Monday, June 28, 2010

Enough already!

Is it just me, or advancing age that just wants to make me stay inside in the coolest room in the house and just sit until night brings some respite from these temperatures? No chores, no outside activity, just sit. A couple of days okay, but geez, 10 days in a row?? Too much.. Sorry, I usually reserve the rants for the end…

Weekend Ramblings

We did start out the weekend by attending the River Concert, which was enjoyable as usual, we had some great victuals, both liquid and solids. Our friends brought some of the coveted Beecher’s Cheese they personally carried back from Seattle. We won’t go off on it again here, but cheese is such a wonderful food. We had some of their smoked cheddar. Lovely. Not the overpowering smoke you get with the brown skinned stuff at the markets, but just a touch, enough to let you still enjoy the cheese. Well, I did go off a bit. We brought a bottle of Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier, one of my favorite whites these days. Oh yes, there was also the music (sort of the RC in a nutshell). We did observe one lady in front of us who probably spent 80% of her time staring at the cell phone with both thumbs a blur.. Oh well, enjoyment is in the eyes of the beholder. Speaking of which, one of our friends shared a picture of the event.

One of the things you (I) do when sitting waiting until nightfall is to watch the television. And, last weekend brought a lot to see if you’re a sports nut. There is Wimbledon, a couple of golf tournaments, baseball, and of course the once every four years when most Americans become aware of the sport of soccer. Once again there was an appalling display of lack of officiating as at least two obvious (yes, during replay) goals calls were bungled, having an effect on the outcome of the games. The Americans had a nice run along with a couple of those bad calls. It’s interesting to hear the FIFA folks try to explain why some video review of the play isn’t a good idea. The reason I bring it up was the great shots of the stands with face painted fans holding their bottles of Bud. But the really best shot was of Bill Clinton sitting next to Mick Jagger and seemingly enjoying being together. I think they were. Somehow there’s some similarities there methinks.

Oh, I don’t think this counts as a rant because it’s a fact of life. I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, but it’s all in this human circus we live in. There are many rings. Every spring/summer about this time we see boats slowly patrolling the shores and piers, usually with a platform on the bow occupied by a person with a bow (and arrow). I had always thought they were looking for prowling rockfish. Well, I was wrong. While working on the gray lagoon Saturday morning I spied such a boat a little out in the river and much activity foretold that something had been skewered. To my surprise when they hauled in the line there was a Cownosed Ray on the end of it. Of course it was flapping it’s best, and then somebody produced a hatchet or hammer and proceeded to bludgeon it to silence. It took many blows. I can see fishing, there is some art in that, selecting the bait, finding the right spot, some degree of skill in presenting the lure, and so on. But gee, where’s the challenge in running up on some placid, docile ray which has a large planform, and shooting it with an arrow? I don’t get it. My neighbor informs me that they can be eaten, you drill out some cores and treat them like scallops. There are recipes for them, I suppose preparing like skate wings although I think they’re a different creature. Anyway it wasn’t a pleasant sight.

On a happier note we did have a lovely dinner Saturday night of grilled rockfish with a roasted garlic and red pepper coulis, an MFO potato salad, with some local tomatoes and then blueberries for dessert.

We finished the weekend last night watching another edition of “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes”. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen the same program it’s such a treat to watch Jeremy Brett. That little raising of the eyebrow, the pursed lips, the steely glare, I can’t get enough! You can almost watch with the sound on mute and get just as much enjoyment, although you will miss the “Mrs. Hudson!” exclamations..

And I was going to end on that note, but my eyes fell on the cover of the latest Food & Wine issue. It features a picture of 10 youngish folks in whites with the headline “best new chefs & their simplest recipes”. Oh good, maybe i can learn how they boil water. Boy, I sure wouldn’t want to be able to try to cook the real thing – “give me the dumbed down version please”. And, on the same cover “Italian restaurant recipes made easy”. Well, if they’re made easy, they’re not the real Italian restaurant recipes are they? There’s a whole blog about the difference of cooking it yourself or going to a restaurant…

Stay cool, and consider light layered clothing when


PS: the little utility that creates this tells me this is my 300th posting!! I have to remember where that time goes...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Of This and That for a Friday

Just a short prelude to the weekend, not much depth here (what’s new? you say…) but maybe a couple of things worth your attention…

Today (being Friday) will be the second in the River Concert Series at St. Mary’s College. Tonight will be “Trills and Thrills”. The former may refer to the flautist, but the latter baffles me. No acrobats seem to be on the program. The other performers will be a harpist (if that’s a word) and a guitarist. Lots of “ists”. Of course Jeffrey Silberschlag and the venerable Chesapeake Orchestra will accompany them. Music will be supplied by Stravinsky and Strauss (maybe the “composists”?). Anyway I think we’re getting a break from the stifling, oppressive, energy draining, mind numbing heat, so it might be a good chance to sneak in an appearance. Place to see and be seen…I feel a little empathy for the RCS folks, this going into the tenth year (or maybe 11th?) it must be tough to keep topping themselves. Seems like the same faces appear year after year. Anyway, if you’ve been many times come and be social, if you haven’t come see it. Just another nothing to do in St. Mary’s County

Or, tomorrow (being Saturday) you can go over to Sotterley Plantation and see another in their excellent (IMHO) lecture series. “Free at Last ~ Black History Celebration" will be the subject from 10:00 to 4:00 and will feature interpreters Sandi and Liana English portraying slave life, the original (now restored) Slave Cabin will be open, children’s activities, gospel music. Learn and have fun!!

Besides that, there’s not much to do. Oh, unless you’d like to experience the Pax River Ringers, a handbell ensemble that will perform tomorrow at 7 in La Plata (Christ Church), or closer to home go see “The Eds” in Leonardtown, Sunday at 6 in the square, or maybe Lee Murdock also Sunday at 7 in the Calvert Marine Museum…what a boring place to live…

Right turn

There is a front page article in the Enterprise today about “beach bars”. Mr. Mercer may have branched out from his “Around Town” litany of the best food he’s ever eaten every week. I will, however tip my hat to him that he always reviews/describes/advertises locally owned places, I don’t remember him doing any “chains”.. I may be wrong in that but mostly not, although I do remember he visited Jaspers in Prince Freddie..

Which is a nice segue into reminding you that the first ever St. Mary’s County “Restaurant Week” is only a month away. It will be July 25 through August 8th, and will feature dish(es) with local ingredients: “Local farms are providing fresh seasonal items to the region’s locally owned restaurants who produce tasty dishes for customers to enjoy while making financial donations to help kitchen ministries feed the area’s hungry.” More to come and keep your eyes open for more info around town…talk it up!!

Last Turn

I had an interesting conversation with a loyal reader about my romanticizing the Tobacco Barns. You recall (of course) that MFO and I attended a “Barn Summit” a couple of months ago whose purpose was to discuss preservation techniques, adaptive uses, and how to tell the story of the importance of tobacco in the history of Southern Maryland. And, I have photographed the unique structures that we’ve all seen. Anyway, the conversation was to the effect of “why do you want to save those things?, they were just a mechanism for spreading and promoting a cancerous, habit forming, debilitating product (tobacco). Just let’em fall down!”. I suspect that is a valid point, and in fact, that opinion was briefly mentioned at the summit. I guess the only rejoinder is that they are a fact, they were an integral part of the history of our Southern Maryland economy and culture and therefore maybe deserve having their story told. Not necessarily to promote them, but to let people hear the story. Interesting thoughts…

Speaking of which, I was surprised the other day to see a field of Sotweed on the way to the produce auction. Still not eradicated..

Okay enough, wish I had something to do, so I could


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Food Chain....

Stay inside today!!

It’s interesting about food. We sit down at a table, we tell somebody what we would like to eat, and pretty soon they bring it to us. The end of a long process that starts in greenhouses, farms, pastures, gardens and then ends up on a plate in front of you. I had a little deeper peek into that process yesterday as I had an opportunity to follow the path a little. We started out at the Loveville Produce Auction. You really ought to go sometime, it’s worth a trip. Horse drawn wagons loaded with boxes of beautiful fresh produce that was just picked the night before. You know how pretty an onion can be? A gleaming white globe fading into deep green tubular foliage above. Somebody has to do that to each of the hundreds of onions riding on the back of the wagon that pulls up to the auction. It's quite a scene between the buyers and sellers. We're in our shorts and polo shirts, and the Mennonites are of course dressed (for market) in their straw hats, (usually) blue shirts, suspenders, the ladies in bonnets and the kids miniatures of the adults. Cameras stay in the car..

The boxes of produce are either put out on the floor, or as was the case when we were there yesterday, the wagon simply drives into the pavilion and the buyers observe the contents. The grower will stand in the wagon, and peel back the ears of the corn, or hold up the melons, squash, cabbage so all can see the quality. What follows takes some experience and education to understand, which I have not even come close to mastering. Numbers are called out over a tinny sound system representing quantities (numbers of boxes), prices and then the bidding starts. Each buyer has a bidder number and somehow that gets communicated to the auctioneer and ultimately a sale is made. It's not very obvious to the uninitiated.. One step complete.

Then, after the auction, the successful bidders load the stuff in the back of the pickups or vans, and off they go to deliver them to the back doors of restaurants. In the door, maybe to the walk in. After that, they can be prepped and readied to be put on your plate. Good fresh local produce. It tastes sooooooooo gooooooood! We had some corn last night, just wonderful. Sure, some of the stuff comes on the Sysco truck and it’s all right, but local stuff is very good. Seek out places that offer it...

Between the bidding and the pickup stages we had a chance to drive around in the country some and take some pictures of barns. They’re so neat..

the interiors are usually in states of decay

there's always some nice little detail..

And see some of that produce in the field

A nice day indeed. Hot, but nice…

After tromping around looking at the barns and stuff, a thirst developed so we stopped at a local watering hole for a refreshing glass of suds, and it turned out there was a group gathered to watch the US World Cup soccer game. Our timing was perfect and we got to see the last gasp goal.. the place erupted. Then we got back in the vehicle and delivered the produce so you can have that side of sauteed zucchini...

at that point we were NOT


Monday, June 21, 2010

Journey's End....

A day and a half of driving finally landed us back in SOMD on Friday, with another 2100 miles added to the Momster’s log book. Saturday was spent in chilling out and doing all the little things you have to do to get the digs (and gray lagoon) back in working order…Yesterday (Sunday) was spent helping out with the Mid Summer Faire at Historic St. Mary's City (in the heat). So today life returns to what is commonly referred to as "normal".

When last we spoke, we finished a very nice meal at Chez Leon. The next day we had a meeting in the morning, and then had another good lunch at Bellagio (or Il Bel Lago, there seems to be variations on the spelling) in Creve Coeur on Olive St. Road. We had taken lunch there before, and since we were preparing to head south to FOJTY’s new location we opted for a return visit. We were not disappointed. It’s a very comfortable space, nicely run with attention to service and food preparation. The interior is soft, with one wall given to the wine rack. Very pleasant and warming. It can be a roll of the dice to return, but in this case we were rewarded with a very nice lunch. We were kind of early, but in the “noon someplace” spirit, a martini appeared at the table along with a passable glass of chardonnay. Our server didn’t play the recording, just got the drinks, recited a few “specials” of the day, and left us to our conversation. The lunch menu is pretty varied with many luncheon salads (add chicken, salmon, etc.), sandwiches, pizzas (mercifully not called the overused “flatbreads” so trendy these days), pastas, and entrees. So finding something appealing isn’t hard although it takes a little browsing. Of course everything reflects the Italian heritage (which stems from the famous Giovanni’s on “the Hill”). I eschewed risotto for once, and went for the Fusilli Quattro Formaggi, consisting of Parmigiano, Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Romano Cheeses with ham and peas in a cream sauce, and MFO selected a daily special of Tilapia in a light marinara sauce, and a side salad. Bread had appeared almost as soon as we did. I selected a Sangiovese which although chosen out of the DWTHYL school of wine paring went pretty well. I noted that each dish that went to a table was either served by or accompanied by the floor guy who I assumed was one of the owners. My pasta was just right (okay, I’ll say it, al dente) and the cheese sauce had a just the right amount of bite and the peas and ham plentiful. Portions were such that I had some to go with on the next leg of the journey. MFO’s fish was lightly touched and set off nicely by the sauce. I would like to try dinner there sometime, but both our lunches were excellent.

Thus satisfied in soul and body by the lunch we started south toward the little town of Jackson, Missouri. Of course I thought it was Stonewall, but no, I was corrected by the local historian in the car, it was Andrew…It’s a typical small town, next to Cape Girardeau, home of SEMO (south east Missouri college), so it has a college touch (i.e., many bars and places to eat. We met FOJTY and wife at our motel and then took a tour of the town(s) and went to Buckner Brewing Company for dinner. It’s kind of a sports bar place in one of the old buildings near the river. Second story seating provides a nice view of the Big Muddy, which was living up to its name due to the recent rainfall in the area. They feature their own beers with the typical selections, a Pale Ale, Ambers, Wheat Beers, and seasonal selections. Food runs to what would be expected, starters of all kinds (including “ozark mountain fried pickles), gourmet pizzas, salads (add….) and their featured burgers.. Buckner Burger
A half pound of ground beef cooked to perfection over a hickory fire with our secret burger baste, served on a toasted Kaiser bun with lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Add your choice of American, Swiss, Cheddar, Pepper jack or Smoked Cheddar cheese.

We tried a glass of their beer (I did the pale ale which was nice and “hoppy”) and wound up getting the burgers. They were cooked nicely and had pretty good flavor and were pretty much two handers. Seasoned fried accompanied them. Nice place to go if you find yourself in town…

The next morning we visited the new digs which are located in the country with lots of open spaces, a far cry from their previous situation in Clayton. There is at least one member of the family that really likes it there

After saying our goodbyes, we once again got in the Momster and pointed east. Since we were sort of “south” we took a little more leisurely route through the river town of Cairo, Illinois, which is the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi. Since I was PIC at the time, several photo ops went wanting, such as the restaurant in town with the sign: ‘Frog Legs every Friday Night”. The town itself (at least on the highway part) is pretty vacant. From there we pretty much traversed Kentucky through Lexington with some of those screwy houses.

We remained overnight in Huntington, dining on carry out Bob Evans (conveniently situated next to the hotel) while we watched the Lakers finally close out the NBA season. I think training camp starts next week.

Next day was the final leg, bringing us back home to dear old Southern Maryland. A long drive of course requires snacking, and just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you can’t do it in style…

For which we were


Sports Postscript (including rant)

Most sports oriented folks know that this weeked was the US Open Golf Tournament in Pebble Beach. Having had the privledge of playing that last year, it was particularly fun to watch with all the "I was there!!" comments. The field included Phil and Tiger. However, NBC chose to anchor their coverage to pretty much "Tiger and those other guys". The preliminary rounds featured Tiger who at that point was 8 or 9 strokes off the lead, hitting a routine wedge into some hole at the expense of Dustin Johnson (current leader). Anyway, after each round they went into extensive discussions on "what Tiger has to do to win", as if he was entitled to the win. And, after he shot his 66 on Saturday they were foaming at the mouth. Well, guess what? He tied for fourth. And, poor Dustin shot an amazing 82 and pretty much fell apart.. It's why they play the game folks..

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chi Chez in Clayton..

The problem with being on the so called “road” is that well, you’re on the road, not writing. Which means endless hours in the Momster watching the world go by. It’s interesting, the preponderance of our trips back here to STL have been in the winter months, with shades of brown and beige adorning the landscape. It struck us how green it is now. Not an earthshaking observation, but it was surprising to us. The mountains of West (by God) Virginia are now pillows of green rather than barren hills with leafless trees.

Anyway after a late Monday get away we got to Beckley, where we usually stay on the return leg, but this time made it our outbound haven. Not much to talk about, we did a carry out from the downstairs “restaurant” in the Courtyard, of a quesadilla and a chicken Caesar wrap. The only notes made were that the food was convenient..

A super long day on Tuesday got us to STL late in the afternoon with only a brief respite before meeting FOJTE and a local friend for dinner at Chez Leon in Clayton. STL readers may know that this restaurant used to be in the Central West End, and lately moved to downtown Clayton. It is an out and out no holds barred classical French restaurant. They even have “Cuisine Traditionnelle” on their awnings. It’s in a storefront and so has large windows, but that area is given over to reception and a small bar. Fearing traffic issues our party of four arrived a little earlier than our other friend and we were offered a wait and a (much welcomed) cocktail while we waited. The bar area is done all in black with an ornate chandelier suspended over head, a large “Grandfather clock” against the wall giving the place a real European appearance. Art hangs on the wall, mostly paintings of food in an almost impressionistic mode. They’re very nice.

Anyway we sipped on a couple of Chardonnays, a Tanqueray and Tonic, and a passed drink test, although the ratio of dry vermouth to Bourbon seemed almost reversed. Soon our friend arrived, we finished the cocktails and moved to the dining area which is sort of set off with small walls between the bar area and the dining spaces. Again black walls, and art set off the white tablecloths gleaming with silver and sparkling crystal. Nice and welcoming, raising those expectations. We were seated and in a short time greeted by Ilya, who turned out to be of Albanian descent, and unfortunately did the spiel. Oh, well. Menus were distributed, a single page divided into areas of: Pour Commencer; Les Potages; Les Salades: Les Plates Principaux; and Les Desserts. Hopefully most readers will be familiar those terms. Each section had what one might expect in such a restaurant. For instance under the appetizers were such choices as Les Crevettes aux Lardons, Les Ris de Veau aux capres, and foie gras paysanne. Soups of course incluced soupe à l’onion gratinee. The main plates also were as expected with things like rôti de poulet au jus de truffes, and onglet comme à paris. Of course, all these dishes had English translations, but golly they sound so much better in French rather than “roasted chicken with truffled mushroom sauce”.

As an insert here, I must point out that before you go rushing for a table, Chez Leon is not a place one would go weekly unless you have recently won that lottery. The starters are all 12 bucks and more, salads 9, and the least expensive main is 25 dollars with tops going to a Colorado rack of lamb for an astounding (and unjustifiable IMHO) $48. To help with the sticker shock, they do offer a rather attractive option that you can select 3 items (mix and match) for $43, with a few dishes carrying “supplements” such as the afore mentioned lamb which bumps the total by 20 bucks. But, most do not and still offer attractive options. While we’re looking at economizing, if you go on Tuesday evening (such as we did) they waive corkage fees so you can bring your own wine and enjoy a great bottle for no added cost. We also did that.

All of us opted for the 3 plate deal. Of course I was hooked once again by the patés maison, to which I added the truite amandine, and the classic crème brulée (which by menu pricing would have been $49). Others ordered scallops, the soups a couple of salades lyonnaise (warm greens with bacon and that poached egg), MFO did a beet salad, the roasted chicken and the assiette fromage (+$3), also a couple of the steak dishes and a pork chop (with choucroute).

As I see the line count mounting here, I’ll just say that everything was very good, ample portions, cooked correctly and served properly. I am not sure if it was because it was Tuesday, but the service was, while correct, extremely long between courses. Of course with the wine (a very good California pinot and syrah courtesy of our friend and FOJTE) and conversation filling the gaps it wasn’t bad, but noted.

Certainly if you appreciate or would like to try true French Cuisine, this is a great place to go (they also serve lunch). Bring your own bottle on Tuesday, be careful (or extravagant) with your menu choices and you will have a great meal..

but beware, you must be


Monday, June 14, 2010

Of This and That and the Road (again)...

Well, the road part first….this afternoon we leave for another road adventure to STL to see FOJTE&Y, take care of some financial stuff (more of that adjusting to retirement thing, yes, a year later). So there will be some road stuff to report on, we’re trying a new restaurant in STL, and a new adventure as FOJTY has moved his digs from our old house in Clayton to a new set of digs, down in Jackson, MO. New horizons all around..

So, road reporting will be at the whim of local internet capabilities….

Culinarily, the extended weekend saw a lunch at Café Des Artistes, a small plate dinner at the Dry Dock, and a full fledged dinner at Kingfishers on the Solomons. Lunch at CDA is what lunch should be, a quiet, reflective, leisurely experience with plenty of time to discuss things, and some food and drink to enhance oneself. The service and food were commensurate with that objective, we were left alone unless we wanted something, glasses kept full of liquids, and so forth. One little note, I had a Veal and Olive stew, which was a little heavy for lunch, but was very tasty. Reliable food as always. Perfect spot for that quiet lunch.

Sitting at “our” stools at the Dry Dock, we enjoyed some of the small plates to defray a little of the cost, with MFO trying some Srirachi Chicken Tenders, and I went way out on the fringes of culinary choices with a Chicken Caesar salad. Both dishes were rewarding, with crisp Romaine greens and a nicely grilled chicken breast, and the other chicken just this side of that line of spiciness. Drinks were well prepared (I went again for the dirty martini). It not crowded hence not loud. Nice evening.

Last night we went with some friends over to the Island again, this time at Kingfishers for an early dinner. I had not been there for a time, but Sunday evening limited some options and we were just for having a nice time before they hit the road. Every time I go into one of the “Stoney” venues around here I am always taken by the bird carvings that adorn their walls. They are lovely indeed. I haven’t pursued purchasing same, but I always think about it.. The menu remains the same with their “famous ~ circa mid ‘90’s” crab cakes, baskets, steamed or fried plates, etc. We got the recorded server message complete with the “taking care of you” option. All the servers are dressed in khaki shorts and black tee’s and the preponderance of the waitstaff are twenty something females. Just an observation. But, aside from the recorded message service was prompt as was the food. We had two baby cakes (you have to do the “choose two sides” thing), MFO had a cold salad plate – chicken, shrimp, potato, and XXXXXXX; and an order of shrimp basket. While I have never climbed very far on the wagon of Stoney’s crab cakes, I think ordering the smaller version pays off since the tennis ball sized cake allows it to be cooked through. We were offered no option but it arrived deep fried. I did like the fact that my unnamed Chardonnay by the glass was served in a larger glass than a typical bar glass. Other diners at other tables were in varying degrees of DFD, but at least the tee shirt was clean. Sunday night, mid priced evening, once in a while, okay. Nice view of the back end of some fishing boats…

Other than that, I spent a lot of the torrid Saturday at Sotterley Plantation, attending a little workshop on garden photography. It was “taught” by Robert Tinari, a fairly largely published photographer in these parts. Turned out to be less of a class than I had hoped and more of a “what do you want to know about” session. I did get some tips on macro things however. Boy, it was hot..

And one little parting shot (we won’t hit sports today although the world cup beckons), I received our latest copy of Architectural Digest the other day (along with Garden and Gun) and the cover of the former featured a picture of Cher. They were covering her “new” home in LA. I was struck by her appearance. The woman is 64 years old, slightly younger than us, but her face is as tight as a banjo head, with no sign of wrinkles or sagginess. Anywhere. Why can’t people age gracefully? We’re supposed to. I don’t want to look like I’m twenty my whole life. There is grandeur in maturity. Don’t be afraid of it…remember the “just right” theory? She isn’t.

Okay into suitcases and on to the journey and we’ll take duds so we can be


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Getting Rid of Gas....

Given the medical bent of the previous entry, you might be thinking “oh dear, what’s this about?”. But no, we’re veering back into the wonderful world of food.

And, more exactly, the art of preparing same. As long time readers will recall, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of my outdoor cooking equipment, namely the convenient, fast to light, no ashes to deal with propane gas grill. I suppose I am at some fault for not dismantling the thing and cleaning each and every little port, but the damn thing just doesn't get hot. Let it “pre-heat” for 20 minutes (or more, gobbling the propane), open the lid, throw on that steak/chop/burger, and all you hear is the meat hitting the grate. No satisfying hiss signifying the start of the caramelization process, no quick searing of fat, releasing of flames, nothing. This is great if you like baked steaks/chops/burgers, but not so much for what is commonly called “grilling”. So after a terrible grayscale steak the thing has been declared off limits:

And suitably shrouded in black..

And by the magic of Amazon (I had a gift card) making something appear on your doorstep moments after you click “buy”, the new kid on the block arrived:

Of course for shipping purposes, the 8 million pieces have been packed, and now all one has to do is merely (some assembly required) put them together

And they give you some helpful instructions, no writing – only multinational (confusing) pictures "how's that attach again?"

But with my lifelong store of engineering talent gained over the years, the old and the new stand together.

So I’ll enter a new (more like return to old) school of cooking where you can interact more with the fuel, heat, and actually have a hand in producing that nice juicy, steak. Picture forthcoming...

And in my own home, I may or may not


Editor’s note: finally buckling under peer pressure, the Feeder has begun using Lightroom as the image handler instead of the “clumsy” software that arrived with the camera. So you may see some variation in the presentations while the learning curve is climbed

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stress Stories....

Sorry foodies, no food today!

Well, yesterday was pretty much devoted to my second Stress Test. For those interested, it was “normal” based on real time data.

Anyway, for the Feeder, the “stress” part of it was thinking about doing it. Try as you might you can’t help but tucking it in that little corner of the brain which sets off its alarm clock every so often.. “only two more days....”; "tomorrow"...

So at last yesterday, dressed in my best Greg Norman warm-up suit (wear loose fitting clothes) and a tasteful Ralph Lauren tee shirt, I drove out to the Bean Palace and checked in at the cardiac doctor’s office. “Sir, why are you here?” Well I’m doing a stress test. “That’s down in radiology, sir”. Oh. (As an aside, the cardiac doctors are located on the second floor, up a long flight of stairs) and I went back down and checked into Radiology.

After a few minutes, I was ushered into the inner sanctum and asked to sit in the chairs and somebody would be “right with you”.. That was a phrase I heard more than once during the day, meaning it would be at least twenty minutes before somebody was actually “right with you”. Anyway, I was finally taken into a room to get ready for the process. The first thing I was handed was one of those fashionable open front gowns, and asked to put it on. It was pink. (I referred to it as “salmon” the rest of the day). I guess it’s all part of the plan to strip you of any dignity and breaking you down to a babbling patient, meekly following any direction. My protest of "what happened to the loose fitting clothes?" was met with silence. So, off comes the Polo shirt, and she prepared to affix the instrumentation to me. Open comes the gown, and she says: “oh, good! we won’t have to shave your chest!”. Another blow to the masculine ego. No manly hairy chest there!. So pickups were glued on, and nurse number one leaves.

I am not making this up. Nurse number two comes in with “Hi, I’m < ----- >, and I’ll be helping you with your test today!” ~ the one time when “taking care of you” would be welcome and appropriate. So she shoots me up with the radioactive stuff, leaves, and says “I’ll be right back”. Twenty minutes later we went to the picture machine where you lay still on your back and the little “in your face” machine moves at an imperceptible rate around you doing whatever it does. That’s about 18 minutes of nothingness that seems like 40. After that, we’re ready for the treadmill room. Go sit in there; get re-hooked up to a machine that shows your heart rate and all the little squigglies of your heart beats. As she departs the room leaving me to look at the strip charts she says over her shoulder: “the doctor will be right here, and we’ll get started”.

Half an hour later, we’re ready to actually "get started". The doc is reading the chart, and Nurse number two patronizingly says “now anytime you want to quit just say so”. Switch on, the mill moves and I start walking at a snail’s pace. “are you sure you’re okay?” Yes. “now anytime you want to quit just say so”. This goes on at least three more times, and by this time I swear I’ll die on the thing before giving in. Finally the doc says do you think you can do one more? (nurse coos again at this point). Bring it on! So finally get to the top, congratulations all around, and the doc says “looks stone normal to me”. So unhook everything and was told to be back in an hour for a final round of pictures.

Why does this always happen to me? I gather my stuff, re-don the tasteful clothing and head for the fluttermobile in the parking lot. Reach into Greg’s right hand pocket for the keys----nothing. Other pocket. Nothing. Check the (unused) laptop bag. Nothing. Both pockets again. Nothing. Bag again. Nothing. Check the parking lot—nothing. As I start walking back to the building, I hear key like jingling noises coming from somewhere. Pockets again..nothing. Then I look down by my right ankle and see a bulge just over the elastic cuff. Sure enough, there are the keys! Pull open the cuff only to find the keys are actually located between the lining and the outer shell of the pants which are sewn together. No way to extricate them there. Fortunately I parked in the far reaches of the lot in relative privacy, so I decided I’d slip out of that leg, hold it up and they’d slide out the top. Discreetly as possible I did, only to have the keys slide from the right leg into the left leg and back down to the ankle. Okay, now I’m in trouble. With no option left, I shuck out of the left leg leaving me in the skivvies. Fortunately Ralph Lauren is long enough to slightly cover the right things. Hold both legs up (glancing for any on lookers) and the keys now slide up to the waist band, but there is still no opening to get to them. They’re trapped!! I couldn’t find any hole in the pocket. Now desperate, I poke the ignition key through the lining, unlock the door and get in. So I drive home (slouched in the seat) in my undies with only the notched part of the key in the ignition and the rest of the pants draped from the steering column. Thank God no stopping by police. Upon reaching the safety of the garage, MFO eventually found a small hole in the pocket which escaped me while deshabille in the parking lot, and surface the keys.

What a day. It was capped off however by a wonderful Gray Goose Dirty martini to lower the stress… and I was NOT


Monday, June 7, 2010

Wilting Weekend and a Stressful Monday

Friday night was pretty much a marathon for the Feeder, as he first attended the lecture at Sotterley Plantation, held in the sweltering barn with only a few fans (rotating kind) for relief. It was an interesting talk about the development of the John Smith trail, and the journey to make that happen. The wheels of government do indeed turn slowly. It was more on the process than the actual trail and historical stuff, but interesting none the less.

After that, I got in the (air conditionless) fluttermobile and headed to Leonardtown, where, although I missed the general first Friday stuff, I did join MFO and some friends in the Back Room at The Front Porch. Despite the whirlwind of customers, that remained a little oasis of calm and a nice place to sit and drink and nibble. Since this was their first weekend being open, there were learning curves being climbed, and our experience reflected their youth. So, no pronouncements yet, give them some practice and we’ll see where they go. It has promise.

The rest of the weekend was spent in more sweltering heat, with the gray lagoon. Our normal “pool people” were unresponsive in getting back to me about opening the pool, so MFO and a neighbor sucked it up and pretty much did it ourselves. Remove and fold the cover, expose the green soup, haul all the ancillary equipment up from the basement, hook it up, crack a couple of fittings, play with the valves, break the ears off one, lose tools, pull plugs from skimmers and returns, etc.,…..all with temps and humidity’s in the nineties. Not fun. But, in the end the pump did it’s thing, water moved, shock was liberally applied to the agua, and now the clarification process begins. We hope to have it crystal clear for the fourth of July. Frankly, I sort of put owing a pool right alongside of owning a boat.. Better to have friends with them.

Finally last night, as the weather people interrupted a pretty good golf tournament with dire predictions of storms and tornado warnings, a storm did approach looking sort of fierce.

So go to thunderstorm condition 2 and put all the pool deck furniture in the side yard, along with anything else that could blow around. Well, it worked, we got some pretty hefty rain but no heavy winds and no close lightning. The lights flickered a couple of times causing resets to digital clocks and fans, but then some beautiful clouds came behind the storm.

And even brought out some guests…

Today is supposed to be much better, but (here’s the stressful part), your aging Feeder will be spending most of it doing a stress test at the Bean Building. Not fun, but I suppose it’s worth while every so often. Put yourself in the hands of others. Hmmm…

But when that’s over, maybe a nice something cold will help restore the psyche.. and then I’ll


Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Food, Fun, and Folly

Just a couple of notes and a rant to round out the week….

Food Related (what a surprise!)

We joined another couple for dinner at the Dry Dock last night on Solomon’s Island. I am not sure if it because Ben is back in the kitchen, but I think the place continues to approach its old status as one of the better dining places around, and the best waterfront fine dining.

There were different servers than I’ve seen, but the same talented (but taciturn) bartender, and of course the kitchen staff. Another nuance is that they bring bread (rolls and garlic butter) to the table even before ordering, perhaps right after the drink orderis taken. Our server got right to that task without any naming speeches. Knowing that the bar could pass the drink test, I instead opted for my newer diversion of the Gray Goose Dirty Martini (served up). The menu also has shifted some with more small plates/appetizers and maybe a fewer entrees ~ for instance last night there was no rockfish option. Regular stuff otherwise, surf and turf, pasta, crab cakes, steaks, etc. Prices for the smaller plates are mid teens, and larger mid twenties. One could have a reasonably priced evening with a cup of soup or salad, and a small plate. Drinks, of course, are drinks. Without the usual dragged out descriptions, everything we had was good. I would have constructed my shrimp and mahi-mahi a little differently, but still a good evening.

To Do:

Tonight is first Friday in Leonardtown, with live music (John Shaw) in the bookstore, wine tasting in Qualitystreet, art (and vino) in the North End Gallery, and MFO will be displaying the Historical Society's Patchwork Quilt in the quilting store. Another welcome feature will be that The Front Porch (nee Corbel’s) will be open. I expect that to be mobbed.

There is also the “speaker program” at Sotterley Plantation (7:00, no charge). Tonight’s program is by David O'Neill, President of the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail.. He will share the story of Capt. John Smith and the creation of the first water-based national historic trail delving into the politics and the policy behind the new park entity. Current plans to implement the Trail, highlighting how it is being used to advance geo-tourism and regional conservation planning policy and practice will also be discussed.

The feeder is going to double dip… program then first Friday.. so much to do in the land of nothing to do. And, the River Concerts are right around the corner.

Sporting Rants:

1. I normally do not watch professional basketball on TV. Period. The only exception is that if driven to it, I will watch the “finals”, having no other options. Yes, not turning on the TV is an option, but never mind that. So, I decided that I would catch some of the game last night, the first between the Celtics and the Lakers. After the speed and teamwork evidenced in the “Big Dance” of the NCAA, this just seemed like street ball on a court. Run (well, lope) down the floor, look for an opening, drive the basket, slam it home. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, and well, maybe throw in a couple of threes from time to time (they can shoot). Booooring! And, to top it all off,this morning I tuned into the “Mike and Mike” show , (another feature I am growing tired of), where I can at least get last night’s scores, sports headlines, etc. They started off giving the score of the game, Lakers win, and so forth. They are pretty much NBA centric, but this morning they then said they were going to devote the ENTIRE show (4 hours, mind you) to “breaking down last night’s game for you"! I didn’t clock the game, but I believe that they were going to talk about the game for more time than it took to play it. Click.

2. I do normally watch golf on TV, and you can say what you want, but I enjoy the lovely green courses, the laid back nature, and especially (some of) the commentators. CBS’s David Feherty, Gary McCord, and Nick Faldo are original and entertaining. So I tuned in to watch the Memorial (“Jack’s Tournament”) yesterday. Some golf fans will know that Tiger is in the field this week. When I was watching, the leader was at 7 strokes under par. Tiger at that point was one over par. The network spent the next hour (when I gave up) covering a golfer that was 8 strokes off the lead (many more players were much closer to the leader) playing at best an average round of golf. “Here’s Tiger in the bunker! Oh, he hit twenty feet past the pin). Love the media…

3. enough.

Have a good weekend, try to find something to do, and if it entails food, consider


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stuff and a Dirty Item

Well, the potentially “lite Wednesday” turned (at least personally) into “heavy Wednesday”, so maybe we can have a “medium weight Thursday”. Having finally caught up on the travel stuff we can turn to more mundane and local matters..

STL readers (all handful of you): Ever alert for publications of interest, you should see if you can find a “Sauce" magazine. Apparently it’s free so it’s probably in specialty stores and maybe those little pull open devices that have contents of various subjects, some seemly some not. Anyway, for anybody trying to stay current on the St. Louis dining scene it’s pretty handy. Lots of reviews, real reviews, not like we get in our newspaper. For instance in a review of Kevin Willmann’s Farmhaus (starts out with “is a very, very, very, fine hou….er… restaurant”), the reviewer (Michael Kenner) relates how his companion's dish arrived at the table and …”20 minutes passed before my dish arrived, prompting the sweet woman sitting next to me inquire in the interim, “are you not eating?”. Besides that incident he pretty much liked the place.

And in the same issue there’s an article about a place called The Scottish Arms, in the CWE. The gist of the article is that they try to use the whole animal, sort of a nose to tail concept: “The carcasses come in on Wednesday, and get broken down Thursday morning. After it’s broken down or during the process of breaking it down, we start brainstorming…”. I was pretty much with them until I read the final paragraph: “if you wanna come in and get jowl, you can come in and get jowl. If you want snoot you can come in and get snoot. If you want testicles, you can com in and get testicles. We’ve got this animal, and we’re here to prepare it for you – what part of it do you want?”. To prove the point there are photos of this last dish, that well, look pretty much like you would imagine. I’m fairly adventurous but golly, this brings a whole new meaning to “soup to nuts”.

Back to the Park…My little part time job requires me to be in Exploration Park (home of the Wyle buildings) during the day. Local residents will know that the exit onto Route 235 is governed by a stoplight whose timing mechanism appears to be a glacier. I’m sure the demons from Millstone have relatives there. Anyway there are two lanes out of the complex. There are arrow signs across the road that indicates that the left hand lane is left turn only, but the other lane is that split arrow thing allowing left or right turns. After the damn thing lets you go, I will say that it pretty much exhausts any lines. So, because I normally want to go north I meekly get in the left lane even if I’m the tenth car. Today, I was maybe leaving a little early as when I and the car ahead of me came to the intersection there was only one car in the left turn lane. The car ahead of me veered into the right lane so to be first instead of one car back (which fell to me). The next car to arrive was also in the right hand lane, but had its right turn blinker on. Right turn on red is allowed so if it wasn’t for the roadblock in front of him, he could have gone on his merry way. Nope! ME FIRST sat there the good 15 minutes (seemingly) until the light turned green, made a wide swinging left hand turn, blithely ignorant of the poor soul behind. Sometimes there’s civility and sometimes not. Be kind…..

I may be wavering in my time honored “dry Manhattan, on the rocks, with a twist”. Spurred by my pleasant experience in Easton I re-created it last night. Not too darn bad.

And, since I was in the digs, I didn’t have to


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Little Easy, a Bistro and a Front Porch

The travelogue ends, and other snippets...

One of the nice things about travel is to get to places that feel “different” than our normal surroundings. Easton is such a place, it just has a nice ambiance…with some peaceful places, shops, gardens, and nice strolls

There’s some nice shopping opportunities, with a REAL men’s clothing store and some nice galleries and such. They’ve converted an old movie theater into a venue for concerts.

Some of the more, um, experienced readers might recognize some names on the marquee

Everywhere you look there’s some interesting things to see

So we bid a (hopefully) temporary adieu to Easton. It’s worth a weekend.

Bistro Find

People often ask me for interesting places to dine in Alexandria. I have a new very positive recommendation. We re-visited the “Written in Bone” exhibit Sunday at the Natural History Museum on the mall (lots of Historic St. Mary’s City ties) and then were taken to King Street in Alexandria to a little Bistro (The Tasting Room) called Brabo. It’s part of a little “complex” (a term probably not appropriate for Alexandria) that’s in a string of store fronts. There’s a (boutique) hotel, a restaurant, the Bistro, and a little store where you can buy some of the wines, meats, and condiments that are featured in the restaurants (including real baguettes). The “Tasting Room” is fairly small, with just walk in seating, plain table tops, white wall, and an open kitchen along the back wall. We were seated in a little alcove that was separated from the main dining room offering a little privacy and maybe less noise, although since it was Sunday, that wasn’t an issue (well, it was, read on).

We were greeted by an affable young man, I do believe he mentioned his name but not in the usual litany. There was a little blackboard with some wine specials, along with the 23 or so from the “by the glass” listing. Some interesting offerings, but fairly pricey with most in low double digits. That carries through to the regular wine list, featuring many half bottles and a stunning amount of full ones. Prices take some sleuthing to find many below 50 bucks, with a lot in three figures. You better do your vintage research if you plan to ply those waters…

Anyway, we didn’t have to worry about that, since it was only a latish lunch. I thought I saw a Sinsky Pinot on the blackboard but it turned out to be a rosé, a very nice fruity wine, but not what I had in mind. I settled for a bishop’s peak Pinot, MFO a Viognier, and our friend took the Sinsky Rosé. Turning to the menu, there were typical Bistro stuff, their “signature Mussels” – most mussels seem to be autographed these days, flatbreads, some soups and sandwiches. Fairly manageable. We had a couple of go arounds with the server over the bread which got to be a little humorous. Finally it arrived. We ordered the “Five Onion” soup (on recommendation from friend), and once again I got suckered by the Charcouterie Plate, MFO eschewed the soup for some veal meatballs, and our friend temporarily stuck to the soup. Eventually he took a flatbread mostly for leftover purposes, and we finally caved and had their bread pudding dessert.

Because I want to relate a little “situation”, I’ll abbreviate the description of the foods, but safe to say it was excellent. There were five different selections on the Charcouterie plate all shaved and just wonderful. Soup worth reordering.. a great place. Makes one want to try the formal restaurant. Isn’t cheap, but good food and friendly, if uneven service. Oh,and I was able to buy some Cornichons, a valuable addition to the fridge, not usually available around here....

Okay, about half way through the meal a party was seated next to us at the only other table in the alcove. It consisted of a properly DFB(runched) Grandpa, Grandma, Son, and…….grandson. I am a lousy estimator at kid’s ages, they all look alike to me, but he was in a stroller, and didn’t speak, at least with words. Now, I have to admit they took the table furthest from most diners (and next to us), and they had several books and stuff to keep the little one occupied, and probably did their utmost at amusing him. But alas, to no avail. The little guy was taken with very loud, unprovoked vocal eruptions. Kind of an “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” type of thing. After that, everybody shushed him and he was quiet until the next time. One of the servers came over and made a remark about how cute he was, and “kids will be kids”, and I think she was sincere. Of course she wasn't dining next to them.

Well, what do you do? Ask to be moved? We were almost done. It did detract from our experience, we were enjoying quiet wine and conversation. Did they have the right to be there? I suppose. Did they try to contain the little beast? Yes, they did. Was the kid doing anything wrong? Not that he knew of. When they left (we were lingering) they did thank us for “putting up with them”. I didn’t acknowledge the remark, as in “Oh, that’s okay”, because it wasn’t. I don’t know the solution.

Anyway, add Brabo to the list of pleasant little places in Alexandria on King Street. And good luck finding that parking place.

Don’t forget to DFD

The Front Porch

The Front Porch ( place to dine and unwind) Restaurant is supposed to open today in Leonardtown. It has replaced Corbel’s as a resident of the Sterling House. From what I have heard, it will be less formal, and will contain some interesting features such as conversion of the back dining room on the first level into a pleasant little lounge. You can browse the web site.. they will be an option for first Friday this week. I would expect big crowds…