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.

 

 

A Big Change for a Small Town…..

For those who have not been raised in the Deep South (yes, it is culturally capitalized) this post may seem a bit odd. If you can find a copy of it, I recommend reading Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by Florence King for a frame of reference. Allowing liquor in the predominantly Baptist realm has always been tricky. Considering the reputation of New Orleans, that may not make much sense, but therein lies one of the unique aspects of Louisiana. Aside from being the only state with parishes instead of counties, there is a definitive regional dividing line between North and South Louisiana. (It happens to be the small town of Lecompte). South is Cajun (I won’t use the other term) with predominantly Catholic influence and party time is fully embraced along with plenty of booze. North, however, is mostly Baptist, (and I mean serious Baptist in my youth), piney woods, and lots of teetotalers. Places like Bossier City and Shreveport (the big cities) were expected to be “wicked” with bars and such. Smaller towns, however, often remained “dry” well past when you would have thought.

Minden is an example. I don’t recall exactly when, but Dixie Inn is the little town that practically adjoins Minden. They decided to vote to go “wet” a number of years ago and for whatever reason, Minden held off. Now, we’re not talking much distance here so if you wanted a cold beer with your meal or a margarita with your Mexican food, it was a short drive. When I was here a few weeks ago, I was startled to go to the Chinese buffet place and see a hand-printed sign that they now had beer and wine (not on Sundays apparently, but that’s a different kind of post). I didn’t inquire as to what happened, but I had also driven past the Roma Italian Bistro (relatively new) on Main Street and thought, hmmm, surely they wouldn’t have an actual Italian place without wine. I popped in this trip to ask the direct question. Yes, I was assured, they not only had wine, but also a bar. A bar?! Hooray, and not surprisingly, that is where I dined last night. Good food, good service, and real, honest-to-goodness wine.

The Other Two Restaurants….

We have never watched “Vampire Diaries” and all we know about it is it’s filmed in Covington, GA. (So was the TV series, “In the Heat of the Night”.) Mystic Grill is apparently a place where characters in the series hang out. Or it might be where the actors hang out or both. At any rate, it’s not only a restaurant on the town square, it also has an unenclosed rooftop area. Being open air does mean you’re subject to the weather, but it is a lovely view. The indoor space is fun, too, and this is a case where you focus on ambience rather than food. That’s not to say the food isn’t good, merely that it isn’t the proverbial “star of the show”. I’m fine with that and while I have no difficulty in recommending the place, I personally wouldn’t spend a long time waiting to get in.

RL Off the Square was also an interesting find. The RL is for Real Louisiana, complete with gold fleur-de-lis on the sign. Now, they did not have Abita beer which is not precisely a requirement, but it does give pause for thought. On the other hand, the distributors in that area may not carry Abita and RL’s did have some excellent regional craft beers. The menu had appropriate dishes and the crawfish I tried and Hubby’s jambalaya were both quite good. I have no reason to think everything else wouldn’t have been equal. I would be torn if we could only dine in one place and we haven’t yet been to what is supposed to be a nice Italian spot. There are worse things in life than having too many restaurants to choose from.