Thursday, July 15, 2010

Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

NOTE: The French version of the above epigram (colloquially abbreviated to “ Plus ça change,”) was created in mid-1800 by Jean-Baptise Alphonse Karr, a French journalist, critic, and novelist. While reading the article below, see if you can figure out its relevancy to the subject matter.

Whom Can You Trust?

“Is there anyone out there in the financial world left to trust? Think about it. In years past, the concept of trust and honesty was ingrained. On the rare occasions that concept has been violated, the general public was then surprised, shocked and disappointed. Now, a new paradigm has been created wherein dishonesty and a lack of integrity at the highest corporate levels are expected; where self-serving actions are even taken for granted as every day happenings; where trust has been replaced by a crisis in investor confidence that has been a major factor in inducing current market forces.

We are at the point where untrustworthiness not only dominates the headlines; it has destroyed faith in our basic institutions, professions, and corporations. Here is a partial list: Accountants; Attorneys, Financial Analysts; Brokerage Houses; the CIA; the FBI; the Catholic Church, Priests, and other religious practitioners; Politicians at every level of government; Corporate officers in multiple industries; Mutual Fund companies; Insurance Companies; Oil Companies; Health Related Companies; Charitable Organizations; and the list can go on and on.


Most readers of this publication are sophisticated, intelligent, and experienced. Allow me to pose an age-old question related to that: Does art imitate life, does life imitate art? Or, is it perhaps both? Recently, the answer is “yes” to all three, especially as it applies to financial markets.

I’ve come to that conclusion based in part on the 1987 movie, “Wall Street,” which was predicated on an accurate portrayal of what real life on Wall Street was at the time. The financial industry’s penchant for self-interest as depicted in the movie, regardless of the disastrous impact on its unsuspecting clients, was a harbinger of today’s headlines. Remember the famous words uttered by Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms.” This movie was indeed art imitating life.

Unfortunately, the attitude towards the greed associated with the markets of the 1980’s as enunciated by Gordon Gekko has not only returned, it is more rampant and more prevalent than at any time in recent history. Life is now imitating art. [As an indication of its continuing relevance, as of this writing, the sequel to the movie, titled Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, is scheduled to be released on September 24 th.]


It is possible that the original source for the concept that greed is good was the renowned economist of some 200 years ago, Adam Smith. Smith argued that the invisible hand of market forces would ensure that the efforts of individuals acting in pursuit of their own self-interest would actually improve society as a whole. This, of course, is the basic philosophy that produced the capitalistic system.

Yet, as a result of the recent revelations of what seems to be endemic malfeasance, we have been thrust into a crisis mode where an article in The New York Times runs with the headline, “Could Capitalists Actually Bring Down Capitalism?” That is not only distressing, it is an alarming commentary on the fragile nature of the human sprit. Fortunately, the article’s conclusion was that, ‘Ultimately, capitalism will almost certainly survive this onslaught from the capitalists—if only because survival is the most profitable outcome for all involved.’ Greed, and the drive for personal enrichment was the force motivating executives of so many corporations who implemented the illegal, unethical, and scandalous machinations that have received so much publicity of late. Recognition of this systemic weakness has created an imperative issue for investors.


Suspicion, is now the theme that dominates investor attitudes, leading to a crisis of confidence. If you can’t trust the revenues, earnings, or cash flow reports issued by household names of American corporations; if CEO’s and other officers of these corporations are potential liars and thieves; if audit reports are manipulated by avaricious accounting firms; If profits influence rating agency activities and opinions; if as an investor, you can’t know which company will be next on the list, what do you do? GET OUT OF EQUITIES! SELL! OPT FOR SAFETY!

I’m not necessarily advocating those actions. I’m suggesting that investors have followed those dictums creating a disconnect between a recovering economy that traditionally is reflected, in fact that traditionally is anticipated by virtue of escalating stock prices.

Investors are constantly warned of the perils inherent in investing in third world or emerging markets because transparency related to financial information and numbers was lacking. Yet, relevant to these markets, I don’t recall any caveats regarding outright lies, fraud, or self-serving that seem to define today’s American business model.

In an editorial in U.S. News & World Report, publisher Morton Zuckerman writes, “The public record is rife with instances of accounting malpractice, conflicts of interest, excessive executive compensation, especially for terminated CEO’s and lax board room supervision. All the while top executives have been enriching themselves with stock option awards, with stocks that boomed in the bubble but were exposed in the bear market. In a speech at the National Press Club, the CEO of Goldman Sachs said, ‘In my lifetime, American business has never been under such scrutiny [and], to be blunt, much of it is deserved.’”

“Plus ça change,”

If, after all of the publicity relating to the recent questionable activities of Goldman Sachs, and its chairman, Lloyd Blankfein, you are puzzled by the seeming honesty of that last statement, it was expressed by its then CEO, Henry S. Paulson. However, it was in fact conveyed in June 2002. Actually, the above entire article you just read was published in July 2002 in an Internet investment newsletter called the Kronish Chronicle sent to subscribers. Although several paragraphs have been omitted, of the almost 900 words, less than two-dozen had to be changed in order to update the contents. It should be obvious, that based on its relevancy to today’s economic and investment environment, in the eight years since that article was written, Plus ça change ––the more things change the more they remain the same. Or, as articulated so astutely by that sagacious pundit, Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Eighth Annual Boca Pointe Meal Deals

So here we are now with the eighth issue of “Meals,”
Where we’ll describe once again good values and deals.
But I wonder myself why a poem is required,
It just seems that’s the way that my brain has been wired.
But nevertheless my intentions are pure,
To provide you with info that’s valid and sure.
So just like last year we’ll review what took place,
In the no-ending struggle in the Summer Deal race.

But where have they gone, the restaurants of yore?
Even many we liked, now are no more.
It’s a business that’s risky with perils abundant,
Yes, even in Boca some were considered redundant.
But there’s good news to come, new restaurants have started,
And some have replaced the ones that have parted.
The economy’s weak with no end yet in sight,
And restaurants are aware of their dangerous plight.
With Northerners gone the summer season is slow,
That’s a problem the owners of restaurants full know.
So whether the restaurant is old or it’s new,
A meal deal’s their solution to attract me and you.
So here are the new deals for two thousand ten,
And I hope that like last year, you will once again,
Cut out this page so you can answer outright,
When next someone asks, “What restaurant tonight?
If you lose this list and thus fail to retain it,
Go to my blog and you can then attain it.

Over much of the past seven years that the Summer Meals Deals articles have run, the high failure rate of restaurants has been emphasized. Out of curiosity I checked the 2004 issue of this column and found that of the 27 restaurants then listed, a stunning number, 19 have closed –– that’s 70 percent. Of the 27 listed last year, seven –– 25 percent –– were shuttered. Following are the fatal seven: Basil Garden; Bova Cucina; Bova Ristorante; Café Bellino; Gigi’s; Opus 5; Pranzo. However, in addition to those, here are others that did not survive since last year’s Summer Meals Deal article: Gatsby’s, Jasmine, Big City Tavern, Eilat Café, the Draft House, Cucina D’Angelo, Addison Steakhouse.

Despite the above failures, several new restaurants have opened. Listed below are mini-reviews of three that I believe deserve special consideration.

2010 Summer Meal Deals

Unless noted otherwise, the offerings are for a three course dinner including soup or salad, entrée, and dessert. Because of the fast changing nature of the current restaurant business environment, it is suggested that you check the accuracy of the listings below when you phone for a reservation.
  • Bistro Provence: Sunset Dinner: Nice choices in all categories; coffee or tea. $14.50. Separately, 2 for 1 glass of wine. Monday-Sunday, 5:00-5:45. Cash only. 2399 N. Federal Highway.368-2340

  • Brooks Restaurant: $ 32.00 per person. Coffee or Tea. Carafe of wine per couple. No time restrictions. (If Saturday, call to confirm). 500 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach. 954 427-9302

  • Campagnola: 4 Course. $19.95 each. Family Style –– Two people share 1 Appetizer or Salad, 1 Pasta, 1 Entrée, 1 Side Vegetable, and 1 dessert. I gather each gets a Coffee or Tea. Also Summer Early Menu till 5:30: $10.95-$12.95. House or Caesar Salad, Choice of 12 entrées, Italian or NY Cheesecake. 8228 Glades Rd. (Lakeside Center). 488-7960

  • Ferraro’s Ristorante: 4 Course with appetizer.), $19.95. Sunday through Thursday 4:00-7:00. (Chef Tulio is one of the most creative). 8208 Glades Rd. (Lakeside Plaza). 477-2750

  • Gary Woo: Soup, Appetizer, Entrée, and Ice Cream. From $13.95. Cash Only. Nightly. Closed Tuesday. Usually a coupon is required, however, mention Boca Pointe to Gary, and the Summer Special will apply. 3400 Federal Highway. 368-8803

  • Hurricane Grill: See mini review below.

  • Josephine’s: Appetizer, Entrée, Dessert, and Coffee. $25.00. Sunday-Friday. 5;00-6;30 5751 Federal highway. 988-0668

  • La Luna: Sunset Dinner $12.95. Sunday-Thursday till 6:00. Friday & Saturday till 5:30. 20% off entrée on regular menu. Friday and Saturday only. $7.95 Lunch Special. 5030 Champion Blvd. 997-1165

  • Kathy’s Gazebo: (Very expensive normally). Considered by some to be best in Boca. 3 Course for $35.00. Monday-Friday. 4199 N. Federal Highway. 395-6033

  • Max’s Grill: Nice selection ofAppetizer or Soup or Salad and Dessert. Three menus –– $17.95, $19.95, or 23.95. Sunday-Thursday 5:00-10;00; Friday and Saturday 5:00-7:00. $5.00 House cocktails with three-course dinner or ½ price selected wine bottles. Mizner Park. 368-0880

  • Milos: Greek restaurant. $19.95. Good selection of Soup, Salad, or Appetizer. Eight entrée choices plus seven others at higher prices. S1600 Federal Highway. 750-6720

  • Positano’s: 4 courses $26.95. Choice of 8 Appetizers plus Pasta or Salad. Dinner served with Vegetables or Pasta. Dessert, and Coffee. Every night. 4400 Federal Highway. 391-2120

  • Renzo’s of Boca: First time summer discount. 20% off entire meal. (One of the best Italian restaurants in Boca). 5999 N. Federal Highway. 994-3495.

  • Rosario: (Former owner of La Viola): 3 Course with Appetizer, Entrée, Dessert and Coffee. $22.95. Every night. 145 SE Mizner Blvd., Royal Palm Place. 393-0758

  • St. Tropez: $16.95. All night, every night. ($15.95 before 5:30). Cash only. Mention Boca Pointe for the deal. 7000 W. Camino Real. 368-4119

  • Stallone’s: Sunset Specials: Soup, Salad, Entrée, and Beverage staring at $9.95 –– add Dessert starting at $12.95, till 5:30. Dinner for Two with Soup or Salad (Choice of 5 entrées) Thursday-Saturday, $24.95-$26.95. All night. Same deal Sunday-Wednesday $19.95. Lunch Combo: Soup, Salad, Half Sandwich –– Pick two $5.95. All three $8.50. 9181 Glades Rd. 483-0009

  • Station House: See mini review below. Cove Shopping Center. 1544 SE 3 rd St, Deerfield Beach. 561 547-6022

  • Shanghai City : See mini review below.

  • Swanky’s Vesuvio Ristorante: 4 courses including appetizer and coffee. $26.95. Tuesday through Friday. 3360 N. Federal Highway. 368-5520

  • Tiramasu: Appetizer, Entrée, Dessert, and Coffee. $21.50. All night, every night. Cash only. 170 W. Camino Real. 338-9692

  • Truluck’s: Soup or Salad, Entrée, Shared Dessert. $35.00. Happy Hour till 7:00. Excellent seafood. Mizner Park. 391-0755

  • TW Steak & Seafood: 4 Course Dinner. From $15.00. Bottle of House Wine $10.99. 2 for 1 House Drinks till 6:00. All Night, Every Night. 7104 Beracasa Way, 391-6525

  • Villagio: 3 Courses. $19.95. Monday through Thursday. Mizner Park. 447-2257.


Station House

Any numbers of Boca Pointers are very familiar with this well-known and well-established restaurant. Its success can be summed up in three words –– Lobster, Lobster, Lobster. This axiom has been earned based on its claim that they sell more lobsters than any other restaurant in Florida, some 4,000 to 6,000 a week, depending on the season. Located for some 17 years in Lantana, in what was purportedly the original railroad station, Fodor’s travel book reviews it as follows: “The best Maine lobster in South Florida might well reside at this delicious dive, where all the seafood is cooked to perfection. Sticky seats and tablecloths are an accepted part of the scene, so don't wear your best duds.” The latter part of that description refers to the fact that unless you are charmed by old, cramped, and rather dingy interiors, the only enticement is the food.

However If you are a lobster lover, it is no longer necessary to take a half hour trip; to the Station House in Lantana since a new one opened less than 15 minutes away in the Cove Shopping Center (that is scheduled for an upgrade by next summer) in Deerfield Beach. With a bright yellow façade (in keeping with the Cove’s new requirement for a Key West theme), the new 6400 Sq. Ft. restaurant’s fresh contemporary design is a far cry from the original. It is highlighted by two huge fish tanks containing exceptionally beautiful and unusual small tropical fish as well as the most unique living coral I have ever seen,

But it is the food, especially the lobsters, that is the main attraction. Since this is a mini-review I won’t go into all the details, especially since the selection of fish, seafood, chicken, and steak (as well as menu prices) are comparable to other upscale seafood establishments. Most lobster lovers seem to be primarily attracted to the early bird lobster dinners (4:30-6:00 all week long), consisting of a 1-1/4 Lb Maine Lobster for $20.95, a 1-1/2 Lb for $25.95, and Twin 1.15 to 1.25 pounders for $30.95. After 6;00 the price of the singles go up $2.00 and $3.00 for the twin. The dinner consists of a House Salad, choice of a side, Potatoes, rice, or coleslaw. The largest lobster on the menu (8 Lb) costs $110.95.

It is sad and ironic that the owner of Station House, Steve Jankun, passed away the middle of June, just shortly after the new restaurant opened. However, the good news is that the new restaurant has the services of Dave Greenfield, the former owner of Gold Coast Seafood Grill in Boca, a favorite of Boca Pointers (now closed), and one in Coral Springs, that he sold recently. Say Hello to him when you dine there.

Shanghai City

Possibly the best Chinese restaurant in Boca. Replacing Jasmine, in the same location (overlooking a lake and fountain) this restaurant’s chef is remarkable since the food is so much noticeably better than most. My favorite, Sweet ‘N Sour Chicken, is the best I’ve had since the first time I ordered it in New York’s Chinatown more years ago than I’d like to remember. Shrimp in Lobster Sauce (Boston Style) is significantly different and wonderful. Lucy, the owner (along with the chef), is a charming and watchful hostess. The only improvement I would suggest is that the noodles could be improved.

Summer Special includes Egg Roll, Soup, Vegetable Fried Rice, Entrée, and ice Cream. Typical prices range from $11,95 to $14.95. We have arranged with Lucy that if you tell her you are from Boca Pointe you get a 10 % discount. Cash Only.

Hurricane Grill and Wings

Opened in the Palm Plaza just in front of the Garden Shops, Hurricane Grill is an interesting hybrid, one that has grown into a chain with more than 30 other locations (all but a few in Florida, and another scheduled for Mission Bay Plaza). It has developed a restaurant formula that obviously works. It is not a typical sports bar, bu it is a casual fun style establishment with an almost Key West ambience.

Specializing in excellent Wings, it also serves great 100% ½ pound Angus Burgers (all less than $9.00). A good assortment of Salads and tasty Appetizers are available. Chicken and Fish sandwiches are also on the menu all under $10.00. In fact, other than a large number of Wings, nothing on the menu is over $10.99. A great value lunch menu at only $6,99 includes two different Wings, a Burger, Chicken Sandwich (all with Fries), Chicken Caesar Salad, and Firecracker Shrimp. Happy Hours and Beer specials prevail.
Marion, the male General Manager agreed to a 10% discount on the check to Boca Pointers, and will provide an identification card for future use.