Sunday, July 31, 2016

This and That, These and Those

Well, as July goes out like…. The devil? A furnace?  Temperatures and humidity are staying in the upper eighties and nineties, I am wondering where one could move so that wearing a sweater every day would be appropriate.   I know different people deal with the withering heat in different ways, some soldier through, some wear layered clothing, hydrate and all the other way of coping.  I am not built that way I guess, I tend to withdraw, and hunker.   Hey, it’s only a couple more months of this.

With the result that I don’t go out much and hence don’t have a whole lot of stuff to report, forcing me to resort to the old reliable “This and That” approach, mostly relating things I find interesting in publications and so forth..  So, in kind of random order.

Philly Phood:  Interesting how things come up, you mention them kind of off hand, and then you keep finding things out (Steak in a Sack is a good example).  As you know, lately we’ve had a little flirtation with cheese steaks, including a recco by a reader.  I don’t subscribe to the daily Washington Post, but a kind neighbor gives me the Food Section which normally appears in the Wednesday edition.  Always an interesting read, with Sietsema articles, sometimes interesting recipes and articles.  Well, before the recent spectacles we call “Political Conventions”, they devoted an issue to food in both venues (Cleveland and Philly).  Naturally, in the democratic side they advertised the City of Brotherly Love culinary scene as:

So, I thought well, here’s another source of cheesesteak reviews,  but,strangely enough, the article DOES NOT have one reference to Geno’s, Pat’s, or Joe’s.  Rather, they highlight other places like: The Dutch; Double Knot; Hungry Pigeon (yes, they DO have that on the menu, which might make me nervous in a big city like Philly, fearing a real “Local Sourcing”).  Anyway I’ll save it in my “city file”  (Hey Feeder any idea of where to eat in….?)

Tools and Gadgets:  well, as any wannabe home chef knows, you’re only as good as your gadgets, and we all tend to accumulate stuff that will help you cook, substituting gear for (in my case) real talent.  While others cook by instinct the engineer in me won’t let me “wing it”.  If a recipe calls for one thirty second of a teaspoon, I’ll move heaven and earth to do exactly that.  One issue that faces all cooks is “when is it done?” mostly when grilling, roasting, sautéing meats.  Some use the press to test method with the gage being your thumb, closer to the palm for rare, and progressing outward.  Well, mostly I have used that technique, but have gotten burned (ha ha) lately as I start to use more local beef and pork.  They tend to be firmer to begin with, and I have been routinely undercooking them.    Anyway, on advice from the FOJ’s I procured this device from Thermapen

Which replaced my old reliable “button” Taylor dial thermometer which I used for years.   The Thermapen works remarkably well, is almost instantaneous and is easy to use.   They routinely have “sales” on the web and are relatively cheap (<100 bucks="" font="" it..="" nbsp="" worth="">

Leaving Town:  I have recently heard “rumors” that a local (non-chain, unfortunately) restaurant(s) will be or have closed.  I will not name them here.  A couple/three years ago I did report in the blog that “I heard that so and so restaurant was closing”.  I was immediately taken to task by one of my restaurateur friends that I absolutely, under no circumstances should ever state that.    Because, I was advised, that it could become a self fulfilling prophecy.    “Gee honey, if so and so is closing, let’s not go there tonight” or, “if so and so is closing, they must have lousy food” and the death spiral begins.  Interesting theory.  So I’ll wait and watch.

Words:  lastly, as most readers are (painfully) aware, I have a rather extensive list of food and service related words and phrases that drive me nuts, and which will not use, and I wish could be expunged from food talk.  Things like the “Y” word, the server use of “guys” at the table, or the “Hi I’m..” recording,  the three letter acronym that contains two “L”s, and so on.   Well, reluctantly I am thinking seriously of adding the word “Amazing” to the dictionary.   How many times have you heard some dish or restaurant described as “Amazing”, usually pronounced “aMAAAaaaaaaaZING”;  a quick look at one definition:

Causing great surprise or wonder; 
Synonyms: astonishing, astounding, surprising stunning,
staggering, shocking, startling, stupefying, breathtaking.

Not everything you put in your mouth should be described stunning, shocking, or stupefying.
 Stodgy old me would prefer “delicious” , exceptional, different, or something like that.   I know some of my friends will think me silly, and they are welcome to be staggered by a dish, it's just me. 

Okay, enough for today


Anybody have tips on how to get frogs out of your pool?  Seem to be plagued by the little amphibians lately  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Here and Gone

Company:  “Glad to see them come, glad to see them go”; “house guests are like fish, after three days they get old”…. We’ve all heard them.  Well FOJTE and wife left last Friday, and believe me, none of those applied.  We had a wonderful time with them from start to finish.  Not getting maudlin here and I know many readers share the experience, but it leaves a big hole when they leave.  Makes the distance between Maryland and STL seem long.  Nothing beats being with family.

While here, we had a great time.  We participated in a special wine tasting, got a private tour of a local flower farm, and with clever planning on our part, we never ate “in” once, except on the final evening when FOJTE manned the grill and cooked up a wonderful stuffed pork loin for dinner.  And, poor thing, he had to struggle with Kingsford charcoal and a common Weber Grill when he is used to the Big Green Egg and genuine hardwood charcoal at home.  But with his culinary skills he pulled off a great dinner.

During their stay, we hit all the important local (independent) restaurants (In chronological order):  Elements; The Ruddy Duck Seafood House (St. George Island); The Dry Dock; and The Front Porch. All were very good, but of course (in this case) the food was only a supporting actor to the company, with the food just enhancing the experience.  Good times.  I suppose the tug of family (together with crumbling body parts) will ultimately drive us from the digs to St. Louis.

And while we’re on the subject of restaurants (we never stray far), there was an interesting article in an older (April! – with “new” eyes, I can see comfortably again!) issue of Bon Appétit, on (gasp) a restaurant chain.  It was penned by their deputy editor Andrew Knowlton who used to go by the moniker of “The Foodist”.  Anyway, it concerned the Hillstone Restaurant Group, which owns forty-eight restaurants under 15 names in 15 states.  In the introduction he does admit that “In my world, there’s no more pejorative word to describe a restaurant than chain”.  We’ve kind of kicked around what exactly constitutes a “chain” and won’t rehash it here.  This group kind of is in that gray area, between what most people think of as chains (Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse, and Quick service McDonald types) and one off independents (Elements, Dry Dock, etc.).   Anyway, he says that Hillstone properties are some of his favorite places to eat in the country.  They range from (2) Hillstone’s in NYC (Hillstone); (3) Houston’s in Atlanta; Rutherford Grill in Rutherford, California; (3) R&D Kitchen in other California locations: Santa Monica, Yountville, Newport Beach; to name a few.  He includes description of meals in some of those places.  What raises them above other venues is the quality of the food, and service touches like each server only has three tables (all venues have numbers of tables divisible by three);  each table is screwed to the floor (no rocking); and a Martini glass that was replaced with a cool one half way through.  Stuff like that.  I peeked at a few of the dinner menus of places above and while they are not identical, they do have many dishes in common. Apparently Spinach and Artichoke dip are common throughout.  Chicken Waldorf salad, Hawaiian Rib Eye steak are also favorites.  Every Hillstone “I had learned, is mind bogglingly consistent, because you know what every great chef strives for, more than a creation of a ground breaking dish or Michelin stars?  Consistency”. 

Anyway, there are photos of the food which of course looks great.  When travelling you might keep your eye out.  Interesting article. 

And while not exactly related (hopefully) a couple of observations on….. Doctor’s Offices!  As we advance  in age, and increase in frailty we tend to spend more time there.  Generally not a place you want to go to, more often than not you’re there because you have to be.  So, here’s situation one:  what do you do when you come across an acquaintance?  Not necessarily a good friend who probably knows your issues anyway, but say somebody you usually see at some social function all glammed up, and here you are sitting in an oncology, cardiac, or endoscopy waiting room and there they are…what do you say?   Hi!... a) what are you doing here?  Bad, bad; b) how are you?  well, you wouldn’t be in the damn doctor’s office if you were fine; c) nice to see you?  No, it’s not, you’re both are very awkward; d) think we’ll get rain?  Stupid, but safe.  Tough situation.  Better to avert eyes and hope no contact.

And that carries over to the staff.   After you spend your twenty to thirty minutes reading years old People Magazines with some inane TV show blaring the nurse finally comes to get you. This procedure varies also.   Some open the door and shout “MOODY”, some use both names (I always get “William” and people turn and stare).  Rarely, they use first names, which I think is nice, or at least better.   And once headed toward the inner sanctum what’s the first question they ask?  How are you?   See b) above.   And lastly when you’re in the exam room their last words are inevitably “Doctor will be right in”.  Next time you hear this, start your stop watch.  If “right in” turns out to be less than 15 minutes, I’ll buy you a drink.  Next time I see you outside of a medical facility.

Meanwhile, enjoy the “heat dome”.   And you may have to adjust how you


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Looking Back

The FOJTE’s arrive today, so this will be brief before the fun begins.  And not really much more than revisiting subjects covered earlier (year).

I probably used the same words before, but they bear repeating.  As you may know, Tom Sietsema (one of my Gurus) the quite famous food critic for the Washington Post publishes a weekly restaurant review in the Sunday Magazine.   Recently he gave the Silver Diner no stars, and Founding Farmers (a previous two or three) barely one.  Anyway, every once in a while he composes a column based on readers input and his on-line chat.  This week, he penned a column entitled: “When the Greeting is eating at the diner”.  And guess what?  He says:  “judging from reader feedback, the leading culprit is the use of “you guys” in mixed company”.  Now alert readers will remember that the Feeder regularly complains about this..  Tom quotes a reader:  “My mother-in-law used to cringe when addressed as “you guys”.  She politely, with some humor asks servers if they thought she was a male”.  He does admit that “Merriam Webster says that “guys” embraces members of a group regardless of sex.  But plenty of my readers let me know they don’t care for the phrase, or its ilk”.  

He gives another couple of samples (somebody got called: “sport”!). He concludes with the observation that people shouldn’t get too worked up about what specific words a waiter uses to address them, as long as the waiter is (not overly) friendly and attentive.  He recommends the most PC greeting of all may be, depending on the time of day, “Good Morning,  “Good afternoon” or “Good evening" ….full stop.  In my case I would append “may I get you a drink”. So it does my heart good to see the pros get bugged by the same crap I do.  I am not so dumb.  He didn’t mention the recorded “Hi, I’m  …. Taking care of you” speech however.

Another thing that does my heart good is when readers take the time to share their experience or thoughts on some place.  I really enjoy that, because one: it lets me know somebody actually reads this, and two: sometimes it is really neat.  My innocent little picture of the Steak in a Sack sign led to finding out it is almost an institution. One reader recalled her (now) husband’s formative years in DC, when he was a duckpin devotee in the mid-sixties, and would bowl almost every night, “and Friday and Saturday nights and his buddies would bowl at various bowling alleys throughout the region:  White Oak, Twin Brook, Glenmont, Suitland, Silver Hill, Marlow Heights.  Even Curly's in Waldorf that had 8 lanes upstairs.  That one was hard to get into, because it was small and popular.  They would start at 8 or 9 p.m. and would bowl till the bowling alley kicked them out at 2 a.m.,  and they would head out to Steak in a Sack.  They would have steak and cheese, stuffed into a bread pocket, with beer or sodas.  There were no tables, just one long counter.  They would stay till Steak in a Sack closed and wouldn't get home 'till 5 a.m. on bowling weekends.”  How cool is that?  Hey you county folk, ever heard of Curly’s?

And as you recall, that remark about steak and cheese in a bread pocket led to the UTube thing on Philly Cheese Steaks (Pats/Geno’s).  More feedback from readers:

A former colleague who moved back to STL recalls a conversation with somebody who currently lives in Philly:
”….one of the discussions centered around how he found the best cheese steak in the Philly area.  His conclusion based on input from everyone he knew in Philly came down to, or at least it appeared to him to be, everyone considered the best to be from whatever cheese steak stand was closest to their house.  They didn’t view it that way, but after running all over the area the correlation was clear to him.  Not very useful info, but he later backed it up by noting the propensity of Philly residents to remain for life in specific neighborhoods and not consider moving for ANY reason” Folks from STL are familiar with that life style!

Another from a lady (who covers more territory in a single day than many women I know) who lived in Philly for about 10 years, replied that her favorite was neither of the “famous” ones who live on tourists, but she likes   Jim’s Steaks on 4th and South Street, and Tony Luke’s at 2nd and Oregon.  She also echoed the fact that Pat’s chops the steak and Geno’s leaves it flat, “like a steak-um (yuck)”

Not exactly cheese steak weather, more like a salad, but what a neat discussion.  Thanks to the contributors!

Not sure what form cheese steak

DFD is…

Thursday, July 14, 2016

That and This...

Just a quick Thursday (14 July) update of this and that…

One of the "unknown buildings" at shady mile and Rte. 235 is the “relocated” Pearl Vision, which will be/was razed and moved over to the other side of three notch road just south of the Barrel of Crackers.  Don’t know what the second building (behind it).  At least it isn’t a quick service chain.

One of the things I should do more often is to check the agenda of the St. Mary's County Alcohol Beverage Board which meets monthly.  I am pretty sure the meetings are open to the public, so I should probably attend one.  Could be illuminating.  Stuff on the agenda for today’s (7/14) session:

Transfer of Kevin’s Corner Kafe license from the “old” location to the “new” one in the Willows.  Time will tell if this is a good move.  Bold move. 

Transfer of “old” Café Des Artistes liquor license to La Rive Breton and Mr. Brian Wilson.  Word was that this was the last delay in opening, and so I would look for the place to open very soon.

Leonardtown Cigars which is down in the Shopping Center at Compton Road and rte 5, applies for a liquor license.  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and have a drink.  Maybe Port or Cognac.

A new one:  Urban Bar-B-Que will apparently be opening in the new/old Winegardner “used car” building, next to the (currently) flagged Dunkin Donut’s close to 235/Hollywood Leonardtown Road.  They’re getting a liquor license.  When I first saw this, I thought “well, at least it isn’t a chain and might be local”.  Well guess what?  (Link)  it IS a chain.  which touts itself as; “Urban Bar-B-Que is Handcrafted, Authentic, Slow Smoked Bar-B-Que. Our dedication and Hard Work honor the different styles of Bar-B-Que found throughout the United States under one roof. We are the Real Deal” or at least the real deal in one of the 13 locations in the mid Atlantic currently listed (Leonardtown, MD: COMING SOON!)  Waldorfization moving to Leonardtown.   Sigh, what’s next.

And an addendum, thanks to an eagle eyed reader, who noted “Since 1982” on the “Steak in a Sack” sign.  Phone suffers from enhanced enlargement, but there it is (just below the "a SACK" part):

Hmmm, I thought.   A bit of sleuthing revealed that there used to be one on Branch Avenue/Route 5 north of the beltway in the Marlow Heights Shopping Center.  It WAS definatly local:  “One of Marlow Heights' long-time institutions, the Steak in a Sack, located in the Marlow Heights Shopping Center, caught fire on February 19, hours after the restaurant had closed for the day. The restaurant, open and owned since 1962 by the ###### family, sustained significant fire damage, as well as collateral damage from fire rescue efforts.”  So it appears that the place does have a history, and will be re-opening in Charlotte Hall.   A little bit of further checking looks like they have sort of a Cheese Steak product.  Be worth while checking them out.


And in the course of poking around about SIAS, as usual you find yourself miles away from your original intent, and I wound up in UTUBE and a little piece about cheese steaks, comparing the commonly thought of paragon of Philly Cheese Steaks, Pat’s and Geno’s.  (with my apologies to BEB who says neither are the best).  Maybe worth a look see for entertainment purposes.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Richard the Third..

To paraphrase Dick, this is the summer of (at least my) discontent.  Although the cataract surgery is over and I’ve completed my visits to the doc (for three months) with glowing results I still find I have some issues going back and forth between close and far vision which results in stability issues.  So, I have been limiting my close up work, such as writing a blog.   And, hopefully this will be the last time I will indulge in self pity.  So, a few brief food restaurant snippets..

Kevin’s Corner Kafe (sic) seems to be headed for the old “Willow’s” spot.  I wish him luck.  That place seems to be hard to maintain a business since Mr. Nucci closed it.  Traffic pattern is pitiful.

Leonardtown:  I STILL have no clue who is going into the corner spot on the other end of the block from the “old Café” who will morph into La Rive Breton soon.  Word there is that wending their way through the liquor control board has delayed opening, and maybe the 14th of this month.  We’ll see.  I have run into a couple of the servers from before, and they say they will have their jobs, or at least were promised.  Hope so.

Speaking of Leonardtown, MFO and I were over there on Saturday for haircuts, and since our appointment was relatively early (for us), we decided to have breakfast before returning home.  And, eschewing the golden arches near the hair cuttery, we ventured up in town to “Ye Olde Towne Café” up in town.  Options for a “real” breakfast are few over there.  Anyway, we went in and were seated at one of the tables.   There were several other folks there, a lot of families.  The Café features a buffet on weekends, but as is my wont, I avoid buffets if at all possible.  While they may offer a bigger variety, they sometimes offer things that have sat there a while, plus I have sort of an aversion to paying them money to let me get my own food.  So, we ordered off the menu, and I chose whatever they call their standard breakfast, two eggs, choice of bacon, sausage, and maybe ham, home or hash browns, and mercifully they asked if we wanted toast.  I always feel bad when it comes and I never eat it.  I selected two eggs over easy, bacon, and hash browns.  Although I heard another server deliver the speech “Hi I’m…” ours did not, she just stuck to business. 
            The buffet was doing good business with one table making at least three trips..  Our food came soon enough, and was what you might expect.  The bacon was less done that I would prefer, but I didn’t ask for “crispy” which I might have.  Hash browns were from a bag, some strands cooked more than others.  Eggs were okay except there was a black “thing” in the middle of one of my eggs.  I suspect it was from the griddle; at least it didn’t have legs.  I placed is prominently on the edge of the plate, just didn’t want to send it back.  At least the yolks were runny still.  MFO’s eggs same sans black speck, and her turkey (link) sausage was, according to her, quite spicy.
            While I would not yet make them a candidate for “just right” status, they might be headed there.  Décor and atmosphere, if you can call it that, has no character.

Still staying in a “Most Convenient Place” (LT), the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise has opened.  I would suspect that might hit the BTB coffee shop (old Brewing Grounds) a bit.  Still no place over there to sit and gab over coffee, at least conveniently. 

And almost lastly, on one of our trips up the road to Charlotte Hall for the eye doc, I spotted this place in the little strip mall just before Golden Beach road.

One wonders the concept.  Be interesting to see what it becomes.  At least the “now hiring” sign has replaced the most popular sign in the County:  “Coming Soon”.

And Little Caesar’s near us, sports the third most:  “Now Open”.  Eee hah.

Oh, another visit to Cow and Fish (I seem to have a strange fascination with the place), resulted in reinforcing “Good Food/Uneven Service” opinion.   That seems to be a common comment among my foodie friends.

Although I have some feelers out, i do not know what's going in next to the Cracker Barrel on the corner of 235 and Shady Mile Road.  Looks like something with a drive through capability.  Maybe they's put up the favorite County Sign soon and we'll know. 

Okay enough.