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.

Lazy Lobster in Key Largo….

We’ve never made it down to Lazy Days restaurant, although a number of people have recommended it. The owners have now also opened Lazy Lobster in Key Largo, Bay side. (MM 102, 102770 Overseas Hwy, 305-451-0565; http://lazylobsterinthekeys.com)

A couple of weeks ago I needed to make a run to Key Largo and asked a dear friend if she had half a day open and we’d go down for errands and lunch. Since she didn’t have a particular favorite place in mind she wanted to go to, I suggested we give Lazy Lobster a try. As most people here know, there are lots of restaurants in Key Largo and it’s one of the toughest businesses to be in. It’s not really a surprise they opened in a previous restaurant that wasn’t able to sustain. Another absolute in Key Largo (well, throughout the Keys), is there is only so much waterfront. If you’re not on the water, you really have to focus on food and Lazy Lobster does so. The decor is pleasant, there are some tables on the front porch (okay, you overlook the highway), and more outdoor seating is on the patio.

The food is fresh, well-prepared, a nice variety, and the staff is friendly. Prices are in line with places like the Fish House. If you’re in the mood for raw bar fare you won’t be disappointed and if you have a non-seafood person along, he or she will have plenty of choice as well.


Coffee Time…..

I didn’t really start drinking coffee until I was in the Army. I always liked the aroma, but didn’t care for the taste. In fact, I’ve posted before about as much as I now love coffee, I still don’t care for coffee-flavored things and do not hand me an iced coffee. In general, I drink three to four mugs in the morning and then might have “social coffee” later in the day as part of a meeting. Coffee after dinner if we’re out is also the norm. With that said, this has turned out to be far busier week for both of us than anticipated. The detailed ins and outs of that aren’t important. A few days ago though the coffee maker starting having problems. Either the pump that sends the water through the basket with the grounds isn’t working or the internal line isn’t clear. In the time the entire pot would usually be made, I barely had one mug’s worth as the machine was gurgling as if all was fine. This, by the way, isn’t something you want to face without the benefit of having had that first mug.

At any rate, after determining the heating element seemed just fine, the obvious solution was the old fashioned method of heating water in the kettle and manually (slowly) pouring the water through the basket. As an aside, as much as we enjoy a French Press, we don’t have one because it is so much easier to hit the button on the coffeemaker and walk away until the coffee is ready. However, this was a semi-emergency. (We do have some packets of instant coffee for all-else fails situations). The solution worked quite well, but neither of us have had time to go and buy a new coffeemaker. If nothing changes, that will be a high priority “to-do” for tomorrow.

A Soup Kind of Day….

We do get spoiled in the Sunshine State. When we have rain, it generally comes in bands mixed with partial clouds and sun, but we do have days like today with overcast and little break between rain. Although it’s not pounding rain, it is winter and our temperature did drop. No threat of ice or snow of course, which still puts us in far better shape than having to deal with that. Not to mention it will all clear up within a couple of days and return to our “normal”.  We had already decided on the Spicy Mediterranean Seafood Stew for tonight (I’ve posted that recipe before). Chili will be next week naturally as the Superbowl meal.

In continuing to work on lower carb soups, I thought to try a version of cream of vegetable. I was going to do cream of broccoli and saw we had a bag with a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. We also had some extra Pecorino cheese since I had accidentally grabbed that instead of Parmasean not long ago. What I hadn’t realized was the silken tofu I was going to sub for cream was past it’s “use by” date. However, it wasn’t too much of an impediment.

So, the bag of vegetable mix (4 cups) into 8 cups of vegetable stock; some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Turn to low heat, use the stick blender to “cream” the veggies. Add 1/2 tsp of each: dried red pepper flakes, oregano,basil, thyme. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir 1/2 cup (happened to be the amount left in the container) finely grated Pecorina cheese and cook another 5 minutes.

It’s obviously low in fat, although I didn’t do  a calorie count. It comes in at 17 carbs per bowl, which in this case held four ladles full (standard soup ladle). Granted, that’s higher than the turkey and sausage soup I previously posted, but it’s also packed with veggies. It just depends on what you’re in the mood for.

You Really Can’t Always Tell By Appearances……

Carnivorous alert! It’s funny how your memory is sparked at times. Hubby was prepping rib-eye steaks for dinner last night and it reminded me of Joe Allen’s BBQ in Abilene, TX. That was where I had my ROTC assignment and as always, restaurants were high on my list of places to identify. It didn’t take long to hear about Joe Allen’s, but it wasn’t on a direct route for me getting back and forth to work. One day I drove past at a time when it wasn’t open and sort of shrugged. It was the ramshackle side of rustic and I wondered if maybe the reputation was overblown. Then a friend who was helping me get acquainted with the area took me there for dinner.

As a longtime, multi-generational resident, she explained.  Food was what mattered at Joe Allen’s, not ambience. There was BBQ and steak, and a big galvanized tub of ice for the long-neck beer bottles. The point about the steak though was it was rib-eye with a secret rub then grilled over mesquite. Period. The deal though was the steak was cut according to what you chose – from 1/2 inch to 4 inches thick. You wanted sauteed mushrooms or peppercorn sauce – go to another restaurant. You wanted a nice wine list – go to another restaurant. You wanted one of the best steaks you would ever eat and an icy cold beer – sit down and enjoy yourself. I have no doubt the BBQ was excellent, but I admit I never had anything except the steak – my friend and I usually went for the 1-inch.

Other places with stuccoed walls, timbered ceilings, good steaks, and a larger menu were closer to where I lived and where I usually met with friends. That didn’t prevent me from going to Joe Allen’s though and I was always quick to recommend it to newcomers.

Ah, Computer Woes….

As I’ve mentioned before, we have become such a connected world (well, many of us anyway), when we lose those connections, it can really upend our schedules. I’ve returned from my trip where I was plagued with multiple computer and electronic issues. Now, in all fairness, most of those were my own fault. The mishap that knocked out my travel computer was totally on me and I’ll see today if it is recoverable. The second issue of not being able to have access on my I-phone while at the hotel was probably my fault. (I haven’t told Hubby about that one yet so he can explain what I was doing wrong.)

Anyway, I returned late last night and did in fact get catfish and hush puppies in during the trip. Th cold snap that descended was only going to last a few days, but 40 degrees and mist was distinctly uncomfortable. I do realize there are plenty of other places where that would be quite welcome at the moment. On the other hand, if you’re planning a ski vacation, lots of snow is on the wish list instead. Today and the weekend will be catch-up for me with multiple tasks. Ah well, it works that way at times.