Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making My List & Checking It Twice

Christmas List? No, just a packing list. Yes the travel bug has struck again and we are off to Vienna, Austria on Thursday. Can you say COLD? We being Frank, my cousin Shirley and me. Shirley and I were in Vienna a few years ago to start our "find some of Shirley's relatives in Romania" quest. We did, but that is another story. 

I cannot imagine anything that would put us in the Christmas spirit like walking the snow covered streets of Vienna searching for a Christmas Market, and attending an Advent Concert in St. Stephen's Cathedral. 

Check back periodically for updates from the trip. Now, do I have everything I need on my list? Hat? Check; Scarf? Check; Gloves? Check... and more! 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in a Bowl

Thanksgiving Eve to be more precise and our dinner was just like Thanksgiving in a Bowl. As is our custom, Frank came over and we shared Thanksgiving Eve together. The menu included:

  • Butternut Squash Soup with Creme Fraiche, Croutons, and Chives
  • Turkey Risotto with Cranberry Chutney - hence Thanksgiving in a Bowl
  • Sauteed Spinach with Bacon and Pine Nuts
  • Three-Ginger Chevre Tart
The menu was inspired by a Thanksgiving menu in Wine Spectator. To reduce the work effort we took a few shortcuts, like buying fresh Butternut Squash Soup from Fresh Market and using jarred Spiced Cranberry-Apple Chutney from Silver Palette. We also, at my request, opted for spinach over the kale in the article. (Yes, I grew up in Ohio and still have a problem eating those Southern staples like kale, and the assorted greens - what can I say). 

We raided the Oregon wine stash, starting with an Argyle 2007 Black Brut (Pinot Noir) Sparkling wine, which was outstanding with the soup. With the main course we opened a WillaKenzie Estate Gamay Noir, which we both thought paired perfectly with the Turkey Risotto and would also go well with a traditional Thanksgiving feast. 

So back to the Thanksgiving in a bowl... the risotto had all the traditional flavors of a Thanksgiving dinner. Obviously there was the turkey, from two thighs I roasted the day before. The "dressing" came through in the celery and sage that was used. And the cranberry chutney added the sweet and tart flavor of a typical cranberry sauce. The rice filled in nicely for the potatoes and carried all the other flavors to the palette. 

To complete the meal, I made a Three-Ginger Chevre Tart from the same article. While I found the crust a little difficult to work with, the end result turned out very tasty. 

It was a perfect Thanksgiving Eve dinner. 

Butternut Squash Soup with Croutons, Creme Fraiche
and Chives

Turkey Risotto with Cranberry Chutney
and Sauteed Spinach with Bacon & Pine Nuts
Next stop is Biff's (my nephew) home in Bradenton for what is always a wonderful family Thanksgiving Day Feast with three turkeys (of the poultry kind), and a couple turkeys of the human kind. (Names not released to protect this blogger) - Just kidding Mike ! :-)

Here are the original recipes from Wine Spectator.

Turkey Risotto with Fresh Sage and Cranberry Chutney
Serves 4 to 6.
Risotto is one of those dishes, like soup, bread salad and gumbo, that provides a perfect canvas for leftover holiday turkey. But you needn’t wait until after Thanksgiving to enjoy this dish. As the holidays approach, markets begin to stock fresh turkey, sold both whole and in pieces. And because turkey breast is the most popular cut, the more flavorful thighs, legs and wings are generally readily available at a good price. Simply roast a couple of thighs, a leg and a wing or two, reserve the best of the meat and simmer the meaty bones to make a simple stock. Cranberry chutney adds a spicy warmth and enhances the dish’s compatibility with a variety of wines.
7 to 8 cups homemade turkey stock
3 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
1 celery rib, minced
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
2 cups Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
2 cups cooked turkey, preferably thigh meat, shredded
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
Black pepper in a mill
3 ounces (3/4 cup) dry Jack cheese, grated
Fresh sage leaves, for garnish
Cranberry Chutney, commercial or homemade*
Pour the turkey stock into a saucepan, set over medium heat and when it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low so that it barely simmers. Melt the butter in a large deep saucepan set over medium low heat. Add the shallots and celery and cook slowly until soft and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes; do not let the vegetables brown. Season with salt and stir in the rubbed sage.
Add the rice and sauté¦ for 2 minutes, stirring all the while, or until each grain begins to turn milky white. Add 1/2 cup of the stock and stir constantly until it is absorbed, adjusting the heat as needed so that it is neither too high nor too low; the stock should simmer but not boil. Continue to add stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice swells and is just tender, about 18 to 20 minutes.
When there is about 1/2 cup of the stock remaining, fold in the turkey and the sage. Add half of the remaining stock, taste, season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining stock.
To serve: Ladle into warm soup plates and garnish with fresh sage leaves and a spoonful of chutney. Serve immediately. 
*Note: There are several brands of cranberry chutney on the market, such as Stonewall Kitchen’s (stonewallkitchen.com), which is among the best. It is also easy to it make at home.
Wine recommendations: The creamy delicacy of the rice combined with the earthy flavor of turkey, the perfume of the sage and the sweet tang of cranberries suggest an equally complex and delicate red wine. Something luscious yet light, lest the subtle qualities of the dish be eclipsed. Pinot Noir from California’s coastal vineyards provides the best possibilities. Ridgeway Family Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, from a small vineyard in southwestern Petaluma, is a stellar match.
For a more playful, lighthearted match, consider Beaujolais Nouveau, an exuberant companion to cranberries.

Lacinato Kale with Bacon & Pine Nuts
Serves 6 - 8
Lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale and cavolo nero, has a husky, almost meat-like depth of flavor and a texture that is sturdier, even when tender, than other winter greens. These qualities, combined with the smokiness of the bacon in this recipe, make a perfect counterpoint to the creamy risotto.
3 bunches (about 21/2 pounds) lacinato kale
5 bacon slices, preferably dry-cured
1 shallot, minced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
Red pepper flakes
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Use a sharp paring knife to remove the stems and tough ribs from the kale. Cut the leaves into 2-inch-wide crosswise slices. Put the cut leaves into a large colander; rinse but do not dry as you want water to cling to the leaves. Set aside.
Fry the bacon in a large deep sauté pan until crisp; transfer to absorbent paper to drain. (Once cool, crumble the bacon.) Pour off all but about 1/3 cup of the bacon fat, return the pan to medium heat, add the shallot and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Season with salt and 2 or 3 pinches of pepper flakes. Add the kale and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the kale is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes; uncover and stir now and then.
Remove from the heat. Fold in the lemon zest, half the bacon and half the pine nuts, taste and correct for salt. Transfer to a serving bowl, scatter the remaining bacon and pine nuts on top and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Wine recommendations: Kale is almost always a side dish and as such, should be taken into consideration when selecting a wine for the main course. Lacinato kale’s texture, which is rich and velvety, engages well with most Pinot Noir and the bacon in this particular preparation furthers the resonance. Should this dish take center stage on your table, you can stick with a Pinot Noir or shift to a plush white wine, such as Peter Michael Winery Cuvée Indigene Chardonnay.

If you use spinach in lieu of kale, skip the first step, and reduce the cooking time for the spinach to about 2 minutes , or until just wilted.

Three-Ginger Chèvre Tart with a Spiced Walnut Crust
This tart is thin, elegant and perfumed with three kinds of ginger, fresh, ground and candied. It unfolds on the palate in layer upon layer of flavor, qualities that engage beautifully with the Madeira that accompanies it.
For the crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup, packed, light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling
10 ounces fresh Chèvre, such as Chabis
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger

To make the crust: Put the butter, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, clove and ground ginger into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse several times, until well blended. Add the vanilla and the walnuts and pulse until the walnuts are evenly incorporated into the butter mixture; use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the flour and pulse several times, until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Clean the work bowl and blade. Preheat the oven to 400.F.
Press the chilled dough into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool thoroughly.
To make the filling: Reduce the oven temperature to 350.F. Put the Chèvre, sugar, egg and egg yolk into the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the cream and fresh ginger and pulse until just smooth; do not over process.
Spread the candied ginger over the surface of the crust, pour the Chèvre custard over the candied ginger and agitate the tart pan very gently to even it out, if needed. Set the tart on a baking sheet and set the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the custard is firm and the top is pale gold.
Remove from the oven, let cool for about 15 minutes and remove the ring of the tart pan. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.
Wine recommendations: This rich, fragrant dessert, with its layers of ginger, wants something slightly lean on the palate, yet elegant and engaging. You can’t go wrong with a well-aged Madeira but fans of single-malt Scotch, especially those of Islay, will be delighted by the flirtatious resonance of the match. Try Laphroaig 15 Year Old.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone

Best wishes to everyone for a Happy Thanksgiving. 
Thanksgiving Eve Dinner at Home

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Visitor from Afar

Deirdre, my good friend from Philadelphia, has been visiting here the past few days. I know, Philadelphia isn't THAT far, only a 2 hour, 20 minute flight. It was really nice to see her and show her a little more of my city. We decided that we were mimicking my cats, eat, nap,  eat, nap again, etc. And eat we did. The first night I fixed pasta bolognese with a caprese salad. 

Lunch the next day was at the nice MFA Cafe, at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. I really like the cafe. It has a nice variety of lunch entrees, salads, and sandwiches. And their soup of the day is always good. We both had the "Demi" a half Turkey and Cold Slaw sandwich and a bowl of soup. I had the Creamy Leek soup while Deirdre had the Creamy Tomato soup. This was followed by a visit to the Chihuly Collection, which is always a fun visit. Dinner this day was at St.Pete Brasserie on Central Avenue. This is my favorite French restaurant downtown. We started with a very tasty Alsacien Onion Tart. For my entree I ordered the Grilled Tuna Provencal with Tomato, Olive & Fennel Sauce and a side of Haricot Vert. (Bob, those would be small green beans).  Unfortunately I do not remember what Deirdre ordered. Maybe she will refresh my memory by adding a comment. One of the nice features at St. Pete Brasserie is that many of their entrees are offered in small or full portions. 

The Looper... St. Petersburg has a couple of trolley lines serving the downtown and Central Avenue area. Since I moved here I have talked about ridding the Downtown Looper from the stop closest to me and stay on for the entire loop. Well, that is how Deirdre and I got around town on Friday, but we got off to have lunch at The Moon Under Water. The driver provides commentary throughout the ride, and the best part is the cost, only 25 cents every time you board. It was a fun little excursion on a beautiful day.

Hoping off the Looper on Beach Drive, we were at The Moon Under Water. This is a English-style pub with curries and typical pub fare (Fish and Chips, Sheppard's Pie, etc). While not a "wow" place, it has served consistently good food and if dining outside you overlook the lovely Straub Park. I enjoyed the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich, although I personally found it to be more food than I needed (with an side of French Fries) so I skipped much of the bread. The chicken curry was good. Deirdre enjoyed the batter fried cod fingers (who knew they had fingers?). A friend of mine recommended the Chicken Pot Pie as being exceptionally good, and nicely presented, but I failed to remember this until tonight as I was reviewing the menu. Also, while we had good service, there were a couple of indicators that they may have occasional service problems. We walked by the outdoor seating the day before and heard a couple comment, "She doesn't deserve a tip". Then as we were being seated, two women at a nearby table were getting up and leaving with a comment to the hostess that "No one ever came over to take our order." This brought no reaction from the hostess. Our experience was much better.

Frank, Biff (my nephew) and Butch joined us for dinner at Ceviche, a wonderful tapas restaurant on Beach Drive at Central. Each of us ordered a separate item and then shared around the table. Their Sangria is great, and we consumed our fare share.

More food was on tap for Saturday, but this time we traveled to Mount Dora to visit with our friend Carol and show Deirdre this northern-looking central Florida town. Lunch was a One Flight Up followed by a walk around town. For dinner, Carol had booked us at Saucy Bistro, previously reviewed in this blog. Our prior visit was on their opening day when there were a couple of minor, but not unexpected for opening day, glitches. This visit was much smoother, and the food was just as good. The bistro is owned by the Beth Lee who also runs the highly respected Saucy Spoon Catering. The restaurant is only open on Friday (for light bites) and Saturday (full blown menu) and Sunday brunch. The "help yourself" appetizer, cheese and salad table had a nice selection of great cheeses. For dinner we were joined by Shirley and John (from Worthing, England and Mount Dora FL) and another good Mount Dora friend, June. Our entrees included chicken breast in pastry, bone-in hand cut pork loin chop with a lovely onion sauce, and salmon in papillote (baked in parchment paper). The side dishes are served family-style and included a huge platter of roasted vegetables, and great mashed potatoes. Everyone was very pleased with their meal. I think this is one of the best restaurants in Mount Dora.

It has been a very busy four days, but highly enjoyable. Now it is time to get ready for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner. More on that later.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

183/250 Untitled

Paul & Libby, of Paul & Libby's World of Travel fame (see Blogs I Follow in the right sidebar), came over on Saturday to introduce Frank and me to their 9 month old daughter, Emerson, and to have lunch. Hard to believe that we have not met Emerson before this. She is adorable, and extremely well behaved. We had a nice lunch at the new Bella Brava location on Beach Drive. 

Paul also brought me a wonderful Victor Vasarely limited edition print (Untitled - 1970) which I love and am very grateful for Paul's kind generosity. He snagged multiple copies of this print in an art auction, and kindly decided to share one of the copies with me. I have print #183 out of 250. Very neat, I say. The photograph does not do it justice. I will post another photo after it has been framed and hung in my study (aka "The Red Room"). You can view Paul's other gift to me, a painting he created just for The Red Room, by clicking here.
 Untitled - 1970
Victor Vasarely
Thank you Paul & Libby. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dough, Re, Me

Who knew... the one time I don't include a recipe in the post, I get multiple requests to share it. First, I figured any of my regular readers who might make their own dough, probably had their own recipe. Second, it is a BASIC recipe. I am sure there are many others out there. If you have a favorite pizza dough recipe, please included it in a comment. 

Here is the Basic Pizza Dough Recipe from Biba Caggiano.

Basic Pizza Dough
From Biba’s Italian Kitchen by Biba Caggiano

1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast, dissolved in ½ plus 2 tablespoons of lukewarm (100 – 120 degrees)
1-tablespoon olive oil
1-teaspoon salt

Makes 1-12 inch pizza (approx)_

Made by Hand:
Put all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix well with your hands until incorporated. Put the dough on a work surface and kneed 5 to 6 minutes or until the dough is smooth and pliable. If it seems a bit sticky, knead in a little more flour. Dust the dough lightly with flour and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel or with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place to rise, 1 – 1 ½ hours. At this point the dough should have doubled in volume, be springy, and have small gas bubbles all over its surface.

Made in Electric Mixer:
Put the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the dissolved yeast, oil, and salt and with the dough hook, mix well at medium-low speed until all ingredients are incorporated. Increase the speed to high and knead the dough 4 to 5 minutes. Dust the dough lightly with flour and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel or with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place to rise, 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Made with Food Processor
Put the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the dissolved yeast and the oil and pulse the machine on and off until the dough is loosely gathered around the blade. Remove the dough from and knead it by hand 2 to 3 minutes. Dust the dough lightly with flour and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel or with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place to rise, 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven at 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Form pizza, top and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pizza! Pizza!

Margarita pizza was on the menu last night at home. For the first time in years, I made my own pizza dough. Easy it is, and a little better than the fresh dough I have been using from the Publix bakery. I like my pizza on the thin side, and this came out crispy on the outside and light and chewy on the inside. I was very pleased with my crust. 

A Margarita pizza is simply topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil. I used an uncooked tomato sauce made from canned San Marzano tomatoes, seeds removed and minus the puree from the can; adding garlic, fresh mozzarella cheese (get the freshest you can), and fresh basil. I picked up the uncooked sauce idea from an old Julia Child show. While it was very good and fresh tasting, I think I prefer a cooked sauce for more richness and depth of flavor. So next time I will start the same way, but simmer on the stove top for a while, maybe add a touch of red wine, and some tomato paste. 

I was also very pleased that I ended up with an almost round pizza. Many of my prior pies look more like the state of Iowa. But, it is all about the flavor, not the shape.

The finished pizza:

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Lacuna

Lacuna is a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus (from http://dictionary.reference.com)

The Lacuna is a book by Barbara Kingsolver which I just finished. Is was a powerful read. But that is just my opinion as the reviews I read are mixed. This historical novel covers the period from 1929 to 1959 following the life of Harrison Shepard (fictional character) from his early years in Mexico through to his time in Asheville, NC then back to Mexico. The "historical" part is based on his relationship with and employment by real-life artists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and Lev Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution. This relationship lands him before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Enough of the story line. 

I found it powerful and engaging since a lot of the book could just as well be referring to our current political environment. Maybe not to the same degree as the time period in the book, but there is still some commonality. For example, if it is in the paper (and now on the TV and the Internet) it must be accurate regardless of the facts. Guilt by association - again regardless of facts. Discrimination based on a label assigned to a person; then Communist, Black, or Gay; now Muslim, Immigrant and still race and sexual orientation to some extent. 

I guess the book spoke to my own liberal biases, whether it was Mrs. Kingsolver's intent or not.

I liked the book and would highly recommend it to others.

That is just my 2 cents in this normally non-political blog. And trust me, the blog will stay that way.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bravo !

Tonight I got a dose of culture again. I walked 6 blocks to the Mahaffey Theatre to hear The Florida Orchestra perform Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6, the Tragic. Now I don't profess to know much about classical music so I will not go into an elaborate discussion of tonight's concert. If you are set on learning more about Mahler's 6th, click HERE to go to the Wikipedia entry and read away. Let me just say that I enjoyed the concert, especially the last movement; Finale Allegro moderato (that's music-speak). It was a very powerful and moving conclusion to the piece. Portions of the earlier movements reminded me of movie scores with soaring melodies. OK, that is about as musical as I can get. I always enjoy The Florida Orchestra and I love being able to walk to a concert. It feels so big-city like. 

That's All I'm Saying

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Food and Celebrity Spotting

Cafe Ponte, unquestionably one the the best restaurants in the area was the location for a lovely dinner with Frank tonight, before he leaves on a four-day business trip to New Orleans. Tough duty, my friend, but I do understand it is a weekend and you have to work the trade show floor... ouch ! You can read prior comments about Cafe Ponte by clicking this LINK to my July 2010 post. More on our meal in a moment. Cafe Ponte is on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater, close to the Home Shopping Network. Many of the nationally known chefs dine at Cafe Ponte when they are in town pushing their products on HSN. Wolfgang Puck is a frequent visitor, and Thomas Keller (not pushing on HSN) put the pressure on Chris Ponte to come up with a dinner for "The Man" from The French Laundry.  Tonight at the next table, Frank spotted Ellie Krieger of Food Network fame. We get to put an "X" next to another culinary celebrity. She looks just like she does on TV.

More importantly, let's talk food. (doh!) Cafe Ponte has a fixe prix menu on weeknights which in my opinion is a bargain considering what you get, portion size, service, and quality of the meal. You get to select any appetizer, entree, and dessert from the entire menu, with only a few items, like fois gras or osso buco meriting a small up-charge. 

The meal began with a complementary amuse-bouche of Chris' famous Wild Mushroom Bisque with a light Truffle cream. The soup is served in an espresso cup which is all you need of the rich and extremely flavorful bisque.  For our appetizer course we both ordered the Ahi Tuna Tartar, formed using a ring mold surrounded by thinly sliced radishes, and over a bed of pureed avocado. Around the creation is a soy glaze and green olive oil. 

Our main course tonight was Diver Scallops (Frank) served with short rib sauce, creamy corn polenta, sautéed morel mushrooms and asparagus in a caramelized shallot sauce (extracted from the menu since I couldn't remember all of the ingredients). It was excellent, as I was offered a taste. I opted for the Steak Au Poivre, a 14 ounce chairman reserve age steak, black peppercorn crusted, roasted garlic mash, sautéed wild mushroom. Yummy!

Next up, dessert. I selected the Apple and Cherry Crisp served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Frank enjoyed the Raspberry Creme Brulee. Both were very good and a great way to conclude a first class meal. 

This may be a splurge restaurant, but the fixe prix menu makes it more affordable. And you never know who you might spot at the next table. 

That's all I'm Saying

Blog Enhancements

I have added two additional features to my blog.

1. The ability for a reader to email a post to others. Just click on the envelope next to the comments link at the end of each post.

0 comments   <------ This envelope

2. The ability for a reader to react to each post (changes to the options are still being considered. Since there are so many food/restaurant posts, I was thinking of "I'm Hungary", "Stop,  you are killing me", "This is really boring" and "I would never eat that"  or... for travel related posts... "Take me with you" and "Good Luck Buddy, You are on your own" Or we could stick with more typical options such as "Like",  "Don't Like", "Yawn"). Suggestions for Reaction options would be appreciated.


<<<<< oops, I already changed the options, 12 hours after this was posted.>>>>

Just trying to increase the fun level that I have with the blog, and obviously, I have way too much time to play with this stuff and learn all the features of Blogger.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Goody Gumbo

Gumbo is a stew or soup which originated in south Louisiana. (Per Wikipedia). While I am not a gumbo expert, I know what I like. Probably 16 - 18 years ago, on a business trip to Mobile, AL, I ordered gumbo at John Word's Restaurant. The old location was in a wonderful, supposedly haunted, historic downtown building. In researching this post, I found that John Word's Restaurant and Jazz Club is now located on Battleship Parkway overlooking the Arizona. A shame in my opinion as there was a sense of history and charm in the old place. Back to the gumbo. I always felt the gumbo I had at John Word's was the best ever, and any time I had gumbo, it was my standard for comparison. Nothing I had over the last 16 years held up to that comparison. None that is, until today. As I was scanning the menu at Mitchell's Fish Market at West Shore Plaza, my eyes rested on the Sam Adams Beer Battered Fish and Chips. But before our server could take our order, I spied the Soup and Salad options which I decided might be a healthier choice for me. Actually it was the Marinated Beefsteak Tomatoes with Blue Cheese that caught my eye. Then I had to decide on a soup. All three options sounded good, but the server recommended the New Orleans Seafood Gumbo. She nailed that suggestion. This is as close as any gumbo has come to the standard of John Word's in all of these years. Which was better is hard to say especially since it has been 16 years since I tasted Word's gumbo. So, I will call it a tie and a lucky find. 

Monday, November 1, 2010


Bologna has been on my mind a lot this past week. Bologna, as in the lovely city in Italy, in the Emila-Romagna region not the deli meat by the same name, which we call baloney. As an aside, if you haven't tried the Italian version, Mortadella, you are missing some of the best bologna there is. Just my 2 cents. So back to the city of Bologna which I last visited in 20008 and covered in my blog, Simpson Italy 08. Bologna is famous for its food, including the ever controversial multiple versions of ragu bolognese, wonderful light lasagna verde, and tortelinni en brodo (in broth). The Bolognesi are passionate about their food and one of the nicknames for the city is "la grassa", the fat, although they are not fat. It is also known for the University of Bologna, one of the oldest in the world and a city of free thought, hence another nickname, "la dotta", the learned. The third nickname for Bologna is "la rossa", the red, for the left leaning politics of the city. During my visit I had the pleasure of sampling many of the outstanding dishes of the area. I also walked the halls of the University, if not the same halls as Dante, then at least the same street, Via Zamboni. Neat, I say. 

There is a two-fold reason for thinking about Bologna. First the recently made and consumed Lamb Ragu. Second, the current book club choice, The Broker, by John Grisham in which a significant portion of the story is based in Bologna. I found the story captivating, probably more so for me due to the locale and the occasional Italian language. It was fast-paced and easy-to-read as is typical with Grisham. The book brought back many memories of my visit.

Time to leave Bologna. Next stop? Who knows, but stay tuned. I am sure there will be another trip or a fond memory somewhere in the near future.

That's all I'm Saying