Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lunch and Life...

Today MFO and I attended the annual “holiday office lunch” of the local branch of the company that I work for part time. And, as it has grown to be, it was postponed until after the holidays. Enough time has passed that it moved from “just another lunch” during the plethora of such events at the hectic holiday time to a pleasant outing. Long time loyal readers will remember the feeder’s opinion that lunch can provide a relaxing respite from the pressures and hassles of the day, offering a time to reset the brain, relax a bit and enjoy good company and food. This year it was held at Café Des Artistes over in Leonardtown. With the local folks and a couple from the home office “up the road” we numbered just nine, so it wasn’t hard to have conversation.

As is the practice of CDA, they display the works of local artists and are currently featuring art of Candy Cummings, the local artist who does “collections”. The pieces on display are constructed from “found” techy objects like circuit boards, vacuum tubes, rubber bands and the like. They provide kind of an odd contrast to the eclectic French country atmosphere of the restaurant. But, good for them supporting local art.

The menu still offers primarily French dishes as we have stated before, along with a daily special sheet. Today it was a shrimp pasta dish. Besides the sandwiches, salads, soups, and combinations thereof, there are entrees for those with a heartier appétit. The serving staff has remained pretty constant over the years, and know what they are doing without the recorded messages. MFO did a hearts of palm salad (with a side of frites), I did their signature sandwich the croque monsieur with a Caesar salad. Others did the pasta, a couple of the steak and frites, soup, and even two orders of escargot. Everyone was happy with their choices judging by the clean plates. MFO and I shared a little Key Lime parfait cupcake which was very good.

With the closing of the other main restaurant in Leonardtown, it’s good to see that CDA keeps humming along. And, I think there are reasons why that is so. You can pretty much count on good service and consistently good food. I think I can count on the fingers of no hands the time I have been in that restaurant when Chef Loic is not present. That’s what it takes, day in, day out, in the kitchen, touch every dish. Making a restaurant go is paying constant attention to everything. Good to see they have it down. This is a great example of why you go to locally owned and operated restaurants, not some place with Neon and branches everywhere.

Speaking of which, MFO was driving north on 235 yesterday morning and reported that a “now hiring” sign is in the front of the “new” OG, and the place was parked full. It would be an interesting exercise sometime to count the number of places food is served around here, and use some estimate of people on the floor and see how many there are. Could be quite a number. And, only a fraction of that number actually know how to serve a table.. Just think how many times “Hi I’m….” is repeated daily. Endless, just like that salad bowl and airsticks.

Oh, I got my February issue of Bon Appetit yesterday, and my first glance at the cover did not have our favorite “B” word pop out at me. The banner just read “Meat &. Potatoes”, and “winter soups, pastas & stews”. Good. How appropriate for February, that cold, dark month. But then, my eye was attracted to a little blurb on the right side leading with “Snack Attack” under which they listed “Best Ever” popcorn, wings, chips and more. I think “Best Ever” is even more egregious than just plain best. Wings? Gimme a break.

(life part):

Lastly, I was saddened today to learn of the passing of J.D. Salinger. How many of you read of the adventures of Holden Caulfield in your formative years and related to him. I know I did. “I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. It's terrible”. Thank you…. and good rest J.D.

And of course today we were all


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Sporting Life, and electrons...

Monday morning quarterbacking somehow turned into Tuesday morning quarterbacking and now it’s Tuesday afternoon. So just some this’s and that’s.

Sport Section

If you watched the Saints/Vikings yesterday, you were not alone. It was the most watched football game (excluding Super Bowls) since the historic game between San Francisco and Dallas that resulted in “the catch”. If you don’t know what that is, skip to the technology section. Also, it was the most watched television program of any kind (excluding Super Bowls) since the last episode of Seinfeld aired 12 years ago. If you don’t know what that is, there is no hope.

I also watched that game (as well as the earlier one) and it made me wonder. I really didn’t really care who won, there were good story lines on either side of the ball, and having the Saints go to their first SB is a good thing I guess, although I don’t know why they continually linked that with Katrina – a stretch in my book. But as the game wore on, I really had to feel for Brett. Yes, it was his choice to be out there, he knows what football entails, but it was painful seeing him struggle to take a wallop, get to his feet, limp around and go for another play. Are we really to the point of “win at any cost” where it is an objective to conciously try to injure your opponent? When a linesman has the QB in his grasp after the ball is gone, why is it necessary to elevate him more, and then slam him to the turf, with no attempt at restraint, under a body that outweighs the QB by 150 Lbs or so? Hot dog, we cracked his rib!! Great hit man!! High fives all around. I suppose this will label me as a softy who “doesn’t get it", but boy, it’s hard to watch. Now we get the hype building up to the Super Bowl.. yahoo! Which I will be watching, by the way. Good opportunity to make some nice food..

Technology Revisited

Some of the reason that blogging has taken a temporary back seat over the weekend is because I was stumbling around with my Droid. It continues to astonish me what you can do with the thing. Street views in Google, traffic in your hand, e-mails come streaming in. Golly, gee whiz. But, that’s not why we’re revisiting the technology section.

One of the more useful inventions of man is the Garage Door Opener. How many times do you remember in your youth you were commanded by mom or dad to “get out and open the garage door” in the driving rain, sleet, snow, or 90 degree temps, and you did as asked, getting wet, pelted, frozen, or melted while struggling to lift a wooden garage door weighing three times as much as you so mom or dad could drive into the shelter of the garage before exiting the car?

We are on our second go-round of this device (thank you lightning strike), and they have given rise to yet another inexplicable engineering phenomenon. Our first one we had, I painstakingly managed to finally convince the car to act as “the button” and that worked fine. We have a rather long driveway, and at first you could press the button as you rolled in off the street, and by the time you got to the threshold, it was open waiting for you. Well, over a period of months and years the distance from the door at which it would pay attention to you diminished. New battery? No matter. Finally you mostly had to drive to the door and push to open. So, after the lightning strike mandated a new one, we were pleased to see that the range again increased to “street distance”. Due to fear of failure I continued to use the little hand held device instead of going through the laborious “set main unit to learn, run to car, push two times, wait for light to flash, then press and hold until light goes out", failing time after time until something finally clicks. But, anyway, after a few months of good operation with the “new one”, the radius of effectively began to diminish. Street, then three quarters, then half until at last you were parked at the door with multiple pushes.

But what propels me to include this gibberish is that the other day, I paused at the street to get the mail, and out of habit pushed the little button. To my utter amazement, the door began to open! Again, no action on my part, just cooperation of the demons. That in and of itself is cause for wonderment, but after a couple of days of this, today I gleefully pushed the button only to watch the door remain stationary. Creep a few yards, nothing. Once again, I’m now back to almost touching the garage door with the nose of the fluttermobile before it listens to me. What’s up with that? Some have suggested that EMI from the base may be a factor, but who knows. I prefer the demon theory myself..

But there is no change in the need to


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Magic in your hand....

For a few years, I used to carry around an iPAQ, a little device that was about the size of a small cigar box, which would alert me when a meeting was to begin, whose birthday was coming up, a phone number for somebody, their address, e-mail addy, that kind of thing. Most folks know that’s called a PDA. It was a bit cumbersome, but it kept some semblance of order to my life. And, being an engineer, people expected you to have funny stuff hanging off of you. After all, I used to have a belt holster for my slide rule.

As years went by, the batteries in the iPAQ became less reliable as did my brain, and it all culminated the other day as I was happily driving along toward Sbucks, glanced over to a building on the side of the road and noted gee, there’s a lot of cars……Holy (insert explicative)! There was a little community kind of meeting that I was supposed to attend that had just evaporated in my mental schedule. Three lanes of traffic negotiated, I humbly walked in right before the “well, I guess that’s all for today” speech. Okay, that’s it. I’ve had it, I have to get something I can have with me. Now, I was quite aware that many of my friends had such various devices because I get a lot of e-mails with “sent from my…….” tagged at the end.

Not completely oblivious to modern technology, I knew there is a bewildering array of products out there that flip, tilt, open, slide, pop, and have virtual and real QWERTY thingies, which is probably what I would need. In the past, I would have conducted an exhaustive web search, talked to friends, looked at Consumer Digest (to discover the best model was made in Kazakhstan, with only 5 produced), scoured the local outlets, etc., for up to a month. Somehow in my advancing age, I have gravitated to the “S---w it, I want it NOW”. So, after just a little looking I decided that the DROID was for me. I know iPhones are all the rage, but to be honest, I do believe those red and blue maps so decided that the V source was better than the A network

So yesterday after a quick phone consult with a geeky friend, I marched into the local Verizon store and now am the proud owner of a little black device that is much smarter than I am. It used to be that the cell phones had an inch thick instruction book with them (only because there was a section in all known written languages, including Sanskrit), but this one only had a “getting started”. After fumbling around for a while and discovering that their idea of the size of my fingers was incredibly wrong, I was able to send a text message with something like: “HJellllop I hazwe aq Drtposd” . I also mistakenly called somebody and was unable to figure out how to cancel the call, so sorry for running your answering machine out of tape. But, i am learning...

I am still in amazement that I can hold this little thing in my hand, (allegedly) get e-mails, find the nearest Pizza joint, and it will give me directions on how to get from my current location (which it well knows) to that destination complete with the “turn left in…” directions. How to they do that? Amazing. It's magic.

I heard the other day that the average teen ager (whatever that is) now spends in excess of 7 hours a day “connected”. I am not sure that is horrible, that generation (whatever letter is attached) is growing up in a world that so different than ours was, that maybe they will be better equipped to be caretakers of it and us. I can only hope that a few of them are spending at least some of those hours learning something on the web, not entirely telling their friends that they just exhaled, or playing Godzilla XIV, so we’ll see.

Okay enough, I’ll be texting you or befriending you.

Oh, and just to reassure you that although I have entered the handheld cyber world, my traditional values are still intact:

And continue to put down the device when it’s time to


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Comings and Goings....

Anybody who drives north on our Rte. 235 here in Lexington Park can’t help but notice the stone structure of the Olive Garden rising out of the once pretty field. Curtains now show in the windows, landscaping is going in (somewhat softening the massive yellow signs), and a couple of days ago I saw they now have a banner with our favorite two words: “Coming Soon” ~ Olive Garden. Seems sort of superfluous to me, I guess “they” must feel we can’t figure that out for ourselves. I also heard that the opening date is now moved up to 22 February, and by the looks of things, they might make it.

A few of the more vocal readers have taken me to task for being hard on the Olive Garden “even before it’s open!”. The problem is that I don’t have to wait for it to open, I’ve been there already. In St. Louis, in Onalaska, in…. you name it, once you’re in the door, you could be anywhere. The food is pre-processed, frozen, delivered from “somewhere”, cooked per formula and delivered to your table with varying degrees of skill (at least they can’t clone the waitstaff…yet). That’s the good and the bad of the place. You know exactly what you’re going to get if you order the Chicken Parm in St. Louis, the Fettucine Alfredo in Wisconsin, the Lasagna Classico in Waldorf, and that famous never ending salad bowl and breadsticks. It’s all the same. No surprises.

I guess what gets me about our “new” Olive Garden is that it is not “new”, it’s just another one. It’s what it represents that bothers me. Homogeneous, consistent, no imagination, grind it out food. Cooking should be adventurous to some extent. There are creative chefs who love to “play” with the food. That’s a bad term, but you know what I mean. They tweak a sauce; they combine different flavors, textures, and ingredients to give us something special. Oh, if it’s a success, it’ll remain on the menu for a while, but it will change and you can expect something new. You may not like a dish (we’ve trodden that ground before), but you may, and that’s why you find a locally owned restaurant with a chef you like and return. Now that the “buy local” movement is taking hold, each season brings fresh ingredients to incorporate (please), and there’s nothing like the feeling when you taste a new dish and go “wow”! That’s what it’s all about.

What sort of got me into this was that MFO was over in Leonardtown recently and saw the owner of Corbels apparently showing somebody the building. The contrast of the closing of a restaurant that does do the right things with food at the same time that another “chain” is opening up is somehow saddening to me. I’m not sure what it says about our area. I don’t know the ins and outs of why Corbels closed, but we lost an opportunity to enjoy creative food, and that’s a shame. One less reason to

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

beans, beans....

The more you eat…. Well I couldn’t. Alert readers will remember that I enjoyed the Saveur “100” of interesting and little known foodie things this year, and was intrigued by number 32, the Lupini beans which got a rave review from a reader from Florence, Italy as being a great snack (which you can read for yourself):

So, ever on the cutting edge of culinary exploration, I hustled out to my favorite purveyor of international cuisine, Shoppers Food Warehouse, and after some searching found them and picked up a bottle – not the Victoria brand, but Cento which I have always found reliable.

Note the “Ready to Eat” prominently displayed in the little green box on the label, and in fact it was also mentioned in the Saveur blurb. Great! Pop the top and dig in. Easy. But, not so prominently displayed nor mentioned by Ms. Lapham, was the little “instruction” box neatly tucked on the side label giving further advice on the “ready to eat” part:

Hmmmmm….. not quite ready to eat... But, okay we’ll follow the tip. Open the bottle, no problem. Rinse a few, a bit messy and wet, and as instructed we’ll just pop that skin

and guess what? No amount of pinching force would eject the little bean from its leather like casing. Pinch top, pinch bottom, sides, nothing. Bean occasionally shot across the kitchen, but still encased. Nature protected the little bean from intrusion very well..

what followed then was a series of attempts to get to the (allegedly) delicious little snack. The “smashing with a spoon” technique resulted in getting to the “meat” (so to speak) but it also resulted in a smashed bean. Maybe trying to gently bite the bean would be better. This also worked, but then you had both bean and casing shards in your mouth which you had to either fish or spit out, neither of which were very appetizing. Only with a sharp fingernail was I able to extract the whole bean intact, but not very hygienic.

So after finally having an actual bean to try, instead of a luscious little snack such as I would take to a movie (?), I found no trace of a “salty, nutty tasting bean with a delicious snap”. Instead after laboriously producing the edible part and popping it in my mouth, it was a bland mealy piece of soggy material without much taste. I can’t imagine settling into a darkened movie theater and going through all that! What would you do with the skins? I can only believe that in Italy, there is much post processing of the little rascals before they wind up at the concession stand.

But, you never know till you try. And at least for this little experiment, I didn’t have to


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Slow Food Tuesday

not much to say today... think about food sometime today. slowly

For a change of pace, I was fooling around with the camera yesterday and here's a couple of interesting shots of our "dancers"... aliens over the solomons!!

and a sunrise with ruddies:

Monday, January 18, 2010

A couple of F's and an H...

Monday again. Even when you’re “retired” and don’t really care, there is just something sort of depressing about it being “Monday”.

F number one:

If there is a word in the Food world that strikes fear into (most) of us amateur cooks, it’s “Hollandaise”. Somehow there is this mystique about making this sauce with visions of it breaking, and reducing the chef to tears. You see all sorts of “tips” on making it, most giving caution about doing it “over a pan of simmering water”, warm ingredients, cold ingredients, on and on. I was sort of having this conversation with a friend who is a vastly more accomplished cook than I, and the opinion was “what crap. It’s not hard!”. And to demonstrate he came to the flutter digs and we went through pounds of butter, lemon juice, and other stuff, and after three batches I can honestly say I can do that sauce. And, we didn’t even use that boiling water thing (just one more thing to manage). We did it over direct heat with no intermediary step. With some guidance I turned out a nice sauce. Once you know what to look and listen for, it’s not that hard, although you have to work at it. I even did one with some blood orange juice instead of the lemon. Gives me some hope! By the time I’m 90 I may be there!!

Friday night we had a nice dinner at the Tides, one of the dwindling number of local fine dining places still available to us. Food and service were good, especially a scallop appetizer. They have a new menu from our last visit and I liked it. More of a physical makeover than content, but it's very snappy.

F number two:

Besides fun in the kitchen, the weekend was occupied a fair amount in following the football (one of my many weaknesses) NFL playoffs. Three of the four games were rather one sided with the “week off” teams romping, and only the surprising Jets handing an upset to the vaunted “bolts” in the most interesting game of the weekend. A team that wins 11 games in a row and can’t move the ball at home. One of those “keep hanging around” things that you can see coming a mile away. And why Ladainian Tomlinson keeps his (alleged) super star status I have no idea. He’s not shown me anything anytime I’ve watched him – two yards straight ahead. And, as I’ve always said, Norv Turner can’t win the big one. Again. What a (IMHO) stupid decision to try that on-side kick! He and the field goal kicker who left 9 points on the field should be on the streets of San Diego this morning. And Brett “it’s all about me” Favre certainly put on an impressive show for a 40 year old. Should be an interesting Sunday next week, deteremining the teams who will be in the Super Bowl.

Speaking of which (back to F number one) as we lead up to that triumph of American marketing, we’ll start thinking about the legendary “super bowl menu”. It’s already started with KFC touting their chicken wings that are so hot that they cause some luckless soul’s eyes to light on fire. The closer we get, the more we’ll hear about “hot” stuff. What’s the link between that football game and spicy food? I don’t get it. To be sure, a lot of the menus are built around Cajun/Creole dishes like gumbos, red beans and rice, jambalayas and the sort – maybe because they are sort of one dish meals suitable for consuming and spilling on your front while watching commercials interspersed with an occasional football play. But, they don’t have to be searingly hot. Haven’t selected my dish(es) yet, and they probably will revolve around one of the above, but the cayenne will be used sparingly. Maybe something with Hollandaise…

Enjoy, and
DFD (or DFF)

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Week from "L"....

Must be my week for experiences with “L”. First Ledo's, then Last night I had a little meeting with some folks and we wound up at Lenny’s. My second visit there this week, but this time was for food and business. I seconded my opinion that the interior renovations resulted in a pleasant space, warm tones with wood, sort of soothing and inviting. In the dining room (which is a different room than the bar) there are about 10 banquettes around the sides, with maybe 5 or six tables in the middle. Provides for some feeling of privacy. Due to our lovely Lex Park traffic I was not the first arrival, and the server had already made first contact so no info on the greeting. And, I didn’t ask. The large menu has multiple sections which I suspect cover both lunch and dinner. On the back is a history of the place, which dates way back to 1952. A bit unsettling when places take credit for “since” some year when you were very much alive! Hmmmm.. The menu contains the usual selections we see at a “one menu does all” with salads, appetizers, sandwiches, pasta, various proteins, etc. They seem to be enamored of the word “from”, as there are sections delineated by “from the” deli, sea, and grill. There is also a section entitled “the comfort zone” where you can find, guess what? (Mom’s) Pot Roast, CFS, and liver and onions. Gotta like that. From the sea includes a stuffed shrimp option, which seems to be disappearing on many menus. There’s also a Beef Lover’s section with the prime rib (lesser 8oz at $16.99 and “Traditional” 12oz for three dollars more). Both are served with “au Jus” which for sake of brevity we won’t go into.

There are some wines by the glass, mostly plebian ones, but there was the ubiquitous KJ Reserve, for $8.25/glass. A bit pricey. They also claim (I gotta take notes) 12 beers on tap, without listing them on the menu, but the little tag line says to test/ask your server to make sure they know them. More on that in a bit. I decided to try the fried oysters, which the menu reports, they have become famous for, and the rest of the table ordered a Reuben Sandwich, a Crab Cake Sandwich (which they are also famous for at $16.99), a cup of soup and Caesar salad, a half pound of steamed shrimp, and After a bit of business, the food arrived, and oddly enough the same server who took the order, very carefully wrote it down, had to ask “who had the reuben?” which was the first arrival at the table. Seemed surprised that I was the one with the oysters. When asked if wanted another glass of wine, I decided that a beer might be more fitting (a better pairing?) and asked if there was a pale ale (remembering to test the staff). The response was that they had Bass Ale. Oh well, just bring a Sam Adams (which worked very nicely by the way). She also had to be reminded to re-fill a water glass. As to the food, it was okay. My oysters were just a little bit short of crunchy, but were the right temperature. They were strewn atop a bed of food service fries which were, well, food service fries. A surreptitious peek at the Reuben looked like luncheon corned beef but I couldn’t fully investigate. The shrimp smelled good, and I was glad to see that the Caesar arrived with actual anchovies on top (which were NOT mentioned on the menu, a plus for me. Of course there are anchovies, why mention it?). It appeared a little short of dressing, but the diner forked up the salad some and there was dressing in the lower layer.

All in all, it was a better experience than I had feared, after hearing many reports of the demise in food quality of the “old” Lenny’s. I didn’t of course have a chance to try the beef which they used to be touted for in the old days, but what we had was at least on a par with what you might get at any of the “chains” around, and given the choice between a chain and a locally owned place, I would recommend local every time.

Other whey’s:

A friend passed along a link to a blog by Roger Ebert whom some of the more experienced readers might remember as film critic. I don’t know the circumstances, but he has lost the ability to eat or drink. He talks about that in his latest post. Some of the things he says are very touching, especially to those of us who are passionate about food. If you have time, you should read the whole thing, but here’s the last passage:

So that's what's sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now

DFD and count your blessings..

Admin- I don’t fully understand this blog thing yet, but if you want to contact me you can somehow do it from the blog, or just e-mail to

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cutting Corners...

Some do, and some don’t and that’s why a car tried to enter through a window of venerable Ledo’s in Lexington Park a bit ago. I entered yesterday (on foot through the front door) to join some friends who were kind enough to include me in their luncheon plans. I can’t tell you the last time I was in Ledo’s, certainly measured in years, as nothing had drawn me back. Luncheon on a work week day in Lex Park is always a busy time for almost any spot nearby the base, Ledo's included. And, in fact, we had to wait for a (seat yourself) table which my friends said was uncommon. As fate would have it, it was near the place where the errant car wound up, but we figured it wouldn’t happen twice.

I think there’s been a makeover since my previous visit, and there is a rather nice mural on one wall containing some drawings of “St. Mary’s County History”. The only one that stuck in my brain was an image of the original Cedar Point Light House. Square (the theme of Ledo’s Pizza – “we don’t cut corners”) is carried out throughout the establishment. The Pizza is square, the tables are square, and now so are all the service dishes. Trendy.

The menu (also naturally square or at least a rectangle) is a laminate tri-fold affair with sections for what you would suspect, salads, subs (classic, Angus, and oven baked, plus flatbreads), pizzas, calzones, stromboli’s, and “entrees”, wherein lies the chicken parm, lasagna, fettucini, and other Americanized Italian dishes. As mentioned above, they were quite busy and all the servers were on the go. That may have spared us the “Hi I’m…” at least we didn’t get it, just a question about drinks. Since my companions lunch there more often, they knew what they wanted and suggested I might like the Hot Grilled Chicken Salad which the menu described as: Tender, sliced grilled chicken served with shredded Provolone cheese, grape tomato and bacon over a mix of cool greens. There are choices of dressings, which included blue cheese, a plus for me. So when our server came with the drinks we ordered: my salad (blue cheese); an Italian Salad (honey mustard), and the soup, (Italian) salad, and breadsticks combo (honey mustard), and the Classic Angus Cheeseburger Sub (Hoagie sized, all American, ANGUS burger served “squarely” on a freshly baked roll).

Eventually, the first dish arrived squarely in front of the combo person, however the little tub of dressing was Italian, not the requested Honey Mustard. Attempts to snare the server missed, and she was forced to go get it replaced herself. About 4 minutes elapsed before the rest of the dishes arrived, once again with the wrong dressing for the Italian salad, but fortunately they nailed the blue cheese. The change over to the correct Honey Mustard required another trip to the station. My salad was as billed with the exception that the “grape tomatoes” were a sliced plum tomato. Hey, it’s winter. The bacon appeared to be real bacon as opposed to those “crumble” things from a jar, the chicken was moist and the greens were cool. Everybody was okay with the food. About what you would expect, and I suppose it’s the same every time. Just another place to eat.

What I really DIDN’T like was the method of bussing the tables. When a table empties, pretty soon a person comes out of the kitchen with a tub such as you might use for recycling your household stuff, walks to the table and begins to clear. Remember how Harrison Ford says you can plop the dish down or “slide that sucker in there”, well, you could place the dishes in the tub, or you can drop them in there from about 4 inches, resulting in a loud cacophonous clatter with silverware scattering overtones. And that’s exactly what they do. You feel like you’re dining in the cleanup station. No respect for customers. Not good.

Other Curds:

I heard a good substitute for the end of the meal “R ya’ still workin’ on that?”. A civil “may I clear?” would instead do nicely.

Expect the Olive Garden to open around 12 March

A quote attributed to Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin (French food writer 1755 - 1826) from the cheese book regarding Cheeses: “A dinner without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”. Ah, those French...

Also from the cheese book – Mario Batali married the daughter of Miles and Lillian Cahn who started the (apparently) famous Coach Farms in New York, purveyor of Goat Cheese to the posh restaurants of New York. Oh, did I mention that the Cahns founded a little leathergoods company named “Coach”? Way to go Mario..

Overworked foodie term of late: "Mixologist"; Used to be just plain bartender..


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pass the ......

Over the holidays I was given a book called “The Cheese Chronicles” by Liz Thorpe, a Yale Graduate who, judging by the jacket notes (including one from Thomas Keller), is a Cheese Expert:

She dumped a career in corporate law when she got enamored with the making and appreciation of cheese. This book is not so much about how to make cheese (although there is a good deal of that – it’s a lot of work), but mostly a review of American cheese and a compendium of cheese makers across the country. She tosses around the word “Artisanal” a lot, a term which of course we’re all (maybe over) familiar with. She was struggling with an exact meaning (it’s so common now) and after a lot of thought she finally came up with:

“Artisanal cheese makers change their recipe, and their cheesemaking technique, to accommodate the shifting fluid medium that is milk. Commodity cheesemakers take all possible steps to forcibly create a consistent fluid medium that can be made into a consistent final product, without modifying their approach.”

So there you are.

A large part of the book is devoted to describing various farms and their products, talking about cheesemaking operations, quality of the milk, raw vs. organic, etc. Bravo Farms, Traver, CA; Grafton Village Cheesemaking Company, Grafton Village, VM; Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello WI; Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, Theresa, WI. You get the idea. She lists most of their products together with candid tasting notes (hey, she is a lawer). Bravo’s “Western Sage: the body of the cheese is young like the signature Cheddar, and that simple creamy backdrop is ideal for the musky herbaceousness of sage. It tastes green but muted and savory”. Who says wine guys have the corner on “speak”?.

One of the cheesemakers she visits is Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle, Washington. In describing their operation, she mentioned that they have a shop in Pike Place Market. Beecher’s is primarily a Cheddar outfit, with their Flagship and Flagship Reserve. But, they also make some variations like “No Woman” (which, with a nod to Mr. Marley, she describes is "not laced with kind bud, but rather Jamaican Jerk spices"), Marco Polo which is laced with black peppercorns, and Just Jack. Now, as it happens I have some friends who almost commute between here and there (their parents are there), so I asked them to go take a look. They agreed, and the next thing you know, this is what I have:

Liz's description reads thusly:

“There’s the tiniest bit of elasticity in the texture, so it doesn’t just crumble up into wet bits the way block cheddars do. There’s a whole range of mellow, savory flavors, hard boiled eggs and buttered toast, those Swiss cultures keeping it a little bit sweet with the barest backbone of butterscotch”.

After reading that we were almost afraid to open it and try it, but of course we did

I have to admit that she’s pretty much on the mark. I’m not sure I’d have come up with the butterscotch, but I did appreciate the texture although it did have a tendency to crumble a bit

But there is no doubt that when you put it in your mouth, it felt good (sounds silly, but it did) and there were layers of flavor going on (sounds silly, but there were). As you chewed it, different tastes became evident – not Wham! But subtle changes in flavors were there. Great stuff, am looking for a chance to try more varieties from other producers. Our generous friends who brought the cheese said that Beechers also make macaroni and cheese, and we’re scheming on how to venture into that. If the Flagship is any indication, it should be a good experience.

We’ve remarked before that cheese is pretty close to the top food, oh, well, then there’s charcuterie, foie gras, and, well, at least cheese ranks right up there..

This’s and That’s:

the place occupying Vincenzo’s is called Back Creek Bistro. I note that the photos on their web site are taken AFTER the sun is down. I don’t know if they revised the room, but I never felt comfortable there (regardless of sun). Guess have to go check it out..

you can’t win department: Cover of February Food & Wine – 50 best recipes to pair with wine, beer, & cocktails. Example: Winter Vegetable Chili , Perfect with a smoky Syrah…. There’s another of my favorite words – “perfect”. Another time.

Be sure after you enjoy your cheese appetizer (or final) course that you are


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Buy Local, Buzz, and a disappointment

I attended a meeting Monday morning, held at Lenny’s (see below), to convene (loosely speaking) local independent businesses and “chains” that operate as independent businesses. There were representatives of many of the businesses around here you would know including a few restaurateurs (I was surprised there weren’t more – but they are a community unto themselves sometimes – with weird hours). It was chaired by a person from the Dept. of Economic & Community Development. Besides the actual business reps there were a few of the commissioners, an ex-commissioner, and a wanna be commissioner, and yet more people from a “community” aspect. We were told there were around 125 people present.

The point of all this was how to promote with the general public the notion that “buy local” doesn’t always mean just produce and foods, but extends to goods and services, stuff we need and use every day. Although it was mentioned, I don’t think they are taking an “us versus them” stand with the big box stores with hyphens in their name, but rather to raise the notion that there is much more to offer in a local store run by a local real person. We’ll have to keep track of their efforts. Their goal is worthy.

Of particular interest to the Feeder was the announcement that plans are proceeding to have a “Restaurant Week” here in St. Mary’s county. There are a lot of RW’s around, and I think maybe even DC’s is this week (in the dark period for most restaurants). Most of the time they revolve around a reasonably priced prix fixe menu. Plans are of course preliminary for the local area, but they mentioned that there might be like a special dish created for the occasion, with part of the proceeds going to a local charity, like the soup kitchens. Time table was loosely defined as “spring” maybe in the early part of May. I am not aware of any history of such a week around here, I think it’s a great idea to promote our wide array of our (independent) fine dining, casual, waterfront, and marina places to get (local) food in St. Mary’s County.

The meeting was held in the “annex” of Lenny’s the newly constructed “special event” room for want of a better term. I had not been inside of Lenny’s since they did their makeover. I have to admit that the interior belies the plain exterior. It’s done fairly tastefully. Although I have had some reports on either side, I have not personally experienced the food, so we’ll hold off on that.


The Feeder is finding out that although he attempts to be up on the “dining scene”, he sometimes is completely behind the 8 ball.

Stuff I (think I) have missed:

Red White and Blue in Prince Frederick is now catering only

Vincenzo’s has closed, and something else is going in there. Wonder if they’ll need paper squares.

The “Tea Room” on the square in Leonardtown has closed.

The “Tea Room and Antique Center” is changing hands and will be associated with the “winery” down at Macintosh Run

And lastly and sadly,Corbles has shuttered. It’s a tough economy and to see a place that cooks from scratch with local ingredients succumb is disappointing. Meanwhile I’m sure there will be lines at the OG.

one less place to

Monday, January 11, 2010

Schemes o' Mice an' Men....

To paraphrase Robert Burns, “gang aft agley” sometimes results in good things.…I was obligated to take some training (for a local community service organization) in Laurel, MD on Saturday morning beginning at a punishing 7:15 am. Not wanting to arise in time for a 0530 launch, we decided we’d go up the night before and stay over. So we contacted a DC friend asking if he would be interested in a dinner before we retired to the hotel where the training was to be held. He agreed, and so that was plan A. After a surprisingly adept (and unusual) performance at negotiating the Suitland Parkway, south capitol street, etc., we arrived in the area. As readers will remember, Friday evening was extremely cold with wind chills in single digits, and after finally finding a parking place “nearby” and walked to his building. we were nearly frozen. As we thawed enjoying wine and some lovely (Eastern Market) cheese and olives, the thought of venturing out again began to lose its allure. Our host suggested he peek in the fridge and see what was within. What resulted was a wonderful little meal of “four cheese” ravioli in marinara sauce, with a lovely little “waldorf-like” salad of apples and dried grapes and almond chips. And we paired it with a beatiful Barolo d’Alba, followed by Kaldi Coffee. No “Hi I’m”…, no “are you still working on that?” to deal with, just a warming evening with a good friend, good wine and lovely music. Sometimes you don’t have to pay to have a good meal!

We then spent a harrowing half hour driving up the Anacostia Freeway to the beltway to I95 and finally the hotel. It was an aging Holiday Inn. Unfortunately it obtained its toilets from the same purveyor as supplied the HI Express in Baraboo, another annoyance. And, have you stayed at a h/motel within the last 4 years that has a straight curtain rod in the shower? I really don’t see the advantage of the curved one now so common. An engineering evaluation notes that the bulging curtain provides a moment to the supports which invariably sag and become loose. Speaking of engineering, here we are in a country that can design chips the size of a pin holding multi -terabytes of data and able to send a man to the moon (trite, but you get my drift), but we cannot come up with a heating system for hotel rooms that doesn’t eject air at 80 mph and sounds like a wind tunnel. And you can’t win. If you set the fan to low (continuous operation) it won’t heat. Set it to “auto” and you get sporadic shut downs only to be followed by a sudden explosion of air that almost makes you sit bolt upright in bed. MFO termed The breakfast buffet that took advantage of “Some of the worst food I’ve ever had” Ah, the joys of travel….

This and that…

They are now building a rather stout fence around the Olive Garden. One has to wonder if it is to keep people out…. Or in…

Did you hear there was a stabbing outside of Catamaran’s on Friday? “Hi I’m ….. and I’ll be stabbing you tonight.”

Although I don’t read it much, yesterday’s Parade has one of those insipid articles about how their life changed for the better for some reason, this one by/about Harrison Ford (for whom I have pretty much respect). Part of it talks about various jobs he has had when he first came to hollywood, crewing boats, a carpenter, and a waiter! “Being a waiter was my favorite job! It was so easy to do well, and so few people do it well. Do you just slap the plate in front of them or just wait a second….and slide that sucker in there. Do you keep your eyes open and know what’s going on in your room and know where people are (sic) at in their meals? It keeps you busy, and it’s so much fun”. No wonder he succeeded. And, I’ll bet he always


Postscript: Attended the Maryland Basketball game last night (a win, go Terps!) and on the way back to SOMD, a sudden thirst attack led us to stopping at Jasper’s American Grille – (why the “e” I have no idea) in Prince Frederick. I had had a few mostly positive reports so it was a good chance to give a quick look. I really am not (this is me, doesn’t have to be you) a big fan of dining/eating in one of those restaurants that features smoked and barbeque items. The smoke aroma is sort of warming at first, but after a while it sort of turns cloying to me. Anyway, it was a rather late Sunday night, and there weren’t many patrons, so that may have resulted in my reaction that the service was even below what we have come to expect in SOMD. Complete “Hi, I'm….” treatment from beginning to “are you still working on that” with long pauses to fill a simple drink order of some (much needed) beers and sodas despite the fact that were feet from the bar. Depending on your personal preferences, there are many, many, many, many, flat and projection screens in the bar, making available everything from sports to network TV (CSI last night). They apparently have added a few things to the “bar” menu and we mostly selected from that. When finally the food was delivered (3 out of 4 dishes, then five more minutes for dash 4), it actually was better than I had feared. I had a (barbequed) chicken quesadilla that, despite caution from the server (“that’s really small”), was just right for me and the occasion. Other people at the table more or less enjoyed their selections. Maybe worth a visit if you want that sports bar atmosphere along with the smoke. You decide. Not sure if you have to really be

DFD (oh, I said that already)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bread Sticks, Oxen, and Real Bread

Hold your breath a little longer, it’s almost here. Our newest entry into mediocre food and poor service is nearing completion. The out of place Tuscan Villa that was arising in the field across from First Colony had announced itself. The plain stone exterior is now adorned with not one, not two, but three, very large and very yellow signs proclaiming that it is indeed an Olive Garden. Go north, go south, be in front, you can’t escape it. Oh, and for good measure, let’s just put one by the road as well. I’m sure the line of trucks will soon appear with the never ending supply of air bread sticks. Sigh…..

On a happier note, I received my copy of Art Of Eating, the eclectic Edward Behr publication that does in-depth articles on (mostly) little known and out of the way aspects of food from farm to table. I have not finished it yet, having just completed the article on the “Fair of the Fattened Ox” in Carrù, Italy. A centuries old tradition, it determines the most typical ox (sort of like a state fair), who is then paraded through the town and led to the abattoir, slaughtered, butchered and then turned into food for the town. The dish is called “Bollito Misto”, and there are traditional recipes, running several pages. But that’s not what I wanted to mention. The next article is about Pain au Levain, which alert readers will know loosely as Sourdough Bread. No wistful recounting of Cioppino by the Bay, nope this is deep. Here’s a paragraph:

“The yeast and the bacteria aren’t mutually dependent, but they are uniquely suited to sharing the same space. Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis metabolizes the flour’s maltose (after enzymes turn part of the starches into sugars), while Candida Milleri metabolizes other sugars”.

Gives me unpleasant flashbacks to freshman chemistry (which, afterall is pretty much what baking is). Anyway, the history and development of yeast cultures is given pretty much ink, and then there’s an 8 day regimen for making the starter culture from scratch, followed by a 16 hour “build schedule” for the dough, a 7.5 hour “fermentation” schedule involving 20 or so “foldings” of the dough, into the oven, then an hour and twenty minutes later – Boom! You got bread. Whew!!

We’re going up the road this afternoon for some community service kind of training tomorrow morning, and are taking the occasion to meet a friend for dinner. Not exactly sure where yet, maybe a place we’ve been before that’s comfortable and has food suited for the weather. We’ll see..

Oh, for those of you who gutted out the (So called) National Championship game last night, you might have shared my opinion of a lackluster, non-imaginative game. Somehow these “big games” never live up to their hype..

Had a stringer report of a meal in Frederick where the waiter announced himself, then refused to honor a coupon that was a "buy one, get one" type of deal "Oh, that's for more expensive dishes", presented a single diner with a bill that contained an 18% gratuity, and then had the audacity to say "do you need change?". bye bye..

And for no particular reason, here’s what we woke up to this morning…

as we're packing for tonight, we'll make sure we can


Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Four Letter Word:

“Best”: (adjective); Middle English from Old English betst; date before 12th Century
Superlative of Good;
1. excelling all others

Cover of January bon appétit: BEST OF THE YEAR
Cover of December Food & Wine: Best holiday recipes; best wines to bring to a party
Cover of January Food & Wine: best recipes for 2010; 20 best pasta, chicken & vegetarian dishes
Cover of Jan/Feb Imbibe: Savor the World’s Best Rums!
Cover of January Washingtonian: 100 Very Best Restaurants; Best of Fairfax
Cover of December St. Louis Magazine: Best Soups and Sandwiches
Cover of Jan/Feb Saveur: The Saveur 100, our annual guide to the world’s best foods
I could go on…..

Maybe somebody could explain to me the (perceived) notion that us bumbling schlubs out here have no particular powers of judgment or taste, but would rather plunk down 3 – 5 bucks and let some nameless magazine editor decide what is “best” for me. You know what? Maybe I wouldn’t like the Black Truffle Gnocci from Perennial in Chicago, maybe I don’t agree that New Austrian cuisine is the best of 2009, maybe I don’t think that the Reuben from Café Provencal in St. Louis is the best sandwich, do you think Komi is the number one restaurant in Washington, or that 3 Bar & Grill is the hundredth place you would go to eat in DC? As an aside, what does “very best” mean anyway? Are they better than just plain “best”.

And, in reading the articles and lists, I don’t find much verbiage like: “here’s a list of beers that our panel thought you might like to consider”, or “we believe that you stand a good chance of getting a good meal here”. No, the American obsession with “who’s number one?” means that one beer/sandwich/wine//dish/restaurant supersedes all others. It stands alone, no ifs, ands, or buts. I have long believed and ranted that in order to find out what you prefer most (loosely termed best for you), one must sample the whole variety of whatever. With the cultural diversity and heritages of this nation, to think that one reuben sandwich would be universally most appreciated is just plain silly. Judging by the plethora of magazine covers, I might be in the minority here. Good.

Perhaps words like “preferred” or “favorite” I would accept, but I suppose it doesn’t have the marquee value they're looking for. I suppose all we can do is accept a “best” as a recommendation. Data to consider.

I will point out in the case of my Saveur, besides the banner of “World’s Best” on the cover, it also says “Our readers share their favorite ingredients, chefs, tool, tips, and more”. The list was winnowed down to 100 from the thousands submitted by readers over the last year. The list is not in any order, just 100 deemed worthy by the editors. It does contain some interesting things, and each of the entries has a little paragraph to go with (written by the submitter). No. 72 (from a lady in Illinois) is Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups ("They are the little black dresses of the kitchen"), those ubiquitous red marked things we all have in our kitchens, No. 91 is the state of Wisconsin with a nice photo spread of the state’s varied foods and beers: Old Potosi Beer, “Melty Bars” from Oaks Candy in Oshkosh (by gosh); small batch Gin from Death’s Door Spirits, and so forth. No. 33 is “The Apprentice”, that wonderful book by iconic Jacques Pepin; 19: Arthur Avenue in the Bronx… Ever hear of Lupini Beans? - number 32 (which i will check out). So it’s not a real list of “bests” its just a bunch of eclectic favorites so I can live with that. Anyway, Saveur continues to be set apart from the rest (IMHO). Pick up a copy if you can.

Speaking of magazines, is there anybody else out there in readerland that shares my dislike for those damn stiff cards that get built in to the magazine? Usually are recipe cards, or sometimes large ads, but they dominate the slicker and more flimsy pages of content, and get in your way of thumbing through the issue. Try to rip them out? Good luck. Usually tears across the middle or destroys the binding of the magazine itself. Some even have purported perforations which are supposed to help you but they are generally as useless as the back of battery packs (Easy Open Tab!)

Anyway, be very wary of somebody making up your mind for you – taste, explore, read, learn, and then decide what’s “Best” for you alone. To thine own self be true! And of course


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

STL Dining....finally


With apologies to Blackberry toting (and other) readers, despite my best efforts, this got overly long. Perhaps reading in courses might be appropriate. it's always out there...

Il Primo:

Before launching into a recap of our (non family) holiday dining in St. Louis, it might be time to repeat this thought as I do from time to time. I know (hope!) that our dining companions will see my notes, so I want to emphasize something. Every time I go to a restaurant, I can’t help but critique everything I see from space, to service, to presentation and quality of the food product. I enjoy doing this. And, over the years I think I have developed a pretty good appreciation for what’s right and what’s not. I sincerely believe that every (serious) restaurateur wants you to walk out wanting to come back, so I don’t feel bad about noting what’s right and what’s wrong.

I try to do this objectively, and completely separate it from the social part of the evening. What would I think if I were alone? So, if you ate with me/us at restaurant X, and I say the service was poor, food not right, etc. it most certainly does not distract from the joy of being with people you like and enjoy spending time with. I would hope that by now, most of my companions know this unbalanced side of me and have come to accept it. I could have a bad meal, poorly served and still enjoy myself. I would also hope that anybody who goes to a restaurant would also be sensitive to what’s going on. If you don’t think it’s right, it probably isn’t. Things don’t get better by ignoring them..

Il Secondo

Our first evening in st. louis (fresh off the road) was ended by joining some friends for dinner at Almond’s in Clayton. It’s in one of those little “storefronts” on Maryland Avenue across from Cardwells, sort of a posh little row of shops. Despite being a Tuesday night (although maybe a holiday Tuesday night), it was pretty full (7:30 reserve) and had a lot of energy. As we were first to arrive, we were seated and immediately offered drinks. Noise level (as Mr. Seitsema would say) is such that you must speak loudly to be heard. There are two rooms, one to the left and the other to the right. The bar maybe on the left but I’m not sure. There’s a little blackboard on the table with the menu in chalk, and for us with aging eyes it provides a little challenge. Light levels are probably appropriate. I levied the drink test, and MFO had a glass of chardonnay. By the time our drinks arrived, so had our friends and they caught up with drinks. The drink test was a failure, it arrived with a cherry and had that reddish give away. I reminded the server that I had requested a twist, and got an apology along with a twist. The cherry remained. I didn’t fight it any more. In the interest of brevity and concern for the reader’s time and stamina, the table had appetizers of chicken and sausage gumbo, chef’s risotto (I’m a sucker as I’ve mentioned), and the soup du jour which was a tomato concoction. The risotto was a bit tighter than I prefer (it’s me, doesn’t have to be you), and the rest were good. Mains were their “featured” golden trout, off the menu/blackboard scallops, pan fried chicken and blackened Tilapia. My golden trout (which the server assured me I would love when I ordered) looked so much like salmon I stupidly asked and was in no certain terms told it was indeed a golden trout, and indeed is the State Fish of California!! The quality of the food was above average; the service was adequate and not intrusive. A nice casual evening with friends, we would return.

Wednesday turned out to be “Trattoria Day” for the flutters. We began a rainy cold day by going to Straubs to obtain victuals for upcoming functions, so were in Clayton and decided to complete the objective of lunch at Luciano's Trattoria. As extremely alert readers will remember that idea last year turned into lunch at the place across the street (Araka) which was not completely satisfying. Our backup this time would have been the always reliable Café Napoli. Even though the hour was approaching two, we did find Luciano’s open and after stuffing 8 quarters in the parking meter (in the rain, DFL) we were seated at a nice table by the street. And, guess what? There was the brown square of paper covering the white table cloths. Ahh, Vincenzo, I offer my deepest apologies..I still gotta learn why/where that tradition arises from. We were only the third occupied table, and the second left shortly after we arrived. The room was nicely arranged, typical Italian bistro, dark stuccoed walls, arches, the usual stuff. Tables were not close together so a busier evening might not be too loud. As it was, a quiet lunch in the rain seemed nice. A young man eventually brought us waters, and after another eventually the server came over and to be honest I don’t remember if he did the dance (I gotta bring that notebook) and delivered the menus. He looked askance at my water glass which seemed cloudy, and replaced it. He also informed us that the soup of the day was a wild mushroom bisque (what more could you ask for on a cold rainy day!), and a special was Lobster Ravioli. Drinks? Eschewing tradition, I ordered a martini (hey, it’s lunch!) and MFO a chardonnay. Bread and olive oil arrived at a leisurely pace along with the drinks. Now, I didn’t specify I wanted an olive/twist/onion/whatever, but the martini was served sans any garnish. I thought if nothing was said, an olive would appear. Someplace along in here a loud shattering noise was heard such as dropping a tumbler from fairly high, immediately followed by the water guy holding up the touchdown sign and speaking loudly “It was me! I’ll admit it”. On a cold rainy day it carried off well. Not sure what the management thought. We each ordered a bowl of the mushroom bisque (cups not available), I had the Lobster Ravioli and MFO went with a roast beet salad with goat cheese. When I inquired about a wine list, it was brought by a sommelier lady which very much surprised me (lunch/two o’clock day before Christmas eve). Unless you see something on the wine list you really like and are sure of, and depending on your immediate impression of the sommelier, I don’t think this is a bad way to go. I first asked if we didn’t finish the bottle could it be corked and taken with. She said yes. Then she asked if I was thinking of something (medium body red), what we were eating (mushroom soup/lobster rav/beet salad), and what price range we were thinking (mid range). She suggested a couple of bottles, and I asked which one she would prefer, and we ordered that. Leaving the notebook out again erases our selection, but I think it was a Barolo. She asked about where we were from, and had a nice conversation. The wine was brought, she tried it as did we and accepted it. About that time the soup arrived. Pungent with woodsy aromas, hot and thick, it was just right. (Brevity losing out here), the Lobster Ravioli was steamy hot swimming in a great broth, chunks of pasta encased lobster and vegetables. MFO’s salad was enormous, but good although I thought I saw some brown tinges here and there, but it was a dark dressing and that may have been it. With no other tables to claim his attention, our server chatted with us and we learned he’s a last minute shopper and intended to do his whole list the following afternoon (Christmas eve) as he would be off. Service good, food appropriate for the day, the Sommelier was a great experience, but I don’t think we walked away with anything more than an enjoyable, not great experience. We would go back, but maybe not to the exclusion of another place (except Araka). Their chef is a veteran of Le Cirque in NY, not too shabby a credential. Certainly you can’t go wrong (for the most part) with Italian in St. Louis..

That evening we Trattoria’d again, this time a return visit to an old standby Trattoria Marcella on Watson Road, not far from the legendary Ted Drewes. Due to the length of the jabbering about Luciano’s I don’t need much ink on Marcella. Easily the most enjoyable experience we had, the setting is cozy, (yes, paper on the tables) and the staff is friendly. Yes, her name was, and she would be taking care of us, and we all made “Great Choices”, but somehow it starts to roll off my back. I don’t like it, it’s not necessary, I wish I could fix it, but it doesn’t distract me so much anymore. I will still pass it along if I get a chance. But We had a great meal. We shared an appetizer of Toasted Ravioli that was excellent, we had nice Caesar salads (the anchovy made it’s appearance in the dressing rather than in person), I had an off the menu grilled Swordfish, MFO had …. There was a chicken dish, and also a carbonara. All were excellent. A lush red wine (where’s that notebook again) washed it all down. Highly recommended. A must do in STL..

Il Dolce

and with an exhale, we wrap up our Holidays for 2009. what a year. Good meals, wine, friends, family, and experiences. Hope we are all together to do this again next year (uh oh, here comes those "expectations" again!!). and please, continue to be


Monday, January 4, 2010

Do unto others.....

Sometimes I think there is hope for civility of us humans toward one another, and sometimes I wonder. Occasionally a nice thing happens (like the nice man that let me in front of him in line at Starbuck’s because he noticed I drove in the parking lot first) and then there are those other times. Our little shopping center (San Souci) is somehow always a good place to witness man’s inhumanity to man. For those of you familiar with the place, you know that the Post Office is in a store front in the shopping center. As with most (all?) post offices, there is a set of “drop off” mail boxes positioned on the curb to accommodate those people who would like to just deposit their mail and not go inside. Although there are signs saying “no parking” and things about towing, nobody pays the least attention to it. Just before we left for our trip, I was going to go inside and get something, so I parked in a vacant parking place in the lot. As I got to the post office, I noticed a car in front of the drop off boxes, pointing the “wrong way” i.e., with the passenger side to the boxes, and the car was stopped and vacant. A couple of cars had to pause in the traffic lane, get out and deposit the mail. As I waited in line, I kept my eye out, and eventually a fit and hardy looking young man casually strode out of the post office box area, got in the car, had to do some fairly cute maneuvering to avoid the other cars trying to get to the boxes and drove look of apology was noticed

Today, I wanted to deposit some mail (I always go inside), so after finding a parking spot a fair ways away from the post office (lunch time at San Souci) I was heading toward the door when a big SUV drove into one of the handicap parking spaces (will almost in, it was at an angle) close to the post office. By habit I checked the license plate, nope, not a handicap. Tag on the mirror? Nope. So, I then observed the driver, who was apparently rummaging in her purse and eventually the blue tag came out and was hung on the mirror. What emerged was a woman probably in her early twenties, looking very fit. Crutches? Cane? Cast? Nope, a sprint across the road into the lobby of the post office. Checked the post office box, threw a couple of ads away, out the door, striding perfectly well back to the car, tag off the mirror, away we go. I see that all the time.

What the H—L is the matter with people? Me first! Ha ha, loser - you had to park in a regular spot. How many times have you seen somebody who could use a little assistance have to park someplace else because one of these morons somehow chiseled an un-needed tag and filled up the spaces.. arggghhh

And, it’s not limited to parking lots. I can’t tell you how many times on the trip we would begin to approach a slower moving 18 wheeler, with plenty of time to pull out and pass even under cruise control only to see that car that was behind you (in either lane, it doesn’t make much difference) tromp on it so that: a) you are prevented from pulling out for fear of a collision, or b) if you do get out they are kissing your bumper all the way around the truck.

Or here’s an actual incident. We passed a truck, and before we could pull back in the right lane the car (just) behind us, darted to the right, sped past us and continued along at a pretty good clip. There was a long stretch of clear right lane ahead of him, but there was another car maybe a quarter of a mile ahead out in the left lane (another story, not now). Speedy guy had ample room to continue in the right lane and pass the other person without any particular trouble. Nope! Pulls out into the left lane, charges up right behind said car, actually puts on brakes, follows for 10 seconds, the darts right again. There must be a place in heaven for these guys..or maybe lower.

Not much culinarily to report except I made a very nice frittata for yesterday’s brunch..for which we were


Oh, PS, happy birthday Sir Issac!! – be sure to go to Google today….

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Well, tis done. After 11 days, 9 states, 2,925 miles, about 120 gallons of gas, 42 state license plates, 4 Canadian Provinces, and the back end of countless 18 wheelers, this year’s odyssey is complete. We arrived home New Year’s Eve in time for a few of the bowl games, and spent yesterday getting white line fever out of our heads plus wearing out the “back” button on the remote navigating around 5 bowl games (big ten not a complete embarrassment this year).

When last we connected, we were finally in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, on the 28th. Since then there wasn’t too much to relate, as we spent a lot of time with MFO’s mother. Weather remained a constant reminder that we were in the northern half of the country – this taken a few hours after sunup:

After the initial luncheon of a butterburger, we all ate out at places familiar to MFOM which included Red Lobster, and Olive Garden. In all the time we were there, every server we encountered gave us the “Hi I’m… of you”. As always, delivered with a smile and well meaning, however unnecessary. I actually had a fairly nice piece of walleye pike in RL, albeit broiled with the ubiquitous paprika topping, but it had good flavor. MFO enjoyed her (sic) Lobster Nachos. At OG besides the never ending supply of soggy breadsticks my Stuffed Chicken Marsala was edible, especially given the outside temperature, it was fairly filling. I was a bit curious that they called it Marsala sauce as it was white. As I recall most recipes for Marsala sauce call for Marsala wine and most with beef stock, which would hardly seem to result in a white sauce. Oh well, those clever Italians…

One notable exception was again the breakfasts at the Hungry Peddler. I wouldn’t recommend driving to Lacrosse (especially in the winter) just for that, but if you’re ever close do not miss it (for breakfast – my only data point). The servers (who remain unidentified unless you overhear conversation with the regulars) for the most part are not young, and sound almost exactly like the lady from Lake Woebegon (don’ca know). They’re so nice. Water glasses and coffee cups remain topped unless called off, the kitchen puts out the food really fast, good and hot. Just a little vignette: at a table next to us, a man asked if he could have a coke or pepsi, whatever they had. The reply was “which one would you prefer? we have both”. How often do you see that? And, it was delivered in the can, with a glass of ice. Gotta love it. Are you old enough to remember a beer commercial that had “From the Land of the Sky Blue Waters” in it? Posters on the wall. Cans and bottles of all sorts of beers adorn the shelves above the bar and around the room, along with modern posters for Korbels old fashioneds. What a place.

And, while we’re in that vein, the people of the town are just great. I walked into an Ace Hardware store, was immediately greeted with a gentleman who said “can we help ya find something then?”. I was looking for funnels (to replace the windshield washer fluid), “well, we got plenty”. Walked me over and said here they are, and told me the best value. “anything else?” No thank you. We found that spirit of friendliness and desire to actually help you at almost every place we went.

At last it was time to head back to Maryland, and we somewhat reluctantly left (the people, not the weather!). Guess what? It started snowing and didn’t quit until it turned to rain just above DC two long days later. Not ever hazardous, but enough to give those windshield wipers and washers a workout. Some scenes of Wisconsin

Bye bye land of

Finally in the mountains in Pennsylvania and West (BG) Va

Arriving at last what we call “civilization” (probably Lexington park in 10 years)

Despite the sprawl, there are still some pretty farms along the way above DC

And finally, there was the blue moon over the Patuxent and we were home.

Despite being the most nerve racking and stressful drive to date, being with friends and family is worth it. Christmas time is the time to do that, and we enjoyed that immensely. Thanks to FOJTE, FOJTY, MFOM, and MFOS(ister). Love ya all..

And mostly we were


Happy new year to all the loyal readers!! STL Dining experience still in work