Friday, June 28, 2013

Draft Wendy Davis For Texas Governor

Editor's preface: The SOG City Oracle remains committed to our objective of devoting our time, talents, and taste receptors to comestibles, or what some might think of as just food. There is no such thing as 'just' food unless you have had your buds of taste surgically removed.

As important to our quality of life as is food, there are other more important qualities, such as human rights. It is imperative for all male humans to recognize that those of the female persuasion are also humans and, if they choose, have the capabilities to rise up and rip the balls off of assholes like Rick Perry.

The SOG City Oracle supports people like Wendy Davis:

On June 25, Texas state Senator Wendy Davis stood for 13 hours to filibuster against Texas Republicans’ War on Women. She did us proud, and it’s time that we made her governor of Texas.

Current Republican Gov. Rick Perry may run for an unprecedented fourth term. A hypothetical poll in January had Sen. Davis trailing Gov. Perry by only six points––despite the fact that she had virtually no name recognition at the time. With changing demographics shaking up the Texas electorate, and Republicans continuously alienating millions of voters, Texas is ready to turn blue.

Please sign the petition drafting Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis to run for governor in 2014.

The Oracle has friends in Texas, at least one, and we feel the grand state can do better than Perry. We feel your pain. We have a Perry clone, the prick with ears, Rick Scott.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My New Heroes

Did you hear about what happened in Texas last night?

State Senator Wendy Davis launched a nearly 12-hour filibuster to block Republicans' extreme anti-abortion bill that would impact millions of women. The rules dictated that she couldn't break for food or water, she couldn't sit or lean on her desk the entire time, she couldn't even use the bathroom--but she succeeded! The bill has been tabled for now. She stood up for women in Texas and everywhere and she won.

This woman has some serious ovaries.

Did you hear about what happened today in the U.S. Supreme Court?

There was a rare moment of sanity. Adios Prop 8 and DOMA. No dejes que la puerta te golpee en el culo a la salida.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Thai Grandma's Drunken Noodle Recipe

I just adore foods from the Orient, and Thai is one of my favorites. Finding authentic Thai dishes in the Tampa Bay area is no easy feat. That's not to say there are no good Thai restaurants in the area. It's just that even the few good ones, like Rouen Thai in South Tampa, must "dumb down" their dishes to appeal to the pedestrian American taste buds.

Of course, this is understandable because to do otherwise would ensure they go out of business in a tiny minute. Most diners wouldn't recognize authentic ethnic cuisine if it stepped upon their taste receptors, and they probably would reject it if they did. As a for-instance, I came across a diner review the other day stating that Taco Bell was a super-duper Mexican restaurant. Conyo!

Last night my taste buds were in the mood for some authentic home cooked Thai food, so I pulled out one of my Thai grandmother's recipes that was a favorite dish after a night of heavy drinking. I don't really think my Thai grandmother was a heavy drinker, but this might have been her favorite recipe if she had been, especially if she was from Thailand. Actually, my grandmother was German, in which case she might have been a heavy drinker and would have appreciated this recipe.

The recipe is Pad Kee Mao, otherwise known as Drunken Noodles. It is not that the noodles are drunken since there is no alcohol in this recipe. As I indicated before, this is something you feed to a bunch of drunken people to help sober them up. I should stress at this point that if you are one of those drunken people, you should let someone else do the cooking.

With that said, let us proceed with my Thai Grannie's recipe, or my Grannie's Thai recipe. Whatever!

The first step is to visit a local Oriental market. You will not find all of the right ingredients at Publix, where shopping is an adventure.

Here, then, are Grannie's Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

  8        ounces  rice noodles - I prefer the 3 mm size
  4        tablespoons  sea salt -- added to noodle water
                        Stir-fry Sauce
  1         tablespoon  black bean garlic sauce
  1         tablespoon  rice vinegar
  1         tablespoon  fish sauce
  1         tablespoon  lime juice
  2         tablespoons  sugar -- white or brown
                        Remaining Ingredients
  3        tablespoons  peanut oil
  2        kaffir lime leaves -- ribs removed and very thinly sliced
  2        green onions -- thinly sliced
  4        cloves  garlic -- minced
  1        ounce  ginger root -- peeled and thinly sliced
  3        cups  bok choy -- cut in 1" strips
  3        medium  tomatoes -- cut into bite-sized pieces
  1        cup  fresh cilantro -- chopped
  1        cup  fresh basil -- chopped (preferably Thai)

Heat a large pot of salted water to near boiling. Remove from heat and add rice noodles. Let them soak for about 5 minutes. Test for doneness - al dente. Then drain and rinse under cool water to stop cooking process. Set aside.
Place all sauce ingredients in a cup and stir well. Do a taste test - this stir-fry sauce will be very strong at this point, but will be diluted later when added to the noodles. If too sour, add a little more sugar. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce.

Here is my mise en place - the bok choy in the large bowl, the lime leaves, onions, garlic, and ginger in the small bowl, the sauce in the cup, and the chopped herbs and tomatoes on the board. Everything is ready for the stove.

In a wok or large frying pan over medium to high heat, add the peanut oil. When up to temp, add the lime leaves, onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir fry 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Add the bok choy and stir fry another 30 seconds, or until the bok choy leaves have turned bright green. Then add the stir-fry sauce plus the tomatoes, cilantro, and basil. Stir fry for an additional minute to incorporate the sauce and soften the tomatoes a bit.

Remove from heat and do a taste test for salty and sweet. Adjust, if need be, to your taste.

In an individual serving bowl, plate a portion of noodles and top with sauce and vegetable mixture.

I am showing chop sticks only for effect. I have never been presented with chop sticks in a Thai restaurant, just forks and spoons.

Provide extra fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and Viet garlic paste for your diners to adjust noodles to their liking.

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Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 746 Calories; 23g Fat (26.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 136g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 12022mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 6 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 4 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.

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Here is most of what you will need from the Oriental market. It helps to have a kaffir lime tree growing out in the yard. Missing is the black bean sauce. I used the last of what I had last night and the empty jar went out with this morning's garbage.

This reminds me that I need to go back to the market. I'm almost out of cock sauce (so-called because of the rooster on the label) and I use that in many recipes from all over the world.

Before your next night on the town, whip up a wok-full of Grannie's Drunken Noodles. Stick'em in the fridge and nuke them when you get home. You will thank yourself for being so thoughty.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tex-Mex And Margaritas

After Consuelo's Mexican Restaurant on Neptune closed many moons ago, we were left wondering where to go for some good Tex-Mex grub and killer margaritas. Someone at work (yes, I used to do some of that) suggested Miguel's on Kennedy. We went, and never returned.

As I recall, the food wasn't too bad, but the margaritas were a horrid disappointment. They contained nada tequila, just some wine based pretender. Conyo! Miguel's, we discovered had no liquor license, so this winey margarita was the best they could do.

Well, mis amigos, times have changed. Miguel's is now Miguel's Mexican Seafood and Grill and they have expanded their digs and now have a liquor license and they are serving real margaritas. Maravilloso! What a dandy way to end the week, high test margaritas and big plates of gut-busting Mexican food. Truth be told though, the cuisine at Miguel's is hardly Mexican. It is more closely related to Tex-Mex. That's not a bad thing, just a distinction worth noting.

The Belle of Ballast Point and I wandered in to Miguel's a bit before six and were promptly seated in the mostly empty dining room across from the bar.

We arrived at a good time because by 6:30 the dining room began filling fast. There is outdoor seating, but with the afternoon monsoons blowing through, it made more sense to dine indoors.

Troy was our server for the evening and along with the menus we were presented with a basket of chips and tasty, tongue-tingling dip. The chips and dip were soon followed by couple of house margaritas.

Miguel's has a large selection of tequilas, from low end to high, and Troy suggested that we could upgrade our margaritas with a high end tequila. To me, that makes no sense. A top quality tequila is meant to be sipped straight like a fine Cognac, not buggered up with other ingredients, so we stayed with the house tequila.

The house margarita tasted a bit bland, so on our next round I requested Joe Crow Gold, or what is usually called Jose Cuervo Gold. These margaritas were better, but still not Consuelo's good. Turns out the bartender was pouring Cuervo Silver, not Gold.

We had better luck with the food, at least we got what we ordered. My bride requested the Beef Enchiladas with a side of Chili Con Carne and some sour cream.

The enchiladas came with the ubiquitous refried beans and yellow rice. The beans had a nice bite and the rice was laced with corn. Both were good, as was the chili and the enchiladas. The Belle said the enchiladas were on a par with my quick and easy home recipe using Wolf's brand chili and beans. That was probably a compliment to my cooking abilities, not so much for Miguel's. Oh, well.

I was surprised to see Kobe beef on the menu, and after a few minutes of indecision I decided on the dazzlingly delicious Carne a la Cazuela.

The beef was melt-in-the-mouth tender and was simmered with chunks of potatoes in a creamy enchilada sauce. Of course, there were refried beans and yellow rice in addition to a couple of hand made corn tortillas.

Dinner and drinks for the two of us came to a reasonable $87 and included a 20% gratuity for Troy.

Our Tex-Mex experience at Miguel's was pleasant and we certainly weren't still hungry when we left. The one thing that we are still pondering is the name of the place, Miguel's Mexican Seafood and Grill. Yes, there is seafood on the menu, but that almost seemed like an afterthought to the chicken, beef, and pork offerings.

That's not a biggie - just stuff I wonder about.

Miguel's Mexican Seafood & Grill on Urbanspoon Miguel's Mexican Cafe on Foodio54

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

The good times are getting ready to roll for the Oracle. I have my final dinner reservation confirmation, setting the stage for four days and nights of glutta...uh, make that fine dining in Nawlins for me and the Belle of Ballast Point next month. Yes NOLA, brace yourself  'cause the Piglets on Parade are headed your way - again.

I called ahead for two of our reservations and booked two reservations on Open Table securing seats at four of the hottest, most innovative dining spots in the Big Easy. We are purposely steering clear of the tourist magnets like Commander's Palace. Booking a table several weeks in advance at these cutting edge dining spots is an absolute necessity if the diner expects to get seated at a reasonable hour and avoid a long wait.

Our first dine will occur Sunday evening on the day of our arrival at a John Besh establishment, Lüke, "his homage to the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans." The Sunday special is “Blanquette de Veau” local veal, house-made ricotta cavetelli. While that sounds enticing I am leaning more toward the Choucroute Garnie Maison, smoked pork shank, Mangalitsa belly and bratwurst, with house-made sauerkraut.

On our second night we will be at Cochon (French for pig) serving traditional Cajun Southern dishes with an emphasis on pork...glorious locally sourced pork. I quiver at the very thought of Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled turnips and cracklins. The pork tongue with charred radishes and English peas from the boucherie, or butcher shop, sounds good, too.

Speaking of the butcher shop, on our third night we will waddle over to the Boucherie in Carrollton. The Boucherie was born out of a purple food truck and can best be described as contemporary Southern. Most of the food served at Boucherie is recognizably Southern: a pulled pork cake with potato confit and purple cabbage slaw could easily be described as a deconstruction of the traditional barbecue sandwich. But, it's the Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket with Garlicky Parmesan Fries that is calling my name.

Finally, for our last meal (sounds ominous, doesn't it?) we will be carted over to the La Petite Grocery, a handsomely recast corner grocery store. More than half the menu changes regularly, taking advantage of abundant local produce, seafood, and game, such as roasted quail stuffed with boudin and black drum topped with a blue crab beignet, as well as tangy goat cheese desserts, served with whatever fruits are in season.

New Orleans is one of our most favorite cities. We love the bizarreness of the French Quarter and the charm of the Faubourg Marigny. On this trip, though, we will be exploring dining establishments Uptown and in the Central Business District with a side trip to the Carrollton District. We've done the bars, clubs, and restaurants in the Vieux Carré so many times that we can now proclaim, "The thrill is gone." We are ready for something new. The closest we will get to the Quarter will be Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar across the street from the tourist packed, long-in-the-tooth, Acme.

On this gastronomic adventure we hope to experience something new and unique, eschewing the sameness that is so pervasive in way too many Tampa Bay restaurants. In searching Urbanspoon for New Orleans restaurant suggestions, if I saw the ubiquitous ahi tuna, seared or tartare, or fried calamari on the menu I...I...well, I screamed in frustration, and crossed that venue off my list.

The Piglets may be wearing our skinny pants going, but I think we will have to pack our fat pants for the trip back home. We will regale you with stories of our adventure upon our return. In the meantime, we are counting the days.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Comestibles In A Cloud

We haven't created a word cloud in awhile, and since I have nothing pressing on my agenda today, except grocery shopping,  I decided to put one together based upon a few past restaurant reviews.

You may create your own word cloud by visiting Wordle. This is just a fun toy to play with when you have nothing better to do.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Converging At 717 South

For the Belle of Ballast Point and me, one of our great pleasures is getting together with our dear foodie friends Sweet Polly and her Super Hero Underdog to bask in our respective auras whilst sitting around a table resplendent with food and wine.

Last night the four of us converged at 717 South, an eatery coincidentally located at 717 South Howard Avenue in Tampa. We had early reservations and were promptly seated at an ever so slightly tight fitting booth (reader comments at this point will not be appreciated). Liz was our delightful server for the evening and this lovely lady provided the four of us with excellent service.

The Belle and I began our evening with a couple of glasses of Seven Daughters White, a blend of seven  grape varieties, crafted together into a sophisticated wine featuring notes of orange blossom, tangerine and melon with a subtle hint of apricot and lychee. This wine was so good that we stayed with it through the course of our dinner.

When it came time to consider an appetizer, the four of us were drawn to the Pu-Pu Platter, a dish meant to be shared, with seared yellow fin tuna, Havana short rib spring rolls, crab wontons, calamari, polenta fries, and four dipping sauces.

This platter, designed for two to four people, seemed to be enjoyed by all. The polenta fries and spring rolls were two stand-outs for the Belle. I was impressed that the ubiquitous fried calamari was tasty and tender to the tooth. The tuna was also very good and very fresh. The crab wontons were a bit off-putting. I bit into one and thought, "Oh my, it just pooped on me," as it squirted its filling all over my fingers.

After polishing off our Pu-Pu, it was time to consider our entrees. My bride chose the Chicken Calabria, a couple of lightly breaded, sauteed chicken breast halves topped with Parmesan, prosciutto, spinach, Swiss cheese, Marsala demiglace, with a four cheese macaroni, and chef’s vegetables. Today's veg was asparagus.

The Belle raved...raved, I tell you over the mac 'n' cheese, and said the chicken was superb. I had some of that mac 'n' cheese with my entree and I agree that it was really good.

I was torn between the Szechwan Duck Breast and the Lollipop Pork Chop. I asked Liz for her recommendation, and she replied that while both were good, she thought I should go with the chop. So I did!

This chop was lightly smoked and grilled in Jim Beam and sweet onion sauce, with sides of four cheese macaroni, and chef’s vegetables. I loved that hint of smoke with the Bourbon sauce. I had requested the chop to be cooked medium rare. Liz said either the chef or restaurant policy is to cook pork to no less than medium. This was a delicious pork chop that I would have preferred to be a little less chewy.

The mighty Underdog had nothing but glowing comments about everything on his plate of...of...I don't remember, but it was the evening's special. A perfectly prepared steak with Swiss chard and duck bacon. I think it was the duck bacon that hooked him and reeled him in. I had a taste and it was sublime.

Sweet Polly didn't seem nearly as impressed with her order of Shrimp and Grits. The sauteed shrimp, roma tomatoes, and portabella mushrooms were served over romano grits.

I had a taste of the shrimp and grits. The shrimp was tender, but I never was able to find a grit. While this was a savory dish, I think the concept was rather overpowered by the heavy sauce.

It cannot be argued that Sweet Polly and her "spousal unit" were more than pleased with their dessert selection, a heavenly take-off on apple pie and vanilla ice cream. I know it had a name, but you will have to visit Epicurean Perils of Sweet Polly to find it. (Editor's update: Turns out it was called Apple Pie - go figger)

The Belle and I decided that we would rather drink our dessert, so we requested the Cafe Toledo, with Bailey's Irish cream, Kahlua coffee liqueur, chocolate syrup, coffee, whipping cream and sugar. The coffee was good, but for me the best dessert of all came next.

Photo courtesy of Sweet Polly
Our total for the evening came to $144.88 with an additional 20% gratuity for Liz. There was a lot of food for the money, with more hits than misses. I'm glad that we went, but I don't envision a return.

717 South on Urbanspoon 

Seven 17 South on Foodio54

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My First Love Swam Away Today

Esther Williams, Swimming Champion Who Became a Movie Star, Dies at 91

We only had one thing in common...the water. That was enough for pre-teen me. Ester at the movies and the Gulf of Mexico just down the street. Who could want for more?

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Crabby Salad Saved The Day

The SOG City (south of Gandy Boulevard in Tampa) weather has been perfect of late. Hotter than a rump shakin' mama! It's scorching during the day, then comes the rain, and after the rain it's like a sauna out there. Perfect weather!

Well, maybe not so perfect when contemplating dinner in our SOG City kitchen. Yesterday evening was one of those times when I could not see myself slaving over a hot store, so what's a hungry person to do?

Our local Publix, where shopping can be an adventure, came to my rescue. I put together a no-cook tropical fruity salad using already prepared ingredients: cooked snow crab claws from the fish market, a bag of chopped romaine from the veggie department, and a plastic bowl of fresh fruit from the fruit counter.

Here is what I wound up with:

Crabby Fruit Salad

  1         pound  snow crab cocktail claws
  1         tablespoon  Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  3         tablespoons  lime juice -- divided
  3         tablespoons  sour cream
  1/2      teaspoon  sea salt
  1/2      teaspoon  hot sauce -- preferably Belizian*
  2         cups  mixed fruit -- fresh, in 1"cubes
  1/2      cup  green onion -- chopped
  1         tablespoon  cilantro -- chopped
  3         cups  romaine lettuce leaves

Place crab claws, Old Bay, and a third of the lime juice in a plastic bag. Seal and gently toss to coat the crab. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients except for the lettuce, and mix gently but thoroughly.

Plate the lettuce and top with the fruit mixture. Evenly distribute the crab claws around the fruit on each plate, then serve.

  "A no-cook salad with ready to go ingredients from the local food store."
Start to Finish Time:
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Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 548 Calories; 7g Fat (11.3% calories from fat); 52g Protein; 74g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 105mg Cholesterol; 2551mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 5 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 4 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 Fat.

NOTES : A tropical fruit bowl from the local grocery with kiwi, watermelon, papaya, and mango would be good choices.

*Many hot sauces from Belize are made with fruit and Scotch Bonnet peppers - a combination that goes well in this recipe.

The Belle of Ballast Point gave this salad a "two thumbs up".