Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 16, 2013

Tim Preston: Strangely familiar flavors; bacon on a footlong; and fast photos: 6/16/13

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — I recently mentioned that Maria Lemaster from Maria’s Manila Asian Market was planning to bring a sample of some of the foods she grew up with, and sells at her store, into the newsroom.

While I expected her to bring a few of those delicious Goldilocks cakes and maybe a bag of cracker nuts, Maria instead showed up at the office with friends and family packing huge trays of freshly prepared foods and served up a lunch that had everyone in the office smiling and talking about for days to come.

I took advantage of the opportunity to interview Maria, as well as my old buddy Chuck Robertson, about foods and traditions in the Philippines and they told a fascinating story  I’m saving for use in an upcoming special edition. I will, however, share a little bit about some of the foods they treated us to on that recent Friday.

Instead of serving up some of the more unusual items they stock at the store, Maria and crew brought things similar to dishes we share in common. For example, there was a steaming container of adobo, which is basically a roast pork dish, and another called afritada, which is essentially a beef stew. The meal also included two types of eggrolls, along with plain and fried rice, and a couple of sauces that practically defy description.

We talked a lot about our favorite traditional foods, and without robbing my notes too heavily, I learned Philippine-style cooking is a blend of things reflecting the history and overlapping cultures of the island nation — particularly Hispanic and Polynesian flavors. Robertson, who prepared the most-excellent fried rice as well as the adobo and a special adobo sauce, also seemed to take a lot of pride in his efforts to modernize his mom’s traditional recipes.

Considering the success of Maria’s market, Robertson said he is considering opening a Philippine-style restaurant in the area. While we may not be familiar with the names of the dishes, everyone who shared the meal that day agreed it was outstanding food and we want more.

We also had a few laughs talking about things like silver fish (which are unwanted pests here, but are tiny, anchovy-like fish to the rest of the world), and a delicacy called balut (look that one up on your own as I fear you won’t believe me if I describe it). Maria said she was surprised to have many of her American customers who’ve spent time abroad ask for balut as the No. 1 item on their wish list.

Maria’s Manila Asian Market is at 1564 Diederich Blvd. in Russell. For more information, call (606) 388-4088.

Rock N Robins

I was in Russell for the opening of the new senior center and the start of Railroad Days, where I met a friend who offered to buy lunch from the nearby Rock N Robins restaurant while we discussed our schemes for an upcoming documentary/memorial project about Mike Murphy.

I walked in with a clear choice on my mind, since I’ve been hearing great things about the restaurant’s remake of the Flying Saucer burger. My buddy ordered a footlong hot dog, however, and that firm decision went right out the window when I realized I could get one of those babies “with everything” plus the ultimate topping — bacon. I ordered a side of onion rings and my pal said we could split an order of cheesecake bites for dessert. I didn’t see any tables inside or out, which was fine as we adjourned to a nearby patio to enjoy our lunches.

My long dog was excellent, and just a little on the messy side, with just enough bacon on there to add flavor. The onion rings were hot and crispy, and the meal was generous enough I barely had any room remaining for the cheesecake bites, which were just as good as my friend had promised. My beverage of the day was also served over my favorite kind of restaurant ice — the kind that looks like it was frozen in a straw.

I was back in Russell the following day and planned to go back for a Flying Saucer-style burger, and was disheartened to discover the little restaurant was closed on Saturday. Several people have also mentioned the place has an outstanding “hot bar” with different daily selections, as well as two-dozen flavors of high-quality ice cream.

The restaurant is at 501 Bellefonte St., and is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Winery dinner

I learned a new word last week while researching an unfamiliar dessert dish included on the menu for Friday’s dinner and wine tasting at Rock Springs Winery and Vineyard in Carter County. The word was “banoffee,” which I discovered is a compilation of banana and toffee.

The dinner, which gets under way at 6:30 p.m. with a wine tasting and vineyard tour, features an appetizer of olive bruschetta salad with raspberry vinegarette, followed by an entree of Tuscan pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes and vegetable medley, and topped off with banoffee pie. Dinner is served with a glass of wine or soda, or you can have a beer for a few dollars more.

Reservations are accepted through the day before the event. For more information or to make a reservation, call (606) 923-9085.

Short, sweet shoots

Local photographer Rachael Layne (whose name rarely gets spelled correctly) sent a note advising she is offering a service many might appreciate.

“I am going to be doing short, but sweet, 30-minute photo shoots,” she said, explaining she will meet subjects at Ashland’s Central Park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. the first Saturday of each month.

Text or call (606) 615-2835, email RL.Fierce.Fotography@gmail.com or FB message facebook.com/FierceFotography. Or one can stop by Studio 139 in the Pendleton Art Center for a walk-in appointment, then meet her at the park after the shoot is set up.

Layne also invites people to visit her at the Pendleton on First Fridays. The studio is headquarters for her photo company as well as Dragon’s Layers, “which is all of my handmade jewelry and items.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at (606) 326-2651.