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Best Ginger Ale
174. Best Heroic Books for
At first glance, a series about a medieval abbey inhabited by talking mice, moles, squirrels and badgers wouldn't seem like a sure thing. But in the world conjured up by author Brian Jacques, these small, mostly gentle forest creatures must do battle with the forces of evilin the form of sniveling weasels, villainous foxes (Marlfox,1998) and cruel wildcats (Lord Brocktree, 2000). The great clashing battles that ensue are filled with the sort of old-fashioned daring-do and feats of valor that most boys (and girls) love. But underneath, these stories are also meditations on the virtues of goodness and kindness, loyalty to one's friends, and most especially, courage in the face of overwhelming odds.
Jacques, a former milkman and stand-up comedian, began spinning tales of the kingdom of Mossflower for children at The Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool. He received a modest $4,000 for his first novel, Redwall (1986), which was written on 800 sheets of recycled paper kept in a grocery bag; today the fourteen books in the series have over 3.5 million copies in print, and the official website, www.redwall.org, receives 3.9 million hits annually from visitors in 126 countries. It has spawned an animated TV series carried by about 200 PBS stations in the U.S. (www.redwalltv.com). Two more books are due out this fall: The Taggerung and A Redwall Winter's Tale.
One twelve-year old we know explains the series' appeal: "I like reading about the feasts and the adventures that lead to fights, like the one between the hares and the sea rats." Fights, yes. But feasts? How about "thick porridge flavored with cut fruit and honey ... hot cheese flans and mugs of rosehip 'n' apple cider"? Or "watershrimp an' 'otroot soup, full 'o dried watershrimps, bulrush tips, ransoms, watercress and special spices." Why, it's mouthwatering enough to tempt even the most dedicated non-vegetable eater.
173. Best Full Spectrum
The beauty of Kaufman's paints is that often, one can't quite identify the color. DKC-29, for instance, a mysterious watery blue, has turned a windowless hallway we know into a luminous passage that at times looks misty gray and, at others, like the soft blue of an early spring sky. More pronounced colors, such as DKC-11, a spring green with a neutral edge, have a rich enveloping glow that is far from dull, yet avoid the nerve-jangling intensity of hues form other paint manufacturers. Kaufman's color theory is expounded in his beautifully photographed books, Color: Natural Palettes for Painted Rooms and Color and Light: Luminous Atmospheres for Painted Rooms, and in Color Palettes by Suzanne Butterfield, a partner in the paint business. Paints, which are mixed using a Pratt and Lambert base, are available only from Kaufman's paint company, The Color Factory, as are over-sized paint chips and small sample-size cans of paint. Contact: The Color Factory, 114 West Palisade Avenue, Englewood NJ, 07631-2692. Telephone: 201-568-2226.
173. Best Counterculture
In the June 2001 issue, one can delve into articles on medicine from plants, achieving inner peace by decluttering your living space, and a quality-of-life check list. In the latter, Reimagining the Good Life, Utnes editors posit that having a new Ferrari or a Malibu beach house cant compete with the richness of a life deeply connected to ones community. And what makes a community rich? Among other things, lovable eccentrics, affordable housing, bookstores outfitted with sagging couches, and a fierce but friendly spirit of local patriotism. Sounds a little, uh, countercuture, but maybe Americans are getting fed up with the bland suburban sprawl that seems to be swamping our towns and cities. Contact: Utne Reader, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, Mninnesota 55403. Telephone: 612/338-5040. Website: www.utne.com.
172. Best Breakfast Hotel in
Update: We recently paid another very extensive visit to Campton Place and found it to be as good as ever. First, hurray for the restaurant, which has finally reached the first rank. It and the bar outside have undergone a light redesign, but it’s nothing dramatic and the tone has remained reasonably understated. The banquette at the back has turned slightly more uncomfortable, since the padding pressed up against one’s spine is not quite right. At night you will want to sit in the booths on the left. By day, get a position near the windows since the lighting is mildly depressing otherwise. The service at night is as good as ever, though we did not see the old hands who had a bit more knowledge about the food. The food in the old days was a little fruity precious (new California chefs trying too hard); things are now more complex and very decorative but very mellow. It’s all a bit filling, so go empty and don’t plan on visiting too often. Despite the fact that it’s a better restaurant, it does not seem as crowded—for any meal—which, of course, is a very big plus for the discerning.
Breakfast is still quite pleasant but with some caveats. You have to pick your way through the menu and be a little demanding. For instance, we eat the egg white omelet which will come out a little watery (just pour the waste onto a saucer), and the vegetables, which strangely are not wrapped into the omelet, tend to blandness. It helps if you ardently spell out what you want in the omelet and caution the staff on the cooking. Likewise the breads are mixed: a croissant was respectable, but the attempt at an English muffin could even be said to be gluey. Do try the jams and jellies. But it’s a quiet place to kick off the day and to carry on civil business conversation.
The hotel staff is ever willing and the rooms have grown more comfortable over the years. There are a few trifles that need to be repaired. The front desk can be dilatory about getting a bellboy to the room or effecting a simple transaction that requires a bit of creativity—in other words, balls do get dropped there. Nobody polices the front lobby, so an unruly guest can prowl back and forth yapping for a long time on a cell phone, disturbing more temperate guests. Generally, however, it attracts a genteel clientele. The flaws probably arise because management is rather invisible. Room service really ends at 10:30: this is not quite luxury. But the papers really do make it to your door in the morning, even if they are not on the table in the restaurant which sports too many copies of USA Today and the emasculated San Francisco Chronicle. The maid will do a fast clean up in a pinch. It’s quiet in the rooms, and the double seal glass protects one against rather noisy streets. Unusually we found ice in our room every night—without asking. The towels have a reasonable nap and there are enough at hand.
171. Best Vietnamese
Restaurant in North Carolina
Least likely, indeed. This narrow storefront cafe is situated next to an all-but-defunct hot dog joint right off busy High Point Road. A raffish clientele--Sikhs in turbans, pony-tailed guys, and dolls in skin-tight capri pants--spills out into the parking lot, waiting with good humor for one of a dozen tiny tables. Whole flounder, delicately fried and served with a subtle chili basil sauce, was well worth the wait, as were the fresh spring rolls with shrimp, papaya and fragrant mint. Saigon showcases the culinary skills of the Nguyen family, who fled Vietnam 23 years ago. Brother Donnie cooks, brother Nick is business manager, and the third brother, Duc--better known as Duckie--keeps customers entertained with a running stream of hilarious patter. When we ordered the flounder, he yelled, "Free Willy!" Contact: Saigon Cuisine Restaurant, 4205 B High Point Road, Greensboro, NC 27407. Telephone: 336-294-9286.
170. Best Source for Old
China, Crystal and Silver
Founded by a former auditor for the state of North Carolina, Replacements gets new stock daily from a nationwide network of 1,000 pickers who haunt estate sales and flea markets looking for pieces that customers have requested. A computerized database not only keeps a moment-to-moment inventory list, but also matches stock against individual customer wish lists. When a piece of your china or crystal comes in, a letter or e-mail goes out. Many items can be viewed on the company's website, www.replacements.com.
The Greensboro showroom welcomes visitors seven days a week and features a museum of unusual pieces. Here one can find everything from clunky $8 Noritake salt and pepper sets to an exquisite Royal Winton cake plate ($249.50) with rose and peach pagodas on a jet black background. Amongst the acres of Lenox china and and Towle silverware are one-of-a-kind items such as a 19th-century Flow Blue chamber pot from the G.L. Ashworth company. We've had success locating pieces of the long-discontinued Royal Worcester Empire pattern and an out-of-production line of Italian silverplate. Contact: Replacements, 1089 Knox Road, P.O. Box 26029, Greensboro, NC 27420. Telephone: 1-800-REPLACE. Fax: 1-336-697-3100.
169. Number One in the
168. Best Excuse for
"I know no companion more prompt to hand, more rewarding, more helpful or less burdensome, and no tree that lives longer, bears more abundantly or yields more delicious fruit that is handier, easier to pick or more perfectly ripened at all times of the year, than a book," wrote Jahiz. You can read these and other delightful excuses for bibliomania in Night and Horses and the Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature, edited by Robert Irwin (Woodstock and New York: The Overlook Press, 2000). Like other addictions, it seems that bibliomania can kill: Jahiz died when a stack of books fell upon him.
167. Best Triad (and
Among its virtues are a staff that tries quite hard, Green Valley Grill (a first-class, pleasant restaurant), unusually large, ample bathrooms, a comfortable lobby, a lovely sun room, and outdoor dining (relatively smog free) outside the Grill. Both the exercise room and the pool are intimate and fairly quiet, since they are hardly used. O. Henry Hotel. 624 Green Valley Rd., Greensboro, North Carolina 27429. 1-336-854-2000.
We found an O. Henry volume by our bedside and would recommend the hotel make the writer the centerpiece of more visible promotion. Here are some O. Henry books available:
166. CampaTampa Restaurant
165. A Romantic Dinner for
164. Kona Rich Coffee
To get pure Kona coffee, grown in the volcanic soil and heavy rainfall on the slopes of Mauna Loa, one must locate the handful of dedicated Big Island growers who painstakingly cultivate, hand pick, sun dry and roast the beans in small quantities. One of the best (were still sampling) is John Langenstein, a refugee from the harsh winters of upstate New York, who grows coffee on an 8-acre estate and ages his beans anywhere from two months to a year in order to mellow them. Langenstein Farms coffee has been praised by The New York Times (From the Volcano, the Rarest Brew by R.W. Apple), Food and Wine Magazine and The Wine Spectator. We personally like the dark French roast; medium and Vienna roast are also available. Contact: Langenstein Farms, P.O. Box 615, Honaunau, HI. Telephone: 800-621-5365. Fax: 800-328-9891. Website: www.kona-coffee.com.
163. The Home of Corrosion
162. Best of Curtis
161. Best Arcades
160. Best Encyclopedia of
Hardy Trees and Shrubs
159. Campest College Student
158. Best Art Newspaper on
157. Best Book on Moroccan
Moroccan Interiors (Germany: Taschen America, 1995), by Lisa Lovat-Smith, a former Vogue editor who lives in Paris, is that rare anomaly: an intelligently written design book. Lovat-Smith travelled all over the country, poking her nose into Berber tents and 18th-century palaces, cave dwellings and the mansions of the aristocracy. She traces the development of different architectural styles, then embarks on an enthralling tour of magnificent abodes, many restored by Europeans. The dazzling color photographs capture the innate richness of Moroccan decor and the high level of craftmanship that is necessary to achieve it. It's enough to make one dream of a vacation home in the medina.
Book on Antique Southern Apples
Over 1600 varieties of antique apples are covered in Calhoun's monumental volume, Old Southern Apples (Blacksburg: McDonald & Woodward, 1995), a superb resource for any apple grower living below the Mason Dixon line. Each entry not only describes the apple in great detail, but provides historical information about its origins, often citing old agricultural journals and nursery catalogues. The illustrations are magnificent, particularly the watercolors commissioned by the USDA's Division of Pomology in the late 19th century.
Dessert Locale in Tampa
We all agreed that the climax of our evening came in the Harry Waugh Dessert Room, completed in 1985. Located upstairs, there are forty-eight private rooms where you can finally get a touch of quiet, an after-dinner drink, pleasant lighting, perhaps an Italian vineyard mural, and paneled comfort to keep your brandy, cigar, and dessert company. And you can dial up some pleasant music--we chose light jazz.
Founded in 1956 by Gert and Bern Laxer, the restaurant is now headed by son David, and may crank out upwards of a 1,000 meals a night. So have a steak your way plus some of the vegetables from Berns' own farm.
The restaurant reminds you of several eateries in America that combine mass with a touch of class. There are good spirits, and very loyal, motivated help all take pride in the institution. We're reminded of Snuffy's in Scotch Plains, New Jersey and of several other spots where you can have the pleasure of eating too much.
After the dessert room, the second remarkable thing about Bern's is the wine. It's list is now only a couple of hundred pages, though we have heard it once covered two thousand. At any rate, we know of no restaurant with a larger inventory. We enjoyed a very serviceable pick of Ken Collura, head sommelier. This was followed by a tour of the wine cellar with Eric, our waiter. In fact, we wish the wine tour were longer, but things downstairs were much too busy. To start your introduction, look at www.bernssteakhouse.com or call 813-251-2421. Bern's is located at 1208 S. Howard Ave. Tampa, FL 33606. Incidentally, there are a host of other restaurants on South Howard, a few of which the locals will vouch for. And we are told that SideBern's, a nearby sister restaurant, is worth a visit.
Museum on the Continent
Eat your heart out, Guggenheim. Don't even try, Whitney. The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg has over 1500 of Dali's works, plus a big kitsch store with pens, shirts, scarves, etc. Dali was Barnum and Bailey, con man, and Surrealist impresario wrapped in one. Avaricious for dollars, he would have loved all the merchandising in the museum. The big collection is the fruit of the unrequited passion Reynolds and Eleanor Morse of Ohio felt for Dali and Dali's output. Initially the collection was housed in Cleveland, but eventually it went south for the winter and never came back. See "A Museum in Florida for a Spanish Original," New York Times, April 22, 2001, TR8-TR9. The Salvador Dali Museum is located at 1000 Thad Street, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Website: www.salvadordalimuseum.org.
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