Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Losing my 4th of July virginity!

                                                                                                                                                                               Saturday 3rd July
Dear Diary,

After years of trying, I'm going to lose my 4th of July virginity! How exciting for me, a European, to be in America for this National holiday.  I hope it's going to be like it is in the movies!  There's going to be fireworks, right?  

Tuesday 6th July 
Dear Diary,

There was so much alcohol involved that I hardly remember a thing!  Sure, there were fireworks but the event was a washout.

On Sunday morning we looked at the program of events in Delray Beach and it was boasting a Beautiful Baby contest, so we decided to get out of town and come back for the highly anticipated fireworks show at night. 

Our day trip took us to Fort Lauderdale with the promise of a barbeque and beers on the beach.  We arrived in Fort Liqourdale just as a monsoon was driving everyone from the beach and into the nearest bar for shelter.  We ducked into a jam packed 
Dirty Blondes bar, for a bucket of cold beer and plenty of people-watching.  This was my first time in Dirty Blondes and I'd describe it as "unique" and not the kind of wholesome all-American scene that I had mentally envisioned for the 4th of July.  It was like a college party meets a wet T-shirt competition.  Wait a minute, it was just like Spring Break! 

Girls were exchanging bikini tips, parading their wares, and eating vodka-soaked gummi bears in the ladies toilet, and guys were slamming Jager bombs and chanting "FSU!" at the bar.  We left Dirty Blondes as the storm was subsiding and were led up a back alley, past statues of pirates and into the rain soaked 
Pirate Republic bar and grill.  A group of girls that looked like the reserve team from a Victoria Secret campaign were ably amusing the crowds in their star-spangled bikinis and guys were practicing their punches on a Boxer machine.  Drunken scrawls are plastered all over the walls and pirate paraphernalia hangs from the ceiling but the barmaid was friendly and pouring glasses of something that resembles sake.  Before we knew it, the hours were creeping on, we had not eaten a thing, and we were thumping our fists on the bar and slamming back shots.  

Well, my 4th of July cherry has been popped and it wasn't quite what I had in mind.  I thought that the streets would be awash with red, white and blue and that we would all be singing the National Anthem. But the reality is, I drank more than I should have, the weather was uncooperative and once you have seen one set of fireworks, you have seen them all.

Here's to next year! 

My original post can be found on The New Times food site, Clean Plate Charlie. Click her

Friday, June 25, 2010

Diners, Tigers and Tourists

In an increasingly globalized world, few things are more American than the local diner, it is an institution and the imitators rarely compete with the authenticity of the real thing.  A stalwart in any good neighborhood; these family friendly dining spots are wallet friendly and the perfect cure for the dreariest of hangovers or long drives.

My sister was in town visiting me and her checklist of things to do whilst in South Florida was meager to say the least: sunbathe, eat some authentic food and have fun.  In fairness, she has been in Florida countless times so she is terribly low maintenance and easy to please.  On past visits we have always made a trip out for breakfast, the kind that involves lashings of maple syrup and crispy bacon so I was sure that we would have at least one early morning, or late night visit to a diner.  Coincidentally, the May edition of Vanity Fair magazine featured an article on the women that exposed the kinks in Tiger Wood’s reputation.  One of the ladies, Mindy Lawton the Orlando based waitress from the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery chain was photographed for her Vanity Fair debut at our local diner, Ellie’s 50s Diner in Delray Beach, South Florida.  Naturally, we could not resist a visit to Ellie’s for the inside scoop, a spot of breakfast and a slice of fifties America.    

As we each tucked into our substantial breakfast, our waitress gave us her views on the Vanity Fair shoot: a whole lot of cleavage was on show in Ellie’s diner until staff intervened, and certain liaisons between Ms Lawton and Tiger did, indeed, happen in the back of his car, in the local car park.  Not to be put off by this information I heartily devoured French toast, bacon and maple syrup and reenacted Ms Lawton’s milkshake and cherry pose.  Ellie’s 50s Diner is a great place, it’s like sitting on the movie set for Grease and harks back to the 1950s diner hey days, before fast-food establishments hustled in and took a big part of their market. 

The moral of this tale is, maybe you’ll never be whisked off your feet and into the back of a waiting car by a pro-athlete but at least you’ll always be able to count on a hearty meal and friendly service at the local diner.  

Recipe: Cinnamon Almond French Toast 
French Toast recipe for 2:
  • 4 slices of your chosen bread
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup or large handful of sliced almonds
  • Bacon or fruits such as blueberries and strawberries work well
  • In a bowl whisk the eggs, milk and cinnamon together.
  • Lay the sliced almonds on a plate.
  • Dip the slices of bread into the egg mixture then the sliced almonds.
  • Cook the toast for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown (keep an eye on the French Toast so the almonds don't burn)
  • Place 2 slices of French toast on each plate and top with crispy bacon, or your desired fruit topping and serve with lashings of maple syrup! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Seafood and Tiki Bars: South Florida Living!

I moved to South Florida a little under a year ago and it is a funny old part of the world, not least because the heat never gets turned down and the median age is close to that of a retiree home but there is also a dichotomy between shirtless, casual and sculpted perfection that somehow manages to reside side-by-side.  One of the trials of living in a vacation-centric part of the world is the strong urge to hit up Happy Hour, night after night, though I admit that reality tends to kick in around the time your credit card bill comes through and your bikini body starts to go south.

There also comes a point when you stop walking around with your mouth wide open and you start looking for a little reality and sanity around you.  I have found that reality in some of the best little hole-in-the-wall, dive bars and local dining spots around.  The kind of place where style does not matter, the drinks and food are honest and no one is pouting at the bar.  I should mention that I have spent years enjoying those types of bars back home but the heat and the laid back vibe of Florida begs for a different type of social life.

I was at one of my particular favorites last weekend, The Whale’s Rib in Deerfield Beach, South Florida.  Deerfield is cramped full of vacationers and 1970s architecture and it is a great little spot on the weekend; the beach is beautiful and the residents are less showy than in other parts of South Florida.   The Whale’s Rib was featured on the popular Food Network show on American TV: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; it has been open for nearly 30 years and the menu has hardly changed over time, the prices have not changed a lot either.  The fish is ultra fresh and the drinks are cold.  Perfect!  A house favorite is the Key West Dolphin sandwich: fresh filet of mahi-mahi, purple coleslaw and swiss cheese that drips down your arms as you are eating it.  The rock shrimp, seafood platters, whale fries (fresh potato chips/crisps) and the Bloody Mary crowned with a huge shrimp are all top notch and wallet friendly.  Over on the Gulf coast of Florida I can not get enough of Stan’s bar just off Marco Island.  The place is barely describable: billionaires and bums rub shoulders at this wild, indoor/outdoor joint that is basically up a dirt path.  If I were going to name the ten most random drinking holes in the world, this bar would make the list.  I swear it is the heat and the alcohol that does it.  The menu consists of fresh and fried seafood and at the weekend there is a huge barbeque though the primary focus is on hard drinking and dancing and frankly, what could be better at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon when you are giddy drunk?
These are the bars I’ll remember best, forget the ‘style’ bars and the chi-chi hotel bars, it is all about Tiki huts, dive bars and honest dining spots.  Scraping your hair back, throwing on shorts and a T-shirt and grabbing a cold drink, some fresh seafood and a little shade from the heat.  For me, that is one of the great joys of South Florida living and that experience is always “enhanced” thanks to the people watching. 

What truly unique spots have you visited around the world that you can share with everyone? 
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