Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stefano's Is Back

The Belle of the Boulevard and I frequently frequent the establishments in the Portobello Square Shopping Center on Park Boulevard in Seminole ... hair, nails, dry cleaner and sometimes food. There was a breakfast and lunch place that we went to once. It closed not long after our visit and the closing had nothing to do with us ... I swear.

That space sat empty for quite awhile but then we started to see remodeling going on and discovered that the Stefano's Restaurant on Gulf Boulevard had closed and was taking over this space in Portobello. This Park Boulevard location is more convenient for us so we waited ... and waited ... and waited for this new location to open. Finally, they did and three of us popped in for dinner this past weekend.

Since we had never been to the Gulf Boulevard location we have no comparisons to make as to food or decor, but this Stefano's exuded a warm and friendly charm. The make over from the previous tenants was most pleasant, indeed.


I had called ahead for reservations at six and we were on time. We were greeted at the door, our reservation was confirmed and then we were told our seating options were at a high-top, the bar, the outdoor patio, or we could wait for a table to open up. The patio was facing due west into the setting sun so we decided to accept seating at the high-top.


Ashley, our most charming server took our drink order; a delightful Banfi Belnero Super Tuscan with gentle aromas of vanilla, tobacco and coffee, with hints of cherry jam and prunes. Having enjoyed a full lunch earlier in the day, the three of us eschewed the appetizers and headed right to the entrees that were preceded by two house salads and one with romaine lettuce whimsically referred to as a Caesar.
 

While the salads were crisp and fresh, our high-top was ready to dive into our main dishes. First up was a Grilled Salmon special that was moist and delicious with an Alfredo sauce topping a mound of pasta.


My bride chose the Eggplant Parmesan sliced fresh, lightly breaded, stacked with mozzarella, fried till golden brown and served with pasta and fresh marinara sauce. The eggplant had a nice crust on the outside with a creamy center.


I am hesitant to order fish at most any restaurant along the Pinellas coast since too may places cook the fish to death. Ashley convinced me to give the Grouper Special a try. 


Gracious goodness was that grouper ever perfect. It was cooked all the way through with a luscious taste and a perfect mouth feel. This fish wasn't cooked to mush. It was, well ... perfect.

The only downside to our three entrees was the glob of pasta that came with each dish. The pasta would have benefited greatly from a splash of hot pasta water to unglue the noodles that were clumped together. The pasta was cooked al dente but the noodles refused to be separated.

The issue with the pasta is a simple fix. We were impressed with Stefano's and plan to return since we are local and they are close.

Dinners for three with a bottle of wine came to a pocket pleasing $128.40.

Stefano's Italian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Traditional Thai On Gulf Boulevard

My bride, the Belle of the Beach, and I were pleasantly surprised the other day to discover a new Thai food restaurant had opened on Gulf Boulevard at Madeira Beach. What was additionally surprising was Cafe' de Bangkok specializes in just one thing, real traditional Thai cuisine. There is no sushi or sashimi, only food prepared by a chef who for many years has been selected by the U.S. Thai Embassy to cook for dignitaries from Thailand during their trips to the United States.

Later in her career Chef Yanee moved to Guam for an opportunity to further her culinary experience as the head-Thai Chef at the Five-Star Dusit Thani Guam Resort where she brought her love and passion for Thai cooking to another level. After a few years, she returned to the United States, and discovered the beautiful gulf shores of the Sun Coast.

Cafe' de Bangkok is a compact, no frills eatery with indoor and outdoor seating. While the surroundings may seem a tad Spartan, the food and service was spectacular. The Belle and I wandered in a little after five and were immediately greeted and seated. We chose to dine indoors as the outdoor seating area faced Gulf Boulevard and the setting sun.

Marlo, our gregarious server, took our drink orders and explained Chef Yanee's concept which is to use only the freshest, sustainable ingredients and prepare those ingredients in a traditional Thai manner. The dishes here are not dumbed down for the American taste buds. This is real Thai cooking!

We started our Thai dining adventure with an order of Roasted Duck Buns from the appetizer side of the menu. My bride and I shared this dish of Chinese influenced, boneless crispy roasted duck with cucumber, green onion and special sweet sauce served in steamed buns. Très magnifique ... so much so that I neglected to take a picture.

The Belle finds it hard to resist fried rice dishes, so she was excited to try the Traditional Fried Rice; Thai jasmine rice stir-fried with egg, onion, tomatoes, green onion, Chinese broccoli, cilantro and the diner's choice of chicken, pork, or shrimp (she chose pork). Served with fresh cucumber and lime wedges this preparation was declared a winner.


It was difficult for me to make a decision since there are so many Thai delights on the menu. I finally decided on the Pad Prik Khing, sautéed crispy pork with prik-khing curry, long bean, and kaffir lime leaves. Prik-Khing curry is a type of Thai curry that is drier than other Thai curries such as red curry as it does not contain coconut milk


None of the ingredients like red bell pepper, kaffir lime leaves, and asparagus or yard long beans were foreign to me since I have played around with Thai cuisine at home. What made this a stand-out plate of goodness was the curry sauce. That sauce is just one reason why Cafe' de Bangkok is a do-again dining venue. Besides, there are a plethora of other Chef Yanee dishes I must try.

Oh yeah, the prices: several beers and Chardonnays, plus the food came to a very pleasing $43.34.

Cafe de Bangkok Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Birthday Bash At The Villa

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I met up with our daughter and son-in-law for a birthday bash at Villa Bellini this past Sunday. We arrived on time for our 6:30 reservations in this elegant building at 2930 Gulf to Bay in Clearwater, and were graciously greeted and seated. Gigi was our charming server who presented our table with reams of reading material that included the adult beverage menu, the specials of the day menu, and the regular menu.

I had already looked at the menus on-line so I knew what I wanted to appear before me; a glass of prosecco to accompany my order of Alici Marinate. These fresh Italian anchovies with red peppers cooked in white vinegar and extra virgin olive oil were like nothing we get out of those little cans. These boneless fish were mouth watering delights with a bright flavor and texture that paired perfectly with the prosecco.

For her Antipasti Caldi my bride requested the Parmagiana di Melanzane, sliced eggplant layered with mozzarella and basil, topped with homemade tomato sauce; a rich and filling dish that could have been a main course.

Our dining partners shared a Antipasto Meriviglia with a side dish of thinly sliced and grilled eggplant.


Two at our table ordered the house Cesare Salad, a bland creation that was Cesare in name only and was unnecessary considering the amount of food yet to come. If served after the entrees, as is traditional in Italy, these salads would have been good palate cleansers and aid in digestion. Sadly, we were not in Italy.

The entrees were works of gastronomic delight. Two in our party ordered the Cannelloni Tampa filled with chopped spinach, chicken, roasted garlic, mozzarella, fontina, Parmigiano and ricotta cheeses, topped with a Parmigiano cream sauce.


The manly men at our table eschewed the creamy stuff and asked Gigi to "Bring us the meat!" We gazed in awe at the perfectly prepared Carre' d' Agnello, New Zealand rack of lamb sautéed with brandy, and Italian herbs in a garlic and demi-glace sauce.


If the rack of lamb didn't blast the buds of taste into orbit, then the fall off the bone Osso Buco Old Style did the deed. This veal shank on the bone smothered in rich demi-glace based brown sauce, served over fettuccini was superb.


Our table shared a couple bottles of an excellent super Tuscan wine, Luce della vite Montalcino, to accompany dinner.

The renovated Villa Bellini Restaurant and Lounge is located on a piece of property in existence since 1929. The building, inside and out, is a treasure. The food is good and the prices are reasonable for an up scale Italian eatery. My bride and I waddled out the door $171.20 lighter in the wallet, but the evening was a most pleasant family dining adventure.

Villa Bellini Restaurant & Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wasn't Broke And Wasn't Bored

The Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I stopped by the Broke N Bored Grill, 35 182nd Avenue West, Redington Shores the other day to see if it was finally open for business ... and, it was. We had just eaten lunch at home so we weren't hungry, but since the B N B serves beer and wine we decided to sit at the bar and chat with Renee, the delightful lass manning the bar and tables.

We were also pleased to meet chef and owner Jim who explained the B N B concept: "We believe in truth, quality & teaching the youth for a better future. You'll see recycled silverware, local foods & environmentally conscious packaging as well as culinary students learning. We believe in family and family dinners." We vowed to return and immerse ourselves in the culinary delights prepared by Jim and his staff.

That return visit occurred yesterday evening a little past five. Our party of four wandered in to a mostly empty dining room. Renee greeted us and invited us to sit where we pleased, so we did. Drink orders were taken and soon we four were washing away the road dust after our five minute drive from Indian Shores.

While looking over the menus and deciding on appetizers it became apparent that we arrived at just the right time because the relatively small indoor dining room soon began filling to capacity.

Speaking of appetizers, our table chose to share three dandy dishes: Drunken Shrimp, Totally Tuna, and House Smoked Fish Spread.



My favorite was the Drunken Shrimp prepared in a rich wine and garlic sauce and served with toasted bread slices for dipping in that amazing sauce. This dish reminded me of a New Orleans BBQ shrimp recipe I enjoyed a few years ago in the Faubourg Marigny district.

The Totally Tuna was totally awesome! The tuna had a perfect sear on the edges and was served over sliced Napa cabbage with a sweet soy drizzle.

The House Smoked Fish Spread can hold its own with other versions found up and down Gulf Boulevard, and the fresh tomatoes served with this spread are definitely not from Publix (where shopping is an adventure). These tomatoes were deep red and had ... give me a moment ... oh, yeah - flavor.

Next on our gastronomic horizons were the main courses: Hogfish, Ribeye, Pulled Pork, and Smoked Chicken Salad.


The blackened hogfish was roasted in corn husks with a sweet Thai pineapple glaze. This was an interesting preparation and presentation with sides of black beans and yellow rice. While the hogfish was a little over-done for my taste, my bride said she was happy with both the flavor and texture.



The simple listing of "Ribeye" on the menu was a little underwhelming until Chef Jim described the preparation. Jim puts this boneless 14 ounce ribeye in the smoker as the coals are starting to go out. After 15 minutes or so more fuel is added to the smoker to bring the heat back up and the steak is then seared on both sides. This heavenly hunk of beef is then placed in the freezer until you place your order. Your steak is then finished in a blazing hot cast iron skillet to your preferred temperature. Heavens to Murgatroid was that steak ever good!


My bride chose the Pulled Pork Sandwich sans brioche bun so that her girlish figure was not compromised. The pulled pork was served with a pineapple slaw and a chipotle BBQ sauce. I had a taste of that pork and it was one of the best ever. North Carolina could learn a thing or two from Jim.



Also on the lighter side was the Smoked Chicken Salad, again sans bread, with celery, grapes, and pecans along with a side of the pineapple slaw and those meaty, not from Publix, tomatoes.

Since we had two separate checks I am not sure of the total for the evening, but for me and my lady we got out of there for about $75. Bottom line - we were neither broke nor bored. The prices are reasonable and the food was very good. I have got to go back for the shrimp, tuna, and that ribeye.

Broke N Bored Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

As Hurricane Irma headed for Florida I decided to leave my stately pleasure dome by the sea. Cat 4 or 5 winds plus a threatened storm surge of 5 to 8 feet convinced me to bail out. The condo probably would have withstood the winds but 5 to 8 feet of surge would have caused our Chevy by the levy to float away. I cleared everything off of the balcony and packed a couple of bags with necessities.




Lydia was off to Ohio so I booked a room at a Ramada Inn in Temple Terrace. I had chicken wings and a couple cans of beer for my birthday. The next day around 6 PM we lost power. The next morning the storm had passed but I woke up to the sounds of a riot coming from the parking lot.




A couple of the worst offenders were cuffed and hauled off. The rest of this 'family' were evicted by the hotel manager. That set off a new round of fighting. More police vehicles arrived within seconds and the situation was diffused. I decided to brave the roads and head home.

The bridge to Indian Shores was blocked by police vehicles. Beach access was denied until 4 PM. I decided to chill until then. A little before 4 PM the cars started lining up on Park Boulevard. The lines began moving almost on the dot. We were told that access cards were mandatory, and I had them, but no one bothered to check as we approached the bridge.

The condo building was intact and the parking lot and garage showed no sign of storm surge. I parked and went to the elevator. That is when I discovered that we had no power. Five flights up a dark and hot stairwell was a challenge. The apartment was unscathed. The pool area was a bit of a mess, but since it isn't my pool I didn't have to stress cleaning it.


One of my biggest challenges was getting my cell phone charged. Battery power was sucked out quickly because cell phone coverage was spotty. My phone was in constant 'roam'. I am very grateful to Sweet Sage Cafe for breakfast two mornings with coffee, bloody Marys and especially for letting me recharge my cell phone during breakfast. The only other restaurant that I have found open on Gulf Boulevard is the Conch Republic. I haven't ventured too far so that I can conserve fuel. Petrol is still a big issue.

I have spent two simply marvelous nights in the apartment without AC. The biggest surprise was getting the morning paper delivered to my door the day after the storm. I missed TV coverage of the storm. Radio coverage, to put it bluntly, sucked. The announcers seemed more interested in the sound of their own voices and to see who could out-crude the other. There was very little information that was useful. This is not RADIO as I knew it back in the late fifties and early sixties when I was a commercial Broadcaster.

Just as a point of reference: Indian Rocks is north of Indian Shores and Redington is south of us. Both communities had power, actually it was said they never lost power. Indian Shores got powered up finally around 10:15 this morning.

Everything in our refrigerator will have to be dumped. My next challenge to is find food and adult beverages. Several Publix and the Winn Dixie in the area are still closed. I do still have some MREs left over from my military career. You can live off this stuff but it tastes like shit.

I guess that is the latest news for now, and holy crap, "That was fun!"


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Discovered Madeira Beach Treasure

Due to a last minute change of plans for dinner last night my bride and I found ourselves all showered, shaved, and dressed up with no place to go. On a whim, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard suggested giving Lisa's Cafe of Madeira a try. We had discussed Lisa's before but, for some inexplicable reason, we had never paid her a visit.

We arrived a bit past four and wandered in without reservations. Lisa cordially greeted us but pointed out that dinner service didn't start until four thirty. While we were looking at a wait for food Lisa said there would be no wait for adult beverages, so we made ourselves at home at the bar.

Lisa's signature cocktail is a strawberry, lemonade, basil fusion with vodka. This delightful beverage requires quite a lot of advanced preparation over several days time to realize its fruity goodness. This cocktail may have had a name but after my second one, names, my own included, eluded me.

Once properly medicated the Belle and I adjourned to a waiting booth and were presented with food and wine menus by our server, Tyler. Lisa had already mentioned a wine special, a Chilean bottle for a mere $25. Tyler suggested the sauvignon blanc, a Chilean estate bottled wine that's close to magnificent in my taste. Fruity, herbally, minerally and cheap! Warm crusty bread with a ball of real butter was also placed before us.

The marquee in front of the restaurant and Lisa herself extolled the many culinary virtues of the Maryland Style Crab Cake. Said Lisa, "This is why people from Maryland come here." We could taste why ... lump crab meat, not overpowered with breading, and the perfect spice combination with a smear of tangy rémoulade.


For her entrée, my dining partner chose the Pecan Crusted Wild Caught, Sockeye Salmon with a Honey Bourbon Glaze, Roasted Garlic Mashed, and Chef's Vegetable Medley.

The salmon was perfect! Moist, flavorful and cooked to please the most demanding buds of taste. The Belle is not really a lover of seafood, but she was in gastronomic heaven with this dish. So was I after a taste of that fish.

I chose one of the specials that night that Lisa said was going to achieve immortality on her new menu the Hoisin Glazed Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon or Wild Caught Black Grouper, served over Rice with Scallions and a Thai Lobster Coconut Cream Sauce with a Stir Fry Vegetable.

I had this dish with the black grouper. It was good but not as moist and flavorful as my bride's salmon. The hoisin glaze was excellent as was the cream sauce. Oddly enough, my bride enjoyed my grouper more than her salmon while I enjoyed her salmon more than my grouper. Go figger!

This visit with all food and adult beverages came in at $148.52. We are putting Lisa's on our Gulf Boulevard rotation for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Lisa's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Enough Trump!


ACLU Action

This is a re-post from an email I recently received. It needs to be repeated! The scum sitting in the oval office needs to be taken out back, tarred, feathered, and ridden out of this country on a rail. Enough of Trump already! 

Truth be told, I don't even know where to start.

Last night, Donald Trump cowardly used our nation's focus on the devastating hurricane in Texas to deflect attention away from two controversial decisions. First, his pardoning of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And second, his decision to sign a directive barring enlistment of transgender individuals in the military and cutting off essential medical care for trans service members.

What that means is that last night – in the middle of a national crisis that requires the full attention of our president – he decided to issue a formal presidential endorsement of racism and launch a stunningly cruel attack on patriotic trans people.

It makes me sick to my stomach, Jon.

Make no mistake: Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for deliberately violating federal court orders, after violating the constitutional rights of people of color in his community. Trump's pardon condones racial profiling and a sheriff who defied the rule of law.

And Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military is discriminatory, unconstitutional, and downright immoral. It's not based in fact or opposition from the military. It's based on bigotry and hate. Pure and simple.

You can bet Trump will be seeing us in court very soon.

From here I only know one truth: we have to get up and fight – day in and day out, and morning, noon, and night.

As the ACLU works to enforce the federal court orders we won against Arpaio in a separate civil rights case, and to challenge the transgender military ban in the courts as soon as Monday, we need you out there on the streets and phones to make sure your elected representatives do more than simply tweet their condemnation.

Congress has the authority to directly challenge Trump's assaults on our liberties and his support of racist individuals like Arpaio and other white supremacists. And they have the power to pass legislation, which has already been introduced, to undo the trans military ban.

It is time for them to exercise that authority, on these issues and more – such as President Trump's pending decision to revoke DACA, a program that ensures young, undocumented immigrants are safe from deportation. Congress should move quickly to pass legislation that provides Dreamers with the same protections as DACA, regardless of what Trump does.

We know from experience that the most powerful thing we can do in a moment like this is stand together and raise our voices.

There are going to be darker, more challenging days ahead for our country. But I believe we can overcome if we have the courage to do the hard work necessary to organize our local communities, put pressure on our elected officials, and to show solidarity with those communities that Trump is targeting.

When we stand together, nothing is impossible. Keep fighting.

In solidarity,

Anthony for everyone at the ACLU

Friday, August 4, 2017

Another Pharmaceutical Obscenity

We recently had to fill a ten dose prescription in preparation for a relatively minor medical procedure. The prescription was filled at a local Walgreens. We were billed $10 per dose for a reasonable $100 total. On the bright side, we have insurance. If we did not have insurance these ten doses would have cost us $1260 or $126 per dose.

What constitutes the obscenity is that we can get the exact same medication from a Canadian pharmacy for $253.40 or $25.34 per dose. We actually came out ahead by using our insurance, $100 instead of $253.40. But what of those in this once great country who have no insurance? Does anyone care? It certainly isn't Big Pharm. With them it's about money and profit. And our Republican controlled Congress? It's the same thing, money; and to quote a line from the movie History of the World, Part I, "Fuck the poor!"

Of course Big Pharm is doing their best to make it illegal to buy prescription drugs from Canada and even Mexico because folks in need who are seeking lower cost options are cutting into Big Pharm's profits and the monies they use to buy politicians. I think our only hope is a big Democratic turnout in 2018. We need to terminate, with extreme prejudice, this Republican controlled Congress with our votes.

Understand this: I am not advocating a single party system. A wholly Democratic administration would probably be almost as bad as what we have now. There just needs to be a balance in this country with politicians who understand for whom they work.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Homecoming Dinner At Edison

While in Tampa last week enjoying our mini-vacation my trophy bride and I decided on a return dine at one of that city's finest restaurants, Jeannie Pierola's Edison: Food + Drink Lab. We had reservations for 6 o'clock that evening but we wandered in about 15 minutes early. That's not a problem we were told and immediately the hostess guided us to our table looking out on Kennedy Boulevard.

Marysol, our gregarious server, brought us menus and ice water while we took a peek at the mixology menu. After a few moments of deliberation the Belle of Gulf Boulevard opted for the Smoking Gun: duck fat-infused Bulleit Rye ‘Frontier’ whiskey, TeBella Lapsang Souchong-infused simple syrup, Crude ‘Sycophant’ orange + fig bitters, Jack Rudy aromatic bitters. This was a tasty concoction that washed away the cares of the day ... not that we had any cares that day.

Certainly our photographer had no cares since he didn't care enough to snap a shot of the Belle's Smoking Gun. The photog got his stuff together enough to record his adult beverage, the Oaxaca This Way: The 86 & Co. ‘Cabeza’ tequila, Barrow’s ‘Intense’ ginger liqueur, Alipus ‘San Juan’ mezcal, lime, agave, Bittermens ‘Hellfire’ habañero shrub.


This beverage was so yummy I had to have two. The goblet was coated with a Hawaiian black sea salt that perfectly accentuated this delightful cocktail. I tried not being too obvious while licking the glass, but that salt was so good. Look closely and you can see the Smoking Gun in the background.

For our comestibles the Belle and I decided to stay with small plates so that we might enjoy a myriad of flavors. When we placed our orders Marysol said that she would bring them to the table one after the other as opposed to all at once with only a small wait between dishes. A nice touch!

Strap yourselves in for the show is about to begin..


WOOD-ROASTED BEETS + SARAH’S FLORIDA CHEVRE - curry pistachio butter, lime jam, micro caliente. Muy delicioso!


WOOD-ROASTED OYSTERS - miso butter, sherry mignonette. One of the better roasted oyster dishes this side of Felix's place in NOLA.


BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER - carrot celery date salad, Roquefort dressing. I am not a cauliflower kind of guy, but the Belle seemed bigly pleased.



This is a dish that gets my taste receptors quivering in anticipation: CHAR-GRILLED OCTOPUS - purple potato escalivada, sour orange aguachile, squid ink olive oil, micro Latin latitude. I swoon at the memory!


I really wanted to be blown away with this plate of SMOKED BONE MARROW - avocado, radishes, mole salsa, micro cilantro, grilled bread but the marrow was cooked beyond the point of being spreadable. The marrow came out in crumbles.



Veggie girl sitting across from me just had to have FRIED GREEN TOMATO SALAD - garden arugula, shaved fennel, cherry tomato confit, preserved lemon goat cheese, black olive emulsion and she seemed very pleased with herself.

By this time I was quite porky and except for one last adult beverage I felt like I was D-U-N done.


This was the El Molino - Xoriguer ‘Gin de Mahón,’ mango, lemon, basil, edison habañero tincture, Saracco ‘Moscato d’Asti’ with a cute-as-can-be tiny clothespin securing a leaf.

Did I mention that I was done? Well, Marysol was having none of that, so my bride and I shared this beautiful and decadent creation: DARK CHOCOLATE CRUNCH - chocolate mousse, hazelnut feuilletine, raspberry pomegranate paint, smoked chocolate ice cream. This crunch transcended merely good. It achieved immortality in the taste buds of our minds.


Dinner with cocktails, wine, and food came in at $195.81. Maybe a bit pricey for everyday dining, but we don't get to Tampa much anymore, so this was a real homecoming celebration for us.

Buen provecho, y'all.