Valentine’s Day Dinner……

I think I have mentioned before that we no longer go out for Valentine’s Day, Mothers/Fathers Day, or Easter. It’s just usually so crowded and hectic that unless we happen to be traveling during one of those we would rather cook a special meal at home. That was especially true this year since Valentine’s Day was on a Wednesday. We had steaks over the weekend and I didn’t get over to Sprouts to see if they had any tempting cuts of meat. We decided on lobster risotto and we already had some leftover spinach and artichoke spread from Sunday. I wanted our Florida lobster, but Publix didn’t have any and I wasn’t going elsewhere to search. I picked up the little Canadian tails which are fine for something like this.They did have this nice little heart-shaped white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake so we were all set. Oh, and champagne of course.
I know I have mentioned risotto is one of Hubby’s dishes; I’m not allowed to touch it. I shucked the lobsters, tossed the tails into the pot for him to make stock, chopped the meat and added some melted garlic butter to let it absorb the flavor for a while. If you haven’t everĀ  made risotto, a critical step is to take between 22-30 minutes for the dish which requires adding liquid incrementally and stirring almost constantly. After the stock was ready and Hubby chopped up the salad veggies, I warmed up the dip, and he opened the champagne. We poured one glass for “chefing”, and he commenced with the risotto while snacking on the spread and crackers and sipping champagne and I finished the salads. He opted for a frozen mixed veggies to co along and there was one lovely garlic roll also left over. It all worked nicely and was delicious.

Tips and Cash……

One friend we have lunch with every week or so generally does not use a credit card. When she does, she still leaves the tip in cash. We had the discussion about this and for quite some time, I continued to add it to my credit card. Now, as it happens, some of the places in town have switched to including an automatic service fee. Anyway, I got to thinking about this and like a lot of people, I don’t necessarily carry a lot of different bills with me. On the other hand, due to a couple of different things, I have to make bank runs fairly often. I started swapping out some of my twenties for $5s and $10s and keep those in a separate envelop at home that I then transfer some of the bills every few days into my wallet to use for cash tips now.

Aside from allowing the server to have immediate cash, I am not quite certain how a place handles tips from credit cards. For example, does the server get the entire tip or do they subtract the credit card fee? Do they give the server the tip along with their paycheck? I simply hadn’t really thought of these this until watching my friend. The one thing though is if a tip is automatically included at say 18% and I ordinarily tip 20%, that can be more complicated. Adding the extra in this case might mean I need to have some $1s to augment. That, and if the tip is more than $20 is when I may well keep it on the credit card.

One Visit Done…

Happy New Year is of course in order at least from a traditional perspective. I did get the kids off to the airport yesterday although there was more traffic than I was expecting at that time on New Year’s Day. Bowl games were disappointing for me so I don’t care which of the two teams win the National Championship. Hubby will probably watch next week.

Let’s see, kids discovered the Berry Farm and it was a big hit. Since they didn’t have time to enjoy all the activities, it might be on the list for next year. Not being able to be in the pool because of an unusual prolonged cold front was met with more understanding than I was expecting. (Yes, in the 50s at night and only 70 at peak is “cold” here) Kids had 1.5 “date days” as they did the movie “Ferrari” one afternoon and enjoyed it, then went to the Miccosukee Festival by themselves. I took granddaughter to Coral Castle which she enjoyed, then lunch at Wendy’s and she decided not to go fly the drone with Grandpa later.

New Year’s Eve party was good although dining outside was not feasible this year. That required definite “resetting” of how we usually do things, but it worked and the fire pit along with sweaters/sweatshirts was doable. The one remaining guest leaves tomorrow and I don’t plan to worry with cleaning up the guest room for a while as we don’t have anyone else scheduled. None of the other events have slowed down though and I’ve been juggling multiple things – well, okay, a couple more than usual. In other words, 2023 closed out very much on a busy note and at the moment, 2024 looks to be about the same.

Am still sorting through the leftovers as to what can be used, what can be given away and so forth.

Really Early Christmas Morning…..

This is one of those rare occasions when my insomnia strikes early. I barely made it for two hours and am obviously on the computer with my mug of chamomile tea at 1:02 a.m. Christmas morning. I am a little concerned that one of the neighbors a few houses away is still blaring music and there are lots of voices singing, etc., Not that I want to be “Grinchy” andĀ  I am awake anyway, but I’m thinking of other people. Ah well, I suppose if someone wants to have security remind them of the accepted noise “cut-off” of whatever the time is, they will.

Anyway, TBS is running, “A Christmas Story” back-to-back for like 24 hours. While it is not one of my favorites, it is for many. Right now, the really old version of, “A Christmas Carol” is on and I imagine they will run the different versions. As I have mentioned before, my favorite is with George C. Scott as Scrooge, although the take-off of, “Scrooged” with Bill Murray is good, too.

Today’s schedule will be a bot odd as I go at 3:00 to help a friend get ready for the rest of the guests at 4:00 with meal planned for about 5:00. Back when we grew up, noon was always the big meal. I don’t recall the early Christmases, but except for those occasional years we went to my paternal grandparents in Arkansas, the holiday was with my maternal grandparents in Louisiana. Only once did we live more than half hour from them and that was a two-hour drive for a few years. Dressing is (or was) more common in the South than stuffing and my grandmother’s was really good. Another of those family recipes that wasn’t written down and my sister spent years later trying to replicate it. She did get close enough to write it out and I’m not sure what happened to it after that. I’ll try and remember to ask her.

Anyway, I’ve finished my tea and hopefully will get back to sleep soon. Not sure about those neighbors; they’ll have to call it quits at some point.

 

Menu Planning….

Ah, the holidays and extra to plan for. There’s Christmas Eve meal, dinner with the kids and the neighbor on their second night, then the New Year’s Eve party, New Year’s Day and probably out for lunch on the 2d; the last day the friend is here. This is the only time of the year when I consistently make hot breakfasts. This allows the adult kids to sleep in – granddaughter and I are the early birds. She gets cereal as “early breakfast” although at times she only wants milk, then it’s for real breakfast later. Weather permitting all meals are of course taken on the terrace.

Sushi is generally the first night out and dinner with the neighbor is normally pork chops and lamb chops because daughter-in-law loves lamb, but son and neighbor don’t care for it.The other two nights out will depend on mood. White Lion is a favorite because of the decorations as well as food and setting, but Exit One Taproom has possibility, too. The Hotel could be in the running, as can Capri. We’ll play those by ear.

For the first time ever, I am picking up catered dinner for New Year’s Eve. We’ve done sit-down, then just large quantities of something like sliders, along with shrimp cocktail, salmon, and three-four more heavy appetizers. This year is a brisket meal with limited appetizers – we’ll do those – before the buffet. After the main meal, I’ll put out the charcuterie and sweets just to have something for people to nibble on in the run-up to midnight.

Back to Christmas Eve. It will be the two of us and it’s usually seafood. We’ll probably do carryout from either Krab Kingz in Florida City or Red Crab. Messy, but good in either case. Christmas Day will be late lunch/early dinner – depending on how one views the time – and Hubby and I aren’t actually preparing food for this one. I will go over early to help with prep and keep wine poured for the hostess.

Double Turkeys……

Okay, this year is definitely a bit different. While we frequently travel to Georgia for Thanksgiving, this is a year when we had already planned not to. When we stay here, we usually go over to friends who live in a neighborhood we could walk to if we weren’t carrying a platter of fried turkey. (Our contribution to the feast).

As it turns out, the unexpected loss of a friend added another aspect. The friend had been struggling with health issues, however, the rapid decline last month took us all by surprise. The couple has no children nor family nearby. I’ve been helping a fair amount and for those who have ever suffered a loss right before the holidays, it can be especially difficult. In order to try and bring some semblance of “normal”, we’ll have Thanksgiving lunch at our place for this friend, a neighbor, and another friend who will travel for Christmas, but be alone this week. Nothing elaborate and that will still provide time for Hubby to do the second turkey for the late afternoon at our other friends.

I’ll do a traditional roasted turkey with only the basics for noon – turkey, ham, dressing, kicked-up mashed potatoes, rolls, and apple pie. Friends are bringing cranberry sauce, green beans in some form, and cheesecake. Timing the oven temperature will involve putting the apple pie into the oven between 7:30-8:00 in order to get it done, then turn the temp down to 325 to manage everything else. It will also mean making the herb butter the evening before as Hubby does the chopping and I don’t want him to have to deal with that part on Thanksgiving morning. Oh, I’m not doing the dressing from scratch – am using one of the Publix ones from the deli case. Also not doing potatoes from scratch (never do). Those are again refrigerator ones that I add butter, sour cream, maybe milk, salt and pepper and bake for approximately half an hour.

I will remember to pick up cold slaw and potato salad at Publix today though for Hubby to have to go with turkey sandwiches later.

 

 

 

Back From Orlando…..

Well, Mother Nature was not as kind to us on the trip home although the intense storm that ranged in from Broward County through the Upper Keys did get much worse after we arrived home. We had decided to have a big breakfast and not do an actual lunch stop which helped time-wise. The rain set in for about the second half of the trip. The truck certainly won’t need to be washed for a while.

Okay, the Big Fire Grill was the more casual “best place” we dined. It was at City Walk and there was both a fire pit outside with seating around it and by a stroke of luck our table inside had one of the best views of the open kitchen with an elaborate grill set-up. I’d never seen one like this although Hubby said he had on one of the big BBQ TV shows. It was a double grill with a rack above to move food to that required different cooking times. They use a mix of three woods for grilling and at one point, we did watch the guy move extra wood to the grill to “feed” the fire. We ordinarily would have had two different dishes, but in this case, there was a bison steak and that plus the trout were the only items we can’t get here. Since we regularly get good seafood, we both did the bison. It was perfectly cooked and had fig jam based sauce which we expected wasn’t going to be very “figgy”. We were correct and it was delicious. The potato gratin side was excellent and done with stacked thinly sliced potatoes, a couple of different cheeses and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce that we think had a little nutmeg as flavoring. We did resist dessert and stuck with coffee. If we lived in the area, we would recommend Big Fire Grill for anyone.

 

Orlando Trip, Day 3…..

Okay, Cowfish first for last night’s dinner. Apparently it is actually a regional chain; Sushi, Burgers, and Bar. Yes, I know, but it is an intriguing idea and the menu is pretty extensive. Modern decor and furnishings, bright colors. They did have chicken and pulled pork sandwiches as well as burgers; no entree type dishes. Also only sweet potato fries and other sides like Spicy and Sweet Thai cucumbers. Hubby decided to go with a sushi sashimi combo and it was nicely presented; excellent quality according to him. I mis-read the menu and went with something that was a “take” on a burger and it was a mistake so I won’t even describe it. I disassembled enough to have a light meal and what I ate was good.

We started a bit later today and went to Universal Studios Park. We did a few things and the main rain did fall while we were inside. A light drizzle lingered as we went to Lombard’s Landing for lunch, but lifted and no more rain for the day. It was a lovely restaurant in the “San Francisco” area. Clam chowder for Hubby and onion soup for me helped with having just come in from the drizzle. Lobster rolls won out although everything on the menu sounded good. We had some time before the movie we were planning and decided to take Hogwarts Express back to the other park as one last piece of Harry Potter fun. We took in “A Haunting in Venice”, the most recent of the Hercule Poirot movies. I generally like Kenneth Branaugh, but simply cannot get used to him in that role. The movie was good of course and the theater had the same leather reclining seats as in the ShowBiz theater in Homestead.

We’re off soon for dinner at Big Fire Grill. Like Cowfish, it was not here during our last trip. No possibility of mis-reading the menu tonight as everything is traditional.

 

Orlando Trip, Day 2….

Okay, I have to back up to yesterday – or rather last night – to talk about dining at Bice, the fine dining restaurant at Portofino Bay Hotel. It was everything you want when paying those kinds of prices. Lovely ambiance, great service, excellent food, and presentation. Hubby did go with the veal osso bucco and loved it. I had veal piccata that was wonderful. We shared a mixed salad to start and not surprisingly, the fresh baked (and warm) bread was served with two dipping olive oils and balsamic vinegar instead of butter. We did do dessert – chocolate torte with vanilla gelato. We had wine by the glass though because I brought a bottle of champagne for us to have later. Well, have a glass then save the rest for today.

Mother Nature was not as kind to us as she could have been although it could have been worse. We did take advantage of early park entrance today because the specific ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hubby wanted to go on is the only ride in the park that isn’t on the Express list. Even with getting there early, it was an 1.5 hour wait. With that said, you do wind through a scenic path and the castle making your way to the ride, so it is somewhat entertaining. I do not, in general, go on roller coasters and did so only as a “gift” to Hubby. It was right on the edge of what I can tolerate. The other two rides were not quite as bad and the Hogwarts Express train was pleasantly calm. We did manage to cover all the Harry Potter items today – to include lunch at Three Broomsticks. Fish and chips for him; pasties and salad for me and we shared. Nothing fancy this time, but part of the experience. Light rain set in not long after lunch and we were prepared with a rain jacket and hood for him and small umbrella for me.

Dinner tonight will be at something kind of different – The Cowfish. I will explain tomorrow.

Orlando Trip, Day 1……

Trip up was as good as can be expected; no accidents or back-ups. Staying at a different hotel at Universal – the Portofino Bay. Lovely, but massive. Might need to get some breadcrumbs to drop to find way around. We have the fine dining restaurant tonight as it is our 35th anniversary. Will report on that in the morning.

Coincident of timing. We stopped for lunch at one of the Turnpike plazas. Granddaughter sometimes Facebook messages us on Sundays and she did at exactly the best time she could have. Hubby was waiting for sandwiches and I was at the table. She wanted to swap to Facetime so we traded off. I talked to her while Hubby at half his sandwich, then we swapped. Turns out science is still her favorite subject and she is now trying jazz for dance. She thinks she will like that better than ballet and tap and quite frankly, I can see that considering how active she tends to be.

Anyway, we’re headed down shortly to stop by the Universal desk to pickup our park tickets, then get oriented. This hotel is on the far end of the complex and the opposite side of where we have previously stayed. The water taxi goes to the parks and there is a walking trail which is about 3/4 of a mile. We’ll go down for dinner at 7:15, so if we have time, we’ll go over to Citywalk which is where the shops, non-Hotel restaurants, etc., are. Margaritaville will be a stop depending on a couple of things. After all, a good way to toast Jimmy’s legacy. If not this afternoon, we’ll catch it tomorrow or Tuesday.

Tomorrow will be our only early start as there is the newest Harry Potter ride that doesn’t take the Express Pass, so we have to take advantage of the early entrance for those staying in the on-site hotels.