Friday, March 30, 2007

March 2007 Road Trip Report, Part 3

Statue of Gunther Gebel-Williams, Venice FloridaOur recent trip took us to Venice, Florida. For many years it was winter quarters for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus -- "The Greatest Show on Earth."

At the downtown train station where the show would return each year after its tour there is a tribute to one of its heroes. Gunther Gebel-Williams. The plaque next to the statue tells what made him a superstar in the world of the circus.

Commemorative plaque at the Gunther Gebel-Williams statue, Venice Florida

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Links to Favorite Food & Cooking Suppliers

Green fractal cauliflower
The list below is my growing collection of food and cookery links. Most of these sites include excellent, often historic, recipes.

By the way, the item above is not some kind of weird science fair experiment. The Romanesco Cauliflower was first mentioned in Italy in the sixteenth century. When eaten raw it is said to be crunchier than cauliflower and not as bland. It can also be eaten cooked. Just don't stare at it too long.

For an excellent mathematical analysis of this fractal vegetable and more photos, all by AutoCAD's John Walker, click here.

Best Foods/Hellmann's
Cabot Cheese, Montpelier, Vermont
Crystal Hot Sauce
Huy Fong Foods
Lakeside Mills -- Corn Meal & Grits since 1736
Lea & Perrins
Nueske's Bacon and Smoked Meats
O Olive Oil
Community Coffee
Twinings Tea
Cajun Power Sauce
J.W. Renfroe Pecan Company, Pensacola
American Italian Pasta Company
Classico Pasta Sauces
Pennsylvania Macaroni Company
Prince Pasta Company
Melissa's/World Variety Produce
Joe Patti's Seafood, Pensacola
Penzeys Spices
Aunt Sally's Pralines, New Orleans, Lousiana
Blue Bell Ice Cream, Brenham, Texas
Bob's Sugar House, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine
Ruby et Violette
Savannah Candy Kitchen
Scharffen Berger Chocolate
Yoku Moku America
House Foods America Corporation
The Iron Skillet
Lodge Cast Iron
Vic Firth Gourmet Products
Weber Grills

Apple Market Grocery, Pensacola
Burpee's Seeds
Fortnum & Mason
Zapp's Potato Chips

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Springtime in the backyard

New plants by the poolSpring has arrived and it's time for cleaning and planting. And pruning and getting ready for summer.

And it's also time to go to Lowe's, buy that pressure washer, prep the deck and apply a coat of Australian Timber Oil to seal it from the weather. And make it beautiful.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

March 2007 Road Trip Report, Part 2

Last Sunday we headed east on Interstate-10, then south on Interstate-75 for a 500-mile drive to Venice, Florida to visit friends we hadn't seen in many years. A few hours after we started we noticed the trees were showing signs of spring with pink leaf buds and some of the trees were in bloom with dramatic white or purple blossoms.

Florida Dogwood in bloomAs we got closer to Interstate-75 we saw lots of green foliage and now and then dogwood trees covered with big white flowers. By the time we got to Tampa it looked like spring everywhere. We were in another climate zone.

We spent the first night of the trip in Gainesville. We arrived in Venice on Monday afternoon. Our friends are in fine shape after all these years. And they have a beautiful home. For dinner they fixed us an English-style roast beef feast with Yorkshire Pudding, two kinds of potatoes and even parsnips. And trifle for dessert.

On Tuesday morning we headed back home via the beach road through Clearwater. We drove over a grand bridge to see Clearwater Beach but the view from the bridge was all that was worth seeing.

Back on the highway heading north we found the traffic congestion impossible. And the slow, boring commercial highway was drab to the point of depressing us.

Florida Route 52 signSo we found an escape route over to Interstate-75. We took Florida Route 52 and it is indeed an official escape route, a hurricane evacuation route -- and once we got to I-75 we sped north at 80 miles an hour on the freeway.

Hurricane evacuation route signWe had a long drive that day, almost 400 miles, and spent the night in Midway, 5 miles west of Tallahassee.

On the way home on Wednesday morning the scenery got less and less green and flowery. By the time we got back to Pensacola there were few signs of spring.

We got home before noon.

Driving distances:
Pensacola to Gainesville, 337 miles
Gainesville to Venice, 211 miles
Venice to Midway, 395 miles
Midway to Pensacola, 182 miles
Total for the trip, 1154 miles (1857 km)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March 2007 Road Trip Report, Part 1

On our recent trip to Venice, Florida we passed over the beautiful Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Twice. It's at the southern edge of Florida's Tampa Bay and connects the cities of St. Petersburg and Palmetto (just north of Sarasota). The roadway, Interstate 275, rises to nearly 200 feet (61 meters) above the water. It is the second bridge complex to cross at this point. For some history, stats and more photos click here and here, too.

Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Tampa Bay's Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Friday, March 09, 2007

Philippe, The Original

Philippe, The OriginalFor dinner last night I made us a classic Southern California favorite -- French Dipped Sandwiches. Legend has it that the original was made by mistake at a lunch stand in downtown Los Angeles, in 1908. The restaurant, still in operation and very busy, is Philippe, The Original and it moved to its current location in 1951.

At Philippe's they take long French bread rolls, dip one or both cut-sides in au jus and fill them up with roast beef, pork or lamb. It's all done with lightning speed and you get to watch.

We had beef in our sandwiches last night. For my version of French Dipped Sandwiches I cut the rolls lengthwise and put them under the broiler crust-side up for a minute. Then turn them over and spread the cut-sides with a light garlic butter and give them about two minutes in the broiler until the edges start to brown. Then I stuff them with thin slices of deli roast beef and serve with small bowls of hot beef broth for dipping each bite. I usually use the low salt beef broth so I can reduce it a little to intensify the flavor. Potato salad or coleslaw is a good accompanyment.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Magnolia Springs, Alabama

Jesse's RestaurantWe had lunch the other day at a favorite place, Jesse's Restaurant, in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. It's in a beautiful, heavily-wooded spot on the Magnolia River a few miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. It's a sleepy village where the mail is still delivered by boat. If you have read Fannie Flagg's, A Redbird Christmas, you know all about Magnolia Springs.

What a great surprise it was on our first visit to discover Jesse's wonderful food and atmosphere. They have creative, upscale, casual dining for lunch and dinner. And don't miss the crab bisque.

Moore Brothers Village MarketAttached to Jesse's is Moore Brothers Village Market with one of the best butcher shops in this part of the south. It is also worth a visit. We often take a cooler with some blue ice in case we buy a supply of steaks or chops. It can be a long, hot trip home.

The Cold Hole bar, located between the restaurant and the market, serves drinks and items from Jesse's lunch menu from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

(The photos are from the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast website. Check it out.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lizzie Borden's Family Home
(You Can't Make Up Stuff Like This)

Stranger than fiction (part of a series).
Lizzie Borden took an ax...Not only is the house in Fall River, Massachusetts, still standing -- today it's a restored, upscale bed & breakfast inn. With, what else, an ax murder theme. And guided tours. You can even sleep, or try to sleep, in rooms where the bodies were found.

There's more information on the house and lots of photos at the Celebrate Boston website.