I Must Brag Now, and Do The Happy Barbara Dance!

Why is that, you may ask?

Huh, why, why, why?

Well, I will tell you why.

Because Restaurant Salaam, where I have been working for the past few months, was just named “Best Ethnic Restaurant” in the Dining section of the Athens News Best of Athens reader poll. We also took second place in “Best Vegetarian Cuisine,” third place in “Best Uniquely Athens Restaurant,” Honorable Mention in “Best Family Restaurant.”

Considering that we have only been open for a couple of years now and we are off the beaten track (our front doorway is down an alley–and then you step down from there into a really cozy, beautifully decorated underground space which has been turned into an intimate dining room), this is all great news. We have only been a full-service restaurant for a year–before that, Salaam was a hookah bar known as Shishah Cafe, which mainly had flavored tobaccos smoked from hookahs, and a few sandwiches and salads and mezes to snack on.

But then, a smoking ban went through for all restaurants, (which Hilarie, the owner of Shishah/Salaam voted for–as did I), and so Salaam was born.

And I am very, very glad it was born, because it is the best job I have ever had, hands down. I have so much fun working there it is hard to express it. The staff is great, the atmosphere is friendly and upbeat and everyone brings a “can-do” attitude to their work that is amazing. I love everything about it. (Except, I would like a bigger kitchen. Someday. I have faith.)

Which brings me to the next honor.

In the Places category, we placed second in “Best Place To Work,” right behind Ohio University. (OU has better job benefits, it is true, but we have a hell of a lot more fun at Salaam.)

And in the People category, Hilarie Burhans, one of the owners of Salaam and the other chef at the reins of our wee kitchen, tied for first place as “Coolest Person in Athens County.” I think it is because not only is she a really cool lady, but also because she plays a mean clawhammer banjo, sings beautifully, owns the best ethnic restaurant in Athens, cooks like an angel, and used to live in a cave in the desert. (That cave bit is why she got my vote. That is too cool.)

Both Hil and I got our pictures in the paper, though I think hers is better than mine. But then, she’s smiling in hers, and I am talking in mine, so there we have it. If I yammered less and smiled more, maybe I would look better in pictures.

But this is just too terrific, because I feel very strongly that everyone at Salaam: the cooks, the servers, the prep cooks (which includes Morganna), the bellydancers, the chefs, the owners–we all work very hard in order to make this little restaurant a very special place that offers the best possible food in a unique atmosphere that is evocative of an exotic time and place that exists in everyone’s imagination. And I am so proud to be part of it.

So, there you have it. This is why I am floating around on a cloud right now, and am doing the Happy Barbara Dance, though I am doing it perched on the couch while I recuperate from the most evil sinus infection that came out of the blue like quick death from above early Sunday morning. I basically woke up with a headache and neckache so bad that I was worried I had meningitis. The only thing that gave me comfort was that when I could stand to blow my nose–even though it felt like my eyes would pop out if I tried to, was that the evidence in the kleenex pointed toward a sinus infection, and not a swollen brain and spinal cord.

It was the worst pain in my life. The migraines and sinus infections of my youth were nothing compared to this. And labor pains–shoot–I never used any anesthesia for either of my babies, and I was fine. Yeah, it hurt. So what?

Not this. This made me cry. Except that if I cried, it made it worse, so I just cussed.

A lot.

So, I went to Urgent Care, it being a Sunday, and the doctor treated it aggressively, noting that as fast as it came up, and the evidence that it was in every sinus cavity in my head and was too close to my brain for her or my comfort, that a heavy shot of steroids and another of antibiotics was necessary. And then, she wrote scrips for more steroids and more antibiotics to be taken orally for the next week.

So I went home, went to bed and slept for like–oh, four or five hours and woke up and the pain was gone.

Prednisone is my friend. I have never taken a steroid before, but it helped. Amazingly so. But, I have to say that the little pills of it–no matter how fast I swallow them, they dissolve in my mouth, which tastes godawful terrible, horrible and monstrously icky.

But I don’t care, because it is killing the evil which does not sleep in my nose.

So, I am having to restrict my dancing to the couch, but believe me, I am bouncing up and down merrily, and every now and then, I have a jovial giggle or two, out of sheer, bubbling joy.


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  1. Congratulations!!!! That sounds like such a neat little restaurant.

    Sorry ’bout the sinus infection, but glad to hear the pred is helping. Just getting over one myself, so I understand!

    Comment by Cindy — January 28, 2008 #

  2. That’s so cool! Congratulations!

    Comment by trina — January 28, 2008 #

  3. Barbara congratulations on the reviews. You make this sound like so much fun and the food so wonderful that a road trip from California to Athens will have to be put on the to-go list.

    On the other hand – the sinus infection description could not have been more accurate. This same condition is going through my extended family as fast as a hot knife through butter. I have never felt such pain as when blowing my nose. It is amazing one can hurt so much and not die. It also travels freely down the chest making coughing a herniating experience. Take care of yourself because as you get better, start doing a few things, feel the confidence of better health – it sneaks back exactly and as quickly a month later – even on the same day of the week. Nose blowing produces more stars than could possibly be in the universe.

    Comment by Maureen — January 28, 2008 #

  4. Congratulations! And may the sinuses clear soon.

    Comment by Alexis — January 28, 2008 #

  5. Very cool. Now you must show us that photo of you and Hil that was in the paper!

    (Sorry about the sinus infection. Since I’m a teacher, I’m always getting them. What a complete pain!)

    Comment by Kalyn — January 28, 2008 #

  6. congratulations. if there was a ‘coolest food blogger’ award, it would be yours as well.

    Comment by bee — January 28, 2008 #

  7. Yea! I have been meaning to get over to Athens for a while now–you may have inspired me to finally make the plans!

    I am sorry about your sinus infection, it sounds awful. I am prone to them but have never had one like that and I never hope to!

    Comment by Laura — January 29, 2008 #

  8. Dear barbara,

    congrats ! but, this comment is in a hurry. i would like you to visit our fellow malayali blogger, reshma’s Green Green Chutney. You will find an interesting piece on baby foods ! Here’s the link – http://greenchutney.blogspot.com/
    please read the post – Warming Up, in which she describes the baby foods prepared by her mother for her own baby. Thought you might be interested.

    Comment by renu — January 29, 2008 #

  9. Big congratulations, and a side of sympathy for the sinuses.

    The one, deserved, I’m sure (the picture of the front is way cool!).

    The other–get better soon.

    Comment by wwjudith — January 29, 2008 #

  10. Woot!!!

    major congratulations!!

    Comment by Kate — January 29, 2008 #

  11. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I sympathize about the evil prednisone. . .I used to get horrible poison ivy reactions and had to take prednisone as a liquid. Nothing has ever tasted more foul.

    Congratulations on all your accolades! If I’m ever in Athens. . .

    Comment by AR — January 29, 2008 #

  12. Congrats to you and your restaurant barbara:) good luck with more dancing!:)

    Comment by Mansi — January 29, 2008 #

  13. Congratulations on the honors!

    As to the sinus infection, I am truly sorry. I usually get them at least twice a year (at the seasons changing). I finally went to an allergist, got tested as to what I’m allergic to. Found out I can’t have shots (I won’t react correctly) and besides pescribing me some nasal sprays instead of oral allergy meds (which I only use when I need them) he had me start using a neti pot. I must admit, it took me a while to get up the nerve to not only use it, but to get the hang of not drowning myself! 🙂 He also gave me a bottle-type that I don’t like as well since it seems to go down my throat more, but when I’m really “clogged” up it gives a bit more gentle pressure and then I can use the regular neti pot. I haven’t had a sinus infection, or lost my voice this year, and for the past few years I’ve spent New Years sounding like Bea Arthur. I still cough and sneeze, but I’ll take that over a sinus infection any day!

    Comment by JJ — January 29, 2008 #

  14. Thank you all–it means a lot to have so many good vibes sent this way.

    JJ–I used to use a neti pot, years ago, and it is what stopped my chronic sinus infections. This one came out of the blue–strangely enough after I had gotten a cold and started nasal irrigation again–I did it twice and then WHAM! The infection hit and I was scared to do it again.

    But I went to see the ear, nose and throat specialist today and she said the two were not connected and that I should go back to irrigation, and sooner rather than later. She said nothing else cures and keeps sinus infections at bay like salt water up the nose.

    Comment by Barbara — January 29, 2008 #

  15. Congratulations, on the award and the feeling better! I’ll have to get down there. Athens isn’t sooo far from Akron. Hope you’re all healed up soon.

    Comment by Adrianne — January 29, 2008 #

  16. Congratulations, Barbara. It’s a great feeling when you work somewhere that wins awards while you are there. I was over the moon when we got our Michelin star, even though I don’t like the whole thing. You really feel like you personally made a contribution to the success, whether or not it was really true. Hope you are feeling better.

    Comment by Trig — January 30, 2008 #

  17. Congratulations! What a lovely thing for you all. 🙂 Hope you get well soon also.

    Comment by Christina — January 30, 2008 #

  18. congrats! I love how you and the owner worked together and made a hookah bar into a restaurant that serves pakistani/middle eastern food. It’s getting well deserved recognition! Good for you!

    Comment by LiberalFoodie — January 31, 2008 #

  19. congrats! I love how you and the owner worked together and made a hookah bar into a restaurant that serves pakistani/middle eastern food. It’s getting well deserved recognition! Good for you!

    Comment by LiberalFoodie — January 31, 2008 #

  20. CONGRATULATIONS! That’s wonderful news! I just wish I lived somewhere near Athens! 😀 Hug!

    Comment by Maninas — February 3, 2008 #

  21. YAY! I love Salaam, though I don’t get to go that often. My sister and brother-in-law were just in last week and visited Salaam and loved it.

    Sorry to hear about your sinuses, but I’m glad you got a doc willing to agressively treat it. Good luck!!

    Comment by Ruth — March 25, 2008 #

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