Monday, April 30, 2018

Just not.... quite right

Well, as you know, I am continually on the search for “just right” places, where everything (setting, food, service) harmonizes to complete a positive experience.  Can be casual, informal, or haute cuisine, but all elements need to be in place and work together.

Fitzie’s Marina Restaurant and Pub (Down near Compton on Joe Hazel Road) has long been on the list as a candidate, I think when we first moved here years ago we did a drive by, and added it to potential elevation.  Well, years passed, actually decades, and finally yesterday provided an opportunity to visit.

Every year a local civic service association I belong to (that runs the Oyster Festival) has an “end of the season” Oyster Roast to celebrate the bivalve. Of course now in the day of aquaculture, and the Triploid oyster, we can have fresh ones year ‘round, just not so called “wild caught” specimens. 

This year it was decided that we would go to Fitzie’s, so I was eager to take advantage of the opportunity to check it out.  If you want to quit reading, I have to admit that it will not make the list.

It failed (my criteria) on a number of counts.  First of all, the physical building should reflect its location and the tradition of what is thought of as “waterfront dining”, and since there is a marina there, a restaurant is an expected companion as it is throughout Southern Maryland.  Instead of a building commensurate with a marina it is a “modern” building, which has no hint of the waterman tradition.  I don’t know if there was a fire, or just a remodeling, but aside from water views, it could be anywhere in the county

The interior, while pleasant, again bears no relation to place

There are several “rooms” a main dining room in front and a bar area in the back with tables on both sides. (And fairly loud music over loudspeakers)..

Since we were a group, we had a special buffet set up for us, and a dedicated “shucker”.

The other general food was set out in steam pans, included the usual items for this kind of an affair: fried crab balls, fried chicken, fried oysters, fried potatoes, a garden salad, green beans, and steamed shrimp.

Before grabbing a plate, I stopped at the bar, and asked if they had Guinness (traditional companion to Oysters) and was told they did.  Great, I’ll have that, and proceeded to head for the buffet.  Since I am regrettably doomed to a restricted Sodium diet, I stayed away from most of the “fried” stuff, only allowing myself two crab balls.  Upon returning to the table with my plate,

 with my "Guinness" waiting for me

As an aside, why the pundits at Guinness decided to mimic “American Lager” and call it Blonde totally escapes me.  Guinness draught beer is one of the best around.  Especially if you get it in Ireland where pasteurization is not required.  I did not find it unique or have any distinctive character.

So a second trip to the buffet resulted in a better choice

Of course others at the table had more traditional choices, also appropriate for Southern Maryland

I am not sure of the relation between Fitzie’s and a financial outfit.
As for the quality of the food, I would say it was just about as expected.  Shrimp were on the small and flabby side, the crab balls seemed to have a lot of filler, and the chicken a bit dry (according another diner’s evaluation), but not bad, just average.

As for the Crassostrea Virginica, their origin seemed to be debatable, from “the seventh” to Delaware.  They were generally believed to be wild ones.

The presentation was uneven

Some were not completely cut from the shell as in the “7 O’clock” one above, some had been kind of molested (the 12 O’clock) taken from the shell:
not real appetizing

And one diner noted the “black gook” on some (hinge end on the 3 O’clock)

They did however, have good flavor.

Their fried brothers weren't exactly great either, at least not what I've experienced elsewhere

Just for completeness, I peeked at their menu

Which I suppose would have to be “just right”, double laminated plastic, all the usual stuff found in the preponderance of similar places.   Funny, I always thought “Crab Cake” was one phrase word.  I hardly ever see it anymore without it being preceded by “famous”.  Who decides these things? A formal poll? Consumer survey?  I suppose they don’t want to put on the menu “our average crab cake”

Anyway as far as our event went, it was fun, but mostly due to the setting, I will have to leave it off the “just right” list.  A friend described the place as “dining in a barn, and if you turn around, you see….another barn”. 

As with most any waterfront place, it is up to you how you


Thursday, April 26, 2018

ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzz.... not!

WARNING:   the following posting is probably not for the weak of heart, plus it violates a few of the (remaining) Bottom Feeder’s rules:

A rule: Don’t talk about yourself or your medical condition; I am.
Another rule:  don’t publish “Selfies”; I am
Yet another:  don’t put ugly things in the blog; I did

Okay, with profuse apologies, and a claim of “I’ll never do this again” I will proceed and you may now click away if you wish..consider yourself forewarned!


(Breaking Rule No. One) In this long journey with Pulmonary Hypertension, various physicians have said “you know, it might be a good idea to get a sleep study”, and I generally ignore that.  I may indeed have sleep Apnea, I do snore (ask MFO), but, as far as I know I never completely cease breathing unless this is the afterlife.  I’m sure I’m uninformed, but it just seems to be in the category of “Hey, we could do this, so what the heck!”  Plus, it is just another (perceived) reason to have another piece of gear on your face going to bed… Night, night, sleep well!

So after months of medical nagging, I finally agreed to have the sleep test, er, I mean Study which sounds better.  I even rescheduled a couple of times, but finally last night I reported to our Bean Center at 8:45 and was let in by the “night tech”, and led back to the Sleep Center.  Now my helpful friends conveniently posted the cartoon that led this posting off for me, and I thought:  “ha ha, that’s funny”.  Yeah, on.

Having had a tour of the renovated sleep center at another local medical facility, I was expecting similar conditions, or a room that looked like a suite at the Marriott.   Well, it turned out to be more like Motel 6

Spartan accommodations to say the least. And (maybe understandably) no TV and reliable internet.  Oh, just game 7 between the Bruins and Maple Leafs, what the heck.  Anyway, the techy guy says "well, let’s go get you hooked up".   Great! (visions of two or three EKG like sensors glued on).  Well, about 40 minutes later, the guy in the cartoon has nothing on me.  Mr. Tully, I am you!

(Breaking Rule No. Two)

Which also breaks Number Three!

Before I “turn in” I was admonished to “be very careful” if I would like to roll over.  I don’t think I can.  So me and my harness climb carefully into bed, which looked like a instrumentation hook up for a GVT.

“Sleep” did not come until well after midnight, and awake about 3:35, about 45 minutes before the “wake up” call came.  Thank God I didn’t have to go to the potty during the night.  They want you out of there by 5:30 and it is a good 35 – 40 minutes to reverse the instrumentation process, and because I was the “second patient”, MFO was to arrive at 6:00

They need about 3 – 4 days to peruse the data, and come up with some conclusion (and most likely a sales brochure for a CPAP device).  What a (pun intended) nightmare.  It was awful.  Maybe valuable info for somebody half my age, but a 76-year-old codger?  As far as I know, that completes all the diagnostics anybody can think of.  I go back up to Hopkins next week for a follow up.

I was going to rant a bit about selfies, but that can wait for another time.   Thanks for listening if you’re still here, it helps.    And tonight cocktail hour will not be obviated by a 24-hour ban of alcohol.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Goodbye to old friends...

When I became more and more interested in restaurants, food, and cooking (late 80’s?) I got attracted to publications about the subject.  Probably my first subscription to a “foodie” magazine was for (the now defunct) "Gourmet", which always had interesting recipes and articles.  The likes of Ruth Reichl, Jacques Pepin, and James Beard all contributed to it regularly.  As time went by, with the help of chefs like Emeril (Bam! Bam!) Lagasse’s TV show, the “foodie” phenomenon exploded, spawning even more TV shows, with outlets like the Food Channel throwing increasingly (IMHO) silly shows at you like the (disgusting) “Top Chef” genre.   Few individual chefs with some real talent had their own show, but with with pretenders like Guy Fieri and Rachel (I love me) Ray, who seemed to be in it solely for their own promotion.  Anyway, along with the TV explosion, publications also proliferated.  Being a sucker for the usual “deals” if you “subscribe now”, I signed up for anything that seemed to be of real value.  I skipped things like “Cooking Light”, or “Healthy Cooking” types of things favoring those that had serious treatment of food and classical cooking techniques rather than how to cut corners, cooking fast and easy type of things. 

Anyway as the industry grew, so did my “library” (what? Throw that out?  I might want to cook that sometime?)  with the result that today our living room coffee table often grows to look like

Littered with things I am meaning to read more carefully

And as the volume grew it even began to take over our loft

And after that got over populated, I established the Bottom Feeder Archives in a corner of our basement

Where magazines were stored in boxes by date (note dates)
(and a few sleeves of Titleists)

And then eventually those boxes gave way to tubs
Saveur over Parker

So the other day MFO laid down the edict: DO SOMETHING! We are having house guests in a couple of weeks, and having them bed down on a nest of magazines doesn’t seem very hospitable.  She pitched in and organized piles into the last year’s or so and tidied things up

We may donate complete years of various magazines to the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale, which softens the blow a little, but there are some with which I cannot bare to part (Garden and Gun, Saveur for instance). 

Somehow giving up things I have cherished for over twenty years is like losing an old friend.  Devotion to food and its preparation have been (and continue to be) a large factor in who I am.  I suppose it’s my age, but there is something comforting about holding a real magazine in your hand, slowly turning the pages, savoring (get it?) images of beautifully prepared food, reading the ingredient list, and mentally following the preparation and techniques.  And yes, most if not all can be found on “the web”, but clicking on this and that, scrolling past innumerable ads just isn’t the same.

Appendix:  I kind of did this for my own edification (and amazement!) but here is a list of my stuff:

Magazines (mostly) devoted to food
Food & Wine
Bon Appétit
Cook’s Illustrated
Cook’s Country
Milk Street (Christopher Kimball’s new venture)
Cuisine at Home
Sauce (newspaper mailed from St. Louis – reviews, openings, closings, etc.)
Imbibe (Devoted to cocktails and craft beers)
Restaurant and Hospitality
Washington Post’s semi-annual Tom Sietsema’s dining supplements
(Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)

Other Magazines with significant food content
Garden and Gun (Southern Culture and food)
Martha Stewart Living
Travel and Leisure
Washingtonian (always has a best new restaurant issue)
Baltimore Magazine (ditto, best crab cakes, etc.)
St. Louis Magazine (ditto)
Southern Living
Savor (Freebie from Giant)

Magazines no longer in print
Art of Eating (now on Line only)
Gourmet (gone, but an icon)
La Cucina Italiana

Other Notes of interest

Speaking of friends (not magazines), a few years ago when I was writing a little column for the St. Mary’s County Tourism Website, I worked with the tourism folks and got to know Andrew Ponti, who helped Carolyn Laray before she left.  They were both very helpful in promoting our Oyster Festival, BeerFest, and other local events in the county.  I found out that Andrew will be “running” for the Leonardtown Town Council.  I of course will not be able to vote, but anybody who lives in Leonardtown should consider him.  Have always known him as a person who acts ethically, and besides is a really nice guy!  Oh, by the way, he is an avid Bottom Feeder Fan as well!

Here are a couple of Keurig cups I will never use (they always throw in a few of those in a “variety” pack).

Now that Cove Point LNG plant is coming on line (I assume) we see more ships that are going to onload some gas, and due to the nature of the product, they always send out the “fire boats” from the Solomons to usher them to the plant and be there during the loading process.  I caught them while testing their equipment - turned out to be a nice shot..


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Water and Frustration Rise in SOMD

As most folks (should) know by now, MFO is the Archivist for the St. Mary’s County Historical Society, preserving and organizing documents from our past. She also inherits boxes of “stuff” that get dumped on the society when Gramma’s house is cleaned out by the kids and they find boxes in the attic full of letters, pictures, etc.   She certainly learns stuff and sometimes finds some skeletons in there.  Anyway, another of her duties is to be responsible for the Society’s Disaster Plan in case of fire, tornados, pestilence and so on.  I jest somewhat but it is serious business.

In the world of historical preservation, a hot topic these days is the whole spectrum of “water rise” and what to do when your collections and historical properties go under water.  Places like Annapolis and the Solomons are very concerned.  To deal with it takes years of planning.  And, it is real.  We have all seen those maps of what the shoreline was in 1634, and what it is today.  Some of Jamestown’s buildings are now under water.  So besides her personal interest in the phenomenon, she is professionally concerned.  She’s been to several symposiums on the subject.

That’s the windup, and now the pitch!  The Chesapeake Biological Lab on the Solomons, which is part of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.  The have begun a series of lectures called “Science for Citizens” (which somehow hits me as “Science for Dummies”) on various topics (which you can look up), and last nights was a presentation by Dr. Ming Li, entitled “Sea Level Rise, Changing Tides & Storm Surge in the Bay”.  So naturally MFO was keen to go and had been looking forward to it for a while.  Okay, you had to take a couple of pitches, but here’s the fast ball.

We decided we’d have some cheese and crackers, and probably skip dinner, so a small cocktail before leaving.  We left the digs at approximately 6:15 for the 7:00 program.  Normally about a 20-minute trip.  Uh oh, a line of traffic in the right hand northbound 235 lane (the one that peels off to the bridge), starting about Town Creek Drive.  Unusual, but it was “rush hour”.  Creep, creep, creep, and by maybe 6:40 we were at the Olive Garden.   By 7:05, we crept around the corner onto 4 toward the bridge.  We saw no emergency vehicles, cops or nothing.  Then we sat there without moving for maybe 10 more minutes.  Long (enough) story short, at 8:15 we did a 180 in the MOMSTER and headed back to the digs.  We never got further than the “barn” well before the bridge.  Came home, and drowned our disappointment with a couple of drinks.  Watched an episode of an especially dour Doc Martin, which somehow matched our mood. 

During the ordeal, I tried in vain to find info.  Baynet was telling me there was a serious accident……..on Great Mills Road the previous day.  Never could find any information save a text from a friend who said there was a massive oil leak from a truck. 

It’s nobody’s “fault” as such, but highlights what a choke point the bridge in.  I called the Lab this morning and spoke to a very nice sympathetic lady who said the CBL videos their programs, sent me a link and eventually it will appear.  Hope so.. and since this is a food blog I’ll hook slide a little food quiz here:

What are these, and what are they used for??


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tee it UP!

Gosh, has it really been a week since we’ve communicated..  wow.  Where does that time go?

Anyway some will be relieved to know that this will be (mostly) food related, with a little bit of sports thrown in. 

First, kind of a sad note, there was an article in Baynet (and probably elsewhere) that an employee of the CD Café (on the Solomons) has been arrested for siphoning off funds for years for personal benefit.  Said something like over $200K in all.  Was a “trusted” employee, who had risen to a position of being a money manager.  What a shame.  One wonders what drives an employee to take advantage and funds from somebody for years with apparently no remorse, guilt, nor compassion.  We’ll probably never know, and I doubt that the restaurant will be able to recoup any of the funds.  Sad.

On to more fun stuff, kind of a blending of sports and food.  We’ll start with the big sporting event that’s going on right now, The Master’s Golf Tournament. (we’ll insert a small rant later).  I have been fortunate enough to be able to be there twice, and indeed when Patrick Reed says it is the “heaven of Golf” he’s not far off.   Sounds stupid but it is kind of a magic place almost sacred to anybody who attempts to play or enjoy the game.  A unique blend of beauty and peacefulness that is a privledge to experience.  That being said, I would not go back again (Thank you Tom Wolfe) and would prefer to let the memories transport me.  Here’s living proof!

That was my first experience in 2008, and the second time in 2012 I got to see a couple of icons of the game

Who is still with us, and sadly The King who is not

A final word on the setting, it is a very strenuous course to walk.  Very many hills, which are not really visible on TV.   I hope you get to go sometime, don’t miss an opportunity.  

A tradition like no other not only applies to the tournament but there are also some traditions about the concessions.  One of the iconic items is the Pimento Sandwich sold there.   Of course the South’s Pimento (some say Pimiento) Cheese Sandwich is kind of like our Stuffed Ham.  Everybody has a favorite recipe.  Anyway, there is quite a history with the “legendary”

Sandwich sold at the concession stands (for a paltry $1.50, by the way). 

A quick history (borrowed from the link down below):

For forty-five years, a caterer named Nick Rangos from nearby Aiken, South Carolina, made the Masters’ famous pimento cheese. Then in 1998, the club switched contracts and began using Wife Saver, the local Augusta restaurant chain that had been responsible for making the tournament’s fried chicken sandwiches—which are back on the concessions menu.

Back in ’98, led by franchise owner Ted Godfrey, the folks at Wife Saver set out to recreate Rangos’ pimento cheese. Godfrey and team presented several batches to Augusta National, but couldn’t get it quite right—something was missing. Luckily, a woman who worked for the tournament had frozen a batch of the original, and after comparing it to his version, Godfrey finally hit on a formula that seemed right. For the next fifteen years he served this recipe at the course during Masters Week. Then in 2013, the tournament changed vendors again. This time, people noticed. ESPN even investigated

I of course tried the version before the 2013 change.  People don’t like the new ones, but:

You can visit the North Augusta, Fury’s Ferry, North Leg, or Washington Road Wife Saver locations (only those four; the spread isn’t sold at the other two) and pick up a container of the original stuff—or as close to it as you can now find. Does it taste as good as it did when you were sitting in the shade of a pine tree on Augusta National’s stunningly beautiful course? That’s for you to decide

While on the subject, I found a nice (traditional) recipe in Garden and Gun (do you subscribe?) that has worked well for me.  Easy and good.  I have published it before, but will included it again:

Pimento Cheese

2 Cups Sharp Orange Cheddar, grated (8 oz)
½ Cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
½ Cup Pimiento Peppers, drained and chopped (7 oz. jar)
¼ Cup Green Onion chopped (using both the green and the white parts)
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. Cayenne
Dash of Tabasco

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir with a rubber spatula.  Serve immediately with crackers, or cover, refrigerate, and let flavors marinate.

Sara O’Kelley
Glass Onion Restaurant
Charleston, SC
Pg 24, Garden and Gun
April/May 2010

Okay, and lastly a tradition (like no other) of my own for the Master’s.  Since it always occurs around easter, there are usually (at least in our digs) a few Jelly Beans kicking around, and many years ago I hit on what became my traditional snack by which to watch the final round with, often responsible for bringing home my favorite player (like Phil).  here's the recipe:


Combine ingredients in roughly equal parts, maybe leaning toward more of the peanuts.  Employ personal taste.
Put finished dish in a serving bowl
Select beverage of choice
Settle back and enjoy the tournament
Mr. Woods after round two  in the background, wishing he had my snack (or beverage!)

Chef's Notes:  The original recipe used “regular” Jelly Beans (not spiced) which could not be located this year, and it also started out with Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts, from the blue can with Mr. Peanut peering at you, but hey.  Still good.  and yes, in either case they must be Brach's Jelly beans/eggs(?), nothing else will do, and they MUST have full color, no pastels, and a iron clad requirement is to include black (licorice) ones.

I will try to include the link to the whole article about the sandwiches from Garden and Gun’s Facebook page, but since it involves Facebook, who knows.  Good luck

And due to the length of above wisdom, I will not go off on the Media’s infatuation with “Tiger’s Back!” who is currently holding down 43rd place, a mere 18 shots off the pace.  But hey, if he shoots an 18 on the back nine, he’s right back in it!

About time to go get my traditional final round snack and later on


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Bunnies, Eggs, Cows and Fishes

First of all, best wishes for a happy and joyous Easter or Passover to you and your families!

Hippety Hop
MFO got up and decided to execute a “Eggs Benedict Kit” given to us by the FOJTE’s

As an aside we kind of wondered what Canadian “Style” bacon is.  MFO opined that it might be kind of like Champagne, you only call it “Canadian” if it is from that country.

Of course you know that Eggs bene calls for poached eggs, and while we do have one of those little pans with cups which you set over the water..too easy, and looks artificial.   So of course the feeder has to go the classic way of simmering water, adding some vinegar, and creating a little whirlpool, and carefully slipping the egg into the water from a ramekin.

And waiting a couple of minutes before gently removing it.  I always get mixed results, hit or miss, with more or less strings of whites, and placement of the yolk within the egg.  At least I now rarely break the yolk.  Results are sometimes okay, sometimes not as in below with okay on the left and not so much on the right.  

Hand trimming the egg can help but I rarely do it..
It turned out to be a pretty good dish anyway

A good way to start the day, with nothing on the docket. 

Upping the game
Yesterday (Saturday) we met a collection of friends from near and far that can get together once is a while.  We decided on lunch since a couple of them had to get places for the evening.   Where to go?   Another dining category of mine is “Civilized Lunch”, meaning good friends and conversation spent over good food with no particular time constraints. Of course our dear departed Café Des Artistes was perfect, and without that option, things get a little short.  We decided to have our group of six descend on the Cow and Fish in Hollywood. 

Well, the place seems to continue to take care of a few bugs I've noted on at least 4 previous visits here and there, and may become the fine dining destination.  I would prefer white tablecloths, but it does have kind of a nice cozy feel to it, especially for lunch.

While they still serve water in mason jars (can this fad go away, please?) they at least have feet on their “up” glasses, and thank goodness stems on the wine glasses.  I really don’t go there often enough to be sure, but I don’t think much has changed on the menu, although there is the ubiquitous blackboard with specials.  Service seems to be much more accomplished and professional, like yesterday our server sensed that we were not rushed, and didn’t pester us to order until we were ready.   And as memory serves (after a martini and glasses of wind) I don’t recall a “how is everything?”, or requests met with “absolutely” or “perfect”.  Can add so much to the experience.

So while a few tweaks seem to be taking hold, I thought the food has really improved (it was very good to start with) into the excellent range.  Soon after we were seated the chef brought out a table amuse bouche of a lovely clam dish:

Bits of garlic, a great lemon sauce, and the clams were tender and meaty.  Later we learned that it was being considered for an addition to the menu, and we supported that notion.  A dish of crab dip completed the appetizer course (with a nice sauvignon blanc).   Main courses included:
 Fish (perch) bites

A fish (perch) sandwich

A (badly pictured) earthy, creamy mushroom ravioli

And I had a chicken dish without sauce), and it was also quite tasty. everything was presented nicely and at the proper temperature

We did multiple fork deserts (Limoncello and Carrot Cake(s), probably not house made, but very tasty.

Now, instead of the Cow and Fish being a second thought place, it should be a main option for gracious dining..

Taking a chance
WARNING: what follows is solely about sports and some may be offended by the content..  So feel free to jump to DFD and go about your way, so I’m taking a chance to get this off my brain and chest anyway.

As you ought to know, the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament was recently reduced to the final four, and yesterday to the two teams that will play Monday (9;20pm tip for God's sake!) for this year's champion.  The tournament contained several surprises and unexpected and historical results (like number 16 seed UMBC ousting number one seed Arizona).  But all of those storylines have been pushed aside by the Loyola of Chicago Ramblers, an 11th seed.

And before getting rantful, let me interject that the window through which we are forced to observe things is governed by the “media” not necessarily the players and coaches.  The NCAA is fond of saying it’s all about the “Student Athletes”.   Well the Loyola Student Athletes have been robbed of any recognition for their remarkable accomplishments by a 98 year old Nun (Sister Jean), who apparently never met a microphone or camera she doesn’t like.   Again, admittedly they are stuck in her face by the media, but I never heard a “thanks, not now, go talk to the players”.   Nope, she’s right there on the sidelines. There was even a news conference for her.   And last night, when it was looking like the streak would be ended by Michigan with maybe 4 or 5 minutes left, who did we see leaving the arena?  If I were a parent of one of the players, I think I might feel cheated by the little old lady. 

Okay, that’s it, GO BLUE!  Although I don’t think they stand the proverbial snow ball's chance against Villanova, who can sink threes from the parking lot.  But, as they say, that’s why they play the game!

Okay, go