We drove down to Key West on the Thursday before the Mystery Fest Key West conference began. Once you hit the Keys beyond Miami and Homestead, you pass interesting little towns on each island along with scenic ocean vistas on either side of the highway. On Ramrod Key, we stopped for lunch at Boondocks. Their creamy New England clam chowder was one of the best. I liked the crabmeat salad and cole slaw that accompanied the soup. A half portion of salad was more than enough.
After arriving in Key West, we checked in at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort and then took the hotel shuttle into town. Here we meandered around until our friends Alyssa Maxwell and her husband joined us for dinner. We dined at Conch Republic Seafood Company. Richard and I shared stuffed mushrooms and grilled mahi mahi. We were as stuffed as the mushrooms when we’d finished.
Friday morning, we were free, so we visited the East Martello Museum, a Civil War era fort. Exhibits tell about how the fort was used during the war as well as a bit of Key West lore including ghost stories and the creepy Robert the Doll tale. Doll houses, a treasure chest, and a cannon were among the relics displayed. Then we went outside toward the tower where a spiral staircase takes you to the top. Here are some scenic views.
Hungry from our exertions, we drove into town and lunched at Pinchers Crab Shack on Duval Street. Then it was back to the hotel for the start of the conference.
We spent an afternoon last weekend strolling around Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Turning right at the first main intersection, we passed the fast food places on our left and gift shops on our right. Straight ahead was the Tower of Terror. I went on this theme park ride for one time in the past, and it was my only time. However, I like to admire the structure because it reminds me of Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery. I had this attraction in mind when planning the layout for my fictional resort, which was also inspired by the delightful Tower of Terror movie.
We viewed the tourists along with this local resident.
Then we went into Star Wars: Path of the Jedi to see a 12 minute film and get cooled off in the air-conditioning. The film follows Luke Skywalker from when he began his journey as a Jedi to when Rey took up the challenge in the latest saga film.
We saw the new Star Wars Solo movie at Disney’s Dine-In Theater. The action kept me on my toes throughout along with keeping track of the various political factions. I especially liked how Han met Chewbacca and Lando. If you want a good escapist film, I’d recommend it for an entertaining couple of hours.
We ate at several restaurants in the area. Here’s the stuffed mushroom appetizer we enjoyed at Longhorn.
Breakfast one day was at Wilderness Lodge.
Dinner at Ahi Sushi.
We also went to the Farmer’s Market in Winter Park and then strolled along the shops at Park Avenue after lunch.
This was a welcome break. Back home, I completed my final read-through of Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day mystery series. Now it’s ready for production!
You may be wondering why I write about food so much on this blog. Authors have lives, too, and I happen to enjoy dining out, taking cooking classes, and experimenting on recipes. Everything we do feeds into our creative works. You’ll find recipes and food mentioned throughout my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. So here are some local spots aside from the usual chains.
Dar Tajine is a Moroccan Restaurant that draws you in with its lush décor. The menu selections were varied enough to appeal to everyone at our table.
We started out with Zaalouk, an appetizer with grilled eggplant, tomato, garlic, olive oil and spices. It tasted like Ratatouille and came with triangles of pita bread. For my entrée, I had the Beef Tajine that was wonderfully tasty and tender. My husband had the Vegetarian Tajine that looked substantial enough for his appetite. In my estimation, tajine means it is slow-cooked and served in these interesting pots. We’ll have to go back to try the Shish Kabob and Chicken Bastilla. Mint tea and a selection of pastries concluded the meal. The restaurant is located at 8281 W. Sunrise Blvd in Plantation. Go to http://www.dar-tajine.com
On Mother’s Day, we dined at Vienna Café & Wine Bar. This is a favorite when we want a special night out. It has a continental atmosphere with Vienna classics on the menu. I started with the Mushroom Fricassee. The mushrooms are sautéed with port wine and cream and served in a flaky pastry. My main dish was the potato-crusted salmon, which came with a pinot noir cream sauce and steamed asparagus. I ordered a side dish of potatoes au gratin. This is located in Davie at Pine Island Plaza. http://www.ViennaWineBar.com
So here’s my question for you. Do you like to read about my dining and travel adventures? Or would you rather I stick to how-to articles on writing and the writing process? Perhaps you like a mixture of both? Please let me know what interests you.
We’ve enjoyed the cooking classes at Publix Aprons Cooking School in the past. This evening’s Australian Wine and Dine theme appealed to us since we like Australian wines. Did you know we went to Australia on our honeymoon, among other places? Visions of Ayers Rock rose in our minds as we read the menu. This would be a fun night.
This class drew a full house. The place was packed, and three chefs took turns doing the demonstrations. You can choose hands-on or demo classes where the chefs do the work. Either way, you sample the food and accompanying wines. None of the portions or drink pours are huge but your stomach is filled by the end.
Tonight we started with a 19 Crimes red wine called “The Uprising.” This was really good and will go on my buy list. This brand is fun as every cork relates a different crime. I have two of them in my home office. One reads, #11. Stealing roots, trees, or plants or destroying them. The other one says, #15. Clandestine marriage. Imagine this being a crime. It could provide fodder for lots of stories.
The started course was Barbecue Shrimp with Spring Pea Salad. This seemed relatively easy to make. The shrimp were tasty, and I liked the pea salad that was served cold. It could easily be heated as a vegetable side dish. Did I mention that you get all the recipes to take home? With this course, we had an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It was light golden in color and a bit fruity. We liked it. Our tablemates called it “refreshing.”
Next on the menu was Crispy Scalloped Potatoes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche. These potatoes took a bit of effort to make, being sliced and dipped in batter than fried. They were crispy tasty, and I liked the smoked salmon with them, but I’d probably use potato latkes or vegetable pancakes from the freezer section instead. The accompanying wine was 19 Crimes Chardonnay. This was a nice golden color and dryer than the sauvignon blanc with more body.
The entrée was Marinated Pepper Steaks with Wild Mushrooms and Couscous. We’re not big meat eaters these days, but this dish was delicious. The beef is cut into thin strips, marinated and then stir fried. Then it’s mixed with mushrooms, bell pepper strips, sliced onions and diced roasted tomatoes. The wine was 19 Crimes 2017 Shiraz. It was a deep burgundy color and tasted stronger (or drier) than the first wine.
Dessert was a Double Chocolate Lamington Cake with Coconut. It tasted like a coconut-coated brownie cake. While appealing to chocoholics, this dish might have been better served with a vanilla sauce. The last wine was a 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon. It tasted very dry to our palates. Out of the three reds, we preferred the first one the best.
We got the recommended app on our phone called Living Wine Labels. It’s fun to scan a 19 Crimes wine bottle label and see what happens. Overall, we greatly enjoyed this class, although it’s a lot to eat and drink by the time you’re done. We’d better go for some long walks this week to wear off the calories. I already know which class I want to sign up for next. Do you go to cooking classes or experiment with new dishes at home?
ABR Listener Awards
Murder by Manicure Audiobook is a 2018 ABR Audiobook Listener Award Finalist! Click Here for the Mystery category and scroll down to cast your daily vote for Murder by Manicure.
Enter Here for Booklover’s Bench monthly contest to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card.
Aside from our culinary rounds at World Showcase’s marketplaces in Epcot as mentioned below, we sampled the cuisine at a variety of places in and around Orlando over the weekend. At Disney Springs, we ate at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen. The atmosphere was lively in this popular Orlando eaterie, and the service was good. I got their famous fried chicken with creamy mashed potatoes and a cheese biscuit while Richard got a fish sandwich. My dinner platter came with three pieces of chicken. My opinion? The chicken had too much breading. I filled an entire salad plate with the pickings. You can get better fried chicken at Publix for half the price. The mashed potatoes were creamy as advertised but nothing special. The biscuit was surpassed by the ones at Red Lobster. This restaurant is a fun place to try once, but we weren’t impressed enough to return.
Next stop was a repeat visit to The Big Easy, a New Orleans-style restaurant across the street from our condo in Windermere. I had the red beans and rice that came with corn bread. It was a tasty meal and a large enough portion for me to have leftovers, but it would have been even better if it came with a small salad. Richard had a Caesar salad with shrimp. There was live music and the bar was filled, so it can get pretty noisy inside. We like the food and the prices and will doubtless return here.
Another night found us at Landry’s Seafood Restaurant, where I had salmon with asparagus couscous and Richard had the crab cake appetizer as his meal. The main entrees came with salad and garlic bread. I like the menu choices here and the prices are reasonable. The crowd tends to be older, but we seniors know a good bargain when we see one. Ask for an AARP discount.
Following the Orlando Book Festival at Orlando Public Library, we met our family at Shari Sushi in the Thornton Park district. I ordered citrus crusted Scottish salmon with quinoa salad and Greek yogurt, while my husband had the crab meat salad. Neither of us was terribly impressed, although the younger folks among us loved the sushi there. Shari is a popular restaurant, so it clearly has its repeat fans.
We couldn’t resist a visit to Beck Brothers Blueberries to pick our own basket full of plump, ripe berries. These are always good, and they stay fresh for a long time.
All of these dining experiences made me gain two pounds, so now I have to work on getting the weight off so I can fit into my mother-of-the-bride outfits.
Last Day for Audiobook Giveaway!
This is your last chance to win 20+ crime fiction and thriller audiobooks, plus a new eReader and free ebooks. Enter Here: http://bit.ly/crimeaudio-apr18
RONE Awards – Vote for Murder by Manicure April 30 – May 6
Murder by Manicure Audiobook has been nominated for a RONE Award sponsored by InD’tale Magazine. Reader voting for the audiobook category will take place April 30 – May 6. Register at http://www.indtale.com so you are eligible to vote. Be sure to click the verification link you receive via email. You vote counts, so please cast it today!
We always enjoy the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival at Disney World. We bypassed the attractions in Future World to head straight back to World Showcase. The display of flowers floating on the pond and arrayed on its grassy banks provided a splash of vibrant color. The weather cooperated by being sunny and temperate. We turned right toward Canada, beating most of the crowd that seemed to start in the other direction toward Mexico.
Richard started our culinary tour with the Pear Cider-Brined Shredded Corned Beef and Braised Cabbage from the Cider House at the United Kingdom. $5.50.
I got the duck confit aka Confit de Canard aux Gnocchi a la Parisienne at France. The tender meat came with gnocchi in a tasty mushroom gravy. $5.75.
Next we indulged in the Potato Pancakes from Germany at the Bauernmarkt. These were two thin pancakes like you’d make at home on a griddle, topped with fresh apple sauce. $4.25.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist the Wild Berry Buckle at The Berry Basket, near the entrance to World Showcase toward the Mexico side. It was divine. Blueberries topped a piece of cake that was accompanied by a scoop of berry gelato. $4.50.
These selections were enough to fill my stomach. I stopped by Club Cool for a free drink of raspberry soda. Here you can sample a variety of soft drinks from around the world. Needless to say, I gulped down multiple samples until my thirst was quenched.
Another day, we ate lunch in the Wilderness Lodge at Whispering Canyon Café. This was a fun meal with the waitress throwing straws and napkins on the table and people screaming they needed ketchup. Then other patrons would run over with a dozen bottles or so. You could order an all-you-can-eat skillet with chicken, ribs, pulled pork, corn-on-the-cob, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and sausage. I had the tuna melt that was really good.
A loaf of corn bread with butter started us out. Our son ordered root beer and got a giant glassful.
After our stomachs were filled, we meandered through the western themed hotel and outside by the pool. Numerous other restaurants and an inviting lounge will necessitate another visit.
Have you entered one of my giveaways yet or voted for my audiobook? If not, GO HERE for a limited time only.
Once again, we dined our way through another Orlando visit. Our first stop on this culinary journey was dinner at The Big Easy in Windermere. My husband had a vegetable po-boy, and I had breaded tilapia with rice and beans and sautéed veggies. The rice and beans were really good and would make a meal in itself with a side of corn bread. We actually returned here for lunch but I got a cobb salad that time. I like the New Orleans-style decorations and the lively bar scene.
Our next foray was to Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. They celebrated cherry blossom festival with flowering plants and dinner specials. I ordered the sake sangria. My meal was two appetizers, the Portobello mushroom fries and chicken dumplings.
We detoured from our usual route to explore St. Augustine. Lunch was at Harry’s where I got the crab meat and eggplant Napoleon. It was delish. This is a favorite restaurant of mine in this city, especially if you sit outside in the breezy courtyard. I wouldn’t do this in the heat of summer, however, with the scorching sun overhead and hungry mosquitoes looking for bait. Then I’d ask for a table indoors.
Now we’re back home, and I have to lose the extra weight I’d gained. That’s the problem with culinary adventures. You pay for the calories and salt intake when you resume your normal routine.
Art exhibits tempted buyers all along World Showcase. Here’s an art class in progress by the France pavilion. Disney art, Star Wars, and other subjects appealed to the crowds.
We stopped to taste some of the marketplace wares. At the Pop Eats! Booth, we tried the Sous Vide Poulet Rouge Chicken Roulade with Apples and Sage, served with Warm Brie Fondue, Blueberry and Beet Gel, garnished with Apple and Beet chips. This dish was quite good. I would have liked to try the Almond Frangipane Cake layered with Raspberry Jam and Belgian Chocolate but was avoiding sweets.
At L’Arte di Mangiare, I had the Sformato di Melanzane e Pomodori: Tomato and Eggplant Terrine with Fior di Latte Mozzarella. This was tasty and worthy of a main meal.
Prices seem to have gone up so we didn’t try too many. Plus, my temporary crown prevented me from eating anything sticky, crunchy, or with nuts.
That evening, we headed over to Disney Springs and dinner at The Edison. This cool steampunk establishment has numerous dining rooms, some overlooking the lively bar. At night, one of the downstairs spaces turns into a cover-charge nightclub. I ate a bowl of creamy tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich (3 layers of bread). Husband had crab cakes. Next door is a new Italian restaurant we’ll have to try another time.
Outside, we peeked at Enzo’s Hideaway around a curve and down a level from The Edison. You go through a tunnel to a bar and yet another cozy Italian restaurant.
The food in general on the Royal Princess tasted very good. Menu choices were average. For dinner, I enjoyed on different nights the prime ribs, filet mignon, tiger shrimp, and lobster tail. Vegetarian choices were available. We celebrated my birthday with a chocolate treat.
Thanks to our travel agent Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web, we dined at the Crowne Grille, one of the specialty restaurants. Here I had lobster cake appetizer, mixed greens salad, beef filet with baked potato. Our table shared creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and freshly cooked asparagus. I had a lemon meringue tart for dessert.
This venue hosted a British pub lunch later on in the voyage. It was fun to eat my favorite cottage pie with a trifle for dessert.
The buffet seemed to have little variety and was very disorganized. Without any labeled station except for Pastry, you had to hunt through each aisle to see what was offered. The selections for breakfast or lunch didn’t seem to change much from day-to-day. We didn’t go here for dinner so can’t comment on that meal. Nonetheless, you could get plenty to eat whenever you came by. What I did like was that they opened for continental breakfast at 5am and breakfast at 6am. Since we’re early risers, this suited our schedules.
Outdoors by the pool, you could get pizza or hot dogs and hamburgers. An ice cream station offered vanilla or chocolate swirls, but I thought it tasted more like gelato than a creamy ice cream. Or you could dine at an Italian restaurant for free on one of the lower decks. The International Café was always a favorite. Coffee drinks cost money there, but the food was complimentary.
An annoyance was the lack of drink stations at the buffet. There were a couple of spots that offered coffee, tea or water. Otherwise, waiters circulated and took your drink order. You had to order lemonade. Sometimes we waited and nobody came by. On other ships, these waiters wheel carts around to offer refills. Not so here. They served you individually which made for less efficient service. These same wait staff had to continuously clean the tables to make them ready for new diners. The ship should offer more self-serve drink stations and include lemonade. Also, there weren’t any take-out cups available for coffee/tea. Only ceramic mugs were available.
Food in the dining room for dinner was very good.
The desserts were noteworthy, and I enjoyed fruit crumbles with vanilla sauce, fresh baked cookies, almond or chocolate croissants, Baked Alaska, and more.
We spent another delightful afternoon at Disney World’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Here we sampled more foods from around the world. Hurry if you want to go. The festival ends Nov. 13.
Active Eats in Future World West (near Coca Cola pavilion on the way to World Showcase)
Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese – $4.75 with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and chopped bell peppers. My favorite for this season!
Sweet Avocado Cream with strawberries, yellow cake, and streusel topping. $3.75
China – Chicken Pot Stickers $4.00. You get two dumplings. Very tasty.
Italy – Absolut Penne with penne pasta, shrimp, and vodka sauce. $7.00. The shrimp are good but too much pasta is filling.
American Adventure Hops & Barley – Smoked beef brisket with pimento cheese served on garlic toast. $5.50. The barbecued beef flavor was good but the meat a bit overdone. The soggy piece of bread beneath the meat was unappealing.
We had a better meal at The Boathouse in Disney Springs. I had the lump crabmeat with avocado appetizer (enough for a meal) and Richard had a giant crab cake.
Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.