Friday, December 25, 2009

Paparazzi's revisited

My son Andrew came to town to take his mother back to New Orleans for Christmas.  He had not been to Paparazzi's so we took him.  Understand that I am a pizza fanatic and I think Paparazzi's is the best in Panama City, just slightly ahead of Marco's on the beach.  So tonight I decided to try one of the pasta dishes and some appetizers.  We started first with the fried ravioli and the rice balls.  The fried ravioli was perfectly cooked, crisp, and filled with cheese, and lightly covered with Paparazzi's sauce.  The rice balls were also good but I think they are a bit large.  The filling of risotto and cooked beef didn't have the flavor that I thought it would.  Something was missing.  Again these were perfectly breaded and fried, topped with the sauce.  Of course I ordered a small pizza so my son could try the fire roasted pie.  We also ordered the family style Shrimp Parmesan.  It arrived on a beautiful platter with spaghetti in the center lightly moistened with the sauce, and a bountiful amount of breaded shrimp with melted cheese on them.  Delicious.  Next time I must try something different.  I just can't pull myself from the pizza.

Good eating.

Paparazzi Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The quest for fire.

I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids my age. Kids I would follow through school from elementary to high school. Some of my fondest memories growing up were playing flashlight tag on a crisp autumn night when it got dark early. Flashlight tag is a version of tag but you play in the dark and if the flashlight hits you and "IT "says 1-2-3 tag then you're captured. What I also remember is the smell of grills starting up, hoping one of them was in my back yard. My mother did the grilling and her skills were simple, hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks. We had an old Brassier style grill. I often wonder how we didn't loose more food to the ground on that old rickety thing. As a Boy Scout and later as a Boy Scout leader, I relished the chance to go camping, knowing we would build a large fire and sit around it for warmth and comfort. I have always loved cooking on an open fire. Recently while driving through a rural area, I caught the smell of burning leaves. I remember back in the day when you could burn leaf trash in your yard. The smell would cover the neighborhood. Man did that bring back memories. What makes the smell of fire so attractive to us?

I think it is quiet primal. Think about it. Man's first cooked meal was cooked by an open fire. Think for a moment with me. Man is a carnivore. He hunted for game and probably like other animals, ate his fill and moved on. The discover of fire and how to control it was probably one of the most important milestones in the evolution on man. This is one of the things that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

So picture with me early man waking up one day with an unfamiliar smell in the air. As he walks toward it the smoke gets thicker until he sees the fire. Probably a tree or grassland set on fire by lightning. He puts his hand out and feels the heat. He probably burns himself in his curiosity. Once he learns to control and transport fire, he has warmth, light, and protection. One day he makes a kill and starts a fire to warm himself as he eats. After eating his fill he falls asleep. The next morning he looks at the carcase and notices it has changed. He reaches down to tear away a piece and finds it is warm and easy to pull. He also notices it is easier to chew and digest. Man has just discovered another advantage to fire, and we have been perfecting the art of BBQ and grilling ever since.

Whether it is hamburgers or pizza, everything taste better cooked with fire.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paparazzi Pizza and Pasta

Wood fired pizza oven restaurants have been popular for a long time in the rest of the country and it's about time Panama City got a taste of this awesome way to bake a pie. I have tried Paparazzi's three times and can't get past the pizza on the menu. Next time I promise to try the pasta. As far as the pizza goes, it is the best in P.C. I eat two pizza's, a shrimp, artichoke, and fresh garlic, as well as, a pepperoni, meatball, olive, and onion. The crust I prefer is the thin crust. It has a chewy, yet crisp, texture that stands up to the ingredients. I hate a bready pizza crust. The wood fired oven is extremely hot and draws the moisture out of the crust giving it the crisp texture I like. The ingredients are fresh. The meatballs are homemade, the sauce is perfect, and the ingredients don't over power the pie. The Godfather salad is layers of fresh tomatoes and fresh, made daily mozzarella cheese, topped with basil, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. You must try this salad. The chef who tosses the pizza also sings Italian songs, just to add to the atmosphere. One night he tossed pizza over the head of a young patron and had the whole house watching him. I promise to return and try other items, but for now know this is the best pizza in P.C.

I give Paparazzi's 5 stars.
Good eating.

Paparazzi Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hunt's Oyster Bar

Hunts Oyster Bar on Beck avenue in St. Andrews, reminds me of the small hole in the wall restaurants that New Orleans is famous for. Sort of the kind of place the locals go to. Last night the wife and I met Mike Healy, a friend from work, and his wife Julie for dinner. The place was packed as usual and we were told there would be an hour wait. A good reason to have a few beers outside, since the weather was nice and the humidity was tolerable. Of course Hunt's is famous for raw Apalachicola oysters freshly shucked and served cold. We were seated quicker than expected. The interior lives up to the local dive decor that you would expect. It is a small place, which raised the noise level to an uncomfortable level, but that comes with the territory. Mike started with a dozen raw, and I had the baked Cajun oysters. Mike enjoyed his oysters with plenty of hot sauce, horseradish, and cocktail sauce. I found the Cajun baked oysters salty. The combination of Cajun seasonings (possibly Tony's) and Parmesan cheese probably accounted for the salty flavor. I ordered the seafood platter, as I usually do the first time I try a seafood restaurant. The shrimp, oysters, scallops, and grouper were fried perfectly and was enjoyable. The stuffed crab came in the form of a cake, and as usual it was not what a crab cake should be. Usually they are more bread than crab and this one followed suit. The wife ordered a combo fried platter of shrimp and grouper. Mike ordered the Buffalo shrimp and his wife ordered the grilled shrimp. They both enjoyed their dishes. This is the first time either of us had been to Hunt's and other than the noise level, I would recommend this restaurant, especially if you love oysters. We will give Hunt's a second try.

I give Hunt's Oyster Bar 4 stars.

Good eating.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Shrimp Boat Restaurant (second time around)

What a difference our second visit was at The Shrimp Boat Restaurant. I arrived after work and went to the bar to wait on my wife. Erica was very attentive and knew what beers they offered, unlike our last experience. I started with a Newcastle Ale, properly poured, with a thick tan head and served in an ice cold glass. It was just what I needed to end a long day. The wife arrived later and we patiently waited for our table. The hostess seated my wife as I totaled out of our bar bill. We were seated near a window and had a great view of the sunset and harbor and Jake our server was actively engaging my wife keeping her company until I arrived at the table. Good job Jake, it's the little things that make a difference. The special appetizer was batter fried oysters with a Tabasco dipping sauce. I decided to try it and found the oysters perfectly fried although typically I don't like batter fried food , as well as, corn flour dredged. The dipping sauce seemed to be a mayo based sauce with seasoning and Tabasco. I love Tabasco sauce and this dish had a hint of the world leader in hot sauces that went well with the oysters. We shared a Blue cheese wedge salad, which was huge. Glad we shared this one. For me it missed onion. At Charlie's Steak House in New Orleans the salad is served with or without onions. They are sliced paper thin and drape the wedge of ice cold iceberg lettuce served with a tart blue cheese vinaigrette dressing. I would have loved some on this salad. The blue cheese dressing was good, but not homemade. For entrees the wife went with the grilled Shrimp with the burre blanc and capers sauce. Over time I have convinced my wife to eat things she first doesn't like and capers are one of those things. I make a Grouper Piccata at home and she has learned to enjoy them. The only draw back to this dish, was that some of the shrimp seemed under cooked and the vein was visible in some of them, although they had been split along the back as if to try to remove it. The vein was not an issue for my wife, but the under cooked shrimp was. I had the Shrimp Pompano which are bacon wrapped and grilled, served with a sauce. I have always loved the combination of smokey bacon with grilled food. My shrimp were perfect. The only glitch last night was that the appetiser arrived promptly, but there was a wait for the salad, and before we finished the salad the entrees arrived. We had decided to package the salad anyway, but timing is everything. By the way, Erica make a great Mojito. The perfect foil to the smokey, grilled shrimp, was a cool, minty, tart lime drink. Kudos to both Jake and Erica for making our second turn at The Shrimp Boat a good one.

The Shrimp Boat Restaurant gets 3 stars.

Good eating.

Shrimpboat Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Tai Asian Bistro

Located at 301 Cherry Street in the Cove, this restaurant has brought something different to the Panama City restaurant scene. This place is located near the Cove Condominiums in what was once a 7-11 convenient store. My wife and I have eaten there three times and have always come away pleased with both the service and food. We are not very versed in Thia cuisine and there seems to be several Chinese inspired items on the menu. Last night I had the Lo Mein. I have especially enjoyed the Tia soups, as well as, the curry's. The soups are made with coconut milk and your choice of meats. You must try one of the soups. My wife doesn't like spicy food so she usually stays away from the spicy dishes. The summer rolls are rapped in a thin rice paper and served cold with a peanut based dipping sauce. The spring rolls and the Satay's are also very good starters. The service has always been friendly and on time. If you want to try something different, please try My Tai Asian Bistro. You will be rewarded.

I give My Tai 5 stars.

My Thai on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Shrimp Boat restaurant

Why do we eat out? I think for most people it's because we like being served. I'm not talking about cruising through the drive through. There is something about going to a restaurant, being served, eating, and walking away from all those dishes and mess. There are those times when we have had a tough week or hard day that a visit to a restaurant is just the thing to help us wind down and de-stress. Even if the food is mediocre, but the service is good, then our experience is usually a good one and we will continue to patronize the establishment. I also believe this to be true if the food is exceptional and the service mediocre. But if the food is mediocre and the service bad, well I'm not a happy eater.

Recently the wife and I decided to try The Shrimp Boat, on a Friday night, to celebrate my new job. Now in New Orleans, unless you are Catholic, you do not eat at a seafood restaurant, on a Friday night, during lent, period. The wait will be at least an hour or more. I wait for no man's food. We arrive to find out that there was only a 10 minute wait to our surprise. After being seated, things rapidly went down hill. The hostess seated us and within seconds our waiter arrived and asked if we had eaten with them before. We told him it was our first and he replied, "Seafood or steak?" We hadn't even looked at the menus yet. I responded that I cooked a great steak at home and that we were probably going with seafood, at which time he leaned over and explained the menu to my wife. It's a single sheet of laminated paper not a Faulkner novel. He completely ignored me. He quickly left and returned with two glasses of water and then disappeared again. At this point I was really looking for a cold beer. When he returned he asked if we had made a decision. I said "yes, I want a beer." Since the menu had no drink listing, I asked if they had a wine and beer menu and he said that they had so many he couldn't list them all. I asked what was on draught. He said they only had bottled beer so I asked for an Abita. "We don't have that" he responded. I asked for a Pilsner Urquell, and again he responded in the negative. How about a Sam Adam's and he said yes and Yingling. So we finally made some head way. When we entered the restaurant there was a tonight's specials sign by the front door. At no time did he mention them. When he returned with our drinks, again addressing my wife, he asked if we were ready to order. I told him we wanted to start with the shrimp and crab meat dip served with grilled pita chips at which time he again walked away, hopefully to turn in our order. Upon his next return we were ready to order. I ordered the cup of Gumbo and the wife, the She Crab soup. As entrees, I ordered the fried seafood platter with oysters, which cost $4.75 extra and the wife the stuffed grouper. Our waiter asked if we wanted our soups first and I responded "No we want our appetizer first then the soups." Did he really ask me that? The appetizer arrived and was white cheesy, saucy, combo of small pieces of shrimp and crab meat served in a large bowl surrounded by the pita chips. While this was a tasty dip the grilled pita chips failed to be firm enough to actually scoop or dip. I had to spoon the dip onto the chip with my fork and rush it to it's destination (my mouth) before the chip wilted and spilled it in my lap. The gumbo was adequate and the She Crab seemed to missing the crab meat. She Crab soup is so called because it is supposed to have some pink crab roe in but I have not found any in all the She Crab soup we have tasted about town. Why not call it crab bisque and get it over with. The entrees arrived in a timely manner. The seafood platter which included the ubiquitous stuffed crab was nicely proportioned with shrimp (butterflied to look larger), a piece of fish which was also butterflied to look larger, about six small scallops which were very uniform in size, and the oysters. As far as seafood platters go this is what I expect in Panama City, but cannot hold a candle to the ones I get in New Orleans. The wife's stuffed grouper was covered with a Bearnaise sauce, which is a Hollandaise with Tarragon added. The grouper was cooked well but the stuffing, as in the stuffed crab, was bready.

The most troubling thing to me was, as we were leaving, I stopped at the hostess station and inquired if our waiter was new. You could tell by the tone of my voice something had not gone well. The hostess said no, and I said OK. She let me walk out without asking if there had been something wrong. As stated before I give restaurants at least three visits before I rate them and I will return to the Shrimp Boat to give it another try, but I will make sure I don't get the same waiter. Check back for an update.

Good Eating.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Shed BBQ

I really like to try to eat at a restaurant at least three times before I make a review. Restaurants have bad days too. In this case the restaurant is out of town and after eating there I really don't think I'll return. The shed is located in Ocean Springs Mississippi just off I-10. The wife and I were heading to New Orleans to see our grand daughter and visit my wife's sister who lives in Oklahoma. Around lunch time I remembered a BBQ joint featured on the Food Networks, Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives. This place looked incredible. If you were going to design a BBQ joint this place would be the blue print. It is located at the entrance of a camp ground and it is a shed, filled with items gathered from dumpster diving. There were more seats outside than inside. The grounds a littered with memorabilia if you will from the dumpster diving. As you enter, you have to order at a window and then find a seat. No hostess here. I ordered the brisket and spare rib combo plate. My wife ordered the pulled pork. The menu states that all BBQ is served with sauce whose recipe was passed down from an old black guy that made the original sauce. The spare ribs were over cooked to the point that the cartilage at the top of the rib was the consistency of jello. They were dry and the sauce didn't help. The brisket was chopped and covered in the same sauce. Now I know that brisket is the hardest thing to perfect, but this was dry and tasteless. In competitions brisket is presented sliced not chopped. I tasted my wife's pulled pork and it was also chopped and dry. My anticipation of having some killer BBQ was met with wholesale disappointment.

The Shed get 1 star for ambiance.

Shed Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Liza's Kitchen ( same great food, new location)

Seeing a restaurant change locations has always scared me. I remember Momma Campisis that was a quaint, warm, great Italian restaurant in St. Andrews at the foot of Beck Ave. Momma would come around to all the tables and make you feel welcome and part of the family. Business grew and she moved to a larger facility and things were never the same for me. Today I lunched with the wife at the new Liza's Kitchen location about a block from it's former location on Thomas Drive in the Mirabella plaza, a small U shape center. It was packed with customers and the service was good. I know there are many Liza fans out there and my hope is they will keep patronizing Liza's. As I have said many times a sandwich is no better than the bread that is it's foundation. Liza's makes their on Foccacia bread and it shows. I am soooo tired of local restaurants calling a sandwich a Po Boy and serving it on a hoagie roll or bun. That aint a Po Boy. The menu hasn't changed and that's a good thing. I have tried the hot turkey, Muffelatta, and the black and blue sandwiches, and many of the soups. Today I had the tomato basil soup, all of which I recommend. The Hippie Chick is their most popular, but I have not tried that one yet. The soups are fresh and flavorful.

Good luck to Liza's Kitchen and the move.

Liza's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I give Liza's 5 stars

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Marathon Man

My son Andrew (the handsome guy on the right) completed his first marathon in 4 hours and 26 minutes. He ran the heartbreak marathon while deployed in Iraq with the Marines of the 1/3 and in a sand storm as you can see in the pictures. His only training has been a couple of 6 to 8 mile practice runs. Although he is a Marine, he hates running, but choose to run for a personal challenge. He has excelled at every challenge he has faced in the Marine, so for those of you who don't understand our military and what it is about, it is about making men out of boys and teaching them to face challenges with drive and purpose beyond their personal desires. Andrew will be home soon and wants to attend college. Before the Marines, I would have looked at that as a disaster. Now I view it as another challenge he will face and tackle with the same drive and determination he has learned in the Marines. He is my hero.

God Bless Our Military.

War is an ugly thing, but it is not the ugliest of things. The decay and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more that his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made so by the exertions of better men than himself.

John Stuart Mill
"It is the soldier, not the poet, who gives us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the reporter, who gives us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us freedom to protest. It is the soldier who serves beneath the flag, who salutes the flag and whose coffin is draped in the flag that gives the demonstrators the right to burn the flag."

St. Valentines Day Dinner

So it's Valentines Day and to add to the card and present I got for my wife, I cooked a great dinner. I went to Sam's club and they had fillet mignon on sale, so I bought a pack of four beautiful steaks that were bound for the grill. I also bought some 16-20 count shrimp that accompanied the steaks on the grill, at Tarpon Dock seafood. I used hardwood charcoal which for the uninitiated is wood that has been processed as charcoal instead of sawdust that has been processed with binders to make briquettes. It has a distinct flavor and burns hotter that briquettes. The steaks were marinated in my homemade steak marinade and the shrimp were seasoned with my Bubbaque seafood seasoning and skewered. Along with the surf and turf I served garlic and rosemary, roasted, baby Yukon Gold potatoes and some roasted Chipolini onions. The real hit was the pear, walnut, and Gorgonzola salad dressed with a Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The contrast between the sharp, pungent Gorgonzola blue cheese, the crunchy, earthy, note of the walnuts, and the sweet, crisp, red Anjou pears, was spectacular. I could eat that everyday. We washed this all down with a bottle of Bolla Valpolacello, slightly fruity, oakey red wine. My wife broke out the fine china and silver, and added some candle light. It was an elegant dinner. For dessert I had a can of Ready whip and a bottle of Hersey's chocolate syrup, and that's all I'll say about that.

Good cooking.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trigo an artisan bakery and cafe

Located at 119 Harrison Ave in downtown Panama City, I have seen ads about this place and about the owner, so today my wife and I had lunch there.

The decor is very nice and warm. White linen table clothes topped with glass give the place a very classy look. It seats maybe 20 to 25 people with some additional sidewalk tables outside. It was a little windy and cold today so we stayed inside. The menu is simple. Salads, sandwiches made on fresh baked breads, and a soup of the day. Today was broccoli and cheddar soup. They have a combo meal with a bowl of soup and a half sandwich. My wife tried the roast beef with blue cheese and red onion, served on an herbed foccasia bread. If you have eaten at Liza's on the beach it is the very same sandwich. It was listed as a pannini, but the sandwich didn't look like it had been pressed at all. I wanted to try the New Orleans Muffler, but after reading the ingredients I changed my mind and had the ham and cheese pannini which also didn't look like it had been pressed. The reason behind the switch was the ingredients for the Muffaletta was pepperoni, salami, cappy ham and olive spread. Anyone who has had a true New Orleans Muffaletta from the Central Grocery in the French Quarter knows it does not contain pepperoni. In fact a true Muffaletta is genoa salami, mortadella, ham, with provalone cheese, and the olive salad. Don't try to mess with tradition. I would have been OK if they had called it an Italian sandwich, but it ain't no Muffelatta. The sandwiches and soup where good, especially the soup an a cold day like today. The bread was fresh and warm and the meat was piled high. Remember this: A sandwich is no better than the bread it is built on. The ham and cheese was made on an asiago roll with sweet red peppers on it. My wife enjoyed the roast beef, but did say the blue cheese overwhelmed the beef flavor. Trigo advertises Boars Head meats so you know they are of good quality. Trigo also offers some baked goods like scones, pastries, cookies, and souffles. We will definitely return to try the baked goods.

I give Trigo Cafe 4 stars

Trigo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hyping my Super Bowl food.

Since my beloved Saints didn't make the Super Bowl yet again, I don't have a favorite this year, but I do pull for the underdog. What a story it would be if the Cards win this one. I will be home watching all the Hype getting my last big NFL fix before the off season. I decided to do a Sports Bar theme for my food. After Church we will start with Nachos while the grill gets to temp. Not your standard Nachos made with that gloppy, runny, tasteless, excuse for cheese that pours from a can. I have some extra sharp cheese that will sit high upon a bed of crisp corn chips, green onions, black beans and Chipotle taco ground beef. Next we will have some homemade steamed Chinese pork dumplings, served with two dipping sauces, both homemade. One is a sweet and sour, the other is an Asian soy sauce based. The final course is chicken wings, but not just any wings. They are marinating in an Asian marinade made of garlic, green onions, ginger, May Ploy, (a sweet chili sauce), rice vinegar, and lime juice. I have made a ranch blue cheese dipping sauce for the wings. The wings will be grilled of course. I hope your team wins or at least you enjoy some good food. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.

Good Cooking.

p.s. I got caught up in the game and didn't take pictures. Sorry.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

J. Michaels

My Church small group met at J. Michael's restaurant New Years Eve to have dinner. I was very disappointed. I have been told that New Years Eve is the worst night of the year to eat out because most restaurants are down to a skeleton crew and the ones who are working really don't want to be there. Both my wife and I have eaten there on separate occasions and we had similar comments on the food. My wife tried the gumbo and said it tasted burnt. As anyone knows, if you burn a roux it will ruin the gumbo. The only option is to trough it out and start over. I tried the famous roast beef sandwich which came open face, drowned in gravy. The gravy also tasted burnt. What's up??? Maybe I could give them a lesson in roux making.

At the small group dinner I tried to stay safe and went with a combo plate of fried shrimp and oysters. The order was accompanied by Fry's and what was called pepper slaw. My thought was the pepper slaw would be made with strips of bell pepper, right? It was cabbage, a wet mayo based dressing, and onions, lots of big chunks of onions. It was all I could taste. I like tarter sauce and make my own at home. Real tarter sauce has mayo, onions, capers, dill pickle, and a touch of lemon juice. Oddly enough this tarter sauce was a loose mayo concoction which was overridden with guess what, onions. Large diced, strong tasting, onions. It was unbearable. The shrimp and oysters were OK but the coating was not very crisp nor did it cling to the seafood as it should. A friend at the table got a plate of raw oysters which were large and beautiful. Obviously not the same ones used to make my dinner with. My oysters were small.

I know J. Michael's has been around for years and has a local following, but this just confirms my suspicions that mediocre food in Panama City rules the day.

I give J. Michaels 1 star.

J Michael's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why do we like to gnaw ribs?

It's simple. It's part of our make up. It's in our DNA. It's primal man. Let go back in time.

Man's first cooked meal was BBQ. Our ancestors lived in caves and were hunter/gatherers. Before fire man ate raw. Then one day cromag wakes up, steps out of his cave, and has a big morning yawn. Except this time there is a different smell in the air. It's acrid but enticing. He follows his nose and discovers fire. Probably a grass or bush fire started by lightning. After he burns himself a few times he learns to control fire and to bring it back to the cave. It provides light, warmth, and security against other animals. One day he brings home a kill and the family enjoys a fest around the fire. The carcass is left by the fire and in the morning when Og wakens he finds the meat has changed. It's darker, easier to pull, and easier to chew and digest. BBQ was born and we have had a love for it ever since, which leads me to today's dinner.

Baby Back ribs. For the last two hours I have been monitoring my temp gauge and my WSM (Weber Smoky Mountain) has been running true at about 250 to 260 degrees. I'm using the 2-2-1 method which is 2 hours exposed to heat and smoke, 2 hours foiled, and 1 hour exposed to heat and basted with sauce. I rubbed them with my homemade Bubbaque rub. The sugar caramelizes and forms a great crust. I know your mouth is watering. I know you can smell the hickory smoke. I'm serving them with pinto beans, hoe cakes, and left over mac & cheese from Friday night.

Happy cooking.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday night seafood

New Orleans is a Catholic city. Having grown up in a predominately Protestant town, I knew there were Catholics, but they didn't stand out in any way, except going to Church on Saturday in order to not have to deal with the rush of Baptist and Methodist, to the local buffet after Church on Sunday. I grew up coming home from Church on Sunday to the smell of Sunday Dinner, provided either by my mother or my grandmother, Gran Gran. Sunday dinner is something that has been lost on today's hurried family life.

After moving to New Orleans and getting married, I soon found out how deep the Catholic traditions would bleed into the culture of the city. Friday nights were always seafood night. This is a hold over from the days when Catholics didn't eat meat on Fridays. This is why McDonald's created the fish sandwich. Although my in-laws were life long Methodist, we always went out to eat seafood on Friday nights. Seafood restaurants have lines of people waiting for tables on Friday night. In my logical way of thinking, I always thought we should wait until Saturday night to eat seafood therefore avoid the long wait for food. I don't like to wait for food. As it may, now when I ask my wife what she wants for dinner on Friday nights it is invariable seafood.

This Friday I went to Tarpon Dock seafood at the foot of the Tarpon Dock bridge, were they have the freshest seafood in town. The shrimp, snapper, grouper, and crab cakes looked great, so I chose a pound of 21-25 count headless shrimp, a small grouper fillet, and two crab cakes. The crab cakes were pan roasted, meaning they were sauteed in a cast iron skillet and when turned, they were placed in a 350 degree oven to finish cooking. The shrimp and grouper were fried. Seafood screams to be fried. The contrast of crispy outer crust and soft firm interior is a classic. Although frying can be daunting for some it really is easy if you follow some simple rules. Always have your oil or shortening hot. Remember when you put the seafood in the fryer the temperature will drop, so heat the oil above your target temperature of 350 to 375 before dropping the seafood. Cut your fish into small pieces so the fish will cook before the crust get over cooks. Always allow your breaded seafood to rest so the coating will have time to set on the seafood. I prefer Zatarain's seafood fry. I also use an egg and milk wash so the coating will have something to hold onto. I use two cups of milk, two eggs, and a good tablespoon of yellow mustard as my wash. You can add a couple of drops of Tabasco, if you like thing spicy. This Friday I served the seafood with some homemade mac and cheese. I used some smoked Gouda in the mac and cheese to give it a surprising smoky flavor. My wife would be mad at me if I served fried seafood with out my tarter sauce. Mayo, dill relish, green onions, capers, and lemon juice is all it takes. My wife actually makes her own sauce. She mixes my tarter sauce with ketchup. She's been doing that since she was a child.

Well I hope you will honor your food traditions and keep them alive.

Happy cooking.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stuffed Flank Steak

Saturday I made a stuffed flank steak. Flank steak is one of my favorite things to grill. It's relativley inexpencive and is full of great beef flavor. I stuffed it with spinach and artichokes. The stuffing was made with frozen chopped spinach, parmesan cheese, garlic, Italian bread crumbs, and olive oil. A layer of smoked Gouda cheese was added before it was rolled. I wrapped it in bacon and tied it with butchers twine. It was cooked indirect till it reached an internal temp. of 120 degrees. I served it with a side of Linguini tossed with garlic and olive oil. Note the theme. I hope you enjoy the pics.

Chef Dee's Hang Out

Not since moving back to Panama City have I been so excited about a restaurant. After a recommendation from a friend, my wife and I went to Dee's Hang Out on Panama City Beach for lunch. After many attempts to find a place that makes a true Po Boy here, I have found one. Chef Dee comes from years at the Treasure Ship restaurant and Big City Fish. The restaurant is located on front beach road near Pompanos in a small strip center. I got a cup of seafood gumbo and a shrimp and oyster Po Boy. My wife tried the She crab soup and a roast beef Po Boy. The gumbo was filled with okra, tomatoes, andouille, shrimp, crab meat, and oysters. It was a roux based gumbo with a light brown color as opposed to a file gumbo. This gumbo is flavorful and rich. The Po Boy was served on real New Orleans French bread which is lighter and flakier than the standard fare found in local supermarkets. The oysters were plump and fried to a golden brown as were the shrimp. Ordered dressed it came with mayo, lettuce, and tomato. I was in food heaven. My wifes She Crab soup was good, but the roast beef Po Boy was not up to New Orlens standards. The roast beef was sliced thicker than in New Olreans and it had raw onion on the sandwich. Other than that, we enjoyed our lunch and will return to enjoy this place again. He said he is bringing in some crawfish when they are in season. Oh yea.

I give Dee's Hang Out 5 stars.

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