Posted in Thai Basil with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by ballymote

 I have been asked many times the question “do you like spicy foods?” I always answer in the affirmative. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of “burn your tongue” nor am I the guy who wanders the aisles of the food market searching for the hottest sauce but, overall, I like a little “heat” now and then. Saturday evening, at Thai Basil in Collingswood, NJ, I was forced to rethink my position on the whole spicy food thing. Six of us enjoyed a rare round table at this Haddon Avenue restaurant.

 I had a terrific bottle of wine with me this night. The 2009 Bedrock Heirloom, Sonoma Valley. This one is a zinfandel blend with 19 different varieties of red grapes made by Morgan Twain Peterson, a true artist when it comes to creating wines (he’s been doing it since he was five years old). Great nose on this one, soft lavender scents, red licorice and peppery spices and then just an elegant mouthfeel and a long seductive finish. I was actually surprised to find that Thai Basil has some pretty nice wine stems. Maybe, the best I have seen in all of Collingswood.

 This was Jerry’s appetizer, and it probably should have been mine, the Bangkok Shu Mai (like I’m telling you something you don’t already know). Steamed dumplings filled with minced crab meat, chicken and jicama served with chili garlic soy sauce. I had a piece of one and it was excellent.

 Carol and Joe split the Thai Basil Treasure, an Asian version of the “Sampler”. The dish contained some Chicken Satay (another item that I could have safely chosen), vegetable spring rolls, several of the aforementioned Bangkok Shu Mai and some Thai Chicken Curry puffs. I have absolutely nothing good to say about the chicken curry puffs, suffice to say that Joe told me to feel free to have as many of them as I wished. The appetizer was served with three different dipping sauces, none of which helped redeem the chicken curry puffs.

 This innocent looking plate on the left was my choice to start off my meal. It’s the Crying Tiger. It could also be called, the Crying Blogger. I just went to look it up again on the menu. I had been totally convinced that it had two “red peppers” next to it on the menu which I took to mean, “a little hotter than normal”. I now find it has only ONE red pepper which must make me the biggest “wuss” in all of South Jersey. It is described as Northeast Thailand grilled steak, tossed with shallot, bell pepper, ground roasted sticky rice in a spicy lime dressing. I saw no sticky rice and unfortunately for me, the dressing not only cleared my sinuses and resulted in my draining several water glasses, but killed the taste of my wine for a good part of the evening. I was proud of myself though as I refrained from asking my dinner companions to dial 911.

 My entree selection, was the Chicken in Drunken Noodles which I’m sure most of you know as the Pad Key Maow. Once the paramedics doused the flame in my mouth I was ready to attack this slightly tamer version of a culinary blast furnace. This one was actually pretty good. Wok-fried flat noodles, Julienne bell peppers, onion, carrot and sweet fresh basil in a roasted chili paste. This one, which was far tamer than the Crying Tiger actually has TWO “red peppers” on the menu. I really think a Congressional investigation is called for to sort out the accuracy of the Thai Basil menu.

 Jerry ordered the Thai Basil Tom Yom Noodle Soup with chicken, hold the cilantro, from the Meal In A Pot section of the menu. This was also a two “red pepper” dish but he had no trouble with it and enjoyed his entire meal. I took two pictures of Sue’s dish but neither one is good enough to post.

 My wife, Kathy, Joe and Carol each had some variation of Chicken Fried Rice. I believe Carol had pineapple in hers. She thought the dish was a bit dry and our server brought some soy sauce to give it a little wetness.

                  We all had just enough room for dessert and we chose either ice cream (Kathy had the Ginger flavor, I had the Coconut and Carol had the Green Tea). Jerry went with the Coconut Pudding and I thought they were all a nice ending to the meal. Please don’t judge Thai Basil by my review. Those of you who are a bit tougher than I may have no problem with the “minor heat” that had tears running from my nose and my eyes. Beware the CRYING TIGER!



Posted in Florida Trip Photos, Uncategorized with tags on March 6, 2012 by ballymote















Posted in Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2012 by ballymote

 After stuffing our tummies with the cheeseburgers at Le Tub, none of us were particularly ready for a big dinner. We did know, however, that we could NOT leave Florida without a visit to Morris Udell’s famous Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor. We arrived to find a line of about 30 folks waiting outside to be seated. We took our place in the queue and had no complaints as we considered which of the tempting ice cream creations we would devour once inside. Jaxson’s has been a South Florida landmark for over 50 years and has been featured on the Food Network and Good Morning America.

 The eclectic decor inside features license plates from all over the country, many sent from customers to help Morris Udell build his collection. As you can imagine, Jaxson’s is a noisy place with kids clamoring for their favorites but that’s part of the fun. It doesn’t appear that much has changed about the place since it first opened. Servers in the red and white uniforms are outgoing and ready to please. The only real problem with the place is deciding which of many ice cream favorites to choose.

 After some serious deliberation I went with the Half and Half. This yummy concoction consisted of two humongous scoops of any of their 30 some flavors (boring me chose vanilla for BOTH. The ice cream is then topped on one half with hot fudge and on the other half with creamy butterscotch, thus the Half & Half. Added to this were some toasted almonds, mountains of fresh whipped cream, some jimmies and a cherry. I am proud to say that unlike several in our group of ice cream lovers, I finished the entire thing. Here are some pictures of what some of our friends enjoyed.



  a simple Root Beer Float as only Jaxson’s can make it.









  Joe B’s Hot Fudge Banana Split. Topped with all kinds of good stuff and packing extra helpings of gooey hot fudge.








   I have to stop with the ice cream pictures cause I am just torturing myself. I want one of each NOW! Suffice to say if you ever find yourself within 50 miles of Jaxson’s you have got to save some after dinner stomach room and make it a point to try one of the many sinfully delicious creations being served each evening.







 This guy was waiting outside of Jaxson’s to say “goodbye” to us. He actually stole a dollar out of my hand and quickly stuck it in his pocket. If he does that 10 times he will have enough for a Jaxson’s Hot Fudge Sundae!!








Posted in Le Tub Saloon (Florida) with tags , , , on March 4, 2012 by ballymote

  Oprah Winfrey and GQ Magazine have declared the burger served at this Hollywood, Florida hole in the wall the BEST in America. Needless to say, we couldn’t be in close proximity to such an establishment without stopping by to see for ourselves. I had read all the reviews prior to arriving and although many seemed to echo the accolades the burger had received, most used their review space to complain about the ungodly wait for this 13 ounce slab of meaty heaven to arrive after the order had been placed. Armed with this knowledge we were ready when our waitress informed us after placing our order that it “would be awhile ” before our burger arrived. I made the mistake of asking her if our order of large fries would come first or with the burger, she curtly replied, “I don’t know”.

 Waiting isn’t such a bad thing. We had our drinks, our seats were out on the deck directly on the Inter-Coastal Waterway and we were more than able to entertain ourselves during our almost 2 hour wait for our Le Tub Burger. One thing you do have to be very aware of while drinking and conversing is the constant bombardment of birds and gulls as they make their way in close proximity to your face. Joe B. actually had one of his fries snatched from his hand just as it was about to enter his mouth. It happened in the blink of an eye. Another one our party had so many bird droppings on his shirt he had to go to the bathroom to make repairs. There is no extra charge for this aviary assault.

 Eventually though, your much-anticipated burger arrives. Served with simple trimmings of lettuce, onion and tomato on a soft poppy-seed bun there is little doubt this juicy creation is one tasty burger. Is it the best in America? I’d have to refrain from making that call simple because I don’t feel I have had enough of the contenders to make that choice. It is most certainly in the running. Let’s leave it at that. The fries at Le Tub are also excellent. Big, thick and meaty steak fries that are served hot from the fryer.

 One of the main reasons the burger takes so long to arrive is the size of the grill. It reportedly fits 31 burgers and with over 100 folks awaiting their order at any given time you can see that being in that third shift of burgers will have you salivating at your table for some time. It’s fun to hear the patrons voicing their complaints to the poor servers who have to listen constantly to “what’s taking so long for my burger?” They are certainly unphased by all of it and the scene is so chaotic that it almost appears to be a pre-arranged scene and that each of them are just acting out a role they have perfected with each day of employment at Le Tub.

 A slice of key lime pie topped off the meal. If you are ever in the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood area you have to pay a visit to this South Florida landmark. It’s unique and it’s fun.


Posted in Cap's Place (Florida) with tags , , on March 3, 2012 by ballymote

 Cap’s Place in Lighthouse Point, Florida has some definite history attached to it. First of all, one doesn’t simply wander into this historic restaurant. You don’t drive by, decide it looks interesting and stroll in for a meal. It’s not because reservations are difficult, it’s because you would never find the place. In order to dine at Cap’s Place you must drive through some very ritzy neighborhoods, make all of the correct turns and eventually end up at a small dock where you wait for the little boat that will bring you to the restaurant.

 Here is our crew sailing the on the “high seas” in search of food. After a voyage of about 5 minutes we arrived at Cap’s Place. We were not the first diners to discover this restaurant which has been here since the 1920’s. Some of the hungry patrons who have dined here before us are, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, the Rockefeller’s, Joe Namath, George Harrison, Al Capone and just the Saturday before us, ex-President Bill Clinton. As you might imagine, they weren’t awed to discover that the Chief Blogger from South Jersey Wine and Dine was “in the house”. 

 This is Cap Knight, founder of Cap’s Place. In the 20’s it was not just a place to grab some food and drink, it was one of the country’s busiest casinos. It continued to lure gamblers until 1951, including frequent visits from Meyer Lansky who would stop by to collect his “percentage”. In that year, the government cracked down on illegal gambling and the place, from that point on, had to make a living as a bar and restaurant. 

 Enough about history, let’s talk about the food.

 My appetizer selection was the Cajun Fish Bites. These were tender chunks of fresh mahi mahi in a seasoned cajun sauce with some house slaw. I didn’t care for the slaw but the fish was outstanding. I squeezed a little lemon over the tasty morsels and savored each delicious bite.

 For my choice of entree I wavered between the bacon wrapped Scallops and the Crab Cakes before finally deciding on the latter. I absolutely made the right choice. These may have been two of the best crab cakes I have ever had. There was virtually no filler in these all crab all the time cakes and the flavor was spectacular. The dish came with veggies and mashed potatoes and I totally enjoyed all of it including the seasoned dip for the crab cakes.

 My wife had the scallops and she gave me one. It was very good but could not top the crab cakes. Others at our table chose a Rib Eye Steak, a Florida Grouper and a Broiled Seafood Platter. We never did see any celebrities during the course of our meal but hey, you can’t have everything. We enjoyed our evening at Cap’s Place.

SEAWATCH on the ocean (FLORIDA)

Posted in Seawatch on the ocean (Florida) with tags , , , , on March 2, 2012 by ballymote

 Friday night found us in Ft. Lauderdale at Seawatch. The magic of the place being on the ocean was lost on our group as the darkness hid all views of the water. We arrived about 7:30 and were a party of 10. Four of us arrived several minutes before the rest of the group and had some drinks at the upstairs bar. When everyone else arrived we were seated downstairs. The menu had plenty of tempting choices and I decided to try one of the local dishes as an appetizer.

  The Bahamian Conch Fritters were four nice-sized meaty and flavorful. They came with two complimentary dipping sauces.


 This, by the way, is a conch shell. Conch Fritters are made with the meat found inside these shellfish. It is mixed with other ingredients such as onions, peppers, cloves, celery, assorted spices and a dash of cayenne pepper to create delicious appetizers.

  My entree was the Blackened Mahi Mahi, served with Cajun spices, drawn butter, roasted cippollini onions and grilled peppers. It also came with a side of mashed potatoes. The fish was tender, flaky and full of great Cajun flavors. The potatoes were the perfect partner and the entire meal was delicious. I was thrilled with my choice and truly felt I had made the right selection.

 I didn’t get any pictures of other meals as it would have been to difficult to chronicle 10 dinners. Afterall, I am on vacation here! I do know that Joe B. was not thrilled with his Florida Grouper and Joe S. had to send his steak back because it wasn’t cooked to his liking. he was also not a fan of the french fries (thin ones, he likes them thick and meaty).

I think there are enough choices to make Seawatch a good choice for dinner in Ft. Lauderdale and as I mentioned before, my meal was excellent.


Posted in Mama Mia's, Mama Mia's (Florida), Uncategorized with tags , , on March 1, 2012 by ballymote

 Located at 1818 S. Young Circle in the heart of “downtown” Hollywood, Mama Mia’s was the site of our first Florida dinner last Thursday evening. We took advantage of their valet parking and our party of eight were quickly seated in what could only be described as a typical Mediterranean bistro.

 We looked over the menu while enjoying the warm garlic rolls which Joe B. found “irresistible”. Fool that I am, I was searching in vain for the butter when Joe assured me that adding anything to this bread would be a crime. He was right, they were perfect just as they were.

 Our server for the evening, Victoria,  filled our water glasses, brought us our beverage orders and described the specials for the evening. We took some time thinking about our choices as we continued to enjoy the tempting garlic rolls.

  Try as I might, I found no way to avoid ordering the Jumbo Meatball as an appetizer. It came with a tasty marinara sauce and a dollop of ricotta cheese. As the only non-Italian couple in the group, I felt honored that many at the table thought the meatball was delicious. Since their mothers and grandmothers cooked meatballs that few could hope to duplicate, our friends are always apprehensive about ordering meatballs in a restaurant. This one was massive enough to serve as a small meal and had tons of rich, meaty flavor.

 For my entree I went with the not very adventurous, Chicken Parmigiano served with a nice dish of cappelini. The food was fine, nothing exceptional and because there was no place or time to take some home for later I finished what was a healthy  sized portion.

 Others at our table opted for one of Mama Mia’s specials of the evening. This was the Seafood Louisiana consisting of jumbo lump crab and shrimp sauteed in a creamy lobster sauce and served over fettucine. I heard no complaints from those who dived into this tasty seafood treat.


 The entree that we had heard about in advance and had garnered a certain notoriety was the Veal Parmigiano. We were warned that the portion was massive. This didn’t stop Joe S. who ordered it and we found it a bit surprising that it was served with the bone in. Few of us had ever experienced veal parm served in this manner. Try as he might, Joe was unable to finish the gargantuan offering and actually did take a sizeable portion back to his condo. Unfortunately, I don’t think he ever found the time to finish it and it was probably destined to end up in the garbage.

 Victoria offered to take a photo of our group and we were dumb enough to oblige. I’m the good-looking guy in the picture.

 Mama Mia was a good place to begin the first of four nice dinners.