Thursday, September 30, 2010

Home Tomorrow

as we depart tomorrow, there will be more details forthcoming, but just a random sample...what a wonderful country. the people are genuine, the food is solid (for the most part), and it gives you a little different sense of place..

and there is varied meaning to


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tempus Fugit

Well, my plan was to recount the day's culinary adventures blow by blow. But as a non-Ireland native says, plans go gang aft aglee, or something like that.

I've had one extremeley outstanding meal, many, many, really good ones, and just before i was going to say "I've not had a bad meal in Ireland", I had an awful one just yesterday, due to my own doing.

I will do better reporting (especially the "outstanding"), but i had thought we'd be doing Pub Dining, wonderful food with friendly people, but when you're on a tour, you do what you're told, we have almost pillow to pillow touring, followed by some dinners at the night's lodging. We've stayed in some great hotels, and they have served some substantial meals.

I've found that although everybody offers a "Full Irish Breakfast", there is variation. Usually a base construction of eggs (watery scrambled or hard cooked fried), sausages that are sort of a white center, with not a lot of spice, white and dark pudding(it's an acquired taste) and "rashers" that are more like our canadian ham. Salty and good. the coffee and tea will take your hair off...

the better ones offer a really complete array of fruits, breads, and cheeses.

we've had some good pub food..

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dublin Culture and Cuisine...

Warning: some content may not be appropriate for younger audiences!!

Remembering that we were here to enrich our minds along with our bodies, we spent a fair amount of time touring around Dublin. All structured of course, but hitting several interesting sites. After our continental breakfast in the hotel, we manned up the coach (not a bus, the coach), and began a tour of the city. The rain was between light to non-existent to heavy downpours. In fact we altered our planned itinerary to keep us out of the rain as much as possible.

We did “out the window” stuff, seeing the Victorian houses, St. Stephans Green, a blurry view of a statue of Oscar Wilde, and our first intended stop of Trinity College was replaced by a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As you all know St. Patrick is much revered in (the Republic of) Ireland, and despite the folklore of driving the snakes from Ireland, the real reason is that he converted the Gaelic warlords to a form of Christianity, sort of Irish Catholic rather than Romish version. (all you history buffs, remember that I’m a poor engineer wading through this stuff). Anyway after spending many hours in our “historic Chapel of 1667”, we look at something that was begun in 1250, a mere 4 centuries earlier. Kind of puts things in perspective..our plain chapel or

Plain windows or

Rough plain effigies or

Kind of humbling..

After that, we did return to Trinity College, to not only tour the grounds, but also to see the Book of Kells. Well, it turns out that our visit coincided with

“Fresher’s Week”, wherein the incoming crowd of Freshmen are wooed by various clubs and organizations..

It was crawling with the intellectual elite admitted to this year’s first year class. We then did get to see the Book of Kells, an amazing document with world reknown illustrations

(no pictures allowed)

From around the 800’s. Just a mere lightweight.. They also have some other historic manuscripts with writing so small you wonder how those Monks read it with no light and glasses..

We concluded our day with a visit to the Guinness Brewery,

and here we’re walking the line between culture and cuisine, but it was sort of a typical tour, culminating in a visit to the gift shop and then a free tasting. Their tasting room is atop the brewery and affords a great view of the city.

The proper way (it was pointed out) was to pour about two thirds full down the side of the glass, and then let it set for two (and they were strict) minutes before topping it off and handing it to you. Well, that’s good for the beer, but it makes for longish lines of thirsty tourists..

That concluded the cultural part of the day for Dublin, and since it’s so long we’ll wait for another edition to talk about the food…

Oh, one other thing. There was a “street Fair” outside our hotel to promote bicycling (energy savings).

Several bands, and several on-lookers..

So ended our first day of Dublin, and that evening started our Cuisine adventures…

when we were


Friday, September 24, 2010

Across the pond...

technology is wonderful---so is Ireland

Where to start? Where to start… Doing and recording seem mutually exclusive. A quick update from our last night in Dublin..A surprisingly easy transit to Dulles resulted in an uneventful flight to Paris and then a plane change to Dublin. After taking off we flew over the white cliffs of Dover,

and then had a lunch… why do you fly Air France?

A lovely little shrimp bruschetta, a phyllo pastry with some cous cous inside with a little kick, and a wonderful apple tart for dessert. The beverage? What else? Champagne of course. And we weren’t the only tourists partaking; the bottle was exhausted after the first few rows.

Eventually the coast of Ireland and Dublin came within view

and we landed without difficulty. Transit through customs and security was painless, with the customs guy asking if I had gone to the 2009 US Open (my ball cap) at Bethpage Black with a story of how he attened the 2004 open. We took a coach into the heart of Dublin,

checked into lovely hotel in the heart of the old town.

Breakfast the next morning was lovely..a buffet (yes, but this is okay) with everything under the sun available..

and you could have whatever you like..

How nice..

so, tired but satisfied our day began

and we were DFI(reland)

ps where were you at 17:59:57 yesterday (thats 12:xx for you stateside).


a recount of our visits in the City next, today more touring and leave Dublin (fair city where girls are so....)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Killing time...

well, we're all "packed" and according to our little bathroom scale both bags are under the 50 pound before we hit the road and air just a few banal comments

From the latest Food and Wine:

Why does (editor) Dana Cowin think i want to know that she thinks the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong is her favorite? who gives a ....

There is a print ad for Silver Oak. don't think i've seen one in magazines before. wonder if sales are down...

Tyler Florence announces the winners of his Twitter recipe contest. These things tend to depress me. I have always thought that there was a class of chefs that were above the allure of the "celebrity status", and would remain content in their kitchens and cook good food and make people happy when they put it in their mouth. No "contests", no "competition", just food for food's sake. I have always put Tyler in that category. He's a little more tarnished now. I have also seen Thomas Keller appear in some things, but a lot of them are charity efforts. Hang on, Thomas..

Consumer Reports:

the pulse of the consumer...the results of the reader poll on burgers...I may have mentioned this before, but at the head of the class was In and Out, pretty much tied by 5 guys, leading the Culvers, Whataburgers, White Castles.. the bottom three were Burger King, Jack in the Box, and dead last, McDonalds..I'm lovin' it.


a friend sent me a menu from Chez Panisse (Alice Waters, Berkeley). One page, black and white, all prix fixe, and published for the week. Fridays (8/27) downstairs dinner was:

An Aperitif
Wild Alaskan salmon carpaccio with fried capers
Squash blossom rissoto
Grilled Paine Farm Squab with roasted figs, aged balsamico and cippoline cooked in the coals
Zabaglione ice cream pasticcini with wild blackberries

Price? $95 with an automatic service charge of 17%, and my friend reports that there was a blank on the bill for "tip". Hmmmm

same friend reported that they ate at the Border Grill (Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger) and it was lovely.

and of course they always


Okay, the odessey is about to begin. who knows when the next feeder will hit the ether..

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tick Tock and nothing to do...

Plenty of time to pack for the Ireland trip...flash forward to MFO and the Feeder stuffing some suitcase two hours before departure time..What about this? Did we remember that? Exhausting..

Anyway, just a couple of notes about nothing to do in southern Maryland.

Tomorrow and Sunday (10 - 5) - Annemarie Gardens, the annual "Artfest" which is sort of an outdoorsy craft show. MFO and I being craft collectors (just look at our walls) tend to gravitate toward American Craft Council events (Baltimore,Philly) or the iconic Smithsonian Craft Show, with national crafters on display such as Dale Chihuly. We've attended Artfest in the past and while the show does have some interesting things we have found it also has displays of dream catchers, black velvet paintings, and grapevine wreaths which we don't particularly care for. But, it's great to get outdoors, meet some people, have some food, hear some music, and look around. I think there's a six buck admission fee.

Sunday - Noon to 5, the square in Leonardtown, Taste of St. Mary's. Several local restaurants will have booths and make tastings available. It's a different lineup each year so you can show up and see who's there. As i recall it's sort of a complicated process to get the food with tickets or punch cards or something like that. Normally I would include a link, but (HINT HINT) they don't seem to have a dedicated site, you have to burrow down in the calendar for the Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday Night 7pm Great Mills High School: The Rotary club of Leonardtown kicks off their lecture series. Tomorrow night will feature "Mark Twain" interpreted by John Chappel. A respectable 25 bucks for each event or 75 bucks for them all. The money goes to good places however.

Saturday 10 - 5, Jefferson Patterson Park: War of 1812 Re-enactment and Tavern Night (6 - 10). Tours, workshops and re-enactment of the Battle of St. Leonard. 3 bucks/head or 10 for the carload. After that, slake your thirst with beer, wine, and food, listening to music by "the Hangman's Faire" (I just report 'em folks). 10 bucks for that unless you're in costume which drops it by two..


food quiz for today (too easy) - what is Chiffonade?

Picture of the day from our back (front) yard:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hand me down my walking shoes... and Pick 'em..

couple of dissimilar topics, but...


One of the things retired people are supposed to do is travel. While lately we’ve had our share of going back and forth to Wisconsin, that’s not the real concept of “retirement travel”. So, we decided to join a tour of Ireland called “Exploring Maryland’s Irish Roots”. It will be led by Dr. Henry Miller, the Director of Research at Historic St. Mary’s City. There are several important Irish ties to the early colony at St. Mary’s City, like the Calvert and Carroll families who played important roles in early Maryland’s history. It should be a learning experience, and I am told they have beer in Ireland as well as Irish Whiskey.

Anyway, we will be departing this coming Monday (the 20th) and will return on October 1st. Given a little taste I've had of blogging from the road, this trip poses even more challenges for the Feeder. The old “doing” takes the place of “writing” conundrum. The laptop, camera gear, and the little leather notebook will accompany me, but how that integrates with traveling, touring, tasting, etc., remains to be seen. Plus there may be some, um, marital pressure to not spend any free time hacking away at the computer. So, I will do my best, but I am not sure how the Bottom Feeder will fare.

We will be starting in Dublin, and then over the course of the trip visit Athlone, Galway (pronounced Gall-Way, not Gaaal-Way I am told), Kilkenny, Wexford, then back to Dublin for departure. We will be visiting Galway during the time of the Oyster Festival and the world oyster opening championships. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. We’ll see. I have been scouting out restaurants/pubs and am doing fairly well in Dublin and Galway, but if anybody knows of anyplace in those other cities I would appreciate it. Of course the “group eat” syndrome comes into play which is always difficult to deal with.

But, I’ll be doin’ me best!

Pick ‘em…

After my recent episode of extracting meat from callinectus sapidus, I contacted my source for the picking technique used by his expert wife. He was kind enough to share with me, so I’ll share with you!

Eleven steps to perfect crab picking:

1. Flip the crab on its back and remove the convenient pull tab.
2. Insert a knife at newly created opening between upper and lower shell and pry apart, removing mustard with the knife at the same time by pushing it into the upper shell
3. With the knife, remove the feathery gills (deadmen) from the left and right sides of the crab body
4. Break off the claw arms and set aside
5. Break the crab body in half along the centerline.
6. Pinch the back (swimming) fin at the body joint and break/pull away the lump crab meat.
7. Break the remaining body segment apart and use the knife to pick out the meat.
8. Repeat the other side.
9. Break the crab claw arm apart at the joint and break off the pincer from the claw.
10. Place the knife edge at the midpoint of the claw and tap with a wooden mallet to score an edge in the claw
11. Break the claw in half at the score mark to get the chunk of meat.

I also checked the web for techniques and came up with one good article and a video. With little variation they are about what is given above. Note that beer is a key ingredient.

Now this all sounds easy, right? Well, guess what. You could give me and Vincent Van Gogh “eleven steps to painting “Starry Night”, and only one of us would have anything to show for it. There is still that darn thing called “talent”. But, at least we can try..

And when picking crabs, there is a different standard for


ps, i had a little one on one coaching on Facebook yesterday, look out world, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday of This and That...

Settling on the proverbial couch to be “ready for some football?” on a gloomy, chilly, wet Sunday (Finally!!!), I’m resisting firing up the fantasy team only to get my usual dose of humility with my elite, carefully selected players act like they’re running in mud or trying to catch passes with Vaseline coated hands.. so to kill some time, here’s a few this and that’s that have been building up..some food related, some not…

Food Related:

Somebody (there they are again) said they heard there will be an “Italian place” going into the Wildewood Tavern/Woodland Grill spot. That immediately reminded me of my report of a liquor license for a place called “La Tarbella” located in the vicinity. Sounds like maybe that’s right. Good luck to them, I’ve never cared much for that space. Too big, roomy, and I can’t help but thinking I’m in the dining room of a retirement center. Oh, wait……Maybe they’ll address that. We’ll see, at least it’s not a chain.

Kind of speaking of which, there’s a new set of Geico commercials I’ve heard on the radio. They’re based on some stupid guy yelling at you because you haven’t “switched”, and in one edition accusing you of living on Jupiter, ending with something like “welcome to planet earth”. And in another, he starts out by stating “when you want to find the best place to eat, you look for the most cars in the parking lot”. Well, there’s a nice criteria! Applying that around here, you’d wind up a the OG or Red Robin, or maybe McDonalds. Sheesh.

And lastly the Feeder was heartened to read a short Q&A column in the latest Bon Appétit with Mimi Sheraton. Alert readers will know she is one of the great pioneering restaurant reviewer and food writer, right up there with M.F.K. Fischer, Calvin Trillin, and yes, Ruth Reichl. She wrote for the New York Times from ’75 to ’83. Anyway, one of the questions asked her was: “Do you think anything has been lost as dining has become more casual?”. Her answer? “Yes and no. If you’re at a very nice restaurant and you’re seated next to somebody in a T-Shirt, it does sort of spoil your evening”. Thank you, Mimi…

Oh, by the way, the word “best” did not appear on the cover. Maybe they’re listening to me..

Not Food Related:

Most readers know that in my copious free time, I do (decent) docent work for Historic St. Mary’s City at the reconstructed Brick Chapel (of 1667) explaining the history and the story of the reconstruction to the museum visitors. I truly enjoy doing that as I get to meet all sorts of people. Yesterday was a special day at the museum, an annual event called Woodland Indian Discovery Day, with lots of activities for kids and families. Consequently the place is usually pretty full and yesterday was certainly that. I was “on duty” from around noon till closing (5:00) and we had 132 visitors.

But, that’s not my point. Along about 4:15 a group of (what I believe were) Mennonites showed up. All told, there were about 24 of them, and they arrived in waves. First were the small ones, exuberantly running up the path, and then neatly sitting on the benches inside the chapel. Next were the pre-teens, then the teens and finally the adults. I don’t think it was organized, just the enthusiasm of youth. Finally were a couple that were about my age, and by this time all were seated on the benches inside the chapel. The leader (who wore a great little brimmed black hat, by the way) asked if they could sing. Of course you are welcome to do that (I had been told they have visited on a previous occasion). They then pulled out a sheaf of music, handed everybody a sheet and proceeded to sing about three hymns, in perfect harmony. The acoustics of the chapel are wonderful for music and they filled the air with beautiful music. Other museum visitors were attracted, and all of us were just mesmerized by the music. When they were done, we thanked them and they went on their way. I can only imagine the Jesuit builders of the chapel were listening and enjoyed it as much as we did. What a great use of the Chapel. Seems just right. I’m reminded of “build it and they will come”. What a great place to live.

And, back to food, Mimi and I must always remind you to


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Crabs, Cheeses, and Courtneys

Keep that alliteration alive


After our first (abortive) attempt at getting hard crabs and the dance with the Calypso folk, we decided that the second attempt should go to the “pros” and we headed up river toward Sandgates/Sea Breeze (near Mechanicsville, MD). After a nice cruise up the river, we fetched into view of the place, and immediately became aware of sea of parked cars, more than we expected. It turned out that there was a concert of “Instant Impact”, a “cover band” that had amplifiers and speakers larger than the boat we arrive in. If you're within a mile, there is Instant Impact. There is now a little “Tiki Bar” with outside tables and a stage for the band. After successfully securing the boat, we gingerly picked our way through the fans, mostly dressed in black shirts and shorts with varying amounts of sleeves and lengths, revealing less or more skin. But nearly all with some type of Harley Davidson logo on them. Not to mention body art. Navigating (in keeping with the nautical theme) through the crowd we went into the Sea Breeze to see an equal amount of folks standing around waiting, watching and listening to many full tables cracking crabs. Whack-a-crab..

We checked in with the young hostess who (sign of the times) took our cell phone number for a call when our table was ready.. “probably an hour or so”. Ugh, but in for a nickel we decided to stick it out. All of this to the background of tunes in the genre of “Sweet Home Alabama” played so loud you could feel it. Yes, I’m too old. We garnered a draft at the bar and went back outside where you could really hear the music and milled about for a bit noticing the crowd, some watch worthy some definately not. After about 20 minutes of that (more than enough), we thought maybe we should go across the parking lot and see how long the wait at Sandgates was. Before leaving we checked in at the stand again, this time with a different lady who seemed more in charge. After giving our name she said, Oh, only two? Just a second. Three minutes later we were seated at a nice window seat. As I said, the place was full and all the waitstaff was zipping in and out of the kitchen more often than not with a beer tray full of the orange crabs draped over the side. So when we were approached we just said we wanted a dozen crabs and a pitcher of beer. Good. Off she went. While waiting at our brown paper covered table we again could watch the parade outside.

After a bit our tray of the little crustaceans arrived and we went to work. Picking crabs is an art, one which I have never mastered. The absolutely best I have ever seen was the wife of one of the F-18 test conductors, who grew up in the area. While others got surrounded by piles of bits and pieces, looking for slivers of meat in the mess, she would produce beautiful lumps of pure crab meat. In about half the time. Amazing. It’s been so long I forgot her technique, but we did pretty well, occasionally getting a nice lump. As we remarked at the time, it’s about a zero sum game with crabs in that calories in about equals calories expended. Finally finished our dozen and with ringing ears went back to the boat and successfully left the pier while the concert raged on.

How nice it was getting out on the water away from the din, and cruise home, taking our time looking at stars, and sipping some beverages on the way. A nice Southern Maryland experience..


Oh dear, here he goes again! Won’t this ever stop? No. Every time I eat cheese I remark how wonderful it is..We had some friends over and had a little Cheese Tasting

of the cheeses we brought back from Wisconsin. Another nice feature of (most types of) cheese is that with a little care they will last for a while. The Pleasant Ridge just over the cheese lady’s book was excellent and rated her evaluation of it as being “one of the best cheeses in America”. I don’t think I’d go that far but it was damn good. As were the (from top left) the 3 year aged cheddar, the Gouda, and the Smoked Cheddar. Again, all of these are not Artisanal, but rather “Block Cheeses” made in large quantities for general consumption. All had great texture and felt good in the mouth. Sigh. Speaking of cheese, I noted that Woodburn’s has improved their cheese selections, and you can get some pretty good ones there. Or, you can climb in the car and drive a thousand miles to Wisconsin…


I wasn’t going to mention this, but I have to do it. I met a friend yesterday at Courtney’s for lunch. We had the whole experience: painfully slow service, this time with a forgotten order for a coke that took another 20 minutes to show up, a “how can it possibly take this long?” period to get the food, flat pressed silverware wrapped in a napkin, a bottle of malt vinegar on the table with the little paper placemats advertising everything under the sun, the fading pictures on the wall of forgotten people and places, the whole deal. We were surrounded by “locals” of all generations, mostly known by name to Mr. Courtney who works the room at his own pace. I doubt that I’ll ever achieve that status, and maybe that’s okay. Let’s keep it that way. It all works. Just right. And the fried rockfish platter? Heavenly. Arrives with a coating that crunches, but the fish inside is soft and sweet and actually tastes. It’s worth doing. Pick a day when schedule doesn’t matter and experience it while it’s still there. Nothing is forever..

so always

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fish, Food, and Finery

It’s not Sunday, it’s Monday. And a special one, as it marks the (unofficial) end of summer, certainly not too soon for me. C’mon fall! Although when I was complaining the other day about the hot summer, somebody replied; “You don’t have to shovel high temperatures”. True enough… Anyway some random stuff from over the weekend..

Denizens of the Deep

No doubt you’ve seen the newspaper (or at least Facebook postings) that were rocketing around cyberspace last week about the bull sharks that were “caught” off Point Lookout. They even made the Channel 4 news. Well, fine, but what I didn’t understand is why they had to dispatch the beasts. I think there was a quote of “fought for hours”. I dunno, it just sort of struck me wrong. A little research shows that they can be a threat to humans, so I guess their bad luck was being in the wrong place at the right time. I have never heard of a shark attack around here however. Sharks of one sort or another have plied the waters around here for eons and long before us, just visit Calvert Cliffs State Park, or all the little vendors beside Route 4 selling shark teeth to those dimwits (like me) who can search the beach for hours and never find one/any.

Let’s get together…

One of the plethora of food mags I get is Martha Stewart’s little Readers Digest size (dates me, eh?) “Everyday Food”. It occasionally has some interesting recipes and great cooking tips like three fully illustrated pages on “Boiling Water Effectively”. Emeril has also snaked his way to a couple of pages. Anyway the September issue has a recipe for One-Pot Chicken with Sausage and Potatoes with the tag line: “Cooking a few Ingredients Together is an Easy Route to A Great Supper”, along with a picture of a pot of golden chicken nestled on a bed of onions, potatoes and celery. Great concept! “Cooking a few Ingredients Together?”. Not so fast. The recipe calls for you to: brown the sausage, and then transfer to another dish; put chicken in, brown that, then transfer to the dish with the sausage. So far, that’s two transfers.. Then add onions, potatoes, and celery to the pot, and cook them. This togetherness thing isn’t going too good! After the veggies have softened, you add back in the chicken and sausage, add some water and simmer. Together at last! Well, not quite. Now you transfer the chicken to a platter, add some vinegar and oregano to the pot, and stir to combine. After all that, you then transfer the veggies on top of the chicken. Done? Nope. Transfer the sauce to the gravy boat. How many “transfers” can you have in a “Cooked Together" dish? I'm dizzy. Thanks, Martha, now go make some wooden hand blocked place cards…

Glass houses

Somebody (I know lots of "somebody’s”) sent me a link to an article by some guy named Will Lyons in the Wall Street Journal, called “Telling a Wine by it’s Glass”. It was another of those pieces you see from time to time about Riedel’s special glasses (at hefty prices per stem, he quotes 100 Pounds!) that are designed to enhance a particular varietal. Old Bordeaux, Young Bordeaux, Alsatian, New World Chardonnay, Old World Chardonnay, Burgundy, you name it...probably 25 different ones. The theory is that the glass is constructed so as to direct the wine to the proper part of your sensory system to enhance the nuances of that particular wine, allowing full appreciation. A large number of those kinds of articles de-bunk that theory as a classic case of marketing to snobs. This article however, was exactly the opposite. He extols the virtue of the “right glass for the right wine”, and tells about how he poured the same wine (2003 Chambolle Musigny) in several different glasses and discovered “In each glass, the wines taste changed dramatically”. I’ve never done it, but I largely think it’s a load. Maybe an experiment, but I don’t know anybody with a brace of Riedel Vinums. He does, however report that there are lower cost alternatives, from such well know manufacturers as Schott Zwiesel, Zalto Glasmanufaktur, Dartington, and Eisch. Jelly glasses work fine.. Good wine is good wine...Bad wine is bad wine, silk purse sow's ear kind of thing.

Coming attractions: Crabs Two.

we made a second attempt at summer hard crabs, but we’ll rest your eyes and do that later…and I have to admit that for crab picking, there might be a little leniency in


Friday, September 3, 2010

Be a Friend of Mine

A session of following the white dimpled ball consumed time yesterday..a pitiful exhibition by the way….

Being aware (you can’t avoid it nowadays) that there is something out there called “Facebook” and “Twitter” that is all the rage, and is how largely how the “younger set” communicates these days. So, I figured maybe I should try to learn more about it. I got notice of a “workshop” to be led by some guy named Mario Armstrong, to be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, with the title “Using Social Media” or something akin to that. I signed up and went over there Wednesday afternoon. Skeptical as usual, I figured it would be some self styled expert, maybe hawking his software or something. So wrong, Oh pessimistic Bottom Feeder! It turns out that Mario is indeed an expert, but far from self anointed (such as the Weather Channel shouting “We’re the Hurricane Authority!!), he is pretty much generally accepted as the sharpest in the industry. He has his own program on CNN, a show on XM Radio (XM 169) and frequently appears on the Today show when they have a spot on gee whiz electronics and stuff. He turned out to be extremely knowledgeable, entertaining, and willing to answer any questions.

Besides the poor lonely food blogger, the audience consisted of tourism folks, local museum reps, media people, one restaurateur that I noticed, and owners of small businesses. They of course wanted to know how they could increase their audience and reach potential customers. Like it or not, Social Media, through (at least FB and TW) is the wave of the future. Nobody has time for print, we can’t visit websites, we want it dropped in our lap. Immediate information. Just follow Twitter and it’s yours in real time. He presented some statistics showing the growth in “social media” and it’s not just the “kids”, the over fifty something is re-joining the computer age at an astonishing rate. Mobile (smart phones, iPads, etc.) is the fastest growing sector. And, this is not being lost on the software developers out there. Here I thought there were the big two, and oh yeah, Flickr, YouTube, and a couple others, but there are a bewildering amount of things to help you locate, find out about, contact pt0ential customers and friends. You can type your product into Tweetdeck, and it will find all the posts that have whatever you typed in included. Where they are, what they said, etc. Big Brother folks..

Besides the standard FB/Tw/Linked in, etc., here is a partial list of things available to you (I’m not going to include links, use Google): Hootsuite; Foursquare; Tweetdeck; Wordpress; Squarespace;;; Twellohood;;;; Google alerts; Google analytics. Then we can talk about Title Tags and Hash Tags. I had only a dim view of what they do, some of them allow you to display things you’re following all on one page, others allow you to know where your friends are, what people are saying, etc.

He said that food blogging is expoding in many areas. Here’s an interesting food blog he mentioned that focuses on single dishes called "FoodSpotting. Check it out....Amazing

It sure was eye opening. There were a couple of things you can do to help expand the breadth of your blog, and that was attractive to me, so maybe you’ll note some changes in the near future. I have some friends (personal not cyber) that consider this whole subject of “social media” anathema, but I’m not sure they are the majority. It is very seductive and hard to resist the siren call. It’s gone way past “I’m exhaling now”, or “My 3 year old just pooped”. A brave new world. And no mention of


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Of this and.... you...

Although I won’t harp on this, I did attend the season’s first Brian Ganz piano talk down at SMCM yesterday. For anybody (even mildly) interested in classical music, these are a great opportunity to not only hear, but learn about the music. Brian not only performs them, but tells you things to listen for, some of the history associated with the music, and general background. Yesterday he played selections by Beethoven and Chopin. He started out explaining that the Beethoven pieces were written near the end of his career, while Chopin’s was written very early. He also said that Beethoven’s Sonata in E, Op. 109 was (to him) one of the ”most glorious” pieces of music he knew. He went through each movement, explaining stuff that I barely understood, terms like counterpoint, how the melody went from the left to the right hand, etc.. The last movement (Andante Molto Cantabile ed Expressivo) was about conflict and resolution, and how one of his first instructors likened part of the piece to dandelion seeds floating lightly to earth and we should listen for that.

I listened and listened, trying to hear what he talked about, and as usual, I had no clue. I was still waiting for it when the piece ended. I need a big neon sign over the piano to light up with “Dandelions NOW” when the music reaches that point.

But what I did get was a wonderful experience listening to the Sonata, it is indeed worth hearing. By comparison, the Chopin selections were pleasant, but for want of a better term, simple. Brian explained that the first one, (Polonaise in G minor) was written when Chopin was 7 (!!) years old. He then sat down to play it, and before he started, he looked at the audience and said somewhat quizzically, “Seven years old!!”.

Well, I did harp a bit more than I had hoped, but you should go, I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself. Pretty much sticks to one hour, no charge. Next one is Thursday, September 30th, noon in St. Mary’s hall. Since we’ll be in Ireland at that time, I’ll have to miss it, but you don’t. Oh, did I mention there was no sheet music at all…

Reader Feedback Department

One of the things I enjoy is when people e-mail me about experiences they’ve had in food. Recently, I’ve had reports that Tony’s in St. Louis is still tops (although the servers now are dressed in “blue jeans and pastel t-shirts” which I don’t understand); and somebody who went to the new Red Robin says you have to be a snake to eat their burgers, so you can unhinge your jaw to get around them.

I also had a couple of reports of folks who ate at that Fiesta Café in Mechanicsville. Neither said the food was “the best Mexican in the DC area”, using terms like “bland” and “just okay, a place to eat”. The trouble with those “reader’s poll” things is that they can be influenced by a dedicated campaign of friends and relatives. Maybe that’s the case here.

A few people are awaiting the chance to have breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, with the comment that “you can’t get a good breakfast around here”. They go on to say Linda’s is slow, IHOP is average, Bob Evans is well, Bob Evans. They may have a point. At least with a CB, they can have breakfast three times a day. And, you get to visit the gift shop! I also might remind them that cooking at home is an option. I have had some good breakfasts at the Frying Pan over the river.

And lastly, somebody forwarded a clip from a Wine Spectator article about how “Olive Garden sells more wine than any other restaurant chain in America - more than a half a million cases a year. And the chain's management, Darden restaurant group, sees educating average diners about wine as part of its core strategy. “. That was kind of surprising, but I don’t know what chain would compete with them. Come to think of it, I do remember that the server usually approaches the table, bottle in hand, ready to pour before you can stop them. Not having been to our local edition, I don’t know if they do that here. As far as educating “average diners about wine” seems to be a stretch. A peek at the wine list reveals ordinary selections or maybe “average selections”. Most all are available by the glass ($7 – 9) and bottle (~$25) although there is a Villa Antinori “Super Tuscan” and an Amarone ($100/btl). Next time you’re there ask the staff about those and see what you learn. Be an interesting test.

Keep ‘em coming people!!

Enough for your Wednesday. The feeder is attending a “Social Media Workshop” today. But don’t look for facebook/twitter/linked-in icons in the bottomfeeder real soon..

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