Monday, November 11, 2019

A special day, and Matthew 7:1

Before anything else, it is a day to remember and honor all those who are, or have served our country in faraway places, assuring the freedom for kooks like me to publish things about food and cooking.  I was declared exempt for military service because at the time of the Viet Nam war draft because I was working in the defense industry.  My father was not, he even lied about his age to get in the Army, went through training in the Field Artillery, and was ultimately shipped to France where he was wounded in the grusome battle of Chateaux Thierry, and eventually was sent home for a long recovery.  He never did regain full usage of his right arm.  He never talked about his experiences and I never quizzed him about it.  In retrospect, I think it was a dark period of his life which he didn't want to revisit.  Archivist MFO organized all his papers and letters from his training and while he was convalescing and we gave them to his home town historical society in Holland, Michigan.  Thank you dad and Vets who are still here and those that live in memories…

Seems kind of anticlimactical to talk about food and such, but it’s what I do.

The Bible??? 
Hey Matthew you are quoted in the bible in verse 7:1 as reminding us: “Judge not lest ye be judged”
Well, while that may be a good life precept in general, it doesn’t apply well in the Food Judges department.   This year we had an exceptionally qualified panel of judges evaluating the nine finalist dishes. I want to talk more about one of them, but a brief bio on each follows. 

Gwyn Novak:  Back for her second year as a National Oyster Cook-Off judge, Gwyn Novak is the chef and founder of No Thyme to Cook, Southern Maryland’s premier cooking studio teaching students of all ages the love of food.

Sandra Martin:  Another returning judge She is editor of the Bay Weekly publication and considered an expert on Southern Maryland cuisine. Though born in the center of the country, St. Louis, Missouri, Sandra Olivetti Martin grew up eating native Chesapeake Bay oysters.  

Amy Langrehr, Her first time as a judge this year is the force behind Baltimore's enormously popular Charm City Cook, a Baltimore dining and cooking Instagram and blog.

Jason Yaskoir, another new addition to the judging team is Editor-in-Chief of "DCFüd" and a food writer and editor. He is originally from the most culturally diverse county in the U.S. (Queens County, NYC), where he grew up eating a variety of cuisines and learned how to cook at his Mom's side as a kid.

And finally
John Shields, another returning judge, is a Chef, author, and television personality is the owner of the
celebrated Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  John is often called “The Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay,” and he has written three popular cookbooks on the cuisine of the region.

After the competition, John set up a booth to sell his cookbooks, this the latest, the 25th anniversary edition.

 I bought a copy (can't have too many cookbooks!)

With all due respects to John, I expected just another compendium of crab cake and oyster stew recipes, until I cracked the cover.  What an amazing collection of not only recipes with provenance, and many historical pictures of the Chesapeake Bay region.  For instance: “Gertie’s Crab Cakes” recipe starts out by telling us that “Gertie Cleary hailed from Baltimore’s Greenmount Avenue and her cooking was legendary throughout St. Ann’s Parish and northeast Baltimore“.  He may be a bit biased, since Gertie was his grandmother.  Or Polish Marinated Herring:  When Polish John’s not operating his crane at the Dundalk Marine terminal, you’re likely to find him at his East Baltimore home eating or preparing this delicious snack from this homeland”.  He talks about his hometown of Baltimore, or “Charm City”.. the hairdo capital of the world, screen paintings (heard of those?) crab houses, and beehive coifs”

I found myself just leafing through the book not only for the recipes but the knowledge that accompanied them.  In emails to John, I learned he spend over a year in the region gathering the (authentic) recipes and the stories that went with them.

But what bowled me over was when I turned the page to 175 and found this:
 in the old days, a trip to Southern Maryland would not be complete without a visit and meal with William Taylor”, 

and then recounts his legendary dinners.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to a few of the “Dinner Designer’s” meals in his home that could have been an annex to the Smithsonian, full of playbills, and even costumes from the silent film era.  Anybody who knew Bill Taylor earns my respect.  John is not just some hack cookbook author. 

Quick culinary note and a small rant for the Christmas Season:

Alert readers may remember that occasionally MFO and I get food “From a Bag” if we’re out and about.  Well, we stopped for such a lunch the other day at a McDonalds, and I am so tired of quarter pounders with cheese or a cheese burger meal, that I decided to get a crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich.  It was without a doubt the worst excuse for food I’ve had in a long time.  Under the gooey coating was a hunk of chicken(?) that was nearly inedible consisting of loosely held together little packets of gristle with strings that got in your teeth.  I finally gave up. Awful and disgusting.

‘Tis the season.  Every year at this time the so called “luxury” cars trot out the same old ads’.   Lexus is one of the primary sources of such extravagances.   Showing the perfect American family, Mom, Dad, sis and buddy, in their flannel PJ’s and probably fido with his red bandanna out in front of their spacious home in the equally spacious patio in front of the multi car garage with a Lexus and a big red bow on top with the kids bouncing up and down with glee.  And the snobby heavily (British) accented haughty announcing lady telling us to make it a “Decembahhh to remembahhhh – at yo Lexusss delahhhh”.. and here I thought the auto was made in Japan

And finally (thank goodness you say) while most/some auto makers boast about fuel economy and their environmental efforts, apparently the Dodge company doesn’t buy into that crap.  Commercials of Santa driving out of his bag in a Challenger? With screaming, smoking tires shouting “and to all, get OUTTA MY WAY”, or another with the obligatory chartreuse (good ol’ boy) Charger(?) racing around city streets, weaving in and out, boasting about the amount of horsepower they have (which probably produces massive amounts of hydrocarbons).  Only in America!

Okay, I’m done. 

If you have a friend (or yourself!) who enjoys cooking and learning about regional food, I would highly recommend considering John Shield’s “Chesapeake Bay Cooking”

And if you see or think of a Veteran, say “Thanks for your Service to our Country”


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Perry Como??

It's impossible, tell the sun to leave the sky, it's just impossible
It's impossible, ask a baby not to cry, it's just impossible
Can you make a plant based burger taste and looks like a beef burger, is THAT Possible??

Well, there is now a product on the market which attempts to do just that … called “the Impossible Burger”.  One can hardly escape the marketing of the Burger, sold principally at the Burger King (NOT fast food, mind you, "quick service") outlets .   Article after article appears in various food publications and magazine articles about the invasion of plant based products into the animal protein field.   While there are other attempts out there, Impossible Burger seems to lead the field both in “taste tests” and said marketing.  

So, slightly behind the tidal wave, I waded in.  Some nights when either of us has meetings or fatigue, we sink to “eat out of a bag”.  MFO prefers the fries at Burger King to Mickey Dee’s, although I am of opposite opinion.  So, on those nights when she has a late meeting we have an objective discussion as to the menu, and then she does whatever the hell she wants. So this was a good time to weigh in on the fray

When unwrapped revealed

Indistinguishable from a “normal” whopper so far
Under the bun there was no noticeable difference either

Which leaves “taste” on the docket.   To be honest, with all the crap on it, it could be cardboard or shoe leather.  all you get is the fixings..(which always tend to escape onto your shirt)

So, I deconstructed it and compared it to MFO’s beefy version flipping them upside down doing a side by side (a tried and true technique of food reviewing as the "underbelly" can reveal a lot)

No obvious visual or textural differences, so I nibbled a (naked) hunk from each product, and I think I would have to say in terms of texture and taste they were indistinguishable again meaning the IB DID have some flavor.

One thing that is NOT indistinguishable is the price.  It’s kind of hard to come with a direct comparison, they like to cloak it within “meals” but as far as I can determine a single (beef) whopper is $4.19, and impossibly is $5.59 a “whopping” 30% more.  Other interesting comparisons:

Big Mac/McVegan: $3.99/$5.80 (45%)
White Castle Original Slider/Impossible Slider: $0.72/$1.99 (273%!!!)
Del Taco/Beyond Taco:  $1.49/$2.49 (67%)

Quite a load for ditching the non-vegan variety.   WELL, you say, it’s much more healthy eating plant based “proteins”!

One source:
At Burger King, the meatless Impossible Whopper is 630 calories, compared to the regular Whopper which is 660. (The Impossible burger is made with soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil and heme, a molecule that makes it look and bleed like real meat).

Both have around the same amount of fat (34 grams of fat, and 11 grams of saturated fat for the Impossible Whopper; and 40 grams of fat, and 12 grams of saturated fat for the Whopper). The meatless version has a whopping 1,240 milligrams of sodium verses 980 for the meaty one.”

So for the Sodium alert Feeder, I get 50% with impossible and “only” 41% of my daily recommended suggestion of sodium for regular (which might include the expendable bun; they somehow are usually sodium rich) 

BTW, the CD café on the Solomons retains the IB on the menu for $14 compared to the Bistro or Turkey Burger at $12, only 17% more.  At one point the Ruddy Duck Brewery (Lusby) I THINK had the IB on the menu, which no longer appears, however for a slight increase you can get Gluten free rolls..

So, bottom line (in the feeder’s personal opinion):  IF you feel strongly about what goes into your body, and it makes you feel good to avoid meat protein and you’re willing to pay around 50% more for something quite like the “beefy” product, go for it.  And FWIW, the stodgy and traditional feeder will stick with his carnivore and pescatorian habits.


Editor’s note (as usual) He was going to include a piece on the Judges for the Cook-Off, but they deserve more space than being tucked between the IB and an update on

SweetBay-a peek behind the curtain (figuratively speaking)
One of the principals involved put some images in Facebook of progress on SweetBay in Leonardtown (which i freely borrowed).  From the looks it appears they (hopefully!!) are going all out to create a unique space… hope so!
My assumption:  main dining spaces with booths (?) (not the feeder’s fav)

What looks like a lovely bar and back bar (good for them!)

Love the ceiling if that’s final, good noise reduction construction
And to warm the feeder’s heart, they've added what looks like a spacious wine cellar! (double good for them)

A few weeks to go, but early returns look very good!  And a word to the managers, if you put a Mason Jar in front of me, I may launch it!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Thus Spake the Walrus

I am the walrus
Goo goo g'joob

Nope, not that one, more like the Lewis Carroll Variety:

     The time has come, the Walrus said,
       To talk of many things:
       Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings — [and Oyster Festivals!]
    And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'

     O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
      The Walrus did beseech.

Well, they did somehow and didn’t turn out so well for the Oysters

O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
      You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
      But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
      They'd eaten every one."

I have never quite understood Mr. Carroll’s 18 verse poem, I suppose literature majors would get the deeper meaning and metaphor, but to a slug engineer it just talks about a Walrus, a Carpenter, and some apparently gullible (legless?) bivalves strolling along a beach eventually ending up the belly of said Walrus (how did he open them?) and his Carpenter friend.

Not so at the 53rd US National Oyster Festival and Cook-Off, where many, many luckless oysters were consumed “any way you like ‘em”.  Saturday was a banner day, with thousands of visitors, but the rains of Sunday saw brought out less than two hundred stalwarts that came through the gates!  Why we buy rain insurance.

Friday night before the competition was our annual “welcome reception for cookers and shuckers”,  Presided over by the annual "host: David Taylor

With assistance from Viet and guidance from Jane Sypher

There was a special appearance of King Oyster

But mostly people just enjoyed themselves

The next day, Saturday, I oversaw the actual 40th annual US National Oyster Cook-Off which pitts the top three chefs and their recipes for Hors d’Oeuvres, Soups and Stews, and Main dishes.  All of course had to feature the humble bivalve. 
Our able Emcee was again Ron Buckhalt

And while there were some familiar competitors from past competitions such as (the indefatigable) Tom Faglon (in his traditional shirt)

And the tireless Ronna Farley

There were also some “first timers” such as Will Milton

And Kristin-Page Kirby

Overall, we had some wonderful final recipes such as “Crispy Buffalo Oysters on Blue Cheese Grits”, created by returning two-time champion Marty Hyson of Millersville, Maryland. 

During lulls in action I always like to chat with the cookers to learn more about them, so in one small break, I talked with newbie Will .. 

“Will, what do you do in Charleston?” .. 
I work in a restaurant
“Oh, what one?” 
A place called FIG!

I should not have to remind the alert readership that FIG is one of the highest rated restaurants in one of the premier Foodie Meccas of America.

Anyway, after dishes are prepared for the Judging, there is the obligatory interview with the chef offering details about their dish and it's preparation, while the "paparazzi" look on

Then the dishes are whisked off to the judging area, and samples are passed out to the throngs (free food always brings them in)

Our next volume will talk about those judges, and what you find out about them that is very interesting

DFD and go can something with the MJ

Editor's note: you may have noticed the lapse between the festival and the reporting same.  This was due to a nightmare situation with Lightroom..

Sunday, October 13, 2019

two decades!!

Just a couple of things (well, three) since last posting, but wanted to commemorate the fact that today was the 20th anniversary of the WAPO “Dining Guide” under Tom Sietsema’s reign succeeding Phyllis Richman (1976 - 2000)

In his introduction he says over the years he’s consumed more than 9000 restaurant meals.   Let’s see (said the engineer) 20 times 365 is 7300 days, and  9000 meals means he had a restaurant meal every 1.2 days. 

Anyway, looking back he made a lists his top ten, 10 classic restaurants (not all loaded with stars), and a “Dining Hall of Fame”, celebrating 11 places that set the standard, along with 77 reviews.  Have not had a chance to digest all of this, so only giving a nod to the man’s work (yes, it is) over the years.

My own!
Certainly in the (food) top ten around here, we dined with friends last night at the enigmatic

Mingling with other “Diners” DFD’d in flip flops, muscle or logo T shirts, and the occasional ball cap that stays glued to the noggin,  but it is to be expected so you converse with your friends, just look at your food.  so far the food is worth the pain.

We began with the usual drink(s):  a Hendrick’s Martini (not so) “up” with a lemon twist

And got table appetizers of crab balls (which were very good)

And some Thai shrimp that were.... not so much.  
C’mon fried oyster season!

Entree's consisted of lamb chops,

Scallops in Buerre Blanc (MFO)
A salad, and I threw sodium to the breeze and got a fried perch dinner. Which was quite tasty

Almost anything that comes from the fryer is very well done here.   Went well with the Albarino, but not the unmentionable other glass ware on the table.

We finished the delightful evening (food and company) with the always quite good Limoncello cake from wherever it came from.

It is amusing and somewhat confusing to the Feeder the press and ink being applied to the whole subject of “plant based protein” most notably I the realm of burgers.  Last Wednesday’s WAPO food section had yet another spread on the subject

Rating 4 brands:  the Impossible Burger, Beyond Beef, Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds, and Lightlife Plant-Based Ground (in that order).  As you can tell from the banner, the IB came in a resounding first.  The tasters were not kind to the Lightlife version with comments “praising” it with comments like: “not rubbery” and others describing it “like the inside of a hot dog, and not it a good way”

The feeder has yet to indulge, but soon.

Meanwhile Kudos to Tom Sietsema for 20 years of showing the way.
Not sure if he DFD’s
nor have I heard any opinion on MJ’s on the Table..
Lagniappe, MFO's Blueberry Muffins

Friday, October 11, 2019

Poring Over Pour Over.... is it

Worth it?
As alert readers will remember, I am messing around with Pour Over Coffee.  And alert readers will also remember I am a (retired) engineer.  That being said.. off to the races for an update

Although very convenient, I have grown tired of the colored water that results from the Keuring.  After some experimenting, I have found that the Caribou Decaf is tolerable.  But, as for “real” coffee the Half Caff Green Mountain is only good for the (half) buzz.

I have also found (for some reason!) caffeine does not give quite the shock to the system as it used to.  With the result that I am seeking a good cup of coffee, which I think I’ve mentioned before.  I have (religiously) followed the “9 step” method with St. Inie’s Guatemala, which in coffeespeak features “Creamy with milk chocolate and dried pear notes”.. at least they have a different phrase wheel than the wine community (no “barnyard with overtones of sweaty saddle”).  Anyway, I had a cup of the Guatemala at a meeting in St. Inies shop and liked it, so got a bag o’beans for the project. 

I keep the beans in the freezer in a cryovac bag

only opening when I want to put them in a little jar for daily use (which also resides in the freezer)

So, the first step is to retrieve jar from freezer and do the mise en place – “frozen” beans with Tablespoon measurer, a “cup top” (conical) ceramic holder for #2 coffee filters, (cheapo) Krups coffee grinder, measuring cup, coffee cup, and instant read thermometer.

Next, we put 4 rounded tablespoons of beans in the spice/coffee grinder, and get 12 Ounces of cold tap water.
Then we grind said beans about 10 – 12 seconds (yes, I time it, remember the engineer part?) to about this grind.

The 12 Ounces of cold tap water heats on high in the microwave for about 2 minutes 47 seconds till it registers ~205 degrees

Then after pouring some of the water in the empty filter to just wet it and then discarding it from the cup, add the ground coffee and soak it just enough heated water for 30 seconds to let it “bloom”

Then finally, continue to (slowly) pour the 205-degree water in a circular motion over the coffee, maintaining an even level with the grind.

After letting it drain completely, and disposal of the filter/grounds, remove the conical doo hickey and

A very tasty cup of coffee! Elapsed time maybe 15 minutes, but if you have the time, yes, it is well worth it!

Comings and goings in:
Solomons: the most recent bust was the “Striped Rock” and maybe before that “Catamaran’s”, has been once again resurrected as the “Bugeye Grill” ("It'll be different with me, see!")

 A quick peek at the menu reveals the usual standard fare for a touristy waterfront place

with pretty much standard stuff and prices… panko crusted rockfish ($26); maple-walnut salmon ($24), single crab cake Sammy (Hmmm a blend of lump and jumbo lump?.. for $18) and the requisite steaks ($28), 

Leonardtown:  SweetBay continues to race toward opening.  They’re performing some modifications to the front of the place, I think constructing larger windows (doors?) that may allow al fresco dining on the sidewalk sort of like Loic’s old place (sigh) did. 

And lastly…
The “other” emails I get besides my wcmat….that most people are familiar with, is the emails associated with the Blog account .  Over the years, that address has become fairly widely "known" to the point where I get 40 or 50 per day for things like military flashlights, products that will allow me to lose 80 pounds in one day, or make me a virile monster.  And in addition, many other pills and devices for purposes that don’t belong in the blog.  Also get my share of invitations from “Jennifer” who would really like to meet up with me for amorous purposes.  

Along those lines, I also get invites to meet up with “Hot” Ukrainian women.  I am not sure why Ukrainian, but that option is fairly common.   Now, (Please!!) don’t take this wrong, but my instant image of a Ukrainian woman is, (mostly created by news reports and images I suppose), a chunky woman, in an ill-fitting baggy print dress, babushka, non-New World shaving habits, and going over 350 pounds.  “hot” is something that never comes to mind.  

Okay, enough of your time (and I hope understanding)
Leave those Mason Jars in the box, and go

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Just for....

The Hal-i-but!

Had a chance to get some lovely halibut and decided to pan sear it. So did the Mise En Place with the proper cooking implements (yes, that's a barely visible Dry Manhattan in the back ground)

And got the All Clad stainless pan smoking hot (with just a little grapeseed oil) and committed the fish (presentation side down) 
and then engage in the second battle I’m fighting (besides minimal oil) is:  Leave the Damn thing alone!  Tough for an engineer!   Finally after 4 minutes or so, I nudged it and it slid easy so turned it over with the trusty Lamson Sharp. Left it alone until the ThermoPen indicated about 140 in the middle.   So nice to have a piece of fish that is thick enough!  Turned out beautiful and also tasty (notice careful avoidance of the “y” word in any of it’s obnoxious culinary forms!!)

Pour it on!
I have become interested in doing the “pour over” coffee method.  Keurig is boring, it’s only redeeming value is convenience.  I have yet to have a good cup of coffee with it.  I gravitated toward grinding my own beans (from St. Inies) but using the little “do it yourself” plug-in thing is a pain resulting in having to clean the little basket, etc.  So I used Amazon (see it today, use it tomorrow)  to get one of those cone shaped thingies that sits on your cup, and awaiting MFO’s visit to store for #2 filters.
Well, as with anything else there’s a whole mystique around such a seemingly easy procedure.  Anything, especially involving coffee seems to turn into a cult thing seeking the “perfect cup”.   Just get some coffee, put in filter, add hot water, let it drip (Mom and Dad's Chemex with bagged Maxwell)…  Oh no java Joe!  Research on “the net” turns up dozens of YouTube videos of hirsute guys with body art from esoterically named hip coffee shops telling me how to do it (oh, by the way you should get one of those long curvy necked pitchers).  One such (9! Step) procedure is:
Heat filtered water to 205 degrees (not 202 or 208)
Use two rounded tablespoons of (whole bean) coffee for every 6 oz. of water
Grind beans to consistency of coarse sand
Place unbleached filter in the little cup thingy
Pour some hot water into the (empty) little cup thingy, and discard the water
Put the ground coffee into the little cup thingy (with the soaked filter)
Slowly pour water into the center of the grounds and in a slow circular pattern work your way to the outer edge of the little cup thingy
Wait 30 seconds for coffee to “bloom”
Continue adding water in a circular pattern, slow but steady pace, keeping level consistent in the grounds.
After fully drained, remove the filter (and presumably the little cup thingy) and ENJOY!
I could probably have gotten in the car and driven to Starbuck’s by now!
Anyway, a work in progress!

Gathering – sort of
2019 minus 60 = 1959, the year MFO and I graduated from East Lansing High School (in Michigan).  Those that still have a foot in East Lansing, and some able travelers are getting together to celebrate the occasion.  Funny how as you advance in years, those relationships have more meaning.  I think I have commented before, but passing years rounds corners, and those who didn’t have time for you in high school are all very friendly now. We considered it, but just too friggin’ hard any more. 

Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes
Early this morning noticed flashing lights on our bedroom walls, and became aware of helicopters with powerful searchlights scanning the water and shorelines.  Many boats with flashing blue lights were cruising in the river.  Have seen this before, and is usually a result of reports of somebody jumping from the Gov. Thomas Johnson bridge into the Patuxent River.  Such a shame that people feel they have no recourse but to resort to considering that action.  Never been in those shoes and hope I never am. 

Ending Rant
Kind of hate to close on that low note, but can’t help but remark on NBC 4’s newscast that 98% of the time opens with “We begin with breaking news at six” which quite often is a passing reference to something that happened days ago. Thanks to an alert reader who reminded me… Plus, I’m sorry, I can’t stand much more of Pat Collins. I have often thought of suggesting to Channel 4 (who’s working for me!) that they give him a segment entitled: “Pat Performs the News” which divorces any attempt at real journalism in favor of his typical “report”:  mug the camera; flap your arms with a (never referred to) manila folder in one hand; mug the camera; hop around some; mug the camera; look oh, so sympathetic; mug the camera and close with “Jim, Doreen, back to you”.   Can’t he retire?  And while I’m on a roll if (weather person) Lauryn Ricketts isn’t doing lines (or shooting Tequila) when off camera I’d be surprised.  She talks so fast these old ears and brain can’t understand most of what she says… Out of my Yard!

Happy Birthday to MFO on her “somethingth” birthday today (October 2nd) dinner might be coming to us.. and most likely we will not be especially

And there are no Jars in the house