Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

There Is A Lot To Be Said For Dependability–Especially In Restaurants

Putting on the old feedbag!A franchise retaurant operates in accordance with methods, procedures, decor, menu and other standards prescribed by the franchisor, and the franchisor assists the franchisee through training, market research, set-up, advertising and other advisory services. An independent restaurant has no such agreement and is solely managed by the person or group that owns it. Some independent restaurants have multiple locations, usually in the same city or region, but are not part of a franchise.

All of us are familiar with franchise snack food and fast food (like the one you are thinking about that has 31,000 outlets throughout the world), and most of us eat occasionally or regularly at casual to upscale sit-down franchise restaurants. I have friends who refuse to eat at a franchise restaurant unless there is absolutely no other choice, and other friends who avoid independent restaurants unless they are very confident about the food preparation and overall restaurant cleanliness or about the price or comfort levels.

Most of us appreciate franchise restaurants for their dependability and ease of decision-making. (We know what food quality, menu items and price to expect at most franchise restaurants, but not at The Korner Kafe or Le Bleu Belle.) Although, for many of us, our truly favorite restaurants, from casual to elegant, are independently owned and are unique, invariably excellent, and places we look forward to visiting. Sadly, those tend to come and go, so our favorite restaurant may be closed the next time we visit!

Recently someone compared himself professionally to a fine independent restaurant surrounded by mediocre fast food franchises. The analogy was too extreme–although I did agree that he is not as dependably good as a solid franchise restaurant would be! However, the most important part of the conversation was that it allowed me to concentrate on food! Thus, I meditated on my unordered list of favorite sit-down franchise restaurants.

  1. The Elephant Bar Restaurant. I like their large menu–especially the salads–and decor. It is a good date restaurant, but I tend to avoid it for weekend lunch dining. Children seem to not be able to resist putting on the little paper animal masks and making growling sounds. Grrrr. (I wish we had a Trader Vic’s here–similar concept but a lot of history as well, and more elegant.)
  2. Genghis Grill. Mongolian Stir-Fry. Similar to B.D.’s Monogolian Barbeque. I love this kind of food, and the volume at these restaurants usually ensures the ingredients are very fresh.
  3. P.F. Chang’s. Upscale with dependably very good food. I prefer to eat Oriental food at The Imperial, an excellent independent restaurant on South Broadway, in Denver. But, I know if I go to P.F. Chang’s I’ll have a very good time.
  4. Sweet Tomatoes. A salad-buffet restaurant. It has continually refreshed salad makings, and the various buffet options are excellent. This chain started as Souplantation and still has some restaurants with that name. With a name like that, where do you think it began? You are correct–San Diego!
  5. Hops Restaurant and Brewery.  When I get those honey-drizzled croissants I am happy! They have a good American menu overall and excellent key lime pie. I also get their root beer now and then–but it is not as good as A&W!
  6. Steak and Ale. Dependably good food and I like both the food and setting better than the other franchise steakhouses. I prefer the prime rib to the steak, and I enjoy their salads.
  7. Uno Chicago Grill. They have a good menu that goes past pizza–although I do love their pizza! They also have new healthier options as well.
  8. Mimi’s Cafe. I enjoy the menu options, but I avoid it on weekends. Portions are large, as they tend to be in many places nowadays–so I can take some home if I have it packed it up before I nibble it away!
  9. The Village Inn Pancake House or International House of Pancakes. I love breakfast, any time of day! I live near the Arapahoe County airport, outside of Denver, so I can eat at The Perfect Landing–which has a spectacular breakfast and a fun view of the small airport landing field, with the mountains in the distance. But, they do not have pancakes as good as the VI or IHOP! (I have eaten hundreds–maybe thousands–of Grand Slam breakfasts at Denny’s, which is why I would have to be forced to go there now!)
  10. Bonefish Grill. This is very, very good for fish, crabcakes, steak or salad, and is nice for a date. McCormick and Schmick’s is also very good, but more expensive. I also like Pappadeaux, but prefer the overall setting at the Bonefish.

So, where would you like to go eat? While you are thinking about that, consider this as well: If you were a restaurant, what type would you be? (That sounds like something asked on The Newlywed Game or in a bizarre job interview!)

April 20th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 8 comments

Drink Up!

Water is healthy but other drinks are more fun.jpgWater is the ideal drink from the viewpoint of health and cost, and I drink a lot of water. But, I like fun drinks and sweet taste, so I’ve worked to find drinks that don’t have many calories and that allow me to enjoy a soft drink now and then.  And, just to get this out of the way: I know of the studies about risks related to chemicals and caffeine, so I’m not touting these as healthy drinks, ways to lose weight, or substitutes for anything. I’m just saying I like them when I drink something other than water.

If you don’t care for diet drinks, but would be willing to drink one on occasion if you could stand the taste, you really can learn to prefer them, just as all those irritating people have assured you they do. I started a couple of years ago by drinking Diet Lime Coke. (If I could put a trademark symbol after that brand name, I would. Since I can’t, my future posts may be from Leavenworth.) I was able to tolerate it, although I didn’t care for it at first. Then, I made the move to regular Diet Coke and added my own lime. Now, although I never believed it possible, I do not notice any strange after-taste or unpleasant flavor to most diet drinks, and prefer some of the diet versions to their full-sugar counterparts. I hate to even write that, because it’s so hackneyed to say it!

 You have probably wondered, in the still of the night, “What are Tina’s favorite soft drinks?”  Here is the very short list of diet drinks I like, and that you might like too:

1. A Sonic Drive-In Route 44 Diet Coke, with lime and extra lime, easy ice. That’s what the manager at my Sonic told me ask for each time, to get it just the way I like it. I stop at a Sonic everywhere I go, and with a little explanation now and then that works to get the best Diet Lime Coke possible, in a very large size. My friend Ava Fryer is the one who put me onto asking for easy ice, which gives me even more to drink. Sonic drinks are far better tasting than any from other fast-food places, and I think it’s because of the finely crushed ice, heavy carbonation and their ability to make it with a wide variety of flavorings. Lime and lemon are my favorites, and sometimes I ask for both. (I know how to live on the wild side, don’t I?)

2. Tava. This is a great new canned, carbonated, strongly fruit-flavored drink with vitamins and minerals. They have a website with music from new artists, and the same motivational phrases they put on the cans.

3. Fuze. A non-carbonated drink that is often on sale. I like Slenderize Dragonfruit Lime, Slenderize Cranberry Raspberry, and Slenderize Fruit Punch. I can tolerate Diet Pomegranate White Tea, but I don’t care for flavored tea drinks in general. That is why I don’t like Snapple, although they certainly have an impressive website –maybe a bit too complicated for me! The other Fuze drinks are good too, but have higher calories. Fuze was the first of the “functional drinks” with vitamins and minerals added.

4. Diet Hansen drinks. Hansen has good fruit flavored drinks and their diet versions are also good, though I find them to be more acidic than most other drinks.

5. The sugar-free version of A&W Root Beer tastes better to me than any other brand, though I still don’t think it is as good as full-sugar. And none of it is as good as getting it in a frosty mug at an A&W drive-in, then buying a glass jug of it to take home. But I digress…..

6. Club Soda with real lime added. Not many people like something that bland and unsweetened, but I find it refreshing and a break from very sweet drinks.

That’s it. Other than those few favorites of mine, I’d just as soon drink water, plain iced tea or plain black (not herbal or flavored) hot tea.

For decades Pepsi was my soft drink of choice. I savored a glass of Pepsi on ice like some people might savor a fine wine. I don’t like the taste of Diet Pepsi, so have gone exclusively to the other diet drinks for the last few years–which is why I have tried almost all of them and picked favorites. Not long ago I decided to treat myself and drink a full-sugar Pepsi. I could hardly wait to taste it again. I took one sip, then another, then a third. The thrill was gone! It was disappointingly not as good as I thought it would be or as I remembered it being. I didn’t finish it, and later got a Diet Coke to which I added some lime. I had moved completely away from one thing and moved on to something new, and hadn’t even realized it. I think that might be metaphor for some aspects of life, don’t you?

If you have a favorite sugar-free drink, let me know. I really would like to increase my options!

February 26th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | 3 comments

Make Yourself Do What You Can

You and I have thought it, but Ralph Waldo Emerson was the one who said it first: “Our chief want in life is someone to make us do what we can.” That want and need for someone to force us to do what we could do if only we would do it, is why we are willing to pay others to help us make the changes we want to make in our lives and careers.

Paying someone to direct our actions, chide us for making excuses, and applaud us for success may be well worth it.  Professionals or experienced people may have knowledge and resources you don’t have, and they may know tips and techniques you would never think of on your own. If you have serious problems physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually, you will need more than self-help.  However, many of the activities of a life or career coach, advisor, or counselor are things you could do for yourself–and you could gain knowledge and link with resources that would help you in others ways, as well. Consider taking yourself as a client. Use the knowledge, skills and attitudes that have helped you be successful in other areas–and that you have probably used to help others–to be successful in dealing with personal and professional challenges.

1. If you hired a professional advisor or coach, what would he or she do or say in the first meeting with you? What will you be told to bring to the meeting and what will you be asked to provide as background material? What will your advisor ask you about, and how will you respond? How do you think the first meeting will end?

2. What realistic goals will you be helped to set? Will you be given a chart or graph, or asked to keep a journal or make a report regularly?

3. What plan of action do you think your advisor will develop for you?  What will the plan look like from the viewpoint of what you will be guided to do less of and more of, and what will you do instead of or addition to the things you’re doing now? How often will be you be expected to do substantial work toward your goal, and what will you be expected to do?

4. What will your professional person do for you to help you achieve your goals? For example, if you hire a health and fitness counselor, will he develop a shopping list or training program for you? If you hire someone to help you in other areas will she give you reading materials, find local resources or develop a list of daily activities?

5. When you are tempted to not follow the plan, or if you have failed to do your daily work, what will your advisor do? What methods will your advisor likely suggest for avoiding temptation, sticking with your plan, and reaching your goal?

6. How will you know you have accomplished your goals, so you can have your last meeting with your advisor? Picture yourself shaking hands with him or her. What will your life be like when your advisor says “Congratulations!”?

Being your own advisor, counselor and life coach, is not the same as being your own lawyer. If you have been successful in most of the other areas of your life, you have the time, wisdom and ability to guide and direct yourself to doing what you know you can do. To make it doubly rewarding, present yourself with a bill when you’re done, and buy something worthwhile with the money you’ve saved!  

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February 19th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Personal and Professional Development | one comment

Coach’s Oats: Good and Good For You!

coachs_oats_n_tn2.jpg I like hot cereal anytime, but I especially like oatmeal. I’ve tried several of the more gourmet varieties, including the coarse Irish kind that usually requires 30 minutes of cooking and tends to get rancid easily–as well as almost all the common brands.

Recently I bought some Coach’s 100% Whole Grain Oats, and it is absolutely my favorite.  I can cook one serving in the microwave in about 3-5 minutes, and have a hearty, healthy meal any time. What I really like about it is the nutty taste, combined with more texture than some gooey oatmeal has. (It also makes a great oatmeal cookie, if you can deal with the calories, sugar and butter.)

 Coach’s can be purchased online. I bought mine at one of the large discount stores, but I don’t recall which one, so I’ll probably order it next time. I know I’ll buy more, because I don’t want to run out of this healthy and delicious cereal.

February 1st, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | 2 comments

Warmed Tomatoes, Italian Style: Deelicious!

Many people like Bruschetta (correctly pronounced brus-ketta–but most people say brew-shetta). It’s grilled or toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil, maybe rubbed with garlic, and topped with tomatoes, cheese and/or peppers. Sort of a toast pizza!

My warmed tomato dish is much more simple, but just as tasty to me–and only about 80 calories for a good-sized tomato with a bit of oil.

Thinly slice one or more regular, or three or four Roma, tomatoes and arrange them on a saucer. Drizzle just a teeny bit of flavored oil (I use a dipping oil) on each slice. You could even leave off the oil if you want. Sprinkle with a bit of dried oregano and basil, or for a real treat use fresh, finely diced herbs. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper, to taste. (I like lots of salt!) Warm in the microwave for about 45 seconds, until quite warm but not hot. That’s all there is to it. But I think it’s delicious!

I could put a slice of mozzarella cheese on the saucer or add bread, but that would defeat my purpose of having a very, very low calorie snack. Last week I had twenty Roma tomatoes to use up, and this is how I ate every one of them!

This might not be considered highly professional for a training journal. But doggone it, we have to eat!

January 14th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | no comments

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