Friday, July 30, 2010

Poe... Purr... eee....

No, not poets, nor felines, just stuff that has accumulated during the week….


Had a very nice lunch at Capt. Leonards a bit ago. Another on the list of “just right” places. There was a fair amount of multi generational family groups there, eating lovely looking hard crabs, sandwiches, fries, chocolate milk for the kiddies, Buds for the grown ups,everybody enjoying themselves and the food. Sure sign. There is a little clock over the (two stool) bar with a swinging pendulum showing the time as 5:03. No matter what time you’re there, it’s 5:03. Had a fried grouper sandwich, that lopped out both sides of the bun. And fries. And Bud. Great place. Just Right

Yesterday we had a little lunch for the visiting parents of a friend, we had fresh local tomatoes, some delicious Maryland goat cheese, and several other little nibbles before a smoked duck sandwich. Started off with Prosecco to clear and chill the palate, followed by a lovely chardonnay and graduating to a Pinot.


We enjoyed our first leg of Restaurant Week at Café des Artistes the other night, partaking in the offerings of local ingredients, beginning with mushroom soup, then local Bison Bolognese pasta sauce, and local egg crème brulee, which was “bruleed” table side. Although not local, you get anchovies on your Caesar salad, which of course you should. Without asking.

A reminder to keep your little receipt that shows what you had so you can turn in two of them at the Port O’Leonardtown Winery and get free stuff. Our server at Café was familiar with the process. Not sure where leg deux will be…

California Dreamin’….

We are getting a couple of road reports from FOJTE and another friend who are (separately) enjoying California at present. FOJTE helpfully is sending me photos of sitting in lovely tasting rooms, or sipping bubbly at Pebble Beach overlooking the 18th. I’m so glad he is thinking of us (envy, envy). As he often reminds me, living well is the best revenge....

Our other friend started out in SFO, and since he has an aspiring palate, forwarded some “String Feeder” reports. Their first attempt at dining was at the “famous” Scoma Seafood House. Not a good experience….” After some rapidly delivered, but well watered down drinks, our fishy dinners arrived promptly. It was indeed reminiscent of fish, but one had the feeling it was some sort of trash fish. It just had that “I’m a second class fish” flavor, despite the rather delicate white sauce under which it was intentionally disguised.”

Their second attempt was much more enjoyable at a little place called the Blue Mermaid. Being around the Wharf area it was still a bit touristy, but done much better.” The hostess, the manager and especially the waiter were each attentive to our entire dining experience without being overbearing. One need only say horseradish under one’s breath and lo and behold three ounces of very fresh horseradish appear. Nothing was delivered until its exact time. We ordered the cold seafood platter for two and the award winning corn crab soup. Both were generous, presented nicely, and very tasty.”

Sometimes “famous” ain’t so good.


Funny thing about blogs. Heaven only knows where these things go once in cyberspace. After my recounting of our home like experience at Morris Point, I got a comment from somebody over in Virginia responding to the “just right” theme. Turns out he owns an Oyster Farm over there, the Deltaville Oyster Company, “Proudly located in Deltaville, Virginia”. Good on them.

Final Friday’s

Tonight is the final edition of the 2010 River Concert Series at St. Mary’s College, entitled “The Grand Finale”. The program will feature “singing sensation’ Kate Baldwin, plus Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Weather should be acceptable so c’mon out. I’ll be working at the adult beverage stand on “vendor row”, doing quality checks of the product. Come visit…

And it being Friday I always check the Enterprise to see who Mr. Mercer bestows his accolades on this week. Turns out it’s the Laughing Buddha over on the Solomons. He was at least sensitive enough to tip his hat in the direction of China Harbor. I personally would have stopped short of calling them “two transcendent Chinese Restaurants”. I don’t know how Dickson has established himself as not only the house restaurant whisperer, but author of almost every article relating to anything that could remotely be thought of as “cultural”. Oh well, small town.

Eat, buy, consume local, and


Postscript – MFO will be piloting the Momster to Wisconsin tomorrow morning. Going solo this time. Her Mother is experiencing some health issues and she’s going up to help. So the feeder will be batching it this week. Good thing it’s restaurant week!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Get out and Eat!!

Guess what started this week?

The next couple of weeks offers an opportunity to do something good for yourself and good for the community. The good for yourself part is that you will get a nicely prepared meal featuring locally grown/harvested/captured items that tastes fresh. The good for the community part is that each participating restaurant will make a donation to two of our local so-called “soup kitchens” that help people get nutritious food that they might not otherwise be able to have. What could feel better than that?

And, besides just having some good meals, it just might take you to restaurants that you may not have been to before, and discover there is food that doesn’t come wrapped in paper or from endless salad bowls, and dishes with ingredients made who knows where and from what. Using local ingredients means they will be fresh and healthy. If you buy your own, you can meet the actual growers, which is always fun.

All of the participating restaurants are locally owned and operated. Somebody sent me some statistics the other day that show while the chain restaurants are generally surviving the economy, the locally owned ones are being hit and closing. As I’ve mentioned before a struggling restaurant in St. Mary’s County can’t be bailed out by one in California. If a local restaurant has to close, it ripples throughout the community. Jobs are lost, local farmers lose business, local services (plumbers, HVAC) suffer and so on. So it is important that local restaurants get support. I have been fortunate enough to know several of the restaurateurs around here, and I am certain that they sincerely want you to have a good experience. It’s their livelihood (it always comes down to money), and they depend on your business for their business. They don’t want you going out the door mad because your appetizer took 25 minutes to hit the table, or the veggies were cold. I know it’s hard to do, but you can find a way to let them know without being mean. Their part of this bargain is that we hold them accountable for wanting to make us return. If they can’t do that, they’re on their own. Sorry for sliding into a rant….

So, go visit the Savor St. Mary's website, it’s a neat one with lots of information on the restaurants (and their special “local dish” for the week) and even good pictures of their chefs, along with a nifty description of some of the farms around here that grow and raise products. For instance, I didn’t know you could get fresh eggs in Mechanicsville.. There’s also some promotions (see the “cool giveaways” tabs – save your restaurant receipts) and other events. The site will remain after the initial week(s) so hopefully it will evolve into a center for local dining info.

Oh, did you notice the appropriate footwear of “Chef Tomate”?

We’re making our initial foray tonight. And, try as I might, I just couldn’t make them include an admonishment to


Sunday, July 25, 2010

More of Morris...

After enduring the day of withering heat, spent mostly cowering in the digs waiting for the “cool” of the evening, we did venture out to join some friends for a return visit to Morris Point Restaurant on Clements Bay in Abell, in an area known as the “Seventh” (District). Alert readers will remember our initial visit was earlier this spring, so we were glad to have a chance for another meal.

After a drive that seemed shorter this time, we arrived to be silently greeted by those pleasant statues.

The rest of the party had arrived prior to us, and kindly set our table with a child's high chair for the feeder. The place was pretty crowded with all of the tables occupied, so everybody had a good laugh. On our initial spring visit I likened the place to going to a friends house for dinner. I hate to repeat myself, but once again it felt like you were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Most of the diners seemed to know each other, and there was several cross table conversations. Debbie and various family members run the front of the house while husband Chris is in the kitchen, sort of like home.

After getting a proper chair, we settled in with a glass of chardonnay and good conversation. We eschewed ordering a couple of times to facilitate the glass and table talk, occasionally joined in by Debbie. A glass or so later, we turned to the business of ordering. I believe the menu has not changed since our previous visit with the seemingly universal waterfront offerings of crab cakes, “feasts”, shellfish and seafood dinners, pasta dishes, along with non-seafood entrée’s of steak and chicken. There is also a little blackboard with a list of “today’s fish” along with some riffs on the regular menu items such as there was a shrimp and oyster basket (in lieu of just shrimp OR oysters on the menu), plus shrimp and scallops added to the mussel pasta. Of course there’s also that issue of “sides” to deal with. I’ll never figure that out, but okay.

I ended up with the shrimp and oyster (yes, red plastic) basket, MFO chose the shrimp/scallops/mussel pasta, two orders of broiled rockfish, and the non-seafood among us did a chicken broccoli and parmesan pasta with the former “holding’ the broccoli. Meanwhile conversation, wine, and Yuengling continued to flow with some bantering with the staff, just like in their home. Salads arrived, and I was impressed by the freshness of the lettuce, grape tomatoes bright red, crisp red onion rings, and creamy white cukes on a rectangular gleaming white plate. Just the thing on a hot and steamy day. My basket arrived with many shrimp and crispy fried oysters (I normally don’t do “fried”, but hey, in a waterfront? Just right). Other dishes arrived with the rockfish nicely broiled with good golden color (as opposed to the pallid Captain’s Table attempt) and both chickens were good. MFO’s pasta was a bit short on the shrimp and scallops, but more than made up for with a plethora of mussels. Overheard at other tables were mentions by the staff that they were “out” of something, which somehow seemed acceptable and appropriate in this home like setting. Just like Mom’s refrigerator.

We managed to “save room” for dessert for once, and were rewarded with a very nicely sized dish of bread pudding, a slice of key lime pie, and some rice pudding.

We thanked the staff and the kitchen and emerged into the growing twilight much better for the experience. While there are other waterfront choices, I would pass many to come to Morris Point. A relaxed, enjoyable, low key experience, just like a meal in your neighbors house (with most likely better cooking). And, among the whole restaurant there wasn’t one ball cap or tee shirt to be seen. Refreshing to see people who (although casual) are


PS today (25th) marks the beginning of the inaugural St. Mary’s County Restaurant Week, running now until August 8th. More on that soon… Morris Point is a participant.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shakespeare, Seinfeld,

The Bard of Avon had his “Much Ado about Nothing”; and George tried to sell a TV network a show about ‘Nothing”. Well, sometimes your loyal blogger has the same experience. Like so far this week, I got Nothing. No thrilling meal at a 5 star to record, no “Whaddya gonna have, Hon?” experiences, no unique foodie happenings, Nothing.

Any thought of food related things was eclipsed for the past couple of days because I was: a) running around helping set up a golf tournament (tomorrow) for a local civic organization, and b) a bad case of heat ennui. Is it ever going to end? Tourney, yes, heat apparently not.

So, the question becomes do you try to write about nothing?, or just shut up and wait for another day? (or, days?)

Such is the case this morning, so instead of babbling just to be writing, maybe we’ll leave with just a little thought that occurred to me.

Cooking has its Holy Trinity (an exercise left to the reader), and I think we should have a Holy Trinity of Signage in St. Mary’s County: “Coming Soon; Now Hiring; and Opening Soon”. Our blooming Red Robin is in their second stage of the Trinity, announcing they are “Now Hiring Fun People”. Wonder if your food will be created by somebody with a clown nose. I would be happier if they were hiring “competent people”.

Stay cool and continue to seasonally


Monday, July 19, 2010

Captain, your Table is ready....

Our friend in DC brought some relatives down to SOMD yesterday to see our little bit of paradise, take in a bit of history, and have a meal.

So, I gave them a quick tour of the Chapel down at Historic St. Mary’s City in the late afternoon. We could maybe have had our first funeral service in the Chapel as it was extremely hot and humid in the building (as usual). But, we went over the Lords Baltimore, the plundering times, the construction of the Chapel and its subsequent dismantling, refinding and reconstructing, etc. They were impressed as they had seen the Written in Bone exhibit and wanted to see the “real” thing..

Anyway, averting heat stroke (at least for your loyal docent) we returned to the digs, and refreshed ourselves with some cheeses and wine. Our friend who used to live down here in the “golden days” wanted to return to the Captain’s Table, which he had enjoyed previously. The feeder had not paid a visit in many a year, so off we went, only mildly concerned over the beginning of this year’s edition of the Screwpile Challenge Series sailboat races (i.e., people). We arrived at the restaurant, which to my observation had not physically changed (don’t know about ownership), and went inside to inquire about a table. Although it was pretty crowded we were ushered in through the bar area (with the traditional keno screens but now also one of those out of place HD flatscreens shoehorned in). Like a lot of our waterfront places, there’s a bar located the furthest from the water, then closer is an inside dining area (watch your step), and then an outside one. There were quite a few hearty souls outside, probably those who live on sailboats and don’t know that air conditioning has been invented.

Inside are the typical plain wooden tables, dark paneled walls with aging seagoing prints on them. It has a very close view of the boats resting at the piers wishing somebody would come and take them out. A busy waterfront scene. As I said, the place was pretty full, and if you sat very still it wasn’t too hot. Right on the ragged edge of comfortable, but it was boiling outside, so we weren’t surprised. I have never quite figured out the geometry of the place, but our table was in that lower section, and although the kitchen is on the same level as the bar, there is a constant parade of bus people with trays of varying degrees of dirty dishes brushing past your table. Not too appetizing. Our server at least didn’t offer any recorded speeches, just asked about drinks and told us the soups and the special of the day. She sounded for all the world like she was from Long Island. Nice lady. The menu is of course a “one for all” including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tri-fold, encased in plastic, with main dishes offering you two (traditional southern Maryland) “choices” forcing you to search the menu for the list of fries, slaw, hush puppies, the usual stuff. Sandwiches come with fries or for another dollar onion rings.

I didn’t look too closely but I suspect there was one of those “platters” available, along with crabcakes, salmon, chicken, steaks etc. All of that was a little heartier than we wanted to contemplate. So we ended up with a couple of broiled rockfish sandwiches, a crab cake sandwich, a seafood quiche, and chicken fried steak. I couldn’t help but notice that other tables were being brought a basket of breads, but we never got any, maybe our order didn’t rise to the bread worthy level.

Food came out fairly fast which was surprising given the amount of people in the place many of whom were definitely not the least concerned with any DFD considerations, as ball caps stayed affixed, logo T-shirts everywhere, but it is after all a waterfront place. Again, the place was pretty full, but my “broiled” rockfish sandwich was completely pallid without any trace of color, just gray. It did have some taste, but not overly endowed. The fries were vintage Sysco seasoned fries which are never too bad or too good. The grayness of the fish had sort of invaded the mac and cheese that went with the CFS as it was faded yellow not the vibrant color one might expect. I really didn’t get an evaluation of the crab cake, the person who ordered it did it sort of experimentally (when in Maryland….). It generally looked okay. We did have a good time discussing further activities in DC for the out of townies, so it was a fun time, but getting back in the fully airconditioned car was welcome.

My friend, who wanted to “go home again”, said “okay, I’ve done that; I don’t need to go back”. That would pretty much sum it up for was just okay and there are other options. I’m sure they have their following. and, if you care, I was


Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Market To Market....

but not for a fat pig....

Motivated by the “buy local” fever that will culminate in our Restaurant Week a couple of weeks from now, this morning (before the heat set in) I went over to our local “farmer’s market”

Not only is it an opportunity to get some fresh produce, but invariably you run into somebody you know, or chat with the sellers and it’s just a very nice experience. There are always family groups and the kids are able to develop an appreciation of where their food actually comes from. From real people, not trucks with shrink wraps. It’s all so much better than fighting the automated checkout at Giant (“Item unrecognized – please ask for assistance"). I just love the colors and shapes that are there – nature is art!

Besides the food, there are other things to tempt you

And, if you keep your eyes open, you can see some neat folks..

Bring the food home, cook it yourself, and


Friday, July 16, 2010

Frying Friday....

Hard to muster much creativity when the heat saps the juices…so just a few short random pithy notes:

In today’s Enterprise, my favorite restaurant writer/advertiser talks about a Thai place in Waldorf. In the lead in he says something like: “For those who follow the Waldorf restaurant scene….” No comment. And, for that matter, where exactly is Waldorf? Seems like just a series of strip malls…

Did you know/notice there was an earthquake in DC this morning? I’m sure there are a lot of clever political one liners for that!

Tonight is the third to last River Concert at St. Mary’s College, and tonight’s program features “The Young and the Gifted II”. Might be something different. At this point, due to the weather predictions, attendance of MFO and the Feeder is very doubtful. But, there you are..if you want to go.

And this is really reaching, but some readers will recall that I have recently become enamored of Dirty Martinis (Gray Goose when I can afford it – boy that is expensive for a colorless “tasteless” liquid). Of course the “dirty” part means you add some of the brine the olives come in. Do you know how little actual “juice” is in one of those jars? It’s amazing…about two or three martinis depletes the juice and you’re left with a jar of drying out olives. Looks like there is a lot, but there really isn’t. But, I recently discovered you can buy just the brine, so I’ll have to look into that. Anybody want any desiccated olives?

And, I’ve done it again. The main reason I stepped up to a smart phone (Droid, just before they came out with new models, but that’s another story) was that I kept missing appointments or meetings because I was relying on my increasingly faulty memory, and having a hand held schedule ready seemed like a good thing. By and large it has worked but it takes discipline to put the data into the thing. Well, the other day I opened up my little folder I carry around to meetings and on a paper was written: Monday, June 19th, 10:30. I have no idea what that is for. So, if you’re expecting to see me next Monday you have to remind me. You can’t win…

It’s almost too hot to consider


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chain Chain Chain....

Bon Jour...

A lite Wednesday morning turned into a hectic Wednesday morning, and so now it’s a little less hectic Wednesday afternoon. No major news here, and believe it or not nothing special about Bastille Day, just some “Stuff” to pass along and ponder…

Another Link in the Food Chain

I accompanied a friend down to Circle C Oyster Ranch yesterday morning. He was going to get some oyster floats to raise the little bivalves in anticipation of dinners to come this fall and winter. Circle C is nestled down in Ridge on St. Jerome’s Creek. Although “ranch” sounds exciting, there is very little “ranching” to be done with oysters, mainly to flip the floats once in a while. No roundups, herding, branding, roping, just a general pastoral scene. I have not heard the caretakers called “oyster pokes” or “oyster boys”. A pretty benign existence.

Each of the floats contains about 600 oysters in various stages of growth. We hoisted three in the back of the pick-em-up truck (appropriate for ranching), and eventually put them back in the water in a creek near Clarke’s Landing. After a hard morning on the range, a thirst developed. And, as it happened we were passing the Hole in the Wall bar. I had never had the courage to go in there, but with assurances from my friend that it was okay, we stopped and went in. BAM! that time warp thing again! Like Courtney’s I suspect that not much has changed (well, there is a flat screen over the bar, BUT there is also the requisite Keno machine) in the last few decades. It is a huge room (which you wouldn’t expect from the outside) with a U-shaped bar and a couple of the requisite customers that looked very much at home perched on stools with a stack of bills in front of them. The room has a a few pool tables and many chairs and tables. And, do you remember the Bowling Game where you slide a little puck like affair along the wood, and the plastic bowling pins fold up into the top? Seen one of those in a while? Quite the place…


I got the July issue of “Sauce” a freebie newspaper/magazine that is distributed in St. Louis yesterday. I have mentioned it before, but if you’re at all interested in the “food scene” in St. Louis, it’s a must have. This issue also includes an insert called “reader’s choice” which lists favorite this and that. Greek, German, French restaurants, wine shops, cheese shops, bistros, late night, you get the idea. I did note that Niche seemed to gather a lot of accolades. Next trip. They always have refreshing well written reviews of restaurants old and new, wine recommendations, etc. I thought this was a very nice (and true) note in the “Drink This” column for a central coast ’08 Domaine Alfred Chamisal Vineyards Stainless Chardonnay: “It’s nice to see more unoaked Chardonnays being produced for people who like to have white wine with food without dealing with the “buttery” that basically ruins any chance of the wine actually complementing the food”. Nicely said.. Pick up a copy and keep the insert for reference..

A lost art form

Last night was the annual American homage to the Boys of Summer, the Baseball All Star game. It probably is the best of the “All Star” games, the others are pretty lame. At least these guys try. Anyway, it provides a forum for displaying one of the (IMHO) great art forms left in sport. That would be the ritual of “hat tipping”. Before the game, they line up the participants on the foul lines, and introduce the individual participants and what team they are representing. As this is going on, the players generally ‘tip” their hats in appreciation. I need to write a hat tipper’s manual. The very ultimate tip is when the player just puts thumb and forefinger on the bill of the hat (toward the side, NOT the middle), not disturbing it’s fit, and just briefly nods. Beautiful. A little less elegant is the same procedure with just a little lift of the hat, or motion of the hand. At the other end of the scale is the complete removal of the hat, the arm extended completely, exposing whatever dome the player has. Not good. Doing nothing is also probably not acceptable, although it avoids a poor performance. I think I noticed that the players from the Toronto team seem to have received proper training..

I suppose they also get trained in


bon appetit!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Ramblings....

We had a pleasant couple of days over the weekend as we attended a couple of little get togethers to celebrate retirements good friends, one from the “work” side of life, and the other from Historic St. Mary’s City. The former was a catered affair with very nice grilled meats and vegetables, and the latter was a pot luck dinner. Both were enjoyed by all. New horizons are always fun to contemplate..

Pot-lucks seem to be a dwindling phenomenon, but I just love them. Sure, some people go to Giant and get chips and salsa, we all have our time constraints. But others who have time and inclination bring actual home cooked food, and this is where the fun is. Find that little dish that is special or you haven’t seen before. Like yesterday there was a curried appetizer dip with cashews on top that was great, a little pot of stewed apples and smoked sausage, a little salad of those transparent noodles with fresh vegetables in them, and for a dessert the biggest Trifle I’ve ever seen, with local peaches enrobed in that creamy pudding. How fun.

Anyway just being with friends and enjoying food is always enjoyable.

Other Snippets:

A new “distracted driver” phenomenon observed. A motorcycle cruising up Rte. 235 yesterday with the person behind the driver busily texting with no hands available for safety. It’s everywhere.

Looks like our Red Robin is moving along nicely.

And lastly, that silence you hear is the absence of vuvuzelas, the soundtrack of this year’s World Cup matches. Americans, who become avid fans every four years learning the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick, can go back to their version of “Football”, the only nation in the world that uses that term for other than soccer. Without trying to start a row here, it’s hard not to call it boring. Tension might be a better description with 85 passes being made before any real offensive attempt is made. I thought yesterday’s final was kind of clumsily played without much grace or flow. I get so tired of players just being slightly brushed by an opponent doing a pirouette, falling to the ground clutching their (padded) shins and rolling around in mortal agony. After they either sell a yellow card or not, they’re up, trotting away. And, are there actually rules to this game? Yes, I understand off sides, out of bounds, etc., but the contact portion seems completely whimsical and arbitrary to whoever is the referee. No wonder “taking a dive” is so common, it WORKS!. Yesterday a guy gets a kick straight to the chest and the perpetrator remains in the game. Later, a player seemingly goes for the ball with a tackle, the resulting acting job works, and out he goes. I’m not sure ability always wins the game. Anyway we can put this subject away for another 4 years…

And (lastly) lastly the word “Nil” can also go away for 4 years. How worldly we are with ESPN American sportscasters coming up with: “Spain overcomes the Netherlands One Nil”. Gimme a break. I actually heard a sports report that was: “In Sports, Spain claims the World Cup by besting the Netherlands One Nil, and in baseball the Phillies beat Cincinnati One to Nothing” Sigh…

Not sure if this rates a


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rain, Rain, (Don't!) Go Away

A quick read for something to do while the MMNR comes down…thank whatever deity you happen to favor…

Last night (Friday) we attended the River Concert, thinking the slightly cooler weather would be a little more conducive to listening. So we settled in our usual spot, thinking that they have trimmed up the trees a little as it seemed sunnier than we remembered. As it happened it was the annual “Vote” night, as Larry did his guest conductorship, and his daughter, mezzo soprano Olivia. Both are very talented with Miss Vote receiving national attention, but IMHO it might be nice to give them a year off..they were joined by Michelle Johnson (soprano), and Brian Major, a baritone. So naturally, the program revolved around vocal music. I boldly admit my musical tastes have not yet expanded to include single voices. Choral music? Great. But I can only admire if not appreciate a performance of operatic music. They sang arias from Carmen, overture from the Barber of Seville, Madam Butterfly, etc. And once again they gave me the excuse to grump about such music as Porgy and Bess. They sang Summertime (an’ de livin’ is easy) and “Bess you is My Woman”. Yes, I’m a literal, scientific, stick in the mud, between the lines engineer, but I still cannot appreciate incorporating somebody’s idea of African American dialect into operatic treatment. It just seems artificial to me. Did they really speak that way in Charleston during the 20s’. Apparently Mr. Gershwin supposes so. Anyway, the social aspects are continually enjoyable if occasionally the music is not..

It’s amazing what you can learn about this country from food magazines. The latest issue of Cook’s Country (country cousin of Chris Kimball’s Cook’s Illustrated) entitled: “Oklahoma Barbequed Chopped Pork”. It leads off with the startling anthropological (generalization) that “Oklahomans, by nature, like to keep things close to the vest”. They use this non substantiated fact to explain that it is why you’ve never heard of Oklahoma barbeque. Correct. I for one, have never heard of Oklahoma barbeque. Apparently it’s big chunks of heavily smoked pork shoulder. Anyway, there is a recipe if you want to learn more about the secretive Oklahoma barbeque. I was not aware Will Rogers played it close to the vest…

And lastly, one more Wisconsin hangover (somewhat accurate). Have you ever seen this? We brought back some…. It’s not particularly memorable, just different.. Had to try it when we saw it at Festival Foods…

i really don't know how you should DFD(ip)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Winding down Wisconsin...

Saturday was “birthday day” for MFO’s Mom.. we began by having a picnic in a park/rest area next to the Mississippi on the Minnesota side just above a dam. There were lots of boats out on the lovely day.

Of all sorts:

MFO and her sister set up camp and had a pretty good meal of fried chicken and various stuff from a great store there called Festival Foods.. lots of good things.

We also had a chance to see FOJTE display his form at Boules

We took a respite in the afternoon, and then went to Olive Garden (Hey – it’s her birthday! ~ see below) for dinner. After dinner we came back to her apartment and opened gifts and had some cake

MFOM enjoyed the day and seeing her grandsons and families. She’s a great lady, in pretty good shape, and still has her wits about her. I wish that for all of us. I’m glad we could be there to help celebrate..

Back to being Bottom Feeder

MFOM enjoys eating at the Olive Garden, and is especially fond of their Minestrone soup. It’s pretty much all she has, and usually doesn’t finish the portion but brings it home for the next day. So, all eight of us trooped into the place just after 5 (hey! It’s her birthday) and were seated at a table comprised of a rectangular 6 top abutted to a circular table, a rather odd combination. We were greeted with “the speech” by a nice young lady, and also a young man (maybe the buddy system) who arrived with the bottle of wine they were pushing that day, and asked about drinks. Non-alcoholic all around (since we had a selection of Wisconsin Beers at the picnic just a few short hours earlier). They disappeared and came back with the drinks and asked if we were ready to order. Once again your’s truly was indecisive and asked for a couple of minutes.. A cheery “sure” and did the disappearing act. A short oil change later, she reappeared and very carefully went around the table with note pad in hand. “I’ll start with you…”. Every dish has a name of course (shrimp caprese, steak toscano, pork Milanese,etc.) and with main plates you get salad or soup as a first course. Sooooo, everybody ordered around the table, and MFO still feeling full just got an order of Bruschetta, and MFOM got her soup order. Others had various items (I in fact got the shrimp caprese - Grilled marinated shrimp served over angel hair pasta with melted mozzarella, fresh basil and tomatoes in a garlic-butter sauce). And, the FOJTY party wanted a “light” dressing on the (bottomless) salad bowl. Eventually the soups and (two bowls of) salads arrived (along with MFOM’s minestrone). Server lady said, Um, I forgot which one is the light dressing… At this point the line of the evening was delivered by the other server, he said “It’ll be the one that doesn’t taste very good”. Bingo.

But my main gripe (which I didn’t act on) was the fact that they knew MFOM was only having soup. So why would you bring that with the rest of the first courses if that was the only thing she was eating. Result was, she was completely done while the rest of the table was working their way through their first courses. They brought MFO’s bruschetta with the mains…

By the way, my Shrimp Caprese would have been okay without the melted mozzarella, it pretty much served to cement everything together into a solid mass of stuff. Ever try twirling angel hair that is welded together by melted cheese? But, caveat, we had a great time, and I kept my mouth shut. The manager made a couple of visits to the table, which was nice. “just fine, sir”. Gulp gulp..

Bye Bye La Crosse

So the next day, I went to the airport and flew back here rather unceremoniously and observed the fireworks on the Solomons. La Crosse is a pleasant little town, the people are friendly, they have art

But they also have interesting things culinarily…

And the code is not hard to match when you


This Just In: the 2010 - 2011 NBA season has been called off, the trophy has been awarded to the Miami Heat..

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Nation on the Brink...

Foodies take a seat...

I was going to construct the final installment of the LaCrosse adventure, but I think I’ll postpone it a day in order to address an urgent matter of National Importance. Every citizen in the nation should be vitally concerned over an issue that will be settled tonight, and which will probably change the course of history forever.

And just what, you may ask, is this apocryphal event? The oil “spill” has been stifled? There is peace in Afghanistan? The price of gas has gone under a dollar? Aliens are on the white house lawn? Middle East is now calm?

No, these pale in comparison to the magnitude of the real thing. Tonight at 9 o’clock on live TV, La Brawn James will let the world know which NBA team he will allow to bask in his awesome power. The sports world has been abuzz for the last few weeks, speculating this, postulating that, reading something into every movement, inanely going on and on without benefit of any real information.

As I have penned in these pages before, I care not much about the NBA and which team Mr. James will join in his so far unfulfilled quest for a championship. To be truthful, I have sort of given him credit for being humble, respecting his Mother and generally saying the right thing. No more. If he leaves Cleveland in the lurch by announcing his moving to another team on a hyped up ESPN "Special", it would be one of the more shabby moves that has been done lately. Maybe he’ll stay, but all the pundit are speculating that he will go to Miami.

The world will be a different place tomorrow..

Think I’ll go have a drink and get


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Piggy's Tales...

once again, i cannot keep these short thanks for your indulgence

Tale One

After we joined up with FOJTY and wife at the Courtyard on Friday night, we went to said hello to “Gramma” at her apartment. Leaving there we all agreed we should go and have at least a libation to prepare ourselves for the coming Birthday Day on Saturday. In our never ending quest to locate something local and non-chain, we had previously found “Piggy’s” a downtown restaurant that offers a version of fine dining. The restaurant is in a large historic building near the waterfront.

The restaurant has both a fine dining area (upstairs), and a "Blues Lounge" on the street level. By the time we got there, it was after nine and we were not exactly DFD’d since everybody had been on the road or in the sky all day and so we decided to go to the lounge and see what was available. Upon entering the door it became immediately apparent that one of the things available was live music. Undeterred. we went into the lounge and noted that what customers there were, were located around the periphery, with most of the tables near the band empty. That was because the sound waves from the music would have probably cleaned the dishes off the table. Yes, I am old, but I think it was TOO LOUD by any generation’s standards. These were not kids in the band either, but gentlemen probably on the order of my era. There were a couple of guitarists, a bass player a percussionist, and a vocalist. Mostly they were playing Beatle’s covers, some bluesy things, and not bad, just too freakin’ loud. Okay, enough of that.

We chose the next empty table which was a rather largeish round table, probably for six, so we were sort of seated at the points of the compass. Leaning and speaking loudly, you could converse. We were approached by someone who would be taking care of us, and given menus. As for drinks, they had a pretty nice selection of Wisconsin beers, a fairly good wine list, and of course the ubiquitous list of Martini’s. The FOJTY’s chose a “Spotted Cow” farmhouse ale from the New Glarus Brewing Company, one of many, many, Wisconsin breweries. I went for the Dirty Goose martini, and MFO did a Gin and Tonic. The menu had mostly sandwiches and appetizers. The others immediately decided what they wanted, and of course when what’s her name returned with the drinks I was still flailing, and in a panic said “we’ll need a couple more minutes” – “okay, I’ll be right back”. Wrong. I think she went and changed the oil in her car or something as a good ten went by before reappearance was made, and we were left with our drinks. A feature of my martini was it came with olives stuffed with Roquefort cheese. Bad idea. The Spotted Cow ales were very good. MFO’s G&T appeared in a rocks glass, an all too common occurrence these days. Anyhow, after the new crankcase of oil was installed, she returned, and took our order for a couple of (black angus) burgers, MFO’s flatbread, and FOJTY wanted the cheese steak sandwich but asked if he could not have the cheese. “Sure, no problem”. For both the burgers (mine with cheddar and bacon) we were very pointedly asked how we would like them cooked. I ordered mine medium rare.

The band played on, we leaned and yelled, while the kitchen apparently was changing the exhaust systems on their cars. Finally the food arrived (after another round). My burger was sort of like those pre-made patties you get in the grocery store in ten pound bags, maybe 3/8th inch thick, perfectly circular. One bite confirmed that it was uniformly gray throughout. And, guess what, the steak and cheese was exactly that, steak and cheese. Eventually WHN showed up and played the “how is everything?” tape. I snapped. I held up my partially eaten burger and said, does this look like medium rare to you?? I then said I thought you said you could hold the cheese! Look at that (pointing to the glop of melted something)! She sort of reluctantly said she would make another order, but at that point we were past waiting for any further car repair delays from the kitchen and demurred. Eventually the charge for the beers was removed, and we left, music ringing in our ears. Nice time, bad service.

Tale Two

Fast forward to the end of the next day (Birthday Day - another post), when all the siblings were tired and just wanted some recovery time. Since Piggy’s was close to the hotel, we geared up and entered again. This time however, the (same) band was doing old timey things, and apparently had found the volume knob, as the sound level was many dB’s less than the previous evening. It was actually (pardon me) easy listening. The (different) server took all the drink orders by memory, two spotted cows, a sauvignon blanc, a couple of reds, and a dirty goose, with regular olives. This time conversation was not hard and we had a nice time. At one point when the band played one of the (I have to write these things down) Drifter’s tunes, a couple got up from their table and danced. These were not your lithe twenty somethings, just two people having fun. It was a pleasure to watch. A fun time with your sons and families is always worthwhile, regardless of the circumstance.

So there you have it. One evening does not a trend make. Don’t write a place off on the basis of that first bad experience… and stay


Monday, July 5, 2010

Leaping across to LaCrosse

Didja have a nice 4th? I had a busy and fun one helping celebrate MFO's Mother's 95th birthday

Last Friday, an early (angst that “something could go wrong”) departure from the digs and a seamless transition to the airport, through check in, easy security, got me to BWI with over two hours to spare. The first thing that greeted me was on the message board that Delta Flight 2801 scheduled to depart at 2:20 was “now 2:55”. Great.

So, it being lunch time I thought I could kill some time by getting some sustenance. Looking around the concourse for options where I could sit rather than stand and order a Number Three, I found a Ram’s Head Tavern satellite. Well, what the heck. So I went in, seated myself and tried to find out who won the soccer match (Netherlands!!!) and the tennis (Nadal and Berdych!!!). I was approached pretty quickly by a server with menu in hand, and said she’d be back in a moment. I looked at the beers and chose a “Copperhead Ale”, she returned and said good choice (gee, good for me!), and went off to fetch it. She returned with the always too large airport glass of suds, a nice color but a little short on taste. While she was getting that, I looked at the menu, pretty standard stuff, salads, burgers, lots of appetizer things. Prices were not as astronomical as I feared in a captive airport setting. I settled on a grilled chicken sandwich with the bacon and cheese option exercised. About two sips in, my food arrivedin the plastic basket, wax paper liner, fries and a very sizeable chicken breast with the bacon and melted cheese on one half of a Kaiser roll, the other containing a very tired looking tomato slice and wilted lettuce. Discarded that, and with the top over the chicken it was a pretty hefty handful. Ate a couple of bites and it soon became apparent that the “sandwich” was a pretty tough go. So I disassembled it, and took out the plastic fork and knife, which the chicken breast fended off like water on the ducks back. So back to hands, just the meat. It was juicy, the bacon added some salt and the cheese was cheesy. Pretty soon, I exposed the tenderloin portion, and there was a rather large red spot. Well, maybe bright pink. Not ugly, but not very appetizing. That terminated my consumption of protein.

When she came to clear, I pointed out the little blemish, she apologized, assured me I wouldn’t die, and took it away. Upon finishing the beer, she brought me the check and said she removed the chicken from the bill. I had probably had about ¾ of it, so I thought that was a nice touch. The proper thing to do.....

Then, back to gate area to while away the minutes, doing things like people watching, always rewarding at airports, and maybe starting a blog!

What ensued after getting to the gate didn’t instill much confidence in Delta Airlines. The plane (still scheduled 35 minutes late) was to arrive at gate C12. Before we took off, we were re-scheduled out of gate C11 (this is a gate change announcement…), oh, I mean gate 14. Finally aboard and airborne we headed for MSP (Minneapolis Saint Paul) airport. Landing uneventful, but due to the late arrival I was somewhat apprehensive about making the connection (they had no idea about gates on the aircraft), so the friendly gate agent at gate F5 told me that my plane left from gate A3. Thanks to gouge from MFO I knew there was shuttle service available for us seniors so found the “Blue Chairs” and soon hopped aboard an extended golf cart. I have never seen a longer airport in my life! It must be about the size of the city of Minneapolis. It took a full 20 minutes at speeds that made me close my eyes to get there.

Finally at my gate for the puddle jumper to LaCrosse, I settled into a chair next to what turned out to be an interesting guy. He had just come from Amsterdam – well if you count “just” as in from 10:00 the previous evening. Also in the lounge was a woman with a small child (potential screaming kid) and anoter lady with a little tea cup dog that fascinated most of the lounge. Barely bigger than a rat. Somehow these creatures always bring out the silliness in people. They feel they have to go over and talk baby talk to it: “oooooo, you suuucchhhhh a custey liddle baaaaaby” and so forth. It would have made a nice appetizer for a real dog. The owner had a little purse like affair that would be the home for the pooch during the flight. I could just hear the yip, yip, yip, yip.

Anyway we finally boarded. Guess what? Screaming Kid and mom next to me on my right, doggie across aisle on my left. Why me? To my amazement, both were well behaved for the 20 minute flight to LaCrosse.

MFO met me at the airport and we retired to the downtown Courtyard which was on the Mississippi river with a nice view.

We were soon joined by FOJTY and wife, with the other FOJ on the road still. A long day, but nice to see family..where eventually we would


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Food and Friends (not in that order)....

I wasn’t going to post today, figuring I would be too busy with LMI’s before the trip, but, after tonight, i can't resist doing a quick one.


This evening I attended a celebration of retirement for one of the original F-18 E/F ITT members. She is leaving Boeing and moving on from Boeing to other horizons, still related to flight test. Most of the attendees were the ones who have elected to stay in the area despite initial misgivings (a group that includes me). Pax River? where the Hell is that?. Anyway, after being “retired” and away from interaction with many of them, it was such a treat for me to see them in person again. I won’t go so far as to say we were family (well, maybe I will), but how nice to see those you’ve spent years with again. Beware, those of you about to retire, you have to make adjustments. People you’ve been around every day, chatted with, worked with, learned with, fought with, won’t be around every day anymore. You can e-mail, but you can’t hug them.


The above gathering took place at the Island Bar and Grill associated with Island Inn and Suites. I had not been there since they changed to the Suites/Grill arrangement. Signage is somewhat confusing as there is no indication that the Grill is part of the Suites. I drove by the place before realizing that it was probably the “Old Evans”. I am not sure they’ll ever be able to shake that association, at least with locals. Inside, nothing has changed, there’s still an ample bar space with tables, and a separate dining area with about the same amount of tables. Alert readers will remember that Leo Dilling, late of Corbel’s in Leonardtown is now running the kitchen. That can only be good news. He is tentatively entering the menu with a few carryovers such as his delectable mussels, with Thai and Bistro preparations available. We had heavy hors d’oeuvres, which were tasty enough, shrimp, crab balls, artichoke dip (?), and potatoes with accompaniments. A peek at the menu revealed the usual waterfront offerings of seafood and entrees. I think they need time to develop, but there is potential there…

Nothing to do:

You might consider going to the River Concert, the wonderful pianist Brian Ganz will be performing, and there is fireworks. If you don’t want to shoulder that, think about First Friday in Leonardtown. Lower key, but nice stuff.

Okay, enough. Go find the dopp kit, figure out what to take, pills (to keep us going), out comes the little carry-on bag, gear yourself for the Airport Dance, and off we go to Wisconsin, home of the Butter Burger.

And, in closing, I will just reiterate (in case you missed it), friends are what it’s all about. Don’t take them lightly. Be one, and have one. It keeps you going.

And, above all, I will be

DFD, or maybe DFB(reakfast) if we go back to the Hungry Peddler.. it’s just right.

Summer Wine....

Isn't that a Brit Com?

Well, today sort of marks the first day of summer. Mercifully, the weather is more May like than July, as temps have finally returned to a more comfortable range. But, nonetheless, the recent 11 days of nineties plus temperatures brings up that age old question; Whaddy drink in Summer?

Of course one answer is the time honored DWTHYL and don’t worry about it. But I really don’t think I’ll tuck into that 14.5% Old Vines Zin while sitting on the patio.

No, the heat and humidity calls for something maybe a bit lighter. A perusal of various food and beverage mags (always reliable for that “Wines of Summer” article) steers you (for the most part) to whites. For some reason, this year they seem to look to other shores for their selection. One source gives you “Five Reasons to Drink Soave this Summer”: Another publication asks if Albarino is the “Next Great Summer Wine”. They even devote several pages to the wine and area of origin (Rias Baixaz, Galicia in Northwestern Spain) along with some tempting recipes. It’s described as bright, zesty and crisp. Another article is entitled “Swing Low” and devoted to summery wines that don’t’ pack an alcohol punch. They talk about several wines in the 12 and below range. Suggestions include a (bone dry) German Riesling, Vinho Verde (Portugese); Moscato D’Asti; Chenin Blancs from France and South Africa. Most of the descriptions contain the words fresh, crisp, and fruity. Strangely our old friend Pinot Grigio/Gris doesn’t get much play. Sauvignon blanc rates some mention, as does chardonnay, with recommendations of the “old world style – like white Burgundy and Chablis.

Of course we can’t forget Champagne (or sparkling wine if you’re domestic oriented), what could be better than a crisp sparkling flute of golden, crisp (sorry) sunlight in a glass.

Well, what about reds you say. Okay, there are alternatives that are nice summery wines as well. A light Pinot Noir will do, again looking to France for a lighter style, or maybe New Zealand. Gamays can be tasty, Burgundy’s cousin from Beaujolais. Roses come into play, they can be chilled and are usually lighter and fruity. Spain can come up with some good examples (Marques de Caceres Rioja Rosado). I am pleased to report that I did not see any references to white zin which shouldn’t be confused with roses. Use that to clean off the table on the patio. It cuts dirt quite well..

And has been noted I am slowly beginning to appreciate the land of beer. Summer is a great time to experiment and find something you like. Stouts? Probably not (although DWTHYL comes into play), but the lighter ales, lagers, pilsners, are appropriate..

Anyway, you don’t have to be stuck with Chardonnay – branch out..

Stronger Stuff
One of the publications I get is called “Imbibe”, and is devoted to “Liquid Culture”. It covers not only wines and beers, but is heavily into promoting cocktails. Remember when the person behind the bar was a bartender? Forget that, now they’re “Mixologists” who practice “Mixology”. Gimme a break. And, like anything else they are now taking to extremes. Dry Manhattan on the Rocks? Dirty Martini? Naaaahhhhhh, too simple. How about a Poblano Escobar? Just a few simple ingredients:

2 or 3 ¼ inch thick rings of sliced poblano chiles, seeds removed
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce Royal Combier (a liqueur0
4 chunks of fresh pineapple
¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. agave nectar
2 oz. blanco tequila or mescal
Ice cubes plus large ice cube for serving

Muddle chiles in a shaker with lime juice and Combier. Add pineapple, cumin, and agave nectar and muddle again. Add tequila or mescal and fill shaker with ice; shake well and double strain through fine mesh strainer into glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish.

See? Easy to make at home. Oh, the ice cube in the picture of the concoction was more like an iceberg..

So there’s a quick look at some options to wet your whistle during those hot days..

Travel Note:

Tomorrow I fly on great silver bird to Minneapolis and then to Onalaska/LaCrosse to join with MFO (driving of course), her sister, and both the FOJ’s and families to help celebrate her mother’s 95th (!!!!) birthday. May we all live long and prosper.

I’ll take clothes to