Fighting Funny Food Phobias

Fighting Funny Food Phobias

Some of you may know that I spent a huge chunk of my working life as a server. At Disney, and many other places. Some well-known chains, some Mom-and-Pops, a pretty good cross section of restaurants.

And that’s one reason why I enjoy doing restaurant reviews. I love to cook and bake; being a foodie is a big part of who I am.

Now, sanitation is one of those things that everyone who cooks–whether at home or in a 5-Star establishment–thinks about.

When you’re in the business, a big part of your training is in safe food handling procedures.

And that’s as it should be. I’m not trying to say differently.

But some of our attitudes about food, how we prepare it and our relationship to it have become just a bit… shall we say, just a bit overly-sanitized.

Let me flesh that out a little: our ways of preparing and even thinking about food are a huge departure from how humans have done it for all but a tiny fraction of the time we’ve been on the planet.

Two brief anecdotes about my experiences with food and how we prepare it will help shed some light on this.

Unless you’re reading my blog for the first time, you know I love camping and just about anything else one can do outdoors for fun.

And I’m happiest when I’m cooking on my propane, two-burner camp stove. It’s just way too much fun.

This may seem funny, but you should have seen how hard I tried in some of my first outings in the great outdoors to translate restaurant “best practices” into the camping environment.

Yeah, it was pretty funny!

It wasn’t too long into the process that I gave up trying to always keep something more-or-less sanitized–even if just paper towels–between my cooking utensils and cutlery and those not-sanitized picnic tables.

It feels really good now to just cook my stuff, tongs and utensils, ladles and pot stickers, lids, grits and bacon bits, all flying around and coming to rest God-knows-where until the good stuff eventually comes to rest in my belly! Where it should go!

Even I am not OCD enough to prepare my food on one of those glorious forays into the Mom Nature’s back yard the way we do in a decent eatery or even in my kitchen, for that matter.

Last little story about this and how my awareness has evolved: I opened a container of brown rice the other day and found that some moth-like pests had paid a visit between the time I emptied a bag of rice into the jar and that moment I opened it up. And, yes, that had been a long time.

Not sure if they were able to get in there–it was a very cheap container–or if they were larvae who “came of age”. Rice and grits and pantry pests! It’s a thing.

Don’t know. Didn’t have to know.

The “me” before my camp cook’s epiphany would have gone “yuck!” and then summarily thrown out the rice.

The “me” after illumination picked out the corpses of the moths or weevils or whatever the hell they were, cooked the rice and enjoyed the hell out of it.

A little onion, garlic, cumin and weevil protein–loves me some o’ dat!

So I’ve tried to get past some of my silly food phobias and feel like I’ve come a long way.

But I’m thinking that if you go back just a bit further–in terms of human evolution, I mean–our forebears would have handled the bug-in-the-rice thing a bit differently.

No doubt in my mind, that they would merely have picked out the bugs and eaten them! 

Dead or alive!

I guess at the end of the day, I’m actually a pretty modern camper!

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Basile

 

 

El Leoncito in Titusville

El Leoncito in Titusville

El Leoncito Mexican and Cuban Restaurant

If you’re in Brevard County and you’re in the mood for Mexican, you can’t do any better than El Leoncito Mexican and Cuban Restaurant.

I stopped in one Fall afternoon last year; it was my second visit. And I thoroughly enjoyed my late lunch.

I arrived in the awesome mid-afternoon time when you’re likely to have little-to-no competition for the server’s attention. The server and the chef, more to the point. I was expecting good things from that visit, and I was not disappointed.

I ordered the Arroz con Pollo, thinking that a Chicken and Rice dish is bound to be a pretty darn good lunch in any kind of eatery, anywhere.

And, yes, their take on this favorite made an excellent and very filling lunch. It came with the customary chips and freshly-made salsa, as one would expect.

My service was very good. Brittany was attentive but didn’t overplay the role, so to speak, as can happen when a server has only one or two tables in those in between times of a shift.

The moderate prices and the colorful, one-off vibe there added to my very favorable impression.

I recommend El Leoncito without hesitation. If you’re anywhere around in the Titusville/Spacecoast area, stop and pay them a visit!

El Leoncito can be found at 4280 S. Washington in Titusville, Florida.

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

Only One Breakfast Choice Today

Only One Breakfast Choice Today

I found out last night that today is National Pancake Day. So, of course, this puppy was going to have pancakes for breakfast no matter what!

As it turned out, I had no milk in the house, so I ended up at my favorite eatery in the whole wide world. That would be Cracker Barrel.

Here’s the disclosure: I do work there, so you might think that’s what’s behind my glowing recommendation.

But that’s not the case. I did not come to love it after working there; I work there because I loved the place.

I love everything about it. The food, the distinctive Southern theme and ambience. The consistently excellent service. Love it all.

And the yummy pancakes are a part of that!

Now, it doesn’t matter at all how or where you celebrate National Pancake Day! I care not one whit about that. IHOP and Perkins would also be excellent choices today!

But you must shove pancake matter and some awesome flavor of syrup into your pie hole before the clock strikes midnight!

You simply must!

And if you’re not sure where you want to get in on the fun, remember Cracker Barrel is open until 10 PM and we serve breakfast right up until we turn off the grill!

 

 

Full of pancakes and contentment, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Additional note: this blog posting is based on my own impressions and opinions of a well-known and well-loved American restaurant chain and is not any kind of official communication from CBOCS Inc.

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

Searching for the Meaning of Life

Searching for the Meaning of Life

This brief blog entry simply cannot be appreciated or understood unless you’ve cast your eyes over the accompanying photo. And, yes, I took the pic myself. No issues about ownership, copyrights or any such thing. And, if you must know, this humble sign adorns the north wall of the bar in my fave barbecue joint. In my fave beach town.

Having gotten the preliminary stuff out of the way, let me state for the record that I do not believe that the true meaning of life can be found in this lighthearted aphorism; it’s merely there to keep the wall from looking bare and, perhaps, to amuse the drunks who spend way too much time and money reading silly plaques tacked to the walls of our many infamous watering holes here in the Sunshine State.

The message of that damned sign does not seem to grow more profound with each lager lifted to my lips. I’ve never shared this barroom bromide with friends, nor incorporated it into an update on Facebook. (No need going to my Facebook page to verify that statement!)

Let’s be real. Life’s true meaning cannot be divined by reading this sign no matter how much beer you’ve quaffed.  I just like it because, as I stand right on the threshold of qualifying for social security, I think it just might be true! Not sure my doctor would vouch for that, but, it could be!

Now I think I’ll ponder that message one more time as I order one more beer…  Ashley!

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

This gem is coming back around because today’s National Beer Lover’s Day. It debuted back in July of 2016. It’s NBLD and it’s a Friday. No better day to enjoy a cold beer!

© 2016 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

 

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp

If you live in Orlando and go to Cocoa or Cocoa Beach very often, you’ve passed Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, no doubt.

There are several ways to get to the Cocoa area from O’do and I’d venture to say that SR 520 is the most common route if you’re not fond of tolls. The Beach Line Expressway has them, but SR 520 does not.

Lone Cabbage is that little outpost of civilization on your right as you’re crossing the St John’s River and entering Brevard County.

If you don’t turn in at Lone Cabbage in search of an air boat ride–yes, they certainly do those–you’re most likely on a quest for good, local seafood and a beer or two to wash it down.

I had lunch at Lone Cabbage yesterday after about a thousand trips to Cocoa Beach over that well-travel road and I’m glad I did.

I ordered the Catfish Dinner, took it just the way it comes–with hushpuppies, their seasoned fries and slaw and chased it with a Coors Light. (No beer taps in this well-worn and very authentic joint, but about 15 different bottled brands.)

The Catfish was good and the fries were above average. They had lived under a heat lamp just a few moments too long by my standard, but when you sit down in a busy eatery at straight-up noon, that’s how it usually goes.

I love a good, freshly-made cole slaw and theirs was tasty and not overly-sweet. When the sugar kicks all the other ingredients into the back seat–something that’s far from rare in many home-style restaurants–I don’t like it!

I’d like to think that an establishment with cabbage in the name joint would have amazing slaw and although that’s not the case, it’s certainly not a situation where this often under-appreciated side dish warranted “points off”!

Yikes! I’ve become a “slaw snob”!

My impressions of Lone Cabbage Fish Camp are just fine so far. To have a more complete picture, I’d like to have more than only one dish and check out the air boat rides as well. But based on poking around the site and the County Park next to it a couple of times and patronizing it once, I certainly can recommend it. It’s well-known around the East Central Florida region and has been busy the times I’ve stopped by.

The next time you’re breezing down SR 520 mid-way between Cocoa and Orlando, stop in at Lone Cabbage and take in this landmark. You’ll pass a small Brevard Co. Park, James Bourbeau Memorial, where there is a public boat ramp and public rest rooms.

LoneCabb-airboat-rides-sign

And right next door, you’ll find Lone Cabbage. The basic boat ride does not require a reservation, but the bigger packages do. The minimum wait is 30 minutes. The perfect time to grab a quick lunch!

To visit their site and see more about LCFC, including the menu, just click on this link.

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credits Ben Lawrence Basile

 

 

 

 

Tabasco HQ is in deep trouble!

Tabasco HQ is in deep trouble!

I keep one eye open for important stories about worsening climate change. There’s certainly no shortage of those these days.

This article is about one spot where the results of warming and the accompanying rise in sea levels is affecting the heart of Cajun country. It’s a place where many folks hold strongly conservative beliefs and where warnings about climate change from scientists and treehuggers are at considerable risk of being ignored or blithely explained away.

Avery Island–where Tabasco Sauce has been made for over 150 years–is slowly sinking. But the main problem is that the water surrounding most of the island is rising very fast. Faster than almost anywhere else on the planet.

It’s not actually an island in the technical or scientific sense, but it’s going to become one soon. By 2050, according to recent estimates.

The Island rises 163′ above sea level now, but the marshes surrounding it are retreating by a staggering 30′ per year. At that rate, the 2,200 acres of Avery Island will shrink dramatically before the mid-century mark, leaving only its core above water. That’s hardly enough real estate to support the growth of peppers and the production of the hot sauce which has made Tabasco one of the best known brands in the food industry and made the McIlhenny family very, very rich.

The Guardian published an article just this morning by writer Oliver Milman which lays out skillfully and in painstaking detail how this unhappy development is unfolding. I strongly recommend this piece to anyone who’s interested in climate change, great hot sauce, or contemporary events affecting life in the American south.

Climate change is real. The seas are rising. And regardless of how long it takes for some Americans to see what’s actually happening all around us, we’re going to have to meet the challenges caused by the damage we’ve done to our planet, and we’re going to have to be for real.

The denying, the explaining away and the foot dragging have got to stop. If we still have a lot of people and a lot of corporations–who have a financial interest in mucking up the issue–pulling in the wrong direction, wondering how we’re going to keep our favorite hot sauce on the store shelves will be the least of our worries.

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

 

 

Today is National Cabbage Day!

Today is National Cabbage Day!

Today is THEE DAY we celebrate this awesome vegetable! And I must say, that if there wasn’t a day for cabbage, there damn sure should have been!

In all seriousness, I do love cabbage. It’s one of my very faves. Love it a thousand ways…

To commemorate the day this time, I made cabbage, diced tomato, black olive and navy bean burritos. Well, I threw in some onion and green pepper, too. Fabulous!

Fish tacos are another way to get some cabbage in your belly! Too much trouble for me at home, but I’ll be chokin’ down some fish tacos in the very near future, for sure!

Hope you’re having a fine day and that you’re celebrating! Some awesome occasion!

 

Feeling fine on Nat’l Cabbage Day, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile