete disarray, I learned that my friend John was in town and that he wanted to get together. John brought his new dog, Teddy, down with him to visit, so it was over to Lake Mills to check-in with John and to meet Teddy. Teddy is a wonderful dog - a German Sheppard mix of some type, and he's super sweet and docile. Here he is sitting and waiting patiently for a treat:

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And here's John holding Teddy like a baby - told you he was docile!

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Had a nice dinner with John; we went to Ken's Towne Inn Pizza in Jefferson, where we enjoyed half-priced pizza night. John is such a great guy - it's always fun to chat with him, and I'm looking forward to hopefully spending more time with him as we now share a closer proximity to one another.

This past weekend, it was down to the Capitol Square to check out Art Fair on the Square. Ended up meeting with Jed, one of my old friends from a previous job, his wife Jamie, and Mark and his girlfriend Karen.

We had a really good time, despite the fact that there were probably 30,000 people jammed around the Capitol all looking at overpriced art. I say overpriced, but it's really just because I can no longer afford to buy anything cool... For example, there was an artist who had some awesome paintings of various animals, but at $150 for a small print, I just couldn't justify buying anything.

Here's what part of the square looked like, as shot from the steps of the Capitol:

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The weather last weekend was awesome - low 80s, low humidity, and lots of sun. And after spending far too many hours in the sun, it was over to my favorite place for some refreshments and lunch:

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Yep, that's The Great Dane Brewery. Enjoyed a sampler platter of seasonal and newer beers and then wolfed down a seared tuna salad. All in all, a perfect day. Sorry, no food pictures from The Great Dane - I forgot to take photos as the conversation at the table was too much fun.

You will be pleased to know that I did score some pictures of the fish fry from Flannery's on Friday night. Flannery's is a german-style pub that's located in New Glarus, and came highly recommended by a coworker who knew of my passion for a good fish fry.

Here's Flannerys from the outside:

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Started off with some cheese curds, which were ok - not nearly as good as the curds from Ken's Towne Inn.

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After the curds came the soup - a delicious french onion soup, complete with nice big hunks of whole wheat croutons:

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And then there was the fish: fried haddock, which was very lightly breaded, fried to perfection (no excess grease), and perfectly flaky and light. Quite easily the best fish I've ever had. Believe me that this picture doesn't do the fish any justice; it was really dark inside Flannery's, and my iPhone doesn't talke the greatest pictures:

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That big hashbrown-like thing on the left is called a "Rosti" (pronounced "Roosty"). It sounded interesting, but in reality, it wasn't very good. It was very bland and flavorless, despite featuring shredded potatoes, egg, onion, peppers, and cheese. It literally had no flavor at all... but the fish was excellent, so it didn't really matter.

With my belly full of fish, I had a wonderful bike ride on Saturday morning - I rode nearly 50 miles (two laps around the lake, a lap around the capitol, followed by a spin out to the airport and then back down to the campus area) and ran 8 miles. I figured that with all of that exercise I could treat myself to some Greenbush Bakery donuts:

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Two cake donuts (blueberry) and an "Oreo donut" - it had crumbled Oreos on top and a buttercream filling, and was heavenly.

I felt guilty after eating 25,000 calories worth of donuts, so on Sunday I rode the bike up to Mazomainee (about 38 miles) and followed it up with a 6-mile run. My gut still feels overly stuffed - I need to stop eating so irresponsibly, but there are so many good things to try that I can't resist it. I really need to get things back under control, though...

So, that's about it. I hope this post "works" - if not, I'm going to be really upset! Stay tuned for more food photos and stories...