Food Friday: Mrs. Patmore’s Time Travel Nachos


Lady Mary Crawley is ever so sylph-like and elegant. She looks as if she has never eaten a sandwich in her entire gloriously privileged Downton Abbey life. She appears to have wafted on from the inconvenience of Mr. Pamuk’s nocturnal death, through the reluctant courtship, growing love and untimely tragedy with young Matthew Crawley. She is now managing the fatstock sales of 1925 without capitulating to the siren song of the lowest common denominator: food. Or so you might think.

Lady Mary, leaving behind no more than a trace of her eau de cologne and the distant click of her ropes of pearls, has been glimpsed will-o-the-wisping through the servants’ hall on the rare nights of televised sport, when Mrs. Patmore prepares her renowned Time Travel Nachos. These are the nights when Mr. Carson takes off his white tie, and Mrs. Hughes loosens her stays, and Mr. Molesley lets down his dyed hair. Quick as a flash, Lady Mary samples the nachos, and then disappears back upstairs.

Mr. Barrow smiles knowingly, as he and Miss Baxter share a glass of beer, and put their hard-working feet up, enjoying the blend of hot cheeses, bean dip and the thrilling burn of the exotic jalapeño peppers. The times they are a changin’ at Downtown Abbey, and Mrs. Patmore is going to bring everyone’s taste buds screaming into the twentieth century. Just wait for their heads to explode when they get to the guacamole! So long, bubble and squeak!

Perhaps we should not share any of these recipes with Robert, (spoiler alert!) in case his ulcer blows again, but we common folk are rather fond of almost any dish that serves hot melty cheese, crispy crunchy corn chips with a slew of ingredients that could mirror the cast of characters at Downton for sheer variety and eccentricity.

The onlookers at a fatback auction are nothing compared to a hungry crowd that has gathered at your humble crofter’s cottage for the quaint American activity known as the Super Bowl. Lord Grantham, be forewarned. The game is afoot.

We here at the Spy test kitchens abhor soggy nachos, so we recommend making several cookie sheets worth of nachos for your Super Bowl activities. It means more time hovering in the kitchen, and maybe missing some of the commercials, but that is why YouTube was invented. This way, everyone will be sure of having nice hot, crisp and cheesy nachos. We bake ours at about 450° degrees for about 7 or 8 minutes. Don’t wander off!

Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil for an easy clean up. Daisy has enough to do already, and doesn’t need to play scullery maid to you rude Americans. This way you can keep a continuous conga line of nachos moving up from the Kitchens through to the Great Hall.

Hint: don’t overload the chips with toppings – you’ll avoid sogginess and it is so much easier to eat lightly dressed chips with your fingers. (Don’t forget to take off your evening gloves, first.)

Here are some toppings for your own Mrs. Patmore’s delicious game day nachos:

Corn chips:
Buy them, or be prepared to spend your day hunched over a frying pan.

shredded Cheddar
Monterey Jack
Colby cheese

pulled pork
shredded rotisserie chicken
crumbled Italian sausage
browned taco meat
grilled steak

avocado slices
chopped sweet or red onions
shredded lettuce (add after cooking)
refried beans
black beans
chopped tomatoes
sliced pitted black olives
diced green, red, and yellow sweet peppers
jalapeños (use fresh – don’t use icky pickled peppers)
fresh cilantro

To add after the nachos have come out of the oven:
shredded lettuce
sour cream

Mrs. Patmore also suggests strongly that Maryland’s Eastern Shore folks might enjoy this variation – crab and corn nachos.

8 ounces crabmeat
3/4 cup corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 teaspoon mustard

Spoon into tortilla scoops;
top with shredded Monterey Jack, then bake.

Mrs. Patmore knows her business!

(The Dowager Countess has already had a platter delivered to the Dower House; Violet is always planning ahead.)





Violet: “First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

Spy Dog World: Westminster Show Contestant Has Many Eastern Shore Connections

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As a young girl, Sally Montgomery had a dream that someday she would have a dog in the AKC conformation ring, perhaps even at the world famous Westminster Kennel Club. That dream is coming true with her two year old French bulldog, BBPIS GCH CH JustUs Baby Step Back, CGC, better known around the house as AnyaGrace.

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The American Kennel Club judge Mrs. Jacqueline L. Stacy, and the handler is Michael Scott.

Anya is a true Eastern Shore dog, having grown up in Talbot County. At 14 weeks Anya set her paws into the conformation training classes at the Salisbury Kennel Club. She began her show career at 5 months in the AKC Beginner Puppy Competition. She and Sally were both first timers in the ring and at the end of the day they went home with the Beginner Puppy Best in Show rosette.

At 11 months, her Championship title won, Anya stepped back from the conformation ring to grow up a bit and begin some obedience training. Working with trainers in the Easton area, she completed her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) title. Anya also began volunteering with Pets on Wheels of Delmarva. Anya visits the residents at Bayleigh Chase, where she is well known for her good manners and stylish outfits.

This past summer Anya re-entered the conformation ring, expertly guided by Michael and Michelle Scott of Chesapeake City, and quickly attained her Grand Championship title, with multiple Best of Breed wins and Group placements.

Says Montgomery, “The Eastern Shore offers a wealth of resources for anyone interested in entering the sport of dogs: knowledgeable breeders, multiple kennel clubs, private trainers, top professional handlers and rewarding volunteer opportunities. We’ve had great support from everyone.” Dreams do come true; Anya will be in the ring at Westminster Kennel Club on February 15th.

Food Friday: Hot Potatoes!


We have survived the first snowstorm of the season! Hurrah! And with the end of January approaching this weekend, it seems that we should be in the clear and maybe contemplating our spring wardrobes. Silly me, what was I thinking? It is still cold, and we still need good hot, peasant food to get us through the winter months.

The reality, I am afraid, is that February, although it is the shortest month and is packed with some festive and colorful events (Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl™, Valentine’s Day, Washington’s Birthday, Chinese New Year, and Linus Pauling’s birthday), it tends to drag its icy, leaden feet inexorably from one long cold dark night to another.

Pollyanna note: Just the other day I noticed that the sun is setting a wee bit later every day, which is an important dog wrangling detail in my life. Luke the wonder dog and I head out for our last afternoon stroll around 5, so we can watch the sun set over the river. Luke never misses it. Now it is still light when we scamper down the stairs at about 5:10. In December we were used to switching on the lights before leaving at about 4:45. Hooray!

Every culture has delicious and hardy traditional potato dishes which ward away the gloom of the gelid polar evenings. The Brits enjoy bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties, bubble and squeak, not to mention the exquisite chipped potato. The best British chips come from chippies – shops devoted to the fine art of deep frying chipped potatoes. I could wax poetical here about the sheer glory of a perfectly crisp, furnace-hot chip, dusted with salt, steaming in its paper nest, but I must not rhapsodize in the middle of a thoughtful piece of food journalism. Hot chips (and fries) are perfection. I actually sent some fries back at a restaurant the other night. Some people are wine snobs; give me an indifferent glass of plonk anytime, but be sure the fries are right out of the grease, please.

Baked potatoes are easily the workhorse potato dish that crosses all the international borders. Use Idaho, Yukon Gold, Russet potatoes, Red Ruby or even sweet potatoes for your meal. Some people fill double-baked potatoes with sauerkraut: http://www.all-creatures.org/recipes/potato-stuf-sauer.html
Calcium seekers fill their baked potatoes with blue cheese and chicken: http://www.iofbonehealth.org/recipes/blue-cheese-and-chicken-stuffed-baked-potatoes
The Potato Hut in Dubai will serve you baked potatoes stuffed with fajita, steak, tuna and mayo, BBQ, or veggie delight. They are also looking for fanchisees. I would suggest an English-speaking proofreader for their website, though. http://www.potatohut.com/order/

I don’t want to make any more runs to the grocery store on skittery, icy roads than I have to. Prudently, we have a pile of potatoes and a fridgeful of topping ingredients in case of snow, or ennui. Some evenings when Luke and I stumble back in the house we can barely think about dinner prep. We want to have a glass of that reviving plonk, and warm up under the down throw and return to Bill Bryson walking his way back to Little Dribbling. So here are some things to keep on hand, to minimize your travel time and to maximize your reading time: bacon, chives, sour cream, crème fraiche, smoked salmon, ranch dressing, fried onions, pulled pork, cole slaw, Burrata, prosciutto, crab salad, Cheddar cheese, and sprouts.

Also veggies: tomatoes, peppers, onions, avocados, and salsa! Leftovers! What a concept. Use up the leftover chili, taco meat, beef stew and chicken pot pie! Use it up! Make it do! (Thanks, BA for the fancy ideas: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/slideshow/top-baked-potato)

A plain baked potato, topped with good butter and fresh pepper can be a divine way to warm up, so don’t stress if you don’t have all the trendy ingredients. If you want to get fancy, you can. Or you can just root around in the fridge for some ideas, while also checking your sell by dates. Keep it warm and nutritious, because that’s what baked potatoes are.

More ideas: http://www.theyummylife.com/baked_potato_bar

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Home Concepts: Safe and Beautiful Baths by Pamela Heyne

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Bathrooms can be dangerous places, just ask astronaut and former senator John Glenn. A couple of years after orbiting the earth, Glenn slipped in his bathroom and received a concussion, causing him to drop out of a senate campaign. He experienced pain, nausea, dizziness and ringing in his ears. Though Glenn was on terra firma, he was foiled by slippery surfaces. Fortunately for us, with a few design changes our bathrooms can be safer, more comfortable, and beautiful as well.

• Grab bars are a quick fix, and come in a variety of styles and finishes. Some designs are multipurpose, such as toilet roll holders or towel rods that are also grab bars. Want color? Some nylon (yes, nylon) grab bars come in decorator hues.

• Toilets: have metamorphosed from the low slung, 14” high style to the “comfort height”, 18”, about the height of a dining room chair.

• Flooring: ceramic tile is a good choice but should be certified “slip resistant.” Small tiles with texture are desirable in the shower. While marble is beautiful it can be hazardous.Various coatings are on the market that make marble less slippery.

• Showers: Curbless designs eliminate tripping.Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.30.13 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.30.40 PM• Bathtubs: Most accidents occur around baths. Grab bars near and in the tub are important. Step-in baths with little doors are widely advertised as a boon to someone with limited mobility, but they do have drawbacks. One has to sit in the tub while it fills up, then wait while it drains before exiting. If someone is suddenly wheelchair bound, these baths are inaccessible. Kohler has a different take on this type of bath, the “elevance rising wall bath.” It looks more like a very low traditional bath with a seat. Once seated inside you lift the movable wall, then the water cascades in. However, one reviewer got trapped in the tub when she finished her bath. After the water drained out, the “rising wall” would not lower. In any case, one must do research when considering one of these expensive items, which can be well over $10,000.

• Sink area: Many bathroom sinks are uncomfortably low, 30”, about the height of a dining room table. Now it is recommended they be about 34” high, with knee space below. This height sink is easily used by someone standing or sitting.

• Grooming: When you are standing 2’ away from your bathroom sink you are looking at a reflected image that is also two feet away. That means that you are looking at the equivalent of a person 4’ away from you. No wonder it is hard putting on makeup or shaving at the bathroom sink. As a result, I often recommend a separate grooming area that is closer to the mirror, similar to an old fashioned dressing table. The grooming area I designed for a recent client was in the bathroom, and allowed her to put on makeup comfortably seated.

Pamela Heyne, AIA is an architect and designer practicing in St. Michaels, and author of Mirror By Design. Her company is Heyne Design. A forthcoming book on the importance of Julia Child’s kitchen design concepts will be released this fall. pam@heynedesign.com

Food Friday: Winter Storm Warnings!


We are about to be blizzardized! And as much as I famously avoid the kitchen in the summer, I am strangely drawn to its irresistible warming, and soothing, and aromatic ways in the winter. It becomes a pleasure to prepare life-sustaining foods: to bake and braise, to baste and broil. I welcome any excuse, such as the oncoming storm, to bustle into the kitchen and turn on the roaring oven. It is the one warm room in the house, companionably accessorized with comfy chairs, newspapers and magazines, seed catalogues, snacks and an air of survival techniques.

I can see quite clearly in my mind’s eye the vat of homemade soup I will have bubbling merrily on the hob, solace for the snowy days yet to come. In the meantime, let’s make a tiny adjustment for a reality check; a steaming bowl of Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup may have to suffice. Because that’s all that is in the cupboard, and they are calling for a lot of snow,
Our options for going out have dwindled. While the first hyped storm of the season is aiming a wide and snowy path at us, let us contemplate the humble roasted chicken.

Everyone has a favorite roasted chicken recipe, and I firmly believe that you can never have too many of them, either. Mothers, uncles, best friends, registered dieticians, financial advisors, pre-school teachers and neighbors all have variations on this supremely cheering and practical meal. It is popular because it is just so good. We have heard all too many times the self-righteous food blog mantra that one should roast a chicken on Sunday night, so as to have enough leftover chicken to prepare and plan for a week of meals in a thrifty and hyper-controlled fashion.



Bosh! I cannot think of a better meal than roasted chicken with rice. When the desert island folks come to ask me what I want to take with me, I will say a nice navy blue Aga (it never hurts to ask), a fridge full of chickens, and a bag of good rice. Then I will have to rely upon myself to finally write that book to keep me intellectually stimulated as I sit, solitary but never lonely, in my carefully fashioned palm frond hut every night, eating roasted chicken, quietly contemplative, and appreciating the sheen of the golden chicken fat on every grain of perfectly formed and fluffy Basmati rice. I will write odes that would make Mr. Keats weep with blissful epiphany.

I doubt if the desert island folks have me on any list, so this isn’t happening any time soon. Sadly for me and for the oft-neglected field of poetry that praises the beauty and deliciousness of roasted chicken: sestinas of the elation that is manifest in the crackle of crunchy, parchment-like skin; couplets illuminating the surge of warmth and the ecstasy of the warm steam rising from the humble roasted chicken. You can see that this is a subject that bears much study and research.

And as we praise the chicken, and it perfect compliment, the bed of rice, let us not neglect the roasted vegetable medley: many folks enjoy tucking into some healthy, piping hot, vegetables along with their chicken and rice. (I would have included them in my desert island list, but one doesn’t like to look greedy.) There is so much one can do in the winter to keep the kitchen warm and inviting.

And we should not overlook dessert. What could be a better way to end a perfect meal than with a bowl of warm, homemade chocolate pudding? I encourage this exercise, considering how many times I have walked Luke the wonder dog down to the river in the cold this week. He is wearing a fur coat, after all, and doesn’t realize how many layers I have piled on just so he can get all skittish and colt-like, scaring himself when the visiting gulls rise like a plume of shrieking, spinning harpies. I think I deserve a little warm pudding.


I should not complain, however. I am enjoying the novelty of bundling, and the layers, and the pink cheeks, and the warm meals I don’t mind the cooking in the winter. The kitchen is a cozy place these days. Enjoy any excuses you can find to hang around the reliable warmth of the kitchen oven. Soon, we too can virtuously re-purpose our chicken carcass into a pot filled with chicken soup. And Spring is just around the corner…

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.”
― Thomas de Quincey

Adkins Arboretum Announces Soup ’n Walk Program Schedule

Winter Greens, focusing on plants that provide greenery in the winter landscape, is the year’s first program in Adkins Arboretum’s popular Soup ’n Walk series. Photo by Kellen McCluskey.

Adkins Arboretum has announced the winter and spring lineup for its popular Soup ’n Walk programs. Discover green plants in winter, early blooms and wildlife, ephemeral flowers and sure signs of spring. Following a guided walk through the Arboretum’s woodland, meadows and wetland, enjoy a delicious and nutritious lunch along with a brief talk about the meal’s nutritional value. Copies of recipes are provided. Offerings include:

Winter Greens, focusing on plants that provide greenery in the winter landscape, is the year’s first program in Adkins Arboretum’s popular Soup ’n Walk series. Photo by Kellen McCluskey.

Winter Greens, focusing on plants that provide greenery in the winter landscape, is the year’s first program in Adkins Arboretum’s popular Soup ’n Walk series. Photo by Kellen McCluskey.

Winter Greens
Sat., Feb. 20, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Seek out green plants that cherish the warm winter sun and trees with distinctive bark. Plants of interest include mosses, cranefly orchid, magnolia and holly leaves, and the green stems of strawberry bush and greenbrier. Menu: hearty chili, sweet and tangy sauerkraut salad, brown rice bread with spinach dip, dark chocolate chewy cookies.

Early Songbirds & Spring Frogs
Sat., March 19, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Early pink, white and purple blooms are beginning to appear. Look for skunk cabbage, paw paw, spring beauty and bloodroot while listening for early songbirds and spring frogs. Menu (vegetarian): borscht beet and cabbage soup, Waldorf apple salad, pumpernickel bread with strawberry jam, amaranth date bars with orange glaze.

Spring Ephemerals
Sat., April 23, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Appearing in early spring, ephemerals flower, fruit and die back in a short period of time. Join a walk to look for pollinators and to catch glimpses of pink spring beauty, may apple and dogwood blossoms, golden groundsel, sassafras and spicebush blossoms, and white beech tree blossoms. Menu (vegetarian): ginger sweet potato soup, Eastern Shore crunchy coleslaw, spice pumpkin bread with apple butter, cinnamon crunch apple cake.

Tuckahoe Creek & Box Turtles
Sun., May 22, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Tuckahoe Creek is a beautiful, tranquil spot that provides views of many flowering plants. Look for box turtles along with mountain laurel, beech and tulip tree blossoms, pink lady’s slipper and Solomon’s seal blooms, and may apple fruit. Menu (gluten free and vegetarian): kale, apple and lentil soup; roasted red beets and carrots; quinoa, green bean and tomato salad; almond coconut cupcakes with lemon frosting.

Each Soup ’n Walk program is $20 per person for members, $25 per person for non-members. Advance registration is required. Register at adkinsarboretum.org or call 410.634.2847, ext. 0. The Arboretum gift and book shop is open during the program and offers a 20% discount to program participants.

To schedule Soup ’n Walk programs for groups of 15 or more, contact Ginna Tiernan at 410.634.2847, ext. 27 orgtiernan@adkinsarboretum.org.

CUTLINE: Winter Greens, focusing on plants that provide greenery in the winter landscape, is the year’s first program in Adkins Arboretum’s popular Soup ’n Walk series. Photo by Kellen McCluskey.




Ask the Plant and Pest Professor: Herbs, Trees, and Flowers

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is based on questions received and answered by the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), an educational outreach program of the University of Maryland Extension. Please visit our website for gardening, pest management information or to send us a question by clicking ‘Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts’. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Question #1: Which of the following herbs are hardy enough to survive being planted outdoors in Maryland winters: parsley, garlic, chives, lovage, oregano, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme?

Answer #1: Under most normal winters, all of the herbs mentioned will survive. But our winters are very variable so in some years winter protection would be advisable. A layer of mulch placed around plants after the ground is frozen helps to protect the roots from the freezing and thawing of soil. After the danger of frost has past rake the mulch away from the crown of the plants. Plant your herbs in a protected location to shield them from drying winter winds. Rosemary can be winterkilled and could benefit from a temporary burlap windbreak. A screen can be easily constructed by wrapping burlap around garden stakes. Garlic is planted in the fall. The bulbs are harvested in early July so replanting each season is necessary.

Question #2: We just planted a young holly tree in November. What should we do for it this winter? Should we water it? We are afraid that if we do water it now the soil will freeze and the roots will die.

Answer #2: You do not need to do anything for your tree now but hopefully you watered it well after you planted it. Water evaporates from soil very slowly in the winter, so it stays moist for a long time. We have had plenty of rain this winter. Moist (not soggy) soil is crucial for the success of new plantings. Keep an eye on the weather for droughty periods, which typically occur in summer going into the fall. Water the tree deeply when we do not get regular rain for at least the first two years. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch (not touching the trunk) will also help to keep the soil moist.

Question #3: In October I planted some tulips, daffodils and hyacinth in my front garden bed. I noticed that the leaves of the daffodils are already sprouting. Isn’t this too early? Will the bulbs be damaged and is there something I should be doing to protect them?

Answer #3: Bulb growth will stop with colder temperatures. The foliage may sustain winter damage but that will not affect the spring bloom. Covering them is not absolutely necessary. But if you choose to do so, lightly cover (do not bury them) with mulch, shredded leaves, evergreen branches or pine needles. Uncover in early spring.

Food Friday: Winter Comforts


After a balmy-verging-on-subtropical Christmas season, the temperatures have finally dropped. I didn’t feel much like fa-la-la-la-la-ing while cherry blossoms were popping out and daffodil were sending tremulous green fingerlings up through the soil in sunny corners of the neighbors’ gardens. The Chesapeake Bay is freezing in spots. Things are looking cold! And now that the frantic and festive holidays are behind us, we can cozy up on the sofa under a wool blanket with the latest Kate Atkinson, while we wait for the new X-Files to begin.

I have been thinking a lot about comfort food, in my own limited Nigella fashion. Warm and slow, aromatic and familiar. And easy – no recipes, please. The fact that there will be leftovers is always the key to my heart – meatloaf tonight means a meatloaf sandwich tomorrow. Chicken parm tonight equals a bowl of leftover spaghetti for lunch tomorrow. Quid pro quo. Deus ex machina. It really boils down to the fact that I would rather not hunt and gather too many original meals. Leftovers cunningly packaged up in the fridge will be a wondrous by-product of the redolent aroma of beef stew wafting around and through the kitchen dust motes this afternoon. A hot, savory bowl of beef stew tonight, and tomorrow as well. Life is grand!

Now that the warm weather has evaporated, it is time to dust off some old favorites. It had been such a long time since I last made beef stroganoff that I had to look up a recipe. I relied on our friends at Food52 for their Skillet Beef Stroganoff recipe, although I altered it just slightly. I don’t care for mushrooms, so we fried up a small pan’s worth for Mr. Friday to add to his plate. I also omitted the brandy – because all we had was bourbon, and I cannot imagine bourbon-infused egg noodles. I’ll put it to the shopping list for next time. https://food52.com/recipes/14024-skillet-beef-stroganoff

I laugh at the Epicurious suggestion that says their beef stroganoff is a dish that can (and should!) be prepared in front of company – watching me dredge small chunks of meat and browning them for the roar of peer approval seems a little farfetched. But if you come back later this afternoon I will be painting, and you are welcome to watch it dry… Still, the folks at Epicurious are wise in their kitchen ways and you might prefer this version. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/beef-stroganoff-102134 It includes lots of paprika, which is a colorful addition, and the crowd might enjoy your artistic flaying about the kitchen.

A household staple of our youth was meatloaf. We have two ways to make meatloaf in our house – my mother’s recipe, and Mr. Friday’s mother’s recipe. The basic difference is that my mother’s calls for chopped raw onion and crushed Saltine crackers. Irene’s uses onion soup mix, bread crumbs and catsup. You know that Erma Bombeck and Peg Bracken are smiling down at us, don’t you?

I am sure you have a couple of family recipes yourself, so dust them off, and have a warm nostalgic dinner. You’ll thank me when you pull your meatloaf sandwich out of its Baggie at lunch tomorrow. It will fling you back to your fifth grade lunch period self when Susan Fricker is bound to torture you. Add a cardboard carton of warm milk and a crusty pre-sectioned, room temperature orange to to complete your flashback. Here is a crib sheet in case you have forgotten something crucial: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/mom-s-meat-loaf

And here to jog your memory is some beef stew advice from Paula Deen: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/old-time-beef-stew-recipe.html

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

Thinking of Spring: Talbot County Garden Club Lectures and Events

Elizabeth Beggins

The Talbot County Garden Club announces its public events for spring 2016:

January 26, 2016, 1:30 p.m., Easton Library:  “Eat The Landscaping.”  Elizabeth Beggins will

Elizabeth Beggins

Elizabeth Beggins

present a lecture on mixing ornamental and edible plants to create beauty while putting food on the table.  Beggins is a freelance writer, educator, vegetable garden consultant and cook, and director of the “You Food Project.”  The event is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Mary Holston, 410-226-5184.

“Save the Date” – May 14, 2016, Talbot County:  The Maryland Home and Garden Pilgrimage.  Several homes in Easton and Oxford will open their doors and gardens to visitors.  More information will be forthcoming.

The Talbot County Garden Club was established in 1917 to enrich the natural beauty of the environment by sharing knowledge of gardening, fostering the art of flower arranging, maintaining civic projects, supporting projects that benefit Talbot County and encouraging the conservation of natural resources.  Noteworthy projects include maintaining the grounds of the Talbot Historical Society, Talbot Courthouse, Talbot Library, the fountain and children’s gardens at Idlewild Park and numerous other gardens and activities.  There are currently a total of 109 active, associate and honorary members.




Maryland’s Micro-distillers Start Spirited Renaissance

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Just five years ago, distilleries were a distant — and most likely blurry — memory for Marylanders.
“There’s a great history of rye in Maryland with lots of farmers producing it, and creating rye whiskey from it,” said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.

Prior to Prohibition, the state led the U.S. in rye whiskey production just behind powerhouse producers Pennsylvania and Kentucky until its last distributor closed its doors in 1983, according to the Maryland Historical Magazine. 
“There’s even an exhibit in Baltimore on the history of rye whiskey in Maryland, and there you get to see just how big the industry was before Prohibition,” Atticks said. “So, really, it’s just a resurgence of what used to be, now that whiskey and rye are becoming more popular again.”
Now the Old Line state is again creating a home for the lighter liquor, along with rum, vodka and bourbon. With more than 10 distilleries planning to open doors within the next year and a half around the state and a handful already operating, the movement seems to be a resurgence indeed.
The proof of it is in the air – literally – as 182.5 proof rum runs from the 500-gallon copper still, simultaneously filling the air of Blackwater Distilling’s warehouse with an eye-watering sting.
Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.12.37 AMIn-house distiller and marketing coordinator Andy Keller spends most days at Blackwater’s Kent Island distillery running the still and bottling their locally famed Sloop Betty vodka and Picaroon rum.
According to Keller, Sloop Betty inherited its name from an old folk tale that is nearly as old as Maryland’s history with alcohol production. Sloop Betty was the name of a ship anchored in the Chesapeake Bay that was captured by Blackbeard in the 1700s. After finding it laden with wine and other alcoholic beverages, the pirates allegedly got drunk and burnt the ship down, Keller said.
“We thought it was a very Maryland name,” Keller said in between measuring the alcohol content of the post-still vodka.
Keller pours every few gallons that come from the still into a plastic drum that will be hauled into a temperature-controlled room for a six-day fermentation process. In combination with yeast from Martinique, the process brings the rum to a drinkable level — at 12 or 13 percent alcohol.
The company has also decided to invest in the future by barrelling some of the rum and vodka close to their tasting bar. When they are finished aging in two to four years, Keller said, each barrel will taste differently just because of their placement and wood used for the barrel.
“For anything that we decide not to barrel for aging, we put it through carbon filtration, which takes the edge off a little,” Keller said. “Our goal for everything made here is for it to be sippable at room temperature or on the rocks, whichever you like to drink it.”
As the first fully licensed distillery to open in Maryland in decades, Keller said, Blackwater Distillery opened to a market that had all but forgotten the state’s distilling past. When they first began distilling in February of 2008, there were just over 250 craft distilleries operating in the U.S., and according to Entrepreneur magazine’s Food and Beverage Trend report, that number had risen to 623 in 2013.
But getting the company up and running didn’t come without a lot of leg work.
“The laws were all out of date — we couldn’t do tours, tastings or bottle sales out of here,” Keller said. “So we got those laws changed at the end of 2012 and we started to bring people in here in 2013. And then after that, other distilleries started opening up.”  
Though the laws are no longer stuck in the 1920s, distilleries are still limited in what they can do, which includes not being able to participate in beer and wine festivals. This, Keller said, can limit their marketing reach.
“It is sometimes unfair that we can’t join in on the beer and wine festivals,” Keller said.
Edgardo Zuniga, owner of Twin Valley Distillers in Rockville, agreed that both the federal and state laws are sometimes hard to work with when introducing new types of liquor.
“Every time we bottle with flavors, we have to make a formula and give it to the federal government,” said Zuniga, who opened Twin Valley in 2014. “It takes months to get approved. I am working with four different bourbons since I started distilling, but I don’t want to complicate my life right now — maybe in my third year.”
Zuniga operates the only distillery in Montgomery County by himself and usually works from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day producing an average of close to 225 gallons of bourbon each week, he said.
With so much on his plate — or in his glass — already, Zuniga has found it difficult to both manage the distillery and get alcohol approved by the government. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration can take up to 30 or 40 days to approve labels, he said, which means he is not actually able to make a sale until two months later.
Enter the penultimate factor to solving these issues: the Maryland Distillers Guild, a nonprofit group formed in February by 11 distilleries, including Blackwater Distilling and Twin Valley Distillers.
Atticks, the president of the guild, said they are already beginning to line up sponsors for the spring’s legislative session to mold the laws to better fit the times and needs of the distillers. 
Some state legislators are also looking to change that in the spring by expanding on last year’s county-specific state laws with new regulations that could make distillers’ jobs a little easier.
The last legislative session brought about several bill proposals, including Senate Bill 523 by Sen. Jim Mathias’, D-Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, which established a Class 9 limited distillery license in Worcester County. Though the law just took effect July 1, a 12,000-square-foot distillery has already broken ground in Ocean City. Seacrets, the famed bar, is moving their new line of craft spirits from production in Delaware to the new facility close by. Besides creating up to 100,000 gallons of distilled spirits each year, the new distillery is expected to bring jobs and even more tourism to the area when it opens in the spring.
“Over the last two decades, Maryland lawmakers have worked hard to craft policy to promote Maryland wineries and, more recently, micro-breweries,” Sen. Stephen Hershey, R-Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. “It is only logical that we now modernize our rules governing the growing number of craft-distilleries.”
Hershey said he plans to introduce legislation during the next session that could loosen the state’s restrictions and allow distilleries to participate in these festivals.
“I can’t imagine a legislative session without changes to the state’s alcohol laws, especially as the craft-production industry evolves,” Hershey said.
Besides Gov. Larry Hogan’s stop at the groundbreaking of Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Distillery in Baltimore in late October, local governments have also joined in on backing local distilleries. 
Zuniga said he’s still waiting for Hogan to swing by and pick up the first batch of bourbon that he made for him.
“I have one for him and one for me — a bottle of batch No. 1, bourbon,” he said. “(Hogan) can come to the distillery and get it.”
Queen Anne’s County recently gave Blackwater Distillery $170,000 in grants and low-interest loans for expansion projects. That will include new, steel fermenters, an upgraded still, more employees, “a couple of other things and boom, it’s gone,” Keller said.
“It doesn’t seem like a couple of tanks would cost $70,000, but they will,” he said.
Keller said they plan for a portion of the money to go toward local marketing campaigns. But with 300 to 400 people already coming in each Saturday for taste-testing tours for the duration of the summer, Keller said word-of-mouth seems to be working pretty well.
“There’s a commitment here to support our work and our existing business community,” said Jamie Gilbert, the county’s economic development coordinator. “We think their growth potential, product, marketing and quality of the product is just fantastic.”
Plus it might help that Gilbert is a bit of a fan of the hometown spirit, he said.
“It is one of the best vodkas I have ever had, but that being said, what shocked me is that I am not that big of a rum fan, and yet I believe that Picaroon surpasses the Sloop Betty,” Gilbert said. “Their products keep coming and they are just knocking it out of the park.”
The number of craft distilleries in the U.S. is expected to continue growing, reaching 1,000 by 2020, according to the American Distilling Institute’s annual report in 2014. And counties that are not necessarily Maryland tourist hot spots are feeling some of the effects from the surge, said Connie Yingling, spokeswoman for the Maryland Office of Tourism.
“With (Blackwater Distilling), it’s not just about the vodka products, or the rum, it’s truly an operation,” Yingling said. “It falls into the agricultural tourism for us, and agriculture and seafood are what has driven Queen Anne’s County to be one of the largest producers in the state in those industries.”
Every new distillery that opens offers something different, Yingling said, with some being built in old barns or garages, and others being set on in the middle of a field for a “rustic feel.” 
“Each location has its own flavor, and a lot of the alcohol is named after iconic things within the Maryland area, which localizes it,” she said. “A lot of Ruddy Duck’s beers are named after things within the southern Maryland area, while Flying Dog in Frederick — well their names are a little edgier, which sometimes makes it difficult to talk about them.”
The Maryland Office of Tourism and many distillers hope that combining efforts now can provide for a distillery trail, much like the state’s several wine trails, in the future. The numbers for the distilleries’ initial impact aren’t in, but if they are anything like the tourism brought in through breweries and wineries in the state, Yingling said, it could bring Maryland to the forefront of distilling again.
“It’s more of a comeback thing than a new thing, honestly,” she said.

By Marissa Horn