Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Music: Mat Kearney

One of my go-to CD's when I want to chill is "City of Black and White" by Mat Kearney. So I was really excited when Kearney stopped by 96-9 WINK FM yesterday with his guitar and some new music. His last CD was released in 2009 and fans have been eager to hear more.

A couple of years ago Kearney performed an acoustic set for 96-9 listeners at my favorite coffee shop, Bennett's Fresh Roast. He is a great song writer, his voice has nice resonance and Bennett's was a perfect venue for us to get up close and personal.

Kearney has a new label and is coming out with a new album in August. His first single called "Hey Mamma" is more upbeat than much of his previous music. He told us it was a "fun summer song" and I agree. He is currently performing on the VH1 Best Cruise Ever out of Tampa and will be in Orlando in June. If you have not checked out his music ( it will be worth your effort! One of my favorite songs is "Closer To Love"  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Egg-stra special Easter

Organic, farm-fresh, sustainable; hot buzz words in the food industry right now. More Americans seem to be more concerned with their health and the condition of the planet now, than ever before. Yes, I' am one of them.

My parents live in Central Florida and over the years I've traveled just about every back road that leads home. On one route in-particular, I would often see a handwritten sign  reading "eggs". It was outside of a home in the middle of nowhere so I was a little apprehensive about stoppingHowever, after watching the documentary "Food Inc" the idea of buying from local farmers took on a whole new meaning and my desire to knock on the door of these strangers continued to grow. When I finally pulled into the long dirt driveway, I was welcomed like an old family friend and wondered why I had taken so long to introduce myself.

Look at how beautiful these eggs are! The colors of the shells indicate the breed of chicken. The eggs themselves are more flavorful than the mass produced grocery store variety. The yolks are perfect, bright yellow balls and the white is tender. My new friends use organic feed in the coops but also let the chickens run free-range at least one day a week. That combination is what gives the eggs such great flavor. It's a
good time to buy eggs from free-range chickens because the grass they ingest is at its peak in the spring and early summer. 

Buying tips: Supermarket labels include “cage-free” and “organic”  but these labels don’t specify what the chicken was feed or if the birds spent time outside of their coops. “Pasture-raised” isn’t a government-approved definition, but it’s generally accepted to mean that the chicken got most of its nutrition from foraging, with some grain to supplement.

When I visited my parents for Easter, I called on my new friends, hoping there would be some farm-fresh eggs left for me. I got the last two dozen and we talked about their chickens like they were family members. I think there may be another reason why these eggs taste better; the chickens are loved. I don't know to what depth a chicken feels but I have to believe these are happy birds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lovin' The Lager

I’m a wine lover. I do drink beer on occasion and even keep it in my refrigerator (typically to bribe male friends to do odd jobs). I've never really developed a pallet for beer but made some progress last night at a Beer Tasting at The Morgan House in downtown Fort Myers. 

We enjoyed a selection of Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Style beers that were expertly paired with appetizers. The beers were also used in at least one step of the food preparation. (Great job chef!)

I confessed my lack of lager knowledge to the beer distributor adding that I also found it too filling. He told me that if a beer is poured properly, it will not be filling. The proper pour helps release the CO2 that otherwise expands in your belly. He said if a bartender poured my Lager with a nice foamy head, I would actually drink MORE not less.

With my new knowledge I was excited to start tasting. The Pale Ale was a bit nutty and sweet (the tasting notes said citrusy). I could definitely see sipping this one on a hot day! The Brown Ale was, well, brown; and the Lager was crisp. All three of these beers had 5.4% alcohol and were 140 calories, if you're counting.

The Morgan House has several of Alexander Keith's beers on tap right now. Typically home to a wine tasting the third Tuesday of every month (mark your calendar), The Morgan House promises to mix it up a bit over the summer with a bourbon tasting and perhaps more hops!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Escargot Ecstasy

I've blogged about Sasse's previously. I obviously love the food and thought I had tried almost everything on the menu. So I'm not sure how I managed to overlook the Escargot in a creamy pesto sauce served with goat cheese toasts. I wanted to rub that sauce all over my body. It was everything I could do not to pick up that darn plate and lick it clean. It's an appetizer but it did me in for the night, in a good way!

I was at Sasse's for their monthly wine tasting (2nd Tuesday of every month). It's not your typical wine tasting. Instead of milling around a tasting table waiting for pours, we sat at tables set for dinner. The tasting is complimentary and there is a discount on dinner if you stay; everyone stayed! Brilliant way to fill up a restaurant on a Tuesday night.

The favorite at my table was Masciarelli's signature Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It is one of those Italian wines that you can enjoy on it's own, most are better with food. It was full of blackberry and black cherry with some spice on the finish.

We tried the Valpolicella Ca Panvino from Villa Erbice next. I think it would've been great with Sasse's eggplant parm. I really liked the Cannonau Di Sardegna "Templum". It tasted green (bell peppers) and fresh, again with some spice on the finish. These wines and many on Sasse's list come from Masciarelli Wine Company. There's always something new and fun to try. But by all means, try the Escargot!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Move Over Goose, There's a New Sheriff In Town: Tito's

Years ago I remember my vodka loving friends pining over Tito's; a handmade, distilled six times vodka from Austin, Texas. It was not widely distributed and definitely nowhere to be found in Southwest Florida. I became very popular after revealing that I had a Tito's connection.

My brother, Eric, lived in Austin and had turned me on to the smooth vodka before it's cult-like following. He would bring bottles home for Christmas and make his famous "Mexican Martini's".  It was a brilliant move; putting the entire family into vodka induced, afternoon naps. I still don't know if he did it to gain control of the remote or just revel in a moment of peace and quiet in our household.

If I'm not drinking wine, vodka is next on the list and yes, I almost always have Tito's on hand. Not too long ago my neighbor, Michelle, brought over some Chopin for Bloody Mary's. She is gluten-free and so is Chopin. When I think of gluten I think of bread not vodka. However some vodka's use grains that contain gluten in the distilling process.

We made beautiful Bloody Mary's full of olives, pickles, celery, shrimp and the works. I used Tito's. Michelle took a sip of mine then put on a sad face, Tito's was better. I was reading some press on Tito's yesterday when Michelle called. She was sharing something important when I suddenly shouted "Oh My God!"; she paused, I kept going, "Tito's is gluten free!......I'm sorry, continue."

(This photo was taken at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival; mainly because I wanted to brag to Eric that I found the greatest Tito's display ever, at least outside of  Texas.)

When I began seeing Tito's in places like Total Wine I was both thrilled and deflated at the same time. It's exciting to get your hands on something that is hard to find. And when you do get it, you often categorized it as "the best". Now comes the real test. Tito's was so good when I had to wait for it. Will it taste as fabulous now that I can find a bottle in 15 minutes or less? I see a blind vodka tasting in my future.

Either way, I'm happy that my gluten free friends have another choice for vodka! Yo quiero Tito's!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Little Black Dress Night

Blu Sushi's Little Black Dress Night on Thursdays is getting streamlined to Ladies Night. No little black dress is required but it is certainly welcomed. I get the fun job of broadcasting live once a month at one of the two Blu Sushi locations. This may sound like a shameless plug on my blog but I have to say I've always loved Blu Sushi and have spent many evenings sitting outside, enjoying their fabulous Happy Hour!

Happy Hour at Blu is called the "Dive at Five". I'm a big fan of the Tuna Tower and Crab Stuffed Jalapenos for only $5, and of course the 2 for 1 drinks; even on the "good" stuff. You really can't go wrong with any of the rolls and there are lots of creative cocktails on the menu also. The Ginger Cosmo goes great with sushi. Wine can be tricky with sushi but Blu's list has lots of great options and I hear they are in the middle of tweaking it even more.

So Ladies Night is 6-8 on Thursdays, free Sky Vodka. Then from 8-midnight, $3 Sky with a portion of the proceeds going to Voices For Kids of Southwest Florida. Come on, have a drink for the kids! Not like you need an excuse or anything.....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

St Pete Sippin'

I actually had a free weekend and decided to take a drive to St. Petersburg Saturday and do a little exploring. When I think of St Pete the first thing that comes to mind is the Dali Museum and the Pier. The downtown area has really grown into a destination over the years and there always seems to be some event to keep the crowds coming.

We stumbled upon "Funk Fest 2011". Unfortunately we did not bring our lawn chairs, parachute pants or plan enough time to hangout with the likes of Bobby Brown and MC Hammer. You Can't Touch This! How much fun would that have been???

Instead we browsed the galleries and the waterfront before settling down for lunch outside at the Parkshore Grill. The sun was at full mast, a fresh breeze was blowing and we had a great view of the bay. Inside, the restaurant was sophisticated with a wine cellar that was calling my name.

The Parkshore has been written up a lot lately and now I see why. The chef is "green". I don't mean he's a novice, he buys food from local organic farmers, sustainably fished seafood, etc etc etc. Every dish on the menu had flair and looked appetizing.

The lunch menu was full of creative combinations; wraps, salads, panini's, sashimi and more. We opted for the "Picnic". Its a three-course feature including a salad, entree and dessert for $16. The Parkshore Salad was a bright combination of spring greens, pecans, blue cheese and dried cranberries in a creamy vinaigrette. We entertained our waiter guessing (quite successfully) the spices on the nuts. Yes, you can make spicy nut jokes now.

I had a flavorful, moist Lump Blue Crab Cake with spicy sweet tomato jam, buttermilk mashed potatoes and glass of Honig Sauvignon Blanc. I also got to try the Pecan Crusted Tilapia over sauteed spinach, simple and delicious. I wanted to stay for dinner to try more dishes. Next time.

If you're touring the Dali or attending any other events downtown St Pete, be sure to put the Parkshore on your itinerary.