Thursday, July 24, 2008


For my birthday dinner--and do not, dear reader, inquire which one--Rod took me to Charleston in Baltimore. The flagship of Cindy Wolf's impressive array of Baltimore restaurants, which include Petit Louis, Cinghiale, and Pazo, it is well known for a superlative tasting menu and excellent cellar.

We went with high expectations, and we were not disappointed. Service was superb, a perfect blend of formality and friendliness. Food was exquisitely presented. I was especially taken with a goat cheese flan and grilled pheasant breast on a crispy corn cake. Many of the dishes are inspired by the time Cindy Wolf spent cooking and refining low-country cuisine in the Charleston area, as evidenced by the corn cake or the addition of grilled vidalia onion. Desert was equally impressive: Rod indulged in a chocolate bombe, while I greedily consumed a buttery fruit tart.

The ambiance of Charleston, the attention to detail, and the excellent cuisine made for a lovely birthday dinner except . . .

I think I came down with food poisoning. Awakened at 3:00 a.m. with, to put it politely, gastrointestinal upset, I spent the subsequent twelve hours doubled over in bed or rushing to the bathroom. I sent an e-mail to Charleston, but, so far, no one has responded. On Saturday, when fetching my weekly bag of groceries from our CSA, I chatted with Craig about the unpleasant aftermath of my birthday dinner. He suspected the pheasant which, as he pointed out, is only harvested in fall and therefore had most likely been sitting in the walk-in freezer for eight or nine months. Of course, I have no way of knowing what made me sick at Charleston, but I am disappointed that a restaurant of this calibre has not followed up on a likely case of food poisoning.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Finally, a good mid-priced restaurant in Annapolis!

Some women at the local knitting shop (where I am spending far too much money these days) told me to try Jalapenos in the Riva Road shopping center. I was skeptical, given that other recommendations haven't panned out. Either I'm incredibly fussy or most people have indifferent palates--I'm not sure which.

A week ago, on a steamy Friday night, we decided to forego cooking for a meal out, and so we ventured to Jalapenos. The entrance isn't promising--the restaurant is in a strip mall, sandwiched between other businesses--but the handsome interior belies that first impression.  I'm delighted to say that the food was very good, reasonably priced, and beautifully presented. 

Our waiter was delightful, bantering with us in Spanish and explaining various dishes. When Rod questioned the heat index of a chicken mole, he promptly brought a sample from the kitchen. Amused that Rod didn't consider it sufficiently spicy, he instructed the kitchen to make it muy caliente. I had one of the specials, a piece of tuna marinated in olive oil and lightly grilled. Presented on a bed of greens, it was the perfect dish for a hot summer evening. Rod's flan was equally tasty, rich and dense with a hint of mango on top.

My margarita was a little heavy on triple sec, giving it an unpleasantly sweet, syrupy flavor; otherwise, everything was first rate. We're delighted to have finally found a good restaurant that is close to the house and won't break the bank. Bravo, Jalapenos!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crazy Diva Farriers

I have concluded that craziness is a prerequisite for being a farrier.

I just lost my farrier of the last nine months, a man I will simply identify as #2. A little bantam cock of a guy, he swaggered and talked a good line. Addicted to neo-con talk radio, he assailed us with his extremist right-wing views. Radio blaring, voices screaming, and tongs hammering: this is the auditory experience I came to expect from #2.

Generally #2 did a good job on my horse's feet except for the time he hot-nailed Beau. I was assured that even the best of farriers sometimes miss, so I chalked it up to bad luck. Beau had a bit of an abscess, but got over it soon enough. I didn't appreciate the vet bill resulting from #2's mistake, nor did he offer to help defray the additional costs. This didn't seem quite right to me, but, again, I was told by knowledgeable horse people to suck it in, and so I did.

#2 dumped me and Mr. Beau last week, leaving a note to the effect that my horse had put him in a dangerous position where he could have been hurt. I'm still puzzling over that statement. First, Beau is in cross-ties, so just how mobile (and therefore dangerous) can he be? Second--and more to the point--previous farriers and vets have all commented on Beau's easy-going and gentlemanly behavior. He normally stands stock still. Jim Lewis, my vet, calls Beau "the saint" and never ceases to marvel at his docility, no matter how uncomfortable the medical procedure. If Beau did misbehave, then I'm suspicious of #2's handling of this normally cooperative creature.

I have since learned that #2 left a similar missive for a woman at another barn two miles down the road. The likelihood that both of our horses suddenly chose this moment to behave badly is, to put it mildly, slim. The weather is stinking hot and humid, and most of the horses look half-dead. July and August in the greater Washington area is not conducive to frisky, mischievous behavior. #2 also won't return the messages left by another woman at my barn, nor did he indicate a date for a return visit. Do I smell I rat?

I suspect that #2 simply doesn't want to drive down to Damascus any longer given the cost of gas. He has a huge truck and hauls an enormous trailer, replete with forge and heavy instruments. I'd be surprised if he gets 5 miles a gallon. Why not simply say so? Why leave bizarre notes about horses behaving badly?

#2's odd manner of jettisoning clients is rivaled by the disappearing act of #1, a farrier whose brilliance was matched only by his equal strangeness. More interested in playing blues than shoeing horses, he handpicked clients, limiting appointments to a few each week. I was warned by my former trainer Carol that he sometimes went AWOL--he disappeared after shoeing her horse for several years--and her words proved prophetic. An appointment rolled around; I waited dutifully; and #1 never showed up. Successive calls were in vain. For whatever reason, I was expunged from his practice. Did he go on a bender? Did he throw out his back, a chronic complaint for this mercurial personality? Did he give up blacksmithing for the blues? I'll never know.

So now I gird myself to meet #3 on Sunday, a man who is reputed to practice yoga in the aisles between appointments and evidently expects his clients to hold their horses during shoeing while praising his mighty efforts.  Sigh.

I keep thinking of some women I met at a little barn down in Harwood who were so desperate to lure a particular farrier out of retirement, they plied him with gift baskets and very good single malt whiskey. As one of them remarked to me, "Farriers are the rock stars of Anne Arundel County." And, it would seem, of Montgomery County, Baltimore County, Howard County and just about everywhere else. Much more of this, and I'm going to think about attending blacksmithing school.