Chef John Malik

a writer trapped in a cook's body

July 4, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Ain’t That Tough Enough?

The best way to approach a long distance event such as the #SCRTR is through a six month, properly planned, concerted effort.  Well if you’ve been following along, you know that I don’t have that luxury. Most of the riders would likely start their training efforts in January or February and gradually up their mileage until a week to ten days before the big event, then taper down. You don’t want to do a big effort a few days before a huge effort. Trust me.

Since I’m short of time, I’m concentrating on saddle time and sheer grunt. Saddle time because I need to toughen up all those body parts that will take a beating over three days, and grunt to get me mentally prepared. I know cyclists that spend a lot of time in spin classes or on the Swamp Rabbit Trail in the belief that this is enough training to get them through the #SCRTR. Maybe so, but that’s not going to work for me. So this morning I did a double of Paris Mountain. And good gosh almighty was it hot and muggy.

Why a double? Once you’ve climbed over a mountain, any mountain, it feels great to get to the bottom. And it’s tough to convince yourself to turn around and climb the damn thing again. It’s quite the mental challenge and the first couple hundred feet really hurt. It’d be much easier to roll into the 7-11 and grab a Gatorade. So that’s why I do it.

Strava

Because no spin class, no trainer time, no cross-fit session, and no treadmill can instill the desire to force yourself back up a mountain you’ve just climbed. Especially when it’s 91 degrees and 80% humidity and all you want is a Gatorade and an ice cold swimming pool. There’s just no substitute for the road.

So I turned around at the bottom of Altamont and pushed myself back over that damn mountain. Was it hard? Yes it was. But imagine the amount of suffering and trauma a family goes through when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. So I turned around and climbed that damn mountain. Again.

The Ride to Remember (#SCRTR) is a 250+ mile bike ride across South Carolina and it’s the largest fundraiser for the SC Alzheimer’s Association. Would you like to join me on my mission to be a cog in the wheel of the mechanism that finds a cure for #ALZ?  You don’t have to climb Paris Mountain with me, you can make a donation, any amount will do, and it’ll go to the Alzheimer’s Association. And your donation will be the fuel I need to get me across South Carolina.

11 Days before we ride and I’m feeling more confident.

And if you need a reminder of why I’m doing this, your answer is right here.

 

July 3, 2016
by ChefJohn
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The Recovery Ride

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When one is seriously training, you cannot afford to take a day off. Even though I had a long ride yesterday, this morning I got out and put in 20 miles. I didn’t push myself but rather concentrated on keeping my legs turning at a steady pace. I need to keep my legs loose and if I were to take a day off, it might feel good not to train but I’d probably set myself back. Keeping the legs turning helps prevent cramping and it keeps the tendons and muscles loose. 12 days until the #SCRTR. 

July 2, 2016
by ChefJohn
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The 20 mph Vista

It’s the vista. When one climbs onto a road bike and heads out for a ride, the beauty of God’s creation is at your beck and call. Whether you ride at a 15 mph average or 20 mph average, the opportunity to get out and experience the glory of this earth is well within your capability. On today’s ride we traveled through Greenville, Laurens, and Spartanburg counties.

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Today was a long day, 58 miles with some folks from Team Vive and my teammate, Julian Loue. Also on today’s ride was Craig Rogers, owner of Border Springs Lamb. Craig is a rock star in the world of food and he’s one of the best known producers of lamb in the US. We’ve chatted via social media but never met face to face. Craig is also a damn cycling machine and he knows how to put down the power. Craig is also new to cycling and in a year he’s lost 80 pounds. I said 80 pounds. So not only is cycling able to transport you through beautiful countryside, it can also have amazing health benefits.

We got a late start this morning and the heat really got to some of us. We made several stops for water and with the early afternoon temps approaching 93, we really needed it.

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Today’s course courtesy Strava.

 

Even though it was hot, we had gorgeous views and blue skies. Today was all abut time in the saddle. When you prepare for a long distance ride, it’s not just your legs that have to get into shape. Shoulders, butts, hands and neck can all take a beating so you’ve got to toughen up all those areas. Stretching, weights, and yoga can all help. But nothing takes the place of riding.

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This is about the 40 mile mark. As you can see, I’m pretty comfortable on a bike and riding hands-free isn’t a big deal.

So for the week that just ended, I’ve put in 213 miles. If I can have another week like this, then I should be ready to roll come July 15th.

The #SCRTR is 13 days away.

Would you like to come along with me? Then make a donation to the SC Alzheimer’s Association and I’ll write the name of a loved one (that’s passed away or is challenged by #ALZ) on my jersey number.

 

July 1, 2016
by ChefJohn
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The Cheers of Buntings

During the summer time, the Upstate is visited by thousands of Indigo Buntings. These gorgeous little birds are commuters. They come here during the spring and summer to enjoy the scenery, the great food, the beautiful countryside, and to raise their families in peace. In the fall they’ll head home. To South America.

Indigo Bunting

Buntings have a beautiful call and I find that there’s a slight variance in the call. These guys prefer to hang out on the edge of a tree line and sing. So if you’re a runner, walker or cyclist, you’re liable to hear them.

Today I rode with my buddy Julian Loue. We’re both behind in our training and on a long climb that hurt way more than normal, I pointed the bunting’s call out to Julian.

“So if you’re feeling sorry for yourself on this climb, just listen to the call of this 4 inch tall bird. He’s probably saying, “Hey asshole, I flew here from freakin’ South America. So get your ass up that hill you puny human.”

Of course I could be wrong.

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Yours truly with my fellow Coast Buster, Julian Loue

If you’d like to fuss at me while I’m climbing up a hill, feel free. Just make a donation first to the SC Alzheimer’s Association. And thank you.

As of today I’ve got 14 days before the #SCRTR. Today I rode 31 miles and that included almost 1500 feet of climbing. This week I’ve put in 155 miles and set a P/R up Paris Mountain.

And if you’d like to hear the call of the Indigo Bunting, just click here.

July 1, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Remember This Rider

That’s my grand parents, Thomas and Blanche Baylor. They were cattle ranchers and they were legendary amongst other cattlemen. Tom called my mother Zinzy and at the age of five she participated in her first rodeo. Tom P. Baylor was something else and I loved being in his company. When he passed away, our entire family was heartbroken.

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Taken at the Ojo Ranch in Durango, Mexico, probably in the early 1950s.

The official cause of death was atherosclerosis of the brain. Hardening of the arteries which sadly led to dementia which led to his passing. Grandaddy was a pretty tough guy. He worked from sun up to sun down six days a week and half a day on Sunday. He was a true cowboy, professional cattle rancher and a veterinarian that could perform field operations on anything from a dog to a horse. He learned most of it through osmosis, he paid attention to everyone around him, took mental notes, and practiced what he learned.

In the late 1965, when John Wayne was in Durango filming The Sons of Katie Elder, he was asked to meet Tom Baylor. John Wayne thought he could learn some cowboy-ease from my grandad so the film crew sent word to the ranch and grandaddy invited John Wayne into the Ojo. Tom P. Baylor was a busy man though, and the way I heard it, John Wayne was offered to come along on the day’s chores. John Wayne preferred to share whiskey and trade stories so they quickly reached an impasse. Grandaddy had work to do, movie star or no movie star.  Blanche did cook supper for the folks from Hollywood so all was not lost.

Grandaddy kept us moving. When we would visit, we were up before the sun and off to work. We would return in the heat of the day for a few hours and in the late afternoon we were back at work until the sun went down.

Today I found the time to ride for two hours. The Ride to Remember starts on July 15th in Simpsonville and finishes in Charleston on July 17th. 252 miles in the heat of a South Carolina July. And I’m behind in my cycling and my fundraising. Our recent move was incredibly stressful and time consuming, so I’ve got a good excuse. But it’s still an excuse. So as of today I’m only interested in results. Today I got out and did two laps of Paris Mountain and set a P/R on my first ascent. Yeah I’m not setting any records but I’ve got a couple of weeks to toughen up and I’m done with excuses. My biggest challenge right now is pushing my endurance threshold. Day one of the RTR takes us to Newberry, day two Newberry to Orangeburg, and day three is Orangeburg to Charleston. Day two is the toughest. It’s an 89 mile day on undulating roads and if you’re not careful, you’ll burn up and not have anything left for the last day. On day three, I want to ride with the fast guys and gals up front. So in order to do that, my endurance threshold has to be stretched considerably in the next two weeks.

Last week I briefly considered skipping the ride and just going along as a course volunteer. But Grandaddy would’ve been very disappointed in me. I would’ve had a great excuse, but Grandaddy hated excuses.

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I hope Grandaddy approves of my “horse.”

His daughter, my mother, Virginia Baylor Malik, passed away from Alzheimer’s related dementia just a few short years ago. She also hated excuses.

Would you like to join me on my journey across South Carolina? Then please make a donation to the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Association and I’ll write the name of your loved one on my number.

 

May 27, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Good Humor is the Clear Blue Sky of the Soul

Not that long ago, just off the coast of south Florida, our country stood at the brink of an all out nuclear exchange.  Russian and American submarines, surface ships, aircraft carriers, fighters, soldiers, and strategic bombers gathered in and around the island of Cuba and stared each other down. The US Army had almost a half million troops in south Florida and the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command shuttled bombers to bases across the Gulf states.

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McDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL, late October of 1962. The flight line is choked with B47s, F101s, and F100s.

Why?

The causes that led up to this event are multi-layered and rife with political blunders by both sides, and the outcome was a brush with a global catastrophe the likes of which our planet probably wouldn’t have survived. Yet the only combat casualty was a native son, a humble man that loved Greenville and laid down his life in the quest for peace.

It’s tough to imagine such a scenario where two superpowers would rush into such a saloon fight with nuclear weapons, but that they did. At the time, both nations routinely threatened each other with mass destruction and this was less than 20 years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, so the destructive capability of these weapons was no secret. So when Russia began deploying nuclear tipped missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles south of Miami, President Kennedy would have nothing of it and he ordered a blockade of Cuba. And of course, that sent off a global pissing contest between himself and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev. For 13 days in October of 1962, all that stood between us and a nuclear exchange with Russia was the discipline of a handful of our leaders.

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Russian submarine shadowed by a US Navy Sea King helicopter off the coast of Florida.

 

Takes spray over the bow while steaming in heavy seas, 12 January 1960. Note S2F type airplane at the rear of the flight deck, with its engines turning. Other planes visible, amidships, include AD and F4D types. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

The USS Essex played a critical role in the Navy’s blockade of Cuba.

In the days before Google Maps, there were photographs, taken on film that had to be carefully processed. And that’s where Rudolf Anderson shows up.

Rudolf Anderson is Greenville’s most famous veteran and the pilot of this iconic aircraft that takes center stage in Greenville’s Cleveland Park.  Major Anderson was an Eagle Scout, a Greenville High and Clemson University graduate who joined the Air Force in 1948. He was also the sole combat casualty of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

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“Good Humor is the Clear Blue Sky of the Soul” ~ Rudy Anderson’s quote in his Greenville High senior yearbook.

During the height of the crisis, President Kennedy and his advisors needed daily intelligence on what was happening in Cuba. Kennedy was receiving mixed signals from the Russians and the only way to verify was through photographs. And Rudy Anderson was one of the Air Force’s best photographers. He was a U2 pilot that gained his reputation during the Korean War flying a camera-armed RF-86, similar to the one in Cleveland Park.

Knowing that Cuba was heavily armed with surface to air missiles that could be used against him, he suited up and flew his mission. After Major Anderson’s aircraft had spent an hour taking pictures, the Russian commander of a missile battery grew irritated and gave the order to shoot him down.

Several American commanders assumed we would immediately retaliate so bombers were loaded up, soldiers geared up, and carriers turned into the wind to launch strike aircraft. Yet Kennedy didn’t believe Khrushchev was the one that gave the order to shoot down the U2 and he bravely continued on a diplomatic path. General Curtis LeMay, head of the Air Force, would later refer to this as “the greatest defeat in our history.” Sorry General but a nuclear war would’ve been our greatest defeat.

When the original monument was being planned, many in Greenville wanted a U2 to serve as Major Anderson’s memorial but its wingspan is an astounding 103 feet and it just wouldn’t fit in that space and there weren’t a lot of U2s for sale, either. I think the RF86 fit quite nicely.

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The U2 reconnaissance aircraft similar to the one Major Anderson flew in October of 1962.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to pause and reflect on those fighting men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice to our country, and why we celebrate this day. And be especially grateful for the gift of a humble kid from Greenville who dangled his toes in the Reedy River, rode his bike down Augusta Road, and perhaps dreamed of becoming a pilot as he ran to class through the hallways of Greenville High.

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Major Rudolf Anderson, USAF

Have a blessed and safe Memorial Day weekend.

And if you enjoy my writing, perhaps you would enjoy my novel, Doughnuts for Amy, published this year by Winter Goose and set in Greenville.

May 8, 2016
by ChefJohn
2 Comments

I’m Not Ready

“You’ve got a perfectly good room upstairs so why the hell are you looking for an apartment?”
Dad’s words thundered through our small kitchen and Mom was visibly embarrassed. I didn’t know how to respond. I was 21, a college graduate, and at the end of the summer I would embark on three years of culinary school in New Orleans. I only had to find a summer job in the right restaurant that would hopefully turn into something full time. Then an apartment and roommate would follow. So why on earth would I want to move back home?

Dad was flummoxed by my silence and he stormed off. And within a week I had found a job in a fine restaurant and moved to New Orleans.

On this Mother’s Day of 2016, our church honored our high school seniors. They sat up front, they made up the bulk of the altar participants and one even gave the sermon. My own son wore my cassock and wooden cross as he performed his chalice bearer duties, sharing bread and wine with our parishoners. As the service ended and the priest and acolytes processed out of the church, I couldn’t help but stare at the empty altar.

Cross

At that moment, I should’ve felt a Father’s pride and a sense of honor yet I felt as empty as that altar. And I saw my own Dad walking up the stairs of our small south Louisiana house and hesitating at my empty bedroom. How many times did he stop and gently push that door open and see me, all of three or four years old, running into his arms and excitedly screaming “Daddy”?  How many tears did he wipe away after I left? Dad was a man of the law and he rarely dealt with me in areas of gray, it was usually black and white, right and wrong. And for whatever reason, as I was growing up, we didn’t have enough of those Father and Son talks. That summer, instead of gently telling me this would be our last chance to spend a lot of time together and perhaps make up for those missed opportunities, he issued a guilty sentence and stormed off the bench.

In our church, on Mother’s Day, with everything I hold dear within an arm’s reach of me, I had a terrible sense of misfortune. My son is a good kid with a strong sense of right and wrong and a desire to help others yet at that moment I felt nothing but regret and loneliness. My heart felt as empty as our altar. I should’ve felt pride and a strong sense of accomplishment and instead all my sins felt as fresh and raw as a hornet’s sting on a pretty summer day. Had I properly cherished each day? Had I taken every opportunity to show him the ways of the world and the movement of this earth? All those moments came rushing back at me and I saw my own four year-old son waving goodbye as I went to work.

You’re not ready. It’s too soon. We haven’t had enough time together. You don’t understand the complexities of life as I do.

The judge

Please don’t leave me son because I’m not ready to face the world without you in the house.

And in that moment I understood my Dad and his inability to counsel me. It all made sense. In his time, Dad parted ways with his family and went off on a grand adventure, then school, then law school. And his own family, first generation immigrants, were very proud of him.

When it was my time to leave the house, I couldn’t sense my Dad’s heartache through his boisterous pleading and it all felt so confusing and nonsensical. He didn’t know how to say “You’re not ready and you still have a lot to learn.”

He was right. I know that now.

I forgive you, Dad, and I miss you terribly. And you’d be very proud of your grandson.

 

granpa tom with tudor and holly jan 07

And if you enjoy my writing, perhaps you would enjoy my novel, Doughnuts for Amy, published this year by Winter Goose and set in Greenville.

April 29, 2016
by ChefJohn
2 Comments

Five for Ten

There goes the neighborhood.

As the accolades pour in for my beloved hometown of Greenville, it all comes with a Yogi Berra sort of price tag. No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded. Seriously, if you live anywhere but Main Street, visiting Main Street now feels like going to a new town.  As commercial builders rush to capitalize on our publicity it’s getting harder for us locals to enjoy the show. And now we (some of us) have a new reason to cringe, Chef Sean Brock just announced a third location of his stunningly delicious Husk Restaurant, you guessed it, on our Main Street.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love everything about Husk. Especially the part about it being in Charleston. Chef Brock’s pimento cheese, pork rinds, crispy pig ears, cornbread, pork belly, and fried chicken were perhaps the finest examples of these Southern staples I’ve ever had. And the cocktails from Husk’s bar and the professionalism of the service are both world class. However, unless you live in New Orleans or New York City, one should be expected to travel outside of their own city to have the most memorable meal of their life.  The fact that Husk is in the glorious, magical, far away town of Charleston makes a visit so much more special. When I visit Charleston, I don’t mind dodging horse-drawn carriages, bumping over the occasional road that belongs in Game of Thrones, and the inevitable seersucker spill in the harbor because I know that a life-changing meal awaits. And when I do travel that far east, I’m wearing my best linens and one of my wife’s handmade ties.

When I have lunch in my town of Greenville, I might be wearing matching socks.

So my fellow Greenvillians and soon to be visitors, if you want a memorable, handmade lunch and you’re not wearing your finest seersucker or don’t feel like fighting off a TV crew from the Travel Channel for a parking spot then read on.  Here’s five recommendations for a great lunch, far from downtown, where you’ll spend less than ten bucks.

Susie & Ed’s Italian Kitchen

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“This is my good side.” Susie & Ed’s Italian Kitchen

I love this quirky place. First of all, it’s in the tiny burb of Conestee, the building has a face only a brick salesman could love and they’re third generation restaurateurs. Their mainstay is their delivery business, and on Thursday and Friday, they also serve lunch. That’s right, they serve lunch two days a week. And the food is a carbohydrate lover’s dream. Pasta, eggplant, lasagna, and sandwiches, subdued with hearty meatballs or pan-fried chicken breasts, drenched with handmade tomato sauce then covered with mozzarella. If it’s winter time or I’ve got a 60-mile bike ride in my immediate future, I have no problem downing an entire chicken parmesan sandwich, which probably packs enough calories to feed a family of four. Susie & Ed’s delivers family size portions of their seriously delicious Italian staples Monday through Saturday and usually has something available in their to-go section.

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Chicken Parmesan Sandwich from Susie & Ed’s

 

Mekong

MeKong

Mekong is a great example of what a hard-working family can do with an abandoned Arby’s and a few empty pickle buckets. Drive behind this place and you’ll see what I mean. Using captured rain water, bus tubs, and five-gallon buckets, the Tran family has created a mini farm where they grow their own peppers, herbs, greens, sprouts, etc. At Mekong they serve a wonderful array of Pho, noodle, and rice dishes punctuated with lemongrass, curry, chili, and basil. Their Kim Chee is spicy and effervescent enough to satisfy devotees and their steamed duck bun is a favorite treat amongst Greenville’s culinarians. Their Pho, redolent with handmade broth, sliced jalapenos, and their own fresh herbs, is stunning delicious and will set you back a whopping seven dollars. Mekong is on Wade Hampton, just north of Pleasantburg Highway and they serve lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

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Mekong’s garden. Doesn’t get more local than this.

 

The Hungry Drover

John Wilson

Hungry Drover’s John Wilson

John Wilson smiles readily, waves heartily, welcomes you boisterously, and cooks passionately. He’s got an infectious personality that makes a trip to the Drover a worthwhile experience and he serves up plates of biscuits and grits that are worthy of a bucket list. The wait staff is quick with the coffee pot and quicker with a compliment. The menu is chock full of Southern goodness that will impress even the cousins from Atlanta. Handmade sourdough breads, locally produced sausage, handmade pimento cheese, stacks of smoky bacon, homemade pies, and bowls of butter-infused stone ground grits await you in the suburbs of Tigerville. Expect to pay about six to eight dollars for one of their signature plates or sandwiches.  And if you’re a fan of pie, share a slice of their toasted coconut cream pie.

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Hungry Drover sells bread, sweet rolls, and some locally handcrafted jewelry and art.

Mike & Jeff’s BBQ

Mike & Jeff

If one of the various BBQ associations ever decides to give architectural awards for the most unassuming smoke shack, then Mike & Jeff’s could be a front-runner. This place is as “joint” as they come yet the food and service are all first class. They’re on Old Buncombe Road in an industrial, blue collar side of town yet they attract a wide range of clients. From attorneys to brick masons, everyone is made at home. For less than eight dollars, Mike & Jeff’s serves a pulled pork sandwich with a couple of sides. Add a glass of sweet tea and a tip for your smiling server and you’ll leave a ten-dollar bill on the table.

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Greenville Memorial Hospital

That’s right, I said hospital. Although they would prefer you call it a health system, it’s still a big building where doctors operate on people and care for the sick.  The lobby of our largest hospital sports a food court that can handle hundreds of customers at a time, and still provide reasonably delicious food. Underneath their 1980’s cut glass roof, the atrium lobby houses several fast-food standbys and it’s their cafeteria that I’ll recommend. And before you turn your nose up, think about this. Under that bustling roof you can enjoy baked or grilled fresh fish, real fried chicken, pot roast, a variety of fresh vegetables, a salad bar, a sandwich bar, a great selection of beverages, and excellent service all for less than ten bucks. We are talking about a hospital so the food won’t challenge your palate yet it’s properly prepared, served hot, and the staff knows the value of a smile. Seriously, if you’re on the south side of town with a limited amount of time for lunch, it’s hard to beat this place. And you might just sit next to a dermatologist that doesn’t mind looking at your rash.

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Service with a Smile at the GHS Cafeteria

 

So there you have it. If you’re looking for an interesting or fun lunch away from the crowd of Main Street then consider one of these favorites. And let me know what you think.

February 28, 2016
by ChefJohn
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Greenville Small Plate Crawl

Three years ago, my friend Nicole Livengood cooked up a food-centered event for Greenville. It’s the Small Plate Crawl and it gives diners the ability to sample tastings from numerous restaurants in just a couple of days. I hope you’ll participate because it’s quite clever and fun. It’s easy to play along and only requires a few clicks of your mouse and you’re off and running. Please understand that you’ll be served tastings that will hopefully entice you into returning to your favorite restaurant and spending real money. The restaurant business is very unforgiving and unless you’re Chick Fil A, profit margins are usually in the single digits. So get out there and enjoy the crawl then make your plans to return and enjoy a full meal.

Passerelle John Malik

Passerelle Bistro

Here’s her official press release:

During this delicious three day event, crawlers travel from restaurant to restaurant sampling the best of Greenville’s and Travelers Rest’s culinary scene. Many of Greenville County’s best restaurants are offering special Small Plate menus, priced $4 to $10, showing off their Chef’s talent and restaurant cuisine.

No ticket is needed. Just print a Passport at GreenvilleSmallPlateCrawl.com/Passport and plan your path using the interactive map via the website. A Passport isn’t required, but is a reference for participating restaurants and times. Crawlers scan QR Codes with their smartphone at each stop for automatic entry into prize drawings based on the number of restaurants visited during the three day event.  Prizes include restaurant gift certificates from all Crawl restaurants, gift certificates to local shops, and a Grand Prize of an overnight stay at Hyatt Regency Greenville with $100 towards dinner at Roost. Winners will be contacted by email. Crawlers may also take selfies with their Passports tagging #greenvillecrawl for a chance to earn prizes.

Restaurants participate during lunch, dinner, or both, as indicated on the Passport (http://greenvillesmallplatecrawl.com/passport/) and the Restaurants page on GreenvilleSmallPlateCrawl.com (http://greenvillesmallplatecrawl.com/restaurants/ ).

Groups and sharing are encouraged during the crawl.  This is a rain-or-shine event. Small plates taste great no matter what the weather!

 

Greenville Crawl Logo w Date2016

January 27, 2016
by ChefJohn
0 comments

Honor Thy Mother

When I was 13, I participated in a cycling fundraiser for my Boy Scout troop. I had to ask people to pledge a certain amount per mile I would ride. Most of the folks I went to agreed to donate .25 cents per mile. They were shocked when I rode 40 miles.  My mom wasn’t surprised when I started racing bikes in college

My Mom loved cheering us on.  She didn’t really understand sports, whether it was my brother’s football or rugby games or my cycling, yet she knew we were out there giving it our best shot.  The first time she saw me race was in Lafayette, LA on a tight, winding two-mile course that was part of the Acadiana Festival.  It was typical south Louisiana hot and muggy afternoon.  I baked, withered, then fell away from the lead group and managed to finish in 9th place.   I kept thinking I had the wrong gear set, hadn’t trained properly or didn’t have enough water the day before.  It didn’t matter.  Dejectedly, I pedaled over to her.  She immediately hugged me and told me how much she enjoyed herself.

“It was like watching a ballet on wheels.  The way everyone bent into the corner in unison then twisted upright.  The movement, the sound, the colors.  You were so elegant and the sound the bikes made as you all whizzed by.  It was all so…wonderful.”

I was drenched in sweat and disappointed in my performance yet I couldn’t help but smile.  Mom found the beauty in the sport.  She didn’t understand the tactics or technique but she certainly knew how to make me smile.

Many years later, after Dad passed away, she started forgetting things. Small things at first, then larger things, such as the names of her grandchildren, where I lived, and what I did.

Once we spent an entire week with her. We stayed with her, cooked and cleaned for her, drove her around town and took her to visit her friends. After we left and arrived back home in South Carolina, I called her to tell her that we were safely home.

She replied that she would hurry and open her front door.

“South Carolina mom.  We just got home in South Carolina.”

“Oh.”

Alzheimer’s stinks. A diagnosis is a death sentence.  It doesn’t matter how old or young or healthy you are. It’s going to kill you, maybe slowly, maybe quickly. On the way to your death, you’ll forget everything that makes you special and unique. And you’ll slowly break the hearts of your loved ones.

This July I’ll make my third bicycle trip across South Carolina in the Ride to Remember. Although me and my teammates will have a great time and see parts of our state you’d never see from the interstate, it’s still a fundraiser and I need to do my part and raise money.

My goal is five thousand dollars.

Let me remind you. Alzheimer’s has a 100% fatality rate. There are no survivors. And chances are that you’ve got someone near and dear to you that has or will have Alzheimer’s. If Alzheimer’s is going to be beaten, it’s going to take money. Your money.

Won’t you please help me with a donation?