Monday, January 30, 2012

The Thing in the Garage...

What can this be? Some (bad) "artsy" picture? a
Or maybe a trapped animal? A chrysalis? What might hatch?  Is there somebody in there?

Wow! Maybe it’s a secret weapon!!

Read On....

When we remodeled the digs, and opted for the “wall of windows” design, it resulted in our great room having a rather tall ceiling (~28 feet). So things had to be on sort of a grand scale to fit the spaces. Eventually we got around to considering a Christmas tree, and of course a mere 8 or 9 footer would look like a sprout (not to mention many $ and a mess), so MFO went to Frontgate, and for very many more dollars we got a faux one, complete with hundreds of lights. While maybe not the tallest available (as in the White House tree) it did more or less make a nice presentation (with our famous clock).

Never mind that it is “up” in an empty house for the preponderance of time we’re in St. Louis and Wisconsin every year (another story which we won’t go into…..anymore), but when we return it has to live someplace. So, for a few years, we struggled getting it up and down stairs to the basement, “umbrella”- ing it through doors, and so forth. Much effort for not much display time (that story again). So, MFO consulted our trusty contractor and they all came up with a scheme to keep it in the garage.

And they graciously volunteered to construct same. So one day they showed up. As usual, an "easy job" didn't turn out that way (and I swore NOT to show any photos to protect their privacy). Anyway after a few false starts and several trips to Lowes for heavier tackle and “stuff”, the tree was nestling in its little sling of deer fence. It’s not a bad solution, just looks funny.

And yes, it is a messy garage, but by gosh, both cars can fit inside, defyingthea common practice in Southern Maryland. Normally John Deere would sit under the cradle, but it is currently having its winter spa treatment at Carroll’s Equipment.

So last Saturday night some friends volunteered to come over and help with the (now) traditional “hoisting of the tree”. We also hoisted glasses and forks, a pleasant evening.

And there it will rest, waiting for next year’s journey to be displayed to the ghosts..


Back to foodie stuff tomorrow..wherein we will consider Buffalo's and Gems..(PS there is some big football game next weekend)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Charlie, Charlie

Yesterday, I finally was able to join a couple of friends (who I used to work with) for lunch. We try to meet occasionally and catch up, but schedules are sometimes hard to mesh.. Finally we worked it, and were able to meet at Charlie’s Deli  (I guess they still use “Deli"). I hadn’t visited there since last August, shortly after they re-opened. At that time, I remember remarking that if you didn’t know they had been closed for the previous year or so, you wouldn’t notice any difference.

Pretty much the same could be said for this visit and my initial one. There are still table numbers under the glass on the table, bric-a-brac, ice cream bar, and menu. I think I would say that maybe the service has improved, I didn’t get the “I’m” speech although I was the third to arrive. I didn’t keep count, but there were numerous “You guys” directed at not only our table but generally throughout the dining space although many tables were mixed gender. This time I wasn’t forced to order by number, I guess by now they know that number 17 is a Reuben. Anyway, we ordered a “white board” crab cake sandwich, the “Fish and Chips”, and I went with the reliable old Tuna Melt. Mild fumbling around finding and deciding on the sides (pick only one); we had two potato salads and the chips (which in this case were actual potato chips, not fries)..

Conversation on the various flying machines we have worked on passed the time, and eventually the food came out. It was later than you might have wished, but it is fun talking. Although delivered to the table by the same server that took our order, she still had to offer each dish waiting for its owner to fess up, but she did manage to get the last one correct (think about it for a moment). Between bun, cake, lettuce, and tomato the crab cake sandwich wound up being about five inches tall, as did the fish. Thankfully, the tuna melt was encased in grilled whole wheat, with the requisite melted cheddar cheese.  However, one bite revealed there was also tomato and bacon also in there. Hey! A quick reference to the menu confirmed it was made exactly as described. Although not traditional, bacon can’t hurt anything, but I yanked the pale winter white tomato. The tuna was a little creamier than I like but wasn’t bad. The potato salad, served in a little cup was dense and fairly mustardy, with sizable chunks of potato, making it a bit tough to eat. It's hard to cut something in a cup, so I didn't finish mine.

Finally, the check hits the table with no totals, just itemized as ordered leaving it to the group to go to the cash register to sort out who owes what with another round of “I had the…”. I don’t quarrel too much with that approach as usually the lunch crowd is assemblages of individuals who pay their own way.

I suspect in the panoply of casual lunch options available locally, Charlie’s is as good as any. Just another place to go.  Convenient.

As mentioned yesterday (?) I have procured a little Canon point and shoot which I will try to keep with me to capture not only plates but “stuff” that attracts my eye. Nowadays there is no paper user manual, so I had to go on line to find a copy to educate myself about it. It about the size of your cell phone. I was astonished at the capability of the little thing. There are several “auto” functions that will do amazing things for you. For instance, get this: (and I am not making this up) you can enter “Smile Detection Mode”. After setting it up, you point the camera at a face, and when the CAMERA detects a smile, it will shoot the picture. Or, there is a “Best Image Selection” feature, which when set, will take five shots of a group of people, then the CAMERA determines which is “best” and saves only one. Wonder what would happen if I shoot a picture of a group of restaurants? And remember the “self timer” feature that is fairly common these days where you trip the shutter and run to get into the shot, (or almost into the shot which is usually my fate).? Well, you now have the option of the “wink timer”. Activate the feature, put somebody’s face in the little white “frame”, press the shutter button, leisurely join the group, have the person in the frame wink, and Poof! You get the picture. How do they do this stuff?

Anyway it will be fun to learn about the little device. Maybe it will tell me how to


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bits and Pieces...

A few random (almost trivial) nitnoids to help pass your Wednesday morning…

On your doorstep…

I finally decided to get a “point and shoot” camera for documenting selected dishes and locations when dining out.  As reported in earlier editions, I am still reluctant to haul out a device and take a shot of something at a table, but sometimes it’s warranted.  I am fairly inept using the phone, and hauling the DSLR is stupid.  Anyway, I settled on another Canon device (ELPH 310 HS).  So, late last Thursday afternoon I logged on to B&H Photo (my “go to” place for camera gear) and pulled the trigger.  Long story short (get it?), it was on the doorstep by four o’clock on Monday.   How do they do that?  It always amazes me.

Our national song…

Sunday, I settled in to watch the Ravens/Pats game on TV.  For years, Rozanne Barr and Christine Aguilera stood alone in the “Worst National Anthem Performance” club, but there is a new member and maybe a new president.  That idiot Steven Tyler (of American Idol infamy) probably took the prize as the worst rendition of the National Anthem ever.  Once again, it’s “all about me”.  Never mind that people go to war and sacrifice their lives for our country, and many take pride in our Anthem, but, no, let’s just see how goofy and “cute” I can be, screech a few times, passing it off as "singing" while adorned in my sequined scarf.  A real shame.  

Order In…

Apparently there is a chance that one of these days you can go into a Starbuck’s and order a “Grande extra cold, low foam, double hopped, brewsky”.   Reports are that selected stores will begin selling beer and wine during the afternoon “lull” time.  One store in Seattle has been pioneering it and they must be sufficiently happy with the results that they are expanding to twenty five more locations in selected locations.  Speaking of which it was noted in the little blurb I was reading that there are over ten thousand stores in the US..


In the “nothing is forever” department it has been confirmed that Scheibles, another of our (few remaining) iconic St. Mary’s County waterfront “crab houses”, will die/change.  It has been acquired by Parkway Hospitality Management (Our multi-talented team of diverse hospitality professionals cater and customize our service to each individual property’s unique needs), who are going to transform it into a “…larger resort. The marina will be used for charter fishing and other water activities”. And they are “…are truly excited to develop the resort at Scheibles”.  I’m sure they are. We have a unique heritage of such places in our lovely county, and one by one, they are made into a bunch of slick, modern, tasteless, buildings.  Like Evan’s for example.  I don’t know if there are any changes made yet, but you should make a point of experiencing places like this before they are all gone.  Long Live Courtney’s!!


As alert readers know (all too well), there are certain words and phrases in food settings that drive the Feeder nuts.  You Guys; Hon; Dearie; Workin on that; Taking care of you; the list goes on.  And now I am forced to add another: the word “Yummy”.  You might remember that I nearly throttled a woman near me at a cooking class one time after she repeatedly squealed the word every time a dish was set in front of her.  I think she may have even used it with the ice water.  To me, after somebody has worked hard to prepare a dish (like say, seared foie gras with white truffle oil) for your pleasure uttering “Yummy!” (unless you’re eight years old) demeans the dish.   As you know, I appreciate harmony in all things, and coupling silly phrases with serious food just is not. 

And here, tucked at the bottom as usual, is the continual reminder to


Sunday, January 22, 2012

What to do.... what to do....

A busy end of the week prevented any cyber activity until this (Sunday) morning (while waiting for kickoffs), so some catching up…

Thursday was taken by a regular morning meeting, a visit to my friendly local dermatologist to have something scraped, and an afternoon review of the “flutter course” I’m developing for the Flight Test University on base. Then Friday morning I attended an “off site” for one of the community organizations I belong to, followed by another smaller meeting. Retirement, what retirement?

Anyway, so it was with some relief that yesterday MFO and I attended the annual “Bruncheon” hosted by the Friends of the Library (book sale people) down at St. Georges Episcopal Church in Valley Lee.

It’s a pretty little church with a pleasing cemetery (kind of an oxymoron, but it is peaceful).

The brunch is held in the church hall, and the food is cooked by what I usually report as “church ladies”, but in this case it turns out that it was mostly the "church gentleman". It's in a classic chruch hall, smaller than some, but seven or so tables were set while along the back wall was the table waiting for the food:

People generally milled around and chatted for a while since of course everybody knows everybody, but eventually we were seated. Welcoming remarks were followed by a blessing of the food and day by the Priest. After this the “chef/church gentleman" was introduced, and he thanked all for coming, and then described dish by dish what would be served on the table. Pride in your work. While this was going on, the food table was populated.

There were a couple of eggish casseroles, veggie casseroles, steamed potatoes, some stewed apples, and meat which consisted of roast pork

And, as far as I was concerned the Pièce de résistance, the forcemeats

Reader quiz one: what is the meat on the left?; Reader quiz two: what is obvious about the meat on the right? If you answered “scrapple” and “handmade” you get an A. It is rare that you get a chance to have scrapple anymore (Linda’s in the Park serves it), and handmade sausage patties you don’t see very often. Not just an offload from the Sysco truck. They take the time to make the stuff by hand. So after an initial trip down the food line you might end up with a plate like this:

As we consumed the food, of course there was table talk, and I was pleased to learn two of the people at ours had children attending Johnson and Wales University. A positive sign. Anyway, we finally finished the dishes (sausage was good, and I’m still developing Scrapple appreciation), and were served a house (or in this case, church) made dessert:

After most everybody had reached their capacity, the program was started. We were treated to a talk by Christina Allen, a talented nationally known artist, who is also a resident of the County. She recently wrote a children’s book called “A Micro Chip on my Shoulder” a true story of how she raised a little (Heritage Breed) turkey poult from infancy to adult. The little bird suffered an injury when just born, and she raised it by hand. The book is illustrated with her wonderful paintings.

The book recounts how she did that, but also carries messages for adults. The book has won national honors. Christina is a fascinating woman, with boundless energy and a passion for self sustaining living and preservation of the environment. Her homestead (not a farm, she points out), is pretty much completely sustainable for them. Between the turkeys, gardens, and a small herd of sheep, she makes almost everything they eat and use. Fabrics, soaps, foodstuffs, you name it. She is a real local treasure (in the land of nothing to do and nobody to know).

So it was a great couple of hours, sustained by great, non-mass produced food, friends willing to work to raise money for our local libraries, and hearing from one of our great citizens. By the way, the Friends of the Library are always looking for volunteers. Get involved if you have nothing to do!! And, although it was Saturday mid day, we did take care to


Quick foodie postscript: One of the ladies we see at most of these events cornered me during the meeting, and said, “you’re a food person, I have a question for you”. Okay, shoot. “Where can you get real cheese around here?” I had no good answer for her. I have heard that one of the local farmers makes goat cheese, but don’t know much more. Sigh.. internet, trips up the road, occasionally in one of the local gourmet shops, but now that Woodburn’s has left, nothing regular.. it's a shame. Morbier, Humbolt Fog, sigh....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lite Wednesday

Just more ramblings (verbal, not physical) in random order…

First Amendment?

Don’t know if you’ve been to Google today, but there is a big black rectangle over the usual doodle, and I’m told Wikipedia, that fountain of information (some would say misinformation) has shut down for 24 hours. This in response to a bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) wending its way through Congress regarding content on the web. I will freely admit that I know nearly zero about it, but it seems to be polarizing the internet community. Spokespeople for the “web” side of things (Google, Wikipedia, various bloggers) portray it as shutting down the web, big brotherism, etc. On the other hand supporters say its purpose is to stop the illegal downloading of music and movies. I don’t have a position here, but as usual I suppose the truth lies in the middle. I don’t think the Bottom Feeder is in any peril..


Unless you don’t watch television at all, you know tonight is the long awaited new season of “American Idol”, where we see promos featuring weeping singers, gleeful people hopping up and down, and so forth. But what really gets my goat are those (excuse me) stupid “judges”, allegedly (self?) qualified to decide who has “talent” enough to advance, and who should go back to the Karaoke bars. All three of them have more face time than the contestants, especially the Steven Tyler caricature who seems to feel he is the most wonderful whacky, crazy guy, in the world. I will freely admit (for the second time today) that I am way behind on Pop Culture, but I have no idea what he did to deserve getting national attention. Of course, I am in the vast minority of viewers, and I’m sure the ratings will skyrocket. I am proud to say I have never seen a single episode, and today will not alter that. You want great TV? Watch Downton Abbey, or one of the Sherlock Holmes episodes (the “originals” with Jeremy Brett).


Well, for a while there, I thought we were making progress. But alas, I guess not, and this is not new, just repetitive. Once again, while wanting to go North on 235 from my darling Millstone Landing Road, I was forced to sit behind a stationary car for a full three or four minutes who (I am not making this up) waited until ALL (three) lanes were clear of traffic for miles, and then pulled directly across the “merge” lane into the right hand lane, and continued north. I don’t condone, but maybe somewhat understand unskilled drivers who don’t want to navigate across three lanes (not usually very difficult) to go left at the next light, but waiting just to get into the right lane? Sheesh. Serenity now..

Foodie Factoids.

I noticed on the national news last night there was a short story about Burger King initiating delivery… remember it was reported first here…

As alert readers remember, I continually rail against the poor service that is so rampant around here (You Guys made any decisions?). Well, I was gratified to read about a resurgence of “server schools”. If you have a minute, here’s an interesting article..

According to a Travel Channel Poll: “American consumers are getting more adventurous when it comes to trying unusual foods, with significant numbers saying they would include on a Super Bowl party menu muskrat chili, pig's ear sandwiches and even possum fajitas”. With apologies to Anthony Bourdain, there is a line someplace between adventurous and stupid.

Nice Section

And just to end on something more pleasant than my almost rants, more pleasing for the eye

by any other name..

and, as the moon rises

we'll just remind you to


Monday, January 16, 2012


You feel like a blog sometimes you don’t… today I pretty much don’t, however....

Not much foodie activity over the weekend, and in fact most of the weekend (a lot of it anyway) was spent watching the PRO football playoffs, with the division winners hosting all the wildcard round winners.  Things went pretty much to script with three of the four division winners surviving.. notes:

The Packers must have done theirs before the game, because they can get out of town today.  A lackluster performance of stone handed receivers, errant passes, a porous defense, poor coaching decisions (on side kick???), coupled with a pretty good Giants defense put an end to what was to be a glorious undefeated (whoops!) season culminating in retention of the Super Bowl trophy (Whoops II).

Once again, Tom Brady and friends systematically put an end to the Tebow mania; at least for this year.. thanks Patriots..

I did miss a portion of the Ravens game figuring they didn’t need my help, which they didn’t (quite).  With apologies to my Raven’s fan friends, I think their season will end in Foxborough next weekend.  Depending on your defense against the Pats is risky.  I don’t see Mr. Flacco outscoring Mr. Brady.

And easily the most entertaining game was the 49’rs eliminating the Saints once again on the road, and out of doors.  The conditions in Candlestick weren’t far from a dome, yet the Saints just couldn’t get it done.  Small aside….. one of the things that gripes me about the NFL in general is that “tackling” is no more.  You try to bring down a runner/receiver by “bumping” him and hoping for the best.  It used to be that the defense’s job was to bring down the man with the ball.  Now, it seems that upon first contact the main objective is to strip the ball, not down the runner.  The defense immediately paws at the ball, or their first move is to “chop” the arms, not pretty.  Not so with the 49’rs, they tackle.  Hard.  So now Mr. Brees can go home, count all those passing yards, and watch somebody else put on the ring. 

If the 49’rs play with the effort they brought to that game, I’m betting on a San Fran/Patriot Superbowl..  but as always, it’s why they play the games.   We’ll see..

And my Spartans got beat by the Wildcats.  What’s up with that?

Foodie Factoids.. (just to keep my chops in a bit)

Burger King is going to pilot a delivery program in DC.  Apparently they do it in Canada now, and are going to test it here.  Terms and conditions apply.

Privately owned restaurants closed out 2011 with a 3% rise in sales and profit levels not seen since before 2002, according to a financial statement analysis. The 1.93% jump in average profit margins likely reflects the results of ongoing efforts to control costs.

On Saturday we decided to get takeout for dinner so we didn’t have to cook.  So as part of an errand run we stopped in at one of the local BBQ places.  Our order consisted of a combo platter for MFO (two meats, two sides), a half slab of ribs for me along with one side of barbeque beans.  That’s it.  Total cost?  $36.XX.   Quantities were large enough (for us) to make that into two meals, but it seems kind of high.  I suppose there’s a lot of labor in smoking the meats or something..

Okay, I’m tired.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Ooo-gah Ooo-gah, Oga's!!

Welcome to the first of three triskaidekaphobia months this year, triple the amount of last year..and maybe our last!

Blowin’ the horn:
As a result of my food mania, I get to meet and be around a fair number of people locally who actually do something with food other than consume and write about it.  I hear a lot of them talk about places they go after work, or just frequent to eat and have a good time.  Time and time again I hear that they have been to Oga’s over in Leonardtown, serving Chinese and Japanese Cuisine.  It has been on my “have to go there sometime” list for quite a while.

Serendipitously this week, I had the opportunity to help a friend with an auto related errand in Leonardtown around lunch time, and he suggested we go to Oga’s while the car was being taken care of.  Great idea!  Locals will know it is occupies an unassuming storefront in Leonardtown, sort of between the post office and the “gas place”.  So after a bit of trouble figuring where to park (in back it turns out) we went in.  The dining space is separated from the entrance by the cash register stand and a little partition which affords some insulation from the street.  Once inside there are tables along each wall, and some in the middle, and a small bar in back, which in this case provides sushi, not liquids.  The walls are done in beige with some dark wood lattice work overlaid, which somehow makes it kind of pleasant.  There are no windows in the dining space, which given what you would see is fine.

Lunch service consists of a buffet, which is never my first choice for food service (let me give you money so I can get my own food), but this type of food which is mostly small bits of this and that does soften that position some.  It provides a good way to sample a lot of different things.  So we told the nice young man at the station “two for lunch” and were given a table along one of the walls (toward the gas place).  The buffet itself is along the other wall, and is not huge, a typical steam table affair, with soups, dumplings, desserts, and maybe (from memory) something like twenty small dishes of food.  Everything you might suspect is there: fried rice, general Tso’s chicken, garlic shrimp, chicken (or beef) with broccoli, teriyaki’s, all the standard stuff.  There also were a few Sushi choices.

As fate would have it, we arrived just after a pickup full of workers of some kind (they all had on those day glow vests you see everywhere these days).  They were on their lunch break apparently, and so were doing “take out”, all with Styrofoam clamshells.  Hard work builds hearty appetites, so between them they pretty much cleaned out the buffet bar with the exception of a few bits and pieces here and there.

 And here is where the first of many positives evidenced themselves.  Almost immediately, the pans were replenished a few at a time so that we had a pretty good selection (which improved in a short amount of time) to choose from.  As soon as we were seated, we were offered drinks (water and hot tea for us). When our first plates were finished they were removed, which was good because we required a second trip to the buffet. 

I won’t trouble you with trying to recount all the things I tried, but I will relate the first thing I tasted was the fried rice (which by the way, was fluffy and fresh, not gummy at all) and it was very good (Hey! This is good!) which is saying something for fried rice..  the little bits of meat were tender, not dried out and had flavor.   That applied to everything else I had.  It was all good, fresh (maybe because of the worker folk), and had distinct taste.

On the way out, I picked up their takeout (and I guess regular menu) folder.  It amounts to three and a half (one half for title, address etc.) pages of food choices.  I counted 25 main categories, with an astonishing 221 menu items (I have the spread sheet to prove it)..  Appetizers, soups, fried rice, poultry, beef, pork, special combos, chef specials, sushi (40 some odd choices).  Amazing.  How can they do this?   Well, I suspect the answer is that there are few main ingredients but the preparation is hugely varied.  Anyway, it would be bewildering to walk in cold for the first time..

Now I can see why the food professionals like to go there.  Service is prompt and friendly (no names), food (yes, one visit) very good, and reasonably priced.  Did I mention that the lunch buffet is $6.95?  Now that I have the menu as a guide, I think MFO and will go for evening meal one of these days.  I might even venture to a sushi… but probably Nigiri, can’t hack the Maki yet.  Recommended.   I don’t think other than tasteful casual you would need to worry about

DFD (but leave the ball caps in the car).

Short Sports Extra:

This weekend sees the quarterfinals (?) of the Pro playoffs.  Go Pack, 49’rs, Pats, and Ravens.  Not a big "underdog" fan.   And please people, remember that the name of the professional football team in Denver is the Broncos, not the “Tebows” as seem to be all the rage now.  I am so sick of that.  And again, the reason is not Tim (he seems to be a nice lad), it’s just the darn media that won’t let up.   I don't think i could stand the mania being hyped up by keeping them i the equation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Of This and that famous That....

A few this’s and that’s have been piling up so maybe we can tick off a few today, leading off with a regrettable error on my part:


In my recounting of our experience at The Source, I mentioned that I could not find them in this year's Washingtonian’s listing of the 100 Very Best (gosh, I hate using that word).  I guess the aging eyes have failed me because another look at the list for this year revealed that they are indeed included.  I don’t know how I could have missed.  Anyway, in the 2011 list, they were awarded three and a half stars, and even dubbed the third “b-word” on the entire list, behind only Komi and Inn at Little Washington, heady company, indeed.  Well this year, while they are on the list, they have been stripped of an entire star and are not included in the top ten.  There is a little blurb about them (along with all the other restaurants on the list) but there is no mention of why they fell from grace.

In a way, it makes me feel better to discover my oversight; it seemed illogical that you would drop from overall three to “off the list”.  One would hope for some consistency in performance, although you might think they would explain why they plummeted..   Again, sorry.


Speaking of “reviews”, there was a review of our Café Des Artistes “Heaven in St. Mary’s Countypublished in the Old Town Crier, a free publication from Alexandria.  The review has been referenced in several local social media sites and the restaurant includes it in their weekly little news note.   This is the first time I’ve read a review from Mr. Oppman, so don’t have anything to compare it to.  To echo his own words, his praise was “effusive”.  The only thing close to a negative was that Mr. Oppman pointed out there was no Fondant in a dessert called Chocolate Fondant.   Well that, and he chose to inform us (after praising Chef’s Brulee) that: “Too many American Chefs don’t know the difference between Crème Caramel and Crème Brulee”.  Really!. Pretty bold statement.  I think I might choose to disagree.  I am happy to see Chef get the recognition from outside the county that he fully deserves.  Hopefully Mr. Oppman will make good on his statement that his visit to CDA was his first but won’t be his last. 


In the above mentioned review of CDA there were photos of some of the dishes.  Harking back to The Source for a moment, I put in a few of mine in the posting, and well, I have to agree with a couple of readers that they were pathetic.  As readers know, I am kind of a traditionalist when it comes to dining (DFD and so forth).  For instance, I really don’t appreciate a table next to us popping flashes of each dish that is brought to the table.  On the other hand, if one is “reviewing” a restaurant, the reader deserves to see what is being talked about.  Fair enough.  So aside from our experience at “The Inn” (where I feel we darn well bought the privilege), I am somewhat reluctant to stop the proceedings to snap a picture.  If I were a “real” reviewer published by somebody other than myself, it might be warranted, but I’m not; hence the hastily and poorly grabbed shots with the Droid.  I am thinking of upgrading to a quality point and shoot, but it still leaves me on the horns.  I don’t have a good answer for myself.  Yet.


So we were driving north on 235 the other day, and were in the Momster.  As anybody that pilots (or is a passenger in) a larger vehicle knows, the higher elevation of the seats affords a good view of people in smaller cars. We were stopped at a light in the Park, and in the car next to me (I was a passenger) the driver’s head dropped, a sure sign of texting (as you know).  About then the light changed and we went forward while the car beside us didn’t (another sign), but eventually he caught up to us, head bobbing between looking at the road and his lap.  As he passed us (yes, I stared), I looked into his lap and saw him feverishly working on a …… Rubik’s Cube!!!  That’s got to be a first..  oh, and there were two kids in the car.

Okay, enough for today.   have a real bona fide foodie experience to relate the next time.  Meanwhile continue to


Monday, January 9, 2012

Wolfgang and friends...

Every year, the company (where I ply what little flutter knowledge remains in the mush) generously hosts a holiday party for their employees. And for the second year in a row, it was held in a restaurant in DC. The selection for this year’s edition was “The Source” a so-called Asian Fusion place that is part of the Wolfgang Puck empire.

I usually don’t have high hopes for these celebrity “chains” that pop up lending the name of the Chef to establishments that trade more on the name than the food. One wonders how many times the namesake actually sets foot in the kitchen. I also noticed their website proclaims they were number three on the Washingtonian Magazine’s “100 (sigh) Best” list. As an aside, I just got my copy of that magazine which contains this year’s “100 Very Best” restaurants, and the Source may be number 101, but they don’t appear on the list. We’ll leave that subject for another time.

I also checked out “Yelp” which I use as another source of data, mostly to just get a feel for a place. The reviews were mostly positive, but there were some clinkers, with somebody saying they thought the food “was inferior to P. F. Changs, and I hate that place.” I also noted that most of the people who take time to put a review on Yelp seem to be mostly young thirty something hip women (judging by the avatars that accompany an entry). We’ll leave that subject for another time.

Since we were part of a group, the restaurant had a pre-selected menu with two choices for first, second, and dessert courses. The first course was an “Indian Spiced” Cauliflower Soup with Maine Lobster, toasted almonds, caramelized cauliflower, and cilantro-mint” or a Winter Green Mesclun Mix; for the main course the choices were: ““Thai Style” Sautéed Rockfish with red curry, and sweet Maine shrimp” or “Korean BBQ Hanger Steak with roasted fingerling potatoes”. Desserts consisted of Warm Bread Pudding or a Chocolate Cheesecake. Alert readers might remember that spicy foods are something I generally steer clear of, and probably not a good idea when faced with a drive back to southern Maryland following the dinner (use your imagination here). So when I saw the words “Indian Spiced”; “Thai Style”; and “Korean BBQ” little red flags went up. A little web crawling revealed that the BBQ might not be too hot, so I reluctantly settled on the salad, the BBQ, and the Bread Pudding. MFO graciously agreed to try the other choices.

The location of the restaurant was listed as Pennsylvania Avenue, and the address (575 NW) placed it about halfway between the White House and the Capitol, basically next to the “Newseum”. So late Saturday afternoon we DFD’d, got in the MOMSTER and headed North. Now, equally alert readers will remember that driving in DC is not among our favorite things to do, but we have established routes we’re comfortable with (after 15 years) that have low probability of landing us in Virginia against our will. So we took the Suitland Parkway onto South Capitol, over M to fourth and north to the mall. An end run put us on Pennsylvania and we were feeling pretty frisky, but as we passed the Newseum and street numbers started in the 6XX’s that old sense of panic started to set it. Crap!! We’ll go around the block! Well, anybody somewhat familiar with DC knows that “going around the block” isn’t always easy. And, indeed what followed was a maze of one way the wrong way, no street where there should be, “no no, don’t turn there!” and a couple of mild shouting sessions, but finally with the aid of the trusty Droid GPS we again cruised by the Newseum, and turned just beyond it figuring we should be close. Sure enough MFO spotted a little cluster of cars around a “Source Valet Parking” sign. The damn restaurant was at least half a block back from Pennsylvania. We surrendered the MOMSTER to the young man in uniform who insisted on his eight bucks fee, and only after a little heated conversation reluctantly agreed that the office party we were intending to join did have complimentary parking.

We finally entered the restaurant and were greeted at the door by the hostess, and when we told her we were there for the such and such function, she said follow me. Upon entering past the stand you’re in a large bar area with (I think) dining spaces behind it. The din in the bar was so loud that Mr. Sietsema would probably classify it as “must shout to be heard”. Anyway the young lady led us to the elevator, got in with us, pressed two and up we went to the second floor. When the door opened we were in another large dining area, and our group was in a little space that was partitioned off from the main room. Heavy glass, stainless steel, white clothed tables, views of the street, and an entire wall devoted to a glass enclosed wine display which must have been twenty five to thirty feet long. A lot of the tables were occupied, and the waitstaff was distinguished by being entirely in black. Noise on this level was less, and helped even more by the glass partition.

After a few hellos we were approached by a server with a small tray in hand and asked if we would like a drink. Are you kidding?? Of course! MFO did order her Gimlet and I was afraid to go for the DMOTRWAT given that the server had to go get it, and bring it back. Two cycles weren’t too attractive to me at that point. So I went with the impossible to screw up backup: call scotch on the rocks. The drinks were brought back fairly rapidly, a welcome start to the evening. There was also wine available (in unlimited quantities) from a little side bar in the room, an Adelsheim Chardonnay and a Row Eleven Pinot. Both were very good (we found out). Due to the mild weather, the temperatures were warm enough that several of the guests availed themselves of the outside balcony overlooking not Pennsylvania Avenue. After another drink and meeting more people (the majority of employees are in Falls Chruch with only a few of us from Pax) we were summoned to sit down for dinner.

Each place was set with a white charger and a linen napkin holding a little menu card with the aforementioned items. Waters were filled immediately so that there was actually ice in them (another of my pet peeves is when you’re in that kind of setting and the glasses have been pre-filled so that by the time you sit, it’s just tepid water). Our server took the orders of the nine at our table. Soon after that, appetizers began to arrive on platters to be passed. They were small bites of things that included some mini crab cakes, beef satays, some veggie egg cups, and little spring rolls.

The latter were described as “spicy tuna rolls” and indeed they were. If the platter was emptied, another was brought promptly. At this point MFO and I both switched to wine remembering the road trip that lay ahead.

Soon enough the first courses began to arrive, and although the ladies were not served first, the whole table was served rapidly with many servers bringing the food. The soup was nicely presented, a creamy beige with accents of the cilantro mint oil, and the lobster chunks in the middle.

My greens, were well, a pile of greens. Okay, but not special. I did have a sip of MFO’s soup and it was nicely layered with spices as one might expect. After the first course was finished, all the silver was cleared and replaced with fresh, with those that selected fish given a “fish knife” and the BBQ people a sharp one. Nice touch. Wine and water glasses were kept amply supplied, and then the main courses came out. Despite some elbows in the ribs and kicks to the shins, I did take a shot of the rockfish (which doesn’t do it service, it’s better than it looked in this hastily snapped phone shot (which applies to the ones above also).

It wasn’t too spicy and was very well cooked, with a little crunch on top and creamy below and had great taste.. in the end, I wished I had ordered it. My Korean BBQ was exactly as it should have been I think. An assemblage of sliced beef in a sauce, but it was uniformly brown and presented again in a “pile”. It had good beefy flavor, and I was happy with it. I do think the fish was a better overall dish.

Desserts and coffees were served, a little speechifying, and we bid adieu to the folks, retrieved the MOMSTER and made an uneventful return to St. Mary’s and home, arriving shortly after midnight.

I had situated myself at our table so that I could view the other customers of the restaurant, most of who looked like young professionals with enough disposable income to enjoy themselves. I didn’t see the regular menu but most of the references I looked at put The Source in the top “$$$$” category. . I did a quick tour of the massive wine display and they had a nice selection of wines. I didn’t see a wine list so don’t know pricing. Most tables had at least one bottle served. The big dining room had a nice pace about it somehow, with servers gliding in the aisles with plates, wine and water being served, and it was enjoyable to look at.

Despite my misgivings about the celeb restaurant, I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It is a nice space, all the food was very good, the service was attentive and did the right things at the right times. Hard to believe that they aren't within the hundred favorite restaurants in DC.  Although the cuisine isn’t my favorite, I would return. Many of the reviews had nice things to say about their Dim Sum.

And I would have to add that thank goodness in DC all of the people I saw were properly


Editor's note:  Most readers know that The Feeder likes to mess around with words, and when it came time to think of a title for this posting, it was hard to leave "Puck" alone.   Having a background in hockey, phrases from my coaching past came to mind like "Pass the Puck" or "Shoot the Puck" .  But I didn't want to appear negative (me?) so gave up.  I'm sure there is some catchy title there someplace....

Friday, January 6, 2012

Out with the Old... In.......

With the holiday trip put in the memory locker (at least for now, another probably looms), and the spleen is vented regarding bowl games, we can at last return focus to the important stuff..Like food.

At this time of year, there is always a spate of “the year in……” articles and features, with a retrospective of what happened during the previous year, and prognostications for the future and so forth.  While I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to take on that task, maybe a little reflection is warranted..


the trade blogs seem to agree that things will not increase dramatically, however they do see an upward trend in dining out.  A few samples:

 “Half of U.S. restaurant operators reported an increase in same-store sales during November, compared with the same month in 2010, and 41% said traffic rose in the month, according to the National Restaurant Association”

 “Restaurants will trade on rising grocery costs with marketing that focuses on how it’s cheaper to dine out than cook at home. Boston Market already did it during Thanksgiving, and we’ll see more.”

 They look for major chains to join with social media:

 In 2011, more nationwide chain restaurants waded into the daily-deal space, some with partners — Qdoba was a test partner for Groupon; McDonald’s has teamed up with Living Social — and some on their own. Chili’s “Holi-Deals” offer through its email club may be a template for competitors looking to make a big one-time gain in traffic.

 The “buy local” trend will remain hot, with predictions of (independent) restaurants developing more ties to local purveyors of produce and protein.

 “Lots of restaurants have their own garden, some have their own farms and at least one has its own herd of cattle. Keep an eye out for proprietary oyster beds and other hyper-local specialties that will set operators apart.”

 And there are plans for various chains to expand…

 “Dunkin' Donuts plans to double its 7,000 locations in the U.S. over the next 20 years. The company also is ramping up its growth in international markets, such as China and India”

 but there are also contractions:

Landry’s closed a $131 million deal to acquire the Portland restaurant chain of McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Tuesday and quickly moved to terminate executives including CEO Bill Freeman, co-founder William McCormick and others.  It also closed at least nine restaurants, according to a source familiar with the situation.

 And before we leave the national stage, I found a little indication of trouble in paradise:

 “Olive Garden got too adventurous last year, turning off loyal guests in an effort to bring in new customers, and it plans to refocus on more familiar dishes and more value-pricing this year, says (Darden) CEO Clarence Otis Jr”;

“Olive Garden goes through literally tons of mozzarella and Parmesan each week, but Gorgonzola, it seems, was a cheese too far. In 2011 the chain, which makes up 45 percent of the sales for Darden Restaurants, introduced "culinary forward" dishes -- most notably, Gorgonzola and pear ravioli with shrimp -- to the menu, and spent millions of dollars promoting them. Customers balked.”

Awwww……can I have more breadsticks please? (They go through 9 million a week)


We all know what a volatile industry the food service business is, and there has been a lot of indications of that over the past year, especially in “chains”.  Lone Star has been shuttered for quite a while (keep reading), our Damon’s remains dark after “the fire”, and there was a little blurb in the local newspaper that several Arby’s will be closing in Southern Maryland.  I don’t think you can pin all of those solely on the proliferation of the other chains around here, but together with the economy (favorite whipping boy) it probably does have a lot to do with it.  And speaking of proliferation, I assume the plans for LongHorn Steak House and Cracker Barrel in our “restaurant row” are proceeding and will join our recent additions there.  The conversion of the “old” McDonalds on Millstone Landing into a Golden Corral is moving at a snail’s place.  Our Buffalo Wings and Beer looks to be packing them in, and they will be joined by a couple of new places in the “new” center where Kohl’s and Dick’s reside.  More fallout is to be expected.

 On the independent side, they seem to be holding their own, in fact a couple new ones have opened: Lynn’s Café in the old Tea Room (third recent occupant) location; and the resurrected Willows  continue to remain open.  A new occupant (Island Bar and Grill and Crab Shack) is taking a wing at making the old "Evans" successful on St. Georges Island.  Catamaran’s on the island did finally close, potentially reducing the crime rate over there.   A little further afield, Jasper’s in Prince Freddie also closed but I think more for lease related issues, and Saphron continues to serve low country food up there.

 Sounds like Chef’s American Bistro will undergo changes, with the current location (San Souci) changing into an upscale Caribbean/African/Soul-food buffet for lunch and dinner and the name is going to change to "Kilimanjaro" restaurant. Not only that, Chef Ahmed will also be moving into that Lone Star location opening "Brasserie 235" (clever, eh?)  with “lots of foreign, micro brew and domestic beers plus a better wine list and a updated Brasserie menu”.

 And I note that the person who did the restaurant descriptions in the “Around Town” section of the Enterprise for the last three (?) years has moved on.  The new person’s first column appeared today and it is about a band.  I understand his (Joe Norris – another one?) background includes music, so maybe the theme will vary somewhat instead of a steady diet (get it?) of foodie things.  I will give Mr. Mercer credit that he stuck to independents and gave them some much needed publicity.


Like Mr. Parker in his Wine Advocate publication, The Bottom Feeder did have a few memorable meals during 2011.  Of course our experience at Inn at Little Washington tops the year’s list and goes on the life list.  But there were others:  meals at “Charleston” in Baltimore, and “Bartlett Pear Inn” in Easton were very much enjoyed, as were dinners at Terra and 315 Wine Bar (with its fabulous Foie Gras appetizer) in Santa Fe,  and a lunch at Hay Adams hotel in DC.  What makes these places especially memorable is not only the food, but the whole package:  décor, place settings, attentive service with no “you guys” or “Hon’s”, pacing of the meal, (and yes, a correctly made DMOTRWAT).  It’s just “right” and you know it.
But everything doesn’t have to be high end to be special; there was a great breakfast at the Jones Heritage Farm Market with FOJTY in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and another cholesterol clogged breakfast at the Hungry Peddler in Onalaska (and a very poor dinner there).  We had a nice evening with FOJTE at Balaban's in St. Louis, along with too many bottles of Pinto. 

A few items locally remain… interesting.  The cheese plate at Front Porch is worth it, I’ve had a couple of good experiences with small plates at the bar in the Tides (mostly on “off nights” when it was quiet); and we have had some very nice food at the Dry Dock.  An experience at Courtney's is not to be missed.  Be sure to do that, it won't last forever.  Café Des Artistes in Leonardtown deserves special mention.  Chef Loic is a special presence not commonly found, he not only manages the restaurant by actually being there day after day, night after night, but also finds/takes time to reach out to the community.  And, the food is reliably good (that presence thing), with enough changes in menu to keep interest up.  We’re lucky to have him. 

I was going to wax eloquent here about service and your duty to improve it where you can, but i won't.

So we face a new year, maybe with new dining opportunities.  But of course the constant is that you must continue to

DFD – we may win.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Annual Bowling Rant....

Sorry food fans, I gotta get this done for this year... tomorrow will be your day..  much foodstuffs to report on.. but first:

I feel better. Normally at this time of the year I am depressed and gloomy. Besides the holiday madness, another cause of this funk is usually the performance of teams from my native Big Ten Conference in the glut of year end bowl games. Year after year, the vaunted tough Big Ten players are uprooted from their snow covered fields, taken to a warm spot with palm trees, beaches (and the normal inhabitants of them) and then when it comes time to play football, they forget how. Usually playing against some team based in the south, the Big Ten players appear as if hitched to a plow, and watch the gazelle like runners of the southern teams blow past them.

With ten (!) teams from the (so-called) Big Ten playing, I figured it would be another dose of humiliation and reality. But it started on a little better note when Purdue barely beat a plucky Division One AA (or whatever they’re called now) team, and a little (personal) plus that the team from South Bend fumbled their way to a loss. But then, a downer when Iowa and Northwestern lost by a combined total of 28 points. Then another upper when somehow Illinois managed to beat UCLA, although Penn and (THE) Ohio States were losing, but by at least by “respectable” margins (I’ll take it where I can get it).

Then it came time for the Outback Bowl to watch my (0 and 4 bowl record) Spartans take on a Georgia team who felt they had been jilted by the BCS boys. After MSU’s pitiful performance against Alabama last year, I feared I would have to watch a repeat on a national stage. To make matters worse, the “color” man for the broadcast was the indefatigable Jon Gruden (aka Chucky Cheese) who apparently took off his Georgia Cheerleader uniform just before entering to the booth. Relentless in his praise for the Bulldogs, he lauded their talent: “MSU hasn’t seen a team with this much speed”; “I don’t see how MSU can hope to play with such talented players that Georgia has”; “they haven’t won a bowl game under Dantonio, and it looks like that will continue”; “MSU’s offense is just befuddled by this blanketing Georgia defense”. Et cetera. And, in fact, he looked to be correct as the Spartans first play from scrimmage was a safety (“Brandon Boykin is just too much for them”) and in general they were helpless in the first half, going into the locker room down 16 points.

Ah, but then came the second half. Somehow the “hapless” Spartans managed two unanswered touchdowns aided by an interception, to pull within two. This resulted in a begrudging comment about “This team doesn’t seem to quit”. But then Georgia “responded to the challenge” with another touchdown leading by seven points with just over six minutes left. A relieved Chucky allowed as how “MSU made a nice run, but they look like they will fall short again”. Wrong. Cousins marched the team down the field and scored with 14 seconds left to tie the game.

Three overtimes later, with a blocked field goal, the huge monkey hit the turf as the Spartans got away with their unlikely comeback. Chucky had to acknowledge that they played a heck of a game. Ha!

Finally (for the Big Ten) last night, despite a lackluster performance by the offense, Michigan managed another overtime win over Virginia Tech on the toe of a kicker. With space becoming used up here, I won’t comment much on the “Beeeeemmmmerrrr Balllllll” play attempting a fake punt on 4th and 15…

And then to top it all off we had to suffer another session with Holly (It’s all about ME) Rowe sticking microphones in the faces of coaches, players and anybody else who she could corner, asking the stupid “What was going through your mind when…..” questions, or demanding to know “How were you able to….”. Give it up ESPN! Leave it on the field…

So as I said, a 4 and 6 record for the Big Ten is, as I have come to experience, respectable this year… It was surprising that so many games were decided by kickers this year, which is maybe a statement on “parity”.

As I write this, there are still FIVE more games to be played, leading up to the so-called National Championship Game rematch between LSU and Alabama. Despite what I may say about the games, it is interesting to see teams from different conferences and sections of the country play. But those BCS pundits have created another conference game (last time there were only kickers on the scoreboard) to decide who is “number one”. It’s America for God’s sake we HAVE to have a “Number One”.

I feel better, and it’s also America where you must


Monday, January 2, 2012

The long and winding road...

To paraphrase Jake and Elwood, we got 3580 miles, over 200 gallons of gas, a bag of snacks, and we’re wearing bifocal glasses… Hit it!!

So with 3580 miles to travel, what could you do? Well, you could drive to LA, then up to San Francisco and back to LA; or go to Seattle and then drive on to Calgary in Alberta, or maybe drive down to Miami and return and then go there again..

Instead (as you know) we drove from here to Onalaska, then to St. Louis, then BACK to Wisconsin, and finally returned to

The final return to home was delayed half a day when we learned at the last moment that MFO had even more hoops to jump through, papers to sign, documents to generate. So the return trip amounted to a leg to Indianapolis, then a marathon 660 mile stint to the digs.

Along the way we saw the usual and the slightly unusual

And the things you apparently can’t escape:

Mostly, our trip was framed by the windows of the MOMSTER. I found that I especially liked seeing links to things the way they “used to be” before the Interstates slashed the old farms, and their fields gave way to the growing of the chains. They’re still there, but like me are getting up in age. And (maybe unlike me) they still have a certain charm..

When you’re passing over the landscape at thirty five thousand feet at four hundred and fifty miles per hour, you may get there sooner, but you don’t get the feeling of our country that way. I’ll admit the interstates do insulate you a little, but you can still look over the fences…

So thus ends this year’s holiday season where we bid adieu to MFO’s Mom, she was with us in spirit, and we got to spend time with all the FOJ’s and wives, saw some friends, had a good meal in St. Louis at Apt. 2, some good food (give or take a bad (?) oyster) at Waterfront in Wisconsin, learned when in Wisconsin you need to specify whiskey for your DMOTRWAT.

I hope all loyal readers had a similar good time, and now we can return to normal life, looking forward to 2012 and hope those Mayan’s didn’t know what they were talking about..

and lastly, for all you drivers out there that pinned us to trucks, cut us off, tailgated and then sped past us with a glare, we can only wish you will have this conversation in your new year..

New Year's Footnote:

And I don’t care what they say, “New Year’s Day” should be on the first, not the second. It just doesn’t feel right watching the rose parade and the plethora of football games without a splitting headache and delicate stomach. Today I have clear eyes, and feel pretty good. It just ain’t right.

And once again I will probably be forced to watch my home Big Ten conference demonstrate that Bowl Games are beyond their capability. Take ‘em out of the great white north, and they forget how to play. At least at this point Illinois eked out a win over UCLA while Northwestern and Iowa pretty much got it handed to them. More on the line today, including the Big Twelve refugee Nebraska.

and don't forget the new year still demands that you