Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Quacking Here - Sunday in Boston (Version 2 including photograph)

As many tourists cities do now, Boston is no different. All over town you see these amphibious bus/boat combinations with passengers outfitted with duck noise makers - quackers. i personally find 25 people riding by me sounding like a bunch of ducks very annoying, so we took the Freedom Trail Trolley Tour, no quackers allowed. Our original plan was to walk as much of the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail as possible, but this morning we decided to ride the trail on the Trolley due to my fatigue levels. After a taxi ride to Quincy Market, you remember that historic market place (like shopping mall food court) overrun with tourists., we purchased our tickets on the City Trolley Tours, what appears to be one of the two main trolley tour companies. Anyway, the tour was very good and the driver/guide was very funny. We would be driving and he would spot someone who looked like someone famous, such as Adam Sandler, and he would alert us that Adam Sandler was in town this weekend and point to the guy. Ok, guess you had to be there, Still better than the quackers. But I digress. 

In addition to the sites we saw yesterday we also saw more of the city, and the area north of the river (aka "sea" in the Paul Revere poem.), including Bunker Hill and the Constitution war ship. Trivia Question: Where was the Battle of Bunker Hill fought? This was asked by our driver/guide, and Frank was the only person on the trolley who knew the answer. Most of the fighting was on Breed's Hill. Way to go Frank for paying attention in history class.

We could see the Old North Church very clearly from the north side of the river (as could Mr.. Revere and others who were waiting for the "one if by land, two if by sea" moment. 

The tour concluded back at Quincy Market and we headed back to the hotel for lunch at Brasserie Jo. We had a lovely lunch, and probably in my opinion one of the best meals we had of the weekend. I enjoyed a wonderful crepe with rotisserie chicken in a cream and pea sauce. The flavor was great. Frank enjoyed a Salade Frisée Lyonnaise with bacon and poached egg. Very nice.  

i went back to the hotel to rest up and relax while Frank went to the Boston Commons and the Public Gardens area to scout around. I saw the park earlier and it is lovely. When Frank came back we took the T to Kenmore Park, a nice residential area near Fenwick Park (think Boston Red Socks). It was a nice excursion to another area of the city. We both really like the different residential areas. Most in the old city are multi-story brick row homes on tree lined streets. Very nice, I say.

As is our custom, we went to the hotel bar for our pre-dinner drink. Following that we cabbed it to Paul Revere's house in the North End (Italian neighborhood). There was a crowd of camera clickers standing in front of the house; I guess waiting for a shot of Mr. Revere and his horse. But, no luck today; He was probably out looking for more lanterns,  Below is a photograph of the house... still standing after all these years. 

The house is in the North End, the Italian Neighborhood, where we were told to stop in any restaurant and you will get a good meal. So we stopped at Ristoranti Fiore, which we saw recommended in our tour book. We shared a nice antipasto plater, and I opted for a special pasta, (Bombolotti alla Vodka, their own creation, with small chunks of fresh lobster meet) while Frank ordered the Garganelli all Salmone , pasta tossed with salmon and basil in a tomato cream sauce. While the meal was good it doesn't compare to some of our favorite Italian Restaurants in Tampa and St. Pete, like Vino e Pasta and Primi Urban Cafe, but we are spoiled and biased. To conclude the meal, we shared a wonderful Cannoli, a gold star effort, very simple, basic cannoli which was not overly sweet. 

End of Sunday.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday Afternoon - Boston

I returned home this evening (Monday). I wrote the following on the plane and figured I would post it since I obviously am behind. I will catch up over the next couple of days. 

The story continues...

After lunch at the Union Oyster House we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon rest, which I needed. After the brief rest, we headed back to the T, as they call the underground metro system. The stations are clean, as was all of Boston that we saw. I don't recall seeing any graffiti in town. 

Our next stop was Copley Square and Trinity Church, a Romanesque style church with a large, beautiful collection of stained glass windows. Unfortunately, a three panel set of windows in the back of the church which were on Frank's must see list, were out for restoration. A good reason to return.

We boarded the T again for a short ride back to the Prudential Center, adjacent to the Sheraton. We decided it was time for a post-sightseeing, pre-dinner refreshment at the Top of the Hub on the 52nd story of the Prudential Center. My mojito was very good as was Frank's Cosmopolitan.  The best part of the stop was the Yellow-fin Tuna Tartar.

Dinner tonight was at Todd English's moderately price restaurant called Figs. It was in a very old building like many of the restaurants are in Boston. The place has a great reputation. He is the owner of Blue Zoo in Orlando, probably one of the best dining experiences I have enjoyed
At Figs we shared a very large thin-crusted pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, and Gorgonzola cheese. It was very good combination of flavors, but we thought it would have been even better with fewer figs and more Gorgonzola, but who are we to tell Todd how to prepare his pizza.

The downside of dinner was the temperature level in the dining area. Everyone in our section was sweating or fanning themselves with a menu.

The upside, beside the pizza, was that we were seated within 10 minutes of arrival with no reservations. Frank called the week before to make reservations only to be told that they do not take them. But, they do have a call ahead list. Frank asked it they would put us on the list for 7PM on Saturday, thinking that would never happen. When we walked in the hostess said it would be 1 hour before they could seat us. We then mentioned the call ahead list, and sure enough we were on it. 10 minutes we were seated in a table overlooking the activity on the street.

End of story.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lightning Vs. Bruins

I awoke this morning in the Sheraton Back Bay in downtown Boston, which was a good thing since that is where I went to bed last night. We flew up last evening while the Tampa Bay Lightning battled the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the semifinal found of the Stanley Cup. It wasn't until this morning that we learned that Boston had been victorious. But in my opinion the Lightning had a good run at it this year.

So were are in Boston, not for the game, but to sightsee this historic city for Memorial weekend. Our first objective today was to cover the Freedom Trail which is a walking trail linking a number of revolution sight. We made it part way through when I started to get fatigued. But we did manage to see new State House, Boston Commons and Boston Gardens, both beautiful parks. Next stop was the Old Granary Cemetery with the graves of Samuel Adams, he still makes pretty decent beer; John Hancock, sign here please; and Paul Revere, got a light?

We then took a cab to Faneueil Hall and Quincy Market. Faneueil is an old revolutionary meeting hall while Quincy Market currently like a shopping mall food court but 2 to 4 times as large and 10 times as crowded, too crowded!

We then had lunch at Union Oyster House, the oldest continuously operating in the US. I had clam chowder (good
but not great). Frank and I had lobster rolls, very good with probably a pound of lobster meat in each one.

------------/ Intermission /----------

It is Sunday morning and I have only covered through Saturday lunch. So I am going to take a break until I have more time to finish, which may be Tuesday.

But let me say we both love Boston. Nice, active, & interesting city.

Richard Simpson

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Cafe

Last night, we met Carol, Lois, Alex, and Sandy for dinner at a "newer" restaurant in the Clearwater - Countryside area - Carmel Cafe. It is a nice space with primarily a tapas style menu. We ordered a number of tapas to share around the table. All were good, some much better than others. We had a Margareta flat bred, a goat cheese spread, Chick-pea fries, Red and Yellow Roasted Beets Salad, and a full order of Spinach Gnocchi bouillabaisse. The seafood in the bouillabaisse was nicely cooked, but the bouillabaisse lacked depth of flavor.

The downside of the evening was the wine tasting which filled the main room supported by a very loud band, and a singer who wasn't very good. They stopped about 1/2 way through our meal, and at that time the atmosphere improved greatly. Prior to that we were yelling down the table. A normal discussion was not possible.

Go to check it out for yourself, but determine if there will be entertainment that day. I would avoid the cafe if there is. However, there is outdoor seating with would avoid the noise issue.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last Night's Lamb

Found this recipe on the New York Times Website and made it last night. I love lamb (sorry Pat) and always willing to try new preparations. Don't be afraid to use the anchovies. I made a couple of additions which are noted in the following recipe. This was very easy, and exceptionally tasty. 

Seared Lamb Chops With Anchovies, Capers and Sage
(Adapted from the New York Times)
Time: 35 minutes
6 baby lamb chops (1 1/4 pounds)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons drained capers (if you are not a big capers fan, I would cut this back to 2 tablespoons)
15 sage leaves
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
[My additions: Splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and a pat of butter to finish the sauce]
Lemon wedges, for serving.

1. Rinse the lamb chops and pat them dry. Season them with salt and pepper, and let rest for 15 minutes.
2. Over medium-high heat, warm a skillet large enough to hold all the chops in one layer. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add the anchovies and capers. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies break down, about 3 minutes.
3. Arrange the lamb chops in the skillet and fry, without moving them, until brown, about 3 minutes. Turn them over, and toss the sage leaves and pepper flakes into the pan. Cook until lamb reaches the desired doneness, about 2 minutes for medium-rare. {I had to finish for about another 4 minutes in the over to reach medium rare. 
4. Arrange the chops on serving plates. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute,
5. Deglaze the pan with some white wine, let reduce slightly.
6. Finish the sauce with a tablespoon of butter, once melted and incorporated with the sauce; then spoon the sauce over the lamb. Serve with the lemon wedges.
Yield: 2 servings.

Steps 5 and 6 are my additions

On the other end of the dining spectrum today I made my first visit to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I met my friend Bob and some other friends for their weekly lunch. The burger is actually two juicy patties with whatever toppings you desire. They were good. The french fries are also good, nice and crispy, but a word of caution; the portions are large, and one regular order would easily serve 2 people.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Framed Finally

Last November, my friends, Paul & Libby, gave me a wonderful limited edition print by Victor Vasarely. You can read my original post and see a picture of the unframed work by clicking here.

But even better is the framed version which was hung in the red room this past week. I am really please with the finished product and again thank Paul & Libby for their kind generosity.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mount Dora Weekend

As further proof of my continuing recovery from the last treatment, Frank and I went to Mount Dora this weekend to visit our good friend Carol. This is the first time I have been away overnight since I was released from Moffitt in January. For those of you who do not receive my email "blast" with my medical updates, my last CT scan results was wonderful news - no new tumors and no progression of the existing ones.

OK, so let's move on to the weekend and the food. We arrived about noon, and soon thereafter we headed to Tavares, FL for lunch at Al's Landing. Tavares has done a nice job of fixing up their lakefront and adding a couple of restaurants. Al's overlooks the lake and offers a variety of sandwiches and salads. It was a nice day so we opted to sit outside in the shade. I had a very acceptable grilled portobello and gouda burger, Frank had a crab cake, and as usual, I forgot what Carol ordered. The entertainment for lunch was a jet ski race on the lake; can you say noisy. But is was only for part of the meal, and we had a good time anyway.

Later in the day we walked into Mount Dora from Carol's condo for a glass of wine at Maggie's Attic, cute wine and beer shop in downtown. It was a little too much exertion for me, but I made it back to Carol's for a short nap before dinner.

Jim and Georgiann, friends from Orlando, came up to join us to watch the Kentucky Derby before heading to Eustis for dinner at a cute Italian restaurant in old downtown Eustis - Cafe Gianni. Eustis is another small central Florida town that has spruced up their downtown and lakefront to increase the appeal to locals and tourists alike. We enjoyed Cafe Gianni for its good, reasonable priced Italian fare. Although (sorry Carol) I don't think it was quite up to the standards of Primi Urban Cafe in St. Pete or Vino e Pasta in Tampa. But is was very good food in a cute space in downtown Eustis, For entertainment we had a harp player playing a wide variety of music, including "Stairway to Heaven" and other non-harp classics. It was a fun evening with good friends and good food. I ordered a very tasty rigatoni bolognese. Frank and Carol each ordered the Penne alla Vodka. Jim had very good linguini with clams in a white sauce. And if memory doesn't fail me again, Georgiann had Spaghetti alla Norma (with eggplant). (Correct me if I am wrong on that)

We went to Lakeside Inn for Sunday brunch sitting on the long front porch enjoying a cooling breeze and lower humidity. The buffet brunch had something for everyone, from waffles to roast beef and more.  It was your typical resort Sunday brunch, a little pricey and way too much food. (OK, no one was forcing me to eat, but eat I did). The food was good and the setting was lovely. Here is a photo that was taken at brunch today.

That's all I'm Saying (and eating for today).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Taco Bus, Si; Cassis, No

This weekend we had two dramatically different dining experiences. Today, we had lunch at The Taco Bus on Central Avenue, our very own fixed location food truck. The Tampa Taco Bus has been in operation a number of years serving long lines of locals. The St. Petersburg location opened a few months ago, also to lines of customers. I enjoyed two fish tacos with rice and re-fried beans. Frank had the vegan burrito. Both were very good. You order at the bus, and the food to brought to your table. The price is more than reasonable and the food tasty and fresh - I will definitely return to the Taco Bus.

On the other end of the spectrum yesterday, we took Frank's Mom to a birthday lunch at Cassis American Brasserie on Beach Drive in Downtown St. Petersburg. A small group of us had lunch there last year, and we felt the food unremarkable considering the nice upscale decor and the pricing. This time I was even more disappointed. The food was ok, but not memorable, and the service was slow and inattentive. We will probably not return especially since our beloved St. Petersburg Brasserie is just up the street and offers far superior French food and service.

A brief run-down of our selections at Cassis:
Me: Duck Confit: nice and tender, properly cooked, but way to SALTY. Side Caesar  - bland

Frank's Mom: Cassis Cheeseburger (typical), with a side Caesar and another side of Creamed Spinach. She declared the spinach too soupy

Frank; Side Caesar, Steak Tartare (lacking in flavor) and Frites (French Fries - the best item we had)

Overall, our second try at Cassis was a disappointment, especially from the service standpoint. We will stick with St. Petersburg Brasserie for our French dinning in St. Petersburg.

That's all I'm Saying!