I had an outstanding lunch with a fascinating bit of international education last week during a visit to The Grill at 915 13th St. in Ashland.
Manager Laura Maynard met me at the door and immediately introduced me to Peruvian chef Edilberto Wong, as well as owner Jose Garcia and within seconds I was sampling some delicious stuff a server called Cream of Lettuce sauce, as well as some of the freshest-tasting salsa I’ve ever had. The lettuce-based sauce may sound alien, but I can promise you it is creamy and delicious and seems to work well on or beside any food.
I spent a few minutes with Maynard talking about her home territory in Floyd County, (she’s a Teaberry gal and a 1980 graduate of Betsy Lane High School) and the recent changes made at The Grill, including delivery, Wi-Fi, daily specials and, of course, the Peruvian menu.
I also enjoyed talking to Garcia, who apparently shares my love of avocados. The restaurant owner said he had never tried Peruvian food until he got a taste of Wong’s cooking in Indianapolis, and has since become a true believer. “I try to serve a different kind of food and this is so good. I’d like for everybody to try this food because the chef is a really good cook,” he said.
Garcia’s favorite Peruvian dish is called Pariheula, and his employees report he shows up every morning to enjoy a bowl of it for breakfast. “That food will bring you back to life,” he observed.
Somewhere in the course of all this talking, the chef stepped up with a serving of Pescado Sudado, which is steamed fish in tomato sauce and onion, served with white rice. Served in a generous portion, the fish dish was bold and delicate at the same time. At Maynard’s suggestion I plopped some of the cream of lettuce sauce onto the rice, and was astounded at the difference it made. At the end of the meal, I enjoyed a taste of “chicha,” a traditional Peruvian cider made from purple corn and spices — slightly sweet and extremely satisfying.
I told Maynard one of the real challenges for local diners might be pronouncing the names of the entrees included in the new Peruvian menu, and she just smiled before saying, “That’s alright, we can’t say them either. We keep a computer up with Google translator at all times.”
I’m not sure how to classify or describe Peruvian food, so I’ll borrow the words of a friendly server who said “it’s not hot and spicy, it’s just different ... it makes your taste buds jump up and down.” The Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant has a party room for up to 40 suitable for anything from business meetings to birthday parties, and also features a family night special on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Maynard said they expect a malt beverage license by mid-November, and added they may someday expand the menu with Cuban food. For more information or to place an order, call (606) 393-3939.
By the time this hits the press, shop owner Eric Moreno will likely have everything inside Eric’s Candles & Curios packed up and gone from his space inside the Camayo Arcade building in downtown Ashland.
Moreno opened the shop, which specialized in candles and other items related to “natural magic” practices, more than three years ago — despite predictions the Ashland market would never make it worth his time. “My business has expanded and is getting stronger and stronger,” he said. “Every quarter I pay more taxes!”
Moreno is closing the shop and taking his operation to a purely online operation, noting about 80 percent of his customers are from outside the immediate area. With praise to his downtown landlord, Moreno said closing the shop will save rent money and allow him enough time to create the handmade items, including amulets, candles and soaps, which he has always promised his customers.
“I just have so much going on and couldn’t find the time to make the stuff I wanted in the shop from Day 1 ... items for natural magic with natural ingredients,” he said.
Moreno said the area has embraced his small business, despite initial concerns about possible misgivings about the “magic” aspect of the shop. “Everything in nature has a positive and a negative side to it. It all depends on how you use it,” he said.
Moreno encourages local customers to catch up with him at ericscandles.net or by calling (606) 393-5864 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On the radar
I ran out of time for my special brand of “investigative journalism” last week, but I did try to catch up on reports about a new hair salon open on 16th Street in downtown Ashland next to the clerk’s office, as reported by a highly satisfied customer before a recent Ashland Rotary Club meeting. I got as close as driving by and confirming there is indeed a new salon there, but it was late that evening and everyone had gone for the day. I will try to catch up and provide more information in the weeks ahead.
And, I spoke with someone named Nicki last week who reports there is a new nail salon open next to Hobby Lobby in Russell. The place is called Exquisite Nail, and the phone number is (606) 329-0123.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.