Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photo Op

The First Congressional Church, reflected in the windows of the Oregon History Museum, with me and Frank in the bottom of the photo.

Art, Food and History

Day 2: Today has been a day of art, food, and history, in that order. We started our day at the Portland Art Museum with a wonderful multi-century permanent collection. It is a relatively small and manageable museum covering two adjacent buildings, one being the old Masonic Temple. The museum has at least one work from every well known artist from the French Impressionist era, including a recently acquired early Van Gogh which was just put on display. Lucky for us, I say! Another period which we both enjoy is American Impressionism and the museum has a number of wonderful works by Childe Hassam. And for our friend Paul, we saw an Elsworth Kelly in the Contempoary section. We really enjoyed our visit to this museum and we were impressed with the depth of their collection.

Next up, lunch at the old Portland landmark, The Heathman Restaurant. We both ventured outside our usual food comfort zone, as broad as that can be. Frank ordered Beef Cheeks, which was very tasty and rich. I enjoyed Braised Oxtail served with Yukon Gold Gnocchi, a really nice combination filled with flavor. I guess we have become part of the "Snout To Tail" movement.

Our final stop this afternoon was the Oregon History Museum. The permanent exhibit, titled Oregon, My Oregon after the state song, followed the history of the state from early Native Americans to the current time. It was well presented and very interesting.

A Carafe of Wine

Last evening we rode the free streetcar a few stops and walked two blocks to Carafe Bistro, a cute little French bistro with a zinc bar and traditional wicker chairs. We shared a 1/2 bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir and we both opted for the $25 prix fixe menu. I had a wonderful chilled heirloom tomato soup with a dollop of crabmeat in the center, followed by a nice Roasted Leg of Lamb (pictured here) with, aioli, beans and a mixture of sautéed onions, red bell peppers and mushrooms. Frank started with a very tasty Swiss Chard Gratin followed by the Sole Normand in a delightful cream sauce. We both enjoyed our dinners. Our dessert was Chocolate Pots de Creme, a rich chocolatey dessert served with candied walnuts. We recommend Carafe Bistro.

I have mentioned the free streetcar a couple of times, but it is more than just a streetcar. The public transportation in the entire greater downtown area is free, what they call the "Free Ride Zone". What a concept! The primary purpose is to reduce traffic congestion in the downtown area. This appears to be very successful based in our walk yesterday.

Our plans today include the Portland Museum of Art and the Oregon History Museum, both a short ride via streetcar from our Marriott Residence Inn/Riverplace hotel. (Thank you Carol, for the recommendation.)

That's all I'm Saying.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Welcome to Portland

Day 1: We took the FREE streetcar from our hotel to Pioneer Square in the Downtown District. This was followed by a walking tour of the immediate area including this landmark old theatre. It is a beautiful day in Portland.


PDX, airport code for Portland, OR, is our final destination today. Yes we are traveling again, this time to a destination new for both Frank and me. This post is coming to you from 30,000 feet above sea level, as we hurl through the atmosphere in an elongated aluminum tube. What fun! We are in the back of the bus again, but the flight has been fine. This leg, from Phoenix to Portland, is not full so we have three seats for the two of us.
We are looking forward to visiting Portland. As usual, food is a prime motivator and Portland has a lot of good restaurants, and we have a couple dinner reservations already. Museums, Japanese Gardens, walking the streets and visit to Powell's Books among other locales are on our agenda. We also scheduled a day trip to wine country to sample the grapes.
We had another first leaving Tampa this morning at O'Dark:30. I have had a lot of scans the past couple of years; CT, MRI, PT. But today both of us had the full body scan at security. I guess we looked like a couple shady characters. There will be no pictures posted of the results.
I will post as I have time, so check back for more travel updates from Portland.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greek Chicken & Potatoes

Last evening I prepared one of the recipes from Liz's "Recipes From Home" cookbook. The chicken was very flavorful and the skin was nicely browned. The potatoes were tender with a nice hint of lemon flavor. With Liz's kind permission, here is the recipe:

Liz's Greek Chicken & Potatoes
Serves 4

1 chicken, cut into pieces
6 potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
4 large garlic cloves, halved
Salt & Pepper to taste 
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled

  • Preheat oven to 375-degrees
  • Arrange chicken, potatoes and garlic in a large roasting pan
  • Season well with salt & pepper
  • Pour stock over
  • Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and oregano to combine. Pour evenly over the chicken and potatoes
  • Bake until chicken is cooked through and golden brown and the potatoes are tender, basting occasionally with pan juices, about 1 1/4 hours.

Photoshop Elements

The secret is out... I use Adobe Photoshop Elements to edit and enhance my photographs. But I am just a basic user of the software. My friend Clyde is an accomplished photographer who is a more knowledgeable user of Photoshop. Yesterday, he come over to give me some pointers on Layers, a feature which I never understood. One of the many things you can do with Layers is add a mat and drop shadow to a photograph. I think it really sets off the photo nicely and I plan on using it more often. Here is a comparison of a photo from the Barcelona collection, the first without the mat and the second with a mat and drop shadow. Click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christmas in September

OMG, I feel so lucky. Yesterday, FedEx delivered a wonderful gift, yes it felt like Christmas in September. My good friend, Liz, sent me her "Recipes From Home" cookbook. This is a 200+ page collection of her "cherished" recipes assembled in a large 3" white notebook with a very detailed index. You won't find this at your local Barnes & Noble, which is why I feel so fortunate to have a copy. As Liz states in her intro: "If you have received a copy, it really does mean that you are part of our "family"'". I again suggest you check Liz's blog "Never Trust a Skinny Cook" for some great stories and recipes and you can read her post about the Recipes from Home collection.
Liz was also kind enough to include one of my recipes in her collection, "Dick Simpson's Polenta" which follows:

Polenta with Walnuts, Rosemary, and Gruyere

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1-teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
¾ cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

·      Bring stock to a boil in a large saucepan.
·      Using a whisk, slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly until dissolved.
·      Add 1-teaspoon salt.
·      Lower heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently, until mixture is thickened and all liquid is absorbed.
·      Stir in salt and pepper to taste and then add the butter, walnuts, rosemary and Gruyere cheese.
·      Spread polenta mixture into a greased 9-inch pie plate and chill.
·      To serve, cut into eight wedges. Preheat over to 350-degrees. Place wedges on backing sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until warmed through.

Serves 8

The other package I received yesterday, which added to the Christmas-like atmosphere, was my new illy Francis Francis Y1 espresso machine. What can I say, it is cute and make pretty good espresso for a capsule system. Six years or so ago, I didn't even drink coffee, let alone espresso. My, how times have changed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

ROMEO Update

My good friend Deirdre suggest I replace the "old" in ROMEO with "outstanding" I think that is an excellent idea, so now we have "Retired Outstanding Men Eating Out". Much better, I say. Thank you Deirdre. 
There is actually a ROMEO Club Website (<--- link) which discusses variations on the name, such as: "rich old men eating out", retired older men enjoying outings", "respectable older men eating out", "Real Old Motorcyclists Eating Out". Well, we are not rich and we are not motorcyclist, so for our small group, we will stick with "Outstanding", assuming Bob and Clyde agree. How could they not. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back to the Hollow

I made a return trip to Hickory Hollow in Ellenton, FL. See my "Gosh Darn Good BBQ" post from September 15th for more information. I was joined by my friends Clyde and Bob G for a nice BBQ lunch. I think we unofficially belong to a group called ROMEO, retired old men eating out. Although we object to the "old" part so maybe we will substitute it with "ornery" but that isn't really a good fit either. So, let's just say we it was three friends going to lunch. I had the pulled pork platter, NC style, following a nice cup of Brunswick Stew. Clyde and Bob had the 1/2 rack of Baby Back Ribs, which they pronounced "very good". 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cured, Not Smoked

Last week I had to urge to make something I have never made before. I have seen this made on TV a few times, and decided to try it for myself. I made Gravlax ( <-- red = a link) which is a dill, salt and sugar cured salmon. It was wonderful; much better than any I have purchased in the markets. For a comparison (and the differences) of Lox, Nova, and Gravlax check the Wikipedia entry on Lox. A basic Gravlax recipe is at the end of this post. This must be prepared a day or two ahead, as it requires time to cure. Different recipes indicate different curing times, but we let it cure for two days which worked fine in my opinion.
My Serving Suggestions:
The Gravlax is sliced very thin. The "traditional" way to serve Gravlax is with a mustard sauce, and most recipes I found include a mustard sauce recipe. I deviated from this tradition and served my Gravlax two ways (on different days).
  • For an appetizer, I served the Gravlax with very thinly sliced black bread (available in the supermarket), cream cheese, minced red onion, and fresh dill.
  • For either an appetizer or an entry, you can take a page from Wolfgang Puck, and make a salmon pizza. I used fresh store bought pizza dough (from the bakery section, not frozen), formed my pizza, brushed with olive oil, baked it until golden. I then topped it with creme fraiche, gravlax, minced or sliced red onions and fresh dill. (Note: This is not reheated, but served at room temperature, or chilled). 
Gravlax: (from The Food Network, courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson)
I have included the Mustard Sauce recipe. 
Note: I used coho salmon, not the average farm raised salmon (color enhanced through feed) usually found in the supermarkets. I suggest you use the best fresh salmon you can find.


  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cracked white peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 pounds fresh salmon filets (preferably center piece, skin on)
  • 3 bunches fresh dill


  • Mustard sauce


Mix salt, sugar and white peppercorns. Take a handful and rub it on both sides of the salmon. Place the salmon in a dish and sprinkle the rest of the mix on top.
Cover the salmon with dill and let it stand for six hours at room temperature.
Put in the refrigerator for 24 to 30 hours, depending on how thick the salmon is.
To serve: (see my earlier serving suggestions; what follows is from the on-line recipe. Also, while not mentioned in this recipe, other recipes suggested that the salt, sugar, and dill used in the curing be washed off or wiped off of the salmon before slicing, and fresh dill sprinkled over the salmon.)
Slice the salmon off the skin in thin slices, and place them on a platter. Cut the skin in pieces, approximately 1/2-inch wide, and blacken the skins in a very hot cast iron skillet. (Note: I did not blacken the skins, but go for it if you wish)
Decorate the platter with lemon, dill and skin.
  • 1 tablespoon sweet mustard
  • 1 teaspoon French mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3/4 cup salad oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
Mix the mustards, sugar and vinegar and season with pinches of salt and pepper. Mix in the oil while you pour it in a steady stream. When the sauce has a mayonnaise-like consistency, stir in the chopped dill.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Movable Art

As mentioned yesterday, I relocated the "Embers of Venice" painting to the bedroom where I think it creates a great focal point for the room and fits the space better than the long wall in the living room.

And someone was offended that she
wasn't included in the photograph.
I present, Ms. Lucia

The Great Gatsby

Our book club meets this coming Friday and I just finished "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yes, I actually finished early, which for me is an accomplishment. This was a quick read and a good slice-of-life story about the lives of the wealthy in the 1920's.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Special Saturday

     Wow, yesterday (Saturday) was a busy but delightful day for me. It was filled with art, and food (naturally). A week or so ago, I decided I wanted a new painting for the large wall in my living room. Since I moved in two years ago, I have enjoyed the "Embers of Venice" painted by my friend and high-school classmate, Peter Stilton. I love the painting, but always felt it was a little under-sized for the wall. I decided to move it to the bedroom, over the bed (photograph to follow in a future post) where it adds a new focal point to the room and is complemented by my photographs of Venice and Florence. After considering a number of options, I decided to ask Peter if he had something abstract that might work in my space. His lovely wife, Jill, emailed me an image of a great abstract painting titled "Autumn, New England" which I liked but again the size (48" x 48") did not seem appropriate. Peter actually brought this painting with him and it now resided temporarily in my living room. Long story, but I am getting to the point... hold on, I finally decided to commission Peter to paint a special piece just for me. So, yesterday began with Peter coming over to discuss the space, size of work, colors and concept. I am truly excited about this project and I know Peter will create a wonderful painting. 
     Next, Peter, Shirley, Frank and I headed to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the current special exhibit of  "Transcending Vision: American Impressionism 1870-1940". We started with a nice lunch in the MFA Cafe (at the Museum) where I enjoyed a delightful and tasty Smoked Duck salad with Frisee and a lemon champagne dressing. We toured the special exhibit with Peter providing additional comments on many of the paintings. Not only is he an artist, he is an art educator. There were some paintings from the Ashcan School which is a current favorite for Frank. This very interesting exhibit showed the impact the European impressionist had on American artist during this period, but with the Americans adding their own imprint on the style and subject matter. We also toured the permanent collection, as this was Shirley's first visit to the museum. As I have mentioned before, this is a wonderful small museum with an amazing permanent collection.
     Shirley, Frank and I had dinner at Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores. In all these years Frank and I never dined at this very popular and well regarded restaurant. We shared a Portobello and Crabmeat appetizer which was served with polenta and topped with three cheeses. It was very good, but Frank and I both felt it actually had too much going on. We think it would have been better with fewer ingredients. But we cleaned the plate none the less. For our main course, Shirley order the tuna kabob with an Oriental preparation, served over rice. This was very good. Frank and I each had grilled Caribbean Lobster Tail. We each opted for the single 1/2 pound tail; more than enough food for us. I enjoyed a Mediterranean Orzo for my side, and Frank had a baked potato. The lobster was sweet and tender and I used every piece to transport the traditional drawn butter to my lips. For dessert we shared the Hot Apple Crisp Pie, served upside down with a bourbon pecan crunchy crust. This too was very tasty, and large enough of a portion for us to share. While we had a very nice meal and a lovely evening, Salt Rock Grill was not quite the "wow" experience we expected. Frank commented that it felt like an upscale Bonefish, and I would agree. It was very good, well prepared food with good, but not great, service. The view of the intracoastal water way from the tiered dining area was enjoyable, but for an overall dining experience it does not compare to a place like Cafe Ponte.

And before I close, I must extend a grazie mille to my dear cousin Shirley for spending the past week with me and helping me during my recovery from the last round to IL2 treatment.

The following images are of the two painting by Peter Stilton mentioned in the post.  The two dimensional photographs do not do justice to these lovely works of art. They must be enjoyed in person.
For more of Peter's work check his Website... Stilton Studios

Embers of Venice

Autumn; New England

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Lone Cypress

My good friend, and seeker of 15 minutes of fame, Bob G. returned recently from a trip to San Francisco to visit his son and daughter-in-law. While there he journeyed to Monterey and the 17 mile drive. I really liked his photograph of The Lone Cypress, so with his permission I am posting it here. There is a peaceful quality to the photo with the cypress sitting alone in the mist overlooking the ocean. Thanks for sharing this with me Bob.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gosh Darn Good BBQ

My dear Cousin Shirley has been here this week tending to my care and feeding after the week of treatment. Fortunately my recovery has been much quicker this time than two weeks ago, so I have been able to get out more. Tonight Shirley, Frank and I ventured south to Ellenton, FL (yep, home of the famous outlet mall) to have dinner with Biff, Butch, Cherie, and Mike at Hickory Hollow BBQ. Hickory Hollow is a no-frills, eat-with-your-fingers, super casual restaurant. They serve up some mighty good BBQ offering both North Carolina style (vinegar base) and Virginia style (tomato base) sauces. Their extensive menu includes various pork and beef dishes as well as a nice selection of seafood. They even have a char-grilled pork shank on the menu. The wooden pig platter listing of sides includes approximately 20 tasty options. Toss the calorie counter out the window and pig out. We shared appetizers of Fried Green Tomatoes and Fried Green Beans which were accompanied by horseradish sauce and ranch dressing and very good. Baby back ribs (some NC style, some Virginia style), pulled pork sandwich and platters (NC style) were the popular main dish selections at the table tonight. With the main you get two sides and two large corn fritters (very yummy). Our selection of sides included Roasted Corn and Peppers, Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens (not me, thank you very much), black eyed peas, and steak fries among others. We finished with two desserts, carrot cake and apple crisp, both very good. I must say we all belonged to the clean plate club attesting to the quality of the meals.
So for my friends and readers in the Tampa Bay area, take a short drive to Ellenton and have a great BBQ meal at Hickory Hollow. Even better, combine it with a shopping trip to the outlet mall. A word of caution: I understand that in season there is a line out the door, and no reservations are taken. Also it is cash only (ATM is on premises). 
Best of all, it was a fun evening with a great group of friends and relatives. 
That's my story, and I am sticking to it !

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Checking out today

Yea! I am being released This morning from Moffitt after another week of high-dose IL2 therapy. I feel I am going home this time further along the recovery path than after than last cycle.
That's all I'm saying

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fast Food, Frank's Way

A couple of months ago, Frank and I were watching Everyday Foods (yes, a Martha Stewart production, but don't tell anyone I watch it). They prepared Classic Cheeseburgers which was a simple and quick recipe. Last night, Frank stopped down to prepare them for me, and they brought fond memories of what I refer to as "Short-order" hamburgers; thin, slightly salty, quickly fried, and served on a toasted bun. They were really good. We believe the key is to roll the patties thin, and don't overwork the meat. Fry them quickly in a cast iron skillet (if available). Frank suggests 1 1/2 minute a side for medium rare. 2 minutes per side yielded burgers closer to medium. This produced a slightly charred exterior with a tender and juicy interior. A true classic in my opinion and very tasty. 
Here is the recipe from the show:

Old-Fashioned Cheeseburgers

Prep: 20 minutes Total: 20 minutes

To grill the burgers, simply roll the patties slightly thicker (3/8 inch) and grill over medium-high heat, 2 minutes per side.
Serves 4.
         1 pound ground beef chuck (20 percent fat)
         4 teaspoons softened butter
         4 hamburger buns, split
         Coarse salt and ground pepper
         4 slices melting cheese, such as American or mild cheddar
         Toppings, such as shredded iceberg lettuce, pickle chips, thinly sliced red onion, mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise

Dick's Favorite: Cheese, ketchup and tomato
Frank's Favorite: Mustard only
1.    Heat broiler. Divide beef into 4 rounds and place each between two layers of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll beef into 1/4-inch-thick patties. Butter inside of each bun. Place on a baking sheet, buttered side up, and toast under broiler. (Frank variation: Skip the butter if desired, and toast cut side down in a dry frying pay on the stove top)
2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over high. Generously season patties on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook burgers 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and top each with cheese; cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Place burgers on buns and serve with desired toppings.

Barcelona Finale

Our Barcelona photographs are ready for viewing. Just click on the Barcelona collage below.

The Barcelona photographs are now accessible from the right sidebar.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Teaser Pic

La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's still under construction cathedral in Barcelona. It is amazing !

Internet Rumors - A Rant

Forgive me for a minute while I step out of topic (OT) for a short rant about emails rumors that constantly circulate view email. I am sure we have all received some of these and may have at times been guilty of forwarding them on to others. Fortunately I am receiving fewer and fewer of them, since I have at times, checked to either verify or refute the claims and sent the clarification back to the person who sent me the email. But, there is really no way to stop this, since people will believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts. A case in point is well documented today in a posting. Click here--->  SNOPES to read the post. The issues are not always political, many center on popular culture, or requests to send cards to sick/dying children (some of these have been circulating on the web for years). Thanks for listening.
That's All I'm Saying.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still Waiting?

If you are still waiting for the posting of a link to my Barcelona photographs, you may have to wait a while longer. I completed my first round of inpatient treatment last Sunday, and have not yet tackled the photographs yet. The treatment knocked me for a loop, (OK, I am loopy anyway), and I am recovering under the watchful eyes of my two great friends, Frank, and Carol S, who came down from Mount Dora for a few days to provide superior care and great meals. I go in for round 2 next Monday. Hopefully I will finish the culling and editing this weekend. 
That's all for now!