Archive | November, 2008

Knocking Around in Arcadia, FL

30 Nov

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We made a brief pit stop in Arcadia, FL on our way back from Singer Island. Arcadia is an old agricultural and cattle town located about 45 miles due east of Sarasota. We planned on eating lunch at Slim’s BBQ, but they were sadly closed through Dec. 2nd. Undaunted, we motored on over to A Taste of Italy in the town’s historic district.

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A Taste of Italy turned out to be a pretty good 2nd choice, but don’t go if you’re in a big hurry. It took us quite a while to get a waitress to serve us. However, the food was quite good once it finally hit our table. We ordered a large pepperoni pizza cooked in their brick oven. Best of all, it only cost us about $20 to feed the entire family — and we were hungry!

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The interior of Taste of Italy included the above mural scene of Venice 

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The architecture in Arcadia is decidedly turn of the century (20th, that is) 

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 Here’s another look at the interesting design features seen downtown 

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If the pizza doesn’t fill your gut, try the Hot Fudge Shoppe right next door 

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 Their specialities include homemade ice cream &, yup, hot fudge sundaes

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Another dessert option is the Peanut Butter Pie at Wheeler’s

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Wheeler’s Southern Cooking will soon celebrate 80 years of business in Arcadia

I guess we’ll be back for some BBQ, a scoop of ice cream, and a slab of pie — GULP! For now, I better get back to the gym to make up for all this good holiday eatin’. NOTE: Arcadia is also a mecca for antique shoppers. Seems like every other storefront downtown is an antique store or flea market of some kind. Come visit and spend the day rooting around if you dig old stuff like we do.

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Christmas Time on Siesta Key

30 Nov

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Christmas season is now in full swing on beautiful Siesta Key, FL. Last night marked the Key’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting celebration. Baseball great Tim McCarver flipped the switch last year, this year it was former basketball coach and present ESPN TV personality Dick Vitale (AKA “Dickie V”).

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Vitale addressed the crowd and asked one & all to dig deep this holiday season for the Jimmy V Cancer Fund. Dickie V was a good friend of the late NC State hoops coach Jim Valvano and he continues to wage Valvano’s battle to find a cure for cancer. Vitale had some books he was selling and signing for $25 with all the proceeds going to the foundation. Great job, Dickie V … you are indeed AWESOME BABY!!!!

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I kicked in our donation to the cause & paused for a snapshot with Dickie V.

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It was then time to turn on the tree lights. It is a beautiful (and very tall) tree this year. It can be seen thru Christmas in front of Gabbiano’s Italian Restaurant in the heart of Siesta Village. Stop on by, do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat, and say hello to our good friends at the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce. Debbie, Mike and Charlie will be happy to assist you with any questions you may have. They are truly wonderful folks!

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Santa also arrived on Siesta Key last night. All the kids were thrilled to see him.  

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Sure, Christmas shopping is now fully underway. But there was another kind of shopping going on last night — Barber Shopping! These brightly clothed gents busted out some familiar harmonies inside the Village Barber Shop. Our kids enjoyed this very much. We believe it was the first time they had ever seen barber shoppers in action — excepting for a recent episode of “Flapjack” on Cartoon Network. I have always been partial to “My Wild Irish Rose” … and no, I’m not so partial to the cheap wine of the same name!

Merry Christmas from Siesta Key, where the sand is as white as freshly fallen snow!

Ever Tried Syllabub, Bub?

30 Nov

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SYLLABUB (English Sherry-Infused Mousse)
For a variation, fill the glasses halfway up with the syllabub, add a little raspberry purée or a few chopped white peaches or strawberries, and then top them off with the remaining syllabub, to create a fruity middle section to the dessert.

Put 1/3 cup superfine sugar, 1⁄4 cup oloroso sherry, 2 tbsp. cognac, 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and the zest of 1 lemon into a large bowl. Stir well, then cover and let sit out at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Add 1 3⁄4 cups plus 2 tbsp. cold heavy cream (preferably unhomogenized) and a light pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to the sherry mixture and whip with a whisk until soft peaks form. Spoon into 4 glasses and garnish each with a bit of lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary.

Serves 4.

More Holiday Cheer from Phil Spector

30 Nov

Here is part 2 of a holiday tribute to svengali Phil Spector —

Hope this helps you get into the Christmas Spirit!

The Best BBQ in London?

27 Nov

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Found this blog on WordPress.com.

It’s good to hear a take on American BBQ, Brit Style …

If there’s one thing we know how to do in the U.S., its barbeque. We have as many styles of barbeque as we have states, and we’re all positive that our version is the best. But in London, we all have the same problem: no matter how nice our flats are, they lack space for barbeque pits. Fortunately, we also have Bodean’s BBQ, the best barbeque joint in London.

Why It’s The Best: Because at Bodean’s, you’re spoiled for choice. There’s the expected barbeque fare, cooked to perfection over a wood-burning smoke pit and smothered in Bodean’s good-as-home-made barbeque sauce: baby back ribs, pork spare ribs, and pulled pork sandwiches. But Bodean’s also offers other kinds of authentic American comfort foods. Their all-beef chili hot dog is delicious, and their corn bread muffins have to be tasted to be believed. They also offer slices of surprisingly good key lime pie for dessert, a treat almost unknown outside of the U.S South. On top of the excellent food, Bodean’s also features live feeds of NCAA football games, including the annual meetings of the biggest rivals: Michigan and Ohio State (November 22), Georgia Tech and Georgia, (November 29), and Auburn and Alabama (also November 29). A hint: go on Tuesdays, when all combination dinners are a mere £10; you won’t need to eat for day afterwards.

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The Details: Bodean’s has five branches in London: Soho (Oxford Circus tube), Clapham (Clapham Common), Fulham (Fulham Broadway),Westbourne (Bayswater) and Tower Hill (Tower Hill). All serve the same menu, and take-away is available at each location.

Bodean’s BBQ

Here’s One Use for Leftover Turkey

27 Nov

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COLLARD GREENS WITH SMOKED TURKEY WINGS

SERVES 8 – 10

The lexicon of African-American foodways of the South was created, according to food historian Tracy N. Poe, through the combining of the foodstuffs and methods of African and Anglo-American cuisines. Collard greens boiled with cured meat products, whether turkey wings and necks or pork feet and hocks, is a direct offspring of that merging. This recipe is an adaptation of one in Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook by Sylvia Woods (William Morrow, 1999).

2 smoked turkey wings (about 2 1⁄2 lbs.)
3 lbs. collard greens (about 3 bunches), stemmed and
   chopped into 1″ pieces
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
White distilled vinegar
Tabasco
Corn bread

1. Put turkey wings and 6 cups water into a large tall pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add collard greens, oil, sugar, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Return to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 2 1⁄2 hours.
2. Remove turkey wings from pot, pull meat and skin from bones, and chop into small pieces (discard bones). Return meat and skin to the pot of collard greens and season with salt, pepper, vinegar, and Tabasco to taste. Scoop collard greens and their liquid into bowls and serve with corn bread on the side to soak up the “pot likker”, if you like.

Who Will Be The New White House Chef?

25 Nov

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Now, let’s get down to the truly important cabinet appointments …

CONCORD, N.H. – Speculating about a new chef at the White House has become — as one culinary insider puts it — fantasy football for foodies. But as tempting as it may be to see the Obama family’s choice as the ultimate “Top Chef” competition, former White House chefs say the job is about selfless service, not star power.

Walter Scheib, White House executive chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, believes there’s a 90 percent chance the new administration will stick with his successor, Cristeta Comerford. And if the Obamas do hire someone new, it won’t be a television personality or any of the celebrity names bandied about on food and political blogs, he said. “None of these people have any idea what the job is about,” said Scheib. “And they’re temperamentally not suited for it. You have to be a person who has a real heart of service, and it can’t be someone who needs to see themselves on camera.”

Roland Mesnier, who retired in 2004 after 25 years as the White House’s executive pastry chef, would never recommend a TV chef for the first family.Celebrity chefs, in my book, are not chefs. They’re entertainers,” he said. “All these people on TV? Forget it.”

A spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama said it’s too early to comment whether there will be a new executive chef. But outside speculation has focused on Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef; NBA star Carmelo Anthony’s personal chef, Daniel Young, who cooked for Obama at the Democratic National Convention; and Rick Bayless, whose Chicago restaurant Topolobampo is a favorite of Obama’s. At the same time, members of the Organic Consumers Association are organizing a letter-writing campaign urging Obama to promote healthy, sustainable and organic eating by hiring a well-known organic chef such as Nora Pouillon or Alice Waters.

None of the above would be a good fit, said Scheib. “I get a kick out of all these people saying the No. 1 thing should be green, or sustainable or this, that or the other thing. They’re missing the point. It’s not about advancing your agenda. It’s not about building your repertoire. It’s not about getting your business promoted,” he said. “It’s about serving the first family, first, last and in every way. That’s the only job.”

The head chef earns $80,000-$100,000 a year creating menus for state dinners, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by the president and first lady. Though the gala affairs are organizational challenges, Scheib says the greater challenge comes on the personal side: feeding the president, his family and guests. A White House chef’s sensitivity and understanding is just as important as culinary skills, given that the chef is among the few people who interact with the first family in private, Scheib and Mesnier say.

“For the domestic staff — and for all the fancy titles, that’s all the people in the residence are — how they learn the temperament and temperature of the first family is crucial. It makes doing a state dinner look easy,” said Scheib, who has written a book and started a business planning private events since leaving the White House. “The challenge is how you give them everything they need and at the same time expand their horizons if they choose, but at the same time, not being underfoot.” Or as Mesnier puts it, “You have to be almost a clairvoyant, someone who can read a crystal ball and be able to judge what would they love today.”

Both men give Comerford, the first woman and first minority to serve as executive chef, high marks in that regard. Neither believes she will be replaced, an opinion not shared by Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America, which has sent several alumni (including Scheib) to the White House. Though he says speculation about celebrity chefs is “like engaging in fantasy football,” he believes the Obamas will seize the opportunity to make changes. He suggests another CIA grad as a candidate — John Doherty, executive chef at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel — but said Obama could also shake things up with a rotating cast of big name chefs for state dinners, much in the same way John F. Kennedy invited famed artists and performers to the White House.

“Chefs are great performers. So to take a page from Kennedy’s playbook and recognize the artistic performances of the culinary greats, each state dinner could be organized by different high-profile chefs,” he said. That way, Obama could bring in chefs like Thomas Keller and Jonathan Beno — the first American chefs to be granted three Michelin stars — molecular gastronomy guru Grant Achatz or Ethiopian-born Marcus Samuelson of Aquavit restaurant. Such an arrangement would allow the president to “capture some of the star power but in a practical and realistic way,” Ryan said.

Curiosity about the White House chef is nothing new, Ryan said, but it has been amplified by the public’s Food Network-fed interest in all things food-related. “I recall back to the Reagan administration getting calls about it … so people are always interested in the White House chef,” he said. “But that said, it’s got to be exponentially greater today because the interest in food is so much greater.”

Brian Setzer’s Rockin’ Christmas

25 Nov

Enjoy this double shot of Brian Setzer holiday cheer

Merry Christmas to all — and Happy Turkey Day too!

More Cajun Goodness from Bourque’s

24 Nov

cheesy-bread

Just look at this bread, people. Do I really need to say any more?

Another part of our amazing holiday shipment from Bourque’s Specialties of Port Barre, LA was their absolutely incredible Jalapeno Cheese Sausage Bread. Oh my gosh, where do we begin to dare explain the wonders of this one of a kind belly bomb? The closest thing I can compare it to would be the Ugly Biscuits we once woofed down with glee at Fairhope, Alabama’s Biscuit King.

Yes, imagine (if you will) a larger, spicier version of the Ugly Biscuit and you’re getting close. I really hate to use the word ugly because in our eyes this bread is a “thang of beee-yooo-teee.” It’s made with smoked sausage, jalapeno peppers, Rotel tomotoes, eggs, cheese, and bread dough … but its sum is far greater than its individual parts. It’s a zesty Cajun treat — one bite and it will set you FREE! Tip: Have an ice cold beverage lurking nearby.

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Here’s an inside peek at the bread — MMMMM! 

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An old photo of Adolph Bourque (AKA “The Boss”) who started it all  

The following detail was lifted off the Bourque’s web-based emporium …  

This family owned and operated business began in the home of Adolph and Yvonne Bourque, selling a variety of home grown vegetables and other staples.  Going through five stores and fifty-six  years of hard work and dedication, the business has grown to a 20,000 square foot supermarket, located in Port Barre, Louisiana near the birthplace of Bayou Teche.  

The business also includes a full service washerteria, loan company, real estate, rental properties, etc.  Bourque’s Supermarket offers a complete line of Cajun specialty meats, homemade sausage, boudin, cracklin, homemade beef jerky, fresh produce, deli/bakery, and other great products to cook those old-fashioned Cajun recipes.  

We also make our own seasoning, fish fry, roux, chile, seafood gumbo, and homemade dressing mix.  We ship anything, anywhere. Bourque’s Supermarket is currently being operated by children and grand children of Adolph and Yvonne Bourque.

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As you can see, Adolph’s image adorns most of the product packaging at Bourque’s. What a great way for folks to remember and pay their respects to the Bayou genius who founded the company more than a half century ago. We recently sampled their Crab and Corn Bisque for the first time — and it will not be the last. It’s super creamy and accented with just the right blend of spice.

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This is a vintage image of Adolph & his empire (Circa 1962)

I have learned not to add any salt, pepper, hot sauce, or other spice blends to any of the Bourque’s culinary creations. The Bourque boys like it good and spicy and that is more than A-O-K with yours truly. This is good soup, y’all — and I’ll also tell you what it is not. It’s NOT loaded with any artificial ingredients or preservatives. And meaty crabs gave their lives. They didn’t just crawl through the pot.

Come and get it, chere — it’s the REAL DEAL!!!

Figs in Brandy for Thanksgiving

24 Nov

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FIGS IN BRANDY

My radio air name was once The Rockin’ Fig (no lie), so I know a little something about these sweet little rascals. Yes, I love me some good old fresh figs. Our friends the Lehman’s in Mississippi had fig trees in their yard, but that source is out of reach now that we are in sunny FL. Never fear, my figgy friends … I will find some before you know it. Can’t wait to give this one a try!
MAKES 4 PINTS

Preserving figs in citric acid and brandy helps prevent the growth of microorganisms in the fruit, and boiling the mixture in canning jars produces an airtight seal. If you have leftover fig syrup when you are finished canning, strain and refrigerate it to drizzle over ice cream or to stir into iced tea.

2 lbs. dried figs (preferably calimyrna),
   soaked in water and refrigerated overnight
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups brandy
1 tsp. citric acid

1. Drain the figs, then transfer to a 4-quart saucepan and cover with 6 cups water. Bring water to a boil over a high heat and cook for 15 minutes. Add the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine, and return to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup brandy. Bring mixture back to a boil, then remove it from the heat and set aside.

2. Place four 1-pint canning jars along with their bands and lids in a 6-quart pot of boiling water and leave for 30 seconds. With tongs, transfer the jars, bands, and lids to a kitchen towel on the counter. Let air-dry. When the jars are dry, add 1/4 tsp. citric acid to each. Using a slotted spoon, remove the figs from the saucepan and pack them into the jars. Then pour the brandy syrup over the figs, leaving 1″ of space below the rims of the jars. (Pour in more brandy if the syrup does not reach the top of the figs.) Wipe the rims of the jars with a hot damp towel. Cover and seal each jar with a lid and screw the bands on tightly.

3. Place the jars in a large pot fitted with a rack; pour in enough water to cover the jars by at least 3″. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil for 20 minutes. (When using this recipe at altitudes of 1,001 to 6,000 feet, add 20 more minutes of processing time; above 6,000 feet, add another 5 minutes.) Turn off the heat; let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer jars to a kitchen towel and let cool for 6 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Refrigerate after opening.

http://www.calfreshfigs.com/ for more information