Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Big Pizza Plus Little Pints Equal Mild Disappointment at Johnny's Tavern West

  • Johnny's Tavern West
  • 721 Wakarusa, Ste 100
    Lawrence, Kansas 66047

  • (785) 843-0704
  • johnnystavern.com


Price: $$$$$

A tentative review, I was invited to Johnny's last night by some new friends and did more talking than eating and drinking.

I was warmly welcomed by the lovely bartender who attempted to help me find my party. Once found, I imbibed in a couple pieces of sausage and pepperoni pizza and a glass of draft IPA.

The pizza was the right thickness and consistency for NY style pizza, standing up well to the sauce and remaining firm enough to eat by hand. Cheese to sauce ratio was right on although the sauce had an odd taste that was slightly off-putting. The toppings were abundant and delicious.

The IPA, oddly enough, came in an unusual glass, maybe 12 ounces instead of the "pint" I was expecting. IPA is uniquely English and should come in a pint glass, preferably AN ENGLISH PINT which is a little over 19 ounces as compared to the whimpy US pints (16 ounces) we colonials have somehow become accustomed to. It was tasty enough, but another 4 to 7 ounces would have quenched my thirst much better.

Our young blonde server was very sweet and attentive, a former swimmer with an engaging personality and a keen eye for empty glasses. She hovered around just enough to keep everyone happy, removing waste as she came and went. The service was excellent!

CombatCritic Gives Johnny's Tavern West a Tentative 5 Out of 10 Bombs with room to grow ... MORE BOMBS ARE GREAT!

Johnny's on Urbanspoon










Key Words: Johnny's Tavern West, Johnny's, tavern, west, Lawrence, Kansas, Wakarusa, 6th, street, pizza, beer, ale, IPA, food, eat, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Monday, April 21, 2014

Genovese (Lawrence, Kansas): Decent Quality, Overpriced American-Italian Cuisine, Disappointing Experience

Genovese
941 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 

(785) 842-8300
Being of Italian descent with a grandmother from the homeland who was an excellent cook, having lived in Italy for three years and visiting frequently, and married to a Sicilian, let's just say that I know good Italian food when I eat it. I found Genovese to be a fair Americanized reproduction with limited options.

With just "3 1/2 Stars" on Yelp and what I had heard about Genovese around town, we were not in a hurry to give them a try. There has been a long standing Groupon available for Genovese offering one appetizer ($6.50 - $9) and two entrees ($8.50 - $19) for $30 (notice that if you buy the least expensive offerings, you actually lose $6.50 on the deal), so we decided to have Easter dinner there.

It is not well advertised on Groupon, but the entrees are strictly from the pasta and pizza categories and the extra meat add-on for the pasta (chicken or sausage - $3, salmon or shrimp - $4) is included in the Groupon. If you do not order the most expensive options and the meat add-on, this Groupon is not a great value. 

Genovese has a $20 wine list which is a nice option for those on a budget with one bottle from each of the most popular grape varieties, including a Jacob's Creek (Australia) Shiraz (Syrah) which I have had before that was quite nice and a very good value. There is a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Cabernet/Sangiovese blend from Italy among others in the "red" category and an equal number of white options which I did not even peruse.

For our appetizers (antipasti), we decided on the "spinach risotto fritters stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese topped with fonduta sauce" ($6.50) and an appetizer of the day, a selection of salumi, including capicollo, soppressata, and a cured duck accompanied by dried figs. We had to ask our server to bring bread because our antipasti had arrived and there was no indication that the bread would be forthcoming.

The bread was sliced into six small pieces, resembling a thick, fluffy focaccia and was accompanied by a lava bean puree and olive oil/Balsamic vinegar blend both in small cups. The "risotto fritters" are actually called "arancini de riso" and a specialty of Southern Italy (from Rome to Sicily). A small ball of rice and herbs with a piece of cheese in the center formed into a ball is then coated with flour, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, then deep fried. The cured meats (salumi) were sparse, with just three extremely thin pieces each of the capicollo, soppressata, and duck for two people, and the soppressata still had the exterior casing attached which I only realized after finding it lingering in my mouth. The meats were tasty and of good quality, but at $1 for each slice, neither very filling nor a great value.

For my entree, I decided on the penne with veal Bolognese, Wakarusa Valley wild mushrooms, and shaved Parmesan with a side of sausage ($16.50 + $3 = $19.50). The penne were store bought, as advertised, cooked "al dente" as they should be, coming in a light ground veal sauce which was a little too soupy. The "shaved Parmesan" tasted like no parmesan (or Parmigiano) I have ever had and was more similar to an Asiago from Sam's Club than the aged cheese I love more than life itself. Unfortunately, the side of sausage was cut into pieces and added to the pasta instead of coming on a separate plate, which I had expected. The pasta was "OK", not overly abundant, and certainly no better than anything I have had at Olive Garden (the few times I was forced to eat there). At $16.50, the dish was at least $3 to $4 more than it should be, but that is to be expected at the high rent establishments on Massachusetts Street in Downtown Lawrence.

At $16, my wife had the "wild mushroom and asparagus ravioli with Shiitake mushrooms, vegetable brodo (broth), and Ricotta salata" (salted ricotta cheese) along with a side of sausage ($3). She asked for the sausage on the side, but when the pasta arrived, the sausage were already added to the ravioli for some reason, so we had to send it back. Again, not abundant in size, the ravioli were colorful, but bland and a little too dry until doused with some broth.

The decor is odd for an Italian restaurant, more appropriate for a hamburger joint than a ristorante, but comfortable with a small outdoor patio on the sidewalk with just four tables for those who enjoy people watching, noise, and exhaust fumes. The service was attentive, friendly, and professional, the highlight of our meal.

The bill came to close to $80, so by the time tip was added we were looking at a "C-note" for dinner, not an inexpensive venture by any stretch. Thanks to the Groupon, our portion came to nearly $45 (plus the $30 we paid for the Groupon - a grand total of $75), a much more tolerable total but still quite a bit higher than it was worth. For comparison, a similar dinner at Lidia's, one of the best Italian restaurants in Kansas City, with two appetizers, two entrees (meat dishes, not pizza/pasta), a bottle of wine and dessert usually comes to a little over $100 including tip. So without the Groupon, Genovese does not even come close to a meal at Lidia's and is a poor value in my eyes ...

CombatCritic Gives Genovese 5 Bombs Out of 10 ... MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!
 Genovese on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Genovese, Italian, restaurant, Massachusetts, street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Groupon, pasta, pizza, TripAdvisor, antipasti, Yelp, sausage, wine, UrbanSpoon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Monday, April 14, 2014

CombatCritic Victim of Felony Theft ... Hooligans Steal Golf Cart, Clubs, and iPhone During Inaugural Round At Alvamar Country Club

C.T. Sorrentino, CombatCritic, Victim of Felony Theft ... Hooligans Steal Golf Cart, Clubs, and iPhone During Inaugural Round At Alvamar Country Club


Key Words: C.T. Sorrentino, CT, Sorrentino, CombatCritic, Victim, Felony Theft, Hooligans, Steal, Golf, Cart, Clubs, iPhone, Inaugural, Round, Alvamar, Alvamar Golf and Country Club, 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës ... A Review by Elisa Fierro

A Review of

Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës

By Elisa Fierro

“Reader, I did not marry him.” This is the arresting beginning of Vanessa Gebbie’s Chapter XXXVIII – Conclusion (and a little bit of added cookery) with abject apologies to Charlotte Brontë, one of the short stories in the new collection Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës (ISBN 978-0-9572897-3-4).

Red Room, edited by A. J. Ashworth and published in paperback by Unthank Books in 2013, is comprised of twelve short stories and a poem, written by some of Britain’s best contemporary writers to celebrate the Brontë sisters and their unexhausted modernism. According to the editor, part of the profits of the book will be donated to the Brontë Birthplace Trust to help spread awareness of both the village and the building where the three sisters and their brother, Branwell, were born.

The Brontë Birthplace, located at  72/74 Market Street, Thornton, England (West Yorkshire) and was a museum until 2007 thanks to the passion of the late novelist Barbara Whitehead. After being sold, it has recently become a café. At the time of the sale, the Brontë Birthplace Trust was raising the necessary funds to acquire the building, and their mission now to try to secure it at a future date for Brontë lovers worldwide.

This collection of short stories, Red Room shows, is a continued commitment of Unthank Books towards contemporary short fiction and classic literature. The contributors – all writers of remarkable standing in contemporary British literature and winners of prestigious awards such as the BBC National Short Story Award - have all waived their fees. Their generosity is shared by Unthank Books, as mentioned earlier, to help the Trust give the Brontë birthplace its deserved position among the most important literary locations in the world.

The Brontës and their work inspire all of the carefully crafted stories in Red Room, but a previous knowledge of the sisters’ novels, although certainly auspicious, is not absolutely necessary in order to enjoy the book.  Everybody can find something to his or her taste. The authors deal with a variety of themes (from child abuse to the loss of a parent), write in different styles, and set their stories in the past as well as in the present, showing how human traits and situations described by the three Brontë sisters transcend time and place.

The previously mentioned Chapter XXXVIII – Conclusion (and a little bit of added cookery) with abject apologies to Charlotte Brontë, by Vanessa Gebbie, offers a humorously alternative ending to Jane Eyre where Jane and Rochester do not marry but live as companions while Rochester develops an interest in cooking with a penchant for oddly mixed ingredients (after all, he is blind!). The author’s (never random) good humor, through Jane’s first person narrative, does not spare any character of the novel, including St. John Rivers, whose fate is described in a way highly appropriate for him: “St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now (Who would marry him, reader? Look at the verbiage up with which one would have to put)”.

Modern values are the theme of Rowena Macdonald’s short story A Child of Pleasure. Inspired by the relationship between Lucy Snow and Ginevra Fanshawe in Villette, the story is about Liza Frost, a teacher giving private lessons, and Jemima Fenchurch, her student. Jemima is not in the least interested in passing her exam and often tries to demean Liza by pointing out her plain appearance, her solitary life, and her lack of wealth. Jemima is “about as sensitive as a brick”, has been indulged all her life, is self-centered, and only believes in beauty and money. However, at the end of the story, Liz and the reader are left wondering if, after all, Jemima was right. “I had been wrong: she was nobody’s appendage” – don’t we all want to be a celebrity like her, without a care in this world and sure that we will “suffer as little as any human being I have ever known”?

Heart-rending is the atmosphere of Carys Davies’ story Bonnet.  The headwear of the title is one that Charlotte, on her way to meet her publisher George Smith in London, has embellished with a new lining, “a lustrous, pearly pink like the interior of a shell”. Smith has written Charlotte a letter telling her about his recent engagement, a letter that she had not yet received when she embarked on her trip. In reality, the trip never took place, because at the time Charlotte had stopped going to London to see her publisher. However, there has always been much speculation about the feelings that Charlotte might have entertained for the young, charming George. They were certainly friends and it is possible that she, bereft and alone after the death of all her siblings, might have hoped to have him as a life companion. Throughout the story, Charlotte is acutely aware of her plain appearance and clothing, especially during the meeting: “…  it is the worst imaginable thing for her to sit and feel the bright new silk around her face, like a shout, and see how embarrassed he is, how he can’t look at it.” In Victorian England, like today in our modern, multicultural, open-minded society (sarcasm intended), there is an incredible amount of pressure for women to be physically attractive. It takes a lot of self-esteem not to feel, as Charlotte did, “always, always acutely and painfully conscious” of the way we look as opposed to the way we are expected to look. I am sure that many women can relate to that, I for one certainly do.

I have chosen to use these three stories to illustrate how varied and multifaceted the collection Red Room actually is and the fact that it is a totally subjective choice. I do not doubt that every reader will find his or her favorites, as the rest of the stories combine elements of fiction, realism, fantasy, even fairy-tale, and are filled with characters whom, while based on the Brontë works, are strong in their own right.

In My Dear Miss … Zoë King imagines an epistolary exchange between Jane Eyre and Emma Woodhouse, where the latter, faithful to her character, tries to set Jane up with “a certain young clergyman, Mr. Elton, a handsome and intelligent addition to our circle.”

Contrasting with the playfulness of that work are Sarah Dobbs’ Behind all the Closed Doors, dealing with the loss of a parent at a very early age, and Alison Moore’s Stonecrop, where an abusive stepfather gets what he deserves from his young victim.

On the other hand, stories like The Curate’s Wife, by Felicity Skelton, will appeal to lovers of historical fiction and romance, for its depiction of a fortuitous meeting between Charlotte and a well-known historical character, with very interesting consequences.

Subsequently, Ashton and Elaine, by David Constantine, is a fairy-tale version of Heathcliff and Catherine’s story in which an adopted child finds a loving family and a supportive teacher in order that we can all be hopeful for him and his future.

Although the stories show a variety of subjects, one element ties them all together: their authors’ captivating imaginations and their desire to bring the Brontë sisters to a wide modern audience, an audience who might or might not have a good literary background knowledge. At the end of the book, actually, the reader with less familiarity with the Brontës will find help with understanding the context of each story in the final section entitled Inspirations, where every author explains how he or she came to write their particular piece of short fiction.

Being a Brontë lover myself, I am always an avid reader of anything related to the sisters and am sometimes disappointed by what is published, but this collection did not disappoint! The works in this book show how modern the Brontës will always be, how they can still inspire good literature, how the characters they created can and shall hook a contemporary reader, and make him or her reflect on the human condition. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are alive and well and they are waiting for you in the Red Room.

Read the original review on CombatCritic's Book Review Blog

Key Words: Elisa Fierro, Elisa, Fierro, Bronte, Brontë, sisters, Charlotte Brontë, Ann Brontë, Emily Brontë, writer, author, book, England, UK, United Kingdom, parsonage, BBC, Thornton, Yorkshire, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Copyright 2014 - Elisa Fierro and 3rd Wave Media Publications - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Natural Goal "#1 Premium Oregano Oil" ... Great Product, Excellent Value, Carry-On Size


Natural Goal "#1 Premium Oregano Oil" (natural origanum vulgare - 1oz/30ml - $22.95) is the only PURE Oil of Oregano I could find in stores or on the internet (Amazon). Health stores and natural grocers sell HIGHLY DILUTED oil of oregano for the same price or more. The diluted oil sold in stores and online equates to $100 an ounce and up, making this oil an excellent value. As a consumer, I highly recommend it!

Oil of Oregano has so many uses and because of the 1 ounce size, it can even be carried on an airplane! With uses from aromatherapy to skin applications and beyond, its reported antibiotic properties could be invaluable on a trip, particularly in a foreign country where language and medical services could be a challenge.

WARNING: Make sure that you read the label and about proper use of the product, checking with your healthcare provider before using this or any "natural" product as it is highly concentrated, not regulated by the FDA, and can cause severe symptoms, particularly if ingested.

CombatCritic Gives Natural Goal "#1 Premium Oregano Oil" 9 Bombs Out of 10 ... BOMBS ARE GOOD!




Key Words: Natural Goal #1 Premium Oregano Oil, natural, goal, premium, oregano, oil, origanum vulgare, origanum, vulgare, Dr Oz, Dr. Oz, Dr, Oz, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, combat, critic

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kansas City Yelp Elite '14 Event: Yelp Oughta Be In The Pictures

The Palace Cinema is on the second floor of an indoor mall on the Country Club Plaza. There are several theaters showing a variety of films, but this event was in the "VIP" theater, an appropriated place for yelp's Elite '14!

I was finally able to meet Matt E., our Kansas City Yelp Community Manager, and he was very welcoming. Unable to attend the three previous events since becoming an Elite '14 due to travel and illnesses, I was very pleased to be able to attend this event and meet some of the wonderful folks I have only known by name and photo.

The VIP Lounge was small, but comfortable with a full bar (soft/mixed drinks available at an extra cost - my wife's Coke was $4.99) and COMPLIMENTARY beer, red wine, and treats (mini-popcorn balls dipped in chocolate, M&Ms, Gummy Bears, and cherry Twizzlers).There was also a gift bag available for all, containing a yelp super ball, peppermints, and chapstick in addition to a coupon for a free small popcorn and a ticket for free entry to one Kansas City Film Festival film.

The film, "Doomsdays" (a pre-ecliptic comedy following "the misadventures of Dirty Fred (Justin Rice) and Bruho (Leo Fitzpatrick), a pair of free-wheeling squatters with a taste for unoccupied vacation homes in the Catskills". Their commitment to the lifestyle is challenged, however, when a runaway teen and an aimless young woman join their ranks") started promptly at 6:30PM with an intro by Matt E.

The seats in the VIP theater were big and comfy with a small table between every other two to stow our sweets, drinks, and popcorn. Seating only 80 or so Yelpers,it was an intimate affair. The movie was interesting, an "Indie" film and winner of a couple small film festival awards, and entertaining.

We had a great time and the event was well worth the 50 minute drive from Lawrence! I hope to attend more Elite Events in the future, POSSIBLY ONE IN LAWRENCE IN UPCOMING MONTHS!

CombatCritic Gives "Elite Event: Yelp Oughta Be In The Pictures" and "Matt E." 10 Out of 10 Bombs ... BOMBS ARE GRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT!


Key Words; yelp, elite, event, kansas city, Missouri, country, club, plaza, Palace Cinema, palace, cinema, theater, VIP, lounge, Doomsdays, film, Kansas City Film Festival, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ad Astra Acupuncture ... Excellent Value, Professional Services

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!