Monday, March 30, 2009

Return to........?

Today is the first morning that “being retired” sort of hit me. The book sale, the California trip (more to come on that) is over, and I didn’t have to get up and go to work. No schedules to meet, no phone cons, no work e-mails to consider, just an open day. Things to be done to be sure, but not with the weight of “gotta do” attached (don’t consult MFO here).. So off we go into a new skills to develop..

One thing I have to work on is perfecting the art of enjoying travel. During our recent visit to California (more to come on that), I found it’s all too easy to be caught up in “what time do we have to be at that winery?”; Where’s the camera?; I can’t find my blue shirt!; did we leave the phone charger at that motel? Where’s the bathrooms?; I don’t feel good – what if I get sick?; and not enjoy the moment. Only after things are safely locked in the memory locker does that little voice say: “Gee! That was fun!”.

And just to show you that although a vacation was in progress, there was hard work to do..Research:


Dietary restrictions;

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Left Coast Quickie

Yes, we are here. Creating experiences that would go in the blog get in the way of actually doing the blog. I have quite a storehouse built up. reports will continue to be sketchy most likely as time, internet connectivity seem to be whimsical.

Carmel by the Sea - Awesome. great galleries
Inn at Spanish Bay. wonderful service (yessir, Mr. Moody - another manhatten right away sir)

Food - Grand meal in Inn. One of first times i've seen a main course over 50 (rack of lamb). to die for rissoto. Many other restaurants - sardine factory in Cannery Row, Forge in the Forest in Carmel. A wonderful final lunch at Spanish Bay of Lobster dumplings, a mongolian salad and an anchovy laden Caesar, Sonoma Cutrer and Moet White Star bubbly.

Wine Tastings - an art. you HAVE to find the right person to pour, otherwise you get a glass rinsing portion rather than anything to taste. using those little pour meters should be banned. not universal. Wineries to date - Talbott great shards. Heller Estate - organic, not great wines in my humble opinion. Galante tasting room in Carmel by the Sea.- some good reds - a syrah was nice. Morgan - another tasting room some nice pinots. taste of Monterey a collection of smaller wineries presented in Monterey over looking the ocean, saw first otter over a 12 clones Morgan.

recreation - golfing at Pebble Beach, Links at Spanish Bay.

Today's plan 25 March- based in Glen Ellen. Tastings at Mumm, Silver Oak, Trefethen, N. Valley Olive Oil Company. Dinner in Sonoma on the Square.

Best memory to date - and maybe a lifer. Hitting a good drive off 18 at Pebble Beach, sinking 6 foot putt for a double, and hearing the cheers of our wives on the balcony at the Inn, and upon joining them finding a perfectly made dry manhatten, on the rocks, with a twist waiting for me along side some warm, salty nuts. Enjoying the view with friends in a world with which i will never join... note to golfers. Somehow, some time, some way you have to play Pebble before you can't..

more able -
DF D(Dinner); T(Tasting)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Travel Day Concludes

After a morning of unexpected pleasantries inside the airplane, the afternoon’s leg from DFW to SFO added pleasures outside the aircraft with some spectacular views of deserts, and I think fields of California Poppies, and snow covered peaks as we plied north to the bay area. It’s always amazing to see the face of the earth from such a vantage point. No wonder those astronauts have life experiences. Anyway, inside the plane the same warm nuts were supplied, this time with a real glass serving of Glenlivet over ice, followed by a Chicken Salad (MFO) and a Steak Quesadilla for moi. The salad bested the pair, with again crisp fresh greens, and diced chicken. Which leads me to wonder, while sailing along at .7 (?) Mach, can you serve a salad with fresher greens than you get at the mid chain of restaurants in SOMD? Another thought for another time. My quesadilla was little bits of some sort of steak in one of those pinky tortillas (which should be banned along with their green brethren), glued together with melted cheddar cheese. Wasn’t awful, but with the recollection of the surprisingly good one the previous evening, it sort of paled. The welcome little blue foil wedge of “Brie” and Carr’s water crackers capped the meal along with the apparently standard fresh baked cookie. The afternoon equipment was a 757 which afforded the option of listening to music with the little ear buds, so on top of the views, the Glenlivet, and the cheese course, the Eroica Trio provided some very nice listening including Beethoven’s 8th Symphony.

I failed to mention in (a hastily prepared) Post 1 that during the book sale, I picked up a hardcopy edition of McCullough’s “John Adams”. Of course I made the logical decision that this was the tome I should take for reading by the bay, so lugged along the rather weighty tome. In the early pages, it speaks to Adams travels as part of his law practice then back and forth from Massachusetts to Philadelphia for the Continental Congress. It took him two weeks for that journey, often in cold wet conditions of the winter of ’76, and here we were transversing the whole continent in a matter of hours, with ice in a glass, crispy greens, and classical music. Wow. Before leaving John and returning to the present, it also struck me how much he wrote in his diaries which supply a wonderful insight (through David McCullough) to his mind and a mirror of the times. Perhaps an early bottom feeder.

Anyway we landed in San Francisco, retrieved the luggage, including the bulky golf clubs, used one of those little carts, and did the Sky Train to the Rent-a-racer facility, and loaded them into the Altima (hey, I’m retired now, live it up). We headed out of the garage, and encountered the worst “gate attendant” I have ever run across. Maybe “We’re No. 1” is the claim of the company, but he exuded “I’m number 3,346,219”. No eye contact, multiple squints at drivers license, bar codes, contracts, clipboards, finally shoving same in the window for MFO to sign. Just before we left, we asked if we could have a map. He handed us one while apparently making sure our tires were not flat and off we went. Only after heading down the interstate did we discover that our map was of the East Bay. You know what Joe Pesce always said about the drive through..

Then a somewhat guessed route took us down I280. off on SR 85, right again on CA17 for a harrowing 30 mile transit on a two lane, narrow winding road chock full of these drivers from California. Nuff said there. So, somewhat drained by that we finally arrived at last night’s stop in Santa Cruz at a Hampton Inn (economize where you can). Not wanting food (pretty late east coast/body time), we settled for another course of Ritz Cheese Crackers accompanied by a transcon bottle of Cono Sur ’07 Pinot Noir. Watched two of the three Big Ten teams survive, with MSU getting an easy ride into the second round, Wisconsin winning an (OT) game the probably shouldn’t and Ohio State losing (another OT) because some little twerp from Sienna couldn’t miss a three from the next zip code.

Anyway, I find my spirits are rising with the square of the radius from the cares of SOMD, and am looking forward to today’s trip down the coast to Monterey, where there are wineries to visit, restaurants to attend, food to be eaten, family to greet, and golf to be played.

Sorry for length…

We will continue to


Overnight Lodging: Hampton Inn, Santa Cruz, CA. one fecu. mostly for toilets that sound like Mt. Vesuvius upon flushing (like the old trailers at Pax). same round tasteless stuff for "breakfast".

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins..

.......With a drive from Lex Park to DC. The days leading up to departure were the usual hectic string of details and little errands. Tie up loose ends from the book sale; tell the (few) interested parties you’re leaving, mail, papers, give instructions toplant waterer volunteers, coordinate with the landscaper, e-mails for civic clubs, remember to turn off the electronics, fans, etc., on and on. Oh, and hey, we have to fill those suitcases and manage the golf sticks. Finally all that done, so with a sense of some relief we loaded up the rent-a-racer and headed north. Couldn’t help feeling resentment of this trip imposing on my busy (so called) retirement time and making me do all those little tasks. So, it was with low expectations that we began the journey. A quick peek ahead, expectations were exceeded, surprisingly in the culinary area – so far. Surprisingly we navigated up Branch Avenue, onto the belt way, over the bridge, north on Rte 1 to Alexandria first time good on the back way, and into the Courtyard on Eisenhower Avenue – saving over one hundred bucks by being 3 or 4 miles south of crystal city (watch that retiree budget you know).

We had of course existed on “leaving the house” food for a couple of days, and dinner consisted of a couple of packages of Ritz Cheese Crackers on the surprisingly easy drive north. Upon entering the Courtyard, we noticed the (corporate standard) little bar off to the right, with the standard couple of “contractor” road warriors nursing a beer and clicking away on their blackberries, occasionally talking to the air and little blue tooth thingy about tomorrow’s travails. But, it also had a wide screen with NCAA’s on, and looked attractive after the drive. So, we checked in, came back down and sat at the bar. A very nice bartender lady offered the bar menu, and took our drink orders (I went for scotch/rocks not wanting to have yet another round of the drink test). We decided to split a chicken quesadilla appetizer ($8.95) and she offered us the opportunity to sit at a vacated table in front of the TV. She graciously set us up, brought silver, water, asked if everything was okay and went back to the bar and the blackberried customers. As the drinks took the edge off, some of the travails of the day and week started to melt away. When the quesadilla arrived we were pleasantly surprised that it was crispy and warm, gooey with melted cheese, had some fresh sour cream, salsa, and guacamole siding it. The chicken was plentiful and had some flavor. It was very good (and helped by seeing the Wolverines hang on to avoid another Big Ten loss). By the time bed time came, the thought of a week away began to sound a bit attractive. Sleep came easily.

This morning contained the next challenge, getting to Reagan National, checking luggage, the humiliation of security, and boarding the jet. My driving acumen continued to prove good and we got to the curb side check-in without any near collisions or incidents. Of course when you don’t have time to think about packing too much, you end up with too much stuff and this resulted in two bulky suitcases, and the bulky golf clubs, with visions of surcharges and ugly clerks. TRAVEL TIP – use curb side checkin if at all possible. A very kindly gentlemen met us at the car, schlepped the stones to the stand, gave us boarding passes, and pooh pooh any thought of penalties. No waiting in line, no weighing, no taking to TSA luggage drop off, just “thank you maam”. Curb side, tip heavily. Anyway, the rental car was then returned and I joined up with MFO and proceeded to security which was a breeze, and then up to the Admirals club, an extravagance I question every year, but never question when you sit in nice chairs, sip coffee or soft drinks and relax up until your flight is ready to board. Since this was sort of our “retirement trip” we blew some of the frequent flier miles attained via previous employment and went first class. Another treat. We boarded first, and then watched the poor people file in to “The Back”. Poor souls…Given the economy and previous experience we had low expectations of food, expecting dry stuff on Styrofoam and plastic cups. Well, soon after take off, the lady brought us some warmed nuts in an actual china little bowl, a request for a Mimosa was met with “sure” and soon it was delivered in actual glass with ice cubes. Oh my goodness. Maybe this trip is okay after all…in a few minutes we were asked if we would like lunch, with choices of either a salmon salad or a chicken parmeagian. We opted for the salmon. Eating the nuts and enjoying the Mimosa we listened to the cabin attendants announce that soft drinks were complimentary, but drinks and wines were available for 6(!) bucks, and either a 4 or 5 dollar snack pack could be purchased. Soon a tray was set before us, a nice green salad with a pink piece of salmon atop, with Kalamata olives in a glass dish, with cloth napkin and actual metal utinsels, a little wedge of Brie and Water crackers aside. The salmon was far from dried out, not “flaky (i.e. overcooked) and had a nice glaze on it. The greens crunched at every bite. Amazing! Meanwhile as we dined and sipped a passable Sauvignon Blanc, the greening hills and fields passed underneath. Since it was an MD-80, the sound level was low, and we thought of our favorite “Living well is the best revenge” quote. So here we sit in DFW admirals club, and by golly this is FUN!!!

Rest of the day later.

And we’re
DFT (Dressed for Travel – nice clothes, no jeans and T-Shirts)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Away We Go

Headed for DC, RON, DCA to DFW to SFO

ee hah..


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blogging Blues, This and That

Blogger Blues:

Hello – remember me? I had (good) intentions of blogging every day, but that turns out to be hard. The weekend book sale pretty much eliminated any feeding opportunities (how many quarter pounders can you eat?), and the two days of sitting on a cold cement floor at the fair grounds sapped a lot of the creative juices. A few odds and ends have popped in my softening brain so a few stream of consciousness things – oh, the book sale was a huge success maybe the bad weather for humans is good for books..

Speaking of Blogs, I am struggling with getting back to folks who send a comment. If you are “anonymous” I don’t know how to respond. Maybe I’ll learn. Mostly I’ll post the comments for all to see. You also can just e-mail me at with your real address. We’re all learning here in cyberschool

Comment one: I’ll try to get bigger font (are you looking at blog or resultant email?
Comment two: yes, volunteers for next year’s sale are needed..

This’s and that’s:

Although this mess with AIG and the bonuses is certainly interesting, if I hear the word “outrage” one more time, I’m going to um, be sick. All of us consumers are supposed be that, all the politicos express that they are that, over and over. Righteous indignation. The over use of that word outrages me! oh………wait…..

I am sometimes amazed that I am not so dumb. Did you read last Sunday’s “Ask Tom” piece in Sietsema’s restaurant review? It recounts how a couple who dined at Bistro Bis (a pretty high end French place – Jeff Buben owner) and were “surprised to find a square of white paper on top of their white tablecloth”. AHA!! Where have you heard that before??!!?? They were somewhat taken aback by it’s appearance and irritated because their sleeves kept picking up the paper. Owner Buben didn’t real have a (IMHO) good answer, said they’d been doing it since day one, and never had a complaint before. Not a cost saving, linens replaced at end of day and with cost of paper, any savings would be “nominal”. I guess we have to expect that if the word Bistro appears, expect the square..

More and more “deals” are appearing for restaurants of all levels. Free breakfasts; buy one, get one; coupon – X% off; half size = half price. Blogs being set up to guide you like “mommy’s wish”. That one is full of ads however.. hmmm.

Lastly – MFO and I are heading out to the other coast tomorrow, to celebrate last November’s 40th birthday of FOJTE by visiting wine country and playing Pebble Beach. Should be lots of feeder opportunities and pictures to post..FORE RIGHT!! FORE LEFT!! - yes, i would like to taste that special reserve...could i have a dry manhatten, on the rocks, with a twist please?

and i certainly will:


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tale of a Sale

Last night marked the start of MFO’s annual Friends of the Library BooSale and Rain Making event. For the third year in a row, many people and rain/sleet/snow turned out for the members only night. A good crowd huddled in the pavilion at the fair grounds until the doors opened at 5, and the race to find that special book (or books) began. People with bags, dealers with tubs all vied for fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. It’s nice to see families come out, and a little disheartening to see some dealer scoop and entire row in his bin without care to title. Turn that buck… but we still make money and books are distributed.

A week’s effort at lugging, sorting, arranging and positioning resulted in a great array of books. Here's a look at some of the fiction building (rough estimate 50,000 titles

cookbooks? you want 'em? we got em!!

just a sample of the variety - note the Butterball!

so if you're going to be rainbound today, you can come over to the fairgrounds and pickup that butterball cookbook or the Velveeta one.. hours today 10 - 5, tomorrow 12 - 4:30 no admission charge. If you bring your kiddies you can have them sign the "favorite book" scroll


I can't resist. and i am not making this up. On the way to the sale yesterday coming out of millstone, i wanted to go north on 235. fetched up against a car in the protected entrance to the "merge" lane, neck craned around looking at the sparse traffic. after electronically urging them to move, a cautious entry was made in the right lane. patiently waiting, i finally pulled into the traffic lane and passed the still creeping vehicle, (which gave me "the look" - not punctuated with a digit) and in my rear view mirror watched the person stay in the lane and turn right onto the bank.. amazing

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the......that which must not be named

Short visit today.. be alert..

Tonight begins the St. Mary's County Friends of the Library book sale (to which I'm about to depart). Starts at 5 today for members only sale (you can join at door for nominal fee). Free tomorrow starting at ten, and Sunday at noon.

Due to a week of "sorting duty" i know there are a lot of treasures out there. More cookbooks than I can remember. One even called "Cooking with Velveeta". It's not very large.

Perhaps another report this afternoon....

watch out.. only one more of these days this year. November. heard somebody say that it only happens (3 in a year) once every 11 years..

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vino and Econo

After sorting books at the fairgrounds most of the day, a quick stop in a wine store yesterday resulted in a chance to taste some wines from a relatively new winery from Washington, called "milbrandt". Between sips, I found out that they have just started marketing their wines under their own label. They have been growing grapes for a while but made their living by selling fruit to other wineries like Chateau Ste. Michelle and other giants. After watching those guys start winning medals for their wines (with the purchased grapes), milbrandt decided that why should those people get credit (and awards) and started producing their own wines. The economics were also explained to me(it’s a business as I always say) and it made sense. I think there were nine wines, 5 whites and 4 reds. Spitting allowed and recommended.. I enjoyed their Pinto Gris/Grigio, it was light and fruity, and one of the two Merlot’s we tried was very nice with good structure. The cab was acceptable, and syrah was also good. Keep your eye for them soon…

Heard about another economy scheme in the food service business this morning. On News Channel Four, they said if you go to restaurant dot com, you can buy a “certificate for 25 dollars off any meal” and, they went on to explain that if you bought a 30 dollar dish it would only cost you 5 bucks! Part of the never-ending quest of the media to help you save. Hmmm….sounds too good to be true. So checked it out (you can too) only to find that “terms and conditions apply”; “limitations and restrictions apply”. As I understand it, you can certainly get a $25 gift certificate. But, it will cost you 10 bucks. And, oh, by the way, “Valid with a minimum $35 food purchase. Excludes alcohol. Present before order. 18% gratuity added to full bill. Valid at this location only.” A search engine allows you to enter a zip code. Within 20 miles of “20653” only Arizona Pizza in Leonardtown appears. I guess 35 + 10 – 25 is still 20, plus 18% = $23.60, and oh, by the way did you want a beer (alcohol) with your pizza? you figure it out..(There are higher values of “certificates available”.

and just for fun, here's a nice picture of a tomato

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TV Guide

I’m sorry; I won’t be watching the first episode of “The Chopping Block” this evening on NBC. It’s yet another network attempt at boosting ratings by combining “reality” with “cut throat culinary”. From the clips there will be the requisite shots of the victims weeping, retching, tearing their hair, people publically excoriated by the evil fire breathing “chef”. As I take it, there are several couples competing to get a restaurant in NYC. NBC announces that the “world’s best chef” will be featured. Gimme a break. There is no such thing as a single chef being “world’s best”. What a load of crap. How gullible do they think we are? This time Marco Pierre White is featured.. A little research has revealed that he is indeed a respected chef, bringing a three star Michelin rating to England, but also carries the reputation as being one of those temperamental, pan throwing, screaming chefs so (in somebody's opinion)popular these days. He is shown to us slouching in an arm chair, making silly statements about dead things, and some unfathomable quote about inconsistency. Apparently he as a thing going with Gordon Ramsey (Hell’s kitchen) as to who can be the most abrasive chef. I’m tired of it.

To be sure, there are dictatorial chefs, (read “The Apprentice – My Life in the Kitchen” by Jacques Pépin), but most serious chefs aspire to put out a nice plate, not a résumé. Excuse me; shouldn’t it be about the food, not ME? It’s just another chapter in the unfortunate shift of attention from the food to the maker of the food. Yes, yes, you gotta make a living, but several people have accomplished that very nicely by relying on the quality of the food they prepare. Make it and they will eat.

I hardly ever watch the Food Channel anymore for just that reason. The most enjoyable shows are the “old ones”, with a youthful Bobby Flay (before the “Throwdown” craze overtook him), seemingly ageless Tyler Florence, and yes, Emeril as an exuberant and svelte, enthusiastic kid. I don’t ever recall seeing a single enjoyable show of dear Rachel. And even on the channel that should champion food above all else they are falling into more and more “competition” shows. Maybe they should consider changing the name to “The Chef Channel”. How ‘bout that?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Recipe for......

As regular followers know, I spend a fair amount of time nosing around cooking/food magazines. Some I like, some I don’t, but I find their recipes interesting as a reflection of our society and culture. Time compression (for want of a better term) resulting from our blackberry internet/facebook/tweeter speed society obsession has somehow resulted in having less time for real cooking and hence the rise of the “Five Star Food in Five Minute” recipe genre. No time to learn about wines for yourself? No worries, just read the “Ten Top wines” list in any particular publication. Overweight, lethargic, arteries closing? Check those recipes including lite mayonnaise, low fat this, yogurt that. Meats should be “trimmed of any excess fat”, on and on. The latest Bon Appétit’s recipe index contains about 72 recipes (a wonderment in itself!). And, helpful publication they are, they have six little tags appended that help you select your choices. They are: low calorie, low cholesterol, low fat, high fiber, low saturated fat, and vegetarian. Many uses of the word “low”. Guess they left out “low flavor”, but maybe it’s understood. And, besides the recipes included from the magazine content, the helpful advertisers add their own. Barilla adds pasta recipes, PAM baking spray gives us Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins (for which you need a cooking spray), and then there was this helpful recipe for Mediterranean Pasta with Fire Roasted Tomatoes:

2 Lbs medium plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
½ cup olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced.
[okay, so good so far, right?]
1 Tbsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Italian Seasoning
½ tsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Crushed Red Pepper
½ tsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt
¼ tsp. McCormick Gourmet Collection Course Grind Black Pepper
8 Oz. Pasta such as spaghetti

Would anybody care to guess who sponsored this recipe? Selfless promotion of good cooking, those guys..I’m sure the dish would be a disaster without this list of ingredients.

And since I’ve descended to a rant, here’s another: I have several times started a “letter to the editor” suggesting they change the name of the publication from whatever to: “Special Advertising Section”. This would result in a huge cost savings since they could would only have to put “real content” at the top of only a few pages, thereby reducing the need to put the “SAS” note at the top of most of the pages in the magazine. Events, chamber of commerce stuff (Vegas for pages and pages), sometimes kitchen equipment.

Lastly – with my keen analytical mind always churning, I can’t help but note that if there are 72 “new” recipes in one monthly magazine, multiply that by, say, (at least) ten more magazines, multiply that by 12 and you have a stunning number of recipes over a years time, and some have been in publication many years.. Can there be that many different ways to prepare something? Wow.

Occasional picture: waffle dessert taken by a traveler in a far away, Nordic country..looks good right about now!!

DFD always

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bones, bones....

A busy weekend began with the First Friday activity over in Leonardtown. Cocktails, appetizers, good eats, gallery crawl, bookstore browsing, the “hot dog” guy was back due to the nice weather, cooking classes underway, most of the restaurants looked full, people to see and be seen, a nice night to conclude my first week of joblessness.

No rest the next morning, up fairly early to go up to see the “Written in Bone” exhibit now going on at the Natinal Museum of Natural History on the mall. A group of volunteers and staff of Historic St. Mary’s City were to get a special tour of the exhibit. So, after obtaining the requisite Latte, sought out the big red and white Keller Bus in the Wildewood parking lot and got aboard. I did, however, subsequently learn that is NOT a bus, but rather a “coach”. Apparently busses take kiddies to school, and coaches take people on tours (and also have a potty). A couple of things it did not have were cup holders and seat belts. I guess seat belts on moving objects have gotten to be so much of a part of our culture that I had a noticeable sense of uneasiness riding along (holding the latte) without being strapped in as it were. Odd. Anyway, we were ultimately deposited in front of the Museum after negotiating the streets of DC in the hulking coach without once ever ending up in Virginia, an uncommon event in the flutter travels.

Once inside, after suitable time for a bathroom break (our group was not young) we assembled near the elephant in the lobby (as opposed to the gorilla in the room), met some people who arrived independently and up we went to the 4th floor and the start of the exhibit. There we were met by Doug Owsley and Kari Bruwelheide, the developers of the exhibit. Doug is the Division Head of Physical Anthropology for the Museum and is recognized as a world renowned expert on forensic anthropology and besides historical studies, he does real life CSI crime scene stuff. Kari is also a scientist and lab manager at the Museum. We were split into two groups and our group with Doug started the exhibit. The theme of the exhibit is to tell the tale of what you can learn from human remains. Doug stressed the point over and over that even though there are little or no written accounts of life of people, each one of us has a skeleton. From those skeletons there can be an astonishing amount of information obtained (technology is good). They can differentiate pre and post mortal damage, determine country of origin through measurements of facial features, dental structures, learn about the person's diet, pretty much pinpoint age at death, and develop a real picture of a person that exists nowhere else. They can even re-create a realistic model of what the person looked liked in life by putting “skin” on the skulls (in a very scientific way). A fascinating exhibit – made more so by getting a tour with its curator – containing many items from our Historic St. Mary’s City, including the three famous (only 5 known in North America) lead coffins, and the remains of Anne Calvert. Of local interest, there are many pictures of “Godiah Spray” or our own Aaron Meisinger. While the tour was estimated at 2 hours we took three. Neat stuff, highly recommended.

We then sort of split up, some went to the National Art Gallery, but I opted for a lunch at the museum, a turkey, cheddar(?) and cranberry mayo sandwich, a bag of Miss Vicki’s Chips, and a coke for a (with member discount) 14 bucks.. Then sat on the mall people watching and did a quick tour of the Hirschorn and an exhibit of Louise Bourgeois which was, um, euphemistically, interesting. Back on the bus, Suitland Parkway, Branch Avenue and home again. With the warm weather, a grilled pork chop finished a nice day.

Yesterday spent in setting up some tables for MFO’s book sale, watching Duke lose twice in one day, and seeing some guy I never heard of win the Honda classic. And, last night motivated by a recipe in the latest Bon Appétit (oddly enough from Molly of “Orangette” fame) I made some very passable Gougeres for cocktails. And, so far the best thing about being retired is Sunday nights. No Monday morning angst..

When driving up to Wildewood on Saturday morning, just as I was passing Town Creek, I became aware of a man standing on the median waving a bed sheet. Expecting to see “Repent Now”, or “The End is Near” instead it was informing me that Applebee’s now has All U Can Eat Breakfast.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

WaWa Woes, This and That

Arose very early yesterday (~6:00! how do those working stiffs do that?) to attend a once monthly (thank goodness) meeting over in Leonardtown. Upon departing the meeting I decided I’d take a chance on a collision and stop at the WaWa at 4/235 and gas up before getting a Latte. Deftly maneuvered around various obstacles, got out my little book to record mileage, amounts, cost, etc., and put it on the seat along with the cell phone and keys from the ignition. Got out and pushed enough buttons to allow the machine to dispense the fuel, stared at the driver behind me until the “click” of the pump told me it had finished, carefully replaced the nozzle, waited for the little receipt to spit out and reached for the door handle....... Only to discover that it somehow had locked itself! Rattle, rattle, all doors locked. Well, I’ll just call MFO – whoops! Cell phone in car so as not to cause an explosion. So I go inside (which is an experience in itself) and asked the nice lady re-stocking the shelves if there were a pay phone. Mercifully I had 50 cents in my pockets. Upon hearing my plight she graciously offered the “store phone” (besides the flutter mobile was hogging a money source). Also mercifully MFO at the digs overcame the aversion to answer any funny looking caller ID, and answered. After some anxious minutes, she appeared in the Momster, key in hand and we moved on. Lessons learned!

Speaking of WaWa, as we’ve noted before they are almost always full. If you look closely however, at least half of them are abandoned for long periods of time while their owner is inside apparently enjoying a cup of coffee or maybe leisurely consuming a sandwich. A previous visit resulted in seeing somebody pull up to the pump, get out, and had not reappeared by the time I had finished. I don’t get it. Further yet speaking of WaWa, why is it that the one just north of gate one is the only one that has those idiot “Hi, WaWa guy again!” commercials playing over the too loud speakers every 20 seconds or so? The one at 235/4 doesn’t, in fact they have some reasonably nice music over the too loud speakers. It’s just the one by the flutters that seems to feel the need to harass a captive audience. Maybe that’s why people avoid their cars..

And, watch it people, we're sliding back into bad driving habits...Instead of waiting an eternity for the demons in my light at Millstone to let me turn left, one of them cast a spell on a driver wishing (as I did) to go north on 235 causing a four car line to form while the mesmerized driver waited that eternity to have all four lanes completely clear before directly crossing the “merge lane” into the nearest lane, proceed north and turn off right at the next street to go to the bank. That’s why they supply cars with horns, methinks.

This Friday is “first Friday” over in Leonardtown – galleries, eateries and general good times.

Next Friday (3/(yikes!), Saturday and Sunday is the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale at the fairgrounds. Bigger and better than ever this year. there's even (edible) food.

Carr’s, those people who make the expensive water crackers has a new product called “Cheese Melts”. They’re pretty good.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's the Economy ....

It will come as no surprise to anybody that along with the rest of the world, the “downturn” (nice euphemism, eh?) in the economy has affected the food service industry along with everybody else. Starbucks closing faster than you can keep track of; and those that are open offering value breakfast menus. Outback’s numbers plummeting, everybody is getting hurt. It’s interesting how that word “value” is creeping more and more into our lexicon. A synonym for inexpensive (or the shorter word that starts with “ch”). I’ve noticed that the food magazines have started adding that word along with the easy and fast stuff. Articles appearing on how to find the “best value wines”, how to find “value on a wine list” one had an article on how to make three meals out of a single purchase (guess what, it started with a chicken). The January bon appétit is: “The Value Issue – Eat Better for Less”, and contains an article called (despite the apparent oxymoron): “Dinner Party of the Year – Luxury for Less”, and centers on Roast Beef with Dijon Caper Sauce. The lead in for the recipe says, “Eye of Round isn’t as expensive as prime rib, but it’s packed with flavor. Right. The first step is to get a 3 Lb. eye of round and “trim it of excess fat and sinew”. That is, if there is any fat. You brown it, and roast at 350˚ till 130 deg and let rest. That basically is how I did my last eye, and it turned out dense as a Yule log and zero flavor. A telling feature is that at the end of the recipe in the “Test-Kitchen Tip” it advises you that the eye of the round “is not the most tender cut of beef. Be sure to slice it very thinly”. Please don’t invite me to that Luxury dinner.

But, I digress. Restaurants, as I’ve said before, are a business. They need to make money, and unlike us wage slaves where our rewards are generally in our own hands (work hard or be fired), they depend on “us” to come to them. In times of tightened budgets, they are looking for ways to supply you with restaurant quality food that might fall within your depleted budget for eating out. Thus locally, we see the Dry Dock offering those Lobster/Steak/Meat Loaf Nights and Café Des Artists is providing (at least this week) an all inclusive $10.00 Lunch, and Corbels has begun (Tuesday thru Thursday for the month of March) a - Soup or Salad, Entree, and Dessert for $24.99. Any menu entree included - steak is just $2.00 more. Those are pretty good deals. I suspect there will be more of these opportunities to keep eating out in tough times (or retirement!), and it does let you dine at places you might not have tried yet.

Had nice recorded message during the snow on Monday from the fine folks at Waste Management. They wanted me to know that our pickup day would “be delayed by one day” because of the weather. “Remember things will be delayed by ONE DAY”. Then they very carefully went on to say, “That means, if your normal pickup day would is Tuesday, your trash would be picked up on Wednesday”. Nobody went broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public I guess.

Still DFD

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Life Begins Anew

Somebody once said that I would retire when Hell freezes over. Not quite in that order, that’s what occurred yesterday, my first real day of retirement. Unfortunately it was spent huddling in the digs trying to stay warm and hoping against hope that the power that went out Sunday evening would return any moment. It did, but not until around 5. Quite the storm.

Anyway, so here I sit on the first day where I didn’t have to get up at o’dark thirty, show the nice man my badge, scour the tie ins for aircraft facts, put together a “status” and then append the feeder my labor of love. That part I miss, but hope this blog thing can eventually replace it with much more capability. I hope you bear with me while we all learn about blogosphere.

What’s retirement? Today it’s sitting here (in the now warm digs) gazing out at the snow, the birds gathering on the feeder (how do they eat that stuff so fast?), the bright blue water punctuated with the bridge arcing across to the solomons, and thinking, gee maybe those guys are right. For instance, Lunch now takes on a whole new dimension. Normally it consisted of microwaving a little cup of sodium laced food like material, a bag of Doritos, and maybe a Pepsi consumed while running down the e-mails, spilling Doritos crumbs into the keyboard. Now, a whole new universe awaits. One could join one’s spouse at a (tasteful) local spot for a leisurely dish with maybe a glass of wine (instead of “unsweetened ice tea please”), or spend some time at home and make that Reuben just the way you want, or if busy just skip it. freedom of choice. A nice thought.

ADMIN Note: I am having trouble establishing a link between the blogger (me) and readers. I greatly enjoy and appreciate your helpful comments, suggestions, experiences, etc., and don’t want to lose that. Bear with me a bit..and the person who asked about DFD and MFO, I replied but not sure you got it.. learning..hang with me.

Balimer/Harry Browne's

Apologies for late posting - snow/power, etc.
We started retirement by not letting grass grow under our feet (or snow pile up on them, as the case may be) and drove up to Annapolis Friday evening to initiate our annual outing to the Baltimore craft show. To celebrate, we decided to have dinner at Harry Browne’s. It’s funny about things. Despite many other (probably fine) options in Annapolis and its environs we keep coming back there. Some places you just develop an affinity for despite some flaws here and there. That’s the way we are about Harry Browne’s. The interior is warm and appealing with its fancy deco lighting fixtures, the little raised dining area concealing a few tables in the back where you could meet that discreet “friend”, or sit by the windows and observe the passing scene. With the service bar now moved upstairs (with the only restrooms, one of those flaws we’ve accepted), it’s usually quiet. Tables are always set with white tablecloths, tented napkins, silver, and crystal. Being near the State House by and large the clientele arrives if not dressed for dinner, at least dressed for work which suffices. It does, however tend to increase the amount of cell phone usage as noted on previous notes. We had called ahead because it was Friday, the Academy and legislature were in session and were fearful we wouldn’t be able to book. We allotted about an hour and a half for the journey and told the lady we expected to be there about seven. That proved to be optimistic as we found that our dear Solomon’s bridge was bumper to bumper starting at route four, so about 6:45 when we were at the Lothian traffic circle we called again, fearing the worst, but were told “no problem”. Upon successful navigation to the restaurant, we were glad to see that Valet parking was available and finally arrived at the door maybe 20 minutes late.

We needn’t have been concerned, as there were maybe 5 occupied tables in the whole place (although there was a fair amount of traffic headed upstairs to the bar). We subsequently learned that last week was “restaurant week” in Annapolis, and were told that business usually dropped after that. We were seated on the raised platform at a four top (a nice touch) and the other two set ups were removed. The wine list, the daily special menu list, and the menu were presented and we were glad that the extra space was available as they are fairly unwieldy leather bound things. Despite the bulkiness, I rather like the idea of daily specials being written down so later you don’t have to say, “what sauce did he/she say was on the grouper?”

Another thing we enjoy about Harry Browne’s is that by and large the servers are intelligent, always neatly dressed, despite a few flaws here and there do a reasonable job of serving. We were approached by a young lady who announced that she was (....) and would be (I think a new one), “helping us this evening”. She was quite enthusiastic and remained so throughout the evening, however along with the enthusiasm came the tiring string of “Absolutely!; Perfect!; You got it!” to almost anything we said. This was all bundled with a pleasant enough personality, good eye contact, and we did have a couple of good conversations throughout the evening.

Drinks were requested promptly (another advantage to not having to recite/listen to specials), and we were given the choice of gin (for MFO’s gimlet), and bourbon for the dry manhatten, on the rocks, with a twist. (Bombay and Jim Beam). Because the bar was now upstairs, his required her to go up the steps, obtain the cocktails, come down the steps and deliver the drinks. She claimed that work was now part of her workout. For the record, as it always is, the drinks were correct the first time. She also offered bread for the table which is a nice touch (You got it!). After recovering from white line fever with the aid of the cocktails, we finally considered the menus. I’ve gone over their selections before, but they’re fairly aggressive, with some interesting items (wild boar sausage, “Werthman” salmon, etc.). Most are described as to preparation and sauce, e. g., Pan Roasted Swordfish with Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomatoes, Hearts of Palm, Fingerling Potatoes, Little Neck Clams, and Smoky Olive Oil. Prices are healthy, appetizers range from $9 to 13, Salads 9 or 10 (tableside Caesar for two 20), Soups 8 bucks, and (12 on the regular menu) entrees from 24 – 35. As a side note the only poultry on the dinner menu was duck, completely devoid of any chicken offerings.

Anyway we decided on appetizers of Calamari with Imported Tomatoes, Pumpkin Seed Pesto & Smoked Mozzarella over Rosemary Soft Polenta for myself and Crispy Fried Virginia Oysters with Cucumber & Pea Shoot Salad & Tomato Horseradish Aioli for MFO. Without the histrionics I took a braised lamb shank over saffron risotto with a reduction, and MFO took the “famous” crab cakes. Splitting the middle, we chose a Willamette Four Graces Pinot, listed on the wine list as ’04, but appearing as an ’07, and a re-check of the cellar confirmed ’04 was no longer available. To be (somewhat) fair there is a note at the top of the wine list saying that you could check with your sever for price and vintage changes. They provided suitable wine glasses and a taste allowed us to “settle” for the ’07 which was fairly tasty, but as you might expect a bit young. Would like the opportunity to compare it to the ’04. We were gratified that each of our choices were “Splendid” or “Perfect”.

The appetizers soon arrived and in my case proved to be the dish of the meal. You always roll the dice ordering Calamari, risking a mouthful of rubber bands. Not so here, the calamari was tender, flavorful and nestled in a wonderful smoky broth of the mozzarella, pesto and the tomatoes. The polenta with the rosemary provided some textural and aromatic notes. A great dish. The Oysters were also equal to the task were so large they had to be cut (without detriment), a beautiful golden brown set radially around the lovely green cucumber and pea shoot greens, along side a golden dollop of the aioli. Standard description of good oysters applied, a little bite of the sea.. Great dishes.

The main courses were good, but faced a tough task after the opening act. The crab cakes did have great flavor, arriving on a little raft of fried green tomatoes. They were sided by scallion mashed potatoes a little serving of corn and (Smithfield Ham) succotash with a smoky corn sauce. My shank was presented with the bone at 12 o’clock, propped up by the risotto, and riding in the reduction sauce (of which escapes me as of this writing – maybe a telling note). The first few bites of the lamb were that pretty strongly “lamb flavor” but the inner meat was more mildly flavored and was pretty good. Risotto, like crab cakes or chili is a pretty subjective call, but I have to admit this was not well done (by my book), Perhaps intentionally so it wouldn’t dissolve in the reduction, it bordered on “gluey” and was pretty dense. The “spring peas” in it were tough to distinguish from Birdseye. The dish was good, I happily ate it all, but expected just a little more. At that point we were pretty full so just had coffee and drove on up the road. The fact that the restaurant was sparsely populated and we had such a good meal (with a few flaws here and there) will keep it at the top of our Annapolis list (admittedly not vast. I have heard good things about Lewne’s and would like to try that sometime. I daresay you won’t be disappointed going to Harry Browne’s.

Probably your eyes are spinning so i won't bother you with much about Baltimore Craft Show execept to say that i stand in awe of what some of those people do. Browse and plan to go sometime. take cash