Monday, September 29, 2008

Two more reasons to love Columbus

Every time I come to the conclusion that Columbus is a boring place and that there is nothing new to discover, I am proved wrong. Folks, I have made two major discoveries this past weekend. Both can be categorized as important cultural institutions that help the general populace expand their horizons.

My friends Stefan and Liz invited me Saturday to join him in cheering on the Buckeyes in their crushing defeat of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. (side note….Golden Gophers? Can they be serious?). Little did I know that Stefan was going to bring me to Bob’s Bar, “The Cultural Hub of the Midwest”. Move over Columbus Art Museum, Ohio State, Ohio Theatre. Bob’s Bar is THE cultural hub.

After experiencing Bob’s, I have to admit there is a legitimate argument. It is one of the best bars I have been to in a long time. It reminded me of Valhalla in New York, except it was much cheaper and had a better, less sophisticated feel. We counted 27 beers on tap and over 100 bottled beers. The variety was very impressive and it was fun to try a couple beers that have been on my “Need to Try” list. On game day they even hand out some free pizza. We decided that Bob’s is now the official new hangout for our posse.

I have not mentioned it much recently on the blog, but I am departing very soon for Uruguay for the EY CR Fellows Program. As such, I owed it to my wife, Elly, to take her out for a nice dinner as kind of a goodbye / thanks for hanging in there / hope you do not starve while I am gone. Some friends recommended Dragonfly, a very ambitious restaurant that serves an all-vegan menu. I was very impressed and wish it was cheaper so it could be a regular part of my diet. It is certainly on the special occasion list now.

The food was beautiful, artistic, and delicious. We started the meal with a roasted eggplant appetizer for Elly and for me a pairing of two separate soups in one bowl. Both were excellent. To accompany the meal we shared a bottle of Plotzer Pino Grigio from Fruili, Italy that was perfect balance of crisp and clean. For the main dish I had the lobster mushroom, which is a mushroom with a taste and texture that certainly brings to mind seafood. It came over risotto with fresh brussel sprouts. Elly had a roasted mushrooms with a strong sauce heavily influenced by the fresh basil from the restaurant garden. For desert, we had cookie sandwiches with a chocolate mousse in the middle. I have never had mousse that would so good, amazing considering it is non-dairy. In sum, Dragonfly wowed us both and we left knowing we would be back again. I would feel comfortable sending anyone to this restaurant, even those have a hard time imaging a meal without meat as the center of the dish.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

For the kids

Every once in a while the team that I work with gets together to volunteer some time to help the community. Recently, our charity of choice has been Battelle for Kids, which focuses on improving childhood education. In support of this mission, Battelle hosts a number of conferences for teachers throughout the year. Each of these conferences requires lots of handouts, which is where we come in. Our main role has been assembling packets, packaging those packets into binders, and random assorted special tasks.

My main role is quality control, due to my extensive experience managing people and working as a trainer for Goodwill Industries in a previous decade. I help sort out who on the team is trainable or not trainable and assign tasks accordingly.

We managed to put together 700 binders in one night and in return walked away with some good karma and an assurance that our services would be requested again. Thanks Battelle, we really did have fun.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ripping the Guts Out

I am happy to announce that I have achieved gold VIP status with Hilton. Not only does it mean that I am awarded more points for each stay, my room choice is upgraded based on availability. Mostly though, I am excited to use the fancy new gold card to win friends and influence people.

Is it normal that my dog’s favorite activity is ripping the guts out of her stuffed animals? If she wasn’t so domesticated, I would believe that it is a primal urge to hunt and kill. Coming up the stairs the other day I chanced upon this scene of carnage. Her muzzle buried deep inside the poor unicorn. Bones and Guts haphazardly tossed around her. To think I allow such violence within my home. What would the neighbors think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


One of my secret joys is the composition and reading of haiku poems. Haiku is misunderstood by most Westerners, and like many cultural imports, the Americans have managed to water down the original thing to something that is barely recognizable. Think German Pilsner to Coors Light, or Bratwurst to Hot Dogs.

In elementary school we learn of the traditional seventeen syllable structure of haiku, broken into three lines of five seven five. The historical basis for this convention is the Japanese sound syllables – “onji” – which are in fact not the same as syllables as we know them. A more accurate guideline based on historical writing is to limit haiku to twelve or less syllables, divided into up to three lines.

The central goal of a haiku is to give the reader a vivid sensation, a kind of vicarious experience. A haiku often will convey an emotion, sound, vision, and feeling. An indication of the season of the year is invariably present and frequently an element of surprise.

spring rain –
growing up together
the talking pines
- Issa

an empty bottle
his shack dark
his death alone
- Jim Applegate

winter hills –
what the truck’s insurance
doesn’t cover
- Paul M.

I wrote this haiku based on my experiences as an auditor in a community hospital:

listening to the symptoms
not quite sure what to say
the hospital accountant
- M. Kaizar

forgotten rake
against the house
gathering snow
- M. Kaizar

If you are interested in learning more I recommend the book "The Haiku Handbook" by William Higginson.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Saturday Brazilian Feast

With all the travel I have done lately, I have not spent much time in my kitchen. In contrast to much of my generation, I love to cook and I would take my own food over any restaurant. Last night I took the time to try out something new – a vegetarian version of a Feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. The recipe came from my favorite cookbook – the Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites. It consists of three separate foods that meld together beautifully. They share common spices but contrast enough that they keep your interest.

On one large platter, a pile of the Feijoada is placed. A defining characteristic of a Feijoada is the dominance of black beans. In a non-vegetarian version, smoked pork is also added. The beans along with celery, green peppers, and lots of onions are cooked in a coriander broth for over an hour. Along with the Feijorda, Brazilian rice and soy sauced kale are heaped on the platter. For interest, and as a dessert, orange slices are placed around the rim.
Elly and I were joined by my Mother in Law for a relaxed meal on the back deck. We shared a bottle of Gato Negro Chardonnay from Chile that was much better than you would expect of a wine that cost a mere $3.99. It was the sort of quiet dinner you would hope to have this time of the year.

The Diet

Shortly after returning from my first trip to Germany, I decided that I needed to do something about my increasing weight. While beer, bratwurst, and schnitzel taste good, they are also very filling. While not obese, I was getting close to the line of being overweight.

I am not a diet person. I hate diets and the thought of tracking every little thing I ate in a journal made me cringe. I am a list person and I could see it becoming an all consuming task. When I stumbled on a diet advocated by Dr. Dean Ornish, it clicked and seemed like something I could do. I started it on a trial basis, and now nine months later it has taken firm hold.

The diet is fairly simple, though I would not encourage it for most people as it represents a huge change. The foundation is a vegan diet – which means no meat or dairy. Meat includes seafood and chicken. Dairy includes milk, cheese, and eggs. On top of that is a focus on very low fat foods, moderation of alcohol, and reduction of sugar intake. Low fat means avoiding adding fat to cooking, no nuts, no potato chips, no peanut butter. Sugar includes corn syrup, white flour, and white rice.

You may be asking yourself what foods are left. As I said, this is why I do not advocate this diet for most people. The above guidelines eliminate many of the foods that Americans routinely eat. Much of the world eats this way throughout their whole lives though. I eat very well – lots of brown rice, beans, tofu, and vegetables. My food is flavorful and I feel good after I eat. As a bonus I can eat as much as I want, no tracking of calories and volumes.

Following this diet, I lost twenty pounds and now am maintaining a healthy weight well within the normal range. I feel good and I like the side benefit of having a smaller carbon footprint and much lower grocery bills. Reading “The China Study” by Dr. Thomas Campbell further reinforced the health benefits of this diet. He links animal-based proteins to the growth of cancer cells. It is interesting even if you do not agree with it.

Do I ever “cheat”? The simple answer is yes. But cheating is rare and the “forbidden” foods make up less than 5% of my intake. By occasionally eating outside the diet, it makes it much easier to stay within the diet most of the time.

My promise to you dear reader is that I will not become another boring blog following the eating habits of a poor, lost soul. I promise that this will be the sole post describing my food choices. There is nothing worse than entry after entry lamenting the steady tick down – and up – of pounds. The meals skipped and sacrifices made, followed by the sneaked snickers bar, and gorge-fest of pizza and coca-cola. Who would want to read this, could it really be interesting to the author? If I was crowned President of Blogs, my first act would be to ban blogs on dieting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Late Sunday afternoon the remains of Hurricane Ike blew through Ohio. It was quite a spectacle and resulted in massive damage. Per the Columbus Dispatch “The National Weather Service says it can find no stronger winds in its weather history files than Sunday's 75 mph remnants of Hurricane Ike that caused so much turmoil and damage.” So I guess I have lived through the Great Terrible Storm of ’08!

Two days after the storm they are reporting that 2 million homes are without power and one third of the state’s traffic signals are not working. Overall, we can out of the storm unscathed with no damage to the house. We had a small tree uprooted and our porch furniture is scattered. My neighborhood has garbage hanging from trees, tree limbs broken off hanging at sad angles, and pool toys in unexpected places. My hummingbird feeder sprayed it's red sugary contents all over the side of my house, leaving the scene look like someone was murdered.

The storm itself was loud but accompanied by almost no rain. The clouds charged across the sky at a furious pace. The neighborhood kids were able to fly across our field by catching the wind with a bed sheet. Sammy the dog hid in the basement.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Columbus Microbrew Festival

Friday night Liz, Stefan, and I attended the 3rd Annual Columbus Microbrew Festival. Brewerys represented included Barley’s Brewing Company (Ale House No. 1), Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub (Ale House No. 2), Columbus Brewing Company, Elevator Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Hoster Brewing Company and Weasel Boy Brewing Company. Representatives from each microbrewery were on hand to pour samples of their signature drafts.

Some favorite brews that I sampled included:

- Dortmunder Style Pilsner - Hoster Brewing Company

- Kolsch - Weasel Boy Brewing Company

- Centennial IPA - Barley's Brewing Company

- Marzen - Gordon Biersch Brewery

- Dark Horse Lager - Elevator Brewing Company

The Festival was very well attended and there were lines at each booth. It was a great success and it gave me some hope that people here in Columbus are actually interested in some new types of beer.

Article on my upcoming EY CR Fellows work

This article is from the EY North Central region weekly newsmagazine.

Meet North Central's first Corporate Responsibility Fellow

After an extremely competitive application process, we're pleased to share with you that Columbus Advisory Manager Michael Kaizar was selected as one of ten 2008 Corporate Responsibility (CR) Fellows. Michael is North Central's first CR Fellow.

"We're very proud that Michael will represent North Central and EY in the CR Fellows program. This demonstrates once again the strong commitment our people have to serving our wider communities, " said Rich Lipovich, AABS Partner and North Central Community Engagement Champion.

This highly visible program sends top performers from the US and Canada to help entrepreneurs in emerging markets, at no charge to the businesses they assist. EY's goal is to help entrepreneurs grow, create jobs and generate sustainable economic value in their own communities. Michael will travel to Montevideo, Uruguay from October through December where he will assist a pharmaceutical company that is working on a medication to help the body regenerate platelets after chemotherapy. Currently, the only available treatment is expensive and inconvenient transfusions. The company has experienced rapid growth in recent years.

"I need to thank the leadership of the North Central Sub-Area and specifically, Craig Marshall for supporting my application and allowing me to put many of my regular responsibilities on hold for three months. I appreciate so many people stepping up to fill the gap while I'm away," said Michael. "I am proud to be the first North Central employee selected to be a Fellow and I promise to keep everyone updated."

TWC: What motivated you to apply for the CR Fellows Program?
Michael: I am at a point in my career where I am ready for a big challenge. The nature of this program will require me to act as both Partner and Staff, identifying the problems and priorities, and solving whatever problems may come my way. The CR Fellows Program is one of a kind and it is the sort of thing that makes EY a special place to work. I am also a big believer in the social goals of this program and I am very excited about working on the front lines in making that corner of the world a better place.

TWC: Why do you think its important to support entrepreneurs in emerging markets?
Michael: The barriers that entrepreneurs face are much higher in emerging markets. Young people just starting out in the work force in these markets are strongly discouraged by their families from starting their own businesses, as traditionally the best jobs are with the government. New business ventures are risky and uncommon. There is also a lack of the expert knowledge, resources and financing to help them get started. The risks and rewards of starting a business that we take for granted here in the US are often virtually unknown in these economies. The problem with this is that entrepreneurs and small business usually create most of the new jobs in dynamic economies. They also innovate and create new products and ideas at a much faster pace as compared with state-run businesses. From a high-level perspective, dynamic entrepreneurs have the potential to transform their national economy, bringing better jobs, pay and career options to the citizens.

TWC: What are you most excited about? What do you think you'll miss the most?
Michael: The entrepreneur is extremely excited about this program and I am being welcomed with open arms. I am hoping to have a big impact on his company and to form strong relationships while I am there. I am also looking forward to serving as an ambassador for EY, building relationships with other entrepreneurs, the local EY office and Endeavor, the non-profit organization that manages this program. I anticipate being asked to put together and present a number of training sessions for entrepreneurs while I am there. This will be a challenge but I am very excited about the development opportunities it will present me.
I will miss my wife most of all. Without her support, this would not be possible. I work with a great group of people and I will certainly miss them. It is reassuring that they will be there when I return. Also, fall is my favorite time of the year and I will miss seeing the leaves change.

TWC: What are you doing to get ready for your Fellow assignment?
Michael: There is so much to do! I am working hard to finish a number of outstanding projects and to help get everything set up with my client so that everything goes as smoothly as possible while I'm gone. I have a lot that I need to do to get ready for the program, including the mundane stuff like getting immunizations, visiting my dentist, learning some Spanish and making travel reservations. I have an initial conference call next week set up with the entrepreneur that I will be working with to start scoping out my project. I will also be reaching out to my EY network to put them on notice that I will likely need some input from them while I am away to help develop solutions to problems that my entrepreneur faces. I am also putting time into setting up my home life so that my wife isn’t left with too much of a burden while I am gone.

TWC: Can you tell us a little more about what you'll be doing as a CR Fellow and how you will be applying your professional skills?
Michael : I will be working with a pharmaceutical company located in Montevideo, Uruguay. The entrepreneur has grown the company from seven employees to 100, but their business processes are disorganized and there is a lack of internal reporting and controls. This was acceptable when they were very small, but they are poised for massive growth over the upcoming year and their internal situation is starting to really hold back progress. I will be working hand-in-hand with the CEO to analyze the current state of their operations and suggest ways to reorganize. I will likely be the first professional consultant to have ever visited this company.

Team Hexion Kickball

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I am not really cut out for organized sports. I am not especially athletic, I am not competitive, and I do not have the patience for endless practice. Sure, I am good at eating potato chips and watching sports on television, but so are all Americans. I mean sports involving a team, catching balls, matching uniforms, and the dreaded loss. My last experience with organized sports was when I was in a neighborhood fourth grade baseball team that did not win a single game all season. My standout fact (if I had my own baseball card) was that I got on base only once the entire season. That and I hated every moment of it.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I decided to volunteer to join the Hexion Specialty Chemical kickball team. Hexion is my client and after nearly two years there I am for all intents and purposes very close to being an employee. Someone decided to form a company kickball team recently and I was asked to join. The VP of Internal Audit was nice enough to pay the registration fees and purchase us some snazzy red uniforms.

I missed the first three games as I was out of town - in Dortmund Germany, Cape May Point New Jersey, and New York City. Finally, this week I was able to prove my worth and start salvaging my poor lifetime sports record. We played the dreaded and feared Outfield Outcasts, which were in second place, just below our first place standing. It was a confusing game as our ref kept forgetting to pay attention, so we had a scramble a couple times to settle the current score, number of outs, etc.

In the end, we lost by one run with a final score of 6 - 5. In my first kickball game in about 15 years I did learn a few valuable lessons. While batting, it is good to kick a line drive as pop-ups are too easy to catch. While in the field, run for the ball and catch it. It is so much simpler than trying to tag runners out. Finally, beware of overthrowing to teammates on base. It is a killer when they miss and all the runners make their way home. I am looking forward to our next weekly, Thursday night game.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Marion, Ohio Popcorn Festival

One of my favorite things about living in Ohio is the multitude of agricultural festivals that populate the summer. We have a tomato festival, multiple corn festivals, a garlic festival, a massive pumpkin festival, a honey festival, etc etc. Each follows the same basic formula. Lots of locals eating fried goodies, drunk and happy. Music and talent shows that you wish you missed. Small town cops anxious about maintaining order in their normally very quiet towns.

One of the biggest variables is the connection that the festival has to the agricultural product that shares its name. The Pumpkin Festival in Circleville, Ohio has hundreds of pumpkins on display, pumpkin bread, donuts, pumpkin candy, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin beer. The Garlic Festival at North Market near downtown Columbus has garlic ice cream, foods infused with garlic, and lots of varieties of garlic on sale for culinary or planting purposes.

The Popcorn Festival was a disappointment as there was very little popcorn to be had. One popcorn vendor with the specialties you would expect (popcorn balls, carmel popcorn, etc) and of course there was a kettle corn vendor. Tons of other food but it was all things like elephant ears and fried bologna.

The band (Molly Hatchett) was about twenty years past their prime though the audience was mildly into it. I felt sorry for them when they asked for applause and got a tepid response. No fear though, there were two more stages with other entertainment. One had a talent show with twirling little girls followed by gospel music. The other had random locals playing rock music.

The weather was fantastic and despite all the negatives I listed above it was a lot of fun. Where else can you peruse the wares of Deb's Homemade Do Rags? In a place like Ohio this is about as exciting as it gets (excluding anything associated with Ohio State football, of course). And we like it that way darn it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ernst & Young Coorporate Responsibility Fellows Program Training - NYC - Sep 3-4, 2008 - Day 2

The theme of the second day of the EY CR Fellows training was to give us a sense of purpose and sensitivity to the cultural differences we were likely to face. The day started with a presentation by EY’s Maria and Laura of Endeavor concerning many of the challenges that Entrepreneurs face in emerging markets. I was shocked that these countries do not encourage entrepreneurship, in fact in many cases a child will be considered a failure of they choose to start a business. In the US we take for granted the important innovative forces that entrepreneurs bring to our economy. This is a hole that is acutely felt in many emerging markets. These entrepreneurs can use whatever help they can get, though it was clear that they are special people who succeed despite the barriers they are up against.

After a short break we moved into a presentation from the leadership of EY CR. It really was eye opening to see all that is being done and how decisions are being made to focus efforts. As an employee working far out in the field I never see this and mostly just assume that I work for a corporation that does not do much to improve the larger world. I was wrong, but it was also clear that there is a lot that can be done to help mobilize the local offices. Perhaps I can take a leadership role in this when I return from Uruguay. One comment from Beth Brooke, the EY Global Vice Chair of Public Policy, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Engagement really struck a chord. She said, “Are you going to just succeed, or are you going to make a difference too?”

The day continued with a cultural training put on by Aperian Group. They tried to stress to us that we needed to modify our behaviors and the way we interacted with people in other countries. It seems obvious, until you are in that situation. I know in the short time I spent in Germany I managed to offend people unintentionally by not being aware of custom. While in the US tipping is always ok, in Germany it can be an insult. Uruguay is very different from the US as compared with Germany, so I paid close attention and I was happy for the insights.

We had the luck of closing out the day with one of the 2007 Fellows who took the time to talk about his experiences and answer our questions. Xavier is a good guy and he clearly is a good role model to follow.

After a hellish ride to the airport and a short plane ride I finally arrived home. I have been on the road almost non-stop for the last six weeks. It is good to be back in the land of calm roads, vegetables, and Ohio State Football.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ernst & Young Coorporate Responsibility Fellows Program Training - NYC - Sep 3-4, 2008 - Day 1

On Wednesday and Thursday, Sep 3-4, I attended two days of intensive training for the EY Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program. I will give more detail on this program in a subsequent post, but here are a few basic details. The EY CR Fellows Program is a selective program for ten of the top performers (the Fellows) within the firm. Each Fellow is paired with a high-impact entrepreneur in South America for three months to assist them in improving or developing a particular part of their business. The Fellows program is just one small piece of a long-term relationship that these entrepreneurs have with Endeavor, the non-profit organization who manages this program.

The training was held at the very impressive E&Y building in Times Square, central New York City. The energy and excitement of the city and the Square serves as an appropriate “lobby” for the intensity I felt upon entering the building. It was my first time there, though of course it looms large over the entire organization. It is where the CEO and the Global Executive Board are headquartered. Many of the key firm internal functions stem from that location. It is an interesting place and similar to New York itself, you never know who you might bump into.

The CR Fellows Program is championed and managed by the small and efficient EY Corporate Responsibility department. Maria and Lisa did a really nice job of keeping the training efficient and hard hitting, under the leadership of Deborah and Beth. This program is just one component of a wide-ranging effort to practice corporate leadership with a specific focus on education, entrepreneurship, and the environment. Considering that EY has over 110,000 employees, even small changes in the way the company operates can have a massive impact. More important, imagine the potential of harnessing some of the energy and talent from that many employees. It inspires hope.

The training was a whirlwind of various topics to help us get prepared for what will be expected of us and to keep us happy, healthy, and safe. The first day started with an introduction to the key participants and a team building activity set up around the model of speed dating. We then moved on to an overview of the Fellows Program and some information on experiences of prior year Fellows. The slides and video were inspiring and you could sense the excitement starting to build among the group. Finally, we were really starting to understand what we had gotten ourselves into.

Following a short break, we attended a short overview of the non-profit running the program, Endeavor. They have a community development model that makes a lot of sense, especially to those of us who look at the world from an economic perspective. I will cover Endeavor in more detail in a subsequent post as it is worth taking more time to describe who they are and what they do.

After lunch we covered a lot of necessary details. We had a briefing with the Office of Firm Security on how to stay safe and avoid being the victim of crime. Global Mobility presented a number of ways they assist employees heading out of country. Maria and Lisa then covered a range of expectations and responsibilities of the Fellows. Some items of note:

- The Fellows are expected to serve as Ambassadors of the firm’s CR efforts. This includes assisting with media efforts, giving interviews, and providing source material. We were strongly encouraged to keep a journal and take lots of pictures.
- As Ambassadors, we are also expected to share our knowledge. This is with our entrepreneur and with other entrepreneurs as opportunity allows. In past years it was not uncommon to be asked to present at conferences.
- Building relationships with the local EY offices and the local Endeavor office was stressed. These relationships will help us in our work and also enrich the experience for us and them.

We closed out the day with training from our Public Relations Department. They covered such topics as how to prepare for an interview, how to steer an interview, how to make sure the reporter doesn’t take comments out of context, and most important how to help the reporter do their job. This was when I realized that I may be able to accomplish one of my key lifetime goals of being in the Wall Street Journal (with picture) through this program. It may seem silly but it would be a big deal for me.

We closed out the day with a group dinner at Havana, a Cuban restaurant near Times Square. It was a feast of food including many types of paellas, plantains, shredded meats, and several types of dessert. A perfect way to close out a very busy day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New York, New York

I am in New York City this week for training in preparation for my departure to Uruguay the first week of October (more about that when I get around to it). New York is a fun place and I fall in love with it each time I come here. It always leave me wondering how I would feel if I actually lived here. It is one thing to come, see the sights, enjoy the food, then leave and go home to the house with yard and multiple rooms. As fun as New York is, I have trouble imagining living in a cramped studio apartment that cost many times more than my four bedroom house. On the other hand it could be a good way to clear out all the stuff I am surrounded with. If you need to fit two people and a dog in a one room apartment you better believe that stuffed animals from your childhood become somewhat less sentimentally important.

This time around I am staying in the Hilton Times Square. I am so close to being a gold member with them I have switched my loyalty from Marriott to Hilton. It is a nice place in a great location. It is always nice when they pull up my history and see that I have been living in Hiltons over the last couple months. Usually, that means that they give me a nice room, and this time is no exception. I am in a huge room for NYC with a bay window and a flat screen television. Score!

Tonight I headed over to my favorite New York neighborhood - Hells Kitchen. It is funky, cheap, and has an awesome collection of international food places that can not be beat. It is one of the moments of pure joy in my life to walk down the street past one hundred restaurants and taking my time to select the "perfect" one. There are so many options, something to satisfy every hunger. Irish, steak, zen vegetarian, chinese, afghan, indonesian, russian, fish, indian....

I started out in a place appropriately named Valhalla. It was a bar that served no food as far as I could tell. Instead, they had 33 beers on tap and 45 bottled beers. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I was in heaven. The best part was that the beers on tap were truely awesome. I was very sorry that I am such a light-weight and could only stand to try two of them. I started with a Gaffel Kolsch, which is a beer that I enjoyed in Koln, Germany, and is impossible to find in the US on tap. Kolsch is an awesome beer that goes so well with the warm weather we have been having - it is light like a pilsner but with a sour, tangy taste. While drinking it, I had brief visions of the waiters in Koln with their blue aprons serving the beer from freshly tapped casks. After the Gaffel, I decided to try something local. I ordered a Blue Point Toasted Lager. I expected a somewhat smoky flavor, but instead I was pleasantly surprised with a gentle, deep tasting smooth amber. It was good and gently pushed me out the door.

As described above, dinner was a hard choice, but that struggle was entirely full of pleasure. Trying to closely follow my vegan diet of the last eight months (knowing it would likely be temporarily on hold when I go to Uruguay), I searched out various veggie options. I happily ended up in Bali nusa Indah at 651 Ninth Avenue. This Indonesian restaurant had a veggie special that came with about ten different dishes starting with a salad with peanut sauce and ending with a dessert called Banana surprise. It even came with a glass of wine. All for $21.95, not bad at all considering the food was great.