Month: January 2006

Convention time 

Rather than let this week’s diatribe be one of those “by the time you read this I’ll be …” kind of spiels, I’ll spare you the gloating that right now I’m most likely in San Francisco at an alternative weekly newspaper conference. Sometimes people ask me what we do at these mini-conventions. It’s not really that exciting but I’ll tell you anyway. Editors, writers, publishers, advertising sales folk and graphic artists from papers like Boise Weekly across the country gather and plot how we’re going to take over the world this next year. We share ideas with each other how we can warp the news, misconstrue facts, push the liberal agenda and attack good, conservative, Christian values. We complain about media mega-lo-nopolies. We make believe that we are the only counter-force to “the man” and pat each other on the back for the hard work we do in our communities. But mostly we just drink.

Janurary doldrums 

This time of year can be tough for the newspaper industry. The pre-X-mas rush of advertising helps the bottom line and makes for thick papers in December, but come January, the industry suffers for the excess it enjoyed leading up to the mother of all consumer holidays. It’s the newspaper hangover, if you will. A smaller paper like ours feels the effects more dramatically as the number of pages we print each week is directly related to the number of advertisements we include. And when the paper is smaller, some things must be cut back on. You may have noticed we haven’t published Mail in a few weeks, or that the 8 Days Out Calendar is a little shorter, or that True Crime may not have been in. Rest assured, these things will return, but it’s also a time for us to look at what may have worked for our readers during the last year and make some changes to the paper. (We appreciate your comments as well. E-mail them to me at bingo@boiseweekly.com if you have any thoughts.)

While I cannot divulge what we have planned–heck the changes might be so subtle you will not realize we’ve “tweaked” the issue–keep looking and try to check out parts of the paper you normally don’t read. You might find something new that piques your interest.

While the physical size of the paper may be smaller during these not-so-cold winter months, online at www.boiseweekly.com we’re continuing to upgrade and update where space is unlimited. Our new Web dude, Phil Merrell–we’ve explored giving him the title Webster, Web-stress, Web Maestro, Webby NetWit–is busy at work making adjustments to the site. In future weeks you will see from his experienced hands new online exclusive elements beginning to appear. We’re really excited about that.

Our marketing dude, Tyler Bush, has been busy updating our MySpace account. Yes, BW has a myspace account and we just surpassed 100 members. Most of the staff have gone on and established one, too (including myself), and we’re having a lot of fun seeing who can generate the most “friends” and putting up the most personal of information about ourselves. Why? Because we’re masochists and want you to judge us for the freaks we really are. Take a look-see and pick me to be your friend. There’s some funny pictures of me in my dreads from pre-Burning Man on there if that helps entice you.

The Stuffed Olive 

I like quaint restaurants. One of my favorite little places is in Glendale, Arizona. With just four tables, it is a bakery by day and serves up Italian cuisine at night. Often the wait for a table is hours, which are spent sitting on the sidewalk outside, but the food is divine. With less than 10 tables, The Stuffed Olive in Eagle qualifies as a small restaurant. Decorated simply with a small staff and a cozy atmosphere, it has many of the same qualities as that little place in Glendale. We took the advice on www.thestuffedolive.net and made reservations before showing up. A large leather couch sits just inside the door and functions as a waiting space. Though the couch takes up space in which the restaurant could have crammed in a few more tables, I’m glad they didn’t. Waiting generates excitement and although we didn’t wait at all for our table, I wouldn’t have minded sitting there.

Menus, waters and warm bread with a marinara sauce were quickly brought to our table. The menu selections were varied and offered appetizers, salads, soups, gourmet sandwiches, pasta dishes and dinner entrees. Selecting what turned out to be an exquisite wine from the wine menu, we started with breaded calamari strips, which were thick, long and tasty with either the red pepper aioli or the leftover marinara that was served with the bread. We split a spinach salad with prosciutto, pine nuts, asiago cheese and dressing on the side, which arrived soon after the calamari—almost too quickly. However, the split portion of salad was the right amount, as part of a multi-course meal.

The garlic lamb baguette and the salami focaccia sounded scrumptious for lunch, but we were there for dinner, and dinner we ordered. The pastas, in a variety of shapes, sizes and sauces, put our salivary glands into action, but the entree items intrigued us most. My companion enjoyed her eggplant carciofini, a breaded eggplant with a creamy garlic sauce and artichoke hearts. I opted for the roast garlic leg of lamb. Both were delicious and served with a side of angel hair pasta in a rich and velvety alfredo sauce. Dessert was a tiramisu to share, the delicate ladyfingers melting in our mouths.

The service was quick, responsive, and enjoyable overall, but the pace of the meal was too fast. It would have been much more enjoyable to space out the appetizer, second course, entree and dessert over a longer period of time. Prices were extremely reasonable for the quality and quantity of food we ordered.

Aside from the lighting being a tad too bright for our fancy date-night dinner and the feeling of being a little rushed (a much better sin than the feeling of waiting forever), The Stuffed Olive is a worthy dining experience to be enjoyed.

—Bingo Barnes does 5,280 sit ups every noon and night.

$50 

As we embark on a new legislative session, we are treated to another State of the State address. To combat my high utility bills, I learned that the Guv wants to give every Idahoan a check for $50. That’s awful nice of you, Guv, but didn’t we recently just let expire a sales tax increase to cover the budget deficit? That deficit is still around isn’t it? Haven’t I paid much more than $50 in extra taxes over the past coupl’a years? If a refund is in order, then I should get more, don’t you think? Or is this a kickback, some elaborate shell game? Give us $50 now so that we are more likely to forget the corporate handouts granted to big business, the utilities and industry in this state over the last seven years? And exactly how are we going to pay for this? Another sales tax increase? Another tax giveaway to the tech industry? Another big bond sale? I tell you what I’m going to spend my $50 to keep warm this winter: a bottle of whisky. That should last me about a week.

Cottonwood Grille 

With the ever changing restaurant scene in Boise, it’s nice to have a foundation to the local culinary experience. Such is Cottonwood Grille.

Though in the past I have been to Cottonwood Grille for a cocktail, or to meet friends in the bar, I had never eaten a meal there. So I took myself and a book of Sudoku puzzles to Cottonwood for lunch.

The elegent restaurant is located on 9th Street, just before the road crosses the Boise River. Serving a slightly more upscale and professional lunch crowd than your typical sit-down burger joint, I felt a little underdressed in my jeans and T-shirt, but still felt welcomed.

Perusing the menu, a blackened fish sandwich, baked rigatoni, tortellini Bolognaise, elk Stroganov, curried lamb, myriad soup and salad options all whetted my appetite. I started with a cup of elk chili.

The lounge–a solo diner’s paradise with big booths and seats at the bar–was warm and comfortable. Large, spacious windows overlooking the Greenbelt let in natural light, and the dining room’s big fireplace made me want to return on a cold evening to dine with friends. The smartly dressed and responsive waitstaff served the chili quickly, along with a glass of iced tea, that surprised me with tropical mango and fruit flavors (a nice treat, even on a winter day,). The chili was light and more like a soup and not overly flavored, which allowed the wild game taste of the elk to stand out against the other flavors. Several kinds of beans enhanced the dish. My only complaint was that I had to ask for crackers. Call me picky, but I think a chili should be served with crackers, cornbread or some yeast-based product as a standard. Even so, the chili was delicious.

After the chili kick-started my appetite, I chose the warm pastrami melt as my main course. The sandwich was so big I could hardly get my mouth around it, but it still came piled high with curly fries on the side. Curly fries dipped in ketchup, chunks of sliced beef pastrami falling out of the sandwich, squared focaccia bread with melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions on top … it was scrumptious.

The restaurant’s speed of service, quality of fare and reasonably priced lunch menu (my cup of chili rang in at $2.95 and my sandwich at $7.95), Cottonwood Grille may just make it to the top of my list when the question of where to have lunch arises in the future.

—Bingo Barnes’ wears just his boxers to work on “casual Fridays.”

30 Years Ago 

As I began 2006, I woke up and strangely recalled 1976. That year was big in my youth. I was 9-years-old and it was a big birthday for the nation. I recall the Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox I had, spying on my 12-year-old neighbor making out with her boyfriend under the deck of her house, silver moonboots, designer jeans (yes, even for 9-year-olds) and rummaging in the neighbor’s trash. I remember finding broken fishing rods and girls clothes, which I tried on in the basement of our house–my only foray into crossdressing. I checked that life experience off my list early.

Fourth grade–now that year was strange. It was my last at Walnut Hills Elementary in Englewood, Colorado, before my family moved north to a little farm outside Greeley. The school was modern for its time, with “pods” instead of classrooms. It experimented with multiple teachers for the classes, a rarity for grade school kids. Once I started fifth grade in my new school later that year, we went back to the single-teacher, single-classroom elementary school model. It was a time of innocence, but it was also a time when I was scared shitless about burning up in an nuclear attack. Nowadays, my kids are scared of terrorists. Life doesn’t change much, does it?