Safe Travels Ahead…..

Tomorrow will be a travel day for us as we make the annual trip to Georgia to be with Hubby’s family. I gather an actual cold front is supposed to sweep in, so I’ll need to find a couple of sweaters or at least a jacket to pack and go with layers. Fortunately, we’re at the stage of our loves when we can travel on Tuesday and return on Friday and we always have a handy housesitter available. Travel on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving is a hassle we don’t deal with unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m not certain of which “cycle” his family is on though. Like many of us who marry, you have to decide which sets of parents you spend which holiday with. In Hubby’s case, the younger generation has “aligned” their visits so the “distant” cousins can be together with the nearby ones every other year. Since all the younger generation also have children, that means in the “aligned year”, the holiday crowd goes from around 12 to around 30. One of Hubby’s first cousins hosts almost every year and embraces the cheerful chaos. They do live in a perfect place for spreading out and especially for the youngsters to be able to run around, plus there is the dining room and the dining table as part of the large kitchen. Her husband is great with frying turkeys and by the time everyone adds their “special” dish in, you can’t possibly eat with less than two trips to the buffet. With my mother-in-law in assisted living, we aren’t certain if she will be up to joining us and have been told they do a wonderful event at the place where she is. We’ll be flexible on that since I imagine she won’t really know how she’s feeling until Thanksgiving morning.

So whether you are traveling, staying close to or at home, have a special holiday tradition or prefer to have a quiet day, may it bring you pleasure.

The Performing Arts You’ve Been Waiting For…..

You don’t always get an immediate full package when it comes to downtown revitalization. It’s nice when the resources are available for that, but more likely, there will be incremental steps. Like a garden though if you can’t bring in a landscape designer and move forward with every flower, shrub, tree, etc., you might have the design and a few “anchor” pieces, then add to it. What’s important though is to carefully tend to the initial steps and not lose the early plantings as you wait for the rest.

The Seminole Theater in downtown Homestead has kicked off their second season and for every person who has said, “I wish we had performing arts here”, the answer is, “We do.” While the first season was heavily weighted to concerts, that was primarily because it was the easiest approach to get started. This year, however, a variety of programming is available and there really is something for just about everyone. There is the Showcase Series – major events booked by the Seminole – then there will be different events continually added. These are often local organizations that book the Seminole as a venue for music, dance, theater, etc.

I’ve previously posted about the delightful WLRN Radio Theater plays we’ve attended and there are three more performances this season – Miracle on 34th Street, Casablanca, and Treasure of the Sierra Madres. Yesterday, we had a bit of a “Ladies Afternoon” as five of us attended the one-man play, Vincent. The essence of the play was mixed media with the role of Theo Van Gogh, Vincent’s brother, in a script written by Leonard Nimoy (Yes, “Mr. Spock”). The production, from Starry Nights Theater Company, has played around the country. As the character of Theo spoke of the larger truth of the brother whose paintings were not appreciated in his lifetime, he also read excerpts of letters and images of famous and less-well recognized pieces were projected behind him. It was a moving script, wonderfully produced, and superbly acted. It’s the quality of performance we no longer have to fight traffic for or search out parking.

Dining options are close by as well with restaurants such as the Capri (M-Sat), on Krome only a few miles away; Chefs on the Run on adjacent Mowry Dr (Tue-Sat). along with Hotel Redland (M-Sat & Sun brunch). Or you can drive a few streets north on Krome, turn on 7th St and find The White Lion Café (Tue-Sat). El Toro Taco is across from the theater (Tue-Sat) as is Casita Tejas, and Lucky’s Saloon is two buildings away. (Tejas and Lucky’s are open seven days a week). Mamma Mia’s, a short drive to Washington Ave, is open seven days a week, too (until 11:00 p.m. Fri & Sat).

You can keep up with what will be playing at http://seminoletheatre.org or for the wider arts and culture scene, check Homestead Center for the Arts, http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com

 

 

More New Homestead Dining…

It’s not really that I’m fixated on food at the moment. It’s more a coincidence of timing that we now have another nice restaurant in Homestead. Equally important, it fills a missing piece in our culinary line-up because the cuisine is predominantly Spanish. I don’t mean Latin, I mean Spanish as in paella and genuine Serrano ham as a tapas, and cod as part of the Seafood Cauldron. There are crisp white wines and dry reds to enjoy and a full bar. I prefer to refer to it as the Hotel Redland Restaurant, although the new owners have retained the Whistle Stop Café name. The Capone Burger and chicken can still be ordered as can some pasta dishes. Although we had seafood the other night, I have been told the lamb is excellent. Yes, the table settings are pretty and Chef Loannis Valle trained in Barcelona. (http://www.hotelredland.com/)

They also feature a Sunday brunch (10-2) and if you’re looking for a Friday special, they have jazz. The dining room is charming and the staff attentive. Some of the dishes may be unfamiliar, but they will gladly describe them for you. If you have a sweet tooth, the fried ice cream looks as pretty as it tastes.

Although parking in the back is somewhat limited, there is the large lot a very short walk across Flagler. Hotel Redland is 5 South Flagler, 305 246-1904

More Good Burgers and Brisket….

Sports bars are not for everyone. They have their own atmosphere rather than ambience and if you’re looking to have a quiet conversation over a meal, it rarely works. On the other hand, if you want camaraderie and laughter, you’re likely to find that. Downtown Homestead on Krome Avenue is taking another swing at a sports bars after the last one encountered a series of problems that caused it to close fairly quickly. We hope Lucky’s Saloon will fare better. And speaking of fare, if you like a good burger or a nice brisket sandwich, this is the place for you. They special blend their burgers and cook them to order. The brisket is slow-smoked and it’s one of the few places where you can get Tator Tots as a side. Their sweet potato fries are excellent, too, so it’s a bit of a choice to make. The beer selection is good, the beer served appropriately cold and they have a full bar if you’re in the mood for something stronger. What makes Lucky’s different from most sports bars is they are attentive to salads and have a selection to suit most tastes. They do chicken quite well also. I haven’t tried the chili, but was told it was good.

Big TVs for sports isn’t the only draw – there is Trivia Night, Taco Night, Karaoke Night and the immensely popular Line Dancing Night, plus live music on Saturday. It is noisy, no doubt about it, so you do have to take that into account. The staff is friendly though and the prices are reasonable. Here’s a big “Thanks” for opening and do give them a try.

Another Great Burger and More…..

Gator Grill on the Way to the Everglades National Park

Gator Grill on the Way to the Everglades National Park

The restaurant business is brutal. Trying to keep costs competitive, trying to keep good help and a thousand other things (only a slight exaggeration) owners/managers have to deal with. I have nothing against chains and dine in them, but we try to patronize independent places as much as possible.  And when we see an independent making moves that are apparently good ones to improve their business, we give a little “Hooray”. So it would seem is the case with Gator Grill. It’s always been of interest that with the millions of people who visit the Everglades each year, there was literally nowhere to eat close by. The small Gator Grill that opened several years ago in what seems to have been a little store previously had excellent food, but like four picnic tables beneath the trees. Not that it wasn’t good, but unless you knew about it, the inclination was not to stop. Things have changed. The “Grill” isn’t any larger, but they’ve added a nice-size Tiki Hut with 9 or 10 picnic tables and a fan to circulate the air. With the trees still mostly in place, it’s still warm of course, but definitely an improvement. They’ve also had the exterior done with eye-catching murals.

They are positioned not far from Robert is Here as you drive toward the Everglades and with the new murals, it raises your curiosity as you approach. The single drawback, if you think of it as such, is they do make to order and they don’t hurry. If you are really hungry when you first order and there are several people already seated or in line, it’s best to grab a little packaged snack to tide you over. They are also one of the places that cook to order and if you like your burger rare, etc., – go for it.

(I posted several months ago about the Redlander Restaurant at Schnebly’s which is a more up-scale dining option not too far from Robert is Here, so there are two choices in fair proximity to the Everglades now.)

Supporting New Small Businesses….

A tiny sigh because I had set aside to go diving yesterday, but the weather wasn’t as cooperative as I would have liked. (Okay, I was wimpier about it than I probably should have been). Setting that aside, we made sure there were umbrellas in the car and did this terrific loop down to Islamorada and back. First stop (after really slow traffic) was Olive Morada that I’ve posted about before. If you haven’t been yet, make the trip. We’ve purchased most the different flavored oils by this point and added the new Chipolte one this time. Oh, and the smoked onion mustard is terrific.

We then came back up to have lunch at M.E.A.T, the subject of another of my posts, and it was delicious as always. By the way, they now bottle and sell their homemade mango catsup. All right, the other objective for the day was to stop into a very new place called Corks and Curds in Key Largo, oceanside at the blinking light (99201 Overseas Highway). Jill and Mike Atwell have a lovely shop and I would urge everyone who can to give them a visit. In chatting with Jill, they’ve consulted in a couple of other places about such ventures and as she said, “Our goal is to turn passion into profit.” They are especially attuned to having reasonably priced wines that aren’t well-known among the more expensive varieties they offer. The carefully considered cheese and sausage collection is the kind you find at places like Whole Food and the Valencia fried almonds are a real treat. There are other selected items, too, but you get the idea. You no longer have to make the trek up to Pinecrest, etc., to add a few gourmet touches to your table. They don’t have a website up yet, but the telephone number is 305 451-0995 and you can email them corksandcurds@gmail.com

 

Happy Bastille Day……

With everything that’s been going on, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact today is Bastille Day. We usually celebrate and under the circumstances, I just can’t pull together the really fancy meal. That would be beef tournedos with peppercorn sauce, potatoes dauphinois, haritcots vert, and tart tartin (or chocolate mousse made from scratch). Tonight’s menu will be the less intense modern version of coq au vin although I did get bacon to render, shallots, and I am using bone-in, skin-on chicken. What I am not doing is cutting up a whole chicken, finding lardons, and making a bouquet garni. I also confess to having bought chocolate mousse cups from Jello, but I did look in the dessert freezer section just in case there were some authentic ones there.

Anyway, this gets us close enough. In actuality, the way we started celebrating Bastille Day was many years ago the first summer we were together. The wonderful Baltimore Aquarium did a Bastille Day sunset harbor cruise and we were able to enjoy that two years in a row. Although we’ve missed a few years because of schedules, we’ve been able to celebrate properly most of the time. I don’t actually think there’s any French ancestry on Hubby’s side of the family and I don’t recall where it is on mine. I’ll have to check that out again one of these days. I know there was someone on my paternal side and it might be maternal as well.

Fish Dish Variation….

I’m not stuck on doing food posts lately. It’s merely that many of us get into routines and sometimes forget to go back to recipes we enjoy and set aside for long periods. This is such a recipe and if I recall correctly, it’s a variation on one of Emeril’s, although don’t hold me to it. It’s Ham Wrapped Fish (If you don’t do pork, you can substitute 2-4 turkey bacon slices). This is a three-step cooking process of 4 minutes stovetop, then 4-5 minutes in a 400 degree oven, then another 1-2 minutes stovetop for the sauce. You need an oven-proof skillet.

Ingredients: 2 firm white fish fillets (halibut, mahi, or haddock are especially nice); 2-4 slices ham – enough to completely wrap the fillets; stone ground or some other similar mustard; 1/3 cup white wine (or 1/4 cup orange juice and 1 tbsp. butter).

Preheat oven to 400. Lay ham slice on cutting board, place fillet in the center; season with pepper, spread thin coat of mustard to cover the fish. Flip fillet, pepper and use mustard on other side, then wrap ham and secure with toothpicks. If the ham slice isn’t large enough to completely cover the fish, add an extra slice and tuck the edges so it makes a “packet”. If using turkey bacon slices, overlap them a little so there aren’t exposed parts of the fish.  I’ve found that I can usually angle the toothpicks in on the side to secure the wrap and that allows me to set the fillets in the skillet and turn them without everything falling apart. Heat the skillet to medium, coat the bottom with olive oil (1-2 tbsp) and bring to temperature (approximately one minute). Cook the fillets for two minutes on each side. Transfer the skillet to the oven for approximately four minutes. Place the fish on a plate and make a quick pan sauce over medium heat using the 1/3 cup white wine or the orange juice and butter. Be certain to scrape and stir the bits of ham or bacon into the sauce. This step takes 1-2 minutes. Pour over the fillets and serve. The mustard and ham are both likely to be a bit salty which is why I don’t salt the fillets before wrapping them.

Follow-up About Tofu…..

Okay, I have taken the first step with silken tofu and successfully made a fairly low-carb smoothie and used it as a thickening agent for a sausage & turkey soup. I realize if the point of tofu is to go in a vegetarian direction, then I’m off the mark. For me, however, the idea is what are supposed to be health benefits as I continue to try and lower my carb intake. I still want to try that pine nut creamy sauce and haven’t done that yet. The smoothie piece did require me to cut way back on the fruit since that’s packed with carbs. By substituting the very low calorie cranberry juice for regular juice and using a small amount of frozen berries, it doesn’t provide a full serving of fruit, but is refreshing.

The turkey and sausage soup is one I put together several weeks ago with a nice flavor, but not much body. The issue with soups is all the good stuff – potatoes, rice, corn, etc., is high in carbs. Using four ounces of silken tofu, seasonings, and one-third cup of chicken broth was just about right to add to the soup which is meat heavy with some onions, celery, and sweet peppers. I suppose it’s really more like a chili than a “soup”. If you don’t want to use pork, there is a bulk turkey sausage to substitute. I do enjoy cooking with sauces and there will be more experimenting.

A Weekend of Experimenting (Kind Of)….

It is sort of experimenting with food this weekend. We don’t usually mess with ribs – not when there are places around that do them well. I’m not even certain what caused me to say, “Hey, want to give it a try?”. I did, however, ask the question and at the moment, the slab is in the fridge with a dry rub mix and I need to check some cooking time information for our particular set-up. Obviously, we aren’t going for the 12+ hours of smoking. Anyway, when I was at the store yesterday to look for fish, I was startled to see rock fish from Canada. We haven’t had rock fish in ages. That’s a favorite in the Maryland area and you just don’t see it often here. I pulled out my Legal Seafoods cookbook (Yes, the restaurant chain) and proceeded to sauté with a combination of lemon-infused olive oil and peanut oil to allow for a higher cooking point. A quick lemon butter sauce made for a nice topping and there were only a few small bones to deal with. I had warned Hubby so he was on the lookout. Oh, since I am trying to cut back on carbs, I found almond flour several weeks ago, thinking when we do want to bread something, that could be a good solution. In reality, the package talks about it as an excellent substitute for baking or for making something like a sauce. It worked okay for sauté in this case because fish cooks very quickly. Otherwise the coating would have probably burned. (What I don’t  know is if it will work with a quick crisping, then finishing in the over like you do with chicken parm. Hmm, might try that.)

Okay, back to my other unexpected find of sirloin tri-tip. This is a cut more common to the West Coast. We first heard of it while watching one of the California-based chef/restaurant owners on a show about Napa cooking and wine pairing. Then tri-tip began to show up occasionally on the TV series “Pit Masters” as a special challenge to mostly East Coast BBQ guys who weren’t familiar with how to handle it. One of my tasks today is find the proper cooking technique for the grill, although we’re not planning that until tomorrow. I’ll keep everyone posted as to how it goes.