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)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The long awaited vacation report

We rented a condo on the northern end of New Smyrna Beach in a complex called the Minorca.The 9th floor unit we rented faced the ocean as well as the inlet between New Smyrna Beach and the Daytona area. Just outside the Minorca complex lies Smyrna Dunes Park. So when we weren't watching boats come in and out of the inlet, or the surfers, or the guy fishing up on the jetty,
we had the beautiful Dunes Park to look at. It was quite a beautiful location. My one complaint about the place (and I'll only mention it once) was that the building was undergoing a external renovation. New railings along the walkways and balconies; resurfacing the walkways and balconies; and replacement of all the windows. And no, we didn't know about this until we got there. However, it didn't detract from our trip, we just didn't go to close to the edge of the balcony and put up with one window in the unit being replaced while we were there. The place will look great once it's done. On the day we arrived, we followed our usual routine.....go to the Publix for coffee, breakfast eats, ect.

Once we did that our next plan of action was to decide where to have dinner. Blackbeards won out because Jim was craving some oysters. And for some odd reason, I only wanted a nice big salad and Blackbeards has a decent salad bar. Blackbeards is a cool place, the bar area looks like a you'd expect a motorcycle gang to arrive at any moment but it's very friendly, families sit at the table often and it's dark cool interior make for a nice break in the middle of those hot Florida days.

So when we got there we bellied up the bar and got a beer. Ah.....we were starting to relax. Two dozen raw oysters and one big salad later, we were happy campers. We contemplated what to do after dinner but a full day of getting to the airport, driving an hour to New Smyrna, unpacked, ect., left us pooped out. Plus we had full bellies. Back to the condo.

The few days were spent either by taking an early morning walk along the beach or just sitting on the couch watching the beach come alive with men fishing, boats sailing and cars driving up and down the sands. I made my usual shopping pilgrimage to Bealls. I love this place and make a visit everytime we go to Florida. They have a good selection of nice light weight clothes for the warmer weather and with DC being the muggy mess it is during the summer, these clothes do just fine up here. Plus they usually have some funky patterns and styles that one can could only find in a beach town. I have a pair of white capri pants with flamingos stitched all over them. Little pink flamingos with blue legs. Cool.

Jim spent one morning kayaking along a waterway called Spruce Creek. He had a great time, took several picture, tried to catch some fish and forgot about sunscreen. His legs took the brunt of it. From his swim suit down, his legs were bright red. It looked like he was wearing red stocking. I kept looking at him and laughing. Bright RED up to mid thigh then WHITE. It was sexy in an odd twisted way.......

Fishing was fun but lets just say that I'm glad we didn't have to reply on it as a means for food. We would have starved. Jim caught one nice sized Mangrove Snapper and if he had caught another, dinner would be served. But alas, Mr. Snapper was set free and we went out to a new place in town for dinner.
I'd read about Romescos on a food board online. There wasn't that much about it except that it served small dishes and had lots of nice wines to choose from. It was enough to get my attention so we planned to have dinner there.

Located at 424 Canal Street, Romesco's is a big warm and inviting space. High ceilings, brick walls on either side, and a bar towards the back. The bar was a beautiful dark wood with sections back lit with the restaurants name. Their chose of seating threw me off. They had aluminum outdoor chairs with plastic woven seats and backs. They were not comfortable at all. When we spied to regular wooded bar seats become available (the only two we saw in the place) we quickly swapped out. They were much more comfortable.

We started out our dinner with two appetizers, garlic poppers and peppers (Desensitized sweet crunchy garlic with red jalapeno peppers) and Gambas Al Ajillo (jumbo shrimp roasted in a Cazuela dish with Spanish pimenton paprika, olive oil, Fino Sherry, garlic and parsley. Served with bread to sop up the garlic sauce).

Jim ordered a glass of white wine, Casa Maro Verdejo. I chose one of the many wine flights they offered. My choice, the Briarpatch Reds Flight. Three 2 ounce servings of reds: A-Mano, Primotivo, Puglia, Italy; Ravenswood, Old Vines Zinfandel, Lodi California; and Marquis - Phillips, Shiraz, S.E. Australia. The A-mano had a wonderful nose and went great with the shrimp appetizer. The Ravenswood was a perfect match for the garlic poppers and was the lightest of the three wines. The Marquis shiraz was a typical jammy fruitbomb and if we'd had anything with chocolate for dessert, this would have been a wonderful accompaniment.

Next we mulled over which of the little pizzas offered on the menu. We narrowed it down to two, the Greco di Tufo (shrimp, pesto parmigiano, mozzarella and olive oil) and the Amarone (prosciutto di parma, gorganzola, radicchio, chipoline and topped with truffle oil). We LOVED the Greco di Tufo! The pesto base with the cheese and shrimp tasted so good. We both commented that we'll have to make one of these at home. The Amarone was ok, I don't think there were really chipoline onions on it, the thin onion slices looked far too big to be a chipoline and there was way too much of it on the pizza. The onion over powered it. And the truffle oil was very faint.

Would we go back again? Sure. There was still plenty on the menu to explore and they have a list of panino sandwiches that we would want to try next time.

A few nights later we ate at Scott's Bluewater Grill (but forgot the camera). The owner has a special each month from a country or region that touches a body of water, which is where the bluewater part of the restaurants name comes in. This month's country was Spain. We each chose one of the special entrees but not before we had an appetizer of squid steaks served with three dipping sauces. The steaks were about 1/4 inch thick and just slightly chewy. I can't remember exactly what was in each of the dipping sauces were but one had a roasted garlic base, the next a red pepper base and the third was made with capers and reminded us of a tarter sauce.

For our entrees Jim got swordfish served with a rich tomato sauce and saffron rice. The sauce was mostly nice little chunks of tomato, fresh and bursting with flavor. The fish was superb. I don't know how they cooked it perfectly through yet kept it so moist! I snatched to bites off the plate. My entree was the seafood paella. Served in a good sized bowl with shrimp, squid, clams it was delicious. Even the clams, which I normally wouldn't touch. We left feeling full but not so stuffed to be miserable. Afterall, we had key lime pie back at the condo waiting on us. As for future visits to Scott' will always be on our list of places to eat while in New Smyrna Beach.

Another place that will be a regular stop is Spanish River Grill. We skipped appetizers there because I wanted their chocolate bread pudding for dessert. It's wonderful stuff and is one thing that will bring me back. The rest of the menu will also call to us when we're in town. I've always gotten one of the fish dishes and feel this is where the place really shows its stuff.
That night they had a potato crusted black grouper served over black bean as their fish special. Since I love grouper and black beans, this was a no-brainer. The fish was moist and flaky and very tasty. The black beans were nicely seasoned with cumin and garlic and added a little texture to the dish.

Jim got a steak with a chimicurri seasoning. He had it last year and enjoyed it so much he wanted it again. It's topped with shrimp and served with a choice of potato. The steak was very tasty but the shrimp were disappointing. Soft and flavorless, they tasted like they had been in the freezer a bit too long.
However, the bread pudding was still as good as I remember. Served warm with a scoop of caramel ice cream and filled with little pockets of warm gooey chocolate. Jim ate a few bites then just let me have at it. He's lucky I didn't lick the plate.

And what trip to New Smyrna Beach would be complete without at least a few trips to JB's Fishcamp. It's rustic, it's rowdy and it's our favorite place of all when we're in town. We went for lunch one day then dinner a few days later. When you go, it's always fun to walk out on the little pier to watch for dolphin or manatees. Our pre dinner entertainment was watching a manatee bob it's head up for air as it swam leisurely down the waterway. It was nice. During dinner a storm rolled in and we watched the sky light up off to the west while we dined on fried oysters (for Jim) and stuffed grouper (for me). We had a slice of their orange pie but thought it wasn't as good as it used to be. It could be that it was still frozen when we got it or they've changed the recipe. Should have gotten key lime instead.

So as far as food goes those were the highlights. But for me, the real highlight of the trip was getting to see the Atlantis launch. Cape Canaveral is about 30 miles south of New Smyrna Beach and there's not much between the two but sand and dunes. All the locals we talked to said not to bother driving down to Titusville or points south, just walk out to the beach and look'll see it. And sure enough we did! IT WAS SOOOOO COOL!!!!

It launched two days before our trip was over and what a way to end the trip. About 11:30 that morning, we walked out to the beach and waited. Then we saw this bright orange streak rise from the horizon. It went straight up then curved northward towards New Smyrna Beach. Although it was hazy, you could just barely make out the white image of the shuttle. It went up and and up leaving a curly white contrail behind it. Then the orange flame began to fade to white and the shuttle went so far up we lost sight of it and in the picture below, if you look closely, you can see the two orange glows from the boosters as they separate from the shuttle and fall away to land in the ocean. A few seconds after we lost sight, we heard the boom, boom, boom, boom of the launch. It was as cool as actually seeing the shuttle.

We came home tanned and relaxed and ready to go back.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Five things to eat before you die

I'm still working on getting my post vacation post written up but in the meantime I've been tagged by Pat over at Up a Creek without a PatL for the Five to Eat Before You Die meme.

So without further ado.....

5. Kobe Beef - These critters are massaged, fed sake and beer and lead a pampered, stressfree life. The meat is reputed to be the most tender and flavorful in the world. Serve me up a fillet please.

4. Key Lime Pie from The Blonde Giraffe. We' eat our share of key lime pie whenever we're in Florida. It's almost a tradition to get a slice after dinner and if we're too full, we have the restaurant box it to go then have it later on that night. And while most are good, there is one that just blew me away. Blonde Giraffe. They're only located in the Keys and Miami area so if you're ever down that way, find one of their shops. So why is this one so much better? The typical key lime pie is made with a graham cracker crust and sometimes topped with a little whipped cream. Blonde Giraffe's is made with a cookie dough crust and topped with meringue. But it's not all about the crust and topping. The balance between tart and sweet in the filling is prefect.

3. Dinner at French Laundry. Continuously one of the top rated restaurants in the U.S. Friends of ours went on their honeymoon last year and raved about it. I bet they can still describe what they had in minute detail, it was just that good.

2. Oysters from the Galway Oyster Festival - This was Jim's pick. I'm not much of an oyster fan but he is and has wanted to go to Ireland for this annual event for several years now. All I can say is that once his plane hits Irish soil, the oysters better be scared. I've seen him do some serious damage to a tray of raw oysters many a time in Florida.

1. Truffles. No, no the chocolate variety, the fungus kind that are found underground by pigs. I recently bought some Wegman's Olive Oil infused with Black Truffle (and has two little pieces of truffle in the bottle) and Is there anything this stuff doesn't taste good on?? Seriously! The first thing I tried it on was some pizza crust. Heaven. Then we put some on a scallop dish. Bliss. There was also my first attempt at risotto that I added a few drops of oil to at the end. Smack your mama good! Now there are some olive oils on the market that say they are flavored with truffle and they may indeed smell like there is truffle flavor in the bottle but one taste will leave you wondering where's the truffle? All you taste is olive oil. Get the stuff from Wegman's if there's one in your area or find some good stuff online.

I can only imagine how good using actual truffles in a dish must taste if that oil is so yummy.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Back from Vacation

I haven't posted in a while because we just got back from spending just over a week in Florida. Lots of sun, sand, seafood and a space shuttle launch pretty much sum up the trip. We stayed in a nice one bedroom condo in New Smyrna Beach that overlooked the Smyrna Dunes Park, the Ponce Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. Very nice......I could have sat there all day watching the water, surfers and ships coming and going from the inlet.

Jim and I spent some time fishing, well......mostly Jim. I tried my hand at it a few times but never got so much as a nibble. Jim caught a nice Mangrove Snapper.

The highlight of the trip for me had to be seeing the Space Shuttle launch. We were about 30 miles up the coast from Cape Canaveral and were told by all the locals that we had a good view right from the beach. And indeed we did. At 11:15, Saturday morning we saw this blaze of orange shoot from the horizon and climb upward and over New Smyrna Beach. Then about 5 minutes after it took off, we heard it......boom, boom, boom, boom...... the sound of the rockets from the shuttle as it took off. And it kept going for at least a few minutes. Way cool! Jim took a ton of pictures and I hope to get some posted here soon as well as some more about our trip (and what we ate).