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Tomato Head’s Warm Kale and Root Vegetable Salad

Whenever I talk about kale, my vocabulary becomes very healthy as I launch into a diatribe about this nearly ever-green superfood.  But even as I do, I can see a weariness creep across the faces of the people I’m talking to; sometimes, that look is accompanied by a slight rolling of the eyes, or a little exhalation of breath, almost a deflation, as if to say, “Not again.”

I’m not a kale evangelist, perhaps an enthusiast, yes, but not an evangelist. I’m certainly not a bore (please, God, don’t let THAT be true). And I’m certain that I don’t wear the subject out, so I can hardly be blamed for the fact that this nutrient dense member of the Brassica species suffers from overexposure.

Kale fatigue is not my fault.

But that doesn’t change the fact that kale is awfully good for you and that it’s available and seasonal when green, leafy vegetables usually fly south for the season.  So we should talk about it even if our friends roll their eyes.  Kale fatigue be damned.

But I’m convinced that this weariness has less to do with conversation than with an urge to get too much, too fast.  No food will change your life after a single serving – well, that’s not entirely true: once, a cupcake made me believe in Paradise.  But in terms of health and well-being, it takes more than one big bowl of leafy greens to cure what ails ya.  Furthermore, kale’s a tough cookie – it’s at its most nutritious when it’s raw, and, believe you me, raw kale is no fun to eat.

It reminds me of my cousin Bruce.  Bruce loves pecan pie, and I’m pretty sure that he’d love spiced pecans and pecan cinnamon rolls, too.  But Bruce won’t touch any of those things – it’s torturous to watch him agonize over pecan pie at Thanksgiving – his mouth practically waters!  But once upon a time, Bruce got a bite of that pithy bit of fiber that separates the two halves of pecan meat.  I’m sure Mamaw didn’t mean to leave in the pie, but that brief moment of unwelcome bitterness, coming, as it did, in the midst of sugary heaven, put Cousin Bruce off pecans and all nuts for the last 35 years.

I feel certain that that’s what’s happened to many a potential kale lover.  We know that if you gently massage the kale leaf and remove the rib, then the little bite of Brassica becomes much nicer to nibble and exponentially more delectable for the digestion.  But like Bruce and his nuts, even a single bite of tense, unrubbed kale or a chew of wayward, fibrous kale rib can put you off the vegetable for a very long time.

That’s why it may be better to cook the kale a little.  Sure, you diminish some of the vitamin concentration in a single serving, but, over your lifetime (unlike the sad but safe exclusion of pecan pie in Bruce’s life) I’m betting that you’re better off having kale in your diet.

This recipe is a great example of how to use kale without risking kale fatigue.  Combining the gently cooked and seasoned leafy greens with earthy and sweet, roasted root vegetables makes an incredibly delicious – perhaps even sneaky- way to get good food on the plate and in the body.  Plus the crunch and light sweetness of fennel bulb adds and irresistible texture and perkiness that gives the whole salad a lift that is seasonal and guaranteed to fight off a whole list of kale fatigue symptoms – especially the dreaded rolling of the eyes.

 

Tomato Head’s Warm Kale and Root Vegetable Salad

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces

1.5 cups beets, diced into 1 inch pieces

2 cups potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss each vegetable separately with 1 Tbl Oil, ¼ tsp Salt and ¼ tsp Black Pepper. Place vegetables on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in separate clumps. Bake Carrots for 20 minutes until soft, Beets for 30 minutes until soft and Potatoes for 40 minutes until soft, removing each vegetable from the oven as they cook and setting them aside.

½ cup Fennel Bulb

6 cups Kale

Cut the green stems off the Fennel, rinse the bulb, and cut in half. Remove the core then thinly slice the fennel with a knife or a mandoline slicer and set aside.

Wash Kale and cut into 1 inch strips.

To assemble the salad:

½ cup balsamic vinegar reduced to ¼ cup

¼ cup olive oil

½ tsp salt

1 Tbl Balsamic Vinegar

Place ½ cup balsamic vinegar in a large skillet over medium heat and reduce down to ¼ cup. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the remaining ingredients and whisk well. Add the kale to the hot skillet, allowing the Kale to wilt a little.

Place Kale in a large bowl, and add the roasted vegetables, and Fennel. (if your skillet is large enough you can add the vegetables directly to the skillet). Toss everything together until all the vegetables are coated with dressing and serve.

Serves 2-4 people.

Turnip Soup

As far as I can tell, there are still people who don’t quite know what to do with a turnip.  Turnip greens have a more certain presence for Southern eaters, but the bulbous root itself doesn’t seem to command a great deal of attention.  And when it does find its way into the average pot, I’m not sure that it gets treated with much respect. In my own experience, diced turnips sometimes appeared at a covered dish church supper, soggy, unattractive and untouched on a long table –left alone there as diners chose the more attractive company of mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, even steamed-to-death broccoli, and iceberg lettuce, limp and drowning in value brand ranch.

Diced and Ready to Go in the Pot

Diced and Ready to Go in the Pot

The turnip did get a recent moment in the spotlight with First Lady, Michelle Obama in a six second Vine appearance, which prompted some news outlets, including the LA Times, to offer up a few recipes including a classic one for glazed turnips.  But even with Mrs. Obama’s hip turnip moment set to the sounds of DJ Snake and Lil John, there are few kids in our neck of the woods who wake up thinking that they’d love to dive into a steaming bowl of creamed turnips.

Even in literature, the turnip doesn’t get much love.  There’s a Russian fairy tale about a giant turnip with a lovely moral about the value of teamwork. And the Brothers Grimm have a giant turnip tale in their collection, too (albeit one with a mighty weird ending), but neither of these tales made it into any of my story books.

But turnips are worth considering.  They belong to the same family that includes broccoli,

Simmering Away

Simmering Away

cauliflower and kale, usually they’re affordable, they’re always rich in vitamin C, B6, folate and other good things, too.  They are great storage vegetables and have been a welcome part of the winter diet when good food planning (and planting) meant the difference in life and death on the Tundra.

The root can be woody, sharp and bitter if it’s grown in too warm a climate or gets too big, but smaller bulbs are sweet, earthy, and reminiscent of radish.  They make a nice addition to mashed potatoes or a mixed vegetable roast, and are a classic combination with braised duck.

 

Tomato Head’s Turnip and Fennel Soup

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

1 small onion, diced

1/3 cup oil

4 garlic cloves, diced

2 large turnips about 6 cups, peeled and diced

Green stalks and fronds from 1 fennel bulb, about 2 cups, rinsed and chopped

​5 cups water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Peel and dice onion and garlic.  Remove ends from turnips – peel, then dice turnips.  Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb right above the bulb, where the bulb starts to turn green, rinse and slice the stalks.

Heat oil in a medium to large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minute until onions are translucent.  Add fennel stalks and fronds, turnips, and water.  Increase heat to high; bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer soup uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes or until turnips are easily pierced with a fork.  Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  With an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth.  Serve immediately or cool and reheat when needed.

If using a traditional stand blender – allow soup to cool before blending. Hot liquids will splatter, with the potential to burn when blended.

Reheat to serve.

Serves 6-8turnip_soup_bread turnip_soup

Diced and Ready to Go in the Pot

Diced and Ready to Go in the Pot

 

 

 

Denise Stewart-Sanabria – November 2016 Artist

November brings the return of the work of Denise Stewart-Sanabria to the walls of Tomato Head.  In summer of last year, Denise exhibited a collection of Vanitas – still-life paintings that treat domestic imagery in symbolic terms, often as images of death and change.  Denise’s exhibit included many large format and food centric compositions that posed some challenging questions about food.  This artist’s work is thoughtful and thought provoking.

That’s equally true of her current exhibit which primarily focuses on Stewart-Sanabria’s Contemporary Mythology

Appalachian Queen of Rubber Inner Tube Couture

Appalachian Queen of Rubber Inner Tube Couture

Altars but also includes some small scale plywood people drawings – a small version of a form that she also creates in life-like proportion.

From a purely visual point of view, the altars, of which there are 2 types, are a fascinating collection of materials.  According to the artist, “The large ones are wood drawings on hand built altar frames with other media ranging from objects embedded in resin to gold leaf. The smaller ones are cut paper drawings in hand built wood altars with mixed media and added bling.”

But the collection of materials in these compositions isn’t the result of a shopping spree at a craft store.  She says that, “I collect stuff wherever I am. Detritus. Most of it procured legally.”  The variety of the components bring a lovely textural variation to the work as well as adding a sense of depth – visually and otherwise.

For the artist, this series of work is rooted in observations about our culture, and, perhaps, our value systems, too.  These altars, she says, “are all figurative, and focus on either contemporary culture or how the past effects contemporary culture.”

Steps To The Ryman

Steps To The Ryman

At times, as in her previous exhibit, the work may incite challenging self-reflection.  These altars, though they may feature some variant of Classical imagery, also touch contemporary life – not always comfortably.  Denise wonders: “Would contemporary temples to Aphrodite be beauty salons? Would modern versions of ancient water gods visit Tennessee tourist waterfall sites? Is Dionysus worshipped during exhibit openings where wine seems to be an equal draw with the art?”

Denise Stewart-Sanabria exhibits her work regularly in Knoxville and Nashville as well as all around the country from Chicago Heights’ Union Street Gallery to the Florida State Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee.  You can find it at the Market Square Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville now through December 4th.  She will then exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from December 5th, 2016 through January 2nd, 2017.

Roasted Pumpkin and Poblano Pepper Soup

 

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Fall Goodness

It’s about that time, you know, when the Great Pumpkin descends and showers candy and other goodies upon cute little ghouls, goblins, superheroes, a handful of witches and miniaturized versions of the walking dead.  And there are larger folks, sometimes also dressed in strange attire roaming about, too, herding the little bands of the costumed from treat to treat.  A few of these Halloween shepherds are happy to snag whatever funky candy that the kids won’t eat, and yet, sad but true, some of us aged ghouls are a little too sweet already.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to make a diet of Skittles and chocolate bars, but most colorfully wrapped candy leaves much to be desired for my appetite.  Of course, if you’ve got a fat cupcake or hefty wedge of peanut butter pie, that works, but, truth be told, the older I get, the more I crave the warm and savory when little spirits are indulging in a sugar rush.

So, when Mahasti was planning her visit to WBIR this morning, I was thrilled that we would be learning about a savory seasonal something that’s super suitable for sharing with big hobgoblins who might knock on your door looking for a less sugary Halloween treat: Pumpkin Soup.

For those of you who have reached your Pumpkin Spice threshold for the year, please don’t give up on us yet – this pumpkin spice will re-fire your engines and heat your endorphins into full steam.  Tomato Head’s Roasted Pumpkin and Poblano Pepper Soup features a heart and head warming blend of spices with a calming and comforting dollop of heavy cream to create a treat that will revive and refresh even the most dead-on-her-feet zombie.

Mahasti’s recipe includes both Poblano and habanero pepper along with a touch of ginger.  Poblanos, of course, are only mildly spicy but have a rich and warming, almost earthy flavor that’s a fantastic match to pumpkin’s also slightly earthy but buttery and mildly sweet flavor.  Habanero lends some heat but, better yet, it contributes a bright personality that, with the ginger, gives an extra tingle to each mouthful of this potage.

It’s a creamy comfort that gets a fun crunch from the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds, which, IMHO, is one of the great under-sung heroes in the pantheon of snacks.

What’s particularly nice about most creamy pumpkin soup is that it’s great warm, at room temperature and cool, too – so despite the warm Halloween that we’re expecting, this soup can easily match your mood and the forecast, too.  And because it’s pureed to a silky smooth texture, it’s easy to serve a dollop in a cup for a quick snack or an on the go goody for shepherds of the fast moving and ambitious trick or treaters – after all, Halloween comes but once a year and when the Great Pumpkin finally arrives – best grab it while the getting’s good.

You can see how easy this recipe is to put together by checking out Mahasti’s appearance on WBIR’s Weekend Today at this link:  http://www.wbir.com/life/food/soups/tomato-head-pumpkin-and-poblano-soup/344125793

 

Tomato Head’s Roasted Pumpkin and Poblano Pepper Soup

 

¼ cup oil

1 cup onion, diced

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, chopped

¼ Habanero pepper

1 medium size Poblano pepper, roasted, seeded and peeled

2 cups Roasted Pumpkin

1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1 tsp salt

2.5 cups water

1 cup heavy cream

In a medium pot, over medium heat, sauté the onion in oil until translucent. Add ginger, habanero, peeled poblano, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, salt, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for 10- 15 minutes until ginger is soft. Puree the soup with an immersion blender **. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.

4-6 people

** Do not blend hot soup in a traditional blender; allow soup to cool and then puree the mixture. Return the mixture to the pot and bring to a boil, then add heavy cream and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes longer.

 

Pumpkin Spice Champurrado

Despite my inclination to poke a little fun at the growing pumpkin spice craze, it’s actually one of the coolest food and beverage trends to come along in a great while.  In fact, anything we do to give pumpkin a lift is really a kind of All-American celebration, because the great orange squash is one of those great All-American foodstuffs that predates Amerigo Vespucci (America’s namesake) by about 5000 years.

When I was knee-high to a gourd, we read about Native agriculture in the form of the 3-Sisters, corns, beans, and squash, which were cultivated together because of their symbiotic relationship: corn gives the beans a natural pole to grow on; squash has wide foliage that help product corn’s shallow root system; and beans add nitrogen to the soil which helps everybody grow.

Squash, and pumpkin in particular, have deep roots in this continent – in fact, it may have surfaced right here, close to home, in the land that provides us with a lot of culinary inspiration: Mexico.

Archeologists opine that the Oaxaca Highlands (which, roughly speaking, is on the Pacific side of Mexico opposite Veracruz) were among the first places where pumpkin was cultivated – some 7500 years ago.  The squash was grown for food, of course, but also for medicine, for storage (you can make nifty bowls from pumpkin hulls!), perhaps even for use of its fibrous strands for making mats.  Of course we still prefer eating pumpkin to any other use – though Jack-O-Lanterns are awfully nifty, too.

Recently, as you all know, folk have also taken a lot of interest in drinking pumpkin – or at least the flavor of pumpkin or just the spices that often go with it (we vociferated about that in a previous blog post).  Despite the quibbles we’ve already expressed about the craze, we remain committed to the idea of giving pumpkin its due.  And since we owe this wonderful cucurbit to our friends to the south, this week Mahasti showed us all how to celebrate both pumpkin itself and its ancient home all at the same time.

Mexico, of course, is the font of innumerable good things to eat and drink, but when autumn hits the air, we’re pretty sure that champurrado is the best thing from our neighbor since corn tortillas.

Champurrado is a thick, rich drink, originally made with chocolate – it’s like hot chocolate, but thicker, richer and much more fortifying.  It’s almost breakfast itself because it starts with masa harina – dried corn meal – that’s cooked with a little water and combined with chocolate.

Mahasti’s current version, though, doesn’t use chocolate – instead, she uses fresh roasted pumpkin (and plenty of pumpkin spice, too!) blended with milk.

The flavor and texture of this drink are luxurious, and, fair warning, may make your favorite latte seem a little wimpy in comparison.  And it’s very easy to make at home – plus, if you’ve never roasted a pumpkin in your own kitchen, this is the perfect chance to get some practice in for pie making season and add a great fall drink to your repertoire, too.  You may even throw in a little food history and heritage to your smaller helpers.

We have the recipe here below, but you can watch it happen the way Mahasti does it (with a couple fun tips, too) on WBIR by following this link:

http://www.wbir.com/life/food/recipes/pumpkin-spice-champurrado/336348500

Tomato Head’s Pumpkin Spice Champurrado

1 Tbl Masa Harina

1.25 cup cold water

pinch of salt

1 cup milk

½ cup fresh pumpkin, cooked and peeled

1.5 Tbl sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Clove

1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 tsp ginger

Cut pumpkin in half, remove seeds and place cut side down in a baking dish with 1 inch of water. Bake oven in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until you can insert a fork into the pumpkin easily. Remove from oven, flip the pumpkins over. When the pumpkins are cool, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Store extra pumpkin your refrigerator for another use.

In a medium sauce pan whisk together the Masa Harina with cold water and pinch of salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a blender, blend the fresh pumpkin with the milk. Add the milk mixture and the remaining ingredients to the pot, whisking constantly until milk heats up and mixture thickens and foams a little.

Serve Hot.

National Dessert Day

Words, as anyone who has said bumfuzzle aloud can tell you, are funny.  How they came to be and where they came from can be amusing when not just strange.

Chocolate Cupcakes

For many of us dessert means chocolate

Consider dessert – as, of course, we hope you often do- that word comes from a French word, dessevir, meaning to remove what has been served or, easier on the tongue, to clear away the table.  In fact in the third person desservir takes on a familiar form: il dessert (or he clears away). Which isn’t particularly funny if you haven’t finished your dessert before he clears it away. Sacre bleu!  What a tragedy that would be.

Other folks say that the meaning of desservir is more akin to “un-serve”.  Which, in dessert parlance, is the worst thought ever.  Who would have a heart black enough to un-serve dessert?

Of course, no one we know, especially not the French, would un-serve dessert or take post prandial candy from babies of any age, but as we celebrate National Dessert Day it seems worthwhile to linger over our coffee and consider the vagaries surrounding the sweet spot of the meal.

I grew up in a home with lots of sweets, but not many desserts.  That is to say that we rarely had a final course to the meal; cookies and milk might come later, but they were never served at the table.  It was a rare and special occasion when Mom would have something sweet that we would eat together after dinner. Usually it arrived in a footed, faceted dessert cup which I have forever since associated with chocolate pudding (my favorite treat from back in the day).  It was an indulgence that never got old because it never came too often – so you couldn’t get used to it or take it for granted.  It was mother’s whim and a delight.

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….or chocolate chip, of course

That’s why, perhaps, to this day dessert remains a completely separate experience from grabbing a quick bite of cookie.  The very idea is a comfort – just think of clearing the table for a last sweet moment of communion over a bit of food that you can enjoy in small bites thus facilitating the especially fine conversation that comes from the good mood of the well fed.

Because it is more than nourishment, and follows essential eating, dessert contributes to the feeling that life is good.  Whenever I feel discontent or worried about the budget or the Jones’ new car, I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things I’m a rich man.  I have food daily and dessert often.

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….but fruity is nice too

Dessert’s pretty special at The Tomato Head – it’s made with the same care and careful selection of ingredients as everything we serve.  And, thanks to the delectable work of Flour Head Bakery, our dessert case is almost an embarrassment of riches, and one that’s accessible, too.  What good is a wealth of sweet stuff unless you can share it?  We take pains to make sure that our vegan and gluten free options are as appetizing to the eye and as scrumptious to the tongue as every other treat we serve.  And, as a general rule, we’d never un-serve dessert – we’re just good like that.

Happy National Dessert Day!  Be sweet to someone you love – or even someone you don’t: a little sugar goes a long way…

Good People Brewing Company

I can’t pinpoint when I first heard the phrase, “the good life” bandied around in marketing efforts.  I certainly and vividly recall the first time I heard Martha Stewart say, “It’s a good thing,” and I’m still uncertain about how I feel about that.  I remember the first time I was aware that the “good life” was a thing to be considered and discussed.  It was a college seminar on a book called “The Fragility of Goodness” that mentioned a concept called Eudaimonia – which is one of those 50 drachma words that folks like Aristotle favored, the kind that you and I have to explain as we translate.  It kind of means the good life, but it’s more about human flourishing.  At any rate, if you think about it too much, you may want a drink to facilitate your own flourishing.

Still the good life, this Eudaimonia, as I learned, is a many splendored thing.  To have it you have to have moderate control over some parts of the uncontrollable – say, shelter from the storm – and you also have to have people, good people.  My mamaw used speak of good people (which sounds like a collective noun, but usually refers to a single person), and I think she meant someone who you could trust, who had a good moral sense, and who didn’t beat the kids more than what was necessary to avoid spoilage.  You know, salt of the earth kind of people.

good_pplA good life, true human flourishing, that is, involves intimate interaction with these good people.  And since we know how challenging it can be to find good people and harder still (for some of us, at least) to be good people, we’re also pretty certain that the good life involves intimate interaction with good beer.  And when you find good people making good beer, well that’s one of modern life’s truly fantastic flourishes.  And it seems to us that that’s what craft beer ought to be about.

This month we’ll celebrate Good People who make good beer in Birmingham.  The Good People Brewing Company has been in business since 2008, producing a line of quality craft beer that reflects their drive to give folks at home the same kind of complex, mind-altering beer experiences that they, co-founders Michael Sellers and Jason Malone, had while traipsing around overseas after college.

Although growing, the brewery has maintained a fairly limited distribution area concentrating on their home state and parts of our own, which is pretty neighborly in a good people, love your neighbor kind of way.  The beers are beautifully canned with eye-catching labels that keep things light – after all, mamaw might remind us, Good People don’t take themselves too seriously.

The brewery produces 5 year round brews, 4 seasonals, and intermittent one-offs.

We’re very happy to have their first Saison/ Farmhouse Ale, Urban Farmer on tap.  It’s “…a unique blend of saison yeast strains, which lend flavor and aroma characteristics of grapefruit, pineapple, orange zest, earthiness and spiciness.”  And it’s a good way to usher in the last leg of 2016.

We’ll be featuring different beers at each location, so make a point to visit both Market Square and the Gallery to get a comprehensive view of this brewery!  We’ll offer selections for Good People’s very good line-up:

Pale Ale: The flagship brew balances the subtle caramel tones of 2-Row & 5 Specialty Malts with just the right amount of hops. Complex and versatile, it’s good anytime, anywhere for any occasion.

IPA: This unfiltered, dry-hopped IPA packs a copper-colored aromatic punch. Herbal and earthy hops take center stage, tempered by light caramel flavors. Crisp and refreshing, it’s a hop lover’s dream.

Brown Ale: Sweet without being cloying, our Brown Ale delivers a hint of nuttiness that plays nicely with a healthy dose of hops. The mildest offering in our lineup, this classic brew hits the spot every time.

Snake Handler: Dangerously drinkable, this Double IPA brew is a spirited celebration of all things hoppy. Aromas of pine, citrus, flowers, spice, pineapple, and grassiness complement a biscuit and caramel backbone. Hands down, our most requested beer.

Coffee Oatmeal Flavored Stout: Known to fans as C-O-S, our Coffee Oatmeal Stout delivers a big coffee taste followed by a wallop of Willamette hops. Complex and flavorful, amazingly sessionable. Good after a meal.

Bearded Lady: This light-bodied wheat ale marries a Weizen Glass hint of hops with a whisker of tartness for a subtle citrus flavor. Silky smooth and refreshing, it’s the perfect tonic for 5 o’clock shadows, seven days a week.

Good People is a pretty good beer choice for contemplating all the mysteries of the good life. I can’t be certain precisely how it will affect your human experience, but, at the very least, I suspect your conversation will flourish – and, ahem, that’s a good thing.

Ruth Allen – Featured Artist

The third time, they say, is a charm, and if that’s the case, then Ruth Allen should have a spectacular showing on the imagewalls of the Tomato Head.  Ruth’s work captured Mahasti’s eye during a visit to Big City Bread Cafe in Athens, GA.  Mahasti recalls that, “there was a really cute artist studio in the back.  It was closed, but we peeked in the window and saw some really cute whimsical clay pieces and some of the ones that really stood out turned out to be Ruth’s.  When we went into the Café, they had her art on their walls.  Her work is so colorful and pure it immediately caught my attention, so I spent most of my time at the bakery walking around looking at her work. “

Ruth brings a fascinating technique and vivid eye for color to her work; this particular exhibit will be no exception, and Ruth expects that we’ll see, “Birds, deer, a rabbit, some tulips, and something strange…”  all in a variety of sizes of acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

Although she’s painted a variety of subjects over her career, many of Ruth’s strongest images come from the animal kingdom.  “I have always loved animals, flowers and nature,” she says, “I am usually drawing and painting about my love of something. If it’s not love, another strong emotion. It’s a way of communicating…maybe something for which I have no words.” It’s almost ironic, then, that, at times, she seems to capture fauna in an illustrative way, almost as if they were mid-speech in some fascinating adventure.

image-1The shape, line and color of Ruth’s work create a distinctive form – in fact, many of the comments that she hears refer to the singularity of her painting.  But Ruth isn’t conscious of pursuing a particular style.  Instead, she says, “I take in a lot of visual images via Instagram and curated quite a collection of inspirations during the beta testing days of Pinterest. My influences are many. It still comes back to love. If I love someone else’s work, it can’t help but be reflected in mine, but I do try to be aware of that when it’s happening. So, I confess my loves for artists like Michael Banks and Lauren Marx, who are the most prevalent influences lately. Not that I am anywhere near their league!! Still, I have a great love for what they are doing.”

Ruth’s training came from a gifted teacher, but she says she “did not study art in college though, as much as I wanted to. I let some life events kind of derail that idea… I’m really just doing something I love and sharing it in whatever way I can.”

As her exhibit clearly demonstrates, the path of the artist doesn’t always follow an academic course, but Ruth is image-2adamant that, whatever you do, if you have a passion for art, you ,“Never, never give up. Never stop. When anyone, including your parents, tell you that you cannot make a living doing your art, just know that you can’t really live without doing it.”

You can see for yourself now through November 6th while Ruth Allen’s exhibit hangs in the Market Square restaurant.  The show will move to the Gallery location November 7th at remain there until December 5th.

Pumpkin Spice Day

Perhaps it’s best if you’re sitting.

The shock may be too much for you – but fear not, there is a warm and fuzzy place that we can help you find, one that will make it all better, so stay with us…

Perhaps it will come as no surprise to you that there is an actual Pumpkin Spice Day.  The autumnal flavor seems to have taken over our world in a way that Frank Herbert fans will understand.  (Nerd alert!) Like the mélange spice/drug of the planet Arrakis, also known as DUNE, Pumpkin Spice is everywhere now.  It has even reached Little Debbie, and I suspect that Collegedale (the home of the snack cake giant) is covered in a fine dust of suspicious, orange tint.

But what may strike you as odd, perhaps even somehow wrong and wickedly disturbing is that where there is Pumpkin Spice, there may not be actual Pumpkin.  I know, I know – it’s a terrible thought, and it’s one that leaves me reeling and wondering what will be left of the real and the natural order of things.  When the very air is full of spice, when it infuses our lattes, fills our cereal bowls, and even clings to our almonds without a trace of the Big Orange Squash that single-handedly created the spice’s fame, well, the Great Chain of Being has broken into more pieces than Humpty Dumpty.  And the world seems less right than before.

“But, but…” you sputter in shock, “Pumpkin Spice delights are often orange!  Surely, surely that’s from real pumpkin!”  Alas, that most delightful of all the colors, orange, is often simulated by the addition of annatto and paprika.

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Will the Real Pumpkin Please Stand?

It’s easy to understand, even if it hurts the head to ponder; in much of processed food, it’s flavor or the simulation thereof that matters most.  Actual ingredients be damned, as long as it tastes right, looks right or is at least close enough, then all is well.  You may know people who actually prefer the fakers – like that strange group of folks who prefer the taste of banana Popsicle to the taste of an actual banana.

Okay, so that’s unfair – pumpkin spice is a real enough mélange of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice, but on its own it’s really just spice.  It could be spice cake spice, molasses cookie spice – heck, it’s only a couple of ingredients away from being garam masala spice.  We need pumpkin to make it right.

We’re not trying to rain on anyone’s parade or throw shade on your seasonally affected flavor favor.  Far from it – we have a safe place for you at the restaurant, a place where Pumpkin Spice lives in harmony as it should with the Great Pumpkin who is real and present in every bite.  For this national day of observance, this Pumpkin Spice Day, we have Pumpkin Spice Morning Rolls that will warm up your nose and your heart for a full day of spiced remembrance.  We’ll also have Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes to sweeten all the memories that come with the smell and flavor of this sweet squash and spice blend – memories of home baked treats and family gatherings where paprika stays safely on the deviled eggs.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Day – come and see us.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design