Thursday, April 30, 2009

This and That...

Despite dire forecasts and some ennui on my part we did go play golf yesterday at Breton Bay. I was reminded how pleasant playing with friends on a pretty much vacant golf course can be. Schedule pressures led to only doing 9 holes, but it was a very nice outing. And, I didn’t lose a single Titleist!! My only transgression was taking the cart deeper into the woods than the greens keeper wanted and I was sternly admonished.

Have heard no definitive account of the origin of the fire or extent of damage to pier and vessel. Reports are that the ship remains under armed guard near the base. Maybe Friday’s emptyprise will supply more information.

This weekend is the St. Mary’s County House and Garden Pilgrimage. There will be 11 sites, including the St. John’s Site Museum, the restored 1667 Brick Chapel, several buildings and gardens on the Campus, and Clocker’s Fancy. Most are centered around St. Mary’s City. You can find descriptions and details on the web site.

Tonight there will be an interesting piano recital in St. Mary’s Hall on the campus, at 8 o’clock. It will be given by a 13 year old student of Brian Ganz, Jonah Yeh, and will be his first piano solo. I understand Jonah’s father works on the base. Current plans will have the feeder in attendance.

This Saturday many of the embassies in DC on Massachusetts’s avenue will be open to the public as part of Passport DC. They will display their art, culture and food. Sounds very tempting, but unfortunately conflicts with the house and garden tour which I think trumps it. But if you're up in DC I'm sure it would be rewarding.

And, probably deservedly at the last, I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard a little piece about a high school in DC “winning a national contest”. Hmmm, science projects? art exhibits? scholastic competitions? academic excellence? essay contests? Wrong, oh culturally alert editor - this is the wireless, net centric connected age. It seems that the students were able to send more text messages than any other high school in the country. I believe it was around 19 thousand text messages sent by the (reported) 804 students. I’ll save you the math, that’s about 24 each. OMG. Their prize for this dubious distinction? A real live concert by Taylor Swift! Who, I found out is a “country-pop sensation”, apparently extremely popular with the high school set. The radio station played a few sound bites. Let’s just say that I have heard (IMHO) more talented singers in my life.

That’s it – enjoy the rest of your week and plan weekend accordingly!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Firey Lite Wednesday

Early tee time this am......

Did you see the volumes of black smoke yesterday evening? MFO alerted me and we put the scope on the source and saw the pier where the Navy Ship is berthed by the solomon’s bridge was afire. Eventually it burned to the shore and not quite to the end. For a long time there was no response and finally the little red boat from (?) came out and began using a soda straw size stream at it (a more colorful description comes to mind, but for the sake of decency I’ll let you think about it yourself) as it burned out of control. Another eventually, and finally the tugs from Solomon’s came out and really put some serious water on it, but by that time the pier was pretty well destroyed. Another eventually, and they managed to get the Ship away from the pier, and the port side looked pretty scorched. Last we saw it was limping toward the base. I suppose we'll hear if it weren't for the Solomon's fire and rescue, Calvert County would be a desert this morning.. Remember the Lighthouse??

We'll mention the Taylor Smith in another post.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rope Caulk

Do you know what that is?

If you don’t, stop reading right now, close the computer and go apply for a job at Lowe’s.

Close inspection of the screened in porch at the digs revealed a path of entry for the numerous wasps who have been joining us for cocktails lately. During the repair for the lightning damage last year, the last vertical next to the brick had not been caulked so that the mortar joints provided an entry for any curious Hymenoptera Apocrita. Okay that should be an easy repair.. I’ll just pop over to Lowe’s and get some Rope Caulk and start stuffing the holes.. Easy. So, off I go, into Lowe’s get to the caulk aisle and find only tubes of latex stuff. A smiling red vested youngster approached and inquired if I needed some help. “Yes, I can’t seem to see the Rope Caulk, can you tell me where it is?”. The smile disappeared from his face, and eyes opened wide. “what?” “rope caulk, can you tell me were it is?”. I don’t know what that is. “you know, it’s the stuff that’s in a box, on a roll, several small strands of putty like material”. Never heard of it! “okay, thanks I’ll go look in plumbing”.

The next 20 minutes was spent roaming the store, and every clerk I asked had the same reaction: “Huh?”, with overtones intimating that I was crazy because they were the experts and there probably was no such product. Finally “Barb” overheard me asking about the 8th person and said: “Oh Yeah – Rope Caulk!”. A feeling of relief came over me that: a) I wasn’t insane, and b) somebody actually heard of it. Another guided tour of the store ensued without success, finally the conclusion was reached that they don’t carry it anymore (despite their inventory computer saying they did). Barb apologized, but did take some personal satisfaction that “10 guys never heard of it, and one woman did!”…Crestfallen, I did purchase a fresh tube of the silicone stuff with the hope of not having to use it (several experiences have gone really bad).

If you do know what that is, finish reading and go apply for a job at Dyson’s.

Frustrated with my Lowe’s experience (which cost me approximately 40 minutes with no success), I drove down to Dyson’s on Great Mills. Upon entering I was asked if I needed help by someone of, er, “my” generation. Hesitantly I asked about Rope Caulk. “Of course! Hey Joe! Can you show this gentleman the rope caulk?”. Straight to the aisle, and there it was. He apologized for not having the “spaghetti” kind on hand, but did have the flat roll. Obviously not a foreign product to Joe. I briefly described my odyssey at the other establishment, and he observed I got what I deserved.

So, after losing my work window yesterday afternoon to my tour of Lowe’s, I’m about ready to go outside and seal out the wasps…

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weekend Ramblings

'Twas a busy extended weekend for the flutters…

Thursday night we attended to the flutter mobiles readying MFO for yet another journey to Wisconsin.

Friday was spent with various chores, planning the grass garden, tidying up and hosting various craftsmen. The “pool guys” came over to pre-shock the gray lagoon so that when that wonderful day arrives when we “open” the pool for the season, it won’t be so laden with plant life. In the process of peeling back the cover, they discovered a very dead squirrel floating that must have fell through the deer hoof holes. That wasn’t pretty. The HVAC guy also visited assuring the ECS system in the house was ready for today’s preview of ninety degree temperatures. Then we went to the annual dinner for the St. Mary’s County Historical Society, historically held at Breton View in with Eddie Bailey’s historical buffet. Same stuff, casseroles followed by rolls, followed by mashed potatoes, followed by some manufactured chicken cordon blue probably prepared by some food service company, but then, all is forgiven there are those fried oysters. Crisp outside, creamy inside, flavorful. Be polite and taste the others, leave lots of room for the oysters. Then there’s that haunch of beef that somehow always gets carved with the grain. The program for the evening was a short talk about Mark Twain and his relation to the river as an allegory to life. The Historical Society needs members! Especially “younger” ones…

Saturday was spent in our annual trek to DC to see the Smithsonian Craft Show, one of the nation’s premier craft shows. For once a seamless ride not resulting in an unwanted trip to Virginia and we arrived at a friend’s house without incident and even found a parking place. We had a nice respite with a cool glass of Riesling and some great cheese from Eastern Market. We then hoofed it to the Metro and got to Foggy Bottom and walked to the Founding Farmer’s Restaurant. (See “Farming in DC” for the extensive review). Then, back on the Metro and the Archives station and into the National Building Museum for the Craft Show. Unlike the Baltimore show where there are many, many hundreds of crafters exhibiting, there were only 120 here, which makes it “doable” in a reasonable amount of time. We have noticed that although it is a juried show it seems like some crafters were there year after year. This year we were pleased to see that almost 40 new exhibitors were present. A refreshing change. Our only trophy was a nice little ceramic dish. There were beautiful things as usual, jewelry, wearable art (the term used for fancy jackets and coats), wood, glass, ceramics and so forth. Almost any media you can think of. It’s amazing what people can do. Some of the jewelry is just gorgeous and if you have 10 or 15 thousand bucks, you can have a nice piece. On the way home, we stopped off at Nick’s of Calvert and picked up a steak and a couple of chops. Say what you will about them, they all give you eye contact, talk to you and are very customer focused. A refreshing change from the Giants and Shopper’s where the checkout people carry on conversations around you. By the time we got home, we were so pooped that we put off the steak, had a glass of wine on the porch and hit the sack.

Yesterday was comparatively quiet; we did a quick stop in at the fund raiser for St. Mary’s Caring, and then went down to the Visitor Center at Historic St. Mary’s City and heard a lecture from Tim Riordan about the findings from last year’s Summer Archeology Program’s “dig” at the Lord Calvert House. It never ceases to amaze me how they piece together stories from what they find. They’re trying to figure out the configuration of the “north wall” when the house was used as a “fort” during the time of the so-called “Ingle’s Rebellion”. It’s such neat stuff… Go visit the city..

Concluded the weekend last night with Nick’s steak and a nice bottle of ’05 Catena Malbec which is drinking very well.

Odd that I still think in terms of "concluding" the weekend. This morning feels just like it did on the weekend!!

This and That:

Next weekend is the St. Mary’s County leg of the house and garden tour..

For those of you who remember our old ITT friend Tony Pence, his son is very much into bicycle racing and following an excellent example (ahem) – has started a blog. It’s pretty techy, but interesting reading..

Check out Google's logo today..

And to paraphrase CCR, here’s “Pollen on the River….”:


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Farming in DC

As part of our weekend ramblings (noted in separate posting) we at long last were able take lunch at the Founding Farmers restaurant, open less than a year. It has opened with a unique concept: “Founding Farmers offers Fresh Farm to Table American inspired true food and drink in a modern, casual and eco – friendly setting. The menus include homemade and ‘scratch made’ traditional American classics inspired by the heartland with sustainably farmed products, including locally sourced items and in season vegetables and fruits whenever possible”. They further describe themselves as: “..the Greenest Restaurant in DC, Founding Farmers is a Certified Green Restaurant™ operates Carbon Neutral with offset credits via, and is a LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold restaurant, a combined first for a Washington, DC restaurant and for a full service, upscale, casual restaurant in the entire U.S.” I’m all for ecological responsible endeavors, but cynical old me looks a bit askance when they start wearing it like the flag.

Anyway it’s located in the IMF building on Pennsylvania Avenue near Kinkead’s, a short walk from the Foggy Bottom Metro. As alert readers will recall, this weekend is also the meeting of the World Bank, taking place in the same building. I’ve never seen so many police officers and jersey barriers (and thankfully no protestors) around a restaurant, but there they were. Upon approach to the barriers, a nice officers asked if we were going to the restaurant, and with an affirmative reply from us, let us “pass”. Without digression, readers can ponder upon the amount of security that supplies. At any rate we entered the restaurant, and with the above background I expected hand hewn benches, plain décor with perhaps “American Gothic” prints here and there, with servers in overalls and hay seeds. Nothing (as they say) could be further from the truth. Metal, wood, with very contemporary treatment is everywhere (well, there is a stylish display of canned veggies at the hostess stand), but certainly doesn’t recall “traditional American classics”. The bar area is quite spectacular (and they did have Silver Oak on the shelf). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very beautiful space just not exactly what I expected. Tables do have very plain glasses set with no tablecloths however. Upon hearing that it was MFO’s and my first visit, our unnamed server explained much of the above preamble, and pointed out the “re-cycled” lumber from barns (Hmmmm) and planking on the floor, etc.

We were ushered to a table by the window, handed and handed a large single sheet laminated menu. Eventually a server arrived and upon learning MFO were “first time visitors” she went over the concept expressed above, then explained about the Catch of the day specials (organically farmed salmon and fresh caught Halibut), said she’d be back for drink orders, and left us to consider the menu. That proved to be quite a task since both dinner and luncheon selections were included. So there were categories for: Small Plates, Entrée Salads, Nice Little Salads, Sandwiches, Fresh Catch, Signatures, Flat Breads, From the Ranch, Handmade Pasta, Soup, and American Farmstead Cheese Plates. Sweets and drinks were on the reverse side along with the wines. Whew!! Each category had a little tag confirming the local/sustainable/green theme: Salads: “we receive daily deliveries of the freshest seasonable produce from American family farmers”; Flatbreads: “baked in-house daily”; From the Ranch: “we source the finest meats from the Pineland Farms of Maine”. More terms in the same vein were under each menu selection as well, with “in house” “hand crafted in house”; “our own house made” used liberally. Prices varied, sandwiches from $9 (farmhouse eggs, home made bun, house made chips); $12 “ground to order” burgers, to a $24 Lobster roll. From the Ranch contained the higher end stuff crowned by a $42 Pepper Crusted New York Strip. On the reverse side they had an interesting cocktail section (crafting superior drinks) and the wines were reasonable (for dinner sometime) with many $20 and $30 bottles (and up) with only a few show offs in three figures..

Midway through the menu absorption our server returned for drink orders, and MFO chose the “fresh in house to order” Mint Limeade, and our friend the Grapefruit soda; and I selected a glass of Italian Prosecco, all suitable selections for the weather. Oddly enough, and to be repeated, each of our selections were rated by our server (that’s my favorite!; excellent Choice! Wonderful!), which, while maybe reassuring, not very valuable information (at least to the feeder). We ordered a Skillet Corn Bread for the table, MFO and our friend the “Roasted Chicken Salad” - Creamy rotisserie chicken salad with dried blueberries and marcona almonds served over tender bibb lettuce, golden beets, avocado, and tomatoes, sprinkled with an herb vinaigrette; and after a good deal of gnashing considering the weather, the rest of the day’s activities, I ordered the “Derby Chop Salad” - Mixed chopped lettuces, bacon, turkey, and crumbled bleu cheese topped with our house made Louie dressing. All were excellent choices!!.

After cresting that task, looking around the room rekindled my passion for DFD (or DFL in this case) as many of the diners were in cut-offs, ladies in short shorts, Levi’s and Tee’s; and mostly young. When MFO pointed out we were in the middle of GWU, I begrudgingly backed off, instantly recognizing college students (and apparently fairly well heeled ones at that). In contrast there were also suits from the local meetings I suspect. Drinks didn’t appear and didn’t appear, with “they’re almost ready” delivered a couple of times (maybe it took a while to grind that mint and pick the grapefruit), finally they did (with scant apologies) along with the cornbread and all were very refreshing. The cornbread was lighter and not grainy, contained kernels, and was very tasty.

The salads were finally brought to the table by a third party resulting in auctioning them off. They were all just great. The chicken salads were centered on wonderfully fresh buttery bibb lettuce, and fanned into spokes upon which was the beets, tomatoes and avocados. The salad itself contained actual dark meat which we all know is where a lot of the “chicken” flavor lies. My Derby Chop was served in a big mixing bowl and was just that. Chopped lettuces with shreds (not chunks mind you, but you could see the grain) of very flavorful turkey, the bacon was more like fat back, large chunks with a delicious smoke, and the blue cheese crumbled throughout with flavorful cherry tomatoes (split to avoid that “squirt” thing). Quantities were all or more than you could ask for.

Since the plates were delivered by that third party, you might think that our server would come by to check, but that wasn’t the case. I think if you’re going to have somebody from the kitchen deliver them, the server should check in very soon to see if there were any concerns, but no. As the time was slipping by we reluctantly decided not to try the Authentic Red Velvet Cake. It took a couple of tries for our server (whose name we knew by this time) to get the check split correctly.

Summary: The food is excellent, I would return for that with no qualms, but would hope for better timing and more attentive service. Again, although a great cause and worthy endeavor a little less tooting of one’s own horn might be in order. We get that…

Friday, April 24, 2009

Misconceptions and Ponderings....

There probably is a perception that in my retirement (Oh God, there he goes again!) that all I do is sit around, sipping first growths (more on that later), nibbling on delectable morsels of foie gras, and generally living it up. Nothing could be further from the truth. As evidence, here’s the fruits of yesterday’s labor (and the reason for no blog) as work begins on re-doing the landscaping behind the digs. We are re-doing the beds behind the house to install and improve the ornamental grasses.

So you see that not all is peaches and cream, and those first growths can be a reward for a day of hard labor – well, maybe a couple of hours. At any rate, I have been turning something over in my ever busy mind lately regarding wine. Now that lunch has become the opportunity for more than a micro-waved cup of Dinty Moore goo and a bag of Doritos and a diet coke, I have, on occasion enjoyed a beer with lunch. Not the 10 oz. variety (although once in a while), but rather some of the more exotic ones like Firestone/Walker 31 Pale Ale. I have come to appreciate the nuances of such beverages. Some are very pleasant, and appealing. Which then of course begs the question of comparison with wines. I have not reached any conclusions and am open to discussion, but I am wondering if there is more of a range of tastes, styles, and differences on the beer side than with wine. Walk in any of the local wine stores (well, a few of the better ones – we’ll leave out the Sign of the Whale types) and you will find a bewildering amount of American and international beers with a huge and very distinct and noticeable range of flavors, weights, types (ales, lagers, pilsners), too many to try.

On the other hand, there are also hundreds of wineries and wines, but in general (give me some consideration here, we’re on thin ice), the wines are limited to the varietals and blends of cabernets, pinots, chardonnays, etc. Yes, there are different methods of making and aging the wines – filtered or no, malolactic or no, new wood, old wood, toasted or no, steel, etc., but they are still driven by the grape which pretty much drives the results. Again, in very general terms, a cabernet is still a cabernet. Maybe that’s what gives rise to those “all black cherry polish with a sultry mocha edge” remarks. I suspect that as usual, there is no right answer, and both beverages are to be enjoyed, but food for thought, and research…

And before releasing you to your Friday and busy weekend (ours is shaping up that way) I ran across another example of how you can mess up a supposedly simple dish. In this case it’s guacamole, a comparatively easy concoction of avocado, cilantro, tomatoe, etc. In this month’s Conde Nast Traveler (which, incidentally includes a cover note about "World's Top New 140 Hotels"), there is a little article on the “signature dish” (their designation) of Mexico, you can get a bowl for $3 at Azul Y Oro which contains “coarsely textured avocado, tomatoes, Serrano peppers, cilantro, and onions”. Or, you can go to Paxia San Angel, and get a bowl that has “guava, apricot, or pomegranate, plus Maldon sea salt, morels, ripe avocados, tipped with sliced almonds” served with “incredible homemade corn tortillias fried in foie gras”. Oh, that’s only 20 bucks.. sheesh..

Why we like living at the digs…..

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lite Wednesday it used to be called in the old days, so we’ll honor that tradition and stay (relatively) short today.

I got a (new) catalogue in the mail yesterday called “The Continuing Adventures of Napa Valley’s Bounty Hunter, and his never ending quest for the finest rare wines and provisions”. Inside it explains that some guy named Mark Steven Pope is the Bounty Hunter, and he’s going to let me in on “luxury experience that doesn’t break the bank”. That value thing again – and there’s a quote from the SFO Chronicle of “Lots of people talk about taking the mystique out of wine..but Mark Pope and the Bounty Hunter are actually doing it”. Great! Let’s get rid of that mystique..I’m down for that! What follows are page after page of descriptions of some fairly big boy wines (Plumpjack, Pahlmeyer, Gaja) along with descriptions and pricing (most over $50). Looping back to “taking the mystique out of wine”, here’s some direct quotes used in the descriptions:

“sexed up black fruits and luscious, smoky oak”

“the layers here are noteworthy and impressive”

“wash over the palate in waves with this full-bodied racehorse”

“all black cherry polish with a sultry mocha edge”

“tidal wave of dark berry and chocolate flavors”

Yessir, boy, there goes that mystique…and, oh by the way, you can join a wine club for a mere $299/mo for which you get two bottles of wine each month (oh, except you can't ship to Maryland)

For something to do on a rainy wednesday, tonight is another in the series of Wine and Art at Blue Wind Gourmet.. supporting another local charity..


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We're Number.......

What’s up with us Americans? What’s up with our obsession with “rankings” and who is “number one”? Every fall and winter, people awake Monday morning to worry about which bunch of college guys won a basketball/football game with another bunch of college guys, and what happened to the “rankings”. Endless haggling over who should be “number one” and why this team is and that team is not. Of course, ultimately it comes down to money (it always does) as placement in say, the tortured BCS games determines how many millions each institution derives from it’s so called student athletes. In basketball, rankings determines the hallowed seeding in the March Madness with everybody wanting to be a Number ONE Seed. Why does somebody have to be the alleged best? It can change by some detail, an injury, a bad call, what’s the big deal? There is no such thing.

And, it isn’t limited to the maligned sports community either. Travel magazines: “the Ten Best Hotels in the World!”; Consumer Reports makes tons of money every month "ranking" garbage disposals; Car magazines routinely award Car of the Year. Everybody gets in on the game. The world of culinary arts is no better. February ’09 Washingtonian Magazine’s cover is devoted to “”100 Very Best Restaurants” a little bubble proclaims “Who’s Number One?”; a late issue of Imbibe: “100 Best Places to Drink Beer in America; cover of the May ’09 Food and Wine: “best recipes from the world’s best cooking teachers” (italics theirs). Last October’s St. Louis magazine (I think I mentioned in a former feeder); “The 35 Best Restaurants in St. Louis” another bubble – “Our Restaurant of the Year”. May '09 Bon Appetit (the Travel Issue (what?)): "Best of the USA" I could go on.

What’s the deal? Is the presumption that the general public is so stupid as to be incapable of deciding by their own tastes what they like? The uneducated rabble will blindly follow whatever “they” recommend as a restaurant or dish and go like sheep? I think it also revolves around the American (?) mentality that everything has to be relegated to a “winner” and a “loser”. Anything but the best or what is deemed number one is not worth considering. Nobody wants to be associated with a loser, so get that list, just find who is number one, don’t think, just buy, eat, go, and by golly you therefore are also a winner. Maybe I’m too old. Hey, Bobby Flay – if you “lose” a throw down, you still make a pretty damn good set of ribs..

So it was with that mentality that I got a breath of fresh air when my latest issue of Saveur arrived. The cover of the “Dining in America” -(not eating, mind you, but dining) features “12 Restaurants that Matter”. Not who’s number one, which one is the best, but places that matter. Is there a difference? I think so. The article begins by explaining that these restaurants were chosen (okay, somebody had to choose) because they have “profoundly influenced the way we think about food.” Some are included because they are enduring landmarks – Commander’s Palace in New Orleans; Pioneers that show us how wonderful locally grown ingredients can taste – Blue Hill at Stone Farms; a thoughtful translation of an indigenous cuisine – Slanted Door in San Francisco. Most of the places I have not heard of (Musso and Frank; Canlis), some I have (Joel Robuchon; Topolobambo). The point is that they did not claim that they were there because they were “the best”, they were there because they matter.

Anyway, I wanted to get that off my chest. “Best” is a relative term, not absolute. We need to settle, and, as a friend of mine used to caution: “we must learn to be content”. To thine own self be true (that was from another friend from another time).

DFD for important places

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gimme an N..M..C.. I!! ...Hold the "N"

Somehow those 4 letters seem to have been providing me no end of aggravation. No need to recount the impact of the full version, but what about the “hold the N” part? Well, that leaves you with MCI. For one, they’re the telephone people that provide me with land line long distance service. I have no idea what it stands for, but they send me a bill every month. Then there are the folks who provide my cable, HD, and occasional internet connectivity. I pay a princely sum to Metrocast Communications Inc., for the various digital and HD packages. But, when you watch the Masters on that big LCD with sparkling colors, you don’t regret a penny (at the moment). Anyway, last Friday revealed yet another combination of those letters that affects our psyche.

We did attend the lecture at St. Mary’s College on “the Aging Mind”. We were expecting a light hearted look at losing the car keys, or forgetting the name of the person you met 3 minutes ago, finding your glasses on your head, with maybe some tips or exercises for offsetting the onset of those types of things. Of course, “plenty of time” turned into being late, and the presentation had started by the time we arrived. Opening the door to Cole Cinema revealed an almost full house, mostly populated by obvious students with laptops and note pads. Uh oh. The was a viewgraph on the screen which at first appeared to be a bowl of oatmeal, but we had never seen oatmeal with arrows labeled “hippocampus” along with others pointing out arcane names for various lumps of the oatmeal. What followed was slide after slide comparing rats to humans, clips of rats trying to find a platform in a swimming tank, together with a load of acronyms and phrases which were foreign to us. And, then, to cap it all off, there it was. Those same three letters, M, C, & I. You know what? We have Mild Cognitive Impairment. We sure were glad we went…

What else? Well, I spent most of the weekend making the beds by the gray lagoon fit for a (planned) planting of ornamental grasses, and MFO toiled to get the screened in porch fit of habitation and consumption of cocktails this evening. The boat traffic behind the digs was almost at summer season high, with all sorts of water craft scooting, planeing, plowing, plugging, tacking along. The opening of the Tiki bar might have had something to do with it. Speaking of which I just went to a local on-line newspaper article on the opening of: “the Solomons Island iconic Tiki Bar” and it claimed that people “around the globe flocked” there. My goodness. Around the globe? Wow. They also included some 103 images of the revelry, giving you 103 reasons why you don’t want to be there. Profanity laced T shirts, lurid shots, mostly containing pictures of cans of beer, my goodness. Journalistic integrity?

After spending the day mucking about in the dirt, scrubbing tile and removing spider webs, we scrubbed ourselves and took dinner at Brome Howard Inn. We enjoyed a lovely leisurely paced dinner with gracious service, good conversation, and along the way confirmed that IMHO (remember crab cakes are subjective) they still serve crab cakes that rate right at the top in the area. Consisting of lump meat, just enough filler to hold them together then finished in the broiler with a nice brown surface with succulent white crab showing through. Nice dish. We also met some a couple from Wisconsin who were staying at the Inn, and it turns out they were VanSweringens! Alert readers will remember that Garrett VanSweringen played a big part in the early days of St. Mary’s City, and was further depicted in that wonderful HBO series “Deadwood”. They greatly enjoyed their visit to Historic St. Mary's City. A very rewarding evening. Good food has it's rewards.

Did you see that our (1 and 10) local baseball team actually took the field the other day in uniforms with “Natinals” emblazoned on the front? No further comment required.

And, I can’t help but comment that sitting in your bed Monday morning with the laptop propped on your lap while the wind driven rain pelts the windows is better than going to work

maintain your resolve to DFD

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Stuff

A week that gave us all sorts of weather is concluding with some warming temps and bright sun, meaning that the excuses have gone, and you should be out in the yard pulling, clipping, pondering plantings, and generally enjoying the outdoors. And, with the advent of spring comes more stuff to do around "nothing to do Southern Maryland". A small attempt at the beginnings of a list highlighting some culturally rewarding upcoming events for your consideration:


Tiki Bar opens at noon (okay, this is culturally rewarding only in the sense that it’s a tradition like no other – no, wait, that’s something else) but maybe you cultured ones might plan NOT to be on the island, or, go ahead and wallow like a kid again. Beware of increased Security measures..

3:00p Cole Cinema (St. Mary’s College Student Center) – Dr. Michael Gallagher of Johns Hopkins will present a lecture entitled: “The Aging Brain, The Bad News and the Good News”. We might go if we don’t forget….

8:00p Naomi Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories” a production by St. Mary’s College. Sounds intense. Also tomorrow at 8 and Sunday at 2p. Bruce Davis theater which I think is in the arts building on campus


8:00p Port Tobacco Players Theater (LaPlata) Anthony Zerbe’s one man show of recital of poetry, speeches and writings of e.e. Cummings.

Upcoming of Note:

April 25th and 26th. Garden Fair at Sotterley – 30 Speakers, Historic Tools, plants,etc., sounds fun. 10 bucks (or 15 both days).

May 2nd; Annual Maryland House and Garden Tour, featuring many stops at Historic St. Mary’s City and St. Mary’s College.

Other blatherings:

Speed Cameras – lots of passion out there. Still bothers me that law breakers somehow deserve consideration.

ADMIN: “Frank” (and others) – I appreciate your comments but I don’t think I can reply directly which bothers me. If you post a comment to a blog entry I see it, but not sure I can get back to you unless you send an e-mail with a real e-mail address to “bill @ billsbottomfeeder dot com”. If any smart bloggers out there with better intel, I’m listening..and learning.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I just don't get it....

I wasn’t going to post today, but I can’t help it. This has always bothered me.

There is an article in the newspaper today under the headline: “Cameras allowed to catch speeders close to schools”. I’m sorry - I never have understood this speed camera controversy. Let’s see if I have this straight. The law says that the speed limit is (for the sake of argument) 45 Mph, so if you’re going faster than that (whether you agree with the limit or not) you are breaking the law. Period. Breaking the law. We are not supposed to break laws. So why then, every time a municipality puts up cameras do people rise up in righteous indignation? Big brother is often mentioned. Other complaints are that it doesn’t help safety it’s just a “cash cow” providing a windfall for the community. Okay, fine. That should be good thing one would think.

I can’t help but think that the real reason is that some people feel that they have an inaliable right to exceed the speed limit, and by good gosh, I’m smart enough not to get caught. It’s my right. Nobody can tell me what to do. Radar detectors are rampant to avoid getting “caught”. “Damn it, why should I have to slow down?” Simple truth: if people obeyed the law, it would be moot. No tickets, no fines, no cows of cash, the whole thing goes away. Not only that, the thing doesn’t nab you unless you’re going more than 12 miles over the limit (a whole new argument there)! So, Jeff Burton, if you see the evil camera, knock that speed down to only breaking the law by 10 mph. Gee, maybe there won’t be as many accidents.

Get those taxes in, but don’t speed doing it!!

DFD (dinner, not driving)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This and That Tuesday

With MFO ensconced in Wisconsin, and the rain preventing any thought of yard work (darn it!) at the digs, Tuesday turned out to be a very enjoyable day. It started out with a visit from some dear friends I hadn’t seen since last year, and we had a delightful time over coffee discussing (among other worldly subjects) potential landscaping around the gray lagoon. There’s just something pleasing about a gentle rain, clouds, and fog.

It’s odd how living on the water always produces something to catch your attention. Even though it’s the same view, there’s always something different. Like today, I noticed that (poorly depicted – I gotta get a better camera) line of “white stuff” just beyond the pier. There’s enough breeze that wave action should move it down stream, but it has persisted in the same location for over a couple of hours. I always write these things off to interaction of wind, tide, and current, but who knows.

As part of my retirement “mind improvement” program, I am trying to read more. I am gradually getting over my guilt at “just sitting reading” (another discussion topic of this morning) and looking at it as enriching my narrow brain. At any rate, the current book is McCullough’s “John Adams”. Most of the book is told through letters from and to John and Abigail, their family, Thomas Jefferson, and other characters associated with Independence. While the volume of correspondence is impressive, what is even more amazing is the time factor. Months would pass for delivery of a letter from London or Paris to America and it’s return. Like “how’s it going with the constitutional convention?” and not a reply for half a year. Time is relative. It’s hard to for us realize how much life was slower then..

Speaking of which, it’s beginning to dawn on me that probably people are tired of hearing ramblings about retirement. It’s time to stop looking inward and begin to look outward (although a personal comment will appear now and then – I live my life in public anyway). So, we’ll try to pay more attention to food and stuff again. Much better subject.

Also speaking of which, it's gratifying to see that most of the readership won't be standing in line waiting for Olive Garden to open it's doors.

DFD (and let OG get what it deserves)

Monday, April 13, 2009


Be still my beating heart! Could it be? Is it possible? Can the never ending soggy salad bowl and mushy combi-oven bread sticks be heading our way at last? YES! It’s true! That paragon of journalistic truth, the Emptyprise reports that an Olive Garden is on its way. Roberto Donna’s BeBo Trattoria in DC is now closed, Galileo is yet to re-open, but no matter, Italian food lives, “when you’re here, you’re family” is about to arrive in Lexington Park. Not only that, we’ll also be treated to a Red Robin and a Buffalo Wild Wings. And, with their arrival, another piece of natural beauty leaves. The land on the right side of 235 North past Shady Mile will provide the chance to guzzle beer, eat burgers, and have that bowl of soggy salad. I always enjoy that particular piece of land nestled in between shady mile and the remaining patch of real woods just before the ugly current condition nearer the corner at 4. Bye Bye trees, grasses, flowers, hello asphalt.

As for the eateries, let’s take a little culinary trip south of Rte 4 and 235 (ignoring the places in Wildewood, Lennies, etc. ). We’ll not include WaWa (and ignore Blue Wind Gourmet which stands by itself), so starting to move south looking right, we find Quizno’s, Starbucks (a little reach), then Burger King, Ruby Tuesday’s, Bob Evan’s, Chick Fil-A, Panera, Five Guys, Applebees, Checkers, Rick’s, Nicolletti’s, and by some counts, there are 12 or so eateries in San Souci, so that’s about 25 venues. So good, let’s add more places, find more “Hi, I’m…” incompetents and launch more places to suffer bad service and mediocre food.

It would be nice to get another fine dining place here, although I’m not sure we could support it. Instead we continue to flood the market with almost every mid-range churn it out chain there is. What are we missing?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cakes of Crab

Funny how things conspire. Over the past week, I’ve been exposed to crab cake mania. Of course with the Greek visitors in the area, Crab Cakes were extolled as a local delicacy, and something you must try. For an alleged food critic, (this has been said before) such things as crab cakes are an enigma. In the never ending American passion for ranking things, we’re always searching for “number one”, or “the best”. Guess what? It’s not an absolute solution. It’s all in what tastes best to your particular likes. I like anchovies, you don’t. I hate asparagus, you love it. So what? Are either the less? Classical cooking might be a bit different. For instance, Sole Mornay is supposed to be made only one way, and then we can judge quality. But in the case of crab cakes, chili, stuffed ham, it’s all about what appeals to you. What I like in a crab cake is crab. Not Old Bay, no peppers, no celery, no onions, no crackers, just the minimum binder to hold the crab meat together. And it should be lump, not just shreds that come from who knows where. To illustrate, here’s the ingredient list for a couple of crab cake recipes:

Dec 2004 Gourmet:

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 1 1/4 sticks (5 oz) unsalted butter, melted
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
• 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 2 teaspoons Sriracha hot chile sauce
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 8 slices firm whole-wheat sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over

And one from a June 2008 Gourmet:

• 2 slices firm white sandwich bread
• 1/2 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
• 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
• 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Prep for the first has 166 words and multiple steps (sweat, combine, make roux…), the second has 65 words and is basically “mix it up”.

So, which one is “better”? It’s up to you… I think I know what I would prefer.

Conspire part:

Locally, in the course of things, I’ve seen the plated version of crab cake at Hilton Garden Inn, the “famous” version at Stoney’s, and last night a re-visit to Clarke’s Landing. Clarke’s has always been high on my answer list to “where’s the best crab cake?”, usually asked by/for out of towners, so the setting plays kind of a role here. Plus I have pretty much enjoyed their version. Since this is getting long I’ll cut to the chase. Both the HGI and Stoney’s were composed of homogeneous strings of crab, spherical in nature, and appeared kind of mushy. For last night’s experiment at Clarke’s, I ordered the small platter with sides of salad/blue cheese, and onion rings. We ate on the porch (we had an out of towner), and endured the “be taking care of you” speech, but other than that, she was friendly and pretty attentive. When my cake arrived, it was on the “gill” portion of the omnipresent little blue fish plate, with a little tub of tartar sauce (does anybody ever eat that?) and five, count ‘em, five, onion rings. The cake was much smaller than I remembered, smaller than a hockey puck, but at least it was that shape so the inside could cook. Dissection revealed many identifiable lumps of crab, and had fairly good flavor. Memory is always a false standard, but it didn’t quite measure up to what I remembered from past visits. Still, it was much preferable to the other two. For the record, my long time favorite for crab cakes is Brome Howard Inn (and I have to admit I have not tried Corbels).

New Entry?

A stringer with a good palate reports that he is off Stoney’s (was a fan), but has stumbled on a little place in Prince Frederick, which I think you all have seen on the end of the Mr. Tire store/complex south of town. It’s called Jerry’s, and Jerry turns out to have moved here from Lanham/Seabrook, where (according to sources) he was “legendary”. It was described as “what Stoney’s used to be”. My friend had been 5 times and enjoyed every visit – especially the cakes of crab..


Friday, April 10, 2009


Your poor editor is depressed. The last few days/weeks seem to have been such a maelstrom of activity that my duty to observe and report has been obviated by events. And, there are so many things from trivia, to sports, to restaurants that need discussing he hardly knows where to start.. A small sampling of what’s in the locker:

Do you know there is a magazine called “Web MD”?

Why does our National Capitol have two of the worst (professional) teams in sports, and one of the best? The stupid Wizards have been awaiting the return of the Messiah (Gilbert Arenas) for two years now, and it isn’t happening.. current record of 17 and 59, and only one team in the NBA with a more piteous record. In our national pastime, manager Manny Acta has the greatest talent I’ve ever seen at explaining away loss after loss in such a humble way, you just want to hug him and say; “It’s all right Manny, 102 losses last year wasn’t your fault and you’ve been blown out all three games so far this year, but c’mon, the guys are trying hard.” Go Caps..

As part of our activity with a team of business people from Greece, I’ve had a chance to eat at The Tides, the Hilton Garden Inn, and Solomon’s Pier.

We arrived at the Tides only a half hour before the kitchen closed (on a Monday night) but were treated graciously by the staff and served food that would have been good at any hour of the day.

The Hilton Garden Inn was a plated event setting, and I’ll pass off the first visit to a learning experience on that aspect of food service. Food temperature and pacing were issues, although the salad of iceberg wedge with blue cheese was good (and chancy on their part), and a crab cake starter was passable. A main course of (their term) “prime rib” wasn’t. Water and iced tea glasses were never re-filled (nor offered to be) and our silverware was handled by them, not us. The knife used for crab cake consumption was taken from the finished plate and put on the bread plate for easy access for the beef. Hopefully they’ll learn, it’s another place. Don’t know anything about table service.

The last day with the team (Wednesday) took us to Solomons Pier for lunch (and showing the Greeks our waterfront experience). Every time I go in there I re-admire the carvings of the waterfowl. They have also put some historical storyboards on the walls which is a nice touch. Unfortunately we were greeted with a recorded “Hi I’m… and I’ll be taking care of you….”. Without looking up past feeders I seem to remember that I reluctantly thought the food was good on the last visit. This time another host extolled the (allegedly) legendary Stoney’s Crab Cake and pointed to yet another poster on the wall which contained the Washington Post’s award. Of course they left off the year. Anyway at the behest of that person, most of them ordered the small sandwich, and I went with the Angels on Horseback – fried oysters atop apple wood smoked bacon, on a bed of tomatoes and lettuced French roll. Another of the hosts just got a bowl of a non crab (memory going and no note pad) soup of the day. Orders were taken, drinks delivered (refreshingly, most of our Greek guests had wine), and conversation ensued. Eventually the food arrived, the tennis ball sized golden brown crab cakes atop a roll with lettuce and pallid tomato. Interestingly, a few of their owners treated them as a “sandwich” which resulted in a piece of food about three inches think. We didn’t mention that most people didn’t treat a crab cake sandwich as a sandwich.. My Angels flew to the table, and although sandwich like, I just ate the oysters. Again, expectations were exceeded as the oysters were crunchy outside and creamy smooth inside. Very good.. Pick your choices carefully. The crab cakes were enjoyed by their owners, probably the second one of their lives. Visual review revealed the typical shredded crab bound together with a fair amount of filler, and not so done on the inside. Rest on those Laurels Stoney…the soup was only half finished. So much starch that it stood in peaks.


Sadly a visit to Woodburn’s yesterday afternoon turned into a discovery that our main source of real cheeses has been drastically reduced. They’ve closed down the case in the back and now a few lonely hand cut chunks of wonderful Morbier, Port du Salut, Stilton, are in the same case as Cabot, Kraft, and those slick pieces of alleged “real” cheese with colorful labels that turn out to be from New Jersey. Sigh..

DFD no matter what time you arrive

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fast Sunday

Blogging is taking a beating due to events. Retired??

Our local Rotary Club is hosting a Group Study Exchange team from Greece, and somehow I got to be coordinator. Tours, guest homes, on and on. They were introduced to the US yesterday by customs and immigration causing them to miss their flight from JFK to BWI with no alternatives. So another driving trip today hopefully with better results..


Did First Friday in LT last friday night, great time, people, and food. North End Gallery added a little band (string bass, guitars, violin) that played out front doing "Gypsey Jazz" kind of a swingy thing. They were very good. There was also a group playing in the coffee house. Quite the cultural place our Leonardtown.

Spartans continue to impress me. Amazing. Fearful of the heels however, better matchup than UConn could provide.

Not to dwell on this, but the future of Pier One appears to depend on who you talk to. There was an article about it in the County Times last friday.

For those of you who read Saveur, a good article on restaurants. SOMETIME i'll do a reprise..


Friday, April 3, 2009

Vines and Lunch

Had an unexpected treat yesterday when I had the opportunity to visit a small family owned and operated vineyard in the area. It proved to be an interesting contrast to the places we visited in Napa/Sonoma. This made even the “small” wineries there look big in comparison. Despite the differences in size, the one thing they very much have in common is that it’s just hard, grubby, painstaking work to make it go. Today they were replacing older vines that had finally succumbed to termites and age with new shoots. Which meant: determine the location, clean the accumulated grass and stuff from the soil, dig the hole, put the little vine in there, fill back up the hole, tamp around it, put in a (tobacco) stake, and mark it. How hard is that? Not very, but multiply it by about 20 and it’s not easy. Pruning had been done, but buds on the main vine were just beginning to swell here as opposed to almost broken in California. It again reinforced my opinion that book larnin’ is okay, but touching is better than reading. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to visit again as things move along and mature.

After we filled most of the holes, we retired to the “winery”, a small building where everything is done. No fancy stainless crushers, destemmers, conveyor belts into vats, just a small table where (according to reports) each bunch of grapes is pretty much treated by hand, crushed and juiced into barrels. Perhaps fate will allow me to be part of that this fall..

We then did a quick “barrel” tasting which in this case amounted to sampling from smallish glass jars, and some metal barrels about the size of pony kegs for beers. The varietals were the usual Maryland suspects, Seyval, Vidal Blanc, and a couple of reds, Chambourcin being one of them. Experience has shown them that the classic vinifera varieties don’t do all that well in this location. While still “grapey” from last years harvest they showed signs of promise.

Kind of like restaurants, when you first get interested, you think “gee – I’d like to do this”, then the more you learn, the less inclined you might be to actually dive in.. I like the product and appreciate the effort and devotion of those who actually do it..

Following our “hard” work in the vineyard, lunch was calling and we happened to go by Captain Leonard’s Seafood place out on 235 near one of the roads to Sandgates. Been there forever, and it’s always been on the “we gotta stop there sometime” list. Well today was “sometime”. Long time readers will remember that I hold very dear those local places that are “just right”, a supreme example being St. James Pub. Well, here’s another. Although not on the water, it immediately brings to mind the original Evans. Pine paneled walls, tables with brown paper on them along with those little plastic trays of napkins, saltines in cellophane, ketchup, hot sauce, and bottles of vinegar. Various nautical memorabilia and pictures adorn the soffits, there are several rooms, a bar with Jim Beam and similar rail brands, very comforting. Of course the menu is in plastic, with sections of sandwiches, platters, and of necessity (a criteria) “baskets” of shrimps, clams, chickens, oysters, and so forth. The help is more like family than “servers” and each had on some form of logoed gear. The young man approached with “how y’all” and handed us the menus, which contained the drinks on the front page.

After quaffing our thirst with a couple of Sam Adams (although a bud light would probably have been more appropriate) we settled on a Grouper Sandwich and I had the Oyster Basket. More chances to gaze around enjoying the “stuff” and even a poster visible from our location for said Bud which contained the appropriate subject matter. Nuff said – just right.

The food arrived, mine in the requisite red plastic basket with tissue paper lining, a heap of fries and (I didn’t count) at least a dozen oysters. Both were so hot that you had to wait a bit. The fries (probably a food service variety) were nicely crisped and done well, and the oysters were as they should be (as opposed to my relatively recent experience at Clarkes Landing). A creamy oyster encased in a golden brown crunch batter. A little paper cup of seafood sauce provided a nice bite to both. The fish “sandwich” turned out to be a large (about the size of both your hands overlapping a couple of knuckles) piece of golden brown (hey – Fried = just right) grouper sticking out both sides of a overwhelmed bun. Just right (potato) chips and a pickle. Meanwhile the service people carried on conversations, chased a little girl who was having a great time. While such stuff wouldn’t belong in another venue, somehow it just fit here. Great experience..

Nice day, this being retired stuff…


Around the Park…

First Friday tonight in Leonardtown.
Heard there is a new “fish place” in Leonardtown down the street from Bell Motors.
Saw an article about the Pier One, was a bit less certain it’s closing, they’re just looking at options (it says there).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Goodbye and Hello.....


We must bid the California trip happy memories and move on. I had intended to have insightful reports of restaurants, wineries, golf outings and so forth, but the harsh reality is that creating experiences sort of prevents the reporting of same easily. Some random thoughts and observations:

You can’t beat going to the actual wineries. Read all you want, but somehow being there results in more learning than you can glean from the books. For instance I learned about pruning the vines (which was the major activity going on) and the “two buds” you have to keep every year, how high you trellis is important for your back, and so forth. What a hands on business.

There are huge differences in big and small wineries. For instance, big ones harvest by Brix and Ph, little ones by taste and color of seeds.

Most wineries (we visited) use new french oak

Tasting isn’t free anymore. I remember when it was. If you belong to the “club” of the winery (involving getting regular shipments – not available in Maryland) you can mostly taste free if you let them know you’re coming. More and more wineries are using those little metering things. It’s just not right..

13 Wineries, 8 Restaurants, Pebble Beach for the Ages, Inn at Spanish Bay, Family and Friends..and the 18th...


Pier One in Wildewood is being renovated/torn down for a “Fast Food Restaurant”

First Friday this Friday…