Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bon Fresco: Update

While manning the register at work today, I struck up a conversation with two plain clothes detectives from the Howard County police department regarding the break in.

The detectives requested anonymity because of the ongoing nature of the investigation. They spent about two hours looking over the security tapes at Bon Fresco, attempting to locate footage of the suspects.

As it turns out, the security cameras were set to record continually, not for motion detection. Since the date when the cameras first recorded activity, the hard drive of the corresponding computer system has been slowly filling up with footage of Bon Fresco employees and guests.

The detectives learned that the hard drive filled to capacity on June 27th, two days before the break in. In short, the suspects were not caught on camera. The cameras, computer system and security system have since been restructured, so don't get any ideas!

Under The Sun

"Well I don't want no preacher telling me about the god in the sky." Thanks Ozzy for a great song. This post has nothing to do with gods, preachers, or Ozzy Osbourne but it seemed fitting for sitting in a tunnel playing a flute under the sun.

On lake Elkhorn in Owen Brown there are are two concrete and steel tunnels that connect the lake to the river that runs behind Allview. On sunny days I enjoy sitting in the right tunnel, practicing my flute.

If however you're one of those people that likes to fish, take my advice and take the left tunnel down to the other side of Broken Land parkway for the best fishing spot in Owen Brown.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bon Fresco: Broken Into

At this time I don't have much to give you. I spoke with the owner, Gerald Koh, this morning. He told me the suspect was caught on the security camera breaking into the restaurant by pitching a rock through the back window.

Both windows on the back door were smashed clean and had been swept into a box by the time I arrived this morning. I wasn't scheduled to work, but I wanted to help if I could. Koh said the suspect had hit other establishments over the course of the night, four or five. I left a message for the officer who took the police report, but nothing has been posted on the Howard County police website as of yet.

Koh said the suspects took money. Upon a visual inspection, nothing else appears to be missing. I guess the food is so good they couldn't wait for Bon Fresco to open to eat it. That elicited a small laugh from Koh. As I sit here, typing, trying to analyze what happened, I wonder why Koh didn't remove the money from the registers after closing last night? There's no office or safe in Bon Fresco? I am however, thankful for the security cameras, and the fact that we all still have jobs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bat Country

I had heard about this place from my friend Nickel. During the spring and fall semesters, I would often hang out with Nickel in the tunnels underneath Towson University. In the summers when he works for Columbia Association, Nickel often finds and shows me recently discovered chill-spots.

I wasn't scheduled to work on Tuesday, so I went to the East Columbia Branch Library with Joey to help him prepare for the GED. After studying at the library, we walked around Owen Brown as we often do. I remembered Nickel telling me about a tunnel underneath Broken Land parkway, so we went to check it out.

At the bottom of a forested slope on the corner of Broken Land and Cradlerock lies a stream and two concrete tunnels spanning the width of the parkway. To satisfy my curiousity, I decided to walk through one of the tunnels, Joey followed. One hundred feet through a steel ribbed, sand filled sewer tunnel. No snakes that I could see, just the sound of trickling water and the echo of flip-flops.

On the other side of the tunnel was a concrete slab followed by a stream choked with brush and fallen timbers. Among the twigs and trash, Joey found an expired Maryland learner's permit for Jhef Herard Felix of 6361 Windharp Way along with a lone black athletic shoe. After snapping a few pictures of damsel flies and waterfalls, we decided to head back through the other tunnel.

That was when we entered Bat Country! As far as people go, Joey's reserved and not easily startled. However, not long after we entered the tunnel, we discovered Bat Country. His mannerisms quickly changed to panic as he screamed out about bats and snakes and death.

A podcast of our adventure through Bat Country can be found here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bon Fresco: Now Open

I haven't posted in over a week. Have I gone AWOL? Are the lack of posts the result of some turbulent mix of apathy and stupor? Actually, I've been busy with my MsgworX internship and landscape engineering for Mom Duke.

I've also spent a few hours here and there at Bon Fresco, four more today for the official opening of the restaurant. Little things like the bus-yellow wall tiles, Micros heat tape tickers and plastic containers filled with baguettes remind me of Atlanta Bread Company.

Gerald Koh, the owner and manager of Bon Fresco says he's changing the menu slightly. For Howchow and any other curious patrons, I've scanned a copy of the handbill menu I've pedaled and peddled to the surrounding office structures. The bottom of the menu cuts off on the Capri, so I've listed it below:

Capri: Prosciutto, Genoa salami, capicola and provolone with lettuce, roasted red peppers, hot peppers, onions and vinaigrette on ciabatta.

The layout of the restaurant is similar to that of Chipotle, one of the restaurants with which Bon Fresco is competing for your business. Orders are picked up at the counter adjacent to the front doors and taken at the opposite end of the counter. Bon Fresco is small however and only seats 27.

So what makes Bon Fresco any different from Panera Bread or Subway? I'm sure there are many patrons pondering this point, as have I. The ingredients. As Koh has stated before, he wants everything to be fresh, so he won't refridgerate tomatoes nor will he buy them with the additive spray film even if this means 86ing tomatoes for the rest of the shift. All of the bread is made on site, by hand. No frozen-boxed baguettes here.

Business has been slow primarily due to lack of advertising, so get the word out. The more guests Koh gets, the more hours I get. If the management is sound and the operation is streamlined, then the business should succeed. The food will sell itself.

Bon Fresco is located in Dobbin, behind Ledo's Pizza. Here's the street address for all of you Google mappers:

6945 Oakland Mills road (At the corner of Oakland Mills road and Snowden River parkway).

So is it ethical for me to report on a business I work for? Honestly, when I was in J-School at Towson, I was given the choice of electives; either take media ethics or media law. Complimentary to my character, I chose media law.

As for objectivitiy, well that's a subject better explained by Hunter S. Thompson. Refer to Fear And Loathing: On The Campaign Trail '72, page 33.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gerald Koh on Bon Fresco

Columbia resident Gerald Koh has been busy over the last few months, overseeing the building and inspection processes of his new restaurant venture, Bon Fresco. Koh, who earned a BS in accounting from College Park in 1982, has been working in the food-service industry for over twenty years.

In the cube behind Ledo's Pizza in Owen Brown, Koh works daily meeting with potential employees, contractors and inspectors. He says he hopes to open Bon Fresco to the public by June 15th.

Bon Fresco is small, about the size of your average Subway restaurant and will employ only 15-20 people. Thankfully, I count myself among those 15-20 employees. Details are hard to come by but Koh says menus will be printed by Tuesday. The specific items of the menu aren't yet known by anyone except Koh, but we can look forward to Koh's favorite menu item; Israeli couscous, made with caramelized onions, dried apricots and feta cheese.

"I like to have food that is good for you, that is tasty. That is what America is all about," says Koh while standing at his impromptu desk. Koh says many restaurants in the area work on three basic principles: good bread, freshness and service. He points out however that none of his competitors have nailed all three yet.

When asked, he says restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread will be his primary competitors.

So where does the name Bon Fresco come from? Koh says he spent a lot of time thinking of names for his concept company like sweet and fresh, sweet and simple. Finally he came up with good and fresh. Bon Fresco translates as good and fresh in Italian and French respectively.

Elijah Andrews on Lake Front

I met Elijah Andrews back when I started skateboarding in Town Center. In those days he wore a Cat-In-The-Hat styled red and white hat which made him instantly recognizable. I used to see Andrews skating at the bridge between The Columbia Mall and the Lake Front and at the double block by the docks.

After my recent visit to Lake Front, I asked Andrews, a seasoned veteran of the Columbia skateboarding scene about the surge in security and the risks involved in skating at Lake Front.

Do you think it's fair that CA prosecutes and bans skateboarders at the lakefront, even though the property is rarely used by others, except during summer evenings?

"I can understand why they don't want us there when they're playing a movie or something. The skateboards can make enough noise to distract the viewers. But otherwise, I'd say just let us use the place when there's no actual events going on."

When were you first banned, who were you with, what happened and do you think banning skateboarders is an effective deterrent?

"When I was first banned, I was alone. It was more or less an official slap on the wrist - where if I got caught after that, there'd be legal consequences. And no, its not an effective deterrent. Most skateboarders are used to that shit by now anyway."

Have you personally, or have you heard of pedestrians having problems with the skateboarders at the lake front? complaints about the noise or disruption? Or do you feel as though the other tenants of the property coexist with skaters?

"Personally no, but I do know the security got more intense after some kid accidentally ran into some older guy. I heard he broke a bone or something. Ever since then they've been super anal about security."

Its common knowledge that the lake front is under used, except during the summer CA season. Even then, events only occur during the evening. In your opinion, should CA allow skateboarders to use the property much like they would a skate park during designated hours? Do you feel that if they did allow skateboarding, it would act to draw more people to the lake front?

"Yes, it definitely would. A good example of sparked interest is in Louisville Kentucky. They invested millions into a skate park and it paid off well for them. People from all over the country go there to skate it and the locals hang around there to do all sorts of things."

Do you think its fair that CA prosecutes anyone who so much as carries a skateboard across the lake front property? And from your experiences, what are the ramifications of being banned from the property? Have you been arrested or fined? Does the ban effectively keep you from returning to the lake front?

"No its not fair. Its not like carrying a gun. No permits are needed to carry one. People always forget its a mode of transportation as well. I have no idea what they do now when they catch you for skating. I've heard everything frmo getting fined and board taken away to arrested for trespassing. I guess it depends on the situation. Bans definitely don't keep from the lake front either, it just makes them more careful to not be caught. I've known dozens of people who were banned and still came back."

Oh Snap!

Snapping Turtle sightings have increased with the recent rainy weather. If you're walking your dog or strolling along open space paths, keep an eye open for these snappers. Snapping turtles tend to hide themselves in the low brush near stream beds. Though they don't move very fast, they have quick reflexes and can bite without warning so keep pets, appendages and skateboards out of range of their beaks. The snapping turtle shown here had claws almost two inches long and hissed just before lashing out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Battle For Lake Front

I thought of the Rage Against The Machine album while writing and rewriting the slug line for this post.

I interviewed Greg Hamm in March about a diverse array of topics. One of the points Hamm made was that General Growth Properties doesn't prosecute skateboarders at the Lake Front. This sounds encouraging, since he made the point that the property itself is seldom frequented by other residents.

Last night I discovered the loophole while talking to this unnamed sentry. GGP won't prosecute but Columbia Association will. I told him my name was Frank and that I was new in town, a recent emigrate of Baltimore. In fact, I've been banned from the Lake Front several times. Our conversation served as a testimonial to the inadequacies of their cruel and crude system.

According to the off-duty police officer who moonlights as a security guard, even stepping foot on the property with a skateboard is a hellworthy trespass. Last night I had been skating the white wooden stage at around 6:30 with no problems. I left for the mall but doubled back to the double block to retrieve my tea shades. It was then that I was informed of my transgression. After a short conversation and a well crafted ruse, he gave me a flier with dates and events on it, claiming that CA had events every day of the month.

As I sat on the double block, reading Fear & Loathing On The Campaign Trail and sipping steam through my hookah, I noticed that not a damn thing was going on. No band, no movie, business as usual.

The point of my story is this: Most of the time, the Lake Front is not being used. If the weather is nice, people may walk through the Tivoli square or fish at the docks. I've never seen people sitting on the double blocks nor have I read a newspaper article reporting on the injury and hospitalization of some young skateboarder at the Lake Front.

The laws are unfair, and the restriction of the space goes against the ideals that the space was intended to uphold. To date I haven't heard of an incident involving a skateboarder and a pedestrian. We do our thing, they do theirs. Destruction of property? Nothing has been destroyed and seldom is any of it used, except by us.

By prosecuting us, you are draining the lifeblood from the already desolate Lake Front. What else is there to do for young people, have a Singapore Sling at Clyde's?