Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

June 21, 2014

Seeking suggestions, salad envy and adults only

ASHLAND — I was sitting in the drive-thru line at McFood’s on a hot day last week, patting my big belly and bemoaning my ever-expanding girth, when I had a bit of an epiphany or sudden, striking realization. It wasn’t an earth-shattering moment, but I did realize that I hold all the power on this. All I had to do was pull out of that line and seek something a little more friendly to my health and calorie concerns.

Of course, the harsh reality that followed was a realization that it is incredibly difficult to find anything even remotely healthy that can be consumed while driving to Grayson at 70 mph.

 When it comes to fast food, the big chains have gained some ground in this field. I’ve enjoyed a couple of really good salads from Wendy’s (one featuring spinach and strawberries was especially tasty) in recent weeks, and was genuinely impressed with a recent McDonald’s salad that even had legitimate “greens” in the mix.

The problem, however, is that you can buy several burgers for the price of one of those salads and my budget can’t stand the strain of that price structure. Now that I think about it, my fast-food decisions are nearly always based on the amount of cash in my pocket and I can practically recite the entire “value menu” of any popular franchise, complete with prices. Needless to say, I’m eating a lot of cheap, food-like products most days — and you don’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out the effect it is having on me.

Pondering the problem, I also realize that I haven’t done a very good job researching healthy fast-food alternatives. I tend to think of anything with lettuce, spinach or grilled chicken as “good for you,” and that’s almost the extent of my knowledge.

I ask for your suggestions on this, as I obviously need some help. If you enjoy a particular fast-food menu item that isn’t especially expensive, and is even remotely “healthy,” please let me know what it is.

Envy at Andy’s

I was enjoying lunch with a buddy last week when I developed a significant case of entree envy.

This is the lunch buddy who was the first to discover the outstanding Suplex Tacos on 13th Street in Ashland, so I asked him to select our location. When he suggested we meet at Andy’s Sweet & Savory, in the Pendleton Art Center on Winchester Avenue in downtown Ashland, I immediately agreed.

Apparently I was craving a burger that day and pounced on the “Cajun Burger” that was the special of the day. My buddy, who seems to have a head start on the whole healthy eating thing, said he didn’t want a burger and asked for my suggestion. I told him I’ve heard nothing but great reviews for Andy’s “Nutty Chicken Salad,” and a pair of friendly ladies at the table behind us proudly pointed out that’s what they were having for lunch, and thoroughly enjoying it as well.

There was a clumsy moment in the middle of that when my friend was trying to determine if this is a salad with chicken, or a chicken salad, but the ladies cleared that up quickly when they guided our attention to their plates (for the record, the dish is a salad with nuts and chicken and is not chicken salad).

We had a seat and shot the breeze for a minute while our meals were prepared and delivered to the table, which was when I got the massive case of green-eyed envy. My cajun burger was terrific, mildly seasoned and properly sized, although I caught myself just staring at my pal’s plate, piled with all kinds of good stuff, including chunks of fresh pineapple. It looked so delicious, in fact, that I almost couldn’t even enjoy my good burger (but only almost).

Chef Andy Moore has also been doing his part to attract new crowds to the Pendleton Art Center with evening events featuring area musicians, including a recent show by The Ritch Collins Three-O. For more information or to place an order, call (606) 585-4089.

Not for children

While the Pendleton Art Center is still in my noodle, I also wanted to offer a salute to the people involved with the Company of Dreams’ theatrical productions in the basement at the downtown arts center.

The local group enjoyed excellent audiences, including an opening night with standing room only, for their recent production of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” This is notable because the play, loosely based on characters in Charlie Brown’s gang, was “non-family friendly” in a city where officials go to great lengths to make everything family friendly.

The truth is, there are plenty of mature, intelligent people in and around this city who don’t want, or need, to have everything sanitized. Family-friendly is fine when it is appropriate, but it seems that has gone too far — especially in the case of a proposed blues-music event at the Port of Ashland that was shot down in flames because of the fact the organizers and audience members (as well as the proposed artist) wanted beer sales.

But, I digress.

Back to the point, I want to encourage the local thespians and techs to continue pushing the boundaries when they find scripts that could serve to educate, entertain and enlighten. I ask them to continue to caution audiences when there is language that might cause some to lose their little minds, but otherwise never compromise their own ambitions.

Tastes like Columbus

I had a great telephone conversation with the mother of one of my high school classmates last week as I was writing this column.

I’m not sure if she wants me to use her name, but she did want me to pass along that she’d noticed a recent column note about the new Johnny’s Pizza at Meade Station Plaza and made the trip from Johnson County just to check it out.

Johnny’s Pizza, she explained, was a family favorite from their days in Columbus, and she has “bought hundreds of Johnny’s Pizzas” through the years, often bringing back 10 or 12 at a time when traveling from Columbus back to eastern Kentucky. A qualified expert at identifying Johnny’s Pizza, she gave the new franchise on Rt. 60 a glowing review.

“I wondered if it was the real Johnny’s,” she said, noting she was determined to find out. When I asked if the new restaurant passed her personal evaluation, she simply said, “Oh, Lord yes.”

Personally, I’m still waiting for a chance to drop by the new restaurant to try the Alfredo Chicken Carbonara Bake. For more information or to place an order, call (606) 929-5222. Or, if you are in Grayson and want something good from Johnny’s Pizza, call (606) 474-2441.

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

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