Thursday, February 24, 2005

San Mateo: Taxi's

Avocado Jack Burger (Chicken) - 1 star
$7.50 or so

On Tuesday I had another chicken-free sales call, this one in Worcester, Massachusetts: 3 eggs over hard with home fries and toast for lunch (eggs overcooked, otherwise serviceable) and cheese pizza and Greek salad in Logan Airport for dinner. (I got in an argument with the server, who handed me a Caesar salad, and, when I said I had asked for a Greek salad, insisted that it was a Greek salad. When I pointed at the Greek salad, he said, "You want the zucchini?," presumably referring to the cucumbers.) The meeting was very early in the sales cycle, with people who asked lots of tough questions but softened up as it went along. This was a large company that is just figuring out what is on the market and is talking to all the vendors; in fact, we ran into the next sales team on the way out, and figured out who they were by reading the sign-in sheet at the front desk.

But on Thursday night Brian W. and I slipped out of the office for dinner at Taxi's, a mock-1950s greasy spoon-kind of place no doubt familiar to most of my company. I had the Avocado Jack Burger with, you guessed it, chicken, which probably would have been really good if it had been a burger. As it was, the avocado was a little overbearing, and the chicken was mildly overcooked and tasteless, but mediocrity in California still beats most places in the country.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Photo from the road

There were no chicken sandwiches on Monday - lunch was passable cheese pizza from the prospect's cafeteria - but the meetings went well and the audience was happy. We first met with them in October 2003 (yes, 2003), which did not go well, but after they saw our competitor's product they asked us to come back. This is a shot of the field across the street from the prospect's headquarters. We're not in San Francisco any more.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Hartford-Springfield Airport: Fresh City

Texas BBQ Chicken Wrap - 0 stars

I really expected to give Fresh Citya star, and I wanted to, but I just couldn't bring myself to. A BBQ chicken wrap sounds simple, but it turned out to be a Frankensteinian combination of mismatched ingredients: bland white "Jasmine" rice (that was undercooked to the point of near-rawness), assorted Asian-style vegetables (broccoli, snow pea pods?), bland but not-too-overcooked chicken, and big gobs of sweet but otherwise tasteless "barbecue" sauce, all wrapped in a tomato-colored tortilla.

By the way
The real highlight of the night was on my drive from BWI up to York, Pennsylvania, when I pulled off the highway for a snack at Wendy's (see the Toronto review for the backstory). The chicken nuggets were surprisingly edible, but I must say the first Frosty of my life was a disappoinment (sorry, Daniele) - as far as I could tell, a cold, whipped, sweet approximation of ice cream with only a faint chocolate flavor.

I capped off the night by chatting with Mike K., Alex B., and Patty in the Holiday Inn bar in York ... which, let's just say, is a long way from San Francisco.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Amherst, MA: my house

Roast (free-range, organic) chicken

Because today's all-day meeting in Cambridge was cancelled (due to a snowstorm that turned out to be a dud), I had time to prepare and roast a chicken for dinner. Recipe: wash the chicken inside and out and blot dry. Salt and pepper liberally all over and inside the cavity. Stuff thyme branches under the skin covering the breast and inside the cavity. Truss and let sit for several hours. Remove from the fridge at least one hour before roasting. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes and 350 for 40 minutes, turning twice (once breast up, once with each wing up); let sit 15 minutes before carving. (Note that this works for a 3.5-lb. chicken; you may need to cook larger chickens longer.)

Dauber gave it 3 stars. But I'm not rating it because (a) I cooked it and (b) it's not a sandwich.

Other notes
Apparently the second day of the Toronto meeting went even better than the first. One highlight was when the lead technical evaluator went away with the application and the configuration guide (and no other training) and announced that he had completed all the configuration exercises himself, so we didn't have to demonstrate them for him.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Smithfield, RI: The Roast House

Chicken Fiesta Sandwich - 1 star
$7 with fries, curly fries, or onion rings and pickle

I was really looking forward to eating in Cambridge (since I travel so many places with no good restaurants), but the meeting there was cancelled, so there was no reason for us to drive there.

The Chicken Fiesta Sandwich is a decent attempt at a fake-Mexican chicken sandwich. It included two breaded and deep-fried pieces of chicken breast, covered with cheddar and jack cheeses, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and salsa, all in a sub-shaped bun. The chicken was tasteless but not overcooked, the toppings were flavorful enough to make it interesting, and the bun had a surprising amount of texture, and also managed not to fall apart under the load. A small piece of cartilage in the chicken was the only real disappointment. The onion rings were crisp and not greasy, but were relatively flavorless, probably due to a lack of salt. I also got the onion soup, which was too salty, used some mediocre substitute for real Gruyere cheese, and was not broiled hot enough.

The sales call went swimmingly well, as Ken worked his usual magic with the crowd.

Travel notes
The Fairfield Inn in Smithfield has free, high-speed wireless Internet access. Other than that, it's kind of a dump.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Charlton, MA: McDonald's

Crispy Chicken Sandwich - 0 stars
about $4

Yes, McDo is getting expensive; you can end up spending over $6 for a value meal these days. I swore off of McDonald's since reading Fast Food Nation, but at 11 pm on the Mass Pike rest stops there isn't really any other option, and the 6 packs of Asian-style crackers I ate in the Air Canada lounge in Toronto weren't cutting it for dinner. I know I should get the Chicken McGrill instead, because it's "healthier," but I always succumb to the temptation of the deep-frying, and ...

Predictably, the chicken was overcooked by a factor of 3, and came with an uninspired tomato, some iceberg lettuce whose only fault was that it was iceberg lettuce, and an awe-inspiring scoop of mayonnaise that I scraped off. Coupled with a bun utterly devoid of either character or structure, it added up to zero stars. And I couldn't even play the arcade games because I only had Canadian coins in my wallet.

Back in Toronto, after 20 minutes spent trying to get the projector to work, and operating on two hours of sleep, Michael did a great job on the demo. By the afternoon, he and Daniele were bickering so amiably that one member of the audience said they were like an "old married couple." We told them they got the comedy for free with the software.

Random travel notes
The Air Canada lounge does put U.S. airport lounges to shame, with a full bar, Canadian beer (the good stuff) on tap, and free, high-speed wireless Internet access. It's surprising that such a fine lounge is provided by the same airline that flies an 18-seat plane to Hartford where the co-pilot seems to double as the flight attendant. There was no demonstration of the safety features of the plane, perhaps because it didn't have any.

Toronto, CA: Sizzler's

Chicken Shishkabob on Pita - 1 star
about $5 Canadian

Close to midnight, lying on the spare bed in Michael P.'s hotel room while he and Daniele figure out the scenarios for the next day's demo, I decided if I didn't eat something I would either pass out from hunger or fall asleep from fatigue. Room service was shut down, but the front desk recommended I try the Wendy's in the same building, and I set out in search of my first-ever Frosty (recommended by Daniele). Unfortunately, Wendy's closed at midnight instead of 1 that night, so I ended up at Sizzler's, a hole in the wall across the street that served burgers and Middle Eastern food to emergency repair crews and random partygoers who had lost their way and ended up there. The staff were so confused that it seemed like a scene from a movie where two guys are robbing a restaurant and then some customers appear, so they have to pretend they know how to run a restaurant, but eventually the food was ready and I paid not very much for it.

The grilled chicken chunks, lettuce, tomato, and sauce were all serviceable, but the pita was great - warm, faintly blackened on the outside, and slightly chewy - which earned Sizzler's its star. I almost took it away for the mediocre, limp, unsalted, greasy fries, but, you know, it's only Canada.

Eventually Michael and Daniele figured out what we wanted to do, so we spent until 3 am getting ready, after which Michael probably spent the rest of the night testing. And I've still never eaten a Frosty.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Columbus, OH: Elevator Brewing Co

Turkey Reuben - 1 star
about $7 with fries and a pickle (actually, a thick slice of a pickle)

Well, our choices were Elevator's, a Wendy's, and a place in between that looked like it served food from behind a bullet-proof glass window. Inside, the place was surprisingly airy and urban. The turkey reuben was encouragingly decent - perhaps an indication that Russian dressing smothers all else - although the ratio of turkey to everything else was rather high. The fries were perfectly adequate. All in all, it was a perfectly good way to kill an hour waiting for a meeting in "downtown" Columbus.

The meeting itself was pleasant enough, although the developer in the back seemed to fall asleep, and a nice way to start off a long trip.