Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's Wrong with America

It's my birthday today--9/11--and it also happens to be the 13th anniversary of the worst terror attack on American soil.  So, I opened up to read the headline, "I Was Right, Say You're Sorry."  It was referring to a statement by John McCain (the man who could have been president) about his position in favor of staying in Iraq, and his response to President Obama's plans to attack ISIS.

Now, let's forget for a moment that McCain never saw a war he didn't like, and focus on the message.  What McCain was saying was not, "No matter what was done in the past, we should now come together to defeat ISIS."  That would have been the magnanimous thing to say.  What he said instead was that it's not about the country, but about who is right.

Now, assume for a minute that you support Obama's move to go back into Iraq, which is highly questionable to begin with.  Do we really need a bombastic former nominee undermining the country at this time?  And forgive me if I've given you the impression that it's just McCain or just the Republicans, because there are just as many Democrats going around tooting their own horns, rather than coming together as a country to address the issues.

So, I hope you'll join me, on this somber day of remembrance (which happens to fall on my wonderful birthday), in asking the politicians to stop grandstanding and start doing the job they were elected to lead America.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reid's 2014 NFL Predictions

The 2014 NFL football season starts tonight (thank God, the way the Sox are playing), so I figured I'd weigh in with my predictions.  Before I begin, however, I want to point out that this year, the NFL has tightened the restrictions on what the defensive players are allowed to do.  This will seriously weaken some teams, like Seattle and Baltimore, which are known for their tough defenses against the pass.  I will refer to this situation throughout my predictions, which are as follows:

AFC East
  1. New England: Believe it or not, Tom Brady will be emboldened by all the people who've recently downgraded his standing as an elite quarterback, and he has more targets  to throw to this year.  That, combined with the improved defense will again cement the Patriots position atop the division.  Once in the playoffs, the Belichick/Brady approach, combined with the maturation of the wide receivers, could take them far.
  2. Miami: The Dolphins are also quite improved, and once Knowshon Moreno gets his legs under him, they will be a threat to make the playoffs.
  3. New York Jets:  Despite Rex Ryan's endless bombast, he's not the right coach to lead this team (or any team) to victory.  In addition, the QB tandem of Geno Smith and Michael Vick will flub their way through the season.  The team's only improvement will be in the running game, with the addition of Chris Johnson.
  4. Buffalo: This is a team that perennially looks good until they start to play the games.  This year will be no different.
AFC North
  1. Cincinnati:  This is a very talented team on both sides of the ball, and this could be the year they put it all together.  The only thing that will stop them from reaching the Super Bowl is Head Coach Marvin Lewis, who constantly seems to shoot himself in the foot.
  2. Pittsburgh:  Ben Roethlisberger is a proven, although not stellar, NFL quarterback, and he has other good offensive weapons.  In addition, the Steelers defense continues to be strong.
  3. Baltimore: The ravens are one of those teams that will be hurt by the new, defensive rules.  With Flacco throwing to the Smiths (Steve and Torrey), the passing game could be improved, but the uncertainty around the running backs (Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce) will come back to haunt them.
  4. Cleveland:  The Browns are not ready for prime time in almost every department, and could easily end up in the AFC cellar.
AFC South
  1. Indianapolis:  Barring injury, the Colts have this division sewn up.  With Andrew Luck blossoming into the QB everyone thought he could be, their offense could be very strong.  Only their shaky defense will keep them from advancing in the playoffs.
  2. Houston:  They may be second in the division, but they'll be lucky to get eight wins, and that's only if Jake Locker can stay on the field.  New coach Bill O'Brien will try to bring the Patriots' system to Texas, but they are still several players away.
  3. Tennessee:  The only reason I have the Titans 3rd instead of 4th is new coach Ken Wisenhunt.  Aside for that, they don't have the personnel to win many games.
  4. Jacksonville:  It won't take long for Blake Bortles to replace Chad Henne at QB, and once he starts throwing to Cecil Shorts, the Jaguar offense could score some points.  Unfortunately, the other teams will score more.
AFC West
  1. Kansas City: The Chiefs will ride Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith to a division championship before bowing out in the playoffs.
  2. San Diego: Coach Mike McCoy will finally be able to undo the damage that Norv Turner did and ride Phillip Rivers and Keenan Allen to a second place finish, several games behind the Chiefs.
  3. Denver: Yes, you heard it here first...the Broncos will not survive the losses of Moreno, Decker, Welker (at least the first 4 games) and kicker Matt Prater (4-game suspension), as well as the diminished defense that was exposed in the Super Bowl.  Whether Peyton Manning's surgically repaired neck will be able to withstand the pounding it's likely to get is another question.
  4. Oakland: The truth is that the once-mighty Raiders now simply suck.  It will be a surprise if they don't finish with the worst record in the NFL.
NFC East
  1. Philadelphia: Despite the loss of DeSean Jackson, this team has enough talent to win its lukewarm division.  However, the only way they will win in the playoffs is if coach Chip Kelly ends his infantile approach to clock management.
  2. Dallas:  Yes, their diminished defense will hold them back, but the offense is very strong with Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams.  They will score a lot of points, and give up a lot as well.
  3. Washington: This all depends on how well and how long Robert Griffin III can play.  Alfred Morris will have a comeback year, and Desean Jackson will score some TDs.  But the defense and the offensive front line are both very porous.
  4. New York Giants:  The defense is in shambles, and the offense is undergoing a new system.  The only positive factor will be the revival of the running game behind rookie Andre Williams.
NFC North
  1. Green Bay:  I believe this is the strongest offensive division in the NFL this year, and Green Bay has the best of those offenses, primarily because Aaron Rodgers is so damned good and so consistent.  Other offensive weapons include Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson.  Besides Rodgers, they will have an edge over Chicago in the defensive category.
  2. Chicago: The perennially strong Bears defense was awful last year, so it can only get (a little) better.  In addition, QB Jay Cutler has the best wide receiver tandem in the league with Alshon Jefferey and Brandon Marshall.  And let's not forget about RB Matt Forte.  The main reason I have them second is simple...Rodgers is a much better big-game QB than Cutler.
  3. Minnesota:  Matt Cassell is a better QB than people give him credit for being, and he will show it this year with weapons like Adrian Peterson, Cordarelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, and Kyle Rudolph.  The only reason they won't contest for the division lead is their new offensive coordinator--Norv (Clueless Dweeb) Turner--how does he keep getting jobs in the NFL?
  4. Detroit:  As I said, this is the NFL's strongest offensive division, and Detroit could be a serious contender in most other divisions.  They have a good QB in Matt Stafford, a very good RB in Reggie Bush, and the best WR in Calvin (Megatron) Johnson.  The defense is just OK, and the truth is that when I look at this division, I wouldn't be surprised to see any team end up on top.
NFC South
  1. New Orleans:  I'll be very surprised if the Saints don't gallop away with this division.  The offensive firepower of Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Mark Ingram, and soon-to-be-household-name Brandin Cooks is now complimented by the second year of the Rob Ryan defense.  Yikes!
  2. Carolina:  Whatever you want to say about Cam Newton, the guy has amazing talent.  Unfortunately, he's being surrounded by the cast of "The Muppets," so the defense will have to carry this team, and the new rules might make that difficult.  They may finish second in the division, but they're not likely to win more than eight games.
  3. Atlanta:  The Falcons are not as bad as last year's 4-12 record would indicate.  In fact, they have some real talent in QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones.  But the rest of the offense consists of guys who are either broken (Steven Jackson, Roddy White) or unproven.  The defense will keep them in some games, but they are too young.
  4. Tampa Bay: A lot of people have the Bucs ranked higher, but I don't buy it.  This is a rebuilt offense that will take time to gel, backed by a good, but not great defense.
NFC West
  1. San Francisco: That's right, I'm not picking the Super Bowl winning Seahawks to repeat as champions.  Rather, I feel that the 49ers will have another strong year, based on a little-changed team that knows how to play together.
  2. Arizona:  If Carson Palmer can have a year like he's capable of having, this team could win the division, especially with strong defense and a group of receivers that includes Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Ellington, and Michael Floyd.
  3. Seattle:  This is the team that will be hurt the most by the new, defensive rules.  And while I love Russell Wilson, he can't go all the way throwing to Doug Baldwin and (oft-injured) Percy Harvin. 
  4. St. Louis:  With Sam Bradford out for the year (again), this will be another transition year for the Rams, with RB Zac Stacy shouldering the load.
Super Bowl
I'll skip all the intermediate playoff crap and go to my Super Bowl prediction:  The New Orleans Saints will defeat the New England Patriots.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The BYOs of Delaware County

This article is about restaurants in Delaware County (the towns South and West of Philadelphia) that allow you to bring your own (BYO) bottles of whatever alcoholic beverages you desire.  I should probably begin by describing the unusual circumstances that led me, a Massachusetts resident, to write an article about this subject:
  1. Joni (my wife) is from Philadelphia, as was my father and most of my mother's family.  As such, I have had multiple occasions, over the years, to visit the area.
  2. Recently, we have made several trips to the Springfield, PA area to tend to Joni's aging (and ailing) aunt and uncle.
  3. I love wine, but I am not so wealthy nor inclined to pay thrice the money I would normally spend to buy generally average wine that was just released and has not had time to properly age.  However, that's what tends to be available and affordable at most restaurants that serve alcohol.
  4. The liquor laws in Massachusetts are such that you can buy good wine in liquor stores but don't have any place to drink it, outside of the home.  There are some BYOs worth visiting, but they are few and far between.
  5. Pennsylvania is the opposite.  Most wine is sold only at state-owned stores, and while those stores have begun to offer some better wines (at generally high cost), they don't compare with the privately owned options in other states.  It is also very hard for an establishment to get a liquor license, which has led many restaurants to open as BYOs.  It stands to reason that if a restaurant can't serve alcohol, they have to attract diners based on the quality of their food.
As a result of these circumstances, I now bring a few bottles of (ready to drink) wine with us every time we drive to the Philadelphia area.  We have found that most of the area's BYOs are quite good, but there are a few dogs (which I will not list here).   

I want to point out that I don't do this professionally, and I pay for my meals, just like everyone else, so I don't benefit from these recommendations.  What follows is my list (and a few words about) the BYOs of the Southwest Philly area that I feel comfortable recommending.  The restaurants are listed alphabetically:
  • A La Maison (Ardmore):  Both the food and the service at this place are outstanding.  Each dish has superb, distinctive flavors, without being  overwhelming, as some French food tends to be.  I recommended bringing a subtle red and a white (if possible, from Bordeaux or Burgundy), but a Southern Rhone or a Champagne would also go well. Web site:
  • Antica (Chadds Ford) and Il Granaio (Glen Mills):  I list these two restaurants together because they are owned by the same people and their menus are similar, although not identical.  They both offer really good (mostly Southern) Italian food and excellent service.  The primary differences are that Il Granaio has a somewhat nicer ambiance, but its location is slightly less convenient and harder to find.  Antica (the newer of the two) tends to be louder and more bustling, but it's right on the Baltimore Pike.  I recommend bringing a hearty red wine, such as Nebbiolo (Barolo or Barbaresca), Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot, but you may also want to bring a hearty Chardonnay if you plan on eating any of their shrimp dishes.  Web sites: and
  • Carmine's Act II (Narberth):  A lot of people think that Creole and Cajun food are the same, but they are not.  While similar, Creole food tends to be less spicy and more flavorful, as exhibited by this little place in a Narberth neighborhood, which makes some of the best food North of New Orleans.  Five stars isn't enough for their gumbo, jambalaya, and amazing use of the best spices.  This food goes really well with a Spanish red wine or a Zinfandel.  Web site:
  • Cerise (Bryn Mawr):  If you think about dining at Cerise, here's what might happen.  You go to the website, and see normal-looking dishes like salmon, or scallops, or hanger steak, and you say, "I can get this anywhere."  You are wrong.  These people really know how to cook, and everything is among the best you've ever had of whatever it is.  The wine pairing depends on what you plan to order, but a nice Pinot Noir or Champagne would go well with most of their options.  Web site:
  • Desert Rose (Media):  This is a small, laid-back, Israeli restaurant known for its shawarma and falafel.  The food is clean, tasty, and served with a smile.  The wine pairing is a little tricky, but I'd bring a Syrah/Shiraz and/or a hearty Chardonnay.  Web site:
  • Edgewood Café & BYOB (Havertown): Located in a lovely neighborhood, this place serves excellent, new American food that combines interesting ingreadients into delicious appetizers like Crab/Corn Fritters and Southwestern Chicken Egg Rolls and main courses like Eggplant Napoleon and the surprisingly excellent Southern Fried Chicken. We drank an excellent Napa Cab and a Chardonnay.  Web Site:
  • Heng's Thai Cuisine (Springfield): If you want a chance to drink some white or lighter red wines, Asian food is an excellent option, and Heng's delivers tasty dishes made of fresh, healthy ingredients.  Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc go well with Asian food, but so, surprisingly, does Grenache.  Web site:
  • Hidalgo (Clifton Heights):  This tiny place serves some of the best Mexican food I've ever had...real Mexican (not Tex Mex) made with incredibly fresh ingredients and not overly spicy (unless you want more spice, which they will do).  The place is nice and clean, and the service is outstanding...they may even sing for you, which believe me, is a real treat.  Bring a Spanish red (preferably Tempranillo) or a Malbec.  They don't have a web site.
  • New American Bistro (Folsom): With a menu that is strong on unusual seafood preparations, this understated restaurant offers such items as Blackened Scallops with Cheese Raviolis and Lobster Sauce (that's one item) and Sauteed Maryland Crab Cakes with Lobster or Chipotle Sauce.  Goes well with Sauvignon Bland or even a Pinot Noir.  Web Site:
  • PortoBello Café (Eddystone): Excellent Italian food, served by people who seem to really care about the quality of the food and your experience.  They offer a lot of seafood options in addition to the classic Southern Italian specialties.  Don't let the neighborhood put you off; this place is very nice and very good.  By the time you leave, you feel like part of the family.  Web site:
  • Sola (Bryn Mawr): The place is small and unassuming, but the food is outstanding in every way.  Each dish has its own flavor and interesting combination of sauce and sides.  In addition, the servers are pleasant and informative.  As with Cerise, the wine pairing depends on what you plan to order, but a nice Pinot Noir or Champagne would go well with most of their options.  Web site:
So, those are my recommendations so far.  If I find more, I will add them to this article.  If you know of any BYOs that you've visited and really like, please let me know.  In the meantime, bon appetit!