Sunday, June 3, 2012

Eating on a Cruise to the Bahamas

When Mr. N decided to take me on a cruise to the Bahamas recently, I pondered what treats we would be eating. Every vacation turns into an epicurean adventure for me, as I try to connect to the local culture through its food. All I knew of the Bahamas was conch and fruity drinks. My knowledge of food and drinks on cruise ships was contained in visions of gluttonous buffets of just-okay eats. Mr. N and I were both pleasantly surprised, as his dietary restrictions and my omnivorous appetite were both satisfied. We took a four day/three night cruise on Royal Caribbean that left Miami on a Friday and returned to port Monday morning. A perfect weekend away from law school. Mr. N booked our trip online, and we were surprised upon boarding to learn that we had been upgraded to a room with a port hole.
Port hole.
  • Port hole.
I did not think a port hole view would add anything to our trip, but it did. The ability to look out at the vast ocean while in the room was relaxing and a nice touch. Upon first boarding, we headed to the dining area to see what treats awaited.
Fruit tart and lime mousse from the buffet
  • Fruit tart and lime mousse from the buffet
We discovered the gluttonous buffet with numerous sections offering late afternoon dining selections. This room could be your friend, or it could turn into an enemy that keeps you in bed all weekend. It was a convenient place to grab a bite if you miss one of the staged meals. On board, the staged meals are where you should devote your eating time. We opted for the 9:00pm dinner seating. In the future, we would instead go for the 6:00pm seating, as we ended up missing some of the shows due to eating. But, we did eat well.
Osso Bucco
  • Osso Bucco
The first evening we behaved with the utmost etiquette. Mr. N, myself, and our friends Rita and Rob each ordered one of every course. By the last night, we were each gluttonously ordering as many of each course that we wanted to try. I was excited by the selections we were offered from osso bucco to filet to escargot. And, the vegetarian options were incredible such as Indian chickpeas and paneer, and wild mushrooms with potato cakes.
  • Escargot.
Our first island stop was at Coco Cay, a private beach inhabited by the cruise line. Upon disembarking from our ferry, we were greeted with the island drink the Coco Loco. It was the fruity, rum concoction that embodies what tourists expect in the Caribbean. I recommend buying a bottle of water from the darling selling the Coco Locos, since the beach and alcohol combo will dehydrate you. The Cay was beautiful, there was a shopping area, but we opted to head for the food and then find some hammocks to nap in.
The food on the Cay consisted of an array of different buffets with a plethora of beach barbeque staples. I enjoyed the bbq chicken, ribs (a bit dry), and an assortment of salads. Perfect pre-nap food for the beach. Mr. N had a burger, bbq chicken, salad, and a pile of pickles. Yep, he's a pickle-face. The Cay was absolutely beautiful. After napping under some trees, Ms. Rita and I did what all women on a beach trip do: we went picture snapping. The water was incredibly clear, the sky amazingly turquoise, and the unknown men were more than appeased to take photos of us ladies.
The following day, our ship took us to Nassau. Here, we had several options such as snorkeling or going to tour Atlantis, but we opted to explore the town on our own. We walked through the famous straw market; which has been renovated and is not so straw anymore. It is filled with those odd items that family members bring you home from vacation: a snail shell painted like a dolphin, straw bags and hats, etc. On to Senor Frog's! Yes, that place. Being sober at ten am, we were all quite gleefully watching the grandparents wearing balloon hats and singing and dancing, obviously high on fruity cocktails. For a slight buzz that won't have you wearing balloon hats, I suggest sharing one of the yard glasses of fruity concoctions, like Mr. N and I did. You do want to remember your trip, don't you?
The part of Nassau immediately surrounding the port is extremely quiet on Sunday, with most of the shops and restaurants closed. Mr. N informed me that on a previous trip he discovered a strip of shanties at the return-side of the Paradise Island bridge that served up conch and fish fresh from the water the shanties sit over. I was sold. The four of us took a cab (every cab ride in Nassau is about $5 a person, no matter the distance) to Paradise Island, passing Atlantis to find a quiet beach. It was another incredible beach on this trip. Impossibly clear blue water.
Mr. N and I left our companions to nap on the beach, and we headed to find shantytown eats. Oh, my gosh, did we score. Mr. N suggested "Twin Brothers at da dock," and we found a table on the patio, over the water. We watched a man diving just yards from us, snorkeling and pulling up live conch. And then we saw the man in the shanty next door pull up a live conch from the water behind his shed and clean it. So awesome! We enjoyed fresh-fried conch, red beans and rice, grilled red snapper, and Kalik beers while taking in the surroundings. Nothing beat the grilled red snapper we had. Possibly one of the best bites I've ever had to eat.
The cruise was fantastic, and I recommend that everyone, omnivore or restricted diet, try a cruise to a Caribbean destination. You can engage in the plethora of activities, or choose to find adventure on your own. You can devour the buffet selections, or wait for the gourmet selections at timed seatings. And, if you are calculated enough, you can score great discounts during the on-board shopping events or win big at the casino.

Interviews with Jeff McInnis of Yardbird and Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's

Jeff McInnis’s culinary career truly took off in 2008 when he was selected as one of 17 chefs from across the country to appear on “Top Chef: Season Five.” Following the show, McInnis became the Executive Chef at gigi in Miami, where he developed an acclaimed menu that catapulted the restaurant into the limelight. In March of 2011, McInnis left his post at gigi to open Yardbird Southern Table & Bar as Chef-Partner. Since its October 2011 opening, Yardbird has received widespread media attention as a dining destination for delicious Southern fare in South Beach, as well as rave reviews from the Miami Herald, Miami New Times and South Florida Sun Sentinel. Sean Brock first gained national attention as Executive Chef of McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. It was during his tenure at McCrady’s that Brock was first nominated for a James Beard Award in 2008 and again in 2009. Brock eventually won the coveted award in 2010, when he was recognized as Best Chef — Southeast. Beyond the James Beard Awards, Brock won Food Network’s Next Great Chef episode of “Food Network Challenge,” and competed against Michael Symon on “Iron Chef America.” In addition to serving as Executive Chef of McCrady’s, he also helms the kitchen as Executive Chef at Husk, also in Charleston and recently voted Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit. Jeff McInnis (Yardbird, gigi, and Top Chef), and Sean Brock (Husk) recently teamed to create a 1800s inspired dining experience.The special menu included favorites from yesteryear such as: Deviled Eggs Topped with Caviar, House Made Country Ham, Charleston-Style Frogmore Stew with Three Year Old Aged Charleston Gold Rice, and Fried Yardbird with Carolina Gold Waffles and Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Green Apple, as well as pairings from America’s finest wineries. I was luckily enough to interview both chefs. What follows is our conversations: Sean Brock and Jeff McInnis Interview(s): Jeff McInnis: Q: I also grew up on a farm milking goats, growing a garden, and eating the animals that we raised. How has your experience on your family’s farms influenced your cooking style? A: I grew up spending a great deal of my time on my grandparents’ farms in Alabama where we truly lived a farm to table lifestyle, before it was trendy. What that meant was that everything we ate, we grew right there on the farm, including eggs, milk, meat, vegetables, you name it. As a result, I have a hard time cooking with anything but local fresh ingredients whenever possible. I also have big issues with waste, which is one of the reasons we break down our own pigs at the restaurant, using every part possible – we even render our own fat which we then use in baking. At Yardbird, we support local southern farmers whenever possible, such as Paradise Farms, The Green Railroad Organic Workshop, Worden Farm, Lake Meadow Naturals and White Oak Pastures – all suppliers of the restaurant. Q: In regards to your book, you wrote, “Mother Nature is the key ingredient and how every flavor depends on the chef's ability to use natural fresh ingredients. I think it's within everyone's power to create artful exquisite dishes without destroying the natural integrity and beauty of the food." How do you convey this to a society that is used to quick and fast dining, that doesn’t seem to care about ingredients or Mother Nature? A: The book is in the works, but has not yet been published. In general, I think that we are moving into an era where more and more people are concerned about the food they are putting into their bodies and where it comes from. There has certainly been a big national movement to increase awareness and while I think we have a long way to go, I also believe we are headed in the right direction. Whenever possible, I hope to educate diners on the world from which their food comes. Q: At Yardbird you have brought inventiveness and modern cooking procedures to classic Southern dishes. How has the welcome been since you opened in Miami? A: The welcome has been amazing! We have been fully booked every night since the day we opened back in early October with tourists and residents alike. One of the most amazing things about the business we’ve been doing is the number of repeat customers we get. We’ve literally had some folks in several days in a row, which must mean we’re doing something right! Q: By utilizing the Little Haiti Urban Garden, you are helping teach young inner city kids how to garden and appreciate fresh food. Can you see a sense of growth in Little Haiti, one of the poorest areas of the country? A: I’d like to believe there’s growth in the community of Little Haiti. By supporting the garden, we are trying to do our part. Q: How did the concept of a dinner based upon Southern cooking in the 1800’s come about? A: We knew we wanted to do something really cool and unique that truly paid homage to both what we’re doing here at Yardbird and what Sean’s doing up in Charleston at Husk and McGrady’s. It just seemed right to celebrate the century that really put Southern food on the map. Q: Can you give any hints as to what was on the menu for your 1800’s dinner with Sean Brock? A: Absolutely! The special menu include[d] favorites from yesteryear such as: Deviled Eggs Topped with Caviar, House Made Country Ham, Charleston-Style Frogmore Stew with Three Year Old Aged Charleston Gold Rice, and Fried Yardbird with Carolina Gold Waffles and Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Green Apple, as well as pairings from America’s finest wineries. We will also have Julian Van Winkle III on hand for a special bourbon flight presentation. Q: I did not want to ask any questions about Top Chef, but my younger sister is an aspiring chef and demands that I ask how the experience effected you, what did you learn from the experience? A: It taught me the importance of starting with great, simple ingredients. No matter how much time you have, or what the challenge is, it’s all about the ingredients you use. But above all else, it reminded me of how much I love to cook. Q: Lastly, my mother asked if you could indulge her in some of the techniques you use in your “27 hour” chicken? A: Please send my apologies to your mother, but this one’s a family secret! ********************************************************************************** Sean Brock: Q: How did growing up in Virginia, where the Civil War began, influence your style of cooking? A: I realized that food used to taste better. The plants were not modified and the soil was not poisoned. People used to plant varieties of plants. It is mind-boggling how many varieties were available. I now collect seeds and grow varieties of vegetables from that era that are near extinct. Everyone used to cook. They don’t do that anymore. Q: The New York Times referred to your restaurant Husk as “possibly the most important restaurant in the history of Southern cooking.” How does this make you feel? A: I built Husk for one reason- to create a place where people can taste the current state of Southern food. We only use local food. I am really blessed to have a place where I can we can preach our gospel. Q: How did the 1800’s dinner with Jeff McInnis come about? A: Jeff contacted me to invite me to the dinner to hang out. But, I wanted to get involved and cook. It is going to be an incredible event. Q: This question is from my mother … your biscuits are fabulous, do you make your own buttermilk and butter? A: Yes, both. I make my own cheeses, as well. I make chesses from sheep, goat; I make ricotta. I use whey to poach and preserve vegetables. I make our butter, buttermilk, and even yogurt. Q: Your deviled eggs are topped by ‘redneck caviar’ that includes pickled mustard seeds. Do you care to divulge how you pickle a mustard seed? A: Sure. I mix equal parts mustard seed and alcohol, can it, and allow it to sit for at least two months, and sometimes as long as a year. This also works with beer. You can use equal parts beer and mustard seed, then add sorgum and make your own mustard. Q: Final question. Can you settle a collard green debate that has been going on between my Grandfather and I? I like my collards simply sautéed, but he always complains that I under cook them. My Grandmother stews her collards and then freezes them for two days prior to Sunday supper. How do you prefer your collards? A: I do both depending on the dish, and the weather. If I am feeling traditional Southern, I will stew them with a whole pig leg. If I have baby collards, I like to sauté them with olive oil and lemon juice. You can also cream them in a similar fashion to creamed spinach, using béchamel. Also, if you cook them and ad sorgum, they make a great condiment.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

From T-Day to V-Day; delicous soups

If your winter holidays were anything like mine, they sucked. Sucked BIG TIME (yes, I just yelled that). They made me fear the upcoming holidays. However, like turning lemons into lemonade, I took the battered carcasses of my horrible holidays and turned them into a wonderful dish. Then an amazing thing happened, and I was taught an additional dish.
Holidaze Soup
  • Holidaze Soup

LeLet's rewind to Thanksgiving (or Day of Sadness as my Native American relatives refer to it):

Thanksgiving is horrible for every law student in America. It's the last week of regular classes, and law schools have torturously decided to have final exams begin the week immediately following. It is also the time in the semester where your scholarship and loan funds have nearly run out. Much of November is spent explaining to friends and relatives why you will not be able to visit. You are too poor to go home, and will instead spend the weekend eating whatever you can scrounge in your pantry while studying Evidence for twelve hours a day.
That is what I should have been doing. Instead, my stubborn then-boyfriend, David, decided not only was he flying in to visit me, he was flying in at noon on Thanksgiving day. Great timing for him. This meant I had to shop the weekend prior to the holiday so I could create the feast that he would be expecting. I also had to spend over $200 of my quickly depleting $400 remaining in my bank account.
I bought a turkey and brined it for three days; made cornbread for the dressing; bought lots of wine. Not much of my last week of classes was spent studying. Needless to mention, but I will any way: I received a B+ instead of an A on my Evidence exam.
As finals closed in and I prepared to head out on my holiday road trip, I had $40 left in my account. Luckily I sold a textbook on Amazon and scored $98. I also borrowed a car from a friend who would be gone over break. I would be able to visit home and the then-boyfriend who had at that time moved to Atlanta.
I searched every cell that remained in my brain for ideas of something wonderful, but inexpensive that I could bestow on all of my loved ones. Bones. I save bones when I cook. And, I just happened to have a few t-bones and a Thanksgiving turkey carcass in my freezer. My good friend Howie mentioned that he had just devoured a whole ham and would save the bone from it for me. I headed out to Tampa with an idea: soup. I would make an awesome soup.
My first stop in Tampa was Howie's place in South Tampa. We hit Publix for veggies, and he helped me create the ultimate "Holidaze" soup while we sipped rum and enjoyed the city's perfect weather. We jarred the soups and let them rest before the big day.
Christmas was fun. My jars of soup were a big hit. But then, it happened. My Grandmother started getting confused. She could not quite explain what was wrong. The words would not come out of her mouth. Something was wrong and we could tell she was very frightened. A group of us took her to the hospital, where we learned that she might be suffering a stroke. Not my Grandmother. No. She had spent 86 years in perfect health. The hospital kept her for three days to run tests and keep an eye on her. It turned out that she did suffer a mini-stroke, but she would be okay. No paralysis.
The day we were permitted to bring Granny home from the hospital also happened to be my Grandfather's 87th birthday. We had a family get together and celebrated just how lucky we are. I decided instead of heading to Atlanta first thing the next morning, I would spend the day cooking meals for my grandparents so they could freeze them and easily reheat them. Granny needed to rest, and not worry about household chores for a few days.
And then it happened. David decided to call me at 10:37pm that evening as I lay in bed reading. He decided that I should not travel to Atlanta. He was dumping me. Almost five years together, and I get dumped by a 42 year-old man because he didn't feel like he occupied the number one spot in my life's "importance list." That, and women in Atlanta were "throwing themselves [at him]", and his ability to remain faithful had diminished. Devastating.
I spent two weeks having a pity party, but was then jolted back into reality by law school and my new internship. My internship is incredible. My classes are intellectual. And, my friends are loving and caring. Granny is doing very well; my uncle and her walked a half-mile recently. And, then I noticed the jar of soup that was meant for David sitting in my fridge. It's time to eat this soup and be done with the terrible winter break.
And then, Chinese New year passed by and something funny happened on the way to class. I was invited out by a handsome classmate. Not only is he a former Israeli Army soldier, he is ten years my junior. Eek.
One night he cooked for me. Even making me a pumpkin pie. Very endearing. And, now he is teaching me to make matzo ball soup. I do not believe I have ever even tasted matzo ball soup before. I am very excited about what the new year will bring. Bring on Valentine's Day. This is the year of the Dragon, and just happened to be a dragon. Roar!

Holidaze Soup
(named by Howard Cannon)

1 Turkey carcass
1 Ham bone
2 T-Bone bones
1 medium sweet onion
1 whole garlic, the whole thing; peeled
1 bag of baby carrots
1 Potato, diced
1 head of celery; including leaves
4 Bay leaves
Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste and smell

Add everything except spices to a large pot. Cover with water. Add spices. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for approximately 6 hours. Taste every hour, and add water and spices as needed. You will know by the incredible smell when it is ready. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Use a slotted spoon to remove all bones.

I jarred the soup following directions on a box of Ball jars. It you don't heat the jars to seal and preserve, the soup can be refrigerated for about a week.

Matzo Ball Soup
  • photo by Sarah Gim
  • Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup
By Mr. N's mother

1/2c matzah meal
2 eggs
2 tbsp schmaltz (melted chicken fat) or oil
2 quarts of thin chicken broth (I made the chicken broth by placing a rotisserie chicken carcass, water, mirepoix, bay leaves. I allowed the broth to cook on high for four hours in the crock pot.)

Beat the eggs and oil. Add the matzah meal, mix to an even consistency. Let this sit for 5-15 minutes. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the vegetables to the broth. Wet your hands and make balls of about 1-2tbsp. of the batter. Gently drop the balls into the broth. They will be cooked enough to eat in about fifteen minutes. However, Nachmann leaves them in longer to absorb more of the broth flavor. You will know the balls are cooked when they float to the top and look bloated.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jeff McInnis brings southern hospitality to South Beach with Yardbird

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar officially opened today (Monday October 3rd), bringing traditional southern fare with an elevated elegant twist to South Beach.

McInnis, formerly chef at DiLido and Gigi, rose to celebrichef status as a contestant on Top Chef in 2008. His new adventure with John Kunkel (of 50 Eggs and Lime) is said to be a "down-to-earth joint that preaches the gospel of good food and good company." And, that it is. My grandparents would absolutely love McInnis' fried chicken; which takes 27 hours to make and is a 150 year-old recipe.

The menu has a made-from-scratch ethic that uses humanely treated meats and seasonal ingredients that helps support southern farmers such as Paradise Farms, The Green Railroad Organic Workshop, Worden Farm, Lake Meadow Naturals and White Oak Pastures — all suppliers of the restaurant. Everything is made in-house, even the alligator sausage.

Yardbird boasts a vast selection of over 50 different bourbons, including some hard to find brands like Pappy Van Winkle and Black Maple Hill. They also have a nice selection of bourbon cocktails. The beer selection includes many Southern breweries, including Tampa's award winning Cigar City Brewery.

Lucky Miamians were treated to a preview party on October 1st, which proved to be a teaser to whet our appetites. It will be exciting to see what McInnis delivers when the restaurant opens on Monday. McInnis was ever the gentleman, hand delivering dishes to our table throughout the evening. He and his manager Greg proved to be a formidable team, juggling dozens of cooks, servers, and bartenders while taking the time to stop and charm us ladies at intervals throughout the evening. guests were treated to goodie bags that included pickled goods and various bourbons; y-u-m.

My favorite bite of the evening was the fried green tomato BLT. It was to die for, a perfect combination of salty, spicy, and bacony. Perfectly cooked. Or, maybe my favorite was the meatloaf. Or, the fried cheese on watermelon. Oh wait, it was the fried chicken on a buttery biscuit. Heck y'all, it was all fantastic. I also managed to try every one of the six bourbon cocktails. The Southern Peach tasted of sweet tea and included a thyme garnish. My grandparents do not serve tea like this at their house. What a shame.

Some more pictures from the preview party are below. My pictures are of sample bites, not actual size. In fact, many of the entrees at Yardbird are family-sized; meant for sharing. Just like at my grandparents' house.

Yardbird is now serving dinner and will begin lunch service the week of October 10. Sunday gospel brunch will begin November 6. Hours of operation are as follows: 11AM — Midnight, Sunday — Wednesday and 11AM — 2AM, Thursday — Saturday. Yardbird is located at 1600 Lenox Avenue, one block from Lincoln Road. For more information, visit

Fois gras with pickled watermelon
  • Fois gras with pickled watermelon

Deviled egg
  • Deviled egg

  • Meatloaf

Grilled peach wrapped in ham
  • Grilled peach wrapped in ham

Watermelon with grilled farm cheese
  • Watermelon with grilled farm cheese

Brined chicken on the bone
  • Brined chicken on the bone

Chocolate chip cookie
  • Chocolate chip cookie

Smore and a sour orange merengue
  • S'more and a sour orange merengue

Apple pie
  • Apple pie

Southern Peach
  • Southern Peach

Yardbird on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Innocent people that have been executed in the United States?

List of possible innocent persons executed in the United States. I discovered these cases through research for my paper Killing Innocents.

In a few hours, we may add Troy Davis (GA) to this list.

Brian K. Baldwin (AL)
Cornelius Singleton (AL)
Freddie Lee Wright (AL)
Thomas M. Thompson (CA)
Lena Baker (GA)
Wayne Felker (GA)
Larry Eugene Moon (GA)
James Adams (FL)
Willie Jasper Darden, Jr. (FL)
Leo Jones (FL)
Amos King (FL)
Frank Lee Smith, died on death row (FL)
Jesse Talfero (FL)
Girvies Davis (IL)
Bridget Bishop (MA)
George Burrows (MA)
Martha Carrier (MA)
Giles Corey (MA)
Lyndia Dustin, died in prison (MA)
Mary Eastey (MA)
Ann Foster, died in prison (MA)
Sarah Good (MA)
Elizabeth How (MA)
George Jacobs, Sr. (MA)
Susannah Martin (MA)
Rebecca Nurse (MA)
Sarah Osborne, died in prison (MA)
Alice Parker (MA)
Mary Parker (MA)
John Procter (MA)
Ann Pudeater (MA)
Wilmott Reed (MA)
Ferdinando Nicola Sacco (MA)
Margaret Scott (MA)
Roger Toothaker, died in prison (MA)
Bartolomeo Vanzetti (MA)
Samuel Wardwell (MA)
Sarah Wilds (MA)
John Willard (MA)
Larry Griffin (MO)
Roy Michael Roberts (MO)
R. Mead Shumway (NE)
Killing Innocents 17
Malcolm Rent Johnson (OK)
Thomas Griffin (SC)
Meeks Griffin (SC)
Odell Barnes, Jr. (TX)
James Beathard (TX)
Charles Anthony Boyd (TX)
Ruben Cantu (TX)
David Castillo (TX)
Clyde Coleman (TX)
Carlos DeLuna (TX)
Robert Nelson Drew (TX)
James Otto Earhart (TX)
Troy Dale Farris (TX)
Gary Graham a/k/a Shaka Sankofa (TX)
Lionel Torres Herrara (TX)
Jerry Lee Hogue (TX)
Jesse Jacobs (TX)
Carl Johnson (TX)
Richard Wayne Jones (TX)
Davis Losada (TX)
Robert Madden (TX)
Justin Lee May (TX)
Frank Basil McFarland (TX)
Kenneth Ray Ransom (TX)
Charles Rector (TX)
David Spence (TX)
David Stoker (TX)
Martin Vega (TX)
Cameron Todd Willingham (TX)
Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (US)
Julius Rosenberg (US)
Joseph O’Dell (VA)

Troy Davis case rekindles death penalty debate

PBS gives a wonderful discussion on the death penalty: