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)

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.

The Thing About Scuba…..

Like many adventure sports, scuba is not for everyone. From a physical perspective, there are few conditions that prevent one from diving. Since Hubby entered into working with “adaptive” scuba for those with situations such as paraplegic, amputees, etc., he has in fact gained an even greater understanding of the physiological aspect of scuba in addition to already understanding the physics. An example of something that had never occurred to either of us if is you have an individual who is paraplegic, there may be the associated inability of the individual to assess hydration. When you are on the water in the heat, hydrating is quite important. Therefore, in a situation such as this, you have to keep watch and perhaps remind the individual to consume water or other appropriate beverages. In actuality there are only a few physical barriers such as someone who has ear issues and therefore can’t manage the pressure involved with diving. Exercise-induced asthma is another one that in general is  risky to try to manage. Severe claustrophobia is another because the mask causes too much of an issue.

Aside from physical, however, there are individuals who have either had a bad experience or a high level of anxiety for whatever reason. Interestingly, when Hubby started teaching younger students (they lowered the minimum age from twelve to ten), he discovered there were times when he had to approach training from a slightly different angle. In some cases, the student was quite open about a particular fear and in others, it would come out in conversation. By more or less coincidence, Hubby adapted this technique to adults who seemed to be extra anxious about diving. Mostly, these individuals fall into the broad categories of a) doing this for the sake of a diving companion or b) was always intrigued, but couldn’t define actual anxiety. While there may be similarities, every individual is different and often quietly working through the anxiety enables the individual to identify the root cause. Although it isn’t always successful, he has had mostly success.

When people who have never been diving ask me, I suggest the one-day “Discover” course (it’s called different names) as the best approach. It does add an extra layer of cost if the individual goes on through full certification, but it also adds an extra layer of confidence because one of the most difficult aspects of learning to dive has already been accomplished. That, by the way, is taking the first breath underwater. Intellectually, our brains might cognitively understand it’s okay, but another part says, “Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” It happened to me and it was the strangest sensation. It’s a very common reaction and instructors are fully prepared for it with a new student. And as much as I love to dive, I realize not everyone feels the same way. For some people, snorkeling is the answer as a means to enjoy beautiful reefs and fascinating marine life. For others, going to a nice aquarium is the answer.

 

 

Oops on the Gap….

I managed to let a couple of extra days slip by without posting and could say I’m not sure how that happened except I do know. I’ve had overlapping deadlines and am juggling several other projects and let the calendar slip a bit. On the other hand, I certainly don’t get bored. I caught up with a friend by phone whom I hadn’t spoken with in a while and have been looking at different travel arrangements I need to make. No exotic locales this time – all family or business related. Our son, who as most of the regular followers know, is with the Bowen McCauley Dance Company in the DC area. (http://www.bmdc.org) We try to go up to see him perform at least once a year and there’s almost always a performance close to our granddaughter’s birthday. It’s a little later this year being in May about six weeks after, but that’s close enough. The performance is ordinarily at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, but that’s being renovated. The Lansburgh Theater is in a different location which means managing new logistics. It’s supposed to be a nice venue and is where the Shakespeare Company often plays. It’s very much “in the District” not too far from the Capitol and the National Mall. Although we spent a fair amount of time in the area, we almost always took the Metro in. I don’t recall us being near that theater, but if we take the flight I think we will, there will be adequate time to scout things out.

The trip I’ll be taking to Wisconsin the following month is to present at a quilting guild and then go to see my friend whom I called the other day. I wasn’t sure if everything would come together and as she said, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. It looks as if it will all “sync” nicely and I am looking forward to it.

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.

 

Something About the Blues…..

Despite not being quite myself with battling a cold last night, we’d had tickets for weeks to see Muddy on the Waters, A Blue’s Tribute at the Seminole Theatre. I grabbed a nap and we had dinner at home instead of out as we usually do as part of a theater evening. It was the Nighthawks performing with Muddy Waters’ son, “Muds” Morganfield joining them in the second part. I had debated about going, but I had also booked us a seat on the aisle so that meant I could be on the side and not breathe on anyone other than Hubby and it was his cold that was passed to me anyway. What a fun performance it was and a really talented group. In looking around, there was definitely a preponderance of Baby Boomers. There were some younger people too, but it got us to wondering if the Blues as a music genre is fading. I certainly hope not.

In fact, we sat next to a couple visiting from Iowa.The gentleman is a big National Parks fan and they’d been to the Everglades earlier and will be headed down to Dry Tortugas. They are major Blues enthusiasts and assured us the Davenport, Iowa Blues Festival is well attended every year. It’s actually the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival put on by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and this past July was their 31st. Having been to the area multiple times during my Army days, summertime is when you want to have an outdoor festival. On the other hand, that’s also peak dive season here, so I doubt we’ll be headed up there. Then again, we haven’t tried the Blues, Beer, and BBQ Festival at Fruit and Spice Park since that first year. I’ll have to see if it’s still an annual event.