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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The CELLAR - Fine Dining in Red Hook!

Friday night, Jackie and I went out to eat...  What an unexpected gem!

The Cellar restaurant in Red Hook is fine dining at it's finest.  The look, decor and menu would be right at home in any big city.  It was a little refreshing to dine out without Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley dominating the juke box.

We started with an amuse bouche (free food)... just a little something, a hint of things to come... This is a short rib risotto.  The menu offers a new chef's preparation risotto that changes daily.

I am a sucker for a cheese tray.  Sadly, I do not recall the cheeses, but there was an excellent goat cheese, as well as two other soft cheeses that stood out.  The fabulous presentation included some fresh made crackers, fruit and nuts.  This was a real bargain at only $15.  Cheese, well, quality cheeses can get very expensive on the island.

My main course was a grilled mahi over a potato purree.  From this angle, you can't see the relish inside the pepper, but the entire presentation was wonderful.

Jackie had a beef Wellington over sautéed spinach.  Caramelized onions and a peppercorn cream sauce.  After we each finished half, we exchanged plates.  Each meal was special, tasty and most unexpected!

Like I said, after a couple months of cheeseburgers in paradise and local faire, this restaurant caters to locals who care about what they eat.  It was a spectacular evening.  If you are only visiting for the day, it may not meet your expectations for island dining.  But, if you want something special, I could not recommend the Cellar more.

All the details are there... including the wine bottle bathroom faucet (got to get me one of these!).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE

No, it's not your grandmother's and it isn't the commercial mix of herbs either.

BUT, it is a handy spice mix to have around.  It is very fragrant.  Open the sealed bag and your kitchen smells of a spring garden!

I use this almost anytime a recipe calls for a mixture of two or three herb spices.  It tastes great on a focaccia bread, add to oil and balsamic for a great bread dipping oil.  I add to fish and chicken for a light taste accent. It is just great to have sitting around... ready

5 TBS dried Tarragon
5 TBS dried Oregano
5 TBS dried Dill
5 TBS dried Thyme
5 TBS dried Rosemary
5 TBS dried Garlic Flakes
2 TBS Sea Salt
2 TBS Fresh ground Pepper
1 TBS dried Lemon Zest

Store in a sealed plastic ziplock bag, airtight in a dark drawer, and stays fresh for 6 months or more.

Very useful

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sesame Seed / Kosher Salt ... Rub / Garnish recipe

I seem to be using quite a bit of this rub here.  Could not be easier to make...

1/4 cup White Sesame Seeds
1/4 cup Black Sesame Seeds
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
2 TBS Garlic Flakes

Mix well.  It is best to use as a coating or garnish prior to cooking.  the heat will toast the sesame seeds, increasing their flavor.

Like on this loaf of bread...

It is a great seasoning accent for Chicken and fish...

And especially Vegetables.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cuzzin's Caribbean Restaurant & Bar

Here is something rare... A business without a website.  But, when you enter Cuzzin's, you are taken back to another time anyway...

Located in a former livery stable and cook shack, the historic building is at the edge of Charlotte Amalie's shopping area.  Just four blocks in from the shoreline, and a block from the jewelry and T-shirt shops that attract the cruise ships, Cuzzin's is a great stop for lunch.

Air conditioned (a BIG plus in the afternoon), with an authentic Caribbean menu, decorated nicely; you will enjoy all the amenities that separates Cuzzin's from the tourist bars that surround the shops.

The building has been wonderfully restored, with many modern accents.  Just enough history to make the building feel authentic, and just enough accents to make the building beautiful, functional and comfortable... Did I mention air conditioned?  Almost no restaurants are.

The pace is relaxed.  The bar is well stocked, and the drink menu is old school authentic with just enough colorful rum drinks to make you want to slow the pace even more.

But the star of the show is the authentic Caribbean style menu...

Our party enjoyed Conch Fritters, fried Plantains, Sweet Potato fluff, Creole stuffed Lobster, and their specialty... a Cuzzin Nemo — a melange of shrimp, lobster, conch and scallops in sauce over pasta.

I had to give the BBQ Ribs a try... they even added some excellent BBQ Chicken Thighs.

Charlotte Amalie is the shopping district.  It is also the starting point for the cruise ship tourists.  There are plenty of open air fun bar type places.  Cuzzin's is a step above, excellent local flavor, and local cuisine.  Historic setting and AIR CONDITIONED.  If you are planning a day of shopping instead of beach hopping, or if you take one of the couple hour island tours in the morning... Cuzzin's is an excellent place to stop for lunch and to relax before hopping back on the boats!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Duffy's Love Shack... Red Hook - My neighborhood bar

Is there anything more boring than looking at someone else's vacation pictures?

Like I said yesterday, this week we are entertaining our first guests.  My wife's favorite aunt and her cousin (David and Becky shown above) are giving us locals a chance to be tourists for the week.  Taking the organized island tours, watching them haggle with the vendors (and then we swoop in and get a local's discount for them), snorkeling and sunning have been on my agenda all week... Almost no cooking, and what little cooking I am doing, I am repeating recipes.  So, content for the blog has been light.

BUT, no trip to our corner of paradise would be complete without a stop at my favorite dive bar and grill... Duffy's Love Shack!

Literally, it is located in a parking lot  in the Red Hook area of St Thomas (closest "town" to us).  It is our go to bar for a fun time.

Just so you don't think I have forgotten that this is a food blog...

Blackened chicken nachos (above)... A little of everything (including a few SURPRISE hot peppers!

Some kind of crappy health food salad that my cousin-in-law loved (how healthy can it be with a half cup of sour cream and a cup of guacamole on it???)

Personally... Their Blue Cheese burgers are the best on the island!  A little bacon (of course bacon!) just to set the mood!

But I guess when you get down to it... This is what sets the mood...

The infamous DUFFY's SHARK TANK... 64 ounces of Booze (and a little fruit juice)!   Served in a fish bowl with straws for everybody!

And just in case there was not enough booze in the Fish Tank, Jackie wanted her signature, Lime in the Coconut (which I have spent many nights trying to replicate, but always seem to be just a shade short)...

Have you ever been charged $9 for a strawberry daiquiri?  At least when you order a $9 daiquiri at Duffy's, they let you keep the parrot glass (Jackie's Cousin's Daughter not included)...

Even the favorite aunt gets to go home with a logo beer mug when she ordered a virgin daiquiri...

Yes, they made fun of me for a bit for photographing the food... Then the fancy glasses arrived and everyone was photographing the food...

Even people from other tables were photographing our shark tank...

That is a shark inside our drink...

When in St Thomas, don't miss Duffy's Love Shack... Best dive bar set up in a parking lot I have ever been to!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mediterranean Herb Pizza Dough - and cheater pizza sticks

Pizza dough... fast and easy...

3 1/2 cups Flour (divided)
1 package fast rising Yeast
1 cup warm Water
2 TBS Garlic infused Olive Oil
2 TBS Mediterranean Herb Rub (see yesterday's post for that mixture... Click HERE)

In a large bowl, combine the warm water and yeast... mix well

add the other ingredients and mix very well.

Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth... about 10 minutes by hand, 5 minutes in a kitchenaid.

Cover and allow to rise for 2 hours.

And use as pizza dough... it takes about 20 minutes to cook the dough through.

But I take just a bit, and make some BBQ cheater pizza sticks...

Lay out some flat sticks of dough...

add a layer of BBQ sauce, and a bit of Asiago Cheese...

Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes...

Makes a great appetizer!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Another RUB - Mediterranean Herb Mix

Think Herbes de Provence...

This is very useful.  I make a batch of this up once every few months.  It is handy to add a little extra something to lots of dishes.  Once you make it up (takes 5 minutes), you can store a bag in the fridge and always have a fresh teaspoon to add to lots of things... Like pizza dough!

2 tablespoons each -
lemon pepper
garlic flakes

Notice, another low/no salt mix... Too much salt in my diet, so i make my own mixes.  Fast, easy and cheap!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garlic/Onion/Chipotle Moomie Buns... I did it My Way!

Since this is to be a journal of my cooking and dining experiences while living in ST Thomas, I would be remiss if I didn't include what I do to the world famous Moomie Rolls.

If you have never heard of moomie rolls, go ahead and google them.  over a quarter of a million sites talk about this recipe... And for very good reason.  It is my go to recipe, at least once a week.  Cost wise, I am sure it is less than $1.50 (even at island shopping prices) to make eight hamburger buns.  Or in this case... Sausage rolls...

But, on the island, no bread machine (if you use the dough setting on a bread machine, you can whip these off with almost no effort, no mess)...  But alas, no machine here on the island.  Here is the original recipe, so easy with a bread machine...

� 1 c water 
� 2 tbsp butter or margarine
� 1 egg
� 3 1/4 c. flour
� 1/4 c. sugar
� 1 tsp salt
� 3 tsp instant yeast

� Place all ingredients in your bread machine. Select dough. Allow to run cycle.
 � Dump out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces. With each piece, slap into a bun shape. Usually 4 or 5 slaps will do it. Place on greased cookie sheets or your bun pans, cover; rise about 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes til golden. Cool on wire racks. 

And another BUT, no Kitchenaid mixer.  So, it's old school for me once a week... Mix by hand...

And get creative... I added 1 tsp of Garlic Powder
and 1 tsp Onion Powder
and 1 tsp Chipotle Powder

This is such a beautiful recipe.  Form any way you like.  I had just bought a batch of Johnsonville Brats, so I made split top sausage rolls.  Had enough dough left over to make a few "regular" buns.

I made these in the morning, had a left over Blackened pork chop sandwich for lunch...

And at night, I had mango beer braised brats that you will have to go to my "regular" site to read all about it! I posted about those today!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blackened Tilapia

Remember yesterday???  Cajun Rub (blackening seasoning)... We made a triple batch.  Now we start using it...

Tilapia is a wonderful fish ... Taste and cheap!  Every store from Aldi to Kroger to the cheap place in St Thomas sells big bags of single fillets, individually sealed and perfect for a quick lunch...

And this recipe is quick... Freezer to thawed in the microwave to 4 minutes in the frying pan and served... total time, just a shade over 5 minutes...

While the fish is thawing ... BTW, if you plan ahead, instead of microwave, put a fillet (still sealed in plastic) in a pan of warm water for 30 minutes and it will be thawed.  OK, back to the how to... While the fish is thawing in the microwave, take an aluminum non stick pan and melt one TBS butter for each fillet you are making...

Add one rounded teaspoon of the rub to the butter and get hot hot hot... You will start to see whisps of smoke coming from the spices.  At that stage, turn the heat down just a tinge.  You like the smoke, but you do not want to burn...

Add the fish fillet.  2 minutes, and you continue to see the smoke...

Flip the fish and 2 minutes on the other side...

Filled with flavor, cooked perfect, flaky, not over cooked...

I love blackened fish.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Make your own rub - CAJUN RUB (Blackening Seasonings)

Earlier this week, I got my care package from home (Kansas City).  25 cups of various spices!!!  Click HERE to see what I got.

Now it's time to start doing something with all those beautiful spices...

No, these pork chops are not burnt... They are blackened.  Sadly, many restaurants have confused blackening seasonings with blackened.  Blackened is a cooking process, made popular by Paul Prudhomme! It is a way to infuse and caramelize spices with butter and cook meat.  The collection of spices used would be more accurately called Cajun spiced if you do not use a flash frying method followed by gentle baking... But I digress...

Soon, I will blog the recipe and technique for making these blackened chops, but today... just the rub.

A Cajun rub is very versatile.  Not as hot as it's reputation would suggest, but certainly enough to know you are eating something special.  I prefer to make my own, especially without salt.  There is plenty of salt in our everyday food.  Highly overrated (in my opinion), and more often than not, not needed.  And especially if you are trying to cut back on dangerous quantities of salt.

You can use this rub to spice up just about any cut of meat, and sprinkling some on grilled fruit and veggies makes a special dish really pop.

here's what I did...

1/4 cups Sweet Paprika
1 TBS Garlic Flakes
1 TBS Onion Flakes
1 TBS Dried Thyme Leaves
1 TBS Dired Oregano
1 TBS Black Pepper
2 TBS White Pepper
2 tsp (TEAspoons) Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Ground Bay Leaves

Go ahead, mix by hand...

Did you pay attention to the quantities?  Biggest quantity was Sweet Paprika (yes, paprika is a pepper, but not a hot hot pepper).  There is a bite to this, it is Cajun after all, but not the killer quantities that people expect.

Isn't this pretty???  I tripled the recipe, as I use this mix a lot.  From eggs in the morning, to grilled pineapple to (of course) meat... Cajun spice is very versatile.

The spices stay fresh for about 6 months.  I store in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator (cool dark place, assuming that little light bulb does indeed go out when the door is closed... Who really knows for sure???).  Mark the bag and date it.

And stay tuned to see my instructions for blackening pork chops and fish... It really is impressive!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


St John Island (one of the "other" US Virgin Islands (the pretty one, almost the entire island is a national park)) is home to a very charming shopping district, just to the right of the ferry exit.  Mostly locally produced artwork and beachwear shops, a few high end jewelry stores.

And this beautiful restaurant!

THE WATERFRONT BISTRO (click HERE to get to their home page) is among the most picturesque places to eat in the entire US Virgin Islands.  Located bay side, with a view of the beach and Caribbean Sea, every table is a wonderful spot to enjoy your break from the world.

Jackie and I had a snorkeling session planned, but wanted to grab a quick bite before heading to our beach.  Their VERY reasonably priced lunch menu was a fun read.  It was foodie heaven to see such a wide selection of starters and soups (chilled tomato saffron with cucumbers and creme fraiche), specialties of the restaurant (Grilled ham and cheese, with gruyere cheese and an egg battered brioche)... But Jackie and I chose to split a blackened chicken breast sandwich with a garlic Aioli...

Only $9 (a bargain on the islands, where just about any burger is over $10, let alone with the beautiful view included free).  It was cooked exactly right, very large (we were splitting to eat a light meal prior to our snorkeling trip).  It was a great meal.

We had planned a quickie meal so we would have time to enjoy the island.  Instead, we stayed for a second adult beverage, enjoyed the top quality food and the view.  It was a great start to our day in St John.

the ST JOHN WATERFRONT BISTRO is certainly on our "must do" list for dinner one night.  The view includes one of the best sunsets on the islands.  Plus their dinner time menu shows the same amount of care as their lunch menu.  Looking for a burger joint... sure, they have that.  Looking for a memorable experience... They toss that in as well.

We loved everything about the Waterfront Bistro.  If you are planning a trip to St John, include this place as one of your "must see"!