Monday, September 12, 2016

Thai Star Twinkles Brightly

In the two years that the Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I have resided at the beach, we have dined at a myriad of venues along the boulevard. We have staked out several as being our favorites that we return to on a regular basis. One of these gastronomic treasures is the Thai Star Sushi Bar at Madeira Beach.

At Thai Star we are always greeted like family by owner Diana Hansana. Diana not only remembers us, but she also remembers what we enjoy. For me that is usually hamachi kama. Hamachi kama is the collar of yellowtail fish (Hamachi). It is the most fatty and juicy part of the fish and there are two in each yellowtail (one per side). Usually it is grilled/broiled until the skin is crisp and the inside is just cooked through.

On our most recent visit I think Diana was a little disappointed that I didn't order the yellowtail collar, but I had my taste receptors set on trying a new dish I had recently discovered. Usuzukiri is similar to tuna tataki, with fresh fish sliced very thin and served with ponzu sauce and scallions.

Our usuzukiri was a beautifully presented and served appetizer of salmon and tuna slices arranged on a bed of shredded daikon radish. This delightful dish had our taste buds jumping with joy. For two this was an appetizer. For one person it could be an entree. For us it was delicious.

One of my bride's favorite dishes at Thai Star is the Pineapple Fried Rice with egg, onion, cashews, carrots, scallions, and diced pineapple. The diner has a choice of chicken, pork, shrimp, or beef if a protein is desired. The Belle chose chicken with her rice, and exclaimed that it was good. And filling.

I was intrigued by the Lobster Volcano. This dish can be served with steamed or grilled lobster. I chose steamed and each of those lobster morsels coated with a sweet chili sauce with steamed vegetables was the most tender lobster I have ever tasted. This dish is served with a huge mound of steamed white rice. I am not sure where volcano fits in because this was not particularly spicy. It was just out-of-this-world good.

The sushi, sashimi, and Thai specialties are some of the best we have enjoyed anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. The prices are very reasonable. Several Singhas and chardonnays with one appetizer and two entrees came to a very pleasant $73.56. We tacked on a well deserved 20% gratuity.

The Piglet Parade, without reservation, recommends Thai Star Sushi Bar.

Thai Star Sushi Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taxi In To The Hangar

After a morning of flying the Pinellas County skies and doing battle with the Red Baron in a vintage bi-plane, it was time to land and head for The Hangar ... The Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge at the Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg.

In addition to getting me high in the sky in a 1941 Stearman, my bride treated me to lunch at the Hangar located on the second floor of the terminal building overlooking the tarmac and flight line. The diner has a choice of indoor or outdoor seating.

The first order of business for me was a refreshing, ice cold brewski to wash away the trials and tribulations associated with doing battle with the Red Baron above the beaches filled with SPF 600 covered tourists.

The Hangar is open daily from 8am to 10pm daily serving breakfast lunch and dinner. The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I decided to chow down with a couple of sandwiches recommended by our effervescent server, Jennifer.

The Belle was totally impressed with her Turkey BLT, a house roasted turkey breast with spring greens, fried green tomato, applewood smoked bacon, and chipotle aioli. This BLT is normally served with sourdough bread but my bride requested a wrap instead to cut back on carbs. The BLT wrap was huge and tasty. The fries were nicely crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Feeling the need ... the need for meat ... (yeah, I know it doesn't rhyme) I chose the Philly Steak with tender shaved choice beef, sweet onions, bell peppers, and cheese fondue on a hoagie roll. That was a delicious sandwich that delightfully filled the void created during a morning frolicking amongst the clouds.

The Hangar has a full bar, and a more than just adequate beer and wine selection. This isn't haute cuisine, but it is good, filling, and reasonably priced.

The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flying Like An Eagle

My bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, rousted me early on the ninth of September announcing that she was going to take me to lunch for my birthday. "Lunch?" queried I, "It's not even time for breakfast." The Belle appeared to be on a mission, so I didn't argue, I just did as I was told.

Her mission eventually took us to The Hangar Restaurant in downtown St. Pete. In the lobby we were greeted by Chris who asked the Belle, "Is this him?" The plot thickened. After a brief but veiled conversation with my bride, Chris handed me a liability waiver I was prodded to sign. I did as I was told, and then accompanied the two plotters out to the tarmac just outside the terminal and Hangar building.

Still unsure of what fate had in store for me, we approached a 1941 vintage Stearman biplane. A light of realization began to glow brightly in my brain. Weeks earlier, I had seen a biplane cruising the beach at Indian Shores. "Wow!" spaketh I, an aficionado of WWI war planes, "I would love to fly in one of those." Well, this day my dream came true.

The Stearman wasn't born back in the days of the Great War to end all wars. It also wasn't a Nieuport, or a Sopwith Camel, or a Spad, or even one of those mother Fokkers the Germans used. The Stearman also wasn't equipped with a Lewis machine gun (my only disappointment of the day), but it was a biplane and I was going to fly in it ... after checking my gauges.

A thumbs up from my backseat Captain Billy, and we were on our way. Our mission: recon the Pinellas beaches to spot and photograph places of interest.

This was an exhilarating experience - flying like an eagle with nothing between me and the sky.

The John's Pass Bridge
Coming out of the turn, Capt. Billy said, "Take the stick!" So I did and I was flying this baby.

The Pink Palace, Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach

With a completed mission and a safe landing it was time to head for The Hangar for a cold brew or two. And, a hearty "thank you" to my bride for this amazing Flying Adventure.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Agave Mexican Restaurant

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I joined friends for a Mexican dining adventure that none of us had experienced before at Agave Mexican Restaurant on Gulf Boulevard at St. Pete Beach. We parked at a side street meter and hopped, skipped, and jumped over hurricane storm puddles. Entering Agave we passed the outdoor dining area and found ourselves at the host station in a rather cramped area with tables, booths, and a full bar.

Our party of four with no reservations were offered the choice of a booth or a table. Take a word of advice: do not choose a table near the bar or someone is going to practically be butt-cheek to nose with a bar patron. Thankfully, no one was flatulent, but the close-up of a blue jean's label did not enhance the gastronomic experience we hoped would be forthcoming.

But first, "Camarara, booze, por favor" - three margaritas and a cerveza. Bar service as well as food service was prompt and efficient during our visit. I mention this since a number of reviews I have read seemed to have issues with service. We were offered chips and salsa, and enthusiastically accepted the offer.

While perusing the bill of fare I was amused by the little text boxes at the bottom of each menu page. These were Da Rules! Such as: no sharing, one check per table unless you wish to be smited, and a few other restrictions I don't remember. I also discovered that every thing, and I do mean everything, incurs a charge. You will get no free lunch (or dinner) here.

The chips and salsa ($3) is not shown, but the trio that was requested included a bland Pico de Gallo ($2), a tiny molcajete of Guacamole ($4), and a pleasantly tangy Cheese Dip ($2). Three smaller cups of salsa dips ranging from mild to mucho caliente were included. I don't object to ala carte, but I feel the cart could have been a little fuller.

After the starters, we moved on to the main dishes. My bride always seems to pick the best dishes and this night was no exception with her choice of Enchiladas de Res (Ground Beef). The menu  shows this dish with red chili sauce, but my bride wisely asked for the mole instead.

That mole was a rich, chocolate based sauce that would have tasted good on an old shoe. The mole made that enchilada. The glob of refried beans was bland, and the rice was barely room temperature.

I am rather fond of all things porcine, so the Carnitas de Puerco just had to be my choice for dinner.

The menu described this dish as roast pork marinated and slow roasted. And, that was about it: a pile of pork, bland beans, cold rice, and a little dab of guacamole.

There were several other dishes ordered by our table. The only one that stands out for me was the Quesos Fundidos with hot, melted Asadero cheese served with four hot flour tortillas and Mexican chorizo and it was cheesy good.

Tacos al Pastor

Empanadas de Picadillo
This dining experience was not the worst, but it was not the best. The food was better than Taco Bell, I bet. I have never been to a Taco Bell. Even though everything had a charge, the bill for two people came to an economical $62.06.

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

Friday, September 2, 2016

Stormy Weather

The hurricane missed Indian Shores, but the Shores didn't escape the effects of Hermine. This presented an excellent opportunity to take a walk on what's left of the beach and snap a few photos. This has nothing to do with food which is the thrust of the Piglet Parade, but I did work up an appetite. That should count for something. Also, you may click on the photos to enlarge ... the photos. This ain't an Anthony Weiner report, dammit!

The earlier high tide made it half way to Gulf Boulevard. I continued on toward what was left of the beach.

You can't read the sign in this photo or see what's on the sand near the base of the sign, so I got a little closer.

Those 12 by 12 inch patio bricks didn't get there by themselves and I don't think someone put them there, so I have to assume the tide was that strong. Wow! Oh yeah, about that sign ...

Rip currents? What freakin' rip current?

I can only hope the little girl survived her beach adventure with stupid. Warnings signs are posted and ignored by these tourons (tourist/moron - there is no better word for them). The next high tide was moving in quickly so I headed off to higher and drier ground.