Friday, December 27, 2019

Steaks, steaks, glorious steaks!

Dec 26 ninja SRF

Well, did you survive? Another Christmas come and gone, and now we’re facing the end of the year, and depending on your accounting scheme, the end of a decade. 

One of things the Feeder misses most is the ability to grill outdoors.  MFO takes a very dim view of searing a hunk of beef on the cooktop (YOU clean it up!) so that arrow has been removed from my quiver.  Recently there seems to be a lot of buzz on “smokeless” devices that purport to achieve the same result in the house without setting off all the smoke detectors in the kitchen.

So, after some research the Feeder got an early present for himself

It’s quite a hunk of gear (5 in one), and fairly heavy, but manageable.

So for its maiden voyage (mixing metaphors with abandon) I chose some beautiful Lamb Loin Chops from a local farm
which were very lovely
So, set up the device to cook same

And actually did a pretty nice job, maybe a little short on char, but it indeed was smokeless (thank goodness!)

I think it has promise, more to come!

Great site
I wanted to get some “nice” steaks for FOJTE’s visit (to be grilled outside!!), so did some research consisting of googling “best mail order steaks” and made a list (remember, I’m an engineer)

You don’t need to strain your eyes, but a couple kept floating to the top in all lists, that being Snake River and Holy Grail.  For no particular reason I chose the Snake River Farms and after swallowing hard (and I even passed on the Wagyu varieties – our homeowner loan is maxed out) and got 4 choice steaks.

Now some alert readers may remember that I have dabbled in Blue Apron, and Sea to Table.  I was continually plagued with completely thawed proteins, open bags and mushy boxes (Blue Apron ice melts, StT at least uses dry ice).  I think it is due more to the shipper and FedEx than the providers, but what landed on my porch was fairly pitiful. Complaining to the source (who really couldn’t do much about it) resulted in apologies and in one case refund.

Anyway, the fateful day arrived for the shipment to arrive, and fortunately I was able to be here when it arrived.  Well, your money goes for something besides meat

And upon opening found a nice recipe book and the requisite catalog

Plus a LOT of dry ice, with a little insulated bag containing the steaks

Wowee!  Individually cryo-vaced, beautiful cuts a full 1¾ inches thick, wonderfully marbled

So, although they cost a bit (well, a lot more) I can’t wait for FOJTE to grill them outdoors!  They may be well worth it.  Am thinking of taking out an additional loan and investigating a prime rib roast. 

After two positive things, I think I will wait on my report of the Bearnaise sauce.. which ought to tell you something..

Meanwhile, don’t forget to
DFD and enjoy the holidays!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Holidays

to all from the Bottom Feeder!  

Regardless of how or what you celebrate.  Be grateful for your friends and family..they are what keeps you going.

Today I made cocktail sauce from the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, my (soon to be famous) Pimento Cheese Spread (a la Garden and Gun); a dry rub for our Christmas Eve little chicken, and prep continues for the arrival of FOJTE and wife tomorrow!  Down the chimney he came (via ORD from STL!!)  Tonight is his traditional Christmas Eve dinner, which I wish we could share.  I am sure a glass will be lifted toward Maryland as will one from Maryland to St. Louis and Kansas City.

with love and thanks from the
Bottom Feeder and as always

Bon Appetit

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Crossing the Lines


As I said in a previous post, I keep that yellow ruled sticky pad by me (and often lose it) and last time we whittled it down some (I ramble too much), but there are still uncrossed off lines, so I have a few odds and ends to mop up, and a couple are even about food!

Show Biz: this is a bit moldy, but still valid.  NBC spent weeks hyping their broadcast of the “Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade”, showing rosy cheeked little cherubs looking wide-eyed at the “famous” balloons.  Somehow the weather channel cashed in and spend a lot of segments taking about how the wind would affect them, etc.  So, what the hell, I’ll tune in and watch some.  So, the first thing I see is some dance troupe strutting around on what is apparently “our new stage” with some “star” I never heard of, but guess what?  I can see them on NBC on such and such a night.  Well, in order to cross off another line and not get to more, I’ll just say that the Macy’s event was indeed a parade, but it was a parade of “Our New Show” with lame productions one after another.  Oh yeah, here’s this balloon thing.  Tune in to NBC…

Sports: always easy pickings.. A): I don’t know how much you listen to the sport talking heads, but I do a fair amount in the wee smalls to ward off the demons some.  There’s a couple of things that bug me (easily done):   Head A: “expanding the (NCAA) football playoffs to eight teams is a must!  The current set-up with four just isn’t working”.  B): Very next program (Same network), Head B: “The current NCAA playoff of four teams is perfect! Opening it up to more teams just dilutes the whole thing by letting teams in with more losses”.  Don’t these guys ever listen to each other?

Last night (Saturday) saw the much awaited bestowing of the hallowed (and overrated) Heisman trophy to the odds on favorite, the guy from LSU.  That concluded weeks (months?) of speculation and Heisman Watch programs with scrutiny of every QB on every play trying to increase the drama. And INVARIABLY, every time they talk about so-and-so he is always characterized as being “In the conversation”.. same phrase over and over.  “Certainly his record doesn’t support it, but he deserves to be “in the conversation””… who’s the best wide receiver.  “Edelman of course, but don’t forget Stone Hands who is certainly “in the conversation””  watch for it...  Makes them sound intelligent and learned I suppose.

And Drink:  sort of teeing off last entry of sounding pedantic, Total Wine & More is (understandably) ramping up marketing for the holidays.  Many radio spots.  Most feature some self-styled expert telling me that he or she suggests a “Fruit Forward” cabernet from Paso Robles, and I can direct you to the perfect bottle”  They sling around “fruit forward” to show you how much they know about wine.  Gosh!  Another suggests a “daring pairing” for deep fried turkey of a “fruity” Chateaueuf Du Pape.   Beer, my friend, beer.  But gee you must know a lot about that exotic French wine!   They mention their “ridiculous” inventory of wines at affordable prices. At least they don’t push Barefoot. 

Reviews:  for years, as alert readers know, I have followed (and yes, somewhat emulated) Tom Sietsema’ reviews in the WAPO.  I was bowled over by his review of the “House Member’s Dining Room”.  For the first time ever that I know of, he bestowed a HALF STAR on the place.  He ripped them up and down.  Samples:    He calls their Bean Soup (NOT the Senate version) “one of the sorriest dining experiences in Washington; “No sooner does foot start coming than you wish you were grazing away – far, far, away from George Washington’s gaze (a picture on the wall)”; the Caesar looks like a grade-school art project… slices of chicken that taste like they emerged from a freezer bag”.  Space and temerity forbids me to go on.  You can look it up on line.   A Masterpiece of criticism..

Something of Value:  In today’s post Dave Mcintyre the wine critic, who I am growing to appreciate more and more writes “Five tips to help you with sparkling wine”.  Worth reading – the main headings are:
It ain’t champagne unless it comes from Champagne
Vintage isn’t (always) important
Wine is the noun, sparkling is the modifier
Because it’s not just about the bubbles, it’s not just about toasting
Don’t drink it from a Coupe

Space and time doesn’t let me elucidate, but it contains some very basic good information.  Look it up on line Okay, all the lines are crossed off on the pad so time to tell you to

Monday, December 9, 2019


I keep a little yellow sticky pad by me most of the time, and record stupid things I run across till the “rant tank” is pretty full. Then it needs to be emptied.  Apparently (sadly?) one of my more popular postings, food be damned (for today), we'll draw down the tank (no pictures! no pictures!!)

Phone Culture
We all have one, and like the old saying: “you can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t live without ‘em” (WHERE’S my phone????) and with the onset of the giving season, commercials for same and associated topics have proliferated. 

There are GEICO commercials of dogs trained to snatch the phone from your hand.

The woman looking at some phenomenon yelling “Take the Picture! TAKE THE PICTURE!!” and the doofus with the phone protruding from his pocket and a Taco Bell chicken roll up in each hand, and just shrugs shoulders.

A woman extolling the beauty of some "amazing" mountain scenery saying to unseen partner: “look at those amazing mountains---you’re not even looking!”;   “no, I’m posting the amazing pictures I took with my iPhone(?); whereupon they launch into the phone and it’s features of THREE CAMERA’S.

Moral as the Feeder sees it:  Our society seems to be evolving to the point where the only reason to visit places of natural or man-made beauty is NOT for personal satisfaction, education, and enjoyment, it is only to take phone pictures and post them on your favorite site.  I think somebody could hold up a painting and the result would be the same.  Reality is my phone.  Sad.

And there is no doubt that most of the out and out phone commercials and networks are aimed at a generation that I am considered part of.  Most protagonists are young, vital, and whatever “hip” connotes today. The “music” that accompanies most of the pieces are atonal and almost akin to rap. 

One particular segment from (maybe) Boost Mobile is a bit difficult for me to describe.  It features Pitbull (whom I have heard of!) and somebody named Dale Mas (whom I have NOT heard of).  Dale (if that’s her name), could be described by a phrase MFO uses sometimes as: “someone who doesn’t mind a cheeseburger”, along with her troupe of similar body type “dancers”.  Anyway, while the announcer is extolling the benefits of Boost Mobile, Dale and her team are in the background, doing what I suppose they consider “dancing”, feet more than shoulder width apart, toes pointing outward (Ninja warrior like) and “stomping” while flinging their arms in the air in a series of what I would consider anything approaching graceful, more like grotesque..  It is hard (for me) to watch.

Just for the record, I DO NOT have a flip phone.  Okay, on to


No need to talk about re-treads (get it??), like the car that is not a car, but “love”, or the gentleman who gets a GMC truck for each of them (~$70K total); or the (luxury) car made in Japan with the very British lady asking us to make it a “Decembah to remembah” by purchasing said auto.

No, there are two that have caught my attention, one that I (believe it or not) actually like!

Don’t like:  An auto whose symbol is a circle with a three pronged "peace symbol" inside who says “the best or nothing” often featuring Santa with a fleet of said autos.  one with the little pup who has to go potty is kind of cute, but a newer one features a snotty arrogant kid who takes a phone photo of Santa bending over delivering packages, and the kid takes one of his ample (to be expected) hind quarters.  Holds his phone/image up and tells the jolly old elf: “it would be a shame if this went Viral” (there’s that phone culture thing again) and the red dressed gentleman jovially  says “Okay, kid you got me, what would you like?  A drone? A play station?”  Nope says the little brat, I want your sleigh!  Cut to a red German convertible.  Never he says.   Cut to next morning when dad and mom stand in driveway in jammies and a cup, saying “junior did well this year” Stupid all around.

Like (!!): actually another Geico commercial.  Extremely button down, naive mom and dad in driveway with blindfolded son, gleefully announcing “okay, Happy Birthday! Take off your blindfold, this is for you!”  Kid takes off the blindfold to see they are all standing around a behemoth bathtub like 4-Door station wagon, maybe an older Chevy Caprice or something with beige panels on a darker beige body.  Kid looks shocked like he’s seen a ghost or something “oh no beige on beige!"  How do you expect me to drive such thing?”  Goofy dad says “you turn the key, and mimics steering wheel motions”, and the “Harriet Nelson” Mom cheerfully says: “it has cup holders!”

I don’t know who the kid actor is, but he deserves an Oscar on the spot.  Look of total devastation is perfect and priceless.

A tease

Well, the tank is about ¾ empty, and the page count mounts so I’ll “leave them wanting more”, by saying in all my years of following Tom Sietsema’s restaurant reviews I have never seen him give an “award” of one half a star to an eatery.   Details to follow.

For now

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Looking at the Holidaze

Thanksgiving(s) report(s).
Well, did you have an enjoyable thanksgiving?  We did.  A lovely meal with friends and the star of the show

And the usual supporting cast of: potatoes, squash, dressing/gravy, rolls, MFO’s Famous 7Up salad (which remained in the fridge – shhhh), a scratch green bean casserole, various relishes including a really good Cranberry Chutney made by our friends

All served on the “groaning board” nicely decorated by MFO

And that’s what we were after partaking… groaning!

FOJ Report
FOJTY (Kansas City)– decided to work (augmented wages!) and so had a turkey breast,
FOJTE (Missouri) on the other hand, was all in.  He decided to follow the fad of “Spatchcocking” his bird
(somehow, these border on obscene)
Applying a dry rub

And then, despite the weather, the Big Green Egg was pressed into service, He’s resourceful if nothing else!

Which contributed to a lovely plate

Which, by the way, was served on my mother’s “friendly village” china.  I’m sure she looked down with a proud smile on her grandson

Christmas Preview

Well, with the “late” thanksgiving (Thank you President Roosevelt!) Christmas is only three weeks from this writing, and thoughts turn from turkeys to trees.  Segueing nicely, we’ve changed our tree this year.  Our first years in the current digs, we had a beautiful 10-foot tree.

Which, while lovely required a ladder to decorate it, and with our advancing age, MFO declined to face that again.  So, we “invested” in another, only 7 feet tall. 

And, this being the tech age, it is now (pre-wired) with LED lights.  And, this being the tech age, they can be either white or colored, and, this being the tech age, you can switch from solid on, to fade in and out, or, or fade from white to colored, blinking either, alternating blinking.   Well, we are sticking to solid on, white in the day, color at night.  Another aggravation is that the little LED buggers are VERY bright.
Anyway, with “shorty” on the scene, our previous edition needed a home, and fortunately the guy who keeps our IT stuff humming along volunteered to give it a new home.  SO…… this morning he showed up with another pair of hands contemplating the situation
Then executing the plan

And finally off to a good home (with kids) to make them happy.

And off goes a former member of the family, and another piece of our life.   Time marches on.   Adapt.
Scenes from Christmas Past, and Christmas Present:

Comings and Goings

Mostly goings, unfortunately.  
This is for St. Louis crowd.  When we were living there, one of the landmarks on the corner of Clayton Road and Lindbergh was Schneitorst’s a beautiful German restaurant, serving traditional food, and a downstairs rathskeller with a wonderful collection of beer steins.  Well, they are closing.  What a shame..

And closer to this home, I saw in the paper that what’s left of the wonderful St. James Pub (closed, but high on the feeder’s “just right” list) will be razed to make way for an expanded deli.  I remember several lunches in the old pub, gray haired lady’s calling you “dear” or “honey”, which is perfectly fine.  A pool room, country music channel on hung TV’s, a bar complete with imbibers in the late morning. 

The only “coming” I can think of is SweetBay in Leonardtown, which continues to evolve with everyone’s high hopes for a “fine dining” destination.   Pictures on facebook indicate lovely interiors and floors.  Snarky Feeder says: “I don’t care what’s under my feet, what’s on the plate?

Well, I did a have a few, but after such a pleasant literary journey, we’ll leave them for next time.   A teaser would be “Macy’s Parade”

Enjoy your leftovers, maybe the best part.

And maybe you have some leftover duds, and you could

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Thanksgiving Issue

That was then
The Joy of Cooking: basically heat oven to 450, add stuffing if desired, baste frequently, cover the turkey with a butter soaked cloth.  Then cooking times given per pound.   That's pretty much it. A whole roast turkey. 

This is now

The Perfect Thanksgiving” requires six phases of instructions to achieve the current fad of “Spatchcocking” or cooking the thing in parts. 

First phase:
Place turkey breast side down, on work surface.  Using poultry shears and beginning at the tail end, cut along each side of the backbone, separating backbone from turkey, removing backbone and saving for stock or discard.
Can you just see Gramma doing that? Hah!  Then you flatten the thing (“Hiiiii –Yah!”) and further dismember it and multiple refrigeration’s later, it’s ready for the oven.
Oh, did I mention the bird should be dry brined? (Active time 45 minutes, Total 3 hours, 15 minutes plus 2(!) days refrigeration

The problem is, that the white meat is done much before the dark portions.  So between the “Gramma” technique and the rigamarole of the “Perfect" edition there have been numerous strategies for dealing with that.  Raise the temp; lower the temp; upside down, flipping, tenting, all sorts of gymnastics. And you know what? Do what you wish, when you’re done, your turkey tastes like (guess what?) A TURKEY!

Hence the extent of schemes to brine, rub, applying a plethora of spices: Bon Appétits “Expertly Spiced and Glazed Turkey”; not “amateur” spiced mind you, but Expertly spiced, which takes 10 count ‘em 10! Spices, plus Soy and Red wine vinegar. Requiring much dancing.  Chiles of varying species and heat appear to have a lot of fans.  Anything to "enhance" the inherently bland flavor of the bird.  Okay, I’ll get off that annual rant, and ask you to maybe think about a beef prime rib, a crown roast of veal or pork, maybe that deer you shot, something that has potential of flavor on its own.  (okay okay, I hear you: “Feeder! you just haven’t had a free range, hand fed, lovingly raised on squeaky clean food by caring farmers” on, and on, well, yes I have, and it tastes like, um, TURKEY.

Even the food editors of magazines are aware of the situation, hence put out their publications with tags like: “we asked our food editors to  improve the Thanksgiving classics, and …. Yadda yadda”; or “Turn back of the package recipes into something special with simple upgrades”; embellish, tweak, add exotic rubs, on and on..

One food editor laments: "Thanksgiving is your Groundhog Day.  Same holiday every year.  Gotta have turkey on the cover, and there better be mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and cranberry sauce, and some sort of side that feels new, but not, you know too new"

ON the other hand, sides and veggies are where people go nuts.  In just three magazines alone, there are 32 different recipes. Brussels sprouts always rear their nubby little heads, consistetnly prepared with something to cover up the taste.   Potato after potato and so on.  One recipe for cornbread includes… wait for it….Corn Nuts!  Yup, those crunchy little things from bags.  

So, in the spirit of upgrades MFO has assembled some of the esoteric ingredients she’ll be needing

And of course we can’t move past the food without considering the wines to go with “the year’s biggest meal” –  as proclaimed on bon appétit's cover (above).  Long time readers with memories of previous issues of “The Thanksgiving Issue” might remember that I extol the DWTHYL (Drink Whatever the Hell You Like) theory.  With the plethora and diverse lineups of spices, preparations, that nothing goes with everything ( Oh NO! Aunt Betsy brought her special marshmallow fluff salad!).  SO, pick something you enjoy and enjoy.  The wine experts even agree with me.  Dave Mcintyre of the WAPO: “5 things you should know about the wine to go with your Thanksgiving meal

     1. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER – you have more important things to worry about

     2. Open one of everything – don’t limit yourself to a single wine, open a variety

     3. You can have fun with this – pick a theme (ptooie says the feeder on this one)

     4. Bubbles go with everything – a sip of bubbly will prime you for the next bite

     5. You got this – don’t sweat it

Another pundit breaks it down into “categories”
    ~  For the Proudly Unconventional – skin contact white wine (very trendy now)
    ~  For the In-Laws you Want to Wow – BURGUNDY pinot noir
    ~  For the Full Family Feast – Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Rosé  (no watery Pinot Grigio or monster Cabs)
    ~  For the Friend of a Friend – a petillant – naturel (champagnes more casual cousin)
    ~  For the leftovers – Azienda Agricola Denny Bini Lambrusco Dell’Emilio (you’re on your own here)

And in another feature article: (KWW note) “Why cider deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving table next to all those wines” and recommends “Redbyrd Orchard Cider’s Vernal Cloudsplitter – a blend from New York’s Finger lakes of more than two dozen varieties, including old-time American apples, such as Roxbury Russet and Baldwin  over the top if you ask me..

And time and energy makes me/us wait or not worry about dessert, Southern Living has devoted a whole issue to “The Best  (feeder's favorite wordPIES and SIDES – new classics!” like Dulce de Leche-Cheesecake Pecan Pie”: Yikes!  Stick in the mud MFO is doing a Granny Smith Apple, and a Libby’s Pumpkin Pie.  Good enough for me.

And of course all ranting and raving aside, the REAL reason to celebrate Thanksgiving is to be with friends and family, whether present, far away, or only in cherished memories.  For instance, I’ll never forget the year at my Grandmother (Harriet) Moody’s house in Grand Rapids (MI) when she dumped her whole plate of food into her lap…


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A virtual library!!

Seeing the wonderful cookbook by John Shields got me to thinking that maybe based on his vast experience, the Feeder could create one: “The Feeder Fumbles through the Kitchen”?;  “Bottom Feeder Famous Botches”?  Well….. maybe not.  To paraphrase the famous saying: “those who can, cook.  Those who can’t read”.  Which in turn got me to looking at the accumulation of food related books and memorabilia the feeder has amassed in his gastronomic adventures.  For instance, how many of you have this beauty in your collection?

Or maybe a 2010 Wine Spectator with my hero and a Sunset guide to Wine Country (1989 do they still publish Sunset guides?)  

you sort of get these things one at a time, from different sources and travels, and pretty soon on almost any shelf we have racks of books

Which contain a few oddities here and there

How many of you have all three volumes of Earl Peyroux’s “Cooking by..” series?  He was a (now deceased) chef from Pensacola who produced many cooking shows for PBS. 

Besides shelves there are boxes of books of varying heritages (note “Southern Food” by John Edgerton Hmmm… nom de plume for John T. Edge???)

Book cases have little pockets of good things

Like the first publication of Hugh Johnson’s “the world atlas of wine”, now grown into a much weightier tome, (which I have somewhere), or Robert Parker’s Fourth Edition Wine Buying Guide (1995)
Some books and novels about food (Finishing Ruth’s latest book now)

An attempt (thanks FOJTE) at organizing the print food publications that seem to keep showing up

And in the kitchen, both sides of a book truck

Including a complete set of Martha Stewarts series of little “Everyday Food” a handy little quick look up (if you have the overall guide, which we do);  the wonderful book “Sauces” and McGee’s “on Food and Cooking” a scientific look at cooking – very technical.  On the other side we have

some classic reference books any chef/cook should have: (Larousse; The new Professional Chef; Pepin’s La Technique; Beards Iconic book) and of course the bibles which may have started it all:

And nearer to my “new station”

Including newly acquired Shield’s Books; The Lee Brothers Southern Cooking (a treasure trove of southern cuisine); Michael Twitty’s book on the Southern Cooking history of the old South; John T. Edge (head of the Southern Food Alliance) and the “Save Me…” by Ruth Reichl which (sadly) I have almost finished with.  But wait, there’s more!

Below my feet in the basement are tubs and tubs
of old Gourmets and one of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate back to God knows when, plus some historical Food & Wines & Saveurs, etc.
sharing the basement space with a few "dusties" in bottles

And finally… a summary!
Why? you may (legitimately) ask.  I dunno, just gives me comfort to know they are there.  Am I a hoarder?  If I were to let them go, a large piece of me would go with them, and I’m not ready for that.  Am I a better cook for it?  Well, maybe at least I have a good idea of what should be, which of course leads to frustration. 

Food and the creation of same is still my (hate the word) passion, and I have deep admiration for those who “Do” like Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, or more locally Michael Kelley, Russel Nelson, Rob Plant, Ben Reynolds (retired from Dry Dock).   Hence this reverence for food, leading to the DFD plea.

who doesn't love this
DFD and eliminate MJ's

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”