You Gonna Eat All That?

A fork in one hand, a pen in the other.

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Monday, May 30, 2005

What a vacation

View from the roof deck of the house we rented.

Got back late Saturday night from our vacation. We had a blast and really didn't want to leave. The house we rented had only one house between it and the ocean. A rooftop deck gave us great ocean views and cool ocean breezes. We spent many an hour sitting up there totally relaxed with a cool drink in hand watching the occasional pelican or two fly overhead. When the 'skeeters got too bad, we'd head down to the screened in porch where we had less of an ocean view but still had the breeze. Ahh.........

But man does not live by great views and cold beverages alone........we had some good food too. We hit some of the usual places we go to every time we're in New Smyrna Beach like JB's Fish Camp, Black Beards, and Spanish River Grill. We tried a new place called Scott's Bluewater Grille which was very good and will be in the repitoire from now on as well.

Seafood Chowder from Scott's Bluewater Grille.

At JB's you can't go wrong with the Pompano or the rock shrimp (when they have them). The pomp is best when you get it grilled. Fresh flaky fish with a mild flavor. And the rock shrimp are served steamed with a little melted butter. They're a bear to get out of their shells but the taste is worth it. Think of little miniature lobster tails. When all else fails, my backup favorite is the blackened grouper. Oh, the taste is out of this world. Flaky, like the pompano, a little meatier and with just the right amount of seasoning. It's possibly the best grouper I've ever had. Biscuit Boy is partial to the raw oysters. I've witnessed him do damage to 2 dozen on more than one occasion. Personally, I'd rather lick a cow's snout before I ate one of those slimy little buggers, but I'll take his word that they serve some of the best ones around. Second on his list of favorites at JB's are the hush puppies. And I'll agree with him on this one, they are blissfully good. Sweet cornmeal with just the right moistness to them and fried perfectly to a nice golden brown with a little crust.

Blackbeard's is another favorite place for Biscuit Boy to get his oyster fix.

A dozen oysters from Blackbeard's.

A little bit cheaper than JB's and usually just as good. Again, I'll have to take his word on it. I like the salad bar. Usually after a few days of little or no veggies, it's the perfect place to graze. There's nothing special about it, it's just a good standard salad bar. And when you get dinner there, they serve you a little bucket with hot rolls and cinnamon buns. We usually take the buns home for breakfast the next day.

A fairly new restaurant to the area is the Spanish River Grill. I overheard a waiter telling someone that they had been open 5 (or was it 6) years now. We discovered this gem last year. The owner's grandparents were from Cuba and his menu reflects much of that heritage. We went twice while we were down there, once with Biscuit Boy's parents and a couple of days later by ourselves. On our first visit, we started out with the Ceviche made from a fish called triple tail or Blackfish. It was out of this world. The fish was very tender and tasty and had just the right amount of lime juice, onion, and seasonings. Biscuit Boy ordered the Blackened Flat Iron Steak served with Lagonstino Scampi and fried potatoes. He asked the waiter for a wine recommendation and the guy knew his wine. He brought out a glass of some Spanish red that was perfect. The steak was fantastic as well. Tender as a filet and as big and beefy flavored as a sirloin. I snatched two bites but feared loosing a limb if I tried for a third. I ordered Wild King Salmon served with a sweet pepper stuffed with crab and yukon gold potatoes. The salmon was good but not the best I ever had. However, I could have eaten a dozen of the little crab stuffed peppers. The sweetness of the pepper and crab were a wonderful combination. The only problem with the meal was that we were too full for dessert. They sounded so mouth-watering that we had to go back a couple of days later.

The second time we ate there we skipped the appetizer and ate just an entree and dessert. Boy was it worth it. I ordered the Pan Seared Ahi Tuna.

Pan seared Ahi Tuna with a chimichurra rub.

It's cooked medium rare with a chimichurra rub and served with smashed yukon gold potatoes and garlic green beans. The fish was excellent and tender. The chimichurra rub added a nice flavor without overwhelming the fish. I loved the smashed yukons. They were nice and creamy without being overly rich. And the garlic green beans were amazing. If we had known how good these were, we'd have ordered another serving of them as a side dish. Garlicky, buttery and cooked until they were just barely crisp but not mushy.

Biscuit Boy ordered the whole fish of the day cooked Cuban style.

Whole Yellow Tail Snapper - Cuban Style.

The fish was a yellow tail snapper. It was fried whole and served with a cucumber-jalapeno relish over a bed of saffron rice. It was a very pretty, very tasty fish. Biscuit Boy picked it clean. While we were eating dinner, we were negotiating what to get for dessert. Several things sounded intriguing, the empanadas with guava filling, the manzano banana's foster or the chocolate bread pudding with dulce de leche ice cream. We saw the bananas foster and the chocolate bread pudding being served and both looked really good. But we were swayed by hearing all the waiters gushing over the bread pudding. We chose wisely. It was sooooooo good. It was moist and warm and had little pockets of chocolate interspersed throughout. Combined with the caramel ice cream, it was plate licking good. I kept scraping my spoon along the bottom of the plate trying to get every bit of melted ice cream. The only bread pudding better than this would be my late grandmother's.

So we enjoyed the sun, the beach and good food for two weeks and did not want to come home. It was a very relaxing trip which was much needed. The house we rented was great and I'd be glad to give anyone the owners name and number if you're interested.

Now we're back home and have the rest of the holiday weekend to re-adjust to our normal routines........and to begin planning our next trip to Florida this Fall.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Our 6th Anniversary (And comical dining)

Midway into our vacation, we also celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. Knowing a good number of restaurants in New Smyrna Beach we began to think about where to celebrate the event almost as soon as we arrived last weekend. A few places we had not eaten at before sounded interesting too. And in the end we chose a place that came recommended by a past guest at the house we had rented. It was a very tiny restaurant called "The Patio." It's a tiny little house that has been converted into a restaurant. The dining room is the old front porch that has been closed in and seats no more than 25 people. A covered patio out back seats an additional 25-30 people as well.

We drove by on Saturday, the 21st, to see if they were open on Sunday (which was our actual anniversary). One of the owners had just stepped out from the back door as we pulled in so we inquired. He said they were closed on Sundays and asked if we would like to dine tonight instead. We said sure, why not. He took our name for a 7:30 reservation then excused himself to get back to prepping for a wedding reception they were hosting that afternoon out on the covered patio.

We drove away with high hopes for a lovely evening. For the rest of the day we lulled around the house, sat up on the roof deck, took the dog down to the beach and relaxed with Biscuit Boy's parents. They had come down for a week to vacation with us. My parents came down as well for the first 5 days we were there but had already gone back home by Saturday.

Early that evening, we got dressed up, had a pre-dinner drink with the in-laws and headed out for what was planned to be a romantic dinner.

We arrived at the restaurant right at 7:30. As we pulled in we noticed that the outdoor patio was still full of people. My first thought was that the wedding party from earlier was still going strong. But that shouldn't have any effect on our dinner plans, right? Wrong..........

Turns out it was not the wedding party but a second catered event the restaurant was hosting that day. This was a birthday party with 70 guests! We didn't find out this little tid bit until we had been sitting at our table for nearly 30 minutes (without even getting our drink order taken). I was ready to get up and leave but Biscuit Boy talked me out of it. Surely the restaurant staff was prepared to handle the large party in addition to the 25 diners in the dining room, right? Wrong......again.........

There were only two wait staff for all of the guests. One spent most of her time inside trying (and failing) to keep up. The other guy flitted in and out between the large party outside and the trying to lend a hand inside.

After 45 minutes, two other tables had also been seated. They got their water glasses filled and were given a basket of warm bread. We had one set of incomplete silverware, one (now warm) glass of water and no bread. I wanted to leave again, but Biscuit Boy cooed at me and smoothed my ruffled feathers. And, it was beginning to become comical watching the harried waitress try to smile and be friendly when you knew she just wanted to scream.

Finally, she came to our table and genuinely apologized for keeping us waiting. It made me feel better that at least she knew we had been waiting. We placed our order for the appetizer, a bottle of Moet White Star Champagne and the Chateaubriand for two. She asked it we were celebrating a special occasion and we said yes, our wedding anniversary. She offered her congratulations and said she'd be right back with some warm bread and our champagne.

About 10 minutes later, she comes out to inform us that because of the large birthday party and the full dining room, the chef said he was too busy to prepare the Chateaubriand. UGH!!!! So she gave some menus, suggested a few items and left to give a few minutes to rethink our dinner choices. We were giggling now, partially out of hunger but also from the chain of events thus far. Little did we know that it wasn't over yet.......

The waitress comes back about 5 minutes later with a bottle of champagne in her hand. It's not the White Star that we ordered. She tells us, "We're completely out of all the champagne except for this. Would you like it instead?" It was a bottle of Andre. Hmm.....let me think about this........we ordered a $45 bottle of champagne.........and we're offered a $4.00 bottle instead. Uh, no.....that's quite ok.

Biscuit Boy just asked for a carafe of the house red since we both had decided on steak for dinner. But had we known what the house red tasted like, we'd have most likely just had water. I'm not sure what brand it was but we're pretty sure it was bottled last Thursday. It was pretty bad stuff but after sitting there for well over an hour, starving, we didn't care.

Our appetizer finally arrived. A portabello mushroom cap stuffed with crab (and lots of filler) and topped with cheese. It was very big and fairly tasty, but we were also very hungry and set upon it like a pack of hungry wolves. By now the cheap red wine was kicking in too. We couldn't help but laugh to ourselves about the comedy of errors but knew that the entrees had yet to come.

Biscuit Boy ordered the Filet with Stuffed Shrimp. It was ok except for the big piece of fat in the middle of it. The shrimp were as much stuffed as they were just topped with some of the same crab (and lots of filler) stuffing. The baked potatoes we each had were barely done.

I ordered the Beef Wellington. It was supposed to be done medium rare and was supposed to be a filet. It came out medium if not medium well and if it was filet, it didn't come from a cow. It was stringy and tasted like pot roast.

We ate about half of our meals and finished off the red wine (We needed something to help us through the meal). We asked the waitress to box up the rest of our dinners and got a dessert to go (A slice of the richest, fudgiest chocolate cake I've ever eaten).

Throughout the entire evening the waitress was as gracious as she could be, and it was genuine. She really wanted us to have a good evening. When she brought our bill, she only charged us for a half carafe of wine and didn't charge us for the appetizer. She didn't have to do that but she did and for that reason, I would be brave enough to give the place another try. Call me a glutton for punishment but I really think the place can do better when they aren't stretched so thin. I would be sure to go on a night when they weren't catering any large parties. You could tell they were pushed to their limits that night and just couldn't handle it.

And it did make for a memorable evening. At least the parts that the red wine didn't fuzz out. Happy Anniversary Biscuit Boy........

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Half way through vacation

Halfway through our vacation and we're having a great time. We think Biscuit Pup is having a good time too. She's chased ghost crabs across the beach, barked at turtles, chased a bunny and several lizards. Biscuit Boy got her to go in the water at the beach. Not so sure how she liked that but she didn't run back up to the dry sand so it must not have been too bad. She looked like a drowned rat.

The weather has been great so far and we've enjoyed sitting up on the roof deck of the house in the early evening watching the waves roll in and seeing the occasional dolphin jump in the water.

Biscuit Boy has eaten his share of oysters and I've had my share of blackened grouper. Life is good.
Time to go catch some rays..........

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Look out Florida, here we come!

Come tomorrow morning, we are Florida bound for 2 week! I'll try to post when I can but won't have any pictures up until we get back. Biscuit Pup wants to eat a pelican.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Paper Chef #6 Entry

Ricotta Cheesecake with white chocolate and strawberries in a graham cracker-marzipan crust

Yes, that's a mouthful of a recipe title, a very delicious mouthful. Thanks to Biscuit Boy for taking the photo's and being the official taster.

This was actually not my first idea for a recipe. The first idea I had was for a Napoleon filled with an almond paste-ricotta filling and slices of strawberries with white chocolate drizzled across the top. But I am a better cheesecake maker than pastry chef so I made my second recipe idea. A picture of a slice of the cake follows this posting.

Here's the recipe:
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (7 oz.) tube of almond paste, grated
6 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. sugar
2 (15 oz.) containers of ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 strawberry jam

Garnish: white chocolate dipped strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

To make the crust: combine the first four ingredients together in a bowl, making sure the almond paste is well blended with the graham cracker crumbs. Pour into the springform pan and press on the bottom and up the sides. Set aside.

To make the filling:
In a mixer, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, jiggle it to smooth it out. Drop spoonfuls of the jam around the top. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, swirl the jam around to marblize. Place in the oven and bake for 50-6- minutes or until the center is slightly firm to the touch. Cool completely.

Serve with white chocolate dipped strawberries.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Sun and Fun in Florida

The entire Biscuit clan is heading to the sunny beaches of Florida next week. I CAN'T WAIT! That's right fellow bloggers and bloggettes, next Friday before the sun comes up, Biscuit Boy, Biscuit Pup and I load up the car and drive to New Smyrna Beach where we're renting a house on the beach for two weeks.

We were really excited when we first planned the trip because the Space Shuttle was scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral while we were going to be down there. But darn it all, they postponed it until July. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to find something else to do with my time. Let's see, there's the beach, and hmm....let's see.....the beach and what else......Oh yes, the beach....... HAHAHAHAHA Sometimes I just crack myself up.

I still plan to post a few things while down and will add pictures when I get back. Here's a little heads up.....most of the posts will be about seafood. Imagine that.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Andale - DC Dining (part 2)

Saturday was exhausting. The library where I work held an annual community celebration program that takes 5 months of planning lots of stress and countless sleepness nights to pull off. Several of us compare to planning a big wedding every year. You plan and plan and fret and fret, get totally stressed out and on the day of the event you run yourself ragged and forget to eat. Meanwhile all your guests have a great time. Thankfully this is the last year for us to do this program. It's gotten to be too much for me and my staff to do.

Biscuit Boy has become well versed in what to do the day of this event.......walk gently around me, coo on me and take me out for dinner after it's over. Basically this translates to "be nice during the day then ply me with alcohol and feed me good food for dinner."

Biscuit Boy was our photographer this year and took a lot of really great pictures. It also got me out of the library a little earlier because we wanted to drop off the film before the photo store closed. Between digital and film cameras, he must have taken 150-200 pictures.

We stopped by the house for a little bit to walk Biscuit Pup and relax just a bit. Then we drove into DC to one of our favorite places - Andale. It's a Mexican restaurant that serves some of the best margarita's in town. I should know, I've tried my share. Plus they have about 50 different Tequila's. Biscuit Boy is the first member of their Tequila Club. He had to sample 40 of their tequila's to earn this honor. Over the course of a year, he tasted and tasted. Now he has (or will soon have) his own personalized tequila glass and a 25% discount on all of his tequila purchases. Woo Hoo. Me, I'm a margarita girl when we go to Andale.

But booze isn't the only reason to go to Andale. Good food and friends are the others. Our friend Brie, is one of the bartenders. She and the bar manager, JB, take good care of us and everyone else who sits at the bar. And it's great fun watching them work.

The food is really worth the trip. Allison Swope, the chef, is especially good when it comes to fish. If there is a seafood special listed on the night we visit, one of us will usually get it. My favorite entrees are the Enchiladas Verdes - corn tortillas dipped in a sauce of tomatillos, Serrano chiles, garlic and cilantro then filled with shredded chicken. It comes with refried black beans, sliced onions and queso fresco.
Biscuit Boy is partial to the Barbacoa de Borrego - leg of lamb rubbed with a paste of red chiles, garlic and oregano, covered with avocado leaves and slow roasted. It comes with the braising juices as soup with garbanzo beans, carrots and potatoes.

Among our favorite appetizers are the Zicil-P'ak - a spicy toasted pumpkin seed dip made with roasted tomatoes, habanero chiles and cilantro, served with warm tortillas.

Our dinner on Saturday started out with a Hibiscus Tea Margarita for me and a shot of chilled Tequila for Biscuit Boy. We chose the special appetizer which was Seared Toro Tuna with dandelion greens salad in a balsamic reduction. We fought over it. The outside of the tuna was grilled while the inside was still cool and nice and pink. It was great by itself but even better when you got some of the balsamic sauce on it. For our entrees, I got the evening special - Pacific Barracuda served over garlic mashed potatoes and Swiss chard and topped with a tomato/olive/caper sauce (I think it said it was a Veracruz sauce on the menu). I loved it. The fish was juicy and full of flavor, the mashed potatoes were creamy and galicky, and the swiss chard had just a hint of bitterness. Biscuit Boy got the Barbacoa de Borrego. This is lamb that anyone would love.

Too full for dessert but wanting something sweet, I got a Cafe Andale for dessert. I've seen Brie and JB make hundreds of them and always wanted to try one. Tonight was that night. A Cafe Andale is made with Damiana Liquor (check out the bottle on their web site), dark creme de cocoa, freshly brewed coffee then topped with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon. It was just what I needed. And after two hibiscus tea margaritas, a glass of white wine, it was all the alcohol I could handle.

Needless to say, I was full of good food and slightly buzzed. Oh, ok, I was really buzzed but oh-so relaxed. I slept like a rock that night.