Let's go to Beanie's

I'm not sure why I haven't written about Beanie's before. It's where I go when I don't feel like cooking, I don't feel like driving far and I just want to relax. I can throw on some mascara and be out the door and there — in five minutes.

Probably any bar with more than one television can call itself a sports bar. And just about every booth or table at Beanie's qualifies. Bucs fans flock there during football season.

Two things about Beanie's: everything and everyone is familiar. Our regular server Kala Martinez is always pleasant and attentive, and the food is consistently good. Better still, the prices are very reasonable.

Depending on my mood, I usually order one of four menu items: a burger, BLT, Reuben or chicken wings. Beanie's is known for all four — and the homemade potato chips and soups. Gotta have those chips with whatever I order.

What do you usually order at Beanie's or your favorite sports bar? I'd like to know.

Beanie's Bar & Sports Grill
2002 S US Highway 41
Ruskin, FL 33570-5365
(813) 649-1700

Beanie's Bar & Sports Grill on Urbanspoon


Put the lime in the chilled coconut

Saturday morning, our friend Elena came up from Sarasota for a visit. While we were out-and-about, we passed by this roadside cocos frios stand. Elena suggested we stop and check it out, and I'm so glad we did. I'm also glad she speaks Spanish.

These little stands are dotted all over the South Shore area, and I've been curious to see what they offer. They sell refrigerated coconuts. When you buy one, the top is whacked off and the coconut water drained into a glass. Then the pieces of the coconut meat go into a plastic bag with lime juice and chili powder.

It was a little spicy, but citrusy fresh at the same time. I really enjoyed both the coconut water and the shards of chilled coconut meat. Can't stop wondering why I hadn't stopped sooner.
Good idea, Elena!


Craving calzone!

A couple of weeks ago, I went looking for calzone. Staying close to home that evening, I didn't find anyone selling them locally, so I wound up satisfying my mozza and carb frenzy by making my own. I surprised myself; it was pretty darn good.

The calzone cravings returned last night. This time, I headed over to East Coast Pizza in Riverview.

I met owner Aaron Fredericks, who I learned is on a roll. He told me he's opening a second East Coast Pizza in mid September, and in November, he will roll out a third pizzeria in downtown Tampa. I think he's found his groove.

Every pizza is hand tossed and baked to order in East Coast's brick oven.

The big triangular puff of pizza dough was filled with cheese, sausage and mushrooms and was more than I could possibly eat in one sitting. It was delicious and every bite as appealing as leftovers the next day. I'm definitely going back for more of the East Coast menu.

East Coast Pizza
13340 Lincoln Road
Riverview, FL
(813) 234-1700


Mangoes in the spotlight

If you love what some say is the most popularly eaten fruit in the world — the mango — and you enjoy trying different varieties of mangoes, Colorfield Farms is the place to be this weekend.

That's because Colorfield is hosting its first mango festival.

Mangoes make me think of sunny, carefree days more than any other fruit. As we took our time sampling the more than a dozen kinds of mangoes, we were surrounded by the beat of lively calypso music.

We sat under a giant oak draped with Spanish moss. A gentle breeze cooled off the otherwise hot day as mango aficionado and farm co-owner Robert Conkey spoke about mangoes, A to Z.

I tried an icy mango slushie — a fruity, tangy, just-sweet-enough drink that combined all of the different kinds of mangoes Colorfield Farms grows. I thought, "These would REALLY be good with a little rum added."

The festival continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow, if you'd like to try one.

Colorfield Farms, Inc.
8221 State Road 674
Wimauma, FL
(813) 833-2545


Elizabeth on 37th and Yum

My twin, Janet, invited me to Savannah, while she was there on a business trip. She had an extra bed at the B & B where she stayed, and she thought it might be a great chance for us to catch up. Love my sister.

"The great house stands before you lit up like a ship at sea in the night," is how author Pat Conroy described Elizabeth on 37th, the restaurant where we dined Thursday night. We had one of the most extraordinary, albeit one of the most expensive, meals I'd ever had.

Sharing the same adventurous palate, Janet and I both ordered the blissfully indulgent, seven-course, chef's tasting menu with wine pairings.

First course, salmon with wasabi and ginger; mussel covered with tomato aioli; and a cream puff filled with Asiago cheese. The dish was served with a lovely, glass of light Mosel riesling.

Next, we were served a bowl of three shrimp. My immediate thought was, "You've got to be kidding." But then the server poured a chilled, tomato-based gazpacho over the trio, and I was in heaven.

A bowl of garnishes was brought for the gazpacho: celery peppercorn vodka in a shot glass, homemade pickles and radish slivers, added a subtle zing.

Especially the vodka! We laughed when Janet suggested maybe we could just use a straw.

Our next course included oven-baked grouper with kalamata olives and homemade mayonnaise, smoked sea trout and a glass of smooth, New Zealand pinot gris. The wine was getting better and better.

Paired with a nice rose' wine from Spain was a mashed, black-eyed pea patty with shredded collard greens in a raspberry vignaigrette and dots of curry sauce. Made of all "southern" ingredients, the dish was very "Savannah."

We also enjoyed a salad of fresh, mixed greens and basil leaves with watermelon and feta cheese. I began to notice as each course was served our wine glasses were getting larger and the serving more generous.

Coming into the home stretch were a nut-crusted grouper on top of a peanut sauce served with sliced crispy potatoes, paired with an oaky, California chardonnay.

The pork looked a little burnt, but I assure you it wasn't. Cooked with five spice it came with a three-cheese macaroni and collard green and green apple slaw. Accompanied by a slightly dry shiraz, this dish was one of our favorites.

At this point in the meal, we were a bit behind on our wine drinking — as you can see by all the glasses on the table. "Keep drinking," I said to Janet, half in jest.

To cleanse the palate, we savored a lemon and tupelo honey sorbet in Champagne. It was divine.

Dr. Albert Wall, the owner of the Stephen Williams House — our home away from home — had urged us to order an Elizabeth on 37th dessert. Not one to ignore a doctor's orders, I chose a sophisticated, goat cheese cheesecake. It was creamy decadence!

Janet tried a piece of the retaurant's signature sponge cake, which she completely relished.

Our multi-course extravaganza was an unforgetable experience my sister and I will be talking about for years. If you ever go to Savannah, Elizabeth on 37th is a must.

105 East 37th Street
Savannah, GA
(912) 236-5547


Cater to my every need

When I'm looking for a romantic getaway, a weekend at a bed and breakfast certainly fills the bill.

Geez. Just give me the weekend away. Period.

In this week's Table Scraps column, I wrote about the Southern Comfort Inn in Ruskin, where I had been invited recently for lunch and a tour of Cathy and Joe Green's establishment. Here are a few of the photos I took of this charming retreat.
Provided in the morning, breakfast includes European strata — a breakfast lasagna — quiche, stuffed, French toast, warmed mixed berries with cream cheese and roasted pecans or eggs Florentine.

As you can see, there is plenty of attention to details. The day I was there, it was pouring rain, so I didn't get to take a picture of the exterior of the house and grounds.

This is a place I'd like to rest my head at night.

Southern Comfort Bed & Breakfast
2409 Ravine Drive West
Ruskin, FL
(813) 645-6361


It's Table Scraps week!

Sometimes, networking pays off.

Each week, the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce features one of its members as the business of the week. I'm it this week, and I'm thrilled about it!

I was at the Chamber first thing this morning to set up my display and take photos.

I loved my twin sister's comment after she saw the pics I e-mailed her: "How many calls have you gotten about composting those table scraps?"

Yuk, yuk, yuk.


Mango Madness

From my upstairs office window, I can see our backyard mango tree. Using the binoculars I keep on my desk, I keep a watchful eye on the ripening fruit. This year, the tree only has a handful of mangoes, and I want to get them before the critters do.

Last years crop - all eight of the paradise fruit - were the best I'd ever tasted.

I walked out to take a closer look at the precious gems this morning. I was disappointed to find that one ripe mango had dropped to the ground, half devoured I'm sure by squirrels with exotic taste buds - hope the furry gourmands enjoyed it!

The remaining mangoes should be ready in two weeks, about the same time that Colorfield Farms in Wimauma hosts its annual Mango Festival. Scheduled for July 25-26, the event will feature mango tasting, cooking demonstrations, educational seminars and music. It should be a lot of fun. Maybe I'll see you there.

8221 S. R. 674 Wimauma, FL
Open 7 days: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
(813) 833-2545


One smart, hip cookie

My proudest kitchen moments are the ones where I'm the most resourceful and righteous at the same time. That's the way I feel when I prepare these flax seed cookies. It's a very easy recipe that doesn't heat up the kitchen or have a whole lot of frills. There are no eggs, no flour and no sugar.

These cookies are made from nothing more than flax seeds, pureed apples, pure maple syrup and an optional handful of raw nuts — and maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon. Mix the ingredients together and drop spoonfuls onto a mesh dehydrator sheet. Plug in the dehydrator and then forget about them for 12 hours!

How often can one feel righteous about eating cookies?

I've been making them on-and-off for almost 10 years. When I'm in my "healthier" eating modes, they are perfect with a strawberry-banana smoothie in the morning or a snack during the day when I'm craving something sweet.

The recipe is from a favorite cookbook of mine called "Raw The UNcook Book: New Vegetarian Food for Life" by Juliano.

When the price of pure maple syrup skyrocketed, I started substituting agave syrup in place of the maple. The recipe also says it makes 12 cookies. I prefer to make smaller cookies and usually end up with between 20 to 24 cookies or more. I also like to add dried cranberries.

Crunchy Flax Seed Cookies

2 cups flax seeds
1 cup maple syrup
4 cups coarsely pureed apples (preferably Fuji or Braeburn)
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts (optional)
dash of cinnamon
Put the flax seeds, 1/2 cup at a time, in a coffee grinder or food processor and coarsely grind. If you don't have a food processor, use a blender. Transfer the ground flax seeds into a mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spoon the flax seed dough into desired cookie shapes on a mesh dehydrator sheet and dehydrate at 90 degrees for 12 hours or until the cookies are crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside.


Pet peeve, powdered Parmesan

We grabbed dinner yesterday after a more than disappointing trip to the new IKEA store in Tampa. I came away with nothing more than an inspiring idea for living room curtains.

After walking the equivalent of two football fields, I was famished. My mouth watered for Veal Piccata, and the "authentic" Italian restaurant we stopped at also offered Veal Parmesan and Veal Marsala on the menu. As I placed my order, I learned the eatery no longer served veal. Bummer.

Instead I ordered shrimp, black mussels and clams sauteed in a herb rose sauce and served over a fresh bed of linguine. It sounded marvelous — and a suitable replacement for the veal. We then were told this dish was not on the buy-one dinner, get-one free selection. Bummer again. I ordered cheese ravioli.

As soon as our plates hit the table, the server asked if we'd like cheese? Now I love freshly grated Parmesan, but what our server brought was a powdery Parmesan that she dusted over our plates with a spoon. It was a less-than-respectable final touch.

My mother told me long ago that if I didn't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say it. At least the Chianti was good.

Do you have some low points — or dining out peeves — to share? Please add your comments to this week's blog.