Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lingering Over Lunch At The Lodge

I asked my bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, this morning if she was up for a road trip to get some honest to gosh Florida swamp food. Recoiling in horror she asked, "You're not planning another trip back to that nightmare in Yeehaw Junction, are you?" "No Babe," says I, "It's a lodge on a river down toward Bradenton that serves swamp food, and it really looks safe." With a few or more misgivings she acquiesced, so off we went to the Linger Lodge.

To quote from the Linger Lodge web site: Linger Lodge began as a campground in 1945. Frank and Elaine Gamsky came down from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with their family and purchased Linger Lodge in 1968. The Lodge features a few rare and unusual "Florida Animals" among its collection. The Jackalope sits in its case not far from a Blue Billed Ortholock. The Alaskan Fur Fish is also on display. Frank was an avid animal lover, and promotes the protection of animals as one of our most important natural resources.

One of the first things we discovered on our journey was, to get to the Lodge you really have to want to get to the Lodge. Fergit Google Maps! They had us touring a couple of parking lots before we found our way. Try this: Take I75 south, take exit 217 West, bear right, at second stop light, take a left onto Tara Blvd, drive to the end of Tara Blvd approximately 2 miles to the end stop sign, take a left onto Linger Lodge Road, drive to end of Linger Lodge Road approximately 1 mile, at the stop sign take a right onto 85th Street Court East, drive approximately 2 blocks and enter our parking lot.


We made it, and it was worth the drive. The food was great, the service was beyond just great thanks to Omar, the people were friendly, and this was a paradise reminiscent of the old Florida rarely seen any longer. The Lodge restaurant was quaint and charming. We were greeted warmly.

We scurried past the resident gator...

...past the cats...

...through the bar area... our table on the screened-in back porch. Omar presented us with menus and took our drink orders. "A couple of brewskis, please, to wash away the I-75 dust." The beers arrived and were soon followed by our food choices.

My beautiful dining partner chose the fried catfish basket...a lightly battered delight, perfectly prepared with no bones and accompanied by tasty fries and a savory coleslaw.

I am still swooning over my blackened frog legs. Oh my Gawd, were those legs ever good! I had the River Platter that included the legs, a catfish fillet, and gator bites. All were blackened, all were good, but those legs...

They ain't nothin' like a good shot of leg...frog, that is. C'mon, the Lodge is a family friendly kind of place.

The Belle and I were stuffed and happy with our Linger Lodge lunch. We were even happier when our bill arrived. Four brewskis, and all of that delicious food - $48.45. Of course we tacked on a 20% gratuity for excellent service.

Linger Lodge on Urbanspoon

Linger Lodge Restaurant and Campground on Foodio54

Before heading back to SOG City, we wandered the grounds a bit.

The Lodge back porch

Braden River
Ever heard of the Braden River chain saw massacre? Me neither. But...

The 3D stuffed fish wall

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Now That's A Breakfast!

It seems like it was just yesterday...actually, it was just yesterday...that my Georgia bloggy friend Rebekah of Some Kinda Good posted an inspiring article entitled Breakfast Locally Inspired. Rebekah used locally sourced ingredients to create a most delicious looking breakfast that featured...bacon. Everybody knows that everything is better with bacon, so you just know Rebekah's breakfast creation has to be good. Visit her blog and try it yourself. Rebekah is a talented cook and an exceptional writer.

Now, let's get back to me. I mean, come on, this piece should be all about me. Right?

Personally, breakfast is not my most favorite meal, especially the stuff we typically eat in this country. I am reminded of that Jimmy Dean commercial with the sun and the guy with a big box of cereal. The sun asks, "Where's the eggs, where's the sausage, where's the potatoes...where's the cholesterol?" Truthfully, I added that cholesterol part, but it should have been part of that dialog. That's my thought anyway. They should work on their grammar, too.

Up until yesterday, the best breakfast I can ever remember having was in Singapore a number of years ago. That breakfast consisted of a little meat, lots of veggies, and a savory broth with noodles. It was similar to a pho, but a little lighter. That was then, and this is now. I found my new favorite breakfast (sorry Rebekah) while watching a Cooking Channel program, David Rocco's Amalfi Getaway.

I tried this absolutely fabulous Italian breakfast just this morning, and I have to tell you that those Italians know how to eat. Here is David's recipe for:

Pane Zucchero Vino

(for six servings)

6 thick slices of bread
1 cup of a really good Italian red wine
1/4 cup of sugar

Drizzle your bread with the wine, and then sprinkle evenly with the sugar.

Now, that is the breakfast of champions!

Planting Guide For The Home Gardener

Thanks to the Belle of Ballast Point for passing along this valuable tip.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SNAP! And, Food Is Gone

The right-wing 'Christians' in the House finally did it. They voted to cut $39 billion from the food stamp program. Where is the church? Why have they not engaged the evil that is encompassing this new thinking within the right wing of the Congress? In a country with one of the worst income and wealth disparities in the world, do they really believe it is abuse and not circumstance that has most of those using the program on food stamps?

Hatred and stupidity in this country is out of control.

Come 2014 remember the Republican Promise to America:

Tax cuts to the rich and f**k the poor!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Respect Your Beer

Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer. ~ Henry Lawson

The true purpose of this memorandum is to uncover the truth about beer. The truth is, I really like beer. Now, that's the truth! But it's not just how it makes you feel that is important, though the beer Gods and my German ancestors know that it really is important. Consider these immortal words from a great Irish-American statesman, "Ask not what you can do for beer; rather, what can beer do for me?"

So, what can beer do for you, or me...well, us?

It’s a hearty drink: Any type of alcohol in moderate amounts can help lower your risk of heart disease by helping to lower blood pressure and increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately, beer isn't a cure-all. I still have to watch my diet and try to exercise...something more than 12 ounce arm curls.

It has nutrients: Beer is made from grains (barley and hops), so it makes sense that it contains some of the same nutrients you’d find in grains, including B vitamins, protein and even fiber. A 12-ounce beer has 1 to 2 grams of protein and up to 1 gram of fiber (which isn’t all that much, but still!). Darker beer tends to have more fiber than lighter beer. The important take-away here is this: Food has no beer value, but beer does have food value.

It’s a bone builder: Beer contains silicon, a compound that helps create strong bones. Silicon is also found in cereals, whole grains and green beans. Beer also has phosphorous and magnesium — two other minerals in your body that are needed for building bones. Buzz kill: Too much alcohol can weaken bones though, so keep it moderate. Maybe include some cereal and bananas with your morning beer?

Speaking about a bone builder, nothing can build a bone like a whistle wetting Vergina.

I loves me a good Vergina! It lowers your risk of certain diseases. Like wine, moderate beer drinking is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. The antioxidants in beer are likely responsible for these effects. Beer is made from barley and hops, which give beer a different antioxidant profile than wine, which is usually made from grapes.

It’s hydrating: Since beer has less alcohol per volume than wine or spirits, a serving of it counts toward your total water intake for the day. I like this benefit as I have been trying to cut back on my bottled water intake. Oh crap, another buzz kill: Alcohol is dehydrating in larger amounts though, so if you’re drinking more than one beer, or another type of alcoholic beverage, make sure to drink water too! A little goes a long way. Water can rust your pipes, and no one wants a rusty pipe.

It’s good for your kidneys: Some research has shown that men who drink beer — compared with other types of alcohol — have a lower risk of kidney stones. Apparently the combination of high water content and being a diuretic might help keep kidneys healthy. I had a doctor at the MacDill AFB hospital verify this little factoid after I got back from a deployment during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Four freakin' months in Saudi with no beer and a week after returning home I got hit with the stones. Thanks to the nurses for Demerol...even better than beer!

Upon discharge, the good doctor said to drink more beer going forward. Well, all right then. I asked him for a script for medicinal beer that I could claim as an expense on my 1040. He renounced his Hippocratic oath to properly care for his patients by refusing my request for a needed medication. He is a poop-head...a full bird colonel poop-head at that.

In closing, remember these words, Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer. ~
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Prost, y'all.

Editor's note: This article and my opinions should not be taken with anything stronger than a grain of salt. If you have health issues, see a doctor. If you take any of the above to heart, see a phychiatrist.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday Date Night: Back To Longhorn

My taste buds have been sending signals to the brain that there was an incredible craving for a bone-in rib eye steak going on in my mouth. The brain sent back a message that we are getting really tired of paying an arm and leg for a mediocre, or tougher than shoe leather, hunk of meat.

Allow me to mention a couple of prime examples of low quality and high prices: Eddie V's chewy center 22 ounce U.S. Prime (?) for $46. At Malio's I encountered the toughest, most devoid of flavor rib eye I have ever had. Even that fatty edge of the rib eye was tough and dry. I left over half of that $46.57 steak untouched. Then there was the 16 ounce Meyer's Angus bone-in rib eye at Grille One Sixteen for a measly $44 that had so much chewy tendon it became impossible to finish. And, the list goes on.

So, where does one go for a tender and juicy rib eye in the Bay area that doesn't chew a huge hole in the family budget? My bride, the Belle of Ballast Point, suggested Longhorn Steakhouse. We had dined at the 2055 Dale Mabry location a couple of years ago, and if memory serves, we enjoyed the experience. We decided to give them another go.

We arrived at Longhorn around 5:30 and were promptly seated, presented with menus, water, and our drink order taken. We decided on a bottle of very reasonably priced Wild Horse Pinot Noir. Our wine and bread basket arrived within minutes.

Ooops! My bad. That picture with the cute little foil wrapped patties of butter was taken at Malio's.

Here is what we were served at Longhorn:

The bread was warm with a nice crust and there was that generous tub of real creamery butter. Malio's should take note and hang their heads in shame.

Both my bride and I had salads - the garden for her and the Caesar for me. The veg was crisp and fresh in each.

But, enough with the preliminaries. Let's move to the main events.

Loraine, our charming server, told us about the super Longhorn special: 3-Course Steak Dinner with a pick 1 of 7 sides. And the Honey Wheat bread? Unlimited! This special included the salad, a loaded baked potato, and the 7 ounce Flo's Filet that my bride was going to order anyway. And, for dessert, the Peanut Butter Cup Sundae. The total for all of this food came to $19.99.

Was it worth almost twenty dollars? Oh, hell to the yes! That 3 course feast would have set us back close to $70 at any number of high end restaurants in the Bay area. The filet was juicy and tender, and cooked to mouth-watering perfection. The spud was a baked potato lover's dream; it was light and fluffy, and loaded with flavor.

My 18 ounce bone-in Outlaw Rib Eye was, without a doubt, one of the very best steaks I have ever had. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, slathered with a dollop of melted butter, and was unbelievably tender from start to the bone-gnawing finish. There was no gristle and just a miniscule amount of fat. Oh my gosh, that was heaven on a plate, and it didn't cost $50. How about $23.99!

Loraine brought a whole bottle of ketchup for my crispy fries, not just the tiny tub I got at Grille One Sixteen - another nice touch.

Both of us were very pleased and amazed at the quantity and quality of the food. The price point was proof that the discerning diner doesn't have to pay a freakin' fortune for good food. Just because it is expensive does not guarantee quality. That's a little factoid that appears to be lost on many restauranteurs in and around Tampa. To put it another way, "Don't p--s down my back and tell me it's raining." ~ from The Outlaw Josey Wales

This wasn't a $200 or $300 dinner. Our total came to $92.85. We tacked on 20% for Loraine.

Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Longhorn Steakhouse on Foodio54

Another ooops! Almost forgot the scrumptious dessert.

Walking from Longhorn to our car, we may have stumbled upon the resting place of Jimmy Hoffa:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy National Peanut Day!

With its origins in South America, this nut is really a legume that grows underground instead of on a tree like walnuts, almonds or pecans. Today, the peanut is the most popular nut consumed in the United States. However, until the 1930's the peanut was typically used for livestock feed. The peanut was saved from obscurity in 1915 when George Washington Carver began researching and experimenting with peanuts and other crops as alternatives for the southern states that were stricken with a failing cotton crop. His research developed over 300 uses for the little peanut, including 105 recipes.

Peanut butter was among the first recipes that came from Carver's research. A staple item in many homes, peanut butter is also a key ingredient in recipes for cookies, sauces, desserts and more.

Did you know:
  • Peanuts are the #1 snack nut consumed in the U.S.
  • It takes approximately 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • On average, Americans consume more than 6 pounds of peanuts and peanut butter each year
  • Most women and children prefer creamy peanut butter while men prefer crunchy
  • Peanuts have more protein than any other snack nut
  • "Goober," the peanut's nickname, comes from the Congo language for peanut, "nguba"
Thanks to Chef's for the content.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cruisin' To Eddie's

Got money to burn and can't decide on steaks or seafood for dinner? Have I got the place for you. It's Eddie V's Prime Seafood on Boy Scout Boulevard near the International Mall. The Belle of Ballast Point and I met up with our daughter and son-in-law for dinner at Eddie's this past Saturday.

A retro main dining room

We had reservations for 5:45, but my bride and I arrived a little early. The charming hostess told us that would not be a problem and we could either wait at the bar for our dining partners or be seated at our table. We chose the table, were promptly seated, presented with water followed by the food and bar menus.

A raspberry rickey and a dozen Tatamagouche oysters on the half shell? Why yes, I believe I will.

The gin rickey with lime and raspberries was a perfect tart and tangy treat. The oysters were, be still my beating heart, perfectly shucked and served. Tatamagouche, by the way, is a charming little fishing village on the Northumberland Straits of Nova Scotia. They had that delicious, salty, kiss of the sea.

While I swooned over my oysters, my bride enjoyed a glass or two of a "I-liked-it-a-lot" La Marca Prosecco. Speaking of wine, our table enjoyed the Belle Glos, Meiomi, Sonoma Coast, 2011 Pinot Noir with our entrées. This was an enjoyable wine recommended by our server, Eric.

The price point, we later discovered, was not quite as enjoyable. Total Wines in Tampa sells this wine for a bit less than $20 a bottle, so there is over a 300% mark up at Mister V's. I probably should have stayed with my first choice, a delightful $30 bottle of Macedonian Pinot Noir that we quaffed at a different dining venue. Be leery of the up-sell at Eddie's. Higher prices do not necessarily equate with higher quality.

Whilst sipping my raspberry rickey and studying the menu, I was struck with the notion that Eddie's seemed to have an identity issue: is it a seafood joint or a steakhouse? Actually, it appears to be both, though there are more seafood choices on the menu than beef and chicken.

I'm sure the seafood dishes are prime, but none excited the palates of the four in our party. All of us chose steaks. Two went with the 8 ounce filet, and two with the 22 ounce bone-in ribeye. Eric suggested a dry rub for the steaks that would add a nice crust to the meat, and we all said yes to that.

My bride's filet with sides of potatoes au gratin and sautéed Monterrey style sweet corn.

My ribeye with a side of Brussels sprouts with bacon and shallots.

All four steaks were prepared as ordered: two medium and two medium rare. The ladies seemed to be pleased with their filets - crispy on the outside and loaded with flavor. The same was true with the guys and the ribeyes, although the center part of each ribeye chewed like a not-well-marbled choice as opposed to the advertized prime.

Photo by Eric, server and master photographer.

The sides that were ordered by our table were all pretty good, and even the small size option could be shared by two people.

For dessert, my bride had the panna cotta and a cup of decaf. She seemed pleased with her choice.

Our dining partners, M & M, had the bananas Foster. I had a bite and it was heavenly.

Our party was seated at a table near the glass partitioned kitchen, so we could watch the activities of the people working the line, including the Chef de Cuisine.

Valet parking at Eddie's is free. We gave the courteous attendant a $5 tip even though the Bentley we requested looked a lot like a PT Cruiser.

Our vehicles were waiting for us as we stepped from the building - there was no waiting for them to be brought around. As we were settling our bills, Eric asked for our parking tickets. He tore off a section and returned the tickets. That is why our vehicles were waiting for us. That was a really nice touch! Other high end restaurants should take note.

Diner for the Belle and me with all food and adult beverages came to $265.63. We left the traditional 20% (it hasn't been 10 or 15% for years) gratuity for superior service.

Our evening at Eddie V's was pleasant enough. There were some misses on the food, but mostly hits.

Maybe I'm getting a little cranky in my old age, but for the prices these so-called high end restaurants in the Bay area charge, I would expect there to be all hits with no misses. I'm just sayin'.

Eddie V's Prime Seafood on Urbanspoon

Eddie V's Prime Seafood on Foodio54

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cooking With Honey

Honey who? The only honey I am allowed to cook with is my baby, the Belle of Ballast Point.

Wait a sec...oh, that honey!

Honey is one of the first and most widespread sweeteners used by man. Honey is at least as old as written history, and its first mention is in a 2100 B.C. Babylonian writing. Honey is an organic natural sugar that adapts well to all cooking processes and has an indefinite shelf life.

The flower it came from directly influences the flavor of honey - there are over 300 unique honey flavors in the U.S. alone. Flavors will range from mild to very aromatic. Color will also vary from near white through yellow to almost black. Typically, the lighter the honey's color the milder the flavor will be.

Cooking With Honey
  • Replacing sugar in baked goods: Honey is twice as sweet, so replace each cup of sugar with 1/2-cup of honey. Additionally reduce the liquid by 1/4-cup for each cup of honey added.
  • Making jellies & jams: Increase cooking temperature 5 to 10 degrees to allow the extra liquid to evaporate.
  • Measuring honey: One 12-ounce jar yields 1-cup of honey. To measure honey without a sticky mess, brush the inside of the measuring cup with oil or nonstick spray.
  • Reducing cooking temperatures: Because honey browns easily, it is best to lower the cooking temperature. When baking, reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees.
  • Thickening with honey: In a salad dressing, honey is an emulsifier providing the thicker viscosity while binding together the other ingredients.
Thanks to Chef's for all of this honey.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Waste Not And Save A Few Bucks

With millions of people around the world on the brink of starvation, including many here in America, it pains me greatly to waste food. I am ever on the lookout for ways to use all of the food stuff that we buy for the SOG City kitchen.

The Belle of Ballast Point even bought a NutriBullet that comes in handy for whizzing up vegetable and fruit scraps into a super healthy beverage. Admittedly, some are more tasty than others, but most of the ingredients are packed with anti-oxidants which are supposed to be really good for us.

Just because you can't use all of a fruit or vegetable in a recipe doesn't mean it has to go in the "thanks for coming" bowl. Although, we do empty that bowl's contents in the compost bin.

Anyway, to get to the point, and I do have a point, in preparation for the Labor Day feast we had planned for the Tampa family my bride and I headed for the local Publix where shopping is an adventure. We stocked up on a bunch of stuff needed for our recipes.

I am clueless to understand what possessed her, but the Belle felt compelled to buy a bag of broccoli florets. Please know that I have nothing what-so-ever against broccoli, it's just that it wasn't needed in any of our planned dishes. We got it anyway. It didn't get included in our very successful food fest.

Oh woe is me, what the hell am I to do with that bag of broccoli languishing in the fridge? Eureka! It came upon me in a flash, like a bolt of lighting out of the a...never mind, you get the picture.

I had most of the ingredients on hand. All I needed to round out this dish was a deli chicken from Publix, where know. So, here is my lo-cal, super delicious:

Roasted Mediterranean Salad

12            ounces  broccoli florets -- bite size
  1            cup  grape tomatoes
  3            tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
  2            cloves  garlic -- minced
  1/2         teaspoon  salt -- or to taste
  1/2         teaspoon  lemon zest -- freshly grated
  1            tablespoon  lemon juice
12            each  kalamata olives -- pitted and sliced
  1            teaspoon  dried oregano
  2            teaspoons  capers
  8            ounces  cooked chicken -- shredded

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss broccoli, tomatoes, oil, garlic and salt in a large bowl until evenly coated.

Spread in an even layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake until the broccoli begins to brown - maybe 15 minutes depending on the oven.

Meanwhile, combine lemon zest and juice, olives, oregano and capers in the now empty large bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables and shredded chicken; stir to combine.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

This recipe can serve four and takes about an half hour from start to table.

I keep my recipes in MasterCook and while I can't vouch for the accuracy, here are their numbers per serving:  250 Calories; 16g Fat (55.3% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 48mg Cholesterol; 499mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

CHEF'S NOTES : The local foodie mega-mart has 12 ounce bagged broccoli florets, and a deli chicken stripped from the carcass are two time and energy savers. Use half of the chicken now and save the rest for another quick and easy recipe.

Bon appétit, y'all.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Love Those Food Challenges

Amazing! The stuff you come across when surfing the Inter-tubes can be down right amazing. I came upon a couple of sites that contained very eye-opening reviews of some of the Gluttany-is-Cool challenges that have taken place around Tampa Bay.

From a personal and practical stand point, I think these food orgies are obscene...on several levels. For one thing, some of these human garbage disposals are cramming more food down their throats in 30 minutes than some people see in a week, or a month, or longer. We have children in this country, the United States of Obesity, who are verging on starvation because of congressional budget cuts.

Boehner and the boys, I'm talking to you.

And, then to rub salt in undernourished wounds, we treat gluttony as a sporting event with contestants who are revered and praised in the gastronomic arenas and on television. There is something truly wrong with our values or lack of values. We need to be feeding the hungry, not praising the gluttons.

Oopsie-daisy! My train seems to have jumped the tracks, so let me get to the reviews.

One of the more exciting local food challenges is the much feared and much coveted Inferno Soup Challenge at Nitally's Thai-Mex. Many have tried, and many have (almost) died trying to down this 48-ounce soup made from bhut jolokia, also known as ghost chili. Contestants have only 20 minutes to complete the challenge.

How exciting it would have been to be dining at Nitally's when one of these recent food challenges took place. You could have a ring side seat to watch the spectacle playing out in front of you while enjoying a tasty treat from the menu (their food really is good). You could cheer the challenger on as he...shit in his pants! Yes, sports fans, right there before your very eyes he projectile blasted. Pooped in his pantaloons. Dumped in his dungarees. What a treat!

Nitally's had to ditch the chair, and the contest has been moved outdoors.

Joy to the world!

The other noteworthy challenge took place at EATS! American Grill in South Tampa. They had some sort of hamburger challenge that would have made dining at EATS! a day to remember, and a meal you would never forget.

Yepper, let's enjoy our cold beer and chicken wings while watching the contestant...violently heave after only five minutes. You could lick the tangy sauce off your fingers while the staff frantically grabbed a bucket for the barfing contestant. Oh, good times, good times. The man's daughter was observed racing for a door, any door, with her hand over her mouth as the contest was abruptly terminated.

I have never watched Adam Richman on the Travel Channel program Man vs. Food. I can't help but wonder if this is what I have been missing. My advice though, would be if a food challenge starts while you are your bill and head for the door.

Bon Appétit, y'all.