Monday, May 31, 2010

End of Easton's Eating

A little unexpected disruption in the schedule has delayed the conclusion of the Eastern Shore report, so we need to at least wrap up the dining side. I’ll try to be brief (tough for the Feeder!)

Between the lovely meals at Out of the Fire and Bartlett Pear Inn, I passed on the opportunity to revisit Scossa for lunch when I heard that the Preservation folks were gathering there for a luncheon. No sense ruining a good memory by taking a chance on a stressed kitchen. Instead, I took a thought from our friend who suggested Tilghman Island Inn. A quick review of their web site made it seem an attractive choice. So I manned up the Momster and did a lovely drive through St. Michaels, and out into the “country” past large plantation type houses and farms on or near the ever present water. Good thing I had the Droid GPS or I wouldn’t have found it. It is just on “the island’, tucked on a little unmarked side street. I had expected a gracious waterside resort (Inn at Perry Cabin style), but upon approaching I had to check the signage to make sure I was at the right place.

The parking lot was deserted, and it is relatively unkempt (maybe too early in the season?) and almost had a closed look about it. I finally entered through the unassuming front door, into a little “reception” area, unoccupied. I continued through that to the large bar area where a couple of ladies were busying themselves with packaging utensils or something. There was nobody else to be seen. Hello? Hello. Are you open for lunch? Yes sir, right this way. I was led up a couple of steps into another dining area with a view of the little channel out to the river, and offered “the best table in the house” one in a corner with glass on both sides. Being the only occupied table in a restaurant is always a bit daunting, especially if one is dining alone. Eventually one of the ladies arrived with a menu. No speeches, but a perfunctory delivery of the menu and remarking that soup of the day was a tilapia chowder, and special sandwich was a crab cake. Would I like a drink? Well, as a matter of fact I’d like a martini on the rocks. Gin preference? Tanqueray. Disappears. Finally I hear ice clinking, and a little while later I was delivered what she must have considered a martini on the rocks. It was in a classic martini “up” glass, and using my pinky finger I measured it as tip to first knuckle in diameter at the top. That’s about two and a half to three inches. And, on top of that it contained about 3 or 4 cubes of ice. Engineers will be quick to figure that a conical glass that measures 3 inches across, filled with largish ice cubes would not leave very much room for liquid. Correct o mathematical genius! I swear to goodness that there were maybe three or four sips, with the fourth diluted by the ice. I paid $8.50 for that.

Back to brevity…I ended up ordering the chowder and the crab cake. I hasked if I could have a cup of it, but no, although she’d see if I could get a small bowl. Meanwhile another couple came in and was seated right next to me. They were an elderly couple and had gotten “lost” and found the place. We did chat a bit.

More Brevity…although the service remained “darn, I guess I have to wait on this guy” the food belied it’s surroundings. The chowder was good and creamy with onions, potatoes, and although a bit shy on volume, the tilapia was tasty. I also think the crab cake was excellent, no hint of iodine, just sweet crab meat and little filler. It came with Sysco fries (remember those trucks?) and a little tub of tartar sauce. Usually I don’t use the tartar sauce, but I sampled it and found it to be home made, with a lemony creamy sauce and little capers. Quite nice. While I was eating I was treated to a continual stream of ingoing and outgoing boat traffic. My total bill for the Martini, the (full price) small bowl of soup, the crab cake, and a draft Anchor Steam was $37.58.

So, what do you think? I would go back again, but certainly for dinner, maybe in high season, and wish for more enthusiastic service, and, well maybe a properly made martini (don't know how the drink test would have fared).

The next morning, we eschewed breakfast in the Tidewater Inn and went across the parking lot behind to Darnell’s Grill which opened at 7:30. Apparently been there forever, famous for their ribs and chicken. Apparently not for their breakfasts. We arrived about 7:25 and seated ourselves in a relatively steamy front room with black and white checkered flooring, lineoleum tables, but upholstered chairs. Eventually a large lady appeared from the back room, dressed in chef’s blacks (well worn) and a greasy apron. The menus were on the tables. She said “Hi I’m Flo, I’ll be taking care of you, serving you AND cooking your food!” All laughed. Apparently the regular server had not arrived and she had double duty. Eventually a more affable person appeared and took over the front of the house. Brevity… the food was, well, not good. My “up” eggs were stone cold yolks on top of barely congealed whites, although MFO’s “over easy” were more edible. The “home fries’ were soggy, greasy, gray lumps. Maybe the grill wasn’t hot yet. Anyway, ribs and chickens might be good (they’ve kept them going a long time!), but I’d pass on breakfast. At least at 7:30.

That being our last day, we headed back after the morning sessions, and stopped at “The Narrows” on Kent Island. I truthfully don’t know much about the place or how long it’s been there. Given the construction, it must not be too long, and the “our history” tab on the web page says absolutely nothing about their history. Large, typical waterfront big volume place. Our friend said they had great crab soup. Despite a packed parking lot we were seated immediately at a pleasant little table. Next to us was a party of ten or so who were celebrating their (50th?) high school class reunion. Reminded us of ours. They were having a good time. The server was pleasant, efficient, and enthusiastic. Brevity…. I’ll spare any description of the menu, it has everything you would expect at a waterfront situation. We all ordered a cup of the crab soup, and indeed it was very good. Creamy rich with butter, full of crab, and they offer a little pitcher of Sherry, a nice touch. I had the crab cake, MFO a “crab tart”, and the third order was for Crab Imperial (called “Imperial Twins” on the menu. The “twins” were sort of a ”benedict” thing, with English muffins a tomato slice and crab under cheddar. The Tart was basically a flatbread with crab, spinach, tomato, and provolone cheese. My crab cake was very good, again light on anything but crab. We also chose sides of fried green tomatoes, battered and fried. Mine was a bit too fried and a bit acidic. Our friend said she has had better versions previously. Typical bring a friend to lunch stuff…Anyway, probably worth a stop if time permits.

So ended the culinary side of Easton. I will not get into “best”, but Bartlett Pear Inn was certainly a wonderful meal with exceptional touches, with Out of the Fire also good, but not at that level(although a different experience, really). Tilghman Island Inn probably deserves another look see, you would do well stopping at the Narrows on your return. I would have like to tried Mason’s. Ah well, a reason to return. And I would repeat the Gray Goose Dirty Martini enjoyed on the lanai at the Tidewater Inn, people watching at it’s best.

One more edition – hopefully short, plus a nice spot discovered in Alexandria..

Please remember to


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Of Elegance in Easton

I have a good friend who chides me about my pragmatic engineering like approach to life. When she wants to jar me from my straightforward stodgy thinking, she admonishes me by saying; “stay between the lines, Bill”.

Well, okay in honor of jumping out of the box, I am going to skip my usual chronological approach and leap over a lunch and Tilghlman Island Inn (which is probably worth re-telling). As I mentioned a few times before we really wanted to dine at the Bartlett Pear Inn, and after our first failed attempt with FOJTE, we secured a reservation for Thursday evening.

Bartlett Pear Inn is in the building formerly occupied by the Inn at Easton, long considered one of the premier dining spots in Easton. Since learning of the existence of the BPI I saw a couple of very positive reviews, in Chesapeake Life, and another by Tom Seitsema in the Wash Post magazine. It continues to operate as a Bed and Breakfast with the lower floors occupied by the restaurant and bar. The historic building is on a side street, and is quite inviting

Ascending the steps and entering the building you’re in a foyer with the bar to the left and dining space to the right. We were immediately greeted by Alice Lloyd, the owner who runs the front of the house (Chef Jordan is in the back) with a cheerful “Hello Mr. Moody, your table awaits”. The room is done in a peaceful shade of gray with white trim, and of course the tables have white cloths. Set with white china, silver utensils, and stately wine glasses, it invites you to sit down and have a good meal. The day was warm, but our table was situated by an open window to let both the breezes and sounds of outside come inside. It’s funny, but I couldn’t help drawing parallels with our now suspended Brome Howard Inn. One half in front, the other in back. A proven winning combination.

Alice introduced us to our server, “ xxxxx will be taking care of your table”, a very nice way to eliminate the “Hi, I’m…..” drill. As was the case within BHI, Alice continued to float around the room all evening, eyes always moving and taking care of things, making them right if needed. The menus were offered along with the wine list, and a couple of off menu items described. Can I get you something to drink? Of course! I had to issue the drink test, and MFO and our friend went for wines by the glass. Was a very interesting wine list, and MFO selected a Moulin D’Argent Chardonnay and our friend a glass of Cottat Sauvignon Blanc. I was asked if I had a preference for Bourbon. You know, there are some nice touches that aren’t much, but when they occur, it adds so much to your dining experience. Our drinks arrived on a tray, two wine glasses, two bottles of wine, and my cocktail. The ladies were shown the label, and then the wine was poured in the glass. How nice is that? My cocktail was just fine (in fact so fine, I eventually had another). The wines were very good. A little basket of bread was supplied, and not just air bread, the real stuff. A little tub of butter topped with Hawaiian sea salt was just the ticket.

Turing at last to the food, we considered the menu. Sort of a twist I had not seen before, they had a section for “begin withs..” which were the appetizers; next section “on to entrees”, which were complete plates (e.g., Skate Wing “Grenobloise” Pan Seared, Tomato Confit, Bacon Lardons, Haricot Verts); then the unique section called “essence a la carte”. There were listed single middle of the plate items such as a Thyme Roasted Free Range ½ Chicken, followed by a list of sides of things like Inn Made French Fries, Cottingham Farm sautéed Spinach, and so on. Prices, I thought, were fairly reasonable, with only the old reliable steak dishes cresting $30. Getting down actually ordering MFO selected an evening special salad of a poached salmon atop some field greens for a starter, our friend a green salad, and once again I answered the siren call of the charcuterie plate. MFO and I did the “entrees” section, she with the Truffle Butter Glazed Pappardelle Pasta, Wild Mushrooms,“Talbot Reserve” Cheese, and I went for more meat with the Steak Tartar, Traditional Garnish, Quail Egg Yolk, Inn Made Fries. Our friend went with the hangar steak in the a la carte section and chose fries as well. What the heck.

Chose a nice bottle of ’07 Chehelem Three Vineyard Pinot Noir as sort of an across the board choice. Another nice touch, fairly common but always appreciated, large wine glasses were brought to the table whisking away the “standard ones”. Nice touch.

Speaking of which (nice touches) while we were enjoying the wines and cocktails, munching on the crusty bread, our table was crumbed at least two times, a bronzed crumber sweeping the shards onto a linen napkin on a plate. If you’ve ever seen the Feeder eat bread, you can appreciate this gesture.

Without boring you with lengthy descriptions of every dish (which is hard, because the charcuterie was really good), they were all wonderful, ladies served first of course. Our friend couldn’t stop raving about the béarnaise sauce that came with her steak. The pasta glistened, and the tartar lived up to it’s classic reputation. Topped with that little raw quail egg. Tip: One order of their delicious fries will serve to feed two.

Determined to see this through to the end, we ordered desserts, a pear tart and Xxxxx. The humble pear can raise itself to lofty heights in the right hands.. Delicious

You add up all those nice little touches (did I remember to mention that silver was replaced often), put good food and good service with it, and that is what fine dining is all about. Please don’t miss it if you find yourself in Easton. (The Feeder would award more FECUs than did Mr. Seitsema’s stars). And, by golly at this place you better be

DFD – honor the food

Monday, May 24, 2010

Eating in Easton Commences...

Brace yourself, the first of (most likely) several installments

A pleasant drive with no hassles brought us back to the little town of Easton on the eastern shore, in Talbot County. We checked into the historic Tidewater in sort of in the middle of the historic district.

The rooms reflect the period (people were smaller then?) as you pretty much have to choreograph your movements around the bed so as not to bump into each other. Color schemes are quaint, and there are some nice furniture pieces tucked in, but the fact remains that there isn’t very much room.

Of course the experienced travelers bring along what is necessary to enjoy any room.

After settling in and resting a bit, we headed out for dinner, at a nearby place called “Out of the Fire”. I noted their "Friends" portion of the website mentions "Art of Eating" What little research I could find indicated that it was a good choice. My main target, the Bartlett Pear Inn couldn’t take us on the first night so we chose Out of the Fire for our initial meal.

A pleasant walk from the Inn took us to the restaurant which used to be a store, and shares an old building with a dress shop, so one half of the building makes it into a long, narrow dining space. Kind of a chummy little bistro appearance with menu in the window

(note the clever photographic technique of showing the street and menu in the same shot – in case you were thinking otherwise)

As you enter, you find yourself at a little make shift "stand" created by some draperies separating the street from the dining area. Stepping through the curtains, you are presented with a view of tables on either side of an aisle leading to the kitchen and bar area. Past that, it does open up a bit, but the main area is long and narrow. Tables are without cloths, done in a sort of gray granite like material, and the chairs and floor are black. Since one wall is the “outside’, it has windows, but the other wall is blank. It’s also about 25 feet tall. They have taken care of the “blankness” by mounting several larger than life paintings of (for want of better words) “ethereal” women, done in ghostly whites with whispy hair do’s. This is a lousy description so you have to go see for yourself.

We were approached by an affable young server, dressed casually in black (some had khaki slacks), delivered the (sizable) menus without speeches, and an equally large wine list. Being kind of a bistro place the menu reflects a large number of appetizers, pizzas, and salads. There was some appealing choices, and she did describe a couple of specials, and the soup of the day was a Tuscan White Bean. She asked if we would like some drinks, so duty made me levy the drink test, MFO had her normal Gimlet, and our friend ordered a gin and tonic.

While those were being manufactured (given the time it took) we perused the menu and the ladies decided to try the Mushroom Strudel with Cottingham Farm Greens, and having spied a plate full of Mussels across the room I chose those with just a little apprehension at the “spicy tomato broth”. For main courses, the Moroccan Lamb stew seemed appealing to MFO, and our friend liked the sound of the Grilled Lemon Chicken with garlic chickpeas and organic greens. Figuring my chances of the Paella for Two were none, I chose the Shrimp and Grits with a little apprehension of the with cheddar-jalapeno grits, Tobasco butter and sauteed Cottingham Farms swiss chard. Prices are reasonable, with most of the apps in the mid teens, the salads under ten, the (fired) pizzas about fifteen, and the entrees all under 25. Oh, at the bottom of the menu was the little phrase “no cell phones: priceless”.

About this time the drinks arrived, mine perfectly executed, but the other two were both in “rocks” glasses (i.e., not the normal “tall” expected with a G&T). Oh well, our guest took her first sip and eyes widened and a breathless “wow”! Upon return she asked the server if she could have more tonic, at which point she replied “Oh, I screwed that up!”, took it away and eventually returned with a proper G&T. We also ordered, and when the ladies expressed desire to have the Mushroom Strudel, she replied “oh, we’re out!”. Why she didn't know that in the first place escapes me. So the soup of the day was substituted and the rest of the order was accepted as desired.

While all this was going on, I of course was observing and noticed that the other clientele was pretty much an eclectic bunch. Most were DFD’d with appropriate bistro attire which included nice jeans, tasteful tab front shirts, etc. Generally looked like a chummy bunch as a lot of them knew each other. A few pony tails on the gentlemen, crumpled corduroy jackets, that kind of thing.

The first courses finally arrived on dishes reminiscent of Fiesta Ware, informally colorful and bright. My mussels must have been at least a couple dozen, quite plump and large, and the fears of the spicy sauce foundless. The soups were a bit thin, but had good flavor. The wine list is extensive and contains some good bottles, but we decided “by the glass”. I accompanied mine with an Alexander Valley Merlot, and MFO had a Yalumba Viognier.

After a bit of time the entrees arrived (note the continued use of “after a while”; “eventually”; and similar phrases, probably my only real complaint). Shrimp and Grits were tasty, nicely presented with pink shrimp, creamy white grits, offset by the bright green sautéed Swiss Chard. Again, (mercifully) the threat of jalapeno was hollow. The chicken was nicely marked from the grill, and the garlic chickpeas were quite enjoyable.

All in all, it was a good place to start, and after all seven of the other places were tried, I would have to say that Out of the Fire probably is the second best meal we had, but the gap between second and first is sizable. I certainly would put it on the list of places to go and relax and have some pretty good food, save the fine dining work for elsewhere. As long as you were


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Feast and Famine...

Sometimes the Feeder gropes for penetrating and interesting subjects (resulting in those insipid and shallow reportage), and then sometimes there’s a plethora of things that need relating.

As readers will recall, when last we touched finger to key (previously known as pen to paper), MFO and I were ready to leave for Easton on the Eastern Shore. We did. And enjoyed. Since we parted, we have had seven food experiences, ranging from outstanding to less than memorable. Each has its own story, and in my dogged dedication to duty, In the next few days, I’ll try to relate the story of the important ones.

But, just to give a little taste (pun intended), I’ll whittle down by at least one to lessen the burden in the next couple of days.

Fast forwarding to last night, we were privileged to attend a reception in DC at none other than the Renwick Gallery, a Mecca for American crafts and art. We survived yet another harrowing (turn THERE! Damn!) journey to DC, we made our way to the gallery, with (Thank God) valet parking and turned over the flutter mobile to the gracious valets. Inside, with no screening for the Salahi’s, we ascended the long red velvet carpeted staircase to the gallery on the second floor (the ones with historic American art). Upon entering the room there was several servers standing there, clothed in black with silver trays, offering glasses of Champagne, White Wine, and what turned out to be Gin with Sparking Water and a mint leaf. “Good evening, would you like a glass?”. That set the tone for probably the best catered event I’ve ever been to. The caterers were “Occasions” who apparently deal in high end events. Yes, they do. As you sipped your selection, there were many circulating with trays of wonderful Hor’s d’oeuvres, such as little towers of beef, lamb sausages in puff pastry, and others I can’t remember (I HAVE to remember the little book). A violinist and piano player provided elegant music. There were four stations around the room, one served Peking Duck in a light Wonton wrap, an “Italian” station with a vegetable risotto in a champagne glass, cheese ravioli, and a pasta wrapped wild mushroom piece. The other two had choices of tenderloin of beef, wonderful little “lamb lollypops” that actually tasted like lamb hold the ammonia, and a chicken leg (which I didn't try). The last station was seafood that offered a lobster salad, a shrimp plate, and also a seared tuna. Each plate had a little side, like the shrimp had a wonderful grilled pineapple (yes, I’ll admit it) with maybe Cardamom, that was delicious.

If you selected a particular item, you were handed a complete plate, no fishing with tongs, just a nicely presented, complete plate. great. God knows, I love the Baileys here, but this is a whole new level of “catering”. A lot of them roamed the room looking to fill your glass with a smile, and at one point, after I learned there was Glenfiddich at the complete bar, a nice gentleman offered to get me another. Yes, Please.

Eventually, desserts were passed, some lovely caramel in chocolate, bite sized cheese cakes, Crème Brule in a little cup, a little glass of delicate fruit in Champagne, wowee. Coffee and Teas were available.

I was amazed at what this level of catering can do for hundreds of people. Nothing fried, all nicely presented, gracious service, plates cleared, glasses filled, smiles and "yes madam", with one hand behind the back. I cannot imagine the cost. It can be done. Oh, the Renwick restricts the use of any red wine or sauces. Nice rugs you know.

Oh yeah, we strolled the galleries, you gotta do that. American craft and art is amazing. There’s a life out there. You have to drive some, but it’s worth it. Go do it.

We, like everyone else were elegantly


Oh, a postscript. When the flutter mobile was returned it was with a “Oh, we’re sorry sir” as it featured a largish dent in the right front quarter paned. Papers were signed, and we’ll see where that goes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Some Closing Remarks....

No, sorry it’s not what you think…

I’ve been mulling something over in my mind lately and a note I received last week in response to reporting the closing of the Old Field Inn has finally galvanized me to get this off my chest.

The note basically said “we had a crappy meal the last time we dined there, we would not go back”.

While I have always supported (and will continue to do so) independent restaurants rather than chains, there are two edges to that sword. Given the choice I will go to an independent every time, BUT….. that does not release them from their obligation to provide me with good service, good food, and a reason to come back. That is no secret to the restaurateurs, and most try hard to make that happen. That’s why they like constructive feedback on their efforts. They can’t fix what they don’t know about. Don’t get me wrong. I do not support continuing to go back to someplace after a mediocre experience only because it is not a chain. Let them know, and give them a chance. If it doesn’t get fixed, so be it … don’t return.

Perhaps Old Field closed because of more experiences like my friend had, I don’t know. If that’s true, so be it. As I’ve said before they can’t spread losses over multiple sites like the chains can. It’s a tough world out there.

Okay, thanks.

Other bites:

I have heard that Joann from Quality Street in Leonardtown will now also be associated with the JT Daugherty center after the departure of Kirk to the River’s Edge on the base. I tell ya, it’s a merry go round.


We are hitting the road again this afternoon for Easton on the Eastern Shore. MFO is attending a conference there and the feeder will be tagging along. This time, we’ve secured reservations at a couple of restaurants we were unable to attend last trip with FOJTE.

Given the vagaries of internet access on the road I am not sure when the words will start flowing again… trusty camera and notebook are packed....reports to follow.

And you can be sure we will definitely be


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tasting and Touring Continues...

After leaving the Aspen Dale winery we wended our way (somehow, lots of little back roads) to Three Fox Vineyards. It was a bit more rustic than the others, and we happened to visit on the day they were hosting the “Vintner’s Circle” event, hence the cars and the tents.

Somehow, they try to convince you you're in Tuscany (“Escape to Tuscany in Virginia”). Certainly their tasting facility is more reminiscent of a barn in Virginia than a villa in Italy.

Being a bit put off by the crowds and the exclusivity of the event, we decided not to taste (not to mention we just finished two other tastings), although we did go inside and look at the wines. There the “Tuscany” link is more obvious with most of the wines having some Italian connection. The whites are a bit pushed in that effort with only Pinot Grigio showing up on the tasting list. The remainders are the more familiar Vidal, Viognier, and Chardonnay, but carrying an Italian name for the most part (“Leggero” and “La Giacosa” Chards). The reds do reflect Italian grapes with a couple Sangiovese bottlings (Signor Reserve andVolpe) and a Piemontese Nebbiolo. Other reds on the list were a Cab Franc and a Chambourcin, more common reds for this region. As I said, we didn’t taste, but I note that the Inn at Little Washington has some on their wine list, so who’s to doubt Patrick O’Connell?

One of the pleasant things about driving about the country side in Virginia, as I mentioned, the stately homes you can catch glimpses of occasionally

Wish you could know their stories…

Anyway, our final wine stop was at (sic) delaplane cellars. They have a relatively new facility that has a lovely patio (this is the parking lot side, but you get the idea)

with a splendid view of the valley

Their twist on tasting adds that California/Napa Valley model of either a “plain” or “reserve” tasting. Whites are Chardonnay (“try our Chardonnay with roasted chicken, grilled white fish, lobster, crab, sautéed scallops, veal, and dishes with white or buttery sauces” more help with that pairing thing again), two bottlings of Viognier, (one regular and one reserve) and Sauvignon Blanc (reserve only). Their reds tended to be blends on Bordeaux styles, for instance their “Left Bank Bordeaux Blend” is 67% Cab Sav, 29% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot (“Chocolate undertones married with layers of toasted oak”). I might think this left bank blend would be very close to the river as the heavy use of Merlot isn’t too typical of most left bank Bordeaux.

But, what the hell, we’re not there to judge or evaluate, just have a pleasant bottle of wine on the porch and enjoy the conversation and view. Instead of tasting (can’t do on porch) we chose a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc and moved to the patio. Very pleasant, although it was generally thought the wine was a bit overly herbaceous. But, back to previous comment we weren’t there for ratings. There’s just something nice about sitting with friends, laughing, and enjoying the scenery and a glass. Oh, just a quick note on their tasting room. As I said, recently constructed, and the interior has (damn, I have to write this stuff down) at least 8 colors. All muted and harmonious but unless somebody points them out you probably wouldn't notice. I have been told that Sherman Williams has a “Delaplane” suite of colors they are so popular. Also, the tasting bar and doors of the building are made from the black walnut trees that used to stand on the property. Just beautiful finished wood. I’d put this place on the “must see” list for any wine tour of the area.

After leaving delaplane, without aid of so much as a GPS, we somehow got back on Rte. 50, which at that point is just a two lane road through the country, passing through green fields in “hunt country” with those “horsey” black fences, more homes on hills, just lovely. Much in the need of food at this point to soak up some of the liquid we had imbibed, we stopped at The Blackthorne Inn (nee 1763 Inn) in Middleburg, which, they tell us was once owned by George Washington. The original building dates from 1763, and a century later was the site of Civil War activity. They also have a lovely little patio on the back and it being much before normal dining hours (which didn’t matter to us at this point) we chose the outside venue. A nice young lady approached, but one of us was inside exploring the location of the necessary, so she said she’d return. The menu offered a nice set of choices, from soups to salads, appetizers/small plates to full fledged entrees. The current owners are the O’Connor family, so there is an Irish theme for the place now. Not sure how that fits with Virginia Hunt Country, but oh, well. It does however mean they have a nice selection of Irish beers in their pub.

When we were all assembled, the lady returned (so speeches) and we ordered two fish and chips, plus I had grilled Shrimp and Scallops over squid ink blackened fettuccine. We didn’t see the dinner menu but their web site reveals they have some spiffy sounding dishes such as: “Farrow Island Scottish Salmon with a Champagne Pomery Mustard Sauce With a Watercress Toasted Pine Nut and Prosciutto Salad, Jasmine Rice and Fresh Asparagus”. Our food was quite good (shoe leather would have tasted good at this point) with nice crispy fish, pomme frites, and my shrimp was quite nice, with shrimp and scallops that tasted like shrimp and scallops, little pieces of tasso ham that provided a nice bite, along with “English” peas, whatever that means. Fortified and more clear headed, we got back on fifty and watched the rolling green countryside give way to those McMansions, more stop lights, then malls and all the trappings of so-called “civilization”. Amenities yes, but geez, how nice was the trip through the country. Thank gosh it’s still there.

So ended a lovely day of tasting and generally enjoying the hedonistic side of life. I think I would put Vintage Ridge at the head of the stops, with delaplane next, and pick ‘em between the Three Fox and Aspen Dale. Probably sticking to the whites is more rewarding, although if you find a good red that’s okay, but sitting, sipping, and snacking calls for a nicely chilled (not COLD) white. Especially if you're


Monday, May 17, 2010

Virginia is for....

Touring wineries!! Part one of ????

I finally cashed in on a long standing and oft postponed invite to join a couple of friends for a visit to some wineries in Virginia over last weekend. I'm sure we could have had a great day with Maryland Wineries, but this day was for Virginia. Although the weather started out iffy, it turned out to be a lovely day. We hooked up in DC with no particular issues with driving (for once) and then headed west on 66 with no particular driving issues (for once), past the battlefield areas into the low foothills and turned off on St. Route 55. Virginia just has a great feel to it. Just minutes off the bustle of I66, there are wonderful little (and large) farms, gorgeous old and new houses (well, the older ones get nod, the McMansions just look out of place). We wound around, up and down and finally arrived at Vintage Ridge Winery near Rectortown, VA. They’ve been growing grapes for about ten years, and have been open for about four. Like all wineries these days, they cater to “tastings” and visitors. In fact, we learned that 100% of their sales are at the winery (and through the wine club). We had a long discussion with the owner about the state of wine shipping restrictions, which we here in Maryland know all too well.

At any rate you come through the front of the winery

With the usual winery stuff which by now should be familiar to all

Then you enter a lovely patio overlooking green hills and fields.

Vintage Ridge has taken a little twist on the usual “tasting” scenario. As readers will know, most places you belly up to a bar, get a little sheet and a glass, then a carefully metered pour of wine and the spiel from the wine person, next wine, note the raspberry current overtones yadda yadda, next wine, citrus melon, yadda yadda, five bucks please. Valley Ridge has taken the tack that you might enjoy some food with the wine, so with their tasting you get a little tray of bites. Our “tasting” plate consisted of rhubarb chutney with Manchego cheese, ; Double Cream cheese; a Little roll of chicken (with mustard sauce); a little bit of blue cheese and a cheddar; some lovely spiced pecans; and the date with cream cheese. Of course if you’re hungry you might end up with nothing by the second wine, so some restraint is necessary. The serving person will give you suggestions as to which morsel goes with which wine. I thought it was a great idea.

Or, you can bypass the tasting and just get a full glass and the owner will fix up a some things that go with that wine..

We tasted our way through six wines, 3 reds (Syrah, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot) and the rest whites (“Maiden Voyage”, “Summer Nights”, and a late harvest Vidal Blanc). The whites were all good “quaffing” wines, perfect for setting on the patio on a pleasant spring day, sipping, munching and chatting. Reds of course are a bit more of a challenge in our region, and we thought the Cab Franc was probably the best we tried. The ’07 Petit Verdot showed some promise, but I think a little more time in the bottle would help ease the tannins, although it certainly was drinkable. My friend was a relatively frequent visitor and we had a chance to chat with the owners, who are doing this after original careers. Sitting and sipping and chatting is one thing, but mowing several acres, pruning, harvesting, aging, and all the other just plain hard work is another.

Vintage Ridge is a great experience, aided by some pretty good wines. I would gladly return anytime and you should go also if you get the chance. Upon leaving we noticed one of the hard working employees..

We next went to Aspen Dale at the Barn winery, situated on a 200 year old estate near Delaplane, VA. Their tasting room was within one of the old buildings, and so was a bit dark. They were more of the standard tasting format although they did give you a little pre-packaged dish of things to taste with the wines. Unfortunately, they were about the size of an aspirin tablet, so you couldn’t really taste much. We were urged for instance to take a bit of the white chocolate chip, chew a bit then put the Sauvignon Blanc in your mouth. Well, okay, sooooo….. There we tasted 5 wines, two reds, two whites and a rosé. Standard varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal/SB; and the rosé was a Vidal/Cabernet Sauvignon. Each of their wines had a “name” such as Rockawalkin’(the Cab) and all featured horses on the label. Their grounds were pleasant, and getting a bottle and going outside is probably the way to go, at least in good weather.

We had another interesting conversation with the assistant winemaker (retired Navy). They don’t use much fruit from their property, but are heading in that direction. Unlike Vintage Ridge, they do ship wine where laws permit. He recounted what hoops had to be jumped through just to ship a few bottles to Florida for instance. What a nightmare for these folks.

So ended the first half of our trip. Both experiences made me think again about “pairing” of the wines. Vintage Ridge sort of builds their tasting experience around that, with suggestions on the tasting sheet, and Aspen Dale goes a little in that direction. I remain ambivalent on the whole subject of “pairing”. As I have said many times I’m sure you can screw up or eliminate any taste of the wine with something, but if you think a little, I don’t think you can go wrong. I won’t argue about Sauterne’s and Stilton, but I don’t subscribe to this “perfect” pairing business. Just enjoy the damn wine and the food. Maybe I need some coaching..

Anyway more tomorrow…

and we certainly were


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another done gone...

A lite Wednesday turned into a no Wednesday, but that’s okay there isn’t much to say anyway..just a little bit to pass along

Well, it happened again. I have heard that the Old Field Inn, a venerable restaurant in Prince Frederick will be closing. I have not dined there in years, but as I recall the time(s) I was there, it was acceptable food. Who knows why they’re closing. Pressure from the chains? Jaspers, some Italian like place next door to them? Economy? Who knows. But the thing about independents is that they can’t spread their hurt country wide. There aren’t sites in a hundred cities, it’s just them. So if there’s a down turn, it’s save yourself or close.

In contrast, I’ve noticed that the raising of the Red Robin here in Lexington Park is the most important project in town. Last Sunday about 7 am as I was heading north for the morning cup of enthusiasm, they were already hard at work. This morning I briefly counted at least 15 souls toiling away. Must be being worked almost 24/7. Right now it’s “Green Robin” as the exterior boards are that pea green color. So pretty soon you can get that $9.79 “Royal Red Robin Burger - …… the aristocrat of all burgers because we crown it with a fresh fried egg. In addition, topped with three strips of hickory-smoked bacon, American cheese, crisp lettuce, tomatoes and mayo”. The picture shows a creation that looks to be about 7 inches high, with half a garden’s worth of tomatoes, lettuce, and that barely visible “fresh” fried egg. The cheese however, does show square corners… hmmm. Wonder what the real thing looks like. And maybe you can precede it with an order of the $8.99 “Nacho Ordinary Chili Nachos”. Clever folks those marketing people. Don’t want a burger? Maybe that $11.79 Chicken Parm Pasta (wait, you could go next door for that). How about a (Adult) beverage? Sure. Coors or Bud light, Corona Extra, Guiness, or (gulp) Blue Moon. Wine? KJ chard or merlot, or Woodbridge. So maybe your hamburger dinner sets you back 35 bucks..

I know there are people who will tell me they love RR, and probably it is good. But what’s the real cost? Doo Dah Deli closing? Corbles going out of business? Brome Howard Inn stopping service? Old Field Inn shuttering? Tough times.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Point me to Morris, Frank....

Funny how things run in streaks. After the lunch a couple of decades ago at Courtney’s and the this-time-not-so-satisfying episode at St. James, MFO and I had a chance to meet another couple for dinner at Morris Point Marina. We’ve always wanted to go there, but this, that, and the other kept pushing off the visit, so we were glad to be able to attend.

It’s a bit of a hike down into the 7th, but a pretty drive with some nice tobacco barns along the way, so it’s kind of a pleasant trip. Plus, the signage is good enough that you don’t have to depend on your GPS to get you there (how times change).

Not knowing what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised when we got there. Since we’ve been talking about the evolution of waterfront places, I would put Morris Point into the “keep the old, but make it better” category (which I just coined). The building itself is a classic water front restaurant with quite a history (used to be Ebb Tide), built on the water with a little deck on back

But, in the front (where you arrive) it’s anything but classic because they’ve created a little sculpture garden for you. Nicely landscaped and plenty of things to attract your eye (and lenses) making it a very enticing entrance.

The statuary ranges from somewhat abstract to modern, and is “real stuff”. No plywood or wrought iron silhouettes here..

While my friend conducted his business inside, I settled on the back deck to contemplate sky and passing residents.

Finally the ladies arrived and after enjoying a glass of wine and the scenery we went inside for dinner. The smallish interior is also pleasantly decorated with only about 7 tables tucked next to the “open” kitchen. It’s almost like you’re going to a friend’s house for dinner rather than in a restaurant. If the mood struck you, you could easily carry on a conversation with the chef, he’s pretty much that close (of course he’s busy with the food, but you could). There was another table occupied, apparently from the neighborhood. We were helped by Debbie, one of the owners who just pulled up a chair and chatted for a while. Turns out she’s from Long Island, so MFO and she compared notes. Just like you would at a friend’s house.

But, unlike a friend’s house there is a menu. Back to the “classic” part, it’s a laminated two pager with what you would expect at such a place. Starters, Soups and Salads, Baskets (we didn’t see if they were red plastic), and some pasta dishes. Pretty much same stuff, crab balls, crab dip, oyster stew (in season), butterflied shrimp and clam baskets, fish and chips, comfort stuff. . But with a nod to the more modern, there was also a smoked trout platter there. The heartier main courses were also just what you want and expect, crab cakes, stuffed shrimp, fish of the day, but again perked up by a dish called a “fatty crab” which is a softshell stuffed with a crab cake. Sort of a crab within a crab deal. Of course they also offered the requisite “feast” option, with a choice of either a Patuxent or Potomac version (which understandably contain pretty much the same stuff,) with the primary distinction that Patuxent is broiled and Potomac is fried. Make of that what you will. They also have the “with choice of two sides” on most items, another Southern Maryland time honored seafood place staple.

Due to the business thing, were there on Thursday, normally a “prep” night (normal hours are Friday through Sunday) so some of the stuff wasn’t available. So we started with (more wine) and some Mozzarella sticks, then I had FOY (first of year) soft shells (unstuffed), MFO had a shrimp and scallop skewer kind of thing. In the perking up department, our friend had Brats (?!) and she had a nice piece of fish. Old and new together.

Throughout the meal, conversation continued all around between diners and kitchen and so on, just like a friend’s house. I’ll wait to comment on the food (what we had was good) after another visit when the full menu is available. All in all a nice waterfront experience, old mixed with new, quiet, restful, good conversation. Take a drive on a weekend and try it..I sort of thought it brings real meaning to “when you’re here you’re family”!

And of course if you went to a friends, you would be


Monday, May 10, 2010

Down a Notch ?

As fate would have it, the day after my enjoyable journey through the time machine to Courtney’s, I had occasion to (re) visit St. James Pub. I meet there irregularly with some old cronies (“old” as in length of association, not age) for lunch and this was our first opportunity this year. Of course alert readers remember that I have always liked that place, it being “just right”. In all candor and honesty, I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the latest visit. Of course nothing has changed physically, and that part remains in the Just Right category, but I was a somewhat unhappy with the whole experience (aah, that word).

The servers seemed hurried and inattentive, but I will give them that the place was packed by the time we all assembled. The white board had the specials o’the day, one (no. 4) being a grilled ham and cheese, chips, and a cup of (Chicken/Rice) soup. Sort of tweaked by the dandy one observed at Courntey's, I opted for that, as did one other at the table and the remaining one chose the fish and chips.

Time dragged, and glasses remained unfilled (I didn’t remember that). Eventually our two sandwiches arrived, the grilled sandwich with fries. “Here’s your Rubens”… “ummm…. we ordered the grilled ham and cheese. Her fingers pried up the top slice of bread, peeked in and gave us a “Oh yeah, that’s what they are all right”, and plopped them down in front of us. A little bit later the fish arrived, and it was as previous editions had been. I asked her about the fact that the sandwich sides had morphed from chips and soup to fries. “Hmmm” was the reply. “I guess that since the grilled H&C is normally served with fries, it fooled the kitchen”. Turned on the heel and left. Not that the fries were bad (just the same), but gosh, not what the menu said with no apology. And, the sandwich was in fact constructed of a series of rolled up luncheon meat ham slices, not the carved of yesterday. Had I not seen that, I most likely would have been satisfied.

Just a point in time…

A bit of buzz

Speaking of standing still in time, it appears that all memories of the legendary “Evans” on St. George’s Island have been permanently locked in the memory vault. After a hesitant re-kindling a few years ago it has finally passed. In its place is/will be the Island Bar and Grill, a totally new enterprise. The word is that Leo Dilling, recently of Corbels, will be in the kitchen. All good news. Don't know about opening...stay tuned.

Arizona Pizza in Leonardtown will be changing its name to “Rustic River Bar and Grill”.

And, the new occupant of the old Willows will be the “Willows Bar and Grill

“Bar and Grill” sure seems popular…

Who knows about


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Time Standing Still...

Quite often when visiting historical sites, the patter usually includes a phrase like: “step back in time to…..”. Well, sometimes I look at things the other way around. There are places and things that reamain frozen in time, while we have marched forward.. They stay, we move on. Such would be the case with

It’s a funny thing about “waterfront” dining around here. Some places (usually associated with marinas) have (or tried to) stay the same, while some have for various reasons renovated, or gone “modern”. Restaurants like the venerable Spinnakers, once a cute little house like place, went for the upscale approach with a big new building and has had varying success. The legendary Evans is still evolving (see note below). But tucked down in Ridge at the end of Wynne Road, Courtney’s is still the same (as memory recalls) as long as I have been coming out here.

I jumped at the chance to join a friend there for lunch last week. As it happened, I arrived first. The place is still pretty much a working marina with all the “stuff” sitting around

Including some interesting modifications of boat trailers

It being around noon, there were plenty of customers inside the building

I was coming from my “work” and so I was pretty much DFW, as were some of the people inside I observed through the glass, except their work was honest work and their dress reflected that. So, I was a little more “dressy” than the average customer. Since I arrived first, I wandered around in front of the place taking several shots with my spiffy camera gear.. Pretty soon, an elderly gentleman in a “Courtney’s” tee shirt and ball cap sort of wandered out and finally approached me as I was changing lenses. Uh oh, I thought.. He sort of looked me up and down (no doubt admiring my clothing) and then saw the (Historic St. Mary’s City) license plate on the fluttermobile, and said “What’s HSM?”. Upon hearing what the acronym stood for, he seemed satisfied and went back inside. A few minutes later my companion arrived, and we followed inside. Bam! time travel! The small little bar where you enter is still there, walls covered with faded photos, calendars, drawings, newspaper clips and so on, a sort of disheveled back bar with various bottles of distilled spirits scattered on it, one small table and the entrance to the kitchen.

We proceeded to the dining area, complete with linoleum topped tables, dark paneling on the walls, more pictures and clips on the walls, and against the far wall the “Salad bar”. It’s one of those stainless steel things on wheels with a little clear plastic “bonnet” so you can bump your head trying to see what’s in the back row of containers. There were maybe 5 tables occupied with one group of about ten at one. We selected a table near the window and sat down. Eventually the same gentleman who seemed interested in what I was doing outside came over and gave us silverware (wrapped in napkins with a green tape closure) and menus, and silently walked away. No canned speeches here. The menu was (of course) plastic laminated and had all those things you expect and remember from such a place. Various varieties of (red plastic) seafood baskets; appetizers (mostly fried); “plates” of various things; crab cakes and sandwiches; the “seafood bonanza” (or whatever it was called), etc. For the “fish” selection, you could pick your variety of piscine from Rock to Croaker and several others (I HAVE to remember to always take the pad) although I'm pretty sure Copper River Salmon wasn't one of them.

Anyway, after peeking at the dishes slowly emanating from the kitchen, I pretty much decided the fried fish looked good. The crab cake (sandwich) I saw was more like a patty. So eventually he came back to the table and jarred us from our conversation, and we had to confess we weren’t ready. He informed us at this point we were 7th in line, information I’m not sure what we were supposed to do with. “Well, can I get you something to drink?”. It being a warm afternoon, I decided I would have a beer (as had many of the local folk). What’s on tap? (Stupid question number one). Nothing-- all we have are bottles. In deference to the time of day I thought a “light” beer would be warranted, so I said I’d like a Miller Lite. At this point he stopped jotting on his little pad, looked up, staring at me and said “Humph, I had you figured for a Yuengling man”. I don’t think I took it as a compliment….

When it came time to order we had another little skirmish, we had decided to split an order of Shoestring Fries, but fries came with mine, and chips didn’t, so we shut up. Anyway, I finally ordered the (fried) Rockfish Plate, and my companion a grilled ham and cheese. Much time goes by, and eventually the food was delivered. I have to admit it was probably the best fried fish (which I don’t order a lot) I’ve had. The coating was light yet crunchy and the fish tasted like it was just in from a swim. Portions were large for a lunch. My friend’s grilled ham and cheese was just that. Not “Grilled luncheon meat and cheese” it was made from real hunky carved ham (like Thompson’s Korner Kafe) and reportedly quite tasty. The sides were, well, sides. My fries were hot and crunchy albeit the source was probably tipped off by the fact that there was a Sysco calendar in the bar.

In reading over this (yes, dear friends, I do re-read before publishing) it almost sounds like it was a negative experience. Quite the contrary. I enjoyed every minute of it and the food was good. I would (and will) go back again. Remember we how much we like “just right” places? This is one. I’ll bet I could have had the same food and experience (well, maybe not the Sysco part) any time I would have gone there in the last 40, 50, 60 (?) years. They have stood still and we haven’t, but you can visit those decades any time you want...

And, okay, maybe at Courtney's it isn’t so important to


Thursday, May 6, 2010

This and That day....

Just a few observations, notes, and stories….

Starting with a quick sports related observation…. I was watching the end of the golf tournament Sunday where Rory McIlroy destroyed the field in the final round, leaving Lefty (among others) in his wake, shooting a final round course record 62 (that's really good for you non-golfers). He was interviewed by an ecstatic David Feherty, a fellow Irish countryman. During the interview young Rory explained his phenomenal round by saying “I guess I was just in “the zone””. You often hear this term applied to exceptional performances in sports. Personally being quite inept in any form of sporting activity, I suspect I’ve never been in “the zone”. How do you know when you are? Do you black out and then wake up to find you won the tournament? Is there sort of a departure from reality and all external stimuli fade into grayness? You gotta wonder. Guess I’ll never know.

We were shopping the other day at Shoppers, and I was just sort of grazing the meat cases… Let’s see here, Pork Chops - $2.99/Lb; Ground Turkey $2.89/Lb; 90% Lean Hamburger - $3.69/Lb; Cornish Hens - $1.99/ Lb, and so forth. So imagine my surprise when I came upon a package of Tripe (previously frozen and thawed for your convenience) was $3.50 a pound! Wonder how much of that they sell. You must really want to have it. There’s some really odd stuff available in that store. Chicken feet, beaks, pig’s feet, smoked hocks and stuff.

In the interest of fairness (as loyal readers know the Feeder always is) I have to report the following incident related to me by a friend after visiting our new Olive Garden. Sort of on the spur of the moment, they decided to take a late Sunday lunch, sometime around 2 or so. The usual hoards of diners had slacked off so they got a table fairly easily. As they drove to the restaurant she decided she had a hankering for Lasagna, and by the time they were seated she was keen to order it. When the server arrived (with unreported greeting), and the order was taken, she was informed “we’re out”. What? Out. “That’s what they told me when I came into work.” Crestfallen, she settled for spaghetti and meatballs instead. About the time the dishes arrived at the table so did the floor manager who did the standard “How is everything?”. And was told in response the “lasagna story". “Well, that’s not true! we have some just out of the oven, I’ll go get you some.” Eventually an empty handed manager returned to the table with the story “it isn’t ready yet, sorry”. Oh well, so they tucked into the spaghetti. About half way through the dish, the chef appears at the table. I’m terribly sorry about that, but it’s ready now, and I’d be glad to replace your spaghetti. “Well, gosh, I’m half way through it, never mind.” Whereupon the chef said, “Okay, how about I buy your spaghetti and I give you a take home box of lasagna”. How about that?? Somewhere there is hope for civility and doing things right. Even in a chain there are humans who want to do the right thing. Talk.

And, it’s interesting about food. After the little piece about pimento and Duke’s, I was surprised how many people related those dishes to their childhood. “I grew up on that, I had so many little sandwiches of pimento on thin white bread”. Isn’t it amazing how much of our lives revolve around food? A small thing like a cheesy spread brings back pleasant memories of youth and life gone by. There is something wonderful about the stuff we put in our mouth. Savor it.

especially if you're

or, even if you're at home and not....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Porch is In!!

A Feeder exclusive (I think!)

Well, you never know in the restaurant business. Around June, the Front Porch Restaurant will open for business in the spot in Leonardtown formerly occupied by Corbels.. No more Saphron and low country cuisine. Things change. There is a fledgling web site, but it doesn’t have much info yet, such as a menu which I assume will be coming soon. What little buzz I have been able to glean is that it will most likely be a little less formal, but have high quality food at lower price points than the previous establishment. It looks like they will be open for lunch (and dinner) Tuesday through Saturday, at least in the beginning.

Okay, here’s our favorite word: Expectations. What are they? Well, at this point, I really don’t have any due to lack of real information. I do know that the previous establishment tried to be in the “fine dining” category, and so there will be some people who probably will be expecting that end of the scale. Will Front Porch do that? Who knows. The building itself has a rich history, and contained elegant dining spaces (I haven’t been in the new one yet), and one of the best bars around. So the scene is set for a good dining experience. I hope they are able to deliver that. We’ll see. It’s exciting sort of… I wish them success.

Stay tuned…

The Feeder's only advice (even if unwanted) to them would be to do everything in their power to make the clientele


A Southern Classic...

In the latest edition of Garden and Gun, there was a little piece called “Spread the Love” (which i would have loved to title this post) about Pimento Cheese. Any time I hear that particular term, I can’t help but flash back to the 2008 Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA where the food tents featured (among other things) a Pimento Cheese Sandwich consisting of the orange spread on plain white bread. Besides the memories of the course and golf, that sandwich remains sort of the keynote of the trip.

So I was intrigued by the little article and the recipe it contained. Pimento cheese is one of those classic southern dishes. I quickly turned to Egerton’s “Southern Food” the bible of that cuisine and found the following quote he attributed to Reynolds Price: “I’ve failed in a long effort to trace the origins of pimento cheese, but it was the peanut butter of my childhood – homemade by Mother. I suspect it’s a southern invention, (I’ve seldom met a non-southerner who knew what it was…)”. He then goes on to say commercial versions are available, but “most of them apparently made from congealed insecticides”. A recipe is given as well.

The Lee Brothers in their book “The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook” say “There was a time when you could eat pimento cheese sandwiches at lunch counters throughout the South.”, but no further insight as to it’s heritage. Their recipe is a bit more foo – foo, calling for roasting your own peppers, etc., but that’s kind of their schtick… riffs on traditional recipes.

Anyway what caught my fancy in the Garden and Gun edition was that it was a return to classic “Why you shouldn’t get too tricky with pimento cheese”, approach and gave the recipe used at the Glass Onion in Charleston, SC from Chef Sarah O’Kelley. She also said that as to the mayo: “You must use Duke’s brand” unchanged since Eugenia Duke developed it in 1917, with no added sugar and more egg yolks that give it a richness similar to homemade.

Okay, you got me. Gotta try it. So acting on a tip from alert readers, I got myself to a local Food Lion, and got a jar of the fabled emulsion.

As well as that little yellow topped jar (which you buy and never really finish, languishing in the back of your fridge for years). And I don't know how the finished dish is called Pimento Cheese, but the peppers have that little extra "e" in it..more of the mystery

Preparation is relatively easy, with grating the cheese probably the most laborious part. I used Kraft Sharp Cheddar (all recipes agree you must use yellow cheese), and assembled the rest of the ingredients:

Quickly folding everything together doesn’t take long, resulting in a nicely looking spread

And with crackers you’re ready for cocktails

It didn’t take long to finish the whole bowl, it was really good. I may have added a little extra shake of cayenne, as it was a bit sneaky hot, but hey, that’s what those ice cubes in your glass is for..

Highly recommended. All the right stuff – southern classic, legendary ingredients. Do it!!

Pimento Cheese – Sarah O’Kelley, G&G; Apr/May 2010, pg. 27

2 Cups Sharp Orange Cheddar, grated (8 oz)
½ Cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
½ Cup Pimiento Peppers, drained and chopped (7 oz. jar)
¼ Cup Green Onion chopped (using both the green and the white parts)
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. Cayenne
Dash of Tobasco

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir with a rubber spatula. Serve immediately with crackers, or cover, refrigerate, and let flavors marinate.


Quick Restaurant Update

check later today for breaking news about the restaurant in Leonardtown. Things they are a changing..what a business...

Where I’m sure you will have to be


Monday, May 3, 2010

Noble Barns...

no, not the book store......

What turned out to be a very busy weekend (Friday is included in a retirement “weekend”) started with MFO attending the (2nd) Southern Maryland Tobacco Barn Summit. The first was over 4 years ago, so this was sort of a fresh start. It was held in King’s Landing Park up near Huntingtown in Calvert County with a purpose to discuss preservation of the dwindling number of tobacco barns in Southern Maryland. Anybody who has driven around the county has seen them sitting in various stages of disrepair although some still remain in (some non-tobacco) use and in better shape.

The summit brought together several preservation oriented organizations such as Preservation Maryland, the Maryland Historical Trust, the Tobacco Barn Coalition, agricultural people, and what turned out to be a fair amount of barn owners. MFO was attending in her capacity of serving on the St. Mary’s County Historic Preservation Commission, and was attending out of general interest as were several others. I didn’t count noses, but I suspect there were over 50 or 60 people there.

After opening remarks, a presentation was made by an architectural historian entitled “Architectural History of Southern Maryland Tobacco Barns”. It was filled with pictures and drawings and stuff, pretty interesting. They have sort of categorized the barns into 4 air curing styles and one “flue curing”. The air curing ones are mostly along chronological lines, the earliest (17th and 18th century) being “earthfast” which also had a feature called a “false plate roof” which I didn’t exactly understand, followed by a “log tobacco house”, then 19th century, and into the 20th when they started featuring “drive throughs” with the advent of motorized farm equipment. The unique “flue” cured barns were relatively rare, and depended on an internal heat source to dry the tobacco. There were only 5 (known) of these houses (the correct term apparently) in Maryland. Very informative presentation and I’m trying to see if I can get a copy.

The next presentation was by a representative from the “coalition” and she spoke about the efforts and results of preservation to date. Not a whole lot, but they have managed to get 5 barns on the National Register of Historic Places, a good start. Here's a sample for a little more reading

After that we broke up into little groups to brainstorm things like “adaptive reuse”; “barn preservation tools” and so forth. Some good ideas came out of that, like increasing awareness by having a “barn tour”, or maybe somehow starting a “tobacco museum” that tells the story of the tobacco culture. Of course many of our local museums talk about the tobacco history of Maryland, but only in an incidental way.

Another person wondered if the current sort of “anti tobacco” climate in some ways tarnishes the image of the barns, hence less interest in preserving them. A “barn owner” wanted to know how she could find resources to help her in “re-constructing” her barn as there doesn’t seem to be anybody around (in her opinion) that knows the older construction techniques. Of course all of this costs money, time and effort and we all know how tough all of those are these days.

But, it was a very informative session, and everybody agreed that another should follow “soon”. We’ll see.

But wait, there’s more!

That evening we continued our historical bent as we trundled down to Historic St. Mary’s City for an event that featured a little talk by Bill Kelso, a much respected and renown archeologist associated with Jamestown in Virginia. He was pretty much responsible for locating the original fort which was popularly believed to have been under water. His topic was what they found in several wells there, apparently used for trash and also sometimes to hide things. Neat stuff with lots of pictures and little video clips. Of particular interest was a little shot of somebody pulling a whole pike (not the fish) out of the muck. Interesting times gone by.

Somehow the older one gets, the more interest there is in this kind of stuff. Too bad there’s nothing to do around here.

Oh, and the next day there was a fund raiser for the Hospice House at Sotterley that revolved around the Kentucky Derby, where I had a chance to try “Henry Bain” sauce. The history of which is left as an exercise for the reader…

Maybe tomorrow some interesting restaurant stuff… (this is technically called a teaser).

Meanwhile continue to