Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Symphony Cat

Even an opera cat who is pure in heart and goes to the opera by night,
May become a symphony cat when the catbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

(Apologies to "The Wolf Man", 1941.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lakefront Bliss

The photo shows the view from Lakeside Roastery through the grove of plane trees on Columbia's Lakefront. I'm so lucky to have this in short walking distance from my house. Most Saturday mornings or afternoons will find me visiting Lakeside Roastery (aka Lakeside Cafe) or sometimes one of the other Lakefront restaurants nearby to have breakfast or lunch before I continue with any plans for the day. I've been a fan of Lakeside's coffee and sandwiches ever since they opened (formerly, the place was part of the local Riverside Roastery chain), and recently I discovered proprietor Mike's terrific salads.

Try this, if you have not noticed this view before: While the trees are bare this time of year, as you drive south on Route 29 after the 175 overpass, keep looking to your right until you see the Lake. Through the trees, you get a great panorama of our Lakefront that might stir some local pride in you. It does so in me! This view is a great one both in daylight and at night when all the Lakefront lamps are glowing.

Plane trees, or London plane trees: They line my street, too, and are common in urban and suburban landscapes. They are a cross between the American sycamore and an Old World sycamore species, combining traits of both to make a hardy tree for city conditions. If you're on the Lakefront, you can see the top white limbs of a real American sycamore towering on the other side of the Lake.

Addendum: Sitting in Clyde's for dinner on Sunday, I realized that there are lots of sycamores across the Lake. The towering specimen I mention here stands further up the lake across from the area of the Sheraton.


While I'm enjoying this, it's time to make a donation to the Red Cross.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Wilde Grocery Trip

I hated seeing Bun Penny at the Columbia Mall and Produce Galore at the Wilde Lake Village Center disappear from the Columbia food shopping and dining map in recent years, so I thought I'd put in a word about David's Natural Market. David's is a small local chain with a branch at the Wilde Lake Center. Recent discussion about plans for Wilde Lake put David's back on my grocery shopping radar. I've been meaning to get back there, too, because it seems to be currently the only local source for the line of excellent preserves produced by McCutcheon's of Frederick, Maryland. (Correct me if I'm wrong about that.) The defunct Produce Galore almost next door also sold McCutcheon's, and while browsing in David's yesterday afternoon I noticed that this company also produces a range of mustards and relishes. I love McCutcheon's apple and pumpkin butters in particular, and the Damson plum preserve which I bought yesterday reminds me of a favorite Satsuma plum preserve that I found only when I lived in Australia some years ago.

The mainstream big chain supermarkets still offer brands and items that I need, but while visits to those stores are a chore that I try to delay as much as I can, a visit to David's or one of the many other specialty gourmet and organic markets all over Howard County is more like a recreational activity. However, it looks like I could make one of these stores my main grocery place if I really wanted. (You must have non-fat, lactose-free milk regularly stocked in your dairy section before I make that commitment! And then there's the question of toiletries.) Still, I can walk around in a specialty market and come out with a bag full of good food and drink. David's Natural Market has specialty brands such as the Izze flavored beverages and the Desert Pepper Trading Company dips and salsas that I've seen in mainstream chains, but David's has a much bigger selection of flavors in these brands. As a matter of fact, the Desert Pepper has become almost impossible to find in the big chain supermarkets. David's also has great local bakery bread, though I miss buying Bonaparte Bakery bread which Produce Galore distributed. (Whenever I'm at Savage Mill now, I always make a point of visiting Bonaparte and get an extra loaf or two for the freezer.)

I'm also a licorice snob -- after trying real licorice with licorice extract and molasses as the main ingredients, I'm never going back to the artificial stuff. David's had the good Panda brand from Finland yesterday. (I actually once read in a men's fashion magazine that good licorice comes from Scandinavia!) However, I'll have to continue hitting other specialty markets in the county for my favorite strong-flavored Australian brands.

Other observations about the Wilde Lake Village Center: After shopping at David's Natural Market, I walked across the parking lot to visit the liquor store in the courtyard area. Whoa! It's gone! I think that's an exceptionally bad sign when a liquor store closes down. (They always seem to be prosperous places with happy employees.) Please don't forget Tokyo Cafe, the Japanese-Thai restaurant also on the courtyard. I think they suffer from being so out of sight, another reason for a little better signage around here as recently discussed. Tokyo has a charming ambience for dining in, and they've been good for take-out. They also have a sushi bar.