Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving... eventually

Editor’s note:  the folks who organized the trip to Normandy (for which I still owe you a couple of posts) were kind enough to put a link to the Feeder on their site for anybody who wanted to see what the heck we did in Normandy..  So, if you’ve landed here for that, and see other stuff (which you are MORE than welcome to read), scroll down the right hand side until you see “Labels” and then scroll some more until you see “Normandy”.  Click that, and it will pull up the trip log so to speak.

Okay, about Thanksgiving… Long time readers will remember that I usually do a (IMHO) nice post about Thanksgiving with recommendations on menus, wine, and other stuff.  Well, as you are probably painfully aware, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so obviously all your menus are decided, foodstuffs are procured, plans for preparation and timing are in place, guests are invited, décor is figured out, wines are cellared, and so anything I say now will have no effect except to perhaps make you mad.  But, I would like to put down a few thoughts about tomorrow, after we take care of a couple items of note locally..


You will remember that a while ago we documented that Golden Corral will again become a choice for diners in the area.  Originally it was to reside in the old McDonalds near us across from San Souci Plaza.  Some renovations took place, and then the site just sat and sat.  Then one day, an armada of heavy equipment arrived and scraped the place clean, did massive earth moving, and they started over.  Well, after weeks of seven day construction the place now looks like


Incidentally the inclusion of the phone poles and wires was done intentionally, I think it sort of sets the tone.  As does the sign telling you when it will be opening.. kind of.. think it was a goal at one time..

But wait, there's more arrivals
I saw in an on line news service today that our “new” shopping center near routes 235 and 4 will contain a 12 screen movie theater, probably/hopefully sending a death knell to the sticky floored one down in Lexington Park.  Be that as it may, it also noted that an Aldi food store will join the crowd in the new center.  Since I have not been in one, I am not sure, but I think they are in the lower end of the price spectrum market.  One person posted a comment lamenting the inclusion of such a store, saying that it will bring in “trash and criminals” to the Wildewood area and is a blight.  The same person also advocated a concealed carry law, I suppose so you can shoot it out with the criminals in the bake goods aisle.

Already Here

MFO and I went down to the Farmer’s market the other day
(which you can read more about in my (shamelessly self promoting) piece on the Tourism Site) to get stuff for our “Tree Raising” tradition (another story) here at the digs.  I just love that place, the people are so nice, they are actual farmers who raise stuff that doesn’t come in a truck.  Anyway, I came across a couple of ladies from Whitney Farms with a little spinning wheel.

I got to chatting with her (the real joy of the market) and found out that she was not making traditional yarn

That gray stuff is actually cut up plastic shopping bags that she “spins” into what she calls “plarn”

Not sure of the final use, but definitely was committed to recycling.  One of the neat things your find at the market… to market to market
Food Finally

I am going to break tradition because I want to share something with you ..  Normally I DO NOT (and will not start) review, comment, describe, or talk about in any way dinners at friends houses, for obvious reasons..     Anyway, we were at a dinner last Monday which included this lovely dish

Do you know what it is?  It is a Chartreuse!  The Carthusian Monks who gave us the liqueur and more famous color of the same name, also gave us, according to Larousse (pg. 225):  a preparation of vegetables (particularly braised cabbage) and meat or game, moulded into a dome and formed of layers of alternating colors.  It is cooked in a bain-marie, turned out and served hot.  Careme (left to the reader) considered the chartreuse to be the “queen of entrées”.   

So what you see is a gorgeous pattern made exclusively from peppers, carrots, string beans, green onion tops, and then “moulded” with potatoes and layered vegetables including asparagus, brussel sprouts, and so forth.  We were all reluctant to have it cut and served, but we were rewarded by a delicious dish courtesy of the Monks (and the hostess).  We also had a stuffed pork tenderloin, poached pears, and the meal was crowned by Crepe's Suzette (flambéed of course).  Quite a meal..  Thanks to our hostess for the creativity and HOURS that were put into it for our enjoyment..
Gobble Gobble at last

Well, I did a quick pass through the November issue of about nine or ten of my food magazines, ranging from Martha Stewart,  Southern Living to Garden and Gun.  Most of them had that traditional browned Turkey on the cover, something that none of us can attain without a food stylist at our side, and all proclaimed that they had things like: “95 Ways to Amp up Thanksgiving (including 7 Amazing Turkeys); Thanksgiving 101; 80 Prized Recipes; 25 Ways to Reinvent Thanksgiving (huh?) and so on.  One proclaimed that it had “5 Game Changing Turkeys” all resulting in over 200 recipes for Turkeys, sides, veggies, desserts and so on.  Each year we get another slew of them.  I am not sure what goes into the process—“hey! How about Moroccan spiced shaved Brussels sprouts with crystalized almonds!   Shut up Alton, we did that two years ago”

Preparations varied from hacking up the bird ( Cooks Illustrated: Julia Child’s Turkey – Updated), to the flipping this side and that, hot oven, cold oven, grilling, and yes, deep frying (along with a string of warnings) , brining, rubbings, marinating, this and that. And as I always work in someplace, you can do what you want to a turkey, the end product is, yes, still a turkey.  And to be fair (as I always am..) there are also suggestions for ham, standing rib roasts, lamb, and pork (we’re having a loin – from local WAG meats)

Sides of course can rescue the bland protein, and there are a million recipes.. how about Triple Cheese Curried Cauliflower Gratin?  Straight from the pilgrims..

Wines are all over the place, once again driving me to the old DWTHYL theory, if you like a particular wine, drink it for goodness sake.  One thing you might consider is Hard Cider.  Cider is an extremely hot thing right now.  Even corporate giant InBev is pushing a Stella Artois “Cidre”, made with “Hand Picked Apples”.  The mind boggles..

Desserts feature pies and I am glad to report that my favorite, Pecan (Pee-can or Puh kaan?) rates high.  For their originality I would like to give a little nod to Garden and Gun (nearly my current favorite trendy food and culture publication) whose treatment of Thanksgiving is not give another list of over the top, game changing, next level, best ever recipes, but to provide ( with  beautiful food photographs) where you can order your breads (North Carolina’s La Farm Bakery),  Cider (Texas’s Argus Cidery’s Sparkling), Nuts (Georgia’s Schermer Pecans private stock of Ellicot pecans); Turkey (Texas’s Greenberg spiced hickory smoked); Ham (North Carolina’s A. B. Vannoy slow cured country), Cheese (Greendale Farms in Georgia) Pies (Mom’s Apple Pie Company in Virginia) and finished off with Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon.  Admittedly these were in their October/November Issue, not cheap, but really darn easy.

And just to keep my curmudgeon badge shiny, more and more of these publications try to drive you to their web site…  “for more recipes, go to….. dot com”;  “to see a video of how to boil water, go to ….. dot com”; “other serving suggestions can be seen at …. dot com”,  the beginning of the end of print????
The Point

And before you go, I have to remind you that it is not the food that is the objective, it is the gathering of your family, loved ones, friends, and people that mean something to you.  Whether here or far from home doing things that keep us safe, or those that have gone before are here in spirit and memory.  Raise that glass... THAT is the meaning of special days.  Food of course can make it so enjoyable, but the love that is shared is more important. 
It isn’t the drumstick that is important it is who is holding it…

Bon Appétit, and don’t you forget to


he is..

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Not quite a rant...

I have been bothered about something lately, and have been looking for an opportunity to work it into the blog.  But, given the subject, I feel funny following up a report on lovely food with another on what amounts to violence.  Not a very good pairing.  So, I am just going to make this a standalone comment, and I am not trying to take a stand on any constitutional issues (although I do have opinions), it is just an observation, and probably not original with me..

While we were away on our various trips, we kept seeing news stories about another shoot up  back here in a movie theater, shopping mall, school and so on.  And then not long after we got back, we lost a Rotarian friend in the incident at the Navy Yard.  Just seems like there are more and more people who feel they must take a gun and do bad things.  So I was watching some (well many) football games the other day, and I there were an increasing number of commercials for (I am not sure I get this right) Xbox and Play station machines.  And some of the commercials were amazing.  One was set in I think (what used to be) Las Vegas all torn up like after a world war, and there were people loaded with more weapons than I thought one could carry, shooting planes, buildings, and people at an astonishing rate.  Another shows a bunch of grubby people sitting in lounge chairs when a similar group walks up and there is dialog to the effect that “you’re too late, the battle is over” all this set in another place that looks like post war Germany.

I guess these are for “games” that you can get to install in your mega gigabyte machine so you can join the action.  Not sure what happened to Donkey Kong…  Anyway, at the end of one of those commercials there is a final sound bite with something like: “for the warrior in all of us”.  Well, really!  There’s a warrior in me?  I don’t think so.  And yes, they are “games” and not reality, although with increasing technology the line is getting blurry, but it just makes me wonder if there is not some parallel here.  As I say, smarter folks than me probably ponder the same thing..  there.  Thanks.

And just to end on a little happier note, I am developing a nice little story about Martinis, but I need some more input..  if I get a response to a note I have out, I’ll pass along a neat thing..


Meanwhile, you go


Thursday, November 14, 2013

TIme Thief..

With apologies to Elvin Bishop I’m going to take OFF my traveling shoes, and let the travelogue take a rest for a bit.  I suspect you are ready for a break as, am I…

We all have our daily grind schedule, whether it be generated by the need to earn wages, or “retirement stuff” you somehow get yourself into.   Long time readers may recall that I occasionally refer to moments “stolen in time”, meaning something pops up like that extemporaneous lunch (NOT the one your Google Calendar has) that somehow come along and gives a little unexpected oasis from the rigors of the day..  Currently the Feeder is banging deadlines for work associated with the Hospital Gala, by-law reviews for another organization, and a spate of things for one of the civic clubs I belong to. So this week has been a head spinning trip of errands, phone calls, emails, texts, and so on.

I had in the back of my mind that today was another of the Brian Ganz piano talks down at St. Mary’s College, but I thought (remember one of my call signs is Eeyore) “Ooooh Gee, I guess I shouldn’t take the time, have to do…..” and started my check list.  Then I got a note from Historic St. Mary’s City that they needed some papers signed TODAY, and could I come down and do it. Another one!! So into the fluttermobile and off I go..  Then it hit me!!  I’m down here, the sun is shining, and Brian Ganz is going to play Chopin!!!  S***w it!!!  I’m GOING.

So I did the (damn) paperwork and went over to St. Mary’s Hall and was even able to sit in the Micheal Picot memorial seat (back row, audience right), where I enjoyed so many performances with him while he was with us.  The topic of today’s Piano Talk was “Chopin Discoveries” which featured some of Frederic’s lesser known pieces.  There were four different genres, a Waltz, a Prelude, a Ballade, and an Etude.  Brian appeared to almost a full house which, while is as it should be, is not often the case. Maybe word gets out after a couple of years!!  Anyway, Brian started with some history about the first piece (the Waltz) which was called “L’Adieu” and how it figured into a relationship Chopin had with a young lady.  He talked about the form of this waltz and how it had kind of a repetitive bass (which has a name, but escapes me) and he demonstrated it on the piano.  Now, I have to interject here that Waltzes are not my favorite form of classical music.  I don’t go looking for Richard Strauss pieces to listen to.  I’m sorry, but I don’t enjoy hearing the Blue Danube.   I can’t get over the “ooooMMM Pahh Pahh” stuff.  So I was ready to endure the Chopin Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 69, No. 1, in order to hear the rest of the program.

Well silly me.  It turned out to be a wonderful lyrical piece played by the delicate hand of Brian.  At one point I was surprised to hear a series of notes which immediately reminded me of jazz.  I suppose there is a musical reason for that, but I was struck by the thought.  Which, in turn made me wonder if Brian ever plays jazz.  I’m sure he would be good at that.

Anyway, the rest of the program was equally enjoyable, again made more interesting by his insights and little demonstrations.  At the end of the hour, I was so glad I stole the moment…do it, we only have so many..

On the way back up to the digs, I noticed that there was a “For Lease” sign on Charlie’s Deli… guess there will be one less independent for which you might have to

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ta Ta, old Chap!!

Well, I think we have reached the end of the (long and winding) road of our English Roots trip.   There are still many images but I suspect you’re pretty tired of them by now, and after a while the story loses it’s legs.

There is still one English culinary bunny trail I am running down, and if successful will provide an interesting story.  (this is a literary technique called “teasing”, designed to keep you interested and not running off), so stand by..

The purpose of the trip was to visit some of the places that were important to the Calvert family, who founded and governed their colony in the new world, which we now know as Maryland. I have often stated that “being there” is worth a hundred books and photos.  Things like standing in an actual home of George Calvert or seeing the house that Cecil lived in develops a deeper understand and appreciation of history. Kudos go to Dr. Henry Miller who did a lot of research and gave us invaluable insight and a deeper understanding of what we were seeing.  Things and places one would never know on your own without his guidance.  Thank you Henry!!


And, the Feeder side of me was also fed, with some great meals and food experiences.  I guess I enjoyed the meal we had in the Mole Inn as much as anything, the combination of food and service (except for the damn cold cheese) was most enjoyable and indicative of place.  Pub food and the pubs are not to be missed, more for the ambiance than the food although it was always solid.  Bangers and Mash…  And perhaps, the next time we visit the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate they will figure out who gets the salmon..  All part of the fun.

There was one feature I never did work in, so maybe this is a good time to mention it.  Our coach driver, Andy, (who used to be a palace guard and had a pretty spectacular military career) had a “toy” that he brought out at a lot of the places we visited

Not a UFO, but a really slick little device that he flew up and around remotely.  It has a video camera on it, and he got some pretty spectacular and usual shots.  Besides being a coach driver he is developing a budding business of using it for unique coverage of weddings and so on.  He was really a neat person.  He is supposed to be making a DVD for us, and we hope to have it soon.

All in all, it was a great experience.  I suppose that I have used the quote by George Ade: “The time to enjoy a European trip is about three weeks after unpacking” before, and it really isn’t true, but it does convey the feeling that as time passes, you tend to forget the long security lines, hiking through airports, the sore knees subjected to yet another set of castle stairs, looking for bathrooms and the like; and remember the awe of seeing a castle that is hundreds of years old, and the company of new and old friends.

And finally I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the people at Cole Travel for organizing such a fine trip.  They know how to do it right… Thanks to Pat and their whole team…

Memories of people

And places

And now, depending on resolve, we may venture south across the English Channel and return to Normandy where of course you had to be


We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Leaving England.... almost

I suppose it was fitting that our final full day in England graced us with the weather that we had expected but fortunately didn’t experience much.

Our objectives for the day were the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, the country home of George Calvert, , and finally a visit to a brewery before heading to Manchester where next day we would leave England for the US of A.  Early on, we decided that tromping around in wet fields in the ruin of Jervaulx wouldn’t be very enjoyable, so we bagged that, and headed for objective number two.

We had sort of an adventure getting to George’s place, encountering several obstacles

But with Andrew’s ingenuity we eventually arrived at

and bravely got out of the coach with blossoming "brollys"

And briskly hiked to the building

George Calvert, (the first Lord Baltimore) built Kiplin Hall in the early 1620’s, near the end of his career as Secretary of State to King James I. It was built as a hunting lodge, but he visited the place infrequently because of the distance from London, and some think it was sort of an ostentatious endeavor.  Shortly before his death in 1632, he obtained the charter for his colony in Mary-land, which eventually launched (our) St. Mary’s City.  Hence it was an important place for us to visit, and kind of symbolically the end of England (for us) and the beginning of Maryland. (okay a bit of a stretch, but a bit of license).

It is an impressive structure

As with most of these historic buildings successive owners have expanded and added on, but the original core was George’s.  A somewhat unique feature was that the usual “towers” were placed in the center of the walls rather than (commonly) put at the corners.  The building has had a lot of restoration work done lately, notably by the University of Maryland, College Park and is really a nice museum.  We were given a great tour by the archivist and curator (?) as Kiplin exists today which of course is not faithful to Lord Baltimore’s time.  Like other buildings in England it was pressed into service during the war ( like Downton Abbey) and they have left one room exactly as it was during that time.  Very impressive edifice and worth the trip if you're ever nearby.  Just mention Historic St. Mary's City (or Henry Miller) and you will be treated exceptionally well...

Following the tour, we had lunch in the tea room

Including, what else..... tea sandwiches!!

Following our lunch we bid farewell to the ghosts of Calvert, and went to the small town of Masham, home of the Theakston Brewery.  To me, there is just something about these small (English) towns that is harmonious with rain and damp.  Just feels right


MFO found a little grocery store

I can never resist produce shots.. always so pretty..

Anyway, we went on to the brewery and had a tour with one of the brew masters

Who did the usual shtick about different types of malt and hops

And we peered into the obligatory vats of various bubbling liquids, but of course the highlight is always the visit to the tasting room.  and great one it was..

We sampled their various ales from light to dark (including “Old Peculiar”).  It was a perfect end to a perfect English day.   We had a hour or so of nodding off coach ride to our hotel near the airport in Manchester.  We ate our final dinner in the hotel, and retired facing the long journey home the next morning.

I was going to close out this journey by this posting, but there are a couple more things I would like to say, so I’ll make one more travel entry, and then we can get back to ranting.. and maybe looking at some local eateries that are growing like mushrooms.  There are some for which you do, and some for which you do not have to




Friday, November 1, 2013

Travel weary...

Well, I think it may have happened..  are you getting tired of traveling?  I sort of am, and would like to get back to ranting about being called "guys" and asking if I was "steell werkin' on that", but darn it there are still lots of interesting things to see in England (and I have not forgotten France), but what’s a blogger to do?  I have tried many a time to say “I’ll just be brief” and it doesn’t happen.  I guess I could tempt you with things like a simple picture of the “Triangular House” we visited after leaving Oxford on the way to York

you would have to see from above to see the triangular shape
Built by Sir Thomas Tresham in 1593 as a testament to his Catholicism (not so good in England then), it contains a phenomenal number of religious symbols (the triangular house = Father, Son, and Holy Ghost); described as: three floors, trefoil windows and three triangular gables on each side. On the entrance front is the inscription ‘Tres Testimonium Dant’ (‘there are three that give witness’), a Biblical quotation from St John’s Gospel referring to the Trinity.

Or, we could walk around the old city of York:

and it’s magnificent Minster

Where we also visited a restored town house, “Barley Hall”

And yes, that is a live human person, quite entertaining

In walking around you always have to keep your eyes open.. I spied this through an open door.. I have no idea what or who or where

But it is an intriguing image

The end of that day found us in Harrogate, home of the “who had the….” meal in the hotel and the next night’s dinner in BED

The next day (see, I can move along) we toured the cathedral in Durham (no photos inside, please)

And I was privileged enough to visit a nationally recognized facility

In the afternoon we visited Castle Howard


The next day we left for our last full day in England

And for our previously described last restaurant meal in England (BED) we were