Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year......The Old Money Edition(Part 1)

One of my Christmas presents was tickets to a nearby botanical garden.

Okay.....I can hear the sarcastic remarks already.

So a trip to a botanical garden may not delight a lot of folks.

I'm not one of them.

I like historic stuff.

So if some rich guy from the early 1900's takes the trouble to spend a piece of his family fortune, turn his property into a national treasure, and open it up to the public, I have to say "I'm in."

Especially if the place has a top flight restaurant in the middle of the grounds.

So today, Chris and I took a ride to lovely Kennett Square, PA. We spent the afternoon touring Longwood Gardens, located at "Longwood", the former estate of Pierre duPont.

The gardens cover a bit over 1,000 acres. That's a lot of turf to cover. Before undertaking that sort of sojourn, we'd need some energy food.

Seeing as how Longwood Gardens has The Terrace Restaurant, specifically a fine dining restaurant called "1906", we opted to make reservations for lunch.

From the moment we were greeted, I had a really good feeling about this place. The hostess looked up our reservation on the computer and promptly seated us. The first thing I look for whenever I'm seated for a meal is  the cleanliness of the place settings.

You'd be surprised how many times I've sent back silverware or water glasses because they were not properly cleaned.

Our place settings were immaculate. Not so much as even one water spot on anything.

The busboy came right over with freshly baked brioche, butter, and a pitcher of water. The brioche was perfect. Warm, slightly sweet, light, and flaky. My impression of the place was improving every minute.

Chris and I ordered a couple champagne cocktails. She ordered a "Poinsettia" consisting of champagne, cranberry juice, and a couple raw cranberries. I ordered a "1906 Cocktail" consisting of champagne, creme de cassis, and Chambord.

Both were skillfully prepared.

A few moments after our cocktails arrived, our waitress was back to take our order. Prompt, but not pushy. I like that in servers.

Now here's where you'll only get half of the story.

Chris was taking pictures for one of her blogs.

I was taking pictures for mine.

Therefore, you get my side of the story.

I started off with a bowl of mushroom soup.


Kennett Square, PA is one of the largest mushroom producing areas in the nation.

Click here.

To say it was magnificent is to underestimate it by a wide margin.

It was creamy, earthy, savory, and sweet. The crispy fried onions really set it off.

From there, it only got better.

I ordered a locally grown, cider brined, center cut pork chop. It was topped with a cubed apple relish, and served with Brussell sprouts sauteed in butter, bacon, and lemon juice, and a wild mushroom saute served over grits.

It looked something like this:

I selected a 2008 Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Chardonnay to go with it. I love wines from the Russian River region. This one was no exception. It was mildly sweet, rich but not buttery, had great "legs", and cut through the richness of the mushroom/grits and the sprouts.

For dessert, we split a locally produced butter pecan ice cream. If my butterfat level was low, the ice cream took care of that.

Okay, I published this without finishing the blog.

Mea culpa.

Tomorrow, the pictures from the garden.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cooking Between The Holidays

There are a couple of topics I could tear into today and work myself up into a full roaring rant.

However, it is the "Holiday Season".

I'll save my rants for the New Year unless something dramatic happens.

We had a nice Christmas out here this year. Hope all y'all had the same.

Last night I made a run up to Philadelphia International Airport to pick up a friend and his family. They spent their Christmas in Walt Disney World.

I'm positive they had a nice Christmas.

Glad I could help out with the logistics for them.

It sort of signaled the closure for my Christmas. All is complete.

I could be planning for New Year's Eve.

Of course, New Year's Eve isn't here yet. It can wait.

That leaves me square in part of the "Holiday Season" I like the best.

If you're like me, Christmas leftovers are fine for a day or two. After that, they become a chore to eat.

Really, how much ham, turkey, or rib roast can one consume no matter HOW it's cooked?

Today, with the leftovers safely behind me, it's back to cooking Winter foods.

Cooking Winter foods is all about having a few already prepared items on hand. Take for example, meat sauce. I always try to have a quart or two of meat sauce, marinara, or any other sort of gravy in the freezer during Winter. The stuff is so versatile, it doesn't make sense for me NOT to have it.

I trundled on down to the basement this morning to see what was on hand.

I spied a quart of meat sauce. It dawned on me I had a bag of large cheese stuffed shells up in the kitchen freezer.

That took care of lunch.

Next to the quart of meat sauce was a package of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. Chicken is a fine meal anytime of year.

That took care of the main course for dinner.

In my opinion, the key to cooking on the "in between" days of the "Holiday Season" is to keep it as simple as possible, using as few dishes as possible.

I don't know about you folks, but it seemed like I spent a couple hours every day washing dishes of some sort.

In keeping with my philosophy of "simple and few", this is what lunch looks like:

Cover the bottom of two small baking dishes with meat sauce.
Place two stuffed shells in each.
Top with meat sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Spray two small sheets of aluminum foil with Pam cooking spray and cover baking dishes.
Bake at 410F for one hour covered.

It doesn't get any simpler than that short of gnawing on a stick of pepperoni for 10 minutes.

For the record, I find nothing wrong with the pepperoni "recipe" and have availed myself of it more than once.

You can look for my pepperoni recipe, and other simple favorites just like it in my upcoming cookbook, "I Ate WHAT Last Night?: Air Traffic Mike's Guide to Late Night Drunk Food".

It's been years in the making with plenty of painstaking research. The research has been conducted by some of the most competent experts in the field of drunk dining.

One of the biggest innovations is the recipes are printed in both large clear text and "blurry vision" text. The "blurry vision" text is a patented process the gang over at Air Traffic Mike Heavy Industries, LLC. (the official social think tank of Air Traffic Mike) developed. They think that "ShitFontsed", as they named it, will make it an easy read no matter what condition your condition is in.

We're all very excited.

More to follow.

In the meantime I have to tend to my pasta dishes.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Off With His Head!!!!"

In a bizarre twist reminiscent of a "Simpson's" episode, some vandals here in South Jersey lopped off the head of a Civil War Statue.

Let's face it, this was no mean feat.

The statue is not a short one by any stretch of the imagination.

It's also made of concrete with the head estimated to weigh around 15 pounds.

Plenty of people are upset. The police chief has fronted $100 of his own money as part of a reward.

Okay so this isn't the first time someone decapitated a statue.

Maggie Thacther "lost her head". She even lived to see it.

Josef Stalin took a low haircut earlier this year.

Then they blew up what was left.

Wow, talk about pissed off.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeton another statue, this time St. Teresa of Avila had her block knocked off for the second time in two years in 2009.

Ironically, St. Teresa is the Patron Saint of Headaches (among other titles).

I'm beginning to think someone in Bridgeton has a problem with statues.

Normally by now I'd be in a full blown rant.

After all, vandalism serves no purpose. This doesn't appear to be a protest of any kind. It looks to be just some mean spirited destruction.

Unfortunately I can't rant on this one. My own warped sense of humor finds decapitated statues pretty damned funny.

Not that I'd do something like that, nor do I condone that sort of behavior.  One exception, if it's done to make a political statement or in protest. The First Amendment of the Constitution probably covers that in most cases. It doesn't mean you won't get a bill for repairs if caught.

Other than that it's been a quiet week around these parts.

That's a good thing.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Dog's Life

You'd think that a dog would have it easy.

Well, when you look at your dog you probably feel that way.

After all, he/she is/are adopted/invited members of your family.

I know our dog, "Billy" is.

Sometimes I call him a "spoiled brat", but then I remember I had a part to do with that.

Truth be told, he's a top flight dog and a worthy representative of his breed.

Why someone tried to throw him away, I'll never know.

Ain't he a cutie?

11 months ago he was taken to the SPCA in Cumberland County weighing 5 pounds.

Oh........he was also on "Death's Door" as well.

Not that he wanted to be. Like I said, someone threw him away.

That was his reality.

His "reality" has changed a lot over the last year.

He's healthy.

He's happy.

He's loved.

And Oh My God, does he love his "Mom" and "Dad".

We sure as Hell love him, too.

I'm going to repeat myself here.......THERE ARE NO THROW AWAY LIVES!!!!

Nowhere. At no time. At any cost.

He didn't hurt anybody.

He's not a violent dog.

I can honestly say he didn't hurt anybody.


He's been here since February. It's not his style.

Somebody had it in for him.

Where they left him shows that. He was "dropped off" at the intersection of two rural roads.

His last meal, before he was rescued, was ketchup he scrounged from a cheeseburger wrapper.

The man that saved him could only do so because this little dog collapsed while trying to make it to the "safety" of the woods.

This morning that little dog is laying in the "safety" of my lap. 

He's 8 to 9 pounds heavier. 

He doesn't have to run.

He's done nothing but bring joy to us.

I'm not sure what happened at his last owner's home.

I'm not sure I even care.

If ever I was given the chance to meet the folks.............................

I'd take the "for a ride" and see how they like it.

In that spirit I urge you.......if you want to get a pet for the kiddies (or "chillrin" for my N'Awlins frenns) please go to your nearest SPCA. 

A "pedigree" is just a piece of paper that makes the owner feel special. 

Sort of like decent toilet paper does.

But that too, shall pass.

There are good dogs out there that have all the love in the world they want to give to somebody.

Like our Billy.

All they need is a chance.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.