Monday, December 28, 2009

(Let it snow)**3...

LaCrosse, WI, 28 December 2009

And it did, eventually. The stay in St. Louis included couple of dinners (Almonds, Trattoria Marcella, Luciano’s Trattoria, and a lunch at Lesters – separate report forthcoming) and a loat of rain led up to the traditional Christmas Eve dinner at FOJTE’s consisting of assorted cheeses and meats, little bits, and sparkling wine preceding a lovely dinner of mushroom soup, salad a la Beth, the traditional lasagna, some asparagus with sesame seeds (as I remember), and assorted desserts. Oh yes, and there was wine, and more wine, and did I mention there was wine?

Christmas day dawned gray with even more rain, and I started obsessing about the trip next day, watching “Holiday Blizzard” reports on the weather channel, watching white blobs rotate around our intended destination of LaCrosse, WI.

But prior to that we gathered at FOJTY’s family digs to celebrate Christmas with them and TE and wife also joined us. Since we were going to “do presents” we didn’t do a sit down, but sort of a grazing table. A great selection of food, cheeses, charcuterie, veggies with hummus and tapenade, some of the heavenly Straub’s chicken salad, chicken skewers, toasted rav, mini stuffed potatoes, too many choices. And, of course there was more wine. there's always more wine...

Speaking of which, were given a fine bottle by a friend for "the boys" to enjoy..

Which indeed was by all the Flutter Boys (Y and E)note, by prior agreement we all relaxed the DFD code for the evening..

We finally parted after a piece of MFO’s traditional apple pie (hey, Christmas is all about tradition, right?).

Back in the motel, my angst began to mount as more weather reports from the upper Midwest used words like paralyzed and hazardous. Shall we go? Wait a day? Yes, no, yes, no…Finally in the end (with some gentle encouragement from MFO) we decided “…… it”, we’ll start and see what happens. More white knuckles.

All was well until somewhere north of Bloomington, when those little white flakes began to coagulate and my heart rate went up.

The rest of the day was spent negotiating increasing and decreasing amounts of snow on the road. It probably never got really hazardous, just enough to keep you alert, wondering what the next mile(s) would bring. But, we plodded on. As we got just a little north of Madison, the sun shone briefly, pavement was clear and we thought we were out of the woods. Yeah, right. clouds came in again, and snow began falling as did the sun. It’s amazing how darkness adds another level of concern. We began seeing cars in ditches (hopefully those bas---ds who wanted to show off how fast they could drive), and the average speed dropped below 45 mph, everybody staying in line. We got off at Baraboo for gas even though we were only about 100 miles from Lacrosse at the time. Getting back on the highway we were greeted by rotating blue and red lights, where a bunch of cops and wreckers were engaged in extracting two cars from the ditch. 35 mph. we then saw more lights a mile or so later and were ushered into a single lane on a bridge so as to avoid the Jeep Cherokee that had it’s front considerably shortened by the bridge abutment. Okay, that’s enough!. Off next exit, U turn, and back to Exit 92.

We, along with several other of our fellow travelers were holing up for the night. We were smart enough to select a Holiday Inn Express. The room was good, except for “the facility”. It was the smallest toilet that I’ve ever seen in my life.

Without getting too graphic, as we were all trained in the use of a toilet, one must be able to get certain parts of the anatomy positioned so that the toilet is useful. We’ll just say that that involved a certain amount of effort with this particular model--"no, but i designed the bathrooms in a holiday inn last night..."

Okay, enough of that. On the good side, we were equipped with wine and left over food that provided a wonderful refuge from the storm, allowing words to soften and nerves to unwind and let the damn snow/ice/salt do what it would.. Tip - how to live on the road: (ALWAYS bring your own glassware!! Nothing ruins a bottle of wine like drinking it from Styrofoam: – ahhh, hints of plastic with cellophane overtones!)

Next morning the Wisconsin road crews had done their work, and we were able to complete the journey in relatively calm conditions.

And there was no doubt which state we were in

Oh yes, my first meal in Wisconsin was a Butterburger yesterday..

For which I really didn’t have to be


predicted low for tonight - 4 degrees

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Driving in a Winter Wonder......

And so, it began. Monday, there was white on the ground,

in the air, and on the knuckles as we steered the fluttermobile toward the beltway, as the best wx knowledge I could find was to avoid the 301/95/64/81/64 through West (BG) Virginia. So, girded for battle, we headed north up to DC. It turned out to be not so bad, as we only came to a standstill twice, and then maybe for only about 17 minutes (which of course seems like an ice age). We finally hit I70 and headed west, only finding a few places where people facing a snow constricted lane ahead veered out in front of you. Yikes! Diverting onto I68 to Morgantown, we then dove south toward Charleston on I79 (riveting reading, eh?). That portion of the drive turned out to be the prettiest, as all the trees were still snow covered, making a “winter wonderland”. Deer grazed by the road (more white knuckles) and we only saw two trucks overturned in the median (with more briefish slowdowns as stout wreckers tried to extract them). Unfortunately the camera stayed in the bag. Another 4 hours from Charleston and we safely holed up for the night in Lexington, KY. 11 hours, 608 hard fought miles with only a couple of “Holy…s…s!”. Due to the rather late arrival, we eschewed a dinner at our favorite “Johnathon’s at Gratz Park”, a lovely spot, and instead hunkered down with a very nice (Aus.) Henschke ’07 Eden Valley Riesling, some cheese we brought for the purpose, some Whitley’s nuts, and Monday night football. Spirits (so to speak, revivied).

Tuesday was a comparative cake walk (drive?) as the snow dwindled the further west got, and we were able to enjoy the Kentucky country side in the daylight, although a lot fot he time this is what we saw:

As we’ve noted before, the area around Lexington is just beautiful with lovely barns and rolling hills. I could really enjoy living in that area. Besides all the rolling green hills and “horsey” stuff, there’s always the Bourbon Trail to investigate. They are hosting the World Equestrian Games next year, and there’s already lots adverts about it. As MFO took her turn at the wheel, I did unleash the camera and was able to get a few shots from the car of some local scenery and culture. Its always amazing to see what great things there are in our great country. Scenery ranged from the natural

Urban settings like Louisville:

further west into

With a few cultural oddities here and there

But by and large the country and its people provided the best scenes

A special report on STL restaurants will be forthcoming….for which, of course, we were appropriately


have a great Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What a weekend!!

It started out with this;

and ended with this:

there were some hungry customers waiting for us (this suffices for the foodie part)

as you can tell, he was elegantly


last post from maryland, still hitting the road tomorrow

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wrong, Mr. Wolfe!

You (sometimes) CAN go home again..

Such as yesterday when I re-visited the old home of Hangar 201 to attend the annual “Christmas Pot Luck” luncheon. Yet another chance for grazing. Although not the time for this discussion, not being around the people and the building on a daily basis has been one of the hardest adjustments during “retirement”. I am not sure I am there yet, but as I said, another time. Entering the “trailers” it was just like I never left, although a few people are situated in different desks, the place has not changed much. The happy team in the radio room, the engineers in strip chart lined cubicles, and many had kind words for me. Meant a lot. I have to admit on my way through the hangar I touched an F-18 (carefully and with extensive knowledge of what to touch). But, nostalgia wasn’t why I was there, and I proceeded to the “waterside” of the hangar where the food was laid out, along with several tables for sitting and eating. Again, many familiar faces I was glad to see.

As for the food, it was the usual situation, there were “store bought” main courses in the form of some very plain sandwiches (condiments and flourishes on the side), fried chicken, but most of the other stuff was supplied by the team. I won’t be so foolish as to “rate” anything, and I really didn’t try everything, but there were some very good dishes. Although the originator of the now classic “cheesy potatoes” wasn’t present, I’m pretty sure her recipe was, always glorious in its creamy, cheesy load of calories. Several “hot pot” dishes were in crock pots (I think now more commonly deemed “slow cookers”). I have to start working (harder) on people to put labels on their dishes. Be proud! Let people know what’s in there. You took the time and effort to create it, take credit and describe it. For instance there was a very tasty crock of some very dark stew (?) containing chunks of venison (?) which maybe had molasses. A little sign would help. My mother used to make something called “Beef and Bean Hot Pot”, which I was reminded of by another dish, mostly because they used white lima beans (a much underutilized and under-appreciated ingredient). It had a little kick which I enjoyed very much. If somebody had let us know who created it, I might ask for the recipe. There were salads of all nature and of course the desserts which ranged from complicated to simple. You just can’t beat this time of year for this stuff.

But (you’ve heard this before) just seeing old friends and chatting, being in the trailers again, observing the traditional train set on somebody’s cubicle, looking at the decorations, was the most rewarding. I also have to admit I stuck my head in my old office, and somehow it was immensely satisfying to see that it was exactly the same as it was the day I walked out. Unkempt, messy, old notes and phone numbers still on the white board, piles of “stuff” hastily left behind, a stray pen on the floor, and so on. I could come back, see! Well, maybe not. Leave the memories in the memory locker and don’t mess with them. Mr. Wolfe is right about that part..And of course I did


Editors Note… we’re leaving on Monday to head for St. Louis for the annual Christmas trek, then up to Wisconsin… yes, Wisconsin. Hopefully, a road report will appear depending on the whims of the technology…

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lite Grazing Wednesday

Another chance for great grazing last night as I attended the annual party for the “friends” down at Historic St. Mary’s City. Another chance to see the decorations in the State House, with the added benefit of some of the best grazing, as most people brought a “dish to pass” (although somehow they are never passed). There were catered chicken salad croissants and stuffed ham sandwiches, along with a pasta bow tie salad, but most everything else was voluntarily supplied. There was the famous Oyster Stew, Vegetable Crab Soup, and Italian Sausage with Peppers supplied by the hostess, which was as usual quite tasty. Outside of that were a plethora of little plates of things such as batter fried olives, spinach balls, cheeses, sausages, spiced nuts, a myriad of dips and layered things, all the stuff you would expect. Without notes I couldn’t begin to list all. Of course it engendered that unavoidable juggling act of forks, spoons, plates, napkins, and glasses of beverages. Mercifully chairs were arranged around the perimeter so one could sit and balance. The upstairs was devoted to desserts, where lots of people like to strut their stuff. Most everything up there had signs, and there were more cookies than you could sample, let alone the fudges, those little “square” thingies, and "bars" of various kinds. There was some great peanut brittle, some little (St. Mary's County) venison mince meat tartlets, and some “lemon knots” that pleased my palate. And of course on top of all that, there were friends and new people to meet and greet. A great evening. And, (shameless promotion here) you can be part of this next year if you “join” Historic St. Mary’s City, not to mention all the other benefits available for being associated with a great feature of the area in which there is nothing to do..

MFO for her part reported that the meeting discussing the “new” library was split about 50/50 between speakers pro and con. Not here, not now, seems to be the main objection. I suspect that monies will, like all things carry the day. Too bad.

As for "sports" sadly, as William Blake says:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry

What a waste.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rants and Reason....

Okay, first I have to let off a little steam, so if you will indulge me I think I’ll vent a little ....get it off my chest and then say something more important

Sometimes I think the drivers around here are “getting it”, and sometimes I have to wonder. Once again I fetched up behind a completely motionless car waiting to turn right on Rte. 235 from Millstone landing. From previous reports of this frustration, you know there is probably a quarter mile of unobstructed pavement before reaching Maple road. True, there are some entrances, but if you keep your eyes open you can accelerate, and seamlessly merge into flowing traffic. Or, you can sit and wait the approximately three minutes for all lanes to clear when the demons in the traffic lights determine they will stay flow of steel, and cut straight across the lane into the right traffic lane. Well, you say, what if I want to go across all three lanes so as to run left into Chancellors Run road?. To a lot of the drivers I’ve seen here, I think that would represent a great challenge and a chance to demonstrate those skills of cutting people off, sudden darting lane changes, or tailgating (I’m drafting!) learned from observing experienced drivers such as Kyle Gordon or Jeff Petty.

It seems lately that the rash of exposés of Tiger’s escapades (no further comment) have re-kindled the use of a term that I don’t like or really understand. Have you noticed that all of the salacious/pandering “interviews” of: Tiger’s paramours; parents of Casey Anthony; friends of Amanda Knox; relatives of crime victims; pick one, are always preceded by: So and so is now “Speaking Out!" What the heck does that mean? They don’t appear with a megaphone in their hand, so it doesn’t have to do with volume. Before now, have they been “speaking IN”? They can’t just say “we’ll be talking to…..”, or “now and interview with….”. Nope they have to be “Speaking out”.End of Rant (for now).

More importantly

I don’t get into local politics (by design), but I have been bemused lately by the “controversy” over the “new” library in Leonardtown. Starting out a (nearly) done deal, a sorely needed expanded facility was planned for construction on land already purchased for the purpose. Anybody who has visited the existing library in the old (1954) armory building can reasonably observe that the place has outgrown its capacity, has no elevators and other ADA issues, is noisy, computers are shoehorned in; visitation is up by 12%, on and on. No doubt the physical case exists for a new one. Now all of a sudden everybody is up in arms because “Hey! it’s NOT in downtown Leonardtown!” (which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone). To date, as far as I know, nobody has said “well, why don’t you use this hunk of land?”. Just complaints and (IMHO) short sighted budgetary smoke screens. One can deduce my feelings. Anyway, there is an open hearing tonight in the “Commissioners Building” in Leonardtown, and it starts at 6:30. Aside from (hopefully) reasonably discussing the issues, it should be great theater. MFO will be attending solo while I fulfill a social commitment, for which I will be

Monday, December 14, 2009

This, That, and Monday..

Editor's note: Today is the 200th post since moving to cyberspace...thanks for hanging in

Before we got de-railed with the celeb chef goings on, I did attend the annual Christmas open houses of Contractor B and C on Thursday. By now, the little pigs in blankets and Contractor B have cooled along with some of the memories. As is the wont with contractor B, the event is completely catered, and was pretty much a carbon of last year. A center table with steam chafing dishes containing crab dip, barbeque, cheeses, and one more, with passed (little) pigs in blanket, shrimp, and some phylo raspberry items. Eventually there were some “oyster sliders” passed, which I hope have seen their last. More bread than oyster, more breading than oyster. On a side table was some lumpia (the definition of which is left as an exercise to the student), resembling cigars, but definitely tasting better. Wines and beers were available. A nice social occasion, but the food was exactly what was expected, good, but not memorable.

Walk across a the parking lot to Contractor C (CC). Again, format was the same as in previous years, kegs in back, wine in front, and a number of tables in the large conference room and dessert meeting rooms on the sides. I have to give the wine nod to CC, they had some very drinkable Ch. St. Jean chardonnay along with some Riesling, an uncommon but pleasant thought. There was a red, but I missed seeing it. The food again pretty much was the same format, but what continues to distinguish CC from CA and CB is that the employees actually contribute some dishes. There’s always some crock pot items of meatballs, barbeque, hot pots, stroganoffs, etc., along with little plates here and there of "stuff"..... Wait! What’s this over on the side table? A little (obviously home brought) dish of reddish green stuff with a sliced baguette and there it was... A little tent with nicely lettered “Sundried Tomato Pesto”. Somebody cares and is proud enough of their efforts to tell you what it is. It was very good Pesto, made all the better by knowing somebody took the trouble to help you appreciate it. There was also another little sign for some “Cheesecake Biscuits”. That’s why you come to these things and look at everything. Someplace there’s somebody who cares about food. So, when you’re taking part in one of these events, do your best, cook your favorite and let people know what it is! Don’t just show up with a plate of McKay’s stuffed ham, or worse yet, that plastic tray of awful dried out carrots and veggies with a center bowl of that dip that nobody knows what is or likes. Contractor C carries the 2009 prize! Congrats CC!

A beautiful Saturday morning was spent moving the patio furniture from the periphery of the gray lagoon to its winter location of the screened in porch. Okay, winter, do your worst!

In the afternoon, we attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, presented by COSMIC (Chamber Orchestra of Southern Maryland, In Concert). Normally, in the holidays, they do the Nutcracker, but this year decided to do the Messiah instead. Now my only recent memory of the Messiah was a performance at St. Mary’s College, on bleachers that got increasingly harder on the backside as hour after hour dragged (okay, it was good music, but after a while….) on. So there was some apprehension on my part as we filed into the Church where it was held, and relieved to see there was padding on the seats for mine, we settled in. Come to find out they contracted the complete Messiah into the “Birth” or Christmas portion so it wasn’t a marathon. It featured the normal COSMIC orchestra, but added the COSMIC Community Chorus and four soloists. There was a tenor, a bass, an alto, and a soprano that sang the various portions. I’m even less a judge of vocals, but I thought they performed very well. I don’t know much about the structure of this type of music, but here were “recitatives”, “recitatives accompanied”, “airs” and Chorus selections. Again showing my lack of real knowledge of the Messiah, each were selected verses from the Bible. There was one “air” that in its entirety is: “But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire (Malachi 3 : 3)”. What’s that take to recite? Maybe 10 seconds? Well, the bass singer turned that into about five minutes of song (is that the right word? – way out of my element here) by repeating it maybe 6 or 7 times. Now, to be perfectly clear, I do not say this as a criticism, it was lovely music well performed, but just an observation. The concert ended with Chorus, soloists, and audience (as requested by Maestro Lande) all singing the Hallelujah Chorus, well known by everybody. Heartwarming. Like homemade food, local music, while maybe not as polished as you might get “up the road”, is unique and special. We have to support these things. Further concerts of COSMIC are slated for February 27/28 and May 15/16. come on out and enjoy them. No country music here.

Yesterday dawned gloomy, wet and rainy

And allowed the mood to match. A good day for watching sports, consuming cookies, avoiding planning for the upcoming journey, and stuff like that.

This morning, there was fog on the boats

And a bridge to nowhere

But eventually old sol did it’s work on the bridge

and a nice start to a Monday (retirement is good, by the way)

and just maybe today you don't have to

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hmm revisited - blue light special...

Reader note: the intended review of a couple of contractor "open houses" was OBE last night and will appear in another edition soon.

I would be glad to take credit, but I fear the only thing I can take credit for is sharing the perception of how to “improve” Catamarans. I had intended to let it simmer for a while before visiting the establishment, but despite my “wait and see” comments, a spur of the moment invitation to go have appetizers and check it out last night was accepted, and over the bridge we went. After parking, the first thing I noticed was the blue signs in the windows were no more! Nary a Bud nor Miller sign to be seen! Good idea! I was sure that was because of my harangue yesterday, but alas, I fear I was beaten to the punch. But, it’s a step in the right direction. As I mentioned yesterday, I have never been in Catamarans before the “upgrade”, so I really don’t have a basis from which to judge what happened. Apparently they have changed the entrance so that there is a “stand” by the door along with a small bar, and there is a partition between that and the “dining room”. We said we were just interested in apps and a drink, but were told that the dining room was filled, but we could be seated upstairs. Oh, did I mention that there were several pictures of the “new Chef” in the vestibule? Anyway, we were led through the dining room which had several white tablecloth tables, and what appeared to be several “office party” groups occupying consolidated tables. There was some fairly nice art on the walls. But up the stairs we went into the “bar” area escorted by one of the servers from the dining room (with a very tidy white shirt).

I don’t think the “upgrade” has risen beyond the ground floor because (caveat again) it didn’t look “new” to me. There was an “entertainment” area with a raised bandstand with several light fixtures on the ceiling that looked straight from star wars (I think including one of those multi-faceted mirrored spheres that rotate). The bar area was beyond that, along with a pool table, some sort of video game at the bar, and a bar that extends the considerable length of the room. I thought it was a very nice bar, had sort of an antique feel to it (despite multiple flat screens affixed to the walls). We were approached by the “bar server” and asked about drinks. The server attire in the bar area is less formal than downstairs as it consisted of a tee shirt and shorts. Okay, the bar is an informal place. I don’t believe names were offered. There are wines by the glass, but apparently suds (despite the lack of external advertising) is the drink of choice, as there are 16 on tap. Our server was able to recite all from memory, and when we commented he replied “well, after 7 years you learn something”. When asked if the new chef was in the kitchen this eveninng, he replied he sure is, and would be glad to come out and have his picture taken with you.. Um, no, that’s okay.

Turning to the menu (one menu does all), there are the usual array of starters, salads, burgers, and main courses. I didn’t take notes, but as I recall, a lot of the main courses had “names”. Popping Shrimp, or Island Chicken, (I can’t do them justice) but you get the idea. Some just said Salmon with such and such sauce. Sort of odd.

We ended up sharing an order of Fried Oysters (half shell and steamed an option), Lobster Corn Fritters, and a Seafood Stuffed Portobello Mushroom, along with a Fordham copper ale and a couple of glasses of (old reliable) Kendall Jackson. We were all fairly happy with the food, although I would have liked my oysters to have been just a bit longer in the fryer, as they were just over the “soggy” stage, but not quite to the “crunchy” level. The mushroom had plenty of seafood, and the Fritters, served in a paper bag, were hot and (I am never sure how to punch up lobster) rather mild. Portions good, mine served in a metal basket, the others on rectangular plates.

So, with no baseline to compare against, I can’t really judge the food. What we had was not bad, so maybe there’s some promise. Will have to try dinner sometime. As we were leaving a band started to show up, so not sure how that fits into the overall “whole new level” concept touted for the place.

Oh, in the Enterprise this morning there is an advert on page 12 for Catamarans proclaiming “Chef Robert Hesse Overwhelming Success!” (in less than a week! My oh my!) along with a picture of him labeled “Robert Hesse – Permanent Chef”. Maybe after reading about the beer signs he looked at the “executive chef” comments also. Maybe not. Oh, and there’s a line about “More Hells Kitchen Contestants Arriving Weekly”. What the heck are we supposed to do about that? Yippee! Another contestant here, honey, let’s go! I would prefer to let the food speak for the chef rather than the other way around. We’ll see how this approach stands up in the next few months. January through March are the dark days for restaurants. And, given all above, not sure how they expect you to


Thursday, December 10, 2009


Although I was aware of this from someplace, somebody reminded me yesterday about a “famous” chef coming to Catamarans on the Solomons by the name of Robert Hesse, apparently a veteran of Hell’s Kitchen (which doesn’t carry much weight with me) who will be the executive chef. That particular term has always confounded me, I’m not never exactly sure what it means. I think sometimes executive chef” means you can use my name, but don’t look for me behind the line. It mentions that he is associated with restaurants in other locations, so I can see where executive chef might lean more on the first word and less on the second.

Certainly any new talent is welcome here, although we do have our share of credible chefs, but there’s just something fishy (Solomons…fishy…get it?) about somebody with alleged credentials landing in the Solomons, especially at that particular establishment. I will freely and gladly admit I have never set foot in Catamarans, but somehow a place with every window full of neon “Bud Light” signs, a porch where people have been purported to carry on in less than a civilized manner, and an observed clientele for whom DFD would mean sleeves, doesn’t sound like a place where I will be going for fine dining.

But, with my usual open mindedness, I will wait and see. A quick walk around google identifies him as being about 30 years old, plus or minus. A quote from one of our local on line newspapers contains the following description/quote: “……working as a Chef in 22 states and around the world and knows what restaurants should offer customers. “Going to one of the chains and waiting 45 minutes to get a table to receive prefabricated food and poor service is just plain wrong,” said Hesse.” Right on, Robert! I couldn’t agree more! But, let’s see, I’m 30 years old, and have worked in 22 states, and around the world, and participated in that reality TV show (which he voluntarily left apparently). Doesn’t seem like maybe been in one spot too long.

But, despite a few misgivings, I will wait and see. It says he “took over” on 5 December, so maybe he will remain on site. We will wait and see. Perhaps the Feeder could disguise himself and go check out the menu by the light of the blue Neon. Foie Gras and a Bud, please! Any stringer reports considered.

SOMD traffic observation du jour:

This morning a large SUV with those silly thin tires (looking even more incongruous on such a large vehicle) pulled up behind me while waiting for the demon inhabited light near our house. It had one of those small grid grills, and over the “GMC” plate was a skull and cross bones metal thingies (such as you see um, those ladies of the road icons). But, below the GMC plate was a bright red Christmas bow.. Arrrrrr, Merry Christmas, Matey!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a Sauce, Mother...

Once again, it’s those pesky expectations that get you. I had expected a class on all the mother sauces, but last night after I got to QualityStreet in Leonardtown, I discovered it was part deux, and would cover only the “brown” sauces, as the “white” ones had been dealt with in a previous edition. Of course by now industrious readers will know that I missed the class dealing with Velouté and Bechamel, and would be learning about Espagnole, tomato, and the “fifth” mother sauce, Hollandaise.

Chef Loic (of Café Des Artistes) obviously is a draw (justifiably so) as we were packed elbow to elbow, and they even added a couple of seats on the end. It’s always amazing what you “learn” at these classes, and it’s not always the recipes. Like last night I learned a better way to cut a (bell) pepper, that Marinara Sauce is NOT Italian, and that if the Duc De Richelieu had not won a battle over the Spanish in 1756 for the Island of Mahon (Minorca), we might not enjoy “Mahon-aise” as a sauce today. Or, that in a classic French kitchen you can tell the hierarchy by the height of their Touque, and the Chef (always addressed as Chef) will be wearing the highest one, and you must request permission to enter the kitchen. Or, that your first year in that French kitchen will be spent washing dishes, and you only get to the stove in your 4th year. Chef Loic lived this life, and apparently learned well as his knife skills are excellent and he handles a whisk expertly. It’s also a treat to listen to his stories.

Back to the class, we began by preparing a Tarte Tatin (named for two impoverished gentlewomen from the French region of Sologne), essentially an upside down apple pie, with halved apples cooked in a caramel sauce (which he prepared), and eventually “Voila!” inverted for serving. Do try this at home. Then, a Hollandaise was prepared classically over a bain marie, never broke, right consistency, and served over some deep fried Panko encrusted Chinese cat fish. The Espangole/Demi-Glace was not prepared on site last night, as any home chef knows it’s a laborious, time consuming process, starting roasting the veal bones at 500 degrees, add stock, etc., and days later you have the sauce. We did a ratatouille, and while that was cooking he made the tomato/marinara sauce.

Chef wanted to use the left-over Hollandaise to prepare a Béarnaise (“invented” by Chef Jules Colette at the Paris restaurant called Le Pavillon Henri IV in the 19th century, named Béarnaise in Henry's honor as he was born in Bearn, France) to go with the beef tenderloin. However, it was discovered that due to some miscommunication with the back kitchen, the left over sauce had been pitched. Most of us would yell and scream a this point, but no, Chef merely asked for 6 more eggs, and calmly did another Hollandaise. Lesson two on that sauce. Our main course (if you will) was poached salmon with the Bearnaise, a beef tenderloin with his Sauce Normandie (mushroom based), and the ratatouille.

We concluded the evening by consuming the Tarte Tatin successfuly exhumed from its cast iron skillet.

Fortunately there were no “yummies” in the audience, and everybody was attentive and polite – with Chef Loic, how could you do otherwise? No new advice here, the “classes” are what you make of them. If what you want is a social evening, a menu, and a visual of somebody making it, most any class will do, but if you know your chefs and pick your spots, you’ll learn more than just the preparation.

and you can be


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This, That, These, and Those

Not too much brilliance today, weekend pretty well sapped all the creative juices…and monday is well, monday. just some this and that’s for these and those…

For those in St. Louis or with ties there..

As alert readers will remember, we get tons of publications. I recently was “given” a gift subscription to “Sauce” magazine which is published in St. Louis and is free there. It’s monthly compendium of articles about food, wine, cooking, buzz, etc., on the St. Louis scene. The reviews are succinct, to the point and don’t pull any punches: “A smoked trout starter, served with traditional garnish of red onion, cornichon, capers, and mustard was very tough and tasted too fishy”. And service is held accountable; “While the servers are friendly, they seem undertrained in fine-dining service and uniformed about the food they were serving”. For those of you wondering this was in a review of Café Provencal in Kirkwood. Recipes are given (French Gnocchi), wine (and beer) recommendations, good stuff. This issue (December) includes “The List” described as “the people, places, plates, and products we love right now”. Notice the avoidance of the word “best”? It includes Merguez Sausage (a favorite of ours, available here at Corbels), leaf lard (for you bakers), a couple of dishes (Affogato at Acero). Anyway, it’s a good read.. pick one up.

And another publication from STL is St. Louis Home. It’s got good articles for all you decorating freaks (STL Magazine is also pretty good but tends to over use the word “best”)

For everybody everywhere:

It came to me today maybe why they design the Jeep (Wrangler?) with that flat front. It’s so that they can follow you even closer than other vehicles are capable of doing. Had one yesterday on the way to the solomons (to see the Glaucous gull which wasn't there) that I swear would have contacted me if a strong headwind occurred. Another lesson in how to arrive sooner on a two lane road if you stay inches behind the car ahead of you.. I’m sure the answer is that “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. You’re right, I sure don’t.

Bumper sticker: “if at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards”.

For these LP City dwellers:

Apparently they have your best interests in heart, they’re working on your Olive Garden 7 days a week now.

Doing another “cooking class” tonight, centered on the mother sauces. Do you know what they are? Can you name them? if not, feel free to google them, you'll learn about popeye and what the sauces are!

I will be


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Steely Dan Dining..

Reelin’ in the years, stowin’ away the time…

When I first came to St. Mary’s County in the early and mid ‘08’s, one of the rewards of a rigorous week of flutter testing was to treat myself to dinner at the Dry Dock. At that time, it was a small place above the old marina offices, and had maybe 8 tables and perhaps 10 seats at the bar. The kitchen was about the size of a closet. Despite the limitations of space, they turned out very respectable food, and provided great companionship. The staff was efficient, friendly, knew what service meant (no Hi's to be found), and mixed a great dry Manhattan, on the rocks, with a twist. Initially, after they migrated across the parking lot to the new, larger location, nothing was lost. Good food, a lovely venue, a great view, some of the best food service in the county, and a nice bunch of “regulars”.

Well, nothing remains the same. Changes in personnel, menu and pricing, as well as management over the last couple of years or so removed the face of one of my favorite spots. And, I guess due to the changes in the economy (I’ve commented on this before) they have decided that their future lies with “nights”. I believe these were introduced last year, and it will apparently continue this, with meat loaf, steak, and lobster nights where you can get an entrée for 20 bucks. I know that people have to exist, but why depend on specials, and inducements rather than solid entrees at a reasonable price. Can’t they rely on the skills of their kitchen? So, given the changes in focus, we have gravitated from “regulars” to “irregulars”.

We revisited the Dry Dock last night to view the annual boat parade (reduced to about 4 vessels by the miserable weather). We were told that today’s menu was a debut, but they were out of a couple of items (excuse me, a new menu with shortages?). The first thing that struck me was that unlike the previous menu, there was nothing over 30 bucks with the most expensive being Surf and Turf (filet mignon and crab cake) at $29.95. Generally the theme was the same, seafood, chicken, and beef, but all below 30 bucks. Good for them. They also feature “small plates” with some interesting offerings such as Butternut Squash Ravioli with Mascarpone, Sage Brown Butter, and grated Amaretti. I also noted that there is a Charcuterie Plate which I had my eye on for a future visit. The chef is new (to us) and did come out a couple of times to check on things. We had no complaints on the food – I had the surf and turf (filet with small crab cake), and MFO had an off the menu (substitute for the removed items) of a lobster and shrimp pot pie, which she enjoyed, as did another diner who had the Salmon. I thought 9 dollars for a cocktail was a bit overpriced (7 during happy hour <6:30), but wines by the glass are reasonable.

Of course being in the company of good friends is always enjoyable regardless of the food, and so really enjoyed the evening. I was sorry to see that (while we were there) none of the tables turned, and the bar remained empty. Perhaps a later crowd came in. I hope so. With my sentimental ties to the place I would like to see them succeed. It is such a lovely venue that it deserves to regain it’s place as a premier dining spot. Just don’t ask me to be there for meat loaf night (yes, I am a snob). Be a fine dining place or be a diner, take your pick.

You go back, Jack, do it again….

We began the weekend by attending this year’s premier edition of the annual Madrigal Dinners at Historic St. Mary’s City. My gosh, you have to do this at least once. The setting in the State House accented with lovely natural decorations supplied by the Margaret Brent Garden Club is just wonderful. Every year it’s different, with not a poinsettia to be seen. The dinner is “family style” with “wenches” bringing platters of rockfish, fried oysters, and this year pork roast to the tables. Wines are plentiful and recharged as necessary, which is required since the cry of “all Hail, wassail!” requires you to respond and raise your glass. Throughout the evening, an emissary of Lord Baltimore (Aaron Meissinger) is engaged with “Mistress Mary” (I think Aaron’s wife) with lively dialog. They’re just great. And then on top of all this there’s the holiday choral music provided by St. Maries Musica. A really enchanting evening that is not to be missed. The price is quite reasonable, although this year’s series may be sold out, but you could check on cancelations. It takes you away from now and puts you in another place for a while..

And while the wheels turnin’ round and round, you can


Friday, December 4, 2009

Grazing, Tigers, and Nothing to Do's

One of the more enjoyable things about working around the base is that each holiday season, most of the local outposts of the beltway bandits hold “open houses” or sometimes called “customer appreciation” events. They are mostly social, a chance to cement relationships with customers, but there is always a selection of food and drink available. Over the years they have toned down a bit (based on some rather legendary stories), but none the less they provide a chance to graze. Again, in the past the food was mostly supplied by employees, and the fun was to snoop around and find those little gems of appetizers or sweets amongst the Giant bought cheese trays, and McKays fried chicken (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Yesterday marked the beginning of this year’s series, with let’s say Contractor A’s event. With some anticipation I finally found a parking spot for the flutter mobile, and went in the door and greeted some old friends from “the working days”, and then headed for the room with the food. While there was indeed a variety of stuff available, I suspect all of it was purchased. When you see everything in those institutional big aluminum foil pans, it’s a dead giveaway. No cute little Christmassy serving dishes with Santa’s on them, just tubs. There were paper plates of stuffed ham, something which I believe started out life as crab balls, but they were reduced to more like crab marbles, more hunks of fried stuff that might have been fish, the ubiquitous chicken wings with ranch (a combination I never understand), some crab dip in a chafing dish (which wasn’t actually too bad), and yes, the sliced salami and cheese cubes platter. Besides the crab balls (at least the ones I had) being reduced, the stuff wasn’t bad, just not what I had hoped for. And, maybe a reflection of the economy (at lest they still held the event) the wine was in Almaden boxes with those inscrutable little twisty things that never seem to work correctly. Red, White, and yes, the dreaded white Zin. A keg of beer was also available. Once again, those expectations get in the way. Nice to see some old friends (geez, I miss that), but can only award one FECU. Maybe the next one….(build those expectations!).

Ranting Department to end the week..

With my new “retired” regimen, I now am grateful that my eyes open again usually around 6:30 or so, and sometimes catch the weather (enduring “wake up with Al) and then switch over to the Today show to maybe get updates on the news. Well, Today has turned from a news journal to mostly a “National Enquirer” of the air. Michael Jackson has finally left the pages, but now we have “the latest” on Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox, the “balloon boy”, lately the Salahi’s, you name it. Lurid, salacious, right to the top. And, they don’t just report on it, they somehow inveigle parents, sisters, brothers, and even friends to be “interviewed” (mostly meaning grilled) by dear Matt and Meredith. And, invariably they borrow that dreaded phrase from the ESPN sideline people: “What was going through your mind when….”. You know, I don’t really care.

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the current travails of Tiger (also worth about 20 minutes on Today lately). As alert readers will remember, I often criticize his demeanor on the course, but also recognized that he is gracious in interviews suffering idiot questions (What was going through your mind when…) from idiots and so on. I have even gone so far as to give him the title “Gentleman of the Game”. Of course we don’t yet know the whole story (and maybe never will), but the circumstantial accusations floating around, whether true or not, probably will serve to strip him of that title. While his "on course" skills put him in the class of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Watson, maybe his "off the course skills" do not. What a shame.

End of Rant

Local Calendar

Don’t forget that December First Friday is tonight in Leonardtown, The Christmas Walk on the Solomons, Candlelight Tours at Sotterley Plantation, Madrigal Dinners at Historic St. Mary’s City, Concerts at St. Mary’s College, including the Messiah on Sunday, and I’ve probably missed a few. Pick one, get out there, and


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Short Thursday Thingies..

After a lite wednesday, the muses still seem to be on hiatus, and they pretty much are silent today as well.

I did get the December issue yesterday of Saveur which features the cover story; "Ham for the Holidays!" Pretty clever folks those magazine people..I have not had a chance to completely read the article word for word, but a quick thumb through of all the pictures and little blurbs didn't reveal any reference to our "stuffed ham", for which i would subtract points. Speck? yes. Culatello? yes. Prosciutto? of course. Stuffed ham? don't think so.

I would add points, however for a little box from their editors on page 125 showing a picture of Gourmet's last issue (with that turkey), entitled "One of a Kind". It laments the passing of that publication, and notes that starting in 1941 "through the words of M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, and other great writers, we gained a deeper understanding of what it means to eat. Gourmet has been the benchmark for all other food publications; its archive remains an invaluable resource".

Amen, and part of that archive resides in the basement of the digs..

they also have an interesting article on Tom and Jerry cocktails. remember those, all you 'tini folks? good rag.

First Friday in Leonardtown this Friday/tomorrow, the boat parade and christmas walk on the solomons on saturday, Madrigal Dinners begin at Historic St. Mary's city. Wish there was something to do down here.. don't forget to


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Our side of the table...

As we continue to wind down from the rigors of last weekend, I did want to mention that there was an interesting article in the Washington Post Magazine a couple of weeks ago by Tom Sietsema. In lieu of his normal restaurant review, it was a piece entitled “How to be a better diner”, sort of the reverse of the “100 things” we spoke of earlier. While we hold the service staff responsible for their side, we too, have obligations.

Once again the feeder was pleased to note that the things that he tries to preach and practice are not singular. The art on the article is a drawing of a nicely dressed couple approaching “Chez Pierre” followed by an unshaven cigar smoking man in football jersey, patterned cut-offs and flip flops. The first paragraph contains the line: “Diners looking for a good time should also reconsider ….showing up in flip flops and shorts at a destination celebrated for its elaborate tasting menus. (It has happened at Restaurant Eve)”. So he also believes in DFD.

Other advice:

Do some research; know what cuisine your restaurant features.

When making a reservation, tell the restaurant of any special needs like gluten free, vegan, etc., don’t spring something on them at the table. If there’s something you want to bring with you (special wine, birthday cake) let them know.

Be punctual – 6:00 means 6:00, not 6:15 or 6:30. Have their number in your cell phone and let them know if you’re in traffic (important in DC)

If you have a question (what exactly is a calzoncelli?), ask. Experiment with something new. It shows the restaurant you’re interested.

Complain discretely. If there’s a problem with a dish, he wants to know right then when there’s time to correct a problem. They do really want to know what’s wrong. A hard lesson to learn, but they do.

Don’t wait to cancel a reservation, or worse, fail to contact them at all.

(here’s a new one to me). Let your server know if you’re going to leave the table for restroom, cell phone, or (ugh) cigarette break. Nothing worse than your dish arriving to an empty table.

A lot of these may be more applicable to upscale places, but remember that we have a duty to be responsible customers, and acting (along with dressing) civilly will be appreciated and ultimately make a better experience all around. Ball caps deserve ball cap service. Continue to


Monday, November 30, 2009

This and That's for a monday

After a glut of foodie stuff, time to catch up on a few odds and ends that have been piling up in the “this and that” department.

General this’s and that’s in random order:

It’s hard to have anything but pity for my favorite whipping boy Notre Dame at this point. I’m not sure Charlie should shoulder the whole blame for their miserable showing this season. It was put into perspective when the stupid shill announcers on NBC allowed as how their loss to (I think Navy) “might hurt their BCS chances”. At that point they were rated in the lower twenties. Another twist is that I have heard that if they decide to replace Genius One, with Genius Two. Why would Belichik even consider that?

I’m ready for basketball…and we still have the BCS hoopla to live through.

And now there are talking vehicles, and I don’t mean “turn left in 100 yards”. Chrysler apparently has decided that they can sell cars by making them emotional. Have you seen those disgusting commercials for I think Dodge Ram trucks? Howie Long is bad enough slamming the “man step” concept (which actually seems like a good idea to me) but now we see a dirty truck and hear “I am Ram. My tank is full”, and they’re not talking about gasoline either. It’s life. If you buy the truck you will be fulfilled. Or you can go for Jeep who appeals the free spirit in you. No talk about the features, just fuzzy feel good stuff. Sigh…..


Food this and that’s:

Besides finding Kellum’s in my relentless pursuit of good eats, I came across another product that is new to our area. There is a small outfit (Extravagonzo Gourmet Foods) in Idaho (yes, Idaho) that makes flavored extra virgin olive and grapeseed oil. They come in Blood Orange, Meyer Lemon, Roasted Garlic, and Chili oils. If you are into dipping bread, they are really tasty. The orange and lemon are particularly good. You can also cook with them, and use them to enhance your best ideas… They are available locally in Blue Wind Gourmet. Check it out...

And, speaking of Kellum’s seafood, just an fyi…I would call ahead if you want something, when I was there (admittedly in the thanksgiving rockfish/oyster rush) last week, there was not a case full of fish on ice such as you might expect. So if you have something in mind, I would call. They are extremely good about following up.

Fall is a pretty time of year..

and don't forget in the fall you can still


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bye Bye Turkey(less) Day..

By now, we’re probably all pretty tired of thanksgiving related patter from this office, but to tie a bow (clever reference to the next holiday) on it, a quick recap of the day at the digs… the morning was spent getting ready, laying out silver, figuring out serving dishes, glassware, settling the final timing and mercifully no wrestling with an unwieldy fowl, just that elegant Niman Ranch pork loin.

The fish was pretty easy, just going to bake it with roasted garlic and meyer lemon oil (more on that in the future).

The pork was coated with mustard, then fresh herbs applied,

and then it went on the grill for a bit before finally heading for the oven..

Meanwile, MFO busied herself with the sides, Root Vegetable Gratin, Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrette, Cranberry Mustard Sauce.

Soon enough the guests arrived and were greeted with a demi glass of:

One friend brought cheeses and olives to go with the uncured Niman Ranch Uncured Salame, paired with a lovely ’01 Bruno Giacosa Sparkling Wine, Neive, Italy

Then another interlude while the Poached Pear Salad w/Blue Cheese and Champagne Vinaigrette was prepared,

By this time both meats were done and safely rested in the indespensible warming drawer

And dinner was ready!

After enjoying the poached pear salad with sparkling water, the first course was the garlic roasted rockfish with Meyer lemon oil, lump crab and buerre blanc sauce, paired with an ’05 Apolloni Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Then the pork roast was carved

And served along side a ’06 Buehler Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena, California.

Lastly, we shared pieces of MFO’s, Apple, Pumpkin, and Pecan Pies.

Oh, and although FOJTE could not join us so they could attend to their (now improving) sick dog Buddy, they were able to enjoy part of our menu through a rare chance to have the elusive Missouri Rock Fish

A wonderful dinner, made even more so by enjoying with friends and even families by phone. And so Thanksgiving 2009 passes into history, memories locked in, rough edges (where's the damn....?) rounding and soon will be forgotten. The food was wonderful (IMHO) from the appetizers to the pies. The fresh rockfish actually tasted like rockfish, I discovered Kellums, the pork reminded you of the pork you remembered when it actually had fat, and I would not hesitate to go back to Niman Ranch for any of their products. The roast and Salame were pefect. Expensive? yup. who cares for special occasions.

Last night we went over to Leonardtown and exprienced the "lighting of the tree" ceremony which (i am not sure how these relate) included almost every piece of fire and rescue equipment in the County, along with the arrival of Santa. There was also an interpreter telling an abbreviated version of Dickens "A Christmas Carol" in the book store. She was just great. Also visted the North End Gallery before dining locally.

Too darn bad there's nothing to do in Southern Maryland, I can only hope that everyone enjoyed their day as much as we did, even if it did contain Turkeys, and also hoped that you all


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving, Part Zero!

Thanksgiving, Part III yesterday turned into Thanksgiving Zero today, as running here and there resulted in no time for pondering. It did, however provide a great experience. As mentally alert readers will remember, this year there will be no poultry served at the flutter table. Instead, our mains will be the Niman ranch pork loin and a baked rockfish hopefully topped with a crab beurre blanc sauce. The Niman ranch product was provided by FedEx, but obtaining a rockfish the size I needed for baking proportions was iffy. My place over on the Solomons which is good for shrimp and other things responded to my request with a “huh?”. Acting on a tip from friends, I called Kellum’s Seafood down in Ridge (pronounced ree-udge) last Friday and the man said sure, no problem. He had some that day but said to call back Tuesday as he was going out again and hoped to get some, and he’d call. So, Tuesday afternoon I called and was told the weather was so awful that he didn’t get out but would go again yesterday and he’d let me know. Apprehension building with fledgling thoughts of menu substitutions dancing in the brain, I said Okay.

About 9:30 yesterday morning the phone rang with caller ID displaying “Kellum’s Seafood”. The guy said “this is Bob down at Kellums and Paul just called and said he just caught a fish about like you want, are you still interested?”. You bet! Imagine that, somebody actually calling from a boat in the river – what a world. Anyway, he said to show up around 1:30 and he’d be back at the store. So about that time I arrived at their "store" which is more like a warehouse, with oyster shells in the dirt driveway and a huge pile of shells in back. This is real stuff, folks. So I go inside past the fishing tackle to the counter and was greeted with a big smiling "Hi – you must be Bill!" He introduced himself as Paul Kellums (more good stuff) a very happy guy in a flannel shirt, jeans and a ball cap. He said let’s go take a look, and led me through the back of the “store” to a pickup truck outside. In the back were two tubs ice with four humongous heads poking out of the ice looking skyward like a whale about to breach. Their eyes were still clear and bright and the skin shiny. He selected the “smallest’ and yanked it out (they all had tags in their mouth), and it was about a good three feet long, and weighed out at 21 pounds undressed. A beautiful creature. After confirming I still wanted it he asked if I wanted it filleted. Sure! Whereupon he picked up the phone, dialed a number and said "Hey (I forget) get your knives and c’mon down I got work for you!” It just doesn’t get any better.

After a bit, (while I perused the fishing lures about which I know nothing except they all seem to be chartreuse) the (I forget) man arrived toting a bag of knives. He laid the fish on the board and went to work. Said he’d done hundreds of these “big ones” and proceeded to produce two gorgeous filets, and never gutted the fish nor removed it’s head. He and Paul talked about “going out tomorrow”, while he worked. Then he asked if I wanted the “cheeks”. Sure. And he deftly produced a couple of little oyster sized hunks of meat. Meanwhile people appeared getting some smaller fish and jars of oysters. His phone kept ringing taking oyster and fish orders.

I often emote about “real” things, and Kellums is one of them. They are the definition of watermen and a culture that hasn’t changed with the influx of the folks from up the road. Friendly, helpful, and happy. It’s worth the drive down 235 anytime. Great place. Talk to them. You’ll enjoy it.. and you can get real, local great food like:

It's why we love Southern Maryland

Feel good department

Before my trip to Kellums yesterday, I went to Starbucks for my morning shot of enthusiasm. As I was walking in from the parking lot, there was a man on the “porch” yakking into his cell phone for all to hear. I went around to the front, and started in and the same gentleman came through the side door, mouth still flapping, and actually took two very large, quick steps to assure that he beat me into the line as customer 10 rather than 11. No excuse me, no eye contact, just a hurry to get in front of me. He then proceeded to talk and let the line in front of him gap a couple of times and actually had to be asked twice what he wanted. Never put the damn phone down from his entrance to his exit. (we’re still leading up to the feel good part).

Still buoyed this morning by my Kellums experience of yesterday, I again went to Starbuck’s because we still had a couple of LMI’s needed from Giant. As the flutter mobile U-turned the corner by WaWa at Rte 4, a Mustang appeared behind me that also turned into Starbucks. While I parked around to the side as is my want, the mustang parked much closer to the door. Thusly he reached the front door quite a bit ahead of me, and to my amazement, he waited with the door held a good ten seconds for me to arrive, and held it open for me. I thanked him and went through and said “go ahead” No, he replied, you were here ahead of me and so you should go first. When I protested again, he said you drove in the parking lot ahead of me so you deserve to be served first. Imagine that! How polite. Very refreshing here in the land of “me first”. Maybe there is hope.

Last Feel Good

So here we are, at last at Thanksgiving. We’ve considered the Turkey and it’s alternatives, discussed wine (still holding to DWTHYL), and we’re committed to whatever we’re going to have for dinner. As long time readers will remember, on special days like this, I always point out that whatever food appears on your table, whatever liquid accompanies it, what really matters is the people around you. If you don’t have friends and family surrounding you (either in person or in memory) all you have is sustenance. Add in the family and friends, and that is what it’s all about. So before you partake of whatever you have chosen, raise a glass to those around you, those that have been around you, and think of those people that are in lands far away, doing things because they want to serve us and make days like today possible for us. Hopefully they will soon be able to be part of what we all enjoy today.

Bon Appetit and, please, especially today