Sunday, February 7, 2016

Projects and Pigskins.

Well, this may land me in divorce court, or at a minimum a counseling session, but just something I thought I might want to share.

You know how one little simple thing can lead to a massive project of some sort?  Well that sort of happened to me.  As you know (or should), I am active on several civic organizations around here, sit on boards and stuff like that.  Well, the other day, I thought “well, I need to look at that budget again” and I know just where it is.  So, I reached out to put my hands on it and…… nowhere to be seen!   Has that ever happened to you?

So before we proceed further, (and this may be the start of legal proceedings or at least “Exhibit A”),We have a “loft” where we keep our “office” stuff near the computers.  And, although this is kind of like looking in somebody’s underwear drawer, here was the state of things when I went to “just pick up the (mythical) piece of paper”

A nice tidy work area surrounding the computer, with the well organized filing system along the far wall

Well after a half hour of cursing and going through each of the stacks, never finding what I wanted, 

I decided something had to be done about this. Off to the races! And so i developed a plan whereby I would go through the whole damn table sheet by sheet, and put things into “subject” bins, which then turned the many stacks into more stacks with the little 3x5 card for “X board”; “Y events” and so on

Although it was a bit of a shuffle, I did reduce the "filing wall" to a relatively clean state

That is the current state this (Sunday) morning, what I estimated taking an hour or so mushroomed into half a day.  At least while I was doing “what the heck is this piece of paper” with dates uncovered as far back as 2008.  while considering the history, I did have this to look out on

Isn’t this riveting reading?    

So next step will be to organize each pile and come up with a storage system (hanging files? Notebooks? Anything but more stacks). 

And while I’m showing you the underside of the Feeder’s existence, I know you must have thought from time to time:  “I wonder where the Feeder creates those brilliant, insightful, and informative pieces on food and culture?.  Must be a glorious setting.  Well, here it is, across from the Desktop station

Strewn about with reference material

(Wine advocate, Showtime Deli Menu, one of my magazines)

And before we leave the reference department just to show you I do have some shred of organization (soon to be more) here are my Travel Files

In which reside menus, tasting notes, diaries, brochures and so forth from our many adventures..

I’ll consider Phase I of the project complete. More to come.

Change of subject to:
 “Suuuuuuperrrrr Sunnnnnnndaaaay!”

Well today is the clash of the final two professional football teams in what has become an American Cultural Phenomenon, the Super Bowl.  It is also the 50th (!!!) edition and is sometimes referred to as “Super Bowl L”.  It does have maybe more than routine interest in that it brings the wily old veteran Peyton Manning on probably his last rodeo, against the young, brash, and frankly engaging Cam Newton. I’m sure you could launch on many story lines and metaphors, but I won’t.  Probably out of an “old guy” perspective I would like to see Peyton go out on with a ring but I am afraid it won’t happen.

Most of the friends we used to gather with for the game are now in far flung places, so it will be only MFO and myself for the game.  Given the amount of work required I did not make my (famous) Remoulade, nor Gumbo, nor Jambalaya.   Hard to do for just the two of us.  MFO is, making her (famous) stuffed mushroom caps, we got a Kaukauna cheese log (which fits the Super Bowl snack rule of they HAVE to be orange) which is kind of sleazy good, I’ll steam up some shrimp, maybe some cashews, and perhaps some sleazy Fritos Bean dip straight from the can.  Wallow in it… no seven layer dip here!.   As for beverages, it is definitely DWTHYL time.  Beer, whisky, wine, soda, whatever..  and at least the game kicks off at 6:30 so one has a chance to last.   As kind of an aside,  I HAVE NOT done any sneak peeking at commercials.

Although it was mostly driven by apathy and sloth, we did go to Giant this morning for weekly needs, not necessarily party food.  We were kind of fearful of crowds, but maybe that was yesterday as we found it busy, but not jammed.  We did see, however the results of yesterday’s (?) shopping both in the “healthy” department

And in the snacking aisle

Where I see some considerate shopper left their Pringles for somebody else to deal with.

Okay, we’re going to journey out for a pre-game brunch so I’ll cease with the usual admonishment to

And enjoy the game, or the people, or the commercials, or the food, or all.   Big thing is to enjoy!

Will maybe show some of our snacking stuff tomorrow.. Go BRONCO's

Monday, February 1, 2016

New (almost) and tired and true

I guess the “new” is first, and it isn’t really “new”.  

The other day I was down by Great Mills and on a whim thought I would stop at the newly opened Showtime Deli.  I could be a little help to some of the loyal readers who might have the same idea, and you should.  My comments are only offered (as always) in the spirit of improving the experience, not just carping.  Which I do do sometimes. 

First of all, I had a misconception about the place; they HAVE NOT taken over the whole building that used to house the golden arches on Great Mills Road.  At least there is still the “Sake” sign over the door that is on the “Subway/Popeye’s” side.  Their entrance is on the street side in the middle of the building.   When I was there, the path to that door was snowed in.  Maybe the best approach is to go into the parking lot by the Dollar General store and the Mexican Restaurant (to which I have not visited) and work your way over by the dry cleaners and find a spot.  As mentioned, the entrance faces onto Great Mills Road, and once inside the door you kind of have to wend your way through a couple of halls to finally get to the dining area.  It is fairly small, with maybe six tables and several seats at the counter in front of the kitchen. 

On the day I was there, it was quite crowded, probably attesting to its popularity, with most tables occupied as were all of the stools in front of the kitchen.   The stools afford the best position, as they allow you to talk to and listen to Jack Gelrud, a must do.  I was also surprised to see another county icon, Capt. Jack Russell in the kitchen with an apron.  You talk about a team!  Worth it.  Real county veterans.

The (current) Menu features their “overstuffed” sandwiches.   All of the offerings have a theatrical twist, like “Frankly Scarlet, I Don’t give a Ham;  “Ike and Tina Tuna”; “Agatha Crispy BLT; and so on.  Some are a bit beyond me, like “A street car named Pastrami” Huh?  Coo Coo Cluck is chicken salad.  You get the idea.  Besides the single ingredient selections there are combination choices, such as “The Cotton Club” a triple decker with Ham, Turkey, Bacon, cheese and tomato.  With the exception of the Open Face Sandwiches everything is under 9 bucks, mostly less.  There is also Fries, soups and salads.  They also do breakfast, offering Lox (!!); Bagel sandwiches; (three egg) Omelets; plus plated sides.  I have a particular reader who would be pleased if they offered Scrapple.. 

Anyway, I ordered the "Westerner Roast Beef" (on white, and added on American Cheese for 75 cents on the base price of $6.99).  I was quite pleased with the sandwich, although the bread kind of dissolved and ended up being very thin.  The Beef was plentiful and had good flavor.   Stop by to be entertained and have another welcome option to local food.

Tried and True
Saturday, MFO and I went up to Annapolis and St. John’s College for a program sponsored by the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions, given by John Englander about water rise.  It was basically directed at Annapolis, but covered broader topics.   He said he advised the Annapolis people to plan for three feet rise by the end of the century.  He was very adamant that it WOULD happen.  It can’t be reversed, perhaps only moderated by control of greenhouse gasses, but the damage has been done.  There were lots of graphs and so on, looking at ice age cycles going back millions of years, and how the current data supports drastic rises.  I am not going to argue anything here, but it was quite dramatic.

Anyway, another reason we went up there was that the program was scheduled to be over kind of right before dinner time.  So, what do you do in Annapolis when it’s dinner time and you’re by State Circle?  You go to Harry Browne’s of course.   Long time readers will remember I have extolled the merits of the place before, and I can’t change my opinion.  I often yak about “just right” and Browne’s is it, at least for us.  It has the perfect combination of relaxed, unpretentious service, good food, and a pleasant room (with chandeliers from the USS Normandie), white tablecloths and quiet.   We got what is now our favorite table, kind of tucked in the back by the bar away and out of earshot of other diners.   I don’t think we saw one table that was not DFD. 

With all that talk about water rise, I had a healthy thirst by that time, and so (having sort of given up on my DMOTRWAT; I get tired of correcting them, a weakness perhaps) I ordered a Martini.  And, here, I have to make a little objection.  I always inquire as to what Gins are available before ordering.  We eat at fairly nice restaurants (he said) where I think they place a lot of emphasis on your experience.  Well, by and large I get the same litany of Bombay, Tanqueray, (occasionally Beefeater), and increasingly Hendrick’s.  There are more and more interesting “craft” Gin’s out there, as well as some long time varieties like Plymouth (my current fav); Junipero,  and local efforts like Smooth Ambler (from West Virginia).  Here in town, International Beverage has a very nice selection and an exception to the “restaurant” trend would be our local Elements, Eatery, and Mixology which offers several choices.

Regardless, how can you beat this?

Stirred not shaken (Sorry James), a sidecar for just that other sip, in a proper “up” glass.  (MFO’s standard Gimlet (Bombay Sapphire) in the background).  

Having lowering the water levels in our glasses we turned to the menu.   It is a very nice menu, with lots of choices, and as memory serves, maybe some more selections on the “appetizer” side, with the current trend of small plates and sharing.  I was bemused however at an entry in this salads section

There is very little about the description that fits the classic “wedge” salad.  I would almost have ordered it just to see what came out.  Making a “wedge” out of Bibb lettuce instead of Iceberg, Ranch Dressing?  what???  Okay, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes and crispy prosciutto are close.  I guess maybe that is why there are quotes around “Wedge”.
Shied off by that description I ordered the Caesar salad, and MFO got the white wine poached pear salad.  Upon ordering the server cautioned me that “the salad is served with Anchovies”.  When I said “of course” he said: “thank you sir”.  A bit odd that they veered away from “classic” on the Wedge but came back home on the Caesar.  Both salads were excellent and there were plentiful Anchovies, by the way.

For entrée I chose an off the menu nightly dish of Seared Rockfish with Shrimp, served over lobster saffron Risotto.   MFO, stayed a bit lighter choosing Grilled Pheasant Cognac Sausage With roasted Turnips, Buttered Cabbage and whole Grain Mustard from the appetizer menu.
After we finished the salads we were treated to an intermezzo of sorbet, I love that touch

Palate cleared, the main courses were served:

Both dishes were completely enjoyable.  The lobster in the risotto might be a bit over the top, but boy, was it good!  Such a treat.

We finished the meal with a cheese plate: Manchego 12 Month – Spanish; Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese – California; Sottocenere- Italian; with Cranberry Walnut Toast, Honeycomb and Fresh Fruit; perfect food…

I didn’t remark on the service, mostly because I didn’t need to.  No pretensions, hi, can I get you a drink.  Thank you for Anchovies, occasional  checks on the table (without “how’s that werkin’ for ya”).  Quiet confidence that the kitchen can do what it is supposed to.  Sigh.

Maybe it isn’t the most wonderful thing we’ve put in our mouth, but just solid, tasteful food, presented nicely at the correct temperature and time.  Lovely experience.  Gives one hope..  oh, and of course we were

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quick Cuppa Joe....

And now for something completely different...

I think I have mentioned in the past that one of the publications I subscribe to is “Imbibe” magazine which is devoted  to well, Imbibing various liquids.  Out of the maybe four categories broadly addressed, I would say that craft beers is tops, followed by froo froo cocktails fashioned by “mixologists”, then coffee, and dead last, wine.   I probably pay more attention to the cocktails, marveling at the 23 esoteric ingredients, etc., and then it’s always fun to see what beers are there.

But, I really don’t pay much attention to coffee.  Of course like anything else, there are cult followings of various houses, with (I must admit) beautiful “latte art”, multiple brewing methods from the old “Chemex” to fancy pressure machines etc.  I really must admit I am not much of a coffee aficionado, it kind of (oversimplified) tastes all the same to me.  I suspect that it may be because I don’t make it my business to taste around, and maybe find something I really like.  Also because I most likely don’t know that much about its agriculture and varieties, roasting theories, brewing techniques, and so on.

Well, on Saturday (10 am) this weekend there may be an opportunity for us (rookie to pro) to learn up on the subject.  Elements (Eatery and Mixology) is going to have a kind of bean to cup (hands-on) seminar on all of the above.  Types of beans, blending, roasting levels, storage, brewing, cupping(?) will all be on the agenda along with the chance to do some tastings.  Had any Tanzania Peaberry or Indian Monsooned coffee lately?  (Plus there is a topic on integrating coffee into cocktails!)   Here’s your chance.  RSVP highly desired, you can sign up at this link.  While I no longer tout wine dinners and the ilk, I think this is a one of a kind thing that is enough different that I should let you know. Great opportunity.

Maybe see you there.  There is a program hosted by the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions up in Annapolis on the same date.  MFO has us locked into that.  If it lasts long enough we may stay for dinner, so we have to be


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Perfect(?) Storm


It ain’t a fit night out for man or beast!  One of my all time favorite WC Fields lines and sketches.  Have you seen it?   If not (and this link works) take seven seconds and look at it. Priceless  I especially like the obvious pail full of “snow” part.  And while not nearly as classy as WC (although we have the same first two initials!),  here the Feeder is ready for Jonas (Keep reading)

But, before we get to the storm, it is part of my job to pass along a quick food entry (entrée?)

Friday, the day of Jonas’s arrival I attended a little meeting up at the Coffee Quarter in our nearby San Souci plaza.  We have found that the CQ offers a relatively quiet and fairly private place for two and three people meetings.  And, you can get coffee plus some other stuff if so inclined.  So Friday morning we had a quick early (for me) meeting about some local civic association stuff, and I decided to have something to eat.  So, I ordered a (hot) ham, cheese, and egg croissant sandwich.  Before the change in ownership, I used to have this dish once in a while and it was kind of tasty.  Well, things change.

I have to say that what I was given was among the worst sandwiches I have ever had (no, I didn’t send it back).  And, i was so upset that I didn't even take a picture (believe it or no).  The “ham” was a circular piece or maybe two circular pieces of ham like “lunch meat” folded in half and then again to make a quarter of a circle.  That was tucked in about a third of the “croissant” perched atop a square of (?) cheese which was still cold and terribly NOT (sorry) “melty”; the yellowish homogeneous “egg” (which I didn't even want to know what was) was maybe what one could consider warm(ish).  The “croissant” had been in the microwave so it got all squishy.   I “deconstructed” the thing as much as possible, opening it and re positioning things which still resulted in a terribly unsatisfying thing.   I have had better offerings there later in the day, the Hummus is nice, their “deli” sandwiches can be good (Reuben) but this was awful.   Trying to beat the flakes, so as I said I did not send it back.  I should have or at least complained.

Anyway, that started the storm day off on a low note. 

Okay cue the Storm:

I have been wracking (racking?) what’s left of my brain to come up with a catchy rhyme for “Jonas”.   “Jonas, look what you did tous!!”  Seems like it should be easy, but I struggled. Anyway, he certainly dumped on us.. (Hey!!!  “Jonas, you dumped onus!”).  All the weather pundits (even my trusty weather hero, Justin Burke) were telling us that this storm would be the “worst ever; epic; historic” and so on.  Predictions were accompanied by inscrutable (but colorful) maps (with circles and arrows – Arlo Guthrie) of isobars, wind shears, upper and lower atmospheric convection contours, waves, potential tracks, and so on.  Networks went nuts as usual, dispatching reporters on all sorts of street corners, riding in monster vehicles, and so on.  And you know what?  (well, you probably do), for the most part they were pretty much spot on.  When all was said and done, depending on your location (here in SOMD) you got anywhere from 9 to 2X inches of snow.  Up in the metropolis of DC, totals went into the thirties.  Historic.

Emotional reaction
I know I am a curmudgeon, and a general aging fuddy duddy, but when the word (substantial) “snow” creeps into the forecast,  I start thinking about provisions and plans: do we need cash?  Who will “do” the driveway, what is the state of the furnace?, and things like that.  My nervousness quotient is somewhat lower now that we have our mighty Generac (which we never hope to use), but then that translates to “do we have enough propane?”, stuff like that.  So, it always takes me aback when Facebook (yes, I admit it) lights up with people declaring “C’mon Snow!;  About time!; Bring it on!” and other phrases like that. What are they thinking?  Are they romantics with misty eyed visions of children building snow men in Grandma Moses landscapes; sledding and tobogganing, ice skating on frozen ponds, gathering around a bonfire slurping hot chocolate. Does that really exist?  Well, fine for them, I may have been young once.  Deep down I suppose I admire that attitude,  but somehow I just can’t bring myself to that side. 

Anyway Friday noon, the flakes started falling, and really never ceased until sometime in the night on Sunday, with howling winds most of the time.  Mercifully the Generac was never forced into use (thank you again SMECO and contractors for whatever you did), and we hunkered just fine.  We of course suffered eating healthy foods and remained well hydrated.

My only leaving the house was in the Nanook (he went to Michigan State, you know) costume above to try to get to the bird feeders, which failed when knee deep snow prevented further progress.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny revealing Jonas’s handiwork in the back yard

And in our "utility area" containing our life support systems.

And I won’t harp on it much, since I do it every year, and nothing happens.... But the erstwhile (and I’m sure well meaning) county road folks dedicate themselves to opening the roads for (I presume) the “people”.  So out they go into the storm blades shoving snow away from the roads  and….. across your driveway.  We who live on a circle always have an impenetrable wall of snow all pushed “away” from the circle to make getting out of the driveway virtually impossible.  I guess we are not "people", only taxpayers! Apparently going around clockwise pushing stuff TO the middle, is “Just something we don’t do”.  Thank you so, so, so, much

Fortunately we have some caring friends who show up to help us.  As we age, we’re more and more dependent on their good aid.

Finally liberating the digs

And just today some more help showed up and now I can get to the bird feeders without wading and floundering.

And we were quite popular

So, like all things this will melt away (ha ha), but sure will be remembered.  And when we can get out, we certainly will be

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

No Travel

Well, the thing about not taking trips is that you can’t blog about taking trips.  Sooooo, we’ll resort to kind of a this and that format.  They Fried Oyster project is moving, just not as fast as I had thought.  I was able top procure some Duck Fat, so I have that going for me…  Will probably get to it after this next “Epic” winter storm does what it does this weekend.

So let’s lead off with food (hey! That’s novel!).  Last Saturday I attended the Friends of the (St. Mary’s County) Library annual winter brunch.  And, like always it’s held at St. George's Episcopal  Church in Valley Lee.  And, like always, the food is prepared by “the Church Ladies”, although there was a healthy representation of the “non-distaff” side.   A quick oddity, I googled “antonym for distaff” and it says there isn’t any!  There is some obtuse reference to spears, but certainly no definitive male equivalent of distaff.  Anyhow, there were quite a few men in the kitchen, and in fact the person kind of in charge is a guy (note proper use of the word).  Of course the attendees tend to be the same year after year; library staff, board members, most of the volunteers for the book sale, so we mostly know each other.  One reader of the Feeder and he came over and said: “I’ll be reading about this for sure!”.   Well, in a way, he is correct.  The problem is there is nothing new to say.  For the last N of these events, the food has been nearly exactly (I’ll leave a little wiggle room) the same.  The buffet lineup is a couple of Quiches, two kinds of egg bake: plain and with peppers; French Toast; Stewed apples;  Scrapple and Sausage; Roasted Pork Loin;  Green beans (the “wide” kind);  and Kugel (a noodle casserole thing).  

Now, let me state right here that like every year, the food is very good and put together in the kitchen, not unwrapped from some food service truck.  The sausage is some of the best I’ve had, and NOT from a round tube, it’s hand patted

On the left is Scrapple another local “delicacy” (you like it or you don’t).  The history of the dish would take a whole column, but generally it’s made out of the “leftovers” from slaughtering hogs and has various regional forms, such as Livermush, Liverpudding, and “Goetta”.  General process is to mix the offal with Cornmeal and or Buckwheat Flour, add spices of choice, form it into a loaf, let it set, slice it and fry it up.  

Read more about scrapple (etc., if you're interested) here:

Anyway it is always an enjoyable event, with real local food, and we’ll look forward to next year with the same expectations (a mild hint).  By the way, the pictures above were taken at the January, 2011 brunch, but you couldn't tell the difference five years later.

PS the annual FOL book sale will be in April this year, on the 22nd

Rising from the ashes..

When I first began coming here (70’s and 80’s) there was a deli called Showtime Deli located in what is now the Mixing Bowl in “downtown” Lexington Park.  It was very popular for sandwiches and the character who reigned over it’s operation.  I will probably be corrected, but eventually they morphed into “Charlie’s Deli”, and then closed all together and I THINK moved down the road to open a larger operation, just called “Charlies”, which has since closed and then a failed brief stint as a Jamaican themed place.   Anyway the original "Showtime" Gelrud clan has revived Showtime Deli!

 Photo from Lexi Leader

On Great Mills Road in the building that was most recently Rita’s, which came after a history of a Sushi place, and going back to a McDonald's.  I may have missed one incarnation in there.  At any rate they will again be serving their "Famous Overstuffed" sandwiches with clever names like “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ham” or “A streetcar named Pastrami”; all kind of “Show” related.

Normally, I am a bit skeptical about newly opened places in locations with a history of failures, but I have to be more optimistic here.  This is not their first rodeo (I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant” = doom);  They know the market (big lunch time crowd), and have dealt with this product before.  Only nearby competition would be Subway, which they should be easily able to trump.  Plus, everybody likes a good sandwich like Pastrami..  I wish them luck!  With so many local places closing it is good to see some veterans get back in the game.

Another showtime

Changing away from food for a bit, but in the “Showtime” vein, PBS debuted a new series called “Mercy Street”, taking place during the Civil War. It is set in 1862 Alexandria (filmed elsewhere) that centers around a “Yankee” Hospital pushed into commandeered Southern Mansion.   Two nurses are featured, one from a Confederacy background, and another with Northern heritage.  The ladies are each VERY dedicated to their respective “causes”, and squabble a lot, but each respects the other and are dedicated to saving lives, maybe with a little attention to the color of the uniform of the patient.  In the middle is a doctor who seems to be the “good guy” (only one episode in, mind you).   Who pontificates with phrases like “Blood is neither blue nor gray”.  There is also an African American who seems trapped in the Southern mentality.

We thought it was kind of heavy handed, and overplayed the Northern/Southern tension too much.  Of course I wasn’t there, but there seems to be genuine hatred shown both ways where philosophy should not override saving lives and limbs.  We each decided we would give it one more shot (It follows Downton Abby, I suppose to trap the audience).

Sports shorts (NOT the Peyton commercial)

Had enough football yet? Pretty dramatic stuff in the NFL divisional playoffs:  Packer’s pack up for home (coin gate?), Sneaky Pete goes back to Seattle after a bizarre tale of two halves, Kansas City streak ends in Foxborough, and Big Ben shows, but returns to Pittsburgh.  Three more games.

Have you heard about the emerging Tennis scandal?  More to come there..

No sense mentioning the Spartans..

Enjoy the games, sandwiches, scrapple, and