Friday, August 31, 2018

Comings and Goings and Movings..

Before getting into the subjects at hand, I should say that today, 31 August, 2018 marks the 55th year that MFO and I have been husband and wife.  What a great ride, and I am not sure how she put up with the Feeder that long, but God (and myself) love her!

Okay, the subject is comings, goings, and movings;

Let’s see, we’ll start in sort of reverse order with:


Somehow, this one escaped the attention of the Feeder, or if I did say something I have forgotten.  A bit of windup here, when I first started coming to Pax River (before my ’96 permanent (as it turned out) relocation), like back in the 70’s, there was a flight test guy nicknamed something like “Fast Freddie”.  Those who know, will know who I am talking about.  Always working a deal, finding an angle, pulling trades (some shady), etc., in order to keep the Hornet flight test program going.   When I did my stint in Spain teaching the Spanish Air Force about flutter testing, he went along.  On the weekends we toured across, and one story comes to mind to illustrate his personality.  In Spain, like other European beaches, many of the women go “topless”, and it is common enough that it is accepted practice.   Well, we were at some beach (maybe on the Med) trying to be the nonchalant Americans, when a particularly attractive female came by, whereupon Freddie exclaimed in a loud voice “wow! Look at those!” at which point we all checked for sand in our shoes.  (Seinfeld:  “they’re real and they’re spectacular” would apply)

Anyway during his last days at McDonnell, he and his family opened a restaurant called Bear Creek Barbeque.  For many years it was pretty much the only place around to get “real” pulled pork, sliced brisket, ribs, etc.  They were very community oriented and catered may events at places like Historic St. Mary’s City. 

Well as it turns out a couple of months ago, they closed the business which had moved from a nice location on Route 5 near Callaway to the old “Chicken Shack” tee pee on Piney Point Road.  I am not sure of the cause, I know there were health problems involved and the business remained in the (extended) family.  Kind of too bad.  But see “Comings”

Another place shuttered (which was no surprise to this office) is Cheese Burger in Paradise, which was located in the Wildewood Shopping center.  In carrying out the “Island” theme, it always looked almost abandoned anyway with tropical grasses, sand, etc., which was totally incongruous with a parking lot in a shopping center.  Have to admit I was there maybe once but did visit one on St. Barts, which was more appropriate.  Heard nothing but bad reviews on the local one.  Another chain gone!!


Sort of…. The closure of Bear Creek left kind of a hole in the BBQ market (okay, there’s Mission BBQ (one of at least 40 others around – and hoping to double by the end of 2018).   But as far as independent place (save a few various road side places) Smokey Joe’s in Lexington Park stood alone. A couple in Calvert but mostly locally was Smokey’s.   Well, they have now closed the little store here in the park, but there is now

Which now occupies the BBQ spot that failed in Leonardtown.  Recently opened, they appear to be doing well, judging by the parking lot census.  Have not been, but there is a ton of experience there.  Should be great and can expand their services.


In the same little area, there is Jessie’s Kitchen.  I have spoken about this before, but I had a chance to enjoy lunch with a friend there this week, and have to admit they are doing better.  It is still a pleasant enough place for a store front

Good wine list, top shelf spirits (not at lunch however) and seemingly very fresh foods.  Given my sodium restrictions, I have to be careful but the helpful server checked with the kitchen and said the vegetable broth used in their soups was quite low, and their reputation is good on the soups.  You pick your noodles (ramen, Udon, etc.) then broth (veggie or beef) and then the ingredients (chicken, pork, bulgogi, etc.)  so I chose Soba (buckwheat) Vegetable Broth and the Vegetable version.   [quick rant: why is it so damn hard to find menus for places like this?  Down load PDF, go here, go there; c’mon! show me the menu!).  Also ordered a glass of wine.   Pretty quickly the dish came out

Quick quiz: of the three items pictured which two does the Feeder wish would go out of fashion?  Correct!

And I would add a fourth.   I suppose it’s because I’m in the wrong culture and not familiar with foreign eating customs, but I had a heck of a time with that black ladle, quite deep -  how do you get noodles in that? And what about the broth?  You have to tip it so much to get the broth into it, the other ingredients fall out.  Eating noodles with a round utensil is daunting.   I finally had to break out the fork and treat the noodles like spaghetti.

All that being said, all the ingredients were cooked nicely, and seemed very fresh.  Overcoming the mechanics of getting it in your mouth, it was great once it got there!  Either lessons or a wrap next time!  Go have fun.

I had a friend do what I have often thought of, but never carried through.   He counted the number of Tex/Mex restaurants in the area and came up with ten if you include Chipotle and Taco Hell.   I have wanted to do this for Asian places, and maybe Pizza joints, but will remain for a future effort.

Okay, time to go crack our bottle of 55th Anniversary champagne.  

Thanks MFO for 55 years of fun! 

While we DFD and help carry forward NMMJ

Next up: a cooking lesson!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Rice can be Nice

MFO roasted a little pork tenderloin the other day, and last night she had meetings after her stint at the Historical Society, so another night of cold sliced tenderloin was in the offing. I decided to come up with a different side dish ("and now for something completely different" - extra credit) than our standby rice.  Since I had some extra kitchen time available, I hunted around for a different rice recipe, something like a Pilaf or Soubise.  In looking through my collection of recipe sheets (Pastas and Grains) I found a recipe for Soubise (passed along by somebody named “Alanna”) from the net, attributed to Julia Child.

Note: this is a post preparation image of the recipe I used, hence the bits of onion and spills.  Indicates a real recipe!

Here’s a better shot of just the ingredients

Right away it caught my (wannabe) Chef’s eye that the ingredients calls for one half cup of rice, but TWO pounds of onions sliced very thin… Seemed kind of out of balance with my visions of a rice and onion dish although she does call the recipe “Onion and Rice” i.e., Onion listed first..

What the hell, I decided to see how it was.  The first task of Mise en Place was to produce those two pounds of sliced very thin onion.  I cleaned out MFO’s hydrator bin which produced two softball and one tennis ball sized onions.  In a case of having the right tools, I unboxed my Mandoline that I have used for years, which is very useful.
Note that it isn’t a high end one of steel and so forth just plastic which does the job very nicely.  

On the thinnest setting I soon had a huge pile of thinly sliced onions - which kind of look like protozoa under a microscope!

Which still weighed only about 1.92 pounds, but figured close enough!

So finished Mise en Place and assembled the ingredients (notice the huge amount of the onions)

Done with the assembling phase, I launched into the “method” phase

I prepared a pan for cooking the rice and the dish for the butter and onions
That Dry Manhattan was not called for in Julia’s recipe, but I added that essential ingredient myself

Boiled the water and added the rice which was to cook for “precisely” 5 minutes.

And then drained immediately
chef’s note; you will see that it is not the common “white rice” but is something that MFO found called “whole grain” rice and NOT brown rice; but prep is same as white rice)

So began putting heat under the onions/butter and cooked it down a little

And then stirred in the drained rice – which seemed to get lost in the onions

And committed it to the oven for 60 minutes at 300°, pulled it out, and incorporated the Gruyere and heavy cream

So plated up the sliced pork, and added a dollop of the Soubise.

Well, as expected the onions overwhelmed the scant (IMHO) portion of rice, and although the cheese added some kick, it was mostly a pile of cooked onions.  Tasted good, but I was hoping for more of a rice forward dish.

So on a whim (and afterthought), I decided to make sure the recipe was "correct", and consulted the bible of French Cooking

And sure enough, on page 355 was the original unaltered, original "Julia" recipe. 

I noted that in the above "Mastering" version there were half as many onions and no mention of the heavy cream and cheese called for in the "Alanna" version the recipe.  Perhaps I should have looked before using the Internet version.

And after a little more research I uncovered another recipe for Soubise by the other icon of (Modern) French cooking, Jacques Pepin: 

Which is more aligned with my vision of a Soubise (less onions, more rice)
Next time we’ll use that.

So, of course when MFO came home, we got

DFD’d for dinner, and in the digs, there are absolutely

Sunday, August 19, 2018

As Willie said:

Whiskey River take my mind
Don't let her memory torture me
Whiskey River don't run dry
You're all I've got, take care of me
-Willie Nelson

Well, at LONG (long!) last we can take that River and talk about WhiskEy/Bourbon.. what started out as a story about our quick little tour of our local Tobacco Barn Distillery has snowballed into maybe more than you want to know about our American Bourbon.  Strap In! Before we get specifically into Tobacco Barn perhaps a little background is appropriate (hopefully not TMI!)

While Bourbon is an American Whiskey, not all American whiskey is Bourbon.  To be called “Bourbon” the spirit must meet the following criteria according to the US Government:

The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits state that Bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be:

Produced in the United States
Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
Aged in new, charred oak containers
Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume (ABV))
Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV)
Bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% ABV)
Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. The exception is “straight” bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on its label.

Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called straight bourbon. *
Bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged under four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a bourbon that is labeled as blended, as neutral-grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all).
Bourbon that is labeled blended (or as a blend) may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); but at least 51% of the product must be straight bourbon.
Bourbon which has been aged for fewer than 3 years cannot legally be referred to as whiskey (or whisky) in the EU.

*Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US. Only whiskey produced in the State of Kentucky can be called labeled Kentucky (Straight) Whiskey for instance.

Okay, so you and Jeb don’t just set up a still in your backyard and create Moonshine (unless you want a visit by the ATF or “revenuers”).

The Process

There are several general steps (all regulated by the “rules” above) in creating the Bourbon:

One:  Determine the “mash bill” grain mix (>50% (usually more) corn for Bourbon, plus rye, wheat, etc.) that is crushed into a flour.

Two:  Add water to begin extracting soluble sugars from starch

Three: Cook the grain extracting the maximum amount of sugar to create the Mash

Four: transfer the Mash to the fermentation tank external adding yeast to convert sugars to alcohol, creating a low alcohol “beer”

Five: Distill the “Beer” by cooking the “wash” to produce and condense the vapors to create the spirits

Six: put spirits into vessels for aging

Seven: Age the spirits.

Eight:  Bottle the product

In Practice

Within each of the steps above, there is science and chemistry.  Temperatures must be closely monitored, progress must be closely watched and measured to assure nothing goes awry (like overheating and killing the yeast!).   Experience, instrumentation, electronics and the watchful eye of the master distiller all play a part. So we circle back to Southern Maryland and the Tobacco Barn distillery and how they actually “Do it!”.

Step One:  The Mash Bill is cooked in this 300 gallon tank
For about 90 Minutes

And then it is transferred to the 900-gallon fermenter, which is temperature controlled to cool the heat generated by the fermentation process.  They use multiple cooling steps that support two distinct starch-to-sugar conversions

The resulting low alcohol “beer” goes back to the 300-gallon stainless tank for the “stripping run”, the initial distillation of the mash which removes the water, yeast, impurities, and sediment, which produces the “white dog” raw whiskey. 

After the “Stripping Run” the raw stuff goes to a 100 gallon spirit still with condenser to further refine the spirits

And is (computer) temperature controlled which provides ½ percent variability in final spirit proof (which by law must be no more than 80% ABV).

It is then transferred to a bonded spirit locker await barreling

where the spirit looks like

And then it goes into the barrels (at less than 62.5% ABV by law), Tobacco Barn generally barrel around 55%, (which they think produces a richer bourbon at bottling) for a long rest in the warehouse

Remember the barrels must be charred new oak providing the rich color of the finished Bourbon.  we did some “barrel tasting” showing what happens to the clear liquid that went in years ago

It is then bottled at more than greater than 40% ABV, or 80 proof.  

While there is a lot of experience and love used, there is also modern technology to help monitor things!

Their product is usually bottled around 90 proof. 

Besides Bourbon, they also produce a (Constellation) Rum a whole other story, a Moll Dyer Cinnamon whiskey, a honey Bourbon, and a “First Landing Bourbon and Rye Whisky.  You can visit their web site for more details.

After the education during the "tour" we adjourned to the Manor House for that lovely shrimp and remoulade (recipe in earlier posting).

Kudos to the Dawsons, who developed the distillery in St. Mary’s County a new venture the county, and provided a wonderful afternoon for FOJTE and wife, and friends.  They are a true county treasure!  

So there you have my (lengthy) bourbon treatise, I hope there aren’t egregious errors.  And now, as cocktail hour again approaches, the standard reminder to

Drink Local! and

And fight for NMMJ


Special Edition ... Errata!

Well, the feeder's face is redder than normal this morning.  An avid and alert reader pointed out a case of literary dyslexia contained in my last posting "Almost There".

In trying to make the "cocktail hour" deadline I inadvertently got the Whisk(e)y/Whisky thing backwards.  

In the USA and Ireland, it is Whiskey
In the rest of the world it is Whisky. 

Some think that the "e" was used in the USA to indicate that rye was used as part of the mash bill...

Some american distillers do use the other spelling, like Maker's Mark, Early Times, and Old Forester...

 and NOT in a Mason Jar!

sorry for the mistake... i know better!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Almost there!!

Well, it is amazing..  I thought: "well, I’ll just tell everybody about our visit to the Tobacco Barn Distillery here in the county, explain the process and show how they handle the various steps".   Well, as usual, if you ever want to know what you don’t know about something, try writing about it!  “then we take the wash…”  hey! I thought I knew what that is and why, so off to google and learn.   The distiller and owner of the place is probably ready for his product, as the feeder has asked him many questions which he always graciously and patiently answers.   It not being too far away from the cocktail hour (somewhere), I have decided to abandon my original plan of relating the tale of the Whisky (hey! It is America) and start afresh tomorrow telling the whole story! 

But in order to keep your interest peaked, I have been cleared to share the Remoulade Recipe we all enjoyed.  Apparently it was kind of handed down through family channels, with origins in New Orleans..  So (with chef’s comments):

Tobacco Barn Distillery Remoulade

½ Cup Olive or Salad Oil (more salad than olive)
1 tsp. salt
2 ½ tsp. Paprika
¼ - ¾ tsp Cayenne
1 Garlic clove
Cup Tarragon Vinegar1
Cup Creole or Horseradish Mustard2
2 Tbsp. Catsup
½ Cup Green Onions


Chop Green Onions (white and green parts)
Mince Garlic clove
Mix in food processor doing onions and garlic first


          1. Tarragon Vinegar
           is sometimes available in Grocery Stores, but you can             also make your own from dried or fresh:
    Take some fresh sprigs of tarragon from your garden, wash, and chuck them in a jar of white wine vinegar for a while.

2.  Creole Mustard

a.     The holy grail (as opposed to the Holy Trinity – a       New Orleans staple) is Zatarain’s 

b.     Horseradish Mustard is some what different, and there are many commercial varieties available

Of course if you want to print the recipe, you may not want the Feeder ramblings in “notes”.   The original recipe above, thanks to the wife of the owner of the Distillery. 

As mentioned in a previous edition, FOJTE made up a batch when they returned to STL: 
Step One: Mis En Place

Step 3

And voila!

Back in the day, when I was doing what evolved into “the Bottom Feeder” I used to play with dates:  “if you multiply the day of the month by the number of the month and divide by the year, you get…..”  One of our Project Managers was particularly fond of my machinations. 

Anyway, I was a big chagrined by hearing from a reader reminding me the current set of dates fits the definition of a “palindrome” (reads same forward or backward: madam, racecar) and hence this week is sort of dubbed “Palindrome Week”

That is, today being 8-17-18 is the same sequence either way.  Works for 8/12 through 8/18.   And, it won’t happen again until… year..

Okay I think tomorrow will find time to construct the Whisky edition!

Mean while
DFD and

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kids Come Calling, 1st Edition!

As some know, FOJTE and wife were able to visit us for a few days last weekend. Back in the day, when I did extended travel for the company, I used to have a “rule” that said it takes at least half the time you’ve been gone to return to “normal”.   In kind of a reverse to that, it’s taken a few days to resume our lives, missing them a lot. After a wonderful couple of days, this was the last we saw of them. 

During their stay we did a lot of things, some fun and some utilitarian.   For instance, they mucked out the garage for us.  Didn’t have the foresight (or guts) to take a “before” picture, but after their efforts, it looked like

Which is a vast improvement, and shows my newly created “bird feeder office” where I can fill the feeders on the near side of the garage instead of on the far side, a most welcome station for me. And the “cabinet” which was piled high was reduced to
(the tub contains the yellow name boards for the Oyster Festival cook-off, which I routinely lose)

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was a “tour” of the first distillery in St. Mary’s County

At this year’s Sotterley, gala, we and another couple “won” a mixology class from the Social Coffeehouse and Speakeasy in Leonardtown (nee "Behind the Bookcase").  I used to work with one of the organizers, who also happens to be one of the founders of the distillery.  He offered to give us a tour of the distillery.

So, oiginally this posting was to be about that tour (which turned out to be so much more than just a "tour") and Bourbon making, but didn’t want to show just a bunch of pictures of tanks and pipes, so started looking into the making of Bourbon.  The more layers of the onion I peeled back, the more I realized I didn’t know as much about the process as I thought I did.  Usually the case….  SO… I have a little more research to conduct in order to give you the most accurate knowledge I can about

So as not to look like I’m doing nothing, another aspect of the "kids" visit was about…..
 After the “tour” and the exhausting work of sampling bourbons, we were invited back to their lovely home to have a little restorative.   We were offered the cocktail of our choice, and also what they called an Aperol Spritz.  I, of course opted for a DMOTWAT, kind of your duty at a Bourbon house. Those that tried the Spritz loved it, a perfect libation for a summer’s day.   Composed of Aperol, Prosecco, and (Club) Soda over ice, a lovely drink both for the eye and palate.   To offset the alcohol, they also offered a (country) ham biscuit with 4 year old ham which was lovely (I just sampled, vary of the Sodium) and also Shrimp in Remoulade.   I never think of taking the picture before messing up the dish, but here it is:

Alert readers (and chefs) might say:  Hey! That doesn’t look like “remoulade” and indeed it doesn’t.  Most remoulade sauces are based on Mayo, this one is not.  All thought it was a lovely accompaniment to the cold shrimp.  While the recipe was shared with the “tour group” I will not publish it at this time.  I am always skittish about putting recipe out there without permission of the owner, so I will hold off until I receive clearance to share it.   Upon returning to STL, FOJTE made a batch

And served up a platter for their cocktail enjoyment

Where’s the Beef?
Another piece of luck on “the visit” was that I got a call (Sunday morning) from a friend who is also local chef and restaurateur letting me know he was going to make up a batch of Steak Tartare and Chicken Diane and would I like to watch?  Sure! and said to be sure to bring along FOJTE as they hadn’t seen each other for a few visits.  So we went down to the restaurant to watch him work. 

As you (should) know, Steak Tartare is raw beef (or horsemeat).  There are some food historians that say Tartare was a product of Mongolian horsemen who put raw strips of (horse)meat under their saddle to be tenderized by a day of riding.  Mercifully, these days prime beef steak is more commonly used, although purists apparently still can get horse meat at some places. It is prepared ground or thinly sliced, and uses an egg for binder.

Ours started out with an aged prime steak

Which he prefers to slice thinly.   Since we were taking some home for our cocktails that evening he made us a “kit” Including the beef, the egg, some capers, onion, and an addition he prefers: sun dried tomatoes.

Up to the consumer to decide whether or not to eat it “deconstructed” or mix it all up, which we opted for.

FOJTE added a cheese board (Huntsman and Blue)

we also reserved some of the capers, got some baguettes which we toasted, assembled all, and sat down for cocktails 

( photgrapher's hazard of glass topped tables, also a nice view of one of my “bird books”).

to add to the celebration, we had special treat, a bottle of
Which we received as a gift.  It was luscious.

That was a prelude to dinner of the chicken Diane prepared by chef after making the Tartare.  Basically Chicken Diane is thinly sliced chicken breasts which are sautéed, and dressed with a pan sauce which varies according to the chef.   Ours likes one based on demi glace.

Anyway, one of the skills possessed by accomplished chefs (not the feeder) is that they know (and use generally) one burner setting: high.   And in a commercial kitchen you can certainly get that!

 So into the pan goes the chicken

For a brief stay (maybe 30 seconds per side)
Leaving the fond for the start of the sauce

It went home with us and the Tartare and made for a great evening.

What a couple of days!   The “Bourbon” edition to come.

Meanwhile if you go out to eat, or even at home