Monday, November 29, 2010

Burlesque at the Cobb CineBistro

Watching 64 year old Cherilyn Sarkisian on the movie screen this past Saturday was tantamount to enjoying a bottle of Domaine Romanée-Conti, arguably the most rarefied and expensive wine in the world. This wine, like the actress better known as Cher, just gets better with age.

We booked the 
matinée showing of the movie Burlesque at the Cobb CineBistro in Hyde Park and were treated to an entertaining and lavishly produced movie that was vaguely reminiscent of the Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930s. 
Photo from Burlesque web site

This Cher and Christina Aguilera pairing had the hallmark Berkeley clichés: The hard-nosed Broadway director dying for a hit - in this case, Cher's character trying to save her club from foreclosure; an egotistical star breaks an ankle making way for - Christina Aguilera, the small town girl from Iowa yearning for a big break (no pun intended, as there was no broken ankle); the unknown but talented chorus kid who takes over the starring role and triumphs. Not only did Aguilera's character take over the starring role, but she also saved the club from foreclosure.

Like the musicals from the thirties, Burlesque was not a deep, dark, enigmatic mélange of computer graphic imagery nor was it one of those horrific and ubiquitous 3D disasters. Burlesque is an entertaining, feel-good movie that can lift the spirits of a disheartened American audience not unlike the Berkeley musicals did for the depression era audiences many years ago.

The production sequences were spectacular, and like earlier musicals the stage tended to grow larger as the dance numbers progressed. The vocals were superb with Aguilera's Tough Lover and Cher's You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me being two stand-outs. 

Photo from Burlesque web site

As usual, the Hyde Park Cobb CineBistro was the perfect venue for enjoying a really good movie and some tasty food. We ordered a bucket of beer and a couple of their juicy hamburgers. Then we sat back in the plush, cozy seats and enjoyed the show.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Never Too Old To Rock

It would be sacrilegious to refer to Loretta Lynn as an old fart, even though she is in her mid-seventies. You certainly wouldn't know that by listening to her rock out with Jack White on a cut from her 2004 Van Lear Rose album.

Van Lear Rose is one the the most progressive and entertaining albums I have ever heard by Loretta Lynn, and it is a prized CD in my collection. This is also the first time that this country music legend has written the lyrics for all songs on an album.

I mentioned once before that I love it when a "senior citizen" scores. Loretta Lynn scored big on the Van Lear Rose. Proof, I think, that you are only as old as you feel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Old Farts Rule!

I love the blues, and I love it when an old guy scores. Buddy Guy damn sure scores on his Living Proof album. I downloaded it yesterday from Amazon and it has some kick-ass blues with a message.

The message: I am 74 years young, and I can still kick ass.

You can buy Living Proof as an MP3, a CD, or vinyl. I got the MP3 download, but vinyl? CDs on are the way out, and I read that vinyl may be making a comeback. I am not sure I am ready for that. I converted my vinyl library to CDs years ago. The thought of going back to vinyl gives me and my wallet the tremors. I do miss vinyl, though.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

A recent post-election survey of American voters gives me cause for thanks on this Thanksgiving eve:

51% of registered voters want Congress to keep the new health care law and possibly expand it. This is despite Republican claims that they have a mandate from the American people to kill the bill.

The same survey also shows that a majority of voters side with the Democrats on extending the tax cuts for only those making less than $250,000 per year.

So much for Boehner and the Republican party mandate.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Land of the Free, Home of the Delusional

As much as I hate to say it, "Ludicrousness is alive and well in our fair land."

Case in point: New Jersey passed a tough bill against bullying that requires schools and colleges to adopt anti-bullying programs and codes of conduct. What is wrong with that you may ask. Nothing! Anti-bullying laws should be mandatory all across America, but that is not the point here.

Groups of social conservatives in New Jersey opposed this bill...wait for it comes...on the grounds that education provisions would legitimize gay marriage and force children to be taught about homosexuality in schools.

Better to have the school bully beat the crap out of little Billy or drive him to suicide than to have him turned into a fairy...right? It doesn't stop in New Jersey, there is more.

How about the fans of Dancing With The Stars getting their bloomers in a bunch over the possibility of a Bristol Palin win or loss? Where is all the righteous indignation over the fact that thousands - many, many thousands - of our American servicemen and women have died or come home with shattered minds and bodies from two insane and pointless wars?

You do know we are still involved in two wars, don't you? And, you aren't just sitting on your fat ass in front of the tube watching DWTS; you are supporting the war effort, right? Faded bumper stickers and torn American flags flapping from your car window don't count as support. That is just lip service.

While I am on a rant, my bride (who was there) said that travelers in the United Kingdom were getting fondled by airport security even back in 1975. So what makes us so special? Do we think the screeners get their jollies feeling up people who may have questionable hygiene habits? Who knows, this might be the only opportunity for intimacy that some of you will get all year. So, America, just quit whining, close your eyes and enjoy the moment. If it is really good you might be able to request a re-pat.

The body scanners bring up another interesting issue. Some of us are offended by the thought of someone looking at an image of our naked bodies. Here is a suggestion: get naked, look at yourself in the mirror (at home, please) and image how traumatized the screener is after a day of looking at wrinkled, pot-bellied grouches, with wads of flab oozing over their belts. Look around yourself at the airport and imagine these people naked. Are you getting sexually aroused?

Besides, if the TSA were to relax security measures and a plane was brought down by terrorists the uproar around the country would be deafening...and, it would all be Obama's fault, because that's how it is in the land of the free and the home of the delusional.

By the by, did you know that the boner from Ohio, John Boehner (R-I am one of you, sorta), can skip security? Being royalty doth have its privileges, but he doesn't know what he is missing.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Food: For a Gourmet Burger - It's Back to Square One

The best burger I ever had in my whole life? I thought you would never ask. Without a doubt or a moment's hesitation, that would be the Decadent Daddy at Square One Burgers at 3701 North Henderson Boulevard in Tampa.

The Daddy is a fat Kobe beef burger slathered with caramelized onions, curly leaf lettuce, brie, and sun dried tomato mayo piled on a whole wheat bun. I always order mine rare to medium rare. To order Kobe beef any other way should be considered a heinous crime subject to a horrible punishment. This burger has consistently been tender, juicy, and so flavorful that I drool at the mere thought. This is a somewhat messy burger, so the diner needs to be mindful of the heavenly juices dribbling down the arms.

We have also enjoyed the All-American burger, a 100% patty of Angus beef on a sesame seed bun with curly leaf lettuce, a slice of American cheese, beefsteak tomato, red onion and mayo. The All-American is another winner for us; although, for me the Kobe burger is the epitome of a gourmet hamburger.

You may choose to build your own burger at Square One. We have never tried that, though. Besides, I could not improve on the Decadent Daddy. All burgers and sandwiches come with your choice of fries, steamed broccoli, or coleslaw. For a few shekels more you may upgrade to the sweet potato fries. We usually upgrade because those sweet tater fries are really tasty.

The Square One menu is loaded with choices beyond just burgers; however, except for the beer we have never gotten past the burger section. Speaking of which, Square One has an excellent selection of beers, and a full bar. The wine list is a bit limited, but the choices are good, and the prices are very reasonable.

Square One is not a fast food, "Y'all want fries with that burger?" kind of place. The surroundings are attractive, comfortable, and the servers come to you. It may be that we lead a charmed life, but on all of our visits service has been prompt and courteous. My only negative (there always has to be one of those, I guess) is that when the place is packed, parking can be a challenge.

Square One Burgers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Food: Five Guys and Two Burgers

Somebody once said, "He who tooteth not his own horn gets his own horn tootethed not," or something to that effect. I think it was me who said that while on a toot back during my wild and crazy youth.

It can't be said that Five Guys Burgers and Fries doesn't toot their horn. They have signs all over the joint blaring out as to how wonderful are their burgers and stuff. Heaven on a bun; Willy Wonkas of burgercraft; The Fine Dining of Hamburgers? Give me a break!

These same five guys seem to have stores all over the country, and this past Sunday, in a moment of "What the hell were we thinking?" we dropped in to their store at 4304 South Dale Mabry in Tampa. I am certain that every store is the same as every other Five Guys store. I doubt that this location is any better or worse than any other, but I am only going to comment on this one in south Tampa.

The store is bright, shiny, and Spartan with white walls and red and white tile work. My dining partner and I went up the the counter and ordered a cheeseburger for her and a hamburger for me with a side of regular French fries, a Coke and a cup of iced green tea. There was a short wait until our number was called out and we returned to the counter to pick up our order.

Contrary to what you may have heard or read, the burgers are not prepared as ordered. I ordered my burger cooked just medium rare. One of the guys behind the counter said that he and the other four guys only cook their meat well done -  presumably to protect us all from some dreaded, exotic meat disease that can add flavor to their burgers.

My bride is good with that because she always orders her burgers "hockey puck" done. Other than that one little issue, both of us agreed that the Five Guys burgers were absolutely the most...uh, "Why did we do this?" like burgers we have ever had. To put it another way, it's not good, it's not bad, it's just uninspired fast food that doesn't live up to the hype.

There really are some gourmet hamburger places in Tampa, but this isn't one of them.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food: Restaurant BT Is Back As Simply "BT"

We had been waiting impatiently for BT Nguyen to open her new restaurant at 2507 South MacDill Avenue. Her latest venture into culinary excellence is known simply as BT and we were fortunate enough to secure reservations for this past Thursday evening.

As you approach BT fronting MacDill Avenue you walk through a lovely outdoor seating area and up to the double doors leading into Were we ever surprised! The kitchen staff looked up and around at us standing in the doorway. We muttered that we obviously were not where we should have been. A friendly face smiled and welcomed us in anyway. We were given an impromptu tour of the immaculate kitchen as we were guided into the seating area and the maitres d' station at the real front door which is behind the restaurant, and looks out to the parking area.

We felt a little silly, but we were assured that all was well, and this was not the first time people came in to BT through the kitchen. This was certainly true, as we observed three more parties enter from the kitchen looking just as befuddled as we did.

The decor is light and airy with a clean, modern design. Great! Now that I got that out of the way, let's move on to the important stuff. BT has an impressive wine list and for our dinner we chose the exquisite Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateaunuef-du-Pape. The dinner menu had some impressive appetizer and salad choices. I chose the Spicy Baby Squid and Frisee Salad. This was a tangy, tasty, and tender start to my dinner. My dining partner prefers to have her "appetizer" at the end of the meal when it transforms itself into dessert.

For her entrée, the Belle of Ballast Point selected the Organic Chicken Breast Tonya, tender and juicy, served with mashed Asian purple potatoes molded into balls and accompanied by a French bean and carrot medley. There were subtle flavors common in Southeast Asian cooking, but with a delicate French touch.

One of my favorite dishes to prepare at home is Vietnamese Shaking (or, shaken) Beef - Bo Luc Lac - so called because the chef must shake the pan to sear the filet mignon cubes on all sides. My recipe is decidedly Southeast Asian with fish sauce, rice vinegar, and lime juice used in the dressing and marinade. It was with great surprise to see Shaken Beef on the BT menu, but prepared with Courvoisier Cognac and Swiss soy sauce. This I had to try, and I was totally impressed. The BT Shaken Beef was tender, and delicious, and maintained its Vietnamese heritage while benefiting from a decidedly French influence. Magnifique!

For dessert, my bride chose the Bread Pudding Croissant that she still raves about. I am not a dessert person, but I do enjoy an occasional Creme Brulee. What piqued my interest in the Trio of Creme Brulee was the one prepared with kaffir lime. We have a kaffir lime tree in the front yard and I use the leaves in a number of Southeast Asian recipes. The kaffir lime leaf has a distinctive taste that was apparent, but not overpowering, in the brulee cup. I was so enamored with the kaffir creme brulee that I honestly don't even remember what the other two tastes were.

Our bill for the evening came to a little over $200 and included our 20% gratuity for exceptional service.

Would we dine at BT again?

Mais oui!

Restaurant BT on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stuff That Boggles My Mind

~Since the vast majority of Americans are economically middle class or lower, how did the Party of the Rich (GOP) dupe so many into voting for them?

~Right now there are two million unemployed Americans (106,000 here in Florida) who will probably lose their jobless benefits on the first of December because the Republicans are more focused on extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. I wonder how many of those 2,000,000 Americans voted Republican?

~Another mind-boggler is why our elected officials in Washington can't get their minds around the concept of eliminating the Social Security income cap? Never mind, that was a silly question. We have a Republican majority in Congress and eliminating the income cap, while it would be beneficial to saving Social Security, would be detrimental to the high wage earners (those making more than $106,800 a year).

These are just a few of the issues that have me shaking my head, muttering to myself, and contemplating the benefits of heavy drinking.

Bottoms up, y'all!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bay Area Briefs

No, not those briefs.


                                                                  And, definitely not these.

I am referring to brief musings on stuff going on in my world, like Nancy Pelosi being elected the Democratic Minority Leader for the 112th Congress - by a huge margin, I might add.

This 150 to 43 victory is what I would call overwhelming (approx. a 78% to 22% margin) and should serve as a benchmark for the chest-thumping Republicans who claim to have "taken back the country." A recent Rasmussen Report shows that the American public favors the Republicans over the Democrats by a narrow 45% to 40% margin. I wouldn't call that overwhelming nor is it a mandate.


More happy news: Murkowski in Alaska has officially handed Tea-bag Princess Palin and her minion, Joe Miller, a dandy defeat.


Say, what? A headline in today's St. Pete Times, "Kottkamp wanted security on Italy trip." "Who the hell is Kottkamp," many of you are probably asking? Well, that is the point! If people in Florida don't know he is their Lieutenant Governor, it's rather arrogant for Kottkamp to think the Italians would know who he is, or even gave a rat's patootie.


And, now the SOG City Oracle Hershey Squirt Award goes to:

Verizon Business, a subsidiary of Ivan the Horrible's conglomerate. The buzz in the Bay area business world is that in keeping with the spirit of the season it was decided that this year Verizon Business was going to have a heart; albeit a heart not unlike that of Dick Cheney, the Darth Vader of the Beltway. 

Rumor has it that this year's layoff notifications will occur a week before Thanksgiving instead of at Thanksgiving. This is so that the recipient of the pink slip would not have their last day fall on Christmas Day like it did last year. Verizon Business decided that it would be "cruel" to can someone on Christmas Day, so now the newly unemployed will be out the door a week before Christmas. 

How nice. How very nice! (Click the link for translation) 

By the way, that Christmas Day canning was our little gift from Verizon last year. So, a Merry Hershey Squirt Christmas from us...and, may it serve you well.


A final note for our governor-in-waiting: Hey, bub, you best be getting started on creating those 700,000 new jobs. The unemployed are piling up pretty fast around here. You may have a problem keeping up.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food: Crazy for Crazy Buffet

We have dined at Crazy Buffet many times over the years and always waddled away stuffed and satisfied. After the Bucs whipped the Panthers this past Sunday, we decided that rather than fighting Dale Mabry traffic on our way back to SOG City that we would pop in to the Crazy Buffet for food and a couple more brewskies.

After a very brief wait the hostess guided us to our table and our server showed up promptly to take our drink order, a Tsingtao for me (I own stock in the company) and a light beer for my dainty dining partner. Then our server said, "Y'all go ahead on and help yourself to the buffet." Well, maybe she really didn't speak with a southern accent, but we got the point.

My bride always goes for the lighter fare, while I go for the most exotic I can find. Crazy's sushi and sashimi selections are a starting point for me and my choices were fresh, plentiful, and tasty. From there I head to the back for more fish and shellfish. On this night they had some of the most flavorful crawfish that I have ever had; just twist off and suck the head, pinch the tail and pull out the meat - heavenly.

I made my usual stop at the Oriental style barbecued pork ribs, and Peking duck stations. From there it was on to the kimchi, then over to the steamed mussels and steamed clams. I was on my way back to the table when I spotted something that I had never seen before at Crazy Buffet - blue crabs. My plate was too full to stop, but on my next foray into the aisles of gluttony I did hit the crabs. How delightful! These crabs were prepared in the Chinese manner of deep frying with a light coating of flour, salt, and pepper. Like a salt and pepper shrimp recipe, you pretty much eat shell and all. It was yummy! I really have no idea what all my bride consumed, because at the Crazy Buffet it's every man or woman for themselves.

As I mentioned before, we have dined at Crazy Buffet many times and have never been disappointed. On the rare occasions when we come across something that doesn't please our taste buds we don't have to eat it. We just go back to the buffet and choose something else. The variety and the quantity of food is just mind boggling.

Over the years I think we have hit just about every buffet between Tampa and New Orleans and back. Crazy Buffet is by far our favorite.

Crazy Buffet on UrbanspoonBon appetit, y'all.        

VariAsian Crazy Buffet on Foodio54

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wine and Cheese: Cru Cellars

The St. Pete Times ran a recent article that suggested Cru Cellars was nothing short of spectacular. We certainly won't argue with that assessment. Cru Cellars is a warm, friendly, and intelligent addition to the wine and cheese scene in South Tampa, or anyplace else in the city for that matter.

The love of my life and I popped in this past Saturday and immediately headed for the wine bar. It was early in the day so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. This allowed proprietors Jen and Torrey to devote their complete attention to us. We felt really special having our own "private tasting", though I am sure that all customers are treated as special guests at Cru Cellars.

Jen, who is a recognized sommelier, presented the wine, cheese, and charcuterie menus to us at the bar. She also recommended various wines to accompany our meat and cheese selections. Jen suggested that we try one of the wine flights, the Whitey Tighty. We were each presented with three white wines which afforded us the opportunity to sample six different wines. All were excellent, but our favorites were the La Craie Vouvray, the Woolstoon Sauvignon Blanc, and the Starry Night Chardonnay.

Photo by Jen
While we sampled the wine Jen dispatched Torrey to the kitchen to prepare our cheese and charcuterie flight. We chose the Kiev Russian Style Salami, Prosciutto de Parma, plus a selection of cow, goat, and sheep cheeses. These flights come with a triple berry jam, caramelized nuts, and baguettes. Of the cheeses, our personal favorites were the buttery Delice de Bourgogne, Sottocenere with Truffles, the Beehive "Barely Buzzed", and the amazing Rogue Smokey Blue. The Prosciutto was heavenly!

To wrap up this wonderful wine and cheese tasting we chose three selections from the dessert menu. The Doce Debbies Truffle with chili pepper was my favorite. I was amazed at how well dark chocolate and chili peppers go together. From the Viktoria Richard's Chocolates collection we enjoyed the Fleur de Sel, and the Chocolate Blueberry. To accompany the sweets, we each had a glass of the superb Trip Point Diamond Dust Cabernet.

Wall painting, digitally enhanced - or, maybe it was the wine
The Cru Cellars is a delightful venue for sampling a wide assortment of wines, cheeses, and a few select beers and ales. We can't say enough about our charming hosts, Jen and Torrey.

Chillin' for the tastin'
Cru Cellars on Urbanspoon
The exotic Miller Lite - a concession for Torrey

Monday, November 15, 2010

Music That Makes Me Quiver

I was listening to my Cowboy Junkies CD, The Caution Horses, the other day and remembered that the second cut on the album was the first Cowboy Junkies song I had ever heard. It was back in the early 1990s that 'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel hooked me and reeled me in.

The ethereal vocals and superb musicianship just blew me away. The lyrics are what really grabbed my interest and held on with an iron hand. I love intelligent, thought provoking, and emotional writing (a novelty in today's musical world). Michael Timmins achieved that with this song, and Margo just brings it all home.

I hope you, too, will enjoy this "blast from the past."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Food: Eatin' at EATS!

EATS! American Grill is a relatively new addition to the South Tampa restaurant scene, and the Belle of Ballast Point insisted on treating me to a celebratory Veteran's Day dinner there in honor of my service to the country (U.S. Army and Florida Air National Guard).

On their web site, EATS! declares, "American food...prepared in its traditional manner." Chris Rose and J.R. Scoggins, the owning partners, decided that their restaurant would feature "recipes and inventions recorded in historic cookbooks from different cities and regions of the U.S." They have stuff like macaroni and cheese, fried green tomatoes, Buffalo chicken wings, chili, Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup, and a host of other items that could be considered as typically American.

When we stepped across the threshold we were directed to sit anywhere we wished. We chose a table in front of one of the 10 large screen HD televisions mounted around the room. Our server told us that it was Happy Hour and beer, wine, and cocktails were two for one. Well, alright then, let's start with a Sam Adams draft for me and a house Cab for my bride. Happy Hour runs from 11 AM to 7 PM daily in case you were wondering.

We contemplated an appetizer of Pineapple Fritters, Fried Dill Pickle Chips, or the appetizer sampler. When our beverages arrived they came with a bowl of home made potato chips and a house Ranch dipping sauce. This serving was large enough that it dampened the desire for an additional appetizer. The sauce was very good, the chips would have been perfect had they all been crisp. Some of the chips were limp from being undercooked.

For our entrées my dining partner chose the Hand-Tossed Chicken Fingers with a mustard sauce and a side order of macaroni and cheese. I selected the Sirloin and Crab Cake with a side of Grilled Asparagus. According to my bride the ubiquitous fried chicken fingers were very good, but the mac and cheese was bland. She said that it is really hard to screw up mac and cheese but that was accomplished with this order. It should be mentioned that she grew up in a Southern household where mac and cheese was a one night a week staple. She knows her mac and cheese!

My sirloin was prepared to a perfect medium rare. Unfortunately, to the tooth, it was far removed from tender, and it was rather devoid of taste. The Maryland style crab cake was prepared with a satisfying ratio of crab meat to breading. My side of asparagus leaned towards limp as opposed to having a slight fresh crunch.

EATS! is kid friendly and their web site mentions that they try to accommodate the younger crowd by having one of their TVs tuned to some sort of children's programming. EATS! also has complimentary sound boxes that can be dropped off at your table. Of that, we became excruciatingly aware as one table viewing a kid's movie had the volume cranked up to "entertain the entire restaurant" levels.

It is unlikely that we would return to EATS! for dinner, but as a sports bar this would be an ideal setting to watch a game and enjoy their appetizers and sandwiches. Oh, the staff and management were very friendly and accommodating.

Our bill for the evening with beer, wine, and a 20% gratuity came to $52.85.

Eats! American Grill on Urbanspoon 

Eats American Grill on Foodio54

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stuff You Learn From Email

Did you know that, the words "race car" spelled backwards still spells "race car"?

And that "eat" is the only word that, if you take the first letter and move it to the last, spells its own past tense, "ate"?

And if you rearrange the letters in "Tea Party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut the fuck up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent hypocrites, and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and that our president is black, so get over it."

Isn't that interesting?

My thanks to the High Priestess of Everything (and then some, dammit) for that insightful and side-splitting email.

I remain,

Your Humble Servant

Friday, November 12, 2010

Social Security Income Cap: $106,800

The current Social Security income cap is over one hundred thousand dollars. What does that mean to you? If you make less than $106,800 per year you will be paying in to Social Security out of every pay check for the entire year.

That is not a big deal if you make, say $107,000 a year. You would only have an extra $200 in your pocket at the end of the year. What if you made $34,000,000 a year? Alex Rodriguez does, and based on an hourly wage he hits the cap after 6.5 hours of ball playing. Tiger Woods hits the cap after two hours of golf. Paris Hilton, on the other hand, has to do whatever it is she does for just 18 hours to hit the cap. For the rest of the year these three are FICA free. And, the average working stiff?

The median annual household income is around $50,000. There are approximately 80% of us who make less than $106,800 per year. That means that about 20% have a FICA deduction from their pay checks for only part of a year. That amounts to a raise in pay for those who, arguably, need it the least. Why am I even discussing this you may ask? Go ahead, ask!

From a recent AP news report: "The leaders of President Barack Obama's bipartisan deficit commission launched a daring assault on mushrooming federal deficits on Wednesday, proposing reducing annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security, gradually raising the retirement age to 69 and taking aim at popular tax breaks such as the mortgage interest deduction."

Nowhere in that "daring assault" do I see anything about eliminating the Social Security income cap. Obama's deficit commission, it would appear, is bipartisan in name only. They are taking the typical Republican stand of shafting the middle class in favor of the rich and powerful. I don't know why I would be surprised, and I am not. I am just disgusted!

On the subject of reducing cost of living increases it would seem that the commission isn't even keeping up with current events. The COLA has been eliminated by Congress for 2010 and 2011. That means that Social Security checks will essentially be reduced for millions of our fellow countrymen and women who are already hurting. There is another grand "Let them eat cake!" moment for you.

I have no delusional fantasies that contacting our elected "leaders" with our Social Security concerns would do us any good, but hope springs eternal. Or, so they say.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pictures From Our Trip to D.C.

D.C. Promenade

Sculpture Garden: Aluminum Tree
Click on pictures for a larger image.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Food: We Return to the 701

We were seeing the sights on the last day of our trip to D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity when we passed a restaurant on Pennsylvania that looked familiar. "Didn't we eat there on our last trip?" The 701 Restaurant certainly looked familiar.

After returning to our hotel, I went on line to check out the 701. The menu looked intriguing enough so I booked us through Open Table for dinner that night.

As soon as we walked through the door I knew that this is where I had my very first, and possibly best, roast pork belly. I began salivating at the memory...figuratively speaking. We were promptly seated at a most comfortable booth. Actually, it was the first booth that you see when you go to the 701 web site. The ambiance of the 701 is that of quiet elegance, but I am less interested in the table than I am with what is placed on the table. What was placed on the table that night was truly memorable.

We started our evening by requesting a bottle of Alma Negra Bonarda Malbec. After presenting the wine our server took our appetizer orders. My dainty dining partner chose the Caesar Salad and I could not resist the Grilled Baby Octopus with salsa verde and roasted breakfast radishes. That octopus was the tastiest I have enjoyed since a trip to Santorini a few years ago. I could have made an entire meal out of a few more plates of that octopus. Instead, we moved on to other tastes and textures.

My bride chose the Ham and Cheese Raviolis with a crisp Virginia ham, aged Cheddar, and mustard sauce that she consumed down to the last drop of sauce. I was looking forward to that roasted pork belly that I had on my first visit. Unfortunately, it was no longer offered. This is probably due to this country's irrational obsession with foods labeled "fat free." Oh well!

All was not lost for me because the 701 did have the Eco Friendly Pork Loin and Belly. This dish consisted of cider and tobacco braised pork loin and belly with a celery root puree, savoy cabbage and grain mustard. The belly, though small compared to my first visit, was excellent and the pork loin was tender and juicy. Together they made for a satisfying meal.

For dessert we shared an order of the Bomboloni which are similar to the New Orleans beignets, but round. To top off the evening we each had a glass of a Taylor 20 year old Port to wash down the bomboloni.

I would certainly put the 701 on our do-again list the next time we visit D.C., but on a night when they have live jazz. On this trip our dinner with wine and a 20% tip came to $213.30. The 701 isn't cheap but it sure is good.

701 Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Food: "To eat an oyster is to kiss the sea on the lips"

The headline quote is that of Leonard Beck. And, who is Leonard Beck? I Googled the name and presume that this quote is from the artist and not the Youth Director at the Tallmadge Community Church, but that is not the point. The point is that this past weekend I did kiss the sea on the lips at a truly spectacular seafood restaurant...The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Washington D.C. The Tampa Bay area should be so blessed to have a seafood restaurant this good. I should mention that Oceanaire has a presence in Orlando, but we were in the nation's capital.

The decor is woody with a vintage ocean liner feel. We were there for the food, not the comfortable and very pleasant surroundings, and we were not disappointed. From the front door to the table and back to the door, the staff was friendly and professional. Our server appeared promptly with menus and allowed us a few minutes to decide on a beverage order. We chose a bottle of an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, the Oyster Bay 09. This was a crisp white that paired well with my oysters and our other seafood selections.

My dining partner has not been a fan of oysters ever since a shucker in Apalachicola told her that they were still alive at the point of shucking, so she opted for the Caesar Salad. I chose from a variety of oysters from British Columbia and Prince Edward Island. All twelve of these oysters were perfectly shucked and presented with that "kiss of the sea" that Beck was referring to. I swoon at the memory!

For our entrées my bride chose the incredibly delightful Fish and Chips while I enjoyed the Cioppino, probably the best San Fransisco fisherman's stew that I have ever tasted. It was loaded with perfectly prepared scallops, mussels, shrimp, and fish in a tasty broth with just the right amount of spice and came with a toasty bread that was vital for sopping up any remaining broth that the spoon could not accommodate.

We really didn't need dessert, but as the light of my life has pointed out, "Women are blessed with two for food and one for dessert." Any gentleman thinking 'cow' right now should keep that thought to himself. Trust me on this. So, we ordered the unbelievably decadent cheesecake and an accompanying glass of Fladgate First Estate Port...another perfect pairing.

With a well deserved 20% gratuity, our total for the evening came to $190.00. As we waddled out of the Oceanaire we couldn't help but think that this was money well spent. I can only hope that the Oceanaire in Orlando is as good since Orlando is a lot closer to the paradise that is SOG City than D.C. We have that to look forward to in the not too distant future.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Presidential Jack Wagon?

I can not adequately express the disappointment I feel after reading that our President, the leader of the free world, "sounded almost contrite" when addressing the people after the resounding Republican victory...or, the colossal Democratic cluster-f**k, which ever way you see this event.

Contrite? I did not vote for a president who sounds contrite when the poop hits the propeller or at any other time. I voted for a president with a brain and balls. A president like Truman who when he found himself in a similar situation as Obama said, "I am doing as I damn please for the next two years and to hell with all of them." That's what I want from my president. Tell them all to go to hell and do what you damn well please. You are the President, dammit!

After pondering this "contrite" issue for awhile, it occurred to me that Obama could be helped by mental health therapy and I know the perfect person. If you have seen the Geico commercial on TV with retired U.S. Marine Drill Sergeant R. Lee Ermey then you know who I've got in mind.

I am going to paraphrase that commercial here, but I can envision this exchange with Obama on the couch, "These midterms have made me just so contrite and sad." The therapist, "That's interesting. You know what makes me sad? YOU DO! Maybe we should just chug over to mamby pamby land where we can find a set of balls for you, you jack wagon?"

Obama can sit on his contrite ass for the next two years or he can start kicking some ass. For the sake of this country I hope he does the latter.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Midterms: It's Over...For Now

Dumb stuff that just boggles my mind:

That Florida voters are so delusional they would allow a crook to buy his way into the governor's mansion tops my list, but its done. So Scott, let's see you "get to work" and fulfill all of those grandiose campaign promises of yours. I shall be holding my breath waiting for those 700,000 jobs to appear, my taxes to go down, and my quality of life to go up...and I don't mean in smoke.

That the pandering Republican politician Rubio, a faux fiscal conservative, is going to the senate is bad enough. I am just not as upset by his victory as I am with Crist and Meek. Between the two of them, one or the other should have done what was right for Florida and dropped out. It was obvious that neither of these two was going to be able to beat Rubio with both of them in the race. Meek didn't even have to be the drop-out. Crist could just as easily have swallowed his pride, made a deal with Meek and done the right thing for the state. As it is, neither gets the job. Oh well, filing for unemployment compensation is really a breeze, and Scott might be able to put you guys in one of those 700,000 jobs he is going to create.

The Bush/Cheney administration had eight years to totally FUBAR this country. The Republicans and the Teabaggers expected Obama to undo eight years of inept governing in just two years while they attempted to block his every move. Well, the ball is now in the Republican court. I now want to see them do something other than spout political platitudes. They too have just two years to accomplish their lofty goals before the 2012 elections. Let's see them "get to work!" I want to see some action other than Obama-bashing. I want to see America move forward and not back to the stone age.

Rand Paul! This Tea-bagging lunatic now has the power to potentially filibuster this nation and the world into the Mother-of-all-Depressions. Was the electorate in Kentucky hypnotized or just brain dead? Well, they voted for him and now we all may pay the price.

The failure of California's proposition 19 to pass is another heartbreaking, lost opportunity. The legalization of marijuana would have been a great start to ending America's unwinnable, deadly, and wasteful War on Drugs.

In Florida, Amendment 1 which would have ended public financing of state political campaigns failed because...wait for it...most Florida voters are STUPID! Most voters didn't even know what they were voting for. But, they voted anyway and they will continue to finance the campaigns of people they just may not like or support. It makes you wonder, was it money or stupidity that got Scott elected?

All is not doom and gloom, though. There were a few bright spots in the elections:

The Lunatic Party failed to get Fiorina, Miller, Angle and O'Donnell into power, and California didn't allow Meg Whitman to buy her way into the governor's mansion like another state over on the east coast did.

Closer to home, the gerrymandering amendments passed, but with a Republican Legislature will those amendments carry any weight? We will have to wait and see, but these amendments should prove to be the geese that laid the golden egg for lawyers. Actually, the law suits have already started.

Much closer to home, the penny choo-choo tax was rejected by Hillsborough County voters. Light rail may be a good idea, but asking voters to approve an incomplete plan for light rail was, to put it bluntly, stupid.

The next two years should be interesting to say the least. Of the three presidents last century - Truman, Reagan and Clinton - whose parties suffered severe midterm losses, all three went on to easily win re-election. The Republicans can pound away on their victory drums, but if they prove to be as inept as they claim the Democrats are this may be an example of winning the battle and losing the war.

A lot depends on how President Obama reacts over the next two years. When Truman was advised of the losses his party suffered in 1946 he did what any sane man would do. He hightailed it to his vacation retreat in Key West. There he wrote to his wife Bess, "I'm seeing no outsiders. I don't give a damn how put out they get. I am doing as I damn please for the next two years and to hell with all of them." Two years later he won his second term. Obama should consider a vacation in Key West and say, " hell with all of them."

One final note for Rick Scott: A 1.3% victory does not send "a loud and clear message." 48.6% of Florida's voters still think you are a jerk. I am one of them!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Food: Belgium Dining in D.C.

The Belle of Ballast Point and I spent a most memorable three day weekend in our nation's capital recently. We journeyed from the warmth of Florida to the chill of the north for two reasons. One was to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity. I had ulterior motives, though. Food! And, most specifically - oysters.

Washington has a plethora of fine dining establishments...too many to visit during our stay, but on our first night we chose the Brasserie Beck at 1101 K Street NW. The Beck was on our list for several reasons...oysters, beer and food choices that triggered fond memories of our trips to Europe. The Beck presents one with a lively setting when you walk through the door...a bit noisy, perhaps, for a romantic dinner but tables are available farther back that allow quiet conversation. There is a grand outdoor seating area that we ignored. We are true Floridians and any temperature below 70 degrees is chilly to us. That evening it was in the 50s and we are puss-wads when it comes to the cold.

The oyster selection was one of the finest I have seen anywhere. The Beck knows how to shuck those little darlin's and properly serve them. It may surprise some, but that is a rarity in Florida where seafood usually leaves much to be desired. I chose a dozen Blue Points that were absolutely succulent...just briny enough and with a slight hint of cucumbers. While the oysters are served with two sauces, these oysters needed nothing to enhance or mask the taste.

While I slurped the oysters, my bride enjoyed the Tomato Napoleon, an unbelievably well stacked tower of tomatoes and cheese topped with a sprinkling of greens and a slice of bacon. She allowed me a taste and it was terrific. For her entrée she chose the Beef Carbonnade, a stew enhanced with Kasteel beer, while I selected the Bistro Filet with green peppercorn and Cognac sauce accompanied by Belgium Frites. Both entrées were superb.

Now, on to the beer. I have never seen such an impressive selection of brews...certainly too many to try in one night, though I suppose we could have made an effort. Our server suggested that he could narrow down the list by telling him what types of beers we enjoy. We did and we were presented with an Affligem Blond to start our evening. This ale and our later choices were served with the finesse that is normally reserved for wine presentation...most impressive. After this lighter ale we move on to more robust brews to compliment our entrées. I believe the crowning moment came with the serving of the Rochefort 10 (Trappist), a hearty ale with a fruity nose that packed a bit of a punch. A few more of those and we would have been spending the night at the Beck instead of our hotel.

Dinner for two with oysters, ales and a 20% gratuity (our choice) came to $182.00. I would definitely recommend the Brasserie Beck if you are in D.C.

Brasserie Beck on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Oracle Report: Rally to Restore Sanity

We were there!

Getting ready for the big event
The rally was a monumental event...kind of like the Great Atlanta Pop Festival of 1970 but without the drugs. The crowd was huge...some say over 200,000...and they were sane. There was no wild screaming and irrational rhetoric. Except for the police it didn't appear that the crowd was wearing their Second Amendment rights anywhere on their persons. There was no need. This was a peaceful, intelligent event. Somewhat a novelty on the grounds of the National Mall of late.

An early arrival
One of the aspects of the Rally to Restore Sanity that impressed us the most was the diversity of the crowd. As Jon Stewart pointed out, the participants were a representative cross section of America. People of all ethnic and religious persuasions were present and we all got along with one another. There was no Bible thumping hypocrisy or Tea-Bagger bloviating. There was no Glenn Beck stupidity or hate-mongering, either.

The size of the crowd was also impressive. For a sense of how large a crowd was in attendance, a wave was suggested. The wave started at the stage and worked its way to the very last row of people. The wave was timed. It took the wave 56 seconds to move from the front to the back. If you look closely at this video clip as the wave goes past and the camera turns, look at the lower left of your screen. See the white haired guy and the woman to the left with the brown jacket...well, that's us.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, so allow me to share some more of mine. (Click on a picture to enlarge)

FOX, the Invent the News, Network took hits

A representative from Tampa

This was a very popular activity

Whether the Rally to Restore Sanity accomplished anything for the long term remains to be seen. What it did accomplish for the "now" was to show the world that not all Americans are ignorant, paranoid, hate-filled lunatics. If the participants are truly representative of America, then the majority of us are reasonable.

Of course, the elections today could prove me wrong.

Here is Jon Stewart with a final word:

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report