Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Empellon is overrated

Wanted to go, heard it was good. Great NYTimes review. So I booked a table for 2 a week in advance via OpenTable.

I should have known something was wrong when Empellon called me the day of my reservation and said that we were having a 6-course tasting that night, with wine pairings, and that was our only option. Our reservation was held hostage unless I forked over a credit card number. I found this to be poor customer service, but I wanted to believe that Empellon was worth it, so I acquiesced.

Of 6 courses, 5 were average or below. 1 was brilliant:
1. Periwinkle (snail) Ceviche. Tasty but not exceptional.
2. Tamales. Good, but not better than good homemade tamales.
3. Huevos Motulenos. Brilliant dish: an over-easy egg over fried corn tortillas, beans, cheese. It's traditionally a breakfast dish, but I'd have that any time. Interesting textures, complex mix of flavors.
4. Venison Sausages with Succotash: Good sausages.
5. Sorbet. It's sorbet.
6. Almond Cake. Dry and flavorless. It was paired with La Gitana Manzanilla, a Spanish sherry that was so disgusting, both my dinnermate and I sent it back immediately. It smelled and tasted like feet.

Portions were small. I left feeling like I'd had lunch. Oh, I also had a margarita before dinner, which was billed as one of the most exceptional margaritas in the city. It's just a Skinny Girl minus the orange liquor. Not very special.

The service was attentive. Our main server was friendly and knowledgable but we didn't see her much. Our alternate server (who mostly served water and wines) was very attentive and friendly but didn't know much about the food or the wine.

Conclusions? Three pieces of advice. 1) Don't go. 2) If you do go, avoid their tastings. 3) Don't believe the Times.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Walmart makes good on Iron Man 2 Blu-ray price mistake

Kudos to Walmart! If only Amazon and Dell were this gracious:

Dear Daniel Degrandpre,

You recently received an email from us that your order of Iron Man 2 (Blu-ray + Standard DVD + Digital Copy) (Widescreen) had been cancelled due to a limited supply issue. The cancellation was due to a pricing error on this item, not a supply issue. We're sorry for the confusion and the inconvenience.

To thank you for your understanding, we will honor the $15 price that was displayed at the time of your purchase. We will email you a $10.84 eGift Card to cover the difference from the current price of $24.96 plus tax. Your eGift card will be emailed within the next 24 hours and can be applied towards the purchase of this item or a different item. We’ll issue one eGift Card per affected customer; this card can be used online at Walmart.com only.

If you would still like to preorder the Iron Man 2 Blu-ray, please wait for your eGift card and then follow the link below to place your order:


If you have any questions, please reply to this email and let us know how we can help.


Your Walmart.com Customer Service Team


Monday, June 21, 2010

Public's Gilt City "Deal" Was Anything But

(Public. It looks much better inside)

I bought Gilt City's $150 deal on a 5-course tasting menu for two with wine at Public. A Michelin Star winner, Public is normally a fantastic restaurant, and $150 is a helluva deal to include wine pairings. Or so you'd think.

The tasting menu was only 3 for 5, with flavorless venison and a terrible dessert. Wines were only 2 for 5. (None were bad, but only 2 were actually good.) The server never bothered to ask us how anything tasted, and the incredibly fast pace got us out in just over 70 minutes. (For 5 courses! Is this an Applebee's?)

Overall, we felt treated like we had used a gift certificate. I did like Public, a lot. Now I'll probably never go back. My wife certainly won't. And I definitely won't trust Gilt City just because the restaurant is top-notch.

Gilt City (free membership required)

Update: I sent this feedback to Gilt, and Gilt gave me $25 for use on a future Gilt purchase. But far more valuable was the apology, sent directly from the president of Gilt City. Nice touch.

Friday, June 18, 2010


HBO.com told me today to "upgrade" from Chrome to Firefox or Safari. That's so incredibly ignorant of them, I'm considering an upgrade from HBO to "no HBO" (otherwise known as "NOBO").

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reader email: "Sears seriously sucks"

First email I read this morning:


I just wanted to make you aware that every single time I have tried to buy an item that you list from Sears, none of them EVER work out.
Tonight, I tried to buy one of those boys jackets. First it said that they had problems with Paypal. Then, after they took my credit card number, and got my email address in their database, they tell me, they are out of stock.
Every single time I have tried to buy an item from Sears that you list, I never end up able to get it,
I know it's not your fault, but I do want to complain about Sears


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Top 10 Deals for August 2009

The 10 Most Popular Deals on dealnews in August, based on clicks.
  1. Ann Taylor LOFT women's dresses for $5 + $9 s&h, more
  2. Up to 70% off Suncloud sunglasses at REI.com: Deals from $15 + $6 s&h
  3. Lands' End Men's Shoes from $10 + free shipping
  4. 75% off Garden Treasures patio furniture at Lowe's: Deals from $9 + pickup
  5. EMS Semi-Annual Footwear Clearance: The North Face Sandals from $8 + $7 s&h, more
  6. Up to 80% off footwear at Teva.com: Deals from $20 + $6 s&h
  7. Men's athletic apparel roundup: Nike Performance Polo for $16 + $1, more
  8. BuyCostumes.com coupon: 10% off $30 or more
  9. Lands' End women's swimsuits (limited sizes) : 90% off or more + free shipping
  10. App Store Freebies: Golf Etiquette, Evil Goniometer, Alarm Clock Plus, more
BuyCostumes of course had the Star Wars Sexy Princess Leia Adult Costume on sale.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Which laptop feature matters least?

Interesting. I asked this question from Louis, Jeff Somogyi, and Jim:

I'm building an HP laptop to use for our Facebook giveaway, and I'm working within a budget. Which one of these features would you think matters least?
  • 512MB ATI Radeon(TM) HD 4530 Graphics (compared to default graphics)
  • Blu-Ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer (compared to DVD burner)
  • 12 Cell Lithium Ion Battery (compared to 6-cell)
Each person gave me very different answers:
  • Louis: "Hmm, if it's a 16" or bigger [it is], I'd say the battery is least important. Those machines are too clunky too lug around. Esp w/ a video card ... you're gonna want to plug into an AC outlet otherwise battery will wipe out fast."
  • Jeff S.: "Hmm ... looks to me like of each of those choices would benefit from the others, but I'd have to say graphics. Long battery life is a great feature, as is Blu-ray. And the graphics card shouldn't matter TOO much, unless someone wants to do video editing.
  • Jim: "For me, it would be Blu-ray. You can't ever replace the graphics, I give that a high priority. Everything else can be upgraded later."
Wow, three PC users (Jim and Louis also use Macs) who share a lot of interests, and three completely different answers.

I decided to take Jim's advice and dump Blu-ray. The fact of the matter is, I just don't think as many people care about having a laptop play Blu-ray movies compared to having faster graphics (especially for games) and having a longer battery life. But if I'm wrong, a Blu-ray drive can usually be added later.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meh on Wine.Woot

Over the past year, I've placed eight orders from Wine.Woot.com.

The first order was for a Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Trio. I must say, that wine was brilliant.

So, I figured I'd try it again. I ordered a Block 13 Cabernet Sauvignon 4-Pack, about $14/bottle. It was very good, and definitely worth $14/btl.

I concluded that Wine.Woot is a good way to try new wines at discount prices ... a way to learn wines. Wine.Woot had earned my trust. Over the next few months, I placed the following orders (given with my ratings):
  • Colores Del Sol Argentina Malbec Trio ($14/btl) = sux
  • Titus Vineyards 2-Pack ($32/btl) = particularly disappointing
  • Clos La Chance Trio ($18/btl) = 1 good, 1 meh, 1 sux
  • Roessler Winery Pinot Noir Trio ($22/btl) = sux
  • Vino Noceto Sangiovese Trio ($22/btl) = I don't even recall
  • Roessler Bluejay Pinot Noir Trio ($22/btl) = sux (think I'd have learned the 1st time)

1) Don't use Wine.Woot as a way to learn about wine. It's too hit & miss. Recently, there have been few bargains, as they keep selling 3-for-$65 wines that don't save much over street price (fortunately, today has a Zin 4-pack for $55).

2) You're much better off going into any good local wine store and asking the staff for recommendations at $20 or less. I've switched to this, using a nice local wine store that's close by, and its hit rate (defined as "better than meh") is 75%.

3) I waste waaaaay too much money ordering crap online.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

iPhone v. Concrete? Winner: Concrete

Friday night, my wife was coming home from work, and her iPhone 16GB slipped out of her fingers as she was taking it out of her purse. It hit the street, and voila:
What did I do when I saw it? Laughed! I mean, OMG it looks like it took a bullet! So of course I took a photo (with my iPhone, ironically) and emailed it to some friends.

A call to AT&T proved unhelpful, so I suggested she go to an Apple Store. They were helpful, but the replacement cost was $300. Ouch. And apparently, you can't insure an iPhone. I'm so buying her a silicone skin for this one.

Update: The Apple Store could have replaced just the screen for $200, but they didn't have any in stock, so we got the replacement phone (a refurb). A new one would have cost $500.

Update2: Courtesy Daniel H.: You can insure an iPhone, just not through Apple or AT&T. Some people use the floating policy on their home insurance, or you can use SquareTrade. I have 3 years of coverage (including full accidental damage) on mine for like $87 (via one of the hefty 30-40% off coupons they usually have). Better than the cost of replacement, and worth the extra lifetime if I decide to skip a generation before upgrading to the latest iPhone. Only caveat is it has to be within like 30 days or so of the purchase date to get it with SquareTrade.

Update3: Jim found that TechRestore fixes them overnight for $100 + $19 s&h.

Friday, October 24, 2008

BRILLIANT spam from LNT!

If you cannot see the links or images in this email, click here.
Our e-mail address is changing. Please add this address to your address book: Linens-N-Things@em.lnt.com. Find out how.
Dear Daniel,

Linens 'n Things is interested in your opinions. As an e-mail subscriber, we would like to get your feedback as to how well our e-mails meet your needs.

Please complete our online survey. It should only take about 3 minutes of your time. Just click on the take the survey link below to go to the survey:
Take the Survey!

Thank you in advance for your comments. We value your opinions.


Linens 'n Things

Nice timing, as LNT is out of business and liquidating its inventory.

Brilliant spam from Crutchfield

As a customer from several years ago, I received this email from Crutchfield just now. It's the smartest marketing I've seen yet related to the current economic woes.

Dear Valued Customer,

The international financial crisis is weighing heavily on all of us. As consumers, one factor that we all need to consider is the stability of the companies with whom we do business. In the current economic climate, many retailers will stumble and some will even fail. For that reason, I personally want to explain Crutchfield's unique situation.

For many years, I have been concerned about the growing credit bubble. It was obvious to me that it was unsustainable and that an inevitable day of reckoning would come. To protect our customers, our employees, and my family from the disastrous consequences of a financial meltdown, I positioned Crutchfield to withstand the worst. We became very frugal with how we spent money. We did not pay outlandish executive salaries and bonuses. We did not build fancy facilities. We did not expand our retail store operations. And we did not buy other companies. Instead, we worked extremely hard to improve how we serve our customers, while we managed every aspect of our business with excellence. Furthermore, we paid off all of our debt and accumulated cash reserves.

When shopping in times like these, you need to be certain that the retailer will be around to provide you with years of after-the-sale support. We know that you expect guarantees, warranties and promises of lifetime product support to be kept when you purchase with us - and I have positioned our company to deliver without compromise on all of these important elements. As retailers go, Crutchfield is a "Rock of Gibraltar." We have no debt, a perfect credit rating and a legacy of fiscal prudence. Therefore, we will be around to serve you as we have served millions of customers for the past 34 years and throughout the last four recessions.

Purchasing from Crutchfield today means you are choosing a company that will help you use and enjoy your purchase now and in the future. I hope that you'll give Crutchfield a chance to exceed your expectations. I thank you for your time and, most importantly, for doing business with Crutchfield.

Bill Crutchfield

Bill Crutchfield
Founder and CEO, Crutchfield Corporation

Crutchfield hit home on several points: We've got great customer service, we're financially sound, and we've weathered recessions before because we're smart businesspeople. Whether it's true or not is irrelevant. I get thousands of emails from stores a week, and I've seen no such reassurance from any other retailer. By being first, Crutchfield stands out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Speedo Men's Warmup Jacket, Foot Locker Hoodie

I pulled the trigger on the Speedo Men's Super Pro Warmup Jacket today too ($12 via Prime). I know that I don't have enough workout gear for when the temperature drops. I didn't opt for the matching pants tho. That would be too stylin' unless I start hanging out at Satriale's.

Speaking of such cheapies, my wife loves the Foot Locker Basic Men's Hoodie ($7 shipped, expired) I bought for myself last week. She asked me why I only bought one at the time. "Because they might suck!" is always a good reason, right?

Koskin 20-Disc CD Hanger

I bought the Koskin 20-Disc CD Hanger from Meritline for $2 today. I've got a handful of wedding-related CDs and DVDs taking up room in the apartment, like our wedding video (thanks again Stuart & Brian) and wedding photo backups. Since I have a small file cabinet, this will minimize the room they'll take up.

I'd like it better if the CDs were protected from dust a bit more, though. But, $2!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Have you seen the ad for Wario Land: Shake It?

Have you seen the ad for Wario Land: Shake It? Best web ad I've seen in ages.


dealnews Redesign

Hi folks! I have just a few quick comments about our redesign.

The main reason we implemented this redesign was to remove the right sidebar on dealnews so we could use that space for other purposes, now and in the future.

This redesign was shown to the heavy dealnews users that make up our User Advisory Board. It received extremely positive ratings, far more than any redesign we ever launched. Nice.

You can compare the old and new here:

The changes may seem dramatic since we changed the very top of the page. But scroll down and you'll find that the redesign changes very little.

Changes of note:

  • The category list on the right has moved to the top of the page.
  • "Today's Hottest" is now a gadgety widget, which allowed us to add product images, but we can only fit the top 4 now (we had up to 6 before).
  • The right sidebar has been eliminated. This gave us an area on the right to add more tools to each deal. The first is a new "Report an Error" link.
  • Links to the three most recent "Feature" articles have been added to the upper right.
We removed a couple of features that fewer than 5% of our visitors use: The Ability to "hide" the big area at the top of the page, and a few alternative views of our home page (like "Tile" view). For web site stability, it's important to every once in a while remove site features that haven't proven popular. (The less code, the better.)

As you browse around, you'll find that the sidebar is still on a few of our pages. We're upgrading those pages soon.

Special thanks to the designers and programmers who worked on these changes. Extra special thanks to our readers who've given us feedback, much of it used in this redesign.

Please leave us comments, either as a follow up to this blog post or via our email feedback form at http://dealnews.com/contact.html. (Update: If you're reporting a problem, please provide your browser version and platform. The more detail the better ... for example, Firefox 3.0.2, Mac OS X 10.5 would be great.) Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Babysitting cooperatives

I'm not a parent, but I am cheap, and what a great idea: Brooklyn Based found a babysitting cooperative for Brooklynites. That's FTW if you're already cash-strapped from the cost of living in NY.

In a handful of neighborhoods — Prospect Heights, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Carroll Gardens, Windsor Terrace, and Bay Ridge to name a few — you don’t need to pay qualified adults to care for your child when you need to go to the doctor’s, work at home alone, or want a date night out. You just need to be willing to return the favor, as a member of a babysitting cooperative.


Bill Heard locations in U.S. shutting down

Bill Heard, the largest chain of Chevy dealers in the U.S., is shutting down. Huntsville has a Bill Heard dealer (HAD! ... although it will apparently be bought out and reopened by another company). I certainly feel bad for the rank and file employees. But the sales staff and management? Everyone I've ever heard talk about Bill Heard has described it as an underhanded, downright slimy place to buy a vehicle. Here's how management handled the shutdown:

Shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, employees at the Huntsville dealership were asked to gather. They were told that the dealership was closing and that they should leave the premises.

Classy til the end.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Time Warner DVR v. TiVo

This dude's complaints about the Time Warner DVR (versus TiVo) are spot-on:

ZDNet: How I dumped my DVR for a terabyte TiVo

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Apple tax break! (not)

I got an email blast from Apple this week regarding the sales tax break in the State of Alabama. A sales tax holiday is a big deal on a Mac, since the cheapest new Mac costs $1,099 (outside of the Mac mini).

However, the fine print from Apple's promo says:
The transaction does NOT qualify for the exemption if:
  • The CPU costs more than $750 before tax.
Tune in for Apple's next promotion, where they give away a free Porsche 911 with every new MacBook purchased from an Apple Store for under $1,098*.

* Offer excludes student and government discounts, theft, typos, and other loopholes we haven't thought of.