Nauti Parrot Oasis in Fort Myers, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Nauti Parrot Oasis in Fort Myers, Florida! Have you ever been on your way to someplace else and noticed an open-air thatched roof tiki hut that just so happens to offer live music, serve bar bites, and keep the drinks cold? The Nauti Parrot Oasis is open every day for that getaway you’re seeking. They invite music lovers to drop by anytime. And, to be honest, you can get quite a variety of food from pizza and wings to lasagna and veal piccata. The entertainment changes often, yes even during the afternoon. There’s a nice little waterfall fountain for ambiance as well as tiki totem poles offering hospitality. Conversation is encouraged, but not required. For laidback island fun and a positive outlook on life, escape to this hideaway resting place in plain sight.

Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs, Florida! Have you ever eaten in a tiki hut along the waterfront? The open air seating is a sought-after request for a stunning tropical view. It feels like being on a river in the tropics the way the trees embrace the shoreline like an island oasis. There’s no doubt atmosphere affects our perception of being carefree and downright sexy. At Coconut Jack’s the local seafood is fresh, the cocktails are thirst-quenching, and the experience is memorable. Oftentimes, the chef features a daily special that will leave you smiling all the way home. If seafood is your go-to choice, there’s plenty to choose from and more to look forward to on a return trip back.

Ginger Liqueur

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Ginger Liqueur! There’s nothing worse than enjoying a specialty crafted cocktail on a remote tropical island and then returning home with a craving to have it again. That happened to me about 4,500 miles ago. What’s a girl to do? “Why not make it yourself?” my husband quipped. “Sure…easy for you to say”, I responded. Well, long story short, as long as he agreed to help me as the “taste tester”, it was worth a shot. Between the two of us, I’m pretty sure we came up with a winning combination for my new fav, Ginger Liqueur Martini. Cheers!

GINGER LIQUEUR

Ingredients:

2 cups vodka

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup ginger root, diced

1/2 vanilla bean, sliced horizontally and seeds scraped

Orange peel

Instructions:

Take a quart-size jar. Combine vodka, sugar, ginger root, vanilla bean, and orange peel. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Place jar, away from sunlight, in a kitchen cabinet. Swirl the jar to stir the contents every morning and night for one week. Remove the vanilla bean. Repeat swirling twice a day for 3 more days. Strain solids through a fine wire mesh strainer. Filter remaining liquid again through two coffee filters until no solids remain. Bottle the ginger liqueur. Allow it to “mellow” for another day. Store away from sunlight.

Ginger Liqueur Martini:

4 ounces vodka, chilled

1 ounce ginger liqueur

Garnish with crystallized ginger

Instructions:

Place martini glass in the freezer to chill. Remove glass and add chilled vodka. Set aside. Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Pour in ginger liqueur. Allow it to chill for one minute. Shake. Strain the ginger liqueur over vodka into the martini glass. Garnish with crystallized ginger.

Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House on Marco Island, Florida! My husband always says, “It’s more fun to eat at a bar than drink in a restaurant.” At Joey’s you can do both… or choose to eat and drink outdoors in their welcoming patio area. No matter where you settle in, the mood is contagious. Everyone seems to be having a good time. The drinks are cold and thirst-quenching, the food is definitely spot on. That’s probably due to the fact that Italian pasta dinners, specialty pizzas, and sweet desserts are made from family recipes. Pace yourself by sharing appetizers. Pizza is the main attraction offered in the New York style of thin-crust, which can be folded in half to eat, or the popular Sicilian thick-crust version covered in olive oil. Either way, go overboard. Leftovers can be taken home and eaten later when the cravings return.

The Speak Easy of Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: The Speak Easy of Marco Island, Florida! Is it any wonder this Chicago-style gin joint reflecting Prohibition of the 1930’s is located in a corner nook along the waterfront? Pssst. Follow the signs, Dollface, and lower your voice. Seating is available inside along the L-shaped bar, in a shadowy breezeway, or a few steps away on the exterior deck. Crafted cocktails are available by the glass or by the bucket. Make a mental note of the Speakeasy Sunset, Speakeasy Punch, and the Marco Wave. Then whisper into the server’s ear for one of those concoctions. Straight-shooters come pretty easy, too: Jim, Jack, and Johnnie. These guys know their options. In case you get hungry, there are plenty of appetizers for sharing, roaring sandwiches, specialty pizzas, and seafood platters. If you can’t find something to eat, it’s your own fault.

Ole Smoky Cherry Drops

Experience the Holidays: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.

OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS

Ingredients:

1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*

12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles

5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar

14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes

Party Picks

Instructions:

Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.

Bourbon Balls

Experience the Holidays: Bourbon Balls! Remember the scene from “The Grinch Stole Christmas” where the adults in Whoville are throwing a key party? Well, I’m convinced they may have been nibbling on holiday Bourbon Balls based on the way they were flirting and having a crazy-fun time. Be forewarned. This recipe does contain chocolate and alcohol. You may want to mention it.

BOURBON BALLS

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

3 tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 cup bourbon

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Granulated sugar

Instructions:

Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor to make crumbs. Set aside. Over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate morsels; remove from heat. Blend in corn syrup and bourbon. In a large bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Add chocolate mixture. Blend well. Chill 30 minutes. Using a melon ball utensil, scoop dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container for several days to season flavor.

Blackberry Jam ‘n Bourbon Milkshake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Blackberry Jam ‘n Bourbon Milkshake! Grownups have all the fun, especially when it comes to boozy milkshakes. Every so often, alcohol plus ice cream equals a dessert worth noting. This particular concoction brings out the natural fruitiness of fresh blackberries when mixed with bourbon’s rich brown sugar flavor. Vanilla bean serves as an enhancement among the silky smooth ice cream. To keep from slugging it back like a jigger shot, use a paper straw for sipping. After all, there’s nothing worse than a triple-whammy alcoholic brain freeze. Drink responsibly. For Adults Only.

BLACKBERRY JAM ‘N BOURBON MILKSHAKE

Ingredients:

3 ounces bourbon

10 blackberries

2 teaspoons blackberry jam

2 ounces light cream

3 scoops vanilla bean ice cream

Fresh blackberries, for garnish

Fresh mint, for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender, combine bourbon, fresh blackberries, blackberry jam, light cream, and vanilla bean ice cream. Blend until smooth. Pour into vintage milk bottles or soda fountain glasses. Add a paper straw. Garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves.

LVB Burger in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dining Outside the Home: LVB Burger in Las Vegas , Nevada. Where can you go to get a two-handed burger and an adult-friendly milkshake? LVB Burger at The Mirage knows no bounds. Slide into a booth. Every gastronomic burger is stuffed with delicious ingredients between a sesame brioche bun. Go classic with the O.S.B. (Old School Burger) or B.C.B. (Bacon Cheese Burger). If beef is not your thing, go with the W.T.F. (What The Flock) turkey burger. The cheese choices are as gourmet as the condiment list. Finger food sides are the perfect add on. Spiked milkshakes are as yummy as they come: Birthday Cake, Chocolate Caramel, or Churro. But the list goes on. Better add this joint to your Bucket List.