Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blog location and focus change

Since starting this blog I've come to enjoy writing more about the stories surrounding food (and about food with a story) than about local events. I hope that you will continue to follow me at my new blog.


Please continue to follow me at www.cookthestory.wordpress.com

Thank you for reading,
Chris

Friday, November 26, 2010

What do Two Canadians and a Brit do on American Thanksgiving?

Walk of course. And walk and walk and walk and then pray that they don't have to eat Big Macs when they finally stop and then wish that they could please please please have a Big Mac. Just one. Please? I don't know what the other Canadians and Brits in Florida were doing but that's exactly what my husband, my son and I did for our very first American Thanksgiving last year. Here's what happened:

We had been planning to spend the morning relaxing in our pajamas. Turns out it's freaking hard to relax with an 18 month old yelling, giggling and stumble-running all over the house. We decided to get some fresh air and go for a walk on the Cross Seminole Trail. We strolled and enjoyed the dappled sunlight, the near chill in the air, and the jolly shouts of Happy Thanksgiving exchanged between all the non-motorized movers. J alternated between being carried, stumbling ahead of us and riding in his cushy stroller while sucking back OJ and snacking on cheerios.

We were having a fantastic bit of outdoor family fun until we realized that we were over an hour's walk from home and we hadn't eaten anything all morning (little J had polished off tons of Os but we adults hadn't stooped to stealing from his stash). We considered turning around and going home but then remembered that Winter Springs Town Center was coming up on the trail. We'd already been walking for an hour so it couldn't be far, right? The only concern: What if none of the restaurants were open when we got there? It was a holiday after all. We decided that McDonalds was bound to be open even if nothing else was. We could keep walking and there would at least be something vaguely resembling food soon. 

Now, I've just checked with Google Maps and it seems that the walk was less than 4 miles and should have taken 1 hour and 10 minutes. Since we'd already walked for an hour, we were correct to expect the Town Center to be right around the corner. It wasn't. We walked for at least another hour before we finally got there.

It is possible that I've misremembered how long it took and Google Maps is correct. We were hungry and tired and our toddler was cranky so it felt like an eternity. But then again, it's not like Google Maps gives travel time estimates for our chosen modes of transport:

Walking while pushing stroller

Walking at baby-speed

Walking while carrying 30 pound weight, such as very large toddler*

*This image actually had the label "Strike" beneath it so I have to assume that these little people are carrying signs, not boxes containing toddlers. But they look like boxes, right? And they could have toddlers in them, couldn't they? Oh, the three icon images, which are for use with google maps but with different meanings than the ones listed above, can be found at http://code.google.com/p/google-maps-icons.

So let's assume that Google Maps is wrong and I'm right: It took us two hours to get to the Winter Springs Town Center parking lot. We were exhausted (if you're thinking, "A two hour walk is nothing. You guys are wusses," you can just shut up since you've obviously never walked anywhere for even 30 minutes with a toddler) but so relieved to have arrived. I was giddily humming "Big Yellow Taxi" and thinking that this parking lot was the closest thing to paradise I'd ever seen. And then we realized that the parking lot was completely empty, as were all the shops and restaurants. Even our worse case scenario did not have a string of cars in the drive-through but was instead silent and empty inside and out.

We sat down on the edge of a water fountain and tiredly discussed our options, as though there were any. We pretty much had to walk another two hours home before we could eat. There wasn't even a vending machine and my husband was so thirsty that he was eying up the water gushing out of the fountain.

We had resigned ourselves to turning around and going home when suddenly the sun shone a little brighter as the clouds parted and a harp strummed (yes, in my memory it is exactly like the first 4 seconds of The Simpson's opening sequence). A man was walking out of a restaurant carrying an A-frame sign that declared "Yes, We're Open!" in green chalk. I think we actually ran across the parking lot to him. I have no idea what he thought of us but he graciously welcomed us, sat us down and brought us water.


 And then we asked for beer and he brought us beer and we loved him. 

 
He also brought us a lunch menu. We ordered and then we feasted.
 
I can't tell you what we ate but I can tell you that it was delicious. If pressed, at the time I might have admitted that we only thought the food was sooooo good because we were sooooo hungry. But since then we've been back to Hollywood Bistro many times and I can tell you, in a much less biased way, that their stuff is awesome. It's so good that we've made that glorious restaurant part of our American Thanksgiving family tradition by going back along the trail to it again this year. Yup, we did it again. Are we crazy? Not that crazy.



This year we took our bikes!

Stay tuned: In my next post I'll be giving you an actual review of Hollywood Bistro. I was planning to end this post with a review of some recent meals we've had there but after re-living the above, I'm not sure that I'm in an unbiased frame of mind. Right now Hollywood Bistro still feels like paradise to me. In a day or two I should be able to remember that it was not sent from heaven but is just a good restaurant that happened to be there for two Canadians and a Brit on their first American Thanksgiving.

Savor it Seminole!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What are you up to this weekend? We're...

...chillin'!

My husband returned from a whirlwind business trip yesterday and is recovering from jet lag. I'm recovering from a week of single-parent duty. This weekend is definitely going to be low-key. On Thursday, we're riding our bikes down the Cross Seminole Trail for lunch at Hollywood Bistro. This is bound to become an American Thanksgiving tradition for us (I'll explain why in my next post).

We're on our own for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The plan:

1) Sip on some very friendly apple cider by the pool.

2) Listen to some J. D. Crowe and the New South.

3) Drool over some smokey meaty smells wafting off the BBQ (we're making a version of this BBQ smoked pork shoulder, as taught to us by Kevin Bevington at an All Grills and More class).

4) Feast!

I honestly haven't given much thought to the rest of the weekend. I'm tempted to stay in my pyjamas and watch cartoons with J. I'll have to put on regular clothes on Sunday though because we're going to Cristiano's Anniversary Party. The party ($10/pp) features Bob's appetizers and prosecco. We'll be on the patio. Come say hi!

Savor your Thanksgiving Eve Seminole!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is just like apple juice but warm and...ummm...BETTER!

As our Thanksgiving dinner guests arrive, we head out to the backyard for pre-dinner snacks and numbingly spiced hot apple cider. The cider stays warm in a crock-pot set on low, thus freeing up the stove. Place a ladle on a plate next to the pot and lay mugs out around it. Guests can serve themselves, giving you time to chat and do any last minute cooking. (If your crock- pot is already in use keeping a side dish warm, pour the cider into a carafe).





There is no alcohol in this cider so it can be served to everyone. Kids like it, especially if you add the extra brown sugar at the end of the recipe. Last year, a little eight-year-old M exclaimed, "This is just like apple juice but warm and...ummm...better!" 

For those guests who like a drink that makes them feel a tad friendlier, we place a bottle of spiced rum, a bottle of brandy and a bottle of whiskey behind the crock pot and let people know that they can pour a splash of something-something into their mug before ladling in the cider.

Everyone-Friendly Spicy Mulled Apple Cider
 
This recipe makes 14-16 mugs of cider and fits into a 3 quart (2.8 liter) crock-pot.

Pour 16 cups (64 FL OZ / 2 liters) apple juice* into a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat while you add the following:
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 large strips of orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 tbsp whole cloves 
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg**
  • 12-15 whole peppercorns
  • 1-1 inch piece of fresh ginger cut into 5-6 pieces
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
Stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue to heat the pot over medium until it is almost at a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Ladle a bit of the cider into a mug and taste it. You will likely need to add more brown sugar. I usually add 1/4 cup more (packed). If you prefer it to be sweeter, you may need as mush as a full cup.

Ladle the cider through a fine-mesh sieve  into a crock pot set to low or into a carafe.

Savor it Seminole!


*You may prefer to use apple cider rather than regular apple juice. If you do so, be extra careful not to bring the cider to a boil and do not leave it at high heat for very long. I've had apple ciders separate (have a curdled-type texture rise to the top of the pot) on more than one occasion. This never seems to happen with regular apple juice. Just in case though, I don't ever bring the apple juice up to a boil.


**This nutmeg grinder from Williams Sonoma is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It stores whole nutmeg seeds in the top. One seed is kept in the bottom where it is grated when you turn the handle of the device (the nutmeg dust floats downwards into whatever you're cooking). I found it a little hard to get used to at first but now I use nutmeg in dishes more often because the tool is so convenient: Just grab it and start grinding immediately. No need to wash anything afterward either. It's also more kid-friendly than a traditional grinder. My little J likes to turn the handle to see the little shavings fall out of the bottom and, of course, all over the counter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Stories

We moved from Canada to Florida nearly two years ago. Last year around this time I wrote the piece found below. The phrase “It IS Thanksgiving Here” is in response to an episode of the podcast Cast On. Cast On is meant to be listened to while knitting (or crocheting or spinning). But this particular episode, called ‘Thanksgiving Special: A Snow Day,’ is not related to the fiber arts. It is instead about a particular day in the life of the show's host, Brenda Dayne. She's an American woman living in Wales who has not celebrated Thanksgiving in years. The reason is, as she says, “It’s not Thanksgiving here and Thanksgiving is not something that can be faked.” With nobody else celebrating, it doesn’t really feel like a holiday, until one day when it suddenly does. It’s a lovely broadcast. I think of it often.

It IS Thanksgiving Here

In the summer of 2001 my husband (then boyfriend) and I moved from Winnipeg to Toronto where I was to begin graduate school. It was a difficult and busy time for us. Once autumn arrived, we realized that our heavy workloads would not allow us to travel to Winnipeg for Canadian Thanksgiving (held on the second weekend of October). We decided to let the holiday go by unnoticed. Unnoticed until the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend when I was overcome with sudden and intense homesickness. I NEEDED to have a Thanksgiving dinner. I NEEDED to have a turkey. We went shopping and left the grocery store with a frozen turkey large enough to feed twenty people (the selection of turkeys remaining in the store had not been great). I defrosted it in the bathtub over night and then cooked it in our tiny kitchen along with all the side dishes that make me feel connected to home. 

I would love to say that we invited everyone we knew and had an amazing dinner surrounded by friends drinking too much wine. But, we didn’t really know anybody in Toronto. We had spent the day cooking a feast for two.

We sat down to a quiet but pleasant dinner. We were happy with our efforts until it came time to deal with the leftovers. We packaged everything up into an insane number of ziplock bags for the freezer. Two months later when we were beyond sick of turkey pot pies, turkey à la king and turkey pad thai, we vowed to never make the same mistake again. 

The following summer we moved out of our apartment and bought an old house on the Danforth (this song and video by the Barenaked Ladies reminds me of that time in our lives and, oddly enough, brings tears to my eyes especially from the bridge at 2 mins 22 sec to the end). We invited everyone we knew to our new home for Thanksgiving that year. Most of the people that we invited had family nearby with whom to spend the holiday. We were left with a small but hearty group of friends whose family lived a long plane-ride away as well as with those few international students who came from countries where “Thanksgiving” is a foreign term. Dinner was great, everyone had a fabulous time, my homesickness was relieved and we were left with very few leftovers. Success!

We held our Toronto Thanksgiving dinner for 7 years, inviting everyone we knew, and slowly over time ended up with a large group of friends sitting down to feast on turkey and pumpkin pie in mid-October. The group of people each year was different depending on who couldn’t travel home for the weekend. The only people who showed up to all of our dinners were K and M, international students from Japan who we now miss sorely. We miss them because we have just had our first non-Canadian Canadian Thanksgiving. This event was held in our new home in Seminole County, Florida. We moved here with our 9 month old son this January for my husband’s dream job. As is our tradition, come October we invited everyone we knew to come over and share our Thanksgiving dinner. Unlike our dinner in Canada where we would invite everyone and get a small-ish group of attendees who didn’t have other plans, this year we had an amazing turn out; almost everyone we invited accepted. Why did they all come? There’s not really a bunch of competing dinner invitations for the second weekend in October in Florida because it’s not a holiday here. I was astonished but ecstatic to be hosting such a large dinner - 45 people (counting children).

It was great...except the hot apple cider out by the pool fell flat since everyone preferred to be within air-conditioned walls drinking something more refreshing. And…well… nobody else really felt or acted like it was a holiday; it was just a fun dinner out for them. I wondered whether we should bother keeping this tradition alive. I just didn’t feel that usual sense of celebration. After that dinner was over and everyone had left, I realized what was wrong. I realized, “It’s NOT Thanksgiving here”.

And now it's November.

 Everywhere I go people say, “oh, if I don’t see you, have a lovely Thanksgiving!” Each time I respond politely and then I sarcastically think to myself, “oh, NOW it’s Thanksgiving here.” I wonder if I will ever be able to enjoy this holiday that is not my own. More importantly, I hope that my son will feel that this day, shared by the whole country, is also for him. My current sarcastic disposition aside, I do think that we will come to love this holiday. My faith comes from my husband’s response to Thanksgiving. Note that he is from a land where “Thanksgiving” is a foreign word: He’s British. His first Thanksgiving was a Canadian Thanksgiving spent with my family in Winnipeg. His second was that lonely holiday which required so many ziplock bags. Despite his limited Thanksgiving experience, he is the one who insisted that we hold a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner this year in Florida and he is the one who was adamant that it include hot apple cider in 90 degree humid heat. To confirm my suspicion that this American holiday could one day be our own, I recall that in mid-October of this year I received an email from my Japanese friend M saying that she misses us and our annual dinner, even though her own background had never involved an autumnal turkey feast. And so, on the fourth Thursday of November, which was previously meaningless to me, I will begin to claim this holiday for myself by putting on my big warm Llika sweater from Jane Ellison’s Mirasol Collection Book Three (this is the sweater that I have named the 'Too-Hot-For-Florida-Sweater') and I will sit by the pool gazing at palm trees and drinking hot apple cider knowing that, even if it doesn’t feel like it to me yet...


...it IS Thanksgiving here.


Stay tuned for tomorrow's recipe: Everyone-Friendly Mulled Apple Cider.

Savor it Seminole!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Baby it's Warm Outside: Roast Pork and Canadian-Floridian Braised Cabbage

There are lyrics from a famous song in this post. Can you spot them?

While my friends and family back in Canada look out the window at that storm, I'm sitting in balmy warmth remembering childhood holidays filled with waves upon a tropical shore. The white blanketed images that I've seen posted on Facebook (it's up to your knees out there!) make me want to cook something warm and comforting while listening to the fireplace roar. But in this Central Florida November heat, do I really want to be near a fire, or even worse, slaving away in a hot kitchen? The answer is no.

This roast pork recipe is exactly what I'll need for a comfy but simple Sunday dinner tomorrow. It's hearty but is brightened by the oranges from my backyard tree, now heavy with fruit. The ingredients are prepped and then cooked in one roasting pan in the oven, thus reducing the amount of time I'll have to spend in a hot kitchen.

Do steps #1 and #2 the night before, the morning of, or just before cooking the roast.

1) Combine these ingredients in a small bowl:
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed (I use a mortar and pestle but you can use a clean coffee grinder or place the seeds on a cutting board and use the side of a large knife to break them up)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage (8-10 leaves) or 1 tbsp dried if necessary
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley (a nice handful of leaves chopped up will give about 2 tbsp)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • several grinds of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
2) Place a 3-4 lb pork roast (either a boneless loin, bone in loin or a rib roast) on a plate and smooth the above mixture onto all sides. If you're pre-doing this step, cover it in plastic wrap and put it into the fridge until 20 minutes before you're ready to pre-heat the oven and get dinner going.

3) Preheat the oven to 350F.

4) Into a large roasting pan combine the following:
  • a 3-4 lb red cabbage, cored and then thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • the segments from 4 small-medium oranges (here's how to segment an orange)
  • ¼ cup orange juice (you will get more than enough juice dripping off the oranges into a bowl as you segment, especially if you give any remaining parts of the orange a good squeeze before discarding)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • several grinds of black pepper
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 ounces Canadian Back Bacon, sliced into thin strips
5) Transfer the pork roast from the plate onto the bed of cabbage, skin side up. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of roast (not touching bone) is at 155F (it will rise to 160F upon standing afterward), approximately 25-30 minutes per pound of roast. Stir the cabbage mixture once or twice throughout the cooking time. Other than that, there's nothing to do until the roast is ready!

6) Why not put some records on while I pour some wine?



7) Remove the roast to a carving board to rest for at least 10 minutes. Put the roaster of cabbage back into the oven to stay warm. Serve slices of roast topped with the orange-braised cabbage.






I like to serve this fragrant white rice alongside the pork and cabbage:

To each cup of uncooked rice add ¼ tsp salt, 2tsp butter, 1 cinnamon stick and 1 bay leaf. Then cook the rice according to the directions on the package or follow instructions found here. I would use the Conventional Oven Method (remember to use boiling water) in this case because the oven is at 350F for the roast already. Once you take the rice out of the oven, keep it covered and it will stay warm for quite awhile.

Please let me know what you think of this recipe. Well, only let me know if you like it. If you don't like it, what's the sense in hurtin' my pride? 

Savor it Seminole!

P.S. The lyrics sprinkled throughout this post are from Baby it's Cold Outside. Can you find them all? I'll post a list of the lyrics that I used in a few days. A truly wonderful version of the song can be found here. Interesting details about the song are given in the first few seconds of the video.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grilled Honey Golds

Recently I told you about these fantastic little potatoes. Now I have a great little recipe for them:

serves 5-6
 
Preheat your BBQ to around 350F and prepare for indirect grilling.

Thread 24oz. of Honey Gold potatoes (that's one bag full) onto metal skewers (either skinny round ones or flat ones, don't use wooden ones - I tried and they broke due to the force needed to get through the potato). I was able to get 5-6 potatoes per skewer. This will depend on the length of your skewers.

Place the skewered potatoes onto a large pan or plate and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Turn the skewers over (and maybe give the potatoes themselves a little rub) so that all of the potato surface is coated lightly in oil.


Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl:
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground sea salt (or any medium ground salt, coarse will just fall off and fine will be too potent)
  • several good grinds of black pepper (and then add a few more grinds)
Sprinkle half of the above seasoning mix over the potatoes. Turn the skewers over and then sprinkle the other half of the seasoning mix. If a lot of the seasoning ended up on the plate, use your fingers and rub the overflow onto the potatoes.

Transfer the skewers from the plate directly onto the grill of your BBQ, putting them over indirect heat. Grill for about 30 minutes, turning the potatoes over once halfway through. They're done when the skins have browned slightly and you can easily pierce through a potato with a fork.

Got leftovers? I made a batch of Grilled Honey Golds for me and my husband last week and we definitely did! Those leftovers turned into the best little hash browns ever. Here's how: I refrigerated the leftover potatoes over night. The next morning I slid them off their skewers and onto a cutting board. Using the back of an ice cream scoop, I gently smooshed each potato into an uneven disc (uneven because it is impossible to smoosh them evenly). I preheated my non-stick skillet and popped the potatoes right on there, frying them until the underside was a bit crunchy before flipping and doing the other side. Did they ever taste great alongside some salsa and scrambled eggs!

Savor it Seminole!

Roget's Wine Tasting November 19-20

This weekend Roget's in Oviedo is having a very special Thanksgiving Wine Tasting, Friday 5-8pm and Saturday 1-5pm, sampling SIX wines that they recommend as accompaniments to your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. The tasting is complimentary as usual. If you head over there on Friday evening, the ever-knowledgeable Jerry McVey of Transatlantic Wine and Spirits will be doing the pouring and providing you with an abundance of info.





Roget's has provided the following details about the featured winery and the six wines on offer this weekend:

 "Clos LaChance Winery is a family-owned winery located in San Martin, California, 30 minutes south of San Jose and 45 minutes north of the Monterey Peninsula. Owners Bill and Brenda Murphy strive to provide customers with high quality, stylistically consistent wines that are varietally distinct. Clos LaChance takes its name from the small fenced-in area encompassing a vineyard (Clos) and from co-owner Brenda Murphy's maiden name.

Clos LaChance Sauvignon Blanc  Regular Price $15--Roget's price $10.99
A very pale straw and crystal clear. On the nose, I get aromas of bright citrus fruits, wet grass and lemon rind. A mouthwatering acid on the palate gives way to grapefruits, herbs and lime rinds. A refreshing Sauvignon Blanc that will pair well with food.

Clos LaChance Monterey County Chardonnay Regular Price $15--Roget's price $10.99
Aromas open with crisp green apples, pears, and bright citrus such as lemon and pineapple. Notes of peach cobbler, honey and a subtle grassiness follow. A strong pallet weight with flavors of fresh citrus and tropical fruits are upheld by a bright acid backbone. This refreshing, unoaked Chardonnay will pair well with fresh grilled fish and vegetal dishes, and can even stand up to spicy, blackened chicken. 

Clos LaChance Merlot Regular Price $18--Roget's price $13.99
A dark ruby red with a slightly lighter rim. Aromas of cocoa, dried cherries, tobacco. Notes of dill and a touch of vanilla. Fresh black cherry combined with a bit of rhubarb tanginess on the entry. The dill resonates through the mouth with a touch of vanilla. The finish is lengthy with mouthwatering acids and balanced tannins.

Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon Regular Price $18--Roget's price $13.99
A rich, dark purple with a lighter ruby rim. A nose of cranberries, black currant with hints of vanilla and mint. A bit of tobacco and leather as well. The palate is really well structured: a clear beginning, middle and end. The beginning is fruity. Tart cranberries and currants with dark cherry undertones. The middle has an herbaceous/spice component. Baking spice and oregano. The finish is lush and the tannins are soft. This is a Cab that is ready to drink now.

Sketchbook Pinot Noir, Mendocino, California  Regular Price $23--Roget's price $18.99
This elegant dry red wine boasts a marvelously complex nose of ripe black cherry and black raspberry fruit with complementary scents of sage, black tea, white pepper and vanilla. On the palate the wine delivers rich, ripe savory cherry and berry flavors that pick up a zesty tea-leaf spiciness in the long finish.

Zardetto Prosecco Brut (Stephanie's favorite bubbly)
This Prosecco Brut is a rich, creamy wine where the fruit tends towards ripe yellow peaches, with flowers, spices and minerals that add complexity. The finish is long, generous and nicely balanced. "
 The Wine Advocate Rating "88 Points"  $15.99"

I can't wait for the weekend...just one more sleep....

Savor it Seminole!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Week in Sensational Seminole County

First off, I have to say what a great event the Oviedo Day in the Country was. I just wish I hadn't had such a big breakfast at Hollywood Bistro (review coming soon) because I could barely handle all the great eats on offer (the crafts were pretty awesome too).

What's up for this week, Seminole?

Wednesday:
Cristiano's Wine Bar is having their bi-weekly wine tasting, 7pm-9pm, featuring wines to pair with holiday dinners. The cost is $20 and includes tons of wine and the appetizer buffet (I bet there will be some tasty meatballs on there. Oh yeah baby).

Unfortunately, I will not be attending Cristiano's wine tasting this week because I'm going to an All Grills and More BBQ class. But don't go getting all excited about joining me there since the class filled up ages ago and there's a LONG waiting list. There might still be space left for their Holiday class on December 8th though. Give Pete a call at 407-366-7301 to find out. If there's no space left in that one, try again for the January class. These events are worth every penny (normal classes are $35, the Thanksgiving and Holiday classes are $45). They include the BBQ instruction by Oviedo's own competitive BBQ national title holder Kevin Bevington of HomeBBQ.com, more BBQ than a person should really be allowed to eat, draft beer, wine and a BBQ'ed dessert made by Kevin's wife Clara, a champion of BBQ'ed Apple Pies in her own right (my favorite dessert of hers remains the unintentionally but fantastically smoked peach cobbler. It was so good that I've started experimenting with my own smokey cobblers on the BBQ. When I get the recipe down, I'll let you know).

While I'm talking about All Grills, I should mention that their BBQ competition is on January 15th (guess where I'll be that day???). Sign up sheets are at the store. If you're not going to compete, mark this date on your calendar anyway because it's sure to be a fun and tasty event!

Thursday:
Cristiano's is showing the Miami Dolphin game this Thursday. And here's a Save the Date for Cristiano's: They're having their Two Year Anniversary Party on Sunday Nov. 28. What a great way to wind up the Thanksgiving Weekend! The party's from 2-6pm and the cost is $10. This includes a buffet, Prosecco (you know this is what sold me, right?) and live entertainment on the patio.

In Altamonte Springs at the Eddie Rose Amphitheater 5:30-8:30pm design professionals from the National Kitchen and Bath Association will be speaking about the latest trends and new products on the market. A great place to go if you're thinking of adding a new touch to your kitchen in the near future. This is a free event.

School is in, Beer School that is, at The Sanford Wine Company. In addition to all the info from master brewer Steve DellaSala there will be live entertainment as well. The cost is $20 per person and the event begins at 8pm.

Friday:
Roget's wine tasting is from 5-8pm (also on Saturday from 1-5pm). As usual, I'll give you the low down on the wines as soon as I hear about them.

The Sanford Wine Company in Historic Downtown Sanford is having live Rock and Blues nights this Friday and Saturday featuring Jay Crossier beginning at 8pm. Shipyard Summer Ale is on special for $3. What a great deal on a great beer!

The Vineyard Wine Company in Lake Mary is hosting their Holiday Gems Cellar Tasting beginning at 7pm. This is a complimentary tasting that includes appetizers but you need to rsvp to nikko@thevineyardwinecompany.com  They'll also have some acoustic music playing on Friday so stay after the tasting and have even more fun.

The Ashley Locheed Quartet is performing at the Edie Rose Amphitheater in Altamonte Springs from 7-9pm. Bring a lawnchair or blanket, some snacks and a bevvie (I wonder how well Bubbly Pomegranate would travel in a thermos?) to enjoy the tunes. This is a free event.

Saturday: 
Get a jump start on your holiday shopping at the Deck the Halls Holiday Gift Market this weekend at the Maitland Civic Center, Saturday from 10am-6pm, Sunday 9am-5pm. This is not strictly a food and beverage event but The Vineyard Wine Company will be there giving out samples so do head to their booth!

The Lake Mary Farmer's Market is held on Saturdays from 9am-1:30pm at the Lake Mary City Hall.

Sanford's Farmer's Market is from 9am-2pm in the historic downtown area.


Savor it Seminole!

If you know of a food and/or beverage event in Seminole County please email me with the details at seminolesalivation@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Girls' Night In: Breaking all the Rules

I have a Girls Night In with a few friends once a month. When our nights first started we wanted to meet regularly and not have the frequency of our get-togethers decrease into nothingness slowly over time (this has been the fate of so many groups that I've been in, especially book clubs. Thankfully this is not a book club so we have that on our side). We got to the heart of the issue: Why do people who have fun together stop getting together? The answer: It becomes too much work with the host running around the house tidying and madly trying to figure out what to serve (oh, and that answers the book club question - there's the added pressure of actually reading the book!). To simplify things all of our girls' nights follow these four rules:

Rule #1:
The hostess does not prepare any food for the guests.

Rule #2:
The hostess provides the following, nothing more, nothing less:
  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 1 bowl of salsa
  • 1 dessert purchased at the local grocery store

Rules #3:
The guests do the BYOB thing.

Rule #4:
We sit outside unless the weather is truly awful (this is supposed to minimize the house-cleaning. Although, the homes of my gal-pals are always spotless when I arrive. Likewise, I fear that I would run around like a maniac, Windex and roll of paper towels in hand, even if Rule #4 was, "Guests agree to wear blindfolds for entire evening."

OCD cleaning impulses aside, we have managed to meet fairly regularly for quite some time...until...

I was shopping for my tortilla chips, salsa and grocery-store dessert when I spotted pomegranates: Plump. Round. Scarlet. Perfect. Ohhhhh...I thought of exotic vacations...I thought of Christmas...I thought of Champagne...I thought, "Should I buy some Cava?" Mmmm....I thought you'd never ask!

Once home I extracted the seeds from the fruit (why don't chefs warn, "Wear an apron and cover entire kitchen in newspaper," BEFORE they advise, "Whack the pomegranate hard with a wooden spoon to dislodge the seeds?" *sigh*) and fed a third of them to my toddler for a snack. Another third were placed in the fridge to get cold. The final third went into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl where I mashed the juice out of them using the back of a wooden spoon. The small bowl of juice went beside the seeds in the fridge to chill out.

When the girls arrived they were greeted with tall glasses of crimson sparkling wine, pomegranate seeds floating merrily in the bubbles. Even though I had broken the rules, my friends didn't seem overly upset. And the scene that greeted me in the morning made me certain that my jolly memory of the evening before had not been a dream.

Oh, I broke another rule too. I went ahead and served some leftover butternut squash dip on garlic toasts rather than the mandated salsa and chips. I had to. I just had to since the dip goes so well with bubbly and I'd already broken rule #1 anyway. I bought dessert at least, a pecan pie from Publix. Sadly nobody could manage more than the tiniest sliver. 

Now the big question: Who's hosting next time and will they follow the rules? I hope so otherwise a few months from now I will be running around with my Windex and paper towel roll trying to think up something anywhere near as fantastic as Bubbly Pomegranate .

Bubbly Pomegranate (basic recipe)
Into one champagne flute pour 1/2 ounce pomegranate juice and 5 ounces sparkling wine.  Drop in 5 or 6 pomegranate seeds. One pomegranate yields more than enough juice and seeds for one bottle of sparkling wine.

Make it really special and add a splash of orange liqueur (like Triple Sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier) and a squeeze of lemon.

Savor it Seminole!

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Watch: It's not Cora's but it's Pretty Darned Good

Is it fair to compare a restaurant in Altamonte Springs to one in Canada that most Seminolians will never visit? Maybe not but I'm going to do it anyways. Why? Because when I first heard about First Watch I immediately imagined Cora's. Ahhhhh...Cora's (*big happy sigh*). And truly, these two chains have a lot in common. They both started out small in the 1980s and then expanded throughout their respective countries. They are both breakfast/brunch/lunch places that don't do dinner. They have interesting menus with fresh, unique and fun items to choose from and they offer many healthy alternatives to the usual greasy breakfast fare. Note also the striking similarity between the Crepegg and the Crepomelette. They are different in one big way and it was this that caused my disappointment at First Watch: Cora's mounds glorious fresh fruit onto most of their breakfast items (here's one of my favorites from Cora's. And yes, the food actually looks exactly like this when it arrives at your table, no exaggeration at all). At First Watch, the food was lacking all of these bright colors and juicy flavors; it wasn't as pretty or as exciting. But, after my disappointment faded and I accepted that First Watch is not Florida's answer to Cora's, I did enjoy my meal; First Watch is not Cora's but it is pretty darned good.


The Altamonte Springs First Watch is spacious and bright with a large front window overlooking a treed parking lot. It has a clean and organized open kitchen that is fun to watch (less fun to listen to: There was a lot of banging going on). We were greeted warmly and seated promptly in the busy restaurant. A highchair and kid's menu were promptly offered for our toddler. The pot of strong rich coffee ($1.99 per person) that arrived at our table went into solid heavy mugs and was accompanied by many creamers, even a few International Delights flavors (our son promptly began building  pyramids). The menu was delightful to read since it contained many unique and tasty-sounding options. We particularly enjoyed reading the declaration of inalienable rights afforded to all breakfast people, especially #10: "The right to take your sweet time and enjoy every minute of your First Watch experience." The menu is lengthy and a tad overwhelming but it does offer something for everyone, containing the usual breakfast suspects (omelettes, french toast, waffles and pancakes) while also having some more unique breakfast choices (Crepeggs (where crepe and scrambled eggs meet), breakfast burritos and skillets), some healthy options (oatmeal, a fruit and yogurt parfait and an egg white burrito and egg white omelettes) as well as a variety of brunchier and lunchier salads, sandwiches and wraps.

I ordered the Burrito Vera Cruz ($7.49), my husband ordered the Traditional Breakfast (he's boring like that: bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes. He did get a little wild by going for the english muffin rather than his usual white toast) ($6.79) and our son chose a pancake (we quietly asked the waitress to make that wheat germ rather than chocolate chip) and sausage ($4).

J's pancake was massive and massively fluffy. The sausage was thick and flavorful (I snuck a taste when he wasn't looking) with a hint of spicy heat. He wasn't as thrilled with the pancake as he usually is (maybe because of the wheat germ?) but he did gobble up the sausage.


My burrito was spectacular. It was full of scrambled eggs, chorizo, green chilies and cheesy goodness. The chorizo was not over-powering but offered a mild smokey flavor. Don't be afraid of the green chilies either since it wasn't hot at all. The Vera Cruz sauce poured over the burrito was creamy with a tangy vegetable taste. The Burrito comes with First Watch Potatoes and fresh fruit. You already know I was disappointed by the small amount of fruit (mostly melon) but I was also disappointed by the potatoes. They've trademarked these potatoes and I have no idea why. They seem to be basic, bland and pale, skin-on little rectangles of deep fried home fries. We were told however that there is no deep fryer on the premises. The homogeneous light brown color makes me wonder if they are deep fried somewhere else and then grilled or baked to warm them up. Actually, these potatoes remind me of home fries you buy in the freezer section at the grocery store. While the potatoes and the fruit were not very good, the burrito saved the meal and I would definitely order this again (but maybe I'd ask about side dish alternatives next time).

My husband was much less happy with his breakfast. Since he orders the same boring breakfast almost everywhere that we go, he is a bit of a basic-breakfast-connoisseur. He likes his bacon thick and meaty and cooked medium-well (not too crispy but not limp either). He likes his scrambled eggs to be a bit shiny showing that they're not overly dry. And, he likes his potatoes to be pan-fried hash browns. You can already guess that he was not a fan of First Watch Potatoes®. But he wasn't a fan of much else either. The scrambled eggs were not scrambled. Instead, the cook had made a plain omelette and then chopped it up. Scrambled eggs are meant to be slowly and lovingly stirred while they're cooking to give them a creamy melting texture. He was not impressed. (Note that he has also ordered the Traditional Breakfast at the UCF First Watch location before. They didn't even bother to cut up the plain omelette; it was served to him in one rolled up piece). The bacon was also a bit strange. It was a nice thick cut but was uniformly flat and crisp. The lines of fat were slightly orange and also crisp. This is the texture bacon has when it has been deep fried. However, as we know, they don't have a deep fryer at First Watch so it is unclear how they managed to achieve this undesirable bacon state. 

In sum, do try First Watch but while there don't be boring and order the Traditional Breakfast: Go wild and choose from one of their many many more interesting selections (oh, and avoid the potatoes and the bacon too!).

Savor it Seminole!


Restaurant Details:

Address: 249 W STate Rd 436, Altamonte Springs, FL, 32714
Phone: 407-682-2315
Hours: Everyday 7am-2:30pm (closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving)






Thursday, November 11, 2010

Roget's Wine Tasting November 12-13

As promised, I'm updating you on the wines to be tasted this weekend at Roget's in Oviedo (Friday 5-8pm, Saturday 1-5pm). Get your taste buds ready for FIVE wines from Castle Rock Winery (see bottom of this post for details). The tasting is completely free but beware: When I stopped in at Roget's last week I walked out having spent around $50. My husband asked, "Oooo...which wines did you get?" My answer, "Wines? Oh no sweetie, I didn't spend it on wine. I bought jewelery!"







That's right, while you wander the shop, glass of wine in hand of course, there are all kinds unique items to consider for yourself, or maybe even (I hate that I'm actually saying this so soon!) for Christmas gifts.

I was delighted with my own purchases (all of which I am greedily keeping for myself): Two bracelets of handcrafted clay beads from Viva Beads (pictures on left) and a watch with interchangeable bands made by Savannah from Beads Galore (picture below).

Actually, Savannah herself was in the shop that day stringing beads onto bands for excited customers. Of particular interest were surprisingly pretty beaded watch bands in team colors (who knew that sportswear could double as evening wear?). Unsurprisingly, the favorite was UCF's black and gold.



I'm thinking of having Savannah come to my house soon to do a party where my infamously creative friends can use their skills to choose their beads, their desired watch face and then have Savannah make up their piece. While my guests are waiting for their watch to be completed I would serve up some cheese, crackers, wine and fun conversation. Ooooo and then for dessert we could have Florida Orange Affogato or maybe even a....
Sadly, the party day-dreaming must come to an end as we get back to the main point: Here’s what Roget’s has to say about the featured winery and wines for this week’s tasting:

The Castle Rock Winery: Since its inception in 1994, Castle Rock Winery has built an enviable reputation for producing high quality wines at affordable prices for discerning wine lovers. This winning formula is highly successful, as proven by an increasing number of customers and members of the wine press, who have given the wines glowing reviews. Castle Rock's wines are carefully made from grapes grown in the most prestigious areas of the West Coast states - California (Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Monterey County, Alexander Valley), Oregon (Willamette Valley), and Washington (Columbia Valley). The company has always focused on making wines with specific appellations in order to allow the local qualities of the wine to be appreciated by connoisseurs.

Castle Rock Pinot Gris Willamette Valley, Oregon Crisp and light with good texture and acidity, offering subtle floral aromas and delicate flavors of pear, peach, and apple. This versatile wine can be paired with many foods, but makes an especially fine accompaniment to fish, soups, vegetarian dishes and salads.

Castle Rock Chardonnay Central Coast California, This elegant Chardonnay offers a rich, ripe and fruity character with a delicious blending of vanilla, pear, citrus and melon flavors, subtle oak undertones and a long, balanced finish. In any season this Castle Rock Chardonnay will complement most cuisines and is an especially pleasing accompaniment to fish, poultry and lightly sauced entrees.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon This elegant medium bodied wine offers aromas of cherry and spice. On the palate the wine give flavors of berries, cinnamon, black cherry, sweet vanilla oak, and floral notes, with a long velvety finish. This versatile wine pairs well with lamb, chicken, veal, salmon and light pasta dishes.

Castle Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington This full-bodied wine offers layers of concentrated flavors of cassis, blackberry, black cherry, and ripe plum, with a hint of light oak. All these flavors unite to form a long, smooth, and harmonious finish.

Castle Rock Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley, California This Petite Sirah is a dark and full-bodied, deeply concentrated wine, yielding aromas of ripe berry, coffee, grain and spice. On the palate it carries layers of ripe cherry, blackberry and plum. Its finish is long-lasting and harmonious with well-integrated tannins. It makes an excellent accompaniment to beef, game, spicy grilled food or charbroiled meats.”

The five wines that Roget’s is featuring are all priced at $11.99 a bottle.

Savor it Seminole!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Week in Seminole County

There's a lot going on this week in Seminole County! 

Thursday:
Check out Alive after Five's Seafood Harvest in Historic Downtown Sanford, 5-8pm. This well-kept Sanford secret is always a blast. Admission is $7 and includes food and bev samples.

Thursday night is Ladies Night at Cristiano's Wine Bar, 7-10pm. Ten Italian wines will be on offer. The cost is $10 and includes the tasting and some cheese and crackers.

Friday:
Friday night at Cristiano's Doc will be strummin on the patio. This guy was a drummer for Jimmy Buffet for years! The outdoor seats fill up quickly when Doc's in Winter Springs so be sure to arrive early to score a table.

In Oviedo on Friday evening (5-8) and Saturday afternoon (1-5) Roget's is having a free wine-tasting. Wines are TBA at the moment. I'll keep you posted.

Friday night (7-9) bring a chair or blanket to the Eddie Rose Amphitheatre in Altamonte Springs to listen to Rainbow's End. Don't forget to bring a bevvie to sip on and a little snack, perhaps some prosciutto, slices of fresh Cuban loaf and a nice dip

Saturday:
Saturday is the 37th Annual Great Day in the Country festival in Oviedo, 9am-4pm. I'm planning my day around this! Breakfast on the way at the Hollywood Bistro (I already know I'm going for the Country Scrambled Eggs, sooooo good). Then a tour around the festival followed by a pit stop at All Grills and More, perfectly timed for around 12:30 when they tend to have something tender and meaty to sample fresh off the smoker, before heading to Roget's for an afternoon sip. I can't wait!

The Lake Mary Farmer's Market is held on Saturdays from 9am-1:30pm at the Lake Mary City Hall.

Sanford's Farmer's Market is from 9am-2pm in the historic downtown area.




If you know of an upcoming food or beverage event in Seminole County please let me know at seminolesalivation@gmail.com


Savor it Seminole!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fab Food Find

A few weeks ago I was at a Publix in Longwood and came across these gorgeous little gems:


They're called Honey Gold Potatoes. They're very small (1 inch maximum) with a pale yellow delicate skin and a fluffy buttery interior. We were so taken with these little guys, not just with their flavor and texture but also with their quick cooking time, that I saved the bag and showed it to the produce guy at my own local Publix.

  
To my delight I was told that they are a new product being carried by all the Publix stores in the area. Yippee! Now I buy a bag every time I go grocery shopping since they are so convenient: Just rinse and cook, no slicing or dicing required. They're lovely steamed or boiled until soft when pierced with a fork Toss them with a bit of butter (not much since they're moist enough on their own) and chopped chives before serving. They roast up beautifully with just a tad of olive oil, salt, pepper and a crumble of dried rosemary or thyme.

Stay tuned because next I'm going to try them rubbed with olive oil, cumin and cracked coriander and then skewered and popped onto the barbie!

Butternut Squash, Roasted Apple and Goats' Cheese Dip

Tomorrow is the deadline to vote on Food 52's butternut squash recipes. The contest has inspired me to create my own fun new way to use the creamily delectable fall veg. This recipe is crazy-simple and crazy-good. Serve it in a bowl along side some fresh slices of baguette or spread some on toasted slices rubbed lightly with the cut side of a garlic clove.

Preheat oven to 375 F and take 4 oz of plain goats' cheese out of the fridge to soften.

Place a whole unpeeled 2lb butternut squash onto a baking pan that has an edge. Jab the squash deeply several times with a sharp knife. Place into the pre-heated oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, peel, core and quarter a large tart apple. Toss the apple with 1 tsp olive oil. When the timer beeps, add the apple quarters to the pan containing the butternut squash. Roast until everything is lightly browned and soft to the touch, about 35-45 minutes more.

Put the following into a food processor: the softened goats' cheese, the roasted apple quarters, 2 finely chopped fresh sage leaves (use 1/4 tsp dried if necessary), 1/4 tsp salt, several grinds of black pepper and a large pinch of nutmeg. Blend together.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise (wear oven mitts if the squash is too hot to handle). Scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard. Scoop the remaining flesh (but not the peel) into a bowl, you should have about 1.5 cups. Add 2 tbsp butter to the bowl of squash and mash with a fork until the butter has melted in.

Add the buttery squash to the roasted apple mixture in the food processor. Puree until it is smooth and has an even creamy-peach color.

Taste for ESP (Enough Salt and Pepper). You want to taste the pepper but you do not want the dip to be salty. Blend again if you've added seasoning.


Place in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve garnished with chopped almonds, hazelnuts or pecans (toasted, if possible) alongside sliced baguette or spread it onto garlicky toasts and garnish each with a sprinkle of the chopped nuts (picture above).
 


You could also use this mixture to stuff dates, following this method by the glorious Giada. These dates are great with or without the prosciutto, but do put a few grains of chopped nuts into each date along with the butternut filling.

The fresh tang of the apple in this little appetizer pairs well with a glass of dry bubbly Cava. Alternatively, try  a rich glass of Apothic Red Winemaker's Blend. The touches of vanilla and mocha in the wine enhance the sweetness of the squash and the creaminess of the cheese.

Savor it Seminole!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Greatest. Condiment. Ever.

Pan-Toasted Garlic Panko Crumbs

This stuff is ridonkulous! To add a punch of flavor, some crunchy texture and to make something simple seem like a slow-baked delight, try sprinkling a tablespoon or two of these crumbs over the following just before serving:  




  • steamed, roasted or sauteed cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus or green beans
  • any pasta dish
  • plain white rice
  • mashed potatoes
You can also use it as a breading for fish and chicken (bake or pan-fry without oil since there's already some butter in the mix). Try using it as a flavor-blasting garnish for soups and salads. Sooooo good. But the best purpose for these crumbs (and I am very reluctant to admit this) is sprinkled over mac'n'cheese (yes, the boxed stuff referred to as Kraft Dinner by my Canadian readers). I've always been partial to this fluorescent orange "food" probably because it simultaneously reminds me of being 5 and of being 19 (in a good way...really!). Now, I love it in its own right, not just for nostalgic purposes, but because whipping up a batch gives me an excuse to sprinkle on these yummy crumbs.

Melt 2tbsps butter in a pan (I use a non-stick skillet but any large pan will do the trick) over medium-low heat. Continue warming it until the butter has just begun to brown slightly (3-5 minutes after melting). While the butter is melting and browning, combine the following in a bowl:
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • several grinds of black pepper
Add the breadcrumb mixture to the butter in the pan and stir often until about half of the crumbs are the color of ground cinnamon and the rest vary between cinnamon and ground ginger. Transfer to a bowl and begin sprinkling, or, once the breadcrumbs have cooled store them in an airtight container at room temp for up to a week. Use them at room temp or put a couple of tablespoons of crumbs in a microwave safe bowl and blast 'em for 10-15 seconds to warm them before sprinkling.

 Here are the Pan-Toasted Panko Crumbs sprucing up a simple pasta toss of penne, spinach, chicken breast and tomatoes.

Want to add more flavor to your toasted panko? Try adding any of the following to the crumbs before toasting:
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried basil and 2 tbsps finely grated Parmesan cheese

Or, omit the salt, pepper and the garlic powder and instead add 1 tbsp of HomeBBQ.com's Garlic Lovers, made by Seminole County's very own BBQ super-champ Kevin Bevington (see his very very very long long long list of BBQ wins here!).

Savor it Seminole!

Roget's Wine Tasting November 5-6

This just in: The wines to be tasted at Roget's this weekend are:
  • Zenato Pinot Grigio, Verona, Italy ($13.99)
  • Silver Palm Chardonnay, California ($14.99, reg. $20.00)
  • Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir, Chile ($10.99)
And, from my brother's favorite label:
  • Ghost Pines Zinfandel 2008 ($18.99)
Tastings are on Friday from 5-8pm and Saturday from 1-5pm.

Come on out and enjoy some wine in Oviedo.

Savor it Seminole!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wine Tasting and Chinese Food in Oviedo

Wine tasting followed by Chinese food may sound like an odd way to spend a Friday evening but it makes perfect sense if you find yourself in Oviedo!

Head to Roget's Fine Wine and Beer between 5-8pm for their free weekly wine tasting (they also do tastings on Saturdays from 1-5pm). Decide which of the samples is your favorite and buy a bottle to take a few doors down for dinner at Dragon City. These two businesses have a sweet deal for customers: If you buy the bottle at Roget's, Dragon City will serve it up without charging a corkage fee. If you choose a room temp white from off the shelf, the owners and staff of Dragon City are so kind that they'll even chill it quickly in their freezer.

While the above deal is nice, it's not why we so enjoy this Friday outing. It's because Roger, Stephanie and Tish offer great wines in a relaxed (not-snooty-at-all!) atmosphere alongside fun welcoming conversation AND because the food at Dragon City is pretty darned good. In particular, try these Chef Specialties: Dragon Fire Chicken ($10.95), Five Spice Chicken ($10.95), Basil Seaside Shrimp ($11.95) and Beijing Crispy Beef ($11.95). Until recently these items were not on the menu and you had to be in-the-know to get your hands on them. Now they're on offer for all of Seminole County (and beyond) to enjoy.

Dragon City is not a place that serves gourmet or authentic Chinese food. Instead, it's your typical American-style fare. However, the dishes are made to order, they're presented cheerfully with either the bright colors of sliced oranges or lightly steamed broccoli and the seasonings are zingy. I particularly enjoy the freshly fried wonton strips served with dips brought while you peruse the menu. The Bo Bo Platter ($8.95) is a must-have with its dazzling fiery presentation, but do be warned: The menu says that it serves 2 as an appetizer, however, with its 2 beef skewers, 4 chicken wings, 2 ribs, 2 large battered shrimp and 2 egg rolls (these are the best part, homemade and filled with fresh crisp cabbage) it is easily an appy for 4 and is large enough to be a meal for 2, with perhaps some Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry ($6.95) or Moo Shu Vegetables ($7.50) on the side.

Still not convinced that wine tasting and Chinese food could combine into the perfect casual Friday evening? Have a listen to Edwin Soon being interviewed on The Splendid Table here or have a look at his book Pairing Wine with Asian Food . He'll soon have you thinking about the scrumptious possibilities that await.

Savor it Seminole!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Simple Savory Soup

It is autumn. I can tell because my calendar is flipped to November, not because of the weather. It is still hot and muggy here most days, even though they've already had a snowfall in my homeland (Manitoba, Canada). I admit that the mornings and evenings in Central Florida are cooler now than they were a couple of months ago and some of the days are more than pleasant. But it's a far cry from the frosty chill in the air that I am accustomed to feeling this time of year. I therefore find it difficult to cook the usual autumnal comfort foods; I don't want steamy heat filling my kitchen nor am I in the mood to eat a hearty stew. How do I reconcile the image of tinted leaves on my calendar with the continuing summery desire for brighter lighter foods? Here's how: A quick-cooking soup that uses some light fresh flavors while remaining as cozy and comfy as the more usual fall simmers.

Simple Savory Soup

serves 3-4

This is a vegetarian soup but feel free to use chicken or turkey broth instead of the vegetable broth and/or to add any leftover roasted chicken, ground beef or other cooked meat that you have on hand.

Combine the following ingredients in a saucepan:
  • 1- 15.5 oz can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1- 28 oz can Petite Diced Tomatoes (regular dice is fine too but I prefer the petite here)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves left on the stalk (use 1 tsp dry if you don't have fresh)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic diced (I always use 4 but if that offends you, use 2 instead.)
  • A dash of salt and some fresh cracked pepper
Optionally add the rind from a piece of parmesan cheese or 2 tbsp of finely grated parmesan cheese to the pot.

Bring the pot up to a simmer over medium-high heat stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Taste the broth. Is there ESP (enough salt and pepper)? Add more if needed. Partially cover the pot. Allow the soup to slowly simmer for at least 10 minutes but for as long as 30. Remove the parmesan rind (if using) and the rosemary stalks but don't remove the leaves that are floating prettily in the soup. Check for ESP again.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Squeeze a small wedge of lemon over each serving and sprinkle over a small mist of parm. Serve with an arugula salad and some crusty grainy bread, perfect for dunking into the soup.

Savor it Seminole!

Wednesday Night Wine Tasting

Do you have plans for Wednesday night? If not, consider heading down to Cristiano's Wine Bar in Winter Springs Town Center. Every second Wednesday they have a fantastic wine tasting night, 7-9pm. I've been to three of these tastings and each time I've been delighted. The cost is $20 per person. This includes tastings of at least 10 wines as well as a satisfying appetizer buffet. The buffet usually includes Bob's tender and savory meatballs as well as some cheese, charcuterie, baguette and crackers. After everyone has tasted all the wines, any leftover grape juice is up for grabs so pour a bit more and head to the cozy dining room to chat away the rest of the evening. The tasting for Wednesday November 3rd is of European wines and is sure to be a fun and yummy learning experience.

Busy Wednesday? Well then try Cristiano's this Friday between 7-11pm when they will have Chuck Kleinkrecht, a Seminole County Resident, providing live music on the patio. Bob advises that you call ahead to reserve a patio table.

I'll write more about Cristiano's food and wine another time. For now, know that it is a warm and welcoming place on 434 with access to the Cross Seminole Bike Trail.

Savor it Seminole!