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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!