Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Get Out! Mailbag: Crabby Alpaca Edition

Good Heck, Gretchen! It's been too many moons since we dabbled into the old canvas sack of reader musings. Some of y'all are starting to get crabby on me, but I do sometimes love getting the mean ones even more than the nice ones. I enjoy all kinds of feedback, suggestions of places to dine, heartfelt apologies, angry cane shakes, and lengthy essays on Alpaca meat and the history of pilsners in China. There's a bit of each here, so let's get this cannoli rolling, shall we?

Dear Get Out!

(Re: Chimney Rock Grill at Schweitzer.) Wow, really got your goat, did you asked to be compensated or venting for all to see? You have the platform, but quite harsh. If you don’t have anything nice to say just give it a star rating of zero. Ya think!

Have a Nice Day,
Barb MacIsaac
Dear Barb,
Your message was a little grammatically confusing to me, but I can say I never had a goat, nor did I see any chevre on the Chimney Rock Menu. Even if I had bothered to stick around and bitch and have my awful meal comped (which would have made me even more late for the concert I was attending), the review would have been the same. I don't do bribery. Well, I don't normally do bribery unless it involves Patron tequila and New York Cheesecake. Restaurateurs, take note of that.

Dear Get Out!

My name is John Magnuson. My family has owned the Jameson Saloon, off and on over the past thirty years. I am taking the liberty of emailing you as I couldn't find a phone listing. I wanted to personally call you and express my apologies for your experience there over the 1910 Fire Commemoration weekend. The service and quality you received is inexcusable.

My brother and I have always enjoyed your column in the Spokesman. You have a unique way with words that elevates food critique to an art form.

I would appreciate it if you could give me a call, when convenient, so that we can make things right with you. I don't know that we will be able to get your last experience at the Jameson out of your head, but I think we might be able to offer some pretty good alternatives.

John Magnuson
Dear John,

Here's an idea: crack the whip and do whatever it takes to improve the situation. The Jameson is such a glorious old Inn, what would make me really happy is to see it become a truly fabulous destination spot with food quality and service to match the place's enormous history and reputation. Take it to the next level, maybe really push the haunted aspect of it and offer "Ghost Adventure" type packages, where people can borrow those night vision lights and electronic thingyboxes seen on those types of shows.

My friend Brett desperately needs a job and is convinced he can bring the glory back to Maggie's old stomping grounds. Let him run the place, he's an OCD gay man with a clean freak streak and he knows how to make a make a mean dish of Mexican Lasagna.

Dear Get Out!

This piece in Get Out! you posted in the Spokesmen Review Handle Extra, was an insult to many Italians. You are not a good reporter, if you think Rosa's Market and Deli is one of the finest specimens west of the Mississippi. This is , believe me, not an authentic New York Italian deli. The ladies with the accents must have been paid to express their thoughts that you overheard. Many people who went ONCE TO THIS ESTABLISHMENT and never went again. Were not greeted or made to feel welcome. Don't be so free with words that are not true.

The closest in this area you will come to a good Italian Deli, is Cussano's in Spokane.

The Peace of Every Day,
Beverly Browne
Dear Beverly,
I take it back, you're right. Forget Rosa's, they're obviously just faux Italaian posers. It's a FACT (since according to you I am a "reporter" not an opinion writer) that the Schlotskys chain is the most super-fine, authentic, real-deal Italian deli in the history of the universe ever, this side of the Rio Grande. No, make that Jupiter. Surely, you'll believe that exaggeration since you seem to have a habit of taking so literally everything you read in blogs or newspapers. I'd meet you there, but I'm kinda broke after bribing those two random ladies with tequila and cheesecake to say nice things about a restaurant I have no stake in whatsoever.

Dear Get Out!

Your review of the Jameson ruffled a few feathers up here; ruffles fully earned, I might add. The Jameson sucks and is hugely inconsistent. Nobody who lives here would ever send a tourist there, except out of spite. I'm glad I didn't have to endure the salt-laden misery you did at the Sunshine Inn, but the experience does not surprise. I live in Wallace and I love this town, but dining out anywhere in the Silver Valley is not something one attempts unless either one has become too drunk to cook, or the grocery stores are closed.

There are a few treasures in the region: Peggy Morris's Park Lane on the old road up the North Fork above the Bumblebee cutoff turns out a passable prime rib, and the 1313 Club here in Wallace can pleasantly clog one's arteries with its wet beef burrito.

There's also Jimmy's "Wah Hing" Chinese joint in Kellogg, good quality but very conventional Americanized Chinese food. I've not been to a Chinese joint in the U.S. since getting the real thing in Beijing, Quanjhou, Lijiang, Kunming and etc. over the years in China. The old joke of, "If you like it, don't ask what it is," may apply, but I am always appalled to come home from Asia and see more sugar in one woman's food-stamp shopping cart than I had seen in a month in Asia.

Of course, you really haven't eaten until you've done one of those 200-course meals in Paris where they finish you off with cheese and chocolate and a blast of coffee that keeps you awake for three nights. I'd rather starve than eat in the U.K. But just last month I had a splendid traditional Chinese breakfast in of all places, Panama City, the restaurant having been built for over-nighting crew members of Evergreen Shipping waiting to traverse the canal.

And south of there, you can gorge on alpaca and beef in Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. I spend probably $100 a month on lamb ribs here in Wallace, special-ordered, and would gladly pay twice that for alpaca. Best red meat on the planet. But you can't get it here. Can't even get a decent lamb rib or roast, unless you want the pencil-sized servings at Beverly's.

South American beer sucks unless it is very, very cold. The Chinese, on the other hand, were schooled by the Plsens and Germans two centuries ago and have figured out a few decent pilsners. One of the world's finest single-malts comes out of Japan. It's called Suntori Yamazaki and believe it or not, you can order it from an Idaho liquor store at about $125 a bottle for their 18-year-old. A bartender in Munich on the Bayerstrasse turned us on to it three years ago. Got into a shot-tossing contest with a couple of German friends and I failed miserably. Never drink Japanese Scotch with Germans competitively.

Some weird things about Europe: the French make the best beer (1664 is impossible to top in Europe, although I think Upper Canada lager, made in Toronto is its equal) and I think the Swiss make the best wine, at least of the whites. The Germans do admirably at both. All make excellent reds. You cannot touch the Swiss for cheese, pardon my French. And they buy it in their 7-11-equivalent grocery stores for dirt cheap.;

It's always a mind-blower, traveling through Europe, to realize the Zurich's elevation is lower than that of Wallace, Idaho, and that the train ride over Bremmer Pass through Innsbruck, Austria, is not as steep a ride as a trip over Lookout Pass. We share some spectacular country.

So where am I going with this, you wonder. Well, I've read your rants about Silver Valley eateries over the years, and I agree: our culinary attractions suck. The only predictably American food joint here is our Chinese joint in Kellogg. What would you do, were you me, and you wanted to open a restaurant? Real Chinese? Imported Alpaca? Or just a decent goddamn burger? Keeping in mind that for the most part conventional hostelry here is a zero-sum game. What would drive you 50 miles on a snow-shit day in the middle of January to eat?

David Bond
Dear David,

It almost never happens, but your email left me at a slight loss for words. All I can say is that it'd be fully worth driving to Wallace some snow-shit day in the middle of January so you can blow my mind with more of your obscure but totally interesting culinary tidbits. Otherwise, maybe some aspiring Silver Valley restaurateur should consider something otherwise under-represented in the area, such as Ethiopian or Afghan. Or, maybe not.

Dear Get Out!

I was hoping at some time you would come to Wallace. Unfortunately, you had an unsatisfactory experience at the Jameson.

My name is Jamie Baker and I moved from Spokane with my wife, Barbara, 18 years ago. I came up restoring old houses of which we restored quit a few. Eight years ago we bought an old gas station on the main drag. We started by selling antiques and espresso out of it. Since then we add to the building every year along with the drinks and food. You would have passed it to get to the Jameson. It's called the Red Light Garage with a space ship and Model T outside.

The main reason I'm writing you is to get you to come to Wallace again. Being a small town of under a 1000 people, the food businesses depend on the Spokane, Coeur d' Alene, and Missoula market to help us survive. Several restaurants are seasonal, the Jameson being one. Unfortunately, being open only 3 months this year makes it tough to refer people there and know that the food will be consistent.

I know our food along with the 1313 Club, the Brooks and the Silver Corner is the most consistent in Wallace. I would love to have you come to the Red light Garage and try and Italian omelet, a Supreme Breakfast Burrito, a Muffaletta, a Roast Beef-horseradish wrap or an ATV Burger. We only have beer and wine but the Red Light Red beer, brewed by North Idaho Mountain Brew out of Big Creek is the best. Or wash it down with a Huckleberry milkshake. We advertise it as the best on I-90 between Boston and Seattle. Or try one of the more consistent restaurants here. Also, check out our website. It shows some of the projects we've done up here. I hope you can see we're proud of Wallace and want to show it off.

Great columns, Keep up the good writing.

Jamie Baker
Dear Jamie,

You're not going to believe it, but the day we visited the Jameson, we had walked by your place earlier in the day and thought it looked like a fun place to eat. We decided to check it out but a while later, after killing time by wandering the town in loops (it isn't difficult to do), we caught a case of the lazies and decided the Jameson was alluring for the historical aspect of it all. Obviously, we made the wrong decision and had vowed to return to your establishment soon before I even received your message. So, fire up the shave ship and put a muffaletta in the oven (no, I don't have any idea what it is), we will be seeing you soon. Of course, I'm not going to say exactly when. We like to be sneaky bitches.

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