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food on the florida trip

kirk’s been doing a great job with the florida vacation recap, with more to come, so as promised i’m kicking in with a bit of a food overview.

dinner on landing was at a branch of the orlando ale house. big cheap beer and big cheap food — kirk had an extremely brown fried seafood platter, and i had a not-too-bad shrimp cajun fettucine alfredo thing, and $2 fosters on tap. slow service and a noisy atmosphere, although it was good to watch a bit of the tail end of the baseball game. food was edible but not much more than that.

friday of course was epcot food & wine festival day. yummo, as rachael ray would chirp. walk around the world showcase at epcot and eat appetizers all day. how can you beat that? while we didn’t eat absolutely everything, we put a pretty good dent in it all. each plate was ~$3, and kirk and i of course shared all plates.

in order of consumption, with occasional notes:

    » Peru: Cause de Cangrejo (crabmeat and sauce on a polenta-like cake); Arroz con Pato (rice with duck)

    » Canada: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup (cheesy and bacon-y); Maple Glazed Salmon with Roasted Corn and Arugula

    » Greece: Spanakopita

    » New Zealand: Lamb Slider (awesome gravy and scone-y roll)

    » Oklahoma: Three Sisters’ Soup (corn, beans, squash); Seared Buffalo with Scalloped Wild Onions

    » Morocco: Bastilla (like a samosa, with middle eastern flavors and phyllo dough), Walnut Baklava

    » Italy: Insalata Caprese, Lemonato

    » Germany: Debriziner Sausage with Sauerkraut in a Pretzel Roll

    » Turkey: Meze (can’t remember the specific ingredients, but this is definitely misnamed. meze means “appetizer” in Turkey, so it’s a generic description rather than a specific dish. come on, epcot. step it up.); Manti with Yogurt Sauce (a kind of turkish ravioli — this is a specific meze)

    » South Africa: Durban Spiced Chicken on a Skewer (nice Asian flavors); Bobotie with Mango Chutney (spicy minced meat with an eggy topping); Spice Cake with Marinated Fruit (best dessert of the day).

    » Ireland: Boxty (a potato pancake) with Bacon Chips and Kerrygold Garlic and Fresh Herb Butter; Irish Cheese Plate and Brown Bread with Apple Chutney and Kerrygold Irish Butter; Bunratty Meade Honey Wine (far too sweet for me but still tasty).

    » Chile: Shrimp con Pebre Salsa (like gazpacho with shrimp minus the liquid); Tomaticán with Manchego Cheese (tomato and corn stew). Both were outstanding.

my favorite was, surprisingly for me, oklahoma. they were there to celebrate their 100th anniversary of statehood. the three sisters’ stew was the most flavorful dish i had all day — absolutely delicious. and the buffalo was tender and tasty, and the onions were really strong and balanced the slightly gamy buffalo well.

that evening, we had tickets for the south african wine event, basically a big tent with about 25 south african wine producers, each of whom had 2 or 3 wines to taste. definitely took advantage of the spit buckets on that one. i like the wines but found them uniformly too alcohol-tasting (their wines averaged 14% alcohol, strong for wine). kirk is the wine guy, so maybe he’ll give details of the ones we liked. the food was buffet style — good but basically an expanded version of what we had sampled from the south africa nosh stand.

lunch saturday, with momfla, was at the festival de sabor in ybor city. big plates of asada-style pork, moro (black beans and white rice), yucca, and platanos (fried plantains). it was a booth run by a local restaurant, and unfortunately i don’t know which one, but the food was amazing.

dinner saturday was a papa john’s pizza in the room. we were exhausted, watching the baseball game, and craving convenience. not a bad pizza as chains go, but totonno’s has nothing to worry about.

lunch sunday, again with momfla, was in ruskin at by the bay cafe — mom and i had been before, but kirk hadn’t been. they specialize in real maryland crab dishes — soup, authentic crab cakes, etc. we had crab dip as an appetizer, along with an order of battered and deep fried portobello mushrooms. crab dip worderful, mushrooms ok. momfla had a small plate with broiled salmon (i think), kirk had crab cakes (all crab and practically no breading — good stuff) and i had blackened grouper (perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful). there were sides of coleslaw and potato salad, the choices we made from the list of sides — both were great in that mayonnaise-y, southern way. you never know where you’ll find quality food. this place is definitely worth the trek.

kirk and i wanted to have a great last-night-in-florida meal, just the two of us, preferably romantic, so we asked the desk clerk at the holiday inn express in bradenton for a recommendation. she chose the beachhouse on bradenton beach, and she could not have made a better choice. it’s old florida — they have a stretch of undeveloped beach, and you sit on it outdoors at a table, watching the sunset and the moonset, listening to an acoustic guitarist playing island-ish but not jimmy buffett music, drinking boat drinks, and eating wonderful food. kirk had never had conch before, so despite his aversion to bouncy food, we split an appetizer of conch fritters. the conch in conch fritters is ground, so he didn’t have to avoid the bounce as it wasn’t there. light, not at all oily, and delicious. next stop for kirk: gator tail. for the entree, we both had surf and turf. the steak was just ok (ribeye, not the most flavorful cut, though it was tender and well-prepared) but the grilled lobster was remarkable. perfectly cooked, unadorned except for the drawn butter. we had dessert (can’t remember what — kirk?) and coffee. service was attentive and friendly — our waitress gave us a customized list of local beds-and breakfast that we’ll probably check out come winter.

obviously, we ate very well on the trip. but extravagantly. i must admit that the excess affected me negatively — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. and on my return, i did a three-day brown rice fast and haven’t had meat since, except for using up some chicken broth in a weekend soup kirk made.

and then i read the omnivore’s dilemma, which kirk had bought and was lying about the apartment.

sometimes the signs are all pointing a certain way. i’m going to be vegetarian again for a while. we’ll see where it leads.