Some of My Favorite Places to Eat Over the Years

I was recently thinking about some o f the best foods of different types and cuisines that I’ve had over the years. I decided to make a partial list of those that have most exemplified my culinary satisfaction. It’s not all inclusive my any means, but represents those foods, times, and places that have meant the most to over the years.

My all-time favorite hamburgers came from a little diner on Glenway Avenue in Western Hills in Cincinnati, Ohio called Nell’s Diner. When I was in college and short on money, I’d go to Nell’s and the head waitress, named Lucy, would let me peel and cut potatoes for the french frier in exchange for a burger with the works and a basket of perfect fries. Nothing ever tasted so good as those burgers and fries.

My favorite pizza of all-time is still the Sicilian from La Rosa’s Italian Restaurant, also in Western Hills in Cincinnati. I couldn’t get enough of them, and only wish that they still made them, but over the years they have disappeared from the La Rosa’s menu as that single restaurant has grown into a regional chain. What set the Sicilian apart was the fact that they used no tomato sauce. The pie was baked with your choice of toppings, on top of a bed of fresh grated mozzarella and a chewy but crisp crust. When it came to the table, the server would pour as much hot olive oil over top of the pizza as you wanted. I’ve never had another pizza like it.

The best meatloaf I’ve ever had, and this includes that of my own dear old grandmother, can be had at the Village Inn in Allegan, Michigan. It is made from an extremely finely ground blend of pork, lamb, and beef, lightly seasoned, and baked to perfection, topped off with a tangy ketchup sauce. For around six dollars you get the meatloaf, two sides, and home made style rolls and butter, and it’s almost too much to eat at one sitting.

My favorite chicken is still the open charcoal grilled barbequed chicken my Dad used to make. Liberally slathered with multiple bastings of his own home made sauce, and nearly charred on the outside, it beats any other I’ve ever had, hands down.

The most exotic menu item I’ve ever had, and one of my all-time favorite meals, bar none, was the Wild Game Feast at a hidden away little restaurant in Nashville, Indiana called The Ordinary. It consisted of a healthy portion of sliced and roasted wild turkey breast, one half of a wild pheasant, and a beautifully roasted Bobwhite quail, served with your choice of either baked or mashed potatoes, an additional side of in-season vegetables of your choice, and home made yeast rolls with fresh apple butter. The last time we were there, the meal had been reduced to a much more generic ensemble of commercial birds and no where near as good as it was forty years ago.

My favorite home cooking is still almost anything prepared by my grandmother. She spent nearly all day, every day preparing and/or cooking food, baking, etc. and her skill at what she did still can’t be matched anywhere.

When it comes to delis, I have a real soft spot for Izzy’s Deli in Cincinnati. Their pastrami sandwich was about four inches thick with meat that they made from scratch on their premises, and no one has ever approached their corned beef in my experience, also made right on the premises. Of all the styles of restaurant I miss most in my little corner of the world, it’s a really good kosher deli.

Italian restaurants don’t come any better than 84 East in Holland, Michigan. Their individually prepared spinach and basil pizza, baked in a wood fired oven are sublime, but my usual choice when we eat there is their signature baked spaghetti pie. Even better than it sounds.

Seva is a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan that serves only vegan foods, and it my favorite restaurant of its type. I can’t get enough of their yam fries, nachos with black beans, or spinach enchiladas. Also, I can’t go there without getting one of their fantastic portobella burgers, smothered in lettuce, tomato, and onion. Really, really good eating, I guarantee.

I grew up with the term, hot dog, meaning the juicy little dog smothered in chili sauce and diced onions and served on a steamed bun that came from the Original Coney Island in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While I seldom eat a hot dog anymore, I still sometimes find myself craving a couple of those bad boys.

The best seafood I’ve ever had came from a little seaside diner in Maine, though I no longer remember its name or exact location. The summer before I went off to college I worked on the railroad. We would go to Maine to drop off coal, steel, etc. and bring back Maine lumber from where we were based in Ohio. Every time we went there the whole crew would end up gorging on fresh lobster, various ocean fish, and boiled corn on the cob and hush puppies. I’ve never had seafood that took my breath away like that did.

Ranking Dylan’s Studio Albums

This list is my ranking of the studio albums of Bob Dylan. It doesn’t include any live releases, greatest hits packages, or any of the bootleg series of his work.

32. Dylan (1973)
Columbia Records threw together this album of schmaltzy outtakes as revenge on Dylan for defecting to Asylum Records. The sole highlight is a goof on Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”

31. Under the Red Sky (1990)
This slipshod effort that makes more sense when you learn that Dylan was writing nursery rhymes for his four-year-old daughter.

30. Empire Burlesque (1985)
Producer Arthur Baker should be tried for crimes against music, burying some good songs in appalling ’80s synths and drums. “Dark Eyes” is the sublime acoustic exception.

29. Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
A mostly disposable collection from Dylan’s era of collaborating with Tom Petty. The highlight is “Brownsville Girl,” a stunning collaboration with playwright/actor Sam Shepard.

28. Self-Portrait (1970)
Dylan said he made this album to get the hippies off his lawn, which didn’t work. High points are tracks from a performance at the Isle of Wight Festival with The Band, and the pirate anthem “Days of ’49.”

27. Together Through Life (2009)
This record hit number one in 2009, but Dylan was Teflon by this point. Still, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” was morbid enough for True Blood, and Mike Campbell’s guitar is a marvel.

26. Saved (1980)
Dylan’s most hardcore salvation album went as deep into Gospel as he would ever get; the title track testifies with the insistent beat of the church chorus. On “In The Garden,” he’s Jesus’ lawyer.

25. Down in the Groove (1988)
The ’80s are passing Dylan by. “Silvio,” co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, is a minor standout on this critically reviled album.

24. Infidels (1983)
Dylan dumps Christianity and reconsiders the world of his fathers.

23. Modern Times (2006)
This album hit number one on the chart. “Ain’t Talkin’,” the spooky closer, is a masterpiece, with dashes of Ovid thrown in.

22. Shot of Love (1981)
Rolling Stone panned this album, but “Every Grain of Sand” later won acclaim from both Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello.

21. Slow Train Coming (1979)
Bob found Jesus and won his first Grammy. “Gotta Serve Somebody” doesn’t quite convince; “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” is more like it, hypnotic and compelling.

20. Nashville Skyline (1969)
Decades before alt-country, many found this uncool, but “Lay Lady Lay” was a deserving hit, not to mention the Johnny Cash duet “Girl from the North Country,” and a crooning vocal delivery that wouldn’t last long.

19. Good as I Been to You (1992)
Thirty years later, Dylan delivered the kind of traditional folk album people expected in 1961. He nails every track, as if he were strumming in Washington Square. “You’re Gonna Quit Me” is the ultimate guilt trip.

18. World Gone Wrong (1993)
All folk, with the weight of the world very apparent, this album uses the downward spiral of the Earth as an excuse for being no good.

17. Bob Dylan (1962)
Dylan has said that he regretted his debut shortly after recording it, but “Song to Woody” opened the songwriting genie, and “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” is worth following. Also, some pretty interesting covers such as “House of the Rising Sun” and “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

16. Planet Waves (1974)
Dylan’s first number-one album was his only album-length collaboration with The Band, a charming collection of songs cobbled together in about as long as it takes to listen to them. “Forever Young” is for keeps.

15. New Morning (1970)
Dylan attempted to undo some of the damage of his disastrous “Self Portrait” album, and succeeds for the most part. George Harrison plays call and response on “Time Passes Slowly,” and the title track celebrates domestic pastoral.

14. Street Legal (1978)
Dylan’s last pre-Christian album has some powerful songs haphazardly recorded. “Senor” is my favorite on a lot levels, and I think of Dylan’s most under appreciated songs ever. The finale, “Where Are You Tonight?,” is a devastating and desperate cry.

13. Oh Mercy (1989)
Producer Daniel Lanois helps Dylan approach fifty; the result is stuffed with masterpieces. “The Man With The Long Black Coat” is classic balladry, and “Most of the Time” devastates.

12. Love and Theft (2001)
“Mississippi” is Dylan’s greatest song of the new millennium, getting more bleak all the time.

11.The Basement Tapes (1975)
These are the most legendary demos ever filled with songs that have been covered more than most Dylan albums over the years.

10. Time Out of Mind (1997)
Dylan nearly died of heart disease in ’97, and when he didn’t, this return to songwriting after seven years was greeted like a miracle. So much so that it won the Grammy for best album of the year.

9. John Wesley Harding (1967)
Dylan decides to ignore the ’60s and quote the Bible in allegory and metaphor. Filled with quiet, acoustic reflection and a certain hope-filled gentleness not often heard in the world of rock and roll.

8. Desire (1976)
With lyrics cowritten by Jacques Levy, Desire also shines via young Emmylou Harris’s backups.

7. Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)
Recorded in one night, Another Side finds Dylan moving on from politics while getting intoxicated on his own vision. He was so much older then, he’s younger than that now.

6. The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
Dylan, in castigating mode, points fingers at those who “philosophize disgrace.” Times includes many of Dylan’s greatest early songs.

5. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
This is where Dylan became Dylan, leaving obscurity behind forever. At twenty-one-years old, he opens with “Blowin’ in the Wind” and leaves scorched earth with “Don’t Think Twice.”, “Hard Rain” and more.

4. Blonde on Blonde (1966)
Is it the devastation of “Just Like a Woman?” The dreamlike mystery of “Visions of Johanna?” The hypnotic incantations of “Sad Eyed Lady?” Yes, and much more.

3. Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
Dylan goes electric on side one, but gets visionary on acoustic side two. The influence of the poetry of Rimbaud met up with the modernity of Ginsberg poetry and it all came together on the grooves of this record.

2. Blood on the Tracks (1975)
This is the best dissolution of a relationship album ever. Filled with self-blame, searching for answers as to what went wrong, and some hope for reconciliation. Some of Dylan’s best lyrics ever, most melodic tunes, and outstanding and emotive vocals.

1. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Dylan completely retooled the world of rock music with this fantastic onslaught of sound, and stream-of-consciousness poetry set to music, while challenging everything about both folk and rock and roll. There’s not a weak song on the album.

Bex Marshall – Kitchen Table

A great British blues lady who’s just come onto my radar screen. Besides the music of Bob Dylan, my next greatest musical interest is in the blues. Everything from the roots blues of Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson to the more contemporary stylings of Rory Gallagher and others.

Marshall tears it up on acoustic resonator guitar, playing a mix of slide and open tunings that have led to her being compared to Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and more. Her vocals are often compared to Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, etc. What she actually does is pull off a unique blend of instrumental prowess and vocal skills that may well be incomparable to all the comparisons.

This is the title tune to her 2008 album of the same name. It’s a must-have for anyone interested in this type of music.

The recession has hit everybody really hard:

My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

CEO’s are now playing miniature golf.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

A stripper was killed when her audience showered her with rolls of pennies while she danced.

I saw a Mormon with only one wife.

The economy is so bad that the highest-paying job in town is jury duty.

The bank returns your check marked “Insufficient Funds,” and you call them to ask if they meant you or them.

Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children’s names.

My cousin had an exorcism but couldn’t afford to pay for it so the Church re-possessed her!

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico .

The economy is so bad, I saw the CEO of Wal-Mart shopping at Wal-Mart.

When Bill and Hillary travel together they now share a room.

McDonald’s is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America .

A picture is now only worth 200 words.

The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.

Times are so tough that I can’t even afford to pay attention.

The economy is so bad, I went to my bank the other day and the teller handed me a note saying, “This is a robbery!”

Congress says they are looking into this Bernard Madoff scandal.
Oh Great! The guy who made $50 Billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 Trillion disappear!

Most Expensive Weathervane Ever

Weathervanes have been getting a lot of attention at auctions in the folk art category for the past several years. In January 2006 a figure of Liberty was sold in New York at Christie’s for a then record $1.08 million. In August 2006 a train weathervane went for 1.2 million at Northeast Auctions based in New Hampshire. Sounds like a chunk of change right? Well, not so fast.

Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford have been known for their very large collection of folk art and furniture. Josephine has been renowned for many generations for her collection. She was the third generation of her family to live with folk art. Automobile mogul, Henry Ford, Josephine’s grandfather, was one of the first weathervane collectors and was great at the bargaining table, generally getting them for a very inexpensive price. Edsel Ford, Josephine’s father was another avid collector.

Josephine had a home located in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. On the roof of her home sat a magnificent 5’2″ weathervane. This rare and elegant figure had a fringe skirt and a feather headdress. This was a monumentally tall, flaking copper weathervane of an Indian chief hoisting a bow. It was estimated that it may bring up to $150,000.00. This piece was auctioned on October 6, 2006 at Sotheby’s in New York for a whopping $5.84 million dollars. The buyer was Jerry Lauren, executive vice president of mens designs at Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation. This weathervane still holds the record for the most expensive one ever sold.