Rolling Hills and Red Barns…..

Aside from the delightful evening I spent with the members of the Darting Needles Quilting Guild and seeing my old friend for the first time in more than ten years, my trip to Wisconsin gave me the chance to visit a part of the country I had not previously been to. There were indeed lots of rolling hills, very green grass and trees, lovely wild flowers and plenty of barns and silos. Cows, of course and I passed multiple billboards showing various cheese stores. They must also have a huge deer population because there was a surprising number of dead deer along the roadways. I did go zipping past Wisconsin Dells, “The Water Park Capital of the World,” but didn’t have time to stop. It certainly looked like it would be a fun place.

The little town where my friend lives is very much a “Small Town, U.S.A” with only a couple of streets for the downtown, a park at the end, and the post office, City Hall, and senior center all clustered close together. The hospital is fairly new and in addition to robust medical services for a place the size it is, there was a very large fitness center. We did not go inside, but it looked to be well equipped and there was an indoor swimming pool. All of this makes good sense in a place with difficult winters.

A regional fast-food chain was Culvers, but it is a family-based business that emphasizes fresh ingredients and their specialty is frozen custard. It is apparently made fresh on the premises. They do have a small freezer stocked with to-go containers. It’s one of the kind of places where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table. The staff was quite friendly and I could see why it was a favorite.

Day 2 into Day 3 of Trip….

What a charming town Appleton is and what a vibrant quilting community. The presentation tonight was in the First Methodist Church and the lady who’s been coordinating the visit invited me to early dinner at one of the local favorites. Pullman’s is on the river and you go past the old Woolen Mills that have been converted to commercial and residential space. I always love to see that.

I had a number of things I had to deal with while I still have internet connectivity, but went out to scout the area (old Army training) in between. The downtown seems to be thriving (Lawrence College is here) with a couple of museums, a performing arts center, several restaurants, pubs and a beer factory I regrettably won’t have time to try.

Dinner turned out to be with several of the ladies from the quilting guild. Pullmans was a large place with an excellent menu and great ambience. They did do an order of fried cheese curds for the table which were delicious as was the walleye I had. The salads looked lovely, too.

There were I guess around 70 people at the meeting and they had me present, then do their break, then go on into the business meeting and show and tell. If I hadn’t been up since really early, I probably would have stayed because they had some very nice quilts and quilt items to talk about.

As soon as I post this, I’ll pack up and head to Baldwin to visit with my friend until tomorrow afternoon. It’s a bit of a drive, but the point is I will also see more of the state and that is one of my objectives.

 

 

A New DC Dining Experience……

In general if the wait to get a table at a restaurant is an hour, we don’t bother. However, it was a Friday night in DC and we were intrigued by the menu and look of Farmers and Distillers, a place we were not familiar with. (http://farmersanddistillers.com/about) We put our name on the list and decided to go to the bar. It was pretty crowded, too, and perhaps in an omen, a couple left as we walked up. More kindly, a trio gave up one seat so we could be together. I will begin with the bar which was quite large and designed as two-sided. Three bartenders serving the front where the stools were and two taking service orders for the back, plus a dishwasher, all of whom were quite busy, gives you an idea of the size of the place. The front bartenders also had flair with competition-level movements, friendly smiles, and not rushing us as we took in the wide variety.  You can read the entire background at their website, but the concept adds a twist to the “farm to table” and sustainable sourcing trends. The distilling aspect includes whiskey, vodka, gin, pisco (South American sugarcane-based liquor similar to rum) and of course craft beers. Even the ice was unusual. I know that sounds odd, yet true. Rather than standard cubes, there were ice chunks and therefore did not melt as quickly as most cubes do.

Okay, onto the food where the choices were almost as difficult. Since we’d done burgers for lunch, we were leaning toward seafood although the description of the lamb and pork chops was tempting. The oven roasted shrimp with crab called to me and as soon as Hubby saw cioppino, that settled it. We shared a lovely salad and the round loaf of fresh bread was excellent. Price-wise, it was not out of line with DC restaurants, although being a moderate-priced restaurant is a relative term.

Anyone who is familiar with service in our area is aware that good service is the exception rather than the rule. It varies from erratic to terrible and that includes a number of high-end places. It is a topic of discussion among most diners and newcomers are often startled. Many of us think it might be due to the large number of tourists who tend to not be regulars, but that really is the subject for a future post. Service at Farmers and Distillers was as good as everything else. The manager stopped by our table and we passed on all our compliments. If you find a Farmers and Distillers anywhere you are traveling, we highly recommend it.

Whirlwind Trip….

The annual trip to D.C. to see son’s performance with Bowen McCauley Dance (http://www.bmdc.org) was shorter than usual,but it’s the way the timing worked out. We crammed everything in and even though Mother Nature could have been nicer, the rain did go away for after the show and wasn’t too awful prior to that. Hubby didn’t get to spend the day taking great photos. He did, however, make it to the Spy Museum and into the National Portrait Gallery and enjoyed them both.

I was able to catch up with old friends and the performance was terrific. Amelia was as good as one can possibly expect a two-year old to be during an hour-and-a-half event with an intermission. She has been going to performances since she was tiny and she understands to watch, listen, and use an “inside voice” or whisper for the little bit she wanted to say – mostly “Daddy dancing”.

It was at the Landsburgh Theater this year instead of the Terrace Theater so we learned a new section of D.C. Traffic was of course as bad as always. We found some new restaurants as well, one of which I’ll blog about tomorrow. We dined before the show at Carmines which is also where the Gala after was held. I have no idea how many people the place can actually sit, but it is huge and has multiple rooms. Meals are served family style and the servers help guide you through the menu depending on the size of your party. A couple could dine alone as long as they have the ability to take leftovers.

We had early lunch with the kids at the airport and since Amelia loves to walk around, I let Hubby and the kids have coffee while Amelia and I got a little exercise. She enjoys climbing steps and then the escalator caught her eye. That was a little trickier, yet manageable. Anytime someone was behind us, I checked to see if they needed to pass. Flights were pretty good both ways so no complaints there.

Tweaked Menu, Right on Target…..

Grand Opening of Pub 935 at Capri in Florida City

Pub 935 opened a couple of months ago to quite a stir as something innovative in Florida City/Homestead. I’ve posted here, on Facebook, and Tweeted about it. As happens, there was a fairly quick reshuffling of staff, then talk of a revised menu. I wasn’t overly concerned although I was interested to see what was going to happen. I got the answer yesterday afternoon and am happy to report it is just as good, if not perhaps better. Hubby won’t have a chance to go for a few days, but I will get him there before too long.

Shrimp and grits and the wonderful skirt steak are still choices as are some of our other favorites like the great flatbread. Lasagna and Italian Nachos have been added. Not that I am a Little Neck Clam person, but for those who are, that inclusion met with full approval. The clams are done with andouille (or maybe it was chorizo) sausage, fresh tomatoes and some lovely herbs. There is also an option for a whole or half muffuleta sandwich. As the two of us familiar with the popular New Orleans fare explained, half is quite large. I am no more a fan of those than clams, however, the individual who ordered it was quite happy, took our advice of the half and took half of that home.

We do have another chain restaurant opening nearby soon, a Texas Roadhouse Grill, and while I enjoy those and wish them well, the family-owned Pub 935 is a big plus to local dining. It is in what was formerly called the King Richard Room of Capri Restaurant at yes, 935 Krome Ave, Florida City. (Many people refer to it as in Homestead)

Why I Love Entrepreneurs……

I posted about Joe’s Famous Hamburgers a couple of years ago. He makes a great burger and his decision to branch out into something brand new after being downsized from a company was the kind of story I enjoy. We would stop by occasionally and a few months ago we noticed his bright red food truck was no longer in the familiar spot. I was sorry to see that, but there are lots of reasons for a food truck to disappear just as there are for any other restaurant to close.

Surprise, surprise – last week I was passing the newly opened K&G Cycles store and there was Joe’s truck in their parking lot. I didn’t have time to stop, but really slowed down to make sure it was him. Yes! I told Hubby and he agreed we would have to pop by soon. I had a bit of an odd schedule yesterday and it was right at 11:30 when I was practically next door to K&G Cycles (more about that in a future post). I pulled into the parking lot and saw the Open light on in Joe’s truck. I walked up to tell him I was glad to see him and immediately called Hubby to see if he was making lunch yet. I knew he probably wasn’t and sure enough, he was on his usual schedule. I told him I was bringing burgers home. Joe and I chatted briefly about how the other location had become too pricey in rent and he hadn’t been able to get a permit to re-open until K&G Cycles had their Occupancy Certificate. The only drawback to Joe’s is there are only two picnic tables, both uncovered. But if you’re doing take-out, you’re all set. He’s definitely not fast food, so don’t be in a hurry. It’s worth the extra time though. He has other sandwiches and hot dogs and some day I might go for something other than the burger.

You can find Joe on Krome Ave in Florida City near the Cracker Barrel. He’s on Facebook, too.

Size Really Doesn’t Always Matter…..

The town of Weeki Wachee, Florida is known for their mermaids and I will admit when we saw the booth for Mermaid Rum at the Miami Rum Festival on Saturday, I did not initially think of Weeki Wachee. After all, sailors have talked about mermaids in lots of places and rum is more associated with the islands of the Caribbean.

The delightful couple we spoke with, however, a) do make a pleasant rum, and b) have an interesting story. They are on 80 acres and are an artisan distillery. They make both rye whiskey and rum. Their website is https://www.wildbuckwhiskey.com/home and we chatted with them for several minutes. One of the reasons the rum festival is fun is you do have a combination of the really big guys – I mean, who doesn’t know Bacardi? – but you also have the chance to meet representatives from lesser known companies. In some cases, it’s merely a different distiller from a well-established rum area such as one in Barbados you perhaps weren’t familiar with.

In the case of Mermaid Rum, they are fairly new and Florida isn’t a household name when it comes to making rum. With that said, the idea of craft brewing appeals to us and we will definitely add them to our list. I hope we can manage a trip up their way as well to learn more. What we saw was impressive.

The Way The Calendar Fills Up…..

In those moments when calendars start filling up, you sometimes have to start juggling. This past week was a good example. Every year our friends who have a wonderful rum consulting business hold the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. We haven’t been able to attend the past two years and made arrangements early enough this year. Despite the fact it’s within easy driving distance, we of course get the overnight hotel package for rather obvious reasons. It is a terrific festival if one is into rum. Hubby is more so than I am, although I will say estate/sipping rums are a very different level than standard mixing rums. Anyway, the point is that for the first time ever, Homestead Center for the Arts is holding a Celebration Expo (http://celebrationexpo.org or http://bit.ly/2pB6nfa for more info). The original date of January had to be slipped to April, and when the 23rd was selected, I wasn’t really supposed to be very involved. Let’s just say that changed. Okay, for everything I agreed to do except Thursday night we had the Chamber of Commerce Awards event which I was also a part of. I have three standing board meetings the third week of each month and one of them in particular requires extra prep. Ordinarily I would do that a couple of days prior, but since last Saturday was also the Book and Art Fair and Hubby couldn’t be there to help, that had my focus. All of which translates into me having to use last Sunday for prep for Monday’s meeting and let us not forget another deadline I had.

In other words, this is a convergence when my usual busy schedule is even more so and at the moment, I am supposed to have a little let-up come Tuesday. In the meantime, we adjusted our plans today/tonight to make everything align properly. Two other looming events were pushed into June, and that does help with the two trips on the schedule. One is personal and one is business combined with personal. I’ll get into those later. Ah well, that’s just how it goes sometimes.

Experimenting With “No Crust” Pizza…..

Carnivore Alert! Last year when we were in Chicago, it turned out we weren’t close to any of the famed pizza houses. One that had been recommended was further than we wanted to bother with, although I did look at their menu on-line. I was intrigued by the description of a “Low Carb” crust which was essentially made from sausage. I’ve been playing around with it lately and am getting close, I think.

I suppose I could go on-line and get some tips as well. What I’m trying is a multi-step process because I’m taking the bulk sausage and cooking it first. Then I cool it and mix in a little shredded cheese. Right now I’m using a 6-inch oven-proof skillet instead of a pizza pan because I’m working with a smaller size. I think 400 degrees for 8 minutes to “crust” it is correct. I’m wondering though if grated Parmesan would work better than shredded cheese. After the 8 minutes, I take it from the oven, put more cheese and veggies on top, then back in the oven for 6-7 minutes and sit for 3 minutes after taking it out. The taste is fine, but if you don’t use a knife and fork, it’s basically messy in the same way ribs are. I am using turkey sausage and reduced fat cheese. You could add more meat as a topping although you use quite a bit of sausage, so for my taste, I’ll stick with veggie toppings. I’ll continue to tinker with it and see what happens.

Another Piece Added to the Culinary Landscape……

The Capri Restaurant in Florida City/Homestead is approaching their 59th anniversary. It is the longest serving family-owned restaurant in the area and for many years was the primary restaurant with a full bar, special event capability, etc. Third and fourth generations still gather and swap stories of their first meal at Capri.

The restaurant has been remodeled a few times and this week’s unveiling of Pub 935 brings another new “Foodie” experience. It’s a completely different menu and look, and is in the “King Richard” Room – that’s the room to the far left as you are facing Capri. Small plates, “farm-to-table”, craft beers and small batch bourbons are featured. The menu is limited, but of the four dishes we have now tried – they are all excellent. The Cajun-spiced pork rinds they bring to nibble on are delicious if that’s something you like.

The shrimp and grits is a big hit, although again, it does have spice to it. The short ribs with polenta were terrific. The fried green tomatoes had a wonderful crunch and the crab bites are fried. We haven’t made it to the sliders menu yet and Hubby definitely plans to try the “From the Garden” selection of mushrooms, caramelized onions, and manchego. Unlike so many places, the portions are such that you are not likely to have leftovers. Sampling multiple dishes is what we enjoy though.

The ambience is terrific with rustic reds, beams, the original terrazzo floor brought back and more. “Sandy”, originally from Tuscany, joined Jimmy Accursio at Capri several months ago and she’s been on a roll ever since. Pub 935 will not suit everyone’s taste, but for those who have longed for a “gastro-pub”, your wait is over.