Limited time 45K SkyMiles for Delta Gold Amex

Delta and American Express are offering a 45,000 mile bonus for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card for a very limited time.

Delta Gold Amex 45K Offer

The email states:

For a limited time only, get the Card that makes travel on Delta more rewarding and earn 45,000 bonus miles toward Award Travel. This offer for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express expires on December 23, 2012, so apply today.

Good luck!

McDonald’s Down Under, Seriously

Maccas Serious Lamb BurgerSince seeing Super Size Me, I typically refuse to eat anything at McDonald’s with two exceptions.  The occasional nostalgic Egg McMuffin for a Saturday breakfast (Thanks, Grandma!) and menu items unique to non-U.S. McDonald’s menus such as the McPork in Japan and the McAloo Tikki in India.

I spent the better part of the month of August in Australia, and after a week or so of intriguing commercials, I decided to go to Maccas (Aussie slang for McDonald’s) and try The Serious Lamb Burger, made with “real Aussie lamb”, as the caricature of an Aussie businessman on the commercial and the rather official-looking seal on the sandwich carton both proudly proclaim.

This is a typically over-the-top Aussie burger.  The lamb patty is topped with a fried egg, a slice of beetroot, lettuce, tomato, onion and aioli.  The taste of the lamb is good, surprisingly so for a fast food chain.  The other ingredients made the whole thing a bit sloppy and not very big on structural integrity, but the flavor made up for that shortcoming.  If you’re looking for a fast food meal and you like lamb, you could do much worse than The Serious Lamb Burger.

From the inside of the carton…
Love Lamb
At McDonald’s® we’re celebrating Australian Lamb, everyday.  Our thick and juicy patties are made from 100% seriously succulent Australian lamb, combined with egg and breadcrumbs, then seasoned with rosemary, parsley, oregano, garlic and real onions to create a mouth-watering taste.  This is a serious burger, two hands are highly recommended.
i’m lovin it

Oliebollen Stands, Amsterdam, NL

Olibollen StandOlibollen (literally “oil balls”) are fried balls of dough similar to beignets or zeppole.  They are typically dusted with powdered sugar, and often include fillings or fruit mixed into the dough.

During the fall and winter months, Olibollen are available at street stands and carts throughout the Netherlands (including at Schipol airport).  As you might guess, the’re not good for you in the least, but they taste amazing and are wonderfully warm and comforting on a cold evening.

Below are an assortment of treats found at olibollen stands in Amsterdam’s Old Centre district.  Prices are from the 2011-2012 season.  Appelbeignets contain a slice of apple surrounded in dough, fried and then dusted with cinnamon sugar.  An appelbeignet is like a miniature fried apple pie.  Krentenbollen are olibollen in which which currants (not raisins, as the translation on the sign notes) have been added to the dough.  Rum Rozijnenbol are olibollen to which a rum raisin filling has been added after cooking.

Delta Medallion Benefits on Virgin Australia

DeltaBeginning September 12th, 2012, all gold or higher status Delta medallions will receive priority check-in, priority boarding, priority bag handling, and priority security lines when flying Virgin Australia.  Silver medallions will receive priority check-in and priority boarding on VA-operated long haul flights.

Anecdotally, I have been flying Virgin Australia on and off for the past three years, and they have always extended these benefits as well as lounge access to me as a Delta Diamond Medallion when flying VA within Australia.

If you’re a Delta Medallion, you may have already received this notice, unless your spam filter ate it…

Delta Medallion Benefit Chart for Virgin Australia

Topguest: A Nice Point Boost

If you’re someone that likes to share their location using Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Instagram, Topguest is an interesting service that can get you some point boosts in certain hotel and airline loyalty programs.

The process is simple enough.  You sign up for a Topguest account at (link opens in new window), then link your social profiles and your loyalty programs.  When you check in, tweet or post a photo from designated hotel and airport locations, you gain some bonus points from the associated loyalty programs.

I’ve tried this out with my Hilton HHonors and Priority Club accounts, and in the past month (which has been a slow travel month for me), I’ve earned 350 Priority Club points and 400 HHonors points.  While this certainly isn’t going to be a quick way to free stays, it can be a nice little boost, especially since it requires little to no effort, especially for those travelers who are avid users of social networking services.

I hope this helps you earn a few more points.

Aperitivo a Milano

Aperitivo at Metropolis Cafe

Aperitivo at Metropolis Cafe

If you walk into a bar in Milan between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 pm, you will find large, seemingly overpriced drinks, but they’ll be accompanied by a free buffet. Depending on the bar, this buffet can be anything from potato chips and olives to top of the range charcuterie, pastas, risotto and more. This pre-dinner smorgasbord is a Milanese institution called Aperitivo.

Started in the late 1980s by bar owners looking to attract customers, aperitivo has become a fixture of life in Milan. Each evening, people from all walks of life can be found flocking to the bars for an aperitif and snack. While many guidebooks will warn that it’s gauche to eat more than a small snack at aperitivo, I observed quite a few Italians of all ages and apparent social backgrounds using the aperitivo buffets as a meal replacement. In the second half of my stay, I abandoned my inhibitions as well.

Drinks featuring Campari are popular favorites, which is no surprise given that Campari is produced just down the road from Milan. Some of the most popular cocktails are the spritz and the negroni. A spritz adds Campari to Prosecco while a negroni is gin, vermouth and Campari. Both drinks are typically garnished with a slice or wedge of orange, often blood orange.

Here at a few spots that might be good for a bit of aperitivo.

Google Map:
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
Located just across the street from the Porta Garibaldi railway station, Loolapaloosa serves large drinks, and an ample, if not top of the range, buffet. Pasta dishes, risotto, finger sandwiches and salami are spread over the bar. At 10 pm, aperitivo ends and the place becomes a dance club. The crowd tends to be rather young. Loolapaloosa is also in Corso Como, where several interesting aperitivo venues can be found, including…

Executive Lounge
Google Map:
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
From the street, the Executive lounge is a bit strange. In a seemingly industrial side street, you meet the door staff, then descend down a long winding ramp, which makes it clear that this venue was once a parking silo (and maybe still is during the day). When you reach the bottom you’ll find a huge space filled with couches and cushions and interspersed with a ridiculously large and varied buffet. The young crowd seems to be a mix of young professionals enjoying a happy hour and date night couples. At 8€ per drink, and such a plentiful and varied buffet, this was one of the better aperitivo values I found. Naming rights seem to change hands frequently. During my visit, the venue was called Fiat Open Lounge.

10 Corso Como
Google Map:
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
The “Chicissimo” spot, according to Zagat, 10 Corso Como is a swanky boutique that also serves aperitivo. Popular amongst the hip and those who watch them, you’ll find small bites and expensive drinks here. The focus is on fashion, not food.

Metropolis Cafe
Google Map:
Transport: Repubblica – M3, S1, S2, S3, S6, S13
The Metropolis Cafe at the Piazza della Repubblica draws a more mature crowd. Within the dark, modern decor, sophisticated young professionals mingle with middle aged business people and even a few elderly couples. The 10€ drinks are quite big and the buffet is plentiful and features quality charcuterie and arancini among its offerings.

Google Map:
Transport: Porta Genova: M2
Navigli is a neighborhood, not a particular venue. Surrounding Milan’s canals or “navigli”, the Navigli district is chock full of bars, restaurants, jazz clubs and dance clubs. Aperitivo prices range from 7-10€, so this can be a great place for an inexpensive dinner. Given the variety, it would be difficult to find a bar that’s not to your liking.

Prices above are those paid in April 2012.

Celebrate Milan, celebrate aperitivo, support, buy a shirt or a glass.  More items avaiable at

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Maxpedition Kodiak & Sitka Gearslingers

Maxpedition is a maker of rugged military specification nylon gear.  Their products are favored by military personnel and outdoor enthusiasts.  They also serve as excellent travel bags for the Roaddog.

I could boil this review down to two words, utility and quality.  These bags have enough pouches and dividers to keep all of your stuff handy.  The teflon-treated 1000-Denier fabric stands up to a lot of abuse.  I have been using my Kodiak for three years as an everyday bag and for travel for up to two weeks at a time.  This bag has been literally dragged through the mud and aside from chipped paint on the metal key keeper, the bag still looks clean and new.  Have a look at the video to see just how much fits in this bag.

This review is focused on the Kodiak Gearslinger, but note that all of the same construction and quality applies to its smaller cousin, the Sitka Gearslinger.  The Sitka just barely fits a 15″ MacBook Pro and the entire Sitka fits inside the main compartment of the Kodiak.

The Kodiak and the Sitka are available in black, khaki, olive drab green, foliage Green, a khaki/foliage combo and ACUPAT digital camouflage. When choosing a color, please bear in mind that camouflage items are illegal for civilians to wear and carry in some countries. Both the Kodiak and the Sitka come in S-Type versions which are designed for left-side carry.

If you’re impressed by this product and review, please consider making your purchase through at a significant discount via the affiliate links below to support this site.


Pizza Birra, Sydney, NSW, AU

Pizza Birra Tortelloni

Duck Tortelloni

Part of an Australian-Italian food empire, Pizza Birra in the Surry Hills suburb of Sydney is a casual, cafe-style eatery serving pizza, pasta, wine, and of course, beer.  According to the restaurant’s website, “fresh, local produce and seasonal cooking is paramount.”  This shows through in the fresh, clean flavors on the plate.

Clearly popular amongst Sydneysiders, Pizza Birra is crowded nearly any night of the week.  The bar area is quite small, so bookings are recommended unless you want a long wait outside for a table.

Once you do get seated and served, it’s immediately apparent why this place is so popular.  The portions are large and  the top notch ingredients are prepared simply – the hallmark of good Italian food.

The pizza here is quite good, as you might expect, with it being in the name of the place.  You can expect thin, crispy crust, and locally-produced, Italian-style ingredients.

Pasta dishes are also quite good here.  My favorite is the duck  and ricotta tortelloni (pictured above).  The pasta is perfectly al dente. The flavor is earthy with a bit of pepper. Overall, the dish is fresh, simple and clean.

If you’re in Sydney and looking for Italian food, you can’t go wrong with Pizza Birra.

Pizza Birra
1/500 Crown Street
Sydney, NSW 2010
(02) 9332 2510

JoeDough, New York, NY

JoeDough has closed, but Joe & Jill have started a new catering business in it’s place. See details here. If you’re craving Joe’s sandwiches, Tuesday nights are sandwich nights at Joe & Misses Doe.

Duck Egg SandwichJoeDough is an East Village sandwich shop offshoot of the JoeDoe restaurant a few blocks away.  Joe and Jill, the owner-operators of JoeDough, describe their cuisine as “Aggressive American,” combining Jewish, Italian, Asian and Irish influences.  I describe it as delicious and interesting.  While I have yet to have the pleasure of dining at the restaurant, if the sandwich shop is any indication of what to expect, I’m eager to book into JoeDoe.  If you’re a local looking for lunch or a tourist looking for some amazing NYC food, stop in at JoeDough.

At JoeDough, you can expect to find sandwiches that pay homage to classics you may remember from your youth, but update and tweak the ingredients to make them more interesting for a more sophisticated adult palate.  Here are a few of my personal favorites…

JoseDoe Cubano

Joe’s Cuban is toasted to a lovely flat, firm crispness.  American-made prosciutto adds a welcome smokiness.  Whole grain mustard adds extra depth of flavor.  I’m a huge fan of Cuban sandwiches, and this one is an instant favorite.

The Almighty Brisket

As cliché as it may sound, the brisket literally melts in your mouth.  Spicy mayo adds just enough kick to let you know it’s there but doesn’t overpower the other flavors.  This is easily the best beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Brunch Special (pictured)

Early one Saturday, I stopped in and had the finest egg sandwich I’ve ever tasted.  This special was two duck eggs, shoulder bacon and queso blanco with sambal (a chile sauce popular in southeast Asia) on a brioche bun.  This was a fresh and flavorful twist on the classic bacon, egg and cheese roll.  The unique and unusual flavors of these variant ingredients make for an experience that is new and interesting, yet familiar at the same time.

Celery Soda

Celery soda was an old favorite in Jewish delis from around the turn of the 2oth century.  At some point between then and now, it lost it’s mass appeal.  I don’t know why that happened, but I don’t think it would have if Jill was in charge of making it.  JoeDough’s celery soda is light and refreshing.  It’s a perfect drink to refresh and cleanse the palate when enjoying one of the delicious sandwiches on offer.

Don’t Believe The Hype

JoeDough has received a few bad reviews on Yelp.  Those that complain about the food either don’t get it, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps just had some bad luck and timing when someone made a mistake in the kitchen.  I remain skeptical though; the shop has been immaculate and the staff very attentive whenever I’ve been in.  I have been to JoeDough often and never failed to have an amazing sandwich.  The flavors are often unusual.  The Cuban, for example, is an interpretation on the general theme of a Cuban sandwich.  A traditionalist might take offense, but if you have an open mind, you’re in for some interesting flavors.

I’ve also seen complaints about the prices.  Yes, ten dollars is more than I’d typically expect to pay for a sandwich.  Of course, I also wouldn’t get the exotic ingredients in perfectly complimentary combinations executed with an expert hand.  If you want to pay five bucks for a sandwich, go to subway and choke down that bland roll prepared according to a pictograph from mass-produced ingredients by someone with limited employability.

Some reviews accuse the owners and staff of being rude, crude or unhelpful.  I simply cannot believe this.  I have never had the staff treat me with anything but courtesy and good cheer.  I don’t know if I’ve ever met Joe, but I have met Jill, and she’s as cheerful and service-oriented as can be, and from what I’ve seen, the staff follows her lead.  Keep up the good work!

You can find JoeDough at 135 First Avenue between St. Mark’s and 9th Street.  A catering menu is available if you want truly amazing sandwiches for the guests at your gathering.


Taskrabbit: Personal Outsourcing

TaskrabbitIf you’re going to live on the road, at some point or another, you’ll probably find yourself lacking the time to do mundane things like errands and housework.   Fortunately, in today’s well-connected world, finding help is easy.  The first service I’ve tried is Taskrabbit, and so far, I’m thoroughly pleased.

You can post tasks such as “do my laundry”, “wash my dishes”, “assemble my IKEA furniture”, “bring me a gallon of milk”, etc.  When you post your task, you note how much you’re willing to pay.  You can either let Taskrabbit automatically assign someone (referred to as a “Taskrabbit”) who offers the lowest bid within your budget, or you can choose to monitor and answer the bids personally.  Once a Taskrabbit is selected, you make whatever arrangements are necessary.  All payments, including reimbursements for expenses and any tips you might like to leave, are handled through the Taskrabbit service using a credit card.  You don’t need to exchange cash with your Taskrabbit.  The service runs background checks on Taskrabbits so you can be reasonably assured that the stranger mopping your floor isn’t a serial killer.

I used Taskrabbits last week to collect some forms from the DMV and to wash my dishes, freeing me to work on a project I’d been putting off.  I posted these tasks with only a few hours’ notice, and received bids within my budget.  Both Taskrabbits were prompt and professional.  If you have more tasks on your plate than you have time, Taskrabbits may be able to lighten your load.  The service is currently available in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Austin, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland (OR), and Seattle.

If you’re going to try Taskrabbit, you can use this link and we’ll both get $10 credit.