Thursday, February 26, 2015

Level 257 -- Restaurant Review

I was a "beta tester"
Level 257 is a new Pacman themed restaurant that soft-launched this week, opening for evening dining by reservation only. They promoted this a "beta-testing" and gave each guest a pretty card on a lanyard.  Like many things in this restaurant design, it was for show only.  There was actually no specific effort to get feedback from us about our dining experience. So I guess I will just share it here.

Overall I would describe dining at Level 257 as slightly quirky but surprisingly conventional.  To begin with I had to work out the restaurant was up the unsignposted stairs.  Later I saw a chilled staff member posted at the bottom to help people figure this out.

The menu is fairly  limited with many upscale elements and priced to match. My chicken carbonara came with a raw egg broken on top, and a waiter with a block of cheese to grate over it and a pepper grinder. It did not however come with very much chicken or bacon.  This mixed high end/cheap end message pretty much carried through the entire dining experience which ended with a nicely made latte that was barely tepid.  The bill for two people (two dinners, one dessert, one glass of wine, two coffees) came to $68 without tip. Which is more than average but less than outrageous.

The decor is a mismatch of odd elements. Studded leather chairs, colorful banners over bowling lanes, stuffed moose head on the wall. Individually rolled cloth hand towels were provided in the bathroom to dry your hands. All around the dining area are areas to play games, which the wait staff barely mentioned although they provided generally very attentive and affable service. I left not knowing whether they function as a normal bowling alley or this is available only to those coming for fine dining. The extensive game playing areas were not occupied other than one couple who had found a vintage game of battleships in the far corner and were putting it to use.

My best guess is that they are aiming for higher income people who either remember Pacman nostalgically or are drawn to it for the ironic kitch-cool factor. Nevertheless most of the tables around me included at least one boy in the 7-10 age group.  So it seems early adopters are expecting this to be a good place to bring children, which on balance it really is not. Stem ware perched on the edge of tables (one was broken while I was there), food is of the normal types but leans pretentious (green tea ice cream etc), there are lots of steps and levels, and most of the games are either mounted at adult height or vintage and clearly mean to be handled gently.  Not to diss any particular 7-year-old boy, but in general I don't think this environment was made with that demographic in mind.

In the end we had a somewhat pleasant but far from perfect conventional dinner, and wandered around the 40,000 square foot space without engaging with any of its game-play features. On the way out we browsed a small, gift store store staffed by two very under-occupied people.  Here I discovered that my lanyard retails for five dollars.  Which symbolizes as well as anything the gap I feel exists between this restaurants premium-priced expectations in contrast to the quality of the experience they are actually providing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why I still feed my dogs Beneful

Image: Nestle
Purina Beneful has been in the news recently due to a class action suit clamining it is toxic and kills dogs.  Pretty alarming right?

Well, not to me.

As a conscientious consumer I realize propylene glycol in in Beneful. I also realize it is in no way a dangerous amount of what is a pretty benign chemical.  One I knowingly eat myself in products like Betty Crocker cake mix and Blue Bunny ice cream.

Contrary to some reports, propylene glycol is not in standard poisonous types of anti-freeze, that is ethylene glycol.  If that was in my dogs' food I would in fact be very alarmed.  Forms of anti-freeze that substitute propylene glycol for ethylene glycol are referred to as "non-toxic anti-freeze" and for good reason.

The reason my household, of both species, eat food containing propylene glycol is because I deem the government rating of food grade propylene glycol as "GRAS" or "generally regarded as safe" to be trustworthy and correct in relation to this food grade chemical.

I feel that the adverse effects people have noted in their dogs some variable time after feeding them Beneful were caused by other factors.  Beneful is a very widely feed diet and coincidental sickening, including poisoning from other sources, could easily occur on the scale being reported without the diet being at fault.

New data could change my assessment, but then that is always the case. And as things stand I am confident that the ingredients of the Beneful diet are not toxic in type or amount unless there has been some huge adulteration and fraud, which I deem to be no more likely for Beneful than for any other brand. In fact I feel Beneful's ingredients are better than most comparable products especially in relation to their relatively high protein levels (for a conventional kibble).

You may, of course, disagree--but to suggest my decision to keep feeding Beneful is out of ignorance or lack of care for my dogs would be utterly, utterly incorrect. So I want to put my reasoning for continued confidence in this brand and product out there.  And to clearly state that I have no relevant conflict of interest whatsoever and am simply stating my personal assessment and opinion on the matter.