Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In the good old....

Well, most people call Memorial Day weekend the “unofficial” start of summer. As far as I was concerned it WAS the start of summer. What miserable weather…. And it isn’t even June!! Maybe it’s my advancing age, but when it gets that hot, my brain goes numb. All I want to do is sit inside and wait for nightfall..Hence the creative juices sort of clog up..and, I tend to get cranky

Really alert readers will remember that I reported that the Bon Appétit magazine has started a “make over” after the long time editor “decided” to retire. Ahem. Anyway the new guy has had columns about making changes, etc. So you can imagine my surprise when the June issue showed up with a grinning Gwyneth Paltrow holding a bowl of pasta on the cover (large Gwyneth, small bowl) . Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Postman, you delivered a copy of People Magazine by mistake. I don’t remember seeing a person (except maybe the New Chefs issue of F&W) EVER on the cover of a foodie publication! And also on the cover in bold letters was “EASY SUMMER RECIPES from Food’s Newest Face”. My, oh my. The newest face indeed. And you know what? She’s a cookbook author. Not a chef, a cookbook author. On the cover of a food magazine. And it apparently didn’t go unnoticed as the “new guy” editor Adam Rapoport made note of it in his “editor’s letter”, entitled “We’re Getting Personal”. He spends more or less the whole thing justifying putting movie stars on a food magazine…”I realize putting a movie star on the cover of a food magazine isn’t typical”… really? Like never before. And not only that, there is a multi-page article on her complete with pictures entitled “The Girl Can Cook” along with bites like “is there anything Gwyneth Paltrow can’t do?”. Oh, the author of that article is the same Adam Rapoport.

I know I’m old, conservative, and always stay between the lines, but somehow a food magazine should be about the food, not “Food’s newest face”. Of course I always say that food should be enjoyed with people but the other way around just isn’t right. Just a guess, buy maybe the magazines days are dwindling or they'll find a new editor. Conde Nast imploding?


And for readers in St. Louis or those with access to Sauce Magazine, there’s a scathing review of a place called Catch 22 Seafood Lounge in Belleville, IL..a couple of samples:

“An energy drink on beverage menu? Not many people dropping a C note for a fine dining experience order a couple of Red Bulls to enhance their evening”

“Forget pairing interesting sides to complement different proteins. Forget imaginative plating. Forget seasonal. Forget locavore…..In short, the food is underwhelming”

And finally: “How do you aspire to high-end dining when so little attention is paid to the details? How do you become a destination restaurant when the most basic cook can make the same meals more creatively?”

How many more days to fall?

In this weather you have to carefully choose your outfit to


Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's This and Thats....

As the temperature goes up, the events go down. At least the ones that are of interest to your snobby cultural Bottom Feeder. So we won’t be talking about Larry the Cable guy.

Of possible interest is the start of the “Downtown Tunes” concerts in Historic Leonardtown, sponsored by the energetic Leonardtown Business Association (who is probably responsible for the “historic” moniker). Every 4th Saturday there will be concerts on the square beginning at six and running around two hours. Tomorrow’s edition will feature “Country Memories”, so don’t look for me. There are more (to me) attractive offerings later in the summer. More info closer in.

One kind of bittersweet event is also this weekend. As a lot of “county folk” around here know, every year there is a “Farm Life Festival” held at the Parlett Farm, kind of near Charlotte Hall. Besides rides and stuff, it housed one of the most extensive collections of artifacts from early American farm life at least in this country. Well, this weekend, the collection will be put up for auction, piece by piece. Apparently they tried to make it available to various entities, but the collection is so large that it would involve a huge amount of resources to maintain it, and nobody wanted it. So it goes on the block. If you’re interested, just google parlett auction and you’ll find details. MFO hopes that there are not important historical documents that will be lost. We may go, but we may not..

There goes the neighborhood:

People who ply Three Notch Road to the north have no doubt noticed that yet another architectural monstrosity is being erected in the form of yet another chain restaurant. So, coming from the south, you notice the sort of California Dinerish Red Robin, then the Tuscan Villa housing the Olive Garden, and now we get this eyesore:

Pre made burger in the diner not for you? How about chicken cooked elsewhere over pasta, and pretending you’re a family member? No? Well, hang on, apparently you can wait a bit and get a hunk of steer at The Texas Roadhouse. Checking their menu on-line turns me nauseous. If you have the guts, here’s the link. The first thing that strikes me/you is that ugly architecture (which I am not sure how relates to Texas) of two towers with a gaudy neon sign between them. I can only imagine that is their plan and will replace the "Now Hiring" banner in the picture. Then the description of the food lauds “Hearty Hand Cut Steaks which are specially aged and hand-cut every day by our in-house meat cutters, who take special care that every steak is tender and lean”. Do I really think there will be a meat cutter in there? No, I don’t but I am not the most optimistic person in the world either. They also have the usual line up of burgers, ribs, chickens, and even “Dockside Favorites”. Be still my pounding heart! Or maybe be still my churning stomach. Well, we’ll wait and see. Oh, did I mention they also feature “Legendary Food, Legendary Service” My, oh my. Wonder what’s next. How about a Dean and Delucca?

Starbuck’s Rant:

Sometimes I go in there and leave happy as I see somebody I know, or the staff is friendly (mostly are), and I start my day with a smile. Well, today I left gnashing my teeth. And, not because of the staff or product, because of the behavior of the customers. As I entered I noticed a man and his son (probably) sitting at a table, reading the newspaper. After I stood in line a bit, placed my order (which they know by heart now), stood in the line on the output end for a few minutes, I noticed that same man coming back with the paper in his hand. I thought maybe he was going to use the restroom. Nope, he sort of hastily (and poorly) reassembled the paper and…..put it BACK ON THE RACK! Can you believe that? Somebody who apparently can afford a four dollar vente triple no foam soy macchiatto with an extra shot can’t afford to buy a buck and a quarter newspaper? Does the sign on the stand say “lending library”? No, it does not. And, he leaves it right on top with edges sticking out all over. Nice guy.

And secondly there is some guy who is a regular who apparently feels he’s the staff’s BFF because he always announces his presence, which you would notice anyway, as he is rather large. But aside from that what gets to me is outside. He drives one of those huge “dualie” pickups. The little plaza where Starbucks is located has not many parking places and people just deal with it. Not this guy, he’s special. Along the front, there are parking bays separated by by little islands of trees and such. Well, that’s his personal parking place. He basically parks right in the driveway, parallel with the curb across one of the islands. You can only carefully fit one car by it where normally two can pass. Very thoughtful of others, sir......Of course one of my BFF’s will once again accuse me of hiding behind my keyboard, and I am, but geez, can’t people behave nicely just because it’s the right thing to do? do people need to be told how to be civil?

Okay, enough ranting and railing. The unofficial summer season starts today and over the weekend. Certainly the weather thinks it’s summer.

Enjoy, and you can find appropriate summer like clothing to


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spring song...

Although that's the name of a guitar piece written by a friend, we're not musical today, just a nostalgic look into past springs of me youth..

Although you will not (yet) see postings from the Bottom Feeder appear on Facebook (or tweeter, or linked up, or…) I do peruse the thing fairly often because like it or not, that’s where you find out what is happening. Especially for organizations, museums, venues, etc., who have “pages” that you can like and then keep up with their events or interesting articles.

One of the more interesting pages I stumbled (correct word) across was “Michigan’s Upper Peninsula”. Although not a “upper” (pronounced uuuu-per”) by birth, I am a Michigander and still have sentimental ties to the state. One of their posts contained a reference to Morel mushrooms, which are now appearing in the northern woods (spring up there) Here’s the link (if it’s still active). Flashback!

My mother’s sister, “Aunt Lee” to me, long had a linen store in Petosky, Michigan, on the upper left hand side of the lower peninsula. Loyal Feeder Reeders will remember I occasionally reminisce about my summers there. My parents also had some friends who originally lived across the street from us in East Lansing, the Alfreds. They had a summer gift shop kind of in the woods on the road Harbor Springs (now I’m misting up) where they sold little souvenirs to tourists, like cheesy little birch bark canoes, poor quality “Petosky Stones”, or key chains with “Harbor Springs, Michigan” fobs attached. Eventually they built a little log home next to the shop and moved up there permanently.

Okay, now I’m approaching the point… Sometimes in the spring I would be dropped off at their shop for a few days, while my mom and dad went and did things with Aunt Lee and Uncle Bill (a subject for multiple feeders sometime). While there I would get to do wonderful things. Like some nights Betty and Stan (Alfred) would get a call that the Smelt were running in so and so river. For the uninitiated, Smelt are little fresh water fish of the great lakes that take it into their head in the spring to go find some small stream to charge into for reasons of continuing the species, so to speak. Always at night, always with no moon. So after they got the word, we would jump in the car with nets, waders, wool jackets and drive to the mouth of so and so river where it flowed into Lake Michigan, usually identified by a pool of headlights. There would be any number of people almost bank to bank, up to their waists, dipping their nets into the icy water and coming up with a net full of shining, squirming, flopping fish. As I recall a six inch smelt would be large. Much fun and talk accompanying all this activity, and I have no doubt that beverages might have been a part. Like a flask of Brandy. Anyway, you would come home with a tub of the little guys, and if it wasn’t too late, gut and head them on the spot. Then you would roll them in flour (I don’t remember batter – maybe too small) and fry them in oil. Drain, and eat. Bones would melt and they were some of the most delicious fish I can remember. Wonder if they still do that. For kid’s sake, I hope so.

The other thing that we would do would be to troupe out into the woods looking for those elusive Morel’s, another springtime delicacy. Most of the local residents would have their secret special location where they would go every year, the whereabouts of which was kept as a family secret. Some would take devious routes to throw off anybody trying to poach “their” Morels. I think remember that the best ones were associated with ash trees. The same with the Alfreds, so we would pile in the car with them with one or both of their sons and drive some two lane dirt back roads into the woods, get out and head for the patch. Sometimes they were there, sometimes not. Along the way you would see Trailing Arbutus, Pink and White Trilliums, and other spring time flowers. You might find little wintergreen berry to chew on. If we were lucky enough to hit the right time you would harvest a basket full of the distinctive sponge like legumes and return home. Like the smelt, lightly dusted with flour, sautéed in butter, and another heavenly taste in your mouth. Earthy, pungent. I still remember those times. Don’t know where the car keys are, but can think of the taste of Morels over fifty years ago. Ties to Michigan.

The other ritual of spring involved my Dad. He was called just “Moody” or sometimes “Mose” I guess a contraction of Morris. Anyway, Dad was an ardent fly fisherman, reserved strictly for trout. He would spend the winter to tie his own flies, dress the fishing lines, lovingly take care of the rods, wind the reels just so, make sure the creel was not dried out, mend any patches in the waders, all in preparation for “opening day”. When it approached he would take us “up North” which was anyplace north of Grayling. But usually it was Grayling which was the target because of the legendary trout stream, the Au Sable River which flowed through there (site of Ray’s Canoe livery). Then on opening day (it HAD to be opening day) he would dress up in a starched white shirt, a black bow tie, I think a fedora of some sort, don the waders with black suspenders, and enter the water at some little landing. No canoes, you waded! Down the stream he’d go, flicking 30 feet of line in a graceful arc, placing the little fly right next to that downed tree, settling it lightly as the real thing on the water, and twitch it a bit. If there was no strike, re-cast maybe a little right or left until “Splash!” the silvery fish would leap out of the water and the battle ensued. Ultimately the fish would tire (or occasionally gain freedom), and slide into the waiting net which was attached to the waders, then slipped into the creel. Of course when I got old enough to participate he would (I suspect) suffer to take me along, which resulted in a lot of time spent un scrambling my reel, or trying to get the fly out of the trees. I also suspect he was proud. I hope so. Thanks dad.

So, anyway, a spring trip down memory lane, which journeys grow more dear as your own lengthen.

And see, they all ultimately involved food! No wonder I’m strange.

And of course Dad on opening day would be


Monday, May 23, 2011

Where are we?...

As to the rapture… how do we know that there wasn’t one and we are now all in heaven (or…), and it’s just like it was on earth. After all, the good reverend can’t be located this morning. Maybe HE got left behind..

Anyway, stretching the analogy a bit, we did experience a little bit of if not heaven, maybe nirvana or close to it at that event we attended in Baltimore on Saturday night. As I mentioned it was held in the Baltimore Museum of Art, encompassing most of the second floor. Galleries there included statuary, some impressionists, pre Christian mosaics, and some portrait galleries. Food and drink were not allowed (MFO approved) in them, but you could park your drink at the door and then go appreciate stuff by Picasso, Gauguin, Corot, and so on. Maybe there was another gallery someplace but I was surprised that there wasn’t any works by Monet or Manet.

But of course to your loyal Bottom Feeder, it’s all about the food. The event was catered by Classic Catering which is apparently the “big dog” in Baltimore. My initial reaction upon entering the spaces was that there was a tremendous amount of staff. They were everywhere almost your personal assistant. Unlike last year (a couple of ticks off) we were not met with a beverage on a tray, however there were immediate offers of little bites. From silver trays. And here I was presented with two things I had never experienced before. The napkins that were offered were cloth, not paper. Just a little four by four square with linen borders and a mesh type center. Very tasteful. And if you selected an item that was on a skewer (petite crab cake, small bite of chicken) or maybe a marinated shrimp a second server was following behind with another silver tray and a napkin folded as to form a pocket. “May I take your skewer/shrimp tail, sir?” How civilized. There were several bars strewn throughout the halls connecting the galleries where you could order a drink. MFO asked if she could get a Gimlet. “Of course Ma’am would Gray Goose Vodka be all right?”. Not wanting to do the drink test (there were small lines at this point), I asked if they had scotch (expecting the dreaded Dewar’s answer). Why yes we do. Is Johnny Walker black Acceptable? It is to me. I started to keep notes of the offerings of things on the silver plates, but soon became overwhelmed and gave it up. Mini crab cakes, artichoke/spinach on crostini, seared tuna with corn relish and a hot pepper, brie melted between slivers of flatbread, creamy hummus on toasted baguettes, little spoons of roasted lobster, and many more that I of course can’t remember. And you never were wanting for something in your hand, more often than not you had your mouth occupied and had to say “not yet” as offers were pretty much continual. Here and there live music was being played, a jazz guitarist here, a small ensemble there, with sound levels conducive to conversation.

While the passed things were circulating, food stations began to be occupied, again with more forgotten than remembered items. Lamb chops cut from a rack, juicy and pink, sliced tenderloin as you like it, a traditional Paella with chicken, shrimp, and sausage, crab cakes made to order, grilled rockfish, marinated chicken breast strips, and at each station were salads (heirloom tomatoes with feta (or goat, I can’t remember). I’m not even sure I hit all the stations. The food was very good. Again trying to recall “last year” I seem to remember that the station food was plated for you rather than having to hold out a plate. A small, but noticeable thing. With my rockfish, I decided to have a glass of wine (no more JWB’s for me at this point), so asked if they had a Pinot. We do, its Adelsheim. That will do.

Passed desserts began to come out, again a bewildering amount of choices between small spoons of cheesecakes, little pieces of apple walnut tart, small champagne glasses of mousse, lemon meringue squares, even chocolate chip cookies. Reluctantly we left and headed south for home.

It was a wonderful evening, and well worth the hassle of up and back, late to bed, and so forth. Of course you can’t help but compare this experience with the one last year in DC (Catered by Occasions), and maybe it isn’t fair. I think maybe the Renwick Gallery is a bit better venue, we found the museum a bit harder to mingle, being a series of “hallways” and separate rooms. The double servers for the passed appetizers were a plus for Classic, but the already plated station food from Occasions was nice. If I had to pick, I might lean toward the DC event, but geez, both were just great. What a great opportunity.

Comes the dawn:

After rolling in well after midnight, a short sleep in the digs ended with getting ready to help with the First Annual BeerFest held at Historic St. Mary’s City. Alert readers might recall that I was part of the planning committee, and received an education in dealing with Brewer’s Associations, Permits, Vendors, Licenses, Caterers, and so forth. At the beginning of the day, we didn’t really know what to expect. Other events were happening in the county, it was a beer fest not a wine fest, who knows. We had hoped for at least 500 visitors. Well, guess what? Final numbers are yet to be known, but it is generally believed we nearly tripled that. Despite a couple of growing pains with quantities and logistics, it turned out to be a great event. GeeZer and the 25th Hour Band were just great, folks left the festival to go hear Woods Tea Company, came back, tasted more beer, had some food, and generally enjoyed themselves. There was cider making demonstrations, lessons in home brewing, craft tents, and something for everybody. All this despite not having the legislation in place to allow “off site sales”, which next year will be a feature. And the best part is that all the proceeds will go to support educational programs at Historic St. Mary’s City and help the museum grow. As they say about the rose bowl, planning for next year’s event begins the day after this year’s. And that’s not kidding. First meeting Wednesday.

So, if you came, thank you, and if you didn’t make it this year, plan on next. It will be late in May again, bigger or at least better than ever...so watch for news.

And I guess if you came to the Fest, it was alright to be


and no, last posting's DFD was NOT dressed for Doomsday, although i wished i had thought of that.. what great readers!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Last One??....

It would seem inappropriate if the world were to end today, and after some 450 Bottom Feeders, I had not made a final posting. So, goodbye.

Or maybe the sun will rise tomorrow as usual, and we’ll go on our merry way. I guess Mr. Camping will have some explaining to do, or it could be he’ll just drop out of sight and his followers can claim he was correct. Wasn’t there a Kevin Spacey movie (K-PAX) like that years ago?

Anyway, you can’t help but think about it, and I have come to the conclusion after observing the believers, that if it does happen, I think I would enjoy the company of those left behind more that the ones who rise..


MFO was making an order on Amazon the other day, and I threw in a book I had seen in one of the magazines that sort of intrigued me. It was called “Think like a Chef”, by Tom Colicchio, a well regarded chef that is behind (among others – Gramercy Tavern) the “Craft” series of restaurants. The review I read said that the book emphasized techniques and cooking concepts rather than recipes, allowing the aspiring cook to be more creative. Being a slave to recipes myself I thought it might prod me into a broader sense of cooking, hence the order.

Through the magic of Amazon (I think they are in league with aliens) the book appeared on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. After returning home last night after the Historical Society Dinner, I opened the book and took a look at it. It begins with a forward, followed by a Preface. I read the said preface which is mostly an autobiography, letting the reader know how he got to where he is today. As with a lot of chefs, he came from a background where food was an important part of the family (Italian heritage), and he was entranced with cooking from an early age. He then relates the various jobs he had as he grew up (peeling 60 Lbs of shrimp over and over in one place), eventually working in some pretty well known restaurants and some big name chefs (Thomas Keller). What struck me was how often he moved around. A year here, nine months there, a trip to France for a “stage”, always trying to improve his cooking skills and concepts. Pretty typical of these high profile chefs..

But what also struck me was that in the beginning of the book that shows the copyright stuff, it was first published in 2001, and this edition from 2007. And, on the front cover along with a nice picture of him and the title, down at the bottom is a little box that says: “Head Judge of the Hit Series, Top Chef”. This always bothers me. There is no doubt that he is (I hate this word) passionate about his food. But what propels these guys that grew up preparing food, dedicate their lives to the art, to all of a sudden forsake the kitchen for the “Top Chef”, or “Iron Chef” and all the myriad of the silly competition shows. I doubt it’s the money, after they have successful restaurants they probably are pretty well off financially. I guess their ego is not satisfied by merely staying in the kitchen producing great food. Too bad, really.

Well, if I don’t see you tomorrow, have a nice life.

In any case, I for one will be

Friday, May 20, 2011

What? ..... It's Friday?

Well, here it is Friday again..seems like the week is composed of Monday and Friday. Usually we venture into possibilities for the weekend, but I think we may have slightly crested the spring wave..

It was a hectic week for the Feeders, which for us will continue into the weekend. We had house guests arrive Wednesday, and they left yesterday afternoon. Of course that meant that the previous Sunday through Tuesday was spent in cleaning, straightening, hiding, dusting, and vacuuming the digs from stem to stern. Visitors do have their place I guess. MFO left early on Thursday for Annapolis to attend a Maryland Historical Society conference and will arrive this afternoon in time to get DFD’d and go down to the college for the 60th Anniversary Dinner of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society. She dug in the archives (her job, actually) and made a nice display of St. Mary’s County involvement in the civil war.

Tomorrow afternoon, we will be going up the road to Baltimore to attend…… not Pimlico, but the annual reception hosted by the umbrella organization of one of the (numerous) Boards I sit on around here. Last year’s event was held in the Renwick Museum in DC, and this one will be in the Baltimore Art Museum. Based on last year’s, it should be a wonderful foodie experience. In a bow to decorum, I will not take the trusty camera, so you’ll have to have only a verbal report next week.

Then after arriving home late Saturday night, we’ll be up and out to work the first BeerFest at Historic St. Mary’s City. It is a fundraising event for support the many wonderful educational programs they do. There will be several craft and Maryland beers available. Tickets are required of course, and there will be plenty to do and see for guests of all ages. Music, Food, Crafts, Demonstrations will be part of the fun. So come out and I’ll pour you a beer.

The Woods Tea Company will also be performing (separate from the Fest) at the visitor’s center Sunday at 2 pm.

Other local stuff to choose from:

With most of the musical folk from St. Mary’s College off on their annual trek to Alba, Italy, there aren’t any classical offerings at the college for a bit..

There is a lecture tomorrow at the Calvert Marine Museum called “Giant Shark Babies from Panama”, starting at 2:30, and free to the public.

And also tomorrow, St. Michaels School is hosting a Asian-Pacific Celebration, unfortunately also starting at 2:30. Might be a chance to sample some different cuisines. Think there is a charge (to support the school).

And yet more tomorrow, there’s the annual Strawberry Festival and Bazaar in Chaptico in the social hall of Historic Christ Church. Maybe more “church lady” food available.

Speaking of Church Lady food, on Sunday, there is a “chicken dinner” put on by Trinity Church, down by the city. Nice compliment to the beer festival.

Restaurant Week is on the horizon starting on June 6 and running for two weeks.

Okay, enough for now.

Quick Foodie Note:

With MFO out of town (and dining at Harry Browne’s in Annapolis) I went back to “we’re out of scallops” last night. They weren’t..

Quick living on the water note:

Every time we look out the window, there is something different to see (you can see a lot just by looking)

Sometimes in the foggy mornings, we see the barges off to do their work

Sometimes there’s clouds.. like last night after the storms:

Life can be good

Especially if you are


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One, Two, Three Strikes.....We're Out!

These are actual experiences in local restaurants lately:

One…The server greets the table, asks about drinks, go and gets them, comes back, we’re not ready to order yet. By way of saying there had been a lot of interaction between server and table before orders were taken. A question from one of the guests after reading the menu…”what is your quiche today?”…. Answer: "It’s ham and fontina cheese, but we’re out."

Two… An order was taken for a dish, and twenty minutes later (another item for discussion) server reappears, menu in hand, and says: “I’m sorry were out of (what was ordered)…”

Three… after presenting the menu, and informing us of the night’s specials we’re left to enjoy our drinks while considering our food choices. When we’re ready to order, MFO selects her item, and I say I’ll have the scallops. “I’m sorry, we’re out”.

Before going off the deep end, I did a little research with some local restaurateurs, and it was unanimous that the chef/kitchen has the absolute responsibility to let the floor staff know what is not available. Some have white boards in the kitchen, or the chefs call out: “only three tuna left!”, or it could be on the point of sale computer where the ticket is entered, and there are some other strategies. Bottom line, it should be known by all the servers what the state of the menu items are.

And, it is not to say that occasionally a restaurant shouldn’t be out of a particular item, suppliers don’t deliver on time, there’s an unanticipated “run” on a dish, more guests showed up than the order to the supplier was placed for, and other reasonable circumstances. You would wish if it is on the menu, they can deliver, but it is understandable that sometimes they are short, and that is forgivable.

What is unforgivable is NOT letting a guest know immediately where choices are limited:

“Here are your menus, and I am sorry but the (tuna) is not available tonight”
“I know we were running short on (tuna), let me quickly check for you”
“I know you’re ready to order, but I just found out that the (tuna) isn’t available anymore”

Just be aware. Good service is good service, starting with coming through the door..

Phood Photography

Over the weekend, a friend sent a link to a live on-line workshop on food photography. Since I had a minute on Saturday, I decided I’d just take a peek figuring, yeah, yeah. Well, in the end I spent a lot of the day Saturday and Sunday glued to the screen (figuratively, of course). The course was “taught” by Penny De Los Santos, who is a contributing photographer to Saveur. Alert readers will recall that one of the reasons I rate Saveur so high in the foodie publications is the photography. It was an eye opening experience. The amount of prep and work that goes into one of those pictures of strawberries in a bowl is amazing. There is a food stylist, a prop stylist, and a host of others that can take three to four hours for getting that “hero shot” (her term) of the strawberries. During the evolution, the camera (she was using Canon, by the way) is hooked directly into a computer display so she can see the results immediately. Light reflectors, blockers, and other devices fill in light where it is or is not needed, pieces of parsley are moved a half inch to the left, no, up, no, down. Of course there are “tricks” used to make the food look fresh when it’s been sitting there a half hour, like spraying water on it, or brushing on oil, but she strives to use the natural look as much as possible.

Of course most of us amateurs (and I now have a feel for how amateurish I am) don’t have those resources available, but she did talk a lot about light, composition, camera angles, what the edges look like, and so on. The “students” had chances to take shots, and then she would critique them, courteously of course. She kept emphasizing that you need to have a story for a picture…why do I want to look at this? Where does my eye fall? Anyway, it was a nice glimpse into the professional end of the business. She’s pretty amazing. I hope maybe I can take something away from the experience that will eventually make some of my shots more interesting..

Funny, she didn’t mention


Monday, May 16, 2011

Lunching in Leonardtown...

Back to more familiar territory after the technology nightmare…

I met a friend for lunch on Friday at Cahil’s Café, the new occupant at the Antiques Center in Leonardtown. I think this is the third (?) attempt at a restaurant in that location. It survived for a long time on its “Tea Room” theme, but lately there have been attempts to put in a “real” restaurant. The location is a bit of a hindrance, tough to get into from traffic, separated from the heart of Leonardtown, next to a car parts store, so some hurdles to overcome. I had heard some good reports (actually from the same friend) about the food so was glad to accept the invitation to lunch.

You still enter directly into one of the two dining spaces which is sort of awkward, resulting in a “Tah Dah!” entrance. Boom. There you are. And the room is small enough that tables are quite close together, making any conversation that you would prefer not to share somewhat difficult. The protection against this is when enough tables are occupied, your conversation gets lost in the others. There is another dining space that perhaps would be a little more discreet. The remains of the Victorian/Tea décor is still evident, but again, you play the hand you’re dealt.

Currently Cahil’s is open for dinner Friday and Saturday only, with lunch (11 to 4) every day, including a Sunday Brunch. We were seated at a table in the corner which was relatively private for a little bit until another part arrived. Subjects of conversation changed. There is a small card on the table with quite an impressive list of teas, some traditional, some a bit frilly (I think there was a chocolate in there, I’m not sure). The menu itself is a do-all, covering lunch and dinner options, through Starters, Salads, Sandwiches, Entrées, and “Finishing Touches”. The menu proclaims that (sic) “EVERYTHING is house made (okay, we don’t churn the butter…yet”. Without going through the menu in detail, most any wish will be met with a choice or two, including some interesting dishes (Spanikopita, stuffed shells) Prices are mid range, salads under ten (unless you add shrimp or chicken), sandwiches and entrées, about $12.

With the prelims accomplished, we were approached by a server and asked about drinks. The wine list that was produced had some interesting wines on it, along with some fairly high prices. Many were in the eight or nine buck range. We selected a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir. We were also informed that they were out of (a subject of the next post) the Salmon Sliders that my friend had enjoyed on the previous visit. The first glasses of wine arrived and eventually disappeared keeping the conversation flowing without so much as cracking the menu. Our server who had a delightful British accent, checked once, and the second time she said “I can see you are taking your time, so when you decide to order (I wish you could hear this in person), just raise a finger. Do NOT snap your fingers, just raise a finger and I’ll come over). Midway through the second class of wine we finally decided on food, raised a (index of course) finger and selected a couple of sandwiches. I took the “Roasted Beef Tenderloin” and the other a “Classic Chicken Salad’. My friend uses chicken salad as a bench mark much as I do “the drink” for the bar, or veal piccata for Italian places.

The food arrived not too long after ordering. I was kind of wondering how a “Roasted Beef Tenderloin” might appear, given a tenderloin doesn’t have much fat. I peeked under the bread (which MAY have been house made, but really didn’t look it) and found slices of beef that appeared to me to be more from a pot roast cut than tenderloin. The mean was uniformly gray and had lots of fat marbling. It wasn’t tough, and was the most likely the reason that it had fairly good taste, and the horseradish cream zipped it up a bit along with the peppery arugula. It certainly wasn’t what I expected. The chicken salad’s appearance immediately brought to mind the Iconic (to me, at least) Straub’s Chicken Salad (from St. Louis), as it was composed of chunks of white meat, and probably sour crème or yoghurt or some combination. But, unfortunately that’s where the parallel stopped. There was no “crunch” involved like celery or green pepper, just chicken and the white stuff. Good taste, but could have been punched up a bit. It was served on a (chosen) rye, albeit it was that “swirled” style of light and dark which I do not care for. It just ain’t right..

Anyway, we opted for some special homemade desserts, a strawberry Charlotte for my friend, and a sucker dessert for me, bourbon chocolate pecan pie. (you can choose whether it’s P-kan or p-CON).

The Charlotte was huge, light, and quite delicious. I thought my pie was sort of on the dense side and maybe just a little overcooked, although I managed to lay waste to it.

What made the lunch was the service however (for once, thank you God). Understanding what the table wants (to be left alone in this case), and just down to earth face to face communication (what would you like to drink). No stilted “Hi I’m…”, or “may I suggest” she just took care of business in an unobtrusive way. I think her generation and (apparent) British background helped immensely. The food was good, although I hoped for better, and even my companion admitted it wasn’t up to the previous experience. Of course in that case it may have been that second time is never as good as the first kicking in..

I want to go back again, and it will be for dinner. Lunch is a preview, dinner is the show. Which is why you should be


i don't know how this got so long, sorry, three more things to relate, but there will be a Tuesday for that...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gagged By Google

Ain't technology wonderful department..

To paraphrase an old conundrum, computers are like women, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. Yesterday, I sat down to take a look at what was going on in the county and distill into my usual insightful, clever and informative Friday morning blog. As usual I had to call up my own blog to sign in, and was surprised to see that the post that was displayed was over a week old. Heart rate increasing, I clicked the “sign in” button and was greeted with “Blogger is not available right now, sorry for any convenience”. Thump thumb thump, I quickly called my Blog Support go to guy and was told that it was all over twitterdom that Blogger was having issues. Pulse slowly returned to normal, and occasional checks revealed nothing had changed until late afternoon. By then I was whipped and decided to defer till today with reduced content.

So just a few minutes ago, I got to the sign in screen, filled in the requisite security stuff and a screen popped up that informed me there was a problem with my settings. What followed then was a frustrating half hour of wending my way through clearing cookies, browsing history, trusted sites, on and on. A couple of restarts later, I was finally able to access my account. I don’t know why these things happen

So the “to do” list is somewhat shorter now, but would include the Plein Aire deal and “Taste of Solomons” across the river, now in progress. The benefit of the festivities will be to support the annual 4th of July fireworks, which usually figures large in the social calendar of the Flutters and guests at the digs.

There will be a little reception at Carmen’s at 7:30, and we are planning on attending that.

The season finale COSMIC concert is this weekend with an edition tonight (7pm at Great Mills High School) and tomorrow (4pm Crossroads Christian Church in St. Leonard), presenting the Barber of Seville with help from the Light Opera Company of Southern Maryland. Opera, either light or heavy, is not the feeder’s favorite musical form, so we’ll give it a pass. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Foodie Content:

At this point, I was going to relate yesterday’s luncheon experience at Cahil’s, the latest occupant of our Antiques Center in Leonardtown, but I’m so worked up over all this computer stuff I will delay that a day.


Oh I notice that the date of Friday yesterday was 13. Hmmmmm

and in light of all above, i just might relieve you of your commitment to


Thursday, May 12, 2011

CD..... D minus

At least for last night.....you just never know when you walk through the door

After a sobering day of getting over the lessons in life, MFO and I decided to go “out” for dinner, and recalling a pleasant experience visiting the back end of CD Café (which is really “next door at the….”), we decided to go back for a bite. When we approached the door, we noticed there weren’t many customers, which is fine with us. We perched on the same couple of stools at the copper topped bar as we had last time. The first thing we noted was that the person behind the bar was not the same as last time. She was engaged with another server/barkeep who appeared to be explaining the use of the POS system, and how to fill out an order ticket. Uh Oh. And indeed we find out it was her first night on the job with bar duty. What followed was an on the job training session that went past irritating to a humorous entertaining experience.

First lesson was in response to my ordering of my DMOTRWAT drink and MFO’s request for a Toasted Head Untamed White. Both behind the bar people immediately consulted the “Bar Keepers Friend” looking up Manhattan recipes, and after finding the Dry version proceeded to the back bar with the book. They did ask if I wanted “Bourbon or Whiskey” and were satisfied with my response of Jim Beam. Fortunatley they reached for the green bottle vermouth, so that was okay and put that in the shaker with the Beam and a dash of Bitters. After shaking the drink one grabbed an “up glass”, and trying to be helpful, I called out “on the rocks!” to be greeted with a blank stare and they proceeded to strain the drink into the “up” glass, to which they added the ice cubes. Upon serving I said it was odd to get an on the rocks drink in an up glass! Response: "what’s an up glass?" after an explanation, oh, thanks. Then some rummaging produced the Toasted Head.. Don't bother to order that...

Another lesson occurred when a fellow diner at the bar asked if he could have a Grand Marnier with his crème brulee. “Is that some kind of wine?”. No, it’s a liqueur. “Oh, I don’t think we have that”. Yes you do, there’s the bottle right there. After guidance (next shelf down, go left, go right, the one with the white label) it was found and then she grabbed a red wine glass. Don’t you have a snifter? “what’s that?”. It’s kind of like that glass but with a shorter stem. “I don’t think we have any of those, but I’ll ask”. Soon returned with another server who opened a cabinet door and produced said snifter. “I’ll be darned”.

My empty drink glass remained on the bar the whole time I was there, and along the way, other little gaffes of service were made, but figuring she had had a tough evening we let it go. All through the experience there were multiple apologies, for being new, first time, sorry this, and sorry that. And, to be honest (as I always am), she was trying hard and just had apparently been thrown into the fire.

The food was good. I originally ordered an off the menu grilled tuna dish, which they were out of (my lot in life lately) and settled instead for a grilled salmon with a creamy dill sauce over roasted potatoes, with sautéed green beans. Generous and tasty. MFO had the turkey burger, which, although kind of thin was enjoyed aided by a nice tangy sauce.

A unique experience to be sure, and hopefully it will indeed be unique to last night. OJT one time is okay. If it gets repeated on next visit (and there will be one), then some decisions will have to be made..

We were of course


Bonus chuckle passed along by loyal reader (if the shoe fits department):

Wife asks Engineer Husband to go to the market.
Sure, what would you like?
A quart of milk, and if they have eggs, get six.
Husband arrives back at the house with six quarts of milk.
Wife asks why in the world did you get six quarts of milk?
Response: They had eggs…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The aging process....

People often wonder why, as you get older, you get cranky and bitter. Well, here’s three reasons why from just yesterday (Tuesday)..

Two. Last year I decided to try Clematis on our “arch” beside the driveway. A previous experiment with honeysuckle had proven to generate a tangled mess that wasn’t quite the delicate presentation I had hoped for. So I hacked away the honeysuckle and planted a more restrained Clematis vine. A little research revealed that you can’t hope for huge success until you’re three or so years into nurturing the little plant. So at the end of last year I wasn’t discouraged that it was pretty sickly and puny in appearance. And, yea verily, with the spring came healthier looking growth and it started to wend its way up the trellis. About a week ago I noticed that one of the tendrils on one leg of the arch was looking kind of sickly, and by the end of last week it had shriveled up and died. Not to worry (much), there was a more hearty looking shoot along side, so hopefully that will thrive. As the dead branch turned browner and browner, I decided that it should be expunged as an eyesore. Both the live and dead shoots were intertwined, and were both about a foot and a half out of the ground. So, I got down on my hands and knees (no small feat these days), and carefully separated the live from the dead, tracing them from the top down. When I was sure, I took the shears and delicately snipped…….the live one. Strike One.

Three…more gardening fun. I supported Historic St. Mary’s City by purchasing this year’s crop of herbs (chives, 2 basil, and 2 (flat leaf) parsley) through their annual plant sale. I picked them up last week, and healthy looking plants they were. I let them harden outdoors for a couple of days, and with the nice warm sun yesterday, I planted them in the pool herb garden. Of course it took me several minutes to locate them just perfectly with measurements and calculations. Eventually all five plants were in the ground, and as a precaution, I put one of my unused “cages” that fit over the bird feeders (to ward off the grackle hoards) over one of the parsleys to ward off any foraging animules. I figured I would cover the other with “something” today. After planting the little gems, we retired to the now tastefully appointed screened in porch to enjoy a DMOTRWAT and a Bombay Gimlet with assorted snacks. After settling down with a refreshed drink I noticed a little bunny emerging from the plant bed, peacefully sauntering to somewhere. Oh…….. ---t! Sprinting to the bed revealed the uncovered parsley plant trimmed to the nub. If it ain’t the ducks, it’s the darn wabbits.. “Dwatted Wabbit”. More depression. Strike two...

One...And all of this occurred after I had arrived home around noon, parked the flutter mobile and strode into the……….warm and humid great room. A check of the thermostat confirmed the body senses, it registered 80 degrees, with a set point of 76, system running like crazy, with no flow from the floor ducts. Compressor outside was running also. Down to the basement to find water dripping from the lines, and a small pool by the unit which was cold to touch. A phone call to the HVAC resulted in a technician showing up at the house within the hour (there are some miracles left). However, a series of troubleshooting this and that revealed no smoking gun and finally it was assumed that some valve deep within the guts of the outside unit “must be at fault”. Too late to get it today, we’ll try tomorrow. A last check of the unit downstairs was underway when he exclaimed “Hey! There’s no expansion valve here!!” A call to the owner of the firm resulted in finding out there is only an orifice on this model (I flunked thermo, so I have no idea what they were talking about), and most likely it was clogged. A softball game called my technician so it was arranged he would show up this morning to clean the little bugger. He did, and nothing was found, although the valve sort of blew out of the fitting. At any rate everything was back together, and it has worked all day today. Strike three, you’re old and bitter!

Each of these in itself isn’t devastating but I think there is an accumulative effect. Each one nicks you just a bit, and a lifetime of them turns you crotchety and paranoid. Yes, I have been accused of being a "glass half empty" guy.

Speaking of a glass, I'm thirsty...


Monday, May 9, 2011

Lincoln, Horsies, and Duckies..

What happened? All of a sudden it’s that dreaded Monday again..has anybody figured out where that time goes? please let me know..

The Flutters put in a pretty busy first part of the weekend. After attending the event in Leonardtown Thursday night, we went out to Sotterley Plantation to hear the first lecture in their Summer Lecture program. It was given by Dr. Craig Symonds, who currently is a (Naval) history professor at the Naval Academy. His speech was entitled “Abraham Lincoln and the Navy”, and was built around three incidents in the war involving the Navy, and how Lincoln personally influenced them. That’s a poor description of a fascinating talk that ran for over an hour. The man never looked at a note, had only a few slides (mostly pictures) and recounted dates, places, with ease. He spoke with such ease, worked in a few humorous stories and anecdotes. Very impressive speaker. And in the Q&A that followed, he answered every question with in depth knowledge, more dates, etc. A really great evening. Those lectures are great. and free...

After the program, we opted to NOT go to the concurrent First Friday in Leonardtown because it was a bit late, and frankly First Friday is beginning to have a “been there done that” feel to it. Anyway, we ended up at the Dry Dock for a light snack (bistro mussels for me, and a Margherita Pizza for MFO) and an adult beverage(s). Good food.

Then Saturday, I spent the morning at the Chapel at Historic St. Mary’s City, answering questions and telling about the history of the place, although I really can’t say I had any characters. One person said he was the 12th generation of one of the captains of the Ark or the Dove. As the historian at the City often quips, “if all the people who say their relatives came over on the ships really did, the boats would have sunk”.

In the afternoon, we got Dressed For the Derby, and drove back out to Sotterley and the annual Hospice Kentucky Derby Party. I made a prediction to MFO that there would be more hats this year due to the influence of “the wedding”, and I was correct. Big floppy ones, feathers, bows, quite fun. They do pose a little problem if you want to say hello to somebody wearing one with a buss on the cheek, as you kind of have to duck under the brim or feathers.. Expressions catered the event, and did a pretty good job. They bowed to the Derby with Kentucky Burgoo, pimento spread (my recipe is much better, sorry) and I think maybe lemon squares although I missed those. They had only beef at the carvery station, and I didn’t see any Henry Bain Sauce. Tisk, tisk… Mint Juleps were available, and after the first couple it was “just give me the damn bourbon on the rocks”. Good fun.


Yesterday we celebrated Mother’s Day by cleaning off the screened in back porch which accumulated dirt and pollen all winter. Task isn't fun, but when it's done the benefit is that cocktails out there are very pleasant. So after our hard day’s work, the deck furniture is off the porch and on the pool deck, awaiting the uncovering of the gray lagoon.

And, we are not the only ones awaiting the uncovering of the pool. Capistrano has its swallows, Hawk Point has its Buzzards, and we have “The Mallards”. Like clockwork the creatures appear out of the sky, plopping into the back yard, just waiting for their personal watering hole (and bathroom) to open. Meanwhile they gather around under the bird feeders, rooting up the grass for missed seeds (they have no shame) and generally make a mess of things. And then the annual ritual ensues.

From their point of view it runs something like this:

Ahh, this seed is good, although a refreshing dip would be nice.
Oops, here comes the human idiot out of the house screaming and waving his arms in the air like a fool. Think he’s trying to fly?
Okay, we’ll waddle over here to the edge of the hill and if he gets any closer……
Drat, he is, so we have to take to wing, and then go sit in the river for a bit until he goes in the house.

This gets repeated several times a day for most of the summer, with the only change after the pool is open that there is a ten minute washing off the pool deck portion after their visit, if you get my drift. Ahhhh, the joys of pool ownership.

Indeed ducks DO NOT


Friday, May 6, 2011

Whips, Spurs, and other Sports....

First it’s Monday, and then a blur occurs and here we are at Friday.

Before launching into Friday matters, we’ll wrap up yesterday. MFO and I attended the Patuxent Habitat for Humanity event at the Front Porch in Leonardtown. Sitting on the real front porch at the Front Porch can be a very pleasant experience. It was especially pleasant yesterday as we met some good friends, and pretty soon a nice young man brought me a very pleasant “up” martini glass (there is something elegantly classic about that) containing decent sized olives and Gray Goose Martini, “dirty”. Talking, sitting, sipping, and observing the passing scene is quite pleasant. (okay, quotient of “pleasant” reached, it was done for effect). The passing scene in this case was the growing amount of people attending the “Whip and Spur” gathering. I had been wondering all week from where and what the heck that title arose from, and come to find out Wente Bros. Winery (Livermore, CA) has bottled a white and a red by that name, and at the moment I don’t remember which was which. Which may give you a little indication of my impression of the wines.

Anyway, for your ticket (going to a good cause) you got to taste each, and then go get a full glass of your choice. The white was a blend of five or six (!) grapes, including an orange Muscat, and the red a blend of at least four. My taste of the white was not properly chilled and I think that was to the detriment of the wine. Slightly sweet and perfumy, I didn’t care much for it. The red was better (which turned into my full glass by default) but I thought a little lacking in any distinct character. You could buy a bottle of either, and it would be signed by Karl Wente the 5th generation wine maker (which I must have heard 10 times). Karl (who arrived in a limousine) also was part of the entertainment. A string quartet from Cosmic was the first musical group and they gave their usual accomplished performance. Turns out that Karl also plays the guitar, and he was the next entertainment, ably backed up by a local bass player. To be generous, I am hopeful Karl will pursue a career in winemaking, not music.

As part of the entertainment, they had little quizzes and stuff to hand out Winery shotzkies, and MFO and I got a nice cookbook as a result of our long marriage. We won by a pretty good margin.

The passed appetizers coming from the kitchen were varied and quite nice. I was attracted to a horseradish stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon. They were quite tasty, although it of course left you with that always difficult situation of “Shrimp Tail in hand”. While sitting on the porch I resisted lobbing one at friends. Good thing I didn’t have that second Martini.

I am enthused that the Front Porch seems to be interested in hosting these local community events. They have a wonderful venue for this sort of thing, and it’s good to see they are pursuing using it (as in the recent Easter Egg Hunt). Hope they keep it up.

Partially fumbled football:

After the event, we found that the shrimp (and chicken skewers, and phyllo, and..) didn’t quite fill the void in the stomach so upon a thought from a friend, we stopped at the Gridiron Grill in Callaway. The Feeder has had the place on the list for quite some time, so a visit there would satisfy both short term and longer term objectives. We traversed Rte. 5 and pulled in the little shopping center and located the Grill. We knew it was a “sports bar” (duhhhhh) and indeed that’s exactly what you get. Probably about 15 wooden tables, some high, some are regular and there is a long bar. In further sports bar fashion there are 8 or so flat screens on the wall of varying sizes. Each of course is showing a different event, and all on “mute”, so if you’re interested in one particular thing, you have to guess at any verbal content. But, mostly games can be absorbed by looking (“you can see a lot just by looking”), so that’s understandable. The place is mostly decorated with dark paint (I suppose to facilitate the viewing).

When we arrived it was maybe 50% occupied, mostly by groups. It obviously is a gathering spot for “locals” as there were many groups, who knew most everybody in the place. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves with lots of give and take with the staff. Coming from the event, we were much more DFD’d than anybody in the place (of course to be expected), and may have also set the upper age limit. We were greeted by a server with menus, and asked if we would like something to drink while considering them. MFO took some Iced Tea, and I inquired what beers were available. I was surprised at the lack of selection (unless I missed something) as it was mostly Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, and I think a Blue Moon. Yuengling was the most “exotic” (I am not a blue moon fan – sissy beer), so I took that. Turning to the menus we found everything you would expect in a sports bar. Nachos, crab dip, fries, rings, fried pickles (!), chicken fingers, soups, chili, salads (including a “signature” Greek salad) and a special category for wings. Then there is the normal selection of sandwiches and Pizzas, then some Dinners (ribs, steak, “signature” crab cakes – is there any restaurant that doesn’t have “signature” crab cakes?). We sort of honed in on the sandwiches, because of a recommendation of our friend. I chose the “classic” Reuben with your choice of corned beef or turkey. At this point I will not debate using the terms “Reuben, Classic, and Turkey” in the same menu item. MFO chose a burger (medium rare) with various adornments, and both baskets were accompanied by their house made chips (also a recommendation).

While waiting for our food, we observed that they serve the pizzas on one of those pedestals I remembered from college – flashback! Anyway, our basketed food arrived in the appropriate plastic baskets lined with the wax paper. There was a fairly large serving of the chips, and they were tasty, but needing an application of salt. Some were more crisp than others, obviously freshly cooked. My sandwich was served on rye bread, but in normal sandwich cut, not like those oval loaves of rye you see, and wasn’t terribly toasted. There was a good quantity of kraut, and the corned beef was pretty thinly sliced, reminding me of “deli” products. Had fairly good taste, and we were hungry. MFO’s burger was served on an almost Kaiser Roll with nice lettuce and a tomato slice that was nice and red throughout. What was not nice and red throughout was the burger itself. It was not a hard gray, but light one, probably just past what I would call “medium”. Not and uncommon occurrence these days, and being hungry she just ate it as was. When the server first checked we chickened out and answered with an unenthusiastic “it’s okay”. More bites of the burger never found any shade of pink, and so when we were almost done, and the server checked again, I pointed out the burger and said it certainly was not medium rare. She looked at the gray couple of bites, and dispassionately said, well, was it good? And left. And to be (somewhat) fair MFO said it did have some beef flavor, and indeed ate the whole serving.

As we received our bill, what turned out to be the owner visited the table, and said he’d heard the burger wasn’t to our satisfaction. Yes, it was overcooked. He apologized and said they tried to make things as ordered. I also mentioned the “lunch meat” appearance of the Reuben, and he replied they like to slice it thin.. He then said that he would remove the beer and the tea from the bill, since we did eat the burger. Fair enough.

I appreciated his visit, it was the right thing to do. I am sure if we made a fuss up front, another attempt probably would have been made. So due to his interest, instead of crossing the place off the list (yes, one time, one night, yadda yadda) I would put it on the “go back sometime” list, and maybe try cheesesteak or a pizza.. I do like those pedestals..

Gosh, this was long! Apologies.

Fortunately the “to do list” this weekend is a little shorter than normal.

Lecture at Sotterley this evening, first Friday in Leonardtown, a Kentucky Derby event at Sotterley tomorrow for Hospice.

We’ll be


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Weighty Wednesday

A little more substance than usually finds its way to print on Wednesday

For years, a few of us intrepid “docents” at Historic St. Mary’s City have spent part of our weekends frying, freezing, or soaking wet in front of the reconstructed Brick Chapel, originally built about 1667. At first (~2002) we had a foundation to talk about, then over the next few years the walls gradually grew up, a roof was put on, the interior plastered, and today it is “completed” except for the alter area. It is an impressive building, as close to the original as history and archeology can determine. Come see it if you haven’t.

Over those years of explaining the history of the colony, the chapel, it’s construction, and general questions “Will this ever be a real church?” to museum visitors (no, it is an exhibit on State owned ground), us “Chapvols” (chapel volunteers) have sort of grown to feel some sense of ownership and pride in the building. There have been various activities at the Chapel, such as the “unlocking” last year, but so far not a real “event” inside the building.

So, when I heard there was to be a concert by the St. Mary’s College Chamber Singers in the Chapel Sunday night, I had to go. Despite being weary from that weekend convention in Ellicott City, MFO and I got in the flutter mobile and went on down to the “City”. Of course anytime you get to hear those singers or the full choir under the direction of Larry Vote, you should go wherever, they are such a great talent. The Chapel was filled with chairs, there are no pews (nor was there ever).

I think I’ve mentioned someplace before that the echoes within the Chapel make it miserable for the spoken voice and with several groups of visitors (or screaming kids), you can hardly hear yourself think. But, you put music in there, such as violins, it’s wonderful. An early indication of that was one time a group (~15) of Mennonites showed up and asked me if they could sing. “Of course”. And, sing they did, from music they brought. It was just great. So, the chance to hear the Chamber Singers was eagerly anticipated.

When we were seated and looked at the program we were pleased to see that Jeff Silberschlag and son Zach were going to play the trumpet, and there was also a gorgeous Harpsichord and a bassoon. Larry thanked Historic St. Mary’s City for the use of the Chapel, and had carefully selected the first piece to be a 17th Century Madrigal, such as might have been heard in the original Chapel. My (personal) speculation was that there never would have been the quality of music we were treated to. When Monteverdi’s “La bocca onde” began, the whole place just filled with the voices of the singers and you would think you were in a Basilica (or something like that) as those echoes reinforced the music so well..It almost (and I am mixing history here) sounded medieval…

What followed were several more pieces of varying historical periods, and the trumpets were like you might expect in heaven. Well, that’s a little poetic license, but they were beautiful. All in all it was a great event with great music performed by a great group of performers. We’re so lucky. To repeat what I said in a little note to the other Chapvols, I’m sure the remains of the early Marylanders who have slumbered under the floor of the Chapel for over three centuries were stirred, and probably said “It’s about time!”. It's so wonderful that the Chapel can serve as a venue for music (hopefully!) for all.. What a great place to live.

Warning Signs…

Acting on a tip from MFO, I stopped in at the McKay’s grocery store on Great Mills road yesterday. She occasionally stops there on her way up from the Archives at Historic St. Mary’s City to pick up dinner, like fried chicken. Sure enough, the shelves were beginning to be less populated. It looked like they were not replacing anything that came off them. Like scattered cans of soup or salad dressings. Hmmmmm. I went over to the Deli counter to get some bologna for my lunch, and the selection there was quite limited as well. I asked for my half pound of Boar’s Head beef bologna, and after rummaging around under the case, she had to come to my side and remove the one on display. And then I noticed little signs on most everything: “On Sale – only $X.XX/Lb”, or “Special – three bags of chips for $5”. Hmmmmm again. Given that they had to “close” Woodburn’s on the Solomons side, I am wondering if this place is next. Just a thought.

To Do:

Since this won’t wait till Friday, a notice that the Patuxent Habitat for Humanity will hold a fund raiser at the Front Porch over in Leonardtown tomorrow afternoon/evening. For only $20 to go to a great cause, your benefit will be that you get to taste some wines from Murrieta’s Well (with I think a rep from the winery), have some “paired” snacks, and listen to music from the COSMIC string quartet, Karl Wente on guitar, and closing by Wild Irish Rose. It all starts at 5:30 and runs for two hours. The name of the event is: “Whip and Spur”. Although a million snappy one liners come to mind, maybe it’s best left to the imagination of the reader…

And, speaking of “to do” alert readers will recall that I often refer to the area as “the land of nothing to do” emphasizing that there is PLENTY to do. Well, I just happened to notice that in today’s Enterprise (our local newspaper) in the upper left hand box on the front page, there is a little blurb drawing attention to their special insert of summer activities. The catch line in bold print is: “What do you mean there’s nothing to do?”. Coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not. You never know who reads the feeder (but the shadow do…)

How you dress for the Whip and Spur is up to you, but the Feeder and MFO will be


Monday, May 2, 2011

Conventional Wisdom..

If you can remember way last Friday, we noted in these pages that ye olde editor would be attending a convention in Ellicott City near Baltimore. And, as advertised, there was a dark period for the feeder during that time. But, with the trusty Canon along with the little leather notebook, some notes and images were recorded that might be of interest to the highly discriminating readership of the Feeder.

So, right away we can ditch any notion of boring you with reports of the many meetings and breakout sessions attended and just hit the cultural and culinary highlights.

Our conference was held at the Turf Valley Inn, a resort style facility, with golf courses surrounding the main building. Somehow my room got a fairly nice view of the course.

Fast forwarding past the first day of meetings, one of the things you do at these things is to host “hospitality suites”, where you feature various things to eat, and of course drink. There were “chocolate fantasy” rooms, “dessert heavens”, that sort of thing. Being as our club was from Southern Maryland, what would you think we might offer? You got it..Bivalves

And, you still got it, libations

We are famous for our Mai Tai’s which explains the tropical theme. Don’t ask me about pairing oysters with that drink.

Anyway, after happy hour in the hospitality suites, there was a dinner for an evening plenary session. We will not waste any of our mutual time discussing the hotel food. It was almost classic hotel food. Sustaining at best. But another highlight was the evening’s entertainment. The Show Choir from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts put on a performance for us. Reading the program before attending the dinner (and blissfully ignorant of said school) I thought, oh, geez, a night of show tunes. Wrong, wrong, wrong, oh Bottom Feeder. What followed was a riveting performance by a group of highly talented students that didn’t stop for over an hour.

It was exciting stuff. Never ceases to amaze me what ability is out there. Great show.

The next day, I signed up for an extracurricular tour of Historic Ellicott City along with a “gourmet lunch” at a local restaurant. Thinking I couldn’t do much worse than the hotel offerings again, I decided to skip a meeting or two (shame, shame) and see what Ellicott City was about.

Ellicott City was founded in 1771 by a three Quaker brothers from Pennsylvania, named… Ellicott. They were attracted by the lush countryside and the fast flowing Patapsco River. So they built a mill, and eventually the town grew up around them. At one time Ellicott City was the terminus of a railroad from Baltimore, and the start of the first toll road to Frederick, Maryland. At one point in their history, you came to Ellicott City for wild weekend. It also played a little part in the Civil War.

Now, like other towns conscious of their history, they are seeking to attract Tourism by emphasizing the history and a collection of galleries, restaurants, and drinking establishments. Our tour started with a tasting in “The Wine Bin” a little wine store that had a nice selection of wines and beers.

We tasted a rose and a white which didn’t do too much for me

After sampling those we went (literally) down the street to a restaurant called Tersiguel’s, a French Country Restaurant located in a 19th century home.

We were led up a series of stairs into a pleasant room with a few tables

Done in soft greens with wine related script on the walls, and gee, can you imagine?....white table cloths. We were greeted by a server in white shirt, black pants, and a black vest. Our lunch was a pre-arranged menu of three courses with paired wines. Water glasses filled, crusty country French bread with creamy butter, portended a great lunch. Bingo..

The first course was

A house cured Gravlax with arugula in a light vinaigrette (note edible violets) and that ring of delectable tarragon hollandaise. Each bit was a joy. It was paired with a ’04 white Burgundy that showed its age with a deep golden color and honeyed flavor.

Next we were treated to a Boeuf Bourguignon

Slowly braised flavorful beef until fork tender, and how many vegetables can you count in there? Brussels sprouts, carrots, haricot verte, pearl and spring onions, mushrooms, potatoes at least. And you know what? it wasn’t the mushy all taste alike “steamed vegetables” so common these days, you could close your eyes and pick out each one by its flavor. A dish of each would be great. And that grilled bread? Sopping!! For this course a Syrah loaded Cotes du Rhone was served with great nose and lots of fruit. It was an ’03! How many times do you get that in a restaurant.

We forced ourselves to eat the dessert course:

A strawberry was sliced, placed on a pastry cup, filled with a white ganache, and reconstructed. The little cup contained a rich chocolate mousse and more of the ganache. That glass presented a late harvest Chenin Blanc, that wasn’t quite as sweet as a Sauternes or a dessert Riesling. Very nice. Oh, did I mention that each dish was described upon service and new glasses were served with each wine? And that other tables who were served wine by the glass were done so out of the bottle? Not just a glass brought to the table. How it should be done.

After that, we did a little walking tour of the town with a great guide who pointed out buildings and their significance

After returned to the hotel sort of sated, no time for a nap, into the duds to DFD for the main banquet for the conference. Although I swore I would never eat again, I did manage to do pretty well by a filet that was really not too bad.

This year’s District Governor for our organization is of Indian heritage and for the entertainment we were treated to a performance of Classical Southern Indian Dances.

So that was the weekend. I returned home late Sunday afternoon, but forced myself to attend the inaugural vocal concert in the Chapel at Historic St. Mary’s City. But, if you’re still reading you’ll be glad to know that we’ll postpone that for a day..(known in the trade as a "tease"

A fun filled weekend (capped off by the Concert). If you're ever in Ellicott City, please try to dine at Tersiguels's. It's the real deal.. one of those little gems.. and yes, dear friends, thoughout the weekend, I was