Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Protest Dominion Power?

Environmentalist protesters blockaded the Dominion HQ in Richmond. The coverge in the RTD focused on the logistics of the protest, its effect on corporate employees, and included dismissive notes about the ages of the participants. Only two sentences at the end of the article mention their motives or any allusions to their supporting arguments.
Blue Ridge Earth First!, along with another group called Mountain Justice, say the proposed $1.8 billion plant would emit too much mercury and carbon dioxide into the air, promote strip mining for coal in Southwest Virginia and cost consumers too much for electricity. They also protested Dominion’s possible plans to build a third nuclear reactor at its North Anna power plant in Louisa County.
To find out more about the reasoning for these activists' direct action in opposition to polution-causing coal plants, take a look at their blog right here (including more recent updates). Their perspective is pretty widely shared and really should get more attention. In fact, according to a local blog commentator:
Gray at June 29, 2008 12:07 am :

Okay this is off the subject of city council candidates and please, anyone, feel free to correct any mistakes I make here because I’m writing this from the top of my head and I’m not an environmentalist.

In the past week, James Hansen, NASA climate expert, told congress that if we don’t starting doing something today to reduce CO2 in the world, in ten years “we will be toast” –it will be too late then to reverse the catastrophic climate changes that will occur. He says we should start with getting rid of coal burning plants immediately. They put off more CO2 than gas. Virginia Dominion Power wants to open a coal burning plant in Wise county, VA. Go here. Robert Grey, one of Richmond’s mayoral candidates, is being backed by Dominion Power chief, Tom Farrell (go here).

I know that the mayor has no power over what happens in Wise County or with State issues, but this corporation is wanting to install the very thing that is frying the world. If I were a mayoral candidate, I wouldn’t want the devil backing me.
I'm sure there will be loads of fallout about the tactics of the protest. But the issues behind the action must remain on the table. For more coverage, check out: Southern Studies and "It's Getting Hot in Here."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Armageddon Comes to Byrd Park (a pictorial)

Clear signs of doom were in evidence today, including an electric peach sorbet-colored fire in the sky.


At first, I spied it out the window and thought maybe the pretty colored sky was due to some early July 4th celebration in Byrd Park.


Then, I stood on the porch, basking in the beautiful soul-searing "end times," and praying to The Flying Spaghetti Monster to spare my life...


And the lives of my lovely wife and child... or could these be two more horsemen of the apocalypse? Women and children, get thee behind me! I'm outta here.


When I got online to investigate, it appears that people are fleeing the neighborhood, for allegedly legitimate reasons. Sure that I have not been a good enough neighbor and ally, I'm bargaining for my redemption by taking up the pride challenge and "coming out" of blogging retirement. I also found a restaurant reviewer speaking in tongues and writing in nautical gobble-dee-guk.


In the end, it wasn't divine judgment descending on Byrd Park, but actually mother nature's decision to end the suffering of my garden by bringing down a bit of rain.

Well, what's a Sunday with out a little hellfire and brimstone to go with my "Chicken Little" style embarrassment?
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ps: Seriously, did anyone else see that sky?


Monday, June 23, 2008

Legalize Dogs in Byrd Park. IN TWO WEEKS!!!

City Council will vote tonight on an ordinance to lift the ban on dogs in Byrd Park (or so I hear). I've never really understood the law. Where else can Byrd Park residents take our dogs on walks? The Downtown Expressway? And isn't it kinda hypocritical to bring in border collies every other week to chase off the geese, but call neighborhood dog-walking (with leashes) an illegal act?

Here's the message that I just sent to Bill Pantele, City Council President (bill.pantele@richmondgov.com) and E. Marty Jewel, 5th District Councilman
(Marty.Jewell@Richmondgov.com). My message is a little flip, but honest. At least I did my civic duty. Maybe you should get in touch with your representative before the big vote as well.
---------------------

Councilmen,
I live a few blocks from Fountain and Swan Lakes and I enjoy walking my dogs around the park (on a leash and with plastic bags in hand). In the three and half years that I've lived here, I've ignored the ordinance that prohibits dogs in the park, considering it ridiculous. Some of my neighbors have done the same and report being harassed by police for walking their dogs in the park. The common reaction to this is, "don't the police have anything more important to do?" Obviously, they do. I hope that you as elected officials and policy makers will change the policy to free up the police to fight crime and reinstate accessibility to the the great neighborhood resource that is Byrd Park.
Sincerely,
Jason Guard
Rosewood Ave
Richmond, VA

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eating Past the Point of Enlightenment: Rowland Brunch

When Rowland Fine Dining announced that they were starting a Sunday brunch service, I felt like I needed to try it out ASAP, before it got overrun with foodies. I mean, Rowland's dinners have been pretty awesome in my experience. Brunch would probably be stellar as well. Well, weeks passed without my paying a visit and I haven't heard a peep about the Rowland brunch. Until today...

At about noon, Karen and I walked up to Rowland, with Jasper in tow. We were braced for a throng of diners. To our amazement, the place was empty, save three tables. We got a secluded corner booth/table and started looking over the menu. Maybe I shouldn't have had a preconception in my head, but I was a little disappointed with the lack of egg dishes on the menu. You know that list of fancy sounding food that comes along side the egg/french toast section of the brunch menu? The Rowland menu is mostly that stuff (more on that in a bit). However, right off the bat, we were served three great surprises that made us swoon and will surely bring me back.

Surprise # 1: Lavazza coffee. By noontime on Sunday, I NEED coffee. This stuff was strong and smooth Italian brew and it was refilled three times during my meal (for $1.50).

Surprise # 2: Instead of bread or biscuits, every table got a plate of mini banana nut muffins dusted with powdered sugar. Sublime, with the coffee. Virginia Rowland is known for her deserts and it showed with these light and tasty treats. We'll be back for more, but as bakers like to try different things, I wouldn't be surprised to find another flavor next time.

Surprise # 3: I asked to start with a side: Potato latke with scallion creme fresh. For four bucks, this thing was bigger and tastier than it had any right to be. AND, here were my eggs. It looked like any shredded potato pancake with a dollop of creamy stuff in the middle, but the texture was very eggy and the potatoes were undercooked to perfection, just the right amount of crunch, and the seasoning... I dunno what it was, but please give me more. Jewish treats like these willl make me happily convert.

By this point, we had about reached nirvana. The satisaction we experienced was that euphoric (probably cuz the baby was still asleep). And we hadn't even been served our entrees. Maybe this is how Buddha got so fat, eating past the point of enlightenment. Speaking of knowledge, the list of entrees was unfamiliar brunch territory for me: mostly southern and cajun accented dishes. I was tempted by the shrimp po boy and the butterbean cakes. Karen was on the verge of ordering the skillet fried chicken with summer squash casserole (and pan gravy). Ultimately we steered toward the seafood; BBQ shrimp over creamy polenta and tuna cakes with pico de gallo.

Do those things sound fancy? Well, the fine-ness of the dining is mostly in the accents. Fried egg and prosciutto sandwich with pomme frites, apple wood bacon, Mongolian hangar steak. We'll see how they rotate their menu when we head back. By the way, the shrimps were good, slathered in a cajun gravy that was an interesting take on BBQ sauce. The tuna cakes were filled out with some corn and rice and surrounded by a crunchy crust. On top, was a very fresh salad of toms, diced red onions and jalapeno slivers (pico de gallo, but tastier, as the menu described).

Obviously, the highlights for us were the first three rounds. I don't think we'd go for those two entrees again, but we had plenty of other interests on the menu. Oh, and they do serve french toast, as it turns out. If you're smart, you'll split an entree, pile on the sides, and save room for desert.

Rowland Fine Dining is located at Main Street and Shields. Brunch goes from 10-3 on Sundays and entrees range from $7:50-13. They've also got some cute looking patio tables out front that you might like to try.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Congrats to RVA's Amir Sadollah

For some reason, neither local media nor blogs reported the news that Richmonder, Amir Sadollah, was a contestant on Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) on Spike. In each week's episode, Amir, flew under the radar by ducking the sensational amateurish antics of his fellow fighters/housemates, instead showing understated flashes of charm and wit. In the cage, Amir's Chesterfield kickboxing training from Team Combat was an asset that intimidated his opponents into wrestling him to the ground. Unfortunately for them, Sadollah's slick submission moves made the seemingly bigger and stroger fighters "tap out" one after another (except one, see below). Amir's improbable success propelled him into the finals and toward stardom in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA).

Well, our Richmond fighter won the whole thing. On Saturday, June 21st, televised live on the Spike network, Amir tapped out the favorite to win, C.B. Dolloway, with a textbook armbar from the bottom. The victory garners the middleweight (185 lbs) fighter and MCV surgical technician, Amir Sadollah, a six figure contract to fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Now, he's on a collision course with UFC middlewieght champ, Anderson Silva, a man who is widely considered to be the best fighter in the world. The home team is gonna need all the help he can get during his next few bouts.

If you missed the chance to cheer on a local hero during the season of TUF (don't worry, the show is super annoying), you'll have plenty more chances to see Amir Sadollah in the future. Previous reality show winners have received top priority from the biggest MMA promotion in the world. And in the fastest growing sport in the world, that's a lot of exposure.

During tonight's prefight build-up, 27 year old Amir said that he still lives with his parents. It will be interesting to see if he's going to stay in Richmond, or relocate to a big league training hotbed like Las Vegas. However, in my only other MMA story on this blog, I reported that the first ever lightweight UFC champion, Jens Pulver had plans to take charge of the Amir's Chesterfield gym and rename it, Pulver Combat Sports. However these situations turn out, Richmond is starting to get mentioned in the fight game more and more, so expect to hear about MMA in the media around here, like it or not. At least with Amir involved, we've got a local hero who's amusing (and, I don't mind sayin it, kinda cute) leading the way.

  • Here's one of Amir's old kickboxing fights where you can check out his killer head kick.
  • This one is Amir coming from behind to beat a strong wrestler with a vicious knee.
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Update: Not sure why I tried to write this story like a reporter. The real story here is Amir's classy approach to the sport. Unlike the other TUF contestants who talked tough, Amir simply showed he had the fighting skills in the cage when it counted. He's not cheesy, doesn't act mean, and his face doesn't look like a cinder block. With his "wolfcut" hairdo (it's not a mullet), he's a pretty accurate amalgamation of all things hipster (think Ilan from Top Chef, but less pretentious). The dude is goofy and honest and if you saw him during the post-fight award ceremony, you'd be charmed by him for sure. During his moment in the limelight, Amir was at a loss for words, instead, making faces for the camera and little antics with his crystaline award. I've never met, Amir, but I've got a feeling that he's someone that even non fight-watching Richmonders would be proud of. Check him out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Baby Hardship: Jason Speaks for Jason

During blogging disillusionment, I've stumbled upon a stand-in who will vent on my behalf about the nightmarish combination of an infant's perpetual digestive distress and dad's noise-triggered migraines.



Sorry for referring to myself in the third person in the title. Totally not my style... Jason's maybe, but not mine. Also, like Bateman, I can't sing, but I'm sure I will find myself doing whatever works and discovering new talents.

For the Jasper junkies out there, here's the light of my life (or the "wind" beneath my wings?), in spite of it all:




Fox's "Baby Mama" Drama: Racist Newsmaking

Dear ____,

Right now, Fox News is trying to paint Barack Obama as foreign, un-American, suspicious, and scary. They're trying to send Americans the message that our country's first viable Black candidate for President is not "one of us."

We've seen this before from Fox. They won't stop until it becomes too painful to continue--until the public calls them out and advertisers start getting worried.

Now is the time to draw a line in the sand by putting Fox on notice that their behavior won't be tolerated. In less than a minute, you can help us do that. Then invite your friends and family to do the same. Just click here:

http://colorofchange.org/foxobama/?id=2502-47485

After Senator Obama won the nomination, he and his wife gave each other a "pound" in front of the cameras. Fox anchor E.D. Hill called the act of celebration a "terrorist fist jab."[1] Then last week, a Fox News on-screen graphic referred to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby
mama"[2]--slang used to describe the unmarried mother of a man's child. It was a clear attempt to associate the Obamas with negative cultural stereotypes about Black people, an insult not only to Michelle Obama but to women and Black people everywhere.

Last month, a Fox guest pretended to confuse Obama's name with "Osama," associating him with terrorism, which has happened before on Fox. But then she goes further, stating that the assassination of both Osama and Obama would be a good thing.[3,4] It is unconscionable for an organization that calls itself a news network to advocate for the assassination of a presidential candidate.

After each of the incidents mentioned, Fox issued some form of weak apology. But what does it mean when you slap someone in the face, apologize the next day, then slap them again on the third? It means the apology is meaningless.

Now is the time to call out Fox for these attacks and their fake apologies. The first stop is Fox. Next will be their advertisers and the FCC. If we don't push back now, we will see more of the same from now until November. Please join us to demand that Fox answer for it's
behavior:

http://colorofchange.org/foxobama/?id=2502-47485

These aren't one-time incidents--they're part of a pattern that continues no matter how often Fox is forced to apologize. Fox has a clear record of attacking and undermining Black institutions, Black leaders, and Black people in general.[5,6] Their team of producers and on-air personalities uses innuendo to prey on fear and racist stereotypes that ridicule the progress, politics and personalities of Black America.[7]

But this pattern grew even more noticeable when Barack Obama became a serious presidential contender. Fox's smears against Obama are part of a larger effort, working together with anonymous emails[8], outrageous statements by right-wing pundits and officials[9] and fear-mongering ads paid for by local chapters of the Republican party[10]. These tactics have deception at their core, and they're designed to take advantage of the racist fears and prejudices ingrained in our society.

Fox plays a very specific, key role in this effort. It uses its position in the media to inject racist attacks on Obama into the mainstream political conversation. Because Fox paints itself as a news
network and has a large audience, it's able to give credibility and exposure to unfounded rumors and bigoted, extremist statements.

Stopping Fox will take a sustained effort, but we've done it before[11]. Once you've signed the letter to Fox, you'll be the first to hear about future racist smears and how we can fight them. Please join us:

http://colorofchange.org/foxobama/?id=2502-47485

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, Andre, and the rest of the
ColorOfChange.org team
June 20th, 2008

References:

1. "Fox News' E.D. Hill teased discussion of Obama dap: "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab?" Media Matters, June 6, 2008
http://mediamatters.org/items/200806060007?f=h_clips

2. "Fox News in trouble again over Obama smear: 'baby mama'" Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2008
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/06/baby-mama.html

3. "Dems cancel debate over Fox Chief's Obama joke," CNN.com, March 10, 2007
http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/03/10/debate.canceled/index.html

4. Liz Trotta on Fox News Channel, May 25, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjYpkvcmog0

5. "Fox Attacks: Black America," FoxAttacks.com, June 2007
http://foxattacks.com/blog/572-fox-attacks-black-america

6. "Fox Attacks: Obama, Part 2," FoxAttacks.com, June 2007
http://foxattacks.com/blog/32376-fox-attacks-obama-part-2

7. "Fox News and its problem with African-Americans," ColorOfChange.org overview, March 2007
http://www.colorofchange.org/cbci/message.html

8. "SMEAR: Obama's Books Contain Racially Incendiary Remarks," FighttheSmears.com, June, 2008
http://my.barackobama.com/page/invite/therealquote

9. "Schlussel: Should Barack Hussein Obama be president "when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam"?," Media Matters, December 20, 2006
http://mediamatters.org/items/200612200005

10. "Tennessee GOP Smears Obama With Alleged Ties to Anti-Semitism and Farrakhan," TPM Election Central, February 27, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/28y72j

11. "Obama, Clinton to skip Fox-backed debate," MSNBC.com, April 10, 2007
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18035439/

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cheapest Dry Cleaner in Richmond

Remember those cleaners with the big $1.19 signs? What ever happened to those places? I don't even think they had a name, just a price per shirt and that was it. Well, I've got a pile of shirts in my car right now and I wanna patronize $1.19. I checked the phone book and there's only seven cleaners listed, none with prices as part of their name or ad. What's a frugal guy (who's too lazy or uncoordinated to iron my own shirts) to do?

If any of you have a suggestion, please add a comment here. I'm mostly interested in the area surrounding the Fan/near-West End. There are some funny bits that have led to this whole escapade, but I'm not going to share those until the comments start rolling in.

By the way, I did call Carytown Cleaners and they said they'd do one shirt for $2.00 and additional shirts are $1.75 each. I can probably bite the bullet and pay that rate, if need be. But, I'm hoping we can collectively unearth the best deal in town. I've already gone so far as to Google "$1.19" and "Richmond," but I only came up with a chicken sandwich* from the UofR dining services. Maybe the bargain basement cleaners have gone up? So, I Googled $1.29. After all, I'm not completely in denial about inflation and the fluctuations of the market. I'd be willing splurge and go an extra ten cents.

$1.29 turned up no cleaners, only a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich** at UofR. The search went on and I started to see cleaners advertising $1.89 shirts, even a few naming themselves as such, but not around here. So, Richmond, let's get to the bottom of this.

*actually turned out to be a small soda or an "all meat jumbo hot dog." the sandwich was $3.29
**oops, medium soda or a fruit cup.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

(non)Toxic Green Sludge Found at Local Eatery!!!

Batali and Stipe caught holding hands in Richmond!!! Okay, the "eatery" is my kitchen. And the drink wasn't really "found" cuz I made it. And Mario and Michael probably weren't in Richmond when they posed for this photo that I keep in my kitchen. But, I made you look, and that's the point of food blogging, right? Um... no. I like to think that we're not just talking shit or providing a daily dose of (cue sound effect) "critical violations" that will make you recoil in horror about so and so's cooking practices.


Readers, I am feeling a little deflated about this medium right now. Since I've got a couple pressing writing and research projects, I think I'm gonna scale back my "food blogging" for the time being. There are also some existential dilemmas that I need to sort through about blogging. I'm all for alternative media and citizen journalism and just plain storytelling. But I'm not interested in tabloid-style manipulations to attract attention, especially when it could hurt someone or a business's reputation, etc. (I can hear you saying, "yeah, right. you can't stay away"... probably true).

In my estimation, blogging is about creating conversation. Although I'm frequently found here talking to myself, I'm really hoping to engage YOU and/or get you all talking to each other. Have I stretched the truth in a blog-post title before? Yeah. Like two days ago. But, I've also done my best to protect identities, because I'd want to be given the benefit of the doubt if the tables were turned. I dunno. Maybe I've just got my panties in a bunch. Likewise, I enjoy gawking at celebs as much as the next person. And sensational stories are some of my favorite ear candy. But, I don't wanna participate in some kind of "foodie paparazzi." That's just where my head is at right now. So, let's get on with the (non)toxic green sludge that I "found" in my kitchen.


When I have time, I make this disgusting looking drink in my blender and spend a couple hours carrying it around and gulping it down. It tastes better than it looks, of course. I usually start with some juice or water in the blender. Then I add, several kale leaves (w/o spine), a cored apple, some kind of protein powder and/or powdered "greens", frozen fruit like banana, juice of one lemon, and maybe a touch of maple syrup or agave nectar. Viola! Green sludge. Add frozen blueberries and it becomes black gak. Both of which, Karen wouldn't taste if I paid her. But, in leiu of a doctor, I drink this stuff as a preventative measure.

"Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." -Abraham Lincoln (from a teabag tag this morning)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Lulu's vs. Tarrant's vs. deLux

Saturday night, we went out to dinner at Tarrant's with some out of town friends (whom we directed to Lulu's for brunch earlier that day). The next morning, we went to brunch at deLux. Naturally, I have stories to share, but the competition aspect to this post was just a ruse to rope in readers (sorry). I guess I could point out that these three places started in the same general era (nowish), and so they are competing for legitimacy in a sense. Personally, I'm not completely in love with any of the three (having mostly superficial experiences thus far). Maybe that's indicative of my general disposition: the past rocks, the future is exciting, but right now... meh. Anywho, stay tuned for an aimless meandering of culinary wandering lostness.

Lulu's

When Karen's old high school buddy, called wanting to know where to meet her dad for brunch, I racked my brain and came up empty. Brunch is not an option on Saturdays at my favorite spots, but I recalled being tempted by Lulu's one Saturday at the 17th Street Farmers Market. When our guests got to our house, they reported a successful meal. She described the menu as mostly savory (she likes sweet breakfast food) and he thought his huevos rancheros were too beany (believing that meat eating makes one a man). Since I have to try the huevos everywhere I go, Lulu's just got bumped up in my queue (would they really tamper with the Millie's recipe?).

Tarrant's

Later that day, the four of us piled in a car with Jasper and headed down to 1 W. Broad for our first Tarrants experience. The staff surveyed the two dining rooms for the best place to stash a carseat-bound baby and we wound up in one of their bigger booths. Due to the heat, we all requested a steady flow of ice water.

And now the menu: on the way in I noticed fancy sounding specials on the sidewalk chalkboard. The prices ranged from $18-25, which threw me for a loop, as I recalled seeing fish tacos for under $10 on that same board during Broad Appetit. Whatever. I'm supposed to keep my cheapskate tendencies under wraps when we've got company. Of course, disparity probably stems from the price difference between lunch and dinner (an explanation that I'm not completely satisfied with).

At the table, we were collectively paralyzed by the array of choices. There must have been 25-30 sandwiches and wraps, at least a dozen starters, a dozen salads, and a dozen entrees. What would Gorden Ramsey say? If you've seen Kitchen Nightmares then you're used to seeing him wind up to his "pare down your menu ultimatim" (delivered abusively for the American audience and with tact for the Brits). Tarrant's piles on even more options with two paper menu inserts. Another 12-20 entree and appetizer specials as well as a listing of pizzas, calzones, and hot subs from the Tarrantinos eatery in the back. With each expansion to the side or the back, it seems that another page was added to the menu. I could hear Gordon spraying the owner with spittle demanding to know "who are you? Is this a sandwich shop, a pizzeria, or is it fine dining? You don't know, do you? For Christs sake, man, you're completely lost aren't you?" And so on, as Gordon plays up the emergency situation as his belittling critique comes to the rescue.

There's no emergency here. Tarrant's is a hit and people are going there with specific parts of the menu in mind (or maybe a little of each). And, I'm not Gordon Ramsey (but, I did find the dizzying choices to be off-putting). No, Jasper's the real high maintenance diner (now 9 weeks old). By the time we were ready to order, he was refusing his bottle and having a meltdown in Karen's arms. Other customers were forced to take notice. But, I impressed everyone around by grabbing the carseat and swinging it by the handle, rocking Jasper into a peaceful slumber. It was quite a bicep workout, but I kept it up for 10 minutes while seated and dangling the carseat in constant motion outside the booth. And I don't think I impeded any server's path in the process.

Tarrant's (seriously, this time)

The food... a white pizza with spinach and grilled chicken, two cesar salads (one with mid-rare grilled tuna), a polenta in seafood cream sauce starter, and I had the tilapia reuben. Honestly, I don't really have much to say about the food. They brought plate after plate of greasy garlic knots (delicious, but kind of a meal spoiler - I know, learn restraint - and they would have been better if a little crustier). The pizza was a hit, as I've blogged before, but our guests questioned the spinach topping saying it was previously frozen (not a biggie in my book, especially compared to the pointless chicken topping).

The two Caesars irked me, cuz I can't stand redundancy on the table. Not the restaurant's fault (although the salads were too croƻton-y and none of us could figure the need for loads of kalamata olives with pits in the middle of it all - which I picked off of the two plates). My reuben was tasty, but I think I'll blog on it in a separate post about alterna-reubens I've had in Richmond (Table 9, Ipanema, and Harrison St). That polenta was flavorful, but the sauce was too rich for more than two consecutive bites, and the seafood pieces were small enough to be kind of irrelevent.

Would I go back to Tarrant's? Personally, only for an orthodox pizza. But I'm sure more patient customers have discovered the other strengths of the kitchen, but I'm not ambitious enough to expend that many visits working through the menu. Am I raining on the parade? Maybe I should qualify this whole thing by saying that I am glad to see this relatively accessible downtown business.

deLux('s)

The next day, Sunday, we wound up at deLux (sans guests, but with baby). We braved the heat in search of coffee, but stayed for the A/C and brunch food. Again, not much to say about the food here. The place is very stylish and not too fancy. My huevos rancheros seemed a little steep at $10, but they included sausage (which I requested they omit and they obliged). Karen asked for cheddar and tomatoes in her "two eggs any style" and they didn't bat an eyelash. Homefries came with each and I'm pretty sure they were frozen with factory-applied seasoning crust. Don't you love that shit? These are a pet peeve of mine, mostly because I hate to be temped to cheat with processed carbs. I guess it could be worse...

Since we didn't quite know where we were going when we crossed the sketchy footbridge from Byrd Park, over the expressway to Strawberry Street, deLux was basically an oasis for us. They were open before 10am, and we were sipping coffee within seconds of sitting down. The real treat for me was featured on the check. A dollar was deducted from the price of my huevos, because I asked them to hold the sausage. It is so seldom that vegetarians are given this kind of consideration. Instead, there's often an element of punitive treatment for causing trouble with our special requests (so many plates just seem to represent the kitchen's misconception that vegetarians don't like to eat). Also, the price of Karen's eggs wasn't hiked up for the cheese and tomatoes.

The financial impact of these billing nuances is minimal, but the gesture will surely bring me back, especially since it's within walking distance. Would I ever order the huevos there again? Probably not. It was a forgettable dish that scarcely resembled the classic namesake. Millies and Kuba Kuba are good bets for huevos rancheros, but so is Taqueria del Sol. I can't wait to find out about the "beany" version at Lulu's.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Richmond, Is There a Doctor in the House?

Karen and I have both quit our doctors and we need new ones. It's actually been about a year since we saw our old general practitioners. Instead of getting stuff checked out, we've just been consulting the WebMD and the Prescription for Natural Healing b00k. Sure, it's empowering to diagnose yourself and overspend on naturopathic treatments at Ellwoods (go to the Vitamin Shoppe instead). But at some point, only an expert's opinion will do. So, we each need a doctor. Who would you suggest? Bloggers and blog-readers, who is Richmond's best doctor?

Obviously, we're not looking for one of those docs whose loyalty to schilling for the drug companies takes precedence over satisfying the patient's concerns. Karen's last doc would listen to her list of maladies and then write a prescription for one of them and dismiss the rest before leaving the room, shuffling Karen along his conveyor belt of half-assed service. Discussing possible treatments? Heck no. Treat the cause instead of the symptoms? That's crazy talk. My doctor was a naturopath and very attentive, but his practice was falling apart. He spent an hour with me each visit (for a $25 copay), but after losing his receptionist and letting the voicemail fill up, eventually he just stopped showing up to work. No notice, no referral, nothing. Bizarre. For those interested, there are other naturopaths out there, but I need some reassurance before I make an appointment to see anyone at this point (and they sure as hell better take Anthem CoVaCare: State employee insurance).

We're looking for an imaginative problem solver - an accessible, intellectually curious, and thorough doctor (or two, but we don't mind sharing). Is that too much to ask? Is there some kind of online reputation system to help us make an informed choice? How do doctors wind up on the Richmond Magazine's best doctors list? And why do I have to wait six months to see any of them? Why do so many doctors simply fill up their waiting rooms each morning and let patients spend hours waiting and watching Montel Williams just so they can see the dude for 5 minutes, blurt out a word like arthritis or migraines and then take away a slip of paper with an expensive drug written on it?

Okay, that's a slight digression. Am I alone in my negative assessment of modern medical services? Regardless, Karen and I would really like to start having slightly less negative experiences with Richmond's medical practices. No one likes going to the doctor, but in this age of information, neither of us is willing to feign stupidity so the doctor can pretend that s/he is giving adequate service. By the time we've made an appointment, we've done our homework and tried a few adjustments (maybe years of experiments) and come up empty-handed. What's up, doc? Can we start the conversation there? (end second digression, please commence advising)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Save Some Green by Saving Greens

My garden exploded while we were away at the beach on the Memorial Day weekend. Particularly impressive were the kale and collard greens. I had to pick a bunch of it if more leaves were going to come in during the rest of the early harvest. Remembering Alton Brown's bizarre advice from an episode of Good Eats, I decided to wash, chop, and dry the greens in the laundry dryer and store them in the fridge for future use. (see below for a tasty dish or here for a before picture)

A bag of prepped homegrown greens would be a great asset, perfect for soups, sautees, green smoothies, etc. This sounded simple enough, but if I was gonna keep the greens from going bad quickly, drying them would be crucial. That's where Alton goes off the deep end... and, I went with him.

After submerging the leaves in a full sink and swirling them in the water, I took them out and chopped them. The pile was enormous. Way too much for my tiny salad spinner. Alton said toss them all in an old pillowcase, tie it up and toss it in the dryer. Well, that's how I remember it from the TV show, anyways.

When I got them out of the dryer, the pillowcase had turned green. Inside, the greens were very green and wilting a little. It seems that I was supposed to set the dryer for fluff air, but I'd just left it on permanent press. (upon further inspection, it seems that Alton didn't use a dryer at all. He used the spin cycle of his washing machine. Oh man, I'm dumb. At least I didn't throw a fabric softener sheet in there.) Oops. Guess, I didn't have dry greens after all. Better get to cooking.

My first recipe would be an egg white omelet (where did I get all the egg whites?) I stuff it with greens that I blanched in water and then sauteed with red onions and garlic. Of course, there must be cheese. I went with a generic preshredded Italian mix from a bag and a bit of my own parmigiano reggiano. The resulting dish tasted brilliant. A dash of balsamic in the greens cut whatever bitterness remained after the blanching.

Now, I've still got a couple pounds left and I need to use them up quick. I'm not at a loss for ideas, but I'm open to suggestions. Better yet, just do what I did (except for the dryer misstep) and fill your crisper with greens for weeks to come.


Check out that 8" chefs knife in the 2nd picture. It's an Analon Advanced made of German carbon steel. Marshall's had loads of them for $15 each (including a cool Santoku, as well). If that weren't enough of a bargain, I waited until this one showed up on clearance for $10. It's quite a culinary weapon. But, if I were on the market for the best, I'd probably aim slightly lower than the Ken Shun for $250 and seek out this one.


Jasper the Beach Gigalo

Jasper's got his casual clothes for chilling on the beach. The guy looks pretty content, but I think he's craving the company of a beach babe.

Booyah! Snagged a hottie.



Oh, man. It ain't easy playin' on the beach. That wave water white noise is doing a number on the noggin. Too bad we can't bottle it and bring it back.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Consumer Advocacy 101: Speak Up or Spend More


-----Original Message-----
From: Jason Guard [mailto:jasonguard@riseup.net]
Sent: Sunday, June 01, 2008 6:54 PM
To: Janet Prescott
Subject: Vase Grinder not grinding



I've got one of your vase-style pepper grinders. It worked well for a couple months and now the pepper just won't come out. I've adjusted it every possible way and even removed the ceramic grinder and put it back in. Still, it won't let pepper out very often at all. Maybe a little comes out here or there and then nothing until I take it apart again. Can you help me?


Jason Guard

XXXX Rosewood Ave


Richmond, VA 23220

--------------

Dear Jason,

Thank you for your inquiry. It sounds as if the grinding mechanism has stopped working properly. This actually had been a problem when the vase grinders were first introduced. However, this flaw has recently been resolved by the redesign and improvement of the small grey cap piece and ceramic grinder piece. Once these pieces are replaced, the vase grinder
will work as it should.

Since you have included your address, we'll be glad to get those parts out to you ASAP. Should you have further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. Thanks.

Janet at Kuhn Rikon
Kuhn Rikon Corporation
Phone:1-800-662-5882
Fax: 1-415-883-5985


Questions, comments, or problems should be directed to
webmaster@kuhnrikon.com.]

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Agony with Aioli: Four Failed Attempts

I just wasted two cups of EVOO, four eggs, and 18 cloves of garlic and all I've got to show for it is an elevated blood pressure. If any of you can point out where I went wrong, I'd certainly appreciate it (as will other readers). This confession won't impress most chefs, but I hope that other foodies will benefit from my mistakes.It all started with Karen cooking up zucchini fritters (from a low-carb recipe). It included a recipe for garlic aioli dip. Since the baby kept diverting Karen from the kitchen, I volunteered to make the aioli, figuring that slowly drizzling olive oil into egg yolks couldn't be that hard.

With the first attempt, I put two egg yolks in the blender with six cloves of minced garlic (salt/pepper) and beat it up real good. Then, slowly drizzled a cup of olive oil in with the motor running. After a minute or two, all I had was soup, no mayonnaisey fluff. Grrrr.

Karen said that I should try again with the food processor and we both reckoned that we didn't need a whole recipe. So, I took out the cuise (pronounced: kweeze) and halfed the ingredients. Right off the bat, the s-blade in the food-pro would not touch the yolk/garlic. They just lay below the spinning blade. Grrrrr. I took the stuff out and put it into the smaller bowl that came with the same machine. Same result. No contact with the blade. Obviously, I wasn't using enough product. Maybe adding the olive oil would help. Half a cup later, all I had was soup.

Karen volunteered to make it in a bowl with a whisk. New egg and garlic. She beat it while I drizzed the EVOO. Then we switched until our arms were tired. Again, no fluff. We were both livid and needed to take a breath and walk away.

I tried the blender again, with the half proportions. At first the stuff started to turn a lighter shade of yellow and it was thickening and then it just turned into two layers with the oil whirling around on top of the egg/garlic... face turning red, curse words, but luckily no appliances got thrown through any windows. Instead, we both had a cold beer and pulled out a jar of mayo and said FUCK IT.

Now that I have some hindsight, I'm sure there's a logical explanation, but I'm still too mad to see straight. So, I'm turning to my online commisserators. Whats the lesson here?