Stuck in Breakfast Gridlock   1 comment


When the hostess at the Silver Creek Diner in Lone Tree told us that once we were seated we’d still have at least another 25-minute wait for our food, I laughed and asked if she wanted us to leave. She laughed, too, and assured me that wasn’t her intent. We’d already been waiting 10 minutes for a table. We decided to hope for the best. Wrong call.

Given that we had waited so long from the time we walked in the door to when the food arrived, it’s hard to know if we were simply so famished that anything would have tasted good. It wasn’t that Silver Creek was particularly busy, but the way orders were coming out of the kitchen it seemed as if all the cooking was done by one person with his/her hand tied behind his/her back.

Breakfast is standard; lots of egg possibilities and pancakes.  The latter aren’t the “ridiculously large ones that some places serve” we were told. The Blueberry Pancake Plate featured two eggs, hash browns, choice of breakfast meats (bacon, sausage or ham) and two cakes full of fresh blueberries. It was a lot of food.
Silver Mix
The Hash Brown Mix blended crispy and creamy shredded potatoes with diced red and green peppers, onions, eggs and choice of bacon or sausage. Two size options are available, and even the smaller of the two is a substantial amount of food.

In truth, it all tasted fine, but I can’t say the time spent waiting for it was justified.

Silver Creek Diner
Three Plates
7824 Park Meadows Dr.
Lone Tree, Colo


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Self-inflicted Isolation   1 comment

All the Living by C. E. Morgan is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read; unfortunately, the story doesn’t reach the same level as the words that embrace it. It’s not bad; it just doesn’t rise to the same level as the well-crafted images. I must admit that the opening sentence immediately grabbed me with its element of intrigue: “She had never lived in a house and now, seeing the thing, she was no longer sure she wanted to.”

She is Aloma, a young woman, who spent her early years living with relatives in a trailer before being sent, at age 12, to a “mission school” – essentially an orphanage. There, she discovers a talent (and passion) for the piano. Otherwise, there is little to set her apart.

The house, on a tobacco farm, is Orren’s. When his mother and brother are killed in an accident he asks Aloma, whom he had recently met, to join him as he tries to maintain the homestead. A young preacher who befriends Aloma is added to the mix, which also includes the harsh, isolated landscape.

There’s no time frame but basic amenities are evident; it’s clear this is not a back-in-the-day tale. The house has an old, hopelessly out-of-tune piano. Orren has the farm and a reticence that comes from grief and the responsibilities he’s inherited.

Possessing little, but more than they realize, Aloma and Orren’s story isn’t just about being lonely even when others are present, but about love and self-awareness.

All the Living
Three-and-a-half bookmarks
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009
199 pages

An Urban Food Court   2 comments


Angelinos have shopped at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles since 1917. Today, they’re also enjoying cuisine prepared by various vendors sharing space with the grocers. My mom recalls going there as a child with her mother and aunts to do much of their weekly shopping for everything from produce to dried beans, from meat to cheese.

There’s still a butcher, but a more upscale one and the same is true of the cheese purveyor. Many of the transactions for produce are spoken in Spanish. Much of the food is traditional ethnic street fare; some is on the trendier side. It’s a food court with character and characters.


Before a recent visit we created a list of the places we wanted to sample: Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, Sarita’s Pupuseria, Texas barbecue from Horse Thief, Sticky Rice and Bel Campo. We made it to the first two and were too stuffed to eat anything else. Well, except for ice cream from McConnell’s.

The tacos were massive: mounds of carnitas doused in a blend of spicy red and green salsas. Although the tacos were huge in size and flavor, the best part may have been waiting in line (line is used loosely here). I didn’t have enough confidence in my Spanish to order but I understood what those beside me were having and what the men behind the counter were asking.


Sarita’s Pupuseeria was also a popular spot and the line (this one appropriately named) moved slowly. While you wait it’s fascinating watching the women make the thick pancake-like shapes. We tried some filled with refried beans, cheese and pork with cheese. The latter was the tastiest thanks to gooey cheese and shredded pork, but it was also the greasiest.

We’re looking forward to another visit so we can cross the other places off our list.


Grand Central Market
Four Plates (and lots of napkins)
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles

Half Crazy Over Daisy   2 comments

Daisymintsummer rolls

A fire truck parked outside Daisy Mint recently was cause for concern insomuch as it meant there weren’t likely to be empty tables inside. The small Thai restaurant is popular among a diverse crowd that includes students from nearby Pasadena City College and the occasional celebrity: John C. Riley. Although there may be a wait to secure a seat, it won’t be long. And once seated, service is attentive and food is brought out quickly.

My brother regularly frequents Daisy Mint and had some recommendations: Summer Rolls and curries. We started with the former which were so fresh they tasted as if most of the ingredients had come straight from the garden: mixed greens, cucumbers carrots and cilantro. The peanut sauce had a slightly sweet undercurrent we couldn’t quite place.

We opted for Crying Tiger one of the evening’s specials: marinated flank steak served with a spicy sauce of minced green pepper, garlic and shallots. The thinly sliced strips of beef were tender and absorbed the sauce well. The dish came with sticky rice, which is sweet and so glutinous it’s like a magnet for anything it comes in contact with.


Chunks of pumpkin, which were soft and potato-like, with peas, carrots and chicken swam in the Panang Curry, a velvety sauce of coconut milk and basil.

Servings are plentiful and though the Crying Tiger is not a regular menu item, I would be more than happy to repeat the exact meal at Daisy Mint on my next California visit.

Daisy Mint
Four-and-a-half Plates
1218 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, Calif.

Many Types of Tribes   2 comments

When I worked as a writing tutor at the local community college, I saw enough rhetorical and critical analyses on Sherman Alexis’s “Superman and Me” to fill a classroom – floor to ceiling. I knew his essay inside and out. Until now I was unfamiliar with his other writings. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a fictional account (complete with cartoon illustrations by Ellen Forney) of Arnold Spirit Jr., aka Junior, aka Arnold.

Certainly, similarities exist to Alexis’s life growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation in eastern Washington, but the diary entries are fiction. They follow Junior/Arnold in his freshman year of high school. Plenty of back story is provided, beginning with Arnold/Junior’s birth defects that physically, socially and intellectually isolate him from most others on the reservation. He’s suspended on the first day of school and decides to transfer to the “white” school 22 miles away. On the reservation he’s known as Junior; at the new school he’s Arnold.

He changes schools in hopes of opening new doors while learning to accept that old ones are slammed in the process. His life is a dichotomy. He’s always struggled to fit in and expects to endure the same at the new school. It’s clear from the onset that Junior/Arnold is an underdog, so the outcome is predictable. The transformation of other characters is what’s most heartening; it shows that tribes can be of our own creation. This is evident through the diary reflecting its author’s humor, perception and emotion.

Four Bookmarks
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Little, Brown & Co., 2007
230 pages

Coney Island on the Plains   Leave a comment


Galesburg, Ill., is not a place often, if at all, associated with Coney Island, yet it’s been the home to Coney Island hot dogs since 1921. It’s recognized as the town’s oldest restaurant, complete with a plaque from the local historical society. Of course, restaurant may be a slight exaggeration. It’s has more of a soda fountain aura, and, after all, we’re just talking about hog dogs here.


Nonetheless, the dogs – more than a dozen variations on the theme – are available along with a handful of sandwiches and several fountain treats like floats, shakes and sodas. The focus is on the namesake: a plump dog slathered with mustard, the house sauce and topped with diced onions. The sauce is ground beef mixed with red chile powder. It’s tasty and basic, just a few beans shy of a traditional chili dog.


The décor looks like something out of a 1950s museum: lots of white script on bright red on everything from a clock to a jukebox. It’s not all Coca-Cola, though, there’s plenty of clutter advertising Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and more. There’s a lot of kitsch, but the place wouldn’t work as well with any other design scheme.

Typically, I eat hot dogs at baseball games and am satisfied with that level of frequency. My son, a student at Knox College, just a few blocks from Coney Island suggested we check it out on our recent visit. I’m glad we did. I’m sure if I lived closer my hot dog consumption would dramatically increase.

Coney Island

Four Plates
77 S. Cherry St.
Galesburg, Ill.

Ignore the Sign   Leave a comment

QuickSamsquickSamsiiiThe name Quick Sam’s conjures images of Quick Draw McGraw and Yosemite Sam, neither of which has anything to do with south of the border cuisine. But then the sign for this unassuming, three-table eatery is misleading, too; it boasts pizza, fried chicken and sandwiches, which aren’t even on the menu. Nothing suggests authentic Mexican food. Add to this the fact that Galesburg, Ill., is not a locale that immediately comes to mind for enchiladas, rice and beans.


In a building that stands out only because it’s next to a cemetery on one side and a row of two-story clapboard houses on the other, Quick Sam’s is an anomaly on several levels. The place is small: part tiny diner, part miniature-convenience store complete with glass coolers where much of the inventory for the diminutive kitchen. Yet, it’s muy grande when it comes to flavors.


The menu features standard Mexican fare: tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chile rellenos. Chips and fresh made salsa are the precursors of tastes to come. Quick Sam’s salsa is the kind to ruin an appetite only because it’s easy to eat too much. Self-restraint comes in handy here.

The chile rellenos combined the smokiness of roasted poblanos with creamy Jack cheese that had all been coated in an egg, flour and cornmeal mix and fried. It wasn’t greasy, but not quite as crispy as I like.

Prices are reasonable: less than $8 for a meal that includes rice and beans. All items are also available a la carte.


Quick Sam’s
Four Plates
275 S. Academy St.
Galesburg, Ill


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