Tuesday, December 6, 2016

holidaze await...


Wow.  Fast away the old year passes..

Just a couple of things.. I had intended three subjects but due to the brilliant writing of the Feeder, the intended rant on commercialization of Christmas will have to wait..

Food (short) another La Rive (I can’t stop!)

And this will probably be the last La Rive for a while.  MFO and I joined some friends for dinner a while ago.   Alert readers may remember that earlier I said I had a dish I had never experienced before.   On the evening we went, there was an “Octopus” salad among the first course selections.  I envisioned the little deep fried ones you occasionally get in dishes like fritto misto, so I ordered it up.  Well, when it arrived at the table it was quite a surprise




Quite the presentation. Never having had that particular style of octopus I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  While innovative visually, I have to admit that I found them a bit chewy and not overly flavorful.

On the other hand (or tentacle) my main dish of crispy Duck Confit was quite nice, classically prepared



Anyway, it’s nice to see new items appearing on the menu.  People still seem unsettled about the place.

Holiday Music

Last weekend, we journeyed up the road to attend a concert in the Basilica in DC, properly known as the “Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception… The shrine is the largest Catholic church in the United States and North America, one of the ten largest churches in the world, and the tallest habitable building in Washington D.C. Construction of this church, notable for its Neo-Byzantine architecture, began in 1920 under Philadelphia contractor John McShain. It opened unfinished in 1959. An estimated one million pilgrims visit the basilica each year.”

For those of you unfamiliar here is a (borrowed) picture



Note that this is NOT the National Cathedral. Which is currently under seemingly endless repair, rivaled only by the Washington Monument.

Anyway, each year the Chamber Choir from the Catholic University of America in Conjunction with the Choir of the Basilica put on a Christmas Concert for Charity, free to the public but with a chance to donate (through baskets on a pole) and the “proceeds” go to a designated charity, this year the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. 

It is a very popular event and people arrive quite early to get a “good seat”, although it is of dubious value since even if you’re in front, you are quite a distance from the singers.



It is video taped for showing on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) so you can see the “boom” in front, which became intrusive at times



Eventually the place filled up



And the concert began, first with the Catholic University Choir, then the Basilica choir, then the combined choirs. Mostly sacred music, sung sometimes in original Latin, sometimes in German, but they did include some traditional Christmas Carols like "Joy to the World" and the audience were invited (stand and) to join in.  The knees appreciated the chance to flex, as well as the backside getting relief from the solid wooden pews.

Although this is not my favorite form of music, 200 voices singing praises to the Lord is indeed impressive, especially in such a setting. 



The concert ended with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.   Welcome to the season.

Sidebar Review (which got longer the more I typed)…

We decided to stay over rather than drive home after the concert.  There is a new Hyatt property near our friend’s place and so we decided to stay there (he was kind enough to drive for the evening).  Most readers know we prefer Marriott facilities, and unfortunately this experience did nothing to shake that loyalty.  It’s a weird hotel; the lobby is on the third floor for instance.   The rooms are very nice,


I kept being unsettled by that combination of art

and the windows afford interesting views of the neighborhood…



And allow clever artsy shots



The hotel has been open a year but still have some edges to hone (at least in our one time experience).   For instance, they don’t have traditional room service (cost saving?)… you have to call in your order and then go pick it up.  We were tuckered out and hungry after the concert and decided to use their non-room service “24/7” option.  Except that when we went to call, the phone was dead.  So MFO went down to the lobby and ordered, and was told it would be ready in 20 minutes.  Upon returning in 20 minutes, nobody knew about the order, so she waited some, only to discover it had languished behind the desk for a while, rendering it stone cold.  (so-so flatbread and (lunch meat) Turkey Club on (dry cold) toast).

Breakfast was included in the room rate so next morning we went down for the Buffet (only choice) which was nicely laid out



Oddly enough the “exit” sign for the food service line was nearest the entrance to the dining space with the “enter” located at the far end of the room.  Needless to say, and understandably, most people went in the exit.  Once inside all the food was on “hot plates” making them more accessable instead of the usual Chafing dishes, avoiding the normal juggling of tongs, plates, and the lids that want to slam shut on your hands.

And the contents of the serving dishes seemed to come directly from the Sysco truck (potatoes always the give away).  Standard stuff with minimal taste..



And one of the attendants in the room seemed to want to emulate a Wizards player.  Upon clearing a table, she did a gorilla dunk with the silverware into the tubs, causing a loud and continuous clatter.  She seemed like a nice lady, spoke to the children etc., just created a din.  She also had an odd habit of asking you if you were finished when your fork was between the plate and mouth..

Lastly, since our phone was dead we stopped by the desk, and when staff’s private conversation behind the desk ceased and they noticed us, we asked for a porter to help us with our bags.   We agreed that 9:10 would be about the right time.   We went up to the room, tidied and finished packing and……. At 9:25 we shouldered our own bags and went back to the lobby for our receipt checkout (no envelope under the door here) “Oh, didn’t anyone come to help?”  Uh, no.    Graciously declined her offer to personally help us out..

Since the location is very convenient both to our friend’s place and the mall, we would stay again and hope that maybe some improvements have been made.  I gave them an ear full on their “take time to fill out this survey about your recent stay”.  I’m sure it will have the same effect the other hundreds I’ve filled out in the past..

our nation's capitol


The Cheery Part… on delay

Well, due to the usual verbal run on, I’ll save my ire at Christmas commercials for next time.  Does anybody really give somebody a surprise car with a bow on it for a gift?  More later


Meanwhile the holidays offer many opportunities to


DFD

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Turkey talk.. and a little rant


Well, I hope everybody survived thanksgiving both from the personal “get ready” angst and any physical discomfort resulting from ingestion of large amounts of food and accompanying beverages..

In past years (quite a few now) I was in the habit of producing a pre-holiday Feeder about what the different food publications featured for cooking methods, recipes, etc., along with suggested wine (and lately beer) pairings.  Well, I didn’t go back to that practice this year as you can see. 

The only thing I noticed this year was the emphasis on “quick; easiest ever; no fuss; best (arrgh)” and so forth.  In fact, a lot of the magazines emphasized cooking a turkey in pieces so you get the white meat and the dark meat cooked to the correct temperature which is the bugaboo of cooking the whole fowl at once.  That of course is what gave rise to the turn, flip, temp up, temp down stuff that seems to be losing favor.  But, there is still something comforting about seeing a whole golden brown Turkey on a platter, which is used mostly for cover shots..  Nobody seems to feature a roasting pan of pieces on the front of the publication..

Lucky for us, some friends invited us over for dinner, so we were spared any decisions in that direction.  MFO volunteered to do appetizers and desserts.

So we launched a search of several of the magazines for appetizing looking appetizers, with a little eye toward number of ingredients, hours of active time required, etc.  Of course, anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so she ended up with seven (count ‘em seven) dishes and three pies.  To wit:

Spanish Meatballs with tomato-saffron Sauce – Cuisine at Home, Issue 120

Nicole’s Cheddar Crisps – Simple 1-2-3 Appetizers; (Spiral bound notebook)

Oven Fries with Romesco Sauce – “Savory” magazine from Giant

(MFO Modified) Puff Pastries – Based on Cheesy Sesame Phyllo Bites – Bon Appétit, Holiday Issue

Baked Three – Cheese Onion Dip with Chive and Peperoncini; Bon Appétit, Holiday Issue

Cheese Gougères -  Saveur; Issue 186

Salmon Rillettes - Saveur; Issue 186

Apple Pie – Joy of Cooking

Pumpkin Pie – on Libby’s can of filling

Pecan Pie – Joy of Cooking

So lists were made, provisioning trip(s) to Giant, and then days in the kitchen, with occasional expletives here and there..Finally the day arrived and we started off in a celebratory manner with scrambled eggs and pork, some of the crisps and a wake up beverage..



Eventually we gathered together the fruits of MFO’s labors in serving dishes and trays



Loaded them with care into the MOMSTER and went over to our friends where they were presented for all on their lovely newly remodeled kitchen bar




Conversation, grazing, and sipping filled the time until the “Bird” was done.  Fortunately our hostess opted for the brine and bag technique which produced a lovely centerpiece for dinner.



We had a delicious leisurely dinner, under the gaze of their regal Greyhound



Eventually we wended our way back to the digs with enough leftovers provided which provided cocktails and another dinner for us the next night



 Rillettes, Gougères, Puffs, and the Crisps

So ends the 2016 edition of “Thanksgiving” we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  Now we turn our attention to the annual trek to Missouri (and Kansas!) for Christmas!!

Observation

During our search for recipes I ran across an article entitled “Holiday Cooking is Easier Than You Think” featuring one Melissa Clark, who has a column in the New York Times.  The recipe attached to that piece is one for Mustard and Rosemary Roast Turkey, done with a deconstructed bird.

Accompanying the article is a picture of Melissa “in the kitchen” with her adoring daughter, both with what is usually (respectfully but accurately) referred to as “s**t eating grins” on their face, which I cropped out to spare you.  The caption reveals that she is author of “dozens” of cookbooks.  Okay, that’s a red flag… dozens?  Does any serious cook crank out dozens of cookbooks?  Are there dozens of Paul Bocuse, Patrick O’Connell, Thomas Keller books?  Nope, while hacks like Rachel Ray do.  Cook for profit?  Most likely..  

In addition most of our readers are fairly accomplished in the kitchen.  Have you ever seen worse knife skills than this?   Has she ever been near a kitchen or actually touched a knife?  too busy cranking out that 60th cookbook...



 Ooooo, my hands are going to get sooooo messy!

Okay enough rant.  Off to a new week during which you may have occasion to be

DFD

Late breaking short subjects
Had a stringer report that the old Solomon’s Pier has again opened.  Very Stoney like.   Same damn crab cake.

There seems to be a lot of “construction” activity in the Monterrey spot in San Souci.  Quite a bit of the south side seems affected.  Burlington?

And I'm not even going to comment on the Ohio State game. Didn't turn out the way I wished, but a fantastic game between two excellent teams. And, yes, I begrudgingly think it WAS a first down.  

But I Will comment on the Michigan State game.  What a disaster.  I feel sorry for Mark Dantonio.  How the once mighty have fallen.  And he seems to be dragging Izzo with him.. 





Wednesday, November 23, 2016

wishes

we did return to La Rive last night, and I had a dish I've never had before....

But that can wait.   Just wanted to wish everybody a joyous thanksgiving day tomorrow, and to enjoy the time with friends and family.   Ours is strung out across the country with the FOJ's in Kansas City and St. Louis. We'll share some time with them a bit on social media, one of the legitimate uses.

Anyway, while the Feeder is all about the food, it really is just the backdrop to allow a gathering of friends and family. Please remember those who are in places far away doing things that allow us to relax here at home.  Raise a glass in their direction as well as to those who are here only in memory.  Time is fleeting so enjoy the moment.

Bon Appetit, and

DFD


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

new and old in a new disguise


A couple of second visits last week.  One was a fairly quick return to La Rive in Leonardtown, and the second was a return to an older place with a new occupant which is not new...

La Rive
The redux for La Rive was to honor FOJTE’s birthday, and hey!  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if we celebrated his day by his parents going out to dinner..  we did….  I was pleased to see the menu had been expanded and a few new dishes added or modified.  I think that’s a good sign.  Although one friend is not a fan of their décor, For some reason,I especially like the bar (including the expanded selection of Gins)


It reminds me of bars seen in France. 

I was somewhat confounded by the starters, nothing shouted at me, so I decided to try the French onion. I am not particularly a fan of that dish, mostly because it’s so darn hard (for me) to eat. 



I tend not to be a delicate eater, but I always find myself beset with “strings” of cheese from the bowl to my mouth, twisting helps but then you have a glob.  That fact probably says it is well made, and it did have good flavor.  Invariably after wrestling with it,  I end up with clothes that head for the cleaners next day.  MFO had the beet salad.

We had main courses of the short ribs and Arctic Char.



I noted that the fish was served skin side up, as we found in many European restaurants.   I liked the rib, and it was “sans” rib.  It did have good beef flavor, with no excess fat.  An interesting aside about the short rib.  I had a stringer report from a friend on a visit to La Rive who did not like the fact that a “Short Rib” was served without the bone.  Indeed most recipes do include keeping the bone, personally, I don’t mind that.  I would hope the bone was included in the preparation to add to the flavor.

Anyway, we enjoyed celebrating FOJTE’s special day in absentia



pictured with Bluecoat martini and Sapphire Gimlet



The old is new again…. Maybe Just Right???

As most locals know, Kevin’s K/Corner K/Café has pulled up stakes in Leonardtown to slide down the hill and into the old “Willows” building.  It has sat fallow for many years, housing one failed attempt (“I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant!”) and, as I recall, predictions of a “Pub” type opening (which never materialized).   Not knowing the business situation that existed up the hill, the only reason I have heard for the move is “parking”.  We didn’t go there often enough to remember the situation, but there seems to be more parking spaces available in the new place, although a four wheel capability might be useful if you plan to attend, as said parking is in a field or a non paved workplace.  Plus entry and exit to the place does pose some problems with our county traffic.

Anyway, a friend and I decided to try it for lunch last week.  Gone is the interesting iron work that used to adorn the exterior which is now replaced by



Well, if you didn’t know there was a pretty large time warp between Willows, and now, you wouldn’t notice much has changed.

Same entryway, same (watch your) step up, same bar protruding into the room (with catchy signs) and brighter stools, and as far as I know, the same layout.  Dark chairs, lighter tabletops (no linens at lunch) various nautical things adorn the walls.  The only thing that was missing from previous visits was (thank goodness) the permeating cigarette smoke odor.

Given the history of the place, it certainly might be a candidate for “just right”, and newer occupants kind of fit right in bringing all the expected trappings like tri fold plastic menu



With the time honored practice of making you hunt for sides.  It is of course leaning toward seafood, although burgers and subs find their niche.
6455

Servers are also appropriate and of the right generation, with terms of “honey” and “sweetie” floating around.  Gracious and friendly, no “Hi I’m… speeches”

Besides the menu items there were “specials” one of which was a Lobster Mac and Cheese.  We each ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio which came in a large water glass.  No need for two!  My friend opted for the Mac and Cheese, and out of curiosity I took the (broiled) crab cake sandwich.  “And which side would you like with that sir?”   flipping pages, finally spotted a little box on another page down in the corner… “Fries, Please”;  My friend got a side salad and also a cup of their seafood chowder. 

By then, the place was pretty well full (we arrived at 11:30) with what I kind of thought were retirees who enjoy lunch out of a day.  Most were of my generation, and a lot of them knew each other.  There were a couple of tables of working folk, and a state trooper came in to sit with (assumed) mom and dad.

The food (which is brought out from the kitchen and set on a little cart for pickup, I guess no “pass through”) was brought over to the table.

The Mac and cheese was generous and seemed to contain a lot of Lobster, which my friend pretty much demolished despite thinking he would have left overs.  His "chowder" did a have a few bits of something in it, deemed not a memorable cup o'chowdah.



And turning to my dish, one of the mysteries of the world is the thing called “crab cake sandwich”.  Have you EVER seen anybody pick up the thing and eat it as a sandwich?  I never have, seems like it is the universal way of getting one crab cake (market price) instead of an entrée portion of two. Anyway, here is what I was served as their (broiled) crab cake sandwich




I kind of questioned the “broiled” part, but forked it up anyway.  There were no indications of lumps, just all homogenous shredded crab meat.  It did have some taste, but not overwhelming.  The fries were just as they looked.  Sometimes the kitchen will add a lettuce leaf and an out of season tomato, but probably tire of seeing it comeback because nobody eats it as a sandwich.  As I recall, “market price” equated to 21 bucks.  Suspect there is a healthy margin there..

We eschewed dessert, gathered our stuff and left.  My friend asked about evening meals, and apparently they have “nights”, like Lobster, steak, and so forth.  I think I heard “all you can eat” in the description.

I am in kind of a quandary as to whether or not to add them to a “just right” list.   Certainly the building qualifies, largely unchanged for decades, but I’m not yet sure how the seafood component fits.  Let’s wait a while before deciding.   Somehow, the whole space made me uneasy.   Just not comfy or welcoming..  Maybe the ghost of John Nucci

And if you go, I wouldn’t worry about

DFD

oh, i did get a few readers telling me that in fact Bluecoat Gin was among their favorites!

and a quick note to the white balance police... the crab cake and the soup shot got away from me


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

catching up...



Well, as you have noted before I sometimes get funky about the blog, wondering if anybody out there actually reads this.  Well, I was gratified to receive an email from a good friend and reader inquiring whether I was okay because a Feeder had not popped into his inbox lately.  As you may know I have been having some (annoying) health issues lately which kind of dulls my enthusiasm a bit.  So thank you for that, left coast friend!  Here we go again!

Another reason for hitting the air waves again is that today marks the 48th Anniversary of the birth of FOJTE.   I’m sure a good bottle of wine will be opened to celebrate the event in STL.  I raise ‘em right! Bon Appétit! 

Speaking of raising glasses, you might remember that I visited La Rive Breton a couple of weeks ago, and was pleased to see a good selection of Gins had been added to the bar options.   Through the good advice from a favorite server, I discovered “Bluecoat” gin;  which will join my original special occasion gin PlymouthGin (discovered a few years ago at Chez Pascal in Providence, RI).  My first place Plymouth Gin is distilled at the Blackfriar’s Distillery since 1793 in Plymouth, England.  A classic English Gin, smooth and clean using seven botanicals (Juniper, Coriander, Orange and Lemon Peels, Cardamom, Angelica and Orris Roots).  A lovely drink.    Bluecoat is distilled closer to home, in Philadelphia and classifies itself as an “American Dry Gin”.  It only uses “four” botanicals in the process (Juniper, Coriander, Citrus Peel(s), and Angelica Root).  They claim their flavor profile leans more toward the citrus than the English Juniper.  Plymouth (the ONLY producer allowed that name) is 83 proof, while Bluecoat is a more powerful 94 (beware that second drink).  Didn’t mean to get off on a tangent, but interesting information..

Anyway, I found it in my local spirit purveyor’s store and brought home a bottle.  Both are fairly dear, selling around $30 for a “fifth”.  Hence, the special occasion designation.   So I decided to try it out, and mix my own Martini, from my "kit"...




While I much prefer French Vermouth to the Italian, price drives me to the latter since I also use that in my DMOTRWAT, which I consume at home.   Anyway, I chill the shaker, and usually the glass, and STIR together the Gin and Vermouth normally about 4 to 1, strain into the chilled glass, then using a potato peeler get a nice strip of Lemon Peel (no pith) drop it in, and voila!



Quite a nice drink..  I’ll have to do a taste off (I didn’t that evening) between the two Gins…

Speaking of La Rive, quite a few readers have given me their thoughts about the “new place” there in Leonardtown.  Several of them tried the scallops (claiming at my recommendation) and fortunately agreed it was a nice dish.  The only “compliant” or maybe observation is that while everything is good, service nicely done, etc., some people kind of think the prices are a bit high.  While not a restaurateur, I’m not terribly familiar with how a price is set on a given dish, but I imagine quality of ingredients, amount of house made stuff are included (sauces, etc.), labor involved in prep all go into setting a price.  I do not believe their prices are out of line, although the thought has launched me on a little research project which will take a few days. 

One thing I did learn which I was oblivious of before showed up on the bill.  There were separate lines for Food Total and Alcohol Total.  And below that was an accounting of the tax for each.  Maybe it is common knowledge, but in Maryland, alcohol is taxed at nine percent while food is only six.   So, while drinks and wine are usually a large part of the total, it piles on more tax..  interesting..

Sea..

Now that crabbing has turned to "oystering" (commercial season opened a bit ago) we see a lot of “work boats” harvesting so called "wild" Oysters almost exclusively by the “patent tong” techniques.  Drop the clamshell bucket overboard, close the sides, haul it up, and sort the catch.  While crabbers seem to be more of a solitary operation, the Oystermen together more.  This morning we had quite a gathering south of us



I am not sure why this is, the Oysters aren’t going anywhere, they don’t “run” (like fish) and it would seem that with that many boats working the same “bed” it would deplete the supply more quickly.   Maybe the watermen just like to talk to each other.   Anyway, it does make a nice image




We also had some feathered visitors this morning: a belted kingfisher and a cruising loon.




 (Head turned a bit, so you don't get the classic loon profile)

I love this time of year, cocktail hour is dark, the leaves are pretty, and temperatures are livable..

Which makes it easier to

DFD