Reno Cheesecake Factory — hmmm — OK Food, but So-So Experience

cheesecakeSoooo the Cheesecake Factory opened at Meadowood Mall in Reno. My son and I went there for lunch last week. We waited about 15 minutes for a table. Not too bad, but I won’t go back soon. The staff was attentive and well trained, but wow, the overall experience didn’t come close to the hype.

We ordered a light lunch, so we’d have room for desert. That’s why you go to the Cheesecake Factory after all!

He had the fried macaroni and I had the chicken tortilla soup. Both were decent. Fried mac n’cheese? Interesting concept, and he enjoyed it. I tried it … creamy inside and crunchy outside.

I’ve ordered tortellini soup at several chains — BJ’s Restaurant and Chili’s come to mind. This was OK. Different, but not remarkable. It was creamy with lots of rice.

Both dishes were filling … to the point that we ordered a slice of cheesecake to go. He picked the flavor — Tiramisu. Unspectacular.

The Big Bang Theory portrays the Cheesecake Factory as a spacious, quiet place. The new Reno location is a modern, artistically designed space.

Our gripe: Tightly packed tables, high ceilings make it loud, crowded. Clattering plates, heavy background music force people to raise their voices to converse — the result: a cacophony to the senses. If you go, request patio seating — it won’t change the food, but you won’t leave with a headache.

Flying Solo — What an Accomplishment

MJ SoloedConquering the world, one step at a time. The guy in this photo stubbed his toe many times growing up. He tested rules, tested himself, he tested me! Eventually he learned to fly on his own, in his own way — long before this picture was taken.

He had lots of help, though he didn’t always see the wisdom or regard the rules as “help.”   What teenager does?  Each milestone, each tumble, each time he picked himself up …  and he keeps on doing it today.

I’m now in the supporting role … no longer the leader, the project manager, the boss. I couldn’t be prouder … We couldn’t be prouder.  He did it. He did it on his own.  But there’s a little piece of me there too!


A New Twist on Healthy Eating

Love to eat out? Hate the over-sized portions and the high calories? Me too … but in Reno, there’s a movement afoot to offer better choices without sacrificing flavor 

Twisted Fork Pear Salad

Honey roasted pears, crispy apples, blue cheese crumbles, mixed greens, honey white balsamic vinaigrette give great flavor to this salad. For a complete meal top with chicken, steak, prawns or fresh tuna.

or ambiance.  Here’s one I recently reviewed for an ebook commissioned by Renown Health’s Best Medicine Blog:

At The Twisted Fork in South Reno, Manager Joe Clements and Chef Sergio Romero deliberately developed a menu that’s hard to classify. Complex flavors add depth and interest to each menu choice at this modern American restaurant and wine bar.

“We didn’t want to be pigeon holed into one type of food. We wanted more creativity and to constantly evolve – and to really be a little ‘twisted’ with our food,” Clements said.

The restaurant generated buzz from the day they opened in January 2012 next to RC Willey off Steamboat Parkway. The menu includes elegantly plated entrees aimed at patrons with every dietary preference – vegan, vegetarian or carnivore.

Open for lunch and dinner, Chef Romero uses the freshest ingredients he can get – organic and local grown when possible. Produce is delivered daily and the fish is never frozen.

Clements describes the restaurant’s style as California with a heavy Latin influence. “While we have some Italian dishes, our goal is to entice people with our really creative menu,” he said. “We make healthy food that’s outside the box. It’s creative with a lot of big flavors.”

This is the third venture together for Cements and Romeo. The pair worked together at The Grille in southwest Reno for several years. They left to transform Woody’s Grille and Spirits in Sparks.

“Sparks didn’t have an upscale sports bar, with upscale food. We changed that,” Clements said.

Instead of traditional fried “bar food,” Romero created a unique menu filled with made-from-scratch fresh fare that rivals – or beats – many local restaurants.

“At Woody’s we knew our audience – there wasn’t an upscale sports bar like it in the area,” Clements said.

That success inspired investors to want to try something totally different.  Clements and Romero teamed again to create The Twisted Fork. Both are still involved in Woody’s, though they spend more time at the new restaurant.

The Twisted Fork is building a different clientele in South Reno – diners who seek unique, fresh flavors and appreciate out-of-the-box thinking about food.

“We’re building a new audience,” Clements said.

The Twisted Fork’s menu changes regularly – and even the most popular dishes may get tweaked, updated or replaced. The Pear Salad recipe below is a staple, yet the garnishes have evolved over time. The dish originally was topped with a variety of mixed nuts.

Out of deference to people with allergies to peanuts, it now comes with candied walnuts.

Their target audience cares about food – and The Twisted Fork caters to those seeking healthy, innovative food and excellent service. Most dishes can be customized to accommodate dietary or preferences.

Lunch items include small plates, sandwiches, salads, burgers and entrees priced from $7-$17 (most are in the $9-$10 range). Dinner entrees include chicken, fish and steak choices that range from $16-$34.

“Reno has evolved – it used to be known for steak and potatoes. Now we have cauliflower puree – we’re outside the box,” he said.


Have you eaten at Twisted Fork?  What did you think? It’s on the pricey side, did you think it was a good value?



Reno Rebuild invests in downtown

Founded in April by childhood friends who are now local business owners, Reno Rebuild Project captures a portion of every dollar spent at certain local restaurants and puts it into a fund that will eventually help others open a business.

RenoRebuild Guys – photo by Reno Gazette-Journal

Michael Connolly, Chris Kahl and Zachary Cage run the Legends Grill, Sierra Tap House and the soon-to-open Brewer’s Cabinet started Reno Rebuild. The group pledged 5 cents of every sale at these establishments to the fund.

They made their fist deposit into the account on May 1.

“We have a current cash balance collected of $5,485.55! It is definitely a great start with our goal being $20k for 2013, so we are on a great pace,” said Michael Connolly.

After a year of deposits, the fund will be used to award one loan to non-franchised, small, local businesses.  The Community Foundation of Western Nevada, which is helping make the Reno Rebuild Project a non-profit organization, will administer the fund and help establish eligibility guidelines. One guideline already set: Each application must include a detailed business plan.

As the fund grows, the trio hopes to award more than one low-interest loan per year.

Reno Rebuild grew out of the trio’s struggle to get funding to start their own venture. Banks and other traditional sources simply wouldn’t lend, so they tapped into family and friends for financing. Realizing that not everyone has family and friends who can provide such support, they developed Reno Rebuild to extend a hand to other entrepreneurs.

“Someone just needs to give them the opportunity to meet their goal if they want to open their own business,” Kahl said. “It’s a cool opportunity for them.”

Other businesses have already expressed interest in participating in the program.

“We also structured it to where other business owners and individuals in general can put money in,” Connolly said.

Find out more at

Lessons in Parenting — number 452

One of the toughest things for a parent to do is to sit on the sidelines during tough events in an offspring’s life.

Growing through challenges and disappointments is part of the process  — one that helps each of us mature.  I know it.  I don’t have to like the pain it causes though.

We are so fortunate — and we count our blessings — to have the family that we do. I never take it for granted.

When these stumbling blocks and disappointments confront our children — people who used to be shorter than us — the parent in us wants to ride to the rescue — or at least provide the bear hug and kiss that used to make everything all right again.

But we can’t rescue them — and we shouldn’t most of the time.

What we can do is sympathize, offer perspective and advice — along with a hug and a kiss if we’re close enough to do so.

Some people bounce back or roll with adversity and disappointment easier than others. When you’re tired, lonely or homesick it’s easier to wallow.

That’s when the parent wants to swoop in, apply that bandage — not really to change anything, but let them know we care. That alone can help change mood/perspective.

I can’t do that today …  the one who needs it is 3,000 miles away … but I want to.

I am missing this college student and knowing we won’t be reunited until late July just makes it tougher.

Being part of the Conversation

Everyone has a role to play in bringing Nevada out of the economic doldrums — whether as a consumer, a business owner, an entrepreneur or an investor.  Changing the perception from doom and gloom to optimism — in real terms, not just wishful thinking — plays a role.

Being part of that conversation — having a seat at the table of Entrepreneurship Nevada — means helping celebrate that goal by creating and writing a newsletter called ENevadaNow.  Entrepreneurship Nevada  is a nonprofit umbrella coalition of the many groups trying to get northern Nevadans back to work.  The groups do this by supporting, promoting and educating neophyte entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs. Some members such s NSBDC, SCORE and others also serve some of the 6,000 businesses in Washoe County with 1 to 4 employees.

My role: Senior editor of, the newsletter/PR arm of the coalition.  This month’s newsletter celebrates:

  • Bumblebee Blooms — a flower shop breaking even less than one year after opening in downtown Reno.
  • VizKinect — a high-tech start-up firm using patented bio-metric eye tracking systems in a way that will revolutionize advertising and movie product placement, all from their offices in Reno.
  • Reno Rebuild — a novel give-back effort on the part of several young businessmen that creates a loan fund specifically for new businesses
  • Updates on other efforts and successes in the community.

The voice I bring to the table celebrates each member organization and their successes. Businesses can — and do — grow and thrive in Reno, Sparks and the surrounding communities.  These trailblazers deserve credit and notice. That’s what the newsletter does — praise these companies, and the various groups that helped get them there.

I believe in the project and the community and salute the people leading the effort to grow jobs in the Reno area.

Take a look at our latest ENevadaNow issue here, and give us your feed back on anything that can move us forward!

Opportunity knocks — even when you don’t realize it

Doors open and close in our lives all the time.  People, places, jobs — changes leave us sad and simultaneously offer us a chance to grow, explore and evolve.

My journey includes opportunity and setbacks.  Small town and island-living in Maine,  led to great adventures in college at Boston University, thanks to scholarships, sacrifices by my mom and grandparents, as well as my own hard work …

Post college sadness at losing my mom and becoming a guardian to a teen sister with developmental issues, led to opportunity in Washington, D.C. at USA Today.  Which is where I met my incredible spouse …

Eventually that led to our journey west and three terrific offspring … and a career as a freelance writer, editor and photographer covering and exploring northern Nevada through family adventures, special events,   business and real estate writing, education and sports ….

Empty nesting coincided with downsizing at the newspaper, which opened so many doors to personal and professional growth.

I landed initially at ProNet, a non-profit organization devoted to helping professionals get back to work. There I grew through training and course work in personal branding, social media for business, train the trainer to name just a few. The bonus: the camaraderie  and support of the 100-plus top-notch professionals in the group and the leadership of the professional staffers.

I grew to understand some of the unique skills and talents I bring to the table.  My writing, editing, marketing and an openness to the wider world brought opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship and how businesses outside newspaper work.

Networking skills grew through attending Western Industrial Nevada and Chamber of Commerce events.  I teamed with incredibly talented and insightful  people at determined to get Nevadans back to work through entrepreneurship.

That led to the creation of an online newsletter for Entrepreneurship Nevada that I developed — and a seat at the table with the tier-one people who can make this happen.  I have a voice, a viewpoint and a value to add …  and people hear me!

Along the way I learned to write marketing proposals; started writing for Northern Nevada Business Weekly, designed a display for Grappers, Inc. and made so many new connections.

I stubbed my toe a few times — didn’t get a few jobs I applied for, fell flat on a few proposals I made, learned some things I don’t want to do and some I’m just not suited for …

In the long run, and it does feel like a long eight months, opportunities are opening up!  Thanks to all who continue to believe in me …

Have you found your journey includes huge boulders, little streams and ultimately promise?

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