Archive for August, 2008

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labor day.

August 31, 2008

Tomorrow will be the first Labor Day I’ve had off in four years. Although it’s a major national holiday, Labor day seems to be relatively nonexistent if you don’t get vacation from work or school. And because Cornell, for some reason, allows its administration to take the holiday, class is still in session. Professors and students must labor alike.

Either way, it’s my first three day weekend while I’ve been working. And I had a very nice meal last night with friends who are visiting. We went to the Capitol Chophouse, which is attached to the Hilton in Madison. Dinner started with bread and three different types of spreads: regular butter, a sun-dried tomato and caper tapanade, and a tomato and herb butter. Then, to my surprise, we got an amuse-bouche, which was made with beets. I’ve decided that amuse-bouche are the key to having a fancy restaurant. I had a good clam chowder to start my meal. It was a bit salty, but lots of clam and potatoes. The entree itself, 12 oz prime rib, was just that – 12 oz of meat. It was huge, so huge I could only finish about half of it, and delicious.

In addition to the food, everything else was extremely nice. I still feel that my age puts me at a disadvantage in fancy restaurants in terms of service. In most cases, I don’t get bad service, but I still expect it. At the Chophouse, our waiter was very pleasant and checked in an appropriate number of times. Also, the manager (at least who I assumed was the manager) stopped by to check in on us too. This is another thing, like the amuse-bouche, that I really love. It makes me feel special. Atmosphere was typical of a fancy restaurant – dim lighting, with lots of candles. And they had complimentary parking, which is always handy. I will definitely be back here.

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win friends.

August 17, 2008

I just finished the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. It’s split into four parts: how to handle people, how to make people like you, how to influence people, and how to be a good leader. Each part has several take-away points that the reader can attempt to incorporate into his life to better deal with people. Somehow I felt that the majority of the book was common sense (I am aware that what seems like common sense now might not have been back in the 1930s). Basically, people will like you more and be more willing to do what you want it you like them and you’re not a jerk about it.

This was the first self-help book I have ever even attempted to read, and the genre is just not for me. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that people will read books to help them solve problems. Perhaps it’s because I would never find the motivation to actually apply what I read, and therefore the books would never really help me in any way. It also could be that I am happy enough with how things go in my life that the cost to change outweighs the benefits I would gain. I’m giving it one more try with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but there’s a good chance I won’t even finish it.

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madison favorites.

August 2, 2008

This week held a couple Madison events: Summer Restaurant Week and the last Concert on the Square of the year.

Restaurant week consists of 6 days of various restaurants offering $25 fixed price menus (three courses). Naturally, because Madison has an abundance of restaurants for me to try, I had to make a couple of reservations. The final decision was Harvest and Fresco. Harvest, known for its local, organic food was a great experience. I was especially happy with their ability to adjust the reservation at the last minute (miscounting the number of people in your party is quite unfortunate). As for food, the skirt steak and seasonal fruit tart were fantastic; the grilled squid appetizer was good, but not amazing. Fresco, known for its location on the rooftop of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, was also fabulous. It definitely has the contemporary art feel, from their square plates/glasses to the white and black decor. All three courses were outstanding: an unbelievably good seared scallop appetizer, a grilled salmon entree (with a great salad), and a delicious dark chocolate cake. The cake was, by far, the shining star of the meal.

The last Wednesday was the last Concert on the Square of the year, which just happens to be the 25th anniversary of these events. Every summer, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays six free concerts on the Capitol lawn. So many people come to watch, and not just watch, but eat too. And they don’t mess around. I saw multiple families with small tables complete with flowers in vases, candles, and a full dinner with lots of wine. My friends and I planned a small picnic of grilled kabobs, pasta salad, bread/cheese, cherries, chocolate chip cookies, and, of course, some wine. While I was not too impressed by the concert, it was still great fun to be part of such a favorite tradition.