Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In Reverse...

Well, although it pains my between the lines, everything in order, all in good time, engineering mind, I am going to talk about the return home journey first.  Don’t get dizzy.  There are plenty of things to go over while we visited the FOJ’s but they will take a bit more time.  And I am not sure when you will read this so hope to fill in some blanks every other day or so.

I do enjoy traveling in winter, you can see “stuff” along the road without peering through leaves on the trees. 

Somehow the muted tones of winter fit the scenery, and reminders of the past. 

Leaving Cape Girardeau you eventually get the depressing ride through

an amazing place.  So decimated.

But once across the river into Kentucky things change for the better. The clever tourism (?) folks are riding the current craze for Bourbon, and have created the Bourbon Trail, loosely concentrated around Bardstown and north up to the capitol city of Frankfort.  A lot of the fashionable distilleries are now following the Napa Valley example of opening their operation to tours, sampling, and gift shops.

Having made this trip many times, we always say “we gotta stop at one of these sometime”, and never do, so we decided to by golly DO IT!   With a little research we found a bit lesser known distillery of Willett which was fairly close to the highway. And guided ourselves to their gate.

(note to marketing department, you can’t read your damn sign very well!)

And followed the quaint road

up to the distillery itself

On the way we noticed on their grounds were these interesting buildings

Which, dumb us, thought maybe were prison buildings left over from the Civil War or something.  Come to find out they are called “ricks” and are used for storing and aging the bourbon. 

We were late in the day, and the last tour was in progress, but we pretty much know the process anyway from visiting Scotch distilleries in Scotland and Wasmund’s here in Virginia.  Of course for Bourbon, corn is the main ingredient rather than the barley of Scotland.  But generally it is malted, fermented and distilled.  Although we didn’t get toured we stuck our head into the tasting room that was the ultimate destination of the tour and saw that they used pot stills (like the Scotch). In the tasting room were lots of signage about the Willetts and their history.

Sample only, i know you can't read it

Alert readers may remember that following the civil war a lot of Marylanders went to Kentucky, carrying with them the knowledge of distilling and creating Moonshine.   Many “county names” appeared in the history, and in fact Mr. Willett was a Marylander.

So we were glad we stopped after all, and although we didn’t buy any of the product (I got a hat) I did receive a wonderful birthday gift this year from a good friend of

The shape of the bottle is in the form of a pot still… get it?

Anyway after a night’s stay in Charleston, we continued on our way back to Maryland through the fog and mist in the mountains

So now we’re back in the digs preparing for a wild new year’s eve.  Our challenge will be to see if we can make it to ten o’clock.  Maybe a wee dram of Willet, since we will be


Happy new year to all, maybe 2015 will be slower than 2014 was…

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Take this ham, and.....

Stuff it!!

Well, I’m on my way to becoming a St. Mary’s “county boy”.  If I live here another twenty or thirty years, I might make it.  I did, however, take a step in that direction last weekend (the day before our trek to St. Louis – stay tuned) when I was fortunate enough to be invited to a “stuffed ham” session, our county’s unique food.  One of the local families (“real” county people) has an annual get together to stuff hams for holidays. 

I arrived just in time to see most of the “stuffing” part of the operation.   I’m pretty sure most readers have a good idea of the overall process by now.   You start with a “country ham”, i.e., a fresh ham that has been “corned” by rubbing with salt and left for a number of days (usually somewhere around eleven). Then you take the ham and pierce it all over with a knife (preferably one with character, no fancy “chef” knife), creating little pockets.

The real creativity of this local delicacy comes in what stuffing is used. While not exactly a “secret” most folks are intentionally vague when asked for their recipe.   It varies from family to family, preferences change from North county to South county and are generally highly personal.  All generally include Cabbage, Kale, Onion, and personal preference on spices including more or less red pepper flakes or ground cayenne: “some like it hot” some don’t.  Again, each family has the absolute best recipe.

So you pick your portions and chop stuff and then assemble your stuffing

Put the ham in a pan… and get to work filling each and every one of those pockets.. 

By yourself, or with a buddy

Or a group effort

It is hard work and your fingers get cold, so you really need to have some refreshments

Like (home made) egg nog (another story to be told) or punch, and of course beverages that come in cans.

It is amazing how much stuffing it takes to fill those pockets and how easy it is to miss a couple which will generally be cheerfully pointed out by other stuffers.  But eventually you get the thing filled

And then it gets transferred to a couple of squares of cheesecloth

And then tied into a neat little bundle.

And “Voila!”, your St. Mary's County Stuffed Ham!!

Now you boil it for “a while” let it rest, and slice and serve.

So, after taking the pictures, I was "invited" to put down the Canon, roll up my sleeves and “get your hands busy”.  I did and had a great time.  Talk about hands on food preparation!  Meanwhile the social whirl continued around the house, and I didn’t count all the family folks,  but there were interested people of all ages and numbers of feet

What more could you ask than bringing family and friends together around food, enjoying the company, the libations, bantering, kids chucking around the football in the front yard, talking about Aunt so and so, just being with each other and food at the center.  And in the end, there are the left overs.

And today being Christmas eve, I hope everyone has a chance to be together tomorrow, enjoy some food (there is a lasagna dinner tonight and seventeen pound brisket in our future for tomorrow with the FOJ's and families), be sure to remember those who can’t be with you, and just enjoy the day.  And depending on the level of formality be sure to


Friday, December 19, 2014

Bach and Bivalves

Can’t Help It!!

Longish time readers may remember that every time I go listen to Brian Ganz at the college, despite claiming the contrary, I can’t help but post another blog about him.  He’s just that good.  Well, the same thing happened yesterday when I joined a friend for lunch at

Nothing changes.   This month, last year, last decade, always the same.  We were a little past normal lunch time, which appeared quite busy as EVERY table had the remains of earlier lunches.

There were three other tables still occupied when we came in, one by a long time friend from my Boeing community Relations days, and another by a trio of denizens from Leonardtown, who were engrossed in comparing historical photos of some sort.  Everybody goes to Courtney’s.  We bussed a spot for us on one of the tables and sat down.

As expected, it took quite a while before Tom appeared in that red hat, menus and little pad in hand, asking if we knew what we wanted.  Yes, we did.   A couple of beers and two oyster baskets.  Off he goes, more minutes pass, and the beers and two waters arrive.   Just now I took a peek at a couple of TripAdvisor reviews (unsuccessfully trying to remember the name of his wife – in the kitchen), and there were a few that complained about this and that, nobody greeted them at the door, took forever, was a “dive”, etc.   Well, you know what?  All true, and that is EXACTLY why you go there.  And come back.  You want greetings at door?  Don’t come back.  Leave the place to us.

Pretty soon his wife emerged from the kitchen with the red plastic/waxed paper baskets of Oysters fresh from the fryer, so hot you had to wait a moment before getting the crunch and the milky meat inside.

She was effusive about the quality of the oysters, saying they were pure white, plump and so good she had to have a couple before cooking ours.  My friend asked for some Mustard (not on the table), she disappeared and came back with a little jar of some given to her from a trip to New Orleans.  No squeeze bottle, no packet, dip your spoon in the jar.  The fries were no doubt food service fries, but they too were hot and crunchy, just fine.

Food, character, views, and, just like Brian Ganz, just right. 

Another one

While I’m at it, we got our Friday Enterprise today (no surprise because it is Friday) and I always look at the Weekend section, where occasionally there is a little piece about an existing or new restaurant.  And praise to Mr. Reid, he always does independents.

This piece was about the newish occupants of “DiGiovanni’s”, now called “Island Hideaway”, which, strangely enough might be the reason for several failed attempts in this location.   Anyway, it leads off with the phrase that always throws red flags to me: “…always wanted to run a restaurant…”.  I wish them luck, I really do, but so many places open with that sentiment only to close in a….while.  As I say, I hope they buck the trend.  A quick perusal of the article reveals kind of usual menu choices for a water based venue.  Crab cakes, rockfish, as well as more standard fare.  Does anybody make crab dip that isn’t “world famous”, or “to die for?”.   Apparently not.   The writer had a daily special of two pork tenderloins in a light gravy, with scalloped potatoes and cabbage, which he could barely finish.  A quote from the owner is that she wants everybody to walk out “satisfied” (read full).   Also that “a lot of restaurants are into the presentation, I’m into good food…”.  Well, a little of both is nice. 

Anyway, I’ll make it over one of these days.

On the road …. Again

Well, Sunday we leave for our annual trek, making it some 15 years of Christmas away from Maryland.   We’ll visit both FOJ’s, have the traditional “TE” Christmas Eve dinner, and then all journey down to the “Cape” to have Christmas Day with “TJ’s”, and of course our Granddog, Stanley.  We’re going to have lunch with “a friend” -  not the Courtney’s one while there.  Don’t want to tip them off (as if they would care about a broken down food writer).

and after travel we will be


Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Historical Day!!

Can’t let today go by without honoring one of my oldest traditions, that of noting important dates in history.  Not because some battle was fought, but curiosities of the calendar.  So, depending on when you happen to stumble across this, (I am writing before noon, EST), at sixteen minutes and seventeen seconds after three this afternoon it will be (drum roll or trumpet fanfare)


And, for once the amateur statisticians are correct, this WILL not happen again for (many) years because there is no thirteenth month.  And, just to be an engineer,  there was a time earlier today when it was 09:10:11;12…..  Somehow I always think of my old friend Birt who much appreciated this kind of thing..

Rant follows:

And, again in honor of history, I’ll sneak in another historical rant for old time’s sake.   Last night coming home across our Route Four from Leonardtown to Lexington (Power Pole) Park showed that nothing has changed.  Now those of you who live around here know that that road is relatively heavily traveled especially at “rush hour”.  Any thought of passing, which is mostly prohibited by a double yellow line, is dangerous to say the least.  Anyway, I noticed behind me was one of those little kind of anonymous smaller Toyota/Nissan/Honda sedans, in weathered black color.  I really couldn’t see the driver.  So when we turned from Rte. 5 south of Leonardtown,  for the first quarter of a mile all I could see in my rear view mirror was the top half of the windshield, meaning its nose was quite close to my tail.   What then followed all the six miles across the peninsula was repeated series of maneuvers.   Plus, I should mention that I had my adaptive cruise control activated which kept me a constant distance behind the vehicle in front of me, perhaps three car lengths.    Okay, so after the initial drafting from the light, the next thing I noticed was that the little vehicle was maybe fifteen car lengths behind me, like perhaps slowing to exit the highway.   Nope, two minutes later, on my bumper again, drop way back, accelerate to bumper, drop, accelerate, repeat.   What the hell?  I don’t get it. One is tempted to pin it on NASCAR mentality, but that may be too easy.

And I have a couple more rants in my pocket but they can wait…

Go Navy, and


Friday, December 12, 2014

Rear Window

remember that?? well, this is not as exciting..

What does one do when one has a bad chest/head cold for (at least) a week that keeps one basically housebound?  Well (besides feeling miserable for oneself), one can look out the window and see what and who visits our “back yard”, which in this case I extend to include the land, sea. and air behind the digs.

So some come to the backyard via that river (sea), some preparing to “work”

Others to maybe do maintenance stuff

 And perhaps have a waterborne kaffe klatch.. “lets all meet at the river”

And some who are just there for fun (?)

And then there are those that live off the river’s so called “bounty”.. They're there every day regardless of the weather

And still others that maybe we don’t/can’t know what they are there for

Then there are those that sort of visit us in the air on their way to or from flight testing

And as far as the land, we continue to enjoy the drama provided by the bird feeders and its habitués.   The family of crows that have sort of adopted us are always hanging around scrounging for this and that

And, as I’ve noted before, our friend “henry” usually pays us a daily visit

Which then begins the dance..   because the crows, while tolerant to a point

Do occasionally sort of half heartedly ask it to leave. 

Most of the time the Hawk is nonchalant towards all of this, but eventually it will go seek some other place for a while. We've never seen it make a pass at any of the birds on the feeders and in fact I think they mostly prefer small slower critters like mice and moles.  Fun to watch however.

As Yogi says: "you can see a lot just by looking"

Small Food Note – this is, afterall, supposed to be a food column.. 

Blue Wind Gourmet will now be occupying the old “Tides” building, and will be called “Elements Eatery and Mixology” slated to open in March.  The rumored destination of the old “Chef’s” place in San Souci fell victim of the legalese.  “Sources” indicate to me that there may be another shoe to drop in the Blue Wind evolution.  It will probably come out publicly soon via other sources, so to protect mine, I’ll let them be first..

just don't forget to 

Monday, December 8, 2014

All over the place... food to sport

I don’t make a habit of putting recipes in here, but we found one that is kind of interesting.  MFO tried it and probably wouldn’t do it again, but we did very much like part of it (read on).  The recipe appeared in dear old Martha’s Living Magazine along side all the make your own wallpaper from scratch articles.  It is called “Fried Hominy” which Martha terms “dangerously delicious” being the "new popcorn".  Since we were hosting the annual raising of the tree ceremony with the help of friends we thought it might be worth a try.  Well, to jump ahead, we probably would not attempt it again (keep reading).  We don’t have a deep fryer in our arsenal of kitchen equipment, and I've never been convinced that the frequency of use would offset the storage requirement and cost.  Besides, one member of the kitchen brigade has a very deep aversion to “covering the counter with grease!”, so alternative procedures (dutch oven, deep sided fry pan, etc.) are not normally employed.

However, we thought since we’re not dealing with hunks of chicken or something, using a dutch oven, if carefully managed, might be worth a try.  So, here is the original, unadulterated recipe:

Fried Hominy

2 (14.5 oz.) cans white hominy – drained
Canola Oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ Cup plain white cornmeal
¼ Cup cornstarch
¾ tsp. table salt
½ tsp. Ground Black Pepper
Savory spice mix or Cinnamon spice mix

1.     Spread Hominy on paper towels in a jelly-roll pan.  Chill, uncovered, 3 to 24 hours.
2.     Pour oil to a depth of 3 inches in a Dutch oven, Heat over medium high heat to 350°
3.     Combine flour and next four ingredients, toss with hominy, in batches.  Shake off excess flour.
4.     Fry hominy, in batches, 6 minutes or until kernels float to the top; remove and drain.  Sprinkle hot hominy with desired amount of either spice mix.

Savory Spice Mix; Combine:
·       1 Tbsp. chopped fresh Thyme
·       ¾ tsp. table salt
·       ½ tsp. ground cumin
·       ½ tsp. ground coriander
·       ½ tsp. paprika
·       ½ tsp. black pepper
·       ¼ tsp. ground red pepper
·       ½ tsp. dried oregano
Makes about 4 tsp.; duration about 5 minutes.

Of course the magazine had a lovely professional food photograph of a bowl of the same sized perfectly separated, golden brown orbs, looking all crispy and nice. Like this:

Well, not quite. 
Kitchen notes:

  • Coriander:  Turned out the only jar we had in the rack was “seeds”, those (hard) little round things.  No matter, the Bottom Feeder can fix this.  Bottom of fry pan: about 30% crushing;  Small food processor: maybe one in ten; Hammer in baggie:  break the baggie; one in six.  Where is that damn little coffee grinder we used to have?  No clue.  Rats.  In car off to Shopper’s.  Scour the spice section, only more of the seeds.  Try the international section.. no joy.  Finally threw in the towel and asked the lady in the store.  What?  Coriander (Ground).  Should be in the spice section, sir, let’s go look.   Sure enough, way down below the McCormicks, Spice Island, was another row of I think McCormicks “Gourmet collection” (i.e., $$$) was the sought after jar of ground Coriander.  All this for ½ teaspoon, probably a lifetime supply.
  • Preparation:  Candy thermometer lost its “springyness” and let the stem rotate over to the metal Dutch oven.  MAYBE oil was 350 or close to it.   You know what flour coated things do when you put them in oil?  They LOVE each other..   gather in little clumps at the bottom of the pan.   “6 minutes”? HAHA ..“or until float to the surface”  HAH!   At any rate after about 45 minutes we had about a third of the little things cooked.  They didn’t look too bad, but you had to separate them by hand.  Plus they were all different sizes so some were “done” before others, and all were hard to fish out.

Now, I know this sounds like bumbling performance, but we did our best, and in the end we had enough to be served respectably.  And, despite the angst of preparation, they tasted pretty good, albeit some were a little gummy or al dente. 

BUT (before I got carried away) the point of all this is that the spice mixture is VERY GOOD!  Since we threw in the towel and didn’t come close to two cans worth of Hominy, we had some of the spice mixture left over.   The other night we had the salmon with Mayo, and we sprinkled some of it over the Mayo before baking.  Really good!.  Then we've also put it directly on some Tilapia filets and that was also excellent.  I would think it would be great on roasted nuts, maybe on baked potatoes, and other applications.  SO… I think we will pitch (actually keep but probably not use) the Hominy part but definitely keep the Spice Mixture..  Besides we have to use up that gold plated jar of ground coriander..

Dress for…. Business

I get daily emails from organizations like National Restaurant Association Smartbrief,  that keep me informed on burning issues like: “Creamy Mexican Drinks are spicy stand-ins for egg nog”; or “Burger King close to finalizing deal with Tim Hortons”, and the like.  Most are of varying interest, but they are fun to look over.  One caught my eye the other day, with the headline of: “How Restaurant Dress Codes Define the Brand”.  DFD?? It led me to a story in QSR (Quick Service and Fast Casual) magazine.  Their story was called “Inked and Pierced”.  It wasn't what I expected.  The story began:  “In October, coffee giant Starbucks revised its employee appearance policy that marked some body adornments off limits. The news gave the industry a moment to consider the links between employee dress and branding and morale… previously baristas could not display any facial piercings or tattoos”   They (a marketing consultancy agency) say that revising the policy is quite smart because their (Sbucks) brand is much more about creativity and free flow of ideas than their strict appearance policy denotes..  So look around the next time you order that Latte..


And lastly a happy but sad story… There are a few individuals that achieve what I call “a Gentleman of the sport” status.  Joe DiMaggio, Roger Staubach, Bob Cousy, are examples that quickly come to mind.  No beatings, drugs, questionable associations, criminal investigations, just people who played their sport without chest bumps, histrionics on routine plays and so on.  They were joined the other day by a giant (almost literally) in his sport, Jean Béliveau.  As a player, he played on 10 Stanley Cup winners, and as an executive he was part of another seven championship teams, the most Stanley Cup victories by an individual to date.  Plus he played for “Les Habitants”, the most (IMHO) hallowed name in Hockey, the Montreal Canadians.   And mostly in the palace of Hockey, the (original) Montreal Forum.

Which, recalls one of my favorite memories of hockey (coached for 20 years or so) which means a lot to me.  The FOJ’s are saying “oh, not again!”, but what the hell, I’m old and can repeat myself.  When we had the kids in a hockey school in Montreal one year, we took a tour of the Forum.  There are a few things in life that you have to do (which would now be called a bucket list).  So when we were taking our tour, eventually we got down to the bench by the ice.  So I kind of hung back and at one point opened the gate, leaned down and touched the ice.  Whereupon our guide said:”SIR!! Please DO NOT touch the ice!”. Too late sweetheart, one of my life dreams is fulfilled.  That goes in the bucket with touching the 18th Fairway at St. Andrews in Scotland..

Thank you Jean, you were a gentleman. 

And I can only imagine you always were


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tick Tock

Well, it’s hard to believe that it has almost been a week since Thanksgiving.   I still have to investigate to find out where that time goes…

By this time I would assume that all the turkey/ham/beef/tofukey has been consumed or thrown out.  Leftovers are always good…. to a point.  I didn’t mention it in the pre-thanksgiving yakking, but Martha led off her thanksgiving issue with “Top Turkey Sandwiches”, so somebody pays attention. Of course she gussies them up with recipes for things like “Cobb Salad Sandwich” with a zillion ingredients.  Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bread, Mayonnaise (Duke’s of course), salt, and sliced turkey.

 We had a lovely time with some friends we don’t get together with nearly enough and realized what a treasure that is.  Gathering around good food (it was) is always a pleasure.

And there were other "ever hopeful" guests, just waiting for that scrap to hit the floor (hanging around the Feeder always improves those chances)

Enough of thanksgiving, let's get back to normal Bottom Feeder subjects, as there are few things worth mentioning.   On the food front, I see that we are going to be graced with another Popeye’s outlet.  Hence we’ve been getting a heavy dose of that awful caricature of a southern women who claims that “you’ll jus love mah Loosiana, shreeimp hunny”.  Gaaaaacckk.    Run away...

Also there are rumors that Blue Wind Gourmet, purveyors of excellent sandwiches and the best selection of wines around, will be changing locations.  They’re moving out of the old Post Office, Outdoor Store and then the current occupant building to another location.  Stay tuned.

I was in Starbuck’s the other day (like most days) and had a depressing experience.  I suppose it is me, and also a sign of the times and future, but it was personally disheartening..  I was waiting to get my Latte with the rest of the folk, and there was a maybe thirty something man, and he had his young son with him.  Kid could stand and everything so I guess he might have been in the kindergarten age.  Dad was paying absolutely no attention to the kid because he was working his mobile device very hard with both thumbs.  But, not to worry, the son had some sort of thing (I think it was a child’s version of a smart something) and he was equally engaged, staring at his hands.  So another pair came up (Dad and kid of about same age), and the dads knew each other and started chatting about work or something.   Kid number two, having nothing to do, tried to talk to kid number one, looking like he wanted to be a kid.  Well, kid number one was completely unphased and oblivious, never looked up, just kept pounding away on his little whatever it was.  Maybe if kid two had a similar thing, they could have conversed that way.  God forbid you should actually have a conversation with somebody.  (Trite, obvious comment):  nobody talks to nobody anymore.  Sigh.

As the seasons move from the bustling activities of summer into the more relaxed and slower pace of fall, we get more friends visiting us.  It’s just nice to look out the window and see our annual raft of Ruddy Ducks bobbing in the water

And our bird feeders get more visitors,

which then attracts other visitors who might like to feed on those visitors

as one noted birder says, "If you're going to feed the birds, feed the birds!". 

And lastly, alert readers may remember that I occasionally rant about this time of year when almost everything has to be “pumpkin flavored”… Lattes, ice cream, beer (for God’s sake), almost anything.  So it was with some joy that I observed the following cartoon in one of our magazines:

However, there is one dish that I will not object to the classic use of that particular flavor

With apologies to MFO, a prolonged stint in the icebox caused the fissure in the surface.  It was perfect when it came out of the oven last week..

And above all, you must be


although this is quite late notice, there is an interesting sounding program TODAY at St. Mary’s College:

“Presenting Slavery in America" a panel at St. Mary's College ofcy MD today, Wednesday, December 3, 4:45 pm, St. Mary's Hall. Featuring Azie Dungey (Ask a Slave); Matthew Reeves; Christy Coleman; Michael Blakey; and others. Sponsored by Anthropology, Museum Studies, the Center for the Study of Democracy

If this damn cold doesn’t do me in first, the Feeder will attend.. you can probably tell if he did by listening for coughing from the (old) back row..