Monday, October 31, 2016

On the Bank of the Breton, early look

Every time a “new” place opens, the Feeder is bombarded (well, maybe three or four) with questions about “have you been to the new place yet?” along with some notes on early experiences.  The restaurant buzz around Leonardtown for the past several months has revolved around the replacement for the venerable Café Des Artistes, the bastion of French Cuisine presided over by the indefatigable and affable Loic Jaffres (and his charming wife Karleen).   When rumors became fact and plans, talk of course returned to “who/what/when” would be replacing it.    Not an easy task to be sure with the heritage of the Café lurking in the background. 

Eventually it seemed a “guy from DC” would be coming down here, and taking over the space.  True enough, Brian and Steve Wilson who have culinary experience at Montmartre in DC, were to be the new owners/operators (maybe that should be lessees, not owners) and early summer predicted an opening in August.   Not surprisingly various delays have finally resulted in the opening of La Rive Breton (the bank of Breton).   As is usual in these things they did a “soft” opening with limited menu choices and so forth.

So although the Feeder usually prefers to wait a while until they have a few weeks or months under their belt to get their game down, there was such anticipation for their debut that MFO and I acquiesced to an invite from a friend to give it a shot this last Friday (10/28).  Didn’t try to book not knowing whether they accepted reservations yet, we showed up at an uncharacteristically early hour of about half five. 

So, when you go to a “new” place early in their evolution, you can’t exactly rate them against standards one might for an established restaurant.   Of course the Wilsons are not doing their first rodeo (“I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant”) so they should know the ropes pretty well.  However rather than a full Bottom Feeder review, I thought I would kind of look to see if possibilities looked promising, and encouraging signs were there. 

I am pleased to report that I am very enthusiastic about their future.  Moving into “Loic’s Place” is fraught with inviting comparisons “well, Loic used to….”, and I think the Wilson team have done a wonderful job of injecting their own identity into the venue.

Clean lines, no tablecloths on warm wooden tables, at present bare walls, all kind project a feeling of casual warmth.  
note the absence of the image of John Hanson Briscoe and Ted Koppel, but I hear it is safe hands

The pass has been moved “around the corner” and not directly into the bar space.  We recognized a few faces from the “old” waitstaff and were very pleased that a server that we very much like was able to be our server.   Since she knew us, no silly “welcome to ….” And “I’ll be taking care of you” speeches, just our favorite opening “what can I get you to drink”..  Not sure if the restaurant requires the welcoming speeches for others, but I for one much prefer the latter. 

And I am further glad to report that whoever manages the bar has fleshed out the gin selection from the “big three” (Bombay, Tanqueray, and Beefeater) to include Green Hat, Citadelle, and a new one to me “Bluecoat” one word, no play on Green Hat.  I very much enjoyed the bluecoat up martini.  Although as time goes on I would encourage the barkeep to stir it rather than shake it so there aren’t entrained bubbles.  The wine/cocktail list includes several interesting labels and “craft” drinks, as well as a nice selection of Beers AND Cidre’s (which a certain videographer friend would appreciate).

The menu at present is a single sheet with sections for first, main, and sides.

An encouraging note for me was the prominence of cheese on the menu, with some intriguing offerings. 

We decided to share the cheese plate and chose the bleu, the Pont-l'Évêque, and the goat cheese.  Very nice, the cheese was fresh and was accompanied by the traditional stuff.  

The main menu

has varied choices covering the waterfront (ha ha), with some creative touches.  For instance they serve the teres major steak, a cut not commonly showing up on confit is always welcome.  The choices of sides, while common here, are separate cost items..  we don’t see that much.

Anyway, MFO made a meal from the (cheese plate), and the crispy mushroom strudel from the first course section with a side of the baked white beans.  Our friend did the same, the roasted beet carpaccio from “first” with a side of the roasted mushrooms, and I decided to try the Atlantic scallops.  Nice to have that kind of flexibility, first and a side can make a complete meal.

The dishes arrived with MFO’s “crispy mushroom strudel” nicely presented:

The beet carpaccio (with ricotta, watercress, toasted pistacios and blood orange vinaigrette):

And my scallops

Another creative touch, the gnocchi weren’t the usual glob of dough, but rather “parisienne” meaning they are made from pate a choux--the same dough used for profiteroles, cream puffs and éclairs which is much lighter and were very tasty.  The addition of the hazelnuts provided a nice textural contrast to the creamy scallops which were done very nicely.

Although I didn’t have a “side” I did taste the white beans and seared mushrooms.  The beans were quite good, and the Madeira seared mushrooms were also worth it.  As I said, separate “sides” are not the norm down here, but from our experience they are absolutely worth it.  It is easy to make a satisfying meal from a first and a side, although I greatly enjoyed my main.

We finished the meal with a three spoon dish of Crème brûlée, also nicely done 

All in all, we had a very encouraging experience for a “first time” visit.  We will return soon, I’m so happy that what Loic started seems to be in very good hands.  Don’t stay away, they’re pretty much on their game right now.  And oh yes, despite the early hour we indeed were


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lunch, anyone?

Well, we investigated a waterfront just right, and I alluded to another lunch report from another venue, which may or may not belong to the JR list.  I have a good friend with an educated palate, who gets around a lot.  She was in NYC recently with her husband and had lunch at a Michelin (two) starred restaurant called “ the Modern” which received that second star.

I think I’ve said before that “just right” places don’t have to be informal bars, waterfronts, dives, etc., but the same criteria for JR applies to a Michelin starred place as well.  Does it live up to expectations?  Does the food, service and décor fit with a restaurant rated among the best in the world.  So what would we expect from a two star?   I’m sure I could go find out the official Michelin criteria, but off the top of my head, it would be something like exquisite food, beautiful presentation, impeccable service, and NO flaws.

From their website, Modern describes itself as:

The Modern, overlooking MoMA's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, features Chef Abram Bissell's refined, contemporary cooking in a beautifully bright and airy setting. The ever-evolving, seasonal menu is complemented by desserts from Pastry Chef Jiho Kim and an award-winning wine program led by Michaël Engelmann, Master Sommelier. The Modern holds two Michelin stars, a Three Star review in the New York Times, and four James Beard Awards. The Modern welcomes reservations up to 28 days in advance.

My friend sent five pictures, so before I give comments, let’s just go through the meal with her remarks.    Not sure of the order but assume that the Amuse Bouche came first:

“A tomato tart with indescribably “Stuff” sprinkled on top.  The crust was very tough”

Maybe next was a “cauliflower soup”

“teeny tiny”

Then perhaps the “chopped carrots”

“This was a really good dish consisting of carrots & cheese & other things on rye toast”.

Then a couple of seafood based dishes:

“3 pitiful scallops with 2 sliced carrots & some ravioli with 2 little white onion skins. The sauce was lobster bisque.”

And finally

“Two fried lobster things, each thing was two bites”

Beside the carrots, she didn’t include any remarks about the quality of the food, just that:
"Portions were tiny, prices were huge, and there is no tipping as the tip has been included now in the price of the food.  one iced tea ($7), three appetizers & one entree, no alcohol & no dessert and the bill was just under $100"

She divulged the (pitiful) scallops were $33 for instance.

Feeder Remarks.

It is always hazardous to judge food from a picture, it is darn hard to make something look appetizing without that third dimension or having the benefit of taste.  My knee jerk reactions:

Tomato Tart:  crust does in fact look not delicate, and what IS that stuff?
Cauliflower Soup:  IMHO it should have not left the kitchen with those two dabs of stuff on the left.
Chopped carrots:  again the picture may not do it justice, but looks kind of “gloppy” and scary to me, but apparently was very tasty
Scallops:  look okay
Lobster (things):  would be interesting to see the interior, they do indeed look like “things”.  And personal opinion, I would not like the long stems on the parsley to remain.  What’s the first thing you would do?  Remove them.  And another personal opinion, I don’t like bits on the edge of my plate..

So what does one think?  Obviously they were not rapturous about their experience ("never again").  Thirty three bucks for three scallops does seem extravagant.  Granted, the tip has been included, so maybe knock it down by (?)25% and you still have about eight bucks a scallop.  Which begs the question do they get these prices because they can?  Or does in fact the roll up of ingredients, prep (sauces, etc.,) overhead, and the labor of putting it on the plate generate those prices?  Certainly one expects to pay a premium for a two star dining experience, but I really don’t know where the line is.. interesting thoughts.

More wandering

Another loyal reader is in Spain, and has sent in a couple of pictures.   When thinking of Spanish cuisine, what leaps to mind? 

Of course: Tapas and Paella

And then there’s always vino which looks like a tasting experience

Spain and its food holds a dear place in my culinary heart, hearkening back to my two month stay when I was helping the Spanish Air Force with flutter testing…  ahhhhh…..memories, memories, paradors'''

More stars:
Apparently Inn at Little Washington has garnered another star, elevating it to two stars as well..  A visit is twirling around in our heads for the 75th  birthday(s) celebration.. Heart catheterization doesn’t seem appropriate.. stay tuned.

At last
LaRive Breton has finally opened (four months overdue!) in Leonardtown..  another visit is being planned (although a Feeder evaluation should wait for a time to get the training wheels off).  Early reports are positive.  Interesting menu if you want to go to their website and look..


ps thanks to readers who ramble for sharing..

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A tale of two, er, one lunch...

Believe it or not, I actually give these things a lot of thought before I sit down and touch fingers to key board.  I kind of turn things over and get the concept in mind, and then have at it.   

Recently, a friend sent me some pictures from a lunch she and her husband had at a Michelin two star (the Modern) in NYC.   And even more recently the “just right” team hit another local place for lunch.   So, I had crafted in my mind a blog about “a tale of two lunches” since “just right” and “two stars” are kind at opposite ends of the spectrum;  it would be devilishly clever.   But, after selecting some images, and writer: know thyself, I would expect it would get ponderous and beyond your patience.   Besides, I wanted to give a report on my recent medical adventures (thank you all for the positive force thoughts).  Hence this will be “a tale of one lunch”, plus a bonus medical note…  Let’s see…  food or medical first..?   maybe food since the preponderance of the readership is on the foodie side, and they can exit before the general hospital tales…

Most folks know that the “just right” team meets occasionally at places that may be eligible for the “just right” list.   After some consideration, I think we got one.  Meets most of the criteria.   Old timers around here might remember that there were a couple of places on the Solomons near Spring Cove Marina.  There was the “Naughty Gull” and a less trendy place called the “Captain’s Table” a waterside restaurant.   I had not been there for years, and now the place is called “Angler’s

And although it has changed names, it does qualify for the first criteria of a JR place, it's been there a long time.

This time the complete JR team was assembled, usually it’s just the male half bur for this occasion the distaff side joined us so we were a party of six, and given the lovely weather (10/21) we opted for the al fresco experience on the covered porch.

So with the check in the Longevity box, conversation and the informal evaluation began…Surrounded by boats?  Check

Little condiment caddy on table?  Check.  Bud Light? Check.

Only caveat would be that there was no Malt Vinegar, which is a common addition.

Multi page laminated plastic menu?  You bet

We might pause a moment here  to consider said menu… it had the regular entries for appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, the always difficult list of "sides".  A bit unusual, they also offer breakfast.  In looking over the menu, I did notice a couple of things that kind of gave me a chuckle, like the Po’ Boy that featured something called “single fried oysters”

Not exactly sure what that means.  Sometimes Fries are double fried, but was unaware that there might be something like that for the bivalves.

Requisite burgers got their own section, typical stuff, but didnotice they gave a nod to the mania of putting a fried egg on everything and gave that as a two dollar option

And across from the burgers,  I’ve never seen a "Fried Basket",  would think it might be kind of crunchy.   “grouper fingers”? .  Unusual, but okay..

while everybody joins in the "just right" evaluation, the occasion is largely social   We ordered drinks and some appetizers, so we could have more time to chat.  We opted for the spiced shrimp, Rockfish (NOT grouper) bites, and cheese fries..  typical stuff at these places.
And as for drinks we had

Angry Orchard disguised as Miller Lite, and Yuengling disguised as Sam Adams, Lemonade, and although I didn’t see the wine list, the server offered a Chardonnay choice of Sandals, or the more "upscale" Beaulieu Coastal Vineyards..  took that.  The appetizers arrived and didn't last long. 

Meanwhile uninterested  local residents were perched on their own personal piling, ignoring us (thank goodness, no begging)

We sort of confounded our poor server, who was somewhat taken aback that we didn’t want food immediately (with a well meaning over and over: are you ready to order?)  but finally after finishing the appetizers, we did order.  Oddly enough I steered away from seafood, and also my benchmark hot ham and cheese, although I didn’t stray far away, ordering their version of a club sandwich, with a side of fries.

It would qualify as just right food, meaning it was just as expected, not necessarily wonderful, but good.  The “non seafood” member of the team got the hamburger, WITH the optional ($2) fried egg, and put it on display for the camera

Although the yolk kind of escaped it was a good enough burger.   MFO got the cold plate, and there was a basket of oysters…(served in a basket that was not fried)..

All in all it was a fun and delightful day, we had great conversation, catching up as we don’t often gather as a whole bunch…  I would put Anglers on the Just Right list (I’m sure they’re thrilled), all the elements were there, the food was exactly what you would expect, service was friendly, and you can’t beat eating next to the gulls..Courntey's still sits atop the (waterfront) list, but this qualifies to be include.  Will return for an evening meal sometime...

Plus you don’t worry too much about having to be


Quick Medical Note:  I survived the heart catheter procedure and no blockage was found.  Given the length to date I’ll spare you the experience which stretched over 6 hours, mostly in a hospital bed biding my time for the maybe 30 minutes of action.  Thanks to one and all who sent good karma my way

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

That Third thing

When we talked last time, I mentioned that there were three things that old folks talked about..  weather, food, and health... well, we did the first two but not the last..dealing with the Oyster Festival Cookoff prep and execution kind of soaked up my time..  and this won't be long either..

Health:  just for informational purposes, not brazenly seeking sympathy (although that won't be rejected!).  The feeder has thought he was sometimes short of breath lately and admits to a sedentary life, so went to see my friendly local cardiologist.  fast forward to the fact we're leaving this afternoon to go "up the road" for a "heart cath" tomorrow at Washington Hospital Center.  Apparently they stick a little thing in one of the arteries in your arm and shove it up to your heart and look around for blockage.  The stress test (and it was) led the doc to conclude I might have mild blockage, but best to check it out.  Not emergency by any means and was willing to wait until after the Oyster Festival.  

Procedure sounds horrible, i am NOT looking forward to it, but amazingly it is done on a out patient basis.  So nominally we'll be back home tomorrow night. 

Just thought i'd let the readership know.  will report later...  Guess i won't have to worry about


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Old Talk...

Well, as they say the older you get, the more you talk about the weather, your health, and (in my case) food.   Actually I have something to say about each category, but we’ll take them out of order.

It was with much relief that the track of Matthew took a hard right turn and now seems to want to set up shop across from Florida.  And while it’s good news for us, the eastern coast of FL looks like it’s going to take a Katrina-like hit.  We have some very good friends who have digs in Melbourne, which right now has the center of the “cone” in its sights.  From Facebook postings it looks like “riding it out” is the plan despite urging to (in meteorological terms)  “get the hell out of there…”.  We have experienced a far watered down version of these storms with Isabel, Irene, and so forth which grazed us as mere Tropical Storms or depressions.   Before the thing arrives everybody is in sort of a party mode, but when it’s dark, with no power and the wind howls, it isn’t so funny anymore.  Our thoughts and prayers go out for them. 

Food (probably the longest section as it should be):


I noticed the latest resident in San Souci is “Bay Dawgz”

As you can (maybe) see, a “Gourmet Hot Dog Restaurant” which is sort of an oxymoron.  It is located in the spot previously occupied by the Jamaican Jerk place, next to China Café II.  I did a drive by the other day to get the takeout menu

Not quite sure what the fascination is with all the letter “Z’s” I guess an extension of the Dawg in the title.     As you might be able to see and expect, the menu is understandably dominated by hot dogs in various guises.  Mostly they are distinguished by the topping(z) which are numerous.    I’m sure my Maryland Grad friend is pleased that there is such a thing as Old Bay Sausage Dawg on the menu.   So far I didn’t see any Pumpkin Dawgz.  (keep reading)

When I ducked in to grab the above menu I was greeted by an affable young man with a young lady in the “kitchen”.  He was mildly disappointed that I didn’t want a product on this visit.  There are lots of blackboards around with colorful chalk lettering.   I thought I saw some racks with at least rolls on them, and I THINK they were top sliced.    

Anyway, I wish them luck, opening a restaurant is always risky, but they are young, eager, and I hope they’ll overcome the obstacle of (IMHO) a not so good location.  At least they have a niche product, which I suppose can be both good and bad.  They are open eleven until nine Monday through Saturday.  but Dawgz for Dinner?  Tough.  But any independent restaurant deserves our support. 

Le Dejeuner:
Speaking of dinner, let’s talk about Lunch.  I think if you’re interested in getting into the food service business, by all means (if you’re on this side of the County – near the base) it would be wise to gear your business plan around lunch.   Case in point:  I was out and about today around the lunch hour, and I thought since there is nothing in the Fridge for lunch so thought I would “stop and pick up a sandwich for later”.   Oyster festival prep took me to the old Blue Wind Gourmet, (which is also the new BWG), but after completing festival business, the mob around the counter was deep, so I got a Peet’s Latte and left.   Next stop: Coffee Quarter in San Souci.  At least 12 people waiting to order.  Next stop:  Bay Dawgz; pleased to see that I probably couldn’t get in the door.   Next stop:  Day’s off Deli; no parking places available.  Tail between legs (sorry indies) Subway for a tuna salad sandwich.   Walk in, work down the line, pay, out the door.  Maybe overall, it was a good thing that they weren’t so busy. 

Openings of another sort..

Sunday, MFO looked out the window and exclaimed:  “hey, there’s a work boat..”   Sure enough our winter companions were out in force, mostly fitted with “Patent Tongs”.  A quick check on a website confirmed that October 1st marks not only the opening of the Supreme Court, but also the beginning of commercial Oyster harvesting season.   I’m not sure how I feel about this.  With the bay struggling to return the population of “natural” oysters, unleashing boats by the dozen to harvest the wild caught bivalves makes that difficult.  Thank goodness there are more and more aquaculture farmers raising them under controlled conditions.

Flavor of the Season…(a bit of a rant will develop)

Ahhh, the air cools and crisps, leaves begin to show color, Ospreys have pretty much packed their bags, we enjoy driving by the farms in the area where globes of orange dot the fields:  “a cultivar of a squash plant, most commonly of Cucurbita pepo, that is round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin, and deep yellow to orange coloration”.  Commonly called a Pumpkin.  And what happens? everybody goes nuts.  While not a baker, MFO regularly receives a publication from a very respectable source of all things baking, King Arthur Flour, who apparently are not immune from the mania:

Devoting whole sections to the subject

And they are not alone, most of my “foodie” mags also publish multiple recipes…  And you know what?  In very few do you see:  “take the pulp of one pumpkin…..”.  Nope! you see: “ add 2 Tbsp. of Pumpkin Spice seasoning….”  what's the deal?  That stuff is available year round, so why push it now?  I suppose in the spirit of the season.  Could make the same stuff in June. 

And dry goods are not the only band wagon jumpers, there is a whole raft of “craft beers” that trot out product this time of year such as the venerable St. Louis based Schlafly Brewery offering.

This too, shall pass.  Where’s that pumpkin Latte…

But I’ll tell you what, here is a food product that NEVER goes out of season…

Long live Charcuterie!  And not sure what it calls for in the Department of


Editor’s note.  We’ll postpone the “medical” portion, MFO is pretty much full up, but the Feeder may be reaping the rewards of years of eating such food as above.. stay tuned..

PS: Today (10/6) is the return of the group that went to Cornwall with us in spirit.  They were very considerate in keeping us up in their journeys..