Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Hold the Leash!

I want to take a quick left turn away from the Canine Community for a couple of items, then we’ll go back to the woofers.  Lots more to see there…

Confidence Booster

I have oft remarked that it is gratifying to read some pro restaurant reviewers like Tom Sietsema come up with the same feelings and principles that the Feeder has espoused for years.  Last Sunday in the (revamped) Post Magazine, Tim Carman, his pinch hitter and probably heir apparent, wrote a little piece called “Setting the bar for neighborhood spots” that reviewed “The Dish and Dram” a little place in Kensington MD, (2 stars (good)).  The premise was that it was a “neighborhood bar” and that everybody had an idea of what that meant.  He “interviewed” some unnamed folks and came up with criteria for what he considered made a bona fide Neighborhood Restaurant.  I Include his findings below verbatim:

A neighborhood restaurant, these diners told me, must be locally owned, and the owners must be on site.
It must be cheap enough so they can dine there frequently.
It must have history with the ’hood, at least 10 years.
It must be casual.
It must be walking distance from their home.
It must not take reservations.
It must support the community, maybe even the local farmers market.
It must have regulars and know their preferences (maybe even their secrets).
It must have a bar where locals engage with one another.
It must stay open late.
It must not be a chain.
It must not cater to tourists.

At this point, after all my harangues over the years, bells should be going off in your head and you’re thinking:   Hey!! Most of these are exactly what the feeder looks for in an establishment to qualify for his “Just Right” designation!  Maybe he ain’t so dumb!
Thank you very much!

The long awaited confession

Well, I can no longer make excuses, or postpone the inevitable admission.  I have to come clean about my problem.  I have an addiction.  They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.  I have a problem.  Hopefully by sharing with my loyal following, I can at last get some relief. 

Here’s the story:   Every couple of weeks or so, I go to a web site, and with a few clicks cause an innocuous plain brown cardboard box to be deposited on the front porch.  By that time, I usually am in pretty desperate straits needing to feed my habit, so I usually rip open the box to reveal my monthly dose:

And with shaking hands bite open the package to release the source of relief

Ah, those little morsels of heaven in beckoning colors

So easy and enticing, have to restrain myself from gobbling the whole bag.   Usually a dosage of two or three pieces a couple of times a day keeps me on an even keel. 

I suppose the seeds of my affliction were sown in my youth borne out of Easter Mornings, when I searched the house looking for a little wicker basket of plastic green grass, cradling the cherished beans within..  Yes, they are BEANS…. JELLY BEANS!   You can call ‘em Jelly Bird Eggs (what a stupid name) if you want, but they are Jelly Beans!  And don’t even talk to me about miniature, or “Spicy”, they ain’t the real thing.   And I don’t look at those puny little highly flavored nuggets called Jelly Bellies.  Ptooie!

Oh, BTW, black are the best. 

There, my conscience is clear!
DFD and keep up the crusade for

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Not really about Walruses..

But, as the Walrus says, it’s time of many things… of shoes and ships… and DOG SHOWS!  Been postponing dragging you through our recent experience at the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon National Specialty event in St. Louis (which was defined last time).  I did give you a little taste, but there’s a lot more to say.   I’ll try to break it up into nibbles so you don’t get too much at a sitting.

Anyway, the dog judging/competitions took place at the facility of Purina, which is headquartered in St. Louis

It is located out by Gray Summit in far western St. Louis County
It is a huge complex, all devoted to animals but real concentration on dogs.   Pretty fancy building for the animals

With many outbuildings for other critters

And even a place to present trends

We got there around nine, when people (and their charges) were beginning to gather for the day’s competition, and you had to work to find parking

Once inside, there are several “rings” that are used to show the dogs.

As "showtime" approached, hopefuls and their companions began gathering waiting for the competition to begin.

Including FOJTY and Duke

Then the judging begins and they strut their stuff

In the end, you want to wind up like this!

While all this is going on, there are other diversions around the outside of the ring, many “souvenirs” and general doggie stuff

and of course an opportunity to create lasting memories with your friends

Mostly the Feeder sat with his new found friend (Stanley's mother)

Anyway, it’s quite a different world.  I did get to walk around in the “prep” area, but I’ll wait for another edition. It is amazing..  A homework assignment might be for you to watch "Best in Show"  

I won’t wait too long.   Maybe tomorrow.    Besides I need a little “Just Right” discussion with you..

Meanwhile don’t forget to

And don’t sit at a table where you have to suffer:

Nice, huh?  really goes with the drink glass, which is why we always end with:


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

hello again, sort of

Well, I just looked, and last posting was 18 September! And here is it, 3 October (the day after MFO’s Xth Birthday).   The temporary darkness was due to a number of things not the least of which was a trip to STL to see both FOJ’s and take in a “National Specialty” event hosted by the American Kennel Club.  A specialty show is a dog show which reviews a single breed, unlike other dog shows, which are generally referred to as "all-breed" because they are open to all breeds recognized by the sponsoring kennel club.  FOJTY’s dogs are American Wire Haired Pointing Griffons, and so his portion was only for the AWPGA breed.   While there is a lot more “in the can” here is a picture of a “Griff” (not his, but related, another story for another time

And in action with Duke

They are basically a hunting breed, and alert readers will remember I have posted pictures before of FOJTY doing training. 

There will be more scenes from the competition in editions to come.

And now for something completely different!

I had a most pleasant surprise the other day, that kind of astounded me (I am trying to avoid using the overworked term: “aMAAAAAAzing”).  I was able to procure a whole beef tenderloin from a local farm, and a friend was kind enough to cut it into filets for me.  In exchange for a good glass of wine he agreed to come over and grill it for us (another lesson!).  In the end, an empty propane bottle scuttled the grilling scheme, but a nice job by me in a cast iron skillet did well.  Anyway, in honor of the steaks, I decided that we should raid the “Silver Oak” stash, as the “never the right time for THIS wine” syndrome has resulted in a growing inventory of said wine. 

On a whim, I went to the far end of the selections, and found this:

In case your eyes are fading like mine, look at the vintage on the label!

That wine is approximately 31 years old!  Expecting the worst, we also brought up a younger vintage.  My friend is quite an accomplished consumer of wine, and was able to extract the cork with help of an Ah So without crumbling it – which is common with older bottles, and employed the coffee filter trick to capture the sediment (after all, if you had been laying down for 20 odd years, you’d have sediment too!

After letting it breathe a little we hesitatingly poured it into a glass

Now those of you who are familiar with older vintages of wine know that in general, the older the wine, the more it takes on a “brick” color, which doesn’t extend far into the edge of the wine.
We were both surprised that while this one exhibited some of that, it held its color pretty well.   On top of that, the nose still revealed fruit, and on the palate there were noticable tannins.  Instead of having to dump it, we enjoyed it.   Pretty special

It gives me hope that the 2000’s vintages are worth drinking.   I will have to investigate and report!  I have decided that there is no sense in not drinking my “special” wines, who know what the future holds (the Shadow do….).


Last spring, with the help of our landscape team, we planted a bunch of plants (butterfly bushes, a couple of those red stick Dogwoods, an American Beauty Bush (for the birds), and my usual brace of herbs: parsley, basil, thyme, and our existing tarragon, chives, and the seemingly ageless volunteer Dill..  The deer made short work of the parsley, the basil wend wild, as did the tarragon, and the thyme hung on…

So finally we decided to “clean up” the bed by the pool, and harvest some of the stuff for culinary purposes.  We focused on the basil, dill, and tarragon, and came up with quite a lot.

We don’t get fancy trying to preserve them, just (painstakingly) editing them for the “good ones” and then after washing laying out in front of our window.

Eventually I will strip the leaves from the dill and tarragon, and kind of crush the basil into flakes.  Next year I’ll take more pains to cover the parsley.. home dried.

Finally, just kind of a pretty “still life” on our counter

 and as usual, we won't forget to say:
DFD and
(and for the few who still ask about the latter, No More Mason Jars is a plea for restaurants to stop bringing me water/tea/soda in those clunky Ball Mason Jars with a handle on it.  Disgusting)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trois √Čtoiles

What started out in concept as a one liner in a long list, turned into a standalone posting.  As you know, I sometimes make a story from three or four smaller snippets of possible interest to the readership.   So this was going to be nestled in between a review of the “new” Mexican restaurant in Callaway (Tacos Hacienda), a cooking episode of crabs and scallops (not together), and a rant or two about car commercials and that long awaited and (continued avoidance) the confessional.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to take anything away from the headliner. 

A bit of research took me back to November of 2011, and a dining experience that was second only to our Lameloise experience in France (the finest meal I’ve ever had).   The occasion was the celebration of the Feeder’s seventieth birthday, celebrated with our complete family.  It took place in this quaint little place in Virginia

After being greeted we were ushered to our table

Already set with the place’s famous truffle popcorn – take a minute to look at the table, the gleaming silver, the sparkling crystal with Champagne, the lovely charger plates all placed just so, the more to glorify the food.

And were presented a personal menu of the evening’s fare

While I do have images of all the dishes, just a couple to whet your appetite:
scallops with Shishito peppers

Lobster with Potato Gnocci

All were paired with an appropriate wine, which was explained by the dedicated sommelier
The meal was capped off by a gorgeous “birthday cake”

The reaction at the right was common around the table..
We were seated at the “chef’s” table in the kitchen where we could watch the quiet and efficient kitchen brigade go about the business of creating magic

No clanging of pots, no shouting orders, Gregorian chants in the background.  All presided over by the chef

An evening for our family to remember for life (which we have) with world famous Chef Patrick O’Connell 

at the

And circling back to the beginning, the whole reason for this trip into the past was the recent announcement that the Inn at Little Washington has earned the prestigious 3rd Star from Michelin.  A major accomplishment in the world of fine dining.

I would hope to return one day, and if you ever have the chance don’t miss it.  Worth every darn cent, no matter the amount of them..

And you could probably do a better job than did the Feeder (for some reason) in
And there would be NMMJ to be found for miles..

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Lessons Learned and a Confession

First of all, Errata:  I noticed after i posted the last edition, that spell check "helped" me by changing the title of the piece from the intended "Short and Sweet" into "Shirt and Sweet"  I was going to pull it down and change it, but figured the Feeder Nation was smart enough to figure that out.

Well, with my somewhat reduced mobility these days, I have started to get more serious about cooking (which on the surface seems impossible!) mostly in the area of refining skills and “perfecting” technique. As many alert readers know, I am fortunate enough to have a valued friendship built over many years with the chef who now runs our local Elements (Eatery and Mixology) restaurant here in Lexington Park.  He has been very kind to me in that he suffers my questions and occasionally comes over to the digs.  I have a special bottle of Woodford Reserve that is reserved for our discussions on food and culture, and cooking.  He also occasionally invites me into his domain in the commercial kitchen to observe him cooking (and trying to stay out his way!).

So with winter approaching (please!) he is looking to maybe add some Pasta Dishes to the menu and wanted to give few as a trial for some of his family and friends.  He said I could come and watch the process and take some pictures.  They tasted, “we” worked in the kitchen.

So a day when the restaurant is closed provided some time for him to prepare the dishes (chefs have no days off – like the Patriots!) and so I showed up in the kitchen, and he went to work, and I got some lessons!

Basically the fabrication process was the same for all the dishes, only variation was sauce and ingredients. So of course you start with Mise En Place

(just pretty)

 “ingredients” go into the pan with a little oil

Sautéed for a bit and then the pasta is added

Lesson 1:  you might note the pasta is “raw”, that is, not cooked by dropping into boiling water – in a restaurant setting, fabricated (raw) pasta is available.  What chef does is NOT put it in boiling water first, but actually uses the sauce in the dish to finish the pasta.

Then the sauce is added (a marinara in this case)

And after more time on heat, removed and plated with additional vegetables

Voila! And put on the pass to serve the guests (in this case the “taste testers”)

images while preparing other dishes with different sauces, maybe cream based

Lesson 2:  what is common to all these?   It’s always over HIGH heat, full bore on restaurant grade burners.  How many times have you heard it said chefs have one setting:  HIGH

Typical results:

Lesson 3: it is hot as hell (not profane, a statement of fact) in that kitchen.  The grill station was also on (for later dishes), producing its own heat (for later dishes).  With only one burner going, it finally drove me out.  I can’t image what it’s like with 3 or more cranked up.  New respect for the people on the hot line. 

It was a great experience, even though I had to leave (heat, stamina) before all the dishes were made.

So this fall you can stop by Elements, and see what made the cut to the menu!  Thanks, chef!

Closer to home
It so happened a few weeks ago that chef stopped by the house as I was preparing dinner (hello, Woodford) of trout for MFO and I which I was trying to sear, but didn’t come out with a very good crust.  Chef chided me for not using a hot enough pan (sigh).  So the other day he stopped by to deliver some wonderful cheeses (as seen in posts lately) and he brought along some very fresh Carolina Red Fish, and said he’d cook it for us (partially, to be finished at dinner). 

My scare and reluctance, as I suspect is common with other “home cooks” is by cranking up the heat it will: a) burn, or b) stick.

So, he started with a non-stick pan, with just a little oil and put the fish in "skin" side up (seasoning the flesh side before cooking)

He then taught
Lesson 4:  DON’T TOUCH!  We all want to fiddle around poking and prying and that leads to trouble.   Let the pan do its work and allow for caramelization. Leave it alone!

After a bit, check it and gently flip if you like the color
Again note the lack of oil (Lesson 4.5)

When both are done, deglaze the pan with some white wine (scraping up the famous “brown bits”) and since you used very little oil, you don't have to worry about pouring it off

Then (eventually) plate it and drizzle with the pan sauce

believe me, it had a nice crunch and was soft on the inside

I suppose a few readers will say: “welcome to the obvious, Feeder”, which may be true, but seeing a professional do it provides confidence.   I have some scallops which may be a good candidate for that procedure (They’ll burn!  They’ll weld themselves to the pan!)  we’ll see and report.

And lastly, I can’t bring myself to confess today… next time, 

while not forgetting to
And our loud mantra of