Thursday, January 31, 2013

C'est Ici Pour Les Femmes - Chocolat!

Here's to the women:

I dedicate today's Oracle to the ladies, because everybody knows that real manly men don't eat chocolate... front of other real manly men. Also, February is National Chocolate Month.

Chocolate Silk Pie
1 single crust pie crust
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs or equivalent pasteurized egg product
1/2 cup sweetened whipped cream
Chocolate curls (optional)

Cooking Instructions

Heat oven to 450 F. Roll out pie crust to fit 9-inch pie pan. Line crust-filled pie pan with parchment and fill with pie weights*. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely with pie weights in place to help ensure crust shape, about 30 minutes.

In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate over low heat; cool. In small bowl with electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cooled chocolate and vanilla until well blended.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on high speed 2 minutes after each addition; beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Pour into cooled baked shell. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls. Store in refrigerator.

*Editor's note: I have never come across a 'pie weight', but what I have seen commonly used to ensure crust shape are dried beans. Just fill the crust with the beans, and when the crust is set, pour out the beans, allow them to cool, and save them for another day.

All content (except for the editor's note), including the recipe are courtesy of CHEFS.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sicilian Dining In SOG City

To my knowledge there is no Sicilian restaurant in Tampa, much less south of Gandy Boulevard. What a shame, because Sicilian food is fantastic and really tasty. Also, the Sicilians seem to have one of the longest life spans of anyone on the planet.

Well, gosh darn, if you can't go out to enjoy Sicilian cuisine the only alternative is to Google Sicilian recipes, pick one and cook it yourself. That is exactly what the chef de cuisine of the SOG City kitchen did tonight.

I actually downloaded tonight's recipe several months ago, and consequently I don't remember from whence it came. If it is proprietary then I am sure somebody will let me know. In the meantime:

Tonight, instead of the traditional cauliflower, I chose broccoflower. Broccoflower refers to either of two edible plants of the species Brassica oleracea with light green heads. The edible portion is the immature flower head of the plant.

To my great surprise, I found this broccoflower at my neighborhood Pubix - where shopping is normally an adventure.

Whether you go white or green, the recipe is really delicious. Be adventurous!

Here is my mise en place:

Simply follow the recipe:

You should wind up here:

I save my recipes in MasterCook, and according to MC one serving is 487 calories with zero cholesterol, and 27 grams of fat. No wonder the Sicilians live so long.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lucy And Wayne's Smokin Flames

Hymn For Her Presents . . . Lucy and Wayne's Smokin Flames

Hymn For Her: New CD coming this spring, and say Lucy and Wayne, "We will also be putting out a hot sauce (same name as album) that will feature bananas and jalapenos. An Orlando, FL company (Armando y Jorges Orlandonian hot sauce) have been mixing, tasting and testing with us to get the perfect flavors that will rock like the record. We can't wait to get the new music and hot sauce in your ears and mouths."

Here is a little taste of Hymn for Her from a live performance in Nashville:

A Monday Chuckle

A great big tippy hat to Moe for posting this "classic response" on her blog, Whatever Works.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Wine Aerobics

My college law professor, sensing that I am spending way too much time sitting on my fat derriere while hammering away at this computer keyboard, sent me instructions for a fantastic new exercise program. It's pretty simple. I will share it with you, dear readers:

Remember to stay hydrated. That is very important in any exercise program.

I recommend a Mer Soleil Chardonnay with its citrus driven nose, hints of matchstick, pineapple, banana and coconut. Soft and round entry. Oak is apparent but not defining. Mid-palate goes on to reveal other layers of flavors - vanilla, lemon meringue pie, and again coconut. Finish is rich with viscosity that coats the mouth for minutes after your last sip, or your last repetition.

Let's get started - up, down, up, down...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today Is The 40th Anniversary Of Roe v. Wade

The Holier Than Thou of the Christian Conservative American Taliban, the Teabilly F**ksticks, and their GOP puppets are demanding mental health screening for an abortion. What about mandatory mental health screening to buy a gun - any gun - from anybody?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adventure To Middle Grounds

When the world's greatest food blogger, Sweet Polly, and her spousal unit, the Super Dawg - alright, Under Dog, if you prefer - recommend a visit to a food emporium, what do you do? You go, that's what you do. So, that is what the Belle of Ballast Point and I did this past Saturday.

We met up with Polly and our favorite Dawg at their palace at la playa. After girding our loins with a few glasses of wine, the four of us headed over to the bus stop for our trip to the Middle Grounds Grill. And, a delightful trip it was, with a friendly, cheerful crowd of local folks and tourists.

Upon entering Middle Grounds, Polly was presented with a vibrator that would notify us that our table was ready. We had a short wait even with reservations, but this afforded the opportunity to scope out the decor and the lively bar scene.

Once seated, our evening progressed at an efficient, but non-hurried pace. Menus were presented, specials were described, and our beverage orders were taken. J.T. was our very professional and accommodating server for the evening.

Our Middle Grounds' repast began with two bottles of Coppola's best -  a red Cinema and a white Chardonnay that were the featured specials that night. Besides being half price, these were two excellent wines.

The appetizer menu had a couple of interesting choices, but our table decided to save ourselves for the main event.

There was an item listed as a "side" that seemed like a perfect nibble, so we requested the sautéed edamame pods with a teriyaki dipping sauce.

These pods made for a really tasty appetizer. And, they are supposed to be good for you - healthy and delicious!

A couple of salads were ordered. Both were impressive, but the house Caesar with anchovies would have been my choice had I requested a salad. 

I was too busy popping pods and trying to save room for what was to come to waste any additional stomach space.

I hope my readers, both of you, can appreciate what I am having to go through to complete this review. Looking at the pictures and remembering the exquisite tastes have caused my slobber glands to go into hyper-drool. Fear not, I shall press onward.

Sweet Polly had the Asian Infused Scallops marinated in a hoisin glaze over basmati rice. I had one of those scallops and it was prepared to tender, juicy perfection. As a side, there was grilled asparagus with shaved asiago.

My bride, who is not an aficionado of seafood, was simply overcome with delight at her Mango Nut Crusted Grouper with a mango beurre blanc and coconut basmati rice. For her to rave over a fish dish, it had to be beyond just good.

Under Dog the Magnificent chose the Espresso Rack of Lamb prepared to a wonderful medium rare. I had one of those chops and it was like heaven to the buds of taste.

I was torn between the New Zealand Lamb Shank and the bone-in Cowboy Rib Eye. I love both, but Under Dog raved about the rib eye that he had a few weeks ago, so...

My rib eye was tender, juicy and oh so good. The steak was buried under a mound of Gun Powder Onion Rings. The rings were good, though the gunpowder reference was lost on me. That rib eye really required nothing more than to be consumed with gusto - gnawing on the bone, like a cave man, being de rigueur.

A convergence of gastronomes:

A couple of the connoisseurs of fine food pictured could not resist the delights on the dessert menu - a tasty Key Lime Tower...

and this raspberry sauced cheesecake:

This was a memorable evening with great food and even better friends.

Not to take away from the Middle Grounds Grill, but with Polly and Under Dog even MacDonald's would be a treat - sorta.

Food and wine for four with a 20% gratuity came to around $260.00.

Middle Grounds Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 18, 2013

An Epicurean Delight - Wagyu Beef

The Oracle is pleased to feature Andy Milonakis, The Makeshi*t Gourmet, preparing his recipe of Hamburger Helper Wagyu:

I am truly impressed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gun Safety Is Important

Earlier today, President Obama announced a series of executive orders on gun safety. However, the most important changes we can make to improve gun safety in America can only come with congressional action.

These include:
  • Universal background checks whenever someone buys a gun, whether it is from a licensed dealer or a private seller;
  • Restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10 round limit for magazines;
  • Improving access to mental health services;
  • Increasing funding for school security and safety

As President Obama himself said, "this will not happen unless the American people demand it." That means you.

Tell Congress: Pass the gun safety proposals outlined by President Obama.

From The SOG City Cookbook

Like many, I suppose, our dietary regimen got sidetracked over the holidays. Our boyish and girlish figures were assuming a different shape, and yes, round is a shape. As a consequence the Belle of Ballast Point and I have been hitting the road each afternoon for a power walk around SOG City.

While this is a good thing for physical fitness, it does interfere with my dinner preparation each evening. I do try to accomplish my mise en place as much as possible before we venture forth. Mise en place is a French term that roughly translates as ‘put in place’. It’s used to describe the practice of chefs preparing food up to a point where it is ready to be used in a dish during food service.

There are times when mise en place isn't possible before our odious journey through our South of Gandy neighborhood. PT, or physical training, is not one of my favorite activities, Drill Sergeant. Sometimes all food prep and cooking have to be done after we return home and cool down. It is during those times that a recipe that is quick, easy, and filling comes in handy.

I saw a dandy one on the Cooking Channel the other day. I think it was on  David Rocco's Dolce Vita, but I could be wrong since I can't find it on his web site. It matters not because the recipe I saw involved making your own pesto from scratch with a mortal and pestle before even starting what I call Fagioli Verdi, Pasta, e Pesto, or green beans with pasta and pesto. That recipe looked really tasty and, except for the pesto, fairly quick and easy.

A few days later I made the most wonderful discovery while shopping at the local Publix - prepared pesto from Classico. Publix stocks the traditional basil, pine nut, and Parm pesto, but the one that caught the attention of my taste buds was the sun-dried tomato pesto. And, that is the one I chose for my recipe.

By using a prepared pesto and a pre-grated Parm, I save myself much time and effort. The dish turned out great! Or, so said the Belle of Ballast Point.

If you would like to try it, you will need:

  1             ounce  sea salt
  8             ounces  green beans -- whole, trimmed (I prefer haricot vert)
  8             ounces  fettucine
  8             ounces  pesto sauce -- prepared
  4             ounces  Parmesan cheese -- grated

Bring large pot of water to a boil and salt the water.

When boil is achieved, toss in the whole trimmed green beans and cook for about two minutes, then toss in the pasta and cook according to package directions.

Add the pesto to a pan or skillet large enough to hold the beans and pasta, but do not heat.

When pasta is done, drain and save about a cup of pasta water. Pour the beans and pasta in a skillet with the pesto and gently mix to combine. Add water if necessary to loosen the mixture.

Plate and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

This recipe should feed four, or if there are a couple of big eaters, then maybe just two. You can have this recipe plated in less than thirty minutes if you use store bought pesto and grated Parm. You can also vary the taste by alternating jars of pesto -- sun-dried tomatoes today, and basil pesto next week.

Editor's note: We are not getting comped by the Cooking Channel, David Rocco, Publix or Classico. I am only using them for reference or as examples.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fine Dining And Senior Sex

This may seem a little off topic, but after watching the movie (circa 1963), Tom Jones, I realized that there is something sexual about food - especially really good food.

What follows has nothing much to do with food, other than providing food for thought. The Belle of Ballast Point sent this to me, so I felt obliged to include it in today's Oracle.

The husband leans over and asks his wife, "Do you remember the first time we had sex together over fifty years ago? We went behind the village tavern...where you leaned against the back fence and I made love to you."

Yes, she says, "I remember it well."

"OK," he says, "How about taking a stroll around there again and we can do it for old time's sake?"

"Oh Jim, you old devil, that sounds like a crazy, but good idea!"

A police officer sitting in the next booth heard their conversation and, having a silent chuckle, he thinks to himself, I've got to see these two old-timers having sex against a fence. I'll just keep an eye on them so there's no trouble. So he follows them.

The elderly couple walks haltingly along, leaning on each other for support aided by walking sticks. Finally, they get to the back of the tavern and make their way to the fence. The old lady lifts her skirt and the old man drops his trousers. As she leans against the fence, the old man moves in. Then suddenly they erupt into the most furious sex that the policeman has ever seen. This goes on for about ten minutes while both are making loud noises and moaning and screaming. Finally, they both collapse, panting on the ground.

The policeman is amazed. He thinks he has learned something about life and old age that he didn't know.

After about half an hour of lying on the ground recovering, the old couple struggle to their feet and put their clothes back on. The policeman was debating calling 911, but thinks to himself, this is truly amazing, I've got to ask them what their secret is.

So, as the couple passes, he says to them, "Excuse me, but that was something else. You must've had a fantastic sex life together. Is there some sort of secret to this?"

Shaking, the old man is barely able to reply, "Fifty years ago that wasn't an electric fence."

There you have it - senior sex enhanced by TECO. Better living through electricity.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Birthday Bash At Charley's

The most spectacular food blogger in the whole world, Sweet Polly, experienced her [mumble, mumble] birthday right after the first of the year. Last night she and her charming Underdog "spousal unit", my gorgeous bride and myself met up at Charley's Steak House on Cypress here in the Big Guava to gorge on food and wine in celebration of that glorious event.

Sweet Polly and Underdog provided the vino, some of which they brought back from a trip to Italy, and with a modest corkage fee Charley's kept our glasses filled throughout our wonderful evening together. I will now endeavor to regale you with some of the highlights of our evening - those that I remember, anyway.

Probably the best part of the evening was just getting together with some really good friends. Food and drink came in second, but that was some really good food and drink!

Dave and Dave were our attentive servers for the evenings festivities. After presenting us with humongous menus, Dave (the other Dave) said fear not the menu, for here is what you really need to see as Dave (the other one) presented a tray loaded with beefy choices for our viewing pleasure.

I labeled two of the more interesting choices, the Bison and the Wagyu rib eyes. You may sort out the rest.
Ogling the beef with handles, I was sorely tempted to grab one and start gnawing away right then and there. Since we were having a pleasant evening and just might want to return to Charley's sometime in the future, I restrained my cave dweller instincts.

There were no prices listed, nor were prices mentioned. I hesitated asking, but that Wagyu was just too intriguing.  Plus, I didn't want to be surprised by a $400 meat bill. Nay, nay said Dave, that 24 ounce cut is a mere $69. Whoa, says I!

I saw on the teevee that Earth could be wiped out by an asteroid in the next 10,000 years or so, and while I don't plan on being around that long, I decided I wouldn't want to be smushed by a space rock and not be able to say, "I done ate me a $69 Wagyu steak, medium rare, thank you very much." So, bring 'er on Dave and damn the asteroid.

Next up - appetizers. We chose two to be shared by the table.

I think it is safe to say that the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio was enjoyed by all. Actually, my bride and I agreed that this was the best, most savory beef carpaccio that we have ever had, and we have had us some really good beef carpaccio.

Speaking only for myself, the next appetizer left much to be desired. The stone crab claws looked good, but extracting the meat was frustrating. The crab meat stuck to the shells and when pried out it came in shreds, not nice juicy chunks. This is a sign of over cooking, extreme age, or both.

The crabs did not achieve the hearts of gastronomic love.

Next on the table were salads. They were fresh and tasty, but took up room that was necessary for the meat which was forth coming.

And, now, the main event!

I had a taste of Underdog's Bison Rib Eye, and to me it rivaled my Wagyu, especially when you consider the price point. It was tender, juicy, and packed with flavor.

There is no denying that this Wagyu Rib Eye was superb. It was worth every penny, and now I could care less about some stupid old asteroid.

My bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, just swooned over her Filet Mignon. I don't have a picture of her swooning, but it was a magic moment that I will long remember.

Somebody (me?) must have been in full gastronomic quiver mode when Sweet Polly's filet mignon prepared "Oscar style"...topped with a fried soft-shelled crab and hollandaise sauce was photographed. I converted the fuzzy picture to a classic oil painting style, and it looks pretty darn tasty.

We split the bill in half and our share came to $175 or so and we added 20% for Dave and Dave. Since the wine was provided by Sweet Polly and her mighty Underdog, the final tally wasn't as scary as it could have been. Charley's isn't cheap, but super duper rarely is cheap. Super duper?

Charley's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Charley's Steakhouse & Market Fresh Fish on Foodio54

Friday, January 11, 2013

Arnie's Tofu Fired Pizza

I was really looking forward to a slice of Arnie's pizza, but then...but then, the queen of the kingdom exclaimed, "Thou art a doofus. Tis not as ye spake. The target of our gastronomic arrow is Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza."

"Well, okey dokey," says I as we piled into the royal carriage. Then off we went to the Anthony's on South Dale Mabry here in the Big Guava.

My bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, had mentioned several times in passing Anthony's that she would like to give them a try. I was a little less enthused since some of the reviews I had read about this South Tampa location were less than stellar. One recurring complaint was "burnt black" pizza crust.

I decided to ignore the negatives and see for myself what Anthony's had to offer.

Upon entering this pizza palace I noted that the decor was pleasing, but not plush. As I have said before, we dine out for the food experience and leave it to others to evaluate the interior design. We were greeted at the door and offered our choice of seating - indoor, outdoor, or at the bar. We chose an interior table.

Our butt cheeks barely had time to warm our chairs before bubbly Brooke, our delightful server for the evening, plopped a couple of menus before us. Brooke then began describing the restaurant's soda pop options. How precious is that? She obviously mistook us for someone else, so I caused her to pause and take our order for two glasses of St. Cristina Chianti.

Along with our wine, we were presented with a complimentary plate of Coal Oven Roasted Chicken Wings smothered with caramelized onions. This was a tasty, crispy treat that I enjoyed all by myself, as the Belle is not a fan of chicken wings. I have always considered this to be some sort of character flaw, but I am way too smart to say so. Ooopsie daisy!

To begin our gastronomic odyssey we decided to share an order of two meatballs with ricotta cheese basking in a sea of Italian gravy. We relished those large hand-rolled balls that had been slow cooked in the gravy, or if you prefer, tomato sauce.

As much as we enjoyed our two beginning dishes, we were there for the Coal Fired Pizza, so Brooke, bring'em on!

My bride chose the White Pizza with three cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, and Romano. She waited impatiently for me to take the picture. I did hurry, as I could see her beginning to salivate.

Did she like this white pizza?

I think I took Brooke somewhat by surprise with my pizza selection. What I wanted was the more traditional Italian pizza with the colors of that nation's flag - plum tomato red, mozzarella white, and basil green. When Brooke asked what I wanted on my pizza, I told her nothing more, just a classic Margherita pizza.

That pizza more than met my expectations. It was light, tasty, and had a heavenly crispy crust. Yes, it did have burnt edges, but in my opinion that just added to the flavor and authenticity. But, as "they" say, "Different strokes and all."

For dessert, Anthony's has a New York style cheesecake that we were way too stuffed to try. Maybe next time. As it were, we both brought pizza home with us to enjoy again as lunch another day.

We were both seriously impressed with our gastronomic adventure at Anthony's.

Dinner for two with several glasses of Chianti came to $66.56. We added 20% for Brooke.

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Florida - Lagasse Style

This past Sunday I watched the premier of a new Cooking Channel show, Emeril's Florida. The Big E was in the Orlando area touring some really fabulous new places in Winter Park. I say new, because many of them didn't exist a few years ago when my bride and I took a train ride over to the Park. After watching this segment of the show, it appears another trip to Winter Park is in order.

As the show progressed, Emeril headed over to Orlando, and except for "his" restaurants in the theme parks, it became apparent that a visit to Orlando's venues might be worth a death defying trip on I-4. Who knew that Orlando might possibly not be in the gastronomic arm pit of Florida.

The city is also home to the largest permanent ICEBAR in the world. Patrons are provided with cold weather gear at the door but, if memory serves correctly, you are allowed only 20 minutes at a time in their 27 degree Fahrenheit bar.

This coming Sunday, January 13, Chef Lagasse will be in the Panhandle. The episode I am really looking forward to is Viva Florida 500 airing January 20. This is Florida's celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Spanish explorers' arrival on the east coast.

Chef Michael Lugo of The Tasting Room in St. Augustine prepares Emeril a classic Spanish meal. Emeril then travels to Pensacola, where executive chef Irv Miller of Jackson's Steakhouse prepares him a variety of dishes. Afterwards, in Tampa, he makes paella with Andrea Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant.

Be still, my thumping gizzard, for I can hardly wait to see the paella preparation at the Columbia. I had the Columbia's paella once - and to paraphrase the late Ambrose Bierce, "Once was more than enough". That was without question the worst paella I have ever had the misfortune of trying to eat.

It will be interesting to see if Gonzmart prepares the same crappy paella for Emeril, or just maybe Emeril can show the Columbia how it's done.

Editor's Update 1/20/2013: I watched this episode at the Columbia. The paella that Andrea prepared and the one served to me "might" have been the same recipe as long as you plate the paella, place it in the refrigerator for several hours (or days), then take it out and nuke it before serving.

Finally, Emeril visits the Kennedy Space Station, and learns about the NASA Space Program from Colonel Rick Searfoss.

Here is the full schedule of upcoming shows (click to see details):

South Walton Beaches
Viva Florida
Emeril's Florida Tailgate Challenge
Florida Agriculture #1

I hope this series is a success and is renewed for another season, because it just barely scratches the surface of the mouth watering delicacies that are available to the Florida diner who wanders away from the chains.

It's also a pleasure to see Florida depicted in a positive light for a change, and not as just a state with drooling, gun-toting Neanderthals. And, my apologies to any surviving Neanderthals for equating you with these bozos.

Brownies And Marijuana

From The Cooking Channel, the fantastic Amy Poehler:

Cooking Channel

Legalize it - brownies and marijuana. They are both sinful, but only brownies are addictive.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fix Gun Checks Act

In memory of Christina: Christina Green was killed in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson in which Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, five others died and 13 others were wounded.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dining In - The SOG City Bistro

Today was a food filled day. First, pulling recipes, then making out a grocery list, and then - the horror - a trip to Publix, where shopping is an adventure.

Upon arrival back at the ranchero and after dispersing the groceries to their designated areas, I contemplated the options for dinner this evening. I came up with two ideas, starving or cooking. I didn't say they were two good ideas. Knowing that my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, would not buy in to starvation, the obvious choice was cooking.

Even though seafood was not on today's list, while passing the Publix seafood section I saw an irresistible slab of mutton snapper. It was thick and resembled two side by side fish tenderloins. I had to have it! I asked my charming fish monger to remove the skin and in the process she volunteered to remove a bony section of the snapper. She likes me, and like many other folks at Publix, if you are nice to them they go out of their way to be nice right back. Niceness is rewarded with perks.

I needed something to accompany the snapper and I decided on a tomato, basil bread pudding that I saw on  one of the Giada TV shows a few months ago. I was planning on this bread pudding as a stand alone dish, but I was concerned that it would not be sufficient as a main dish. It turned out that I was wrong.

There was enough pudding here to feed a small army, but I served it along with the snapper anyway.

This pudding is a savory dish with bread cubes (I used country sourdough), shallots, mini San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, shredded Parm, and a six egg custard. A couple of slabs of that flavorful pudding would have been more than enough for a full meal, but I pressed onward with the snapper preparation.

I first prepared a brown butter sauce, what the French refer to as a beurre noisette - butter heated in a skillet until the moisture evaporates and the butter just begins to brown. This is a very simple nutty flavored sauce that I perked up a little with a few drops of Worchestershire sauce.

After the fish was tossed about a bit in the beurre noisette I moved it to a buttered baking dish, then mixed a few tablespoons of bread crumbs in with the remaining sauce. The crumb mixture then coated the tops of the snapper tenderloins.

To complete the prep, I added a couple of sprinkles of shredded Parm and baked the fish for about 15 minutes. The Belle of Ballast Point, who is not a true lover of seafood, said this was a tender, juicy, and tasty dish that equaled or surpassed menu items she has tried at Tampa Bay seafood eateries. My head swells!

Unfortunatley, for you that is, The SOG City Bistro is not open to the general public. Both the snapper beurre noisette and the bread pudding are easy recipes that may be prepared in the home kitchen.

For Giada's bread pudding, click HERE. The only changes I made to the recipe were the bread and the tomatoes. My bride had purchased two BOGO bags of Arnold's bread a few weeks ago that have just been sitting around gathering dust - surprisingly, no mold - so I used half a bag of the sourdough. The San Marzano tomatoes have way more flavor than the regular cherry tomato varieties, and I like their cute little pear shape.

Most any firm flesh white fish would probably work instead of mutton snapper. Try halibut. For the beurre noisette, heat a small skillet over mediun heat, add 4 or 5 tablespoons of real butter, melt until bubbly and turning brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Dip in the fish to coat with the sauce and then place in a buttered baking dish. Toss a couple of tablespoons of fine bread crumbs into the remaining butter sauce, mix and then use to coat the tops of the fish. Place the baking dish into a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

I topped the fish with shredded Parm before placing in the oven. The Parm hardened into a cheesy wafer instead of melting and I don't believe added anything to the dish, but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

Bon appétit, y'all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Kids Demand A Plan

It is past time to just talk about it - it is time for our leaders to act!

A Happy Postal Moment

I had a most pleasant experience a little while ago at the post office. I dropped in to mail a package and pick up the mail. Amongst the bills and junk there was a letter from Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association.

My first thought was to immediately add the envelope to the trash bin, but then I thought, "Why not see what this douche bag has to say." Wayne told me in the cover letter that as a fellow god fearing, gun owning, Obama hating American patriot it was my duty to fill out the enclosed questionnaire prepared by the NRA.

I can only imagine the type of questions being asked since I didn't bother reading this document. I did look for a nice fairly large area on the face of the questionnaire that provided enough room to write in bold letters:

Please Wayne - GO FUCK YOURSELF!

Then I stuffed the document into the postage paid, self-addressed envelope provided by the NRA and sent it on its way. That may be viewed as a rather juvenile response, but it made me feel better. And, that's what was important.

I may be a gun owner, but that does not automatically make me a supporter of the NRA or anything they stand for. The NRA needs to be politically castrated and marginalized. Let them exist as a gun club, not a major political force.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Few New Year's Ponders

The realization that a new year is upon us is finally breaking through the haze. I had to do something today that required me to know the date. Today is the birthday of our friend Sweet Polly. You are probably very familiar with her spectacular food blog, Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly. If you are not, then a pox upon you.  She is an amazing foodie and terrific writer, and today she can now legally consume adult beverages. At least, I think that is what I heard.

But that's not what I sat down to write about. It's a new year, and I haven't yet made any revolutions. Well, there may have been a few on New Year's eve, but what I meant is resolutions. I've never really appreciated the concept that we are supposed to make promises never again to fuck up as badly this year as we fucked up last year. If you did it, you did it. "It" is now in the past. Fergit "it".

Anyhow, I pondered this resolution idea for awhile over a celebratory bottle of bubbly brew. I come up a flash! Right out of the blue it hit me. I am not a Republican, so I can't take credit for any of their faux pas. I am a Virgo, which I have been told is close to god-like perfection, or an anal retentive pain in the ass. Either way, there is not much I can do to change my birthday call sign. Oh yeah, my bride and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary and she is looking ahead to the 25th, one day at a time.

Taken all together, I can't see any reason to resolve anything at this time, beyond resolving to have the occasional beer...for medicinal purposes only.

Then my mind turned toward the Oracle. It is almost three years old and hasn't changed all that much in that time. I have noticed that some of my bloggy friends have been changing their format and blog design, and I come up another flash. Maybe I should do that, too.

Blogspot, the Google blogger thingy that hosts the Oracle has a bunch of new design options that really look nifty. Unfortunately, none of them are anywhere as gloomy and depressing as the design I am currently using.

"Now what," thought I?

The Oracle has always been tagged as a "general interest" blog. "Maybe that is the change I need to make for the new year," thought I, again. Beer makes me think a lot. No, beer makes me pee a lot, and I think well in the quiet confines of the water closet.

I might aught to become a full time food blogger since I do blog about food from time to time, and Urbanspoon does drive some traffic to the Oracle because of my restaurant reviews. That's it! I'll become a full time food blogger. That's my plan, man.

But how do I announce the change to my faithful general interest readers? And yes my friend, Texas Bill, I'm talking to you.

There was a radio station here in Tampa that made a format change some years ago. To break the news to their faithful listeners, some bozo came up with the brilliant idea of playing Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven over and over again, 24 hours a day for a full month.

Well, there you have it! I will just pick a Tampa restaurant and review every last freakin' item on their menu, one blog at a time, for a full month.

Wait just a New York minute. Crap, dats already being did. Somebody done stole my idea before I even come up with it. Wazzup wid dat?

I guess I will just have to leave the Oracle alone to flop aimlessly around on the blogosphere with a general interest mind of its own.

Consequently, I resolve to eschew New Year's resolutions. Let 2013 be a grand year. Let's drink!

Merry New Year to all!

Editor's note: This post has been modified just a tad from the original. The Belle of Ballast Point thought the first drinking song was a little over the top, so...

As I have said before - if the Belle is unhappy, then everyone is unhappy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

First Dine Of The New Year

...was lunch New Year's day at The Bungalow on West Kennedy here in the Big Guava. I could wax poetic ad nauseum about the decor, but I'm about the food, not the interior design. If you click on the link you will get a good idea of what to expect. We had a choice of indoor or outdoor seating. We chose indoor.

This was apparently a wise decision, for soon after we were seated, a large party nearby got up and moved to a different section of the restaurant. We were concerned that we might have annoyed them somehow, though we finally decided that we were no more annoying than usual. Oh well! We resumed our tippling.

A few minutes later they were driven back in by a brisk wind chill and re-seated themselves with much laughter and joviality - mentioning that their next relocate would occur in five minutes. It was a good crowd and that set the mood for our visit to The Bungalow - a friendly place with good food and happy people.

After perusing a menu that leans toward Cuban styled cuisine, which really isn't an overwhelming favorite of mine (I know, shame on me), I wasn't really expecting anything spectacular, but was I ever wrong.

What you are drooling over in the photo is the Mojo Bowl with mojo shredded pork. This was a deceptively deep dish of white rice topped with black beans, roasted tomato salsa, chopped onion, and a drizzle of avocado lime crema. You have a choice of shredded chicken or mojo pork. Trust me, get the pork! It gets the double love stamp.

This is a real belly buster and the tender, juicy pork with perfectly prepared black beans and a rich, savory crema sauce was probably the best Cubano inspired dish that I have ever consumed. My bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, could not keep her fork out of my Mojo Bowl. It was really that good.

Speaking of  the Belle, she was trying to save herself for my planned New Years dinner tonight of braised pork belly resting on a bed of black eyed peas, a side of home grown turnips with greens, and some corny corn bread. As a consequence, she ordered the Key West Salad.

What can I say about a salad? It is what it is, but the greens were very fresh and crisp. This was definitely not a typical house salad. My bride was pleased, and when my bride is pleased...everyone is pleased.

Whether the salad was a filling repast we will never know since she could not keep from forking my Mojo Bowl. Actually, I appreciated the help - that was a tazón grande mojo. Big and good!

Our bill for food and adult beverages totaled $35.56. We tacked on 20% for Katie, our charming and efficient server.

The Bungalow on Urbanspoon Bungalow Restaurant on Foodio54