Walking on Sunshine

Not so long ago, I swapped the hazy New York nights for the multi-coloured sunsets of the Sunshine State, Florida.

Skyscrapers gave way to Coconut Palms, the roads got bigger and there was less honking from the drivers.

The view from my hotel room changed from a busy avenue scene to a more refined and tranquil one.

The food changed too.

I love Seafood. In fact I adore it. Armed with some Wasabi and Soy sauce, I could live on a deserted island! 🙂 .

A few years ago, serving raw fish on menus was usually reserved for the Japanese restaurants, nowadays it can be seen on many menus offering a host of cuisines.

One thing that I noticed about a huge amount of US restaurants was the fact that many offer “International Cuisines”.

These are the eateries that offer Burgers, Pizzas, Pastas, Pad Thai, Sushi, Curries, Tortillas and Quesadillas served along side Aged Steaks and Clam Chowder.

Normally I would choose to eat Pizzas and Pastas in an Italian restaurant, or better still, in Italy itself (the latter is far better).

I believe that Tortillas and Quesadillas should be eaten in Latin American restaurants (the best Cow Intestine Tortilla is served on the side streets in Mexico).

You get my meaning, my drift, what I am trying to say?

Don’t get me wrong, (most of the times) Chinatowns around the world can be a nice place to get oriental dishes, though saying that, I can tell you some horror stories from my travels.

Eating “Trends” dictate what chefs serve, or more than likely in the case of large “International Restaurants”, what the company wants to have on its menu. It is better for them that you go to their places when you crave a Burrito and your dining partner has the munchies for a Green Curry. Two birds with one stone….. 20 dollars instead of 10. You do the math.

Anyway, rant out of the way, lets continue..

Seeing as I have a love affair with Seafood, especially raw seafood, I find it hard to pass up on something raw from the ocean, as long as it is fresh, no matter what restaurant I am in.

At one restaurant (alongside the burgers, pizzas etc..) I sampled some Tataki of Tuna with Wasabi Mayo and Asian Salad, and to my surprise it was quite good.

This Starter is large enough for a Main Course, so any Europeans venturing to the other side of the pond, take note! Food portions are big!

As many of you know, a Tataki is basically a quick seared dish, the inside remains raw. That changes the flavour quite a bit, gives it a char grilled and Sashimi flavour and texture.

Apart from Sashimi the ultimate raw dish has to be Oysters, freshly shucked. However I was quite disappointed with the Oysters I had in the US (more so in Thailand). They tended to lack flavour, either that or I wasn’t used to the (very subtle) taste. In my opinion the best Oysters are served in France, I live in Spain and get to eat many Oysters, but the French ones are always better.

So I moved on to Clams.

Raw Clams have a much more intense flavour than their Bivalvic (does that word even exist? 😉 ) cousins. A more pronounced mineral-like aftertaste, and a chewier texture (yep, I chew my Oysters, where is the fun in swallowing them whole?). On the wonderful platter above were also raw Mussels, they were good too. Yummy 🙂 .

The only problem I have with Clams sometimes is the gritty sand that can be found in them if they are not purged properly. If you find your Clams gritty, send them back and choose something else, otherwise you´ll be trying to wash out grains of sand from your mouth all night.

Driving about an hour or so south from where I was staying, I arrived in the Keys.

The Florida Keys are wonderful, they really need to be experienced to be understood,  appreciated and enjoyed.

No honking here.

Seems like nearly every house needs a garage for the car and a dock!

After sailing around for a few hours, I got hungry (I don’t do Packed Lunches!).

I found one of the many restaurants on the ocean front and parked docked my boat hoping this would be the ideal setting to continue my Clam fest.

I was wrong.

The Clam looks fresh and plump, and it was. However, the first mistake was not serving it on top of crushed ice. The substituted cracked ice cubes are not going to keep the Clams chilled, they will melt and turn in to water, dislodging the half shells and immersing them in the water.

I said “first” mistake, therefore there is a second too.

Like my Oysters I enjoy my Clams with a dash of Olive Oil and Lemon Juice, so after fishing out my Clams from the melted ice I asked for some. What a mistake.

Now you are probably going to think that I will say that it wasn’t “Extra Virgin” Olive Oil or something similar about the quality, but you are wrong. Let´s look at the bottom of the bottle.

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.There’s “muck” there.

So I take a look at where the “muck” could have come from.

That is just a clear sign that the manager and staff don´t care.

Hygiene is the most important element in a place that serves food for human consumption.

I don’t even want to think what elements are running amok on there, or how long it has taken for all that “muck” to build up.

Let´s not forget, these are refillable bottles, so someone is refilling them from larger bottles, but not cleaning them, at all. Ever.

Okay, don´t worry, it is only on the outside I hear you think.

Wrong again.

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The perfect home for Mr. and Mrs. E. Coli and their friends.

Oh dear.

***

Back on mainland Florida I had time to relax.

November and the weather was hot. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

Better food was had at the restaurants on the Intercoastal in Fort Lauderdale.

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich. What a great idea.

Before this I had only had Soft Shell Crabs at Asian restaurants, it was refreshing to have them lightly dusted in flour and just fried and served in sandwich form. So good in fact, I ordered two!.

Florida Stone Crabs.Yummy. 🙂 .

These crabs have small bodies, but large claws which are strong enough for them to feed on Oysters. They came in three sizes. Large, Larger and Jumbo.

I was thinking that the Large ones would have more flavour and that the Jumbo ones would have less (don’t ask me why), so I thought, “When I doubt, order all of them”. What a good choice!.

The photo above is of the Large size, my hands were too dirty to take photographs of the Larger and Jumbo ones…. 😆

***

I want to take this chance to thank my hosts in Florida.

Laotian born Dewey (fondly called Tui) is the webmaster of Laotian online forum Laospirit.

I have virtually known him for years from our haunts at another Lao forum, though had never met in person.

He and his wife Twee welcomed us in to their home and took time off from their busy family schedule to make sure that we had everything that we needed.

Rose and Twee.

Thank you both. For everything.

(I told you that Obama would win!)

***

On the food front, I think that better food can be had in New York, however I felt more “at home” and relaxed in Florida.

Now if only I can find a place that has both….

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One thought on “Walking on Sunshine

  1. Vienne, I would have to agree that food is better in NYC than most places I’ve been in the US.  San Francisco and the bay area there would have to be #2.  It was a pleasure to host you and Rose.  We’d do it again anytime.  We’re friends for life now.

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