Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

February 14, 2013

Tim Preston: A saffron adventure, men's suits and hairstyles for all: 2/17/13

ASHLAND — I’m not sure what I did to earn the invitation, although I certainly appreciated the opportunity to indulge in a rare taste of something “exotic” by my diet standards last week during a meal at Ashland’s Chimney Corner Café.

The story began when world-traveler Bill Secrest of Greenup County managed to purchase a quantity of Persian (translation Iran) saffron, which just happens to be the most expensive spice on the face of the planet. Secrest wanted to trade some of his supply for a chef-prepared meal featuring the rare spice, and asked a few of us along to enjoy it with him. Secrest and Chef Paul Runnels struck a deal for the saffron and our little group made a date for an early dinner last week.

My only previous experience with saffron was in the form of aromatic yellow rice, although I was aware of the costs associated with the coveted flower-based spice, which sells for $900 to $1,500 a pound depending on market and origin (the best stuff comes from India and Iran). The stuff is so costly because it is made from parts of a type of crocus, and must be hand harvested one tiny bit at a time. The spice is prized for what is essentially a bitter taste as well as the most-often-described as “hay like” aroma it imparts (although plant scientists and culinary types alike will point out saffron actually contains more than 150 distinct aromatic components), and the yellow color it imparts.

We did not know what our meal would be, although everyone seemed pleased with the chef’s selection of paella, which is a rice-based dish with chicken, scallops and shrimp. After becoming the first to clean his plate, Mark Maynard couldn’t say enough about how much he enjoyed the dish, which he noted was an entree he would never have ordered on his own. While Maynard was practically wiping down his plate, John Cannon quickly became a member of the clean-plate club and was also all smiles as he smacked his lips at the end. In fact, when the meal was finished everyone at the table was in agreement we had shared an outstanding dinner, which I later learned was actually prepared by Caitlin Hart, who did a great job balancing her ingredients with the X-factor saffron.

The Chimney Corner staff helped us finish the meal by brewing a fresh batch of tea using dried hibiscus flowers Secrest had also imported and shared. I’m not even a tea drinker, but that concoction was nothing short of a true pleasure.

There was a somewhat comedic moment as we were wrapping up and Secrest was kind enough to share a sample of saffron (and some hibiscus flowers) with everyone at the table. As he measured out the dry, organic materials and placed each into individual sandwich baggies for distribution, I happened to notice a wide-eyed look on the face of a young lady at a nearby table.

It took me a second to figure it out, but the humor became apparent when John Cannon opened his bag and sniffed the contents. I’m not sure anyone else even realized why I was laughing, but I couldn’t help imagining any of the editors present explaining the situation to a suspicious police officer.

Going formal?

Where there was once punk-rock attire, downtown Ashland now has a new business offering the finest in men’s formal wear.

Don Rucker, longtime manager of Don’s Men’s and Formal Wear, and wife Linda are now serving the area’s needs at 240 16th St. with Donnie’s Formal Wear.

“We have available in tuxedo rentals and sales,” Mrs. Rucker reported, noting there are options, including luxury, premiere, classic, essential, along with a full line of Island, Western and Quinceanera.

“We have several tuxedo companies. We also rent several different types of suits, and also can order men's designer suits for purchase. Plus, we have a full line of tuxedo accessories that can be ordered for purchase. We plan to extend our stock after this prom and wedding season. We also have boys’ tuxedo and suit packages. Group rates are available.”

Mr. Rucker, a Fleming County native who grew up in Ashland, is a graduate of Ashland Holy Family School. His wife grew up here and graduated from Paul G. Blazer High and Ashland Community College. Before going to work at the men’s shop, Rucker also spent more than 20 years as a sales manager for Betsy Ross and Flowers bakeries. The couple have been married for 35 years and have a son, Matt, and a daughter-in-law, Jenny, who plan to be active at the new shop, as well as two grandchildren.

The Ruckers welcome everyone to join them for coffee and doughnuts during a grand opening at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (606) 420-4104.

Finding Fantastic Sam’s

The staff at Ashland’s Fantastic Sam’s are trying to let everyone know they have moved into a new salon space on Sixth Street, near Moe’s Southwest Grill and Penn Station East Coast Subs.

Manager Carolyn VanHoose, who recently returned to Ashland from Florida, said customers will be greeted and cared for by assistant managers Laura-Ashley Suttles and Tammy Miller, along with stylists Robyn Rice, Amber Grooms, Sue Roseberry and Alex Walker.

The salon is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (606) 324-8080.

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

The story began when world-traveler Bill Secrest of Greenup County managed to purchase a quantity of Persian (translation Iran) saffron, which just happens to be the most expensive spice on the face of the planet. Secrest wanted to trade some of his supply for a chef-prepared meal featuring the rare spice, and asked a few of us along to enjoy it with him. Secrest and Chef Paul Runnels struck a deal for the saffron and our little group made a date for an early dinner last week.

My only previous experience with saffron was in the form of aromatic yellow rice, although I was aware of the costs associated with the coveted flower-based spice, which sells for $900 to $1,500 a pound depending on market and origin (the best stuff comes from India and Iran). The stuff is so costly because it is made from parts of a type of crocus, and must be hand harvested one tiny bit at a time. The spice is prized for what is essentially a bitter taste as well as the most-often-described as “hay like” aroma it imparts (although plant scientists and culinary types alike will point out saffron actually contains more than 150 distinct aromatic components), and the yellow color it imparts.

We did not know what our meal would be, although everyone seemed pleased with the chef’s selection of paella, which is a rice-based dish with chicken, scallops and shrimp. After becoming the first to clean his plate, Mark Maynard couldn’t say enough about how much he enjoyed the dish, which he noted was an entree he would never have ordered on his own. While Maynard was practically wiping down his plate, John Cannon quickly became a member of the clean-plate club and was also all smiles as he smacked his lips at the end. In fact, when the meal was finished everyone at the table was in agreement we had shared an outstanding dinner, which I later learned was actually prepared by Caitlin Hart, who did a great job balancing her ingredients with the X-factor saffron.

The Chimney Corner staff helped us finish the meal by brewing a fresh batch of tea using dried hibiscus flowers Secrest had also imported and shared. I’m not even a tea drinker, but that concoction was nothing short of a true pleasure.

There was a somewhat comedic moment as we were wrapping up and Secrest was kind enough to share a sample of saffron (and some hibiscus flowers) with everyone at the table. As he measured out the dry, organic materials and placed each into individual sandwich baggies for distribution, I happened to notice a wide-eyed look on the face of a young lady at a nearby table.

It took me a second to figure it out, but the humor became apparent when John Cannon opened his bag and sniffed the contents. I’m not sure anyone else even realized why I was laughing, but I couldn’t help imagining any of the editors present explaining the situation to a suspicious police officer.

Going formal?

Where there was once punk-rock attire, downtown Ashland now has a new business offering the finest in men’s formal wear.

Don Rucker, longtime manager of Don’s Men’s and Formal Wear, and wife Linda are now serving the area’s needs at 240 16th St. with Donnie’s Formal Wear.

“We have available in tuxedo rentals and sales,” Mrs. Rucker reported, noting there are options, including luxury, premiere, classic, essential, along with a full line of Island, Western and Quinceanera.

“We have several tuxedo companies. We also rent several different types of suits, and also can order men's designer suits for purchase. Plus, we have a full line of tuxedo accessories that can be ordered for purchase. We plan to extend our stock after this prom and wedding season. We also have boys’ tuxedo and suit packages. Group rates are available.”

Mr. Rucker, a Fleming County native who grew up in Ashland, is a graduate of Ashland Holy Family School. His wife grew up here and graduated from Paul G. Blazer High and Ashland Community College. Before going to work at the men’s shop, Rucker also spent more than 20 years as a sales manager for Betsy Ross and Flowers bakeries. The couple have been married for 35 years and have a son, Matt, and a daughter-in-law, Jenny, who plan to be active at the new shop, as well as two grandchildren.

The Ruckers welcome everyone to join them for coffee and doughnuts during a grand opening at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (606) 420-4104.

Finding Fantastic Sam’s

The staff at Ashland’s Fantastic Sam’s are trying to let everyone know they have moved into a new salon space on Sixth Street, near Moe’s Southwest Grill and Penn Station East Coast Subs.

Manager Carolyn VanHoose, who recently returned to Ashland from Florida, said customers will be greeted and cared for by assistant managers Laura-Ashley Suttles and Tammy Miller, along with stylists Robyn Rice, Amber Grooms, Sue Roseberry and Alex Walker.

The salon is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (606) 324-8080.

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

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