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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Recipes


This is a go-to recipe for me, any time I find fresh mussels. Easy, quick and delicious.

Put one pound of live mussels in a big bowl of fresh water, just for about 5 minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients. You don't want the mussels to die, you just want them to spit out some of the sand and grit they might have. Clean and de-beard the mussels.

Put some olive oil and about a tablespoon of butter into the bottom of a big pot, on medium heat. Add about 6 cloves of minced garlic. Cook for about a minute or two, then add about a cup of white wine. Add some salt and the zest of one lemon, and the juice of that lemon. I also throw in a dash of crushed red pepper.

Add the mussels and cover, increase the heat to medium high, let them cook for about 5 minutes. Throw in a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped Italian parsley.

Serve with a nice piece of garlic bread, and enjoy :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Heavenly Pizza

Wood Fired Pizza & Nightlife
St. Petersburg, FL
May 2012

Wood Fired Pizza has been on my Foodie Bucket List for years. With one location in Tampa and a new one in St. Pete, both were at least an hour's drive. I finally found myself in St. Pete after a particularly awful afternoon of tests at a Doctor's office, and planning on dinner with my friend John, a/k/a "RibDog". When he suggested Wood Fired, I was all in. On the way there, he advised me that there was only outdoor seating. Outdoor seating? In Florida? It's not even summer yet, but this day was oppressively hot. And then I'm thinking it's in St. Pete, probably on a busy street. Cars and trucks driving by, I'll be inhaling exhaust along with garlic and herbs. But the worst thought of all was sitting amongst tables of cigarette maybe Wood Fired wasn't the best choice after all...

We decided to give it a shot, and it ended up to be the right choice. We arrived and took a seat on the patio, which was set back far enough from the street that we were unaware of any traffic. Plenty of overhead fans kept a nice cool breeze blowing. We arrived relatively early, around 7pm, there were only about 4 other tables occupied, and no one was smoking. Incredible aromas of spicy sauce wafted through the air. Our attentive waitress came over with menus and to take the drink orders. Sadly, they were out of Stella Artois, and after the horrible day I had, I was thirsty for an ice cold beer. Seeing Genesee Cream Ale on the menu put a smile on my face, I hadn't had Genny since the 1970's when I was in college in Ohio. I know my taste in beer and wine has changed, but this Genny hit the spot, cold, creamy and delicious.

The menu is awesome. I was overwhelmed. There were so many things I wanted to try, and it was definitely hard to make a decision. We started with an order of a dozen wood oven fired Little Neck Clams, served with a spicy blend of Pecorino Romano, garlic slivers and oregano, and a Classic Caesar Salad, romaine tossed with Caesar dressing, topped with wood shaved Parmesan and croutons.

The clams were decent, tiny little bites with nice flavor, but I could have used a bit more garlic. Oddly they were served with a bowl of marinara sauce (?) and I dipped a few in before deciding they were better just dredged in the garlicky juice on the bottom of the plate. We moved the sauce over to the plate of "Wedges", crispy pieces of pizza crust that came with either the salad or the clams, and that worked much better. 

Sitting outdoors in the breeze, sipping that cold beer and enjoying good company, good food, and some pretty cool people watching, listening to the incredible music (Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Allman Brothers), I settled in and was happy as could be. Kitchen staff was outside in the garden, picking fresh basil, and we could smell the basil all the way across the yard. 

Then our pizzas came and I was elevated to an entire different level. Let me mention here that I am a New York girl, having moved to Florida six years ago. The first couple of months, we tried quite a few local pizza places, eat-in, take out and delivery. Every single pizza ended up in the trash or just left on the table after only 1 or 2 bites. I had just about given up on finding decent pizza. So here come our pizzas....RibDog ordered the Carnivore, (obviously covered with meat), and I opted for the Pistachio Pie. Pistachios on a pizza? Yeah I know it sounds crazy. But all my foodie friends raved about it, so I dove in. This gorgeous pizza had ground pistachios, fresh mozzarella, raw red onion, ricotta, carmelized onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil and Pecorino Romano. 

Pizzas "at home" (yes, to me, NY is still "home") are eaten by picking up a slice (which will remain rigid, sticking straight out) and folding it in half; you then give it a little shake and watch the droplets of orange colored oil splotch down onto your white paper plate. This pizza could be held sticking out straight but the last inch or so had to be propped up with another fingertip. Not quite as crispy as a NY crust, but damned good just the same. The crust was firm and crunchy and had a fabulous flavor. The texture was incredible, a combo of the ground pistachios and the abundance of garlic gave it a nice bite. The layering of flavors was dreamy, with the crisp red onion and the sweetness of the carmelized onion playing off each other. That pie was just incredible. I can't wait to go back, next time I'm trying the Dante's Inferno (Sriracha infused San Marzano sauce with meatballs, grated Dante & organic herbs). 

Very cool vibe, great beer list, good service, great food. What's not to like? Yeah, it was a tad expensive. Pizzas come in two sizes, and we got the smaller ones, which were $16.00 each. For the 2 pizzas, salad, clams, 2 beers and 2 cokes, our bill came to around $80 including tip. And worth every penny. 
Wood Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Brunch at Wimauma

Tampa, Florida
Easter 2012

Warning! Their "Wimosa" is addicting. A wonderful tall glass of orange juice, grapefruit sorbet, fresh basil and Bertrand Cremant. I just had to dip my fork in to grab a mouthful of the sorbet by itself...ohhhh it was so refreshing and perfect. I have been a grapefruit freak since I was just a little tyke. I even use grapefruit shower gel, and my fave perfume has grapefruit notes (Dolce & Gabana's "Light Blue"). So this drink was right up my alley. Hard to stop at two, but I had a long drive home.

I'm not a big fan of grits, and not a big shrimp fan either. So of course I had to have the Shrimp & Grits with Poached Duck Eggs; Sauteed Florida Shrimp with White Wine, Tomato, Basil and Pork Bark. I just had to see if Chef Gary would make a believer out of me. The dish was marvelous. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of bounce on the outside, tender on the inside. At first I thought poached eggs with no toast? What's going to sop up my egg yolks? Answer: grits! The whole dish worked really well. Have to say it was not a pretty dish, the color was kind of "eh". But extra points for taste, for sure.

I was disappointed that they were out of Biscuits with Caramel Butter, and also out of Key Lime Pie with Burnt Ginger Meringue served with Banana Ice Cream and Sweet Chili-Lime Caramel. My fault for making a reservation one hour before the end of service.

I had the Pickled Peach & Cornmeal Upside Down Cake with Bourbon Peach Sauce. It was supposed to come with Fresh Banana Ice Cream but arrived with Butter Pecan instead. Sorry to say it didn't ring my chimes. The cake was okay, the peaches tasted nice at first but quickly became too sweet...and I couldn't taste any bourbon.

New artwork on the walls really gave the place a nice colorful look. It's really started to come together visually. 

Happy Easter! And I'd like another Wimosa, please ;)

Wimauma on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mixed Feelings

Grille One Nine
New Port Richey, FL
April, 2012

I'd heard from a few that this place was good. Finally walked in today. Walking from the bright sunlight into a black room I felt like I had walked into the Spook House at a theme park. Took the eyes a while to adjust.
I usually prefer to sit at a sushi bar, especially when I'm alone, but only if the seats are regular chairs, not high chairs. So I sat at a table alone. I don't like the dangling-feet thing. Staff was warm and friendly. I ordered just green tea and looked at the menu. It was the middle of the day, I was not about to order sake, so I thought tea was a normal option in a sushi place. Usually you get a pot and a little cup at no charge. What I got was a big white mug with a handle and a tea bag. Okay. I ordered yellowtail sushi and wasabi tobiko with quail eggs, and a rainbow roll (which is not your normal rainbow roll; this one was crawfish salad and avocado topped with different kinds of fish, and something that gave it crunch, can't remember if it was tobiko or tempura flakes). I asked if "sweet prawns" came with tempura fried heads, and was told yes. I was surprised since it's usually baby shrimp that is served that way, but sure, I'll try it, sounds good. Waitress came back, sorry, all out of prawns. Okay. I didn't see uni on the menu, do you have uni? Sorry, no. No uni?? is this a serious sushi bar, without uni? Hmmmm.
So I'm waiting for my food and I'm looking around. The place is seriously high tech and tries hard to be very uber cool. Everything is ultra modern and black, except for flashing multicolor lights under the lip of the sushi bar. My ears are assaulted by too-loud techno-rap-rave music. Over the sushi bar is the center of attention, a HUGE flat screen TV which has the show "COPS" on. Okay so for me, sushi is an experience. Calming, a joy to the senses. But here...not sure what they were going for. Maybe looking for the hipster crowd. Oh yeah there's such a hipster crowd in New Port Richey, everyone dolled up in 6" stilletto heels out for a night of disco dancing and munching on faux sushi.
The food came, I have to admit it was good. Nice and clean and fresh. The roll was great. But between my eyeballs being assaulted by COPS dragging around drunks in their underwear, and blaring commercials on the radio....I won't go back. I'm wondering if maybe the choice of music and the choice of TV station were decisions made by the young staff, and the owner was not on premises? Okay, spend a few bucks and buy a few CD's, for crying out loud. A radio station blaring commercials as I'm trying to dine? And MUST I be watching COPS? Why that tremendous TV? This isn't a sports bar. A giant fish tank would be much more appropriate. Grille One Nine on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 6, 2012

I've Got a New Favorite Place!

Tampa, Florida
March 2012

Had a very late dinner at Wimauma last Friday night. I have to say I was really impressed; was expecting to be disappointed and I was shocked outta my shoes at how delish everything was. Every single thing.
First, I enjoy having a bunch of small plates; who wants to commit to a lot of something when you could have small plate after small plate of a lot of wonderful little bites? (sigh). Started out with a couple of glasses of Stella while nibbling on those super-wet boiled peanuts and looking at the menu.
Ordered a few small dishes that had been recommended...first was Fried Green Tomatoes w/crispy country ham, watercress & buttermilk ranch vinaigrette. Hellllo, Lovah. I loved that the tomatoes were cut in big chunks instead of slices. This dish was delish. Amy (who was quite lovely, by the way; we were the last table, she had a sense of humor about her "reputation in the media") recommended the Salt & Pepper Fried Okra w/ cilantro, jalapeno, fried garlic and shallot (an homage to Yummy House) which was wonderful. Then, of course, HAD to have the Crispy Fried Florida Oysters w/Guacamole, cilantro and smoked tomato jam. Mama Mia, I'll have what SHE's having. The fried oysters go surprisingly well with the soft guacamole, and oooh that nice sweet little dollop of jam pulled the whole thing together into one perfect bite. We actually had to order a second plate of the oysters. By the way, my guy hates seafood (and cheese, and ALL dairy, and anything mousse-like or pudding-like in texture, etc etc). He's a real meat-n-potatoes guy, but he loved the oysters, I still can't get over it. It's all he talks about, he wants to go back.

We added a wonderful bottle of Chilean Savignon Blanc, and ordered the Country Mac n Cheese with English Peas, Cheddar, Benton's Bacon & Scallion. Really, really nice. My guy had the Southern Style Fried Chicken Bucket w/ French Fries, hushpuppies and honey mustard sauce. The chicken was really tasty, crust was panko. One small piece of chicken was dry, most were moist and fine. French fries were good, had some kind of batter or light coating on them. I found the hushpuppies to be a bit dry and tasteless; it was really the only thing i didn't LOVE.
Wait...dessert!!! He had the Key Lime Pie (fabulous) with fresh banana ice cream (delish) and Basil Chantilly (mind-boggling). And now, three days later, he's still talking about how good it was.
I had the Grits Creme Brulee with Champagne Sorbet. I have never liked grits, but they gave the creme brulee a wonderful texture, almost like little tapioca pearls or soft rice, a nice contrast to creme brulee's nothing-but-smooth consistency. I just loved it. The champagne sorbet alone would have been a wonderful dessert, but on top of the creme brulee, it was heaven.

Chef Gary came out and made some small talk about places he worked in New York, and we laughed about how basil can taste a bit like marijuana. By that time, we were the only ones in the place, but no one made us feel rushed. The staff obviously loves working there, and that's something else in their favor.
Very, very, very nice and good. Warm staff who were surprisingly helpful and well-versed in all components of all dishes (despite critiques i've read). I was very pleased and wish the Morans well in this venture. I even like the fact that they feature local artists' canvases on the walls (for sale, too. very cool). Really impressed. :)

Wimauma on Urbanspoon

Huge Disappointment

Three Birds Tavern
St Petersburg, FL
March 2012

Finally made it to Three Birds Tavern for my first time. It was on a Thursday. It has been one of those places "on my list" that I've wanted to go to for a while.. I have to say it was a MAJOR disappointment. Sorry to say that, since I'd heard such great things about Chef Donnie. I bought the $12 for $25 worth of food deal from Creative Loafing, , thinking okay, good. I mean, it's a tavern, right? not Armani's. Shouldn't cost too much. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

We wouldn't sit outside on this beautiful day since there were about 5 tables of people chain-smoking.
We walked inside and were shocked to find that the place smelled like urine. After a few minutes, we adjusted to the smell, we weren't going to leave because we had driven about an hour and a half to get there, and we had the CL Deal.

2 of us went. I ordered Chimay (my fave ale). Okay so they get points for having Chimay, but instantly lost points since both the waitress AND the bartender did not know which Chimay (I actually prefer red cap) they had, and even after locating a bottle, had to show it to me since they didn't know the difference. was served in a tall beer glass. Chimay should be served in a wide-mouthed goblet (sigh). My dinner partner had Spaten and was happy with that. We both ordered one starter and one sandwich.
I ordered the short rib egg rolls with gorgonzola sauce, since I had been hearing about them since they opened. Eh. Gorgonzola sauce? First, it was hot, and it was peach colored and I didn't taste any gorgonzola. I kept tasting the sauce and tasting the sauce by itself, and could not determine what flavors were in it. I think with the hot short rib egg roll, a cold (or cool) sauce that tasted like gorgonzola would have been nice. This was....I don't know, like McDonald's special sauce from the Big Macs? I didn't really get a taste of anything from the short ribs, it was just some kind of unseasoned shredded meat. My dinner partner had the vegetable risotto, which was asparagus. He liked it. I tasted, it was good, but overly spiced. Too many flavors going on.

Then our sandwiches came. He had the meat loaf sandwich with frites. He loved the frites, I wasn't particular impressed. I was disappointed in the mushy meat loaf. Damn, no one makes meat loaf like my mama!! I had the bratwurst, it was good....but the bun immediately fell apart. I ended up having to eat it with a fork and knife. I have to say my side dish was positively delicious, it was baby spinach very lightly sauted in lemon and garlic. The star of the meal, absolutely.

We decided on one dessert, had the chunky monkey bread pudding. I have to say this was not bread pudding , to me. It was banana bread. No "pudding" at all, it was completely dry,  with chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. Parts of it were warm, parts were ice cold. Didn't finish it. It was positively awful.

Then the surprise! Bill for lunch for the 2 of us...over $70...with tip would have been $85. For two starters, two sandwiches, and one dessert...yeah, and four beers. But still. All in all, I loved the spinach, he really liked the risotto. Thank goodness I had the $25 off, so the lunch actually cost us about $75 including tip.

We were assured that  Chef Donnie (Domenica) was in house, and was preparing our food for us. Since I told the waitress to tell Donnie that we were friends of friends of hers, and that it was my birthday, and that I had been dying to come to Three Birds for so long, I kind of expected her to make an appearance at our table, if just to say hello. Jeannie Pierola does that for me at the super-crowded KitchenBars. But nope, they just said that Donnie would like us to fill out the comment card. Well, okay then.

There were only maybe 8 or 10 tables occupied, so for sure it wasn't that she was super busy.

The $75 would have been better spent at a myriad of other places. I finally ate at Three Birds, and I won't go back. :(

Three Birds Tavern on Urbanspoon

Quantity, Not Quality

Shephard's Beach Resort
Clearwater Beach, Florida
November 2010
Spent Thanksgiving here for their buffet in 2010. Everything looked great. Lines were impossibly horrendously long as dawdlers and older folks tried to decide what to have. Too many choices for some, obviously. Sushi was like cardboard, seriously don't bother, even the packaged sushi at Publix is better. There was a massive amount of food....but nothing really good. Nothing that made me say oh this is delish. Nothing that I wanted more of. Just too much mediocre food. If quantity is more important than quality, then this is the place for you. If you're a foodie with a discerning palate, don't waste your time or your money.
Shephard's Beach Resort on Urbanspoon