Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Foodie Follies...

Thanks for all the sympathy with the duckies, especially the recipe suggestions..

And speaking about food, time to catch up on a few random odds and ends in stream of consciousness form, some of which may be common knowledge.  Anyway, here goes!

Our Cracker Barrel continues to look more and more like the millions of others around the country, the faux cedar siding, the rustic porch, although they recently put up a huge air handler (?) on the roof that is quite unattractive. Which is saying something in relation to Cracker Barrel.

And the volatility of the food service business never ceases to amaze me.  Remember the big plans for “Chef” (of American Bistro) opening Bistro 235 in the old Lone Star, and turning Chef’s American into Café Kilimanjaro?   Well, forget that.  With the untimely death of the person at La Tabella in Wildewood, we now hear that Chef will be opening a French Bistro in that space.  Originally plans called for an opening around mother’s day, but don’t think that happened.  Have heard rumors that there might be issues with that always complicated process of liquor licenses.

So now we hear that instead of Bistro 235 in the old Lone Star, there will be (something like) CoCo's Café.  Not sure what cuisine that would portend, maybe island.   I think there might have been a note in the paper about it, but I missed it.  Believe that the place will be run by the daughter of Linda, of the iconic Linda’s Café in the park.

And sort of speaking of Lone Star type places, the progress of turning the old McDonald’s by us into a Golden Corral seems to be almost at a standstill.  Occasionally a panel truck can be seen in the lot, but it sure doesn’t look like much is being accomplished.  Fine with me...

And recently a sign appeared in one of the new set of stores down from the new Jerry’s Bistro (there’s that word again!) that Subway will be relocating from its spot in San Souci to this location across the road.  Not sure why you would open one sub place next to another, but some think that clusters bring more business to each.  Who knows.

A loyal reader and possessor of a good palate and sense of service reported to me that he and his wife tried the “new” Scheibel’s down in ridge.  Admittedly they are probably inside the “new baby” window, but their experience was not good.  Forgotten orders, substituted items on the plate (fries instead of menu mashed), and service that was not polished.

MFO and I had a lunch the other day in Leonardtown at Café Des Artistes.  I always leave there pleased.  The food remains reliable, it’s always tasty, freshly prepared and served at the right temperature.  Staff is generally capable.  I had a half quiche and Caesar Salad, and my request for anchovies was more than met, with a veritable “school” of them on the greens.

We also met a friend the other day in the “Back Room” at the Front Porch (nice play on words, eh?) for cocktails and nibbles.  We were early enough in the evening (around four) that we were the only occupants.  I have always liked their main bar, but the back room is a more relaxing place (if you turn down the music a bit, usually geared for more people I assume).  We had a very nicely prepared dirty Gray Goose Martini in an “up” glass.  Have you ever tried walking twenty feet or so (from the bar to the back room) with an “up” martini glass in each hand?  There would be none left if I did that, but our server did it without as much as a ripple on the surface.  Ah, youth.  Anyway we finally decided to have food.  I ordered a Chicken Chesapeake dish, the typical crab on top of a boneless breast (in this case breaded, but oh well).  To cut to the chase, the feeder rarely sends anything back to the kitchen, but I had no choice in this case.  The outside edge of the chicken was well, burnt to the point where you couldn’t cut it, and I turned it over and it was also black on the bottom, and the “Chesapeake” which contained cheese had a yellow edge of hardened cheese.  In short, as I told the manager, it should have never left the kitchen.  He took it back and I got a much better attempt, along with some explanation about first and second shift chefs.  The reason I bring this up at all is that there are pretty strong rumors that that manager has moved on and another will be taking over.  I happen to know the “new one” and have pretty high hopes he can make it right.  I really like the Front Porch, it has so much potential and although they have changed personnel a couple of times, I will give them a lot of credit for fixing things instead of making you live with them.  Good for them. That volatility thing again.

Lastly (for food) after a lenghty board meeting (I am always going to board meetings it seems) last night a few of us adjourned to the Tides for a much needed libation.  I ordered my DMOTRWAT, without explanation, and the barkeep actually said “let me get this right.  Do you want a little sweet vermouth or dry?”   Dry.  “and what ratio?”  about three to one.  Fine.  Why don’t more tenders ask if they don’t know..

In memoriam:

We all learned today of the passing of one the legends of folk music, Doc Watson.  He was the most accomplished finger picker guitar player I have ever heard.  Although he was sight challenged, he played effortlessly, with perfect rhythm, and a feel for the music that came through with each piece.  I remember being astonished listening to him play at places like the University of Michigan folk festival.  He had a lot to do with me trying to produce the same stuff, and although I did achieve a little proficiency (long since lost) it was pale in comparison.  Fortunately a lot of his music will stay with us, showing what a true musician can be.

DFD (which may eventually be, as pointed out by a clever reader, Duck For Dinner)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just Ducky....

Now that we're back home, I am sort of assembling a few factoids and experiences of recent dining experiences here, but we’ll do that next time.  (This is a shabby thinly disguised attempt to entice readers to come back).

Loyal long time readers have heard versions of this story before, but there's a new twist so maybe it warrants retelling for newer readers and besides it’s driving me crazy…

A few years ago, one of our compassionate neighbors took in a family of baby ducklings when mom and dad somehow disappeared.  Of course she became “Mama” to the little brood, and somehow the imprint seemed to have stuck.  Anyway, ever since we came to the digs with the black (now gray) lagoon, springs brings not only renewed life, but at least two or three ducks.  Our neighbor says they are “hers” and that might be, but the damn things have abandoned her and adopted us.  So, every morning and at least three or four times during the day, they waddle into the yard and scour under the bird feeders for detritus and generally root up the ground. 

While annoying, that’s not so bad, but after a meal there’s nothing like a good swim or stroll on the pool deck, and if nature calls (as it seems to do incessantly) we just deposit in that nice cool body of water or wherever we happen to be.

And so over the years we have developed a little ritual.  I purchased a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, and when I’m home, I try to plink them.  I also have a shotgun, but I guess I am too “chicken” (ha ha) to make that mess.  Anyway, I come out the door, they look disgusted (if ducks can do that) and waddle toward the hill, and begrudgingly take flight when I shoot at them.  I occasionally strike them but I am sure it’s just an annoyance.  So we continue the dance until they leave in late summer.

This year brought a new wrinkle.   Somehow a male (not the one above) decided that our pool cover was its home.  Blue?

It would spend all day strolling around and sitting there (pooping at will), only leaving when the wild man from the house came with that thing that makes puffing noises.  Within a half hour it would be there again.  We figured maybe it had a screw loose in its pea sized brain and we nicknamed it “Daffy” for good reason.  It would pace and pace, never leaving the cover even though it was like a trampoline.  Here’s an early morning shot showing the overnight ramblings.

Notice the little hole (black dot) in the cover just above the left hand side of the left hand chair (the result of the sharp hoof of deer a couple of years ago), and the trail of visits.  We surmised that it was getting a drink there as the water level was getting high.

Well, the other morning I awoke just as it was getting light to a non-stop series of loud, rapidfire, distressed quacking.  Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack…  I peered out the window and Daffy was nowhere to be seen.  So donning some sort of minimal clothing I trudged downstairs, opened the door to the patio, and still to the cacophony of the quacks.  No Daffy.  And then it became clear that it was coming from UNDER the pool cover. Oh NO!  I figured it must have toppled through the drinking hole.  I returned to the house to get on more substantial garb, but mercifully when I returned he had somehow freed himself sitting there like nothing happened

What an idiot.  One would think that the stupid creature would have learned from what was probably a harrowing experience, but no, the other day the same event occurred.  This time it didn’t extract itself so MFO and I peeled back the edge of the cover and hoped it had the intelligence (a word which probably is not appropriate) to get out.  We just went back in the house.  A funny thing, we have not seen Daffy since.  And there was no corpse under the cover, we checked.

And since the cover was off, we began the annual chore of uncovering and getting the pool serviceable,

ultimately turning green slime into clear, healthy, water suitable for humans (and swimming ducks).   God love chemicals.

And this year it took a little extra cleaning to erase the mementos of Daffy.. 

Maybe one of these days you will be invited over for a roast duck dinner…maybe not... but if you were you should be


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dining in the City... and back home..

Before we get in the MOMSTER and leave Jackson to head for home via St. Louis, a quick (or not) little admin note:  Readers might notice that there has been a distinct lag between actual road events and the reportage of same.  We arrived home last week, but then there was a Beer Fest to work with, and “the class”.  As you might remember, I developed a class on flutter (by flutter one!) for the Navy’s “Flight Test University”.  The spring session had been scheduled for 22 and 23 May, and of course with the graduation trip and other distractions, I was stone cold on the class material.  So cramming took place into and over the weekend (which also contained my all day presence at the Beer Festival), and Monday.  The first class session was Tuesday morning, followed by the wrap up yesterday morning.  I enjoyed teaching it this time (the first time was a bit rough) and there was a good group of students.  Will live in that thought until the comments are processed!

Anyway, back to Jackson. You will recall the breakfast at Miss Muffins, and after that everybody split up and went their own way.  Our way was to wend ourselves up to St. Louis for Monday meetings with various people who are managing our funds.  We also were to have dinner with wife of FOJTE Monday evening before pointing the MOMSTER to Maryland.

So with time on our hands, we decided to take “back roads” for the relatively short drive up to St. Louis.  Plusses for two lane rural roads are that you get to see the country at a more leisurely pace, and the negatives are that there are people who don’t care at all for your leisurely pace.  We have taken to finding turnouts and let the little pickups speed on their way, and I think some even waved at us, although it wasn't with all fingers....

I love to go through these little towns and see what places there are to eat .  They are quintessentially “local”.

One wonders if products from the sign on the left show up in the sign on the right!  Other various form of advertising..

Fun to see, but have no idea of the quality of the food and we didn’t stop.  And off the big roads you can see things you might not on the whizzing interstates.  have no idea what this is or is supposed to be.  kind of reminds me of the tower houses we saw in Ireland, but doubt these have been here since the 11th century...

Eventually buildings got closer together, strip malls appeared along with the plethora of chain restaurants and we found ourselves in St. Louis, more accurately in St. Charles, a little to the west where FOJTY has his digs.

That evening we decided to eat in the room, and went to a nearby Dierberg’s, one of the big grocery stores in St. Louis.  Along with Schnuck’s they are a local “chain” but they both have been there a long time.  Unfortunately we were too far from a Straub’s to get any of the best chicken salad in the world.  Dierberg’s "level" is in between Schnuck’s and Straubs, but the newer ones try to be more like a Whole Foods.  So there are lots of “grab and go” items, salad and soup bars, ready made sandwiches, and so forth.  Nosing around the deli department I made a startling discovery !!

Beechers is sort of a Seattle based product, and we were shocked to see it, but pleased none the less!  So of course that became dinner (well, cocktails) followed by some quite nice soups.  Not a bad meal and one of the benefits of “livin’ in the city”.

So the next morning I used the “Find Starbucks” app in the not so smart phone, got a coffee and we went to our meeting with the financial guy.  In reality the money is doing its thing and the real reason we meet is so we can go to lunch.  He is a lover of good food (Italian preferred) and so he tries to show us good places (livin’ in the….).  This time he selected Sugo’s a newer offering of the long time St. Louis restaurateur family, the Del Pietro’s.  There are a few scattered about the region there, but this one was in a little strip mall near Plaza Frontenac

It was a lovely day, but it was unanimous we eat inside.  It is another of those places that is quite informal, and try to be “rustic”, kind of like that place we ate in Del Ray in Washington, although obviously this was built to be that way.  It was quite pleasant, with rustic furniture.   The menu was quite simple, salads (inslata), pizza’s, pastas, entrees.  I am not sure if they have same menu in the evening.  We had a nice glass of wine from a serviceable wine list arranged by white and red, then by “body” (light, medium, and full (reds)) leaning toward Italian wines.   I had a pasta dish, “Funghi” (mushrooms, roasted garlic, spinach, mushroom broth), our friend had a chicken spedini, and MFO, had, well, something..  It was all well prepared, tasty, and nice luncheon portions.

After lunch a short visit to the “tax man” and then back to the hotel for a rest before meeting our DIL at a small place in the historic district of St. Charles called “The Vine”.

Being a very pleasant evening we decided to do outside dining (acceptable after the sun goes down).  It is a very nice place for people watching in the restored area of town.

We ordered a bottle of wine and a shrimp appetizer.  (note, this has been sampled before the picture!) 

It was quite nice and appropriate for the place and time.  Since your plate (and maybe stomach) is getting full, I won’t dwell on the food.  I had a pecan encrusted salmon dish, MFO had quite light and nice seafood crepe and our DIL had a steak risotto dish.  Once again chatting with family was paramount.  Meanwhile, FOJTE was eating hotdogs at the state golf tournament with his player.  We were kind enough to send him a picture.. We certainly will go back to The Vine and you would enjoy it also.  Only small bother was our server who checked us endlessly.

So next morning, into the MOMSTER,  and I64 here we are!  Drive nine hours ending in Beckley W(BG)V and stayed at our normal Fairfield Inn.  Tired of road food we decided to get dinner at the Outback that is right next door.  Although I don’t eat at an Outback hardly ever, I have thought them to be a cut above the normal chain fare.  After finding out they were out of Stella (with tableside apologies from the manager), I ordered a steak and shrimp combo.  It always looks so good on their commercials.  Here’s the reality exactly as it was set before me...

Real appetizing eh?  Also the "steak" was tough and the shrimp rubbery.  So there.. shrimp on the barby a bit too long?? 

A shorter leg the next day brought us back to Southern Maryland and the digs.  So ended a very enjoyable trip seeing family from both sides of the aisle so to speak, and we genuinely enjoyed being with them, our sons and wives, and our grandson.  Final congrats to FOJTY and wife for their accomplishment..

And thank you for traveling along with us.. stay


Monday, May 21, 2012

Dining in the Country

Due to multiple other tugs on the feeder’s time (like a beer festival to work), we are finally going to be able to leave Jackson with a few observations about dining there…

Somehow, genes must have transmitted, as both FOJ’s are fond of good food and dining.  Of course TE being in St. Louis has many good options to choose from on every level from bistros to out and out fine dining places.  However, with TY’s move away from St. Louis to the more rural location a couple of hours south, his options are not quite as varied and searching for a good meal provides a challenge.  Since her job and his studies generated odd hours they do “eat out” quite a bit.  Cape Girardeau (home to the college) has every chain place known to man, but also some local places nearby, although they are mostly aimed at struggling college students with not a lot of cash to spend on meals.  Hence, the pizza place where we got our nice pizza the first night.  Jackson, which is a few miles (and a few years) away from Cape offers even fewer opportunities.  But FOJTY has covered a lot of highway finding places.  Really alert readers will remember we dined there one time at a place called Ray’s which turned out a pretty good meal.

Anyway the night of graduation day we all went out to a place in the country (which I could never find again, even with GPS) called the Gordonville Grill, not surprisingly in the little town of Gordonville.

They had eaten there a couple of times and found it to be comfortable and reasonable food.  They do not take reservations, but allow you to “call ahead” to get your name on the list.  We did that for a 7:00 arrival time.  There were many vehicles in the parking lot, probably evenly split between cars and pickups reflecting the rural setting, and a lot of people standing around.  Unfortunately, Missouri still allows smoking in the bar, so we stayed clear of that and just checked in and were told “about 15 minutes’.  Well, twenty five minutes and two Schlafly draft beers later we were finally seated in a little corner booth.  The place is comfy and reflects the old timey setting

The menu leans heavily toward beef with prime rib, several cuts and sizes of steaks, but throws in a few other choices like their famous fried catfish.  The place was quite busy, so our server was a bit harried (and threw “you guys” like popcorn), but she was earnest.  The first words were the famous “can I get an appetizer started for ya?” followed by I’m….  Anyway we demurred and just gave her a drink order.   After some time to converse we decided on a couple of appetizers anyway (our party was six) consisting of skewered shrimp and their famous fried gouda. 

The shrimp weren’t bad, but the cheese was kind of bland which I guess one should expect with Gouda.  Eventually we ordered a prime rib, three steaks, a chicken dish, and a cob salad.  With the beef you have to pick sides, so I took onion rings and the house salad with blue cheese.  Speeding along here, the salad was imminently forgettable kind of an amalgam of finely chopped greens, cherry tomatoes, grated cheese, and dressing that tasted more like ranch than blue which could have been because she sort of forgot who had what.  Fast forward my rib eye steak arrived. Kind of a brown on white study…

The meat was fairly tasty, and cooked close to medium rare.  Why they serve texas toast anymore I don’t know.  Others were pleased with their entrees.   We eschewed dessert because we all decided to go to

Andy’s Frozen Custard for dessert, a little place over in “the Cape”.  That was really fun.  Lots of choices to pick from, including “concretes” (which may have been “borrowed” from the famous Ted Drewes dish up the road).  You make your selections then join the crowd.

After the long day of graduation, steak and hot fudge sundae, I was ready for bed.

Next morning we had another local experience, breakfast at

A little storefront again out somewhere.   Some research by FOJTY put it on his list for places for breakfast.  Our wonderful local farm to table place we went last time had given up, so we tried this place.   They featured a buffet

With all sorts of breakfast items, including sausage gravy for biscuits, real country stuff

FOJTY took full advantage

The food quite fine for breakfast and the place sort of reminded us of “Linda’s” here in the Park with a reasonable facsimile of her in charge.  I especially enjoyed the bacon.  Pork Fat Rules!! As we were leaving they were setting up one of those chocolate fountain things to dip strawberries, pretzels, and marshmallows in.  

Since it was mother’s day there were several family groups with cute little girls in their best dresses to share food and fun with Mommy..  really sweet.

Which brings me back to my always pointing out that food is always secondary when spending time with family.  Okay, so the steak was a little tough, service spotty, the buffet was in the hall.  Who the hell cares when you’re with your sons… THAT is what is important in my life.  Many thanks to FOJTY for finding places to share.. it is always fun to see what’s “out there”.  Quite enjoyable.  We'll be back!!  We left Jackson a proud couple of parents.  Having both sons there for a while was memorable..

Next day we journeyed up to FOJTE’s backyard.  Tomorrow’ edition. More food stuff.   Hopefully that will wrap up the trip and we can get back to exciting things like the progress on the Cracker Barrel!!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Caps and Gowns...

After our “in the room pizza” dinner we settled down to prepare for the next day and (tried) to sleep.  With all our advances in technology, why can’t motel rooms have an air conditioner that doesn’t sound like the space shuttle taking off?  Even with the fan set to auto, where it should shut off once in a while, the darn thing just keeps blowing and howling.  White noise wears off after hours...

Anyway, the next morning was the big “graduation day” for both FOJTY and his wife.  She was receiving her degree from the Nursing school and they were having their own graduation ceremonies at nine so as not to conflict with the general graduation at two.  It was an early get up for the flutters but we got suitably DFG’d, and rode with them to a smaller auditorium on campus for the Nursing ceremonies.  It was a rather small class composed of undergrads and graduate students.

Of course there were the usual speeches by faculty followed by the awards, with each student receiving their diploma (or facsimile) from the dean.  Our daughter in law (FOJTYDIL?) received a hood recognizing her achievement of a master’s degree.  Lots of families were there, and everybody was proud of their graduate.   It was a pretty fun time.

After that we returned to our motel and had a nice little lunch courtesy of the “other” set of parents, and the kids opened gifts and we had a good time.  Soon enough we had to leave for the afternoon session which was for the whole university.  It was held in their fieldhouse, to accommodate the largest graduating class ever from all schools and levels, around 1300 students .  Upon arriving, even though we were early, the spectator seats were filling up fast, with a sea of chairs for the students.

At the appointed hour the candidates for graduation began filing in to a live string section playing Vivaldi, (nice touch)

And soon the place was full to the rafters, the National Anthem was sung, and the program began

The keynote speaker was the current governor of Missouri (Jay Nixon), but of course the agenda called for “opening remarks” followed by message from the (school’s) president, followed by the introduction of the person who was to introduce Mr. Nixon.  The introduction was (as it turned out) about the same length as the actual speech, but come to find out that this was an election year, which maybe explained the long litany of accomplishments of the Gov guised as an introduction.  In actuality Governor Nixon’s speech was direct and contained the things that graduates need to hear.  College was nice, but now welcome to life.

Following that, each school (Liberal Arts, Business, Math and Science, etc.) came to the front and each student’s name was read, and he/she paraded across the platform receiving their diploma (or facsimile) and handshakes all around.  At first, it was pretty stately, with polite applause for John/Betty Student.  Well, as things went on, the polite applause gave way to whistles, which escalated to shouts like “yeah, baby!” and “way to go John/Betty” and finally one group got enamored of the “who let the dogs out” barking and carrying on, and the graduated students did the occasional "raise the roof" dance leaving the platform.  That’s fine, it’s all in good fun and it is a joyous occasion when your children graduate college and friends and family are entitled.  One heartwarming and positive thing was that during the opening remarks, the speaker asked all in the student audience who were the first of their family to graduate college to stand up, and a surprisingly large percentage did.  Maybe there is hope for us.  FOJTE and his wife were also able to attend so we got to see our whole family on such a happy occasion.  So of course we all cheered (no barking thank you) when FOJTY and his wife were recognized, he for Criminal Justice, and she for her nursing achievements.

All in all the ceremony lasted well over two hours, and everyone was happy (but relieved) when it was complete.    As parents, it is nice to see that your children turn out okay…  We were proud.

That concluded a long day, and in the evening we all went out for dinner, but I’m going to delay that until the next edition when we’ll try to wrap up the trip..(and four meals worth talking about) for which we of course traded in DFG for


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Leg two, and arrival...

After the restorative meal at Jonathan’s, we got a pretty good start the next morning for our final leg to Jackson, and the graduations..

Our normal route to Missouri from Lexington is to continue on I64 across Indiana, Illinois, and into St. Louis.  But, since we were heading for Jackson, (some 120 miles south of St. Louis) we took the alternate routing of diving southwest through Kentucky to Paducah and then into to a bit of Illinois before crossing the big muddy into Cape Girardeau (“Cape”).  After some rather interesting places leaving Lexington (all horsey related)

you get on the Western Kentucky Parkway and off you go.  There may be more boring roads to travel, but this ranks right up there (IMHO).  All the "parkways" are named for some obscure politician, and Googleing them on the fly provides a little diversion but not much.  And it’s not that it isn’t pretty, it’s just the same mile after mile after mile after mile after mile.  Road in the middle, trees on the side, mile after…. Well you know.  One of the things that breaks the monotony is that the road is kind of on the “Bourbon Trail”, and a few signs beckon you to come and visit.

But early(ish) in the morning, tucking into a bourbon isn’t really advisable so we’ll save that for another time.  There should be a Bottom Feeder wing at the Jim Beam place, the primiary ingredient in my DMOTRWAT,   Time sort of fades as the trees slide by.

We did pause for a gas/potty stop someplace along the way (now forgotten) and I did get a look at a real “buy local” opportunity (even though the purveyor seems to be taking a rest at the moment).  it doesn't get any more basic than this...

So more parkways, trees, and asphalt endured eventually gets you to Paducah, and you head toward the river.  Going through the final miles on the back roads of Kentucky, there are some interesting local food places..

And it's not everywhere you can get frog legs (and shrimp?)

No chains here.....Soon you cross the Ohio

Landing you in Illinois and one of the most depressing towns in at least the Midwest, Cairo, Illinois.  As I mentioned before it’s pronounced Kay Ro.. it remains a city of abandoned buildings

But people still live there, and where people live, they have to eat.  So, there are still some places hanging on.

After you leave there sort of depressed it’s a pretty short drive up to Il 146 where you turn left and cross the Mississippi into Cape Girardeau.  The Cape is the home of SEMO, and it’s kind of a college based town.  Some old bars, some new places, dumps that college students frequent.  Due to the marathon the previous day, we were early enough that there was time to meet the graduates for lunch.  Kind of spur of the moment, so we took FOJTY’s recommendation of the St. Louis Bread Company, aka Panera.  We were guided by his verbal directions and trusty GPS, and met them just outside the (yes) Honey Baked Ham store (which has a drive through), in what must be the mecca of chain stores - most are there, all the favorites.

I must admit the lunch of half ham and swiss and a bowl of Caesar salad was not bad, but it was the fun of seeing our “kids” that was so enjoyable.  After that, we retired to our Motel, Graduation Central, and plopped in for the night.  Eventually we got peckish and a text message to FOJTY said the best pizza was from a place called Pagliai’s down by the college.  A short drive down and back brought us a very nice Pizza.  I could go on about Pagiai’s but I’m tired.  Local and good.

Next day would see the Graduation ceremonies concluded by an interesting dinner.. next edition..

The next morning we had to


Friday, May 11, 2012

Drive and reward...

Day one, on the road again…

A ten hour, 592 mile drive took us from the digs to our intended place to RON, Lexington, Kentucky.  We took the normal route over to 301, across the northern neck (and the Rappahannock river)

then survive a brief stint in I95 (which was amazingly traffic free, but average speeds still hover around 80) and then head west on I64, with a slight jog south on I81 then truly west again.

Been a while since we have made this trip in the summer, usually it is part of the Christmas driving tour of the Midwest.  Being used to seeing the mountains clothed in their winter bleakness, we were struck by how green and lush everything was,

There were a few places however that seemed to be suffering from some sort of blight..

Not sure what that was about… emerald ash borer?  Sudden oak death?   Probably never know.

Up hill and down dale with reassuring signage

Anyway, eventually we reached our target of Lexington.  We arrived in good enough time and spirits to make a reservation at a favorite restaurant there, Jonathans at Gratz Park.  Gratz Park Inn is a boutique hotel pretty much in the historic district of downtown Lexington.  Within the Inn is Jonathan’s Restaurant, the liar of Jonathan Lundy where he opened the restaurant in 1998.  The fact that it has been there 13 years says something.  Mr. Lundy started in New Orleans, and worked under Emeril around 1991 before Emeril went star power, and then through Johnson and Wales.

The restaurant (which if you’ve been with me long enough you’ve read about before) is relatively small, but offers bar seating as well as outside dining.  Lots of brick, horsey things on the walls, and proper table décor (note the feeder abhors the word “tablescape”).  In his approaching dotage the Feeder is becoming more demanding, and I didn’t accept the first table offered, which was in a corner by the route from the kitchen to the dining room.  Instead I picked a table near the entrance with a good view of the room.  The hostess mumbled something about a table of ten about to be seated and she wanted to shield us from the noise.  Both tables were about equidistant.

Anyway, we were soon approached by a young lady in white tux shirt and apron, and asked how we were, and when we replied we were getting better she wondered if a drink would help.  Why, yes, yes, it would.  MFO did her usual Bombay gimlet, and I asked for the time honored DMOTRWAT, Jim Beam preferred.  Fine.  Off to the bar.  She returned almost immediately and said the bar tender wondered if I wanted just a little sweet vermouth or dry.  Thank you God.  Armed with the dry option information, she returned with two quite nicely made drinks.  Meanwhile the “table of ten” appeared, from the bar quite lubricated, but in actuality they were pretty civil.  All males, we figured they were there for some University function.. they didn't seem to be much of a factor the rest of the evening although bottles and glasses kept flowing..

Anyway, we got down to considering food after we sipped and soothed a bit.  We picked up the menu.   I thought it was a wonderful piece of work.  Reflected the regional cuisine with things like Burgoo; shrimp and grits; a “hot brown” scallop treatment for an appetizer, and other dishes like Bourbon Barrel Ale Braised Short Ribs.  Most of the items listed the origin from where things came from, like Weisenberger Mill Crispy White Cheddar Grits.  It took a bit of doing (and a second drink), but MFO finally settled on an appetizer of the Sea Scallops Hot Brown, and an entrée of the Shrimp and Grits.  Specials were included as a little slip of paper in the menu. There was one soup, one salad and one entrée.  Not many, that’s why they are specials!  Nice.  The salad was another sucker dish for me (salad wise), an iceberg wedge.  Normally it’s the wedge, some onion, bacon bits and blue cheese dressing.  What made this one “special” was the wedge, with shaved red onions, and get this, fried oysters! Plus Gorgonzola.  How can you pass that up?  The special entrée was grilled swordfish, crispy oven baked fingerling potatoes, wilted spinach and a pineapple, mango mojito salsa.   I fell for that..

We picked a couple of by the glass wines from an equally interesting wine list.  sauvignon blanc and a lovely pinot..

I won’t go through dish by dish, but each one was excellent.  Ham in the “hot brown”, a lovely tangy sauce on the grits (creamy texture); my wedge was crisp, and the oysters were just fine.  What a nice touch.  The sword fish consisted of a couple of “eyes”, maybe two inches thick,  marked on top, and just cooked to be firm.  The salsa amplified the sweetness of the fish.  Short to say, food, service, and presentation was fine.  A great meal, leaving no room for dessert, which I’m sure, must have included bread pudding.  Good for him.  Stay within what you can do..  if you’re ever in Lexington, do it.. 

 But, I caution, I would recommend being


another day's drive brought us to Jackson, MIssouri, again passing throught the ghost town of Cairo (pronounced Kay-Ro; not Ki-Ro). on the way you pass through the back washes of the Mississippi, and i got some interesting shots.  stay tuned..

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Okay Willie...

on the road again...

The MOMSTER has been cleaned and is awaiting a load of suitcases, garment bags, snacks, wine boxes, gifts, and stuff.  We’re leaving tomorrow to go back to Missouri to attend the graduation of FOJTY and his wife.  FOJ will be getting his B.S. in criminal justice, and his wife will be getting her last degree to enable her to pursue her ambition to become a Nurse Practitioner. They will be matriculating from Southeast Missouri State University.   Needless to say we are proud parents of both TY and TE..

So, there will be the usual road reports, with hopefully some food experiences.  We were sad to learn that the local Farm in Jackson (FOJTY home) that served that wonderful “local” breakfast is no longer doing so.  Too bad. It was a great experience.  Maybe we can go to the freaking cracker barrel..  I think not.

Quick local foodie note:

I had lunch today at our local Coffee Quarter.  One of their specials was a tuna melt.  Another sucker dish for the feeder.  “I’ll have the tuna melt..”  okay, what bread? White, whole wheat, rye, or sourdough.  Excuse me, tuna melts are white bread (with an occasional nod to whole wheat).  What the hell?  Okay, how about cheese? American? Swiss? Provolone? And maybe one other.  Excuse me, tuna melts are white bread, and yellow cheddar!  Oh well.   Anyway, after a bit the sandwich was on the bar with a name screamed.  The tuna salad was ice cold, and the little square of yellow cheese was just as it came from the package, limp and solid. 

My friend urged me to send it back.  We did.  Okay, we’ll make you a new one.  Fine.  Second edition had much more char on the bread, and the cheese was “melted” as much as a Kraft square can be, but again the tuna stuff was cold.  Maybe they tried to put too much in there.  I gave up and ate it.  Tuna Melts are one of those classics that shouldn’t be messed with or tried to be upscaled.  I would recommend the version served at St. James Pub. Honest and right.

Okay road trip!!

And I have packed to be


Monday, May 7, 2012

Lodging and Food - done right...

From a busy Saturday…

The day started sort of early with MFO leaving to go over to Tudor Hall in Leonardtown which was a station on the House and Garden tour.   She was to meet people and give them a little background and history on the place.  I dragged myself up and out a bit later, and went to a few houses.  Of special interest was Ocean Hall, believed to be the oldest brick building in Maryland dating from the late 17th century.. 

Another interesting spot was River Springs, a piece of land that was part of the original St. Clements Manor.   The present house is not extremely old but is a beautiful place.  It is out of the Blackistone lineage.

These tours are a great way to see places that (at least I) would never otherwise be able to see.  The owners are always proud and love to talk about them.

Done right…

Anyway, that was just a pleasant start of day leading up to the main event (for the feeder).  I think last we spoke, I mentioned that we would be going up the road to attend the annual reception hosted by the umbrella organization for one of the many local boards I participate in.  Every year they thank their volunteers (i.e., we don’t get paid) by hosting this event.

As you know, I am a big fan of “just right”.  Well, folks, this is how a first class, over the top event is catered.  No Eddie Bailey chafing dish of fried oysters here.

It was held this year in the National Museum of Women in the Arts (corner of 14th and NY Ave, NW).  It wasn’t just one floor, or a corner someplace it was the WHOLE museum.  Upon arriving there was an army of valet parkers ready to take your car (we rode in a rented vehicle with other attendees)

Upon entering the foyer we were greeted by several young people in tuxes, giving us a lovely folded “map” of the museum and what was served on what floor.  In the third floor galleries were Cocktails and Passed Hors D’oeuvres, the second floor was just art (no food please), currently featuring French inspired artists (from the Louvre, Versailles, and another French National Collections).  The French theme carried over to the food.  On the Mezzanine were Plateau de Fruits de Mer; a French Bistro; and an “Open Air Cheese Market – (Pairing French wines and cheeses).  The great hall offered Savory Crêpes; a French Market (Traditional French Favorites); and Desserts, Espresso, and Cappucino.

The same young folk dispensing the maps guided you to the elevator where two more waited to take you to the third floor.  Welcome to the ….  Upon exiting the elevator, the first thing you saw was a young man (or woman) again in tux, with a silver tray of Champagne flutes, glasses of Chardonnay and some kind of mixed drink.  “Good evening, would you care for something to drink?  Why, yes, yes, I believe I would.  Just past that was the CEO of the organization welcoming everybody.  He even remembered the feeder from the time the valet parker caved in the front bumper of the fluttermobile (at the Renwick Gallery).  And then you were released into the gallery to enjoy scenes like this:

Quiz one:  who’s the artist of the piece on the right?

And for your auditory senses:

There were many wonderful drawings, paintings, and sculptures around, and you listened, admired the art, strolled, sipped, and selected little bits from a constant stream of silver trays presented with “we have….”, with arm behind back and after you selected a cloth napkin was offered.  I didn’t take notes, but there were things like escargot with garlic aioli on a (dice sized) crouton, a little fluted tart with creamy sauce topped with caviar, feta cheese gougeres, little cups made from a cucumber containing a piece of tangerine and a tiny shrimp.  What a lovely visual. And many more.  Never was there a tray with a mound of limp shrimp presented.  Everything was bite sized, and easy to consume.   How wonderful.  People kept circulating with bottles to refill your glass with whatever you had, or there were also bars for liquor set up in corners here and there.  Dewars?  Crap!  Johnny Walker Black.  Gilby’s?  How about Tanqueray?  Smirnoff?  I think not! maybe Gray Goose.  And there weren’t those stupid little red meter things stuck in top of the bottles either..  Johnny Walker Black on the rocks sir?  Please.  Rocks and glug, glug, glug.  One had to be careful!

After absorbing the art and chatting with other guests for a while, we descended to the Mezzanine, to be greeted by the Fruits de Mer display (note the photographer)

Which featured

I talked a bit to the gentleman who was shucking the (Blue Point) oysters and introduced myself as King Oyster and informed him of our festival.  He seemed mildly interested (or perhaps bemused).  Anyhow, we put together a plate

What a grand and almost royal scene

Before descending to the Great Hall, we visited the cheese “market”, which contained among others, a lovely blue, fresh and tangy goat cheese, and no freaking Brie, all paired with a Cotes du Rhone or a Sauvignon Blanc, then over to the Bistro where you could select from a little menu card offering “lollipop” lamb chops, petite filet mignon; a croque madam,  and a couple of others.  They were brought plated to your seat.  “may I get you something more/different to drink?”

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Everything was just right.

We then went down to the Great Hall where you could enjoy

Quiz two:  there is an error here.  Do you know what it is?

I hate to quit, but what a pleasure to have good food (and it was by golly) for hundreds of folks.  Service that was personal – a used glass or utensil was gone before you noticed, another offered, amazing.  It can be done.  The name of the caterer was Occasions.  A real big boy..

On the way home we detoured by the Hirshhorn which is featuring a show projected on the exterior walls.  Lots of people out enjoying that.

What a great evening.  You know, places like that museum are treasures.  Maybe you have to be my age (or a little less) to appreciate them.  It means a lot.  Go and absorb and think..

And of course we were