Start Smart

The secret to a good cook is pretty basic. Look to their kitchen for essential tools and you will discover why food preparation comes as naturally as breathing. Start Smart. For instance, a chef’s knife makes short work for cutting and chopping. Wooden spoons are perfect for stirring and mixing, plus they look great in a counter caddy. My son recently introduced me to the handy-dandy fat separator for making unbelievable lump-free gravy. How did I not know of this? It’s pure genius! I could go on and on about food processors, dutch ovens, spiralizers, and rice cookers, but you get the idea. Recently I froze some Farmers Market corn by removing the kernels from the cob with my corn peeler. (There really is such a thing.) Now you know…anyone can be a gourmet chef…like me. lol. Some of my posts have been favored by the “Food Network” on Twitter (Snapshotsincursive @DornaGail) as well as Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa, on Instagram (gail _dorna). You can even find me on Pinterest at Gail Dorna. I’d love to connect with you there as well. I also met Chef Michelle Tribble of Hell’s Kitchen reality cooking show. Fun times. Experience different flavors and textures one bite at a time. Catch a glimpse of “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Start Smart.” This remarkable journey of the palate is unique because it gives me a few moments with you. Thanks very much to all of my guests and followers on http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement. As of this writing, WordPress has acknowledged that I’m on a 2622-day streak. Let’s keep it going!

Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill on Marco Island, Florida! People are drawn to lobstah like fish to water. That’s a good thing because the word is out that Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill has fresh lobster tails flown in weekly. Perhaps that is why you can get a twin lobster tail dinner, complete with garden potatoes, grilled corn, and drawn butter, while dining outdoors. Go early for Happy Hour to grab a seat at the Tiki Bar, located dockside with a waterfront view. Pelicans paddle by, boats bob atop the Marco River, the drinks quench thirsty patrons, and the conversation remains light. Don’t blink, else you may have to pinch yourself to keep paradise living a reality that everyone seeks.

Sunset Grille on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Sunset Grille on Marco Island, Florida! Whether you walk across the white sandy beach to the barefoot bar or ramble under the turquoise-blue awning from the parking lot, you can’t ignore the familiar chorus floating across your mind, “…down at the Sunset Grille…”. Prepare yourself for tropical dining. Look around, this is definitely paradise. The view is breathtaking all the way to the aquamarine horizon. Order a crafted cocktail. When you catch your breath… sip, chat, laugh out loud. It’s okay, you’re among friends. These are times you remember. Nibble on the seared ahi appetizer (the seaweed salad is amazing) before moving on to dinner. Perhaps the garden-fresh steak salad, medium rare, will tempt your palate. Order another drink. Stick around for a sunset kaleidoscope of color that will dazzle the senses. And tomorrow you can do it all over again.

Nacho Mama’s on Marco Island, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Nacho Mama’s on Marco Island, Florida. Whether you live in Florida or make it a vacation destination, outdoor dining transforms every meal into a special occasion. Nacho Mama’s is perfectly located on the edge of bubbling fountains in Marco Walk Plaza. Bask in the sunshine while sipping on an afternoon margarita with a lightly salted rim. Feeling festive for dinner? Indulge in a sizzling platter of Mexican fajitas, pico de gallo, grilled meats, and smoky beans. Flour or corn tortillas are the perfect wrapping for handheld bites. Too spicy? No worries. Cool things down with a dollop of tangy crema. After a leisurely meal, carry on with a short walk to the beach for a sensational sunset.

El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia

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.

Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai

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.

Brenneke’s Beach Broiler in Poipu, Kauai

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.