Monday, September 29, 2014

Plan B Doesn't Have to Suck

This month's Great Escape proved to be a real challenge. Here in the Tampa Bay area we've been deluged with rain....monsoon type rain. Frankly I'm sick of it. So we were all looking forward to our escape and the restaurant we were headed to was Joe's Crab Shack in Clearwater. Alas we never made it. Our four couples headed out in two cars around the same time and it soon became apparent that the weather was against us. Seasoned Floridian drivers, we're not cowed by a little rain....but this was ridiculous. So about twenty minutes into our trip with only ten feet of visibility in front of us I called it "Abort" "Abort" "Abort" - we're not going to Clearwater in this mess. We texted the others and let them know we were getting off in Brandon and would head to Leroy Selmons on the Causeway if they wanted to find us. They were farther ahead and ended up near the Int'l Mall at a place called Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.
LEROY SELMON'S, 11310 Causeway Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511
This is one of our favorite Go To places when we're shopping in Brandon. We can always rely on good service and good food. I had my usual Grilled Chicken over Caesar Salad. What I like about it is that it has a little heat to it and makes my taste buds dance. Shaken by the rainy ride I ordered a Shock Top on draft with a slice of orange and it was delicious but I could barely finish it. I'm a light weight drinker (cheap date). Hubby had the meatloaf and critic that he is I was waiting for some negative remarks but lo and behold he liked it! The portion was generous and he ate every morsel. Our friends had brisket and it was as good as ever.
We are members of the Leroy Selmon's Victory Club and enjoy racking up points from our dining that earn us free appetizers or $5 off next time we come. Excellent value.
LIME FRESH MEXICAN GRILL, 1824 N. West Shore Blvd., Tampa, FL 33607
Under the premise of 'any port in a storm' our second group washed ashore at a restaurant near Westshore and Spruce (right across from the Container Store which they managed to avoid visiting despite the come hither lights that sparkled midst the beating rain). It was more upscale than a Moe's, but you ordered at a counter like Moe's. The fajitas were great as was the Cantina Steak Salad. The fajita sides were served in these cute tin trays.
Oh, and they had a salsa bar with several different kinds, including a delicious pineapple salsa. All in all, very enjoyable - but we were sorry our original plans were thwarted by the weather. (as reported by Hollie!) We'll have to check out this place next time we shop at the Westshore Mall since we definitely need to go back and shop at the Container Store, right?
What really saved the night was the after party - we eventually all made it back to our house for coffee and darts! With levels of dart experience ranging from nil to champion, we set out in couple teams to play a rollicking game of Cricket and it proved the perfect activity to get us moving and laughing and competing. Lots of fun followed by coffee and cheesecake. As I said, Plan B didn't suck at all. I like a group that's able to be spontaneous!

Dining Out On A Diet

Our dining out group gets together for the company as much as the food. We enjoy taking turns selecting the restaurant and discovering one that the group will enjoy. Through the years we haven't had too many bad experiences. How do we pick them? There are quite a few sites devoted to restaurants. Urbanspoon, Yelp, Trip Adviser, etc. Sometimes we search by type of food. Sometimes by neighborhood. We read the reviews and make a judgement call and take a leap of faith that it will be a good experience. We're rarely disappointed but if we are we take it with a sense of humor and a more satisfying dessert. Live and learn, eh?
This past year it seemed that more than half of us were on some kind of diet or another and while that posed a challenge at first, we somehow managed to find restaurants that accommodated everyone's dietary restrictions. There's lo fat, lo carb, gluten free, paleo, weight watchers, etc. So how do you pick a restaurant that can satisfy the dietary needs of eight people? Here are some tips for selecting one that everyone will enjoy.
First of all, know your group and understand their particular dietary restrictions and tastes. I wouldn't select a restaurant that sold only fish if I knew there was someone in the group that hated fish.
Second, search by the particular diet name. For example, a search for "gluten free" served up over 300 options in Tampa Bay, an astonishing number I thought. We're seeing that more and more restaurants are featuring special diet offerings on their menus in an effort to attract more people.
Libby's in Sarasota for example, had a section on their menu called "Simply Grilled Gluten Free" much to the delight of our gluten challenged friend.
Of course, it you're the one with the dietary restriction, you have to do your part as well by researching the menu, calling ahead to ask questions on how food is prepared. There's always something you can find on a menu that will work for you. I've been on Weight Watchers for a couple of months now and the program has given me some good tools and tips for navigating the temptations of a good restaurant. I've learned not to be embarrassed about asking to have my meal prepared a certain way (sans butter). I've enlisted the help of my hubby by asking him to keep the bread basket at his side of the table out of sight. And if I'm really worried, I will eat a big juicy apple just before we leave the house to make sure I'm not starving and more susceptible to temptation. It works.
Lastly, if I'm hosting the after dinner coffee I try to make sure to serve one sumptuous dessert for those who can happily indulge, and a big fruit salad for those who are watching their waistline. If I'm not hosting, I toss a little weight watchers snack bar in my purse so I'll have something sweet to nibble on with my coffee and not feel deprived. So don't let your diet stand in the way of having a fun night out dining with friends. Eat (less), Drink (more) and be Merry - you can't chew if you're talking so keep the conversation going!