Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

January 15, 2013

TIM PRESTON: 'Field agents' report, post office pizza and Van Lear's rose

ASHLAND — I thoroughly enjoy hearing from readers who enjoy the weekly hunt for new places to eat, or undiscovered menu items at familiar places. Among my many “field agents” is a lady whose identity I will keep secret for fear the boss will hire her to replace me.

Along with her faithful companion, she has been investigating a few favorite haunts and filed a report on her activities, so I figured I would share a few of her observations.

Following up on a recent report about breakfast from The Lunch Bucket, our secret agent and her husband had a great visit there. He ordered a fried bologna sandwich and, taking advantage of the restaurant’s any-way-you-want-it approach, he had them make the country classic “with fried onions, ketchup, mustard, tomato, cheese and pickle relish on it.” They also appreciated the gravy, which she noted was prepared in a particular manner she’d only otherwise known her mother-in-law to practice.

“But what really impressed me was the service,” she said, describing the owner’s attention to an elderly lady who had joined them for a meal that morning, as well as their waitress’ good-natured teasing of her husband for eating so much. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve eaten somewhere like that. We had such a good time I don’t think it would have mattered if the food was bad. Having excellent food and service made it worth much more than what we paid.”

The intrepid diners also visited The Lamp Post, which is the latest addition to downtown Ashland’s menu.

“I simply adore their broccoli casserole. It was perfect. The chicken breast with cheese, onions, green peppers and mushrooms was good, but needed to have some spices added. Hubby liked the smoked meat loaf, but thought it was too dry and missing something. By accident a piece fell into the ketchup by his fries and he discovered what was missing. He said just adding the ketchup upped the flavor twice as much because the ketchup made it moist and brought the smoke flavoring out stronger,” she said, adding they also liked that one of the owners is a veteran who personally followed up with their customers. “One of the problems veterans have is employment, so we also try to support their businesses and the businesses who hire veterans. So that makes it another plus.”

And, prompted by a buy-one-get-one coupon they found in this newspaper, they visited Rancho Grande on Winchester Avenue (one I’ve never been to), and gave it an excellent recommendation.

“It was REALLY good food. If you’ve ever had real Mexican and liked it, this place is great,” she wrote, adding they went back a couple of times and enjoy the different combo meals they offer. They’ve also become huge fans of the salsa at Rancho Grande and buy a to-go container with each visit, adding a small amount of a favorite hot sauce for home application.

The field report ended with a request for information about where to find the red variety of Louisiana Gold Hot Sauce. Our agent reports it is the only hot sauce she knows of that doesn’t give them tummy trouble, but she has been forced to pay too much for it through online sources.

The manufacturer, Bruce Foods, told her the product can only be obtained through stores that specifically order it, although local store managers (she’s asked them all) insist they simply can’t get it. Apparently you could find that particular sauce, which uses something called “spirit vinegar” as a base, at Denny’s, but people there report they plan to discontinue it. If anyone knows where to find some Louisiana Gold Hot Sauce (red variety), let me know. My curiosity has been piqued.

Post office pizza

I grew up working behind the counter at a combination country store and post office, so I enjoyed hearing about the U.S. Postal Service bringing its “Village Post Office” concept to the rural community of Rush.

Michelle Evans, who owns and operates Star Country Market & Pizza along with her husband, John, and parents Linda and Harvey Davis, reports they are preparing to welcome postal and community officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Monday.

“I guess they’ll be bringing our blue box,” Evans said last week, explaining the country store and restaurant (I’ve tried the pizza and it is really good) won’t be replacement for the existing post office on the other side of the community.

“We won’t have mail boxes,” she said, noting the store’s village post office will offer stamps and other mailing materials as well as serving as a collection point for anything anyone needs to get into the system.

Star Country Market & Pizza, at 8088 U.S. 60 E., is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (606) 474-4547.

Van Lear’s rose

It’s hard to believe we will get another chance to see country-music legend Loretta Lynn perform in Ashland at the legendary Paramount Arts Center. I had a chance to watch the first few songs of Lynn’s last appearance on the local stage and was more than astounded by her very presence after battling a bout of pneumonia that forced her to reschedule the performance several times.

“To make it in this business, you either have to be first, great or different,” Lynn said recently. “And I was the first to ever go into Nashville, singin’ it like the women lived it.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Loretta’s arrival on the music scene with her 1960 debut single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” The queen of country music will bring her family show to the Paramount on April 26, with tickets available for $35, $40, $45 and $50.

For more information or tickets, call the box office at (606) 324-3175 or visit paramountartscenter.com.

Free pancakes

It’s hard to say no to free pancakes, so I expect the IHOP in Russell will be a popular place on Feb. 5.

The breakfast-themed restaurant will be giving away free pancakes “to anyone and everyone” to celebrate National Pancake Day. The family-friendly chain hopes to raise $3 million for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as part of the celebration and has enlisted celebrities, including Nick Cannon and Gene Simmons, to celebrate “the largest pancake party in the nation while supporting a good cause.”

The fundraiser will take place from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., offering free pancakes while encouraging “a generous spirit from guests, who will be encouraged to make a voluntary contribution to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.”

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

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