Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 24, 2013

TIM PRESTON: Dumpling talk, barbershop talk and ghosts in downtown Ashland

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — I’ve heard so much discussion about “good” chicken and dumplins that I must confess I’m ready to abandon the classic country dish in favor of a few plates of barbecue or bacon.

Sharing the talk, it seems there are some people who like to put things like peas and even carrots into their C&D — an alien thought as far as I’m concerned. The basic debate on this one, however, always comes back to the preference between “drop dumplings” (the big fluffy type) or “rolled out and cut” dumplings which are sometimes called “slickers” or “slicky dumplins.” I also heard from an old buddy who spends his days “elbow deep” in the dish on a daily basis working for Cracker Barrel restaurants, where the dish is the most in demand on the menu, and I asked him to share the secret of their formula.

“Made from scratch and  roll ‘em thin to win,” was the only advice he could share.

Speaking for myself, I’ve concluded I am my granny Hester’s echo and am yet to find anyone’s chicken and dumplins which had anywhere near enough black pepper cooked in.

And, I’m officially cutting myself off on the chicken and dumplins before I get so burned out on the dish that I’ll never eat it again.

Need a late cut?

For a guy with a ponytail I spent a crazy amount of time in a barbershop last week catching up with my buddy Melvin Ward, one of the few people I’ve been able to follow professionally since his graduation from barber college.

Ward, who many may remember from his days at the nearby Chester’s Barber Shop, has been working his own place, Melvin’s Barber Shop, on 15th Street in downtown Ashland for more than a year now. Ashland resident Dave Kazee was in the chair when I arrived and we spent a few minutes shooting the breeze while Ward tended to the fine details. One thing I really liked about hanging out at the barbershop was the view out the window, which included downtown developer Paul Castle as he propped a winter jacket over one of the double-head parking meters along the street and proceeded to spray it down with a waterproofing product. The whole

thing resulted in a great conversation about everything from where parking meters do, and do not, serve an actual purpose in the downtown district, to the poor dietary habits of those of us who have switched from eating healthy to gaining weight while buying foods we can actually afford.

“I say leave the parking meters in, but we need enforcement. People want that first spot by the door,” Ward said, countering my personal anti-meter mentality.

Back to the reason for my visit. Ward explained many of his clients have told him they wanted to come by for a cut, but ran too late after work or had to attend a child’s ball game, so he has decided to alter the hours at his one-man shop. Melvin’s Barber Shop will now be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

You can call Ward at (740) 646-2270 if you want to make sure he has a chair open, but I say just go on down and have a seat. A good wait and some manly conversation just might be half the fun of the visit.

Ghosts in Ashland?

Back to the barbershop for just a second, I did trot outside with a camera to catch Paul Castle in action on that coat and he told me about an unusual something on the calendar.

It seems Castle and a few new friends have teamed up for a “haunted” tour of several buildings in downtown Ashland with a history of paranormal activity. They’ve teamed up with Jim Powers, a man ranked among the city’s most respected historians, to provide the background of each structure and I may try to tag along for a story if the timing works out.  

Their mid-December trip is already too full, Castle said, although anyone interested in participating in another is encouraged to get in touch with him. Proceeds from a second haunted tour will go to a local paranormal research group to help purchase new ghost-hunting equipment, he said. To learn more, call Castle at (606) 326-1844 (you may have to leave a name and number).

‘Holiday homemade goodness’

Celebrating their one-year anniversary in business, the staff at Lamp Post Cafe (the former Katie’s Corner), at 15th and Greenup, are inviting everyone who attends Tuesday evening’s annual Winter Wonderland of Lights Christmas Parade to drop by their patio (weather permitting) for a free cup of hot apple cider, cocoa or coffee and a choice of homemade cookies.

I asked what type of cookies they’ll be baking and the guy in charge got all flustered because he hadn’t yet planned beyond their hand-crafted chocolate chip treats.

“Whatever it is will be holiday homemade goodness,” was his eventual answer. I liked that.

If the weather is bad, which is often the case during the city’s best parade, just walk in and enjoy your hot beverage and holiday, homemade goodness. And, the relatively new restaurant in downtown Ashland has been included in the latest edition of the Zagat Survey guide — not bad for a first-year venture. For more information, call (606)  325-5283.

Electric wallet?

 The folks at the Verizon Wireless store at 416 River Hill Dr. in Ashland invited me to drop by last week to check out their latest thing — the Isis Mobile Wallet.

“It is just a faster, safer way to make purchases,” explained store manager Darrel Kuhn as he noted 200,000 businesses are already on board and prepared to take payments through a customer’s portable phone device (the title “cell phone” seems a bit dated at this point), including Coca-Cola vending machines and McDonald’s drive through lanes.

The application is a reflection of the changing times, Kuhn added, saying “You probably always have your cell phone on you even if you forget your wallet.”

When I asked about security, he explained the system essentially works like either a pre-paid debit card or linked to a credit card, even allowing the user to collect “reward” points. And, he pointed out nearly each of us have already become familiar with the “pay pass” logo/icon which has been in place for quite some time.

The Isis Mobile Wallet now works with 14 different Droid style phones, and the number of retail outlets accepting the payment method is expected to mushroom in the days ahead. If you’d like to know more, drop by the Verizon Wireless store and you’ll likely earn a few extras with a $10 promotion through American Express and another $10 incentive from the communications company itself. For more information, call (606) 329-1022.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.

com or (606) 326-2651.