Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back to Base..ics

Just a short read for wednesday

I had occasion to go over on “the base” yesterday. For non-locals, it’s the Naval Air Warfare Center – Aircraft Division located here in Lexington Park also known as “Pax River”. As with most military bases, tradition and history are a large part of the culture. Two of the time honored institutions there are the “O-Club” (Officers Club), and “the Q” (Bachelor’s Officers Quarters) . Most bases have some equivalent (for fun google “officers club” and look at the list). Originally I suspect it was military only, but over the years, maybe due to financial necessity, they have gradually opened up to lowly contractors such as myself (when I was employed). The O-Club was a convenient place for lunch, once serving a nice club sandwich, and the “Q” (actually the bar associated with it – the Flight Deck Lounge) was the watering hole of choice after a long day of flight testing, or drudging through data. Its walls and ceilings were a veritable museum of flight testing with numerous signed photos, pieces of gear from aircraft (tail hooks), a “wall o’mugs” for test pilot school alum, and various other pieces of memorabilia. When I first started coming out here in the early eighties, it was “the” place to be, and a very popular spot for those interested in, um, meeting young ladies (you might know a more popular phrase but I’ll let you think on that). If you just happened to be a fighter pilot and wore your flight suit, your chances of success went up astronomically. (How do you know there’s a fighter pilot in the room? He’ll tell you ~ insert rim shot here). Contractors were pretty much out of luck, but the beer was cold and there were a lot of friends.

Anyway, the point of all this (yes, there might just actually be a point) is that over the years, the O-Club has fallen into disrepair, and the quality of the food (while never high in my experience) also declined. So, the base decided to close the elderly one, and construct a new one and also to abandon the Flight Deck Lounge and consolidate it into the new facility. The new one is far away from the old one by the golf course (and the runways) and is called “River’s Edge”. Back to the top, since I was on the base yesterday, I decided to check it out and drove over to its location near the yacht basin. It is a pleasing facility with a nice view (possibly including the digs, but I didn’t check). It in no way reminds you of any military connection, and is done in relatively appropriate waterside architecture. I wandered in and looked around when a nice lady approached and asked if I would like a “mini-tour”. I was shown the multiple conference and ball rooms, the dining area which will still feature a buffet, but will be an “action” buffet with carving stations and that sort of thing. They hope to draw in conferences, meetings, and “events”. Oh, the bar area which is pretty tiny compared to the old Flight Deck Lounge.Not sure there will be much high jinks and nefarious opportunities going on there!

So, if you have the chance, you might check it out. I’ve had a couple of reports that the food is pretty good. MFO and I will try to investigate that..and, we’ll be


Monday, March 29, 2010

West from The East, then South again....

After the rain and chill of the previous evening, we awoke the next morning to unpredicted and unexpected sun and (chilly) blue skies. Our hotel was right on the boardwalk so we donned some heavyish gear and took a stroll. It’s funny about water places. Landlocked people would consider the “street side” the “front” of a place, but if there is water involved, in reality the water side is the “front yard”. While the road side of all these hotels and dives are stark and cold, the waterside beckons people inside.

But if you turn your head toward the ocean, there it is.

And, although it was spring and not yet the high season, there were still a few intrepid souls enjoying the day.

After the bucolic and rugged lower eastern shore, we decided to journey north and take a look at the renowned Mecca of bargain hunters, the legendary Rehoboth Beach. On the way out of town the Bottom Feeder, ever watchful of eating opportunities passed this one up:

Along the way we were able to catch glimpses of the Delaware version of the seashore

Finally, caffeinated with a Starbucks (after a successful second attempt to locate one ~ my clever little “Find Starbucks” app first directed us to an abandoned house), we found the place, actually a series of three kind of unassuming centers of commerce with different stores in each.

Perhaps with the assistance of Aliens, I think the place may have perfected the art of mind control or subliminal suggestion. Somehow when you enter these places, you develop this attitude of “we gotta buy something!” that overtakes your senses and you wind up with stuff that you really don’t need, but geez, three Ralph Lauren’s for a 100 bucks HAS to be a deal.. It was a Tuesday, and we found many of the stores to be relatively unpopulated, for instance the Coach store had more clerks shoving coupons with “Over $150 purchases 20% off!!” at you than actual customers. But I guess there are bargains out there, for instance MFO scored a little black purse marked at $150 for about a third of that. Who knows…

After contributing to the financial success of Rehoboth, we headed back across the bridge to Annapolis for our final “formal” meal of the trip. As readers (hopefully) know by this time, I am a big fan of “just right” places. For us, somehow Harry Brownes always does that (I might now add Scossa to this list). I always feel comfortable when I walk in with its relatively dark interior, those chandeliers from the Normandie, the raised dining platform, tables set with white tablecloths, sparkling crystal, and silver. It just says: “come in! relax. Sit down! Unwind! Have some good food!”. We were seated at a table on the raised portion and approached by a gentleman of some years (our experience has been servers have been on the younger side) and asked about drinks. Road weary and deserving I ordered “the drink” and was politely asked “if I cared for a smallish portion of Sweet Vermouth or would I prefer dry?”. Thank you.

Drinks and bread were brought, all as ordered and after a bit of conversation we turned to the menu. A relatively few choices included some of the standards and some new dishes, for instance the “grilled Salmon Werthmann” has been on the menu since we have been going there, but there were also some new dishes, such as “Pork Osso Bucco over Cheddar and Jalapeno Grits Sauted Haricot Vert and Fried Onions”. There were some tough choices, but I couldn’t resist an appetizer of “Seared Diver Sea Scallops and Braised Pork Belly Topped with Pickled Seabeans And Balsamic Glaze”; while others apps were two servings of the (standard) Cream of Crab and a heirloom beet salad. For the main course I went for their version of “Surf and Turf” in this case: "Seared Sea Bass and Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Root Vegetables and Natural Jus”. Other choices included the always reliable Salmon, a Strip Steak, and the only Poultry offering of Seared Maple Leaf Duck Breast and Pumpkin Flan Topped with Chilled Duck Confit Salad. With all those mixes of flavors we went with the DWTHYL theory of wine parings and FOJTE chose an ’06 Rosenblum Cellars Heritage Clones Petite Syrah.

Without going into detailed descriptions (thank heaven you say) of each dish, they all were good. Okay, just a little on the diver scallop appetizer. Although “scallops” meant just one, it was just right - seared on the outside with just a little caramelization for flavor, just set inside, and combined with the sweet and smoky pork belly was just great. The pickled sea beans (“Fresh, they make a crunchy snack while clamming, and retain that pleasing crunch even after cooking. The flavor, if it can be called that, is subtle, a salty taste of the sea with a hint of wild green”) were a great addition.

Service remained attentive, there is just something nice about somebody with a little maturity about them (okay, I’m biased – deal with it). Then we piled back into the Momster and returned to the digs.

What a great trip it turned out to be. A glimpse of the “real" Eastern Shore, some unique experiences and new friends made, some good meals and deals, but best of all getting to spend time with our family.. (Priceless) Who, incidentally were always


PS - some of the (more better) photos courtesy of FOJTE

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heading South on the East...

After experiencing the first part of the “B”, we arose in the morning to partake in the second “B”. As is the wont of most B&B’s, a full sit-down breakfast is part of the deal. After a cup of coffee in the ante room we were seated at a large table with all sorts of ornate Victorian stuff on it, and a little dish of fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt. We were joined shortly by another couple who were on their way to DC to baby sit their two year old grandchild. There was some apprehension evident. But, that’s another plus for staying in non chain facilities, you generally get to meet nice people (such as ourselves).

Anyway after finishing the fruit, a plate of Lemon Ricotta Soufflé and sausage was served. The inn keeper said the name of the farm from whence the sausage arose, but I forget. To provide a foil for the spiced sausage, he soufflé was drizzled with a merlot berry reduction which provided a nice touch of sweetness. Unfortunately, the merlot berry reduction was also drizzled down the front of the Bottom Feeder’s shirt (a golden colored one was chosen for the day, which contrasted with the stain nicely), necessitating a quick change before hitting the road.

In planning the trip, I was advised that there was a very good vineyard “down the road” in Virginia (yes, you can get to Virginia on the east side also), and our objective for mid day was to do a tour of the place. I had called ahead and the winemaker, Jon Wehner, assured me they would be open (Monday) and looked forward to our arrival. It’s no small journey from the upper eastern shore to the lower, but it’s an interesting drive full of scenes of water and pretty marshland

Historically the eastern shore has been involved with raising chickens, and there is lots of evidence of that

Or, there is less corporate evidence (yes, it’s a rooster, but you need those also)

And, just as we found in every state along our “big trip”, there are locally owned places to eat

Finally with a little help from the smart phone navigation software we arrived at our destination:

Chatham Vineyards is named for the large Federal Period historic house (built in 1818 on a farm that dates from 1640) which overlooks Church Creek,

it also also graces their label:

It’s a gorgeous old mansion and the winemaker’s parents (who also were winemakers) currently occupy it. The winery itself is about ten years old, and produces most of the classic vinifera grapes which are then vinified, aged, and bottled right at the winery (a less pretentious structure!).

We went inside and were greeted by Jon, and after a little chatting we got right down to business.

We tasted the steel chardonnay (they also make an oaked variety); a Rosé of Merlot (which would make a great summer on the veranda wine); a newly released Merlot; a Bordeaux Style blend, and a dessert wine made with late harvest Merlot and Cab Franc.

We found the wines to be quite pleasing (they have won several medals in local and regional competitions), and it was nice to hear Jon’s thoughts on what he wanted and did with them. It's nice to see somebody so passionate about what they do. It’s quite a business this wine making (there’s a revelation, huh!), and what makes it so interesting. After tasting, Jon gave us a “tour” of the winery which was pretty standard. A nice clean orderly facility.

It’s obvious he likes his work – I guess he has to!

You could make a wonderful weekend trip out of a visit to the Eastern Shore, and a trip to this vineyard would be rewarding..

We added to the gross vehicle weight of the Momster with a couple of cases of his product, we thanked him for the tour and headed back north.

Again, due to the timeliness of the trip, a lot of opportunities for food were closed, so we decided to tough it out and go “up” all the way to Ocean City. Traffic was light and it wasn’t too bad of a journey. Once we arrived we were ensconced in a Courtyard which had recently been converted from another hotel. Have you ever been in OCMD on a Monday in March? You, and maybe a dozen other occupants pretty much comprise the citizenship of the town. Kind of a strange feeling.

Fortunately, we knew of a restaurant that was open on a Monday in March, a place called Liquid Assets. It’s basically a wine store with a restaurant attached, and I’ve heard nothing but good reviews about the place, so we drove from our 15th street accommodations to the place on 92nd street. We probably could have backed up the whole way as traffic was, to say the least, light. You enter through the wine store (which also has a bar) and into a smallish dining area with (faux?) stone walls, with recessed areas of wine racks and wine sort of like you would expect in a wine cave. Reflective of a Monday night there was only one table occupied when we were seated. As an aside, in my younger days, I would have been uneasy by being the only table in a restaurant, but I have grown to not only accept it, but also to like it. Fortunately the service gave absolutely no hint that they wished we would leave. Our server approached with a down to earth “I’m Cathy, wine? Cocktail?”. Great service. I levied the drink test, and FOJTE and wife chose a couple of martinis. MFO opted to wait for the dinner wine. Leaving the menus idle we chatted for a bit, and by golly a correctly made dry manhatten, on the rocks with a twist was delivered to the table. The martinis were on the “Froo froo” side (Wide Awake Drunk, and Twisted Express) so trendy these days, but both were deemed quite good (FOJTE and wife are somewhat aficionados). Turning at last to the menu, we found quite an array of choices from light to heavy, salads, sandwiches, one menu does all.

The wine list is interesting, I have never seen one like it before. There are wines listed by the bottle, but each one has “our price” and “other store” prices. Guess which one was lower???? They also have a nice option that you can wander into the retail store and pick anything you would like, and they’ll serve it to you for ten bucks over retail (corkage). We had decided on the food, so FOJTE and I ventured out into the wine racks for a bottle for dinner. They have many top to bottom shelf bottles, for instance we were surprised to see bottles from the “Bond” winery, pretty much a cult cab which they would be glad to sell you a bottle for about 300 bucks. Looking a little farther down we were looking at some Malbecs, and the (?) owner came over and said could he help, and when we said we thought Malbec would be a good choice, he immediately pointed to an ’08 Agua de Piedra Gran Reserva (Argentina) and said “this is as good as anything on the shelf—price? Around bucks. refreshing. It was also the heaviest bottle of wine I’ve ever held.

By the time we returned to the ladies, our appetizers of a smoked seafood platter (salmon and rockfish, hard boiled eggs, caper berries, pickled red onions, grilled bread, lemon crema, roasted garlic) and a house made Hummus and Artichoke Dip had arrived. We shared around the table. All were very tasty although we did have to have some more bread to make sure everything came out right.

The Malbec was opened by the attentive but unobtrusive Cathy, and it was very good. Dark cherries, lots of fruit and quite the body. For entrees we had the Fish and Chips, Seared Scallops with Spring Pea Mushroom Risotto, Pan Seared Bistro Steak with
red potatoes, roasted red peppers & aged chorizo hash, arugula, pickled shallots, and MFO stayed light with another appetizer, the The Antipasto Board, an assortment of pickled vegetables, cured meats, grilled bread. All were very good, I had no complaints (which I admit is somewhat unusual). Dessert was eschewed and we left fully satisfied, and plied the canyon streets back to a comfortable room with ocean view. Although there are probably several other good dining opportunities on a full blown business day and season, I don’t think you would be disappointed in your experience at Liquid Assets.

Provided you are


Friday, March 26, 2010

Buzz Around the Park...

Local or passing interest only, the "Eastern Shore" trip will resume later in the day, but here's some stuff worth knowing (reader perception of course)

Joy oh Joy! A new department store has opened locally... Nordstroms? Macy's? Lord and Taylor? Nope. we now got a brand spanking new Kohl's...And just as in the opening of never ending breadsticks.. the parking lot appeared to be at capacity..

Restaurant/Food Scene

There is some buzz that the folks from Saphron in Prince Frederick may be taking their show to Corbels in Leonardtown. Don't know if "low country" slant will follow them.

Also have heard that a couple of local (lady) chefs will be turning Kim's Cheesecakes on Solomon's Island into a little restaurant..stay tuned.

Speaking of the Solomon's, Saturday night will be a "Taste of Solomon's" event. Since apparently the wide expanse of the Patuxent River insulates most cross county information, that's mostly all I know about it. I think it's from 11 - 3pm, and is a ticketed affair. whoops, just found a web site with more info


This Sunday (28th) is the annual celebration of the founding of Maryland, called Maryland Day. It's held at Historic St. Mary's City and will run all day from 10 to 5 with special events for children, and the official ceremony will take place at 1:00 with speeches, and also the awarding of the Cross Bottony, the highest honor of St. Mary's City to Mike Marlay who with his late wife have been instrumental in the development of the city. It's a fun, free event, and a great little piece of local stuff. This year there is also a concert at 3 in St. Mary's Hall.

Farther out -- the first bottling at the Port of Leonardtown Winery has been moved to April 14th (day before evil tax day), with grand opening may 21st.

Guess that's about it, I suppose I've missed some things in the land of nothing to do where you must be


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Go East, Young Man....

And we did… we negotiated the bay bridge with relatively little aggravation

and after crossing Kent Island we headed south and after a short(ish) drive arrived in Easton. Was re-acquainted with the charming little town (the historic part), with many little shops and galleries, although the day (Sunday) closed a few. Being sort of late in the afternoon, around 1:30 or so we all agreed that lunch would be just the ticket. Our route into town brought us past the little restaurant called Scossa

Which I had heard about and had been meaning to try. Indeed it was open, with sidewalk seating, and open doors into the interior of the restaurant. The weather was very nice and all the outside tables were occupied so we acquiesced and went inside to a table toward the back. Turned out that that was a good choice as it provided insulation from the passing cars and gawkers. The space is done all in muted wood, with beige wall treatments and under stated lighting. Softly lit by the afternoon sun, it provided a very pleasant place, just the thing to recover from the rigors of the road. We were seated by a very nice young man who was at least the shift manager, or maybe one of the owners since he spoke with an Italian accent. No “Hi I’m”, just “Good Afternoon would you like something besides water to drink?”. A couple of glasses of Chardonnay and some lemonade were soon brought to the table. We did the standard “we need a couple of minutes” and were left alone to unwind more and enjoy the chardonnay. During the lull, we did peruse the menu. They feature northern Italian Cuisine, and the menu reflects it with sweetbreads, veal loin, duck, calves liver almost anything you could want. And, this was just lunch, dinner would be a different matter. FOJTE chose a sandwich of hot porchetta and provolone cheese with rosemary oil; his wife also chose sandwich of fresh mozzarella, and tomato with basil olive oil, and MFO went a bit upscale with veal meatballs (after an translation from Italian by the gentleman – which I didn’t make note of). Sucker that I am, when I heard the off the menu special was risotto with truffle and shrimp, I had to go for that. The response from the server was “Sir, that will take at least twenty minutes, is that okay?”. What music to a food person’s ears! What it really said to me was: “it will be made to order, not scooped out of a pot, is that okay?”. And, although I don’t normally like this ploy, he suggested maybe a plate of Calamari while lunch was prepared which in this case was justified. Since we were famished, we all agreed. And indeed we were extremely happy we did. What arrived was an excellent plate of tender, crispy, Fried calamari all’arabbiata. No rubber rings, just flavorful rings of good taste with the slightly snappy sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and red chili. No heavy “marinara” stuff. Bread was brought along with some crisp house made crackers. By this time FOJTE had a lovely glass of Pinot Noir as our second Chardonnays arrived, about the time the food did. Ladies of course were served first, with a pretty sandwich and a beautiful plate of the meatballs over some creamy polenta with a tomato sauce. It was more of a brick red rather than the bright red stuff you would get from a jar. Then the gentlemen were served the sandwich and the plate of risotto. Alert readers (especially one I know of) will remember that a dish at Tony’s in St. Louis of white truffled risotto was memorable, but I would have to put this right along side. A glowing dish of creamy rice with black flecks of earthen truffle with probably some truffle oil on top with four butterflied grilled and interlocked shrimp. The rice was cooked as I like it, just the slightest crunch, but still requiring a spoon. The shrimp were some of the best I’ve had in a long time. Everyone spontaneously said “wow” upon tasting their dish, a good sign. While the Italian gentleman checked occasionally we were further served by a young lady with an accent I immediately identified as French, but as happened to me before, it turned out to be Russian.

At any rate, four extremely satisfied diners emerged into the sunlight with renewed spirits and a rekindled appreciation for what a good leisurely lunch can do. I would recommend Scossa be included on any trip to Easton, but from what followed, I would also recommend you don’t do only one night, because you will miss something..

We did a little looking in some of the (open) shops and guess what, there were decoys..

We then meandered down the road (very carefully) to the quaint little town of St. Michaels, another little town hugging the water.

Again, more shops, little cafes, galleries, and we finally found our B&B (warning - site has music)

which turned out to be right next to 208 Talbot, another restaurant of some eastern shore fame. Speaking of restaurants, some may remember how hard it was finding a (good) restaurant open Sunday night, with our first choice of the Bartlett Pear Inn a lovely looking place being scuttled by Talbot County Restaurant Week’s kickoff event (Sample, Sip, and Savor). In the spirit of if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em, we decided to attend ourselves. It was held in “The Oaks” and old home that has been expanded and converted into a (smallish) conference center. Situated in the town of Royal Oak on the water it provided a wonderful setting.

For a moderately priced ticket, you were able to sample fare from a lot of the restaurants in the area. I’ve never seen so many chefs’ jackets at once in my life. Each place had a “station” and featured little bites of something they were proud of. There must have been about 20 or so represented. We had sliced tenderloin with chimichurri sauce, smoked mussels on homemade paprika chips, seared duck breast on greens, you name it. We did seek out the Bartlett Pear Inn, and were treated to a lovely foie-gras foam on a bread crisp sliced so thin it made me wonder how they did it. Their Inn Keeper had been very helpful in our planning and it was great to get to meet her. It will sponsor another trip on another day. I, of course didn’t take the time to take good notes (why, yes, I believe I would like to try that!) so I may be a bit off in my description of some of the items. I was impressed by the quality of everything, and it makes me want to try several of the places..

So, after tasting and sipping, we made our way (very carefully) back to The Parsonage B&B in St. Michaels, and enjoyed another bottle of wine, some cheeses, and a couple of cigars on the candle lit balcony outside of FOJTE's room(shown earlier in the day)

A great start to our little soujourn, and the next day would be the day of the vine.

Oh, of course we attended the kickoff event


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gone is...

Our winter of discontent…

what a treat it is to see actual green in the lawn instead of white, there are no piles of graying yucky snow, and here and there the odd daffodil and crocus remind us of the passing of the seasons. What a winter it was. But now that the sun is out, you don’t need layers and layers to keep warm, and you somehow have this primal urge to run around naked. Well, maybe not.

And with the passing of the dark cold days, we put the heavy pots and stews and roasts away, and begin to think of lighter fare. Soon fresh greens will be available for salads instead of out of a “Dole” bag, fresh local fish will replace the dearth of local oysters, what crabs there are will begin to appear, and we’ll roll into summer. I know that there are advantages to living in say, California or Florida, but I’m not sure I wish to trade in a changing of seasons for the continual 75 degree existence. Not yet. A change in seasons gives you a chance to refresh your mind.

And, along with the recedence of March, so comes the annual “madness” that grips the nation for a couple of weeks, sending people to fill out brackets, waiting for Cinderella’s to emerge, watching the David’s topple the Goliaths, and questionable officiating. Once again the passion of Americans to establish “the winner” is evident. All but one of the 64 teams in the tournament will end the season with a loss. Having never played the sport, I can only hope seniors that have spent four years of training, playing, and listening to rants from coaches will remember what they did rather than be branded by that loss.

It’s hard to watch some team that was under .500 for the season and barely made their conference playoff get hot with a little point guard guy all of a sudden can throw it up from the men’s room in the arena and it will go in for a three (and PLEASE networks, lose the term “three ball”) . Yes, Georgetown is/was a good team, but you can’t beat a couple of guards who shoot the lights out on that day. But, maybe that’s what the fascination is with March Madness. A stage for players you never heard of to have that fleeting moment of fame. Who knows? Swish……

Whew, how did I get off on that? Anyway, today FOJTE and wife arrive and we’ll still go with plan A for the Eastern Shore trip. I think we have a pretty good itinerary planned, yes, food and wine driven, but hey that’s what it’s all about..

So enjoy the coming of spring, refresh your minds, get brushed up on good years for Chards, Viogniers, Pinot Blancs and Gris (which have come of age), Sauvignon Blancs, Rieslings’, and never, never forget Champagne. Rose’s are pleasant (and never, never, drink that white zin, use that to clean your windshield). Thoughts for the Easter Menu should be running around in the back of your mind (no pineapple rings and maraschino cherries please).

Okay, back to cleaning and prep for guests! And you can rest assured we will be


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erin go Bra...

Hey! that's what the spell checker said....

In a week of special days (Pi, Ides) we now have St. Patrick’s day of green beer and general shenanigans. Have fun, and forget the green beer. Wear green underwear or something…

It’s always hazardous to talk about something you’re going to do in the future, and I try to avoid that because a lot of the time things change. But, we’re a little short of subject matter today so I’ll take a chance. FOJTE and his wife are going to visit this weekend and into next week because it’s his spring break and they wanted to get out of St. Louis. We all thought that a jaunt over to the Eastern Shore would be something different, and offer a chance to dine at some new places, and there’s a vineyard we wanted to visit, and maybe hit Ocean City. So some research began. I came up with some interesting places to try, some by word of mouth, some by internet, and some by reading publications. So then begins the planning. Whoops! Mason’s is closed on Sunday and Monday. This place won’t open until April. We’re staying Sunday night at a B&B in St. Michaels, and by chance we found a place written up in the latest Chesapeake Life (Bartlett Pear Inn) that is open 7 days a week. Great! Contacted them only to find out that the Talbot County restaurant week begins on Monday, and they are closed Sunday night so they can participate in that kickoff event (see link).

So after more consideration we decided to trash the idea of “going out” and attend the kickoff event. A lot of the restaurants are going to participate and for 35 bucks you maybe get to try a little of their fare. So, at present that’s the plan. At least it will provide the opportunity to get up to speed on the dining landscape over there. I suppose I will take the camera gear and maybe get some shots. We hope to do the vineyard on Monday, go up to ocean city and maybe a quick drive by Rehoboth then back to the digs via Annapolis. Currently that’s plan A. we’ll see..

Had one report of an experience at Olive Garden. Food was unexpectedly good (at least better than the Waldorf version), but still some wrinkles in cleaning tables and front of the house type of things. I wondered if they brought in a corporate “Kitchen Team” to get them up and running.. As you can observe at almost any time, parking is a nightmare.

Don’t forget if you go out today


Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware Caesar...

Somehow after "the trip” some of this stuff seems sort of banal, but anyway…

Today is our second “special” day in a row..did you know that yesterday (Monday) is called “Pi” day because it was 3/14 or European 3.14? Just think in 2015 it will be 3.14.15, the last time for this century..(or back in 1592 it would have been 3.14.1592)

Culinarily, the weekend was sort of a bust, with the book sale occupying most of our time, although “hot dog guy” from First Friday fame showed up and did quite a business - a good case of "just right" food. Saturday night took time out to go to the River Concert Series fund raiser Gala down at the college. It’s kind of a fun event and a chance to get the tux out of mothballs. I think there were fewer attendees this year judging by the “packing factor” in the little area that serves as a bar. Normally, it’s the old “’scuse me; pardon me; pardon me; ‘scuse me, sorry” to move around the room. Not this year, movement was easy. The theme for the evening was “night in the Garden of Spain”, and they had a nice selection of Spanish cheeses to accompany a beverage of your choice. The dinner entertainment was a “big band” of the Chesapeake Orchestra and a guitarist and flamenco dancers. That part was pretty good, although we thought the band was “too loud”, think what you will. As for the food, let’s just say it wasn’t up to previous efforts or expectations.

Back to the book sale for a minute I think they did raise a lot of money for the libraries, although the final figure isn’t in as of yet. I didn’t find any gems in the cookbook section this year, although I did run across and acquire a 1974 “World Atlas of Food” which has some pretty nice artwork in it, and also a copy of a 1971 little paperback called “Home Book of Smoke Cooking Meat Fish and Game”, complete with plans for making home smoke ovens, or how to construct one from branches a la Native Americans.

After the sale, MFO presented me with a little gilt edged book from Brooks Brothers entitled “How to Be a Gentleman”. Nothing was said, but there might be a message there. It’s full of interesting little tips (how to tie a bow tie) and advice: “A gentleman knows how to make a grilled cheese at 2am and an omelet at 7am”. There will be lots of fodder for feeders on a slow day..But one that caught my eye was a few paragraphs under the title “A Gentleman and His Cap”: “....he may feel that a beloved baseball cap is almost a part of his body, but he should never forget that it is still a hat and that common courtesy demands it be treated as such. A gentleman does not wear his cap inside most public building....” Amen.

I would add that a gentleman is always


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Snippets...

Just a quick read for saturday morning..

Did go down to the Brian Ganz Concert yesterday.. it's so nice to have the performer actually talk to the audience. He explained about the differences in counterpoint between Chopin and Schumann (subtle vs. overt) and played two pieces (four Chopin etudes, and "Waldszenen, Op. 82). I am not sure i got it, but i seldom do. He also played a lovely couple of Preludes and Fugues from Bach.

After the exhilarating hour listening to good music I wandered over to the fairgrounds and was there to help with the opening of the book sale. It was the usual Friday night madness, the time when the "dealer" vultures run in the front door, gather armloads of books without looking at them, and dumping them in tubs brought for the purpose. All they want to do is take advantage of our reasonable pricing so they can jack it up to make money? Great Literature? Naahhh, the almighty buck. I would point out that although Mr. Orlando from the book store in Leonardtown was there eventually, we didn't take part in the scavenging. But, the books are there for all, and their money is the same color as others, so we suffer it. Just don't like to see a gently little lady get elbowed out of her copy of "Growing African Violets in Your Home".

Today more book sale fun (hopefully sans the evil dealers today), and then tonight we're going down to the River Concert Gala..

The fun of growing old, from this morning: Go downstairs to the kitchen to take the daily dose of medications, get to kitchen and make coffee. Go back upstairs to the computer to look at e-mail. When coffee brewer is finished, go downstairs to kitchen, take meds and return to computer. Get to computer, smell coffee, back downstairs to kitchen get coffee. sigh.

and tonight it may be black tie

Friday, March 12, 2010

Up the Charts with a Bullet....

One of the many, many, many, magazines that piled up while we were gone was my first issue of

Notice what’s on the cover of the “Garden & Gun” magazine? One of our favorite bi-valves. You can’t grow or shoot them, so not sure how it fits, but it’s a great issue. It is fast becoming my second favorite, right behind Saveur which has a lot of parallels. Great photos, interesting articles like “Fetch Daddy a Drink – How to apply gun-dog training methods to your children”, which was very well written. The “Oyster Guide” starts off with a little essay entitled “the first one I ate tasted like river mud’, and recounts how he struggled to come to enjoy them and finally had an epiphany when he ate one on a saltine, with cocktail sauce, horseradish, a squeeze of lemon, and “it was good”. He follows that with “I know that oyster purists will say I did not really taste the oyster, that I am a commoner, but they can kiss my a--.” Gotta like that style.

There’s a list of oyster bars in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Of course, many were in New Orleans (Acme Oyster House, Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, etc.), great timing on our part!

Then there is a section on “classic recipes” which includes Rockefeller, Deep Fried, Dressing and this one for Bienville. In case you can’t count from the picture there are 16 ingredients in the sauce. Nice looking dish, eh?

There’s articles on quails, foraging (a la Euell Gibbons) and a nice piece on an artist named John Beerman.

Anyway, if you can find a copy I would highly recommend it for an addition to you food resource library..

Well, here’s the rain, just in time for the Book Sale (See picture on front of today’s Enterprise). If you come this evening or over the weekend (Fairgrounds in Leonardtown) be sure to

DF the Weather

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Return to Normalcy...

Now that the memories of the trip are pretty much locked in the locker, we can return to "real life" and more this and that’s, events, rants, and general stuff around the ‘hood..

This’s and That’s:

I hear the McDonald’s on the intersection of Millstone Landing and 235 (home of the stoplight demons) will be relocating out by Five Guys, not sure why. Maybe the demons will go with them.

Apparently the Doo Dah Deli in Leonardtown has closed (again). The “new one” never quite got up to the standards of “the old one”, IMHO. Just didn’t have a good feel. Waitstaff was spotty..

And while some close, some open. Our newest chain restaurant, the Olive Garden, has opened with the expected hordes of people ready for the never ending salad bowl and (air)bread sticks, and “Being Family” while they’re there. People line up and double park in order to be there when they open. I’m not sure I get it. I seldom do. Is it because it’s “new”, (which it isn’t because I can only imagine it’s a cookie cutter for their million other stores), or are there those out there that can’t wait for the food? I would imagine that you can get some reasonable facsimile of most of their stuff around here, so it’s not really all that unique. I just don’t get it. Scene and be seen? “When I saw… the Olive Garden last night”. I just don’t get it..

Speaking of food outlets, in our cross country trip I saw a new burger chain I hadn’t seen before. It’s called “Whataburger”

A little websearch showed it apparently started in Corpus Christi, Texas around 1950, featuring a big burger to which people allegedly exclaimed “what a burger!”. It's mostly a southern corridor phenomenon, sort of along Interstate 10 cities. We never stopped at one.

Events worth noting:

Friday there will be a Brian Ganz piano recital at noon in the usual venue, Auerbach Aud in St. Mary’s Hall. There were some reports that it was in the evening, but it has apparently been moved to the luncheon hour as the students are ready to hit the road for spring break. I’ll try to be there. Always worth while to listen to Brian play and enjoy his commentary.

Also Friday will see the opening of the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale in the Fairgrounds over by Leonardtown. It will occupy three buildings this year, devoted to Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Children’s Literature. It’s a wonderful chance to find some lost and new treasures, that little cookbook with intriguing recipes, the “how to” books on all sorts of hobbies and stuff. While helping to sort stuff, I found all sorts of those little “auxiliary” type cookbooks, with comb bindings that are done by churches and schools containing recipes for real food from real people. Friday night is “members only” night, but if you’re not already a member and want first crack, you can join on the spot. Free and open to all Saturday and Sunday. Come on over and browse!

I also spotted a book called “Marathon Training for Dummies”; Aptly titled, methinks…(sort of like that TV show called “The Biggest Loser”)

It’s the little things that get you:

When I began messing around in the kitchen, all the little spice bottles used for garlic salt, dried spices, cayenne, etc., had shaker tops on them under the lid. Need a little onion powder in that? Unscrew the lid, couple of shakes and you’re good to go. Well, the fiendish packaging engineers have come up with a new design. There’s still a cap on the bottle, but the shaker holes are revealed by flipping up a little tabbed lid on that cap. Old habits die hard. While the dish is cooking and tasting reveals it needs a little dash of Thyme, grab the bottle, unscrew the lid, couple of shakes…… and you have half the bottle in the pan. Progress isn’t always good..

So, after you start over and finish the dish again, you can


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Journey...Final Course

NB: This will be the final entry in the journal of the epic journey, although the feeder reserves the right to dredge up some photos from time to time... this will probably get a bit long, so installment reading might be appropriate

Okay, let’s see, where were we.. oh yes…After our (previously documented) eating spree in the Crescent City we headed east again, constantly reminded of the results of a recent sporting event held there lately.

We decided to take a little detour to drive through Biloxi, and there were still reminders of Katrina

After crossing the boot heels of Mississippi and Alabama, we finally got to the sunshine state

by “P-Cola with some familiar images on overpasses

And, no matter where you are, there are local restaurants..

Finally, after nearly 2000 miles on I-10, we turned right at Lakeland, Florida headed south to visit some friends in the central part of the state. After dealing with restaurants for a while, it was nice to have two lovely home cooked meals there, and I even got in a little birding

What turned out to be our final “food experience” fittingly was dessert-like. Plant City is a little town that is sort of the hub of the produce belt, so there’s lots of stuff. A local (and not so local) legend there is a place called Parkesdale Farms and groves.

They’re famous for produce, but mostly for their (jumbo) strawberry shortcake. People come from miles around (that famous city) to stand in line

for various preparations of ripe strawberries, cake, and mounds of whipped cream. Mostly you go there for the experience.

We got ours,

and i ate most of it

After a restful couple of days with friends (there’s that word again) we headed north toward home. The original plan had us stopping in either Charleston or Savannah, but by this time days on the road, motels, roadfood meals, took its toll and we decided to just beat feet and come home to the digs.

So our last night on the road was spent in Florence, South Carolina, another one of those spots that seem to exist for letting you stay overnight as there is every motel chain and box restaurant you’ve ever heard of clustered by the well traveled I95. We stayed in our mainstay Fairfield Inn, and on the way to the place we noticed an Outback. Now, in all our travels I don’t think we had a steak once, and the thought of that seemed appetizing. So, after lugging the mounds of luggage (we travel heavy) to the room, we got mildly DFD’d and headed out. We got to the place only to find people standing around outside. Uh oh (it was Saturday night). Undaunted we go inside, and encountered the cheery young lady at the stand and said we wished to have dinner for two. “yes, sir, it will be only about 80 minutes, will that be all right?” Excuse me, 80 minutes means an hour and twenty minutes? “well, yes, we’ll let you know, is that okay?”. I don’t think so. What followed was a visit to several other similar places (even the dreaded OG) and were met with the same crowds and varying amounts of waiting time, all over 40 minutes. Crestfallen, we stopped at Burger King for a bag of reality and retired to the room to eat off yet another ottoman.

Next day we traversed the rest of I95, over the Nice Harry bridge, and found our way back home. So now remains notes, pictures, credit card bills, receipts from a myriad of restaurants, a few menus, but mostly the memories of meeting friends, sharing food, and most likely a once in a lifetime journey. By golly we did it! And through it all, I can honestly say we were always


Monday, March 8, 2010

Walking on the River....

Hello again, a long weekend of off site training halted our journey (and yes, it’s about to end) as we were leaving Arizona…

Leaving Eloy, we headed east again through miles and miles of “next facilities…” beautiful scenery,

some dust storms

and a unremarkable stay in a God forsaken hunk of Texas called VanHorn Texas (why exactly does that town exist?—sorry Mike) just sort of plunked in the middle of nowhere, and maybe “middle” is the key, as it provides a stopping point in a long journey…

We finally put the long stretch of desert behind us with a visit to

We’d never been there before but knew of the famous creation of those clever civil engineers

Known as “river walk” and in fact secured a night’s lodging in a Courtyard that backed onto the walk where in fact you can walk

Or ride

A relatively short travel day allowed time for our own stroll. It’s a pretty nice place. There are several little cafes and restaurants along the way where you can sit, sip, munch and stare at the never ending parade of tourists..

After doing a bit of “the walk” we retired to a balcony overlooking the water and enjoyed a glass of wine. It’s always hard to do a one time visit to a city you don’t know much about, and it seemed that this was the right place to sample some Mexican food. A little scouring of the internet led me to eschew some of the river walk places, and we selected a place called Rosario’s, which seemed to have pretty good reviews of appropriate food. It was just beyond walking distance so we opted for another cab ride.

A few short blocks got us to a corner restaurant that was almost storefront with lots of windows looking out on a non-descript street. It was obviously a popular spot as the large bar area was pretty much filled with the people you would pretty much expect to see, having a good time. We were shown to a table in the back room where most of the dining was done, and shortly moved to another table when it was discovered that the top of our first table appeared to be held on with only one fastener as it rocked precariously. Our server (name unknown) said they needed to fix that. The ceilings were very high, one of those where the support structure is exposed and painted black. But, along the ceiling there was a neon snake like light that continually changed hues. It wasn’t the only source of light however so reading the menu was easy. The standard bowl of salsa and chips were delivered, and it was some of the best I’ve had. Probably ancho chilies and it was more of a sauce than salsa with a delightful smoky taste with just enough heat to tickle the tongue and not sweat the neck. I ordered a “standard” margarita, which turned out to be fishbowl size. I never get frozen, and this was nicely prepared with a salted rim.

The menu had a bewildering number of choices, starting with (about ten) Antojito’s, then running through Especialidades, Parrillas, Sopas y Ensaladas, Platos de Enchiladas, (sic) Favorites, with each category containing 8 or so options. What’s a tourist to do? Well, we started with a split order of Angelica’s Ceviche Fino: Delicate white fish, thinly sliced red onions and jalapeño peppers marinated in fresh lime juice and tossed in an oregano vinaigrette, served with avocado, cilantro and homemade tostadas. For the main plates, after much thrashing I took the Chile Relleno: Poblano pepper stuffed with spiced beef, potato and raisins topped with our delicious ranchero sauce and white cheese. The nuance of the raisins sort of tipped the scales to that. MFO opted for a little more adventurous Carne de Puerco en Chile Cascabel: Tender pork tips in a chile cascabel sauce. All of course were served with rice and refried beans. Other dishes available were beef tounge, grilled sweet breads, crispy tripas, chicharrones guisados, many preparations of shrimp, fish, pollo, etc., on and on. It would take a long time to eat your way through this menu…

About this time the Ceviche arrived, and it was just great. “Fresh” is the word that came to mind throughout the meal, and the starter certainly embodied it. The fish was indeed delicate but had flavor, and the onions and peppers were “just sliced” fresh. A great starter. Another (small) margarita later, the main dishes arrived. I wished I had the camera gear (and the nerve) as each plate was just gorgeous. Beautiful colors, nice aromas, and everything tasted just great. Service remained attentive; the clearing staff were dressed in all black and carried on conversations in Spanish. Sometime I gotta learn that language. By the way, the raisins in the fresh stuffed chile were just great touch..Other diners were in various stages of DFD, but in this very informal place it didn’t matter. Everybody seemed happy.

I’m sure there are other more upscale places to eat, but this meal capped off a wonderful afternoon and evening in San Antonio. I think that town deserves a longer visit. If you do go, put Rosario's on the schedule, and you wouldn't have to consider how you