Quote of the Day

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Burger And A bowl Of Gravy

My bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, has been feeling the urge ... the urge for a burg, hamburger that is. I suggested that since we were going to MD Oriental Market on 49th in Pinellas Park that we should give Pete and Shorty's a try since this pub is in the same shopping complex as the MD. So we did and we love it.

On our first visit my bride requested the Pete Burger Classic with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion with a 60 cent upgrade with cheese. For an additional $1.95 she added the Tater Tots. This meal seemed to satisfy her desire for a burger ... cooked her way.

I could not resist the Over Easy with Avocado prepared my way - medium rare. The Over Easy was a delightful, juicy mess with avocado, bacon, cheddar cheese and an over-easy egg that spilled its golden gravy over the perfectly cooked patty.

For my side I chose French fries ... ho-hum. But wait! For an additional 40 cents I received a bowl of savory and delicious brown gravy for the fires.

Since Pete and Shorty claim to be an Iowa bistro and I didn't spend a lot of time in Iowa a few years ago, I asked the server how to proceed with the gravy and fries. She suggested dipping the fries one at a time since pouring this gravy on the fries would make them soggy. I did as directed and the gravy and fries were heavenly.

As I consumed my burger it occurred to me to dip the burger in the gravy and take a bite, then dip again with subsequent bites - holymoly was that ever good.

We have visited Pete and Shorty's several times and the burgers are consistently perfect. This is now one of our premier burger palaces. And, spend that additional 40 cents and get that bowl of gravy. I think a shoe would taste pretty good dipped in that stuff, but you should probably stick with the burger and fries.

Good service and reasonable prices.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dandy Dining On The Island

In our morning paper the other day my bride and I read a Reiley review of Island Grille & Raw Bar at 210 Madonna Boulevard in Tierra Verde. Laura Reiley is the Tampa Bay Times' restaurant critic ... one of the best food writers in the business of writing about food.

Intrigued by her article, I took a look at the Island Grille website. The Grille outgrew their previous location, so the owners built a new, grander structure back in August of 2016. This new place is spacious with indoor and outdoor seating. Island Grille is definitely not a rustic fish shack and one of the first things that caught my eye as we walked in was ... be still my thumping gizzard ... an oyster bar. And I mean a real oyster bar, with real oyster shuckers. I quivered with excitement.

I seriously considered dining at that bar but the hostess had already guided my bride to an awaiting table in one of the indoor dining areas and both my Belle and Jamie, our server, were waiting for me to show up ... with arms folded and impatient foot tapping.

Once seated, I couldn't help but be impressed with a series of panels with glass etchings adorned with images of snook, mullet, hog fish, a turtle and various other critters from the sea.

After ordering a Stella draft for me and a William Hill Chardonnay for my dining partner, I contemplated the oyster menu. Two boutique oysters varieties from up north and Louisiana mollusks were on this day's menu.

On the way to our table I had stopped to chat with one of the shuckers. He described the northerners as being a bit on the small side. He and I discussed the Gulf oysters for a moment, and then I was offered one as a taste test.

I watched as Ricky expertly shucked my oyster: top shell removed, the meat severed from the bottom shell, not a drop of the salty liquor was lost and the oyster wasn't dipped in a nasty bowl of water to wash away the flavor. The oyster on a half shell was handed to me and with great delight I consumed this sweet treat from Louisiana.

It is also a treat to discover a venue that serves oysters on the half shell shucked by people who have a clue as to the proper way to shuck and serve. I have only found one other restaurant along the Pinellas County Gulf coast that really knows what they are doing: our neighbors on Gulf Boulevard, the Salt Rock Grill. Back at the table, I requested a half dozen on the half shell.

Oops! What's this I muttered to myself? The oysters looked good but they were swimming in a big puddle of melted ice water. A lady, who turned out to be the owner, asked if there was a problem and she agreed that this oyster swimming pool was a problem and it was immediately corrected ... sort of.

My replacement tray came back rather quickly so I imagine the oysters were drained of water and liquor, placed on fresh ice and served. I ate them but they were not as sweet and flavorful as my gratis oyster at the bar.

Enough about oysters already! The next order of business was our entrees. The Belle requested the Chicken Cordon Bleu off the Early Bird menu. The breaded chicken was topped with sliced tomato, ham and Swiss cheese.

Said she, "The chicken with panko was crunchy on the outside, just the way I like it, and tender and juicy on the inside." Her side was fluffy mashed potatoes.

I was still in a seafood frame of mind so I chose a half dozen Chargrilled Oysters with chipotle lime sauce.

These oysters were prepared on the Island's chargrill and served hot with fresh French bread. I could detect the smokiness from the grill that had my mouth watering even before these mollusks were served. The sauce was tangy from the lime with a subtle piquancy from the chipotle peppers.

I finished with the Steamed Platter: 6 oysters, 6 clams, 6 mussels and 4 steamed shrimp.

All seafood was steamed just right, but I discovered that I really needed to eat fast before everything got cold. The shrimp keep cooking after leaving the steamer so I should have consumed them first. Next time I think I must try the Chilled Platter with 6 raw oysters, 4 shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon fish spread.

When Jamie came by to see how we were doing I told her that we were D-U-N, done. Apparently I was mistaken because the next thing I knew, this appeared on our table:

Jamie said that we really shouldn't leave without an order of this Drunken Bread Pudding. She was right! We did need to experience this decadent delight.

Almost as sweet as the bread pudding was our final bill: all food and four adult beverages came to a very reasonable $91.49.

Service at Island Grille & Raw Bar was exceptional, The owners were not only present, but worked hard to ensure a smooth running operation; from supervising to serving, to picking up dropped debris. These are very "hands-on" people. We were impressed.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Watching The Weather Show

Nope, not watching the Weather Channel; this is the show from the fifth floor of our apartment at Golden Shores. A beautiful July afternoon with fireworks in the distance and storm clouds moving in to the beach at Indian Shores.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Taro On Our Table

My bride and I have been doing a good bit of grocery shopping lately at the MD Oriental Market at 49th and Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park. Not only have we experienced some tasty and exotic treats but we have greatly expanded our culinary knowledge base.

Every time we shop at MD we find new food items that pique our interest. Some we buy on the spot, other times we go home and Google before we buy. Banana flowers looked intriguing but I had no idea what to do with them. Google answered all of my banana flower questions. I decided to eschew banana flowers. The preparation appeared to be more trouble than it was worth.

Tara root, on the other hand, appeared doable; just cut into cubes, boil like white potatoes and then mash like ... well, mashed potatoes. The mashed taro that I prepared to accompany my Chinese inspired pot roast was absolutely delicious. MD sells taro either peeled or unpeeled.

Like many of the foods we have purchased from MD, taro is really good for you ... probably way more than white potatoes. The health benefits of taro include its ability to improve digestion, lower your blood sugar levels, prevent certain types of cancers, protect the skin, boost vision health, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, aid the immune system, and prevent heart disease, while also supporting muscle and nerve health.

Additionally, one cup of taro has zero cholesterol, 117 calories, 11 mg of sodium and a mere 28 grams of carbs as opposed to 2 mg of cholesterol, 210 calories, 485 mg of sodium and 33.1 grams of carbs for white mashed potatoes Taro is loaded with valuable nutrients and it tastes great ... especially with a ladle of beef gravy.

We will still buy and cook white potatoes but taro offers a nutritious alternative.

Buen provecho, y'all.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Your Piglet Parade Daily Fruiting

All sorts of nutritional sources say that we Americanos need to be eating more fruits. The Piglet Parade heartily agrees. With that thought in mind the Belle of the Boulevard and myself have been trying to keep ourselves well fruited. A lot of our fruit buying has been occurring at the MD Oriental Market on 49th in Pinellas Park.

We have fruited ourselves with jackfruit and dragon fruit over the last several weeks. Both of these fruits are loaded with nutrients that are good for every part of our bodies. The first try with dragon fruit netted the white pulp variety which was good and very refreshing. On our last trip to the MD we picked up some more of the white, but we discovered there is a red variety. We brought home some of both.

This morning I cut into the red. Let me say right up front that red is a key color here. The skin or peel was the same as the white as were the cute little seeds, but the pulp was very red and maybe a little less sweet than the white. The red nutrients were compounded. If my bride and I were any healthier from these fruits we would probably just poop with joy.

Speaking about pooping: what no other web site dealing with these red dragon fruits have addressed (for obvious reasons, I suppose) is the after-consumption effects. I am not suggesting anything painful or unpleasant ... maybe a little surprising. With the addition of  many shots of creme de menthe your after consumption BM would probably be real Christmassie colorful.

That's as far as I am going with this. From here forward, let your imagination fill in any blanks ... or, give it a try. The fruit is really good, though.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Our Beach Kitchen: Cooking Chinese

My trophy bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, and I have been expanding our gastronomic buds of taste lately by breaking out of our culinary comfort zone. Instead of relying on Winn Dixie or any of the local Publix stores to provide sustenance, we have made several trips into Pinellas Park to shop at the mind-boggling MD Oriental Market on 49th off of Park Boulevard.

Each time we go to the MD it seems that we find some amazing food stuffs that calls out, "Try me!" We have brought home exotic fruits, canned products, fresh meats and poultry, and veggies not found in main-stream groceries. So far, most everything we have tried required a visit to The Googles to figure out what to do with it and how to eat it.

Among other things, we have discovered Asian fruits that are extremely nutritious and have restorative properties not often found in more common varieties. For instance: jackfruit. I have seen this monster fruit featured on food and travel channels. MD has whole jackfruits and fruits cut into smaller sizes and wrapped in plastic.

The yellow pulp can be scooped out with a spoon or fingers and the large seed removed. Not only is the fruit a tasty treat, it is really good for you. A cup of raw fruit has about 155 calories and almost 40 grams of carbs, but most importantly it is packed with a boat load of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Once the seeds are boiled and the husk removed they are not only good for you, but roasted in a frying pan with a little oil and soy sauce, they are a delicious crunchy delight. Also, the unripe fruit can serve as a pulled pork meat substitute.

Speaking of meat: while exploring the meat market, I discovered a most exotic chicken. It was a whole bantam black chicken. I had no idea such a thing existed and while knowing nothing about this kind of bird I knew I had to have it.

Back home I did a Google search and turned up the Ayam Cemani, an uncommon and relatively modern breed of chicken from Indonesia. They have a dominant gene that makes the chicken entirely black; including feathers, beak, and internal organs. Here in the U.S. these birds sell as high as $2500. I had obviously looked up the wrong bird. After a little more 'net surfing I came across the Silkie.

Silkie chickens are a highly-prized breed of chicken that has beautiful silky white plumage, and startlingly black skin. They are frequently found in China, India, and Southeast Asia, or in our case at the MD Market. The Chinese have used the Silkie as food and as medicine for over a thousand years.

In the nutrition aspect, black chicken has less calories than regular chicken, mostly due to less fat. For example, a 100 gram piece of regular chicken has around 8 grams fat, while black chicken has only 2 grams. Studies have also shown a higher level of an antioxidant called carnosine. Antioxidants in general are a great thing, and black chicken has double the amount of carnosine than regular chicken.

That is just peachy information, but now I had to ask myself, "What the hell are you going to do with this black bird?" Well, it was back to the Googles for me, and I found a recipe on New York Times Cooking. Except for the addition of four baby bok choy (because I had them and could add them) I followed the recipe to the letter.

 The bird: ready to be cleaned, rinsed and quartered.
 Step 1: simmering the bird and aromatics for an hour or so.
 Step 2: ingredients for coconut sauce.
 Step 2 (cont): straying from the recipe, I removed the bones since many are small.
Step 3: the prepared dish after a gentle simmer.

The sauce was unbelievably rich and luxurious. The meat really doesn't taste much different than white chickens ... maybe a little gamier ... but, this slow cooked black chicken stew was simply bursting with flavor. Would I do it again? Maybe ... if I can find another Silkie at the store and if the black chicken spirits move me. This was a labor intensive dish. I'd really have to be in the mood.

Hmmm ... maybe try it with a regular chicken or several game hens? We'll have to see.

Bien provecho, y'all.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pickin' Peppers On The Balcony

While the summer growing season in our part of the world is coming to a scorching close, my pot of shishito peppers is pooping out a bunch of these tasty treats on a regular basis.

I mixed this crop with some coarse sea salt and peanut oil and roasted them for about 6 minutes. They make for a savory snack with the addition of soy sauce and some sesame seeds. Yum-a-mundo!

We have harvested about three pounds of tomatoes so far and I have been able to add something from the balcony garden to almost every dish for the last several weeks. The patio corn did not do well. Between the high winds blowing the stalks over and the pigeons pecking out newly planted seeds before sprouting, we did not get a corn crop. I'll try again in the fall.