May 1, 2012

Since purchasing my .30-06, I’ve been wanting to buy an accurate .22 rifle to reduce my ammunition costs at the range.  I debated building a custom Ruger 10/22, but I just couldn’t justify the expense at this time.  (I will definitely build one up in the future though!)  I finally settled on a used Savage Mark II-LV I found at The Gun Exchange in San Jose.  It was in pretty good shape, despite being about ten years old.  I added a Dip mfg. 5 MOA rail to the receiver, Burris Zee Signature high rings and a Mueller 8.5-25 X 44 AO tactical scope.


I took it to the range and was happy with the groups it shot with most of the different ammo I tried.  Group size at 50 yards was mostly between .75 and 1.0 inches, with the best of .47 with Wolf Match Target ammo.  The biggest issue was its failure to eject spent cartridges.  No problems extracting from the chamber, but it would not spit them out.  A little search over at Rimfire Central revealed the ejector bar can get bent if someone isn’t careful when replacing the bolt into the receiver.  Sure enough, a little prying with a screwdriver put the ejector back where it was supposed to be and now, no problems ejecting!  The other thing was the heavy trigger pull, but after some help from Rimfire Central, it cleaned up and is nice, light and crisp now.  I also installed a Harris LM bipod.  I will shoot it like this for a while, and see how it does before messing around with anything like bedding the action.  Here’s a couple groups I shot at 50 yards after cleaning up the trigger.


2011 Kia Sportage SX

September 28, 2011

Well, after researching and pondering and deliberating and whatnot for close to two years, I got a new car.  Sure, the Z06 will be missed.  It was a very good car.  It had less rattles and more reliable electronics than my old E36 M3, and of course, it had blistering performance while being easy to drive daily.  What it did not have was room for Daddy, Mommy and Baby.  After the arrival of my daughter, it did not get used on weekends anymore.  It did have a baby-seat installed (with airbag disabled) and it was fine to pick up our little girl after daycare everyday.  But no weekend family adventures could be had.  So, after considering cars like the MINI Countryman S, and used Infiniti G35 sedans, I pulled the trigger on a Kia.

The Thingamajigger!

With the Corvette’s registration coming due in a couple of weeks, I found a Sportage in Techno Orange and cleaned out the Vette.  The dealership website listed the sticker price at $31,115 and I was expecting to negotiate down to maybe $29K.  Went we got there, however, I saw a sign on the car that listed the sale price at $25,999.  Turns out the car was a dealer demo with 133 miles on it.  After looking at an Optima (very nice car by the way) and test driving a Sportage with the standard 2.4L engine, we drove the SX.  It was noticeably better than the EX in two areas.  Obviously, the 2.0L twin-scroll turbo has more power.  The EX did okay until we were cruising on the freeway at about 60mph and tried to pass someone.  There just wasn’t anything there in terms of acceleration.  The SX’s turbo will do a 60-80 pass without breaking a sweat.  (Nothing close to the Z06 mind you, but decent for a crossover.)  The other area of weirdness in the EX was the electronically assisted steering.  It just felt weird.  Like you could steer an inch or two off-center and it would want to stay there?  The SX still has electronically assisted steering, but the programming is better.  On-center feel is better, although it could still use some improvement.

After driving the SX, I knew I wanted it.  It had decent leather, the dual-panoramic sunroof, voice activated navigation with Sirius traffic/radio, premium stereo/subwoofer, smart-key, dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth and USB, backup camera/warning, heated front seats and cooled driver’s seat as options and I also liked the standard projection headlights and LED daytime running lights.  According to the salesman the only option it didn’t have was all-wheel drive.  (I think the Microsoft UVO system was an option also, but not installed and there is apparently a dealer option of interior mood lighting.)  After getting a trade-in value on the Vette that was 2k more than I would have settled for, I closed the deal on the Kia.

After driving it for a week, I am really liking it!  The ride is a little stiff, but the lack of body roll in corners and coming to a stop is very nice.  The six-speed auto is very good, and around town I would describe the car as “zippy”.  My favorite feature is the smart-key.  The ability to leave the fob in my pocket and push a button on the door handle to lock and unlock the car is great.  And just hopping in and pushing a button to start is nice.  The first tank of gas produced an average of 21 mpg and the second which included more highway miles gave us 25.7 mpg.  One “dislike” is the smallish 14.5 gallon gas tank.  I would like a longer driving range per tank.

We’ve tentatively named the car the Thingamajigger, after the Cat in the Hat’s vehicle, used to go on adventures.  It is orange after all, and we love to go on family adventures!  I’m hoping this car will provide years of trouble-free motoring, and knowing it has a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 5 year/60,000 mile bumper to bumper with roadside assistance warranty is comforting.

Winchester (FN) Model 70 Sporter

March 30, 2011


Winchester Model 70 Sporter .30-06

Well, I finally bought myself a bolt-action, centerfire rifle. I’ve been drooling over pictures of Model 70’s and Remington Model 700’s since my pre-teen years! I finally pulled the trigger (so to speak) on a brand new Model 70 Sporter in .30-06 a couple of weeks ago.  I had looked at the local gun shops about a year ago, and couldn’t find anything with a nice wood stock.  I was told that most people around here want an accurate rifle for as little cash as possible, usually in the under $600 range.  Oh well, I guess I’m old school, but I like a nice, warm walnut stock.  Sure, if I could afford a safe full of guns, I could think of a couple of all-weather versions with a good synthetic stock, and maybe a stainless, fluted barrel that I would love to own.  But, realistically, this would probably be my only centerfire, bolt-action rifle at least until my daughter has graduated from college.  (She’s one now.)

I resumed my search a couple of months ago (after being inspired by The Wild Within TV show and the book The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine by Steven Rinella) and was able to hold in my hands a Model 70 Featherweight at Bass Pro Shops in Manteca, CA.  (Only about 1 1/2 hours away)  I was pretty much set on a new Model 70 after reading all the reviews on it.  Seems the production on Model 70’s resumed at the FN plant in South Carolina in 2008 and the consensus is that FN builds a decent gun.  Sure, the diehards hate the new adjustable M.O.A trigger assembly, preferring the simplicity and reliability of the old triggers.  And yes, some of the rifle’s components are subcontracted out (like the stocks), but overall the fit and finish seem to be much improved over the units coming out of New Haven during the last years of production there.

Anyway, back to my search.  I was originally looking for a .270 Winchester in a medium weight rifle.  I didn’t want some 5 1/2 lb. mountain rifle that would leave my shoulder black and blue after shooting a box of shells at the range.  I finally found a new Sporter at the Gun Exchange in San Jose.  I was looking at a Featherweight and talking with the guys there, when the owner says, “We got a brand new Sporter in the back”.  He wasn’t kidding.  The box was still taped shut.  “You’re the first one to touch that gun,” he told me.  It was a .30-06, but it felt good and after thinking on it for a few days, I decided to buy it.  The idea of ordering one in .270 and not being able to examine it first didn’t sit well with me.  I figured the .30-06 may not be quite as flat-shooting, but it was more versatile.  Heck, I think it’s killed every kind of animal that walks this earth!  No, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable heading into the brush after a Cape Buffalo or Alaskan brown bear with one, but if lost in the bush and starving, I would be very confident in its ability to make a clean kill on anything, given a standing, broadside shot from about 100 yards away.  (Close enough for good energy and accuracy, but far enough not to maul me before I could get another shot away!)

So, I went back to The Gun Exchange, looked at it one more time, ran a dollar bill under the length of the barrel to make sure it was properly free-floating, and paid the man.  Then I had to wait 10 days for the Feds to make sure I was eligible to own said rifle.  During this time, I ordered a Burris Fullfield II 3×9 40mm scope with Ballistic-plex reticle, some Talley Lightweight one-piece ring/mounts and other assorted stuff I would need to own and use my new rifle. 

When the ten days were up, I went and picked up my new toy.  I cleaned it and admired it for a couple of days, mounted the scope and the next weekend I took it to the range.  This was the first time I’ve been to a public rifle range and although I managed to bring appropriate hearing and eye protection, I didn’t bring a sandbag (or a bag of kitty-litter, which is my plan for next time).  I started out at 50 yards and the first three shots produced a group of just about an inch.  So, at 50 yards that would be 2 MOA, but I was shooting off my nylon lunch pack and a folded up beach towel with a brand new rifle.  I was pretty happy with that.  I had three brands of ammo, all 150 grains that I tried while adjusting the zero on the scope.  Soon, I moved to the 100 yard range and my best group there was about 1 1/4 inches.  Seemed like this gun liked the Winchester Power-Points the best, but more research is needed with a better rest.

When I got home and began cleaning the gun, I soon noticed that my scope had slid forward in the rings.  It had gone from all the way back to all the way forward under the recoil of 21 rounds.  I’m wondering exactly how much this effected my point of impact.  Oh well, I cranked the screws down as hard as I dared and we will see the next time I get to the range.

Emperor Norton’s

January 10, 2011

Despite the heavy workload of raising a 10-month old, very active little girl, I had to write about this one. Beth and I took the little one with us for lunch last Saturday to Emperor Norton’s. This is a small, Italian restaurant in a stripmall in south San Jose. Looks like crap from the outside, but pretty decent on the inside. Beth likes their strombolis and calzones, and I’ve had their pizza before. This time, however, I ordered the meatball sandwich and Boy was that the right move! It was the best meatball sandwich I’ve ever eaten! I was a little disappointed when it arrived because it didn’t have any gooey cheese, but after the first bite it didn’t matter. The sauce was delicious, and the meatballs were yummy and so tender, but the ringer was the bread. The bread was light, soft on the inside and had a thin, crispy crust from the oven. It was heaven! Light and chewy, crisp but soft, warm and delicious!! I can’t wait to have another one.

Bill’s Cafe

September 21, 2010


So, the local restaurant in our neighborhood that’s been vacant/under construction for the last couple year has finally reopened as Bill’s Cafe.  Apparently, there are several locations in the South Bay, but this was our first time at any of them.

I think it had been open for about a week already and the place was pretty full.  We got an open table outside and sat down to enjoy the mild morning.  Beth spied a tasty looking Bloody Mary on the next table, gave in to the impulse and ordered one.  I opted for an orange juice, however, when the server returned with our drinks, there were two large shot glasses coated with salt and accompanied by wedges of lime.   Hmm….is that?  Yup, shots of tequila on the house to celebrate the grand opening.  Okay, so what if it’s 10:30 am?  Free shots, right?  It’s probably a tried and true marketing strategy, get the patrons liquored up their first time at a place and they’ll probably have a good time, think the food is better than it is, and come back again and again.  I know we’ll be back for breakfast soon.  Not because the food was that great, or because we were drunk (I was a little buzzed after having to finish Beth’s shot and half of her Bloody Mary), but because it’s one of the few decent places to eat in our neighborhood.  Too bad it’s only a breakfast/lunch place.

Beth had Crab Cakes Benedict and it was tasty, although the crab cakes appeared to be of the pre-made, frozen variety.  I got the Very Berry French Toast and a side of Chicken Applewood Smoked sausage.  The french toast was good, topped with strawberries, blueberries, syrup and whipped cream with cocoa powder, and the sausage was good and very smokey.  We are looking forward to trying some of the omelets and skillets on our next visit.  Not sure if we are looking forward to shots at breakfast though.  It feels good for awhile, but the rest of your day tends to stay pretty close to the couch.

Carl’s Jr – YUM!

May 18, 2010

I have to apologize for not writing in so long, but we’ve been pretty busy with the birth of our first child! Anyway, I just wanted to post a quick review of Carl’s Jr.’s Six Dollar Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger.
1. It is gooey, melty, cheesy and yummy!!
2. It has 990 calories.
3. See #1.


February 15, 2010

Arturo Fuente Anejo, "The Shark"

Wow!  I must give thanks to my nephew Scott for this one.  He gave me one of these for Christmas and today I finally broke it out of the humidor.  I wasn’t expecting too much, although Fuente is one of my favorite brands.  This cigar has a dark wrapper and an interesting torpedo shape.  It starts off as a round stick, but becomes box-pressed by the foot.  I think it is a Reserva No. 77, also known as The Shark.  Almost six inches in length and a 54 ring gauge.  I was just researching it online, and it’s supposed to be a very rare cigar.  And expensive, at around $35 a stick!

I started this cigar after cleaning our balcony and planter boxes of winter leaves, and washing off the table out here.  Then I broke out the laptop and a glass of 15 year Glenfiddich.  I fired up the Fuente and commenced to writing up Pizza Chicago and The Refuge.  I also put Kitty-No-Name in her purple walking jacket and let her out onto the balcony to sit in the sun with me.  I managed to write up the two restaurant reviews, despite this cigar.  It was difficult with the huge plumes of thick smoke it was providing me.  The flavor was a nice, medium flavor typical of Fuentes with premium Dominican fillers.  It actually reminded me of an Opus X, believe it or not, it was that good!  According to the info I found on the web, these Anejos use a 5 year old, Connecticut grown maduro wrapper aged in a Cognac barrel.  Interesting indeed!

This exclusive cigar burned very nicely, with a very light gray ash.  I must apologize because I really wasn’t concentrating on the cigar as I smoked it.  I just knew it was a great tasting cigar, right up my alley in terms of flavor profile.  I wasn’t thinking about tasting notes.  I did find an excellent review online which does do this cigar justice.  Here is the link:

About halfway through, after learning of the wrapper aged in Cognac barrels, I switched my drink to a Remy Martin and what do you know, it paired very nicely!

Thanks Scott once again, for a great Xmas present!

THE REFUGE, San Carlos

February 15, 2010

St. Bernardus ABT 12

Paul told us about this little place after one of his friends took him there for lunch last summer.  It is known for it’s pastrami sandwiches and Belgian beers.  Beth and I went there yesterday for lunch.  It is a small place (think, your average small California watering hole) with a few tables outside next to the sidewalk.  It has a small, paper menu with food on one side and beer and wine on the other.  They have Appetizers, Hot Pastrami, Burgers, Cheesesteaks, Charcuterie & Cheese, and Dessert.  Those are the headings on the food side of the menu.  It’s kind of a strange combination of food types, but hey, they are right up my alley!

We started with the Seared Foie Gras with duck confit hash, red wine poached pear, glazed cherries and sauce of duck.  It was tasty (how wrong can you go with foie gras?), but not the best foie I’ve had.  I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t A-lobe.  It had a couple strings of connective tissue which made it harder to eat.  Still, after sipping away on my glass of St. Bernadus ABT 12 which is described as; “10.5% ABV, Beastly, Roasty Brown, Lush, “A Must Try”, The Showpiece of the Brewery.) I would be happy with anything put in front of me.  That beer was GOOD!!!!  Tons of flavor, rich, creamy and perfectly balanced, it was heavenly!

Best Reuben I've ever had!

I got a Reuben which was also heavenly!  The pastrami is cut very thick, about 3/16 of an inch, and is perfectly lean and tender.  Well, who knows how lean that really is, but it didn’t have any gristle or toughness.  Also in the sandwich was sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and Russian dressing served between toasted (maybe grilled?) Rye bread.  It was the  best Reuben I’ve had, dethroning the one I had at Paulina’s in Springfield, Vermont last October.

Beth got the O.G. Philly Joe, a basic cheesesteak with Provolone and meat.  The meat, however, is freshly cut Ribeye steak and Beth said it was very good.  Her’s came with fries which were good, but next time we would upgrade to the garlic fries.

Overall, The Refuge is a great, little gastropub with a quirky combination of menu items.  We definitely will go back to sample some more fantastic draft beers and maybe the “Grand Plate” which is every item on the Charcuterie & Cheese menu for $100.  (there were 21 items)  Any volunteers to come along?


February 14, 2010

"Rush Street" all meat deep dish.

Beth and I have been wanting to find some good, deep-dish pizza for a while now and finally made it to Pizza Chicago in Santa Clara.  It is a small place, good for the whole family and has a few TVs which were showing the Sharks game.  We ordered the stuffed mushrooms as a starter, and they were delicious.  I can’t recall what they were stuffed with, but it was yummy!  We ordered a large, meat filled pizza and asked for the Yelper’s deal which gave us a two-topping, personal pizza for free.  Beth asked for mushrooms and dried apricots I think.  (Yes, I said apricots.  One of their specialty pizzas is a sweet/savory combination (sort of like a Hawaiian), and Beth wanted to try it.)

Anyway, the meat pizza (I think it’s called a Rush Street), was very good.  I was expecting a little more topping/fillings and a little less crust, but it was very good nonetheless.  The crust was crispy on the bottom and very, very light and airy!  Wonderful really.  I would just like a little more topping/filling to bread ratio.

The apricot and mushroom pizza was pretty good, but not really my cup of tea.  I’m sure we will be going back there again when we feel like a deep-dish pie.


January 26, 2010

Beth surprised me by taking me to dinner at Aziza in SF last Saturday.  We have been wanting to try it out since seeing it on Check Please, Bay Area a couple years ago.  It is a Moroccan restaurant that has one Michelin Star, and is known for it’s fantastic cocktails as much as its delicious food.  They try to use as much fresh, locally sourced seasonal ingrediants as possible, and it shows.

We arrived just after six, used the $10 valet, then entered Aziza.  It was dimly lit, but a lively atmosphere, driven no doubt by the yummy cocktails flowing at the bar.  We were quickly seated and I ordered a Pomelo, which the menu says contains absinthe, bitters and rye.  It was filled with pomelo juice and pulp, and a slice of the rind.  I’m not that big an absinthe fan, but this drink hit all the right notes.  A well balanced mingling of disparate flavors!  Beth, being eight months pregnant, stuck with water.  And, since she detests the flavor of licorice, she wouldn’t even try a sip of my cocktail.  Oh well, we will just have to return when she can drink again.

A disclaimer:  although I brought my camera, I forgot to snap pictures of every single course before diving in to eat.  So, all the pics are of half eaten dishes.  My sincere apologies.

Soup IS good food!

We decided on the tasting menu, which was five courses for $62 per person.  We had a choice of two soups, so we got one of each and they were spot on!  One was a lentil soup with celery and medjool dates.  The other was a daily special, a creamed celery root with fennel seeds.  They were both very good.

Flatbread with spreads.

The second course was Chef’s choice of two appetizers.  We got the spreads, grilled flatbread triangles served with three spreads, an eggplant balsamic, a yogurt-dill, and a piquillo-almond.  Yum!  The other was the meatballs, little meatballs on a stick with grape, jicama, and herb-vinaigrette.  Yum!

Third course was a basteeya, chicken and an almond puree cooked in flaky pastry, sprinkled with powdered sugar for a delicious sweet/savory combination.

What'd ya call me??!! Basteeya.


The fourth course was our entree selection, and we went with our friendly waiter’s recommendations.  Beth had the couscous, with chicken, prawns, lamb sausage and vegetables.  It was very tasty although I didn’t see any prawns.  Maybe Beth ate them all?  I got the lamb shank with barley, prunes, cranberries and scallions.  It was falling-off-the-bone good, although we were so stuffed by that point, we had to take most of our entrees to go.

Lamb shank

The fifth course was dessert, Beth opting for the hazelnut, (dacquoise, pear, burnt honey ice cream) and I the citrus, (meyer lemon cream, blood orange, kumquat, huckleberry cake).  They were both delicious!

Hazelnut dessert

Citrus dessert


Overall, we were very satisfied with Aziza and felt it did deserve its one Michelin Star.  We will be going there again next time we want to meet friends in the city for some great cocktails!