Going Back to E Street


Last weekend we were in Jacksonville for Ancient City Convention and one of the many things we were looking forward to was another visit (or 2) to European Street Cafe.

But out first night, after driving the 2.5 hours to get to town, checking in out our hotel and unpacking, and then heading to the convention hotel to set up, E Street was closed by the time we headed that way again. In fact, at 10pm on a Thursday night, most places were already closed and we drove around for a while before finding the Hurricane Grill, whose sign announced a recent change to staying open until midnight on Thursdays!  Hallelujah!

Of course, by this point I was rapidly approaching a level of hungry best described as “stupid hungry” so I located the least-complicated option on the menu (wings, etc. had sauce options and there were a ridiculous number of sauces to choose from) and ordered a burger with mushrooms and bacon.

Bacon and Mushroom Burger from Hurricane Grill

Man, but that was a good burger.

Sure, it could have been the hunger talking, any port in a storm-style, but I still say it was a good burger. And, hey, it turns out we’ve got one here in Tallahassee, so we could always go back and see if it really was as good as it seemed.

Friday night, though, was another story. We stopped by our hotel long enough to unload the car and for me to change out of my heels, and it was off the E Street for some wonderful German sausage. (We just don’t have any good German restaurants in Tallahassee, that I’m aware of; it’s a shame, really.)

We started with a celebratory Lambic each (Peach for me, Raspberry for Todd) as it had been a very good day at the convention and we were feeling mighty deserving.

Lambics in frosty Guinness glasses at European Street Cafe

Then, instead of the Beer Cheese Soup in a Bread bowl ($5.75) that we got during last year’s visit, I noticed they had a Pretzel Bread appetizer ($2.50) and my mouth watered. Their pretzel bread is like heaven, and there was even an option to order it with Boursin cheese spread ($6.50). Yes, please!

Pretzel Bread and Boursin from European Street Cafe

For entrees we went straight for the sausage. Todd ordered the German Sausage Sampler (with Knockwurst and Bavarian Bratwurst, hot German potato salad, sauerkraut, and–swoon!–a pretzel bread stick; $8).

German Sausage Sampler from European Street Cafe

While I went with the German Bavarian Bratwurst sandwich (with sauerkraut and chips; $5.50).

German Bavarian Bratwurst Sandwich from European Street Cafe

After all of that (and, oh, was it delicious) we were too full to have dessert there, but did take a slice of cake, each, from their bakery case, back to the hotel.

Unfortunately, the night didn’t end on that high note. I, being caught up in the excitement of the day (first by finding my wedding dress that morning at a charity sale in the convention hotel, then by the great sales day at the convention itself), failed to eat very much over the course of the day so I paid dearly for my indulgence at dinner. I spent most of the night with an upset stomach and was still feeling a little green the next morning. Lesson learned, I assure you.

Seeing as I was still not 100% after the 8am-7pm convention day on Saturday, we opted for my comfort food of choice that night and got some take-out from a local Chinese place. Pretty much the same menu as any other Chinese take-out place, China Joy wasn’t anything worth writing home about, but Egg Drop soup always seems to soothe.

Sunday night, after making sure I ate more throughout the day, we went back to E Street for our last meal of the trip. I was in the mood for a simple (but good!) club sandwich and who happens to have an entire selection (11 in total) of clubs? Yup, E Street! I ordered the Club European ($8)..

Club European sandwich from European Street Cafe

While Todd went with the Pastrami and Roast Beef Club($8). Both coming with a pickle spear and chips, and we both opted for sourdough as our bread option.

Pastrami and Roast Beef Club from European Street Cafe

My one tiny little quibble with my sandwich is that they only put mayo on the bottom slice of bread. Which meant both the middle and top slices had an un-smeared (and, therefore, dry) side. I have a thing about dry bread on sandwiches (similar to my dislike of dry salad greens in a salad): I don’t like ’em. Good thing it’s an easy fix–they brought me more mayo and I was happy.

We’ve yet to have a bad meal at European Street Cafe and have another trip to Jacksonville planned for November. We’ll only be in town one night but, somehow, I don’t think they’ll be a question of where to eat.

Do you ever look forward to a trip because of where you get to eat?

Crazy for Tapas!


If you’ve ever gone to dinner and decided to order several appetizers and “graze” your way through the meal rather than eat a single entree selection, you may be a fan of tapas, too!

Tapas, a series of appetizers or snacks originating in Spain, have become a bit of a trend in recent years but one I’m happy to welcome. They can consist of both hot and cold items and, I think, are perfect for a communal supper among friends with plenty of wine or cocktails.

In it’s country of origin, tapas are usually small hors d’oeuvres-size portions, one or two bites, and frequently served on a piece of bread. In the U.S., of course, the traditional has given way to the idea of small plates with small portions, enough for a single snack or to share. We have a local restaurant/lounge (101) that features a fairly robust tapas menu in addition to larger appetizers. It’s fabulous for a girls night out or a late night supper after a movie.

Our best tapas experience, though, came in Jacksonville, Florida, on my birthday where we lucked into a table at the small but mighty 13 Gypsies. And when I say lucked-into I mean it: the couple at the table next to us had been trying to get a reservation for 6 months!

Honey-Garlic Hummus from 13 Gypsies The exterior of 13 Gypsies, Jacksonville, FL Garlicy Green Beans from 13 Gypsies
Quixote Style Beef from 13 Gypsies Coconut Mango Curry Chicken from 13 Gypsies Shrimp Piri Piri from 13 Gypsies

While 13 Gypsies does offer full-sized entrees, we were in a grazing mood and ordered a series of small plates, 6 in all, that added up to an amazing dinner with each plate better than the last. We went for both simple pleasures, like Honey-Garlic Hummus and Spanish Peasant Bread, to the more exotic Quixote Style Beef and Coconut Mango Curry Chicken, rounding out the meal with Shrimp Piri-Piri and crisp, fresh steamed Green Beans (gotta add a vegetable somewhere). Had we limited ourselves to a single entree a piece, I think we’d have short-changed ourselves. Washed down with glasses of Spanish wine it was a dining experience we’ll not soon forget.

In fact, it was so good that when Todd and I started discussing our wedding reception, I began the campaign for a tapas-style spread and meeting no resistance from the groom-to-be. Now all we have to do is find someone to carry it out for us!

In the mean time, I’ll be doing more research and experimentation on tapas (and the cousin-cuisines of the Middle Eastern mezze).

Have you tried the tapas craze, yet?

Surprises Hide in Nebraska


I had the opportunity to visit Todd’s hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, this weekend. I didn’t know what to expect, really, other than flatland and corn fields.

I was half right.

There’s a lot of corn up there, lining the roads almost as soon as you leave any metro areas, and wheat is plentiful, too! It blows around and gets to where it lines the streets, cornfields and even finds root in bushes planted at the cemetery (we were in town for the unfortunate reason of a funeral).

But Lincoln didn’t seem all that flat to me. Apparently it’s in a bit of a basin and there’s a gently rolling hill sort of quality to the parts that I saw (Lincoln and the highway to and from the Omaha airport).

Haymarket Square

Haymarket Square

While in town we had time to do some sight-seeing and the first place we stopped was the historic Haymarket District. Including the railroad station and several blocks of warehouses converted into shops, restaurants, galleries and lofts, it’s full of old, picturesque brick buildings that kept my camera and I happily clicking away. At least, that is, after we stopped into the From Nebraska gift shop to find batteries.

Licorice International

LicoriceWe mostly walked around and looked in windows, not really shopping (our checked bag weighed-in at 45 lbs, after all, not much room for souvenirs), we did see one store we just had to take a look it: Licorice International. How much licorice could there really be? Enough to have an entire store dedicated to it?

In a word: Lots.

They carry licorice candies from 13 countries, both the traditional black licorice as well as the licorice-like twists in a variety of colors–I even saw some licorice root available for sale!

Licorice International

Licorice International

We were able to taste an Kookaburra Strawberry Twist from Austrailia that was quite tasty, but I’m afraid I made a bit of a fuss when I saw monkey-shaped licorice. A squeal might have escaped my lips. I was even a bit giddy at the possibility of tasting one (turns out most of the items are available to taste if you but ask). The ears and such are traditional black licorice but the yellow muzzle? It’s banana flavored! And with a texture that reminds you of circus peanuts in the best possible way. Even though the Dutch Ape Head licorice only came in 1 lb bags, I had to buy them if only for the novelty factor. Imagine my surprise when we got home and found them utterly addictive.

The rear of the spacious warehouse at Licorice International is used for packaging and shipping orders that keep them quite busy, as I understand it.

“Knee High by 4th of July”


Corn Stalks

As mentioned above, cornfields are plentiful. We stopped by the family farm which was being rented and worked by a local farmer. Even though my own grandfather was a farmer and I’d seen his fields off and on, growing up, he dealt in strawberries, peppers and beans. Corn fields are another sight to behold.

The phrase ‘knee high by the 4th of July’ refers to a benchmark in the growing season. The corn was quite a bit higher from where we were standing; more like that line from Oklahoma–as high as an elephant’s eye. Well, maybe a young elephant.

Nebraskan Wine

As we wrapped up our tour of the Haymarket, we stepped back into the From Nebraska gift shop and were greeted by a wall of wine bottles. As the store purports to carry only items made in Nebraska, I was astonished to find so many different brands and types of wine available from around the state!

We noticed Plum and Rhubarb wine as well as the usual reds and whites, though the varieties were a bit foreign. The store appears to offer tastings and there were signs posted of various festivals in the area (one that morning, in fact, though it was a bit of drive to get to and too late in the day to start). There was also a map of the state that showed over 20 wineries sprinkled around the state (many accessible off of I-80) and half a dozen tasting rooms besides.

Our next trip up there will have to include at least a few of them!

A Trio of Local Favorites

With only 2 days in town we had a lot of nostalgia for Todd to catch up on. First was a Runza–a “loose meat and cabbage sandwich”–sold by a regional chain by the same name. Now, “loose meat” does not a appetizing thought create, yet that’s how I heard it described several times over the weekend. While it’s not incorrect, I prefer to call it a ground-beef and cabbage hand-held pie. Either way, it turned out to be yummy when we did get one after a trip to the Children’s Zoo.

Monkey & a Runza

Monkey & a Runza

Todd still maintains the bierocks I made for New Year’s Day were better but, frankly, I think it comes down to the seasoning. Runza seems to concentrate on pepper alone whereas we added ginger, paprika, nutmeg and caraway seeds along with cooking the cabbage in beer. We also didn’t cook the mixture until it was mush and sort of a grey color all the way around. There’s some benefit to homemade over mass production.

Another well-remembered spot was Vanetino’s. Known from their excellent pizza and rich tomato sauces, it wasn’t exactly as he remembered. The location we went to featured an extensive buffet that included barbecue, Asian and Mexican options in addition to pizza, pasta and salads. Something definitely gets lost with all that “variety” but we hear good things about the smaller locations and the pizza delivery.

Finally, a trip to the grocery store yeilded a salad dressing infamous with the locals: Dorothy Lynch. Diluted tomato soup is the primary ingredient in the sweet and spicy French-style dressing. This got packed in our checked back with the other over-3-ounce contraband and made it safely home. I think Todd is looking forward to salads this summer!