NOLA – Where life is buzzing all around

I do enjoy when academic conferences are held in exciting locations (all part of getting attendance numbers up). The conference this year was in New Orleans! Two of my wonderful girlfriends joined me for a couple days of exploration, food, music, and shenanigans.

Food ReCap

Galliano: By far the best meal/service combination I had the entire trip and in the top 5 of all time. The service from start to finish was impeccable, with everyone from management to waitstaff making sure that the meal was good, dishes were cleared, and drinks were refilled. I had the Crawfish Pasta Monica, a good portion with chunks of crawfish tails – the toasted cheese bread was a bit too toasted otherwise a dish to make the tastebuds tingle. The blackened drum is a must try and the southern fried chicken was most excellent. Dessert changes each night so ask your server for their recommendation.

Cafe du Monde: You can’t go to New Orleans and not dine at this classic establishment. However, if you don’t NEED to wait in line at the main shop then I recommend the location in the Riverwalk mall – shorter lines same great taste. The coffee was excellent but the beignets were a bit more dough-y than I recalled. Still heaven in a bite!

Drago’s: All you need to order is 1 dozen charbroiled oysters – that is all. Use the bread to soak up the buttery, parmesan goodness and enjoy every bite. As my sister said “It’s a religion”. I did have a shrimp po boy – but I really wasn’t all that impressed – the bread was far too crusty.

Mulate’s: Nightly Cajun music – but don’t get there too late because the band will wrap up  on schedule. Good location for a drink and some dessert while indulging in music. Right across the street from Galliano.

Morning Call Coffee Stand: This 24-hour joint serves coffee and beignets with a throwback flare. The beignets were probably my favorite of those tasted on the trip. This joint is located in New Orleans City Park – so make a day out of visiting botanical gardens, museum of art and sculpture garden, boating, biking, and much more.

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Spitfire Coffee: Pay attention or you will walk right past it. I had the cortado and it was lovely.

Adolfo’s: Located on Frenchman street this was the perfect place to have an end of trip dinner. Cash only and limited seating, it is well worth it to get there early. Have some drinks downstairs while you wait, or walk around the Art Market and check out local wares (I did some shopping for myself and for Christmas!).

Other Happenings 

Aside from eating our way to a food coma – which by walking 14 miles over 2.5-3 days we subsequently nulled out the caloric intake – there was also time to discover what the city had to offer. French quarter fest was in full swing for the weekend, so there was plenty of music and festivities to partake in. I’d been to Bourbon Street before, so I skipped that and instead enjoyed the music offerings of Frenchman Street. Club after club with each one having better music than the last – pop in and out and dance yourself to a good time.

We opted for a tour of the city and really learned a lot about the history of New Orleans, the layout of the city, its people, and life outside of tourist-land.

To commemorate the trip…well we all may have stopped into Electric Ladyland...I can only speak for myself when I say that Chris is a great artist and I’m very happy with fresh pineapple inked onto my wrist.

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Overall, I have to say that I left NOLA with a great impression and would absolutely go back. The city has experienced a rebirth since Katrina. The people were friendly and, as a city, I experienced some of the best hospitality overall that I have ever experienced. There is a zest for life that can be tasted in the food and felt in the music…as they say in New Orleans “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Breakfast at Dixie Belle’s

The brunch spot for the past two year’s has been KeKe’s (I’m all about 2 pecan pancakes with eggs and bacon, the bacon is really good – the coffee is sub-par). However, due to a noticeable drop in service level we’ve (the bestie and I) been searching for a new breakfast/brunch spot.

In a google search of “top restaurant spots in Orlando” I came across Dixie Belle’s Cafe. Top reviews on Yelp plus the proclamation of “home of the sweet potato biscuit” cemented the decision to give the joint a try.

A super cute little place, very homey and causal. I decided to go with pancakes, eggs, bacon and a sweet potato biscuit.

Service factor: 5 out of 5. Very happy with the waitress. She had a wonderful personality, offered suggestions, made sure coffee was always filled, and was attentive without being overly attentive.

Food: 4 out of 5. The pancakes were delightful and the eggs cooked as ordered. The bacon was ok, a little flimsy for my taste. The coffee sadly was sub-par (not strong at all). The sweet potato biscuit tasted like someone captured the essence of fall, wrapped it up and delivered it on a platter. Sweet without being too sweet – and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg – I could have eaten another!

I highly recommend this little place and definitely will be going back.

 

 

 

Sending Postcards from the Inn

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Beach Chair View of St. Petersburg

Several years ago, while job hunting I came across the Postcard Inn. I applied for a job but at the time they were unfortunately (or fortunately) fully staffed. Since then, this property has been very high on my list of properties to spend a night (or several) at. Needless to say when the opportunity arose to stay at the property, I was all over it. To that end I would like to thank the gang from Crossfit Hunters Creek, Crossfit Taino, and The Pit Athletics for deciding to compete in Battle at the Beach! Now then, on with my review.

Upon walking in the front doors to check-in, the vibe was relaxed and casual but with a wonderful Gulf Coast flair. There was an immediate feeling of relaxation (complimentary postcards are available at the front desk…they will even mail them for you, postage included!!). The front office staff was perfect the entire weekend – always smiling and happy to help with questions (regardless of how silly they might be…not that I would ask such questions!)

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All about the balance

Throughout the hotel you can find a variety of wonderful touches that are reminiscent of a beach vacation back before there was internet or cell phones. From a variety of games available (pool table and ping pong in the courtyard, connect four, scrabble, and giant jenga in the lobby), a fire pit that is lit at night, rocking chairs, and lounge chairs galore to movie night in the lobby on Fridays…there is plenty to do when you feel the need to take a break from the sun.

The room was very well decorated. Bright, happy colors. Old photos on the wall, taken during various eras. A sitting area with a surf board on the wall. Plenty of room to lounge…but really who needs to spend time in the room when the fun is outdoors?!

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Beautiful room

The weather the entire weekend was beautiful and therefore I spent most of the weekend outdoors! In addition to the fun indoor games, the hotel has a beautiful pool, bicycles for use, and … did I mention it is right on the beach? Sure is! With beach chairs and beach couches for hotel guests to use. The PCI Beach Bar was were I spent a good chunk of my time, when I wasn’t on the beach. The bar staff was great (they even found the Dolphins game on tv for me!), the drinks were well priced (I suggest enjoying happy hour!) and the food was rather good (I suggest the fried shrimp or the Island chicken wrap!).

In addition to the bar, the Boathouse Kitchen & Bar is the full service restaurant on premise. I decided to treat myself on my last night for dinner in the restaurant…I enjoyed a wonderful lobster bisque, followed by a lobster ravioli (the seared scallops were out sadly) and paired with a Carnivore Cabernet. I decided to stave off my food coma with a sit by the fire pit, it was rather relaxing!

While there is more that I could go on about, all in all the experience exceeded my expectations. It was exactly what I needed after an intense 3 month of coursework. I would also like to congratulate my crossfit peeps for hitting the podium in 3rd place (respectively for male and female teams)….I can’t think of a better way to spend celebrating being ABD than to be able to grab clicks of my crossfit homies, enjoy some great beach weather, beautiful sunsets and finally get to stay at the Postcard Inn.

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Sunsets on the Gulf Coast

Food & Wine: 2016 Edition

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Welcome to Food and Wine

Visiting Epcot during Food & Wine Festival is an annual tradition amongst many. It is definitely a tradition for myself and my friends.

Apart from the smorgasbord of food consumed, we had a great time people watching and riding some of the rides (Finding Nemo, Three Amigos in Mexico, and the newly revamped Soarin’, which I loved!)

Below is a breakdown of the food and beverages tasted (between 3 people, not all by me!), some with pictures, some without! Enjoy!

Greenhouse Guru: Chilled tomato gazpacho with lump crab meat (Note: Wouldn’t try again, very little flavor and was almost frozen as opposed to chilled)

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Chilled Tomato Gazpacho

Wine & Dine Studio: Pork Tenderloin with Cannelloni Bean Ragout and Zinfandel Reduction

Islands of the Caribbean: Jamaican Beef Patty; Mojo Pork with Black Beans Cilantro Rice and Pickled Onions (Note: Nothing special); Pescado con Coco: Seared grouper, pigeon peas, and rice with coconut sauce; Frozen Mojito (Note: Yummy)

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Jamaican Beef Patty (bottom) Pescado con Coco

Greece: Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce (Note: You can get better at the fairgrounds, recommend passing)

Patagonia: Beef empanada; Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree (Note: the Empanada is ok, good flavor; Highly recommend the beef skewer)

Hawaii: Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (Note: GET IT!)

Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac’n’Cheese (Note: this was very good, a little heavy on the onions)

Australia: Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunches

China: Beijing Roasted duck in a steamed bun with hoisin sauce (Note: this is one of my favorite F&W dishes, I look forward to it year after year).

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Beijing roasted duck in a steamed bun with Hoisin sauce

Poland: Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream; Frozen Szarlotka: Apple Pie feat. Zubrowka bison grass vodka (Note: Both of these were excellent. Kielbasa won as new favorite dish)

Hops & Barley: New England Lobster Roll (Note: Good but wouldn’t get it again)

Brazil: Crispy Pork Belly with Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaca (Note: typically very good, this year it wasn’t on par)

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Pork belly and Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaca

France: Boeuf Bourguignon: Cabernet Sauvignon-braised Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes

Ireland: Warm chocolate pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard with Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea Frozen Cocktail with Caramel Vodka (Note: the pudding is sweet but very good; the frozen cocktail is best if mixed before drinking otherwise all the vodka will hit you at once)

Canada: “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (Note: Most excellent)

Refreshment Port: Croissant doughnut with cinnamon and sugar (Note: Perfect!)

All in all a great day and per usual, stayed for the fireworks which, in my humble opinion, is the best way to end the day.

Hola, Cuisine de Peru

A little while back I noticed that a Peruvian restaurant opened up near me, Rustics’s Chicken: Rotisserie & Peruvian Cuisine. My mom was visiting and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to try something new.

The restaurant is small but clean and the staff was friendly. The menu was extensive with sections for appetizers, chicken dishes, beef dishes, seafood selection, and desserts. Prices ranged from $5.95 to $20.00. We tried the following:

Appetizer: Causa de Pollo: A friend explained this dish to me, so I knew I had to try it. The dish was made with yellow potato, hot pepper, lime juice, and chicken. It was very tasty, with a touch of heat and lots of flavor.

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Main dishes

Aguadito de Pollo: This chicken and cilantro soup was bursting with flavor. It was beautifully presented and pipping hot. The price of the dish was $8.95 but this is a full meal and the serving size was generous.

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Chaufa de Carne: This dish is fried rice with beef, green onions and eggs. The meat was well seasoned and this dish, like the other dishes was so full of flavor. It was served fresh and hot. The serving size was a generous portion of rice and plenty of beef.

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Having never tasted Peruvian food before, I had no point of reference as to what to try, what is traditional, and how things should taste. For me, I’m a fan of everything I tried and want to try more of the menu. All dishes were served fresh and hot. The service was wonderful and it was well priced. I would recommend the restaurant and will definitely go back.

Christmas in Ft. Meyers…In July

Impromptu adventures are the best kind of adventures!

My partner in crime had a bowling tournament in Ft. Myers (a Christmas in July themed tourney!). So I joined the fun as “the cheer-squad/personal assistant.” It was a blast! He did very well (setting a higher tourney average for himself and placing!), I got a crash course in bowling (no, I’m not ready for a pop quiz) and met some wonderful people!

Friday night after checking into the hotel, we decided that we were going to have a nice dinner and watch the sunset over the water (when you live on the East side of the state you see the sun rise, so watching the sun set is a treat!). We landed at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill.

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Every good adventure needs a handsome partner in crime

The vibe is beach/resort casual. The bottom deck is open seating, however for the upper deck, or inside, you do need to check-in with the hostess. Live music was playing on the bottom deck, just know that it is hard to hear from the upper deck.

[Hint: Take advantage of the complimentary valet parking, and don’t forget to tip your valet driver.]

Being that it was Friday night, we were a little worried about the wait time, especially as we opted for an outside table. The hostess gave us an estimated time of 30min, so we headed downstairs to the bar to grab a drink. (MUST TRY: Key Lime Pie Martini)

…15min later our table was ready! Score!

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It was tough deciding what to order.  The food is well priced, given that it is fresh seafood and a upper end-casual atmosphere (starters range from $8.95 – $12.95; sandwiches $9.95 – $17.95; entrees $19.95 and up).

As a starter we split 1/2 pound of peel-n-eat shrimp (cold) and steamed mussels. The mussels were divine! They were served in a red sauce with fresh garlic and onions (at one point we both were just drinking the sauce by the spoonful). The shrimp was also rather delectable and I probably could have downed another 1/2 pound. For my main, I went with the blackened grouper sandwich (great flavor and a good portion size) and a side of sweet potato fries.

Doc’s has an extensive drink menu, including 3 pages of rums (a “rum flight” is an option). The wine list is, well…crap…but who goes to a Rum Bar to drink wine?! I decided to try the “Happy Gator Mojito” as it had the Don Q rum and Key Lime Liquor that was in the Key Lime Mojito. Sadly, all I really tasted was sprite with a hint of mint and rum, but I really liked the mason jar it was served in! The drinks were well priced and there are daily drink specials and features. Definitely a little something for everyone.

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Happy Gator Mojito

Overall, the service was just ok. Our server seemed to forget about us at times. When he did come to the table he was very helpful and had a wonderful demeanor (his multitasking skills just need a touch bit of work for him to move from being ‘ok’ to ‘very good’).

We thoroughly enjoyed the view (it is worth the wait time…be it short or long) and the food. It was a fantastic evening and I would most definitely recommend Doc’s to anyone passing through Ft.Meyers.

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Lunch Treats: a la Persia

Friends of mine invited me to lunch. I was going to say no and go workout, but the location was a Persian restaurant in Longwood. I rarely say no to new experiences, especially when they include food!

The location was Ali Baba House of Kabob in Longwood, FL. For my first Persian dining experience, I was happy! They offer a lunch buffet and even though we came in late, the kitchen made sure to have fresh kabobs out for us. The owner was very polite and let us know that even though the buffet was closing, whatever we needed would be brought out fresh from the kitchen.

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Time for lunch, Persian style

I feasted on:

  • Persian style rice (saffron basmati rice mixed with lentil):
    • YUMMY! The rice was moist and the lentils added a subtle surprise. It should be paired with everything.
  • Gormeh sabz (green onion, parsley, spinach and herbs sautéed and cooked with beef)
    • I enjoyed this dish, it had good flavor without being overpowering with spices
  • Mirzaghassemi (baked eggplant blended with tomatoes, garlic, eggs, and spices)
    • I’ll be honest, not really my favorite. However, I was told that it is an acquired taste, so I felt better.
  • Kibbe (oval-shaped ground beef, bulgar wheat, herbs and spice;  deep fried and served with yogurt sauce)
    • This was a yummy treat. It is definitely best eaten with the yogurt.
  • Mast-o-khriar (chopped cucumber mixed with creamy yogurt)
    • Good for cutting any spice on anything. Is good with the fresh pita style bread.
  • Shirazi salad (chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and mint mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and spices)
    • Eat it, love it, you are welcome.
  • Chicken and Beef Koubideh (charbroiled minced seasoned meats)
    • A lower end cut of beef. This was probably my least favorite. The meat wasn’t very well seasoned and had an odd texture to it. However it pairs well with mast-o-khriar.

To finish it all off we had chai tea and baklava (YUMMY!)

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Time for lunch, Persian style

As an introduction to Persian food, I was satisfied. The service was good and it was a pleasant dining experience.

However, the best part of the day for me was getting to spend time with wonderful friends. It was so great to get to experience food from their homeland, share stories of different cultural experiences, and get to know each other better.