Valentine’s Day

My husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We strolled by a display of art for sale near the Riverside Hotel. It was an event called “Hearts on Parade” as a benefit for Children’s Home Society of Florida. These hearts are available to buy at http://www.ebay.com/usr/heartsonparade

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We ate dinner at the French restaurant, Le Café de Paris on Las Olas Blvd. Our celebration dinner started off with a bottle of wine and a Caesar salad. Next I had Beef Wellington and my husband had Veal Oscar.

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Dessert was the best part. The waiter flambéed a large portion of Baked Alaska in front of us. It would have served four people but we each devoured our share. The rum was generous. This dinner package for $96 was a great deal and one we’d do again, although you can order a la carte.

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What’s your best Valentine’s Day memory?

 

Brio Tuscan Grille

I love trying new restaurants, especially when they’re right around the corner from where I live. A new Brio Tuscan Grille just opened on the southeast corner of Westfield Mall in Plantation. We had an excellent meal, starting with the tomato and mozzarella Caprese salad. My husband had shrimp and crab cakes and I had grilled salmon. The fish was accompanied by roasted diced sweet potatoes, asparagus and other vegetables. It was delicious and the service was excellent. I can’t wait to go back. We also liked that they served butter instead of olive oil with the crusty bread. Prices are reasonable, and they are open for lunch. And who can resist the mini-desserts for $2.99?

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Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

New York City: The Food

New York City: The Food

You can’t go to New York City without experiencing some of life’s best dining. The first night, we ate at the Fig and Olive. For appetizers, we got a bowl of olives and a mushroom dish that was heavenly. Our main meal was salmon with side dishes that were fairly meager. Don’t expect big portions here. The restaurant was crowded so we were glad we’d made a reservation.

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Friday morning, we ate breakfast at Carnegie Deli. My daughter had a smoked salmon platter with a bagel and I had a boloney and egg omelet.

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After spending half the day at the museum, we ate lunch at one of the Le Pain restaurants where you get served. We got like an appetizer platter of cheeses and such and nibbled from it for our meal.

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Friday night was dinner with the mystery writers’ gang at Sammy’s Noodle Shop.

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Saturday, I dined alone with the MWA folks at Bobby Van’s Grill. The filet mignon and side dishes were excellent.

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On Sunday, we grabbed a bite to eat on our stroll to Rockefeller Center, shared a hot dog from a food vendor on Broadway, stopped in to the Hershey store to buy chocolate to bring home, checked out the Cellar at Macy’s, and had lunch in Lord & Taylor.

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Their tomato soup was delicious, and it paired very well with a grilled cheese sandwich. Again, we were too weary and burdened down by our heavy coats to want to shop. I hated that part when I lived up north: dressing for the cold weather and dying from the heat when you went inside. I love the South, where you can run outside in short-sleeves for most of the year.

We bought croissants and Danish at Grand Central Station and a piece of chocolate layer cake at the Strip House to bring home.

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Temptation abounds with the best looking pastries in New York wherever you go, cupcakes and crumb nuts (square donuts), fresh breads, and more. You could get fruits and vegetables at many of the markets, but I think we do better in Florida in this regard, at least in winter. I really liked the Hale & Hearty soup places in New York. That’s great for cold weather, not so much for their heat waves in the summer. So if you go to New York, leave room in your suitcase to bring home some treats.

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Dinner on Sunday was New York pizza at John’s Pizzeria, just down the street from the Minskoff Theatre where we needed to go to see The Lion King. The medium size was more than adequate for both of us.

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Finally, we left on Monday and ate breakfast at the airport. All that walking helped when I got on the scale at home. I’d only gained one pound. Now it’s back to a healthier diet.

View all the photos here: http://fw.to/00nuTlP

Magic Kingdom at Disney

This visit to the Magic Kingdom found us exploring the new section of Fantasyland. We headed over there after an unexpected late morning parade down Main Street, decorated for the autumn season.

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Wishing to eat first, we went directly to the Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Beauty and the Beast castle for lunch. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the front door from the end of the line, but menus and umbrellas handed out by the helpful staff kept us comfortable and occupied. Inside, the lighting dimmed and a row of knights in armor kept us company along the hallway.

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We came to a host who handed us a fake rose and assigned us a station. At this next stop, an attendant took our orders and payment then directed us to find a seat anywhere inside the dining rooms. We sat at the immense ballroom with crystal and brass chandeliers. Other rooms had the magical rose inside a glass case, or a statue of Belle and the Beast together.

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We sat and waited for our meals to arrive. Waiters wheeled around glass enclosed carts from where they served everyone’s plates of food. Drawers inside these ingenious carts held extra plates and such. All restaurants should use these devices. It would save their servers a lot of arm strain. The food was fair but with some better choices than the usual fast food. In the evening, this place turns into a sit-down restaurant requiring reservations. It’s nice for lunch one time but I wouldn’t rush back. Too much trouble when we can go to any of the other fast food places around the park.

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Then we viewed Gaston’s Tavern, which disappointedly serves only soft beverages. But then again, this is Fantasyland geared to kids. We dipped into the Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction, winding around and around the line inside the building. It’s decorated like you’re in a cave system so the themed entry diverts your attention. The ride itself is very sedate inside clamshells where you get a glimpse of scenes from the movie with accompanying music. It’s pleasant and a good place to get cooled off but more appealing to children.

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Too hot to go anywhere else, we left the park in mid-afternoon. That’s the benefit of having annual passes. We can come and go as we please, and we always discover something new each time we visit.

Roach

Last night we went to dinner at a favorite restaurant, an upscale chain that shall remain anonymous. We were seated at a booth against a rear wall and were enjoying our appetizer dumplings when I spotted a familiar brown bug crawling along the table by the wall.

“Roach!” I cried, grabbing my plate and scooting toward the opposite side of the bench seat.roach

“What?” My husband peered around. His eyes widened when he saw where I pointed.

The waiter, who was nearby, hastened over. “Is something wrong?”

“Yes, there’s a roach.” I pointed a wavering finger. Dang, but the critter had scurried behind the salt and pepper shakers.

“I’ll be right back.” The young man rushed away and returned a moment later with reinforcements.

“What do you want to do?” the manager asked me as I stood by uncertainly.

“We need to change tables. I’m not staying here.” I’d already grabbed my food dishes. The manager indicated another table nearby with regular seating, not a booth.

My husband and I transferred our drinks and other accoutrements while the wait staff stripped off the tablecloth and hunted the offending creature. The manager even got down on his knees with a flashlight to look underneath. I guessed he’d got the bug because the waiters remade the table as though nothing had happened.

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The manager bustled over. “I’m so sorry. This almost never happens.” He mumbled several excuses which I blanked out, but I did hear the words, “Of course, we’ll compensate you for the inconvenience.”

I nodded my agreement. “That’s fine, thanks.” I figured we’d be lucky to get an item discounted off our bill. “Did you get it?” was all I really cared about.

“We did.” He left us to dine in peace.

Our meal proceeded until we got the final bill. To our pleasant surprise, the entire meal had been comped. All we had to pay for were our drinks and gratuity. I didn’t expect such generosity, but really, they owed it to us. I could have stood up and shrieked “Roach!” at the top of my voice. Imagine the reactions of the other patrons.

And then, being a writer, my imagination took flight. What if I had a character who did just that? This would fit right in with my humorous Bad Hair Day mysteries. Marla, my hairdresser sleuth, wouldn’t act this way, but a companion might. That person could even knock over her wine class at the same time and cause a general ruckus in an entertaining scene.

And—get this—what if Marla later spied this same character twisting a top on a medicine bottle and putting it into her purse, when Marla didn’t recall this person taking any pills. Could the guest possibly have brought the roach herself to let loose in the restaurant, hoping for a free meal? What an outrageous character. I can’t wait to write her into my next book! You see, inspiration always comes from life’s experiences.

I just love those What If’s, don’t you?

Orlando Revisited

We just returned from another weekend in Orlando, Florida. It was hot but not so bad early in the morning when we went for our daily stroll. It’s a peaceful scene at the lake by our condo.

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On Saturday, we visited Baldwin Park to view the lake there and the main street with its restaurants and boutiques. We had lunch in Chi Pan Asian and walked around. Baldwin Park is a quiet enclave with upscale residences in the middle of Orlando.

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Lake at Baldwin Park
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Mexican Restaurant
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Chi Pan Asian

The next day, we drove to Disney’s Boardwalk Resort to have lunch in one of their numerous restaurant, a brewerie/grill, and then we walked all the way around the lake by the Yacht and Beach Club resorts. We could see the Dolphin and Swan hotels, too. We got back to our car just before a torrential downpour.

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Boardwalk View

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We celebrated our son’s birthday at Christini’s. Our eyebrows nearly dropped off when we saw the wine prices. $65 for a bottle of a Napa Cabernet. My husband looked it up later, and it lists $22 online. Clearly, this is where they make their money. They need it, too, as no less than five waiters in tuxedoes hovered around, refilling our water glasses and whisking our plates away if we put down a fork. An accordion player serenaded us, his instrument gleaming with mother-of-pearl keys. Fresh flowers sat in a glass vase on each table, covered with black cloths. It’s a very romantic atmosphere, great for special occasions and romance. But really, is ravioli and veal marsala with a polenta cake worth over $35 each? The Caesar and Caprese salads were excellent, and the main dishes were quite tasty. So was the crusty bread with a creamy eggplant dip. Umm, I’m getting hungry thinking about it. While we enjoyed our evening there, the bill for over $200 is one we probably won’t want to repeat any time soon. Fortunately, the next birthdays in the family are in September, which in Orlando is Magical Dining Month. You can get 3 course meals at fancy restaurants for $30 each. That’s a much better deal.

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Christini’s
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Caprese Salad
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Veal Marsala

Also, please check out my blog post today over at The Kill Zone where I offer 6 Tips for File Management.