Monday, October 31, 2011

Hollow Happyween!

Speaking of trick and treating, did you look at the google doodle today? Those folks are so clever.

Anyway, lest people think that the Feeder is limited to thinking with his stomach and only focuses on food, I should point out that nothing could be further from the truth. Well, not far, but not entirely either.

Santa Fe is home not only to some great restaurants (more to come) but is also considered one of the premier “art” colonies in the country. There is a plethora of museums, and more galleries than one could imagine, and the famous Plaza where there are street displays of Indian art. Turquoise, pottery, silver work, and woven rugs are everywhere. One of the more famous areas is Canyon Road, which has become a Mecca for American crafts, home to many celebrated galleries and artists. Most have the “real stuff” which comes with astonishing, but common prices.

But it doesn’t cost anything to shop, so we decided to spend the morning “doing” Canyon Road area and it’s hundreds (yes) of galleries. Of course the first thing you have to do is find lodging for the car which is handled discreetly.

But then you start down the unassuming quaint little road,

 which is lined with the galleries.

Once you get over your reluctance to enter them, there are lots of things to see:

No matter what your taste there’s something for you

Most of the people in the galleries are very nice and will chat with you, learn where you’re from and generally are nice. And after a while you develop the ability to turn over the piece, or look at the tag, and not utter anything when that little print or statue is $7,000 or more. “how nice, look at this dear” and move along.

We talked to one lady who was displaying some very nice bird drawings, and not too dear, like framed ones you could get for around 300 and unframed a lot less. As it turned out, the artist was there that day because she was pulling out of this particular gallery because her pieces weren’t selling. The gallery owner told us that in her gallery she had no problem selling $10K paintings, but the market for things like the prints wasn’t there. Go figure..

But one of the nice things about gallery row wasn’t what was inside, it was what was outside. You want art? How can you not like things like this:

 And although people create nice art, so does good old reliable Mother Nature!

And the price is free! Anyway any trip to Santa Fe should include a stroll down that road.

okay, back to food...

After building a hunger (pretending we had huge amounts of disposable income), we decided to have lunch at Mucho Gusto a small informal Mexican restaurant tucked in the back side of a little shopping area near one end of Canyon Road. It shows up on a lot of searches for places to go in Santa Fe. It is quite small, very plain, clean, and has tidy green tables, there are large paintings on the wall of (what turned out to be) life in the Yucatan. A very pleasant server approached and asked about drinks. We’d like a Margarita please! Well, guess what? THEY don’t have a liquor license either, but did a feature a “Margarita” made with Agave wine. Actually they were very good and didn’t pack the wallop of Tequila, maybe a good thing at lunch.

The menu was divided into Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Main Dishes, and House Specialties. Here again, if you wanted chips and salsa, please consult the menu. House madeTomatillo salsa with roasted tomato arbol chile salsa: $3.95. Add homemade Guac for another 4 bucks. We demurred. Anyway the menu contained the usual suspects within each category: Tacos; Burritos; Chalupas; Fajitas; and Enchiladas. Within those dishes were further choices of veggies, chicken or beef, and shrimp if appropriate. The Specialties included Flautas, Chimichangas, Carnitas, Mole and Suiza Enchiladas, and a Stuffed Chicken Breast, AKA “The Bomb”. That dish was a chicken breast stuffed with jack cheese, poblano chiles, almonds, sun dried tomatoes, topped with a mushroom chipotle chile cream sauce. Most all dishes came with black beans, rice, and/or pico de gallo. I suspect the same menu serves both lunch and dinner.

MFO decided on a luncheon special green chile burger, and I meekly went for the Suiza Enchiladas, rolled chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce, feta cheese (?), sided by rice, beans, and the pico.

We supped the faux Margaritas, and sort of went over the mornings adventures, and eventually the plates appeared. While the names of the dishes may be the same as you can get around here (Maryland), what was on them definitely was not. No amalgamous plate of everything run together covered with a glop of melted cheese, everything was separated, and each was fresh, tasty and just fine. The enchiladas had real chunks of chicken, not diced or shredded, the sauce was bright and flavorful, and the (fresh) feta cheese added a nice bite. The beans were not “refried” but rather just placed on the plate, the rice wasn’t “blown out”, and the pico de gallo was green, fresh, and tasty. MFO’s burger was exactly medium rare and the chiles were flavorful.

Although this was the second of…I forget, “Mexican” places we tried (more to come!), we found it to be typical of what we encountered. Fresh ingredients, nicely prepared and tasty. We definitely would recommend and return to Mucho Gusto with much gusto!! Just very pleasant.. and you didn’t much have to worry about

DFWhatever, although Gallery cruising would demand some sort of nice dress. Despite what others seemed to feel was appropriate..

more meals to come!! oh, and diversions as well.  I'm NOT one dimensional, see....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Enchanting Evening....

I am going to veer outside the lines for a bit, and break the chronological account of our Santa Fe trip because I had such a unique experience Tuesday night (on my real Birthday!) that I have to pass it along before it fades… 

Of course it ultimately involves food, but first a little background.  In the long ago distant past, MFO and I visited my best friend and his (then) wife in Santa Fe.  Her mother had opened a “dude” ranch and resort property named Rancho Encantado. That visit generated several memories which have persisted to this day.  Can’t find my car keys this morning, but let me tell you about lunch 40 years ago.   Anyway, one of the memories was that after my friend and I walked in the desert for a while (young and hearty as we were) we stopped in the bar and asked the barkeep what he would recommend.   He produced what I believe was my first ever Gin and Tonic.   What a perfect drink. 

Secondly, at the time of our visit, somebody was making a movie in the desert, and the cast was staying in the Rancho.   Johnny Cash and (2nd) wife June Carter were there as was a daughter, Rosanne.  I wish I could report that Johnny and I sat around and chatted, but I don’t think we ever saw him.  We did however, meet Rosanne.   As part of the visit we went to the set one day off in the middle of nowhere. 

Since our visit decades ago the property has changed hands and owners a few times, but the place still holds memories for us.  Currently it is an Auberge property, with name shortened to Encantado Resort.  Auberge properties are luxury resorts, catering to world class clientele.  This particular one also houses Terra, a highly rated restaurant.  They were featured in a Food & Wine article lately..  So we decided we would return to the place and hey! While we’re there why not have dinner!! So it was our Big Deal Meal number 2, and by the schedule it had to be Tuesday night.  Now, serious diners will slightly recoil at Tuesday night, which is sometimes avoided because the chef might not be in the house, and various other reasons, but we had little choice.   I had made the reservation by phone instead of Open Table again because we were too far out and I feared (unnecessarily as it turned out) the Film Festival thing. 

They followed up a few days before assuring us that the reservation was in place.  So after we DFD’s we drove out the few miles north of Santa Fe and after driving to the golf cart shed we redirected and found our way to the front entrance..  Two young men appeared and opened both doors for us (MFO at the wheel).  Good evening folks how are you?   We’re here for dinner.   Are you Mr. and Mrs. Moody?  Yes we are..  Well we’ll park the car for you.  The second young man ushered us in the door, and directly to the hostess stand.  Again, “welcome Mr. Moody your table is ready, please follow me.  Well, our table was ready all right, there were no other guests at that time.  You may sit at any table that appeals to you.  We chose a little two top by the window where the dregs of the sunset was visible over the darkening desert.  The room is in muted tones that reflect the color of the desert, has high ceilings, and one side is all glass, while the opposite wall is all banquettes. Tables were set with linens, sparkling glassware and silver.  MFO approved the chairs.  The hostess set down the menus and wine list and left. 

People sometimes ask the Feeder why he loves these high end (and yes, expensive) evenings.  What followed was a perfect example of why he does.  All the components were there.  They knew our names.   They let us choose our own table.  Our server’s only question upon approaching the table was whether we preferred tap or bottled water.  After pouring he asked if we would care for a drink.  Why, yes, we would.  I of course levied the drink test, and MFO decided on wine (remembering we had to drive home).  She chose a Grgich Hills Sauvignon Blanc from a rather extensive wine list. 

Without dwelling on it, the Feeder always sort of holds his breath when doing the drink test in a high end restaurant, but he needn’t have worried.  A perfectly made, nicely proportioned drink with a lovely curl of lemon was presented.   As for MFO, the service wine glass was replaced with a larger crystal one, and the bottle of Grgich was displayed.  A small taste was offered, and upon a head nod, a generous pour was done.  Not just plop a glass of wine on the table and hope it's what you ordered.  Shortly a basket of a variety of breads was brought to the table.  Lavash, some light biscuits.

While enjoying the drinks, we finally turned to the menus.   If you have time you should go look at their menu.  It is divided into “Sense of” balance, comfort and place.  "Comfort" includes a burger option, chicken (as a Palliarde), and fish (crab cake encrusted halibut),  "Place" means there is local lamb, etc.  It is a nice concept.   And, it is one of those menus where you look at one dish and say “wow! I’d like to try that”, and then “whoops, that looks good also”.  A great menu.  After a good deal of angst, I finally settled on the “seafood trio”, and the Date Basted Local (Galisteo) lamb.  MFO wanted to try the warm chicory salad, mostly seduced by the Broiled Humbolt Fog (which alert readers will know as a lovely cheese).  She selected the Kobe Hanger Steak as her entrée.. 

While I was thrashing around the wine list (reds of course) a gentleman approached the table and welcomed us and said he was the manager of the restaurant.  Then, he said something like “I really liked your picture!” and went on to explain that he had found me as King Oyster!!!  Can you believe that?   He actually tries to find out things about his guests and was pleased to find my alter ego as the King!   I was flabbergasted!  That led to some great conversations throughout the evening (there was only one other table at this point).   Since he caught me in the midst of looking up Robert Parker’s vintage chart, I told him what we ordered and asked for a suggestion.  He said he had enjoyed the ’07 Trilogy Proprietary Red from Flora Springs.  Go for it. 

First courses arrived, mine in a triparted dish with two lovely thumb size prawns, a lovely ceviche of scallops with cilantro, and a small medallion of tuna in a little vinaigrette.   MFO’s salad was fresh crisp and the cheese was to die for. Somewhere in here, the server interjected that the Kobe Hanger Steak was not available.  Okay, marks off for that, he should have known unless the only other table took the last one.  He offered instead a filet which she accepted. 

Okay reading fatigue is probably setting in here.  Entrees were wonderful.  My lamb was some of the most flavorful I can remember in a long time, and unlike Restaurant Martin there was nothing running to the side of the plate, it was beautifully presented, and the plate was warm but not “watch that plate it’s very hot”  translated to “it’s been under a heat lamp for a while”.  Both meat dishes were cooked exactly right as ordered, richly flavored.  And, as you would hope and expect, the sides stood tall on their own, not merely something to cover up blank places on the plate. My little goat cheese timbale was a little wrap of flavorful goat cheese and I think there may have been a little bacon in there..  wonderful.  Somehow the wine disappeared. 

We decided on dessert, and I had a little cheesecake with an ingredient which I cannot for the life of me remember (thank you Trilogy), but there was a little meringue disc next to it with a hand piped “Happy Birthday”.  Coffee was strong and hot. 

So it’s all those little things (names, by the glass, silver replaced as appropriate) that mount up to a great experience, and I will never forget the fact that King Oyster was brought to the table.. The place remains enchanted!!

And that, my dear readers, is why I do not mind paying large sums for that experience.. life is short.

More later, and of course we were


Monday, October 24, 2011

A frustrated Feeder....

The feeder stands (well, seated actually) before you a frustrated and humbled man. Feeling the tug of loyalty to my readership, I thought I would be able to keep up with the flow so to speak. Well, flow yes, keep up, obviously not.

We last chatted on thing culinary after starting out with a breakfast at Café Paquals, and then sort of melting into the couches for most of the day and feeling somewhat revived we got DFD’d and sought out Big Deal Meal one, at Restaurant Martin. Now, when we were in the planning stages of our trip, I discovered someplace along the way that our stay coincided with the annual Santa Fe Film Festival. Of course that sent me into a panic figuring all the prime dining spots would be filled up with all the beautiful film people fresh from the French Rivera. So I tried to book Martin though Open Table (which I am warming up to, by the way) only to find they would book only a month out. So, I actually picked up the phone and called. The young lady I talked to said that the manager was busy with “staff meal”, but he would get back to me. Oh, Boy, here we go.. well, guess what. A couple of hours later the phone rings and it is the manager saying that he would be glad to book us for our chosen night. So, that was accomplished. Then, a week or so before we left, I got another call from him. Uh oh…. But all he wanted to do was inform me that they were having a Frog’s Leap wine dinner on our evening, and did I want to participate in that? Having been to as many of those as I care to do for a while, I declined, made sure the regular menu was available and thanked him for his consideration. Then, just before we left I had another call from his assistant confirming our reservation. I said I was also worried about noise from the Froggy folks, but she said she would keep us away.

So, with my research providing excellent reviews for the restaurant, and their following up, our expectations were high for Big Deal One. My DFD for the evening was my blazer (travels well) and my “Maryland Tie”. Turns out the place is just down the street from our Santa Fe digs, and we arrived just in time. They were happy to see us, and commented profusely on my tie. The restaurant is composed of several small rooms and we were led into a smallish room with 5 tables with a larger one set for a party. We were greeted by our server who gave us menus and the wine list, filled the glasses and left to attend to other tables.. Hmmm, that’s odd, I was dying for a DMOTRWAT but was not afforded an opportunity. He returned shortly and asked if we would like some wine. Well, actually, I would LOVE a DMOTRWAT. It was then I learned that they do not have a liquor license that allows them to sell spirits. (Head: WHAT The…!!!; Mouth: well, give us a minute to look”). He did and we decided on a split of some champagne. Excellent choice. I of course did not write down the bubbly, but it was brought in two glasses, no bottle. It was very tasty. He took the opportunity to inform us that the Blue Point Oysters on the appetizer list was replaced by a preparation of Tempura battered Pacific oysters in a broth with a variety of matchsticks vegetables over a flan. Wowee!...

Again he left us to sip and consider and about this time the Frog People apparently arrived in the next room with a fair amount of din and celebrating. At this point I was a bit warm under the collar, but MFO suggested I remove the blazer which I did and calmed down. And although through the door we could hear the Frog Guy talking about the winery a bit, they became quite quiet and were not a factor for the rest of the evening. I decided to try the fancy oysters (with risotto ON the list!), MFO selected the organic beet salad and then the Berkshire Pork Tenderloin (Coffee-Maple Rub, Eggplant-Pepper Puree, Herbed Gnocchi, Five Spice-Bourbon Reduction) and I for some reason (stomach still on the east coast) went with the Roasted Chicken (Stew of French Lentils, Plum Tomato Concasse, Wild Mushrooms, Broccolini, Black Truffles). And as I know you all read lots of restaurant reviews, a benchmark dish is how they do roasted chicken. For the wine I selected a Willamette Valley ’08 WillaKenzie Pierre Leon Pinot. It was not too dear, but we did not get different glasses than were on the table.

It was uncorked and a sample proved it very good, so we had a little while waiting for the food. Bread had appeared, and with noise subsiding things were looking up. Starters arrived soon thereafter, my oysters in a large white bowl, golden brown, with little matchsticks of cruncy radish carrots, beside them with just enough broth to not drown them. The oysters were just over golf ball size, forcing me to use a knife and fork. Usually that is death with oysters, but they held up and had very good flavor with the crunch of the tempura. By the end, however the flan had sort of dissolved and it wasn’t pretty, but it was good. MFO’s salad was a strip of greens in the middle of a rectangular plate with mostly watercress, some goat cheese, fresh carrots and a light sherry dressing. It was very tasty.

Well, this is getting long again so I’ll briefly state the entrees were also very good, thick cuts of just right tenderloin, and I had two little chunks of chicken, I think a breast and then an airline breast. Lovely sauce. Very tasty. My only complaint (which I was shushed away from verbalizing) was that MFO’s Bourbon Reduction had somehow “run” across the plate making a big patch of somewhat dried sauce. Were it me, I would not have left that plate leave the kitchen.

So our big deal one meal had a couple of chinks for me. I think not informing you that you can’t get a cocktail (I scoured the website) is not up front. Changing the “stock” wine glasses wouldn’t have hurt. Having a “run” of sauce is not right (Shut up, Bill). But, the food was up to what I expected so you come away with a mixed experience. Others might not have noticed any of this. I am cursed. I will say that maybe they kind of thought about some of this, because they took the Champagne off the bill. Did the Wine Dinner affect ours? Maybe.  If/when I return to Santa Fe, I would most assuredly go back, but maybe not first.

At this time, we have two more Big Deals. One has occurred and it included one of the most memorable dishes I have eaten in a long time, plus I had a bottle of wine that ranks right up there with any I’ve had. But, we’ll get to that.

Plus three lunches, another dinner, shopping delights, museums. Sigh.. I'll try. 

People around here must have nice 401K’s.

And I must admit that most


Ps, a little extra, we had lunch at a place today, and I took my camera to the table because I wanted shots of the outside and interior. A couple roughly our same age was seated next to us, and he had a little camera around his neck. Hmmm... and when his food arrived out came the camera and an image was taken. His wife sort of was looking at me, and I gave her a thumbs up.  It takes a blogger to know one!! We’re everywhere

Friday, October 21, 2011

Slow Start in Santa Fe...

slowly coming up to speed
We woke up for our first whole day in Santa Fe (hey! that rhymes), and we both felt like we were run over by a truck. I suppose age, time zones, travel stress, altitude changes all took their toll, and resulted in a slow start to the day. We did however manage enough gumption to venture over to the “plaza” area and got breakfast at Cafe Pasqual's a hands down choice for breakfast according to various sites (yelp, trip advisor, and so forth – yes, I know but a guide). After flailing around with parking some we found the place and went in. As advertised it was crowded and loud but it was very obvious people were enjoying themselves. I think I counted about 15 tables including a big community one in the middle of the room. The walls are decorated with tiles and typical Mexican paintings and piñatas and various other stuff are hanging from the ceiling. All the reviews said to expect a wait, but when we walked in and announced “two” he said “sit right over there” at a little table by the bottom of the stairs to the upper landing… see if you can spot MFO

There is a long list (21!) of stuff on the (served all day til three) breakfast menu. MFO settled on the smoked trout hash, and I went with the traditional Huevos Rancheros.. I would have tried the much praised corned beef hash, but figured traditional should be tried. I was asked if I wanted red, green, or tomatillo sauce and settled on red which I was assured was not too hot. Water and coffee were supplied and we had a good time just watching the bustle of the place, presided over by the guy at the front who took great pride in giving people options: “you can sit right now at the community table, or five minutes for that little table on the landing or maybe 10 for your own table”, stuff like that..

The food arrived fairly smartly, mine a big bowl of deep red dark sauce with two eggs perched atop, and MFO’s a nice plate of small pieces of smoked trout over a gruyere potato cake, and green tomatillo sauce. Most readers know that I am not a fan of overly spicy things (good job feeder – go to Santa Fe!!) and a tentative taste of the sauce revealed that it was pretty much okay, spicy but with good chile flavor. Now, without getting too indelicate here, my system was in not too robust shape to begin with, and I was fearful of pelting it with large doses of chili pepper. We were, after all a good ways away from home.. So I mostly ate the eggs nicely sauced with the sauce but largely left the (large bowl) untouched. It was, after all research more than dining. MFO finished hers and when the server came to clear he spied my almost full bowl. I stammered out some excuse like just wanted to try it, but was early for us, etc., and assured him it was no comment on the quality. Next time I’ll go for the hash. 

After breakfast we shopped a bit around the square peering in windows and windows of southwestern “art”, pottery, jewelry, large hats, boots and so on. Some were worthwhile and some was, well, IMHO junk. After a bit we both decided that rest was needed as the rarified air at 7000 feet was pooping us out.

The rest of the day was spent mostly inside the digs. We wanted to be ready as possible for Big Deal Dinner one so mostly we rested, and read, and listened to music. Later in the afternoon, we thought a light lunch seemed enjoyable so we decided to have some bread and cheese and a bottle of wine on the back patio

It was very pleasant.. that's ciabatta, double cream gouda, whole foods "home made" guacamole by the way with the Chamisal Unoaked Chardonnay... quite tasty

I also had time and played a little with the camera shooting some stuff around and in the house..

So feeling a little better, we made ready for big deal meal one at Martin’s which we will discuss tomorrow.. as I always say, doing gets in the way of blogging.. oh yeah, we made sure we were


PS - nice relief job last night Card's bull pen!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Santa Fe.... Okay

You know how if you are going to do something at the end of the day, you sort of mark time and not really get into anything? Well that was yesterday knowing we’d be leaving for BWI in the afternoon. So, desultory packing, errands here and there, what time is it now, and finally we loaded the MOMSTER and headed for BWI. We decided what the hell, start bleeding money early so we stayed at the “big deal” full up Marriott. Concierge level, all the privileges. No “minions” at the door so we had to schlep our own bags, and checked in. Herded the bags up to the 7th floor and got to our not so spacious room. After a bit of unpacking we decided to check out the concierge level and found a vacant room with some employee desultorily putting out cookies. Back to the lobby and had a drink at the bar. Not such a good DMOTRWAT, and MFO’s gimlet was rail. Twenty bucks. We decided to have food at their “Champions” sports bar thingie where all the staff wore referee garb. The place was populated with “contractors” the road warriors trying to kill a one more night on the company dole. The menu was sports bar like, with wings, onion rings, and general pub fare. Since we hadn’t eaten all day, we were kind of hungry and MFO went for a chicken quesadilla and I did a hamburger (only option was swiss and mushrooms). A million flat screens absorbed the vacant stares of the contractors, with only hockey to dominate the coverage.

MFO’s quesadilla arrived, and I have to admit it wasn’t bad. A half pizza size portion of tortilla with a fair amount of chicken lumps, plenty of cheese and jalapenos that were extracted. My burger was served on a Kaiser roll (what the hell?) and the Swiss was barely melted, a couple of slices of deli Swiss. It almost looked like the mushrooms were delivered as a patty and plopped on, But, however, comma, the burger had taste, and was cooked medium rare as specified. The fires were out and out Sysco. Oh, incidentally I tried the featured (sign at the door) Fat Tire, and it’s okay, but not worth the hype. So we satisfied ourselves although MFO only did half of the quesadilla. When the server asked if we were done, MFO requested the other half to be wrapped in foil. As we were leaving the server approached an informed us that the half left of the quesadilla was pitched inadvertently but a whole new one would be substituted. A nice touch.

So back to the room and a fitful night for the Feeder, is it time to wake up yet? Three hours, two hours, one, 45 minutes, 20, 15, ten, oh god, I gotta do this. So shortly after six, the body complaining but complied with action and we appeared in the lobby at the ungodly hour of 7:10. On the shuttle, to the airport, curbside check in ($5) and through security with minimal hassle. However, the B-15 gate was approximately in Annapolis, and after the cross country hike, the Feeder’s head was reeling, stomach churning, and nerves frayed. It’s just too damn early.

So a fitful flight landed us in Albuquerque in the sun, bags appeared early, rental car with smooth and the drive to Santa Fe was fun. We are staying at the home of some friends, and oh my god Georgia O’keeffe would be proud. Minimal adobe, blue sashes, and wonderful art. We sort of dragged out tonight, did a little exploring, and tomorrow we will begin trying to get our arms around this artsy community.

Big deal dinner number one tomorrow for which we will be


Monday, October 17, 2011

The King is.....


Two long days at the Oyster Festival regally strolling around the grounds, bestowing Royal greetings and welcomes, presiding over the shucking contests, monitoring the cook off, and generally making sure everything was proceeding correctly. Including of course checking the quality of the beverages being offered.

But by a wide margin, most of the Monarch’s time was spent in front of cameras. Nowadays, anybody who can hold one has some sort of device that will capture an image. The King didn’t keep track but the number of times his picture was taken must have been in the hundreds. And, I heard many groups upon gleefully looking at their countenance with his Majesty exclaim: “I can’t wait to get this on Facebook!” I am not savvy enough about “tagging” and all that stuff, but it would be interesting to see how many are out there. Or, maybe not.

The Royal day began with Regal treatment by the local Barristas, helping to reinforce the enthusiasm for the day

It was fun to meet all the people and those that wanted their picture taken. Some were afraid to approach, but when I saw their camera pointed in my direction I immediately posed for them. Everybody was polite and asked if they could have a picture, or if it “would be all right” to get their picture with the King. I am not sure what they thought somebody strolling around in billowing red robes (brisk winds Saturday) and a goofy crown was doing, but of course I always said “of course!”, and the feeder inside kept jabbing the King if he said “Absolutely!”.

I do have to admit that the majority of people wanting their picture taken with me were females of all ages. The ones of my generation were a bit sheepish sometimes, but I know they enjoyed it. It was funny about the little ones. Some were happy to be with the King, others had to be talked into it, and others wanted nothing to do with it. Hiding heads in Mommy’s skirts yelling “no!”. Eventually some were cajoled into reluctantly standing a minute and some never did. Most were entranced with the jeweled wooden scepter topped with the shells, and you could divert their attention to that. “Helping” me hold it turned out to be a good distraction.

So it was a busy weekend. In the cookoff department our local Chef Loic of Café Des Artistes pretty much ran away with everything, winning his category (appetizers); the peoples choice, and the grand champion (or whatever it’s called). We had a repeat National Champion Shucker in Mike Martin of Florida. In the men’s final, he posted one of the lowest (net) times that has been seen in a long time. The raw time was under two minutes for twenty four (reluctant as John Hanson Briscoe would say) oysters. Try that at home!!

A wonderful festival celebrating the oyster, but really a local gathering (well, folks came from all over, even California (the state)) to enjoy the weather, good food, entertainment, and enjoying being outdoors.. Mark your calendars for next year, it’s the 20th of October, 2012. Come see us, and a new King Oyster.

And only a day of rest for (back to the) Feeder, as MFO and I leave Wednesday morning for a week’s vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There may be an outage of the Bottom Feeder, always being at the whim of internet availability. For once we have done a little research and are having some “big deal” meals as well as some local hole in the wall places that are recommended. That’s the plan anyway.

So, now that I am temporarily back into the role of a commoner, the throne will remain vacant for a while


Packing bags so that we will of course be



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Once and Current King..

Today marks beginning of the celebration of Crossostrea Virginica our humble Oyster found in the Chesapeake bay and east coast…   As some know, the Bottom (appropriate, eh?) Feeder will morph into to the Monarch of the bivalves, and reign over the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, held at our county fairgrounds over in Leonardtown (notice how it’s always “over” in Leonardtown?).  Any HRH will be roaming the grounds making sure his subjects (the oysters) are being enjoyed properly by the many people who attend.   This notice also counts as a Royal Decree from King Oyster commanding you to attend. 

And if you’re among those poor uneducated few who say “eeeeewwwww, I don’t LIKE Oysters”, I will honor that and remind you there are several other options for food, including crab cakes, chowder, hamburgers and other common foods.  There will be shucking contests both days, with Sunday’s competition culminating in crowning the United States National Champion Shucker that I will accompany next year to Galway Ireland for the International Championships… 

That noise you hear in the background is MFO urging me to put the royal robes in the MOMSTER to advance to my kingdom for the day. 

These kinds of local festivals featuring local foods and characters like the shuckers are among the most fun things you can do.   Take advantage of it and come out and see King Oyster.  Oh, did I mention that there is beer.  Plenty of Beer.  Many Beers.  Lots of Beer.  A natural “pairing” for oyster fare.. 

And the Bottom Feeder reminds the King that he must mention that Historic St. Mary’s City will also be featuring a nice event this weekend, Civil War Comes to St. Mary’s.  In this case it does not refer to any friendly competition between the Oyster Festival and their activities that provide a glimpse of two Civil Wars - the American Civil War and the English Civil War. Military drilling, cannon & weapons firings, and hands-on experiences.   

Maybe a day at each place?

And a little heads up that MFO and I will be cashing in on our winning of a week in Santa Fe next week.  Talk about Feeder opportunities!!  Si!!  Stay Tuned...

Okay dear, I’m coming, and I'm


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aretha, you got it right!

Chain, Chain, Chain; Chain of Fools -

Sometimes I don’t get it. Alert readers will know that I am a champion of locally owned, independent restaurants (with their challenge to deliver), small businesses, and keeping money locally. We even have a Restaurant Week supporting those same goals, and proclaim “Buy Local, Buy Local” from any available forum.  A mantra.

Our county government has established a Department of Land Use and Growth Management (LUGM), to take care of us. Their mission statement (ya gotta have a mission statement) is, and I quote:

“To enhance the quality of life for present and future generations through protection of the natural environment balanced with orderly growth, while ensuring our customers both guidance and effectiveness of the land use regulations.”

And part of their function is to grant permits for development to ensure that “orderly growth”. I suppose “orderly” is in the eye of the beholder. Many a woodlot has been felled in order to provide that growth. But, that is not for a poor food blogger to pontificate upon, although that pesky word “balance” doesn’t seem quite so evident anymore.  What does it mean in the food service world?

MFO went to their latest meeting the other night, and came home with the wonderful news that they have allowed that Texas LongHorn Steakhouse which will be built next to the Texas Road House, and praise be to God, Cracker Barrel is back in the game which will complete Restaurant Row on north 235. Let the celebrations begin!! And while we’re at it, let’s let Golden Corral to move into that recently vacated McDonalds building across from San Souci.

So we are adding yet three more “chains” into our local mix of restaurants. I suppose it will “enhance my quality of life”. Three more! How many more can we take? Which got me to wondering: How many restaurants (in this case defined as places where you can buy food) are there around here anyway? Short of getting in my car with a pad (which I may yet do), I went to our local tourism website which has a list of restaurants and did a little survey. I did a rough count of those listed, and separated them into “independents” and “chains”. I came up with roughly 80 in the independent category, and only about 20 in "out and out" chains. However, the list did not include places like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Checker’s, KFC, Wa Wa’s, Sheetz, and so forth which would considerably increase the chain count. Judging by the highly informal criteria of “how full are the parking lots?”, it seems that the mid range chains (OG, Texas whatever, Red Robbing) are not hurting for business.  Build it and they will come.

If I were considering opening a restaurant (which I have learned enough to never even contemplate), why would I fly in the face of the seemingly limitless endorsement of letting anybody with a giant corporate structure behind them move in? who’s going lend me money?

Okay, enough. I guess I am in the minority. It’s hard to keep the faith. I am not “you guys”; I do not love off site processed food; I care about the service of and the quality of food I eat; I don’t wear ball caps throughout my meal.  Food is not just fuel.

Hopefully Happier Note to end on:

Before I got depressed (does it show?) over the acceptance of more chains by LUGM, I had a nice experience yesterday. I got to go to the caterer for an upcoming social event and taste through the menu. We were treated to the whole menu from apps through dessert. I made some suggestions that were accepted by the caterer. That’s when food can supply pleasure.. it can be creative.

Okay, enough for the second time, and pressing on, remove your ball cap and find a good local restaurant with an interesting menu and show up


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bones and Groans....

MFO finally heard enough of my whining and self pity, and suggested I go to the doctor. Now, I do not take going to the doctor gratefully. As a matter of fact I hate going to the doctor. If there is running blood or dangling limbs, okay maybe some medical attention might be required, but I have found throughout my considerable years that in general the body will heal itself (we’re talking colds and flu here, not some of the more serious things out there). So, knowing what not following “suggestions” could cause, I sucked it up and reluctantly made an appointment last week and went over today.

I suppose now that I am approaching my latest “big birthday” I will become more used to doing this. Since there is no pediatrician in that location, the waiting area was filled with people generally of my generation. And upon observing some of them, you all of a sudden don’t feel so bad.

Anyway, after a couple of chapters of my book I was summoned into the inner sanctum, put on the scales and then led to the “examination room”. Of course the first thing that happens is that they put that cuff on you, pump it up till your arm aches and then slowly released while she squints at the thing on the wall which you can’t see. And as usually happens, she says something like “have you just been exercising?”. No, I’ve been sitting in a chair in the lobby. Hmmm…, writes numbers on the chart and leaves. Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets branded a “Difficult Patient” and tries to look at the chart? Well, I didn’t do that, but was tempted. After another chapter (we’re about 45 minutes in now) in the book, the doctor arrives and as usual says “How are you today?”. Does he expect a “just fine, thank you”?.  Anyway, I describe my symptoms fully, to which he responds “Do you have allergies?” well, yes, but I don’t think….. and off we go into a world of Claritin, two or three different inhalers were prescribed, admonishments about eating right (me, the Feeder??), exercising, and all those other “right things to do” that I don’t, and I was released.

And you wonder why I don’t like to go to the doctor?

A little game for you…and a puzzler...

With my recent elevation of sensitivity to the dreaded phrase “you guys” used so ubiquitously these days, I have been trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary. It isn’t easy. It has become such a common phrase that you really have to make an effort to avoid it. I have noticed it rolling off my tongue without thinking. Try it sometime..

I did some poking around on the subject, and was somewhat taken aback when I found the following entry in Wikitionary under “usage”:

• The term “guy” is generally restricted to males, as in Was that a guy or a girl?, but the form "you guys" may be used for groups of any combination of genders whether it is all male, all female or any combination.

Excuse me? “Guy” is restricted to males, so why is more than one applicable to any gender?? What the hell! Who says they’re right? I will not subscribe to that usage. It just isn’t right. Restaurateurs and servers, take note. Do NOT use You Guys at my table. If we can take over Wall Street, we can eliminate the indiscriminate “you guys”.

Okay, enough.. wish I felt well enough to get


ps i am going to actually do something related to food tomorrow, report to follow

Monday, October 10, 2011

Much Ado about......

I wish the Feeder could report that the fact that he has been silent all weekend was due to a jammed packed schedule, wonderful meals, and exciting activities. That is partially true, a jammed packed schedule last Friday started a downward spiral in the cold that won’t leave resulting in a general feeling of ennui for the rest of the weekend, with only last night showing signs of maybe returning to whatever normal health is these days.

Each of the Friday events in themselves were enjoyable, and mostly self imposed, but the fact that there were so many (at least to me) sort of had a cumulative negative effect. It began with a coffee at Coffee Quarter in San Souci where my friend and I have found that if you’re lucky it can be fairly quiet and somewhat private. After that, I went down to St. Mary’s College for another Piano Talk by Brian Ganz. I won’t go into another lengthy description (although I could) but will say that it was extremely informative and my limited musical knowledge gets expanded every time I go. Brian has branched off a bit and now calls them “Chopin Discovery Series”, wherein he plays a little known or not often performed piece of Chopin. This one was a Fantasy on a Polonaise (Op. 61). Mark your calendars; next edition is November 1st at noon.

After a brief respite and a bite, I attended a meeting of the planning committee for the upcoming Hospital Gala at the Hollywood Fire (oops, for this occasion it’s the “Social Hall”). It should be quite an evening, one of the premiere events of the fall season. Part of my duties will be to do a tasting of the proposed menu this Wednesday.. I’m sure the caterer will be keenly interested in the Feeder’s opinions.. ha ha.

After that meeting I zipped home, loaded up the car with my regal King Oyster outfit, drove over to Leonardtown and did the rounds as His Majesty during First Friday. After an hour or so of spreading the word about the Oyster Festival (this Saturday and Sunday at the fairgrounds) and getting his picture taken, he changed back into commoner garb and joined some friends at the Front Porch for a desperately needed drink.

That concluded the hectic start, and Saturday morning proved my body didn’t think it was such a good remedy for curing colds and I felt generally crummy. However, with the aid of sunshine and liberal doses of Advil, I went down to Historic St. Mary’s City to host a 12:30 tour of the Chapel that was being offered to visitors that day. So, I boned up on my early history of the colony, prepared some notes, and drove down to the Visitor Center and then hiked out to the Pavilion, the gathering point for the tour. As 12:30 approached, the paths remained vacant, and by 12:40 it was obvious that nobody was coming. Eventually a single wandered by, and when I asked if perchance he was there for “the tour”, he replied: “What tour?”. None the less we had a pleasant conversation about this and that, and eventually he headed off for the Mackall Barn. After a bit, a family arrived and were quite interested in the Chapel and its reconstruction, so I was somewhat mollified with that. After they went on to see the firing of the cannon at the Dove, the paths again were deserted so I took myself home to the couch, where I spent the remainder of the day. We had an interesting evening meal which will eventually make its way into these pages.

Sunday morning punished me some more, but by the afternoon I was feeling somewhat better and some friends came over last night for conversation and football observation. The former was more or less confined to the distaff side, while the gentlemen availed themselves of the sporting coverage on the Tele. No sense going into that, although I will say the Cardinals collapse in the sixth inning was difficult to watch.  And Eli Manning owes me,  I had the Giants in my suicide pool...

We decided that Pizza was called for so we went to the extent to get some from Ruddy Duck. We’ve found that their wood fired preparation and quality ingredients are worth the drive if you want something other than chain.

Anyway, that was my weekend. I hope yours was enjoyable with the wonderful weather..

Thanks for visiting, hopefully things will pick up and we can worry about

DFD and occasionally DSYG (Don’t Say You Guys)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cervantes and the Feeder...

Don Quixote and I apparently have things in common: his with windmills and mine with dining etiquette. I suspect we are having about the same result, but I will carry on the good fight.

Besides my campaign for DFD, a couple of other things have continued to stick in my craw lately. The first is the universal use of the phrase “you guys” when addressing a party of any gender. It’s not appropriate in any situation (IMHO), but especially not in a restaurant. Never, never, never, even if it is all males. Admittedly it rolls off the tongue easily and is so common you have to really concentrate not to use it. If you HAVE to put something behind “you” I would rather it be “y’all” than “guys”.

The second speaks to modern American culture. I have railed against this before, but it stems from the apparent American desire to have a “number one”. Better than all the rest, undeniably tops in whatever field you want to mention. Sports? It’s why we have playoffs – who is NUMBER ONE. Music? Look at the damn plethora of so called “talent” shows for dance, vocals, an endless stream of contests to produce that one big winner. And that is embodied in one of my favorite words: “Best”. Looking up the definition of the word brings up phrases such as: the greatest degree of good or excellence; surpassing all others in excellence, achievement, or quality; most excellent; of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality. Pretty absolute, eh? And alas, the food industry is not immune to the lure of the word. A random sample of magazine covers in the mail box lately:

Notice the common word there? And Southern Living even adds “ever”! EVER! That's a really long time...And the Washingtonian folks want there to be no doubt

Food, as we have discussed before is a pretty subjective quantity. The "best" batter has the highest batting average.  it's measurable and quantifiable.   But for meat, you might like your steak one way, and I might like another. Never mind, just look at page 34 and don’t think.

So it was with this bias in my head that I opened up the most recent issue of my (far and away) favorite foodie publication, the current issue of Garden and Gun… and there was the dreaded four letter word:

Alas, they are not immune. And the relevant article:

Turns out to be a listing of somebody’s idea of southern food dishes from various restaurants, some well known, others not so much. The 50 Best southern foods include meats, seafood, sides, and sweets.

A sample from Seafood: Galatoire's is a venerable restaurant, and this is one of their signature dishes. I have no doubt that they are good, but are they the “best”? somebody thinks so. But, aside from that depressing tarnish, the rest of the issue is top notch. Where else are you going to find an article on frog’s legs; a review of a book on moonshine; or a wonderful tribute to the Grand Dame of Southern Cooking Leah Chase and her legendary New Orleans restaurant, Dooky Chase’s (incidentally, the Feeder has eaten there). Or a culinary tour of Charlotte by John T. Edge.  Recipes for sides for your thanksgiving dinner some traditional, some not;  "Smothered Country Green Beans" and "Curry - Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds and Grapes".. All with beautiful photographs throughout.. So despite a little chink, it is still worth picking up.

So enough. Use these "best" things as a guide, then apply your own tastes and preferences. Don’t let some nameless editor decide for you. You’re smart.  So smart you don't even consider watching America's Got Talent, but instead watch Ken Burn's latest effort:  Prohibition.  Hey.  I'm thirsty now!

But, you can let me tell you to


Monday, October 3, 2011

Wrapping the Weekend....

A busy weekend for the flutters, and somehow most events were outside, which resulted in the Feeder getting a cold. Sometimes you don’t know how bad you feel until you start feeling good again. Crossed fingers, but somehow life seems more agreeable today.

We began the weekend by attending the Osprey Gala, the yearly event that opens “Blessing of the Fleet” weekend down on Colton’s Point. It’s usually fun and well attended, but as most of these things held “outside” under a tent. With the chilly rainy conditions, I think that’s what started the spiral into the cold. Anyway, we got there half way into the happy hour part, milled around, looked at the myriad of silent auction items, and only wrote our number on one. It was a “diary” transcribed from the original of a historical (name escapes me) person which MFO glommed on to. In the end, she was the only bidder (over the “seed” bid) so we have that.

Anyway, we finally sought out our table and found we had our usual spot just past the stage and a little bit off the speakers. Fortunately MFO knew one of the couples at the table so it wasn’t complete strangers. They had friends with them, so that left two vacant seats at our table. Pretty soon, to our surprise State Senator Roy Dyson came and sat down in one of them. He’s a great guy to talk to so conversation was easy. Hurricane damage, flooding, all neighborly stuff. That left one vacant seat next to me and it remained so until after the first course was served. Part way into the main course (more later) a person approached the table and it was none other than the Minority Whip of the United States House of Representatives: Steny Hoyer! No pressure there! But, I must say that even though he is a national figure, a heavy weight in Washington, it was pretty much like sitting next to your neighbor. Conversation was easy, he remembered me from the Boeing Days and more lately Rotary club, and the time passed quickly. We never ventured into politics, and you can think what you want depending on your particular views, but he is just a nice guy. Just another nice thing about living down here in Southern Maryland.

As to the food, it was Catered by Bailey’s the venerable outfit that has been a staple in Southern Maryland catering for years. Presided over by the patriarch Eddy, it was a typical Bailey event. I have always thought his appetizers were his strong suit (leaning predominately to fried..), but the crab balls, coconut shrimp, and good old shrimp were quite tasty. The requisite cheese tray was as always, a cheese tray. What can you do.. Entrée was a small filet with a crab Louis/Newburg in one of those little scallop dishes, some potatoes and a squash compote. I have never understood why crabmeat bathed in melted butter is attractive, but if you let it drain a bit, it was tasty. My beef was cooked pretty well. The poor serving staff had to duck between the kitchen tent and the dining tent and were a bit damp. Poured wine was Woodbridge.

Following dinner they launched into the live auction, which we won’t recount for space and your time considerations, but the auctioneer was the standard Dan Raley. The man has a talent for that.

Saturday dawns...

I awoke the next morning feeling fairly crummy, which I partly ascribed to the prior evening, but later have realized it was the start of the cold not the beverages that caused it. I had indicated that I would do “chapel duty” down at Historic St. Mary’s City, so buoyed by a Starbuck’s and Advil I decided to go down there and hope for the best. Sometimes when the weather is poor and other stuff is going on in the area (WineFest, Blessing of the Fleet), things are slow and a relaxing time sitting by the chapel can be therapeutic.

So, when I was pulling out of Mattapany Road my first glimpse of the chapel revealed about fifteen or twenty people milling about. Uh Oh, here are patrons eager to learn about the chapel and it’s history, and I’m already a little late! Defying regulations, I parked the fluttermobile by the road, hopped the fence with my fact book, and started for the chapel. During the twenty yard traverse, I noticed that a lot of the visitors had cameras pointing at various parts of the chapel, and by the time I arrived, it was evident they ALL had cameras. And we’re not talking point and shoots, there were more DSLR Nikons and Canons than I have seen in a long time. There were lenses as long as your arm on some of them, most had those vests with a million pockets, back packs for other lenses, and tripods dangling from them. Obviously serious folk. I finally talked to one of them, and found out that they were part of Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk. While I don’t often recommend going to sites (I provide them for interest) take a look at this one, mute your speakers, and click the little video.  It will give you an idea what I experienced. People down on their knees shooting the texture of the chapel floor, close-ups of the wavy windows in the chapel, door hardware, anything. Lots of conversation like “Hey Tom, are you shooting ISO 200 or 800?”;you think I should use my Macro or telephoto for this shot?”. Stuff like that..

But, being a good docent, I decided to try to interest some of them in what they were seeing.. “Did you know this chapel was built on the original foundation of 1667?” – “that’s nice – Susan! What f stop did you use on that shot of the window frame”. “The Jesuits tore this down themselves around 1720 and it was locked for a decade before that!”. “Hmmm, Sid, could I borrow your tripod?”. As the song says there’s a time to fold ‘em, so I did. I’m sure they enjoyed their experience, I just wish their focus could have been wider (pun intended).

Sunday Fun

We finished off the weekend by visiting the Sotterley Plantation Wine Fest, featuring Maryland wines, local foods, demonstrations, and music. What a shock it was to walk up to the post Irene plantation! It was like a war zone..Anyway, I arrived on the site and used the Southern Maryland So Good tent to miraculously transform from a broken down foodie blogger into His Majesty

King Oyster!!

HRH then walked around the grounds, waving to wide eyed kids who either waved back or hid in Mommy’s skirts. Saw some friends who were astonished (well, surprised) at my alter role, met some new friends who learned about the Oyster Festival. And, I must admit there are some pleasant sides to King Oyster’s duties..  Somebody's got to do it!

This has turned out far longer than I intended, so this is OBE, but if you’re free this afternoon, there is a faculty seminar in the Glendening Annex at St. Mary’s College entitled “Tobacco as Currency in Colonial America”. Starts at 4:30.. free, and usually there are cookies!

Due to his kingly duties (and the lowering weather), tasting of the Maryland Wines was limited (apparently no problem with the group above!).  I did find a couple that I would have liked to get a larger sample than the miniscule metered "taste" they offered.  Another time perhaps..  Was not able to hit the food tent.
Current (Monday)
And this has turned out far longer than I intended, so this is OBE, but if you’re free this afternoon, there is a faculty seminar in the Glendening Annex at St. Mary’s College entitled “Tobacco as Currency in Colonial America”.  Starts at 4:30..  free, and usually there are cookies!

The King was regally


ps thanks to the Court Photographer for providing images of His Majesy