Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eeee Hah

well, bags are packed (almost)

MFO has a obligation at the Historical Society this morning, and then we'll put "stuff" in the MOMSTER and point south.  

Not going all the way today, so will arrive our departure city of Charleston on Thursday.  Then we board our ship on Saturday for an American Cruise Line tour with the Cole Travel folk and eventually arrive near Jacksonville, FL on the following Saturday.   Our route is roughly Charleston to Beaufort; Savannah (Hilton Head); Jekyll Island; Sapelo Island; St. Simons Island; Fernandina Beach/Jax.

While we're traveling though the mecca of Low Country cuisine, the feeder is somewhat perplexed. Thursday night we'll be "on our own" in Charleston.  I am not sure if we'll attempt a dinner there, it seems sacrilege not to, but there is a bewildering number of restaurants (Husk, Magnolia, SNOB, etc., etc.) and choosing one is tough (or easy, depending on your point of view).  

On the boat, those of you familiar with these types of cruises know there are always "optional" tours in some of the ports. For instance, in Jekyll Island we'll have the chance ($) to go on a Shrimp Day boat.. All of this kind of makes the schedule uncertain as  Lunch maybe.  Of course dinner is always served on the ship, but I suspect with a bit of coordination (and $$) one can blow those off and dine ashore.  Savannah offers that opportunity and there's a big boy restaurant there (The Gray) that we might visit.  TBT I am still suffering from a bit of unsteadiness, and I'm not sure how that will affect what we/I can do.  

Anyway, there should be wi-fi on board so hope to be able to take you along with us occasionally.. 

Notice in the photo that led off there's a garment bag, which contains the duds to be


Friday, March 24, 2017

quick update on quiz, books, and bubbly!

A budda bing budda bang post today of things of interest

Quiz:  most contestants won, the gentleman in question was indeed Bill Taylor, know as the "Dinner Designer".  Bill was a long time chef/food activist (before the term "foodie" came into being".   He would host an annual Oyster Dinner at his house along with several other dinner parties in his home.  Speaking of which it was a virtual museum to (classic) broadway shows and movies, full of programs, memorabilia and so on.  He did have sort of a salty side if you committed some faux pa.  An unique character to be sure..

Books:  today is the start of the annual book sale hosted by Friends of St. Mary's Library, held at the fairgrounds.  The fact that i have to go volunteer in a little bit is the cause of the brevity of today's missive.   10,000 or so books of any subject under the sun, fiction, non-fiction, children's BUILDINGS full of books.  Prices are ridiculously small, a pristine (yes they get donated) Tom Clancy hardbound novel will go for two bucks.  Prices for soft covers are less.  There are usually some records, discs, puzzles, reference books as well.  

There is a "rare and unusual" building containing things like antique books some (almost first editions), and beautiful coffee table books.  All those are specially priced but usually no more that ten bucks.   The Feeder will be taking money in the Non-Fiction bldg today.  Today: 12 - 8pm (FOL members only, but you can join on the spot); Saturday 10 to 5; Sunday noon to 4.  (Cash and checks only, no cards). Proceeds go to the St. Mary's County Library.  The sale has grown from humble beginnings, to one of the "Best sales around" according to the hordes of used book dealers that always show up.  Come and see us..

Farm to Table:  there is an event coming up that supports food for the hungry and food for the soul.  It is run by Serenity Farms near Hugesville, and they call it Farming 4 Hunger. Elements Eatery and Mixology  will be holding a fund raiser for them and "Bubbles and Crunch" for you on April 2nd at their restaurant.   There will be live music, bubbly, a great selection of craft beers, 4 different kinds of fried chicken.  Only $35 pp, a neat event.  If you want to find out some more, and are on facebook, you can go to this page

Roaming:   Unfortunately the Feeder and MFO will not be able to attend, as we are going on a cruise next week.  we leave from Charleston SC and "do" the inland waterway down to Jax, with stops along the way in places like Savannah, Amelia Island and so on.   

Maryland Day: tomorrow is not only the second day of the book sale, but it is celebration of the Founding of Maryland, referred to as Maryland Day.  Lots of events at Historic St. Mary's City, things for kiddies, activities for all, and a program which will award the Cross Bottony for this year to Sen. Mike Miller, who has been a voice for us in the legislature for years.  He is always fun to hear.  He will join the elite group of Cross Bottony awardees, which include none other than our own MFO.   I'll be there too.

Time and space don't allow more details in this writing, but maybe more later.   Off to the book sale, and no need to be


Monday, March 20, 2017

Half a dozen

Just a bunch (well, six) of stuff that has been "piling up” with a little rant included

First: Well, have you had your fill of roundball?  Between men’s and women’s NCAA, NIT, and so forth, there wasn’t much on except that (with a few European soccer games here and there).  And this year for the first time in a long time I have not participated in a (for recreational purposes only) “bracket” group.  I found it strangely liberating… For once I can root for a team based on heart, not head.  I don’t have to root for a team I really dislike just because my head say they will advance.  Just as well, because my Spartans have bowed out early again.  Last year was one thing, they had a very (on paper) competitive team and got bounced by Middle Tennessee State for goodness sake (no disrespect). This year’s “rebuilding” team won their first game, and then got schooled by Kansas.  Since MFO got her advanced degrees at the “other” school in Ann Arbor (home of fabled Zingerman’s deli) we kind of jumped on that bandwagon. To be honest I never thought they would beat Mr. Pitino.
Speaking of (basketball) victories in a way (I’ll change subjects soon), I was browsing Facebook this morning and was kind of surprised to see all the posts celebrating the loss of Duke.  No reason given, just glad they lost.  I suppose that reflects the “break up the Yankees” mentality just because they win a lot.  Now the fact that I am happy (sorry, Domer) that Notre Dame is back in South Bend is rooted in long years of interaction with those above mentioned Spartans of my Alma Mater..

Second:  I am happy to acknowledge that I got some feedback reinforcing my thoughts on Daylight Savings Time being irrelevant or stupid.  One respondent (who lives in Arizona) even suggested moving to Arizona where they don’t mess with it.  He also included some interesting info that the Navajo reservation there DOES observe DST, but the Hopi reservation (which is within the Navaho reservation) does.

Third:  back to Facebook for a second, there is also a fair amount of posts that denigrate Windows 10.  Our new IT suite includes that across the board, and actually I find it isn’t that bad.  Of course I do my best to configure it to be like Windows 7.  I can live with it.

Fourth:  main point and back to food sort of, and a little bit of a rant.  Locals know that over in Leonardtown they have recently “upgraded” a portion near the intersection of Route 5 and Hollywood Leonardtown road.  The old Winegardner used car facility and lot have been transformed by a local contractor to install a stand-alone Dunkin’ Donuts and a “mixed use” building that contains Jessie’s Kitchen and Urban Barbeque among other occupants.  I find out that the Jessie’s Kitchen is now owned and operated by the person who used to own the Tea-rrific Café over in Souci.

Ranting begins… and this is a bit contrary to the Feeder’s normal philosophy.  Is anybody else getting tired of the “farm to table” and “locally produced” restaurant craze?  I am all in favor of using locally produced food and produce, both for economical and gastronomical reasons… BUT…  I am getting a bit over the practice of putting on the menu that the salad I am about to enjoy comes from the 8th through 10th plants in the third row in Plot B of the NW acre of “Bob’s Produce Farm”, or my pork chop is from the hind quarter of Porky, who lives in Bacon Barns, who never heard of an antibiotic or fence.   Now, that being said a discreet statement on the menu someplace (which some venues do) that meat products come from Happy Acres, and produce from Leafy Meadows Farm is good enough for me.   So, back to Leonardtown and the new Urban Barbecue. 

An alert reader sent me an email from said Urban (sic) Bar-Be-Que Company promoting the (relatively) new outlet of smoked meats.  I won’t try to cut and paste it, but it is in the form of a panel that is boldly entitled: Local FAMILY TRADITION – How Southern Maryland Natives Opened Urban Bar-be-que.  Then it goes on to say “Welcome to Our House” and explains how they had a “dream of opening our own UBBQ’ in 2014, wanting a gathering place around great food.  Then “we started construction on this spot in 2016 and grew our dream into reality”, with the aim of serving the best BBQ in St. Mary’s County.   Concluding with the old saw of “the first time you’re here a guest and…’re family” and signed by the owners with a picture of (presumably) their kids.

First of all, I pass by that location a fair amount and I NEVER recalled seeing anybody with shovel (we started construction...) other than bulldozers, front loaders, grade-alls and other heavy construction equipment.  Secondly, throwing all the “local” words around leads one to believe it is an independent operation.  Wrong.  By clicking the “view our Menu” button you are thrown to a site that lists one location in Virginia, and ten more in Maryland with two more “coming soon”.  Going to each location you find the menu is exactly the same, beginning to end.  So it is NOT (IMHO) a "local” establishment at all,  it is a Chain.  They are franchisees.   I have never seen any smoke issuing from the building so I assume that the meats are delivered, since the same menu is at all 11 locations. 

If you ever enter say, Smoky Joe’s or Bear Creek, there is no doubt that their meats are prepared on site. So I guess my gripe with Urban is that they are (apparently) trying to appear as if they built the place with their own hands, and serve “local” products (perhaps other than sides).  I think not.  Now, as a caveat, I am glad for the franchisees that they are trying to bring a variety of foods to Leonardtown, and I hope they do well for those cute kids, but don’t try to pass yourselves off as a little BBQ shack by the side of the road.  Chain.  It kind of ruins the credibility of places that do serve local foodstuffs (like Elements). I have not done a feeder visit, but second hand reports are not encouraging. 

Fifth; Almost every year about this time, we’re visited by Northern Gannets, a wonderful bird that “patrols” at an altitude of over one hundred feet, and when they spy a fish they do a spectacular “plunge-dive”.   Why they don’t brain themselves is a mystery to me.  But a welcome visitor this time of year.  Pretty bird...

Sixth:  Extra Credit:  who is this person (now deceased), what did he do, and what was his nom de plume?

Hint: you can be sure he was


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

This and that, These and those...

POP Quiz:   what is the shortest day of the year?  If you said 21 December, 2017, you would be wrong.  In reality it was 12 March 2017.   Huh?  Yes, it was that darn “Spring Forward” day when we cycle to “daylight savings time” that louses up your circadian rhythm for longer than you would think (speaking personally).  And although it’s “only” an hour, it seems to have huge impacts and makes for a “short day”, kind of leaving you (me) dazed and confused.  And why are we trying to save daylight time anyway?  Who uses it?  Maybe the agrarians who toil in the field, but they kind of work (I assume) by the rising and setting of the sun regardless of what some mechanical device says.   It is probably one of the two times a year you hear the phrase “body” time employed briefly.    The only positive that I can divine is that cocktail time arrives earlier, since 6:00 EST is now 5:00 EDT, “body time”.   Anyway, it takes me a while to adjust, and I’m not sure I ever really do.  Somebody suggested we do it Friday afternoon instead of Sunday Morning.   Like.

Been a while since we sort of rambled into “this and that” territory.  Let’s ramble:

La Rive Breton
Along with Cow & Fish, this place kind of remains an enigma.   Been there a few times, not real recently, but despite being open for months, still seems to be kind of finding its way.  So I was interested to see a little piece in the County Times “wine and dine” section entitled “Striving For Culinary Excellence”.  More of a meet and greet theme with the Chef/Owner Brian Wilson, who says while working in a DC restaurant wanted to go to the “next step” which was ownership.   So when Café des Artistes became available, he decided to take the opportunity “kind of on a whim”.  He says he’s trying to “slowly breaking away from any kind of definition, and trying to incorporate my own style”… and has “Enjoyed spreading my wings”.  I’m sure he is conscious of always being compared to the previous owner(s), but my experience is that he kind of is living up to his vision.   There are varying items on the menu, which seem to change routinely and in my warped mind, I find them interesting.  I never have had any quarrel with the food, it’s always nicely presented and quite good.  They (Wilsons) responded via email and thanked them (County Times) for the mention and also that the patio (curb side) space is now open, weather permitting.  I look forward to my next visit.

We have some neighbors who routinely spend some time in Western Maryland, and I have been taking in their papers, the daily editions of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, as well as our local Enterprise.  In return, they offer me the weekly (Wednesday) food section from the post, and the monthly “Magazine” from the Journal.  As for the enterprise, all I’m doing is keeping it from clogging the newspaper tube.  A couple of recent editions caught my eye.

The Post – Food Section
The lead article was entitled “Smoke Signals – A melting pot fuels the new Barbecue”.  It took kind of a national view of BBQ, and how the traditional regional concept of BBQ (Carolinas, Memphis, Texas, “Southern”, etc.) is evolving along with international cultural heritages by the immigrants of contemporary America. Korean influences are cropping up in Atlanta by Jiyeon Lee at her Heirloom Market BBQ (which opened in 2010).    She and her Texas – born husband Cody Taylor serve “pungent gochujang-marinated pork, smoked over oak and hickory wood, served as a sandwich with kimchi coleslaw”.  I don’t have the space nor intelligence to go through the other examples, but they talk about the German immigrant influence which probably created the Mustard Sauce of South Carolina.  In Texas in the 1880’s and ‘90s, German, Polish and Czech meat markets were the only ones selling barbecue, according to the barbecue editor (!) of the Texas Monthly magazine.  A Greek influence is found in Memphis which was founded by Charlie Vergos, son of immigrants who in the late fifties concocted a spice rub for pork ribs of Greek herbs, such as oregano combined with traditional BBQ spices, dabbed with vinegar while cooking which generated the Memphis ‘dry” rib style.
Maybe you can find the article on line, it is very interesting reading. 

Footnote to regional food: (not related to the Post) I have just come into possession of a book called “Fading Feast; a Compendium of Disappearing American Regional Foods” by Raymond Sokolov.  I have only gotten seven pages into the (ten page) introduction (a pet peeve, either write the book or just stick with the introduction for goodness sake!).  But it appears to be a series of articles about some regional dish followed by a recipe.  Example from the South chapter:  "A Squirrel in Every Pot: Brunswick Stew and Burgoo".  In the Midwest section there is an article about Morels in Michigan. Looking forward to reading it

In addition putting out the daily edition of the Journal crammed with arcane business statistics, they also publish a “magazine” which comes out monthly.  It is a fascinating piece of work.  While there are a few articles with content (mostly profiling designers, interior decorators, various pop culture luminaries  - this month Bruno Mars graces the cover), it is 80% advertisements for fashion, accessories, shoes, and the like.   And, we’re not talking things like Dockers, Tommy Hilfiger, and other product lines such as would be found in Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Belk’s, and the like.  No siree, Bob!  Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani, Bottega Veneta, Prada… you get the drift.  After all their market is not humble retired Flutter Engineers scraping by on an aerospace firm’s pension.  We’re talking hedge fund managers, CEO’s of massive brokerage firms, and so on.   People whose portfolios bulge with amounts of equities and monies we could only dream of.  High end to the extreme.

But what is most fascinating to me is the photos that accompany the ads. Of course there are the pictures of shoes, handbags, etc., but also human (?) models who are draped in the designer clothes.   It is easy to echo the all too common remarks about the females who never heard of the word cheeseburger, but probably are familiar with Kale.  For whatever reason, the issue in hand has more males than females.  Like the women discerning their age is almost impossible, but to a man/(child?), they all seem to have the same facial expression.  Gazing off into the firmament without eye focus, or are suffering from acute gastric pain, or have just been informed that their favorite pet had been run over by a bus.  It must the genre....

A few small samples credited to the WSJ magazine and used for critique purposes only:

 And you can have that same sweater from Jeffrey Rüdes for a mere $1200

And I don’t even know what to say about this..

Ah, the world of high fashion…

I still receive the St. Louis magazine as a way of keeping in touch with the old stomping grounds and food scene. In the March issue, there is what I assume is a regular column restaurant “Closings, Openings” and that ubiquitous “Coming Soon” categories..  The scorecard:
Closings:              4
Openings:            2
Coming Soon’s:  21
Numbers kind of speak for themselves “I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant”
Pi Day
Always remember:  Pie Are Square

As well as:


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Church Ladies and Chefs....

Depending on when this gets posted or when you get around to read it, a week ago (Feb 28) was not only the last day of February, it was Shrove or Fat Tuesday.  I suppose most people know the basics, it is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent when you’re supposed to “give up” something until Easter.  So, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) is your last day to (over) indulge. 

Therefore, it became traditional for churches to have a Dinner on Fat Tuesday to help you get fat.  Traditional foods range from the savory (Oyster Po’ Boys, Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya, etc.,) to the sweets like doughnuts and King Cake.  I am not sure how the link got established between Cajun/Creole cuisine and the celebration, maybe because the biggest show of all is in NOLA.  In the UK Fat Tuesday is called Pancake Day, hence the flapjacks join the mix (ha ha).

Around here, St. Andrews Church has held a dinner for years (except last year of the big snow). 

As a little lagniappe, I will borrow a little history of the place from that scholarly source, Wiki…etc. (St. Andrews Church)

was built in 1766 to serve as the parish church of St. Andrew's Parish, which had been established in 1744. It is a rectangular brick box church laid in Flemish bond with a gable roof and round-arched windows trimmed with brick segmental arches. At two corners stand two-story square brick towers with a diminutive spire. Richard Boulton designed the church in 1766; he was also responsible for the outstanding carving and ornamentation at Sotterley.  George Plater (1735-1792), who briefly served as Maryland's governor before his death, was an active parish member, serving twenty-eight years as a vestryman.

Due to life, MFO and I have not been able to attend for a few years, but have enjoyed our previous visits.  It was always a fun thing, with Mardi Gras decorations, good food, here's some shots from the 2011 event:

jambalaya, greens and bread pudding

back then, there was often music and a chance to see a lot of your friends.  Once in a while a local real estate mogul would appear dressed in a jester outfit such as you might see in N’awlins..

This year as we went early we were able to park near the door, entered “the hall” to be greeted by a black tie Maitre D'

Who ushered us to a table.  The kitchen was busy with “church ladies” (and okay a couple of guys) preparing the food.   

And your plate was brought to the table

Compared to the 2011 edition, not the most appetizing look.   Now, I am usually in praise of church lady food, but I have to admit that this stuff was, while not inedible, not enjoyable.  The cakes were dry and tepid and wouldn’t melt the butter, the potato “cake” was equally cool and had an odd taste.  The lone sausage had a rather tough casing but did have some flavor.  I know it is charitable, and has to be done as cost efficiently as possible, but this just wasn’t good.   I am not sure we would attend next year..  The good times didn’t roll!

Another anniversary

Yesterday (March 6th) marked another special day.  It was exactly a year ago on that date that Café Des Artiste’s in Leonardtown served their last ticket and went dark.  Regular readers will know that I have reported now and again on their successor La Rive Breton.   Loic and Karleen now reside in Pennsylvania, where Loic is about to start raising chickens… he has plans for maybe a farm to table operation on the property.  Never complacent.  Everybody misses them as they were part of the fabric of Leonardtown.

So when I learned that Loic was going to teach a “cooking class” at nearby Quality Street, MFO and I signed up, as a chance to see him again and chat a bit.  Although in general I am not a fan of “cooking classes”, one shouldn’t pass up a chance to see Loic, you always learn something plus have fun, and eat something good!

It was a pleasure to see him in his element again, pan in hand, with engaging explanation of what was going on while he taught us how to prepare a Burgundy Style Chicken and Shrimp dish

One of the “tips” I picked up was that by cooking "everything" like the Onions, Chicken, Shrimp, etc. (not at once) in the same pan before adding to “the pot” without cleaning the pan in between gave you “good stuff” with which to help the sauce,

He finally deglazed it with a little brandy, and added the "stuff" to the whole pot

While the assembled pot kind of let everything get happy, he prepared a rice pilaf and sliced up some bread

Finally, it was plated

And we all got to have a delicious sample of his work

Another thing he talked about was how to cook with your “ears” to let you know how things are progressing.  When you’re in a restaurant kitchen with many dishes in process, you need to develop the ability to listen to them without looking to determine the progress.  I usually wait till I can smell smoke.

MFO and I enjoyed the evening and the chance to see Loic at work.. Too bad they're gone, but they're happy and that's what counts.  We were grateful for the years of happiness (and lovely food) they gave us.

And of course we were