Archive | June, 2008

Geier’s offers Genuine German Grub

30 Jun

Geier’s is THE Place in Sarasota for authentic German specialties

Stopped by Geier’s on my way back from Venice, FL this afternoon. They are located along a busy stretch of South Tamiami Trail and the parking lot is almost always full of cars. They have a big Bavarian following in the area, but you don’t have to be German to appreciate the fine work they are doing here. Geier’s is best known as a butcher shop offering freshly made meats and sausages without the typical preservatives. I brought home 4 bratwurst links (50% veal/50% pork), a pound of homemade sauerkraut, and a freshly baked apple strudel. The strudel, pictured below, didn’t stand a chance.

 

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Honey Chicken at Mrs. Chen’s

30 Jun

Mrs. Chen’s is a popular Chinese buffet in South Sarasota

I hit Mrs. Chen’s for the first time today. The restaurant is perhaps the best known Chinese eatery in town and a consistent award winner for Best Chinese Restaurant. The lunch buffet is a bargain at just $6.20 — dinner buffet is about $2 more. The Teriyaki chicken skewers were really tasty, but the revelation of the meal was Mrs. Chen’s honey chicken. Imagine honey-dipped fried chicken nuggets (all white meat) sprinkled with sesame seeds. Really good. They even have four different flavors of scoop your own ice cream for dessert. You won’ t go away hungry at Mrs. Chen’s place.

Crunchy and sweet on the outside, tender and savory on the inside 

The Ventures Rock Out 60’s Style

29 Jun

This was shot in Japan in 1966. Drummer Mel Taylor was awesome — plays like a man posessed and his hair doesn’t miss a beat. Great band that had (and still have) a big cult following in the Far East. The tune is the Surfari’s Wipe Out, but I always thought the Ventures’ version was superior.

Wall-E is Worth Price of Admission

29 Jun

Pixar has done it again, folks. Just when I thought Ratatouille could not be topped, a little robot named Wall E has taken animated film making to a whole new level. Without spoiling the film for you, I will just say that Wall-E is by far the most complex, multi-layered, thought provoking “kid’s” movie ever produced. The film’s producers (intentionally or unintentionally) take on diverse issues such as love, the environment, big brother, corporate America, obesity, our increasing reliance on technology, and more during this breathtaking tour de force.

I have read a lot of reviews on Wall-E, but the one that best describes the film I experienced is the following piece that recently appeared in the latest issue of The World magazine. Sure, your kids will be dazzled by the slapstick humor and cutesy characters, but adults will be challenged to consider the film’s far deeper and more important message.

You have to hand it to Pixar. Since Woody and Buzz Lightyear first charmed audiences in Toy Story, the studio has consistently managed to create characters that are imaginative, intelligent, and hugely popular. Despite the vast sums its movies gross, Pixar has yet to give in to the temptation to churn out a quick copy of a past hit to turn an even quicker buck. Instead, from The Incredibles to Ratatouille, each of its productions feels like a carefully considered original. WALL•E, which hits theaters on June 27, is no exception.

In the last few years, animated movies have been characterized by a kind of hyper-wordplay with the most frenetic comedic actors filling the main roles (think Shrek, Happy Feet, or, most recently, Kung-Fu Panda). Director and screenwriter Andrew Stanton takes WALL•E in a completely different direction. Throughout the film, the last little robot on an abandoned Earth says no more than a handful of words (though he says those few many, many times). Instead, as a near-genius score plays in the background, WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) communicates almost entirely with facial expressions and movement.

Even when he meets EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), and leaves Earth to follow her to a densely populated cruise ship in space, the film’s reliance on physicality rather than on words doesn’t change. At times, as the little trash compactor interacts with a delightful array of robots—each manifesting its own unique personality with whirrs and tilts—WALL•E plays like a new breed of silent film.

Another quintessential Pixar quality is how complex its themes tend to be compared to most kids’ entertainment. Not many animated movies are told from the perspective of the parent, like Finding Nemo, rather than child. Nor have many championed achievement rather than fairness, like The Incredibles. And though on the surface WALL•E looks like it’s selling the easiest, trendiest message going today—environmentalism—it’s too smart for that.

True, the foundation for the story is that humanity has left the planet heaped in garbage. But far weightier themes—like how technology distances us from the wonder of creation and how that distance cripples us spiritually—play a bigger role. In fact, if Stanton criticizes people for anything, it’s for worship of leisure. Because they live to be cared for rather than to care, the few human beings WALL•E meets have become, to use Stanton’s words, giant babies—literally feeding on milk rather than solid food. In contrast, WALL•E, the meek little trash collector, accepts stewardship in a way that people have rejected. And because love springs from service, he comes to love the creatures that inhabit Earth. That’s not an environmental message, it’s a biblical one.

Wall-E — the little robot who just might save the Earth

Here is one of Pixar’s trailers for the film

Backyard Citrus

29 Jun

Our citrus tree in the backyard is starting to yield some good looking fruit.

Have a peek.

Time to fire up the blender — Margarita, anyone?

Florence Keeping it Real on Food Network

29 Jun

One of our favorite Food Network chefs is Tyler Florence. He has not experienced the same over-exposure that has plagued Emeril, Rachel Ray, and Paula Deen. We originally found Paula refreshing but her act has grown stale and overbearing over time. And don’t even get us started about her two boys. Tyler keeps the focus on the food, which is where it should be, right? Florence hails from South Carolina (that’s the Dixie connection here) and often weaves a southern influence or a story from his past into his cooking presentations.

The Sunday morning show Tyler’s Ultimate is always worth watching. Each week he presents his ultimate version of a classic dish — from gnocchi to fried chicken. Florence has also written a book by the same name which includes many recipes from his early TV episodes. Check it out when you can and visit Tyler’s blog page at www.tyler1.wordpress.com

Tyler’s Ultimate Fried Chicken

1 (3 to 4 pound) chicken, cut up into 10 pieces
Kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (recommended: Srirachi)
Peanut oil, for frying
1/4 bunch fresh thyme
3 big sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 bunch fresh sage
1/2 head garlic, smashed, husk still attached
Lemon wedges, for serving

Put the chicken pieces into a large bowl. Cover the chicken with water by 1 inch; add 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water used. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

In a large shallow platter, mix the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne until well blended; season generously with salt and pepper. In another platter combine the buttermilk and hot sauce with a fork and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dredge the pieces, a few at a time, in the flour mixture,
then dip them into the buttermilk; dredge them again in the seasoned flour. Set aside and let the chicken rest while you prepare the oil.

Put about 3 inches of oil into a large deep pot; it should not come up more than half way. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and garlic to the cool oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil registers 350 to 365 degrees F on one of those clip-on deep-fry thermometers. The herbs and garlic will perfume the oil with their flavor as the oil comes up to temperature.

Once the oil has reached 350 to 365 degrees F, working in batches, carefully add the chicken pieces 3 or 4 at a time. Fry, turning the pieces once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Total cooking time should be about 30 minutes. When the chicken is done, take a big skimmer and remove the chicken pieces and herbs from the pot, shaking off as much oil as you can, and lay it on a tea towel or brown paper bag to soak up the oil. Sprinkle all over with more salt and a dusting of cracked black pepper. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces. Once all the chicken is fried, scatter the fried herbs and garlic over the top. Serve hot, with big lemon wedges.

Dixie Eats in The Old Dominion

29 Jun

Allman’s Pit Cooked BBQ is a longtime fixture in the NOVA BBQ scene

Carl’s is a classic 1950’s style ice cream stand – sadly, a dying breed

My brother Bill, who still lives in Northern Virginia, recently provided me with these pix and a brief review on two VA culinary institutions: Allman’s BBQ and Carl’s Frozen Custard — both in Fredericksburg. We will try to check both out the next time we return to my home state. They’ve both been around for decades, so we’re hoping they will continue to hang on and survive the ongoing homogenization of roadside cuisine.
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Here are the pix I shot of Allman’s and Carl’s in Fredericksburg. I sat outside in a little open air booth at Carl’s and sampled the minced BBQ pork platter with slaw and baked beans. The cue was a little dry and kind of bland without any sauce. The slaw was served with the mustard-style sauce on top instead of being mixed in and it was tasty. The beans were in a molasses base with chopped onions, pretty tasty but not warm enough. The service was good and quick.
 
At Carl’s I had a large cone (cake) with one scoop of vanilla topped with a scoop of Strawberry. It was very cold, smooth and creamy with a real natural taste of vanilla and strawberry.  Can see how it got its reputation and was doing a steady business in the mid afternoon on a Tuesday in May. They use a 1940’s-style machine to make their custard. It was like stepping back into the fifties and the prices were good – less than $3 for my large cone.

The Ultimate Wave

29 Jun

Speaking of waves, this is truly amazing.

Is it for real or an optical illusion? You be the judge.

COWABUNGA!!!

The Classic “Wave”

29 Jun

Just got a nice email from a new friend in Brazil. Seems that some of my Bossa Nova posts have attracted the attention of our neighbors to the south (South America, that is). As something of a thank you for their following, I am offering another vintage clip from the incomparable Antonio Carlos Jobim. His hits “Wave,” “Girl from Impanema,” “One Note Samba,” and others were all the rage in the early 1960s and remain jazz standards today.

Speaking of bossa nova, I just scored a couple of old LPs at a local thrift store. Both are by native Virginian (he was born in Chuckatuck) and fellow Va Tech alum Charlie Byrd. One is called Brazilian Byrd and the other is the Verve session Charlie recorded with Stan Getz. The latter is the best of the two … showcasing some of Byrd’s best guitar stylings. Brazilian Byrd is hampered by some inconsistent arrangements by Tommy Newsom (yes, the same Newsom who once led the Tonight Show band).  

Goodbye, UGA VI

29 Jun

UGA VI, the latest in a long line of University of Georgia bulldog mascots, has passed away. As you may recall, UGA’s owner Frank Seiler was a principal character in the fantastic book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  Sad that he is gone, but this dog lived a great life. Kind of funny that they keep won-loss records on the bulldogs. As you can see in the AP blurb below, this UGA was a winner!

Georgia mascot Uga VI sports a black jersey on the sidelines in Athens, Ga. The beloved University of Georgia mascot, has died from congestive heart failure at his home in Savannah on Friday, June 27, 2008. The bulldog’s owner, Frank Seiler, said the he had the best winning record of any mascot in the school’s history.