Georgia Trip, Day 1……

We had a slight delay in departure in one of those semi-amusing things. Since we were traveling on a weekday, traffic issues meant it would be better to wait until 8:30 to leave. Literally jut a Hubby was ready to load the truck, Mother Nature brought in a pop-up rain; all while it was partly sunny of course. These don’t usually last long so we were on the way not long after. The traffic hadn’t completely cleared although it was manageable. Once we passed Fort Lauderdale, we lucked out with no big accidents, not much construction, and only a few scattered showers. We made it into the Hampton Inn a little before 7:30. There is a Chilii’s in front of the motel and the Holiday Inn Express next door is finished and they are now building what looks to be an extended stay place next to the Chili’s. We got everything into the room and walked over for dinner. Having over-indulged a little at Wendy’s when we did a Turnpike stop for lunch I balanced out with a cup of chili and the southwestern grilled chicken salad. We frequently have pasta on Thursday so Hubby had a cup of chili and their Cajun pasta with shrimp.

We start our round of family visits today going to his sister’s for lunch – her husband has to work, but he’ll be at the gathering Sunday. We’ll ask about restaurants in town and hope the Mystic (whatever the actual name is) is still open. The Irish Pub had closed, but perhaps someone re-opened it or something replaced it. There is also a New Orleans type place just off the town square. The other is on the square and even though there are good places in other parts of town, the square is delightful. Of course, we may also go there tomorrow as is our habit.

Chocolate Musings….

Watching part of “Brunch with Bobby Flay” the other morning started a discussion about chocolate as he was featuring it in multiple forms for this particular brunch. I do know people who don’t care for chocolate and there are those unfortunates who are allergic to it. My brother is one which is how we discovered white chocolate. Bobby was using it on his show and explained how it doesn’t contain cocoa powder, yet has the taste because it is derived from cocoa butter. I don’t recall who told us about white chocolate all those years ago; perhaps another individual who was allergic and was happy to pass on the information.

There is also the debate about dark versus milk chocolate and while I prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate with different combinations is delicious – I mean there is a reason Girl Scout Thin Mints has been a best seller for decades. Where I differentiate is if I am going to eat a plain piece, I’ll always choose milk.chocolate. The restaurants’ infamous desserts of Death by Chocolate – and there are multiple variations – probably does it best with between four to seven types depending on the restaurant.

Going back to Bobby’s show, he was also using chocolate in the Mexican/Southwestern style of it as an ingredient for a savory dish. I have found that to be tricky and always follow a recipe the few times I’ve done it. The proportions have to be correct or it tends to end up with a bitter taste.

In an aside, toward the latter part of Desert Storm, we were getting Hershey’s Desert Bars, one they created to not melt until around 140 degrees. It was actually pretty good, but they didn’t produce a great many before the War ended and I’m not sure why it didn’t seem to catch on with the general public. (The M&Ms motto of, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, is correct unless you are in a desert-type climate)

The French Riviera…..

I’m not sure what caused me to think of the first time I went to Nice, but it was another of those incredible moments. It was while I was at the University in Angers and one of the group had a distant relative who lived near Nice. She invited three of us to visit over the spring break. We took the train which was about six, maybe eight hours, with one or two transfers. I had of course seen movies showing scenes of the French Riviera, but you don;t expect the colors to match. And yet, they do. There is the glorious blue of the sky with scattered white clouds and the Mediterranean with so many shades of blue you can barely count them. The mountains to the east and coastline to the west are simply breath-taking. We did spend most of the time at the “farmhouse”and the relatives spoke no English, but by that time, we’d been in classes for seven months so between the three of us, we managed. That was also the first time I watched mayonnaise being made by hand.

We did go into Nice one day for a few hours and were startled to see the “beach” was all pebbles/rocks. It never occurred to me at least that you could have a beach with no sand. Anyway, fast forward 20+ years when we were stationed in Italy. I may have posted before about the fact the Pisa airport was only regional and the two closest international ones were Rome and Milan, both about a four hour drive. At some point I discovered Nice was only 20 minutes further and much easier to get in and out of, plus the drive was magnificent.The other two were scenic, although not as spectacular as winding your way along the Italian and French Rivieras and through Monaco. In bringing people in, flights from the States arrived around 8:00 a.m., and going back departed in the afternoons. It was perfect to leisurely drive over the night before and have a late lunch or just dinner depending on what time we set out. For out-bound flights, it was drop someone off and then spend the night.

Next post, I’ll talk about other aspects of Nice.


Yes To Pork With Seafood…..

I agree that a combination of pork and seafood may seem a bit odd, however there are multiple dishes. Think Cajun with jambalaya or seafood gumbo and crawfish boils that include sausage or Paella for an international flair.

There are other regional cuisines as well. Shrimp and grits is another dish that often includes bits of ham although that is a variation not everyone uses. The topic came up the other day when I mentioned we’d made our ham wrapped fillets for dinner. I posted that recipe a year or so ago. Anyway, the Chesapeake Bay area eastward into Tidewater and the Carolina’s Low Country is where I think I first encountered a lump crab with ham dish. It was delicious although you do have to be careful because it’s easy to overcook and overwork the crab. The ham wrapped fish came from an Emeril’s recipe which we did modify slightly.

Another one I posted not long ago is a Portuguese recipe that nestles fish into a tomato and chorizo sauce. I happen to prefer a little crunch to my sausage and so I cook the sausage slices first to a bit of crisp, remove them while leaving the oil from the browning in the skillet and use that to saute the onions and garlic. The tomatoes and white wine go in to simmer covered for about ten minutes, then cook the fish for six to eight minutes (until it flakes), and stir the chorizo back in for only like one minute before serving. (I also posted this full recipe a while ago). That by the way is a Publix recipe, or at least the back of a package of frozen fish flllets was where I found it. I’m not sure if they create their own or simply transfer them from somewhere else.


Steak One Way…….

A discussion about steaks the other day reminded me of Joe Allen’s in Abilene, Texas. I may have posted about this in the past, but if so, it’s been a while. I don’t know if the place is still there, or if it is still in the same family. As a newcomer to Abilene (this is when I had my ROTC assignment), I was of course interested in the restaurants. Several people mentioned Joe Allen’s BBQ, but it wasn’t in the direct line of most places I drove through, although it isn’t as if it was much out of the way either. I did drive by one day and it was definitely what one would call ramshackle and not in a newer part of town. I put it on my “one of these days” list and several months later, a friend was startled I hadn’t been there yet.

We went and it was much the same on the inside as outside with wide plank floors and a large tin tub filled with ice and long-neck beers close to the buffet station. The station was actually the sides that came with their BBQ meals. Notwithstanding the name, they were equally known for their steaks. The thing was though it was one cut – boneless rib eye – cooked one way – grilled over mesquite. You could select from 1/2 inch to 4 inches thick and that’s how it was priced. Yes, I said 4 inches and in Texas you’ll always have some who can handle such a hunk of meat. Obviously, other restaurants served steaks and the two “nice steakhouse” our regular Friday night group went to did well. Hands down though no one made a better steak than Joe Allen. As much as I appreciate a hearty red, ice cold beer in long neck bottles was also the correct beverage choice. I do hope the place has passed to the next generation..

No Big Celebration This Year…..

Although the City does a really nice Fourth of July celebration nearby, I’m not going this year and not sure if Hubby will go shoot the fireworks as he has done in the past. We’re also not inviting the neighbors over, but we haven’t done that for a few years anyway since we’d been attending the big City celebration instead.

We do have hamburgers planned and will time that for early if Hubby does go to shoot the fireworks. He was supposed to work all day and the class was cancelled which is part of why he isn’t certain yet of what he’ll do. I don’t think he’s gotten a text from the paper about it, but that could be because they assume he’ll be there. Anyway, we’ll see how the day goes.

I enjoy the big event with what is usually plenty of rousing music and people dressed in a variety of red, white, and blue. They have fun activities for the kids, too. The “melting heat” of early July in South Florida can be managed with appropriate hydration – especially making sure to have a water in between the nice cold beers. The jammed traffic in trying to get home is mostly what I don’t have the energy for this year. We can see the high-shooting fireworks from the house and in general, we actually see three different displays as Florida City does one as well and if the sky is clear, we can catch the one from Key Largo. There are usually multiple families who do a lot of fireworks in this and surrounding neighborhoods, too. Not sure what the kids are planning up in Northern Virginia as they had a week-long trip to Maine recently and their month-long summer intensive dance session starts tomorrow. I suspect they’ll stay in and watch specials on TV.

A Cajun Flair……

We usually have pasta on Thursdays and like tonight, it will be a second meal for the chicken Hubby grilled on Tuesday. In these cases, our default is chicken Alfredo, but for some reason, when we were discussing it – and it may have been because we weren’t sure if we had as much leftover chicken as we needed – the idea of getting Andouille sausage and going Cajun came up. The other idea was for “rattlesnake” which means adding jalapenos. In the strictest sense Cajun cuisine includes red peppers and hot sauce for heat, so jalapenos makes it a sort of hybrid dish. We’re okay with that and the result should be good.

We do use prepared Alfredo sauce and always depart from classic because we add onions and often sweet peppers as well as sometimes sun dried tomatoes. We enjoy the extra flavors and it’s not something we serve to guests as you never know when someone is a “classicist” about such things. We will include a little Cajun seasoning, too for tonight. We picked up a different brand when we were in the cute little Abita Springs market on the trip to Texas and Louisiana. We normally keep Emeril’s and/or Tony Cachery’s as our staple. In fact, I brought another container of the new one for a friend and they’re enjoying it. Naturally, it would have to be a brand not likely to be found around here. Ah well, that’s part of what makes it a treat.

Memorial Day Traditions…

I had hoped to get a May dive in, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen. With two different events to participant in on Saturday and two to cover today for the paper, the timing was going to be really tight. Getting away tomorrow meant juggling lots of things and turning my stories into the paper later than I like. On the other hand, it was doable.

Memorial Day, however, is also immensely popular for diving and Hubby is in the midst of  7 or 8 day stretch of teaching. The boats have been crowded and the simple fact is, the spaces really do need to go to clients. So, I’ll pass for tomorrow and take care of my long to-do list. Maybe, maybe I can mange June although at the moment, it seems to already be filling up.

Anyway, my morning started with the Veterans of Foreign Wars having their ceremony at the local cemetery where volunteers take small flags and stick them into the ground of veterans’ graves. We did have rain for a while although people still turned out and Mother Nature did relent before the speech parts were completed so the movement among the graves could be done in sunshine.

The noontime event shifted to the American Legion where the Boy Scout Troop they sponsor has the flag retirement ceremony. This is where the flags are cut and burned in accordance with established protocol. They do this two or three times and year and people can bring their old flags at any time to be stored until a ceremony is held.

Under the circumstances, we haven’t invited anyone over for dinner tonight which will be burgers. We have some corn on the cob in the freezer we need to use, too, and that’s a nice traditional Memorial Day food. Oh shoot, I just realized I forgot to pick up an apple pie. Ah well, I can make the claim we didn’t need dessert.

Triple Booked Again…..

I genuinely do try to not schedule more than two events in a single day, but there are times when things converge. In the case of tomorrow, the third event popped up while we were on our trip and even if I had known prior to leaving I would have been committed anyway. The day will begin at 10:30 a.m. as the longest event (an annual one) I always cover in a dual role. It is somewhat related to Homestead Center for the Arts and I write the article for the paper. I will then dash home to change clothes to run by another annual event; Military Appreciation Day. Hubby is very much involved in that one and will be at the venue part of this afternoon for set-up and all day tomorrow through closing. The time on that means he can’t attend the third event which is part of the housing area we live in. That is close by though and I would ordinarily walk to it, but my plan is to drive because as soon as it’s over, I will go to Krab Kingz where I will order take-out for dinner.

Although we had discussed doing a slow cooker meal, the back-and-forth timing is likely to be a bit tricky, so carry-out will be easier and we haven’t had seafood yet this week. As I think I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had this “plus-up” of seafood places and the Krab Kingz is the one run by a very lovely couple who were the first in place. We have tried the other two which are more sit-down and therefore have a certain type of appeal. I do like to support Krab Kingz though and this will work out well.

Catch-up Time……

The trip back from Abita Springs went as smoothly as these things do with no rain, minimal construction, and the few accidents we saw didn’t affect the traffic flow on our side. We did call it quits after nine hours of driving and spent the night in Ocala. They have a couple of “motel clusters” although the only sit-down restaurant within walking distance where we were was a Cracker Barrel. A while back they started serving beer and wine although the choices are limited. Still, it works.  I had chicken fried steak and Hubby did a trout dish which I should have done myself considering everything else I’d been eating during the trip. Anyway, we did make it back Friday afternoon. I built in an extra day for being gone until Saturday since I wasn’t entirely sure how the trip would unfold between travel and tasks.

I managed to keep up with only minimal emails and am therefore spending much of the weekend catching up on the things I wasn’t able to handle before I left and a few I postponed as they came onto my “to-do” list during our absence. I did actually unpack the suitcase yesterday and start on laundry. That has been known to languish for as much as a week after a return.

While it is Mother’s Day, I think I’ve explained before we don’t go out for these occasions any longer as it tends to be rather crowded. Hubby picked up containers of lobster bisque which we will have as a starter, then he’ll grill the mahi at the same time I make the Everglades sauce we enjoy. Several months ago he started buying the frozen “crispy green beans” and later the carrot version. Since he had a rice dish last night we’ll probably do potatoes along with the beans in the oven for sides. We do still have a bottle of champagne in the fridge.