Monday, January 31, 2011

Food: Tampa's Hurricane

Editor's Update: Well, this Hurricane didn't last long. It has up and gone!

I had the pleasure recently to join two of my favorite ladies for lunch at the Hurricane Grill And Wings on Westshore. My beautiful bride, my dear friend and former law professor, and I chose the Hurricane because it is close to my wife's office building. This made a one hour lunch a do-able event.

The Hurricane is a relatively new dining venue located on the ground floor of the Ramada Inn. It has a bright, airy, sports bar feel with a full bar and plenty of TVs scattered about. There is outdoor seating, but with a bit of a nip in the air we opted to sit inside where we were promptly seated and presented with our menus.

The menu offered a myriad of food choices from appetizers, to wings, to burgers, salads, and special platters. The Hurricane would be a fantastic venue on game day, but on this day it was just a time to catch up on the goings on in our lives while enjoying some really tasty pub grub.

As the Hurricane describes it, they have a "World Class Beer Selection." Truly, they do! Since I didn't have to return to work or continue the day with a shopping expedition, I chose to order from the beer menu - "a Bass Ale, please."

From the appetizer menu our friend ordered the Red Bean Chili topped with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses that arrived with crisp tortilla chips - a tasty and filling lunch time choice. My bride chose the Honey Pecan Chopped Chicken Salad with bleu cheese, dried cranberries, tomatoes, and a honey lime Dijon vinagarette. I chose the 100% Angus Beef Burger "grilled the way you like it." And, I like it medium rare and that is the way it was prepared.

My bride mentioned that the Hurricane is a popular after-work meeting place for the Westshore office crowd. I can certainly see a return visit in my future on "game day" or any day when a light, but filling lunch is in order. The prices are reasonable and our bill with a couple of beers for me and a 20% tip came to $36.

Visit the Hurricane web site to see the daily specials and upcoming events.

Hurricane Grill & Wings on Urbanspoon 

Hurricane Grill and Wings on Foodio54

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Budget Travel: Japan

What with the state of the economy this year, money is a bit tight. A major vacation trip seemed like it was out of the question until one of my wife's coworkers mentioned a trip that he had seen outlined on Google Maps. I was intrigued, so I went to Google Maps and plugged in a Tampa departure with a destination of Tokyo, Japan. And, there it was - the complete trip mapped out with accompanying directions.

While Google Maps did give point to point directions, it did leave out some important details that I will attempt to provide.

How you get from Tampa to Seattle to begin step 44 is pretty much left up to you, but I think that Google was expecting you to drive to avoid the stress of air travel with the additional benefit of seeing our country and saving money.

Now beginning with step 44 is where this trip really becomes a money saver not to mention a super exciting adventure. I copied this next step and step 59 directly from the Google Maps (check it out if you think I am exaggerating) web site:

44. Kayak across the Pacific Ocean - Entering Hawaii - About 14 days 5 hours

Upon entering Hawaii you will have traveled a total 5,890 miles, with 2,756 miles in your cost-saving kayak. I am again assuming that Google intends for you to motor across the island where you will continue on your journey with step:

59. Kayak across the Pacific Ocean - Entering Japan - About 20 days 0 hours

Upon entering Japan you will have paddled your kayak an additional 3,879 miles for a total trip of 9,814 so far. Don't forget, you just hit the coast of Japan, not Tokyo, but you are close to realizing your dream vacation in the Orient - and, you have saved a bundle. Check out those muscles, you Iron Man you.

I'd say I would go with you, but I don't own a kayak. Maybe I'll just go to the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach instead.

Bon voyage, y'all!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

SITREP: Lucy And Wayne

I opened my e-mailbox this morning to find this latest update from the talented duo who make such fantastic music as Hymn For Her. H4H will be in Tampa and other Central Florida cities this March. If you haven't caught their show, you don't know what you are missing.

Speaking of "missing" Creative Loafing certainly missed the boat by leaving H4H off its list of not-to-be-missed concerts in 2011.

Hymn For Her February 2011

Hellooooo out there....we just drove through the vortex's of Sedona, AZ and have landed safely in Pescott, AZ for our show tonight. Yesterday we were a feature preview in the LA Times for our shows coming up on Fri, Jan 28th at Molly Malone's and Sat, Jan 29th at Viento y Agua. We have some new gigs and press at our website, so keep on checkin in for updates. We hope to see at a show!

Thanks for listening, sharing and dancing to our music.  

PLEASE CALL/EMAIL YOUR FAVORITE LOCAL RADIO STATION AND REQUEST A SONG FROM OUR NEW CD.'Lucy & Wayne and THE AMAIRICAN STREAM' is at radio stations across the U.S. and is #9 this week on the new jambands chart! This is one of the most helpful things you can do for us to spread the music. thank you thank you.

With Love, H4H

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tea Party Surprise

I am not a fan of the Tea Party, but this video truly impressed me:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bachmann Rewrites American History

Chris Matthews, an unreasonable stickler for historical accuracy, rips Bachmann for re-writing America's history of slavery:

The Teabagger, like many others of his political persuasion was totally unwilling or unable to answer a direct question. It is one thing to claim that you have a point of view, but credibility is lost if you cannot articulate that view point.

But, in all fairness to the Teabagger Nation, the Oracle will allow them equal blog time to share their convoluted point of view on how to "Take Back America" by repealing that annoying 13th Amendment thingy* in the U.S. Constitution:

*From The Bachmann Book of American History, "The Founding Fathers, such as John Quincy Adams (1767 - 1848), ratified the 13th Amendment December 6, 1865 many decades after they had died and were laid to rest. This was somewhat of a miracle in itself that sort of over-shadowed the freeing of the slaves and probably accounted for the Jim Crow laws lasting for another 100 years until a Godless, socialist, Democrat came along and, screwed everything up."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gasparilla 2011

Ahoy me hearties, click here for everything you need to know about the January 29 Gasparilla Pirate Fest 2011.

Photo by J.R. - Digital darkroom Picture Publisher

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Thinning Of The Herd

From an Associated Press release dated 1/24/2011:

"Lawmakers in at least two states are looking to pull the plug on texting pedestrians and iPod-obsessed runners, claiming their diverted attention borders on disaster.

After targeting drivers who paid more attention to their phone calls and text messages than the road, lawmakers in New York and Arkansas are now looking to crack down on pedestrians equally distracted by their own electronic gadgets.

Lawmakers in both states have proposed restrictions on using cell phones and music players such as iPods by people running and walking on the street or sidewalk. The apparent message: Distracted pedestrians are dangerous."

I have to ask, "Dangerous to whom?" I almost ran over one of these texting idiots the other day. I wasn't in any danger, but my pickum-up truck would have inflicted a world of hurt on his dumb ass.

New York Democratic State Senator Carl Kruger weighed in on a series of accidents in his Brooklyn district that made him concerned about the number of pedestrians he saw paying closer attention to their devices than to what was in front of them.

“They were basically oblivious to the circumstances around them,” Kruger said. “They got wired up, and their head was just in a different place. I don’t think it’s that much different than a ban on cell phones while driving or any other distraction.”
I have to disagree with Kruger. There is a big difference between driving and walking while under the influence of electronic gadgets. Distracted drivers can hurt their victims severely - a walker, not nearly as much. Kruger was concerned about the texter who stepped off a curb in NYC and into the path of a bus. The texter was killed. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but - Oh well! That was a prime example of "the thinning of the herd." 
People wandering about with their heads up their - well, while distracted are simply a ball-busting annoyance to those in their oblivious path. The true idiocy here is for lawmakers to try to legislate away stupidity to protect the mentally challenged members of the herd from themselves. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Food: Chang's On Westshore

At the office Christmas party last year the CEO handed out gift cards to area restaurants. My bride received a card for P.F. Chang's China Bistro. I, on the other hand, didn't receive squat! I do not believe that simply because I am not employed by that company it should have made any difference. That I was at the party should have counted for something. The CEO will not be getting a Christmas card from me this year.

Oh yeah, P.F. Chang's. We went there for dinner this past Friday. I checked out Chang's on-line several days ago to see what was on their menu and I read a few reviews, so I knew that there would be two huge lions stationed just outside the doors. At least two reviewers pointed that out, along with descriptions of the decor down to tiny details. Bless them because now I can concentrate on the important stuff - FOOD!

I had called ahead to make reservations and the sweet voice on the phone said the earliest we could get in would around 9 PM unless we wanted to take a chance with bar seating (first come, first served with full menu). Another option was for 6 PM, which was fine for us. Despite a crowded parking lot at Westshore Plaza we made it on time. We announced our arrival and were seated promptly. This was especially pleasing since there were many people loitering about the reception area who had apparently not made reservations.

Other reviewers had noted that the noise level gets pretty high when the place is crowded, and on this night it was packed. The noise level was not intolerable, and conversation was still possible without having to scream to be heard. We clearly heard our server when he asked if we would like to start our evening with an adult beverage. My dazzling dining partner requested the Penfolds Shiraz by the glass. I was more interested in trying the cold-served sakes. There are three on the menu, none that I was familiar with, so to start I chose the Sake Flight - a one ounce pour of Living Jewel, Wondering Poet, and a milky sake called Snow Maiden. All three were good, but for the remainder of our dinner I stayed with the Living Jewel.

From the appetizer menu we shared an order of the Northern Style Spareribs with a five spice salt. The ribs were tender and quite tasty accompaniments to both the Shiraz and the sake. For our entrées, my Lady chose the Almond and Cashew Chicken with a garlic soy sauce and a side of brown rice. With the first bite she was pleased with her dinner choice.

I was torn between the Salt and Pepper Prawns, and the Cantonese style VIP Duck. I asked our server for his opinion and he suggested that while both are good that I certainly would not be disappointed with the duck. So, it was aquatic fowl for me.  What appeared before me on the plate was definitely not a "ducklette." This was a Brontosaurus sized half duck glazed with a sweet soy plum sauce along with flatbread, slivered green onions, and cucumber slices. The diner had a choice of wrapping the sliced duck in the bread with onions and cucumber, and eating out-of-hand, or taking one succulent morsel at a time. I am grateful to that bird for sacrificing itself for my gastronomic pleasure.

While dessert was hardly necessary, we did decide to split an order of the crispy Banana Spring Rolls with pineapple ice cream. This was a light and tasty end to a very relaxing, filling, and utterly delightful dinner.

If there was any downside to our evening at P.F. Chang's it was probably that drink service tended to be a little slow from time to time. That was understandable when you consider the size of the Friday evening crowd, but the servers were always attentive, apologized for slow moments, and never rushed us through our food courses.

Had we not used a gift certificate our total bill would have been $99.19. We left a 20% gratuity based upon that total - a reward for excellent service.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon


To avoid any misconceptions: The Sog City Oracle has no official or monetary association with Urbanspoon or any of the restaurants that are reviewed. We do not get paid, we dine anonymously, and we pay full listed price. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Food: Me Gusta Estela's

We have been frequenting Estela's Mexican Restaurant on South Dale Mabry in Tampa for a number of years and have always been pleased with the food and the service, so I was more than a little surprised to see so many negative opinions posted on Urbanspoon - my favorite provider of "time-critical dining data."

I cannot argue with those who suggest that the food served at Estela's is not "true" Mexican food. There are annoyingly few ethnic restaurants in the Tampa area that serve food that is true to the country of origin. If they did then they would probably go out of business pretty quickly. Area ethnic food restaurants, I would suggest, have to prepare and serve foods that are "watered down" to appeal to the typical American taste bud. How sad!

With just a bit of trepidation, my bride and I stopped in today for lunch. I was prepared to be disappointed, but I was hoping for the best. We got the best! We were greeted at the door and promptly shown to our seats. The waitress and the menus soon followed along with a large bowl of chips with accompanying salsa. We were informed that we had arrived during the "two for one" Margarita special. Well, alrighty then, "We'll have two on the rocks, por favor!"

Let me just say this about the Margaritas: I have had better! The margaritas we were served at a beach cantina in Playa del Carmen this past summer were superb. But, in all fairness to Estela's barkeep, most anything served on a beach in Mexico is fantástico - the Mariachis were playing and the palm trees were swaying. At Estela's today there were no swaying palm trees, but there was a guitar player and after our first Margaritas there was a pleasant tequila buzz.

For her entrée, mi esposa requested the numero seis combo - one beef taco, and one beef enchilada that came with rice and beans. Muy bueno! I ordered two items from the appetizer menu - the ceviche, and the Chili con Queso with beef. I was truly surprised at the large serving size of the ceviche. With chips, that alone would have been plenty for my lunch. The ceviche was prepared with a tomato base, onions, cilantro, and heavenly marinated shrimp. The Chili con Queso consisted of ground beef and melted cheese served on small corn tortillas. My lunch gets another "muy bueno."

On past visits to Estela's we have enjoyed the Sirloin Steak a la Diablo, which can be prepared painfully hot if you are brave enough (I was - once), and the Ribeye Steak Champerico in addition to more "typical" Mexican specialties. Quite possibly we live charmed lives, but I cannot remember ever having a bad meal or experience at Estela's. Today was no exception.

As to the reviewer who complained that their server spoke no English, I was reminded of a visit of ours to the interior of Mexico where we ran into the same problem - a problem compounded by the fact that we spoke little, very little, Spanish. Somehow - whether in Mexico, France, Germany, or Greece - when it comes to food, we always seem to be able to breach the language barrier. A smile, pointing to something on the menu, and trusting in dumb luck just seems to work wonders.

Our server today spoke both English and Spanish. Our bill with 20% gratuity came to $65.

Estela's Mexican on Urbanspoon


To avoid any misconceptions: The Sog City Oracle has no official or monetary association with Urbanspoon or any of the restaurants that are reviewed. We do not get paid, we dine anonymously, and we pay full listed price. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Boehner Health Care Hypocrisy

It has been reported by the media and blogged about by many on the Internet that the Orange Man and his minions have decided that what is best for this country is to deny affordable health care to the hoi polloi - the unwashed masses, the commoners. Marie Antoinette would be proud of this "let them eat cake" attitude of Boehner and company. We mustn't forget that Marie lost her head because of this arrogant attitude espoused by the French aristocracy.

Thankfully, we have moved beyond the guillotine days, but it would be refreshing to see Boehner lead by example. CREDO Action has a splendid suggestion:

"Who would have the audacity to vote for repealing affordable health care for 32 million Americans while gladly accepting generous, federally subsidized insurance for themselves?
Speaker of the House John Boehner who led the effort — along with 236 other congressional health care hypocrites.
Over the past two years, especially during the election season, Republicans and a select few Democrats did everything they could to derail health care reform. They fueled fears and misinformation, throwing around terms like "socialist," "fascist," "government takeover," and of course "death panels."
Now they've fulfilled their campaign promise and voted for a full repeal. But what most, like Boehner, haven't done is given up the affordable, subsidized care that they voted yesterday to deny so many of us.
Call out the health care hypocrisy by sending Speaker Boehner the actual form he can submit to cancel his federal health insurance. Click here to automatically sign and we'll deliver your message to him."
I signed the form and I encourage all Oracle readers to follow suit. What's good for the goosee should be good for the gooser. Don't you think?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fraud, Waste, And Abuse

Those three words could be the "kiss of death" to a military career, and while I was a member of the USAF we were ever mindful of the consequences of sinning against the FWA regulations.

It is unfortunate that the elected representatives of the party of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse (the GOP - Goobers on Parade) can't be held accountable for wasting time and taxpayers dollars on their "symbolic" vote on Health Care. Or, can they?

I do not expect Congress to fritter away their time and my money on a frivolous frolic. I expect substantive legislation from these people - Republicans and Democrats - not a "big dick" contest. To paraphrase a line from the movie The Replacements, I have seen more positive results produced from a monkey shit-fight at the zoo than I see coming from Congress.

As the Ybor City Stogie put it, the House Republicans were just "Showing Off To The Flock."

I loved this movie!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slammin' Salmon And EVOO

My bride, the Lily of Lima, came home from work the other evening and found herself facing a rather dismal dinner featuring two of her least favorite foods: cooked carrots and poached fish - in this case, salmon (her least favorite fish). It should be mentioned here that she was born and raised in a foreign land where salmon only came from a can, so I can relate to her displeasure.

Cooked carrots have never been a biggie with me either, but Laura Calder, host of French Food at Home on the Cooking channel, uses them a lot. My thought is, if it's good enough for Laura, it's good enough for me. Besides, I really enjoy the simple French foods like those served in the bistros of one of our favorite cities.

For the carrots, I braised about a half pound of baby carrots in a pan with a touch of water, two tablespoons of butter, and a tablespoon of real maple syrup. I cooked the carrots on low heat until they were tender, but not mushy. Prior to plating, I tossed in a couple of tablespoons of coarsely chopped fresh parsley. Voila! A tasty side dish to accompany the Salmon Poached in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

It was time for my afternoon siesta, and I was about to drift off when Chef Anne Burrell on her Food Network show announced the day's menu. Salmon poached in EVOO? This woke me up, and this Burrell recipe is what I prepared for my splendorous spouse.

For this recipe:

I used cheesecloth and butcher's twine for the sachet which consisted of two cloves of smashed garlic, six sprigs of fresh thyme, one lemon with the zest removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler (use the zest and save the lemon for another day), one tablespoon of coriander seeds, and two bay leaves. Wrap all of these aromatics in the cheesecloth and then tie with the twine.

For each person I would recommend a six to eight ounce salmon fillet with the skin removed. Whether you are preparing two or four fillets, the sachet will remain the same, and you will need at least a quart of EVOO.

Let me add this note about the technique of poaching. Generally the food should be completely submerged in the poaching liquid, and the temperature should remain between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface of the liquid should just shimmer with the slightest hint of a bubble. A food thermometer would come in handy.

To prepare for poaching, pour the quart of EVOO into a fairly deep saute pan and toss in the sachet. Bring the temperature to 160 degrees or so and allow the aromatics to flavor the oil for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the oil is coming to temperature, season both sides of the salmon generously with a coarse sea salt.

Gently slide the salmon fillets into the oil. Remember, the oil should completely cover the fish. Let the fish poach for 15 to 17 minutes. Remove the fish with a spatula and transfer to a plate.

That is what I presented to my bride and she is still raving about the poached salmon and the braised carrots. Modesty almost prevents me from declaring that this salmon was the best I have ever had in my whole life. Almost!

While the preparation of the salmon and carrots may seem complicated, it actually took less than an hour from the start of prep to plopping on a plate. The olive oil (once cooled) can be strained and reused.

Bon appetit, y'all.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Photography: Through The Years

From Lennie Bennett’s (Times Art Critic) article in the January 16, 2011 edition of the St. Pete Times:

“The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg has quietly become one of the major repositories of photography in the southeastern United States.
Two gifts in 2009 and 2010 rocketed its holdings from about 1,500 to more than 14,000 images that cover almost all known photographic methods beginning with daguerreotypes and salt prints from the mid 19th century to gelatin silver prints of the mid 20th century.”


Photography has been a passion of mine for many years, and blessed today with a new digital darkroom I was intrigued to experiment with some of the photo methods mentioned in Ms. Bennett’s article. All of the images presented here were taken with 35 mm color negative film while on a trip to the village of Batopilas at the bottom of the Copper Canyon in Mexico. (Click on an image to enlarge)

Daguerrotype - 1839 to 1855. Images were captured on a thin sheet of silver plated copper.
(Satevo vaqueros and a supply train from Creel)

Albumen - 1855 to the 1890s. Negatives were captured on glass and the print was created on paper that used albumen from egg whites.
(A Taramuhara homestead)

Platinum - 1873 to 1920. Platinum was used in the developing materials and placed paper in direct contact with the negative. This process fell out of favor due to the high cost of platinum.

Autochrome, an early color process developed in 1904 that used potato starch granules dyed red, green, and blue.
 (Entering Batopilas) 

Box cameras, popular from 1900 through 1960 made photography simple and portable - anyone could take a picture.
(A farmhouse in the Sierra Madres)

Cross Process - this was a more modern technique that created unique color effects by mismatching the film and the chemicals used to develop that film.
(In the distance, the Cathedral of Satevo)
This is just a very small sample of photo styles and techniques, and is not meant to be all inclusive. You can enjoy the real thing in art museums on both sides of the bay, but this was a fun exercise for me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Don't Need Watered-down Filibuster Reform

From the Daily KOS:

For the past two years, the Senate Republicans have shamelessly abused Senate rules -- including the filibuster -- for patently political reasons.

Sadly, the Senate Republicans' unprecedented obstructionism was met with complacency rather than conviction by most Senate Democrats.

That may be about to change.

A reform package was introduced by three Democratic senators who have championed the issue of Senate rules reform. It's not perfect, but it's a step forward -- and we need to make sure that the Senate leadership doesn't further water it down needlessly to appease the Republicans.

Tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer to stand strong on filibuster reform in the Senate:

Click HERE to read more and find out what you can do.


Friday, January 14, 2011

House Speaker Weepypants

The SOG City Oracle hasn't presented any low-life scumbag with the Hershey Squirt Award so far this year. Actually, the Oracle pretty much forgot about the award until this week. This past Wednesday night, though, a clear winner (in truth, a loser) emerged.

And, the Hershey Squirt is: House Speaker Boehner, R-weepypants, for putting a fund raising cocktail party ahead of the tribute to the Arizona fallen and the righteous souls who rushed to their rescue. They thought not of themselves, but of others. The priority for Boehner was booze and backslapping with the RNC, and glaring disrespect for a fellow House member and the citizens that he was elected to serve.

I normally do not condone violence, so I beg of you Dear Readers to forgive my next comment. I would truly be grateful if when this hypocrite next bursts into tears on the House floor if someone would, please, slap the orange right off of this clown.


If I have offended anyone I will have to attribute this dastardly outburst to my misspent youth engaging in copious amounts of sex, drugs, and rock'n' roll. Right now, though, it's beer thirty. Gotta go!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lunatics, Politicians, And Pundits

Like most sane and reasonable Americans, I have been saddened and distressed by the tragic events that occurred in Arizona. I have read the blogs and newspaper reports, and followed this tragedy on television. The sanest and most reasonable take I have heard on this sad story came from a "comedian." That, in itself, is a sad commentary, but leave it to Jon Stewart to sum up what many Americans are expressing these days.

On the 1/10/11 Daily Show, Stewart stated that the lines have blurred between how the lunatics act and the way politicians and pundits speak:

I do think it’s important for us to watch our rhetoric. I do think it’s a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies. If for no other reason, than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid mad men and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speech.
It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV.
Let’s make troubled individuals easier to spot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Greco Yard Sign

Photographer unknown
Someone asked me not too long ago about my thoughts on the race for mayor in the city of Tampa. For one thing, it seems grossly insulting to Mayor Pam Iorio to consider replacing her with either Greco or The Monkey - both of whom are equally unqualified in my opinion. Beyond that, I haven't made up my mind. I keep hoping someone really great will spring up at the last minute. And, you know what they say about hope.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Images From The Sponge Docks

We journeyed to Tarpon Springs this past Sunday and enjoyed lunch at Dimitri's On The Water. Afterwards we wandered along the sponge docks for a bit. Below are a few scenes from that walk (click on an image to enlarge).

Diving For Popcorn
Passing tourists had tossed some popcorn for the seagulls moments earlier and then moved on. We stood quietly as the gulls came swooping in. I just shot from the hip with my trusty Canon PowerShot A720 IS and captured this gull in flight. One keeper, and 12 deletions. Not a bad percentage!

The next two images were going to be throw-aways until I decided to play with my new Corel software: PaintShop Photo Pro X3, and Painter Photo Essentials 4. With these two experiments, I don't miss MicroGrafx Picture Publisher quite as much (wasn't compatible with Win 7 even in capatibility mode).

Seagull in Classic Oil

Colored Pencil Drawing
It was quite entertaining watching the painting process as these two photo images were converted. One of these days I will have to read the instruction book to see what else Corel can do.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Food: Goin' Greek In Tarpon Springs

Now that we have entered the seasonal Black Hole - no more Buc's ball until August - our Sundays are free for other pursuits. So, "What do you want to do?" "I dunno, what do you want to do?" That exchange went on for a good half an hour as we watched a Travel Channel segment on Athens, Greece.

Suddenly, a "Eureka!" moment hit us. "Let's go Greek," we cried out in unison. After suiting up for the trip, we piled in to Gus (our pickup) and hit the road to Tarpon Springs. Thoughts of lunch with a bottle of Retsina at Santorini's danced in our heads.

As we exited our ride in the parking lot across Dodecanese from our favorite Greek dining spot, to my horror, I discovered that Santorini's no longer existed. No, it hadn't slid off the cliff into the caldera below. The building was still there, but it had a new paint job and a new name - Dimitri's On The Water. I asked the parking lot attendant what had happened to Santorini's. He explained that Santorini's had changed hands. There was an energetic new owner who had made a number of improvements in both food and decor, or so said the attendant.

We walked across the street, and went inside. What a shock! The interior was shiny and new with a well designed floor plan.

The hostess greeted us at the door and we were promptly seated. Our waitress presented us with menus that looked like holdovers from Santorini's. We were told that new menus were in the works, but that our favorite foods would remain.

That was good news because I was craving an order of Charbroiled Octopus with a side of Horta. The octopus was as good, if not better, than what I had been served in the past - both in the Santorini restaurant and on the island of Santorini. Horta is a very healthy side dish of boiled greens that is considered a staple in Greek households. Both the octapothi and horta are listed as appetizers, but when ordered together make for a very filling meal.

My dining partner, who tends to be a bit squeamish when it comes to food with tentacles, chose the Tarpon Salad. This salad is essentially the same as the Greek salad with a potato salad center that was made famous by the Pappas family. The salad along with the complimentary serving of sliced breads made for a very satisfactory lunchtime repast. The shared bottle of Retsina was a perfect accompaniment to all of our food choices.

Dimitri's still has waterfront dining, but the weather was a bit too cool to sit outside. After lunch we discovered that they have outdoor gas heaters which caused us to regret having chosen to sit inside.

Inside or out, Dimitri's will be added to our list of "go - to" dining venues in the Tampa Bay area. Dimitri's does not, as of this writing, have a web site, but they are located at 690 Dodecanese Blvd. You may call them at 727-945-9400.

Our bill, including a 20% tip, came to $71.

   Dimitri's On The Water on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 6, 2011

True Grit: Then And Now

During the summer of '69, while basking in the sun on the beach at Asbury Park, I spied an attractive lass on an adjacent blanket. She was fumbling in a beach bag - I surmised for matches or a lighter since she had a cigarette dangling from her dainty lips. In a flash, and with my trusty Zippo in hand, I sprang from the olive drab Army blanket and hurried to her side. I squatted next to her with my lighter at the ready.

She smiled at me and took a long drag on her cigarette. She made room for me on the blanket and invited me to sit with her. Lynnie and I chatted for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go. Before departing, I asked her if we might see each other again. She gave me her phone number. I called her as soon as I could get to a phone back at the barracks at Ft. Monmouth. We agreed to get together the following weekend.

All I could think of that week was Lynnie Broker, with the light brown hair, blue-green eyes, and warm smile. Today, some 42 years later, I still don't know how I got to her house or how we got to the city, but suddenly there we were, standing in front of Radio City Music Hall. The Rockettes had a matinée performance that day followed by the New York City premier of True Grit.

That was then, and the 'now' was Christmas Day 2010. I invited the love of my life to the Cobb CineBistro in Hyde Park for the matinée showing of the Jeff Bridges' version of True Grit. While the Cobb is a spectacular venue for enjoying tasty food, adult beverages, and a movie it doesn't quite compare to Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes. As for my companions, Lynnie and I enjoyed just that one day together before the Army shipped me out to a new duty station. My bride and I recently celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary, so there really is no comparison to be made here - especially since I know what is good for me.

As for the two Grits, the '69 version was from a more innocent time and it showed. The 2010 Grit was courser. If I continue read or hear it referred to as "gritty" I think that I shall poop a big grit wad. And, I didn't much care for the 2010 ending. It was more believable, but I still like the first one better. One big improvement in the new movie was Matt Damon's Texas Ranger. Glen Campbell truly sucked as LaBoeuf, though I was sadden when his character expired. Talk about mixed emotions!

I don't mean to denigrate Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, or Dakin Matthews - fine actors all, but to me Kim Darby was Mattie Ross, Robert Duvall was Lucky Ned, and the Colonel Stonehill roll (the horse trader) was nailed by character actor Strother Martin. Conspicuous by his absence was Lawyer J. Noble Daggett played superbly by John Fiedler in the first Grit. As for Marshall Cogburn? John Wayne won an Oscar for playing John Wayne, and I think he deserved to win. Jeff Bridges continues to amaze me with his versatility, and he should probably be considered for another Oscar for his "Rooster" portrayal. I think I will have to call it a draw between John Wayne and Jeff Bridges.

I have not read the book True Grit, but in considering the two movie versions of Charles Portis' novel I felt that Rooster Cogburn was the character with true grit in the first movie, but it was Mattie Ross who truly had the grit in 2010.

And, my final thoughts on True Grit: Then And Now? Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes definitely win out over the Cobb CineBistro. While I remember Lynnie as a very charming and attractive young lady, anything and everything I do is so much better when my bride and I do it together. Sorry Lynnie, my Baby takes this one. Both Grits are good, but '69 is my favorite (adianoeta unintended).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Filibuster Reform Update

Here is the latest from THE DAILY KOS on filibuster reform:

"A remarkable thing has happened on filibuster reform. Republicans are so scared Senate Democrats are going to pass real filibuster reform, they are begging the Democratic leadership to cut a deal.
Republicans never come begging for a deal. Usually, it’s the other way around. The reason it’s happening now is because your efforts resulted in all 53 Democratic Senators signing a letter demanding filibuster reform. Republicans know we have the votes, and are desperate for a way out.
We need to make sure that Senate Rules Committee Chair Chuck Schumer, who has been given responsibility for crafting the reform package, stands tall for real reform. He should not cut a deal with Republicans just to try and look "bipartisan." Call the Rules Committee office right now and tell Senator Schumer just that:
Senator Chuck Schumer: 202-224-6352 (Rules and Administration Committee number)
Say your name. Ask Chairman Schumer to craft a Senate rules reform package that makes the filibuster real and speeds up the nomination process. Tell him not to kill reform by compromising with Republicans."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Not Your Girl Scout's Cookies

I found myself feeling a little bored during taint week last year - taint Christmas, taint New Years - tis the week in between (you didn't think crude thoughts here, did you?). Anyway, I was surfing the 'net for something that totally escapes me now, when I stumbled across a cookie recipe that caught my eye. It is germane at this juncture to point out two things: I am not an aficionado of sweet things, excluding my trophy bride, and I have seldom baked anything that didn't at one time wander about the barn yard.

The recipe in question included two ingredients that I consider to be vital to the continued well being of the evolved human animal, to wit; fried bacon, and Bourbon whiskey. Were I to be of the female persuasion I would have included chocolate, but I am not. This recipe is attributed to Lee Anne Wong, who is a female, which accounts for the chocolate.

During the taint week I cooked her cookies. After a taste, my bride said she may keep me around for awhile. She took some of these gut bombs to work and they were apparently well received. The buzz around the office is that I might trade the recipe for some sort of favors. Since the love of my life is not receptive to me receiving "favors" from outside our stately pleasure-dome:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man...
I will share my baking experience with you, dear reader, gratis.

Bacon, Bourbon, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I read on a recipe creation web site that one should always start with the main ingredient: In this case a fifth of  Kentucky Bourbon. I like Early Times because of the slight sweetness that works well in a mint julep. The recipe only requires two tablespoons of Bourbon, the rest is for the chef.

You need eight ounces of dark chocolate with a 65% or higher cocoa content. The best I could find was a 60% Ghirardelli from Publix on Gandy, where shopping is an adventure. You will need to chop or smash these bars into small pieces no bigger than a half inch in all geometric directions.

The 12 ounces of bacon needs to be thick and fatty because you are going to need a half cup of rendered fat in this recipe. Aw, come on, this is some good fat.

If you bake a lot you probably already have vanilla extract on hand. If not, then you are going to have to locate 1 teaspoon of it somewhere. I have some to spare.

You will also need 3/4 of a cup of granulated sugar, and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, plus two large raw eggs.

Oh, yeah! Remember that roll of parchment paper some well meaning soul bought a couple of years ago that has resided ever since in the hall closet? Thanks, Babe. You can use it now.

Maybe you're beginning to see the relevance of having a fifth of Bourbon at hand?

Let's drink, and rock 'n' roll!

Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch dice and cook just until brown and crispy. Then remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Strain and save a half cup (4 fl. oz.) of the bacon fat and put it in the refrigerator until it congeals like soft butter. Speaking of which, you will be needing a stick of softened butter. The key here is softened, not melted. And use real butter, not the fake crap. Damn the cholesterol!

The oven needs to be getting to 375 degrees Fahrenheit at this point, so turn the flippin' thing on and taste test the Bourbon.

You are going to need two bowls, a big one and a small one.

In the small bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Mix them up! They need to be confused.

In the big bowl: Whip the crap out of the butter, chilled bacon fat, all of the sugars, Bourbon, and vanilla extract. Once well combined, add the eggs one at a time, beating well as you go. Then gradually beat in the flour. Next, gently stir in the bacon and the chocolate until all of this is combined into a gooey glump. You might need to steady your nerves at this point with an adult beverage - think Bourbon.

Be brave, we are almost there.

Lay a sheet of parchment paper on top of a baking sheet (or any clean metal 12 x 20 inch surface). Scoop a tablespoon of the aforementioned glump, ball it up, and drop it on the parchment paper at 3 inch intervals. Think "dress and cover." Alignment counts - especially if one is a Virgo.

Depending on your particular oven, bake for 10 minutes or until you have achieved golden brownness. Then let your cookies, or hockey pucks (assuming over cookery), cool until the molten chocolate no longer raises blisters on your mouth parts.

I could only do 12 glumps per sheet, so I did the baking part twice and ultimately wound up with 24  babe-magnet cookies.

Guys, if you score (points) with this recipe, then you are welcome. Otherwise, you still have the Bourbon.