Category Archives: USA Travel

Florida sunsets at Clearwater Beach

sunset at Pier 60
sunset at Pier 60

img_4607Clearwater Beach is one of a series of beautiful barrier island towns that stretch along Florida’s Pinellas County Gulf of Mexico coast. Blessed with powder white sand it’s a favored playground for tourist worldwide.

 

Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach

At dusk throngs gather at Pier 60 to enjoy a typically stunning sunset that for residents is one of the perks of living along the Gulf of Mexico. Pier 60 juts over 1,000 feet into the Gulf. In the daytime it’s a popular fishing pier.

Sunset at Clearwater Beach
Sunset at Clearwater Beach
vendor on Pier 60
vendor on Pier 60

But after 5:00 p.m. it transforms into a free sunset party complete with buskers, musicians and vendors selling a myriad of arts and crafts.

 

 

Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach

After sunset walk over to Pier House 60 Hotel and take the elevator to the 10th floor. Jimmy’s Crows Nest Bar & Grill offers  panoramic views of Clearwater Beach that at night are particularly impressive along with great burgers and drinks.

Florida, the Sunshine State, can just as easily be dubbed the Sunset State after spending an evening on Clearwater Beach.

Night view of Clearwater Beach from Jimmy's
Night view of Clearwater Beach Marina from Jimmy’s

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

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Before I die: expressing aspirations in Saint Petersburg, Florida

Before I Die

I dislike the term bucket list. I especially dislike it when it’s attached to travel. Adventure and exploration should be the impetus for travel, not checking off a predetermined list of must-see destinations.

Yet when it comes to life, reflecting on one’s innermost aspirations is healthy. How often do we express, especially to ourselves, “No, I can’t do that.” I’m not capable, talented, have no time, I’m afraid.

live

That’s the thought behind Saint Petersburg’s “Before I die…” wall located at 1049 Central Avenue in the heart of the Grand Central Arts District. A safe place to publicly express our aspirations shares a street bustling with cafes, art galleries and murals created by some of the city’s most talented artists.

 

figure this life out
figure this life out
sing
sing
get a passport and use it
get a passport and use it

A plastic bag of large colored chalk is available for all to use. The Before I die wall project started in New Orleans several years ago and has grown in popularity. I found it challenging, which sounds odd for a professional writer.

I also found reading the wall profoundly moving. I didn’t want to leave. I felt inspired and humbled by the aspirations of others in a way no bucket list blog ever achieved.

be the person my children aspire to be
be the person my children aspire to be

Saint Petersburg has been undergoing a major revival ever since the late 1990s despite the 2007 recession. Sprawling neighborhoods that radiated from a once decaying downtown were inconsequential to the trend towards the urban renewal of the 1960s-1980s, which often resulted in the destruction of low-rise residential and commercial streets. In the past decade a steady influx of young professionals with families, artists and entrepreneurs have found a treasure trove of Craftsman and art deco housing and sturdy commercial structures.

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In an enviable partnership between business owners and artists – some who got their start defacing decaying buildings with graffiti – vast walls have been transformed into stunning murals.

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The nearly 50 murals decorate walls in Saint Petersburg’s seven arts districts. And they’re not defaced. Provide a neighborhood with beauty and it will be respected.

make friends rich

Perhaps the greatest of human aspirations, when given a chance, is simply to be good.

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

 

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Clarissa Dillon on the great age of English puddings

D. Clarissa Dillon at the Thomas Massey House (1693) Broomall, PA
D. Clarissa Dillon at the Thomas Massey House (1696) Broomall, PA

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” is a simpler statement than posterity has endowed. In her monograph, “Blessed be he that invented Puddings,” (2013) Dr. Clarissa Dillon explains that it’s just an instruction not to under cook the pudding. Too little time in the water bath results in a loose mass rather than the firm ball that signifies proper texture. Of course, she’s not writing about Jello-O instant pudding in this case.

process making puddings (sausages were considered puddings)
author inflating casing & process making puddings (sausages were considered puddings)
"sausages" – puddings in the 16th-18th centuries
“sausages” – puddings in the 16th-18th centuries

Clarissa Dillon, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Bryn Mawr College and the foremost authority on 16th through 18th century English and colonial American cooking and household industries, tackles the often confusing interpretations of our shared culinary past. For centuries, puddings were virtually any mixture of ingredients from sweet to savory including meats, seafood, fruits, oats that were blended, wrapped in a casing and steamed. This included what we call today sausages. The casing could be sheep gut or heavy linen cloth.

17th/18th century meal being cooked at the Thomas Massey House (1693)
17th/18th century meal being cooked at the Thomas Massey House (1696)

Puddings were a major component of the English and American table during these centuries and often served as the foundation of a one dish meal in this age of cooking on an open wood fired hearth. In her monograph, Dr. Dillon covers the breadth of combinations that must have delighted an imaginative cook of the day. Puddings can also be seen as the casseroles of the era in so far as any leftover could be added to compliment ingredients creating a new dish.

18th century toaster at hearth of Thomas Massey House (1693)
18th century toaster at hearth of Thomas Massey House (1696)

In an age where few could afford to waste food, even blood from butchered animals combined with cream, eggs, oatmeal, herbs and spices created the famous Black Pudding, a sausage that still graces many a full English breakfast. Without preaching to the reader, Dr. Dillon’s “Blessed be he that invented Puddings” effectively dispels the myth that past diets were monotonous and tasteless. The recipes include a litany of herbs, spices and flavorings that many cooks today believe were either rare or reserved for the very rich – raisins, nutmeg, mace, oysters, anchovies, currents, gooseberries, almonds, saffron, sherry and, by the 18th century, New World Indian corn.

spices, eggs & removing seeds from currents w/ a needle
spices, eggs & removing seeds from currents w/ a needle

The genius of creating puddings to serve as the center piece of a one dish boiled meal proves that the cook of old was just as conscious of time management as any modern household. The recipe for a basic oatmeal pudding could serve as a savory carbohydrate for some meat and vegetables easily steamed in the same pot. Fortunately, we do not have to labor over the raisins today individually seeding them with a long needle.

Dr. Dillon tying the pudding for steaming
Dr. Dillon tying the pudding for steaming

An Oatmeal Pudding

This recipe in “Blessed be he that invented Puddings,” by Dr. Clarissa Dillon is from “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” by Hannah Glasse, London 1747.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces good quality oatmeal such as Irish steel cut (not quick cooking)
  • 16 ounces suet – edible suet from a butcher, not what one puts out for the birds.
  • 16 ounces currents
  • 8 ounces raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large square of thick linen cloth at least 2’X2’

Procedure:

  1. Finely shred the suit with a knife or the grater blade of a food processor.
  2. Combine with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Fill a large pot ­– 2 to 3 gallon size – with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat (or over a good fire if you have a cooking hearth).
  4. Dip the linen cloth into the hot water and spread out onto the work counter. Coat the cloth with a handful of flour – this seals the fabric.
  5. Place the oatmeal mixture in the center of the cloth and bring the corners up to encase the mixture into a ball and securely tie it with kitchen twine. Be careful not to make the ball to tight because there must be room for the oatmeal to expand.
  6. Place the ball into the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours.
  7. If desired, half way through cooking, add any meat you wish to the pot – pork butt, cubed beef, chicken – and root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, carrots and potatoes. Continue to cook until the ball of pudding feels firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from the water and let rest on a sheet pan for a few minutes. Unwrap the cloth and slice the pudding, surrounding it with the meat and vegetables.

As one 18th century author, William Ellis, put it, “if they cannot dine on this with good boiled beef, or with pork, or with bacon and roots, or herbs, they deserve to want (skip) dinner.”

steaming pudding
steaming pudding

When in the Philadelphia area do visit the historic Thomas Massey House (c.1696)

Additional articles on historic cooking by Marc d’Entremont at…

Church Keys are going extinct but not Clarissa Dillon: Colonial cooking in the 21st century

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Crossroads eggplant caponata, buckwheat and black quinoa

 

(from right) Chef Tal Ronnen, Chef Scott Jones &MC at Sun Valley Harvest Festival 2013
(from right) Chef Tal Ronnen, Chef Scott Jones &MC at Sun Valley Harvest Festival 2013

Chef Tal Ronnen, owner of West Hollywood’s Crossroads, and his executive chef Scott Jones demonstrated their flavorful vegetarian cuisine for well-healed foodies at Sun Valley Lodge.  Although Sun Valley, a celebrity studded Idaho town,  may be out of budget for many, Ronnen and Jones’ cuisine at Crossroads is well within the means of the average working American. Chefs to A-list celebrities, Tal Ronnen’s bestselling The Conscious Cook will intrigue any carnivore.

Chef Tal Ronnen’s Crossroads eggplant caponata over toasted buckwheat and black quinoa

Ingredients for the caponata

Ingredients for caponata
Ingredients for caponata
  • 5 large sweet red peppers, roasted and diced
  • 2 large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium to large white onions, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons capers
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preparation for the caponata

Roasted, peeled & seeded peppers
Roasted, peeled & seeded peppers
  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
  2. Place the red peppers on a lightly oiled or parchment paper lined sheet pan.
  3. Roast the peppers for 30 minutes turning every 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a paper bag. Roll the top of the bag shut and cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the peppers and slip off the charred skin. Discard the seeds and dice the peppers. You should have approximately 2 to 2-1/2 cups diced pepper.
caponata saute
caponata saute

6. Heat a wide deep (4”) pot on medium high heat for a couple minutes. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the eggplant, onions and celery and sauté for several minutes stirring a couple times. Add the red peppers and cook for 3 minutes more.

7. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.

8. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour stirring every 8 minutes.

9. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: The caponata will stay fresh covered and refrigerated for several days and makes a terrific cold appetizer on crackers or topping for bruschetta.

Ingredients for quinoa

black quinoa
black quinoa

The use of black quinoa is for color contrast, not taste. Therefore any color quinoa is fine.

  • 1 cup black quinoa
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt

Preparation for quinoa

  1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, cover with cold water and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain through a strainer and rinse.
  2. Bring the water or stock to a boil. Add the quinoa and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. When done the quinoa will display a tiny white thread.
  3. Drain through a sieve and return to the pan. Cover the pan and let rest for 10 minutes.

Ingredients for the toasted buckwheat

buckwheat
buckwheat
  • 1 cup toasted buckwheat (kasha)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation for the toasted buckwheat

  1. If you have purchased untoasted buckwheat (kasha), place the buckwheat in a dry sauté pan and toast over high heat, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. In a medium saucepan bring the water, oil and salt to a boil. Add the buckwheat and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

Place a generous spoonful of quinoa and buckwheat, side-by-side, on a dinner plate. Place a generous serving of caponata on top but leave each of the grains still visible on the sides. Serve with a tossed salad or a Greek salad and a crisp dry Sauvignon blanc and you have a delicious vegetarian meal.

eggplant caponata, buckwheat and black quinoa
eggplant caponata, buckwheat and black quinoa

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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Cedar planked salmon: the Pacific Northwest on a plate

Cedar planked salmon & fennel
Cedar planked salmon & fennel

A trip to the Pacific Northwest inspired this dish. It’s hard to ignore the glistening salmon, the allure of the sea and the moist forest scents of cedar. The forests and rivers provided the ingredients for this dish, common to the Native American cultures of the Salish Sea. Here it’s fused with ginger from the east captured in English inspired preserves. Most grocers sell ginger preserves, and it’s available through mail order.

ginger preserves
ginger preserves
pure apple cider
pure apple cider

The rich oils of wild salmon are excellent for absorbing flavors, and the aromatic wood pairs well with the tangy sweetness of the ginger and lemon. The slow caramelizing with sweet onion enhances the anise flavor of fresh fennel. The apple cider syrup napping the vegetables compliments the ginger glaze on the fish.

Cedar planks for cooking are available from kitchen supply stores, upscale grocers and by mail order. Never use cedar that has been treated for construction. Follow the instructions for soaking the cedar plank before proceeding with cooking.

 

cedar plant soaking in apple cider
cedar plant soaking in apple cider

 

Ginger Glazed Cedar Planked Salmon & Cider Glazed Caramelized Fennel 

Ingredients for the cedar plank:

  • 1 cedar plank
  • 3 to 4 cups apple cider (water or wine may be substituted).

Preparation:

Two hours before grilling, place the cedar plank in a roasting pan large enough to fit.

  1. Pour the apple cider over the plank and soak, turning once. Soak for two hours.
fresh fennel
fresh fennel

Ingredients for the fennel and sweet onion:

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup simmering water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Cut stalks off fennel bulb. Remove and reserve fronds, discard the stalks. Slice bulb into 4 to 6 slices.
  2. Peel and slice the onion into 4 to 6 slices.
  3. Melt the butter in a 12-inch sauté pan, or one large enough to fit the fennel and onions in a single layer.
  4. Arrange the fennel and onions on top of the melted butter.
  5. Add the simmering water and cover. Reduce heat and gently steam for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid and cook an additional 15 minutes allowing the water to evaporate and the vegetables to lightly brown. Turn at least once.
salmon ready for the grill
salmon ready for the grill

Ingredients for the salmon

  • 1 pound wild caught salmon fillet, ideally with the skin on
  • olive oil to coat
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ginger preserves

Preparation:

  1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to about 350ºF or a medium heat-setting.
  2. Remove the plank from the apple cider and place it on a baking sheet. Reserve the apple cider for the fennel glaze.
  3. Place the salmon fillet, skin side down, onto the plank. Lightly coat the top of the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Mix the lemon juice and zest into the ginger preserves and spoon over the salmon.
  5. Place the cedar plank on the grill and cover the grill. Cook for 12 to 18 minutes. The salmon is done when it is uniformly pink in the center.
grilled salmon
grilled salmon

Preparation for the fennel’s cider glaze:

  1. reduced cider
    reduced cider

    While salmon is grilling, pour the reserved apple cider into a sauce pan and reduce over high heat until it’s a light syrup, about a 75 percent reduction.

 

Plate the salmon and fennel:

  1. When the salmon’s cooked, remove the plank to a cutting board. Slice the fillet into three portions and, using a thin spatula, separate the skin from the fillet.
  2. Arrange on plates with the fennel and onion. Drizzle the apple cider syrup over the fennel and decorate the dish with chopped fennel fronds.

Usually cedar planks can be re-used once or twice until they become overly charred, cracked or impossible to clean. Clean under hot running water – do not use detergent – scrubbing off the skin and loose ash. Allow to dry on a rack and store with the grill.

Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park, Washington

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

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Ca’ d’Zan: an impresario’s palace

Ca' d'Zan
Ca’ d’Zan

John Ringling was the greatest impresario of his day. He created the iconic circus venue of 20th century legends,  and he knew how to make money.

(left) grand hall with original Waldorf Astoria Hotel crystal chandelier, John as cover story in a mid-1920s Time magazine, John's sterling silver office phone at Ca' d'Zan
(left) grand hall with original Waldorf Astoria Hotel crystal chandelier, John as cover story in a mid-1920s Time magazine, John’s sterling silver office phone at Ca’ d’Zan

Commenting on a huge portrait of Ringling in the grand hall of Ca’ d’Zan, the incisive social commentator of the 1920s, Will Rogers, said it was the first time he saw John’s hand in his own pocket…

(left clockwise) dining room, built in electric refrigerator, painted ceiling in the grand hall and pillars in the game room
(left clockwise) dining room, built in electric refrigerator, painted ceiling in the grand hall and pillars in the game room

The love of his life, Mabel, was also a savvy art lover especially of the popular Italian Venetian Renaissance era. With unlimited funds, John and Mabel prodigiously purchased great master artist of the era , furniture and a queen’s entire opera house. They employed top artist to paint original works of art throughout Ca’ d’Zan on ceilings, inside bathroom cabinet doors, on pillars – every square inch of this Venetian palace is art.

interior of every bathroom cabinet was painted with original art
interior of every bathroom cabinet was painted with original art

Ca’ d’Zan was Mabel’s project. It was meant from the outset to be a showplace, just like her husband’s circus. At a cost of $1,500.000 ($20,000,000 in 21st century dollars) the mid 1920s Venetian palace on the shore of Sarasota Bay is a palace.

Ca' d'Zan
Ca’ d’Zan

Although Mabel died nearly a decade before John, he respected her wishes donating Ca’ d’Zan  and its priceless art collection in his will to the state of Florida. Florida State University maintains the mansion, its art museum and the opera house as an integral component of its Sarasota campus.

Final resting place of Mabel, John and his sister at Ca d'Zan
Final resting place of Mabel, John and his sister at Ca d’Zan
original Volcun gas stove in Ca' d'Zan kitchen
original Volcun gas stove in Ca’ d’Zan kitchen
Sarasota Bay from the roof top terrace of Ca' d'Zan
Sarasota Bay from the roof top terrace of Ca’ d’Zan

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

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