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Amuse bouché

by Brian Clarey

Let it be duly noted in the YES! Weekly stylebook that the preferred term for freebies sent to our offices – CDs, T-shirts, coffee mugs, bloody Col. Sanders bobblehead dolls, coupons, bottle openers and the like – is “swag,” as opposed to “merch,” which is a generic term for logo-ed merchandise, or “schwag” which, we’ve heard, is used to describe sub-standard marijuana.

Over the years our offices have been showered with mucho swag in varying levels of quality. We’ve gotten beaucoup CDs and band press kits; tons of movie shirts, hats, towels, pens and pencils, stickers and such; a wooden box containing two bottles of fruity wine; many, many bad books; a couple pornographic magazines; and – for real – a bloody Col. Sanders bobblehead doll.

And the swag pile on my desk is growing exponentially since I started writing this weekly list of food-related items, generally of the low-end variety like booklets and coupons but occasionally I get items of interest that deserve mention here.

Like this missive from Chipotle Mexican Grill, the burrito joint with a conscience, touting the “spicy calendar models” on their 2007 calendar. The models, of course, are their signature giant burritos wrapped in skin-tight foil and placed in various settings, like in the rain (April) and at a picnic (June) and reclining on a bed of white feathers (November). They’ve also taken the liberty of adding a day to each week – “Chipolday” – dedicated solely to the consumption of their products. No matter that the Greensboro store on Wendover Avenue will not open until February or March (and they do have a location at the Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem), it’s a solid mid-level piece of swag that normally sells for $5 with proceeds going to the Land Institute and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Usually swag is intended to entice us to write a story, but it was after last week’s piece on the Cracker Barrell that I got a nice package from their director of corporate communications, Julie K. Davis, with a thank-you note, a pecan log, a bag of pancake mix and a couple tiny bottles of syrup.

Nice.

In upcoming food-related events we have but a single item this week: a six-course Valentine’s Day wine dinner at the Grove Winery, which is fast becoming our favorite vintner in the state. The dinner, created by Chef Cheryl Carden, will include appetizers (chief among them the North Carolina shiitake mushroom tart), a baby green salad, a prime rib entrée, sorbet and cheese courses and a cheesecake dessert, all paired with 2005 and 2006 vintage Grove wines.

Have I mentioned that wine makes for really great swag?

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