Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy's gone.. good riddance

Well, so how did it go for you?  At least here at the digs and most of the surrounding environs I think Sandy was kind.  Don’t believe we got the predicted 60 mph gusts, although we did get fairly steady winds I think in the mid thirties, with some higher gusts.  I think she (he?) took out revenge further north. Did you see some of the horror shots that were floating around on FaceBook of damage up in New Jersey and New York?  Amazing..  Those poor people..

Anyway, living “on the water” with quite a nice view does come with a price (besides the inflated initial cost!).  How high will the surge be?  Is there enough rip rap to protect the shore this time? Will it erode the cliff?  What about that pool that is feet from the precipice?    Fortunately the winds shifted so that most of the higher winds were pushing water AWAY from the shore so surge wasn’t an issue here.

This year we had a new challenge.  We are replacing the aging and cracking pool deck surrounding the gray lagoon.  All the way to the ground, break up the old one and pour the new one.  The current state is that we are waiting for the new cement to be poured..  Forms in place, then came the specter of Sandy.. so we awaited the pending storm like this:


With the forms in place it provides for a nice captive place for water to gather.  Early Monday morning, I awoke before dawn to the unmistakable humming of the sump pump in the basement.   It pretty much goes on only when things are bad.  And it began to cycle..  a not good sign when much more precip is predicted and the prospect of no power to said pump of the sump.  Besides doing the pool deck we are also redoing the patio just outside the lower level door, and I observed with much consternation it was almost brim full, trapped water with nowhere to go except down the foundation and into the pump.    So I don my waterproofs, and go outside.  Of course I didn’t take time to document anything in progress but here is the result of my labors after draining the thing.


The tools included that squeegee to get as much off the area as possible, a shovel used to create a hastily dug “ditch” for drainage (the hell with the lawn at this point)


And the little pump I used to drain the remaining puddles.  I used that pump off and on through the day as water continued to accumulate.  I knew it worked because the sump pump didn’t go on again.  Engineering conquers all!.  I also used the little pump to drain some water from the gray lagoon (it isn’t closed yet, another story) so that rain water wouldn’t overflow it.

At some point, you’ve done what you can do, survival (bottles) plan in place, candles assembled, flashlights gathered, ice hoarded for the survival effort, and you just sit back and wait.  At about 5:30 the expected power outage came, everything got quiet (so that you could hear the generators kick in at the neighbors), and dark.  It is funny how dependant you get on power driven things..  No computer/internet, no TV, no lights, no heat, no refrigeration, no hot showers, etc.  In desperation, you are forced to actually talk to each other, or perhaps read a book by flash or candle light.  Just think, people used to live this way all the time!  And it’s the little things that surprise you.  At one point I went to get something from the garage and instinctively hit the light switch.  Oh, yeah.  Let’s look in the fridge and see if there are limes… oh yeah, hurry up!  Since we have a gas cooktop, MFO managed to put together a rather nice plate of spaghetti and we dined by candlelight.   Hey, Monday night football is on…. Oh yeah.

We awoke this morning still with no power… what time is it?  Oh yeah..  We eventually gathered ourselves and decided to do a neighborhood tour and get a coffee.  We’ll just get in the car and I punched the garage opener..  Oh yeah.  We were pleased to see relatively little damage in the ‘hood, and were even happier to see a bunch of power trucks and men at the intersection of Millstone and 235.  We went into the mercifully open Coffee Quarter, ordered a HOT latte and cup of tea (MFO) and an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich on a croissant.  We were chatting with the barista and mentioned we lived in Esperanza Farms with no power when from behind me came a “It’s BACK!”.  Some other residents of the Farms were there for a similar mission as ours, but a daughter called to inform them power was back.  We also saw some other friends who live near us and they also confirmed.  Love those linesmen....

So, we enjoyed our sandwiches and headed back to the digs to see us welcomed by the porch lights I had turned “on” for just such an indication.  Went inside and happily began the ritual of setting the digital clocks, turning on the fans, retune the thermostats, reboot the computer (holding breath all the way) and start to get back to “normal”.  Soon the boats that had evacuated the piers along us began to reappear.  And life goes on.  You can sort of “make do” and “camp out” with candles and such for a while, but conveniences are nice..  i have to admit that night we didn’t


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy you're a Dandy...

but please stay away..  going to throw this out there now since who knows how long power will last..

currently getting steady winds in the 20's with higher gusts.  Mercifully it is out of the northeast which tends to blow the water away..

I have lived out here (Maryland) for about 16 years now, and have never had an encounter with a deer.  Until last night. MFO and I were returning from a lecture up in Nanjemoy, and suddenly she said "Deer!".  Yea verily, it was standing on the shoulder.  Looking rather immoble.  Just as I thought we were by, it took a leap right in front of me.  Nothing to do.  Mercifully I think it was in mid hop and I believe it's rear hooves clipped the grill.  My fleeting memory is of it spinning away from me.  All auto systems, including headlights seemed funtional so we continued a hundred yards or so and then went off onto the shoulder.  I got out to discover a caved in grill with some of the pieces hanging by a thread.  I managed to pull those off (cutting my finger in the process), put the pieces in the trunk, and MFO took over control while I applied pressure to my cut.

We made it home, and in the light of the garage and spot lights we determined that the front edge of the hood is crunched, and a lot of the fairings in front have deep scratches. Given that we hit the damn thing, it could have been much worse.  So my new beautiful Hyundai Genesis will have to undergo depot level repair with all the hassles, expense, probable interaction with the insurance folks, and the angst of seeing your beatiful baby banged up.  Sigh...  I know other people have done this, but it is still not fun.

Since the approach of the storm nears, I am not sure when I will be able to start the process.  It's always something..

Sandy Story

Speaking of the storm, we made preparations yesterday, cleaned the gutters, put yard furniture and stuff in the side yard, got some black drainage pipe for the downspouts, and pretty much did what we can do outside.   Now it is just sit and wait..  Oh, and of course we assembled all the necessary stuff for survival.   As they say, Make a Kit...  here is ours...

Will provide updates as able..  don't bother to


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oysters here and there...

Well,  St. Mary's County, the oysters have been shucked, dishes have been cooked, beer has been consumed, venues cleaned and tidied, and we have determined the 2012 National Shucking Champion.

Mike Martin defended his (two time) National Championship and will be returning to Galway for the International Opening Competition next September.  Speaking of Galway, the clever writer segues into resumption of his dining log.  We have recounted a couple of nice dining experiences and we have a couple more to round out the food picture..

The rest of the story kind of revolves around this little slip of paper (slightly altered for anonymity)


It began Friday night at the Ireland Championship when it was announced that a local restaurant, Aniar, had been awarded a Michelin Star, the first one in Galway if not the western part of Ireland.  Much Hoopla. The next day before the Championships, the chef/owner of the restaurant, Jp (his usage) McMahon, did a cooking demonstration.


After his demo, MFO went over to congratulate him, and said it was probably impossible to get a reservation now, and lamented that we would be leaving the following Thursday.  Whereupon he whipped out a pen, grabbed that piece of paper and said, “here’s my cell phone number.  Call me on Monday and we’ll see what we can do”.  Wowee!  A starred Michelin Chef passing out his cell phone to us..  Did we feel important!

That was Saturday, and as you hopefully remember Sunday was more cooking demos, with not only our "buddy" Jp, but several other chefs from the area, including Martin Shanahan from  Fishy Fishy” in Kinsale, who is much reknown for his fish preparations..


 I asked him about “skin side up” and he said he never does it, as evidenced by this Hake dish that he prepared for us

Other chefs were featured..


And after the demos, they all lined up for a group shot - Chefs are good folk

After watching them perform their magic with food (how do they do that...?), I watched my first ever Hurling match for the All Ireland Championship between Galway and Kilkenny (Galway was thrashed).  Was not a happy crowd in the tent...Guinness flowed.  We headed back and that was the evening we ate at Ard Bia (previously posted)..

Next day (Monday) we moved up to the Meyrick Hotel (a classic wonderful old hotel where service means service, and found we had been upgraded to a executive suite).  Oh, my goodness…  But, this is about food.  After requesting an early check in, “of course Mr. Moody” we hopped a bus for a ferry over to Aran Islands where we spent the day.  That is a story for another day.. this is about food.

After returning home a bit tired from our day we opted for supper in their bar.  Before going down (while getting DFD) I hesitatingly tried the magic number for Jp.  My cell phone thought I wanted to call China.  Uh oh.  Try again with plusses, leading zeros (how DO those people use cell phones??) all a failure.  Empty feeling starting to build in the stomach.. In desperation I called the Arian restaurant number (which worked) and left a rambling loony message about our offer from Jp, and could we get in Wednesday night, our last night, yadda yadda.  Down to the bar for a hamburger and steak sandwich... and a pint...

Tuesday we drove over to Clonmacnoise (another story for…) Upon arriving back to the hotel, no message from the restaurant…  Crap.  But, besides owning Aniar, Mr. McMahon runs a tapas restaurant next door, called Cava.  All the social restaurant sites seem to praise the place, so on a whim I called and was able to reserve for seven.  Cava is across the river from the hotel so we taxied over.  When we went in, we were the only customers, but it did fill up as we went along.  It’s kind of kitchy and rustic


Do you see those hams on divider?  They are real..  I ate dinner next to one.

I have to admit here (always full disclosure) that I have trouble in Tapas/Small Plate venues.  There are usually many, many, options, some lighter (more like appetizers), while some dishes are more substantial and seem more suited to a main dish.  My problem lies in trying to order.  Being rather traditional in my approach toward food, I like to stage the meal with lighter things first, then progress to a main plate, followed by a salad and then maybe a cheese course.  Quandary one:  do you order dish by dish, eating as you go and building in delays?  Or do you order all you want and hope your server figures that out?  Should you be so presumptuous to tell her/him?  Anyway after much deliberation we ordered several items ranging from toasted filberts, to a blackboard special of Paella (which came with a glass of wine), chicken coquettes (an MFO experiment), a plate of serrano ham and olives and I think that was it.  Oh we ordered had a bottle of wine.

Okay, I won’t get this exactly right, but the order of dishes brought to the table was something like wine, ham,


the Paella


(with “here’s your (extra/superfluous) glass of wine”) filberts, coquettes, all in fairly rapid order.  Push the glass here, squeeze the dish there.. bon appétit!  By the time we enjoyed the "first course"  of the lovely ham and olives, and the filberts, my paella was tepid and congealing, the coquettes were, well, cold.  My fault? Their fault?  And I have to admit each dish was quite good, just not piled on top of each other.  I guess the Michelin Star didn’t leak over.  And after dinner, fueled the bottle of wine (and the “extra” glass), on the way out I stopped in at the next door Aniar.  I chatted with Jp’s brother, repeated the whole story and he said he would definitely call later and let us know about Wednesday.  I did what the hell I could.

So on our last full day in Ireland we drove around Lake Corrib, at times narrowly missing scraping mirrors with oncoming traffic (and a few muffled screams from MFO).  We had an interesting lunch in a little pub in Oughteard, but we’re not on pub level yet.  Upon returning to our lovely hotel room we were treated to a wonderful view of showers over Galway Bay


There was a voice mail on my phone (upon returning to coverage) from Aniar apologizing and saying they were booked for Wednesday, but if we would like to book for a later date, be sure to let them know.  Thank you so much.  Our dreams were crumbled..

Eliminated from Michelin stardom, we wound up at the last of the recommended restaurants, Kirwan’s Lane.  For a finale to Ireland, it served quite well.  It’s down a little side street from the “pedestrianized walkway” and is kind of secluded and nicely tucked in a corner, advertised on the main walkway


Once inside the lighting is subdued and it is quiet as well…peaceful. Wwe were seated at a corner table which I like because I can observe the action.  Servers were low key, no speeches, just asked about drinks.. we again employed the strategy of going for a bottle of wine rather than dealing with cocktails.  The restaurant is pretty much centered on fish and seafood, not surprisingly.  Besides the regular menu they had a daily menu, from which we ultimately selected.  We decided to split an Irish Wild Smoked Trout appetizer, and MFO tried a Sea Bass with Thai Fish Cake, and I took the Baked Hake with Pea Puree and Lemon Grass coulis..  The smoked fish was really good, and disappeared before I thought of the camera..  however by the time the main dish appeared I was prepared.  The Hake was really good,  the lemon grass coulis was incorporated in the glaze and provided a nice little bite..  the logs of polenta, were…… there.


And you guessed it, the Sea Bass arrived sporting it’s outside facing up.  At least they are consistent..  


We decided to split a pear tart, which was very good.  About this time, a newly arrived table next to us ordered up a dozen “native” oysters.  I had noticed them on the menu, with a hefty price of 16 Euros for a half dozen.  Then, I got to thinking..  you know what?  I may NEVER be in Ireland again.  What the hell,  screw the cost, it’s my last night..  Waiter!!


After that, we staggered home up the “pedestrianized street” past the pubs, the happy people, and felt good about our last night.  Up the next morning, and drove to the airport (on the "other side" of the road), commencing the trip home with yet another harrowing adventure in Heathrow.

Although there are some pub meals to talk about,  the (for want of a better term) fine dining we had was excellent.  Although I would handle the Tapas differently, the food was good.  I would say that presentation in general was better than we are used to, they pay attention to that... the seafood was always excellent.  I could live there.
next time, a mention of that whole culture of Pub Food... for which the requirements for
DFD vary..



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A quick trip home...

while putting together the second part of the Galway dining report, a couple of local things to pass along.. 

The activity seen at the many phased restaurant space (that seems to doom occupants) next to La Quinta is going to be........wait for it....ANOTHER Mexican Restaurant!  I think it's a La Tolteca, a chain..  we specialize in chains, but this may be the first of this ilk here if you don't count Taco Bell, oh, and there is Chipotle.  There's one in LaPlata, Waldorf, so heck, let's climb on the band wagon.. date unknown..  don't think there is a "Coming Soon" sign yet.

And have you seen that architectural nightmare rising along Rte. 235 that will turn into LongHorn Steak House?  OMG as the social media folks say.  what a lineup... Cracker Barrel: "Southern Shack"; Red Robin: "Chrome Diner"; Olive Garden: "House in Tuscany"; Texas Roadhouse: "Log Cabin", and now the LongHorn will throw in some Southwestern Kitchy kind of thing.  real pretty stretch.  The only nice thing I can say is that what little regulation we have makes the signs small in front of them.

Oh, and further word has it we'll throw in a Frozen Yogurt place next to that..  and i hear some sort of frozen product thing is also going into Wildewood..

On a happier note I finally had a chance to have dinner at the Bistro Belle Maison, in the Blue Heron Inn, B&B over on the Solomons.  I'll do it more justice later, but we had a very enjoyable time, and the food is good.  Make a reservation.

Oyster Festival is this weekend at the fairgrounds.  weather looks good, beer will be cold, oysters will be plump, the cook off will feature great dishes, we got great bands (I THINK Sam Grow), what more could you want?  And you're doing good, as the proceeds support the Rotary Clubs civic support such as sholarships..  win win win.   Unfortunately (in his mind) you won't see the Feeder as King Oyster this year, but there will be a Queen..  Great Local stuff...

okay that's it for now

have to go DFD

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Galway Chapter Two, Dining Diary

Well, dear friends it is time to move along in our travel diary to: Galway, Chapter Two - Dining.  Chapter One (The Festival) is not quite complete, leaving Saturday night and Sunday day open.  We will revisit those at a later date.. But, I feel the need to talk about our food experiences.  Mr. Foodie is feeling food talk withdrawal, and we kind of need to leave Ireland as there are Southern Maryland things to talk about starting to pile up..  like new places to eat...

Meanwhile, back to the Emerald Isle and our food adventures.  This is kind of an oversimplification, but there are two levels of dining or eating available.  There are fine dining places, and then there are layers and layers of (for want of a better term),  informal or “pub food”.  The whole culture of pubs is worth talking about, but I think we’ll start at the top and work down (bad choice of words but you get the drift) to them.  All in all, we had about four and a half meals in the restaurant variety meals, and a few in the pub setting.  Before we left, I consulted a few folks who had been there, did some research on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and various sites, so we had a pretty good working list of restaurants when we arrived.

I could probably fill up a posting with each of those more formal restaurants we tried, and in fact I probably could kill the better part of one with just about each dish.  But in the interest of both of our times, I will struggle to be brief (postscript, it didn't work), since unfortunately neither of us will probably be back there real soon..  Overall, I would have to say in general the food we had was excellent.   One is tempted to think everything is wonderful just because you are away from home, on “vacation”, and in a new place.  I tried to stay objective and I think I still have that opinion of the level of the food.  Uniformly, presentation is taken very seriously, maybe even more so that we are used to here, and save one dish they all were nicely plated.  They still serve the fish skin side up which I will never understand, but there you are.  Pretension is never present, and although décor is tasteful it is not overdone, or lavish.  Just appropriate for the food.  It all fits together. That carries over to the servers, we found them to be straight forward, no goofy canned, rote speeches about taking care of you, no names, just what can I get you.  They don’t hover, ask “how’s that workin’ for ya” creating a very nice experience.

Our first real restaurant meal was on the Thursday we arrived.  We were still feeling frisky for not having crashed the car on the “other side of the road”,  being talked down to the hotel, checked in, and after resting a bit, we decided to “go out”.  The h/motel we were in (Jurys Inn) was very centrally located and within easy walking distance of most of the restaurants.  In Galway there is a “pedestrianized” street where just foot traffic is allowed.  There are a lot of pubs, shops, and restaurants of varying quality there, and tucked in a side street is a place called “The Malt House” which we had heard good things about...


I called for a booking and it was no problem.  It is kind of out of the way and a bit immune from the crowds celebrating Arthur’s day.  I am not sure what to call the décor


just kind of comfortable.  A wall of very interesting plates..  We were seated next to the window so we could see outside and were soon asked what we would like to drink.  Having learned my lesson on cocktails over there, we said we would like a minute to look at the wine list. Our server pointed out the blackboard with specials of the day which we could not read at all so she recited them for us.  We eventually chose a bottle of Sancerre since we were leaning toward fish.  Besides the chalk board, the regular menu had many choices so a glass or two of the wine was necessary to arrive at the final selections.   MFO decided on polenta/Oyster dumplings, and a main dish of pan seared scallops, while I wanted a slow roasted pork belly starter and a roasted Turbot with glazed oysters for my main plate.  Things moved along at a nice pace, and soon the first courses arrived.

Pork Belly above, Oysters Below

Aren't they pretty?  And, although we were starved enought to eat our shoes at this point, we found them to be amazingly good. We found that pork belly was on many menus we saw.  Pork fat does rule.  Our main courses arrived, scallops and risotto

then the Turbot...


I thought it really suffered presentation wise because it was pretty monochromatic, white fish, white plate, blond (glazed) oysters with the little polenta cake.  It certainly didn’t distract from the taste however, which was fine, just not as pretty as it could be.  For dessert we did a cheese plate, with a glass of refreshing house made apple juice.   I augmented that with a glass of Port.


A very nice introduction to dining in Galway

The next couple of days  and evenings were absorbed by the Festival, so Sunday night was our next dining out opportunity.  We chose the nearby Ard Bia at Nimmos (which I still don’t quite get the meaning of).  It’s located along the quay near the river by the Spanish Arch (where the parade formed up), it’s in the background of this of MFO and the Town Crier (and, as it turned out, the head of the Japanese contingent).


It’s just a little place with maybe only eight or nine tables on the main floor and I think some on the second floor but we didn’t go up there.  It is quite “cottegey” inside with stone walls and lovely little windows.  Across from our table - how  charming..


The menus were on brown paper, and looked to be typed with a typewriter in Courier.  After we perused the menu (again leaning toward fish), we looked at the wine list It was a very intriguing wine list.  Bottles from all over.. A bottle caught my eye that was from the Basque region: Hondarrabi, Txacoli de Getaria; the "Txacoli" rang a bell as something I had read about recently, so we ordered that.  Much searching ensued with questions between servers “have you seen the…?” and eventually a bottle was brought to the table that had none of the words on the wine list on the front of the bottle.  Our server agreed with us that it probably was not the wine on the list so we substituted an Albarino, Rias Baixas DO (still staying in Spain), it was fresh and clean so we went with that.  We finally got down to being serious about ordering and for once we DID have questions on the menu.   Both had the same answer, but the questions were “what is red gurnard?” and “what is Irish Brill”  the answer to both was “a delicately flavored fish”.  So we decided on splitting a Connemara Crab and Burren Smoked Trout Salad, and MFO opted for the “Roast spiced red gurnard with organic beetroot risotto” and I ordered the “Pan roasted Irish Brill fillet with Gubbeen pancetta, puy lentils, chanterelles, and herb crème fraiche”.

About this time our friendly server approached the table with the original bottle of wine, and pointed out that in the small text on the back label were indeed the words on the wine list for the Txacoli.   She allowed as how we would like our Albarino better as the Txacoli had a bit of a spritz to it..  No recriminations, just a friendly discussion.  We all learned.  Quite pleasant..We continued to enjoy the space and the kind of quiet solitude although there were other diners. 

The salad arrived and was quite good, although it wasn’t exactly what we thought, we expected pieces of crab and trout but it was sort of mixed like a tuna salad.  It was quite good however and we managed to finish it quite easily.  The main dishes came out, first the Gurnard with the beetroot risotto


followed by the Brill

Readers will note which side was of the fish is presented.  So, our first action was to “skin” the pieces.  They are not really crispy.  Maybe it is us.  Both pieces of the fish were just delicious and my lentils were a perfect pairing with the fish.  Between the unique atmosphere, the friendly staff, the wine, and the food it was a most enjoyable close to a full day closing out the festival.  We finished our meal with chocolate torte and a mini berry trifle, oh and a glass of Banyuls for good measure.  Trust me the food was pretty before we decimated it!  I always show "before" so here's an "after"!


As readers will know, I’m a big fan of “just right” and this was the epitome of that.  It all fit. Upon reflection, I almost think that this experience was the most enjoyable of the trip..

Chapter two, second verse tomorrow.  And yes we were




Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trip Diary, continuing

Chapter One Continues, Saturday...

After Friday night’s revelry (Michael Moran sucessfully defended his Irish championship) we got up and took a little walk outside the hotel along by the river..


Such a pretty place..  after that we wandered over by the Spanish Arch where all the contestants were assembling to participate in the morning parade


The lady representative of the Czech Republic was all decked out


Everybody was happy and having a good time


And the official town crier was even there to help with the festivities..

 with contestants and fans alike


And of course Oyster Pearl was a popular lady (okay, I couldn't resist)

But eventually they all formed up and off they went to be in the parade through the old town


We went back to the hotel for a little rest and then walked over to the Marquee complex for the afternoon’s opening contest.


All seventeen contestants assembled on the stage to be introduced before the competition began


Including our champion, Mike Martin


After the all the hoopla and before the contest began, I was sequestered with the judges in the back tent, so didn’t get to see any of the actual shuc.... er, opening (it’s hard not to use our term for opening oysters, but when in….).  Since I was able to see that two years ago, that was okay.  You could hear it going on through the walls as they have announcers running around behind the contestants counting off how many so and so has done..  kind of a “top chef” approach.  Eventually the trays came back to the judging area

This was taken when judging was done, but is one of the better ones, all thirty oysters neatly lined up and rather nicely presented.  As I said before, they arrive with just a number on the tray so nobody knows whose tray is whose. Unlike the St. Mary’s version, for the judging process, they have a “specialist”  for each category.  Most of them have been doing it for over twenty years! There is a “counter” (usually a “junior”); one who checks for bits of shell, another making sure it is cleanly cut, no cut meat, all on the shell, and so on.  Quality/presentation is kind of a mutual venture.  They then collate all the penalty points in the various categories, and those totals along with the “quality” points (out of 30) are handed off to yet another pair of people who will add the time element for the final score. After they give the point sheets, the judges are through and generally go have a pint and join the festivities.  Once again they treated me like I was a twenty year veteran and didn’t make me feel like an outsider..

In the end, there are just the lonely trays of oysters.


After the judging is completed and no “go backs” are deemed necessary, a few oysters go down the gullets of the judges, including the “objective observer”, aka me. 

I rejoined MFO in the tent, and awaited the results of the contest to be announced.  I had feared that being left alone for a couple of hours (three heats of openings, plus judging) would be a burden.   Well, not so.  We had found a seat at one of the few tables in the tent, and by the time I returned she knew everybody and was having a high old time.

Finally they got around to announcing the winners,  our contestant Mike Martin came in a respectable 11th, and finally the grand champion was announced and it was none other than..... Michael Moran!  This was his second World Championship and he said he could now hold his head up at the dinner table with his dad who is also a double winner.  Needless to say, he was quite happy


And of course being Irish, his victory was quite popular, and he really is a very nice guy..


And like Indy, there is a traditional beverage to be quaffed by the winner


Although the partying continued, MFO and I took the opportunity to take a break and go back to the room, rest up, and get ready for the big gala in the evening.  So I think we will also take a break and talk about the evenings activities along with the wrapup of the festival the next day.

So a wonderful experience with the openers and the judges, with many new friends made.  Makes you want to go back..  excuse us while we go





Sunday, October 7, 2012

Trip Diary....


Well, we’re home.  Another harrowing day of travel insulated us from the beauty of Galway, and brought us to reality at the digs.  Our return trip routed us through Heathrow again, and our thoughts of “well, we’ve done it once, this can’t be so bad” went glimmering.  Directions to two wrong gates, complete with “oh, you need to transfer to another building, sir”’ another tram ride, and hike finally found us at the correct gate a scant half hour before boarding began.  A long plane ride (we’re experiencing stronger than normal headwinds, folks” got us to Dulles around nine local time.  

When we checked in to the Aer Lingus desk at Shannon, the nice lady said well, at least you can go through US customs here!  Oh, wait, you’re going through Heathrow, you’ll have to do it in the US.  That resulted in standing in the US Customs line at Dulles along with at least 200 other souls waiting for one of the two agents who casually processed the travelers. Sporadically, a perky recording came on saying “Welcome to the USA!”.  Ironic.  Welcome indeed.


Chapter One - The Festival


Now that there is time to talk (while lists of errands go wanting), the feeder is somewhat unsure as to how to proceed.  Some 380 images are available to tell the story, but we both would be fatigued if I recounted the journey in detail… “At ten o’clock we went over to….”  So, let’s talk about the Festival itself first, and then maybe another story about the food, and yet another about the people and country and sights we saw..


As sort of the last “duty” as King Oyster of the 2011 St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, I was entitled to represent the USA along with our champion shucker Mike Martin at the


The festival runs over the course of three days, with many events and galas, with some major highlights.  Friday evening, was the Irish National Opening Championships which crowns the Irish Champion, who then competes in the World Championships the next day.   That competition is held Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night is the big blow out gala.  A Sunday brunch wraps up the festival.  Also on Sunday was the final of the All Ireland Hurling Championship match between Galway and Kilkenny.  Sort of the super bowl of Irish Hurling.  The local support for the Galway team makes Green Bay Packer fans look casual..  signs, banners, everywhere..


The word below the ship crest is "Galway" in Irish (its the official crest)... Anyway after a lunch (at that Taaffes bar - included in the upcoming food chapter) we got to the festival tent (called a “marquee” over there) in time to see the official start of the festival complete with music

 and speeches


The equivalent of our King Oyster is the Oyster Pearl, who is pictured above with the Mayor of Galway City, and reigning Irish Champ Michael Moran (pronounced: mor’n) son of two time World Champ Willie Moran, and the long line of Morans of the famed Moran’s Oyster Cottage, located in nearby Kilcolgan.  Michael of course had to open an oyster for Her Honor the Mayor


who appeared to struggle a bit, but eating an oyster in front of cameras and crowds can be a bit daunting...


Anyway, the evening moved on into heavy party mode


And we hooked up with Mike Martin who enjoyed talking to his fans...


After more partying and music, the Irish Opening contest took place.



I was accorded the honor of being the “North American Impartial Observer” for the World Championships, but after the first "heat" I was invited “back stage” to watch the judging for the Irish version as a warm up for the next day.  That was fascinating, more on that tomorrow.  Like our festival here, judging is very exacting.  I was fearful I would be sort of isolated, but no, not in Ireland.  Hey Bill, come meet the head judge Terry, and this is….. by the end I was just one of the guys, and celebrated the finish of judging with a pint.  Similar to our competition all they do is decide on penalty points on each (anonymous) tray and turn in the sheets which then are married to the time, and final score determined.  One difference between the events is that they open 30 oysters instead of the two dozen, plus the oysters are Ostreae Edulus, as opposed to our Crassostrea Virginica.  The Edulus is a bit more “cuppy” than ours which provides a challenge for the Americans.  The common name for that variety is “Belons”, however since the Irish have an aversion to what the English and French call them, they are known locally as “Natives”.. go figure.

As the hour was advancing, MFO and I departed before the long process of determining the winner as it was getting late and we’re unfortunately not party animals.  Besides the next day was scheduled to be a long one and we wanted to work off our sleep deficit.    So we walked back to the hotel, along the way striking up a conversation with a gentleman who just happened to be walking the same way, not associated with the festival.

So that concluded our initiation to the Festival, the first of what proved to be three great days…

I guess we were



More to come…