Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts from my dark side

On September 11 ...
I highly recommend my friend Mark Fendrick's blog, Thoughts from the Dark Side, for a series of really beautiful and thoughtful posts about the events of September 11, and how it affected our lives, our country, and the world.

Some of you may know that I worked for Alexander & Alexander, a very large insurance broker, back in the seventies and eighties.  After I left, through a series of mergers, A&A was absorbed by Aon Corporation, one of the companies suffering a high number of terrible losses on September 11, 2001.  On this day, my thoughts always turn to two people.  Rest in peace, Mike.  And Denise, you keep kicking my butt on Words with Friends.

I haven't done any cooking in over a week, but I have done some fine eating, and I would like to share those meals with you.

Last week, Rob and I headed up to Panama City Beach for a long Labor Day weekend and Grand Master Soon Ho Lee's legendary "Battle on the Beach."  Actually the battle takes place in the Edgewater Conference Center, but the rest of the weekend is All Beach, All the Time.  Except in the case of hurricanes, like this weekend.

Bad weather did not stop us from enjoying some old and new restaurants, and since I've already posted ad nauseum about my day in the ER, I am going to focus on the food, best symbol of what was still an enjoyable vacation.

Thursday was our travel day, and we arrived early enough to have dinner at a normal hour.  On the way up, I played with my Trip Advisor app looking for new places to add to our list of PCB favorites.  Thursday night turned out to be barbecue night, but the kind of barbecue we had never had before.  It was so good, Rob is planning on emailing Guy Fieri to try to get this place a guest shot on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Because it is a dive, as are most good barbecue places.

Sweet Racks, 2920 Thomas Drive, PCB
(850) 230-1777

Let me tell you about the ribs ... they were smoked within an inch of their life, but not oversmoked.  Tender and toothsome.  The sauce is called "tocino" and it is apparently a Filipino thing.  Lucky Filipinos!  So the sauce is closer to Asian but not quite teriyaki, and it compliments the smoked meat in a way I could not have imagined.  The tocino chicken was just as wonderful, as were the side dishes we ordered.  Rob had the baked beans and I had the cucumber salad.  Next time I'm ordering the fried plantains as well.  I did not share my leftovers with Cory.  It was that good.  Apparently, I was so busy shkoffing ribs I did the unthinkable and forgot to take a picture. 

Friday was a free day for us - no competition, no traveling, nor other obligations.  We had already planned our breakfast stop, and it was all about the beignets.

David's New Orleans Style Sno-Balls
13913 Panama City Beach Parkway, PCB
(850) 236-1998

When Rob and I were in New Orleans this past January, we made a point to stop at Cafe Du Monde for beignets, and for me, chicory coffee.  Incredible experience, except for the fact it was almost too cold to enjoy it.  We seem to alway get to NOLA when it is too hot or too cold.  Which is also the reason we weren't able to hang around to snag a muffuletta at Central Grocery.  I make a pretty mean muffuletta, including my own olive salad, but I would have loved to taste The Original.  As it turns out, David's is a little piece of New Orleans right there in the Florida panhandle.  Still a shlep, but a lot closer than New Orleans.  We had the beignets and I had the chicory coffee, and there was peace in my soul.  Just as good as Cafe Du Monde and that, my friends, is saying something.  If not for my side trip to Bay Medical ER, we had plans to head back there to try their sno-balls and perhaps other NOLA treats, including po boys and muffulettas.  We will definitely be back.

We hit up Publix for supplies - juice, bread, dishwashing liquid and stuff like that - and then decided to try the Panama City Beach Winery.  No idea what to expect, and we were surprised to find this little treasure in a strip mall.

Wine tasting.  All of the wines are fruit based (excluding grape) and are anything but the sweet, syrupy stuff you might expect if you grew up on Manischewitz.  Crisp, clean, lovely wine.  The tastings were a well-designed throroughly enjoyable experience.

8730 Thomas Drive, Suite 1103B, PCB

The tasting is done up at the counter, as you can see by the "row of butts", as my friend Annie so very succinctly described it.  Fortunately, we had gotten there a bit early, and had the counter and the attentions of that delightful lady with dark hair, barely visible behind the counter, third from the left in this photo.  This is a really fun way to spend part of an afternoon.  Of course we bought some wine.  It was so good I wish I could have bought more.  Damn the economy and all that.

I still have some fine PCB dining experiences to share, but I'll hold them for another blog post.  Since it is now Sunday, I do have some cooking on the horizon, and since I am making a conscious effort to avoid all 9/11-related television, I will be concentrating on turning out some mindless, tasty recipes.  Sauteed chicken livers with onion, bacon, and sage; Italian sausage and peppers; maduros (sweet plantains); creamed spinach; and macaroni, ham, and cheese.  Fortunately I adore chicken livers and spinach, because my hemoglobin count is still in the basement, based on the way I feel.

Yesterday we had to take our baby Romeo back to the vet.  It seems he had a bad reaction to the microchip, so our vet drained some fluid and he is now on antibiotics.

It's hard to see but that's Romeo sleeping on my lap, with Indiana and Woody in the foreground.  Not a great picture, but totally representative of how I have been feeling lately.

Now to the kitchen.  Check the recipe blog later today, especially if you are a tad iron deficient.  Tasty and good for you too.

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