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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bob, The Cruise Director

My friend Bob, is known within his circle of friends as the Julie, the Cruise Director, due to his efforts to organize social activities for his friends. Last Sunday was such an event as about 15 of us descended on Estelas on Davis Islands to celebrate Mike B's birthday. We had good food, great fun, and I had a Margarita or two. Very tasty they were. Thank you Mr. Cruise Director, nice work.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It has been a while

It has been a week since my last post, so I have some catching up to do.
1. Can anyone tell me why my laptop keyboard is causing me so much difficulty in typing? Here's the deal. As I type the cursor jumps to other places in my text, which obviously leads to some very strange sentences. Plus it is very annoying, and makes typing very tedious. This post could take an hour to type. UGH!
2. My last CT scan identified some additional lesions. Without going into detail, I had a biopsy on Friday, and will have the results in a week, and I expect to begin a treatment program in early October.
3. Pub Grub: We have a new Irish Pub in Saint Petersburg, Paddy Burkes, which has some good pub grub, although a little non-traditional. My friend Karen and I went for lunch yesterday, and I had the "Pig Farmer" sandwich, which was ham, caramelized apples, and goat cheese on a pretzel roll. It was very tasty. Being a big sports fan, Karen opted for the Baseball Burger; Angus beef, Irish Cheddar, Irish bacon, and chutney. She said it was a winner. Obviously, there are a number of good beers to wash down the food.
4. A return to Argentina: For dinner last night, I brought out an Argentine cookbook, which my family gave to me for my birthday. It is "Seven Fires, Grilling the Argentine Way" by Francis Mallmann, a Restaurateur and TV star chef. While I do not have a grill, a cast iron skillet works great. We started dinner with an appetizer of Fresh Figs, Mozzarella, Thyme, and Olive Oil paired with a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc. The entree was "Flipped-and-Flapped Lamb with Mustard, Oregano, and Lemon Zest" It is Mallman's take on the French classic of "Gigot a la moutarde" (Leg of Lamb with Mustard). Slices of leg of lamb are pounded to about 1/2 inch thickness, coated with mustard, oregano, and lemon zest (he uses lemon confit, which I did not bother to make), then seared a few minutes on each side. The smell from the pan as the mustard and oregano were charring was wonderful, only to be exceeded by the flavor of the finished dish. Accompanying the lamb was a side of "Caramelized Endives with Vinegar" (a combination of sweetness from the sugar used to caramelize the endive, and a tartness from the red wine vinegar). and a "Patagonian Potato Galette", a disc of thinly sliced potatoes sauteed in clarified butter. This was the only misstep of the evening, as I over cooked the too thinly sliced potatoes. Next time, I will slice the potatoes a little thicker and be more careful with my cooking time. The entree was pared with an Argentine Malbec. It was another very nice dinner from the kitchen of Bistro 523.
That is all I'm saying.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

J & J

So, Saturday afternoon, we went to Baywalk to see Julie & Julia. It was a great movie, especially for a foodie. I had just re-read Julia's "My Life in France" so had that side of the story down pat. Although I knew about the Julie side of the story, I had not read her book, nor knew a lot of the details. If you haven't seen it, do so. And plan on a really nice meal after the movie; you will be hungry. Boeuf Bourguignon anyone?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Flight Video

For the travelers out there, check out this creative flight safety video from Thomson Airways (<-- click here); yes a real airline.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Made in Spain

One of my favorite chefs is Jose Andres, whose PBS show, "Made in Spain" is part travelogue and part cooking lesson. His high level of excitement about the different regions of Spain and the foods from each region inspired me to pick up one of his cookbooks. So, last night, Frank and I prepared two "astonishing" (to quote Jose, but I can't type his pronunciation, it is more like "astoooonisshin") dishes from his show/cookbook. The salad was a Drunken Goat Cheese and Tomato Salad <-- click for recipe. The tomatoes are deconstructed with the beefsteak tomatoes being grated into a thin sauce; the plum tomatoes carefully separated into seed filets (seeds pockets) and diced flesh. These components are combined on the plate with olives, drunken goat cheese, and a light oil and vinegar dressing. Jammy (yummy) as Jose would say. For the entree we prepared pan-seared New York strip steaks, finished with a garlic, shallot, thyme, cream and Spanish blue cheese sauce. The recipe called for Picon cheese, which was not available at Whole Foods, so we opted for a Valdeon blue, which was wonderful.

That's all I'm saying !