Thursday, February 22, 2018

Old School Dining At Clearwater Beach

There was a piano player. I don't think his name was Sam and he didn't "play it again", but we four had a pleasant dinner at the 70 year old Bob Heilman's Beachcomber.

Everything about the Beachcomber seemed retro but not long in the tooth. There was a certain charm in the decor and the servers who in many cases were dressed better than some of the clientele.

Our server, Jackie, started us off with a relish tray, something I had not experienced since my childhood in Atlanta. From there we manly men chose to treat our taste receptors to what promised to be savory and delicious marrow bones.

The jus did not disappoint though there wasn't a lot of marrow in those bones. Only one of the bones served to me had any marrow. The other two were devoid of anything except hot air ... a waste of money!

Our table had much better luck with the  tomato salad, my bride's wedgie (salad, not pictured), Caprese halibut, famous farm-to-table chicken dinner, French fried onion rings, lamb chops and lamb shank.

If you are brave enough to challenge Clearwater Beach traffic and the hoards of milling-about-tourists, I think you will be pleased with Heilman's. Dinner for four with wine came to a fairly reasonable $250.58.

Heilman's Beachcomber Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ichicoro Ane, A Dining Destination

As you approach Station House at 260 1st Avenue South in downtown St. Pete you will encounter a short flight of stairs leading down to Ichicoro Ane which is described as "a Japanese inspired eating and drinking den".

My dining partner and I have walked down those steps on several different occasions, once when it was Cafe Alma and twice again as Ichicoro Ane. On both visits to Ichicoro Ane, once with friends and again with just we two, reservations had been made in advance for seating in the main dining room as opposed to the ramen room. Seating is a bit more comfortable in the main dining area with chairs, though unpadded, that had backs. For us, this is more conducive to relaxed dining.

The decor of the interior does not inspire peaceful contemplation. I am more reminded of a orange shipping crate. There is interesting art work scattered about, but the feeling is that we walked into an industrial disco with blaring music bouncing off of hard surfaces which made hearing our server and engaging in conversation difficult. We had asked if the dBs could be dialed back a bit and were told this was not as loud as usual.

Mixologists manning the bar have been, on our two visits, both talented and gregarious. There is a modest list of signature cocktails and we can easily recommend the White Wind (Genkai Iki shochu, Carpano Bianco,Luxardo Bitter Bianco, absinthe, orange bitters) and the Genji Glove (white rum, draft matcha, orgeat,orange cordial, lime juice, Angostura bitters, mint).

We have wandered around the food menu with great success. Every morsel that we have tried has been pleasing to our buds of taste. From the Bao menu on this visit we enjoyed the Gyu Beef Bun, smoked beef shoulder with creamy gochujang mustard.

A few plates from our last dining adventure were so good we had to try them again, and they were still great. My favorite is the Tako Amiyaki, perfectly grilled octopus with black garlic and a savory pickled edamame.

A favorite of my dining partner is the Smokey Bacon Karroke, North Country applewood smoked bacon with spiced Kirin beer cheese and ontoma. Our best guess is that otoma is an egg white beaten into a froth.

I had tried the Kaarage (tempura-like fried chicken) and a couple of wagyu (translation: Japanese cow) presentations on a previous visit and they were good. The wagyu was similar in taste and texture to Angus beef tenderloin. The wagyu, I discovered, is any of four Japanese breeds of beef cattle that have been imported and are being raised in this country. Our server had no idea of where Ichicoro sources their beef.

On this visit I was intrigued by the brothless Shellfish Soba Ramen with shrimp, crab and calamari accented with shreds of (I think) wakame and sliced green onions. This dish had the taste and aroma of the sea, and I mean that in a good way. I've had the soupy ramen many times so on this visit I wanted to get away from the mundane and this bowl was a pleasant change.

The big surprise of the night was dessert. I don't normally order dessert and I didn't this time, but the server apparently took my dining partner's order as a double order. I was going to send it back until I saw this Hawaiian delight, Halo Halo with a small carafe of rum. I had seen this treat on a cooking or travel channel program and was thrilled to give it a try.

Halo Halo is an icy concoction with guava, coconut, black sesame fudge, and ube ice cream. Ube (pronounced OO-BAE), is a purple yam that can be mashed or pureed and incorporated into sweet treats like this rum enhanced delight. It is best to add the rum a little at a time so as to not overpower the rest of the ingredients. As you scoop from the top, be sure to dig deeper for the goodies at the bottom.

I would go back to Ichicoro for that halo halo alone ... after the weather warms up ... probably in May. All food and beverage for two came to a pleasing $100 or so before gratuity. Ichicoro Ane is a worthwhile dining destination. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Broke N Bored On The Beach

After a frustrating afternoon trying to fill a grocery shopping list at a Publix, then a Winn-Dixie (depleted stock due to winter storms perhaps) I was too pooped to cook. My bride, Lydia Rector, and I decided to dine out.

We chose Broke N Bored. This was our first time this year and it was as good as it was last year. We started with a cup of delicious and rich potato soup with bacon and cheese for her and the drunken shrimp for me. The perfectly cooked shrimp with savory sauce and toasts for sopping was sinfully good.

The caprese chicken was, according to my bride, spectacular - tender, juicy and full of flavor. The chicken breast was served with a loaded baked potato and the superb pineapple coleslaw.

I couldn't resist the boneless rib-eye. I had it once before and it was so delicious I had to have it again and it was still mouth-watering good.

The Broke N Bored isn't fancy but if you are into good food, dine here. If you are into decor, go to a furniture store. Beer, wine and food with a 20% gratuity came to a bit over $90.00.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Mexican Bar On the Beach

I had a hard time deciding if Castaways on Gulf Boulevard is a Mexican bar on the beach or a beach bar on the road to Cobá in Mexico. There were similarities to both which is a good thing. We enjoyed the Mexican cantina and we enjoyed Castaways. Neither were particularly glamorous but the beer and wine was cold and the food very good.

Castaways TacoRita and Beach Bar can be seen from Gulf Boulevard but there is no on-street parking. I would suggest turning on 135th Street and then turn right into the first alley you come to. There is parking behind Castaways and in a couple of lots a little farther down. We parked behind the building and wandered in through the back door. We were cheerfully greeted and directed to sit where we pleased. The bar was our choice.

Castaways advertises margaritas, but these are wine based. They only serve beer and wine, so we chose a Modelo for me and a Chard for mi esposa. There is an assortment of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas on the menu in addition to flat-bread pizzas.

My bride chose the enchiladas with cheese and chicken rolled in two tortillas and topped with queso and red sauce. This was both a filling and flavorful choice.

I decided to go for the gut-bomb, what Castaways calls The Super Ty One Taco. This monster had a hard corn taco shell inside a white queso lathered flour tortilla filled with pork, chicken, ground beef, black beans, guacamole, rice, cheddar cheese, and red sauce.

Our server wisely suggested whittling this decadent delight down a bit with a fork instead of trying to pick it up right away. I took her advice. That would have been a mess otherwise. To say I was full after downing this beast would have been an understatement. That was a shame because Castaways has churros on their dessert menu. Maybe next time!

Two dinners with beer and wine came to a pocket pleasing $34.61.

Castaways TacoRita & Beach Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dinner On The Balcony

A cool evening found us on the balcony overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway with a rich and hearty soup to warm our innards.

 Spanish Garlic Soup

  10            ounces  croutons, seasoned -- two 5 ounce bags from grocery
  1/4           cup  extra virgin olive oil
  10            cloves  garlic -- very thinly sliced - use mandolin
  8              ounces  Spanish ham -- 1/4" dice
  2              teaspoons  paprika
  64            ounces  chicken stock
  1/4           teaspoon  cayenne pepper -- or to taste
                  salt and pepper -- to taste
  1/4           cup  Italian parsley -- chopped
  4              large  eggs

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Cook and stir garlic in hot oil until just golden.

Add ham; cook and stir until heated through.

Add paprika and stir to combine.

Add bread to the pot and toss to coat with hot oil mixture.

Pour chicken stock into bread mixture; add cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper and stir.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and stir in parsley.

Crack each egg into a small bowl or cup.

Make 4 depressions in the bread on top of the soup with a spoon. Slowly pour an egg into each depression.

Cover the pot with a lid and cook until egg whites are firm and yolks are thick but not hard.

Ladle soup into bowls and spoon an egg on top.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 683 Calories; 38g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 249mg Cholesterol; 5690mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 6 Fat.

NOTES : If you can't find good Spanish ham I suggest substituting Portuguese chouriço (you can find it at most Publix stores). Typical American ham just doesn't have enough flavor to enhance this soup.

I prefer store-bought croutons, but feel free to make your own if you have stale bread lying around.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Prime Dining On Gulf Boulevard

I received a notice on Facebook a few weeks ago from Aqua Prime announcing their new menu. I took a look and was hooked. While Aqua Prime bills itself as a seafood and steak venue with sea to table dining, what caught my eye and caused my buds of taste to stand at attention were several pasture to table entrées.

The Belle of the Boulevard and I booked a 5:30 table not too long after. We had the place and the servers pretty much to ourselves since we beat the dinner rush, and the hoards from the north haven't descended upon us in mass yet. We were promptly greeted and seated at a comfy booth where we had once before nestled our derrières.

Andrew was our delightful server for the evening and quickly presented us with water and menus. My bride chose a Kendall Jackson Chard to accompany her house salad while I enjoyed a mojito to accompany my appetizer of Charbroiled Oysters.

That was probably the best serving of those charbroiled delights this side of New Orleans. There was a subtle sweetness that just added to the flavor with Parmesan cheese, shallot butter, minced garlic and sriracha bacon. The only downside was the oysters had not been cut from the bottom shell. The meat had to be pried loose with the cocktail fork, mangling the mollusk in the process.

Despite that oyster debacle the Belle and I had to go back to Aqua Prime since there were more pluses than minuses. This time we invited friends from down the way to join us. I had to have those delicious oysters one more time. This time I asked Courtney, our charming server, if the kitchen would please cut the meat from that bottom shell. She said, "I'll ask," and returned a few minutes later and said that was doable. In a perfect oyster eating world, neither the diner nor server should have to ask that question. This time the oysters were dilly dilly good.

A second appetizer was ordered on this trip, the Pan Seared Scallops with coconut curry sauce, Applewood bacon, sweet potato fries and scallions. This dish looked good but I was having my way with those oysters and by the time I came up for air the scallops were gone. Oh, well ... you snooze, you lose.

On our first visit my bride had the 14 Hour Slow Smoked Roasted Brisket. I had a taste and that brisket was the best beef brisket this side of Texas. Actually, it was better than anything I had while in Texas. That mouthwatering beef was so good she had to order it again.

On the first visit the brisket had been cut with a bit more fat than the second time, so it was juicier. The second time around both diners who had ordered the brisket felt the meat was a little on the dry side. It was still good, though.

In addition to the brisket, Aqua Prime has two other beef dishes that I simply had to have. The first time out I swooned over the Smoked Certified Angus Roasted Prime Rib cooked to a requested medium rare Pittsburgh style.

As good as that prime rib was, this time my buds of taste demanded the Certified Angus Argentinean Coulotte Steak. This cut of beef is called sirloin cap in the U.S. and picanha in Brazil. In the U.S. it is little known, but referred to as the rump cover, rump cap or coulotte. I just call it good, grilled and sliced with smokey red chimichurri and au gratin potatoes.

The other dainty damsel in our party seemed pleased with her choice of the Black and Bleu Angus Beef Salad with sliced blackened beef, Gorgonzola cheese, crispy smoked Heineken battered onions crisp Romaine and Caesar dressing.

The four of us were a little too plump at that point to do much more than just consider dessert. Maybe next time.

With cocktails and a bottle of ancient vines zinfandel our dinners for two people on two separate visits averaged about $120.00.

Aqua Prime Seafood & Steaks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Late Lunch At Miller's

Few things excite me as much as shopping, so with great anticipation I joined my bride on her retail shopping adventure. After a fruitless search for whatever it became apparent to both of us that the growling sounds we were hearing were coming from within. Lunch was calling out to us, but from where?

The Belle of the Boulevard had mentioned several times that we should give Miller's Ale House in the newly completed Seminole City Center (the old Seminole Mall) a try. We were close and hungry so we decided to mosey in to this "house of football". That was an apt description since it appeared that every wall in the place had multiple TV screens.

We were getting a late start to lunch so we figured we would order just enough to keep us from starving until dinner. Our server, Phillip, brought us a couple of much needed adult beverages - a Sterling Chard for she and a Stella for me. The Belle and I chose to share an order of potstickers and an order of flatbread.

We chose well! Those pork dumplings on a bed of cabbage drizzled with a tangy plum sauce were plum delicious. The cheeseburger flatbread was spectacular. That crispy flatbread was topped with a secret sauce, ground beef, applewood smoked bacon, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes and pickles.

My bride and I barely scratched the surface of the ale house menu which pretty well demanded we make a return visit. The menu is more extensive than I would have imagined for what could be described as a sports bar.

The drinks were cold, the serve prompt and efficient, the food was really good and the prices were reasonable. Our check came to a pleasing $37.06.

Miller's Ale House - Seminole Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato