Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Key West - Hog Fish Bar & Grill…

2011-6-22 Key West 169

The title says Key West but actually this bar and grill is located on Stock Island just outside of the town of Key West. We actually stumbled upon the Hog Fish Bar & Grill while looking for Boyd’s RV park and Campground. I had read about it in all my readings about Key West but until I saw a small sign poked into the ground that read Hog Fish Bar & Grill with a little arrow pointing down the road I hadn’t given much thought to looking for it.

SO one sign led to another and after winding through a maze of roads through a rather ratty part of town you near the water’s edge where you will then discover Stock Island's Hog Fish Bar & Grill…

2011-6-22 Key West 170Once parked you can enter the front of the bar and grill, all open aired as is done in typical Key West fashion, you are treated to an atmosphere that is genuine and exudes the feeling of “we are going to really like this place.” This place is probably more like the bar and grills of old Key West than any of those now found on Duval Street, the main drag of Key West.

The bar and grill sits right on the water and offers both covered indoor and outdoor seating. In fact while we were there our first time they put a new blue awning over the picnic tables outside near the docks on the water’s edge. But we like to sit right at the bar.and mingle with the locals who have a lot of stories to tell about how Key West use to be.

Here is where during happy hour you can get $1.50 Yeungling’s – yes that is what I said - $1.50 Yeungling’s. We have heard the food is excellent and during happy hour they also have some half priced appetizers. One evening we shared the nasty nachos and had plenty for the both of us –Warning they are a bit messy!

2011-6-18 bluewater key sunriseThis setting is an ideal Key West setting to just sit back and relax while enjoying the warm summer sea breezes while gazing out over the views of the shades of blue and other colors offered by the sea water and varied boats docked nearby. Here is where we have learned what Key West was really like from the locals like Captain Ed, Guenther and Axel while the bartender Patty brings us round after round of cold $1.50 Yeungling’s…

The Hog Fish Bar and Grill is definitely off the beaten track and you will have to search for it but once you find it you will discover what we did – a laid back old Key West establishment with good food, drinks and people… Heyduke says stay till sunset and check it out!

GPS address or just follow the signs… 6810 Front Street, Stock Island, FL

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Making Bread On The Road… no not that kind!


Who can resist the scent of bread baking in the oven?  My wonderful mother loved baking bread and I must have inherited that particular gene.  I was determined to make the transition from baking in our large kitchen and spacious oven to our new, much smaller digs.  The first MAJOR challenge in French Bread baking was finding ovenware to fit in the convection oven.  My beloved baking sheet to my dismay was too long.  Most convection ware is too small.  I appealed to my creative husband to solve this dilemma. Sure enough he remodeled my beloved pan by bending the handles upward.  Alas, a pan that was a PERFECT fit for our convection oven.  The next challenge was my tried and true recipes did not turn out as well in the convection, so through trial and error we found three reliable, full proof recipes to suit our needs:  Everything Bagels, Focaccia Bread and Crusty French Bread.  We give you fair warning…..if you try these, you may never want store-bought bread ever again….

bagels in covection oven

Homemade Everything Bagels (makes 12 to 15)
•    2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F
•    2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast
•    3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
•    5 to 6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (1 or 2 whole wheat)
•    2 teaspoons salt
•    2 teaspoons olive oil
•    Pam Cooking Spray
•    2 tablespoons yellow coarse cornmeal
Optional Toppings: (sprinkle on after water dip)
•    lightly toasted chopped onions, dry onion powder, poppy seeds, dried granulated garlic, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sea salt, etc. (whatever you want)

Combine the water, yeast, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl .. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add 4 cups of the flour and the salt, and mix (I use wooden spoon and tall glass bowl) until the mixture comes together.

Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups additional flour 1/2 cup at a time to make a stiff dough, either stirring with the wooden spoon or working with your hands. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes, adding just as much flour as needed. (Dough should be heavier and stiffer than regular yeast bread dough.)

John usually kneads while I clean and olive oil the glass bowl 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Pam one side of plastic wrap, cover the bowl, top with folded bath towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled, about 1 hour to an hour and a half. Tips:  do not place the bowl on wood surface, not granite or corian (too cold).

Remove from the bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 2 to 3 ounces each, measuring about 4 inches across. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Roll each ball into a 4 to 6-inch log. Join the ends and place fingers through the hole and roll the ends together. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on baking sheet sprayed with Pam and sprinkled with coarse corn meal. Cover with the same cling wrap, and let rest until risen but not doubled in a draft-free spot,  while preheating convection oven to 400 degrees.

In a large, heavy pot, bring 6 cups of water and the remaining tablespoon of sugar to a boil..  Remove from heat and,  In batches, add the bagels to the water turning, for no more than 30 seconds. Flip bagels back onto the prepared sheet pan. Sprinkle on desired toppings. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees turning bagels once for the last 5 minutes of baking.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.


Convection Focaccia Recipe
Cook Time:
15 to 20 min 400 degrees
•    2 teaspoons rapid-rising dry yeast
•    1 cup warm water
•    2 tablespoons sugar
•    3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
•    3/4 tablespoon coarse salt dissolved in 2 tbsp water
•    1/4 cup olive oil
•    Coarse cornmeal for dusting
Optional Toppings:
•    we used garlic powder, shredded Parmesan Cheese, and fresh rosemary

In tall glass bowl proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Slowly add and stir in the first two cups of flour.. Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and stir in the remaining flour. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn't form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in warm, draft-free place.until doubled in size, about 45 minutes (may take longer if not warm enough surroundings or if not using rapid rise yeast).

Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, coat a small saute pan with olive oil, add the onion, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until the onions caramelize. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Uncover the dough and dimple (poke) with your fingertips. Brush the surface with more olive oil and then add optional toppings:  caramelized onions, garlic, olives, cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Bake on convection rack for 15 to 20 minutes.


Whole Wheat French Bread Recipe – (round style pictured in header and above)

Cooking Time: about 20 to 25 minutes 400 degrees
Rising Time: about 2 hours


2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups All Purpose White Flour
1 Egg
1 tbsp. Sugar
2 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Dry Active Yeast


1. Sift the two flours together into a large bowl. Mix in salt and sugar with hand. Move the ingredients to the sides of the bowl, creating a large "well" (an empty space) in the middle.
2. Pour the yeast into the "well" and pour 2 cups of lukewarm water over the yeast. Sprinkle about 1 tbsp. of flour over top. Wait (about 10 minutes) for bubbles to appear in the yeast.
3. Once the bubbles have appeared, you can start to mix together the ingredients (hands work best) to form the dough. The best way to do this, is to gradually incorporate the flour that is "waiting" on the sides of the bowl. Doing it all at once will be too difficult. So, go bit by bit, if it's too liquid, just add a bit more flour at the end. You should finish this "pre-kneading" stage with a round, firm ball of dough. Again, if it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
4. Kneading: remove the bread from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead it by pushing your palms into and then turning it one quarter. Keep kneading and doing quarter turns for about 5-10 minutes, or until the bread is supple and non-sticky.
5. Place the bread in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp dish cloth. Let it rise for about 2 hours (depends on the room temperature, you want it to be fairly warm). It should double in size.
6. Preheat oven to 400°F. Re-sprinkle a counter top (or other surface) with flour. Prepare a baking pan by lightly oiling and flouring it (or bake on top of parchment paper). With your hands, remove bread and place on floured surface. Punch it down once, hard, with your palms. Now, re-shape it into a ball. Put the ball on the baking pan. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal lines across the top of the bread. Whisk the egg, and using a brush (or a teaspoon) coat the top of the bread. Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes (more or less, depending on how much you like it browned).


The famous bread pan that we bent the handles up on to fit the convection!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

RJ Rocker’s Microbrewery …Spartanburg, SC

We had one last night in Spartanburg, SC and one place we hadn’t visited was the RJ Rocker’s microbrewery in the downtown area at 226-A West Main street. We knew that on Thursday’s they had their “Tour and Taste Thursday”. So tonight from 5-7 pm we knew where we were going to be… at the Brewery. Tours and Tastings were $5 and included a pint glass souvenir.

So with the threat of a severe thunderstorm warning looming over us we headed out to the downtown area and got to the brewery right when the rain began to fall. It looked pretty dark northwest of us and it was headed our way. We decided it was probably safer in the brewery than in the motorhome under these circumstances.

imageThere was about a dozen other people milling around when we got there. The building in a nice sized building with lots of windows and all the stainless steel vats were shining. We bought our $5.00 pass which included a pint glass with 4 “beer” tickets. We could exchange one ticket for one taste of beer in our glass. You would get anywhere from a 4 oz to 10 oz pour… depending on who poured it as it seemed.

We tasted five different beers and our two favorites were Son of a Peach and the Fish Paralyzer. The description of these two beers from their website are:

An unfiltered American wheat ale made with real mean peaches. The only thing missing is the fuzz. Savor the anger. Available during the late Spring and Summer months. 
6.0% abv


Fish Paralyzer is a Belgian-style pale ale that is moderately hopped with Tradition and Saaz.  The grain bill calls for a combination of specialty malt to produce its sweetness and copper color. The Belgian Ale yeast used provides a strong Belgian essence to Phenolic and spicy flavors and aromas
7.5% abv

The Fish Paralyzer was my favorite with the taste of a nice pale ale with some pizazz… The Son of a Peach was my brides favorite and I too admit this is a real nice fruity pale ale worthy of a summer toast while barbequing over a hot grill.

While the wind was howling, thunder booming, and pea sized hail pounding the tin roof we chatted with some of the locals and enjoyed our samples of beer and we were glad we were not in the park in the RV under these ominous skies. We had a good (but short) tour along with some very good beers… and all for five dollars each!! Heyduke says check it out…

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gothic styled church… Spartanburg, SC

2011-5-31 Spartanburg and Greenville SC 002                          2011-5-31 Spartanburg and Greenville SC 005

Now as I mentioned in my other blog On the Road of Retirement I am a spiritual man but not a regular Sunday go-to-church worshiper. But we saw this church several times as we were driving through Spartanburg and never stopped at it until we passed right by it one day. As I said in my other blog if we had found it sooner we may have had to visit it on a Sunday to better see the inside of it and to hear the messages were being delivered. The structure itself doesn’t immediately remind one of a church with its gothic towers that are more castle like than church like.

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However, once you start walking the grounds you get the sense that this is indeed a religious property. The church, as with many here in the deep south, has many families  buried right on the property. In Texas this is pretty rare but here in the southeast I have witnessed this on many occasions.

2011-5-31 Spartanburg and Greenville SC 009 2011-5-31 Spartanburg and Greenville SC 011

You really need to walk around this church and look at the many grave markers to get a feel of what times were like in the 1800’s. Many youngsters and babies never made it to adulthood since medicine was either not readily available nor had been developed at that time. We even found one grave marker with a person that was born in the late 1700’s… and lived a full life of 81 years!

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Also one with the captions that read:

Captain in the first Florida infantry USA… during the first two years of the Confederate War. Wounded at Shiloh and taken prisoner In 1863 made full surgeon in the Confederate  Army. Remained in service until the surrender…”

He was born in 1833 and died in 1900. Wow! What these two individuals saw during their lifetimes is unfathomable! We found this church and the adjoining cemetery very fascinating and as a result this became another Road Treat… so when in the area… Heyduke says check it out…