Monday, November 30, 2009

This and That's for a monday

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

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

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

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

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


Food this and that’s:

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

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

Fall is a pretty time of year..

and don't forget in the fall you can still


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bye Bye Turkey(less) Day..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And dinner was ready!

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

Then the pork roast was carved

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving, Part Zero!

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

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

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

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

It's why we love Southern Maryland

Feel good department

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

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

Last Feel Good

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

Bon Appetit and, please, especially today


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Part II, "the wines!"

Ahhhh, the wines. The nectar of the Gods. After surviving the myriad preparations, gyrations, machinations, oven juggling required to produce “something” with the bird we’re now faced with that dreaded “pairing” issue. My gosh, will I ruin the dinner if I serve this? What about Aunt Ester wanting Mogen David (We’ve always had that at thanksgiving!)? Shall I serve Red; white; still; sparkling; French (on Thanksgiving?); American; German; Australian; Spanish; Italian; on and on. Well, after extensive research I can say: Yes.

A more succinct answer is my famous DWTHYL.

But, since that's too short, and for the sake of making you read a little further, here’s a list of wines that were “recommended” for your thanksgiving menu (I only relate the type, not the exact vintage and vineyard):

Sparkling: Champagne, American Sparkling, Italian Prosecco
Rose: France (NEVER WHITE ZIN!!!! It’s not rose)
Pinot Gris: Oregon, New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc: NZ
Albarino: Spanish
Pinot Noir: France, New Zealand, Oregon
Sangiovese: Tuscany
Gewurtztraminer: Alsatian
Riesling: Mosel/Saar/Ruwer, Ontario, Australian
Syrah: Napa Valley
Roussanne/Viognier: France (Cotes du Rhone Blanc)
Chardonnay: Napa Valley
Merlot: Washington State
Various Italian wines with obscure names and availability, Bourbon(!).

With the notable exception of a Cabernet Sauvignon (which I probably missed someplace) the answer seems to be pretty much any wine in the world will do.

To give the intrepid wine writers their due, they do speak to “pairing”. For instance Gerald Asher (Gourmet) in talking about what to drink with a Pennsylvania Dutch menu (Cider Glazed Turkey) writes “to bind the (savory and sweet) tastes and textures and add something more, I reached for an unconventional Gewurtztraminer from Alsace, one with a suspicion of damask rose and lychee on the nose, and a mouth filling quality that can take cranberry sauce and corn pudding in stride”. Okay, thanks, Gerald. I’ll bet those Pennsylvania Dutch folks thought the same thing.

I think there are some basic guidelines here; you want to generally follow the spices, for instance, if you use a lot of sausage and spice on the turkey or stuffing that’s where the more robust reds are brought into play such as the Syrahs. A more plain preparation can move you to the whites. The problem is that there are so many flavors on the general thanksgiving table that what works with the turkey may not with the sides.

There was an interesting article in the Food & Wine by Thomas Ryder, who recounts his journey in finding the "perfect Thanksgiving bottle". A quote; “Thanksgiving wine is a nightmare. There are so many big, bold, and wildly contrasting flavors surrounding that turkey that no simpleminded rule is going to work” (he cited the red with red and white with white rule). He goes on to recount serving some Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild and Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, all to be overcome by the “cacophony of flavors on the plate”. His final strategy was to serve the big boys by themselves prior to dinner for the sheer enjoyment of them, and then use the (good quality) 15/20 bucks a bottle stuff at dinner. Pretty smart.

So the(maybe dissapointing) bottom line on the wines goes back to the Drink Whatever The Hell You Like theory, don’t worry about the dinner wines (with a bit of forethought, of course). Save the stars of the cellar for before and after you


Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Part One - The Protein...

Well, I’ve looked at over 10 publications (including La Cucina Italiana!), and many times over that number of recipes for the (traditional) star of the Thanksgiving table, the Turkey. If only the damn pilgrims had had a haunch of beef, or maybe a pork loin, or leg of lamb, we wouldn’t be in this annual predicament. But no, the Indians apparently decided to bring the fowl to the Pilgrim's board and we’ve been saddled with dealing with that ever since. So the challenge every year is how to make a relatively varied piece of protein edible. There’s those breasts to deal with and then there’s the thighs (no snappy comments here please) and how to bring to the table a nice treatment of both, which require distinctively different heats and cooking times to reach their peak. If one is good, the other may, or may not be ready. One dry, or the other underdone..

The problem for the home cook is how to make both sections of the fowl edible. So over the years we’ve seen approaches and techniques to try to achieve the “perfectly cooked turkey” to bring to the table. Refer to previous posts for pictures of that golden bird, firmly sitting on the table with great style and form. Wonder how it tastes....

The shear variety of methods proposed indicates that there is no one good way to produce an edible product. High heat first, then low, low first, then high, breasts down, then up, put in bag, aluminum foil tent, no tent. And what about prep before actually committing to heat? Brine, don’t brine, rub, don’t rub. They’re all there. Oh, and then there’s the “deconstruction” technique where you remove the backbone (I shudder to think of doing that!), and cook the pieces separately.

Brining, which was the cooking darling for a few years seems to have reclined in its popularity. Only two of the recipes I saw used brining. I can’t argue with that, although I’ve had good results with the technique, but it does require time and equipment and space in the fridge. Many of the recipes called for “lifting the skin” and inserting butter or some flavored combination, and the remainder just wanted an initial spiced rub with continuous basting during cooking. I have not had much success with that “removing the skin” as it seems to always tear or not return to normal. Then there is the “brine” in salt school, but they had mixed results (too salty!). Cook’s Illustrated abandoned their previous brining stand and instead recommended rubbing and barding with bacon.

Cooking techniques also reflected the dichotomy of trying to get the breast and thigh meats done together. Martha says start at 450, then reduce, Cook’s Illustrated says 350 first, then 450; Cook’s Country says 450 then flip the bird to breast side up and reduce. Gourmet says 425 for one recipe then 450 for another (Is your smoke battery detector up to date?). A lot of them just revert to Grandma’s 325 “until an instant read thermometer stuck in the thigh reads…..”.

The naked truth is that there is not an easy way to produce the holy grail of the “perfect turkey”. It’s too damn hard. You do all the gymnastics of de-skin, soak, salt, rub, bag, baste, high heat, low heat, turn, flip, rest, tent, and still you wind up with a dry, relatively tasteless product. I won’t give any space to deep fried turkey.

That’s why you will not find poultry on the menu for the flutters dinner this year, instead a pork loin (from Niman Ranch) and (hopefully) a nice baked Rockfish (from Kellums) will grace our table. You don’t HAVE to have turkey. Why make it hard on yourself. Just think, if you don't have to attend every 15 mintues, you will have time to


next - what to drink?????

Sunday, November 22, 2009

History Lesson...

As a fledgling aerospace engineer at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, I was eventually sent to “charm schools” where they taught you how to not act like an engineer giving presentations. Since nobody else could explain flutter stuff to the customer, they had no choice but to unleash the engineer who did the work to speak before various meetings, conferences, technical summits and the like. Despite the threat to get fired in one session (another story) I managed over the years to matriculate. Besides basics like removing loose change from your pockets so you don’t “fiddle” and “jingle” in front of everybody, one of the tenants that was drilled into everybody was “Don’t Read Your Viewgraphs!” (starting out with those plastic transparencies and nowadays PowerPoint slides). In other words, if your first line said: “there is plenty of flutter margin with this design”, don’t stand there, turn around to face the screen and say: “there is plenty of flutter margin with this design”. They bore this into you like a carpenter bee into a post.

So naturally over the years whenever I am in a situation where a presentation is being made, I cannot help but critique it from my background as a technical presenter. So this tendency carried over to our attendance of “The Early Chesapeake: Reflections and Projections”, that was held Thursday through yesterday in the Holiday Inn on the Solomons.

The purpose of the conference was to take a look at the state of the history of the region and speculate on what areas still need to be expanded. The giants of Chesapeake Historians and Archeologists from all over the country were present, along with some aspiring graduate students. Topics dealing with “what is a region”; the rise of Slavery, women’s roles, interaction with the native population, the western movement, etc., were all considered. I didn’t go verify this but the closing speaker said there were 63 papers and numerous panel discussions made. Papers ranged from didactic to whimsical (that’s not the proper word, but all I can come up with), with titles like “Keeping the Faith: The Catholic Context and Content of Justus Engelhardt Kühn’s Portraits of Eleanor and Henry Darnall III, ca. 1710” to “”At the Instigation of the Divell”: Witchcraft and Early Maryland Women”, and “Where Did All of the Taverns Go? Exploring the English Adaptation of the Chesapeake through Drinking Establishments”. The latter was presented by Rod Cofield, Jr., who some might remember as an interpreter here at St. Mary’s City, now located at Historic London Town and Gardens, up in Edgewater.

Although tempting, I won’t go through what I learned, although it certainly was (at times) most informative. By far the best presentation for me was Doug Owsley’s “New Perspectives on the Early Chesapeake from the Analysis of Human Skeletons”. Doug is with the Smithsonian and was very involved in the Lead Coffin Project here in St. Mary’s City, and is internationally known for his work in Forensic Anthropology. From analyses of the bones, he can determine nationality, race, age and (most of the time) cause of death, diet, disease, a whole picture of an individual who otherwise has nothing known.

But what was most disappointing to me besides hearing the terms “historiographic” and “historiography” too many times was (you might refer back to the first paragraph now) that almost to a person (Mr. Owsley a notable exception) the presentation(s) consisted of the author standing behind the podium, head down, reading their paper! Due to time constraints it might not have been the complete paper, but it was word for word what was on the paper. I can read the paper for heaven’s sake, if you made the effort to travel here in person, can’t you at least give more insight as to what went into the paper? The sparse viewgraphs that were sometimes included were in such a small font that they were impossible to comprehend. With some discreet inquiries to some of the (local) historians I find that reading a paper word for word is exactly the norm, and is what is expected. Not by me, but that’s just me. The papers were also full of references to other works such as: “As shown by (jones, smith and Wesson) in their seminal treatise of 1956….”; or, “not as (smucker, strawberry and marmalade) postulated in their paper of 1976> and stuff like that.

Of course there were time for questions included at the end of each session. Again from my background, a question would be: “what did you mean by….”; or “how did you decide that…..”, simple, short, and a real question. With the Academics present however, it took on a whole different form. Speakers arose, announced themselves and proceeded to give their views on whatever subject (even remotely related) the speaker actually spoke to. After a 5 minute discourse, there might be a lame “I wondered what you thought about that”.

One might conclude from the above that I didn’t enjoy the conference. Far from it, it was sort of like my recent experience with the concerts. I stand in awe of anybody who knows so much about history and things that occurred in the development of the colonies and America, that my little niche knowledge of history around the brick chapel seems superficial and inconsequential. I gained a whole new perspective on the history around here, and it wants me learn more. Once again, what are you gonna do in Southern Maryland?

Oh, as far as any food hook, there was an “English High Tea” served on the first day between the opening sessions and plenary roundtable. I am sad to report there was not one dainty cucumber sandwich, no delicate watercress sandwiches, nor petit fours. Instead the only sandwiches served were chicken salad in what was obviously crust removed wonder bread maybe half an inch think (I would add the salad was very good, almost “straub’s” like). There were also those little cheese trays of cubed up cheddar, white, and spicy jack. Tea was achieved by putting hot water from an urn into your cup and select a bag to use. Well, with over a hundred folks what are you gonna do…

Not much chance to

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Culture!

In my never ending quest for knowledge, MFO and I will be attending a conference on the Solomons starting today and running through saturday. It's The Early Chesapeake: Reflections and Projections, sponsored by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, in cooperation with Historic St. Mary's City (HSMC) and St. Mary's College of Maryland, with support from the Hampden-Sydney College Department of History, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation. As the final event in the HSMC’s 375th anniversary celebration, it is most fitting that Maryland’s early history is both assessed and future directions in its exploration are considered.

We're helping and attending, so there will be precious little time for blogging for the next couple of days. I'm pushing off the Thanksgiving issue until the weekend. Only gone through 9 publications and several turkey preps, with a few more to go. Regardless of how you prepare the bird, they all recommend you


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Off Sides and Pianos.....

To paraphrase that old quote about fighting and hockey games, “I went to a concert last night and a music lesson broke out!”. I drove down to St. Mary's college last evening expecting to listen to the piano of Brian Ganz, but came away with so much more. What a treat to take part in one of his "concerts" Besides his virtuosity on and enthusiasm for the piano, he has a great sense of humor (important to me) and will actually talk to the audience. He is very good about explaining the music and the composers. You end up sort of feeling you're just sitting in his living room rather than at a "concert" with a invisible wall between the stage and the audience.

He began the evening explaining that while he has an 18 year old mind, it’s encased in a much older body and his back has been bothering him lately, causing him to perform “less acrobatic” pieces than he originally planned. He started out with Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor, but before he started he chatted a bit about although the piece was written for the harpsichord it was “translated” to the piano. He felt that in "moving" anything from one medium to another, the translation should play to whatever the strengths of whatever the “new” form was. He felt that (one of the) strengths of a piano was the use of the pedal and so that would be different from the original and to listen for that. He then played the piece ably assisted by Beverly Babcock playing the “reduction”,(with accomplished page turning by young Jonah Yeh).

The next “lesson” was three dance pieces by Chopin, a Polonaise, a Waltz, and a Mazurka, and he explained the differences – Polonaise was “majestic”; the Waltz “natural and flowing, with lots of kinetic energy”; and the Mazurka “strange, dark, with lots of rhythmic elbows”. Sure enough, they were exactly as he characterized them. After playing those, he asked for Chopin requests from the audience (nobody asked for Misty) and played three of them (besides the Minute Waltz, I missed the titles). Then he talked about his next piece which was The 18th Variation of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, by Rachmaninoff. He politely asked if anybody knew the "theme", and then said he would play it for us anyway, which he did, just a few measures of a melody (musically smart people please ignore my lack of correct terminology – I’m an engineer for heaven’s sake) with three sort of phrases. He then said, let’s vary this, and played it “backward”, and then “upside down”. Neat stuff, and when he performed the piece by golly you could hear exactly what he demonstrated!

Then a couple more etudes,(”Aeolian Harp” and “Revolutionary”) by Chopin, and before each he talked about what was the challenge for the pianist in each one. Melody in right hand with “voices”, or how the left hand had to do the “cushion of chords”. Finally a piece for 4 hands by Shubert featuring both of his and Beverly’s.

You know, I could have gone to the concert and heard the “pretty music”, but with Brian’s remarks you begin to realize (welcome to the party, Mr. feeder) there are layers and subtleties that I would never heard. I came away with a much better understanding and appreciation of the music and its history (and a huge respect for Mr. Ganz’s talent).

If you would like more, Brian is doing a “piano talk” today at noon. (St. Mary’s Hall). Anyway, just another evening of nothing to do in Southern Maryland.

Okay, we'll try to veer back to food territory where we can


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

(Almost) No Post Today...

We'll (almost)take today off due to schedule pressures (and a lack of real material). Should have the yearly drivel about Thanksgiving before the end of the week.

I hope your menu is (almost)set now, and you have or will shortly procure the non-perishable long term stuff (root vegetables, starch, etc.). We have that part down, and are contemplating the mains. Gradually digesting the plethora of food mags that pretty much always devote the November issue to Thanksgiving in it's many manifestations. Simple, fancy, Southern, Down Home, Southwestern, on and on. One wonders how they come up with something allegedly "fresh" every year.

I did want to alert the musically inclined that there is a Brian Ganz concert tonight at St. Mary's College. St. Mary's Hall at 8pm, and as usual, no charge. See you there...and you can be informally


Monday, November 16, 2009

Where Am I?.....

An exclusive villa in the hills of Tuscany? Maybe a little summer house on the French Riviera? Or possibly a love nest of the rich and famous in Provence? Retreat on the Big Sur? No, it’s much better! It’s right here under our Lexington Park feet. See that little blank space over the door? Our wait has been rewarded; we can now be “family”, because before long we can go to the long awaited Olive Garden! Right here in the land of Colonial and Victorian architecture, we’ve got this corporate formula rock thing rising from the ground. The first of the “restaurant row” places has finally become recognizable. We still have the Red Robin, some Texas Roadhouse Steak O’Rama (or something like that), and a couple more to go. I thought that the development plan called for a buffer from the river of steel on Rte. 235, but no, “sore thumb” comes to mind. No berm as on the other side of the road which partially obscures the Chick-Fil-A, the Bob Evans, the Ruby Tuesday. So the “Waldorfization” of Lexington Park continues.

On has to wonder where the cadre of new “Hi I’ms” will come from. More ineptness on the way. All that to give you the never ending salad bowl…it never ends.

Positive Section

For many of you who: a) watch television, and the fewer b) that watch PBS, I would call your attention to several programs with “Sherlock Holmes” in the title. Sometimes it’s called “the further adventures of” or “the casebook of” but it always has his name. Sherlock is portrayed by Jeremy Brett, and interesting character in his own right. Although some of the stories are a bit pithy, watching him is a real joy. Little raises of eyebrows, a slight upturn of the lips, a steely sideways glance while he deduces something not readily apparent to either us or the somewhat bumbling Dr. Watson are great. Not being terribly familiar with the fictional Holmes, I’m not sure how many stories are true to Conan Doyle, but it’s great fun to watch. Why are British TV shows so much better than ours??


Not much startling to report from the flutters weekend, mostly dining “in” although we did attend the St. Mary’s County Historical Society’s Brunch yesterday at the “O Club” on base. An enjoyable drive to the old haunt in the first sunlight in days, it was a good outing. The program was given by Robert Hall (no relation to clothing) who is from the Point Lookout Lighthouse group that is doing the restoration. Lots of history and facts about the lighthouse which was a pretty important feature of the Chesapeake. The light was extinguished in 1965 (as memory serves), and his group is trying to restore it to the 1927 condition. The Lighthouse design is identical to the one at Cove Point, which I think was a common design by the Government. An interesting thing is that one of the keepers from 1869 - 1871 and again from 1908 to 1912 was named William Moody.

As to the food, it was the standard O Club buffet, although it was better than we had feared and remembered. Of course nothing is ever as bad or as good as you remembered last time.

Other than that, an ordinary weekend with the Spartans winning a game they didn’t deserve and some close Pro games. Only for the brunch did we


Friday, November 13, 2009


please go away, we don't like you..

a nasty evening last night listening to the driving rain, looking for leaks, listening to the sump pump run every 3 minutes, wondering if the water front would still be intact. At least we were comforted by the fact we put the patio furniture in a safe haven, and the table was anchored by that heavy counter weight.

as i was generally coming awake, there arose such a clatter that I arose from my bed to see what was the matter.....this was:

to borrow a phrase from Arlo, there are circles and arrows to show original and final position of the (ugly) device around the pool filter. Note also the allegedly anchored patio table jauntily sitting in the lawn...

then a check of the rain guage surprised me unless some got blown out, it wasn't as bad as i thought:

the last check in the box was to see if the rip rap did it's job, mercifully it did, and note the water level on the piers

i didn't see any floating lumber so hopefully all the piers were intact. bye bye ida, get outta here!

Quick Foodie Note:

The enterprise's "weekend" section "reviews" Saphron in Prince Freddie. What caught my eye was the fact that the Chef, John Obal, although from Omaha, the menu reflects "Obal's native Charleston, S.C.", and in fact it is supposed to be "low country cuisine" shrimp and grits kind of thing. The "reviewer" does remark that "the meals are not cheap". Unlike his normal practice he doesn't quote a price for everything on the menu, but does mention that on the "high end" it's $28 for a mediterranian pasta dish. This of course from the source that recommends eating off sytrofoam at Captain Pats. Hey buddy, good food can cost something. Never having been there, for a fancy dish at a fine dining place, 29 bucks isn't exhorbitant. Anyway, I think it will go on the "try" list..

and i'll do low country


oh, there's an open rehearsal today in rm 25 at montgomery hall at 4. they are neat

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ida II

Hmmm,,, Ida starts with the same letter as did Isabelle... looking out behind the digs this morning not quite as placid as yesterday. High winds, driving rain, little bits of leaves stuck to windows, water levels right at pier decks, whitecaps on the river, all bring back memories of that other "I" weather event. We awoke this morning to find our lawn furniture in disarray:

so we had a trip to the backyard to put things in the battened down position..rain gauge currently at 2.6 inches..

Are you beginning to fomulate your thanksgiving day menu? we are, and it will contain some surprises..

but to no surprise of anybody, whatever we will consume, you can bet we'll be


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Kinda like to take today off…. I somehow really enjoy weather like this; gray rainy skies reflected in the water, eagles enjoying the opportunity to use the our slope for gliding in the wind, it all sort of fits autumn. Sitting in the living room with a Latte staring out at the river brings peace to the soul. No guilt about being in the garden tidying up, no chores, just sitting peacefully.

Thank You--

And, while sitting, there’s time to reflect on Veteran’s Day, taking time to thank all those who have given all or parts of their bodies so that we can enjoy our liberty. The older one gets, the more one seem to be aware of what sacrifices they have made on behalf of people they will never meet. All we can do is thank them. Make the effort the next time you see someone in uniform to say thank you. The current course of events in our country seems to assure that there will be acontinuing stream of veterans, so it’s good to take the time to remember those that are gone and recognize those that are here, and let them know how much we appreciate and need them. When we were in Baltimore recently we saw a group of WWII vets, and this sort of says it all…

And today you don’t have to worry about

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday thingies

Some friends were visiting the “Park” last night and we wanted to meet for dinner. Being Monday (in case you delay reading this although I can’t imagine why), it sort of posed a problem. At least three of the (IMHO) four local (SMC) fine dining places are not open Monday night. Not particularly interested in patronizing what some call “box stores”, the plethora of chains sprouting up all over, we thought of going to the “other county” and visiting the Ruddy Duck. Although the feeder has been there on several occasions previously they were all associated with some social function or to pick up their (best in the county) pizza. So this was the first time we had been there as a normal walk in the door customer. It wasn’t very crowded and we were given the choice of booth or table and selected a table. Our server approached and immediately violated rule no. 7: (Do not announce your name) with the standard “Hi I’m of you”. We were still waiting for our fourth guest so we ordered drinks. When you’re in beer country....and I had a nice crisp Pilsner and our friend was finishing a Scottish Ale. The beers are very good. MFO wanted a glass of wine and requested the wine list (beers are on menu, wines are not). Whereupon rule number 41 was brought into play: (Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm). I didn’t take any tone of insincerity or sarcasm, it was said pleasantly enough, but superfluous. Hopefully finding a wine list is not difficult. I often wonder if there ever would be a response to some request of “oh, gosh. That’s really a problem for me”. Okay, enough of that.

The menu has selections for any taste or appetite, sandwiches, salads plain or adorned, main courses, pasta, those great pizzas, almost anything you could want in any portion. We did order an order of those Chipas a la Carlos, the Argentinean Cheese Balls. We had enjoyed those earlier and are quite tasty. They are a nice variation on the usual litany of appetizers. Little plates were brought so we could share, and (I’ll shut up after this) those same four plates stayed on the table the whole evening. The main courses arrived, consisting of fish and chips, crab cake dinner, a bacon cheese burger, and (me) a half slab of Memphis Style (“dry rubbed and smoked, French fries and pineapple slaw, sauce on the side – yes, on the side, we’re purists”). All the food was very good, although I thought my ribs were just a bit on the dry side, but hey, I’m not from Memphis. The crab cakes were delicious (I sampled) and MFO couldn’t finish her voluminous burger that was cooked exactly as ordered. The last fish went home for lunch. The pineapple slaw, despite its name is quite tasty. I need to work around the menu more..Still highly recommended.

Overall (with the noted small exceptions) the service last night was quite good, better than some around here, but since I've got myself going, a little comment about “service”. I have gotten to know a few of the restaurateurs in the area and know they spend a fair amount of time tearing their hair out trying to find good help. There is a large (and still growing) number of food service places around here and all depend on workers or servers to keep the business going. Therefore the market is wide open and restaurant owners are sometimes forced to take new or inexperienced people. There isn’t too much time for training, and so we find ourselves with learning or uncaring servers, it’s just a job to some. And, unfortunately they are the face of the restaurant. Good food can’t overcome bad service and by and large your “experience” (there’s that word again) is in large part determined by who worked your table. Despite knowing "what's right", the owners can’t be everywhere all the time.

I have no answers, it’s just an observation. I have never been a server, but I’m sure I would be perfect.

All I can say is do what you can do to demand good service: “I think we’re through with those little plates if you would like to remove them”; “could I have a fresh fork please?”; “no, I’ll wait for my friend to finish before you remove my plate”.

Speaking of “the rules”, the second fifty of the NYT “don’ts” has been published. Once again, things we’ve all experienced are included. A small sampling (you can see the whole list if you follow the link):

59. Do not leave place settings that are not being used.

65. Always remove used silverware and replace it with new.

75. Do not ask if someone is finished when others are still eating that course.

78. Do not ask, “Are you still working on that?” Dining is not work — until questions like this are asked.

It just seems so obvious. Why can’t they get it? We’ll just keep trying.

I’ll add my number 101:


Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday arrives

An all day meeting in Laurel Maryland (requiring an 0600 launch from the digs, another story) kept Saturday full with an evening recovery session eliminating any chance of updating the cyber-rag. Then Sunday somehow disappeared…so, happy monday

We did two of the three main possibilities on Friday with the first Friday falling by the wayside. I did attend the (first half) of the 4 pm edition of the concert down at the college. As luck would have it, the Rutter piece was moved to the second half so I missed that. But, the choral selections I did hear were just great (up to a point, more in a minute). There were two performances of “O Magnum Mysterium”, the first by Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548 – 1611) and the second by Morten Lauridsen (1943 - ). I find that it is a “responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas – (which I find that “Matins” is the morning prayer or late evening prayer in many religions). Apparently the music has been re worked into contemporaneous settings (like in the 16th century). Unfortunately Mr. Vote didn’t elucidate on the two selections, but fortunately he led the chamber singers in a great performance of the music. There is just something fulfilling about hearing a choir that is in synch, and I especially like when they hit a major chord (engineering description). They followed the two Mysteriums with two versions of Ave Maria, similarly a historical treatment (Desprez; 1450 – 1521) and “modern” (Bruckner; 1824 – 1896). Very enjoyable prelude to the holiday season.

But then, they followed the classics with a couple of “traditional spirituals”, namely Elija Rock, and The Battle of Jericho. We’ve trodden this ground before, but there is just something that (IMHO) doesn’t work when a bunch of college kids sing “an de walls come – tumblin’ down”. The first was sort of a call and response treatment, with lots of going back and forth (engineering music again) and rhythmic variations, but it just seems forced to me. Yes, they are keeping a tradition alive, and performing what was arranged by Moses Hogan (1957 – 2003) who was “one of the most celebrated contemporary directors and arrangers of spirituals”. As I say, you don’t have to like what I do, and I don’t have to like what you do, and in this case I just can’t enjoy that form of music. It just "isn't right".

At any rate, while they were setting up the brass and percussion for the Rutter piece I made my escape and headed to the digs to change the duds and then a ride out to Sotterley to hear Dr. Gottfreid speak on “the civil war comes to St. Mary’s County”. It really was a good talk, he kept it lively and it was quite informative. Apparently although Maryland was a officially a “northern” state, the majority of county residents were southern sympathizers, so there had to be a large presence in order to keep things in order. Also, since the “southern” state of Virginia was only a Potomac away, there was a pretty healthy smuggling trade of arms and supplies from here to there. Interesting stuff. There’s so much to learn..

Reader Pop Quiz:

Guess which month the following magazines are for:

as a little footnote, the pictured edition of "Gourmet" is the final issue. Kind of fitting that there is a turkey on the cover....still sorry to see it go.

And, just a nice way to end a gorgeous weekend

isn't there a song about that??

we didn't have much of a chance to


Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Fun and Foodie Stuff

Need something to do today in the land of nothing to do?

4 and 8 pm – the St. Mary’s College Choir and Chamber singers along with the brass ensemble will perform John Rutter’s “Gloria”. It will be in Montgomery Hall, room 25 (downstairs). Monty hall is at the far end of the field behind admissions, and isn’t the usual venue over by the State House. Not much seating, go early. The feeder is quite booked today and not sure he can make either performance. It should be a great way to kick off the holiday season. Brass and voice make a great combination and I always enjoy John Rutter’s choral pieces..

7 pm – The lecture series at Sotterley concludes this year’s program with a lecture by Dr. Bradley Gottfried (Prez of CSM) entitled “The Civil War Comes to St. Mary’s County”. Apparently he’s quite the civil war historian. No charge, it’s in the big white barn to the right of the other buildings. MFO did a bit of research for him.

PM in general – First Friday in Leonardtown our little artsy hub, with open places to eat and sip, and North End Gallery will have the opening reception for the Bud Adams and Mary Jane Rowe exhibit. Hopefully the hot dog guy will be there. Can’t beat dogs and art!!

Foodie Part

There is an interesting article in today’s Enterprise about the new occupants of the Roost, now called the Lexington Restaurant and Lounge. Oddly enough it’s the first article in that publication relating to food that is not written by our friend Mr. Mercer. Anyway, it goes on to say the new owners are the Greers (“a couple with a long history as restaurateurs in Southern Maryland). Turns out the long history means they operated the Lunch Box Diner on Bryan’s Road for 15 years. No comment one. They quote those new owners comparing this venture with the previous one: “Some of it is different. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the diner but this place is, like, the finer steaks, seafood”. Like, no comment two. Of course I wish any new eating establishment luck, but their location is (IMHO) a big risk. There are also a few facts about the legendary Rue years of the Roost.

In the same publication is the weekly “best food I ever ate” article by the usual person, this time featuring “Yum’s Grand Buffet”, a Chinese food place up in Pinefield Shopping Center in Waldorf. According to the author you can find it by going across from the Dollar Store and Lefty’s Barbeque. No comment three. The owners are Jasmine Huang and Stephen Cheng, quite appropriate for the cuisine. But, after the usual rote recitation of the menu and mention of the All You Can Eat Buffet, he quotes Mr. Cheng as saying he “is in the process of hiring an Italian Chef (italics mine)” what’s up with that?

And finally, somebody sent me a link to a piece in the New York Times that lists “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do”; the first article lists the first 50, more to follow. It was reassuring that many have been previously complained about from this office. A small sampling:

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are eating the same course.

18. Know before approaching the table who has ordered what. Do not ask “who had the shrimp?”.

40. Never say “good choice” implying that other choices are bad.

43. Saying “no problem” is a problem.

There were many others with which most diners would be familiar. The real shame is that there has to be a list of 100 “don’ts”. Is bad/uncaring service so common that there are a hundred (top) things that should be corrected? Maybe someday we’ll see a list of “3 Things that….”.

On the positive side, I overheard this remark in a local restaurant lately from a server at a distinctly NOT DFD’d table: “There is a coat rack in the hall if you would like to hang your cap up while you eat”. Go get’em!!
Of course we had no problem because we were


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fishes and Wine (no loaves)...

Another luncheon experience sort of fell my way yesterday; I was attending to some errands around lunch time with a friend who suddenly declared: “I need Sushi!” Since we were in the San Souci vicinity, so as a matter of exigency , we stopped in at Asahi. As alert readers will remember Sushi is not one of the cuisines that I am particularly fond of, mostly through ignorance. Just getting near Wasabi causes my forehead to break out (and a quick check on the location of the bathrooms). But, through osmosis with other people who eat Sushi and enjoy it, I have learned that if I stick to the Sashimi (which, I believe refers to raw seafood), I can pretty much take that. The Maki varieties always just get bigger in my mouth the more I chew them.

So I selected some Nigiri preparation of smoked salmon, tuna, and something else that evades the weakening mind at the moment (which might tell you something). My friend ordered what turned out to be a pot of noodles of some sort, along with some batter coated fried vegetables. We were first served a bowl of traditional Miso soup which is made with a fish stock and wasn’t too bad although there were floating things that I think were seaweed of some sort, put there on purpose. I ended up with three "fingers" of (raw) fish wrapped around (what I learned was) vinegar treated rice with just a touch of the dreaded green paste (which you can find and remove). I avoided certain embarrassment with chop sticks and suffered only mild embarrassment by requesting western utensils. The fish had a rather mild flavor, the smoked was just that, and I dutifully dipped portions in the soy sauce, not mixing in the Wasabi as is the custom, and avoided the pickled ginger.

Turned out to be a nice light lunch, although i am incapable of evaluation. I still need some coaching in the world of Sushi, and of course I don’t have to like what you do, and you don’t have to like what I do. That’s just fine.

And Wine is Also Fine!

Just in time for fall and the Holidays!! Our intrepid friends at Consumer Reports who are always looking for ways to save us a buck and still enjoy a quality product by recommending some obscure model you couldn’t find to save your life have come to the rescue. The December issue has taken the mystery out of this year’s wine purchasing by giving us a list of Best Buy wines for under 15 dollars. Move over Robert Parker and your 3 figure, multi point bottles, we’re saved! Forget that first growth cab, you can go get a bottle of ’08 Concha y Toro Frontera for 4 bucks!! One has to wonder how they can grow grapes, harvest, crush, yadda yadda in Chile and get the bottle to you for 4 bucks. Oh, they do say that the “rough tannins should soften with time”. Yeah, you betcha. The ubiquitous Yellow Tail made the cut, but strangely enough the famous Charles Shaw (Two Buck Chuck) is not to be seen. There might be some value ones in there, I suspect the Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve at $14 might be okay, although I might be surprised if you find their ’06 vintage as given in the list. As for the popular Chards, they only review 3 liter “box” wines (equivalent to about 4 bottles). Their Fish Eye 2007 is only $16 for the box, meaning we’re back in 4/bottle territory. They dialed up the old “winespeak” wheel and came up with “Fruit flavors balanced by butterscotch, vanilla, and woody/buttery notes”. Another plus is that they say the wine keeps for “at least a month” after the box is opened. Yahoo.

To be fair (as I always am) if you consult a the “wine guy” in most reputable stores (like Blue Wind Gourmet here in Lex Park), you can probably find a pretty good bottle for around $15. Mid twenties you start getting some good stuff, and of course the sky is the limit..

Annual guide for thanksgiving beginning to formulate in the brain, stay tuned, but you can be sure you will have to


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Steam Valve pops....

So like, okay, after reporting our road adventures and being good, we’re back home and there are some this’s and that’s that have come up that I feel the need to rant about:

We were watching the local evening news last evening getting our daily dose of depression when they interviewed some young lady student about something or other. I stopped counting the “like’s” at about ten. “So it was, like, I said, and then, like it was, well, like they did, like”. The screaming on my part obliterated any idea of what the story line was. I’m, like, so glad I’m not growing up today. What happened to the language?

Then, we mostly watch NBC because for whatever reason we enjoy Brian Williams for our national edition of depression. As we’ve noted before, the commercials during the news tell the story of NBC’s target audience. Between the ads for anti-artery clogging, brain clearing, intestinal cleansing drugs (if it’s right for you), and the 63 year old, multiple face-lifted Sally Field emoting about osteoporosis, they also tout their upcoming shows. I suppose that there is a bottomless market for watching others suffer, but NBC seems to present an endless series of “hospital” shows, showing either patients writhing on the floor, or some tearful angel of a nurse “saving” somebody. Gimme a break.

Whew. There. Thanks, I feel better, Oh a quick sdd on..

As a postscript to our “Tony’s” experience, I forgot to mention that they are not immune to the economy. As the menus were delivered, there was a little card placed on your plate about “dinner for one”. You can get a three course dinner, with a couple of choices for each for 50 bucks. I am not sure how to take this. It would be a great opportunity for somebody to experience a first class restaurant and cuisine without spending an arm and a leg, but do they really NEED to do this? Even if they economize, you must not when you


PS Happy Anniversary Big Bird!! Where were you when...

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Tale of Two "T's"....

While the flutters were away from home, demons (aided by SMECO) infested the router severing communication with the net, hence the bit tardy "wrap up"'s always something

Airline travel (this time with “A” seats), rental car, drive in more rain, lug the bags into the digs, and a less than normal turnout for trick and treat finds us back in the park, watching rain come down once more. Thus concludes our second trip this month, this one book ended by a couple of “T’s”.

“T” Number One

The first part of the week was an immersion in Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens (as you know from the numerous pictures and verbiage). We all remember Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but there was so much more to him than those books. I had always sort of thought of him as the author of those books and not much more. Wrong, oh retired engineer! There were many layers and facets to the man.. The people at Hannibal’s Boyhood Home museum are endeavoring to tell more of the story of him, and not just his characters. He had very strong feelings about society and in particular racism and slavery. We listened to a lot of his writing that one might not casually come across, and much of it is great stuff. I could aspire to his style and humor, it is really memorable. I am currently reading his “autobiography” (by Charles Neider) which was constructed from his writings, because although there were a few attempts by Clemens to write one himself, it never really materialized into a single coherent book. He did specify that nothing could be published until after his death:

“I speak from the grave rather than with my living tongue for a good reason: I can speak thence freely. When a man is writing a book dealing with the privacies of life – a book which is to be read while he is alive – he shrinks from speaking his whole frank mind; all his attempts to do it fail; he recognizes that he is trying to do a thing which is wholly impossible to a human being”

Clemens never shrank from speaking his "whole frank mind" regardless of consequences…he also appreciated the finer things in life, especially food. In speaking of his boyhood memories of summers on his uncle’s farm:

“In the summer the table was set in the middle of that shady and breezy floor (of the farmhouse), and the sumptuous meals – well it makes me cry to think of them. Fried chicken, roast pig; wild and tame turkeys, ducks and geese; venison just killed; squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, partridges, prairie chickens; biscuits, hot batter cakes, hot buckwheat cakes, hot “white bread”, hot rolls, hot corn pone, fresh corn boiled on the ear, succotash, butter beans, string beans, tomatoes, peas, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes; buttermilk, sweet milk, “clabber”; watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupes – all fresh from the garden; apple pie, peach pie, pumpkin pie, apple dumplings, peach cobbler – I can’t remember the rest” Great stuff.

Many thanks to the folks who organized and kept us straight on the tour..

“T” Number Two

We finished the week with the long awaited family dinner at Tony’s, perennially considered to be St. Louis’s premier restaurant. We had not visited it in a long time, and wanted to refresh and be joined by our family. So (M&)FOJTE and (M&)FOJTY arrived at 6:30 and all were beautifully DFD. What followed was a memorable meal and evening. Were there a couple of feeder discernable flaws here and there? Yes (mostly service related). Did I care or did it really interfere? No. The restaurant was beautiful, the table nicely set, food was impeccable, the service attentive, the conversation great. What more can you ask?

At this point dear reader, the feeder will depart from his usual practice of describing the meal in detail. To praise one dish would do a disservice to the 20 or so others that came to the table. Lobster, shrimp, beef, veal, ravioli, pasta, risotto (with white truffles – oh, God), white asparagus (and I can't remember the rest) in wonderful preparations and presentation, all graced our presence. There were lovely breads, one sparkling wine and three still reds. Several of the dishes were finished table side, not because it was a show, but because it could be served perfectly prepared. There was always an eye on the table and any little detail was attended to immediately. Vince Bommarito. the venerable owner strolled around the room and stopped by our table to make sure everything was correct. Not flashy, just wanting you to have a good meal. A genuine person.

We finally begrudgingly left the table and retired to the “living room” where we had coffee, desserts and port while the elder flutters opened their combined birthday gifts from the “kids”. We were served a small little cakes with cards wishing us “Buon Compleanno and Felice Anniversario Da Tony’s”. What a great meal. Especially when we could share it with our family. Worth whatever it costs, it’s what life is about. I was reminded of the quote from Thomas Keller:

“A great meal is the kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven’t been before”

Who always