Sunday, February 27, 2011

Beaune Up On Fine Food And Wine

Beaune (pronounced bone) is the wine capitol of Burgundy situated between Paris and Geneva. Beaune is world renowned for gourmet foods, artisanal cheeses, and of course, wine. In Tampa you can get a taste, an exquisite taste, of the best of Burgundy at Beaune's Wine Bar in the West Palm Wines facility, 2009 North 22nd Street at the edge of Ybor City.

For several years, while a student at the Ybor campus of Hillsborough Community College, I would pass this nondescript, concrete block building with nary a clue as to the gastronomic rewards that awaited me inside. Last night my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, and I ventured inside Beaune's and were treated to one of the finest wines, tastiest cheeses, and gourmet French meals that we have had this side of Paris.

As you approach Beaune's on 22nd, make a right turn onto East Palm and pull into the fenced area in the back of the building where you will find the entrances to both West Palm Wines and Beaune's. Upon entering, we felt as if we had been transported back to a quaint bistro in Paris. We were greeted by Mark the manager who guided us past the wine bar and into a warm and comfortable dining area.

I had read on-line that while the wines by the glass were spectacular a better bargain would be wine by the bottle. Rather than trying to choose from the massive selections in the wine cellar, we asked Mark for a recommendation. After determining a price range, our taste preferences and food choices Mark suggested a 2003 Pommard Vaumurianes Billard. From the first sip we were hooked. This red had a most pleasant "nose" and a complex fruitiness that paired perfectly with our food choices.

From the appetizer menu I chose the Moules a la Mariniere, French style steamed mussels in a broth of white wine, olive oil, garlic, lemon, and seasonings. The crusty breads presented to the table were indispensable for soaking up some of that broth. Rather than an appetizer, my dining partner chose a cheese platter with Comté – classic 15 month aged French cow’s milk cheese accompanied by olives, dried fruits, nuts, and cornichons. She was more than pleased with her choice, and mentioned that on a future visit that she will make an entire meal from the Cheese and Charcouterie menu, and I think I will follow suit.

On this night we chose from the dinner menu - the succulent Duck Confit nestled on top of a savory cassoulet for me and the Boeuf Bourguignon for my Baby. C'est magnifique! The duck was perfectly prepared with a crispy exterior caressing a tender and juicy middle. The beef in the French beef stew was melt-in-the-mouth tender. Our taste buds may have physically been in Tampa, but they were magically transported back to France by these two dinner choices.

We ended this French dining adventure with the Flourless Chocolate Cake with freshly whipped cream - another delight that went well with the last of our Pommard. Left-over wine? You surely must be jesting!

Keeping our wine glasses filled and overseeing the evening was Kate, the charming lady who created Beaune's interior ambiance. One additional treat was the opportunity to sit and chat for awhile with Beaune's Executive Chef Paddy, a most talented and delightful person.

Dinner with two bottles of that exquisite Pommard came to $237.27 and we tacked on a well deserved 20% gratuity. We also promised ourselves a return trip to this Tampa gem.

Beaune's Wine Bar at West Palm Wines on Urbanspoon 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Art Of Dining Out

Want to brighten someone's day the next time you go out to dine? When the host, hostess, or server inquires about your well being as in, "How are you tonight?" Instead of grunting an unintelligible reply why not say, "I'm fine, and how are you?"

You might be surprised at their response. I know that I am. These hard working, under appreciated individuals usually respond with an amazed, "Thanks for asking." From observing others it appears that we are among the very few patrons who treat those serving our needs with any degree of respect.

And, whether it is the restaurant worker or the cashier at Publix, it doesn't hurt to call them by name. That simple act acknowledges their existence; besides, you are not all that damn important except in your own mind.

You are welcome!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Facts? I Don't Need No Damn Facts

The St. Petersburg Times had a thought provoking editorial in the paper today: Facts don't faze Scott's world.

The editorial closed by suggesting a couple of possible entries on Scott's "bucket list."

"The governor has put SunRail contracts on hold. His final decision on that costly project will reveal whether his rejection of high-speed rail was really about protecting taxpayers or embarrassing the Obama administration."

I can think of one other possibility, and that is to eventually buy the office of President of the United States by aligning himself with the uber rich power-grabbers and through manipulation of the delusional in this country.

Since I don't believe that Scott gives a damn about anyone but himself, in the short term his only objective is to embarrass the Obama administration with a long term goal of buying the presidency.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food: Dining at the Chinese Dollar

I have been craving Chinese food of late. Not the Americanized interpretation of Chinese food, but something more akin to the Chinese interpretation of Chinese food. That meant only one thing - a trip back to the China Yuan on North Armenia Avenue in Tampa.

RMB$1
The Chinese dollar - the yuan
Before I launch in to a discussion of the tasty delights my bride and I enjoyed last night allow me to mention that Yuan is not pronounced you-an. For non-Mandarin speakers, the pronunciation of Yuan is very close to that of the abbreviation for the United Nations. Saying "U.N." without taking a pause between the "U" and the "N" sounds very similar to one way a native Mandarin speaker would say the name.

Now, don't you feel better? Just think how impressed your dining partners will be when you impart this tidbit of knowledge while sharing a myriad of savory delicacies around one of the large, round family tables.

I would encourage you to round up a number of friends and family when you dine at the China Yuan. The servings are very generous - more than enough to share as you rotate the giant "lazy Susan" in the table's center. This also affords the opportunity to experience many different tastes.

Alas, on all three of our visits there has been but the two of us so we have had to experiment with just two or three dishes at a time.

After perusing China Yuan's on-line menu I knew I just had to start with the Fried Chicken Feet on the Dim Sum menu. Unfortunately, Dim Sum is only served between the hours of 11 and 5 and we just missed that window. Our server took pity on me and asked the kitchen if they could accommodate my request. They could, and they did.

Like the Thai Style Boneless Duck Feet from the appetizer menu, the chicken feet had a pleasant taste, but a texture that takes a bit of getting used to with bones, cartilage, and a gelatinous consistency. The chicken  feet with a fried coating paired very well with my Tsingtao beer. My dining partner eshewed the feet and said, "Knock yourself out, Bubba," which bothered me just a tad since my name isn't Bubba and being knocked out doesn't sound pleasant. Oh, well!

On to our entrées. The Belle of Ballast Point ordered the Honey and Garlic Chicken with the chicken morsels deep fried with a crispy crunch and swimming in a rich honey garlic sauce. This superb dish was served with steamed broccoli and the ubiquitous rice bowl. I chose the Salt and Pepper Crispy Shrimp (heads-on) served over steamed bell peppers and onions. This tasty treat is consumed whole -  heads, skin, and tails. As the chef explained to me, this dish is meant to be consumed this way as it provides a different taste than head-less, peeled shrimp. Perfectly prepared, the shrimp were tender on the inside with a crispy crunch on the outside.

On past visits we have tried selections from the beef and the vegetable categories and have yet to be disappointed. The Beef with Scrambled Eggs was a memorable dish that I tried to replicate at home. China Yuan still does it better.

For a more authentic taste of China without the expense of long distance air travel, the China Yuan will certainly tantalize your taste buds. Dining here means a yuan well spent. Confucius only wishes he had said that.

Our bill for the evening came to $63 and some change and included, food, beers, and 20% gratuity.

China Yuan on Urbanspoon China Yuan Restaurant on Foodio54

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Wear The Mask

Honduras - JLR 2011
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.


Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.


We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask! - Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)



Africa - JLR 2011


































Africa - JLR 2011


































Africa - JLR 2011


Indonesia - JLR 2011
Bali - JLR 2011




































































All original photographs by J.R. Enhanced in the SOG City Oracle digital darkroom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Time For Total Recall In Florida

It has been suggested by some disgruntled citizens of the State of Florida that Rick Scott bought the office of governor with his great big gobs of cash and false promises - what some might term fraudulent promises. The "Let's Get To Work" Scott promised jobs, but with the promise of putting some 8,000 state workers out on the street and the probable loss of over 20,000 high-speed rail jobs what Scott has done is to misrepresent himself as a jobs creator.
It may be too soon to discuss impeachment (an option that remains on the table), but State Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill that would allow voters to recall state legislators or state office holders, including the governor. Current laws only allow removal of local officials through a recall process, but state officials can only be removed by the legislature or the governor.

Monday, February 21, 2011

So Be It!

The Republican spending cut proposal:

The $1.2 trillion bill covers every Cabinet agency through Sept. 30, when the current budget year ends. It imposes severe spending cuts on domestic programs and foreign aid. Targets include schools, nutrition programs, environmental protection, and heating and housing subsidies for the poor.

Cut heating subsidies for the poor? These heartless bastards were up in arms over the supposed "death panels" that were going to speed up Grannie's trip to the great beyond, but it is just fine if she freezes to death?

About that $1.2 trillion bill, allow me to reiterate:



400 people have as much wealth as half of our population.

The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion, and these Republicans are attacking schools, nutrition programs, women's health, the environment, and the poor.

Come 2012 remember the 
Republican Promise to America:

Tax cuts to the rich and fuck the poor!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You Can't Be Serious

“Florida is leading by example in keeping its fiscal house in order. We must demand the same from Washington,” said Mike Haridopolos, R-a Frigging Idiot, in a recent letter.  
“To President Obama and all members of Congress, I say we are far better off reducing the $1.5 trillion in proposed deficit spending by this $2.4 billion than we are to build a rail project that has a questionable, at-best, economic viability," Haridopolos wrote. He voted for high-speed rail in December 2009.

Well, this bozo is probably right that the money could be better spent, but the money has already been allocated for high-speed rail. Rejecting the money isn't going to change anything except the recipient of those tax dollars - some of which were paid by Florida taxpayers.

Forrest Gump once said, "Stupid is as stupid does." What these damn Florida Republicans have done is just plain...


Stupid! 


A reminder: 400 people in this country have a combined wealth of $1.6 trillion!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feeling Sorry For The Beleaguered Rich In America?

All I can say is, "Thank God the Republicans got their tax cuts for the wealthy extended." I couldn't sleep at night if I thought these people were being driven to near poverty levels.

Kudos to Boehner and the boys for protecting these folks. And, who are these folks? Find out by reading Dave Johnson's article Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap.

[Editor's note: Sedatives and/or heavy drinking may be necessary before, during, or after Nine Pictures]

You will find a multitude of interesting tidbits that define the "haves (that's them)" and the "have nots (the rest of us)" like this jaw-dropper:

400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.

Johnson closes his discussion with this statement:


"We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again."

I can only add, Amen to that!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Jerk II Redux

In an opinion piece I wrote the other day I compared the CEO who bought Florida to the imbecilic Navin Johnson in the 1979 movie The Jerk. In that movie, Navin discovered a use for the "special purpose" dangling between his legs.

Now it appears that Rick Scott, the Navin Johnson of Tallahassee, has revealed the plan for his "special purpose" to the world. And, that plan is - to slip it to President Obama at every opportunity. Scott seems obsessed with undermining the President in every way possible regardless of how his actions may adversely affect the citizens of the state he is sworn to serve.

Enough of this "Obamacare" and Obamarail" rhetoric! Scott has a fiduciary responsibility to not only the delusional who voted for him, but to all Floridians. It is time for him to get to work and do what he was elected to do and what he promised that he would do. Nowhere in his job description does it say "Get Obama!"

From Article IV of the Florida Constitution:

Governor (referred to in the SOG City Oracle as the Picklehead-in-Residence).
(a) The supreme executive power shall be vested in a governor, who shall be commander-in-chief of all military forces of the state not in active service of the United States. The governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, commission all officers of the state and counties, and transact all necessary business with the officers of government. The governor may require information in writing from all executive or administrative state, county or municipal officers upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices. The governor shall be the chief administrative officer of the state responsible for the planning and budgeting for the state.
(b) The governor may initiate judicial proceedings in the name of the state against any executive or administrative state, county or municipal officer to enforce compliance with any duty or restrain any unauthorized act.
(c) The governor may request in writing the opinion of the justices of the supreme court as to the interpretation of any portion of this constitution upon any question affecting the governor’s executive powers and duties. The justices shall, subject to their rules of procedure, permit interested persons to be heard on the questions presented and shall render their written opinion not earlier than ten days from the filing and docketing of the request, unless in their judgment the delay would cause public injury.
(d) The governor shall have power to call out the militia to preserve the public peace, execute the laws of the state, suppress insurrection, or repel invasion.
(e) The governor shall by message at least once in each regular session inform the legislature concerning the condition of the state, propose such reorganization of the executive department as will promote efficiency and economy, and recommend measures in the public interest.
(f) When not otherwise provided for in this constitution, the governor shall fill by appointment any vacancy in state or county office for the remainder of the term of an appointive office, and for the remainder of the term of an elective office if less than twenty-eight months, otherwise until the first Tuesday after the first Monday following the next general election.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Demand Hearings On The Bush War

A sub-title for this post could be Better Late Than Never. Chris Matthews is demanding hearings on a war built on lies that has cost over 4,000 American lives. We Americans, none more than our war dead, need to hear the answers to the questions Matthews raised at the end of his program Hardball last night.

Whether you agree with the decision to go to war or not, wouldn't you like to know the truth - or, are we afraid of the truth?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hollywood Sequel: The Jerk II

What with movie sequels being all the rage these days it should come as no surprise that the industry may be planning to revive that old Steve Martin movie from 1979, The Jerk - or, at least that's the buzz around the bay.

To refresh your memory, Steve Martin's character is a complete imbecile who was adopted and raised by a poor African-American family. As Navin Johnson attempts to rise up from the depths of poverty he inadvertently stumbles onto something that makes him filthy rich. He hires servants, and buys a mansion. Life is looking good until misfortune strikes his business venture and he barely escapes the vultures circling overhead. Said Navin, "I was so glad to be going home. I remembered the days when I sang and danced with my [poor, black] family on the porch of the old house."

Now, on to the sequel. In The Jerk II, Steve Martin's roll has been given to an unknown "actor" with questionable credentials. Navin, now played by Brick Scott, having managed to save his ill-gotten gain from the vultures, buys himself a new home, a place called Florida. Even though he is still filthy rich, he is now living in a public assisted housing project that at one time was referred to as Governor's Mansion.

While his fortunes are looking up, Navin seems to have forgotten the most important life lesson passed on to him by his poor, black adopted dad:



I don't want to spoil the movie for you, but in one hilarious scene, Scott's character, who thinks that all blacks start life in the projects, addresses a group of African-Americans in the place called Governor's Mansion,"I grew up...in the same situation as you guys. I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education." This rich white guy trying to bond with supposedly less fortunate African-Americans provides a real "panty-raid" look at the clueless who infect our society today and it would be laughable if it weren't so pitiful.

The Jerk II is an unbelievably long movie that will last at least four excruciating years. I think it is safe to say that the "out-of-touch-with-reality" moments will provide an never-ending shock and awe experience to all who are unfortunate enough to have to sit through this disaster.

The Oracle rates The Jerk II a total "Thumbs Down." I'd say, "Save your money," but I think we are stuck with the Jerk, and there is no refund.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hymn For Her Indie Music Award Nomination

From H4H:

"Wow! We are incredibly excited to be nominated for the 10th Annual Indie Music Awards for our song, 'GRAVE'. This was the first song we recorded on our latest release, "Lucy & Wayne and THE AMAIRICAN STREAM". It was the first song we ever played on our cigar box guitar.

Our longtime pal, great musician/engineer/chef, Jon Abella, came to the Malibu Hills where we were hooked up at a campsite, overlooking the ocean. We started recording the song at sunset and were very inspired with life, love, beauty, family, friendship and everything in between. We feel really lucky to be able to live our passion of music and bring it to you. 

If you have a minute, please click on this link and cast a vote for our song, GRAVE  spread the link to your friends...

Thanks for listening, sharing and dancing to our music." 

<<<>>>

H4H has been nominated in the Americana category. The Oracle encourages you to vote for this unbelievably talented and original duo. You do have to register to vote, and it takes but a moment. Talent like H4H should be recognized along with the other deserving people in the Indie Music Awards categories.

What you can listen to on the Indie web site is not the American Idol or Grammy crap. This is real music written, interpreted, and performed by true talent.

Crank up your speakers and be prepared to be blown away:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine Dinner With Ruth's Chris

Actually, my Baby and I had a pre-Valentine's Day dinner last night at Ruth's Chris Steak House on Westshore in Tampa. I discovered, much to my surprise, that reservations not made well in advance would be very difficult to obtain on "the" day, so we celebrated a couple of days early.

This was our first visit to any Ruth's Chris and since we have heard nothing but good things about this steak house we decided that this would be the perfect venue to indulge in good food,  fine wine, and lasting love. So, with fine wine in mind, we began our evening with a luxury ride aboard a Lincoln Town Car from Cab Plus. This upscale taxi service is a bit pricier than the typical area cabs, but it is so worth the expense.

Ruth's Chris has a very rich look and feel with a very warm ambiance. We were greeted by a doorman as we stepped from our coach and promptly seated by one of the charming hostesses. Linda, our very efficient server for the evening, took our beverage order, a couple of glasses of sparkling Domaine Chandon Brut to start and a bottle of Mendocino Fog Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our entrées.

The Chandon Brut paired well with my appetizer of New Orleans style Barbecued Shrimp with a white wine reduction. We were both extremely pleased and surprised by the Cab. This was a very economically priced wine that was well suited to stand up to both my bride's Petite Filet and my big honkin' bone-in Cowboy Ribeye.

After my appetizer, we were served our requested salads, an Iceberg Wedge for her and the Sliced Tomato and Onion for me. That iceberg wedge looked big enough to sink the Titanic. My beefsteak tomatoes could have used a little more time on the vine to ripen properly. Other than that the salad was rich with vinaigarette and bleu cheese crumbles.

The main event arrived with a warning that the steaks were served on platters heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and that we should probably refrain from touching them. I failed to refrain once for a brief instant and to paraphrase the late Ambrose Bierce, "once, was enough." Those plates kept our steaks warm from the first bite to the last. And those steaks - heavenly! They were perfectly seasoned and prepared to order.

Not that we needed it, but my Valentine ordered a Bread Pudding dessert for us to share. It was tasty, but huge, and most of it came home with us in a box.

Our tab for the evening came to $217.75 and we added a 20% gratuity. The money was well spent! The food and wine was superb, and Ruth's Chris doesn't scrimp on portions.

To top off the night, our chariot from Cab Plus was waiting for us at the door.

Ruth's Chris Steak House on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Voice Of Reason: Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon

"You know it. I know it.  But it seems the Republicans in the U.S. House don't know it.
 
Millions of Americans families are struggling in this economy and can't find work.  New layoffs are announced every day. Foreclosures are still happening all around us.
 
So what is the new House Republican majority's top priority?
 
Taking away a woman's right to choose and severely restricting reproductive health care services.
 
A majority of House Republicans have co-sponsored a bill which would expand the ban on federal funding for abortions to include raising taxes on small businesses that choose health insurance plans that provide abortion coverage.
 
As you may have heard, the bill is so extreme that it initially limited the exception for victims of rape only to something they defined as "forcible" rape.  As if victims of date rape or other coercive attacks are responsible.
 
Fortunately, the outrage from the American people was heard loud and clear, and they backed down.
 
But make no mistake: these Republicans are prioritizing divisive social issues over creating jobs and repairing our economy.
 
Republicans need to get their priorities straight and stop trying to take away woman’s right to choose.  They should travel to the nearest shelter or unemployment office and take a good look at what’s going on in this country. The American people expect us to help put people back to work -- not pursue an extremist agenda to take away women's rights."

_________________________________

Here in Florida the CEO who bought the state, Mr. Picklehead, has announced his agenda which seems primarily aimed at attacking Obama and screwing the less-than-wealthy, the schools, state workers, and the unemployed. On top of that, his job creation promises seem to be heading into negative territory. 

I don't mean to sound mean - well, maybe I do - but I hope the delusional who voted for this clown get it in the shorts like the rest of us.  
 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tell Clarence Thomas: Recuse Yourself

A case challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform bill passed by Congress is headed to the Supreme Court, and Justice Clarence Thomas has a supreme ethical conflict.

It's been widely reported that the Thomas family has financial ties to the conservative organizations leading the campaign to bring down our new health care law -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Anthony Weiner and 73 other members of Congress have signed a letter detailing the appearance of ethical conflict and asking Justice Thomas to recuse himself from deliberations on the constitutionality of health care reform.

I just signed a companion letter that Rep. Weiner -- a champion of progressive issues -- will deliver to the Supreme Court along with the letter signed by members of Congress.

I hope you'll join me and sign the letter as well. There's more information about it and an easy way to sign it. Please click here.


<<<<<>>>>>

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Report: For Gun Nuts

In a recent article I addressed the lunatic gunslinger mentality that seems to be permeating this country. At the close of the article I suggested that before you strap on your Second Amendment rights that maybe you should read a book first. I did and Florida Firearms: Law, Use & Ownership should be mandatory reading for anyone in this country who plans on packing heat or passing firearms legislation.

In his book author Jon H. Gutmacher, Esquire enumerates more ways to land in the slammer than there are bullets in a thirty round clip. You pistol packers can be perfectly legal and still wind up in prison facing a minimum 3 year stretch. Interesting, isn't it? After reading this book I realize that I may have, inadvertently, violated a Federal law, and from the Fed's perspective, ignorance is not an excuse. Have you ever, or do you now carry a firearm in your vehicle? Have you, again inadvertently, passed within 1,000 feet of any school zone? Well, unless you have a Concealed Weapons Permit, are a school security guard, or a policeman then you have broken the law - not Florida, but Federal.

Do you realize that if you display or pull your firearm in a non-forcible felony situation that you could very well be found guilty of aggravated assault (mandatory three years), and if in this situation you should pop a cap as a warning shot that three years suddenly becomes a mandatory 20 years? Do you even know what constitutes aggravated assault? Can you name the forcible felonies? In what circumstances can you use deadly force as opposed to non-deadly force? If you are going to carry, you better be able to answer these questions and a shit-load more.

Mr. Gutmacher discusses these and many more issues in his book. You will be totally surprised, I know I was, at the number of myths and untruths being perpetuated by the wild west, 2nd Amendment cowboys. As Mr. Gutmacher points out, there are a number of ambiguities and un-tested legal arguments in the Florida Statutes. If you are clueless (or just unlucky) you might have a chance to test the law in court. I believe Gutmacher mentioned a starting figure of $15,000 to begin a criminal defense, and not on a contingency basis.

For all of you pistol packin' Mamas and Papas out there who think all you need to do is satisfy the Florida concealed carry license requirements, strap on your popper, and you are ready to take on all evil-doers in society, like Liberals and such, Mr. Gutmacher was kind enough to include contact information for his criminal defense firm.

Among other things, Mr. Gutmacher is an NRA certified firearms instructor. I tossed in that little tidbit in case you were thinking he might be anti-gun. He isn't, and I don't believe he is anti-stupidity either. Stupid probably enriches his law practice.




____________________________________________

I would like to say I get some sort of financial consideration for reviewing Gutmacher's book, but sadly I don't. I just think a little dose of reality is refreshing what with all the gun-toting bullshit that surrounds us these days.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food: Rafting To The Kon Tiki

It was raining pretty hard Monday night and we contemplated piling on board the family pae-pae (balsa wood raft) to Thor Heyedahl ourselves to our dinner destination at the Tahitian Inn. The Belle of Ballast point wasn't in the mood for a rafting adventure, so we took Gus the pickup truck instead.

We parked in the front lot of the Tahitian Inn and walked through the lobby to our final destination, the Kon Tiki Restaurant. Once we located the correct entrance for the hostess station we experienced a brief wait until one of the servers happened by and said that she would seat us, which she did. We were presented with drink and food menus, and were immediately prompted to make a selection of something. I asked that we be given a few moments to first peruse the menus.

A while later our server returned to take our drink orders. We chose a couple of the Kon Tiki signature cocktails, the Lychee Lemon Drop with vodka for me and the Tahitian Sunrise for my dining partner. After fifteen or so minutes our server came by to apologize for the delay, but the bar had to make a trip to Tahiti or somewhere to find a bottle of something and our beverages would soon be forthcoming. After a full twenty minute delay we finally received something other than water.

The Kon Tiki menu lists Small Plates, Sandwiches, Tortilla Pizzas, Deep Dishes, and Kon Tiki Tacos along with sides and salads. We decided to make our meal from several  categories and to share our choices. My bride chose the Pear Pizza Salad and the Pepperoni Flatbread Pizza. I chose the Kon Viche and the Tuna Poki Tacos.

While the bar service remained excruciatingly slow the entire evening, the food was superb. My bride raved over the Pear Pizza Salad, and I have to agree with her that the flatbread pizza was tasty. I have enjoyed ceviche from Tampa to the Yucatan and back, but never one as good as the Kon Viche. The shrimp, lump crab meat and calamari were perfectly marinated. There wasn't a tough or mushy morsel to be found. The Tuna Poki Tacos were also prepared to perfection. The marinated sashimi tuna had just the right amount of zip and zing.

These four dishes were more than enough to satisfy our hunger. The Kon Tiki doesn't short change on food portions and we were both too stuffed to even think about dessert. All of our food choices were delicious, and a lady at a neighboring table said the Tiki Slaw was heavenly.

I would definitely contemplate a return visit for the food and next time try something simple like beer or wine to see if that would result in speedier bar service.

Keep in mind that this visit occurred on a rainy Monday evening. The place wasn't over-run with customers. On the down side, as I mentioned before, the bar service was horrible. On the up side, the bar service was horrible - there was more than enough time to sober up between drinks.

Dinner for two with adult beverages and a 20% gratuity came to $110.

Kon Tiki on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Medicare Fraud: Double Standard

Did you read in the paper this weekend (St. Pete Times, Tampa Bay page 4B) where eight Miami-Dade County nurses have been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay restitution for their crimes? The sentences ranged from five months to 2 1/2 years and restitution runs from $66,000 to $699,000. What did these bads girls of the medical profession do? Why, nothing more than defrauding Medicare. "But that's a serious offense," you might exclaim!

Oh, yeah? Do you remember that prick with ears that bought the Florida Governor's mansion? As Chief Executive Officer of a company that was fined $1.7 billion dollars for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, neither he nor his minions did a minute of jail time. You just pay a fine and take a walk. No big deal.

If one were to subscribe to the adage that "birds of a feather flock together" then Scott should use his power of executive clemency and commute these nurses' sentences to time served and add them to his executive staff. They all seem to have at least one thing in common - a thorough knowledge of Medicare fraud.

I have to thank my trophy bride for pointing out the disparity of these two situations. The charge was the same - Medicare fraud. On one hand the accused perp was allowed to walk away "Scott-free" and then buy the State of Florida. On the other hand, eight nurses are going to jail. My wife's position is that what is good for the geese should be good for the gander.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Food: Grub At The Ranch House

After our 5 mile hike for physical fitness, my bride and I felt the need for sustenance and a medicinal adult beverage. It has been awhile since we visited the venerable Ranch House Grill at 4426 W. Gandy in Tampa, so we decided to do lunch at this SOG City restaurant. It must be mentioned that the Ranch House Grill is on the south side of Gandy - therefore, SOG City.

The place hasn't changed much - well, hardly at all - over the years. The Grill reminds me of a very rustic restaurant on the banks of the Chena River outside of Fairbanks, Alaska that I visited a few years ago. It has that Last Frontier look about it while providing a welcoming and comfortable dining experience.

We perused both the lunch and dinner menus that listed steak, seafood, pasta, and chicken choices. My dining partner was thrilled to see Meatloaf, Homemade Just Like Mom's on the menu and she vowed to return soon to enjoy that dish for dinner. Since it was lunch time for us we went with somewhat lighter fair.

My bride chose the Pineapple Boat Chicken Salad. Did I say lighter fair? This was one half pineapple hollowed out and piled high with pineapple chunks and chicken salad. I didn't have to ask if it was tasty since there was nothing left but the hull of the boat at the end of the meal.

From the sandwich menu I chose the French Dip with shaved sirloin of beef piled on a French roll, plus a side of extra-crispy French fries prepared just the way I asked. The au jus provided a very savory dip for the sandwich.

As we were finishing our lunch an older couple were seated in the booth behind us. After ordering a couple of serious adult beverages (no wimpy iced tea or lemonade for these two) they both ordered the prime rib which is one of the Chef's Daily Specials. I couldn't help but overhear their comments when these dishes were presented to them. From their groans of ecstasy one could have imagined they were having sex instead prime rib.

The Belle of Ballast Point can have the meatloaf the next time we visit the Ranch House Grill, but I am drooling at just the thought of that orgasmic roast prime rib.

With three beers, the salad and sandwich our bill plus 20% gratuity came to just $27. Samantha was our very charming and efficient server.

Ranch House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Winter Woes

We heard from one of our Ohio family members this morning. They are having a really hard winter.

Linda reported, "With all of the severe weather we have been having this winter, the Department of Transportation issued a travel warning.

They suggest that anyone traveling in the current icy conditions should have the following: shovel, blankets or sleeping bag, extra clothing including coats, hats and gloves, 24 hours worth of food, de-icer, rock salt, flashlight with spare batteries, road flares or reflective triangles, empty gas can, and booster cables.

I looked like an idiot on the bus this morning!"

Thanks Linda, for sharing that experience with us down here in balmy Florida. We feel your pain, sorta.

Well, hardly at all.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vigil For Peace

One of my first activities of the day, right after coffee and my morning ablutions, is to take a look at my blog reading list to see what my fellow bloggers have been up to over the past 24 hours. The Ybor City Stogie recently featured the Vigil for Peace that is scheduled for February 19 between noon and 2 PM at the corner of Gandy and Dale Mabry. I have seen these folks before and I "honk" because I agree with their message.

Stogie's blog featured a photograph that not only caught my attention but just pisses me off so bad I COULD SCREAM! I cropped the picture to emphasize one particular message.

Photographer unknown
This lady needs a bigger sign; one that states,"We can't feed the poor, we refuse to fund affordable health care for all Americans, but we can throw the country deeper into debt by funding the wealthiest Americans, and we can bring Social Security to the brink of bankruptcy by stripping the General Fund to finance two Bush vanity wars."

Yes, we do need to bring our troops home - partly because it is morally the right thing to do, but we also need them to patrol our borders and our streets. That's right, our streets. Since our Chicken Little population is so paranoid that they feel the need to pack heat just to go to the potty, it is obvious that we need professional protection above and beyond that provided by the  normal law enforcement agencies.

Our military has the experience and the firepower to protect us from all the bogeymen who must be roaming around amongst us. Possibly, while our troops are protecting us against those sneaky Mexicans and Canadians who keep crossing our borders to steal our jobs, they could also keep an eye out for those Patriotic Americans seeking to "take back the country" through the barrel of a gun.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Greco Five Plus One


I am mortified and totally ashamed of myself for I have plagiarized the above photo from a fellow blogger, The Ybor City Stogie. To compound my sin I then defaced Stogie's photo so that it reflects the amount of affection I feel for the candidate for capo di tutti capi of Tampa, or The Big Guava Tutti-fruiti as he is known by many in our fair city.

Stogie, please forgive me for I know of my sin.

What I truly consider a sin is that the City of Tampa will be losing a great lady manning the helm of the Ship of Tampa. Mayor Pam inherited the droppings of Greco when she was elected, and we (the Oracle and family) think she has done a pretty damn good job. Besides, as my bride said the other night after watching Iorio on a public TV channel doing something, "She is just so cute!" That comment was said with respect.

In closing, all I can add is, "We love you Mayor Pam." And to the voters, the monkey would be a better choice for mayor than the Big Tutti-fruiti. Unfortunately, the monkey doesn't have the "Big Money" backing.

Right now, the Oracle is leaning toward candidate Choo-choo Turanchik. I don't mean to sound insulting, but it is going to take some pretty big feet to fill the shoes of Mayor Pam.

That isn't to suggest that our mayor has big feet. What I mean is...

I think I best quit now before I put one of my feet in my mouth.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Opt-out: Mandatory Insurance Provision

Well, all right then, you have got yours and now everybody else can just go to hell. Right? On top of that you have a federal judge here in Florida who agrees with you that "Obamacare" should be tossed in the garbage pile - especially that mandatory insurance provision, because the government has no right to tell you what you have to do or buy. Right?

You have health insurance through your employer and that judge has his subsidized insurance plan, so all is right in your self-centered little worlds. And, to all who have been laid off due to the financial melt-down exacerbated by the incompetence of your Lord and Savior King George Bush, those with pre-existing conditions, those who cannot afford health insurance, and those who have benefited by health care reform - to those people you are saying "Tough titty!" because you have no intention of subsidizing anyone's health insurance. Well, no one except judges, politicians, and the thousands who show up at hospital emergency rooms for "free" health care. It is free to them, but who do you suppose is picking up the tab for them? It is you, you schmuck!

Personally, I am fed up and pissed off with the non-stop whining about the mandatory health care provision. So take that damn provision out of health care reform, but replace it with an opt-out provision with the caveat that if you choose to opt-out and your sorry ass gets sick or injured then don't bother showing up at the emergency room unless you have proof of insurance or a big wad of cash. Whether you live or die makes no difference - this was your choice, and I will afford you the same degree of caring and compassion as you showed to your fellow man.

Holy penguin poop, I sound like a Republican. John Boehner would be proud.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wyatt Earp, We Need You Now

Florida is getting ready to turn back the clock to the days of the wild west - and as a side note, why do the Republicans and Teabaggers insist on backward movement? Wouldn't moving forward be a better option for our country? That is just a rhetorical question; an answer is not required. Anyway, back to the 19th century mentality that is infecting this state and this country. To control lawlessness and put a damper on utter stupidity, Marshall Earp banned the carrying of guns in the city. Apparently Tombstone became a much quieter, and more peaceful place.

Now Florida is pondering having the state go in the opposite direction by allowing open-carry by all citizens, both the sane and deranged. Part of the irony of this plan is that Florida revamped their gun laws a number of years ago and in the process the wording inadvertently allowed open-carry. The Florida Legislature couldn't act quickly enough to correct their mistake and for a very brief period every whacko in the state was packing heat on their hip. "Oh my," went the hue and cry from the masses, "Florida is going to be like Tombstone (before the Earp gun ban)."

So what is different between then and now? Florida is mostly urbanized. We don't have pissed off, crazed savages looking to take our scalps for minor, perceived transgressions. Actually, I think the crazed savages are taking everything but our scalps at their gambling establishments, but that is another issue entirely. Why on Earth does the average citizen feel the need to carry, openly or concealed?

I keep hearing the same tired argument about only crimanals having guns. Well, lets consider the scenario where everybody is carrying their 2nd Amendment rights around with them. According to Florida Statute 790.10, that weapon had best be kept holstered unless needed for self defense. So, there your pistol-packin' self is paying for your groceries, enjoying a meal at your favorite gourmet food establishment, or tossing back a couple of shots at your local bar (whoops on that last one - see F.S. 790.151) and some Right-wing Patriot comes through the door with guns blazing in the mistaken belief that he (or she) has entered into a roomful of Liberals. Keep in mind that this bozo is locked and loaded and is popping caps right and far right.

Now, those of you cowboys who didn't immediately wind up in Boothill are justified in slappin' leather and engaging in a shootout that makes the O.K. Corral look like a Sunday social. You just may cut down the bad guy, but keep in mind that he was ready and you were taken by surprise. He has that advantage, not to mention mobility. You are either on the floor or behind a counter - remember? On the plus side, one of you may be able to bring this clown down - hopefully without too much collateral damage. Friendly fire can be such a bitch!

I am not saying we shouldn't own guns. I would truly miss my shaved and polished S&W Model 10 with the 4 inch bull barrel and the 158 grain, semi-jacketed, Plus P hollow points. I can't see packing it everywhere I go, though. It would look really silly at the beach with my Speedo, but who knows what creatures one might find lurking amongst the sea oats. I keep my Model 10 in case lunatics like that Right-wing Republican laundry guy in South Tampa I used to do business with grows a set and decides "to take back the country through armed revolt" instead of just mouthing off about it. His mentor, Communist Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, would be proud - since "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." So said Chairman Mao.

Whether you carry or not, if you own a firearm in Florida you should seriously consider Jon H. Gutmacher's book, Florida Firearms - Law, Use, and Ownership, and for Christ's sake - get rid of that wild west, cowboy mentality. A firearm is not the answer or the solution to this country's problems.