The Global South: 2010 SFA Symposium (Freestyle)

October 26, 2010

Early morning flight, moon still full
Heading off to Memphis and the hills of Ole Miss.
I missed the first night, and lack of head pain thanks me
Driving down 55, wanting to go 90, knowing what’s ahead.

Ah, there it is, I see the Square, and of course there’s no place to park.
Wait, there’s one, just for two hours, but tickets ain’t much.
Into the Lyric, they’re talking ’bout the Gulf
How seafood’s so clean, and ready for your plate
So why’s so few ready to partake?

It’s an hour short of noon, Bloody Mary time
With President Linton reminding us of how we serve the cause.
I’m still a tad bit nervous, being the new kid on the Board
But meeting lots of people, is just another reward.
We are all old friends, even if we’ve not met.
It’s the SFA. It’s what we do.

What’s that, time to eat? Tamales in the heat?
It’s Robb Walsh and I, off to lunch, to the Powerhouse we go.
He tells me all ’bout Houston
And Tex-Mex history
I’m near last in line, craving for some grub
As my last bite was a muffin, at the Starbucks, back home.

Who’s that? Ann Cashion there? Yes my dear, dear friend, we share tales of old and new
It’s folks like her who draw me back, back to Oxford town.
We love the sweet potato salad, and piquant peas
Quail tamales are something new, with dessert just divine.

Talks of masa and rice lead to Geechee, not Gullah
In Philly no less!
It’s cane sugar Coke and domestic rum, refreshing, relaxing for the bus.
To Taylor we go. For catfish we eat, sharing peach moonshine, hoping not to spill.
Fullsteam’s on tap, goes well with the fish, even when it’s fried in a hip-hop wok.

Time for bed. Fuck that shit. I need a drink. Some bourbon and beer.
Pabst BLUE Ribbon.
Time for last call, you’d think that that’s that. But later we stay,
Pableaux and Joe and Snack and me.
Speaking of snacks. Chevron knows oil, even for food
But not at 2:30. No chicken, no stick.

I’m too old for this crap. Stayin up with the moon. Sleep, I must sleep.
But I have people to meet
Friends to see. It’s the SFA, remember. It’s what we do.

Bring on the profs, after Amy and Kev. Talking ’bout talking. And the world, getting small.
Lam tears it up, and then just tears up. We’re in his palm, and he’s in our arms.
“Suck on the head,” Andrea cracks, Viet pride in Cali, expressed in food.
Not sure what he thinks, this rapper called Bling. With swoosh-laden boots
He stands before us, mostly white, over the hill. But he gets us. And we get him.
It’s the SFA. It’s what we do.

Ms. Bernstein gets us, too, with her Miami nice, serving chicken, and shrimp with all kinds of corn
Crunchy and popped and in hominy form.
I learn about lamb, from my new friend Craig, who’s a doc and a shepherd and a Shakespearean fan.
Ox tail. It’s rich, we need some red wine.
It’s called a tian. But to us, it’s something old as something new.
Nanner puddin, that’s what.

More listening and learning and talking and seeing
‘Bout Houston and Charlotte, so distant, so close.
Then how about a nap, a snooze, a rest?
But it’s time to honor those who’ve done it best.

It’s a film about men, Viet men who fish. Through winds and rains and plumes of crude.
They’ve lived thick and thin. And they’re here to stay.
Just like Calvin in Holmes, where they own their own land
And grow their own. And lend a hand.
One more honoree, Christiane’s her name. We’ve dined on her words, oft poisoned by her pen.
These folks are so proud. But not as much as we.
Because this is the SFA. It’s what we do.

Forty-three heads, of a bovine ilk, were buried in coals. Beef crack is mine.
Horchata with whiskey makes the crowd frisky,
Or was that the licks of Neuvo Banda Corral?
It’s corn one more time, but clear as day,
Don’t worry ’bout germs, it’s self-sterilized, that Mason jar rim.
We share, we hug, we laugh.
It’s the SFA. It’s what we do.

One final day, for the SYM-POS-I-UM. Doc Harris sells wares. But no one is buyin’.
The Mississippi Monks, start soft and start slow. And build it on up, making us move, making us believe
In the power of music, and togetherness and reconciliation.
I dance. I cry. I eat. I hug. I laugh. I say goodbye.

I’m in the SFA. It’s what I do.

Restaurant Review Roulette: David’s Dumpling & Noodle Bar

October 20, 2010

I know this restaurant!  Hurray, hurrah, hurrooh!  Greg Cox is reviewing David’s Dumpling & Noodle Bar, the new outpost of iconic Raleigh chef David Mao.  I actually took my family to eat there several weeks ago and liked it.  The dumplings are top-notch, the noodles are good (but not great).  The other Asian-American fare is as good as it needs to be.  It’s certainly not great, but it’s very dependable.

As I look into my crystal ball, I see a favorable review for David’s D&NB.  But my vision is cloudy.  Service isn’t as great as it should be.  Some  of the dishes aren’t just good enough.  A number is appearing.  Is it a 4?  Yes, it’s a 4.  But wait, I also see a 3.  What does this all mean?  Ahhh, I get it.  This is a 3.5 star review.  That’s your lucky number.

Here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 30 to 1

4.5 stars – 7 to 1

4 stars —  2 to 1

3.5 stars — 7 to 6

3 stars — 2 to 1

2.5 stars —  5 to 1

2 stars — 11 to 1

1.5 stars — 19 to 1

1 star — 50 to 1

What did you think of DD&NB?  How many stars will it get?  And did the big photos of David Mao freak you out as much as they did for me???


Edit, October 22, 2010 — Looks like its a 3-star review for DD&NB.  I couldn’t really tell why it got this rating and where points may have been deducted.  Funny how this review game is.

Barbecue: Poole’s Diner Style

October 15, 2010

I love barbecue.  I love Poole’s Diner.  And on November 7th, I’m going to really love me some barbecue made by Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner.  This will be a special family-oriented fundraising meal benefiting the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood (of which I’m the Chair of the Board), and I invite you to purchase your tickets via PayPal by going here.

Here’s the details: Poole’s Diner will be preparing the barbecue and the sides from 5:30 to 8:30 PM on Sunday, November 7th.  Beer has been graciously donated by the great folks of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham (can anyone say “yum” to a Hogwash, hickory-smoked porter?).  Heck, I might even make a dish or two (I can put my kids to work making pie).  Tickets for adults are $75 and $35 for kids14 and under, and of that price, all but $25 is tax deductible.

Space truly is limited, as Poole’s is a pretty small place, and we’ll be looking to do two full turns of the restaurant.  It’ll be a nice way to spend an evening, eating some great barbecue, and supporting a very worthy cause.  Did you know that with this economy, the need for mental health services has dramatically increased, but there are fewer places where kids can get those services?  Did you know that 90% of the kids who receive services from the Lucy Daniels Center receive some sort of assistance, and many families do not pay a dime?  Did you know that when one child is helped with an emotional problem, that also benefits that child’s family and classroom?  Did you know that I REALLY want to see you buy tickets for this event?

This is very important to me.

This is very important to the children of the Triangle.

And this may be the best barbecue you ever ate. Please join us.


Restaurant Review Roulette: Paradise India Cuisine

October 13, 2010

The tag line of Morrisville’s Paradise India Cuisine is, “The way Biryani is meant to be!”  Hell, I wouldn’t know biryani if I buried my face in it, as Indian food just might be the cuisine where I am the most ignorant.  Moreover, I don’t squat  about this restaurant.  But first, a warning: The website has music, so beware (although it can be turned off).  The menu is extensive.  They specialize in Hyderabadi cuisine.

Oh, this is the restaurant that Greg Cox is reviewing this Friday (at least that’s what Greg Cox told me, as the N&O failed to include its typical teaser in today’s paper).  Maybe because this review wasn’t worth forecasting.  Or maybe because — well, that’s really the only reason not to mention it.

Anyhow, the Urbanspoon page on Paradise IC is one big “meh,” with too many uses of the word, “suck.”   That’s not a good sign.  Yelp is not much better.  And after looking at those two, I just didn’t have the energy to try and find out what Chowhound had to say.  I’m ready to stick out my neck with this week’s odds and declare that Greg Cox will give P.I.C. two and one-half stars.  There you go.

But the big question I have is how in the world did they manage to get the domain name, “”  And do they greet people with a, “Welcome to paradise?”  Green Day would be so proud.  Those characteristics alone should give it an extra star (and that’s why I’m still saying 2.5).  Anyhow, here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 500 to 1

4.5 stars – 450 to 2

4 stars —  40 to 3

3.5 stars — 3.5 to 1

3 stars — 3 to 2

2.5 stars —  2.5 to 2.5

2 stars — 2 to 1

1.5 stars — 15 to 4

1 star — 10 to 1

So, am I missing something with this little slice of Paradise?  How many stars will it get?


Edit — October 15, 2010 — It’s a 3 star review for Paradise, with Greg Cox calling it a “colorful culinary adventure.”

The Best Community Cookbook Ever — And Two Events to Celebrate It

October 12, 2010

Yes, I love the Southern Foodways Alliance.  Yes, I’m a member.  And yes, I’ve even been nominated to be on its Board of Directors.  So it should be no surprise to you that I’ll do just about anything this organization asks of me — not just because I’m a good soldier, but because there’s nothing this organization does that I don’t support.  Whether it’s a fundraiser for their film or oral history initiatives or for scholarships for burgeoning food writers, I’m going to spread the word.

This time, however, it’s different.  This time, the event is to celebrate a cookbook.  A fantastic, spiral-bound, community cookbook, suitably named, “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.”  The cookbook  is divided into chapters that represent the region’s iconic foods: Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt, Put Up, and Cane.  It’s been edited, written and compiled by some of my favorite people in the world, including April McGreger, baker and pickler extraordinaire of Farmer’s Daughter in Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s great cooking instructor, Sheri Castle,  and Sara Roahen, author of the fantastic book on New Orleans, “Gumbo Tales.”  Heck, I even submitted a recipe for the book — and yes, it is a recipe for cooking one type of varmint.

To celebrate the release of the book, there are not one, but two events planned for this weekend in Chapel Hill.

The first event is this Friday, October 15th, at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill (750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd).  This event is a book signing and is free to the public — and, yes, there will be a little bit of food there.

The second event has a lot of food, and this is a ticketed event.  It will be on Sunday at 4:00 PM at Chapel Hill’s 3CUPS (227 South Elliott Rd.).  If you just want to come and eat, it’ll cost you $25.  If you want one of these awesome cookbooks (all the cool kids have them), then that will cost you an additional 15 bucks.  That’s less than the Amazon price!  So, you get a soon-to-be iconic cookbook, lots of great food (with both cake and pie, as there will be a debate about which is better), lots of social interaction with writers, and all on a Sunday evening!  And because it is 3CUPS, there will be wine.  Tasty, wonderful wine.

So, get off your butt and head to Chapel Hill this weekend to buy a book — the best community cookbook ever!  And if you need more information, just check out the SFA’s Blog.

Restaurant Review Roulette: Nantucket Grill

October 7, 2010

Sorry for the delay, folks.  It’s primarily because I’m swamped at work, but it’s also because my heart’s not in it this week.  Why?  Because Greg Cox is reviewing Nantucket Grill.  Yes, he previously reviewed Nantucket Grill a few years ago, giving it 3 out of 4 stars, but this is the North Raleigh location!  When there are so few new restaurants in the Triangle that Greg Cox is forced to review a second location of an existing establishment (and there are now 4 Nantucket Grills), I feel sorry for the guy.

I haven’t looked up one thing about this place, other than the website and menu.  It’s in North Raleigh.  That’s the extent of my knowledge.

And I’m guessing 2.5 stars.  What’s your guess?

Here are the odds:

5 stars — 926 to 1

4.5 stars – 54 to 1

4 stars —  7 to 1

3.5 stars — 3 to 1

3 stars — 3 to 2

2.5 stars —  4 to 3

2 stars — 5 to 2

1.5 stars — 6 to 1

1 star — 22 to 1

Have you taken a trip to Nantucket?  How many stars does it merit?


Edit, October 8, 2010:  As predicted guessed, Greg Cox gave Nantucket Grill 2.5 stars.  I really had no clue, but come on, how hard is this??