Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Alphabet soup..

Well, three kind of disparate topics today that don’t relate much (well, except all involve food duhhhhh.)  so we’ll take them in alphabetical order.

Losing the “B” Battle

No sooner than I went off on the insatiable urge of Americans to use the “B” word, did I get the following publications in the mail, almost back to back.  First our St. Louis Magazine

And then BAM! The Washingtonian

Both touting what somebody thinks is good for me.
One small distinction (defending the old home town) the STL version merely lists “best dishes” by restaurant with no “ranking”

while the Washingtonian has to assign a number to each one
(#1 = Jose Andres mini bar)

Makes one wonder how they decided which was…. Say, 56 and which was 57 (as opposed to vice versa).  And I’m glad I’m not an owner of the Timber Pizza Co.  “Come and dine with us! we’re the hundredth best restaurant in DC!!”

While at least STL kind of says here’s some options for you.   Having a SIL in Wisconsin, the fact that Olive + Oak’s serves Cheese Curds in the red hot heart of mid-America.  On a whim, I checked their site, and 1) was surprised to see Oysters also listed (in the red heart of mid America) with the Cheese Curds in the starter section

Note that the (unadorned) little bi-valves are three bucks each, while our SMC local versions go for about two.
Anyway, more lists and lists and lists, and next year/month they will all change.

End of First Topic, start of second; “C”

We accepted a last minute invite to join some friends for dinner last Saturday, and chose the Cow and Fish in Hollywood.  They are quite accessible to the Feeder (no stairs) plus the gracious owner/hostess always gives us a table near an outlet for my portable Oxygen concentrator).  Plus, the food is darn good!  They continue to upgrade their venue (chairs, tables) and this time I found they’ve change the form of the menu.  Used to be a trifold piece of paper and it has graduated into a single colorful laminated page without shrinking the font to two points

Although they cling to my serious gripe

I was especially pleased to see the following note included
Buying local!, (and maybe they can buy another “e” for Sotterley)… ha ha..

Anyway, since I’m kind of on the trail of the fried oyster I enjoy the most, the table ordered some for an appetizer.

They were exceptional, and if I ever get to the point where I can produce anything like those, I’ll be happy! MFO got a special Steak Florentine, I got a steak/cake and our guests also had a steak and a salmon dish.

They were apparently down a server, so things took a bit longer, forcing the feeder to indulge in a second Hendrick’s Martini..Darn the luck.

So I will continue to recommend the place as long as you don’t mind those blasted Mason Jars on the table, and trying not to be annoyed by the adjacent table’s conversation.  We had the misfortune to be placed next to people who apparently felt it was necessary to speak (and laugh uproariously) without any consideration of the effect they might have on the next tables.  C'mon man!

Marching down the Alphabet, getting to the Third Letter “L”

Is for “Lobstah”.  I had the opportunity to get some fresh lobster from up east, and our source was good enough to steam it for us and it provided a very nice dinner over greens with Remoulade sauce for our Friday night dinner.

There was enough left over to feed us (and probably friends) so what to do with it?  Well, Sunday morning is a great time to prepare an omelette.  So we got out the remains

And picked it over… (Lobster is kind of like a big crab when it comes to structure)

I kind of dreamed up a “recipe” by raiding the refrigerator and assembled ingredients (tomatoes, scallions, wine, heavy cream, flour)

Made a roux, incorporated and simmered the non-egg ingredients

Cooked the eggs until just “set”; Added the filling (probably too much)

Did kind of a poor job of folding it (as usual); popped it in the broiler

And voila

Let it rest a bit and plated it

Hold it just a darned second Feeder!  Breakfast?  That ain’t Donald Duck OJ!!!
No siree Bob

It sure isn't!  it's (IMHO) the pinnacle product of French wines
 So the crustacean went to a good cause

Last of the Letters, N & M
N for “new”, word has it that the dark corner of Leonardtown may (finally) be filled with another restaurant, strangely enough maybe another French themed place…  stay tuned.

And everybody DFD

Friday, January 25, 2019

The "B" word....

Maybe not the first “B” word  which comes to mind (one version might end in “tch”), but one I am talking about is one I have been complaining about for years, so was kind of sorry to see the latest cover of my favorite magazine celebrating the culture of “The South"  I'm losing my battle. 


For their purposes, “the South” is sort of loosely bounded by Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, both Virginia's, and Maryland, although those get blurred once in a while.  Classy publication, although i think they cater to a well heeled clientele (shotguns many thousands, simple leather goods and shoes well into the upper three figures, sometimes over) but have creative photography and are quite food oriented (despite the title) which sometimes leads you down bunny trails:

 For Instance:
while paging through the magazine, I ran across the following fantastic image of Monk Boudreaux, “Big Chief” of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian Tribe. 
Mardi Gras Indians are black carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel”. 

Those elaborate costumes can take up to six months to make, and then are worn in parades of the various Tribes in such events as the St. Josephs Day Parade (Traditionally the third Sunday in March). There are some 50 odd “Tribes” in New Orleans, and are loosely formed to honor the Native Americans who helped slaves escape.  More complicated but that’s kind of a generalization. 

Reaching back in time (more diversions) there was a TV series (2010 – 2013) called “Tremé” taking place in post Katrina centered the historically black area of New Orleans.  The main character was a trombone player Antoine Batise, played by Wendell Pierce, the show featured several well know traditional musicians.  If you can find it on Netflix or some such service, it never grows old.

Oops back to the main topic.... 
My main gripe with G&G was their (front cover) use of that word I abhor, I’ve harped on this before, but what is it about Americans that gives them an almost psychotic drive to have to declare something as “best”?  One thing single solitary above all others?  C'mon, MAN! In whose estimation?  Who calls it?  For instance, how can that apply to food? there are so many wonderful variations of a single item that it is patently stupid to try to elevate one particular preparation above all others.  Think about Chili, Pizza, Barbeque, even Crab cakes.  How many different ways to make them can you think of?  And I guess you could extend the concept to Bars (despite G&G).   Noisy, high energy?  wood and ferns?  Quiet tables with white table clothes and servers in black vests?  Mugs or crystal?…  How about sports? If you are not the one pro football team out 32 that wins the Super Bowl, your season was a failure.  Endless arguments about who is the “GOAT” (Montana, Brady, LeBron, Michael). How stupid.  

My own quest
Lately I have been embarking on my own quest to find the fried oyster that I personally enjoy more than others.  I find that while I enjoy preparing them on the half shell

I also like them fried.  The basic preparation is pretty common, egg bath, flour, roll in coating, and into the oil.  The variations all come within what is in the flour.. Old Bay (sorry), Creole seasoning, Italian herbs, on and on.  Coatings and batter can vary from simple to elaborate, from bread crumbs, saltines, butter, to tempura.  I have found that I like a crisp coating encasing a succulent creamy oyster.  So I’ve been hunting around, and have come pretty close with the following recipe from the web:

Crispy Fried Oysters with Cornmeal Batter
Vegetable Oil for Frying *see chef note *1
1 Quart Oysters (about 2 cups drained oysters)*2
2 Large Eggs, beaten
2 Cups Cornmeal *3
1 Tsp Sugar
2 Tsp Salt *4
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbs Flour

Which I modified slightly:
Chef’s Notes from 1/21/2019:
1. Used Peanut Oil  
2. Made half a recipe (of ingredients, since not a Qt of Oysters
3. Added about 18 Cup Italian Panko Bread Crumbs
4. Due to health reasons cut way back on Salt.

Only nuance in the prep the called for leaving the shucked oysters in the beaten eggs for 10 minutes before proceeding.   Not sure what that does.

So did the mise en place
Laid the oysters out on a plate

On kind of a whim, I "trimmed" themto get rid of the stringy tag ends and the “foot”, which made a tidy little “pillow”.  Into the fryer until nicely golden, and out they came.

Between the corn meal and the Panko, they developed the nice “crunch” I was looking for.  Next time I think I’ll increase the Panko content, and maybe a touch of cayenne.

So I am on a journey to determine what is “best” for me, not (necessarily you).  That tenet would apply to any of the categories mentioned above.  That’s the fun of cooking, seeking what you like.

Anyway, keep trying to DFD
And eliminate MJ anywhere in your kitchen

and the last vestige of FOJTE visit, kind of fits the memories

and just found out that FOJTY may be coming out (with Duke and Smoke!)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Killin' Time

Well, it’s about 30 minutes to kickoff of the first of two NFL division champion ship games.  First is Rams/Saints in the Super Dome, then Pats/Chiefs in KC.  FOJTY scored some tickets to that one, so with arctic gear and oxygen they’ll be watching.  Be quite an experience for him.   Apparently whole town is nuts over the Chiefs and the young phenom Patrick Mahomes and interesting he’s up against the GOAT (according to some) Tom Brady.  One end of the spectrum to the other. 

So what does the Feeder do to kill time (which is now clicking away)?  He counts JELLY BEANS!  (or a Brach now calls them “Classic Jelly Bird Eggs”).   Sorry, they’re BEANs!  As you may remember, he is conducting a highly technical study of the contents of every bag o’beans.   A gift bag last week brings my totals to 869 study beans in the six bags “tested” (i.e., eaten).   Each bag contains 9.25 ounces of the little sugar bombs.  I have been looking for some order or commonality to the contents.  Guess what?  Nothing has stood out or emerged so far.   The only consistency is that there are eight colors in every bag: Orange, Green, Yellow, Pink, White, Blue/Purple; Black; and Red.  Their distribution in each bag appears to be random.   As an example Red had 12, 20, 16, 12, 5, and 7% of the beans counted, which resulted in 12.4% of the total.  It may be that things are evening out, with O(range) @ 13.6%; G @ 10.4%; Y @ 12.5%; P @ 10.2%; W @ 11.4%; B @ 10.7%; B @ 18.8%; R @ 12.4%.  And I repeat: am I an engineer because I’m this way or I’m this way because I’m an engineer?

But my objective has been accomplished.  The game is about to kickoff!

I might make mention that we joined a little group at Elements (Eatery and Mixology) Friday night for dinner.  The food at the hands of Chef Bobby Metcalf was outstanding, especially my Halibut with sun dried tomatoes, capers and green veggies.  The house was pretty full, so you should go one of these days.  

and for God's sake
and you don't have to worry about NMMJ here!  they're nowhere to be seen!

let the game begin!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Foolin' Around

NO…. not THAT kind of foolin’ around!   Where’s your brain at (yes, that’s a preposition)?   Remember the Feeder is in his upper 70’s…   maybe memories of long ago, but never mind that… Uh, what were we talking about?? Oh, yeah

Lately, spurred by Joanie Simon of The Bite Shot (food photography blog), I have been paying more attention to my innumerable food shots.  Pretty much my history has been take the image, suck it into Lightroom (Photoshop “light”), maybe adjust the white balance a bit, crop it some, and BOOM! Put it in the blog.  Well, by watching her blog I am learning there is so much more to generating an appetizing image of "food"  instead of just taking a picture.  Lightroom has such capability and I have been only scratching the surface, kind of like drawing with crayons instead of painting with brushes.  So I’ve been experimenting with some of the techniques of post processing she uses (the whole world of lighting the original image is still out there, although B&H has benefited from my increased interest.

So I’ll give you a little peek behind the curtain…(isn’t this fascinating???)
Here is an original shot that I took of some Feeder made fried oysters alongside some on the half shell with house made (by moi) Mignonette sauce. Untouched, just straight out of the camera:

Not bad, documents the stuff, but really doesn’t grab you (me).   So I went to work with some of the tools I am learning and although this isn’t great, it does attract your eye a little bit better, but still could use some more pop.   A learning experience.

I had a little bit better session with a shot from the Ruddy Duck Seafood and Ale house where we went for lunch.
The original
Which was manipulated into

So, in the future I intend to spend more time on my own shots, and post processing them and also those not generated at the digs.  Next time you read a food magazine (which I almost sure you do), take a minute to look at the images of the food.  Are the shadows too long?  Like the angle? Too much extraneous stuff in the shot?  Is your eye drawn to the food? I kind of use the reverse of the old Playboy aphorism “I only read it for the articles”; and say “I only read it for the pictures!”

Speaking of food, have had a couple of outings at restaurants (besides the Ruddy Ale House).  One was at the venerable Linda’s for kind of a brunch.  Looking for low sodium menu items at that place is a chore among the rashers of bacon, corned beef hash, scrapple all of which taste so good because of liberal uses of SALT.   Anyway after a discussion of same with our server, I finally settled for a “Veggie Benedict” it had tomato, avocado, spinach with a poached egg, which sounded manageable.   Well, upon presentation, I was served

“Oh, I forgot about the sauce”.   Tasted like the ocean.  Can’t win

On another occasion I had an early lunch for a (80th!) birthday celebration of a friend, who ordered the Shepard’s Pie.

Pretty basic stuff.  I had their Chicken Souvlaki Pita, and sort of scraped the chicken off the Pita, and it proved a bit “Chewy”, but the Tzatziki sauce helped.  I so love this, eating what you must, rather than what you want.    

Oh, a entry on the sandwich menu caught my eye:
Exactly WHAT kind of Roll????

Hello Gia!
Holy smoke… hope that was an early “President’s Day” storm!   We (SOMD) were predicted to be kind of ground zero and for once they weren’t far off.. Saturday night into Sunday brought maybe four inches, and last night the second punch gave us at least that much more.  A wallop, but was kind of pretty this morning

And gave our “porch heron” a bright new suit

In the early morning there was lovely light

With the ground covered, we had plenty of customers at our feeders, especially the Suet Cakes from the woodpecker set
Red Bellied (never have understood the nomenclature)

And the more diminutive Downy

Who just happened to depart when I snapped the next picture..  Sometimes you just get lucky

Okay, a pleasant day, “stuck” inside and watching the pretty snow.  Another joy of being retired!

And we’re having MFO’s Storm Meat Loaf tonight, so no particular need to
And in the HOM (House of Moody) never a worry about observing

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ho Ho Ho..time machine

Marching backward in time, let’s take a quick look at this year’s Christmas dinner.   Like this year’s Thanksgiving, we tried something “completely different”.  I think I mentioned we had a smallish chicken

from the “chicken lady” from the Farm at Glen Mary in nearby Park Hall, just down the road from us. They specialize in grass fed cattle, pastured pigs and poultry, with no antibiotics, all that stuff.  I decided to brine it in the stuff I showed you before

And a couple of days before Christmas into the pot it all went

So on Christmas morning, we began the day with a Feeder Frittata

Some Royal Rivera Pears and Earl Gray tea.

Along about two in the pm we decided to begin the process of preparing the chicken for dinner.
Out of its bath

Mise en Place ready

A light treatment of lemon juice

Some house grown fresh herbs applied

And popped into a 450° oven for ten minutes, then reducing it to 350

Until “an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160” to which we cheated a bit, figuring residual cooking would take it over the top.

Nice looking bird!

It did leave kind of a mess in the kitchen (for the cleaning crew, i.e., us).

So how did the bird taste?  To be honest, I expected better results.  It was good, but not extraordinary.  The brining didn't seem to have much effect, it could have been that it cooked too long (although the thermapen belied that) I don’t know.  Flavor was good, but a bit chewy.  I will try again and pull it earlier.  It was my first experience with a pastured bird.  So nice to have a local option available.  Hope you get a chance to try their stuff.

Comings and goings
Actually, comings and comings.   Sources tell me that:

The venerable Doo Dah Deli will return to Leonardtown in the little complex (is that an oxymoron?) as Jessie’s and Smokey Joe’s on the Town.  They will look for a luncheon business only (Dunkin’ gets put in the lease that they can’t do breakfast)

The now shuttered old Kevin’s Café (migrated to the Willows) will become the Slice House, allegedly serving “authentic New York” … guess what?   Have you ever heard somebody advertising “serving unreliable imitation Chicago….”

There’s also a couple of new Asian places nearby, one in San Souci (think Bay Dawgz) and across the road next to Jerry’s and Little (pizza pizza) Caesars.  Have to go look a bit more closely but think like Mongolian BBQ.  Revolving doors for those places.

The Shopper’s Food Warehouse currently located in San Souci plaza will move out by the end of January to be replaced by a Weiss (presumably the one in the Hobby Lobby group).

Stay tuned and forever