Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year Y'all

My bride and I managed to stay up for the NYC ball drop, but for those of you who missed the New Year's celebration, just start the video and have your own belated New Year Countdown.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Mad Beach Brew

A craft brewing company on Mad Beach? Count me in!

In the mood for brews and food, our friends Sweet Polly and her mighty Underdog invited the Belle of Gulf Boulevard and me to join them at the Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company, 12945 Village Boulevard on, where else, Madeira Beach.

The brewery has indoor and outdoor seating. Our party decided to eschew the December heat and sit inside the 6000 square foot tap room at a four-top on wheels. Lenie was our delightful server bringing menus and hooking us up with some tasty bubbly brews.

We tried several quaffs from the 1000 square foot brewery including Dolphin Drool, Levique Lager, and Life's a Beach. The brews ranged from India Pale Ale, to a less hoppy American Pale Ale, to a Orange Blossom Honey Wheat Ale.

I had looked at the Mad Beach food menu on-line and knew that I must have the Tots Poutine. Our friends from the frozen North might turn up their noses at this Mad Beach creation, but I was in poutine heaven.

Those tots of taters were awash in a stout gravy with melted cheese curds adorned with fried sage. This is not the way it's done in Montreal, but here on Mad Beach this dish was a winner for me.

While waiting for our sandwich, burgers, and Square Grouper to arrive, we watched games being played. There are a number of gaming options to keep kids and adults alike happy -- pool, corn hole, and that orange thing.

Before you could say, "One in the corn hole!", our food arrived. Two in our party ordered burgers -- the Mad Beach Burger with Swiss and bacon, and the Mad Beach Burger with cheddar and a side of onion rings.

The burgers were plump, but not as juicy as expected on the medium rare burger. I didn't try a bite, but I'm thinking the beef might have been too lean. As for the onion rings, my bride said they were good, but a little dry. Surprisingly, she said she'd prefer them to be a little greasier.

The Square Grouper was available as a seared, blackened or fried grouper fillet with sautéed vegetables and coconut rice. I had a bite and the grouper was fresh, flaky, and cooked to perfection. The coconut rice was too dry for me, but I'm not really an aficionado of coconut in any disguise.

A Southern Sweet Potato Casserole was shared by the table accompanied with several moans of delight. These sweet potatoes were roasted with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and the I Yam What I Yam Ale, then topped with pecan praline and toasted marshmallows.

For my sandwich du jour, I decided on the BBQ Pulled Pork marinated in a blend of handcrafted ale, then roasted and tossed in a mango-rum-scotch bonnet pepper sauce. The pork was piled in an 8 inch pretzel roll with sharp cheddar, and slaw.

This was an excellent version of a pulled pork sandwich. It was juicy and loaded with flavor. The roll was soft on the inside with a not overly crusty exterior. There was just the right amount of heat, but I did not detect the distinctive Scotch Bonnet flavor.

At that point, I was happy just to finish my Levique Lager, but the table was seduced by Lenie's description of the Peanut Butter Cup Bread Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and dollops of whipped cream.

My bride said the pairing of peanut butter and chocolate created an awesome climax to a very pleasant afternoon culinary delight.

All food and beverages came to a reasonable $135.89 for our party of four. We added a deserved 20%+ gratuity for Lenie's attentive service.

I never did find out what that big orange thing did. Maybe next time.

Mad Beach Craft Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Lunch Today At Mickey's On The Beach

My bride and I walked up to Mickey Quinn's for lunch today. Well, it was lunch for me and a snack for her. First order of bidness were a couple of ice cold brewskis. Yeah, I know it's freakin' freezing outside. A high today of 68 degrees F. If you are from Minnesota this may be balmy weather, but for us Florida folks it's f^@king cold.

The beers were good and did well in washing down my Dirty Burger, a burger so big a T-shirt should be awarded to anyone who finishes the whole thing. I mostly did, but I couldn't do the fries. I didn't get a shirt.

The Dirty Burger was a monster with a beef patty smothered under a mound of barbecued pulled pork with sauce, some bacon, and lettuce, tomato, and onion. This burger was about 4 inches high. I had to smoosh it down a bit just to be able to get a bite. It was a 6 napkin burger, but so good.

My bride's onion rings were about the best that I can remember. Just the right amount of breading that held to the thick onion rings.

Food and four brews came to a reasonable $34, tack on 20% + gratuity of $7 for a grand total of $41. Not bad, and we can, and did, walk home.

Mickey Quinns Beach Pub and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

A Bloody Mary Morning

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard exclaimed, "I am hungry!" It was mid-morning, so I figured she was alluding to dining out for breakfast since I rarely (read: Never) cook breakfast. Morning has never been my favorite time of the day, and it certainly is a horrid time to rattle pots and pans in the kitchen.

We fired up our Chevy-by-the-levy and headed out to ... ? "I want a Bloody Mary," said she and I agreed, so off we went to Crabby Bill's IRB since they have super good B.M.'s (of course I mean the drink, dammit). Their Royal Red Shrimp Marys are almost a meal in a glass.

My bride and I wandered in at a most civilized hour for breakfast ... 10:05:34 a.m., I think it was. As we walked in I mentioned out loud, "We don't have reservations." The only people in the room were three folks at the bar and the barmaid. "We can find room for you," she said. They all laughed as we sat ourselves in our favorite booth.

Doug promptly appeared to take our drink orders and then moments later our food orders. My dining partner requested eggs and bacon with home fries and a biscuit, what I consider to be the typical American breakfast. The eggs, bacon, and fries were cooked to order. I probably should have included a photo of the Royal B.M. (aw, come on now), but "somebody" ate all the shrimp and slurped down part of the Mary before "somebody" could click the shutter.

I like seafood in the morning, as well as at noon, or early afternoon, or in the evening. There were two seafood omelets on the menu so I asked Doug which one he'd recommend. He said both were good, but the crab omelet wasn't always offered, so he suggested I go with it, and I did.

The filling was a mixture of blue crab, cream cheese, spiced with Old Bay. This crab heavy filling was folded into a perfectly cooked egg crepe. It was huge and delicious. I was definitely not disappointed with Doug's recommendation.

Three Bloody Marys, and two breakfast dishes later we waddled out the door after settling our $39.06 tab. We tacked on an additional $8 for great service.

¡Buen provecho! y'all.

Crabby Bill's Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hog Island Fish Camp

Seven thousand years ago (give or take a few years), a particular barrier island was formed off the west coast of Florida. By the 1830s this spit of sand, strangely enough, had come to be known as Sand Island. In addition to being a dandy recreational area, some enterprising folks set up a hog farm on the island. That, of course, called for a name change and Sand Island became known as Hog Island.

In the early 1940s, another group of folks decided that Hog Island would be a great place for weddings and honeymooners. Since Hog Island didn't strike a romantic notion in people's minds, another name change was in order and ever since, the island has been called Honeymoon Island. That ends our history lesson, but brings me to the present day and the point of my story.

An enterprising restaurateur, Walt Wickman, took over a space at 900 Broadway in Dunedin and named his rustic eatery Hog Island Fish Camp in homage to the area's history. The name itself piqued my interest, so I pulled up their menu on the Internet. The "salty Southern" cuisine served at Hog Island hooked me and reeled me in.

Our party of four, Sweet Polly, Underdog, my bride and I, wandered in yesterday for a late lunch or early dinner. We were greeted warmly, offered a choice of indoor or outdoor seating. We chose to dine in the main dining area where Ronald, our server, immediately showed up to describe the daily specials and take our drink orders.

Hog Island has a full bar, a large selection of draft beers on tap, bottled and draft wines, and a delightful Peach Cider. The cider was light and refreshing, but I couldn't resist the Reef Donkey American Pale Ale. This brew is not as hoppy as the stronger IPAs that were created to withstand the voyage from the U.K. to India way back when.

To begin our dining adventure, our table decided to share the 3 dips: Pimento Cheese Spread, Smoked fish Dip, and the Smoked Salmon Spread.

All three of these balls of goodness were creamy and delicious; my favorite was the Pimento Cheese Spread. That was the one I thought I would like the least, but it turned out to be the one I liked the most with a hint of piquancy.

There were a number of intriguing charcuterie choices, but I knew I wouldn't have room for them all, so I chose the Duck Ham. This savory delicacy is the house cured and smoked duck breast with superb taste and texture, trimmed with rich ribbons of duck fat.

Hog Island has four Salt and Pepper Fried dishes: shrimp, catfish, hogfish, and oysters. I chose the hogfish since we were dining at Hog Island. This was a lightly breaded, very mild fillet that was not overpowered with salt and pepper. Each of these dishes is served with slaw, hand-cut fries, and a house tartar sauce.

The fried hogfish was good, but the Salt and Pepper Fried Oysters that Sweet Polly chose, were one of the best fried oyster dishes ever. They were cooked to perfection and were not overly seasoned or breaded.

While the oysters did come with sides, Sweet Polly couldn't resist the pan fried corn and after one bite, I had to say that she made an excellent choice.

My bride is still watching her caloric intake, so she decided on the hogfish sandwich on potato roll with lettuce, tomato, bacon, white cheddar, avocado, and lemon caper aioli. I am not sure how diet-friendly that sandwich was, but it must have been good because a take home box was not required.

I truly believe that Underdog grabbed the brass ring with his choice of the Southern Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken Dinner. I had a thigh and that was the best fried chicken I have ever consumed ... tender, juicy, and cooked to perfection.

This chicken was served family style with tender greens, heavenly cornbread, and the ubiquitous slaw.

Ronald offered us a dessert, a deep fried Key Lime pie. It was tempting but we were all too full, so we requested our bill before we waddled to the door. Our total for all food and adult beverages came to $148.46 for our party of four.

The food and service at Hog Island Fish Camp was memorable, and with so many taste-tempting treats on the menu left untried by us, I can envision a return.

Hog Island Fish Camp Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Did you know that Reef Donkey is slang for the Greater Amberjack game fish, which inhabit our coastal waters? Neither did I. Thanks to the Tampa Bay Brewing Company for that little tidbit.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kon'nichiwa To Osaka Sushi And Thai

My bride and I moved to the beach a year ago this month. For most all of that year we have driven past Osaka Sushi and Thai on Park Boulevard in Seminole. With each drive-by we were presented with a sign reading OPENING SOON. How soon we wondered? It certainly wasn't a Japanese "soon" since that means right freakin' now. We decided it had to be a GTE soon, something we learned as employees of that now defunct company. For non-company employees, that means, Get To-it Eventually.

Osaka finally opened a few weeks ago. Since they made us wait for them, we decided to ignore them for a few weeks as payback. Last night, I could wait no longer. So we wandered in a little after their 5 o'clock dinner opening and were promptly seated. We had seen the school cafeteria tables and chairs on-line, so we asked for a booth and were graciously guided to a comfy one just past the sushi bar.

Pat was our most delightful and charming server who brought menus and inquired of our beverage requirements. Beer for my bride and a bottle of cold sake for me, onegai. You'd be surprised at the smiles received when a few words of Japanese are spoken ... even poorly. Of course, if you get a funny look or a blank stare you might want to stick with English.

I had hoped for the sea urchin, but they were out of this delicacy. No surprise there as that delight sells out quickly and is hard to find. Maybe next time. Instead, I chose the BBQ Squid as my appetizer, and I can heartily recommend this tasty, albeit chewy, treat for the taste buds. This grilled whole marinated squid was served with a savory wasabi mayo sauce.

My bride decided to dine on the Ramen Noodle Stir Fry with chicken. These stir fried egg noodles were cooked Japanese style with green cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and dry seaweed.

This was a large serving of flavorful noodles and veggies that required a take-home box. The leftovers made a superb breakfast for me the following morning.

I just go quackers over aquatic fowl and Osaka had a crispy duck dish that screamed my name: Duck Rock & Roll. This duck dish was adorned with steamed mixed vegetables topped with a choice of sauce; garlic, ginger, basil, chili, sweet and sour, Panang, or red curry. I chose the garlic and this Thai style dish was one of the best I have ever devoured.

There were so many more Japanese, Thai, and sushi items on the Osaka menu that simply titillate my taste buds and cause me to envision many a return visit. The prices are very reasonable with food and adult beverages running at $67.70. We exceeded a 20% gratuity for Pat since she provided extraordinary service.

Arigato, Pat and Osaka.

Osaka Sushi & Thai Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Chez Colette French Bistro

Despite several name changes Chez Colette French Bistro at 796 Indian Rocks Road in Belleair Bluffs has returned to its former glory under the ownership of Colette Pommel, her husband Bernard Jacob, and their son Nicolas Denis. Some might remember Chez Colette as Le Bouchon Bistro or La Petit Bistro. Since arriving from Avignon, France, buying the place and changing the name, Colette has retained some of the more popular dishes. They kept the foie gras, the boeuf bourguignon, and the Burgundian escargots with the parsley and garlic sauce.

During our recent visit, the four of us tried all three of those menu items. But first, le vin, si vous s'il vous plaît. Our table requested a bottle of Burgundy and Pouilly Fuisse. Our server, Justin, properly presented and served the wines and then took our requests for appetizers. Our table shared the Duck Foie Gras and the Escargot.

The Duck Foie Gras was undoubtedly the best that I have ever been served. It was creamy and delicious spread on the accompanying toasts with a dab of jam.

The Escargot did not inspire. While the snails were cooked to al dente perfection, the sauce was bland and devoid of taste except for a hint of a freshly mowed lawn.

Our table had greater success as we moved on to our entrees. My Duck Confit was good, but the top was a little over done. The skin was nice and crisp but the meat underneath was dry. Digging deeper and the meat was moist with more flavor.

I had a bite of the Sirloin and was pleasantly surprised at the flavor, juiciness, and tenderness of this cut of beef. The accompanying French Fries were deemed to be superb.

One of the standouts of the evening was the Boeuf Bourgogne. The beef was tender, and the Burgundy sauce was excellent. I pride myself on being a good cook, but this boeuf bourgogne was better than the one I cooked at home a few weeks ago. My compliments to the chef.

And, lastly, the La Atlantique, a savory dinner crepe that I tasted, but sadly do not remember. That is not meant as a negative comment, but rather a case of being too full to appreciate more food.

We capped our evening with several desserts that, as I mentioned before, I was way too full to appreciate, or (obviously) photograph.

For the most part our food was good, the service was excellent, the company terrific, and the prices were not unreasonable. Our total for four people with food and wine came to a bit under $260.

Chez Colette French Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Cruise Of Three Seestors

For the longest time the Belle of Gulf Boulevard has wanted to go on another cruise. Not just any cruise, but a cruise with her Seestor (that's sister with an accent ... a whole other story). I found a great deal on a Carnival ship a few months ago so I booked a balcony suite for the three of us (I am the third Seestor, the one with a hormone issue ... a whole other story).

The three of us chugged out of Tampa last Monday aboard the Paradise on a five day cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. After the mandatory safety drill we headed for the nearest bar to get the party started. Woo! Woo! Pump it up, pump it up!

Tampa fades into the mist as the ship sails from the Garrison Channel and we settle in to our new lives "... sailing, sailing o'er the bounding main ..."

The whale's tail stack belched smoke as the Captain shifted the ship into over-drive and we waved goodbye to Tampa Bay and hello to the open seas.

 Each evening upon our return to our suite we found a new towel sculpture ... in this case, a pig.

Have you ever kissed a pig? Well, my bride has.

Our first full day at sea was a Carnival Fun day, with a myriad of activities such as eating, drinking, dropping some change in the casino, or enjoying the pool when the sun peaked out of the clouds. While wandering about the open deck area, I picked up a couple of pointers on what and what not to wear at the pool.

The next day we once again planted our feet on dry land. We dropped anchor on the back side of Grand Cayman. The Georgetown side was too rough to safely tender back and forth from ship to shore, so we tendered in and hailed a taxi for the ride to town.

After a bit of plundering, my two lovely wenches abandoned me when they happened upon a swarthy pirate.

The next day, the Paradise tied up at Puerto Maya on the island of Cozumel and we were able to disembark and hail another taxi into the town of San Miguel for some shopping, sightseeing, cerveza, and Mexican cuisine.

Before leaving Tampa, I had done some research on food venues in San Miguel, and Casa Denis was recommended. I was more than a little excited when we stumbled upon this Mexican eatery.
The ladies weren't all that hungry after a big cruise ship breakfast, so they settled upon a plate of real Mexican nachos which is somewhat ironic since nachos is not a Mexican dish. They were good though.

And for me, pulpo, por favor. What was served was a delicious plate of grilled octopus prepared in an authentic Yucatan style. I was a happy Gringo!

Back at Puerto Maya we came across Ali Gator, who looked as if he had a dandy meal of Tourista Ceviche and was thinking of mucho mas.

 We side stepped Ali and made like tourists over at the seawall.

Aye, me beauties!

Back aboard ship, we prepared ourselves for a grand dinner. Each of us got our own personalized menu listing the gut busting delicacies awaiting our taste receptors.

The Chef's Table took us through one of the massive kitchens for appetizers and then a sit-down seven course meal. There was a whole lot of eatin' needing to be done so not everything was photographed. No one left that dinner feeling hungry. Most of us could barely move.

It looked like an egg yoke, but it is a Mango Sphere using molecular gastronomy.

 We are pretty sure this is the Rosemary Biscuit. The Salmon Tartar Cornets were too blurry to use.

This was amazing! It looked like a shrimp on a skewer, but was Chocolate Bacon with Apple Ribbons and faux caviar, again using a molecular gastronomy technique.

After the appetizers, we were escorted to the dining area where the chef's genius continued to boggle the mind and delight our taste buds.

Bisque Our Way had a spectacular presentation and was followed by Wagyu that had the taste and texture of a slow braised pot roast.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the last dish was presented. While the individual servings appeared small, this was still a lot of food. 

Except for the pulpo on Cozumel this was the best food served on the entire trip. You pay dearly for it, but heavens to Murgatroid is it so worth the money.

Next, is our last towel sculpture of the trip.

The next day the Paradise pulled in to Port of Tampa and the Three Seestor's Cruise came to a close. The cruise is over, but the memories will last forever.