Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Shakers have Stilled...

a personal note today

As you gain experience in the business of Flutter, you are often required to support Ground Vibration Tests, commonly referred to as GVT’s. The purpose of the test is to identify the normal modes of an airplane, wind tunnel model, various components, etc., to help with refining the analytical model leading to accurately predicting the flutter speeds of the platform.

While this may sound glamorous and exciting, what it really means is that you get to spend time in some cold aircraft hangar in the middle of winter next to a howling hydraulic cart making thinking and conversation impossible, or third shift in a silent, dark wind tunnel section waiting for the ghosts to appear (all wind tunnels have spirits living in them), or a model shop in Dayton, Ohio working into the night to get the model verified. The team is usually comprised of the “lab” folks who actually run the tests, and the technology folk who are supposed to understand this stuff (me).

Obviously, the people around you in these situations offer the only possibility of making the experience at least tolerable. For the last several decades, my companion from the “Labs” was most likely Bob Dieckelman. Over the years, I got to know Bob fairly well. I was always amazed at the enthusiasm he brought to each test. Didn’t make any difference if it was the 100th or 3rd GVT, it was the most important test in the world, and he worked tirelessly to get the best data possible. Often, Bob understood more about the data than the “Flutter Guys”, who occasionally want the data to match their preconceived notions rather than believe what the airplane was actually telling you. I remember several heated discussions with him over the identity of a mode, or the frequency of same. I gained a lot of perspective by being associated with him. Bob had a slight speech impediment, and when he got “revved up” about something, it was a sight to behold.

Bob was also fearless when he was on point. On many occasions he would march into some unsuspecting manger’s office, usually leading off with “Just so you know…..” and then relaying that something had gone to hell and needed fixing. He was a true character, and that is meant to be of the highest compliment. He was respected by all that knew him.

When things were going good, we had some great conversations about sports. He was as up on the subject as he was on current events, and since he was a grad of Notre Dame, we had good debates regarding my Michigan State Spartans and the Domers. Always fun, he also had a great sense of humor.

So it was with great sadness that I learned he had succumbed to an advanced case of melanoma, and I’ll see him no more. The world of GVT’s and dynamics won’t be the same without his presence. His memory and legacy will remain with all of us that knew him, and the quality of the data from the McDonnell Douglas (sorry, it still is) labs will forever owe him a debt.

I also saw that there was a “Bob Dieckelman Day” in St. Louis, where everybody dressed in a white short sleeve shirt and jeans. I honestly can’t remember a time where Bob wasn’t dressed that way. I can only believe that he is chuckling about that somewhere, and I hope he’s shaking things up in heaven. Thanks, Bob.

all were


Monday, August 30, 2010

Just a Barrel of......

Well, well, well. It just keeps on comin’. I noticed in the paper the other day that our burgeoning “restaurant row”, now occupied by the OG and the Red Robin may be joined by none other than that icon of the interstates, Cracker Barrel. They have decided that they would like to move into “smaller markets”, and will even have a (my words) dumbed down version of the building, with fewer windows. That’ll be nice. Breakfast all day, and that folksy little gift shop where you can buy candles in fruit jars and stuffed kittys. What a great addition to our little town. One more challenge for the local independent restaurateurs (not to mention Bob Evans, but they deserve it). I am proud to say I’ve been in only two of the places, both not by my personal choice. I didn’t enjoy either (company yes, food/service no).

I also see where the Fiesta Café in Mechanicsville was voted the best Mexican restaurant in the greater DC area by the WTOP (radio station) listener poll. I’ll have to find it the next time we head “up the road”. Good for them. Nice to see they beat out a chain (Los Toltecos).

Apparently the folks from Saphron, after their unsuccessful attempt to occupy the Corbels site have found a new home in Prince Frederick in the Old Field Inn spaces that went empty a while ago. Don’t know much more about it, watch this space.

Rick’s Cheese Steaks, next to the La Quinta inn is now shuttered (actually there is nothing in the windows, but it's the trade phrase). Somehow, that space doesn’t seem to be able to survive very long. Be interesting to see what may come of the place.

I saw that a place called La Tarbella has applied for a liquor license for a restaurant. Located somewhere around Wildewood, although it doesn’t look like it’s in the shopping center. Come to think of it, maybe somebody else is taking a winger on the retirement center..

Lastly, and deservedly so, a friend and I tried to renew our yearly attempt at having a nice boat ride ending in eating hard crabs someplace. We had such a wonderful time at Sandgates a while ago that we decided to try again. He had gotten a tip that the “Harbor Lights” place had some good ones, and since he needed fuel for the vessel, we fetched up to the fuel dock in front of the place (now called Calypso something). While getting fuel, we asked the young man helping us if they did indeed have crabs. “Oh yeah, of course”. So we decided to do some cruising first and then end the evening with the crabs. We did the tour of Back and Mill creeks, (Di Giovanni’s full, Kingfisher’s mobbed, Dry Dock outside full) looking at boats bigger than busses, waiving to folks, etc. So after an hour or so of that, we went back to the pier outside Calypso Something, and after he deftly maneuvered the boat along side the pier, I went inside to get us a table while the boat was being secured.

There were a few couples ahead of me, and then I overheard the person behind the station tell one of them: “I have to tell you we’re sold out of crabs”. What? Yes sir, we’re sorry. I hope so. So, I met my friend as he was coming from the boat, and explained the dilemma. By this time the sun was setting and we decided (after suitable dithering time) that to untie the boat, head out someplace else, tie up again and eat it would be getting pretty late. Okay, we’ll just have something besides crabs and back inside we went, with pretty much a lineup of the same couples but with nobody behind the counter. Servers were passing by, studiously avoiding any eye contact with the potential customers (including us). Finally my friend (figuratively) tackled one of them and asked where the seating lady was. A hurried “we’re trying to find her” was the reply. Hmmmmm. After a long couple of minutes, she showed up and informed the first party in line that it would be a few minutes before they were seated. Incredulously, there were more empty tables than occupied ones in the dining area, and when that was pointed out to her, she lamely replied, “Well, it’s our policy to not seat you unless a server can be with you, and they’re all busy right now”. Okay, strikes one, two, three, four, and five and back to the boat we went. A nice cruise brought us back to the home pier in the gathering darkness, and then back to the digs for a small salad, nice bread, and some Four Sisters and Church Creek Vineyards Chardonnay. The crabs will have to wait for another day, as will any future dancing with the Calypso Something folks…

And we were


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just nothing to do down here...

Gee, another slow southern maryland weekend, and I wish I had something to do..

Oh, now that I think about it, I did go to a breakfast event at the JT Daugherty center yesterday (8/27). It was called “Breakfast with Founding Business Leaders in St. Mary’s County”, presented by our increasingly active SMC Department of Economic Development and the dynamic Bobby Schaller. Although ball capless, he started off the morning, and then handed off to Tom Daugherty, another local legend. What followed was a fascinating glimpse into the early days of Pax River (early 50’s) provided by 5 long time residents. There were stories of early marketing by catalog sales, development of technical things for the base, the start of "Rue’s Roost", how 10 oz. Bud’s came to be, with some great anecdotes on the characters that began our little town. All the business activity then was centered on Great Mills, not on 235 as we know it today. Loans for capitol were made on word of mouth and character without all the folderol we go through today.

At one point it was stated that “8 out of 10 businesses sold either liquor or women”. To put it in focus it was added that (the recently razed) Rosie’s would have been among the smaller of such establishments. If there is another edition it would be well worth your time to attend and listen to the roots.

So that was about all there was to do..

Oh, I forgot, last night we attended a little program at Sotterley Plantation as part of the Boeing Lecture Series entitled “The Underground Railroad and Quilts” purportedly about how quilts hung on fences contained a code that helped escaped slaves find their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately Dr. Dobard’s presentation was a bit difficult to follow at times, but at least we got an idea, and there is a book that one could order. Nonetheless, it was a nice evening and a chance to get introduced to things that you might not otherwise even know about. It was well attended, and a lot more information was gleaned during the Q&A period. For your files, there are two more left in this year’s series, one on September 24th (“US China Relations in an Era of Change – Dr. David Michael Lampton”) and October 22nd (Vestiges of the War of 1812 Along the Patuxent – Dr. Ralph Eshelman). These are quality programs, you should attend. No fee, great venue, fascinating stuff.

And, that was about it....

No, wait! This morning I went down to St. Mary’s College to see the St. Mary’s Watershed Association “plant’ over 400,000 oyster spat in the river. The trailer arrived with over 9000 pounds of oysters neatly bagged.

Pop Quiz: guess which company provided a grant to fund the project? Sorry, old affinities die hard. Anyway, the little spat (less than an inch long) attach themselves to the old oystershells, with many on each shell:

Fortunately, eager labor arrived in the form of new students for the college going through orientation

The process involved taking the bags from the trailer

Into wheelbarrows

Onto a barge (directed by the oyster farmer who grew them)

Then transport and deliver them to their new home in the river just south of the boat houses.

Each (well, most) of the little oysters will grow up and begin their task of filtering 55 gallons per day, helping to purify the river. What a great project.

Just nothing to do…

and now it's almost time to


tomorrow we catch up on some local restaurant buzz....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quest for Queso...

okay, a little lame but i can never resist alliteration...

The State we were in is known as “America’s Dairyland”. And what do you do with all that milk? You make the worlds most variable and lovely food product: CHEESE. With a little research in that great book “The Cheese Chronicles” we picked out a few dairies that were generally on the way home, centered around a little town called Monroe. Most of them were cited in a chapter called “When Did “Factory” Become a Dirty Word?”. Her point was that a producer of “block” cheeses in large quantities can compete with so called “artisinal” makers. So a lot of what were mentioned were cooperatives (Chalet Cheese Cooperative) and big operations (Roth Käse) a lot of their product sells to stores who then sell them as “their” brand, Whole Foods for instance. So, not sure what we were getting into we headed southeast from La Crosse on back country roads again, encountering stuff you’ll never see on I-Whatever.

A look at the map showed us that we were near the New Glarus Brewery, whose products I have grown to enjoy, as well as their naming of the beers, such as: Spotted Cow, Road Slush Oatmeal Stout, Dancing Man Wheat, and Stone Soup to name a few. Anyhow, we stopped in to their place a pretty large building.

We didn’t tour nor taste, just looked around and got back to our main objective, the cheese. We asked the lady behind the counter about places to get cheese, and she named a couple for us. So, a few miles later we found ourselves in Monroe, a typical quaint country town.

A quick look around the square revealed our first trial, Baumgartner’s

We went inside what was indeed a tavern, but it had a cheese case, mostly full of block cheeses. On the wall were the available selections ;

Indeed, there were no identifiers as to maker, and most were just labeled “Baumgartner’s”. MFO did notice some smoked cheddar attributed to Maple Leaf Farms, so we got a hunk of that along with some of the 3 year aged cheddar with the Baumgartner label.

Our next (and last) stop was to a market called “Brennan’s”

which, according to the brewery lady had “a great selection of cheese”. It was kind of an upscale market with lots of fresh produce, wines, and a whole lot of;

Again, most were under the “Brennan’s" label, although some of the little signs with each variety mentioned the master cheesemaker responsible. We picked up a traditional Gouda and a wedge of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, from the Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, WI. That company was mentioned in the book and specifically this cheese. While the generic cheeses were around $8 per pound, the Pleasant Ridge came in at a whopping $23 per pound, so it better be good.

So our total purchases were 4 varieties (as yet to be tasted)

After the pleasant drive to Monroe, we pretty much let schedule rule, and hit the boring interstates for the long drive to Richmond IA, where we RON’d and then another long day brought us back to “reality”

So the MOMSTER logged another journey of about 2600 miles, we helped with MFO’s Mom, and have some cheese. So now life goes on..always ready to


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where am I??

A charming little Patisserie in Paris? Brussels? Switzerland? Nope, I’m in downtown La Crosse Wisconsin, at a shop called Bijan’s Patisserie.

Bijan Jidali, a native of Romania, and his wife moved to La Crosse from Syracuse, NY, and he opened the bakery early in July. Trained as a French Pastry Chef, he creates these lovely pastries along with breads.

After pondering the selections, I chose an “Apricot Sunrise’ and a Latte.

It was all I could do to muster the strength to destroy his artistry by taking a bite. What a feast for the eyes. Food can be so beautiful. The remorse passed quickly as the pastry yielded to the tooth with a slight snap, then came the silky soft, sweet layers of pastry. Then the tart apricot (sunrise) awakened the taste buds with the acidic full flavor of the apricot. To die for. In Wisconsin.

Okay, Guess Again:

A South Carolina Barbeque? In Texas? Maybe Alabama? Nope, in Onalaska (nearby La Crosse). The local high school dance team was having a fund raiser, and besides the usual car wash by the young ladies, Rooster Andy set up shop in the parking lot and cooked up the poultry (hopefully not roosters). The clouds of smoke concealed the birds, occasionally affording a view

We of course got a “lunch”, because you have to support local causes. The chicken was good, although you needed a full roll of paper towel to get through the bird. There is no other way to eat a barbequed chicken than with the fingers. Just ask Rooster Andy! In Wisconsin.

Last Chance:

A little marché in Provence? A stall in Amsterdam? A street seller in Oslo? Wrong again. It’s a parking lot in Onalaska. There is a large community of Hmongs in the area, and there are “farmers markets” where they offer the products of their efforts.

Not only are there the lovely bunches of flowers available ($4 per bouquet), there is also all manner of produce available

Besides the things we’re familiar with (onions, peppers, leeks), there were also things like “Chinese Eggplants”, a small shiny fruit like orb with gorgeous coloring. I asked one farmer about them and got a verbal recipe on how to prepare them. I don’t remember. As with all farmers, they were friendly and would talk to you as long as you wished. Another example of local people producing local products for local consumption. Beautiful. In Wisconsin.

That day pretty much concluded our visit to MFO’s mom, who was pretty much holding their own. The next day we again loaded the Momster with much lighter load and began a quest for another local product on the way home – stay tuned.

while I


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Northward Ho!

second in a series of.....TBD, once again at the whims of a demon infested aircard

Having arrived in St. Louis and depositing the “Heavy TV”, mattresses, head boards, etc., in the new STL digs of our friends, we finally relaxed and enjoyed the evening with them and “better burgers” from a St. Louis called The Village Bar (which still permits smoking by the way), and a left over bottle of the Sterling Chardonnay (okay, not a classic “pairing”, more in the DWTHYL category).

We left our friends to deal with the vagaries of permits, licenses, utilities, HVAC people, and all the challenges of residing at a new address. After an indifferent bagel, we loaded up and pointed the (now lighter) MOMSTER north, toward Wisconsin. We took some backish roads eschewing the normal interstate route, enabling us to see some local towns:

Although speeds are slower, it’s such a treat to be off the interstate where you get to see small towns, such as the “town of the dome”

There were also actual old timey on-grade railroad crossings, and as we waited for a passing train, we got to see the graffiti art:

At one point, we passed through a town that was having their annual Frontier Days celebration, and a parade was planned for the evening. People were already gathering to stake out their station along the parade route

What an interesting part of Wisconsin, the small little towns you pass through are great, with neat names like Virqoua, Boscobel, Potosi, and Coon Valley. Each has it’s own character, and the county seat ones all have a “square”. Some show evidence of their Scandinavian heritage.

Finally we reached our destination of Onalaska….

Maybe a bit longer, and more time, but there are rewards to be had rather than “Exit 32”.

Plans call for a departure tomorrow AM, pointing eastward.. have some great foodie stuff to report yet, but with this air card arrangement (yes, i could go to the coffee house.....) we'll stop here today and catch up later..Onalaska continues to amaze me. If it weren't so damn cold I could live here.... don' cha know, you betcha!

although i will admit i would have to start a local campaign to

DFD (no cami allowed)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sled Dogs and MOMSTERS

There is the old saying among sled dogs: “if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes” that was pretty much how we spent the first 900 miles and two days of our first stage of the odyssey (Second stage: STL to WI). During that time, as our (loaded) MOMSTER I followed our friend in MOMSTER II, this was the view that never changed:

On top of that, after loading said road vehicle with stuff to transport to STL in 95 degree heat, the driving portion was livened by rain in varying intensity as we passed through the mountains of West (BG) Virginia.

Of course, there are always diversions along the way, such as this juxtaposition of opposite ends of the spectrum:

Plus vehicles such as this gem:

Or “Jack on Wheels” – no doubt headed for Tennessee Bourbon country

With all of this, our first day ended up being about ten and a half hard road hours, but we made our intended destination of Lexington, KY, aka Horse Capitol of the World. For a change and to reward ourselves we stayed at the Marriott “big house” instead of our normal Courtyard or Fairfield accommodations. Due to our cross country drive earlier in the year, we somehow climbed into the “gold” category, but when we checked in, we were told that they were sorry, the concierge level was full, but we could of course enjoy any amenities we wished. Unfortunately due to our late arrival and the tiredness of our driving team, we decided to stay in the room and do room service.

Of course, loyal readers know that the Feeder always has a firm grasp of the obvious, but it was very apparent that the clientele of the top facility in the Marriott family is quite different from the “lower end” properties. Shorts and flip flops are replaced by tabbed front shirts; “tats” are (at least) not visible, and hair cuts are very tidy. There is no judgment here, just an observation. Of course all this comes with a price tag, but hey, it was only one night, and after the drudgery of the loading of furniture and monster TV’s we deserved it.

So after “refreshing” a bit, we reassembled in one of the rooms, and enjoyed a couple of cheeses, Whitley’s peanuts, crackers, and a very nice bottle of Sterling Chardonnay. You can always travel in style with a little planning. After, we turned to the room service menu, and guided by our MOMSTER II friend, between the three of us, we ordered bowls of onion soup, and potato soup, a chicken ceasar, and I braving acid reflux I had a Reuben (somewhat a benchmark) sandwich. The room service menu was fairly extensive and not really all that expensive. I think my Reuben (and fries) was all of eleven bucks. As we solidified our order, we noticed in the dessert section a (as I recall) “Kentucky Sweet Cake”. When you’re in Kentucky, do as the Kentuckians do, and we ordered up a slice.

After enjoying a bit more of the wine, a knock on the door brought our food, nicely served on real plates, with real silver and linens. What a nice touch.

The food was quite tasty (as would have been shoe leather at that point), but the always objective Bottom Feeder would have to say that it was quite edible. Maybe my corned beef in the Reuben was not carved fresh, but it was thicker sliced than your “lunch meat” and had some taste. The fries were the “skin on” type and were tasty with a shake of salt.

Finally we turned to the “Sweet Cake”. I am not sure I could describe it accurately, you might check out a recipe, but it is sweet, almost pound cake like, but spicier, and there was a nice glaze on top that was very sweet. I think the hotel version didn’t include the alcohol ingredient which might give it a bit of a bite, but it was good.

Oh, I forgot. Although we had a very nice glass of wine at hand, I looked at the wine list. This is room service, mind you, but look at some of the selections (yes, and prices) toward the end of the list. This isn’t your Annie Green Springs, or white zin, there are some big boys in there.

So ended the first of our “road days”, and bellies full and mind suitably calmed we turned in. and for once we didn’t consider


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Come Along with Me....

Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along

I notice our emerging Red Robin now sports a sign informing us: “In Training, Opening Soon”, and in fact there are occasionally clusters of uniformed people standing outside smoking. Nice. Although I am (and will remain) critical of the Olive (pre packaged, pre made food) Garden, I don’t harbor the same feelings for the RR. Being a “Burger Joint”, albeit upscale, I don’t think they will seriously impact the locally owned places. You want a burger? Fine, pick your poison: Mickey Dees and relatives, Five Guys, and now the Red Robin. There’s a nice price spread from the former to the latter, and maybe they have a good product. Too bad we can’t get an In and Out!!

Snackin’ Along

Snack alert! Always on the lookout for good snacking, I have found that Stacy’s Pita Chips are a nice deal. Several flavors from plain to cheesy to tuscan herb, all pretty tasty. I haven’t and won’t try the cinnamon. I know they are available at the Shoppers Food Warehouse, usually sitting atop the “gourmet” cheese island by the seafood.

Travelling Along

Tomorrow we’re going to man up the MOMSTER and head west. Some friends are obtaining a house in St. Louis, and we’re caravanning with them to bring some of the more fragile things with white glove service. After we off load there, we’re taking a little “side trip” up to Wisconsin to check on MFO’s mom. Things are not real great and she wants to make a visit. By way of saying I will once again be dependant on wi-fi zones, and an “iffy” air card (Verizon doesn’t penetrate Onalaska very well), so Feeders may be sporadic.

Chuckling Along

Lastly, people often send me little notes on this and that, and not wanting to open the flood gates I normally enjoy them (don’t stop!) but don’t include them. The other day somebody sent a note about “7 ways to understanding engineers”. They kind of hit close to home! Here’s one of them:

Two engineering students were going across a university campus when
one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?" The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want!" The first engineer nodded approvingly and said, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit you anyway."

Okay, we need to be getting along,


Monday, August 16, 2010

I hate them!

I hate people with talent… Well, let me qualify that. What I really am is intensely jealous of people with talent. Friday night we had a very enjoyable evening, starting off with a couple of (expensive) drinks at the Dry Dock, and then went over to the Calvert Marine Museum to the performance of the “finger style guitar duo” Mac Walter and John Cronin.

The auditorium was unusually full (from our experience), and right away we noticed that we were sort of right in the middle of the age bracket of the audience. I don’t think I saw anybody that was under (a guess) 35, and most were quite a bit senior to that. Due to the lovely drinks we arrived not long before the show, and fairly soon Mac and John took their places on the stage along with three guitars, and the usual forest of microphones. Their “acoustic” guitars were amplified, but only so you could hear them, they weren’t objectionably loud at all. What followed was an hour and a half of great music. MFO said I shouldn’t try to “characterize” their style, but at heart I am an engineer. Being a veteran of the “folk music” generation, what I call “finger style” would be exemplified by Doc Watson and Merle Travis. While they did play a few tunes in that style, more often it was kind of almost jazzy. They played one tune called “Travis –T”, which was out and out classic finger style. They also played “All of me", and Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind" that caused serious flashbacks. It was obvious that they have played together for a long time, their timing and phrasing were effortless, they passed the “lead” back and forth effortlessly.

There were also a few songs of the late Tom Wisner, that local and now somewhat legendary folk singer of the Bay, one of which was a waterman’s tune called “Dredging is My Drudgery”. Most of their music was original. During the intermission we struck up a conversation with the gentleman in front of us who also remarked that it was a shame that there were so few “youngsters” in the audience. We can’t let this music die. It’s so pleasant to hear something that’s not in your face, over amped, with unintelligible lyrics. That may be a bit strong, but you get my point. They also spent a lot of time actually talking with the audience with little anecdotes and stories between the songs. Just a wonderful experience with real music from real people. Keep your antennae up for future performances of these two, it’s worth the effort to go hear them. Real Talent.

Now, before you go sending me a lot of notes, I know that “talent” is largely a product of long hard hours of study and practice, but there still has to be that kernel of (for want of a better word) talent. For instance, back in “those days”, I labored long and hard with a 5 string banjo trying to learn to “frail”, and then switched over to the guitar (a Martin D-28 mind you) endeavoring to master finger picking. At best, I could do a passable Libba Cotton “Freight Train” or “Railroad Bill”, and at my high point could almost get through my friend’s wonderful composition of “Spring Song”. But I was smart enough to know that it was all sort of “music by machine”, maybe technically correct, but stiled, with no “song” if you get my drift. No experience like being mesmerized by people who “got it” like Brian Ganz or Doc Watson, with that ethereal phenomenon of seeing the hands become part of the instrument, and together making something that moves you. Nope, I ain’t got it and never did. Sigh.

and, we were


Friday, August 13, 2010

Lucky Friday...

There’s just something so peaceful about a cloudy, windy, gray day. Especially after the run of searing hot sunny days recently…lucky us..

Sometimes the feeder gets interesting opportunities through his ramblings and rants. Last week MFO and I were invited to a little dinner over at the Hilton Garden Inn that was being held for some people from the Mason Dixon Outdoor Writers Association. I never cease to be amazed at what’s “out there”. People devoting time and energy to pursuits that you never even know exist. I of course had no idea there was an “association” such as that and had no clue what they do. But, since food was involved we happily accepted.

Turns out that the Association will be having their annual conference at the Inn next spring, and this was sort of a fact finding trip. Alex Zidock (president of the MDOWA) and his wife were there (along with a videographer). Besides being president of the MDOWA, Alex has a TV show that airs on local cable outlets called Out in the Open. The other couple was Curt Bobzin and wife, he’s a member and also managing editor of the “New Jersey Angler” magazine. New horizons all around! You just never know….

Anyway, besides seeing the local sights, that particular day was spent fishing. The idea was that the evening’s meal would be specially prepared with whatever came up on the end of their fishing lines. Fortunately for us, it was more than bait, as they got several Bluefish (no Rocks). Folks around here (and maybe New Jersey) will know that Bluefish is not the most appetizing of things that comes out of the bay. Smoked is good (and great for dips), fried is okay, but they innately are a rather oily, “fishy” species. A good challenge for the chef. So I was eager to see what the kitchen would produce.

We were all seated at a long table in the “restaurant” portion of the lobby, a light, airy space with a bar in front of the sort of open kitchen. The lobby area of the Inn is a rather pleasant place with warm tones and plenty of light. When we sat down, there was a large salad bowl in the middle of the table with colorful red onions, yellow squash, and red tomatoes, and nice green greens (is that an okay phrase?) a nice presentation. We did a little “go around the table” for introductions, and after hearing “president”, and “managing editor" I mumbled something about being a food blogger and I could see their mental eyes rolling back in their heads. After we dispatched the salad, the Chef came out and explained that the next dish was a soup containing with chunks of bluefish, local vegetables, and a dollop of green tomato puree. It was served in those large shallow soup bowls, so attention to the “slop factor” was appreciated. The soup had a fairly nice “kick” to it, being a red based soup rather than cream, and it was a nice foil for the chunks of fish. The main course (it was explained) was “stuffed bluefish” which turned out to be a “ring” of filets woven to form sort of a cup into which crabmeat was “stuffed”. All this was perched atop a round of rice pilaf, and sided by sautéed vegetables and a little ear of corn. It made a pretty presentation, although the corn was a bit worse for wear. The rice was nicely done, not blown out as you get lots of places, and the veggies were tasty. The kitchen did manage to avoid the oily fishy flavors. Maybe because Chef Shamal grew up “just down the road” from the current location of the Hilton. He and the evening were fun. Perhaps the most appreciated course (by me) was dessert which was a flute of (maybe) sorbet with lemon drizzles. Just the ticket for such a steamy day. Fortunately the bluefish requirement didn’t extend to the dessert!

It’s always fun to meet different people, learn about what they do and marvel at what people come up with to occupy their lives. People are so fun to get to know. Appreciate them, never judge..We’re planning on going back to the Inn for their brunch sometime and see what Chef Shamal does for that…

And of course we’ll be


Speaking of water associated things, sometimes “boating” isn’t all that fun..

To Do:

Sorry for doing what I accuse the enterprise of doing, but tonight there is an interesting sounding concert over at the Calvert Marine Museum, a “finger style” acoustic guitar performance by Mac Walter and John Cronin. Starts at 7 and there is a $5 “donation”. Currently the flutters are planning on attending..

And, somewhat in the same vein (vain? vane?) this weekend is the famous bluegrass weekend, dubbed “Li’l Margaret’s Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival” held at the Goddard Family Farm over near Leonardtown. They say that this is the 22nd one!! Lots of acts, tickets are 25 bucks today and 30 tomorrow. Although I like (at least old timey) bluegrass, two full days is a bit more than I would appreciate. But, in case you want to know and go…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heat and the Kitchen...

Just a few diversions as we wait for the thermometer to once again reach the triple digits.

First, I am very tired of this weather. I was watching the weather channel the other day, and in between shots of people in trouble or homes crumbling into raging waters, fires lapping at your foundation and silly “Storm Stories” and other glorifications of natural disasters, there was an interesting piece. Some guy in Iowa (?) or Kansas has written a book about (this isn’t accurate) the “Cooling of America”. Which documents the cultural effect of air conditioning on today’s generation. It promotes people staying inside, kids don’t appreciate the joys (?) of summer anymore, that type of thing. The video goes on to show him saying that he only turns on his air conditioner one day a year, just to make sure it works. Otherwise they depend on fans, open windows, etc. What struck a chord with me was that he said that there is a developing trend of people who have come to fear summer’s heat. They should embrace it. Bingo, buddy, count me in the fear category.

Whew, how did we get started on that?.. Back to food for a moment. In the latest issue of “Sauce” that St. Louis based monthly foodie newspaper, there was an article that caught my attention. They “interview” some chef every month, and this time it was Brian Carr a veteran of Pomme and now Atlas, on Pershing in the city of St. Louis.. He recently purchased the restaurant, and the article was Q&A about what he was changing, keeping and so forth. One quote sort of caught my eye. The question was what would remain on the menu, and the answer was the piccolo frito (steak frites). Then he described his considerations in preparing the honored but humble dish. “What kind of potato do you use? How do you cut the potato? How long to you cook the potato? What kind of salt do you use? How much of it? That’s what I love about that restaurant and what we try to do at Pomme. God lives in the details”. For some reason, I really like that last phrase. The thought that careful attention to the minutia can produce a heavenly food. Neat. Out Mr. Devil!! a new tenant is in the details..at least in the kitchen.

And, speaking of chefs, did you see Sunday’s front page Washington Post piece on Roberto Donna (Galileo, Bebo Trattoria, etc.) the almost legendary chef in DC? It documented his financial difficulties of late, missed paychecks, bouncing checks, lawsuits, taxes, etc. I was fortunate enough to eat at Galileo and take a couple of classes from him in the “Laboratorio”. No doubt a great chef, he produced some of the best risotto I’ve ever had (and still can’t cook). It always amazes me that these guys gain fame by what comes out of their kitchen, and somehow it gets in their heads and they try to become what they are not. In his case, great chef, lousy business man. I suppose it has something to do with the food network culture of celebrity chefs and those disgusting “Iron Chef” competition shows. Just stay in the damn kitchen, do what you do best, and be content making people happy by what they put in their mouth. Got that, Mario/Emeril/Bobby/etc.?, and I won’t even mention Rachel Ray….

And while we’re descending slowly into a rant, here's another little vignette I saw on the Today show (fast becoming the National Enquirer of the airwaves) last week. There was a little piece on the trend to “different” weddings these days, under water, mountain tops, caves, Home Depot, dancing, that sort of thing. They interviewed one young couple that had their ceremony in a TJ Maxx store. They said that the store played such a “large part of our lives” that they wanted to share vows in a place that meant so much to them. They plan vacations around visiting various sites, and so forth. At one point the starry eyed bride said that: “like, TJ Maxx helped me learn about life! Like, it taught me the reeeeal value of a dolllllll-urrrrrrr” with the last word ascending in pitch as the r’s trilled. Good grief. I’m glad she has her life in order.

So like, that is one place like I would not consider for preparing to


Monday, August 9, 2010

Cheesed on the Weekend...

We’ve stated before that cheese may in fact be the perfect food. I reaffirmed that opinion on Saturday night as I enjoyed the fine weather and took cocktails on the pool deck.

I decided to have some of the special goat cheese from Cherry Glen Farms in Boyd, Maryland. I selected their Monocacy Gold – which they describe as: “The curd for the Gold is drawn at higher pH than the Silver or Ash. Not as heavy as Brie, this delicate, mild flavored cheese is smooth and silky.” So armed with the cheese, some crackers, reading material, and the all important Dry Manhattan, on the rocks, sans the twist (do you know how much lemons cost these days?), I settled in.

The cheese indeed was “gold”, silky as they said, and the rind added just a little crunch and a bite. A little messy, but worth every smear

It’s just so good in your mouth, just savoring the smooth delicate flavors that unfold. Not much trouble finishing the whole thing

as I nibbled and sipped, I had some passerby's

In the process, I greatly enjoyed reading my latest edition of “Sauce” that restaurant paper from St. Louis. Some stuff to pass along, but that can wait another day. And, after the wonderful goat cheese, guess what I had for dinner?

Not just your blue box Kraft (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but the Beecher’s edition (imported from Seattle). It's a just great cheesy spicey dish. The “Mariachi” is sort of jazzed up with peppers and stuff, and gives your palate a nice ride. Good stuff is just good stuff…seek it out!!

Cheese Math

You remember my little contretemps in Panera over the price of cream cheese last weekend? Well, I decided to do a little further checking. Panera will sell you 2 ounces of the stuff for $1.30, equating to 65 cents/oz ($10 a pound!). Or, you can go to Giant, and get 8 oz. of the Philly brand for $2.19, which is only 27 cents/oz. So you’re paying two and a half times for the product at the bread store. Of course you get immediate satisfaction for your $1.30 on your 99 cent bagel, so that may be worth a little premium, but I guess Panera would consider the cheese a high margin item.. Just a thought…

And, on my patio, I didn’t have to

DFD, just DFC(ocktails)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Here we are....

People sometimes ask me “why do you continue to live in Southern Maryland?”. The acclaimed fine dining restaurants are up in DC or Annapolis, out of season produce is a mess, people with “I Love you Dale” stickers in their back window cut you off, “merge” is a mysterical concept, and you can’t find a parking place at Olive Garden (when you’re here, you’re family, well, sort of, maybe).

I’ll tell you why. Tonight I went over to Leonardtown for the First Friday events. I found a parking place easily, went over to the North End Gallery, enjoyed looking at the art, a glass of wine, and saw several friends. Then I went down to the Front Porch, which was crowded, met some more friends, and finally elbowed my way to the bar, eventually ordering “the drink”, which was executed correctly, although I had to tell the barkeep that I didn’t need bitters as he groveled under the bar. Meanwhile, outside somehow got to be ground zero for Governor O’Malley’s arrival greeted with an entourage dressed in green T-shirts, and the stoic guys in black suits and sun glasses (sun was down, by the way). He made some remarks (it’s an election year, you know) about looking forward and not back, which I guess has some pointed meaning.

I wandered back to the main street, visited the catering place, and meanwhile the Gov and his party followed along, sticking their noses in the various shops and stores. Café Des Artistes was crowded inside and out, and Chef was making his appearance felt. Eventually people gathered on the square, and then the Governor drew the winning ticket for the Primanateau or whatever the hell the thing is, and despite about 8 tries (you need to be present to win), I didn’t. Then the local band began to play and they asked the Gov to sing. Now, I don’t know your politics nor mine, but dammit any governor who comes to Leonardtown, visits the local shops and sings “The City of New Orleans” is okay in my damn book.

So there you are. You can live in fashionable Alexandria with your bistros and café’s, but can you stroll the streets, meet friends, have a hot dog from a cart, or listen to the Governor do a Steve Goodman song? That’s why we live in Southern Maryland.

And of course we always

Fabulous First Friday..

In case you’re wondering what you can do this evening, here’s a quick reminder that today is the “First Friday” of August, so there is the hoopla in Leonardtown. No competition from the River Concerts anymore, so that at least frees up one pressure.

While every first Friday is fun, tonight is a special edition dubbed “First Foodie Friday” in honor of Restaurant Week(s) which will conclude this weekend. All the local restaurants will be doing something, wine tastings will be available, there’s a new exhibit at the North End Gallery, the “hot dog guy” with his classic cart and red umbrella will be there. The mind boggles.

On top of that, the author of “Dishing Up Maryland” (as opposed to “dissing” Maryland), a cookbook featuring local recipes will be there, and if you buy the book, she will sign it.

But wait, there’s more! Those of you who frequented any of the businesses in Leonardtown lately may have been asked to fill out a little red ticket giving you a chance to win a portamanteau chock full of goodies. I must admit I never knew there was such a thing. If you want some fun, Google it and see what you get. Other than some word related definitions about juxtapositions of two words into one, it’s a hinged trunk that was made by the local Amish leather maker folks, it’s quite a deal.

And, if you act now, you will be able to see Governor Martin O’Malley pull the winning ticket. Gosh, what more can there be? Well, how about some live music? Fortune’s Turn will be playing on the square from 7:30 to 9:30. I guess the Gov’s band will not be playing.

All the details can be found at the First Friday Link. I found out there is something called Big Larry’s Comic Book Café. How about that?? What's next?

See you there!

Giving the Devil his Due

Well, stretching the point a bit, but the local cultural/restaurant documentor Mr. Mercer has a very nice piece in today’s Enterprise. It’s all about restaurant week, buying and dining local, with quotes from several of the restaurateurs. At least his heart is in the right place, if occasionally his palate is not.

Given the weather, you’ll have to figure out how to


oh, a little postscript: I found out that we are not original with the concept of first friday's. many other communities have them..

Thursday, August 5, 2010


It happens to all of us. You’re on a business trip, or temporarily relocated away from home, maybe you just live by yourself, or your wife is in Wisconsin. You’re tired of cooking, eating things wrapped in paper ordered by number through a speaker, or doing room service.

So, you’re faced with going out, and here you are a party of one (there is another whole story of business travel with the “group eat” syndrome – for another time). The first thing you have to decide is whether you want to “dine” or just “eat”. This is quite important, because there’s a world of difference. Just putting fuel in your body is easy (number two with a coke, please), but it’s a much more difficult problem if you would like to have a nice culinary experience. Maybe it’s just me, but I always enjoy food more when there is somebody to share with. If you’re sitting by yourself at a restaurant table, you can’t lean over to the next one and say “Wow! Look at the presentation of my Salmon!” or “Try this great sauce on the rack of lamb”.

So, I have found dining alone in a big deal restaurant is pretty much a waste of time. Sure, you get to see a special place, and the food might be wonderful, but you’re relegated to examining the presentation, tasting this and that, and just staring around or eavesdropping on adjacent table conversation between courses. Not so fun. This is where the restaurant should earn its stars. Do they seat you at a two top next to the station? Do they clear the extra place settings? Are you treated as an afterthought by your sever as he/she takes care of a larger party? An experienced server should take the time to “read” you and determine if you would like to chat occasionally, or just leave you to your thoughts (and please, please, not blackberry or cell). Hopefully a rated restaurant will recognize all these things and make your experience as pleasant as possible, since next time you might bring a party of four. Even though you don’t generate as much revenue (or tip) as a larger party you should be treated with respect. But, by and large you walk away with an empty feeling with only a story to tell somebody at a later date.

IMHO a much better solution is to seek a restaurant where you can eat at the bar (with hopefully the full menu available). First of all, your drink is almost immediately served, and you have a built in opportunity for conversation with the barkeep, not to mention with others in a similar situation who somehow always seem to gravitate to the bar. A lot of very nice restaurants also have a very nice bar, and you don’t tie up a table. If you like the place and food, and the opportunity exists for a re-visit, you’re on your way to becoming a “regular”, get a friendly greeting and pass the evening more easily.

Just a thought, and even though you’re solo, you must


Monday, August 2, 2010

Reality Bagels....

Happy Monday....we seem to be on edge lately....

Well , somehow the Nation survived the recent crisis of “who is LeBron going to play for?”, but now there is an equally distressing situation facing us. This may be of even more importance than LeBrawn, we’ll have to see. The oil disaster pales in comparison to “who will the new judges be on American Idol?”. Apparently somebody named Simon is leaving which may mark the end of our civilization as we know it. NBC is spending countless hours analyzing the importance of this event. Oh, did I mention that the show airs on NBC. Once again I must be in the cultural backwash of the country since I am unaware of the recent incidents on “Big Brother”. Continuing in seedy “reality” culture I hope those of you local enough to see the Sunday Washington Post, read the piece in the Arts section regarding the upcoming series of “Real DC Housewives”, featuring none other than the queen of Sleaze herself, Michaele Salahi. It’s an interesting piece, excoriorating the show, the network (have you ever heard of Bravo?), and her in particular. A good read with good points.”The home kitchen, that ancient, hearthy symbol of oppression and chores, is useful to Real Housewives on when, say, “Janet Jackson’s personal chef” is coming by for an exclusive cooking tutorial: how to marinate in your own sauce”.

With MFO on the road, I decided to stop at Panera on Saturday morning to get a bagel to go with my Latte. I am particularly fond of the ET version with lots of bits of stuff on it. I also get a chance to marvel at one of the triumphs of mechanical engineering, their automatic bagel slicer. Have you ever seen that thing work? Pop the bagel in the top, and in barely a second (really) it drops out the bottom sliced. How it chews through the (somewhat tough, as it should/could be) crust in that short of time amazes me. Anyhow, I walk up to the counter and say I’d like a sliced ET bagel please (It was probably 8:15 by this time) and was told: “we’re out”. Somewhat daunted I surveyed the rack and finally settled on the sesame seed variety “Sliced by not toasted”. She fed the hapless bagel into the machine of death, and then popped it in a bag, and said: “Do you want cream cheese or butter with that?”. Butter on a bagel? “Cream Cheese please”. During the scanning of the bagels I noted that the price of one was 99 cents. So she added the cheese to the bag, rang it up and said “that will be $2.45”. What? The bagel is only a dollar. Well, guess what, the “Cream cheese with that” costs you an extra $1.45!!! They would be better served to sell you cream cheese and ask if you wanted a bagel with it. I asked for it to be removed, which it was after a haughty trip to the back to get the register key. Nice try, Panera. Let the buyer be aware!. Oh, when I finally got home, the little machine succeeded in slicing only maybe a quarter of an inch off the top. Sigh. Nothing is forever.

Enough for a Monday morning, capping a weekend with (for once) livable weather and no particular culinary events (save above). Hope to get out and support restaurant week this week. Maybe I’ll have to