Living in Battery Park the last few years has been a bit of a challenge.
While all the attention has been paid to The Bottom our storm drains crumbled and finally collapsed under the weight of Isabelle and Gaston.
As the mayor partied it up in Japan I was told by Richmond’s finest that if I didn’t leave my house (the water was within a block of my house but we sit up so high enough that we were never in danger) they would arrest me and turn Finn over to Family and Children Services.
As we debated whether we could drink the tap water and others were forced repeatedly from their homes after the lightest rains we saw a parade of politicians from Senators to the ever-elusive, and very absent, Rep. Bobby Scott make their obligatory stop for a photo op in our damp ‘hood. Ellen Robertson, our council person, hasn’t been very present either – except for her weekly spam phone messages. We soldiered on, dealing with detours for our new, above ground, drainage pipes and pumps the size of elephants that blocked our streets.
Rather than admit the boondoggle that is the city owned golf course changed the topography thus turning Battery Park and the surrounding environs into a lake, the city seized homes, rendered apartment renters homeless, and put the problem to the bulldozers. Oddly, some seized homes have been deemed ’safe’ and are currently being rehabbed and de-molded. It will be curious to see who gets to buy these homes and at what price….
Then, on what must have been a slow news day for out mayor, the Battery Park project was declared complete last December. Really? The pumps were still there. Sink holes in the tennis courts. Bulldozers and cranes were everywhere. Fences and no trespassing signs would lead one to believe the park not open. The floods, the clean-up crews in haz-mat suits… it all continued. Methink the mayor a bit hasty.
Spring arrived and the gashes in the ground were covered and they seemed to be moving on to cosmetics. The ground leveled, new playground equipment installed. Would we be able to use the park this summer? No. As far as I can tell we only get city work crews 2-4 days a month, and rarely two days in a row. At the rate they’re going I would expect the park to re-open about the time Finn finishes college.
So, that brings us to today. As Fay dumps much needed water onto our very brown lawns and for what may be the real first test of the city having spent millions to move water around the very critical 3-hole golf course. The shiny new grates near my house are working well and there is no standing water. Glad to know that bulldozing an apartment complex and displacing all those families had allowed the city to protect the sandtraps for the golf course. OK, I’ll admit, I don’t miss the apartments. They were a source of trouble but wouldn’t it have been easier to dig up a sand trap to rebuild the drains rather than raze a bunch of buildings with people living in them?
Moving over to the park proper, doesn’t look too bad. Six months ago the south side of the park would have been under anywhere from 6 to 30+ feet of water after more than 24 hours of rain. Today it looks a little soggy but not too bad. The brand new playground, however, looks like it is sitting in the middle of a lake. Hard to tell from a distance but at least 6 inches of standing water. The question is where did that water drain from? Is it just a puddle? Would you let your child play there? Will the men in the haz-mat suits return?
How did the city and our rock-star mayor do? I guess I would give them a ‘D+’.
Had they listened to the residents earlier about water back-ups they could have averted the whole problem by inspecting the storm drains around the park.
The houses were all built nearly 100 years ago and didn’t have problems until the city changed the topography of the area for the golf course. Yet, somehow, the city made it sound like we had all built in a flood zone and that we should feel grateful for the buy-outs.
Oddly, while Bush declined to name our area a federal disaster he named an area up in New York one. Same storm. Same number of people effected in roughly an area of equal size. Could it have happened to have been due to us having a Democrat as a Rep and them having a Republican in a tough re-election bid weeks before the 2006 election? Hmm….
Communication during the flooding basically sucked and the police were way too authoritative.
Months of detours really sucked and the city has yet to do anything about adding or upgrading access to the neighbourhood.
We got a really cool red back-pack from the Red Cross with emergency supplies if we are ever stranded in our home.
The plans for the park look to be very family friendly and are designed to reduce the drug activity.
The pace of the work make me fear it may not be done in my lifetime.
The new drainage looks to be working under it’s first heavy test.
The all-important golf course is open – without which the water would have just naturally drained into Shockoe Valley….
My dad and step-mom live out in Portland, OR, so their annual visits to see Finn are a bit of a big deal. We try to have one big dinner out for each visit and they have been pleased with the results each time. One year it was Can-Can, and except for a bit of a service flub, the dinner was great. Another year it was just across the street at Lamani**, the most amazing fish eatery in Richmond, it was a shame they were so short lived and their replacements, Durum and Wheezies, have really not lived up to the former glory (that’s just based on hearsay as we have been to neither the equally short-lived Durum or Wheezies Kitchen).
So, with the success of the earlier dinners in mind, I decided to go with a sure thing and go with the place that tops nearly every list as the place to take out of town guests – Edo’s Squid. I’m not sure why but for some reason I thought they only took reservations for larger parties – I was wrong. Might’ve been their connection to Mama ‘Zu that made me think that but they will take reservations for any size party, just call early as they do tend to fill up… Actually, it worked out well as we weren’t looking for a prime time reservation but rather an early one at 5:30. Another little bit of new info I learned is that they do continuous service from lunch through dinner. That’s a nice piece of info as I am often out and about in the middle of the afternoon and it is hard to find good (non-chain) places to grab a bite.
Seated at a nice corner table we looked over the menu and the specials board. A round of appetizers to share seemed in order. The first choice was obvious – Fried Squid. A plate heaped with pieces of golden brown, crispy squid parts. This was actually the first time we had the calamari there as they were out whenever we visit. Basically, it was perfect. Tender not rubbery, just enough breading and seasoning. Crispy and moist, not greasy. It didn’t come with any sauce (not sure if that was intentional or an oversight) but, frankly, it didn’t need any. Finn went to town on these, tentacles and all. Given his druthers he may eaten a whole plate of the little tasties.
To go with that we ordered a plate of the Conch Insalata. Not really sure what I was expecting but it was an interesting looking plate. Slices of conch marinated in oil, vinegar and garlic with capers and other little bits. The conch was tender and tasty, the oil and vinegar well balanced. Given my druthers I could have eaten a whole plate of that myself. It was perfect.
We ordered an array of items to share for dinner. A plate of Veal Marsala (textbook perfect), Penne w/Meat Sauce (excellent), Spaghetti w/White Clam as well as one special – Soft Shell Crabs.
The pasta with clams were excellent. Rich with flavour from the garlic and wine, added texture and taste from pine nuts. It restored my faith in white clam sauce. Of course, and this is not a fair comparison, the last time I had white clam sauce was at Joe’s Inn and it was a bit disappointing.
The crabs were a huge hit. Crustaceans, from clams to dungeness, are a big deal in Oregon but my parents had never had softshell crabs. When the plate came out the waitress apologized as they were a bit smaller than usual and offered to take a bit off the bill, we asked if we could have an extra (for a little more) and they happily complied. The fresh softshells were juicy and tasty. A real treat.
Finn had his first real restaurant accident part way through dinner. Sloshed about half his water into his lap. I got a bar towel from a waitress and cleaned the water under the table. Did give me a chance to observe how clean they keep the restaurant, even in the corners under the table. (I’m pretty sure the waitress was happy I cleaned it up rather than expecting her to crawl under the table to do it – does make me remember how many times I had customers expect me to clean up things like that and then leave lousy tips – bastards…) As clean as it was they do go on my list of bad bathrooms. I am not sure if a larger person would be able to turn around in the men’s room… Fan architecture at it’s best. No idea how they could’ve made it better though.
Dessert was Tiramisu. Really good and big enough to share.
Don’t expect fawning service here and didn’t get it. What we did get was all the basics and whatever was needed. Everything was done, water glasses filled, plates cleared. They handled the soft shell crab issue very well (we would never have known they were smaller and it was so nice they said something). People may mistake it for brusque, or even rude (like the mis-perception at Mama ‘Zu), but these people are very busy and are not slackers.
It’s obvious why this place is the topper for so many lists to take people visiting RVA. I know it’s at the top of ours.
**Notes on Lemani. It was a great place, just across the street from Can-Can. They served an array of fresh fish from all over the world – many of them served whole for 2. Nearly all the fish were prepared the same simple way – with olive oil, lemon, sea salt and a little pepper. Sides were huge and excellent. My understanding is they were a victim of rising air freight prices and couldn’t maintain the number of fish offerings without a catastrophic price increase. Very sad. We miss them.
Food trends come and go. Sometimes they start out great but get overdone – balsamic vinegar. Sometimes they are poorly thought out – nouvelle cuisine (think overpriced tapas). Sometimes they end up wiping out an entire species – Orange Roughy & Chilean Sea Bass. And sometimes they don’t make a lot of sense – crunchy beans. After reading that I was pretty convinced that it was just an error that either the waiter didn’t want to fix or was afraid the chef would yell at him. Or at least I did until Saturday…
We had started out the evening at a beer bash thrown by some friends featuring a number of home made beers. I’m actually not a big fan of beer but they had bottled a raspberry wheat beer that was really quite tasty. Since Finn was in tow we had arrived at the very beginning of the party and as it started to fill up we said our goodbye’s before it got too crazy. Feeling a bit peckish, and since it was close by, we made the quick hop over to Can-Can.
For quite some time we’ve been a fan of their scallop appetizer dishes. Almost always on their seasonally changing menu they change the dish often enough so we have yet to get tired of it. Their latest menu, however, was a bit different. Instead of being pan seared they were roasted. Hrmm. I find it relatively easy to pan sear something to the proper temp but I think I would find roasting a scallop without having it raw or a piece of rubber a bit of a challenge. Having faith in the chef there I ordered.
The scallop had been roasted ‘au poivre’, just enough pepper to add flavour and at the right grind so it wasn’t crunchy or just dust. They were cooked perfectly and the difference in flavour and texture was a nice change from the ubiquitous sear everyone else does. The bacon, potato, and corn broth were tasty until I bit down on the English Peas. Firm would be polite. I know, English Peas are supposed to be firmer than Sweet Peas but these took effort to bite down on and were dry inside. Ugh. Firm and crunchy veg are good, firm and crunchy beans and peas – not so much. I enjoyed the rest of the dish so I didn’t whine or even really ask and I would order it again. It did make me wonder if we were witnessing a trend starting it’s march through RVA. Not quite sure how I feel about it. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if it was a cooking aberration or if we’ll have crunchiness showing up all over town.
The rest of the meal was great. I really loved the roasted red snapper and the fact that they have carafes of good wine. With M in her present condition I don’t always want a full bottle to myself and a 1/2 carafe is perfect. The service was great.
The full moon on Saturday (or there abouts) helped make for good cat catching. Managed to catch four cats, actually four kittens – two sets of siblings. Unfortunately one of the kittens was too young to be fixed but at least he got a good check up. The score, if you keeping count…
5 female/5 males – Trapped Fixed and Released
1 kitten – Too Young – Medically Checked & Released
1 male – Not Healthy or Injured – Euthanized
1 female – Didn’t Learn Lesson & Trapped Again
1 female – Didn’t Survive Procedure
Next month will be round #6!
Back in the 90’s I used to go to Helen’s as often as I could. I was a huge fan of their rack of lamb and knew I could always have my foie gras cravings satisfied. As the restaurant scene in Richmond became more varied Helen’s started falling off my dance card. The last night we ate there was the night of my wife’s mother’s funeral just after Thanksgiving, 2001. We had a large group of us in their back room late on a cold and nasty night. The food and service was excellent. Right or wrong we didn’t go back. The dinner that night had became part of Susan’s death ritual and some wounds take time to heal.
Fast forward to August, 2008. RVA Foodie and I were trading emails about going out to our monthly brunch. Several names were thrown back and forth until he mentioned Helen’s. I wasn’t even aware they did brunch. Perhaps it was time to go back. So, Sunday morning we treked off to Helen’s (they do not do Saturday brunch).
With both Finn and Jasper in tow we decided to take the back room so we could relax in case Chef Andy was out and about. The back room is a nice place to have a private dinner with a group, dark and intimate. In the morning light the worn dark purple paint with gold trim seems a bit garish. The table cloths were quite possibly the ugliest thing I have ever seen. Red plastic adorned with fruit. The coverings were actually able to take my hangover up a notch or two…
The menu was pretty basic, I actually thought it a bit short until it was discovered that I had been given only half a menu. There was also some problems with ordering. When we were told items we ordered were not available the waitress mumbled something about some upcoming changes to the menu but wasn’t very clear about what was going to happen. Back in the day when restaurant menus had to be ordered from a professional printer one could understand things being still on the menu but no longer available. With todays menus being printed off a computer (or at Helen’s typed and photocopied) it’s hard to understand why things are not kept up to date.
Mrs RVA Foodie decided to start with the Soup Du Jour. Sweet Corn with Potato & Bacon. The bowl was huge. She said the soup was a bit sweet but she seemed to enjoy. Mr Foodie took a bite trying to avoid the bacon but it turned out the red bits were actually red potato and bacon was infused throughout. The comments on the soup, however, were positive and may have been the best dish of the meal.
Finn had the Blueberry Pancakes. He ate them.
Mrs Foodie had the Quiche Du Jour while Mr Foodie had the Veggie Omelette. The quiche got good feedback but there was some speculation that the crust may not have been made in-house. Mr Foodie ate the omelette but I think he found it a bit dull and would have liked it with some more interesting (read local or unusual) ingredients.
Both M and I had the Sausage Gravy & Biscuit. It was pretty disappointing. The gravy was tepid and very bland. The biscuit had the texture of having been refrigerated and then allowed to sit out on a counter (cold interior, tough slightly stale exterior). The dish comes with eggs. My two fried eggs were rubbery.
Plate presentation was non-existent throughout. No garnishes or real thought as to how the plate looked. The only plate that had any real garnish was the soup and that was a thoughtless clump in the center of thick cut green onions. While good plate presentation doesn’t ensure that a dish is good, poor presentation can be an indicator of a kitchen not making an effort.
Service was barely minimal. I expect dishes to ‘auctioned’ off at Denny’s but not Helen’s. A lot of it also had to do with us being in the back room. I think they kept forgetting we were there.
I’m curious to see what changes they have in store in and if it is a complete overhaul or just a rethinking of brunch. Since the brunch was so haphazard I’m not sure if I want to see what has become of their dinner service. Also, it is hard to not look at the dishes with a critical eye due to the multiple functionality of their sinks. Guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on their Facebook page and see what happens….
OK, I’ll admit it. As a customer I can be, at times, acerbic. I will not step meekly to the left and accept whatever is thrown at me. If I’m going to let you swipe my Amex card I have certain expectations and if they are not fulfilled… well…
Now, while my expectations are high, they are not unattainable. Just because you have tuna, salmon, and rice on the menu does not mean I can order a sushi plate. It’s OK to ask for something off the dinner menu at lunch but when they say ‘no’ accept it and move on. It’s not OK to claim a non-existent food allergy to coerce a chef to leave something off that you simply don’t like. I have an aversion to green peppers. If they are in there I can’t taste anything else. I’ve had chefs decline to change the dish for me, whether for the dishes integrity or because it has been prepped already doesn’t really matter, but they’ve then come up with an alternative for me. That’s taking care of your customers.
Integrity of the dish. Hmmm. Now that’s an interesting concept. A lot of chefs put a lot of thought and energy into creating a dish and some just don’t feel comfortable in sending it out altered as it is no longer their vision. You know what? That’s OK. As long as they are still able to give people with intense dislikes or food allergies alternatives, their vision is not compromised.
But how far its to far when trying to maintain this integrity?
I know some people take there coffee very seriously. The recent blow up heard up and down the Atlantic seaboard that started here shows the extremes some go to over their preferred cup of joe. Part of this could be the coffee houses creating a chef-like mystique around their baristas in lieu of better pay or benefits instead of what they really are: bartenders without the big tippers. Don’t get me wrong, their job is tough. I can, and have, bartended but I don’t think I could do the barista thing. Too many variables and I would end up over-caffeinating the nervous and fattening the dieters. But chefs they are not.
Many of the coffees served today have been adulterated to the point where to claim some sort of taste integrity is ludicrous. Can you still tell that it was made with hand picked African beans then brewed with triple filtered water at the perfect temperature after you have added a shot of over sugared syrup and topped it with whipped cream? Probably not.
So, as I started, I can be a bit acerbic when I can’t get what I want. My wife, however, isn’t. She is, however, pregnant. As a coffee lover this is a little rough on her. Even decaf has a bit of caffeine so she avoids it except for special treats. Like people with food allergies you would think Starbucks would try to accommodate their pregnant patrons by making a frappachino with a shot of decaf rather than regular… You would be wrong. But I should let my wife tell the story…. For that, go here.
It strikes me as bit odd that a company, once focused on world domination but now suffering from a contraction, would try to retain as many customers as possible. I guess, here, I am wrong.
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about best and worst lists with the arrival of the new Richmond Magazine’s Best & Worst list. Some people agreed with the winners while others groused about ballot stuffing by business owners looking for a free plug and an award to put up on the wall. Regardless of the why there are some perennial winners out there that must have been doing something right. According to La Siesta’s website they won the award for 10 years straight. Of course the website hasn’t been updated since 2003 and the information is hopelessly out of date on the menu, prices, and hours. But, still, they won for 10 years so they must be pretty good….
The outside must have once been quite grand for a Mexican restaurant. Patios with low walls, a rather large cactus garden, and Mexican themed statues all around. Now you can feel the decay as you walk towards the restaurant. Statues bleached and peeling paint with some leaning at precarious angles where the soil has eroded from underneath. Cigarette barrels with rotting wood. The cactus garden not tended possibly since they last updated the website.
I was a little surprised the lady at the desk greeted us without a trace of an accent and that a number of the waitresses were ‘gringos’. It reminded me a bit of Joy Garden, a once fine ethnic establishment that is now barely adequate and in desperate need of a thorough cleaning. An ethnic restaurant doesn’t have to have a staff of the same ethnicity nor does having one make them good or authentic but I can’t help but feel that there is sometimes a correlation.
We were immediately seated and I couldn’t help but notice the number of rooms not in use. Can’t recall ever having been to Casa Grande when it wasn’t moderately busy but, as it was a Wednesday, maybe it was just a slow night. To started I ordered a Marguerita Espesciale. It was your basic top shelf marguerita, not too bad. I opted for the regular size rather than the 46 ounce one as I wanted to be able to walk out under my own power…
Chips and salsa came out quickly. The chips were ok but a tad stale. The salsa was interesting. It had a deep, rich colour and a very earthy flavour. We speculated that it might have a bit of mole in it but weren’t sure. My taste buds are still a bit scrambled after the dental surgery last week and M’s pregnancy hormones are scrambling hers as well. It didn’t strike me as outstanding but I really liked it for being different than the usual fare at Casa or Mexico which are a bit cookie cutter. The food came moderately quick but not as fast as some Mexican places in town. We dug in.
Finn had the cheese quesadilla. It really wasn’t your normal quesadilla. It was more of a soft wrap taco as it hadn’t really been grilled. The dish also reflected the creeping American influence that could be found on several spots on the menu. It was served with fries.
M selected the Chicken Chimichanga. Visually it was a stand out, especially when compared to some of the other places in town. Too often Mexican food is slopped onto the plate without a whole lot of thought, not even to what is hot and what is cold. This was constructed with thought to colour and presentation. To top that off M really liked it.
I went out on a limb and had the Shrimp & Scallop Quesadilla. It wasn’t quite what I expected. Like Finn’s dish it hadn’t been grilled so it was more of a soft taco with grilled shrimp and bay scallops with sauteed onions (I had them leave off the peppers). There also wasn’t any cheese inside to hold the ingredients together (there was a couple puny shavings of Monteray Jack on top of the lettuce…) so it kind of fell apart on me. The seafood didn’t taste strong or fishy and whole dish wasn’t bad but I thought it could have been better. Casa Grande has a shrimp dish (I think a quesadilla) that will satisfy your shrimp craving for at least a week….
The highlight of the plate were the refried beans. They hadn’t been crushed to a paste and still had pieces resembling beans. The menu stated that they didn’t use lard or animal products in any of the veggie dishes (like the refried beans) so veg-heads won’t have their diets undermined. The lowlight was the rice. Frankly, had better at my elementary school cafeteria in Oregon (actually, since the cook was Mexican the rice we had there was pretty good…). My guess is the rice here was prepackaged.
As sometimes happens with restaurants as they age they seem to be getting a little lazy and are using prepackaged food rather than making it all in house. On M’s plate it was the tri-colour strips of fried tortilla while on mine it was the cream sauce for the seafood with unidentifiable herbs that had been fresh poured from a bottle. That and the ‘early bird’ specials are signs of a restaurant on the wane. I’ve worked at a couple of restaurants that were at this stage. The staff all talks about the glory days as you wait for the owners to give up.
This place also hit’s my growing bad bathroom list. This one smelled. Basically of old, stale urine. Not very appetizing.
Eating there you can see a few vestiges of what made this place worthy of the Best & Worst list. In a couple of ways I actually liked it because it wasn’t like all the other Mexican places in town that all taste strangely like the food came from the same kitchen. I probably wouldn’t drive all the way to Midlothian from where we live in the Northside to eat there but if I happened to be nearby I might stop in.
If I could only find a really good taco I would be happy. Los Baez in Salem, OR, made the best I ever had (although time and memory may have made it into something it is not). Their’s was made with shredded beef, not ground, fresh taco shell, just the right amount of ingredients so you didn’t spill pieces everywhere and the hot and cold remained hot and cold. Good stuff.
Have you ever bit into a really hot piece of pizza? You know, the kind of hot where the molten cheese cauterizes a part of your mouth leaving you with a painful hyper-sensitive spot for days to come. Well, I subjected myself to this fun little type of injury on purpose.
Twenty-five years of smoking (I quit 4 years ago), fast living, the 80’s, and basic rather than intensive dental care on my part had taken their toll. Constantly bleeding gums and loose teeth were the result and my personal phobia of people with bad teeth combined to freak me out. My dentist decided I needed a different level of dental care and sent me off to a specialist.
The specialist subjected me to a fun little procedure called ’scaling’. Basically an intense cleaning below the gum line. Not a whole lot of fun and, frankly, a bit messy. After several of these cleanings my new dentist informed me that he wanted to preform an additional procedure on me. His new plan was to cut off my gums (!), clean the roots of my teeth and then sew the gums back on. Pardon? The description of this procedure scared the shit out of me and then, to add insult, I was told that my first rate insurance wouldn’t cover it completely leaving me owing over $1500.
My dentist seemed a bit shocked when I said ‘no’ to his procedure and that I thought there had to be a better, less invasive, way. After a bit of waffling he admitted that there was another way but it would take a lot of work on my part. So, for the last 18 months I have had cleanings every 3 months and have overhauled my daily dental care regime. Flossing (everyday) followed by Listerine and then brushing. Yep, that’s the ‘hard work’ I had to do to avoid what I considered to be a really unpleasant procedure.
Earlier this year my dentist was almost ready to declare the infection below my gum line gone. Almost. The years of smoking had caused my gums to recede in places leaving one of my teeth in danger. He recommended a new procedure to help save the tooth (this time a procedure that my insurance would cover at 100%). His plan was to harvest some tissue from the roof of my mouth and graft the tissue onto the gum line of the endangered tooth. I steeled myself for what he described as ‘the world’s worst pizza burn’ and sat down yesterday in the chair for the work to be done.
Physically the grafting didn’t really hurt at all (unless you count being subjected to a radio station that insisted on playing too much Daughtry and Nickelback…) thanks to a lot of pain killing injections. Even those didn’t hurt thanks to a numbing swab done prior to the needles. Mentally the worst part was being aware of someone cutting a piece of you off. That took way too long although I’m sure it was done much quicker than I perceived it. An hour and a half later, slightly puffy and feeling abused, it was all over.
The rest of the day is a little fuzzy. The joys of Vicodin (ohh, look – tracers!) supplemented by massive amounts of Advil left me phasing in and out of awareness. Reading was out of the question but TV has been interesting as the shows have all blurred together (why were the Project Runway contestants cutting dogs hair?…). Having never taken Vicodin before I can understand it’s popularity. The dreaded ‘pizza burn’ has yet to materialize, not even a dull ache. Hopefully that will continue today as I wean myself off all the pharma.
The worst part? Other than being able to feel the stitches in my mouths is the food. Funny how much you crave bread or something crunchy when all you can have is soup, pudding, and mashed potato. Today I’m hoping to send M over to deLux or LuLu’s to get me a nice bowl of mac-n-cheese. I feel the need for something a bit more substantial.
Lessons for the day? I won’t preach about the dangers of smoking. I still miss it and probably wouldn’t have quit if Finn hadn’t some along. The receding gum thing caught me off guard. Hopefully that’s the my only take away from tobacco. Floss! Might’ve been able to avoid all this if I had. Question your doctor! I’m hesitant to say my dentist recommended the first procedure for monetary reasons. More than likely he was just looking for a quick fix thinking I wouldn’t be willing to make the effort. The sad part of that is the ‘quick fix’ is a big part of our culture here and I am not sure that is a good way to deal with our health issues.
Well, time for me to return to my fog and take another Vicodin… Pretty colours…
It’s been several months since the unnoticed dead body in the illegal rooming house across the street caused a bit of an uproar in our ‘hood. Sadly, there seems to be no interest in uncovering the events that lead to the death. At first I thought it might be due to his colour but I suspect it has more to do with his socio-economic status and involvement with drug dealers. Who cares about another dead junkie? Somewhat of a sad indictment on the police, the media, and us, the community, when we can judge some people to be of less value. His suspicious death will probably only be of value if someone higher up the ‘food chain’ of drug dealing can be connected. Otherwise it may very well languish and be forgotten.
The whole incident did get the house onto the city’s radar. A very determined housing inspector finally got access to go inside the house about a month ago. Sitting on my side porch enjoying a martini I was able to witness the slumlord being taken to task for multiple violations on the outside of the house with (I’m guessing – due to the nearly two hours they spent inside) an equal number of problems inside. I was a bit dismayed when I heard the owner tell the inspector ‘thanks for going easy on me’ which made me wonder what he might be getting away with.
The days passed. No work was done on the house. Drug dealers and ‘working ladies’ busy as ever. Looked like nothing was going to change. That is… until I noticed something strange one afternoon last week. A very determined looking lady (you know the type – bluetooth earpiece affixed to her head…) was crawling all over the property with a couple of men taking measurements…. Interesting.
Seems the city had denied their application to operate legally as a rooming house. They could operate as a rental property if they made some major renovations but now that the city has the owners on their watch list it they are inspecting all their other properties as well so it looks like they are opting to divest. May be a hard sale, unless they let it go for a song, as they’ve made to many half-assed repairs (many without permits or inspections) and not thought things out (like replacing the plaster with drywall but not bothering to upgrade the electrical while the walls were down). House flipping is still happening in our neighbourhood so we’re hoping somebody sees the value in a house with 6 fireplaces in an up and coming area.
The city is allowing people to live there in the meantime, under a few conditions. They have to reduce the number of people to five (we think there may have been as many as 10 people living there) and one room on each floor has to be opened and converted into a common area. They also have to keep the front door unlocked so if the police want to enter they can. A couple of the drug dealers, thinking this bad for business, have since moved out.
Now we’re waiting for the ‘For Sale’ sign to go up. Hopefully it won’t be on the market too long. I can handle construction traffic. It’s junkies to lazy to get out of their cars sitting in front honking their horns that get on my nerves.
Finally, under the heading of ‘be careful what you wish for’, there’s the feral felines. The cat colony has gotten as large as it has due to their feeding of the cats. I put out a little bit of food a couple of times a week (mainly for a couple of orphaned kittens living in our bushes) but am not sure if I want to put out food every day or for the whole population. There is almost always three or four cats on their front porch and I have never been able to trap any of those. I seem to just get the stragglers living on the edges of the colony. When the house sells or when the boarders are forced to leave the cat colony is going to be in for a bit of a shock. Hopefully, with all the cats I’ve had fixed, the population is sustainable. Just have to wait and see.
Oddly, we just had a knock on our door (M is at home today). A police officer and someone from the RRHA (Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority) asking if someone called the police… M said no and they went on to the next house. She had the impression they were checking out the interior of our house. Fishing trip for other rooming houses in our ‘hood? Perhaps, I just don’t know why someone from the RRHA would be with out on a random police call. Anyone else have a better idea?
Where to start…. Hmmm. How about with the chef’s words himself.
Dear Bookstore Piet person- Since when does a “wish list” become “intolerable behavior?” You sound a little defensive of your well behaved child…the one that took the liberty (with parents okay) of dancing in the isle of my restaurant one night (you’ve written about it…go ahead, take a stab). While it was a darling display for you, it’s not a ritual that we would allow adults to engage in, and as a frequent diner in the city, not something that I want to put up with when I’m paying for a meal. Time to get over your self-important blog and realize that not everyone enjoys your kid. There are plenty of places that cater to the needs of youngsters and there are plenty of places where people go to get away from youngsters…you really need to learn the difference.
Dear Bookstore Piet person- Since when does a “wish list” become “intolerable behavior?” You sound a little defensive of your well behaved child…the one that took the liberty (with parents okay) of dancing in the isle of my restaurant one night (you’ve written about it…go ahead, take a stab). While it was a darling display for you, it’s not a ritual that we would allow adults to engage in, and as a frequent diner in the city, not something that I want to put up with when I’m paying for a meal. Time to get over your self-important blog and realize that not everyone enjoys your kid. There are plenty of places that cater to the needs of youngsters and there are plenty of places where people go to get away from youngsters…you really need to learn the difference.–
Let’s start with professionalism. I’m also a small business owner and while I’ve been tempted to write about a few of my more ’special’ customers I would never do such a thing. Even if the person in question never read the item other potential customers might and make decisions based on my attitude towards my current clientele. From someone, like Chef Andy, who is in the business of hospitality it’s very telling.
Finn’s behavior… He sat through the entire dinner. He did not scream or make other noises. He did not throw food or other items. During dessert he started getting restless and stood at the end of the table. An older single gentleman eating at the bar started making funny faces for him so Finn did a little jig for him and we allowed it as it was at the gentleman’s request and there were no other tables close by. He took off and headed for the kitchen (where you laughed and offered to put him to work as I took him away) at which time I placed him in a seat at the bar while I closed the tab. Both incidents lasted, what, a minute or two before we stepped in? I’ve seen adults more disruptive and much louder after a couple of glasses of wine. We’re aware he is 3 and has an expiration. When he starts getting restless we take into account other diners and wrap things up. If you read my blog I am quick to throw Finn under the bus if he does misbehave.
Oh, and if he was so disruptive why would both your waitresses comment on how well behaved he was?
There’s also been a couple of interesting comments floating about out there. One by someone who claims to have been out twice and seen us. The person claims Finn was throwing things and carrying on and such. Had that happened I would have written about it as well as about me removing Finn from the restaurant. As it has never happened the person is trying to insert him/herself into the debate by being a bit ‘creative’…. Another claims I’ve let him sleep on the floor or wherever. For the record (and in the blog) he’s fallen asleep twice, in booths as toddlers are wont to do.
Self Important Bloggers vs Self Important Chefs – I write this blog for my friends and family. Sure I have a number of readers beyond that circle but am I trying to promote myself? No. My business? No (if I was I’m doing a really bad job of it as it is not mentioned very often except in very general terms). Do bloggers have any power? Not really but they do tend to be very chatty people and will share slights and insults. In a contracting economy and people being more careful about discretionary spending that may be enough to keep a few people away from your doors. I know we won’t be back.