Bonita Beach Balloon Bar & Grill in Bonita Springs, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Bonita Beach Balloon Bar & Grill in Bonita Springs, Florida! On your way back from the beach when you’re feeling as hungry as a shark and parched beyond feeling, make a stop at a friendly bar where open-air dining makes a spirit soar like a hot air balloon, no pun intended. The pub-style grub offers a delicious variety of flavors. It’s family-friendly and sits on the palm-lined main drag on Bonita Beach Road. It’s fairly new, since Covid anyway, but casual enough to feel like a neighborhood hangout. Get the taste of homemade with a southwest Florida twist. Take it from me, the grilled Shrimp Po’ Boy with a tangy Remoulade Sauce, toasted sub roll, fresh lettuce, and salty tomatoes did not disappoint. It’s Shrimpolicious.

Rusty’s Raw Bar & Grill in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Rusty’s Raw Bar & Grill in Estero, Florida! Just because a restaurant tells you they offer raw seafood doesn’t necessarily mean you have to order it. They do offer American fare that satisfies the burger-and-fries crowd. This cozy sports bar hangout seems to attract the “regulars” for their favorite brew as well as social connections for casual encounters. Face it, people enjoy small talk while viewing a game. It’s relaxing and comfortable. It’s actually fun to watch the bartender create drinks or talk about her current sunburn or newest tattoo. Alcohol can be a perk, and the comfort food is a bonus. Plus, a pause in the day has advantages. Attitude adjustments come free. If you drive by a place and see a row of cars and trucks in the parking lot, odds are it’s probably a pretty decent place and worth checking out. I did.

Snook Inn on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Snook Inn on Marco Island, Florida! Eating at a landmark location adds captivating charm and pleasant nostalgia to waterside dining. Years ago, this place was a secluded island retreat famous for its fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. People flocked here “to get away from it all”. Originally, it was dubbed the “Snook Hole” simply because right off the dock, fisherman caught the common snook fish in abundance. An aggressive fish, the snook, gave quite a fight to the average sportsman. Yet it was the incredible white flesh that won people over. Over time, the Snook Hole evolved into an Old Florida beach bar. Mention the name to anyone around, and their eyes light up with fond memories of a popular gathering spot for cold cocktails, enjoyable food, and live music. Grab a seat at the Chickee Bar or bask in the sunshine from the upper deck as you wile away the day. This is a place for casual outdoor fun coupled with a great menu. The Fish ‘n Chips was a no-brainer, complemented by a trip to the Salad Bar. Is it any wonder it has become the talk-of-the-town for locals as well as tourists?

Positively Popular Poutine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Positively Popular Poutine! While traveling to Canada recently, I was taken aback by a friendly waitress who recommended a very popular dish on the menu made with crispy French fries, fresh cheese curds, and rich brown gravy. She called it Poutine. Like a deer in the headlights, I was completely frozen at the thought. So I shook my head no, thanked her, and ordered my fries plain. By the end of the meal I was convinced I had missed out on something spectacular. Practically every restaurant listed Poutine as their specialty. Some Poutine platters were loaded with bacon, others chunk lobster, beef brisket, jerk chicken, or sautéed veggies. One place even boasted “Award Winning Poutine” and stayed open til 4:00 a.m. just to meet the late-night cravings of college students. Maybe this dish will catch on, after all.

POSITIVELY POPULAR POUTINE

Ingredients:

2 pound bag of frozen extra crispy seasoned crinkle fries

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 cups cheddar cheese curds, white and yellow

1-2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup cold water

2 cups beef broth

Fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Arrange frozen French fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste. For the gravy, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Whisk together cornstarch and cold water until no lumps remain. Add cornstarch mixture to melted butter, stirring constantly. Gradually add beef broth, continuing to stir until all broth is used. Bring gravy to a boil, as you stir. Allow gravy to boil at least one minute to dissolve thickener. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Divide the crinkle fries among serving bowls. Cover each bowl with cheese curds. Ladle rich brown gravy over each portion. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Volcano Cheese Fries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Volcano Cheese Fries! Say, Whaaat? I first had these tasty morsels at my fav fish hut in Kauai. But after returning home, I really had a craving for them again. Granted, being a Midwesterner, I simply couldn’t resist adding a glob of queso cheese on top. In my defense, the bonfires we have always mix the colors of fiery red and golden yellow. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. But if you have the willpower, I won’t be offended if you skip it. The furikake seasoning and sriracha sauce are the star attractions anyway.

VOLCANO CHEESE FRIES

Ingredients:

16 ounces shoestring fries, frozen

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

1/3 cup Queso cheese dip, warmed

1 tablespoon furikake seasoning

Instructions:

Bake French fried potatoes according to package directions. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt. Toss gently. Transfer to a large bowl so the fries can be piled into a volcano mound. Drizzle sriracha sauce over the top, to taste. Add the warmed Queso cheese dip. Sprinkle with furikake seasoning. Serve immediately.

Hell’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dining Outside the Home: Hell’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, Nevada. Not every meal has to be an extravagant dinner. Lunchtime can be special, too. After all, Las Vegas is a city that seldom sleeps. And you gotta eat, right? That’s when nothing short of a burger will hit the spot. Choose between the Hell’s Kitchen Burger and the Standard Burger. Both have the to-die-for beef with all the fixings plus seasoned fries. Executive Chef, Michelle Tribble, winner of Season 17 Hell’s Kitchen, can be seen keeping everything in tiptop shape for a dining experience you will long remember. Her professional attitude and friendly demeanor are reason enough to come back for more. And then there’s the food, which you can judge for yourself.

The Salty Angler in Key West, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: The Salty Angler in Key West, Florida! When a coastal downpour catapults you indoors for cover, thank your lucky stars if it happens to be The Salty Angler. Not only is it a comfy watering hole, the live music from local talent is a plus. Pub-worthy Loaded Fries are smothered in jalapeño queso dip and crispy bacon. Perfect for sharing. Go ahead, smack your lips and lick your fingers. The laid-back atmosphere is like being surrounded by friends. Add a Bloody Mary with garnishes that perfect the flavor. Make it spicy, if you dare. At The Salty Angler, they aim to please. Give ‘em a nod for food, drink, and entertainment.

Wacho Nacho

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Wacho Nachos! What do you get when you mix sweet potato waffle fries and savory nacho toppings? Wacho Nachos! The grilled chicken, vine-ripe tomatoes, and spicy jalapeños provide a familiar face, but it’s all about the base. By choosing a healthy serving of sweet potato waffle fries, the crispy crunch offers an appealing meal instead of a junk food snack. Step aside tortilla chips, waffle fries are taking center stage!

WACHO NACHOS

19-ounce bag frozen sweet potato fries

2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks

2 cups Colby and Monterey Jack Cheese, finely shredded

1 large vine-ripe tomato, chopped

1/4 cup sliced jalapeños

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup green onion snips

Instructions:

Bake the waffle fries according to package directions. Arrange individual casserole dishes with a single layer of crispy sweet potato waffle fries, lining the edges to hold in the toppings. Divide the grilled chicken chunks and shredded cheese equally. Top with tomatoes and jalapeño slices. Return to the oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Remove casseroles from the oven. Top with Greek yogurt and green onions. Serve immediately.

Yucca Crispy Sticks

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Yucca Crispy Sticks! From time to time I get a little help from my friends. Recently The Dancing Herbalist* suggested I share a post on the yucca root with my readers. To be honest, I have yucca plants growing all over my yard, and while I enjoy their hardy green foliage year round, and their beautiful white fan of blossoms every summer, I never gave them a second thought as a food source. Apparently they contain dietary fiber advantageous in controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels in subtropical regions. Tasting very much like a potato, with roots that simulate a sweet potato, the yucca root is an healthy option loaded with antioxidants. I admit, I learn something new every day.

YUCCA CRISPY STICKS

Ingredients:

1 large yucca, peeled and cut into sticks

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Panko seasoned bread crumbs

1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, finely ground

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Peel yucca with vegetable peeler to remove waxy skin. Cut into sticks, as uniform in thickness as possible. Do not make too thin. Place in a 2-quart pan with enough water to cover. Bring to boil. Cook 5-7 minutes. Remove and drain immediately. Submerge in an ice bath. Transfer drained sticks to a large bowl. Coat with olive oil and chili pepper, seasoned salt, and cracked black pepper. Mix together panko crumbs, Italian seasoned bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Spread on waxed paper. Roll each seasoned yucca stick in the crust mixture to coat and line in a single layer on a wire rack nested on a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn and bake 5 minutes longer until golden brown. Serve warm with spicy mayo.

Ingredients for Spicy Mayo:

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon chili pepper rings

Instructions:

Combine mayonnaise, sriracha sauce, lemon juice, and soy sauce in a bowl. Mix well until smooth. Garnish with chili pepper rings.

* Please visit The Dancing Herbalist at

https://thedancingherbalist.wordpress.com