Friday, April 27, 2012

Catching up and to do list

Happy Friday

As I recall, I owe you a tidbit about food after the lovely Brian Ganz concert the other night.  As I was preparing to leave the parking lot at “the City”, I called MFO so she could order a pizza which I would pick up on the way home (convenience over quality).   A return call soon came to the cell with the information that Pepperoni’s had closed at nine.  Excuse me, a place that offers pizza closes at nine?  Most pizza eaters are just getting sentient at nine.  Oh well, let’s try (our new nearby) Jerry’s again.  A few minutes later I got another cell call (and yes, I was distracted) that said that our order was number 33. So a few minutes later I was in the parking lot and went into Jerry’s.  This is about twenty after nine.  I went in to be greeted by an incredibly happy oriental gentleman, and he said my order was not quite out of the oven.  Eventually it was, and with lots of smiles and nods I went home.  We have learned that store bought pizza improves with a session on the stone in the oven.  The size of the pizza provided challenges to get it on the stone, and we were only partially successful.  We had selected an “all meat” variety.

Okay the pizza, even though crisped by being on the stone, was not good.  The crust was still thin and mushy on the bottom and the ingredients were only average.   I'm sure the cheapest money can buy. With now maybe four or five orders from Jerry’s, I am almost ready to write them off.  Rice has been iffy, pizza has been uniformly bad.  They have an incredible kitchen, but nothing that has come out of it so far has impressed me.  Too bad.

OTOH

After MFO’s meeting of the Historical Preservation Commission yesterday we did our usual pilgrimage over the bridge to the Dry Dock.   We assumed our normal seats at the bar, and our drinks were set in front of us almost before we sat down. It’s nice to be known.  I may have said this before, but one of the servers who worked there in the golden days of the "old" Dry Dock is now there to assist in managing the place. I often emote about the “original” Dry Dock in the block house across the parking lot from the current location. Looking back I think they had best core of servers that has ever been assembled around here.  The food was good last night, and we especially enjoyed going over old times with our friend.  Sigh, those were the good old days..

Friday’s (partial) to do list:

Might include taking in this year’s offering of the Mark Twain Lecture Series on American Humor and Culture.  It will be given at 7 TONIGHT in the O’Brien Rec Center (the gym) at St. Mary’s College by David Rakoff.  Mr. Rakoff is a nationally recognized (Thurber Award, among other distinctions) humor writer.  It is to be noted (which just sunk into the feeder’s small brain) that the lecture has NOTHING to do with Mark Twain.  The only subject mentioned is that he will speak on “defensive pessimism, and his new award winning book…”  kind of a small red flag there, but it could be entertaining.  Think no fee.

Unfortunately at the same time tonight 7pm one of Historic St. Mary’s City Maryland Dove interpreters (and their waterfront supervisor) from, Joe Greeley will give a program called:
“Over the Ramparts – Fortifications in the Chesapeake, 1607 to 1945”: the fascinating story of the changing fortifications protecting the Chesapeake. HSMC Visitor Center auditorium, also free.
Musically there will be a concert tomorrow at that popular 7pm by guitarist Peter Griggs performing “500 years of Music for the Guitar” (hopefully that is NOT the length of the concert) down at Chaptico’s Christ Episcopal Church.  “a free will offering will be accepted”.

TODAY will be the last student recital of the school year ~ 3pm in Montgomery Hall, Room 25 on the campus of St. Mary's College. There will be a lot of great music.  Free.

On a grander scale, tomorrow is the annual Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering at Jefferson Patterson Park.  Usual stuff, hammer throws, bagpipes, drinking.  20 buck admission 10 – 6.

Closer to home is the Going Green Expo held at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens, 10 – 5. Free.

Okay, enough for today

DFD

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Proper Behavior


Civility with a camera and a laptop - foodies take a seat, I have to get this off my chest...

Phase I - Cameras

Readers know (all too well) that I try to document this experience or that by including a photograph here and there.  I find that there are some ethical issues involved, at least for me (tormented as I am).  A plate of food doesn’t mind a camera sticking its nose at it, and a pretty scene doesn’t care, but there are some limits.  When in a restaurant, I pretty much resist shooting the food out of deference to the restaurant, and other diners (although with my new point and shoot it is easier) . If there is a particularly beautiful presentation I try to be as discreet as possible and never, never, use a flash.  You are there to appreciate and enjoy the food, not to capture or worship it.  I know there have been endless blog debates about this, but I try not to invade the experience if at all possible. 

In public situations, such as the “Taste of 235” event I attended last weekend, I don’t feel bad about taking general shots that include people.  The use of a long lens allows images to be captured without being conspicuous (like the balloon guy).

But then there are situations such as the performance of the CheeseLords last Sunday at Historic St. Mary's City.   While not in a “real” church, it nonetheless has a sacred atmosphere about it.  I really felt like I would like to preserve the event both for myself (and the readership), plus the City might want to document the performance. So, I did take my little point and shoot, and took the shots while sitting down two or three rows from the front.  I only took a total of four. The results (as you saw in the last post) had sort of “snapshot” quality, rather than a good picture. But it wasn’t intrusive at all.  IMHO.

Which sort of leads me toward not exactly a rant, but something I have strong feelings about.  In the very front row of the seating, right in front of the singers, there was a woman who held up her iPad like a sign board, staring upwards at the screen and shot (and most likely) recorded two or three pieces.  To be honest I don’t really know who she was, although it didn't look like it, maybe she was part of the group, but it certainly was annoying to others. Mercifully, after a few numbers,  she moved toward the back and continued, and after a while she quit, maybe her battery ran down.  And there was another person who held up one of those cameras with a screen on a stalk and did the same thing.  I am pretty sure they didn’t ask permission from the Lords (copyright issues?).  If you are there to enjoy the music (like the food) just enjoy it for God’s sake.   It’s not about you; it’s about the whole experience.  And there are others in the room.

Phase II - The Laptop

Last evening I again journeyed south, this time to the college and a Brian Ganz/Beverly Babcock presentation of a Debussy composition (Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra).  It was held in the usual venue of St. Mary’s Hall.  It started at eight, and hence there were a fair number of what I took to be students in the audience.  For reasons I won’t go into here, I always try to sit in the same seat, right side, last row, two in, and I was able to secure that seat last night.  I watched the students (as well as people from my generation) file in.  I would say that somewhere around 90% of the students had backpacks about the size of a microwave with them.  What the heck is in there?   Anyway, a group of three came and sat immediately in front of me.  This was maybe ten minutes before the start of the performance.  They reached into the cavern of the packs and withdrew full size laptops, and proceeded to start them.  Of course the screens nowadays are bright enough to do surgery by, so having them right in front of me was very distracting.  I was all prepared to either say something or move, but mercifully they shut them down when Brian and Beverly appeared on stage.  Okay, I’ll accept that as a way of life of the younger generation.

However, comma, that courtesy did not extend to a couple of males that were seated in the same row as I was (last) in about the middle.  When I arrived they both were absorbed in their laptop screens, typing and whatever.  When the house lights were dimmed, they were not.

Now as some of you may remember Brian often discusses the music before he performs it.  The particular piece they were to perform had sort of an interesting history.  Apparently (a young) Debussy refused to perform the piece just before a concert was to begin. Since then, the piece has seldom been performed, and there is much speculation as to why Claude yanked it.  So in his usual quiet, entertaining way, Brian explained the history, and then proceeded to present his thoughts on why.  It is a very complicated piece, and apparently difficult to play, but he went on to explain about the “blurring” or “melding” of musical forms (musical friends, usual apologies here).   He talked about interlaced major and minor scales, key changes, different modalities.   I have borrowed a definition of “modes” from the internet to kind of give you a feel for what he talked about:

A mode is a series of intervals used to construct a scale. Therefore, TTSTTTS is called the major mode. Modes have no specific tones, notes, or pcs; they are simply a series of intervals or distances. Scales, on the other hand, contain specific notes or pcs. A scale is a group of pcs or notes arranged in ascending or descending order. ABCDEFGA is a simple scale. Its mode is TSTTSTT. Modes and scales may or may not have a tonic. The chromatic scale has no tonic. However, a C major scale has the tonic C. Modes can only have relative tonics; e.g., the major mode has no specific tonic, but some tonic is implied at the beginning of the mode. Major and minor modes are regarded today as the most important modes, since most music around the world now conforms to these two modes. Minimally, key consists of tonic plus the mode, e.g., "C major" or "E Mixolydian".

While is not a quote, Brian used a lot of these words, interspersed with demonstrations on the keyboard.  Fascinating stuff.  He talked for almost a half hour about things like this.  With several illustrations from the piece itself: "lets play a few bars after J in the second movement".

So, what were my friends in the same row doing during his talk?  Same thing: watching their damn screens, and although they may have been dimmed some, their eyes remained riveted there.  The screens still emitted a glow, and was distracting. After a couple of haughty glares from me (regrettably allowing myself to get sucked in) they did tilt the screens down and sort of hunched in the seats so they could still see them.  When the music started, they did close the lids, but they couldn’t stand it for long and would peek fairly often.  Awful.   And then, about half way through the first movement (during the music), they grabbed their back stones and left.  I just don’t get it.  Did they get credits just for showing up?  I doubt they could have appreciated the music.

By the way, the music was very enjoyable.  You should try to hear the piece sometime.  It went on for about 25 minutes and I was sorry when it ended.  I grasped dimly (like their screens) some of what Brian talked about, but it is just so much easier to enjoy the music without analysis.

After the concert, I did have a food experience, but you are probably fatigued so we’ll save it for another day.  It wasn’t good.  And there was no issue with


DFD


Monday, April 23, 2012

wrapping the weekend...

Weekend Music, eats, and events..

First, we eat.

Friday, I mentioned that we were going over to Breton Bay for the annual spring dinner meeting of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society.  And historically, it is held at the picturesque Olde Breton Inn, home of the famous county Baileys.  And, as I said before hand, I thought I could name the menu from memory. And, I was right!   To accompany the cash bar there were little bits set out to go with....  your small drink... Standard



That’s country ham, by the way, not “stuffed”, and of course cheese cubes, those little cuppy tostito thingies that held “something”.  You get what you expected..

As with dinner.  Every year: Eddie tells you to get in the  (always) buffet line



Which every year starts with steamed (to death) veggies; squash “stuff”; some sort of slaw; the standard off the truck chicken cordon blue:



and one of the things they always do well



Then mashed potatoes (and canned gravy), leading to the hand carved steamship round



With horseradish, horseradish sauce, or au jus.  So you construct your plate with what you always get and there you go:



The time honored standard Bailey plate.  And lest you think I’m being critical, I’m not.   From the moment I received the invite and confirmed that it was same location, I knew exactly what I was going to get.  No surprises, nothing awful, nothing really great (with the exception of the oysters, which are always very nice), don’t have to worry or think, just go on auto.  Get the food, talk to your table mates, have a nice time.

The program for the evening was a presentation on two historical books.  The first was about the rise (and fall) of the local commercial seafood industry (oysters, clams, crabs, fish, etc.)  lots of neat pictures of shuckers, fishermen.  The second one was a history of the local wooden boat construction that of course HAS died out.  Pictures of “Cap’n” so and so, and his boats. Both are available at the Calvert Marine Museum.

Events

Well, kinda.  We have a little PNC bank branch office on our corner now, replacing the older one next to it.  Saturday, they hosted a “Taste of 235” which had several of the restaurants  up and down Rte. 235 participating (from Mixing Bowl to D. B. McMillans) along with places like Anita’s Cakes, Dunkin’ Donuts (price and participation may vary, limited time offer, see store for details – ever hear their radio commercials?  Godawful).  Of course the intent of the bank was to convince you to do business there.  Which I will never do based on how shabbily they treated us when they snagged our home equity line of credit.  So when the lady with the smile and clipboard approached our (mixed) little table and got past “how you guys doing today?” and  all chatty about the weather, I just glared at her.  I was “nice” and didn’t say anything.  It wasn’t her fault, in fact she was pleasant, but you can have the damn bank.  Anyway, there were booths set up and you could sample the wares of the vendors.  There were lots of people there sampling this and that...



It was “kid friendly” so you had to have the “balloon bender guy”



And strangely enough I didn’t see any face painters.  The folks from the Tides brought some hot crab dip in little rolls



I saw some of our neighbors, and most everybody had seemingly a nice time, so I will give the bank (despite ulterior motives) credit for providing the opportunity to bring folks together.

Music

Last evening (Sunday) despite the day long wind and rain, we decided to try to go to the concert of the “Suspicious Cheese Lords” which was to be held in the brick chapel at Historic St. Mary’s City.  Several times I have cursed and praised the acoustics inside, cursing the screaming kids, and praising the music.  One of the people at the City arranged to have them perform last night in the Chapel.  They are a group of ten (last night) gentlemen (not “guys”) who sing a cappella medieval music.  They have quite a reputation around the mid atlantic.  Driving down there through the cold rain and wind, we wondered if perhaps it would be canceled or at least moved into the (warm, dry, near bathrooms) auditorium at the Visitor Center.  Surely they wouldn’t make people do the walk.  Yes, they did, and stop calling me… (insert rim shot here).  So with umbrella held horizontal to protect as much of the body as possible (not very effectively) we made the walk I have done so often as a ChapVol out to the chapel.  Once inside the only bother was the fairly chilly temperatures (to go with the damp pantlegs).  But sure enough about thirty or so hardy souls had braved the elements and were seated on benches and chairs.  Eventually they were introduced and started singing



As you can see, the acoustics are from the large flat, blank walls.  Those walls have been called 17th century amplifiers.  And they did their jobs.  What lovely music.  They ultimately sang about 14 selections from early 15th century to a contemporary piece by one of the “Lords”.  One of the more beautiful pieces was “Lamentations of the Profit Jeremiah” by Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585).  Of course it was sacred music, all it latin.  By the time they neared the end, the light was fading and they resorted to flashlights to see the music.



It also created some pretty patterns on the ceiling



It is amazing what the human voice can do.  To my humble engineering ear, they were right on pitch, timing was great.  It was a great experience hearing music pretty much as it would have been sung 500 years ago.  Kind of chilling.

So that was our weekend, how was yours?  Nothing to do?  Hah!


Okay time to quit this and go get

DFD (preceded by cocktails)


Friday, April 20, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Potpourri for your friday

I guess first “to do”.

In the 15 odd years (yikes!) that I have been here in Southern Maryland, I have to say I have NEVER attended the legendary “Opening of the Tiki Bar”.  I was going to say that I was “proud” to say…. But that’s kind of not fair.  Obviously there are many (thousands) of people with differing opinions because the opening receives almost national coverage.  It is a pilgrimage for many folk.  Fortunately we will be able to observe (and most likely hear) some of the goings on from the safety of the digs across the river from the festivities.  I’m sure we’ll see the flashing lights (but not the other flashings) and hear sirens, and maybe some music if winds are right, but not the huge crowds.  So if you go, I hope you enjoy it, be careful and arrange for transportation if that is a factor.  It is just another unique event here in the land of nothing to do.

On a little higher plane there is an interesting concert Sunday evening in the Brick Chapel at Historic St. Mary’s City.   As a Chapel Volunteer (ChapVol) there spending many hours, there is an interesting thing about acoustics inside the Chapel.  Last Wednesday when I was there hosting groups of kids for Homeschool Day, there were herds of varying amounts of them, from two or three to upwards of ten.  Once they figure out the echoes are great, screaming contests often ensue.  With the cacophony of that going on, it is IMPOSSIBLE to talk to somebody even if they are right next to you and be understood. It is amazing.  On the other hand, music, choral or instrumental, is just lovely.  One of the historians at the city calls the walls the “17th century amplifier system.  It is gorgeous.  But I digress… Sunday at six thirty, a male a cappella ensemble called (and i am not making this up) “The Suspicious Cheeselords” will perform music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  There is a $5 fee at the door, and you must walk out to the chapel from the Visitor Center off Rosecroft Road.  Seating is limited by the size of the chapel.

In kind of a related note, the first of this year’s River Concert Series will be on the 22nd of June.  I see a note in the paper this morning that there has been a task force assembled to consider the future of the Series, as there has been much speculation on the cost and sustainability of the concerts.  With the Orchestra expanding its venues (with a fee), it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.  The “report out” is expected this fall.

This weekend will also mark the celebration of Earth Day with things too numerous to mention going on in Leonardtown starting Sunday afternoon.

Whew.

Passings

Yesterday (or the day before, it all runs together) the Today folk spent a good half hour eulogizing Dick Clark.  No doubt an American phenomenon (I won’t say Idol), he provided a stage (ha ha) that launched many a career, and kind of brought popular music into the mainstream.  With a little less fanfare it was noted last Thursday that Levon Helm passed from complications of cancer.  He, along with Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson formed the (IMHO) iconic musical group “The Band”.  Don’t think ever before or since there was a group with such unique music.  You new immediately who was playing songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down; Ophelia; and of course “The Weight”.  Classic, classic stuff.  You just don’t hear that anymore..  You still have a recording of "Music from Big Pink" with Dylan ?  You should.  They’re all going, leaving us with the likes of the Justin Biebers of the world, The Voice, American Idol and other trash.

Finally Food

I had an interesting conversation last night with somebody regarding MSG.  It was discovered that she has an allergy to MSG resulting in unpleasant symptoms.  She related a story about a recent (sort of by accident) trip to one of our local chains, Texas Roadhouse.  She is pretty food savvy on her own, and knows enough not to order steaks in a place like that because the rubs they use often contain MSG.  She spied a chicken dish on the menu, and just to be sure, asked the server if it contained MSG.  The reply was she didn’t know, but would go ask the kitchen.  Upon return, the diner was told that “All of our food has MSG”.   MFO and I were somewhat taken aback by this.  We thought that MSG had sort of “fallen out of favor” and was not in widespread use anymore.  I have no separate confirmation of this, but I pass it along for what it’s worth.

Tonight MFO and I are attending the annual Dinner of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society. It is always kind of a fun event, most of the local “history” people show up, and there is usually a good program.  But more interesting to the feeder is the venue.  They usually have the dinner at the Olde Breton Inn, home of the local catering legend Eddie Bailey, and tonight will be no different.  I probably could give you the menu from memory, but we’ll see if there are any changes.  I may take the new little point and shoot and provide documentation.  MFO and I along with the other attendees will most assuredly be

DFD

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Checks, and Cheques

Trying Large again...

Checks

After yakking about the (lack of) power play in the NHL the other day, I eventually wound up watching the Flyers play the Penguins, which got me to thinking again.  As a young engineer I aspired to becoming a “professional engineer”, emblematic of the pinnacle of the profession.  I normally associate the word with reaching the highest level of any particular field.  A professional dancer or opera singer is usually regarded as at the highest performance level.

I am not sure anymore that it applies to sports.  Those of us who have or are coaching kids in (you name it) hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, teach them the skills, sportsmanship, concepts of team play and so forth and what do most of them dream of?:  becoming a “pro”.  I look around now at those who play sports professionally, and I would ask myself, do I want my child to turn out like that?  I guess when you join a professional team, you give away your ethics and get paid to injure people, cross check from behind, slam dunk a basketball and then “in your face” your opponent.  People will not sign contracts because despite millions, it is a couple less than somebody else, and hence is not acceptable.  I don’t ever remember Bart Starr holding out for more money.  I suppose it is reflective of the “me” society, the heck with a team, it’s all about me and my ego.  Finish college?  How stupid – show me the money!!

Cheques

Yesterday I sat down to write a check/cheque to pay the piper in the form of credit card bills, and noticed on the statement my “account number” was listed as: xxxx-xxxx-xxxx- plus the last four of the card number.  It was in there more than one place.  That’s nice I thought, they’re trying to protect my secrecy.  So as I finished writing the check (and sobbing), I looked at the back of the envelope with all the little tips like don’t send cash, one of which is “write your account number on the check”.   Hmm, I thought, I wonder.. So since I was feeling a little frisky (and caffeinated) I dialed up the good folks at Visa.  After deciding I wanted to continue in English, the next recorded message was “please enter your 16 digit account number so we can be of more assistance”.  Agent!” I shouted into the phone.  Silence.  “okay, if you would like your account balance, please enter the 16 digit account number so we can proceed”.  After about 5 more “agent!” screams I was warned my call might be monitored or recorded, and it actually rung and a human answered.  I won’t go into any cultural differences; we’ve all had that experience.  “how may I help you?”.  Well, I just have a general question:  since your statement shows my account as (x’s), is that what you want on the check?.... Pause…  “Do you need to know your account number sir?  I can help you with that”.   No, I am asking if you want me to write the account number on my check exactly as shown on your statement?  “I can show you how to find your account number”.  No….. and after a couple more tortured attempts, I think the bulb finally lit, and he began to comprehend what I was really asking..  “Oh no, sir you have to write the complete 16 digit account number on the check”.  Well, for security purposes you don’t put it on your statement.  “that is correct sir”.  But you want me to divulge the complete number on my check?....  Pause….  “yes sir”.   Do you see any inconsistency in that?.   Silence.  (about ten minutes now),  “I can see your concern, but you must write the number.  I can pass your comment to my supervisor”.   Sensing defeat, I said fine, please do that.  “is there anything more I can help you with today Mr. Moody?”  No, I don’t thinks so.  “Have a nice day and thank you for using Visa!”.   I tell you it is the little things that add up to that aneurism. 

Food quickie

Since I was asked today as I entered Coffee Quarter for yet another community related meeting, just a couple of sentences.  Lately I have found the place to be improving and generally more populated than it has been before.  I also think the staff has less piercings and (visible) body art, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Speaking of coffee places…. another quick thought.  Have you been to our local Starbuck’s after the “renovation” was completed?  IMHO a complete disaster.  The counter side of things is probably better, but they sliced up the “seating area” with a monstrous floor to ceiling “shelf" that cleaves the area in two.  Plus if you don’t watch yourself coming in the door, you might bust your nose.  And remember those soft leather chairs?  Gone.  Hard seating only, with a (for lack of a better term) community table seating six.  Mostly it is occupied with people staring at screens, but I would feel funny sitting down there.  On the other wall is a bench from end to end.  The proprietor claims there is more seating but it’s hard to believe.  It used to be kind of welcoming and inviting, but now it’s just kind of cold and hard.   One would hope it was not done intentionally to make it so uncomfortable that you don’t want to stay.  Turn those tables!!  Sigh.

 Who cares how you


DFC

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Day....


Got those taxes in?   Remember the Titantic?  No, I wasn’t there.

With MFO scheduled to arrive this afternoon, I have to get to arranging the house.  But I did want to make a couple of quick Sunday morning comments..  about (what else) food, traffic, and sports. 

Food First (as it should be)

Last night I was invited to liven up my bachelordom by joining some friends for dinner down at the Ridge American Legion Hall.  Once (twice?) a month they have a “Steak Night” where for 14 bucks you get dinner.  (price soon to rise a dollar).  A couple of generations were in our party so I was advised to be there at 5:30.  Despite some snarky thoughts about is this dinner or late lunch, I said “Sure”.  The Legion building in ridge is just below the meeting of Routes 5 and 235, so It’s pretty far down there.  I suppose it’s like a million other American Legion posts in America, a low brick building, neon beer signs in the window, and a cluster of smokers outside the door.  Inside is a comfortable timeless bar, with probably the only modification in the last decade is the addition of flat screens.   Obvious “regulars” populated the bar, everybody knows everybody and conversation flows easily.  For the “nighters” you pass through the bar, give the lady your fourteen dollars and receive a little ticket, and enter the hall.  Lined with tables and oilcloth coverings, place mats are set along with rolled up pressed silverware.  There were many people there, almost giving it an air of a social event, which, in reality is exactly what it was.  Friends gathering together to chat about their week, how’s Uncle Ralph doing?, have you put in your garden plants yet?, did you hear about….  Although there were a few family groups with kids, most were at least my age.

To obtain food, you sit until a (?) volunteer comes along to take your order.  There is pretty much a ritual to follow, and thank goodness I had a guide (although I had been there once before a couple of years ago).  The delivered dinner consists of a steak (to your choice of doneness), green beans, corn, a roll, and a baked potato.  For veterans of the event, all this gets reduced to ordering “medium rare, beans”.  Or for the more hungry: “medium rare, both” indicating you want beans AND corn.  That’s it.  Off it goes to the kitchen.  Meantime you can go into the bar, get a (reasonably priced) beverage, and then over to the side table which contains help yourself soup, salad, and fixin’s.  The soup (as I remember) was in actual melamine bowls, but salad (from a huge bowl in ice) only has Styrofoam bowls available.  Dressings and fixings are provided are all in plastic packets, those creations of the devil that are almost impossible to open, never do where they should, and then the dressing dribbles out from some unexpected spot.   You also pick up sour cream (in little plastic tubes) and (ice cold patties of) butter for the potatoes.   Eventually (upwards of a half hour last night) they bring the (melamine) plates of food, auctioned off by a recitation of “well done both;  medium rare corn, etc.” and you surrender your little orange ticket for the plate.  Classic Legion fare I suppose, the beans and corn look like they came straight from a Del Monte can, the potato is wrapped in foil which somehow retains the potatoes heat forever, and a steak with one of those little colored plastic stabbers indicating the doneness of the meat.  As I observed around the table, the stabber was pretty accurate.  My medium rare was just that, which is a pretty good trick for a piece of meat less than an inch thick.  It had pretty good flavor although you had to cut around the odd piece of sinew here and there.

But of course you’re not really there for the food, it is just a reason to gather together, enjoy company of friends, catch up on local gossip, and maybe have one more bud light than you usually do.  Community and food.  A great combination.

 Traffic (okay, rant)

Last Thursday I left the digs about ten to six to head to the Dry Dock for my one good dinner.  Upon turning north on 235 at Millstone landing road, I was faced with three lanes of stationary cars, i think due to an earlier accident somewhere.  A nice person let me in (I gave a wave as you always should) and pulled into the nearest lane since eventually I would be turning right on 4, and going over the bridge.  And a good 35 minutes later I did exactly that.  Once again, by the time I did that I was frothing at the mouth, and yelling at the local morons.  I do not understand why they feel they are so important that they can use the “right turn only” lane as their personal expressway.   I suppose they are going so fast that the signs saying “Right Lane MUST Turn Right at Intersection” are not readable.  Or, if experience shows there is an island at the next intersection, you merely turn on (or not) your blinker and just shove over until past the island, then accelerate again.  What do we pay the police for anyway??  Grrrr.....

Sports

With college basketball and the Master’s over, the NHL playoffs have begun.   As a rule, I don’t much watch pro hockey during the season (which has little meaning) but get more interested as the holy playoffs begin.  Readers may remember that both FOJTE and Y played for years in youth and high school and E also in college.  Plus dad coached for twenty some odd years, so I think (in my own mind) that I know a little bit about the sport.  I won’t go into the “fighting” rant here (although I could), but rather another thing sort of caught my eye last night.  When I coached kids I would spend a few minutes of precious ice time each practice on the “power play”, a crucial part of the game.  And indeed the operative word there is “play”.  Basically, since you have (at least) one more player on the ice than the other team, they cannot cover everyone.  The legendary coach Bob Johnson would preach power play tactics in clinics, give out reams of diagrams, and discuss at length things like “the umbrella”.  The goal (ha ha) is to have an open man in good scoring position with the puck on his stick.  Give and goes, drive down, dish off, all orchestrated to provide that good scoring chance.  A thing of beauty when it clicks.  Well, in the professional ranks (supposedly the pinnacle of the sport) they still use the term “Power Play” but it bears no resemblance to anything like a planned play.   Pass the puck back and forth at the points, maybe dish behind, back to the points, until somebody feels like they can blast a slap shot toward the net, hoping by a miracle to score, or to create a rebound.  No looking for two on ones, no drawing defense away from net, just pass, pass, pass, blast.  Sigh, I can be a beautiful game if played right.  Too bad..

and for the Legion dinner there was no apparent custom to

DFD

Friday, April 13, 2012

Can you spell triskaidekaphobia?



Uncharacteristically for me, this has nothing to do with that!  Just couldn't let it pass unnoticed.

So just a few this and that’s to occupy some of your Friday time.. which is the 13th, in case you had not noticed, be careful out there…

Events

As you all know, April is Archeology Month, and in honor of that,  tonight there is a nice program down at Historic St. Mary’s city.  Several of the archeologists there will be making a little presentation on their recent digs and findings.  No charge of course, it is in the Visitor Center at 7:30.  With MFO in Wisconsin I will be there.

Sunday there is the inaugural concert of the Waterside Music Festival Series. Silberschlag and his orchestra are entering into an expanded bunch of concerts apart from the River Concert venue.  Concerts are planned for Woodlawn, National Harbor, and perhaps Porto Bello.  There is a $25 fee, but supporting one of our unique attractions here in SOMD.  Although I am not sure, I suspect you might be able to try some Slack Winery product. I’m still on the fence there.

Food Related

I got my latest copy of Cook’s Illustrated the other day, and after passing on the Kimball column about how wonderful Vermont and its people are, sI tarted leafing through the recipes and insightful  tips (like how to use your barbeque tongs as a makeshift bottle opener) and came across a recipe called “Really Good Crab Cakes”.  Mercifully no mention of “Maryland Style” was to be found, but the premise of this piece was that while freshly picked crab meat is preferred he wanted to “come up with the best (gasp) possible crab cakes….regardless of whether I was starting with fresh crab meat”.  A little side bar rated commercially available crab meat with Phillips Premium Crab Jumbo top rated (at $27 for 16 oz.) and passable canned Miller’s Select.  I went on to look at the recipe and found a twist I had not heard of before.  It contained a bunch of stuff (celery, onion, garlic, heavy cream, Dijon, Old Bay) but I came up short when I saw “4 ounces of shrimp, peeled deveined and tails removed”.  Say what?  Well, the reason is that he wanted to make a sort of binder to hold the crab together.  Somehow he came up with the idea of using shrimp (to enhance the briny sweetness and plump bite of the crabmeat). and decided on a mousseline.  blitz 6 ounces of shrimp in the food processor (yes, the recipe called for 4) with 6 tablespoons of cream, old bay, Dijon, hot sauce and fresh lemon) he loved it, and the science editor called it a true “meat glue”.

Anyway the whole preparation is pretty extended: soak the crab in milk 20 minutes, toast panko crumbs, puree some and sautĂ© some of the veggies, combine, let cool, mix in this, add that, and finally come up with 8 panko coated items which you then fry in oil (after firming in the fridge for 20 minutes).  While intriguing, it strikes me as just plain silly.  Cook’s Illustrated at it’s best!

Coming and Going

The whole restaurant/food service business is strange.  Talk about volatile!  Openings and closings, revolving chefs, revamping, and as they say, Change is the only constant.  As a case in point in our little community, in my very last posting I talked about Chef’s American Bistro morphing into CafĂ© Kilimanjaro (with a sidebar of Lone star becoming Brasserie 235).  Well, this morning I learn that not only will American Bistro be shuttered, the operation will move to the retirement center in Wildewood (home of multiple attempts at a restaurant, the latest being La Tabella).  It sounds as if La Tabella will be no more (due to the unfortunate death of the owner) and instead it will become “Brasserie at the Village”.  He seems driven to have a Brasserie..  anyway it will feature an “upscale European and French menu, introducing lots of seafood, a raw bar, domestic and foreign beers and an exciting array of small vintners wines and an array of well made scotches, whiskeys, gins, vodkas, and cordials.”  He is shooting for around Mother’s Day.  Back in the day, Chef ran the restaurant there whatever name it was then.. tavern?  He has never thought small. I will not repeat my feeling about the space, regardless of what is on the table..

And lastly, a pleasant feature of the food business.  I treated myself to a solo dinner at the Dry Dock last night, and was delighted to see one of the “old team” of long ago appear as a manager to augment the owner who has been devoting a lot of time to that.  She departed years ago to open her own place up in Prince Frederick.  Once the business gets you, it’s hard to let go.  She was a great server, and now I’m sure her talents will do nothing but elevate the Dry Dock even more.  I had a fried oyster starter last night that were some of the best I’ve had in a long time.  Just the right size oysters in a light batter that stood up in little peaks, not just a clumpy shroud surrounding the meat.  It was crisp, and the oysters just creamy.  I should have had a dinner portion.



Okay, that’s it for a Friday the thirteenth.  MFO points the MOMSTER east tomorrow to arrive on Sunday.  I bet when she arrives she will want to be

DFD
ps/admin.. you might notice that i have been playing around with font sizes, some thought the "old" was too small, but now some think the larger is too big.. Opinions welcomed.  I'll leave today's "small".  i only have two choices.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Home Cookin'.....

As the memories of greens, fairways, and locally caught Tilapia fade into the memory locker, just a quick couple of notes about some local goings on..


Corporate Decisions
At first they didn’t.  Now apparently they do.  Ground has been scraped and steel is being erected to provide us with the fourth (of a planned five) chain eateries along Rte. 235 North.  First of course, was the long anticipated arrival of the flagship of corporate Italian dining, the Olive Garden, soon joined by the upscale burger palace Red Robin, and lately one of two Texas style steakhouses.

What used to be green grass (well, okay weeds, but they were green) is now home of yet another constructions site.





It is quite amazing how fast these things arise once they begin.  And yes, another “coming soon”, the all too common sign of “development” in our county.  This one announces




Another wished for addition to our ever expanding cadre of processed, market researched, prepared off site, and delivered to you places.   And of course “we” do nothing to dissuade them, the parking lots are always full to the gills. 

Which leads me to a little observation about the barrel of crackers.  They seem to always locate next to a heavily traveled road, interstate, or at big interchanges.  Most of the ones I have seen have some of the parking lot between the building and the thoroughfare.  A vast majority of CB parking lots that I have observed always seem to have that first row full.  Would they make the employees park there to appear busy?  Who knows.  Just take notice as you motor around the country.  And oh yes, they make you enter the restaurant through a gift shop.  Real fine dining.

An Indie Update

I think I have reported before that one of our local independent chefs, Ahmed (originally of the Tides) who currently operates Chef’s American Bistro in my nearby San Souci, announced changes to the place, and a return to his roots.  Apparently it is in progress





The sign is kind of confusing as I read it, but nonetheless it announces the change. Seeing "gourmet" and "soul food" in the same sentence strikes me as kind of an oxymoron. Be interesting to see the menu.  Oh yeah, add "buffet" to the words I would not expect to see.  I suppose it is too "cutesy" to have called it "Kafe Kili...."  and I have seen no movement toward his other objective of rehabbing the Lone Star spot in Lex Park to “Bistro 235”.

And our old McDonalds, new Golden Corral location seems to be worked on sporadically.

Publications

I was looking at some food blogs just a bit ago, and was reminded of an experience from our last San Diego visit. I think you remember that our friend there is a very good cook, and one of her friends gave her a subscription to Lucky Peach, a recently launched publication of David Chang of MomoFuko, a pretty respected restaurant.  It is in the sort of second tier of foodie mags, for a more limited market I presume.  While there I picked up one of her issues.  This particular one contained a sort of round table discussion between David, I think maybe Mario (I may be wrong here) and a couple of other well known chefs.  I try to be liberal in this things, but I was amazed to find a constant string of F Bombs, scatological references, and use of many words that would not be part of my conversation, especially about food.  Being famous doesn’t give you the right to be vulgar.  Just a thought.

MFO and the MOMSTER are on the road again to Wisconsin, and I am holding down the digs.  Most likely I won’t be


DFD

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Nineteenth Hole....


A couple of bogeys left over from the golf journey

I was taken to task today by a couple of readers for not finishing the story about me trying to smuggle a weapon onto the golf course in the form of my seemingly harmless Swiss Army Knife.  In a way, I am glad it was pointed out to me (one of which was an English teacher no less) because it proves that somebody actually pays attention to this.  Anyway, as you recall as I was about to enter the security gate in the morning, a very sweet older African American lady doing triage told me I would not be able to take the knife through security to the course because it was so dangerous (she really didn’t say the latter, it’s just me).  Instead, she kindly said, here let me hold it for you, and when you leave this afternoon, just come back right here and get it.  She very carefully showed me a little corner in her cabinet, and gently placed the weapon there.  She was very apologetic for having to do this, but it was the rule.  And, as we all know, rules is rules, especially when it comes to security.

Okay, so after a long day of golf, on the way out we had to pass near the security gates again so I figured what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.  I walked over from the exit path to the entrance gates and told a nice young man my story.  He directed me to another agent, and I repeated the story.  Follow me, he says, and took me to the security office. The door opened to reveal a uniformed, very stern looking lady eyeing me suspiciously.  Once again I repeated the story, and she replied in “a tone”: “Sir! All confiscated items have been disposed of”.  Visions of Bio Hazard suited men with long poles prodding my knife to see if it would explode leaped to mind.  Well, I said, the nice lady at the gate placed it in her little cabinet and said it would be there.  Again the back rose, the eyes narrowed and in a steely voice:  “Sir, you were given incorrect information! we DISPOSE of all CONFISCATED items”.  I figured my weapon was more “checked” than confiscated, but this point I was fearing a cavity search if I pursued the matter any longer and thanked her for her time, retreating out the door under her self satisfied gaze.

I must say this was the only blemish on all the volunteers and people we encountered for the tournament; they were all almost the complete opposite of security czar.  So thank you nice elderly lady at the gate for your consideration, and up yours lady in the office!

A fishy tale…

I also forgot to relate another piece of the story at Carraba’s.  One of the items on the menu was a tilapia dish of some sort.  Seems like these days you can’t find a menu without the little piscine on it.  At any rate, my friend innocently (not really) asked if the tilapia were local?  Why yes it is, said the server who was taking care of us.  Well, not so fast.  Tilapia is enjoying a boom in aquaculture and is being farmed a lot of places.  I did a little internet poking, and although I can’t find the damn reference today, it was to the effect that 98% of the Tilapia consumed in the US comes frozen from off shore.  So I am very much in doubt that a little lad in a straw hat and a bamboo pole caught the menu items for Carraba’s.

Okay, tomorrow back home issues.  And for those you won’t (yet) have to be


DFD

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Grubs instead of Clubs...


Grub on the Master’s pilgrimage was roughly divided into three categories: Road Food, Restaurant Food, and Golf Tournament Food...

Road Food: 

we have a couple of sub-categories here: food that we brought and food that was purchased.  In the “brought” department we had a complete array of “snacks”, such as granola bars; Payday bars (a personal favorite for this kind of thing); potato chips, some special “Ocean City” popcorn, and a variety of other little things.  Those kept the energy level up while watching mileposts go by.  For lunch we had some very good chicken or shrimp wraps which were prepared in advance.  The “purchased” category included liquids of various kinds grabbed at potty stops and so forth, nothing much remarkable on the outbound leg.

On the way home while looking for a “Moe’s” we stumbled on a Harris Teeter grocery store.  I  have had heard good things about them, so we decided to go in for a look.  It was fairly new methinks, and had a great deli section with made to order (Boar’s Head) sandwiches, a very nice salad bar with soups, and lots of other pre-made sandwiches.  We ordered up a couple of sandwiches, and a selection from the salad bar which was more healthy than my roast beef, mayo, and American yellow cheese sandwich.  There was a little area where you could consume your selections so we sat there.  The store was very clean, orderly, and everybody was very helpful.  They all talked funny, then we realized we were in North Carolina.  They had a lovely wine section (imagine being able to buy wine in a grocery store!!)





Maybe we could have one of those here instead of the glut of chain restaurants…

Restaurant Food:

With our sort of relaxed schedule this time, we were able to have two restaurant meals.  While all the travelers, including FOJTE, are pretty food savvy we kind of limited ourselves to places around the motel, rather than driving for fine dining.  Monday night we wanted a bite before watching the NCAA final, so walked over to a nearby Carolina Ale House, apparently a regional chain, kind of a sports bar thing so common to us all.  It was okay.  Our server (Hi I’m…) was relatively new (as she kept reminding us), but she delivered an acceptable level of service commensurate with a casual sports bar.  There were many customers who looked like they were there for the same reason we were (golf tournament).  The menu doesn’t need any recap as it was as you would expect – starters; salad/soups; sandwiches; entrees (mostly platters and plated items – fish, fowl, beef); and so forth.  Our order consisted of a steak salad, a “special” Cuban sandwich which two of us split, and a flatbread pizza.  Our refills of unsweetened tea turned out to be sweetened (hey, it’s the South!) but that was quickly corrected, Quality was consistent with the place.  Nothing special.  Dining was by light of flat screens.

Our second experience was Tuesday night, after the practice round.  We found a Carraba’s nearby, and drove a scant quarter mile (walking for me was out of the question at this point) to the place.  I had never been in one so was interested to see what is considered a step up from the Olive Garden.  We eschewed outside eating which was available and were seated in the inside dining space.  I was informed by one of my traveling buddies that Carraba’s is under the same umbrella as is the Outback Steak House.  Upon hearing that I noticed some similarities between the two places.  Lots of dark wood, booths and tables, a kind of a separated bar area with a few tables, although Carraba’s has a more or less open kitchen.

We once again were told we would be “taken care of” by so and so, she recited a few specials which I didn’t write down or remember, and left the menus with a drink order (couple of “stella’s” and water).  Menu is pretty stock for a popular/chain Italian place, forced into categories of Antipasti; Zuppe & Insalate; Wood Fired Pizza; Pannini; Marsala (your choice of chicken, pork, steak, or veal) and then Classics and Combinations; Wood Burning Grill; Stuffed Pasta, and Signature Pasta.  So there are many choices to ponder.  We wound up with a Cobb Salad (over Caesar base, please – no problem); I fell back to my standard Veal Piccata; and another pizza.  Mine came with choice of side salad or soup; and a further choice of vegetable of the day, garlic mashed potatoes or Cavatappi Amatriciana.  the soup was either the ubiquitous Minestrone or they had a sausage lentil which I took.  Shuddering at the thought of mashed potatoes with Veal Piccata, I opted for the veggies.   The cava…whatever turns out to be a pasta dish that looks mightily like macaroni and cheese, but apparently they are proud of it.

Fast forward (about time, you say) to the arrival of the food.  All were fairly pleasing to the eye, and my veal was nicely browned (albeit thicker cut than it should be) but did have a lemony sauce.  My friend instantly pointed out that there were no capers!  Somewhat abashed that I missed it, I agreed - what the Heck!  As any devotee of Italian cuisine knows, capers are a key ingredient in veal piccata.  It provides a nice acidic punch to the sauce and livens up the veal.  When our server made a pass, I inquired about this appalling omission.  “Oh”, she said, “a lot of people don’t like them so we leave them off”.  Lacking any intelligent reply to this, I asked if I could have some.  I think so… Soon a little ramekin arrived with more sauce and many capers.  This made the dish ever so much better.  There is no telling about people.  Veal Piccata sans capers.  Good grief.  I suppose they do achieve a step up from Olive Garden, I still will avoid either if I have a chance.

After hearing a long list of desserts, we demurred and headed back to the room for the Women’s NCAA championship game (wherein Baylor pounded Notre Dame despite the much vaunted Skyyyyyylarrrrr Diiiiiiggins!). Sorry domer, I couldn’t resist…


Which leaves us with


Food at the golf tournament

The available food was in buildings scattered throughout the course. There were several lines offering sandwiches, snacks, fruits, cookies and so forth.  Each line had caretakers constantly replenishing things.  It moved along quite nicely.  For those of you that frequent ball parks and other public venues, you are used to paying 8 bucks for a sandwich and 7 or so for a beer.  Prices at the Masters were 3 bucks for a BBQ sandwich, 2.50 for a “Master’s club” and beers were only (in a souvenir mug) only two fifty.  Imported (the ubiquitous Stella) were three bucks for a full pour.  What a treat.  And once again, the people behind the counter were friendly (over here, sir!) and nice. But if you ever get the chance to be there, you HAVE to have the icon of the south:





Not just a jarred spread, there was actual shredded cheese on white bread.  Perfect.  $2.00.  wow. It’s just done right.

Okay this took too much ink so we’ll do Pax updates tomorrow.  And don’t worry in this case about

DFD

Post script: the Master’s is done for this year. High drama with Phil hitting a rail on 4 for a triple bogey effectively eliminating him from the tournament and his fourth green jacket  I was really pleased to see another left hander, Bubba Watson, win.  He’s a neat guy.  Maybe the heir to the Freddie, Phil, crowd favorite…