Monday, December 29, 2014


One of the more sickeningly sweet aspects of Christmas around Food Critic Headquarters is the tradition of the "Christmas Cake."

It's something I started with my family about 6 years ago and we've done it every Christmas ever since.
Here's the basic poop:

• I bake a cake.

• I hide eight "trinkets" inside the cake.

• Each trinket has a significance.

• One special trinket is the "Christmas King or Queen" trinket.  

• The person who gets that special trinket in their slice of cake is crowned with our family Tam, and declared The Christmas King or Queen!

There are various facets, nuances, rules, and regulations surrounding the Christmas Cake that we discuss, recognize, and adhere to as a family, and those are all subject to change at the Monarch's will and/or the Will of the People, to a degree.

And, too, also... there's prognosticating involved.

It's a little weird, and the weirdest part of this whole thing  --  the part that surprised and confused my family at first  --  is that I bake a cake.  Now they're used to it, but in beginning...  yeah, it was weird that I volunteered to bake a cake.

I can honestly say that I have no recollection of ever baking a cake in my entire life before I decided to take on this task six years ago, so before beginning, I sought the advice of my home-cooking gurus:  My Mom and Dawn, and to a lesser extent, my social media network.

Here are the most important things I learned:

• Why kill yourself? - Make a cake from scratch?!?  Who am I Karen Donatelli?  No, I am not.  The home cooks in my life all gave me permission to start with a box.  I always buy organic cake mix with the fewest possible ingredients on the label, so it's like, good.

• Add an extra egg. - If the box calls for 2 eggs, use 3.  It makes the cake moister.  Simple as a pimple.

• Add an extra pinch of salt. - It's like magic pixie dust.  Just one little pinch...  or maybe two... makes everything taste better, and therefor it makes life happier, and therefor it is exactly like magic pixie dust.

Melt the butter in a pot, then let it cool a bit before adding it to the milk and eggs.  If it's still hot, it'll fuck-up the eggs, Yo.

I always make a two-layer cake, using two 9", round baking pans.  They are "non-stick" but that is utter and total bullshit.  If you do not grease and powder the fuck out of these two shits, the cake will stick.  For realz.  Heed my warning!!!

Mmm...  cake batter.  I wanna eat it with a fucking spoon!  It does, however, contain 3 raw eggs, so yeah...  no. 

Oh my gosh, they came out beautifully this year!  So golden yellowy brown!  My oven runs a little hot, so I took 'em out a few mins before the box recommended.  When I did the toothpick trick, they were super moist, so I asked Dawn if she thought they were too moist and she said, "No.  They'll cook a little more out of the oven anyways." She was right!  As far as the moistness goes, this was my best cake ever!

What looks like delicious cornbread, is actually delicious, moist, all natch, organic, vanilla cake!

Arrrrg!  I remembered to grease the pans, but forgot to powder them, so my cakes stuck to the bottom of the pans a li'l bit.  I managed to piece them together  --  Frankencake style  --  and using that sweet Spackle we call frosting, no one was the wiser.  ;-)  Until just now...  when I revealed my secret failure to you, the public.

They might appear a little monstrous, but they were fucking good, and with a little plastic surgery, they were beautiful again!

I made an icing tool out of a Ziplock baggie with one corner cut-off, and used it to squeeze a circle of frosting along the inner top edge of the bottom layer, and then stuck the top layer on.  In past years, I've iced the entire top of the bottom layer, but I decided that was way too much frosting in the end.  We're not a huge frosting family.  Sure, frosting is yummy, and totally essential to the cake experience, but enough is enough already.  Nomesayin'?

After the two layers were assembled, I positioned all of the trinkets on top.  There are 8 people in our core X-Mas dinner group, and this year I opted for seven pedestrian penguins and one special X-Mas Penguin.  In years past, there have been eight different trinkets, each with its own meaning, but there has always been one special X-Mas trinket.

I buy my magic "trinkets" at Chevron Bead Company on N. Lexington ave.  They are beads.

As I have said, there is prognosticating involved in the Christmas Cake tradition, and in the past there has always been a Prognosticator's trinket.  The person who found that trinket in their slice of cake was responsible for making predictions for every other person at the table.  This year, that position was eliminated and those responsibilities were absorbed into the duties of the Christmas Monarch.  We had a brief family council meeting in which I notified everyone of these changes, and they agreed to them.  My nephew Asa was the Monarch of 2013/14, and he was down with the changes, and so it was decreed.  And there was much rejoicing.

Whaaat?!?  How fucking cute are these guys?  I usually buy glass beads, sometimes glazed ceramic, but never plastic or Femo.

Getting the trinkets into the cake has always posed a dilemma, until I realized I could just push those little fuckers into the dang cake and fill in the holes with frosting!  Duh.

Burying the bodies...  in frosting!!!  Yay! Bury me in frosting when I die, please.
People always ask, "Do you bake the trinkets into the cake?"  Good question, and that did occur to me the first year, but I realized that would make it very difficult to know where the trinkets are hidden in the cake.  The location of specific trinkets should remain a mystery to all, including me, but the locations of the 8 trinkets in general must be known to the person who slices the cake, so that each person is assured one, and only one, trinket.

U go bye bye now.  Aw.  Don't haz a sad! We see u soon!
After filling in the holes with frosting, I marked each trinket with a tiny sugar ball called a "pearl," so that I would know where they were after the frosting had hidden all trace of their shallow graves.

Let the frosting of the cake being!  Hey! "Frosting" is both a noun and a verb.  I like that.
The frosting I use is from a simple recipe that Dawn gave me, which consists of butter, sugar, and cream cheese.  I reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by about a 1/4 cup.  Again, I like sugar, but ooftah!  Enough is enough, Motherfuckers.  I just whip it a little extra long to make up for the lost volume of the sugar.

EXTREEEEEME CLOSSSE-UP!  Yeah, Man.  Sugar balls.  Which also happens to be my nickname.
I used a clunky rubber spatula and a crappy plastic knife to spread the frosting around.  Y'know what?  I think next year, I'm gonna splurge and buy myself some cake frosting implements.  Fuck it, Man.  No more Ziplock baggies and plastic knives!  I mean, I do an Okay job with my bonobo tools, but I think if I had the real deal, I could do some pretty dang purdy deesigns. I am an artist after all! 

Starting to shape up!

Frosting the cake used to stress the fuck out of me, until I decided that I do not give a shit about making it smooth.  Now I just go for the stucco look and I love it.  You don't liiike?  No cake for you!

That's a human eyeball in the small dish... no it isn't.  It's an Atomic Fireball.  I'll explain later. 
After the cake is entirely frosted, I further delineate the slices with a snowflake pattern.  In the past I have used the Ziplock squeeze-bag to make my snowflake, but this year, Dawn brought me some "Sparkle Gel" that I thought would be perfect for the job, and it was!  Thanks, Dawn!

Good gawd.  I usually use some kind of freaky stuff from the cake making Isle of Ingle's  This year, it's "Sparkle Gel."
To make the snowflake design, I make four crisscrossing lines, to form and asterisk/star/cartoon ass-hole shape. Then I add a "V" shape about a 1/2 inch in from the ends of each line, to form a bit of a crows foot.  It looks just like a muhfuckin' snowflake, plus it gives me a diagram of 8 perfect slices  --  each with a trinket inside  --  to work with when it's time to cut the cake!  Yeah, Man!  Slicing the cake can be stressful, so this reduces the stress by about 83%.

Awwww...  pretty snowflake!
The final task for decorating the cake is to add "XMAS 2014" to the top.  It works perfectly that one letter or number fits onto to each slice of the cake!  People pick their slice by telling me which number or letter they want.  This year, I left my food coloring at my sisters house, after handing my nephews their asses in a Santa Cookie decorating competition, so I had to improvise the colored frosting for the final decoration.

We had an ass-load of candy in the house because of Christmas, so I took an Atomic Fireball and soaked it in a small amount of water for about 40 minutes.  The water turned bright red, so that when I mixed it with the frosting in the squeeze bag it all turned pink.  I was planning to decorate the cake with blue frosting this year, but pink was better than nothing, plus it added a very slight cinnamon flavor that everyone seemed to either not notice or actually enjoy.  My mother even said it was my best cake yet!  I admit that I'm proud of my MacGyvered-up Atomic Fireball frosting solution.  Sometimes, you gotta think on your muhfuckin' feets in the kitchen!

I am not a professional cake decorator.
Even though I hold a BFA in Illustration from the Art Institute of Boston, and have been a professional artist / graphic designer for about twenty years, I totally suck balls at decorating cakes.  This I know, and accept about myself, after six years of failing at it every Christmas.  My motto:  Don't Care! I just fucking go for it and the world can eat a bag of royal fuck if they don't like it.  Maybe my fancy tools will improve my skills next year.  Buuut, probably not.

I repeat:  I am NOT a professional cake decorator.
My whole family spazzes the fuck out when it's time to finally eat the cake and find the trinkets.  My nephews couldn't give less of a shit about the actual cake, until after they discover whether or not they've received the special X-Mas trinket, and get to wear the awesome family tam as Christmas Monarch for a whole year.   

The first year winner/Monarch was my Bro-In-Law, Willy.  We have theee most hilarious pictures of him receiving the tam.  His.  Face.  Was.  Killing me.

In Year two, Dawn won the crown, and the following year it was my my sister's turn to be the lucky wearer of the tam.  Dawn was thrilled, but my sister's face was almost equally as hilarious as Willy's in it's un-thrilled-ness.  Meanwhile, the nephews were fucking DYING to win.  And me too.  Maybe.  Secretly.  Just a little.   

Finally in years four & five my nephew Hanson was a two-time winner, and then last year his older brother Asa took it away from him to claim the tam from December 25th 2013, up until December 25th 2014.  

That's when I got it.

Yeeeah, Man!!!  I got the X-Mas trinket, I received the Fam Tam,  and I am the current, reigning King of Christmas, mother fuckers!!!

This photo was staged after the fact.  I was too busy stuffing my face with cake to take pictures during events as they took place.

Okay, the truth is, the trinket wasn't actually in my piece of cake, but I invoked an old, somewhat obscure and rarely cited rule, in which a period of trading may be conducted BEFORE prognostication begins.  In past years, if a family member was unhappy with their trinket, they could ask if anyone wanted to trade.  If there were takers, a bargain was struck.  Well...

My step-dad got the special X-Mas trinket in his piece of cake this year, but because of the new, added duties of the King, he was unhappy about it.  Asa was first to invoke the trade rule, but he was shot down as last year's winner, so that's when I spoke up, accepted the trade, and just like that, baddah-bing-baddah-boom, allah-kazzam, shamma-lamma-ding-dong, I became the Christmas Monarch. 

As Willy put it:  "The rightful king abdicated his throne to his eccentric step-son."  

The "aaand this did not bode well for the Kingdom" was implied.

### THE END ###

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Dawn and I are quite the high-class people these days...  or, more like, Dawn is... and I'm just that guy who is often seen with Dawn.  If not for her, I wouldn't go anywhere fancy or eat anything nice.  I'd be stuck in a rut of hamburgers and hot dogs and mac 'n' cheese and  pizza...  mmm...  hungry now...


When Dawn heard about this thing called the "Tuesday Tasting Menu" at Nightbell, she was all about it.  She looked it up on line, read the reviews and such, and told me that she wanted to go to one.  I was like, "Sure!  I'll do that!"  Actually, I probably said "I do that," because that's the way I talk half the fucking time now.  Like an idiot.  Constantly making fun of teen-speak has resulted in the unfortunate reality that I now talk like that even when I'm not intending to. Soops annoying.

Okay, so Dawn talks to our friend Anita  --  who just happens to be the Assistant Manager over at Curaté  --  about joining us, and even though it was a little late in the game, Anita managed to squeeeeze us into one of the last Tuesday Tastings of 2014!  Whoop whoop!  Sorry to our good friends Kelly and Henco Billy, who got squeeeezed out of the mix due to a shortage of seating.  :(  We should have planned this thing well in advance, which is my advice to you all for the future:  When the tasting season starts up again in 2015, be sure to book your rez well ahead of time, especially if your party consists of 3 or more people.

Here's the menu for the night we were there...

Sorry for the crappy pictures.  The lighting in Nightbell is really soft, and low, and even involves colored gels that change to the music, so it's really hard to get a decent picture.  In real life, everything is much less yellowy than it looks here.  I'll describe each dish below the picture of the dish.  You can click on the pictures to see larger versions...

This was, like, a tiny starter cocktail that they called "snow."  It was exactly the consistency of a very light fluffy little ball of actual snow.  From the sky.  It had gin and lemon zest, and other stuff I think, and was light and bright and tart and refreshing.  Even though I don't drink alcohol, I ate my wee snow ball because it only contained a miniscule amount of booze.  It's copious amounts of booze that I avoid.

We each got two crispy blue prawn heads on a dollop of remoulade sauce as an amuse bouche.  This might  have been my fave part of the meal.  The flavor was incredible.  If you've ever sucked out the head of a crawfish, it was like that, only about 1,000 times better, because the idea here is to eat the whole thing like a soft shell crab.  Holy shit.  I friggin' loved these.  I could have eaten a bucket of them.  

This picture does ZERO justice to the potato leak soup, which was fan-fucking tastic.  Our server, Lisa Marie (who rules), brought out a wee bowl that had the clams, pancetta crumble, and parsley puree in the bottom, and then she poured the hot leaky-potato goodness on top.  I shot a video, but it's as crappy as the pictures.  The flavor, temperature, and consistency of this soup were all excellent.  Yom.  Soup.

This was a contender for my fave dish of the night.  The tails of those blue prawns we ate the heads of earlier were cooked to perfection and served with parsley leaves, parsley puree, and a sauteed mushroom side that was very savory and earthy and comforting. The whole meal had a comforting, autumnal quality to it.  Blue prawn taste sweet, like lobster, to me, and these were beautiful, served warm, they went just exactly right with the fresh, familiar flavor of the parsley.  I friggin' loved this dish.

This is roasted cauliflower with curry and raisins and such.  It was really great, but was definitely the least favorite thing among us.  Which is kind of like saying that one puppy in a litter is the least cute.  They's all cute!  It's just, y'know, one has to be least cute.  The cauliflower was the least cute puppy.

Dawn and Anita made me take a picture of this drink.  I don't remember why.  A big part of these tastings is the "wine pairing" and "cocktail tasting" aspects, which I did not partake in.  Dawn got the wine and Anita got the cocktails and they shared.  They both more or less oooh'd and ahhh'd over 90% of the drinks that came out from behind the bar.  I thought the Bartender had a very soothing voice and pleasant manner that made me wish he would describe each drink forever.  I smelled the drinks, like I do, and they smelled fucking awesome!  They have "mocktails" at Nightbell, and I really wanted one, but some part deep down inside of me thinks that it's just a royal pain in the ass for a bartender to make me my special virgin drinks, so I stuck with water and coffee.  Next time, for sure!

This is duck, with braised endive, pickled cherries, and stuff.  I love braised endive.  It's one of my favorite vegetable preparations.  I've even made it at home and it comes out great.  This braised endive was excellent, and I loved it!  It was tender and succulent, and went well with the duck which was prepared very nicely, so that it was likewise tender and juicy, without coming anywhere near being "greasy," the way that people often describe duck.  I have to admit that I do find the layer of fat on duck to be a little hard to take after a while and I left a teeny tiny piece of it on my plate.  That was literally the only morsel of food that went back to the kitchen from me that night.  If chef Katie Button had a dog that lived on scraps, it would starve to death.  The entire meal was stupendous, from start to finish, and we ate every ort.  Then out came dessert...  holyyyy...

Dessert was in-fucking-credible.  Just LOOK at this masterpiece...  Do you see that little green curly-Q thingy-ma-bob?  It was edible, and made of pine needle squeezin's or some such!  It tasted fucking great.  The sorbet was toasted coconut, which is one of my all-time fave frozen-treat flavors, and it had a bunch of awesome crumblies underneath it.  The truffle was completely amaze-balls.  The top was a hard, sugary crust, and underneath was a small, rectangular... dream.  That's what this dish was.  A dream.  The pomegranate gumdrops were, like, "whoa."

I've been known to say that the pastry chef at Nightbell  --  Chef Carmen Vaquera  --  is second only to Chef Karen Donatelli in this town as top pastry chef, but after eating this thing, I had to rethink my thoughts.

Here are my new new thoughts:  Chef Karen and Chef Carmen are like Wonder Woman and Super Girl.  They are both so awesome, it's literally impossible to say which is more awesome. In a crazy universe where they might have to fight each other, I'm not sure who would win.

Wonder Woman has got a lot of experience, but Super Girl is part of that whole "Super" family, which is pretty hard to beat, although, technically Diana is a God, so that's gotta count for something...  Then there's that invisible airplane.  What?  Oh yeah... Nightbell... It fucking rules.

If you haven't been there yet, go do that as soon as you can. Chef Katie Button has never once served me a bite of food that wasn't fantastically delicious.  True story.  You're probably S.O.L. when it comes to the Tuesday Tastings until next year, but I'm pretty sure I heard more than one person say they were going to add the blue prawn heads and tails to the regular menu soon, so, yeah, get that.

In the meantime, here's two minutes and nineteen seconds of this guy... 

And because why not, here's this...


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


So... This has never happened to me before...  But I like the direction things are going...

You guys may or may not know that I don't get paid to write about food, but that I would very much like to!  I spend a lot of my time eating, and I love to write, so it's been super-fun being a food writer, but it would be even better   --  of course!  --  to get paid for it.

Okay, technically, I did get paid to write a piece for Food Life Magazine, and that was great, but due to a scheduling push-back, the piece became out of date, and was never published, so it doesn't really count.

You can read that piece HERE if you'd like.

Anyhoodles...  Here's the thing that happened, that I like the direction of etc:  I recently got a note from Belle, the PR and Public Outreach person at The West Village Market & Deli, who specifically asked me if I would write a piece about them.  She offered me a free lunch, and a $25 gift certificate to WVMD, which I gladly accepted!  I will most definitely work for food.  What the fuck else am I spending my money on these days?

I took a lot of pictures.  I love grocery store lighting for iPhone pics.  WVMD is cute, clean, & bright inside.

The first thing I told Belle when we sat down to talk was that I would be informing you, the readers  --  my fellow food fans  --  that I am being "paid" by WVMD to write this piece about WVMD.  I assured her that you guys would take my word for it when I say that I had already shopped at the Market, and I already like it, but that the readers deserve and would appreciate full disclosure.  She agreed, so we proceeded!

Belle is very nice, smart, humble, straight-forward, and seems to be very dedicated to her job and the good food biz in general.  I liked her immediately!   I asked her a bunch of Q's, then the owner Rosanne joined us, so I asked her some Q's, then they left me to myself, so I ate some soup & two 1/2 sandwiches, asked the deli folks a few Q's, spent my $25 gift certificate, and then finally, I flew to Michigan for a completely unrelated Red Wings game.

Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan!  Red Wings beat the Rangers 3 - 2 in a very thrilling game!

Now I'm back in Ashetown, back in front of my computer, and ready to write what I've been dying to write for, like, nearly a week:


Here's the humble hot bar at West Village Market.  Very good things come out of these various pots.

If I'm lyin' I'm dyin', that shit was fuckin' aye good, Yo.  I'm not even the soupiest person in the world, meaning that although I enjoy a good soup, I don't go ape shit over soup like some people do.  I eat it every so often, and I probably would have skipped it this time had not three out of three people I spoke to advised that I try it.  I took a wee bit.  Just enough for a sip or two.

I went back for more.  Much more.

Holy shit.  So good.  It was a spinach and ground sausage-based soup that was so savory and cooked so perfectly, that if I hadn't just ordered 2 half-sandwiches, I would have made my entire meal all about it.  I'm craving it right now.  There is no "Soup of The Year" category of the Stoobies, but if there was, this soup would win.

The 2 half-sandwiches were also excellent! 

I had one of my sandwiches pressed, and the other straight-up.  I have a feeling that both would be excellent either way.

• "The Hipster" is their basic turkey sandwich: Turkey, bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo on whole wheat.   I love me a basic turkey sammich, and this one definitely hit the spot.  Extra points for being brave enough to use American cheese.  It was perfect.   The folks behind the deli counter told me it was their most popular sandwich, and I could see it being a standard go-to sandwich for me if I lived or worked in the neighborhood.

• "Tempeh's So Asheville" is their most popular vegetarian sandwich, and having tried it, I can see why.  I like tempeh, and this was a very good grilled tempeh sandwich, with dill havarti cheese, avocado, roasted red peppers, red onion, banana peppers, lettuce, and pesto on rosemary focaccia.  Honestly, I'm a little surprised that I ordered this beast, because it has, like, at least four things in it that I generally avoid, but what can I say?  I wanted to get outside my comfort zone, and I'm glad I did.  This freaky thing was awesome!  Whether you're a veggie or not, I would totally recommend the "So Asheville" sandwich to anyone... who isn't scheduled for make-outs with anyone else in the following 24 hour period.  I think I asked them to hold the red onion on that one.  Just in case.

So lunch was fucking great!  I can honestly tell you that it was better than I expected.  I even tried the aloo korma at the tiny hot bar, and it was super delish.

I asked
Hayette, the deli manager where they get the hot bar stuff from (The Food Co-op on Biltmore Downtown gets their hot bar food from a different restaurant every day) and she smiled when she said, "We make it all here!"  I asked who made the sausage and spinach soup, and she said, "I dunno... Thomas... maybe?"  Whoever gets to the store first in the morning gets to make the soup, she explained, adding that, while they do have recipes, they are also pretty much free to come up with anything they think will be good.   She said that's a big part of what she likes about working there.   It turns out Thomas did make that wonderful soup.  I hope you kept the recipe, Mang!

Visit Thomas and Hayette (not pictured) at the deli counter, located in the back corner of the store.

Rosanne, the owner seems very cool!  She came out to say hi right away, and appeared to be genuinely happy to meet li'l ol' me.  When she sat down with us a little later, she told me a bit about the history and philosophy of her shop. 

• It's been around for 12 and a half years.  Um.  That's a long time. 

• It was in the Grove Arcade building for 7 years, where it was known as the "Grove Corner Market!"  Hey!  I totally remember that place!  It was great!  It was one of two places to buy fresh fruit, and decent groceries downtown for while.  When it moved out, a few other places tried to fill the niche, but they were a pale comparison.  Personally I was glad to hear that Rosanne & Co. had moved, as opposed to going under.

•  They have been in their current location, on Haywood in WAVL for going on 5 years, where they have been enjoying success, and a loyal, growing following in the hood.  Rosanne spoke warmly of her customers and neighbors.

Belle and Rosanne both stressed their personal and small-business point of view that selling good, healthy food, produced locally, organically, and sustainably whenever possible is essential to healthy bodies, as well as healthy communities.  That coincides exactly with my own thoughts.  I like that.

Belle brought up GMO awareness and labeling and Rosanne confirmed that they are all about it.  They even host an annual event called "GMO Day" in which they promote labeling of GMO products and education about GMO Foods.  These thoughts also dovetail with my own.

I like shopping at places that give a fuck, so again, if this was my neighborhood, I feel very confident that WVMD would be one of my regular jams.  They even have hot coffee and tables to sit at, tucked in a bright, but cozy little corner.  The chairs were somewhat wobbly...  as fuck...  but the atmosphere was chill, and on the hippy-side of things.  I have always liked that vibe.  It's part of what attracted me to Asheville in the first place. 

Oh, there's a juice bar inside the shop too, called "Farmacy."  Thinking back on it now, I shoulda got a fucking juice!  Dumb!  Dumb dumb dumb...  I could have used the vitamin infusion before my trip to Michigan, where I super-indulged in hamburgers, and coney dogs, and donuts out the whazoo!

Okay, so after I stuffed my face with soup and sandwiches, I went shopping in the grocery store part of the Market.  They had Tom's of Maine patchouli scented deodorant.  Yeah, Man!  I got some.  I also got 2 bags of potato chips, an awesome loaf of bread from City Bakes, a big bunch of bananas, and two packages of Joyce Farms all natural frozen chicken.  I had three bucks left on my gift certificate, and I'm all good with the pricing at WVMD.  It's right in line with what I'm used to paying, and expect to pay when I shop at a small "convenience" style neighborhood grocery store that sells healthy, interesting food, and offers something special called: Giving a fuck about you and me and the world in general.  That has value to me.

If I lived in West Asheville...  gosh, I find myself saying that more and more lately...  I would be a frequent stopper and shopper at the West Village Market.  Since I don't live in WAVL, I'm just going to make sure that when I do travel over the bridge for lunch with a friend, I remember to pop in WVMD to see what's cooking in that dang soup pot!  Drool.  Hungry.  Want.

So there you go!  Yes, I got paid... in food and deodorant... to write this piece, but trust me, my employers did not tell me what to write.  They gave me zero instructions on that front.   Obviously they hoped I would write something super positive, and I did!  But I already knew I liked the place, so that part was easy.  Then they surprised me with their super delicious deli counter offerings, and impressed me with their food & social philosophies, so I was enthused to spread the word.

Rosanne and her crew are super nice people doing what I think is a super cool thing for that neighborhood.  I told her that I wished there was a store just like hers in the River Arts District, and she smiled at me.  Wha?!?  Dare I get excited?  Too late.




Additional Notes

I earn my living as an Artist and Graphic Designer.   All kinds of businesses, events, organizations, and individuals hire me to help promote their products with my illustration and graphic design skills, including restaurants.  One of my favorite clients is Mamacitas.

I love the food at Mamacitas, and I have ever since I first moved to Asheville in 2005.  When it comes to my role as "The Food Critic," I feel zero conflict of interest in writing a positive review of that particular venue even though they pay me to do their graphic design.  I liked the food first, then they became a paying design client, and now as a food writer, I can wholeheartedly endorse their product.

That's why I also felt no conflict in accepting this paying gig writing for West Village Market & Deli.  I had already been there, I already knew I liked the product, and the owners were interested in hiring me to use my writing skills to promote their store.  Just like with art and design.

I've added these notes, because I am new to the Food Writing biz, and I've been careful  --  I think  -- in navigating the moral and ethical issues that I've encountered along the way.   I know that the readers want the most honest reporting possible, and I endeavor to do that.  When I get hired to write by a venue, I will let you know, every single time.

While I would love to make my living  --  at least partly  --  through my food writing, and I will accept paid assignments from specific locations that I already endorse, don't worry, I won't be sitting down on a pile of money to write a glowing, corporate sponsored endorsement of Chi-Fil-A...  or Jack 'n' the Box... or Taco Bell... whom I despise...  with my entire soul.

I welcome your feedback on this subject