Sunday, July 27, 2014

The old catch all "Of this and that"



Wow, I still have to find out where that time goes.. been a week since we've looked at each other, so


here’s a few things that happened in between.

Church food
A week ago yesterday our long time friend from DC came down and we all got lunch from the semi-annual Church Dinner at our local Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Mary’s City.  As you know I am a fan of “church lady” food, but I’ve never had the opportunity to sample theirs.  So we got in the car and did a take out order for the three of us.  They have it down to a science, you drive up, tell guy number one how many you want (no choices), give guy number two your cash, tell kid number one you don’t want to buy desserts, reaffirmed to kid number three, and by the time you get past them, kids numbers four and five give you your bagged up meal. Budda Bing, Budda Bam..  move along.  Since it was a lovely day, we chose to have lunch on the back porch, and it was pretty good.  I really think that all this stuff




did not come from the big silver truck, but is actually made by the “church ladies”, the numbers of which I don’t know.  For your twenty four bucks, you get: Biscuit and pretty tasty ham (top left, sliced, not lunch meat); boiled parsley potatoes; requisite green beans (most likely courtesy of Del Monte – has to be, it’s a tradition); two  hefty pieces of fried chicken; 3 decent sized and tasting crab cakes; and tubs of slaw, pickled beets, applesauce, and cocktail sauce.  Definitely more than one would eat for a lunch and in fact provided another dinner.  Good stuff.

Volunteering
Following lunch, I went up to Waldorf to help take down the Mission of Mercy Dental operation 

nearly 800 patients received dental care from over 80 dentists in two days, all volunteers.  A great community service project.

Hard Foodie Work 
Later in the week, I ventured up to DC to participate in the tasting for this year’s Hospital Gala.  Nirvana for the Bottom Feeder.  Sneak peek at a possible dessert:   


fallen chocolate souffle cake
fudge sauce, vanilla bean ice cream, and fresh berries.

Between the potential apps, first and second courses, and desserts, we were forced to sample about twenty items. Hard, grueling, exacting work, but all in an effort to provide wonderful food for the event in November.  Actually the hard part is saying we’ll take this over that, when in reality they are all very good.  Another good food journey!

More Food Work!
Kind of the rest of the week was (sporadically) spent in preparing the stuff for the August SMC Tourism web site (“Moody Views”).  You will be able to see it soon (if you want), it was sort of an interesting evolution.  I think I showed you the stuffed ham piece from Phyllis Richman a few posts ago, so I thought, “well, I’ll just embellish on that, make a nice little piece about St. Mary’s County stuffed ham, and knock it out”.  Not so fast, oh, Kale breath.  It turns out (I find through diligent research) that virtually every freaking food blogger out there at one point has “discovered” our local delicacy and done a column on it.  Always give a recipe, but what I found interesting was that their explanation for the origins of the dish were all over the place.  One article claimed that notes from none other than George Calvert mentioned it, some said slaves, some went so far as to identify a slave at St. Inigoes manor, and so forth.  So I sort of diverted off in that direction, and although I didn’t solve anything, I think I got a reasonable evolution.  During the course of research I got some photos from MFO at the SMC Historical Society.  Neat stuff, here’s a sample of county resident Ms. Mary Ora Norris displaying her product.


Was a fun exercise.. learned a lot

Another Trip
Its funny about food. You never know where it’s going to take you.  Like above, a simple thought of illustrating stuffed ham took me to England, the Caribbean, St. Mary’s City various districts of the county (Kale north, Cabbage south).  Kind of the same with that waffle/chicken thing.  I spout off on “what the heck is this?” and find I don’t know beans about another traditional dish.  Like I get a note from my friend on the other coast who grew up in Nebraska, saying they had waffles and…..pheasant!  Then I saw a recipe in some food mag (I couldn’t find) that was for waffles and…. Quail!  They're everywhere!! Neat stuff. And the Lay’s potato chips are still awful.  Don’t be tempted.  Not even fit for tuna casserole topping.

The Elements
And lastly weather played a part in my week.  On Thursday we had some pretty healthy storms go through and after they passed they treated us to a beautiful rainbow




I don’t have a wide enough lens to show it, but it was horizon to horizon, and at one point was even double. 

Then yesterday I spent a few hours at the Chapel at Historic St. Mary’s answering questions and giving the history to guests who were interested.  It varies a lot.  It was Tidewater Archeology Weekend there with lots of special events and tours all highlighting the Archeology of the site. Somehow that didn’t translate into higher visitation at the Chapel, although there were quite a few folks at the planned talk by Dr. Henry Miller.  Mercifully, sun stayed above the clouds and it wasn’t awful during the long periods I was alone.  At one point an approaching storm made a pretty sight.




So that is how the week whisked by somehow (anybody seen any of that time going by?).  It’s always something..  FOJTE enjoying life (and wine and food) in Napa, FOJTY enjoying using his new smoker with brisket and pork butt on the way..  Unfortunately neither will deliver so their poor, aging parents are left to fend for ourselves tonight.  Most likely something like dried beans, pantry kind of bare and we don’t want to go out.. BUT, for cocktails we WILL be


DFD

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Waffling Around

Waffling

Well, once again, the Feeder is enlightened and astounded (well, that might be a little too generous) plus a little humbled by the knowledge of the readers.  Just when you think you know something, you get learned.  Many readers responded to my posting about chicken and waffles flavored chips, letting me know that C&W it has been a historically favorite dish in some communities.  So, I did a little scratching around for the history, and as usual, found different stories from different sources.  The same is true for the stuffed ham I am working on also.  One source claims that it was “invented” by one Joe Wells in his Harlem restaurant of the same name in New York, in 1938.  Performers such as Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington would come in for something after their performances, and since it was too late for dinner and too early for breakfast, the imaginative Joe served fried chicken with a side of waffles.

Another source says that after Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron home from France in the late 18th century, waffles became popular, and recipes for C&W began to appear in cookbooks.  Slaves who rarely had a chance to eat chicken, but were familiar with flapjacks and pancakes, considered both chicken with waffles a delicacy.  I even consulted the food historian Michael Twitty who allowed as how “Chicken and Waffles is straight up antebellum South… I don’t care what they say!”

So I go from a bag of chips in the store to learning even more about food traditions.  I am having kind of the same experience while researching the origins of Stuffed Ham.  More on that later.. Oh, by the way, the C&W chips themselves are still bad even if they do hearken back to a legitimate food tradition.

Tipping

While I was penning (or tapping) the posting before this one, I kept thinking there was something I wanted to mention.  Almost a week later, it finally occurred to me, a situation that happens with more regularity lately.  It grew out of my viewing of the Baseball All Star Game last week.  I am sad to report that the fine art of “hat tipping” appears to be dying.  I don’t know how many players and managers there were on both teams, but only the St. Louis Cardinal team seemed to be keeping the tradition alive.  The classic hat tipping technique is when the player curls his forefinger slightly over the brim of the hat, second knuckle lightly cradling it, just past the eye, and puts the thumb underneath, and then WITHOUT moving the hat, slightly moving the hand in a quick downward motion.  That’s it.  Simple, honoring the uniform you’re wearing, and just a humble acknowledgement of the crowd's applause.   It is NOT tipping the whole thing back, or (God forbid) removing the hat entirely and waving it over your head, in a cheap “look at me!!” gesture and letting us see your hair (or lack thereof).   Tacky and a rookie move.

And, speaking of hitting balls with something, I watched the final round of the British Open (or, more properly, “The Open Championship”) this morning.    Even though Rory McIlroy had six strokes in his pocket this morning, it turned out to be a close finish with Sergio and Rickey Fowler nipping at his heels.  Rory now has three of the four Majors in his trophy case, and the drama will heighten as we build toward next year’s Master’s in Augusta.  In this day of athletes getting arrested for this and that, or succumbing to addiction of various substances, it is so nice to see somebody who smiles as he plays, and is fresh and candid in interviews.  And this year, despite all the Tiger hype and adoration by ESPN, it was pleasurable to watch a tournament where we didn’t have to watch every routine chip of somebody ten strokes off the pace.  Tiger was pretty much off the course before, or shortly after, Rory teed off.  Phil never really threatened either.  Rory's mother was there and he gave her a big hug.  Sweet kid.  I hope success doesn't destroy him.  I have hopes it won't.  It was also a bit sad to see Sergio fall short again, as the monkey grows larger on his back.  Great stuff..

Reading

And veering back to food for a closing note, I got my favorite issue of almost my favorite magazine this week, the Southern Food Issue of Garden and Gun.  The cover photo is of a country breakfast featuring a lovely slice of country fried ham, grilled fingerling potatoes, sliced (probably heirloom) tomatoes, and topped by two gorgeous fried eggs (which I could never hope to duplicate).  I’m sure the result of careful food styling but it looks good.  Have not had the time to (too easy) digest the issue yet, but notice there is a piece on whether you like okra or filé as a thickening agent in your gumbo, plus articles by John T. Edge and the Lee Brothers.  Maybe they could give some insight into Chicken and Waffles.  Meanwhile, I remain


DFD

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chips Ahoy...



You got to give those smart guys at the snack companies credit.  They’re always thinking.  

Maybe the king of snacks is the once humble potato chip (or crisps, depending on your location) which has been around since the mid nineteenth century.  Don’t know if you notice these things as I do, but there is an astonishing number of people who make them.  Gourmet, plain, wavy, baked (bad, bad), brown russets, thick cut, kettle cooked, the styles are endless.  And on top of that is the flavors.  Almost anything you can think of is made by somebody.  As testimony, one of my recent favorites is the “Dill Pickle” flavor by the Lay’s people.  Sounds bad, tastes good.  Speaking of Lay’s they recently (months ago) launched a “win a million bucks” campaign, asking consumers to submit ideas for a flavor.  When we were in Giant the other day, I spied a bag that announced the winner.  A Karen Weber – Mendham got the $1M, and will spend it on “college and braces for the kids.. then maybe some shoes for me”.  How cute.  Still a million is a million.  All because she came up with the suggestion of “Cheesy Garlic Bread”.  Naturally we had to get a bag, and since they were having a special of two for one we got another newcomer, Chicken and Waffles (!!)..





Cheesy Garlic Bread I can fathom, but how they came up with the Chicken and Waffles baffles me.  I think I am reasonably up on food culture, and for the life of me I don’t think I know of any traditional link between the two.  Since the picture shows fried chicken, I would guess that maybe it would be from the “south”.  Waffle houses began in the south, so there is maybe a link somehow there.  I have never eaten in one, but anyway.

As for the taste test, the Cheesy weren’t too bad and in fact MFO really liked them.  On the other hand (or mouth) the Waffle variety are (IMHO) really BAD!.  The waffle flavor comes through big time, but neither of us could get any hint of chicken.  And like their namesake, they were quite sweet.  The ones in the picture are from that bag.  The color is sort of off putting.. no more bags for us.  yuck. 

And yes, dear readers, I know that potato chips are not the best for you.. but they pair well (ha ha) with certain items…

Technology marches on

I think I mentioned that I have acquired a new tablet/laptop since the hard drive in this cumbersome laptop appears to be on its last legs.  The new Lenovo weighs but a fraction of this beast and I thought it would be my travel preference to handle the wonderful pictures I take while on the journey.  Accordingly I loaded the photo processing software on it with some help from a more savvy friend, and after the requisite amount of hassle it installed.  Well, in messing around with it, I found a curiosity that a certain amount of existing files would not load correctly.  Don’t need to go into the details here, but began to try to troubleshoot.  Finally I threw up my hands and tried to get on an Adobe site to ask a question.  I got in an endless loop of “need to register” and finally quit in frustration.  

Yesterday with the help of “get a human”, I finally got a phone number and called up.  Eventually, after a series of “for….press one, two, five, etc.” I was told an agent would be with me in 3 to 4 minutes.  After 30 of them, a person did come on the line. It was apparent that I was dealing with an “off shore” facility and then after proving who I was and a series of “excuse me? Could you repeat that?” exchanges, I explained what my problem was.  The person I was speaking with (not necessarily communicating) finally said I had to talk to somebody in the photography department..  Gee, you think?  

After another pause I was speaking to Sangeeta.  And although I am sounding snarky, she spent the better part of two hours sharing my desktop, changing this, changing that, she was really nice and patient with me.  During the lulls waiting for the electrons to move, I found out that yes, she was in India, it was two o’clock in the morning there, and she works from five thirty pm to about three five days a week.  She likes it, and agreed it was a bit hard on the social life.  I opted not to ask her age.  Anyway, she did everything she knew how (I think she did know LIghtroom) and in the end was unable to fix the problem.  She said it would have to be passed up the line, and I will get a call within the next 48 hours with the solution.  I am hopeful.  Adobe seems to be a pretty considerate company, and I have to thank Sangeeta for her efforts. 

At one point because she was browsing through my catalog, she remarked that “you have a lot of pictures of food!”, which engendered a short conversation about being a food blogger, etc.  We never did get to considering being


DFD

Monday, July 14, 2014

keep on buzzing...



A couple of notes that didn’t get in the previous “buzz” report.

Did you see there was a picture in our newspaper probably a week ago showing all the local pols lined up with the big scissors cutting a ribbon on our new Sonic?  Great!  Let’s publicize all the chains we can..  C’mon down to Lexington Park.. we’re the place with all the power poles that blend into the horizon..

And in yet another advance for our little complex next to the Golden Corral that welcomes you to our subdivision, there is a new customer moving into the “Twist” building.  It is called VAPOR99.  



Well, you might ask (as I did) what the heck is that?  I had to go to my sort of “go to” guy of pop culture and what’s going on, and come to find out it is what is called a “vape store”.  Well, you might ask (as I did) what the heck is that?   Turns out it is a store that supports electronic cigarettes and paraphernalia:  “Our shop offers electronic cigarettes, vaping liquids, and other related merchandise”.  There comes a point in your life that you begin to feel “out of it”..  Voila!  Apparently Lafayette, we are here..

I continue to enjoy Tom Sietsema’s food reviews in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine.  Believe me, it is not easy to churn those things out every week and remain fresh and interesting (a condition most readers are probably all too familiar with).  I like his style and perspective.  He started out a review of “Thally” in the 6 July issue with the following:  “Are you tired of sliders and carpaccio and cooks (italics mine) who would rather be mugging on the Food Network than making your dinner?”.  Couldn’t agree more, Tom.    A little further on he mentions that Ron Tanaka (chef – with a resume including CityZen, Palena, and Citronelle)  “thinks food should be secondary to bringing people together around a table”.   According to the review, Ron doesn’t have that problem.  Tom gives the place two and a half stars.  Anyway, my point is that Mr. Sietsema seems to have the right idea.  Wonder what he thinks about


DFD

ps my (now un) trusty laptop apparently gave up the hard drive ghost, so now i am struggling trying to adapt with my "new" lenovo, which is far from intuitive..

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Buzzing around Locally


Happy weekend!!  More restaurant buzz, this time a little closer to home.  To paraphrase Yogi a bit, you can hear a lot just by listening..  It is interesting what you hear in groups when the topic turns to food..

I was at a small gathering last night which was attended by some folks that were: a) young(er), and b) relatively new to the county (I surmised).  Anyway at one point restaurants came up and this couple said that they had found a “new place” down by Ridge, called “Curtney’s” or something.  They were quickly corrected to Courtney’s, but they went on to describe the place and how when they came in somebody was asleep and had to be awakened to serve them.  Yup, they got the right place.  Anyhow they went on to say it was some of the best seafood they have had down here.  Just was surprised that there was somebody who had never heard of our iconic Courtney’s.

At the same party, somebody said they didn’t much like the “new" Lighthouse, but mostly because of the layout, not the food..Feeder has still not visited.

Other snippets gathered from various sources, with the caveat that in the restaurant/food service business, nothing is ever certain…

The Stoney’s empire may expand to this side of the Patuxent, and move into the “old“ Clarke’s Landing, vacated when the “old” team moved into the “new” Lighthouse.

The Solomons Island Yachting Center (in behind the Star of the Sea Church) may becoming involved in (yet another) resurrection of DiGiovanni’s.

Somebody at that gathering mentioned above said that they thought St. James Pub was reopened…  have sent a note to a stringer who might actually know. Break break, who just replied and said that it is NOT open..

Charles Street Brasserie (Harbor Lights/Sounds – Solomons) – from their facebook page of July 9:   “Charles Street Brasserie is Proud to introduce Executive Chef Carl Cooksey and Head Chef Jimmy Lazzero! (photo embedded) These two Chefs have created a menu that infuses a Latin/Mediterranean influence with a Southern Maryland twist. Their unique and creative dishes promise to give Charles Street Brasserie's dinners an off the hook experience. Watch for our pre-opening announcements in just a few days!”  A post from the 10th has an interior shot.

The Beer Cave (in the Sunoco station) on Piney Point Road is upgrading its supply of beer, wine, and spirits, claiming they will “offer every quality brand out there” of small batch Bourbon and Whisky.  They also offer fishing equipment and ammunition..

The Rex has put up a sign on the space in Leonardtown.

The other day after a visit to St. Mary’s County Historical Society to do research on Stuffed Ham (a long story, to be related later) we decided on taking lunch at Café Des Artistes.  It continues to be an oasis in the middle of the day for a leisurely lunch of reliably good food.  On the day we visited (I think Wednesday) there were many, many, people who had the same idea and by the time we left, I think it was full, and we saw lots of friends. 

I pondered the menu for a long time, and finally decided Damn it, I’m going for it!  Only (?) on Wednesdays (“Hump day”), they have Camel Burger on the menu.  Chef Loic always has interesting Plat du Jours, and despite plans to try the Burger (in the name of Feeder Research) I somehow always divert at the last minute.  Well, not this time.  While MFO had the always reliable La  Poitrine de Poulet au Crabe (figure it out), I boldy went for the Burger (and was told that it sort of “came” medium rare) and was topped with “Creamy Swiss and a caramelized onion & bacon aioli”.  Of the three side options (salad, soup du jour, fries) I chose the soup which was a creamy squash and spinach. Which turned out to be quite attractive, and the soup was very good (as always)




Apparently Camel meat is consumed in Australia and Dubai (where burgers are characterized as a “new sensation”) and some Muslim communities.  However, I have done my duty as a food critic, and I am pretty sure that is my last Camel Burger.  Given a choice for burgers, I would opt for beef if available.  I’m sure there are cultural factors at work here, but I thought the Camel meat was a bit “chewy”, and lacked fat content making it kind of dry (which was helped by the toppings).  It also seemed to me to have kind of an aftertaste to it.  Like anything else, you should give it a try sometime and see what you think, and thanks to the Café for giving us options not available elsewhere..

Okay, enough of bending your ear, I gotta go mow the lawn.


DFD (to the gentleman with sleeveless T shirt and extensive body art)