Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Business

October 11, 2011

TIM PRESTON: Bowls of fire, burritos, steakhouse lunch and free candy

ASHLAND — Because I’m not one who always thinks things through, I volunteered to help judge chili and salsa as part of the Paramount Arts Center’s Great Bowls of Fire contest after missing a little work because of my temperamental belly last week. I’m happy to report I survived the judging, had a great time doing it and seem to be back to my usual overindulgent eating habits since.

It was a bit shocking for me to discover the ladies at the PAC have difficulty finding a full panel of judges for this event. Honestly, I know people who would gladly pay a few bucks just to be involved. I mean, the job description is basically to eat small amounts of chili and salsa, then rate and rank it based on established criteria. And, between tastings, judges are given free access to chili’s most-perfect liquid companion.

I’m telling you, it’s a sweet gig.

And, part of the fun this year was watching the other judges, including fellow Independent reporter Ken Hart, as they made their evaluations. This was a crowd that took their judging seriously. At times, you could have easily mistaken the event for a gold-medal wine contest. As a sanctioned chili contest that allowed winners to progress toward national-level competition, the local organizers were also impressive in their strict adherence to the rules.

I also got to spend a few minutes strolling around chatting with people during the Paramount’s Chilifest, and report everyone I talked to was having a great time, enjoying the work of the chili chefs and listening to good music. I do wish I’d had a camera to catch a great “warm and fuzzy” moment when a lady, who I suspect may have been a grandmother, fell into an animated sing-along to a baby in her care while Bronson Bush and crew got the crowd moving with the rock classic “Alright Now.”

Eat and repeat

Perhaps inspired by the good salsa from the weekend festival (and definitely motivated by a couple of outstanding coupons for free burritos), I enjoyed a couple of great lunches at Moe’s Southwest Grill, behind Texas Road House at 115 Sixth St. in Ashland last week.

I like the place. You walk in and they collectively shout a “Welcome to Moe’s!” greeting before the first person on the line begins custom-assembling your meal, which is prepared right in front of you and ready to go in a matter of seconds. And, near the end of the line, there is a cooler stocked with a nice selection of grown-up beverages, an option I’m yet to try since I’m always there during the middle of a work day.

Following the lead of the person ahead of me, I ordered the Joey Junior during my first visit last week, and again when I went back. Even for a guy who likes to eat too much, that

was a good portion for a working day’s lunch, considering they also give you a big pile of tortilla chips and as much salsa as you want. I’ve been experimenting with combinations of the different ingredients the friendly staff has available, confirming my appreciation of both jalapeno peppers, black beans and pulled pork among other ingredients. While I haven’t yet found the makings for my personal “ultimate” burrito, I certainly plan to continue my research.

For more information about Moe’s Southwest Grill in Ashland, call (606) 329-0833.

Nice price

There’s no question the Ashland location of Texas Roadhouse brings a lot of people into the city, and I also had a chance to eat lunch there last week as part of my seemingly nonstop local restaurant tour.

I’m notorious for running up a big bill anytime I get to eat at Texas Roadhouse, because it is usually a celebration of some sort and I enjoy their steaks. At the suggestion of a veteran server who has been working there since the place opened, however, we tried a couple of selections from the restaurant’s recently added lunch menu, which gave a lot of options for about the same amount you could realistically expect to spend for a paper bag of burgers and fries.

 I tested their country-style fried chicken and my lunch buddy tested the pulled pork sandwich. Both came with two side dishes and we agreed our affordable meals passed with flying colors.

For more information about Texas Roadhouse in Ashland, call (606) 325-5188.

Free candy

I was giving Kyova Mall general manager a tough time about their food court situation last week, and unless I misunderstood her subtle “I-can’t-really-talk-about-it” responses, we may soon see some new life at the shopping center along U.S. 60 in Cannonsburg.

Dillow asked if I could help spread the word about the upcoming Kyova Mall Safe Trick or Treat from noon to 5 p.m., Oct. 29, which invites outside businesses to participate in the annual event, potentially reaching hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers or clients as waves and waves of costumed kids and their adult companions visit the mall to fill their goody bags with free candy in a safe, well-lit environment.

Participants are also advised to stop by the mall’s own booth to pick up a treat-or-treat bag, which will be prefilled with prizes, including one with $500 cash inside.

To get your business or organization in on the action, call (606) 928-3835, ext. 202.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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