Monday, June 30, 2014

Catch 23 Restaurant, Fishhawk Ranch

Just barely recovered from a week in St. Croix, we were travel weary but wouldn't dream of missing Great Escape. Hey, a girl's gotta eat anyway, right? There were only six of us this time. The Great Escape was built on the formula of a perfect table of eight but travel, schedules and sicknesses sometime force us to go with less. If only four of us are available we move the date, but six works just fine and makes for a cozy table.
I'd never been to FishHawk Ranch and was delighted to discover this beautiful planned community located in Lithia, FL. Catch 23 is situated in their town square along with a salon, grocer and a few casual eateries. The restaurant is elegant and stylish and the service was very good.
Their chef specializes in Latin and Caribbean cuisine and boasts a menu with enough variety to please everyone. Seafood, steaks, sushi and more, deliciously prepared and presented. Hubby had a very tasty pork chop, and someone had Steak Diane, something you don't often see on a menu - it was great. The Caribbean chicken was quite spicy but every crumb on the plate was eaten. Since I'd overindulged while on vacation, I opted for the Fish Salad - skewers of shrimp, scallops and whitefish served over a delicate arugula salad with a citrus vinaigrette and it was delicious.
Hubby typically likes a piece of bread with his salad but was told they didn't have any bread.....really? The waitress did say we could order a side of garlic bread but that's not what he wanted. My only complaint is I have a problem with a restaurant that charges hefty prices and won't give you a darn slice of bread that would cost them barely a nickel.
I'd definitely come back and try something else. I make it a practice to take the long way back from the washroom so I can surreptitiously glance at what the other diners are eating, taking mental notes for next time. Catch 23 also offers weekly dining specials like Monday Burger Night for $4.99 or Wine Lover's Wednesday where ladies can enjoy all the wine they care to drink for $15 (men pay $20).
We skipped dessert as usual and headed over to one of our homes for cheesecake, coffee and some great Cupcake Vineyards Malbec, a rich red from the town of Mendoza, Argentina. It had a soft velvety texture that went down real smooth. I'd been drinking rum all week in St. Croix (don't judge me) so it was great to switch back to my preferred once a week glass of red wine.
16132 Churchview Drive, Lithia, FL 33547 813-681-4989
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Catch Twenty-Three on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lucky Dill, Palm Harbor, FL

My hubby is a real foodie. On our very first date we got to know each other over a sumptuous lunch as we gazed across the table into each other's eyes. I blurted out that the way to my heart is through my stomach. He took me at my word and proceeded to wine and dine me right down the aisle just two years later. To this day we make a big deal about food. So when I suggested a very long ride to The Lucky Dill for his Fathers Day treat he happily agreed. We rounded up our day tripper gang and off we went. This was my third visit and it was just as satisfying as the first. In fact it just keeps getting better. Forty minute wait? No problem - we'll visit their awesome bakery and stock up on rugalah, linzer tarts and that old classic - black and white. (Here I have to say was my one disappointment. I thought the b/w was too dense and too thick so after one bite I tossed it.)
Dining at the Lucky Dill evokes very nostalgic memories of NYC for us - of Katz' Deli on Houston Street where hubby cut his baby teeth on the 4" high pastrami on rye sandwiches with a big half sour pickle on the side. So when we found Lucky Dill a couple of years ago it was like a homecoming for him.
Can you see how happy he looks as he's feeding me? Its sweet and a little twisted don't you think? I blame him for every extra pound I carry yet he thinks I look just adorable. Go figure.
Just take a gander at this massive corned beef sandwich! Here's a tip - share one and get a couple of sides, like these delicious potato pancakes (yum!)crispy, not greasy, and served with apple sauce and sour cream.
I'm glad it's an hour and twenty minute drive for us. If we lived nearby I'd go too often and lose all self control. Being so far away makes going a special event once or twice in a year. I need to chow down on less rugalah and more arugula.....its all about balance, right?
Lucky Dill Deli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Escape to Pennsylvania - Elk Creek Cafe, Millheim

Our recent road trip took us far into central Pennsylvania where my daughter lives in peaceful serenity surrounded by Amish farms, rolling hills and mountains. Around those parts there’s not a lot of dining out options which is why whenever I call her she’s either off to a dinner party or having one. Besides the rare local small diner or farmstand there are no options. Just down the road apiece (ha!) and over a couple of mountains (ha!) into Milheim however, is a jewel of a restaurant venue called the Elk Creek Café, the cornerstone of this charming one-stoplight-town. The Café takes its name from one of the three great creeks in the area, all well known for the best fly-fishing in the area. When it comes to the food and ales, owner Tim Bowser is committed to community, health and sustainability.
Head Brewer Tim Yarrington makes a variety of excellent award winning beers and ales, all brewed in-house.
Chef Andy Rose offers fresh baked pastries, breads and buns and sources as many ingredients as possible from local and sustainable farms, using only the freshest vegetables from a local Community Harvest cooperative.
I had their popular Alaskan Salmon (caught by local fishermen) grilled over a salad of delicious greens (harvested locally). You don’t get much fresher than that. It was absolutely wonderful. We also had one of their Pretzels, crafted by Chef Andy and served with a yummy mustard dip, the perfect accompaniment to a pint of ale. The burgers are made from local pasture-raised beef. And they also serve a Valley Ham and Cheddar sandwich, again locally sourced, that’s a crowd favorite.
Of course the highlight of my evening was the after dinner show – my daughter Christine Smith & Dave Bielanko who as the band Marah ( delighted us and the sold out crowd with music from Marah and Mountain Minstrelsy. This stage mother was grinning ear to ear. Elk Creek Café offers an impressive lineup of bands and performers from near and afar. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world you’ll have to stop in and enjoy a meal, a brew, and some awesome music in a small town relaxed atmosphere. We’ll be back for sure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Renzo's - Tampa

Renzo's - For Meat Lovers!
Our group headed over to Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa last Saturday night to try out Renzo's, an Argentinian restaurant that boasts of having "A Passion for Meat & Wines". I can relate since I love both (sometimes a little too passionately).
At first glance the place doesn't look like much more than a cafeteria so we were a little hesitant when we arrived. But we were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. From our table I could see on the back wall a small doorway that led to their wine room. Bottles stretched from floor to ceiling in a beautiful display. I saw it by chance and that seems a pity. I think they should have made that a feature wall to highlight the extensive wine offerings they're so passionate about. If they turned this storefront over to a trendy designer I'm sure they could transform this eatery into a classy looking bistro - but I realize that in doing so I'd probably be paying a lot more for this awesome food, so shhhhh, forget I said that.
They offer a table-side grill sampler that serves two and there were a few to pick from. We chose the Parilla Solo Carne (where's the beef?!) that included short ribs, flank steak, skirt steak, sirloin and also came with two sides - but the meat was the star of the show. It was more than enough for the two of us and we ate every scrap. I felt carnivorous,primitive and quite satisfied.
The prices were good, the server was friendly and welcoming and happy to explain about the meats and wines. I employed my fair to middling Spanish to assist in some of the order taking and all the food came out on time. I do have a couple of minor complaints - the little grills made the table crowded, I hate being charged a dollar for a slice of bread, and on that very extensive wine list although there was a large selection of reds by the bottle, by the glass there was only one available. Happily it was a delicious Malbec that perfectly paired with the beef. Everyone knows a little red wine aids in the digestion of beef, right? (waiter can I have another?)
There's lots more on the menu including empanadas but nearly everyone in our group is dieting so we stuck with the Atkins friendly meat courses. We skipped dessert and headed back to one of our homes to sample a gluten free blueberry something that was surprisingly good but I secretly pined for a little flan with a cafe con leche. Maybe next time when I'm done with this dieting thing.