Saturday, January 25, 2020

Backing the Blog

“Back”  is the operative word..

Been a weird week here on Desperanza Circle; Monday night I was awakened by a sharp pain down in my right leg.  My friendly Advil seemed to calm it down.  Fast forward to the next night.  I couldn’t stand or sit without searing pain, so after a gruesome night…..MFO dialed up 911 (first time ever!).  fairly quickly, the LPVRS folks arrived, and they made me walk down the (7) stairs and out the front door (2 more steps) to the gurney.  Thought these people were highly trained in helping people.  Not at all pleasant.   Anyway, the large vehicle with flashing lights (no siren for you!) got to MedStar and I was installed in a bed.   Lots of “does this hurt?”, poking and prodding followed, along with a CT scan, x-rays, blood work, the whole gamut.  Good news was there were no clots, blockages, stones, swellings, knots, etc., so for lack of a better choice, (thank goodness) they latched on to Sciatica.  Sounded reasonable.  So finally after most of the day we left with a fist full of paper, reference material, prescriptions, exercises, with advice to follow up with our “primary care physician”.   Basically, “good luck pal”.

Never had anything like this before, but I have to admit with the 600mg of Ibuprofen cranking away, I’m doing better.  So much fun.  So efforts on the Blog have been “backed up”

Quick Ninja Review

I was going to post a few pictures with this, but just quickly I have used the Ninja on pork chops, oysters, hamburgers, and it is definitely a learning experience.  Hard to get a nice sear on the chops, oysters just kind of got dried out, burgers needed to be thicker (were well, well, done using instructions).  Was fairly enthused, figuring I could iron out those “kinks” with experience.  So feeling kind of frisky, I thawed a WAG T-Bone as a hopeful test.  The instructions called to use Grill” and set the temp to high (not max).  let it come up to temp and put the steaks on the “grill”.   Well, the first thing that was apparent is that the thing is NOT smokeless, as smoke roiled from the unit (mercifully did not set off the alarms) and MFO opened the door to the garage.  The steak never did brown and although nicely pink in the middle, was a tepid gray on the outside.  In retrospect I find I didn’t coat them with oil as called for in the recipe.  Maybe next time that will help.  So the journey continues!

Random Gallery

Wolf Moon over the Solomons


Thar’s gold in them there feeders

I hate these wet days, can’t do a thing with my hair!

Bird of another feather

So I find a way to sit comfortably, and probably won’t
There’s a place in Seattle that serves wine in Jelly Jars…  Humph

Quote of the day:
The angels in Paradise eat nothing but vermicelli al pomidoro
- Duke of Bovino

Friday, January 17, 2020

SweetBay {early first look)

I kind of stretched (shrunk?) my common practice of giving a restaurant time to iron out infant kinks and more or less get up and running.  With all the anticipation and buzz about SweetBay, we accepted an invite to attend last Friday (a week ago today!).  So any early faults can be ascribed to growing pains, with maybe one pain that is not so easily fixed with time.

I will follow my idol Tom Sietsema’s review model since this was a first visit.

SweetBay restaurant and Grill (Stars withheld)
22680 Washington Street, Leonardtown, MD  20650
(240) – 309 – 4148; (Reservations available on Open Table)
Open: Hours:
Monday: Closed;
Tuesday – Thursday: Kitchen: 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Bar: 4 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Friday and Saturday: Kitchen: 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Bar: 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Sunday:                     Kitchen: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.;   Bar: 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Prices: Dinner Appetizers: $6 to $14; entrees: $18 to $39
Sound Check: 82 Decibels (measured); extremely loud
Accessibility: Handicap Parking limited, and quite a distance from door. Aisles tight, but are relatively easy to negotiate (Excuse, me; pardon me); Restrooms not visited.

Feeder Report
The exterior is very attractive

The hostess station is just inside the door and you are greeted as you enter.

The space is basically separated into two main areas, a “Bar” area and a dining area.  The Bar area has banquets along one wall facing the bar, and a few tables in front.  The “dining” area is behind that, and contains many tables.

It’s interesting about the bar.  An early picture during construction shows the beautiful tile work on the wall.

It’s kind of a shame the back bar now kind of obstructs that view

Toward the back of the space is the “dining” area with just tables and tasteful figures on the walls.

Those that enjoy a “high energy” experience will be rewarded as (on the night we were there) there was quite a buzz!

Before getting into the culinary look see, a word about that 82 dB sound level (as measured by the Feeder Fone).  In field of acoustics (in which i had some experience) there is something called “cocktail party syndrome”:  When somebody speaks to you at your table for instance, in order to hear them and make some response, you have to elevate your voice above theirs to be heard.  Well, then any response has to exceed yours, resulting in an escalating spiral of sound levels.  Also, if you look at the dining area, what do you see?  Lots of solid flat walls which are excellent at reflecting noise.  We literally almost had to shout to be heard at our table.  “Management” is aware of the issue and will be addressing it.  It is a tough nut to crack with that many tables.  I wish them luck, it ain’t easy to solve without many $ for absorbing materials, etc. 

Okay so much for the physical stuff, how about the food?  I am very pleased to report that everything we had was excellent, even though it is still in the infancy.  For the feeder, that is the number one priority.  I can shout if I have to in order to get good food.  With that many covers in the place, turning out delicious food is an accomplishment.  I would hate to be in that kitchen!

As for service I am again very pleased to report that our “first contact” with the server was “Hi, I’m and I’ll be your server tonight, may I get you something to drink?”  perfect, no “taking care of”.  Thank you SweetBay.  I did give them the time honored “drink test” of ordering a “Dry Manhattan, up, with a twist”. 

As is common and probably expected, I got a Manhattan with sweet vermouth, and a cherry plus the twist.   Okay, it went back and I gave the specific recipe which she recorded on her pad (good for her!).  Second try was just fine, except there is some reflex in barkeeps that when they hear “Manhattan” they automatically reach for the maraschino cherry bottle.  I unceremoniously fished it out and it was a pretty good drink.  The bar was very busy, so I put it down to infancy again.

The menu is quite varied and you should be able to find something to suit your appetite and wallet.  Prices are not bad, and they don’t follow the La Rive’s mistake of listing sides separately (at additional cost) the (perhaps unreadable) menu(s)

And while you might balk at a 39-dollar steak, one of our companions ordered it, and it is a huge cut of meat, and was done perfectly.  I had decided on Scallops, but MFO had also, so I diverted to crab cakes, only to find the manager telling our server that they were “86’d” (restaurant speak for run out).  Decided on the Paella.  What arrived would better be called “Cioppino” as not a grain of Basmati was to be seen.  However, the seafood was excellent in a tasty broth.

All of the above can be corrected with time, I certainly have high hopes for the restaurant and gets a thumbs up from the feeder. They are off on a good foot!

And from what we saw, most people were, and some were not
and not a single Mason Jar to be seen.

Food quote of the day (new sporadic feature):  from a recently re-discovered little book from “Tango Bravo”

“Life is too short to stuff a mushroom” 
Shirley Conran - 1932

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

HNY and Oyster Battles

Well, the drumbeat for 2020 commences.  In the books is the 2019 holidays sort of symbolically  ended by the traditional good-bye wave of the FOJTE’s. 

They were able to squeeze in a visit during his winter break from school.  This was more of a “working” rather than celebratory Christmas.   They were of immense help, upstairs, downstairs, and outside. 

The big project was the removal of the carpeting on the loft which was very hard for me to negotiate with my office chair.  Doyle’s was “kind” enough to schedule the work while the “kids” were here (to help replace heavy stuff). So we had Christmas eve day punctuated by a compressor and air gun (“Bam, Bam Bam! what did you say??”) as well as the day after Christmas.  But, it turned out well and now my “upstairs” office is much more accessible. With the help of FOJTE doing much of the carrying

 he and Ms. FOJTE entered all my wines into Cellar Tracker.  If you’re willing to put in the effort, it’s a great tool for knowing what bottles you have and where they are located…

We did our best to lessen the work load

MFO is quite fond of Viognier, and this bottle from Calera was especially good.

Veteran oenophiles know that usually the back label is full of “wine speak” as in “this lovely wine has hints of pineapple and overlaid with waves of citrus and burnt orange” or some such crap.  Not so, the good folk at Calera… everything you wanted to know and more

they replaced some pansies that had formed a salad for deer, unearthing the plants and nibbling them to the nub.

This time we enclosed the “new” ones with Cloches and sprayed with DeerAway
Damn deer!

Anyway, a huge thanks to them for caring for their aging parents.

Back to the foodie stuff

Oyster Wars

After the Civil War, the oyster harvesting industry exploded. In the 1880's, the Chesapeake Bay supplied almost half of the world's supply of oysters. New England fishermen encroached on the Bay after their local oyster beds had been exhausted, which prompted violent clashes with competitors from Maryland and Virginia. Watermen from different counties likewise clashed.

BUT! that’s not the war I’m talking about (thank goodness) although it does involve oysters.  My war is much more local.  It is the war between preparing fried oysters via two separate techniques the “traditional” and the “new wave” opportunity
Traditional technique:
heat oil to 350°

Prepare a batter of your choice (I am still trying to duplicate Cow and Fish) with egg, flour, and in this case (forgive me) Old Bay, bread crumbs and a finishing dusting of Southwest Seasoning

I clean the oysters removing the foot and the stringy parts

And then put them in the hot oil flipping if necessary to get crispy and turn them out onto a plate (and dust with the Southwest Seasoning).

Pluses:  nicely formed, crispy all over, creamy inside
Minuses:  Dealing with the oil, and detritus from the frying, wife complaining about oil on her counter.

The newfangled “air fryer” technique

First, get out the device

For this go round (there were predecessors) I wanted to try two different preparations for the oysters, the C&F version and one from the internet using a pre-made coating from that bastion of southern cooking

I prepped the oysters again, and laid out the two preparations: Cow on the left, and Zatarain’s on the right

Oddly (enough) C&F said only flour coating (no eggs), panko bread crumbs, old bay (in the flour) and a post cooking dusting of Southwest Seasoning (which I ground up in the spice grinder).  Other side was egg wash, coat the oysters with the “Fish Fri”, and go at it.

Previous attempts at using the air technique resulted in too long cooking and so this time I reduced the heat to 350 and set it for 4 minutes.
Dredged the Zatarain’s side

Coated the C&F with flour and made the panko adhere as much as possible
And loaded all into the air fryer

After roughly three minutes we had:

The C&F side (left) looked awful but the Zat side looked better

Tasting revealed the C&F to be less than flavorful still, and the Zat versions were quite “zesty”.

Current evaluation:  To date I think overall the boil in oil technique has supplied the better product. Test kitchen experimentation will continue, however.

Wow, this got long, sorry, thanks for hanging in!

And what the hell, I’ll throw in one of many growing list of rants that I have recently made notes on:
I know this time of year is when resolutions are made to lose weight, get healthy, eat right, and so on.  Strike while the iron is hot.

Peloton blasts you with commercials (please forgive me) featuring ladies who obviously are fit and trim, dressed in tight fitting yoga pants, and many shots taken to seemingly (is it me?) feature the posterior of them.  Never have I seen one showing anybody who is obviously overweight, and really might benefit from an exercise machine.. 

Okay, enough getting back on track, more to come