March 2010 Archives

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I managed to invite myself to dinner with Dan and Tara (and their family) this past Friday; they were headed to The Fireside to celebrate Tara's mother's birthday. The Fireside is a bit of a legendary place - it's been around for eons, but surprisingly, I'd never been there. Probably because they're famous more for their entertainment (musicals, plays) than their food fare...

We arrived to the monstrously large Fireside (it seats 1,750 people for dinner) at 8pm and were ushered through the "lobby" area, which includes a bunch of shops as shown here:

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Yes, that's a "Technicolor Dreamcoat" hanging from the wall - it was actually pretty cool.

We took a seat in the large bar area, which featured classic 70s decor, including these awesome vinyl "wrap-around" chairs:

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Sorry for the dark photo; the place doesn't seem to have many (if any) windows, and the primary light source in the bar came from a few of the four-sided fireplaces. I'm guessing they have something to do with the name of the place.

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After sampling an old fashioned from the bar (they didn't muddle, nor did they include cherries or an orange), we made our way to one of the dining areas, where we were promptly greeted by a waiter. Menus were already placed and were clearly the "Friday Fish Fry Special" menus, as options were quite limited (fish, chicken, sides, soup, dessert, kids items).

The Fireside offers your choice of beer battered cod, steamed cod, deep fried chicken, or a combination of any of the three. You also have the option of "adding a piece" of whatever you'd like to your order... so, in theory, you could order the steamed cod and order a piece of beer battered cod, or a piece of chicken. It's not a bad system.

I chose the steamed cod with a baked potato. I also opted for a cup of french onion soup, and decided to pass on dessert. The rest of the table ordered nearly the same - steamed cod was by far the favorite, but one person did order beer battered cod, and another added a piece of chicken to their steamed cod order.

Side options included: baked potato, fries, Yukon potatoes (quartered and boiled Yukon golds, with onion and spice), and potato pancakes (which included applesauce and maple syrup on the side).

After taking our orders and leaving, another server brought us baskets of freshly-made bread. Tonight's offerings included a marble rye and a cheddar sourdough. I tried a small piece of each - they were soft, perfectly chewy, and super tasty.

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Shortly after the bread arrived, so did our soups and coleslaw. I didn't try the slaw, but the soup was pretty decent. It was made with a small piece of rye bread and a small square of muenster cheese:

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I appreciated the way they did the soup; it wasn't cloaked by a huge piece of fatty, greasy cheese, and the amount of bread was perfect for the size of the cup. The soup was slightly salty, but it all worked well.

After a longish wait, our dinner entrees arrived. The steamed cod looked slightly odd (the fish had "opened" up), but it was quite tasty. Here's a picture of my cod plate:

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While the Fireside may serve upwards of 2,000 people on a Friday Fish Fry night, you'd never know it. The fish was made really well - it was steamed perfectly, and unlike so many other places that ruin their baked or steamed fish by drenching it in butter or dill, the Fireside serves their fish "clean." I really like that they served it clean - it allowed the wonderful flavor of the fish to shine through.

The fish was nice and hot, tender and flaky, and very flavorful. The baked potato was a bit overdone, but the steamed veggies saved the day. Once again, they were steamed perfectly and served clean, just like the fish. No butter, no oil, no grease, just freshly steamed vegetables. My hat's off to the Fireside for offering their meals in a healthy manner.

The beer battered cod looked decent - I didn't sample it, but did examine it. The batter appeared to be dark yet thin, it adhered to the fish, and there weren't any signs of grease. I'm told it was "excellent" and have no reason to doubt that it was anything less than great.

I did sample the potato pancakes and was disappointed by them - they appeared to be deep fried rather than pan-fried, and as such resembled a McDonald's breakfast hashbrown more so than a proper potato pancake.

At around 9:30pm, desserts were served (key lime pie and an ice cream dish), as was coffee. The coffee was excellent - I could've had a dozen cups.

My fish plate cost $12.95, which isn't bad, considering how well it was made and the reasonable portions. Service was average at best, but the place is quite large, so I'll give them some slack.

Fireside = WIN

Service = 3 stars
Food = 3.5 stars
Value = 3 stars
MISC = 3 stars

You could do a lot worse when it comes to Fish Fry; while I'm not sure if I'd drive to Fort Atkinson just for the fish on a Friday, I certainly wouldn't turn away if in the area.

After fish, we headed over to the Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills - I'm really starting to enjoy some of their offerings, and I like the inside of the small brewery. Here's a photo of the bar area, where Dan and I enjoyed a brew or two before calling it a night.

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Dinner: Doing it right, part II

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I mentioned that I've been trying to reset my diet - so far, so good. I did eat a bit of pizza yesterday and may have had a donut or two, but all things considered, the new meal plan seems to be working well.

I also mentioned that I've been addicted to documentaries, and that I recently watched a movie called "King Corn." Well, one of the things they talked about in King Corn was the impact that corn has had on livestock and consequently our nutrition. They compared a cut of grain-fed (aka corn) beef against a cut of grass-fed beef - the grass-fed beef had about 10% of the fat that the grain-fed beef did. The grass-fed beef was also free of hormones, antibiotics and other undesirable stuff. It takes longer to "finish" grass-fed beef (the cow is more active and isn't ingesting insane amounts of sugar), and as such it's more expensive to purchase, but the result is better for everyone.

So this past weekend, I set about finding a local farm that raised grass-fed beef; I didn't have to look far - turns out there's a small farm about 30 minutes from the apartment that raises organic, grass-fed, free-range cattle (along with ostrich, buffalo, poultry, and pork). I stopped in and purchased a couple of beef tenderloins, some chicken breasts, and some organic, locally grown vegetables.

I waited until tonight to sample the grass-fed beef, and all I can say is: wow. It was excellent. The farmers told me that grass-fed beef cooks faster than grain-fed beef and instructed me to cook it to "no more than 125 degrees." I followed their instructions and all went well.

Here's my plated dinner:

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There's a small, organic tomato (20 calories), 4oz of roasted broccoli (25 calories), 6oz of roasted mushrooms (40 calories), 6oz of beef tenderloin (240 calories), and 8 spears of asparagus (40 calories). A grain-fed portion of tenderloin would've come in at 410 calories - the difference all stemming from fat content.

So, if you have an opportunity, I'd strongly encourage you to locate a local farm that offers grass-fed meats. You'll cut down on the amount of fat that you ingest, you'll support a sustainable, locally operated business, and you'll enjoy a wonderful meal.

Documentaries - I'm hooked

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I've been watching a lot of documentaries on my Netflix streaming video service - so much so that I believe I may be addicted to them. The Netflix service "learns" what you're watching and makes recommendations based on your past preferences; so, I've been discovering all of these interesting documentaries and I can't stop watching them. I watched two last night alone...

Here's a list of some of the better ones I've seen - you may want to check them out if the opportunity presents itself:

Cocaine Cowboys - a story about Griselda Blanco, a ruthless drug lord who was largely responsible for the majority of the cocaine that came into the USA during the 70s and 80s. Unreal story.

Cocaine Cowboys II - a follow-up to the first documentary that focuses on Charles Cosby, a drug dealer who befriended Blanco while she was in prison and proceeded to rise to incredible power and wealth.

The King of Kong - the story of two gaming geeks who battle each other for title of "King of Kong" by setting world records in what is the gaming industry's toughest arcade game of all time: Donkey Kong.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - an unbelievable inside look at the rise and fall of Enron, and how the executives were well aware of what they were doing and the potential consequences of their actions. I watched this one twice - it was that good.

Two Days in April - follows four college football stars as they attempt to become drafted into the NFL. An intriguing behind-the-scenes look into how difficult it is to enter the draft; from the Senior Bowl to the NFL Combine to the specialized training camps - it's truly amazing what these guys go through and how they are scrutinized over every single detail/aspect of their life prior to being eligible for the draft. 1400 players enter the draft every year for 255 positions.

King Corn - two college kids from Boston move to Iowa, rent an acre of farmland, and grow their own acre of corn. They try to follow it through the food-chain and are surprised by several things: the corn they grow (along with most of Iowa) is not consumable by humans in its natural form... it's used for high fructose corn syrup and livestock feed. And, every acre loses at least $10 until government subsidies kick-in and net the farmer about $8 per acre.


Those are just a few of the better ones I've seen. I'm sure there will be more to come!

In other news, the new mixer is working fantastically - top notch. I love it. Off to a fish fry tonight (baked fish - sticking with the diet) and will report on it later this weekend.

Eating Healthy - Doing it Right

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I've been on a terror lately with my eating. For the past two months or so, I've completely trashed my diet - from fish fry to popcorn to fritters, you name it and I've been more or less eating it - in massive quantities. I did try to eat well during my surgery and recovery, but once I was able to start running again I went right back to eating like a glutton.

To prevent significant weight gain from my binge eating, I ramped up my mileages significantly; I'm averaging around 10-miles per day, six days per week with running, and I've been riding the bike a lot more as well.

So, I vowed to completely reset my diet. I spent the better part of this past weekend planning out my meals for the week; I calculated nutritional values, paired meals with supplements, and so on. I'm getting back on track with how I used to eat - a quality breakfast, a reasonable lunch, and a good dinner with a snack thrown into the mix. No more late night runs to the Greenbush Bakery.

What's on the menu? Most breakfasts will be around 210 calories and consist of: .75c Fiber One, .5c Silk Light, .25c blueberries, and a half-scoop of Whey Protein.

Lunches will come-in at around 200 calories: FlatOut wrap, 3oz turkey breast, .25c broccoli slaw, and a teaspoon of salsa.

Afternoon snack will usually include a 6oz container of Siggi's Skyr yogurt and an apple, which will be good for 180 calories.

Dinner will include grilled chicken or pork tenderloin, acorn squash or sweet potato, and a roasted veggie (mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli) - calories will be right around 350 - 400. If the mood strikes, I'll make a breakfast burrito (egg whites, pico de gallo, and a wrap).

Here's what tonight's dinner looked like:

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That's half of an acorn squash which I roasted face down for a nice char, 6oz of grilled pork tenderloin, 8 asparagus spears (roasted), and a small tomato that's been sliced. Nutritional values: 371 calories, 5g fat, 42g carbs (2g sugars), 11g fiber, 37g protein.


And speaking of eating healthy... I bought a monster of a blender this weekend - a VitaMix 5200. I first learned of this beast about a year ago, when I ran into Michael Lovato, a world class professional triathlete who has won 2 Ironman races and finished in the top 10 numerous times. Michael trains in Austin during the winter months (he normally lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado), and we happened to run into him while at Trigger Point.

Michael was raving about this new blender - a VitaMix 5200, and we were intrigued. I did some research on it, and it is indeed an impressive machine. It features a 2HP motor (your lawnmower probably has a 2.5, 4, or 5HP motor for comparison), an indestructible blender carafe, and can spin at speeds of up to 27,000 rpm.

It has a seven year warranty and is nearly indestructible. It'll boil water if you let it run for 7-8 minutes. It'll blend and cook soups and scrambled eggs, and it doesn't have any type of "heating element" at all - it's all thanks to those incredibly sharp blades turning at a breakneck pace. To quote Michael, "this friggin' thing will blend a brick!"

Alas, as much as I wanted one, I couldn't justify buying it, so I waited. I revisited it several times - researched it online, searched for deals, but never pulled the trigger. So imagine my surprise when I found a VitaMix demo taking place at the local Costco this past weekend.

I watched the demos, saw the price (about 50% off) and bought one. Here's the beast, sitting on my counter:

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I actually waited to use it until today; I decided to make a "green monster" smoothie, which consists of: half an apple, half an orange, a slice of pineapple, a few carrots, a lime, a handful of spinach, and a pinch of lemon juice. Top it off with water and ice, and you're good to go. I also added 5g of Glutamine to help aid muscle recovery as I sleep tonight.

The crazy thing about the VitaMix is that you use whole fruits - and by whole, I mean you leave the seeds and skin on the apple (the seeds have fiber and other goodies). You don't core the pineapple - you peel off the rhine and throw the whole slab of pineapple into the blender. For the orange and lime, you peel some of the skin off, but leave a good portion of it on so that you can get the benefit of the oils and nutrients that reside in the pith and skin.

Now... I know what you're thinking: gross! Seeds? Skin? Pith? Ick!!! Well, that's what I thought as well. But the VitaMix is such a beast that it completely liquifies everything, and it does it in a matter of about 20 seconds. Seriously. I simply cut my apple in half and dropped it in the blender - seeds and all.

Here's what my smoothie looked like, pre-blending:

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And here it is, mid-blend:

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20 seconds later, I was enjoying a delicious smoothie that consisted of 190 calories. I didn't add any sweeteners or anything other than the ingredients listed above; it was delicious. Next time, I'll use a little less spinach and I'll add ice to help cool it down a bit. But for a first effort, it was a win.

Finally, here's a little sample of what it sounds and looks like in action (with some water in the machine). Click on this link to see a quick video of the blender (requires QuickTime to view). Edit: sound isn't working for some reason... I'm not sure why.

If you need a new blender for any reason, or you simply want to have a 2HP beast of a machine that can pulverize any typical household item (including your shoes, I'm sure), give the VitaMix 5200 a shot. It's an animal, for sure!

What's that old saying about "distance makes the heart grow fond?"

I take exception to this rule, simply because one of my favorite places to meet-up with friends, watch a game, have a delicious dinner, or enjoy a beverage or two is located just a few blocks from my "home" in Madison - The MidTown Pub.

Followers of the blog will recall that I've been to the MidTown Pub ("MTP") for a fish fry before, and while the fish was good, they were too busy to keep up with the all-you-can-eat part of the deal.

Don't get me wrong - the MTP is an absolutely stellar place - I just seemed to have a bad run of luck when I tried the fish back in August of 09. Every other time I've ever gone to the MTP, the service has been absolutely incredible. In fact, it's largely because of the wonderful service that I'm such a huge fan of the MTP - the bartenders, the cooks, and the owner (Joel) are great, great people. It only took a second visit before they recognized me as a repeat customer - they really make you feel at home.

So, with March Madness underway and a good week of work behind me, I decided to revisit the MTP for some fish, some beverages, and a little basketball.

I forgot that the Badgers were playing in the tournament, so I was a bit shocked to discover the MTP was absolutely packed at 4:00pm on Friday. Everyone was glued to one of the many flatscreen televisions; when the Badgers would score, the place erupted. Luckily, I was able to find a spot at the bar (one lone stool, wedged between two intense basketball fans), and I placed my order for the beer battered cod - all you can eat, please.

The friendly bartenders took my order, asked me how work had been going, and wondered if I might be interested in a beverage - it was happy hour, after all. I obliged, and welcomed the fresh-popped popcorn offering as well.

I watched as the cooks took plain fillets of cod, carefully battered them, and dropped them into the hot oil (sitting at the bar has its advantages - you can watch the cooks work, you can see all of the televisions, and you can converse with the staff). I started to salivate with anticipation.

Next, I saw my fries go into the oil, followed by a nice thick slice of garlic bread hitting the griddle. I was getting anxious.

Perfectly orchestrated, the fish, fries, and bread were finished, plated, and brought out to me, served with a side of lemon and the usual accoutrements: tartar and coleslaw. Here's what my gorgeous plate of fish looked like:

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A dash of malt vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, and I was ready to tear into the fish - and I'm glad I did. As I recall, the fish from my previous visit was excellent, but slightly over-battered. I'm pleased to report that today's fish was absolutely perfect. The batter was light, crispy, nicely seasoned, and expertly applied. It stuck to the meaty, fresh, moist, and flaky cod fillets - this was some seriously good fish.

The fries were decent as well, but the real star was the fish (as it should be). I wolfed down my first four pieces and put in an order for a few more - the staff seemed somewhat surprised, but as I said, "don't let my gangly appearance fool you - I can pack away fish."

Within minutes, a second plate arrived and it was every bit as good, if not better than, the first plate. I could've eaten another 5-6 pieces of fish quite easily, but I didn't want to make a scene, so I called it quits on the 'ole fry. Oh - the garlic bread - stellar as well. There's something about a "griddled" piece of bread that's just wonderful.

The all you can eat cod is served from 3:00pm - 7:00pm and costs $12.95. I'd recommend you go early and try to sit at the bar; otherwise they also have a myriad of other fish options, including a baked cod that's supposed to be exceptional (I'll try it during a future visit).

So - where does this leave things? To reiterate - I love the MTP. I really enjoy hanging out there, and I'm serious when I say they have the best atmosphere, the most friendly staff, and the nicest patrons. Their food is top notch (I've yet to order anything unsatisfactory from the normal menu, and I really crave their burgers and sweet potato fries). The prices are inexpensive. The fish fry was excellent.

MidTown Pub = WIN

Service = 5 stars (the best around)
Food = 4 stars (fish was incredible)
Value = 4 stars ($12.95 for AYCE? No brainer)
Misc = 5 stars (best local bar for miles and miles and miles + great jukebox)

Summary: While I don't think the MTP beats some of the holy grails of fish frys, it is a very excellent fish fry - based on this visit, I'd place it near the top 8. Go there if for no other reason than to enjoy some of the best and most friendly/genuine service you'll ever experience, nosh on some incredible food, and leave feeling happy you stopped by. Well done, folks!

Waxing poetic - here we go again?

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I had to spend a few days in Arkansas, so I loaded up the vehicle and made the 10+ hour drive from Badgerland to Hogville (Big Ten/SEC reference there, in case you missed it). When I left Madison, the weather was rainy and chilly - in fact, if I remember correctly, I hit a bout of freezing drizzle/rain on my way out of town.

Well, as soon as I hit St. Louis, the weather turned gorgeous - it was 70-degrees, sunny, and absolutely beautiful. When I arrived in Arkansas, I immediately went for a run - even at 5pm, it was still 72F and fantastic. I couldn't wait for an opportunity to ride my bike, but the sun was quickly setting, and I had to be "at work" (I was working from home) the following day, so I couldn't take advantage of the nice riding weather. I'd have to wait for the following weekend.

I did get to go out and run each weekday morning, and it was absolutely superb - at 6:15am, the temps were in the low 50s; as the sun rose, the mercury rose to the low 60s. It was so nice! I was salivating at the thought of what the weekend had in store.

As my luck often goes, the weather turned ugly on Friday. Low 40s, windy, rainy, and downright miserable. A quick check of the forecast showed no chance of improvement for the weekend. ARGH. I went out and rode anyway... I woke up at 6:30, loaded up the bike and hit the park for 30-odd miles of outdoors riding, followed by 12 miles of running. And even though it was drizzling, windy, and miserable, it still beat riding the trainer, so I enjoyed it for the most part. After nearly 4 hours of being out in that mess, my toes were numb, my nose was running more than my feet, and I was ready to head inside.

I had some ants in my pants, though, and decided that if the weather was bad, I'd take the afternoon to detail my car. For those not in the know, I sold my VW and bought a truck - a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado LT 4x4 with the Z71 package. I found it with just about 40,000 miles on it, and got a splendid deal. The only downside? It's black.

Why is that a downside? Simple. I'm more or less a perfectionist with the worst case of OCD when it comes to owning a car - I can't stand the thought of my car needing any type of maintenance, or going neglected and in need of a detailing, or any other type of service. And no other color is as hard to keep "clean and pristine" as is black.

I'll admit that I burned out on detailing for a while (being the editor of a magazine devoted entirely to detailing products and processes will do that), so I swore I'd never own a black vehicle because I know how difficult it is to keep them looking good. Silver or white is the way to go - those colors always look good, even when you've let the detailing/waxing slide a bit.

But, as mentioned, I had the itch to "do something" so, I ventured out into the 35F, windy, and misty weather, washed the truck and brought it inside to start the detailing process.

I mentioned I'm OCD when it comes to detailing; you'll see why as you read on. After washing the truck, I clayed the paint to remove any surface contaminants. Clay is like an "exfoliant" for your paint - it lifts embedded debris from the surface, including things you can't see, such as airborne pollutants, rail dust, and other nasties. It doesn't remove any swirl marks, scuffs, or damage, but instead leaves the surface butter smooth. Clay has been around for ages, but it can be a bit tricky to use, especially if you purchase a lower-grade of clay. It's also a time consuming process, as you have to do it entirely by hand, and you clay every square inch of the car.

After claying, I washed the truck again to remove any clay residue. I then broke out my new pride and joy - a Griot's Garage Random Orbital Buffer. Holy cats - buffers have come a long way over the past few years.

As the editor of Guru Reports, I feel I was somewhat responsible for helping people become comfortable with using a random orbital buffer. We reviewed and highly recommended what was (at the time) the best random orbital buffer around - the Porter Cable 7424. People tended to shy away of these "professional" buffers because they feared such things as burning their paint or introducing swirl marks/hologramming/hazing/etc.

After much education (including posting videos, tutorials, write-ups, and conducting several training sessions around the country), folks started to embrace the Random Orbital (or DA (Dual Action)) buffer, and soon enough, you couldn't browse a detailing forum without people raving about how awesome the 7424 was. It was a pretty cool experience.

Well, some time ago, I lent my trusty Porter Cable 7424 to a friend, and I haven't seen it since... so, I contacted another friend to get the "hot scoop" on buffers for 2010. He recommended the Griot's buffer, so I broke-down and bought one.

The thing is a MONSTER. Wow - power to spare, yet easy to maneuver. And, it does the work of a rotary (a more complicated, more powerful buffer that can burn paint and cause swirls/holograms/etc) without any of the risk.

As soon as I fired-up the fire-engine red buffer, I knew I was in for a treat. My old 7424 would "bog down" if I really put my weight into it; this new buffer didn't even hiccup. I quickly removed some major swirl marks, spiderwebbing, and holograms. Coupled with one of the new Lake Country HydroFoam pads and some Meguiar's #105 compound, I had my black paint looking more or less flawless!

A word about the Meguiar's #105 - back in the day, Meguiar's had some killer stuff. Then they went through a period where they seemed to lose focus and their products suffered a bit, in my opinion. Gone was the awesome "ease of use"; their compounds were finicky and difficult to remove. So, I was quite hesitant to give them another shot, but Bret convinced me to try it, so I bit the bullet. And, the new stuff is incredible. It's easy to work with, provides unbelievable results, and wipes off without any effort. Win!

After a few passes with the #105, I switched to a finer foam pad and used Meguiar's #205. Once again - stellar results. The paint was really starting to glow; reflections were crystal clear, the color was as deep as I'd ever seen it, and the defects were all but gone.

I followed-up with a quick buffing with Zaino's All-In-One product on a super soft buffing pad. Bret indicated that the Zaino AIO wouldn't really do much for the paint other than give it a good final cleaning, and he was right. My green buffing pad showed "rusty" coloring when done, and the paint was absolutely brilliant.

Gave the truck a final wash in preparation for my favorite sealant of all time: Zaino Z2 Pro. Zaino's sealant isn't a wax; it's a synthetic protectant that shines and lasts like no other product I've ever used in my life. I was a skeptic of the stuff at first, but I'm now a believer and true convert. I won't ever use anything other than Zaino for protection.

3 hand-applied coats of Zaino Z2 Pro with ZFX catalyst, followed by a wipe-down of Zaino's new Clear Seal product, and I was done. Well, nearly... I then dressed the tires and trim, polished and protected the chrome, and detailed the interior. Nothing like spending 12 quality hours working on the new vehicle...

So, what did it look like? I took some photos on Sunday; the weather was still overcast and gloomy, but you'll get the idea:

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I really like the truck so far. As mentioned, it has low mileage - just about 40,000 on it or so. And it's nicely optioned with: leather, dual heated seats with memory, onboard information system, dual climate control, Bose stereo with 6-disc CD and XM, push-button 4x4, and a bunch of other gadgets.

A few weekends ago, I treated it to a full tune-up: coolant flush, transmission flush & filter change, fuel filter change, air filter change, oil/filter change, flush of the differential fluids (used Royal Purple - nice stuff!), brake fluid flush, and a full tune-up. I must say the mileage difference is a shock... I get about 15mpg vs. 45mpg with the VW Jetta...

And finally, here's a shot of some of the tools that made my detailing experience so positive - there's nary a swirl, scuff, or hologram anywhere to be found, thanks to these guys:

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What's that? You want to give it a try for yourself? No problem - here's the shopping list that I'd recommend. These products should fit 85-90% of people's needs, regardless of the car's color or make.

Buffer: Griot's Garage 6" Random Orbital Buffer

Pads: Lake Country HyrdoTech pads and Lake Country traditional foam pads

Clay: Clay Magic Blue

Scratch/swirl remover: Meguiar's M105 (use with "blue" HydroTech pad from Lake Country)

Polish/fine swirl remover: Meguiar's M205 (use with "tangerine" HydroTech pad from Lake Country)

Final cleaning/polish: Zaino All-in-One (use with "green" or "white" pad from Lake Country)

Wash solution: Zaino Z7 - top notch wash. Super awesome stuff.

Protectant: Zaino Z2 Pro and don't forget the ZFX catalyst/activator. Definitely use ZFX.

Last Step Product: Zaino CS - this stuff is amazing. Wipe on, walk away - 9+ months protection.

Quick Detailer (for wipe-downs between steps): Zaino Z6 - smells great, works even better.

For towels, I prefer to use high quality microfiber towels - not the kind you can buy at Target or WalMart, but really nice ones. The good towels won't marr or scratch your paint... Wayne, over at Wayne's Towels has some of the best towels I've ever used, and he's a super nice guy.

So, there you have it. My recipe for a stunning detail - even on a black car! I'm not sure that I'll ever feel like doing another "wax test," but it sure was fun to detail with some quality stuff again. I can't say enough good things about that new buffer and the Meguiar's polishes... wow. Thanks for the info, Bret - I owe you one!

If the sun comes out, I'll take a new photo and share it... for the time being, here's a bad "reflection" photo from the tailgate. It's hard to get a decent photo when it's gloomy and overcast.

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Update: the sun decided to poke out for a bit here near the end of the day, so here are a few additional photos, in the sun.

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The hood, reflecting the trees and power line:

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And, here's me, in the side door (it's a tad dusty; I drove the truck today):

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Quivey's Grove

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What a joy it's been to run again - I was able to run every day this past week, and despite still feeling quite sluggish and "out of it," managed to log just over 35 miles in five days. I've got my fingers crossed that at some point in the very near future I'll feel more normal while running, but I guess recovery takes time - I'll try to be patient. :-)

With some miles back under my feet, I figured I could treat myself to a proper fish fry. Mark and I had been hearing from some coworkers that the fish from Quivey's Grove was phenomenal, so we set our sites on the famous eatery. We sent invites out to our coworkers and were pleased to have a few of them join us.

Astute geekysteve readers will recall that I've been to Quivey's Grove before - just not for food... no sir, we kicked-off Oktoberfest with the Quivey's Beer Fest a few months ago, and it was a great time.

We arrived to Quivey's at 5:00 sharp and promptly put in our name for a table. Would you believe the wait was set at "45 minutes or more" for a table of five? Crikey! Thankfully, the bar area was comfortable and featured a nice selection of Wisconsin microbrews. Check out the huge timbers that make up the Stable Bar area of Quivey's:

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We ordered a round of drinks. The old fashioneds were average - no muddling, no cherry, no olives, no Squirt. While waiting for our table, we decided to try the cheese curds. They were a bit steep at $7, but were fairly tasty, if not a touch greasy.

q_curds.jpg

Our table was ready by 6:15 (a full hour+ wait), and we were led upstairs to the Stable's eating area. Quivey's has a lot of character and charm - I'll give it that. It was quite pleasant to sit in the old building, surrounded by the huge beams of timber and the centuries old stone. Here's our group, which consisted of (clockwise from left: Dianne (from PRC group), Russ (our PMO manager), Karan (a fellow Project Manager), and Mark (a fellow Project Manager).

q_group.jpg

We browsed the menu and opted for fish, all the way around. I chose the sampler, which included baked cod, beer battered cod, and fried lake perch. Potato options included "parmesan potatoes" (or, as some would call them - "funeral potatoes") or fries. I went with the fries, since everyone else at the table chose the parmesan potatoes.

We got things going with the traditional coleslaw and bread. I'm not a slaw fan, so I can't comment on it, but the bread was nice - it reminded me of a non-sour sourdough - had a dense feel to it, but was soft and chewy with just a slight bit of crustiness.

Our fish arrived after about twenty minutes - here's what the sampler looked like:

q_fish.jpg

We'll work from left to right.

The baked cod was average at best. Slightly watery, slightly rubbery, mild flavor - it seemed as if it had been sitting in a steamer/warmer tray for a little too long. It definitely didn't have that "fresh from the grill (or oven)" taste or feel. Had it been a little more fresh, it probably would've been a solid offering, but as presented, it was disappointing.

The beer battered cod was a major disappointment. The batter was soggy, and no matter how I tried to cut the fish, the fish would "fall out" of the batter. The cod itself was really watery and largely flavorless, and when combined with the super soggy and quite greasy batter, it was all I could do to choke down those two pieces. Definitely subpar.

The fried lake perch was the best of the group - the breading stayed firm and crunchy, the fish had a good flavor, and held its texture. Unfortunately, the tiny little pieces were couldn't revive or save the rest of the miserable plate (each piece was about the size of a pat of butter).

The fries? Ick. Limp, cold, and greasy. Thank goodness they only gave me a small bunch of them. All things considered, the plate was not worth $17.

Here's a shot of the parmesan potatoes with the baked cod - again, check out how tiny the portions are (this plate was $14; use the lemon for size reference):

q_baked.jpg

I'm told the funeral potatoes were largely lifeless, so a fail all the way around. We reflected on the meal while paying the bill and most rated it a "low 5 out of 10." I'm not sure if we hit them on a bad night, but given this experience, it's unlikely I'd go back to try the fish again.

Summary:

Fish = 2 stars
Service = 2 stars (we saw our waitress three times)
Value = 1.5 stars
MISC = 4 stars (great atmosphere)

Quivey's has history, character, and a nice bar. If you're looking for good fish, look elsewhere.

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