Thursday, November 22, 2007

Audi A4 Avant -- 100K miles

Digressing from restaurants, my 2002 Audi A4 Avant (wagon) just went over 100,000 miles a couple days ago. Fitting that it was during a drive to a traffic court, since that's where a lot of its miles have come from in the last 4 1/2 years.

Overall I've been pretty happy with my Audi. First and foremost, it drives very nice. I remember shopping for cars. Drove my '96 Cavalier with 135K miles to the Subaru dealership and then to the Audi dealership. I got back in my Cavalier after the Subaru and felt like my Cavalier drove better. Then I got to the Audi dealer and drove the A4. It wasn't even close. The shifter (it's manual 5-speed) was ultra-smooth and still is after 100K.

Another nice feature, and a reason I like wagons, is that it holds a lot of stuff. Once I had bought a snowblower that I had to return. We were able to fit it in the back of my car, both ways. On the return trip it took up more space because I had partially assembled it. Our family has grown now, and the car is getting small in terms of passenger space. It fits the four of us and all our stuff for trips, but we have no room for a fifth person because the child seats take up a lot of space. So my wife will be getting a larger vehicle soon, and I probably will as well in a couple years.

While I have been fortunate not to experience this, the car is supposedly very safe. It keeps getting great ratings on crash safety from the government and the IIHS. I have experienced the winter handling and it is really outstanding. I've been driving in snow for about 25 years now (41-16=25) and it handles ice and snow better than anything else I've ever driven. Part of that is the winter tires but even before I added those it was still good in the slippery stuff.

Having a 4 cylinder (turbo) and a manual transmission has meant good gas mileage. Somewhere between 25 and 26 mpg over the life of the car.

Reliability hasn't been great, but pretty good I guess. Through 100K, I've had to spend some money on mostly minor things. It's more the hassle of having to get things fixed than the cost, but on the whole not too bad.

Looking at a new car for myself in a couple years, and Audi is definitely on the shopping list.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

677 Prime in Albany

Angelo's 677 Prime is a relatively new restaurant in downtown Albany. It is part of a great trend in higher quality restaurants in our area. It's also very close to some other outstanding restaurants, including Nicole's Bistro, Yono's & dp (both in the Hampton Inn), and a few other places on and near Pearl Street.

I stopped at Broadway Auto to get an oil change, inspection, etc, and had to go to federal court after lunch. 677 Prime is right on the way, so I stopped there.

I started with a soup. The soup of the day was butternut squash. It was smooth and creamy with a delicate flavor. While it was very good, I have had better. It needed something to give it a little more character. Don't get me wrong though - I ate all of it.

Next I had the Tuna Tartare, which was excellent. The only flaw was that it looked a little like a hockey puck. It was a bunch of chunks of raw tuna, diced or minced and then put together with some other ingredients I can't name -- maybe some scallions. It had a spicy sauce, which worked extremely well with it. Not a fair comparison, but the Cheesecake Factory has a raw tuna dish that isn't bad either. There the tuna comes out in very thin slices, I think with a wasabi mayo. But the last time I had it there the tuna itself was just not as good - almost a little gristly.

Getting back to 677 Prime, the last item was a salad of mixed greens. It came with a couple different kinds of cheeses (thick flakes of parmesan or asiago, and a softer cheese - maybe gorgonzola) and a few other items that I just can't remember - but it all worked well. The dressing was also very nice.

It was not a cheap lunch (just under $40 with tip), but I had three items and probably could have managed any one of them. The tuna tartare was $14 on its own.

677 Prime was impressive, and I can definitely see myself going back. But in a while. I'm still trying to diet and this meal probably didn't help. :-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Firedog Screwed Me (Circuit City)

Okay, it's not that big of a deal, but ...

We're about to go on a long trip. We have young children. In the past we've bought DVD players that go on the back of the headrest. They all suck. They last for about one and half trips, usually going bad right in the middle of a drive. Once we actually bought a new one in a Walmart while we were on the way.

This in-car DVD thing is like heroin for children. If they don't get their fix, it's a very unpleasant drive. How on earth did our parents do it anyway?

So I go to Circuit City about a week ago. This guy sells me a unit that will go in the ceiling of my car. I ask about the ones that replace your headrest, but he tells me this is better.

We take it back to the installation guys (aka Firedog) to make an appointment for the install. I specifically ask if they can install this in my car. No problem.

Today I drive there for the install. On this particular day, they have the Firedog guys who actually know what they're doing. Turns out they can't install it in my car. Something about interfering with the side curtain airbags.

I should note at this point that I'm glad they caught it before they screwed up our airbags.

Anyway, I got a full refund. But I'm still annoyed. Firedog and Circuit City just wasted an hour of my time, maybe a little more. And they made me grumpy. Grr.