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Friday, May 29, 2015

The Green Flash

     What is a 'green flash'? It's a rare optical phenomenon that can happen right at the end of a sunset for maybe a second or two when a green spot appears on the rim of the sun. I started with that factoid because it's the first thing I wanted to know when I got the recommendation for this restaurant. That business out of the way, let's get down to the food facts.
     The Green Flash is spacious and bright with a lovely dock where boats can glide in for a leisurely lunch or dinner before sailing off once again into the bay. The art on the walls consists of images of beach landscapes and people dressed in elegant beach attire reminiscent of The Great Gatsby.
     We stopped for a quick lunch before heading back home after our Spring Break weekend. John ordered the bacon-wrapped barbecue shrimp with fries. I ordered the Maryland crab cake sandwich with fries and coleslaw. We were warned that John's dish would only include five shrimp, but somehow we were still surprised that it looked so poor. Maybe we thought the shrimp would be bigger. Maybe it was the uninspired fries.
     My Maryland crab cake was generous but on the bland side. Crab meat comes alive with the proper seasoning, and I don't mean hot spices. It came on a simple hamburger bun which made it easier for me to skip the bread altogether. Nothing like unimaginative food to help you watch your intake. The sandwich also came with some of those lackluster fries.
     One notable element was the coleslaw. It was fresh with just the right amount of mayonnaise in the dressing to keep it light. I couldn't detect any ingredients outside of the traditional recipe, and yet this coleslaw had a hint of green apple that made it exceptional. It had to be something in the dressing.
     Our lunch was so mediocre, we weren't even curious about the desserts. It was time to go home.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Traditions On the Beach

     Who knew? The best meal of our Spring Break weekend happened right on our backyard, literally. Traditions is on the grounds of the Island Inn, our home during our stay on the west coast of Florida.
     White plantation shutters frame this large space. The wooden tables stand bare, prettified simply by forest green napkins, silver utensils and wine glasses. All seating is arranged in a horseshoe around a dance floor and a piano, so that every table party is equally able to enjoy the lovely standards being performed by the pianist and a female vocalist. If I hadn't been chasing the sunset, Hubby and I would've stayed to dance.
          John added to his beer collection with a Florida Avenue citrus ale and I ordered the Sanibel Sunset, recommended by our server, Josh. John actually verbalized an opinion about his beer. He said he detected the difference in flavor provided by the citrus. This time, my sunset cocktail was divine, and it gave me that happy, gentle buzz. Coupled with one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen right from our balcony, it all made for a sublimely romantic evening.
      For dinner, I had the hazelnut crusted tuna steak with olive Salmoriglio, a Southern Italian condiment made of lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped oregano and parsley, salt and pepper. A citrus sauce and ginger shavings completed the dish. Tuna steaks are traditionally cooked medium rare, which is not my preference. I know the chef must have cringed when I asked for mine to be well done. Our wonderful server, Josh, asked me to trust the process. He promised that he would coerce the chef into cooking the fish as much as his professional ethics would allow without ruining a great piece of fish. It came slightly rare and I loved it. Many times the 'crusted' features get lost in the flavor of the protein and end up being just decoration. This time, every bite of my fish had a lovely hazelnut aftertaste. The ginger shavings served as a flavor booster for the fish. That was a new experience for me.
     John had the Ravioli D'Aragosta di Maine (Maine lobster) in a creamy brandied lobster bisque. He slurped every bit of that bisque and sulked because there wasn't any more.
       Even the dessert menu had several attractive choices. Our server recommended theValhrona lava cake with bourbon vanilla ice cream. Josh was three for three. The whimsical circle of French chocolate cake had a dense but spongy texture and the perfect ganache topping. The ice cream needed a bit more bourbon but even with just a hint, it was the ideal companion to the cake.
     I collect sunsets like others collect seashells. Like the beachcomber, I look for diversity in colors, patterns and shapes. In some ways, it's also the way I approach every new dining experience, always trying new ingredients, new pairings and new flavors. Will I ever get tired of chasing sunsets? How could I when every one is different?

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Bailey's Coffee Bar

     It's good to be a Bailey on Florida's Sanibel Island, or at least it was back in 1899 when Frank P. Bailey founded his General Store. Even today, it's the island's favorite place for grocery shopping and morning coffee. We tried it by accident. If you're not familiar, it can look like a neglected strip of stores, except there's constant traffic in and out of the store. I wanted to find a swanky coffee shop, but John convinced me to give their Coffee Bar a try. So glad I listened!
     Turns out Bailey's is more Trader Joe's than country store. The bakery is what inspired me to blog about this deceivingly sleepy place. I got two cookies for breakfast. 'Cookies?' You say. The biggest, moistest, cakiest Black and White cookie I have ever seen, and I've had the best you can find in New York. This one beat them all. My other cookie was a chocolate chunk. Also the size of a saucer, gooey, with chocolate mixed in the dough and so many bubbling boulders of milk chocolate, shards of dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate kisses, you could ask, 'Would you like some cookie with all that chocolate?'
    That's just what we ordered. Every cookie, cake, brownie, muffin, scone and piece of fudge is made fresh daily, and the selection made me feel greedy and hungry and dangerously close to throwing caution to the wind and binge to the edge of a diabetic coma. Fortunately, my temperate husband was there to keep me away from the overgrown eclairs, the stuffed croissants, the apple crisps that looked like huge gnarled blobs of glazed ecstasy, the lemon bars, the cream horns... I'll stop now.
    The coffee was good too. On my first visit, I was greeted by a poster of a Butterbeer frozen latte, inspired by my beloved Harry Potter. No need to look further. It was a big cup of sweet butterscotch fun. On my second visit, I had a moccha latte and I must say, love my Starbucks but didn't miss it at all on this fine spring morning.
     Goes to show you can't judge a coffee shop by it's fa├žade.

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