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We Leave Town For A Few Days, And Look What Happens!

Wednesday 5 February 2014

So we were in Portland for a long weekend (notes to follow).

We get back, head to Lark’s for our not-infrequent Monday lunch. They had been closed the prior week for…something. We don’t know, we don’t care.

So we get in the door, and notice that the specials list, usually two soups, a salad or two, and a main or two, is just a soup and one salad. “Today is the first day of our new lunch menu,” says the hostess, “so we have no specials.” Ok, let the chef focus on the new stuff the first day of a new menu, get settled, etc. We’re good with that.

Table. Menus. Water. Review menu for changes.

No fried chicken.

Look again, must be a mistake.

No fried chicken.

Ask the waitress, “Is the fried chicken really gone?” “Yes, although it’s still on the dinner menu.”

Waitress leaves. Concerned looks between us.

“Do we bail?”

“No, that would be rude.”

“You can find something else?”

“Hmm, yes, I suppose the Caesar with chicken.”

“Ok, because we come here almost entirely because you love the fried chicken.”


I’ll leave it to you to puzzle out who said what, with the hint that Herself’s blog is called “Chickenfreak’s Obsessions”, one of which is fried chicken.

So we stayed, and had an adequate lunch (one Caesar with chicken, one trout salad). And while there is a wide selection of other dishes, and they had finally gotten around (after many years) to asking if one would like butter with one’s bread (used to just be olive oil unless one knew to ask), this will greatly diminish our lunches there. Probably to zero. The fried chicken was, for us, their signature dish, the anchor that pulled us in.

Looks like we’re heading elsewhere on Mondays. Luckily Amuse will be starting lunches later this year, and Taroko is also open on Mondays (along with others we haven’t been to in a while). And Smithfield’s has darn good fried chicken.

Change can be good. We can change; we can change where we eat.

Change what we eat? Don’t be absurd!

Ashland Restaurant Update, Early 2014

Wednesday 29 January 2014

The OSF season opening is in just over three weeks. 2013 was a hard year on Ashland restaurants; some good changes, but some significant losses.


* Alex’s Plaza Restaurant: Closed just last week. No word yet on any replacements.

* Boulton & Sons: Gone. Replaced by The Lunch Show.

* CJ’s Bistro: Apparently closed–menu and website are down, business listed as being for sale.

* Happy Falafel: Closed, replaced by Campus Grill. We will miss their fries!

* Munchies: Closed. Space absorbed by Mix.


* Amuse: Reliable rumor has it that they will start serving lunch in 2014. We ate there during a couple of their test lunches and it was excellent and competitively priced vs. Larks or Standing Stone. Fries so good they might assuage the loss of Happy Falafel’s fries.

* Chateaulin: Still in limbo. A notice for application for a liquor license was posted in September, and there have been signs of construction, but still not open.

* Deli Downstairs: Expanded into the former Larry’s Cupcake space.

* Mix: Moved all their baking operations downstairs into the former Munchie’s space. Upstairs is now all seating and the coffee bar.

* Playwright: Apparently on the market ( Anybody want to buy a pub?


* Alchemy Restaurant and Bar: Replaced the prior restaurant at the Winchester Inn. DInners most days and Sunday brunch. We haven’t been yet but reviews are generally positive.

* Campus Grill: In the former Happy Falafel space, owned by the same people who own and run Red Zone.

* Oberon’s Three-Penny Tavern: On the Plaza. Renaissance-themed tavern. Music and drink, not much food.

* Salame: On the Plaza in the former Grilla Bites location. Meat, meat, more meat in a general Mediterranean setting. Really good, especially the charcuterie.

* Sammich: Sandwich restaurant opened by former chefs from Cucina Biazzi. Good stuff, way way way above most of the other sandwich-only places in town. They’re down on Bridge Street, just off Siskiyou.

* The Lunch Show: In the former Boulton and Sons space, providing some competition for Sammich and Deli Downstairs. Menu changes daily–I mean, the ENTIRE menu changes daily.

Cross your fingers for 2014!

Buy Local, Pay Cash

Friday 16 August 2013

So here’s a new challenge: buy local, pay cash.

This is about as simple as it sounds: buy local products from local merchants, and pay them in cash. That keeps as much of your money in your community, or the community you’re visiting if you’re traveling.

I am not advocating spending less, nor am I advocating cutting up your credit cards. You can do that too, but that’s not part of this. Nor is making your own clothes (hard) or trying to grow all your own food (even harder; ask a farmer). You don’t have to go without if what you want isn’t locally available, or if the locals are gouging (full retail is not gouging). Chains owned outside the local area are only marginally better than shopping on-line; the profits all leave the local area.

I’m still using my Amazon card at Amazon (3% rebate!), and yes, I’m still buying from Amazon when I can’t get it from a locally owned merchant. I’m still using a different card at restaurants that aren’t locally owned, and when traveling (don’t carry too much cash when traveling).

Some wag will now say “why bother? The merchant won’t discount for cash.” Doesn’t matter. It’s called “doing the right thing” and “community spirit” and “supporting the family down the street”. Getting the rubbish 1% back at a cost to the local community of 2% to 5%, and more if you don’t pay off each month–it’s worth doing this.

Have fun with that.

Economic Inequality, Marriage, and What It All Means

Friday 12 April 2013

Here’s one of those “I wish I’d written this” comments, in this case to an article about inequality being a natural consequence of capitalism.

Carpe diem!


AIFF’13 Day 5: We Are Done

Monday 8 April 2013

End of the Show
Day 5 we usually end early, and this year was no exception. When I need Coke™ before noon to keep going, or Advil™, that’s my clue to pack it in. We usually get through the 3PM slot, but this time we bailed after the noon block.

9AM: We Always Lie To Strangers  The filmmakers for this are really good. The story meanders between the Presleys (no relation, I think) and the Lennons (Sisters, and brothers, not John) as two of the more influential families in Branson, Missouri. I will admit to a prior bias against Branson, as being filled with narrow-minded bigots (they might say “God-fearing patriots”), but I will allow that the individuals portrayed seemed generally friendly and more open-minded than I would have expected. The Presleys are fairly right-wing; the Lennons are decidedly Liberal. I think a lot has changed in the last twenty years or so; see this article. While the shows were still hokey and folksy in a way that doesn’t interest me, one big take-away from this film is that the locals seem to have embraced (or at least largely come to accept as necessary) gays and other “non-traditional” community members as part of the town’s structure, so that the line “we always lie to strangers” mainly refers to the facade presented to the 7.5 million tourists each year. Good film, worth watching.

Noon: The Forgotten Kingdom  Winner, AIFF Audience Award for Best Feature. A fairly simple story about a guy who has to bury his father, meets an old girlfriend, pursues her, gets fobbed off by the dad, hits the road, rebuilds a widow’s roof with this weird kid…ok, maybe it’s not such a simple story. Lots of simple individual stories woven into a whole around the protagonist. Some of the elements were a little obvious: the ring and the alley, and the horses after the storm, for two. But it watches almost like the trials of Hercules mixed with a little Leah/Rebecca and some Lear. Another good film, worth having watched once, but there are others I’d rather see again (e.g. Sparrows Dance).

A beautiful day in Ashland to close out the Festival. Now a long nap, until the hills start mumbling in anticipation of AIFF 2014.


AIFF’13 Day 4: Scattering Rubbish

Sunday 7 April 2013

In Ashland, the euphemism “scattering rubbish” is used by the police to describe a number of illegal acts involving the public emission of certain bodily fluids and substances.

I mention this because, by some freak chance of scheduling, we had three films today in which a female character used the toilet on-screen, full body in view of the camera–covered, or at least fig-leafed enough to maintain a PG rating.

But seriously, what’s up with that? In Sparrows Dance, it was an integral part of the story; her toilet malfunctions, which leads to the rest of the action. In Buoy, it could have been replaced by any other action by the character to demonstrate a lack of interest in the conversation she is having on the telephone. In Congratulations it was used for comic relief.

Anyway, here’s the blocks from today:

9AM: Double-header of Sparrows Dance and My Name is Your First LoveMy Name was a cute piece about a young teen who falls, hard, for the older girl next door. Really liked this one, especially the reactions by the boy’s putative girl friend.

Sparrows Dance is right up there as one of my favorites this year. Quirky and a little weird, it’s about an agoraphobic woman who has not left her apartment in months. She has (as mentioned above) a plumbing emergency, and so needs to interact with the outside world. Great rom-com with a little freakiness for spice. Highly recommended.

Noon: Secret Screening. I can’t talk about this, other than to say it was a documentary that will have its official world premiere later, at another festival. Amazingly good, definitely one of the best docs I saw this year. Looking forward to seeing more from the same film makers.

3PM: Buoy and An Act of Revenge. An Act of Revenge is a guy-girl-girl-guy relationship piece. It was okay, but just so.

Buoy: I need someone to explain the draw of this. A woman has a long, long phone conversation with a man about their mutual past (a long, involved past relationship). The content of the conversation just wasn’t enough to draw me in. It didn’t have the novelty or interest of My Dinner with Andre.

6PM: Congratulations Excellent date-night rom-com-dram-rom with a guy, his intended (maybe), mother, best friend, and old girlfriend. Proposal gone wrong leads to relationship trouble. Nothing really novel here, but excellent acting and story. Very happy we went to see this, highly recommended.

9PM: The Moo Man This is one of those documentaries that hits all the right notes: relevant, excellent story, great subjects, beautiful cinematography, magical music. Made the point about the subject (loss of local farms) without getting preachy. May lead to a desire to open a dairy farm in rural Britain, or at least to drink a lot of milk. Highly recommended.

That’s all for tonight. Back at it again tomorrow. Save me the aisle seat!

AIFF’13 Day 4: Rain, Rain, Go Away

Sunday 7 April 2013

It’s supposed to rain on and off all day today. I think I prefer snow during the festival, because it’s easier to stay dry. With rain, members can press against the storefronts to try to stay dry, but the alley to Varsity 4 & 5 and the sidewalk at the Armory will be threads of wet viewers.

I should talk about food somewhere in here. Good places for a quick bite; if you tell them you need to be out in 40 minutes, which is the shortest practical window for a sit-down meal, they will get you out in time:

Thai Pepper: Stick with the satay bar upstairs. Had great lamb satay, a short rib special, and a Rickshaw (sort of like a Sidecar). Highly recommended.

Taroko: Skip the sushi, as it can take a while. Most of the kitchen menu–the cooked stuff–is relatively fast. We had the salt and pepper calamari, J-Pops, and Mongolian beef. All excellent, highly recommended.

Louie’s: Pretty standard bar food: burgers, fries, lots of fried stuff. Good cheap recession burger. Recommended. Surprisingly, these guys can get you in and out at lunch pretty quick. They are tuned, as many restaurants in town are, to getting late-arriving theater patrons out to their shows, so doing the same during this festival is not a stretch for them. Also highly recommended.

We’ve been meaning to try Boulton and Son’s sandwiches, and to see if The Deli Downstairs can keep up with the need for lunch speed.

Off to the shows!



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