Thursday, December 31, 2009

Left Bank

Paris, lovely Paris. We have arrived. After checking into our hotel, Relais St.Sulpice, we headed to lunch at Cafe deux Magots. I had a Croque Madame, an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich topped with a properly cooked fried egg. Frank had a great salad of smoked duck breast, foie gras, and green beans. It was very good. We then went for another Rick Steves' guided walk through the Left Bank. It was an interesting introduction to this area of Paris. The weather is cool, but no rain since we have been here. Tonight, we will celebrate New Years Eve at the Eiffel Tower, where we were exactly 10 years ago tonight for the Millennium celebration. What fun!  

St. Pancras to Gare du Nord

We are traveling at over 200 mph, backward, through the English countryside on our 2 hour, 22 minute journey to Paris. Backwards, as for some reason, we seem to have reserved seats facing the rear of the train. Regardless, we arrive in Paris at the same time as the forward facing seats. It is New Years Eve, and we will be in Paris by 1PM today. While I am blogging on the Eurostar, I will not be able to post this until we get settled into our Parisian hotel on the left bank. The check-in process at St. Pancras station in London is very similar to airport security, with baggage scanners, passport control, etc, although we were only required to be at the station 30 minutes before departure. It is really amazing that we can travel on the ground between these two great cities in such a short period of time and in the comfort of the Eurostar. So civilized I say.
We are approaching the chunnel taking us under the English Channel, while our fellow passengers enjoy their full (and free) English breakfast. Frank and I enjoyed our "included in the room rate"  full breakfast buffet at our hotel before we left for St. Pancras. The Hilton Green Park was very centrally located, with excellent service; and the price was very reasonable for central London. The only negative was the lack of water pressure in the shower on our first and last day. Otherwise, the hotel scored a very solid 3 to 3.5 out of 5.
Next stop Paris Gare du Nord station, and a taxi ride to our hotel on the Left Bank. Ooh la la !

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

L. D4

London, Day 4, Wednesday
Today is our last full day in London, but we spent is outside the city along the English Channel, in Worthing, with our friends John and Shirley. They live in Worthing and in Mount Dora Florida, and we were lucky that they were  at their English home for the Holiday. After a 90 minute train ride to West Worthing, we had a lovely day touring the area around Worthing, including the South Downs, Arundel Castle, and some very quaint old villages in the area. We stopped for lunch at a very old pub, The Black Horse Amberley. There was a nice fire burning in the fireplace next to our table. At the next table was a group of 6 including a large dog quietly laying under their table. It was a pleasant stop on our journey. John and Shirley were great hosts today, and we got to see a section of the country we would not have seen without them. Thank you both for your hospitality.
Tonight after a quick dinner at the hotel, it is early to bed, as tomorrow, we have reservations on the Eurostar to Paris via the Chunnel. 
I am anxious to go to Paris, but I am also not ready to leave London. I definitely could stay longer. We hit some of the highlights, but there is so much more to see in the very friendly city. 
Weather Update: After the first two days of sunny, and cool weather, the rain fell yesterday and today. We make a wise decision to go to Greenwich on Monday, the best day we had for outdoor activities. But, even the past two days of light rain did not stop us from enjoying London. 
That's all I'm Saying.

Ramses II (British Museum)

L. D3 (A Day Late)

London, Day 3, Tuesday. 
If the whole of London was out yesterday to see the Queen's Guard (or whatever was going on at Buckingham Palace), today, the entire tourist population of London was at the British Museum, or so it seemed. Who knew that the Christmas holiday season is a busy tourist season in London. We heard a lot of Italian and French, some English, both British and American, but no German. Wherever we went today, it was elbow to elbow with the crowds of happy travelers and locals.
The British Museum was another art overload experience. But what amazing art/artifacts they have. Here the plunder (sorry to our Brit friends) of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Assyria, and Greece are on display. But it was wonderful being able to see all of this in one spot. The highlights are the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, large busts from Egypt, winged Lions from Assyria, and much more. We had lunch at the Court Restaurant in the museum. I had a wonderful pappardella with venison ragout. Frank had a just OK sesame salmon.
After a quick stop at our hotel, we next ventured to Harrods for more mingling with the tourists and locals. Crowded it was, especially the food hall, which was an experience in itself. What would you like... they have it. The chocolate section was so busy, we had trouble making our way to the next room. But I am not complaining about spending time around so much chocolate. 
Dinner tonight was at The Narrow, a Gordon Ramsey gastro-pub in the Docklands area of East London. So, check off one more star chef from the list. The "pub" sits directly on the Thames, in a non-touristy area, with very little commercial activity. As expected, the food was very good, although the service was a little slower that even we like. I think Mr. Ramsey needs to tighten up the ship just a touch, just like he does on TV for other restaurants. I ordered Rump of lamb and confit shoulder, creamed celeriac, potato cake with mint sauce , very yummy. Frank had Glazed pheasant breast, braised red cabbage, prunes and granny smith apple. This too was very good, as were the appetizers and desserts. 
We had an interesting ride back to the hotel, but that is a story for another day.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Masala Zone

Dinner tonight was at Masala Zone. While it is a local chain, it was highly recommended, and rightfully so. I had Lamb Korma, and Frank had Butter Chicken. We shared a combination appetizer, which was unlike anything we have had in Tampa. Everything was great, very tasty, and freshly prepared. When we arrived at 8PM the waiting line was almost out the door. It was worth the wait. 
That's all I'm saying.

L. D2

London, Day 2 Monday
Today is a bank holiday in London, and the whole of London was on the streets today. Since we woke to clear, sunny skies, we decided to go to Greenwich and the Royal Observatory. On our way to Westminster Pier we passed Buckingham Palace and noticed that everyone in this city was congregating in front of the Palace, we assumed for the Queens horses, and/or changing of the guard. We opted to pass, and walked on toward Big Ben. The direct boat ride to Greenwich was very pleasant, passing all the major sites of London. In Greenwich, the Cutty Sark was under wraps for renovation, so we headed to the Naval College to view the Painted Hall and Chapel. Impressed, we were. Then we made a short, but steep, hike up the hill to the Royal Observatory, and some great views of the Thames and London. It really was a lovely day to be out and about. We had one unplanned misstep on the return to London, as the Jubilee Tube line was not running. So, we hailed a famous London taxi for the ride to Tate Modern museum. Here we saw more amazing art, much more contemporary than the National Gallery, but all the big names in modern art are represented here. Following the Tate Modern, we walked across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral. It was a great view with St. Paul's lite by floodlights. In a few minutes we are heading to an Indian Restaurant for dinner. Can't wait! Observation: The sun never reaches very high in the sky this time of year. All day it seemed like it was never more than 30 to 40 degrees above the horizon. And, by 5PM it is dark in this fine city. And a fine city it is... we are having a wonderful time. 

L. D1

London - Day 1 Sunday (Yesterday):
After an uneventful 6 1/2 hour flight from JFK to Heathrow, we landed at 6:30 AM, (as in 1:30 AM EST). By 8:30 we were having breakfast at our hotel, the Hilton Green Park. Since our room was not ready, we headed out to start our first day of seeing London. We followed a Rick Steves suggested West End walk, which took us to Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Carnaby Street (still lost in the 60's) and more. We then went to Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery. First, the large Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square is donated to the British by the Norwegians, however, they must not like the British, as they did not send one of their finest trees, and you know Norway must have some mighty fine Christmas trees. The National Gallery was amazing for the depth of the collection. It was art overload almost. We were extremely lucky in that we had a partially sunny day, with NO rain. That was unexpected, and much appreciated. Dinner was at a Paul and Libby recommendation - Porter's English Restaurant, serving a traditional English menu. I had Sheppard's Pie, and Frank had a Lamb and Apricot pie. Both exceeded our expectations. We had traditional puddings for dessert, I went for the Spotted Dick (no wisecracks please) and Frank had the Sticky Ginger Pudding. Thank you Paul and Libby for a great recommendation.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

P & L

Paolo & Lucia?
Profit & Loss?
Paris & London?

Actually London first, then Paris. We are currently at JFK in New York
waiting on our flight to London. What fun, I say!

Watch for future blog from the trip.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fishy Feast

The Feast of Seven Fishes is finished. We started at 3 PM and finished around 8 PM. It was a fun day preparing all the various dishes. But we came up short, we just couldn't make it to the seventh dish, which technically would have been the 8th fish (seafood). Can you say "stuffed". So, here is a brief recap, with photographs of each dish (not all of good quality).
1. Tomato crostini with anchovies:

2. Tuna Crudo - raw ahi tuna served on a pool of lemon juice, topped with olive oil and course sea salt, and baby gherkins on the side.

3. Smoke Salmon PIzza - with creme fraiche and caviar. 
Counting this as 2 "fish", salmon and caviar.

4. Broiled Lobster Tail with panzanella

5. Mussels in white wine and shallots

6. Seared Sea Scallops with Champaign Beurre Blanc and green beans

I am full !

That's all I'm Saying


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to everyone. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


This past Sunday, Frank, his Mom and I went on our annual pre-Christmas dinner excursion. Each year before Christmas we take his Mom out for a special dinner. She really enjoys the attention and the food and she knows we will pick a really good restaurant for her. This year, we ventured out of the Tampa Bay area and made the drive to the Dolphin resort at Walt Disney World for dinner at Todd English's BlueZoo. Frank and I had been there before and loved it. We knew his Mom would enjoy it too. OMG... we had another wonderful meal, with superb service. For starters, I had the Jumbo Seared Sea Scallops, with Braised Beef Short Rib and a Cauliflower puree. My co-worker, Jason, who had been to BlueZoo more times than me (I am working on catching up), highly recommended the scallops, and he was spot on. Frank had the Tuna Tartar, with Crispy Rock Shrimp and Orange Glaze. While I really liked the tuna on my first visit, I think the scallop dish is the winner. Mrs. C. ordered the Clam Chowder with Salt Cured Bacon. She proclaimed it a winner too. For my entree, I ordered the Florida Grouper served with White Truffle Spaetzle. Unfortunately, they get a 1/10 point deduction for a little too much salt in the spaetzle for my taste. But the flavors were amazing, and I still enjoyed the dish. Frank ordered the Miso Glazed Black Cod, served with Warm Sesame Spinach. Yes, I sampled his entree, and it was very good, with the spinach adding a great flavor component to the dish. But... by a narrow margin, Mrs. C's selection was the winner of the evening. She ordered the Chef Pasta special, which this night was Pappardelle with chopped tomato and mushroom sauce, capped with 4 oz. of lobster meat. The pappardelle was obviously made fresh at the restaurant, and cooked perfectly, as was the lobster. Bravo! Next up, like we needed more food, was dessert. We picked two desserts to share. First we selected  a Pavlova with vanilla orange ice cream, raspberry filled French meringue, citrus segments, and more. And for dessert #2, we ordered the Chocolate Melange, five wonderful samples of chocolate, including a cinnamon chocolate sorbet, and a milk chocolate malt creme brulee. Check the website and the menu for a full list of components.
Oh, and not to go unmentioned, Frank selected a wonderful bottle of Ponzi Pinot Noir from Williamette Valley, Oregon.
What a meal and what a lovely evening. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Feast of Seven Fishes (Part One)

According to Wikipedia, the Feast of Seven Fishes is believed to be an Italian tradition, however it is not a known tradition in Italy. What? Heresy, I say. But a website on Sicilian Culture believes that it is a tradition, at least in Southern Italy and Sicily. Even Mario Batali jumps in with his menu for the Feast of Seven Fishes. Then there is the alternatives of the Feast of Nine, Eleven, or Twelve Fishes. Who knew!. Of course, the basic issue is that Catholics would not eat meat on Christmas Eve, so they prepare fish instead. Tradition or not, I like the idea - it must be in my 50% Italian blood. Frank and I get together on Christmas Eve to prepare a special dinner, so for the second time (makes it a tradition in my book) we are preparing a Feast of Seven Fishes. We will prepare each course separately, enjoy it, then move on to preparing the next course. Sure it will take all evening, but that is the fun of it. Also, we are trying to keep the preparations simple, and small; like tapas. As of now, subject to further refinement and modification, the menu includes:
1. Tomato and Anchovy Crostini (a la Jose Andres) 
2. Tuna Crudo (raw tuna with olive oil, sea salt, and lemon juice)
3. Lobster tails with tomato salad (possibly a lobster roll instead)
4. Smoked salmon pizza with creme fraiche and caviar (oops, the caviar, if considered a seafood, takes us to eight.)
5. Seared scallops with Champaign beurre blanc and haricot vert
6. Mussels in white wine and shallots
7. Seared Escolar with a light curry cream sauce, and sautéed spinach
Check back for the final version, and possibly photographs.
That's all I'm Saying !

Friday, December 18, 2009

Catch Up

I feel like I am always behind with my posts, so this one will be a catch up.
First, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, (yes, that long ago), my co-worker Jason, his lovely wife, Britney, and their two children, Ian and Loren (aka LoLo), came over to visit and to see what I have been raving about for the past year plus... my city, Saint Petersburg.We had a nice lunch at Z Grill (mentioned in prior posts) followed by gelati across from Straub Park. It was a fun day. 
Next, on Wednesday, after spending the day (again) at Moffitt, Frank and I met our friends Paul and Libby for dinner at J. Alexander's. We don't get to see them often, so it was a great opportunity to catch up since our last visit. And, Paul delivered three bottles of Unti wine which he had ordered for me. I can't wait to pop the cork on one of the bottles. This small Sonoma winery specializes in Italian varietals, so you know I will like them. Even better, Paul gave me a painting which he created specifically for my redecorated study/guest room. I will post photographs once I hang it. I love it.
This evening, after work, I met Bob G (Mr. 15-minutes of fame), Bob S and Clyde at Bahama Breeze for a pre-holiday dinner. I enjoyed a paella, which was loaded with shrimp, scallops, mussels, chicken and sausage.  

Teasers: Future posts will cover the Feast of Seven Fishes (Christmas Eve Dinner) and P&L (actually L&P if we stick to the proper order of things)

That's all for now!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One Week Later

    It has been a week since my last post, and I must say I am  feeling much better. I spent four days at work this week, so that is a good indication of my return to normalcy, or at least what passes as such in my life.
I had a busy weekend, so it was good that my energy levels have returned. Friday night found me in Seminole, on the intracoastal waterway, for another meeting of the book club. Dorothy and Joe hosted the event, and Sue prepared dinner which was a lovely rijsttafel with curried chicken and assorted sides or toppings.
The Family ManThe book was The Family Man by Elinor Lipman. It was a fun read, at least the first half, which was all I could accomplish in the week I had to book in my possession. Yes, I read slowly. I am never sure if we are a book club with an eating problem, or an eating club with a reading problem. But either way, we always have a good time, with good food and good conversation.
     On Saturday evening, Frank and I were invited to Pat and Paul's to enjoy their Christmas decoration, before heading to Restaurant BT in Hyde Park. Click the link for a sample of the French Vietnamese cuisine. (Well, not really a sample, or a taste, but maybe enough to entice you to eat there one day.) It was a nice evening so we sat outside enjoying a very good bottle of wine (doh!, do ask the vintner; but I do remember it was recommended by the bartender and was a pinot noir - granche blend). I had a wonderful bouillabaisse with calamari, shrimp, mussels, salmon, and grouper in a flavorful lemongrass and basil broth with baby bok choy. We returned to Pat and Paul's for one of Paul's homemade desserts, a Black Russian bundt cake. It was excellent, and had just a touch of kahula and vodka in the cake. Yummy !.
     Today, Sunday, Frank and I ventured to his Mom's to put up her Christmas tree and to feast on her "famous" (in my mind), Swiss steak in tomato sauce (oh so good). This is comfort food at its best.
     This evening, thanks to our friend and my co-worker, Rhonda, we attended the Christmas program at Idlewild Baptist Church. I think I felt the earth tremble as I walked in the church. Rhonda plays in the church orchestra. The program was very good. Thank you Rhonda.

That's all I'm saying.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Getting Back in the Grove

Yikes, I am finally getting back to what passes as normal, and starting to feel better after my second treatment. This one went well again, actually probably easier than the first one since I was under general anesthesia for a shorter period of time. However it seemed to wear on me emotionally more so than the first. Partly, I think, because I never got out of ICU for the entire post-treatment; not due to any complications, but due to no rooms available in the inn. So I was actually discharged directly from ICU last Friday morning. Also, as anyone who has spent even one night in the hospital understands, it isn't the place to get any rest. And, the food still sucks ! With all that whining out of the way, everyday is better, and I plan on going back to work tomorrow. I am also ready to get back in the kitchen and start cooking again... which is the true sign of recovery for me. 
I owe a special thanks to my good Mount Dora friends, Carol and John, for coming down this weekend to make sure I was getting more than sufficient care; to my dear friend Denise for providing superb personal transportation service on short notice; and to my good friend Frank, for all of his help, including taking off work so he could be at the hospital the day of my treatment, and to bring me home on Friday, cooking for me, and for being there for me always. I am so fortunate to have such caring friends, including all of you who have sent you good wishes by text, phone, email, etc. 
That's All I'm Saying

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Geez, my keyboard is giving me a hard time again. What's with that anyway. But that is not what this post is all about.
First, I go back to Moffitt tomorrow for my second targeted chemo treatment on Dec 1. I will probably be in the hospital until Friday. At least this time I know what to expect and more importantly what not to order on the menu. No hot food; only fruit, cereal, salads, sandwiches,and whatever I can have brought in under cover of darkness. The hot meals were disgusting the last visit. I will probably not have another post until I get home, unless it is a very short one from my iPhone.
Second, my good friend, Frank, fixed me a pre-hospital meal this evening which was wonderful. He prepared a perfectly cooked medium rare filet mignon with French fries, and a baby romaine salad. He nailed the steak. So good.
Third, I haven't mentioned our Thanksgiving Eve dinner, and if I don't document it here, I will not remember what we fixed when we plan next years menu. Since I was only one day out of my embolization, we decided to keep it easy. After an appetizer of pate and cheese, Frank prepared Duck Breast with Port and Figs from the Wiliams-Sonoma Paris cookbook. Fortunately we were able to find fresh figs. I fixed a green bean risotto.The duck and figs was oh so good and the risotto was a nice accompaniment.Since I didn't find the time the night before to fix the intended cherry clafoutis, I cheated and bought a Autumn Berry pie from Whole Foods. It was good, but not the cherry clafoutis I wanted to have. 
I spent Thanksgiving day at my nephew Biff's home in Bradenton with the rest of the family, enjoying a very good traditional turkey (count them, three turkeys) dinner with all the tasty side dishes and homemade desserts. Then Friday, the family ventured to St. Petersburg,where we dined at Primi Urban Cafe, frequently mentioned in this blog. We had a great time. And Paolo got chased around the living room by a couple of dogs that Biff and Butch brought with them, since they were heading to Gainesville for the UF/FSU game on Saturday.  But that is a story for another time
I will catch up with you later in the week, but for now...
That's all I'm Saying !

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Embolization is what they call it

A pain in the back is what is was. I had a successful embolization (the proper term for the procedure) yesterday. I was awake and aware the entire time, and the worse part of the entire process was having to stay on my back for 6 hours after the procedure without moving my right leg. Otherwise, I am fine, and went to work today. 
I have much to be thankful for, most of all my friends and family. I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finally - New York City Photographs

I have finally posted some of the photographs from my trip to New York City. I didn't take a lot, considering this is my um-teenth plus trip to The Big Apple. Most of the nine photographs are of art work at MOMA. Enjoy!

Sear Those Scallops

     My good friend Karen, Frank and I get together periodically for dinner or lunch. We usually go to a local restaurant in St. Petersburg, but last night we cooked at Bistro 523 (my fictitious restaurant in case you forgot). For months, Karen has been mentioning (hinting) that she loves scallops but didn't know how to fix them. So I figured it was time for a little cooking lesson, (move over Jacque Pepin). I picked up some U-10 scallops, corn meal, and asparagus, among other items. While we were waiting on Frank to arrive from a late work night, we prepared (and tested) some tasty bruschetta, a la Paul Tuten. One was apricot preserve, prosciutto, and ricotta; the other was a sun dried tomato spread with shaved parmigiano reggiano. Karen proclaimed the apricot one the best. After Frank arrived, and with Karen's able assistance, we prepared my "famous" Belgium Endive salad with Gorgonzola dressing. We pan seared the scallops, then deglazed with white wine, followed by shallots, thyme, and butter for a simple pan sauce. This was served with roasted asparagus, and polenta (hence the corn meal). Karen was an excellent student. I should have taken a photo of the plated meal, as, (a little bragging here) it really looked great, and tasted even better. 

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Results are In

Dateline: Saint Petersburg
Simpson Department of Health Update
Today, I got the results of my last CT scan and MRI. The good news is that the liver tumors have diminished in size, even after only one treatment. I am thrilled with that result. The other good news is that the MRI of the brain was clean. (Yes, really, they found a brain). The only negative from the CT scan was the identification of a very small nodule in the lung. While this is disappointing, the current plan is just to monitor it while we focus on the targeted chemo to the liver. I am fine with that, and very happy that there was no other evidence of tumors in my body. 
That's all I'm Saying!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fishing for Recipes

     But before I get to the fish, I must give another 15 minutes of fame to my friend Bob. He must be up to about 1.5 hours now via my blog. Anyway, Bob recently bought a condo at Top of the World, a very large complex in Clearwater. Friday evening I had the first opportunity to see his furnished unit. He did a great job; it is very cozy and comfortable. We then went to a local favorite, Sunset Grill, on Sunset Point Road. It isn't fancy; think of it as an over=sized diner,  but it has great comfort food. I had calf liver and grilled onions. I know, I know, I am one of the few people you know who like liver.. ok, I love liver. 
     This afternoon, I was sitting at home, watching cooking shows, and trying to figure out what I wanted to fix for dinner. So I stared going through a stack of cooking magazines looking for a fish or shrimp recipe. I needed seafood after the liver last night. Well, ever try to find a seafood recipe in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetite or Food & Wine or Saveur. I found 20 recipes of what to do with my leftover turkey, but I don't have a leftover turkey yet. Then, voila, I found a Moroccan Halibut recipe in Bon Appetite. So off to Publix I went, and opted for Tilapia since Halibut was not to be found in the seafood case. It was very easy and very tasty. The recipe is below, direct from 
     Finally, from the Department of Health, I had another CT Scan and MRI on Thursday. I will get the results on Monday. I am currently scheduled for round two of the targeted chemotherapy on December 1, with a preceding outpatient procedure schedule for Nov 24. Stay tuned for further updates. 
Back to the good stuff... here is the recipe.

Moroccan Halibut with Carrots

Yield: Makes 2 servings
Active Time: 25 min
Total Time: 25 min

2 5-ounce 1-inch-thick halibut fillets
1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (generous) cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
1 cup 1/4 x 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch sticks peeled carrots (cut from 2 large)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint

Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then with half of cinnamon and cayenne. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy medium skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add fish. Sauté until brown and just opaque in center, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plates. Remove skillet from heat and wipe out. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, carrots, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining cinnamon and cayenne. Toss to blend. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until carrots are just tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in mint. Mound carrots on fish and serve. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeding Frenzy

The past weekend was another feeding frenzy in St. Petersburg. Friday, I was at Primi Urban Cafe, (frequently mentioned in this blog), with Frank, John, and Marsha. Since my last visit, there was a change of ownership, but so far, it has not impacted the service, or the quality of the food. The chef and wait staff remain from the previous ownership. Sunday, (I will return to Saturday in a minute), found me at Patty Burke's, the Irish pub down the street, with my friend and 15 minutes of fame addict, Bob. That evening, Frank and I stopped at Red Mesa Cantina for a drink and a couple of their delicious soft tacos - always a good choice. But the real food highlight of the weekend I must say, was Saturday evening. Our good friends, Paul and Libby (see "Paul & Libby's World of Travel" link to the left), came all the way from Pasco County for dinner at Bistro 523, my fictitious restaurant. Paul and Libby provided a three course appetizer of mixed crostini. Frank, the salad expert, prepared an Asian Pear and Arugula salad (a la Food & Wine magazine), and I fixed a simply wonderful (forgive my boasting), Pan Seared Sea Bass with Endives and Grapes, also from Food & Wine. When I first saw the recipe, I wasn't sure how the combination of ingredients would blend together, but they were great. There was the saltiness of bacon, the bitterness of the endives, the sweetness of the grapes, all combined with the seared, flaky bass. While I feel somewhat guilty about eating sea bass, due to it being over-fished, I stuck with the recipe recommendation. If you want to try the recipe, click HERE to link to the Food & Wine site. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I fixed Lemon Panna Cotta with Red Raspberry Coulis for our dessert. Yum...

That's all I'm Saying

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not Much News

Since the trip to NYC, life in Tampa has been fairly routine, hence no posts in the past week. Although I should mention that we ventured to a new restaurant at International Plaza, Brio Tuscan Grill. Yes, it is a chain, with locations throughout the country. And being a chain serving Italian food, we approached it with caution. Well, the decor was knock-your-socks-off over the top, typical for a well financed chain. The food on the other hand, was OK, not bad, but no way near as good as you can get in an independent local Italian ristorante, like Vino e Pasta in Tampa or Primi Urban Cafe in St. Petersburg. Frank and I both started with a very ordinary Caesar salad. I order the Shrimp & Scallop Risotto, which was loaded with shrimp and bay scallops (nice), in a heavy tomato cream sauce (not quite right). The rice seemed to be an afterthought, which is just all wrong for a risotto. Send the chef back to Tuscany for remedial training, I say. Frank ordered Pasta Alla Vodka, which had "little purses" filled with ricotta in an OK vodka sauce.  Better vodka sauce is readily available at the previously mentioned Vino e Pasta. While the flavor of our food was fine, it still seemed like "chain" food. So, there is my food snobbishness showing through again. So be it !

That's all I'm Saying

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh, so far behind

For some strange reason, maybe like I was having too much fun and spending too much time in restaurants, I never finished my posts from New York City. Now that I have been home for two days and have a few minutes, I will try to wrap up the trip in less than 1000 words. I think I left off with Sunday night at the Blue Note; so let's move on to Monday. We decided to do a touristy thing today, which proved to be very interesting. We took the NBC Studio tour. We saw three of the studios, the most interesting being the one used by Saturday Night Live. The stage that is used by the musical groups is much smaller than what you see on TV, thanks to the magic of television. We also saw the "new" studio for Dr. Oz, to which I responded, "Who?: - sorry Oprah. Next was a lovely walk down 5th Avenue to Macy's, for a snack and drink in the Cellar, and some window shopping. We then took the subway to Greenwich Village for a walk around the neighborhood. It is very nice in the village, with all the tree shaded streets. Our dinner reservation was nearby at DBGB Kitchen and Bar, a Daniel Boulud eatery on Bowery St. While all the meals we had were very good, this was my favorite, primarily due to the unusual menu of house made sausages. I started with a wonderful, and nicely presented, "iceberg and blue" salad, followed by a sausage duo of the TOULOUSE; a pork, duck gizzard & garlic link served with cassoulet beans, and the TUNISIENNE; a lamb and mint merguez with harissa, and lemon braised spinach and chickpeas. Frank started with the Butter Lettuce and Chive salad, followed by his selection for the sausage duo; The BERLINER: a tender german-style wurst, winter radish choucroute, green apple, curry, and the BOUDIN BASQUE a spicy blood and pigs head sausage with scallion mashed potatoes. All were amazing.
After a short stop at the hotel, we started our traditional last evening walk around the city, this time in Time Square area, followed by an "until next time" drink at the Marriott Marquis lobby bar overlooking Broadway.
We got a late start on Tuesday, our last day in the city. We had lunch reservations at Aquivit Cafe, where Chef Marcus Samualsson works his magic. (Yes, his last name is spelled correctly). The cafe is co-located with Aquivit restaurant, but in a more casual Swedish minimalist setting. We both enjoyed the prix fixe lunch; I opted for the Herring Plate for may appetizer, the Seared Gravlax for my main course, and the Arctic Circle for dessert. Frank started with the Mixed Lettuce Salad, followed by the Swedish Meatballs, and also concluding with the Arctic Circle. Everything, including the service was superb, especially the dessert; probably the best of the trip. It was a cylinder of goat cheese parfait, filled with a passion fruit custard, and topped with raspberry sorbet.
Stick with me here - that is the last food discussion, and the trip is almost over. Our last stop of the day and of the trip was the Frick Collection, an old mansion on 5th Avenue that now houses a wonderful collection of art, by artists such as Titian, Turner, El Greco and many more. The setting and the art was very different from what we saw at MOMA, but no less wonderful.
Some final thoughts: We commented frequently during the trip, that Mayor Bloomberg must be putting some happy juice in the water supply, as we found a much more friendly city that in prior visits. We were also pleased to see that much of Broadway in Time Square had been made into a pedestrian area, with small cafe tables and chairs for a nice touch. This was repeated in front of Macy's. This was a wonderful, relaxing trip, without the rush to see all the major sites. The trip was a nice mix of culture and food, and just plain fun walking in a wonderful city. We checked off four more restaurants from our wish list, and three big time chefs; Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samualsson, and Danny Meyer. Obviously we ate well. And I kept my promise - this was only 721 words. 
That's all I'm Saying!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Saga Continues

As I was saying earlier today, we had a great meal at Union Square
Cafe yesterday. To finish the dinner I ordered apple streudel with
sour cream ice cream and Frank had the chocolate bread pudding, both
highly recommended by our server, and rightly so.
After dinner and a walk to Greenwich Village, we attended the 10:30
performance at The Blue Note jazz club. We were treated to an
ourstanding 90 minute set by the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band.
Ok, now I am only one day behind with my posts, but today will have to
wait, as we have more things to do before our last evening of the trip
is over.

Sent from my iPhone

A Busy Day in the City

The weather was great yesterday and we expect a repeat performance
today with temps in the low 60s and clear skies.
We started our day yesterday with the visit to MOMA which I have
already mentioned. It is 5 floors filled with wonderful art by some of
the most famous artists, and some works the I just do not understand,
like Jackson Pollock. We followed this with a window shopping walk
down 5th Avenue, then a walk through Central Park. Since it was a
lovely fall day, the locals were out in mass enjoying their Sunday
and the fall colors.
After a long walk back to the hotel for a short rest, we caught the
subway to Union Square and our dinner at Union Square Cafe. Watch out
everyone - here comes the food... We shared an appetizer of tuna
tartars with fennel crackers, oh so good. I selected the grilled lamb
chops for my main course. (sorry Pat). The four perfectly cooked and
tender chops were served with an excellent potato gratin. Frank
ordered the duck breast which he allowed me to sample. All I can say
is that it was wonderful.

Since we are already into another busy day, hold that thought, i will
finish this post later.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

More from MOMA

The museum was great with a large collection of works by famous
artists like this Chagal, Monet, Picasso, and many more.

Museum of Modern Art

A Jasper Johns painting for Dr. T

We arrived 30 minutes early for our 10:30 PM reservation and headed to
the "standing room only" bar for a glass of wine. The restaurant and
bar were packed, but after a short 15 minute wait, the hostess seated
us at a nice corner table. In typical French fashion the tables are
close together, but in our little corner we did not feel like we were
dining with the people at the next table. Much to our enjoyment the
decor was very French as was the food. The service too was very good,
always an important factor to us.
I started with escargot, typically prepared in the shell with garlic
and butter. Frank ordered a very nice beet salad. The fresh bread
served with the meal was oudtstanding and is made in their adjacent
For our main course, I ordered the duck confit, oh so French and oh so
good. Frank ordered their bar steak and fries. The steak was perfectly
cooked, tender, and tasty, although a little overly salty. We
concluded our meal with espresso and dessert I had an individual tarte
tatin, very good. Frank had a banana tart, also very good.
I definitely recommend the restaurant, although it falls just short of
our experience at Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Las Vegas
That's all I'm Saying.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oops. - A Correction

Fred Astaire was not Singing in the Rain. It was Gene Kelly. Oh my!!

Sent from my iPhone

Singing in the Rain

OK , that was Fred Astaire. Dick and Frank were only walking in the
rain, with their umbrellas raise to the skyscrapers of New York City.
Fortunately the rain has been infrequent and light today.
Our 6:25 Tampa departure on JetBlue had us at JFK Airport by 8:40. We
were in midtown by 9:30, checked into our hotel (room not available
yet), and having breakfast at Pigalle, the little French brasserie
connected to the hotel by 10:00AM. I had a very nice Croque Madame, a
grilled ham and cheese, topped with two fried eggs. Frank had fried
eggs topped with chicken livers in a cream sauce. Yummy.
After breakfast, we walked down to 42nd Street then up Broadway to
Columbus Circle for a quick window shopping visit in the Time-Warner
Center. We saw the matinee performance of West Side Story, which was
very good. Post theatre, we stopped at the Marriott Marques for a
drink or two and a cheese plate to hold us over until dinner. Tonight
we have very late dinner reservations at Balthazar, so the dinner
review will have to wait for tomorrow.
All in all, a very good first day in the Big Apple.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Travel Alert

I have been bitten by the travel bug again. Of course, for me, that bug is always lurking nearby. Since I am feeling better and to celebrate the successful first treatment, we decided to take off for New York City this coming weekend. We leave at O'Dark 30 on Saturday for a three night stay in the Big Apple. I will try to blog while I am there, but if not, I will catch up on my return. We have tickets to "West Side Story" and dinner reservations for all three nights. We will dine at Balthazar, Union Square Cafe, and DBGB, Danial Boulud's new casual restaurant in the Bowery. Balthazar is a French bistro, and we have trouble turning down dining at any "bistro". Finally, Union Square Cafe, was opened in 1985 by Chef Danny Meyer and has been on our list of restaurants to try for years. I even have a Union Square Cookbook. We will also check out the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, which we have not visited since their extensive remodeling. It will be a weekend of fun, good food, and cool weather, with who know what else added in to the mix. Check back for travel and food updates from NYC.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Lovely Day in the Neighborhood

Today was one of those rare, near perfect fall days, with the temperature in the low to mid 60s; blue sky, and a light (OK, sometimes strong) breeze off the bay. By last Thursday, I was feeling almost back to normal, a week after my treatment. While it took longer than I expected, at least I have a better idea what to expect after the next treatment. With encouragement from Frank, I returned to the gym yesterday for some cardio and light weight work. It felt good. We then hit the Saturday Morning Market for lunch. Dinner was a wonderful fruit and arugula salad, followed by pan seared grouper with a lemon butter sauce and green beans and grape tomatoes. Today, feeling ready to venture out on a nice walk, considering the fall weather, I headed down toward the Vinoy Hotel, about a 15 block walk, listening to "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. I made my first visit to the recently opened 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House. I ordered a Shock Top on draught, not realizing that I was ordering a (heaven forbid) "domestic" beer. Well, my euro-snobbishness was minimized by this decent tasting Belgium style white beer by Michelob. For lunch, I ordered the New England Lobster Roll which was filled with a large quantity of lobster meat in a small amount of mayonnaise. The portion size, served with a side of plank fries (think steak fries), and celery root slaw, was more that adequate, although a little pricey at $14.95 (but it was fresh lobster). However, the sandwich was a little bland. I am not sure what it needed, but it lacked some zing. And it wasn't up to the Lobster roll at Legal Seafood. 400 Beach is owned by the same person who owns Parkshore Grill, just down the street. Parkshore is, in my opinion, one of the best overall dining experiences in downtown. I will return to 400 Beach sometime for dinner, to see how it compares at dinner to its sister restaurant. 
Next stop was the Museum of Fine Arts, to renew my membership and check out the latest special exhibit, "I Heard a Voice" by Leslie Dill. The exhibit was interesting, but far from a high point in my museum experiences. OK, let's be honest here, Simpson, I didn't like it all that much. Although, this is the first time I have been encouraged to use my cell phone in a museum. The special exhibit had a associated audio program available via cell phone, narrated by the artist. Just like the audio tours you pay for, you press a number and # on your cell phone when you arrive at designated works of art to hear more about the piece. 
Well, I think I have rambled on enough for one post. It was a good day; I felt good; the weather was lovely, and I spent a few hours enjoying my city
That's All I'm Saying.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back at Work

Today was another step in my recovery from the treatment last week. I returned to the office, albeit a little later than "core" hours, but not by much. My energy level gets better everyday, although I still feel fatigued at times. I actually fixed my own dinner tonight, only a big deal in that I had not felt like standing in the kitchen for more than five minutes at any time before tonight. Plus, why should I cook when Frank offered to come over and fix dinner on Saturday (seared salmon and a roquette (rocket) salad) and again on Sunday, (organic grass-fed filet mignon with a caprese salad made with tomato and burrata). If you haven't had burrata, and can find some, (try Whole Foods) do so. It is a combination of mozzarella and cream, with a mozzarella outer shell and a lovely soft mozzarella and cream center. It was so good, and a nice accompaniment with the tasty grass-fed beef. Yum.

That's All I'm Saying!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I am home !

I was finally released from Moffitt on Saturday around noon. It is really nice being home, not that Paolo and Lucia were excited by my return. More like "Ho hum, he's back, it's nap time now"

I am still a little fatigued, but feeling better all the time. It was great being in my own bed last night, although sleep was erratic. 

The treatment procedure was long, and took a lot more out of me than I expected. I was in IR (Intervention Radiology) from 8AM or so, until 1PM. Recovery went fine, although that too was long, or so it seems when you are laying in bed all day.

That is all I'm saying (for now).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Moffitt Mariott

Service is great, the food is not, and the decor is what you would
expect in a hospital, clinical and boring.

I am still in ICU, waiting on a regular room. My surgeon just stopped
by and said they would release me in the morning. Yea!

That's all for now.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Whirlwind Restaurant Weekend in St. Petersburg

     Whew, I need a rest. This has been a busy weekend for dining out. So, tonight, Sunday, I am staying home and cooking something for myself. The whirlwind started on Friday, with Frank, our friend Carol F. and me going to The King and I, a small, Thai restaurant on Central Ave. I had the crispy duck curry... very good. Saturday lunch found me at Paddy Burke's Irish Pub with my friend Glen from Orlando. I had the Irish BBQ Burger; the BBQ Sauce was made with Guinness (what else) and I washed it down with a Guinness. Saturday evening our friend Karen stopped over for a visit and dinner, which was at Primi Urban Cafe. That was my second Saturday in a row at Primi. This week I had the Wild Mushroom Ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce. Wow, it was really outstanding. And... finally... my good friend Bob, came by for lunch at Lucky Dill Deli. (Yes, Bob, it is another 15 minutes of fame for you, compliments of The Urban Flaneur). Eat, Eat, Eat!!! Now I need a break.
     Unfortunately I will get a forced break this week as I will be dining on hospital food for a few days. I will be admitted to Moffitt on Tuesday, with my treatment scheduled for Wednesday. I will be "out" for 5 to 6 hours, while they administer my first treatment for the tumors in my liver. As I mentioned in a more private email to may of my readers/friends/family, I was very fortunate to qualify for a new research trial for targeted chemotherapy. I expect to be released no later than next Saturday. There will definitely not be any food posts this week. Depending on my recovery, and my level of motivation, there may be a post from the hospital with a update on my progress.

That's all I'm Saying !

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Never Trust a Skinny Cook

Check this out. My dear friend, and fellow-foodie, and my foodie idol, has her own blog now. I have posted a link to it under My Blog List (left sidebar). Liz is an amazing person, and an amazing chef, (forget the cook stuff), Years ago, (I won't mention how many), she inspired me to have the confidence in the kitchen that I was lacking at the time. I made my first risotto under her tutelage at a participation dinner with a group of her friends in her kitchen. Each of us had our assignment, with the recipe and ingredients ready for us. Frank and I drew the risotto assignment, and I thought, "I can't do that, risotto is hard to make". But under her watchful eye and words of encouragement, I learned that I did not have to stir for the full 18 minutes. Now I can make risotto without really thinking about it. "Hey, that wasn't hard", I said.  Liz and her husband, Henry, have taken us to some mighty fine restaurants in Atlanta, and prepared wonderful meals for us at their home. I watched (from afar at times) her children grow up. (Both Andy and Eric are mentioned in her blog). As Liz likes to say, "You are one of my oldest friends" and she isn't talking about age. We go way back. I was running in the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta when her first son was born, almost 30 years ago (sorry, Andy, I remember being there, just not the year). 
Liz and Henry are great friends, and I encourage you to read her blog, Never Trust a Skinny Cook. At least she shares recipes, unlike me, who just rambles on about food. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

It was another busy weekend in Saint Petersburg. My good friends, Carol and John from Mt. Dora, FL, and Georgiann and Jim from Orlando, arrived Saturday mid-day. After a lunch of Tilapia El Greco and Endive with Blue Cheese at Bistro 523 (i.e. my place), we headed to American Stage for their production of August Wilson's "Fences". It was an amazing play; very moving and thought provoking. The acting was superb, with the Oscar going to, in my opinion, Evander Duck Jr. as Troy Maxson, the lead character. If you live in the area and have an opportunity, go see Fences, now through Oct 11. 
Our post-theatre dinner was as Primi Urban Cafe, one of my favorite restaurants in downtown, and mentioned in prior posts. We shared three appetizers; sweet potato fried, antipasti platter, and crispy polenta triangles with prosciutto and tomatoes. For the entree, Jim and John each ordered Lamb Shanks. The lamb looked great, and it they are as tasty as the no-longer-available Chianti Braised Short Ribs, they had to taste great too. Carol and Georgiann each ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli served in browned sage butter. I have tried that before, and it too is a tasty item. I opted for the special of the evening, a South African Bobotie. Say what? This was a ground beef dish, loaded with flavorful spices. It is served in a slice, like a meatloaf, but that is where the comparison ends. There was a hint of curry, turmeric, and other ingredients which I could not identify, but all blended together to make a very unique and wonderful entree. Served in three separate small containers on the side were a mango chutney, a tomato relish, and sliced bananas with shaved coconut. Our server, Ken, said that these are traditionally mixed on the plate with the Bobotie, so I followed his suggestion. This added more levels of flavor to an already great dish. 
So, there you have it... go see Fences, then go to Primi Urban Cafe for a nice meal after the play. 

That's all I'm Saying !

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Monster

How about something other than food: I stayed up last night until 1:30 just to finish a book,  The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. The book is based on the authors' investigation into a serial murderer in the Florence, Italy area, and how they became a part of the story. Preston is a mystery writer, so used that background to weave an intriguing tale of true events. Spezi is an Italian journalist who became an "expert" in all things related to the "Monster" Both authors ended up under investigation, and Spezi was jailed for a period of time. I highly recommend this book.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Z is for Me

Warning... more food talk...
Tonight, my friend and coworker, Rhonda, joined us for dinner at Z-Grille . We had a lovely evening, except for the loud group at the next table, and enjoyed some fine food from the kitchen of Chef/Owner Zach Gross. Zack was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Best New Chef of the South award this year. We started with a shared appetizer of deviled eggs with crab (how ofter do you see deviled eggs on an upscale restaurant menu). Rhonda enjoyed the Seared & Roasted Duck; I had a wonderful Seared Sea Scallops served with Herb Risotto, and Frank had an unusual, but very tasty, entree of fried chicken breast, waffle, and chipotle grits. Desserts were equally as tasty. And the Monday night special is 1/2 price on all bottles of wine. We (Frank and I) had a bottle M.D. Phillips Petite Petite Sirah. And at 1/2 price; such a deal. A fine meal with good friends 

Sunday, September 20, 2009


     Is everyone bored with all the food talk yet? No? Good, since here comes some more...
But first, a message from the PC repair guy, me ! Since no one responded to my earlier request for help fixing my keyboard, I decided to pop a few keys to see what I could see. WRONG Mr. FixIt. Now I have two keys that have no tops and have loose plastic thingies, which I cannot get to snap back in place. Where is the Geek Squad when you need them. I pulled out my netbook so I could at least type this post. Now, on to the food.
     Last evening (Friday), we were invited to Denise and Thomas' lovely condo overlooking Bayshore Blvd., and Tampa Bay. I have been working with Denise for a couple of years on her culinary techniques and this was a continuation of those lessons. She really does not need me, but I will continue to let her think she does since I always get a nice meal. We met at Publix Greenwise to shop, then to her home to start the prep and a long evening in the kitchen and at the table. We started with Lobster Bisque. Putting "Larry the Lobster" in the stock pot was reminiscent of the scene in Julie & Julia, where Julie agonized over boiling the lobster, finally getting it into the pot, only to have the lid fly off. We managed to avoid flying lids, and good old Larry went quietly to his death. (sorry Larry). While Larry was boiling, then cooling his heels, Denise and I started caramelizing the apples for a Tarte Tatin. Then it was back to the bisque, which was a major project time-wise, but the end result was very good. Frank thought it was perfect, Thomas and I both thought it could have been a little thicker. While Frank's was preparing his signature Mustard Vinaigrette, Denise and I started on New York Strip Steaks with Jose Andres' Blue Cheese cream sauce. It was great, as was the tarte tatin; served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Oh so yummy! Denise definitely earned her diploma with this meal. The wine... we had a lovely Chardonnay with the soup, then moved to a wonderful 1993 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon with the steak.
     Saturday found Frank and me escorting his Mother to a late lunch at Aquaknox for more fine dining. Mrs. C. had a Caesar Salad with Chicken. The salad was nicely presented as a 1/2 head of romaine, very thinly sliced onions, and shaved Parmigiano. Frank and I ordered the open-faced crab cake sandwich, which was two small cakes, loaded with lump crab topped with some fresh coleslaw. Very nice.
     Stay tuned, I am sure there is more foodie talk in the near future.

That's all I'm Saying