From Hogwash to Posh Nosh
Lazy Dinner

The Place:

  • My sofa after over 2 hours exercising

The Meal:

  • Lean Cuisine BBQ Chicken Pizza (not too bad if you don’t think of it as pizza and are okay with having lots of sodium)
  • Mixed Green Salad topped with chopped carrots and dressed with an Olive Oil Red Wine Vinaigrette
  • Table Red Wine
Tonight’s Dinner

Nothing pithy or long for this post. Just a good, tasty, home-cooked meal on a cold night.

The food:

  • Lemon Chicken
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Whole Grain Rice Pilaf
  • Wheat Baguette w/ Organic Valley Butter (salted)
  • Pure Evil Chardonnay

The Verdic:

  • Scrumptious combination of in-season foods, on-sale chicken, and tasty grains!
Spare, not Strike for Bowled

As all my friends will tell you, I’m a terrible bowler.  Really, I’m pathetic.  Once, back in high school, I even rolled my ball into the next lane! But my lack of skills doesn’t mean I quit playing the game.  And it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the sport.  I just have a lot of room to grow.  And with every game I play, I get a little bit better.  Someday, I will get a strike and knock each pin neatly down.  Unfortunately, I’m just not quite there yet.  But it’s getting close!

Similarly, Bowled Restaurant (http://www.bowledrestaurant.com/) fails to hit all the pins.  The restaurant comes close, but a few (easily fixable) problems prevent 100% accuracy.  In the game of dining, Bowled just earns a spare.

I get that Bowled does a lot of take-out. In fact, after my dining experience, I totally understand the amount of take-out.  (I myself plan to be frequenting Bowled a lot in the not-too-distant future for my own take-out dining pleasure.)  However, when a customer first walks into a restaurant on a Friday night, she should not be asked “You here for take-out?”

Such was the question posed to me on a dreary evening last week.  “Oh no,” I replied, a tad put off by the strange requested, “I’m meeting friend.”

Thank Goodness I wasn’t, Egads!, arriving at the restaurant to dine….alone!  The horror of such an idea! Eating dinner out at a restaurant by oneself may have been more than the server/hostess could have fathomed!

Luckily, my friend arrived.  “See?” I wanted to say to the server.  “I’m not alone, you crazy lady.”  I, however, refrained and chose to simply order my meal instead.

Almost instantly, our appetizers appeared: a side house salad for my friend and a cup of the tomato bisque for me.  Unfortunately, in addition to being a poor pairing with my wine (I ordered the grassy Sauvignon Blanc to go with my dinner), my soup, although bursting with rich tomato flavor, was lukewarm.  Cold soup, no matter how tasty, is never enjoyable.

Thank goodness we had ordered appetizers, however!!  Over thirty minutes passed before the arrival of our entrees.  While another server sat at the bar folding set-ups (a big no-no in a decently filled restaurant on a big night of the week for dining out), our water glasses sat pathetically empty and we sat forever waiting for our entrees.  And waited.  My post-yoga stomach growled.  My wine glass dwindled, till only a sip remained.  Still, our food did not arrive.  At last, as my stomach growled one more time, I managed to catch our surly server’s eye and asked, “Excuse me, but is our food ever coming? It’s been a while…”

"Oh yeah, sorry," she replied, clearly not the least bit apologetic. "A bunch of other tables put in their order at the same time.  It’s coming out soon."

Huh.  I looked around the restaurant.  Certainly didn’t look that crowded to me.  I was pretty positive there were only one or two tables that had even been seated in the time between my arrival (five minutes before my friend) and the ordering of our food.  Certainly three orders (all from deuce tables) should not take over thirty minutes to prepare.  On a Friday night.  Most baffling.

Thankfully, the food did eventually arrive.  And when it did? Piping hot.  My chicken piccata made me even like that little annoying orzo pasta, when paired with such lemony, moist chicken and a delectable white wine sauce.  Amazingly, the capers (so tasty, yet always such a variable at restaurants) did not yield the dish too salty.  My friend’s pad thai with chicken (chicken added at an additional cost) proved equally successful, though she did not enjoy the inevitable battle of actually eating tofu (the texture of tofu is “too squishy” for her tastes).  Still, the pad thai topped many imitations at “Asian” restaurants.  Plus, both meals provided overly-large portions, providing a whole second meal to be enjoyed at a later date!

The food at Bowled certainly tickled my fancy.  Moreover, Bowled has a multitude of menu items that I look forward to trying.  But, perhaps there is a reason for the server’s take-out comment upon my arrival.  The front of house staff’s etiquette (perhaps a sign of their training) leaves much to be desired.  Even if our food wait was a result of the kitchen delay (which still seems a tad suspicious to me), the waitstaff left much to be desired.  Really, they should know better.  After the server stopped putting together set-ups? She left the remaining napkins, bins, etc. on clear view at the bar.  What if I had, in fact, arrived alone and planned to sit at the bar and enjoy my food? That would have been an impossibility.  And one need not be overly nice, but I would like a server to remember my existence.  And my water glass.  It’s the little things in life…

Still, Bowled can easily fix the minor front of house problems.  The food proved toothsome and, with but a few quick fixes, Bowled can see a fuller dining room filled with diners who brag to their friends and frequently make return visits!  Then, just maybe, I think Bowled could get that strike!

Bowled Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Perfectly Wrong Hair Leads to Perfectly Right Evening Meal Delights

Whack!

It’s every girl’s nightmare—as her hair suddenly, without warning, drops across her face… and onto the floor.  It’s gone. No mas.  She looks in the mirror.  Eyes widen in fright.  She’s just had the worst possible thing. A thing that causes mass hysteria and tears in women around the world. She’s just had… a bad hair cut!

Now, to be truthful, mine wasn’t the be all end all extremely bad haircut. I just ended up somehow sporting a nasty pair of bangs (but lovely color job, I must say).  My vision is now impaired for what—months?  I get in my car, looked in the rearview mirror (while parked, I was driving safely), and instantly knew.  No matter how the hair stylist tried to sugar-coat it.  There’s no going back. I have short, ugly, blond bangs in my eyes. Bangs that make it difficult to even *see* my reflection in the mirror.  I have fallen victim to every female’s constant fear—the awful, uncomfortable, just plain NO FAIR ugly hair-cut.

The hair stylist took longer than expected. I look at the clock.  Not only does my hair look unattractive, but yes, I have missed the very thing to necessary to heal the residing discomfort—the planned Ashtanga Yoga Class I had wanted to attend.  I sigh. I grip the steering wheel.  I will not let myself cry!  Over hair? That is ridiculous and embarrassing. But. I sooooo want to.  It is absolutely hideous! Heinous! How did I get *bangs*???

Suddenly, my healthy post-yoga soup idea goes out the window. If I’m not making it to yoga? Do I need to detox with soup? I don’t care if Thanksgiving is coming, gosh darn it! I need something tasty. I need something quick.  I suddenly find myself turning, pulling into Evo’s.

Okay. Not the worst decision.  There is healthy food at Evo’s.  I can even refuse the fries (though they are air baked which always makes me feel they are so gosh darn yummy…).  But I cannot refuse the Crispy Thai Trout Wrap.  Of course, with 660 calories (not counting the extra sauce I asked for), this “healthy” wrap packs more nutritional negatives than a Big Mac.  Shhh!!!!  It’s what I want on a bad day.  Well when I can’t get avocados, that is. I’m taking a forcefully imposed break from avocados. (Though have only made it since what? Friday? And that is due to the fact that we are not in Hass Avocado season, Publix has become overwhelmed with a vat of under-ripe, expensive avocados and I refuse to eat the subpar Florida Avocaods.)  If it weren’t for that avocado hiatus, who knows what I would have ended up with?

That discussion remains for another day.  For today? It’s crispy trout, rice noodles, peanut sauce, and a spinach tortilla.

I take this quick emotional food home.  Has my apartment always had so many mirrors? Every direction, my ugly bangs are visible.  Like some kind of icky calling beacon of ugliness, mocking me with their bang-like erratic behavior and frequent vision impairment.

Thank goodness! I still have a bottle of “Pure Evil.” Chardonnay, that is.  Purchased for a mere $7.99 from Rolling Oats on 9th Street.  Not my favorite. But always fun and perfect for tonight.

I sigh again looking in my mirror. And thank God for the comfort of screw top wine and fast food fish. With crunchy noodles and peanut sauce.

At least, after a full meal in my belly and a grassy glass of buttery Evil Chardonnay, I know things will be looking up.

"Perfectly wrong?" That would be my bangs.  And the slogan of the Pure Evil Chardonnay. But even *with* perfectly ugly hair, a perfectly cheap, fun glass of wine and overly unhealthy health food (with peanut sauce!), can make life be okay.

Food, Fizzy Strongbow, & Friends

So, I like to go out. That’s a fact. But there are nights when I want nothing more than good companionship, flavorful, affordable food, and beer/wine.  Toss in some live music, TVs, and comfy booths and you’ve got me pleased.

On those nights when I want nothing more than to stay close to home.  And Old Northeast Tavern (http://www.oldnortheasttavern.com/) fits the bill!  Be it a Tuesday night for a glass of wine and a pressed sandwich with a girlfriend (I am fond of the prosciutto & artichoke panini, pressed panini style) or a Strongbow with the Turkey/Strawberry/Brie Croissant Sandwich, I am generally a happy camper.

Old NE Tavern is the type of restaurant/bar where you can sit for hours with friends when you actually feel like talking and catching up.  I have never felt rushed.  I have had no problems getting drink refills. But, it is also the kind of place where I’ve frequently run into other friends and acquaintances I know. At which point, the booths in the large dining room get a bit cramped.  Luckily, you can usually find more room at a table or in the larger bar-side of the tavern.

I think the tavern expects you to run into people you know? To linger over food/drinks until several of your friends show up?  The restaurant is always welcoming to late-comers and frequently asks if “someone else will be joining your group?” Though I frequently feel badly for the musicians.  I’m never quite sure anyone listens to the group perform other than their friends.  But again, perhaps that is fitting.  Neighborhood band brings neighborhood friends as neighborhood acquaintances drink, dine, and dialogue.

Still, friendliness aside, I remain baffled by the three spiffy chairs that live in the women’s restroom.  Do they expect girls to come in droves? They do only have one restroom per gender, which is a bit of a bummer on a Friday night, but I’ve never wanted a line *in* the restroom with me. I’m just saying.  Why have not one, not two, but THREE chairs just sitting in the bathroom?? It’s one of those weird kooky things about the place that has always creeped me out a bit. Goes against the whole friendly, relaxed vibe.  I certainly hope there’s a story to them…

Maybe one of those nights when I’m chatting with friends, I will feel spunky and ask the server. And maybe, as I dig into a pizza, I can make a new friend and solve the mystery of the Old Northeast Tavern’s Women’s Restroom.  Until then—I will live in wonder.  And yeah, be a little wigged out….  But I don’t mind a good quirky mystery when there’s food, beverages, and good company.

Old Northeast Tavern on Urbanspoon

“The North thinks it know how to make corn bread, but this is a gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite as bad as the Northern imitation of it.”- Mark Twain

That’s what Lee Roy Selman’s on Tyrone (http://www.leeroyselmons.com/) felt like.  Not as bad as the North’s attempts to be Southern, but still a terrible imitation.  The cornbread casserole, so lauded by our server, was dry and inedible as a result. The sweet potato fries were tasty, but someone in the kitchen got carried away with the salt.  Fried chicken? Eh.  Nothing special. Also a bit dry. Meatloaf? A bit dry. Sense a recurring theme?  Best part was ahi tuna appetizer, which makes no attempts whatsoever to attempt to be Southern.  Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.  Definitely won’t be making a return visit, unless I just want a big tv and a beer. (But there are so many non-chains where I could get a beer, a big tv, AND good food. So why bother?)

Lee Roy Selmon's on Urbanspoon

I am the world’s worst vegetarian.  Seriously. I have tried. Time and time again. But there’s something that always prevents me.
And yes, I like my chicken fried. And that stuff’s hard to resist. But it’s always the bacon, PORK, that sends me rushing back to to the land of the carnivore.
Sunday’s RibFest 2009 in Vinoy Park was a night for the meat eating, beer drinking, country-music-loving gal.  Though there is also a reason I left New York City.  The crowds were horrific! Beer lines stretched for what felt like miles.  The barbecue line? Hope you have an hour.
But once we had our pork bbq, we headed away from the crowds, towards the water.  What’s better than a picnic with pulled pork/ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and Miller Light?  Of course, the macaroni and cheese quickly got cold.  But hot damn, that stuff was good when it came out! And we didn’t even *wait* our hour for the Tennessee line (ours were randomly from Ohio, though did take 1st place in several known farm-ey communities throughout Kentucky, Iowa, Missouri, the rest of the Midwest, etc. And was the only one we spotted with mac ‘n cheese, my favorite Southern “vegetable.”)
RibFest is expensive.  RibFest is overwhelming.  But RibFest is fun.
You get pork.  You get your friends.  And you get to dance to Zac Brown Band.
Now I just can’t wait to get my toes back up to Georgia for, perhaps, some Southern bbq and more of that lovely pasta that is considered a veggie… Life is good today.

I am the world’s worst vegetarian.  Seriously. I have tried. Time and time again. But there’s something that always prevents me.

And yes, I like my chicken fried. And that stuff’s hard to resist. But it’s always the bacon, PORK, that sends me rushing back to to the land of the carnivore.

Sunday’s RibFest 2009 in Vinoy Park was a night for the meat eating, beer drinking, country-music-loving gal.  Though there is also a reason I left New York City.  The crowds were horrific! Beer lines stretched for what felt like miles.  The barbecue line? Hope you have an hour.

But once we had our pork bbq, we headed away from the crowds, towards the water.  What’s better than a picnic with pulled pork/ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and Miller Light?  Of course, the macaroni and cheese quickly got cold.  But hot damn, that stuff was good when it came out! And we didn’t even *wait* our hour for the Tennessee line (ours were randomly from Ohio, though did take 1st place in several known farm-ey communities throughout Kentucky, Iowa, Missouri, the rest of the Midwest, etc. And was the only one we spotted with mac ‘n cheese, my favorite Southern “vegetable.”)

RibFest is expensive.  RibFest is overwhelming.  But RibFest is fun.

You get pork.  You get your friends.  And you get to dance to Zac Brown Band.

Now I just can’t wait to get my toes back up to Georgia for, perhaps, some Southern bbq and more of that lovely pasta that is considered a veggie… Life is good today.

Chill in the Air, Warmth in my Belly

So it’s finally reached a decent temperature in Florida.  Made me realize how much I miss Autumn.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Florida. But there is something to that crisp breeze, colored leaves, and sweater weather of the North that I miss.  Fall is my favorite season.  (Granted, I didn’t like it when Fall was only two weeks long sometimes up in Massachusetts!!)  I love Fall. I love Fall foods. I love Fall fashion.  I love Fall feelings.

Fall feelings.  What are those?  You know what I mean.  The feelings of warmth, coziness, change, expectations, the peaceful hush that follows a breeze through the trees, the tingle in your hands when you step outside, the satisfying hi-ya! when you jump in a big pile of leaves.  Fall feelings.  They run the gamut. Some are nostalgic and make you a bit contemplative. Reflective.  Fall means change, which is never easy.  But fall also means so much more.  Fall means family.  Fall means study.  Fall means flavors and warmth.

So it’s no surprise that I’ve eaten my last couple of meals around heating, comforting foods.  And not a shocker that I fully plan to stop at Starbucks and get a Venti Coffee and a Pumpkin scone.  Fall has arrived in Florida (for a few days, at least) and I aim to make the most of it!

Last Night’s Dinner:

  • Home-Made Broccoli Cheddar Soup (I made up the recipe, with considerable improvement over my childhood attempts at recipe-making)
  • Whole Foods Whole Grain Baguette with Whole Foods unsalted butter
  • Clois du Bois Chardonnay (2008)

This Morning’s Breakfast:

  • Eggs scrambled in olive oil served over whole wheat toast

Now, it’s just a matter of time before I dig my teeth into an overly-sugary, but satisfying pumpkin “scone” from Starbucks. I only have them once a year.  Now’s the time!

Apologies, Tears, Beers, and Buffalo Sauce

I like country music.

I know, I know.  You are groaning.  Rolling your eyes. Plugging your ears.

But I like it.

My friends like it, too.

So after a restorative yoga class at St. Petersburg Yoga, we decided to meet at Midtown Sundries (http://www.midtownsundries.com/st_petersburg.html) for dinner.  Baseball season is over.  There are NO football games on Wednesday night. Certainly, on one of their gazillion televisions, they could put the Country Music Awards on??

We sat down in one of the booths.  We nervously waited to catch a server’s eye.  Then we asked. Politely. “Sorry to bother you, but would you mind putting the CMA’s on for us? And maybe turning the tv towards us so we can see?”

We paused. Bated breath. Then… “No problem!”

Smiles. Relief. We got our CMA’s.  Onto the beer and the food!

We enjoyed our Miller Light drafts.  Though Country Music is probably not the best for a group of girls to listen to over dinner.  Emotions, gossip, and estrogen surges are bound to develop.

We ordered and happily drank our beers while waiting for our food.  My friend’s side garden salad arrived… only to have her extra avocado and blue cheese dressing go flying from the table, spilling dressing fantastically onto the the table, the seat, the floor.  All parties involved were very kind, however, although the spill launched a strange interaction with the server.  She said I “apologized” too much. Urm… Sorry for saying sorry? Trying to be polite here.  Never knew that that was a problem.  Just say “thanks” or “ok” and leave it at that.  Please.

Food came out without any further mishaps—other than a few damp eyes/emotions from all of us (server gal, too!) when Lady Antebellum’s song “Need You Now” played at the CMA’s.  I swear, that song turns me into a puddle of tears. It was close to getting messy, but then… Huzzah! Arrival of beer and piping hot plate of Cripsy Fried Chicken with Buffalo Sauce turned things around.

I’m a big fan of the buffalo chicken at Midtown Sundries, I think it is the main reason I like to go here. (Well, to be honest, they also are a great spot for watching football!)  Add extra buffalo sauce and a dash of Tabasco to the chicken, and your good to go with a party in your mouth!  I ordered a side garden salad, as well, with added avocado.  Putting a few of the chicken strips on top the greens was a perfect match.  Getting a bite of heat, chicken, and avocado together makes for a happy tongue! I’ll never get their Blue Cheese Dressing, however.  It always seems a bit “Ranchy” to me—even looks like Ranch Dressing! I’d prefer a few more blue cheese crumbles and a little less of the buttermilky texture.  But then again, my friend loves their dressing.  So to each to her own.

All in all, another positive experience at Midtown Sundries.  We saw our CMA’s. We drank. We ate. We spilled. We apologized too much.  We cried.  We laughed. We had fun.  And I got to use my Downtown The Bloc (http://thedowntownbloc.ning.com/) card discount on the bill!

We’ll be back again soon!  Maybe for college football on Saturday… And yes, we’ll be sure to leave the feminine hormones and emotional country music at home on game day!

Midtown Sundries on Urbanspoon

Turkey Burger with Florida Avocado Guacamole

The Meal:

  • Dinner (Yesterday)

The Place:

  • My Kitchen Table

The Food:

The Drink:

  • The Folie a Deux Table Red

The Verdict:

  • The turkey burger would have been better cooked on a grill, but was still when used in my skillet.  Despite using Organic Canola Spray instead of olive oil, I found it to be a bit greasy.
  • I’d bought the Dee Amore frozen potato at Whole Foods on sale.  I love home-made Twice Baked Potatoes.  But they are so time consuming!  I was hoping to find a new, faster alternative for week nights.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  Better than the average frozen foods, these babies don’t compare to the real thing.  I have one left (they come in a package with two.) But I’ll save it for a rainy day/clean out the cupboard meal.  It was smaller than expected and lacking the cheesey goodness of a real, home-made twice baked potato.