Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Day Thoughts

In years past, and well before Thanksgiving, I would assault you with reminders about selecting your menu, sourcing your ingredients, make a plan and schedule for prep, making sure all the equipment needed was located (where IS that damn roaster - did you (or your Mom?) ever have one of these?)

And so on.  Well, guess what.  I can’t do that as day after TOMORROW is, in fact, Thanksgiving itself.  I can only assume that you have done all the above and are calmly approaching the day without any trace of angst or apprehension.  So unfortunately I can’t help you.  But, I decided I would at least see what the foodie world had in store for turkey day this year.  So I went through the Thanksgiving issues of most of my magazines

And thumbed through over 250 recipes for turkey, sides, salads, breads, on and on to see if I could find any trends.  The first thing that dawned on me was that I would not like to be a magazine editor.  “Oh, God, here it is Thanksgiving again and I have to come up with what appears to be original ways to cook that damn bird”.   As an aside, as I have often (always?) said: you start out with a turkey, and you end up with a turkey.  Do what you want, turn it, high temperature followed by low, the other way around, etc., and you still have a rather tasteless hunk of protein, some of which is cooked and some of which is dry or undercooked.   To avoid that situation is what engenders the flopping of the creature, changing the temperature and so on.  

But I digress.  A note on the cover of one of the magazines Bon Appétit (above) caught my eye (enlarged here for clarity)

First of all, it uses my least favorite “B” word (of the year? really, a humble turkey?), and secondly, one assumes that the “turkey” is indeed the fowl, not your housemate - which probably does have a better chance of changing your life.  

Anyway turns out that this life altering event is because you use the technique called “spatchcocking”.  Which is basically butterflying the bird, as one source says: “Cutting a chicken in half for broiling is almost as routine as chopping an onion. But keep the halves together in that same flattened position, and it looks as if you've done something complicated to the little bird”.  So I guess they think this is revolutionary.  You have to remove the back and also the breast bone of the bird “or have your butcher do it for you”.  Yeah, sure.  The reason you would do this is that the thing cooks more quickly since more surface is on the actual heat.  You end up cooking a 12 – 14 pound specimen in about an hour and a half.  Roast at 450 degrees for about thirty minutes, reduce heat to 350 and go another hour or, in the time honored phrase, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.  At that point I would wonder what the temperature is in the less thicker breast.   De-constructing the bird into individual pieces (breast, thigh, legs) and cooking is pretty common technique, and in fact is recommended in a few of the magazines. 

Going through the publications engendered a lot of notes

So, things I found (in random order) were:

The fad of rotating and flipping the bird repeatedly with large variations in temperature seems to have abated as most magazines just said start at 450 and reduce to 3 something after a while (or until….)

Dry Brining seems to have replaced the wet version (although brining was very common (again in hopes of improving moisture and taste).

Brussels Sprouts always rear their little head at this time of year in a multitude of preparations all (IMHO) designed to cover up the taste (Brussels Sprout Leaves with Chorizo and Toasted Almonds; Baked BS Custard; BS with horseradish and pomegranate seeds;..etc.)

Salads are all over the place, Kale with Pomegranate dressing; Arugula, Apple, and Parsnip; our friend BS with hot bacon dressing; Bloody Mary Green Bean (don’t get your hopes up, it’s the ingredients: haricot verts, red onions, okra pods, tomatoes, celery ribs (dressing does have BM mix);

Yams and Sweet Potatoes are not as prominent as they once were, but (regrettably, again IMHO) are still with us (The Season’s Sweet Spud: Beef and SP stew; Twice Baked SP; SP dinner rolls (?) and even weirder, SP Flan! – no thank you just pass the Pecan Pie)

Speaking of which, it is still very popular:  Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey (?), Maple, Chocolate Caramel.. etc.

Wine:  a general de-emphasis on this, but once again it appears that (within reason) DWTHYL still applies.  The only common thing in the “pairings” is that lighter bodied rather than the heavier varietals are recommended.  Pinot Gris, Cote du Rhone Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Domestic Riesling, and on the “rouge” side,  wines like Nebbolio, Barbaresco, Pinot Noirs, Beaujolais, etc..are suggested.  I may have missed something, but I don’t think I saw the “C” wines, Chardonnay and Cabernet.  Oops I did, on pg, 146 of F&W they do recommend a 2013 Simi Chardonnay (with the soup course).

One dodge to get away from the boredom of the roasted bird is to couch the story with a personality: "Thanksgiving from America’s Best Artisans who share their Ultimate Recipes"; John Waxman shows (F&W’s apparently bumbling) Dana Cowin how to fix her mistakes;  Marcus Samuelsson celebrates his favorite holiday with spiced turkey….; recipes to follow.

They appear to assume you have trouble boiling water as there are numerous “tip” columns, particularly when it comes to gravy:  “how to make gravy like a pro”; “how to make silky gravy”; “making gravy is easy”.

Non Turkey entries were few.  Only lamb patties, and not really for dinner, Spiral ham, but no standing rib roast.  

Surprise:  Garden and Gun, that paragon of Southern Culture had NO articles on thanksgiving.

No SurpriseCook’s Illustrated has a piece called: “The Ultimate Roast Turkey” which tells us how to cook Heritage Birds (Turkeys).  Oh, if you don’t raise your own on your farm, you can order a: MARY’S Free – Range Heritage Turkey, where a 7 to 14 pound gobbler will only cost you $166 (23 to 12 dollars the pound) oh yeah, plus shipping.   This is getting long, but of course they start out by saying it requires “a different cooking method”, which turns out to be .. dismember the bird and cook pieces separately.  (since they are separate, I guess it doesn’t qualify as “spatchcocking”.  Gottal love Chris (Vermont is Heaven) Kimball..

Okay, so what does all this rambling foolishness mean to you?
  1.  Don’t worry about the turkey.  Just (carefully) cook the damn thing.  If you want to get fancy, cut it up first.  It will be okay either way.
  2. Have fun with the sides. Limit to a few, make what you like and enjoy eating (just don’t ask the feeder to eat the Brussels Sprouts).
  3. Don’t over course. 
  4. Keep a glass of wine close at hand.
  5. Involve everybody in the process, set the table, serve the apps, everybody give tips on keeping the gravy free of lumps (which will take care of themselves), and the clean up.
  6. Personally I think a dessert is required (pie: pecan (or pee- kan), pumpkin (my only accommodation to this taste), apple, or mince)
  7. Pay attention to the football schedule. It’s an American tradition.  Hopefully enjoyed with naps.

And, dear reader, the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing of all about Thanksgiving:  Food is a focal point, but It is a time to enjoy family and friends, and think about those who can’t be here, keep them in your thoughts, they would like that.   Who knows what next year will bring.

Oh, and be sure to


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Last shall be First

So I was going to write my last Welsh posting about the first meal of the day.  I was going to comment (See editor’s notes below) that most anywhere you go in the UK the “Full Breakfast” is pretty much standard.  That is, you get eggs, usually scrambled, link sausages (quite fine grained), black and white pudding, back bacon, stewed mushrooms, roasted or grilled tomatoes, beans (like our baked beans), cold and hot cereal available (usually granola type and porridge), generally a cold plate with assorted meats (sliced ham, Genoa type sausages, maybe smoked salmon) and cheeses (some regional variations, but sometimes a foil wrapped Laughing Cow or Babybel red wax encased type is in there).  

The general practice is that you check in to the breakfast room by giving a front person your room number who will then seat you (God forbid you try to bypass this step, you uncivilized American colonists!) whereupon a server will come and ask if you would like tea or coffee, and do you care for toast?.   The buffet is pointed out, although most places do have an a la carte menu if you care for an omelet or maybe kippers.  Since the “full breakfast” buffet is normally included in the tour package we usually go for that (breakfast is the only time I appreciate a buffet) because you can pick and choose and control your own portion size.

Speaking of which, the offered tea and coffee is pretty much always brought to each individual in a rather large pot, one even if you both have tea.  And the toast is generally served in one of those rack affairs that holds approximately 279 slices of bread of different varieties.  One soon learns that when touring the countryside in a coach, limiting the intake of the liquids might be wise.  Yes the coach has a loo, but that is an experience that soon gets relegated to “emergency only” status.  A detailed description of its use might be a little graphic for a such a genteel blog.

I could pretty much pick any picture of any of the breakfasts we’ve had in England, Scotland, or Ireland and they would be very similar, with maybe only variations in serving dishes and implements.   This may have been the nicest presentation we came across, at our first Hotel in Wales.

Alert readers will note that the Dutch Ovens are Le Creuset.  Excellent heat holding capability but users will know the lids are HEAVY (a fact acknowledged by chef behind the serving line), which only exacerbates the ritual of trying to lift the lid, grab the tongs, select your item, try to get it on the plate, and return same tongs and on to the next.  Being the first day out, I cut down some, staying with tried and true with the usual attempt at black pudding.

Which to be honest, kind of got pushed around the plate .  The bacon is always good, although you spend the rest of the days getting pieces of it out of your teeth.

As i said, there is a commonality for the "full" breakfast, so in line with that here's sort of a breakfast tour of the UK, starting with a lovely cold plate from Dublin in 2010

A lesser presentation from Scotland in 2012:

Or a really bare bones basic one also from Scotland:

Notice bacon is always popular..

We did sometimes order from the menu, which got us this lovely salmon and poached egg (in Scotland)

However, the menu approach wasn't always that successful;   here’s somebody’s menu – note the list under “Welsh Breakfast” all the stuff save sausage..

MFO chose the Eggs Benedict, and I decided to try (thinking or Scotland) the Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon.  Eventually we were presented with


You will note that while the “Bene” dish looks okay, in fact the Hollandaise sauce was so viscous it wouldn't flow from the pitcher, perhaps because it was stone cold, as were the poached eggs which had a (cold) solid yolk.  The scrambled eggs were pretty consistent with others we had, kind of grainy.  The salmon, which appeared to be just slapped on the plate, had just a bit of tang to it.  Once that gets in your head, you’re done.  I am sure it was fine, but the thought kind of stayed in my stomach all day.

And finally, a special thanks to Cole Travel for arranging our travels this year.  They do it right. and yes, dear readers I always did


Okay, Some (Random) Editor Notes on this and that:

Welsh Laverbread:
In poking around about Welsh breakfasts, I discovered that the Welsh are quite nationalistic about what is considered “Full Welsh Breakfast”, and many authors pointed out that it is NOT the same as a Full English breakfast.  However, comma, the ingredients are all pretty much the same, it is just that the Welsh stress that the eggs, sausages, bacon, and so forth must come from Wales.  Okay.   BUT, I did find one unique item that should have found its way onto the buffet (if it did, I missed it..).  There is something called “Laverbread” and you can see it on the menu pictured above.  It apparently is traditionally served with Cockles and Bacon.. (as noted).  To quote one source:

“Laverbread or ‘bara lawr’ in Welsh is an important traditional food of historical value. A national delicacy made from seaweed, it is washed and then cooked to a soft greenish black paste. Made from laver, one of the most nutritious varieties of seaweed, laverbread is full of health benefits…Traditionally a miner’s breakfast of laverbread, bacon, eggs and cockles was eaten by hungry workers before a long day at the pits.

Got to admit it doesn’t sound all that thrilling (soft greenish black paste??  Yikes)..The Penclawdd is a reference to a village famous for its cockles.   

Posting notes:
I suppose by this time most readers are growing tired of my ramblings and pictures of foreign lands.  I kind of am too, so I think now I will go back to my normal content of rants, restaurant reviews, and thoughts on proper service.

Some of you occasionally respond with a comment on one thing or another from the blog, and is sent to my “Bill at Billsbottom Feeder” inbox.  And I really do appreciate that, I really do.  It lets me know that somebody out there actually does read the blog.  However, over the past few weeks somehow the address has spread far and wide, and the Outlook “junk mail filter” has quit being smart.  So I routinely get maybe 250 emails a day telling me that somebody has requested a background check on me, or my credit report has been comprised, or how I can make one million dollars by doing nothing, and several medical products that will enable me to…. Well, you know.  With the result that I do scan the inbox and if something catches my eye I will look at it, but most likely it will fall victim to mass deletions.  If you wish to comment (which I really, really value) send it to my wcmatpax email which most know about.  If not PM me on facebook. 

Local Foodie Stuff:
There has been lots of goings on here in the park with restaurants moving, opening, and so forth.  I hope to be able to yak about those, although a lot of the info can be gained through other outlets.  I did have a chance to experience Rex over in Leonardtown the other day and have a few things to say about that, and I also visited the “new” lighthouse on the Solomons.


So that concludes our travel for this year (with the exception of our annual trek to Missouri), and we are already looking forward to next year’s journeys which will include a river boat (on Viking) trip to Amsterdam and Tulips, and then next fall a return to Ireland to visit Maryland historical related sites and also attend the Galway International Oyster Opening competition.  And yes, to experience Guinness in its home country. 

and, just to emphasize you must ALWAYS


Thursday, November 13, 2014

A few of my....

At the final dinner of each trip, Dr. Henry Miller our (Wales) “tour director”, always asks everybody what was their “favorite thing or memory" of the trip..  That of course is highly subjective, but it is interesting to see what struck a chord with different folks. 

After a bit of reflection, I kind of surprised myself with my answer.  I thought most likely  food was not the appropriate candidate for the best memory (what was my worst memory?  Those damn sausages at Lamphey).   Anyway, as it turned out, it was not the castles

(Conwy Castle)

Nor was it the Abbeys laid waste by Henry VIII

(Tintern Abby)

Or lovely Welsh gardens

(Llancaiach Fawr Manor)

Not even the kitchens in several of the old manor houses we visited (but close!)

(Plas Mawr Manor, Conwy)

And strangely not the Cathedrals

(St. Davids)

Nor our descent down into the “Big Pit” coal mine

Well, maybe it’s because of my affinity for our little brick 1667 reconstructed chapel at St. Mary’s City (a child compared to what others we saw) but it turned out my favorite thing was also a chapel.

There is a outdoor museum at St. Fagans called the National History Museum, and features a:  “collection over forty original buildings from different historical periods which have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland, among them houses, a farm, a school, a chapel and a splendid Workmen's Institute.  It is situated on the grounds of the magnificent St. Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th-century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth”.

It turned out that our visit to the museum was during the “term week” when all the little kiddies were between terms in school and hence were unleashed on the public.  Place was crawling with kids.  Anyway, we decided to go see the Chapel figuring maybe it wasn't so popular with kids who just wanted to see goats.  So, map in hand MFO and I trudged to the far reaches of the property (why are Chapels always at the far reaches of things?) and eventually we saw an attractive but unassuming little building.

Noted on the map as St Teilo's Church, Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, removed and reconstructed from its original location in south Wales.  Originally a 12th century chapel and updated over the centuries, it was supposed to be restored to its original pre “reformation” condition, i.e., before Henry (not ours!) got involved in church business.  Okay, fine.  Let’s go in and see it.  We stuck our head inside and immediately said “Holy Smokes” (not the word i actually used but does start with the same letter).  It almost took ones breath away

Those walls were just incredible

Incredibly beautiful.  They sort of defied any pre-conception of what one (at least I)might think of as “medieval” art.

It was the familiar story that during the reconstruction as they removed some of the covering on the walls they uncovered (portions of) these beautiful paintings.  The current ones are as faithful as possible to the originals.  In some of the literature, it was noted that since most of the parishioners were illiterate, visual depictions of the life of Christ was how it was communicated.  

Astonishing.. and that is why it will remain my utmost memory of the trip (with those others not far behind!)

Which sort of got me thinking, and coming to a realization (which i should have known) but this experience brought it slamming home.  Being a engineer living in a technical world, it’s hard to shake my perception that comparing today’s technology to historical (automobiles instead of horse carts, electricity instead of fires, mobile phones instead of handwritten letters, etc.,) leads one to think “old” is crude and primitive.  In reality while this may be true of “things” it certainly does not apply to “art”.  As long as there have been humans, there were individuals with an eye to beauty and the ability to create. I know this is obvious to almost everybody but me but it is a good lesson for me.

Well, that’s almost a wrap for Wales, but i do think their breakfast deserves a nod of the head or roll of the tongue..

And I’ll bet those medieval folks even


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cuisine d’hôtel

Well, I said last time that the subject of “hotel food” probably deserved its own column.  It does, so lets go.

It is a great convenience when traveling as part of a group to be able to eat together in the hotel in which you reside. It is an opportunity to get to know your fellow travelers a bit more, compare notes on the day’s adventure and so forth.  Plus the private dining rooms are generally not far from the bar which is always convenient, with no worries about getting “home”.  Our travel hosts included at least one dinner in each of the hotels we occupied, so there was a good cross section to compare.  I would say that the food was uniformly good and generally nicely presented.

All of the places we were to have dinner provided a menu before we left from which you could pre-order your selections (and promptly forget – keep reading).  I think all were kind of prix fixe arrangement, normally giving you a choice of three starters, main dishes, and desserts. 

This one has the Feeder’s chicken scratches on the side (keep reading).  It appears that the Feeder’s standard set of gripes in such situations are not limited to the new world.   Since we all had pre-ordered, each institution knew (presumably by name) who had ordered what for each course.   Well, the first night we all gathered for dinner and the captain of the room had no clue, or at least professed not to as to who ordered what.   And, of course humans being human and most of us generally of an age where memory begins to fail didn’t remember what we chose several weeks before.  That produced a flurry of our tour leader having to visit most everybody with the holy “spread sheet” to remind us we had the…. (prawn tian) or whatever.  Homework:  what is a tian, and how has it evolved over the years?.   Anyway, I (me personally) would think that an accomplished restaurant would have this down.   Provide name cards (or even have the travelers have their own); place them in front of you; server comes to the table, sees she has Mr. and Mrs. Feeder, the Smiths, and the Jones at the table.  Back to the kitchen, consults the posted list, and tells the kitchen staff: “I need three pates, two soups, and a tian”.  Pick them up and deliver them to the table to the proper guest.  Not hard.

Which brings up another gripe.  The kitchen staff knows for starters they need so many of each dish, and has them plated, ready for the servers.  But no… in reality what all too often happens is that the server(s) bring ALL soups for the whole room “who had soup?” then ALL the pate’s, then ALL the tians.  Which then leads to the all too common: “oh, you go ahead and eat” which makes for awkward situations like all the soups are either finished or cold before the rest of the stuff hits the table.  I just don’t get it.   And again, this is all too common.  Watch for it at your next event.

Anyway, as I said for the most part whenever the food got to you it was pretty good.  Starters were for the most part quite good, there was a lot of pate, and a lot of seafood

(Country Pate with Onion Compote)

(Smoked salmon)

Main courses were kind of hit and miss, and it was always fun to see what you got compared to what was described on the menu.  Ravioli, for instance, was as expected and quite good…  

incidentally, as far as I could tell, that little garni of watercress was not the same one following us around, but it sure was common. 

In one place I ordered a “crispy pork belly” got me the following

Which was more of a pork loin with “almost” crispy outside, and the little puck of…. Black pudding puree.  Of course anything pork always tastes good, and it did.  And if the Feeder would be critical he would point out that that little ring of liquid around the sauce cries out: “heat lamp”.

Probably the consistently best course was dessert.  It was always nicely presented and generally quite good.

(Meringue Roulade Fresh Fruit and Almonds)

Oh, and we did run across a unique dessert that popped up on menus, it was called an “Eton Mess”.  It kind of was, but fairly tasty..

And as I always point out, the food is secondary to the good time with friends, and fellow travelers.

Lastly, I am always up for trying new things (to a point), so I have to point out one particularly interesting dish.  On the menu at the top (the "keep reading part"), note the last entry of the main dishes is described as: “Wild Rice and Parsnip Sausages with root vegetable mash & a red onion and cranberry jus”. Well, I thought, that certainly would be a chance to try something (completely) different;  (Monty Python reference here) so I ordered it.  Sounded pretty good.  Anything called sausages can’t be all bad.  Wrong – O, o-culinary adventurer.  The dish set before me was

Certainly sausage-like in shape (with a lone parsley leaf instead of the ubiquitous watercress bundle), and the cranberry/red onion jus didn’t look too bad.  So I cut into the little tubes only to find a dry, grainy substance punctuated by slightly crunchy, chewy, wild rice.  No particular taste or hint of spice, just dry.  When asked how it was, I gamely replied “it must be an acquired taste”.   I didn’t finish it.  But, it was my choice so I lived with it.  Always an adventure..

So that kind of encapsulates the Hotel experience, leaving us to consider breakfasts and lunches.  Next time.. and maybe we'll talk about


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Meal...

Before the meal, a small rant..

Well, while sort of mopping up my Wales notes and images, I am sitting here watching the (American) football games, specifically the team from Washington and the Vikings from Minnesota.  I’m sorry, when I was coaching Hockey, there was a saying we used to preach to our teams (and I’ve heard it repeated other places) that “there is no “I” in team”.  Apart from being literally correct, it is a good concept.  It isn’t called a “team sport” for nothing. Too bad it doesn’t seem to take root in the National Football Team.   The current game is (for a change) rather high scoring, and each and every touchdown, regardless of the color of the jersey, the person pounds his chest, points to himself, exhorts the crowd to cheer him, and generally tries to draw as much attention to himself as possible.  Me!!  And it doesn’t only involve the players on the offensive side of the ball.  A linesman, or maybe a backer manages to tackle a runner in the backfield, and you would think it was the game saving play in the Super Bowl.  Prancing, gloating, standing over the downed player staring him down.  Me!! It’s all ABOUT ME!!  Look what I did!!  For some silly reason, I thought that that was what they are paid for.

In contrast, while in Cardiff, we had a chance to listen to a rehearsal of a choir associated with the local Rugby team. 

They were practicing singing the National Anthem of some of the teams they would be playing in friendly matches, like Fiji or South Africa.  In typical Welsh fashion when they took a break they came over us with their pints, and told us it was common practice to sing the Anthem of the opposing team before the match.  And, commonly afterwards “fans” from both sides gathered in pubs and enjoyed each others company.  What a concept.  And believe me, one of the things we learned is that there is fierce pride in their country, those Welshmen.

The Meal...

Speaking of Wales, you will note (maybe) that I have not said much about the food on the trip. I did fairly extensive research on restaurants in the various cities where we stayed, and found some pretty interesting venues.  In practice we didn’t have too many “free” evenings, as our travel hosts arranged for many group meals within the hotels in which we resided.   That dynamic probably deserves a whole column in itself, but we did have one meal on our own and that was outstanding.  It was on the third night of our trip, and was in the town of Deganwy, near Conwy. 

The place was called Paysanne, and featured French cuisine.  It received pretty positive reviews in TripAdvisor, which, incidentally seemed to cover the UK better than Yelp.  Anyway, I did the “contact us” tab on their website and to my surprise received a rapid reply that they would be looking for us, and commented that most of their guests came only a few miles to visit rather than our thousands.  So after a day of castle visiting we arranged for a taxi, and to our surprise it was just about outside walking distance.  The cab person didn’t seem to care.

The restaurant was located in kind of a series of row houses, and in fact I suspect that the space started out life as just that.  It was transformed into a restaurant but still showed the bones of its previous use.

We were seated in a corner table near the front by the person who had corresponded with me and noted he was glad we were there.  It turned out that he was the only person we saw in the front of the house all evening.  He was very friendly but not to the point of being intrusive.  He asked if we would care for a drink without any “taking care of you ..” foolishness.  Knowing that cocktails were practically unknown before dinner in the UK, I thought maybe a gin based one would be okay, and asked if I could have a martini.  Well, I was told, I don’t have any dry vermouth.   A bit unexpected, but a gin and tonic would be possible.  Fine.

Turning to the menu, we found some old friends there, like starters of POTAGE DU JOUR, TERRINE DE CAMPAGNE, as well as some new ones like CHAMPIGNON A LA PALFRAMAN (Roast field mushrooms stuffed with Stilton, bacon and onions and wrapped in puff pastry, served with a port Coulis), plus we were told there were Mussels Meuniere, fresh that day from Conwy, just across the river where we were earlier in the day.

I couldn’t pass those up, and MFO decided on the “a la Palframan”.  Mains were also classically French like Boeuf Bourgignon, Poulet Citron, and Porc a La Moutarde caught MFO’s eye (Caramelised fillet of Welsh Pork served with a creamy Dijon Mustard sauce with a baked apple stuffed with walnuts and sultanas).  The Poisson du Jour was a fillet of Plaice, which suited me just fine.   With the selections made, a Sancerre was certainly appropriate and was ordered.

Crusty bread accompanied the wine and helped pass the time until the starters arrived.  The mussels were served in the traditional blue pot and lid, and were probably the best I have ever had since Normandy.

And MFO’s mushroom dish was also lovely

It took me a while to plow through the mussels, but it would have been impolite to not finish them.

The main dishes were equally lovely with my fish unadorned with meaningless stuff, just fish and a sauce, simple.

And the pork was cooked and presented just right

All this time other guests arrived and we were struck by the fact that most were known, and treated like family.  Nobody was rushed, people just enjoying themselves along with good food in a pleasant place.  It is, after all what it’s all about.  That dinner will remain a standout in our memories of the journey.  We had other good food, but the whole experience was not equaled.  Oh yes, we indeed were