Grits and Bacon Bits! A Marriage Made in Heaven!

Grits and Bacon Bits! A Marriage Made in Heaven!

Am I the only guy who throws some bacon bits into his grits just before plating ’em?

It’s a very cool trick I discovered while camping last winter and it works just as well in the kitchen, folks!

Of course, I don’t mean bacon bits take the place of the coarsely-ground pepper or the pound of butter you must thrown on there, too!

Speaking of camping: I’m hoping to get back to Trimble Park in Tangerine soon. We’ll see if I can make that work. Should be going back to a four day work week soon; that’ll help.

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Bulldog Certainly Does Wish You a Most Happy New Year!

Bulldog Certainly Does Wish You a Most Happy New Year!

This is a quick blog posting to say that I do hope this brand-new year of 2018 has gotten off to a good start for you! You just might feel–as I do–that 2017 was so awful that this year has just GOT to be better! If so, I think we’re both right!

I did not say a word about the new year on Monday when it was new new, but I ushered it in with some perfectly-cooked black eyed peas with onion, garlic, ham and Bulldog’s special seasonings! And some scratch cornbread which also could not have been better!

And, no, I did not have any champagne, but some ice-cold Coors in those awesome retro-looking bottles worked just fine.

So far the new year’s going alright. The best thing I’ve done so far is today’s trip to our Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. Had a fine time and got a few good pix; I’ll have a couple of them up here in a new post very soon.

Please accept my best wishes for a safe, fun and thoroughly-amazing 2018! And I hope you get to spend some of it doing some cool stuff outdoors!

My Heart Was Smacked Around Tonight by Joni and Jane!

Note from Ben: I haven’t had a lot to say about music here on da bulldog blog in my first two years, but being a musician and a big-time music lover, it’s a huge thing in my life. So I’m going to have more to say about it moving forward. It’s all about enjoying yourself on your passage through life. And music can be a big part of that!

 

I love to dash off a quick posting when a song I’ve loved for a while crawls through the speakers in my laptop and into my ear and really moves me.

It happened again tonight. It was a Joni Mitchell song; what can I say?

I’ve loved singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell since Court and Spark came out. Yeah, a long time.

To me the J.M. song that’s the most distinctive is “A Case of You”. If you’re not familiar with it, there’s no way to describe it, really.

Here’s the funny thing: even though I practically worship the ground upon which Joni walks, it’s the Jane Monheit cover of this amazing song that moves me the most.

Well, Joni and Jane tag-teamed me tonight; my heart and brain both feel as though they’ve gone a few rounds in the ring with these two hard-hitting queens of jazz.

Last call! If you want to hear a song that captures perfectly the insane passion in a woman’s love for a man, click on this.

 

Blusician “Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

PS: I hasten to add that, though it’s not absolutely necessary, appreciation for this cool tune can be heightened considerably if you’re a beer lover. All the more if said beer lover has had a brew or two by the time the first notes emerge from the speaker…

Warning! Pancake Post in Progress!

Warning! Pancake Post in Progress!

Bulldog must disclose that this posting contains explicit Carbohydrate References!

Folks, I’d never heard of the Aunt Maple’s brand before, but the deadly-good chocolate and banana stuff in this mix are NOT artificial!

I truly loved my breakfast this morning! Want you to know that I found my new fave brand of pancake mix at Aldi; pray there’s an Aldi location near you!

A Visit to the Hunters Creek Applebee’s

A Visit to the Hunters Creek Applebee’s

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
13500 John Young Parkway
Orlando, Florida 32837

Call 407 206-5039

I’ve dined at the Applebee’s location in the Hunters Creek area of Orlando many times. If you’re from metro Orlando or visit much, you probably know that’s very close to the tourist area and only a mile from the Osceola county line. But this one is mostly patronized by locals, many of whom work in the tourism industry.

I’ve eaten at seven Applebee’s locations all total and this one is not very different from the others. I like the crew here, the bartenders especially and go there fairly often. I still have not tried the dining room, opting to sit at the bar. Sean and Ariana and a couple of other crew members have always taken good care of me. They have a decent beer selection and the “always happy hour” thing is awesome. That’s 2 for 1 ALL DAY, but on domestic drafts only. Beer lovers, you gotta love that!

There are seven or eight TV screens in the bar so there’s always something good on. This location has become my go-to spot for sports viewing, especially for games I can’t get at home. However, they don’t carry the pay-per-view events, such as UFC fights or those PPV championship boxing matches.

I like just about everything I’ve tried here and can recommend several appetizers. The Spinach and Artichoke Dip is always good, as are the Mozzarella Sticks; but my fave is the Sriracha Shrimp. Just the right amount of heat, you can’t beat this one!

I usually dine solo so I haven’t had a chance to go the “2 Entrees for $20” route, but it looks like a good value. What I had on my last visit was the Bourbon Street Steak and it was damn near perfect. And their garlic mashed potatoes are to die for!

The one draw back here is that their usual good service is not so good when the place fills up. I don’t like it, but it’s a common thing at chain restaurants. Management in chains are very, very focused on payroll costs and you can’t really staff for the hour and a half of each day when the place “blows up” as you’d have too many crew members for the other 80% of the shift. I get it, but I don’t like it. I hasten to add that it’s no worse here than most places I’ve visited.

This Applebee’s is quite family friendly. If fact, you’ll find many families with school-age kids seated in the bar area on just about every night. If you still have small ones in your posse, you can be seated wherever you like, bar included. (Not AT the bar, but in the bar area!)

Quick summary: moderate prices, great place to watch sports, good service, decent beer selection and very tasty menu offerings.

One more thing: there is a designated entrance to pick up take out orders on the north side of the building. Your order will be waiting in the bar area.

A little info to help you find it: this A-bee’s is an out building in a very large shopping complex and there’s lot of parking. It’s not all that easy to see from John Young, especially if you’re northbound. It’s across JYP from the Gator’s Dockside which is much easier to spot, so look on the west side of the road. The complex is just a wee bit south of where the 417 exit for John Young cuts through.

 

Bulldog thinks the menu is one of the best things about Applebee’s.  View it here:

 

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach is the Real Deal

Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach is the Real Deal

I have loved having breakfast at the Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach for about five or six years now. It’s my “go to” spot in Brevard Co. for real food at breakfast-time.

You’ll notice as you approach, that’s it one of those diners. You know, one with a simple and undeniably “old school” look. And yes, they have real food. And a real staff. A few of whom have been around for many, many years.

One of the things that sets the Sunrise apart from other places of its type is that you can–and probably should–eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Most diners that live up to the name close around 2:30 in the afternoon. Just SOP for these storied establishments. But this one doesn’t stop seating patrons until 9 PM.

To be honest, I have only enjoyed breakfast here; I’m not a good source on those two other times of the day when Americans usually feel like they have to “fill the tank.” But I have eaten there five or six times and always have a first-rate breakfast, receive very good and personable service and don’t ever feel like I’ve had my pocket picked.

The place hasn’t changed in the six years or so that I’ve been going and it looks as though it’s been around much longer than that. Long-time crew member Wendy told me on a recent visit how long it’s been around and I just don’t remember a number; suffice it to say, they’re far from newcomers.

One of the things I like about the Sunrise is that the breakfast sausage featured there are those over-sized patties that are about the size of a sand dollar. That’s the way this pup likes his sausage in the morning and places that have it are few and far between.

I do know that you’ll find quite a bit of seafood on their menu, and Greek fare is featured prominently as well. I tend to get stuck in a rut at many of my fave eateries but that doesn’t mean you should! And though came as a bit of a surprise to me, their beer selection isn’t bad at all.

Let me close by saying that if you’re anywhere near the heart of Cocoa Beach in the future, especially in the AM, you owe it to yourself to stop at the Sunrise Diner. It’s conveniently located on SR 520, aka Cocoa Beach Cswy, just a block from where 520 meets A1A.

Sunrise Diner ~ 365 W. Cocoa Beach Cswy ~ Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 ~ 321 783-5647

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Pelican Flats Gives Way to Another Dunkin’ Donuts in Cocoa Beach

Pelican Flats Gives Way to Another Dunkin’ Donuts in Cocoa Beach

Pelican Flats ~ formerly found at 695 North Atlantic Ave ~ Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931

I’ve actually been putting off telling the sad story of the closing of Pelican Flats, a now-defunct Cocoa Beach eatery I liked a lot. But now that another Dunkin’ Donuts is about to open in that same spot, it’s time to stop the foot dragging. Here goes…

As some of you may know, I have very long roots in Orlando but have been making Cocoa Beach my “home away from home” for about six or seven years now. I know the town very well.

As a long-time server and foodie, I’m eating in places all up and down the Sunshine State on a regular basis and love to tell my readers all about some of our noteworthy Florida dining establishments.

Smallish, independent joints are my specialty; I had noticed two that fit the bill in Cocoa Beach located fairly close together on that stretch of A1A just before it splits and you’re headed closer to Minute Man Causeway and the downtown area. (If you’re southbound from the 520 intersection, for example.) Those two places would be Barrier Jack’s and Pelican Flats.

I checked out Barrier Jack’s first. I’ve sampled the wares there twice now and it’s on my A list. I will be posting a write up about BJ’s in the near future. Shortly after, I did stop in for breakfast at Pelican Flats and loved everything about the place.

When I find a new spot like the Flats, it generally follows a familiar pattern. I almost always get one of two fave orders. This is because they’re basic things that are hard for the house to screw up, and so it’s easier for me to compare the quality of the dishes at the new establishment vis-a-vis others where I’ve dined.

They had a skillet or two on the menu and I chose the basic one with the taters on the bottom of the pile, the sausage and cheese in the middle and the fried eggs on top. They called it “The Southern Mess” and it was good. Messy and good. The cook had my over easy eggs just right, none of those “crispy brown edges” that send me over the edge and back to a place like Keke’s where the crew doesn’t commit such culinary sins! Just remember folks: it’s not a crispy edge; it’s a burnt egg!

We were all good at P.F. that Sunday morning! No rejected skillets; no upset patrons!

And as for the service, it was also very good. It’s not always easy to give good, attentive service without crossing that line and becoming a pest, but my crew member did exactly that.

I do pay attention to the design or the look of a place. The concept at Flats was beachy and casual and I think it worked very well. I did not take any photos of the interior, but mon petit bateau perdu that welcomed hungry patrons just before they reached the entry proved to be very photogenic! I loved that little castaway boat and got some good shots of it after Pelican Flats did officially run aground!

By the way, I did return within a week or two of my first and only visit and although my new fave joint was locked tight, nothing inside had been disturbed and there was no sign or note to give customers a clue about what might have been going on. Or what might have not been going on, I suppose might be a better way to put it.  Surprisingly, that went on for at least a month. I don’t have a firm date as far as her closing, but it’s been quite a while.

The construction on the new D.D. on the site began a few months ago. For me it gave a bit of finality to Pelican Flat’s silent, sad and abrupt closing. My thought is that there are Dunkin’ Donuts everywhere, and Cocoa Beach has had one for many years. But diners with a cool and well-executed beach theme, good food and a fine staff are not that easy to find!

Alas, Pelican Flats! You are no more! But the memory of that delicious Southern Mess concoction and that really cool one-off, castaway boat will live in my heart for as long as diners love over-easy eggs and real hash browns! A very long time, indeed!

CB1-IMG_0905

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2016 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile