Thursday, September 14, 2017

Two a day..

I am doggedly determined to finish this journey (to the Midwest, remember?) so we’ll have another installment today.  Finally.   It will (mercifully?) roll two days into one, in hopes of maybe wrapping up this trek in another post.

As you might remember, MFO (aka The Archivist) spent many hours organizing our Family’s stuff from my Dad’s short career in WWI to my Mother’s side of things where “Grandpa” was a free-lance photographer in northern lower Michigan.  You also might remember that the lovely WWI museum in Kansas City said “Gee, thanks we have all we need”, but they did suggest contacting my Father’s home town (Holland Michigan – which he shares with Kirk Cousins!!), which we did, and they expressed enthusiasm for “local boy in the war” stuff.

She also made some contacts with colleagues at Michigan State (in East Lansing, where the aforementioned Kirk matriculated) and they did want the Craig family stuff.   So that made two stops out of the ordinary, plus a bonus trip to our home towns! (East Lansing/MSU).

So the first two days of “side tripping” included getting from FOJTY’s to Holland which will be recounted herein.  Whew.   You know, I hate books that you pick up all interested in reading, and then find there’s a 30 page “introduction” plus maybe a preface, plus maybe a bleary eyed acknowledgment section before getting to actual content.   Well, I guess I fell victim..

So anyway, with TY heading for Nebraska with the pups, and his wife doing her nursing job, we left an empty house

And retraced our steps around the land of Barbeque

and headed toward St. Louis

Passing through STL and on to our overnight stop in Indianapolis

A few unusual “road shots” along the way

Complete with (manipulated) “road art”

And the seemingly endemic mid America over the top churches, shown without comment, other than “wow”

Finally arriving at a Marriott on the north side of Indy (in Carmel, IN) in an interesting industrial park

And whoa!  What’s that say?

International Culinary School in the red hot heart of Mid America?   It appears to be allied with the Art Institute of Indianapolis, and there are arms all over the world.

Anyway, no sparkling dinner, preferring to avail ourselves of in room dining.

Next morning we headed north, seeing some pretty stuff

All  looking away from us

And a momentary panic we’d made a wrong turn someplace, 

but not seeing any evidence of a wall, we decided to press on, 

getting some clues along the way that were approaching “Dutch Country”

And of course as expected in “Holland”

Then, with the aid of the GPS we found ourselves at our destination, the

And the curator came out to help unburden the MOMSTER

Took the "stuff" inside and he looked at EVERY one of the artifacts, newspaper articles, pictures, etc…  Finally satisfied we shook hands and departed for a late lunch.   Well, being in Holland and apparently “Craft Brewery/Beer” country of Michigan and on a recommendation from said curator we headed for the New Holland Brewing Company

They had kind of a two tiered dining area, a “regular one” (behind the “Brewing) sign in front and a kind open air one (under the “Holland”), which had an open front for al fresco dining.  We chose the inside of that area

I must admit it wasn’t very (socially) warm or “Pubby”.  It was “off hours” but the service was “off” as well.  Long waits, a complete set of wrong orders brought to another table.   I suppose mid-afternoon is not their rocking time.  I looked at the beer list: “Carte du Bière”?

And selected the “Full Circle”, a Kölsch style brew.  I’m sorry, I’m just not a hop head..

Food was indeed pub food, but I found a Whitefish Po’Boy that was quite tasty (when it eventually swam to the table).  I wish we could get (Lake Michigan) whitefish here.  Quite tasty..

We stayed in a Courtyard in downtown that was very nice.

So that ended our migration from FOJTY’s to the Wolverine State

More to come,  including a real opportunity to


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Small diversion from travel..

One reader will be happy there are no pictures today, well maybe one..

Want to take a little detour from the overall journey to get couple of things (slight rants) off my chest..   otherwise they just pile up and get such a backlog that it is untenable to recount all…   so here we go:

As you know, I watch a lot of television, mostly sporting events (which must be live, or I’m out) and with sporting events on TV, along comes commercials.   There are a few that really aggravate me.

Liberty Mutual Insurance:  a nice young lady positioned with the Statue of Liberty in the background, telling us that she had a car that she loved so much that: “I named it Brad… I loved Brad”; followed by “and then you totaled Brad”..  what? Excuse me? were you drunk? Speeding? Distracted?  Awww, you totaled Brad. Then goes on to say how the insurance company called with the good news with their (optional - $$$) full car replacement, and “you break into your happy dance”.   How sweet.  Oh, by the way, the “optional” full car replacement requires (besides the additional premium):  Policy Deductible applies; Replacement is same model year; totaled car must be less than a year old and have less than 15K miles on it.  More happy dance by the Insurance company.

Michelin Tires:  a series of heart tugging commercials about mommy or daddy getting a text that kid is lonely or something and mommy or daddy brave the elements (only hook to tires, I guess) to come home and comfort the little darling.  Fair enough.  But the version that gets me shows a chef or line cook in front of a prep table, reaches for phone (allowed?), sees text: “ is homesick”.  Looks concerned, puts down phone and…… JUST LEAVES!   Walks off the line.  No communication with Chef… JUST LEAVES.  Just walks!!  If it were my kitchen, she could spend as much time as she wanted with junior before looking for another job.  Sheesh.

Tipping:  some interesting stats from one of my hospitality mags (the one that features a cover teaser about “Best Sandwiches in America”, a future posting.    Anyway, about tipping: 

Best Tippers (in order): Men; Northeasterners; Baby Boomers; Republicans; Those paying with credit cards.  Median tip of that group is 20%.  Women median tip is 16%, with southerners and Democrats is 15%.  Offered without comment. 

Other stats: Percentage of Americans who always leave a tip: 80%;  Percentage of Customers earning above $75K: 99%; 2% of those surveyed never leave a tip (at a sit down restaurant), and 7% said they tipped “only sometimes”.  Just offered without comment. A whole sensitive subject:  tipping.

Wine Speak.  Alert readers will remember that I often go on about winespeak when wines are described as having “hints of barnyard, with overtones of baked clay and crushed blackberries, and sweaty saddle”.  Well in today’s Washington Post Food section there is an review of 29 Chardonnays, Cabernets, and red blends by their wine guy, Dave McIntyre, entitled:  “they’re cheap, and they’re everywhere, But are they worth drinking?”, which reviews wines around 10 bucks.  Common names we see everywhere, Barefoot, Sutter Home, Cupcake, and so forth.  Here’s his winespeak about Chardonnay’s: Barefoot ($8.59): “Industrial aromas of machine oil, as if you’re at a factory rather than a winery.  Green and underripe flavors.”  Cupcake ($11): “Funky, skunky, wet dog”; Yellowtail (white, $6.79): “Caramel? Plastic? Birthday Candle? Sweet and cloying”; Sutter Home ($10 1.5L) “Smells of sewer gas and is simply unpleasant”. Reds fared no better: Frontera Cabernet- Merlot ($5.20): “Boiled Potato Skins, sauced with rendered cough drops”; 14 Hands (Cab $12): “Tire rubber.  Aged in inner tubes.  Like a gym accident when you get strangled by a resistance cord”. 

For value priced Chards, he recommends anything with Robert Mondavi name, like Woodbridge ($7.59):  “rather Tasty”; or RM Private Selection ($11.69) and generally Chilean Reds (Santa Rita 120 Maule Valley, Chile ($9); Cousino-Macul, Maipo Valley ($10.69).

Interesting article.  and what may be most depressing of all, is that according from research last year Americans spent $670 million on Barefoot Wines, with Sutter Home a distant second at $368 million.  Now, you might think that Mr. McIntyre is just being snobby, but his rather colorful descriptions match my experience.   Besides he took the time to respond to me when I sent him an email asking what he meant by a “fun” wine (which he sometimes uses).


Okay enough next edition will get back to our journey through Michigan.. where we did have a couple of legitimate occasions to be


Oh, okay, one image... here’s the subject of a future review…

Monday, September 4, 2017

Training Day

So as I said, after our dainty lunch at Slap’s BBQ, we had another light dinner of….. rib eye steaks!  Arteries closing as we speak.  But, damn, they’re good.    FOJTY did them Sous Vide for us.  Prepared the bath

Bagged the beef

Got the Big Green Egg ready

Smoke and Stanley “helped” by doing doggie things..

......A quick aside about Sous Vide.   I have to admit I’m not sold on the process.  If you’re doing something like steak or ribs or chops, after N hours in the bath, the product is indeed uniformly at whatever temperature you selected, but it is far from “plate ready”.   Usually (at least in the case of the above) a rather unappetizing shade of gray (not fifty…) so you have to do something to make it presentable.   In the case of TE, he uses his BGE for a quick sear since he can get the thing up to 800 degrees or so.

However, even though I still have that “loaner” SV device, I don’t have any method of searing and marking to “finish” the dish.  Weber just isn’t hot enough, ditto my ridged Le Creuset grill pan (both result in further cooking).  So if I’m going to continue to experiment with the Sous Vide technique, I’ll have to either:  a) get an egg ($$$$$);  b) maybe a cast iron pan heated red hot;  or c) get a torch.  At any rate the complete process is not fast.  Time spent in the water bath (Controlled by your smart phone if you wish), then whatever second step you prefer. Maybe practice makes perfect.
Anyway as previewed last posting TE’s was quite tasty. And perfectly cooked throughout, which is what you lose with plain grilling..

So next morning after a breakfast of bacon and sweets, we drove to over to a local park to help (watch) further training of Smoke and Stanley.  The curriculum of the day was refining their retrieving skills.  A competition was coming up so more practice was in order.

Turns out it is a pretty formal ritual.   They have a “fake” duck they use for training purposes.  Starts out with the dog next to its master (TY) who then launches the “duck”

The dog must stay until the command “Go Fetch!” is given, and then he is free to launch

Then swim to the duck
                Carefully mouth it and return to the “hunter”.

This try wasn’t so good as the duck is off to the side.  Points off!  And there is a procedure to surrender the trophy to the handler.  You don’t just drop it, you hold on till you’re told “Give” and only then can it leave your mouth…

Not just your fun “duck huntin’” day. It was fun watching them do it over and over… to a point. 

All that hard work built up an appetite so we headed back for Overland Park and br/l/unch.  Overland Park is one of those places that used to be a “suburb” of Kansas City, but of course the city has grown to engulf and then pass it by, with there are a bunch of store fronts, some of which has been re-purposed with more modern occupants

Peanut” is a sports bar which is one of a several branches of the self-proclaimed “Oldest Bar and Grill in Kansas City” dating from prohibition times.  The location we visited was in an old building in Overland Park, and is pretty much a standard sports bar with lots of flat screens broadcasting various sporting events and a menu of bar typical bar food: burgers, wings, and (7!) varieties of Nachos.  It being Sunday, they had a special brunch insert in their usual menu.  For some reason, a Huevos Rancheros entry caught my eye.   Why one would order such a dish in mid-west beef territory escapes me, and I would have to candidly admit I was punished for it.   It wasn’t the best version I’ve encountered.

The tortillas were kind of on the rubbery side, and I've never seen hash browns with that dish, but the beer was cold and conversation good.  What the heck, we were with FOJTY and wife (and granddogs)… anything is good.

An afternoon rest was welcomed, and as it was our last day with them, it was “life goes on” time for the “Y’s”.   TY was going to load up the dogs early (4am!) and head for Nebraska for a “training camp” for the pups, and his wife (the nurse) had to be up and out early the next morning.  So we dined on Pizza from “Minsky’s”, a local chain that produces pizza they liked (despite the odd combination of name and product). 

So when we arose the next morning we awoke to an empty house and made our lonely departure for Michigan and the “museum” phase of our odyssey. 

It was sad to leave “kid country” and both the “J’s”.  Each time we leave it gets tougher and the tug grows stronger.  We even did drive by a couple of retirement communities for “fun”.   Yikes..

Anyway with sights on “Indiana-no-place” for an overnight pause, and then Michigan, the memorabilia laden MOMSTER departed, and also lugging stuff to


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Barbecue for me and you

Moving right along: 

Last time we chatted, I mentioned that a certain category of signs got denser (I guess that’s a word).   Seems the closer you get to Kansas City the more you see:

Including this beauty:

Seemed kind of odd to me that they tout "KC" Baby Back Ribs.  Around here (Maryland) we are accustomed to seeing on meat markets and menus “St. Louis Style Baby Backs..”

I have not been to other meccas for BBQ such as Memphis, San Antonio, Raleigh, Oklahoma City and so forth but Kansas City has to be prominent.  They appear to love their BBQ..  KC style is supposed to be slowly smoked meat, slathered with tomato-based, sweet, spicy sauce with tangy flavor profiles.  I’m not sure I found that to be the case, most of what we had with FOJTY was indeed smoked, but generally sauces were in those messy squeeze bottles on the side.  Of course since I’ve been there twice now, I’m an expert.  However, FOJTY is pretty close to an expert.  He’s thoroughly scouted the area, and eats and cooks a lot of the smoked beef and pork.

Once you’re past the signs and actually in KC, “Que” restaurants (seems like I shouldn’t call them “joints”) abound. 

And as evidence of the popularity of BBQ,  most of the “famous” ones always have lines such as “Joes Kansas City Bar B Que” Original Gas Station (not to be confused with the "knock off" above) is where we've been on a previous visit 

and besides the outside lines inside is generally packed

Apparently waiting in lines is expected and accepted just to get their fix.   Most don’t have table service, you wait in line (like the Soup Nazi), read the board, give somebody your order, shuffle down the counter to eventually pick up your order, look for an open chair, sit down and enjoy.

On this trip we drove by several venues including Joe’s but didn’t eat there this time, also past Q39, with the line outside

One of TY’s favorites is

Which follows the common model, and we stopped in for a late lunch, and fortunately there was no line

Until you got inside where you kind of had to squeeze in the door, then snake around the perimeter until you got to the pressure point.

If you’re a “regular” like the TY’s, you know what you want, but I always strain to read the board (usually unsuccessfully).  Doesn’t help that they use “cutesy” names for the sandwiches and describe the actual dish in 2 point font below

To avoid holding up the line and stammering, I’ve developed a strategy of positioning myself behind FOJ, and then employ the “when Harry met Sally” ploy of “I’ll have what he’s having”.   Can’t go wrong emulating him, he’s the connoisseur. 

So I wound up with a combo of Ribs and “Burnt Ends”:

A traditional part of Kansas City barbecue, burnt ends are considered a delicacy in barbecue cooking. the entire brisket is cooked whole, then the point end removed and cooked further, or the point and flat are separated prior to cooking. Due to the higher fat content of the brisket point, it takes longer to fully cook to tender and render out fat and collagen. This longer cooking gave rise to the name "burnt ends"

Anyway, the guy behind the glass sliced the ribs

The “ends” were added and I chose “sides” of beans and potato salad so here’s my "light" lunch

Ribs to the left, ends to the right. 

Served “Just Right” style with butcher paper and a red paper basket and waxed paper for the food, Styrofoam abounds and plastic cutlery.  The down side of the “Harry and…” technique is that FOJTE can put away more food in one sitting than I want or can consume, so he usually gets my left overs, which he did on this occasion. 

The food was very good, and with sauce on the side I could regulate the heat, and one of the bottles did contain the kind of milder sweet variety.  Good food.  Even the beans and potato salad was (I hope) not from the Sysco truck but in house made.  What could be better than good food, Royals baseball, and an enthusiastic crowd that was attired “just right..”

On the way out, we stopped by the (idle) smoker

While we’re sort of on the subject of Burnt Ends, although it didn’t follow the "Slaps" meal the next day we hit another popular spot for dessert, Betty Rae’s (hand dipped) Ice Cream.  After waiting in the apparently necessary line outside

You get in another Soup Nazi line, with a chance to look at the “menu board”

And the reason I include this is the “new” ice cream entry at the top of the list

While waiting in line it was all the talk “have you tried it yet?”  “hey, honey look at that” and it was a popular choice.  So once again you gave your selection to the lady behind the glass who relayed it to the “scoopers” who prepared your cone or dish

Note the “backhand” technique

Of course FOJTY had the burnt ends

And gave me a lick.   Indeed, it did have a smoky, BBQ flavor, I’m just not convinced it’s a combination worth making.   But, of course it is Kansas City where they are apparently BBQ obsessed. 

Oh, after our dainty lunch at Slap’s another edition will show what we had for dinner that night.

with ever hopeful Smoke watching closely 
aside (for maybe KWW): did you know my lightroom photo program doesn't do "red eye" on dogs?

And obviously at least at the BBQ places, there isn’t much of a code for