Saturday, August 31, 2013

It's National Bacon Day

Since 2000, pork lovers around the world have celebrated National Bacon Day on the Saturday before Labor Day; this year, it falls on August 31. That's today, and what better way to celebrate than by downing a Mitch Morgan or two...maybe three.

In case you are wondering, a Mitch Morgan is a cocktail that consists of a shot of bourbon whiskey served with a piece of fried bacon as a cocktail garnish. The Mitch Morgan is a popular beverage at the Oak...The New Fat Alley Barbecue in Telluride, Colorado, where the drink originated. The Mitch Morgan is named after its creator.


Take your favorite bourbon whiskey, chill in a shaker filled with ice. Smear bacon fat, if desired, on the rim of your shot glass. Fill shot glass with whiskey. Take a cooked piece of bacon, buttefly and place over the rim of the shot glass.

Cheers, y'all.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Our Rick Perry Ooops!

Back in March of this year I posted a picture of our garden guard cat Stubby. We called him The Terror because he terrorized two other feral cats that we had adopted and had fixed. We named him Stubby because he was a puff of black fur with short little legs.


Stubby had a voracious appetite. We figured he had four hollow legs and we might have to take a second job just to feed him.

Fast forward to today. This is Bubba Bean.


Bubba is an 8 week old male. We know Bubba is a boy because we can pick him up and examine that area between butt hole and the next orifice. That is something we couldn't do with Stubby.

We have no idea who Bubba's dad is, but we do know the identity of the mom.

Care to guess?

Momma Stubby and Bubba are not classified by the Humane Society as feral any longer. Momma Stubby is considered a "free roamer" by the Society and Bubba is considered a "chair stealer" by the Belle of Ballast Point.

When I went out to work the backyard garden today in preparation for fall planting I inadvertently left the backdoor ajar. Normally Momma Stubs and Bubba lounge on the patio as I labor under the hot Florida sun. Today they were nowhere to be seen.

They were both asleep in the house, enjoying the quiet in air conditioned comfort. There was something seriously wrong with this scenario...not for them, of course.

The four of us: Stubs, Bubba, the Belle, and I have an appointment at the Humane Society in mid-September. Our furry friends will not be repopulating the neighborhood after this visit. This is the right thing to do. Wouldst that others would do the same.

The rest of the story:

Stubby gave birth to five kittens in the far corner of the backyard under a bush. It rained every day and we became concerned. The Humane Society suggested we needed to provide shelter and move the kittens...mom won't mind.

We bought a secure shelter and moved the kittens.

Mom did mind!

Four of the kittens were on the ground near the shelter in a growing puddle of rain water. Number five was missing and so was Stubby. The Society said we should take the four to the county animal shelter, so we did. They were most likely put down. The shelter does not have the ability or funds to care for four day old kittens.

Later that day I found Stubby and number five in the front yard...under a bush.

We left them alone, but we kept providing food for Stubby. Eventually they both moved to the patio to be close to the food source. Over a period of time we have bonded.

Somebody allowed a male cat to run free. That cat impregnated a less than year old Stubby and is still on the loose. Four kittens were destroyed because we didn't act sooner or properly, and because some irresponsible (insert your word here) didn't act at all.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yes, Yes, A Thousand Times YES!

Gandy Connector Concept (draft)

"The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) was asked by the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Transportation to investigate a toll-feasible solution for traffic in the Gandy corridor.

In the past, suggested solutions were for all the traffic. While THEA looked at all of the traffic in our initial assessment, we realized that our target market is only a piece of the traffic –namely, traffic that has no destination in the Gandy corridor, is just passing through, and is willing to pay a toll to avoid local congestion. That piece of the traffic – our target market – is approximately 35% of the traffic coming to and from the Gandy Bridge. Because a toll would be charged, not everyone would use the bypass but those who do would still be enough to relieve congestion on Gandy.

We believe that a small elevated structure, one lane in each direction (with shoulders and a barrier between lanes), down the median of Gandy will provide relief to Gandy Boulevard, while keeping the size small and maintaining the main street atmosphere. In fact, the elevated structure can be built with no additional right-of-way acquisitions. This solution accomplishes the primary goals and objectives the community asked us for – traffic relief without destroying the fabric of the community. It also provides opportunities to mitigate potential negative impacts.

IF the regional bypass is built, THEA has proposed other ideas that can help with the “main street” feel of Gandy. Traffic circles are one suggestion. A new intersection configuration and stop light at Bridge Street is another suggestion. The regional bypass works with – or without – these proposed changes to Gandy Boulevard.


We are at the very beginning of this project. The regional bypass can stand on its own – or be combined with “main street” elements. However, the “main street” elements, cannot be accomplished without the regional bypass."


This connector is long over due. Rush hour traffic on Gandy is a nightmare, and it's not much better at other times. The opponents of this plan whine that the connector will hurt Gandy businesses. I can assure these people and businesses that I do not shop along Gandy during peak traffic hours.

On the occasion when I have had to take Gandy during rush hour I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone pulling off to go shopping. You may turn off to shop, but getting back on is a real challenge. The commuters don't want to shop. They just want to get home.

South Tampa needs that elevated connector. Let your voice be heard. Click HERE to weigh in on this issue.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

James Joyce In Ybor City

Ireland sober is Ireland stiff. ~ James Joyce

With no desire to be Ireland stiff, my bride and I made our way to Ybor City yesterday evening to enjoy a pint or two and loosen up at The James Joyce Irish Pub at 1724 E. 8th Avenue (formerly the Mema's Alaskan Taco's building).

Mary, our friendly server at Luigi's, told us a couple of weeks ago we really needed to hit the pub on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. "Why," we queried? The answer was simple: LOBSTER! More to the point, the pub features 1 1/2 to 2 pound cold water lobsters for the unbelievably low price of $9.99 each on those evenings from 5 to 9.

I loves lobster almost as much as a freshly shucked oyster on the half shell, so I had...I say again...had to go.

The Belle of Ballast Point and I arrived around five-ish and were invited to sit where we pleased. We chose to sit at the bar because the bar stools have backs and we find them to be more comfortable if we are going to linger for any length of time...and we were.

 







Brandon, our bartender, promptly took our drink orders. When asked what I preferred, I had to respond, "When in an Irish pub it would seem sinful not to quaff a Guinness on tap." Brandon seemed to agree. 

With 50 brews to choose from, the Belle struggled with a decision, finally choosing a Magic Hat #9.






 
 




Not being a lobster aficionado (I know, a character flaw, but I still love her) my bride chose the Shepherd's Pie that she deemed to be savory, perfectly prepared, and very filling.










I, post haste, launched into my lobster, ripping off a claw with wild abandon. The Belle wondered why I didn't whip out my camera for a foodie photo. Oh, yeah!


 



With slippery, buttery fingers, I endeavored to capture a couple of images without losing my grip...on the camera. I was already in swoon mode over that lobster.







The lobster was so good I couldn't help but order one more, and at a penny less than $10, why not?

With three beers, two lobsters, shepherd's pie, and a side salad, our total for the evening was $54.25. Of course, we added 20% as a gratuity for good service.

I look forward to a return visit.
Laughter is brightest where food is best.
An old Irish proverb - See more at: http://www.st-patricks-day.com/aboutireland_quotes.html#sthash.oluDj0Wc.dpuf
Laughter is brightest where food is best.
An old Irish proverb - See more at: http://www.st-patricks-day.com/aboutireland_quotes.html#sthash.oluDj0Wc.dpuf

James Joyce Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

James Joyce Irish Pub on Foodio54

Sláinte, y'all.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy National Waffle Day!

Waffles are celebrated twice a year: March 25th is International Waffle Day, which originated in Sweden, and today, August 24th!

Waffles have been around, in one form or another, for over thousands of years. The honeycombed style of waffle emerged in the 1200s, most likely in France. Pilgrims would bring the waffle to America in the 1600s. And, on August 24th the US patent for the first electric waffle maker was issued. It is the anniversary of that patent that we celebrate as National Waffle Day.

The perfect waffle is crisp and golden-brown on the outside with a moist, airy, and fluffy inside. It can be a challenge to get waffles just right, but with a good waffle iron and a few tips, the perfect waffle is just waiting to be made.  Tips for perfect waffles:
  • Keep it light & fluffy: Separate your eggs. Add the yolks to the wet ingredients. Whip the whites to stiff peaks and fold into the final batter.
  • Don't skimp on the fat: Use oil in the batter rather than solid fat. It will help make the waffles crisp on the outside and prevent the cooked waffle from sticking to the waffle iron.
  • Mix until just combined: Avoid over mixing the batter to prevent dense, chewier waffles. Let the batter rest 10 minutes to relax any gluten and let the flavors meld.
  • Keep them crisp: Rest cooked waffles in a single layer on a wire rack in a 200 degree oven. The oven will help keep them warm and crisp while waiting to serve or making more.
  • Keep it closed: Avoid opening the waffle iron for the first 2 minutes to prevent the waffle from splitting. Watch the steam escaping, the less steam the closer to done.

Thanks to Chef's Catalog for idea and information.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

If You Knew Sushi Like I Know...

I am pretty sure that most of us at one time or another have heard at least a snippet of a song and had that annoying snippet repeating over and over in the brain. Right? You best be agreeing with me or else I'll mention a song that you will be stuck humming to yourself for the rest of the day.

Just kidding!

Well, the point is, and I do have a point, that a few of my working brain cells got together the other day and reminisced about one of the most spectacular foods that I had ever presented to my buds of taste: grilled hamachi kama. My slobber glands spring into action at the mere thought of this seafood delicacy.

What is Hamachi Kama the sushi neophyte might now be asking? It's the neck or hamachi of young yellow tail tuna. It is the most fatty and delicious part of the fish. When prepared properly it's grilled to perfection and served piping hot with soy sauce, ponzu sauce, and maybe some shaved cabbage and diakon.

To satisfy my craving, I went to the 'spoon's spin widget to search for a local venue serving hamachi kama. I spun myself into a tizzy and came up with nothing, nada, zip, zero, なにも (nanimo).

I called a couple of places to inquire about hamachi kama and got a "Huh?" and a "We ain't got none of that there", or words to that effect.

The closest I came was Samurai Blue. They do have "Fried Japanese Yellowtail Collar with Ponzu Sauce and half a Lemon" as an appetizer on their dinner menu. That is where I will probably wind up. I'll have to ask if the chef can grill the hamachi kama. I just can't picture it fried.

You know what simply boggled the brain during my sushi search? Tampa Bay doesn't have any traditional Japanese sushi bars or restaurants. All I could find were the westernized sushi joints serving up a lot of stuff that shouldn't even be called sushi, and if you ordered some of this stuff in Japan you would be invited to adjourn to the traditional hari kari room.

So, what is the big difference between the sushi over here and the sushi over there? You might be surprised, or not, that one of the big differences is the calorie count.

Traditional Japanese sushi is low in calories and fat. It has minerals and vitamins. It's usually simple — with 3 or 4 ingredients. Often it's just fish and rice.

Western sushi has a tendency to be larger and have more ingredients. It sometimes incorporates high fat ingredients such as tempura, tempura flakes, mayonnaise, cream cheese and avocado. The result is dramatically higher calories.


A couple of things I discovered on my widget spin around the Bay is you apparently can't be a viable "sushi" restaurant if you don't serve the ubiquitous cream cheese, avocado, and fake crab crap. They all do, and if you don't like the menu choices at sushi joint A, you probably won't like them at joint Z or anywhere in between. They all are essentially the same. There was nothing particularly innovative or exotic about any of them. For that you will have to pack a bag for New York, San Fransisco, or Japan.

Speaking about calories:

California Roll (Western)
230 calories (6 pieces)


Philadelphia Roll (Western)
283 calories (6 pieces)


Dynamite Roll (Western)
310 calories (6 pieces)

 
Spider Roll Soft Shell Crab (Western)
400 calories (6 pieces) 



Dragon Roll (Western)
435 calories (6 pieces)




And, the big honkin' mother of them all:

Tampa Roll (Western)
1043 calories (6 pieces) 




Typically, the traditional Japanese sushi runs in the 200 to 300 calorie range.


Wanna know why Tampa Bay will never see a traditional Japanese sushi bar? 

This Urbanspoon reviewer said it best (he is real, the Sushi Doodle he is referring to is real but it could be any one of dozens):  "I have only reviewed one other place in my life but ... I really, really hope that all of you people raving about this place are the staff posting on your smoke breaks or the poor people of Carrolwood [sic] have really lost touch of what REAL sushi is about. If you really like this stuff then you just have to try the sushi at Publix! Compared to this place it is world class!"

It must be noted here that several Pubix sushi bars have received rave reviews on Urbanspoon by Bay area "sushi" aficionados.

Now you know. Kanpai, y'all.


Editor's note: All photos are professional stock. What you see here is not necessarily what you will get at your favorite Sushi Doodle.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shacking Up At Joe's

Photo from Joe's web site
For weeks now I have been taunted and tempted by Joe's Crab Shack with teevee commercials advertising a limited special, The Corona Beach Bake.

The Beach Bake photo depicted a mouth watering, piled-high tub of seafood delights that included lobsters, shrimp, and clams accompanied by potatoes and cobs of corn.

My buds of taste simply demanded that I have me a tub of that goodness from the sea, so yesterday afternoon my bride and I headed over to the Joe's at 2730 Gulf To Bay Boulevard near Clearwater.

I had wild fantasies of getting to Joe's around five-ish and beating the dinner crowds. Silly me! The place was packed to the rafters. We checked in and were advised of a ten to fifteen minutes wait for the first available seating. We decided to wait at the bar, and before we could finish our two beers we were notified our table was ready.

Pretty much everything you may have read in the Urbanspoon reviews is correct. The joint was jumping, it was crowded, the music was somewhat on the loud side, there were families with kids, there was dancing and singing by the waitstaff, and there were balloons.



Lighten up people! This is not a fancy-dancy dining venue. It is a joyful, beach bar kind of setting where a bit of noise and good times are the norm - and, the kids were well behaved on our visit. 

Compared to a Long John Silver, it probably is a little pricey, but it's not a Long John or Captain D - thank goodness. The last time my bride and I went out for a seafood dinner with lobster in Tampa it cost $300. 

Joe's was a real treat.

Service was prompt and efficient thanks to Angela, and we had a good time with some cold beer and good food.



 
Speaking of Angela, she said it was a necessity to wear a bib when tackling the Beach Bake. 

Not since I was a toddler have I felt the need of a bib. The front of my shirt works just fine, but Angela insisted. I didn't have to like it though.

While we were waiting for our food to arrive the balloon lady stopped by and suggested our evening would not be complete without a balloon.



 








I was already suffering the indignity of a bib, so I declined the balloon but I did volunteer my bride for one. And, a thing of beauty it was to behold.









All right then, enough of this frivolity. Let's get to the grub.

My Belle of Ballast Point, ever the seafood conservative, chose the Orange Tarragon Mahi that she simply swooned over - perfectly prepared fish, not raw and not dried out with a tangy citrusy butter sauce. The rather plebeian sides were steamed broccoli and crispy potatoes, but as I alluded to before, this isn't haute cuisine. It was good and it was filling. It also didn't cost $25 to $30.


After seeing the teevee commercial I was a little concerned that there might be way too much food in the Corona Beach Bake for just one person. Angela assured me that I would be fine. The two lobsters are not as big as they appear in pictures. The bake also had about a dozen steamed clams, four or five shrimp, plus the taters, corn, and a link of sausage.



Ain't it amazin' Gracie, that what is advertised and what you actually get always seem to be two different things? My tub didn't look quite the same as the tub in the web site picture where the seafood was overflowing. Oh, well!

The Corona Beach Bake was good, though. All of the seafood was prepared just right. Nothing was over-cooked or dry. The flavor of the Corona butter sauce was good albeit understated. I did not leave hungry.

Joe's is not my most favorite seafood place, but the food was good, and the prices were reasonable - $92.38, and that included two dinners, four beers, and a dessert. We added 20% for Angela. I could envision a return visit to Joe's.

And, yes I did forget about dessert, a pineapple upside down cake with a dribble of caramel sauce that the Belle brought home with her for a sweet treat - in addition to me, of course.



Joe's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon

Joe's Crab Shack on Foodio54


Friday, August 16, 2013

Doin' The Happy Dance

The weekend is almost upon us, so let's dance. Hit it, Percy!



Thanks to the Belle of Ballast Point for the inspiration and the posting idea. A cocktail awaits your arrival.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

That's What Friends Are For...


What?

I've been busting my hump in 98 degree heat getting the garden ready for fall planting, and you want stimulating, intellectualism? Wend you not to wreak annihilable havoc with my tumefascent transmitters and turgid devices. Flies dance operas to your wisdom.

Happy Thursday, y'all.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

About Your Wedding Blog

Here is a rather bizarre juxtaposition; a Cooking Channel food blog and a music video by a Cooking Channel hostess, Nadia G.

The Food-Focused Bride: Menu Tasting

 

"A food-lovers’ dream: an afternoon of tasting dishes made just for her (and her fiancé). That’s how I spent my Friday afternoon, totally forgoing my wedding diet and eating just about everything in sight at East Hampton Point."

I seriously doubt that the blog or the video had anything to do with each other besides mere coincidence, but my sick mind was amused. And, I love Miss G.



Monday, August 12, 2013

Pork And Beans, Or Carne di Maiale e Fagioli

If we had been at home in Florence, Italy last night we might have feasted on carne di maiale e fagioli. Alas, we were here in our SOG City ranchero feasting on pork and beans. Dinner was not the typical beanie weanies from a can. Nay, nay! What we consumed with gusto was what I call, Quando a Firenze Pork And Beans, or When In Florence...



This is a hearty, family meal that might be served in somebody's Tuscan home. It is quick and easy, and tastes even better the next day as a left-over if any is left over. It can feed four.

  4        tablespoons  olive oil
  3        cloves  garlic -- minced
  16      ounces  Italian sausage -- bulk or remove casings
  2        tablespoons  fresh rosemary leaves
  14.5   ounces diced tomatoes
  30      ounces cannellini beans
            sea salt -- to taste
            freshly ground black pepper -- to taste
  8        ounces angel hair pasta -- broken in half
  4        tablespoons  Parmesan cheese -- grated

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.

Sauté the garlic until fragrant, and add the sausage and rosemary. Cook the sausage, breaking up as you go, until browned and the rosemary is a bit crispy.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and allow to simmer until liquid is slightly reduced.

In the meantime, heat the water for the pasta with a half cup or so of salt to flavor the pasta.

Add the beans, salt, and pepper to the pan with the tomatoes, let it cook together for about 15 minutes. Give it a taste before adding the salt, as it may not be needed.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, then drain.

Put pasta back in the pot, or a large bowl, and pour in the sauce. Mix thoroughly, but gently.

Serve in shallow bowls and top each with cheese to taste.


Chef's note: I am a lazy cook, so I prefer canned beans and tomatoes. Plus, this is what makes the recipe both quick and easy.

This carne di maiale e fagioli is what some might call Italian "peasant food." It is what I call delicious Italian food that doesn't cost a budget-wreaking fortune, and is a welcome departure from spaghetti and meatballs. Not that there is anything wrong with meatballs. I love a good meatball every now and again.

I served this dish last night to my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, accompanied by a robust red wine that I got on the cheap from ABC.
 ___________________________________


And, that reminds me of some advice I received years ago from a very wise gentleman. "Jon," said Emilio Begue, "you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good bottle of wine." He continued, "Shop where the winos shop for wine. Liquor stores that can't move an unknown, but spectacular wine will cut the price dramatically just to get rid of it. Some of these winos around town drink better than the hotsy tots on Bayshore."

Mr. Begue was right. I found a fantastic Spanish rosé for a buck and a quarter a bottle. I saw that same wine five years later selling for over $10 a bottle after it gained notoriety. 

Salud, Mr. Begue. And, buon appetito to us all.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cocktail Time In Fuddville

File:Bugs-ending.jpgI have no clue as to Bugs Bunny's drinking proclivities, but I'd like to imagine that he might like to enjoy a little drinky-poo after a long day of outsmarting Mr. Fudd.

And, what could possibly be the cocktail of choice? Why, the Carrot Cilantro Margarita, of course.

The Belle of Ballast Point and I enjoyed one of these intriguing beverages at the Boucherie in New Orleans a few weeks ago.


 

At first sip, this Margarita confused the taste buds just a tad, because this wasn't the typical Margarita, and wasn't what the buds of taste and the brain were expecting. Just the same, this was a very innovative and refreshing adult beverage. Boucherie made theirs with Cazadores Blanco Tequila, carrot juice, Cointreau, Moscato d'asti, muddled cilantro and lime.

I decided to give this Margarita a go after returning to the paradise that is SOG City (south of Gandy in Tampa).

Due to availability and to keep the costs down just a bit I made a few adjustments, but what I came up with is a real close approximation of the carrot Margarita served by Boucherie.

First, a couple of notes on the ingredients.

I used a Ballantore Gran Spumante sparkling wine. This is a slightly sweet wine reminiscent of the Moscato that I couldn't find at the neighborhood ABC.

I used Bols Triple Sec instead of Cointreau because of price and since I have no use for it other than in this cocktail. As for the tequila, Jose Cuervo Traditional Reposado. The carrot juice I found at Publix (where shopping is an adventure), but I had to ask.

Carrot Cilantro Margarita

1/2             ounce fresh lime juice
1                tablespoon cilantro -- finely chopped
1                ounce tequila
1                ounce carrot juice
1/2             ounce Triple Sec
                  Semi-sweet sparkling wine to top off each glass

Muddle lime juice and cilantro in the bottom of a high-ball glass.

Fill the glass with ice and remaining ingredients. Stir and garnish with a lime slice.

Santé, y'all.