Sunday, August 21, 2016

Got An Itch For Chinese? Visit Zom Hee.

Family owned and operated Zom Hee Chinese Restaurant has been serving Szechuan, Hunan and Cantonese styles of cooking to hungry and sometimes desperate diners since 1985. When my bride and I moved to the beach from Tampa almost two years ago, it never occurred to us that dining options would be so limited at Christmas on this side of the bay, but they were. Then it struck me - Christmas is not a Chinese holiday, so maybe we could grab a bite at a little Chinese place we pass on Park Boulevard.

Well, friends and neighbors, we were not the only ones who had that epiphany. Zom Hee was overrun by starving people like ourselves and there was no way we were going to get a table, much less a parking spot, so we journeyed farther in search of sustenance. We did make a mental note to return to Zom Hee during a less hectic time.

Since that abortive visit we have been blessed with excellent service and good grub in large quantities on several occasions at Zom Hee. Last night for dinner with friends we once again graced a Zom Hee table.

We four wandered in around 5:30 and were promptly seated in a large dining area nicely decorated with an Oriental decor. On the way to our table, we discovered the nice sized cocktail lounge where a myriad of umbrella drinks come into being. 

At the table, I found myself itchin' for one of those umbrella drinks on the menu - the Confucius Itch. This itch of Confucius was presented in an appropriately decorated drinking vessel with the requisite umbrella. 

With the first suck on the straw I was immediately hit with an episode of brain freeze. Less robust draws on the straw allowed a more pleasant experience with this somewhat tart beverage made with gin, sloe gin, and passion fruit.

While the presence of alcohol was not over-powering, I did get the sense that with four or five more of these beverages I would probably have to be wheeled to the door - especially on an empty stomach. So, let us get to the comestibles.

Two in our party decided that aquatic fowl would be the protein of the day. The dishes requested were the Duck with Black Mushrooms and the Woo Shu Duckling with slivered almonds.

Both duck dishes were presented with rich and flavorful sauces. The servings were more than adequate in size, so much so that to-go cartons were requested. My duck with mushrooms was as good for lunch the next day as dinner that night.

My bride decided on the Sweet and Sour Chicken that came with a cup of won ton soup (not pictured), pork fried rice, and an egg roll.

Quivering in gastronomic pleasure, she described this dish as a sensation for the buds of taste with a perfectly breaded and cooked chicken breast slathered with a delightful sweet and sour sauce.

Then we have the Scallop Chili Hot Sauce which was described as not particularly hot. Flavorful, yes - hot, not so much. That isn't necessarily a negative depending on the diner's tolerance for heat. This dish was a richly sauced stew of bay scallops and al dente vegetables.

Personally, I would not characterize the Zom Hee dishes as authentic Chinese, but more as Americanized Chinese. The dishes I have tried have been flavorful and filling and warmly comfortable in the tummy. As an added plus, the prices are really comfortable on the wallet. Our table of four spent a little over a hundred bucks on food, adult beverages and optional gratuity.

I can live with that and return visits. There are several more umbrella drinks yet to be tried.

 Zom Hee Chinese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Establish A "Healthstyle" With Summer Tomato

I was actually looking for recipes using fresh heirloom tomatoes since I discovered some heirlooms at the local mega-mart. What piqued my interest was a blog entitled Summer Tomato. Well, thought I, tomatoes are a summer crop, so let's take a peek.

While there are recipes, Summer Tomato is so much more. Darya Rose's Summer Tomato teaches the reader how to get healthy and lose weight without dieting. That, by itself, is most intriguing since friends and family have recounted their trials and tribulations over the years while engaging in one fad diet or another. Personally, I don't diet. If I see it and it looks good, I eat it. Dr. Rose (she holds a PhD) suggests a different philosophy.

Darya Rose is a neuroscientist and the blogger behind Summer Tomato. Her philosophy? Quit dieting and start cultivating healthy habits you actually enjoy. She writes about everything from ways to eat less without really noticing it to the controversy around juicing to what you need to know about willpower—all in an effort to help you establish a "healthstyle."

I decided to "follow" Summer Tomato and add it to the list of My Favorite Bloggers, partly for my own edification and the possibility that readers of the Piglet Parade might also benefit from her wisdom and expertise. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mahuffer's, An Indian Shores Treasure

The Belle of the Boulevard and I decided to take a brisk two and a half mile stroll along Gulf Boulevard to visit the birds at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. What seemed like a dandy idea back at our stately pleasure dome by the sea didn't seem so dandy on the return trip in the feels like 100 plus Fahrenheits under a blazing sun. Visions of shade and something cool and wet danced through our half baked brains.

Suddenly, there before our eyes, we spotted a possible haven from the heat. It was the heaven sent Mahuffer's where we had been led to believe we might find shade and a cold beverage. We wandered in through the dilapidated gate. There we found a gentleman setting up the outdoor bar. We asked if Mahuffer's was open and he grunted, "I'm not. Go inside, they're open." So, we did, and they were.

The inside bar area looked as if someone had blown up the teller machine inside a lingerie store next door to a bike shop. There were dollar bills everywhere - walls, ceiling and probably unmentionable areas. A lady bartender greeted us and invited us to make ourselves at home.

This charming young lady brought us much needed refreshments, a couple of beers and a glass of water. She also mentioned that around the bar and to the right was an air conditioned room. We decided to head off in that direction. As we meandered it became apparent that any earlier explosions had hit the boat yard, too ... and, TV repair shop.

Not surprising, the decor from one room to the next obviously had the same design consultant, and if those drawers on the wall next to the jukebox were his ... or hers, I wouldn't want to piss off that person.

While we were re-hydrating ourselves at the bar, a gentleman a few stools down mentioned that Mahuffers features some ragin' blues on Sundays with a rollicking crowd of bikers, beach folk, and curious out-of-towners. On this visit the only people present were the three of us and Oliver, the resident cat - who will, by the way, bite you if you try to sit in his favorite chair. We didn't try, and Olie slept through our entire visit.

To suggest that Mahuffers is a quirky bar is to state the obvious. Since this is a local joint for us, I can envision walking back some Sunday for a couple dozen cold ones and jamming to some blues. I think the more you drink, the better this place looks. I am trying to imagine something similar when we redecorate our stately pleasure dome on the beach.  We'll have to run that one past the landlord and see what he thinks.

Mahuffers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Birds On 4th

My bride and I frequently Uber ourselves away from our stately pleasure dome by the sea to dine at some really nifty food venues in St. Petersburg, either downtown or in the Central Business District. Yesterday we decided to treat our buds of taste to a new gastronomic adventure at 1492 4th Street North - Three Birds Tavern.

Three Birds is situated in century old farmhouse that "carries the history of Old Florida." The large verandas surrounding the farmhouse provide relaxing areas for enjoying food, drink, games and entertainment. Three Birds gives diners the sense that it could have been plucked from a quaint village somewhere in jolly ole England and plopped down on busy 4th Street.

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I wandered in for a late lunch or early dinner and were immediately greeted by the effervescent Maureen who would be our server. We were presented with menus and our adult beverage orders were taken and promptly delivered.

Three Birds has an impressive selection of beers on tap, by the bottle, wine and a full bar with some rather interesting Drinks of the Day. Tuesday's special was Candied Apples: Magners Irish Cider and a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky over ice. My dinning companion chose a Zonin Chardonnay and I, in a British pub frame of mind, chose a Bass Ale, considered an English Pale Ale, perfectly clear coppery color with a sweet aroma.

Before departing our palace of pleasure on the beach, we had acquainted ourselves with the Three Birds on-line menu so we were prepared to place our orders with a minimum of hesitation. I had enjoyed Roasted Shishito Peppers at another establishment, so when I saw these East Asian peppers on the "Starters" menu, I knew that I would have to have my way with them.

These peppers are delicately sweet, usually mild and roasted. Occasionally you might find one of these peppers that packs a punch. Maureen even asked if I had come across one yet - sadly, no. What I didn't realize when I placed my order was the size of that serving. It could easily be shared by two or more people.

Both the Belle and I were muchly intrigued by another delicacy, the Scotch Egg. This taste treat was supposedly invented by a London department store.

This British Isle pub favorite is a sausage-wrapped hard-boiled egg served with HP sauce - the original brown sauce, which since 1899 has set the standard for quality and was named after the Houses of Parliament. We had never tried Scotch egg before so we had no point of reference as to quality or authenticity, but what we did discover was the best hard-boiled egg that had ever titillated our taste receptors.

Three Birds does have menu Entrees, but we were both getting pretty full, so we decided to stay with the appetizers. The Braised Pork Belly served with apple-frisee salad, sweet chili, braising jus and locally grown micro greens just reached out and grabbed me.

Not only was this dish beautiful in its glossy presentation, it was also huge - the biggest hunk of porky goodness that I had ever been served.

This belly had a crispy cap that sheltered an unctuous layer of fat that melted in the mouth along with a tender and juicy, thick layer of pork. That was not just an appetizer. With a side dish it would have made a mighty filling complete meal. I have to say, without reservation, that this was the very best pork belly in the Tampa Bay area and points beyond.

My bride was equally enamored with her Three Birds Tri-Salad Plate; a scoop each of egg salad, chicken salad and hummus, served on a bed of lettuce with tomato and cucumber, carrot and celery sticks, and grilled flatbread wedges. 

She was impressed with the taste and texture of all three scoops, especially the chicken salad, loaded with chicken and the minimum amount of mayo. The accompanying tub of ranch dressing was "... the best ever!" Said she, "I would go back to Three Birds just for that tri-salad plate."

The food was excellent, the service grand and the prices reasonable. All food and enough beer and wine to justify Uber (as opposed to a possible DUI), came to a pocket-pleasing $81.86 plus the deserved 20% gratuity for Maureen.

Three Birds Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Growin' My Own In A Pot

"I don't care what anybody says: Nothing is better than a tomato you grow. There's something about it that's different than a tomato you can buy. It's a great thing." ~  Tom Vilsack

A few weeks ago I read an article that suggested rather than buying a packet of seeds or seedlings at the local garden store, the home gardener could buy fresh tomatoes at the local food mart, slice one and plop the slices on top of a pot of dirt. The article went on to say that the seeds in the tomato slices would eventually germinate and ... voila! ... you would have a plethora of seedlings for just the cost of one tomato.

I filed that little tidbit of knowledge away for possible use in the future. Well, the future arrived a week or so ago. I found one of my juicy sweet Campari tomatoes with a spot of something icky that rendered it useless for eating. Rather than toss it in the trash, I cut it open, saw seeds and decided to plop the slices in a pot of dirt.

This morning, to my great surprise and in a state of wonderment, I discovered this:

I wasn't sure this idea would work and I certainly didn't expect to see seedlings this quickly. I am amazed and the next time I have a spare pot of dirt and see heirloom tomatoes for sale, I will be doin' some slicin' and plantin'.

Once these seedlings get a little bigger, I will thin them out and wait impatiently for the results. If I actually get a crop, I will post results. If you try this, post a comment and let us know how you made out.
I don't care what anybody says: Nothing is better than a tomato you grow. There's something about it that's different than a tomato you can buy. It's a great thing. Tom Vilsack
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I don't care what anybody says: Nothing is better than a tomato you grow. There's something about it that's different than a tomato you can buy. It's a great thing. Tom Vilsack
Read more at:
I don't care what anybody says: Nothing is better than a tomato you grow. There's something about it that's different than a tomato you can buy. It's a great thing. Tom Vilsack
Read more at: