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    Published on: July 19, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    About six weeks ago, there was a lot of discussion - here and elsewhere - of an ad for Cheerios that created controversy in some quarters because it showed the child of an interracial couple. As we noted here on MNB, "on sites like YouTube and Facebook, the ad brought out the worst in some people, as more than 700 comments that could generously be described as racist were posted. The good news - well over 6,000 positive comments were posted. But the ugliness of some of the comments led the company to remove them from its various feeds."

    Well, there's a new video on YouTube that I think is worth watching - a piece done by filmmakers Benny and Rafi Fine in which they interview a series of children to get their reactions to the commercial and to racial issues in general. I'm not surprised by it; I feel strongly that a lot of the cultural issues that take up so much of the national consciousness simply are not issues to many of our children. Which is a good thing.

    But I share this with you because I find it to be heartening. And a nice way to end the week.

    KC's View:

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    Fortune weighs in on the battle over a "living wage" bill being fought by Walmart and the Washington, DC, city council, and suggests that the retailer's position may be dictated more by a desire to save face rather than a need to save money.

    In case you missed in, here's what's happened so far ... The DC legislators passed a bill requiring non-union retail operators of a certain size to pay employees a "living wage" minimum of $12.50 an hour, even though the official minimum wage in the district is $8.25 an hour. Walmart, which lobbied against the bill, responded by saying it would not build three of the six stores it had planned for DC and would reconsider its plans for the other three. The bill isn't law yet - it has to be signed by Mayor Vincent Gray to be enacted, and that is by no means a sure thing - but the battle has brought out partisans on both sides.

    The Fortune piece addresses Walmart's claim that the bill will force it to raise prices, which will hurt its ability to offer low-cost goods to neighborhoods that need them. Bad for everyone, Walmart says. But, Fortune writes, "But a 2011 study from UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education throws some cold water on this thinking. The study asserts that if Wal-Mart were to increase its corporate minimum wage to $12 an hour for its U.S. workers and opted to pass 100% of the additional wage costs onto its customers, that would only amount to an additional $0.46 per shopping visit for the average customer ($12.49 more a year, assuming 27 shopping trips per year, at a total annual spend of $1,187). As for the workers? They'd earn an estimated $1,670 to $6,500 in annual income (before taxes) than they would otherwise, according to the study.

    "It's also good to keep in mind that U.S. taxpayers pay for those low, low Wal-Mart prices by propping up federal support programs (see under: food stamps, Medicaid, etc.) for those low income Americans who struggle to make ends meet. As the federal government pays increased attention to its budget shortfalls, living wage efforts will grow stronger."

    The article makes the argument that since Walmart has beaten back a similar bill in Chicago, it needs to beat back the DC bill now, lest it find itself facing similar legislative efforts around the US. "The stakes are high and the outcome will set a precedent for the retailer's future negotiations with cities across the country," Fortune says. "The question is whether Wal-Mart wants to earn a reputation for throwing public tantrums and threatening to pull out of cities when it doesn't get its way, especially given the company's interest in expanding into urban areas."
    KC's View:
    There seems to be a feeling that somehow Walmart and the city will be able to negotiate some sort of compromise, but it's hard for me to see how that would play out. I think it is a lot more likely that the mayor vetoes the bill and ends the discussion.

    I remain conflicted. I tend to think that such legislation, even if well meaning, is a bad idea, especially because it doesn't apply to everyone. But I also worry about a city where people can hold down a 40 hour a week job and not be able to support their families.

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    The New York Daily News reports that "the New York Assembly’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection has scheduled a public hearing to debate the merits of a bill currently before the legislature that would require that manufacturers to list whether their products contain genetically engineered ingredients ... Similar measures have recently passed by the legislatures of Connecticut and Maine, but neither state will move forward with enforcement unless surrounding states, such as New York, follow suit and enact similar laws."

    In addition, as reported on MNB earlier this week, an expensive and contentious debate on the issue is being waged in Washington State, where a referendum on GMO labeling will be on the ballot this fall.
    KC's View:
    Y'think the two sides are throwing money at this debate in DC? Wait until they start spending money on commercials and ads in the pricey NY metropolitan media market.

    Still, I can't help but have the sense that there has been a shift in the winds ... and the GMO labeling forces seem to have the winds at their backs.

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    Add Roche Bros., Wegmans, Tops, Stop & Shop, Rite Aid BJ's Wholesale Club, and Costco to the list of retailers refusing to sell the latest issue of Rolling Stone, which features accused Boston Marathon bomber Jahar Tsarnaev on the cover. The reason: the cover photo has been seen by many as making the accused terrorist look like a rock star, and the social media world has erupted in protest.

    CVS, Walgreen and Tedeschi Food Shops had already said they would not sell the issue.

    Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out, with his brother, two separate bombings during the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 260. The brother was killed before being apprehended. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges related to the bombing.
    KC's View:
    ou'll see in "Your Views" that we got a lot of email on this one.

    I'm in the media business, so I'm never happy when stores say they won't carry this magazine or that newspaper. But I understand what's happening here, and am sympathetic to the stores and consumers having this reaction.

    I gather that the actual story is a good one. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to. But I still think that while there is a legitimate rationale for the way the story was played on the cover - this was a normal, even innocent-looking kid who turned into something extremely difficult to understand - maybe Rolling Stone could've played it differently. I wonder if anyone in the magazine's offices was personally affected by the bombing, maybe through the loss or injury of a loved one. If they had been, that cover might've looked a little different.

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    The Associated Press reports that a lawsuit has been filed in Mecklenburg County by Harris Teeter shareholders maintaining that the retailer did not get a high enough price when it agreed to be sold to Kroger.

    The story notes that "Kroger agreed to buy Harris Teeter for $49.38 per share in cash, a 1.8 percent premium to the stock's closing price the day before. That price is about 34 percent higher than Harris Teeter's stock was when rumors of a deal began six months ago.
    KC's View:
    The lawyers will probably get rich on this one.

    The question I would ask, as a shareholder, would be if the sale was to the right company, as opposed to being for the largest amount of money. I happen to think that Kroger is a lot less likely to screw up Harris Teeter than some other chains, and in fact is far more likely to make it more competitive and sustainable over the long term. Selling for more money, to a buyer that would've screwed up the company for short-term gain, strikes me as irresponsible.

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    The Lowell Sun reports that "Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas will remain the head of the grocery chain after directors took no action on removing him from the position Thursday.

    "Supporters of Demoulas, numbering in the hundreds, lined a street leading up to the Wyndham Hotel Thursday morning and many stayed throughout the day, even as temperatures hit 90 degrees and thunderstorms threatened.

    "After the end of a 12-plus-hour meeting, Demoulas left the boardroom, walked into a separate room to meet with company executives, and then was driven outside to meet supporters who stood outside all day for him ... In a statement released through the company, Demoulas said he was 'pleased' with the result and hoped to work 'constructively' with the board.

    The family battle was driven by Arthur S. Demoulas, the CEO's cousin, complaining about questionable deals made by management, while supporters of the CEO said that the dissidents just wanted to take more money out of the company at the expense of employees and the stores’ reputation for low prices.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    Fox Business reports that McDonald's is being widely criticized for its release of a financial advice website for its employees that offered a sample budget that seemed to suggest that to survive, its employees need to have a second job.

    According to the story, "The site, Practical Money Skills for Life, includes a budget journal with a sample monthly budget to help 'get your money on track' but it includes wages from two jobs. The first job brings in $1,105 a month and $955 from a second job. On the federal minimum wage of $7.25, working 40 hours a week for four weeks, an employee would earn $1,160 before taxes."

    And Forbes reports that "the budget posits that health insurance costs $20 a month, that one owns a car but doesn’t have to buy gas for it." The sample budget also does not include a line for food.
    KC's View:
    Sounds like the folks who designed the McDonald's budget plan may be the same people who call the stuff that McDonald's serves "food."

    (Okay, cheap shot. But sometimes I can't help myself.)

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

    • Meijer has announced that it will open its first store in downtown Detroit when a new 191,000 square foot store opens next Thursday, July 25, at Eight Mile and Woodward Avenue, about nine miles from the first Whole Foods to open in the city.

    According to the company, this is the first time that the economics worked in favor of Meijer opening a store within the city's borders. It is perhaps an irony that the economics of the city itself are in disarray - yesterday, Detroit became the largest city in the US ever to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, as it looks to get out from under billions of dollars in debt accumulated during decades of fiscal mismanagement.

    • In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that Whole Foods has opened a new story "in Maple Grove and expects a downtown Minneapolis location to open in early fall. That would bring to six the number of Whole Foods markets in the Twin Cities, and grocery industry analysts say to look for more."

    The story notes that the Twin Cities provides the high incomes and highly educated people that Whole Foods caters to, though it also has stronger competition than in many other places, "notably from local food cooperatives and upscale chains led by Lunds and Byerly’s."

    • The Chicago Tribune reports that Fox & Obel, the downtown gourmet grocer there, has reopened after having been closed by what is called a "laundry list" of health code violations. However, store manager Pat McCarthy is quoted in the story as saying that the store "had a few minor problems that we got corrected."

    Earlier this week, Crain's Chicago Business had reported that "the business failed a July 5 inspection after a suspected food poisoning incident, according to the city's food inspection records. The report details violations including more than 200 fruit flies in a food prep area, a cockroach sighting and failure to keep foods including sausages, eggs, hamburgers and chicken salad at sufficiently low temperatures, both in the deli displays and in coolers used during food preparation ... In a failed inspection last November, the inspector noted two live cockroaches in the coffee area and restaurant's food storage room, as well as 'tens of dead ones'."

    Minor problems? Really? That's the best you can do?

    Here's how I feel about their minor problems: Based on the health department reports, there is no way that I would go back to Fox & Obel as a shopper. And the apparent inability of management to understand just how serious this stuff is convinces me that the place ought to be shuttered for good. What a crock.

    • In Oregon, the Ashland Daily Tidings reports that "the Ashland City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to direct the Ashland Conservation Commission to study a proposal to ban plastic shopping bags in town and develop a recommendation for the council.

    "Mayor John Stromberg said he wants the Conservation Commission to get input from Ashland merchants who have already voluntarily eliminated plastic bags from their stores. At least four Ashland grocery stores — Albertsons, the Ashland Food Co-op, Shop'n Kart and Market of Choice — have cut plastic bags from their stores."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    I get requests from time to time, when I'm traveling, to offer a time when interested MNB readers can get together to have a beer or a glass of wine. I've always found these evenings to be tremendously rewarding, because I'm able to put faces and voices to the names of readers with which I have become familiar.

    So, since I'm in the Pacific Northwest for the month, I thought I'd schedule just such an evening in Seattle - on Friday, July 26, from 5-7 pm, at Etta's, located at 2020 Western Ave. I'll be at the bar, almost certainly enjoying a glass of wine while chatting with Morgan, my favorite bartender, and I hope to see you there.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    Got the following email about a joke I made at Tesco's expense, commenting on a story about how it is launching a fresh foods ad campaign designed to counteract the bad publicity it got during the horse meat scandal:

    That was a pretty cheap shot against Tesco this morning  -- apologies if you covered this at the time, but Tesco was buying meat that went back to a French company called Spanghero.  I was living in Europe at the time, and followed the story closely as I was fascinated as to how this could happen, given the attitudes toward food in Europe and the origin-labeling regulations.

    When the horse meat scandal erupted, there was an immediate investigation, and it was found that a Romanian abattoire (slaughterhouse) was selling properly marked and labeled horse meat to Spanghero - which is absolutely legal.  The abattoire was held blameless -- they were doing everything they were supposed to be doing. There are folks who are looking askance at Romanian meat, particularly horse, because of other issues, but not at the Romanian firm in particular.

    Spanghero was flat-out lying to its customers -- they were receiving boxes of frozen meat clearly labeled 'horse, and shipping it out in boxes labeled 'beef'.  I'm more than a little surprised that they're still open...probably a move to placate the 140 employees in a region where there just aren't many large employers.

    It wasn't Tesco's fault or intention - any more than it was the fault or intention of Ikea, Lidl, Carrefour, or any of the other dozens of retailers who ended up ditching thousands of euros of inventory.  It was costly all across the board -- both in terms of profits and in goodwill.

    I'll add, by the way, a gentle reminder that horse meat is regularly found on tables across Europe -- and meat distributors in the UK saw a huge jump in sales, as people were actually seeking out horse meat to try out of curiosity.  I've tried it - served to me at a large function where I didn't know what it was until after dinner -- I don't like it, but if someone else wants to eat it, that's their deal.

    So continuing to backhand Tesco just because they happened to get caught in the swirl of deception is pretty unfair -- it's a black eye they just don't deserve to have.

    Okay, it was a cheap shot. But it was just a joke.

    Regarding the Market Basket controversy, one MNB user wrote:

    In the article this morning regarding the dispute among the Demoulas family members running Market Basket, you comment that "...the more I read about the case, the more it seems like the board is headed down a road that could improve ownership's compensation at the cost of higher prices and margins ... which could screw up the whole enterprise."  Any specifics you could cite there from materials you have come across?

    I'll let MNB reader Herb Sorensen reply to that via the email I got from him at around the same time:

    I'm no expert on Market Basket, although I've worked in their stores personally a number of times over the years.  However, this conflict sounds like the classic margin battle of winning retailers, originally A&P back in the day when they were pioneering the way to become the world's first billion dollar business - and followed a couple of decades after their founding geniuses passed on, by Walmart.

    A&P built their success on building traffic and volume as JOB #1, and this through minimizing prices.  So severe was the margin discipline, that a store manager who turned in margins higher than 19% would be reprimanded for excessive profits, that should have been plowed back into lower prices to drive more traffic to the store.

    As Marc Levinson explains in "The Great A&P": "To John [Hartford,] though, a large profit was a warning light, signaling an attempt to maximize short-term returns by paying workers inadequately or by holding prices too high. Either way, too much profit in the short term was bad for the company’s position in the long term. As he saw it, excessive prices would reduce volume. Once that occurred, A&P would be forced to spread the fixed costs of its warehouses and factories across a smaller customer base, which would require it to raise prices even higher. No matter what the short-term implications for the bottom line, damaging A&P’s reputation as the low-price grocer was a risk he was unwilling to take. In 1940, John went so far as to tell his division presidents the company should not attempt to earn more than $7 per common share; if earnings were above that, then their prices were simply too high."

    When the discipline of the Hartford brothers was no longer at the helm at A&P, the company crumpled like a cheap suit.  If the Telegraph story is accurate, I'm voting for the present management, against those seeking higher profits.

    Yeah. What he said.

    We had a piece the other day about a new baseball bat that has been designed with a slanted nob that, the inventor says (with some scientific verification), would cut down on injuries to players when swinging. But no players want to change bats, and manufacturers don't want to make them. Which struck me as a kind of denial of reality that serves as a good business lesson.

    Well, the MNB community being what it is, I got the following email from a reader:

    All UCL injuries to baseball pitchers could be eliminated by taking the baseball out if the glove with the hand under rather than on top of the ball. When one of you guys was waxing lyrical about Strasburg I told you you were watching a guy on the downward path to oblivion. He had his UCL operated on shortly thereafter. If you are a Mets fan, their latest star will soon face the same fate (if his shoulder does not go first). Hundreds of millions in pitching injuries every year. All avoidable. Now that's an eye opener.

    Anyway, I asked Dr Mike Marshall about the new bat. Here is his response which you can also read this Sunday on his web site,

    Dear Sir,

    This bat handle reminds me of the U-1 baseball bat when I played shortstop. It had no knob at all, just a smooth enlargement of the handle.

    The Hamate carpal (wrist) bone rests against the proximal phalange of the little finger. The 'hook' of the Hamate bone extends laterally to the Ulna bone side of the wrist. The 'hook' of the Hamate bone is the lateral boundary of the Carpal Tunnel through which the tendons of the Flexor Digitorum Superficialis and Profundus pass to attach to the middle and distal phalanges (fingers), respectively.

    If, instead of holding the knob of the handle of the baseball bat in the little finger/metacarpal joint, baseball batters place the knob of their baseball bat on the heel of their hand, then they roll the knob of the baseball bat over the top of the 'hook' of the Hamate bone.

    Baseball batters that fracture the 'hook' of their Hamate bone use their front arm to start and stop their baseball bat.

    Therefore, my first recommendation is for baseball batters to change to using their rear arm to start and stop their baseball bat.

    Failing that, I recommend that baseball batters move the knob of their baseball bat away from the 'hook' of the Hamate bone.

    With apologies to Mr. Phelan (the inventor), I do not believe that his knob design prevents baseball batters from placing the knob over the 'hook' of the Hamate.

    Sounds like a scientific disagreement.

    Though where else can you read a business site that uses phrases like "Flexor Digitorum Superficialis"?

    On another subject, MNB user Jacque Copeland wrote:

    Kevin, in reference to the conditions that led to Fox & Obel’s shutdown, if you haven’t already, I’m sure you will see the connection and enjoy immensely reading Carl Hiaasen’s new book “Bad Monkey.”

    Read it, gave it a glowing review here a few weeks ago, and you're right - that's exactly what the story made me think of. 

    Lots of comments re: the Rolling Stone cover controversy...

    One MNB user wrote:

    I would like to read the story because I have been told it is good journalism and informative, but I wont because of the cover. My position is the position of most people, its not the article, it’s the cover!
    Rolling Stone did themselves in! No one to blame but themselves!

    From another reader:

    How “many” people does it take for these retailers to deem something offensive or do they just know it when they see it?

    And another:

    Certainly another case of “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should….”.  Additionally, one can add that based on the reactions of some Retailers, “Just because you should so something, that is enough of a reason to do something” (or in this case NOT do something…)

    And still another:

    Rolling Stone has always courted controversy. It needs to in order to maintain some of its street cred as a youth orientated publication. While putting this young man on the cover is certainly insensitive in many people’s eyes it’s in keeping with Rolling Stone’s commitment to covering stories – in a way the MSM  won’t investigate for a variety of reasons.  Hopefully the story touches on why with all the billions we spend on gathering intelligence the US government can’t seem to pick up on the most obvious clues in any number of the so-called terrorist events. (why do they always seem to happen in conjunction with a “drill” that’s being run-but that’s another story).
    If we’re talking about painting public personalities in the media-especially ones involved with crime-on the cover of magazines-and in effect portraying them as something different than what the public believes they are- what about the coverage of the Martin/Zimmerman case where the MSM  has insisted on showing the picture of Mr. Martin as a 12 year old rather than how he actually looked at the time of his death.  Pictures from the time of Martin’s death-his social networking account and police photos show a much different image-one of a strapping young man, and from some of the photos- some would say wanna-be thug not the sweet-looking 12 year old the MSM would have us believe was killed during the confrontation via their constant use of the much younger Martin’s photo.  If we’re talking about insensitivity, wrongful portrayal, and general misleading of our understanding of these figures-where does the difference lie in terms of misleading the public when it comes to comparing the two treatments of  the public images of these young men?  
    The point is, American culture always exploits criminality and some would argue the MSM in particular has always been used to present the kind of picture the powers that be want  in order to condition the general public’s view about events and policies maybe even agendas those ruling our society desire-for our own good they might say. Rolling Stone is pretty straight forward in courting controversy. But I wonder rather than focus our outrage over the bombing on  Rolling Stone shouldn’t something be aimed at the government agencies that are supposed to protect us from these events-especially when there are oftentimes plenty of clues and warning signs that make you wonder if  anyone’s really doing their job.  Remind me again why all our communications are monitored...

    From yet another reader:

    I understand why people think the victims should be on the front page, but the story isn’t about the bombing or the victims, it’s about how a smart kid with rock-star good looks develops into a ‘monster”.  They use the word Monster on the front cover, and the juxtaposition of the rock-star looking kid with the word “Monster” ought to make people think and want to know how this happened.

    I know the knee-jerk reaction is to think Rolling Stone glorifying a terrorist and to vilify them for doing so.  But the deeper question is to ask how this came to happen—in order that we can try to keep it from happening again.  This kid and his brother snuck up on our entire culture, and we really ought to be thinking about the why and how of it.

    It is interesting to see how the popular reaction is not to see the word “monster”, but to see the kid’s face and think they are glorifying him.

    And, on another subject, MNB reader Joan Toth wrote:

    Kevin, I really enjoyed today’s column because I had the EXACT same experience with Wende. I purchased a tasting for 10 during a PSU event auction a few years ago. My sister, who lives in Portland, gathered up a crowd and we descended on WVV last fall. On a spectacular fall day, Wende spent more than two hours with us, regaled us with great stories, enthusiastically led us in tasting their premium pinots, and generally had a blast. Having been on my fair share of winery tours, I wanted to skip the tour and get right to the tasting. Wende made it totally worthwhile. I even got a follow up phone call a month or so after the event asking me if she could do anything else for us.

    Now here’s the really interesting part of the story. Did you ask her how she came to be working at WVV? I did. Jim Bernau, the owner, got to know her when she was waitressing at a local place he frequented for lunch. Lo and behold, he asked her to work for him, bringing her terrific customer service skills to WVV. Moral of the story: great talent is everywhere. If people love what they do, their enthusiasm is infectious. Lucky for us – she loves to talk about and sell wine!

    I did know that. And am equally impressed.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 19, 2013

    I've been in the Pacific Northwest for almost three weeks now, and even while on vacation, I tried to at least keep a running commentary on Facebook about some of the places we've gone and the things we've eaten.

    But for those of you who have not kept up, let me see if I can recap some of it for you...

    • A terrific day in the Pacific Northwest ... first a hike along the Boundary Trail near Mount St. Helens ... then a drive through the mountains, where, at our destination, the Suncadia Resort, we celebrated with margaritas by the fireplace as the sun set...


    • A good day in the Pacific Northwest. Started with an egg sandwich and coffee at the always dependable Grand Central Bakery, then a drive out to the Columbia River Gorge for a hike up Multnomah Falls and then a backwoods hike over to Wahkeena Falls, which was utterly delightful - quiet, majestic, and encouraging of deep thoughts. Then, a drive to Hood River for the reward - an Oyster Po Boy and the appropriately named "Slainte Stout" at the Full Sail Brewing Co. Then, it was a visit to the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, and then back to Portland. Life is filled with possibility.

    • One of the nicest surprises I've ever gotten. Stopped into a Haggen store today on our way to Vancouver, to pick up a sandwich for lunch, and saw, on the rack next to the checkout, something amazing: "The Big Picture: Essential Business lessons from the Movies." Wow! Way to go, Haggen! (The store and the sandwich were great, too...)

    • Today, it was a road trip from Vancouver to Whistler. Gorgeous drive. Scenery was awe-inspiring. Then, at Whistler, it was a series of gondola and ski lift rides that I toughed out despite my fear of heights. (Actually, I whimpered, closed my eyes and buried my head in Mrs. Content Guy's shoulder during the ski lift rides. Nothing tough about it or me.) The gondola rides, however, were amazing - especially the peak 2 Peak ride from the top of Whistler to the top of Blackcomb, which is, I think, the longest such "unsupported" ride in the world. At the end of it all, however, came the reward...Kootenay True Ale.

    • We started our morning in Vancouver with a visit to a small, unpretentious Belgian restaurant called Cafe Medina, which had been highly recommended by an MNB reader. We were not disappointed - in fact, we were served one of the best - and most unusual - breakfasts of our lives.

    Mrs. Content Guy had the Fricasse, which consisted of two fried eggs, braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, balsamic onions, watercress and smoked applewood cheddar, all served with grilled foccacia. And I settled on the Les Boulettes - 2 poached eggs, spicy Moroccan lamb and beef meatballs, cilantro, houmus, raita, also served with grilled foccacia. (When I say I 'settled,' what I mean is that I couldn't make up my mind between several dishes, so I listed them for the waitress and told her to choose for me, and to surprise me. I was both surprised and delighted ... so much so that I'll be looking for excuses to return to Vancouver just to have another meal there.)

    If you ever get the chance to visit Cafe Medina, I recommend it passionately - the food is out of this world, the service excellent, and the space perfect for a casual yet enormously satisfying meal.

    • Tonight, we were actually alone for an evening. (Kids start showing up in Portland tomorrow, which makes us very happy.) But nothing wrong with a little alone time... and so we went off for a romantic supper at Irving Street Kitchen, a place we'd never been to before. The meal was fantastic - started with Spicy Garlic Steamed Clams, Sweet Potato, Bacon Wrapped Quail ... then Laura had the Smoked Teres Major Steak, served with Artichoke Hash, Blue Cheese, Bacon Madeira, Egg - and it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. My meal was Squid Ink Risotto, served with Blue Mussels and Manilla Clams ... Wow! The wine was a delicious Pinot Blanc from the Brooks Vineyard in the Willamette Valley (of course!), and because we couldn't help ourselves, we shared a dessert...Butterscotch Pudding, served with Salted Caramel Sauce. (Great service, too, by Dave ... natch.) Just a fabulous dinner ... and then, a stroll back, from the Pearl District, to the apartment just a block from the PSU campus. (I still had MNB writing to do.) A lovely evening in Portland, with the girl of my dreams, as we enjoy a summer here even better than last year's.

    Al I can say is, it is a good thing that I'm getting a lot of exercise....and that so far, at least, I've managed to avoid Voodoo Doughnuts.

    Have a great weekend. I know I will. And I'll see you Monday.

    Fins Up!
    KC's View: