Monday, September 27, 2010

Eurasian Tree Sparrow in St. Louis

This morning my friend Marty and I drove into St. Louis to a neighborhood just off I-64 to look for eurasian tree sparrows. This is a bird that was introduced from Europe back in 1870, and, unlike starlings (another introduced bird), it has not expanded much beyond the greater St. Louis area. Within 5 minutes of arriving in the heart of the sparrow's original chirping grounds we found several of them. It took me another 30 minutes to get an adequate photo (top above--click on it to enlarge). But I am a bit ahead of myself.

Yesterday morning we left Hays, KS early so that we could stop for lunch at the "world famous" Arthur Bryant's KC barbecue. I have heard about this place for years, but had never had any of its offerings. We arrived a little before 11 AM and the crowd was just beginning to show up before they went to watch the KC Chiefs beat the SF 49'ers.

This place was initially put on the culinary map years ago by the well known food writer, Calvin Trillin. It has continued to be held up by many as the best example of KC style barbecue. We ordered the pulled pork on wonder bread with fries, and the beef brisket on wonder bread with fries. Huge servings appeared on our plates. Ignoring the white paste bread and abstaining from adding the bitter "original" barbecue sauce after sampling it, we worked our way thru the heaped meat and fries. We left full but wondered what Calvin and the rest of the food critics found so special about the 'cue. I must admit that I have a very strong bias to NC pulled pork and the concomitant vinegar sauce.

We arrived at Marty's home in Columbia, MO, by early afternoon, and proceeded to have an enjoyable evening with his wife, Nola. We dug an ancient bottle of 1990 Ravenswood Dickerson vineyard zinfandel out of their wine cellar, and drank part of it with cheese and a truly amazing "cracker" from Spain--Tortas de Aceite de Ines Rosales. We were pleasantly surprised to find the zin had turned into a slightly funky but lovely old wine. The bottom photo is of Marty, and our wine and appetizers. The round package on the table to the left of the wine bottle holds one of the herb and olive oil "crackers".

We finished off the zin with homemade mashed potatoes and slaw, and pork ribs that we brought home from Arthur Bryant's. The ribs put some luster back on Arthur's name as they were meaty enough, nicely smoky and very tender with an excellent rub on them.

After returning from St. Louis this morning, we all went to Marty and Nola's main lunch spot--Murry's--to have a hamburger. For those who have been following this blog you know that one of my food sub-themes has been hamburgers. Unlike my pizza experiences this year that have generally been great, I have had much less success finding great hamburgers. That is not the case at Murry's where burgers are a specialty.

First off, you can get a burger cooked medium rare which in many states and places is no longer possible due to food borne illness concerns. Second, their meat is very good and the bun is a notch above the norm. You get red onion, tomatoes and lettuce to add to the burger along with whatever condiments you prefer. Today we also had blue cheese added--blue but not too bluey. They also make fantastic thin onion rings/strings. My only complaints here are that I find an 8 0z burger to be a bit too much, and bacon is not available as an add-on.

The past 2 days of relaxed birding added 23 more species for the week, and the eurasian tree sparrow raised the YTD to 682. Tomorrow I will be starting the drive home to NC with a stop in Little Rock, AR to visit with relatives. Stay tuned!

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