Post-Star Wars berries

Photo By David Robert

Rating: Juicy

My lunch companion is doing her Yoda impression.

“And he’s just walking along with his cane in his hand,” she says, scrunching her face into a wise Yoda-like expression. “Then he whips out his light saber! Cha! Cheh! Cha! And he gets all buff and kicks some ass! Cha! Cheh! And then he puts his light saber away and goes back to walking along with his cane.”

RN&R Contributing Editor Kelley Lang is a bit late to lunch, but I understand. It is, after all, Thursday, the opening day in Reno for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. She’s been at the theater all morning with hundreds of fans, contributing to the plague of absenteeism you’ve heard so much about.

Kelley likes the movie, rating it up there with the original Star Wars. Not as good as The Empire Strikes Back, maybe, but probably better than The Phantom Menace.

I take a bite of my turkey sandwich ($6.95), a fat wad of thinly sliced meat packed in a tasty Dutch crunch bun. I’d pondered ordering one of the General Store’s lunch specials ($4.95), like broiled marinated chicken breast or flank steak in flour tortilla. But I don’t want to fill up on real food too fast. I’m holding out for berries.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when John Ascuaga’s Nugget does its Strawberry Festival. They serve up strawberry shortcake ($3.35), strawberry cream pie ($2.85), strawberry turnovers ($3.55) and strawberry milkshakes ($3.35).

That’s why we’re here, to take a moment and enjoy a few of life’s sweet pleasures. The General Store, one of several restaurants in the Nugget, seems moderately busy.

Our waitress stops by from time to time to check on us, sometimes barely slowing down, just patting the table and saying, “You’re doing fine?”

We are doing fine. We talk about the film, work and Kelley’s computer classes. For the most part, Kelley enjoys her chicken Caesar wrap ($6.50), a mess o’ salad, chicken and rice in a tomato-flavored tortilla, even though it has, in Kelley’s opinion, “more of a rice taste than a Caesar salad taste.”

No worries. The coleslaw is lively, with a healthy hint of horseradish. And dessert is dandy. I try a strawberry “shorty,” a mini version of shortcake, and Kelley has a lovely strawberry tart that’s so packed with sweet, tart berries that she can hardly access the coconutty custard.

But like any good Jedi, the force is with Kelley. Or maybe that warm feeling is a result of the margaritas … slushy sweet strawberries with a barely perceptible snarl of tequila ($4.25). We are tempted to indulge in many of these drinks, but we choose to sample just one. After all, you shouldn’t drink and then try to drive pod racers, not even in the Nugget arcade, where Kelley will later reach speeds of 650 kilometers per hour to the disdain of the virtual crowd who considers this to be terribly slow.

The margaritas seem gentle and ineffectual at first, though Kelley warns me that first impressions can often be misleading.

“It might be one of those deceptive things,” she says, sucking slush up through a straw. “One of those things that hits you all of a sudden, bam!”

Like Yoda.