Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Online Shopping

Crowds are not my thing. Sadly, Christmas and crowds seem to come hand in hand throughout the month of December, as traffic anywhere near the vicinity of the mall is horrendous, parking lots are a danger zone, and check-out lines creep forward from Black Friday to Christmas Eve.

Let me clarify one thing- I am no Scrooge. I love Bing Crosby Christmas carols, holiday lights brightening neighborhoods and snow. I adore holiday baking, Christmas Eve church services and finding the perfect gift for my family members.

But Christmas shopping can be far from an enjoyable, relaxing experience. With jam-packed parking lots, competition to get items before they go out of stock and rude customers jabbering on their cell phones as they push their way through aisles, the joys of holiday shopping can quickly turn into something miserable and exhausting.

There is good news, however, for those avoiding or procrastinating the holiday retail battle. Online shopping is a great trend that is growing in popularity for good reason.

Online shopping is economical and practical during a time when budgets are tight. Buying your holiday gifts online offers shoppers the opportunity to browse various items and easily compare prices. Discounts can often be found online through coupon codes. For those who shop at certain stores more than others, joining e-mail lists is often beneficial, as stores will send coupons and alert you of discounts directly. You can be given advanced notice as to when your desired products will be available at the lowest possible price.

And while shipping costs can be an added expense to online shopping, the holiday season is a great time to avoid these extra expenditures. Many online sites offer free shipping through Christmas if you spend a certain amount of money. Some even guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve for those last-minute shoppers.

Online shopping allows you to avoid the hoopla of Christmas crowds altogether. It’s incredibly convenient as you don’t have to bundle up against the brutal December weather, and you never have to leave the comfort of your own home. Online retail is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can hop online at any time of day, get your shopping done in half the amount of time and even stay in your pajamas while doing so.

For those in favor of “going green,” online shopping offers an opportunity to be selfless. Shopping from your computer is beneficial to the environment, because you are taking away the travel of shopping. By not driving to the mall, you are not only saving gas money, but reducing air pollution.

The Christmas season is busy enough, so save yourself the stress and money. Put your pajamas back on, make a pot of coffee and settle in for an online shopping trip.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wild Sage Grille

The Cherapa Place in downtown Sioux Falls is home to one of Sioux Falls’ gems: Wild Sage Grille. It opened in 2008 and offers a richly diverse and delicious menu in a relaxing, sophisticated environment.

Open for lunch Monday-Saturday from 11-2 p.m., and for dinner Monday- Saturday 5-9 p.m., Wild Sage offers diners ample opportunity to explore a menu specializing in natural meat. The restaurant’s commitment to natural meat coincides with their conscious effort to consider the environment when serving its food. Owner and Chef Nancy Gellerman has developed relationships with the people who raise the restaurant’s buffalo, elk and cows. All the meat is “organic,” meaning there are no antibiotics or hormones injected into the animals. Their Web site says they are “taking care of nature to make sure we nuture your soul.”

But don’t be fooled by the “grill” in the title, as this isn’t the Hamburger Inn. Preceeded by a grand entryway, Wild Sage is upscale in d├ęcor with wood floors, rich wooden countertops and tables and limestone pillars. Dimly lit and painted in warm gold colors, the atmosphere becomes cozy despite its plentiful amounts of seating. Large black-and-white photographs accent the walls. A bar covers an entire wall, looking impressive with dark wood shelves holding copious amounts of wine.

Hosts, waiters and servers are plentiful, promising each customer attentive, positive and personal service. They know the menu inside and out and respectfully offer suggestions.

The lunch menu is undoubtedly worth the expense. The traditional bruscietta ($5.95) is described as rustic bread toasts with farm ripened tomatoes, basil, garlic and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Warm and offering a combination of soothing and complimentary flavors, this is a great mid-day treat. Also on the menu are soups and salads (The field greens with goat cheese is fantastic). Sandwiches are served with potatoes (mashed, roasted, sweet, fries) or a daily soup (previous soups have been Italian wedding or elk and vegetable), and there is a wide variety from buffalo burgers to grilled wild sockeye salmon melts. The grilled chicken breast with Swiss and bacon ($8.95) is a hefty example; featuring a generous chicken breast blanketed in Swiss cheese and topped with three pieces of bacon. It is rich in flavor and will fill you up quickly with its large portions. All of the sandwiches can be substituted with a half-sandwich and cup of soup.

The dinner menu changes regularly, but the rotations never disappoint. Patrons can begin the meal with appetizers such as bruscietta, artichoke dip or roasted butternut squash and parmesan crostini. A soup of the day and salads are also available.

Dinner entrees, the forte of the chef, are truly a carnivore’s delight. Although steeply priced at $23.95, the buffalo tenderloin is a treat. The menu advertises that the meat is “naturally raised at Catron Ranch in Western South Dakota,” and the 6 oz. tenderloin is sprinkled with a blackberry port glaze. Side dishes include potatoes and sauted vegetables. The beef top sirloin ($19.95) is a personal favorite. Served with a homemade steak sauce, it cuts like butter and tastes phenomenal. This meal also includes potatoes (served in any style) and harvested vegetables.

The dinner menu also features sandwiches offered at lunch. An efficient way to lower the cost of dinner, all of the sandwiches are under $10 and fantastic. Sandwiches such as the bourbon barbequed pulled pork loin sandwich shouldn’t be swept under the rug when compared to the steaks. Tasty and offering significant servings of meat, the Wild Sage’s sandwiches are a credible choice.

Desserts are made fresh daily, so upon request your server will bring out a tray of sinfully wonderful sweets that are available. The fruit tart was worth every calorie, and each option is an appropriate way to end a wonderful meal.

To compliment the carnivorous meals is an extensive beer and wine list. And if wanting the evening to be more casual, the bar is available for eating or simply for beverages. There is one television in the restaurant facing the bar for sports-loving fans in need of a football score.

Something to note is the lack of a children’s menu. While children are certainly allowed, the atmosphere is quiet and more geared toward the “grown-up” spectrum. For those parents wondering whether Wild Sage is a kid-friendly eating spot, I would recommend visiting the restaurant on date night or a night out with friends.

Prices are certainly another concern. Yes, this restaurant is not cheap. A dinner for two will likely cost about $50 plus tip. If you’re looking for a delicious splurge, however, this is your place. Something to note as well is that if you order sandwiches instead of the lavish tenderloins and sirloins, the price will be substantially lower.

Wild Sage is truly a gem for Sioux Falls carnivores and makes a great spot for an evening out. With satisfying and delicious food in an enjoyable atmosphere, it is a restaurant worth repeated visits.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Is it over yet?

Watching girls scream themselves into a frenzy as a werewolf rips his shirt off, I wanted to remind this vampire harem of teenage girls that they were not at a Jonas Brothers’ concert. Rather, they were in the lobby of the movie theater and, sadly, the same theater I was at last Friday evening. I was however, in a tiny minority, as I wasn’t buying a ticket to the new Twilight film, New Moon.

The current Twilight rage has me both confused and disgusted. Since when are blood-sucking immortals and werewolves the object of screaming adoration and obsession? I cannot comprehend how fangs, freakishly pale complexions and appetites for blood are sexy. Now, I realize I grew up during the boy-band generation of Hanson and Backstreet Boys, but at least we were attracted to humans.

The New Moon movie trailer seems to be on repeat on every channel, and I am sick of listening, reading and seeing interviews probing Robert Pattinson on his love life.
I couldn’t care less who is on team Edward or team Jacob, and I can’t wait until the Twilight phase is submerged into the dead dark of night.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Bang Theory

Lately, nerdy physicists victimized by obsessive-compulsive disorders and a phobia of speaking to women have dominated my television set. With sarcasm, obscure ideas and outrageous behavior, CBS’s “Big Bang Theory” has captured my attention and I’m loving it.

Currently airing its third season, “Big Bang Theory” features brilliant but socially dysfunctional physicists, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons). Along with their friends, Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), the scientists are perfectly content in their nerdy, womanless, comic book world until Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves next door. Beautiful and carefree, Penny offers them a challenge of understanding the opposite sex and confronting “normal” social interactions. These adventures, along with Leonard’s persistent love for Penny, offer continually refreshing episodes filled with well-written script and hilarious acting.

The last episode I watched was entitled, “The Gothowitz Deviation.” Walowitz and Koothrappali visit a Goth club and try to attract gothic women by displaying their dark side and faking tattoos. Meanwhile, Leonard and Penny are finally dating, and Sheldon tries to use positive reinforcement to train Penny to behave the way he would like. At one point, Leonard objects this by saying, “Sheldon, you can’t train my girlfriend like a lab rat!” Sheldon replies, “Actually, it turns out I can.”

It is scenarios such as this that make the show so entertaining. These nerdy characters have such vibrant, quirky personalities with their sole reliance on science, Sheldon’s need for consistency, and Wolowitz’s misguided obsession with finding a girlfriend..
Jim Parsons is particularly talented. Playing the most intelligent and aloof geek of the bunch, Parson’s delivers his lines with straight-faced wit. It’s almost as if he becomes this Spock-obsessed character and truly cannot sense sarcasm, must organize his cereal by fiber content, and has to sit in the same spot on the couch every time he sits down.
It’s amazing Parsons doesn’t laugh when delivering his lines, but perhaps it is the seriousness of Sheldon that makes him so funny to viewers. His character’s insanity is wildly entertaining (although Sheldon would argue differently: “I’m not insane, my mother had me tested.”)

The only character that doesn’t have me bursting with laughter is Penny. While there is nothing particularly wrong with her character or Cuoco’s acting, Penny is written too stereotypically. A gorgeous, ditzy blonde who works as a waitress while aspiring to become an actress seems too standard for the typically witty writing of “Big Bang Theory.” It seems as though Penny’s primary role on the show is playing a normal, mediocre person to contrast these genius, extreme personalities of the four men.

“Big Bang Theory” has an appeal for all audiences. Everyone possesses quirks and nerd-qualities to some extent, and to see them played up to an extreme is wonderfully entertaining. It is truly the show’s characters that form the appealing foundation of the show, and clever writing simply adds to it. “Big Bang Theory” is worth taking the time to watch and will leave you chuckling and wanting to find some physicist buddies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taste of the Big Apple Pizza

Pizza is an essential component of a college student’s diet. Therefore, as a self-declared pizza-connoisseur, I set out to visit Taste of the Big Apple Pizza last Friday evening.

Located in a newly-developed part of downtown, it is in a loft-style building that’s modern and open. The interior has brightly painted walls and is decorated with NYC pictures and memorabilia, giving the restaurant a big city energy and atmosphere. On this particular Friday night, there was a live jazz musician playing to a large crowd of all ages.

Despite Big Apple Pizza’s busy night, my six friends and I were seated almost immediately. The menu offers a number of specialty pizzas along with pasta dishes, gyros and calzones. Three of us split a large “Beach Bum,” which is a Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza.
A tough critic of my personal favorite, this pizza surpassed my expectations. Generous heapings of pineapple and cooked to perfection, the pizza really was phenomenal. The other people I was with shared “The New Yorker,” which is ultimately a meat-lover’s pizza. This pizza also appeared to have mounds of hamburger and sausage and received raving reviews.

My one complaint about my Big Apple experience was the loudness of the restaurant. The talented jazz musician certainly added entertainment, but for a relatively small venue, it became too hard to hear when the keyboard and drums were both being played. I found myself finally able to hear conversation at the other end of the table between the musician’s sets.

But, if a loud dinner atmosphere doesn’t bother you, Taste of the Big Apple Pizza is undoubtedly a great pick for a Friday night out. The food is fantastic and comes in large servings, so come hungry and enjoy a refreshingly energetic pizza joint.

Welcome!

I'm an Augustana student in Sioux Falls, SD. I have never blogged before and am starting as a project for one of my journalism classes. I love to read, eat, watch reality television, and do crossword puzzles. Someday when I have to grow up I'd like to be a librarian. Consequently, a good portion of my blog will be restaurant and book reviews with some random musings in between. Enjoy!