Thursday, March 31, 2016

Come Gather ''Round People....

Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
(Robert Allan Zimmerman)

and...they are a-changin’… or phases and stages or any other song title or lyric that occurs to you.  We all know nothing is forever, including us, but especially so in the food service industry. Independent restaurants come and go, leaving the chains who are supported by national organizations to survive.  There’s been a lot of movement around lately so I thought I would kind of do a random informal survey.

San Souci plaza near us used to be home of a lot of restaurants, I think at one point there were 13 or 14 (and this might be as far back as when “chef’s” was operating).   With apologies (if necessary) a couple of the flag ships were Monterrey and Bollywood Masala.    Both offered pretty good food with an international flair the latter more so, I suppose as Tex Mex is pretty prevalent, Indian, not so much.  Anyway, here’s what Bollywood looks like today (or yesterday)

Which, next to the vacated Monterrey leaves pretty much that whole side dark

With only ghosts to remind us of the past.

Both places still exist in different locations with Monterrey changing name to “Plaza Azteca” in the old Damon’s sports bar location, and Bollywood filling the recently emptied Lenny’s.

Besides the restaurant, there is supposed to be a “Tap Room” associated with it, not sure where that is in the floor plan.  As we all know, Lenny’s was a piece of the history of Lexington Park, going back many years from when it was the “knotty pine” as I recall (perhaps erroneously).  A landmark stood out front for years and years

And, while local preservationists have made attempts at preserving this bit of history, the new owner says he will retain the sign, and while respecting its past, will use it for his purposes..  Could be, but here is what it looked like yesterday stripped of it's Neon and paint..

We’ll see.

And it’s not only the buildings that changing, so is the landscape.  There used to be nice wooded area on Route 4, just across from the “back end” of First Colony.  For years, there has been a “coming soon” sign there.   Well, soon is now

A huge Tyrannosaurus Rex like machine is busily gobbling the trees

Taking down in minutes what nature took decades to accomplish

And Lexington Park (really California) is not the only place undergoing changes.  A “most convenient place” (AKA Leonardtown) is not immune.  For instance, the cornerstone (pun partially attended) Café

Will be replaced by (English Translation) “The Gull” in the near future, which is reportedly to retain some French traits,although with more of a Mediterranean bent.  And I can’t be critical about losing the Café, Karleen and Loic were wonderful tenants for a long run, bringing us a great dining experience and lovely food (like Foie Gras), so they richly deserve their retirement, and Loic has hopefully found us a worthy successor.   And keeping with the “corner” theme, on the other end of the same block, the old Pet Store is being transformed into……..what???

We know that it will be the trendy “mixed use” plan, i.e. residences above and retail below pretty well known to be a restaurant.  Despite tapping my best sources, I still can’t tell you what kind of restaurant it will be.  Heard many iterations.  Have to wait and see.   Further up Washington street there is no doubt that a Dunkin’ Donuts is being built right next to the old Winegardner Used Car facility which is also being transformed into that “mixed use” model..  A quick grab shot from my (not distracted driving) car

You can still see the used car sign off to the right.
I guess I would say that those buildings are enough separated from the “quaint” part of town that their designation as “one of the best small towns in Maryland/USA(?)” will not be overly sullied.  And they are not without their piece of the pie or land being gobbled up by the “developers” with more forested land being cleared for more town houses/apartments, kind of near Ryken High School between Fenwick Street and Route Five.

It’s hard to watch what’s left of our rural character being slowly transformed from woodlands to parking lots, multiple family dwellings, strip malls, and so forth.  I realized the other day that I have been here 20 years(!!) and while that certainly doesn’t qualify me as a “County Boy” it has been long enough to see the changes, moving us I am afraid, closer to a “Waldorf South” look.  We do have a planning and zoning commission and a Department of Economic Development,  I hope they will pay attention to bringing something besides dollars to the region.

Okay, just to end on a brighter note, thanks to all those who took the time to congratulate MFO on her Woman of the Year award.  She doesn't Facebook or blog, but i have been passing them alongt.

Next time I post it will be about food.  Have something in the works, so you might be thinking of how you will


PS, my own supply of Soba has been secured… stay tuned (Different from the above teaser)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

More on Balti - more, and other stuff

Well, we were in Baltimore, and there is a lot of pride there, andin fact there is a ship named that!

She visited us last weekend as part of Historic St. Mary’s City celebration of Maryland day with her flags flyng

But, that’s not what we’re going to talk about today, we’ve kind of done “events” lately so lets veer back to food for a bit, with some this and that stuff.  We'll come back to Maryland Day eventually

Food Equipment
If you keep your eyes open around here, eventually you will see one of these trucks on the road

The Adams Burch Company is kind of the Sysco on the equipment sdie for the food service world.  They supply all the “stuff” needed to process, prepare, cook and serve the food that lands on your table.  And, as a matter of fact they can get you those tables or the chairs that are put up to them.  Also supply the things to keep your kitchen clean and health department worthy.  They don’t make the stuff, but are more or less a distributor.   You order, they go get and deliver to you.

Every year, like Sysco, they have a show every year for restaurateurs, chefs, owners to come and see what’s new or to replace or upgrade the things they have.   I was invited to attend with a local restaurant owner.  It was once again held at FedEx Field up in DC, occupying about half of the fourth or “club level”.  All the manufacturers they represent have booths set up

And, most of those booths come with a pushy, er, proactive rep..  “Hi, what kind of restaurant do you have?  need some (whatever)?”  After a while you sort of develop the same technique you use with homeless.   "no thanks!" and keep going..

It’s really fun to walk around and see all the stuff necessary to:
 store food

prepare it
and Cook it
An aside about above, real success story.  Remember your mother or grandmother used to have one of those Lodge cast iron skillets that weighed a ton, looked ugly, hard to clean, but produced a perfectly seared steak or crunchy fried chicken? well cast iron has become very trendy again

Then there’s all kinds of stuff to serve it on

and in

And it’s not limited to “little” stuff either, you can buy that Viking you need

A fascinating (to me) display of everything associated with the non-foodstuff side of things in a restaurant.  Everything from picks for Martini Olives, to forks, to sous vide machines, on and on.  And beside the reps from the various vendors there is an Adams Burch manager that serves venues within a given region that kind of follows you around and records your orders, helps to negotiate a price (if possible), a real treat.  They also have open bars situated around, and food is available in the form of a buffet if you want.  A nice way to spend a foodie day.

Ramblings in no particular order of a demented food person

Saveur article: “Sonoko Dreams of Soba; Transformed by the meditative art of Japanese Noodle making, a Soba master shares her buckwheat secrets”.  Know what Soba is?  Yup, buckwheat noodles.  Soba seems to be one of those foods which have almost a cult following.  Well, to be fair, there IS a cult about Soba noodles.  People will go to Japan to seek out Soba masters. Since I don’t much have that cuisine, I am not sure I have ever eaten them. I suppose I have.  I wish I could have a chance to have some of those that people travel to Japan for.  Occasionally there are stories in my various food mags I suppose I will look foolish, but isn’t a noodle a noodle?  Having read a bit about them in my recent issue of Saveur, I THINK the deal is that they support a wonderful broth.  Willing to learn.  

Oklahoma! where the (Vietnamese????) wind comes a’sweeeeepin’….. etc.
In the latest issue of the Smithsonian magazine, there is an article about the Vietnamese community in, of all places, Oklahoma City.  Talks about the genesis, but eventually the article gets around to food, and talks about getting Banh Mi sandwiches of which one of the favorites is a “Chalua”: ham, headcheese, pâté, pickled carrots, daikon, and jalapeño.   All this is put on a baguette from a bakery that turns out a thousand a day.  They point out that Viet Nam spent much of its recent history under French rule, hence the leaning toward that cuisine.  Fine and dandy.  But, that’s not what caught my eye.  Further on they talk about  “duck halut” which is described as “eggs with a partially developed embryo, making a crunchy treat”.   Okay, I’m going to change the subject.

“The” Cake
Lastly, in the same issue of Saveur mentioned above, there was an article on “Smith Island Cake”, the sort of legendary specialty cake made on Smith Island, a tiny island on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

With the prospect of sea level rise, it probably won’t be there in 25 years.   It’s kind of a gratuitous piece, using phases like “mysterious origins” for the cake in the title.  Centers around Mary Ada Marshall, who still makes the cakes for mail order and so on.   No “settlers” approach, she uses Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix, and a Kitchen Aid.  “Way back when my grandma was little, they had to pre-sift, pre-measure, pre-this, pre-that.  I like modernization”.    He does address the history a bit, and speculates its origins may go back to a Józef Dobos, introduced a confection in 1885 that had layers of sponge cake, insulated by cocoa buttercream, and sealed with a crown of caramel.  Its attraction was that it would increase its (non refrigerated) shelf life. 

Happy Easter all.. here’s our non water side front yard today.

And as you sit down to Easter dinner, I’m sure you will be


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Charm City Choo Choo's

Kind of playing catch up here… still basking in MFO’s honor of being named (SMC) Woman of the Year.  We may have to change her from MFO to WOY.  In which case I would be HOWOY (Husband Of…..).

Anyway, as you might recall (I barely do) I teased you with a picture of where’s Waldo/Feeder a bit ago.  It was part of a trip to Bal’mer (attempt at local dialect for “Charm City).  I may have mentioned that MFO attended a workshop for disaster planning in relation to historical documents and stuff.  She is preparing a disaster plan for St. Mary’s County Historical society where she “volunteers” as the unofficial county Archivist.

As the meeting was on Tuesday we drove up late in the afternoon Monday and stayed at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.   As I think I have mentioned before sometimes you can get a good rate the top of the line property instead of the Courtyard or Fairfield’s of the world.  And, due to our traveling around and always staying at Marriott properties (and cashing in some points) we are at the “Gold” level, which gets us access to the concierge lounge and generally a room on a higher floor (why that is considered a perc, I am not sure).  The hotel had hosted the Colonial Athletic Association basketball championship over the weekend  (UNCW winner). They still hadn't "de-decorated" the hotel, and there was basketball replicats here and there, along with pennants from all the participating schools.  Anyway, we had a room on an upper floor where we could see a corner of Camden Yards Ball Field.

We had acceptable room service for dinner watching basketball.   MFO/WOY’s workshop started at 0800, at the nearby B&O Railroad Museum, and instead of getting the fluttermobile out of the parking garage, she graciously taxied over, leaving me to soak in a bit.  After a while, I levered myself out of the sack, and went to the concierge lounge for breakfast.  It was on the top (?) floor and afforded a good view of the Inner Harbor over the convention center.

Also afforded a good view of the breakfast buffet

Which included bacon.  Real bacon.  And the rest of the food was pretty good.

Back to the room, I read USA today, kind of puttered around for a while, and then checked out and went over to the Railroad Museum to wait for her to be released for lunch.  It’s a very nice facility with inside and outside exhibits.  The inside part is in the building that replicates a roundhouse (Where Waldo was)

It was a lovely day so I spent some time outside, looking at the little “model” train go round and round (and round and round...)

Finally MFO emerged with a sheet supplied by the hosts of eateries in the area.  It included such hot spots as McDonalds and BK, but also some local options.  We found one fairly close by named (appropriately) the Camden Pub.  

Have you ever parked on the streets of Baltimore?  they have some sort of bizarre system that requires stuffing it with quarters or inserting a credit card.  We managed to scrape together enough quarters (15 minutes per) to cover that allotted hour and a half.lunch time and walked over to the Pub.  There was outdoor seating which was occupied, so I didn’t get an exterior shot out of consideration of the diners there.  

It had the earmarks of going on the “just right” list, as it looked like it had been there for years.  We opted for inside seating, and the interior didn’t do anything to dissuade this opinion.  It was packed with Oriole and Raven memorabilia of various sorts, strengthening the prospective “just right” designation. 

There were maybe four or five other tables occupied by some luncheon guests, but not really slammed.   We sat at one end of a community type table that was unoccupied.  The first storm cloud appeared on the horizon when after maybe five lonely moments the (only visible) server gave us the deadly “I’ll be right with you”, which she was, after maybe two more minutes when she delivered the menus.  They were leaning back toward the “just right” side of things being the plastic laminated page you would expect, filled with clever titles for the various sections

She appeared again, asking about drinks and I selected a beer from the list on the other side of the card, and was informed they were out of that particular selection.  I chose another and MFO asked for tea, and off she went.  And went.  And went.  And went. During the lull, MFO began furtively looking at the clock (we had about 45 more minutes of the allotted hour and a half lunch break).  Food began coming out for other tables mostly delivered with a “Sorry for the delay”.  Uh oh.   Finally she came to the table for our order, and MFO selected a crab wrap..  Oh, sorry, we’re out of crab (Baltimore Maryland, no crab?).  Back to the menu.   While she pondered, my turn: I’ll have (a long forgotten) sandwich, I think maybe a chicken something.   Oh dear, we just ran out of chicken.  Okay, then I’ll have a club sandwich (ham, beef, and turkey).   Fine.  Off to the kitchen.  Tick tock, tick tock, with MFO growing more fidgety.  Ah, here comes the server – “Cook says that the sliced turkey is gone, but she’ll put more beef and ham".  Fine.  Just go away.

Time goes by, and with about fifteen minutes left and a bare table MFO had had enough, went to the bar and said we had better have our order to go.  Profuse apologies, but no consideration, another few minutes passed before we were presented with bags of food.  We had spent well over an hour in the establishment without anything to eat.  Brisk walk to the car and a short drive back to the museum, I delivered her to the door and she was late for the resumption of the session.  I’m not sure what went wrong with Camden Pub, half the menu not available, tables of unattended guests, and only one server.  You might note in the interior shot of the bar, the server lady behind it appears blurred.  I should tell you that is a function of the camera, not indicative of her.  Off the just right list.   Camden Pub needed extra innings.

So after a miffed MFO went back to her workshop I was left alone for the rest of the afternoon.  An oddity about Charm City is that both the Walters and Baltimore Art Museum as well as the Maryland Historical Society don’t choose to be open to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays (which this was)

.  I have been to the Aquarium a couple of times, plus I always find it kind of a logistic hassle, pre bought tickets, or stand in lines, so I just resigned myself to stay at the B&O for the three or so hours remaining.

After looking at the exhibits (mostly train cars of various vintages) in the roundhouse, I just went and settled on a park bench out of the warming sun.  A couple of minutes later they announced a “tour” would begin in ten minutes in one of the out buildings.   So I joined a couple of other patrons, and our guide, Walter, began the tour.  As with a lot of museums in the time of limited budgets their docents tend to be retired volunteers.  Like me at Historic St. Mary’s City.  Plus they/we tend to be very interested in their subject.  Well, Walter was passionate about trains.   I will freely admit that I am not absorbed by them, they’re okay, but I’m not consumed by them.  Walter was.  I don’t begrudge that, I am glad they have such a dedicated volunteer.   We spent the next hour and a half hearing about train Number so and so, it’s history, the engineering development of its fire box, other innovations and so on.

As an engineer, I did appreciate the amount of intricate tubing, valves, huge forgings, and so on that went into those massive steam engines

They certainly are a piece of Americana, and if you like trains the B&O Museum is definitely worth the trip.  Eventually MFO appeared and we headed home.  Once home, we got our “carry out” from the Camden Pub and had dinner.  I had my “no turkey, (but extra ham and beef)” club.  

MFO got a lot of good information from her workshop, and I learned a whole lot about railroads and trains.  At that point we did not get


Friday, March 18, 2016

Other (non - gala) Things

How’s that bracket looking?  I hope Boilermaker fans are hiding someplace or looking for another coach..

anyway, back to reality..

Toot of the Horn..
Anyway let’s start out with a very nice note about MFO.  A couple of weeks ago, she received a letter from the County, informing her that she had been nominated (by the SMC Historical Society) for “Women of the Year”, an annual award bestowed through the St. Mary’s County Commission for Women to recognize women’s achievements during Women’s History Month.  The awards banquet was this past Wednesday, and we were to attend.  Typical of MFO, she did not expect to win. All of the seven nominees were exceptional, including two from Historic St. Mary’s City including Ms. Becky McDonald a real county treasure.

Since we’re kind of (vicariously) wallowing in self aggrandizement, I include a small paragraph that was part of the application.  As you go about your daily grind, you kind of forget the paths taken.  Quite the trail for her:

“Ms. Moody has been both a paid employee and a volunteer at the following county organizations: St. Mary’s County Historical Society, Historic St. Mary’s City, Friends of the Library; St. Mary’s County Historic Preservation Commission, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s History Book committee member, Friends of Newtown Neck (FNN) group member, county War of 1812 commemoration committee (War of 1812) member, and she assists county residents in the preservation of family and other records – whether or not the records are donated to the Society”.

Amazing what she has accomplished.  Most of the time she spends her time in cramped quarters (and in the case of HSMC) many friends with six or no legs.  And, although it mentions “paid employee” the hours spent as a volunteer far, far, far, outweigh the paid portion.  She does it because she is passionate about our County’s history and wants it preserved for future generations.    Archival storage materials are not cheap, and she supplies most of them because it is the right thing to do.

Anyway, after reading the accomplishments of all the nominees, when the announcement of the winner was made, it was none other than MFO!  What an honor.  She does all of this stuff, mostly unknown to a vast majority of county residents, and never seeks a thank you.  So, it was gratifying to see her accomplishments recognized.

Since then, however, I have been often referred to as the servant of “Woman of the Year”.

That’s okay, she is, and in my mind every year!

Mary – land Day
Tomorrow is the celebration of Maryland Day to commemorate the founding of Maryland in 1834 through a charger to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore.  It is always a fun time, but tomorrow will be kind of special. I think you have heard me speak of the “Lead Coffins” that were discovered under the floor of the Chapel of 1667.  They were a significant find as lead coffins were rarely (never?) found in eastern North America.   They have been featured in a two year exhibit in the Smithsonian, and more recently the Maryland Historical Society.  Well, they finally have “come home” to their original location under the Chapel floor. a fine exhibit has been made to allow people to see them where they rested for hundreds of years.

There will be a “ceremonial” opening of the chapel shortly after the conclusion of the Speechifyin’  portion of the program in the tent, which this year is near the Chapel itself.

They will be on display for anyone who attends the Maryland Day program, and in addition to the coffins, there will be the “Orb” that will sit atop the (replica of) “Carroll Tabernacle” that sat on the alter during the Chapel’s active period from 1667 through the early seventeen hundreds.  There are also two special documents on load from the Maryland Historical Society, a diary of Father Andrew White’s account of the journey from England on the Ark and Dove, plus a letter by Leonard Calvert in which some details of the original colonists fort upon their arrival.  Archeologists have yet to locate it’s remains, but they keep looking!

Anyway, it will be a special day, free to all of course.  And right now, typical Maryland Day is expected (chance of rain, highs in forties).  Stuff begins at one in the tent shown above.  I’s be there! 

And given the time of the year, I can’t not mention the NCAA basketball tournament, the premier amateur athletic event in the Nation.  My Spartans are predicted to have a nice run (no jinxing predictions here), and day one produced the expected unexpected “upsets”.   Purdue put on a classic collapse in the last five minutes of their game blowing a 13 point (or so lead, to succumb to Little Rock from Arkansas.  Always something.  MSU, Maryland, Michigan, and Maryland all play today.

We’ll be staying in this evening, so no need to 



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A long week, with a good ending..

Well it might be appropriate (somehow) that today is the Ides of march.  The feeder’s world has kind of been disrupted lately.  It’s been over a week since I have put pen to paper, or more realistically finger to keyboard.  A lot has transpired betwixt then and now, not the least of which was a nasty cold/flu/virus thing that knocked me out for most of the time.  Nonstop coughing feeling like, well…..  Anyway it pretty much took over.  A week ago we went up to Baltimore (Ball’mer) so MFO could attend a workshop on preservation of archive stuff in the face of a disaster (sea level rise, zombie apocalypse, etc.).  She is developing the disaster plan for the St. Mary’s County Historical society.  Probably that journey warrants a blog of its own, which we will get to eventually.   Quiz: where is Waldo (The Feeder)?

Writer’s note:   what follows is kind of long, but I wanted to make sure you realize what goes into a/the Gala, where you sit down, have wonderful food, and enjoy yourself.  Behind the curtain:

Fortunately I rallied enough that we were able to attend the Ryken High School Gala this past weekend.   It turned out really well.  The “theme” was “The Chef’s Table” which was meant to allow guests to see an “open kitchen” and get a peek on how something like this gala works. Delivering food to your table as we have said, takes a lot of hard work by a lot of people.   You don’t just show up and get food ready for 400 people.  So, the day before, tables must be set, 

(salad) plates laid out

And in the back of the house (aka Kitchen) the culinary team gets to work,

Prepping the food  

Making soups and sauces

not your light duty Immersion Blender!

Straining the result

Check on the (peekeytoe) crab in the walk in

Et cetera!  All of which makes for a long day.  Has to be ready for the next day.

So the day of the event might start with a “staff meeting”

And then the work begins as (400) guests start to arrive
I could go on for pages and you would be asleep, but let’s look at a couple of things, first the



Same for the Peekeytoe crab cake with Fava Beans
plate by plate

The first two courses could be prepared that way, but for the main course of Red Wine Braised Short Rib, you can’t much do that except kind of a la carte.  For that, you kind of need an assembly line approach. 

Assemble all the ingredients (short ribs, potato gratin, asparagus)

Then, plate by (all 400) plates

Plate it, hand it to staff and out they go.

who serves it to you moments later...

It was quite an evening, I hope those that attended were able to watch the precision that brought everything to you.  I of course enjoy that.  I was very appreciative of the Ryken folks to allow me to poke around.

Again thanks to our Chefs Michael Kelley (Canard’s Catering) and Mike Price from NYC (Market Table and The Clam, and the whole Canard's staff for their time, hard work, and exceptional skills.

And oh boy were we