2021 Week 7 – Test Kitchen Troubles

Another Cold week and more chances for snow, oh boy! It’s been a while since Indy has been above the freezing mark and I think we have another week before we have a chance of making it there.

Issues at the Bon Appetite Test Kitchen as detailed on the /reply-all/ Podcast episode #172 (part 1 of 2). I used to LOVE watching the Bon Appetite test kitchen on YouTube as well as reading the monthly magazine. But a lot of things have come out this past year about racism and unfair treatment of minority employees. It was so bad they’ve all but disbanded the original cast and tried to reboot the show with an all new cast. It’s not the same & it’s a shame things happened the way it did. The podcast is an interesting report of how things transpired for the past 10 years up until things started coming to light in 2020.

Ammo prices are crazy right now! If you like to shoot you probably already know about this. There was a time not so long ago that a single round of 9mm would average about $0.15 when you purchased in bulk. These days that same round is closer to $0.90. That has a lot of people shooting less and no doubt putting pressure on the area firing ranges. I know I sure can’t justify throwing a dollar down range with every shot. I think Chris Rock was onto something years ago.

Well the Super Bowl was a little disappointing this year. Not only the outcome but the actual game. The oddsmakers had it listed as a 3-point spread so everyone was anticipating a shootout to the very end. Reports released this week indicated it was was one of the least viewed games in 14 years. Maybe next year will be better, don’t think it can get any worse!

Prior to the Super Bowl DraftKings presented their Big Game Snackdown on their YouTube channel. This was a competitive eating competition featuring the top people in the sport such as Joey Chestnut. They had 8 minutes to eat a variety of foods one might find at a Super Bowl party. It was a LOT of food and several of the contestants didn’t make it to the end.

For the food portion of this weeks entry I’d like to give some props to the A 2 Z Cafe on 96th St in Indianapolis. This place is right down the street from the office and I’ve only been twice. Once for breakfast pre-Covid and once this week for lunch. It’s a small family run business with a lot of character and a great menu featuring all the diner classics along with several Hawaiian classics.

Shoyu Chicken and Coconut rice with Pasta Salad

And finally, there was a time when the Boston Dynamic robots were wobbly and not so sure on their feet. Now we have this. Technology has come a LONG way!

2021 Week 5 – The Super Bowl is Set!

The American Football Conference champion Kansas City Chiefs will play the National Football Conference champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV (55) on February. SB 55 will NOT be in 4K “because of COVID“. I’m a little disappointed the major networks haven’t upgraded all of their programming to 4k when the industry went digital several years back. The trick of upscaling 1080 to 4k is just that, a trick. Looks awful on a 50″+ setup.

Best Chocolate is back open on Mass Ave! They used to have a storefront along the east end but when they were acquired in 2019 they closed the brick and mortar. This made finding some of the best chocolates in the city really hard to find! Well, I just learned they are back in a physical storefront pretty much across the street from where they were previously. You can find them at 871 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Hellbender Documentary in Indiana – I was participating in a virtual 1 Million Cups event the other day and before things got started we were put into breakout rooms for some networking. One of our participants was a documentary filmmaker who is currently working a film about the elusive Hellbender salamander in Southern Indiana! You can follow along with the film progress here.

I Million Cups is a really cool program for entrepreneurs to present their ideas and get feedback from the audience. It’s also a way for them to talk about where they’re stuck and ways the audience can help them (through referrals or ideas). The events are held monthly and currently they are online. When things get back to normal they will be back at the SpeakEasy co-working space in Broad Ripple

And finally here is a fun band out of Australia. We saw them live in 2019 at the HiFi in Indianapolis.

2021 Week 4 – Sushi in Fortville?

I can’t remember how I found out about this place but I finally got over to Fortville to check out Bonsai Fortville. I was there right after they opened at 11 and sadly was the only one there, but more people arrived when I was leaving. Talked to the owner a bit and found out they opened last November. They have a nice variety of rolls and I tried the Mexican roll (special that day) and the KFC roll with fried chicken. Both were very good and I’d order either one again.

Mexican roll (left) and KFC roll (right)

Besides Sushi Fortville has quite a few quality restaurants worth checking out:

  • Cortona’s Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar
  • Los Maguelles Mexican
  • Taxman Fortville
  • FoxGardin Kitchen & Ale

You really can’t go wrong with any of these and if you’re looking for something a little different it’s worth a little drive east on Pendleton Pike (US 36).

The New York Times had a great write up on Geocaching a few weeks ago. My son and I ended up visiting every county in Indiana to complete a Geocaching mission a few years ago. It was a lot of fun to do and quite a rewarding task once we completed it. The scenery and terrain around Indiana is a lot more varied than people give it credit for.

Watched the first season of “Upload” on Amazon Prime. It’s a very interesting (SyFy) look at a future where your spirit gets uploaded to the cloud and you can still communicate with people back on earth. Writing and acting were very well done and I’m already looking forward to Season 2!

POTUS 45 is out and POTUS 46 has been sworn in. There was a lot of talk about more protests at various capital buildings around the country but it doesn’t look like anything actually materialized. The Indiana State Capital building actually closed down for a few days up to and including the inauguration. As of today (Thursday) Downton has returned to the Pandemic “normal” we’ve all gotten used to.

Hot Dish Casserole Recipe – This is a good one. We all probably have our own version of a tater-tot Casserole but I think this one is my favorite one. Don’t skimp on the pepper jack cheese which adds some nice spice. This reheats well and I even vacuum sealed several pieces and put them in the deep freeze for a quick weeknight meal.

Finally, I rediscovered this amazing Bluegrass cover band

Vegas Vacation 2019

Thursday – This year I decided to take a little winter break trip with my 16 year old son. Las Vegas was going to be a new experience for both of us and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’d been told several times it’s OK to take kids there. I used Costco Travel to purchase a package that included Airfare, 2-Room Suite and Full Sized Car. It was pretty reasonable given the trip was during the holidays. I’m sure we could have spent less if we went a different time.

We arrived at the Indy airport about 2 hours before the flight and had to park in the garage due to Fast Park and the long term lot being totally full. That was $100 I was not planning on spending…

We ended up flying through security and sat around for an hour and 50 minutes. Go figure… TSA staff said we missed the early morning rush. Given it was “the busiest travel day” of the year I expected some long lines. I think the most I’ve ever waited in the Indy TSA line is 15 minutes.

United’s puddle jumper to O’Hare decided it didn’t want to fly causing us to not only get to O’Hare late but also miss our connecting flight. They had to re-book us on an American flight & it included a 4-hour layover in Chicago. At this point we were hoping our bags made it to Vegas. 

The flight to Vegas on AA was uneventful but as expected our bags didn’t make it. The United app said they were on an earlier flight. When I talked to AA they said the bags were still in Chicago and would be on a flight that got in at 1:30am. 

Exhausted after 12 hours of miscues we filled out the necessary paperwork, picked up our rental car, and headed to the Venetian hotel for the night, hoping our bags would be at the hotel in the morning. 

Friday – Still on Indiana time I woke up quite early and checked the United app, sure enough the bag status had changed to say they had, in fact, been on the 1:30am flight. A call to United pointed the finger at AA and the call to AA baggage claim went unanswered.

Since we had a full schedule for the days I decided to head back to the airport (10 minutes away) and directly to the United baggage claim. You know what? Our bags were sitting in the lobby with no indication that they needed to be sent to the hotel. I was happy to take possession and wasn’t even asked for any kind of ID or luggage tag check, scary right?

With our missing luggage in hand we freshened up and made a beeline to the Hoover Dam with the anticipation that the earlier we got there the better. We were right, as we were able to get tickets for the first tour and watch the masses pour in as we were finishing the tour.

Unfortunately the recent rains had flooded part of the tour so we were unable to go into the dam, but the remaining tour, including the power plant, was very well done and fascinating! I highly recommend this tour but make sure you get there early.

Since we were so close you Arizona we dipped into the state to pickup a Geocache and claim a log in a new state. It was on an abandoned bridge along the highway so it was a quick stop.

Boulder City was next on the itinerary for sone lunch and further itinerary planning. Boulder City Brewing Company hit the spot and we were back on the road headed southwest to check out the Seven Magic Mountains along I-15. 

Seven Magic Mountains can bee seen from I-15 but you need to exit several miles before the art display or you’ll need to backtrack a dozen miles or so. It’s an interesting display of painted rocks and it’s quite the tourist destination. I was amazed by the number of people vitiating on a Friday afternoon.

We completed our Friday drive with a stop at Del Taco to see how it stacked up to Taco Bell. In one word… BETTER. It was super clean inside and the food was nice and hot. The key difference between Del Taco and Taco Bell is the freshly grated cheese and the sauces. We were both glad we stopped and really wished we had one of these in Indy!

The rest of the day consisted of us wandering around the Venetian hotel and trying not to get lost. It’s amazing how many high end stores and restaurants they had under one roof. We found a new British Pub and closed the evening out with some proper grub and a pint of Guinness for me.

Saturday – Sleep came a lot easier than the night before now that we’d secured our luggage and walked more in one day than in recent months. The filling pub food didn’t hurt either. We awoke with the sun and finalized our plan to head out into the desert and explore some of the less famous landmarks in the area.

If you can, it’s a good idea to get away from the Strip to eat. We found a neat little place called Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast. It’s a small, family run, breakfast/lunch spot with Lulu herself taking care of customers personally. Our breakfast sandwiches and chorizo veggie hash filled our bellies before our journey into the desert to check out some of the lesser known landmarks.

We headed Northwest out of the city and really enjoyed the scenery. The roads were in great shape and traffic was pretty light. We drove for about an hour before stopping at a rest area to stretch our legs. From there we headed South for 2 hours. Along the way we found a few places to stop and take pictures.

Unfortunately one of the stops was not planned and included a roadside discussion with the California Highway Patrol. As soon as I saw him approaching us northbound a quick glance of my speedometer told me it was probably going to end up with a traffic stop. It’s VERY easy to speed in the desert, especially in a rental car that you’re not familiar with. If I would have had my Valentine 1 Radar Detector I might have had enough notice to check my speed. In the end it was a pleasant discussion with the Trooper Friendly and a ticket for a lot less over the limit than what he clocked me at.

We proceeded south to the town of Baker to check out a few places. Alien Jerky was a HUGE tourist draw. It’s a pretty cool looking building and very easy to spot with the Alien light poles. The other landmark was the World’s Largest Thermometer that stands 134-feet and commemorates the record 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913.

Looping back to Las Vegas on I-15 was pretty uneventful until we went through Mountain Pass. There was a nice covering of snow and cars pulled over along the side of the road for miles. They weren’t stopped because of the road conditions they were stopped because people wanted to PLAY in the snow along the highway! It was a weird sight and one of the stranger things we saw on the trip.

I hear that no trip to Vegas is complete until you visit In-N-Out Burger. We had some time before the car was due back and were both getting a little hungry. As my Son’s suggestion we ordered a pair of Animal Style Doubles and Animal Style fries. It was a solid meal. The Animal Sauce differentiated it from Steak and Shake or Smash Burger. I’d eat here any time.

Sunday – Today was the day we decided to be tourists. We slept in a little and hit the Grand Lux for breakfast. This is by far the most reasonably priced restaurant in the complex. I’ve eaten at the one on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. They offered a $30 breakfast buffet that looked very good but we knew we would be walking a lot today so we both decided against a huge breakfast.

Up to this point I hadn’t even put a penny in a slot machine and I was starting to get the itch. My son wanted to watch some sports in the hotel room so I had an hour or two to explore on my own. I visited the casino desk and got my loyalty card with some free credits on it and hit the slots.

WOW you can blow though some cash pretty quick on the slots. Once I got about $30 down I gave that up and switched to Roulette and Blackjack. At least with these games you can slow down your losses. I went up and down $100 in each direction and ended my adventure with a loss. It was a lot of fun but I think I prefer the newly legal sports betting back in Indy that I can do from the comfort of my couch.

We ventured out of the Venetian complex on foot and walked the strip a bit. It wasn’t very busy in the morning so we enjoyed that. You can tell the city has spent a lot of money on security. There are 4-foot bollards along both sides of the street for it’s entirety as well as several elevated pedestrian bridges to get people across the street safely. Cameras are everywhere and the police presence is noticeable. It feels like a pretty safe place to be overall.

Caesars Palace and the Bellagio are filled with more high end shops and restaurants. In fact, all of the hotels we walked through pretty much looked the same. We made a big loop and walked for a few hours before returning to our room to watch some football.

Dinner was back at the Grand Lux where we enjoyed a really nice pasta dish and some mini beef wellingtons. We also picked up a cookie and croissant at the Bouchon Bakery for breakfast. By this point we were worn out and called it a night. We had a 6:50am flight on Monday and we were both ready to relax.

Monday – 4am came really early but we were both ready when our 5am Uber showed up. It’s such a short trip to the Airport I didn’t worry too much about time. Well, that was a mistake. TSA at the Vegas airport was packed and they were searching everyone and pulling every 3rd or 4th bag off the conveyor for further inspection. People were stressing out about making their flights as it was taking 60+ minutes to get through the queue.

We made it on our flight and after we pushed back the pilot came on the overhead and said we had a warning light and had to go back to the gate. That took about 30-minutes to figure out and then we had to get more fuel. We ended up leaving an hour later than scheduled and had less than an hour to change planes in Chicago.

Other than the lady next to me elbowing my ribs evey time she moved it was an uneventful flight. With the tailwind it was shorter flying back then when we went out.

Once in Chicago we had to basically go from one end of the airport to the other. Our flight was scheduled to leave on time but after we boarded we were informed that we had to get a de-icing and it would be another hour before we could take off. It ended up taking 90-minutes from push back before we went wheels up. So basically every leg of this trip had some kind of problem or delay. Now I remember why I like to drive everywhere!

Back in Indy and our bags actually made it, even though the United app said one was still in Chicago. It was good to get home and we talked about our trip all the was home from the airport. My son wan’t to go back when he turns 21. I think we can make that happen!

So the take away from this trip is this. United Airlines had a LOT of issues, Vegas is HUGE and can be VERY EXPENSIVE if you’re not careful. The Hoover Dam is amazing as is Del Taco and In-N-Out Burger. Get a car and get out of town but watch your speed. If you’re going to gamble be prepared to lose. Enjoy the people watching, you won’t be disappointed.

We’re already talking about or next trip and trying to figure out where to go… Thanks for reading!