Friday, April 22, 2011

Favorite Eats: Blue Collar Joe's

If it wasn't for Food Network, I would have never discovered Blue Collar Joe's.

While my family and I were hanging out in our hotel in Richmond a couple of weeks ago we stumbled across an episode of Food Network Challenge featuring store owner Daniel Knight. The fact that his store was located in Daleville, Virginia just a couple of hours from our home was really exciting to us. Plus, it's just a stone's thrown down the road from one of my favorite barbecue joints so we had to stop on our way home.

Blue Collar Joe's speciality is its doughnuts (or donuts as they spell it on the menu). But their doughnuts are anything but typical. Featuring flavors such as the Botetourt Bog (a triple chocolate doughnut), Boston Creme Pie, Caramel Apple Pie, and German Chocolate Cake, they are anything but typcial doughnuts. Most of the flavors are cake doughnuts but unlike any I've ever had. I grew up on a steady diet of Krispy Kreme's yeast doughnuts but Blue Collar Joe's doughnuts are the lightest and tastiest cake doughnuts I've ever had.

They also serve wraps and hot dogs during the day and are known for terrific coffee. But the doughnuts are the real draw.

If you're travelling along Interstate 81 through Virginia make it a point to head down U. S. 220 just a couple of miles to the some of the best donuts you'll find anywhere.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

End of an Era

As a kid growing up in North Carolina, I fell in love with the University of North Carolina through its football and basketball teams. My father is a Carolina grad (class of '58) and I graduated from Chapel Hill thirty years later. In addition to my father, the one other person that helped nurture my love for Tar Heel blue was Woody Durham.

I grew up at a time when sports was not all over television as it is now. The idea of college sports being televised was still a rather novel idea. Fans connected with their teams through radio announcers much in the same way that baseball fans of years ago connected with their teams. What set these men apart is they didn't just announce the games. They had a unique connection with the teams and often served as the school's lead cheerleader.

Woody Durham just such an announcer. If you mention his name anywhere in North Carolina folks will immediately know who he is even if they don't follow Carolina sports. His voice also was featured in countless commercials across the state. In addition to his radio duties he hosted weekly television shows with the football and basketball coaches.

Fans connected to Woody in such a way that when Carolina games finally started being televised across the region it became tradition to "turn down the sound" on the television and listen to Woody's call of the game on the radio. On a side note, even during my years at Carolina I frequently watched games with friends on TV and the sound was turned down. I also frequently took a radio with me to the football games I attended. It was that important to hear what Woody had to say.

Another sign of Woody's connection to the fans: at games it was common practice at a football game for someone to start a chant of "Wood-y, Wood-y". The crowd would keep cheering until Woody would lean out of the press box and wave to the crowd.

During my last couple of years at Carolina I had the privilege to work with Woody. In 1987, I went to work at WCHL (the flagship station for the Tar Heel Sports Network - a collection of radio stations in North Carolina and along the eastern seaboard that carried the games - a network that existed primarily because of Woody) to help cover the U. S. Olympic Festival to be held that summer in the Triangle area. That job led to a even better position later that fall as a locker room reporter during home basketball games. For the entire season, I was able to sit in the press box with Woody and watch him work. At the time, I was seriously considering becoming a broadcaster because of Woody.
I will never forget the commitment he had to every broadcast in getting every detail just right even down to the pronunciation of the players names. His recall of facts and figures was simply amazing. Most of all, he carried an enthusiasm for Carolina sports that was unrivaled among other announcers.

But all good things come to an end. After 40 years as "The Voice of the Tar Heels", Woody is calling it a career. He's leaving on his own terms which is just the way it should be. Of course Carolina sports will never be the same.

Thanks for the memories, Woody. It was an honor to know you and to be able to work alongside you even if it was for all too brief a time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Why We Should Read Austen

My wife and daughters are big Jane Austen fans. We watch just about every adaptation of her novels that comes along (although the 1995 Pride and Prejudice (Restored Edition) is our favorite) and the books are frequently read in our house. I must admit I've acquired an admiration for Austen's works over the years myself.

Mark Mitchell, writing at Front Porch Republic, has a great article on why we need to read Austen and how both ladies and gentlemen can benefit from diving into her novels. For example, here's what he has to say about how Austen can help guys to learn to be gentlemen:

Austen’s gentlemen (I’m thinking especially of Darcy here) understand the call of duty; they are committed to family, reputation, propriety, and self-control. To be sure, Darcy takes himself quite seriously, but aren’t these pursuits serious by nature? To neglect one’s duty, to be careless of one’s family and reputation, to ignore the bounds of propriety and to indulge the appetites without restraint are not the actions of a gentleman. They represent, conversely, the behavior of a boor. Or, perhaps equally fitting, they are the actions of a male who has no sense of what it means to be a man. Such characters may be Guys or Peter Pans but they are not men and surely not gentlemen.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Joe Carter