Sunday, April 26, 2015

checking in...

Well, this is proving difficult.  Days are pretty much filled with seeing things, so publishing things takes time.  Mostly our itinerary includes a morning tour, lunch, then an afternoon tour leading up to cocktail hour.  So spending a couple of hours sharing our experience is hard. Stop complaining Feeder!   Okay….

A short note about..... food!
we do have pretty good fare on board:

(by the way, i did NOT drink any of those, a good Dry Manhattan story eventually)

But we did also get to sample stuff ashore, like

the famous Belgian Frites (and a local Belgian from the Haacht brewery), as sampled at a little corner café in the Market Square in Ghent.  And yes, that is mayonnaise, and yes, that IS ketchup hiding back there, as served in a place that somewhat catered to tourists, mostly Americans.  While I enjoyed the fries, MFO also tried some ice cream.  They do nothing by halves

While the above were good, the ketchup kind of threw me off a bit.  Fortunately one of the side excursions was a “tasting tour” of Antwerp, with a stop at a "local" place

This was in a “local” place and you will note there is none of the red stuff.  

A side note about the “frites”.  Mostly I ask, and yes they are AWAYS double fried.  For the “local” ones above, I also inquired about the fat used.  As you know, in our country, Duck Fat is very trendy.  Anyway the answer came back from the kitchen:  Ox Fat!!  Oh, my!  Most of the ones I have sampled have been good despite looking like something we see fairly often in the states.  They have better flavor, and are more crunchy.   As for they Mayo, I think that will take a bit of getting used to

Well, in the interest of time, I am going to pause here.

We have seen a lot. And there will be more  reports to come.  For those of you who dabble in Facebook, I do try to post more pictures there..

we will cover more ship board food in the future, and also a comment on some of the fellow traveler’s habits of


Thursday, April 23, 2015

First Shot

This is kind of a test.. this is the first time I’ve tried to delve into the wonderful world of Lenovo based blogging.  I just found out that lightroom has some issues, so we’ll see how this goes.  This morning we visited Kinderdijk, a world heritage site for windmills..  we had a tour guide from the site letting our little group.  The moment he started speaking MFO said “That guy’s an enginner!!”  much later in the tour he mentioned that he was a retired mechanical engineer.  He gave a very informative talk about the history and workings of the windmills.. amazing structures that were build in the early 18th Century.  Anyway I want to try to put in a picture and see if this publishes.

The WiFi on the boat is um… not speedy

there was some guy in our group with a long lance and some Spanish sounding name like Don something..

more to come and so far we have been adequately 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Eee Hah!

Well, here we go again. Yes, this is what it looks like

It is a suitcase.  Which preludes a journey, no?  yes! To borrow from willy and steve, a combination of on the road again, planes trains, and automobiles (well, okay, busses, er excuse me coaches) and this time boats.  We are about to embark on a new experience for us, a Viking River Cruise.  We’re going on what they call the Tulips and Windmills trip.  Not surprisingly, it leaves from (and returns to) Amsterdam. We will be under the experience guidance of Cole Travel, so logistics will be easy.

We leave in a scant few hours for IAD to board a KLM flight, another first time for us with that airline.  Have heard good things.

This finally being penned Monday morning, I had a delightful few hours in our basement last night mopping up water that emerges from the ducting in cases of extreme rain.  Such as last night.  Continuing in the “new” vein, I am also NOT taking the million pound, but reliable, laptop instead opting for the much lighter and smaller Lenovo.  I think I did a dry run and proved to myself I can publish from that, so fingers crossed.   As one friend advised, priority one is MFO, two is enjoying the trip, and three is the blog.  So if you don’t see another post for a bit, it is either the damn technology, or priorities one and two are winning.

Bon Voyage.

Oh, dining on this trip is somewhat problematic.  Dinner is always served aboard, but off vessel dining opportunities were somewhat clouded by non specific information on when the boat will leave port.   “that evening we will cruise to…..”

And one of the reasons our suitcases are pushing the weight limit is that we had to pack to be


Monday, April 13, 2015

This and That

 Friday the 13th comes on Monday this month

Just a few notes, in no particular order.


MFO and I returned to St. Charles Brasserie over the weekend.  It was my second visit, and her first.  Fairly pleasant, service a bit slow but it was a Saturday night.  We saw some friends and once again I was impressed by the fact that although it was on “the (Solomons) Island” the guests were more of our age than younger.   Also that for the most part, people were close to DFD.  I suppose as summer wears on and “tourists” appear ball caps and T-shirts will become more prevalent.  The food was okay, although a shared Cheese Plate to start was quite nice.

Apparently most places now feel that live music on the weekends helps with the experience.  Well, yes and noCafé Des Artistes in Leonardtown: yes.  Quiet keyboard with pleasant selections that underscores your dinner, not dominates it.  St. Charles Brasserie: no.  An amplified piano, and a player with a microphone belting out music that is not exactly what I consider dinner music.  We were about four tables away from the piano and player, and we had to lean across the table and speak in a non-private tone to be heard. "Sorry, what did you say?" The music was just too loud, and dominated everything.  And then people felt the need to clap after each selection.  It’s a dinner out, not a concert for God’s sake..

Speaking of Cheese Plates I had a very nice one at an early lunch at The Rex last week.

Had a report from a friend and sometimes stringer on a meal at China Harbor! Remember that you old timers?  Used to be next to the Tiki Bar on the Solomons, and then moved to a storefront kind of thing in the shopping center next to Roy Rogers. It has been there for years, and I think the original owner(?) Yvonne Lee has moved on and now a “younger couple” run the place.  Neither the reporter or I had been there for years.   On the occasion when I went to the old location once in a while I remember that while the usual “Chinese Food” items were offered, there was some very innovate dishes were available.  Different preparations, and unusual ingredients which were quite innovative.  I suspect they deserved more notoriety.  Anyway, the more recent visit by a friend was much enjoyed and especially some Crab Meat Cheese Wontons, which they felt was excellent.  Might be worth a return visit. 

Food and Fun(ds)

And while we enjoy meals out and cooking there are some people where circumstances has placed them in a position to not do those things.  St. Mary’s Caring has for years supplied hot meals for these individuals.   Volunteers spend time serving and cleaning and all the tasks associated with serving food.  They deserve a lot of thanks they don’t always get.  Well you have a chance tomorrow (Tuesday the 14th) to help them and also enjoy yourself.  The newly opened Elements Eatery and Mixology (more commonly called just “Elements” and hopefully less often the “Old Tides”) is holding a fund raiser for St. Mary’s Caring.   It begins at 6:30, and is $75 per person for which you get to sample the excellent food from Elements, and also avail yourselves of their creative cocktail and craft beer offerings.  They also have auctions of always unusual and interesting stuff.   You can reserve by contacting or calling 301-863-5700.  See you there! 

A Tradition Like No Other

I hope you had a chance to witness what turned out to be history yesterday by watching some of the Masters Golf Tournament.  The four rounds of 21 year old Jordan Spieth were amazing.  Those of us who occasionally try that game know how hard it is, but to play at the level he did for four days on a course that is extremely difficult is just something to remember for a long time.  I have been there twice and TV doesn’t do justice to the amount of hills, the “bumps” in the greens and what the players are faced with just to achieve par let alone birdies is tremendously difficult.

And, those of us who are TV sports addicts know that we can affect the outcome of an event across the country with our actions in the living room.  You know how many times I’ve sat in the same chair for hours so as not to jinx the team? Or always eat the same snack?  Drink the same beverage?  Wear the same clothing (cheese head).  Don’t do those things, and your team is headed for defeat.  Well for the Masters, I have two lines of defense against having somebody catch the leader (if that’s who you’re rooting for), or alternatively have your man/woman/team put on a comeback and achieve victory.  The first, when only mild support is needed is a bag of Doritos.  Must be plain Nacho, not the myriad of flavors available nowadays.  And then when things look dark I go to my never miss snack for golf composed of two simple ingredients available this time of year

Now, it is not just jelly beans and peanuts.  No, no, dear friends.  It MUST be Brach’s Classic Jelly Bird Eggs (not the spicy ones, not some Easter variety),  and it MUST be Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts.  NOT low sodium or lightly salted, nor mixed, nor Fancy, just the plain peanuts. Then you MUST find a ceramic bowl, not stainless, not glass, ceramic. 

And the mix must approximate four peanuts to every bean (which MUST contain black or licorice).  And when eaten you MUST take care to ingest beans and peanuts in just about those proportions. 

And THAT, dear friends is how you prevent giants like Rory, Phil, and Tiger (who appears to have found it again) from overtaking a spectacular round of a twenty one year old, extremely nice kid winning his first green jacket.  Normally I would apply the beans/peanuts mojo to Phil, but he has three, and did have a great round.

And finally,  just some nice spring shots from around the neighborhood..

And even though they are trees they must be considered

One week til we leave for Holland!  Yikes!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Right you are...

Alert readers (and even those who are only mildly so) should know by now that I have been poking around looking for “just right” places.  And lately, most places I've visited have been on the…what’s the right word??….. "lower" side?, no, that isn't right, because they are just what they are…. Dive?  Bad connotations,  and they’re not…  Anyway there are Just Right places across the whole spectrum of restaurants.   We revisited one of our favorites on the other end of the spectrum lately, and glad to report they will remain firmly entrenched on the list..  Do you know what city  this is?

A hint: this is a church of St. Anne’s located on a circle.  Yup, that’s correct!!  As Charles Barkley said in a recent commercial:  it’s “In the Annapolis”.   And, situated on the next circle over is

It doesn't pretend to be a five star place, just a solid, quiet oasis in the middle of the hubbub of tourists and politicians where you can get a nice meal, correctly served, and appropriate (just right) table settings.  my only gripe on the place is that the rest rooms are up a flight of stairs...but, hey, plan ahead..

It is relatively dark, quiet, and we had a table in the very back, suitable for people watching and privacy.  Peaceful. Servers are in crisp white tux shirts, and have don't indulge in meaningless patter:  “Welcome, may I get you a drink?”  To which the image above attests that the answer was yes…

We were up in the “sailing capitol of the world” visiting Nordstrom’s to flesh out the traveling duds for the upcoming Holland adventure.  We frequently shop there when we’re looking for stuff to be nicely DFD’d.   Over the years we've gotten to know the lady who manages “Men’s Furnishings” and usually email her with list of the type of things we’re looking for.  She pretty much knows my taste, so when we get there, there are several things laid out for us to consider so we don’t have to scour the racks.  A nice touch which we greatly appreciate.   So after, at least in our minds, being treated like we’re important, we finish the journey with a just right lunch.

And we weren't disappointed this time, starting with my martini, which was served unceremoniously (no silly bed of ice) with a “side car” for that extra little sip(s)

When our drinks were delivered, daily specials were gone over, and we were left to consider our choices.   The menu contained a nice selection as always, from light to heavy, elaborate to simple, most anything to match your mood.   MFO selected a Roasted Turkey Panini with Bacon, Provolone, Arugula and Avocado Aioli on Sourdough, and I had the “State Circle's Omelet of the Day with House Salad” which was roasted vegetables with Andouille sausage.  I asked about dressings on the salad, and since blue cheese was not mentioned, I remarked that was odd.  “Yes I’ve thought that too,   I’ll have chef whip one up for you”.  Which he did

(photographers note:  somehow the new phone exaggerates the size of the salad, it wasn't that large, it was in balance)

Another nice touch is that at lunch they have wines at five dollars a glass (one might argue the “just rightness” of this but they did offer a nice selection, not just plonk

Not sure you can read this, but I selected the Vino Verde (kind of an oxymoron on the list), and MFO had a glass of the Viognier.  Both were just……fine.

Facing the drive home, we finished with “root beer float” ice cream and two spoons

All in all, a very pleasant day, always fun to spend money and have good food.   What the hell, your last check should bounce.

And you should not have to ask if we were


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pointing at Dennis and bye bye Sparty

Final ...two

Well, yesterday was a pretty good day, right up until about maybe six thirty. From there it went downhill as I watched the Spartans get out rebounded, shot, hustled, and turnovers.  It was pretty much a butt kicking (technical sporting term) by Duke.   Before get back to the “pretty good” part of the day, I finished off the day with the Kentucky/Wisconsin game.   I have mixed emotions about that game.  On one hand, a big ten team ended the hopes for a perfect season by Kentucky,  on the other hand, a big ten team ended the hopes for a perfect season by Kentucky.   I was around when Indiana did it, and although it is a different game today, I wouldn’t have minded seeing history survive one more game.  It was also good to see Wisconsin avenge last year’s defeat, and advance to the championship game.  Should be a good game, but if MSU was any yardstick, the Dukies looked pretty darn good.  One nice feature was that the TBS family of three networks carried national, and local feeds from both teams.  The big ten feed (MSU and Badgers) were carried on TruTV, which was also standard definition, and a smaller screen.  I started out watching the TBS programming with Jim Nance, but after a couple of bellered “Go BIG FELLA” or “MOVE them PUPPIES” from the resident clown Bill Raftery, I traded the high definition for the MSU channel.  Mateen Cleaves was there and it was much less painful.  Tonight is another pair of games on the distaff side.

“Just Right?”
Okay, prior to the basketball marathon, we had a very nice afternoon.  As you may remember I have been on a leisurely quest to search out “just right” places, where food, setting, and purpose all blend together.   Being Saturday, my fellow crusader suggested we include MFO and another couple we routinely go out with.  Great idea.  So the five of us (Crusader’s wife is out of town) gathered around three at Dennis Point (Marina and Campground), now home to the Riverside Bistro

Riverside Bistro is the latest occupant in what has been a revolving door over the years, having been named a few different monikers, and chefs.  So the many make- and turn- overs kind of eliminate it from “Just Right” consideration.  Maybe not fair, but most of the others have been in business with one name and occupant for a long time.  Regardless of the personnel and ownership, the setting is the same, a pleasant place on Cartagena Creek, kind of nestled across the St. Mary’s River from NESEA or Webster Field.   Getting there is kind of an adventure, but the signage is (mercifully) pretty good because as with any waterside destination there are many twists and turns needed to get there.   It is a pretty big place, lots of boats still in winter storage and quite a few “campers” which may or may not have been occupied.

As we entered the building, a little Easter party was winding down, with lots of small ones who made Easter Egg baskets (and a mess) finishing up.  They were really cute.  Pretty quickly they cleared out and the staff returned the space to its normal appearance

Which is clean, light and airy, with a small bar area behind the photographer’s back.  Mercifully the flat screen remained dark for our visit.  Tables eventually contained the requisite container of condiments, mustard, ketchup, malt vinegar, A1 sauce. 

the menu (partially visible in the background above) is of course laminated plastic, and rather limited.  A few appetizers, burgers, two salads (house and Caesar), and some entrees which do have some variety.  One entry sort of puzzled me

I’m not sure what, exactly, comprises an “oven style” pizza.  What other styles are there?  Our server was very friendly and attentive, although it should have been pretty clear that we were NOT ready to order the first two or three times we were queried.  Drinks yes, not quite food ready.  It was very pleasant with the sun streaming in the windows, and few other guests to raise the noise level, so we enjoyed conversations and stories. 

We did finally get around to ordering the food, and the table had three of the five available sandwiches, a “regular” burger, the “Dennis Point Burger”  Cheese steaks, leaving only the chicken sandwich and maybe another not chosen.  The other order was a daily special of meat loaf.  It was interesting to me that under the burgers on the menu was the note: “please tell your server if you would like your burger medium or well done”.  When I ordered my Dennis Point Burger I told the server I would like it as rare as law would allow.  Fortunately when I got it, it was nice and rare inside, don’t tell the board of health.  Everything was really pretty tasty.  My special burger varied from the regular one in that it had bacon and that spicy cheese. 

Note the just right style red plastic basket with black and white paper

Fries were probably by delivery, but not bad.  The cheese steaks were enjoyed.  The meat loaf was pretty much in the comfort food range

Plus it had a side of what has to be called “just right” green beans, probably canned and well cooked, with bits of ham

So it was a very nice afternoon, and probably just not quite on the “just right” list, I would certainly go back and probably will.  If we can find it again..

Oh, one oddity.  The “wine list” contained mostly “flip flop” wines (“Flippin’ good wines”) the chardonnay of which I would place in the yellow tail/barefoot category.  But in the Red category was listed “Raider Red”.  Hey!  That was a special bottling by Port of Leonardtown Winery specially for the Raiders and Invaders Weekend.   Could it be?   Well I passed the wine rack on the way out

And sure enough there were those wax capped bottles lined up.  Be interesting to know the path from Leonardtown to Dennis Point.   Of course we were there for late lunch/very early dinner but I don’t think you would have to worry too much about being


Go Lady Terps!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

we are the....

Question: Are Americans so unsure of themselves that they don’t trust their own taste enough to determine what they like?   I guess it is easier to let some unknown person(s) put out a list of “things” that are “Best” (herein after referred to “B”), then blindly follow that advice.  By letting someone else think for them, they must feel assured that they are on the inside because they always go to, buy, eat, whatever somebody considers the B and therefore they are guaranteed to be better than the rest of us.  Something along those lines apparently drives publishers of magazines to proclaim that this issue will provide you with the

Cities will tell you where to eat

Others will tell you what to serve, eat, drink, and where to shop 

And, this mentality is not just limited to just food and cities

Although in this case, it is these peoples jobs to “scientifically” rate things, but they chose to use the B word, not me.  And because I know eager minds want to know, their results show: 

Freshest:  Wegmans; 
Cleanest: Wegmans; 
Best Bakeries (?): Wegmans; 
Cheapest for Organics: Trader Joe’s, Wegmans;   

do I see a trend here?  And just for completeness:  

Lowest overall: Walmart Supercenter.    

From the digs:
Closest Wegmans: Lanham, (MD); 65 miles.  
Closest Walmart: 2.2 miles.  
Draw your own conclusion..

I guess this “B” thing is just part of our culture of wanting to know “Who’s Number One” which engenders AP polls, March Madness, and similar things designed to make everything but the tops of those lists considered meaningless.  And invariably, what is B this week is supplanted by a new list next month.  How long does one deserve to be called the B?


Speaking of which, somebody sent me a link to a story about the Cheesecake Factory, and how they “Crush the Competition”.  They are one of those gray area “chains” in that while they do have a couple of other brands like Grand Lux Café and Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen, 165 stores out of the 185 are Cheesecake Factories.  They are not part of some conglomerate like Darden.  The reasons for their popularity given were fresh ingredients, in house preparations, etc.  It also contained an interesting graph showing daily visitations of many of the places we’re all (too) familiar with.

Quite the list of names...

Steak (last two titles are like a sandwich!)

With the weather finally getting more livable we’re breaking out the Weber (no green egg yet FOJ’s) and getting back grilling again.  The other night we broke out a locally produced steak from Willy Goddard

And.... I gooned it up.  Yup, the wanna be gourmet cook turned out an inferior job on the steak.  Normally when I grill meats I use the “press test” to determine doneness.  Sort of like the old saw that medium is like the last joint on your thumb, down to rare in your palm.  Normally, I nail it. So I used it on the steak the other night.  Well, after I brought it in, it came out pretty rare in the middle.  Not exactly raw (or blue as it is sometimes called), but less done than we would have liked.  I thought about it some with a wine glass in hand, and I finally have a theory.  The local beef for whatever reason is “firmer” than the store bought kind.  I don’t know if it has to do with fat content, freshness, or what, but I have observed that before.  It should have translated to going further up my thumb, so to speak, but it didn’t.  Felt medium rare, but nope. I pretty often use an instant read thermometer, but that is tough (no pun intended) on a steak.  You can go in from the side, but it is not reliable.  Anyway, something for you to consider.

and before closing, one more "B" (actually two) word, sadly from one of my favorite magazines, but he's so handsome

Shadow Oak Bo - National Champion Bird Dog - English Setter

Oh, and not once in all those magazines was an article on how to "B"