Thursday, May 31, 2012

Crabs! Crabs! Crabs! c/o The Crackpot

After our first day of races, my father had long hoped we would go get crabs. In fact, our cousin V. had made a reservation at one place for that explicit purpose. But then my father read about another place and we made a slight change to the location and ended up at The Crackpot. There was a bit of confusion upon our arrival in as far as they didn't have any record of our reservation, but they quickly put a table together and we got down to the business at hand. Our server was a friendly dude generally undaunted by our myriad requests. Most all of us enjoyed half cream of crab, half Maryland crab soup. The overall opinion was that it was good to do the half and half. I love me cream and fat, that's no lie, but a full cup of the cream of crab might have been overdoing it, even for me. But the mix between the cream-based soup and the more tomato-based version, well, it worked and evened out nicely.
Then we got down to crabs. I think we ordered a few dozen? I can't really remember the last time I sat at a table with others and just ripped into a pile of crabs, though I'd imagine it would have been in Maryland in my backyard or the backyard of D. and B.  CP and I enjoyed the 'dumps' at Oyster House, but that was a negligible amount of crab compared to this. I feared I wouldn't remember how to get to the gold mine of crab in the carapace (correct word?) of the crab...but that was a fear quickly unfounded by the dexterity and audacity of my fingers.
Of course there are no photographs of this efficiency due to the fact that my fingers were absolutely crusted with Old Bay, making it difficult to pick up a camera without accidentally giving it the look of a crab...and I certainly didn't want anyone to mistakenly take a mallet to my camera.
These crabs weren't from Maryland. They were from the Gulf. Still entirely tasty and enjoyable. I was almost as taken with the detritus and remnants of our feast as I was of the actual crabs. We also had corn, which honestly was a little lacking as far as taste and look. Anemic corn.
My pile.
A lovely and fun meal. Thanks goes to my father!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Black Eyed Susan Day At Pimlico Racetrack, In Reverse

This year's immediate group of Preakness attendees included me, my father, D an B, V and M (first cousins of my father) and L., M.'s friend and fellow horse enthusiast. These are photographs I took on Black Eyed Susan Day, in reverse because Blogger is being funny. 
I got a pretty big kick out of this.
My father did quite well for himself the first day at the track and his knowing smile is a reflection of that.
We were in the lower grandstand with assigned seats. Front row, just a smidge away from the finish line, significantly closer than we were last year. The sun was pretty powerful for the first few hours of our day, but once the upper grandstand's shadow crept to us, the seats and weather were pretty ideal.
This looks like a race to the finish, but these horses actually started a scant distance from the finish line and then would wrap all the way back around. I doubt that this 4 horse lasted the whole way through.
But it looks good at the moment.
 Another view of our seats. We were seven, with six seats that you can see right here and an additional seat within the same area but farther back. B. spent a fair amount of time in that odd seat out, getting to know the older gentleman next to her who had come all the way from Texas. 
Me and a hat and lipstick.
On non-special crazy event race days, I would make it down the the paddock to take a look at the horses far more often than I do on the Preakness weekend. First off, Pimlico's paddock isn't the best as far as viewing options, and factor in the larger crowds and it can become a nightmare...this is, I imagine, one big reason they saddle the actual Preakness horses on the grass outside. That and the pageantry of it. But I did make it to the paddock for one race, thinking that would help my betting. It didn't. I'm a terrible bettor. I simply go by look and name and have never quite been able to take in and process the additional information that a race program can give me. In any case, look a this horse's ears, all perked up and interested in what's going on outside. 

The track, stripped away of some of its momentary glamor.
The view from another direction.
Totally out of order. I found this horse particularly beautiful, but I'm pretty sure it didn't win, place or show.

Legend lady jockey. Each year they have one race where women jockeys - most of whom are retired - come out and race. I think this woman may have come in second or third. Or maybe she's just smiling because it's good to gallop?
Pretty sure this is the winner.
B. was kind enough to make us all sandwiches.
Yup, this is the winning lady legend horse.
This woman was particularly pleased about it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I'm enjoying a lovely weekend on Cayuga Lake and don't quite feel like sorting through all my Black Eyed Susan/Preakness race day photos. So for the moment, here's a picture of my father and me on the Black Eyed Susan Day.

Also, suggestions of an interesting place to eat in/nearby Binghamton, NY? That might actually be open on Memorial Day? Feel free to tell me about them.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Soup and Sandwich c/o Atwater's

After a couple of hours on the farm I was definitely a bit peckish, having forgone breakfast and lunch in favor of a speedy arrival. I was not alone in the desire for a little belly padding, so as we wended our way out of horse country and into suburban Towson/Baltimore, V. directed us to Atwater's. It remained a warm and sunny day, so we opted to sit outside. A server quickly came and took our drink orders (I went with half raspberry iced tea, half lemonade). A woman sitting next to us had her lap dog properly in her lap, and was having a quiet conversation with it while feeding it bits of her meal. I worried that one day I could become that sort of woman, except I loath lap dogs, so I'd probably just be talking to my sandwich. I chose to order a cup of the red pepper, broccoli and shrimp soup and a sandwich. The soup size was solid and the soup good if overall unremarkable. The shrimp were a little small and shriveled, the kind of shrimp I usually imagine came pre-cooked from a frozen bag. But I could be wrong. Atwater's seems to pride itself on the freshness of its ingredients, so perhaps I'm being too snobbish. My father's first spoon of his Moroccan-style soup was a little tepid. When he asked the server if she might bring it back to kitchen for a little time in the microwave, she looked concerned and said that they didn't have a microwave. She didn't seem to think there was a way to make the soup any hotter, which is kind of difficult to believe. My father ended up then stirring the bottom of his bowl in with the top, and that seemed to improve the overall temperature. Still, a strange reaction to a rather simple customer request.
For my sandwich I chose a take on a Cuban: ham, cheese, pickled jalepenos, spicy mustard, lettuce, and avocado. It wasn't pressed and the pickle was on the side, but it hit the spot after a day of driving and standing around in the sun.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Afternoon at Merryland Farm

Back in the day, when I was but a youthful young one and my family still lived in Maryland, my father became interested in Country Life Farm. I believe this was probably in part because of the book that one of the Pons brothers wrote.As a result of this interest my father invested in a portion of a race horse. Probably the hoof. I'm not sure how successful that particular investment was, but it did allow us the opportunity to visit  Country Life Farm on at least one occasion (I vaguely recall going, but I was a bit sullen and the only thing that really stands out is the beauty of the farm and the crab soup we were served). It's been nearly 10 years since my parents uprooted from Maryland and moved down south, but I guess in the last few months my father's interest in a small share of a race horse reared its head again. So he went ahead and bought half a share of Moon Meeting Too. This recent choice and our temporary residency in Maryland because of the Preakness allowed us the opportunity to go out to Merryland Farm, where Moon Meeting Too is being trained.So the Thursday before the race weekend, I made my way down 95 and then off into the horse country of Bel Air and other nearby towns. It was a beautiful day and I was quite pleased with the scenery as I drove along. This sense of pleasure was doubled upon my arrival at Merryland Farm. Nestled at the base of a sloping hill, green as all get-out, this place has a little sense of magic to it, and history to boot.
This pup was hanging out where I parked, happy to say hey and then move on to the next new arrival. Dad and our cousin V. were already there, sitting on a bench in the shade.
We were there to see Moon Meeting Too work out, but we also were given a tour of the restored farm house, which serves as a guest house for slightly higher rollers than ourselves. I really want to live there. I want to be the caretaker. I want to cook in this kitchen, which back in the 1950s/60s was where exercise riders/jockeys would come after they were done with all their mounts, and the then-owner of the farm would cook them up breakfast. I make a killer breakfast! Of course, if they're jockeys, they probably wouldn't really want to eat what I gave them.
Seriously. I need to find a way to live on a horse farm and be part of its rhythms. Or just a farm. Though the addition of horses is nice, given my own stint with riding.
The view of the practice track at the base of the hill.
Where most of the horses seem to reside. Moon Meeting Too wasn't the only horse getting an opportunity to go around the track. I think there were four jockeys, and they'd go out in pairs, getting their horses familiar with riding next to another horse. Sometimes they'd go out to the dummy starting gate to give the horses a sense of that aspect of racing, sometimes they would simply run at a good clip, other times the focus was more on getting them accustomed to listening to the bit. Each horse was in its own specific part of the training process that takes a young foal towards a potential racing career.

If I lost about 100 pounds I could be an exercise rider.

This grey horse was adjusting to a few things. Still by the barn, it reared a few times, which is always a dramatic sight to behold. Though if you're at all familiar with the potential consequences of a rear, then it's both dramatic and straight-up worrisome. Its rider, clearly a seasoned pro, just kept talking to it as it pranced and sidestepped its way to the track. Seemed liked it settled a bit but  had work to do as far as listening to the reins.

Hoof print.

I'm pretty sure the horse on the right is Moon Meeting Too.
And again.
The house from another angle.
There were a few other folks on the farm to take a look around, three women from Boston/Cape Cod, one woman from Florida, and a guy from I'm not sure where. The three women and I perked up when we heard that we could go up to another barn and see the foals. It took us a while to actually find the babies. One woman said they were in the barn, but another contradicted her and said they were in the fields. So we first walked towards the fields. All we found, however, was this horse and its companion - a pony that wouldn't leave the shade of the shed.
Terrible photo of me, but still: here I am with a horse.
We then went to the barn, where a good number of the stalls contained mama horses and baby horses.
Foals are just the most gangly, awkward creatures. But with a sweetness and newness to them that is hard to get over. Unless, I'm sure, you're a proper horse person and deal with them every day?

So it was me, my father and our cousin V. V. and my father are cousins, and grew up together in Sewanee. She has lived in Baltimore for nearly 40 years, and was our hostess for the weekend. You'll note my father is properly hatted with an Orioles cap.

So much beauty in even the necessities of farm life. I know it's hard to actually be in the business, but with an outside view, I can't say I'm not without envy. Work must be hard, but you can look up soak in the green and space.