The "OMG I WISH I would have brought _____" thread

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Postby Jo » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:40 am

I think CO did a pretty good job feeding 2200 people, all with different tastes and palates, limited kitchen facilities, outside, etc. My body worked every day, got up the hills, so obviously I got the fuel I needed which is what matters to me.

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Postby tavi-1 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:44 am

Absolutely agree with Steve. With this well supported, reasonably priced, all-inclusive weeklong bike tour, there is bound to be a 5% less than perfect rating. 95% success speaks very favorably for CO. We'll be back for CO 2009! BTW, my 5% disappointment stemmed from dining on the biodegradable utensils (far too crunchy), and the plates (a bit soggy). Most likely poised a challenge for the Roto-Rooter folks.

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Postby grin4joy » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:50 am

Wow! Beachdog, you must have gotten in the wrong line! My salad greens were fresh, there were always packets of salt to add to my oatmeal. I never ever thought my bagels and rolls were stale. I didn't care for the eggs, but I just stopped accepting them. There were so many choices I didn't think anyone could complain about all of it. I really appreciated the great food and thought CO did a fantastic job of feeding several thousand people over an extended period of time. Just a warning... if you are ever camping with me, you may get a Poptart for breakfast! :P
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Postby Don Bolton » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:39 am

MMMM.. Poptart...

Don "that and a handful of Cinnamon Grahams is guud eaten" Bolton

grin4joy wrote:Wow! Beachdog, you must have gotten in the wrong line! My salad greens were fresh, there were always packets of salt to add to my oatmeal. I never ever thought my bagels and rolls were stale. I didn't care for the eggs, but I just stopped accepting them. There were so many choices I didn't think anyone could complain about all of it. I really appreciated the great food and thought CO did a fantastic job of feeding several thousand people over an extended period of time. Just a warning... if you are ever camping with me, you may get a Poptart for breakfast! :P
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Postby beachdog » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:56 am

Hmmm. The question was asked and I answered it. No personal chef required. I would have been overjoyed to been served a poptart, Kraft macaroni and cheese, anything from Chef Boyardee, Ding Dongs, plain wrap potato chips, or even peanut butter and jelly (even orange marmalade). See, I'm not a picky eater.

This was my opinion, nothing more. I didn't realize that negative opinions were inappropriate for this forum. Sorry to bother you all.
Last edited by beachdog on Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lazlo » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:51 am

You are entitled to your opinion, beachdog. My suggestion of a personal chef was a bit snide; I apologize.
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Postby beachdog » Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:46 pm

Just FYI, I am a personal chef. I've also been a corporate chef, and managed catering of this size. I know what's possible.
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Postby Brettha » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:16 pm

Beachdog,

Please take the time to write to CycleOregon and tell them EXACTLY what is possible. I agree with you-- the food was bad, and only made worse by their advertising (as they do on the website) that it's gourmet.

If they'd just called it cafeteria food I would not have expected better.

I work in the movie industry where mobile kitchens prevail. And, so does prime rib, and lobster.

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Postby beachdog » Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:58 pm

I did write a letter to CO about this very issue and included my suggestions based on my experience. I don't fully fault CO for the food, I put more of the blame on the catering company's poor menu choices. It is possible to serve good tasting cafeteria-style food in this setting.
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Postby beachdog » Sat Sep 20, 2008 2:10 pm

Here's what I suggested.

Shell eggs, hard boiled are already served at the first ODS rest stop. Don't serve eggs for breakfast every day. Serve french toast, waffles, pancakes without any filling (2X), and the blintzes. Then one day serve real (from the shell) scrambled eggs. This would be great on the biscuits and gravy day. Then serve a scramble of real eggs with vegetables and potatoes in it another day, serve that with salsa and maybe sour cream. The steam tray is not the friend of waffles, but even a soft microwaved waffle is far, far better than fake eggs. As for the gravy, just follow to the letter the directions on the mix and taste it before you serve it - if it still tastes like flour boil it longer.

As to the unsalted hot cereal. If you don't add salt while you are cooking there is no way to properly season the cereal after it's done. If you add salt after, you still have unsalted hot cereal, but now it's in a saline slurry. Mmmmm. If your concern is those on a low sodium diet, serve unsalted hot cereal from the vegetarian line for those that want/need that sort of thing and add salt appropriately for the rest.

Lunches were not bad, just go easy on the mayo and other fats.

Dinner. No tortellini. The filling gets drier and the pasta gets pastier the longer it sits in a warming cabinet and on the line. Instead go with raviolis that don't contain any ricotta cheese. They hold up a lot better and the textures are more forgiving. If you lightly coat with olive oil they won't stick together. The first night's rubber chicken; boneless chicken meat is notoriously tough to hold for service. Slice the chicken and serve it mixed with pasta and a mix creamy mushroom sauce for example - the chicken will hold and taste better.

Change nothing about the turkey dinner. Replace the whole wheat tortilla on fajita night with a white flour tortilla. Holding whole wheat tortillas in a steam tray guarantees they will have a texture like cardboard once they are served and cool off. If you're going to "promise" guacamole, deliver. Or, don't promise it and let it be a surprise.

The beef cooked by Halfway was really good, even when well done. The penne and meatballs were not bad, just go easy on the sauce. Lose the salmon - seriously. There is no way to preserve any quality to fish filets using the delivery and serving system in place for CO. Lasagna anyone, meatloaf glazed with BBQ sauce, shredded chicken in BBQ sauce with honey wheat rolls?

Now a word on the vegetables. When steamed in commercial steamers some will inevitably burn on the edges of the pans. Scoop out the few burned bits and trash them, don't serve them. Taste the vegetables before you serve them, if it isn't cooked fix it - raw hot veg with burned bits is gross.

For the starches, fried potatoes do poorly in a steam table and turn to a mealy, mush. You have to salt the wild rice mix for the same reason that you have to salt hot cereal while you're cooking it, you can't really fix it once it's done. And don't cook the rice mix to death before you put it in a warming cabinet or on the hot line.

Take the deserts out so that they aren't frozen at service time. Cold okay. But I had a piece of apple pie that was still frozen after I ate, walked to my tent, and then went back to the dining tent because I'd spilled my coffee. It was tasty once it thawed out.

And son-of-a-gun, CO does promise "gourmet food" here:
http://www.cycleoregon.com/default_week.htm
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Postby Brettha » Sat Sep 20, 2008 3:41 pm

Beachdog,

Excellent suggestions and extremely constructive criticism.

In case they don't tell you this, thank you for taking the time to write to Cycle Oregon about the food.

For two days after Cycle Oregon, all I wanted for breakfast were eggs that had two parts; a white and a yolk. Tonight I'm grilling salmon with a marinade of lemon juice, dill, drambuie and a pinch of salt.

:D
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Postby beachdog » Sat Sep 20, 2008 4:08 pm

My friend and I left CO as soon as we finished, and wolfed down Bic Macs and fries from the first McDonalds we saw - OMG! it was the best thing ever! I've also been really enjoying eggs this week, overeasy, poached, scrambled soft. I went the steak route, fatty rib eye and a good Cabernet with potato and fennel au gratin from scratch.

What time is dinner?
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Postby Oroluk Lagoon » Sat Sep 20, 2008 4:23 pm

Wow, this thread sort of got derailed, but what the heck. I have to say that considering we were camping, I thought the food was great, even the powdered eggs. I thought I was being somewhat restrained in what I ate and yet I somehow gained 5 lbs. despite riding all the long options and working on of the trail repair crews.

If the issue is "false advertising", then CO needs to do a better job of setting expectations. But if the issue is not having a good experience because of the quality of the food, then I think one has to consider whether or not they want to participate in events with a camping flavor (no pun intended).

An option would be to offer a "No Meals" option with a different colored wristband. However this would require that the route and campsites all have sufficient dining alternatives nearby. And I don't think CO could afford to discount such an option on a proportional meal-cost basis because their savings would not be proportional. But if someone really needs to have restaurant quality meals in order to have a good experience, this might be one way to achieve it. Given that CO sells out every year, I doubt they would be interested in pursuing options that would only complicate the "Rubik's Cube" they already have to deal with.

That said, any suggestions offered above that could improve the quality of the food on the stated menu, without increasing the rider cost of the event, would be well received, although it would not have done much to improve my 99.999% satisfaction with the event as a whole.
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Postby beachdog » Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:16 pm

When CO says gourmet meals, they do set up an expectation. In reading the wording it also looks like micro-brew and wine are included. I didn't actually expect that it was - it just sort of reads that way.

For some of us food is more than mere fuel and does add to the enjoyment of the event. For a lot of us this is our vacation. I thought some of the food wasn't bad, but a good portion of it was spectacularly bad, in my opinion. I've camped a lot, with a variety of groups and never been this dis-satisfied with the food.

If you look under "Add. Services" and then under "Meal Band" CO already has the price broken down for the meals. I would be all for an option to opt out of all breakfasts and dinners. MREs are small, easy to carry, don't take up much room in the luggage, and are far tastier than what was served. That and instant oatmeal and I would be good to go.

I actually lost weight.

CO is the best organized and executed ride I've ever been on if you remove breakfast and dinner from the equation. It just sort of grates on me to have to pay for meals twice. Once to CO as part of the package and once in town after I've thrown COs offering away.
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Postby aktiv » Sun Sep 21, 2008 10:56 am

Back to the topic subject...

straps. I was lucky enough to have some in my hand while going through the garage looking for camping gear, and decided to throw several into the bags. Good strong straps, whether the clip-together type or the thread-through type, can be a camper's best friend.

One was necessary to strap the bag for our newly-acquired Big Agnes tent to the outside of any of our duffel bags, the others came in handy for a friend.

Cheers

Keith.
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