Friday, June 29, 2012

Bugs, Books, and Bugging...

had any good scotch lately?

Bugs first…

This really bugs me.  I go into Starbucks most every morning to try to kickstart my day.  I see this situation over and over with iPhones, but last week there was one that was over the edge.  The line was rather long, and I joined at the back of the line.  The young(ish) woman in front of me started talking and looking at me, well maybe more accurately looking through me. In a louder than necessary voice with a definate edge she said: “that will not be acceptable, I want you to talk to (tom) and set up a meeting!”  Just as I was about to say something like you must have me confused with somebody else, I noticed she had one of those cockroach devices attached to her ear, somewhat concealed by her hair.  I could go on to relate the whole conversation (I think it was about closing some kind of real estate function) but you would get tired of it just as I did.  Anyway, she never shut up from the time I fell in line behind her until she disappeared out the door still officiously giving orders and making demands.  That includes standing at the register and realized she had to order and yelled “just a second” to the bug and then started considering what she wanted with the person behind the counter patiently waiting.  Then more conversation between ordering and digging into the purse for money, absent mindedly handing it over, almost forgetting change.  It went on while waiting for the drink, which eventually sat on the bar for thirty seconds before she came up for air, and then had to ask “is that mine?”.   Yes, a nod, and “have a nice day” from the barrista which was ignored and off she went still lecturing the air and most everybody in the shop. Being a “regular” I know most of the people working there, and the young lady doing the coffee that day is especially friendly and nice.  So as I got my cup of enthusiasm, I asked her “does that bother you?”.  She sweetly replied with a smile: “Oh no, not at all, I just hope she dies in a fiery, horrible, car crash”.  And if the person drives as she walks, I’d say there’s a chance of that.   Rude people..

Books

I just finished reading “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef” an autobiography/memoir of sorts by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune, a highly awarded restaurant in NYC.  Besides the many awards for her chef work, she is also an acclaimed writer (along her varied path to success, she got a Master’s at Michigan in writing), with many articles in foodie magazines, and won this year’s James Beard Foundation’s award for Writing and Literature.  Her book is also a NY Times best seller.

I have read many of these kinds of books by authors such as Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and of course Kitchen Confidential by the irascible Anthony Bourdain.   This one is a strange book, and maybe not what one might not expect from the genre.  It’s not an easy read as you might expect. It’s very introspective, with many insights into her checkered past filled with episodes with drugs, thefts, twenty hour days in a catering mill, a string of cooking jobs both here and in Europe, and the strange relationship with her (eventually divorced) Italian husband.  Lots of talk about her parents as well as the bond that developed with her husband’s family in Italy which they visited yearly.  She has certainly earned her stripes without formal chef training.  What does come through clearly is her unfailing passion about food that drives these people and enabled her to reach the height of the profession.  Although she doesn’t use “dress for dinner” we do have many values in common.  She related an incident where she and her husband and two small kids were driving around NYC trying to find a place to eat lunch.. her husband remembers a place where you can get an $8.99 brunch, and a free mimosa.  “…. I don’t eat $8.99 brunch with a free mimosa.  I have my standards.. I will skip a meal rather than eat the corner joint’s interpretation of Eggs Benedict with spinach, button mushrooms, and “blood orange” hollandaise sauce.  I don’t eat that kind of s***”  She goes on to say “Free mimosa is the kind of signal I rely on to stay away from a place.  Why is the mimosa free?  What is wrong with a place that it needs to provide the customer with an incentive to eat the food”.  My kind of woman.  Anyway, you might read it sometime.  Interesting..

Bugging again

Have you seen that TV commercial for an iPhone with a well dressed gentleman (kind of like that most interesting man in the world jerk) in expensive looking surroundings fondly holding and speaking to his phone?  He asks the phone for places with pasta and Siri (I think that’s the name) says I have found 5 places near you with pasta.  Am I free tonight?  I see nothing on your calendar.  He eagerly asks the phone to tell him a joke.  The phone says "two phones go into a bar….. and I forget the rest".  He chuckles lovingly and then gives the phone a look that one might reserve for a boudoir setting…  OMG.  As bad as the “so forty seconds ago” drivel.  What have we come to??

MFO and I have elected to not attend the River Concert tonight (or last night if you see this Saturday) due to the horrid weather.. we may go out in search of food and probably will be

DFD

Admin note:  once again I have received a request to try to make the print bigger.  This edition was edited to use "large" font..  hope it doesn't result in looking like a large print edition book...


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A wee dram....


New fluttermoble exploration (what’s this button do?) and various civic meetings have been soaking my time lately… and speaking of soaking..

I don’t know if I have mentioned previously, but MFO and I are joining a tour to Scotland a little less than a month from now.  We’re going with pretty much the same bunch that went to Ireland in 2010 from Historic St. Mary’s City.  Think you might remember that.  So eventually we’ll be sending reports of Haggis, and other Scottish delicacies.   The agency organizing the trip had a little social last night for the forty odd travelers to meet and greet, learn a little about the trip, go over itineraries, and so forth.  The leader of the trip will again be Dr. Henry Miller, director of research at HSMC, who went over some of the things we will be seeing and how they relate to Maryland History.  Of course you can’t talk about Scotland without eventually also talking about Scotch, much as Ireland and Guinness are bound together.  So, knowing the shabby reputation of the Bottom Feeder, they asked me to put together a little presentation for the group about Scotch Whisky.  Side note, in America (with a few exceptions) and Ireland it’s WhiskEy (with the "e").  In doing a little research to flesh out my existing knowledge I found some interesting things.  So, without trying to sound preachy I thought I might pass along some of the things about Scotch that perhaps some people don’t know.  And yes, I know some people don’t even like Scotch which is fine, hence my DWTHYL theory of beverages and wine.  So a short course (apologies to any reader who saw this last night) in the terminology of Scotch Whisky

        For a Whisky to qualify for the name “Scotch”, it must be:

       Produced entirely at a distillery in Scotland

       Matured in Scotland

       Produced from water and cereals

       Alcohol strength by volume < 94.8% (47.4 proof)

       Matured in casks of less than 185 US Gallons

        in a bonded warehouse for minimum of three years from date of distillation

        There are Three Types of Scotch Whisky:

       Grain Whisky

        Uses malted and unmalted cereals (barley, wheat, maize)

       Blended Whisky

        Usually ~2/3 Grain Whisky, and 1/3 single malts

        Accounts for 95% of Scotch sales – Johnny Walker, Dewars, Cutty, Chevas

       Malt Whisky

        Made from 100% Malted Barley, yeast, and water, distilled in pot stills, batch by batch

       Within “Malt Whisky” there are two further distinctions:

        Single Malt – made at a single distillery - Glenlivet, Oban, Balvenie...

        Vatted or Blended Malt – a blend of single malts (from any distillery in Scotland).. Johnny Walker Green...

So when somebody gives you that bottle of Single Malt Scotch Whisky you know it is made and aged in Scotland, is from 100% Malted Barley, yeast and water, and is from a Single distillery.  What gives these single malt whiskies their wide range of flavors is that each distillery uses the water, yeast, and barley of their choice, has their own processes of using peat (or not) to dry the malted barley, how long they steep the mashed barley in water (spring, lake, river, each with different character), the shape and form of the pot still, how many distillations they go through, how long and in what casks the whisky is matured.  And before bottling a single distillery might add in a little whisky from a longer aged cask, attempting to make it what they perceive as their benchmark style..

Anyway in the lovely setting of the State House, we sampled whiskies of each type (except grain) to demonstrate the different categories



We had Dewar's White Lable and McKORMICK’s as example of popular blends, a Glenlivet Single Malt, and I wanted an example of a smoky, peaty flavor.  So what else would you bring…



Now, look at that label…  given your little primer up above, what category of whisky is this?  You know it’s Scotch, and the word Malt tells you what it was made from.  What word is missing?   “Single”.  So that means it was not made at one particular distillery, so it's a blended malt.   A peek at the back label tells all.



It is produced by the “Compass Box Whisky Company”, not some distillery.  And if your eyes permit, under the “Distillery Sourcing” you will note that they talk about several distilleries and their single malts that went into the “Monster”.  And they also say they used “first fill and re-fill” American oak, probably the reason for the relatively light color.  By the way, upon opening the bottle, you would have thought that somebody started a bonfire of wet wood.  Although the peat came through on the palate, it wasn’t as scalding on the finish as other heavily peated ones I have tried.

Okay last test:   Here’s another label to look at:

438

Single – check. Made at one site; Malt – check. Made entirely from Barley; Pot Stilled Whisky – of course.  But wait?  What’s that Rappahannock doing there?   That’s in Virginia for heaven’s sake...  Correct!  So do you see the word “Scotch” on the label?  Nope.  Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia used to be (and maybe still) the only distillery in the US to make a Single Malt Whisky.  

Okay enough for today, I hope it helped those who are less familiar with Scotch and it’s permutations, and re-affirmed what others already know..

 DFD

oh, maybe a little postscript is warranted.  Just because something isn't the holy "Single Malt Scotch", doesn't mean it isn't good.  There are very good drinks in any of the categories.  Try them all, explore your tastes, and find what you like.  It's fun.  your favorite doesn't have to be that $120 bottle!  DWTHYL!!




Friday, June 22, 2012

Cars, boats, and.... Onions



Another long and (as it turned out) tiring day. 

You recall that we spent Tuesday afternoon in the Hyundai place, and eventually moved (jabbed by MFO to “quit waffling! just go ahead and do it!!”) to begin filling out paperwork.  I had a meeting at six, and so had self imposed a deadline of leaving by five.  Tick, tock, as we madly signed this and that, worked out about the trade in of FlutterMobile One (FM I), signed some more stuff and finally wrapped up at about five before the witching hour.  We mutually decided we would bring the down payment check when we picked up the car (Thursday as the salesman had Wednesday off) and also because we had to transfer some funds to cover it.  Fine, congratulations Mr. Moody you have a new car!  So I moved to leave, and headed toward FM I to hasten to the meeting.  Salesman:  Um, where do you think you’re going?”  well, I was going to drive home and get ready for the meeting.  Well, technically you don’t own that car anymore”.  Uh Oh, as the light bulb slowly illuminated over my head…. “your new Genesis won’t be ready for delivery until Thursday as we agreed, and we would prefer you don’t drive it anymore  He did graciously offer a loaner (A new Veracruz) until Thursday at their expense.  Okay.  Is there anything in the (FM I) you would like to get?”  well, yes – dark glasses, phone charger, base badges,  etc., “okay you can get those and we’ll just keep the car until Thursday when you bring the check and get the Hyundai”.  Now lest anybody is under the impression that removing said glasses etc., “cleaned out the car” you don’t know the Feeder very well.  Most of the time it looks almost like it is lived in with multiple empty water bottles here and there, god knows what in the recesses of the trunk and console, and so forth.

So yesterday after a nice coffee with the “Thursday buddy” at Starbucks, I piddled around until one o’clock came and headed to the dealer in the loaner (don’t EVER look at a Veracruz, by the way) with the hefty down payment.  The kind salesman had moved my new car into the showroom for the “fam tour” so as not to bake outside.  I may have mentioned before that they don’t move many Genesis models down here, and hence he was a little unfamiliar with some of the features not common with the lower priced models which are popular here, like most of the Genesis's Nav System.  “I’m not sure” was used in the lesson quite a bit, although he successfully did the Bluetooth Dance with the Droid.  He was very honest about it, and I don’t really hold it against him.  It did, however leave me with a stack of owner’s manuals the size of the Gutenberg bible, and probably about as incomprehensible.  The car has a lot of “gee, whiz!” features, heated and cooled driver’s seats, reactive cruise controls, a little sun shade for the rear window that goes up and down as needed, automatic rain sensitive windshield wipers (whatever that turns out to be), headlights that lead you around the curve, push button start, keyless entry, and others too numerous to mention.  Probably those readers who already have “luxury” cars are familiar.   Anyway with the tour completed, it was time to wish the FM I a goodbye (not quite as tearful as the MOMSTER I).  So I mined here and there and hopefully got everything removed.

(Last known picture of the Flutter Mobile)

Finally drove the Genesis out of the lot being veeerrrryyyyy careful (funny how new cars turn you timid) and brought it home to the safety of the garage.  Maybe I’ll just leave it there.  I spent some time this morning playing with the Nav stuff and learned how to call by voice command, saying “Channel 76” and have the XM move to Symphony Hall on its own, play a little with the maps and so on.  Then I drove it down to HSMC to pick up some glasses for my Scotch class for our tour group next week, and the car is really sweet.  All 4.6 liters and 8 cylinders do their job well.  One little feature I tried which I though “why did they put that in there” is called something like temporary hold.  You push this little button to activate it, and next time you get to that red light and fully stop, you can take your foot off the brake pedal (such as to catch up on text messages) and the car WON’T MOVE until you hit the gas.  Anyway here, in all it’s complicated wonderfulness is FlutterMobile II



And a little peek at the plush driver’s station (no aviation terms for me), and yes, the steering wheel is "upside down"



Oignons....

So last night secure in the knowledge that the car was safely nestled in the garage next to its bigger sister, MOMSTER II, I decided to cook something nice while MFO attended a little lecture up in Prince Frederick.  I was going to prepare (my adaptation of) a rice soubise, to go with the grilled/smoked pork chops.  The chops were smoking nicely (almost didn’t need any charcoal last night), and when she called and said she was leaving for home, I got out the onions to dice them up for the rice dish.  Now, I could just not say anything, but in my policy of full disclosure, my normally excellent knife skills were a little lacking last night, with the result that after a late night trip to the emergency room to stem the tide of blood (no stitches, looked worse than it actually was), this morning my hand looked like this


Be more careful, feeder.

Oh for those of you wondering, here’s a shot (an increasingly tempting word) of the ducks terrified at the specter of the “pool toys”.


"Why yes, Daphne, I do feel like a dip. Besides, I have to take a dump"

Anyway, last night, dinner resulted in a different mode of

DFD 

 +++++++++++++

PS this season’s edition of the St. Mary’s College River Concerts start this evening at 8pm, and hour later than usual..

Bonus – a shot of the Kalmar Nyckel, who is visiting this weekend


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Planes, No Trains, but... Automobiles!



You’re only as old as you feel!  Life begins at (insert age here, a moving target)!  Your golden years! 

Yeah, well, that’s nice.  Somehow after turning seventy, I have become increasingly aware of being seventy.  Every night on the news, or in the obits in the papers, you hear about a  lot of people that expire at or below my age.  Everything is fine, you go to the doctor for a routine checkup and next thing you know there’s tubes coming out of you with strange liquids going into you.  Or that little nagging pain turns out to be.... "I have some bad news for you"...  Kind of alters your perspective. So it was somewhat with this outlook that both the Flutters decided we would get new automobiles.

MOMSTER (one) is showing her age (like us), and my fluttermobile was developing little quirks like a door lock that has to be fiddled with, a piece of trim inside was coming loose, one of the speakers rattles with strong bass tones, that kind of thing.  Once you start to get that reluctance to start out on a long trip, like say to Wisconsin or Missouri because of “what’s that noise?”, “why is it downshifting on this little hill?” it isn’t fun anymore. Besides that, I just plain WANT a new car!  I am intrigued by all the new on-board technology and don’t want to navigate by a hand held Droid anymore.  Die broke (or anyway, close to it).  This may be (see paragraph one) the last car I own, so why not get something nice.  Nice didn’t include BMW’s, Audi’s, Jags, and Mercedes with model numbers starting with 5’s and 4’s (and price tags with 6 digits) which seemed unnecessarily pretentious (and greatly hastening the die broke thought).  So armed with extensive market research (hey! Look at that Buick in that TV ad!) I started out.  Along the way a very good friend suggested I also consider the Hyundai Genesis which he owns and really likes.  Plus I talked to a fair amount of Hyundai owners who were very strong in support of the car. So we did the Sunday crawl of the dealers to see the cars without sales presence.  Our local GM dealer over in Leonardtown has bunches of the Lacrosse model of Buick which had caught my eye, but the “Team Hyundai” facility, while loaded with lesser Sonata models, had no Genesis’s.  So finally we had to talk to somebody there, and he explained that the Genesis market down here was fairly small.  He did say he would probably get a couple down here in a few days and would call us.

On the distaff side of the team, despite occasional complaints about parking, visibility, and gas prices, MFO decided that another large vehicle was justified.  We so loved MOMSTER I for cruising and comfort she wanted a new one.  Models of Yukon’s and Suburban’s while about the size of a small house, also carry the price tag of a small house,  so she decided that maybe top of the line wasn’t wise and looked for a more reasonably priced one. And, (unlike me) she said she didn’t care that much about a NAV system, and it is, lest you forget, HER car.  The dealer located a Suburban in Virginia that was about what she wanted so they trucked it in for her perusal and test drive.  Long story short (drum roll) I present MOMSTER II


During the sessions with the GM salesman, I managed a couple of test drives in the Lacrosse.  It is an impressive vehicle with bells and whistles for its bells and whistles.  A HUD that projects the speed on the windshield (positioned so that you still have to lower your eyes to see it, and it is not focused on infinity).  Touch screen NAV system, mood lighting (!), XM radio, ONSTAR, heated (and cooled) seats and more. But, after a couple of tours, we finally mutually agreed that it just wasn’t comfortable for us to sit in.  Maybe it’s us, but we felt trapped.  Part of it I suspect is that the windows are fairly tiny.  I measured the driver’s side and it was elbow to first set of knuckles.  The Fluttermobile is to finger tips.

About this time the Hyundai guy called and said he had a couple and would we like to come and look.  We did, and were pretty impressed.  Windows to just above second knuckle, and creature comforts abound.  Much more comfortable to humans such as us, like you don't have to put your head on your shoulder to enter (as you do with the Buick)  Of course there’s always something, and Hyundai is rear wheel drive and does not offer ONSTAR.  Also there is no touch screen on the Nav system, it’s all by joystick and push.  There were two on the lot, a white one with the standard 6 cylinder, 3.8 liter engine and a pearl blue one with a peppier V8 of 4.6 liters.  Again, shortening the story, I take possession tomorrow (Thursday) at one pm.

Before closing the deal, I did do a little snooping (once again guided by my friend) around the myriad of websites designed to help you get an idea of pricing, what they are selling for, what rebates there are, so in the case of the Hyundai, I had pretty much decided what I would pay that would be fair to all concerned.  At my point in life (see first paragraph) I am not one to pound the table, threaten to walk out, play one dealer against the other, and so on.  I just want the damn car.  So I was much relieved when the salesman came back with a figure that was just a little below mine, and further said they would give me fifteen hundred for the Fluttermobile.  Deal.

So between the two, we spent most of the day Monday dealing with the Suburban and most of yesterday with the Team Hyundai folk.  It wasn’t (too) stressful, but many papers to sign, credit applications, considering extended warranties, clear coat options, yadda yadda.  So we’re pretty worn out, but happy.  I have checked and in fact, you can’t take it with you..

The manuals for the Genesis are about the same size as the encyclopedia brittanica.

And maybe I’ll now be

DFD(riving)

Errata:  the Cheese Krispies recipie I passed along was "borrowed" from a good cook friend, it was not an MFO find..

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Of this and thats....


Just a few ramblings for your Saturday morning consideration..

The Rant Continues......

I’m still a little bummed at the explosion of “quick/easy/simple/fast” recipes in almost every magazine you pick up.   As readers will recall, last November, both FOJ’s and their wives joined us at the Inn at Little Washington for one of the best meals of our lives.   Thank goodness Chef O’Connell didn’t use “may substitute low fat chicken broth” for stock, or “reduced fat cream” or “frozen is a good substitute” to produce something like this:






The reason food at this level burns a memory in your brain you never forget is because every ingredient is made the best it can be on its own, stocks simmer for hours, clarified, reduced and refined, you don’t reach for the Swanson’s box.  Maybe that stock is only used to poach something, or goes into the sauce and you never actually eat it, but its mark is there.  You only know the thing you just put in your mouth is heavenly.  So when you use that “dinner for four in thirty minutes” recipe and then say “yeah, this is pretty good”, maybe that’s why.  I know we’re all busy these days but maybe, just maybe, take one night a week or even month and take time to prepare that long recipe with cream, butter, real stock, and locally produced items.  That’s the real “Joy of cooking”.

It's Everywhere

And speaking of our busy modern world, I got a text last night from a good friend who was in St. Louis, to celebrate his wife’s birthday.  They chose a mutual favorite restaurant there, Café Napoli in Clayton, our old home town.  Napoli has been there for years, it’s a pleasant place with tablecloths, appropriately dressed and trained servers, and always puts out good food (maybe why they’ve been there for years!).  Anyway the text informed me that their wine list is now on an iPad.  I am not sure what I think of that.  Well.... yes I am.  I don’t like it.  I guess it gets back to my penchant for harmony and “just right”.  The setting is relatively formal there, I don’t know if the word “traditional” applies like maybe a place on “the Hill”, but somehow the idea of a server handing me an electronic device for the wine list just isn’t right.  I love to browse wine lists, turning this page and that, maybe going back a couple to compare a French to a New World wine, and generally browsing.  The thought of scrolling and not turning just doesn’t strike a balance with me.  He didn’t say whether or not you made your selection with the device which would be another negative to me.  In fairness, my friend said he kind of liked it, and it does offer some advantages to the restaurant and guest.  Presumably with the electronic advantage they can keep it very current, with correct vintages listed and avoid the “oh, I’m sorry sir, our cellar is out of that particular selection”.  Maybe in a sleek modern place it would fit, but I don’t think it does in Café Napoli.  Nothing is forever.

Hmmmm 

I was kind of interested in the “weekend” insert in yesterday’s Enterprise paper.  With the arrival of the new “food writer” the Around Town segment which features various local (thank you for that) restaurants with descriptions (as opposed to a review) has become less than weekly.  This issue featured an interesting restaurant in Mechanicsville, called “Hot Pot”.  The sub headline was “food as art” and featured the ladies holding a couple of plates.  Vegetables were used to create a floral type arrangement that indeed was quite interesting.  A quick thought is that garnish should compliment the main item on the plate, not overpower it.  What’s the focus? But what really caught my eye was a sentence in the second paragraph that read: (the owner and her brother) “are responsible for this artistic culinary revolution in Southern Maryland”.  Really!  A culinary revolution right here in St. Mary’s County.  Well, well.  Perhaps the feeder will make a visit. 

Nothing to do, continues

Lastly, last night MFO and I went down to Woodlawn B&B (in Ridge) for the first of the “off site” River Concerts given by Jeff Silberschlag and his Chesapeake Orchestra.  They have a few kinks to work out (like where the sun will set), but it was a nice night, and Slack Wines were available.  Keep your eye out.  Think they are at National Harbor this weekend as well..


And since it started at seven, you didn’t have to worry about


DFD

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Receipts..

I’ll pause a moment here to let you google that word (hopefully some will know what it means)..

Through one of the plethora of food magazines I receive (almost daily it seems) I was offered a cookbook from one of them for only $4.95.  What the hell, send it out.  Well, I got it the other day and was somewhat taken by the note at the bottom



That is one heck of a lot of recipes.  That got me to pondering about recipes.  A smattering of the publications I get



Each one containing what, at least fifty more?  Probably conservative. Then, look at (one side of) our “foodie cart” from the kitchen



Also packed with cookbooks and compendiums (note favorites: Sauces, Larousse, CIA New Professional Chef, James Beard, Betty Crocker and Joy…must haves) which would add God knows how many more.  And although MFO will be mortified, here’s my (unorganized, junky) bookcase up on the loft


Which contains more cookbooks, odds and ends, historical ones, little comb bound gems from the book sale, this and that, along with some wine references, cheese books and so on.  Even my sensibility forbids showing you a picture of the bins and bins of old food magazines (like Gourmet back to ’95 or so) that I keep for comfort, seldom referring to them.

I forget my probability here (FOJTE would know), but there’s some formula for “n” things taken “n” at a time results in “x” combinations.  I don’t really care, because “n” in the case of ingredients, while finite, would be a huge number.  Anyway, my point is that I personally must have thousands if not tens of thousands recipes right here in my house.  Who dreams these up?  Sure, there are some that grew with our culture and are reflective of the varied ethnicity in our country and those are probably genuine.  Seafood in the northeast and northwest, BBQ in the south, beef in the Midwest.  Remember those tried and true family dishes from your mother’s (and her mother’s) little tin box of 3 x 5 cards (beef and bean hot pot – remember those?).   How wonderful.

With the recent explosion of the “chef as celebrity” phenomenon, modern recipes are not so simple.  A random smattering just from my “700+ recipes” book (from the yellow stickies):

Pork Confit Tacos and Grilled Pineapple Salsa
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Golden Raisin Compote
Gin (alright!) and Orange Juice Braised Endives
Gingered Salmon with Grilled Corn and Watercress Salad
Chile-Rubbed Tofu with Fried Potatoes and Tomato Sauce
Crispy Pork Belly Sandwiches with Meyer Lemon Relish.

I’m not saying they are bad but are probably the result of all the chefs trying to be creative in a time when most things have been done.  Don’t see too many recipes for “pot roast”.  And the “new” ones are all probably pretty good if you have the time and can find the ingredients (how many times have you seen that odd ingredient you may not have heard of with the asterisk leading you to “available in some specialty stores”?).  Probably reflective of our desire to “cook like a chef”.  Okay fine, I maybe will try one of them sometime. 

But then, oddly enough, even those complicated, many ingredient recipes are what we go to high end restaurants to eat are always dumbed down, presumably for the poor consumer who is trying to juggle feeding a family while supporting soccer practices, little league, dance class and so forth.  How many magazine covers have the words “easy, quick, fast, simple, 10 minute cooking” and so forth.  And yes, usually my favorite “best” is in there someplace.   This little gem was bundled with the 700+ book at no extra charge



I seriouly doubt my 25 mintue effort would look like that... maybe a food stylist from hockey practice?  And as further illustration, this month’s issue of Food & Wine is their annual “chef” issue.



Our favorite words all over the place.  I just don’t understand why they pick talented chefs who are (presumably) accomplished at their art (even the "legendary" ones - and sorry Bobby you're not legendary along with your buddy Mario)  and then publish the “simplest” thing they do for us ignoramuses.  "Boiling Water Made Simple"

Well, I sort of rambled all over the map here, but these things cross my demented mind. So as a little reward for sticking with me, here’s MFO’s recipe for Cheese Crispies which is always a home run (as they say) at any pot luck, or for your own cocktail hour.. enjoy

Cheese Krispies



¼ Lb. butter, softened
1 Lb. (sharp) cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups flour
2 cups (Gotta be Kellogg’s ) Rice Krispies
Salt and pepper

 re-heat oven to 350°

Mix together butter and cheese. Add salt and pepper.  Blend in flour and rice krispies.  Form into balls the size of walnuts and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Dip a fork in warm water and flatten each ball. Refrigerate until chilled (Note 1).  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes (Note 2).  Do not brown.  Serve warm or store in a tightly covered tin.

Dough can be made up and frozen for a ready cheese cracker.  If doing this bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

 Makes around two dozen depending on the size.. experiment.

Chef Notes:

1.      Requires a little planning for efficiency.  Make up a pan, refrigerate, turn on oven, when hot put in cold pan.  Make another pan refrigerate ~15 minutes, bake, etc., get a good rotation going.

2.     If crackers are larger, it may take a little longer, maybe 20 minutes.

San Francisco a la Carte Junior League
MFO

Last step:

DFD


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Duck Wars.... D DAY!!


Fed up with a deck and pool floor full of duck droppings I decided to open the 2012 campaign against our uninvited little summering feathered nuisances. 

We paid METCOM and the “water guy” to completely fill the nicely cleaned pool to its pristine (except for the aforementioned souvenirs of the ducks) state.


We sort of pre arranged to have the “pool guys” (and lest you get uppity, they are all MEN) come by on Monday to hook up the plumbing and prepare for use by humans.  That still leaves the ongoing issues of the ducks, hence this opening maneuver.  Still somewhat reluctant to go to the crossbow and (orange sauce) solution or an alternative suggestion to employ the “SSS” method (Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up) we decided to try the ploy of the pool toys.  As I mentioned before this has some cache among various web blogs and discussions.  Low cost and somewhat low guilt, we decided it was worth a shot (ha ha).

Figuring it was our best chance to find such a thing, we made a rare trip to Wally-Mart .  We don’t go there much, and this trip once again confirmed our reluctance to shop at the place.  I know it sounds awful and generalized, but geez, the place keeps living up to their stereotype.  You see things you wish you wouldn’t, screaming kids running unsupervised, or being shouted at with profanity laced commands, or even slapped.  Anyway, our efforts did result in a seemingly good candidate for the pool.



As an aside, do those people even look real?  I would bet a fair amount that they were all photoshopped into the picture.  Think that little girl's head is attached to that body?

Anyway we unpackaged the float(s) to find incredibly tightly folded pieces of smelly plastic



and learned there was “some assembly required” meaning there was a little plastic valve on the bottom with an internal flapper valve that couldn’t be opened with lung power.  Amazingly, a concerted search of the basement finally resulted in finding what I was looking for (an extremely rare occurrence) in the form of a little foot pump that was purchased to pump up some air mattresses long pitched out.  The nozzle was inserted into the little valve, and with a little toe tapping, air flowed into the little froggies (or turtles or whatever they are supposed to represent).



Soon, with a little prayer both of the first weapons against the ducks were put in the pool



Any little wind will propel them around, so I hope it looks like they are alive and love ducks for dinner.   The damn ducks are not that smart, just persistent.  They were nowhere to be seen when I pitched our little helpers into the pool. I have to admit that I am almost afraid to look out the window now for fear of seeing them frolicking with the toys… But time will tell - one can only hope.  Where is that crossbow?… updates to follow and I guess today I don’t need to say


DFD   oops…

Friday, June 8, 2012

Forever???


Alert readers will remember that I am attracted to local places that hearken back to long ago, and have not changed over the years.   Places where you always know what you’re going to get and you get it.  No surprises, just right.  Some may also remember that I put Courtney’s into that category saying you walked in and you could be decades ago.   You might also remember that I cautioned you that if you have not, you should, because nothing is forever.

Well……. nothing IS forever.  A good friend has recently returned from a long journey to the near east and pretty much circled the pacific rim.   Glad to have him back in the Mother County, we agreed to meet again for lunch at Courtney’s, a favorite long time haunt for our almost regular meetings.  Walking in, sure enough there was Tom behind the cash register in his white shirt and red hat.  Ahhhh…. But then we turned left into the dining room, and, whoa!  You never take notes, but I don’t remember the tables were covered in red linens, and most (all) of the faded pictures of nameless fishermen with strings of fish and the like are gone from the walls, including that odd poster about Indians which I never quite understood.  Paneling looked fresh, but again, memory fails.  And not only that, there was a young (~30ish) man in a red T-Shirt distributing menus and filling water glasses.  I know nothing about their family as to whether there is a son or not (but I do know people who will!!) but there has been change (we never saw Tom in the dining room).  The menus have been upgraded to multi colored affairs, with little balloons containing the fried fish platters, sandwiches, etc.  They are still in plastic thank goodness, and I suspect the items are not different.  Just more cutesy.

While some things have changed, others have not.   We were initially approached by the young man  with pad in hand, and because my friend knew what he wanted, he ordered, and because I didn’t, I said bring me a Yuengling and then I’ll know.   Approximately ten minutes later (no changes there) , I had my frosty mug and the bottle, and I ordered the rockfish platter after confirming it was still fresh.  “It was in my hands this morning”.  Fine.

Since we had a lot to talk about the next forty minutes went by rather rapidly while the maybe four tables who were seated when we came in got their food.  Eventually ours arrived and I’m happy to say that the fried rockfish is still crispy on the outside and still moist inside.  Never mind the little pile of lettuce and a pale tomato, the fries are Sysco (no change there), it’s a good hunk of fish.  My friend had crab stuffed flounder and it was a gorgeous dish.  Browned flounder wrapped around lots of crab meat with a white sauce (hollandaise? I didn’t ask) enrobing it and little sprinkles of red (bell) pepper and parsley.    I was not offered a taste despite praising the dish and looking forlorn.

I am not sure if the “changes” such as they are, are in response to the newly owned and opened Schieble’s next door, or what, but forever has restarted the clock.  

Of course were traditionally

DFL

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Duck Tails and Tales of Shrimp....



Daffy and Friends...

With the infusion of cash and time, the gray lagoon is now spic and span, being freshly drained of the winter's green slime, powerwashed, and scrubbed so that it is back to its variegated interior which, depending on the gullibility of the audience, is either intended.... or the result of a poor choice of contractors.  But, it is what we have.  On a good day, it is kind of interesting as it bears some resemblance of clouds.  Oh, yes, we pondered for a long time on how to get the right cloud effect.   At least it is not that glaring sapphire blue seen all over.  And to go on (as he often does) we tend to use the pool as a water feature rather than the normal purpose of a swimming pool.  Anyway, after the pool is spiffed up to the extent possible, the next chore is finding about twenty thousand gallons of water.  Last year since we “opened” so late due to relocating the filter and necessary PVC jungle of piping out of the view, we opted to purchase same.  Kind of expensive, but rapid rewards.  This year we’re using the “METCOM” method of plopping the garden hose in the pool and turning on the spigot.


I have been told that in the long run, this is less expensive and we’re not in a rush.  The only drawback is that if you opt to not turn it off, showers are not satisfying, and it takes forever to fill the toilet after a flush.  These things are important.

And you’ll notice that I have been yakking about the pool without so much as a mention of the evil ducks.  You’ll remember that we have a pair that likes Chez Moody as their summer vacation spot.  They are thrilled that the lagoon is filling with water and we often find them happily paddling around.  If you go back to the previous photo, you might notice those little black “spots” in the lower right.  Those, my friends are the leavings of contented and well fed ducks.  One might point out to potential swimmers that while perhaps repulsed at the thought of swimming in it, chemicals eliminate any possibility of contamination, and all the water passes through the filter daily.  Got it?

Anyway we awoke a couple of days ago, and I normally peer out first thing to see what the poultry situation is, and I was greeted by these happy fellows.


They were hastily excused.  I am hoping they are itinerants and not looking for a resort. 

So I followed up on a little lead I garnered from FaceBook, and Googled “how to keep ducks out of your pool”.   Sure enough, several thousand sites popped up, and one even was how to keep mallards out of your pool.  Strangely enough more than one site said the solution was to buy a blow up pool toy (whale, alligator, swan, etc.) and put it in the pool.  “I did that and haven’t seen a duck in the pool in years”;  “works every time”; “strange but true”.  Other methods suggest putting those fake owls or snakes around, but one person reported that the ducks were sitting on them within days.

Hence the blow up (and low cost) solution is our next step.  That is, after the pool is full.  Progress reports to come.

Some things never cease to amaze me department...Shrimp

To keep a bit things foodie in here, a little note from a reception we went to over the weekend to raise funds for the local Soup Kitchen.  It was billed as an appetizer extravaganza and featured a couple of tables of various restaurant supplied appetizers.  The program listed the participating restaurants, but nobody was proud enough of their offering to put their name by it.  Tsk tsk. There was nothing very high end, or exciting.  Chicken Satay’s, ubiquitous plates of squares of cheese, some kind of interesting dips, a bowl of pasta salad, that kind of thing.  There were also some sweets. 

I suppose there is that famous snowball’s chance that the place responsible for the “Bacon Wrapped Shrimp en Skewer” (my term, it was anonymous) will read this, but I would pass on a little culinary hint for them.  Next time you want to serve that, take the little extra effort to remove the damn tail shell from the shrimp first, okay?  There you are with a skewer with the shrimp on the end, encased in bacon, and you notice the tail.   Now we’ve all had scallops in similar preparation, and they’re very good (anything with bacon…..), normally, you put the whole combination in your mouth and strip it from the wooden thing and consume it.  Easy.  So what are you supposed to do with the bacon wrapped shrimp (and tail shell)?  Set it down somewhere, unwrap the bacon, take off the shell, put the bacon back?   Take a chance on choking to death and pop it in your mouth and hope to remove the shell with your fingers?  In my case the solution was to put the skewer back on the tray and move on.  How hard is it to think of these things??   These are supposed to be professionals!  Arrgh…

Enough for today..  and I know today is D Day, but in my case it was Duck Day.  And while we’re throwing around the “D’s” don’t forget to

DFD

Monday, June 4, 2012

Don Quixote, Guy and......Guys, and the Y


am working on a little more food based piece that is not ready for publication yet, so maybe time to let off a little pressure

I am not sure what makes me do this, but somehow I seem to take up causes that I probably have no chance of making any real change.  Kind of like my DFD campaign, I don’t really notice any decrease in ball caps in nice restaurants, but at least maybe I can elevate awareness that might over time have some effect.  

So it is with my latest cause: the (mis)use of the word “guys”.  Now i know that a Hewlett Packard Copiere is a correct name, but it is always called a "Xerox", all tissues are "Kleenex" regardless of who makes them. To be honest I think I looked up a definition of the word "guys", and about the third one down contained a note that the term "you guys" is in common use for both genders.  Well, "common use" doesn’t make it right.   Common usage is for commoners.

Lately we have been enjoying watching the women’s NCAA softball world series, it is fairly low key and fun to watch.  As seems to be common practice these days, all the network folk covering a woman's sport have to be women.  So time after time, somebody like ESPN's Holly Rowe (for whom I somehow have developed an undefined dislike) sticks a microphone in the coach/manager’s face grins, and says something like:  “your fielding isn’t up to the season’s average, how are you guys going to correct that?”; last time I checked I really didn’t see any men on their team.  Or to a player: “this is a must win game for you guys, how does that that affect the way you guys approach the game?”.   Nobody seems surprised, and apparently not one of the ladies minds being referred to as a “guy”.  I just keep thinking about the opposite case.  NBA playoff game, announcer talking to Kevin Garnett:  “how are you gals going to stop Lebron tonight?”  that would be ludicrous (not to mention hazardous to interviewer)  but the other way is accepted.  Not sure why.

And while I won’t change it, maybe I can attune your ear such that when you hear it, you’ll take notice and in some situations say something.  “Excuse me, my wife doesn’t like to be called a guy”.  And you know what?  It is VERY hard not to fall into that usage yourself.  Try it sometime.  “You all”; “anybody”; “anyone” work fine.  “Can I get you all/anybody/anyone something else?”  Or, just stop at “you”.  “may I get you …. Dessert menus?”.  Shouldn’t be hard.

The Y word

Another overused word I have come to hate recently is the use of the word “Yummy” in conjunction with food.  It appears almost daily in facebook entries. Recently I saw a picture of some hard crabs and a beer, to which somebody commented: “Yummy!”.  I can see pre-adolescents using the word to describe “S’mores”, or maybe toasted marshmallows around a girl scout campfire, but hard crabs?  I guess it gets back to having respect for the food.  Is it just me?   Sautéed duck breast (ducks must be on my mind!) with merlot reduction, grilled asparagus and creamy polenta – Yummy??  I think not.  It is too much hard work to put something delicious on your plate only to demean it by squealing “yummy” is just wrong. It is insulting. It’s just too damn cutesy to go with serious food. Stop it!  The use of the word tells me the person has no clue about food.  Everything they put in their mouth is “yummy”.  Go away.  Grow up.

and while you're at it
DFD