Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lunch.... with Side Dishes...

Long(ish) time readers will remember that I from time to time extol the value of “lunch”.  I am not talking about grab and go, drive through, rush back to work lunch, but time stolen from an otherwise busy day providing a little oasis from daily reality where good conversation and food can be enjoyed leisurely.  I’ve had three lunches in STL, with two falling into that category.  And the third was a "grab and go" variety, but it was a planned one, a must do for any trip to STL.

After our great dinner at Brasserie by Niche with FOJTE and W, the next day we had an appointment with our “financial” guy and it always somehow works out that lunch is part of the deal.  Pleased with our Gerard Craft experience at Brasserie, we decided to give him more business and try a lunch at the Clayton venue, “Pastaria”, where none of us had been.  Our friend had another meeting scheduled after ours, so we agreed to meet at the restaurant.  Finding a parking meter in busy Clayton and stuffing it with quarters (one per 15 minutes!) we headed out to find the place.  Which we did, just a few doors from Café Napoli.  Turns out that Pastaria is very informal, with (many) plain wooden tables, kind of stuffed in so that an adjoining table could be part of your dining experience.  Besides that, it was loud (was middle of lunch service in busy Clayton on the Friday before Christmas).  They would (understandably) not seat a incomplete party so we sat on the benches along with others awaiting a table.  They did have kind of a cute sign at the stand:


The more we sat (and listened), the more we thought that this wasn’t quite the experience we were hoping for (good conversation and quiet, leisurely lunching), so decided to abandon Mr. Craft this time and trade possible food quality for ambiance.   So, we celled our friend who was running late anyway, and went down to Napoli.  Sure enough we could be seated as a party of two waiting for a third, and were given a table right away.  We were approached by our server (I think with no speeches) and when he was told we were waiting for dash three, he said "how about a glass of something while you wait?  Tea, water, coffee?"  How about wine?  "Sure, I’ll get you the wine list".  He returned in a little bit with a……. wait for it…… iPad!!  They had recently changed over their wine list to this media.   He briefly showed us how to page between wines by the glass, bottle, red, white, domestic, imported, and so forth..  Despite the bit of incongruity between the kind of classic (although not “old”) Italian Restaurant, this modern device was easy to navigate.   Other than the initial weirdness, it was sort of fun.  I can see the advantage of it, it could be kept up to date more easily, and perhaps avoid the “we seem to be out of that” syndrome, it saves paper, and eliminates another tome on the table.  I suppose it gets to be a personal choice..  It enables you to “select” your choice and when the server comes back he can look at (or take the list) with all the “selections” and fill it.   Interesting concept.  And, if wine list today, are menu’s next??  I think I have read something about that. 
Anyway, MFO selected an Italian white whose name escapes me (carry the book, Feeder!!) but it wasn’t a common variety and I think had a Nebbiolo.  Both were quite pleasant.   About halfway through the glass, our friend arrived and caught up with us on the wine.  Won’t do a “dish by dish” but all were very good.   I had a daily special of a filet of trout in a nice sauce.  I had spied it going to another table (always keep your eyes open before ordering) and noticed it came with a side of broccoli.  I asked our server about it and he said yes, it was served that way.  I divulged that I really didn’t like it much, and he said, “neither do I, how about some Pasta instead?”.  Yes, please.  Now that is good service…  So while we didn’t get to try the second Gerard Craft place, we did have a very civilized lunch.  I don’t think you would ever go wrong with Café Napoli, a nit here or there, but overall a good choice.     Plus it’s fun to see the clientele..

"Lunch two" was on Wednesday, athe day after the hubbub of Christmas by Marriott was over.  We scheduled another business meeting with the “Tax” side of our affairs, and had arranged to meet some long time friends for a lunch after that..   Turns out they had a “bug” and had to regret, which left us on our own.  Although our tax bunch is down near “the Hill”, MFO had been looking for an opportunity to do the “other” Dominic’s, the Trattoria in Clayton.  Being the day after Christmas, I was unsure if they were open for lunch (at all, and on the day after Christmas), but a quick (well, not so much) check on the Droid, the website said open for lunch, and turned down the thought to call offered by MFO..  Great.  Off we went, and found a parking spot nearby and after again stuffing the parking meter like a slot machine, we started walking.  The nearer we got, the less cars there were, and in fact their (unbeknownst) own parking lot was empty.  Uh Oh, and sure enough there was the dreaded white sheet taped to the door announcing they would be open at 5:00 the day after Christmas.   Kindly enough, MFO didn’t give me the (well deserved) I told you to call!   So sadly we had to leave the donation to the City of Clayton in the parking meter and then, “now what?”   Ever alert MFO suggested “how about Cardwell’s?”.  Good choice I thought, and this time a cautionary drive by confirmed lights on and heads inside.  We also noted that Oceana Bistro across the street was obviously busy, so a backup was available.  So another parking meter benefitted from MFO’s bottomless change purse and we trooped over to Cardwell’s.  As those of you St. Louisites know there is also a version in Plaza Frontenac.  While the Plaza version is bustling and noisy, the Clayton one is more um, refined (?), formal (?), with tables isolated by partitions and lighting, just the kind of situation we were looking for after all our driving and thrashing around.  We were on the down side of lunch service so the place was fairly empty which suited us just fine.  Although we got started with a speech, the rest of the service was kindly.  And because it was (well) after noon and our last day in STL, I thought what the hell and started with a cocktail


Which is NOT as you will notice, dear readers, my normal DMOTRWAT, but my second, more refined choice, a Gray Goose Dirty Martini, “up”.   It did help..  For food I had a daily special of angel hair pasta with shrimp and asparagus (pushed aside), and MFO had a “fresh” spinach salad with “crispy fried shrimp”.  It was kind of funny:  both dishes included shrimp (which always sound good), but oddly enough the actuality was that they were just slightly larger than “popcorn” size.  In a respectable restaurant they should be a feature of the dish, not kind of an afterthought.  We also had a third party at our table, a little fruit fly that kept trying to join us.  Rather bothersome.  Eventually the hundredth lightning quick hand of the Bottom Feeder caught the little bugger.  The server apologized, but not much he could do.  I suppose that might be a product of an “open” kitchen, but I don’t know.   Anyway it was a most enjoyable little time stolen from the day.

And come to think of it, maybe “lunch” is more about the experience than the food, while at dinner the food takes the spotlight.  I would drive for dinner food, but most likely I would (pretty much) pick lunch by the atmosphere..

And lastly (for the food side), the mention of the “grab and go”, no question that any trip to STL is incomplete with grabbing this (yes, $11/Lb, and worth every freaking penny)


Side Dishes…

1st down:

As college bowl season builds toward the crescendo of the mythical “national championship” game which will take place sometime in the third quarter of 2013, I managed to stay awake (mostly) last night in an attempt to give the MSU Spartans another chance to break my heart.  But, this year I employed my secret weapon..


Which resulted in a Spartan Win! (at something like 1:45 am) by a “foot”  (get it?); and as the commercial says:  "It's only wierd if it doesn't work".... it did

2nd down:

I got a great idea, let’s have a holiday bowl game in…. Yankee Stadium!!!!

Special Days

You know, the more I live, the more I appreciate the “eve” day of special “eve” days.  Like today is the “eve” of New Year’s Eve.  All you have to do is think about what you are going to do, you don’t actually have to do it..  Ahhhhh

Sietsema – New Years

If you get the Sunday Washington Post Magazine, check out today's Tom Sietsema Dining column.  It contains “new years resolutions” for restaurateurs, and diners.  Worth a read..Just a couple..  Restaurants:  Drop the eggs (don’t put them on everything); Accept Reservations (people like to plan ahead);  Audition Everything (like actually sit in the chairs you expect your guests to spend a couple of hours in);  Diners: Show up on Time; ...and my personal favorite: Dress for the Occasion (…”dressing up a little isn’t showing off.  It’s showing respect for the restaurant and for others around you”).  Thanks Tom..  in other words:


Monday, December 24, 2012

Why I Love St. Louis...One...

Many miles later, and after a pleasant sojourn to visit FOJTY and new digs in Jackson, I can steal a few moments for an update (on the foodie side)
(and as a postscript, I have WILSL Two,  but "one" got too long)

After a fairly short drive from Lexington on Thursday, we arrived STL in more or less good time and spirits, and were able to hook up with FOJTE and his wife for dinner that evening.  He chose the venue, which was (French Themed) Brasserie by Niche, part of the empire of Gerard Craft, one of the hottest chefs in St. Louis and known more and more on a national basis.  He was named one of Food and Wine’s “best new chefs” in 2008 (which you can take for what it’s worth), but has seemed to live up to the hype.  His places include Niche, Taste by Niche, the Brasserie, and the somewhat recently opened Pastaria in Clayton (alongside the relocated Niche).  We had  dinner one time at the original Niche and quite enjoyed it so were glad to be able to accept the date with the “kids”.  We rested a bit, got on what DFD duds we had available without unpacking the MOMSTER II, and were picked up by the FOJTE's. A comparatively short drive to the Central West End took us to the Brasserie.  Valet parking is a nice thing.  The restaurant is quite attractive from the outside, and once inside you have no doubt you are in a Brasserie.  High ceilings, big “French themed” posters on stark walls, and yes, brown paper squares on the table tops.  The Feeder has to humbly accept, despite his initial (uninformed) skepticism, that this is a traditional setup for a Brasserie,.  We were shown to a table in the center of the space a good vantage point to watch things going on.

Before continuing, and at the risk of letting you bail out early (a mistake), let me say right here that we had one of the best meals I have had in a LONG time, since the Inn at Little Washington and The Bartlett Pear Inn.  The food was astounding.  FOJTE confirmed that this second visit for dinner didn’t suffer from “second time syndrome”; as the food was as good as it was the first time.

That being said, we were seated at our brown paper square covered table (no crayons) among silver and crystal.   The menu is a one sheet folded affair, maybe a little over a 3x5 card size:


Which unfolds like a road map


to reveal the whole spectrum of available items both food and beverages.  Everything is very French (Amuse Bouche; Salades; Hors D’Oeuveres; Plats) except somehow “Sides” remains as such.  There is a “Menu Du Jour” as well, very Francophile with a choice of items within three courses.    The Plats (main courses) are definitely French inspired with Boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, Cotriade (your homework assignment) as well as Moules, and Steak and (sic) Fries (Not Frites – weird).  Prices are in low twenties and below.  Wines are heavily French, with a nice array of price points available.  They do allow you to bring your own, which FOTJE did, with a twenty dollar corkage fee.  However, if you also order a bottle from their list, the fee is waved..

At this point (since we’re sort of deviating from my normal template), I must talk a bit about our server.  He approached with no fan fare, and asked if we would like (FOTJE’s) wine opened.   No, we would prefer a cocktail.  Fine..  what would you like?  (no pad visible at this point).  MFO did the standard Gimlet, FOJTE’s wife ordered a “Parisian” form the cocktail menu (Aperol, Lillet Blanc, and Champagne), FOJTE ordered his kind of standard Tanqueray and Tonic; and I went all in for the DMOTRWAT.  What kind of bourbon would you like?  Jim Beam is fine.  We don’t have that.  Okay, Woodford?  Yes.  Away he went. Within a couple of minutes he came back and repeated the drink orders for the table, and said to me: “Dry Manhattan?”  yes, that’s with dry vermouth.  With a twist.  Okay.  A few minutes went by and he came with the drinks pausing at the station and I could see the dreaded Maraschino cherry from my table.  Drinks were presented..  I would like a twist!  Of course.  Off he went, came back to the station with a twist in his hand which he twisted, and then brought on a napkin.  Besides that, drinks were fine.  When he delivered the drinks he asked if “we found anything we would like (on the unopened menu)?”.  Um, no we would like a few minutes.  Okay, he told us about the specials, one of which was a “coq au vin blanc” with white sauce rather than the traditional red.  Fine..

Okay, hurrying along we finally did order, and again he took the orders with no pad.  A couple of Frisée Salads, a Bibb and fines herb salad, and I went with the Chicken Liver Terrine, with red onion Confiture;  Main Plats included Boeuf Bourguignon (MFO); The Bistro Steak (FOJTEW); Roasted Chicken (FOJTE); and I took the special Coq au Vin.   He never wrote anything down.  But, I swear to (whatever) at least two times he reappeared at the table, and repeated the order back to us.  Yes, that’s it.  I am not sure what was going on, I’ve never had that happen before.  He was attentive, maybe just forgetful (and hopefully not on any chemicals).  Not necessarily bad service, just weird.

Back to the food.  Starters arrived.   You know how you’re at your table engaged in conversation and idly put a forkful of something in your mouth?  Well, I was chatting away and lathered a piece of bread with the Terrine, put it in my mouth and had to stop talking. 


WOW!  It was luscious and just took over everything.  I had to stop to enjoy it. Rich spices, creamy texture, (sorry, bursting with flavor!).  Just great.  The salads were also perfect, their famous “Frisée” lived up to it’s reputation.  All the greens were fresh, dressed just so, and not an overwhelming amount.  And, at this point, I see that I have blabbered on for over a page so I’ll try to be brief although I could use a page a dish for each of our main plat/es.  You know how you hear Roast Chicken is a benchmark for restaurants?  Flying colors.  Best chicken I’ve (forked from FOJTE) had in a long time.  Same for MFO’s BB, the steak tasted like steak (a rare comment these days) and my Coq Au Vin


What can I say.. great.  Chicken legs tasted good, sauce was perfect carrots were carrots and even the mashed potatoes were silky and flavorful.  No drizzles of sauce on anybody's plate.  FOJTE’s wine of an ’03 Clos St. Jean Chateauneuf du Pape blended well across the board.  Of course to save twenty bucks we were forced to order another bottle of wine (pinot as I blearily recall).  Throughout the meal our server arrived with some times unexpected comments… weird. 

And, somehow it just all fell together. 
The strange but attentive service, the ambiance, the food that just made you stop talking, and especially being with our family made it an evening to remember.  I would not hesitate to go back.  Sometimes you want to let things remain untouched in the memory banks, but I have confidence that we would get the same experience again.  You should go, but you can’t go with FOJTE's (well, maybe if you ask!).   and as it turned out, even with “road clothes” available we were acceptably



Happy Christmas Eve, everybody!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Road Report One...

Well after a couple of days of easy (and not so easy) travel, we’re safely in our temporary "home" in the Residence  Inn near Westport Plaza, St. Louis.  The  immediate future is too complicated to bore you with, because it involves running down to Jackson to “help” (us at 70, they at 40) FOJTY move into their new home..

Anyway, Wednesday morning, we carefully loaded up the MOMSTER II with gifts and necessities, and with MFO’s deft touch, everything just fit.


So we finally set out on a pretty day, and even survived the I95 gauntlet to Richmond where we headed west


Although it is a bit risky in the winter we always enjoy our trip on I64 through Virginia and West Virginia.  There are so many pretty farms along the way


And the trees have settled back into their winter sleep in shades of gray



With occasional interesting contrasts on ridgelines


Due to the sluggard waking up habits of yours truly, we didn’t get as early a start as we should of, so when we got to our normal stopping place of Lexington Kentucky, it was kind of late to go out to dinner.  No matter, Bottom Feeder Catering had prepared his usual “road kit”, and we did very well. 


Always travel with real wine and cocktail glasses, nothing ruins the moment by trying to drink scotch and wine out of those miserable pressed plastic things the stopovers provide (at least the ones we frequent)

Anyway, we went to bed tired, but happy after nice day of travel, with the shorter leg ahead of us.  So up on the road again..  oops! Not quite the same as the blue sky yesterday.  The "major winter storm" levied another scene for our windshield...


And hey, let’s throw in a truck in the ditch from the high winds just south of Louisville, and add another half hour


Finally moving again through a rainy Louisville and I will not comment on this, it’s their freaking brand, and they deserve it. Somehow fits... KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut.. boy that's y.... (I can't bring myself to say it)


MFO battled the wind gusts (“…with some occasionally over 50 mph”) in and out of the rain

until we finally saw the familiar


So here we are.. chapter one in the books, chapters two and following to come.. Oh, tonight we are joining the FOJTE’s for dinner at a hot place… I’ll take notes.. and I will be (minimally)


Social Media PS... some of you (and God bless you) may have seen some of these photos on Facebook as I tried to do "mobile" posting.. mostly to miserable results

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Warriors and guys...

Another Christmas, another road trip.  I am stealing time from doing useful things just to let you know we’re leaving tomorrow morning (12/19) for STL and family Christmas.  Given the usual randomness of internet access (and time) during travel, I am not sure when we will get together again.  Hopefully one of the H/Motels we’re in will have access.  The time to do it?   Well, that may be another story.  I usually don’t own the schedule much.  So, we’ll see.  I’m sure there will be road stories and pictures at some point..

 Hey, Guys!

I did want to pass along a little update on my continuing battle against the use of the word “guys” referring to mixed (or even all female) groupings, particularly at restaurants.  “Can I get you guys anything?” and so forth.  Well, Sunday we were at a dinner held annually in connection with a local historical association that invites Steny Hoyer, who pretty much attends, as he did this time.  During the initial speeches I almost fell out of my chair when a spokesperson for the organization in mid speech corrected herself after saying how glad she was that “all you guys could come”, to “all of you could come” and called me by name saying we had been working to eliminate guys!  In front of a pretty important audience no less.  God love her!! Well, the euphoria wore off quickly when Congressman Hoyer during his warmup remarks said he didn’t mind “guys”.  Humph.  “Guys” has gone national!! I spoke to him as we were leaving and he saw my point (I’m sure he thinks I’m crazy, which….).  We’ll see if we hear “guys” on the floor of the house.  Just incidentally, politics aside, Steny is a great person.  Takes time to talk to you and shows a genuine interest in what you have to say.  I guess if Washington hasn’t worn him down by now, he won’t.  We’re lucky to have him on St. Mary’s County side!!

Okay back to counting socks and making sure the camera and computer bag are properly stuffed.  MFO is taking care of assuring we will be

On the road again - Just can't wait to get on the road again.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend Ramblings...

What do you do the last weekend before a major (annual) journey to the Midwest?  Plan? gather? pack? wash? dry and iron? make sure all the electronics are in working order?  Naaahhhh, let’s go up to DC!  We left Saturday afternoon and fairly successfully navigated (with the aid of the GPS in Fluttermobile II) to a Marriott on 22nd St., NW.  As an aside, we are learning that the GPS fairy has a mind of her own, often routing you in strange ways, so we ignored some of her instructions and made her pay attention to what WE wanted to do.  But eventually we got there and turned the keys over to the Valet guy and checked in.  Somehow they upgraded us to a very nice corner room with a view of a hole in the ground, and the nearby Ritz Carlton.

Our purpose was to meet our friend up there, have a dinner and go to an evening performance of 16th Century music in St. Bernadette’s Church in Silver Springs.  Our friend selected a restaurant that was fairly nearby the church, called Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant.  We started off the evening with a lovely little cocktail hour in our room, “catered” by our friend.  We had his (famous) homemade smoked salmon spread, crackers, a selection of olives and peppers, some cheese, and of course wine.  He brought a Red (an ’04 Chilean Casa Lapostolle Syrah from the Las Kuras Vineyard), and we supplied White (’11 Chamisal Unoaked Chardonnay).  I have to admit that the red was clearly the favorite, jammy with overtones of chocolate (sorry, but it’s true).  It was a very pleasant time, doing a quick catchup and enjoying the food (we had skipped lunch).   Our dinner reservation was for 6:30, and the concert was 7:30 so we launched from downtown about 5:45 or so.  It’s a LONG way from DC out to Silver Spring especially on a busy Saturday night on surface roads.  We did however roll into the parking lot at just about six thirty and entered Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant.

One would think from their website the quaint place would be in a bucolic setting, on a quiet country lane.  Well, it’s not.  It is quaint, but it certainly is NOT in a country setting, it’s really on Colesville road, a rather busy thoroughfare.  But once inside it is pretty nice.  It’s one of those places that used to be a house so there are little dining spaces tucked here and there, up and down, kind of a labyrinth.   We were approached by our server (who unfortunately played the Hi I’m…. speech) and asked about drinks.  We informed her we were on a tight schedule and needed to be out the door at 6:20 or so.  She was really very kind, and said that in reality, the only shot we had would be to order a dinner salad (with chicken, shrimp, or salmon).  Acknowledging to ourselves that we probably pushed the scheduling too much, we did acquiesce and ordered Caesars all around; two with salmon and one with chicken.  The full menu was rather intriguing and I would have liked to taken advantage of it, but there’s always a next time. Dishes at adjoining tables looked very nice. We were served our salads in about twelve minutes as promised.  They were actually very good, a large hunk of salmon done just past opaque and a nicely seared chicken breast.  The busboy kindly supplied direction to “St. B’s” and we were in the car on schedule.  Unfortunately we were just a bit late, and we just caught the end of the remarks by the director.

The group is called Chantry, and about eighteen of them perform ancient music a cappella.  The program for the evening was “A Palestrina Christmas”,  by the Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who lived in the mid 1500’s, and was the most important composer of the “Roman School”.  Whatever, the music as performed was just wonderful.  The lyrics were printed in the program both in English and Latin, but of course was sung in Latin of course, made to accompany the Mass.  Once again, as in the Messiah, a four line piece was made to last several minutes by endless repetition of each line..  But, in this case the music was so beautiful it didn’t matter.  What a wonderful concert.  And, once again, I was left wondering if what we heard was what a person  in the 1550’s would hear in their church.  One (me anyway) tends to think of “ancient” things as being rough, crude, and elementary.   Apparently not.  500 years later, and it is still riveting..

The next morning, we joined our friend for a church service in the National Presbyterian Church, out near the National Cathedral.  They were doing their Christmas time services, featuring seasonal music.   They had horns for the prelude, strings accompanied some of the Hymns, and they have a newly refurbished organ with some 7000(!!) pipes.  It was astounding.  We’re not particularly religious but it was quite the spectacular service.  That kind of music in a church setting somehow is moving.  The pastor had some very nice words to pass along in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut.   He, like us didn’t have any solutions or explanations, but offered some comforting thoughts.  The last piece was Joy to the World, a nice way to end.

Anyway, as I told our friend, we spent more time in churches this weekend than we have in years (I don’t count my “chapel time’).  But at this time of year, it is so appropriate to celebrate new beginnings, hope for the coming year, and by golly they got the music right!!

 There’s more to come about yesterday, but we’re both kind of tired..  Sorry I didn’t have any images to soften the prose, but not a courteous thing to do..

Thanks to our friend for such a glorious weekend, and we have to revisit Mrs. K!!  where again we will be


Saturday, December 15, 2012



The other night I went out at eleven or so (we were up late anyway) and looked up.  During ten or so minutes, I must have seen about six or seven meteors.  I don’t know about you, but they kind of put things in perspective.  A bright light far away, sliding across the sky, no sound, just a few seconds of brilliant light, and then .....they are gone. 

And then we find out yesterday about the terrible tragedy in Connecticut.   It just defies any power of reason or common sense.  What possesses people to do things like that?  Like anybody else, I have no answers.  It is a terrible state our country has come to..  it goes far beyond “gun control”.  I have my opinions like everybody else, but obviously you can’t take away every gun, or issue guns to elementary school kids and their teachers, and who can pay for metal detectors and security guards at every door of every school in the country?  Maybe where we might focus energy is to try to identify these people before they feel they need to do things like this.  Services are being cut left and right, treatments are reduced, people fall through the cracks..

It sort of struck me that maybe the meteors and the children whose life was cut short have something in common..  they bring joy to all who see them, and then the light dies all too soon…

Keep them in your thoughts…

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Last night I had this clever idea:  I would write a little post this morning saying that twelve minutes and twelve seconds past midnight it would be  12:12:12  on 12/12/12.  And, it wouldn’t happen until…......... just after lunch!  ha ha.  Well, then guess what.  I was fumbling around on the computer and looking for a document I might have created in 2009. I thought I saw something promising in an old file so clicked on it.  A little box appeared and a green bar started marching across the screen.  I thought it was loading some archived stuff and I could search for my document.   Finally it was completed, and it said I would need to start the machine again to make it take hold.  Fine.  I did.  When it came to life after watching agonizing (what seemed like minutes) black screens, I followed my usual practice of opening the email.   It showed some email stopping in June of 2010 and informed me I had a “send/receive error”.  A little more investigation revealed I had no connection to the internet!  It was rather late at night so help was unavailable and I had to go to bed with visions of “lost everything” dancing in my head.  Needless to say it was a fitful night.

So instead of posting my clever little thing about multiple twelve’s I instead looked over the shoulder of my IT support team.  Bottom line was they fixed the thing that kept me from the internet, and eventually located the correct PST, and I can now see some historical mail.  I am gradually beginning to believe that things that appear gone, may not be.  You just have to know where to look!   Anyway, since there is no 13th month, we’re done with a lineup such as today.

CoCo Cantina Revisited.

MFO and I met some friends for lunch yesterday to discuss some future travel plans, and we decided to give CoCo Cantina another try.   As you might recall, I had a rather pleasant experience there a bit ago for lunch, so since it was convenient to all, we decided to meet there.  To dispense with the food, it was tasty and again seemed freshly prepared, with no evidence of the “glop” associated with a lot of Mexican Style places.  Dishes were a burrito, a chicken sandwich and the luncheon fajitas.  The side Mexican Slaw was fairly tasty.

Anyway if you go there, you might notice down in the corner of the luncheon menu a little note that says something like:  15 minute quick lunch.   Well on our visit they missed that by about 3 times.  Once again there were maybe only 4 tables occupied, certainly not crowded.  Turned out that one of the servers didn’t show so the maitre d’ lady was pretty much on her own.  It was about ten minutes and an over the shoulder tossed "be right with you" before she approached the table, took drinks and another ten or so before they appeared (water and iced teas).  I’d say it was a good half hour before the food came out.  If in fact we were on a 15 minute-ish time line we would have missed it.  Other reports I have heard have mentioned slow service.   For what it’s worth.

Missing Sign

If you have gone by that architectural disaster called LongHorn Steak House, you might notice that there is a banner over the door.  Normally it would say: “Now Hiring” a more and more common site on the box stores.  This one says “Apply On Line”.  Personal touch.  Pretty soon there will be more staff than customers in this county.  Probably not.

A nice ending

Just so I’m not totally negative today, here’s a couple of pictures from Historic St. Mary’s City Madrigal Dinner of last Saturday night.   I only took my little point and shoot, but you get the idea.  Music was supplied by St. Maries Musica,




and decorations by Mistress Brent Garden Club.  All the decorations are naturally occurring plants and stuff.  They were very beautiful this year.




If you haven’t ever been you should go..  unique stuff, but you STILL have to


Monday, December 10, 2012

Johnny's errata

before everybody pounces, being born on December 6, 1992 means last week you turned 20....typo in post below,  pretty much the definintion of a "kid"...  probably didn't


Sunday, December 9, 2012

A quick diversion

After watching that unbelievable Redskin game (and hoping RGIII is okay) with a winning performance by my MSU guy, and now a kind of comical Giant/Saints game going on, I got football on the brain.  Food can take a break, i'll sort of get this off my chest...  Maybe consider it to be a palate clearing entry…

Last night while we were enjoying the Madrigal Dinner at St. Mary’s City State House ,this year’s winner of the Heisman Trophy, emblematic of the nation’s “best” (one of my favorite stupid words) football player.

I have to admit I was sorry that Manti Te’o didn’t win, regardless of what team he represents, although his team is in the Championship game, with a lot to do of the defense.  I’m trying to be reasonable here, but really, somebody nicknamed “Johnny Football”?  A (so far) one season wonder, with his resume being he beat the vaunted Alabama team on their home turf.  Not taking anything away from that accomplishment, but I can’t help wonder if A&M lost that game, would he have won the trophy?  He’s a (redshirt) freshman, the first ever frosh to win the award.  Manti is a senior who played in all 38 games in his Notre Dame career, starting 36 total games including 35 consecutive contests for the Irish, boasting 324 tackles, 157 solo stops, 28.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles.  THAT is a body of work! Probably being a totally defensive player worked against him.  After all, everybody knows that quarterback is the most important position on the team.  Maybe Football Johnny will go on to an illustrious college (and pro?) career; let’s check his stats four years from now unless he goes starry eyed pro.  Although he didn’t win the Heisman, remember that quarterback from the Irish team that was to be the next Johnny Unitas?  How’d that career turn out? 

I heard a snippit of his acceptance speech, going on about “when I was a kid”.. he just turned 30 this week, not very far removed from a kid..  Our next chance to see him will be against Oklahoma on January 4th in the Cotton Bowl.  After watching the Sooner’s game against the Irish, who knows what will happen.

Maybe the RG III phenomenon had something to do with it..  flashy, grab the ball and run is all the rage now.   Maybe that helped when Johnny was paired with a defensive player who has played year in and year out.  Who knows..we’ll see how Johnny is an a year or so…  I hope Manti shines in the Alabama game when it’s played sometime in the next century…
okay, go

Friday, December 7, 2012

Here come de judge!

old enough to remember that??
I was asked again this year be a judge for the annual charity fund raiser “chili cook-off” held in the hangar on base where I used to work.  I always enjoy doing it for a couple of reasons: number one, I get to try a bunch of different chili’s; and two: see a lot of the people that I worked with for many years.  So I drove back on base, retraced my usual path to the hangar and went into the judging room (which is the break room for the shop) to see eight containers (mostly Hamilton Beach oddly enough) of simmering chili.


There were two other judges besides myself so potential ties would be eliminated.  So we got the tools of the trade (water and crackers not pictured):

and tasted our way down the line.  Fortunately (for me), there were no “blow your head off” varieties, although a couple of them were the “sneaky hot” kind where 30 or 40 seconds after you tasted, you noticed that little tingling on the forehead, or warmth on the neck.  There was one “white” chili which I appreciated, but most (save one) were of the “normal” variety, beans, meat, tomatoes, some cut up chili peppers, pretty much what is expected as “chili”.

There was one pot (the“save one” pot mentioned above) that was very intriguing. It appeared to just be ground meat (beef?) with no sauce, no beans, no peppers, just kind of a pot of ground meat. I thought I got a little vinegar bite and aroma off it, but I wasn’t sure.  It was Number Two, and I would be interested in its origin.  It was very different.  It wasn’t my favorite but I do appreciate the originality.  Maybe it came from a family history or a special region or nationality.  Good for the person who had the gumption to bring such a unique concept.

Which brings me to my standard speech about “judging” this kind of thing.  Chili is one of those dishes like crab cakes or pizza which are pretty much subjective.  What you like in chili could be very spicy, no beans, and is very different from what I might prefer, say maybe less spice, shredded meat, more vegetables.  Who’s to say what is “best”? 

Anyway I appreciated being able to sample all the chili’s, the judges compared scores and a “winner” was announced later in the day.  Everybody benefited..It was great fun for me, and maybe they’ll let me participate again next year!!  I might suggest for next year that the person who makes the chili provide a little card with ingredients (not necessarily the recipe, but whether it is beef only, pork, venison, sausage; kidney, pinto, black beans; what type of pepper, etc.). 


I “subscribe” to a few sources of “foodie” information that appear daily on my DROID. Culinary gems like Pizza Hut is creating a limited-edition fragrance to celebrate Pizza Hut Canada reaching 100,000 facebook fans; or that some 70% of restaurant patrons decide on dishes they can share with friends as a means of tasting more of what’s on the menu.  Stuff like that. Or, “Darden (conglomerate of some of our favorite chains like Olive Garden/Red Lobster/LongHorn, etc.) cuts 2013 outlook as sales fall”  Awww, too bad.. CEO Otis said..”our disappointing results for the quarter points to the need for bolder changes in the promotional approach at our three large brands”.   Can't wait to see what that results in....Anyway it's fun stuff to read, maybe I should pass along more things of interest.  Just kind of hate to be a clearing house..

And, sometimes other folks send me links or places to go to for other facts.  Got one the other day about the top 10 food and drink menu trends.  FWIW, here they are:

The top 10 food menu trends for 2013 are: locally sourced meats and seafood; locally grown produce; healthful kids' meals; environmental sustainability as a culinary theme; children's nutrition as a culinary theme; new cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major); hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens); gluten-free cuisine; sustainable seafood; and whole grain items in kids' meals.

The top 10 drink menu trends for 2013 are: onsite barrel-aged drinks; food-liquor/cocktail pairings; culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients); micro-distilled/artisan liquor; locally produced spirits; locally sourced fruit/berries/produce; beer sommeliers/Cicerones; regional signature cocktails; beer-based cocktails; and locally produced beer.

Notice the liberal use of the word “local”?? it’s what it is about!!  BUY LOCAL

Friday Fun

And lastly just for a chuckle, this morning  I ran across this 50 gallon drum of…… ??  by a parking lot

I guess we won’t have to worry about how we should

First Friday in Leonardtown tonight…  last one of the YEAR!! A sobering thought..


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A bad experience and a tough situation...

I have been relatively good lately, (save the little gripe on the Ravens), so maybe I deserve an out and out rant.. Nothing food related, just about humanity, and then a personally troubling subject…

First the Rant…

I don’t know about you, but I occasionally get random emails forwarded from people about WalMart employees and customers, and they are generally not favorable. One tends to take these with a grain of (sea) salt, figuring they are exaggerations.

Well guess what… here’s a true story.  Last night, MFO needed to get some oil and a filter to get maintenance performed on MOMSTER II prior to our annual holiday journey to St. Louis.  Sometimes we go to the Mart because of the propinquity to the digs, and also favorable pricing of the stuff.  We also were interested in printing an old photo of MFO’s Mom and Dad she found to distribute to various cousins and shirt tail relations for Christmas. I had a memory stick with the JPEG file on it, and after we did the oil and filter we found a sign for the “Photo Department” that directed us toward the back of the store, so we hiked back there.  Sure enough, there were various terminals where you could insert different memory devices to print your pictures.  The instructions on the machines were not clear (at least to us) as to the procedure, so we decided to ask the person behind the desk in the “Photo Department” (presumably the place to get photos). Well, guess what?.  At the counter was some lady with a shopping cart full of random items like bacon (approximately half a mile from the grocery department), clothes, soaps, etc., anything but photo related stuff.  She was just casually “checking out”, obviously avoiding lines at the normal checkout lanes in the front of the store.  And the “photo” person was just plodding through the shopping basket, scanning everything, beep, beep, beep.  A glance in our direction resulted in a “I’ll be right with you” an obvious fabrication given the amount of crap in the cart.  And then the cart lady’s son appeared and she said “Oh go get a memory stick”; Minutes passed and finally son appeared with a package and discussion ensued about the correctness of the device.

About this time, another couple appeared and looked at the printing devices and the lady suddenly loudly blurted out:  “How does this stuff work?"  Not waiting her turn, just shouting out.  There was then a five minute discussion with the clerk on how to use the device, what the pricing was, with no consideration of anybody else (including the now idle cart lady).  Just ME!  Finally without any resolution, they left muttering to each other and the photo expert went back to beeping items in the cart.  At this point we decided that between the cart lady in the “photo department”  not doing anything remotely related to photography, and the rude people blurting questions, we left.  No civility, just ME FIRST .. I don’t want to check out at the front of the store, I’ll just use the idiot at the “Photo Section” who’s too dumb to refuse her.    I’m sorry, I have to admit the postings are mostly correct.  Leave humanity at the greeter station.  We won’t go back soon.  If ever.

A conundrum …(also nothing to do with food)

Each football season, I have a standing bet with a friend on the Notre Dame/Michigan State football game.  We sometimes don’t collect the six pack or lunch, but we do enjoy the associated banter.  He is a very devout fan of the “Domers”, and I of course root for my alma mater, “Sparty”.  Readers will easily recall that I usually have not much good to say about the school from South Bend.  And for the past few years, my friend has stuck with his team which has gone through somes pretty tough times.  Well, as we all know the stars aligned this year, and they stand alone undefeated at the top of the rankings, waiting to play Alabama for the mythical National Championship.  I am happy for my friend, who is now asking me to “show some love”, or actually root for his team.  Frankly, this is very hard for me.  I will admit they are a very good team, and deserving of playing in the final game.  They have beaten every team they have played, and we’ll not quibble about “strength of schedule” (they are actually above Alabama in this statistic) so good for them.  And as I have occasionally said, it’s not so much the team itself that drives me nuts it’s the media hype..  So here’s what I think.  Congratulations to the Irish on their accomplisments this year, and as I said I am happy for my friend, he deserves to be proud of his team.  As to the game, roll out the football, and we’ll see what happens.  I really am not a fan of Alabama; Mr. Sabin kind of “did” MSU so he’s not my favorite coach, albeit obviously a good one.  While it would really be hypocritical of me to shout “Go Irish”, I will say I wouldn’t be unhappy if the highly touted SEC team loses the game.  Fair Enough..
and despite no foodie stuff, please remember this holiday season to