Review: Galo's Italian Grill

Galo's Italian Grill in Richmond IndianaI don't usually go to restaurants the first day they're open. The last time I tried to do that it was based on bad information and the place was still preparing to open. The time before that we walked in and seated ourselves, only to realize that the *next* day was the official public open, and that we had just joined in a private friends and family only dining experience. Oops.

But, third time's a charm. Tonight's dining experience at Galo's Italian Grill here in Richmond was worth the potential for injury or embarrassment, and neither occurred. In fact, from start to finish, it was a pleasure all around.
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Links for the Week - December 16, 2007

  1. The Story of Stuff - "From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns."
  2. The Official Blog of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, and the New York Times article that introduced me to it. I wonder how much comment spam *he* gets?
  3. Local geek Charlie Peck is still Intel's "fastest geek" - or, how to win $30,000 with just a screwdriver.
  4. Taking Charge of Your Fertility - the companion website to the book by the same name.
  5. Local Food Cooperative Management System Software - open source software to connect local food producers with local food consumers. It's one piece in creating a more self-reliant local economy.

Sunday Links for the Week - October 14 2007

  1. Rest in peace, Rachel Burrell: friend, encourager, piano teacher, visionary, comfort to grieving children everywhere, and an amazing woman.
  2. Seven principles of community building: don't try to control the message, transparency is a must, participation is marketing, concept of audiences is outdated, build value, inspire with real information, manage distribution media to grow.
  3. A new episode of my podcast (online audio broadcast), the Richmond News Review: a great interview with Jason Truitt of the Palladium-Iteme, who talked candidly with me about the state of the paper's citizen journalism efforts.
  4. Unconference: a new way to bring people together and Open Space: a new way to run productive meetings. The next time you're considering having a meeting, gathering, summit, conference, colloquium, retreat, seminar or workshop, consider using these formats.
  5. Do you really know what's in that Chipotle food you're eating? Find out with the Chipotle Nutrition Calculator. My (now formerly) usual burrito has 1,336 calories in it.

The Cheapest Pine Nuts In Town

IMG_2356.JPG Recently, the Summersault staff was eating together at the Golden Corral here in Richmond. They were out of the feed buckets that you just strap onto your head and tilt up, so we ended up having a conversation. We noted that they have pine nuts on their all-you-can-eat salad bar in large quantities.

Pine nuts are an essential ingredient in good pesto; my recipe is available to qualified persons on request. They are also excellent in salads, lightly toasted.

A to-go lunch buffet for one person at the Golden Corral costs $6.69 (no drink), and they give you a container that I estimate could hold around 3 to 5 pounds of pine nuts, depending on what kinds of spill-prevention mechanisms you're able to install on the fly (a small bread bag from your pocket should be fine). Pine nuts generally cost quite a bit at the grocery store or your local food cooperative, and even if you buy them in bulk or from discounted online dealers, they can cost as much as $11.99 per pound.

So, is it safe to say that the best deal on pine nuts in town, and perhaps globally, is to fill up your to-go container with them at the Golden Corral in Richmond Indiana? Beautiful.

Dihydrogen Monoxide, available at a store near you

When I grow up, I want to get a job (or an internship, or just a stint in the mail room) with Corporate Accountability International, the folks who are behind the recent announcement by PepsiCo that they will label their Aquafina bottled water for what it is - tap water that's been filtered a few extra times. It's good news in the world of truth-in-marketing, and a nice success story for a so-called "corporate watchdog." (Blog entry for another day: why do we need so many corporate watchdogs? Hmmm.)

And yet, Pepsi will continue to promote the unique benefits of their Water(TM) - 0 calories, 0 sodium, 0 carbs, hooray! - just as every other bottled water maker will continue to sell their product as one of the best possible ways we can consume Water(TM). Consumers will probably continue to buy large cases of plastic bottles with plastic caps filled with Water(TM). Public drinking fountains will continue to be replaced by vending machines that glow into the night.

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Good-bye, Doctor Pepper

My favorite soft drink was Dr Pepper. It always tasted so much more interesting than any other soft drink I've had, and I enjoy that it has maintained its "outsider status" - always a little bit hard to find, a little bit hard to emulate (though not for lack of trying), a little bit hard to place just what the taste is.

And then, I made a New Year's resolution to stop drinking soda. Cola. Soft drinks. Fountain drinks. Carbonated beverages. Pop. Whatever you want to call it, it was time for me to give it up. It's partly because of the High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's partly because I can't get over how much power the soft drink industry has over the American diet and consumer habits in general, and I don't want to contribute in that particular way any more. And it's partly because there comes a time in one's life where one has to give up the things that one does not really need.

Now that a month has gone by with success, I feel comfortable officially saying farewell to my bubbly pseudo-medical friend and its peers. Oh, I still get the cravings now and then, and I still sometimes quietly wonder to myself if I wouldn't like to be a Pepper too. But those are just remnants of a former life, and I've moved on.

Good-bye, Doctor Pepper.

Hats off to local restauranteurs

I was glad to see today's coverage of a local restaurant owner who has made an investment in this community.

[Paul] Brittenham opened the restaurant with his brother-in-law -- Lee Schwegman, thus the name -- in 1948 after surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor and five years in the army during World War II. He has kept the ham and eggs and coffee coming and the customers moving on ever since then. But Thursday was his last day behind the counter. Brittenham is hanging up his spatula and retiring at 89.

It's worth noting too that today is the 15th anniversary of the opening of Tom's New York Deli, a frequent Uptown lunch spot for some Summersault staff and a place we love to take visitors. Owner Tom Amyx and his staff have always treated us well since our early days of starting up our own business in the business district, and I'm so glad that they continue to survive in the face of chain restaurants and fast food.

Here's to local restauranteurs!

Customer service done right by Fazoli's

E8AEFF9E1A8811DA.jpgOver the weekend I visited the Fazoli's drive through on my way out of town - it's the closest thing we've got to an Italian restaurant (though maybe not for long) and I have a certain affinity for it after having worked at one as a teenager for one of my first real jobs (it did take me a 10 year hiatus to wash all of the garlic butter out of my clothes before I could go back, but hey...). This particular visit to the restaurant was horrible - garbled drive through communication, messed up order, improper packaging that led to messes and burning of skin, etc.

As I tend to do, I used Fazoli's web-based comment system last night to describe my experience in hopes of helping them make things better. I was really impressed that today, I got a calls from the store manager and the regional manager, both telling me how devastated (their word) they were about my experience. When I talked to the store manager further, she went into detail about the specific things they should have done differently, and mentioned what steps she was taking to prevent it from happening again. And of course, she said "it would make her feel better" if she could send me some coupons. I really appreciate that.

So from a customer service perspective, despite the negative initial experience, they did everything else right:

  1. They made it really easy to contact them with my comments and concerns
  2. They quickly and sincerely acknowledged my concerns, and showed me that it was important to them to take action
  3. They addressed the specifics of my comments and what should have been done differently, without making excuses
  4. They offered to make it right in a tangible way

Nicely done.

Experts agree, neurotoxins are good for you

I've had a bad case of unusually persistent headaches lately, and when I experience health problems I usually try to identify simple potential causes and solutions before I go get all up inside the conventional healthcare system. Some call this holistic health, I just call it common sense and listening to the marvelous self-diagnosing machine that is the human body. Am I particularly stressed out or upset about something? Have I been getting enough exercise? Is my cuisine all screwed up? And so on. I was talking to someone today who practices craniosacral therapy and she did a good job of reminding me how many ridiculously toxic, but FDA approved, headache-causing substances there are out there in the food we buy.

I caught her mention of aspartame as a common one and started doing a little research. While I tend to avoid looking up medical information on the Internet after previously embarrassing experiences doing so, I found lots of connections mentioned between headaches and aspartame. Who would have thought that ingesting formaldehyde would have negative health effects? Huh! Thanks, Monsanto! I took a brief skim of my pantry and found three products at the front of the shelf with aspartame and related substances like sucralose / Splenda, listed as an ingredient, both of which I've consumed lately - they're now in the trash. Yeah, I know - we can't just start throwing away everything that's bad for us to any degree. But I figure that if a given edible substance has to have dueling propaganda websites and panels of experts to talk about whether or not it REALLY causes brain tumors, I can probably live without it to be on the safe side.

Perhaps I can ONLY live without it.