Monday, December 24, 2018

Up on the Rooftop


Well, here it is Christmas eve.  I suppose I should wax eloquent on “’tis the season”, the meaning of the time of year, etc.  But, I’m going to postpone that kind of stuff till tomorrow.   MFO and I are joined this year by her sister, I suppose MFOS, and it will be a low key event.  FOJTE will be visiting over new year’s, so will be nice to see them.  FOJTY will be working his law enforcement duty, so they won’t be coming until later in the spring. 

Accordingly, we’re kind of scaling back.  People might remember in years past we have had our lovely large

with many presents.  This year we have “tree Junior” which kind of has a charm of its own

And, we’ll be missing FOJTE’s famous Lasagna Christmas Eve dinner in his lovely historic home in St. Charles, MO

But, he said, we won’t be bereft of food, not eating dried beans and tuna from a can (as a good friend says).
You might remember we tried a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving from Braunfel’s Smoke house in Texas (mixed reviews).   This year, keeping with a low work load plan for MFO, we’re doing a Chicken.  Not just any chicken mind you, this one is locally sourced from “The Chicken Lady” of The Farm at Glen Mary in nearby Park Hall, just down the road a bit. 

They are raising free range poultry with no antibiotics, etc.   So, we have this five pounder

 We are going to brine it with a commercial brine (yes, I could have made my own) we discovered a couple of thanksgivings ago at some friend’s house

That produced a very flavorful bird.   Has lots of “stuff” in it.  Begin brining tomorrow

Will most likely do a pretty much traditional roasting tomorrow (no flipping, oven up, oven down, etc).

And we’ve had other pretty good food lately as well.  I got a lesson from a local chef in searing salmon with a lemon caper sauce. 
from dusting the fish with flour

and finally producing the (caper) sauce

And final plating.

  it was very good!  nice little crunch outside, just opaque inside

Although I don’t get around much anymore (isn’t that a song?) I can do pretty well at cooking in the kitchen.   So last night I used Sea to Table shrimp to make a “Shrimp in a tomato cream sauce over Capellini” starting with mise en place (oddly minus the can of “no salt added” diced tomatoes)

And finished with a pretty nice dish

Another diversion I’ve been pursuing is improving the quality of my food photos.  I’ve found (with help from a friend) a food photography blog called The Bite Shot  which is pretty informative, covering lighting, food styling, equipment (which has cost me $$ - thank you B&H).   Anyway, I’ve been messing around with lighting, using flash, diffusion, etc.  Makes a difference (without, with light manipulation)

 and just pretty

I have stopped short of a new camera body, however, not quite ready to invest thousands yet.  My trusty Rebels work fine.

So on the eve of Christmas 2018, I wish a happy time tomorrow with loved ones who are here, far away, and only in our memories.  As somebody once said: “God Bless Us, everyone!”

And depending on your plans it might be fun to
And put the Mason Jars in the recycle bin…

Ho Ho Ho…

Monday, December 10, 2018

Quick tour of Turkey

No, not the country....

Even though it is almost closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving some inner demon compels me to wrap up our Turkey day before starting on the Jingle Bell day (am I this way because I’m an engineer? or am I an engineer because I’m this way?).  Anyway I’ve made a pact with that inner demon that I won’t leave the computer before I publish this blog that has been tormenting me for weeks.

I was going to do an in-depth introspective of the day, but you know those TV commercials you see where you get a whirlwind barrage of images, usually with some upbeat high-energy music?   Well, I’m going to quiet the demon by just publishing a rapid fire series of pictures of our Thanksgiving without the usual inane Feeder Patter to go with, so without further delay, here is our 2018 Thanksgiving season from beginning to end (without the music):

 And there you have it, from box to table, to scraps, to stew, and back in freezer!  The life of this year's smoked turkey experiment..
Begone Demon!!

Other hangovers:
Those of you with good memories may remember I published this picture from some food magazine:

And asked the readership "What's wrong with this picture?"

well of the hundreds of responses I got back, neither one came up with my answer (which, of course is correct).   My solution is that no respectable wine drinker EVER holds the glass by the bowl!  puts finger prints on the crystal, warms the wine, and just is not good practice.  It is not out of affectation that people hold (proper) wine glasses by the stem, there is a reason.  Which is also a reason not to own any of those stupid "stemless" wine glasses.  Do it correctly! 

Apparently there is no truth to the rumor that Subaru will change the company name to "Love", and give a car to anybody that requests it..

and lastly, if you will allow the Feeder to be serious for a moment, I came fairly close to suspending the Bottom Feeder, which is why there was a dark period for a while.  Then, as happened before, I ran into somebody somewhere that said "I really enjoy reading your blog.".  Thank you. It does mean a lot to me.   So, I will continue to remind you (for another ~15 years) to

DFD and
get those damned Mason Jars into a canning factory, not a restaurant

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Gobble Gabbing

Well, here it is Thanksgiving eve, and I hope you have everything in place, your menu settled, wines selected, and prepped anything you can.   We are kind of scaling back this year, and are hosting some dear friends, who have had a tough year, so we both leaned on each other during various medical stuff which we won’t dwell on.   That’s one of the things that we will be thankful for.

So in order to avoid the customary carnival of cooking, I am trying something different (“and now for something completely different’).  In years past we’ve done most of the myriad ways to change a fowl into something more than, well, just another turkey.  Turn it every which way in the oven with temps up, temps down, foil on, foil off, bagged, deconstructed, and so on.  Two techniques we have never attempted: deep frying , or spatchcocked.  You can knock yourself out and well, for the most part you get turkey (I’m sure some will have varying opinions).

As most people know, I get many, many food magazines, of course at Thanksgiving the poor editors are faced with producing something “different” than the last decade’s worth.  Most are devoid of anything really new. 

Same with the newspapers who have to run a Food Section devoted to the holiday.  In the Washington post edition, there was an interesting article about the stupid Turducken concept written by a butcher who begrudgingly prepares a few.

Anyway (yes we will talk about food!) somehow I get an inordinate amount of food catalogues, Dean and Deluca, various steak houses, and so forth.  One that kind of caught my eye was one from New Braunfels Smokehouse in Texas.  They featured several versions of (smoked) fowl for the day, of course Turkey, but also Pheasant, Quail, Chicken, Game Hens and so on.   Being smoked the are completely cooked which was attractive to me.   Of course, I wondered about (sorry) sodium content and send them a “contact us” email.  I almost immediately got a reply from Susan, answering my questions which resulted in a nice e-conversation.  Anyway, I thought “well, why not”?  And so our Thanksgiving entrée arrived last week

And with a bit of effort, found a home nestled in the freezer drawer

Showing somebody your freezer drawer is kind of like revealing your underwear drawer. Revealing things like Ben and Jerry’s; a hamburger bun(?); some foil wrapped items that have probably been there for years of which I have no idea what they contain; some frozen peas of unknown vintage (which are probably furry); and joined by Mr. Turkey!  

The smokehouse folks say it can be served as is at room temp or warmed in the oven (wrapped in foil).  Other sides include guest supplied mashed potatoes, and a salad.  Conscious of my dietary regimen, she found a recipe for mashed potatoes that uses “Nutritional Yeast” which the feeder never heard of.  Although it sounded yucky, a quick google search revealed:  

 "Nutritional yeast is sold as flakes, granules or powder and can be found in the spice section or bulk bins of health food stores. Nutritional yeast is a versatile food that works with nearly any type of diet or eating style. ... Summary Nutritional yeast is a vegan food product with a cheesy, nutty or savory flavor"

Be interesting to see how it turns out.  For my small part (besides the smoked bird) I am contributing an appetizer offering of my favorite Pimento Cheese spread recipe

I show this not so much so you can duplicate it, more to remind you to make notes every time you make it, as shown on my ragged copy.   This year I cut back some of the cayenne, used more cheese and less Duke’s and I think it looked better than last year.  We’ll see
MFO is making Mince and Pumpkin (the ONLY good use of the thing) pies. 

The Fun pages:

If any of you STL natives still see this, does this mean anything to you?

When we still lived in Clayton (MO), every Saturday I would make a short trek down Clayton Road to Lake Forest Bakery, and purchase one of those delicacies.  At that time, they were famous for the dish...Was kind of a neighborhood gathering, pretty much the same people, and all the ladies behind the counter mostly knew you by name.  Although Lake Forest is long gone, it's nice to see the tradition carries on
Nice to see STL in a national food publication for something besides Baby Back Ribs

What’s wrong with this picture?

People serious about food and wine should pick it out right away. These folks are amateurs.  Food and Wine magazine should know better..

The Editorial Page

On a whim, I looked back at my Thanksgiving posting from 2011.  Nothing changes!  Excerpts:

Preparations varied from hacking up the bird (Julia Child’s Turkey – Updated), to the flipping this side and that, hot oven, cold oven, grilling, and yes, deep frying (along with a string of warnings) , brining, rubbings, marinating, this and that.  And as I always work in someplace, you can do what you want to a turkey, the end product is, yes, still a turkey.  And to be fair (as I always am..) there are also suggestions for ham, standing rib roasts, lamb, and pork (we’re having a loin – from WAG meats)

Sides of course can rescue the bland protein, and there are a million recipes.. how about Triple Cheese Curried Cauliflower Gratin?  Straight from the pilgrims..

Wines are all over the place, once again driving me to the old DWTHYL theory, if you like a particular wine, drink it for goodness sake. 

But the real message is as true today as it was seven years ago (and before that):

And before you go, I have to remind you that it is not the food that is the objective, it is the gathering of your family and loved ones, friends, and people that mean something to you.  Whether here or far from home doing things that keep us safe, or those that have gone before are here in spirit and memory.  THAT is the meaning of special days.  Food of course can make it so enjoyable, but the love that is shared is more important.  To borrow a phrase from my other column:  It isn’t the drumstick that is important it is who is holding it…

DFD is nice, but for God’s sake:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Getting back aboard...

Well, hello there!.. this may break the longest streak of “no feeders” ever.  Life,  Oyster festivals, dog trials, that kind of stuff, somehow always get in the way, plus I try to adhere to Thumper’s admonishment of: “If you can’t say something {Interesting}. Don’t say nuthin’ at all”.  Some might say I have violated that for years.  

While I try to keep my health stuff out of these columns, it does impact my feeder duties, for instance, going to a restaurant is physically difficult, and when I get there, I have to eat what I should (sodium), rather than what I want..

As a result, I spend more time sitting and pondering life…. here’s a few things that might be of interest.  

Bean Counters
As you know, I have a jones for Jelly Beans.  So the last time I opened a bag, I thought:  How do they fill these things with all the varying colors? So I made an investigation.

Yellow: 11; White: 8; Red: 12; Black: 16; Purple: 4; Green: 16; Pink: 15; Orange: 16   

Obviously not random.  Can a machine do that?  Does some poor soul sit there “one, two, three”..  by my count there were a total of 98 beans… Black, Green, Orange, with the most (16); down to only four little Purple.  What’s it all mean?  Is there a hidden message?  Some secret code for the Illuminati? Oh, well, munch, munch.  Data collection will continue with the next bag..

Caffeine Fix anybody?
We all know about 5 Hour Energy as we get bludgeoned by those commercials about how you can “stay sharp” all day with just one hit.  Apparently chemical enthusiasm has spread.  We now have another option for that..

Didn’t know you could measure “energy” in milligrams.  I personally have never tried any of those products, afraid I would just sit and vibrate.

Cheesy Education
One of the things we enjoy occasionally during the cocktail hour is Boursin Cheese.  Keeps pretty well, spreads easily, and is available in various “flavors”. MFO brought some home the other day, of the Basil and Chive variety. 

Great.  Well in replenishing the serving portion the other day, I happened to look more closely at the box….. Wait a darned minute!!   What’s that????  Take a look at the label on the bottom

Is that “mistake” intentional?  Did we get a knock off?   What’s the deal?  Well, the feeder is never too old (or infirm – which may be debatable) to learn.  I went to the company’s website and every box is labelled that way (GourNay).  So I dug a little deeper…Here’s the story:

The story of the now famous Boursin Cheese started with one man, François Boursin. In 1957, this young Normandy cheesemaker opened a cheese factory in Croisy-sur-Eure, which is a small commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region in north-western France.
François worked quietly for years trying to perfect his signature cheese. However, in 1961 a French newspaper mistakenly reported the launch of Boursin infused with garlic, and the public loved the idea. The problem was that François had no such recipe in the works, but he quickly got to work to meet the public’s demand. For two years, he worked on his own original recipe inspired by fromage frais, a traditional party dish blended that blends garlic, fresh cream, soft cheese, herbs, salt and pepper.
Finally, in 1963, François was satisfied with his authentic Gournay cheese and garlic creation, and he introduced it to the world. Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese was served at celebrations and gatherings throughout France, and it quickly became a household name.

Go figure… who knew?

Other aggravations:
Besides my ongoing dislike of the “love car” ads, I’ve added a couple more..

Insuring Stupidity
Progressive insurance company (a rival of Geico and the Gecko) has a series of ads featuring “Flo” a well-meaning but misguided soul in various stupid situations, earnestly idiotic.  Lately they have taken on a campaign of “Don’t become your parents/mother/father”, where some male or female doofus mimics the dotty parent while the spouse looks on disconsolately.  Making fun of the earlier generation seems a bit much.  I, for one, would be proud to “Become my Father”. Wouldn’t buy their product, I’ll vote with the little green guy (who has great commercials)

Hey Alexa!
Okay, I know technology marches on, but it’s getting ridiculous.  There used to be a phrase “the dumbing of America”, well, Amazon, Google, Apple,  seem hell bent on furthering that cause!   No need for education!  Somebody standing with a shriveled brown plant in a pot:   “Hey Alexa!  What does a healthy succulent look like?”   what’s next?  “Hey Google! How do I boil water?”  No need to learn anything, just ask the little device on your counter.

I had another subject of words that should be banned in culinary discussions (adding to the “Y” word and all it’s derivations), but we’ll wait till next time.

I hope you remember you should
DFD and request NMMJ for your table.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Top to Bottom

This turned out to be a long journey (from top to bottom), so maybe more than one visit would be warranted to digest it all but at least we are now kind of "up to date" (with apologies to FOJTY, who IS in Kansas City)

The Top (dog)

In our kind of helter skelter approach to the Feeder columns, let’s go back to STL for another glimpse at the world of big time dog events.  I may have said this, but probably bears repeating, that when we told FOJTY we would be attending, he asked if we had seen the movie “Best in Show”.  Why, yes, we have…  “well he said, it’s just like that.”   Yeah, sure that was a parody, but this is the real thing…. Guess what.  He was right.

So while all the dogs are doing their strutting (along with the handlers) out in the ring(s), a whole different world exists “behind the curtains”.  Mostly I suppose it’s like many performances.  Stuff stacked around

And plenty of dogs, killing time in their little “houses”

Or just "hanging out"

Some almost literally
FOJTY says they do this to keep them in good shape after grooming..

Some ever hopeful for a treat

Or just plain bored

Griffs seem to have the right idea

While waiting for Duke and FOJTY, Stanley’s mom and I got along quite well..

And then eventually it’s showtime!

In the case of FOJTY’s Wirehaired Pointing Griffons, they are bred to be hunters, out in the fields, on point with quail, retrieving waterfowl, very active.  He really prefers to be out there doing field trials, or training, not prancing around a ring.  

He says some dogs (not necessarily only Griffs) spend most of their lives in those crates, going from show to show to show.   It’s an unfortunate truth (Right Al?) that in order to advance your dog in the world of ratings and thus stud fees, etc., you have to do this..

This may be the last dog show related posting.  It was an amazing experience.  What a world.  And I don’t think I saw one sequined sweat shirt with “I love my….” On the front.  Serious stuff.  

The Middle

We abandoned the original plan to visit KC and so had to skip the annual meeting of the AASLH (American Association for State and Local History), which of course is of immense interest to MFO.  The theme for the meeting was “Truth or Consequences”:

Museums and historic sites have been ranked among America’s most trusted institutions in an age where trust continues to erode and truth sometimes becomes murky. Our history organizations maintain the trust if we continue to tell the truth. But what is truth when our work is based on interpretation of the historical evidence and interpretations change? How do people know what to believe?”

Very timely, but with our STL experience in the hotel, we mutually agreed that travel is (now) very hard on us both, and so decided to return to Maryland.  Too bad, MFO had to miss it, but by the time we got here we were pretty well tuckered out.  We were so glad we made the dog event.

The “Bottom”

So life returned to “normal”, and the Feeder had an interesting experience with a new restaurant.   One of the things I do with my limited abilities, is to be a member of the Editorial Committee for the St. Mary’s Chronicles, the newsletter of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society, published quarterly which contains articles pertaining to the history of our county.  We review potential articles, and edit where called for, and learn a lot in the process. 

We have occasional meetings of the committee to discuss philosophy, recent and potential articles, tell stories, etc.  So last week we decided to have a lunch meeting.  Since there is a preponderance of members from the western part of the county we decided to eat at The Bottom of the Hill, a relatively new place just north of Leonardtown in the shopping center with the garden place, McDonalds, and Weiss (nee Food Lion). 

Side Track, but interesting (restaurant review to follow):

During the small talk while we gathered, I mentioned that this location has had many occupants, none of which have survived very long.  When I arrived here in ’96 the spot was a Perkins (Pancake House) one of two in the vicinity as there was one also in California in Wildewood (which kind of figures in the story).  Some of the members recalled a couple of the places, but the Feeder got interested in coming up with a comprehensive list.  Well, that has proved to be an elusive task.  I posted the question on the Facebook Page: “you know you’re from St. Mary’s county if…” which features history and many interesting postings from “county folk” who post pictures of old buildings and people, etc.  You might visit the page if it interests you.  Anyway, I got dozens of replies, and sparing you the details, here is the kind of consensus of occupants (no dates).

Mattingly’s Tobacco Field
Perkins Pancake House
Alice’s Restaurant*
Arizona Pizza
Rustic River Grill
Pho Saigon**
Bottom of the Hill

* It may be that “Alice” was after the Perkins in Wildewood, mixed opinions
** cloudy as to which of these two preceded the other

I am not sure of the accuracy of the above.  I could not find any way of “looking it up” on a county site, although I might be able to go back and research occupancy permits (too much work!).  Pretty interesting lineup, I’m not sure another county location could top that!  Some postulated that early demises could be because of the owner, but again, no substantiation.

Anyway, this is today’s incarnation:

The inside is kind of what one might expect and is common for a County local restaurant

With photos of local interest and cute signs.  Continuing the same formula, the menu is a single laminated sheet (front and back)

With choices you can find at almost any place in the county, baskets, sandwiches, appetizers, dinners, sides hidden as usual, nothing extraordinary. It does provide a challenge for the (now sodium limited) Feeder.   You probably can’t read the above selections very well, but try to think what might be low sodium in that lineup!  Invariably, it leads him to the salads, as most of the other (good) stuff is probably pretty high in sodium (as well as mostly fried) so I (ho hum) get some salad with chicken (here it was the Santa Fe (“no added salt, dressing on side" please).  Others at the table without dietary restrictions got some very nice sandwiches
Like a Reuben

A proper Crab Melt

A fried shrimp plate

All of which looks lovely compared to
Dry chicken and bare greens.  Sigh

(not that I’m bitter mind you!)

So Bottom of the Hill is just another place to eat, at least it's not a chain, not awful, not great.  Maybe they’ll last. We’ll see.

And since it was for lunch, we didn’t worry about
And to their credit, water was served in a proper glass, so didn’t have to worry about