Friday, January 20, 2017

Our Town, Hot Diggity, and Politics..



Our Town

Preface:  Kind of leaning on Thornton Wilder..as part of my extensive research for this piece, I checked that notable fact source, Wikipedia and some other sites and it lists St. Mary’s County as the 21st “richest” county in America, and the 5th in Maryland.  I didn’t go very deep, but by some measures our Mother County is quite affluent.

The Story: So the other day I went up to San Souci to find the old Monterrey which had been under construction now reveals its new occupant.


And sleuthing around the county I found the “old” DB McMillan’s (RIP) undergoing an extensive "renovation" of some sort


I asked the previous owner if she knew what it was, and she said that she thought it was a couple of retail stores and maybe an office of some sort.  Then Facebook kind of blew up with speculation that it was a Dollar General store, although some subscribed to the same rumor I had.  Then in yesterday’s Enterprise there was an article that said the DG store was proposed for a plot across from Brewster’s on the Mervell Dean side.

The Point:  As part of that article it mentioned that this would be the 7th(!) DG store in the area.  I don’t know if that includes the “Tree” version (above) or the ilk.  Or how about the “Everything Under Five” thing in Wildewood.. So I guess I don’t understand why, if we live in the 21st most affluent county in America, why are those cut rate places flocking here?

And another thing we enjoy about our county is that you can drive along most any of the thoroughfares (Three notch, St. Andrews Church, Pt. Lookout road, etc.,) and come across patches of woods, or nice fields, and get a feeling of our so-called “rural character”.  Pleasant.  There was a little such patch of nature that had endured for years just north of Nicoletti’s Plaza between there and the Plaza Azteca restaurant.  Not big, but green.  Well, branch by branch, tree by tree, it is now being denuded.  A construction road has been punched through the trees......  for another car dealer



“controlled” expansion I guess. At least it isn’t another chain restaurant.  We’re still “missing” a Red Lobster, or a Jersey Mike’s..

And speaking of food, I tried the Bay Dawgz place in San Souci the other day for a luncheon dog.  I’m not sure how many ways you can doll up the humble frankfurter, but they try hard.  Notice that every category ends in “z”?  clever. 



Of course  you’re on display while the young lady waits for you, and I finally settled on the “Reuben” version dubbed the “Island Dog” for reasons unbeknownst to me.  Anyway, I got it “to go” and took it home.  Although you can get a “luncheon combo” deal, I just took the dog and went home and made my own tasty combo.


Although I generally dislike the “top slice” bun, with all the stuff on the dog, it does help to prevent spillage.
My only comment (not necessarily a complaint) is that the dog is kind of overwhelmed by the condiments.. much bun and toppings.  The diameter of the dog is not large so it sort of gets lost.  The (all beef) dog itself does have a nice snap and some flavor if you can get to it..  A relatively nice change from other lunch options….  Other people were availing themselves of their product.  Hope they stick around

Speaking of sticking around we visited La Rive Breton the other night for dinner.   

Pleased to report that on this evening, the timing was much better, and the food remained really good.  It is always enjoyable to find changes on the menu with interesting choices or preparation differences of some familiar choices. You kind of get tired of the same menu every time you go (Dry Dock, take note!)  There are usually scallops on the menu, but with varied preparations (except the damn Brussel sprouts) , and the teres major steak remains (which I have never tried) but there was also Veal Osso Bucco ragout (with crispy fingerling potatoes, picholine olives, kale, piquillo peppers, and red wine braising jus) which I ordered.  I started with a lamb leg tartare (harissa pepper aioli, pickled cauliflower, crispy sunchoke chips, cucumber tzatziki)


Nice dishes, FOJTE would have appreciated the Tartare, with Lamb being a nice change.

I hope they get the support they need. I know I will help and be

DFD


Monday, January 16, 2017

Chain Reaction



I am beginning to have a foot in two camps, a social media shoe (or clog) on Facebook (realizing that it is now kind of antiquated in that fast moving world of snapgram, instachat, at so on).  The other hoof is still in this, my first love, the Bottom Feeder.  While the FB side allows me to instantly share food and scenery pictures, it does not allow my ramblings which are better suited for this outlet. (which i took advantage of today!)

So recently, I published a couple of pictures of food from Cracker Barrel in Facebook, and to my immense pleasure I got a lot of comments about “have you lost your mind?; Did you hit your head?” and so on.  It tells me that people are aware of my dedicated avoidance of “chain restaurants” and how I go out of my way to not give them my business.

Without diving into a deep rabbit hole, my principal reason for this (as has been stated before) positions is to support independent restaurants whenever possible and keep my money within the community.  To be sure, “chains” do provide employment for local residents, pay taxes, and in that sense do help the local economy.  Plus, some of them are willing to support non profits with gift certificates, sometimes food, and so on.  However, they do not “buy local”, and most of their ingredients arrive in Sysco (or equivalent) trucks from wherever, some of the dishes arrive frozen, and it is left to the kitchen to construct a dish exactly as required by “corporate” allowing no room for innovation or creativity.  If you order Shrimp Scampi from our Lexington Park Olive Garden, presumably you would get the same dish in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, and so on.  It is this consistency that some people enjoy, especially when traveling.  I would never expect to find “veal osso bucco ragout with crispy fingerling potatoes, picholine olives, kale, piquillo peppers, and red wine braising jus” such as I enjoyed at La Rive Breton the other night.  (okay, pushing it a bit, but you get the idea).  So, on we go….

By way of explanation my appearance in a chain(s) recently can be explained thusly:  The cracker barrel experience arose from a gracious gift card given to MFO; one of the local civic associations I belong to decided to have a committee meeting in the Olive Garden; and lastly we took a run up to Nordstrom’s in Annapolis Mall last week to exchange some Christmas gifts for a (sorry) larger size. 

Barrel of Crackers
I’m sure some readers have been in a CB establishment, and for whatever reason I have been in the past, and found that not only is the food “formula” so is the whole building and layout.  Side note, as you travel about the country and happen upon this franchise, see if the parking lot nearest the thoroughfare I always jammed.  I have always speculated that this was staff, and they do this to appear full of customers.  Anyway, you walk into the place, and Surprise! you find yourself in the “gift shop”


And to get to the “stand” you have to cross the room diagonally past as many displays as possible.  Not random methinks.  Anyway, you report to the stand that you have two for (lunch) and are asked if you want regular or (Served all Day) Breakfast Menus, and then ushered into the (considerable) dining space.


Decorated with “stuff” that does reflect the local area.


Hardly had we sat down before we were approached by <….> announcing that she was <….> and would be our server, and were we ready to order.  Um, no, we haven’t even opened the menu.  She seemed satisfied with accepting a request for water and unsweetened tea.  Turning again to business, I found the menu rather difficult to navigate, it’s a large trifold affair and I had to hunt for what I thought served as a lunch menu (on the same page headed by daily dinner features), finally locating sandwiches



As we navigated the menu, she arrived a short time later with the glasses, again asked if we were ready to order.  Not quite, yet… “Take your time”.  Which, it turned out to be about three minutes, so we caved and I got the Reuben Platter, and MFO got a breakfast dish of some kind.

Somehow, it was so loud in there despite not being overly crowded that it was, in Mr. Sietsema’s terms: Conversation is difficult.  A lot of the servers seemed to know a lot of the customers.  At any rate the food arrived




(those are apples, biscuits with grits and country gravy, sausage and over easy eggs)

Oh, a quick side note on the “sides” (get it?)  when I ordered, I was asked what sides I wanted with my sandwich (if not fries) and was guided to another page on the menu with quite a list and I chose Slaw.  You might note that besides my side there was a cup of same, the server saw no humor in that.

The food was quite good, my Reuben was properly greasy and melted, and the meat had some taste.  MFO’s eggs were nicely cooked for over easy.

About two thirds through the food we were asked if there was anything else she could get us.  No, thank you.  Check arrived soon thereafter.. Not being a regular I observed that to leave a tip meant you had to leave cash on the table, as you were required to pay at the desk which, believe it or not, was IN the gift shop!! which you again had to traverse to leave.  Just sayin... are you selling food or merchandise?

Anyway, it was an interesting experience and the Feeder was grateful to have the gift card as a reason to investigate the place.  I did. 

Garden of Olives
We’ve all been there for one reason or another, don’t need much comment from me.  Our meeting group which eventually swelled to about 12 was seated at pushed together tables in kind of an alcove out of the way of the main traffic lane.  Two servers were assigned that had names, but I forget how they were communicated.   New since the last time I was there (for same reason I think was the addition of this little device on the table



Which I didn’t fiddle with much.  Not sure if you could order or not, it wasn’t explained while I was there.  However, the laminated menu was as I remembered 



Same (consistently) never ending salad bowl (with never ending bread sticks peeking in upper left) and they were as insipid as i remembered



Some ordered food, but since the meeting was billed as only an hour (actually 1.5) I only ordered an appetizer, Fried Mozzarella



Which was probably as filling as something more substantial..  they were hot and crunchy.

All in all, others liked their food, so the OG achieved their objective.  Service remained friendly and they didn’t balk when asked for separate checks.  Still not sure about the little screen thingy.  There were many families enjoying themselves and food which is good. The Olive Garden is, well, the Olive Garden. 


Cheese Cake anyone?

We of course arrived at Nordstrom’s Annapolis just in time to learn that the person we wanted to see was at lunch so we decided to go for a bite ourselves.  Time, distance, and DFD considerations eliminated Harry Browne’s so we decided to try nearby



Without trying to make an already long document longer (which I guess i did), within the range of “chains” there are various levels, from fast food (McDonald's, Burger King, etc.) now called “quick service”, then up to the Olive Garden, Texas Road House, Outback, etc., and at the top are those places that are part of a “group” like Landry’s who owns individual properties with unique names like Landry's Seafood, Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Claim Jumper, Morton's The Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick's, Mastro's Restaurants and Rainforest Café, which tend to cross over into “fine dining”.

Somewhere in the fuzzy area, there are unique places like The Cheesecake Factory, which while it has (mostly) one brand, it has 185 full-service dining restaurants: 165 under The Cheesecake Factory brand, 11 under the Grand Lux Cafe brand and one under the RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen brand.  It was founded in Detroit by Evelyn Overton in the Forties, Evelyn found a recipe in the local newspaper that would inspire her “Original” Cheesecake. Everyone loved her recipe so much that in the late '50's she decided to open a small Cheesecake shop but she eventually gave up her dream of owning her own business in order to raise her two small children, David and Renee. She moved her baking equipment to a kitchen in her basement and continued to supply cakes to several of the best restaurants in town while raising her family.  In 1972, Oscar and Evelyn Overton moved to the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles where they opened a wholesale bakery, in which they produced cheesecakes and other desserts for local restaurants.  And, as they say, the rest.... kind of an interesting story..

Have been to a few CF's over the years, they kind of go in for large places with fancy décor..



We checked in with the desk lady, and since we didn’t require a booth, we were seated immediately at a two top along a low partition separating a section of the restaurant, and handed a spiral bound menu that had (I counted) over 18 pages.  A one menu does all, you kind of had to hunt for lunch options.  (I’ll call him) “Matt” came and said he would be taking care of us, did we want something to drink.  Well, yes, driver MFO wanted tea, and I wanted a  glass of a Kendall Jackson Chard of some sort.  An enthused: “right away!” and disappeared.  A minion brought MFO’s tea, and no vino.  Time passed, Matt appeared again and took our order


(they should pay YOU for the sweet potato fries)

for me, and MFO ordered a Guacamole salad.  As Matt departed, I reminded him again of the KJ, “Oh, yeah I’m sorry” and disappeared for another five minutes finally returning with a glass and no apology.  Oh well..

The place, while not terribly full seemed to have an energy about it, all the staff seemed to “hustle” most of the time.  I did notice that many tables remained “un-bussed” for a while.   At another table a request for a fresh fork received the same urgency as did my wine.   

I got my sandwich with mushroom soup and upsaled Caesar salad.   The soup was good, the sandwich’s “guts” were rolled up and placed between the bread.  Salad was also good.   

MFO’s salad turned out to be one of those “everything but the sink” things, radishes, nuts, dried this and that, greens with all the dressing pooled at the bottom…  Matt whizzed by a few times “checking”.



We finally left, satisfied, but not enjoyed, I guess I would go again given the other (lunch) options within the mall.   Sorry Evelyn. 

Shopping

We found our lady who manage's the “men’s furnishings” department of Nordstrom's and received her normal good service.  Got it, Mr. Moody, I'll take care of it.  Boom.

(While we have always had a good relationship, I did have a reader report of a less than pleasurable experience there).

So, driven to chains, I can’t say I would change my resolve to avoid them whenever possible, acknowledging that not all independent restaurants are excellent either, but I would rather spend my money there and either return or not..

Whew, sorry for the length.

DF(Independent)D




Friday, January 13, 2017

Time Traveling



The day after our journey across the Show Me State (looking at the signs), we visited the World War One Museum in downtown Kansas City.  Quite the remarkable structure, it was originally opened in 1921, a mere seven years after cessation of hostilities.  It was eventually closed in 1994 for repairs and upgrades, and reopened in 2006, giving them time to refresh and expand the collection.  It received the designation as a National Historic Landmark, and has since become the “official” National World War I Museum and Memorial.  I thought, oh, just another museum.  By the end of the visit I had changed my tune.

We wended our way toward the down town



And eventually found the museum.  It is a very impressive facility situated high on a hill overlooking the city



Dominated by the tower, which rises some 260 feet over the surrounding grounds.  One can get to the top via elevator and steps, which we elected to avoid. 

In the lower right of the image above you can see a “patio” which was composed of bricks and tiles donated in support of funding the museum.  One of which of course caught the feeder’s eye



I didn’t get a plaque for bringing donuts to the front lines of flight testing every Friday at Pax River..  oh well

Inside the museum you are kind of ushered into the theater to see a short film on the political climate leading up to the conflict.  Very nicely done, at a level of detail that helps you understand the reasons for the hostilities.  They leave off with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28th of 1914 and within a month, the world is at war (without the United States until April of 1917).  Yes, the Feeder was not a very alert history student.  MFO, on the other hand could fill in quite a few details. 

After that, you are free to wander the museum and see some of the exhibits and artifacts.  I learned a lot… like I learned that one of the causes in the rise of ardent nationalism was good old Charley Darwin and his “Origin of Species” espousing the “Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” or, as we often term it, Survival of the Fittest.  Obviously the Germans thought they were “fittest”.  There is a copy of the 6th edition of his book from 1872



One of the things I enjoyed was the display of recruitment posters, especially those from France




Beautiful stuff...

when our country finally got involved we had some also, one of which was


Created by


Haskell Coffin was a rather famous painter and commercial artist of the early 20th century.  Originals of this print go for over 1000 dollars.

There was also a nice display of photos of soldiers from various countries such as this gentleman, whose nationality I don’t remember



Of course there were hundreds of displays of war weapons and armory



And not



There were interactive stations allowing you to follow troop movements, etc.  Very nice displays.  There was one particular scenario that contained actual footage taken at the front with a narrative showing and describing the unbelievable conditions these soldiers faced.  Waste deep mud, a landscape that was unworldly with random crude crosses stuck in the mud, sometimes with a helmet, sometimes not.  I just cannot believe the courage of those men who continued the fight in the name of their country and freedom.  Very moving.

My father, Morris (known as “Mose”), was a veteran of that war.  Very little is known about his service other than he was wounded, and presumably sent home.  We do know that he lied about his age to get into the Army, and was in the field artillery.  We also know he fought in the battle(s) of Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood, where he received his wound.   I remember that he had a deep “cavity” in his upper arm from the incident, but he never talked about it much, so we have no knowledge of his experience.  I wish now we would have found out more.  I have begun a little search to see what I can find, but since he wasn’t drafted, draft card records (easily come by) are of no help.  All of the “Moody” clan has passed, so I may be unsuccessful.  There was a family belief that he received a purple heart, but there is no records in what little documentation MFO has kept, and a search of a website does not turn up his name, so maybe that was not true.   It kind of brought it home to me to actually read about the battle


And see some of the images of the awful battle that was carried on there.    I left with a even greater respect for my Dad, but I am sure I am no different from thousands of others whose family endured any war.

Upon leaving I talked to one of the docents for a bit, and as usual, they do this job out of respect and love for the veterans and victims.  The gentleman I talked to said they received about two months of training, before being turned loose.  He also said that what was on display in the museum was about twenty percent of what’s being stored.  Another renovation and addition is being planned.

All in all it was a sobering experience and very enjoyable.  It’s a well done museum if you’re ever in Kansas City.

After that we needed a “pick me up” and FOJTY gave us a tour of his workplace, the University of Kansas medical center and facility.  It is a huge campus with many, many buildings.  He has to cover a lot of ground, sometimes on foot.   He sometimes deals with obstreperous people in the emergency department, unruly patients, confused people who somehow get loose, all in a day’s work for a police officer.

After the tour he took us to another of his favorite places, kind of reminding us of St. Mary’s City, a “Public House”, which we might call an Ordinary.


For lunch, (and beers)



Not surprisingly, the main feature (in Kansas City, you know) is red meat, especially in the form of burgers.


I was pleased to see in the “customize it” panel you could get Maytag Blue Cheese (which isn’t always available in stores),  also some options for those wanting lighter or at least non beef options.
They had a nice selection of beers on tap and we both chose a darker brew (Farmhouse and Oatmeal Stout)


Which were very smooth, with caramel and brown sugar notes..  
The burger arrived with fries (and Maytag Blue)


I’ll have to ask FOJTY about it, but every “pickle” I saw on a sandwich there was the slab variety.   The meat was good, nicely cooked and a good way to cap off the day.

When we got home, we were greeted at the door by a happy canine…  not.


Where he soon had company.

That night we had local Pizza, and not quite

DFD





Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Signs, signs, Everywhere there's signs



 Jan 10 signs to KC etc

Well, after our Christmas One based in STL enjoying FOJTE’s hospitality it was time to head for Christmas Two at FOJTY’s new location of Kansas City, which I have already given you a glimpse of…

When traveling in the MOMSTER with MFO at the controls, it enables me to watch the passing scenery with trusty Canon in hand, grabbing shots of things that interest me.  And, quirky me the signs along the road always interest me.  The route between STL and KC is Interstate 70, one of, if not THE oldest Interstate in the Country.  And I don’t know if there are relaxed zoning regulations there, but it was “rich” sign territory, with many signs dedicated to almost any subject you could think of.. Ready for a road trip?

LIQUIDS



                           A-Frame?  How quaint                 Cult Beer anyone?

FOOD



                                                           Nothing like a typical Nacho

And the closer we got to Kansas City





DIVERSIONS




FOOTWARE (By Larry and Chuck)



                                                       I doubt if that's Chuck


In between:  just nice SCENERY


at first i thought this was smoke but turned out to be beautiful trees of some sort


The mighty "Mo"

and my favorite, "old" structures


And, as you might remember, when we got to his digs, FOJTY took us to lunch at his favorite BBQ place.  His opinion is shared by many folks! (Scroll down a few posts for the whole story)



And if you can untangle the timing of these things, you might remember that after that lunch we had Christmas Two followed by the great prime rib dinner.

Whew…

Oh, and the Prime Rib was certainly

DFD