Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A fast one about Fish(y Fishy)

Well, there are so many Irish images I c/would like to share, but time is short and this has been sticking in my craw all day, so I’m going to go way out of chronological order and yak about today’s food experience.  It kind of posed a problem for the feeder.  We’ll get back to lovely Irish stuff when able..

When I was doing dining research for our trip, I knew we would be having lunch in Kinsale, widely regarded as a culinary destination.  One of the places that kept coming up was a venue called (I am not making this up) “Fishy Fishy” as a top purveyor of seafood.  When our coach pulled into KInsale, I immediately spied it

So after disembarking the bus I decided that hunting up the other candidates was too time consuming and we might as well head for FF, as it was pretty much at the top of the suggestions.

So in we went to be met by the affable owner Martin Shanahan, who kind of held court while seating people.  We were told we could wait in the bar for a moment and then we could be seated.  We did, and I had a chance to peruse the (lovely) bar

Especially the gin lineup which DID include my favorite Plymouth Gin among some familiar and unfamiliar bottles (where's Waldo?)

 It didn’t take too long and we were showed to a two top and given menus and a wine list..  It’s a pleasant room with nautical  stuff on the walls.   As a preface let me say that they were very busy, and there seemed to be only three harried servers to handle that main dining space which might hold 80 or so diners.   It took a bit but finally we were approached by a server and asked about a drink.  Yes, we would like a glass of the Sancerre, and  a Muscadet for myself.  And since we knew there were many tickets ahead of ours, we also ordered food, MFO an “open face crab sandwich” and I figured what the heck a “Grilled whole white sole on the bone”.  Fine.   Time passes, no wine. More time passes, no wine.  Finally a runner arrives at the table with two plates of food.  “who had the…”
MFO raised her hand for the crab sandwich which meant the Sole was for the Feeder.  Both dishes were nicely presented and looked very appetizing

And, they would have been even more appetizing if there were wine with them. I flagged down a server who seemed mystified that we had none, and said he would take care of it right away, which was maybe five minutes more. Wine should have preceded the entrée but not.  Unsat...

Both dishes were very good, and I acquitted myself nicely in boning the Sole, and didn’t choke on any missed bones. About three quarters through the meal, my Muscadet was finished, so I re-flagged a server indicating I would like another.  It turned out to be the same person I flagged the first time, and he said “this will be quicker. Sir”  Good.  Fish finished, a small piece of bread and still no wine.  Well, who wants a glass of wine with no food so another flagging saying “Forget the wine, just bring the check”.. sorry sir, of course.

Check arrives with MFO’s wine and entrée, my entrée and TWO glasses of wine.  And the young lady (our first server who blew the wine order) said, Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll remove it.  Well the credit card receipt arrived with all THREE glasses of wine included, and when I pointed that out, she said so sorry, I’ll get the cash and came back with cash for the difference, which eventually she did.

Okay, so the food was very good but the service was pitiful. Maybe I focus to much on the order of things, but damn it, wine should arrive pretty quickly after the order.  Lots of people, few servers,  what do you think?  On the way out I ran into affable Martin and in response to “How was everything” I replied that the food was good, but the wine service was pitiful  The response was not “I’m sorry sir I apologize” but rather a series of excuses (busy, rush, not enough feet, etc.),  I will probably go on TripAdvisor, but currently not sure what I’ll do.

One time, tourist heavy, yadda yadd, but two glasses of wine?  How hard can that be?

Whew,  long day, so a little venting feels good.  Currently in Cork, where we all dined in the hotel and were


Sunday, September 27, 2015

surfacing a bit

Well, finally found a stable connection here at the Malton Hotel in Killarney.  but the hour is late, the Redbreast (Irish Whiskey) was good, and i am alive.  will try to share some of the wonderful experiences so far.

Good "in hotel" meals, a couple of great restaurant meals including Aniar (Michelin one star in Galway).

Our oyster opener didn't place so well, 13th..  

more later

and we were almost 

DFD tongiht

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

eee hah!!

Well, here it is departure day.   We’re trading the Flutters for the Pope.  He’s arriving, we’re leaving.

I’ve made the weighty (and believe me, it is) to take the big boy laptop.  Much more photo editing capability.  Price to pay.

Anyway, we’re leaving on a flight tonight at 2230 from IAD to DUB.  As international flights go, it isn’t bad only 6 or seven hours.  Plus when you land you’re not in Heathrow, CDG, or some mammoth place like that.

Posting to the blog is always whimsical on foreign soil but I’ll try.

Guinness awaits.

And there was room to pack duds to DFD.  The tour included some nightly meals at our hotel of the day, but also have some reservations for just MFO and I at researched places.  At a bare minimum I’ll put some stuff out on facebook.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Here we go again...

Fill 'er up!

Well, there it is..  You sign up for these trips that are a year out, and take the “plenty of time” attitude and then… BAM!  Five days from now we board the great silver bird and fly to Ireland, and here’s my empty suitcase, waiting to be filled up.  That’s this afternoon’s project.  The bad thing is you can’t take too much stuff, and the good thing is that you can’t take too much stuff.

So the little hiatus of feeders lately is due to lists to accomplish, this to buy, that to find, pondering what the weather will direct you to take, that kind of thing.

But your relentless reporter has not been totally absorbed with the trip, so here’s a few little this’s and that’s…

On the Wing

I think I have mentioned that a new store opened here lately, Wild Birds Unlimited.  It is located just south of our San Souci center in the newer center that houses Kohl’s and Dicks.  It is (appropriately enough) situated over by Buffalo Wild Wings and Golden Chicken Grill!   A little avian conclave.

They had their “grand opening” last weekend, complete with a display of live birds, provided by “Raptor Eye” a rescue organization.  An owl and Swainson’s Hawk were much admired by the crowd.

Inside they have a nice array of birder “stuff”, from feeders to feed (after all, this IS a food blog) and all sorts of other stuff including note cards, DVD’s and so forth.

The owners are very nice and are eager to help you with any suggestions.  I’m glad they’re here, it's nice to have quality bird supplies without driving to Waldbart’s in Prince Freddie or Charlotte Hall. Go help them out.  You and the birds will appreciate it!


I think I have mentioned that one of the little trade journals that I occasionally get in the mail is called Restaurant Hospitality, and sort of focuses on the food service business from the “inside” point of view.  It’s the one that had the little article about the opening of a second edition of a popular place, and the writer found it to be much lower quality in both food and service.  And the worst part was that the management didn’t seem to care..  People came, so what’s the problem?  Operate cheaper + same people = more profit.    That was a couple of issues ago, and the latest edition had some letters to the editor expressing various opinions about “The Befuddling Business Plan”. Won’t go into them here, but one said it will catch up to them, and the old restaurant mantra of “Sales Hide Sins” won’t last.

Besides the good restaurant talk the ads are always interesting.  The things that are available from food service companies are amazing.   Don’t want to sit and reduce cream sauces?  Tired of making bases for them?  Land of Lakes rescues you

Don’t want to slave over those soups?   Never mind

Too much trouble to butcher, fabricate, and roast that poultry?  Thaw, heat n' serve! 

Now, before going further, let me state right here that I have been in quite a few kitchens of our local restaurants with real chefs at the helm, and have NEVER seen anything like those products around.   Independent restaurants like Elements, Ruddy Duck(s), Café Des Artistes, Dry Dock do it the right way.  It just appalls me that some places use stuff like that.

It was nice to see an old friend treated for what it is, maybe just a bit overstated

But it is what it is,  golden, cheesy, gooey, and is kind of a staple on the Flutter’s “Quick Fix” menu. Comforting...

Okay, I gotta go count out underwear and socks, and start filling that LL Bean hungry mouth..  I will take a few duds to


Monday, September 7, 2015

Ganz and Chopin and more

This weekend, St. Mary’s College is holding their annual “Piano Festival By the River” a four day “retreat for pianists to focus completely on the piano with other pianists and piano lovers”  There are a series of Master Classes, performances, recitals, and lessons for students of the piano.  Several of the members of the music faculty participate including Brian Ganz participate.

As part of the Festival, Mr. Ganz held one of his Piano Talks yesterday (Sunday) which I greatly enjoy so I went down to listen and learn.  The whole “talk”, which lasted over an hour and a half, focused exclusively on Chopin’s 3rd Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 58.  This was his last sonata, composed in 1844, and is considered by some to be one of Chopin's most difficult compositions, both technically and musically.  After hearing it and learning about it I could certainly agree with that.

Anyway, I joined the small audience (see rant below) to enjoy Brian talk about the composition, and as usual illustrating his remarks by going to the keyboard to demonstrate.  Also as usual, he lost this engineer shortly into the discussion, but it is fascinating to discover things in the music I would never hear without illustration.  Terms like “exposition”, “recapitulation”, “maestoso” flew around, mostly flying over my head. 

After an hour of discussion we took a short break and then Brian played the whole piece which lasted a good half hour.  If you ever get a chance to hear that selection, do it. It is an amazing piece and under the hand of Brian the word “astonishing” came to mind.  Not only for the music but the work it takes to play it.  And, it was all done from memory, no page turner needed.  Incredible talent right here in St. Mary’s County…

Which, leads me into my little RANT.  When Brian schedules a concert at a place like Strathmore, it will sell out almost immediately.   So yesterday, I arrived somewhat earlier than normal for the 1:00 talk, figuring that since it was Sunday, during the Piano Festival, and Labor Day weekend parking and seating would be tight.  So about twenty of, I arrived at the college, and to my surprise the “Trinity Church” parking lot was amost completely empty (normally jam packed).  I did notice some newer looking signs that warned of towing any non-parishioners, so went down to the “Farthings” lot by Historic St. Mary’s City.  Also quite devoid of autos.  So I parked, and seeing no other people on foot heading the auditorium in St. Mary’s Hall, I called MFO at home to verify that I had the correct date and time.  Yup got it right.  

Trudged on to the auditorium and entered (by now it was maybe ten of one) to find an almost completely empty hall.  There was a young man playing the piano on stage and there might have been ONE other person sitting.  I occupied my usual (Michael Picot memorial) seat in the last row on the right side of the place.  People did start to trickle in, and by the time Brain came out for the second time (We’ll give them a couple more minutes and then start) there might have been slightly over twenty.  

What the..... he...ck?  The place should have been full!  What’s the matter with people down here? J  he is a World class musician and has an audience of twenty, mostly the same bunch that shows up every time.. Awful.   Of course Brian is such a kind person I think he would have been just as enthusiastic if there were only one person there.  Too bad..

Too Late to be Early

I was going to relate a belated visit to the Early Bird (Just north of town), which was suggested by an alert reader as a candidate for the Just Right list.  I replied that I had written about it, but a search of the archives did not bring a blog about the Early Bird.  Somehow, although I captured some pictures, I never wrote the thing up.  I am told that the lunch counter (apparently was more popular for breakfast) has been closed.  A little hint, based on my visit last December, it is probably a good thing.  So we won’t sully a report about wonderful music with a report of sub par food. 

Quick Foodie Notes
Apparently McDonalds is about to launch a huge marketing campaign announcing that they will be serving breakfast all day.  The little story I read wondered if that would affect the price of eggs.

Also it appears that the golden arches will kindly (?) refuse the Burger King offer to provide a McWhopper on Peace Day.  Apparently BK will now pursue maybe Denny’s who seem more receptive, among others. 

Look out for Barrel Aged Gin… next big thing

Along with

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Car on a Roof!

Editor’s note (really me):  A funny thing happened on my way to publishing this.  I intended to post it yesterday morning (8/31), but decided to see if I could find out a little bit more about the subject.  So, on sort of a whim, I put out a little posting in Facebook (yes, Facebook) on the “You know you’re from St. Mary’s County if….” Page (which, by the way, is invaluable for anyone who is interested in the history of our county, there is neat stuff there), asking if anybody knew who “Bert” was (or is).   What I got was an astonishing amount of information about “Bert’s” and its history.  It could have replaced this whole posting. So I delayed until today to let the information come out.   Please see History Portion for a brief summary at the end of the food portion (my original intent).

The Food Portion
The Feeder was presented with a tough decision last week.  As alert readers know, he (note clever use of third person) is always on the lookout for “just right” places.  A kind of regional meeting of a civic group I belong to brought me to a venerable place in Mechanicsville (Maryland)

Opening (I find out) as a little sandwich and ice cream shop and has grown into its current guise as “Bert’s 50’s Diner” with the car on top, which appears to have parked up there after expansion at the end of the eighties.  Without an exhaustive search, I don’t know who Bert was. (I do now.. see preamble above and history below). It has somewhat of a cult following, a favorite of families, classic car clubs, motorcycle groups, and the like.  We’ve eaten there a couple of times translating between “up the road” and home.  That was before the concept of the “just right” moniker was born.  So, obviously a “50’s Diner” would certainly deserve consideration for that category.  It: a} has been in business for a long time; b) it has serves a segment of local people; c) the menu certainly reflects what is generally considered a “diner”; and d) the décor is in harmony with that

As an aside one of those comic book covers that adorns the back wall caught my eye

Anybody seen one of those monsters lately?

Most walls are covered with memorabilia and appropriate posters, pictures, and newspaper articles

Our little meeting group gathered in the “Elvis Room”

with ubiquitous flat screen

My only concern with the “just right” thing as far as the décor goes is that not being around in the ‘50’s (well I was, just not quite as food conscious) I don’t know how authentic this stuff is.  Since (current) Bert’s began life in the mid eighties, NOT the fifties, I wonder if they sort of did an instant historical evolution.   It wasn’t like they opened in the fifties and gradually matured adding stuff as they went, more like “poof!”,  now we’re a (perceived) fifties diner?  Not quite sure how to take that.

As to the food, I guess they get good marks.  The menu is what you would expect, a multi-page plastic laminated thing

With all the expected entries, sandwiches, subs, cheese steaks, salads, even a “blue plate special” section.  It being around dinner time (or is it diner time?) I went with my standard Reuben sandwich, one of my benchmarks for such places (neither Tuna nor Patty Melt appeared on their menu).   The menu description of the Reuben hit all the notes: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss,  (,,,) dressing on grilled rye.  I threw in a side of curly fries, appropriately listed at the bottom of the menu page. 

Without running (very far0 down bunny trails on Reuben Sandwiches, this version had Thousand Island Dressing, and plain rye bread. Although Thousand Island is pretty common, I rather think the “original” sandwich, if there is such a thing, started with Russian dressing, but I won’t quibble.  The other variation is the use of marble rye, which I personally don’t like, but it is not uncommon either.  I once had a nice debate about marbled vs. plain with a local restaurateur who knows everything about the county and most of its foodways.

Anyway, in just right fashion, all our orders (after a cautionary “your dinners will be out shortly”) finally arrived on a big tray shouldered by our server, with Elvis looking on.

The Reuben was in a basket, on checkered waxed paper (the black version, not red, which is still okay), nestled among the curly fries (not sure what the attraction is, but I like them better than the “standard” version.. more fun to eat with your fingers?)

The sandwich did include all the listed ingredients with several slices of corned beef

Should I gripe because it was obviously “lunch meat”?  I dunno, probably just right that way.  Tasted pretty good anyway, which is what matters most.  And, without comment other than the person enjoyed it, here is a shot of a friend's “Meat Loaf Dinner”. 

Which, he enjoyed despite the looks of the “gravy” which appeared as if it might have come from the vehicle on the roof..

So does Bert’s belong on a “just right” list?  Probably does, with a few reservations.  It is certainly a unique addition to our county’s food options.  Go visit, and see for yourself.  Also, I didn’t avail myself of any ice cream products, which most people speak very highly of.   Also your choice of the appropriate


The History Portion

First of all, if anybody happens across this who shared their knowledge and experiences with “Bert’s” on Facebook, thank you so much.  It always amazes me about the people who live here, and “grew up” with the county, they know an awful lot about it.  There were several "I used to work there!" kind of comments.  How neat..  I’m not going to try to do an exhaustive narrative of the evolution of Bert’s, although that would make an interesting article which I may pursue another time.  And apologies to those folks who shared their history if I get something a little skewed.

Bert’s apparently started out life as “Tasty Kwik” in the sixties, and into the seventies.. Tucker was a name associated with that time period.  Then, the Miller’s took it over through the seventies and into the eighties when the real Bert (Gagnon} began to morph it into the current diner form.   Bert is now “retired” and his namesake spot has a new owner.  Time moves on.  But, Bert is still around, and his daughter now is running the “Foxy Fish” restaurant, also in Mechanicsville.   That spot was once held by the legendary Copsey’s. 

It is gratifying to find a bona fide good use for Facebook, it reaches far and wide.  I am often critical of it for the doggies, kitties, kiddies, and pithy sayings (and I won’t get into selfies), but you can scroll past that and find some interesting stuff.  Like the history of Bert’s!!