Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Sunshine State of Jin

I am back!
With a brand new post of epic proportion
along with a scandalous admission:
I am in Love
I am in Lust!
My Souls Passion has Arisen.
Oh and you'll never ever guess the source.
You really won't!
;-)

Some say it was
the sun
the fun
the heat
St. Pete
a tan
my man

but really what did it was the Ravioli.
Oh Dear Goddess it was the Ravioli!
*GASP*

But wait, I'm getting well ahead of myjinself! First I must jintroduce you to my love:
Everyone, please give a warm warm greeting to

*DRUMROLLLLL*

FLORIDA!


Ah yessss... weeks were spent in warm sunny Florida after my holiday rush. It was more divine than I ever could have jinmagined! Truly glorious. I shall attempt to recreate some of it to share with you; so grab something for noshing & your spirit of choice because I guarantee you'll be drooling with delight momentarily.


"the Cupcake Spot"

One "Elvis" to go.
Banana Cake, Peanut Butter Frosting, Chocolate Glaze.

I picked that one in particular because a handsome gent was bringing them out of the back so I assumed they'd be the freshest. At $2.75 a piece I thought they'd be on par with my own. Alas it was not. Don't get me wrong, it tasted of quality & was very good... just not nearly as delicious as I had hoped. I wouldn't go out of my way to get another, however, if someone offered me one I'd likely accept. ;-)



"Schakolad Chocolate Factory"


What got me: they had a station for their chocolatier up front so you could watch the chocolate creation- unfortunately their current chocolatier was on vacation for the holidays. Even so, the display was well kept & the chocolates looked very well made. No bloom to be seen anywhere! As I debated how many pieces to purchase I tasted the soy cappuccino they made for me- quite exceptional & I decided the chocolates would likely be the same caliber for in a jin's mind great coffee = great chocolate yes?!

My confidence wavered when I asked how the marzipan was prepared- "we buy it & cover it with chocolate" no add-ins so, likely, no flavour & quite possibly an unpleasant texture. I skipped them. I had the pound box nearly full when I happened upon the peanut butter cups. I asked what type of peanut butter they used. She explained "It's Jif & they aren't filled it's mixed in with the chocolate." I had my second pang of regret & suddenly wished I hadn't chosen the 1 pound box size.

Ah well... they certainly weren't wasted but they weren't nearly as good as I had hoped (yet to my surprise the peanut butter cups were delightful). It goes without mentioning though, everyone here knows what a picky picky jin I am, and it takes a true culinary genius to make my taste-buds purrrrrr...

Yes
I hear you
You're pondering the likelihood
of my rating by perjinfection system
Is it Possible?
Can my buds be Teased & Pleased to a Full Blast Oralgasm?
Why...
Yes
Yes they can!
Read on dear Blogfans!!!
Read ON!

Wandering the streets culminated in my first jincredible Florida food experience. Unfortunately, I never did grab a card or a menu & strangely enough, can't even recall the name of the restaurant I am about to praise! It was located in a nearby city centre that we just happened to pass by as my stomach was screaming for nourishment. They served a fantastic housemade Sangria & a wicked good Cajun veggie burger, one of the most creative combination of flavours I've ever tasted. I've no photos either, how disappointing for all of you! No worries, I shall make it one of my life tasks to locate it once again & dine there. ;-)


"Cafe Ponte"


We headed there for lunch after I spied it on Zagat - I noted mushroom bisque, pad thai & a dessert menu which made me salivate. I was certain to enjoy a good meal! Unfortunately, the waitress informed me that the Bisque was not a vegetarian base and, due to my own reading error, neither was the Pad Thai. OH Drat!

As an aside, for those of you that aren't Vegetarian or haven't dined with one, there are 4 types of restaurants:
1.) Restaurants we simply stay away from. (Seafood, grill your own steak, fast food, etc.)
2.) Restaurants made just for us. (Veggie coffee shops, et al.)
3.) Restaurants that will go out of their way to try & accommodate us. (Even by having certain items marked as Veg Friendly on their menu.)
and...
4.) Restaurants that could very easily accommodate us yet treat us as if we never should have walked through the door in the first place. (Certain items seem to be Veg Friendly yet upon jinquiring about stock and/or sauces you are glared at with the animosity of a Deliverance-esque Hillbilly.)

At this point I was not yet sure if Cafe Ponte was a #3 or a #4. Occasionally the difference between the two is simply the waitstaff for they can make or break a meal; top-notch communication between the dining room & the kitchen is essential, just ask Gordon Ramsey (aka: He whom I Crush hard upon *blush*). Thankfully, our waitress rocked & I received a fantabulously perfect Pad Thai done all Vegetarian like, just for moi! Oh and did I mention it was perfect? Really really really perfect. Oralgasmic even! Yay!

Oh!
Wait!
There's more!
Dessert!

Flourless Chocolate Cake
w/ Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

in a single word
YUM!




Late one sunny & brisk morning (Yes, it does get brisk in FL. Although with WI ice in my veins I laughed at the silly chilly bundled up peeps!) we decided to hit an Organic Cafe I read about. Alas, upon arrival, we found it was closed on Mondays. Jinny needed herself a Soy Cappuccino stat so we strolled through the quaint busy city streets until we found an alternate Organic half indoor half outdoor cafe.


My Soy Cappuccino was perfection & hit the spot but the menu didn't trip my trigger. I ordered one plate of Organic Yam Fries just to tide us over. They would have been absolutely wonderful had they not nuked them. Ugh. I'd rather wait 15 minutes for oven baked fries but then again, I am a rarity. Ah well... away we went in search of another food experience... which, when you're in a city, might only be a few steps away... and it was!


"BELLABRAVA"


I ordered the Caprese Panini & upgraded from their standard fries to the Black Truffle & Sea Salted variety which were jincredibly excellent as was the thick & hearty ketchup. The Panini however was a bit of a disappointment since the tomatoes were slightly under-ripe & the pesto a bit bland; then again I may just be ultra spoiled with my locally grown organic heirloom tomatoes. I would certainly give it another go merely for the house-made mozzarella... jins *heart* house-made mozzarella!

My Beau had what he described as, "The best Lasagna I've ever tasted in my life!" I think we'll be going back again. ;-) I didn't even get to peruse their dessert menu for our car was parked 10 minutes away when the realization hit that the meter must have already expired.

Off we flew
drove some more
destination unknown
desire to explore.

Wait!
What's this place?
Let's take a look...
just a look...
I don't really want any...

Oh! My! Goddess!
Look at all the lovely Gelato... it's so beautiful... but, but, but... I'm lactose jintolerant! I'll be sorry later on if I have any... but... OH!OH!OH! They have water based selections so I can have some!!!

Um... too bad that I desire the non-water based selections like Coconut & Violet & Pistachio...

I caved
as did my gent
(and you would too!)

The Coconut & the Pistachio were beyond bliss... the Violet... Oh joy of joys the Violet... it made me squirm with jinDelight and a tiny moan escaped my lips and it was worth every lactose-laden lick and I shall have it again one day! Ahhhhhh....... *sigh*



And jin said:
"I do judge a dessert by its cover."
And there it was:
"Café de Paris"



and I knew from a glance it was jinuine & divine
so ordered I did & sat down to dine


A lovely yet distressing chat was had with the owner, Xavier De Marchi. In his suave thick French accent he explained how they were trying to deport he & his wife after they had lived & worked very hard for 7 years in his beautiful Boulangerie. Evidently they were told even though they made plenty of money, it still wasn't enough to renew their work visas. How awful! Especially since I had tasted their creations & knew after one bite that they had it goin' on. Damn those who try to crush hard working talented artisans!!! I felt very sad so I did what I thought was right- I took a whole bunch of pastries to go! For sharing I mean... and to help them as best as I could. ;-)

French & American Scratch Croissants.

The Napoleons were To-Die-For! In fact... I went back again & got a few more. I also got some other things. No worries, I didn't forget to pick up more Croissants. The BEST Croissants I have ever tasted. I may have purchased a few several *ahem* many more.

Almond Pastry Cream filled Croissant!

More Croissants! MMMmmm....
I blissed out on Croissants for daaaaaaays!
;-)


Of course, there were a few days set aside for silly touristy frolicking. A montage:

Quaint Small Town

Glorious Sunrise

Breathtaking Scenery

Pelicans at your Feet

Anonymous Celebrity Sighting ;-)

John's Pass

Authentic Cuban Coffee
(PERFECTION!!!)


Shenanigans

More Shenanigans ;-)

Cute Thai Restaurant

Waiting for Spring Rolls

Ice Cream Parlour

Hand Painted Wall Mural

Awesome & Huge New/Used Bookstore

Examining a Coffee Roaster
Waiting on our "London Fog's"



"Tuscano Grille"

This was to be our belated New Year's Eve dinner as we didn't get a chance to go out on the night of. I had very high expectations (as per jinormal *giggle*) and hoped they could be met. The starters were fantastic! I was so busy mmm-ing that I didn't even get photos. A basket of tomato flavoured bread with herbed olive oil went fast as did the most phenomenal Butternut Squash Ravioli with Hazelnut/Sage/Brown Butter Sauce that I've ever tasted!


The Margherita Pizza with house-made Mozzarella was wonderful as well. In fact, the food was so good that I could practically overlook the shoddy service. Were it not for a very very very attentive busboy (May I be blunt?) I'd have been pissed. He took care of us well beyond his job description. (Was it merely his work ethic or the jinfamous cleavage that eve? We may never know. ;-)

Dessert.
Ohhhhhhhhh......... sweet sweet dessert.
Limoncello Panna Cotta
w/fresh berries and raspberry sorbetto
Total & Complete Perfection.
Yes, I did say that.
Scale of 1-10 it was an 11 bay-bee!
Oralgasmic for sure!


Would you believe I saved the best for last?! Yes, yes I did. The place that melted my heart of stone. The artisan crafted food that sealed the deal. Shall we? Please, enjoy a few moments inside jin's head:


"Mazzaro's Italian Deli"

While at the aforementioned Schakolad I asked for recommendations on pastry shoppes in the area. She couldn't come up with any in particular, but said I should definitely check out Mazzaro's for their great bakery & house-made ravioli. I was sold & asked her to repeat the addy to my man's fam. Upon hearing the name Mom & Sis grinned with delight & chimed in unison "We LUV Mazzaro's!"


We hit it on New Year's Eve day so the place was jammed. For real. I've never had so many strangers rub up against me in so short a time-span. (I heard that! I know what you're thinking! Don't say it pervs!) That threw me off my game for starters... then came the sensory overload. A wine room. A cheese room. A man making fresh mozzarella balls right before my baby blues. Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oils as far as the eye could see. Fresh Gelato. Italian Beer. Then came the call from JDCmom over by the fresh pasta counter/deli,"Jin! They'll be calling my number soon- what would you like?" I squeezed between the double line of peeps blocking the counter to try & glimpse what lay beyond the thick cool glass... oh my goddess... there were various Lasagnas, numerous tubs of Olives, Eggplant dishes, Pasta dishes and and and... I kept searching... wading through the bodies... looking... until I got to the very end of the counter... and there it was- the quite obviously scratch made Cheese Filled Raviolis I had heard about & oh dear they looked divine- big pillowy Ravioli lightly coated with a chunky fresh tomato marinara sauce! Oh Oh Ohhh Yesssss!

I left the Ravioli procurement to JDCmom as I turned to glance toward the Bakery counter where there was a mob of peeps 5 feet deep. JDC saw my frown & said, "Don't worry if you can't get near it today, we'll come back again." I replied with extreme determination, "No. Watch for me... I'm going in!"

As I dove in the sea of bodies I expected pushing, shoving & hair pulling, but what happened was more shocking than I ever could have jinmagined: The Sea Parted. I got close enough to see the bakery case & I knew I would be waiting until I walked away with full boxes. I gasped audibly. A lovely woman in front of me pulled a ticket, handed it to me & said, "Here dear take this, you were first." I thanked her & asked if she had tasted their pastry before. She, along with two other women in line, proceeded to rave about each of their faves. Everyone was so friendly! It was like being in my own shoppe when the customers chatter on with each other whilst waiting for their turn. To me this was another sign that the desserts would be wonderful- happy pleasant customers. Yay!

Within minutes my number was called & I promptly filled 2 boxes with a variety of single-serve desserts and of course, several scratch Cannoli. I emerged from the crowd & grinned with utter delight as I proffered my purchases to JDC. He said he couldn't believe that I got in & out of the crowd so fast with pastries! I told him it was like a Pretty Girl Discount kinda thing. ;-)

The Cannoli was quite easily the best I've ever tasted.

MMMmmm.....

Berry Pyramid

Chocolate Mousse

Passionfruit & Napoleon

YUMMYYYYYYY!!!


...and the Ravioli that sealed the deal.
Words can't describe its perfection. The filling, the sauce, the pasta dough, the mini house-made Herbed Mozzarella Balls on skewers and the olives... Calamata Olives like I've never tasted before! I sat, alone, savouring every single morsel of Ravioli until the entire pound was a mere memory on my taste buds. Ahhh... but what a pleasant memory it is.

24 Responses to “The Sunshine State of Jin”

Bubs said...

I suspect you were really in one of the Disney compounds the entire time--I did not see a single crack-addled mullet with a pitbull, nor did I see any pictures of alligators scampering down the sidewalks like gray squirrels.

Still, the gulf coast, from Tampa down to the Keys, is my favorite part of Florida. Glad you had such a splendid time!

jin said...

Bubs:

Haha! Before I went all I could think about was your Germany/Florida contests & I was scared... then of course, we have the freakish People Of Walmart littered w/Floridians & I nearly changed my mind about the trip! Ahhhh.... but you are correct... the gulf coast is a dream. (About to come true. ;-)

David said...

Very nice, very nice indeed. Love to hear about great places to dine. Thanks for sharing!

foam said...

good lord, jin.
this post is positiviely obscene .. in the very best way.
i'm so glad i had just eaten before i started reading. and yet, despite my meal i still managed to drool ...

jin said...

Hey there D!

Thank you for reading! I owe you an email... I got lost in my post and the photos and and and... well, u know. ;-)

jin said...

foam!

So good to see you! I was sorry to read about your Mom... my sincerest condolences.
*hugs*

Bla said...

W. O. W.

jin said...

Bla:

Welcome! :-)

Glad to see you had a nice vacation - you deserved some r&r. When did you start drinking wine? I thought you were a completely no alcohol kind of gal.

Dino aka Katy said...

yummy on most of the pics especially dessert and Thai.
I am so glad you liked the gulf coast. My mom lives there and loves the region.

With all my travels i always get to find restaurants - and sadly more often than not i am disappointed. Today i got lost on the way to the hotel and found a awesome Italian bakery so i had dessert and fresh Italian bread (just the bread) for lunch which was awesome. Dinner would have been good (Thai) but i had not read the menu right and missed that Pad Thai had shrimp in it. Since it was delivered this was noted to late :( live and learn right.

Cormac Brown said...

Wow, what a state!

jin said...

CP:
Ahhh... it was wonderful, thanks!!! Re the Vino: I have discovered that even though my relatards are drunks, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a luscious red from time to time! ;-) Plus, OMG there are Organic Wines & Beers now... am I the last to know?!!?
I do believe I owe you an email... so much to catch you up on!


Katy:
When's your next trip down there? Maybe this time we can meet up!
Oh that sucks about your Pad Thai. Sometimes it doesn't matter how careful you are when reading the menu... I have THREE food horror stories from the past couple weeks but I'm saving them for a post. Hopefully soon!


Cormac:
OMG it was it was!!! I do believe Johnny Dollars jinjoyed it as well!

okjimm said...

//it was the Ravioli!//

NO Doubt! It is fun seeing folks having fun.... Good on You!!!

You ate the whole damn state!!! My brother was down and we ate up all the BBQ in AZ, so I know where you are coming from.

angel said...

And now I am craving sweet pastries!!!

It looks like you had a fantastic time Jin- and I am so very glad you got away from it all!!

jin said...

okjimm:
Thank you kindly sir! That was my first vacation for more than 2 days in over 7 years!!! I had to make sure I did it right! ;-)


phos:
I saw that your bro was there- awesome! He seemed like a sweetie when I met him, must run in the family! ;-)


angel:
Thanks & Sorry 'bout that craving! Go fill it pronto! lol. ;-)

Middle Child said...

I have never seen so much food - looks so good. In Melbourne (Australia) my daughter has found an amazing gelato place and it is wonderful...so I am hooked

Glad to see you enjoyed it all so much

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/t. said...

jin-tastic!

you are the food porn goddess!
&
HAPPY <3 DAY TO YOU, O HOLY ONE!

× × ×

/t.

Egads, but that was quite an adventure in culinary tourism! Parts of it remind me of my own recent voyages, during which I was transformed into a large blue creature. I can't make it back to headquarters looking like this, but I can't seem to find the secret to turning myself back either. It is ironic that a master of disguise such as myself should become trapped in this current form. If only I could remember the proper password!! However, I will make the best of life in this new body. I'm eating healthily and taking skateboard hobo-tourism to new levels of extremity. Keep well, Jin! I'll have to come by for a healthy snack someday.

Dr. Zaius said...

Awesome! ;o)

jin said...

EC: ;-D


MC: Thanks! :-)


/t.: Hope your <3 Day was as lovely as mine. ;-)


Monster: Awww... it's been so long! *BIGBIGhugs* I'll swing round soon for a visit! ;-)


Dr.Z: Thanks! It was! :-D

foam said...

good luck with your move! i'm so happy and tickled for you .. :)