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

I WANT MY MTV, oops I WANT 727FoodNOW

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 orders....no one has ever rejected the food when presented.  We have ordered enough to know what is a value and what is not worth the price.....you 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.