Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

There is a specific scene in the 2009 film Julie and Julia that I love. Julia Child (played brilliantly by the marvelous Meryl Streep) has just taken a bite of one of her first meals in France and she is exclaiming in utter astonishment and how good it is. Her husband, Paul, (played by the tasty Stanley Tucci) puts his hand on her arm and says, “I know… I know.” His voice is so sympathetic. He understands how her mind has been blown by a simple piece of fish sauteed in butter.

I have always liked Stanley Tucci, but since that scene, I have utterly adored him. So I was delighted to find out that he had written his own food-based memoir recently. I’m not reviewing this because heaven knows he doesn’t need the help (it’s on the New York Times bestseller list) but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this book.

First, I listened to it in audiobook format. I got it from my public library on digital download (if you’re not doing this, you should really learn how. It’s delightful to check out a book sitting at home in your pajamas.) Tucci narrates the book and his voice is so pleasant. Soft and deep, with just a little rasp, he tells his story better than anyone could.

He talks about his childhood with Italian American parents who cooked hearty meals, his holidays with a massive and complicated dish called timpano, to his recipe for the perfect martini. He also describes the absence of enjoying food while he battled mouth cancer. I’m glad to say he survived and is cancer-free, so we can expect many years of seeing his sexy baldness on the screen. He tells his story with humor, wit, and mouthwatering descriptions of food. There are recipes included so you can go make a grand mess in the kitchen and enjoy the fruits of his labors.

Read or listen, you won’t be disappointed. But if you listen, his description of the spaghetti carbonara is laugh-out-loud funny. And you better believe I’m trying his martini recipe as soon as possible.

Third Street Farmers Market

Every Saturday morning we do not have to work my husband and I get up around seven and head out to the farmers market in downtown Naples.  It’s a bit hoity-toity, catering to the millionaires and billionaires that live in my town. (As you can see in the picture above they have a bicycle valet, for crying out loud.) Lots of certified organic, artisinal goods, and specialty foods pack the two blocks of Third Street South. We have a very specific ritual and I want to tell you about it.


Irene and her crepe irons.

The first order of the day is to get breakfast. There is a lovely lady named Irene who makes crepes. She is from Brittany, is a tiny little thing, and is fiercely proud of her homeland. She often talks of the Côte de Granit Rose (pink granite coast) while she creates her heavenly crepes complet. She starts with a homemade buckwheat crepe and puts it on the iron and cracks an egg onto it and then adds butter and mixes it up. She then adds cheese, a slice of ham, and folds it together to cook, adding a touch more butter. Irene brings a small bit of France to us each time we visit. I always say goodbye with a “bonne journée.”

Andrew Daane of Black Tulip coffee.

Andrew Daane of Black Tulip coffee.



While we let our piping hot crepes cool we go to get coffee. We stop at Black Tulip to get a cup of fresh roasted gourmet coffee. It’s a bit pricey, but I swear to you it is the best coffee I have ever tasted. Smooth, chocolately, and hardly needs sugar. The couple who own it, Andrew and Cullen Daane, are so friendly. They always ask how you are, how was your week and then hand you a cup of perfection that was brewed right in front of you. Andrew is looking to find a brick and mortar store front and God help me if he does. I’ll be there every day saying, “Take my money!”

Kosta ready for breakfast.

Kosta ready for breakfast.


After we have crepe and coffee in hand we go to sit at a table and eat. Third Street South is packed with restaurants, most with outdoor seating. (This is Southwest Florida, after all.) We usually commandeer a table at Sea Salt and watch the crowds go by. This time of year it is particularly interesting. There are so many people from snowbirds to tourists, locals with their dogs, and families with their kids. Sometimes I see confused people who are pushing their dogs in strollers. Seriously, what is that?

There is also this one dude who has three cockatoos. We always see him wearing the same dirty red Hawaiian shirt and straw hat, three birds on his shoulders walking the two blocks up and down, up and down while people stare and take pictures. I wouldn’t mind him at all if his birds didn’t screech so damn loud. But they do. It almost sounds like a child screaming and it is unnerving while trying to consume a delicious hot crepe and kickass coffee.

The bird dude with his screaming cockatoos.

The bird dude with his screaming cockatoos.


Tara of Ideas in Bloom

After the crepe is eaten and the coffee is drunk, and we have had our fill people watching we stroll over to see our friends Ingrid and Tara. They own Ideas in Bloom, a flower and plant stall that sells gorgeous fresh cut flowers, potted plants, and fragrant herbs. We adore them.

Floral offerings from Ideas in Bloom

Floral offerings from Ideas in Bloom

Finally, if we have plans for supper and need veggies, we buy them. This weekend  we picked up some avocados and limes to make guacamole and margaritas. We plan to grill out Sunday afternoon and will need sustenance while our chicken cooks.

Buying veggies.

Buying veggies.

It’s a lovely little ritual we look forward to eagerly every week. Woe to us the Saturdays we work when we know it is all going on without us. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it makes getting out of bed at seven on a Saturday all the more worthwhile.



I’ll Have What Phil’s Having

what phils having

Have you seen this show? I don’t watch a whole lot of TV but food/travel shows hook me. Anthony Bourdain rocks. I was browsing Netflix this weekend and came upon Phil Rosenthal’s show, watched one episode and was instantly addicted.

Phil Rosenthal is the creator of the show Everybody Loves Raymond. Since he has more money that he knows what to do with, he did a six episode show for PBS where he travels and eats the best that place has to offer. He starts in Tokyo where he tries food from the fanciest restaurants to the humblest of street food.

What sets this show apart from other travel/food shows is how funny it is. Phil Rosenthal didn’t get to be the creator of a hit show like Raymond without throwing a few yuks in. Especially when each episode comes complete with a Skype session with his octogenarian parents. My God I giggled straight through each epidsode and then I HAD TO EAT.

How can you not giggle at that face?

How can you not giggle at that face?




I did watch them out of order, simpy because there was an episode on Paris and I have to say that I have found a few places that I must visit next month. In fact, sheesh, I need to watch it again and take notes. I have to find the place that roasts chickens in BOTH goose fat and duck fat. That’s right.

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having was originally made for PBS but you can find it streaming on Netflix. Go watch it. But be warned, you’ll be as hungry Shaggy and Scooby. You’ll be positively itching to eat.

Riptide Brewing Company

Last Friday night we went to the new microbrewery in Naples. I was so excited as Kosta and I both love beer (don’t get me started on looking forward to Bavaria and Austria this summer) and we couldn’t believe our luck that this new place is just five blocks from our place of work. This could be a dangerous Friday night habit to get into.

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Riptide Brewing Company, 987 3rd Ave N. Naples, FL

The interior--love the mermaid coming out of the wall.

The interior–love the mermaid coming out of the wall.

The vats are in full view of everyone sitting in the bar, and infused the place with a nice, malty scent.

The vats are in full view of everyone sitting in the bar, and infused the place with a nice, malty scent.

My sampler from left to right: Whitewater Wit Bier, Paddlepuss Blonde, Porter Pounder, and Wye Nut Brown.

My sampler from left to right: Whitewater Wit Bier, Paddlepuss Blonde, Porter Pounder, and Wye Nut Brown.

The Dangerous Nymph's Nectar. Goes down smooth with a 9.3% alcohol content.

The Dangerous Nymph’s Nectar. Goes down smooth with a 9.3% alcohol content. Heavens, it was tasty.

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The brewery doesn’t serve food but you can bring it in or have it delivered. That night a brick oven pizza food truck was parked out back. Their Bianca was killer.

We also had the Goat Cheese and Portobella pizza too.

We also had the Goat Cheese and Portobello pizza too.

My husband's favorite: The Porter Pounder with his beautiful amber and silver komboloi.

My husband’s favorite: The Porter Pounder with his beautiful amber and silver komboloi.

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Kosta and Tammy with Di photobombing.

A good time was had by all. We'll be back.

A good time was had by all. We’ll be back.

The Ramblin’ Palates at Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota, FL

The latest quest for a fabulous meal took me and my group of friends to Sarasota, FL. It was Val’s choice this month and she picked Yoder’s Amish Restaurant. There were seven of us this time: Tammy, Di, Val, Cary, Kosta, me, and Kim, our newbie, who is a good friend of Val. Tammy believes taking multiple cars is “unacceptable” so we rented a van for the day to accommodate all of us, because no one can say no to Tammy. At least not when she rolls out the “unacceptable” tactic.

How can you say no to that smile?

How can you say no to that smile?

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant was profiled on Man vs. Food and you can watch the episode here. It was raining and cold, and the perfect day for some comfort food.  And let me tell you, the place was PACKED.

We stood in line for 20 minutes for a table.

We stood in line for 20 minutes for a table. Ooh, check out the guy doing the un-photo bomb in the back. 


Di and her chicken livers and mashed potatoes.

Di and her chicken livers.


Tammy with fried chicken.

Tammy with fried chicken and mac and cheese.

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Kosta with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans, and Val across the way with meatloaf, fried okra, and mashed potatoes.

Yours truly with fried chicken, potato cakes, and fried okra.

Yours truly with fried chicken, potato cakes, and fried okra.

Let's get a close up of that lunch, shall we? The chicken was amazing.

Let’s get a close up of that lunch, shall we? The chicken was amazing.

Of course, you can't go to Yoder's without having a piece of pie. Because it's PIE.

Of course, you can’t go to Yoder’s without having a piece of pie. Because it’s PIE. That is a slice of cokernut cream being shared by the Dynamic Duo.

Oh hell YES.

Oh hell YES.

Afterwards we didn’t necessarily want to call it a day, but the weather was miserable so a few of the girls wanted to visit the HSN store. Some of us who are not so into shopping popped into the pet store next door where a puppy extravaganza was going on.

Look at that adorable face. The pug is pretty cute too.

Look at that adorable face. The pug is pretty cute too.

Good heavens. Just rip my heart out and take it, will you?

Good heavens. Just rip my heart out and take it, will you?

Tam's fetching makeshift rain gear.

Tam’s fetching makeshift rain gear.

Finally, we decided to stop at BJ’s Brewhouse for a drink before calling it a day.  We just wanted to sit at the bar but the staff wouldn’t let us pull the high top tables together and made us sit in the restaurant, where we took up two tables pulled together. The waitress was not happy that she was losing major tip money and was rather brusque. I can’t blame her, but for crying out loud it wasn’t our fault.

The one nice thing the waitress did for us.

The one nice thing the waitress did for us.

Would you look at that handsome devil? Dear reader, I married him.

Would you look at that handsome devil? Dear reader, I married him.

Next month is Shorty’s BBQ in Miami. Stay tuned for another drool-fest of food!

Ramblin’ Palates at the Bubble Room

The Bubble Room is an institution on Captiva Island, just of the coast of Southwest Florida. I know its been a while, but look at all the fun we had on December 6. True, there were only 4 of us (we were missing Cary and Di!) but we had a blast. Observe:

The Bubble Room

It doesn’t look like much outside, but inside you’ll find a wonderland of themes rooms most of them adorned with toys from the 20’s to the 40’s.

Lunch is served!

I don’t remember what everyone had, but I had a Pita Fonda. All the items on the menu were bad puns on old time movie stars.

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Me and my Pita Fonda. It was quite delicious.

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My husband peering around his Turk Douglass.

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Tammerooni with her scrumptious lunch.

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I texted this one to Di–who is married to Tammy. I asked her if we should be worried. She said she was on her way home.

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All the waitstaff dressed in kitschy scout uniforms. This is our waitress presenting another table with the dessert offerings.

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Oh baby. I only ate half my Pita Fonda in anticipation of this platter of diabetic coma.

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Just had throw this in here. My husband isn’t a self-proclaimed happy jackass for nothing.

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Kosta and I shared this. And even though I say we shared it, we did not manage to finish it. This was the orange crunch cake which is the signature dessert at the Bubble Room. I cannot begin to describe how outstanding it was.

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After lunch we explored the restaurant a bit more, as we were encouraged to do. Here is sweet Val waiting for her prince charming to join her in the Tunnel of Love.

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Of course there was more fun to be had outside. Tammy doesn’t even need to be hopped up on sugar.


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See? She’s so shy. I wish there was some way we could coax her out of her shell.

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There was a Bubble Room git shop next door. Look at my handsome prince!

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I didn’t get a lot of good pictures of Val, but I think this one shows her good side. What do you think?

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But hold on, the party ain’t over yet. On the way back across Sanibel Island (the only way in and out of Captiva) Tammy saw a sign and turned sharpish into a parking lot. We had just stumbled upon a new Bennett’s Fresh Roast. These folks roast their own coffee and make their own donughts on site. So what if we already consumed 5000 calories each? Dooughnuts are not a foodstuff to be taken lightly.

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See what I frickin’ mean? The plain glazed belonged to Kosta. I had the other one — the almond frosted coconut.

I don’t know what this is. Maybe we need to get her evaluated.

That was our day: sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, goofiness, and then a wicked case of the hiccups on the way home for me.

It was totally worth every one.



The Ramblin’ Palates in LaBelle

I have a fantastic circle of friends. Every week on Friday mornings a group of us meet for breakfast at a local diner. It’s not a strictly defined group, there are some that come once in a while, but there is a core of us that is Always. There. We never miss it.

The Ramblin' Palates are ready to go!

The Ramblin’ Palates are ready to go!

Here we are. From the left is Cary, me, Kosta (my husband), Di, and Tammy. The only one missing is Val, but we met up with her on our way.

It just so happens that this core group also happen to be foodies. Which is how the Ramblin’ Palates came to be. We decided that every month or so we would journey to a restaurant out there in the state of Florida that has a reputation for great food. Today we took a trip north and inland to the little town of LaBelle, FL for lunch.

We have so much fun together. There is much laughter, usually near to the point of someone wetting themselves. On our drive to LaBelle we took two cars because there were to be six of us. But fifteen minutes into the journey Tammy calls us and to inform us this is unacceptable and that we must all ride together. So we drop our car in the Target parking lot and squeeze into Di’s SUV. We thought it was a tight fit then, but when we got to Ft. Myers and picked up Val? Let’s just say it may have been slightly illegal how there were four of us crammed in the back seat.2 Peas Cafe sigh

We arrived in LaBelle at the The Two Peas Cafe. Tammy had lived in LaBelle during high school so she knew the ladies who owned the place. They are famous for their pie, which is the most important food group, in my humble opinion. I will take a piece of pie over all other sweets. My mother makes me a birthday pie every August. The day after Thanksgiving can always be counted on as being outstanding because there is always pie for breakfast. You get the idea.

The restaurant isn’t fancy, but the ladies who work there are welcoming, friendly, and the food was awesome. Since October it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month the Two Peas Cafe was awash in pink. There were t-shirts, pink hair, and pink ribbon cards that could be obtained by making a donation.

Save 2nd Base

Save 2nd Base

Di made a generous gift to the fund and we all wrote on ribbons for our loved ones who had cancer. Some survived, some did not. But all of them were fighters.

Lunch was excellent. After perusing the menu Cary and I decided to split entrees. I ordered the fried green tomatoes and she ordered the garlic cheddar burger and we each ate half. The burger was good, but the tomatoes were out of this world. Tangy, crispy, and lightly battered. YUM.

fried green tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes


Everyone was happy with their meals:

Kosta and his Patricia Melt

Kosta and his Patricia Melt

Cary and Di with their burgers

Cary and Di with their burgers

Val and her Hoppin John

Val and her Hoppin John

Tammy and her BL Fried Green Tomato sandwich.

Tammy and her BL Fried Green T sandwich.















Poor Tammy. She’s so painfully shy.

Dessert was divine as well. All of us save Kosta had the coconut cream pie. Di, whose family is from Kentucky, informed us the proper way to pronouce it is “cokernut.” To think I’ve been saying it wrong all these years!

Cokernut Cream Pie

Cokernut Cream Pie

Kosta decided to be the rogue (Black Sheep is his middle name) and had the last slice of apple pie in the house. It was served up like this with the rest of our pies:

apple pie beforeAnd then one of the owners saw what he had and squawked in dismay. She told him, “Honey, give me that pie and I’ll show you how a fat girl eats it.”

She took away the sweet little slice, plump with apples and fragrant with spices. When she returned it was warm, had 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, and was drizzled with caramel sauce:

apple pie after

What was once an ordinary piece of apple pie was now transformed into a hedonistic, diabetic-coma-inducing masterpiece.

You know he ate the whole thing. Minus one bite that I stole.

The pie doctor

The pie doctor and one of the Two Peas

The self-proclaimed “fat girl” told us the story of how Two Peas Cafe got its name. The two women who own it have been best friends their whole lives. They were often likened to two peas in a pod. Regardless of good, bad, or the inveitable trouble they landed it, the two peas stuck together.

A delicious meal and PIE. What could be better?

The fun didn’t end there. After lunch Tammy and Val took us on a driving tour of the little town of LaBelle. We saw where they used to live, work, and go to school. We saw the church that has a tree planted in their mother’s honor. And then we turned a corner and found a pumpkin patch complete with corn maze! Naturally, a clown car crammed with adults hopped up on sugar needed to stop.

pumpkin patch

The Ramblin Palates before the mayhem…

Uh... guys? Thats a beanbag toss... not a--never mind.

Uh… guys? Thats a beanbag toss… not a–never mind.


Children of the Corn

Children of the Corn

The two ladies who were staffing the pumpkin patch must have thought we were all newly escaped from Happy Acres. There were several occasions when one of us had to walk away or risk peeing in our pants from laughing.  When we were posing behind the candy corn, I distinctly remember my husband shouting at Cary: “Don’t pee on me! Don’t pee on me!” Which of course, was not exactly helpful to someone with a terminal case of the giggles.

I’m sure the two ladies were glad to see us go. Especially since we didn’t buy any pumpkins.

The last stop we made in LaBelle was the Harold P. Curtis Honey Company.  They have been in LaBelle since 1954 and they sell all sorts of varieties of wonderful honey. Since the last time I was in LaBelle they have had an outstanding mural painted on the side of their building:

Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. LaBelle, FL

Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. LaBelle, FL

We popped inside for a look around. They have wildflower and orange blossom honey, as you would expect in Florida, but they also have mangrove, seagrape, and palmetto honey too. We all tasted the different kinds and Kosta bought some seagrape honey to take home.

So we packed ourselves tightly in the car and headed home.

The view from the back seat.

The view from the back seat.


Stay tuned for next month’s adventure!