Monday, November 28, 2011

Moving Day!

....or meet the new boss, same as the old boss :) Hope to see you at the new site! And go like the new Facebook page for prizes all month long! Cheers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chew The Fat.

On 11/28 I will be moving to Wordpress as “The Diner of Cville”. New brand, new logo, new Facebook, and prizes to celebrate. I hope you’ll join me.


As a kid, I was obsessed with music, especially with being a radio DJ. I bought 65-cent 45’s from Carousel or Woolworth’s with every bit of extra money, religiously listened to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, and if I liked a song, I’d hold up my tape recorder to the speaker in my clock radio and Voilà! My very own primitive mix tape. The first of hundreds.

Over the years this evolved into playlists of every type imaginable. A friend once said I had the most eclectic musical taste she’d ever seen. And I never lost my dream of having my own 4-hour show. The one in charge of the music. This was of course before I learned the playlist is predefined by the corporate bigwigs. It’s only in the tiny studios of colleges where you hear Billie Holliday juxtaposed with Visage followed by Jonathan Richman.

Even during my partying club days I’d stare longingly at the DJ booth, SURE I could do a better job. Who the hell would mix Todd Terry into Nu Shooz, what are you, crazy? Yep, I was definitely GirlTalk in my head before GirlTalk was outta diapers. But I digress.

So when Craig Hartman asked me to appear on his podcast, “Chew the Fat” I was overjoyed! Sure, it’s not music radio, but hell, I’d be in a studio. On a microphone. Near music. I couldn’t wait! Not only could I wax poetic about my love of food and writing, but I could try out the “sexy-DemiMoore-esque-plastic-radio-voice” I’d been practicing since I was 10.

I wasn’t disappointed. Talking with Chef Craig Hartman was like sitting on a porch swing, drinking beer, reminiscing over old times. We’d talked a ton on Facebook, but never met. Didn’t matter, he hugged me right away and instantly it was like we were old friends having a reunion. This one just happened to be on a podcast.

Craig is the consummate interviewer, the kind who makes you forget you’re on air. The kind who puts you so at ease you end up revealing more than you intended, delving deeper into topics that matter. Instead of a marketing slash networking promotional campaign (which most interviews end up feeling like) this felt like a chat over dinner. Seriously wonderful and satisfying like a fine bourbon.

What’s even better is I left knowing more than when I arrived. I actually LEARNED something! Another hallmark of a great interviewer. You never get the feeling Chef Craig does interviews because he likes the sound of his own voice. He possesses a genuine passion and love for cooking and food. He informs and teaches his audience (and his interviewee) in such a lovely, subtle way you leave feeling as if you’ve just been to your favorite college class. And you can’t wait for your next lesson.

A few things I learned:
  • M.F.K. Fisher’s “Consider the Oyster” is his favorite piece of food writing (mine too).
  • Chefs turn to food writing, particularly food blogs, for inspiration <---Holy Crap! Really? I had no idea! Somehow this factoid may change how (and how often) I put finger to keyboard.
  • A symbiosis exists in the food world: chefs, restaurant goers, food bloggers, and producers, each supporting the other equally to elevate the art of cooking and food <---This surprised me, the food writer who has always felt like an outsider, peering in the kitchen window to witness the magic inside.
  • Chef Hartman just bought a traditional polenta palette. He plans on using it to catch the drippings of spit-roasted meats like veal and lamb. A different take on traditional grits. <---When The Hubby heard this, swooned. As did I.
  • Chefs really care about their food. If you didn’t have a great experience, say so. They hate hearing it, but they do want to know about it.
  • I say “exactly” and “fantastic” WAY too much.
  • I don’t finish my thoughts! So many times I had a great point, but instead allowed my mind to dart away. Stupid ADD.
I left the podcast feeling content. Happy. But more than that, rejuvenated, with a renewed vigor and commitment to my food writing, hell, to all my writing. I left wanting to eat more (to develop my palate) read more (to develop my knowledge) and cook more (to develop my writing expertise). Thank you Chef Craig. Doing your podcast was a great kick in the ass.

To my delight, the lovely and talented Mike Bisceglia, who was the master recorder/engineer of this podcast sensed my enthusiasm, and invited me to do more “The Diner of Cville” podcasts in the future. Look for them! I couldn’t be more thrilled. It ain’t radio DJ’ing. But it’s one step closer to my fantasy of taking over the airwaves, becoming the next “Nightbird”. You never know.

What did you think about the podcast? Any comments? Thoughts? As always, thanks for “listening” :)

During the writing of this blog, I was dismayed to find I’ve not yet written a review of Chef Hartman’s most excellent BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville. Oh the pigmanity! Look for it next. . .

Monday, November 7, 2011

Riverside Lunch.

Back during the Paleolithic Period, I worked as a secretary to an otolaryngologist in a hospital. Fancy term for an ear, nose, and throat guy. And none of this “administrative assistant” bullshit, I was a secretary. I took dictation, made coffee, ran useless errands, and generally made sure he was where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there.

It was a thankless job. He ran the place like a fiddle-playing Nero, and the department administrator had a Napoleon complex. Two tyrants does not a happy workplace make. The highlight of my day was when my workmate Cathy and I headed over to the Skull and Bones for lunch. Now Cathy was a lifer, a real Joan Holloway, and she’d secretaried in the same hospital since she was 19. Now she was in her 60’s, which meant she’d done time in every department that ever existed, and knew the dirt on everyone. She knew what days the cafeteria chicken salad was fresh, and what times to avoid the ER. Which doctor was sleeping with who, who was drunk most of the time, and who was the real deal, an angel put here on earth to save people. A bottomless pit of useful information. Sometimes her daughter, also named Cathy, would join us, the two of them smoking like chimneys, laughing deep, raspy laughs as they gossiped and joked. I adored them.

I also adored the Skull and Bones. A real lunch joint. All the coffee cups and diner plates were ringed in red, the waitresses were surly and wore uniforms, and you could buy and olive and cream cheese sandwich for $1.75. While service might be surly, it was dynamite fast. We’d sit down at 12:07 and have our meals in front of us by 12:12, leaving us more than 45 minutes to relax, eat, smoke, and dish before heading back to the trenches. When they tore down the Skull and Bones, replacing it with a McDonald’s, I was crushed.

I bring all this up because back this summer* when Jennifer Marley, the lovely and talented blogger of Cville Field Notes, invited me out for lunch we ended up at Riverside Lunch. The minute I walked in, saw the cops and firemen chowing down, then looked at the menu lit up on the wall, fond memories came flooding back. It wasn’t the Skull and Bones, but it was pretty damn close.

Jennifer got a burger, and I (having just had a patty melt the night before) decided on the BLT. I’ve since learned Riverside is famous for their “flat burgers” and feel kinda stupid I didn’t order one. Guess I’ll just have to go back. Often. Because the food at Riverside is one helluva place for some fried greasy goodness. My BLT on wheat was PERFECT. Huge chunks of dark green romaine jabbed up next to huge slabs of crispy bacon overhanging the bread. Lots of mayo, lots of crunch, lots of grease, lots of yum. Ditto the basket of fries we shared on the waitress’s recommendation. Good thing too, because this was a HUGE portion. Took the remainder home (also on the waitress’s recommendation), and made delicious homefries the next day with some peppers and onions.

Speaking of the waitress, she was a doll. Gum-chewing, chatty-Cathy friendly. Loved her. Even when Jennifer and I hogged her table for almost 2 hours gabbing she didn’t mind, just kept refilling our iced teas. Asking whether we liked the food and whether we’d ever been in before. Real small-town greasy spoon diner talk. My kinda people.

And yes, Jennifer and I talked for almost 2 hours because she’s great! Her and her boyfriend just moved to Charlottesville, and her blog, Cville Field Notes, is a blow-by-blow, day-to-day experience of our fair ‘ville from a newbie’s perspective. Her breakdown of the Craig’s List listings alone are howlingly funny.

Her boyfriend has just launched Potter’s Craft Cider, soon to be found in every store near you. Great news for this food writer, who just happens to be obsessed with hard cider and always wonders why we don’t have more local brands.. . . I mean, we are an APPLE state after all. Not just grapes growin’ here you know.

We talked and talked, then talked some more. And as we left, making plans for cocktails and cider sometime soon, and I saw the humongous line of Harleys in the parking lot, I knew I’d be back. I hear their onion rings are outta this world…

*I am woefully late, once again, on this blog musing slash review of my time with Jennifer. To her I apologize. I blame old age memory loss, as I wrote this a while ago, and just discovered the draft on my desktop. Published to coincide with the debut of Potter’s Craft Hard Cider THIS WEEK. So there’s that :D