One money-making liddle fiddler

As we approached this little guy in the park downtown on the 4th of July, I thought how cute and unusual to see such a young sidewalk performer.
After watching him for a few minutes, I also began to think how shrewd of his parents. I have never seen such a steady stream of dollar droppers. We were trying to figure out who his parents were as we looked around the crowd that had gathered.
After a while we spotted them. When the crowd thinned, his dad gestured for him to stuff his pockets with some of the money piling up in his case.
I had been thinking the same thing as I watched person after person flipping him dollar bills. Better to look young and hungry than young and raking in the dough.

Image  —  Posted: July 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

Last year I tried to get my friend, Fred Lopez, to go to the Eddie Money concert at Daley’s Cheap Shots. Since I was also friends with the show’s promoter, Joey Shaloe, and had helped him with marketing the event, he gave me tickets for Elaine and myself. I also convinced Joey to give me two tickets for Fred and his wife Melanie. Fred told Mel to go and have fun but that he was not into that kind of thing. Funny how things change.
The reason that I told Joey that he should give Fred the tickets was because Fred had just bought the old Hotties building and was busy with remodelling it into what would become the Roadhouse. Joey had worked for Scott Lane, the owner of Hotties, doing sound off and on for several years. Joey had always told me that the building at North 20 Farr ,which was once a Sea Galley restaurant, was the best venue in the Valley for concerts.
Having owned The Rock Inn, a Valley night club, for four years, I knew that concerts were a night club owner’s best friend. The biggest name that we ever got was blues artist, Curtis Salgado. The beauty of it was that all I had to do was let Dave Green, a local promoter, use my building for free. He advertised the show and sold the tickets and took the risk and I got to sell my food and drinks to his crowd.
Normally we had to fork out $400 bucks a night for local bands. I told Dave that he was welcome to use the Rock Inn any time he wanted. That is why I told Fred that he needed to attend the Eddie Money concert to see what kind of potential his new place was going to have. But Fred said he didn’t like crowds. Turns out that he missed a great concert but he figured it out anyway.
I sat just one table away from Fred and Melanie last Tuesday at the Roadhouse during the Lauren Alaina concert. The place was packed from 4 in the afternoon until after the concert which started at 7:30. Not bad for a week night. Alaina was runner-up a few years back on American Idol and she put on a great show that was free to the public and free to the Roadhouse. Not bad for any night.
I could tell Fred was having a great time like everyone else. Actually, I knew he was probably much happier than anyone else since his business was benefiting by great talent sponsored and promoted on someone else’s dime. It seemed he was glad to be there despite the fact that a year before this was not his kind of thing and despite the fact that Tuesday also happened to be his birthday, which he also claims to not be his thing.
Now on June 23nd, less than a year after Fred decided not go see Eddie Money, Eddie Money is coming to see Fred. The place will be packed again and so I know Fred will be happy to see him, though this will be a benefit concert for Eddie’s drummer Glenn Symmonds and so a portion of the Roadhouse profits will go to the cause of paying Glenn’s cancer treatment bills.
Joey, who is Eddie’s road manager, and now also a friend of Fred’s, will once again be running things. Another new friend of Fred’s, Sammy Eubanks, will be out on the patio tomorrow starting at noon. They got to know each the past few months because Sammy has been headlining the Roadhouse’s new Thursday night Blues night that came about just as Blues At The Bend closed it’s doors and left Sammy without his weekly night there.Talk about good timing.
With live music 5 nights a week and the occasional concert thrown in, Fred’s Roadhouse has become the Valley’s, if not all Spokane’s, premier purveyor of good timings to be had by hundreds if not by all. Not bad for a guy who claims to hate birthday parties and big crowds.

Here I sit, keyboard under hand, at 1 pm on a warm Father’s Day afternoon conducting, perhaps, the most honest survey ever. There is only one judge, but he is honest and true. On this one day of the year I can eat anywhere that I choose and so far I have not eaten anything more than a couple of tastey malt balls from the quart gallon Whoppers box one of the kids gave me. I asked her to stop giving me such presents as they are helping to turn my belly into a whopper.
Actually, it is this whopper of a belly that I have been working on for many years that is conducting today’s survey. While it always leads out in front, it does not always get to choose which way we head. But today, my belly gets to eat wherever it chooses and the only thing my head has to do with the course of culinary events this day is to try and help stave off consumption for as long as possible. I reason that a hollow, howling belly is the most pure and unbiased judge. A belly is like a baby in that when it is hungry it is quite focused and just wants what it wants. Unfortunately, some bellies also act like babies in that they seem to grow on a daily basis whether you like it or not and they are never as cute as when they were little.
I live at Alki and Bowdish, the center of the Valley (the gut you might say), and I can head out in any direction. All four winds blow wonderful scents toward me, but I can feel my tummy tug me to the West. In that direction lies Charlie P’s, which I have for years claimed to be the most delicious spot in the Valley. I love just two types of food:seafood and barbecue, both of which Charlie P’s dishes out in an array of delectable varieties.
There is a worthy argument to be made that the seafood calizone on their menu is Spokane’s most indulgent sin. It is one that I have too often committed. Charlie’s seafood omelet itself has the power to suck my belly down there even as I attempt to write this piece. At this point in the day, I dare not get started talking about their seafood fettucine which might be the best I have ever eaten.
Then there is the smoke pit barbecue which has far too often lured me astray like the sirens of the Odysseus. I normally try to eat alone when I order the barbecue since I dine spellbound and cannot think of anything but the alluring food before me. But recently, I have become aware of a new bastion of barbecue, The Spit Fire Grill at 6520 East Trent.
While I think my belly might first lead me into Charlie P’s for their $5-two-rib-and-fries happy hour special, I have a gnawing feeling that I will be traversing a bit further west today. Barbecue, I realize, is a very personal area of each man’s life and I do not want to step on any tongues here, but too my increasingly boisterous belly, The Spitfire is Charlie P’s greatest rival and for this day appears to be the likely victor.
This place is so into barbcue that they have bbq pulled pork nachos and tacos. Their sauce is so good I would imagine they could also serve waffles and use it for syrup. The only drawback with the Spit Fire is that it is a neighborhood bar that is a tad short on the atmosphere. If only it looked as good as it smells. As for myself, I keep intending to do Take Out, but I can never imagine holding out long enough to get it home.
The thing that I find quite ironic is that just last month the Spokesman Review did their own barbecue survey that cast it’s reach all the way to Coeur D’ Alene and up north to Wandermere and downtown. Nine places were featured, with The Log Cabin drive-thru at Trent and Freya coming out on top. My belly took umbrage to this outrageous outcome. Only two Valley venues were mentioned in this survey, the Longhorn and O’Doherty’s, both good friends of my belly’s. But to leave off Charlie P’s and The Spitfire? My stomach did more than growl over that, it roared.
Not to take away from the noble efforts of these other purveyors of heavenly cooked meats, but leaving off Charlie P’s and the Spitfire from a Spokane survey of sumptuous barbecue is like leaving off Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds on list of baseball’s biggest batters, which would be balderdash at best. They should not only be included in any survey, they should be at the tippy top.
But I must stop writing because my tummy can’t take it any longer. It is after all, a big baby and so I’m off to see the wizards, the wonderful wizards of awes.

These are not your normal nachos. Never have I seen such a thing on any menu. Barbecue Nachoes, what a great idea.

These are not your normal nachos. Never have I seen such a thing on any menu. Barbecue Nachoes, what a great idea.

“This is not Charlie P’s seafood fet. We happened to go there one night hey were having a Salmon Fet for the dinner special. It was to die for.

The Black Diamond at Farr and Vista is serving espresso and breakfast right out of their Nite Club during the early light of day.
It makes more sense than it sounds, luckily. In the first place, it is a very comfortable room with raised, leather booths, elegent light fixtures and a great sound system. In the second place, it is an interestingly lit room in regards to the windows. During the night, the windows are not a factor while during the day it becomes clear the place has a nice window pattern that ushers in the sun.
So the room is like the sanctuary in most modern open-bible churches these days that are designed to multi-task, accommodating the night time parishioners as well as the day time parishioners.
But most importantly, Kenna the Cook, who owns the place with her husband Steve, is a foodie and it shows in the menu.
Well, I knows it showed in the breakfast I had which was a called a Monte Cristo Egg Sandwich. I love all the sinful egg, and naughty meat, and useless pancake/biscuit/french toast/whatever sandwiches that everyone sells us.
I also love a Monte Cristo sandwich whenever I can find a place brave enough to put out a rendition of this slightly exotic sandwich. Kenna took my two guilty pleasures – the Cristo and the Count of Calories breakfast sandwiches- and went one beyond anything I had ever had.
Out of nowhere there appeared on the plate a homemade honey mustard that mustard come from heaven. I never would have thought to dip a Monte Cristo sammy in honey mustard but then again I never knew there was such a good recipe for honey mustard here on Earth.It is Kenna’s own recipe and it is spot on.
They are open at 7 seven days a week so I have ample opportunity to give Kenna’s equally intriguing Green and Ham a try very soon.

The mustard is must have.

The mustard is must have.

Of all the structures spread across our little spot on the globe that someone long ago euphemistically labelled “The Inland Empire”, there is one building that towers above the rest in the landscape of my life. Other buildings perhaps were more significant like the Baptist church at 8th and Pines that Elaine’s and my parents religiously attended during our youth.
Significant also is Sacred Heart Hospital where we were born and where I have gone to visit many loved ones through the years from my grandfather who passed there when I was 5 to my youngest child who had an appendectomy there not long ago.
But the building I am most fond of by far is the Coeur D’ Alene Resort. We are here now for our anniversary and I am sitting in room 342 as I begin this story while Elaine is in the bathroom mid-way through her tedious task of prepping for public presentation. Sometimes it seems I could write an entire novel while she wades through this job.
Less than 100 feet away is the room we slept in the night we eloped. Thirty years ago I got down on one knee after dinner in the small house she and her sister rented from their grandfather. After an 8-month courtship and a life-long friendship, I knew it was time to live together. Both being Baptists, that meant matrimony not shacking up. She said yes and after a 21-hour engagement, we wed at the Wedding Chapel on a warm and sunny afternoon.
Even though it was only a moderate-sized hotel called the North Shore back then, it was the perfect spot to spend the most important night of our young lives.
It was the first night either one of us had spent at the hotel but The North Shore was a familiar and favorite place for both of us. Though we did not know it growing up, the North Shore, like Pines Baptist Church was a place our families were serviced on Sunday. Throughout our childhoods on special occasions we gathered with our grand folks at the hotel’s penthouse restaurant, The Cloud Nine, and partook in a Sunday-only, family style repast of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. While I miss nothing as much as the grandparents we ate there with, the food comes as close as any I have ever had.
The North Shore was great and still remains hidden right where it has always been, but it was a mere a shadow of its present self. Three years after our nuptials night, Duane Hagadon and company transformed the place into The Coeur D’Alene Resort in 1986. It was a bold and breathtakingly area-changing move that gave the world a classy new destination to discover and it gave us Inland Empirates a world-class destination in our backyard. Amazingly, they replaced the old Sunday best-meal-for-miles with a new improved version that has easily retained the title to this day.
Being a rather classless fellow who took the recent closing of The Old Country Buffet like a death in the family, I have been head over heals since that first I time I pillaged my way through the Dockside’s ultimate Sunday brunch, swelling like a tick on a hound dog as I gorged like it was my first meal in days. Through the years it has been that place for me that Jesus talked about here on Earth with acres of delicious meats and salads and desserts gloriously laid out each Sabbath. If I did not know better, I would think the Son of Man himself was back there in the kitchen performing culinary miracles.
Then there has been our annual Thanksgiving getaway since back in the days when all four of the kids could strap onto me like barnacles on a whale as I slogged through the pool like a mighty behemoth with the aid of water’s buoyancy magic. For them it was a trip of wonder with the parade and fireworks and pageantry of Christmas trees. There was always breakfast with Dad while Mom did what she never got to do at home, sleep in. We never had to leave the hotel if we did not want to, though we always did to catch a holiday movie which too often for me was Harry Potter.
Those days are behind us now and it is back to just Mom and I but the Resort is still here for us. Just like our marriage, the old place is better than ever. If you have not seen The Resort since the remodel last year then you are missing something amazing. They put in a huge aquarium with beautiful coy fish bobbing boredly back and forth with the sun shimmering down through a massive new skylight on their confined but very eye-catching existence.
A little further down the lobby a new water feature cascades at the entrance of the elegantly opened up and transformed Whispers Lounge. Like everything about this heaven away from home, the new trappings of the lounge are suave and comfortable with its bank of windows to the south dramatically letting in the marina and then the lake with the mountains filling up the background. To the west Hagadone’s office hovers over the lake, propped up on all four corners by massive log pilings.
For years I have pictured him in there working away and I have dreamt of walking in and introducing myself. I picture shaking his hand and thanking him from the bottom of my heart for giving me and my wife and our children a wonderful place to accrue memory after memory. It will never happen but I can content myself by going down to his lounge and tipping my glass to the man with my bride who has just now finished making herself beautiful. As always it was worth the wait and as always I found something to keep myself busy with.

Outside the long gone Wedding Chappel. Our other alternative was the Hitching Post, which seemed like a name more fitting for people tying the knot for the third or fourth time. Elaine would have nothing to do with it and the Wedding Chapel turned out to be romantic.

Outside the long gone Wedding Chappel. Our other alternative was the Hitching Post, which seemed like a name more fitting for people tying the knot for the third or fourth time. Elaine would have nothing to do with it and the Wedding Chapel turned out to be romantic.

The drive to the hotel was even shorter than our engagement and one night honeymoon. We would later take that 76 Vega on a real honeymoon around the entire country, travelling 6200 miles and burning an entire case of oil.

The drive to the hotel was even shorter than our engagement and one night honeymoon. We would later take that 76 Vega on a real honeymoon around the entire country, travelling 6200 miles and burning an entire case of oil.

Here we are in our hotel room on the first night we went to sleep together as husband and wife. The only thing better than falling asleep next to her each night has waking up next to her and appreciating again and again that she is there for me whatever the day has in store.

Here we are in our hotel room on the first night we went to sleep together as husband and wife. The only thing better than falling asleep next to her each night has been waking up next to her and appreciating again and again that she is there for me whatever the day has in store.

An Amazing Young Woman

Posted: April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have written literally dozens of stories about interesting and successful Valley citizens and I would argue that the subject of this story could be the most impressive of them all. This individual has a good chance to one day be the most accomplished of not only anyone I have ever written about but also anyone I have ever known.

Before you dismiss my seemingly bombastic assertion when you just now discover that I am referring to my youngest child, Jacque Swanson, read just a few more lines and see if I don’t know what I am talking about. While I have a father’s bias, I am not so much bragging here as marvelling because everyone who knows Jacque, a senior at West Valley High School, would agree, as I think you will too.

The faculty of West Valley , for example, had to have thought as I do when they faced the task last year of electing one person from the entire student body to receive the first annual Chase award for outstanding character. A staff member told her later that once her named was brought up, the discussion was all but over.

Likewise, the student body itself must have held her in similar regard last spring since she was their choice as well when they were given the task of electing a new A.S.B. president. They chose her even though she had never run for any class office.

Her tennis teammates as well think she is a standout having chosen her team captain this year. Her coach must also concur seeing her letter all four years and assigning her the number one player even though she might be all of 5 feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds.

Her boss, Pat Ferraro of Ferraro’s Italian restaurant, definitely agrees that she is a standout. He told my wife, Elaine, that Jacque, who has worked at his place 15 hours a week for two years, is one of the two best young employees he has ever had work for him in his forty two years as a boss. The other one is Jacque’s big sister Crystal.

     I know that Crystal has always been as impressed with her sister as anyone. After seeing the scholastic standard Jacque set her first quarter in high school, Crystal took her own scholastics efforts up a notch, raising her 3.6 grade average to a 3.89 by the time she graduated two years later. An essay she wrote her senior year for an assignment that required her to identify and describe the person who had influenced her life the most was about Jacque.

     Jacque has worked at her studies with the same intensity and purpose she has worked at everything she has set her heart, hand and head to. She has given it her all, sacrificing social fun with friends and snuggling with her father, not to mention sleeping in her bed. More than once I have groggily made my way to the bathroom in the wee wee hours and found Jacque asleep at the kitchen counter with her head resting on her laptop.

The amazing part is that the effort she has applied at becoming Valedictorian, team captain, class president, hostess extraordinaire among other things is that it is self-taught and continually self-motivated. As her parents, we can only take partial credit for the ordinary things and none for all this extraordinary behavior. She on the other hand has been an inspiration and example to us.

What teenager, for example, decides at 17 to become a vegetarian and then a year later to raise the bar to veganism? Especially considering that her folks were probably sitting at a bar thinking veganism was a form of pagan witchcraft. She prepares all her own food and goes so far as to make her own granola.

This wise young soul, who has paid for her own YMCA membership for two years, already understands the importance of taking care of the body as though it was the only one we would ever be given. I started working out and watching what I eat mostly because of her. Just being around the kid raises a person’s game.

If all this has not convinced you that Jacque is truly extraordinary and has unlimited potential, consider this one last remarkable thing about her which is the reason I wrote this story in the first place. She wants to go places and do things far beyond the confines of her raising and her hometown.

Last summer she found a program for travel abroad that is aimed at educating as well as broadening youth with guided tours where kids get a close up look at the culture and history and beauty of foreign countries and also spend time doing volunteer work.

Her trip to Thailand where she rode elephants and made clay bricks at an orphanage for children with HIV would have been the trip of a lifetime for myself . For my daughter, who contemplates joining the Peace Corps after college, the Far East was just the beginning. However, while it whetted her appetite, it also drained her resources.

I was dumbfounded when she told me a few months ago that she had decided to go to Peru this summer. I asked her how she thought she would pay the $4500 it costs to go on these trips and she said she would raise it through fundraising projects.

I tried to talk her out of it, afraid that she was setting herself up for disappointment though I failed to even slightly sway her. So here I am doing what little I can to try to help. How could I not as I watch her toil yet again, sending out letters and organizing car washes and garage sales. She does all this while writing her senior project and working at Ferraro’s and playing tennis and making granola and getting ready for her senior prom and getting perfect grades.

I think that just by stating the facts that I should have convinced most of you that I was being reasonable when I said in the first paragraph that Jacque has the potential of accomplishing amazing things in her life. I know that I have never seen anything like her.

They say with great figures throughout history that the people around them could tell they were destined to go far when they were still young and far from their ultimate greatness.   I cannot hope to be around to see her greatest days, but having seen what I have seen it is kind of easy, in a way, to see them from here.

It is obvious that Jacque is going places in this world and for right now that would be Peru and she needs some help to reach that destiny.

Jacque working at an orphane in Thailand

Jacque working at an orphane in Thailand

 

Jacque with a bird in the hand and a bird on the brain.

Jacque with a bird in the hand and a bird on the brain.

 

            Ways to help Jacque make it through to Peru

Raffle Tickets for Romantic Getaway  Winner recieves a Dinner for 2 at The Old Spaghetti Factory, 1 night stay at The Holiday Inn Express and a spa package from The Brickhouse.

Tickets are $1 apiece or 8 for $5.(she will be selling them outside the Argonne Yoke’s on May 4th.) Email her at jacswan94@gmail.com  to pre order, or call me at 868-8972

Garage Sale   She will be holding a garage sale with her Aunt Lori on May 18th at 6925 east 7th.

   Car Wash  She will be at Gus Johnson Ford June 1st washing cars.

Jacque is also pre-selling photo packages from her trip to Peru:

Her favorite photo (4×6)  $10

Her favorite photo (5×7 framed) $25

Personalized album $50

Scenic (8×10 framed and matted) $150

Photo on canvas (5×7) $250

Photo on canvas (8×10) $400

 

If you would like to order one of these or make any other donation you can send her a check with your order to

Jacque Swanson

11518 East Alki

Spokane, Wa. 99206

You can also pay with credit card by going to this link.

 

 

I have known Ryan Heaton, owner of the Valley Senior Froggys since about 1973 when he and I played trumpet  at Bowdish Junior High. I was a consistent third or fourth chair below Renny Smith and Teresa Tsalaky while Ryan, who was a year younger, normally sat far below.

Everyone hated those surprise tryouts that publicly and painfully exposed our lack of musical talent and lazy practicing habits. Anything could happen. More than once I sat at the bottom after a humiliating attempt, only to look up the line to see Ryan beaming back down at me from my old chair after he had pulled off an unusually good performance.

Even on his best trumpet days, I would not have put him on my most-likely-to-succeed list. It was not  until high school when he began bussing tables at the Valley Red Lion that it became apparent that he possessed first-chair talent in the hospitality field .

One year out of high school at age 19, he was managing The 1881 Room at the Sheraton Hotel downtown.  Back then Patsy Clark’s was their main competition, today it would be Churchill’s or Spencer’s, which is at the 1881 Room’s former location.

After problems developed with a new general manager, Ryan thought he could do better and so applied for the manager position when it came open at the neighboring Casablanca restaurant, owned by the Omni Corporation.

They liked the looks of the kid but not the idea of him running a place where he was not old enough to go into the bar, especially when its nightclub was downtown’s hottest. They lured him away by offering him a better salary and a manager position at their Taco Time on Division.

At one time, Omni had a big operation in Spokane. They owned Casablanca, all the Taco Times, Fuddrucker’s and The Rocking Horse Saloon. Ryan became a key team player they moved  around to run other local Taco Times for a few years.

Then they sent him to  California to open a new Fuddrucker’s before coming back to open and manage their new Spokane Fudruckers, a gourmet hamburger franchise. By the time he was 25, they put him at the helm of their starship, The Casablanca where he was in charge of four assistant managers and 95 employees.

After meeting Dave Hooke at a golf tournament, Ryan decided it would be better to raise is two young boys on fast food. The plan was that he would be allowed to buy into Dave’s  local franchise, Senor Froggys, a move designed to help fund Dave’s retirement and secure one for himself. That was 23 years ago and things have progressed nicely, with Ryan owning the Valley and Indiana Froggy’s.

The nice progress has come through a battle of wits and hard work against difficulties like  relentless national competition, an abysmal economy and a traffic shift that did not work in his favor. Ryan has kept his Froggys hopping by using two key strategies.

One of the strategies was cutting edge when he became a Bruchi’s franchisee and co-branded it together with his two Senior Froggy’s  11 years ago. He was the first in Spokane to implement this nationwide trend, offering two original Spokane franchises in one location.

Beyond menus that complimented each other, Ryan and Bruce Greene, founder and owner of Bruchi’s worked well together, having known each other from the Casablanca days when Bruce was an assistant manager under Ryan. Currently, they are partners in the new Cheney Bruchi’s and up until January, Ryan ran the North Town and Valley Mall Bruchi’s.

Knowing a year in advance that he would be loosing his lease at the malls, Ryan  took the co-branding concept to the next level, coco-branding, and brought in Itallalian Express, another local franchise that had been started by Dave Hooke with recipes provided by  Luigi’s owner, Marty Hoberg , who had been one of Ryan’s busboy at the 1881 Room.

The second strategy Ryan has implemented is himself. He will tell you he believes he has been  at the same location for 23 years because they deliver a consistent, quality product for a good price. While that may be true, Ryan is the one who has ensured those standards day in, day out. He is hands-on and works everyday, 40 hours a week. When you combine that work ethic with a 1st-chair talent for playing to a room full of diners, The Froggie is going to make it even in the rough waters of the Spokane Valley fast food pond.

When I took Mom to lunch there the other day, he took our order at the counter and delivered the meal. It occurred to me how unusual it is at a fast food place for anyone, let alone the owner, to bring the food out even though it seems like a pretty simple but accommodating service to provide. I guess that it is something that only an owner who enjoyed working with his crew and serving his customers would be happy to do. I would imagine most owners would not enjoy either.

I could tell Ryan, however, is the oddball and is happy to be doing what he was doing and to be where he is at. As I sat looking up at him from my chair as he cheerfully cleared our table, I recognized that  look of contentment on his face from forty years before and I knew it was genuine.

I have no problem vouching for their raviolli. They also offer it with alfredo.

I have no problem vouching for their raviolli. They also offer it with alfredo.

Mom will have to vouch for their chimichanga. \it must be good she has been eating this at Senor Froggies for years. It looks mighty tempting.

Mom will have to vouch for their chimichanga. It must be good because she has been eating this at Senor Froggies for years. All I know is that it looks mighty tempting.

The only thing happier than that frog on the outside is the big bullfrog on the inside.

The only thing happier than that frog on the outside is the big bullfrog on the inside.

 

Having been trying for the last 30 Valentines to find romantic spots to dine on the most important dinner night of the year, I was amazed at our good fortune last night at The Black Pearl.

Due to a scheduling snafu, Elaine  discovered we had the night off from the family at about 5:30 when she got off work. She thought we should go out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Eve since she worked late the next night. She called on her way from downtown and asked me to think about a place.

I knew she would want some place special that would compliment our romance which can  flare like a Piccolo Pete on Valentine’s Day.I was thinking Timber Creek Buffet would be the perfect metaphor for the smorgasboard of love we share between us. Perhaps the ribs at Charlie P’s to honor God’s ultimate gift exchange when he swapped Adam a rib for Eve. It would make the perfect eucharist for lovers like us, or at least for a manly rib lover like me.

I kept my ideas to myself and I told her I would think about it while she was getting  home. But with an attention spanning maybe an inch, my mind moved on between my goodbye and hers.

Luckily, she rescued our hastily scheduled but crucial, must-win annual dining event with a suggestion even more brilliant than my own secret ideas. I was impressed. We had stopped in the other day at The Black Pearl but  only had the chance to look at the menu during our brief visit.

It was an impressive and tempting look, worthy of a second. Cost effective with lots of tempting choices for both of us, just what we like to see in a menu. Everything is reasonable. None of the other places that advertise Valentine Dinner Specials can match The Pearl’s pricing. We could have gotten loaded nacho’s for $9.99 which would have gotten my vote Valentine dinner or not had we been there during Happy Hour when they are half price.

Beyond a menu worthy of the sacred supper, The Pearl has class. I would say it is right up there at the top of the local class. Once cost has been factored in, it is the Valley’s Valedictorian of Valentines Value.

It’s three parts, casino, lounge and restaurant, are upper class but comfortable. The staff is well dressed, attentive and friendly, complimented by their surroundings of  rich woodwork, atmosphere lighting and stylish furniture.

I liked the second to the last buddy bar in the lounge where I  sat facing the door and could watch the game room behind a glass wall to my left and the long, well-appointed bar to my right. With Elaine sitting between them in my field of vision, there was no possibility of being bored.

None of this back drop was so distracting that it drew undue attention. But there were brief moment’s during Elaine’s retelling of her day in sometimes numbing detail that my attention wandered left to the more interesting gamers and then drifted right to the more colorful bar. But that just about never happened.

I have not made it through 30 Valentines by not paying attention to my sweetheart, but The Pearl is a place that makes it easier and more interesting to look into her eyes while looking occasionally beyond. It is also a place that delivered the perfect romantic dinner for the right price. She got Coconut Prawns for $7.99 which were quite good. I know because she shared two with me.

I got my beloved ribs for $9.99 and they were quite good which Elaine knows as well because I also shared. I cannot be more generous because as much as I love her, she is no better than God, and so like Adam, I will only give up one of my ribs.

This plate has love written all over it. The decadent steak fries were the big ones with lots of salt and seasoning. This great and sinful slaw had a tangy taste and  terrific texture. Neither God nor my divine wife, could get me to part with more than one rib off this plate from me. And if they were both sitting there, they would have to share it between them.

This plate has love and lust written all over it. The decadent steak fries were the big ones with lots of salt and seasoning. The great and sinful slaw at the top of the plate had a tangy taste and terrific texture that forced me to eat every last piece of cabbage and carrot.  I never have to share any coleslaw with Elaine because it is on her do-not-disturb list. The french fries are another matter. Neither of us can resist the forbidden pleasure of poking  deep fried potatoes into our personal dipping sauce blend of tartar sauce and ketchup. I have always tried to be generous when it comes to poking potatoes and I think she likes that about me. But neither God, nor my divine wife, could get me to part with more than one rib off this plate . And if they were both sitting there across from me at the same time, they would have to share that one between them.

 
 
 

Black Pearl Restaurant and Card Room on Urbanspoon

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Look carefully at the picture above. It is a masterpiece to the eyes of a hungry man’s empty paunch. At the center of this classic you see a pulled pork sandwich, my standard first choice at every new opening that dares to put this American staple on their menu. Mama Doree’s rendition easily manhandled the anticipation that always bursts inside my head as soon as I realize I am about to see if some new place can pull off their pulled pork promise.

To the lower right of the main attraction is as tasty a squash casserole as you will ever slide your fork into. You immediately know that this is the kind of food you came to expect when you went and ate at which ever family member cooked really good. Personally, I was blessed with a grandmother, named Grannie as far as I was concerned, and a mother, who I always call Mom, that put out this kind of food as a matter of routine. With great family recipes dovetailing with culinary skill and flair they made everything they touched excellent.

The coleslaw in the work of art above reaffirmed what the squash and pork had stated before. It was just right tastefully and texturally while being different and unique and so I knew it was another tried and true family recipe. The cornbread also had the taste and feel of generationally great grub.

Then came the blueberry cobbler which by now had a lot to live up to. The bar set and raised by each of the previous selections was easily sailed over by this clean up batter of a dessert, a walk-off home run cobbler. It was just the kind of dreamy meal-ender I always saved just a sliver of stomach for every Sunday dinner at my Grannie’s table growing up.

Turns out that Mama Doree is the grandmother of Frank Hunter, owner of the new place. It looks as though the idea is to sell to the drive-thru customer at least as much as to the dine-in crowd. My meal which included everything pictured, drink and all, was $1o.95 and was dished into to-go containers as I made my selections to the server on the other side of the buffet line. Think KFC buffet line dished up like at Subway, but think of your Gramma’s finest going on the plate.

I hope the Valley rises to this new dish man’s opportunity in Veradale, which has become something of a Bermuda Triangle for eateries, having swallowed up the likes of the Staggering Ox and an A & W in the last year or so. Porky G’s sadly being the most recent new business to vanish shortly after entering the quadrant.

The building at 14787 East Sprague, home of the new Mama Doree’s, is itself the exact spot of a few strange and mysterious disappearances. Please let this not be the case this time. If everyone would skip their next meal at one of the big chains that soar like giant trees choking off the sunlight from the independent local seedlings that try to take hold below, and give Mama Doree’s a try, they would be fine.

The idea of stopping by my beloved Grannie’s home and picking up a quick dinner to take to my home is a dream that I can only pray comes true in heaven. Until then, I hope Mama Doree’s is there to help satisfy my longing for my grandmother and her divine cooking and make the wait a little easier to endure and a tad more tasty.

Awsome Otis Orchards Opportunity, honest

The Otis Grill, at the corner of Wellesly and Harvard in Otis Orchards, has an incredible $4.99 week day breakfast special . I’ll let the picture do the talking and only add that those are unusually fantastic hashbrowns.

Image  —  Posted: December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized