August 30, 2008

Blue Crab Boil!!

This morning, TLMM and JAM set out to find scallops at our local seafood market. Imagine my surprise when they returned with at least three dozen live blue crabs!! Fortunately, I had Zatarain's, lemons and Old Bay Seasoning on hand. We carefully put the crabs in a large cooler covered in a thin layer of ice. You don't want to dump a lot of ice on live crabs because as the ice melts, they will drown. Your goal is to keep these little buggers alive until you cook them.

I didn't have a super huge stock pot to use to boil the crabs, so I used a large pot and cooked them in three batches. A dozen at a time was perfect since that is what the instructions on the Zatarain's box called for.

Simply follow the instructions on the box (I had two boxes of regular and one box of spicy). We have a burner on our propane grill, so I decided to do the boiling outside. Any part of crab cooking you can do outside is a good thing. Trust me on this!

Put 3 quarts of water, 4 tablespoons of salt, the pouch of seasoning and a quartered lemon in a large pot.  Add a teaspoon of vinegar to make cleaning the crabs easier later.  Bring to boil.  Add crabs.  Boil crabs for 6 minutes for medium-sized crabs. Turn off heat and let them sit in water for 20 minutes. Remove, cool and either eat them immediately or refrigerate until you're ready to eat!  

The recipe is easy- it's the cleaning and eating where the work comes in.  You can either clean them "a la Pop" (pick some crabs clean until you have a nice, tidy pile of crabmeat, then go wash your hands and then eat) or just eat them like normal people do (pick and eat all at once)!  Use a small wooden mallet or a hand held nutcracker. Dip in hot melted butter. You are guaranteed fresh, delicious, sweet sweet crab meat...and the eggs.

August 28, 2008

Tobacco Road!

Tobacco Road, Miami's oldest bar, has been around since 1912. Tobacco Road is still a bar, but it's also a restaurant and concert locale.  We recently had lunch there and learned that they serve a mean hamburger and fries!  They have a large salad and sandwich menu, which you can find on their website here.   Here are just some of the burger and fries and salads our group enjoyed there.

Classic Roadburger with fried egg.

Classic Roadburger with salad!

Caesar Salad with chicken breast strips.

We also had a classic burger with jalepeno peppers and fries and Q ordered a turkey burger. They were fresh out of turkey burgers, so she opted for a regular burger on healthier bread.

The burgers were delicious- the service was slow.  You have to accept this place for what it is and not expect professional, detail-oriented service staff.  It's a bar that has a decent food! Don't expect more and you will not be disappointed.  There is a large section outside which would be a blast to hang out in for happy hour.  I would definitely go back there to hear a band, have a drink or even for a fantastic burger and crappy service...and the eggs.

Tobacco Road on Urbanspoon

August 26, 2008

An Interesting Statistic

While listening to the radio on the drive to work this morning, I heard a commercial for Publix brand paper towels, which are on sale right now for $.89 a roll with a 4 roll limit. In the commercial, the voice tells us that the average American family uses one and one half rolls of paper towels per week. I consider myself fairly average- but my family of two people, three dogs and one bird is evidently anything but. We go through at least one roll of paper towels per day. That is at least seven rolls per week! Bounty. Regular or Mega-Rolls, Select-A-Size (which TLMM loathes because she never can select the size she needs)-- it makes no difference. Where did Publix get that statistic? Could we really be that abnormal, using almost 700% more rolls of paper towels than the average family? How many rolls does your family use?? I've gotta know...and the eggs.

August 24, 2008

Miami Spice: Rosa Mexicano

During the annual Miami Spice event, the restaurants considered Miami's best offer three-course meals (lunch for $23, dinner for $36) featuring signature dishes by the chefs. My first Miami Spice event was lunch at Rosa Mexicano, a restaurant in Mary Brickell Village. Rosa Mexicana has eight locations throughout the U.S. with three more being added in the next year. It's upscale Mexican food a la P.F. Chang's with food that is much more memorable.

I was happy that my new co-workers asked me to join them for lunch! At Rosa, the Miami Spice menu offers three appetizers.

Guacamole en Moicajete, which is for two or more, is made tableside. It's fun to watch and while it might be a little gimmicky, it was -- hands down -- the best guacamole I have ever tasted, and I have eaten a lot of guacamole! Fortunately, I was watching it being prepared and spotted the cilantro in time to ask that it not be included in one of the orders. It was simple as could be which might be the secret to guacamole. I think it's harder to recreate this at home only because unless that's all you are making, it has to sit for at least a few minutes, which detracts from the overall flavor. I know this serving was for two but the only thing keeping me from not eating it all myself was the other food to come. Oh, and the fact that I didn't want my new friends to think I am a hog. I can't wait to go back to Rosa one evening and enjoy drinks with guacamole and chips. Chances are they make a mean margarita! Okay- this was just the first in a trio of surprisingly good appetizers.

Sopa de Tortilla - Pasilla chile soup with grilled chicken, avocado, shredded cheese, crema and crispy tortilla chips. Ask for spicy!

Flautas de Pollo - Rolled crispy chicken tacos topped with salsa pasilla de Oaxaca, salsa verde and sour cream. Very tasty!

The main dishes were Ensalada de la Calle which is Mexico City street salad with grilled chopped chicken tossed with mango, pineapple, jicama and toasted pumpkin seeds with honey-lime vinagrette. Sounds good, but no one in our party ordered it.

Salmon en Manchamanteles- Grilled organic salmon over black beans with zucchini and roasted corn mole of ancho chilies and tropical fruits. Everything was just fresh and simple. I tasted this dish, and loved it- the flavors all complimented each other and the fruit made it even better.  I love fruit in savory dishes, but I never use it in cooking at home.  Maybe I should start.

Enchiladas Suizas- Two soft corn tortillas filled with pulled roasted chicken, topped with a creamy tomatillo sauce and queso fresco. A few ordered this, including me, and it was amazing. The chicken was fresh and tender, the corn tortillas gave the dish the perfect flavor and the sauce was very good. The only thing I didn't like about the dish was the gratuitous cilantro on top. None of my dining companions minded it- except for Q (she who knows everything) who said she didn't like it either.

Dessert! This is the Pastel de Queso- Rich, creamy cheesecake filled with baked apple cajeta sauce. It was amazing. I think almost everyone else asked for their dessert to go, but somehow I managed to eat all of mine. The other choice for dessert was Flan- coconut flan served with toasted pineapple-vanilla sabayon. I don't think you could go wrong with either choice.

I highly recommend Rosa Mexicano for as long as the quality of food is sustained. I hope that it lasts, but my last few trips to P.F. Chang's at the Falls were highly disappointing. I think it initially went wrong with the staff (not a big surprise for a restaurant at a mall) and the lack of quality eventually trickled down to the food. I pray Rosa Mexicano will avoid that trap. I expect it will, especially if this visit was any indication.

Is it good news or bad news that Rosa is within walking distance from my new office? Will my veins soon bleed green, filled with guacamole? That remains to be seen, but for the time being, I am happy to have found this restaurant and this group of people. Co-workers who enjoy a good restaurant now and then and who were kind enough to invite me along. I don't think they minded my picture taking- if they did, they were nice enough not to say anything about it!  So thank you to them. My new job seems like the perfect fit...and the eggs.

Rosa Mexicano on Urbanspoon

August 21, 2008

Back to Cooking- Risotto with Portabella Mushrooms and Onions

Getting back to some cooking, I thought I'd try to make something I had never made before- Risotto. Sounds easy enough and while it is an interactive recipe (labor intensive with all the stirring and watching), it was fun to watch chemistry work through cooking at its best!

Chop a container of baby portabellos and one large white onion. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy pot over medium-high. Add onions and mushrooms and stir until onions are softened, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in two cups of rice and a teaspoon of salt. Add three cups of broth (I used both chicken and vegetable broth) and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat so that the contents simmer until the broth is absorbed, 8-10 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and stir frequently until absorbed. Add additional broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring somewhere in between frequently and constantly until absorbed. Do this until the rice is creamy but still a little firm in the center. According to the recipe, this should have taken 30-45 minutes, but it took mine longer- just over an hour to reach the perfect consistency.

After adding third 1/2 cup of broth.

Close-up of the delicious creaminess!

When the risotto has cooked, you will know it- first of all, it has tripled in volume. The rice is cooked through but has not lost its firmness. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 or more grated Parmesan cheese. Serve warm! This works for a main dish or a side dish. I just go ahead and make it a main dish- and it would make a good vegetarian main dish, too. So if you have been afraid to try risotto at home, don't be- it's easy, and all that stirring gives your arms a nice workout...and the eggs.

August 19, 2008

Shirley Valentine Weekend

The worst of the weather has passed and all is well! As you must already know, we planned our recent trip to Richmond to see Muffinface in her second one woman show! We had the pleasure (thank you, Gretchen) of seeing Gretchen, Harry and Allie (Harry and Allison pictured above) during one afternoon. My dad and Kitty-mom made Richmond a stopping point on their way home from North Carolina. We went to Liberty Valance, a themed steakhouse and neighborhood staple (just don't ask me which neighborhood)!

That's Allie, showing off her special talent of trapping iced tea in a straw!

Later that evening, at Hanover Tavern, we met up with Sparki and the Dean and Phil (here's Phil sans Vicki). I guess I was more preoccupied with getting photos of the food than of all the people!

Here's Sparki and behind him is the Shirley Valentine set. He looks very excited! We were all excited to see Muffinface portray the title character. As soon as the lights came up, I saw my sister for one beat and then realized we were actually watching Shirley. We weren't watching someone play her. Of all the theater I have enjoyed starring my sister-- and there has been loads of it considering she has been doing this all of her life-- this piece was, by far, my favorite. The story is that Shirley and her husband raised their children and now live a predictable day-to-day existence. A 42-year old Shirley wonders what happened to her life and realizes (as she talks to her kitchen wall) that she has wasted her potential and hasn't exactly lived her life the way she imagined she would. She escapes to Greece on a trip with a friend and finally comes into her own. I'm the same age as Shirley and a few years ago, I took stock of my life and took steps to change things. The message in Shirley Valentine is universal, timeless and I could feel the energy in the theater as every audience member took the journey with Shirley.

After the play, we met up with my sister, Steve P., my sister's BFF, and a few others. We went to Davis and Main, another restaurant, for a few drinks. Some had dessert. We had time to sit and to catch up on things with friends we hadn't seen in a few years, and my dad and Kitty-Mom who we hadn't seen since their recent trip to Russia. You know how there are people you might not see for a couple of years or even more and 5 minutes after you see them you feel that no time has passed? That's what this night was like. It was one of those treasured times when you are physically surrounded by family (whether they are blood relatives or not). I wish we could do it all over again tomorrow.

We bid our farewells and went home to my sister's house to collapse. The next day, as we made our way to the airport and back to Florida, the weekend seemed like a blur- a dream- but we had no regrets, having fit a week of visiting (and eating) into two short days...and the eggs.

August 18, 2008

Just in case...

If you don't see new posts for a couple of days, it's because we lost power. Tropical Storm Fay is not forecast to deliver a direct hit to our area (not that you could tell from the satellite graphic above), but we are in the cone. High winds are enough to pull the plug in these parts. If that happens, we'll be doing some creative cooking to save the contents of our refrigerator and freezer- it might be interesting. At one point during the 2005 season, we were without power for a week. Our neighbor pulled a grill out onto the front lawn and all of the other neighbors brought their quickly thawing meat for a candle-lit cookout. Another neighbor brought ice so we cooled down our remaining stores of beer and had a good old time. It was the bright point in an otherwise very trying, hot, traumatic week. We have since moved, but hope that if the worst should happen, we will at least spend some quality time with some folks in the 'hood...and the eggs.

August 16, 2008

Hanover Tavern and The Barksdale Theater

Just outside of Richmond, Virginia, is the Hanover Tavern, which was built in 1791 and has just undergone a 15 year renovation. Upstairs is Michelle's at Hanover Tavern- see the website here. Downstairs is the Barksdale Theater. The setup is perfect for dinner and a show, which is exactly what we did while we were there. As we walked from the gravel parking lot to the building, I knew it would be a magical night! First, the dinner.

On the Summer 2008 Theater Menu, there are a choice of 7 first courses, 7 second courses and 3 desserts. I think we hit just about all of the courses with our party of 8, so let's get started! We ordered a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir to start off right.

Kitty-Mom ordered Watermelon Gazpacho. An excellent take on ordinary gazpacho, making it extraordinary. If it hadn't had cilantro in it, it would have been flawless.

She Crab Soup. One of the best I have ever tasted- mellow, creamy- just crabby enough. Hot, delicious. I wish TLMM had ordered two.

The Dean ordered Caesar Salad. Looked lovely- he said it tasted great. Fresh ingredients and zingy dressing!

I couldn't resist ordering crab dip- and look at it! It is meant to be an appetizer for one person, but it was enough for everyone at our table to have some. Very good- the roasted peppers gave it a bit of a different flavor, I want to try to make this at home.

Either Phil or Vicky ordered Fried Green Tomatoes. They enjoyed them very much- I forgot to ask for a bite!

Sparki ordered the Hanover Tomatoes with Fresh Mozzarella, which he said was very good. The balsamic reduction definitely boosted the whole dish to another level.

Finally, my dad's Fried Chesapeake Oysters. He liked them. I didn't taste them but the plate sure looks pretty! We had every first course on our table except for the House Salad.

On to the Second Courses.  Crab cakes- man, oh man they looked excellent.  They were served with apple and celery root remoulade, asparagus and Carolina Plantation rice with ham and chives.  

Several people ordered duck, which was served with basmati rice, sauteed mustard greens and peach butter. The general consensus was that the duck was too dry - but edible. It was the only disappointing entree.

The Filet Mignon came with port-black pepper demi-glace, truffle mashed potatoes and warm local tomato salad. Several also ordered this. I loved it- the pepper sauce was subtle yet still peppery. The mashed potatoes were creamy and wonderful. I think I ate every morsel on my plate!

Pork tenderloin with charred tomato BBQ, Napa cabbage slaw Byrd's Mill Grits.   Well, that's what the menu said anyway- this is clearly not cabbage slaw.  It was the mustard greens that came with the duck.  Sparki didn't like them, not one little bit, but he loved everything else on his plate.

Pan Seared Salmon with Silver Queen corn succotash, roasted potatoes and lemon emulsion.  I didn't have a taste of this, but I wish that I did.  It looked excellent and smelled even better.  As much as I love red meat, I think I would order this on my next visit.  

We had every entree on the menu except for Vegetarian Risotto and Chicken Pasta.  By the time we finished our entrees, we didn't think we could eat another bite.  But you get free dessert so we all thought we'd give it the old college try.

Coffee for everyone, and then we had at the desserts. Chocolate Pecan Pie was so scrumptious I couldn't eat just one bite like I had planned to. So good- the perfect amount of pecans, chocolate and crust. Mmmmmmm!

Creme Brulee.

Finally, the piece de resistance for the entire evening- Strawberry Shortcake. If you have never tried this dish in the South, I highly suggest you do. The biscuits were tender and flaky, the strawberries ripe as can be and the cream was fresh. The combination was out of this world.

If you are ever in the Richmond, Virginia area and get a hankerin' for dinner and a show, this picturesque rural location is not to be missed. We spoke with several folks from the D.C. area, , so the word has already spread. In addition to the quality dining in Richmond, there is an active theater community and are always several shows open. The weekend we were there, I know of at least three- Shirley Valentine (the reason for our visit), Guys and Dolls and Little Shop of Horrors!

My hunch was right and the evening did prove to be magical.  After that marvelous dinner, the eight of us walked downstairs, met up with more friends and went into the theater to enjoy a couple of hours of Shirley Valentine, starring my own little baby sister, Jill Bari Steinberg, aka Muffinface. That experience, and the hours we spent visiting afterward, are the topic of my next post...stay tuned...and the eggs.

August 11, 2008

The White Dog, Richmond, Virginia

A few hours after our arrival in the capital city of Richmond, Virginia, we were off to one of our favorite restaurants, The White Dog, in the Fan neighborhood. The restaurant is named for Max, a mutt who was adopted from the SPCA in 1992 by the restaurant's owner.

The first thing you might notice upon arrival is the availability of good beer on tap! They have Boddington, Stella Artois, Blue Moon and others. You might also notice the original artwork adorning the walls. They were all painted by Roslyn Pruitt, Max's mommy and local artist. You might notice all these things. Even if you don't, there is one thing that won't go unnoticed- the quality of the food!

First, a few appetizers! I had never tried this Wilted Spinach with Walnut & Brown Sugar Crusted Chevre Cheese and Bacon Vinaigrette. It is now one of my very favorite dishes anywhere! The flavors were made for each other- and the amount of each on the plate was perfectly planned.

The Bruschetta Trio- artichoke spread, hummus and sun dried tomato pesto with feta. Mmmm. Despite my unnatural love of artichokes, my favorite was the sun dried tomato with feta.

The Captain ordered the Soup of the Day, which was seafood chowder on this day. He gave it rave reviews- by the time I thought to ask for a taste, it was gone. Maybe he'll post a comment describing it.

Max's Carnivore Special for the night was lamb glazed with mustard sauce. TLMM can't pass up lamb, and she happily reported that this might have been the best lamb she had ever had.

I ordered Black Angus New York Strip with Roasted Garlic Glaze. I chose cheddar grits for the side dish- the steak was good but the cheddar grits were stellar. Grits always taste better in Virginia. Speaking of sides, the choices for the day were mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cheddar grits, herbed orzo and collard greens.

The Captain had Grilled Flank Steak in a Mongolian Marinade. I didn't forget to ask for a taste, which was advantageous since he did go on to finish every morsel on his plate. The steak was tender, well seasoned and melt in your mouth delicious!

There were so many other entrees that sound mouth-watering. One of these I had during my last visit- "Beggar's Purse" Pasta stuffed with Cheese and Pear served with Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Toasted Pine Nuts and Spinach in a White Wine Butter Sauce. How about Pan Seared Scallops with Bacon, Artichoke Hearts, Red Onion, Tomatoes, Leeks, Spinach and Garlic in a light cream sauce over Herbed Orzo? There is Bourbon Spiked BBQ Shrimp and they also have Seafood and Vegetarian specials daily.

You might be surprised at the restaurant scene in Richmond. The food is inventive and there is always something on the menu reminiscent of true Southern cooking. Our first meal in Richmond was a winner, and would be a tough act to follow...and the eggs.

White Dog on Urbanspoon