Sunday, August 3, 2014

Here's the plan, Stan

I do solemnly swear to start off this week with preparation and cook ahead meals to keep us on budget.  Since I've been on short term disability leave and my paycheck is greatly diminished, I have to be creative with our freezer stash and pantry items to feed the family.  It is far easier to prep ahead a few meals and resist the lure of the telephone dial to 727FoodNow or the local pizza delivery.

Step one of meal planning and preparation is figuring out the menu for the week.
I try to vary the protein and sides so that my loving husband does not have to endure chicken overload.  He is a carnivore of the finest kind.  I, however, love my veggies with a small side of meat.  We are literally Jack Sprat and Wife.  We shop the sales circulars and plan the meals for what is the best price.

Step two of the cooking process is read over the recipes, even those you know like the back of your hand.  I can't tell you how often I've begun cooking only to find I'm missing a key ingredient.  Brain fog is a terrible trait.

Step three is to process like items in bulk.  If 3 of 6 items call for chopped onions, chop all the onions at once, divide and conquer!  I utilize small bowls to assemble my mis en place for each recipe.  The granite counter top may look like chaos, but it is my organized chaos.

Step four-fix any marinades and put your delicious dish in the refrigerator to wait for its turn in the dinner line up.  (Mojo chicken thighs)

Step five-if you have items that need to salt and strain, put them in colander to do their thing.  (eggplant and napa cabbage)

Step six-Assemble sauces (roasted red pepper pasta sauce, sassy Jezebel sauce). Cook the rice and portion out.  Make the salad dressings, store in the refrigerator and have at the ready when a salad craving hits (strawberry vinaigrette).  Fix the snacks for lunches (ham salad with horseradish pickles, pimento cheese with jalapenos)

Step eight-assemble dishes into storage containers, label and date.  Group all items for a single meal together in your refrigerator.  Print the menu and keep on the refrigerator.  Note any fresh purchases needed.  (Fruit salad night)

Step nine-assemble any batters or muffin mixes and refrigerate the batter to scoop and bake as needed in the morning.  A hot bran muffin will move you out of the slumber into action.

Step ten-dial the pizza man and order in dinner, you are to tired to do anything else.......I'm kidding!!!

Menu for the week in no particular order:

Chicken thighs/sausage in white bean ragout.  Roasted Ratatouille, mais oui!
Leftover ratatouille will fill a ramekin, egg added in the center and baked for an early easy morning repast.

Slow roasted pork roast, collard greens (smoked ham, onions/garlic) and Southern corn bread.  Mom's Cukes/maters/slivered Vidalia onion salad in sour cream.

Roast Beef with garlic/rosemary rub, Salty Balls Maui Style, Those Blasted Tomatoes, Roasted brussel sprouts, mixed salad with strawberry balsamic vinaigrette (crumbled blue cheese and toasted slivered almonds for taste and texture).

Bibimpap using leftover pulled pork served with crispy rice cake and fresh julienned veggies (slivered cucumbers, carrot straws, sprouts, pickled red onion, daikon), poached egg and Tyler Florence's quick kimchee.  Tapioca pudding with a brulee finish to gild the lily.

Smoked paprika/zatar rubbed chicken breasts grilled, rice pilaf with pistachios and cran-raisins, toasted pita bread.  Shredded romaine salad with tzatziki sauce.

Eggplant Parmesan with roasted red pepper and basil tomato sauce.  Sauteed Italian sausages, garlic bread.   Tiramisu ice cream from the freezer, topped with homemade chocolate syrup.

Mojo marinated chicken thighs, roasted and served with Moros y Cristianos (Black beans and rice).  Watermelon, pineapple, basil, green onion salad.

Eastern Carolina style slow smoked pulled pork, old fashioned pea salad, coleslaw with sassy Jezebel sauce.  Dinner rolls.

Blinged out Bran Banana Blueberry Muffin mix.
Ham salad with horseradish pickles
Jalapeno Pimento Cheese spread
Leftover roast beef made into a sandwich on Chicago rolls with homemade Giardinaira
Leftover pulled pork on Cuban bread with ham/pickles/swiss cheese and mustard, pressed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My increasing infatuation with The Big Rooster, El Gallo Grande

As a lifelong urban girl, I've had very little experience with farms or homesteads. I've never been able to fully explain my attraction to farm animals, particularly chickens, roosters and goats.  I can remember a vacation or two with my momma to West Virginia to visit my Great Aunt Mabel.  I loved every minute with that no-nonsense practical woman.  My sister and I played in the stream on the mud flats.  We would climb trees and pick apples for her.  She would have a big iron pot on a wood fire stirring down her homemade apple butter, we would watch the ash float in the deep brown apple cinnamon mixture and hear her say, "A little ash won't hurt us."   She had us milking the cows and gathering eggs.  I can still hear her hearty laughter over the "little city girl" afraid of a laying hen.
She was a dear God-fearing woman with a huge heart.   Those are memories dear to my heart and over the years I've collected a rather large collection of ceramic, wooden, and iron roosters.  They were displayed in nearly every room.....until my husband put his foot down and said, "Enough."  So I can't bring any more big roosters home.

So imagine my delight when a short distance from our home, I heard of a new restaurant opening in the space formerly occupied by Basta's.  (Basta's was a very romantic dinner spot for us and we missed them greatly when they closed.)
El Gallo Grande, The Big Rooster has officially opened and we have had two meals at the newly redecorated establishment.
 The remodeled building is a treat for the eyes.  There are hand painted murals inside and out, including some fine renditions of my favorite roosters.  The outside rear wall by the parking area features a lovely painted poster of a Mexican movie star.  Inside the walls are a bright shade of yellow with Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls and Mexican wrestler murals providing visual interest.  The cove lighting in the ceilings is an ever-changing rainbow of colors.  The main room features communal tall tables and a very busy bar.

Now to the most important part of any restaurant...the food and service.  The menu is limited in options but never fear, my gringo friend, the food is fabulous. The offerings are a very concise accurate taste of true Mexico.  This is not a Tex-mex restaurant, it is not an Americanized hybrid of Mexican flavors.  The food is fresh and as vibrant as the colors overhead.

The basket of fried corn tortillas were fresh and crisp.  The salsa presented with the chips was delicious.  It was a bit thinner than the commercial variety from the jar salsas and the freshness was a highlight.  We ordered the guacamole at both of our visits.  It is the BEST guacamole I have ever tasted in a restaurant.  As a matter of fact, it puts my own attempts of the dish to shame.  The ratio of lime, cilantro, tomato and avocado chunkiness is far superior to any other version I've tried.  We did order for my gringo hubby a dish of the hot cheese, fundido.  He totally dug into that melty cheese with gusto.

At our late lunch visit, I had the chiles rellenos with the refried bean puree and rice.  The chiles rellenos were excellent.  The fresh poblanos were roasted, peeled and stuffed.  One had a chorizo stuffing and the other was stuffed with cheese and deep fried in an ethereal light batter.  El Gallo Grande did a very nice plate presentation and it was delicious on the palate.  My dear hubby had the steak with poblano peppers.  He was very happy with his skirt steak, cooked a perfect medium.  He had some warm fresh tortillas to make his own barbacoa tacos.
The menu features chicken tinga tacos, carnitas, chicken mole and daily entree specials.  A variety of tacos and tortas are offered lunch and dinner.  Our lunch service was prompt and swift.  Hubby had a bit of a hissy because they were out of his favorite beer, but once he found a suitable substitute he calmed down.  I had a blast trying a few of the specialty margaritas.  The Paloma, grapefruit margarita was my favorite.  The house margarita was a fine rendition as well.

Our dinner visit was a celebratory meal to welcome home our daughter, the traveling caregiver.  (She was gone for 40 days to care for her godmother who was undergoing chemotherapy in the midst of a move between homes.)
We scarfed down the chips, salsas once they arrived tableside.  We were voraciously hungry.  However, our server was a bit scattered.  He has obviously never learned to multi-task, he was the kind of waiter who would visit the adjacent table, run off to kitchen or bar and skip right over us without checking our needs on his way past.  Working one table exclusively and ignoring the next table is inexcusable.  It takes 30 seconds to acknowledge the next table and you can certainly piggyback the orders to the bar and the kitchen to prevent long delays in service.  It took well over 25 minutes for the cervesa and margaritas to appear. The appetizers were delivered separately.  We later found out the kitchen was out of guacamole and they quickly rallied and made a new batch which was delivered by the owner with his apologies.  Thank you, sir.

We got the specials of the day recited by the owner and although I was set to have the chiles rellenos again, I was persuaded to have the skirt steak with the chimichurri sauce and skinny fries.  It was so good.  I'd slather that chimichurri on a flip flop and eat it.  I had to slap hands to keep the daughter from dipping into my sauce.  The other special was a fresh catch (I can't remember the fish~blame the margarita) with sauce Veracruz, freshly diced tomatoes, olives, poblanos and onions.  I wanted one of my dining partners to try it but I couldn't persuade them.  It just means I have to go back for the Fish Veracruz.  The prodigal daughter had the chicken tinga tacos.  She was very happy with her dish. The cabbage was slivered finely and the flavor of the chicken was just right.  The hubby abandoned his steak for a chicken enchilada with verde sauce.  He was most impressed with the filling and sauce.  It did not blister his gringo tongue. Hubby said he was willing on the next visit to try the mole sauce.  Javier, the owner, suggested that he would custom make the enchiladas with one each of the three sauces, red, green and mole.  Very nice of him to offer a customized dish.

We had a great conversation with Javier and he explained in detail the preparation of the poblanos and how he has refused to use a "fresh frozen" product. His staff prepares the peppers fresh daily.  It was a nice to see his pride in serving authentic Mexican food.  He has convinced me to try the ceviche on our next visit.  How can you judge the freshness of the food,  well, by eating raw fish dish?  What better test than a ceviche?  I can't argue with his logic at all.

For dessert, we were shown a lovely flan with swirls of caramel and raspberry sauces, but we simply did not have any room to try a bite of the glistening beauty.

Even though we were unhappy with the service our second visit, the food was well worth the wait.  The atmosphere, food and drink are a very happy addition to the South St. Pete scene.  We will exercise our lessons in patience and give the Big Rooster our business.  There are other dishes we want to try and the vibrant, fresh El Gallo Grande has us clucking like content hens.

El Gallo Grande on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blueberry Ice cream Sundae

I was recently gifted several Food and Home magazines to read.  An indulgence or expense I don't allow in my budget constraints, much less having the free time to peruse said periodicals monthly.  I could not keep up with the cascade of information on the printed page.  However, since I've been forced into short-term disability until further notice, I can say that a paper periodical is infinitely preferable than trying to read a lap top while on bed rest.  I don't worry if it will hit the floor or if a dog will accidentally roll over it and break it.  A magazine can be set aside without worry.  Perhaps that should be a marketing ploy by publishers.  

Since I have an ice-creamaholic husband, who has never turned down an ice cream dessert, I was totally captivated with ice cream recipes that did not require eggs.  I am simply incapable of standing at a stove and stirring a custard base as my mother did years ago for her hand cranked/churned ice cream.  Suffice to say, to our PA and WV relatives, you have my deep apologies from the FL contingent.  Weaving through the forbidden corn field to the desired peach trees in the dark of night is an adventure I'll never forget. Momma was totally smitten with those purloined peaches.  I can't say my ice cream didn't have a bit of bitterness because my soul was ahurting for our midnight thievery.  Guilty on all counts, constable.

We had a surplus of blueberries from our local Aldi's and I have a new Cuisinart Ice Cream maker.  Farm meet function.  Ice cream sans eggs it is.
My friend had shared a Paula Deen magazine that had a blueberry ice cream recipe that looked delectable.  I amended the recipe slightly because I didn't want hard frozen single berries in my ice cream.  I heated them with the sugar, water and a bit of lemon juice to soften, mashed them with a potato masher and chilled them overnight.  The next day once the ice cream maker was cranking, I strained the blueberries (reserved the syrup) and added the blueberry mash.  The ice cream is a lovely violet color and the flavor is truly integrated.  No hard chunks.  Served the ice cream over lemon bars.  If I had mint, I would have gilded the lily, but it fine without any garnish other than a tiny drizzle of leftover berry syrup.

1 pint of fresh blueberries
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
juice of one lemon
zest of half lemon
1 cup of heavy whipping cream (chilled)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (chilled)
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of vanilla
2 cups of half and half (chilled)
Favorite lemon bar recipe (I cheated and used Krusteaz)
reserved blueberry syrup
Cuisinart Ice Cream maker, with the frozen insert and paddle

Wash and stem berries. Add to sauce pan with sugar/water, lemon juice and zest.  Heat gently til berries start to pop.
Mash with potato masher.  Chill overnight.
Prep Ice cream cylinder by washing and freezing at least 24 hours.
Strain berries and reserve liquid, separate from berries in refrigerator.
In a large chilled glass bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed.
Add chilled sweet condensed milk, beat again on high until peaks are formed.
Add half & half, vanilla and blend gently to combine.
Assemble ice cream maker.
The ice cream maker MUST be spinning before you add the ice cream mix.
Add milk mix to churning ice cream maker, allow the churn to process at least ten minutes, add the reserved crushed blueberries and continue to process for another 20 minutes.
Be careful there might be a more mix than can fit in the canister.  I reserved the extra creamy mix and will use it as a mix-in mascarpone cheese with instant coffee and Tia Maria for a tiramisu ice cream.....later, much later.  Since there are no eggs in the ice cream mix, I feel it is safe to keep the cream mixture.
Pack the ice cream in an air tight container and put in deep freeze  to cure and harden for three hours.
Will keep a month in deep freeze, if you are lucky.
Dessert time, cut a square of lemon bar, top with scoop of blueberry ice cream and drizzle with blueberry syrup.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Personal Love letter to Parenthood; Parenthood and PAIN

No parent is prepared to lose their child. You are blessed with the supreme gift of parenting, to guide, to love and to raise a child.  It is unfathomable to love a being so much and have their life taken before it begins to blossom.  Your heart grows fully at their birth to encompass the future of another precious life  It is filled with the miracle of the unique being in your arms, full of promise and dreams.  A part of your soul shrivels and shrinks to a hard bitter foul pit impossible to swallow when your child is taken from your arms.  There is only faith in the word of your Higher Being that can save you from the bowels of overwhelming despair, it is impossible to defeat the fog of sadness without the hope and promise of a reunion of spirit and heart in another plane. 

Just today, I questioned my own reasons for parenthood...why would I project my own unmet dreams on my child? For Olivia to do and be better than I ever accomplished, how unrealistic and unfair are my projected expectations for her life, it can result in an unhealthy unhappy relationship. Why should my success be based on how I raised my girl; to be the very thing that I could not be?  One should never expect their child to be what the parent failed to be.  Parenting is a responsibility that is daunting and is often fraught with a history of familial pain that can color the joy of THIS precious child in your life. I wasted years without a purpose in my own life.  Really, a wasted life until our Tyler was born. Our Tyler was a lesson from God that was life-changing. A gift to share and not be forgotten.  

Dearest Olivia, no matter how much I say I don't want you to "be me" I can't prevent you from making the same mistakes that i made.  At some point, I have to let my expectations go and know that your life is what you choose and not what I expected it to be.  You can't make someone be successful or accomplished as a substitute for your own inadequacies, your child must have that drive on their own. Parenting, empathy, compassion, classes, summper camps can be shown as an example of a full life, but that does not mean that your child will echo your values or exceed your failures.  My own life disappointments should not be a pattern for another life based on the expectations of others. My mother felt this pain all her youth and she could not keep the insecurities in her life keep me from repeating them. Momma and I went to couples therapy at one point in our life because our relationship was so fractured and dysfunctional .  I'll never forget the counselor asking me "Did I want to repeat the anguish and pain of generations of women before me?  Did I have the guts to break free from this cycle of poor self esteem and being a doormat to life's curveballs?"  And I fear that my insecurities from my young adulthood have created the same lack of self-esteem in you, my precious Olivia. Parenthood is not easy. 

Our children are not a vessel to fulfill our own unmet expectations. They are God's gift to be their own unique beings with His plan for their life. The Greatest Love of All.....

My childhood friend has lost her adult friend lost her adult son....we lost our son. Parents are not meant to see their children die before them. It is Hell on earth. There are no words to ease the pain. I was questioning the value of parenting today and then I get a big FACE slap reminder that there is no greater love than a parent to a child. And sometimes that is all there is, the love of child, pure and simple.  It makes you human and connects you to life in its fullest.  We are linked by our love of family. The love of your child is an unconditional love that encompasses all hurts and disappointments.  You love with all your being, you forgive the unforgivable, you hope to instill your values, your dreams and hopes.  Then,.at times, you realize most harshly that life with children is not what you planned but a lesson in how you deal with the challenges.  This hyper-impatient perfectionist waited 9 1/2 years to hear an "I love you" from a boy with a heart of pure gold.  I had to learn to cherish this child that was not whole.  How unfair of me to apply a greater standard of perfection to his sister and expect her to be all that I was not, or to compensate for what was lost when Tyler passed away.   

Our Children are our future let them lead the way.  

I was most unhappy with myself for not funding the Camp Redbird Reunion Picnic this year, held in honor of Tyler.  Fred's heart attack was the priority and it consumed my days and funds.  It doesn't mean that we have forgotten to memorialize the life we lost.  Ty's connection to Camp Redbird was his summer salvation.  Once he gained a comrade in his nurse, Gordon, he loved the autonomy of a day without therapy and school.  Supporting his causes has always been a comfort in spite of our loss.

I urge those parents to find and support the causes that meant something to their lost child.  Lemonade for Cancer, Therapeutic Recreation for the Handicapped, Zap for Cerebral Palsy

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Far from the Madding Crowd, Mad Beach Fish House is Beachy Keen

After a relaxing bit of pampering (manicure/pedicure for moi and pedicure for the ever so ticklish Mister) our tummies were protesting the abnormal length of time spent soaking our toes in bubbly hot lemon scented mineral water.  Our coupled thoughts were bubbling to the surface about our long delayed lunch.  The gossip and chit-chat with Angie had centered around those crazy pedicures where the small fish attack the soaking feet and nibble away the flesh of your toughened callused feet.  Hmm, hot steamy water and nibbling fish, excuse me, I mean nibbling ON fish...sounds like a steamed seafood bucket to me.

Didn't the esteemed Jon of the SOG City Oracle mention a nice seafood establishment in Madeira Beach? Hmm, this may take a bit of conniving to get the Mister to go along for this ride. After choosing a bright boiled lobster red nail polish (foreshadowing my desire perhaps a bit too literally) for my buffed and sanded seemed only natural to head to Mad Beach Fish House for a well deserved lunch. After all, one of my favorite bloggers had already done the reconnaissance for us. The Mister had tolerated his pedicure with a minimum of squirming and kicking.  I did not have to tip extra for the hazard of cleaning his toes.  Thankfully, this time no one took a karate kick to the chin for a foot massage.  Plus, Mad Beach Fish House fit the Notyourmomma rules of good eats...a) it is not a chain, b) it is someplace new to us, c) we were halfway there, eliminating the bellyaching from the Mister about being too far away, d) gorgeous day, convertible, Madeira beach, easy as ABC 123.Mad Beach Fish House on Urbanspoon

It was bordering on the super-late lunch time or hyper-early early bird, that in-between time that can leave a hungry diner looking anxiously for their absent server on a break or busy with sidework for the next shift. This was not the case at Mad Beach, our server was very attentive and her cheerful attitude only added to the pleasure of our lunch.  Gratefully for this Notyourmomma there is an elevator to reach the top level of the restaurant.  Hey, no cracks about the elevator not going all the way to the top, I know who you are.  This old lady is happy for easy access and no stairs to climb.   We had our choice of tables and picked a lovely bench seat overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
 The benches were reminiscent of Adirondack seating and painted a lovely distressed pale teal blue.  The walls were decorated with typical beach murals, sand tastefully done.  The owners had just purchased the restaurant last October. They have been rehabbing and adding a large Tiki style bar to the bar and patio. There are plans to have a seafood market in the near future.  All of this bodes well to enjoy a well made seafood feast.

After ordering the requisite light beer for the Mister and the tall Vodka and tonic for me, we quickly chose our appetizers while perusing the rest of the menu for our main courses.  The Mister's six advertised Key West Oysters were actually nine per serving due to the smaller size of the oysters. The oysters were topped crab & parmesan, then broiled.  He scarfed them down quickly.  I was offered nary a bite.
 Well, then!  I couldn't resist the lure of fried lobster.  I received light battered nuggets of sweet lobster.  Not greasy, hot, tender and just yummy.  It may be sacrilegious to fry a lobster, but it was way better than the ubiquitous gator or conch nugget.

The Mister was an easy sell on the lobster grilled cheese with tomato and grilled onions on sourdough.  He chose some excellent hand cut fries as his side and a disappointingly small cup of sad slaw.  (Note to chef...fix the slaw, give it a beauty makeover with red cabbage, carrot shreds and a bright tart dressing, lemon/mustard/honey/mayo combo or a chipotle mayo and slivered green onions?)  His sandwich was phenomenal looking and just as drool worthy as the picture.  He was in sandwich nirvana.

Okay, I contemplate the aforementioned bucket for one as my meal, but my appetite was whetted by the fried lobster to try a nibbler lunch approach.  I chose a cup of the conch chowder, a side of red beans and rice, plus a half pound of the peel and eat shrimp in Old Bay shake.  With a bit of a misstep with the conch chowder, I was a very happy beach bum.

The conch chowder lacked some serious heat, both in temperature and in seasoning.  The little pieces of conch were chewy and it tasted as if it had possibly scorched on the steam table, but it was not steaming hot.  Not worth a re-fire, I'll just chalk it up to the lateness of the lunch and it has suffered at the end of shift.  There was a heavy tomato presence and only a slight hint of heat. (Note to chef...lose the super sweet tomato base, add some heat, develop a deep roux and you'll make that limp cup better by far).

Boy, oh boy did the red beans and rice make up for every spoonful of disappointment in the chowder.  Those beans were creamy, flavored heavily with a Cajun kick, full of peppers, onions, sausage chunks in a slightly thickened broth.  Tender rice underneath, I could have eaten two cups.  Seriously, they were that good.  Unctuous, tender to the tooth, rich, it needed not a drop of hot sauce, although I would offer a bottle alongside for those who care to incinerate their taste buds.  Or a bit of pepper vinegar would be a nice tableside addition.

The size of the peel-n-eat shrimp were unbelievable.  Talk about a perfect depiction of an oxymoron.  Jumbo Shrimp does not do justice to the size of these behemoth crustaceans.  They were perfectly cooked.  I gladly ruined my freshly done manicure, peeling and dunking these beauties.  I definitely needed a nail brush to clean the Old Bay debris from under my nails.  Oh, yes, baby, we will meet again.  I would dearly love to see those paper thin squares that barely qualified as a napkin to be replaced with a much better quality serviette.  A wet nap after a finger staining, shrimp deveining, munch fest would be a lovely offering.

It was beyond cruel to offer us dessert after such a feast.  We toddled our buffed and puffed selves to the mid-life crisis vehicle and took a slow ride home.  I certainly look forward to visiting MB again to tackle one of those seafood buckets. I'm tempted to see their rendition of shrimp and yellow grits, after savoring those Cajun beans.
So good they get a second shot of fame!
The promise of a lobster roll sings a siren's song. Yes, this is a worthy rinse and repeat restaurant.   With a couple of tweaks to the slaw and conch chowder, napkin issue and an offer of hot sauce or peppered vinegar, what is good now could be better.
Note:  Breakfast is offered on the weekends.  As well as a Bloody Mary Bar!  I love a pickled salad in my drink.  Our ample meal, two beers, two drinks with tax and well-deserved tip came to $83.00.

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of the city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Accidental Moon

Yesterday was one long day.  I have been short on sleep and working lots of overtime.  I've been accused of being a "stress junkie" and though I'm working very hard on correcting my bad habit of obsessing over life and foregoing sleep, I'm not always entirely successful.  The Mister's myocardial infarction last month has not eased my stress, nor the Offspring's penchant for beaching it. Believe me, I know the allure of the beach bum lifestyle, I lived it .  Back in the early 80's my life on the beach was one long party.  Remind me to tell you about the dining party at Le Pompano who had obviously had been fishing for "square grouper" and getting the most awesome tip ever in my serving life.  I don't want my Offspring to follow literally in my foot steps.

I digress, I was addressing the accidental moon.  After a second eleven hour shift on 4 hours of sleep, I was weary and my eyes were blurry.  My drive last night was a bit magical, the moon was low in the sky, bright and shiny.  It hung low in the eastern sky, half seen and a gorgeous glowing orb, half shadowed but so luminescent, it was mesmerizing.  I was so enchanted with the glow, my 1:00 a.m. drive home was nearly accidental because I kept glancing to my left to get a glimpse.  For someone who preaches no cell phones in the front seat, it was ironic that the beauty of nature was my siren call to be so inattentive.  I nearly drove off the road on the Interstate, near the 22nd Avenue South exit. Fortunately, I corrected the path of mid-life crisis convertible back into the left lane.   The Mister did try to snap a picture of the moon after I got home. The cell phone, however failed to capture the magnificence of this evenings moon.   Bless the Mister, he tries to get up to greet me late into the night, just to say hello and kiss me goodnight.  Most times he scares the bejeezus out of me, who wants to see a shadowy figure lurking in her doorway as you walk to your front door? Our marriage has survived this many years because of our penchant for working odd shifts.  Too much togetherness and our married bliss resembles thunder and lightning.

The accidental moon....well in my life there have been moments when my innate clumsiness and inattentiveness has resulted in another type of moon.  Yeah, you know what I mean.  While napping today, thinking of my boy, missing his laughter, I recalled a few full moon moments that provided him a belly laugh.

Long ago when I was working at Tierra Verde Island Resort (nee Guy Lombardo's Port of Call) as a front desk clerk, I had an unfortunate wrench of my right knee and had to wear a soft cast, thigh to ankle, until the wrenched tendons could heal. These were the days when the Mister worked nights guarding Manuel Noriega's evidence at the courthouse and I cared for Tyler.   He watched Tyler while I worked the day shift at the Resort.  We were two ships that passed in the night back then.  My car was an ancient faded burgundy Chrysler Newport, Old Red.  After my shift, leg aching and throbbing I was more than ready to head home.  I turned Old Red off the Bayway and onto the Interstate heading north to our old bungalow in St. Paul/Euclid.   Somewhere just south of the 26th Avenue south exit, my tire blew.  BAM.  Slide Old Red over to the right.  Now, what? Mind you, these were the day long before cell phones were available for people as poor as we were.  I'm leaning on the car, leg in a cast and looking desperate.  A very kind woman pulled over, looked at my leg and said:  "I'll drive you to a phone, but I don't know if you can get in the car?"  Imagine the scene, I'm in the passenger side of her little Toyota with my right leg in its cast tucked under and hanging out her open car door.  She made the exit and dropped me off at the old Pizza Hut on 34th Street South.  The manager was so rude and he wouldn't let me use the phone, so I hobbled over to the decrepit ramshackle bait shop next door and bless that shop owner.  He got me some ice water and let me use his phone.  I called the Mister, "Hey, honey, the tire blew out...this is where I am."  He loads Tyler and his convertible wheelchair into our beat up van and heads south to find me.  He gets to me and he can't get the tire changed.  Lug nuts were rusted.  He drives back to a phone, calls AAA.  Tyler, in the meantime, is in his chair with me and I'm walking him back and forth in the broiling hot sun. (August 5 pm in Florida is no picnic).  I have my cold water from the bait man and I'm busy sprinkling him with the water and pacing if you can call my walking style with a cast, a pace.  Soon I see the AAA truck and our van heading our way.  Hoorah!  Rescue at last.  I turn Tyler just a little bit to head back to Old Red and I lose my footing in the gravel.  Now we are on a fairly steep embankment on the side of the Interstate and should I mention that my uniform at the Resort was a wrap-around skirt?  Guess who rolled down the hill showing her backside to her son, the AAA driver and her husband?  That would be me. All the way down the hill, until the fencing at the bottom stopped my stop, drop, and roll.  I opened my eyes to come face to face to the trash that people seemed destined to toss out their windows, a cigar butt or two and mulch.

My so-called wrap-around skirt was around my chest.  Tyler was laughing, AAA man was laughing and Mister was laughing.  I was not.  I was the color of Old Red.  A red full moon rising in the East.  I was rescued from the bottom of the hill and we eventually made it home.

Soon after my roll down the hill, Tierra Verde Island Resort ceased to exist.  We were blessed with a new child (the wee-one) and I became the full-time caregiver of our kids for the next fifteen years.  The Mister started his employ with a mental health facility as an electrician and jack-of-all-trades.  We were nearly normal. Yeah, right.  Sometimes, we are oil and vinegar and not fully mixed.  It is a hard adjustment and our life was a stress grenade in a field of land mines.   Constant illness and surgery after surgery to give Tyler more function is taking it's toll.  We are functioning but not on all cylinders.

After our darling Tyler grew beyond the swingapart wheelchair that you could disassemble and swing into a car and buckle up, he had a full use power chair that he could drive with a head array control.  It weighed close to 200 lbs. by itself and even with the wheelchair carrier bolted to the back of Old Red, transportation became a real issue.  I drove dear Tyler to therapy five days a week, for nearly ten years.  We killed Big Red.  At one point, the Generalissimo (MIL) decided that our mode of transport was too decrepit for her beloved grandson.  The Generalissimo GAVE us a brand new Town and Country Mini-van.  It served us well with just a modicum of alterations.  We removed the small bench seat and created an anchor tie down dead center of the van with an automatic lift that folded into the rear from the side door.  It was all well and good until our boy sprouted and grew so tall in his wheel chair that we could not fit his head in the van through the side door.  Enter Phil of C&H van conversions, this man knows his stuff, he had made the tie down so Tyler wouldn't tilt during turns. This time, he figured out how to raise the roof, so Tyler would be able to keep his head.  I love that man.  He adored Tyler and has for the last 20 years sent us a Thanksgiving card.  I digress again, we are talking about accidental moons.

Early on after the van conversion, I was still in the process of learning how to work the lift.  Really, it wasn't difficult to learn, I was just in another time and space, sometimes, when I was getting Tyler to and from therapy.  I was a head case, then and freely admit it.  Stress can do that to you.

One day, we pulled up for Speech, Occupational Therapy with Clair and Jan on Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park.  I'm ready to unload the Ty-guy and I jam the lift into the floorboard halfway.  It won't go up and it won't go down.  It is flat out stuck.  I call C&H and Phil in his own wheelchair and adapted van drove to my rescue.  That man took time out of his busy day and drove to Park and taught me a lesson in wheelchair lifts.  Thank you Phil.

Oh, full moon rising, again I digress.  Have you ever seen the traffic on Park Boulevard? Hundreds of cars passing in a given minute.  A very busy boulevard of stores and restaurants, plus a main thoroughfare through Pinellas county east to west.  Clair and Jan had their offices on the north side of the boulevard in a very small parking lot.  The only parking spot available to me one day was the one closest to the boulevard.  I get the side door open, reach in to unlock the center lock of the wheelchair harness and lower the lift when I suddenly feel a whoosh of wind and my gauze skirt has flown over my head and is caught in the lift gate over my head to my left.  It is in the mechanism and jammed the movement.  I am now stuck bent over inside a van with my rear facing Park Boulevard.  Our son is laughing so hard that his wheelchair is shaking.  I can not back up, I can't reach up, short of undressing, I was stuck.   Thank goodness that I always heeded my mom's advice to wear your best undies.  The cacophony of car horns is deafening.  Even Phil couldn't save me now.  It took a pair of Jan's scissors to free me. I have now given up any hope of modesty and sheepishly wheel Tyler into therapy.  This too shall pass.

You know the old saw, laughter is the best medicine.  If anything, I've learned to laugh at the moments in my past that shamed me previously.  I've learned to embrace my clumsiness as a symptom of a mind otherwise occupied.  I've learned that sometimes laughter is all you have got.  Miss you my Ty-man, thank you for always appreciating the absurd and pointing out the humor in the bad spots.  Thank you for always reminding me that things could be worse and that resilience and perseverance is a good thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Attention all, Whipper "Snapper's Sea Grill"

Remember your granddad calling any overly exuberant youth a "Whippersnapper"? Well, granddad would be very happy with a meal at Snapper's Sea Grill, it is a throwback kind of meal.  Not overly exciting in exotic offerings, but just the kind of meal a granddad would appreciate as well as his most appreciative family.  The food is exquisite in presentation, fresh as it can be and service is top-notch.  Another representation of a prime beach restaurants to titillate the taste buds and elevate seafood beyond the all-you-can-slop fare at other nearby establishments.  Sometimes, excess does not equal success.

Snapper's Sea Grill

5895 Gulf Blvd St Pete Beach, FL 

The Offspring recently celebrated a birthday.  I'm happy to say that she will still go out to dinner with her old folks.  The Offspring is a budding foodie.  She may never cook a meal, but she has been a willing and adventuresome eater.  I might have had to disown her if she was a picky eater.  (Although the phase when no foods could touch on the plate was a bit rough, I'm happy to say it has passed.)

Snapper's Sea Grill on Urbanspoon

We chose Snapper's Sea Grill on St. Pete Beach as our dining destination.  How fortunate that it was at the tail end of the Spring Break madness and our wait for a dining table was not interminable.  It was still cool enough in the early night air to enjoy our wines by the glass in the patio area before being seated. Snappers serves beer and wine only.


I will say that the restaurant is much smaller inside than I expected.  There was a bit of a logjam of servers at the hostess stand, however the room was clean and bright, the booth seating was comfortable.  The decor was nice in a complementary marine grey blue and white scheme.  There are bright paintings to please the eye.  I don't remember any background music but there was a lot chatter and clatter this evening.  It wasn't unpleasant but it did make conversation a bit difficult at times.

As soon as we were seated and perusing the menu, an appetizing nibble emerged as our pre-dinner snack.  Roasted Brussel Sprouts with crispy fried leeks and ponzu glaze, enough for the three of us to share while debating our dinner choices.

We chose three different appetizers, our daughter will never tire of her tried and true seared tuna.  She loves her tuna and will always order it.  The Mister chose a half dozen of stuffed broiled oysters.  I ordered the beef sate with a peanut dipping sauce.  While our choices were not groundbreaking or off-the-chart extraordinary, they were a credible example of just what we expected.   Her tuna was seared, she had wasabi paste and pickled ginger and enough soy sauce to make her wicked hot dipping sauce.  The Mister enjoyed his broiled oyster and said the flavor was just as he liked it, bacon, tomato, onion and boursin cheese. (not spicy, not fishy, not new.)  My beef skewers were cooked appropriately medium rare and the dipping sauce was not hot as I would like, but it was perfectly tasty with the beef skewer.

We were served a lovely tall cup of flatbread crisps with a tangy hummus as a gratis appetizer.  It was a lovely lagnaippe and the crisps were enjoyed by all.

I will say our server was attentive and our food arrived promptly.  There is a distinct advantage to have a daughter who works on the beach and has many friends who also serve.  We get excellent service from her friends.

We thoroughly enjoyed the creamy garlic dressing on the salads.  The salads were well chilled, fresh greens and garnished with crispy tortilla strips.  A cut above the norm.  (As a former salad girl, there are few salads that impress and I did like Snappers house salad.)

We were in splurge mode for the entrees.  This dinner is a celebration and everyone was "all in" for the go big or go home meal.  The birthday girl chose the Surf and Turf option with a filet and lobster tail.

 The Mister chose twin glazed thick cut pork chops served with delicious sweet potato fries.
 I had the Seafood platter that included a lobster tail and large shrimp curled around scallops, broiled and brushed with butter.

All dinners were plated with a standard stirfry of squash, carrot and onion and a delightful popover mashed potato cup, an inventive combo bread and cheesy potato option.  All plates were beautifully garnished with bright blooms and looked exotic in presentation.  Plating is a serious business at Snappers, there is extreme care in making the meal look as good as it tastes.  Stunning to look at and delightful to eat.

Our meals were not a reinvention of the wheel.  They were commendable versions of an upscale beach front fare.  All the dishes were cooked to the perfect degree of doneness.   If you are in the mood for a meal that represents seafood and meats in abundance and cooked well in a familiar, albeit non-adventuresome manner, then Snapper's Sea Grill is for you.  Sometimes, good food expertly prepared is all you need, bells and whistles are not always required.  To be absolutely fair, there are menu offerings that promise the spice and zing of chipotle and tiger sauce, if you so desire.

The Offspring visited Snapper's again, with her boyfriend recently.  They raved over the Mussels Diablo, the house salads, the Wasabi crusted Tuna entree, Seafood (lobster, shrimp, scallop) platter and a special side order of risotto.  She was very impressed with the risotto.

All in all, we had a wonderful celebratory old school dinner, filled with joking, laughter and memories.  It was a very pleasant evening, spent in convivial spirits and just what the daughter ordered.  We were served well and well fed.  Happy Birthday, wee one.  Love always.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of the city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chill out at Steam, bring on the tapas!

I had worked a long shift and was ready to come home to a quiet evening.  Fat chance, not your momma.  When I pulled into the driveway, the Mister was sitting in the garage just waiting to spring into the car as I drove in.  Really?  I just spent a nail-biting 40 minute drive home, on gas fumes and needing a pit stop.  I pleaded my case, handed him the keys to go get gas and give me a 10 minute breather.  Then when I get in the car to chauffeur his Royal Highness to supper, I innocently asked, "Where do you want to go?"  "I don't know, you pick something, but it can't be too far, it can't be too expensive and it can't be Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, seafood or barbecue!" Thanks for making it easy on me, Mr.  We live in a restaurant wasteland on the southside of St. Petersburg. Head west on 22nd Avenue South, off to the beach, we go.

I have a list of restaurants on my wish list gleaned from the posts on Urbanspoon. Where to go, where to go?  Hmmm.  Turn left, SPB, turn right, Treasure Island. Straight ahead, I spot Steam.  Yep.  You are the winner, Steam/Chill on this night's restaurant lottery game.

Chill on Urbanspoon

There were only a few diners in the restaurant and we had the undivided attention of our server.  The Mister ordered his beer and I chose a vodka cucumber mint libation. I have a new found admiration for boutique cocktails and martinis.  The menu is a culinary experiment of small plates and appetizers.  Each plate is lovingly described and are tantalizing temptations to the palate.  There is a nice eating bar that overlooks the open kitchen and you can chat with the chef while he prepares your meal.  There are some comfortable booths and tables. It is cozy and has lovely pendant lights throughout the restaurant.  Another plus, was a lovely sound track playing stylish vocalizations with a smooth vibe.  It added a nice musical ambiance to our dinner.  There is a small selection of wines by the glass as well as a specialty cocktail menu.

Our first plates were the Hot stuffed olives, Stuffed dates wrapped in proscuitto, and the warmed Brie with mushrooms, shallots and brandy flambe with bread for dipping.  Now bear in mind, you are ordering small plates to share...there is no rhyme or reason to a set progression of courses, you are served your tapas when it is ready.  Fresh plates are supplied throughout our meal and extra bread was brought without request.

Now, ordering hot stuffed olives was a bit of a risk, with a non-olive eater at the table.  Aha, the warm melting asiago and kasseri cheese spread over bread was more alluring than the fear of a colossal black olive.  We both approved.
Dates stuffed with gorgonzola cheese wrapped in proscuitto, what could possibly top this nibble?  Sweet, salty and savory in two bites.  The soy drizzle was delicious and there was a lovely bed of spinach to anchor the plate.
Ohhhh, sweet heaven.  The brie with the mushrooms, shallots, bacon and brandy flambe was out of this world good.  It was everything you want in one bite, savory, herbal, cheesy goodness slathered over bread.  There is a sweet brie version offered as well, perfect for a dessert option, maybe?

I am willing to admit I made a mistake with our ordering pattern, I should have mixed it up a bit so that all that cheesy goodness was not served in rapid progression.  It was a live and learn tapas lesson.  Next visit, I'll stagger the dishes between so many that are cheese heavy to a refresher salad and then a meaty option with a veggie choice. There is a good selection of items from the sea.  There is a 'fresh is best' approach to the ingredients and it is evident in the careful presentation and taste of the small plates.  I so want to try the liver pate especial plate, with capers. Capers are my culinary weakness.  Those little sprightly pops of vinegary goodness always excite the palate.

Fred was very happy with his delicious filet once it was refired.  He ordered medium and the first delivery yielded a very rare filet.  No problem, our server promptly returned for a re-cook.  The demi-glace sauce was delicious, smooth and savory. The truffle oil drizzle mashed potatoes were hot and promptly scarfed down by my spouse. I barely snagged a forkful.  The steak was incredibly tender and flavorful.
I felt virtuous with my veggie order.  Fresh cauliflower cooked, riced and served as a pilaf with a lovely assortment of extra veggie power added to the mix.  It was garnished with a handful of cherry tomatoes.  It looked like rice but it felt so much lighter.
The only odd moment was the tomatoes as the base on the Warm Pear salad. The rounds of tomato (not fully ripe) were garnished with beautiful piped mounds of whipped goat cheese.  To my taste I would prefer a croustade as the base for the whipped cheese.  It could have used a generous grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt to bring up the flavor.  The warm pears, walnuts, fig compote and fresh spinach salad was delicious.  Even with the slight disharmony with the tomato base.
By this time, we were appropriately stuffed and near comatose from the cheese. However, with a slight arm twist we were able to order a dessert.  While the house award winning, red velvet cupcake (described as a dense cake cross between a cupcake and brownie) with vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle tempted me, the Mister frowned on the word "cupcake."  So, our shared order would be their flourless chocolate cake to appease his massive chocoholic tooth.
The slice was garnished nicely with a strawberry and sauce drizzle.  It was an incredibly dense, fudge-like melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake.  So very rich and quite decadent.
The Mister chose a glass of house merlot as his after-dinner drink and I had an iced Naughty Whipped mocha coffee.  The restaurant serves Kahwah coffee and has a very nice coffee, espresso, latte selection.  I love a good coffee and this was the perfect ending on a warm spring night.
Please note we had previously tried Steam/Chill for a late breakfast and while the food was most delicious, the service was incredibly uneven and slow.  It was an interminable wait for a Bloody Mary and a Mimosa.  The shrimp and grits still remains a favorite breakfast dish.
 The shrimp were succulent, the grits cheesy awesomeness, with nice bites of Andouille sausage.  The Offspring loved her eggs Benedict.
The girl can not turn down an Eggs Benedict.  The Mister had the Philly Cheesesteak Scramble skillet and he was very happy with his choice.
 The fellow is from Philly and he loves a cheese wit in every incarnation.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of the city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


So okay, there are moments when this overworked mother and underpaid family nurse is just too overwhelmed to cook, what is a mother to do?   A).  dress for real dinner out.  Tight shoes, are you frikkin kidding me?  B). face another generic take-out pizza delivered barely warm and just barely edible with too much salt and too much fat?  C). Or if I had the stamina and energy to exhume a freezer dinner by me, can you believe that I not have enough energy to reheat?   Have you ever had a day that the effort of bathing is an aerobic exercise?  I'm just whipped and ready to call it in. Tired meet Tina, Tina meet Tired.

727Foodnow offers a great selection of restaurants that for an amount a bit bigger than nominal fee + tip, you can have a fresh hot delivery of good food to your very own front door that is not the pizza norm.

We have successfully ordered from a number of the restaurants for our zip code. The food has ALWAYS arrived in a timely manner.  We have never had a misorder where we received some one elses' dinner.  The only misfire we had was from Gratzi where the seafood the linguine pescatore that was way past the seafood prime.  It was so fishy and repellent that I gagged.  727FoodNow gave us an immediate credit.  It has been a great service when you do not want to do the norm.  I'm not lazy, believe me,  I routinely cook marathon days of investment cooking, saving meals by freezing or do ahead prep.  Bulk food cooking is  my specialty.  I am proud of my cooking days and we happily eat for weeks off from my advance preparation.  However, sometimes life is so overwhelming that the home delivery service is God sent....and I have routinely used 727FoodNow as our only option to cheese and crackers.

Convenience is expensive, but there are times that convenience trumps cost.
An illness in the family, a house remodel, a schedule that can't be adjusted, "I'm just too tired" are all the reason to justify our 727FoodNow one has ever rejected the food when presented.  We have ordered enough to know what is a value and what is not worth the need to choose.  There are many options and all should be applauded for adding this service to their options.

I would recommend  727 Food Now as a momma's best secret friend.

Take the hand offered, even if you don't know the need, yet.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I have my Fetish, do your have yours? Fetishes delivers in style

We went to Fetishes for first time after experiencing a terrible, no-good horrific week.  It was the perfect evening of delicious food and wine to ease our tattered & battered nerves. Fetishes is a lovely restorative, an impressive throw-back to the continental dining style that nourishes our soul.  We were impressed from the calm, quietly elegant interior to the impressive cork bar laid by hand by Bruce, the cordial owner.  Fetishes has an excellent wine list, offering many two glass pours, which is a lovely option when you have divergent tastes at the table.  We sat at a quiet table, in the corner, it was delightfully semi-private.  Jenn was our more than competent and attentive server, along with tableside service from Bruce.
My apologies, this is the only photo available from our meal....I neglected to charge the phone, hence the camera was not available.  It only means that we have to return to Fetishes to correct this abomination of a blogger error.  There is a method to my madness.  Did I say that?  Oops, need to use my inside voice.

I was thrilled to see blonde Lillet as an aperitif (now I want Lillet rouge).  I rarely see this offered in restaurants.  I can remember many a supper with a former beau, that started with a glass of Lillet with fresh radishes, soft butter, salt and toasty baguettes.  I digress, again, where is that  pesky inside voice when I need her?   As a former fine dining server, back in the day, I have to confess that the tableside service was my culinary weakness at first.  I used to carve and flambe tableside, with my own horror stories to share of my initial mistakes.  I once flipped a rack of lamb to the floor and in one (151 rum) flaming mistake took off my eyebrows and lashes.  Remember, a mistake is never a mistake as long as it isn't repeated.  Errors are lessons learned as my motto and I'm sticking to it.  That said, I love the intimacy and cordiality of fine dining with the host/owner as your guide.   Tableside presentation is truly an art, not only in preparing the food, but in having the patter, and personality to engage your diner.  I have to say that Bruce "does it right."  It was downright delightful to exchange our collective memories of our serving past.  Bruce has impeccable "street cred."  We do share many friends and that just added to the "feel good sensation" at Fetishes.

While discussing our dinner choices for the evening, Jenn overheard my concern with the Mister regarding the escargot appetizer and the possible garlic overload content.  She quietly mentioned to us that since the food is not pre-made, accommodations can be made to the dishes to adjust the sauces to the particular taste of the guest. Hooray!  It sure bets the "no substitutions or alterations" decree printed on other menus. It is nice to know that special orders don't upset us at Fetishes.

My husband indulged in the Lobster Newburg as his appetizer, while I had the lump crab cake, appetizer portion.  Both were delicious and the Mister could not stop scraping up the delectable sauce from the gratinee dish.  To my chagrin, he threatened to lick the plate.  (If the dish is offered with a few bread slices, we could the avoid the threat of dish licking and finger scraping).  There were huge chunks of lobster and it was worth every cent.  My Maryland crab cake had no filler evident to the eye. (Bruce is from Baltimore, who would question his crab integrity?)  I only questioned how it stayed in shape with a crispy crust.  It was served with a tangy Dijon sauce that was a perfect accompaniment.   We had a most impressive salad with a delightful mustard honey dressing, sliced green apple, romaine and pine nuts.  As a house salad it was superb.  I must return for the Caesar, it requires two for service.  I'm trolling for takers.  The Mister does not like Caesar, silly man.

I chose to have two appetizers as my entree.  The duck liver pate served with a tangy relish and seeded flat crackers.  It was superb.  (I'm a liver pate snob from my days at Rollande et Pierre; spreadable and Le Pompano; loaf style and sliced.)  My second was the bisque, a velvety creamy, intensely lobster flavored heavenly creation.  There was a sherry shooter to add to the bisque and it was wonderful.  The Mister chose to have the steak Diane.  The filet with the mustard, brandy, veal stock, cream sauce was spectacular.  It was beyond tender and flavorful. This supper was plated with Duchesse potatoes and sugar snap peas and carrots.  To say the Mister inhaled his dinner would be an understatement. We did have nice crusty French rolls with soft fresh butter topped with a sprig of dill.  We also indulged in a lovely bottle of Cote de Rhone.  Jenn was attentive but not intrusive, our water glasses were never empty and our wines were decanted to allow each wine time to bloom into a more fragrant tasty libation.  I concur that a wine decanted tastes infinitely better than the wine left in the bottle.  A lesser wine becomes much more open to the nose and it tastes better.  Bravo Bruce for adding the decant service to your wine presentation.  Truly how can a wine breathe through a bottle neck?  It needs the delicate pour into a decanter to breathe life into the captured grape.  I am also, impressed with the delicate touches of real herbs added to the foods.  There is a lovely little herb garden just off the kitchen and it is nice to see the dinner plating includes these touches of freshness that are delightful to the see and taste.

I have to mention that the music tracks that played during our meal was an eclectic mix and a perfect background to a superb, or as the Offspring says, phenomenal dinner. There was even a touch of Bob Marley, thank you.  People do not appreciate a good background music.  Bruce, thank you for adding another delightful dimension to the fine dining experience.

Jenn brought over the dessert and port/sherry selection.  I had a bit of a struggle because the Mister again said, "I'm too full for another bite."  I ordered the Key lime parfait and when Jenn brought my decaf espresso and dessert, he perked up and started eyeing my dish with ardor, nearing on passion!  Bless Jenn, she was prompt with another spoon so he could taste (eat half) of the parfait.  It was light and delicious. Enough tartness to finish the meal with a punch to the tastebuds.  I must return for the Bananas Foster.  I'm trolling for takers.  The Mister will again, be too full to partake.  Hmmm, bring the extra fork and bowl early, please?  Our Offspring stopped by after our dinner to share a glass of wine.  She was burnt to a lobster red crisp from her day at the Alden Beach Resort and she enjoyed her two-glass pour of wine.  It was a celebratory ending for the three of us to be together, so the Mister and I topped off our meal with a nice 1/2 bottle of Piper Heidsieck.  Nothing can make this girl happier than a sparkly champagne finish.

Please note that the restaurant does have a small side room, perfect for 8 to 10 people, that has a TV/monitor for presentations.  It is a private area that can accommodate the higher rung business meeting or a lovely private birthday party. Also there is a 17% gratuity added to the tab.

Fetishes Dining & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of the city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tarzan - Phil Collins - You'll Be In My Heart to Fred and Tyler

Fred, remember, always.  No more heart attacks, please.  You are using up your nine lives way too fast for me.  I hope I can bring you home tomorrow.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Tomahawk Chop to feed the world....Seared 1200 does it like no other

Seriously, my daughter and her boyfriend went to  Seared 1200 Chophouse last night for their supper.  She came in bearing leftovers.  The box contained so much food that I didn't think they had eaten anything.

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

There was a huge chunk of prime rib meat, perfect medium rare, crusted in the most wonderful peppercorn crust.  SEARED!!  They had added a side of the crab and shrimp "Oscar topping" and bearnaise sauce from the twin filets to their Tomahawk.  The rib bone was huge.  It was taken home to a very grateful German Shepherd.  The meat even as a leftover was fantastic.  I don't know how they did the seasoning, but the freshly cracked pepper crust was so good.  Not at all hot, but most beautifully complementary to the meaty goodness of the rib meat.  I have never tasted a bearnaise sauce that was as well prepared as their version.  It was lightly lemon tart, yet creamy, nearly a foam, with just enough anise flavor to keep it interesting.  It was perfection.

So the "kids" had the yummy house salads, the Tomahawk, the Oscar topping, those good dinner rolls, a nice bottle of wine and it was $128.00 without tip. They sat at the bar and watched the kitchen action.

Considering, I didn't get the full dinner experience, I feel a little weird writing a review.  However, since my darling daughter saw fit to share the wealth and it was "good,"  I can justify the post.  I trust her judgement, her boyfriend is a chef and when they visit a restaurant repeatedly, I'm in.

Seared 1200 Chophouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Deep in the Jungle, tasty tapas emerge....The Black Palm

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of a city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.

I never had the honor of eating at the Black Palm at its former location, therefore I have no preconceived notions of the intimate setting in Pass-a-grille.
Black Palm Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I have had several dinners at the Jungle Prada, in many of the other guises and establishments.  I am very happy to report that the Black Palm has graciously taken root in the historic building.  It is lovely to see the building, scrubbed and restored to glory.  The terrazzo floors and the arches are uncovered and beautiful to behold.  The bar is generous in size and sparkles with lights.  The room evokes an understated elegance with an old world panache that feels organic.  It honors a long ago treasure polished for newcomers to embrace.

The day was wet and blustery and just plain dreary.  We wanted, nay, we required a pick-me-up to lift our sodden spirits.  Aha, let's try the Black Palm.
I would have put the top down on the convertible to make the drive but the skies were too grey.

The parking lot was jam-packed and we were worried about getting a table.  It was five thirty pm.  We entered and lo and behold, we had a beautiful vision of multiple tables for the taking.  Apparently, the savvy owners of the Black Palm realize the benefit of schmooze and had the homeowners association meeting for the tony Jungle Prada area in their banquet room.  Smart move.

We were seated in the back corner (our choice) on one of the banquettes.  It allowed us full view of the dining room.  Our drink order was taken swiftly.  We were offered a bottle of sparkling water or tap.  I love Pellegrino, you know I chose that bubbly crisp water to quench the palate.

On to the menu, now this took a bit of explaining to the Mister.  The idea of tapas is quite foreign to him.  (Bar snacks at Hooter's require no explanation, hmmm).
There were so many choices, but we persevered and chose a number to share.

The Pinchos-Beef skewers
The Mister ordered TWO beef skewers and I had to fight for one bite.  That man!
Quesadilla de Mer
This was another tug of war dish.  Tortilla with seafood filling, avocado and crema topping.  So not nibble that jalapeno garnish.  It will make you cry.
Lovely soft sweetly starchy plantains, fried and topped with a light crema. The slight sweetness balanced the heat from our other choices.  
Fried Chorizo slices on unripe fried plantain chips, topped with a garlic aoili
The chorizo slices were delicious.  We loved the sauce and it was not overpowering in garlic, a nice complementary tidbit to our selection of little bites.
Pretty Huevos de Diablo
Okay, this was a bit of miss, it did not live up to the Diablo name....a good egg, but it lacked the spice I had hoped for.  
A wonderful beet salad, complex and earthy, a salad of my dreams.
A saute of tender steak tips with onions, garlic and peppers, served with black beans and rice.  We found the flavor to be spot-on and the beans were aromatic and earthy, with cumin and onion.  A very nice dinner entree. 
Volcano lava was the coup de grace for the Mister.
Oh there are no words to describe the beauty of a "Natilla," a Grand Marnier brulee.  It was so good, I nearly moaned aloud.  Maybe I did.  The table adjacent asked "what are you eating?"  Hmmm.

Our dinner was very good, service was impeccable.  There is a team of servers and each is efficient, swift and personable.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and look forward to visiting the Black Palm again.  Our meal with drinks, dessert and tip was $180.00.  Worth every cent!

Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants