Friday, October 28, 2016

Photo Journey: A Trip Through Wine Country

My bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, and I along with friends Jim and Denise departed from our island paradise by the Gulf of Mexico to the grape growing capital of America, California wine country.

We ate, we drank, and we marveled at the beauty of the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. It has been said that, “Napa Valley is a Wine Disneyland, while Sonoma Valley is a Wine Region.” – Tom C. Wark, Fermentation: The Daily Blog. Our crew chose Sonoma as our base for exploratory operations.

Visitors to the region can hit the high road to Napa while the scenery explodes with Michelin stars and 95+-point ratings, or chose the slower drive down a dirt road in Sonoma to a casual outdoor patio with inexpensive tastings. We did both.

While I enjoy a glass of wine or two, or even more, my thrill is recording photographic images of my journeys, so that will be my thrust for this piece.

Domaine Carneros rendered in classic oil style

Tasting the bubbly with a snack at Domaine Carneros

Bubbles and Bites at Gloria Ferrer

After the Bubbles and Bites we four take a tour of Gloria's winery.

The old technology ...

And, the new ...

This machine was the forklift powerloader Ripley used to fight the alien queen in Aliens - it has been re-purposed as a bottle stacker at the Ferrer Winery
Grape vines in rendered in classic oil style
Grapes and olives coexisting in perfect harmony.

Buena Vista Winery

This beautiful bird purloined one grape too many resulting in its demise and a visit to the taxidermist

The St. Francis food and wine pairing is that-a-way
I said the food and wine pairing is over yonder and get your hand off my belly!
Over there, dammit! Do you Florida folks not speak English?

Home of happy, contented California cows

Stompin' dem grapes at Grgich Hills Estate.

Stomped them grapes and all she got was purple feet and a T-shirt

One of the most scenic of the wineries - Nicholsons.

Classic Napa garden sculptures.

And, finally we come to the end of the Sonoma pictures and the end to our journey to wine country.

Smeared palette knife in oil

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Get Your Steak On At The Stakeout

My bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, and I have been beach babies for two years now. We have dined on steaks from one end of Gulf Boulevard to the other. We have dined at various venues in downtown St. Pete. We have dined in Dunedin, Gulf Port, Largo, and Pasadena. We have had steaks, good and bad, but we have never had a steak at the Stakeout ... the E & E Stakeout Grill at 100 Indian Rocks Road in Bellair Bluffs. For the life of me I do not know why we haven't.

That omission on our part was corrected last night as we graced the Stakeout with our presence in time for our 4:30 reservation. I had tried for a later time, but those slots were taken. Stakeout does a heck of a business and if you want later reservations you best be booking well in advance. We were guided to a circular four top booth that was comfy and cozy.

A charming young lady approached our table with menus for food and adult beverages. Keleigh (pronounced like Kelly) seemed truly pleased that we had decided to dine at the Stakeout and graciously welcomed us when she discovered that we were first-timers.

I requested a split of Zonin Prosecco for my bride and I to share as we looked over the menu. Pouring the bubbly, Keleigh inquired if an appetizer would be in our future. Heavens to Murgatroid, a thousand times yes! My bride had seen a octopus and pork belly appetizer on the on-line menu, and there it was on the menu in my hands. Octopus and pork belly, two of my favorite foods - I must have this Pacific Rim delight.

The slab of perfectly prepared belly rested on a most tender octopus arm (octopus have arms, squid have tentacles). Both were exploding with flavor and were accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes and frisée. The sauces added a touch of piquancy that really wasn't required since the pork and octopus were exquisite on their own.

I need to change the subject before I lick the computer screen. Seriously, that Pacific Rim appetizer was that good. You wanna know something else that is good? On Wednesday it's 50% Off All Bottles on the Wine List, 20% Off Reserve List. We jumped on that deal and got a bottle of California Russian River Valley La Crema that normally sells for $59 and we paid $29.50.

Next up on the food agenda were the included Caesar Salads with crunchy strips of tortillas. While the salads were good, there was nothing traditionally Caesar about them. But I wasn't there for the lettuce anyway, so bring on the meat.

The Belle of the Boulevard chose the Early Bird Special 6 ounce Filet Mignon, center cut and served with sauce Béarnaise. Dinners are served with the Caesar salad, hot baked bread and herbed olive oil, fresh vegetables, and your choice of garlic mashed potatoes, smashed sweet potatoes laced with maple syrup and zest of orange, baked potato or french fries. My bride chose the mashed potatoes, but loaded, s'il vous plaît.

What she received was perfection on a plate; tender juicy filet, bathed in a creamy béarnaise sauce, a piquant child of hollandaise, one of the so-called mother sauces of French cuisine. The star fruit was an innovative touch that contrasted with the sweetness of the baked squash.

There is a huge bone-in rib eye on the menu that tried to tempt my taste receptors, but what won me over was the Delmonico, essentially a rib eye without the bone. The menu description is what sealed the deal: "A 14oz Rib-Eye, known generally for its richness and greater quantity of marbling. By peeling back the spinalis dorsi & removing the inter-muscular fat on the short plate side & replacing it with a piece of filet mignon, we will be serving you not a better looking, but a far greater tasting steak."

So, did the Delmonico live up to that description? Hell to the yes it did! That was one of the better steaks I have enjoyed in awhile. The potatoes with a topping of caramelized onions were creamy, and the sweet and sour from the star fruit and squash played well together.

Dessert? Keleigh, does it look like we need dessert? Apparently it did because we were soon presented with a decadent Caramel-Pecan-Heath Bar Sundae.

I am not a dessert person, but I have to admit I helped my bride a bit in finishing this sweet treat.

This was our first visit to the E & E Stakeout Grill, but it shall not be our last. Food, beverages, service, prices, and atmosphere put the E & E at the top of our must return list. All food and beverages came to a pocket pleasing $133.04. Keleigh was deserving of our 20%+ gratuity.

E&E Stakeout Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato