Sunday, July 20, 2014

Waffling Around

Waffling

Well, once again, the Feeder is enlightened and astounded (well, that might be a little too generous) plus a little humbled by the knowledge of the readers.  Just when you think you know something, you get learned.  Many readers responded to my posting about chicken and waffles flavored chips, letting me know that C&W it has been a historically favorite dish in some communities.  So, I did a little scratching around for the history, and as usual, found different stories from different sources.  The same is true for the stuffed ham I am working on also.  One source claims that it was “invented” by one Joe Wells in his Harlem restaurant of the same name in New York, in 1938.  Performers such as Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington would come in for something after their performances, and since it was too late for dinner and too early for breakfast, the imaginative Joe served fried chicken with a side of waffles.

Another source says that after Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron home from France in the late 18th century, waffles became popular, and recipes for C&W began to appear in cookbooks.  Slaves who rarely had a chance to eat chicken, but were familiar with flapjacks and pancakes, considered both chicken with waffles a delicacy.  I even consulted the food historian Michael Twitty who allowed as how “Chicken and Waffles is straight up antebellum South… I don’t care what they say!”

So I go from a bag of chips in the store to learning even more about food traditions.  I am having kind of the same experience while researching the origins of Stuffed Ham.  More on that later.. Oh, by the way, the C&W chips themselves are still bad even if they do hearken back to a legitimate food tradition.

Tipping

While I was penning (or tapping) the posting before this one, I kept thinking there was something I wanted to mention.  Almost a week later, it finally occurred to me, a situation that happens with more regularity lately.  It grew out of my viewing of the Baseball All Star Game last week.  I am sad to report that the fine art of “hat tipping” appears to be dying.  I don’t know how many players and managers there were on both teams, but only the St. Louis Cardinal team seemed to be keeping the tradition alive.  The classic hat tipping technique is when the player curls his forefinger slightly over the brim of the hat, second knuckle lightly cradling it, just past the eye, and puts the thumb underneath, and then WITHOUT moving the hat, slightly moving the hand in a quick downward motion.  That’s it.  Simple, honoring the uniform you’re wearing, and just a humble acknowledgement of the crowd's applause.   It is NOT tipping the whole thing back, or (God forbid) removing the hat entirely and waving it over your head, in a cheap “look at me!!” gesture and letting us see your hair (or lack thereof).   Tacky and a rookie move.

And, speaking of hitting balls with something, I watched the final round of the British Open (or, more properly, “The Open Championship”) this morning.    Even though Rory McIlroy had six strokes in his pocket this morning, it turned out to be a close finish with Sergio and Rickey Fowler nipping at his heels.  Rory now has three of the four Majors in his trophy case, and the drama will heighten as we build toward next year’s Master’s in Augusta.  In this day of athletes getting arrested for this and that, or succumbing to addiction of various substances, it is so nice to see somebody who smiles as he plays, and is fresh and candid in interviews.  And this year, despite all the Tiger hype and adoration by ESPN, it was pleasurable to watch a tournament where we didn’t have to watch every routine chip of somebody ten strokes off the pace.  Tiger was pretty much off the course before, or shortly after, Rory teed off.  Phil never really threatened either.  Rory's mother was there and he gave her a big hug.  Sweet kid.  I hope success doesn't destroy him.  I have hopes it won't.  It was also a bit sad to see Sergio fall short again, as the monkey grows larger on his back.  Great stuff..

Reading

And veering back to food for a closing note, I got my favorite issue of almost my favorite magazine this week, the Southern Food Issue of Garden and Gun.  The cover photo is of a country breakfast featuring a lovely slice of country fried ham, grilled fingerling potatoes, sliced (probably heirloom) tomatoes, and topped by two gorgeous fried eggs (which I could never hope to duplicate).  I’m sure the result of careful food styling but it looks good.  Have not had the time to (too easy) digest the issue yet, but notice there is a piece on whether you like okra or filé as a thickening agent in your gumbo, plus articles by John T. Edge and the Lee Brothers.  Maybe they could give some insight into Chicken and Waffles.  Meanwhile, I remain


DFD

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chips Ahoy...



You got to give those smart guys at the snack companies credit.  They’re always thinking.  

Maybe the king of snacks is the once humble potato chip (or crisps, depending on your location) which has been around since the mid nineteenth century.  Don’t know if you notice these things as I do, but there is an astonishing number of people who make them.  Gourmet, plain, wavy, baked (bad, bad), brown russets, thick cut, kettle cooked, the styles are endless.  And on top of that is the flavors.  Almost anything you can think of is made by somebody.  As testimony, one of my recent favorites is the “Dill Pickle” flavor by the Lay’s people.  Sounds bad, tastes good.  Speaking of Lay’s they recently (months ago) launched a “win a million bucks” campaign, asking consumers to submit ideas for a flavor.  When we were in Giant the other day, I spied a bag that announced the winner.  A Karen Weber – Mendham got the $1M, and will spend it on “college and braces for the kids.. then maybe some shoes for me”.  How cute.  Still a million is a million.  All because she came up with the suggestion of “Cheesy Garlic Bread”.  Naturally we had to get a bag, and since they were having a special of two for one we got another newcomer, Chicken and Waffles (!!)..





Cheesy Garlic Bread I can fathom, but how they came up with the Chicken and Waffles baffles me.  I think I am reasonably up on food culture, and for the life of me I don’t think I know of any traditional link between the two.  Since the picture shows fried chicken, I would guess that maybe it would be from the “south”.  Waffle houses began in the south, so there is maybe a link somehow there.  I have never eaten in one, but anyway.

As for the taste test, the Cheesy weren’t too bad and in fact MFO really liked them.  On the other hand (or mouth) the Waffle variety are (IMHO) really BAD!.  The waffle flavor comes through big time, but neither of us could get any hint of chicken.  And like their namesake, they were quite sweet.  The ones in the picture are from that bag.  The color is sort of off putting.. no more bags for us.  yuck. 

And yes, dear readers, I know that potato chips are not the best for you.. but they pair well (ha ha) with certain items…

Technology marches on

I think I mentioned that I have acquired a new tablet/laptop since the hard drive in this cumbersome laptop appears to be on its last legs.  The new Lenovo weighs but a fraction of this beast and I thought it would be my travel preference to handle the wonderful pictures I take while on the journey.  Accordingly I loaded the photo processing software on it with some help from a more savvy friend, and after the requisite amount of hassle it installed.  Well, in messing around with it, I found a curiosity that a certain amount of existing files would not load correctly.  Don’t need to go into the details here, but began to try to troubleshoot.  Finally I threw up my hands and tried to get on an Adobe site to ask a question.  I got in an endless loop of “need to register” and finally quit in frustration.  

Yesterday with the help of “get a human”, I finally got a phone number and called up.  Eventually, after a series of “for….press one, two, five, etc.” I was told an agent would be with me in 3 to 4 minutes.  After 30 of them, a person did come on the line. It was apparent that I was dealing with an “off shore” facility and then after proving who I was and a series of “excuse me? Could you repeat that?” exchanges, I explained what my problem was.  The person I was speaking with (not necessarily communicating) finally said I had to talk to somebody in the photography department..  Gee, you think?  

After another pause I was speaking to Sangeeta.  And although I am sounding snarky, she spent the better part of two hours sharing my desktop, changing this, changing that, she was really nice and patient with me.  During the lulls waiting for the electrons to move, I found out that yes, she was in India, it was two o’clock in the morning there, and she works from five thirty pm to about three five days a week.  She likes it, and agreed it was a bit hard on the social life.  I opted not to ask her age.  Anyway, she did everything she knew how (I think she did know LIghtroom) and in the end was unable to fix the problem.  She said it would have to be passed up the line, and I will get a call within the next 48 hours with the solution.  I am hopeful.  Adobe seems to be a pretty considerate company, and I have to thank Sangeeta for her efforts. 

At one point because she was browsing through my catalog, she remarked that “you have a lot of pictures of food!”, which engendered a short conversation about being a food blogger, etc.  We never did get to considering being


DFD

Monday, July 14, 2014

keep on buzzing...



A couple of notes that didn’t get in the previous “buzz” report.

Did you see there was a picture in our newspaper probably a week ago showing all the local pols lined up with the big scissors cutting a ribbon on our new Sonic?  Great!  Let’s publicize all the chains we can..  C’mon down to Lexington Park.. we’re the place with all the power poles that blend into the horizon..

And in yet another advance for our little complex next to the Golden Corral that welcomes you to our subdivision, there is a new customer moving into the “Twist” building.  It is called VAPOR99.  



Well, you might ask (as I did) what the heck is that?  I had to go to my sort of “go to” guy of pop culture and what’s going on, and come to find out it is what is called a “vape store”.  Well, you might ask (as I did) what the heck is that?   Turns out it is a store that supports electronic cigarettes and paraphernalia:  “Our shop offers electronic cigarettes, vaping liquids, and other related merchandise”.  There comes a point in your life that you begin to feel “out of it”..  Voila!  Apparently Lafayette, we are here..

I continue to enjoy Tom Sietsema’s food reviews in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine.  Believe me, it is not easy to churn those things out every week and remain fresh and interesting (a condition most readers are probably all too familiar with).  I like his style and perspective.  He started out a review of “Thally” in the 6 July issue with the following:  “Are you tired of sliders and carpaccio and cooks (italics mine) who would rather be mugging on the Food Network than making your dinner?”.  Couldn’t agree more, Tom.    A little further on he mentions that Ron Tanaka (chef – with a resume including CityZen, Palena, and Citronelle)  “thinks food should be secondary to bringing people together around a table”.   According to the review, Ron doesn’t have that problem.  Tom gives the place two and a half stars.  Anyway, my point is that Mr. Sietsema seems to have the right idea.  Wonder what he thinks about


DFD

ps my (now un) trusty laptop apparently gave up the hard drive ghost, so now i am struggling trying to adapt with my "new" lenovo, which is far from intuitive..

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Buzzing around Locally


Happy weekend!!  More restaurant buzz, this time a little closer to home.  To paraphrase Yogi a bit, you can hear a lot just by listening..  It is interesting what you hear in groups when the topic turns to food..

I was at a small gathering last night which was attended by some folks that were: a) young(er), and b) relatively new to the county (I surmised).  Anyway at one point restaurants came up and this couple said that they had found a “new place” down by Ridge, called “Curtney’s” or something.  They were quickly corrected to Courtney’s, but they went on to describe the place and how when they came in somebody was asleep and had to be awakened to serve them.  Yup, they got the right place.  Anyhow they went on to say it was some of the best seafood they have had down here.  Just was surprised that there was somebody who had never heard of our iconic Courtney’s.

At the same party, somebody said they didn’t much like the “new" Lighthouse, but mostly because of the layout, not the food..Feeder has still not visited.

Other snippets gathered from various sources, with the caveat that in the restaurant/food service business, nothing is ever certain…

The Stoney’s empire may expand to this side of the Patuxent, and move into the “old“ Clarke’s Landing, vacated when the “old” team moved into the “new” Lighthouse.

The Solomons Island Yachting Center (in behind the Star of the Sea Church) may becoming involved in (yet another) resurrection of DiGiovanni’s.

Somebody at that gathering mentioned above said that they thought St. James Pub was reopened…  have sent a note to a stringer who might actually know. Break break, who just replied and said that it is NOT open..

Charles Street Brasserie (Harbor Lights/Sounds – Solomons) – from their facebook page of July 9:   “Charles Street Brasserie is Proud to introduce Executive Chef Carl Cooksey and Head Chef Jimmy Lazzero! (photo embedded) These two Chefs have created a menu that infuses a Latin/Mediterranean influence with a Southern Maryland twist. Their unique and creative dishes promise to give Charles Street Brasserie's dinners an off the hook experience. Watch for our pre-opening announcements in just a few days!”  A post from the 10th has an interior shot.

The Beer Cave (in the Sunoco station) on Piney Point Road is upgrading its supply of beer, wine, and spirits, claiming they will “offer every quality brand out there” of small batch Bourbon and Whisky.  They also offer fishing equipment and ammunition..

The Rex has put up a sign on the space in Leonardtown.

The other day after a visit to St. Mary’s County Historical Society to do research on Stuffed Ham (a long story, to be related later) we decided on taking lunch at Café Des Artistes.  It continues to be an oasis in the middle of the day for a leisurely lunch of reliably good food.  On the day we visited (I think Wednesday) there were many, many, people who had the same idea and by the time we left, I think it was full, and we saw lots of friends. 

I pondered the menu for a long time, and finally decided Damn it, I’m going for it!  Only (?) on Wednesdays (“Hump day”), they have Camel Burger on the menu.  Chef Loic always has interesting Plat du Jours, and despite plans to try the Burger (in the name of Feeder Research) I somehow always divert at the last minute.  Well, not this time.  While MFO had the always reliable La  Poitrine de Poulet au Crabe (figure it out), I boldy went for the Burger (and was told that it sort of “came” medium rare) and was topped with “Creamy Swiss and a caramelized onion & bacon aioli”.  Of the three side options (salad, soup du jour, fries) I chose the soup which was a creamy squash and spinach. Which turned out to be quite attractive, and the soup was very good (as always)




Apparently Camel meat is consumed in Australia and Dubai (where burgers are characterized as a “new sensation”) and some Muslim communities.  However, I have done my duty as a food critic, and I am pretty sure that is my last Camel Burger.  Given a choice for burgers, I would opt for beef if available.  I’m sure there are cultural factors at work here, but I thought the Camel meat was a bit “chewy”, and lacked fat content making it kind of dry (which was helped by the toppings).  It also seemed to me to have kind of an aftertaste to it.  Like anything else, you should give it a try sometime and see what you think, and thanks to the Café for giving us options not available elsewhere..

Okay, enough of bending your ear, I gotta go mow the lawn.


DFD (to the gentleman with sleeveless T shirt and extensive body art)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Reader's Voice is heard...


First of all, thanks to everybody who took the time to wish MFO a speedy recovery from her hand surgery.  It must have worked because the pain is diminishing every day, and she is able to do a few things.  However, somehow she apparently has strict doctor’s orders to NOT do any dishes for quite some time.  I need to check the internet about this regimen..

Anyway on to other things, like food.  Most Feeder Reeders know that I get a slew of food magazines of varying complexity, from Southern Living to Art of Eating. This month I got an unexpected new entry in the form of good old Consumer Reports, that bastion of recommending some esoteric make and model of a washer that out performs anything you can actually find.  They also occasionally rear up and laud things like “two buck chuck”, claiming that their $7.95 bottle of wine is comparable to a first growth Bordeaux. 

Anyway I was intrigued to see the cover story was: “America’s Best Fast Food (and the worst)” always trading on American’s obsession with what is “Best”.  I guess they don’t know the trendy term nowadays is not “fast” but “quick service” food.  Supposedly the ratings are the result of “96,208 meals at 65 chains”; not 96,209 or 207 mind you, but exactly 96,208 meals. The results are reported by bunch of little tables headed by: if you want… Healthful Choices; Regional Gems; Top Service; Clean Surroundings, and so forth followed by a list of “favorites”.  I was a little surprised to see Subway head the “healthful” group (with White Castle at the bottom), Chick-fil-A leads the top service category as well as clean surroundings, with KFC being the anchor of that category.  Regional gems included Burgerville (?), that cult favorite In-N-out” and Portillo’s Hot Dogs.  They also list “taste champs” for Burgers, Sandwiches and Subs, Chicken, and Burritos.  The Habit Burger Grill topped all 21 places for burgers; with good old McDonald’s in 21st place. Hey! Let’s go check out that Habit Burger Grill!  Well, your choices are the one in New Jersey or the other one in Utah.  Good job Consumer reports!! Chick-fil-A bested 7 others for chicken with again the Colonel at the bottom.

Finally, they rate 70 “restaurants” grouped by burgers, pizza, sandwich, chicken, Mexican, and Asian food chains;  Burgers go from top rated In-N-out to McDonalds;  Pizza: Pappa Murphy’s Take N’ Bake (nearest location—Kansas) to Sbarro; Sandwich: Portillo’s Hot Dogs (don’t think outside of Illinois) to Au Bon Pain; Chicken: Chick-fil-A to KFC; Mexican: Pablo’s Fresh Mexican Grill (Cedar Falls, IA), Chipolte second, Taco Bell last.  Kind of interesting reading.  America’s love of that kind of food never flags..

Who had the....

Another publication which I really enjoy comes from St. Louis, called “Sauce” magazine.  It’s free in St. Louis, but for a fee they will mail it to you.  If you are in St. Louis, I would recommend it – a good source of comings, goings, and reviews.  It gives me a chance to stay a little current with dining there, so when we make a visit we have a little knowledge.  It also doesn’t hurt that both FOJ’s have pretty accomplished palates either.  Anyway, there were a couple of items in the latest issue that kind of caught my eye.  Or rather gave me a little poke in it.  Interestingly enough, part of the issue was devoted to “Reader’s Choice”

Poke one:  there is a new place in Clayton occupying the now shuttered Chez Louis spot called “TheLibertine”.  A small review carries the title “Favorite New Restaurant”.  The requisite food shot is of a dish called “Three Little Birds”, which although apparently adjusted seasonally is their trademark entrée.  Now, as readers are aware, I do like what some might consider froo – froo food with elegant presentations, combinations of flavors, but darn it, sometimes it can be overdone.  Although rather lengthy, I am going to quote the description of the Three Little Birds:  the dish exhibits.. “the classic elegance of fowl, whimsically reinvented and roasted to perfection.  Chicken, quail, and Cornish hen are deboned, brined, stacked in layers, and finally topped with morsels of dark meat (from which fowl is not mentioned).  The succulent casserole is gently CVapped for several hours, which caramelizes the crispy skin before the Three Little Birds are laid to rest (interesting phrase) upon a bed of tangy, old-school Carolina Gold rice middlins, cooked with milk and pecorino.  The ensemble is finished with a sauté of local, seasonal vegetables…”.  I suppose the dish might taste okay, but I would doubt in a blind tasting one could distinguish the chicken from the quail from the Cornish hen..  According to their menu, it is priced at twenty one dollars.  A lot of labor apparently goes into the dish, a bit surprised at that price point.  This is how they describe themselves: “The Libertine is a re-imagined neighborhood eatery that serves (sic) accesible yet ingredient driven food to the surrounding community and beyond.” Well, the place is located in posh downtown Clayton, full of high rises and expensive condos, so “neighborhood eatery” is a bit of a stretch IMHO.  It kind of gives me a little feeling of pretentiousness.  BUT, I have not dined there.  I might assign FOJTE the task of doing a stringer report for me (on his nickel of course!).

Poke two:  now a bit agitated, I kept turning pages until I came to a similar type article on readers “Favorite Cajun/Creole: Broadway Oyster Bar”.  I don’t argue with the choice, just the content of the article.  It was couched as a series of questions to, and responses from, their staff.  “What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen a customer do?” (eat a whole bucket of crawfish, heads, tails, shells and all), and so on. Then I came to this: “Why is it hard to be a server here”?  Answer by Bridgeman:  “When you try to (serve) the food, and no one responds to you.  You ask: “who had the jambalaya?” and nobody knows what they ordered”.  Excuse me???? What??  A SERVER, who is employed by the restaurant, depends on the customers to tell HIM what they ordered??  Who took the order?  What?, exactly, is your job?  You’re fired. There are schemes for keeping track… “blue sweater wants jambalaya, and on around the table..  or some position at the table is seat one, etc. I don’t think it is hard.  Even if there are runners, a responsible restaurant has to be able to get the correct dish to the right guest.  Awful.. That behavior is right up there with “are ya still werkin’ on thaaat dearie?”  Arggh..  Read that a couple of days ago and am still “werked” up on that..

And so goes the battle for decency and reason in the food world where we are all


DFD