Saturday, January 23, 2010

Florida Food Fun

Florida, Florida, how do I love thy food and drink? We ate and drank our way through the Keys and Miami. I thought to capture a few of our memorable meals, but didn't get them all. There's something to be said about tasting any food sitting at an outdoor cafe in the sun when in Minnesota it is freezing. in my cold state of mind, I probably would have loved a bowl of lutefisk topped with liver sauce. The sun radiated its heat on us and warmed us up, even though the temperature probably never hit 75.
This lovely little meal was served at a roadside diner called Mile 7 Grill. The blackened grouper was huge, spicy and juicier than I thought fish could be. It came with a petite bowl of slaw (my new favorite food) and a few toppings for the fish. Where can I get this sandwich locally? It was the first in many amazing fish sandwiches on the trip. My bowl of conch (pronounced conk) soup was nothing more than a bowl of steamed frozen veggies, a squirt of ketchup and rubbery chunks of conch. Not good. At all. We kept reading about the conch chowder, but never were successful in finding to our liking. Maybe other Floridians like chewing on chopped super balls, but we were a disappointed. The Bimini bread that accompanied it was warm, soft and slightly sweet and would have been perfect with a better bowl of soup. I focused instead on stealing bites of Ron's sandwich and drinking sweet tea.

We stumbled upon this humble diner in Miami Beach called Puerto Sagua Restaurant and it was exactly what we needed. It was our last day of the trip and we were trying to see and taste as much of Miami as we could in a day, having spent an extra night in Marathon. After visiting several sights on the tourist ring, we headed for the beach for some people watching. We strolled into Puerto Sagua, parched and hungry, and were welcomed at their counter stools by a very Cuban waiter who was happy to let me practice my Spanish with him. The ice cold beer slid down nicely as we pondered our choices. Ron was more than happy with his cuban sandwich, crunchy on the outside, tender and hot inside, cheese oozing out between the ham and pork and other fillings.
I settled on the daily special of roasted chicken with rice and beans. I had already started to devour it when I realized that a photo opportunity was definitely in order. Without exaggerating, this was the best chicken I had ever eaten. Slightly greasy, but so tender and perfectly seasoned. It fell off the bone with the slightest poke of my fork. The rice comes in a lovely little mound waiting to be topped with the side bowl of black beans swimming in a pool of bean juice and mild spices. And the plantains? How do they make them so good? Perhaps the oil, but wow, I'm hooked.

Until we meet again Miami, I'll be dreaming about your food.
Anyone have a great recipe for Cuban rice and beans? I'm game!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back from a Break

We just returned from five delicious days in Florida together sans kids. It was intended as a trip to celebrate Ron's 40th birthday, in addition to all the other festivities we had around here during his actual birthday week. We hadn't been anywhere warm during the winter together in six years, so we were really looking forward to a little escape from the cold. We are very fortunate to have both sets of parents living nearby. I'm not sure that our children even noticed we were gone because they were so busy playing happily with their grandparents.
Neither of us had ever been to Florida before, so we figured that a trip to Miami and the Keys was a good introduction to the Sunshine state. We began the adventure in Miami with a trip into the Little Havana neighborhood for lunch at Versailles, a cornerstone of Cuban cuisine in Miami. Later in the trip we explored several other Miami must-see locations, including Miami Beach. We didn't have our suits on, but still strolled the beach for a few blocks and did plenty of people watching. I love the bright colors everywhere in Miami, especially on this life guard stand.
On the way down towards Key West, we stopped at a place called Robbie's where you can pay a buck to sit on their dock and watch the tarpon fish jump. For two bucks you can get a bucket of fish scraps to toss in to feed them. Unfortunately, the weather has been unseasonably cold, even for Florida and the tarpons haven't been coming around. It is just too cold. Instead we sat on the dock for free and enjoyed a cold beer and the comings-and-goings of boats in the marina. The Keys are filled with small Mom-and-Pop beachside resorts/motels such as this one where we stayed. Not fancy, but certainly comfortable, reasonably priced and very fun. Our room was literally 20 feet from the ocean and even closer to an ocean-side basket swing for two.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting our friend Sam in Key West and touring his sailboat, er, home. He took us out for some true Key West night time entertainment one night, then toured us around the marina in his dinghy. Renting bikes made it very easy to check out alot of the local haunts, cafes and tourist posts.
We returned home after four nights/five days of relaxing, reading and enjoying being just the two of us together. I feel like a new person. Now, if we could just do something about this cold January weather.
More on the food, of course, on another post.
Have you ever been? Are you off to anywhere warm soon?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More Bread... and a class!

Another amazing recipe from Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day, from the authors of Artisan Bread in Five.
This one is the recipe that calls for Bob's Red Mill 10 grain cereal, in addition to white whole wheat flour and only one cup of regular flour. The texture of the dough from few of the other recipes from their new book is a bit different from the doughs from the first book, maybe even a bit strange to work with, but this one was fine. And the bread? Beautiful! You top it with various seeds and nuts, toss in some bark and moss if you'd like, or not.
I'm very excited today because I just signed up for a class with Zoe and Jeff, the authors of the book. The class is at Cooks of Crocus Hill cooking store/cooking school. If you're interesting in joining me in the class, send me an email and I'll send you the details.
Have you been baking anything good lately, post-Christmas cookies?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Birthday Man

I was going to type "the birthday boy," but considering that he's turning 40 today, I think that merits being called a man.

Happy Birthday, Ronny. I love you from your young art museum -going self, to your early beer-can collecting self, to the feathered look with your dog Lizzie, and hanging out with Craig and Grandpa Ronny. And to the man that I know best, the one in the last photo, a mere ten years ago when you proposed to me on New Year's Eve, I wish you many, many more birthdays together.