Archive | 5:44 pm

Lifeguard Stands of Siesta Key

9 Nov





Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo

9 Nov


I received a review copy of this book earlier in the week. There are some nice recipes for chilis, salsas, spreads, salads and more. In particular, I am excited about trying the recipes for Red Chili Con Carne and Anasazi Cowboy Chili (made with ground buffalo meat and Anasazi beans). The trick will be locating heirloom beans in our somewhat limited marketplace. This area (SW FL) is great for citrus, but not so much for beans.

I may try mail ordering some beans at of Berea, Kentucky. Can anyone out there in cyberspace recommend this site or another source for heirloom produce? If so, give me a holler, won’t you?

What follows is the cookbook’s product description found on the publisher’s web site:

Heirloom Beans — Who would have thought a simple bean could do so much? Heirloom bean expert Steve Sando provides descriptions of the many varieties now available, from Scarlet ­Runners to the spotted Eye of the Tiger beans. Nearly 90 recipes in the book will entice readers to cook up bowls of heartwarming Risotto and Cranberry Beans with Pancetta, or Caribbean Black Bean Soup. Close-up photos of the beans make them easy to identify. Packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins, these little treasures are the perfect addition to any meal.

Steve Sando is the founder of Rancho Gordo, the acclaimed ­specialty food company that distributes heirloom produce, seeds, and beans worldwide. He lives in Northern California. Vanessa Barrington is a writer and recipe developer. Sara Remington is a San Francisco Bay Area-based photographer.

Order your cookbook today from our friends at Chronicle Books:,book-info/store,books/products_id,7525/

Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island

9 Nov


Saturday found us on the road again. This time it was a short day trip to Anna Maria Island, which is due west of Bradenton, FL. Really nice place — and a pretty well kept secret. The island is a little oasis from the hustle and bustle (if you can call it that) of the mainland. The north end of the island, just a short ride from Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach, offers the most laid back, tucked-away vibe.


Along North Shore Road you can find the Rod and Reel Pier (and restaurant). What a cool joint — right down our proverbial alley. Or should I say pier? Anyhow, the Rod and Reel Pier was not recommended to us … we just kind of stumbled across it while exploring this part of the world. Built in 1947, the Rod and Reel is sort of a combo diner, bar, bait shop, seafood market, motel. How’s that for multi-tasking?


As you stroll down the long pier towards the main building, you can’t help but notice all the names and messages etched in the pier’s wooden planks. These planks have recently received a face lift. How do I know? Well, the first time I visited I was not quite sure whether I would get to my lunch before cracking a weathered plank and plunging to the Gulf waters below.  


 The bar and bait shop are downstairs, the grill is upstairs. Great views!


The day’s special was the Wahoo sandwich with fries and slaw for just $7.95. How could you possibly go wrong with that? It’s a good thing I acted quickly because they promptly erased the marker board and replaced Wahoo with Swordfish. Not that swordfish is a bad thing, but the Wahoo was very fresh without a hint of that kind of fishiness that most diners fear. Really good slaw, fries splashed with Crystal hot sauce, housemade tartar sauce, freshly caught fish on a Kaiser roll — what, I ask, is not to like?  


We ate outside on the deck looking back towards shore. The kids noticed that the deck was leaning a touch, which we guessed allowed for some drainage after a heavy rain. Or maybe the place is just really old and we’re all about to join the manatees for a swim?  


This mural of FL palms was seen right above the table where we dined  


Our vista as we stuffed our faces with Neptune’s bounty 


Inboards & Outboards? Funny! The kids were left scratching their heads 


The one story bungalow with Carolina blue shutters is the original fishing resort. Hey, it’s not exactly the Ritz but it gets the job done. A hearty Rod and Reel breakfast in the morning, a couple hours angling on the pier, a fresh catch for lunch, an afternoon out on the water, a few cold ones at the Tiki Bar later that evening, and a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunset. Top that!  


We’re so lucky to live on the FL coast. Natural beauty simply can’t be avoided.

Julia Reed Serves Up Another Winner

9 Nov


I just finished this fun little book — a very quick and entertaining read. However, I am far from done with Julia Reed’s latest release. Why? Because this volume is also chock full of wonderful recipes. Most Southern … many elegant … rarely a shortcut taken. Reed’s stories are always charming to read. She is a fine writer blessed with a colorful raising and an eccentric cast of family and friends.

The best yarns unfold when Julia recalls her privileged childhood in the Mississippi Delta. Some might say her stories can sometimes lean towards the high brow (see the NYC-based entries), but her earthy sense of humor never wavers. This book is a hoot from start to finish — even when Reed is tossing around high-falutin’ names like party favors. She always makes us yearn for days gone by when glamorous entertaining, a much slower pace, and gentile Southern graciousness ruled the day for the monied families of Dixie hubs like Greenville, Natchez, Clarksdale and Vicksburg. Crisp linen tablecloths, fine china, heirloom silverware, and tinkling crystal — they’re all found here.    

Julia Reed is as worldly as a gal from the Deep South can possibly get. And thank the Lord for that! This book is high cotton throughout, yet never at the risk of losing its well-centered soul.

So read on, y’all … and remember, pinkies extended!

What follows is the Product Description found at …    

Julia Reed spends a lot of time thinking about ham biscuits.  And cornbread and casseroles and the surprisingly modern ease of donning a hostess gown for one’s own party. In Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties Julia Reed collects her thoughts on good cooking and the lessons of gracious entertaining that pass from one woman to another, and takes the reader on a lively and very personal tour of the culinary—and social—South.

In essays on everything from pork chops to the perfect picnic Julia Reed revels in the simple good qualities that make the Southern table the best possible place to pull up a chair. She expounds on: the Southerner’s relentless penchant for using gelatin; why most things taste better with homemade mayonnaise; the necessity of a holiday milk punch (and, possibly, a Santa hat); how best to “cook for compliments” (at least one squash casserole and Lee Bailey’s barbequed veal are key). She provides recipes for some of the region’s best-loved dishes (cheese straws, red velvet cake, breakfast shrimp), along with her own variations on the classics, including Fried Oysters Rockefeller Salad and Creole Crab Soup. She also elaborates on worthwhile information every hostess would do well to learn: the icebreaking qualities of a Ramos gin fizz and a hot crabmeat canapé, for example; the “wow factor” intrinsic in a platter of devilled eggs or a giant silver punchbowl filled with scoops of homemade ice cream.

There is guidance on everything from the best possible way to “eat” your luck on New Year’s Day to composing a menu in honor of someone you love. Grace and hilarity under gastronomic pressure suffuse these essays, along with remembrances of her gastronomic heroes including Richard Olney, Mary Cantwell, and M.F.K. Fisher. Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties is another great book about the South from Julia Reed, a writer who makes her experiences in—and out of—the kitchen a joy to read.

Get your copy today … your party guests will thank you!