Tag Archives: seafood

Road Trip – Savannah!

We have two full days in Savannah. First things first. Get the lay of the land. Best way to accomplish this is a “hop on-hop off” bus tour. We sign up with Old Savannah Tours. 16 stops and it leaves from the front of our hotel. The tour is informative with actors hopping on occasionally to bring the Old City alive.

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Our only complaint was that it was hard to take pictures. The trolley driver never slowed for photo ops. Even the train on last summer’s “road trip” slowed for pics. It was also hot and not the best light. We will go back early morning or evening for more pictures. On the plus side several of our touring companions were of the canine persuasion. This is Bailey.

Bailey

Our “hop on-hop off” pass enabled us to debus at The City Market. Very little in the way of breakfast places were open at 10:30. We found just one place, Pie Society, open. A happy accident indeed.

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They serve tea and savory pasties as well as sweet pies. We both ordered egg and sausage pasties hot out of the oven. Wrapped in a buttery, flaky pastry were two hard boiled eggs and a sausage.

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We split a smaller sausage and apple roll that seemed intriguing. This roll was also nice and flaky with a sausage interior spiced with sage and large pieces of apple. Inexpensive, excellent fare.

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After completing the 90 minute tour and experiencing some of Old Savannah, a city designed around 24 town squares/parks, we climb aboard Moby and head to Tybee Island for lunch and a view of the Atlantic ocean. A short drive through the porous coastline brings us into the island and to the famous lighthouse.

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We explore a little more, through kitschy seaside neighbourhoods reminiscent of the Florida Keys and then head to the ocean beach for a look-see.

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…and then head over to The Crab Shack for lunch.

The Crab Shack on Tybee Island, is a string of “hurricane-chic” huts strung together. Completely homemade. Completely fun.

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When we first arrive we are attracted to The Cat Shack, a home made cat house for the semi-feral cat population. The staff ask that you not feed any wild or domestic animals. Signs assure patrons that the kitties are well fed and spayed and neutered. Meet Oreo and Smokey.

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On the patio overlooking an inlet, the sun is hot, there is a gentle breeze and the beer is cold. Misters and fans keep us cool.

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We order Blue Moons and Yeungling and wait for our massive House Specialty Sampler Platter of local crab, shrimp, mussels, crawfish, sausages, potatoes, corn on the cob and Alaskan king crab, done in the Crab Shack’s own spicy boil.

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I do not want Alaskan king crab in an area that has its own fresh seafood, but I must admit it was good. The corn on the other hand was mushy. This is a common complaint of ours at “boils” or BBQ joints. They cook it ahead of time and leave it in a pot of hot water all day. Corn cooks fast so make it fresh or don’t bother. The meal was good, messy fun and perfect with the sunshine, the view and the company. On the whole, the local seafood is delicious and the beer goes down well.

Time for a little siesta back at the hotel before rooftop cocktails, a stroll along the Savannah River front and dinner at Rocks on the River. Rocks, located in our hotel, The Bohemian, is right on the Savannah River where the river is fairly narrow affording amazing views of huge ocean freighters loaded with colourful cargo containers drifting by so close you think you could touch them.

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After a stroll by the shops along the river front and a cocktail at Rocks on the roof, we head down for dinner. Staff is friendly and efficient as it has been throughout our stay. We are seated and order. Chicken and waffle app to share and she-crab bisque for me. The bisque is reputed to be the best in the city. It tastes delicately of crab with a mild alcohol bite. I have to say my shrimp cognac bisque kicks this bisque’s ass. More booze for a larger sting and a good reduced seafood stock are the key for a deeper flavour.

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The chicken and waffles is decent but no where near the gold standard that is Roscoe’s in LA. This is an app and it has been tarted up with boursin and arugula (Snoop Dog dies a little). A sweet strawberry-black pepper coulis adds a nice foil to the fried chicken. All in all a fine app.

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Mains arrive, seared scallops and succotash for me and a hopefully righteous burger for Rob. The scallops are perfect and the succotash is excellent. Lima beans, corn, peas and smoky, salty bacon.

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Rob’s burger was indeed righteous – Great bun, great toppings and most importantly, good beefy flavour.

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Washed down with a bottle of Perrier-Jouet, a fine evening indeed.

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Vancouver Arrival!

Early morning today. Up well before the sun, but not before Scout. Fed the kitties, snuck past a groggy dog and headed to the the airport. We breeze through the long line at security because Rob was the lucky random selection for an explosives swipe. Flights on time, no immigration. Except for the hour, this is painless. Flying within Canada and not crossing into the United States is so much more pleasant. Felt less like cattle and more like a crated dog. We arrive in Van on time, get our rental and we are here! The drive into downtown along Granville Road is pleasant with cedar-lined properties, pretty homes and little shops. Can’t wait to explore the city.

This evening after a little nap we are meeting up with a high school chum, Donna, who has been living out here for twenty-one years now. She has suggested Joe Forte‘s a Vancouver establishment, for drinks.

We arrive at Joe’s a little before 6:00. The place is lively with an after work crowd. An old school oyster and chop house, Joe’s is exactly the perfect place to relax after a long day and catching up with a friend. We luck into three seats at the oyster bar, settle in to watch the shuckers in action, while two cold local Granville Island Cypress Honey Lagers are placed in front of us. The beer is crisp, smooth with a nice bit of body. Perfect compliment for fresh oysters. While we wait for Donna, we check out the menu and the plates being ferried from table to table by white coated waitstaff. If looks are anything, choosing will be difficult. Sticking to local west coast seafood will help. Our waitress informs us that Halibut and Dungeness crab are in season, as is wild Pacific salmon.

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Donna arrives and it’s like thirty some years never passed. Conversation is easy and we catch up. I have lots of questions about life on the coast. Winter is coming to Ontario in the next few months and I’m already looking at an exit strategy. Vancouver is really appealing with its fresh seafood and year round farmers markets, excellent Asian food and mild climate. And ocean. And Mountains. And Hockey. And it is in Canada. Van has it all it seems. Now I just have to convince Rob that he wants to live on a boat.

Tonight Rob and I decide to share fresh oysters (because why wouldn’t you?), the Dungeness Crab Cake, Iceberg Wedge Salad and Tempura Alaskan King Crab. We also decided on a half bottle of  Kettle Valley 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve. BC wines are harder to come by in Ontario because of unfathomable trade restrictions so we will enjoy them as much as possible while we are here.

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The oysters at Joe’s are sublime. Perfectly shucked, sweet, briny. Served with fresh horseradish, cocktail sauce, champagne mignonette and a soy sesame ponzu sauce. The dungeness crab cake came with a fresh slaw and a generous spicy basil-lemon aioli swipe. The cake was lightly fried and heavy with crab. It was for all intents and purposes an excellent cake but I prefer large lumps of crab not shredded pieces so it was not to my liking.

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The wedge salad came divided on two plates for us. Cool, crisp and delicious with diced tomato, crumbled bacon and excellent blue cheese, lightly dressed with a mild creamy blue cheese dressing and green onion. This is an old-school item that we are seeing more these days. Rob orders it whenever he sees it on a menu.

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The tempura Alaska king crab was probably my favorite offering.  Served with an avocado guacamole and a sweet soy syrup, tempura battered and fried, the crab had a nice crunchy exterior – hardly a tempura, but excellent nevertheless – and a sweet, delicate crab interior.

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Too bad there are so many excellent places to try in Vancouver and so little time. I would come back to Joe Forte’s in  heartbeat.

Dinner Party #1: Paella

A while back Rob and I were discussing ideas for our blog and decided that a series about dinner parties might be fun. We were not sure what this would look like, but it would be very social and interactive.

I haven’t made Paella in years, and then only three or four times. I don’t have a special recipe but I do have a paella pan that I must have thought was an essential purchase at some point. It’s quite large and takes up a lot of storage space in the pots and pans cupboard. I spied it while rummaging around in the cupboard the other day, and, combined with the awesome sunshine filled days of this Ottawa summer, decided to make Paella.

 

Our paella pan – empty and lonely.

Paella is not a dish for two and needs to be shared with friends. What a great way to get our new “Dinner Party” series off and running! In another impetuous moment we threw an invitation up on Facebook, casting a wide net out to family and friends. “We are blogging Paella. We need four guinea pigs to come to dinner. Who is in?” Within ten minutes we had our guest list complete. We usually try to choose dinner guests who either know each other or that we think will be a good match and enjoy each others company, but this time we threw caution to the wind and hoped it would not be an awkward evening. The experiment was a successful one, at least for this event and we will definitely do it again. From now on, we’ll send out random invites via our Facebook fan page. If you aren’t already a fan, go there NOW and click “LIKE”. We promise some good food, good company maybe even a surprise or two.

As usual, my wonderful guests always wish to contribute in some way. So when asked, “What can I bring?”,  I decided to keep within the Spanish theme and requested tapas from the guests who enjoy cooking. We would be spending a couple of hours on the deck in the sun enjoying sangria and Spanish beer, while Rob and I tended to the paella. My guests were really up to the challenge and arrived bearing Serrano wrapped fresh figs, mini pork ribs, and grilled haloumi cheese. All I had to do was add a plate of mixed olives and voila! One guest even brought a small potted red rose for the outdoor table for all to enjoy. Their contributions made for a really enjoyable early evening as we waited on dinner. It was a very sociable “get-to-know-you” time.

We plan on hosting and blogging more of these dinner parties. If you would like to be included in the invitation (it will be on a first come basis), “like” us on Happy Mouth on Facebook. Future invites and details will be posted there.

Paella
(adapted from Ethnic Spicy Food And More)

Serves 6-8

6 tbsps. olive oil
1 pound large shrimp (I used wild) shelled and deveined, leave tails on
1 pound mussels
2 dozen littleneck clams
1 pound Spanish (dry) Chorizo
1 chicken thigh per person
1/2 pound calamari tubes, sliced into rings (I used frozen as I could not get fresh and they were fine)
4 cups shrimp stock*
2 cups pinot grigio (or any cheap white wine)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 398 ml can of cherry tomatoes, drained and crushed with fingers
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
3 cups Valenciano or paella rice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, rough chop
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chop
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 bay leaf
1 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
1 tsp. salt, divided
juice of 1 lemon

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsps. of olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes, parsley and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt to the pot. Cook the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes. Add the shrimp stock, white wine, saffron, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on low.

3. Place chicken, shrimp and squid in a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over the the meat and sprinkle a 1/2 tsp. of salt. Toss and set aside.

4. Heat the paella pan over a medium heat. Add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and saute the chicken and sausage, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan, empty any liquid and saute shrimp and squid for about 1 minute. Remove from pan.

5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of oil in the paella pan over medium heat. Add the rice, stir to coat and continue to stir until rice becomes translucent. Increase heat to high and add simmered stock to rice. Bring to a boil.

6. Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Bury the chicken, sausage, shrimp and squid in the rice mixture. Lastly, bury the clams and mussels into the rice.

7. Sprinkle the peas and cilantro over the top of the rice and arrange the red pepper strips on top of the dish.

8. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn oven off, tent paella with aluminum foil, and let sit in oven for 10 minutes.

* Shrimp Stock: When ever I cook shrimp, generally I buy them in their shells. When I de-shell them I toss the shells in a baggie and throw it in the freezer.

For this stock I use the shells from about two pounds of shrimp. In a medium pot, melt a good sized knob of butter. Cut a large onion in chunks, skin and all and throw it in the pot. Roughly chop up two carrots and a two celery sticks. Throw them in. Add a bayleaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I also threw in a handful of parsley stalks because I had them on hand (you can use up any old veggies in you fridge for stalk except for starchy ones like potatoes). Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring until shells turn pink, about 5 minutes. Add two tbsp. of tomato paste and stir to coat veggies and shells. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain. You now have shrimp stock.  Stock freezes well. You could substitute Fish stock or clam juice for this recipe, but it won’t be as rich or flavourful. Shrimp stock is also awesome in seafood risotto and shrimp bisques.