Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to survive a kitchen remodel during the Holidays

Face it, you can't. I thought I had it together and was capable of hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year, but when I faced my kitchen with no counter tops, no sink or running water, not even a microwave. Pictures are the week before Thanksgiving.  Justin took a
I lost it. Any Southern gentility was long forgotten. I was beyond angry, disappointed, unhappy and spewing cuss words that would make a trucker proud.
Not exactly one my finer moments. Fast forward a short two weeks and there is progress. I had hopes of having Christmas Eve dinner with my family. I tentatively made the invitations to my loved ones, with the contingency, that should Justin/Justin fall behind again, we would make alternate plans. I was beginning to think I was going to have to buy Justin a Christmas gift at the rate he was going.
The Friday before the Eve, Justin was at the house and finishing up the installation of the two windows, and he hung the new dining room chandelier as a "gift" to me. (umm, I think not, dear, you owed me 140 dollars in a drawer pull allowance, but I'm not going to ruin my karma before Christmas and quibble with you.)
Christmas Eve was lovely. I planned momma's best company dish. The famous fish and yellow rice dish that she learned from Celma Mastry. I had a deal with a man and a truck...LOL the CRAB man at SeaHags hooked me up with 6 lbs. of fresh Black Gulf grouper for Christmas Eve. I had to meet him after dark in a parking lot. I'm not kidding. Contraband grouper? Aw, back in the day there were packages of flat square "grouper" that could put you in jail for a long long time. Now, it is the fresh grouper that is prized. I'll have to share that special recipe on another day. It is a keeper!
The kitchen turned out lovely. My guests oohed and aahed over our choices. There are refaced cherry cabinets, bull nosed granite counter tops, deep double stainless sinks, lovely modern pulls, scratch and dent appliances that match in stainless steel, all of them, microwave, refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher and ceramic top convection oven. A wicked strong ceiling fan, it will blow you away. The new Kraus faucet is phenomenal, great pressure and a breeze to use. My sink came from Overstock.com, the plumber looked it up in his showroom and said it would cost $785 to purchase, I bought it for $345  including the drains, stoppers, wire racks to protect the bottom of the sink, a colander and cutting board. What a steal. The new nickel plated chandelier over the sink is a stunning and the cherry wood blinds echo the crown molding around the upper cabinets.

I cleaned, I purged, I splurged. It is complete. It is truly the kitchen of my dreams and I can't wait to create some lovely meals in such a pretty kitchen. It is a breeze to clean, completely reorganized and easy to work in. It truly was worth the aggravation and angst.

Next up, the bathroom.....as it is, we are short a finished floor, without wallcoverings, no mirror and a "excuse the pun" crappy toilet. We have made our choices and they will debut on the blog at a later date. I can't wait to show you the steal of a deal we got on that sink!!

Barbecue Nirvana at Smokin J's

I have found the most heavenly barbecue brisket ever.

Smokin' J's BBQ (727) 329-8624 South Pasadena / Gulfport 5145 Gulfport Blvd S Gulfport, FL 33707 smknjsbbq.com

Seriously, we have always had a wonderful meals from this little restaurant. Nice folks serving authentic barbecue with great sides. Food is always good and the portions are ample. There is no skimping on the flavor or portion.

Smokin' J's BBQ on Urbanspoon
We have eaten inside at the picnic tables and have ordered take out more times than our cardiologist would like to hear. The brisket is phenomenal. It is lean, tender, smoky delectable beef.

 I can attest to the smoked sausage as a favorite take home. The smoked whole chickens are always moist and flavored beautifully with an even bronzed skin. The smoked wings ROCK! Hot is HOT! The sauces are deeply flavored and are thick with molasses sweetness. The hot barbecue sauce is not for the tender tongue. It packs a punch of heat that is aggressive. I love it.

There is a good number of sides that complement the smoked meats nicely.  The coleslaw is sweet and a bit sloppy.

The mac and cheese is decadently cheesy.  The jalapeno corn muffin has a touch of sweetness and some sweet heat.  The potato salad stands above the norm.

My husband will never deviate from his pulled pork sandwich on the soft white bun.  It is enough to make two sandwiches.  He inhales it.

Truthfully, this is the finest kind of barbecue, smoked with care, and served with equal panache.  You can call ahead, order and get your food quickly from the side take-out window.  There is indoor seating, not a huge number of tables, but adequate seating to sit and have a beer or two with your food.  The Family pack is a good choice and very economical for the generous amount of food.  There is delivery available.
Please don't pass by Smokin J's on Gulfport Blvd., look for the split rail fence, the Stars and Stripes flying proudly, pull in, look around, set a spell, breathe deep and order away.  You will be very very happy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Raucous Cody's Original Roadhouse

Cody's Original Roadhouse
4360 Park Street North
St Petersburg FL  33710

This place was rocking and rolling!
Walked in on a Wednesday night and it was packed.  Hostess was quickly handling the heavy traffic load, going in and coming out.  The half hour wait was tolerable with the cold beer and strong vodka and tonic.  
Cody's Original Roadhouse on Urbanspoon
The Marines were there, with a Toys for Tots Drive.  It was nice to see this effort being made for the less fortunate kids in our area.  It was so busy there I could easily see management denying the Toys for Tots Drive for the inconvenience factor alone, but they did not.  Very Cool, Cody's.

Mary was our waitress, she was swift and efficient.  We asked for a double order of salad to start our meal with and she was quick to accommodate.
Rare New York Strip
First Cold Prime Rib
Dressing was a touch more watery than usual.  There were some huge chunks of red onion that ended up in the bowl and I'm glad we avoided them. Our dinners arrived very quickly.  My NY strip steak ordered "medium rare' came out rare.  Hubby's gargantuan prime rib was almost cold.  We asked for it to be heated and the perfect looking prime rib was whisked away.  It returned very fatty and still quite cool.  It was disappointing to say the least.  We refused to wait for a second re-fire of the meat.  He trimmed a bit away to eat and we brought the rest home to give to Charlie Brown (our resident eating machine). 
Second cold prime rib remains
 Alex, the manager, kindly gave Fred a complimentary piece of cheesecake for his dessert.   Fred two-fisted that dessert and refused to share.  And as you can tell, he enjoys his cold mug of beer.  All in all, I usually enjoy my meal at Cody's but I will avoid the restaurant when it is that busy.  Trying to turn tables as quickly as they could, the food suffered in execution.   When our boy, Tyler was alive, Cody's baked sweet potato with cinnamon butter was his very favorite meal.  So Cody's has a soft spot in my heart and I'll forgive them this rare unfortunate meal.

Good Times to be had at Good Times

It was a long time between visits to the Good Times restaurant.  Our recent visit was infinitely better than our first visit 28 years ago.

Good Times Continental Rstrnt

(727) 867-0774

1130 Pinellas Bayway S Map
Tierra VerdeFL 33715

Good Times Continental Rstrnt on Urbanspoon Why was it better?  BECAUSE we were better customers.  Our first visit so long ago was an unmitigated disaster of a date.   The food was probably just as great then as it was this night.  However, I can't remember the food, only the fight we had during dinner so long ago.  What a shame to allow a bad argument over a silly comment keep us from going back to the Good Times Continental Restaurant.

It was a blast of the past when we entered the restaurant.  There is a nice entrance and the lovely round bar area with a quick glimpse into the kitchen.  We were seated quickly as a walk-in table.  The restaurant was filled with tables of many ages.  The air in the room was celebratory.  Our host and hostess (Marie and Sid) were gracious and very charming.    There are lace curtains and wood paneling very reminiscent of your favorite aunt's dining room.  It is not a cutting edge kind of place.  It is a warm hug from the moment you walk in and to the moment you leave.

We started our meal with a few beers, Hacker Pschorr and a Pilsner.  The menu is definitely "old school"
European classics.  My husband chose the stuffed mushrooms.  They were delicious and hand's down the very best stuffed mushroom we have tried in a long time.  Flavorful and filled with tender meat and herbs.
I chose the escargots and they were fantastic.  Bubbly hot, garlic overload and the snails were a lovely texture, not the rubbery overcooked misfortunes we have encountered elsewhere.

Entrees come with a cup of housemade soup and either a small salad or the heavenly cucumbers topped with a mild sour cream sauce.  I can't show you the cups of soup from this evening.  We inhaled our soup.  It was a mushroom potato soup.  It was so very good.  (And those that have tried my homemade mushroom soup, know that I'm a tough critic).    The cucumber are sliced paper thin, salted, patted dry and dressed with the simple sour cream.  Do yourself a favor and order the cucumbers.  They are "that" good.

Fred chose the classic schnitzel for his entree.  He raved over the crisp coating and tender meat.  The lyonnaise potatoes were browned beautifully and just as delicious.  He couldn't finish plate and was plotting a breakfast of schnitzel and over easy egg in the morning.

I had the evening's special of Goulash with egg noodles.  It was incredibly good.  The meat was fork tender and packed with paprika flavor.  I ate every single morsel, each bite a revelation of savory meaty goodness.

Our plates were graced with a perfectly cooked butter stalk of broccoli and a bit of tomato and red onion.  
Dinners also have a good fresh rye bread served with foil wrapped pats of butter.   It was a lovely dinner.

Next time, we visit the Good Times we will share an appetizer, enjoy our entrees and leave room to have dessert.  We couldn't try any of the sweets we saw being served to other tables because we were just to full to try.  We agree this was a wonderful delightful supper.  Our server was swift and competent.  The prices were a bit over what we usually spend on a night out, but the quality of the food, charming service more than make up for the expense.  And yes, there will be a next time and it won't be a 28 year lull in between visits.  This meal certainly erased any hurtful memories and it has succeeded in reminding us that a.) we were meant to be together despite a rocky romance at the start,  b,) good food can satisfy and cure what ails you.

We enjoyed our night out immensely and the food was delectable.  A treasure hidden out on the island of Tierra Verde.  Two thumbs up!  

Restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday.  They only accept cash.  Be forewarned. They are closed for the holidays for the week between Christmas and New Years. Call ahead to confirm.  

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Places I have been and not...Dream Vacation

Places I have been (and not) I have been in many places, but I've never been in Cahoots.
Apparently, you can't go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my friends, family and work.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I go there more often as I'm getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get!

And, sometimes I think I am in Vincible but life shows me I am not!

I have been in Deepshit many times. The older I get, the easier it is to get there.

We have a big anniversary coming up in August.  Fred and I have discussed where we would like to go and it looks like a cruise would be in order.  He wants to go to Jamaica.  I would like to go to Belize and Cozumel.  Figures we wouldn't agree on this milestone vacation either.

Where would you go?

Or would you go to an all-inclusive vacation packages at Sandals Resort?

Or for a totally different bend in the road, have a recommittment ceremony with a big party?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This is Fred.......my hubby of many many years.  He is my foundation.  
Fred was supposed to pick up three thick cut strip steaks for the grill for dinner tonight.  Bless his heart, he got three lean tough top round steaks.  They are going sit in a marinade til tomorrow. Fred is special  man in many ways.  Sending him to the store has always been an adventure.  Once I asked for tomato sauce to make a chili and he brought home tomato soup.  Close, but no cigar.  Fred reads the first part of the word and ignores the rest.  It is a trait he has acquired since the strokes that nearly killed him. Fred can not read well and he is easily confused.  He suffers with steadily increasing forgetfulness. The prideful man he is,  refuses to ask for assistance, no matter what the outcome.   He came home with a bottle of Winking Owl Chardonnay, which worked perfectly for the planned shrimp cocktail supper but was vastly different from the Cupcake Chardonnay on the list.  Easy confusion there.  Alton Brown's brined and broiled shrimp are heads and tails above any other shrimp. They are plump, seasoned and are never ever flabby or tough and the only way I will ever make shrimp again. 

Got involved with a conversation with some cyber friends about old loves and lost loves today. The conversation got started because of the two contractors working on our current kitchen remodel are both name Justin and it leads to a lot of confusion and mis-communication.  This is, however, no worse than when I worked with several fellows named Ed.  Five men named Ed working in one kitchen lead to chaos at Rollande et Pierre in 1974.  You would call out "Ed, I need my ----" and it was a chorus of voices answering you.  This brought to mind the saga of the "Ed" twins who were a wonderful and equally awful part of my life.  I very nearly married one of them. I was 19, and was literally left at the alter with a 500.00 dollar ivory chiffon empire waist dress with fingertip sleeves in lace (a fortune in 1976) and a china service for 24 (That I just trashed in the dumpster this year, it was never used, and it had too many bad memories to keep).  I found out days later after the abandonment that Ed #1 had two other girlfriends and both were pregnant. 'Nuff said. Dodged a bullet with that one. His twin brother had taken me to my Senior prom and was a perfect gentleman. Naturally, I fell hard for the other brother, the one with the devil in his eye. Both of them had gorgeous full heads of auburn hair, freckles and clear green eyes. Oh my goodness, be still my beating heart..

 Anyway, I showed my saved china pattern to my daughter this summer, told her the story behind it and asked if she would care to have it for her "hope" chest.  She told me "no".  Too much pain and too many bad things happened to mommy while that china was in the house.  Perceptive girl, she is.  Tried to sell it, but there were no takers and even ChinaFinders deemed the pattern worthless. Noritake Silver Palace  circa 1976.  According to ChinaFinders, which is a local china pattern locator, right down the street from Painting With a Twist, told me they had oodles and oodles of pieces for my pattern and it wasn't worth much. So it got the old heave ho into the dumpster.  It was cathartic and cleansing to have it shatter into as many pieces as my heart was shattered long long ago.  It also, pinpointed how clearly to me how my daughter, Liv doesn't have that kind of "entertaining gene" in her. The idea of a special china pattern means nothing to her.  She would rather have an "experience". I don't see her caring about a whether the table linens are pressed or if the dishes even match. Setting a table to her is an odious chore. 

It was always one of my favorite things to do to help my mom. I loved the feel and translucency of the fine china in my hand, polishing the silver til it gleamed and it was about the only time you would find me with an iron in my hand...ironing and starching the napkins so I could fold them in fancy patterns. Funny those things were fun to me and I loved the civility of a fine table. But I never could get totally behind the idea of a fine china left only for special occasions, every day should be special day. Company isn't the only reason to use the "good stuff" You should use the "good stuff" for your family and yourself too. Even if you set the table for one. One need not be the loneliest number you ever hear. Treating yourself well only on a special day leads to gradual loss of self. When you stop caring about the things that matter to you, it sends the wrong message to your own pysche. Lack of caring for yourself snowballs into a lack of caring for the things around you and that will perpetuate a feeling of unworthiness. If you feel you aren't worthy of being cared for, it becomes a vicious cycle of self-defeating behavior. That is a terrible thing to do to the wonderful creation you are, a child of a Higher Being, with a purpose and unconditional love from the universe, even if it isn't apparent in the everyday.  Each of us is miraculous in a unique sense and have an intrinsic value that should be nurtured and cherished.  You should have things you love to touch and look at every day to give you that sense of satisfaction and well being. If your food is continually shoved at you through a fast food window, you become desensitized to taste and it leads to a lethargy towards life beyond cooking and the pleasure of a good meal prepared with caring loving hands. Cheaper does not always mean better. Yes, it will take more time and effort but who better to care for your well-being than yourself. Responsibility for what you eat is a choice that lies within.  

As I get ready to put the everyday practical Corelle in the dishwasher, it reminds me of the difference in the loves of my life.  Corelle isn't as exciting or quite like the china I longed for and never used, but it is a dish I can live with daily and appreciate the ease of care and lightness. My dishes are like my Fred.....he may not be as devilish as the Ed of my past, but he is the foundation of my soul. He is my dear husband for better for or for worse, in sickness and in health.  He has been a rock of support and generous of heart, loyal and loving for 28 years.  I'm truly blessed.  Who needs that fine china, afterall?
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Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Bamboo Bistro

The family tried the Bamboo Bistro on 75th Avenue on St. Pete Beach tonight.  It was delicious.
The restaurant occupies the tiny space formerly known as Oscar's on 75th.  There is ample parking behind the building.  It sits next to the infamous "Shhh, Don't Tell Mama" adult store.
The Bamboo Bistro on Urbanspoon
There is a lovely deck in the back with seating.  It has some Roman busts on the wall which is a bit of a disconnect.  It is still a pleasant spot to sit on a fresh cool November evening.  The interior has been painted in a deep red walls, black ceiling and large golden bamboo poles askew against the walls.  The floors are dark wood.

There is a very nice selection of sushi items and specialty rolls.  We chose a spicy tuna roll ($9,95) and one called red hot chili peppers.  Both were very good.  I particularly liked the read hot chili pepper roll ($13.95).  It had tuna inside and tuna outside, with jalapenos, tempura crispy something and it was very good.  I like spicy.  Both were plated beautifully and had generous amounts of wasabi and pickled ginger.

Beer and Wine selections are the usual generic versions.  Hot or cold sake is offered, too.  A generous glass of wine is $5.00 each and a Miller Lite is $2.95 a bottle.

The Daughter raves about the crab rangoon, and they were hot, fresh, crispy and had a nice dipping sauce.  Dad was very happy with his pork potstickers.  They were tender and flavorful.    I can't share a picture of my Tom Yum Shrimp soup, ($3.95).  We ate it before I remembered a picture.  It was tart, spicy, gingery with three perfectly cooked large plump tender shrimp.  Sooooo good.  Service can be a bit scattered but with food this good, we weren't complaining.

The Mr. enjoyed his dish of Mongolian beef very much.  The onions and beef were tender and flavorful. The Daughter could barely eat her entree of Broccoli Ginger chicken, only because she had too much sushi!!.  It was perfectly cooked, the chicken slices were not rubbery.  You could tell this was cooked to order.  The only miss of the night was the Bamboo Eggplant in peanut sauce.  The tofu cubes were lightly fried pillows of airy protein.  The sauce suffered by being much too sweet and cloying for my taste.  It needed a serious punch of lime and heat to counteract the thick sweet peanut flavor.  

Yes, we will go back.  Do the sushi,  Hot & Sour or Tom Yum soup and save some room for the desserts.  We want to try the Thai donut and the Bamboo Banarama Sundae.  Tempura fried bananas, ice cream, and hot fudge.  Just shoot me now.  Really that sounds like fun!

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurantsThose are the happy faces of my family after a good supper.  Please tell them Olivia sent you in to give them a try. .