Friday, September 29, 2017

a Pause

you'll notice (I hope) that these pages have been dark for a little bit.  Two things.

1) I have been experiencing shortness of breath lately, and have had some "tests".  Apparently my blood oxygen is lower than it should be, and there may be one of those infernal oxygen bottles hanging off me (more than you probably want to know) in the future.  Nice

2)  My (apparently not - so) trusty laptop (home to the blog) gave up its hard drive.   Blue screen - "we've encountered an error, working on automatic repair" churn, churn,  "unable to repair, restarting machine"   Churn Churn, "we've encountered an error....."   over and over.  with the result that a Samsung Solid State 500 GB is being installed. (using the Lenovo backup machine).   which means:

I have to re log into every damn utility (Facebook, Blogger, GMAIL, Metrocast, on and on) asking for passwords for which i have absolutely no idea.  "Invalid password, please re-enter"

damn.   I wonder how oxygen bottles will compliment my


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Travel Rest Stop

Leaving you stuck in Holland, Michigan for a second, a couple of things I’d like to pass on before starting the travelogue again..

First, the more serious of the lot…

I have a couple of friends (with discriminating palates of course) who are currently vacationing in South East Asia, and have been sharing their travels with many shots of the food, both in restaurants, street markets and so forth.  Their itinerary currently finds them in Viet Nam.  Here’s a couple of typical shots of scenery they took near Hội An.

Enjoying a "breakfast"

Oddly enough, their visit to this lovely place in Viet Nam is coinciding with the airing of Ken Burn’s latest documentary “The War in Viet Nam”.  It’s quite a contrast.  The horrors of young soldiers wounded and dying in rice paddies and jungles, and what we would now consider atrocities committed by both sides to the indigenous population and now a paradise..  

One has to wonder...

Okay, other notes:

Always something going on
We often document “visitors” to our back yard in the river.  Yesterday morning, we were host to these guys

Turns out they were removing one of the (too many) piers along our local shore.  They didn’t return today to do anything…  A friend the other day quipped that we have the best pier on the shore (none).

Comings and goings
About a year (?) ago, a little restaurant opened up in San Souci called “Bay Dawgz” which sold hot dogs in various guises with cutesy names that used “z” a lot as I recall.  Without going back and looking at my blog about it, I most likely wished them luck but speculated they might last a year.  Niche market to be sure, but maybe just too narrow, not easy to get to, parking a bit messy.  I think I tried them a couple of times, and they were okay, but nothing really special.  After all, there’s only so many things you can do with sauerkraut, cheese, chili, and yes, Old Bay.  Anyway we were going to grab a couple of dawgz for dinner the other night and found

Of course I don’t know them, but I believe they were a youngish couple, probably following their “dream” but joined the many who suffer similar fate when they're hopes of “I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant” fails.  Another independent gone.  I hope they didn’t lose a lot of money..


After seeing the above shuttering of “Bay”, I went across 235 to the little strip of stores next to the old drive through PNC bank, that contained a Jerry’s Bistro, a Smoke/Vape store, and more recently a Little Caesar’s Pizza outlet (pizza, pizza).  Speaking of which, seems to be doing fairly well.  Always someone coming in or going out.  I presume it’s the grab and go feature.  We tried (desperation and time) one of their six buck cheese and pepperoni offerings lately.  Good for keeping body and soul together, but that’s about it.  
Anyway, I was surprised to see a “For Lease” sign stuck between the Bistro and Smoke shop.   Both were dark due to the hour, but wondered what was up.  So today I returned during business hours, and saw:

But, both units had their “Open” neon lit, so I’m not sure what’s going on.  Stay tuned.


Had a couple of tasting – like experiences lately.  I was invited to be a Judge for last weekend’s “Taste of St. Mary’s event.   Was enjoyable, but kind of hectic.  Four categories, Appetizer, Entrée, Specialty, and Dessert.  Each category had about six to eight entries, and they all hit at once

And we were given more than one entry at a time (this from “Entrées”)

As I recall a Philly Cheese Steak, a Brisket slider, and a …something else

By the time we hit desserts, we were pretty stuffed even though we didn’t “eat the whole thing”.

On a little less hectic basis, I also did a wine tasting up in Annapolis the other day, with the objective of selecting wines from the upcoming Hospital Gala.  Logistically it worked out that doing it at Mills Fine Wines and Spirits on the city dock was best all around.   The “Flight” of reds (whites not shown):

As kind of a little nuance, I have to remember we’re selecting wines for 500 people, not just the bottom feeder..

Quick Sports Rant
A retread to be sure, but the media created “FedEx Cup Play Offs” foolishness is going on.   Of course in America we have to have a “play off” to see who is NUMBER ONE.   All the major sports do it most notably the Super Bowl.  Only reason to play “regular season” is to see who “makes it to the next round”.  In the case of golf, the “regular season” includes, among weekly tournaments, The Masters, The US Open, and The Championship (don’t you dare call it the British Open!).   These competitions have been played for decades and besides winning a weekly tournament winning a Major (or not) will define a golfer’s career.  Sergio finally unloaded the beast from his back by winning the Master’s this year.   Now the networks trivialize those events by assigning “points” to a victory or placement on the leader board, and continually show the “Race for the FedEx cup” standings.    Anyway, today the coverage with my good friend Jimmy (the Snake) Roberts was warming up and I swear to God, the little weasel had enough ignorant gall to call the cup “the most coveted trophy in golf”.   Think Rory or Jordan (or T in his hey day) buy that crap?    A Green Jacket?  Just a rag… The Claret Jug?  Just a bauble.  Nauseating.

Okay, as alert readers well know, I always (mostly) close with a reminder about your attire for dinner.  Well, look what I was sent by a fan traveling in Maine from a little theater company.   We’ll make a special one time only case today

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Two a day..

I am doggedly determined to finish this journey (to the Midwest, remember?) so we’ll have another installment today.  Finally.   It will (mercifully?) roll two days into one, in hopes of maybe wrapping up this trek in another post.

As you might remember, MFO (aka The Archivist) spent many hours organizing our Family’s stuff from my Dad’s short career in WWI to my Mother’s side of things where “Grandpa” was a free-lance photographer in northern lower Michigan.  You also might remember that the lovely WWI museum in Kansas City said “Gee, thanks we have all we need”, but they did suggest contacting my Father’s home town (Holland Michigan – which he shares with Kirk Cousins!!), which we did, and they expressed enthusiasm for “local boy in the war” stuff.

She also made some contacts with colleagues at Michigan State (in East Lansing, where the aforementioned Kirk matriculated) and they did want the Craig family stuff.   So that made two stops out of the ordinary, plus a bonus trip to our home towns! (East Lansing/MSU).

So the first two days of “side tripping” included getting from FOJTY’s to Holland which will be recounted herein.  Whew.   You know, I hate books that you pick up all interested in reading, and then find there’s a 30 page “introduction” plus maybe a preface, plus maybe a bleary eyed acknowledgment section before getting to actual content.   Well, I guess I fell victim..

So anyway, with TY heading for Nebraska with the pups, and his wife doing her nursing job, we left an empty house

And retraced our steps around the land of Barbeque

and headed toward St. Louis

Passing through STL and on to our overnight stop in Indianapolis

A few unusual “road shots” along the way

Complete with (manipulated) “road art”

And the seemingly endemic mid America over the top churches, shown without comment, other than “wow”

Finally arriving at a Marriott on the north side of Indy (in Carmel, IN) in an interesting industrial park

And whoa!  What’s that say?

International Culinary School in the red hot heart of Mid America?   It appears to be allied with the Art Institute of Indianapolis, and there are arms all over the world.

Anyway, no sparkling dinner, preferring to avail ourselves of in room dining.

Next morning we headed north, seeing some pretty stuff

All  looking away from us

And a momentary panic we’d made a wrong turn someplace, 

but not seeing any evidence of a wall, we decided to press on, 

getting some clues along the way that were approaching “Dutch Country”

And of course as expected in “Holland”

Then, with the aid of the GPS we found ourselves at our destination, the

And the curator came out to help unburden the MOMSTER

Took the "stuff" inside and he looked at EVERY one of the artifacts, newspaper articles, pictures, etc…  Finally satisfied we shook hands and departed for a late lunch.   Well, being in Holland and apparently “Craft Brewery/Beer” country of Michigan and on a recommendation from said curator we headed for the New Holland Brewing Company

They had kind of a two tiered dining area, a “regular one” (behind the “Brewing) sign in front and a kind open air one (under the “Holland”), which had an open front for al fresco dining.  We chose the inside of that area

I must admit it wasn’t very (socially) warm or “Pubby”.  It was “off hours” but the service was “off” as well.  Long waits, a complete set of wrong orders brought to another table.   I suppose mid-afternoon is not their rocking time.  I looked at the beer list: “Carte du Bière”?

And selected the “Full Circle”, a Kölsch style brew.  I’m sorry, I’m just not a hop head..

Food was indeed pub food, but I found a Whitefish Po’Boy that was quite tasty (when it eventually swam to the table).  I wish we could get (Lake Michigan) whitefish here.  Quite tasty..

We stayed in a Courtyard in downtown that was very nice.

So that ended our migration from FOJTY’s to the Wolverine State

More to come,  including a real opportunity to


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Small diversion from travel..

One reader will be happy there are no pictures today, well maybe one..

Want to take a little detour from the overall journey to get couple of things (slight rants) off my chest..   otherwise they just pile up and get such a backlog that it is untenable to recount all…   so here we go:

As you know, I watch a lot of television, mostly sporting events (which must be live, or I’m out) and with sporting events on TV, along comes commercials.   There are a few that really aggravate me.

Liberty Mutual Insurance:  a nice young lady positioned with the Statue of Liberty in the background, telling us that she had a car that she loved so much that: “I named it Brad… I loved Brad”; followed by “and then you totaled Brad”..  what? Excuse me? were you drunk? Speeding? Distracted?  Awww, you totaled Brad. Then goes on to say how the insurance company called with the good news with their (optional - $$$) full car replacement, and “you break into your happy dance”.   How sweet.  Oh, by the way, the “optional” full car replacement requires (besides the additional premium):  Policy Deductible applies; Replacement is same model year; totaled car must be less than a year old and have less than 15K miles on it.  More happy dance by the Insurance company.

Michelin Tires:  a series of heart tugging commercials about mommy or daddy getting a text that kid is lonely or something and mommy or daddy brave the elements (only hook to tires, I guess) to come home and comfort the little darling.  Fair enough.  But the version that gets me shows a chef or line cook in front of a prep table, reaches for phone (allowed?), sees text: “ is homesick”.  Looks concerned, puts down phone and…… JUST LEAVES!   Walks off the line.  No communication with Chef… JUST LEAVES.  Just walks!!  If it were my kitchen, she could spend as much time as she wanted with junior before looking for another job.  Sheesh.

Tipping:  some interesting stats from one of my hospitality mags (the one that features a cover teaser about “Best Sandwiches in America”, a future posting.    Anyway, about tipping: 

Best Tippers (in order): Men; Northeasterners; Baby Boomers; Republicans; Those paying with credit cards.  Median tip of that group is 20%.  Women median tip is 16%, with southerners and Democrats is 15%.  Offered without comment. 

Other stats: Percentage of Americans who always leave a tip: 80%;  Percentage of Customers earning above $75K: 99%; 2% of those surveyed never leave a tip (at a sit down restaurant), and 7% said they tipped “only sometimes”.  Just offered without comment. A whole sensitive subject:  tipping.

Wine Speak.  Alert readers will remember that I often go on about winespeak when wines are described as having “hints of barnyard, with overtones of baked clay and crushed blackberries, and sweaty saddle”.  Well in today’s Washington Post Food section there is an review of 29 Chardonnays, Cabernets, and red blends by their wine guy, Dave McIntyre, entitled:  “they’re cheap, and they’re everywhere, But are they worth drinking?”, which reviews wines around 10 bucks.  Common names we see everywhere, Barefoot, Sutter Home, Cupcake, and so forth.  Here’s his winespeak about Chardonnay’s: Barefoot ($8.59): “Industrial aromas of machine oil, as if you’re at a factory rather than a winery.  Green and underripe flavors.”  Cupcake ($11): “Funky, skunky, wet dog”; Yellowtail (white, $6.79): “Caramel? Plastic? Birthday Candle? Sweet and cloying”; Sutter Home ($10 1.5L) “Smells of sewer gas and is simply unpleasant”. Reds fared no better: Frontera Cabernet- Merlot ($5.20): “Boiled Potato Skins, sauced with rendered cough drops”; 14 Hands (Cab $12): “Tire rubber.  Aged in inner tubes.  Like a gym accident when you get strangled by a resistance cord”. 

For value priced Chards, he recommends anything with Robert Mondavi name, like Woodbridge ($7.59):  “rather Tasty”; or RM Private Selection ($11.69) and generally Chilean Reds (Santa Rita 120 Maule Valley, Chile ($9); Cousino-Macul, Maipo Valley ($10.69).

Interesting article.  and what may be most depressing of all, is that according from research last year Americans spent $670 million on Barefoot Wines, with Sutter Home a distant second at $368 million.  Now, you might think that Mr. McIntyre is just being snobby, but his rather colorful descriptions match my experience.   Besides he took the time to respond to me when I sent him an email asking what he meant by a “fun” wine (which he sometimes uses).


Okay enough next edition will get back to our journey through Michigan.. where we did have a couple of legitimate occasions to be


Oh, okay, one image... here’s the subject of a future review…

Monday, September 4, 2017

Training Day

So as I said, after our dainty lunch at Slap’s BBQ, we had another light dinner of….. rib eye steaks!  Arteries closing as we speak.  But, damn, they’re good.    FOJTY did them Sous Vide for us.  Prepared the bath

Bagged the beef

Got the Big Green Egg ready

Smoke and Stanley “helped” by doing doggie things..

......A quick aside about Sous Vide.   I have to admit I’m not sold on the process.  If you’re doing something like steak or ribs or chops, after N hours in the bath, the product is indeed uniformly at whatever temperature you selected, but it is far from “plate ready”.   Usually (at least in the case of the above) a rather unappetizing shade of gray (not fifty…) so you have to do something to make it presentable.   In the case of TE, he uses his BGE for a quick sear since he can get the thing up to 800 degrees or so.

However, even though I still have that “loaner” SV device, I don’t have any method of searing and marking to “finish” the dish.  Weber just isn’t hot enough, ditto my ridged Le Creuset grill pan (both result in further cooking).  So if I’m going to continue to experiment with the Sous Vide technique, I’ll have to either:  a) get an egg ($$$$$);  b) maybe a cast iron pan heated red hot;  or c) get a torch.  At any rate the complete process is not fast.  Time spent in the water bath (Controlled by your smart phone if you wish), then whatever second step you prefer. Maybe practice makes perfect.
Anyway as previewed last posting TE’s was quite tasty. And perfectly cooked throughout, which is what you lose with plain grilling..

So next morning after a breakfast of bacon and sweets, we drove to over to a local park to help (watch) further training of Smoke and Stanley.  The curriculum of the day was refining their retrieving skills.  A competition was coming up so more practice was in order.

Turns out it is a pretty formal ritual.   They have a “fake” duck they use for training purposes.  Starts out with the dog next to its master (TY) who then launches the “duck”

The dog must stay until the command “Go Fetch!” is given, and then he is free to launch

Then swim to the duck
                Carefully mouth it and return to the “hunter”.

This try wasn’t so good as the duck is off to the side.  Points off!  And there is a procedure to surrender the trophy to the handler.  You don’t just drop it, you hold on till you’re told “Give” and only then can it leave your mouth…

Not just your fun “duck huntin’” day. It was fun watching them do it over and over… to a point. 

All that hard work built up an appetite so we headed back for Overland Park and br/l/unch.  Overland Park is one of those places that used to be a “suburb” of Kansas City, but of course the city has grown to engulf and then pass it by, with there are a bunch of store fronts, some of which has been re-purposed with more modern occupants

Peanut” is a sports bar which is one of a several branches of the self-proclaimed “Oldest Bar and Grill in Kansas City” dating from prohibition times.  The location we visited was in an old building in Overland Park, and is pretty much a standard sports bar with lots of flat screens broadcasting various sporting events and a menu of bar typical bar food: burgers, wings, and (7!) varieties of Nachos.  It being Sunday, they had a special brunch insert in their usual menu.  For some reason, a Huevos Rancheros entry caught my eye.   Why one would order such a dish in mid-west beef territory escapes me, and I would have to candidly admit I was punished for it.   It wasn’t the best version I’ve encountered.

The tortillas were kind of on the rubbery side, and I've never seen hash browns with that dish, but the beer was cold and conversation good.  What the heck, we were with FOJTY and wife (and granddogs)… anything is good.

An afternoon rest was welcomed, and as it was our last day with them, it was “life goes on” time for the “Y’s”.   TY was going to load up the dogs early (4am!) and head for Nebraska for a “training camp” for the pups, and his wife (the nurse) had to be up and out early the next morning.  So we dined on Pizza from “Minsky’s”, a local chain that produces pizza they liked (despite the odd combination of name and product). 

So when we arose the next morning we awoke to an empty house and made our lonely departure for Michigan and the “museum” phase of our odyssey. 

It was sad to leave “kid country” and both the “J’s”.  Each time we leave it gets tougher and the tug grows stronger.  We even did drive by a couple of retirement communities for “fun”.   Yikes..

Anyway with sights on “Indiana-no-place” for an overnight pause, and then Michigan, the memorabilia laden MOMSTER departed, and also lugging stuff to