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.