Food, Nature, Travel

This Is Key Largo

My expectations were high.  I’d mentioned in an earlier post how the Beach Boys may have oversold the desirability of Key Largo some, and the downward spiral of realization the further into the island we drove was a relatively fast descent.  Initial impressions were good: color and people and shops and food and signs promoting what you’d expect to see promoted.  About a minute after this small patch things went further south, however, both literally and figuratively.  There was the Bird Sanctuary I also mentioned earlier featuring Leopold and Ruby who became vacation favorites.  Beyond that?  Little.  Buildings became run down things.  Lawns the same.  I won’t say the comparison is a fair one, but I was reminded of those towns that spring up around some natural resource only to see the stuff run dry and the town forced into decline shortly thereafter.  Signs of life exist, though it’s the type of existence you’re likely to think of when you read McCarthy’s The Road.

Anyhow, we stayed the night in Key Largo Kampground and Marina.  The place itself was fine and fairly close to the town proper.  Our only negative was the lady in charge of check in.  She as a person was incredibly kind but invasively so, helpful to the point of me having to get out of the car to go see if my wife had managed to get herself kidnapped by a crazed local or two.  Turns out she had, in a way, so engulfed was she in a conversation I can’t even remember.  Like white noise.  There was a fair amount of wrangling to get us to stay an extra night along with a fair amount of fear mongering over the nefarious intentions of “those other campgrounds.”

We had diner at The Fish House Restaurant and Sea Food Market.  The food was as you’d expect it to be, especially when it’s attached to an actual market.  My Mahi Mahi was awesome.  My wife got the Conch basket which was also good, though not equal.  Pie was had at Hobo’s Restaurant.  The pie was fine.  It was pie.  Hobo’s wasn’t really Hoboy (Hoboie?), which was a little disappointing, more a sports bar where we arrived on Mexican night.  Dunno.

Go see the Bird Sanctuary.  Eat at the Fish Market.  Then: drive.  Key Largo is a sad blip on the journey to better beaches, better sights.


Books, Food, Travel

This Is Asheville, NC

Whenever my wife and I road trip, we always try and swing by Asheville.  Even if it’s a little out of the way.  Well, even if it’s more than a little out of the way.  I can’t remember the first time we visited so ingrained is the place in my memory and routine, but Asheville has become a second home to me in a peculiar way.  We never visit long – maybe a day, maybe two – before setting off again for unseen places, though the taste is enough to make me question again why I’m in Ohio and not there.  I can’t even place what it is about Asheville that strikes me so.  It’s not the most remarkable of places.  The surrounding landscape is beautiful, of course, though the layout of the city is confusing for the most familiar of travelers.  Folks seem kind, those I interact with anyhow.  There’s a place in Columbus where my wife and I currently live known as the Short North which is the arts area of town with food, galleries (though less of these as of late), more food, shopping you’d expect to find in such a place, etc. etc.  Asheville has been referred by us a handful of times as a less dirty version of the Short North which feels largely appropriate.  Anyone unfamiliar with either won’t get the comparison so maybe it’s not a helpful one, but perhaps it might inspire you to visit both and put together the contrast.

One reason for our continuous return which does spring to mind is the food.  My favorite restaurant is a place there called Tupelo Honey Café.  They make a sweet potato pancake with pecans and maple honey butter which is just ridiculous.  Ridiculous.  I try and branch out as best I can when going to eateries I’ve been to before, but Tupelo works against me in this way; pancakes are my favorite food, and their sweet potato pancake (which is the size of a charger) is the best pancake I’ve ever had, which ties my hands in an insurmountable way.  And they give you these biscuits, fluffy on the inside with just enough crispness on the out that are unreal.  The jam – I can’t remember what type – is equally unreal.

The Green Sage is a coffee shop we also tend to visit, though the past few experiences food-wise have been just okay.  Their coffee is still great (which I guess is the entire point of a coffee shop) meaning I won’t not return, but we may stagger times between from now on.

Mela is an Indian Restaurant we tried for the first time on our last stop.  I think it was the last time.  Maybe the time before.  Trips are blurring.  Mela is spectacular, that’s all you need to know.  I ordered the coconut something-or-other, and it was delicious.  Rarely do I get food envy, but whatever my wife got was better than my delicious coconut something-or-other.  Seriously, if you like Indian food, go there.  Even if you don’t like Indian food, Mela might convert you.

Sunny Point Café is a fantastic breakfast spot.  I’m becoming thematic.  If humanly possible, I’d eat breakfast for every meal.  I had some type of egg sandwich concoction, and that turned out to be the correct choice.

This particular trip was done both coming and going.  We didn’t get in until sometime around midnight on our way toward the Keys, and my wife and I decided to sleep along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  By the time we got settled into the back of our car, it was about 12:30, 12:45, and we were awoken about quarter after 3 by some flashing blue and red lights behind us.  Apparently Asheville suffers from people who like to drive along the parkway at night shooting at cars pulled over on the small parking spots (a claim we saw none of when looking on the Google, though who knows), so while it was fine for us to be where we were, the officer suggested we head down to Walmart and sleep there.  We did.  I apparently parked in the wrong spot because somewhere around 7ish a good number of other cars had surrounded us, and that makes for some awkward pant changing situations.

On the way home we made a little better use of our time, stopping in only for half a day, getting a chance to eat pancakes, swing by Malaprop’s which is an awesome local bookstore, and stop into The Battery Park Book Exchange which is a cool little used book store where they serve coffee, wine, cheese, all that good stuff.  I’ve only experienced their cheese once and it was forgettable.  Books were good though.

Some people move to Florida for retirement.  If I make a obscene amount of money, which I don’t really foresee given my skillset, I’d choose San Francisco, because it’s awesome.  Given how life will likely play out, perhaps Asheville will be the place.  Though, as I think on it, Asheville may be the visiting sort and not the living sort.  Not sure.  I don’t know if I have a vibe of permanence there.

Anyhow: everyone should give it a whirl.  Great place to eat and walk around.


This Is A Vacation

Which explains my absence.  I’d considered updating from the road with brief tales of some experiences, but in the end I took the partially selfish way out allowing for a lengthy stretch of nothing.  And road.

My wife and I drove from Ohio down to Key West never having been before.  We’d gone on a similar road trip a little over a year back to visit some friends of ours in Florida and go to Harry Potter World (mini review: it’s awesome), and during that time found our way to a beach or two.  I’d never considered myself much of a beach person and I don’t think my wife considered herself one either, but those few short outings proved both of us wrong.  I called her a Water Baby on this trip as she could practically live in the ocean snorkeling for hours only coming ashore for the occasional bite of food.  I too had a great time exploring the relatively safe portions of the underwater world, though I had equal fun just hanging out on the beach itself.  The sun remains an enemy of mine, but the sound of waves and gulls I doubt is something I’d ever tire of.

So we decided on Key West, wanting a beach trip.  I won’t go too far into things in this post since I plan on covering our activities in detail over the next week or two (or three), but a brief overview would read along the lines of “The Beach Boys may have oversold some things”.  Now, I don’t mean to suggest I didn’t have a good time – had a blast – but having designated Kokomo as the theme of our adventure, and having heard it a number of times on any given day while on said adventure, my vision of that particular portion of our great country was a little… colored.  With the exception of Key West itself, the actual Keys themselves are a bit gross. Disappointing.  Dirty.  And in desperate need of a face lift.  Again: the times were largely fantastic with us sleeping in our car in a Walmart parking lot, eating some ridiculously amazing food, getting chased by a Barracuda (my wife, not me as I was totally safe on shore), meeting the Florida Keys Astronomy Club, meeting also Leopold, an owl at a bird rehabilitation sanctuary – though my wife was partial to Ruby, a screech owl – along with a number of other oddities.  It’s just the look of the place I found so confusing.  Maybe everyone’s too busy fishing and getting skin cancer to slap on a coat of paint anywhere.

I’ll explain in a later post – I guess this is what people call building anticipation – but for anyone planning a trip that way in the near future, avoid the Cracked Conch Cafe at all costs.  While going there will inevitably provide you with a story for future use you convince yourself you’ll look back and laugh at later, your experience in the present will be a thing of horror.

Movies, Uncategorized

This Is Avengers: Age of Ultron

I doubt my impressions are going to come as a shock or a revelation.  Rather than just saying “Yes” over and over again, a few things I disliked:

1. There is so much action,  most character development (or progression) goes out the window.  The exception to this is Hawkeye.

2.  The story is a little far-reaching with so many moving parts, there is little time to give decent focus to all those pieces making things feel either unfinished or unexplained.

I think that’s it.

It was beautiful, insane, way over the top, and gave me exactly what I signed up for.


This Is Radish Bread

I don’t have a picture of radish bread, so I’ve provided a picture of a radish.  I’m also not looking up radish bread to see if it’s an actual thing so I can believe my wife made it up in her genius.

Take a French loaf or baguette.  Cut it in half.  Apply liberal amounts of butter on each side.  Chives.  Radishes.  Pepper.  I might be missing something.  Eat.

Describing food is not my best skillset as I tend to block the experience into easily accessible groupings such as “Wow” or “Yeah” or “I’m not finishing this”.  Radish bread falls somewhere just shy of “Wow” into a possible “Great” or “Mmmmm”.  It’s easy.  Simple.  A good marriage of cream and snap, sharp and spicy.  And though I would hesitate to label anything slathered in butter “light”, the amount of intake isn’t large enough to make one feel bogged down enough to constitute a relaxed lunch.


Movies, Uncategorized

This Is Noah

I’m indifferent to Darren Aronofsky as a director.  Maybe indifferent is the wrong word, but he doesn’t light me on fire in any way.  I enjoyed Black Swan.  Thought The Fountain was okay.  Requiem for a Dream is one of those movies I thought was fantastic, but I have no intention of ever watching again unless I desperately need to feel better about myself.  Noah seemed like one of those movies that might be interesting, but not movie theater interesting, and in the end left me feeling flood water tepid.

For a subject matter with the potential to be – and I hesitate to use the word – epic, Noah is surprisingly flat and without character.  Most of the film is plodding and on-rails, moving from one point to the next with minimal flair never much rising above its lumbering narrative.  There are moments of interest when the film skews more towards the fantastic, these Aronofsky handling with his typical artistic flare, which lent Noah some much needed excitement.  I suspect most everyone who wanted to see the film are familiar enough with the story of the ark without needing too much history (much in the same way I tire of origin after origin story for every superhero reboot), and the pieces which may be unknown to some are not compelling enough to win wavering attentions.  There is a sub-plot pitting the Men of Cain (bad guys) again the Men of Seth (Noah, “good guys”) explained through some spliced cuts and quick story moments, though the conflict is largely bland black-and-white.  I suppose when the source material is largely black-and-white there is some excuse, though that feels flimsy instead of doing some work and making the motivation of Cain’s people less Bond villain blatant.

Time is an issue with Noah.  There is an obvious moment when a jump occurs as the children become adults and near-adults, but beyond that break the rest is ambiguous.  They’re working on the ark.  Animals start coming.  They keep working on the ark.  But then it starts raining, so I guess they’re done with the ark but there’s still scaffolding.  Then Hermione gets pregnant and the next scene she’s having babies.  A stowaway on the ark comes aboard secretly (kinda) right when the flood hits, and there’s a bit of a Hollywood fight scene between Noah and Bad Guy as Hermione is having the kids, meaning Bad Guy was on the ship for at least nine months without anyone noticing.  In a movie with angel rock giants, talking snakes, nine-hundred plus year old men, and all those animals, it may be strange that’s my moment of disbelief, but there we are.  It’s indicative of the film as a whole: somehow rushed and somehow plodding.

Everyone in the film was fine.  Seemed like they had all the time in the world and were mostly unexcited about anything.  But fine.

I’m trying to think of more to say about Noah, and I honestly can’t be bothered.  I mean, it’s not bad, there’s just no reason to care about it.  That last sentence should be the review.



This Is Newman’s Own Southwest Dressing

Sorry for the lack of posting on Friday.  I genuinely forgot what day we were on and it wasn’t until I was halfway through Friday I realized I hadn’t written anything and, rather than then posting on Saturday and risking further mix up, I skipped.

So salad dressing.  I haven’t actually had the store bought version of this stuff.  Haven’t had the McDonald’s salad it’s supposedly attached to either, but I have a feeling the gist is easy to grasp.  What I have had is the Newman’s Own Southwest dressing which comes in those little pouches from McDonald’s in spite of not eating one of their salads.  My wife was making a salad for a party and forgot to buy dressing, so she went through the drive through (thru?) and they just gave her some packets.

It’s okay.  Kinda creamy like a Ranch but not as spicy.  Well, spicy but in a hot way not a peppery way.  And not really even a great spicy.  Just hot in the mouth.  Like those old Warhead candies hot.  Maybe.  It’s been a while.  The dressing gets the job done just fine, and in a salad with corn and tortilla slivers and other “southwest” things, it’s not a bad substitute.  However, in the way I don’t feel remotely healthy when I order a taco salad, say, I felt I could have eaten a burger and saved myself some calories.