The Continual Disappointment with Airport Food

Airport food

I still to this day cannot understand why airport food continues to be so poor.  Come on.  Is there any reason why you need to subject us to such torture? It shouldn’t be that hard to satisfy air travelers? We are usually tired, frustrated that our flight was delayed again and our expectations are really not set that high. We are a captive audience. You have us at your will as we are running between flights. We actually expect to pay too much for a really bad meal. I don’t believe it has to be that way and despite recent efforts to lift the quality and ambiance, I still give airports a C+ grade.

I have seen some impressive showings over the past few years, specifically in Chicago at Frontera, Rick Bayless taco shop and in Atlanta in the Intetnational terminal.  I’m not quite sure of the location name, but an impressive meal with some real flavor and creativity.   They used fresh ingredients and had an impressive wine list. I ordered a hand tossed, Margharita pizza and dined at the piano bar, so they are at least trying to step up their game in some locations.

We have even seen entire terminals transformed into interactive cafes to accommodate travelers needs for recharging, refueling and instant gratification.  The new Delta terminal in LaGuardia is very impressive with touch screens at every chair, charging stations and small tables instead of uncomfortable chairs spread throughout the entire terminal.  It feels much like a small cafe, but despite putting a pretty bow on the package, the food still was disappointing.  You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.  Specifically, my meal at Crust was terrible.  A Fritatta so dry, a saltine would have tasted like an ocean and it only cost me $13.  What a deal.

It’s just frustrating that millions of dollars and endless hours are spent on these types of improvements and the thing that should shine the most, the food, continues to disappoint.  The norm continues to revolve around bad chain accounts and frozen ingredients. Way too many times am I disappointed with poor execution and cooking and the trend of bad food, continues.

Delta Laguardia1 image

Let’s take another example of my recent meal at Tony Roma’s in the Newark airport.  After a full day of meetings and no lunch I found myself very hungry and utterly emaciated, so I ordered the filet medallions and half rack of ribs. A little treat since this had been my only meal today. Keep I mind, my expectations are extremely low at this point as I am very hungry and desperate for anything that resembles a meal. It’s like when you haven’t eaten in three days, even a slice of Bologna is the star of the charcuterie plate.

The steaks were done well, cooked medium as requested, tender with good flavor. My loaded mashed potatoes came with cardboard as an added bonus. The broccoli was at least fresh, not frozen and the ribs were decent. Small, very little meat, but tender and flavorful despite being drowned in sauce.

Here’s my biggest problem, I paid $26.99 for this meal. I couldn’t imagine the meal I could get for that price at a white table cloth establishment or fast casual restaurant. A lot better than here I am sure. Price to value is my issue with not only airport food, but chains in general. I had an $18 meal at Applebee’s a few year back that was so bad I pledged never to go back, and I haven’t.

Since Tony Roma’s is known for their ribs I figured that is what I should order. In additon to this staple menu item they offer five different sauces for the ribs for which they are so well known.

Let’s review these sauces.
1) TR’s Original – not too bad. Tangy, ketchup based and slightly sweet.

2) Carolina Honey’s- so peppery and terrible I have nothing good to say. No vinegar or flavor whatsoever.

3) Blue Ridge Smokey’s – not too bad, slightly smokey, sweet and fairly balanced. Partial bitterness at end, but not too bad overall.

4) Maker’s Mark Bourbon- if I was Makers Mark I would be embarrassed. No bourbon and I would pull my name from this chunky mess immediately if I was them.

5) TR’a Red Hot- heat is the only thing I get, no flavor. No balance, no respect.

At least the mix of 80’s and 90’s alternative music made me happy as a Gen X’er and my meal partially worth it.

So here’ so the deal.  As air travelers, most of the time on corporate accounts, we are a captive audience willing to and expecting to pay a lot for food.  We are simply looking for and desiring a good meal composed of real food.  Why is it so hard to satisfy this simple request?

We will continue to wait, please don’t continue to disappoint.

12 Things To Do With All Of Those Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Photo Credit:

It’s that time of the year again.  Cold mornings, apple cider, haunted houses, hay rides and the best of all, carving pumpkins.  I love to sit down with the family and try to avoid cutting off a finger each year.  Designing, creating and carving is always a tradition that I look forward to, but the best part of carving process is collecting the seeds.

My youngest daughter Cate loves Halloween.  It’s her favorite holiday and we typically try to cram as much into the month as possible.  We soak up every opportunity to dress up, decorate the house with spooky stuff and get scared.  We eat everything pumpkin from pancakes to cookies and I personally try to sample as many pumpkin beers as possible.  However, as most of you are probably aware, the amount of pumpkin flavored products has gotten out of control.  There is pumpkin flavored everything.  I have seen everything this season from pumpkin vodka and lasagna to toothpaste and breath fresheners. Nothing says clean and fresh like pumpkin.  As you would figure this has led to many products hitting the marketplace that just simply taste bad.  It is proof that some things should just not include a pumpkin flavor and I ask one thing, please stop.

Now I can get back to the purpose of this blog post, pumpkin seeds.  The rewarding thing about eating these delicious treasures is not just the nutritional benefits,  but the hard work you have to put into getting them ready.  First,  you need to scoop out the guts, then separate, then wash, then dry, then bake, then season and finally you get to eat them.  This process is not only time consuming, but annoying and disgusting to most.  I have one daughter, Ava, who hates to dig out the guts and one that loves to dig them out.  Each participate in the process, but they both share the love and appreciation of all that hard work while they’re eating them.

It’s our family tradition and a Halloween ritual like most Americans to carve pumpkins together, make the seeds and enjoy them during those cold fall evenings with a hot cup of tea, coffee, cider or chocolate.  Being a foodie family and getting bored with the traditional salt & pepper seasoning, we have over the past few years gotten creative in how we flavor them.  Last year was Madras curry, spicy cilantro-lime and cinnamon and sugar.  This year was adjusting the recipe and using coconut and avocado oil instead of olive oil.  Whatever your palette desires, I wanted to take it to the next level this year and provide a number of other ways to prepare pumpkin seeds that went beyond simply baking.  Take a look at these sweet and savory ideas and enjoy them this season, like we plan to do.

Happy Haunting.

Sweet Treats

pumpkin brittlepumpkin seed granola

  1. Pumpkin seed brittle from Bon Appetit –
  2. Caramelized pumpkin seeds from the Foodnetwork –
  3. Nut-free, grain-free pumpkin seed granola via Detoxinista –
  4. Apple-pumpkin seed oatmeal breakfast pie from Yummly –
  5. Pumpkin brittle from Martha Stewart –

Savory Eats

pumpkin seedspumpkin seed spinach

  1. Mexican macaroni and grilled corn with pumpkin seeds from Rachel Ray –
  2. Vegan gluten-free pumpkin seed spinach crackers via Yummly –
  3. Baked pumpkin seeds done five different ways from Foodnetwork –

The Dish on Springtime

Photo credit:

As winter begins to fade into the warm mist of spring and trees awaken from their long sleep, so do our taste buds.  The cold season forces our physical being to retreat into a deliberate hibernation for which our tongues are included.  We succumb to and embrace the earthy, subtle tastes of root vegetables and slow cooked casseroles subconsciously accepting the reduction of color and brightness to our palate.  There is a culinary beauty during this time of year and the dishes that it provides, but there is nothing like the smell of a ripe tomato that the summertime brings.

The sun is beginning to poke out of the clouds and the ice is melting off the lake. It’s a time of awakening. We are again reminded of colors, aromas and flavors that only the spring and summer can bring. We are again hopeful and inspired by the greening of grass, the smell of honeysuckle and lilac and the blooming tulips.

Our lives revolve around the changing of the seasons.  We rely on these changes to refresh our bodies and recharge our souls.  Rich, decadent flavors of the holiday’s slowly evolve into winter staples like a warm bowl of chili or a nice chocolate stout.  All of these dark flavors mirroring the short sunny hours and grayness of the year.

Then, right when we hit a level of depression that makes us want to scream, we start to hear the chirping of the birds again and we finally spot the fat red breasted Robin sitting in the thick green branches of the pines in the yard.  Spring has come!  At last, a new hope has blossomed and a new day has risen from behind the snow banks, giving us hope once again that flowers will bloom, fruits will mature and aromas will fill the air.

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter and all the beauty it brings, but nothing beats the hope that a warm spring morning can hold.  It inspires creativity and awakens the taste buds to realize that they will once again, feel alive.  Farmer’s markets will soon be a normal Saturday visit and be abuzz with all the earth has to offer.

These delicious gems include early spring fruits and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colors.  Bright greens of asparagus, artichokes and peas will be complimented by rich, vibrant reds of rhubarb and radishes. Flowers will peak up from their long winter nap and we will once again be reminded of the joyful flavors that spring and summer bring.

As the days begin to get longer and the smells stronger, don’t forget to stop and take a deep breath. Pause and take it in. Because before you know it, another summer will have flown by and harvest completed. Take advantage of what every season has to offer. Each provides its own reminder of what it is like to be alive and kicking.

In case you are wondering what to prepare in these first days of spring, just think about all of the excitement that spring brings to the table.  I have attached a couple yummy looking recipes that help you take advantage of the spring harvest.  Below is a delicious pea and bacon risotto recipe compliments of Food and Wine Magazine, contributed by James Tracey.

For all you gluten free folks out there I have also attached a rustic rhubarb tart recipe that looks glorious from the picture compliments of the Bojon Gourmet.  I plan to make it once I see my first rhubarb sprout.



GLUTEN FREE Rustic Rhubarb, Almond and Honey Tart



Pea-and-Bacon Risotto




  • 6 ounces lean bacon, diced
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 7 cups simmering chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups small pea shoots
  1. In a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, 6 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels; reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
  2. In a food processor, puree half of the peas with 1 cup of water.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is evenly coated with the oil. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, 3 minutes.
  4. Add enough hot stock to just cover the rice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed. Add more stock to cover the rice. Continue cooking and stirring, adding more stock as it is absorbed, until the rice is al dente and suspended in a creamy sauce, 25 minutes. Add the pea puree, the remaining peas and the bacon and cook, stirring, until hot. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the butter, reserved bacon fat, cheese and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the pea shoots and serve.

The Five Napkin Burger

Why would I come all the way to New York to get a burger? Because I wanted a burger that was dripping with flavor and oozing with everything that NYC has to offer. The excitement of multiple flavors living harmoniously together in an orchestra of delicious decadence.

I also was looking to spend at least $20 on a burger.

The burger thing still keeps trucking along and by the looks of the Five Napkin burger on Monday night this place is one to not pass up on your next visit.

I was awaiting the delivery of my original five napkin burger like a hyena on the seringetti awaiting its next kill. My eyes are drawn to the track lighting and the decor that tame my hunger until the burger arrives.

They swiftly swoosh the burger in front of me and despite the exploding ketchup that coated my khakis and the guy next to me’s shoes like a good shine, the experience was excellent. The burger was dripping with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions that melted in your mouth.

The pink tinted beef and soft sweet, white bun complimented the experience and left me both fat and happy.

Yes, it took me five napkins to enjoy.



The Power of Positivity

Avas window

Beautifully Broken – by Ava Banks my 8 year old daughter with help from Grandpa Tom Lolan at Lolan Photography

Without both a positive and a negative connection, a light bulb cannot shine and show its true beauty.  I feel the same applies to life, you need the negative to make you realize just how bright and amazing the positive aspects can be.  Sometimes this can be the simple smile or laughter you hear from your kids as they are making jokes or a simple hug from your spouse.  It can be the beauty of a blanketing snow on every tree, every wire and every piece of earth that is in sight.  It only takes these small moments to make us realize that despite the negativity that snow brings like the mud and the cold or the loud and annoying squeals that two young girls can create, there is a magical thing that is created with it.

Whether it is a business plan gone array or a baking disaster, find the positive in the negative outcome.  It might lead to another way of thinking or a new process.  It might take you down a completely different path than where you started.  That is the beauty of the disastrous discovery.  It allows for beautiful things to come from ugliness.

I recently read a post from a Swedish company named Innovation Management about three characteristics that all great innovators possess:

1-childlike wonder

2-try and try again

3-don’t just dream, dream big.

I agree completely with this.  As we go through life, we seem to forget about dreaming and what it means to be a kid.  There is something amazingly beautiful about being naive.  As adults, we lose the gift of positivity, simplicity and creativity.  We get tarnished by the bad things that happen in our lives and let negativity rule our decisions and mindset.  True innovators never let the world tarnish their childish view of the world, they get knocked down and get back up to get knocked down again.  They’re drivers, they feed on this failure and make it work to their advantage.

Think about all of the great innovators throughout history, they spent plenty of time and money failing before finally finding the secret to success.  With each failure they inched closer and closer to jumping out of the window, but with endless desire and passion they were able to see the positivity, they stuck it out and amazing things came to life.

So in this world where we have taught an entire generation of kids that failure is not an option, it will be interesting to see what the millennials will do when they are faced with failure and their parents are not there to argue for them or solve their problems.  We need to make sure that we are teaching our future generation the importance that you will not always be #1 or be successful on the first try.  You need to try and try again, find the glimmer of hope in each of these glorious failures and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Embrace the negativity and make it positive.

People, instant positive gratification does not apply for everything in life and you will have some bad times along the way.  It may take a while before you are a master at something.  It won’t come overnight through osmosis.  I have to remind my kinds of this often.  Hendrix didn’t just pick up a guitar and become an expert, he spent years practicing, screwing up and falling down (literally) until he crafted all of his failures and revolutionized the electric guitar.  He broke down barriers and stereotypes in the music world and blew people’s minds.

Positivity can be a very powerful weapon so arm yourself and spread it everywhere.  It might just amaze you how things don’t seem as bad in the world as you think and you live on to enjoy another day filled with its own beautiful disasters.

Have a great weekend.

The Golden Road to True Consumer Insight

the golden tree

Photo: The Golden Tree by Francesco Martini

True consumer understanding goes beyond simply identifying who your consumer is, where they live and how much of your product they are purchasing.  It pushes information further than brand loyalty scores and likelihood purchase statistics.  It takes this comprehension to a deeper level into the lifestyle and emotional psyche of the consumer.  It allows for brands and products to live and breathe the same air as their consumers.  It provides both the immediate and the long term satisfaction that consumers are looking for in everything that they purchase and consume.

The golden road to consumer insights does not simply go through mainstream market research anymore.  It used to be as easy as a survey to get into the head of the consumer and provide them with a choice that would satisfy these desires.  When consumers were presented with very little choices, companies had the luxury of putting out a mediocre product and people were forced to buy it.  However, since the battleground for brands and products has become overwhelming competitive with multiple media outlets and social media feeds it is critical for companies to put out something that goes beyond simply providing a service, but touches a consumer deeper.

The new golden road of consumer insights takes many twists and turns as it plows along into the consumer mindset.  It stops off at big data and takes a dive into this vast pool of information.  It spends hours and hours analyzing consumer purchase patterns, market basket, scan data, price elasticity, category growth/loss, purchase history and SKU rationalization.  It digs deep into the new census data to see what groups are rising and how the demographic landscape of the future is developing.   Thus path tries to answer who will be the next big segment to target and what are they worth?

The road then often leads us to focus groups and discussing what consumers feel in different situations.  We are looking for their innermost feelings and thoughts on our products or brands.  We carefully moderate these discussions in hope that they are willing to share these truths and personal feelings in a room of complete strangers.  When orchestrated correctly, this qualitative section of the road can be extremely insightful and interesting and provide these nuggets of information that can steer you in the right direction forward.  However, this road must also be treaded on lightly.  Just because a group of ten people tells you something, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Grail has been discovered.  This section of the road can lead you down the path to true enlightenment or true disaster so make sure you have your GPS collaborated correctly and choose wisely. 

The road then veers off into the world of psychographic data that is available and determines where these consumers are going, what they are doing, who they are listening to and how do they live.  This path captures what is important to them, what activities they do; how often they do these activities and how do we reach them in the media world.  It once again can spend hours developing algorithms to determine how likely a consumer will be to do a certain activity and what this activity could be worth.   This path is also extremely critical for the journey, but still only provides a piece of this complex consumer puzzle.

This places us at a critical point in the road.  We have been able to use information to get us here, but is has only provided part of the picture.  This is where many stop and think that they have figured it all out.  This is where the road gets tricky, unclear and vague, but this is also where the road becomes paved with gold.  It is at this point in the road where we start to truly understand the why behind a consumer’s choice.  It is at this point in the road where we become enlightened.  This fork is where new methods of data collection become critical to getting the rich understanding that you need in today’s fast paced and oversaturated world. 

This fork in the golden road takes us on a journey down the information superhighway.  It takes us to the world of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  It provides us with so much information that is even hard to know where to begin.  This also is a tricky path to navigate since you may never meet these consumers personally, but it can be a gold mine of critical information if navigated correctly.  This is where consumers not only share their feelings and thoughts about your product or brand, but everything else in their lives.  What is affecting them right now and how is this impacting their purchase behavior?  How they are feeling about your product or brand and what are they saying to their friends?  How are they influencing their group and how is that influence trickling out across social media?

The road down the technology trail doesn’t stop there, even tough we have these public forums to peek into it still only gives us part of the picture.  So the road make take us into on-line forums, MROC’s and gamification that is capturing these internal feelings and attitudes from a loyal and dedicated group of consumers who live and die for your product or brand.  Now the road starts to be a bit narrower and easier to navigate.  Now the road doesn’t seem so long and winding.

This is where you get into the relationship with the consumer where this true insight can become harvested and cultivated.  This deep relationship is critical in understanding them and getting down to who they really are.  When you have found this part of the road and established this relationship with your consumer, insights are gained and action can be taken.

This portion of the road is often difficult to find, hard to quantify and not smooth.  It is rough; it takes careful navigation and experience to travel down successfully.  It takes the courage to think differently and the anticipation of which direction to turn that comes from experience, knowledge and a core understanding of the culture from which this road has been paved. 

This road to true consumer insight is paved with gold.  However, as marketer’s and researchers we need to understand that it will take you down multiple paths, into different landscapes and have many forks before getting to the promised land.  This road should not be traveled lightly as the path will take time, sacrifice and resources.  Not many have been able to make this journey successfully, but for brands like Apple, Chipotle, Clif, NASCAR, Coke and Mt. Dew to name only a few; this road has been successfully navigated and they have armies of loyal followers awaiting their next move.

Why Monday’s Shouldn’t Suck


(Artwork by Bill Watterson)

 Monday is the first day of the week to most of us. It should be looked upon as a fresh start, a new beginning.  However, in our often over stressed and over worked American culture, Monday’s pretty much suck to most Americans.  They are not only the end of the weekend, but the day we all have to go back to our jobs and back to the grind.  It is an interesting phenomenon that we look upon Monday as the end, instead of the beginning, but why?  Why do we as Americans dread the beginning of a new work week?

First off, Americans hate their jobs.  Right Management, a subsidiary of the staffing firm Manpower Group, did a survey in 2012 and found that only 19% of workers were “satisfied” with their jobs.  That is an embarrassing rate of happiness and makes you wonder what we are doing wrong.  In fact, most were just happy to have “something” in the down economy.

The simple fact is that weekends rule with Americans.  Who doesn’t love the weekend?  The University of Rochester conducted the first study of daily mood variation in employed adults.  They followed 72 adults, 18-62 with full time jobs for three weeks and discovered their favorite days of the week, are you ready -Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The study cited that weekends were associated with higher levels of freedom and generally people were involved in activities of their own choosing and spent time with more intimate friends and family members. Surprisingly, the analysis also found that people felt more competent during the weekend.  Evidently as humans, we just feel more secure when we are able to make our own decisions then when forced into a job or typical work week.

To piggyback on the Rochester study, most Americans do not feel in control of their lives and don’t feel that our Government is going to help make it better anytime soon.  According to a recent Gallup poll in February 2013, 81% of Americans disapprove of Congress and only 41% approve of what President Obama is doing.  These historically low approvals continue to drive consumer feelings of hopelessness and “working to get nowhere”, through the roof.  This just adds to the dread most people must be feeling as they head to work each Monday morning.

Monday is even engrained in our popular culture as a negative day of the week.  TGIF, why doesn’t it state TGIM?  Music continues to tell us how miserable or depressing Monday’s are – Manic Monday by the Bangles, I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boomtown Rats, Rainy Days & Monday’s by the Carpenters, Stormy Monday by Eric Clapton and Blue Monday by New Order to name a few.  At least Jimmy Buffett had the courage to tell us that, “Come Monday, it’ll be alright and I’ll be holding you tight”.  Monday overall is not embraced in our culture as a bright new beginning, but a dreary and dark day of the week.

Finally, Monday’s are the start of the long portion of the week.  Due to the current structure we are forced into a five day work week, leaving only two days off. If you break it down we are working 71.4% and getting less than 1/3 of “our time” to do what we choose.  Psychologically, we are beat down before we even begin the week.  This simple way of looking at our time allotment on a weekly basis is pretty depressing for most of us and just feeds the fire to why Monday is generally looked at as negative.

So, what do we do about it?  We can try and completely rewire the entire population and make them feel that work is actually play and they are in control of their future like The Matrix.  We can have the Government dictate that we work less and play more or we can simply accept it and move on with a better attitude.

I think the most realistic way to look at Monday is, it’s just another day.  It’s another day that we all have to face and without it we wouldn’t have a full week.  Like most things on this planet every element plays a critical part in the survival of the entire system and when one element is out of balance the whole system seems to suffer.  So let’s embrace Monday for its place in the week.  Monday makes us appreciate the rest of the days so much more and without Monday, Friday would be as wonderful.

I do vote for a better balance between work and play in America.  We have been told that if we work hard we will be rewarded. Isn’t that the American dream?  Well, as we continue to see our taxes increased, food and gas prices rise and health care spin out of control it is hard for us to see a positive ending to the American dream story.  With all of this negativity spewing from the media each morning it is hard to see the silver lining.  As Jerry Garcia so elegantly put it, “every silver lining’s got a touch of grey” and I find it best to just realize that a day of the week should not dictate how we feel, so don’t let it. Work hard and be thankful that Monday has arrived at all, that means you hopefully had a happy weekend.

So as you start to enjoy your second cup of coffee this Monday morning, just remember that material goods and stuff is only one part of the American dream.  We are Capitalist, we love stuff and we strive for more, but ask yourself, when is enough, enough?  I am a true Capitalist and believe it is the best system on the planet, but there is one fundamental principle that we need to remember which is at the root of Capitalism.  This one element is what allows Capitalism to thrive and for the human race to survive each Monday morning.  Our founding fathers recognized this and many soldiers have died for us to enjoy it – FREEDOM.

So my solution for the Monday blues is simple and comes down to this one word.  We have the freedom to choose in this country what we wish to do with our time?  We have the freedom in America to decide for ourselves how we want to take on the week and what we feel about Monday.  We have the freedom to embrace Monday for all the mental misery it causes.  We have the freedom to cast aside the negativity and realize it is the start of another great week.  We lived through another weekend and we have another one coming.  It is this ritualistic sacrifice that we make each and every Monday that allows us to persevere and enjoy another weekend with our families and truly appreciate the smaller things that we sometimes forget during the work week.  We are fortunate to have the freedom to enjoy each day of the week for its beauty.

Happy Monday everyone!

P.S. – For five tips to help you battle the Monday blues check out the following article by Michael Poh –

Lingo Lunch

A Canteen of World Travellers Baking Stories

Sunny Sleevez

Sun Protection & Green Info


Birthplace to all ideas:please, let me share a few of my own.

poet on earth

my yoga-inspired life

NuVote Reach

Political Co-Dependency Intervention

Living with Intent

Liberate from convention and live with extraordinary intention

This Way Up

Seven Tools for Unleashing Your Creative Self and Transforming Your Life

%d bloggers like this: