Sunday, February 27, 2011

Here's to you, Chains!

with love, from independent restaurateurs....

and best wishes from the Bottom Feeder, who always will be


Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Of This and That's...

Just a few this’s and that’s that have been piling up, in no particular order for a rainy Friday morning diversion…

Good Earthing…a lot of “about time you woke up!” feedbacks. Yes, it is…once again leading from the rear!

An alert reader passed along a quote found in a local paper regarding our impending Texas Roadhouse: ..."all the food is prepared from scratch on the premises. We're a made from scratch company". Really? Interesting thought. Will there be herds of cattle milling around the parking lot so that they can make the steaks from “scratch”? I would imagine it means that it comes from the Sysco (or…) truck frozen and then put together on premises. Opening around August…Nice try…we’ll see. Or, not.

Another reader (I do have original thoughts, sometime) sent a link to a Facebook comment to the effect that: “I never read blogs anymore, they’re passé. I find everything I need on Facebook!” Okay buddy, see ya.

Breaking News: Front page article in the Enterprise today about how our county officials are accessible on Facebook now.

I got our copy of Chesapeake Life Magazine yesterday, a publication which I quite enjoyed reading. It always had good articles, some food content and many local stories. The editorial page started out with “It’s rare that an editor can write his own epitaph….” And then went on to say this was the last issue. The economy. Another print publication folds. Does anybody actually pick up a real book, hold it in their hands and read it anymore? “No, sir, I can find everything I need on Facebook”. “Sure I do, I just download it into my Kindle and read it”. I’m too old.

And, although I carp about “technology” invading my life, there are some good aspects as well (see, I’m always fair). Like last Tuesday I decided to use a little gift card I received, good for some bucks at Amazon. There is a new “bird book” out (Richard Crossley, The Crossley ID Guide) which is receiving lots of positive buzz in the birding world, so I decided to get it. So sit down at my google machine certainly not dressed for anything public, go to Amazon, do a few clicks and two days later the book appears on my front porch. It’s just amazing..

A quick “to do” couple of notes: regrettably, because of the paragraph at the end today along with some civic organization duties, we are going to be unable (for the second year in a row) to attend the American Craft Council's Baltimore Craft Show. That’s the one that resulted in “the clock” on our great wall which still fascinates me every day as it does those who visit the digs. The show is a stunning, almost overwhelming display of American Craft, from glass, to wood, fabric arts, jewelry, and ceramics, anything they can make. Beautiful stuff. Second only to the Smithsonian show later this spring.

One of the nice things we are privy to around here (and I suppose it occurs most anywhere) is the tradition of local suppers/breakfasts/dinners. Usually sponsored by churches, or civic organizations (Lions, Optimists, etc.) to raise funds for their operation. They usually feature real local items such as stuffed ham or oysters, traditional spiced shrimp and fried chicken. The 7th District Optimists are having this year’s edition Sunday (27th) from noon to the traditional ??? at the Mechanicsville Fire/Social hall. Besides a “real” food event, it’s always a nice social time as well. Go see your neighbors, get some real food, and support our charities (and maybe see one of our favorite ITT test pilots)

There is also the Bugeye Ball at the Calvert Marine Museum. Usually quite a nice event.. i guess tickets still available $150/head. Nothing to do, nothing to do....

Finally, in the “more than you want to know” department, this morning I’m going up to Prince Frederick to pay yet another debt to a misspent youth, or maybe unlucky genes, who knows. I now have a little basal cell in my ear, which while they grow like dandelions elsewhere, have only occasionally picked my ear. Last time I did this which requires Moh’s Procedure (cut, analyze, cut some more, analyze till “good”) it was an almost all day ordeal, resulting in the necessity of a skin graft (Okay, feeder, this is enough!!). Hopefully not today. Me and Vincent…

So, i'll be leaving the house


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thank you Mrs. Buck...

Admin – readers might notice a little lapse in posts here, that was due to an upgrade to the laptop that took a bit longer than expected and had some unintended consequences which were ultimately ironed out by the Blog Support Team.. so with brave new technology, we’re on the air again. Hello in there.

As alert readers know, the Feeder is always right on the cutting edge of culinary knowledge here in the county. Such as just discovering that Target has a very nice little (fresh) food section that has only been open a couple of years..Recently I have become aware of another establishment that has been in existence for a mere four years, kind of. Semi long time dwellers of the county will remember that in Leonardtown there was a (my term) “health food” store next to Café Des Artistes. I don’t believe that I ever went in there because of my pre-conceived notion of 12,000 Mg tablets of some exotic chemical that is supposed to make you healthier or a complex organic compound that makes your joints liquid again.

So, when they relocated (years ago) into the old Leonardtown Post Office/County Commissioners building I assumed they carried along the same product line and pretty much ignored it. So the other day I was lamenting the semi-demise of Woodburn’s as a source of grains, flours, gluten free items, and stuff not generally available, and my friend said, “well there’s always the”

I of course popped off with “yeah, right!”. Eager to prove me wrong, with a little coordination, a “tour” of the store was arranged, and I was given permission to take along the trusty Canon. And, as is often the case, my pre-conceived notions were completely wrong. Well, almost (see later). They do promote healthy living and foods, through organic products including things like fresh (organic) produce (they had some fresh mushrooms that looked great) and nice greens from the hydroponic farm nearby.

They have a good supply of spices (which you can get in any quantity you wish)

Lots of nuts and grains (reminiscent of Woodburns..)

And exotic stuff you won’t find anywhere else (for those recipes that have asterisks on things)

Besides supplying a source for ingredients to make your own, they have a little kitchen where they do some classes, and offer their own stuff for grab and go lunches, like soups, quiches, etc.

Most of the cookbooks lean toward “healthy” preparation

Including a post hippie classic

Everything is made from scratch, and my friend says it’s all good.

There’s lots of space

With many interesting things to see…they have lots of exotic sodas, some beers and wines,

And frozen entrees (lots of “Amy’s” products). Most everything you might want. We were sort of guided around The Good Earth by Larry who is a knowledgeable proponent (and practioner) of a good diet and more than willing to discuss his philosophy with you. So it turns out there is a great local source for local stuff and a wide variety of products and ingredients that are somewhat esoteric, and hard to find elsewhere, like a line of products by

And, they still do have things I would put in the category of “health items”, but you should go see for yourself. Look what I found tucked away (presented with no comment nor judgement)

so you can pop in, shop around, talk to the staff, get some things, go home, cook and


thanks for the tour, and just another neat place to go in our burgeoning Leonardtown! They have neat stores to find (which may have existed for years) and we get Buffalo Wings and Beer

ps: are you old enough (or literary enough) to understand the clever Feeder's title to this post? huh?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Malted Beverages, Monticello, and Montpelier...

As I said yesterday, sometimes there’s nothing, then there’s too much..

I had a busy day yesterday, and another planned for today. As alert readers will remember I do stuff with Historic St. Mary’s City, and I am now helping with the planning of our new “BeerFest” to be held (save the date) on May 22nd at the City. Yesterday I accompanied another member of the committee on a little trip up the road to attend a meeting of the Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM!) in Hyattsville. We wanted to let them know what we are doing and invite members of the association to participate. It was held in a brew pub called “Franklins” on Baltimore Avenue (US1) a little south of the College Park campus. A rather large, rustic space with an upstairs and down, along with a little country store attached that reminded me of Cracker Barrel’s , however this one had beer and wine for sale. We made a little pitch of about 20 minutes to them and I think they are receptive. Unfortunately no samples of product were provided. They were eager to get to their main meeting and discuss the proposed tax increases going through the legislature.

As a small aside here, those same alert readers will know I am sort of a wine guy and in the past have made some disparaging remarks about the suds. With the explosion of “microbrews” and “brewpubs” I am beginning to change my outlook on this beverage. In my formative years, “exotic” beers were some offerings from AB , but nothing very interesting (and, I suppose there were some I missed). Now there are more than you can comprehend. For instance, a little gourmet store here in the Park has over 400 brands! The range of styles, weight, ingredients is staggering, probably far outstripping what you can do with wine. And beer is very food friendly for a lot of the foods we eat routinely. I still would have a Bordeaux with a rack of lamb, but a creamy dark Stout would work well with Chili, for instance. Another interesting thing is the naming of the breweries. Sort of the same approach as some Aussie winemakers have for coming up with quirky names (Molly Dooker, Mother’s Milk) for their product. Breweries have names like “Flying Dog” “Dog Fish Head”; “Thirsty Dog” (Hey!!!!) and of course our local “Ruddy Duck” Interesting..Anyway fun to investigate. And, the big boys are struggling to play. Do you know you can get a Michelob ULTRA Pomegranate Raspberry now? Yikes!

Let’s eat, Prez!

As a result of surviving our beltway experience in a timely manner, I was able to attend the lecture at St. Mary’s College “Meals Fit for a President”. As I mentioned yesterday there were two historians from Monticello and Montpelier, who spoke on the subject for their respective properties. Both sort of concentrated on the “post presidency” or retired period of Jefferson’s and Madison’s life when they were at home and spent a lot of time entertaining.

As you remember your history, Jefferson spent a great deal of time in France, and so cuisine at Monticello tended to reflect that background. He even sent cooks to be trained in French cooking. He had an interest in agriculture with the result he had vast vegetable gardens (maintained by enslaved Africans of course) and so tended to serve a lot of vegetables along with braised meats. Another trait of Jefferson was that he liked an informal experience with debate and conversation. So his dining room was designed to minimize the amount of “servers” in the room. Therefore he designed devices such as dumb waiters, revolving doors with trays affixed to get food from kitchen to table without many servants, and so forth. There were even little trays by each diner so they could “self clear”. Some would believe this was done to limit guest’s exposure to “slaves”, but there isn’t much solid evidence of this.

Madison, on the other hand had the famous Dolly to preside at their affairs and they were much more of a grander scale at Montpelier. In her notes, she complained about serving 28 people for dinner many days in a row. The Madisons had a more English background and their foods represented that heritage. They purchased enormous amounts of food from not only local but world wide sources (spices, etc.). They consumed a lot of pork, but some beef, game, lobsters, oysters and so forth. The logistics of caring for all the food was tremendous and there was an interesting discussion on preservation. Much of the meat was cured (mostly by salt), however fruits and vegetables were dried or pickled to ensure a yearlong supply of food.

Both talks were illustrated and informative. The Montpelier portion was a bit more food relavent than the Monticello presentation. I asked if the meals were served in courses (i.e., salads, then soups, then meats, etc.) and they said that in general the food was served what we would call “Family Style”, that is everything was set out at once and guests sort of served themselves. The main meal of the day was served around 4, making it the third meal (breakfast, a light “lunch”) and then tea and after dinner drinks, with a “supper” usually brought to guests rooms later in the evening. A lot of food.

And although not directly mentioned, I’ll be Jim and Tom were


ps the usual suspects from Historic St. Mary's were in attendance including one of the interpreters that has moved on...locals would remember Rod...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Push to Post....

It’s funny about this blogging business. Sometimes you have things to say backing up for days, and then some days there isn’t much. I start suffering from withdrawal: “geez, I haven’t posted in a couple days, geez, geez……” With the result that sometimes the push to post results in sort of um, less than sterling subjects.

Like today, I haven’t been on a field trip recently (one is in the wings), nor eaten out, or had some idiot cut me off in traffic, tried any new wines, or cooked anything different. I guess there are days like that.

So, I hate to regurgitate things from the newspaper, but a couple of items caught my eye this morning. Foodies take heart! Not only is that Cracker Barrel in the offing, apparently we are also going to be blessed with a Buffalo Wings and Beer! Didn’t something like that fail down on Great Mills road a while ago? Anyway this will be located “at the front of the shopping center along 235” sharing the development by our Kohl’s (does anybody go in there?) department store. Our intrepid coordinator of the Department of Land Use and (apparently unbridled) Growth Management says: “That place is going to do a bang up business! Every new Restaurant here is totally packed”. And you know what? He’s right. What he doesn’t mention is that the locally owned businesses are closing and struggling to hold their own. Brome Howard? Gone. Dry Dock? Extended winter hiatus (hopefully) to re-open in April. Di Giovanni’s – sold again and again. And further on there is a quote from our Environmental Planner to the effect that landscaping is required because “we’re really trying to avoid buildings plopped down with a sea of asphalt surrounding them”. Really! While I might not call the asphalt around Olive Garden and Red Robin a “sea”, it’s a pretty darn large lake.


Did you see the wrap up of the Westminster Dog Show last night? Best in show went to “Hickory” a Scottish Deerhound, the first ever for that breed. As usual, the real interest is the handlers. As varied in shape and size as the dogs, it’s fun to watch them lope around the floor striving to show off their pooches strong points.

I have a friend who is in the “sailing community” and has some friends that are doing an “around the world” sail. Literally. They’ve been at it for a long time and are currently heading for Palau. How romantic, one would think of languid seas, sailing in warm breezes, enjoying the local culture (which they actually have). They are sending out reports of their progress, and my friend passes them along so we can follow them. Here’s a couple of quotes from their idyllic voyage:

We hesitated to use the engine but did. Knowing that evaporation produces a cooling effect, we poured water over a cloth laid upon the transmission while a fan blew on it. We ran it for 15 minutes and held our breath. We repeated this 5 times during the day and a few times last night--just to save some ground we were losing by this constant northwest to southeast 2.1k current.”


we attached the spinnaker pole to the jib while I started coffee and french toast. Then we felt the sheets go taut and I watched the lifeline take the weight of the jibsheet as the wind generator howled. We dropped all the hatches and ran forward on deck to release the pole before it snapped in half.”

Yessir, a whole lot of fun!

Stuff to do:

Tomorrow (2/17) there is another of Brain Ganz’s “piano talks” in St. Mary’s hall at noon. Another obligation will prevent me from attending, but gosh, if you’re at all interested in classical music you have to go listen to him. It’s free, it’s only an hour, but worth every second.

Also tomorrow in the same place (only at 4:15) is an interesting sounding lecture called "Meals Fit for a President: Jefferson's and Madison's Culinary Tastes.", delivered by Elizabeth Chew (associate curator of collections at Monticello) and Christian Cotz (education coordinator for James Madison's Montpelier). Free. If my obligation allows me to be back here, I’ll be there!

Saturday there’s a kind of unique foodie event at Great Mills High School. The Girl Scouts are holding a fund raising Cookie Contest of sorts. Ten Chefs will prepare a dessert using some variety of a Girl Scout Cookie. I think there’s a $10 fee to get in and they’d like you to bring a non-perishable food item. But, you get to sample the results and vote for best in show (“Hickory” not eligible). There will be official judges as well, and you might be surprised who one of them is (I think that’s lousy English, but you get the idea).

See what happens when there’s nothing to say?


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Music, where are you?......

Your real time reporter, going outside the lines to bring you cutting edge cultural perspective.

Because there was an hour break on WETA this evening between Holmes and Masterpiece Theater, I started watching the Grammy’s because I wanted to see Bob Dylan, and maybe Mick Jagger. It is now almost time to start with MP, but I am pretty well nauseated by what I’ve seen so far.

MFO keeps reminding me that “You’re old” and just don’t understand the current popular music scene. Okay, that’s fine, but maybe, just maybe I do have an appreciation for good music.

It appears to me that “music” has taken a back seat to “performance”. If you don’t have talent, no matter, you can have scantily clothed “actors” prancing about, posturing and dancing around the stage, with dramatic lighting effects. It’s the total experience. Who cares if you know a scale.

The program started out with a tribute to Aretha Franklin, who can do it. There were 5 performers on stage, one of whom was Cristina (National Anthem? what’s that?) Aguilera. Who once again tried to sell the “screaming is better than singing” approach. Awful.

Then, there was a person introduced who recommended some (fiance) country singer, whose name I don’t recall. I am not sure of her age, she was not in her first youth, and she sang some song. I hope Patsy Cline and Hank Williams are spinning in their graves. She sang a "country" song laced with forced dialect like: “Eef ah, culd faand ma seeelf” or, “Ahhh am lookin aggeeen”. She didn’t grow up in the mountains, she didn’t learn to speak that way. Aahhhm jest a cuntry gerrl” just write the feaking check. There’s no talent now.

Justin Beiber? Gag. Where is popular music?? Lady GaGa just won some award… America where are you????

And as I was preparing to hit "send" Bob Dylan did appear. Now, I am one who saw: "Now, introducting Robert Zimmerman" at the University of Michigan folklore festival in 196X, I am crying, what a freaking travesty. Lot of stupid musicians in the back doing hootnany parodies. Je--s give me a fing break. Bob, the times have changed.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two meals..... and a pleasant surprise!

After giving you a couple of days to digest Charleston (digest….get it), we get back to reality. Catching up is so hard to do…

The evening after our meal at Charleston, we attended “First Friday” over in Leonardtown. It was a happening place despite February weather. North End Gallery was pretty packed as were most of the normal haunts on the circuit. We met some friends, “did” the Gallery, Quality Street, and eventually decided to get a bite and a drink at Front Porch. Upon arriving there, we found it was packed with a long wait for most everything. So belly overcoming patience we set out, knowing Café Des Artiste would be slammed, and went across the street to El Cerro Grande. A small wait was promised, and almost realized, with maybe 20 minutes of heel cooling. Soon after being seated the requisite bowl of chips was delivered along with a couple of bowls of the salsa and that strange white stuff I never have figured out why or what. I suppose I’m just lacking some cultural nugget of knowledge. Drinks orders were taken, a Pacifico, and a Tecate, and MFO went with the flow and got a margarita. This place like others was pretty jammed, but after a second basket of chips, we got food ordered. Not much sense going over the dishes, a fajita for two, an enchilada mole (to split), and a dish of queso fundido. Standard stuff, pretty much what you always expect, although the rice wasn’t blown out which seems to be fairly common. The queso turned out to be an unsightly amalgam of white stuff and ground meat. Didn’t look much like some web images I found. However, service remained friendly. If you want what Americans view as Mexican food, it’s probably as good as any around here. I still kinda like the old Nook and Monk’s space..

The next night we joined up with a DC friend for a return visit to Jerry’s Place in Prince Frederick. Like us, he had heard people rave about the place and wanted to try it for himself even though my first visit was somewhat underwhelming. A call for reservations confirmed (get it…) that there were none and queuing up was the only method of entry. Remembering that our other time there had tables filled by 5:30, so we reluctantly said we’d meet at six (barely, just barely, inside a civilized dining time). We got there maybe five after six, to see once again a jammed parking lot (the tire store was just closing) but we did shoehorn the flutter mobile into a slot. As we neared the door, we observed that the enclosed area at the entrance was jammed, including our friend who had gotten there about a quarter to the hour, and we were about 25 minutes into “about a half hour”. The next 25 minutes passed fairly rapidly as we got to know the others awaiting service. We even found somebody who knew an acquaintance from my old work. A nice feature was that Jerry appeared occasionally with fish bites, or crab balls where were passed as we passed the time. After nearly an hour following initial contact, we were seated at a table. Service was friendly, it seemed like everybody knew everybody including most of the waitstaff, and I can see why people enjoy that. More fish bites were brought to the table, I think by Jerry. Despite the full room, service was pretty attentive, partially due to the number of feets on the floor I think. The table selected a crab cake sandwich, a crab cake platter, and I chose one from the verbal “fish of the day” list, the rockfish, broiled please. Despite being “out of season” both MFO and my friend enjoyed their cakes. Sides were also good, our friend especially enjoying the stewed tomatoes, which I thought a bit sweet for my taste. My rockfish was served as two pieces of (not quite browned) fish each of which would easily fit in the palm of your hand, on one of those white oval porcelain patters. That’s it. White fish, white platter, nothing else. It was tasty enough, but not very well presented I thought. I believe it was 22 bucks, which is a little steep. Meanwhile the show went on, with Jerry strolling the room, asking about this and that, in a voice obviously meant to be heard by more than the table he was addressing. I finally figured out what bothered me about the place besides the slightly inflated prices is the concept of the owner “holding court”, performing for the customers. There is no doubt that I am in the minority there, otherwise the place wouldn’t require waiting for an hour to get in. If you like that atmosphere, that’s fine. I don’t need a floor show.

The surprise:

During the 15 (wowee!) years the feeder has been in residence in Southern Maryland with some four residences, and several trips to St. Louis, the wine cellar has been under stress of travel, temperature, and probably mishandling. And I freely admit that I suffer from the “it’s just not the right time for that special wine, maybe next time” syndrome. The result of which is that there are a few (well, maybe more) wines that are still resting in their bottles that nominally are “over the hill”. Given that I am in pretty much the same state, and at the urging of a friend I have begun to make it the "right time" and see what’s up. So on a pretty afternoon earlier this week we extracted the cork on this bottle:

And in case you can’t quite see the vintage:

Where were you when this was bottled? I’m sure a few readers were just that proverbial “twinkle”. The cork was extracted with the aid of an “Ah So” and was in surprisingly good shape. We decanted the wine, and at the first pour it wine exhibited a healthy brick red hue, exactly what you might expect in a wine of that age, and it was perfectly clear with no hint of residue. We both said “wow”. Finally the moment of truth, the glass lifted and “wow”!, the unmistakable Bordeaux nose.. A taste confirmed that although it wasn’t in its youth, it wasn’t in the coffin either. Amazing. Now I’m looking forward to further investigate the geriatric part of the wine cellar..

Noted with hope:

As hoped, the menu at the Front Porch is being changed, to include a strip steak and dishes such as a parmesan-cheese encrusted salmon served over wilted spinach with roasted red pepper sauce. Ah, that’s better. and maybe more of a reason to


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


No, not the 32 (!!) year old movie with Bo Derek… where’s your mind? This is about food, remember?

In this case ten refers to 10 perfect courses (plus cheese course, plus dessert) we recently dined on in Baltimore. MFO was having a spot on her eye checked out at John’s Hopkins (fast forward, it was nothing), so we decided to drive up on Thursday and spend the night. We chose a Courtyard that was pretty close to the medical campus, kind of in the Little Italy region of the city. Of course (!) we would have to eat so I set about finding a spot. I have heard and read much, much, ado about a restaurant called “Charleston” which perennially appears if not tops various lists of Baltimore “best of….”; “top choices….”; “critics picks..”, etc. I decided to see where it was, and serendipity! It was within walking distance from the hotel. A call secured a seven o’clock reservation.

A pleasant drive (amazingly enough) got us to the hotel with an hour or so to relax, and gave us time to leisurely DFD. I did enough poking around to find it was a prix fixe (remember pronounced pree fix) restaurant, which seems to be more and more common these days, so I was at least prepared to make choices.

We eschewed outer coats, and gutted it out the one block through the gusty winds and got to the restaurant, where a nice man opened the door for us and welcomed us. You step into a sort of… “lobby” isn’t the word, but a space between the bar on your right and dining areas straight ahead and to the left. The person at the stand after confirming our reservation said “of course Mr. Moody, your table is ready but if you would prefer to have a drink in the bar that’s fine too”. We elected to go straight to the table and the young man in a three piece gray directed us to a two top along a row of tables with a banquette on one side and chairs (MFO rating: 7+) on the outside. “will this table be acceptable Mr. Moody?”. There were pillows available. Tables were of course set with cloth (no paper squares thank goodness), crystal and silver. The room was subtly decorated with panels of fabric, chandeliers (not Victorian) and a few prints on the wall. Very comfortable. “May I get you a cocktail or wine list?” Of course. MFO did her standard and I did mine. “Which gin would you prefer, Mrs. Moody? And bourbon for you?”. I’m liking this a lot. Before he left the table he said “Leslie will be over in a minute..” (note the clever way of eliminating Hi I’m…). water (preceded by choice of bottled, of course) was immediately brought and glasses filled which were the stemless kind, a little different approach. While we waited we could observe other diners, and I am extremely pleased to report that they understood DFD. Some ties, but mostly jackets or at least very nice sweaters..harmony.

Leslie did show up (also in nice gray slacks and jacket) and said our drinks were on the way, and asked if this was this the first time we had the occasion to dine with them. When we answered in the affirmative she presented the menus and explained that they were sort tasting oriented.. The menu (on that night) consisted of a list of around 18 options, plus a Seasonal Menu of six courses selected by the chef (Cindy Wolf). And, as such, portions were more of a “tasting” size than the usual restaurant entrée so that a diner could select a number of things to try. As to pricing, one could select three to six courses from $75 to $109, and with per course wine add from 40 to 60. The set menu was a base of $89 and wine added another $55. She also explained that desserts were not counted as a course, and that they were: “mandatory!”. The wine for each course was listed, along with vintage. Not “appropriate wines will be served”, but variety, vineyard, and vintage all listed. Nice.

Shortly our drinks did arrive, and I am pleased (and relieved) to report that they were of good portion and perfectly made. Almost as soon as our straws were set aside, they were whisked away by the gray suit guy, who roamed the room all evening, removing, straightening, and whispering to the back waiters which table needed more water or bread (which was presented several times on a silver tray, with choices of French roll, golden raisin, or corn bread), or clean utensil, etc. Nice.

After a few welcome sips of our drink, one of the side waiters appeared with a little tray containing two cups, and a small lump of something on a little slice of toasted baguette. It of course was the amuse bouche, which was described as a mushroom broth with and butter poached snail on garlic toast. A sip of the broth immediately took you to a rain soaked forest floor with moss everywhere and earthy aromas filling your head, and the taste was essence of woody mushrooms. And, while I am not extremely experienced with snails, it was a perfect pairing for the soup. More earthy, leathery tastes, right out of the forest.

A little aside here, just to illustrate what a good restaurant can do. The menus were rather large, maybe 12 by 15 inches or so, and MFO propped hers on her lap and just over her plate so we could enjoy the mushroom and snails. At one point, she leaned forward which propelled the upper edge of the menu into one of the cups of broth, spilling the cup into its tray and a 6 or so diameter on the table cloth. She of course felt terrible, but caught the eye of the staff who immediately came to the table with Leslie who said, no problem it’ll be like it never happened! The tray and cup were removed, the flowers set aside, and a rectangular white napkin was spread covering the stain, things replaced and it was like it never happened. And, in short order another (full) cup of broth was brought. “don’t worry about it again”. And we never did.

Finally we ordered after considering our choices over the drinks and broth and snails. MFO wanted to try the Seasonal Menu, which was four courses plus cheese and dessert, so I went with 4 choices from the upper portion. Since she was to be poked at the next day she elected not to do the paired wines, but asked if she could have the dessert wine with her last course. Of course. Since we were walking and I was anticipating cooling my heels in waiting rooms the next day, I accepted the wine pairings. What the hell, it’s only money.

At this point dear reader, the Feeder is faced with a problem. Between us there were eight main courses, two desserts, cheeses, not to mention the amuse bouche. I could go on about each dish and probably go on for several more pages. So I will try to condense. Which is hard. For me.

I chose for my four courses a curried lobster bisque; ruby red shrimp and (sic) real grits; baked wild rockfish, and grilled rack of lamb chop. MFO’s seasonal menu included: artichoke soup; a salad of roasted beets; the same wild rockfish I chose, seared foie gras; Keen’s farmhouse cheddar, and dessert. Those are the so called “center of the plate” items, and naturally each dish had a further description of the preparation. For instance my Bisque was: “Intense Lobster Stock Reduction finished with Cream, Poached Lobster, Arugula Oil and Curry Oil”. Or MFO’s foie gras: “poached pear and pomegranate sorbet”. My shrimp: “Sautéed Carolina Shrimp finished in the pan with Andouille Sausage, Tasso Ham & Butter; Creamy Stone Milled Grits”. You get the idea..

So, with eight dishes with maybe four other ingredients we have around fifty tastes to try. To try to go through those would not be possible. So, let me just say that each of those tastes came through on each dish. I would have eaten the grits served with the shrimp with pleasure by themselves..the sausage and ham? Delicious. The main ingredient was of course the star, but the supporting cast on each dish was wonderful.

Service? Impeccable. When each dish was served, it was described in detail: “here’s your red Carolina shrimp…..”. They were served at the proper place every time. Upon finishing, it was cleared, and silver replaced for the next course (clearing speak: are you still enjoying that? – not my favorite but at least not “are ya still wurkin’ on that?). My lobster was served as a mound of the poached lobster resting on the oils, and then a small pitcher was used to gently add the reduction. I have only had that elegant service once before, at my legendary retirement dinner (Thank you Brome Howard Inn!). When the wine for the course was served, the bottle was brought to the table, label displayed and a short description on why that wine with that dish. For instance, with that lobster bisque, an Amontillado Viejo, Byass “Del Duque” was offered because the “nuttiness of the sherry compliments the slight spiciness of the creamy lobster reduction”. You know what? It worked.

When it was time for MFO’s cheese course Leslie asked if I would like to have some also, and if so, what would I care for? What the hell, it’s only money. She didn’t have the requested Morbier, but instead suggested an Irish Gubbeen, which brought back flashes of our trip last fall.

We chose our desserts from a special menu, and I took a lime meringue tart, and MFO selected a Beignet. Both were served along with little side sweets and were delicious. When those were cleared and we were enjoying coffee, a little tray was delivered with a chocolate bit, a strawberry gel kind of thing, and the increasingly popular macarons. “from the chef”. Nice.

And here’s a little thought for you…when tables were vacated and reset for the next party, the staff actually brought an iron to the table and ironed the tablecloth on the table...I’ve never seen that before.

As I approach the end of the third page, I’ll apologize for the running of the pen, but here’s a restaurant I would put in the “destination” category. It was that good. In the end, very expensive (three digits and the first wasn’t one!), but we left with “gee, when is the next time we can come back?’, not boy that was expensive. So what? This is why we worked all those years. A FOJTE would say, “living well IS the best revenge!”. Yes, one time, one night, but I think if you ever are in the area you won’t regret it..and if you do, please be sure you are


Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Day...

After the team breakfast

we began the pre-game conditioning with a morning of hunting and gathering supplies for the game, and spent time prepping, poaching, grilling, mixing, combining, etc. to line up the various plays for the game. A couple attempts at watching the pre-game crap made it easy to stay in the kitchen so we were pretty well set and settled in by the time the “real” coverage began around six. Some unidentified fan showed up…

We stared the pregame warmup with the nuts, chips, dips, and orange puffs

All washed down with a hearty Smithwick’s. So, suitably salted and building an appetite, the serious televised pregame activity started with a pretty nice reading of the Declaration of Independence (which I’m sure you all saw) by various luminaries. That was the start of serious decline of non-football coverage, when Christina Aguilera provided what must be the worst rendition of the National Anthem seen (was she really in pain?) and heard (at least get the words right!!) in a long time. It was followed by a fly over of a stadium with closed roof. At least the fans whose seats were taken away from them and standing outside enjoyed that. Anyway, with the first quarter underway, so were we with the Gouda and Herbes de Provence Salami. Boy that stuff is good. Gets in your teeth though…

When the second quarter started we brought out the chilled shrimp along with the homemade pimento cheese spread. Our wonderful markets never heard of anything called “cocktail rye”, so we had to use Carr’s crackers instead. We finished off the ’03 Mumm Napa Blanc de Blanc that provided the team breakfasts mimosas..The shell on shrimp were boiled in some Zatarain’s which was allowed to reduce some before adding the shrimp, then plunged in ice, and peeled just before serving. The pimento spread was not quite as good as I remembered, but I halved the recipe and I may have overdone the cayenne, they were a bit spicy. But, the Mumms cut right through that. Champagne (or sparkling wine from here) is a wonderful drink. I don’t know why people treat it as a special occasion beverage.

At halftime the cheesehead in the room was feeling pretty frisky, so we retired to the kitchen to prepare the main course of poached salmon with dill sauce and sliced strip steak with herbed sour cream horseradish sauce. This again was fortunate, because we missed most of the bizarre exhibition by the Black Eyed Peas. As far as we could tell, it was just posing in weird costumes. I had the mistaken expectation they were some sort of Southern Band. Anyway, because of our extended effort in playing the first and second quarters, we dumped the starch side so we wouldn’t load up and not finish the game (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz). Before chilling most of the day, we poached the salmon in white wine (vermouth) and water to cover with chopped celery, onion, some peppercorns, and slices of lemon. The (NY Strip) steak was grilled, and due to some poor decision making, got a little more done than I wished, but was still tasty. For this course we opened the ’04 Berrys Bridge “Pyrenees”, an inky fruit bomb syrah tipping the scales at a respectable 15.5%!. Probably not the best for the salmon, but was very nice with the steak..

As the Steelers mounted a comeback , the cheesehead turned a bit more silent, but in the end all was well. The cheese stands alone! Shouldn’t expect to turn over the ball three times for 21 points and win the game. We sort of combined the fourth quarter with the post game (getting pretty late), and had MFO’s chocolate pie (Crap! I forgot to take a picture!! Damn you Berrys Bridge!)

A small glass of the Rozes Porto finished the game and the team and it was off to bed..

And so Super Bowl XLV went into the record books, will probably more remembered in years to come for the weather, the amateurish performance of the National Anthem, and bizarre half time show than the football. The menu was all star however, if I do say so myself. And, I do.


PS Buzz: in the course of the conditioning field trip for supplies, we found out that Woodburns will soon cease to exist as we know it. The shelves were nearly bare, the deli section was taped off with yellow tape. I chatted a bit with the young man (a grandson of the original store owners). Among other reasons (a disastrous relationship with Spiros) he said that people always thought of Woodburns as a “special occasion” store (kind of like champagne) and they couldn’t sustain their current business model. A letter at the checkout reported the will re-open in March as “Fresh Food and Café Marketplace”, that will be “uniquely with great food and a fun, friendly atmosphere”. The young man said they are contemplating having seating where you can pick out your meat/fish/poultry, and they will cook it for you for eating there or elsewhere. A different concept. I guess nothing is forever..

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Game Day..

There is a wonderful meal to recount, but I’ll defer to the more topical subject of a football game today:

Super Bowl Day at the Digs:

Team breakfast: Fried eggs with mimosas and Lattes

Conditioning – prep food, cook proteins and sample wines.

Pre Game Warm Up – Mixed nuts, Chips with French Onion Dip; Cheetos Corn Curls (requisite orange food)

First Quarter – Artisan Gouda Cheese with crispy crackers; thinly sliced Herbes de Provence Hard Salami

Second Quarter – Chilled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce; Homemade Pimento cheese on Pumpernickel

Half Time – Clear used plates, prepare third quarter dishes, check scores against (recreational purposes only) football pool…watch commercials and not the Black Eyed Peas..

Third Quarter –Cold Herb Poached salmon with dilled mayonnaise; thinly sliced grilled strip steak with Horseradish sauce; assorted breads, roasted garlic/rosemary baby Yukon gold potatoes.

Fourth Quarter – MFO famous chocolate pie, freshly brewed coffee.

Post Game – Port Wine or Sauternes…

Beverages: lineup not set at game time. On the bench: Smithwicks; Dog Head Shelter Pale Ale; Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout; Alexander Valley Vineyards 2005 Viognier; 2004 Berry Bridge Pyrennes Syrah; 1994 LBV Rosés Porto; or if I have the guts a ’89 Ch. Lafiurie Peyrageuy Sauternes.

I guess we'll be


Thursday, February 3, 2011

T and T.....

Just a few short this’s and that’s today..

Feedback is always appreciated and encouraged…as proof that somebody actually reads these things! I was surprised that someone else made the recipe for the pot roast (see comments below the “lazy”post). Readers are always welcome to comment (it’s somewhat of a pain), and if it’s non personal I will be glad to publish them..

I also got an e-mail in response to the “media” rant that in fact, I could be considered part of the “media”… somewhat chilling!

Some may know there is a program on TV, I believe on the Discovery Channel, called “Dirty Jobs”. I have been informed that there was an episode on the making of Scrapple. I was further informed it will be repeated on February 8th, at 8pm. Runs an hour..i suspect that it’s like that old quote about sausage: “Don’t ever watch how it’s made”. I am not sure what time zone the 8pm refers to. Check your local listings!!

And lastly, MFO and I are going to spend the night tonight in Baltimore. We are taking the opportunity to have a Feeder experience at a well regarded restaurant there. I won’t name it for fear the staff will go to extra lengths to make sure the Bottom Feeder gets special treatment. HaHaHa…. Report tomorrow or over the weekend.

Nothing to do:

Tonight (yes, I’m sorry) is a concert at SMCM in the auditorium at St. Mary’s Hall by Eliza Garth, a jazz pianist. It is to be an evening of “jazz inspired works by American Classical Composers”. The interpretation of that description is left to the student…free…

Tomorrow night is the February edition of First Friday in Leonardtown. Stuff to do.. we’re going to try to be back in time to enjoy it..there will be the usual opening reception at the North End Gallery for an invitational exhibit of “A Silver Collaboration” (it’s the galleries 25th anniversary).

Or, if that doesn’t float your boat, there is a concert Friday night at Historic St. Mary’s City by Calico Jack (Jane Meneely and Paul DiBlassi) who perform traditional and original music inspired by the Chesapeake Bay. $15 bucks and call ahead at 240-895-4990. I think it will be in the Visitor center auditorium.

There’s an interesting lecture down at Historic St. Mary’s City this Saturday, at 2pm in the Visitor Center Auditorium. It is in conjunction with the Facing Fences exhibit at the Boyden Gallery. Chief archaeologist Dr. Tim Riordan will present an illustrated lecture focused on re-discovering the Calvert House yardscape. No fee.

Also Saturday (2:30) is another lecture at the Calvert Marine Museum entitled (I am not making this up): “Tigers in the Cliffs: The role of Calvert Cliffs as an Ecosystem for the Endangered Puritan Tiger Beetle”. Fairly esoteric, but hey it could be interesting. No charge for the lecture.

whew, and you still have to


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Laziness in the Kitchen...

No media coverage here!!

Ever on the outlook for a low work solution to the perennial weekday problem of “what’ll we cook tonight?” short of those dreaded (always in the oven) frozen creations or take out, a recent recipe caught our eye. It was in the February/March issue of “Cook’s Country”, a spinoff of Cook’s Illustrated. The magazine started off life as sort of a “down home” thing filled with homey crap like “Aunt Emily’s Corn Bread Muffins” gleaned from some housewife in Iowa, or the best recipe for Ambrosia, along with cooking tips like using a meat tenderizer to decorate your cookies. Apparently that didn’t last as now it’s pretty much a carbon copy of CI, sans the smarmy letter from Chris Kimball. The article was entitled: “Lazy Cook’s Pot Roast”

The article touted an easy way to a better roast than the traditional rub of dehydrated onion soup mix and wrapping in foil creating the traditional tough pot roast. Okay, let’s give it a try! Hey! -- we can be as lazy as anybody if needed. Wading through the recounting of multiple tries and failures she came up with the final recipe. Basically called for making a rub, then put the rubbed roast on a bed of vegetables, wrap tightly in foil, put in a 300 degree oven and walk away for four (!) hours. Okay, how hard can that be.. lazy stuff!

Okay, easy step one: Assemble ingredients for the rub. After rummaging around in our spice cabinet for a while we finally corralled the “few simple ingredients”.

I just know you have celery seeds, onion powder, and espresso powder in there somewhere. Measure, combine, mix, and get the "rub"...

Now get the meat, the root vegetables, and merely cut, chop, and create the bed for the roast to rest on..

We’re at about 45 minutes of laziness now…

Okay, now we’re ready to cut and tie up the meat, apply the rub, place it on the foil lined bed of vegetables.

Then tightly wrapping the package in foil “we need another piece here!”, and pop it in the oven.

So, after about an hour of lazy work, the thing is committed. Now’s the time to clean up.. more time gone.

After a nap or two, we finally unveiled the meat. It was fairly attractive, and served with some pan roasted potatoes.

Well, was it good? I guess we probably don’t have a good comparison, it was tender and fairly juicy, but we thought a little short on “beef” taste. I am not sure we’ll feel that lazy again. Start with a humble chuck-eye roast and 5 hours later you get a humble meal. Oh well, it was fun in the kitchen…which is always nice.

Oh, we used a Christmas gift bottle of Marietta Old Vine Red, a red zin. Nice and hearty paired with nice and hearty.

And, we did (lazily)