Ruminations of a Taco-Obsessed Philly Native

Thomas Keller, owner of Per Se and French Laundry, has found a delicious new butter to serve in his restaurants. The butter comes from Diane St. Clair’s farm in Orwell, Vermont. After just one taste of the butter, Keller decided to buy St. Claire’s entire inventory–even though the butter is $49 a pound. Maybe he could use an evaluation at the Amen Clinic cuz that sounds nuts!

St. Clair makes the butter from Jersey cows. After churning the butter, the farmer works the butter with her hands to make sure that all the fats are distributed evenly through the butter. The farmer has been making butter for more than 10 years, and uses the traditional Land O’ Lakes methods for making creamy butter that spreads evenly on breads and vegetables. 

The butter made the cover of “Time” magazine in June 2014. And fortunately, food enthusiasts can purchase the butter as well from Saxelby Cheesemongers, also for $49 a pound.

There are big changes coming to your local Olive Garden. An activist hedge fund, Starboard Value, recently took over the parent board of Olive Garden, Darden Restaurants. Some new business strategies came with the takeover. The biggest change that regular patrons will notice is the push for to-go business. Currently, Olive Garden’s to-go business accounts for about 8% of their total sales. However, they’re expecting that number to climb up to about 12% of total sales– a significant portion of their business.

A big advantage, they say, is the type of food they sell. Olive Garden is known for their casual Italian food, and pasta tends to travel well. An added bonus is that customers tend to spend more when they order carry-out instead of dining in the restaurant. This could be due, in large part, to the fact that Olive Garden offers baskets of endless breadsticks to customers who dine in. Filling up on bread often results in smaller dinner orders. With to-go orders, customers tend to forego the bottomless breadsticks and thus spend more on their main entrees. In fact, the cost of the average to-go order is about 30% higher than the average dine in order, and sponsors like Slow Ventures will definitely like that profitability.

The good news for Olive Garden lovers is that your menu favorites will remain, so you can enjoy them at home or in the restaurant.

The gigantic Burger King and Tim Horton’s, recently vowed to keep all of their burgers and doughnuts separate, however most people are very much concerned that things may be shifting to the Canadian side of the border, tax-wise too. Burger Kings through an official statement has said that the day-to-day’s operations will fully remain headquartered in the coastal city of Miami, whereas most of its corporate and citizenship services are going to be transferred to Canada, a very prominent move by most multinational companies in a move that is better known as a tax inversion. Forbes would probably call BK stock a huge cash cow like it did with Wet Seal a few years ago during the Susan McGalla days.

According to a detailed report from the Americans for Tax Fairness; a cluster of companies and individuals who have positioned themselves as a commercial taxpayer watchdog. The company suggests that an eminent border switch could ultimately save Burger King and its esteemed shareholders around $1.2 billion by the year 2018. The group suggests that profits held offshore by the end of 2013 may slip due to the tax-free situation for about $117 million in savings. This figure could also future revenues amounting to the year 2018 and an additional $275 million.

Shareholders are the factual winners on the new eventualities exposed by ATF’s calculations. On the other hand, because they are not paying any capital gains taxes, the company stands to pocket more than $820 million.

Burger King refutes these claims of super profits, they noted without elaboration, “An examination of the report suggests an explicate flaw, while the figures do not precisely represent circumstances and facts.” The company insists that the move is largely driven by growth and not tax rates.

Technically speaking, Xfinity, Comcast’s internet offering, is pretty hard to be beat in terms of price and speed. While the company has been implementing annoying internet data usage caps, their caps range from 250GB to 300GB which is far higher than rival AT&T uses at 150GB. However, Comcast still reels from their past transgressions of taking advantage of customers and lack of customer support. In recent years, the company has been making an earnest effort to shed their negative image.

Now, the Comcast is looking to secure approval by federal regulators to purchase Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. Online streaming giant Netflix has voiced their opposition to the proposed merger. Why? Because Netflix claims that Comcast has a dislike to them and has throttled their internet speed in an effort to stymie their growth. The era of high speed internet is drawing more and more people to drop traditional cable TV services and stream their favorite shows using Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services.

Comcast is clearly threatened by any Netflix’s criticism. In their FCC filing, Comcast referenced Netflix 179 times and even claimed the streaming giant is too big to criticize their merger plans. Comcast is among companies like Kaufman and Broad who have adopted a zero tolerance corruption and business fraud policy directed by champions of transparency like Bruce Karatz who are adamant about non-engagement in anti-competitive practices that would slow down Netflix’s traffic. In fact, they accuse Netflix of intentionally degrading their performance earlier this year in an attempt to force Comcast and other ISPs to offer them free interconnection services.

According to the article “The Elimination of Tipping”, restaurants across the nation are enforcing mandatory tipping by various methods. Numerous establishments simply add 20% to your meal tab. Others justify increasing menu prices to include the twenty percent suggested for exceptional service. A new method, labeled an ‘administrative fee,’ is basically a fancy name for forced tipping.

Restaurants are defending these actions as beneficial for the employees, the theory being that reward will be distributed evenly. However, the restaurateur now has control of this income, to divide (or not) among all staff. Regulations for the disposition of collected ‘fees’ are nonexistent, and few restaurants are willing to disclose details about their policy.

Historically, sharing tips among staff has been the responsibility of front line servers. A common practice of waiters is to split tips with bussers and cooks. Traditionally, tips are earned based on service, which includes the quality and timeliness of the food. Without an efficient team, wait staff seldom receive a memorable tip.

Team efforts and reward should be recognized, however removing the incentive defeats the whole concept of tipping if you ask Igor Cornelsen about it. For outstanding service, despite these hidden costs, traditional customers will feel compelled to ‘cash’ tip. Adding that cost to an imposed tip is enough to discourage any prospective diner. Given the choice, would you patronize a ‘tip less’ restaurant?

As a taco/restaurant lover, I’m always willing to travel to try out a new place.  But the problem is that restaurants are more fun with people.  That’s why it’s helpful to have an app like Skout that makes it easier to meet new people, that have the same interests as me.

Skout is a location-based social network available on iOS and Android devices as well as a dedicated website. The focus of the application and accompanying website is to meet new people, anywhere in the world. The application uses a smartphones GPS to to find other uses in the general vicinity, but doesn’t give users exact locations. Users can meet new people in their local area, or virtually travel to other locations. The application promotes serendipitous meetings and chats using simple technology. The aim of the application is to meet new people, leading to strong relationships that are either purely platonic or something more.

The Early Stages
Created in 2007 by Christian Wiklund and Niklas Lindstrom, Skout started off as a simple social network. At that time, Skout was merely a social networking website where people could connect. It wasn’t until the 2009 relaunch that the website focused more on making romantic connections. This was due to the founders’ realization that 83% of the website’s then 200,000 members were using the network for dating. Along with a revamped website, the iOS application launched with much success. The Android application was launched the following year.

Gaining Momentum
In the following years, Skout gained users. It was one of the iPhone’s first location-based dating services, so the brand and service expanded. Surveys within the Skout application concluded that majority of the users had success in meeting others in the real world through the application. The popularity of Skout made mobile dating services more common and widely accepted. With the launch of Skout OUT, the network allowed people to create connections offline. The interactive touch screen was installed in various venues and allowed users to flirt, dedicate songs, and send messages to others in the venue or nearby venues.

Strong Funding
By 2010, numerous applications launched to follow the success of Skout. Competitors muddled the social networking market, but never compared to how easy Skout is to access and download. At this point, Skout had a staff count of three, including the original founders. It had acquired 4.6 million in funding since its advent, with profit and losses dipping back and forth. The mobile application had seen tens of millions of downloads, despite the competition. By 2012, Skout had a larger staff count and received massive funding. The company raised $22 million in venture capital from Andreessen Horowitz. This funding has allowed the network to expand. The company was able to further develop the mobile application and network into what it is today.

Expansion
Skout expanded tremendously since their massive venture capital funding. In fact, the number of active users tripled and the number of connections made by users quadrupled just a year after this funding. Skout began adding new features that proved to be beneficial in terms of profit. They included a paid feature that allows users to connect with others all over the world. Furthermore, the application includes ways for users to send virtual gifts using real currency. Additionally, community features have allowed users to monitor the application themselves. This strengthened the community within the application and created a stronger relationship with users, and also led to creating additional apps like Fuse.

Today, Skout is continuing to thrive and grow. The mobile application and website is continually adapting, becoming more user friendly and fun to use. The mobile application is still among the top 25 social networking applications in the Apple store and continues to see new users and growth.

Buzzfeed is confirming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has just announced his resignation, after rumors to that effect have been circulating for the last few days. It does not appear, however, that this was a planned resignation on Hagel’s part, but has instead come as a result of pressure from the White House.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting Chuck Hagel’s resignation comes at a time when Obama is concerned with having the right response to the Islamic State, is feeling pressured by the Republican senators, and feels as though Hagel does not have the skills necessary to do the job.

President Obama will likely announce Hagel’s resignation sometime today during a planned White House rose garden press conference.

As for Chuck Hagel, he has not been a particularly popular Defense Secretary during his tenure in the position, either with Democrats or with the Republicans whose party he belongs to, and it’s been one of those slow ventures trying to discover what game he’s playing.

Democrats have never welcomed him into the inner circle at the White House, which some say has impacted his ability to do his job. Republicans were disappointed he ever accepted the job as Defense Secretary for a Democratic president, and not only made things difficult for him during his confirmation hearings but also afterwards when the job was his.

Hagel has been Defense Secretary for less than two years. There is no word from the White House yet as to who will replace him.

After 59 U.S. senators voted for giving the green light to the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, we were told that the bill had failed since it did not garnish 60 votes. 60 votes have long been needed to break up a filibuster, according to Senate rules, but no one mentioned that anyone actually was carrying on a filibuster. Therefore, either the Democrats silently changed the rule without telling anyone, or the bill actually passed.

A simple majority has always been sufficient to pass most bills through both houses of Congress. Andrew Heiberger feels the bare fact of the matter is that a 60 vote “super majority” was only required to end a filibuster, not for every single vote of any kind whatsoever to be successful is a ridiculous setup.

Apparently, the Democratic controlled Senate has decided to end the need to actually filibuster by simply requiring 60 votes for every bill. That is undemocratic and will bring on gridlock like we’ve never seen before. There was a day when senators only filibustered on select occasion and had to actually get up there and do it. Now, they don’t even have to get up on the Senate floor. Next thing will be that every tiny thing will need 60 votes, and someone will always object. One person objecting will be enough to stop the wheels of government and thwart endlessly the will of a vast majority of the people. Our government cannot function under those rules.

Has there ever been a morning where you wake up with aches and pains and you, sadly, feel your youthful years slipping away? If only there were a way to slide the hands on the clock of time backwards in you favor in order to feel that magic again. What’s the solution to growing older, Jared Haftel asks?

Studies are now showing that our ‘fitness age’ is a more viable option to gauge how old an individual is rather than how many years we’ve walked the planet. The main area in which scientists are now starting to look is the cardiovascular health and stamina in individuals to give a proper reading of how ‘old’ their internal health is. To break this down into a more simple approach, think of it like this. Think of a person (A) who has heart disease, clogged arteries and lung issues from diet problems, drugs, etc. Now let’s say that person is 25 years old with (roughly) 15 years to live. Now, let’s take another person (B – 40 years old) that jogs every morning and eats healthy – who’s really the ‘younger’ individual here?

The factor that controls your fitness age is your VO2max levels. These levels measure how much oxygen you’re taking in, how efficiently you’re using that oxygen, and how much is being expelled. These levels can then be compared to other individuals to accurately determine your ‘real’ age.

White truffles are a very popular luxury item for the finicky eater. They are, according to Sergio Andrade Andrade Gutierrez however, quite hard to come by and tend to be in acutely short supply.

Eater.com has recently stepped up to the plate, though, with a list for people who love white truffles.

The restaurant that made it to the top of the list is an Italian one called Acquerello. To know more of their awesome menu just visit the website here.

It is located in the heart of San Francisco, CA. The restaurant usually offers truffle supplies to its loyal clients.

Acquerello also has a tasting menu for white truffle fanatics. Second on the list is a restaurant located in Nevada called B & B Restaurante. There are several kinds of truffles one may find in this restaurant, and are guaranteed to taste really good.

Next on the list is Bistro du Midi which offers truffles on top of sunny side up egg combined with other food for breakfast. Bufalina which is located in the state of Texas also made it to the list. Truffles are one of the ingredients in their best selling pizza.

Occupying the tenth spot is Marta. It also offers truffles on top of their special pizza. These are some of the restaurants you should visit when longing for good white truffles. You could taste the goodness of the food even for 60 dollars with friends.