Month: October 2018

Restaurant Prime in Stamford: Outstanding

Restaurant Prime in Stamford: Outstanding

Prime: An American Kitchen and Bar in Stamford is simply an outstanding restaurant. While primarily a steakhouse, their menu also includes duck, chicken, salmon, branzino and Beef Wellington, along with a substantial sushi menu.

We found the service some of the best anywhere we have dined, and the food top notch.  The restaurant is in one of several buildings in a large lot at 78 Southfield Ave, which you may have thought was still part of Greenwich Ave heading towards the Sound. Just look for the large “P” for “Prime” on the sign with the 78 on it at the entry to the parking area. You will see a big lighted Prime sign ahead as well.

sculptureThe beautiful restaurant overlooks a little branch to the Sound and features a lovely view as well as a stunning sculpture along the walkway.

The interior is white tablecloth elegant with plenty of staff attending to your needs from the moment you arrive. In fact, not only did our waitress check on us several times, the restaurant manager came by twice to make sure everything was fine.

rollOur meal started with a fresh hot “tree” of rolls all baked together, rather like big Bear Claw. This arrived even before our cocktails did. The bread was warm and flavorful, and they brought butter without being asked. No olive oil in sight, thank goodness.

One of our appetizers was Shrimp/Lobster Wontons ($17): large pieces of shrimp and lobster pan seared in wonton dough, served with hoisin sauce, miso mustard and watercress. Just as excellent as it looked.

Lobster shrimp wontons

caesar3Our other appetizer was a Caesar salad ($14), made properly with romaine, parmesan, crunchy croutons and a classic garlicky Caesar dressing. Caesar salads are where many restaurants fall down, but not here. This was one of the best Caesar salads we’ve ever been served, with nice thin slices of parmesan cheese to top it off.

 

All right, this IS a steakhouse, and the prices for steaks are pretty high, and the sides are all ala carte. They do this because the meat they buy is so expensive and they don’t stint here. You can order one of 6 “enhancements” for $6 and a butter poached lobster enhancement fore $32. However, if you forget to order bearnaise or whatever, they provide you with a free sweetish sort of gravy that goes very well with your steaks. And the steaks are so good, you really don’t need any of them.

We ordered the 8 oz Petite Filet Mignon ($44) and the USDA Prime 16 oz New York Strip ($56) Both were perfectly done:  juicy, tender and very flavorful. And cooked perfectly medium rare.

We ordered a side of Prime Fries ($13) that came in a basket for the two of us that provided more fries than we could ever eat. But, just as we were starting, we noticed the waitress bringing someone a basket of onion rings. We enquired as they weren’t on the menu and learned they had just added them ($12). We ordered those, too and munched on some from each of the two baskets with our spectacular steaks.

smores sundae

While we didn’t strictly need it, we had to see what their desserts were like. They have six, and of them, we ordered the Smores Sundae for 2: graham cracker, marshmallow, warm brownie, chocolate sauce and vanilla bean gelato. It was every bit as good as it sounds.

Our bill with 2 cocktails, 2 glasses of wine, coffee and tea was $267 before tip, but was one of the best meals we’ve had this year. We will definitely go back once in a while.

And in a very nice touch, our waitress gave us her business card so we could request her next time. Ask for Kelsey Tate. And the manager asked us again on the way out how things were and urged us to come back. We will.

diners

 

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Tony Buettner pitches the Blue Zone Project in Wilton

Tony Buettner pitches the Blue Zone Project in Wilton

Tony Buettner, who identified himself as the Senior Vice President of the Blue Zones Project gave a polished pitch and review of the Blue Zones Project. Buettner is the brother of Dan Buettner whose book(s) on five pockets of centenarians around the world and their habits and diet was a best seller. (There is third Buettner brother involved as well.)

He started out by asking if every adult in the room had walked to school as a child, and most had. However, when he asked if their children did, almost no one raised their hand. This may sound damning, but is really rather naïve. Wilton has essentially zero sidewalks outside the downtown area, and no real way to maintain such sidewalks even if they could be built. This is common in New England because of the rocky terrain and old property lines and roadways. He might have looked around the town a bit before starting his canned pitch.

Buettner reviewed some of the remote civilizations where there are more than a usual number of long-lived people, including quite a number of centenarians, and followed that up with Dan’s conclusions that there are nine factors involved in extending your lifespan, (and living happily as the members of these civilizations) in Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Cosa Rica), Ikaria (Greece) and the Adventists of Loma Linda, CA.  He named and trademarked these nine factors as the “Power of Nine,” even though some of them are pretty common and obvious, such as “eat more vegetables.”

He suggested that their success in longevity is 80% environment and life-style and only 20% genetic. This is somewhat in conflict with their science advisor Stuart Jay Olshansky, who believes genetics is far more important than that. However, this was a marketing pitch, not a scientific one as we discovered when one of his slide misspelled “Chi-squared” as “Khi square.”

bitter-gourd-2He also suggested that bitter melon, favored by the Okinawans, “kills cancer.” This is utter nonsense, as no human experiments have been performed to validate this folk remedy. And he refers to the Ikarian wine as having 4 times the polyphenols of other red wines. But, unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that such antioxidants have any health-giving properties. That is mostly a marketing myth.

He also brought up their oft-repeated story about Stamatis Moriatis,  a Greek man from Ikaria who while working in the U.S. “developed terminal lung cancer,” and went back to Ikaria to die, but lived another 30 years, allegedly because of the healthy climate and lifestyle of his home island. Neither his story nor any of the articles I have found provide any validation for this medical fairy tale: no doctors in either the U.S. or Greece are cited. While Buettner, asserted that this story has been validated and published in the New York Times, he is actually referring to a magazine article written by his brother Dan, which contains no references of any kind.

In pitching the services the Blue Zones Project can provide to our town, Buettner continually mentioned “evidence based” and “science backed.” However, at no time did he give examples of such evidence or science. OK, neither Buettner is a scientist. But in describing their work in demonstration city Albert Lea, MN, he talked about replacing candy and junk foods in the supermarket checkout area with 43 “superfoods.” Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “superfood.”

Switching to some of their current projects, he mentioned the Beach Cities project in California, made up of Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. He claimed great success, with a 50% reduction of childhood obesity. This would be an amazing accomplishment, but if you go and read about the project, this effort was a years-long project by the Beach Cities Health District starting in 2006. According to Eric Garner, Communications Director of the BCHD, childhood obesity has fallen by 68% since that time.  This is indeed a major accomplishment, but the Blue Zones Project came much later, (2010-11) and only added the Walking Schoolbus to the obesity project. I would call this intentionally misleading, to say the least.

When I got to ask some questions, (awkwardly, I’ll admit) I wanted to know why this work had never been published or subjected to peer review, and whether this wasn’t just correlation without causation. Buettner’s rather arrogant answer was that they had been featured on 3 magazine covers and been asked to present at the Davos Economic Forum, and they didn’t need to deal with causation, (which he clearly didn’t understand).

I also mentioned Professor Stuart Jay Olshansky’s objection:

He exaggerates the importance of diet as genetics is critical in these folks, and I was not happy early on that they were selling items from the various locations as longevity boosters, which supposedly they stopped doing…

He immediately interrupted to me to assert that the BZP has never sold anything. This is patently untrue: here is a link to their “store,”   where they sell turmeric from Okinawa, bean soup with beans from almost very Blue Zone region, and even cases of Blue Zones Water. They also have offered “Longevity Tea,” and Caracolillo Coffee from the Nicoyan region, but these are sold out.

He was not interested in discussing the criticism in Eric Carter’s paper, which I enumerated in my previous article, and quickly moved to shut me down.

I found Buettner’s attitude and mendacity very troubling and am not enthusiastic about our working with this group.

What is the Blue Zones Project?

What is the Blue Zones Project?

I first heard about the Blue Zones project when I learned that some “moms” (their term) in Wilton were suggesting that we become a Blue Zones town, and I started to read up on it.

The term “blue zone” was coined by Belgian demographer Michel Poulain when studying the characteristics of centenarians in Sardinia, where he and his coworkers realized there was an unusual cluster of very old people in this region, and they drew a circle around the cluster using a blue marker. Imagine the controversy if he had used a red marker!

bluezonesSoon journalist Dan Buettner had jumped into this study, travelling to this and several other regions to report on the clusters of centenarians in and discuss common characteristics among them. This led to an article he wrote for National Geographic and to a 2008 book, revised in 2012: Blue Zones, 9 lessons fir living longer from people who lived the longest. Note that while Buettner is a very polished writer, he is not a scientist and has no scientific training nor an advanced research degree.  He could just as well have interviewed centenarians near where he lives, and this might had been equally interesting, and would have eliminated some of the cultural differences among the groups he wrote about.

He boiled down his findings to nine basic points (trademarked as The Power of Nine), some obvious and some rather unusual, but never tested his findings using any sort of control groups. Boiled down, these are

  • Move naturally (avoid mechanical aids)
  • Find a sense of purpose
  • Find time to relax and downshift
  • Eat until “80% full,” exclaiming Hara bachi bu, (or maybe Hakuna matata, or perhaps Ai ai Cthulu!)
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Drink wine at 5
  • Belong to a religious group
  • Put your family first
  • Choose a support social circle.

Being a scientist myself, I was surprised to discover that Buettner never published any of his findings in actual peer-reviewed scientific journals, but only in his popular book and magazine articles, so his conclusions have never been subjected to scientific scrutiny or peer review. Instead, Buettner formed a Blue Zones organization to try out his recommendations in a few communities. He then licensed the Blue Zones brand to Healthways of Tennessee who is involved in promoting these findings as a commercial enterprise.

texasFurther, Buettner seems to have committed correlation without causation. Or as one of my colleagues called it, the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, where the target shooter shoots bullets at the side of a barn, and then draws a target around the bullet holes! To put it more clearly, he has not proven that any of these common findings cause longevity. He has not set up any kind of control group or test to prove their efficacy.

Academics respond

I contacted a couple of researchers who have written scientific articles about centenarians, and both responded to me.

Professor Jeremy Yorgason at Brigham Young University said, in part,

“…My understanding is that the “Blue Zones” work is aimed at replicating diet and other trends found in such areas. I agree with the principles put forth by those that encourage blue zone trends among seniors, however I’m not a fan of the commercialism they have introduced. Nutritious diet, exercise, and genetics will all influence our longevity. Environment likely also plays a role. People have some control over some of these factors, and I encourage us to do what we can to live healthy into our later years.  I hope this helps.”

Professor Stuart Jay Olshansky at the University of Illinois, Chicago, said:

“I reviewed their proposal for National Geographic when it was first thought of, and I rejected the Blue Zone idea because Dan was not going to verify the ages of the alleged centenarians — he didn’t know this was important. So, he connected with someone who can do this reliably. That part of the science is now sound. He exaggerates the importance of diet as genetics is critical in these folks, and I was not happy early on that they were selling items from the various locations as longevity boosters, which supposedly they stopped doing.  However, there are also some strong elements to what they do.  I think there’s little doubt that pockets of exceptional longevity exist. Does that help?”

 

Professor Eric D. Carter

Perhaps the most wide-ranging criticism of the project came from Professor Eric Carter of Macalester College, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, titled Making Blue Zones: Neoliberalism and nudges in public health promotion.

Carter notes that the Blue Zones Project (BZP) is a “place-based, community centered and commercial health promotion enterprise, and that it advocates a kind of “deep neoliberalism—neoliberal govermentality.” In social science jargon, “neoliberalism” refers to programs where the individual has to take responsibility for his own health, rather than being provided by a government entity. He calls this “libertarian paternalism” whose purpose is to “nudge” people towards healthy behaviors.

In fact, the BZP is “thoroughly desocialized” and more or less ignores health problems associated with poverty, unemployment, race, ethnicity, education or other social determinants. He cautions about the role of “lifestyle” or “wellness” industry professionals in framing the discussion about healthy places.

Carter notes that some of Buettner’s points, such as “sense of purpose” and “belong to a faith-based community” are unlikely to be cited by health professionals, and while Buettner claims that these can add up to 7 years to your life expectancy, this individualizes findings that are aggregate and probabilistic in nature.

Further, I suggest that the idea that communing with an imaginary Sky-Daddy having an effect on health is probably much too narrow. You might achieve the same group comfort from singing in a community chorus or playing Bingo weekly.

albert leasThe original demonstration community, Albert Lea, MN adopted Buettner’s recommendations for a 10 month trial run, building more sidewalks (but only in the downtown area) and residents agreed to “deconvenience” their lives, walking more and putting aside snowblowers for snow shovels, a recommendation that cardiologists might dispute. At the end of this period using an on-line “Vitality Calculator,” they claimed residents had added 3.1 years to their life expectancy. However, their simple diet and exercise questions have not actually been validated.

And, the BZP has almost nothing to say about the health care sector: doctors, clinics, and hospitals. It concentrates on health-promotion and lifestyle management. Not having medical buy-in to this project seems short-sighted.

NasBeachSmIt also has nothing to say about diseases, other than making the preposterous claim that one Greek man living in the U.S., Stamatis Moriatis, had developed “terminal lung cancer,” but on return to his home in Ikaria, the disease eventually vanished, as if the healthy village lifestyle somehow cured his cancer. Spontaneous remission in cancers do happen, but outlandish claims like this one border on magical thinking. Buettner has spread articles about Moriatis all over the Internet, but that does not make them true. And he presents no medical evidence.

The Iowa Project

Carter notes that the BZP cooperated with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to set up four demonstration sites, and after a competition among Iowa cities, four northern locations were chosen: Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Mason City (home of The Music Man’s con game) and Spencer. Financing for these 4 projects was provided by Iowa’s Wellmark Blue Cross, who paid Healthways $25 million for the five year demonstration. This also means that all Iowans did not have equal access to the potential benefits: another trait of such neoliberal projects.

In Iowa’s case, Branstad wanted to use the BZP to avoid expanding Medicaid for the Affordable Care Act, giving the BZP a political tinge as well.

Iowa outcomes

Recently, we learned that Cedar Rapids and Marion, IA were dropping the Blue Zones project. At the end of the demonstration period, towns had to pay to continue, and

“Cost was a factor as we would have to pay to continue to use the brand and tap into their Blue Zones network,” said Geoff Fruin, Iowa City manager.”

Cedar Rapids was selected as a Blue Zones demonstration site in 2013 and certified in 2016.

Cedar Rapids contributed up to $25,000 a year matched by $30,000 over three years from Linn County, and about $50,000 total in private contributions to pay for four full time staff members and office space, said Assistant City Manager Sandi Fowler.

She said the fee to renew with Blue Zones is considered proprietary information, and therefore was confidential.

Discussion

The BZP, according to Carter, is classic neoliberal governmentality: a commercial venture with a public-private partnership that asks people to take responsibility for and govern themselves. Such a system can only work in a homogeneous community and has no remedy for “persistent structural causes of health inequality.”

The BZP requires community buy-in to such things as “walkability and bike-ability,” that may require substantial investment to achieve. Wilton is a rural New England community, and outside of the diminutive downtown area of a couple of dozen stores, there are basically no sidewalks or bike paths. The town is built on rocky hills, and such construction could run into millions of dollars. It is instructive to note that most of the demonstration communities are in the Midwest, where there are few hills, while towns like Wilton are nearly all hills, making walkability and bike-ability that much harder to achieve.

Much of what BZP proposes amounts to changes in eating habits, which they then proudly trumpet in aggregate weight loss statistics. This is essentially a diet, and research has continually shown that diets do not work. People tend to regress to the mean about the time the demonstration period ends.

Further, the BZP has frequently suggested things like small bowls as glasses in restaurants to keep people from overeating. Unfortunately this is all based on Brian Wansink’s work at Cornell, nearly all of which has been retracted and Wansink dismissed from Cornell for essentially faking his data!

Improving physical activity and eating more vegetables are laudable goals and based on solid science, but Buettner’s insistence on including religion and “sense of purpose” are not. While there is no question that the Wilton organizers have their hearts in the right place,  the BZP is not a science project, but a profit-making entity who plays its cards rather close to the vest. If they were a non-profit, I might consider their proposal, but a profit-making business who won’t disclose their fees does not impress me.

It probably is one we should not get involved in.

Fort Worth

We just learned that in Fort Worth , the project has had little success. After 2 years, reported BMIs are still rising, and given Texan’s steak and pick-up truck habits, this will probably take a very long time. Meanwhile the original Blue Zones are fading away, and demographer Michel Poulain has noted that the eating habits of Okinawa are much like anywhere else, and the obesity much the same. Similar findings are reported for Ikaria.

Oh, and to top it all off, it’s recommend by Doctor Oz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Man of La Mancha’: Half a loaf

‘Man of La Mancha’: Half a loaf

(Top: Philip Hernandez (Cervantes/Don Quixote) and the cast of Man of La Mancha)

The famous 1966 musical “Man of La Mancha” opened on September 25 at the Westport Country Playhouse, and continues through October 14. The musical with book by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion won the 1966 Tony for  best musical, as well as best score, best leading actor and best scenic design, beating out Sweet Charity, Mame, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and Superman.

The Westport Playhouse production, directed by Mark Lamos, with music direction by Andrew David Sotomayor and scenic design by Wilson Chin, attempts to duplicate that success on a pared down scale, and with limited success.

Briefly, the show tells the story of the Spanish playwright and poet Cervantes being imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition (this never happened) and being put “on trial” by the other prisoners. Cervantes tells the prisoners the tale of Alonso Quijano , a madman who fancies  himself to be the knight Don Quixote, using costumes from a trunk he had brought with him to costume himself and the other prisoners to tell the story.

In this production Phillip Hernandez is a commanding presence as Cervantes and Don Quixote, with a great baritone voice to match: singing 9 of the show’s songs. In fact he dominates the stage completely, unlike any of the other actors.

4_WCP_ManofLaMancha_GAdisa_TManna_byCRosegg_217Tony Manna, in the comic role of Sancho, got off to a bad start in his first song, the second verse of “I am I, Don Quixote,” coming in excruciatingly flat. And staying flat for the entire song. He redeemed himself, however, in “I Really Like Him,” showing off his excellent tenor voice. It would have been better if he had separated the words in the comic lines “You can barbecue my nose, Make a giblet of my toes.”

(Above: Gisela Adisa (Aldonza) and Tony Manna (Sancho Panza))

Gisela Adisa plays Aldonza (whom Quixote calls Dulcinea) is a commanding presence as well, acting well. But her singing made her sound like she was in some other show, since as soon as she left her chest voice, her voice turned into a nasal pop style that just didn’t fit the songs or the show. Her singing in “What Does He Want With Me” might have been better if she had held the notes out instead of cutting them all short, and in her second act “Aldonza,” she basically shouted what would have been better as a smoother ballad.

For some odd reason, the directors had the cast pronounce Dulcinea as DOOL-cinea rather than DULL-cinea. We assume there was a reason for that, but we don’t know what it was.

Particular praise goes to Carlos Encinias as the Padre, who also had a lovely tenor voice, and showed it well in the beautiful ballad, “To Each his Dulcinea.” Unfortunately, the music director added some tinkling keyboard accompaniment to this song that not only isn’t in the score, it isn’t even in the instrumentation.

You might ask if there were any basses singing in the company. Well, other than baritone Quixote, the only real bass role is the Innkeeper, played by tenor Michael Mendea, who sang part of his song “Hail Knight of the Woeful Countenance” up an octave. He did sing, well, however.

The entire cast is made up of 14 performers. Don Quixote, Aldonza and Sancho just play one role, but the remaining 11 take on a number of small roles, including being the chorus, identified in the script as Muleteers. This doesn’t work out too well, as the choral numbers sound weak and off-hand for the most part. The Broadway cast had 6 Muleteers as well as having separate actors for each role.

The set by Wilson Chin is suitably dark and depressing looking and has the expected staircase that lowers from above when prisoners arrive or leave and the guards come to harass the prisoners.

However, unlike the recommendation in the script, the orchestra and conductor are not on stage behind the actors. Instead the orchestra is split and placed in the second row of each side balcony, making the front row balcony seats less desirable. More to the point, the orchestra would overwhelm the cast, and the singers all wear body mikes, something I have never before seen at the Playhouse.

I was surprised how hollow the orchestra sounded at the beginning fanfare, and that they skipped the whole overture. But the reason soon became apparent: the orchestra was only 7 players: trumpet, trombone, French horn, reeds, guitar, string bass and percussion.  The score calls for more than twice those forces: Flute/Piccolo, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon/Clarinet, 2 trumpets, 2 horns, 2 trombones, 2 timpani, 2 percussion players, 2 Spanish guitars and a string bass.

The two percussion players play traps (snare and bass drum), floor tom-tom, suspended cymbal, triangle, large floor tom-tom, another suspended cymbal, finger cymbals, tambourine, castanets, temple blocks, xylophone and bells.  I heard very few of these in this performance.

So, we had less than half an orchestra, and I would ask: “Did we really see ‘Man of La Mancha’ at all, or was it just a thin facsimile? Without all 6 brass players, the chords were never filled in. The full orchestra would have been only 16 players and would have easily fit in their pit or behind the set as recommended. And this is professional theater, with a top ticket price of $75.

The show that we saw had the usual Westport Playhouse professionalism and most of the audience enjoyed it. But it could have been so much better!

(Photos by Carole Rosegg for the Westport Country Playhouse.)

Barbecued ribs using an Instant Pot

Barbecued ribs using an Instant Pot

You can make really good barbecued ribs in about an hour using your Instant Pot to cook the ribs, and a gas grill or your oven to brown them. Some people have suggested using cider or apple juice as the cooking liquid in the Instant Pot pressure cooker, but we never found it made much different. Instead, we use a couple of aromatic spices added to the cooking water: garlic and bay leaves.

Barbecue aficionados frown on cooking the ribs until they fall off the bone. They should be cooked but cohesive.

  • 1 rack baby back pork ribs, cut in half
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 bay leaves

raw ribs in pot

  1. Place the ingredients in the Instant Pot, seal and cook on Manual for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat your gas grill on high
  3. Release the pressure and take the ribs out and put on a platter to carry to your barbecue grill. Or, place them on a foil lined cookie sheet to put in the oven.

Using a gas grill

half barbecued

  1. Turn the middle burner off, and turn the outer 2 burners to medium. Lay the ribs on the grill over the middle section, and brush with your favorite barbecue sauce.
  2. After 15 minutes, turn, and brush the other side.
  3. Cook about another 15 minutes, or until the sauce begins to caramelize.

Using your oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚
  2. Brush the top of the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce and cook for 15 minutes,
  3. Turn, brush the other side and cook for about 15 minutes.
  4. If the sauce hasn’t become bubbly, put under the broiler for 5 more minutes.

barbecued on platter

Serving

Cut the ribs apart and serve on a platter. (See above.)

Leftovers

Don’t worry about buying too much pork. You can probably do 2 racks at a time if you wanted. And once it is cooled, refrigerate it. The next day, just cut off the pork and cut it up a bit. It makes great pulled pork sandwiches. Just put some on a bun, add some barbecue sauce and heat it up for 30 seconds in the microwave.

pulled pork sammich

hash browns and corn

Thinkpad and Surface: choosing a new laptop

Thinkpad and Surface: choosing a new laptop

 

When my old Thinkpad finally went south, a friend of mine suggested I consider the Microsoft Surface laptop instead of another Thinkpad. After a bit of messing around, I finally ended up with two laptops on my desk to choose from and a large (but temporary) bill on my credit card. One was going to be sent back off the island.  How to choose among these two tremendous laptops?

Since I have a number of compute-intensive applications, I chose a pretty high end model (16 Gb of memory of 1 Tb of solid state disk space), but many of the criteria apply to lower priced systems as well.

The Surface laptop screen is a touch screen in all models, and you can buy a stylus to do actual drawing on it if you want. Any place you’d want to click your mouse, you can just touch the screen. This is integrated with Windows 10, which supports and encourages your using touch, including the otherwise baffling Edge browser that supplants Internet Explorer. But, after having used a mouse in Windows for many years, I just didn’t see why I needed this. If you are working in graphics, you might find it helpful.

Both laptops come with Windows 10, which has its own learning curve, but the Surface Laptop gave you a choice of installing Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. The Thinkpad just gave you Windows 10 Pro right out of the box. Windows 10 comes with the new Edge browser that replaces Internet Explorer, although IE is still supplied for diehards. The Internet scuttlebutt is that the main use of the Edge browser is to download another browser, such as Chrome, and I did that immediately, because Chrome has all my bookmarks and passwords stored in my account. As soon as you try to download it, Edge scolds you, saying that Edge is much faster than Chrome.

On the Thinkpad, it seems a perfectly capable browser, and it can import your bookmarks from Chrome after you install it. On the Surface, all of your bookmarks seem to turn into big squares at the top of the window, wasting a ton of browser screen real estate. This feature is presumably for touch screen users, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. So, on the Surface, I used Chrome exclusively.

The ThinkPad beautiful display comes with Dolby Vision, which allows each individual pixel to have a wider range of color and contrast. This is primarily for entertainment apps, but the screen is really impressive to work with.

front dark

As soon as I set the two laptops side by side, it was obvious that the Thinkpad screen was wider. It’s almost an inch wider than the surface, and this makes a significant difference when you need to switch between app windows. Since the Surface is a bit taller, you probably get about the same amount of screen, but the width is what makes to different to me. When you first boot up the Surface, it comes up with a tiny font: much too small to do actual writing with. So I had to find the control panel settings that increased the system font. This also affected the fonts in the browser, and I found that I had to enlarge it using Ctrl/Shift/+.

The Surface immediately found and connected to my wireless printer. On the Thinkpad, I had to tell it to scan for printers, and it found it right away.  Neither Windows 10 machine allowed me to share files with my Windows 7 server upstairs without some screwing around I still haven’t completely solved.

On the Surface, I seemed to be making more typing mistakes, and when the measured the two keyboards, the Surface keyboard was 10.75” from the outside of the left shift key to the outside of the right shift key. The Thinkpad was 11.12” and that 3/8” difference made a significant different in my typing accuracy.

But the main difference turned out to be the number of USB ports. Since I habitually use a wireless mouse, I needed a port for this and another port to connect USB flash drives to so I could transfer data from the old computer and from my camera. Without a second port, this meant giving up your mouse every time I needed to copy data from my camera or the old computer.  By contrast, the Thinkpad had 4 USB ports, two full size and two micro ports. This one feature turned out to be the deal breaker. My friend told me this must have been a recent change, as her Surface had two USB ports. If that had been true of mine, I might have kept the Surface, because it is quite a slick  machine, but in fact I am typing this article on my new Thinkpad, and the Surface has left the island.

Oh, and the Thinkpad turned out to be $400 cheaper, too!

 

  Thinkpad X1 6th gen Surface Laptop
Display 2560 x 1440 pixels 2736 x 1824 pixels
Display size 12.25 x 6.93” 11.38 x 7.5”
Memory 16 Gb 16 Gb
SSD storage 1 Tb 1 Tb
Weight 35.9 oz 45.6 oz
Keyboard width 11.125” 10.75”
Processor Intel Core i7 (8th gen) Intel Core i7
USB connectors 2 full, 2 micro 1 full
Touch screen No (but they sell one) yes
Price $2089 $2499

 

 

‘Parlor Pizza and Bar’ opens in Wilton

‘Parlor Pizza and Bar’ opens in Wilton

signTim LaBant’s eagerly awaited new brick oven pizza restaurant Parlor opened last weekend to such enthusiasm that we couldn’t get in the door. So we went last night Wednesday to try it out. Parlor is still a work in progress: their liquor license hasn’t come in yet, so you can order soft drinks or BYOB. The sign on the door notes that Ancona’s liquor store is just a few doors away. No matter. We came for the pizza.

We also came for the salads. While they haven’t yet added appetizers, the salads are terrific. We split a large Waldorf-like salad ($17 for the large version for two), made up of apples, raisins, walnuts, romaine and radishes. They also offer Caesar, Watercress, Roasted Butternut and Roasted Cauliflower salads.

waldorf

The menu is undergoing changes as they grow into the place. The pizzas they offer are

  • Tomato, broccoli race, garlic, hot pepper
  • Margherita
  • Clam pie, lemon, broccoli rabe, olive oil, parsley
  • Mushroom pie, mozzarella, tallegio, scallion, black pepper
  • Pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce
  • Cheese pizza, shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce
  • Sausage, onion and smoked mozzarella

All  of these ae baked in their Ferrari level wood fired brick oven. According to a recent column on NPR’s  The Salt, a brick oven is practically required to make Neopolitan-style pizzas. The properties of brick ovens are such that the heat gets transferred to the pizza more slowly than in a steel oven. And, of course, the smoky taste of the wood fire is added to the pizza flavor as well. These ovens are quite a bit hotter than your home oven, usually 625˚ to 700˚ and cook the pizza in just a couple of minutes.

Last night we tried the Sausage and onion pizza, and took a picture of our neighbor’s pepperoni pizza. Each pizza is considered an individual size. They are around 11 inches, but when you subtract the crust, they are probably about right for one adult, or perhaps two children.  They are priced at $14 to $17 each.

table settingParlor had added just two desserts so far: Zeppoli, or fried pizza dough with Nutella, and Lime Posset with berries.

This was a nice introduction to a popular new restaurant. It seats around 32 and 12 2-top tables plus seats around the bar. You can also order takeout at (203) 762-6142. We wish them the best of luck.