Musings

Good, Better or Best

“Best” is a word that I try to avoid using. I like for things to be good and I like to be better at what I am doing, but to be the best means that I stop trying to be better, at least long enough to pay close attention to what the competition is doing. When there are qualifiers added to the question of best, it’s a little easier to answer. Proclaiming something to be the best implies that there is knowledge of everything. Since I own this joint and at least in theory, I set the organizational goals, our aim is to always do a better job. If you want to call it the best, then feel free. However, it’s not a proclamation that Two Tree is inclined to make about itself.

That having been said, What’s Up Magazine runs the “Best of the Eastern Shore” contest every January and Two Tree has been named “best of” in a few categories. As much as I’d like to think that it is because Two Tree is the best, I know better. It’s really because people like you have taken the time to vote. When the time comes around, I would ask that you take that time and do it. While you’re voting, think “Two Tree”. If it happens that Two Tree is once again named “Best of”, I promise that it will not go to our heads and the restaurant will keep trying to be better. You just may see a plaque on the wall of the restaurant and you’ll have the added benefit of knowing that you helped put it there.

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What’s a foodie anyway?

it never occurred to me that i might be a “foodie”. Then a diner asked me about a specific ingredient and i started talking. Pretty soon his eyes glassed over and it became obvious that he was sorry he asked. I guess that makes me a foodie.

This is an example of what can happen–and it can be on any of the hundreds of ingredients we use.

Diner: the cucumber in the salad has a lot of crunch.

My response: we always have cucumbers. Depending on the market availability, they may be pickling, slicing or English/Dutch cucumbers. Generally English and pickling cucumbers have more crunch. During season, we grow our own cucumbers. We grow many varieties including a Japanese picklerm a Chinese slicing cucumber, Burpee pickling as well as Armenian cucumbers–which are not actually cucumbers, but melons. Neither have spines. We have grown 2 varieties of Armenian cucumber. The pale green variety has a smooth skin and a drier flesh. The striped variety has more moisture and the skin is slightly “fuzzy”. The flavor is excellent. We haven’t pickled them, but have been told that they make excellent sweet pickles similar to watermelon rind pickles.

So, if you want too much of an answer, go ahead and ask.

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Bread on request

We don’t particularly like to waste food. We noticed that a lot of the bread we served was not being eaten. Low-carb and gluten-free diets have made an impact. You may be surprised to learn that any food left on the table is discarded. Yes, we make croutons, bread crumbs and bread pudding–but not with bread that has been on your table. (I’ve been wanting to grow out a few hogs. Maybe it’s time to do it) To reduce the amount of food we throw away, we only serve bread and butter on request. So, if your theme song is please pass the biscuits, just speak up. You won’t get biscuits, but you will get house-baked bread.

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So, it’s your Birthday

We really enjoy helping you celebrate your birthday, but it is your birthday. The celebration is for you and your friends and we want to keep it that way. If you would like to have a party that involves more than your table, then we would be happy to arrange a party in the private dining room. We will not be sending servers over to your table to sing and clap.

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Grits

We’re pretty serious about grits. We “import” them from adluh mills in Columbia, SC. That’s almost imported. They are nothing like the quick cooking breakfast product that is ubiquitous in the south. This dish takes hours to cook. There is no cheese added to it. It does however have a little chicken broth and heavy cream–and no, we cannot (will not) prepare the dish without both. If you are prone to comparisons, then two tree grits are to quick-cook grits as well-prepared risotto is to minute rice.

For those of you with gluten intolerance, grits can be substituted for pasta in any dish.

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Chicken Pot(?) Pie

I was in college before I discovered that chicken pot pie was supposed to have peas and carrots in it. I only knew my mother’s pot pie (one of my comfort foods),which was nothing like the ubiquitous dish that  can be found in any grocery frozen food section. Her pie was made with the meat of the whole chicken and a tiny bit onion in a flaky crust. It was a little dry and she served it with gravy to compensate.

Recently, i learned (definitive proof that you can teach an old dog….) that my mother’s pie is known in parts of North Carolina as Moravian chicken pie, the name deriving from the Moravian religious community centered in Old Salem. Her family has lived less than 50 miles from (Winston)-Salem for generations. I have only scant evidence of Moravian influence on my mother’s culinary skills, but i certainly recognize and appreciate the possibility.

Here at the restaurant, we serve a similar pie as one of our  comfort foods. I believe our crust is a little flakier and we call the gravy velouté. just a little pretentious, don’t you think?

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Persimmon Pudding

Every now and then (like every day, even in the winter) I bring a few things in from my garden. Persimmons are on that list.

Back on the farm in Piedmont North Carolina, there were a lot of wild American persimmons (diospyros virginiana) and i developed a taste for them. There is a lot of variation in wild persimmons. Some ripen earlier and size, color and flavor varies a lot. If you had the fortune of having a “good” persimmon as i did, you would develop quite a taste for this fruit. There are a lot of persimmons here on the shore and over the years i have found a few good trees, but unfortunately, they were not on my property, so I planted ‘Meader’ a selected cultivar that is quite productive. More recently I added ‘Yates’ to the orchard, but it isn’t bearing size yet.

fresh meader persimmons ready to process

We serve persimmon pudding in the fall.  It is a baked pudding, but has the consistency of a steamed Christmas pudding and a distinctive flavor. It is my ultimate comfort food. The recipe is my mother’s and i will share it. However, be warned that you must use American persimmons. You will not find them in the market.

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The Hot Dog Philosophy

On the day we put the hot dog on the menu one of my employees quit. As he walked out, he threw a copy of the menu down on the counter and said he would never work in a place that serves a blankety-blank hot dog. The hot dog is here to stay.

We also keep the hot dog on the menu as a reminder that not every meal needs to be over the top.

We also believe that no matter what your economic situation, you should occasionally be able to go out for lunch or dinner. The hot dog is on the menu so that practically anyone can find something on the menu that is well-prepared and in their budget.

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Fruit Cake

There is no dessert in this country that is the brunt of more jokes than fruit cake. I have had fruit cake that would be better used as a doorstop, but I’ve also had fruit cake that is memorable. If you have ever seen the TV production of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory with Geraldine Page, then you know how serious some southerners are about fruit cake. Our recipe is a family secret. It happens not to be my family, so i am not in a position to divulge it. I will just say that it has lots of pecans–just as any good Southern fruit cake sould.

Fruit cake is a seasonal favorite. We only offer it during the holidays.

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Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup

My Hungarian connection is that the former owner of my home was a Hungarian physician. His assistant still lives in Millington. Many years ago, i sampled her sour cherry soup and i was hooked. She gave me the recipe  and i planted a cherry tree.

The recipe was photocopied from a cookbook. It was listed as Hungarian sour cherry soup (meggy leves). A few years later, when i joined the internet age (seems like ancient history now) i searched for recipes online. Notice that i did not google it. This was pre-google. I found a few recipes and it appeared that every recipe was attributed to meggy leves. I was convinced that this woman was posting her recipes on every site. Little did I know that meggy leves is Hungarian for sour cherry soup.

Meggy leves is sour-cream based and is served cold as an appetizer or dessert. It can be made from commercially available frozen cherries, but our experience is that it simply is not measure up to using fresh cherries. Sour cherry season is late June. Look for the soup then.

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Peppermills

Peppermills come in many shapes and sizes. Over the years, i have used many peppermills, both at home and in the restaurant. My favorite is made by Unicorn. I would put one on every table, but experience has taught me that I would be replacing them frequently. Instead, we use the Unicorn pepperstick, which is designed for restaurant use.

If you are in the market for a good peppermill, I would recommend the Unicorn keytop. You can buy it online at unicornmills.com for $27 plus shipping, or if you happen to be in the restaurant, we also sell them for the same price. You will avoid shipping, but Maryland sales tax will be added. It’s still a little better than the online price. By the way, it also makes a great gift.

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