Tuesday, July 28, 2015

a little rant and good reading

Been a bit since I’ve done a rant, and this isn’t really an all out rant such as might be warranted to that little buzzing Honda that passed me on the right (in the right turn only lane), blew through the intersection and then cut back in front of me narrowly avoiding scraping my bumper, dive two lanes left before  oh..…. Sorry.

No, this is more an observation that continued to bug me over the weekend, so i have to get it off my chest.  I have been (probably correctly) accused of “hiding behind my keyboard” and yes, guilty your honor.  But my good friend, I DID send an email to the publication that caused my angst.  Last Thursday’s County Times (with the venerable Bailey’s on the cover) ran a piece on page 23 highlighting Elements, the new occupant of the “old” (and soon forgotten) Tides.  Under the experienced hands of Rob Plant and his team, it has continued to gain popularity.  As much as is practical, they use locally sourced items of meat and produce to create an interesting menu.  Good stuff - try the cheese plate.  That was kind of the main thrust of the article, well deserved credit.  But, like the Honda, that isn’t what got me started.  

The piece led off with the statement: “If you find yourself bored of going to the same old restaurants and bars in St. Mary’s County, here’s some good news.”; and then off to the races.  I can buy that statement if the word “chain” would have been inserted between “old” and “restaurants”.  Elements, like most other independent places around here usually has off the menu “specials” reflecting what is in season, local, fresh, and available. If you get bored going to Courtney’s, The Front Porch, the Ruddy Ale House, Café Des Artistes, Morris Point, Chiefs (and many other independent places), it is NOT their fault my friend, it’s YOURS!

And, up your oversize, buzzing, stupid tailpipe, Honda.

Publications

Being a famous food blogger with hundreds of readers nationwide (yes, delusional), occasionally I get sent stuff I have no idea where comes from.  For instance the other day I got a little magazine called "Restaurant Hospitality"


Featuring an insanely happy chef, Michelle Bernstein on the cover.  I shouldn’t laugh, however because she has a James Beard and I don’t.   She recently opened a new restaurant in Miami beach called “Seagrape”.  Anyway, like the Honda, that’s not my point.  The magazine itself is aimed toward restaurateurs and how to better run their business.  It contains some interesting “inside stuff” at least to me.

For instance, in the editorial, Mr. Sanson reports that a second version of his favorite taqueria, opened closer to his home.  He said the original version has “a good lineup of top shelf tequilas, and affordable margaritas with pretty “damn good food for a fair price”.  He goes on to report that visiting dash two, he found the quality of the food and drink were not up to the standards of the original.  And here’s the point.  He thinks it was a conscious decision to drop the quality in order to increase profits.  And, it works.  The place is packed.  And not only the food, the service also suffered:  “Two clueless blockheads have been installed as bartenders, and they have little or no charm.  I’m not sure why any owner would put two slobs behind a bar who seemingly have no concept of service”.   He says he would guarantee “you wouldn’t hire these two to haul garbage out of the back door of your restaurant”. And then he reiterates the place is “crazy busy”.   He concludes by posing the question: “Is this owner’s approach to expansion a sound business strategy?”  He’d say no, but the place was so busy.  He won’t go back.    Good question.  Nobody cares.  Sound familiar?

Another article entitled “No Feedback is Worse than Bad Feedback’.   Starts out by recounting a friend’s visit to a restaurant where they had good food and service before, but on this occasion it was awful.  The author knew the owner and asked his friend, well, did you bring it up to George?  "No, my friends were too embarrassed and didn’t want to make a scene”.  None said they would go back.  Here’s one for you that might ring home:  "We’re all guilty.  The food isn’t up to par, is lacking yet when the server asks “how is everything?.. we say “Fine” or nod our heads, and probably never go back.”  Sound familiar?

The rest of the article is devoted to ways to monitor when things are going good and bad, which we won’t recount here.   Things like make sure a manager is always on the floor.  One thing that kind of caught my eye was that the servers should not scrape plates before they get to the BOH.  The chef should see the plates to note what is being “devoured and what items are barely touched”.   Or, at a minimum look at a certain percentage or any plate that is more than half full.

And I thought it was interesting to see the ads in the magazine.  One caught my eye




An ad for


(The freshest frozen burger ever made)

The stuff you probably can’t read in the upper photo goes on about “looks and tastes handmade’.. It's all about the money. Beware out there.. Interesting in this age of “home grown, locally sourced” and so on.  Direct from the freezer to your plate.  

I love this stuff.

Okay, gotta go get

DFD

Friday, July 24, 2015

FOJ's left us...


Well, you may remember that when FOJTE left earlier this month, we had a nice photo of a hand wave as they departed the digs for home.  Well “TY” and entourage departed today, but in order to develop a similar shot I would have had to have artificial lighting.  A 0350 call time resulted in a 0445 launch, and it was quite dark.  And, they were going to “drive it” as part of their party included our “granddog” Stanley, a Wire Haired Pointing Griffon (no less). I’ve remarked about him before, and he enjoyed his stay in our digs.  He particularly liked being in the pool.




We of course are not accustomed to having a four legged guest, but it worked out well.  Small art objects were secured, and others as necessary.  “Hey!  Where’s my hat?" only to see a gray beast trotting away with it in his mouth.   Then of course there ensued a game which he greatly enjoyed as to retrieving said chapeau.  Their mission in life is to point out game or water birds and then retrieve same.  Stanley is working on that role, but the last phase is tough, that of actually giving up what you just retrieved. .  FOJTY and wife have “shown” the dog in various shows around (not the Westminster…yet) and Stanley has garnered enough points to earn the rank of “Champion”.   We don’t much understand it, but it is fun seeing pictures of our lanky six foot three son in a suit (!) parading Stanley around.

That particular breed of dog is relatively unknown, but some friends here have Lillie, who in fact came from the same breeder in Texas.  So they invited Stanley out to visit Lillie, and oh by the way, the parents could tag along if they wished.  So we drove over to their property in Calvert County on a spacious farm so the dogs could meet.  As I grew up, I never had a dog or any pet past a parakeet and goldfish, and generally was somewhat “cautious” around dogs, especially larger active ones.  FOJTY had no worries and of course it all worked out wonderfully.  They met up and immediately (personification here) became friends (Stanley is at the top of the image)



But what was really neat was how they played with each other..  Great fun (PS a Feeder First trying to upload a video.  Hope it worked - it's worth it)  Griffs at play!!

video

Anyway we were sorry to see them all head off into the breaking dawn this morning.  Kind of quiet around here, but I do know where my hat is!

Other stuff

Well, the world of wine never changes.  For my Father’s day, MFO gave me a lovely gift of two bottles of the big boy Cab from Silver Oak.   One bottle each of the 2005 and 2010 vintage.   We (lovingly) consumed the first during FOJTE’s visit, and the other is resting comfortably in my newly organized wine cellar (thank you FOJTE and wife!).  Since wineries can now ship to Maryland, we get “opportunity” notices regularly from the Silver Oak folks, notifying us of “deals”.    For instance, the other day we got notice of the release day party for the  2011 Alexander Valley Cab, on 1 August.  Of course price is not mentioned, if you have to ask…. Etc.  Anyway, a little pamphlet came with the invite that contained “Tasting Notes” for the 2011 vintage.  Now don’t get me wrong, Silver Oak generally produces an EXCELLENT wine, but no, they have get in some wine speak.  I won’t bore you with the whole paragraph (!) of at least 100 words but some excerpts (underlines mine for a tinge of originality):

“..has a bright ruby red color with purple undertones….The nose exudes aromas of black cherry, cedar, and black olives…On the palate, it’s dried herbs, cocoa and lavender flavors are framed by dusty tannins and a savory texture.. finishes with lively acidity and a lingering persistence

Gimme a break!! that description could apply to most any Cab you run across.  And by the way, is there such a thing as “fleeting persistence”?  and on top of that the Robert Parker vintage chart gives the 2011 California North Coast Cabernet vintage an overall rating of 78!!  For him, that’s pretty dismissive.  Pre release prices not included, but generally they sell for $80 - $100 per bottle.  A quick look at my older Wine Advocates couldn’t come up with a specific review and rating, but I image it is there someplace.  Sorry, can’t make the party..

Are you kidding me?

A Facebook friend of mine is somehow addicted to “sharing” articles he runs across.  We’re talking (I am not making this up) hundreds of articles per day.  I generally scan the timeline for anything that catches my eye.  One such entry did the other day, something about a “secret menu” at McDonalds.  What a hoax I thought.   Well maybe not.  If you’re interested just goodle “McDonalds Secret Menu” and your screen will fill up.  and not just from odd sites either.   Besides “Hack the menu dot com” there was an article from the New York post who generally don’t go in for hoax stuff.  If you’re curious you can look at their piece here.   Most of the stuff I wouldn’t want to attempt to actually eat, but it is a fascinating thought.   Also referenced are “secret menus” at places like Panera.  Not time to delve further this time..

guess you could secretly

DFD


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Meats and Morris...


The Deli Shuffle

Do you remember the Ickey Woods (Geico) commercial in the grocery store about “gonna get me some cold cuts”?    I don’t shuffle, and we normally get our cold cuts at our local Giant, mostly because they have Boar’s Head products, which I prefer over the Dietz and Watson brand carried elsewhere, after some degree of experimentation.  BH just seems to taste better. I kind of feel like Ickey when I get my ticket number 86, and wait while they are “now serving number 23”.  Anyway, there are a couple of pet peeves I have in regards to luncheon meats at the deli counter (me?  Picky?).  

First, I HATE anything that has a skin or rind around it that you have to peel off before you can consume it, or you’ll be picking strings out of your teeth all afternoon.  Most hams are a loser, some turkey and chicken breasts have them, and generally most varieties of sausage make you work to get your food.  It took me a long time to find something I like that does NOT have one. Black Forest Chicken Breast seems to be okay, and I’ve had some luck with Mortadella.  Usually I have plenty of time to plan my order while they serve people who make up their mind real time facing the person behind the counter—“may I help you”?  “what do you think, Earl?  Maybe some bologna?  No, I don’t like that Emma, how about…etc.”..  when number 86 is finally called, I’m ready. “I’ll have half a pound of the Black Forest Chicken Breast”.  And here comes the second peeve: “Yes sir, and they rummage around in the cooler and invariably produce the “heel” of the package.  So your slices decrease in diameter as they cut them.  Making a sandwich with those is like doing a jig saw puzzle.   

And also invariably, when you ask for a half pound, when it plops on the scale, they say “it’s a bit over, is that okay?”. (Okay, three peeves)  A “bit” usually means your requested 0.5 pounds weighs in at 0.63 or so.  I have occasionally asked them to take off a slice, mostly because much more than a half pound goes slimy before I use it all.  Okay, enough carping.  I did learn something valuable.   They always politely ask “how would you like it sliced?”.    A reply of “medium” gets a variety of subjective thicknesses, from really thin, to just average.   A friend of mine from the old days had a “rule” for sandwiches that the filling had to be thicker than the bread, which I sort of subscribe to.  The result is that I like mine really thickly sliced to pile it up, like at least an eighth of an inch.  Normally that results in a shuffle of “how’s this?” with me trying to see a limp piece of chicken held up 10 feet away.  FINALLY a nice young man told me (after we had converged on an acceptable thickness): “next time just say slice it on two and a half”.  Works like a charm, another useful hint from your loyal bottom feeder..

To the Point
Had an occasion to re-visit Morris Point (in Abell) last weekend.  Alert readers will remember I have always kind of had an attraction for the place.  I think it belongs on the “just right” list in the waterfront division.   A very pleasant setting, the only caveat is that although it has been home to a restaurant in the past (the Ebb Tide according to the MP website), it has only been in its current form for a few years, operated by Deb and Chris Soussanin.   He runs the BOH, and she does the front.  It’s cozy, the kitchen and Chris are right there, and people often talk between tables and sometimes even the kitchen.  I have likened it to dining in somebody’s home and that’s not far from the truth.




Had not been there in quite a while, so Saturday night we decided to join a friend there for dinner.    However, based on a previous experience with “live music” we thought we’d check before locking in a booking.  Now, you might think that we wanted to make sure there WAS music.   That’s where you’re wrong, dear reader.  We wanted to make sure there was NOT live music that evening.  I think the last time we ate there we shared the space with a bluegrass band, and although they were acoustic, they were plenty loud making, as Tom Sietsema would say, “Conversation is Difficult”.   It was.  You had to lean in to shout to your partner or resort to hand motions to pass the salt.  So we had kind of an awkward conversation, and the good news was that although there WAS music, it would be out on the porch/deck



As a quick aside, the talent was identified as a David Flood, and in an effort to find out who the guy was, I stumbled across him in Facebook, and he listed his day job as “Grounds Director at Historic St. Mary’s City”!!!  Huh? Never have seen him, and I do hang out there.  Checked with a reliable source at the city, and sure enough he was.  Good old St. Mary’s County!

Anyway, we ordered a couple of glasses of wine, eschewing the menu we chose blackboard specials of crab stuffed rockfish and fried perch.  Can’t be more “right” than that!  As with most places down here, you also get two “sides” requiring you to scour the menu to find where they are tucked.  Picked a couple of salads, MFO chose pickled beets (how many beets can MFO pick when….) and also green beans (straight from Del Monte – just right); I also got an order of hush puppies.

We watched herons and ospreys cruising by while we had “conversation is easy” talk about this and that, and eventually the food arrived.   As usual, I dive in before thinking of the readership, but did get a shot after a couple of forkfuls.




It was very good, sweet crab and fresh, firm rockfish.  The puppies were so hot you had to wait before dipping them into the honey.   Kind of a plain presentation, as it should be.  No kale here!!

Anyway it was a pleasant evening as usual, and we were glad we came back.   As kind of an indication of the formality, here’s what the check looked like

Friday through Sunday, check their site for hours (and Saturday music!)

Buzz:
Quality Street in Leonardtown will be changing ownership (think that’s only change).  Steve and Joann have been a wonderful addition to Leonardtown.  Chef and sometimes class teacher Jenn Purcell will be taking the helm..


Another group giving the restaurant space in Wildewood Center a try.  Avenue54.  You can find them on Facebook (the new reality).  I wish them luck.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fireworks, etc...




The extended hand waving goodbye is from FOJTE and wife as they departed after a lovely visit over the 4th of July weekend.  The first time we had seen them on our “turf” for a while, and we had a great time.  The supposed highlight of the annual fireworks display on the Solomons was pretty much a bust this year, even though they were able to hold it after a line of thunderstorms passed.  From our vantage point on our hill, ourselves and about 20 or so guests were treated to what might be called a display of “colorful backlit smoke”.  There was no breeze, so firework A’s smoke hung in front of firework B’s explosion which then only compounded the problem.  Of course some were occasionally visible, but mostly they were shrouded in smoke.  That didn’t however dampen our lovely dinner which included all American hamburgers, hot dogs, “Bill’s Brats”, MFO homemade potato salad, and lovely handmade and decorated patriotic cupcakes for dessert (which were so good that the mouths beat the cameras).   Of course before dining, you have to have appetizers and beverages, and we had a great curried cream cheese dip/spread topped with what else, bacon!  Doesn’t get more American than that!

But, “the kids” weren’t here to just languish on vacation, no, no! As responsible aging parents, we had a ‘list” of chores waiting for our children.  Much work by them resulted in




This is the “after” condition when FOJTE and W organized the wine cellar.  I would not want you to see the “before” shot, it would be embarrassing.   Not only did they stack the wines, they are now categorized as to grape, country of origin, body, and so forth, each with a little label.  Rummaging around in a (neglected) wine cellar is always interesting and they came up with some interesting finds




Neither are now available, but the course of their visit we did sample both, and while they were "drinkable", they didn’t display the original character, although the Zin (no longer made) wasn’t too bad, kind of bricky as you might expect. The Cab showed a little of its old self, but not much and faded quickly.  RIP.

It wasn’t all work (for them) and no play, we did eat out a couple of times, visiting the Ruddy Ale House on St. George Island as well as Sunday brunch at one of our favorite haunts, the Dry Dock on the Solomons.


 Note who has the "large" Mimosa

Crab Benedict, a quiche were enjoyed and MFO had a lovely seared scallop Caesar salad..





As an aside, people sometimes ask the Feeder for places to get Seafood around here, and both of the above restaurants are excellent restaurants, your choice maybe somewhat driven by your geography.  They offer a “just right” combination of view and reliable good food.  Of course the king of SOMD local seafood remains Courtney’s which is in a class by itself.  There are other choices for good dining, in Leonardtown, and the “new” Elements in Lexington Park (pretty much a dining wasteland) is gaining traction here.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time, much appreciative of their help, and bonus, we’re expecting FOJTY and wife, later in the month including “Stanley” our granddog.  Stanley recently cleaned up the OKC dog show, now being one point short of “Champion” status, whatever that means.  They know..

Foodie notes

Nice Doggie, doggie
Speaking of dogs, July the 4th always brings the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest on Coney Island.  It is always kind of a uncomfortable thing to watch, but fascinating, like the old train wreck analogy.  The big news this year that the perennial champion Joey Chestnut (“Jaws”) was upset by “Megatoad” Matt Stonie who consumed 62 dogs to Jaws total of 60 (in ten minutes).  With the boom in foodie things, this contest has grown and grown and is now televised live on ESPN.   On the distaff side Miki Sudo defended her championship over Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas, with a “score of 38 to 31.

Breaking news from Florida!!
And finally a stringer from Florida forwarded me a link to a story from “FloridaToday’, an online site.  It was to a story by a Suzy Fleming, their food and dining editor.  I could scarcely believe my eyes (and ears, since it made you hear an audio version).   The headline was “Why are folks so excited about WaWa Food?”   Apparently the Pennsylvania gas station chain (which grew from a dairy) is invading Florida now.  Okay, I thought this will be a sarcastic dig at yet another convenience place that sells cigarettes, gas, beer, and grab and go food.  Nope, oh, Bottom Feeder, it was a serious piece celebrating the fact that WaWa food was coming to Brevard County (around Melbourne):

“the appetite for Wawa has grown into a feeding frenzy, heightened last month when signage went up announcing a Suntree location

The general manager of the store gave them a tour, guaranteeing an objective “review” of the place (yes sarcasm here), and she tried a Philly Cheesesteak:

“It only took one bite to realize the bread was fresh and delicious. I've never eaten a Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia, but I know devotees insist on bread from Amoroso's.  (Manager) Carragher said Wawa gets its hoagie rolls from a Central Florida commissary kitchen that worked with Amoroso's to duplicate it's equipment, processes and recipe. The rolls — as well as doughnuts and pastries — arrive fresh daily at each location”

In other words: “we truck in our food”. 

I suppose the citizens of Brevard County will be ecstatic to dine out at a gas station.   And I bet there will be lots of tropical shirts so they can

DFD






Monday, June 29, 2015

Home Sweet Home!



Okay, home again.. and the travelogue stops...

and we can enjoy Foodie bit(e)s:

Burgerz:
Of course I can’t find it now, but this morning there was a Facebook post from the James Beard Foundation about a “burger contest”.   Somehow I don’t equate James Beard with that particular dish, but given his girth, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  In fact, there are several sites that purport to have the “James Beard Hamburger” recipe.  Which, by and large (ha ha) are pretty much the same:

Ingredients
2 pounds ground beef
3 tablespoons finely grated onion
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, toasted


Procedure
Spread the beef onto a cutting board; sprinkle with the grated onion. Mix in the cream, salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Form into patties; cook on a hot grill or in a hot cast-iron pan—for medium-rare, about 4 to 5 minutes a side. Bun each patty and serve.


Of course around the fourth of July, outdoor cookery gets lots of press, and all the foodie magazines devote an issue to it. 
Bon Appétit (June):  Cover photo of “the Grilling Issue:  Burger Time! – become a grillmaster..TONITE!”; 
Food and Wine (June): also cover photo of burgers (with bacon hanging out from the sides) – and banner of, guess what?  BEST BURGERS!  With articles inside like: “how to cook an entire meal on the grill, TOP CHEF – STYLE;   Yikes!  Usual themes of “quick, easy, secrets of pit master’s”  same old…. S….tuff.
SAVEUR (June/July):  Get Grilling, America!  At least they kick it up a notch (thanks, E) and have a nice looking T-Bone on the cover.  And they laud inside you can find “The Ultimate Brisket Burger”, at least they didn’t use the “B” word (which would have provided nice alliteration).  And incidentally another banner says “The Next Great American Food City”.  Hmmm, that’s interesting, let me turn to page 56 where I discover that the NGAFC is…..Minneapolis!!  Yeah, you betcha!

And hard to get the scale, but the burgers all look like they would be impossible to hold, let alone actually get some in your mouth.  Looks like three to four inches tall at least.


Are ya still werkin’ on that?

Which is on my (long) list of abhorrent phrases in a restaurant, but the subject is getting some press lately.  A stringer from Seattle sent me a link to a story from MyNorthwest.com entitled:  “Is this the most annoying restaurant trend today?”  It involved something you’ve heard me rant about before: clearing diner A’s plate while diner B is still enjoying the food (dining shouldn’t be considered work).  Personally I hate that, and IMHO it puts everybody at the table ill at ease (parties of 12 or more may be excluded).   Diner A can sit and examine the tablecloth or the detritus of his meal (what, actually crumb a table?), while Diner B feels like he ought to chow down the food.   The etiquette has long been to clear when everyone is finished, now it seems like (Washington Post) “servers hover over diners, fingers twitching, until the very instant someone puts down a fork.  Like vultures they then snatch up the silverware.. If you’re lucky they might ask permission before stealing your plate

If you want to read the whole piece here’s the link.

it always gives me some kind of perverse pleasure to read of a food professional who has the same peeves as i do..

I thought about this again, and while I still remain of the opinion that the table should be cleared at once, I can see why some servers might think they are doing the right thing.  I guess I wouldn’t want to stare at the remains of a veal chop with the juices congealing forever, but in general there hopefully would not be a long difference between diners pace of consumption.  I would hope a motive is not to force the table to turn.

I asked a restaurateur acquaintance about the situation, and he more or less agreed, but felt it was up to the server to read the table.  If Diner A pushes the plate away, it might signal that removal was preferred. My notion that all diners eat at relatively the same pace is apparently not always very common.  A corollary to this situation is when Diners A, B and C, order starters and Diner D prefers to wait for the main course.  Kind of awkward sometimes.  Delivering everything at once is a no no (IMHO).  Of course all of this applies to a classic dinner, not the “small plates” which are becoming more common.  No rules there..

Anyway food for thought!

Random Foodtoids:

“ Pappa John’s looks to cut 14 artificial ingredients”;  Geez, how many did they have?
“Olive Garden looks to takeout to boost sales”; will launch a delivery service for large parties
“Preliminary Injunction issued against propose US Foods/Sysco merger”  ho hum…
“Diners favor complex cheese flavors”.. really?

Sneaking in a little sports note

Alert readers might remember that I am enamored of the practice of “hat tipping” which takes place most notably at the beginning of the Baseball All Star Game.  Players line up on the foul line for introductions and most practice doffing their caps in one form or another when announced.   There is of course a classic procedure which we won’t go into now. Instead I’ll just remark that on a tip (ha ha) from MFO’s brother, I’ve found a similar situation in the Women’s World Cup.   On TV, they go through the lineup video and there’s a vignette of each player as they are identified.  No hats, instead it is “Arm Folding”.   Apparently the media moguls decided that looking at a player just standing there was not interesting, and so instructed them to fold their arms.  Like hat tipping there is a variety of styles;  right over left, left over right,  hand under or over bicep, fun to watch.  

and you can watch this while you are getting

DFD

and see Mr. P, no pictures!