Friday, February 13, 2015

FOOD FANS, ASHEVILLE - Free Lunch at West Village Market & Deli

SO....  I decided I wanna shoot video.  Food related video, of myself and my friends, Dawn, my mom, other famous food fans, random motherfuckers, all out and about in Asheville and surrounds, eating the awesome food, and meeting the awesome food makers!  So, like I like to do when I wanna do something, I started doing it.

My Motto is:  Just fuckin' do it.  

It's kinda like the Nike motto, only way better, because it has a swear word and an apostrophe in it.


I ran my idea of shooting video about the food scene in Asheville past a few reliable people, and they all agreed that it was a good one, so I decided to start right away, raw, with no experience or script, or anything beyond an iPhone, a date with a contest winner, and my usual levels of enthusiasm and "fuck it-all-edness."

I'm titling my series "Food Fans, Asheville" and it stars me, in typical, annoying selfie mode.

This first installment also stars the lovely and interesting Kiere Shafer, who won a FaceBook contest to have "FREE LUNCH with the  FOOD CRITIC" sponsored by The West Village Market & Deli.

Our co-stars include Tom, who gave me a ride, Adams Wood who is a fellow food fan that we met at the deli counter, and then Hyette and Thomas who both work at the deli counter.  Hyette explains what "paleo food" is, after Thomas admits that he doesn't know "exactly what the fuck that means!"

Thomas was a great interview subject, and Kierre was also very natural in front of the camera.  Adams and Hyette were awesome too, and my friend Tom is a stone-cold stud.

Hmmm... I'm definitely the weak link here...  Ha ha!  JK, I'm a muhfuckin' supah-star, Baby! 

You can watch the video below and then read more about the lunch and our conversation below that.

This is my first attempt at shooting a video like this, ever, so it's kinda shaky and choppy, and runs about twice as long or longer than it needs to, but there are some funny moments, and good info, and like I said, the people in it totally rule.  

Enjoy the video!  Here's a teaser for the writing below it:  

"Delving deeper into the topic, we expressed a mutual admiration for the Scandinavian people, who had gone from one of the most brutal and fearsome cultures in history to one of the most civilized and peaceful in the world today.  Kiere had obviously thought about this before, and had very interesting things to say..."

LUNCH WITH KIERE - West Village Market & Deli - West Asheville

I got to the West Village Market & Deli about 15 mins early, and got myself some hot coffee (in a ceramic mug!) from the self-serve coffee area, and situated myself near the deli counter in the back, to wait for my lunch date, and fellow food fan, Kiere Shafer.  I was very much looking forward to our free lunch, on the house, which part of a promotional contest that I ran on my FaceBook page.

I've done "free lunch with the food critic" contests in the past, and this one was similar to others in that the entrants had to convince me to some degree that we would have a good time together at lunch.  No duds.  I ain't eatin' lunch with a fuckin' dud.  Or a jerk.  Or any dick-heads.  Fuck dick-heads.

I asked the entrants to come up with"Three possible topics of conversation" that we could discuss over lunch, and they came through with some good ones, so it was a little hard to decide, but in the end I picked Kiere, as her three topics appealed to many of my personal interests:

1) The evolution of Viking culture into one of the most civilized on Earth
2) Hot dogs for every occasion!
3) How can we stop the use of (the font) Papyrus in Asheville

Yeah, man!  Vikings, evolution, festive occasions, fonts, and hot dogs!  I could talk about fonts alone for the whole lunch.  I contacted Kiere to let her know that she won, and we set up a time to meet for lunch.

She showed up right on time, we hugged (Hey, Asheville! Hug City, USA), and I think we were talking about hot dogs before she even got her coat off.  My kind of person.

After some initial chit chat, we decided to order. Kiere was all about the tempeh, which I found interesting, because she's obviously a meat-eater (she makes a "breakfast hot dog"at home), but she said she loves the "Tempeh's So Asheville" sandwich at WVMD, and was going to try the tempeh Reuben this time.  I like tempeh too, even though I eat the shit out of some meat.

Asheville is a town where there's not always a hard divide between the meat-eaters and the veg crowd.  I like that.  

I ordered something called the "Roast Beast," that was roast beef, horse radish sauce, roasted red peppers, spinach, cheese, and red onions.  Hold those fucking onions, throw in on the panini press, and I'm all good to go!

My sandwich was excellent.  Very moist, and flavorful, and the bread was crispy on the outside, and still soft and fresh tasting on the inside.  I knew that the ingredients were all high-quality, because I know for a fact that the people who run WVMD give a shit about me, and you, and all of their customers, and they want to feed us high quality food.

I ate every bite of my sandwich, and Kiere seemed to be enjoying her's too.  We were both members of the clean plate club.  Even the pickles went down.

I have to say, these sandwiches tasted a lot better than they look in this picture! The plates were super-cool, vintage plastic plates, that I really liked, but the ugly retro colors were not flattering to the food.  The table was also retro and I liked it very much!  You can see the handle of my coffee mug.  It's a classic, ceramic, diner mug.  I approve.
We also tasted the soups: I got Minestrone and she got the Ginger Bisque.  Mine was great!  Very hardy and savory, the broth was not watery at all, and the flavors were well-rounded and had depth to them.  It was a tasty, comforting cup of soup.  Kiere's ginger bisque did not impress her, which suprised me, but made more sense later, when Thomas the deli guy expressed a lack of enthusiasm for his own creation, explaining that he intentionally made it very mild, for the folks who prefer mild foods.  Thomas clearly prefers spicy food, and I had a feeling that Kiere does too, based on some of our lunch conversation.

And speaking of our conversation...

PAPYRUS - We agreed that Papyrus needs to die.  It is one of the original free fonts that came with every fucking Mac ever produced. Maybe on PCs too, I wouldn't know.  It looks like this...

(Image by "milky" from  Also pictured:  comic cans.)

You've seen it.  It's in use still to this very day.  People like it.  People in Asheville seem to like it a little more than people in other parts of the world.  Graphic designers fucking hate it.

I've been doing freelance graphic design for 23 years, and every time I see Papyrus, I die a small angry death inside.  "Why?  Why why why Pa-pie?"

Turns out, ya'll; Kiere is a graphic designer too! She told me a horror story...  a nightmare really...  about a recent experience in which a client insisted on Papyrus.  Y'know that small angry death I mentioned above?  That's just from seeing the dreaded font.  Poor Kiere was being asked to work with it. Touch it. Move it around on a screen with photos and graphics, using her brain and eyeballs to do design with it, and then sign-off on the finished product once the client gave her the thumbs-up.

Night.  Mare.

I was dying angry sympathy-deaths for her, but the conversation was saved from total morbidity when she said wryly, "It wasn't a portfolio piece," and we had a good laugh at the very idea.  Kiere has a good sense of humor.  Another reason I was glad I picked her as the contest winner.

VIKINGS - We talked about Vikings and Viking Culture, and Kiere asked me if I watch the dramatic TV series titled Vikings.  I said no, it's too dramatic for me, but I suggested that she check out the movie Valhalla Rising, which is maybe the best Viking Movie ever made, and she said she would!  As a side-bar, I mentioned that it has a good droney/doomy soundtrack, and she said that she could understand how that would work well with Vikings.  Yeah, Man.  Kierre is a cool chick.

Delving deeper into the topic, we expressed a mutual admiration for the Scandinavian people, who had gone from one of the most brutal and fearsome cultures in history to one of the most civilized and peaceful in the world today.  Kiere had obviously thought about this before, and had very interesting things to say, including that the Viking women were treated as equals, so an atmosphere of equality was fostered over the decades.  She added that the Vikings were known to assimilate the cultures they conquered, so we extrapolated that as more and more of the people the Vikings conquered became part of Viking society, this attitude of equality was extended outwardly to other tribes...  until eventually... world peace became a Viking tradition!  Fuck yeah.  Vikings!!!

HOT DOGS - As I said, we were talkin' hot dogs the minute Kiere arrived at the Deli, and that particular topic was recurring.  When she reminded me that she had posted on my FaceBook page one time about her breakfast hot dog, which included scrambled eggs, and I was all, like, "Oh yeahhh!  I remember you!"  We agreed that breakfast hot dogs should be standard fare on menus all over Asheville, and across 'Merca.  I mean, WTF, World?  Breakfast hot dog.  Duh.

I told her about my hot dog pizza recipe, which is a toaster oven treat that can't be beat, made from naan and a butterflied, "twice cooked" dog, complete with pizza sauce, mozzarella, ketchup, and mustard.  It's one of my all-time greatest creations.

Yeah.  We mostly talked about food, as food fans are wont to do, and we even ran into Ben from Sovereign Remedies, who was shopping for lunch.  He stopped to say hi, then politely backed away when I started foaming at the mouth about hot dogs...  or Vikings.. or fonts...  Hey, Ben!  I'll be in to see you soon, and we'll pick up where we left off!  Ha ha!  JK

I gave Kierre a pop-quiz essay question at the very end:

"It's Kwanzaa," I said, "what's your hot dog?" 

She froze, and admitted that she didn't know much about "Jewish holidays."


If I knew Kiere a little better I would have mercilessly made fun of her right then and there, but since I never know how my cruel sense of humor is going to go over with new friends, I informed her that Kwanzaa is an African American holiday, and we agreed that at the very least a festive African pattern could be created using ketchup, mustard, and relish.  I suggested Ethiopian bread instead of a bun, but we left it open, and I "joked" that I would be expecting her real answer soon.  "Joked."  Kiere.  As in:  I was serious.

The whole lunch was really tasty, and fun, and I even got a nice interview with the deli people after Kiere said her goodbyes!  Thanks, Kiere!  You're the best!

And thanks to Rosanne, Belle, Hyette, and Thomas from the West Village Market!  The food was great, and the whole thing was a blast! 

I even left some Asheville Flyer for Kids among the mags at the front!  Where the kids can find them.  It's free, and fun.  Please find them and take them.
### END ###

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Sometimes I even cook at home...  And since I don't have kids, I eat steak!  Yeah, man, good ol' steak 'n' taters, with a side of broccoli.  I love it, and I've got a special method of doing this meal that is easy-peasy, though slightly dangerous as fuck, so y'know,  don't follow these instructions! Unless you're as stupid as I am...

FIRST: You will need:

1) A potato
2) A piece of steak
3) Frozen Broccoli Florets
3) Salt
4) Pepper
5) Olive Oil
6) Butter

Here are 3 of the ingredients you will need.
FYI:  My best friend in this whole world is a toaster oven.  I love it, it loves me.  Like Dr. Who, every once in a while it dies, and is reborn, looking different, more modern, and more powerful than ever, but remaining my bestie.

TIP: Salt and pepper your steak while it's still raw, and leave it out for a bit, so that it warms to room temperature.

NEXT: You will need to...

1) Cover your toaster oven tray in tin-foil...
2) Then pour a thin layer of olive oil on it
3) Chop-up your tater into reasonable sized pieces
4) Spread 'em out on the tray
5) Add salt and pepper


SO: You will need to figure yours out for yourself.  I set mine on "toast" for ten minutes, then flip all the taters and toast them again for ten more minutes.  I know that my taters are going to take 20 minutes every time, so I time everything else accordingly.  Knowmsayin'?  You figure your toaster over / potato sitch out, and you'll have a time frame to work with.

Red skin potatoes work particularly well with the toaster oven method.

1) Put about 1/8 inch of water into the bottom of a small sauce pan
2) Put in some frozen broccoli florets
3) Place a decent-sized pad of butter on top of the florets
4) Cover
5) Place on medium-to-low flame

My friend Joe the vegan told me "Stu, it's ok to eat frozen vegetables," so I do.

Place four pads of butter (or more) into a medium sized frying pan

More butter = more better.

Get all your muhfuckin' burners goin', Yo!

• Borocolli covered on low
• Frying pan of butter on medium
• Open burner on high

Danger. It's what's for dinner.



Sizzle the shizzle outta that betch.
By the time you transfer the meat into the pan, your butter should already be hotter than fuck.  For a thick steak like the one pictured, I'll sear each side for three mins, and then turn the heat way down and cook each side for another 7 minutes.

Be sure to turn your oven fan on or your fire alarms are likely to go off!  True story...ies.

• Your taters are crispy on the outside and thoroughly cooked inside.
• Your broccoli is hot, and soft, but not mushy
• Your steak is seared to perfection on the outside, and pink-to-red on the inside, depending on how you like it.

TIP:  Be sure to let your steak sit for a minute or two before you cut into it.  That will help it stay juicy while you eat it, and also help the flavor settle down a bit as it cools slightly.

Even at home, I try to make things look nice when I have time.  Other times, I eat straight out of the pans.

• I added a little shredded cheddar cheese to the broccoli and...

• I made my own steak sauce out of organic catchup and balsamic vinegar

That shit was fuckin' goood, Yo!
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Monday, February 9, 2015


"Um...  it's not a house." 

This was my first thought upon recently stumbling across the winner of the 2014 National Ginger Bread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn, in Asheville North Carolina.

It was sitting in a display case, tucked in a semi-remote hallway of the famous hotel, which has been host to the annual, gingerbread house contest for 22 years.  I used to go check it out yearly, but it lost me a while back, because the entries seemed really slick and pro, and had nothing to do with Asheville, or the GPI, or actual gingerbread houses anymore.  The entries, it seemed, could be and were, shaped like whatever, and some of the themes seemed questionable, or tacky at the very least.

Last year, for example, Ann Bailey was the big winner in the Adult category, with her entry titled, "Pawn Stars," which resembles a really fancy, Christmas-themed chess board, complete with reindeer, elves, and X-mas trees comprising some of the chess-pieces. A variety of very fancified stars act as the pawns, in two lines facing each other from across the board.

I know it was the winner in the "adult" category, but I think the title is perhaps a little TOO adult, if you know what I'm sayin'.
Here are my problems with this gingerbread house...

• As I said...  it's NOT A HOUSE.  I dunno, but if I was going to have a contest, and the very title of that contest contained the word "house," as in, let's say...  a...  Green House Building contest ...and someone submitted, ohhhhh... a chair my Green House Building contest... they certainly would not win.  Even if the chair was gorgeous, and was made out of glass, and had plants inside, it would still be a chair, and not a green house.  "Pawn Stars" is a chess board.  Not a gingerbread house. If I was a judge at the GPI gingerbread HOUSE competition, I'd be wanting to see some amazing... gingerbread... houses.

• Pawn Stars is a TV show, and a really inane one at that.  It is an inane TV show that has absolutely nothing to do with: Christmas, chess, gingerbread, gingerbread houses, Asheville, the GPI, or seemingly ANYTHING related to this contest or entry, except for the 1/2-clever pun being made with the title.  I hate 1/2-clever shit.  Again, if I was a judge in this contest, I would ask Ms. Baily, "What is the connection between the TV show that your piece is named after, and the concept of your piece, beyond the pun?"  If Ann could explain that to me in a satisfactory manner, I would have less of a problem with her entry, but still, I hate when bullshit, mainstream, force-it-down-your-throat, media culture seeps into our quaint traditions. It's annoying to me.

• The title of the TV show Pawn Stars, is itself a 1/2-clever take on the cultural term "Porn Stars," as in: People who fuck for a living.  I'm sorry to be vulgar, but let's call it like it is.  The TV show Pawn Stars -- though it has nothing to do with the porn industry -- is named after people who are paid for having sex in front of cameras, for the pleasure of others.  That's just a fact.  And...  so...  in turn...  this cute little Christmas chess set is likewise titled after those people who are employed to fuck.  Thaaaat's charming.  And is a perfect example of why I hate 1/2-clever shit. Isn't the GPI Ginger Bread House competition supposed to be for families? I don't think the porn industry needs to be given a tip o' the hat from an entry in any family-oriented event.  Am I wrong about that?  Should I soften my stance on references to porn around kids?  Well, I'm not going to.

• Where's the gingerbread? I looked and looked and looked at Pawn Stars slowly rotating on its electric lazy-Susan-type-pedestal inside the glass case at the GPI, but nowhere could I ascertain any gingerbread. No. Where. I saw what appeared to be an assload of fondant, and food coloring, and I suppose there may have been some gingerbread underneath all that fondant, but who the fuck knows?  There could have also been chicken wire, Styrofoam, human remains... almost anything can be covered in fondant and presented as food.  What would we find if we cracked open one of the "pawn stars" on Ann's chess board? The world may never know, because I guess the sad truth is that these contest entries are never meant to be eaten, and so they don't need to be edible.  When you put it that way, who cares what's under the fondant? I mean, it's not a cookie, Stu, it's a sculpture.

Well, in that case, World, why the fuck is this contest titled The National Gingerbread House Competition if it doesn't need to be a house, and it doesn't need to made out of gingerbread?  Why not just call it the National Fondant Sculpture Competition?

Because there is no interest in fondant as a food item, that's why, and there is no cultural history of fondant sculpture contests.  If the title of this competition were more accurate, no one would give a shit.  

There is, however, a strong interest in gingerbread as a food item, and a long cultural history of gingerbread house competitions.

I feel as though the original spirit of such contests has been completely lost at the GPI Gingerbread House Competition, and that is exactly why they have lost me as a fan, and vocal proponent of their competition. I used to tell people how much I liked it.  Now, I curl my lip at the mere mention of this falsely advertized contest of fondant manipulators.

I am aware that the entries to modern Gingerbread House competitions are generally meant to be displayed for long periods of time, up to a month or even much longer, and are not intended to be eaten, ever, by anyone, but, I think that's bullshit. Take a fuckin' picture, then eat that thing.  One of the criteria for winning a gingerbread house contest should be how your gingerbread house TASTES in my opinion.

When I was a kid (Oh, Christ, here comes Grandpa) half the fun of making a gingerbread house was destroying it and eating it.  Now I guess the fun is in...  looking at it until you throw it away.


The logo for The National Gingerbread House Competition depicts a house, made of gingerbread. The winner of The National Gingerbread House Competition in the background is a chess board made out of Femo... er...  I mean, fondant.
 ### END ###