Wednesday, May 26, 2010
And I take great pleasure in admitting when I'm wrong.
And after several recent visits to Reverend's in downtown Bowling Green, I happily admit that--unlike my previous posts about the bar/restaurant--I like it. A lot.
In the past two years, Reverend's has changed their name, style, and menu. A VERY smart move on behalf of the owners.
What once was a Mexican/Latin themed joint has become a hip American-fusion joint.
I'm delighted with the fact that Reverend's kept their open layout and exposed brick walls, but they added a more tavern vibe with the tap-handle-trim and microbrew neon signs. The new decor really reflects one of Reverend's strengths--their keen intelligence for fantastic microbrew beers and creatively tasty mix drinks. Also, I'm thrilled to see that Reverend's is just as clean, if not cleaner than, that day it opened, which speaks volumes about how well maintained it is. If the bathrooms are sparkling clean, I can only assume the kitchen is even cleaner.
Most impressive, to me, is the new menu. Previously the menu focused on Latin flavors that many patrons confused with Mexican food expectations. The owners thoughtfully worked out these kinks and changed the menu to reflect the bar; it showcases American pub classics with a flair for Latin spices.
My husband swears by their wings. But for me, it's all about their burgers.
Constantly, I am searching for the perfect burger, and Reverend's has it. Make that several exceptional burgers. Each burger is hand-pattied and ranges from 1/4lb to 1 lb of local meat.
I was hooked instantaneously by the Royale with Cheese, not only for its reference to Pulp Fiction but also for its perfect juiciness and balance of meat with cheese and condiment flavors. On my next visit, our friendly and knowledgeable server recommended the Fajita Burger, which was outstanding. It was a pure meld of my two favorite comfort foods: a burger and fajitas. The Chipolte Mayo is heavenly.
The Black 'N Blue Burger was terrific as well. And I've heard good things about the Double Wide, if you have that big of a stomach. These are some hearty burgers, which are clearly made in house.
I can only assume if the burgers are this good that the rest of the menu has just as much passion, freshness, and local ingredients, which is reassuring to someone who cares about their food and where it comes from.
As I frequent Reverend's I'm looking forward to trying the Southwestern Menu as well as the Mac and Cheese entree, another one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.
What's key here is that Reverend's menu has kept the Latin spices and heat from its conception, but the owners have modified the menu--smartly--to appeal to more Midwestern palates and the Midwest's desire to eat familiar food with a twist. (Imagine cumin and pepper dusted bacon.)
Additionally, the wittiness of dish names--The Everything But the Kitchen Sink Burrito and Texas Ranger Burger--add a hip, pop-culture vibe that creates an upbeat and fun dining experience. Reverend's is definitely a place that appeals to college students AND community members.
My only request is that I would like to see a short wine list--3 reds and 3 whites, as it is now--that has independent wineries and uniqueness. In other words, I'd like to see a wine list as thoughtful as the beer list. I think a better selection of higher quality wines that rotate like the beers would add another hip-yet-sophisticated dimension to bar menu.
I must say, though, a restaurant I had sworn off is now my favorite go-to place in BG. That makes me quite ecstatic.
(Photograph from Reverend's website.)
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The Downtown Farmers’ Market in Bowling Green: An Ethnography for Dr. Lucy Long’s Culinary Tourism Workshop
I’ve been craving a Farmers’ Market in Downtown Bowling Green ever since FD and I moved here. Having a market where fresh, local vegetables and fruits—in addition to homemade breads, cookies, and fine arts—are available in the center of town signifies our community stands together for good food and that good food is available to almost everyone in the town. (I understand there are some who unfortunately don’t have access to vehicles to get downtown or who are unable to walk downtown, but for the most part, a central location does unite the community.)
With the help of a committed, motivated committee and the support of Downtown Bowling Green Businesses, such as Huntington Bank and Grounds for Thought, and after heavy advertising at the Foodways Convention, in Downtown store windows, and at community workshops, The Downtown Farmers’ Market in Bowling Green is open for business Wednesdays 3-8 p.m. from May 12-October 27 in the SamB’s parking lot on Main Street. Vendors can reserve a spot for $300 the whole season or $150 a half season.
Mid-week seems like a perfect time to have the Market because most community members in our university town are around during the week and ready to buy something they can cook at home. Also, the times—from 3-8 p.m.—are great for those who start work late or who leave work at 5. The hours accommodate almost any work schedule, no matter the job’s hours, which, in my opinion, seems quite inclusive.
Across the street from Grounds for Thought and next to The Flower Basket, the Market is cozy in a small parking lot, but spacious enough to hold about 12 vendors. The mural on The Flower Basket’s outside wall creates a warm ambiance that shows an appreciation for art in the community as well as a nostalgia for “the past” Bowling Green.
Having a Market that supported by local Downtown businesses exemplifies that as a community we want money to stay within our community, which, to me, is smart thinking. If I walk downtown to Farmers’ Market, I’m more apt to stop into Grounds and get a tea, drop by Calico, Sage, and Thyme and pick up Father’s Day cards, or pop by Happy Badger for a quart of skim milk. And if a community member isn’t deliberately going downtown for the Market, I have a hunch that all the signs, traffic cones, vendor tents, and crowds of people by the vendors would make any passer-by curious and want to stop by.
And the fact that we can walk or ride our bikes means we can be eco-friendly, save gas, save gas money, and get even more exercise to be healthy. Clearly, this benefits the earth and us, as community.
Rain drizzled on and off the opening day of the market, which was yesterday. But the puddles and thick raindrops didn’t deter the community. Many folks strolled Downtown in their Wellies and under their colorful golf umbrellas to show their support.
One of my favorite aspects of the Market was seeing friends and neighbors, colleagues, and familiar vendors. My friend DHS waved as she jogged across the crosswalk with her son. I waved at a colleague from my Service-Learning Community as she sniffed the basil at the Calico, Sage, and Thyme table. And I stopped and chatted with gal at the Calico, Sage, and Thyme who I’ve gotten to know during my frequent stops in at the shop to peruse new cards and gifts. She said that even though it was raining the market was clearly a success. She told me that Barbara O'Brien, the Pie (p) Lady, sold out of her pies in the first half hour and Riehm Farms sold out of asparagus in an hour.
I was disappointed about the asparagus being sold out. I had plans for asparagus soup and a salad with asparagus this week. (I go overboard when it’s in-season because its season is so short—about one month. Thank God for Homestead Gardens who delivers fresh, organic produce to our house!) However, I did buy Edamame and a head of Red Leaf Lettuce from Riehm Farms for a total of $4.75, which was to me a steal compared to the prices of the Perrysburg Farmers’ Market where a head of lettuce is $4.75. (I wonder if that has to do with the different populations between Perrysburg and Bowling Green. Bowling Green has many more college students and middle-class folks whereas Perrysburg has many more upper-middle class folks.)
The cool thing about Riehm Farms is they offer organic produce at the Farmers’ Market AND they have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in which members can buy a “share” of the farm and get a bag of 10-12 different kinds of produce each week that they can pick up at the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Bowling Green. What’s unique about Riehm is that they have a vegetable and fruit share where most CSA’s only have a vegetable share. Also, I appreciated how Mr. Riehm answered questions about his produce without any hesitation and clearly cared about his product and how consumers received it.
(The lettuce from Riehm Farms I had today was exceptional: crisp, flavorful, and completely free of any risk of E.Coli.)
FD and I also really enjoyed talking with the English Gardner who has exceptional fresh herbs and AWESOME eggplants later in the season as well as Forshee Farms who bought a non-working farm and are working to make it an operational farm again. Wanda Forshee’s baked goods—peanut clusters, chocolate bars, and cookies—are affordable and tasty. A cookie and chocolate bar were $1.25 total. I’m excited to get to know them better and find out more about their local meats.
Bella Cuisine, which is owned and operated by Chefs Tom and Linda Lambert who were classically trained at The Culinary Institute of America and Istiuto Sueriore di Gastronomia in Italy, is another treasure at the Market. They offer homemade breads, ranging from wheat to foccia to baguettes to gluten-free, as well as muffins, scones, and cakes. The couple offers catering services and private cooking classes. Their focus is on Mediterranean cooking but also baking and pastry.
Linda Lambert is most excited about Bella Cuisine’s cooking classes: “We do cooking classes from our home [between Sandusky and Fremont]. We call it the Mediterranean Kitchen. We go to our gardens, we get fresh food, and we prepare it. And we all eat together European style.” I’m definitely going to sign up for one of these classes this summer!
The Market also hosted magician Brendan Coleman and local quartet The Root Cellar String Band (a band my Culinary Tourism instructor, Dr. Lucy Long performs with. Go, Lucy!) Both drew families and passer-bys to the market, which was positive, and created a welcoming, friendly, and artsy atmosphere.
Overall, based on the turnout, despite the rain, the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Bowling Green was a HUGE success, and it’s only going to get stronger. This is a market that cares about the products—everything was produced in Ohio, without any of the bulk products that are now seen at Farmers’ Markets. Having a Farmers’ Market means citizens of Bowling Green can cut down on Food Miles and begin to participate in a 100-mile diet. Finally, the Market brings together diverse peoples, which only strengthens community bonds and renegotiates constructed ideas of class, race, and culture.
I’m ecstatic about the Market, and will continue to support it, weekly. And my hope is that many other community members will too.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I think it has to do with an unresolved issue from my childhood. (But that's another story for another blog.)
We've lived in BG for seven years collectively, and damn me, every year I become close to someone who leaves. My last heartbreak was RR.
And as much as I love RR, Babs leaving kills me.
"Babs, you want some kale with chicken and mashed potatoes? I don't think I got the consistency right on the taters. You need to let me know.”
“I’ll be there in 5.”
Babs lives one street over from us. Not only is she one of my best friends, she's my neighbor.
My all-time favorite movie is The Royal Tenanbaums.
It’s slogan is “Family is a sentence.”
What’s funny is when I think of Royal Tenanbaum I think of my Pops, who’s a very charming, go-getter, family guy.
And when I think of Royal, I think of Babs who is always ready to help, without question or hesitation.
And if anybody can make family a sentence, it’s her.
For crying out loud, she’s leaving a full-time teaching job to get her PhD in Non-Fiction.
This is a woman who knows a sentence.
I used to eat a lot of frozen, processed food. As a kid, I swore I would hate brussels sprouts and spinach for all my life.
I never even heard of kale until three years ago.
Most times I think I’m a foodie fraud. I just learned how to cook—pretty well. I just happen to have a good personality that let’s be “cool” with chefs, farmers, and marketers. (Thank God.) But basically, I think with my stomach. Does that make me foodie?
I wondered that until I started bringing samples to Babs. She’s the one who made me believe my cooking was worthy to blog about. When I’d take her something and the next day get an email/review that was 10 paragraphs long describing what was great and what it could use, I was inspired, motivated, and, more important, confident. I owe my decision to dedicate a blog about food to Babs.
“I’ll be over in 5 minutes.”
As many know I have a crazy black Lab named Bleu. But if you really knew him, he has his mellow moments. I swear. Even though most don’t believe me.
But Babs does.
She always has.
And no matter how high Bleu jumps on her or how inappropriate his sniffing gets, she always laughs and gives him a calm command.
As a dog owner who thinks her dog is a child, I can’t thank her enough for being so patient and calm. Most people find Bleu obnoxious, but not Babs. If anything, Babs sees how Bleu takes after his Mama, and I think she recognizes that sometimes the affection that Bleu and I express is awkward, enthusiastic, inappropriate, and just plain crazy.
I could go into detail but it’s just not necessary.
But every time I’ve called Babs to see if she wanted to go for a walk with me and Bleu at Wintergarden or Oak Openings, she’s always said, “I’ll be over in 5 minutes.”
And every time during our walks we get so wrapped up in our talks about food or family or just “stuff,” I think we’ve both forgotten that Bleu was with us, and unexpectedly Babs witnessed the craziest of black labs heeling and sniffing without any misbehaving or horrible misbehaving.
In other words, our walks have made me and Bleu better a better person/dog.
Quite frankly, I only like to go to Revolver Restaurant with FD. Alone.
When I tell people I think about food every minute of every day, I’m not lying. When I’m teaching, I’m thinking about food. When I’m grading, I’m thinking about food. When my boss is asking me to do something in the office, I’m thinking about food. When I’m doing yoga, I’m thinking about food. When I’m on Facebook, I’m thinking about food. When I’m writing about food, I’m thinking about food.
FD knows this. He lives it. For crying out loud, I cook for him. And I know he appreciates it. So when I have that moment of awe as I sip Butternut Squash and Apple soup at Revolver, most on-lookers think “orgasm” and FD just grins.
But it’s not sexual. It’s just foodie appreciation.
Babs gets that.
I texted her that a dish I made with chicken, wild mushrooms and kale would bring her tears. She wasn’t lying when she texted me back—after picking up the dish in 5 minutes and eating it for breakfast—“I wept.”
If you sit there with this “yummo” glazed over-stare, you’re not getting it—the experience.
If you orgasm, obsess, try to break down ingredients and cooking methods, and sigh countless times, you get it.
No pretense. No “I’m smarter than all chefs.” No “I have to prove I’m an awesome cook.” Just “I love food and I want to try to make that.”
There’s no other way to put it: Babs and I have a food love affair.
Her blog gets into the juicy details of dishes, and quite frankly I normally would. I love Revolver, and any chance to review them lightens my heart.
That is meal I can’t review objectively.
I’ve had many perfect meals there with FD, or with FD and his in-laws, or with friends, but the meal I had there with FD, Babs, and me probably could bring me to tears if mentioned randomly to me at any moment in my life.
Babs’ go-getter/I’m-only-here-once mentality was divine. Her joy from the morels was the only factor in my food-envy of our first dish. Her portion-control restraint is mesmerizing and her ability to indulge without alcohol is mind-blowing (at least to me).
In other words, Revolver is on their game and using the FRESHEST of ingredients; they rock—as always. But last night, Babs made it rock. Her humor, her family stories, and her passion about food made it one of our most memorable Revolver times.
Well, I have to admit, Dan’s goat dish really helped.
And the fact that you’d only take reallyreallyreallreallyreally special people who love food, are adventurous, and care about where food came from to Revolver.
Babs is one of those people.
Babs is only moving to Nebraska, but in our four-year friendship, I’ve told her secrets I only tell my sister.
Who happens to be non-verbal.
I bet both will never spill the beans.
That’s how trustworthy Babs is.
I’ve always been horrible with conclusions.
How do you say good-bye to someone who is such an important part of your life?
I don’t know.
All I know is I’ll make her that “good luck” mix of songs, hug her, help her load the truck, and, that night, sob in FD’s arms.
I will miss her. Horribly.
But I plan visit ASAP.