Sunday, August 28, 2016

This and that type of posting...

Well, one of my loyal fans won’t like this, but this edition will be a little short on food again.  Somehow this weather kind of stifles the desire for dining, and only then something light like fish or a salad..  So before we do the food related reporting a couple of short comments on …… sports.

And to my (unusual) credit, it will be mostly positive!  No rants.  In years past, I would go off on the Little League World Series which concludes today.  The championship game is between a team from New York and one from South Korea.  The brackets are “rigged” such that an international team and an American are guaranteed to meet for the championship.  Maybe that’s fair, but sometimes the second place International team looks to be better than the American champion. 

Back to positive.. I kind of got caught up in the tournament this year, it somehow didn’t seem as silly as it appeared to me in previous years.  No sobbing kids after striking out, rather it looked like they all had fun and didn’t take themselves too seriously.  There were a few pitchers that could really bring it.  Fun to watch.    Of course parents will always be parents and there were still the usual cadre of “moms” decked out and acting silly in the stands.  One covered her eyes on every pitch when her kid was at bat.

I seldom watch MLB games at all, but found I was a fan of John Kruk as a “color man” in the booth.  Had clever things to say and generally would not sugar coat anything. Plus, he's kind of a food guy.

And while we’re being positive I have to admit that I am becoming a fan of Soccer.   I enjoy watching it on TV, primarily the international teams.  I don’t watch the “pro’s” here in America, just the big boy leagues in Europe and Great Britain (Manchester United, Real Madrid, etc.).   As I mentioned to my BIL who was a referee for a while, I think I might like it for mostly odd reasons..

·        Continuous action, very little commercials
·        I really enjoy the foreign announcers, very entertaining
·        No stupid “sideline” announcer women (sorry, it’s just that females seem to be the norm in the US) asking penetrating questions like: “what was going through your mind when….”
·        The candid shots of the fans in the stands
·        The enthusiasm of the fans themselves, singing, wild costumes, etc.
·        And, I am getting to appreciate the skill level shown in the higher leagues.  Crisp passing with a strategic plan and not just kick it as far down the field as you can and hope for the best…
·        What I still DON’T enjoy is the falling down, rolling around, looking in mortal agony until there is no foul called, then get up a trot away (yes, there are occasional real injuries or at least ouchies).   But apparently it is an accepted part of the game.

The game seems to be growing in popularity here in the US, as evidenced by today’s “Sports on TV” table in our local paper.  The listings for today revealed:

3 NFL games; 4 MLB games (plus two little league); 6 Golf events; 2 WNBA; 2 Auto Racing; 1 High School Football; 1 Beach Volleyball,  and…11 Soccer games spread over 7 outlets (including beIN, which I don’t get).  Not sure if there’s a statement there or not.

And maybe it’s time for Tony Romo to begin thinking about retiring..

Okay, back to food. 

Alert readers will know that I rail (or rant) against the invasion of Chains in our county making it harder and harder for independents to survive.  Well, in one of the little news blips I get there was an encouraging article the other day containing some interesting statistics.  It quoted some July data that showed chains had a 1.4 percent drop in sales, while independents produced a “robust 5-percent gain”.  One of the reasons proposed was the previous to the “social media” explosion, chains could afford extensive and aggressive marketing, which the independents could not match.  But “the social media era may have created a powerful new resource that levels the playing fields for independents: review sites like Yelp.”  A Harvard Business School professor looked at the effect Yelp reviews had on both types of restaurants.  He found a significant impact for independent restaurants, but no relationship between Yelp ratings and revenues for chains, and Yelp causes demand to shift from chains to independents.

Of course the hazard with things like Yelp and TripAdvisor are that any schlub such as myself can get on there and give an unfair review maybe based on a bad day.  One kind of has to consider the volume of comments to hopefully get a true picture of a place.   Anyway, I thought it an interesting piece. 

Speaking of Chains, this caught my eye the other day:

"Diners across the country will have one fewer salad bar to peruse with their lunch or dinner, as Ruby Tuesday announced it will close nearly 100 restaurants by the end of the year. 

Tennessee-based Ruby Tuesday revealed in its fourth quarter report on Thursday that it will close 95 under performing locations by the end of the year as part of a “Fresh Start Initiative.”"

The location here in First Colony was not on a list of potential closures...

We are now inside our month window (Yikes!) from our trip to Cornwall.  The organizers of our trip (Cole Travel) have gone to a model of staying at least two nights in the same location.  Generally we have a dinner at the Hotel one night but are on our own for another night.  Which of course drives the Feeder to such sites as above (Yelp and TripAdvisor) to ferret out likely spots.  Great fun, but also a lot of work.  We will be free one night in Salisbury, Exeter, and Falmouth.   If perchance some of the readership has any suggestions, they will be considered!  I have nailed down two of the three, but still am working on Falmouth.  In future postings I’ll reveal my choices. 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Getting the Edge...

As any aspiring wanna be chef or home cook knows, probably the most important tool (aside from talent) in the array of kitchen gadgets and paraphernalia is a good set of knives.   I should say a good set of sharp knives.  Here is the array available to the Feeder and MFO.  And with a couple of exceptions most are used a lot

Here's a quick tour with notes (right to left)

Offset serrated blade “Bread knife”.  We find lots of uses for this one (seldom used for bread)  quite useful

“French” style Chef’s knife (Flat blade near handle for dicing and mincing).  This is my favorite knife and was the first “real” knife I acquired when my interest in cooking got serious.  So I would guess that that blade is upper thirties years old.  It is a Sabatier, a long time French maker of cutlery

Newer style chef’s knife, a bit stouter than above so use for heavier work (Henckel)

Filet or Boning knife, kind of a flexible blade

Small Chef Knife for more delicate work

Paring knife

Smaller knife.  A note here, this knife came from a box of camping equipment that my parents had for years.  That would place it maybe in the seventy year old range.   MFO likes it because with her slightly arthritic hands it is easier to manage.

Slicing and Carving knives, serrated round end and non serrated pointy end.  These only get used at thanksgiving for turkeys and larger cuts like standing rib roasts.

And underlying all, the trusty steel for honing the edge before almost every use.  NOT used for sharpening..

All the blades are stored in the drawer under the counter, along with other good things like the Oxy peeler, a microplane, the very useful “Lamson Sharp” spatula for delicate things like fish.  Fairly flexible; and the brutal cleaver.

And until I actually looked at this picture, I forgot I had that sharpening stone back there..

And just to complete the counter-top tour (Isn’t this riveting reading?) we got all sorts of other tools.   I am more and more gravitating toward the wooden implements.

And before we got involved in touring he feeder's knife drawer, we mentioned that having sharp knives is crucial to good kitchen technique.  All of the cutlery above was gathered over a number of years, and keeping them all sharp is a daunting task.  Old traditional me, for years I used what is lovingly called a Norton Tri – Stone

Inside is a triangular set of stones of varying grit from coarse to fine

So you get some honing oil, (usually) start with the coarse one (showing above) and stroke your blade to even it, then gradually get to the finer ones to produce a sharp edge.  Controlling the angle takes quite a bit of skill and it is a long process.   So finally the Feeder caved in and purchased an electric model, a Chef’s Choice 1520 diamond wheel model

It is built to handle both “European/American” traditional knives with a twenty degree bevel (each side) and also slots for the newer, very trendy, and EXPENSIVE “Japanese” or Asian blades which have a slightly skinnier fifteen degree bevel.  

The slots make it easy to maintain the correct angle.  The third set of slots to the right are to “hone” the blade as it seems stroking it through the grinding slots produces a “burr” so you run it through the last set a few times when you’re done to remove it, which it does quite nicely.

I’m still learning but it seems like a serviceable device.  One more gadget in the kitchen..

All that glitters…Olympic ramblings

No, I’m not going to give the medal standings…nor am I going to comment on Ryan Lochte’s amazing situation..

What I will comment on (verging on Rants) are a few things I observed watching the games, which for the most part (see, I can be positive) have been enjoyable to see. 

Commercials:   I continue to be amused at Chevy claiming that their ads are populated by “Real People, Not Actors”, although I do share the opinion that (some) actors are actually not “real”. 

And an interesting comment on American culture  is that there is a commercial (Samsung?) showing groups of people clustered around a TV, or kids peering into glowing devices, while the musical background vocal proclaims “everything is better on a screen”.  Life is better when you don’t have to interact with actual human beings (I guess real people).

And the “sideline ladies” keep topping themselves.   Was watching the semi-final of the women’s volleyball (a great sport for both genders) and the US lost the tense match to the Ukraine team.  The teams split the four sets and then went to the (15 point by two) tie breaker which the Americans lost 15 – 13. It was a thrilling match with great plays on both sides, but in the end the Ukraine was victorious by the narrowest possible margin.   So here’s what’s her name announcer sticking the microphone in Karch Kiraly’s face, a class guy whom I am sure felt like he had just had his heart kind ripped, out and actually said:  “Coach you lost that tie breaker!  What went wrong?”; thereby (IMHO) displaying a complete lack of understanding of sports and the typical position that the USA is entitled to win every game, and so when they don’t, something is “wrong”.  I have to admire coach Kiraly’s response in: a) not shoving the microphone down her throat; and b) calmly making a very classy answer pointing out that the Ukraine was a very good team, both teams played their guts out, and they just made some plays that the USA didn’t.  He gets it.  He’s been there.   The USA team went on to win the Bronze medal. 

Well, tomorrow is the end of the 2016 Olympics, and I guess it didn’t turn out as bad as the pre-event dire predictions made it out to be.  I enjoyed soccer (without the Hope Solo antics), the golf (I’ll bet Rory, Jordan, Dustin, etc., regret their decision now), and like most, the “off beat” sports like white water canoeing, race walking, and some of the equestrian events.   Badminton and table tennis are not sports I am familiar with.  And as I wrap this up, they are broadcasting women’s mountain biking.  Wow…  (I tuned away from the women’s gold medal BBall game, figuring Auriemma’s ladies could pull out the game when leading Spain by 30 in the third quarter)

I would not be devastated if NBC did not get the next contract but probably have or will.  I hope their ratings plummet.

Wonder if there are culinary categories?  If not, I’ll be content to


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer Solace

As another blogger of some fame once said:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;

In this case, each tomorrow seems to bring more unrelenting heat and humidity with glaring sun, very occasionally punctuated by a storm.   We had a doozy last night with plenty of lightning, but fortunately no hits this time, although the generator came on briefly.  Oh, did I ever mention that I played Macbeth in our high school senior play?  While the above could refer to the weather, the rest of quote is:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Which of course has deeper, darker meaning..  That passage has remained a favorite of mine since high school, which of course has been quite a while..  Anyway, the weather has kind of driven me into depression.. sorry to share...

On a cheerier note, back to more pertinent topics, like restaurants.  

One of the rumors of closings was debunked when Cow and Fish was recently only closed for a week or so.  The other place rumored for shuttering was apparently just that, an unfounded rumor. 

"Something" is going on at the original "CoCo's/Lone Star" location in "the park".  the sign has been taken down, and there are "trade trucks" there almost every day.  I have feelers out, but no info has come back.  Stay Tuned.  

The Coffee Quarter in San Souci has applied for a liquor license.  Not a bad idea, methinks.  At the very least, Irish Coffee!

And another application to the Alcohol Beverage Board was received from “Hacienda Los Guayabos”.  From the address, I am guessing that it might be the old “Charlie’s Deli” south of Gate Three.  Good Luck to them…

New Quarters...
We had an interesting afternoon earlier this week.  As some might recall, years ago MFO did a lot of Archivist work for Historic St. Mary’s City, organizing their corporate records for their certification effort.  Most of which are slumbering quietly in the basement of Calvert Hall on the campus of St. Mary’s College.  She still occasionally helps the City with various Archivist activities, kind of the ad hoc archivist.   Although the structure is primarily for the college, the City will have a building of their own in which to house offices and the collections, both historical artifacts (from digs) and also the corporate stuff.  So, MFO is going to help with the move of her records from the basement to storage in the new buildings.  So we happened to be down at the City this week, and while I did some Foundation work, she went over to the current research building (a dump) to talk about the move with the curator of collections. 

He suggested we go look at the new facility so we got an impromptu tour of the City’s wing of the new facility.   Now, not many of you have had the opportunity to see what these people have worked in for years and years, but seeing these new labs; huge storage capability (those big shelves that move around on tracks); sinks with those faucets on slinkys, hoods,  is amazing.  After spending years in the basement of the HSMC visitor center sharing spaces with six and eight legged creatures along with occasional no legged six foot serpents, MFO is extremely jealous.  But, she will still be involved occasionally so hopefully be able to enjoy the new digs. 

This is a giant step for Historic St. Mary’s City and harkens in a new era of archeology.  Good for them.

Mainly, it isn’t bounding..

One of the pleasures of living “on the water” as they say, is that during the summer, we are treated to a front row seat for the Wednesday night sailboat “races”.   Lately they have pretty much turned into “drifting”,   

When there is enough breeze, the lovely spinnakers can come out

And occasionally the Dee from the museum comes out showing us what a lovely vessel the skipjack is

And although neither red nor sunset, the sails are pretty in the evening moon glow.

And lots of times we see all this as we are


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Furnace..

Well, I wish I could report that I spent yesterday out in the back forty plowing the fields, but: a) I don’t have a back forty (or a plow, for that matter), and b) the temperatures and conditions outside recall the “mad dog and Englishmen” quote.  Instead, I stayed inside and watched the Olympics. 

Speaking of which, thanks to a lot of people for expressing the same sentiment I ranted about with NBC coverage.  With all the other outlets in their “network”, you can now find a lot of live coverage.  I must admit I am not a devotee of fencing for instance, but it is there if you want it.  I would appreciate more coverage of the “off-beat” sports, I don’t think they have covered whatever is “race walking”, or a shooting contest (archery not included), and I did catch some of what they call “sailing’ which looked more like wind surfing. 

So, before getting back to my bread and butter, just a comment or two about Thursday’s actions.  The (USA) women’s soccer team lost the chance to capture both the World Cup and the Gold Medal at the same time.  They lost on penalty kicks, really a rough way to lose after battling on the field for 120 minutes of match plus extra time.  I am still learning about the rules, but the “color” person on the broadcast team very politely said that (paraphrased) the referee sucked.  She disallowed a goal for each team, and missed several what the person thought were offside calls, and made some that she thought were not.  Anyway, a tough loss for our team.  Not so the case for the lady basketball team who eked out a narrow win over Canada 81 to 51.   And as I type, USA men are gearing up for the game against Serbia..{a three point victory for the USA}

And lastly with all the respect she deserves, I am getting tired of seeing Simone Biles.  Enough already.. Three hundred “highlight” clips are about enough, and…… Oh, excuse me, I have to go get some Tide wash packets, or maybe a Hersey candy bar. 

Back to bread and butter..

I was told about another “restaurant” which will be moving into the old Winegardner  renovated used car building in Leonardtown.  When I heard “Urban BBQ” would be joining nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, I thought “good, an independent!”  wrong, it’s a chain with about 13 outlets sprinkled around Maryland.  Then just the other day I learned that “Jessie’s Kitchen” will be moving in.  Great I thought again.  Maybe an independent will be joining them!  Wrong again!  While Jessie’s Kitchen is sneaky enough to NOT have a bona fide web site, it does throw you to a facebook page that leads you to believe that there is more than ours.  I hope I'm wrong.

It’s interesting to me that the Business Association of the town of Leonardtown (a most convenient place) is kind of dedicated to creating an "Artistic" collection venues, such as art and craft galleries, boutique shops, a coffee shop, a chocolatier, and unique restaurants (the new CafĂ© Des Artistes now slated for late August).  So that is taking place around "the square" at one end of town, yet the “planning and zoning” commission seems hell bent on “Waldorfization” the other end of the street.   Tough competition.  When you’re a chain you can spread losses across the enterprise, but if you’re a one of, every cent is yours.  I would not be so bold to suggest a boycott, but do consider where you spend your money.  “Buy Local” is not just a catch phrase..


stay cool.. think snow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Olympic Ranting Event.

Usually I wait a couple of days between feeders so as not to overload you, and give you a chance to “catch up” before another beautifully conceived and written posting pops into your mail box.  Because of the kind of topical nature of this issue (mostly a rant) I sort of wanted to get it out.  So if you haven’t had a chance to see the one about the lunch at the Hay Adams, scroll down to "PM part" and take a look.  There is civility.

Bi- yearly Olympic Rant: 

Last Friday night, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony took place.  Since I was fresh off the surgery, I thought a nice interlude watching the pageantry would at least take my mind off it.   Having to suffer the “Today” show crew led by Matt “I love me” Lauer was bad enough, but it soon became apparent that it was on “tape delay”.  What?  Something that only occurs every two years (if you include winter version) and you are not going to show it live?  What?  It would not be as bad if they then showed it continuously.  But no, it was “packaged” coverage.  “We’ll be right back after this brief (4 minute) break”.  It just broke up the flow. 

And I’m sure there are some who read this who also “do Facebook”, and I was so mad that I posted something during the coverage and was pleased to see that there were many of similar attitude.

Another voice..
Last Sunday in the WaPo (clever contraction of Washington Post) Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist whose work I really like, had a column about the NBC coverage called “NBC’s packaged coverage not a gift for viewers”.   It was a bit complicated, but according to Sally, NBC decided that “Women don’t watch the Olympics for the live results; they watch it for the narrative”.  She quoted NBC’s chief marketing officer who stated that: “more women watch the Olympics games than men (Interesting) and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey”. In other words, in his estimation women don’t care who wins, so much as their personal life, so they push the “up close and personal” aspect rather than covering the event in real time.  Anyway, the overnight ratings of the telecast were 16.5, the lowest since 1992.  And if that’s the approach to sports coverage NBC wants, Sally says why don’t they apply the same theory to the NFL?  “Delay and collapse the games in favor of sugary features showing childhood films of the Manning brothers  on a swing set instead of wasting viewers’ time with a penalty-filled second half?”  and, she closes her column with “If NBC wants to attract and retain Olympic viewers, it better up its game and stop making people so frustrated and impatient.”   AMEN.

If you’re watching the coverage, how many times have you had to endure endless features of Simone Biles as a kid (she’s not far removed now), or a cherubic Katie Ledecky in a little pool?  Boy, that’s what I want to see!  Never mind the actual competition we can see that later!

Whew, that got longer than I thought it would, but I like her sentiment.  The ceremony coverage was pretty much a disaster..other irritations:

I have (had) utmost respect for “coach K”.   What I don’t understand is why he associates himself with a bunch of overpaid (in layman terms), prima donna athletes who live in a world of “me first”, “there IS an “I” in team (in fact I AM the team)”, and are changing teams to chase a ring.  Loyalty to fans?  Naaahhh…Of course it is not illegal to populate an Olympic team with professional athletes and we are “blessed” with the best basketball players in the world.  It is just kind of painful to watch them blow out teams by 50 or 60 points, and celebrate like they just won the NBA playoff.  And I heard (and didn’t verify) that in the game against the Chinese, up by 40 or so that they did rock, paper, scissors, to determine who would shoot a technical foul.  A great testament to our athlete’s respect of opponents and displaying the true spirit of American sport.  Sure makes you proud!  Coach K – did you give the order?  Who’s in control of this team?

And to some extent, the women will also waltz to the Gold Medal, but maybe Auriemma can keep the reins a bit tighter..after all, 90% of the players came through under his tutelage. 

(Speaking of) Medals….
This is another case where the so called “media” should be criticized, not the athletes, but they’re already starting it.   Every time a medal is awarded the next screen you see is the “medal count”.  It doesn’t matter about individual performances, the only thing that matters is “did you win a medal?” and by God, we’re a couple of medals better than the Chinese!  That proves we’re the “best”… because here in America all we care about is being the best (Chef, quarterback, shortstop….)  For the Olympic athlete in a non glamour sport who devote their life and years of training… sacrifice for something they love, giving their all… ptooie!  who cares? did you get a medal?

(Speaking of) Speaking of……
Sideline announcers:   so I swim my event, jump out of the pool dripping wet, and before I can get a towel, Michelle Tafoya sticks a microphone up my nose and says “what was going through your mind when….”, or:  “what were you thinking when …”, or “how were you able to…”; not “congratulations on your performance, good luck”  Nope you gotta have this in depth psychological exploration of the thoughts of the athletes (journey, not the outcome?).  And it is not just her (Michelle) it is the entire cadre of the “sideline announcers”, most of whom are the women we see at football or basketball games asking the coaches at half time “how are you going to come back from this 25 point deficit”?  is there a handbook entitled “Inane, Stupid, and Irrelevant questions for the uneducated” that they are given?

Okay, done for this year….by the way, I think I just learned that the finals for the team gymnastic competition (with Ms. Biles, etc.) will take place this (Tuesday) afternoon, but we won’t be allowed to see it until tonight during NBC prime time coverage.   Thank you NBC.