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Perhaps it wasn’t the brightest idea for me to leave the restaurant chapter of the Insiders’ Guide to Richmond till the bitter end, but in my defense I did add to it all along during the four months I was working on the book. I was uninclined to wax poetically about a place only to find it closed the next week as happened to quite a few fine restaurants around here this past winter. Not barbecue places, though. Those have staying power.

No doubt the restaurant critics and food bloggers around town will have a field day, crucifying me for what I put in and what I left out, and I suppose I will never get a reservation in my own name at several of the fine establishments that I couldn’t fit in due to space restrictions, but I hardly ever eat out anyway… and as my daughter likes to remind me, “No one will read it anyway.” Kind of comforting in a fearful, self-loathing, depressing sort of way….

A couple of things I learned while writing the restaurant chapter–barbecue restaurant owners are the friendliest folk. They also have the most pride per pound of pork served–just bursting with it. It seemed so real I could almost top it with slaw.  It was fun to talk with and in some cases meet the owners of cool, little places and really see how the right restaurant in the right spot with energetic and far-sighted ownership can be an amazing tool of community revitalization. Alamo BBQ on Church Hill   (get some ) comes to mind.  I suspect Pescados on Oregon Hill, when it opens this summer  (Pescados in midlothian now) will do the trick as well.  

By the time I had written the more than 120 restaurant, coffee shop, and bakery entries, I had no words left and no appetite for eating anything in my own paltry cabinets. I am most proud of my Asian section of the restaurant chapter because I was able to sneak in a line about faux pho–hardy har har. I stayed just this side of sanity by not employing the best word I’ve ever made up–noodleific.  It says it all. It’s going somewhere; I just couldn’t bear to give it away in  a work-for-hire project, so it’s mine, all mine.

How sad is it that after a day of researching and writing restaurant entries for the most annoying book ever that will actually be pretty good, I burned olive oil-soaked pita bread lovingly speckled with a cumin-lemon pepper concoction. Totally scorched–had to throw it outside. Luckily had more of everything.

At some point today I was almost whimpering into the phone when chefs or managers would tell me their favorite items on their menus.  It’s all a blur to me now, but then, knowing what little edible anything was in my fridge, I had to restrain myself from saying, “You’ll get a really good write up if you send somebody over with a couple of those something encrusted something elses.” I behaved, but just barely.

I was jumping around from cuisine to cuisine, talking to whoever I could get on the phone, so I spoke with foodie wine bar and then the barbecue guy and then the pan-Asian place and then the  ice cream place and then the upscale neighborhood place. It will be a miracle if there isn’t an entry in the restaurant chapter that says something like: “Foodies won’t want to miss the goat cheese encrusted root beer float layered with carmelized farm-to-table milk shake reduction of comfort food drizzled with mutated vanilla bean over cheese grits.  

I am so tired of writing about food that I’m almost happy to switch over to the shopping chapter. All I really know is I like the sound of this, don’t like the looks of that, do like the taste of that, and I’m done. There’s so much pretension involved with food.  Since my daughter and a friend were coming home for spring break today, I took a break from my peanut M & M regimen and actually used my oven a bit–made chicken pot pie and chocolate peanut butter chip brownies. Not a whiff of pretension there–except to say that of course those brownies were made from scratch, as all brownies should be.

I’m back!