Monday, September 7, 2015

Fishing on foot with Steve Landcaptain Kantner

By Jane Feehan

In South Florida, I’ve visited all its fishing piers while growing up and was as intrigued by the activities of anglers on the boards as I was by the surrounding blue waters. Today, as a South Florida historian, I saw an opportunity to quench my interest in angling while learning a bit more about this area’s topography in reading Steve Kantner’s Ultimate Guide to Fishing South Florida on Foot. This book provided all that—and more.

A disclaimer: I am not an angler nor will ever be. But Kantner’s knowledge of these subtropical environs—the Everglades, canals, lakes, spillways, beaches, jetties, docks, and their ecosystemsimpresses anglers, tag-alongs and spectators like me.

Kantner's book is not only about the remote, secluded honey holes where he has guided both novice and expert fishing hopefuls but also about urban settings such as City of Oakland Park through which the natural Cherry Creek tributary runs. He considers this the “most pristine in-town waterway in all of South Florida.” Who knew. This is a must-read for anglers who call South Florida home.

The book also serves as a primer for anglers living near water in other parts of the state or country. He writes “current is what triggers the action” and it’s the “wave action that serves as catalyst for shoreline fishing." That's useful information for land or sea anglers nearly anywhere. Kantner, who has a biology degree, reveals where the places are, how to get there, where to park, what to bring, the species that inhabit each, what time to catch them and how. His book is also a trove of information about flies, lures, and rigging, some of which he's invented or developed and bear his name.

There’s something for everyone who loves South Florida in this guide. It’s well-written, informative, chock full of beautiful photos and more than anything, fascinating. Kantner cooks up a lot of what he catches. If only he could include his recipes in this tome ...

Tags: Fishing in South Florida, Steve Kantner, Landcaptain, Steve Landcaptain Kantner

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Table 57 at HEB: raising the bar for casual dining in Houston

Table 57@ HEB
5895 San Felipe, Houston 77057
Open daily for lunch and dinner; brunch on Sundays
Take out 

By Jane Feehan

It takes a bit of will power to grab a cart to shop for dinner at HEB when you know about Table 57, a casual restaurant with a beer and wine bar on the premises.  

Counter-order service may belie what’s ahead at this grocer-operated eatery: a hit parade of barbecued turkey, brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs, chicken and other smoked Texas specialties or bistro-style sandwiches, spicy tostadas, classic salads, traditional or trendy burgers, prime beef sliders with brie, Korean fried chicken and an array of interesting palate pleasers.

There’s not much to describe as casual about the food. Take for example, a simple turkey burger. They transform it into majestic kitchen art. It’s delivered with an avocado kale mash, grilled red onion, solegiatti (slightly dried) tomatoes, feta, arugula and sunflower sprouts. Match it up (or not) with a side of sweet potato fries, eye-popping onion rings, the more exotic Tare-grilled okra, or German-style red cabbage and you’ll be talking about this meal for weeks.  

For more out-of-the-ordinary, there’s Korean Fried Chicken, a crispy fried half bird with a mild chili
Korean Fried Chicken
glaze, plated with kimchi mash and Asian braised greens. Sample Tuscan-grilled tuna atop cannellini beans and greens or the spinach, avocado and grapefruit salad. These dishes make it tough to believe this is grocery store dining.
Table 57 (named for the zip code in its address), offers barbeque by the plate or pound, smoked “with Texas Post oak for up to 13 hours,” a daily butcher’s cut featured on a chalk board at the counter, and small bites such as deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, fresh lobster salad or crispy Brussels sprouts. A hearty local beer or a decent wine is available to drink at the bar or to savor at a table.

Staff delivers food promptly, even during busy weekday lunch hours, and they get orders right. Several times I’ve asked them to omit an ingredient and each time it came as requested. The bar proves to be a friendly place to dine or to meet neighbors and new friends—despite uncomfortable bar stools and their struggle to pour even a half glass measure of wine (my only criticisms but it could be they don't want people to linger long). A live music lineup Friday evenings keeps the outdoor patio filled and patrons dancing.

With great food that includes mouth-watering desserts such as Texas Pecan Bread Pudding or Tres Leches, and a kids menu of hot dogs, mac n’ cheese, and chicken tenders, there’s little wonder so many would-be HEB shoppers never get past Table 57 …

Tags: HEB Grocery, Houston restaurants, Texas smoked barbeque, takeout food Houston Galleria. Tare-grilled, vegetarian-friendly in Houston

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Erawan, sad spin on "authentic Thai cuisine" - Houston Galleria

Authentic Thai Cuisine
Sage Plaza Shopping Center
5161 San Felipe, Houston 77056

Visualize a Sunday evening at prime dinner hour (about 7:15 p.m.) in a small, upscale shopping plaza with one restaurant abuzz with patrons and the eatery next door empty. I picked the empty one—Erawan.   

If I could see have seen from the outside that it was empty, I would not have entered but once inside the attractive establishment, I was hailed to sit down. OK, perhaps they do a bang-up takeout biz. But then a menu adorned with greasy finger prints was delivered, which is often a bad sign. It went downhill from there. 

Thawed-out-and-fried, dreary-tasting oversized spring rolls stuffed with shredded cabbage (and little else), accompanied by a thick, syrup-sweet, flourescent-pink bottled sauce proved to be a second warning salvo. 

The coup de grâce: what seemed to be a German interpretation of vegetable pad thai. By German, I refer to the heavy-handed use of vinegar with the noodles. That, and unappetizing chunks of tofu and a few, very few, sliced vegetables made for a nearly inedible mess. And where were the finely chopped peanuts? Not authentic Thai cuisine … not that evening anyway.

And nary a phone call or customer for takeout …and people waiting to get into the restaurant next door.

Tags: Thai restaurants in Houston Galleria, Houston restaurants, 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

True Foods Kitchen: Where healthy meets tasty in Houston

True Food Kitchen
1700 Post Oak Blvd., Ste 180 Houston, TX 77056
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; 
Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Brunch Saturday and Sunday 
By Jane Feehan

At True Food Kitchen it’s not about tasteless bean sprouts—nor fatty fries and cheeseburgers—but healthy options for vegans, vegetarians, meat eaters and all those in between who like good food. That’s just about everyone.

Medical doctor, teacher and author Andrew Weil teamed up with Phoenix restaurateur Sam Fox a few years ago to develop restaurants (Houston was number nine) offering an anti-inflammatory dining concept. Inflammation, the result of a modern diet overloaded with sugar, saturated fats and processed foods, is blamed for a number of ailments including heart disease, several forms of cancer and even Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory approach to eating blends elements of Mediterranean and Asian diets with a Californian overlay of fresh ingredients and presentation. The True Foods menu embraces this philosophy offering whole grains (yes, even pizza) lean meat (try a turkey or bison burger), wild caught fish and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Kitchen wizards elevate health foods from dull to sparkling with healthful ginger, curry, and other worthy seasonings.

One of their most popular dishes, Red Chili Shrimp, sums up the True Kitchen approach.  An artful combination of shrimp, tossed with Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli), Shitake mushrooms and spinach over a bed of sesame noodles (a gluten free version also available) mildly accented with red chili spice could compete with dishes of a fine Thai eatery. 

Fellow diner ordered a light meal of a caramelized onion tart and salad of spinach, blueberry, beet, snap pea, cucumber, radish, goat cheese, and pistachio drizzled in lemon vinaigrette. More a flatbread presentation, the onion tart is complemented with thinly sliced fig.  Bursting with flavor, both plates deserve a curtain call.  Another diner sampled Turkey lasagna, not particularly savory or a good fit for the restaurant; it was recently (and wisely) removed from the menu. 

Only one of us wanted to venture into dessert nirvana with a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. Replete with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, this confection was made to order and topped with oatmeal granola. Guiltless pleasure …

The menu offers a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks—all with a healthy yet flavorful spin. Patronized by a youngish crowd, and designed with high ceilings and open spaces, True Food Kitchen can get noisy at night, especially when the music is upped a few notches. A totally different fan club comes for takeout meals signaling hats off to their food if not the ambiance. If noise scares you away, dine outside or visit for lunch. Free parking is available and accessible from the front or the back of Boulevard Place, adjacent to Whole Foods.  (Post Oak and San Felipe)

Tags: Houston restaurants, Houston health food menu, Galleria area restaurants

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fort Lauderdale's Royal Pig Pub: Majestic fare

Royal Pig Pub
350 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Open: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-Midnight
          Friday/Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
          Sunday Noon -11 p.m.

By Jane Feehan

Awesome: Royal Pig Pub. Atmospheric and handsome, if not typically pub-cozy, this eatery delivers creative, high quality, sophisticated food that sets the bar (no pun intended) for other SOFLA establishments that embrace the gastropub concept.

Executive Chef Stanton Bundy brings Texas and New Orleans influences to a menu that includes bounteous sandwiches, inspired salads and main course marvels. Consider the Free range Creole Chicken Club with cheddar cheese, a delicately fried and oh-so-tasty slice of avocado topped with chipotle aioli. Enthusiasm for this creation precluded relegating any to  a common Styrofoam
Free Range Creole Chicken Club
container for takeaway. Blasphemy. Down the hatch it went with most of a side of parmesan truffle fries. The same for dining companions blissfully munching on palate-teasing Prime Beef Sliders, and a BBQ Rotisserie Pulled Pork sandwich crowned with coleslaw spicy mustard, American cheese and a fried pickle. The Rotisserie Free Range Turkey Club, encased in cranberry walnut bread, topped with cranberry compote, Vermont cheddar, bacon and avocado, tasted like Thanksgiving on a bun … and ranks among the best sandwiches I’ve eaten.

The roster of main plates (served after 5 p.m.) include New Orleans inspired BBQ Shrimp, and Seafood Gumbo. Texas-influenced Rotisserie Ribs and prime steaks join Free Range Rotisserie Chicken, “Fish of the Moment” and tons more to accommodate any craving, any appetite. The Royal Pig Pub serves fabulous fare on many holidays. Wallet-friendly, this pub offers fine cocktails, excellent wines and craft beers. And yes, the service lives up to the food.
Sophisticated, airy and New Yorkish

Parking available on the street or in a nearby parking garage.

Tags: Fort Lauderdale pubs, gastropub, Las Olas restaurants

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Crash landing on oil slick, Runway 84 in Fort Lauderdale

Runway 84
330 Florida State rd. 84
Fort Lauderdale, 33315

Lunch, Tuesday-Friday
Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday

This airline-themed Italian eatery and lively bar with a three-decade history has an enthusiastic following. After a recent visit, I cannot say I am a member of that following.

Oil was in abundance in places it should not have been and was missing in another. This sad experience began with tasteless, slightly burned bread accompanied by a small dish of oil for dipping. We could not find the oil; the dish was mostly grated Parmesan with barely enough liquid to grace one slice of bread. Bread is usually the first sign of what’s to follow; this time was no exception.

Enter an appetizer of clams oreganata drowning in oil that should have come with the bread. Oil was not the only problem; the woebegone clams tasted as if they had been resurrected from the freezer. Onward. Mussels were delivered in a “sauce” that tasted more like water with a few dollops of tomato paste. It was miserably tasteless as was the house salad served with a gimmicky piece of salami holding a single sorrowful olive. Iceberg lettuce, a pepperconi here, a slice of tomato there, all drizzled in a bland dressing fit for a bottle off a grocery store shelf.

Denouement of this meal misery: two plates of pasta overloaded with oil. The rigatoni was perfectly prepared but swimming in cheap olive oil. So much broccoli rabe covered one dish that the pasta was hard to find. My plate was topped with a mushy mess of cauliflower and sliced mushrooms.

Runway 84 may be popular for their free meatballs on Thursday nights and grossly huge portions every night. It’s not cheap however; our pasta dishes were about $25 each.

To borrow from Edgar Allen Poe … Once upon a January Florida night cheery … deep into that dish peering, long I stood there wondering, really? Said this writer, NEVERMORE.

Tags: Fort Lauderdale restaurants, Italian restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, restaurants near Fort Lauderdale airport

Monday, November 24, 2014

U-Tiki Beach - Tropical Rhapsody in Jupiter

U-Tiki Beach
Jupiter Inlet Marina
1095 FL A1A
No website, find them and menu on Facebook

U-Tiki Hours: Mon-Thurs – 4-10 p.m.;Fri: 4-11 p.m.;  
Sat: 12-11 p.m.; Sun:12-10 p.m.

By Jane Feehan

Worth the long wait and a great addition to Jupiter Inlet restaurants, U-Tiki offers a stellar view of Jupiter Lighthouse and surrounding turquoise waters. It’s operated by the people who own Jetty’s next store. They know seafood. 

The U-Tiki menu offers a bounty of seafood choices, including sushi, cracked conch, fried oysters, shrimp, yellow tail, hogfish (or what’s running in nearby waters) and a tasty Jupiter fav—grouper cheeks.They also do steak, burgers, chicken, flatbreads, a variety of salads and a few interesting Caribbean  bowls  flavored with curry and coconut or almond and cream sauces. Lunch and dinner menus differ.

An appetizing dining experience (mahi mahi and chicken dishes we tried proves this point) is heightened by the open air Florida verandas and beach (Ok, ok … an engineered beach), and broad
walkway along the docks to Jetty's; this happy place is authentically tropical.     A large bar overlooking tables and the inlet provides the perfect place for meeting new people or bringing friends who want to party.
U-Tiki is open for lunch on weekends only, to the dismay of many, but it’s a tropical rhapsody otherwise. 

Tags: Jupiter waterside restaurants, U-Tiki, Jupiter inlet restaurant,Jupiter Inlet bar, Jane Feehan

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jet Runway Café, Fort Lauderdale: Calling all aviators – and foodies

Dining room with a view
Jet Runway Café
5540 NW 21 Terrace
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
Open Monday-Friday: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturday: 7:30-2 p.m.
Beer and wine, catering

By Jane Feehan

Jet Runway Café, exactly as its name conveys, sits along a runway in a hangar at Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport. What this unique eatery lacks in exterior design (except for the airplane windows of its entrance), is more than made up for by the details of its interior and in its artful presentations from the kitchen. The café’s expanse of glass along its front and side affords all visitors a great view of the tarmac and planes taking off, landing or awaiting the next trip. Its appropriately high-ceiling, airy interior is decked out in a turbine and other aviation elements.  

We had standard breakfasts of eggs, potatoes, and a piece of their housemade light fried bread pudding (also available as a complete serving). Presentation here is all about the details: tiny cups with butter or catsup (no ugly bottles or alumium butter wrappers here); potatoes served in a small dish atop the plated eggs. Simple fare but beautifully delivered. They also serve Brioche Almond French toast, breakfast burritos, pancakes and house made coffee cakes.
Thoughtful presentation 
Service is excellent. I’ll be back for lunch during this next week and hope I can find a parking space. It was impossible last Friday at 1 p.m. and I think I know why. With good food, a great wait staff and an exceptional setting, what’s not to return for? Stay tuned …

Open for private parties (great venue) only during the evening.

Tags: Fort Lauderdale breakfast, runway restautants, unique restaurant Fort Lauderdale, private party venues, unique party venue, catering