I decided to take Angela to Florida, last week, to celebrate her 12th birthday and see my parents at the same time. I can honestly say that the balmy weather in Florida was a welcome respite to the nasty New York chill that we’ve been recently struck with. It really is quite needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway!) that we woke up to perfect fishing weather, and we all felt up to the task.
As usual, the fish knock each other out of the way to jump onto Angela’s hook, and she managed to catch a nice black bass that Mama prepared for lunch.
That evening, we decided to take Angela to the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa for her celebratory birthday dinner. I have actually shot “B” roll there for Daisy Cooks! (that particular shoot never made it to air), and I remember the Arroz con Pollo being quite delicious. Unfortunately for me, I gave up carbs and alcohol for Lent so the arroz was out of the question for me, and I couldn’t convince anyone else to have it (Mami in particular is an arroz con pollo snob, and with good reason!…hers is the best!!)
I’ve eaten at the Columbia in St. Pete’s but I didn’t think it was as good as the flagship one in Tampa. We were so hungry, that we ordered a couple of “picoteo” platters with assorted tapas , and demolished them before I realized I had not photographed them. Take my word for it…they were very good! There were empanadas, and little croquettes of deviled crab, and shrimp ajillo and such. For our entrees, Angela had the Ropa Vieja, Papi had the Mar y Tierra, Mami had the Filet with Mushrooms and Brandy Sauce and I had the Palomilla Steak with Chimichurri.
Ropa Vieja and Mar y Tierra
I’d like to say that the food was great, but the fact was that it was really uninspired. Angela’s Ropa Vieja was too “tomatoey”, and my Palomilla was tough, if tasty. Papi’s dinner was okay, but he said the the “good rice” that was served with it was not that good at all. Mami fared best, with the filet cooked exactly as she ordered it, and the brandy sauce pairing nicely with the meat.
Dessert was better. The Guava Cheesecake was very nice, Angela was awarded a birthday Flan, and the Bread Pudding was a miracle onto itself (Papi said he has never had better!), but the Crema Catalana was a disappointment. It did not appear to be a baked custard at all, but rather something that had been bound with cornstarch or another thickener,
I guess I’ll revisit the Columbia when I am off my diet and can have the Paella or the Arroz con Pollo (I’ve had them both there before, and they were excellent).
The next evening we went to a cozy little restaurant near my parent’s home, called Ile de France which is very popular with the locals. I always go there when I visit my parents because, not only is the food good, the owner and the chef are both very talented and charming gentlemen who entertain you, as well as feed you while you are their guest. We ordered a nice selection of appetizers, and this time I managed to keep everyone’s hands off the plates until I got pictures! We shared a delicious Shrimp Cocktail, two orders of slightly Spicey Mussels prepared with onions, peppers and garlic, Traditional Escargot with garlic and parsley, a delightful homemade Pate Platter(I missed the mustard!), and Veal Sweetbreads that were heavenly.
For dinner we were equally blessed! Mami had the Sole Menuire which was fileted tableside by Gaetan, the owner and our very gracious host. Papi had Grilled Shrimp served on a bed of rice, Angela ordered the Frog’s Legs prepared very traditionally with lemon and garlic, and I ordered the Filet with Bernaise Sauce. Each and every plate was delicious.
Dessert was equally dramatic, with Gaetan flambeing a Pear in Puffy Pastry served with a brandy sauce and drizzled with chocolate, a light as a feather Chocolate Mousse, and a Creme Caramel.
Stop by and say “Hey” to the boys at Ile de France if you happen to find yourself in that neck of the woods! As you can tell by the smiles on our faces, it’s a sure bet that we’ll be back!
The day before we came home, I visited with Papi’s cousin Olga and her son, Carlito, whom I had never met, but after five minutes, I felt like I’d known her all my life! She is a great story teller, and had us in stitches the whole time we were at her home. I look forward to many more visits, stories, and laughter with this “new” arm of my family!
And finally, last but not least, this past Saturday, while shopping at my local Costco, I ran into a couple of Daisy Cooks! fans who came over and introduced themselves. I’m still kicking myself for not having my camera with me, but I’ll send a shout out to Mirta and Fernando, and thank them for supporting the show. Wow! Now that I look back on it, that was a pretty busy week! Looks like I need a vacation, hehehe.