Thursday, April 30, 2009

A chicken out of every pot

I'm crazy with 'roid rage. No, I'm not hanging with A-Rod or Barry Bonds. It's all about the chicken in my freezer.

I picked up a package containing two, bone-in chicken breasts at the grocery store yesterday. Unwrapped at home, these big-boned wonders looked like they peeled off a turkey or a pterodactyl. Huge is not the word; artificially plumped are the two words.

I thought back to the playground days when we used to refer to the smallest kid around as "as skinny as a plucked chicken." My plucked chicken had the pecs of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

How has chicken reached gargantuan proportions here in the 21st century? OK, people have gotten taller and stronger over the decades through better nutrition and better health habits. But that gradual growth for humans seems to have been eclipsed by the exponential growth of domestic fowl. I don't think the chickens have been pumping iron, downing Clif bars, jogging across the road or popping iron supplements.

Mom made baked chicken back in the day. But I remember the protein on my plate was the size of a deck of cards. My new-wave protein chicken breast will barely keep itself anchored on my dinner plate. I also remember she made veal chops for my father. Those little chops were barely bigger than my youthful clenched fist. I bought some last week that would make fine door stops. Bigger than ever -- but better?

Don't get the wrong idea. It's been a wonder that the geeks of agriculture have been able to increase the yield of essential grains and livestock to keep foods as widely available as possible and as cheaply as possible.

In the case of my chicken, however, are they also keeping the taste and texture at the maximum and the artificial enhancements at a minimum? I'm doubting it.

Let's keep the 'roids in the stadiums where they belong.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Green with envy

There's something about freshly mowed green grass that screams "spring."

It seems today was the day that muscled landscapers and potbellied husbands finally answered the siren call to get out into the yard and contribute to the carbon footprint with screaming power lawn mowers, decibel-challenging leaf blowers and chattering weed-whackers. All told, it created a symphony of springiness that a 100-piece orchestra couldn't match.

But after all of that hard work, the grass is still greener on the other side of the golf course!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rowe your boat north

The Rowe Inn in the northern Michigan outpost of Ellsworth continues to maintain a high quality, delicious, and classy niche in the state's dining landscape.

A Saturday visit yielded a lively yet refined dining room, service akin to a visit to your best friend's home and food that reflected fussy foodies in the kitchen. And it all comes at a fair price for the value received. You not only are served a meal but a dining experience wrapped in a sublime atmosphere.

It is particularly gratifying to see that the Rowe outlasted its culinary neighbor, Tapawingo. While Tap was an excellent place in a gorgeous setting overlooking a lake, its edgy, more-out-there approach to cuisine apparently didn't have legs to appeal to the economically stretched palates of Michigan residents. The Rowe's formula seems to emphasize white-tablecloth standards updated and refreshed for contemporary tastes.

For an appetizer, I enjoyed mussels baked in asiago cheese, fresh bread crumbs and a splash of fresh cream. Significant other RA called a simple bibb salad with hot bacon vinegar very good, although the dressing got a bit heavy. My entree of duck breast with a slightly sweetened sour cherry sauce over wild rice reflected mind over matter; normally, I wouldn't care for a sweet sauce by the tart cherries made it perfect. RA raved over her beef tenderloin.

A 2006 Gigondas from the southern Rhone enhanced all the courses. Indeed, the Rowe's wine list is well constructed and shows the proprietor's care in what he offers his guests. There were excellent options at all price points from around the globe.

Simply, a wonderfully relaxing evening presented by people who care.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Temperature tantrum

It was out of the frying pan and into the refrigerator.

I pointed the Impala toward northwest Michigan on Friday afternoon in anticipation of a glorious springtime fling of sunshine, moderate temperatures, blue skies and fresh water. After all, the temperature downstate was a lovely 80 degrees and even the overworked, underpaid workers in the local junk food junction were smiling and offering the obligatory "have a good one" with the unbridled enthusiasm of an IT wonk flying on a six-pack of Mountain Dew.

I wheeled up the Interstate and the state two-lane, watching the outside temperature gage on my car creep up like a wooly caterpillar on a birch tree. The only care I had rolling up and down the hills was counting lazy cows, beef jerky stands and uncovered dump trucks. I just thought about great lakes, a relaxing weekend and fermented French red grapes in a Riedel glass.

But suddenly just south of Charlevoix, I glanced down to see the temperature gage had freaked was 54 degrees! And it continued south with more northern coolness. Turns out it was giving me an omen about Saturday and Sunday. The sun gave way to dark, rolling clouds and cold, driving rain. The lesson learned: Don't be in denial about what you can find on And, more important, make the most of whatever opportunity gets placed in front of you. Despite everything, the weekend got filled with new discoveries and new wonders that would never have been found under a shining sun.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Runnin' on the road

Sun is out, heat is pumpin'. Time to get out on the highway.

Only a short post today. Heading out on a weekend road trip. Time to forget the depression, unemployment and general malaise of the populace and to think about life, fun and people who really count. It's all that matters anyway.

It's the weekend, my friends. Out of the house into the garden, whatever or whereever!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unscheduled universe

That right rear tire looks kind of funny.

Take a closer look.'s a flat, or more to the point, a soon to be flat.

OK, fine. Run over to the repair station, get it plugged and roll through the day. Well, not so fast. Station opens at 8 a.m. and it's 7:30. Park the car there, enjoy the pause that refreshes and grab a coffee, muffin and newspaper next door. Get the decaf and whole-wheat raspberry and smile at the perky cashier. Hand over a $10 bill and get the change.

The Washingtons and Lincoln are handed back in a mixed pile -- some left, some right, some upside down, some downside up -- without a count-out. In my clerk days, you made sure all the bills were in the register in the same direction right side up. Unless the dead presidents and other Treasury wonks were lined up like the queue at the Comerica box office, you looked like a retail rookie. And you counted the change for your protection as well as the customer.

I'm back at the station promptly at 8, but already two others had jumped ahead of me with similar woes. Jim, the greased owner, just laughed and said it's either business feast or famine. Jeff, his trusty assistant, finally gets to my tire and rips out the one-inch Phillips head screw is responsible for screwing up my day. He's happy, I'm happy, and we charge into the sunshine of the new day.

Except, of course, I can't make the university lecture downtown. It's OK. Life looks a bit funny anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The View From Here

Good habits are hard to maintain.

As someone who made a daily corporate living out of writing news releases, speeches, talking points, and executive presentations -- and managing people who yearned to do them better-- for about 35 years, I've fallen out of practice. Sure, I've enjoyed the freedom of doing what I please now as an early retiree and owner of a small consulting practice. But I've found that the discipline of writing sharp sentences and pithy paragraphs has become an occasional pleasure instead of a daily discipline.

Today I have met the enemy...and it is me. And, beginning today, the enemy of time, energy and ingenuity will be wrestled to the ground.

I've launched Hab-bitz, a personal blog that will present one person's Midwestern view of everything from federal bailouts to NFL draft choices to fruit-forward west coast wines to out-of-control texting...and even a bit snotty sarcasm. In other words, I want to write contemporary words for a contemporary world.

Make it a habit to stop here!