Dawn Sisson, one of our desk agents, is feeling a little psychic of late.
First, she’s driving her kids to a nearby town for its Christmas festival, and they see a shooting star disintegrate in the night sky out the windshield. She asks her kids to make a wish. “I want a teddy bear,” Oscar says.
Three days later, he’s playing in his room, falls and hits his head on the headboard. It splits his scalp. In the emergency room, after getting four stitches, he looks over and, voila, sees a bin full of teddy bears for younger patients to choose from.
“Can I get my teddy bear now?” he asks his Mom.
Well, duh. What some kids won’t do for a teddy bear, huh?
Then, on Monday Dec. 5, Dawn is chatting with one of the guys who makes deliveries to the Hood River Hotel. He tells her that his brother and sister-in-law had just hit a deer with their car. Dawn says she’s been lucky to hit nothing larger than a rock, and even then, she hasn’t had a blowout.
The next day, Dawn is driving to work and hits a rock — and blows out the left rear tire on her car.
Ahhh, the power of suggestion.
Sure, you watch “Chopped” and “Iron Chef America,” but beyond the bright lights, down in the gritty trenches where real chefs toil for your daily menu, life is much less glamorous. For one thing, working chefs occasionally have to create and offer food items that they themselves would never eat. Such as? Check out this interview with Hood River Hotel chef Mark Whitehead …
We were pulling together all our Christmas decor, which included some small sections of a pine tree trunk. Someone (we won’t mention names) set those “logs” on one of our desks just long enough for them to drain sap onto the desk top.
Yuck. Sticky, and pretty durned tough to remove. Where’s the turpentine? (Uh, who has turpentine lying around?)
Soi we’re smearing the pitch all over with a wet towel when general manager Cathy Butterfield notices — and instantly solves the problem with an oh-so-great old-school remedy.
“Oil,” she says. “Vegetable oil.”
So we borrow some from the kitchen and, voila!, it works like a charm. Dissolves the pitch into nothingness.
Too cool. Who knew?
“My grandfather,” Cathy says. “He didn’t use olive oil. Just any vegetable oil.”
When it comes to removing pitch from your hands, you may want to default to olive oil. It’s great for the skin.
Here’s a little note from Cathy Butterfield, our general manager:
” Yes, the Hood River Hotel is for sale, but no, it has not yet sold. We felt the need to clarify that point, based on several recent contacts in which people expressed sympathy, concern, distress, or maybe it was just swamp gas.
“Who knows, but the rumor mill is grinding away out there, and we wanted to set the record straight. Meanwhile, if you would like to own a lovely old historic hotel, we would be happy to discuss it with you. Call our listing agent, Greg Colt, at 541-490-1175. Act quickly: Rumor has it that space aliens have acquired the hotel and will turn it into a Wookiee Crash Pad. Just kidding.
Some of the people who work here love bats. Others don’t. Others, in fact, share the far-too-widely-held view that bats are … well, somehow related to Dracula.
Hey, kids, they pollinate our food crops. They eat bugs. They perform ballet in the sky. What’s not to like?
The answer appears in the following video, where front desk agent Molly Kahoe describes what happened recently when a bat snuck into the hotel. She and daytime desk agent Dawn Sisson thought they needed to usher it outside before it, you know, had finished snacking on our guests. What happened next … well, just watch.
Our team has hidden talents. Server Ashley Heck, for example, learned the other day that she might also have potential in the field of dentistry. She was chillin’ with her cousin, Briana Cantrell, 6, when Briana’s loose lower tooth became the center of attention. As in, “How do we get that suckah outta there?”
Ashley first tried to extract it by having Briana bite into an apple. No go. “Athley,” Briana said, “it’th thtill in there.”
So Athley, we mean Ashley, turned to the tool box. Oh, my, did she find a pair of pliers.
Clamp. Yank. Put that tooth under the pillow, Briana.
Next time Ashley shows up at your table and asks if you’d like more coffee, you BETTER say “Yes, Ma’am, whatever you say, Ma’am.”
Our chef, Mark Whitehead, is an Oregon boy. But he worked in Hawaii for several years. His wife’s family still lives there. He went over earlier this year to cook at a camp organized to help cancer survivors explore ocean water sports.
None of which explains why (he says) he likes SPAM.
As they say in Hormel country, you’re just seconds away from crazy tasty town. Actually, several of us discovered recently that we share a love of SPAM. It was one of those early morning chat fests, fueled by not-enough-coffee.
Heck, Mark remembers his mother evicting the meat brick from its can, stuffing cloves in it, putting it in the oven and, voila, “three hours later,” it was … dinner?
“Back in the day, everything was low and slow,” Mark recalls.
Explains why he became a chef — not so he could do a better job making SPAM, but probably so he could get as far away from it as possible.
So, why did he move to Hawaii? Hawaii, after all, loves SPAM. Its residents consume more than 7 million cans a year, more per capita by far than any other state. And Mark, an avid golfer, recalls gleefully encountering a plate lunch shack on the back nine, serving up plastic-wrapped musubi.
The company awhile back sponsored a Hawaiian SPAM can design contest. Here’s the unveiling ceremony …
The winner got $1,000 — and year’s supply of SPAM. Weird? Not really. It’s just canned meat. Pork shoulder chopped up with a bit of ham, and stuffed with some sodium nitrite into a can.
Yes, it’s pretty frightening when you first lift the brick out of the can. But if you slice or cube it, and brown it in a frying pan — browning is key here — it actually works. The SPAM people offer a bunch of recipes on their web site. . Spamaroni and cheese? Yuck.
Take a tour down the Tasty Island Honolulu Food Blog, however, and you can get some ideas of how SPAM is so much more than junk mail. Does that mean it will soon appear on the menu at Cornerstone Cuisine? Well, you could always get lucky.
“They called off the race half-way through, because they were concerned about lightning,” Mike says.
Of the 700 people who started out from the 6,000-foot elevation, 200 finished anyway. “They never really had any lightning, but they were trying to be safe,” Mike says.
Mike, who has worked as a server with the Hotel for the past year, grew up on the ski slopes of Mt. Baldy, which his family runs. He played football and swam competitively in high school, and after graduation, found his way downslope to the sand and surf of Huntington Beach. To help his mother battle lymphoma into remission, he moved for two years to Wisconsin.
“Beautiful snow, but no hills,” Mike says, shaking his head.
His cousin Tom Ellingson kept dinging on Mike to think about relocating to the slopes of the iconic Mt. Hood, Oregon‘s tallest peak. Mike liked the idea. He had been working for several years with the Claim Jumper restaurant chain, so he negotiated a gig with its Portland franchise. From there, a shift to Hood River was easy.
Now, when he isn’t skiing, he’s out on the Columbia River with his standup paddleboard, or swimming, or biking.
“Livin’ the life,” he says. “I’m thinking this is a great base for me.”