About Those Mushrooms…..

When we have leftover steak, one of the dishes we make is steak in mushroom sauce. It so happens Publix often carries a gourmet mushroom mix with something like six or seven different types. We can use any variety in the dish of course, but I always get this one if they have it in stock. I also very carefully push the mushrooms to one side for Hubby to have and me to avoid. This, as with a number of other foods, concerns Hubby as he continues to think I might someday discover a mushroom I like. I won’t say it’s impossible since I did finally find one method of cooking Brussel sprouts and that took me by surprise. Anyway, mushrooms are another case of not minding the flavor which is why I’m fine with having them in a dish as long as I can pick them out. It’s the texture I can’t handle.

When I’m at restaurant with Hubby it’s not a bit of a problem to order a dish with them because he’s happy to have extra. If I’m with anyone else, I politely inquire before ordering the dish and mostly there will be someone at the table who will take them. That also generally initiates conversations about who doesn’t eat what and there can be some amusing stories shared. I’m not referring to allergies which are rarely amusing – rather to likes and dislikes – and then there are those people who seem able and willing to eat literally anything. One guy I worked with who quite frankly could be rather odd swore he loved tripe, sweetbreads, tongue, and so forth. It might even be true and if so, he probably didn’t have too many people trying to swipe food from his plate.

Asparagus is another example of me never having been a fan. I could manage it lightly steamed with lemon juice or other flavoring. It was not until I had it roasted and grilled that I came actually enjoy it. Preparation can make all the difference at times.

Now That’s a Lot of Beer……

Exit One Taproom in Florida City

Opening any type of customer-service small business comes with risk and being on the entertainment side is particularly so. After all, people do have choices and it only takes one bad experience for someone to decide not to return, and even worse is if they share that opinion. I’m not trying to sound negative for the newest offering in our community – I am merely pointing out is takes courage and a lot of work to make the leap from dreaming to throwing open the doors to the public. The best way to describe Exit One Taproom is fun and funky. It is a family operation – mother and daughter and dad. He is still a full-time police officer, so he’s doing double-duty most days.

The entire family loves beer and they have only craft brews – 43 of them in fact. About thirteen are draft and they cover a range of ales, lagers, pilsners, stouts, etc., They researched dozens of breweries and are able to stock some items you don’t generally find in this area. They are delightfully enthusiastic and very happy to discuss the choices.

What they’ve gone with as a set-up is not large, but they have picnic tables in front and can roll up the doors to have an indoor-outdoor effect when the crowds are big. Inside they have about 12-14 spots at the bar, some more picnic tables, a few high-top tables and two seating areas with love seats and chairs. For food, they opted to enter a partnership with no kidding – Tacos and Tattoos. The food truck is there and that, too, is a family business, whose owners are friends. They describe their food as Southwestern with a Caribbean flair. You can wait at the truck after you order or they will give you a number to carry to a able and will bring the food to you.

You can never predict how a new place will do, but we are hoping the best for them.  They are located at 10 NE 3rd ST #30, Florida City is open Tues-Sun at 4:00 p.m. with varied closing times. (It’s actually at Krome Ave and 3rd next to Shivers Glass for those in this area). You can go to http://exitonetaproom.com or call (305) 812-4764. You can also check out http://tacosandtattoos.com


Sept Trip, Day 7….

Travel up yesterday was in light rain for parts, but it stopped as I came into my destination. My sister had warned me Daddy was not interacting as much as in the past. While that was true, he is still cognizant of his surroundings, etc., which is a critical point to consider. I’ll be back with him most of today with a highlight of going to get the catfish and shrimp basket he enjoys for lunch. He hasn’t been comfortable in going out with the wheelchair for some time. Although it is manageable, it is a bit of a process and is much simpler for him for me to bring takeout.

I enjoyed dinner with another of my high school friends last night when she kindly drove up to join me. There are a couple of good Mexican restaurants and the one downtown has a fun atmosphere. Fortunately there was only one birthday party crowd because the staff Happy Birthday routine is a bit loud. On the other hand, the staff is friendly and attentive. In addition to their fresh made salsa, they make a smooth avocado cream dip rather than a classic guacamole. It is excellent. I had  chicken in a similar sauce with roasted onions and poblano peppers mixed in.

I’ll head over to stay closer to the airport this evening and meet my other high school friend for dinner at our favorite steak place.

Sept Trip, Day 4…..

The Missouri segment of the trip comes to a close as I leave in a while to head back down to Louisiana. The threatened rain never did really happen yesterday, although it was quite cloudy to include heavily overcast at times and it had rained in the early hours. We had some sprinkles, but nothing drastic. We did “girl stuff” as in going to a delightful little spot with all boutique and souvenir shops in a lovely setting. A Mel’s Hard Times Diner and the Sugar Leaf Café and Bakery were the two dining choices and my friend had already said we were going to Sugar Leaf. As it turns out though, there was also a dedicated retail tea shop, the Tea Maze. They don’t serve food, but you can have a cup of tea and it is a wonderful place if you are a tea lover. The young lady at the register was very knowledgeable and obviously passionate about teas. My friend, who is not a coffee-drinker, had a lengthy conversation and she will soon return.

The café/bakery was equally delightful and going at an off-time was the right idea. It isn’t very large either and was decorated in the way women tend to admire and guys are tolerant of. Not utterly “froo-froo”, but definitely leaning to “soft” décor. The sandwiches were excellent and we opted to get take-out desserts after we visited the final two shops we were interested in. The key lime pie was not something that struck me since I can have that on a daily basis at home. I did try a bite after dinner and it was good. There was also the coconut cake and the chocolate, caramel, and pecan “Turtle” cookie. Let’s just say watching my carb intake on this trip has not been high on the priority list.


Sept Trip, Day 3….

I have not yet been able to capture a photo of the numerous humming birds that come around the feeders on the balcony. Those little critters are very quick. Apparently, they will begin their migration within another week or so, but for now, they can be seen all over the complex. We went into Branson yesterday passing the many different attractions they have along Hwy 76. It is quite “touristy” and utterly fun for anyone who enjoys that sort of thing. We went to the Titanic museum which is quite well done. (www.titanicbranson.com) There is also one at Pigeon Forge in TN. The entry way to the building has the façade of the front half of Titanic complete with two funnels. The large model of Titanic is splendid and the artifacts are a mix of genuine Titanic items and White Star items planned for Titanic, but not recovered from the ship itself. The photographs and stories are also a mix of those who survived and those who perished. Staff members are in period costume and stationed at certain spots to emphasize selected points/stories.

To get to the second floor, you have the option of walking up a replica of the grand staircase or taking the elevator of course. In the one section upstairs where they have a section of a life boat and have dropped the AC considerably, you can dip your finger/hand into a container of water at 28 degrees and see how long you can hold it in there. I declined. In my case, having been to Belfast Titanic with Paul Louden-Brown, the official historian for the White Star Line, I had slightly different insights on certain aspects. However, as I said, it was well done. I would not have wanted to be in with a large crowd, but planning a trip when it isn’t peak times shouldn’t be that difficult.

We had lunch at a nearby 50s-type diner for an delicious burger although I did pass on the milkshake other than to have a couple of sips to agree it was quite tasty. The weather may be dicey today and a movie marathon on the 65-inch TV might be in order. We’ll see how that goes.

The Year in France, Part II…..

Okay, this continues the explanation of my year – well, really ten months – at the university in Angers, France. After a somewhat circuitous routing flying Icelandic Air, our group arrived and we spent the first afternoon in Paris. A couple of staff members from the university met us with a bus. Despite the jet lag, we did get a quick tour of some of the highlights and one would think I could recall my very first meal, but I don’t. As I mentioned, I was the youngest of our group and when we later met the students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, that also held true. Everyone was basically indulgent with me, although in addition to being the youngest, I was also the one with the least French background. Most had of course taken multiple French classes, although my month in Canada had helped. In fact, my first day of class with our professor, she asked why I spoke French with a Canadian accent. Naturally, I wasn’t aware I was speaking with an accent.

Anyway, the program was set up as semi-immersion in the sense our professors did not speak English to us. You could choose to take this even further by living with a French family rather than in the dorm, but I wasn’t ready to go that far. My lack of French background did place me in the lower level class so only one other student in our Louisiana group was with me. As I mentioned in the last post, this part of the university was designed specifically for foreigners to learn French. We had students from Denmark, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and probably another country or two. All the classes were the equivalent of college freshman level. We had a number of field trips as well as classes and we were able to travel on weekends and holidays. It was about a three hour train trip to Paris and so it was not uncommon to do so. I tended to not go off as much as some of the others, but after a while, one of the French girls invited me to dinner with her family and I went there maybe once a month. She was the only one who spoke English so it was good practice.

English was not widely spoken in town and so transactions in stores, at the post office, etc. did sometimes result in either misunderstandings or protracted time to accomplish something.

As for food, what a difference it was. Aside from the fact I never thought about eating horse, (and didn’t have that very often), it was doing things like learning to eat fruit with a knife and fork. Peaches are not all that difficult – an apple is a different matter. At the time, I wasn’t a coffee drinker and that’s one of my regrets. I had a lot of hot chocolate and hot tea.The experience quite simply changed my life and when I returned home, there was a bit of, “How do you get them back on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” (Old WWI song for those who may not know of it). Also, as it turned out, my high school diploma and college credits were unexpectedly impacted. That will be the third part to this tale.


How It All Started…..

A discussion the other day brought back memories of what was in all probability one of those sequence of events that truly changed my life. Quite some time back, the state of Louisiana created the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. They had a couple of programs; one of which was a summer school in Quebec at the Centre Linquistique quite far north in Jonquiere. I had taken French my junior year of high school, but the price for the summer school was outside of our budget. My grandparents on my mother’s side had an arrangement about taking some of the grandchildren each summer on a special vacation. We were sort of grouped by ages and the same year this program was started was when my “group” would have gone with my grandparents, although I don’t recall now where it was supposed to be. Anyway, they gave me a choice of going with them or they would send me to the summer French program.

I will put this into perspective. I would be seventeen later that summer and while we had traveled some, certainly never to that distance, nor on an airplane. The program was set up for a month, I think, with classes every day, and trips around the area. The program culminated with trips to Montreal and Quebec City. Needless to say, this was an incredible adventure. The other thing to understand is Louisiana truly in divided culturally into North and South Louisiana. For those who like extra detail, Lecompte is the “dividing line”. North is predominantly Baptist followed by other Protestants with a smaller percent Catholic. It is piney woods and a fair number of hills, with relatively few bayous and swamps. South Louisiana is mostly Catholic and “Cajun”, less elevation, with far more bayous, swamps, etc. and what most people outside of Louisiana envision. The point here is the “preservation” of French had a stronger appeal in South Louisiana, so most of the students in that initial program were from the other parts of the state. I had quite an adjustment to make in the whole process.

In fact, it was attending that program that subsequently led to me going to France during my senior year of high school. I’ll explain that in my next post.

Lost A Couple of Days…..

It’s been another of those weeks where my time at the computer was “parsed” between being at meetings/events and handling other obligations.

We did spend Sunday though at the annual Rum Renaissance Festival put on by the Burrs, who moved the festival this year up to Fort Lauderdale to the Broward Convention Center. It’s a nice location being only a couple of miles from the airport and having three hotels within a 10-minute walk. The Hilton is at the marina which gives an extra treat if you enjoy seeing boats coming and going.

Since it was the first year in the new location, there will no doubt be some changes based on experience and feedback. There are only one or two suggestions we will make. Anyway, the festival had 70 vendors, some interesting seminars, music to relax to, and plenty of fun people to talk to. Hubby is more the run drinker than I am, but the way we actually became involved is because when I spun the character of Chris Green off to create the series featuring her – Deadly Doubloons, False Front, and Georgina’s Grief – I decided to make her a lover of sipping rums. In searching around to include different rums in the stories, I found http://www.robsrum.com and didn’t realize at the time a friendship would develop from that initial inquiry. It can indeed be a small world.


Not Sure What To Call The Dish….

Every now and then, we deviate from certain recipes purely because of particular ingredients we have on hand. The other night we had planned to do Snapper Vera Cruz. When we make that, there is usually sauce left over and we’ve had leftover sauce from other dishes lately. We also happened to have extra sun dried tomatoes in olive oil because there was a buy-one-get-one at the store. So, instead of using a can of tomatoes, if I used a smaller amount of sun dried ones, that would give us a nice sauce without leftovers. On the other hand, sun dried tomatoes are normally with Italian dishes (at least for us) and not Southwestern cuisine. Anyway, we proceeded with flavoring the snapper fillets with a seafood blend a friend created and gave us for Christmas. Seasoning for the diced onions, sun dried tomatoes, and can of green chilies was a Chipotle sea-salt, black pepper, and cumin. It was 3-4 minutes sauteing the veggies in the skillet, then pushing the veggies to the sides of the skillet to cook the fillets around 4 minutes, turn and cover the top of the fillets with the vegetables for another 4 minutes. It was a simple, one-pan dish and didn’t use a lid.

The recipe worked, although we agreed a little more cumin would have been better and we might add garlic next time. Again, we tend to not use garlic in Southwestern dishes, but since we obviously had already “blended cuisines”, there was no reason not to consider it for the next time. We couldn’t come to agreement about what to call it and are open to suggestions. Oh, and there were no leftovers.

Key West Spots….

Hubby and I made our way to Key West yesterday to spend the night for the first time. Friends we’ve not seen in many years had a port call for a few hours and we linked up at First Flight, a restaurant and brewery previously known as Kelly’s Caribbean Restaurant and Brewery. With parking the issue it is, I booked us into a small inn about a 25-minute walk from the center of town. The mostly open air place was good and we all had a great time getting caught up. Hubby and I paced ourselves a bit since we intended to remain in the center and have dinner at another place. We did wander to Mallory Square after, but with sunset scheduled for almost 8:00 p.m., we didn’t want to bother with it. We did, however, go into Sloppy Joe’s for a drink and some excellent music.

Before leaving the inn, Hubby suggested I take the umbrella to ward off rain. Rain that wasn’t actually predicted except maybe a brief shower. That turned out to not be the case. It did start as a light shower and for a little while seemed as if it would move off. We were on our way to the A&B Lobster House and close to a CVS. Since the small umbrella we had wasn’t really doing the job, Hubby took shelter under an awning with some other people and I popped in to buy another umbrella. The deal with any umbrella, however, is it doesn’t do much to shelter your legs or your shoes, especially not when there are apparent drainage problems with the streets. On the other hand, the restaurant we were going to was closed-in rather than open air like many of them. A higher end place for sure than First Flight, but an excellent meal and the rain had slowed to a drizzle by the time we left. It did stop within a short time as we walked back.