Monday, March 31, 2008

An Asian Comfort Food Weekend

With the minor windfall burning a hole in our pockets, we headed out to Osha Thai in Scottsdale. We arrived at around 7:30 and the place was about 3/4 full. We took last free booth and eventually Adella came by and dropped off menus and took our drink order. We settled on vegetarian egg rolls, Osha Golden Pockets, Gaeng Kari (yellow curry, carrots, potatoes, onions and chicken) for me and their garlic beef for Tara.

While I prefer some meat in my egg rolls, these were pretty good. Nicely fried and burning hot when they were served. All the veggies tasted very fresh. The Golden Pockets were outstanding as usual. Minced chicken, veggies, and some yellow curry. Yum. My Gaeng Kari comes with bell peppers, but I had them hold those. It had a really good curry flavor, but since I got mild, no heat, which is fine by me. I'm in it for the flavor. The carrots were sliced a bit thick and weren't quite soft, but still good. Tara loved her garlic beef and was in a very blissful mood when we ordered dessert. She loves their sticky rice with coconut milk and I decided to try their homemade green tea ice cream. Tara polished the sticky rice. Their green tea ice cream had the strongest green tea flavor I'd ever tasted in ice cream. It was excellent. Apparently it comes out yellow and they add blue food coloring to turn it green. Just one of the fun facts Maybelline told us. I could probably eat at Osha every day and not get sick of it.

Sunday night we have a kind of started a tradition where we go to Super Dragon before we do our weekly shopping. We started with our usual bowls of wonton soup, hot and sour soup, and crab puffs. For entrees, Tara got the House Chicken and I decided to try the Ginger Shrimp. The soups were very good and the crab puffs have been very addictive to us lately. Tara loved her House Chicken, which seems to be about 3 chicken breasts worth of meat. My shrimp, ordered mild, still had a burn to them. The sauce seemed like a spicy sweet and sour sauce that I really enjoyed. I had water chestnuts for a nice crunch too. I'll definitely order it again.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bad Service

While we were eating at Osha last night, Tara and I tried to think of the best and worst service we've had in restaurants. Some of the list:

Chili's, last week, Bell and 7th Street - We were seated and no one ever came the table. at least ten servers walked by our table of the course of ten minutes. The final straw came when a table seated right next to us, ten minutes after we sat down, was immediately greeted by a waiter. We got up and left.

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, Tatum and Shea - We were seated and for fifteen minutes watched the staff meander through the nearly deserted restaurant, often glancing at our table and even making eye contact, but never coming over. As we got up and left, several waitresses and the hostess watched us leave without a word.

Benihana, Tuscon - We were seated at one of the grill tables with a couple parties already there and drunk. We waited for nearly 1/2 hour before a waiter noticed the table seemed to be without a server. He offered to get us drinks and we ordered. He brought them and told us our server would be there soon. After another fifteen, Tara and I walked to the hostess stand and asked to speak to a manager. He wasn't happy to hear what happened and the waiter who had brought us drinks saw we were leaving so he had come over. He explained to the manager that the new guy was assigned to our table, but was swamped. The manager asked that guy if he could take our table and to get us to stay, offered to comp our whole meal. Good customer service this time to keep customers somewhat happy.

Chanpen, 51st Ave and Thunderbird - Not all the time, but on occasion the older staff can be downright surly if you aren't a regular. Both by myself and with Tara, we've had incredibly unfriendly service, but at the same time, watched them be totally fawning with other tables who obviously go there a lot. It's mostly because of this that we don't go here regularly. Tara loves their garlic dish (with it's pile of crushed roasted garlic chips) and satay, but the hit-or-miss attitude of the service doesn't make up for it.

Corbin's Bar & Grill, N. Central just south of Dunlap - Ranging from distracted during a very slow Saturday afternoon to all but ignoring us in favor of larger groups at dinner, it certainly wasn't the attitude and service we expected from a supposedly friendly neighborhood restaurant. From no one wanting to wait on our table or even knowing who should, it just went south from there.

Oregano's, Camelback and 10th Street location - Normally we have great service at any of the Oregano's we visit, but one time Tara and I went and were seated. Again, servers would just blithely walk by for long periods of time. Finally, we overheard one waitress ask another waiter if he was serving us, and he said we weren't in his section. She finally TOLD him to help us and for the rest of the night suffered through a sulky service experience. Rule number one, you don't argue within earshot of the customers.

China Max, San Diego - We went for dim sum and ended up in the Phantom Zone. Servers wouldn't come to our table. The would approach and then veer away like we were like-charged magnets. This happened for ages. Finally someone pointed at our table and a waiter came over to reluctantly take our order.

Pinky's Cafe, 7th Street and Thunderbird - Brain-dead hostess, waitresses who think making fun of how long our food took to arrive will help cut the tension with obviously pissed customers, and watching the staff take shots of maple syrup. Never again.

Yupha's Thai Kitchen, Tempe - Waitstaff gabbing at the soda fountain, completly ignoring that we are waiting to give our order. Same thing happened during the entire meal. Finally we were the last table and STILL our waiter didn't come by to give us the check. Instead, he started cleaning the bar. Eventually he sent the bus boy over to give us our check and the bus girl had to take it, because the waiter couldn't be bothered. Another thing is that all three times we visited, Yupha herself has visited nearly every table in the place and asking how the food was, but never once stopped by our table. She once went from the booth in front of us to the booth behind us, skipping our table. And it wasn't like she was only visiting regulars. We could hear her asking how other tables had heard about the place. Not the way to make us feel welcome.

Thai Hut, 1st Street and McDowell - Worst service we've had. Several times the wrong order was brought to our table, our apps being brought to the wrong table, and the capper. Our entrees dropped-off at another table, where the people told them they hadn't ordered them. Leaving the dishes there, the waitress left for several minutes, checked the orders, took the plates back, and tried to give them to us. We sent them back, after arguing with the waitress, asking for new ones. When our "new" ones arrived, they were lukewarm and obviously the same dishes just brought back after a few minutes. Never again.

And to end on a positive note, the best service we've had:

Capital Grille, Scottsdale Rd and Frank Lloyd Wright - Outstanding service. Gracious, knowledgable, and any mis-step they thought they did, they would make up for it. My lobster bisque wasn't served at the same time as Tara's salad, so they comped it when they realized it. We waited for our table and to make up for that wait, they gave us a free appetizer. Drinks were filled up exactly when needed. Dishes removed and new ones were brought. They visibly synchronized it so that our main courses were put in front of us at the exact same instant. Amazing. And the food was great, too.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Surprises are always nice.

The past few months, money has been extremely tight. Tara's new pay structure at work hasn't kicked in, my numerous student loans, and the usual stuff have wrung the coffers dry. Due to an error caused by the new software used by the people we pay our rent to, we owed them extra for next month because they undercharged us last month. This is also the paycheck where they take out Tara's health insurance, so we were already planning on a lean week. With the extra rent, we were basically down to fumes. Barely enough to get gas for her to get to work this week and the bare, bare necessities so we could actually eat this week. No travel this weekend. Basically hibernate.

A few minutes ago, I took the trash out to the garage. On my way back, I peeked out the garage door window for no particular reason. Glancing at our front door, I saw an envelope stuffed in it with the Camelback VW logo visible. I figure somehow our postman put it into wrong mailbox and one of our never-seen neighbors put it on our door. I threw a shirt on (yeah, we're very formal on our lazy weekends) and grabbed it.

Inside was a sight that literally brought tears to Tara's eyes. It was a check for the refund on my registration and other taxes I paid when I traded in my A3 for the Passat. Not a fortune, but enough that we can actually get name brands at the store, put gas in BOTH cars, and even have a nice dinner at Osha tonight. Far better than what we would have bodged together from the items in our pantry.

Friday, March 28, 2008


When Tara got home today, she handed me a cardboard cylinder about a food long and three inches in diameter. She said it was sitting by our front door. No one rang the bell today, but someone rang it once yesterday. I was unavailable to get the door at the time and when I looked out I didn't see anything.

Puzzled, I checked the mailing label and it was from VW. This didn't shed any light on it, so I opened it. Inside was an ultracompact umbrella with VW logos and slogans on it.

No notes or anything else explaining why it was here. Given the fact that I live in Arizona, a folding sunscreen for my windshield or something would seem more appropriate. I'm sure it'll come in very handy should I be attacked by a rogue sprinkler in the park.

I did some extensive research online (OK, 5 minutes with Google), and found that the Passat has a slot in the driver's door to hold the umbrella. Apparently it's a standard feature. Not sure why the umbrella didn't actually come with the car when I bought it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BMW Susan G Komen Ultimate Drive For The Cure 2008

This year's drive will be in the Phoenix area May 14 (BMW N Scottsdale), 15 (Chapman BMW on Camelback), and 16 (Chapman BMW in S Scottsdale). Sign-up starts on April 4, but you can just drop in on the day of the event and they will put you in whatever is free. Signing up ahead of time allows you to reserve a particular vehicle. I can't wait to try the new 135i. I'll be signing up for the S. Scottsdale event. It's on a Friday and they always have an awesome spread of food. It's something I look forward to every year.

My blog entries for last year's are here and here.

For more info, visit them here.

Flancer's - Gilbert, AZ

This past Easter Sunday, Tara and I were debating on where to go to eat. She didn't realize that being Easter, lots of places would probably be closed. First she suggested Mr. Greek, as she really wanted some of their hummus. I mentioned that I had a craving for Joe's Real BBQ, and after a brief thought, she agreed that that sounded REALLY good. So we headed down to Gilbert.

Of course, when we got there, they were closed. Given the family-friendliness of Joe's, I figured it would be a good place for an Easter meal and would be opened. Guess again. We had noticed that Flancer's just up the road was open when we drove by, so we decided to give them a try.

Flancer's has been on our radar for quite a while. I am Jack's Brain has mentioned them quite a few times and we've always wanted to give them a try. However, they are so close to Joe's and The Farmhouse, we are usually in the area specifically for one of them. With both of them closed, the time was right.

We got there around 3pm and were seated immediately. There were a couple other parties there and more came in while we were eating. The menu had a lot of very interesting options. The names are somewhat cutesy. Tara settled on the "it's about thyme" sandwich - balsamic-thyme marinated chicken breast with sauteed mushrooms, melted provolone, lettuce, tomato, and basil mayonnaise. I got the "hoagie & bacall" sandwich - a variety of italian meats with banana peppers, provolone cheese, onions, romaine, tomato, and vinaigrette. We both opted to get the combos which add soda, pickle & choice of fries, potato salad, cole slaw or chips. We selected fries and Cokes. We also got ours without tomato.

After a short wait, the food arrived. Both plates held sandwiches cut in half with a nice mound for fries and pickle. Flancer's makes their own bread and it's excellent. My sandwich had great flavor, with the vinaigrette and banana peppers working well together. I loved the tang they added and was thoroughly happy with my meal. The fries were very crispy and seasoned. No complaints.

Tara also enjoyed her sandwich, once she got over the fact that it wasn't BBQ pit beans from Joe's. The chicken had really good flavor and the thyme came through nicely. She also really liked the house-made bread.

Service was very good. Our drinks were refreshed and any questions we had were answered. There are still quite a few sandwiches on their menu that I really want to try. We're not sure we'll make a special trip to go to Flancer's, but we quite often go to Vonhanson's for bacon and meat, and they are only a few miles away.

All in all it was very much a success, even if Tara was left craving the beans from Joe's.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Little Rangoon - Scottsdale

I love trying new Asian restaurants. My love of Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese is well-known. I recently saw mention of a new restaurant near Scottsdale and Shea that serves Burmese food. Little Rangoon labels themselves as "Taste of Burma" on their menus. They tout that Burma shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand and that their cuisine has been influenced by this proximity. Since that sounded really good to me, I put it on my "to-do" list.

A couple weekends ago, Tara suggested we try Samarkand on a Friday night. We got there at 7:30 to find it closed. This would become a recurring theme for the little Uzbeki place. I was in the mood to try something new, so I suggested Little Rangoon. We headed over and found them in the same plaza where Sushi on Shea, Tapino, Claim Jumper, and others call home at 70th St and Shea. We parked underground and took the escalator up to the restaurant.

We entered the restaurant to find only a handful of tables occupied. The space is very pretty, minimally decorated, but enough to convey it's ethnic leanings. A very friendly waitress seated us and we looked over the menu. The descriptions of the menu items made most of them sound very enticing. I love fresh spring rolls and they listed several offerings with either roasted duck, butter dipped prawns, or tofu. They come two per order and you can't mix and match. I wanted to try one duck and one prawn, but the waitress said they had to be the same. We settled on the roasted and shredded duck meat glazed with Hoisin sauce. For entrees, garlicaholic Tara got the Si Gyet Kauswer (Garlic Noodles) - Fresh egg wonton noodles tossed in fried garlic oil and scallions with either roasted chicken (Tara's option) or roasted duck. I opted for the Singapore Noodles - Rice vermicelli stir fried with pork, shrimp, shredded carrots, celery, onions, tumeric, and ginger. Tara got a Coke and I think I stuck with water.

The spring rolls arrived first. They were... boring. Filled mostly with chopped iceberg lettuce with small amounts of the other fillings and thin strips of the duck. Neither of us could discern much flavor from the duck and the lettuce drowned out any other flavors. Pretty much any Vietnamese or Thai place that offers spring rolls offers more flavorful ones. Not a good start.

Our meals came out shortly after we finished the rolls. Tara's noodles looked like they had a lot of garlic, but again, there was no flavor. Her dish also seemed to be more on the lukewarm side of things. She prefers her food to be searing or at least hot. I took a bite and agreed that it was very bland.

My noodles had a strong yellow hue from the turmeric but neither it or the ginger added any flavor. The temperature of dish was fine. Everything seemed cooked well, but there was just no flavor.

Service was fine. The waitress was very helpful when we asked numerous questions about the menu. Drinks were kept filled. No complaints there.

Overall, we hoped for far more bold flavors from a place that says they combine Thai and Indian influences at the very least. Prices aren't bad, as both our entrees were $8, but you can certainly find much better food for the same price elsewhere.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Corbin's Bar & Grill- Phoenix

I'd read favorable reviews recently of Corbin's Bar & Grill on Central just south of Dunlap in Sunnyslope.  Looking for a good lunch nearby, Tara and I stopped in on a Saturday afternoon around 3pm.  The restaurant has a nice modern, stainless steel interior.  A long bar and row of booths are separated from the main dining room by a low wall of pane glass.  We both liked the interior.   We were seated at a booth in the dining room that was, for me, quite snug.  Tara didn't have any problem with it.  The restaurant only had three or four tables of patrons, most of whom appeared to be lingering over the leftovers of their lunch.

After a few minutes, a waitress came by for our drink order, a Coke for each of us.  The restaurant's menu is typical New American.  Tara eventually settled on a Caesar Salad - Chopped Romaine, croutons, eggless Caesar dressing & Parmesan Reggiano with a chicken breast added.  I got the Carolina Burger - Apple-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, red onion & our own BBQ sauce.  

Service was polite, but our waitress seemed somewhat distant or distracted.  Our drinks were after sitting empty for a few minutes, but not too bad.  During their downtime, the other wait staff would sit at a large table and roll silverware inside napkins.  I figured they were more focused on getting things ready for dinner, which at 3pm, didn't really bug me. 

Our meal arrived after a short wait.  Tara's Caesar was really good.  She loved that it had "copious" (her specifically requested word) amounts of shredded Parmesan Reggiano.  There was plenty of dressing and it had a distinctive flavor that seems to be missing from most Caesar dressing I've had in restaurants.  It was definitely a keeper.

My burger came with seasoned fries, pickled cauliflower, and a quarter of a strawberry in a huge basket.  The hamburger meat had a great flavor.  It was seasoned perfectly or was just really good beef.  I couldn't really taste the BBQ sauce, but the rest was so good I didn't mind.  The bacon was outstanding.  We asked where they sourced it, but despite promising to find out, they never told us.  They did say they smoke their own meats, like the pulled pork and ribs.  The bun was very dense and held up nicely.  The fries were really good.  Tara probably ate as many as I did or more.  She thought it tasted like Lawry's seasoning, but wasn't quite sure.  She just really liked them.  The pickled cauliflower was actually quite good.  It was a very sour pickle, but I ended up wanting more of it.  

Overall, the first visit impressed us with the food, although service wasn't the best.

We made a second visit this past weekend with less favorable results.  We went on Friday or Saturday night, I can't remember.  They were nearly packed around 7:30 or so.  We got the second to last free table.  We sat for several minutes, with every single waitress walking by our table with no one stopping by.  Eventually one of them stopped and asked if we'd been helped yet.  Well, we figured the fact that we still had our menus and no drinks on the table was a tip-off that we hadn't.  We got a pair of Cokes and the waitress departed.

After a pretty long wait, a different waitress with Day-Glo pink hair brought our drinks.  By this time we'd settled on our order.  Tara got the pulled-pork sandwich and I got a half rack of their dry-rubbed ribs.  We were both curious since we were told they were smoked in-house.

As we waited, I finished my soda and it sat empty for a long time.  Eventually our waitress, on one of her many passes by our table, asked if I wanted another one.  I did.  She then vanished for a long time.  I saw her again, but my refill seemed to be forgotten.  She finally brought it but I almost think she forgot at one point.  

At the half hour mark after we ordered, Tara and I began to wonder where our food was.  Pulled pork and ribs are generally slow cooked, so this seemed like a really long wait.  It got worse when we watched a couple who came in well after us received their meal.  Ours finally showed up five or ten minutes later.

This time the food didn't impress us.  Tara pork didn't seem to have much flavor and the BBQ sauce didn't add anything.  My ribs were cooked perfect and were almost fall off the bone, but they, too, seemed to lack any real flavor.  The ribs came with fries and cole slaw, all served on one plate.  So the ribs sat partially on top of the wet cole slaw, and the fries got soggy from the cole slaw dressing on the plate.  It was a very odd plating decision.  There was no room left on the plate, so it was interesting to eat.  I ended up cutting the ribs in half and using an unused appetizer plate to eat them.

Service definitely didn't impress us.  We noticed that the larger parties, between 6 and 8 people, got lots of attention.  Smaller tables were nearly neglected.  It seemed like they were concentrating on making sure the bigger groups would tip well.   Hopefully it worked for them, since I tipped on how well they served us and I'm pretty sure she wasn't pleased when she saw it.

So on two visits, food was great once, and middling the next.  To be fair, we were judging the pulled pork and ribs against our favorite BBQ joint, Joe's Real BBQ, as well as the ribs at Houston's.  While the burger was good, my Carolina burger was almost $13.  Since I couldn't really taste the extras that bump the price up from the base $9.95 burger, there are better deals to be found.  The thing that will probably keep us away was the service.  The waitstaff seemed to be busy for the most part, but our small party of two seemed to only warrant attention when absolutely necessary.  We didn't really feel welcomed, which would seem to be one of the things a local neighborhood hangout would try to project.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Soda or Powder

I always get on Tara's case for not following recipes on the rare occasions she makes something from a recipe. A few days ago, she sent me a link for these Chocolate Malted Whopper Drop cookies. I love chocolate, malt, and Whoppers, so what wasn't to like? We got the ingredients we didn't have during our weekly shopping on Sunday. Since the Whoppers were vanishing quickly (I needed 6 ounces of Whoppers and the 12 ounce box was going fast), I decided to make them tonight. I beat the Whoppers with a meat tenderizer, chilled the Ghiradelli Bittersweet chocolate bars and put them through a food processor. I measured everything, mixed the dry ingredients. The batter tasted really good. The recipe doesn't have a cooking time, so I tried 10 minutes and settled on 13. The first batch came out about 1/8" thick. The picture above, from the web site I got the recipe, certainly showed thicker cookies. I checked the recipe and sure enough, I used baking SODA instead of baking POWDER. I still had half of the batch in the mixing bowl, so I tossed in some baking powder, but it was too late. They still came out like pancakes. They taste OK, but I'm not a fan at this point. Tara mostly likes them, but the bits of Whopper ruin the texture for her. Oh well. There's always next time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

F1 time again

One of the few sports I follow is Formula One racing. I've been to the Canadian Grand Prix twice in Montreal, one of my favorite cities. Tara HATES it and usually whenever I turn it on, she retreats to our bedroom and her Friends DVDs.

This season traction control is banned and it's making for some interesting racing. I can't wait to see how the season unfolds. Tonight is fun since I can actually watch the Australian race live. I usually TiVo it, but I'm enjoying watching the live timing on the web site.

Yeah, I'm a geek.

Mr. Greek - Phoenix

For lunch today, Tara wanted to try Samarkand, the Uzbeki restaurant at Northern and 19th Ave, if it was open. We stopped by last Friday at 8pm, and they were closed. Today was no better, but she had a backup. One of our CH friends, AZHotdish, had mentioned that he really liked the food at a place called Mr. Greek at 40th St and Indian School.

Mr. Greek is in what looks to be a former fast-food restaurant. They offer counter service and have both Greek and Chicago items on the menu. Tara order the chicken souvlaki sandwich combo, I had a gyro sandwich combo, and we got an order of hummus. We grabbed our drinks from the soda fountain and took a seat.

After a few minutes, our order was up. The hummus came in a shallow styrofoam plate with eight ripping hot pita quarters lining the rim of the basket it all came in. The hummus was fantastic. The pitas were soft and puffy, and were perfect with the hummus. We both loved the hummus. The more we had, the more we liked it. We agreed that it was at least the equal of our favorite hummus from Shish Kebab House. We especially liked that the pita was oven-warmed and so hot it was burning our fingers.

Tara also really enjoyed her souvlaki. She commented that she normally doesn't like tsatziki but really liked this. She said the chicken was very tender and had great flavor. I wasn't able to try it as he all but inhaled it. My gyro was excellent as well. I was struggling to finish it. It was deceptively filling. Our combos came with fries or a Greek salad and we both got fries. While a bit pale, they were still quite good. They had a little seasoned salt sprinkled on them. An extra minute or two would have browned them a bit and added a bit more crunch.

We ended up completely stuffed and very satisfied. We are very happy to find another place with hummus that we love. They also offer hamburgers and hot dogs for those who want something a tad less exotic.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Do not adjust your set...

Ok, it sucks, but you get an idea of what the Vosges displays looks like. The last visible bar is the Mo's Bacon Bar on the right. There are two more bars to the right of that that aren't in the picture. It's definitely the largest number of Vosges I've seen anywhere in the Valley. I've never seen anything besides candy bars and their cocoa (seen at AJ's) before. The boxes on the bottom are caramels and even a peanut butter chocolate thing on the far bottom right.

Again, I apologize for the blurriness, but the lady forbade me just as I took the picture.

Whole Foods N. Scottsdale Rd/101 now open

For those of us who don't live near the fairly awesome new Whole Foods Market on Ray Road in Chandler, this is great news. The new store in the Scottsdale 101 shopping center is open. I stopped by today and it's nearly a carbon copy of the Ray Road store. Some things are in slightly different places, but for the most part, all the goodness is there. One big exception for us, though, is they don't currently seem to carry Queen Creek Olive Oil like the other store does. While very disappointing, Tara and I happened to stumble across a place in N. Scottsdale that DOES have it, the Sweet Basil cooking store at Scottsdale and Shea, next to the Safeway or whatever supermarket is there in the NE corner.

One thing I did notice and tried to take a picture of but was yelled at by a store employee ("Sir, no pictures are allowed!") was a nice display of Vosges Chocolate bars and other Vosges products near the bread and gelato displays. They had the Bacon bar, Barcelona, Oaxaca, Red Fire(?), Sugarfree Red Fire, Naga, and I think some others. They also have the mini-bars of some of them too. The large bars are $6.99 each. We didn't notice a Vosges display in the Ray store.

Something that annoyed me was that a lot of the bars that had hot ready-made foods (the soup bar, salad bar, latino and global food bars) had nearly nothing labeled, so you didn't know exactly what you were looking at. Some had a few labels, but for the most part, they were absent. This could just be a start-up glitch. It does lead to a somewhat funny conversation I heard. I guy asked a blond girl who was refilling the rice at the latin bar if both the tamales were the same, since one was labeled, the other wasn't. She said they were both "ma-CHA-ca". I thought it was pronounced "ma-ha-ca" from my visits to Chino Bandito.

Still, given that they have 99% of what Ray Road has, it'll certainly save us a long drive.

Tara wasn't with me today. I came out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth to find her sitting on the couch, her laptop in her lap, completely asleep. Since she just paid good money for it, I had her put it aside and just go to bed. I'm pretty sure she's still sleeping.