Friday, August 26, 2011

What the State Troopers know

KARE-11 linked to Lt. Eric Roeske's Twitter page. Here are the latest updates:

And here is a more recent picture we found of Anousone.

Anousone, we miss you so much.

Remembering "Ped"

To everyone at True Thai, Anousone Phanthavong was Ped. That is a Lao nickname, and the "p" is pronounced more like a "b." He was devoted to the restaurant and much of his income went to support his elderly parents.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that U2's tour manager came to True Thai to see if we could feed the band and their road company, but there was one condition: Bono insisted that his food be prepared by the owner! I can cook, but I do not do the cooking for True Thai so Ped worked closely with me as we fixed Bono's meal. OK, the truth is Ped cooked Bono's meal and I tried to help as best I could.

As usual, Ped did a wonderful job and the band was very happy. Ped was proud of his cooking and we had many knowledgable customers who would ask if he was working whenever they came in. Ped developed many of newer items on our menu, including X, Y, and Z.

But mostly, I think he should be remembered as a good employee and a good son, a man who cooked for rock stars and who helped introduce thousands of Minnesotans to authentic Thai cuisine. Not bad for a kid who grew up on his own in Laos, somehow managing to make it to the United States to be with his family and his new friends.

True Thai Restaurant will be closed on Saturday from 11 am until 4 pm in honor of Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong's funeral services which will be held Washburn McReavy funeral home at 3816 Penn Avenue North, this Saturday at noon. Afterwards, Ped's friends and family will gather at the restaurant, which will re-open to the general public at 4 pm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anousone Phanthavong, 1972-2011

After the restaurant closed Tuesday night, our head cook, Anousone Phanthavong, was killed in a hit and run accident less than a mile from the restaurant.

The accident happened on the westbound ramp from Interstate 94 to the Riverside Avenue just after 11 p.m. 
The State Patrol says the victim, a 38-year-old man from Roseville, was filling up his car with gas on the shoulder of the ramp when he was struck. 
The unidentified motorist that struck him then fled the scene. 
There was construction in the area but authorities do not know whether that played a role in this accident. 
Anyone who may know anything about this fatal hit-and-run is asked to call the State Patrol.
Anousone was an inspired chef and a very hard worker who had lived a very difficult life. He was separated from his parents while growing up in Laos during the years of terrible unrest that followed the Vietnam War. He was reunited with his parents in this country, and is survived by both his mother and father, three sisters and a brother.

Over the years I became very close to Anousone. To me, he was the soul of True Thai, the one person I could always depend on to put quality first. Because he died so close to our restaurant, I know that his spirit will be watching over us just as he watched over our kitchen these last nine years.

True Thai would not have become True Thai without Anousone Phanthavong. He was one of our first hires and our most senior employee, starting work in November 2002, shortly after we opened our doors. In the following months the Star Tribune's Jeremy Iggers honored us for having the "Best Soup" while Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine named us one of the "50 Best Restaurants in Minnesota." These were just two of the countless accolades True Thai won because of Anousone's diligence and exceptional commitment to quality.

Anousone overcame many difficulties and challenges in his life. He was strengthened and comforted by his Theravada Buddhist beliefs. I am proud to say he was my friend, and I am terribly saddened by his passing. Anousone Phanthavong, rest in peace.

[see this post for information about the funeral arrangements]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cholesterol on a stick

It happens to all of us, but it still comes as a surprise when we look in the mirror one morning and realize, "hey — I'm getting old!" For me that moment came when I began to write this post about the Minnesota State Fair and suddenly realized that this year will mark my twentieth visit to the Midway.

I know I should have used an exclamation point but believe me, this year I am not that excited. Deep-fried butter on a stick? Lard only knows what's next. The Star Tribune says that the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is delivering 60 tons of cheese curds to the Fair this year for deep frying. Compared to butter on a stick, are deep-fried cheese curds the new tofu?

Here is a list of this year's new state fair foods on a stick:
  • Chocolate-covered jalapenos
  • The Breakfast Lollipop (sausage dipped in corn muffin batter with a side of maple syrup
  • Northwoods salad (mozzarella, basil and grape tomatoes drizzled with salad dressing)
  • Pizza kabobs
  • Pretzel dogs
  • White Razzie Puppies (white chocolate wrapped in Belgian waffles with caramel bacon topping)
  • Teriyaki chicken

The truth is I was thinking of making up something ridiculous to add to that list, but I could not think of anything more bizarre than what they're already serving. I did try to find a picture of white razzie puppies, but instead of food, Google gave me pictures of little dogs, Sandra Bullock and Salma Hayek. (Sometimes I think Google is weird on purpose.)

As a restauranteur, I feel obliged to try some of these local delicacies, but as public health nurse I think I should picket the Fair and hand out fresh apples and oranges to people as they go in. I do not think I would find many takers. State Fair goers know what they want, and that they want it on a stick. Maybe one of these years we'll get a Glaxo booth where they can sell deep-fried statins on a stick!

Here are some related posts I have written about State Fair food:

In closing, I swiped this chart of some Asian-style food on a stick from "MissionControl":

Yes, I know. These are all way too healthy for the Minnesota State Fair. (sigh)

See you on the Midway!