Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another Rainy Day...

So, another trip back into the digital darkroom.

Palm Trees

Painted Fire Pit

Flowering Magnolia

Violet Hearts
There! Now isn't that better than a rant about our corrupt Florida Legislature?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The "Less Government" GOP In Action

"Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?"

A comment left on the Mother Jones website bears repeating:

"I hate myself when I get vindictive, but I just found myself envisaging that every person voting for this bill should be raped, so that they at least know what they are talking about, and then having to describe the experience to the possibly sceptical [sic] and in this department untrained police officer, relive the experience in court and maybe see the rapist get off, and then have to go through it all again in a written statement on their tax form."

Oh my, that sounds harsh, but it would certainly give House Weeper and leading bill backer Boehner something to cry about. 

Thorny Patterns

A rainy day kept me indoors most of the day Monday. To keep my mind occupied I decided to fool around in my digital darkroom. I had a few mildly interesting photos in my Canon, so I downloaded them, mixed my digital chemicals, turned on my digital enlarger, and began to play.

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

Cactus Flower


Curly Cactus

Painted Cactus

All of the cacti in the yard seem to be flowering at the same time, and how beautiful they are. These plants, while notoriously thorny, did manage to sit quietly during the photo session.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Bozo Who Would Be President

Bless my little cotton-pickin' heart, the country has another Republican politician who has come out of the closet. Haley Barbour (R - Mississippi-mud-for-brains) has announced his obsession with gay sex in the fox hole, or any hole for that matter.

In a recent radio interview Barbour stated that he will passionately pursue gay men on the battlefield by thrusting himself into the repeal of DADT. Barbour said that his sensibilities were aroused at the thought of "amorous mindsets" amongst our gay soldiers while under fire.

This tells me one of two things. One is that if Barbour was ever in combat his fellow soldiers had more to fear from him than from the enemy. A more likely scenario is that Barbour never got closer to combat than a John Wayne movie at the local cinema. I wonder if Barbour got a woodie watching the Duke slay the foe. Never mind - I really don't want to know.

What I would like to know is this. Do the Republican politicians have some sort of contest to see which of them can appear dumber than the rest? If they do then Barbour gets the prize this week.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Laugh Of The Day

Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and preceded to the checkout counter.

The man at the counter asked the older boy, "Son, how old are you?" "Eight," the boy replied. The man continued, "Do you know what these are used for?"

The boy replied, "Not exactly, but they aren't for me.  They're for him.  He's my brother. He's four. We saw on TV that if you use these you would be able to swim and ride a bike. Right now, he can't do either."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sansom Claims Vindication

Vindicate: to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like: to vindicate someone's honor.

Former House Speaker Ray Sansom was not vindicated. The case against him was left in limbo due to Judge Terry Lewis's ruling on a key piece of prosecutorial evidence.

Vindication would be a not guilty verdict in his trial on charges of grand theft and conspiracy. Until it is proven otherwise, Sansom is still a crook, but he will be in good company when he rejoins his cronies in the Republican controlled legislature.

Hold on to your hat, there is more! To add insult to injury the tax payers here in Florida are going to be picking up the tab for the Sansom defense.

My bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, is of the opinion that somebody paid somebody off. It will be interesting to see who gets what out of this litigious cluster-fuck.

My money is riding on Lewis. When Prick-with-ears Scott bullies through his agenda to split the Florida Supreme Court into civil and criminal branches I am thinking he will be needing an additional judge. I may be wrong, but I think Lewis will be his boy.

What do you think?

Libyan No-Fly Zone

Coalition fighter planes have shot down Libyan planes and helicopters, and in addition they wiped out a whole nest of flying tanks, flying trucks, flying artillery, and winged soldiers.

What? Tanks, trucks, artillery, and soldiers haven't sprouted wings in Libya you say? What about that airborne ammunition bunker? No wings there, either? So they weren't flying? They were attacked on the ground? I am bumfuzzled!

The U.N. Security Council authorized an embargo and a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians. I am not a fan of Gadhafi, and I would not be sadden by his departure or demise, but isn't this bombing of ground forces moving way beyond the concept of a no-fly zone? What's next - boots on the ground? And, whose boots?

Secretary of State Clinton stated that we are handing off war management to NATO. We can only hope. The spectre of another Mid-East war involving the United States looms large in my mind, and it is giving me a freaking headache! I think I will go out to the garden and ponder the posies for awhile.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Blessing Or A Curse

The SOG City garden has been producing a ton of daikon radishes this season. Well, maybe not quite a ton, but ten of these 1 to 2 pound darlin's is a lot of radish. As a consequence, I have been surfing the Internet seeking innovative ways of preparing this root vegetable. 

This versatile veggie can be boiled, broiled, roasted, toasted, tossed in soups, stews, salads, and Forrest Gumped in a zillion different ways. Most everything I have come across on the 'net has just been variations of everything else I have come across, but one recipe piqued my interest.

Unfortunately, the more I looked at the recipe the less interesting it appeared. In the kitchen of my mind I played with the dish for a few days and finally came up with this:

Daikon Radish And Chunky Chicken

1             medium  daikon radish
3             chicken thighs -- skinned and boned
1/2          teaspoon  red pepper flakes -- or to taste
1             tablespoon  peanut oil
1             clove  garlic -- minced
1             teaspoon  sesame oil
9             ounces  frozen mixed vegetables -- for stir-fry
2             cups  cooked rice
Cooking sauce
2             cups  chicken stock
3             tablespoons  soy sauce
2             tablespoons  sake
1             tablespoon  sugar
1/4          teaspoon  mirin
1             teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

Peel daikon and cut into 1/2 inch half moons.
Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces.
Mix together all ingredients for the cooking sauce.

Heat oil. Add daikon and chicken and sauté over high heat for a minute or two. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes then pour in the cooking sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring and skimming from time to time.

When the sauce has reduced to about 3/4 of a cup add the frozen vegetables, sprinkle with the sesame oil and cook until all ingredients are heated through - three to five minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with rice.


A few notes from the chef:

The radish should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and about 8 inches long.

I found all of the ingredients for this dish (except the radish) at the local Publix, where sometimes shopping can be an adventure. Most Oriental markets carry daikon, but for the home gardener it is real easy to grow. As an added bonus, the leaves are edible when cooked.

This recipe took about an hour from start to finish and served two hungry people.

Bon appetit, y'all.

P.S. - I still have a bunch of these babies to get rid of so if you find a pile of daikons dumped on your doorstep...well, you are welcome. Remember, they can be sliced, diced, chopped, grated...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wisconsin Recall

From the DAILY KOS:

Wisconsin Republicans say the state is too broke to pay for teachers, but they just gave the 26-year-old mistress of a union-busting Republican Senator a state job with a fat raise. It's a classic Republican scandal filled with hypocrisy, cronyism, and their special version of "family values."

Here's the story. Last year, Wisconsin Republican state Senator Randy Hopper left his wife to live with a young Republican political operative. Last month, as Governor Scott Walker unveiled legislation calling for deep cuts in state workers' salaries and collective bargaining rights, Hopper's mistress was hired by the state on the advice of Scott Walker's cabinet as a "communications liaison." Further, her salary is 35% higher than her predecessor's.

Randy Hopper is now facing recall.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Awesome Power

Some 22% of the registered voters in the City of Tampa have dictated in the run-off elections yesterday in our fair city who will be at the helm for the next four years. We made that decision for ourselves and for the 78% who sat home on their thumbs.

Good, bad, or indifferent the city will be governed for the next four years by the people we chose. It gives me goose-bumples to think of the awesome power held by just the 22% of us.

As one who made up the 22%, I feel that I am in a position to offer my advice to the 78% who chose not to exercise their Constitutional rights yesterday. To those people I say, "For the next fours years, just sit down and shut the f--k up! You had the chance to make your voice heard, and you blew it."

Just think, people have given their lives for the right to vote. The apathy in this state is pathetic, and is one reason why we got stuck with that prick with ears in the governor's mansion. The other reason is just plain ignorance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time For A Tuesday Sing-A-Long

You have been bustin' your butt long enough. Empower yourself! Tell your boss to take a smoke break, crank up your speakers, and sing along to one of the greatest songs - EVER!

Oh, to hell with work, the islands are calling.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who Is Running Florida?

If you answered, CEO Rick Scott (R-a prick with ears), you would be wrong. It appears that our state is being guided by four entities: The Reason Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. The fourth entity? That would be the ouija board that Scott uses as backup should the Internet go down.

According to a recent newspaper report Scott plans his agenda based on opinions published by these conservative think-tanks and the fortune telling game that many believe brings on demonic possession. After enduring Scott's first couple of months in office it is not hard for me to believe that he is possessed.

What about these so-called think-tanks?

The Reason Foundation had a long article posted on-line in January that enumerated 3 billion reasons why high speed rail in Florida was a bad idea. Mr. Picklehead of Florida must have thought that was a real peachy article and as a consequence, no high speed rail for the state. And, silly you! You thought nixing high speed rail was his idea? Scott's own D.O.T. contradicted that article, but Scott ignored them. How nice!

The Heritage Foundation bills itself as "a public policy think-tank that promotes the principles that made America great: free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." Two of the Heritage Foundation's strongest supporters are - Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Said Limbaugh, "Some of the finest conservative scholars alive today live, work, and breathe at the Heritage Foundation." And, Rick Scott looks to these two and the foundation for guidance?

The Cato Institute promotes individual liberty, free markets, and peace on their web site and appears to be a regular on the FOX "The Invent The News Network." That in itself causes me to question their validity as a think-tank and more as a propaganda machine for the right-winger ideologies.

All three of these entities are entitled to their opinions and I am glad that we live in a country where all citizens are free to express themselves in an intelligent, civilized manner. My problem is with Scott. He alleges that "he" knows what is best for the State of Florida and that "he" will run the state his way. I might not have as much of a problem with this crook if he listened to the people of Florida, but obviously Scott puts his trust in these three think-tanks and a ouija board.

Is this really what 49% of Florida's citizens who even bothered to vote wanted as a governor? If so, then the state is in some seriously deep shit.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Take Back The Country

The Tea Baggers and their Republican boot-lickers have been clamoring for America to be taken back. Listen to this radio clip of Will Rogers recorded back in 1931. I think it will show that the Conservative's wish to be taken back has been achieved. How sad!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Do Ya Miss Him Yet?

Personally, I could use a good laugh about now. Republican House Weeper Boehner just ain't no fun at all and his Tea Bagger Fellows are just depressing. The prick with ears who is intent on dismantling the state he bought just makes me want to vomit, purge, cast, be sick, disgorge, regorge, retch, puke, barf, spew, chuck, upchuck, honk, regurgitate, and throw up all at the same time.

I never thought these words would cross the lips of my mind, but I almost miss W. A key word here is "almost." He is still an idiot, but he is good for a laugh:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Florida: The New Wild, Wild West

I swear, the Republican dominated Florida Legislature needs to be bitch-slapped until they get some semblance of common sense. With all of the problems facing our state, these clowns are getting ready to make open carry of firearms legal in Florida. Their rationale? Supporters of this bill say that it is meant to protect concealed carry permit holders from an inadvertent display of their firearm.

Former Loony-head of the NRA, Marion Hammer, has testified before somebody that permit holders have been prosecuted when a gust of wind uncovered a concealed weapon or when that weapon "printed" under a piece of clothing. Of Hammer I would demand, "Either cite a case in Florida where a permit holder has been prosecuted or sit down and shut your pie-hole." Even if she could cite a case, there are available defenses - one of which would be a lack of knowledge or in legal terms lack of scienter. Sheriffs around the Tampa Bay area seem to agree that the gust of wind argument is absurd.

Opponents of this bill are concerned, in part, that open carry could have a negative impact on tourism and consequently on the Florida economy. Can you envision parents concerned about violence on TV, in the movies, and in video games being receptive to bringing their children to a Disney World infested with pistol-packing mamas and papas? How about that beer swilling bozo in the Speedo at the beach with a gun wedged under his gut. That image is disturbing on several different levels and should probably be illegal even without the gun.

As Jon H. Gutmacher, Esq. said in his book, Florida Firearms - Law, Use & Ownership, "...the mere fact that your firearm may occasionally "print" under your clothing doesn't mean it's not legally concealed."

This bill, sponsored by idiots pandering to lunatics is not needed and will be detrimental to all citizens of the State of Florida. This bill needs to die a quick and permanent death.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dining Out: Tampa Bay

Can't decide where to dine tonight? Here is a nifty widget from Urbanspoon - pick a neighborhood, a cuisine, a price and click the lock to hold your selection or just take your chances and spin the wheel:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Idea Whose Time Is Now

So, the Republicans are hell bent on cutting spending by attacking everyone and everything not associated with America's monarchy - the obscenely rich. One group affected by the Republican agenda has the perfect weapon for fighting back. Jeff Tone featured this video on his blog, The Liberal Curmudgeon, and I think it bears repetition:

Maybe a nationwide strike by all parties under assault by the Republicans is in order?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

History Comes Alive

If you studied world history in high school or read the book/saw the movie Tale of Two Cities, then you are at least vaguely aware that the French, like the United States, had a revolution back in the 1700s.

Before writing this article, to ensure historical accuracy, I sought guidance from two of America's leading experts on all things historic: Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin. One said that she thinks that she can see France from that cresent moon thingy on her outhouse door. The other muttered something about fries and headed off to McDonalds. As a consequence I had to resort to something that is called a "book." I fudged just a little and pulled up Wikipedia to see if they agreed with the "book."

Here is what I came up with.

Among many factors that led to the French Revolution (1789 - 1799) there was hunger and malnutrition running rampant amongst the poorer segments of the population. While the destitute were starving the elite were tossing out barbs like the infamous, "Let them eat cake."

Another cause may have been that country's near bankruptcy caused by their participation in too many wars. To make matters worse France's inadequate system of taxes contributed to the inability to manage national debt caused in part by all of those wars.

There were many more little problems that plagued the country. In a quote from an Wikipedia article, "[T]he royal court at Versailles was perceived by many as being isolated from, and indifferent to the hardships of the lower classes [...] While [King Louis XVI] did reduce government expenditures, opponents in the parliament successfully thwarted his attempts at enacting much needed reforms. Those who were opposed to Louis' policies further undermined royal authority by distributing pamphlets (often reporting false or exaggerated information) that criticized the government and its officials, stirring up public opinion against the monarchy."

Well, that's your history lesson for the day. What do you say we have a pop quiz to see if we can apply our newfound knowledge?

1. Name the richest country in the world today that has a huge homeless and starving population?
2. Besides the former Soviet Union, what modern day superpower has brought its economy to near collapse by trying to finance unwinnable wars?
3. Can you name a modern day country that is in dire need of tax reform like France in the 1700s?
4. This is a three part question.
a. In the afore mentioned country, what political party has exhibited indifference to the hardships of the lower classes by demanding tax cuts for the wealthy?
b. Is that the same party that has thwarted all opponent's attempts to enact much needed reforms?
c. Which party has done its best to stir up the lunatic fringe with lies and half truths?

For extra credit provide a short essay answering the question: Based upon today's discussion, do you see any similarities between France in the late 1700s and the United States of America today?


As long as your responses are intelligent and well thought out I have no problem publishing them in "comments" regardless of your position.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Message To Democrats: Grow A Set

From CREDO Action:

"The contrast between the Democratic state senators from Wisconsin and the Democratic senators in Washington, D.C. couldn't be starker.

In the face of extreme overreach by Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the state house, 14 Wisconsin state senators stood up and fought for almost a month.

Senator Majority leader Harry Reid, on the other hand, took less than 12 hours to signal the Senate was willing to cave on Republican cuts to the budget.

As Republicans wage a fierce war on progressive policies under the false pretense of "deficit reduction," Harry Reid and other Washington D.C. Democrats shouldn't simply cave -- they should take this opportunity to call out Republican extremism, hold radical right-wing extremists accountable before the American people, and declare they will stand their ground for the environment, working families, womens health and the sake of our economic recovery.

In other words: It's time for D.C. Democrats to take a lesson from Wisconsin."

As I have stated before in the Oracle, the Republicans have a two-fold agenda: Destroy Obama, and wipe out the middle class. It is too soon to say, but it appears that a few segments of our population are waking up to that fact. Hopefully, the radical Republicans can be stopped before they do irreparable damage to this country.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Oracle Is One Year Old

To help celebrate this occasion, please enjoy the talents of another youngster:

When I got started with this blogging adventure I had no idea how hard it would be to put together hard-hitting, informative, and highly entertaining blogs week after long grueling week.

To put my unbelievable writing talents into the proper perspective, one of my most vocal critics recently wondered when these hard-hitting, informative, and entertaining blogs were going to commence. To that reader I can only say, "Thank you dear, and I love you too. Your unending support can only strengthen our marriage."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Food: A Peruvian Feast

When you visit Machu Picchu, the restaurant at 3974 W. Hillsborough Avenue, not the Inca city in Peru, you would be well advised to pack a healthy appetite for the trip. The food portions at Machu Picchu are huge.

My trophy bride and I made the trek north of SOG City (South Of Gandy) on a mission to explore the menu at this jewel of a Peruvian restaurant located in a nondescript mall off of Hillsborough. The interior of Machu Picchu was clean and bright with table and chair seating. A hallway led to the back and what appeared to be an additional dining area. We were greeted by a very charming young lady who invited us to sit wherever we pleased. Since we arrived fairly early there was plenty of available seating. That didn't last too long as several families made their appearance. Even for a Tuesday, this seems to be a very popular dining spot.

We began our Machu Picchu experience with a couple of bottles of El Oro de los Incas. That would be two Cusqueña beers, exceptional malt lagers from Cusco, Peru. While sipping our Peruvian suds we perused the menu. One of the appetizers caught our attention - Salchipapa is a seasoned fried hot dog with French fries. After exchanging a few snide remarks about hot dogs and fries as a delicacy, we wound up splitting an order between the two of us. The fries were simply fries while the hot dogs were more akin to sliced kielbasa. This appetizer provided a tasty nibble while our entrées were being prepared.

My dining partner was intrigued by the Tacu Tacu con Lomo, a fried rice and beans omelet accompanied by a stir fry of beef, onions, and tomatoes. The tacu tacu was topped with two sunny-side up fried eggs. This dish could easily have fed two people and did require a take-home box. I will probably have this tasty delight for lunch today.

I love ceviche and Machu Picchu has several styles to chose from. I went with the Ceviche Mixto, a combination of fish, shrimp, and octopus. This very satisfying dish was served with a side of cancha, large kernel corn that is tossed with oil and then roasted. The flavor was unexpected, but pleasing to the palate. Also on the plate was a serving of yuca and a large slice of sweet potato.

If this is the way the Peruvian people eat every day they should be as big as houses. There was a lot of food on our table - all of it good. Another plus - this diet-busting dinner was a mere $60 dollars and some change and included a 20% gratuity and our four beers.

Es muy bueno, y'all.

Machu Picchu on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Word Of The Day

Hypocriculous (from the Urban Dictionary): Adjective describing situations when people are beyond any vestige of funniness or rationality with their hypocrisy and need a one word bitch-slapping to be set straight.

Here are two examples from Florida CEO Scott's Tea Bagger ass-kissing session Tuesday in Tallahassee:

"Give me the tools," Scott said, "and hold me accountable for the results."

The same kind of accountability displayed in the Medicare fraud cases I presume.

"Don't blink," he said in the biggest applause line, drawing a standing ovation. "Don't let special interests persuade you to turn your backs on the people who elected you."

Unless, of course, those special interests are the ones personally sanctioned by Scott himself.

I have to ask the 51% of Floridians who voted for this  - are you senile, over-medicated, or just plain stupid?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"War would end if the dead could return" ~ Stanley Baldwin

Yesterday I addressed the morality and fiscal irresponsibility of America's obsession with war. What I didn't mention was our individual and personal lack of involvement in the two wars. Sure we pay our taxes to support the wars, bitching all the while. Yes, we wave our flags from time to time, and blissfully ignore the long faded "Support Our Troops" stickers peeling from our cars, SUVs and pickups.

But what of our personal sacrifices? The sacrifices of our men and women in uniform? You do realize that in a real war John Wayne doesn't just get winged in the arm, don't you?

Listen closely to the words of this Liam Clancy song and imagine a different war, one with American soldiers, though it shouldn't make a difference.

If that didn't move you then get a copy of the Dalton Trumbo book or movie, Johnny Got His Gun.

And, in closing:
"Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell
Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another War: Just What America Needs

Hell, we can't afford the two we are currently enjoying. Besides the moral aspects, it is just fiscally irresponsible to consider starting another war, this time with Libya. That is exactly what the proposed no-fly zone would mean - starting another war.

The late American humorist Will Rogers said it best, "I have a scheme for stopping war. It's this - no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one." If that isn't reason enough to end the madness, then try this:

Photographer unknown

Or, maybe this will move you:

By now over a thousand American servicemen and servicewomen have sacrificed body parts to assuage this country's lust for blood, oil, and power.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Oracle Endorses Buckhorn For Tampa Mayor

A reader asked me the other day who I was going to support in the mayor's race. My answer was, "Anyone who can beat Greco." My vote counted and I got what I wanted. Greco went down for the count.

Now we are looking at a runoff between Ferlita and Buckhorn on March 22nd.

We at the Oracle have been torn between these two, but when I read last week that Scott had endorsed Buckhorn my initial reaction was to reject Buckhorn. After reading more of the article I realized that it was former mayoral candidate Tom Scott who threw his support behind Buckhorn. My first thought was, I would not and could not support anyone endorsed by Mr. Picklehead, the jerk who bought Florida. Tom Scott is a different matter.

That realization made the decision on who to vote for so much easier. While the Tampa mayor's office is supposed to be non-partisan, we do not feel that it will be in the best interests of the city to have another Republican in any kind of public office. There are too many of them running amuk (Malay word meaning "mad with uncontrollable rage") as it is.This sentiment may be unfair to Ferlita, but the Republicans seem to have one major agenda, and that is to embarrass or destroy that - that - African who has the effrontery to sit at the front of the proverbial bus.

We have a clearer picture of Buckhorn's agenda and feel that he will be the best choice for mayor even though we acknowledge that the Democrats are not always shining stars in the political heavens. It is also hoped that when the Republican Convention invades our fair city that Mayor Buckhorn will offer them a cordial welcome without kissing their uh, derrières.

As it is, I have already increased my stock holdings in ChapStick in anticipation of increased sales of that lip balm product during the convention.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Food: Spanish Caribbean Dining

The Sugar Plum of South Tampa and I were pleased to discover last night that we didn't have to drive all the way to Boliche Boulevard (Columbus Drive for the out-of-towners) or Ybor City for some truly tasty, filling and unpretentious Spanish Caribbean cooking. Many of the dishes prepared and served at the Nuevo Cafe at 3301 South Dale Mabry are considered to be Cuban when in fact variations can be found throughout the Caribbean.

The Nuevo Cafe has a sparkling, modestly sized dining area offering the choice of sitting at a table or at the bar. We were promptly greeted at the door and chose table seating. Menus and the offer of iced water came next. The Nuevo Cafe serves only Bud and Bud Lite draft plus a house red or white wine, we chose a Bud and Bud Lite to accompany dinner.

For our starters we chose the Devil Crab Minis - four golf ball sized portions which were perfect for sharing between the two of us. The minis may have been small in size, but they were big in taste. For her entrée my dining partner chose the Chicken Milanesa, a breaded chicken breast prepared with a rich tomato sauce and topped with chopped boiled egg, peas, pimientos, and grated Romano cheese. She declared this to be a gastronomic delight.

To take a taste trip around the islands, I chose the Taste of Ybor. This dish included the trio of Ropa Vieja, Picadillo, and Roast Pork served with a large scoop of yellow rice with peas and pimientos. The "old clothes" was based upon a flank steak simmered in a Burgundy sauce and was muy bueno. Also perfectly prepared was the Spanish hash, and the moist and delicious roast pork. Any of the trio components would be more than capable of standing alone.

As side dishes, we shared the Yuca Frita (fried yuca sticks) with a dipping sauce of lemon, olive oil, and garlic, plus the Fried Plantain Maduras. Very tasty!

We were too stuffed for dessert, but an adjacent table raved over the Flan.

Our bill for a couple of beers each and food came to a whopping $35.78 that included our 20% gratuity. The Nuevo Cafe provided a very pleasant dining experience. We have spent a whole lot more for a whole lot less at other establishments, so the Nuevo Cafe in South Tampa was a real treat.

Nuevo Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Chili Day In South Tampa

Yesterday was a soggy day in the paradise that is SOG City. The rain and cooler weather seemed to cry out for a body-warming chili for dinner last night. So where does one go for a great chili dinner? We chose to dine at the Ballast Point Bistro. Where is this spectacular dining spot you may ask? Unfortunately for you, this bistro exists only in my mind.

After a few medicinal after-work adult beverages for my bride, and a couple for me for no apparent reason, I donned my chef's hat and headed for the kitchen. I pulled one of our favorite old standbys from The Chef's Secret Book of Recipes. I went with a recipe that isn't your typical southwestern, Texas style chili.

What I chose is a dish that has many of the flavors and ingredients associated with Tampa and its vibrant Hispanic community, what I call Black Bean Chili a la Tampa. Should you try this recipe you may be compelled to come up with your own unique name for this concoction.

In the interim, you will need the following:

2 tablespoons of EVOO
1 large garlic clove - smashed
1/2 cup of chopped onions
1 pound of ground pork
29 ounce can of black beans - I use Goya
14 ounces of beef broth
8 ounces of tomato sauce
1 cup of carrots - sliced more or less a 1/4 of an inch thick
1 fresh Scotch bonnet pepper - leave it whole, but give it a gentle squeeze to break the skin
1 packet of Sazón seasoning - again, Goya is good
2 bay leaves
Adobo seasoning - to taste
3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro - chopped

I bought all the ingredients at my neighborhood Publix, except cilantro and Scotch bonnets. I grow my own. Publix has habaneros but they are not the same as the bonnets.

Once mise en place has been achieved I like to reward myself by opening a beer or bottle of wine in celebration of what's to come before grabbing a four quart sauce pan and placing it on a medium high heat.

To that pan add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Stir in the onion, then the garlic, and cook until fragrant. Now add the pork and cook until browned.

We have now arrived at the easy part of this recipe. Just add the rest of the ingredients, minus the adobo and the cilantro. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. The goal here is to cook until the carrots are tender to the tooth - al dente.

When the chili is cooked to your liking, remove from the heat, take out the bay leaves, stir in the cilantro and take a taste. Use the adobo to add saltiness if it is needed.

Depending on your tolerance for heat, you might want to remove the Scotch bonnet after twenty minutes or so. I only use that pepper as a seasoning pepper. I left it in once until it essentially disintegrated. I emphasize the word 'once.' My face turned red, beads of perspiration dribbled off of me like sweat, and my taste buds retired for the evening.

I like to serve this chili over yellow rice with a dollop of sour cream on the top. With a salad on the side, this chili should provide a filling meal for four people.

Buen apetito, y'all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Smoke And Beers

While replenishing the family beer cooler yesterday at the local ABC I stumbled (not literally) upon a remarkable find - an IPA from Tampa's own Cigar City Brewing, the big 'H' Humidor Series. I was intrigued by the description on the label, "An India Pale Ale...aged on Spanish Cedar...Pairs well with spicy food and medium to robust cigars." This I had to try!

After chilling for a few hours, I took the big 'H' and a CAO Brazilia out to the patio, poured a glass and fired up the stogie. Voila! The label was correct - this was a perfect pairing, and I did detect the hint of Spanish Cedar in the IPA.

This was especially gratifying to me since I can rarely identify with the flavors or aromas listed on product labels. There is nothing wrong with my senses. My problem is a lack of benchmarks. Whether we are talking about beer, wine, or cigars I'll give you a few examples of what I mean.

Tastes like elderberries, huckleberries, dingleberries: I wouldn't know. I grew up here in Florida and they don't grow this far south. Guavas, mangoes, and watermelon I can identify with.

Tastes like saddle leather, number 2 pencil lead, Warren Sapp's jock strap: Again, I don't know. I have never licked a saddle. I have chewed a few number 2 pencils during tests, but I can't recall ever licking the pencil lead. On the jock strap tasting, that is disgusting on so many different levels (no offense meant to Mr. Sapp). Actually, none of those flavors would entice me to try another sip or puff.

I do have a Spanish Cedar humidor, so I can finally relate to this taste even though I do not lick my humidor, although that probably would be a dandy way to refresh the moisture level. It does have a distinctive aroma and I got hints of that in the big 'H'. I also got a heck of a buzz from the big "H'. This isn't an ale for puss-wads.

I am now anxious to try other brews from Cigar City Brewing.

Salud, y'all!