Dining Outside the Home: El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia! You know you’ve hit the jackpot when it’s BOGO on a Saturday night. That translates to buy one margarita, get one free, no matter what brand of tequila you choose. A nice Mexican tequila that is 100% pure de agave goes down smooth and perfect. The cocktail was crisp and citrusy from a squeeze of fresh lime, rather than green and sugar-laden. Perhaps that’s their secret. Being in the mood for a salad did not disappoint. The Grilled Shrimp Salad was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. There must have been at least a dozen perfectly-seasoned grilled shrimp served in a crispy flour tortilla shell. Refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, cheese and sour cream turned this simple salad into a meal-in-a-bowl. Our waitress, Jasmin, was very accommodating in meeting our needs. Great food is a must, but customer service makes it memorable.
Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai! No, the rooster isn’t the host…he just thinks he is. If he could speak, he would probably recommend the catch-of-the-day and lead you to a table outside where the view is simply mesmerizing. The staff at Oasis on the Beach focuses on quality of ingredients by using local growers and fishermen for diversity in cultures as well as flavor. For example, the Pork Wonton appetizer is complemented by a spicy ginger soy sauce for dipping. Pair it with the Okinawan Sweet Potato Wrap for something new and different. The roasted peppers and charred onions enhance the creamy texture of the Hawaiian sweet potato. You can’t get flavor like this on the mainland. Choose your next meal at a place that stays true to their mission statement of sustainability.
Dining Outside the Home: Brenneke’s Beach Broiler in Poipu, Kauai! Across the road from Poipu Beach, pull up a chair at Brenneke’s second floor restaurant for a casual meal with an open-air view of beachfront action. Rain or shine, it’s a pretty decent hangout for Happy Hour cocktails and Kauai-Style Pupus. Fresh Mahi Mahi, Ono, and Sashimi Grade Ahi prove the fishermen like Brenneke’s as much as the customers. If big beach burgers are your thing, no worries. They’ve got ‘em. Feed the entire family; a Keiki menu offers finger foods and dinner entrees. Drop by and stay awhile, you’re on island time now.
Dining Outside the Home: Sam and Ethel’s Restaurant in Tipp City, Ohio! If buildings could talk, this 1868 longtime shoe repair shop turned ice cream parlor turned breakfast diner could fill volumes. It’s always been about family service and preserving history in the community. Sam and Ethel’s serves old-fashioned comfort food at affordable prices. The cozy atmosphere provides small talk with staff members, regular customers, and first-time guests. There may be a line at the door, but be patient. Check out the decor. You’ll see hanging on the wall a framed newspaper article with a faded photo of longtime comedian and actor, Jonathan Winters. He actually dropped by for a meal at Sam and Ethel’s. See? It’s definitely worth the wait.
Dining Outside the Home: Willie T’s in Key West, Florida. Pull out a chair at an open air table, where lively music sets the mood, dollar bills cover every square inch with messages scribbled in jest, and the smell of conch fritters makes your mouth water. Try not to gape too much at your neighbor’s food or you may end up ordering everything on the menu. Tropical drinks go down smooth and easy, especially mint mojitos. When the succulent lobster salad, stuffed with celery stalks and crispy leaves, overflows from the warm, buttery bun, simply grab a fork to spear the chunky mounds of lobster meat before gripping the roll with two hands. Wipe your chin. No one is watching.
It’s always a curiosity. By the time the end of the year rolls around, I’m always a little curious about which food and travel posts turn out to be the most popular on Instagram. There’s a formula for that sort of thing, I guess. It’s not obvious to me, that’s for sure. As I look over the cube of photos, it’s almost like time travel taking me back to a ancient evenings of distant music or simply a reason for creating another interesting dish my husband needs to try. Both memories bring a smile to my face. Perhaps they will for you as well. Farewell 2019.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew there was one place that was definitely on my Bucket List: Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace along the Las Vegas Strip. If you’re familiar with the reality cooking series, Hell’s Kitchen, I don’t need to tell you Michelle Tribble was the winner of Season 17. She was awarded the position of head chef for this Vegas hotspot by owner, Gordon Ramsey. And this is the second time I’ve met her. No matter how busy the kitchen staff is, on a full-scale stage for all to see, excited patrons as well as Instagram enthusiasts stop by to pose for selfies. Chef Michelle, keeping one eye on the crew as she circles the dining area checking out the food, continuously greets curiosity seekers for feedback and photo ops. She really is down-to-earth, very personable, and pays great attention to detail. No wonder it was a privilege to meet her.
“No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.”
“Cuba is such a beautiful country,
and everywhere you go,
there’s music and people dancing,
especially in Havana.”
~ Julia Sawalha