Monday, June 29, 2015

Home Sweet Home!

Okay, home again.. and the travelogue stops...

and we can enjoy Foodie bit(e)s:

Of course I can’t find it now, but this morning there was a Facebook post from the James Beard Foundation about a “burger contest”.   Somehow I don’t equate James Beard with that particular dish, but given his girth, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  In fact, there are several sites that purport to have the “James Beard Hamburger” recipe.  Which, by and large (ha ha) are pretty much the same:

2 pounds ground beef
3 tablespoons finely grated onion
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, toasted

Spread the beef onto a cutting board; sprinkle with the grated onion. Mix in the cream, salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Form into patties; cook on a hot grill or in a hot cast-iron pan—for medium-rare, about 4 to 5 minutes a side. Bun each patty and serve.

Of course around the fourth of July, outdoor cookery gets lots of press, and all the foodie magazines devote an issue to it. 
Bon App├ętit (June):  Cover photo of “the Grilling Issue:  Burger Time! – become a grillmaster..TONITE!”; 
Food and Wine (June): also cover photo of burgers (with bacon hanging out from the sides) – and banner of, guess what?  BEST BURGERS!  With articles inside like: “how to cook an entire meal on the grill, TOP CHEF – STYLE;   Yikes!  Usual themes of “quick, easy, secrets of pit master’s”  same old…. S….tuff.
SAVEUR (June/July):  Get Grilling, America!  At least they kick it up a notch (thanks, E) and have a nice looking T-Bone on the cover.  And they laud inside you can find “The Ultimate Brisket Burger”, at least they didn’t use the “B” word (which would have provided nice alliteration).  And incidentally another banner says “The Next Great American Food City”.  Hmmm, that’s interesting, let me turn to page 56 where I discover that the NGAFC is…..Minneapolis!!  Yeah, you betcha!

And hard to get the scale, but the burgers all look like they would be impossible to hold, let alone actually get some in your mouth.  Looks like three to four inches tall at least.

Are ya still werkin’ on that?

Which is on my (long) list of abhorrent phrases in a restaurant, but the subject is getting some press lately.  A stringer from Seattle sent me a link to a story from entitled:  “Is this the most annoying restaurant trend today?”  It involved something you’ve heard me rant about before: clearing diner A’s plate while diner B is still enjoying the food (dining shouldn’t be considered work).  Personally I hate that, and IMHO it puts everybody at the table ill at ease (parties of 12 or more may be excluded).   Diner A can sit and examine the tablecloth or the detritus of his meal (what, actually crumb a table?), while Diner B feels like he ought to chow down the food.   The etiquette has long been to clear when everyone is finished, now it seems like (Washington Post) “servers hover over diners, fingers twitching, until the very instant someone puts down a fork.  Like vultures they then snatch up the silverware.. If you’re lucky they might ask permission before stealing your plate

If you want to read the whole piece here’s the link.

it always gives me some kind of perverse pleasure to read of a food professional who has the same peeves as i do..

I thought about this again, and while I still remain of the opinion that the table should be cleared at once, I can see why some servers might think they are doing the right thing.  I guess I wouldn’t want to stare at the remains of a veal chop with the juices congealing forever, but in general there hopefully would not be a long difference between diners pace of consumption.  I would hope a motive is not to force the table to turn.

I asked a restaurateur acquaintance about the situation, and he more or less agreed, but felt it was up to the server to read the table.  If Diner A pushes the plate away, it might signal that removal was preferred. My notion that all diners eat at relatively the same pace is apparently not always very common.  A corollary to this situation is when Diners A, B and C, order starters and Diner D prefers to wait for the main course.  Kind of awkward sometimes.  Delivering everything at once is a no no (IMHO).  Of course all of this applies to a classic dinner, not the “small plates” which are becoming more common.  No rules there..

Anyway food for thought!

Random Foodtoids:

“ Pappa John’s looks to cut 14 artificial ingredients”;  Geez, how many did they have?
“Olive Garden looks to takeout to boost sales”; will launch a delivery service for large parties
“Preliminary Injunction issued against propose US Foods/Sysco merger”  ho hum…
“Diners favor complex cheese flavors”.. really?

Sneaking in a little sports note

Alert readers might remember that I am enamored of the practice of “hat tipping” which takes place most notably at the beginning of the Baseball All Star Game.  Players line up on the foul line for introductions and most practice doffing their caps in one form or another when announced.   There is of course a classic procedure which we won’t go into now. Instead I’ll just remark that on a tip (ha ha) from MFO’s brother, I’ve found a similar situation in the Women’s World Cup.   On TV, they go through the lineup video and there’s a vignette of each player as they are identified.  No hats, instead it is “Arm Folding”.   Apparently the media moguls decided that looking at a player just standing there was not interesting, and so instructed them to fold their arms.  Like hat tipping there is a variety of styles;  right over left, left over right,  hand under or over bicep, fun to watch.  

and you can watch this while you are getting


and see Mr. P, no pictures!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Afscheid Nederland

Well, okay, I think we’ve reached the end of the travelogue.  Probably a huge sigh of relief on your part, and now can maybe get back to food related things.   I met a lady at a function a week or so ago who was enthused about seeing my Bottom Feeder “food blog”.  IF she is still reading it, I promise I’ll return to form soon.

As you roll the trip around in your mind with some distance now between reflection and the journey itself, you start to ponder what will stick with you.  Sometimes you come up with things that surprise you.  For me, recognizing the beauty of Tulips will always stand out, but also will a little visit to the town of Hoorn, and a particularly pleasant experience there.

I think in a previous edition I mentioned that Hoorn marked our northernmost point of interest, about thirty kilometers north of Amsterdam.  According to the documentation, it began around 720, and evolved into a very important trade center.  The famous Dutch East India Company located its home base there.  I believe George Calvert (the first Lord Baltimore) did pretty well by investing in them.   Anyway, Hoorn is a typical Dutch port village with the usual canals and boats of various types.

And also architectural features like the famous “Hoofdtoren” built in 1532, still standing over the harbor

And the West Frisian Museum

And while the group was gawking and learning about those things, of course I wandered a bit and found a nearby restaurant of the same name as the Hoofdtoren building.

Mr. Moody!  We're leaving!!

We continued walking around the town which was full of what used to be warehouses for a famous product

Also saw some interesting stuff in the homes we passed

and residents looking at us looking at them

And lots of little shops..  guess what these are for!

We were told that part of our tour of Hoorn would include a “home visit” with some local folks.  Old me: "yeah, sure some touristy place with fake stuff and maybe an interpreter in costume".  Once again, wrong-o wise bottom feeder!   It turned out to be maybe the one thing I will always remember about our whole trip!

We were to bust up our little group of about twenty into smaller groups for the “home visits”, so that took a little milling about

There’s that lady in the yellow slicker again, my beacon and guardian..

After the logistics got sorted out, we were taken to a row of buildings and houses along a canal

Our host lived above the bakery he once owned and worked in

The sign above the door translates to “Bread and Pastries”   

We entered the side door to the right and a circular staircase led to their lovely little apartment overlooking the canal

I didn’t take too many interior pictures trying to respect their privacy (and avoid the ugly American tourist image).  We all sat around their little table his wife had set with freshly made goodies and tea and coffee

They were very easy to talk to, and soon it was just like visiting your neighbors.  He had a fascinating life, mostly as the baker (from which he retired, too hard!), but also did work with autos at one time.  They even hauled out pictures of their kids and grandkids, just like we would.

As you might remember, choral singing is very popular in the old world as we found out on our trip to Wales, and the Dutch are no different.  Turns out he sings with a group called “Shantymen Kaap Hoorn’ who perform mostly sea related songs.  If you click to the website, the person on the right side of second row was our host.  You might notice on the table picture above some CD’s laid out.  After a bit of urging he brought them out, and MFO and I bought a couple

Soon it became time to rejoin the group and he and his dog accompanied us back into the street.  The old dog was pretty much blind but didn’t mind being scratched.

It was a very rewarding visit, actually felt like you met real people, not tourist attractions, just a wonderful couple (of course I didn’t write down their names (including the dog’s)).

So we parted ways as he took his pet for a stroll along the canal.  Kind of symbolic of leaving...

And soon enough our view of the Netherlands faded into memories

Funny thing about these kinds of trips, you get sort of caught up in the “WHAT time do we have to be at the bus?”;  “It’s how far away?”; “my knees hurt!”; “where’s the camera?”; and so forth but then you get home and those thoughts fade into memories of tulips, pastries, and the dog.  Sometimes I fell like you go on the trips to get things into the memory banks to relish later.

Thanks to the Cole Travel folks and Viking cruises for providing deposits in the memory banks.  This fall:  Ireland.

Back to food and


Friday, June 19, 2015

Two Fer

As Ernie Banks was fond of saying, let’s do two!  Kind of like that, but we’re not talking about baseball, but touring.  I keep trying to compress things and then see some of my pictures, and say gee, somebody might enjoy seeing these (he said, in his own little dream world).  Anyway, I forced myself to cover a couple of days, and it will be picture heavy so shouldn’t take you long.

An interesting day began with a stop at the little village of Veere in Zeeland pretty much staring at England.  It is a quaint little village with all the usual buildings and so on

It had a pleasant little market with little shops

And being on the sea across from England, it had its share of military remnants (I’m always a sucker for “doorway” shots)

After leaving the town, we stopped in at the “waterworks” where they have machinery for operating the dikes that keep the land dry.

Note the umbrella, and the fog was so dense you couldn’t see the ocean even though we were standing on a dyke not far from it.  After a brief stop there we went to an interesting museum

In February of 1953, there was a perfect storm situation wherein the combination of wind, tide, and a raging storm that ultimately bridged and destroyed some of the dykes the ocean came pouring in.  There wasn’t much of a warning system, and people didn’t believe it anyway, with the result that many people perished and this museum was meant to tell the story and remember the victims.  It was constructed out of several WWII Caissons from D Day, with each commemorating one facet of the incident. 

If you have the interest and time, you might poke around their web site some.  Good stories.  After touring and going through the sobering museum, we returned to the ship and there was a little reception for the Cole Travel people with the crew

Speaking is the manager of the cruise Kornelia Pfeiffenberger, with the purser and tour guy “Barry” who led the daily adventures.  Of course there were appropriate libations

The next day began with a visit to the National Open Air Museum, which recalled our experience in Wales at St. Fagens.  I show you a picture of our guide, which proved to be accurate..

There were examples of buildings from different areas and cultures of the Netherlands

With of course examples of the famous structures

One of the period houses we looked in had an object which is very familiar to archaeologists from St. Mary’s City.

All of these sites are very close to the city of Arnheim.  Film buffs might remember that there was a film documenting Arnheim as the site of one of the fiercest battles of WWII and the liberation of the Netherlands.  The film was “A Bridge Too Far” and it documented a failed “Operation Market Garden”. There was a massive airborne effort dropping many paratroopers with a goal of breaking the German Lines, seizing several bridges to outflank German defenses and end the war by Christmas of 1944.  .  The story is told in the National Liberation Museum. 

It is a powerful exhibit, with many pictures of people fleeing the enemy with their belongings in a wheelbarrow, the clothes on their backs, and not much else.  The looks on their faces are depressing.  I suppose it is trite but we are so very lucky.  Imagine living your life and some soldiers from a foreign country come in, brandish weapons and tell you to leave.  Unimaginable.   It is no wonder there is such respect and thanks for our (and the Allies) troops that helped them put their life back in order.  We found the same thing on our trip to Normandy.  The Americans do the right thing..

After leaving the museum we visited a cemetery where the soldiers that participated in the liberation were laid to rest, in an all too familiar setting

Picked at random, a 22 year old Polish soldier who never saw anything past that year.

As General Sherman noted, decades before:  "War is Hell"

Tomorrow we’ll leave the Netherlands… I promise
Okay, hit Publish and go


Tomorrow is Beer Fest at Historic St. Mary’s City!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A tale of two cities..

Sorry Mr. Dickens.. another country

Bruges and Ghent

With the Alsvin secured in the town of Ghent, we took a morning drive over to the city of Bruges in the drizzle and rain.

Which of course sort of shut down the cafes we hiked past on the way to first stop,

The "Hourglass"

Our Lady's Church, which dominated the skyline

Inside was a lovely altar

Which houses a Michelangelo sculpture of the Madonna and child, dating from the 16th Century

There was lots to know about the statue, symbolism regarding of the size of the head of the child, on and on.  The piece is reported to have played a cameo in the movie “Monument Men”.

As we left the church we saw more empty cafes with their menu boards boldly displayed

We then followed a canal nearer to the center of town

featured a map of the city made from another of Belgium’s specialties, Belgian Lace

Beside the canal was a little open air bazaar for shopping (which attracted our tour leader)

We walked a little more peeking into one of the many chocolate shops

And eventually found ourselves on the town square (Grote Markt).

Touring being hard work, we had spent a lot of energy and felt the need to replenish liquids and hydrate ourselves, with maybe a little snack to up the energy level, so a couple of us took on the task

MFO eventually returned from a little shopping expedition and decided some sweets would be more appropriate

After that, it was back to the Alsvin for lunch.

Kind of tuckered out, but undaunted, we took the shuttle into the town of Ghent and walked around a bit, and went into the St. Nicholas Church

On the way back to the shuttle bus for the boat we saw a familiar name with an unfamiliar product

After dinner, were treated to some local musicians while we were still


earlier in the day, MFO inspects yet another menu..