Eating Out & Dining In

Going out to eat is a novel experience these days. While we seek interesting culinary adventures, Covid-19 has definitely made us more cautious – a lot more cautious. It hasn’t totally stopped us, but we pick and choose locales wisely. Let me show you some recent stops.

We initially stopped here 1+ year ago due to hearing they offered Shanghai-style dumplings………weekends only. Unfortunately, they are currently using an abbreviated menu and alas, dumplings are not an option. But we found plenty of other Asian street fare to eat, such as these fried wontons & fried pork belly. Followed by noodles and fried rice – yum. Almost makes up for not having dumplings………..but not quite.

We have ventured further out of our immediate dining circle and stopped at this eatery in Mt. Dora. Excuse me, ‘Streatery’ and yes it’s located on Fifth Avenue – which is the primary street through historic downtown Mt. Dora.

As you might possibly guess, it was on a corner (an old gas station I think) and all seating is outside. The heaters seen in the photo below are not really needed at this time of year, but the misting nozzles coming off the overhang was much appreciated.

We started with some pretzel knots before my meal of spicey fried shrimp arrived. Eric’s meal was fish & chips. Yep, I noshed on some of his fries!

We have gone even further afield from our Central Florida dining circle and stopped at the Ybor City Columbia’s Restaurant (near Tampa) one afternoon.

Starting the meal with their home-made Sangria is always a hit. (Sorry Eric – Adrienne and I shared, which meant you got iced tea and the drive home.) Pre-Covid, it was made at the table with the ingredients laid out, pretty much a ‘production’. Post-Covid it comes to the table in this pitcher. It was still excellent, but lost some of its ‘panache’.

New rules, new selection. I’ve always (and I do mean 100% of the time) ordered the combo platter which gives me plenty leftovers for work, usually two meals. This time it was the roast pork (whaaaat, only one meat!), accompanied by yucca with black beans & rice. Eric selected a dish with beef and spanish rice.

We shared desserts, having two between the three of us: chocolate bread pudding and a guava tart. Lots of vanilla sauce accompanied each dessert and both were very yummy! We wanted to lick the plate afterwards – just saying.

A little closer to home was The Tiki Bar & Grill along Lake Minneola. Eating outside in a Florida summer is always dicey – but not too bad this day. The clouds definitely helped with the temps.

Tables (distantly spaced) underneath large oak trees was the perfect spot to enjoy some local craft brews.

Eric loved his burger. My order of chicken fingers wasn’t a fan favorite – he won.

Oh yeah and our mode of transportation getting there…………..boat, which took the whole experience up an extra notch.

These were all tasty outings, but I am e.x.t.r.e.m.e.l.y lucky that Eric’s hobby is cooking. Having the time to search the internet for recipes has added additional flavors and dinners not usually seen in this household. He’s made an amazing amount of diverse meals. Now, let’s see what he’s been creating.

Ramen. Bet you never thought I’d lead with that! Eric’s been missing ramen ever since our Lucky’s grocery store left the area (they had a counter for ordering in house). Being home gave him the time to research and create an authentic version.

Let’s just say that authentic ramen takes days to make – no kidding. His bone stock (pork & chicken) needed 18 hours to complete and deepen in flavor. The day prior to eating, he roasted the pork belly and marinated the soft-boiled eggs in a soy-based sauce. The day ‘of’ he made his soy-based Tare. Once I got home that evening, he pulled it all together and here you go.

I know, I know, only one photo captures the final product after such a build-up. He’s going to have to work on ‘progress‘ photos as he builds his meals. There were a few other items that could be added individually such as scallions, chili sauce, seaweed and other assorted spices. To go along with the meal he made a bean sprout salad. It had a nice ‘kick’ to it and complemented the ramen well.

This next photo kind of looks like dessert – it’s not. We had some (delicious) red cherries in the fridge and he googled ‘recipes with cherries’. After sorting through all of the sweet recipes, he found this. He quick-pickled the cherries and the red onions. The fish was seatrout from one of our earlier fishing trips, pan-fried. He added some red pepper flakes to give it a kick – and it did, almost too much.

Another night the recipes favored Peru. We started off munching on peruvian dried corn that he roasted and salted. OMG – they were addictive! The yellow pepper dipping sauce was good, but they were fine on their own.

Which was the precursor to the seafood cerviche’, using our fresh-caught snapper. Hominy, red onions and more roasted corn added flavor and texture.

Did we really need anything else? No, but there was more. He made fried yucca and a dipping sauce (nope – he can’t remember what was in the sauce). They were excellent! Nice and crispy and salty – yum.

We were (and by that I mean me) hankering for another hot pot meal at home. Eric obliged, but we all agreed that summer in Florida is not the right time. That won’t happen again until the weather gets cooler – say December, ha! First up, our hot pot cooking liquid and the sauces.

Then we had our veggies: cubed daikon radish, bok choy pieces and chayote. Two types of mushrooms rounded out the options.

Then came the meat: shrimp, mahi fish & scallops along with the chicken, pork belly and beef.

Not all of his dishes were so intense and involved. Grilled shrimp, sliced tomatoes and pan-fried snapper (we caught it!) topped with capers greeted me one evening when I got home.

Another night it was pork tenderloin, scalloped potatoes (best he’s ever made) and more sliced tomatoes.

Recently I had another hankering this time for Bang Bang shrimp – a dish created at Bonefish Grill. It was one recipe that Eric helped me feel comfortable making before I went to China – so I could make it for myself (and I did!). The shrimp are coated with corn starch, fried then covered with the ‘bang bang’ coating.

Eric’s version of Bang Bang shrimp accompanied with a cooling (but spicy) cucumber salad.

There you have it! While we’ve been selective in our world-wide eating sojourns (Spain, Japan, Peru, China, US Mid-west and Gulf coast seafood) eating at home is okay with me.

Ginny

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