Fuggedaboudit? Not Authentic Italian, Some Poor Execution, But Don’t Fugeddaboudit Just Yet


Morningstar’s New York Pizza
4931 6th Street, Suite 106
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: (785) 856-6973
Prices: $$$$
Calzone – $8.00

I was here last Autumn with a friend for a calzone, which was actually pretty well done, so I decided to try it again with my Sicilian-born wife. For a city of nearly 100,000, it is appalling that Lawrence does not have a single decent. authentic Italian restaurant. A Carrabba’s would even be a breath of fresh air, but the tight-knit city “powers that be” seem to be pretty good at discouraging innovation and “chains” in favor of “mom and pop” establishments. Unfortunately, none of the moms and pops seem to have a clue how to run a decent restaurant, Italian or otherwise. Anyway, all that being said, Morningstar’s is not bad.

Garlic Knots – $3
We tried the garlic knots ($3) which came with a side of red sauce. Baked balls of pizza dough infused with garlic apparently, I could barely taste the garlic and the “knots” were not baked long enough, a little too chewy … too bad!
 
Jumbo Combo – $9.75

The prices are decent except for the pizzas which are a bit pricey, so my wife ordered The New Yorker calzone ($7.25) with mozzarella, ricotta & parmigiana cheese, no sauce (she is allergic to tomatoes – some Italian!), with mushrooms added ($.50 extra). She was quite happy with the calzone. The dough was baked to perfection and there were just enough ingredients, so my wife (who has lived in Naples, Italy – the home of the best pizza in the World – most of her life) was actually impressed. Bravo!

 
Meatball

I wanted to try a few different things, so I got the Jumbo Combo ($9.75) which came with chicken parmigiana, eggplant rollatine, stuffed pasta shells, a side of spaghetti, and a meatball. I asked for the baked manicotti instead of the stuffed shells and they were happy to comply. Unfortunately, when my dish arrived I was a bit dismayed to see everything crammed into a casserole dish. The chicken parmigiana was actually cubes of breaded chicken piled on one end of the dish and the manicotti and eggplant rollatine were on the other end, layered one on top of the other. The whole dish was covered with sauce and mozzarella cheese, then baked in the oven. The side of spaghetti was not well drained, so it was a bit too watery. Too bad because the sauce was decent. With no meatball in sight, I asked the server where it was, but she said the dish did not come with one. After informing her that the menu indicated that a meatball did come with the dish, she scurried off and brought me one post haste. In all, the dish was a bit of a mess, but it was actually not that bad. It could have been better presented and would have been much more palatable had the chicken, manicotti, and eggplant been separated on a large plate, but with a name like Morningstar you cannot expect authentic Italian dishes.

Side of Spaghetti
Alas, still no authentic Italian food in Lawrence, but Morningstar’s does a fair job of trying. Their prices are fair and the service is decent, but it looks more like a sports bar than an Italian restaurant. The old world ambience just is not there. As Morningstar’s would say: “fuggedaboudit”, but not just yet. We will likely be back because my wife liked the calzone (as did I on my first visit), so maybe I will try one of their sandwiches next time. I would also offer suggestions for improvement if invited because I will do ANYTHING to help a local business as well as my chances of having a decent Italian restaurant meal without having to drive 4o miles. HOOAH!
 
CombatCritic Gives Morningstar’s New York Pizza 5 Bombs Out Of 10 (2 1/2 Stars) … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: Fuggedaboudit? Not Authentic Italian, Some Poor Execution, But Don’t Fugeddaboudit Just Yet

Key Words: Morningstar’s New York Pizza, Morningstar, KU, basketball, Lawrence, Kansas, New York, pizza, pasta, calzone, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

 

Wild Goose Chase, Then Premature Closing Left This Weary Traveler Unimpressed


United Club
O’Hare International Airport – Concourse F
Chicago, IL 60666
My experiences with United Airlines are hit-and-miss, occasionally brilliant, but more often than not disappointing.
 
After being told by the agent at the United luggage transfer desk in Terminal 5 that my connecting flight would leave from “Terminal 1, Concourse C”, I made the mistake of believing him, finding out once there that it was actually leaving from Terminal 2, Concourse F, a 30-minute walk away. By the time I finally found my gate, I was not a happy camper, so I decided to waste one of my two United Club passes I get each year on their Chicago O’Hare (Concourse F) facility. 
 
With two hours before my departure just a few gates away, I asked the woman at reception what time they closed and was told “10pm, giving me a little less than two hours before I had to board my plane. Tired after nearly 20 hours of travel and 30 minutes of unnecessary walking, I decided to use my last pass and what a mistake that was!
 
What little food there was available (olives, hummus, pita chips, cheese cubes and Skittles) was mostly depleted at 8:15 when I arrived. An hour after I arrived and 45 minutes before their scheduled closing they started putting food and alcohol away as I was told “last call” by the bartender. Seeing little reason to stick around during the commotion and chaos of employees eagerly preparing to flea work, I decided to leave.
 
I asked the women at the front desk why the employees were shutting everything down well before closing time and with several customers still in the club, but was told “they want to go home”. I said, “yes, but you told me they were open until 10pm and it is only 9:15”. One of the women said, “you can make a complaint on the website if you aren’t happy”.
 
The only reason they get two stars is because of the free booze (well drinks, bottled beer, and wine), the place was clean, and the employees relatively friendly (a rarity in Chicago O’Hare).
 
CombatCritic Gives United Club (O’Hare – Concourse F) 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!


Read This Review And More On Yelp!

Title: Wild Goose Chase, Then Premature Closing Left This Weary Traveler Unimpressed

Key Words: United Airlines, United, airlines, airline, fly, airplane, United Club, club, Chicago, O’Hare, airport, terminal, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

Flying Swiss? Do Not Forget Your Swiss Army Knife!


Swiss Airlines
P O Box 8302 
Zürich, Switzerland
I have enjoyed flights on Swiss in the past, but this was the first time I have flown with them in several years. The online check-in was easy enough and I received a pdf of my boarding pass, but it was not available for download in Passbook unfortunately. I had to take a screenshot of the email on my crappy iPhone to make sure that it would be available come boarding time.
 
Check-in and boarding were easy enough at the Florence (Italy) Airport, but things went downhill quickly after that. We were delayed by an hour because of winds, so they say, and delays at Zurich Airport. Only having about an hour and a half from my original departure time until my connection departed, I scurried through the unfamiliar airport looking for my gate until I found it just as the plane was about to depart.
 
I had similar problems on the way back from Malaga to Zurich with my aircraft being delayed nearly an hour and a half. Fortunately, I had two and a half hours before my next departure this time. By the time I found the gate, they were announcing that the aircraft had been changed because of a maintenance issue and they needed six people to stay behind because the new plane was smaller than the first.
 
After being bumped from my Swiss Air flight to Florence and put up in a hotel far from everything with terrible food, the €10 olive tapenade I bought in Duty Free in Spain was seized during security screening the next morning. The woman in front of me, however, was allowed to keep her Swiss Army Knife (that exceeded maximum length and had 10 blades) and take it in the plane with her. 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to hijack four aircraft, but Zurich Airport security thinks it is OK to take knives onboard while seizing olive spread. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous as we finally took off knowing that anybody or everybody in the plane could be carrying an actual weapon … scary!
 
The positives of my experiences were the friendly staff, the free quiche, wine and chocolates in-flight, the relatively new aircraft, and the €250 I received for voluntarily interrupting my trip on the way home, upgrading their rating from 1 Bomb to 3 …
 
CombatCritic Gives Swiss Air 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better









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Title: Flying Swiss? Do Not Forget Your Swiss Army Knife!

 
Key Words: Swiss, Air, Airlines, airline, Zurich, Switzerland, Malaga, airport, plane, knife, security, delay, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

100,000+ Visitors … That’s Our Goal!


With 2,867 blog views last month, and growing exponentially daily, we are on-track to have over 100,000+ views in the next year thanks to you!
 
The phenomenal growth and positive karma since my trip to meet His Holiness is a wonderful reminder of the quality, objective, unbiased products we provide, all free of charge, to our readers.
 
We will be expanding the CombatCritic’s TravelValue eZine in the near future, adding city and country guides with tons of information, maps, and links to reviews of local restaurants, hotels, and attractions. 
 
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CombatCritic Gives TravelValue eZine 10 Out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: 100,000+ Visitors … That’s Our Goal!

Key Words: views, view, visitors, Blogger, blog, subscribe, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, hotel, destination, review, reviews, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Exceptional Northern Italian Cuisine Plus Moderate Prices Equals A "Decent Value"


Lidia’s Italy
101 W 22nd St
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone number (816) 221-3722
Website: lidias-kc.com
Prices: $$$$

 
We have been going to Lidia’s since we moved to Kansas City in 2008 and have never been disappointed. Whether ordering ala carte from the menu or enjoying their fabulous Sunday brunch, the food is always consistent and delicious although a bit pricey.
 
Antipasti (appetizers) range from $7.50 to $14.00 and include traditional favorites like “frico” (cheese crisp – $12.50), “cozze” (mussels – $12.00), “arancini” (deep fried risotto balls – $12.00), and “pappa al pomodoro” ( a Tuscan tomato and bread soup – $7.50). The frico, for example, is delicious with crispy cheese (usually a higher-fat hard cheeses like Montasio or Asiago) baked in the oven with various decadent ingredients, having originated in the Friuli region of Italy.
 
Insalate (salads) are normally ordered along with the main course (secondo) when dining in Italy and are not “meal size” as you will find in the United States. At Lidia’s they range from $8.00 to $12.50, but I cannot comment on them as I have never ordered one because, other than the Caprese salad – one of my favorites, you should not come to restaurant like Lidia’s unless you plan on focusing on pasta and meat/seafood dishes, which are quite filling.
 
Ranging from $17.00 (canneloni) to $22.00 (pasta trio), the prices for their “primi” (first courses – pastas) are Lidia’s “Best Value”, especially their “pasta trio” which my wife and I have had on numerous occasions. This “all you can eat” medley of three pastas changes daily and includes three different pastas (fettucine, penne, ravioli, etc.), each with its own sauce (butter and sage, amatriciana, and other favorites). Servers come around with a large plate of each, giving you as much or as little as you desire so you can sample all three before deciding on which one (or three) you want more of. You can add a caesar salad and choice of dessert for an additional $13, but I would not waste my money and recommend enjoying as much pasta as you can instead.
 
The meat and seafood (secondi) dishes are not cheap at $21 for the lemon chicken to $49.50 for the bone-in rib eye steak, but if you like a traditional Italian meal with antipasto, primo and secondo, you will not be disappointed … but you will be bursting at the seams! Secondi at Lidia’s, unlike restaurants in Italy, are accompanied by “contorni” (vegetables and potatoes), making a full meal if you prefer meat and potatoes over pasta. My favorite used to be their “involtini di manzo”, rolled beef scallops with pickle, vegetables and mustard (a Northern Italian recipe), accompanied by mashed potatoes, but it has not been on the menu lately.
 
Their wine list is extensive with nothing under $32 for a bottle (the “Value List” has a nice selection of reds and whites) and ranging up to as high as $495 for a bottle of Lange (2005) Gaja if that is your style. We have ordered from the value list every time we have been there and found the wines quite good and somewhat as the name implies, a “decent” value. They also have a full bar with drinks ranging from $9 to $34.
 
We have not been there for Sunday brunch in several years, but it used to be an excellent value at $29.50. Served buffet style, you can help yourself to a nice selection of antipasti and dolci (desserts), ordering a selection from a wide variety on main courses, including the “Pasta Tasting Menu”, frico, porchetta hash, osso buco, and lasagna Bolognese among others.
 
We have never been there for lunch, but looking at the menu it appears to be a decent value with meal selections reduced by $5 or so compared to the dinner menu and with sandwiches in the $12 to $13 range. 
 
Expect to pay a $100 to $125 for dinner for two, including antipasti and either a primo (pasta) or secondo, a bottle of wine from the value list, and a shared dessert (tip and tax included). We cannot afford to spend that kind of money every time we go out to eat, but for special occasions Lidia’s Italy – Kansas City is a decent value with exceptional food, excellent service, and moderate prices.
 

CombatCritic Gives Lidia’s Italy – Kansas City 7 out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: Exceptional Northern Italian Cuisine Plus Moderate Prices Equals A “Decent Value”

Key Words: Lidia’s Italy, Kansas City, Kansas, city, Lidia’s, Italy, Lidia, Bastianich, crossroads, Missouri, Italian, pasta, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

"Fair" Italian Fare in Historic Parkville


Café Italia
160 English Landing Dr
Parkville, MO 64152
Phone: (816) 584-0607
Prices: $$$$
 
With a shortage of non-chain Italian restaurants in the Northland, Cafe Italia in Parkville did not let us down. The atmosphere is sparse, but modern with a touch of elegance as opposed to their old location on North Oak. The menu was missing one of my favorites from the old location, vitello (veal) saltimbocca. We started with wine, Canyon Road Cabernet ($22/bottle) from the limited wine list. Prices by the glass are reasonable, from $6-$7.50/glass.
 
We ordered a stuffed artichoke, while tasty, and hot, was too “cheesy” and drenched in olive oil. It was a bit disappointing, but my standards are very high because I learned an excellent stuffed artichoke recipe form my grandmother who was born in the Irpino region of Italy. We both had the caesar salad which was excellent, the only problem being the very large (but delicious) croutons that had to be eaten by hand because they were too hard to cut into pieces. My wife, a native Italian, had ravioli con funghi, stuffed with chicken, prosciutto, and capocollo in a mushroom sauce. The taste was excellent, but the pasta was too “al dente” (undercooked). Being Italian, my wife is hard to please when it comes to Italian food, but she enjoyed her meal very much. I had the vitello alla parmigiana which was tasty, but a little tough for “milk-fed veal” which was advertised on the menu. The color and texture seemed more like sliced beef to me, but it was tasty and reasonably priced, veal or beef.
 
The size of the portions were overly generous, so we had to pass on dessert. The owners stopped by to talk and one had family from the same area of Sicily where my wife was born, so they were able to speak in Italian about their shared heritage. Overall, we had a nice meal, the service was very good, and we will return soon to see if any of the problems noted above have been taken care of.
 
CombatCritic Gives Cafe Italia 6 out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
 
 
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Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15”

TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” 

Tabelog – “Official Judge” (Bronze)

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Title: “Fair” Italian Fare in Historic Parkville

 
Key Words: Cafe Italia, cafe, café, Italia, pasta, wine, Parkville, Missouri, MO, Kansas, City, restaurant, Italian, Italy, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Il Pizzaiuolo: This "Pizza Maker" Does It The Traditional, Neopolitan Way … Delicioso!


Il Pizzaiuolo
Via dei Macci 113R
50122 Florence, Italy
Near Mercato San’Ambrogio
Phone: +39 055 241171
 

I wrote an extensive review in 2012 on Il Pizzaiuolo, so I will not bore you with too many details or flowery prose. Leave it to say that in parts of Italy, Rome and northward, good pizza is hard to come by. Most visitors do not realize that this is authentic pizza napoletana (not “Napolean”, he was the squirt of a French dictator), equaling some of the best pizzerias in Naples (Napoli), the home of pizza and the best in the world.

Just around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant’Ambrogio and a five minute walk from Santa Croce, Il Pizzaiuolo has only around 15 tables, so the place is small and hard to find a seat after 8pm. Beside pizza, they have starters, pasta, meat, and fish dishes, but pizza is their specialty. On this visit, one of many in the past, we decided to try their frittura (€8 – fried things), including arancini di riso (rice balls), croquette di patate (potato corquettes), and montanare (fried pizza dough with a little tomato sauce). Their were just two of each (six pieces total) and a disappointment compared to what you would get in a Naples pizzeria for the same price (€8 gets you 25 pieces of the same). They were good, but there should have been more or it should have been much cheaper (€3 to €4).
I had a Neapolitan classic, pizza con salsiccia e friarielli (fior di latte cheese, sausage, and broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil and garlic – €10) and it was wonderful. My wife’s pizza quattro formaggio (four cheeses – €8) was also excellent with loads of mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta, and provola cheese. As is usual in pizza napoletana, the dough was thin and chewy, only crisp enough to hold the toppings without getting soggy and with little splotches of burnt crust from the fiery wood-fired oven. Perfetto!
 

My only complaints, other than the women’s toilet being rather filthy on this visit (my wife told me, I did not see for myself) are the fact that you can only get wine by the glass or bottle, no liters or half-liters and that the prices are a little steep compared to Naples, but those are small discrepancies when you are eating un’oltima pizza napoletana (excellent Neapolitan pizza) in Northern Italy!

CombatCritic Il Pizzaiuolo 8 Out Of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!

 

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:
Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15”
TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” Tabelog – “Official Judge (Bronze)”
Zomato – “Super Foodie”
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Title: Il Pizzaiuolo: This “Pizza Maker” Does It The Traditional, Neopolitan Way … Delicioso!


Key Words: Il Pizzaiuolo, pizzaiuolo, pizza, pizzeria, Naples, napoletana, Neopolitan, Florence, Italy, Firenze, restaurant, ristorante, menu, Sant’Ambrogio, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, guide

Reliable, Affordable, Professional Lawrence (Kansas) To Kansas City Airport Shuttle


SDM Transportation 
P.O. Box 3783 
Lawrence,  KS   66046
Email: reservation@sdmtransportationks.com
Web: sdmtransportationks.com
Phone: 785-979-2428
Fax: 785-371-4024

Hours: Hours based on availability, primarily evening, nights, early mornings, weekends, holidays and all day Thursday services.

 
I found SDM Transportation on a University of Kansas (KU) Questions and Answers page when my friend bailed on a promised ride home from the airport a week before my arrival. They had several options available, but arriving late at night (midnight) left me few options except for a dedicated vehicle. The few I contacted wanted $100 to $125 for a midnight ride from Kansas City International Airport to Lawrence, Kansas. Shannon, SDM’s owner and sole driver, came back with a very fair quote of $65. Sold!
 
Shannon was very professional and responsive from the start, quickly confirming availability and pricing, then sending me a reservation confirmation in an email. On the day of my arrival, he even sent me a photo of the vehicle and information about where we would meet, leaving nothing to chance.
 
When I arrived, he was outside the arrivals baggage claim doors as promised, helping me to put my bags in the car even though he is disabled with Cerebral Palsy (his disability does not effect his driving, he is an excellent and very safe driver). Shannon gave me a brief overview of his business to put me at ease and we spent the next 50 minutes chatting as we made our way to Lawrence. He helped me with my bags when we arrived and he even waited until I found my keys and opened the front door before leaving.
 
If you want reliable, friendly, professional, and cost-effective transportation to and from Kansas City Airport and surrounds, then Shannon should be your first choice. The only drawbacks being his schedule and the size of the vehicle. He works full-time at another job and has no other employees, so his availability is limited to Thursdays and nights only. The vehicle, a Hyundai hybrid, is large, new, and comfortable, but it has a rather small trunk and seats four comfortably, making it a challenge to fit more than two riders and a bag or two each in the car. I also recommend that you contact him as early as possible if you want to ensure that he is available.
 
CombatCritic Gives SDM Transportation 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 



Title: Reliable, Affordable, Professional Lawrence (Kansas) To Kansas City Airport Shuttle

Key Words: SDM Transportation, SDM, transportation, Lawrence, Kansas, airport, MCI, Kansas City, international, shuttle, Shannon, McCoy, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review

* Photos courtesy of SDMTransportationKS.com

Super Value, Nice Variety In A Beach Town With Few Dining Options


Da Franco
Restaurant and Pizzeria
Via Elea 213
84046 Marina, Italy
Phone: +39 0974 972979
Prices: $$$$
 
For a tourist/beach town, Ascea is noticeably lacking in a selection of decent restaurants, particularly on “the Corso” or main street. We went to Pizzeria and Ristorante Da Franco with a friend who lives in Ascea. The restaurant is at the far end of Corso from the town center and they have a reasonable €15 menu del giorno (tourist menu; primo, secondo, contorno, coperto, servizio) for dinner. It is quite big inside, but being a nice evening we sat on the small terrace in front on the street. The service was very attentive and good. 
 
I went with the menu del giorno and a primo of penne boscaiola (meat, mushrooms, and peas) with scallopina ai funghi (meat scallops in mushroom sauce) as my secondo and patatine (french fries) for a contorno. The boscaiola was creamy, earthy and robust, the scallopine light and savory, and the fries crispy and hot. An excellent meal at just €15.
 
My wife and her friend had pizza which was as good as expected in Southern Italy, particularly anywhere within 100 miles of Naples. The crusts thin, yet sturdy enough to hold the toppings without getting soggy with just the right amount of tomato and other ingredients, not too many and not too few.
 
Da Franco was quite a good value in a beach town with remarkably few options, particularly for those on a budget and is recommended when visiting Ascea.
 
CombatCritic Gives Da Franco 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!
 
 
 
 
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Title: Super Value, Nice Variety In A Beach Town With Few Dining Options

 
Key Words: Da Franco, franco, Ascea, restaurant, ristorante, pizzeria, pizza, menu del giorno, menu, giorno, review, travel, value, Campania, Italy, Italian, pasta, CombatCritic, TravelValue
 

The “Value” Leader In Travel … Follow Me To TravelValue!


C.T. Sorrentino, aka CombatCritic, is a world traveler, having visited 41 countries and counting. An amateur chef, he studied for 3 years in Pozzuoli, Italy and is a published author of reviews, editorials, articles, a popular blog, and is the producer of a successful YouTube channel. 

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CombatCritic is Yelp ELITE ’14 and ’15, TripAdvisor “TOP CONTRIBUTOR”, Booking.com “GENIUS” and Foursquare “INSIDER”

Title: The “Value” Leader In Travel … Follow Me To TravelValue!

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His Holiness And I


By C.T. Sorrentino

“His Holiness”. I first saw him on TV, a documentary, 60 Minutes, I forget exactly where or when, but he impressed me with his infectious laugh, immeasurable joy, and extremely profound yet simple message: interdependence and compassion; love and non-violence; selflessness and integrity; dignity and respect … I was hooked. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama had my ear and my admiration from that point forward.

I started listening to His talks, I began reading His books, I visited, His website. I use a capital “H” because this man is the real deal, as close to a God as there is on Earth, plus “His Holiness” is always capitalized, so I capitalize the H here out of respect, but will not do so from this point forward because he is such a humble man that he would likely be embarrassed by it, he would not like it. After all, he often refers to himself as a “simple monk”.

His message made sense to me, enticing me to further explore Buddhism, a religion I was unfamiliar with, having been raised Catholic, only later finding out that it is not really considered a “religion” because there is no “God”, no creator, in Buddhism. Buddha was a man, a prince no less, who lived around 2,600 years ago in India, becoming “enlightened” after 49 days of meditation under the Bodhi tree at the age of 35 in a place now called Bodhgaya. So, back to his message, actually Buddha’s message, referred to as the “dharma” in Buddhism and one of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (the devout followers: monks, nuns, bodhisattvas).

IMG_3728

First, “suffering” (or “samsara” in Sanskrit), the subject of the Four Noble Truths, is at the root of human existence in Buddhist philosophy. We all want to be happy, but our ignorance: Our thoughts, our emotions, our desires and our inability to manage them get in the way of attaining happiness.

Second, we should observe our body (equated metaphorically to the Sangha), mind (the Buddha), and speech (the Dharma), inhibiting our propensity to lie, cheat, steal, kill, covet, idle gossip, talk badly about others and so on, by enhancing our ability to focus on the present moment and making positive choices while minimizing or eliminating negative ones.

Third, we should be compassionate, empathic, and care about others more than we care about ourselves, letting go of “me”, “I”, our “self” and in the process doing what we can to eliminate suffering in others and ourselves. This is also referred to as “bodhicitta” and those who dedicate their lives to ultimate compassion with a focus on eliminating suffering in all sentient beings (people, animals, insects, etc.) and attaining Buddhahood are referred to as “bodhisattvas”.

So I started reading books on Buddhism, basic books like Buddhism for Dummies, A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism, and other introductory texts, in order to learn more about what seemed to be a very complex subject. Then, not wanting to spend another winter in the Midwest, I had an epiphany – why not go to India and learn about Tibetan Buddhism at its source, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj to be specific, from His Holiness himself?

The first place I visited was the Dalai Lama’s website, where I checked his teaching schedule and, lo and behold, he was going to perform a teaching for a group of Koreans at his temple in McLeod Ganj from the 11th through the 13th of November 2014. Then I started checking airfares. I found a fare for $1,100 on United, which seemed like a very fair price considering that tickets to Europe nearly always exceed that, usually by a lot, so I decided to run the idea by my wife. I would leave in late October, go to Dharamsala for two months to study Buddhist philosophy, then meet her in New Delhi during her winter break (she is on the faculty at a large Midwestern university) for three weeks of touring, then south to Kerala for some much needed R&R by the sea.

Arriving in Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj actually, on a bright late-autumn day, the skies were a deep Dodger blue, the snow-topped Himalayas steep and jagged, the surrounding foothills raining pieces of shale and boulders the size of garbage trucks, and the trees surrounding the town a deep forest green, literally. His Holiness’s temple is actually in the hill station town known as McLeod Ganj, several kilometers and a 15 to 30 minute ride by bus, taxi, or car from Dharamsala depending on which road you take, the pot-holed “shortcut” or the longer, but much more comfortable “bus road”.  So if you want to be around his temple, attend his teachings, or volunteer with the Tibetan refugees as I did, you must stay in McLeod Ganj, not Dharamsala.

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I felt totally at home as I entered McLeod Ganj on the first of November, as if I had somehow been there before, maybe in a past life, and my karma, which had been dismal for the past several years (that is another story, maybe an upcoming book), suddenly took a turn for the better as you shall soon find out.

Forty-five minutes after arriving, having quickly unpacked my backpack in my room at the Pink House Hotel, I decided to go for a stroll around town.  No sooner had I reached the long, treacherous staircase leading from the hotel to Jogiwara Road a few hundred feet above did I meet Thupten Pema Lama. Thupten is a small, slender man who always wears a hat of one kind or another.  His English is excellent and I soon found out that he is the now retired director of the Tse Cho Ling Monastery in McLeod Ganj and a former Buddhist monk.  We walked and talked for a while as he was on his way to get his cell phone repaired at a shop up on Temple Road, one of the two main thoroughfares running the length of the “market” area of McLeod Ganj and the road that takes you to the Dalai Lama’s Temple complex about a kilometer downhill. He pointed out his monastery in the valley below, where he still works part-time, from the second floor balcony of the small shopping center we were visiting. The secluded monastery, a three hundred step trek below the main square, is a peaceful respite where monks pray, meditate, and chant and where tourists can stay in a modest room with en suite bath for just 600 rupees (less than $10) per night. Thupten then invited me for tea at his home the next morning “around 10:00 am” and I enthusiastically accepted this kind invitation from a relative stranger.

Thupten’s small, simple apartment sits on the second floor of a building nearly adjacent to the hotel where I was staying, overlooking the river valley below with a view of the front range as well as the peaks of the Himalayas off in the distance. We had Tibetan bread, which quickly became one of my favorites and a staple throughout my stay, and milk tea, a Tibetan tea mixed with hot milk and a little sugar. As we talked, his sister sat with us, a sweet woman who speaks little English and is struggling with health problems as I later found out. Thupten then invited me for lunch. Unable to turn down such a warm and hospitable invitation, we retired to his living room while he bounced back and forth between there and his small kitchen where he busily chopped fresh vegetables and whipped up a tasty soup which I later found out was a Tibetan dish called “thupka” (pronounced “too-pa”). We watched BBC, his favorite, while chatting and eating our thupka with his sister.

There just happened to be an International Film Festival taking place in town that day, so we jumped in his car, picking up a stray tourist, a doctor from Australia, along the way, heading up the hill to TIPA (Tibetan Institute for the Performing Arts) to watch a couple movies. We also had another complimentary lunch with the director of the film we had just seen, a very well known monk and Rinpoche (reincarnation), on the stage in the TIPA courtyard. From tea to lunch(es) to film festival, we had a splendid day and I had made a new friend for life. I later found out that Thupten is very prominent in town and a leader in the local Tibetan community. My karma was definitely heading in a positive direction and all this on just my first day in McLeod Ganj.

Oddly enough, that very same night, I met another very influential and equally well-known Tibetan monk by the name of Bargdo (pronounced “pack-toe”) while having my first restaurant meal at Nick’s Italian Kitchen.  Sitting at a table for two, I saw a monk walk in and ask a woman sitting by the door if he could join her as all the tables in the restaurant were occupied.  I am not sure why she turned him away, but I quickly caught his eye and beckoned him to join me as I was sitting alone and happy to have some company.  Bargdo has written 14 books and given countless public talks around the world about his experiences while being held in a Chinese prison and tortured by his captors, all for publicly pleading for a “Free Tibet” and announcing his devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Chinese.  For someone who was held captive and tortured for years in a Chinese prison, Bargdo was extremely jovial, even joyful, laughing uncontrollably at his own puns and as friendly as anybody I have ever met, including the Dalai Lama himself.  We ended up talking for a couple of hours and I bought one of his books, which he happily agreed to autograph for me before we went our separate ways. Fortunately, his company was much better than my meal, but the evening was an overall success in my eyes. Still day one and more positive karma!

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I wanted to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings, study Buddhist philosophy, volunteer with the Tibetan refugees, and study yoga during my two months in McLeod Ganj, so on the following Monday I made the two kilometer trek down Jogiwara Road to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, also known as the “Tibetan Library” for short.  As it turned out, they had two Buddhist philosophy courses scheduled each day, Monday through Saturday, one at 9am and another at 11am, taught by two different geshes (a geshe is a Buddhist monk with the equivalent of a PhD in Buddhist philosophy), each with his own English translator as the geshes taught only in Tibetan. I registered for both courses for the two months I would be in town, paying a grand total of 800 rupees ($13) for both courses and the texts.

I was too late for the 9am class that day, but the 11am class had just started, so the registrar insisted that I attend.  Entering in the middle of the opening prayer was a bit disconcerting, but none of the fifty or so people seemed to take notice and I quickly found a seat. The geshe was enthusiastic in his speech as he described the day’s verses of Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland in his native Tibetan, so I could not understand a word.  His translator, an American by the name of Julia whom I later came to know quite well, and Geshe obviously had a strong connection, a bond that allowed her to alternate between Tibetan and English all the while bantering back and forth while clarifying key points in the simple yet complex prose being taught. I was hooked … great stuff and positive karma once again!

As I was leaving the class, I overheard a group of people speaking Italian.  Having lived in Italy, being married to an Italian, and of Italian ancestry myself, I speak a reasonable amount of Italian and understand quite a bit more.  One of the group was an older woman with shaved head and dressed in the traditional Buddhist nun’s robes, so I asked her in Italian where she was from.  She told me that she lived in McLeod Ganj, but the rest of the group was from various places in Italy. They were obviously in a hurry to go somewhere, but before they left, the nun invited me to another, more private teaching at a café across from the Dalai Lama’s temple that day at 2pm.  I decided to go and am I glad I did – I was definitely on the karma train!

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The small room above the One Two Café seats 12 people comfortably, many of whom sit cross-legged on cushions on the floor with tiny desks in front of them for taking notes. The more “senior” in attendance, those with bad knees like the Italian nun and I, sat in one of the few plastic chairs lining the wall. Our teacher, Geshe Lobsang Choegyal Rinpoche of the Institute for Buddhist Dialectics (IBD), is not only a geshe, but also a “Rinpoche”, the reincarnation of a very high Tibetan lama who reportedly meditated in a cave in the Himalayas for 50 years.  I was later told that Rinpoche is also mentored by His Holiness and was reportedly handpicked by the Dalai Lama to study at the IBD, the monastery inside the grounds of the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeod Ganj.

As Rinpoche entered the room, that day and every Monday through Friday following, all in attendance would bow, with the Buddhists, and even some non-Buddhists who did not know any better, prostrating themselves three times at Rinpoche’s feet (a prostration is a sign of respect or reverence for a high lama and/or Rinpoche where the individual bows down to the ground in four distinct movements, sliding their hands in front of them as their forehead touches the ground before returning to a standing position only to repeat the movement for a total of three times). He would always start with warm greetings and a small amount of banter, normally light and jovial, before his opening prayer.  He would then begin his teaching for the day. His translator, Ben, from Jerusalem is a soft-spoken and very kind man. His relationship with Rinpoche is also obviously very special and they work extremely well together. Ben is also familiar enough with both Tibetan and Buddhist philosophy that his translations flow effortlessly and were quite easy to understand.

What a tremendously compassionate and wise man Rinpoche turned out to be as I experienced over the next 6 weeks or so in his presence. Incredibly positive karma was generated and much Buddhist philosophy was assimilated over the 45 hours we spent together in that small room simply adorned only with seven Tsongas, wall hangings with paintings of the Buddhas surrounded by crimson and gold silk fabric, one behind Rinpoche’s low throne-like seat and three adorning each of the two side walls. Rinpoche was scheduled to leave with His Holiness for several days of teachings in Karnataka, India in late December and I was very sad to have to part ways on the last day of his teachings. He had become my teacher, my geshe, my guru, my Rinpoche.

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I had started teaching English conversation shortly after my arrival to Tibetan refugees at LHA Charitable Trust, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), a non-profit in other words, one of several in McLeod Ganj providing free education and services to the many Tibetans who have escaped from their homeland and the oppression of the Chinese government. I taught an hour-long class Monday through Friday at 4:00 pm and had one student that I tutored, a 28-year old Tibetan Buddhist monk named Sonam that I met each night.

Sonam Wangdu is a Buddhist monk, at least six feet, five inches tall, a giant by Tibetan standards, and one of the kindest, gentlest, sweetest people I have had the honor of meeting in my lifetime. He was arrested in New Delhi, shortly after escaping from Tibet in 2012 at the age of 26, for protesting in front of the Chinese embassy over their immoral occupation of his homeland, Tibet. Sonam was only held for a couple days, short by Chinese standards, and the New Delhi Police told him he was “six feet, seven inches”. He is tall, but I think their measurement was over by an inch or two. That was Sonam’s second incarceration, the first being in Lhasa (Tibet or China depending on who you talk to) where he was arrested by the Chinese for protesting in favor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is persona non grata as far as the Chinese government is concerned. Sonam was lucky, he was only imprisoned and tortured for a week while several of his fellow protestors were shot, some killed, by police for speaking out in favor of the Dalai Lama.

Sonam escaped from Tibet shortly thereafter, trekking across the Himalayas in the middle of winter with three other monks. Crossing near peaks in excess of an altitude of 20,000 feet in temperatures of minus forty degrees Fahrenheit and below, it took Sonam and his companions 30 days to cross into Nepal and reach the Tibetan Welcome Center in the capitol city of Katmandu. They were some of the lucky ones because many of their countrymen and women die of starvation, dehydration, frostbite, freeze to death, or are fallen by Chinese snipers who routinely wait perched atop a ridge for escaping Tibetans to wander by.

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Sonam and I met two days after my arrival, barely able to communicate because of my non-existent Tibetan and the little bit of English he had learned up until then. We continued to meet every night of the week, many times for two to four hours while drinking milk tea, Tibetan herbal tea, or simply hot water, one of Sonam’s favorites along with hot milk. We would also meet one day on the weekend and go for a long walk in the woods or up to the village of Dharamkot, a few kilometers above McLeod Ganj, to talk and spend time together. The other weekend day, normally Saturday, Sonam had reserved for, as he liked to say, “washing my body” where he would hike down to the Bhagsu River, which was very cold in November and December, to wash himself and the few clothes he owned.

Sonam and I became very close and remain close to this day, talking on Skype when possible and texting on WeChat, a favorite among Tibetans in India. He has become like a third son to me and I hope we can meet again very soon, possibly in the United States where he would like to visit one day. Sonam gave me a Tsonga of the Shakyamuni Buddha, the “original” Buddha, formally known Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from Northern India who was enlightened under the Bodhi tree some 2,600 years ago. And he calls me “respected teacher”, a term of endearment that warms my heart every time I hear it.

As I mentioned earlier, the Dalai Lama was scheduled to give three days of teaching from the 11th through the 13th of November upon request from a group of Koreans. Anybody could attend the teachings as His Holiness’s temple can accommodate two to three thousand people comfortably, so three days prior I took my two passport photos and paid my ten rupees (16 cents US) at the Dalai Lama’s Security Office on Bhagsu Road not far from the town square, receiving my security badge in less than ten minutes. I then walked to the temple to reserve my seat using a piece of paper with my name written on it, affixing it to the cement floor with some borrowed tape at a location where I was told His Holiness would walk past following the teaching each day.

When I arrived on the morning of the first teaching, lo and behold someone was sitting on my reserved spot! Normally, it would not have been a problem and I would have simply sat somewhere else, but there was a full-house and not a square inch of available space anywhere. When I informed the intruder of his error, he stood up and showed me his name on a large mat where he had been sitting, but when I picked-up his mat to reveal my name on the concrete below where his mat had been placed, he had no choice but to move elsewhere. Those are the rules, I did not make them up, I only enforce them!

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The Dalai Lama arrived shortly after the appointed hour of 8:00am, causing much excitement as he circumambulated, clockwise of course, the temple before entering. As he did, he stopped and talked to several people, touching others and giving blessings all along the way. Upon entering the temple, he made jokes with the Koreans seated inside along with some of the monks from his temple before being seated and getting down to business. As he started talking in Tibetan (translations were available in several languages via FM radio – you have to bring your own), dozens of young monks started circulating through the crowd with large baskets of Tibetan bread and huge steel pots filled with steaming milk tea (you have to bring your own cup), handing out the bread and pouring the tea to everyone in attendance. This is a ritual at every teaching in his temple, followed by a short prayer from His Holiness over the bread and tea before everyone begins consuming them. The teaching then begins in earnest and continues for four hours except for a 15-minute “toilet” break about halfway through. These three days of teaching focused on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, the same text we were studying in my 11:00 am class at the Tibetan Library, so much of what was said sounded familiar. I will not elaborate on the details of the teachings because it would take up too much time and is too detailed to include in this short story, but it was enlightening, pun intended.

The next two days proceeded much the same as the first, except that on the last day there was a large lunch provided by His Holiness for the Korean’s and anybody else who wanted to partake, including Tibetan bread, rice, a vegetarian curry, and boiled vegetables, standard fare for a large gathering and completely free of charge of course. Another thing that stood out to me was that on the second day there were several young monks navigating their way through the large crowd with stacks of 1000 rupee notes (1000 rupees equals about $16 US), seeking out the Buddhist monks and nuns, giving each of them a 1000 rupee note, not to anyone else, just the monks and nuns. Having vowed to a life of poverty, existing on the simple meals at their monasteries and wearing only the crimson and gold robes of Tibetan Buddhist monk or nun and a simple pair of shoes or sandals, these men and women live on very little, so $16 is a lot of money. A small gesture of compassion by His Holiness to the Sangha, his devoted followers, the Buddhist monks and nuns, but with an enormous impact on those who subsist on less than one dollar a day. Just another example of the compassion of the Dalai Lama

Another teaching, this time for four days in early December, was scheduled short notice after my arrival for a group of Mongolians, so I had the opportunity to attend a total of seven days, nearly 25 hours of teachings with the Dalai Lama during my time in McLeod Ganj. What a blessing and what tremendously positive karma had come my way during my stay!

But wait, that is not the best part of the story! Shortly after I arrived in McLeod Ganj, knowing that the Dalai Lama would be at his residence much of the time, an unusual occurrence with his hectic travel schedule, I decided to request an audience. Why not? The bad news: I received word from Tenzin Taklha, the Dalai Lama’s nephew and personal Secretary, three days after my request telling me that an audience would be impossible due to the Dalai Lama’s strenuous schedule and concerns for his health. The good news: I was invited to a group receiving line on December 8, 2014 where I would have the opportunity to greet His Holiness, receive a blessing, and have a photo taken with him. I was elated!

Thupten Pema Lama told me that these receiving lines were group events where nationalities are grouped together for the greeting, blessing, and photo. Well, that was good enough and just to have the opportunity to be so close to him was blessing enough for me, so I waited for the appointed hour – 8:00am on December 8th.

I arrived early at the temple’s security office that morning where I was checked-in, went through a metal detector, was patted-down (frisked), and had my possessions thoroughly checked. I had brought six mala (Buddhist rosaries) and two khata (ceremonial scarves for blessings) with me to have them blessed by His Holiness. Because nothing can be carried on your person when meeting the Dalai Lama, except a mala or khata, they were aggregated with all of the other’s and my remaining possessions were taken and sealed, all to be returned to me at the end of the visit. I was then told to go to a waiting room at the base of the hill leading to his reception center and living quarters.

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There were probably 75 or so people there that brisk December morning and from what I heard, there were people from Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Tibet, China, and America of course. Nearing the 9:00am hour, we were grouped together in a line by nation and led up the hill toward the reception center. The line wrapped around the semi-circular driveway in front of the reception center with the head of the line under the canopy in front of the building. I was about one-third of the way back, number 25 or so. The Dalai Lama arrived shortly thereafter with his entourage, waving to his guests and smiling and laughing as is his way.

Just as Thupten had told me, the groups from individual nations were instructed to approach him one at a time. I could not tell you where the first groups were from, but there were from 5 to 12 or so people in each group. He would greet them, chat briefly, give them a blessing, and his staff would then take a group photo. The encounters lasted from one to three or four minutes. The group in front of me was from Japan and there were seven of them. I overheard the Dalai Lama telling them in English how wonderful it is that the Japanese are so forgiving toward Americans for having dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan at the end of World War II and that forgiveness is a critical part of compassion and Buddhism. Little did His Holiness know that the next person in line was an American and a military veteran at that.

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Oh, I forgot to mention, I was the only American in line that day, so when it was time, I was escorted to meet the Dalai Lama alone – I was the only nationality with just one member present! When I approached him, one of his staff said, “This is Lieutenant Colonel Sorrentino of the United States Air Force”. I then presented the white silk khata to the Dalai Lama between my two outstretched palms, as is the tradition, taking it from me he placed it around my shoulders as I bowed. He then took my hands and we bowed together in greetings. Not letting go of my hands, he asked me, “How long were you in the military?” to which I replied “20 years Your Holiness”. “ Did you serve in combat?” he asked. “Yes Your Holiness, I served in the Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan operations”. “Oh, very good”, he replied. At that point his staff were looking as if it were time to move on, so I took the opportunity to tell him something rather than asking a customary question.

I said, “Your Holiness, I have been fortunate enough to volunteer teaching English conversation to and befriending many Tibetans while here in McLeod Ganj and I have gotten to know your people very well”. I went on, “I have to tell you that I have never met such kind, compassionate, joyful, and wonderful people in my life and if there is ever anything I can do for you or the Tibetan people, please do not hesitate to ask me”. As I was finishing my comment, my eyes began to fill with tears of joy, both for the opportunity to meet this great and very kind man as well as because of the joy that working with my Tibetan students at LHA and my monk Sonam had given me. I have to say that was a bit of sadness as well, knowing what hardships and suffering the Dalai Lama and all Tibetan refugees had experienced while escaping from Tibet in very harsh conditions, leaving friends and family behind to do so.

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His Holiness saw the tears in my eyes and still holding my hands he told me, and I am paraphrasing, about tolerance, interdependence, compassion, and forgiveness.  He said that it is helpful to empathize with and feel compassion toward those who we feel harm us or wish us ill will and that anger and resentment only cause our own suffering. The Dalai Lama added that the ignorant are oblivious to the feelings of others, requiring even more compassion from those with the wisdom to understand their suffering and that those are the reasons Tibetan Buddhists are such compassionate, joyful, and caring people. A few more photos were then taken, I later found out that the photographer had been snapping away the entire five minutes for a total of nine photos, and then it was time for me to let the next group approach. It then dawned on me that the Dalai Lama had not let go of my hands the entire time we were together.

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His Holiness says that our enemies give us the best opportunities to practice compassion and forgiveness.  He has every reason to hate the Chinese for what they have done to him and his people, yet he loves them as much as anyone else, if not more, and holds no animosity.  He believes, like all Tibetan Buddhists, that every creature on earth, insects, animals and humans alike, could have been our mother or father in a previous life, so we must treat every living being with the same love, compassion, dignity, and respect we would afford to our parents. In this way, it is much easier to feel compassion toward our enemies.

I have only a few hundred hours of exposure to Buddhism, having only scratched the surface with much yet to learn and practice. I still find it difficult not to become angry with and intolerant of ignorant people (the Dalai Lama likes to call them “stupid”), but his teachings have allowed me to reexamine my gut reactions and, eventually, soften those reactions with patience, acceptance, understanding, and compassion for all sentient beings, both the good and the bad. That is what I learned in the group and individual encounters between “His Holiness and I”.

Copyright 2015 – 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Title: His Holiness And I

Key Words: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, his, holiness, Dalai, Lama, Dalai Lama, Tenzin, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, India, Tibet, China, Chinese, LHA, Tibetan, refugees, travel, value

Garbage … I Will Never Waste My Money On Apple Products Again


Review: Apple 60W MagSafe Power Adapter (for MacBook and 13‐inch MacBook Pro)

If you like to travel as much as I do, a computer is a necessity in your home away from home and I take mine wherever in the world I go. Having heard wonderful things, propaganda, about Apple products, I took the leap less than two years ago by purchasing a Macbook Pro, then an iPhone 5C. What a mistake!

Just shy of warranty expiration, my Mac’s OS went TANGO UNIFORM (military speak for hard‐broke), causing me to spend countless hours on the phone with support, wiping my hard drive clean, reinstalling the OS, and recovering everything from backup … several times. Then my 6 month old iPhone died while on vacation in Puerto Rico, stranding us in an unfamiliar area while using Google Maps to navigate the island, losing my ability to take vacation photos/video and unable to contact relatives back home over the holidays.

Most recently, my MagSafe power adapter’s (plastic) “L” connector head broke off. After removing it with a pair of pliers, I super‐glued it back on, allowing me to charge my computer for a couple weeks, but now it will not charge at all. Having paid close to $3500 for three Apple products (including my wife’s computer), I would expect better quality, but what should I expect from overpriced products Made in China? I was shocked to see that Apple wants $79 for a replacement MagSafe adapter. Where else would you pay $80 for a power cord other than Apple? Nowhere! Based on the reviews this product has garnered, it is a piece of $80 junk just like the rest of Apple’s products, I can see that my problem is fairly common. I will buy a new adapter from another supplier for just $30 and I will never buy another Apple product again.

CombatCritic Gives Apple, Inc. and their MagSafe 60W Power Adapter A Dismal 1 Bomb Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: Garbage … I Will Never Waste My Money On Apple Products Again

Key Words: Apple, macbook, pro, MagSafe, power, adapter, 60W, MacIntosh, computer, iPhone, 5C, Mac, phone, product, broken, review, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, tech

Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations


Hotel Heritage Home

1603/4 Main Bazar, Pahar Ganj

Near RK Ashram Metro Station

New Delhi 110055, India 

Phone: +91-987-352-9223

Prices: $$$$$

New Delhi (Paharganj), India: I found Hotel Heritage Home on TripAdvisor and made my reservation on Booking.com after reading numerous good reviews. The hotel is just a few blocks from the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg Metro station (opposite end from the train station) on Main Bazaar and just around the corner from Café Festa. It was easy to spot because of the good signage in front. It has a clean, open, rustic feel with a long entry through automatic glass doors, a small reception along with a travel office, an elevator and a rooftop restaurant. The area around the station is seedy to say the least, but vibrant, energetic, and colorful although filthy as is the case around much of Delhi.

Arriving at 1:30 AM after a 30-hour journey, I decided to defer to the hotel to pick me up at the airport. My driver spoke little English, but was right where I was told he would be with my name on a sign. The drive took about 25 minutes with little traffic due to the early hour. The trip was quoted at 900 Rupees ($14.65), not unfair by American standards but 500 Rupees more than the “standard” (400 Rupee – $6.50) fare from the airport to Delhi. In fact, when I inquired about my return trip to the airport, I was quoted 400 Rupees, so maybe there was a “late arrival surcharge”, an not totally unreasonable assumption.

I booked a “standard” room (1200 Rupees/night – $19.50), but found out the next say I was upgraded to a “deluxe” (normally 1800 Rupees – $29.25). The room was basic with marble floors, a large king bed, flat screen TV and cable, a small wardrobe, mini-sofa and table, and a bathroom that also serves as a shower due to the lack of a curtain or door. The room was fortunately in the back away from the street with no windows, which is not a bad thing considering I am sensitive to light and noise when I sleep and Main Bazaar is extremely loud due to the crowds below and the incessant honking of horns that Delhi drivers seem to thrive on.

The hotel’s travel office is convenient and helpful, but based on the prices I was quoted you may be better off booking your (train/bus/hotel/sightseeing) reservations online or directly with the provider as travel agents (and most other businesses) in this area are notorious for overcharging tourists. I will defer my opinion until I can compare quoted charges with online/counter prices through the respective purveyors.

Their rooftop restaurant is “relatively” quiet and inviting with plants, three parakeet cages, and local furnishings with several tables sitting below their own canopy for shade from the warm Delhi sun. The waiters speak barely passable English, but are attentive, efficient, and friendly. The menu has few beverage options, including bottled water, coffees (30-35 rupees – 55 – 60 cents), teas, shakes and other local drinks as well as vegetarian breakfasts, appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, and several options from India. There is no Diet Coke or other low calorie soft drinks and the coffee adequate, seemingly instant and likely Nescafe. The offerings are cheap by American standards, but not great. In two visits, I tried the egg and potato breakfast (80 Rupees – $1.30), accompanied by two pieces of toast (butter and jam), and a coffee with milk (35 rupees). It was adequate, but an excellent value. For dinner I went with the butter chicken (170 rupees – $2.75 – normally, one of my favorites) and an order of garlic cheese naan (60 Rupees – $1.00). The butter chicken came in a tomato-based sauce that tasted like sweet spaghetti sauce, not the creamy, savory variety I have come to love in restaurants in the U.S. and England, and the naan was slathered in butter/oil, a bit too much for my taste.

My biggest disappointments were the unexplained airport surcharge mentioned earlier, the horrible and nearly non-existent internet, and the phantom (500 Rupee) SIM card charge for my iPhone. The internet seemed to work OK upon my arrival and I was fortunately able to Skype with my wife and let he know I was alive, but it was “down” the next two days (the manager said it was their service provider’s fault) and accessible the next two, but so slow that my browsers gave up trying to load. Google also locked me out of all my email accounts because they thought someone was trying to hack me from India, but I could not access my ten accounts to resolve the issue due to lack of internet. What fun! When I told the manager that I wanted to get a local SIM card for my phone, he gallantly offered to have a colleague help me out. I was quoted 500 Rupees ($8.15 for a SIM card) and 495 Rupees for 2GB of 3G data. The data is an excellent value compared to American standards, but when I went to the Vodaphone store in Connaught Palace the next day because I could only get 1G data service throughout Delhi, I was told that “SIM cards are free, you should not have been charged for one”. Oh well, live and learn!

There are much cheaper (and more expensive) options available in Delhi, but if you are looking for a reasonably priced hotel, centrally located near the Metro in an area not abundant with clean, modern facilities, then Hotel Heritage Home is a good option, but be careful about add-on services as they are likely highly inflated.

CombatCritic Gives Hotel Heritage Home 6 Bombs Out of 10 

… Would Have Been 8 If Not For the Airport Surcharge, Internet Fiasco, and Extraneous SIM Card Charge .. MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!

Title: Clean, Safe, Fair Priced and Unlike Anthony Bourdain … Some Reservations

Key Words: Hotel Heritage Home. hotel, heritage, home, New Delhi, new, Delhi, metro, train, Main Bazaar, main, bazaar, budget, travel, value, TravelValue, CombatCritic, TripAdvisor, trip, advisor

Do You Have Tons Of Photos? DO NOT BUY The WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud


Do youwdMyCloud need cloud storage for all of your travel photos? I do! Do you not want to pay the ridiculous monthly or annual fees for years on end for Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Amazon Cloud?  I know I do not! The best and most cost-effective alternative is a “personal cloud”, a wireless external hard drive (or drives) connected to your home wireless network with tons of storage space (up to several terabytes – TB – 1TB = 1,000 megabytes) that you can access either at home with your computer (or mobile device) or remotely anywhere in the world. 

After my old personal cloud failed, a 4 TB Western Digital (WD) MyBookLiveDuo, I had to find a replacement, so I decided to give WD one more chance only because of the decent price and good reviews on their new My Cloud products. I purchased a WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage device on Amazon for $269.99 plus tax, hoping that it would “connect effortlessly” to my network as advertised.

The WD MyCloud would not connect to my network when it arrived and after spending an additional 3 hours on the phone with tech support, 5 total, they could not help me and told me to return it to Amazon.  The only reason I chose Western Digital again after having two other products that failed, a 1TB MyPassport and a 4TB MyBookLive Duo, was because of the dearth of available products out there and the poor reviews on Seagate products. Never again WD!

CombatCritic Gives WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage 0 Bombs Out Of 10 … Can’t Get Any Lower Than That … And A Spot On CombatCritic’s Wall Of Shame 

Less Than …. 

 

WallOfShame

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Do You Have Tons Of Photos? DO NOT BUY  The WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage Device

Key Words: WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage, WD, My Cloud, 6TB, Personal, Cloud, Storage, NAS, WDBCTL0060HWT-NESN, review, Western Digital, western, digital, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, tech, technology, photo

Come Down From Your Roost For Some (Pricey) Hooch, Breakfast, Or Lunch


The Roost

920 Massachusetts Street

Lawrence, KS 66044

Phone (785) 843-1110

Web 920mass.com

Prices $$$$$

Biscuits and Gravy – $7?

After 36 hours without food and cameras shoved every which way (I’ll spare you the gruesome details), I thought it was time for some carbs and protein … the biscuits and gravy tasted great, although quite pricey at $7 for a full order, the biscuits being rather small with barely enough gravy to cover them completely. UNSAT! 

Kansan – $8

I had the Kansan ($8) with eggs, bacon, home fries and English muffin on my first two visits. It was good, not spectacular, and a fair sized serving, but the bacon was a tad too crispy even for my taste. Being primarily a breakfast joint, they have very few popular or traditional options to choose from (can you say skillets?), so on my most recent (and likely last) visit, I ordered an omelette ($6) with bacon ($1), onion, peppers, and mushrooms (50 cents each for a total of $8.50). When the server asked me what kind of toast I wanted, I asked if they had English muffins and she said that they did. What she failed to tell me was that there was a 50 cent up-charge, a fact I spotted only after the check arrived (see bill below). The 50 cent English muffin dominated the plate, dwarfing the small, yet tasty, omelette and a smattering of bland, unseasoned fried potatoes (see photo – objects are smaller than they actually appear).

The ALL YOU CAN DRINK self-service coffee bar ($2) is the The Roost’s highlight, a superb selection of four premium coffees with your normal choices of additions (half-and-half, skim and soy milk, cinnamon, sugar) available as needed.

Omelette – $8.50 + 50 Cents for an English Muffin

The service is adequate, not bad, not great, with little interaction and a bit of a “high brow” feel. A breakfast place should have a warmer, more inviting, friendlier ambience, especially in a small college town. For example, when I asked to barista to replenish the half-and-half at the coffee bar on our most recent visit, all I received was a scowl as she was poured a complimentary glass of alcohol by a cohort at 11:30 in the morning.

Their prices are quite high on most things, so I have to deduct a couple bombs when it comes to “value”.  For example, $5 should be the maximum price for biscuits and gravy no matter how big the order is or how good they are and if you are going to up-charge customers, they should be told in advance in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not they choose to pay the difference.

Oddly enough, for a place that is only open for breakfast and lunch (7am-3pm), The Roost has a bar and will serve you rather expensive cocktails ($7-$8) or wine ($5), so if you are looking for a mid-day buzz along with your biscuits and gravy, this is the place for you. But based on the high prices, small portions, uninspiring cuisine, and mediocre service, I think I will keep trying to find a decent breakfast place in Lawrence. I have my doubts.

CombatCritic Gives The Roost 4 Out Of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title:  Come Down From Your Roost For Some (Pricey) Hooch, Breakfast, Or Lunch

Key Words: The Roost, roost, breakfast, lunch, bar, coffee, egg, biscuit, gravy, bacon, omelette, food, menu, Massachusetts, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Subscribe to CombatCritic’s “TravelValue” Daily Magazine


CombatCritic’s

TravelValue Magazine 

Copyright 2013-2015 – CombatCritic & 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC – All Rights Reserved 

Featured Video

Kerala’s Largest Elephant Festival … 50+ Elephants!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Title: Subscribe to CombatCritic’s “TravelValue” Daily Magazine

Key Words: CombatCritic Combat CriticValue TravelValue travel critic food Lawrence Kansas menu Copyright review reviews YouTube

 

Matador Network Says “42”, TripAdvisor Lists “51” … Which Is It?


CombatCritic’s Travel Map

CombatCritic has been to: United Arab Emirates, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Bahrain, Canada, Switzerland, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Micronesia, France, United Kingdom, Greenland, Greece, Guam, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Macedonia, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Palau, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, San Marino, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, Vatican.
Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

The 20 Coolest Towns in the US – Matador Network


Matador Network’s Top 10 Coolest Towns

  1. Asheville, NC
  2. Frisco, CO … Been there
  3. Laguna Beach, CA … Grew up there
  4. North Charleston, SC … Done that
  5. Sun Valley, ID
  6. Missoula, MT
  7. Freeport, NY
  8. Marfa, TX … Got the t-shirt
  9. Lawrence, KS … Live here
  10. Mount Desert Island, METhe 20 coolest towns in the US - Matador Network

Lawrence, Kansas

You have to visit the Matador Network and read the article to see #11 – #20 …

The 20 coolest towns in the US – Matador Network.

Or You Can Vote for Your Favorite Here …

Photos Courtesy of the Matador Network

Title:The 20 Coolest Towns in the US – Matador Network

Key Words: 2015 asheville capacityX combatX CombatCritic TravelValue travel value food restaurant Kansas Lawrence computer critic DayTripQuip Florence Frisco inlaid Kansas Laguna Beach Lawrence Marfa Sun Valley travel TravelValue TX

Middle-Eastern Staples … Tahini and Hummus


Tahini

tahini

Tahini can be prepared homemade or purchased at a Middle Eastern grocer in a can. It is called tahini or tahina, depending on the region.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350. Toast sesame seeds for 5-10 minutes, tossing the seeds frequently with a spatula. Do not allow to brown. Cool for 20 minutes.

Pour sesame seeds into food processor and add oil. Blend for 2 minutes. Check for consistency. The goal is a thick, yet pourable texture. Add more oil and blend until desired consistency.

Yield: 4 cups

Storing Tahini

Tahini should be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. It will keep for up to 3 months.

Hummus

Ingredients – Recipe makes 5 Cups/40 Servings

2 Cloves Garlic

2 (19 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup tahini

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper and cumin to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

hummus

Directions

  1. In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Put lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic, and salt in blender. Add salt gradually as the blending occurs. Blend until creamy and well mixed.
  1. To adjust the texture between creamy and more solid, vary the amount of liquid you drain from the can. The more liquid the creamier.
  1. Transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl and store the rest in your freezer. Sprinkle with pepper and pour olive oil over the top. Garnish with a few garbanzo beans.

Serve with baked pita chips or fresh vegetables…ENJOY!

Title: Middle-Eastern Staples … Tahini and Hummus

Key Words: Middle Eastern appetizer tahini tahina dip pita sesame seeds food processor Hummus lemon cloves garlic cumin garbanzo beans garnish lemon juice garlic blend salt pepper olive oil,

REVIEW: IOGEAR High Capacity Portable Battery (GMP6600P)


If you love to travel like I do and hate it when your smartphone dies in the middle of the day, the IOGEAR High Capacity Portable Battery (GMP6600P) is a excellent choice for the price! 

My first day in India, I had traveled 30+hours, gotten 3 hours of sleep, and being in one of the craziest places on Earth (Old Dehli), my iPhone battery was depleted by 3pm. Wonderful! This shithole (Old Dehli) was not the place you, or I in this case, want to be without Google Maps (between TripAdvisor and Google Maps, I would have been

For $40.00, it charges smartphones, tablets, and notebooks on the go and has incredible capacity.

I can recharge my smartphone 4-5 times off one charge! I have not tried to power or charge my notebook computer yet, so I cannot tell you how that works, but for smartphones it is well worth the price.

I have an app for my phone called GolfLogix that gives me GPS data for golf, including ball position, distance to pin, etc. for whatever course I am playing. Before I bought the IOGEAR battery, my battery would die after less than 9 holes and that was using power sparingly. Now i can play a whole round with JUICE to spare…I can even make phone calls on the way home or make a reservation for dinner on Open Table!

Great little battery, it PACKS A POWERFUL PUNCH!

CombatCritic gives the ASIN:B005IY8AZ0 IOGEAR GearPower High Capacity Portable Battery for Smartphones/Tablets/Mobile Devices GMP6600P (Gray) 9 BOMBS OUT OF 10 (BOMBS ARE GOOD!)

Read more travel, restaurant, hotel, destination reviews … AND MORE … on my blog:

http://www.combatcritic.blogspot.com

and on CombatCritic TV:

http://www.YouTube.com/CombatCritic

CombatCritic…OUT!

Title:  REVIEW: IOGEAR High Capacity Portable Battery (GMP6600P)

Key Words: battery, capacity, charge, charger, computer, device, high, Iogear, juice, mobile, netbook, notebook, portable, rechargeable, smartphone, tablet, travel,

My “Top Secret” Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Sauce Recipe … If You Read This, I May Have To Kill You


Ingredients:

1lb Bacon
1 Medium Yellow Onion
2 Cups Chicken Broth
24 Ounces Broccoli Florets – No Stems
2 Clove Fresh Garlic
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
6-8 Fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon Oregano (dry is ok)
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 lbs (1 Kilo) Orecchiette Pasta (may substitute pasta)

Boil broccoli in a large sauce pan until tender. Set aside.  Pan fry bacon until crisp, but not burnt. Cut into pieces (size unimportant because bacon will be blended) and set aside. Add crushed, chopped garlic to bacon grease, adding chopped onion and simmering on medium heat until soft.

Add broccoli, bacon, garlic, and onion to large blender or food processor, bacon grease included. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, basil leaves, and oregano to mixture. Using a potato masher or similar object, push the mixture down into the blender, freeing additional space for broth. Add enough broth so mixture will not overflow when blended/processed. Blend on high speed, adding broth if necessary, until you have a thick puree.

Start boiling water in large pot, adding a small amount of olive oil and salt.

Pour broccoli puree into a large saucepan and heat on low, adding salt, pepper, Olive oil, Parmigiano (all to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding broth if necessary.  Puree should not be so thick as to be clumpy nor so thin as to be runny.

Boil pasta for 12-14 minutes (times vary depending on type, altitude), drain well, and place in large serving platter. Spoon broccoli puree over pasta until well coated, stirring gently and adding extra Parmigiano if desired.

Mangia … e buon appetito!

Serves 8-12 hungry guests

Title: Yummmm … CombatCritic’s Secret Orecchiette with Broccoli and Bacon Sauce Recipe

Key Words: orecchiette, CombatCritic pasta broccoli bacon onion basil Parmigiano puree sauce oregano chili salt garlic blend salt pepper olive oil pasta TravelValue

Ad Astra Acupuncture … Excellent Value, Professional Services


Ad Astra Acupuncture

106 W North Park St

Lawrence, KS 66044

Phone: (785) 760-1961

Website: adastraacupuncture.com

Focusing on value, it does not get much better than Ad Astra Acupuncture, just off  Mass on 12th Street across from South Park.

Treatments are $15-$35 (suggested donation) … You decide! There is no pressure to pay the max as employees pay no attention to the amount, tossing the bills into a drawer without counting. Honor System … WHAT A CONCEPT! 

Needles are sterile and not reused. There are a number of recliners in each of two “group” rooms and there is no disrobing for the introverts out there. All you do is show up, pay, and grab a recliner. When the therapist enters, they ask how you are doing, then place needles in your arms, legs, hands, feet, and head. After 30-60 minutes (or more if you like), Nick or Ann, who are both wonderful, remove the needles and send you in your way.

I have been going for about 6 weeks, I am feeling much better, and my back pain has almost entirely disappeared! There is little if any pain involved and only when needles are inserted. The slight sting disappears quickly and you can then focus on relaxing, a wonderful byproduct of the treatment.

CombatCritic Gives AD ASTRA ACUPUNCTURE a nearly perfect 9 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GREAT!

Read this review and many others on Yelp!

Title: Ad Astra Acupuncture … Excellent Value, Professional Services

Key Words: 66044, acupuncture, ad, Ad Astra, Astra, combat, CombatCritic, critic, Kansas, Lawrence, travel, TravelValue, value, 

TravelValue™, TravelSafe™, ValueTravel™ …. “Follow Me To Travel Value”™


Copyright 2011-2015 – CombatCritic and 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Title: TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel …. “Follow Me To Travel Value”

Key Words: Trademark, Copyright, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel, Follow Me To TravelValue, CombatCritic, 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC

DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra … The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort


Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Day Trip

If you want to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, make a day trip out of it rather than staying overnight in Agra. Agra has few redeeming qualities other than these two extremely impressive landmarks in my opinion and spending even one night should be avoided. Let’s face it … Agra is a pit!

There are bus tours available or you can take a train from the main New Delhi station if on a budget, but I would not recommend the train unless you have confirmed reservations both coming and going. If planning a visit to Varanasi by bus, car, or train, another option is to visit Agra on the way as it lies between New Delhi and India’s holiest city. However, by the time you pay for two or more bus tour tickets, you could hire a private cab to take you to Agra, leaving New Delhi at 9AM, visiting both Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, stopping for lunch and some shopping, and returning to New Delhi by 9PM.

                                    Agra Fort Exterior                                       

My wife and I hired a taxi for the day at our hotel near the New Delhi train station, charging us 7,500 rupees ($120.00) for the itinerary described earlier. We left around 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, a good day to go to as traffic is quite a bit lighter in New Delhi on a Sunday morning. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get to Agra Fort, including a pit stop, traveling on the toll road, which costs a little more than the toll-free route, but shaved an additional two hours off the journey … each way!

A foggy morning, we decided to visit Agra Fort first to let the clouds burn off a bit before we headed over to the nearby Taj Mahal. We picked up our “complimentary tour guide” who briefed us on safety/security details upon arrival where “hawkers” and “pickpockets” reportedly would be waiting for us when we exited the taxi. The hawkers were no worse than any other tourist attraction in India and pickpockets are not a problem as long as you use a little common sense and pay attention to your surroundings.

Agra Fort is beautiful, impressive, and crowded. Entry was 350 rupees ($5.70 each) and we spent about an hour walking through the grounds, snapping photos, and learning about its history from our guide. We may have very well missed something as we found out later that our guide was cutting corners and not totally truthful in order to move us along so we had time to go shopping at a marble factory he was “touting” (“receiving kickback from”, a common practice among taxi drivers and tour guides throughout India and elsewhere).

The Taj Mahal is open every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset, not “6am to 7pm” as advertised by About Travel’s “India Travel Expert” in her Taj Mahal Travel Guide: What to Know Before You Go. There are three gates, but we entered through the East Gate (described as the “VIP gate” by our guide), paying 750 rupees ($12.15) each for entry, jumping on a tram for the short ride to the entrance. The lines were short both to buy tickets and enter the grounds, so this may very well be the best available option.

Once inside, there is a large courtyard to traverse before entering through the “Royal Gate”, an ornate red sandstone arch where the enormous Taj Mahal looms in the background as you enter. Having seen countless photos and heard numerous stories about the Taj Mahal for many years, I was very interested in visiting, but until I actually saw it in person, I had no idea how impressive it actually is.

The long, narrow reflecting pond is cut in half by a raised terrace where “Princess Diana’s Bench” or “Lady Di’s Chair” is located, the location of a famous photo taken of the princess during a visit to the Taj Mahal in 1992. We were told, as were many other tourists apparently, that the bench closest to the “Royal Gate” (on the opposite side of the terrace from the Taj Mahal) was where the photo was actually taken. But I assumed it was actually the other bench (closest to the tomb and, oddly enough, ignored by most tourists even though it offers a much better photo opportunity) where it was taken, a hunch that was confirmed the next day when I checked the internet for the photo.

There is a small museum (free) on the West side of the grounds halfway between the Royal Gate and Taj Mahal that is well worth a visit. I knew it was there and as our guide tried to steer us toward the tomb I asked if we could visit, but he said “it’s closed for renovations”. I could see that people were entering and leaving the building, so I insisted on going over to check. “Oh, they must be letting a small number of people in, you are very lucky” he exclaimed as we walked up to the doorway. The museum has four small rooms with artifacts from the site and other interesting exhibits, so take 30 minutes and visit.

You can read about the Taj Mahal in many places, so I will not elaborate here. I will say that it is absolutely breathtaking and a MUST SEE in your lifetime, this coming from someone who has traveled to 51 countries and having seen many of the most beautiful and famous attractions in the World. Even though the tour guide lied to me about the museum, normally a deal breaker, he took 4+ hours out of his day to show us around Agra, so I gave him a 500 rupee tip ($8.20 – he probably would have gotten 1,000 rupees if he had not lied), a small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.

CombatCritic Gives The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Title: DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra … The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

Key Words: Agra, New Delhi, new, delhi, Taj Mahal, taj, mahal, fort, taxi, bus, train, travel, tour, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, CombatCritic, value

One Of The Best (Not Tex-Mex) Mexican Restaurants in Lawrence … Not Much To Brag About!


Mi Ranchito
707 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66046

Phone: (785) 727-2005

www.miranchitokc.com

Prices: $$$$$

 The Infamous “Bar” … My Home Away From Home                     

To be the BEST MEXICAN FOOD IN LAWRENCE the bar must not be set very high as I have yet to have a Mexican meal as good as the worst I have eaten in Texas, where I was a resident for 20 years, and not a single one that resembles Tex-Mex. On that note, let me add my two cents …

The place was nearly full on a Sunday night, a rarity in Lawrence, particularly among Mexican restaurants, and normally a good sign. We were steered into the bar for some reason, asked if we wanted to sit at a “high-top” even though there were booths available in the bar and tables available in the restaurant. Maybe I look like a lush, but I think it was primarily because there was nobody in the bar and the bartender needed something to do. The lush that I am, I ordered the margarita special ($7.99), described as containing “El Jimador” tequila and not bad although the “20 ounces” were more like 13, coming in the standard “cheater” glass that looks big on the outside … well, you know what I mean.

The chips and salsa arrived rather quickly, the chips being far too thin and very likely out of a bag along with a red salsa and an odd looking yellowish-green sauce. The salsa was not bad with obvious hints of fresh cilantro. The other, described by one reviewer as a “lemon avocado” sauce, was strange, unlike anything I have ever had in a Mexican restaurant, but again not bad.

Guacamole and Espinaca “Dips”

We decided on the Espinaca Cheese Dip ($5.99), a blend of hot cheese, white onions, tomatoes and spinach, and the guacamole ($6.99). The guacamole was described as “fresh and buttery avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, onions, lime juice and special spices” on the menu, but I found no evidence of either cilantro or jalapeño (or butter for that matter). I thought the price was a bit steep compared to other places in town, but the serving was large and the guacamole pretty good, not nearly as good as mine however. The “espinaca” (spinach) cheese dip had too little spinach, much less name the dish after it, to mention and seemed to be more like your average chili con queso minus the chili, but it was big and decent. My primary complaint being that the chips were too thin to withstand either “dip”, falling apart when submerged in either and resulting in a basket full of crumbles with very few whole chips.

$7.99 … Really?

Like most Italians my wife dislikes spicy food, especially Mexican (one of my favorites), ordering her standard “cheese quesadilla” … boring! At $7.99, I have to say that this was one of the most pitiful quesadillas I have ever seen and a terrible value. Charging $8 for a (small) flour tortilla, a couple ounces of cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and even less guacamole, and a thimbleful of pico de gallo (which was noticeably missing from the plate even though it is on the menu) should be a crime, highway robbery, but it’s not, so there you go.

As always, on my first visit to a Mexican restaurant, I ordered tacos and enchiladas to see if they could get even the simplest of recipes right, in this case el numero nueve, the #9 combo, with a burrito, taco, and enchilada, “machaca” (shredded beef) all. I have to say that the taco was the best I have had in recent years, having lived in the Midwest since 2008, being large, stuffed with plenty of machaca, deep fried, then topped with lettuce, cheese, and even some diced tomatoes. It would have been nearly perfect if the taco had a couple of thin slices of avocado on it, but we had plenty of guacamole leftover so it was not an issue, although a very good idea. The enchilada and burrito were both equally stuffed with shredded beef, but uninspiring with little to no cheese and smothered seemingly in the same red (enchilada?) sauce. The rice and beans were minimal, sprinkled with kernels of corn oddly enough and two deep-fried masa de maiz (corn meal dough) balls, another novelty … could it be Tex-Mex … not! They were all “OK”, but the taco was the star of the show and likely a staple if we return.

The prices were comparably a bit steep, except for the combinations oddly enough, the service good, and the food decent, maybe even one of the BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANTS IN LAWRENCE, but that is nothing to brag about!

CombatCritic Gives Mi Ranchito (Lawrence) 5 Bombs Out Of 10 … VERY AVERAGE … More Bombs Are Better!

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic, Including Mi Ranchito, On Yelp And TripAdvisor Along With Many Other Reviews And More!


Title: One Of The Best (Not Tex-Mex) Mexican Restaurants in Lawrence … Not Much To Brag About!

Key Words: Mi Ranchito, mi, ranchito, Mexican, restaurant, food, taco, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, Lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

One Tough, Compact, Well-Priced Backpack … “Highly Recommended”


High Sierra Classic Series 59201 Summit 45 Backpack
We bought this backpack on Amazon.com for a 4-month trip to India, knowing that we would frequently be moving from place to place and that the condition of roads and sidewalks would not be conducive to rolling suitcases. 
 
There was plenty of room for 2-3 days worth of clothing, accessories, toiletries, and even a laptop (and cord), having a large inner compartment, three exterior compartments, two mesh exterior sleeves, and numerous velcro loops, buckles, and other devices to attach things to.
 
The material is lightweight, but durable, holding-up well to the demands of multiple trips via train, bus, car, and plane and compact enough to fit into the smallest overhead compartments.  In-fact, we traveled by plane internationally and domestically, carrying-on our backpacks on even the smallest aircraft. The backpack is comfortable to wear with padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest strap, and a padded waist buckle to keep the pack secure during the most arduous journeys. After four months, the backpack looks nearly as new as the day I bought it and everything functions as advertised.
 
For the price ($54.99), this is one tough, compact, well-made bag and definitely worth every penny. 
 
CombatCritic Gives The High Sierra Classic Series 59201 Summit 45 A Coveted “10 Bombs Out Of 10” … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
Title: One Tough, Compact, Well-Priced Backpack … Highly Recommended by CombatCritic
 
Key Words: High Sierra, high, sierra, summit, 59201, 45, litre, backpack, nylon, zipper, tough, compact, Amazon, Amazon.com, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Nein … Oops … Nine Dollars For A Glass Of Wine?


Grünauer (Austrian)
101 West 22nd St
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone: 816.283.3234
 
Hours:
Mon-Thur 11:30am – 10pm
Fri & Sat 11:30am – 11pm
Sun 11:30am – 9pm
Wunderbar 11:30am – 1am
Happy Hour 3-6pm & 10pm – Close
 
Prices: $$$$$
 
We found Grünauer quite by accident while visiting Lidia’s, one of our favorites in KC and owned by Lidia Bastianich of PBS fame. Grünauer is just west of Lidia’s in the same large parking lot immediately behind Union Station.  The main dining room is large and modern with warm tones, big booths, and plenty of glass. We were well received and escorted to our table. The service excellent, a team of servers and assistants ensure things come and go efficiently with a smile.
 
Wine is a bit pricey, starting at $9 for a glass and bottles from $38, so you may want to stick to beer if on a budget.  The meals are large and filling, so soup, salad, or appetizer are only for those with the biggest appetites. Not knowing this, I ordered the Käse und Biersuppe ($6), a smoked gouda and beer soup that is a decadent as the name implies and a wonderful way to start a meal.
 
My wife ordered the Ksesptzle ($15.00), a rich, creamy spatzle dish made with swiss cheese and topped with crispy onions. The spatzle was cooked to perfection and the sauce thick and flavorful. The crispy onions were more than a garnish, adding some texture and complimentary flavor to the dish. The Ksesptzle was delicious, a large portion of cheesy goodness that satisfied my wife’s sensitive vegetarian palate. 
 
Having lived in Europe for six years and spending a great deal of time in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary where good schnitzel is common, I could not resist the Cordon Bleu ($22.00), a breaded pork cutlet stuffed with smoked ham and swiss cheese and pan fried to a golden brown. Nor could I resist ordering a side of their rich and decadent Jäger sauce ($4) made with its namesake Jägermeister, mushrooms, and cream to top my cordon bleu. $22 is a bit steep for pork, especially considering you have to pay $4 extra for a side, in my case mashed potatoes, but the schnitzel was tender and juicy, filled with ham and gooey cheese as advertised.  When topped with the Jäger sauce it was as good as any I have had abroad, and I have had more than a few, but by the time I added the price of the entrée to the potatoes and the sauce the total came to $30, far more than I have ever paid for any similar meal in Europe.
 
Grünauer’s food is excellent, the service flawless, and the environment comfortable, but the prices are a bit excessive.  However, due to the dearth of German restaurants in Kansas City, and Grünauer is as close as you are going to get to authentic German in this area, what other options do we have?  You can drive a couple hours southeast to Camdenton for a meal at Der Essen Platz where the food is just as good and the prices half of Grünauer’s, but that is not plausible.  So, had my cordon bleu meal (including sauce and side) been in the $18 to $24 range with wine starting at a reasonable $6 per glass, I would have given them 8 Bombs, but they are not and I did not … 
 
CombatCritic Gives Grünauer 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
 

Grunauer on Urbanspoon

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube
Title: Nein … Oops … Nine Dollars For A Glass Of Wine?
 
Key Words: Grünauer, Austrian, restaurant, Austria, German, schnitzel, spaetzel, spätzle, wine, beer, menu, food, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Kansas City, Missouri, MO, Yelp, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon

One Of The Best (Not Tex-Mex) Mexican Restaurants in Lawrence? Not Much To Brag About!


Mi Ranchito
707 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66046
Phone: (785) 727-2005
www.miranchitokc.com

Hours:
Sunday-Thurs 11am-10pm
Fri & Sat 11am-11pm

Prices: $$$$$
The Infamous “Bar” … My Home Away From Home

To be the BEST MEXICAN FOOD IN LAWRENCE the bar must not be set very high as I have yet to have a Mexican meal as good as the worst I have eaten in Texas, where I was a resident for 20 years, and not a single one comes close to resembling Tex-Mex. On that note, let me add my two cents …

 
The place was nearly full on a Sunday night, a rarity in Lawrence, particularly among Mexican restaurants, and normally a good sign. We were steered into the bar for some reason, asked if we wanted to sit at a “high-top” even though there were booths available in the bar and tables available in the restaurant. Maybe I look like a lush, but I think it was primarily because there was nobody in the bar and the bartender needed something to do. The lush that I am, I ordered the margarita special ($7.99), described as containing “El Jimador” tequila and not bad although the “20 ounces” were more like 13, coming in the standard “cheater” glass that looks big on the outside … well, you know what I mean. The house “grande” margarita ($6.25) was a better value, coming in the “20 ounce” glass but like its El Jimador cousin, a bit weak in terms of alcohol content.
 
The chips and salsa arrived rather quickly, the chips being far too thin and very likely out of a bag along with a red salsa and an odd looking yellowish-green sauce. The salsa was not bad with obvious hints of fresh cilantro. The other, described by one reviewer as a “lemon avocado” sauce, was strange, unlike anything I have ever had in a Mexican restaurant, but again not bad. The chips are so thin that they cannot be dipped in the salsa, which is not very thick to begin with, without breaking apart, leaving the basket more than half full of pieces of chips too small to eat.
 
Guacamole and Espinaca “Dips”

We decided on the Espinaca Cheese Dip ($5.99), a blend of hot cheese, white onions, tomatoes and spinach, and the guacamole ($6.99). The guacamole was described as “fresh and buttery avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, onions, lime juice and special spices” on the menu, but I found no evidence of either cilantro or jalapeño (or butter for that matter). I thought the price was a quite steep compared to other places in town, but the serving was large and the guacamole pretty good, not nearly as good as mine however. You can get a half and side order ($1.99) of guacamole which are not on the menu and I was told that the half order was $3.99, reasonable considering the price of the full order, but when the bill came I was charged $5.25, the equivalent of $10.50 for a full order. When I complained about the higher price, management quickly apologized and charged me the quoted $3.99 price, but insisted that $5.25 was the correct price. He told me hat he would “take it up with the company” (remember, this is a chain) to see about implementing a reasonable price.

The “espinaca” (spinach) cheese dip had too little spinach, much less name the dish after it, to mention and seemed to be more like your average chili con queso minus the chili, but it was big and decent. Again, my primary complaint being that the chips were too thin to withstand either “dip”, falling apart when submerged in either and resulting in a basket full of crumbles with very few whole chips.

 
$7.99 … Really?

Like most Italians my wife dislikes spicy food, especially Mexican (one of my favorites), ordering her standard “cheese quesadilla” … boring! At $7.99, I have to say that this was one of the most pitiful quesadillas I have ever seen and a terrible value. Charging $8 for a (small) flour tortilla, a couple ounces of cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and even less guacamole, and a thimbleful of pico de gallo (which was noticeably missing from the plate even though it is on the menu) should be a crime, highway robbery, but it’s not, so there you go.

 

As always, on my first visit to a Mexican restaurant, I ordered tacos and enchiladas to see if they could get even the simplest of recipes right, in this case el numero nueve, the #9 combo, with a burrito, taco, and enchilada, “machaca” (shredded beef) all. I have to say that the taco was the best I have had in recent years, having lived in the Midwest since 2008, being large, stuffed with plenty of machaca, deep fried, then topped with lettuce, cheese, and even some diced tomatoes. It would have been nearly perfect if the taco had a couple of thin slices of avocado on it, but we had plenty of guacamole leftover so it was not an issue, although a very good idea. The enchilada and burrito were both equally stuffed with shredded beef, but uninspiring with little to no cheese and smothered seemingly in the same red (enchilada?) sauce. The rice and beans were minimal, sprinkled with kernels of corn oddly enough and two deep-fried masa de maiz (corn meal dough) balls, another novelty … could it be Tex-Mex … not! The masa balls are excessively sweet and do not compliment the meals, so I would reduce the sugar or 86 them altogether. Beside the masa balls, everything was “OK”, but the taco was the star of the show and likely a staple if we return.

 
Cheese and Onion Enchilada ala carte ($3.19)

You can order ala carte although you would not know it from looking at the menu. I asked if I could order a cheese and onion enchilada ala carte and was told it would cost $3.19 plus tax, not unreasonable, so I decided to try one. The sauce was decent, but missing the distinct chili zing of a traditional enchilada sauce and the chili con carne you would find in authentic Tex-Mex cuisine. The cheese inside was plentiful, but a bit too runny, making it a little difficult to eat and there was not an onion in sight (or bite for that matter). Overall, it was not the best enchilada I have eaten and not the worst, but it was definitely NOT a cheese and ONION enchilada.

Service is very good and management is very responsive to customer concerns, all bending over backward to make things right and a breath of fresh air in an industry suffering from apathetic servers and managers. The prices were comparably a bit steep, except for the combinations oddly enough, the service good, and the food decent, maybe even one of the BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANTS IN LAWRENCE, but that is nothing to brag about!

 
CombatCritic Gives Mi Ranchito (Lawrence) 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … VERY AVERAGE … More Bombs Are Better!






Read More Reviews By CombatCritic, Including Mi Ranchito, On Yelp And TripAdvisor Along With Many Other Reviews And Much, Much More!

Title: One Of The Best (Not Tex-Mex) Mexican Restaurants in Lawrence … Not Much To Brag About!
 
Key Words: Mi Ranchito, mi, ranchito, Mexican, restaurant, food, taco, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, Lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

United Airlines: We Don’t Care (Sometimes), We Don’t Have To (But, Maybe We Want To) … I’m Confused!


United Airlines, Inc.
77 W Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601
b/t Lower Wacker Dr & Michigan Ave in The Loop
 
I do not usually write reviews so many weeks or months after the fact, but being in India for four months where Yelp did not yet exist, I felt compelled to add my two cents.

My first two of three United flights to Delhi were both two hours late and I had to rush through Frankfurt Airport to catch my final flight after already spending close to 20 hours traveling (with 7+ yet to go). I somehow made it!

However, when I recently checked my mileage balance on United.com, my final leg still had not been added to my balance, requiring me to submit a request that still has not been answered.

Airlines in general, and United in particular, just do not care about customer service because they do not have to. They know that most of us will probably purchase the cheapest fare, so it will only be a matter of time before we return even if their service is pitiful, which it usually is … rude check-in and gate agents, aggressive flight attendants, and poor on-time departure/arrival record … they should change their motto to: “United Airlines,We Don’t Care, We Don’t Have To”

As my India trip neared its end, I have to say that United came through with flying colors. 

When one of my wife’s return flights in mid-January was rescheduled, leaving her a 30 minute layover to clear immigration/customs, re-check her bag, and get to the next gate (IMPOSSIBLE), we contacted United and were quickly dismissed … “sorry”! But when we got our travel insurance company involved, they were able to change her flights and get her home in time to attend a meeting at work the following morning.

The saga continued …

I received a call in early February, three weeks prior to my scheduled departure, informing me that my 84-year old mother had been hospitalized and was not doing well.  I contacted my travel insurance company (Allianz Global Assistance/AGA Service Company /Jefferson Insurance Company) thinking that they would be as professional as my wife’s, but after 12+ hours of being ignored (on their 24/7 Hotline), I contacted United reservations in New Delhi.  They were not extremely helpful, but when I was finally transferred to an American employee, she was outstanding.  She quickly found me a flight two days later (i had to get from Southern India to Delhi the next day) and WAIVED THE $300 CHANGE FEE … without even asking.  I was able to get home to see my mother and spend a couple days of quality time before she passed away on 2/12/2015. At that point I was much happier with United.

and continued …

Then, just three weeks after my mother passed, my wife received word that her father had suddenly died in Naples, Italy where he and her mom live. I logged-in to my United account to search for “bereavement fares”, but even though a link appeared in the search results, there was no such information on their website. It turned out that United discontinued their bereavement fares at some point in the recent past. When I called United Customer Care, a deceiving term, I was connected with their offshore “care” center in Manilla, Phillippines where I was quoted $4000 for a single ticket … $1600 more than the cheapest fare available on Kayak.com and $2350 more than we eventually paid Delta airlines. Thanks for your compassion United!

I had been prepared to give United 6, 7, even 8, Bombs (3 to 4 stars) because of the recent positive experiences detailed above, but finding out post de facto that 15,000 of the 20,000 miles from the US to India and back I paid dearly for were not eligible for frequent flyer credits (K Class) and the $4000 quote for a last-minute bereavement fare changed my mind. So, I will now have to downgrade my previous ratings …

CombatCritic Gives United Airlines 3 Out Of 10 Bombs With Room To Grow Or Recede Further … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 





Read More Reviews By CombatCritic, Including United Airlines, On Yelp And TripAdvisor Along With Many Other Reviews And More!

Title: United Airlines: We Don’t Care (Sometimes), We Don’t Have To (But, Maybe We Want To) … I’m Confused!
 
Key Words: United Airlines, United, Airlines, air, plane, airplane, travel, airport, flight, reservation, agent, customer, service, CombatCritic, TravelValue, Yelp, value
 

As We Say On Yelp … “Meh, I’ve Experienced Better”


Hacienda Colorado
5246 N Nevada Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Phone: (719) 418-7999
Prices: $$$$$
Three steak tacos and a few black beans – $13
You would never know you were in a Mexican restaurant by the looks of the place. It looks more like a seafood restaurant or a steak house. Anyway, unlike most of my reviews, this will be short …
 
 
 
Food … average
Service … adequate
Prices … very high … $10 for guacamole?
Value … terrible
 
CombatCritic Gives Hacienda Colorado 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
Hacienda Colorado on Urbanspoon
Portobello Burrito – $11.59 … For A Burrito With No Meat?
Cheese and Onion Enchilada Ala Carte – $3.99
Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!
Title: As We Say On Yelp … “Meh, I’ve Experienced Better”
 
Key Words: Hacienda Colorado, hacienda, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Nevada, Mexican, menu, food, restaurant, taco, enchilada, guacamole, chips, salsa, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Cibo Sano: Great Potential And Good Value With A Little Room To Grow


Cibo Sano
4821 W 6th Street, Suite K
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: (785) 856-2414

Website: cibosanoitaliangrille.com
Prices: $$$$$

My friend Doug P checked-in at Cibo Sano on Facebook while I was in India and raved about the place, so I had to give it a try when I recently returned to the States after four months abroad.

 

The signs in front of Cibo Sano indicating that parking is strictly for “10 minutes” and “carry out” customers only was a bit off-putting because we had to park 50 feet away and the temperature was in the teens … brrrrrrrrr!  I asked why 10-15 spots were reserved for carry out customers when the place was empty (when we arrived) and we were told that the signs were from businesses now closed and that they were not sure why they were still there. Paint ’em, tear ’em out, but do not leave them there because they makes no sense, not that many, three spots max.

 
pasta and proteins

The interior is modern and clean, but cold and uninviting. There is little decor and the place could use some ambiance (color, carpet, art, tablecloths). The menu is a bit overwhelming and confusing at first and the prices ($7.99 for pasta/wrap/salad) did not match those on the web ($5.99 on Yelp, $6.99 on their website), a significant difference and false advertising if you want to get technical. 

 
veggies

It would be very helpful to have a small menu sheet and a pencil available to check off which ingredients customers want on our pastas, wraps, or salads rather than having to memorize the numerous choices (pasta or orzo, 5 different sauces and proteins, 4 of 15 available toppings, 3 different cheeses … ouch, my head hurt!). Once we got to the counter it made a little more sense, but the labels on the window between me and the ingredients did not match up with what was in the containers … more confusion.

 

The employees were very friendly and helpful and our pastas were quickly assembled, coming to a little under $20 for two of us, including a “cheesy flat bread” ($2.99). I had the penne with arrabbiata (spicy tomato) sauce, spicy Italian sausage, grilled diced white onion, sautéed diced peppers, sautéed mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. My wife also had the penne, but with alfredo sauce, sautéed mushrooms, black olives, artichoke hearts, and mozzarella cheese.

 

The cheesy flat bread was good, coming with a ranch dressing and Parmesan sauce for dipping. The pastas were also tasty and a decent value even at $7.99 (extra for protein), coming in a large bowl and a good size portion. My only complaint was that both pasta dishes were lukewarm at best, not piping hot as they should be. My wife, a native Italian, said hers was good, but tasted like a pasta salad. The manager came over and asked how our meals were, so I told him they were good, but not hot enough, giving him a couple of improvement suggestions.

 
penne with alfredo sauce, mushrooms, olives, artichokes

The pasta and ingredients are pre-cooked and placed in a warming table, uncovered and not keeping them quite warm enough, a potential health hazard (e.g. sausage). I recommended that the pasta be pre-cooked al dente and dipped in boiling water for a minute prior to adding the ingredients or, better yet, adding the pasta and all of the ingredients to a frying pan, heating it for 30-60 seconds on the grill prior to serving. The manager, a very nice and open-minded young man, indicated that they had tried my second option, but that it took too long and customers ended up leaving. Microwaving should not be an option, not being optimal for texture or professionalism. Personally, I would prefer to wait a few additional minutes for hot pasta, but I am not as anal retentive as many these days … hurry, hurry, hurry … rush, rush, rush … calm down and relax for cryin’ out loud!

 
I may sound overly critical, but as I explained to the manager, I want new businesses such as Cibo Sano to succeed and my criticisms are constructive, not complaints. To summarize:
  • Get rid of the “carry out” signs in front
  • Warm the place up a bit with some fitting decor
  • Make it easier for people to order
  • Keep the website (prices, options) current
  • Serve hot pasta … figure it out


penne arrabbiata with sausage, grilled onion, peppers, and mushrooms

In all, we enjoyed our meals and will return to see if things change for the better, making Cibo Sano (“healthy food” in Italian) a contender for “best pasta value” in Lawrence, a town with a dearth of decent, reasonably priced Italian food. Another plus, you can now bring your own wine for a reasonable $2 corking fee, a nice option, so bring your favorite vino along and … buon appetito!

 
CombatCritic Gives Cibo Sano An Initial 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Room To Grow … Bombs Are Good
 
 
 
 
 
Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Cibo Sano Italian Grille on Urbanspoon









Title: Cibo Sano: Great Potential And Good Value With A Little Room To Grow

Key Words: Cibo Sano, cibo, sano, healthy. food, Italian, restaurant, menu, pasta, salad, wrap, food, eat, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Denver, Colorado: Le Central Is "Le Bombe"


Le Central (French)

112 E 8th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
Southwest, Capitol Hill
 
Phone: (303) 863-8094
Prices: $$$$$



Escargots En Brioche – $7

Le Central is one of my favorite restaurants … anywhere … and I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the 39 countries I have visited so far. I was in India a week ago, but found out that my mom was hospitalized and dying, so I made my way over a 72 hour period to be by her side in Colorado Springs when she died on February 12th, 2015. Long story short, I was taking my wife to the Denver airport so she could return to work and we decided to stop at Le Central for their Happy Hour menu.

We have been gone for seven years, but the place has not changed except for the being open in the afternoon with a limited, but exceptional menu. They offer a $3 glass of wine, escargots, crepes, their fabulous mussels and French fries (moules frites).
Moules Et Frites “Portugaise” – $12.95

I has a glass of pinot noir ($3), which was excellent, the escargots in brioche ($7), and the moules Portuguese ($12.95).  The pinot noir was dry, a deep red, and robust. The escargots were superb as usual and I mopped-up every last drop with the wonderful French baguette.  The Portuguese mussels were excellent with slices of chorizo and chunks of fresh tomato in the white wine based broth infused with garlic although the broth was not as plentiful as I would have liked as was the case in years past. The frites were excellent, perfectly salted and hot, but by the time I de-shelled all of my mussels, they were not as hot as I would have liked … DRAT!

The prices have gone up a bit since we were there last, but Le Central is still an outstanding value.  The service is always excellent, the food sublime and very reasonable, the wine list extensive, and the ambience country French.  If you have not tried Le Central, you do not know what you are missing!
CombatCritic Gives Le Central the Coveted 10 Out of 10 Bombs … Plus de Bombes Sont Mieux! (More Bombs Are Better)
 
 
Le Central on Urbanspoon







Read this review … and others … on Yelp (Elite ’14 and ’15) … UrbanSpoon … and TripAdvisor (Top Contributor)
 
Title: Le Central Is “Le Bombe”
 
Key Words: Le Central, le, central, French, France, restaurant, menu, escargots, wine, moules, frites, fries, Denver, Colorado, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value