Saturday, January 7, 2017

moments of beauty

no matter how we feel about the news everyone has a way to escape- for "Calgon to take them away" as the old commercial used to say.  One of mine is the symphony.  So last night we headed to concert three of the season of the Sarasota Orchestra.  A guest conductor was scheduled for the evening of Beethoven and Brahms so we didn't know what to expect.  The guy was excellent! The Orchestra was as good as we have ever heard them and the evening was really enjoyable, despite the rains which were among the first we have had since November... it has been quite dry and we sorely needed the precipitation....

so here is the "fare" for last night-

the piano soloist was terrific if a bit on the dramatic side (the arm flourishes as if she were a ballerina could have been left out and I wouldn't have been less impressed LOL) but the conductor was so good I said to Phil on the way out that it Anu Tali doesn't renew we should hire this guy... Phil's reply was that he was already too important to be conducting at this level full time...  anyway I am happy he dropped in to guest conduct then because he was masterful!

tonight we are off to a concert at Fogartyville... rain continues today and tomorrow-and we are having our winter on Sunday- high of 59* - but by late next week back to 79* so don't weep for us yet LOL.

stay tuned for reviews of tonight's concert and my upcoming class (first session)... the holidays are over and a busy winter awaits....

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Finders Keepers - in this case two categories rather than one happy person and one weeping person we have double happiness this week because we found a new place we really liked and we returned to a "keeper" we have loved for several years! First the find- a six week old new sushi place we immediately liked called Kasa Sushi. We had a really great meal there and some of the items we tried were exemplary.

The sashimi of escolar and salmon and toro were all exactly right and those were our "mains." The rolls we ordered were excellent! We usually try a few standard dishes as benchmarks against whatever our current "go-to" place is serving and Kasa sushi won hands down.  We try California Rolls which area good measure- pretty much any California roll will be edible but an extremely small number will actually be good and even fewer excellent. Kasa sushi had an excellent one that actually had flavor and texture that were completely correct!

One small quibble - the miso soup could have been served at a hotter temp; it was only medium and even though this is Florida the day had been rainy and hot soup would have been a plus. But this is really stretching to find even that small criticism.  Another item we try as a benchmark are pot-stickers and Phil declared theirs the "best he ever had!"  We hope the place doesn't get mobbed and end up with their high standards slipping because this is one of the best sushi places we have tried in any city... and I am sure you are looking for photos about now- so- here you go...

below the rolls- from top left then clockwise - the "fire in the house" a spicy rolls with extras in the center that included conch and white fish- followed by California - Spider - and black dragon.  I couldn't pick a favorite - all were terrific!

  I posted this to help you if you go-

so a FIND - that immediately turned into a KEEPER - like the one where we had dinner last night. One of the places we miss when we are north - Blue Marlin AMI... It has been a keeper from the first visit and gets better and better as they try new things but keep the great standard dishes.  I have posted about this place before but what I want to say about the most recent three visits - they are really on their game.  The only issue we have with Blue Marlin is that it is located on Bridge street in Bradenton Beach and therefore draws a heavily tourist crowd - who are not always the most well behaved clientele. But the staff is expert at dealing with this and despite boorish behavior on the part of the patrons they smile and accommodate and keep their equanimity. Some of the best service in the Sarasota Bradenton area is to be found here!

as we have mentioned in prior posts- the fish is fresh- so the choices are one or two each night- and it is local so grouper and snapper are the ones most frequently seen...

although they have a real wine list - they are kind enough to let us BYO - there is a corkage fee - so we (who are trying to reduce our cellar numbers and seem to be fighting a losing battle) love it that we have a place with great fresh local food that we can drink our older vintages with...

the rolls were tasty- filled with crab meat and were completely yummy

these guys were well behaved - their replacements at this table - not so much....

our standard starters - favorites we only occasionally vary from- shrimp spring rolls and cracker shrimp-

Phil had a mixed seafood scampi dish on rice instead of pasta and I had the grouper prepared "Fulford" - named for a local fishing family out of Cortez Village - it is a bread crumb and egg dipped pan sauteed that really shows off the freshness of the fish!

this place is so dedicated to FRESH that they have no freezer- which is good news on the fish front but bad news for ice cream addicts like myself... but the dessert of chocolate espresso porter cake with chocolate mousse topping made up for it and Phil had his fave- bourbon pecan pie...

The menu usually has one or two meat choices for those who refuse to eat the terrific fish here- and there are a few seafood dishes as well - the ubiquitous shrimp and grits for instance. But go for today's catch and you will be happy you did!

here are a few older posts about Blue Marlin (we always bring our visitors to dine here)

And if you actually took the time to read these posts you would see a number of the dishes we have had over the last several years- I think we have been eating there since we moved to Palma Sola area. When we lived at River Cottage we didn't get to Bridge street - we were doing more Anna Maria places back then (now seven winters ago) Waterfront and Sign of the Mermaid. But once we discovered Blue Marlin it was a "go-to" for us.

So we got "finders" and "keepers" this week as the new year starts.  Two fabulous places to avoid cooking at home, both worth seeking out!

Coming up- a wine dinner at friends - eight collectors meet up and bring things from their cellars- and then the Symphony (Brahms and Beethoven!) and then a concert at Fogartyville on Saturday. And next week classes start, friend Neil is in town and we meet up with him and our friend Barbara has her 99th birthday party on the actual day that she completes her 99th year and begins her 100th year on the planet! (how cool is that? if you knew her you would know it is more than cool because she is!)

so stay tuned- there's always more!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

a fresh start

so we did make it to 2017 --- I feel like adding the word finally at the end of that statement because 2016 was not my favorite year by a long shot.  We had some difficult times along with some really great ones- it was sort of a bi-polar year for us I think in reviewing it.  The move ended with the positive of our new summer home but the process of getting there was inordinately difficult.  By the time we left for our winter place things were in good shape but anyone who has moved into a new home knows that there is always a lot of work in getting settled and even more so when you move into less space than before.

The real highlights of the year were two things that really stood out as once-in-a-lifetime events. #1 was definitely meeting Lech Walesa in Gdansk and then #2 was the trip to DesertTrip to see the legends of rock.  After that all the good stuff was about seeing friends and spending time with friends and family. And I was so reminded of this because the first thing we did in the New Year of 2017 was head up the road a bit to Kissimmee to meet Claus & Evi who were doing a getaway for a couple of weeks to a golf resort near Disney.

We had seen Claus & Evi and their son Conrad, along with Conrad's wife Vroni and son Constantin (then an eleven month old cutie!) at our place in Chicago shortly after we had moved in- we still had a few boxes and no couches to sit on LOL- so we had to use the deck- which was still bare of greenery and the finishing touches but we were in luck because the weather held and we spent the afternoon catching up in a way we couldn't the evening before at a crowded restaurant in the west loop area.

It was a really nice afternoon and evening of just relaxing on the patio of their resort rooms and then having dinner in nearby Celebration.

We did our own New Year's Eve at home celebration with lots of goodies- the foie gras course was Phil's fave and the caviar was mine...  along with the cheeses and dates and olives as the last moments of 2016 faded into history.

And so we get a fresh start and at the same time move into our busiest social season. And classes at our local college start next week- I have one more book to read for the class I am taking....

here is the book list- the course is being taught by Dr. Benita Stampler who heads the new Asian wing of the Ringling Museum- four books, from different periods and different cultures:

Van Gulik, Robert Hans. Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee: An Authentic 18th-Century Detective Novel, 
Okamoto, Kidō. The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi: Detective Stories of Old Edo,
Cotterill, Colin. The Coroner’s Lunch, 
Khan, Vaseem. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra,

So far I have liked The Coroner's Lunch the best - an engrossing tale of communist era Laos with a protagonist who is in his seventies and quite world weary... the Judge Dee book was intellectually interesting but very "foreign" in both time and culture... the Inspector Chopra book took me the longest time to get through because I was worried more about the "inheritance" than the crime... the inheritance was a baby elephant (who it turns out is semi-psychic LOL)

In about ten days, we are helping our friend Barbara celebrate her 99th birthday!!!  January brings a visit from Poul & Lene (from Copenhagen) and our trip north to Chicago for five days (what were we thinking?) Another thing we will enjoy in January is a visit from friend Mike, who is driving over from Houston. A couple of concerts, the symphony and the ballet also found their way on to our calendar this month.

So we have all kinds of things to look forward to... and things get busier in February LOL- so you know retired people are always so busy "doing nothing" LOL... we don't know where the time goes until we start looking at the Year in Review LOL... so stay tuned- always something to report.