Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Taste of India in Pensacola

I had just finished doing the laundry at our son’s house when AdventureMan came back from the YMCA, where he had been trying out a series of their exercise machines trying to exorcise a demon caught in his back muscles.

“I have two suggestions for lunch,” he began, “you choose.”

OK. I can live with that. “What are my choices?” I ask.

“Taste of India or The Cajun Cafe with the lunch special for $4.99?” he responded.

“I’d like to try the Taste of India. It’s gotten some great reviews. It’s hard for me to believe an Indian food restaurant is doing well in Pensacola; let’s go see.”

I will tell you honestly, I did not have high hopes. We have been so spoiled, living in the Gulf countries, where real Indian food has been available, and inexpensive. Even better, we have had Indian food in homes, where it doesn’t get any better or any more authentic. I’ve been shown how to make some dishes (wooo HOOO!). So I was prepared to be a harsh critic, and – even worse, in our book – it is a lunch buffet.

Buffets just don’t put out the quality of food we seek. They seem to focus on quantity, at the expense of good ingredients, superbly prepared.

Not this time.

The food was awesome.

They didn’t have a lot of dishes, maybe nine or ten, plus condiments and dessert. The dishes they had were excellent, and the kinds of dishes we use to determine whether we like a place or not. Vegetable pekoras. Chicken Korma. Biriyani. Dal Makhani. Chicken Tandoori. Delicious.

And there was HEAT! They had a very hot red sauce you could use; there was also a little heat in the korma. I was impressed. I can’t wait to go back and order off their menu, which you can also do.

I was also delighted to see that they had a steady stream of committed customers; you could tell most of them come there often and love the food.

No, no, I did not eat two plates of food. One was mine and the other was AdventureMan’s. And the plates look so huge because I had the camera right down next to the plate, so you could get the textures. It was SO good!

Yes, we are eating out a lot. It’s because we are living in a hotel until we can get into our house. Soon, we are assured, very soon. By the date they promised!

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Experiment, Food, Living Conditions | Leave a comment

The ’50’s Automatic Car Wash

Not too far from where we will live is this old fashioned car-wash, with all these car washing machines.

It costs $5.00. That is it. No additional taxes, it is all included. You can get the fancier treatments, but I just needed to get the pollen and sap off my new car. Within seconds, I was in, and finished.

It could make you a little claustrophobic (well, it makes me just a little claustrophobic) because you have NO control! You have to keep your hand off the steering wheel and your foot off the brake! You just sit there while water shoots from different directions, and then you are covered with soap suds and you cannot see a thing except the lights from the car in front of you, oh no!

And then huge gusts of wind and it is over except for the optional – and free – vacuums you can use to clean out the car interior.

My car looked like new! I think me and the 50’s car wash are going to be good friends.

It does remind me of the automatic car wash we used to visit in Saudi Arabia. In a country where labor is cheap and the harshness of the weather and climate makes specialized machinery hard to maintain, things happen. We don’t know if the machines broke and couldn’t be fixed or whether they were sabotaged, but while it was billed as an “automatic” car wash, it was this thing where the car got on tracks but while water squirted and suds squirted, there were people, not brushes, with rags and towels, washing, drying, spraying, scrubbing and finally buffing. The end result was the same, but people, not machines, did the work.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Humor, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Saudi Arabia, Technical Issue | Leave a comment

Pensacola Ale House and Customer Service

“I think she’s having a problem,” I said to AdventureMan as he huffed because the waitress hadn’t been by the table and he needed something. She – and the manager – were at the table behind AdventureMan, and that couple was raising a stink about something and the waitress and the manager were placating them.

No matter what they did, the woman kept complaining. The man looked embarrassed; you get the impression the woman was trying to get their meals comped or something.

When the waitress came to our table, she took our orders and then we waited again, a long time, before our meals came. The waitress was running around, there was a huge crowd in the Ale House, and we could tell she was a little flustered from her experience with the couple at the next table.

This being retired and living temporarily in a hotel is a real change for us. It means when things are slow, it’s OK. We aren’t in a hurry, we don’t have anywhere we have to be and AdventureMan is only as tired as his exercise program and jet lag force him to be.

Our appetizer came, smoked fish spread and crackers and oh, YUMMM. So good. When our main dishes came, AdventureMan got salad and a big bowl of chili, but I got Chicken Oriental, not Oriental Chicken Salad. I sent it back. No big deal, but I really, REALLY love their Oriental Chicken Salad.

The waitress apologized, and apologized, and we could see she was having a bad night. Of course, it took a while for me to get my order, but it was worth it. Did I mention how I love their Oriental Chicken Salad? There used to be a chicken salad at Chili’s that I liked, Crispy Chicken Salad, and I loved that, except I only wished the chicken were grilled, not fried. At the Pensacola Ale House, the chicken is grilled. There is nothing not to love. The crispy noodles, the tangy salad dressing – it is all good.

It was our son and his wife who told us we would like this place, and they were right. It has a great variety – we could see a lot of burgers, steaks, chicken, Osso Bucco – and everything that went by us was something we would love to try sometime.

When we had finished, the waitress came by again and we assured her we were fine, she had done fine with us, and the mistaken order was no big deal, and it wasn’t. She brought the bill, we paid, and then, when she brought back our change, she brought this – “on the house,” she said, “for being so nice:”

We were so full. Dinner had been so good. But we took a couple bites, just to be polite. It was an Oreo cookie crust, with vanilla ice cream, and another layer of gooey warm caramel before another layer of Oreo crust. It was DIVINE. We ate the whole thing. Well, we left a couple bites, just to be polite. We have a very funny Kuwaiti friend; we could hear him saying “haven’t you ever seen food before?” It was irresistible. It was amazing. Can you tell, we hardly ever eat desserts?

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Pensacola/Escambia County Honors WWII Vets

To understand how significant this is, you need to know that Pensacola is not a wealthy area, suffering more than 10% unemployment. Pensacola and Escambia County were hit hard by Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis, and are still recovering, but when asked to support this effort, exceeded – and nearly doubled – the charitable contribution:

The sixth trip of Emerald Coast Honor Flight is scheduled to depart from the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport this morning, taking a group of Northwest Florida’s WWII veterans to see the WWII Memorial.

This is from the Pensacola News Journal for today:

The Escambia County School District is the major sponsor for the April 14 flight, which will take 98 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.

More than $114,000 was raised through individual donations. Teachers made personal donations to sponsor a veteran, often doing so in honor of their own loved ones who served during WWII. Students saved pennies and participated in school activities such as the “Hats Off To Veterans” day hosted at N. B. Cook.

All of the funds given were donations made by employees, students, schools, parents and community members.

In October, the district set a goal to sponsor 50 veterans, but within six weeks, the goal had been exceeded. On March 16, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas presented a ceremonial check to Emerald Coast Honor Flight, representing the largest donation ever made to the organization.

“I’m so incredibly proud of Escambia County’s staff, teachers and students,” Thomas said in a news release. “They really stepped up to the challenge to honor our local veterans by sending them on Honor Flight.”

The veterans, whose ages range from 82 to 95, will have guardians to escort them throughout the entire day. A cherished war time memory , “mail call,” will be re-created on the flight to Washington, with letters of appreciation from students and employees being distributed to each of the veterans.

Bryce Cox, a fourth-grade student from N. B. Cook Elementary, wrote one of the letters.

“I wrote ‘Thank you for serving our country and protecting it and I hope you have fun on the Honor Flight,” Bryce said.

A big homecoming celebration is planned upon the veterans’ return to Pensacola. Escambia County School District high school bands, cheerleaders and NJROTCs will be participating.

The public is invited to welcome home the veterans as at 7 p.m. at the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport.

Wooo HOOOO on you, Pensacola and Escambia County!

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, ExPat Life, Florida, Fund Raising, Generational, Living Conditions, Pensacola | Leave a comment