Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Priorities..


Hello, in a beneficial turn of events, I have had the opportunity to apply my flutter brain lately and get a few billable hours.  Since that pays way more (monetarily, not necessarily emotionally) than blogs I’ve been kind of wrapped up in that..

And, in fact I don’t really have too much to pass on, just a couple of little snippets.
 
Iron Chef, NOT!

While I don’t much care for hokey cooking competitions (back to that best phobia of mine), I do have to pay respect to the Bocuse d’Or, commonly known as the world cooking championship.  Kind of the Olympics of cooking.  It is held biannually, and is recognized as one of the highest honors a chef can achieve.  Teams representing nations from all over the world compete to get the coveted Bocuse d’Or, with second and third places awarded the Silver and Bronze Bocuse.  It began in 1987, and since then France has won the Gold seven of the fourteen total competitions.  That includes this year as the French team led by Thibaut Ruggeri again took the gold with Denmark and Japan in second and third.  Stodgy, classical old me kind of likes to see France at the top of the culinary world (by some measure).  The team from the USA led by Richard Rosendale included my hero, Thomas Keller.  They placed seventh this year, coming up from tenth at the previous competition. 

Just to give you a feel, the USA meat course, (which called for Irish beef), was “Hickory Grilled Beef Filet with Asparagus and Horseradish; Fried Hollandaise; Beef Oxtail ‘Yankee Pot Roast’ with Spiced Red Wine Sauce; Potato Dumplings, Bone Marrow and Thyme Infused Beef Broth with Crispy Beef Filet; Slowly Roasted Carrots.”  Not sure why he called for Irish Beef… what happened to buy local or at least nationally?  I dunno, not really inspiring..

Anyway as always displaying class, Keller said the following:

 We're proud of the team's performance. We increased three positions from the competition in 2011, so we are moving in the right direction. Congratulations to France, Denmark, and Japan for their strong showing today.”  We’ll get ‘em next time!
 
More rankings

And since we’re skirting around “best” here, I might mention that the February 13th  issue of the Washingtonian Magazine contains their annual "100 Very Best (not just "best" mind you, but very best) Restaurants". Sometimes these things get goofy, but I can’t quarrel with their top three:  Inn at Little Washington; Komi; Cityzen; all recognized nationally.   Gone was the now shuttered Kinkeads, and the closed "temporarily" Cintronelle.  I was really pleased to see that my gem on the Eastern Shore, Bartlett Pear Inn, received three stars (out of four), and a very positive write up.. You are really missing an experience if you don't go there sometime..
 
Bottom of the Bottom Feeder

At the other end of the spectrum, MFO is joining some of her historical buddies for dinner tonight following the Historic Preservation Commission meeting.  She just phoned and said they were going to LoneHorn!!  Report to follow..
 
and yes, MFO was indeed,
 
DFD

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekend Wamblings...

Not necessarily food subjects today, but just "things"…..
 
Plows
 
First, as I was out this morning for my cup of enthusiasm from a coffee purveyor I noticed that there were myriad pickups (mostly of the big boy muscle variety) brandishing snow blades.  Not sure what conditions are around you, but last night's edition near the digs brought little more than a dusting.  But if you bought the darn thing, you have to look like you use it.  Most of the blades were freshly painted if not new.  Guess we’re into a warmup period now, so hopefully it will melt without help from the blade corps.  Bare pavement is good, call me old fashioned.
 
Next subject:
 
I had an enjoyable lunch the other day where I finally paid off my friendly wager going back to the MSU/Notre Dame game last fall.  As you remember the Spartans became just another statistic in the Irish’s “perfect” regular season.   It was, as you might imagine, a bit bittersweet for my “Domer” friend given the on and off field foibles of the team lately.  Anyway, we discussed (as you might guess) sports of one kind or another besides football.  When the conversation got around to basketball, I said that both the women’s and men’s team (at ND) were doing well.  He then made what I took to be a preposterous statement.  As part of the women’s discussion, he said “you know the women use a smaller ball”.  Of course not, how idiotic!  Not these days of Title Nine, equal rights for both genders, “women’s rights”,  and with NCAA’s legal beagles paying attention to everything.  How stupid.   Parenthetically, I THINK when we were first in high school, women’s (or girl’s) basketball had some rule about dribbling three times and then having to pass the ball.  So we went on to talk about other things.
 
Well, as any responsible Irish (engineering) grad would do, he researched the subject and found the NCAA rules for Basketball and here is Article 8 (and I am not making this up):
 
Art. 8. a. (Men) The circumference of the ball shall be within a maximum of 30 inches and a minimum of 29½ inches.
b. (Women) The circumference of the ball shall be within a maximum of 29 inches and a minimum of 28½ inches.
 
Art. 9. a. (Men) The weight of the ball shall not be less than 20 ounces nor more than 22 ounces.
b. (Women) The weight of the ball shall not be less than 18 ounces nor more than 20 ounces.
 
In addition there are specs for “resiliency” that call out how high the ball should bounce when dropped from 6 feet.  Men: not less than 49 inches; Women: not less than 51 inches.  
 
In summary, the women play with a smaller, lighter, and “bouncier” ball.  I was, and remain, astonished.  Isn’t this some kind of throwback (no pun intended) rule?   Do they assume the poor little “girls” are incapable of dealing with a (only slightly) bigger ball?  Brittney Griner is bigger than a lot of the men, and has hands that could palm my head.  Theoretically then, there is a better chance for the female point guard to chuck it in the hoop than the men (no mention of smaller baskets). And not to mention any athletic program has to pay for an inventory of both?  Which begs the question:  Should they also lower the basket for women? 
 
Not to be outdone, this Spartan did some cursory research and found that: Track hurdles are different heights for men and women (by six inches or so); Soccer balls are not; Softballs are not; Hockey pucks are (apparently) not.  As far as I know, a one hundred yard dash measures the same for men and women.
 
What conclusion you draw from all this (other than in my case surprise) is left to the reader.
 
Okay, one food item
 
The above mentioned lunch took place at ThaiInter, in all its glowing yellow exterior.  It was a Tuesday and quite a few of the tables were occupied.  I had eaten there long ago (under the first management, there is now a “new” one) and as i recall was impressed by the food and presentation.  I don't think i could say that this time.. but hey, it's been a while.  Service was prompt to the point that we had to shoo the server once due to deep conversation about football, but the next time we ordered. I suspect at lunch a lot of the people need to eat and get back to work so that's okay. Out of my reluctance to wind up with something overly spicy and foreign to the system I took the chicken dish of Pad Thai (with chicken), that standard Thai dish of Pho noodles.  Sorry Domer I forgot your selection.  Good news and slightly bad news, there was quite a wait for the food.  Bad news:  there was quite a wait for the food (Ref get back to work);  Good News: hopefully that means it was prepared to order, not scooped out of a bin under heat lamps.  My portion was more than I wanted/could eat, but was fairly tasty and not hot at all.  Parenthetically (to violate some author law about using the same word twice in a piece), the menu was arranged by number as is common in Asian restaurants.  Probably has something to do with the fact that there are a bewildering number of choices (and then chicken, pork, or Tofu, sometimes shrimp).  Anyway it was a fun lunch, guess if you like that kind of food, it is as good a choice as any, but not really my main culinary focus.
 
Well Okay, Food Number two – which I just thought of…
 
The little outfit I (sometimes) work for usually gives its employees an Amazon gift card at the holiday time period.  Not a huge amount, but enough to take the edge off a purchase.  I try to use such windfalls for an item for which I would be reluctant to shuck out the whole freight, and don’t really need, but something I just want.  Well, I have always wanted a slow cooker and a deep fryer.  Considering the versatility and frequency of use, I am leaning toward the slow cooker (fending off the MFO “where are you going to store something like that?” comments).  So Sparty again did some research and as usual it only results in befuddling me.  This source says Crock Pot the best; the next likes Hamilton Beach; and so on.  Over the years I have developed an affinity for All Clad products finding that they perform extremely well, are easy to clean, hard to abuse, and properly taken care of (Bar Keeper’s Friend) quite attractive.  However, this applies to cookware (sauté pans, sauce pans, and the like).  So I am naturally attracted to their slow cooker (reasonably expensive, but see start of paragraph).  The folks at “America’s Test Kitchens” form the Cook’s Illustrated empire rate them “highly recommended” although there was another model that was cheaper in the category as well.  The site that liked the Crock Pot model also said there were cracking issues with the All Clad insert.  So what’s a poor consumer to do?  Sigh.. (opinions/experience welcomed if any)
 
Okay enough ramblings for this morning.. enjoy your snowy weekend and despite inclement weather carry the flag and
DFD  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Snow is Headed this way!... and it was!


Mercifully our sleep was “Beepless” last night and the house has not burned down.  So, good to go..

And while we were in our beepless sleep the silent snow flakes fell and we awoke to see a blanket of white in the back yard (we are never sure if the water side is back or front)

 

In an uncommon fit of pre-planning I had filled the bird feeders in anticipation of the stuff and a few customers were happy that I had, especially the suet and the oiler feeder (“goldie” slightly visible on the bottom of the oiler feeder - where's waldo?)

 

Eventually the snow stopped and the sun appeared, lighting things up and providing some nice shots of the departing clouds

 

And to slightly paraphrase, it also provided pretty images of the “the sun on the breast of the new fallen snow” on the other side of the digs...

 

So while they played bumper cars on the beltway, “MFO in her kerchief and I in my cap” (okay I’ll stop now) kind of luxuriated and took a little nap.. 

Making good use of an “inside” day, she is currently organizing documents and pictures of both of our sets of parents.  Hey, she’s an archivist for heaven’s sake.  Good day to stay inside (we don’t have any animals to let frolic in the snow) and look at the scenery.. I spent some (frustration) time with my program to organize/manipulate pictures...
 
Oh, and just to make me feel good, a friend who had the luck/good sense to take a little vacation in the BVI's sent me this... and they made it little colony of Maryland!!



Hope you had a good day – school was out as I understand it..being retired does have its advantages.   Since we’re in a casual mood I doubt that we will overly

DFD

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beep Beep.... you get no sleep!


Last night, sometime after midnight, MFO and I were peacefully slumbering (or at least what passes for “sleep” these days), when there was a cricket like “cheep cheep” which half wakened me/us.  Blurred by dreaming (or dealing with the demons) I half wondered “what’s that?”   A few minutes later there was no doubt about the origin, as the cheep cheep turned into a chorus of ear splitting BEEP BEEP BEEP’s in about five second intervals.  Crap!  (euphamism)..  It's the *&%$#@! smoke alarm!  Damn thing’s battery must be low/dead.  Now, the ceiling of the master bed room is a half cathedral affair, rising up to about 20 feet on the high end.  The alarm is positioned about half way, so it’s about ten to twelve feet off the floor.  MFO said maybe it needs to be reset (all shouting over the BEEP BEEP BEEP’s).   We retrieved a broom handle and pushed the little button in the middle which silenced the damn thing.   For about ten minutes….

Okay, phase two: we’ll have to replace the battery. So I donned my “fuzzies”, some foot ware, and went into the garage, opened the outside garage door to the 20 degree temperatures, and lugged the step ladder through the front door into the house, and up the stairs to the bedroom.  Well, turns out that to reach the alarm body you have to be on the second step from the top, and two hands for the alarm doesn’t leave much for safety.  I did, however, manage to remove the battery one handed thinking maybe that would shut it up.  Wrong, it’s too smart for that!!  BEEP BEEP BEEP…

Phase three:  Go down into the kitchen, rummage in the catch-all box for the 9 volt batteries.  No joy – how can this be??.  But wait!  There’s one in the garage in the control box for the sprinkler system.. back into the frigid garage, extract the battery, back upstairs, insert battery, a few minutes pause and then the BBB! began again.  Most likely spent battery number two.

Desperation starts to set in at this point. 

Phase four:  Actually get in car, drive to nearby WaWa (open 24 hours), shuck out $5.50(!) for one new nine volt battery.  Drive home.  Drag bigger step ladder up stairs, insert new battery (squinting to make sure plus and minus terminals align).  Silence, then BBB!  I'm running out of options and ideas here, MFO cautiously suggesting maybe we should pack a bag to go spend what remained of the night in the motel up the street.

Phase five:  another thought.. back into garage, wait for the chorus to start again (you get about 10 minutes of silence with each reset) and then threw the circuit breaker to the room.  Lights out, alarm dutifully telling us there is a fire. (MFO found the instructions, while chirps tell you about the battery; three loud beeps tell you about the fire).

Last shot:  before activating my last ditch plan to call 911, I climbed the ladder again and removed the unit from the ceiling.  Two long wires came from the bird’s nest in the circuit box to the alarm body.  And just before I went for the wire cutters it looked to me like maybe there was a connector on the back of the thing.  Pulling and tugging revealed nothing, but looking at the installation instructions made it really look like it was a connector.  So emboldened by that knowledge, I got a screw driver and by prying and pushing with enough force I thought could break something (which didn’t faze me at this point) FINALLY it pulled loose from the back of the unit, and it at last lapsed into blessed silence.

An anxious few minutes of waiting (who knew if it talked to other units, for instance) there were no more Beeps, and we retired to bed for what remained of the night.  (about one and a half hours expended to this point)

So now we are “unprotected” with wires dangling, but at least there is silence, and oh yes, what to do now?  Am suspecting a bad unit.. it’s always something..

Excuse me, I have to go take a nap before we get
DFD

Monday, January 21, 2013

Moving, Church Food, and Horizons



Just some random stuff and a note about expanding horizons at the end..

Moving

I may be last to the parade here, but just to pass along….  Word (reliably) has it that Monterrey (or Monterey depending on where you look) will be pulling out of San Souci and relocate into the Damon’s building down south by gate one.  Seems a bit odd, San Souci was a pretty good location one would think.  Lot of lunchtime synergy there.  But, as I have grown to learn following the restaurant circuses, sometimes these things get driven more by leases and contracts rather than any food related reasons.  Damon’s was pretty much as I recall set up in a “sports bar” arrangement with flat screens and such..  Be interesting to see how they do it.

Driving through Calloway the other day on Rte. 5, we noticed a sign on the door of Bear Creek Barbecue that they also were moving to be down on Route 249 which heads down to Piney Point.  Locals will remember that about two or three miles down that road was what I remembered as some sort of “Chicken Shack” on the east side of the road.  Had a peaky roof with bric-a-brac as I recall.  Anyway, that is the new home of Bear Creek!!  Pretty drastic reduction in square feet I think, so maybe that "dollars per" drove them out.  Remember they had a fire that shut them down for quite a time.  A restaurateur friend commented that you never recover (monetarily) from an event like that no matter how much insurance you have.  Anyway, will have to stop and see.

Also heard some buzz that Di Giovanni’s on the Solomons has undergone a management change or reversion..

Church Ladies

Saturday MFO and I attended the annual brunch at St. Georges Episcopal Chruch for the Friends of the Library.  One of the highlights at the brunch is the presentation of checks to the various branches of funds raised in the annual book sale.  It’s amazing how much money gets accrued a buck or two at a time (or maybe a book or two)!   Anyway, another highlight for me is always the food.   I usually refer to it as “church lady food” in that it is really made from scratch in one of those kitchens found in church halls.  In this case there were also males involved, but church ladies has a better ring to it.

It is always served on a buffet

With an array of stuff (meats above) in classic church buffet aluminum chafing dishes with lids that fall to the floor with great clatter (one did this year as well).  The complete “menu" consisted of a Green Chile Torte (egg dish); stewed apples; sliced pork; sausage; scrapple; french toast; steamed vegetables; green beans with hunks; Kugel; and intended quiche.  I noticed that the introductions kind of dragged on, and our director of libraries can talk for hours about what wonderful things they have accomplished, but finally the church man came out and fessed up that the quiche was taking longer to cook than he hoped, hence the delay.  After a few more minutes, he came out and said the darn thing(s) still were not done and we would start.  Real stuff.  You don’t get that in chains!!
As I mentioned above the meats consisted of the sliced pork, and also sausage and scrapple:


You might notice that the sausage patties have obviously (I checked) been formed by hand and are not those processed perfectly round discs, and the scrapple was sliced unevenly.  I was not sure of the origin of either, but they were definitely not unfrozen Sysco products.  Due to our somewhat late arrival we were sitting in the back nearer the food.  I kept track and was very much surprised how many people took the scrapple.  I think scrapple is one of those foods that require some time to develop a taste for if you didn’t grow up with it.  Having recently been in Scotland (the one across the pond, not the Southern Maryland version), I kind of compared it to Haggis.  And truth to tell, I liked the Haggis better than the scrapple offered at the brunch.  I also suspect that, like stuffed ham, there is a lot of local variation in the recipe.  This one wasn't overly spicy.
Anyway, it’s these kinds of events and local foods that makes one glad we live here..

Horizons

I am about to embark on a new adventure for me.  The people in our Tourism organization have offered me the chance to post a piece on their site once in a while when something moves me to words.  My first attempt is kind of a “who the heck is this guy?” for those few people in the county that don’t know the Bottom Feeder.  I will not appear under that nom de plume.  The subject matter will be different than what goes into the bottom feeder blog.   There are a lot of neat things in our county and I hope to seek out some of the more interesting ones for them.  But, dear readers, despite that venture, please BE ASSURED that there will be no change in the bottom feeder.  Rants, criticism of chains, calling out bad service, drivers, and manners will remain.. we’ll see how it goes.  Take a look and suggestions are, as always, welcome.  

Here’s the link – by the way, the site is pretty neat and has a lot of good county stuff (Besides me of course).

DFD

Friday, January 18, 2013

Face Book....


(To slightly plagiarize something):,
 
.....is like a woman, you can’t live with and you can’t live without.  These days, web pages seem to be slipping as the main source of information about something.    More and more “things” have created FaceBook “pages” and use them to relate information.   Locally, that would include organizations such as our libraries, NAVAIR, the Lexington Park development people (a story in itself), and other NGO’s as well as government agencies.  It is a convenient way to “keep up” on things of interest.  For instance after our trip to Galway, I have “liked” a couple of their newspaper "pages", and also a few of the restaurants we enjoyed while there.  Kind of keeps up the ties.. And of course being in the food writing business (if you can call it that) I also have liked various restaurants, butcheries, local sourcing farms, wineries, farmer’s groups, caterers, and so on.  Of course I do have some “friends” that are just individuals that I also enjoy following and keeping up up with.  For instance one person is a great source for upcoming musical events associated with the college.  I rarely post, only if i can't stand it (like using the "y" word to describe food).

So, most every morning I take a look at what’s going on, looking at both the wheat and the chaff.  Scrolling down past all the pictures of cute kitties and dogies which seem never ending, all the venomous political posts from both sides, I occasionally find something interesting that catches my eye.  Like (ha ha) yesterday I came across an initial posting about how much this person enjoys her new(?) iPhone, and is fascinated by “Siri”.  I was a little surprised because this person is pretty “hip” (dates me, eh?) and also enjoys good food and cooking (not that that makes it exclusive).  Well, what followed her initial remark was a huge string of comments from other people about their own love affair with Siri, how they can’t stay away, and filled with amusing (to them) anecdotes.  Things like “I asked Siri how to dispose of a dead body, and got a listing of funeral parlors".  Or, “I asked Siri where to buy “weed” and got a list of pharmaceutical companies”.  Another:  “I love her!” Riveting stuff!  All went on to emote about how much time they spend with their phone presumably welded to their ear talking to a recording..Well, I got a question they could ask Siri: “Siri, how can I get a life?”

Truckin’
An observation from this morning’s travels (and this is a bit of a generalization).  Why do drivers of pickup trucks feel it is necessary to floor it from a stop light when first in line?  Usually the more pipes that protrude from various places and the number of wheels on axles the more pedal is used.  I don’t want to speculate on their self esteem so you think about that.  The truck is THEM!.  Anyway it usually allows them to “win” the drag race and be at the next red light before anybody else proving their superiority in life.

Good Stuff…
And speaking of self esteem, mine got a boost the other day when a friend sent me a link to a column from a Seattle NPR radio station.  The title of the piece was “An annoying question from the waiter”, which turned out to be “have you dined with us before?”  the author respond “why do they want to know?”.  Personally (for once!) I don’t think that’s all that bad.  Maybe the menu has changed, maybe they only do tasting menus, maybe prix fixe, and other things unique to the restaurant.  But, at the end of the intro, he threw out “What’s on your list?”  and there were lots of respondents.  I was gratified to see most of the things I rant about appeared:

“Guys that don't remove their baseball caps/fedoras/beanies/Stetsons at the table.”  (Since this is obviously gender specific, I don’t object to “guys”).

"My beef is that when dining with a group of friends, the waiter starts removing people's plates when there is still one person eating.."
 
and of course my favorite:

“My ongoing pet peeve is overuse of the word GUYS. Asking a group of women, "are you guys ready to order?" Is when the tip starts going down. Call me old-fashioned, but it's everywhere...”

We are not alone people!!  I am not howling in the wilderness.

It’s Open
As part of those morning rambles which turned into nearly one, I passed the LongHorn Steakhouse.  You couldn’t park a vespa in the parking lot.  More dollars flowing away..

What the … Heck?
I have no idea what’s going on at Notre Dame/Manti’s “girl friend”.  And I too never knew there was a situation called “catfish”..  too old.


DFD (especially in Seattle!!)

 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Let's Do Lunch!!


i am not sure how i can take longer to write about an experience than the experience itself, must take talent 

First I say nothing, and then I don’t stop.   This will probably be the last post on this subject for a while, but I did want to follow up our initial visit with one where we actually were guests.  We met a friend (seems like we’re always meeting friends) there for lunch yesterday to check out that aspect of the operation.

We got there about high lunch time and were pleased to see that there were lots of cars in the lot, and indeed we were not alone in the idea of lunch at McKay's 245.  As I mentioned yesterday roughly a third (?) of the floor space is given over to the quick service operation.  Four(?) large islands offer salads, soups, rotisserie stuff, and Asian items.  And there are not just a token selections available either.  There are, for instance, ten different types of chicken wings, there must have been a dozen soups, every salad you could think of, etc. As it turned out our friend knew one of the employees there and we got a quick cook’s tour.  Besides the offerings on the islands, along the side you can special order sandwiches, subs (never for the bottom feeder), hot dogs, hamburgers, hot fresh pizzas by the slice, and probably something I forgot, and an array of pastries to finish the meal with. Then there’s the wine bar which we will discuss in a moment.  You can fit a meal to any appetite from dainty to logger.

Which then provides your first challenge:  what the heck do I want?  Unless you’re singularly purposed this results in wandering around, picking up lids, pondering this and that, unable to make up your mind.  At least that was me.  Finally an admonishment from MFO narrowed me down to having some potato and leek soup (for a cold and rainy day), and for some reason chicken fried rice that looked appetizing along with an egg roll.  Since “to go” is an option, all containers are Styrofoam (except the Asian area, which has waxed boxes), and all tools are in cellophane wrapped pouches.  I had to keep reminding myself it is NOT a restaurant, so it is logical to have this stuff.   They do have trays at the end of the islands so you can balance your containers and stuff in one place.

After completing wandering and filling it is time to “check out”.  Currently this means queuing up for the single “check out lady (COL)”.  Of course we were at a busy lunch hour, so this proved to be kind of a pinch point. It is noted here that this was my “First Time” so perhaps doing again will go more smoothly.  COL has to take each item from your tray, weigh it, to determine the price (most stuff is by the pound) and then hand you back the container.  Meanwhile there isn’t (to my knowledge) a convenient place to rest your tray to unload and reload it.  There is a “self check out” but I was too intimidated to attempt that.  So kind of a bit awkward set up.  Again, with less people and more experience it might improve.
Then we come to the wine.  Of course it was my duty to figure out how that worked, so was obligated to have a glass with lunch.  As a quick aside here, our “tour guide” reminded us you could get a glass (or a beer), or get this, a cocktail to put in your cart while you shop.  The tipsy shopper!!.  Anyway, the deal is that you indicate to the COL that you would like wine.  As I said before it is a high tech operation She produces a little card  much like a room key at a hotel (clever title, eh?)



And asks you “how much would you like?”.  The deal is that you have to pre-load the card with a certain amount of dollars (which are NOT refundable) before you get your wine.  As mentioned before there is a wide variation in wine prices (around four to over eight) by the whole glass with lesser volumes (sample, taste) for lesser dollars.  Confirming that MFO didn’t feel similarly obligated to have a glass, I took a shot and said ten bucks.  Then that amount is loaded on the card and handed back  to you.  As you remember there are seven units with four bottles each.


So again wandering is initiated.  I finally found a Merlot for $8.95 figuring that was pretty close.  Shopping by pocket book.  Then you insert the card into a little slot and all the price windows in your unit show how much is on the card (amazing!).  You hold your wine glass (yes, wine GLASS thank you!!) under the spigot and punch the button under the desired amount (just like selecting octane at the gas pump.  It then puts your amount in the glass.  I would say that the pour was fair.  It’s always hard to judge in balloon glasses but it was adequate.

There is a nice little space set aside (to the left of the wine bar above) with several tables sort of out of the way of everything and we finally took a space and sat down.  Again, eating out of Styrofoam with plastic tools is not my favorite, but YES it is NOT a restaurant.  We all thought the food was good, especially the soups.  Greens were fresh in salads, and the egg rolls crisp.  Personally I wish the flat screen over the (welcomed) fireplace could be turned down.  We didn’t observe anybody actually watching it.

As I sat there finishing my wine (and enjoying it, it was “fresh”) it bugged me I still had $1.05 on my little card.  Then I discovered the plus for the “sample” portion.  I found one for a buck and gladly took the sip or two.  Good strategy!!

So I echo many peoples opinion that the 245 McKay's is a welcome addition to our area.  Oh, it was pointed out during our tour that for dinner you can get something like a (what looked like) a nice piece of Salmon with two sides for eight bucks or so.  Not a bad deal.  On the way out I picked up a bottle of Dry Vermouth (the first part of the DMOTRWAT) so didn’t have to make another stop.  With MFO doing her archivist thing in Tudor Hall, I think this might solve some dinner options!!  And okay, for once I can release you from

DFD



Monday, January 14, 2013

Grocery Two and Another Chain Debuts


In writing about The "New" McKay’s the other day, it sort of hit me that I almost fell into one of the practices which I occasionally rant about (or is it “about which I occasionally rant”).  I implied comparisons with Woodburn’s, and although I didn’t specifically mention it, Nick’s of course comes to mind.  Comparisons are fine, but thankfully I didn’t declare one as being (that detested word), “best”.  Each have their strengths.  If we are passing through either Clinton/Waldorf or Prince Frederick and have the time, we’ll probably stop at Nick’s which feature cheap booze prices and a wide selection of meat, even in bulk if you wish.  And there are even humans behind the meat counter.   More locally, if you are on the way home and pass by the Hollywood Leonardtown Road, the “new” McKay’s (which I think I may dub 235) is great for grab and go, and a also has a pretty nice selection of meats. But it is not, as somebody observed, a place where you can “fill up your weekly grocery cart”. But both are places where you can actually buy wine, beer, and spirits without making another stop.  A real plus for us.  Anyway, it’s good to have another option.  By the way, a loyal (local) reader sent me a very nice chronology of “Woodburn’s” from the old days to the present.  A great subject to share one of these days..

Chain, chain, chain….

I discovered through some email conversations, that one of my correspondents knows somebody who is going to work as a server in LongHorn (which may have opened to the public today, Monday the 14th).  I asked after the training the person received and they were kind enough to forward some info, and said I was free to use it in this shabby column.  Of course there was a training staff brought in and the “classes’ were characterized by “intense”.  I specifically asked if they were or were not instructed to say “Hi I’m…<…>… taking care of/serving/helping you tonight”.  Sadly (IMHO) the subject was apparently not addressed (and you know how I feel about it).  The front hostess is instructed to tell you Welcome to LongHorn at the door, so the servers are asked not to use this as a greeting (once is enough).  They were urged to engage the guests with phrases like “are we celebrating something special tonight?” in order to kind of establish a one on one relationship.   They apparently are also instructed to ask if guests have been to LongHorn before (a tough one around here!) and then “recommend” specials (upsell, upsell).  It was mentioned that the establishment will have food runners, so the servers can attend to their tables.  I can ONLY HOPE that there is some system in place so the runner doesn’t arrive at the table holding out a dish at arm's length and asking: “who had the….”.

They were invited to the soft opening and said the food was okay, not up to “real” steakhouse standards (presumably Ruth’s Chris, McCormick and Schmick, Mortons, etc.) but the prices are not either.  Apparently the steaks are seasoned with something called “Arizona Road Dust”…

Since LH is another arrow in the Darden quiver (currently standing at seven arrows), it probably will be run pretty similarly to its cousin down the street the OG.  It was mentioned that they stressed the “customer is always right” and nobody should leave with a bad experience.  So, if you go eventually, speak up if something is not right.  Anyway a little peek into the world of full service chains. Speaking of which, the old term of “Fast Food” for McDonalds and such establishments has been replaced with “quickservice”.
 
Tomorrow if I get to it, I have a special message (tease, tease)
 
DFD

 

 

 

Friday, January 11, 2013

By Popular Demand...








Spurred on by comments from several (thank you) readers, I decided it was time for the Feeder to make a visit. 

Apparently not everyone (in fact most) share the opinion that it is NOT (as reported here) a "Woodburn’s Two".  So i figured it was time for first hand research.  MFO and I are hosting the annual “raising of the tree” ceremony at the digs this weekend, and we decided maybe we would check out the place and perhaps get something nice for the tree raising team.  So we climbed in the MOMSTER II this morning, and hiked (yes, mixed metaphor) over to the new place near Leonardtown. 

The exterior of the store has not been altered (other than signage), so you still enter through the “middle” into the store.  Once inside it is very inviting, although maybe a bit tight but not annoyingly so (despite quite a few case stackings on the floor).

Broadly speaking, the layout consists of three main areas:  The “deli” end to your right;


the groceries in the middle; and the liquor area on the left.  Around the perimeter are the proteins (meat, fish, and poultry) and fresh products.  I think they have done their demographics pretty well, as by far the largest spaces are devoted to the "deli/grab and go" section and of course liquor.

The deli section obviously caters to those wanting to get something for taking out (although there are tables to sit if you wish) and there are large hot and cold “bars” filled with almost anything imaginable..  even a “Southern Rotisserie Bar"

loaded with chicken wings and pieces of different preparations..  There is also a massive salad bar, with soups, chili's, and so on.  We were there fairly early in the day, but everything was well stocked, looked fresh and appetizing.  I suspect one could pick up a pretty good meal.  Off to the side was the “deli” where you could order sandwiches (and most likely Panini’s), and behind that the place you could order a pound of sliced meats and cheeses.  I noticed that they also highlighted special restrictions (which somehow McKay's have always paid attention to)


(note the "Deli Ghost")

A first quick remark here about comparison between the “old” and “new” places.  As I recall the last ditch Woodburn’s in Calvert had Boar’s Head deli products while the new place features Dietz and Watson, not quite the same (IMHO).
Further along the “back wall” there are the fresh meats and seafood, and I think if you closed your eyes, at least the meat station is equivalent to the old place.  They feature Certified Angus Beef, which is good.  Some have drawn comparison to Nick's, but I'm not sure about that.  Certainly you can't get a twenty pound bag of chops here (at least without asking)



It may be just me (and my famous faulty memory) but it sort of looked like the fish counter had maybe a little less selection, although it looked very nice.  Just past the meats is the cheese counter.  Here again, I thought the selection was not nearly as wide as I remembered.  While there were many “imported’ cheeses, I couldn't find a Morbiere for instance.  There were some specialty cheeses, but also a lot of Cracker Barrel and Shurfine.

We didn't prowl the dry goods very much, but I suspect it is adequate for most shopping needs.

Which leads us to the "beverage" department.  I always get led to that department, and there are plenty to be drawn to. There is a huge selection of beers, many of them local “craft beers” such as Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, and so on.  Also a lot of hard liquors with prices I thought competitive in my experience (fairly extensive).  I am not sure who the ladder is for, not me, certainly

The selection of wines is maybe commensurate with the rest of the store, some Barefoot/Yellow Tail type wines but also a fair amount of “nice” wines of respectable vineyards (like these Pinot's).  


There was a couple of sections devoted to "blush" or pinky wines which I will summarily ignore. Most of the prices are below thirty although there were a (very) few bottles of pricier cabs


for over fifty bucks (nice vintages!), if you want that.  Sparkling wines a-plenty, but mostly leaned toward the Freixenet variety.  Again, something nice to drink but not for special occasions.  That's okay, I think they have about the right selections.

Which then leaves that “wine bar”:


It is actually rather nicely done, and despite a snarky remark I got about “wine from boxes”, you can see that it is far from that. There are 28 options available, white, red, various countries of origins.  They even have a “menu” which describes the wines available:


A high tech operation to say the least, with actual bottles. You can select the amount and price from the little window above the bottle of choice (kind of like picking your octane at the gas pump).  I think there was a “taste” for a buck, maybe an ounce then I think a “Tasting” amount and lastly a full glass.  There is a little seating area in which you can sit and enjoy your selection.  Another unverified report said you could sip while you shop, but I didn’t investigate that option.  Perhaps the reason for another trip.

So, after our visit, I would have to agree that it is not exactly Woodburn’s Two, but it is pretty damn close. Probably close enough.  I think it’s a great addition to our grocery options and worth maybe going to/coming home from Leonardtown a different way.  Go take a look for yourself. 

And thanks as always to those who took the time to comment!!  Kind of a puzzler to
DF(?)

PS: yes loyal readers, Clarke's Landing is the name I have heard in conjunction with the "new" lighthouse..

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Where the Feeder is Coming From


I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before, but Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine magazine has a typical letter from the editor page in the front of each issue.  It gives a little background on what’s in the current issue and so forth.  However for years, she also includes a little side bar called “Where I’m Coming From” which lists places she has dined recently.  This month there were places in NYC (aquavit, Keens steakhouse), others have been Miyake in Portland Maine; Moxy in Portsmouth, NH and occasionally Europe, and so forth.  All are usually either incredibly chic or expensive.  Most likely places “we” wouldn’t go except for special occasions.  Anyway, I would have a couple of questions for her:  1) who cares?; 2) are my subscription payments going to subsidize you gallivanting around to posh eateries?  Whew, things got away from me for a bit

My purpose in mentioning this (before i got carried away) is that I have developed that kind of list of my own ramblings that I pass along for whatever it’s worth.

CoCo Cantina – I drive by there a fair amount, mostly around lunch time.  Lately I have noticed that the parking lot is extremely empty, while almost next door IHOP is quite full.    I was concerned about anything going into that spot (old Lone Star).  Maybe dinner is a different scene.  Hope so.  I would hate to see another independent struggle. 

The (new) Lighthouse – have heard that things are moving along, and a local seafood restaurant (NOT Stoneys) is involved.

Back Door Lounge (at CD Café) – had a very nice cocktail/small plate experience there recently.  The food was really good.  Pasta with clams, a salad of calamari (sautéed, NOT fried) fresh and hot.  Bar keep was friendly and knowledgeable.  Mostly people are there waiting for tables in the (non-reservation) restaurant so turn over is pretty fast and you can get a table easily..  Food is solid.  Drinks well made (did the alternate DGGMU)

DB McMillan’s – Had a nice quiet lunch there yesterday.  Shepard’s Pie and a nice bowl of vegetarian vegetable soup (which also is Vegan, I asked out of curiosity).  Had a couple of Smithwick’s on tap which gives you a little slice of Ireland which is always refreshing. Guinness material is everywhere.  Ahh….good for a relaxed quiet lunch.

Clyde’s Tyson Corner – The little company (based in Virginia) that I work for here in their satellite office hosts a holiday dinner party for the employees every year.  Since most of them are in DC, it usually is up there someplace.  For the past few years it has been in pretty nice restaurants.  This year it was held in Clyde’s near Tyson Corner.  For us country mice, the company gets us a room to avoid a long drive home.  Very nice of them.  We checked into the nearby Marriott early had a little in-room pregame,



met another couple from down here in the bar for a cocktail then set out for dinner.  What followed was a nightmare of driving around trying to find Clyde’s with the Droid GPS.  Many circles and trips along Leesburg Pike, Chain Bridge Road, Gallows Road, occasionally descending into shouting, we finally spotted a small sign about Clyde’s Valet Parking.  We had expected a huge neon sign announcing the location.  Not.   After waiting for ten minutes the complimentary valet parked never showed and MFO found a nearby spot and we self parked.  The place is HUGE dining rooms all over the place, banquet rooms upstairs, more than one.   Clyde’s started out (? Guessing here) as a “hamburger joint” in Georgetown and has grown to have several locations in the DC area.

Anyway the company party was in one of the smaller banquet rooms.  A couple glasses of wine erased the angst over the journey (where WERE you both?) and we enjoyed some passed appetizers and conversations.  Dinner was a salad, a choice of Grilled Salmon, Pork Medallions, or Mushroom Ravioli.  One might think that (their trademark) beef might be offered, but all was good.  Nice evening.  I'm not sure it is a destination from SOMD, but if you're in the area....  I think i heard one time they may be hooked up with Old Ebbitt's Grill, but don't hold me to that.

LongHorn Steak House – “opening soon” sign over door.  Signs of a “soft opening” the other night.  5th corporate chain in a row

sweetFrog – soon to be sixth in a row as it is maturing next to the Horn Steak house.   Not just a frozen yogurt place, but a “Premium” frozen yogurt..  wonder what the difference is.  Their website lists over seventy flavors, one of which is "Blueberry Acai Tart".  Pretty sizeable building... don’t think they will occupy the whole thing.  Oh, they make a big deal out of Low and No Fat.........  Premium??

New McKays – despite urgings from several readers the feeder has yet to make an exploratory visit.  Have been told is NOT a reincarnation of the old Woodburn’s.


Guess that’s it for the list.  Another edition required to tell you about the warranty for my new Christmas power drill

DFD

Quick postscript:  “national title” football game, was, well, a snoozer.  Sorry Domer… and I’m not sure Manti T’eo was dressed

second afterthought:  if you have a chance look at the Sports Section of today's post.  Pretty scathing indictment of Mr. Shanahan's handling of RGIII.  Please don't let him be a star whose light fades after one year..

Monday, January 7, 2013

the Road Home...

Editor's note- the dear folks at blogger had a screw up which prevented uploading pictures, and as wonderful as the prose is, it benefits from the images..SO i was forced to migrate to Google Chrome where the bug doesn't exist...

It’s time we brought the blog home with us so we can start on more local stuff.  Our final evening in STL before the journey to return home was highlighted by a nice dinner with some friends.   After a pleasant wine and cheese warm up in their beautifully decorated home, we drove way down south someplace near Sappington, and visited Roberto’s Trattoria.  It’s in Concorde Plaza (for you STL natives) tucked into a corner.  It’s kind of interesting if you take the trouble to click through to their website that they take so much time to say they are NOT on the hill, but fine Italian dining, yadda yadda.  One might think that the food would speak for itself, but maybe people who live closer to that area would find it an inducement to go there without the drive to “the Hill”.  Just seemed a little odd to me.

We arrived just at our reservation time, and were seated right away.  It isn't too large, and the dining areas are divided by a partition giving a little more “coziness” to the space.  As with a lot of Italian themed places, it was very friendly, there were obviously a lot of families enjoying a night out, and DFD was pretty much appropriate, at least what I observed.  We were served by an affable gentleman (and here I have to apologize to our friends and my readers that the little orange book stayed in my pocket, so some of the details of the evening have faded).  I don’t recall any speeches, just a greeting and recitation of the specials (which were…???) and an offer for drinks.  Somewhat good naturedly egged on by our friend, I ordered a DMOTRWAT, to give them the “drink test”.   I am happy to report it was expertly prepared and they passed with flying colors (see, I do remember some things!).  Another interesting memory resulted from MFO’s drink order.  It was pretty cold outside and she of course would be pilot in command of the MOMSTER in the morning, so she ordered hot tea.  Eventually a young man (not our server) arrived with the standard mahogany box, flipped open the lid and said: “I have no idea what any of these teas are, but here they are!”.  Well, you could take this two ways.  A restaurateur might be horrified that staff doesn't know what they are serving, or, as we did, it was so unexpected and innocently honest that we all took it in good fun.  An informal trattoria after all..

The menu was pretty standard St. Louis Italian fare, appetizers (fried calamari, eggplant spiedini, and yes, toasted ravioli); lots of pastas (rigatoni ala vodka, various linguini’s tortellinies, marinaras); and entrees (chicken parm and marsala, shrimp scampi, and so on).   I don’t think you can legally leave St. Louis without eating at least one Toasted Ravioli so we obeyed the law and split an order.  It was pretty good standard STL stuff.  MFO, ordered a scallop dish that was on the special list, and since I was in the “testing” mode I chose my Italian benchmark dish, Veal Piccata (Marsala and Saltimbocca also available).  Our friends had a Tilapia and Mushrooms on a bed of spinach and.... YYYYYY.  My Piccata was described on the menu as “Shiitakes, white wine, lemon, and butter”.  Okay, besides the mushrooms that’s pretty standard.  When it was served I was surprised to see the sauce was not white (white wine, lemon and butter), but was a darker brown, almost gravy like.  It tasted fine, but I’m not sure it was classically prepared, maybe the color arising from the mushrooms.  And, to my dear local friend who pays attention to such things (as I should have) I do not remember if there were capers.  MFO’s scallops were fine, but the accompanying pasta sauce was too spicy for her. 

Anyway we greatly enjoyed the experience of breaking bread with dear friends, and during the holiday season that is what it is all about.  I would gladly go back to Robertos (if our friends drove again), but you can throw a dart at the map of St. Louis and probably find good Italian food nearby!!  However, this isn't a bad target.

On the Road Again

Next morning we re-loaded the MOMSTER II and headed home..  the Christmas night storm that dumped eight inches or so of snow on FOJTY’s home town (Cape Girardeau) didn’t extend north to St. Louis, but we did see vestiges of it along the way in Indiana



And in the mountains of West Virginia



And speaking of West (by God) Virginia, we took a little detour at White Sulphur Springs to try to get a closer look at the iconic Greenbrier resort.  You can see it pretty far off the highway, but we had never seen it closer up.   So we took a little side trip to see the place.  Well, by and large this is the view you get of the Greenbrier



It is, after all an “exclusive” and you don’t want the riff raff wandering about..  We did however stop at the entrance which looked appealing



Not too far up the driveway was a guard shack, presumably to stop those riff raffs..  Some day maybe.

Moving on, with MFO at the controls I have the trusty Canon at the ready to take "window" shots (Mostly food related) that interest me, like this one near Louisville (yes I know I’m out of order here)



In Indiana there are some Amish, and I guess nobody is above using it for what it’s worth





Here’s what the actual "Amish Buffet" looked like



Maybe I shouldn't pre-judge, but I have to wonder how “authentic” these are.  The names do sound like they could be correct however..

So finally on the end of the second day (we stayed overnight in Charleston W(BG)V – with another “rug picnic”)

We crossed the Harry Nice bridge toward the familiar power plant



And the welcome home provided by the good governor



And soon were back at the digs, concluding this year’s Christmas Odyssey.  

We greatly enjoyed seeing the families of the FOJ’s, had some great meals out as well as the traditional Christmas Eve Lasagna dinner with FOJTE and wife, and the good lunches.  But, again it is about seeing friends and family and enjoying the company of them when you can.  

Hope your holiday period was also enjoyable, and now we will see what 2013 brings..  And I don’t even have to ask if you were

DFD

Lagniappe:  

Did you see the initial episode of Season III of Downton Abbey last night??  Great stuff, well done as usual.  Shirley MacLane is a great addition and a wonderful foil for Maggie Smith's character..

Thank you RGIII for bringing some magic to our pitiful (pro) sports city.  I hope your career isn't over.

And FINALLY the bowl season concludes tonight with the "national championship" game in Miami.  Should be the crescendo, but some how seems more like the denouement.  just get it over with for heaven's sake..and without descending into a rant, despite "Johnny Football's" performance, I hope Manti T'eo plays well.  The second time the much vaunted Oklahoma Sooners choked in the "big game".... just sayin...