Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't Rush to Pssghetti's

The Simpson Disclaimer: Yes, I am a food snob, and yes, I have my favorite Italian restaurants in Tampa and St. Petersburg, and yes, Pssghetti's only opened a week or two ago, so I need to cut them some slack. But...
Last Saturday, Carol F., Sandy, Frank and I went to Pssghetti's in Clearwater. Fortunately I had made reservations, as the wait at 6:30 was 1 1/2 hours. The restaurant has been under construction for many months, and is apparently a sister restaurant to one in Blowing Rock, NC. The decor is faux Italian cute, with an open kitchen and pizza oven. Now comes the issues (again realizing it is a newly opened restaurant, and I can forgive some of the mis-steps). First, when we were seated and handed the menus, the hostess did not provide the separate pizza menu. If we had not been sitting in view of the pizza oven, we would not have known they served pizza. Next up, Frank ordered a bottle of wine. When our young server returned with the bottle, she commented that she isn't very good at opening wine. Frank offered to open it for her, but apparently that is not permitted. She managed to pull the cork, then proceeded to fill all the glasses without offering a taste to the person who ordered the wine. The bottle was placed on the table with a thump. We ordered calamari for a shared appetizer, only to be served a small portion and not very crispy calamari. Average at best, I would say. The salads were fine, but the entrees arrived before we finished the salads, so we were moving plates around the table, and handing them to the server to help clear the table. Frank and Sandy had the lasagna, which was the best entree on the table. Carol had the cannelloni which had to be sent back to the kitchen to be re-heated. I had the Pesca Panna, seafood in  a creamy garlic sauce. The scallops and shrimp were overcooked, and the "creamy" sauce was watery, and lacking in flavor. As soon as our dishes were cleared we were given the check, without any mention of coffee or dessert, which seemed very strange. 
All in all, it was not a good first impression. While I will not rush back I will give them another chance to work out their service and food issues. But it is hard to go to Pssghetti's when we have Vino e Pasta in Tampa, and Primi Urban Cafe in St. Petersburg, and Vincenzo's in Clearwater. 
That's all I'm Saying

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bouef Bourguignon, Part 2

Just in case you do not read comments that are submitted to my posts, here is what my good friend, Liz, added to my "Dick and Julia" post. 
If you want an easy but fabulous version, here is Ina Garten's recipe for it using beef filet. It's really good and much less time-consuming! (Though of course it doesn't have the character that Julia's does).http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/filet-of-beef-bourguignon-recipe/index.html 


I add it here in case you were frightened away from making Bouef Bourguignon due to the time commitment. I also value the opinion of my good friend, and author of "Never trust a skinny cook" blog (see link in sidebar). If you haven't checked out her blog you really should. She is an excellent chef who shares her recipes on the blog. You can also read about her recent humanitarian trip to Cambodia. Good work Liz...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dick and Julia

So the book and movie were about Julie and Julia, but somewhere on the publisher's stack of unread manuscripts is the one titled "Dick and Julia". Actually it may be in the trash bin by now, but it is a missed opportunity for a needy publisher. So what if I only cooked one recipe, so far, from Julia's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", but it was a winner, with all the thanks going to Julia and her co-authors. This past Saturday, I prepared Bouef Bourguignon. Knowing that it would be time consuming, I opted to fix the full recipe for six, although I was only feeding two, to make sure I had leftovers. I will not bore you with the details other than to say it was a 4 plus hour effort which resulted in a wonderful meal. I served it with smashed new potatoes (deviating slightly from Julia's recommended boiled potatoes) and buttered peas. Yum!
That's all I'm Saying

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Back to the Hood

When I lived in Seminole Heights, there was always the hope that more restaurants would open near the neat old bungalows of the neighborhood. While there were a few, such as my friend Elizabeth's Bungalow Bistro, Cappy's Pizza, and Viva La Frida (for a while), we always wanted more. Tonight, I made a return visit to the old neighborhood to find a new, and exciting entry in the restaurant scene in Seminole Heights. Our friend Karen suggested meeting at Ella's American Folk Art Cafe on Nebraska Avenue. For those familiar with Nebraska Avenue in this area of Tampa, restaurants are not its claim to fame. No, that would be "ladies of the night" parading their stuff up and down the avenue. Fortunately, the area is improving, but to find a funky restaurant like Ella's was still a surprise.
The main dining room is a two story space filled with artsy decor, a large bar, and nice spacious seating. The menu is eclectic (overused word to describe menus I think, but the best I could do here.) It is probably best if you check Ella's website (click the link above). We shared the hummus appetizer which was made with black beans and chickpeas. We each opted for one of the burgers; there are four on the menu, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Boring. Karen and I each had The Bad, with roasted red peppers and goat cheese. Frank selected the aptly named The Boring with cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato. All were made with organic Angus beef, and the quality of the beef was evident in the first bite. The burgers are served with your choice of Sweet Potato Fries or Zucchini Fritters. We tried both and both were good. My only complaint was the doneness of my burger. I had requested medium rare, and it was more on the medium than the rare side. Ella's offers a nice selection of beers, and a shorter selection of wines.  
The restaurant appears to be a local favorite after being open only five months. It was very busy by 6:30 on a Thursday evening. So, if you want good food and good service in a funky setting in a old neighborhood still on the rebound, I strongly recommend Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. We will return to try other items from Ella's menu. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eiffel Tower Movie

video

I have spliced together two short videos I took on New Years Eve at the Eiffel Tower. The quality is not good, but you get the idea of the lighting effects on the tower. (Assuming the movie works on the blog)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

She is here

Congratulations to our good friends, Paul and Libby (of Paul and Libby's World of Travel fame) on the birth of their first child, a daughter, Emerson, at 12:52 AM this morning.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Saucy Mount Dora

Surprise, a second post on the same day. I am late with this post, as it covers our trip to Mount Dora last weekend. (Delayed due to router issues covered in the prior post). We helped our good friend Carol celebrate her xx birthday. Carol and John treated us to a nice weekend getaway and as always we enjoyed good food and good wine. Dinner was at a just-opened restaurant called Saucy Bistro. By just opened, I mean Saturday was their first day in business. That can be problematic for the dining public, and it was to a certain extent for us, as we could not get seated for 1 hour plus after our reservation. We waited two doors down in a microbrew pub which also recently opened. When we were finally escorted to the restaurant, we found out that a major reason for the delay was the party occupying our to-be table, had lingered far too long. 
Once we were seated, everything moved right along. An arrangement of cheeses was in the middle of the restaurant for all to consume, a glass of champaign was provided, and orders were taken. The menu was limited, but covered the bases, from vegetarian to chicken to beef, to fish. I opted for the Veal Osso Bucco served over polenta. The veal was excellent, very tender and rich. The polenta was nice, although cooled off quickly. Our table of ten diners covered all of the entrees; and all were greeted with rave reviews. The staff was efficient and friendly, and even at the end of the day, when we were finishing our meal, they were still smiling. Not an easy task on opening day. 
The owner, Beth Lee, has been operating a well regarded catering business - The Saucy Spoon. I think it is always difficult to open a successful restaurant, but  Beth may pull it off. In a small space with limited seating, she needs to work out the table turnover issue. From a food standpoint, she has it nailed.

iConvert

I have seen the light and crossed over to the "other" side. Did I go from the dark side to the good side, or vis a versa. I have become a full fledged member of the Church of Steve Jobs. Yes, folks, I now have my 5th Apple product, and this one is the one that gained me admittance to The Force. Years ago I purchased a Nano (2G) which I loved, but it did not totally sell me on Apple - my resistance to switch continued strong, not me, I am not caving in. Next, a year or so ago, I upgraded to a Nano 4G, ah, there is a very slight crack in the resistance. Next up, after resisting for so long, I gave in and purchased an iPhone. Well, OMG, let me tell you... that sold me on Apple. How do I get to the other side...? Finally, I am now the proud owner of a MacBook, and I love it. Although, I must say I had some serious problems connection to my NetGear wireless router. That was solved tonight with the purchase of another Apple product, the AirPort Base Station. Now I am surfing along with no problems.  Oh, #5 would me the Shuffle, which I use at the gym. Great little device. 
Mr. Jobs, you have a new convert. Now when can I order my iPad?


That's all I'm Saying