Sunday, June 9, 2013

Miss Myra's Pit Bar-B-Q

Recently my wife and family attended the wedding of my cousin Laura in Trussville, Alabama.  Since the panhandle of Florida is not known for great BBQ joints, I decided to ask some of my friends on a BBQ forum where I should go.  Miss Myra's popped up and sounded great.  We arrived Friday afternoon shortly followed by my two sons Josh and Andrew, and the grand children.  We decided to try Miss Myra's.  For those of you who are not BBQ aficionados Alabama is know for White BBQ sauce.  It is a sauce made of Mayonnaise, Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and black pepper.  It was made famous by a place in Decatur, Alabama called Big Bob Gibson's.  It is usually used on smoked chicken, but my wife loves it on pulled pork.  We arrived about 6:00 Birmingham time and the out side looked like a BBQ joint should.  A large metal sign with the Coca-Cola emblem and the words Miss Myra's pit Bar-B-Q greeted us, as well as, hickory smoke filling the air.
  Miss Myra's is a pit style BBQ.  That means the meat is cooked over a pit of smoldering wood instead of an offset smoker where the fire is in a chamber away from the meat.  Pit BBQ is like grilling over direct coals except the pit places the meat several feet above the fire.  In pit BBQ the pit master must attend the meat often as hot and cold areas may appear.  As the meat cooks the fat drips on the fire and adds a flavor offset smokers can't equal.  I like the both, but pit BBQ is very southern.


When you first enter Miss Myra's you can smell the BBQ which is a good thing, and the place is decorated by several porcine (pig) figurines, everywhere.  In front of you is a large counter and a refrigerated case with homemade pies in it.  If you don't like BBQ, go for the pies.  There was a lady sitting on a stool and as soon as I approached she asked what I wanted as if I was a regular. 
The menu was simple, several meat plates or combo meat plates with two sides.  Meat choices are Chicken, Pork, Beef, and ribs.  The ribs are Saint Louis spares of course.  There is also a smokes sausage plate.  The sides are Potato Salad, Baked Beans, Slaw, Green Beans, Deviled Eggs, or chips.  I ordered the ribs with deviled eggs and baked beans.  My wife ordered the pulled pork with potato salad and deviled eggs. 


The ribs were just like I like them.  My feeling is if you eat ribs, you want a slight tug from the meat.  If you want fall off the bone eat the pulled pork.  I first tried the ribs sans the sauce.  The ribs had a great smoke ring and flavor.  There was no rub applied.  I felt a little more salt could have been used.  The wife enjoyed the pulled pork with the white sauce as did everyone else.  The sides were good, but not spectacular.  I make a better deviled egg.  My one complaint about BBQ joints is they don't spent as much time developing the side as the do the BBQ.  Why is that??? I tried a slice of chocolate chess pie and my wife tried the pecan pie.  Both were excellent as expected.

My hats off the Eric the pit master and the staff at Miss Myra's.  Overall Miss Myra's was a hit.  If in Birmingham again, I'll definitely try Miss Myra's again.

Five stars for Miss Myra's

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pasta Grill

Last night we joined friends for dinner at The Pasta Grill restaurant on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach. I have had a desire for some Italian food and it has been a while since I have visited The Pasta Grill. Seven years ago when I moved back, I took my mother and wife to the Pasta Grill. One of my favorite Italian dishes is Shrimp Fradiavilo. Sauteed shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce made from crushed tomatoes and served over linguine.  Our first visit was fine.  The service was good and the food held it's own.  Unfortunately last night was a disaster.

The only good thing last night was they have 16oz. draught beer for $1.00.  Our waiter came to get our drink orders and flew through the specials so fast I couldn't understand him or remember what he said.  We started with two appetizers, the Bruschetta Gorgonzola and the Calamari Puttanesca.  The Bruschetta was toasted with melted Gorgonzola and strips of red peppers on top.  I love blue cheese and Gorgonzola is one of my favorites.  The bruschetta had no taste of the briny, sharp, strong flavor that blue cheese,  particularly Gorgonzola is noted for.  It could have been Provolone as far as the flavor it had.  The Calamari Puttanesca was surprisingly good.  Large rings of Calamari in a light tomato, caper, and olive stew.  I know that Puttanesca normally has anchovy in it but this didn't seem like it had any.  All in all the Calamari were tender which can be a problem when cooking them.

I ordered the Shrimp Fradiavalo and my wife ordered the grilled Grouper with mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Our friends ordered a pizza and a Greek salad.  Our entrees came with our choice of two salads, a Caesar or a house salad.  We both ordered the Caesar salad.  The Caesar salads were fresh but the dressing missed the salty, flavor of anchovy that traditional Caesar dressing has.  It was bland at best.  Our friends large Greek salad looked good and they both enjoyed it. 

The entrees didn't help our expectations either.  The Fradiovolo looked good at presentation, but after my first bite it went down hill.  Mind you I like spicy food.  30 years in New Orleans has taught me to appreciate the sutle spiciness and heat, the use of peppers can bring to a dish.  This was overwhelming.  My forehead was sweating.  The shrimp were small and they had the tails still on them.  This made eating the dish difficult.  I had to remove the tail shells before I could fill my fork with shrimp and pasta.  If the pepper had been toned done and the shell removed, this dish would have been acceptable.  My wife's grilled Grouper had no seasoning and was bland to the taste buds.  The fillet sat on top off mashed potatoes that looked boxed and had the flavor of boxed as well.  On top of the grouper was a sprinkling of something sliced in a small matchstick and was white which added no color to the white fish and white mashed potatoes.  It tasted like turnip roots or parsnips.  Again this added nothing to the dish.  Our friends pizza looking overly cheesy.  Pizza has to have a balance of ingredients and cheese.  After eating at Joe Mamas last weekend, I won't be trying the pizza.

For my money if you want Italian in Panama City, go to Ferruci's. It is much better.  When we arrived the front room was full of patrons, but being the off season, I knew they were Snowbirds and they are like Mikey.  The'll eat anything.

No stars here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joe Mamas Pizza

As many of you know I love pizza.  Really good pizza.  Recently the wood fired pizza restaurant in Panama City closed and I have been longing for that unique flavor wood fired gives pizza.  Well I have found the place.  Joe Mamas in downtown Port St. Joe really hits the spot.  Recently my wife and I took the one hour drive to Port St. Joe to try it out.  Saturdays are a hecktic day for me, so I look forward to some down time.  The drive to Port St. Joe gave me time to unwind, listen to some music, and spend time with the wife.  Joe Mamas is located on Ried Ave. which is downtown Port St. Joe.  When we arrived I noticed this place looked great, not the pizza dive some may believe.  This place is modern and upscale in decor.  The staff is friendly and attentive.

The menu offers six craft beers on tap and something called a Beer Flight allows you to choose four beers that are served in 4 oz. glasses so you can sample several at one time.  I chose four from light pale to dark, from citrusy to dark and roasted.  As for pizza we tried two.  The first was a pepperoni, Italian sausage, olive trio, and onion.  They offer onion raw or caramelized.  Nice twist.  The other pizza was an Artichoke, Cappicola ham, freash garlic, and basil.  All in all the pizza was great.  Crispy, thin crust with toasted edges, fresh ingredients, and artfully made with just the right amount of ingredients.  The thing for me with pizza is that every bite should be different.  Back in my college days the more ingrediants the better.  We used to order a kitchen sink, thant's right Da Kithchen Sink, loaded with everything.  I have out grown that desire.  My only complaint of Joe Mamas is the freash basil.  Those leaves were huge and almost covered the entire pizza.  It was hard to eat.  A shifinade of basil would have been better.

I highly recommend Joe Mamas.  I will return and soon.

I give Joe Mamas four stars.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Uncle Ernies

I'm really, really, really, trying to like Uncle Ernies.  I just can't.  Uncle Ernies boast great veiws, and it delivers, but the food and service more than trump the sunsets.  Recently my friend Mike Healy had some friends in from Indianna.  We met this couple last year during their visit and we ate at Uncle Ernies then.  This time they got married here in P.C. and wanted to go back to Uncle Ernies.  My wife and I showed up a little early to get a table.  On the chaulk board was a tomato cream cheese soup, so we ordered some to share while we waited for our friends.  The soup was acitic and bitter.  Cooking tomatos should have sweetened them.  I couldn't tell if they were fresh or canned, but I think the cream cheese added to the bitterness.  After my friend arrived we ordered some beer and looked over the menu.  I chose the Grouper Imperial and the wife ordered the crab cakes.  Grouper Imperial is simple.  Grilled or sauted grouper topped with sauted crab meat, scallion, and parsley.  This version also had sauted shrimp surrounding the Imperial.  The Imperial was good, but the shrimp were not pink, and were soft.  Not under cooked soft, but as if they were farmed, frozen, shrimp.My wifes crab cakes were claw meat ( a real No No) and a lot of breading.  Come on guys.  Crab cakes are not that hard to make.  Acually the best dish on the table was the brides filet mignon topped with crabmeat.  The service was spotty.  Twice I had to go to the bar for more beer.  The waiter was a no show between the salad and entree arriving.  Not good.  Uncle Ernies has sooo much potential, but has been a real let down everytime I have gone.  Uncle Ernies get 1 star for atmosphere.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weekend in New Orleans

After 2 1/2 years, I decided to take some vacation time.  The wife and I discussed going to Atlanta, Austin, Smokey Mountains, or Charleston.  We settled on New Orleans.  The boys are there and so are Aven and Harley our grand daughters.  We choose a weekend that the New Orleans Seafood Festival was scheduled.  No other town or state throws a festival better than New Orleans.

We left Friday morning and headed to our first stop, Bruce Cafe.  Bruce Cafe is located at the intersection of State Hwy 20 and 81.  The Cafe is a small house known by locals as a place for good home cooking.  In the kitchen is an old lady cooking from scratch on a standard home range in cast iron cook ware.  Nothing better.  I always get the sweet potato pancakes.  These pancakes are light, fluffy and sweetened with the taste of sweet potatoes.  My bubble was burst when I asked for the recipe and the waitress told me I could get them on line.  They are Bruce's sweet potato pancake mix from Louisiana.  The Bruce family packages sweet potato products and are know for their quality.  That being said, I will still stop at Bruce Cafe for its homey atmosphere and delicious food.  The drive to New Orleans was easy having done that drive hundreds of times.  Next stop Adams Catfish.  I have traveled all over the south, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas (not the south) and Mississippi, and eaten fried catfish in all those states.  I have even eaten catfish in Indianola, Mississippi the home of Delta Pride Catfish.  No one, I mean, no one fries catfish to perfection like Adams  Adams is located in Belle Chasse, Louisiana on the westbank across the bridge from New Orleans.  My father in law had a Western Auto store there and I remember when Adams first opened.  It is a small restaurant that does one thing and one thing well.  It is the best catfish I have ever had.  I went for the six piece fillet plate with fries and coleslaw.  I left nothing on my plate.  I really do miss this place as it was one of my families regular stops with the in laws.  We met my sons, daughter in law, the grand babies, and some dear old friends.  We had a great time seeing Woody and Karen.  I was full of love and catfish.  The next day off to the seafood fest.

The festival, located downtown at Lafayette Square, provides plenty of grassy area to throw a party, and party we did.  The food represented by local restaurants, was plentiful and delicious.  We shared, crawfish and spinach served in a bread boat, crab cake remolaude salad, Cajun egg rolls, meat pie, seafood pie, and a New Orleans snowball to cool us down.  Also available was Drago's grilled oysters, softshell crab poboys, shrimp poboys, oyster poboys, seafood Penna pasta, and fried Alligator on a stick.  You know, Alligator taste exactly like, Alligator.  Music was provided by Amanda Shaw who is now about 18, but started when she was about 13 playing Cajun style fiddle.  She really got the crowd dancing.  Next was hometown artist Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers.  Kermit is a trumpet player in the New Orleans style and vibe.  He played several N.O. standards, as well as, adding his own N.O. style to other songs.  It was a long day, but well worth the trip.

Last night we visited an old favorite Cafe DiBlasi in Gretna where we once lived.  We have known Mario DiBlasi since we first got married 32 years ago.  We stumbled one night into his restaurant and have been going back ever since.  Simple Italian fare done well.  It's the first place I ever tasted Braciolle and I get it every time I go.  He also has the best fried eggplant ever.  It was heart warming to see the restaurant busy.  It's one of those neighborhood restaurants New Orleans is famous for.  Lori got the seafood pasta, Josh had the veal DiBlasi, veal topped with a lemon cream sauce, and Andrew had the steak Marsala, a beautiful beef fillet topped with Marsala sauce.  To me when you want comfort food, Italian works for me and Cafe DiBlasi is my go to place.

Sunday was a day of rest and time to spend with the girls.  We went swimming in the pool and relaxed in the room, anxiously awaiting or reservations at Restaurant August, John Besh's flagship property.  When we arrived my son Andrew knew the bartender.  Once seated we were presented a bottle of Champagne.  It's good to know Andrew in New Orleans.  Our waiter was Richard and as he described to nights offerings you feel like he could make a Michelin sound delicious.  We started with hot and cold appetizers.  Of course we had the gnocchi with blue crab and truffles, we also had an heirloom beet salad with quail eggs, mizuna, and black eye pea croutons.  We had the foie gras done three ways served on brioche toast points.  One version was topped with a muscadine jelly, one wrapped in a sponge cake topped with a champagne gellee, and the last done terrine style with oxtail mouse.  We also had the organic greens served with a pumpkin seed vinaigrette, with point Reyes blue cheese and pumpkin seed brittle.  Last but not least we had the crispy pork belly, with kimche cucumbers and grilled plums.  I could have walked out right then, but of course I didn't.  Main courses included, Red fish Courtbullion with the sauce was poured from a tea kettle at the table, Duck with smokes bone marrow, Softshell crab meniere a brown butter and lemon sauce, Snapper crusted an olive bread crumbs in with a peprine sauce topped with an roasted eggplant marmalade, and I got the crispy pork tenderloin and pork shoulder, the latter served with a ravioli on topped filled with a pork sauce, so when you cut the ravioli the sauce showered down over the pork.  Phenomenal.  I told Lori that we should go to Cafe D'Monde for bengnets and coffee, when our waiter told us the Chef had a special treat for us.  5 plates of sorbet with shortbread.   And if that wasn't enough gifts from the kitchen, Richard our waiter said the chef was sending out another treat.  We all ordered coffee and shared a plate of chocolate genache cakes, blackberry pasties, a raspberry square in the style of a firm jello, and pralines.  I guess I'll get the beignets some other time.  What a meal.  If you go to New Orleans, make August one of your stops.  Oh yea, ask for Richard, he was awesome.

On my way out of town tomorrow I'm going to the Gourmet Butcher Block, he is the guy who made John Madden those six legged Turduckens, for some specialties.  Also for lunch my beloved hot sausage po boy.  This has been a great vacation.  If you have never been to New Orleans, please go and enjoy what america's culinary city has to offer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Withdrawl



So last Sunday I drove to Atlanta for some training and the launch of the 21st. century Beetle.  I'm telling you this because Sunday is my day to cook.  I also lost my day off because I drove back Monday, so I am in withdrawal from the kitchen in a bad way.  Today I will make up for that.

Breakfast

I did a New Orleans take on the classic Eggs Benedict.  Last night I made Andouille, cheddar cheese grits that I let cool over night in a lined round cake pan.  First, I diced the Audouille and sauteed it in olive oil.  Next I added the water and stone ground, organic, white corn grits, and let them thicken.  Next I added the sharp cheddar cheese.  This morning I cut it into rounds, dredged in flour, egg wash, and Panko bread crumbs, and fried them golden brown.  Now how can that not taste good?  I topped the fried grit cakes with two poached eggs and covered that with a Tasso/lemon, Hollandaise.  The richness of the Hollandaise, the silky texture of the eggs, and the salty, smokey, crispy texture of the grit cakes, was incredible.  This will definitely be in the Sunday brunch rotation.  I also got to thinking about my shrimp and grits.  How about serving the shrimp and Andouille over fried, smoked Gouda, grit cakes?  That would be different.  OK, so now I have to prep for lunch.

Lunch

For lunch I'm grilling chicken wings and glazing them with an apricot, chipotle, sauce and serving with homemade ranch blue cheese dipping sauce.  First after washing the chicken wings I dried them, placed them in a bowl, and drizzled oil over them.  Next I seasoned them with my Bubbaque rub seasoning.  After about an hour in the frig, I grilled them over a low charcoal fire until crispy on the outside.  The glaze is made by melting a jar of Apricot preserves in a sauce pan and adding three chipotles in adobo sauce.  I removed them from the grill in a bowl and drizzled the glaze over them, tossing as I go.  Returning them to the grill I let the glaze set and served with the dipping sauce.  Maybe I can get the wife to serve me in some orange shorts and a tank top.  Na!!!!

Dinner

Tonight is steak night.  I'm going Tuscan style.  Large Porterhouse steaks marinated in garlic and rosemary and served with a lemon gremolata.  My side dish is fire roasted tomato Risotto.  First I cut some fresh rosemary from the garden and chop it with about four cloves of garlic.  Drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on the steaks a rub the rosemary/garlic mixture in to the steaks.  Place in a zip bag and let them sit in the frig for an hour.  Grill medium rare.  To make the gremolata, I steep garlic and lemon zest in olive oil on low for about 30 minutes.  This allows the garlic and lemon zest to release they're flavors without burning the garlic.  Last I add the juice of one lemon and some fresh parsley.  For the Risotto I use canned fire roasted tomatoes.  I start with sauteed shallots and garlic then toast the Aborio rice.  Slowly add warm chicken stock a cup at a time until the rice absorbs the liquid and releases it's starch.  Slowly add more stock until the Risotto is aldente (to the tooth).  Take it off the heat and add fresh grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.  Well I think I satisfied my cooking habit for a while.

The food scene in Panama City

I have been back in Panama City for 6 years now and maybe I'm spoiled or maybe my standards are too high, but I have a problem with most restaurants here.  Lets face it.  The restaurants at the beach have a philosophy of feeding the masses, and feeding them at a reasonable price.  Quality is not part of the equation.  I have two hard and fast rules that have been true of every buffet I have ever eaten at, which includes a $60.00 a person Champagne brunch in New Orleans and Shoney's breakfast bar.  1.  You will never eat your moneys worth period.  You can't eat $4.99 worth of grits and eggs or $60.00 worth of Champagne and prime rib.  Buffets make money.  2.  When you cook in bulk as apposed to cooking per order the quality looses.  I remember Capt Anderson's when it was small and the food was good.  Now they are feeding hoards of people and as I said, when you cook for the masses, and not per order, the quality will always suffer.  I don't like the noise and I don't like the food.  Angelo's used to be a place where you got a good steak (not a Ruth's Chris) but a decent steak, cooked over real wood.  Now with the size of the restaurant and the size of the crowds, I prefer Outback if I have to have steak out.  Montego Bay's "fresh catch of the day" is Talapia.  Really?  Really?  I guess we haven't shaken that redneck riviera persona yet, despite those new high rise Miami style condos.  The food here has no personality, no style.  The French, Spanish, Native Americans, and the African Slaves have contributed to Cajun and Creole cuisine.  The Spanish inhabited Florida, but when you think of our food it is influenced more by the country cooks of Alabama and Georgia.  You have to travel up hwy 30A to find any inspired food.  In November I ate at Fish out of Water.  What a refreshing experience.  Incredible food prepared by hands who care and a chef with a vision.  Our back yard is the Gulf of Mexico for Gods sake.  We have access to fresh seafood and produce from local growers.  In the right hands this could be awesome.  I guess nobody cares.  Certainly not the tourist.  My mother has had a house on the beach since 1966.  I can't tell you how many times I have had to clean up the beach after a busy day.  I can't tell you how many times people have relieved themselves under her house, used her shower, sat on her deck at night thinking no one was home, or parked in her driveway.  Really?  Do they do that in your hometown?  If you go on the web site Urbanspoon.com the number one fine dinning restaurant in Panama City is Pineapple Wiley's.  Really?  Really?????  Is that where we are.  We will never get our beach back thanks to the money hungry commissioners.  Unless we demand better, we will never get better.  If gambling is brought here we will see more high rise buildings and long buffets.  I shutter at the thought.  Come on people, wake up.