Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tortellini Soup

When my dad had sinus surgery around 12 years ago, a woman from his church brought a pot of this soup by.  It was an instant family favorite and has been a soup that my mom fixed several times a winter and now I make it for myself and friends.  I’ve tweaked the original recipe, but it still is quick and easy to fix.  Feel free to make it a day in advance because it gets better every day. 

2 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion (about ½ cup) diced red onions
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)
1 tsp. garlic salt (with parsley)
1 tbls. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup red wine
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
1 16oz. can of navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5oz. can of petite diced tomatoes with liquid
1 10 oz. can of Rotel (or diced, spicy tomatoes available in mild, original, and hot), drained
1 10oz. box of chopped spinach
1 14oz. bag of frozen cheese tortellini

  1. Set the burner to a medium heat.  Pour olive oil into a pot. .  When oil is hot, add onions.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. When onions are brown, add wine, garlic salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, and balsamic vinegar.  Cook for 5 minutes to allow wine to reduce. 
  3. Add broth, both types of tomatoes, beans, and spinach.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the tortellini.  Reduce heat and simmer for around an hour.   After an hour, the soup is ready to eat. 

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Polyface Chicken Liver Mousse
On Thursday I talked about it being “Restaurant Week” in Staunton.  After having such a good time at Staunton Grocery, I decided to try out another $25 prefix special and went to Zynodoa. 
Zynodoa opened in Staunton around the same time as Staunton Grocery.  Like Staunton Grocery, they too embraced the idea of supporting local farmers and wineries, and their connection to the area is reflected in the the origin of the restaurant’s name (which is based on the legend of how the Shenandoah Valley got its name).   
My main fondness for Zynodoa is as a late night hangout.  On quieter weeknights when I was feeling cooped up in my apartment, I’d take a book and go to Zynodoa.  Sometimes, I’d be joined by friends, and other times I would just enjoy my surroundings with a clever cocktail (like a fennel martini or a cucumber/black pepper martini) and interesting appetizers (like stuffed zucchini blossoms or fries made of grits). 

Given my partiality for Zynodoah, I was really excited about their “Restaurant Week” special.  But, sadly, even though the other people I went to dinner with really loved and enjoyed their meals and previous reports were all positive, I left the meal underwhelmed. 

Shrimp Skillet with caramelized
brussel sprouts, twice-fried potatoes,
and tri-pepper pan sauce

My main issue with the meal is how over-thought and over-worked the dishes were which made the flavor profiles too complicated.  My main entrée is a good example of what I’m trying to say. I ordered the Shrimp Skillet with caramelized brussel sprouts, twice-fried potatoes, and tri-pepper pan sauce.   Although not listed in the description, the shrimp also had light parsley, red, and green pepper salad/salsa on top.  While eating it, I realized that the potatoes, shrimp, and salsa would work, the shrimp and Brussel sprouts and potatoes would work, but altogether you end up with fresh and light competing with substantial and heavy.
In sampling other dishes at the table, the lack of balance and unity was fairly common.  My friend ordered the Wades Mill Grit Croquettes as her first plate.  To me, the grits lost their texture and the main note I got was the bacon mayonnaise, which overwhelmed the surryano and gruyere.  In my first course, the Polyface Chicken Liver Mousse, the liver came through and brought a lot of dense flavoring.  Its con was a seal of bacon fat.  The seal itself tasted more fatty and waxy than of bacon.  Trying to eat the seal with the liver created a concentrated fat combination that made the already rich liver somewhat sickening.  Lastly, my dessert, the Chocolate Pecan Frozen Nougatine, was light and fluffy with large chunks of chocolate and pecan.  But, it was served in a strawberry sherry puree that, though really amazing and flavorful, wasn’t that related to the Nougatine.  Either there needed to be more sauce to help bridge the gap, or replaced by a sauce that better hit the notes of the Nougatine. 

Chocolate Pecan Frozen Nougatine
The two best dishes were the Buffalo Creek Steak Frites (a grilled ribeye with crispy Yukon wedges, caramelized turnips, and horseradish aioli), and the Coffee and Roasted Hazelnut Cheesecake.  Both of these dishes had a successfully unified scheme.  The beef worked as something that you could put a little bit of everything on the fork and it was cohesive while still retaining the individual flavors.  The cheesecake also had a more concise flavor profile, taking two very compatible flavors, hazelnut and coffee, and letting those be highlighted by smooth, creamy goodness. 
While other of my blog posts have made me put into words what I value in a good meal, this post forced me to explore those values in a not so good meal.  Although the meal I had at Zynodoa was good enough and showed reflection, the overall objective of each dish was missing.  The effect was plates that looked great and had good individual components, but the disharmony of the components kept the foremost flavors muddied.  When I think about the two best eating experiences from this month, they would be Ceviche Tapas in Sarasota and Staunton Grocery.  The reason they are my two favorites is they were both able to let good food speak for itself.  Although I have had many other meals at Zynodoa that have done that, this particular meal did not.  
Zynodoa on Urbanspoon
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grief Bacon

I teach freshman composition and my students have to read an article, “Global Wording.”  The article is written by Adam Jacot de Boinod, who has written two books that explore unique words from around the world.  Boinod points out that some foreign words, like kindergarten, croissant, and feng shui, gained acceptance in English while other words have failed to translate.  For example, there is a Central America Spanish word for dancing, pulier hebillas, meaning “to polish belt buckles.”  Another Spanish word, achaplinarse, means “to hesitate and then run away in the manner of Charlie Chaplin.”  
Although those are pretty great and I do wish at some point in my life to see someone achaplinarse, the word I wish the English would adapt is the German word, Kummerspeck.  According to Boinod, kummerspeck translates literally into “grief bacon,” a term to describe emotional over-eating that leads to weight gain.
Grief Bacon.   How true.       
When we are at our gloomiest, it is the fried, sweetest, saltiest, grungiest food that is sought.  Potato chips, mashed potatoes, mac’n’cheese, ice cream.  They aren’t called “Happy Meals” for nothing. 
 Think about local fair or carnival food—funnel cake, corn dogs, cotton candy, onion rings, fried Twinkees, chocolate covered potato chips.  These are the foods attached to fun, games, rides, play, and through association, happiness.   
During finals week when I was in school and now as a teacher during heavy grading periods, I intentionally keep junk food out of the house and stock up on frozen soy beans and brussels sprouts because if I don’t, you’ve guessed it, “grief bacon,”  
Even the healthiest of people will find themselves breaking diets in times of depression.  It is not “grief carrots” or “grief oven-baked crackers” or “grief yogurt with granola.”  It is grief bacon.   Maybe, even chocolate-covered-candy-bar bacon. 
So next time you find yourself gaining a couple of pounds after a break-up, job crisis, or loss, remember there is a word for it---kummerspeck. 
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Staunton Grocery

Last night, I walked down the streets and was truly happy.  Actually, happy isn’t really strong enough.   Giddy comes closer.  But, if I were being honest, I’d say euphoric. 
The reason why . . . I had a perfect meal. 
This week it is “Restaurant Week” in Staunton, VA.  The part of me that loves a deal has overridden the part of me that is money conscience, and so I took tutoring money and splurged. 
My big splurge was on a local restaurant called Staunton Grocery.  They are a restaurant that I have a lot of respect for.  They are committed to local farmers, wineries, cheese makers, etc. and modeling this philosophy has encouraged many other restaurants in town to follow suit.  What I enjoy so much about Staunton Grocery is the amazing way they make dishes seem simple, straightforward, pure, while they actually hide a deft and skillful hand.  Last night’s dinner reminded me of the Italian term, sprezzatura, which is a type of seemingly effortless grace.   
For Restaurant Week, Staunton Grocery is offering a pre-fix of a first, second, and dessert course for $25 and then you can add a Virginia wine pairing for a total of $40.  I decided in the spirit of carpe diem that I would add the pairing. 
The meal starts with an amuse-bouche of smoked salmon, crunchy crepe, parsnip, and crème fraiche.  The creaminess offsets the smokiness of the salmon and lends mildness to the bite.  Once the richness of the salmon and smoke start to taper off, the freshness and acidity of the parsnip creep in.  The overall effect is a strong and smooth start that has a crisp, light finish. 
The first plate was a Wild Mushroom Consommé with Leak Dumplings and Chives and was paired with Veritas Viognier.  The Viognier has bright citrus notes and a slight honey aftertaste.  This paired nicely with the leak and the tartness of the wine was a good companion to the earthy consommé and creamy dumplings.  The consommé was amazing.  It captured the earthiness of the mushroom with none of the muskiness.  The dumplings were soft, creamy, buttery, and almost had a hint of a cheese, but that could have been the mushrooms hinting through.  The leaks and chives also bridged the gap between the mushrooms and the dumplings by giving a level of sharpness to go with the simple dumplings and uncomplicated consommé. 
For the second course, I had the Grass Fed Beef Brisket with Golden Beet Borscht and Green Garlic Crème Fraiche and that was paired with Barren Ridge Petit Verdot.  The brisket was tender and simply dressed.  The beet borscht was bright and had shed the earthiness and grittiness that sometimes turn people off of beets.  The green garlic crème fraiche kept the warmth of the garlic and the almost grassy quality, while undermining the bite that comes with garlic. 
Yet, of all the dishes, the one that really made me drop my jaw was the dessert of Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Citrus and Fennel Salad with Mint Oil, paired with Veritas Othello.  Like an episode of Chopped that takes three unlikely things and demands the contestants to make it work, I never would have thought that this combination would produce a sweet, satisfying, dessert that almost makes you depressed when it is gone.  The panna cotta was smooth, melt-in-your-mouth, and with a hint of tanginess from the buttermilk.  Then, the amazing part, was the fennel that retained a small hint of anise, but more absorbed the citrus and mint to counterbalance a cool, crisp, fennel with the creamy, velvety panna cotta.  For the wine pairing, I would have thought the dark, rich Othello port would have overwhelmed such a delicate dish, but the dessert brought out the rich vanilla of the dessert and also brought out notes of caramel in the port. 
I know it seems odd to go on so long about such a high-end food experience, especially considering the last blogs heralded hot dogs and Colcannon; but, Staunton Grocery, still holds to what I value about food.  They say it in the restaurant tagline of “Gracious Dining.”  The idea of food and dining experience that is itself thankful, cordial, and sociable, reminds me of what I love so much about food.  That food can be simple, true, and honest must make the eater happier, more appreciative, and grateful to be living. 
Staunton Grocery on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Last Friday, some friends and I were all complaining that we had each missed out on the usual St. Patrick Day fare and festivities.  So, I invited everyone over on Sunday and offered to make a pot of Colcannon.  I fixed a slight variation on the recipe below.  I made the Colcannon a day before and then prepared it in a “bubble-and-squeak” method.  This just means that I made small patties of Colcannon, floured both sides, and browned it in a frying pan with a little olive oil.  I served it with a Guinness gravy, rosemary Irish Soda Bread, arugula and citrus salad, and homemade applesauce.

Colcannon Recipe

Colcannon has to be the ultimate comfort food.  It is simply cabbage, mashed potatoes, and ham.  I first heard about it on an episode of Tyler’s Ultimate in which he showed it being made three different ways.  I have played around with the recipe a couple of times, and this is the one I have ended up with.  I’m using bacon, but you can also substitute with a center-cut slice of ham.  The main variations of my recipe is I’ve cut back on butter by using Greek yogurt and I’ve also substituted buttermilk for milk to help give a little more tang.  

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour


Mashed Potatoes:
3 pounds of red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sprig of rosemary, as well as ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
½ tsp kosher salt
2 tbls. of butter (or olive oil)
1- 6 oz. container of plain Greek yogurt
½ cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

Bacon and Cabbage:
½ lb. bacon (but could also use a slice of center-cut ham) 
½ small head of cabbage, cored and chopped
¼ cup of Guinness or dark stout
½ cup of water
A pinch of salt and pepper


Cooking the Cabbage: 
1.   Over medium heat in a large, shallow pan, cook the bacon.  When the bacon is crisp, drain it on a paper towel and set it aside.  With some tongs and paper towels, sop up the bacon grease, reserving a little (about 2 tbls.) to cook the cabbage. 
2.   In the same pan over a medium heat, add the cabbage and toss it in the bacon grease. 
3.   Once all the cabbage is coated, add the Guinness and the ½ cup of water.  Add salt and pepper and stir to incorporate.         
4.   Cover the cabbage with a lid and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the cabbage is done, it will have reduced in size and be tender.  For the recipe, I like it a little firm still to give the Colcannon a better texture. 
5.   While the cabbage cooks, start the potatoes. 

Cooking the Potatoes:
1.   In a large pot, place the potato pieces, rosemary sprig, bay leaf, and salt and add cold water.  The water should cover the potatoes completely. 
2.   Over medium-high heat, bring the water to boil.  Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat slightly and partially cover the pot by leaving the lid slightly ajar.  After the water comes to a boil, you’ll cook the potatoes for 5 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted and removed easily.    
3.   When the potatoes are done, drain the water off.  Return to potatoes to the original pot or to a bowl and add butter, yogurt, buttermilk, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash the potatoes using a potatoes masher or a hand blender. 

Mixing the Colcannon
1.   Take the bacon and crumble it up with your hands.  Add it to the potatoes. 
2.   At this point, the cabbage should be done and you can ladle it into the potatoes.   The liquid from the cabbage will help smooth the potatoes.  If potatoes are too thick or have dried, add a little more buttermilk. 
3.   Stir to incorporate and taste to adjust seasonings. 
Colcannon With Bacon on FoodistaColcannon With Bacon
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here's to Hot Dogs

Humphrey Bogart once said that, “A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.”  If I had heard this quote when I was younger, I wouldn’t have understood.  I never liked hot dogs as a kid because, like peas, they have that weird sensation of rubbery skin, puncturing to reveal a squishy inside.  Now, after changing my associations with hot dogs, Bogart’s sentiments about this great American icon mirror my own exactly. 
The reasons I’ve reconsidered hot dogs happened gradually.  My first reappraisal came over a year ago when I went to an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas.  On the beach, there was a stand with hot dogs, burgers, and chicken tenders.  After coming out of the ocean, tired and hungry, those hot dogs, warm and cozy in a fluffy white bun, tasted amazing.  Coupled with a beer or tequila and lime, you had a fully rounded flavor event. 
My fondness further grew last summer when I started doing more backyard grilling, an event not often experienced in my childhood.  Although coupled with various other meats and sides, the surprising highlight for me was usually grilled sausages, turkey dogs, or regular hot dogs laden with mustard, salsa, barbeque sauce, or sauerkraut.  After a couple of barbeques, I found myself, for the first time in my life, craving hot dogs. 
While visiting Sarasota, two of my memorable food experiences involved hot dogs.  The first was at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, which is just outside of Sarasota, to see a Spring Training game between the Orioles and the Pirates.  Before the game, I got an Italian sausage with sautéed red peppers, onions, mustard, and relish.  Only problem was a temptation dilemma that came when I had to wait the entirety of the national anthem, holding my steaming prize, and unable to enjoy it.  The second was at Sarasota Kennel Club which on Friday afternoon has 50 admission, 50₡ beer, and 50₡ hot dogs.  By normal standards, the thin hot dogs in somewhat dry buns would be nothing to blog about, but somehow, they were awesome.  Sitting at the tracks, coming down from the adrenalin of the last race, mulling over the next bet, and drinking a cold AmberBock, all joined for a perfect combination.  
Like Bogart says, hot dogs reflect how the taste and fondness for a food grows because of a moment, a place, or a connection.   Yes, they do taste great and they do hit a gastronomic yearning of meat, bread, and condiments.  But, more than that, they are an icon of grilling with friends, a much needed post-swimming replenishment, and the crowning glory of grandstand pastimes. 
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the Road . . . Sarasota (Pt. 4): Turduckhen

Alpine Steakhouse: Turducken
I, like many others, am a huge fan of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Whenever I travel to a new town, I try to consult Guy Fieri about what local food stop awaits me.  When I booked my plane ticket to Sarasota, “D,D, and D” was the first food research I did.  What I found is that Florida itself has several Fieri finds and Sarasota has one—Alpine Steakhouse. 
A local diner, Alpine’s claim to fame is a turducken that is stuffed with two different kinds of stuffing and cooked for 12 hours.  Initially, never having had Turducken, Alpine’s was a food destination I really wanted to visit.  However, after fearing it would be a heavy afternoon fare and so having a hard time scheduling it in the trip, my resolve to go floundered.  My determination was shaken even more when looking at reviews of the place replaced the myth of the thing with doubting reality.  After debate, doubt, gastronomical reasoning, I resolved to go before my plane ride home.    
The Turdukhen dinner, which features a hefty slice coupled with a baked potato and cranberry sauce, is $15.  This would have been a little much for wallet and for preflight stomach, and I was happy to find that you could get the Turducken sandwich, which was a more reasonable portion and a much more reasonable price of $5. 
The first bite was everything I wanted: think thanksgiving on a bun.  Subsequent bites, though, proved harder to fully appreciate and get excited by.  With the textural difference of the poultries (the dense duck, the softer chicken, and the firm turkey) and the variety of a flavors in the stuffing (some with spinach and some with andouille sausage) made it a bit of a tastebud and texture crapshoot.  Although the surprise and suspense might be the highlight for some and was something I wasn’t sure initially how to respond to, by the end I found it a little distracting.  For me, there is something to getting a great bite in which everything comes together, melding in a mouth moment, and then knowing that it will happen all over again in the next bite and the next bite and the next.  With the Turducken, in sandwich form at least, that consistency of a repeated fantastic bite doesn’t really happen. 
In reflection, there are no food regrets and no love loss.  If served a Turducken again, I wouldn’t turn it down.  But, it does make me wonder if, when it comes to poultry, there is such a thing as a third wheel. 
Alpine Steak House & Karl on Urbanspoon
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Coconut Milk and Citrus Tilapia with Fennel Tea Black Rice

Winner of FoodFrenzy's "Recipe Challenge" for April 2011

This recipe combines marinating the fish in coconut milk and citrus juice with baking in a panko and zest crust to give the fish a bright and fresh taste.  Marinade in the coconut milk is going to help get rid of any fishiness in the tilapia and will also give a little sweetness and fat.  Although I used tilapia in this recipe, it also works will salmon and catfish. 

3 fillets of tilapia, sliced into two pieces
One 13.5 ounce can of light coconut milk
Juice of half an orange
Juice of half a lemon
Juice of half a lime
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper flakes
1 tsp ginger oil (or 1 inch of ginger, grated or just cut in slices if you can’t get ginger oil)
2-3 tablespoons of cilantro, roughly cut
Pinch of salt and pepper
*For a little spice, add sriracha or cayenne pepper 

Panko Crust:
1 1/2 cups of panko crumbs 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2-3 tbls cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbls. grated ginger
Zest of one orange & one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
*add more cayenne flakes or chile powder for a spicier crust

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish or bowl.  Make sure it is big enough to contain all the marinade and the submerged fish. 
  2. Submerge the fish, making sure everything if covered.  If the marinade does not completely cover the fish, feel free to add a little water.  
  3. Let marinade in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.  Since the marinade has a good amount of citrus juice, leaving the fish to long make breakdown the meat or slightly cook the fish.  So, be careful not to forget about it. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F 
  5. In a small bowl, mix the panko, cilantro, ginger, and zest.   I prefer to bread my fish by spreading the mixture on a plate, but this could also be done in a bag 
  6. Cover both sides of the tilapia with the panko mixture and then place on a metal cooking pan that is covered with aluminum foil (for easier clean-up).  Repeat for all the pieces of fish. 
  7. Cook the fish for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) or until flaky.  
  8. When finished cooking, let rest for 5 minutes.  Then, serve with arugula salad and fennel tea black rice. 

Fennel Tea Black Rice
I experimented one day with making rice using tea and I’ve had some really good luck.  This one is one of my favorites because it just gives a little bit of flavor to the rice while also making it taste delicate and fresh. You can also cook this rice more traditionally on the stovetop.  If you go that route, make sure to make the fennel tea about an hour in advance so it can have time to cool. 

2 cups water
2 fennel tea bags
1 cup black rice (or, substitute with white or basmati for a more delicate grain)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2.  Boil two cups of water and let the tea bags seep for about 5 minutes. 
  3. Put the black rice, salt, and fennel seeds into a oven-proof baking dish that has lid.
  4. Pour in the fennel tea and olive oil.  *If the fennel tea has gotten too cool, zap it in the microwave for a minute because it needs to be pretty hot when it goes in the oven to create enough steam. 
  5. Put the lid on the race and then bake in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. 
 photo bfdac910-178a-4ee2-a5fd-c9a902184f1f_zpsc381b36d.jpg
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On the Road . . . Sarasota (Pt. 3): More Seafood

Daiquiri Deck: Seafood, Part II
One of the evenings in Sarasota was set aside for enjoying both Siesta Key’s sandy beach and its post-swimming recreations.  There a several places of interest, but the place we went with was Daquiri Deck, which was chosen solely one thing—Daiquiri’s. 
The friends I went with are visitors to Louisiana many times over and are used to the commonness of the Daiquiri Drive-Thru.  I, on the other hand, had eyes as big as Daiquiri machines and was hypnotized by swirling greens, blues, reds, and yellows.  Couple great food with a two-for-one happy special on frozen, churning, fruity grain alcohol, and you have the adult equivalent of a kid in a candy store. 
For an appetizer, I split Florida Gatorbites.  As you can see from the picture, they were so good that I forgot to take a picture until it was almost too late.  Gator is an interesting meat.  I first had it a Gatorland in Orlando, Florida.  Like Daiquiri Deck’s Gatorbites, they were fried and tasted like a gamier version of dark chicken meat.  At the time I thought they were good, but in comparison to the ones at Daquiri Deck, I’ve sense wondered if the nuggets at Gatorland were gators that had gotten too old to perform in the jump-a-roo exhibition.  The Gator Bites at Daiquiri Deck were a little chewy, as gator meat is want to be, but were still tender, well-seasoned, and lacked gaminess. 

For the main, I had a Soft Shell Crab sandwich that was everything you want from what looks like a fried spider on a bun.  It had a similar breading to the Gator Bites and was crunchy and with crab that was supple and rich.  Put a little of the “Daquiri Deck Fruit Fusion Hot Sauce,” and you have a good eats that is citrusy with a hint of heat. 
The only miss for me was the Oyster Shooter.  I’m a fan of Bizarre Foods and No Reservations.  Inspired by their risks with fermented shark, whisky infused with rattlesnake, live squid tentacles, and chicken feet,  I took my shot glass of oyster, sunk in red murky tequila water, and threw caution to the wind.
One wish is that I had tried something a little safer like the “the Original” (vodka, bloody mary mix, and pepper).
A second wish is that I had not gotten the smell in my nose first. 
A third wish is that my boyfriend had gotten the picture of me before the tasting, a look of daring anticipation on my face, instead of post-intake with a face that is clearly trying not to throw-up. 
Summary—daiquiris good and two-for-one better, Gator Bites a must have, Soft Crab a bullseye, and the oyster shots, a foolhardy adventure. 
Daiquiri Deck Siesta Key on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On the Road . . . Sarasota (Pt. 2): Tapas Night

Ceviche Tapas – #1 Restaurant in Sarasota that reminded me that good food speaks for itself
Pipirrana = Fabada beans,
crispy cucumber in
 Jerez vinegar, capers,
tomato, sweet peppers
 and onion

This was a random find when looking at a website that gives the Top 10 list for food deals in Sarasota.  Most of the food deals were because of a website,, that provides $25 gift certificates for as little $2 and $3.  Ceviche Tapas, though, was one of the few restaurants on the list with weekly deals.  Tuesday through Friday, they offer a Happy Hour special of discounted tapas and cheap sangria, beer, etc.  All day every Tuesday, they offer “Tapas Tuesdays” which features around 15 cold and 12 hot tapas, all for $4, as well as $4 sangrias in red, white, and sparkling. 

Ceviche Tapas offered a light, complex, and flavorful plate every time.  I went with my boyfriend and another friend late Tuesday night, around 10:30, and we each picked three tapas.   I got two cold tapas, the Pipirrana and Mejillones Ahumados, and Flan.  The Pipirrana was simply dressed and let the natural freshness of the cucumber, and sweet peppers, the firm smoothness of the fabada beans, and the tang of the capers and Jerez vinegar shine through.  Then, the Mejillones Ahumados  let the naturally dense and complex flavor of the smoked mussels resonate, creating a create texture contrast to the surrounding raw tomatoes and onions.  The flan--best flan I’ve ever had. 

Mejillones Ahumados = Smoked Spanish
mussels with tomatoes and onions
My boyfriend had three hot plates, the Chorizo y Pimientos, Croquetas de Pollo, and Calamares Fritos, and another friend ordered Salmon a la Gaditana, Esparragos, and Calamari. The calamari was crunchy and tender; the salmon was melt in your mouth smooth and was in a sauce that you wanted to sop up all of with the bread.  The coquette was a scene stealer because I have never had a croquette so rich and yet so light on the palette.   

 Even though tapas are usually small plates, the portions were substantial and each plate offered a different texture, taste profile, and sensory stimulation.  Oh, and lest I forget, you could couple each course with a $4 sangria, bursting with fruit and intoxicating goodness.  Everyone agreed that it was the best food find in town and didn’t break the bank.  For around $20 plus tip, I got three tapas and two sangrias and a really happy belly.

Chorizo y Piementos = Five types of chorizo sausage sliced with roasted tomatoes and sweet peppers
Croquetas de Pollo = Fresh chicken and Serrano ham folded into béchamel and deep fried
Calamares Fritos = Tender squid lightly dusted in a seasoned flour and fried crispy, served with lemon and paprika aioli
Salmon a la Gaditana = Grilled Norwegian salmon served with leeks and saffron sauce
Esparragos = Fresh grilled asparagus with field greens and aioli
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