Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Café in Key West, Florida! When a restaurant boasts of an abundance of hatch chiles and fresh, local ingredients, you begin to wonder if Santa Fe style Tex-Mex might be a good choice for dinner. Anytime the weather is hot, and the drinks are cold, it draws a crowd on Duval Street for seafood favorites, like skewered shrimp marinated in lime juice and ginger. Take a swig of on-the-rocks margarita. The salted rim offsets the spicy salsa you can’t resist tasting now and then. If you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of Happy Hour specials. There’s no rush here.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Homemade Tortilla Chips! Ever wonder why your favorite Mexican restaurant has such incredible tortilla chips? Well now you can make your own café-style chips at home. Begin with flour and corn tortillas the day before. Just open the packages and let them breathe overnight on the kitchen counter. This simple step removes any excess moisture and allows them to fry up crispier. Sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in chunky salsa is practically a dream come true.
HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS
2 cups vegetable oil
1 package yellow corn tortillas, extra thin
1 package flour tortillas, soft taco size
Sea salt to taste
Cut each corn tortilla into 8 wedges. Use entire package. Set aside. Cut each flour tortilla in half and then into strips. Use entire package. Set aside. Beginning with one cup vegetable oil in a large skillet, heat the oil on medium setting until a tortilla sizzles. Avoid smoke. That means the oil is too hot. Place a handful of corn tortilla wedges into the hot oil. Do not overlap. Fry for 1-2 minutes until the chips are golden and crisp. Use tongs to flip over half way through, if necessary. As the oil is used, reduce heat to avoid smoking. Use tongs to remove chips from oil; drain on paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat in batches until all corn chips are fried. Add remaining cup of oil to skillet. Repeat with flour tortilla strips. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego, California. Tortilla Ladies make it look so easy. It’s probably because they’ve been stretching and rolling dough into perfect tortillas since their youth. Look through the windows. See how easily they handle the rolling pins? After all, handmade tortillas are the staple for practically every single Mexican dish. Not to mention, delicious. At Old Town Mexican Cafe, the food is authentic and has been for decades. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Take the House Famous Carnitas, for example. Crispy fried chunks of seasoned pork are served with chopped onion, leafy cilantro, smooth avocado, garden tomatoes, fresh lime, and refried beans. Wrap them up in warm tortillas right off the grill. Is it any wonder I never tried another dish? Yeah, they’re that good.
Dining Outside the Home: Ainsley’s Café and Harbor Bar in Brookville, Indiana. It’s always a good sign when boat owners swarm to the marina basin to remove slip covers from their vessels. That means the weather is getting warmer and Spring Fever has struck. Ainsley’s Café offers the perfect sunny side view of Brookville Lake and all the activity the lake provides. In the distance you may see a golfer tee off at the nearby Harbor Links Golf Club. Or a pontoon boat leisurely coasting into open waters. Check out the jet skis criss-crossing like synchronized dancers. When you dine on the outdoor deck for a midday lunch or sunset dinner, you may need to pinch yourself as a reminder this is real. The food is as fresh as the air you breathe. Whether it’s a Girl’s Getaway, Date Night, or Family Outing, Ainsley’s Café on Brookville Lake is time well-spent.
Dining Outside the Home: Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe in Waimea, Kauai. Head west on Kaumualii Highway until you see a landmark theatre in a town called Waimea that’s been around since 1948. Right next door is an island-style food joint well-known to locals as Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe. The family-owned place is small, with tables inside and out, yet very friendly and inviting. Try the Hawaiian favorite, Loco Moco. It’s a scoop of white rice, all-beef patty, an egg your way, grilled onions and mushrooms if you choose, and then a blanket of brown gravy over everything. This dish will get your engine revved for a day of hiking, surfing, shopping, and exploration. Savor every bite, then enjoy your day.
Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Feel the romantic rhythm of northern Italy in a tropical destination overlooking the beach. This is paradise on the island of Kauai. The food is true Italian cuisine, the wine from cellars across the world. Café Portofino, a family-owned business, offers fresh seafood and locally sourced vegetables as well as classic dishes. Notice the Red Beet Salad and Grilled Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, both celebration-worthy. Chat with the wait staff. Their friendly reception is warm and connected with deep-felt hospitality. For a memorable evening, especially bringing in the New Year, treat yourself to a taste of Italy.
Dining Outside the Home: Art Café Hemingway in Kapaa, Kauai. Living life in true island-style comes easy as you step over the threshold into an atmosphere that is both rustic European and casual charm. Choose a cozy table for two on the edge of the room to appreciate the artistic ambience, natural light, and blend of pleasing aromas in the air. Natural ingredients, locally grown, make every dish unique. For breakfast order The Nest, for instance, served in a vintage bowl. Multigrain bread cubes fill the bottom. Then a layer of alfalfa sprouts cradle a poached egg smothered in hollandaise sauce. Appreciate its beauty before gently piercing the egg. Watch the thick yellow yolk ooze forth. Try not to drool. Now enjoy every bite. “Time is the least thing we have of,” said Ernest Hemingway long ago. Perhaps it is the secret of a good life.
Dining Outside the Home: Ainsley’s Café and Harbor Bar in Brookville, Indiana! When the weather is hot and sunny, get away where old friends meet to reminisce about the glory days, mixed in with current events and fabulous food. Ainsley’s Café makes you feel as though the vacation never ends. Everyone who comes here is happy and full of life, including the staff. It’s like family reunions without all the drama. Sit outside where the breeze is fresh and the outstanding view is nonstop. Take your time, life is easy. This is is way things were meant to be.
Dining Outside the Home: Coconut’s Fish Café in Kapaa, Kauai. Even if you never plan to ride a surfboard, you can still enjoy the spirit of Aloha every time you visit Coconut’s Fish Cafe. Surfboard table tops encourage a “Hang Loose” attitude while filling the room with positive energy and healthy food. Top a mixed green salad with the grilled shrimp duo and a seared plank of blackened ahi, smeared with wasabi sauce. Also, might I suggest the papaya dressing? It’s amazing. All sauces and dressings are made from scratch. Order the coconut shrimp to have beforehand or with the meal. It sets the stage for a fabulous meal.