Sunday, June 24, 2018

We Did Not Choose Wisely

Obviously this country did not choose wisely or with forethought because now we have a coward, a fool, a thief, a liar and a tyrant all rolled up into one big fat piece of human garbage ... Il Douche Trump.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Human Rights Hypocrites Are U.S.

An interesting headline in the newspaper today: U.S.ANNOUNCES EXIT FROM U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

In the article Ambassador Haley sniveled that the U.N. membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela, the United States, and others.

Oops, my bad! Haley did not cite the United States, but she should have. Trump, Sessions and the rest of these human rights hypocrites are abusers and should be censured for their injudicious conduct.

Furthermore spewed Haley, "...our commitment does not allow [the U.S.] to remain part of a hypocritical and self serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."

And that's how the pot calls the kettle black.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Birthday Bash At Bon Appetit

Booked a room and a table for my bride's birthday. We stayed at the Best Western Yacht Harbor Inn in Dunedin with dinner reservations at the Bon Appetit Restaurant and Bar.

Robert was our charming server providing us with celebratory food and drink. We started with a couple of cocktails, and moved on to a Mediterranean Octopus Salad for me and a dandy blue cheese salad for she.

My octopus salad consisted of artichokes, pancetta, tomatoes, roasted garlic and kale. The octopus was very tender to the tooth and while big enough to be a main dish my buds of taste clamored for the excellent Half Rack of New Zealand Lamb.

For her entree my birthday bride reveled in the tasty Pan Seared Salmon. Both the salmon and the lamb were perfectly prepared.

Next up were the dessert shooters. The diner has a choice of six of these sweet delights. I chose the raspberry shooter and my bride had the chocolate peanut butter shooter with a little something extra thanks to Robert.

After dinner we wandered over to the adjoining outdoor bar for more celebration and conversation with neighboring patrons. We closed down the bar and made our way home - room 111 about 50 feet away.
The Yacht Harbor Inn isn't real fancy but it is clean, comfortable and convenient with a dandy bar, restaurant and view.
Dinner with cocktails and a bottle of rose' wine came to a pleasing $128.67.
We didn't stray too far from the hotel since the weather gods appeared to be angry, but we did wander about the marina.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Harbor Master Tiki Grille

To relive the wonders of Key West before the developers, cruise ships and hordes of tourists invaded this tropical paradise I suggest a visit to Stock Island, roughly a 15-minute drive north of Key West. If you would like to get a taste of Stock Island without the long drive down to the keys I recommend a short drive to the Bay Pines Marina, 4999 Harbor Lights Drive in Seminole, Florida and a refreshing stop at the Harbor Master Tiki Grille.

When you turn off of Bay Pines Boulevard onto 92nd Street you will find yourself in the Harbor Lights Club Mobile Home Park. At the end of 92nd you will have arrived at the marina. You can't miss the Tiki Grille ... it's the big thatched roof structure. Just wander in and make yourself at home.

My bride and I sat at the bar and were greeted by the charming, Emily, who took our drink orders and presented us with menus. The Grille has an adequate selection of beer and wine.

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard ordered the Hammerhead Burger that she describes as one of the very best burgers ever to have passed her dainty lips. Tender, flavorful and juicy, the burger was accompanied with a satisfying serving of beer battered onion rings.

The special on this visit was the Tuna Poke. I was sorely tempted by that poke, but the Pig Wings were even more tempting. I chose the Pig Wing Basket with coleslaw and some of the best fries I have ever had.

There were supposed to be five of these ham shanks but Emily said one of them flew the coop on the way out of the kitchen but its replacement would be forthcoming in a couple of minutes ... and, it was ... hot from the cooker, tender and juicy with a crisp flavorful sear on the outside. The included tub of BBQ sauce was perfect for dipping those wings.

Go by boat or go by car, but go to this laid-back Florida treasure.

Should you need to make a pit stop before your journey home, the facilities are located out back.

That setup looked a little iffy, but my bride said the interior was sparkling clean, spacious and had separate accommodations for men and women.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Shuckers Who Know How To Shuck

I recently read an excellent review of Baytenders Oyster Bar & Steamer at 4400 4th Street in St. Pete. I was inspired by that review to give Baytenders a try and I am glad I did.

We arrived a little after the four o'clock opening and were offered either indoor or outdoor seating. Since outdoors was close to the traffic on 4th Street we chose indoors. Amanda was our charming server who promptly brought our much needed drink orders.

After determining that Baytenders knew a thing or two about shucking and serving oysters on the half shell I was compelled to order a dozen. Holy moly, that was a pleasant surprise! Baytenders does know a thing or two. The oysters were freshly shucked, they were not mangled and they were not dipped in nasty water washing away that salty liquor. Those Texas oysters were, in a word, perfect.

My bride and I shared an appetizer, the decadent Maryland Baked Crab Dip. This rich presentation was loaded with crab. Again, perfection on a platter!

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard continued on her food journey with an order of fresh Florida Grouper Nuggets with sides of new potatoes and cheese grits. She brought a little of everything home in a box. It was too good to waste, but that crab dip was most filling.

I rounded off my dining experience with a huge bowl of Joe Island Steamed Clams. The perfectly steamed clams were swimming in a white wine and garlic broth with toast points for sopping.

Magic, the manager, and his staff provided us with a most delightful dining adventure. All food and several adult beverages came to a reasonable $87.75.

Baytenders Oyster Bar & Steamer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Another Culinary Treasure In Downtown St. Pete

Fantastic dinner with friends at Il Ritorno in DTSP. Besides the food and service I was impressed to discover that "Chef David entered the restaurant business at just 13 years old, as a busboy at Villa Gallace on Indian Rocks Beach." Villa Gallace is a neighborhood venue for us beach folk.

The four of us had front row seats looking in on the precision of the gastronomic ballet playing out in front of us. Dayna, our delightful server, presented us with a bottle of Anica Chardonnay for the dainty damsels and superb Le Volte Super Tuscan for us manly men.

We started with appetizers of Steamed Mussels with lamb nduja (a spicy, spreadable salumi from Italy) caramelized onions and Calabrese chili, Spring Salad with a variety of veg and crispy pork jowls: my bride and I shared the Smoked Dry Aged Carpaccio.

Our entrees included Chef's Cast Iron Steak (I had the bone-in filet), Lamb Spaghetti, Capellini Nero and Pork Saltimbocca. While nary a discouraging word was uttered about any of the entrees, my personal favorites were the Capellini Nero on a bed of squid ink pasta, and the Lamb Spaghetti.

Wine, appetizers and entrees for four came to $314.58.

Il Ritorno Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, April 1, 2018

ROAD TRIP: Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach

Let me start our journey with the admission that we live on an island, with a beach. To some, it may defy reason for us to take a mini-vacation to a different island that also has a beach. There was a perfectly plausible reason for this trip. There was a recent article about the oldest bars in each state on the Internet. Of course, I had to look up Florida's oldest bar. That would be the Palace Saloon in Fernandina Beach. There you have it! What better reason to go on a road trip than to visit a bar?

The first leg of our trip was probably the hardest and it seemed like the longest. Getting from Indian Shores to I-275 and then on to I-75 out of Tampa has become a freakin' nightmare. Gandy Bridge to Westshore has become a parking lot due to the new construction around the old Imperial Yacht Basin. It doesn't seem as though anyone can get on the Howard Frankenstein without screwing up somehow. The Courtney Campbell Causeway felt left out so traffic there was constipated. We delayed our departure until almost 10 o'clock and still ... molasses.

Sparky's Place

Up near Ocala I decided to get out of the stop and go traffic and cut across the state on SR 40 through the Ocala National Forest. A bit past noon we heard ominous noises from inside the cab of Gussie, our trusty Chevy. Thankfully it wasn't Gussie, it was stomach grumblings and just then, out of the blue (actually, the green of the forest) we spied Sparky's Place ... "JUST A FEW PAW PRINTS WEST OF THE ST JOHNS RIVER 24646 STATE ROAD 40, ASTOR FLORIDA ."

Krystal greeted us at the door as we mentioned that we didn't have reservations. She looked at several empty tables and gave us that look that the local folks everywhere give to people they know aren't from around these parts. With a giggle and a grin Krystal brought us a couple medicinal beers.

For lunch, my bride had the homemade baked potato soup with a garden salad. Other than the fact that the soup was blissfully good, my bride was overwhelmed by the bucket-sized Sparky's soup bowl.

Since it appeared to be a Sparky's specialty I decided to burger myself up with a Sparky's Burger - an 8 ounce hand patted burger mixed with peppers and onions smothered ... let me emphasize smothered ... with cheddar cheese.

That juicy burger with an apron of grilled cheese was one of the best meals I had on this trip. I waddled out the door and pondered a nap in the shade of a forest pine. We had 6 o'clock dinner reservations in Fernandina so it was back on the road again for us.

The Hampton Inn and Suites Amelia Island Historic Harbor

We made it through Jacksonville without incident only to wind up in monster traffic snarl on A1A leading on to the island and our ultimate goal, Fernandina Beach. Let me pause here for a few moments to clear up any misconceptions.

Amelia is the island. On the east shore is the Atlantic Ocean and the island's beaches. Fernandina Beach didn't have a beach that we ever saw. Fernandina Beach is the town on the island. There is a historic district on the west side and that is where we were headed.

The Hampton is smack dab in the historic district adjacent to the harbor. Most everything we wanted to see, eat and drink was within easy walking distance. We only had to move the car once and that was because Uber is pretty much non-existent.

In addition to location we chose the Hampton because our king room had a fireplace and a Jacuzzi.

A tasty dinner with a couple bottles of wine, a fire and a relaxing soak in the tub brought our first day to a relaxing close.

The Palace Saloon

After checking in at the hotel we made our first stop, the raison d'être for even being on the island.

"Between 1880-1910 Fernandina's docks were among the busiest in the south. Basking in her heyday, she welcomed ships from the far corners of the globe. Of the many saloons that lined the lively streets of the harbour district - and there were over 20 at the time - only one bore the distinction of being the "Shipcaptain's Bar." and that was the Palace."

In the late 1800's there was an even older bar, but that bar was sold with the stipulation that alcohol would never again be served on the premises. The Palace Saloon then is the last of the old-timers still standing and serving the thirsty traveler.

On the first day at the bar we met some fellow veterans. We all bought rounds of drinks and told war stories and other tales. The next day we secured seats at the bar and were able to trade lies and tall tales with George, the tender of the bar. George paused for a moment and said, "See that guy that just walked in? He's the mayor of Fernandina Beach." It turns out that George was also the mayor's campaign manager.

We were told that the mayor also tends bar at the Palace, and according to legend has been spotted mopping up the bar after closing while being drunk as a skunk and butt-nekkid. Without verification I'd have to think that was a tall tale, but it did make me think that our mayor, Mayor Pat, of Indian Shores needs to step up his game and get a little beach cred. Maybe work a shift or two at Mahuffer's.

España Restaurant and Tapas

A few blocks from our hotel we found España. Several couples were ahead of us trying to secure a table. When the hostess looked at us I mentioned our reservations and we were immediately escorted to a table. Reservations are so necessary these days.

After the very filling lunch at Sparky's neither of us was starved so we decided to stick with tapas and wine. We chose a superb Garzon Sauvignon Blanc from Uruguay.

This Sauvignon Blanc combines citrus and fruity notes with a delicate presence of passion flower. There is a distinct minerality, freshness and vibrancy and it definitely complimented my Buquerones - fresh anchovies marinated in EVOO, vinegar, parsley and presented on toasts with an olive for accent.

I followed the anchovies with Chorizo Encebollado (sausage and onions) - sliced Portuguese sausage sautéed with onions and flambéed with brandy. This was a rich and very flavorful tapa.

My dining partner and number one traveling companion chose the Beef Enchilada Special with goat cheese, a filling and delectable presentation.

Since the Uruguayan wine was so tasty and we needed something to sip while we soaked in the Jacuzzi back at the hotel we asked our server, Justin, to bring us a to-go bottle. He broke the seal and bagged our wine and away we went.

A Walk-a-bout In Historic Fernandina Beach

After a forgettable, but free, hotel breakfast we began our first full day with a tour of the waterfront. One of the first sights we saw was the train depot. A Florida historical marker in front of the old railroad depot reads as follows: "The Florida Railroad Company was incorporated January 8, 1853, with David L. Yulee as president. The line received both federal and state land grants. Despite early financial difficulties, construction was begun from Fernandina, where the main office was located, in 1856. The Final trackage to Cedar Key was lain March 1, 1861, and Florida had its first cross-state railroad."

The depot now houses the Chamber of Commerce and is no longer used for railroad purposes. I wondered to myself if the tracks were still being used. The answer came to me at exactly 11:38 that night as a freight train whistled and chugged past our hotel, and from somewhere I thought I could hear Cousin Vinnie screaming.

After snapping a couple pictures I turned toward town and maybe another stop at the Palace Bar. I thought my bride was at my side, but she wasn't. "Oh, hell, where did she wander off to now?" I found her chatting up one of the locals. I'm sure Mr. Yulee appreciated her arm on his knee

The town of Fernandina Beach is quaint and picturesque with tree lined streets, quirky shops and ancient homes. More than once I was reminded of Key West as it used to be 40 or 50 years ago.

The Patio Place

Lunch time was fast approaching so we sauntered over to Ash Street and The Patio Place, a bistro and creperie I found while surfing the 'net.

The Patio Place is located a few blocks away from Fernandina's Centre Street, their equivalent to Duval in Key West. As in Key West, the tourists rarely stray from the main drag. Except for a few locals, we had the place and our delightful server, Nicholas, to ourselves.

We ordered a Tiger Beer for me and a Chardonnay Latour for she as we relaxed in the cool, shady dining area.

For her noon time repast my bride decided on the Classic Brittany - egg, ham and Monterrey jack cheddar served the classic French way – sunny side up in the crêpe.

I was intrigued by the Tango - Argentina spiced tri-tip steak, onions and spinach, topped with chimichurri sauce and tomato jam.

Both crepes were perfection on a platter and probably the two most memorable meals we enjoyed while on the island.

Continuing our journey of exploration we passed someones back yard entertaining area. I remember thinking, "I might like to party with these folks!" 

Lawn chairs, grills and a bathtub? What fun these folks must have.

Marlin and Barrel Distillery

While planning our island and beach adventure I came across the web site for the Marlin and Barrel Distillery and after reading about them and their products I knew this had to be one of our stops while in Fernandina. The distillery offers tours (limited hours), tastings and retail.

A few years ago I saw a cooking or travel channel program filmed along the Amalfi coast. The program had a segment on Limoncello - the beverage and how to make it. That looked easy enough but I discovered the process is time consuming - but, oh so worth the effort. After that initial production I wondered how the recipe would turn out if using oranges instead of lemons.

I wonder no longer. The Marlin and Barrel produces Blossom Orangecello, hand zested all Florida orange liqueur; and that is some smooth drinking. The M and B tones down the sugar a bit so it isn't as sweet as the limoncello I made. Also, M and B doesn't produce limoncello at this time, but they do have a dandy cello made from grapefruit.
While at the distillery the effervescent Shannon gave us tastes of their vodka made from molasses (who knew?), rum, whiskey and cellos.

We brought home two bottles of the Blossom Orangecello and the Smoked Pepper Vodka - all hand signed on the bottles by the owner, Roger.

That pepper vodka makes the best Bloody Mary. We've tried it like a sangrita: a shot glass of the vodka with a Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix chaser.

Cheers, y'all!

Gilbert's Underground Kitchen

We reserved a table at Gilbert's for our last dinner on the island. First, a couple of points: one is that the kitchen isn't under any ground, it's right over there; and parking can be a freakin' nightmare.

All spaces in the lot were taken. We circled the block a couple times. Nada! There were no signs referencing additional parking. We finally settled on a spot across the street at business that appeared closed. We braved heavy traffic crossing the street but made it to the door in one piece. We advised the hostess of our reservations.

Before we were seated I mentioned where we parked and asked if we would likely be towed. The responses ranged from don't know, to a maybe, to a shrug of the shoulders, to a "... you'll probably be fine. Just look out the window and you can see your car." That really gave us the warm fuzzies.

We took our assigned seats and ordered a Chard of some sort for her and a Sam Adams (in a can?) for me. I knew from the start that I had to have the much touted Fried Chicken Skins. 

I had seen this dish on a TV program: pieces of skin laid flat and cooked crispy and thin. What I was served were small chunks of chicken, battered and deep fried. I was sorry I ordered them. 

We also shared an order of Duo of Drop Biscuits and Skillet Corn Bread with green tomato jalapeno jam, cane syrup, butter and assorted pickles.

Gilbert’s bills itself as a neighborhood-driven Deep Southern American restaurant. While the menu may change with the seasons, during our visit BBQ seemed to be the order of the day. I had the Duo of Brisket - sliced brisket and burnt ends, shaved onion, shishito peppers, Texas Toast with hot tomato molasses. The brisket was good, the burnt ends were the real treat, though.

After the biscuits and cornbread my dainty dining partner decided to just go with small plates or cups of Southern delights: field peas, potato salad, cheese grits and slaw. All were good and filling.

On a happy note, our car wasn't towed away and Gussie, our trusty Chevy, was able to get us back home to our island at the beach. If we ever plan another trip like this it won't be during spring break or around Easter. The Interstate traffic is horrific, but Fernandina Beach is a treat.