Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

COVID and Escambia County

I love my new neighbors in my little house with the sunsets. Early in the morning, as I was hanging my swimsuit out to dry, I saw her and her daughter also out in their backyard, and strolled over to say “Hey!”

She held out her hands in warning. “Don’t come any nearer!” She explained her youngest daughter was in quarantine, her entire high school was quarantined, students, faculty, administration. My friend is a dear woman, she had to quarantine her husband in the basement far away from his infectious daughter, due to health issues. I later learned – not from my neighbor – the school blames a “secret” Halloween party that ended up being a huge crowd event. A super spreader.

Sigh. Honestly, I can’t blame the kids. There is a belief around here that the COVID virus makes you a little uncomfortable and then you get over it. The majority of the adults don’t bother with masks.

We continue to be careful in our little bubble. Today, we drove out to a restaurant we like in the more rural north part of town. We planned, if it were not too crowded, to eat there, but it was too crowded. As we waited, masked, just us and the management and wait staff, not a single other person coming in to order, whether for pick up or for dine in, was masked.

The case rate in Florida is once again rising rapidly. The death rate is rising once again. I have a sinking feeling that the normal big family Thanksgivings will take place here as usual, with a resulting spike in cases and deaths. I am so sick of hunkering down, and I just tell myself to get a grip, I take enough risks, don’t take this one.

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

I Can’t Look

Today is election day in the United States of America, following four of the nastiest years in our history.

I try to be objective.

We served our country, AdventureMan and I, for many years, most of them outside the United States, sometimes in dangerous circumstances, not always agreeing with the official policies of our country but always, always, supporting them, as we were sworn to do. That is the nature of the “dark” bureaucracy. We serve our country, and we obey the laws.

To see the bureaucracy derided, dismissed and destroyed breaks my heart. To see all the painstaking hard work taken over years and years of persistent policy making tossed aside, along with our faithful allies, enrages me.

Oops. Enraged?

One of the things we learn along the road is not to take things personally. We learn to suffer disappointment and watch for opportunities to get back on track. Anger doesn’t help. Name-calling doesn’t help. Confrontation may be useful, but you have to choose your timing, and your battles.

I was raised to be competitive. I have had to dial it back. I learned that focusing on the win all the time drove bad decisions, and an unhealthy attitude – in me, I am not judging anyone else here, I just learned that to be effective in my own life, I had to lay competitiveness aside.

Tonight we will learn the design of our next four years. I can’t help it; I am emotionally involved. I spent the day NOT watching the news, not watching for signs and portents. I took care of business, I quilted, I went to the dentist, all great diversions. I prayed, frequently, throughout the day as I have been praying for four years. I try not to give God advice, I try to remember always to keep in mind “Thy will be done” and yet . . . I have my private opinion of how things would work out best.

Tonight, once the polls close, I will watch.

Whatever happens in the next few hours, or days, or even weeks – or months – I will try to stay level, stay focused, stay the course. No matter how bad it has been, there have been minor celebrations along the way, and I can persevere, I know I can. It would be nice, however (God? are you there? are you listening?) to have a break, to have some normality restored, and to begin to have a longer news cycle, and rest between crises, and even, God willing, some peace on earth, good will toward mankind.

November 3, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Only Julia Childs Could Lead Me Into Temptation

I try so hard to be good, and for the most part, I keep myself reigned in. Every now and then, however, I stumble and fall, and this time I did it in a big way.

I got a notice that a local shop/cooking School, Bodacious Shops, was doing a special Julia Childs dinner, a seven course dinner using genuine Julia Childs recipes.

“AdventureMan!” I shouted from my office to his, “AdventureMan, there is a Julia Childs Dinner at Bodacious Shops! They are using her recipes!”

“Book it!” shouts AdventureMan back from his office.

We miss France. We miss French food. We miss travel. We just moved, we have a house on the market, utility bills for two houses and projects for the newest house. We are masking and socially distancing to the point that we never eat in a restaurant, except two weeks ago when we ate outdoors at Flounders. Every item points away from an event like this, and we jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

When the day came, we were busy with normal family projects and a grandchild. When the grandchild got picked up, a storm was rolling in. I got in my nightgown, and settled in with a great book I am reading. At 5:47, AdventureMan called from his office “Don’t we have a dinner tonight?” and oh yes, and it started at 6:00.  LOL, we scrambled. We got there by 6:10, last ones to arrive but ten minutes could happen to anyone.

We were very correct, very socially distanced, and masked, except it was a dinner, so masks came off.

The dinner was delightful. It could have been all formal, but it wasn’t, and it was a lot of fun. Chef Nick is very funny as well as skilled and knowledgeable, and as it is more a presentation than a hands-on course, we didn’t get too messy.

We started with salmon mousse. It was divine. It was as good as anything I’ve had in France.

The next course was Vichysoisse. It was really good. I make Vichysoisse myself, and I am happy to say, this was very similar, tasty!

The next course is mussels, which we love. We eat mussels in the Pacific Northwest, and we eat mussels in France. We ate a memorable bowl of mussels in Dubrovnik. AdventureMan makes a mean dish of mussels steamed in white wine, seafood broth and garlic, so Chef Nick was up against a tough standard. The mussels were good, and I can’t eat mussels without using my fingers, so it was delicious – and messy.

We had a salad, and we had a sorbet, and then a little break before the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon.

I’m used to a little stewier beef burgundy, but I liked this one just fine. It was rich and textured, and had a lot of flavor. I was delighted that they kept the portions French-like, smaller. When food is well prepared and full of flavor, you don’t need to eat so much.

A little French cheese, a Compte and something very soft, a lot like Brie but it wasn’t.

Ummm, there was actually more of the Compte (top one) but I forgot and ate a couple pieces before I remembered to take a picture. Forgive me!

And the evening ended with a lovely very chocolatey chocolate mousse, served in a little pastry puff.

 

Balanced against the risk of eating out in a town where the positive rate for COVID is still hovering between 13% and 14%, we agreed that this was a relatively safe bet. This was not a real downtown restaurant, but a specialty shop were they do cooking classes and special events. The number of attendees was limited by the space, the spacing, and, frankly, by the price.

We felt safe. It was a group of people who love good food, who weren’t drinking too much or talking loudly. People respected the 6 foot rule and wore masks when not eating.

AdventureMan said it was a good risk and a good investment in another way, in that we didn’t have to take a plane or a boat to France.

So yes, it was a risk. And yes, some risks are worth taking.

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Civility, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, France, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant | , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Beach: COVID? What COVID?

We are in the middle of some stormy weather, which in Pensacola means gloriously powerful thunder and lightning storms, here one minute and gone the next, or maybe lingering for hours, followed by hot sunshine Yesterday, with the side streams of Tropical Storm Hanna blowing by, we had an intensely thundery and stormy day, some periods of torrential rains, followed by sunlight, followed by heavy rains, followed by blue skies – and light sprinkles.

We stayed inside almost all day, then in late afternoon where suddenly everything lightened, we headed for our son’s home, and their lovely large back-yard and nice large warm pool. What luxury! An old friend was visiting, and we social-distanced in the pool.

Today, I told AdventureMan I wanted to go to Flounder’s for lunch. AdventureMan looked at me and asked “Do you think we could risk eating there? Outside?”

We haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 12th. We’ve ordered out, even from Flounders, and taken it home to eat.

But Flounders, one of our favorite places to eat (part of the McGuire’s Steakhouse chain) has lots and lots of room, lots of seating, indoors and out. Of all the eating-in-a-restaurant risks, this one seemed pretty low. After a big rain, everything seems to sparkle, the air seems clearer – and we need a vacation. I said “yes.”

We drove to the beach, found a parking place immediately – always a good sign – and were seated in the high-ceilinged, semi-covered area, where large booths for six and eight people are separated by these signs:

Although there were two groups of eight seated near us (really once very large group) unmasked, there was plenty of distance. It was a real mix – the parking lot full of licenses from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky – even one from Oregon (!), maybe hiding out down here from the Feds, as so many do. Have you ever noticed how on those old Crime shows, so many of the criminals were ultimately found in Florida? Or California? Actually, my Mother is from Oregon, and I have nothing but sympathy and admiration for those Oregonians showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all the white women showing up in yellow T-shirts (Moms for Black Lives Matter) and the grandpas with their leaf blowers – they really know how to protest with good will and a sense of humor.

OOps. I digress.

People were social distanced. We had plenty of space.

They are using a new, condensed menu, but we knew what we wanted and the waitress told us we could order even if it didn’t show on the menu.

Seafood Chowder. Flounders is famous for it, and it is truly a magnificent taste-treat.

As usual, I forgot to take the photo until I was half done. Apologies!

My husband loves their grilled grouper sandwiches, and he always shares a fry or three or four with me because they are so delicious:

 

I had my usual – Baja Tacos. Here is the truth – they also have a healthier fish taco, grilled, served with a mango salsa but I really love the deep fried Baja Tacos. I usually can’t eat more than one, so I bring them home and have a fish taco salad for another meal.

We had great service.

Some servers were masked. Some were not. It appears they have their choice. Some customers wore masks, some carried masks, some had no masks. Where we sat, there was a lot of fresh air, breezy air, and a lot of space, so we did not worry too much. No more condiments on the tables. Everything looked very clean.

Sometimes you take a risk. This risk was a much needed mini-vacation at a time when we are not comfortable with airplanes or even hotels.

The beach scene is a different story. We could see crowds of people, no masks, no social distancing, around the jet-ski rental places. In spite of the huge red-lettered signs saying DANGEROUS SURF. DO NOT GO IN GULF it looked to me like a hundred or more people swimming around in Casino Beach. We saw lots of large groups. Lots of cars from other places. I can imagine the servers have concerns, especially if they have families, or need to stay well to keep a roof over their heads. The visitors seem oblivious to the health boundaries necessary to prevent transmission. When one person in ten in Escambia County is testing positive, they are exposing themselves and taking the virus back home with them to wherever they came from.

So for us, having a meal out in a restaurant was a unique event. I can’t imagine the conditions are such that we can be comfortable making it a habit. It was a fling. It was nice while it lasted. I hope there are no repercussions.

July 25, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Community, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Breaks All Records for COVID Cases

First, to those of you who know me and are far away, we are well.

My Mother died of COVID in Seattle, in April. It was a shock. Although she was 96, she was mentally fit, very sharp, and her mother lived to 104. We all expected Mom to break her Mom’s record.

We don’t live in the biggest hot-spot, the Miami/Dade County area far to the south and east of Pensacola. No, we are in the eighth worst hit part of Florida, and part of the 18 greatest concerns for COVID according to the study out yesterday.

No one I know here has gotten sick. Almost everyone I know has the luxury of staying home, working from home, not needing to interface with the public unnecessarily. It is stunning, however, to think that one person in ten in this area has or  has had the virus.

These graphs are not from the Florida Department of Health website. The person hired to design that website designed a great, comprehensive website to transparently share information. She was fired. She says she was fired for not agreeing to manipulate the information to make things look not so bad in Florida. Our governor is a total toady to President Trump, who is doing nothing to provide leadership to our country in fighting this pandemic, not providing comfort to those who suffer from it.

 

 

These snapshots are from her new website, which has much more accurate presentations of the situation in Florida than the official site. She, and others, gather information which may be obscure, but is available to the public, and publishes it. Her website is Florida Covid Action. She is a hero.

I live in a county where I have friends who support Trump and believe that the Democrats are over-hyping the problems for political reasons, so that Trump will lose his bid for re-election. They also believe masks are unnecessary. They don’t see any reason to socially distance. They perceive restrictions on their behavior as violations of their First Amendment rights.

So Trump has mandated our schools to open as normal – that means in August. The schools must offer an in-school option, which has many teachers frightened and/or furious. They also offer a remote school-day option, 6 hours in front of a computer, and an independent option, where a student completes a curriculum on his or her own. Those who attend school will not be required to mask or to social distance.

My grandchildren are 7 and 10. Their parents face having to choose the least bad of the three proposals. Parents all around the state are debating what to do. Many parents work, and child care is almost impossible to find and very costly. Many parents will have to send their children to school or leave them unattended and unsupervised at home.

The pediatric cases are for my county, Escambia County. The highest rate of transmission is among those 15 – 24. They’ve closed the bars, but the rate remains high, and rising. The rate of transmission among children is also rising.

I am outraged. We have handled this contagion worse that a third world country. We know masks work. We know social distancing, plus masks, plus conscientious hand-washing can flatten this curve, bring the number of cases down, and expect a rational re-opening. Nothing we have done, especially in Florida, has been rational. God help us. Lord, have mercy on us.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, Florida, Health Issues, Hygiene, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency, Values | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Smashes Record Corona Virus Rate

Pensacola has had a full week of record breaking cases of Corona Virus, way up from where it was when we all began to shelter in place.

With news that the leadership has decided that testing is the problem, and that the government is beginning to withdraw support for testing, the cars are lining up at the local drive-through testing station, concerned people trying to get tested before testing goes away.

So what looks worse for re-election? Dealing with the problem, or pretending the problem doesn’t exist, not dealing the the problem, and pulling funding from studying the problem?

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Health Issues, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Hidden Gems: Restaurants We Love in Pensacola

People are flocking to Pensacola, or, actually, to the white sugar sands of Pensacola Beach, where you can breathe Covid-free air, paddle around in the Gulf and maintain distance between your less-than-ten group and the next.

Those flocking are always looking for good places to eat at the end of a long day in the sun. As people who love good places to eat, we are going to share some of the lesser known but delightful places in Pensacola where we eat often. We arrived here ten years ago, and were blown away that this old Southern town had such a variety of restaurants full of different tastes.

If you are not from the South, this is for you:  Any time you see the words “with a Southern twist” it is code for loaded with fat and sugar. You can’t beat the sweets – think beignets, Southern cakes, think sweet tea. I believe the South does some of the very best desserts in the United States of America.

That Southern twist, however, is one of the reasons that the most obese states in the USA are also in the South. You will find sugar and fat where you least expect it – one time, at a noted Pensacola restaurant where people go to see and be seen, I ordered a side of greens, trying to avoid sugar. When I tasted the greens, I gagged. Whoda thunk that collard greens would be cooked with sugar?

These are places local foodies go:

Blue Dot BBQ310 N De Villiers St

I’m starting with Blue Dot because it is one of the quirkiest places in Pensacola. In the first place, sometimes they are open, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes when they are open they will answer the phone, and sometimes they will not. Their answering machine gives out a message that says something like “we might be busy or we might be closed, so don’t call again.” Sometimes they have ribs as well as hamburgers, and sometimes they do not. And always, they are packed with people picking up orders. The guy taking the orders keeps them all in his head, and we haven’t seen him mess up a single order.

I had lived here for ten years before I tasted my first Blue Dot hamburger. People here say these are the best hamburgers in the world, pure and simple. I fully enjoyed mine, and I can’t say why. The meat was really good, and the bun was really good, but I can’t put my finger on what made it all so good. It is simple, and it is simply good. Doesn’t come with anything. Doesn’t cost much. And if you’ve lived in Pensacola a long time, Blue Dot is the best kept secret.

New Yorker Deli, 3001 E Cervantes St

I should put a disclaimer on the New Yorker, saying we eat there regularly, like once a week, but the truth is, most of these places I am sharing with you are places we eat regularly, and we don’t get any kickback for saying good things about them. We say good things because they serve good food.

The New Yorker is a deli and restaurant frequented mostly by locals, but get there early. They serve at least eight different home made soups every single day, and a huge variety of salads. They also boast “Pensacola’s best Reuben,” which I can attest to being pretty awesome, and a French Dip Sandwich with some of the best dipping broth I have found. We took a visitor there, they only person I know who could get excited over a liverwurst sandwich, but he is from New York and this was his favorite place in Pensacola. Tuesday they serve Crawfish Etoufee, and if you want to dine in, you had better get there early. Friday, they often have their famous Broccoli Salad.

If you’re looking for dinner on a Friday night, get there early. Yes, they serve wine and beer.

They also have pastas and pizzas. They also have a spectacular selection of desserts. They also have friendly, personal service. We feel so blessed to have a place nearby serving food of this quality.

Gulf Coast Seafood Market and Restaurant, 2250 W 9 Mile Rd

This restaurant is not near-by, and it is high enough on our list that we make the effort to go there often. As part of the renowned Patti family seafood and restaurant empire, it serves some of the best and freshest seafood in the area. The Alaska girl in me gets a craving for some salmon and I give my husband the look that says “take me to (Jonathan’s) for some salmon!” While most of the customers are ordering their baskets or platters with fabulous fried oysters, crab cakes, grouper, catfish or shrimp, we love it that GCSMR will also grill or blacken. This little hidden gem serves what I consider the best salmon in Pensacola, hush puppies to die for, and excellent baked beans. They use sugar where you would expect it – hush puppies, baked beans and sweets – but they also serve steamed broccoli, no sugar.

Shoreline Deli, 1180 W Main St

Just down the street from the famous Joe Patti’s, at the corner of Main and E is the Shoreline Deli and grocery. Not only do we order out, fabulous fresh made sandwiches and salads with a Greek flair, but we also buy our olive oil there, by the gallon, LOL (you think I am kidding, but I am not). While waiting for my order, I buy many of my spices there, fresher than in the supermarkets, think za’atar, sumac, poppy seeds, cardamon, cinnamon sticks, clove, all packaged in small packages (or large, if you need large).  They have Mediterranean relishes, sweets, condiments, nuts, specialties of all kinds, and a very large selection of Zapp’s potato chips and other local specialties.

Near the cashier, where you get a military discount if you show your ID, is a stand laden with irresistible sweets – think baklava, big chewy cookies, and for my husband, some of the best peanut brittle anywhere.

Taste of Jerusalem, 707 N Pace Blvd Suite B

Ray, the owner, is working on a new location on Cervantes, so check Taste of Jerusalem.com before you head there. The current location is tiny, but well patronized because the food is just SO GOOD. I tell AdventureMan “this is better than some of the Middle Eastern food we used to eat in the Middle East.” Ray is constantly expanding his menu, and there is something for everyone. My vegetarian friends love the two huge Vegetarian Platters, with selections from hummus, baba ghannoush, stuffed grape leaves, Jerusalem salad, felafel, tzatziki, etc. His grill platters and sandwiches are chock full of grilled flavor; lamb, beef, chicken, kebabs, gyros, and shrimp. He also has grilled chickens and platters of biryani and mensaf. His trout is excellent. Join the stream of loyal patrons who marvel that Pensacola has a world class Mediterranean restaurant of this calibre.

Taco Rock 29, 5454 Pensacola Blvd

This is the original Taco Rock, and we love it because the food is so well prepared and so tasty. It is not fancy, and sometimes the air conditioning does not work. It doesn’t deter us. My husband is addicted to their fresh, home-made tamales (pork) and I am a big fan of the Burrito Loco. The food is fresh, hot, comes with a mild or hot salsa. You have your choice of meats in the tacos, tostadas, burritos, etc. The chips are thin and crisp. They have a loyal clientele, and many delivery customers, so sometimes you have to wait. It’s worth it. We love this place.

Seafoods Station, 4796 N. 9th Ave.

My Hawaiian friend introduced me to Poke’ bowls, which I’ve tried at different places every since, but I have found none that I love the way I love the Ahi Tuna Poke’ or the Salmon Poke’ at Seafoods Stations. Lucky for me, my husband has several dishes he loves – the clam platter, the mussels platter, the Cajun Shrimp platter, the Shrimp Stir-Fried noodles. Actually, the menu is so large and varied that everyone we have taken there has found something to love. It is quirky, to us to combine seafood, Vietnamese and Cajun foods, but with the local history of Vietnamese immigrants settling in Louisiana and becoming major players in the shrimp and fish industry, it all makes sense, and the flavors are beautifully combined at Seafoods Station.

Siam Thai, 6403 N 9th Ave

When we first moved to Pensacola and started taking our then-baby grandson out with us, he cut his teeth on foods from Siam Thai. They were always so patient with us, and so kind to our little grandson. Now, we order out from Siam Thai regularly because their food is so well prepared, fresh and full of flavor. In truth, I like some foods spicy, and they make it spicy enough for me.

We love their Spring Rolls, uncooked with shrimp and vermicelli noodles, and a rich peanut sauce to dip in. I love their Grilled Chicken Salad (that’s a full meal right there), and we love their Northern Style Noodles Soup (another full meal, rich in chicken and vegetables in a tasty red chli base). We love their Chicken Cashew Nuts and OMG their Rama Chicken. There are dishes we haven’t tried yet. We mean to, but we go to order and can’t resist those we have had and found to be so delicious. We intend to keep trying 🙂 and we will enjoy every bite 🙂

Taqueria Al Asador, 7955 N Davis Hwy

Once solely a food truck, Al Asador has some picnic-style outdoor seating, and now it is even covered. Listed as one of the best food-trucks in the USA, the food at Al Asador is worth every second of the wait in the line to order, and the wait to pick up. Service is speedy, and they have to-go down to a science, with pre-packaged Salvadoran sauces to spice your tacos and tostadas and burritos. One of our favorites is the Chicken Platter (Platillo de Pollo), so much food and we can both eat for under $20. The meat is grilled and smoked on huge grills behind the truck, so the aromas while you wait are sheer heaven.

Do not, we learned from experience, go on a Saturday. The line is very long.

You have to know what you are looking for. Al Asador is co-located with a Shell gas station, north of I-10. Drive north on Davis, do a U-turn at Olive Road and get in the right hand lane to exit soon, when you see the Shell Station. There is additional parking over in front of a warehouse on the right hand side of Blackwell Road. Al Asador is worth the trouble.

Ozone Pizza Pub, 1010 N 12th Ave #111

We think Ozone has the best pizzas in town, and the best thin crusts. I love that the pizzas are really Italian in style – not too much red sauce, not too much cheese, not too much crust, and fresh ingredients with a lot of flavor. I love the Pesto Vecchio and the La Bianco, my husband loves the Nutty Idea, our grandchildren love the Carnivore, my daughter in law loves the Root Down Salad and we love the Greek salad – one is enough to share, when also eating pizza.

I will admit, I also love that it is in a re-purposed old building, once a hospital, now housing two restaurants and several businesses. Ozone has loyal and fervent customers, passionate and ready to defend Ozone as the best Pizza in town (and one of the best bar scenes).

Joe Patti’s Seafoods, 524 South B Street

Just off Main, you can’t miss the huge sign or the flag, Joe Patti’s is a Pensacola landmark and institution. It is not a restaurant – well, maybe you can eat some sushi in the back – but there is a Joey Patti’s restaurant nearby serving a lot of heavily fried delicious fresh seafood.

I mention Joe Patti’s because I would dare to say that everyone in Pensacola shops there – some occasionally and some more frequently. Joe Patti’s has all the variety of fresh seafood you can imagine. It also has specialty food items you can’t find any where else.

For us, we are addicted to Joe Patti’s gumbo, although once I ordered clam chowder by accident and it was every bit as good, it is just, frankly, I can make chowder that good, but I cannot equal Joe Patti’s gumbo. We order it by the quart and grab a baguette of his delicious sourdough bread to go with it. Sometimes I can’t resist one of their specialty cheeses, even though I know it is bad for me, Joe Patti carries some really delicious cheeses. Oh. And ice cream and cakes. A whole display case of them. And a variety of seafood salads. Anything you could want for an elegant picnic, including wines, you can find at Joe Patti’s.

Do not go on Christmas Eve day; even early in the morning, there is a line a couple blocks long when it opens. If you MUST go on Christmas Eve, be sure you have ordered your oysters at least a week in advance.

* * * * * * *

Above are some of our very favorite, most frequented places. I will remind you that I have lived in countries designated by our fearless leader as “$#*!holes” and I am willing to overlook things more dainty women might object to. Most of these places are not elegant. You don’t even have to take off your shorts and sandals – they are Florida casual. Of course, right now, in the age of COVID, we are not eating out, but we are very religiously taking out; we want to support our hard working friends in the restaurant business.

Having said that, now and then you want to dress a little and celebrate. I will share four of the more known restaurants we like, and why.

Flounders Chowder House, 800 Quietwater Beach Road

Well, just kidding, take those pearls back off and get back into shorts and sandals, Flounders is casual, but more expensive, and part of a chain, but a local chain we really like because we find their food excellent.

The first thing we love at Flounders Chowder House is . . . the chowder. It is exceptional. It is full of seafood, not the least bit skimpy. My husband orders the grilled grouper sandwich, which comes with the most sinfully delicious fries ever. I am not supposed to eat fries. They are really bad for me. If I am going to eat fries, I eat a couple or five or so off my husband’s plate. They are so crisp and so tasty, must be all that fat and salt. I usually order the Baja Fish Tacos, fried and served with abundant pico de gallo, yes, fried, but so GOOD. If I am better behaved, I order the grilled shrimp salad or the Caeser with grilled shrimp.

The food is excellent, every time. You can also get good drinks and good wine there (we see it flowing like water, and many a well-oiled customer), often live mellow music, and always a fresh Gulf Breeze, even on the days with the heaviest humidity. Flounders is a treat.

McGuires Irish Pub Pensacola, 600 E Gregory St

I am pretty sure McGuires and Flounders are owned by the same company. Every now and then, AdventureMan and I get a craving for a good steak. We know what we want, just a little filet with a heavy crushed pepper crust. We know where to go – McGuire’s.

McGuires is not a hidden gem; it is well publicized and well known. There are lines outside to get in. We usually go in winter, or on a parade day when everyone is somewhere else. It is very pubby – dark wood interior, Irish music, live Irish singers, tables close together, large crowds of people calling out to one another, it is noisy. There are dollar bills tacked to the ceiling, everywhere. You really don’t have to dress, although some do, some are coming from events, but many are still in their beach clothes, it’s that kind of mixture.

The food is relentlessly good. I admire that McGuires can provide continuously good food, across the menu, from drinks to desserts, and maintain a high standard of excellence. Our steaks are perfect, every single time.

Fisherman’s Corner, 13486 Perdido Key Dr

We are getting up to my two all time favorite Pensacola restaurants here, and we drive for 45 minutes to get to Fisherman’s Corner. We take our house guests there. It is that good.

Every thing we have tried at Fisherman’s Corner, we love. We always start with their hand-dipped peppered onion rings. If your group is hungry, order two or more; they are gone in a heartbeat. My favorite entree is the Creole Linguine, which I cannot eat because it is too rich, so my beloved AdventureMan will order it (well, he loves it, too) and give me a couple bites. I adore the Cioppino, honestly one of the best I have ever eaten, anywhere, but it is not often available at lunch and sometimes not at dinner.

Fisherman’s Corner is like that. They don’t keep a huge freezer full of frozen stuff, their food is fresh and if it is not available fresh, then it won’t be available. You learn to live with that small inconvenience because holy smokes, the food is so incredibly good. Their smoked tuna – when available – is awesome. Their grilled tuna or grilled tuna salad – when available – is awesome.

We were first taken there by a member of one of Pensacola’s first families. We would never have found it if she hadn’t taken us there because you have to leave the road off to the right just before you cross the Theodore Baars bridge to Perdito Key, Drive down that road and you come to Fisherman’s Corner and it kind of looks like a bait shop, except for all the cars in front, and maybe even people waiting outside to get in. If you are able, better to make a reservation.

Their bread pudding dessert and their Key Lime Pie are also very good, and they serve some excellent wines. AdventureMan takes me there for events, like anniversaries or maybe because it’s Saturday. A few people dress. Most put on clean shorts and a clean shirt at the very least. It’s a nice place, but still Florida, where people are going to wear what they want to wear.

 

The Grand Marlin Pensacola Beach, 400 Pensacola Beach Blvd., Pensacola Beach

Every now and then, you just need a night at The Grand Marlin. When you need everything – good food, great service, lovely surrounding, you need to be at The Grand Marlin.

No matter where you eat, you have a view of Escambia Bay. No matter when you go, you know that the wait staff here are the best the area has to offer, and they really like working at the Grand Marlin.

I am absolutely crazy about their TGM BBQ Shrimp. It is an appetizer, only six shrimp, but six very large shrimp in an exquisite sauce, with an excellent garlic bread. It is a savory BBQ sauce; I think they must use a couple sticks of butter in it but they say it’s the beer that makes it so good. We discovered with COVID that we could take it home, warm it up and serve it over angel hair pasta and it was exquisitely satisfying. The grilled salmon BLT is divine. Both of those are available from Curbside service.

For the times when we can dine in, we have never had a bad meal. I love the Cioppino, I love the Crab Cakes, I love the grilled salmon. Most of all, I just love being there, I love the totality of the experience with good food, good wines and a nice atmosphere combining with a lovely drive across two bridges and maybe even a sunset. The Grand Marlin is an experience, not just a meal.

If you find a place you love, or try one of the above and like it, please share below the name of the restaurant and what you ate that impressed you. I love it when one of these entries becomes useful to a lot of people. You can help make that happen.

June 20, 2020 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Entertainment, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | Leave a comment

IR8

You’ve known me now almost 15 years – imagine. Do you think of me as an angry person? A hostile person?

Do you think words matter?

Saturday, I received a new license plate. For some reason, the state of Florida believes ten years with one license plate is enough, and you are required to get a new one. When I opened it, I had an immediate reaction – horror. It started with IR8.

You know how it is in traffic – you look at bumper stickers, you look at license plates. People can be amazingly clever putting together personalized plates that can surprise and delight a laugh out of you while stuck in traffic. AdventureMan marvels at how I can figure out most of them, although a few totally flummox me.

It’s a small thing, I kept telling myself, and a lot of people won’t even notice. IR8.

But it bothered me. I had to ask if I wanted to live for ten years with a license plate that gave people the impression I might be angry. Hostile. Irate. It matters to me.

It bothered me so much that last night I packed up that new license plate and registration with my swimming gear, and immediately after my morning swim, I headed over to the tax office, where licenses and titles and all those things that require bureaucratic validation are done. I was in a safe-distancing queue and I kept getting messages that there were only “x” many people in front of me and it would be between “11 and 27 minutes.” As the hours stretched on, I heard the gate keeper explain to people that the automatic messages were deceiving, and the wait was really longer.

I did not become IR8. There were people in wheel chairs. There were women seeking Gold Star Mother plates; I nearly wept. There were service people, just arriving from other states, needing new licenses, and rosy cheeked teens, applying for their first licenses. My need was not the most urgent.

I thought about things. I prayed for people who need prayer. I prayed for myself, that I might find ways I can’t even imagine to be part of the great Creator’s purpose for my life. With the storm just blowing over, it wasn’t horribly hot and there was shade and a nice breeze in the outdoor court where we waited. And waited. and waited . . .

One of the things that has made me most uncomfortable in other iterations of my life is living in countries where I was “special,” countries where I was walked past hundreds of people waiting in line to the front. I suspect special fees were paid by the company for that privilege, and my job was to just go where I was told and do what I was told to do (sign here, sign there, give blood here, have photo taken down there, all in a language which I only spoke socially). Sitting a couple hours today waiting with all the other people was a kind of karmic turn of the wheel.

Just as lunch was approaching, I was allowed in the building to another waiting area. I kept getting those deceptive messages, only this time they were telling me I had lost my place in line (!) Others reassured me to just wait, that my name would be called.

(At the top of this post is a photo of the old vault – I am thinking the tax collectors office used to be an old bank, because look at that vault – is it not a wondrous work?)

When I was called to the window, I felt sheepish explaining I really could not live with the license I had been randomly issued. I would like to trade it in. The gentle clerk just laughed. “I hear it every day,” she said. “Can you believe they are still sending people licenses with 666 on them? It’s a random thing. There are ethnic groups that don’t like certain numbers on their plates, and other groups who don’t like what the numbers add up to. It’s a very common thing.”

And, like magic, she typed a few letters, swished out and back, and voila, I had a new license plate, no charge. She was even really nice about it.

In our family, we have a word for these problems; first world problems. We have enough. We have a roof and food to eat, we have friends to love and activities to share. We have everything we need. AND I am so so so so grateful I don’t have to live with IR8.

June 8, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

Maskmaker, Maskmaker, Make Me a Mask

When I headed to the YMCA on Wednesday, it was with a heavy heart. I have loved the reservation only swimming; I have actually felt fairly safe with so few people, and the respect for protecting one another through keeping safe boundaries. Already rumors are abounding that the Governor is about to move rapidly forward with his “evidence based phase-in” headed toward the new normal, and will open gyms.

The same day, I received my word that my sister, who was very sick this winter and was told over and over by her doctor that it was only severe bronchitis, has tested positive for the corona virus antibodies. She had it all along. She kept asking. They told her no.

That, along with my mother’s death from the virus, makes me cautious. We come from long-lived people. We are no match for this virus.

So I headed into the Y knowing that once the gym gets back into full swing, I may have to withdraw until I am certain the virus has diminished in our area, and that the “evidence” is supported by full transparency of the medical examiner’s reports (currently being censored / withheld by executive decision of the very governor who is telling us we will go forward making decisions on these unavailable statistics, nationally reported to be underreported in the state of Florida.)

Excuse me, but WTF??

So I wear my mask into the Y, but I take it off to swim, all that chlorine and I feel safe enough. One of the lifeguards gasps and says “I LOVE your mask! Did you make it?” and I told her I did, that I had made about 150 and given them all away.

“Would you make me one just like it?” she asked.

The mask is made from some fabric I found in the souks in Tunis, when we lived there forty years ago. It is a deep sea blue, and purple, with some black and white for drama, with Berber jewelry motifs, triangles with five pendants, crescents, hands of Fatima. I bought ten yards of the fabric when I saw it, and have used it through the years in projects and quilts, a little here and a little there. I loved it that she had the same immediate emotional response to the fabric that I had.

“I don’t know if I have any of that fabric cut for masks,” I told her honestly, “but I will look.”

I swam my mile and headed home, feeling lighter. I had my tasks outlined for the day, but I am nearing a point where I can’t go further – I’ve already packed items we need, like that spare tube of toothpaste, and my vitamin C serum. I got a little carried away with the packing . . .

So I scurried the rest of the morning, full of energy, and in the afternoon I rewarded myself by allowing myself to go back to mask-making, a place I haven’t been for nearly a month. Masks aren’t hard; I figured out a way I like to do them, and I really like to do them, I like the process, and I love working with the fabrics. Even better, my young friend asking me to make her a mask just like mine breathed new life and hope into my spirit; I was able to finish about fifteen masks and offer them to other staff members and life guards when I went in this morning. As I was working with them, I found just one piece of the fabric she loved, that I love, and it was enough to make her a mask, just like mine.

People around here are more reluctant to wear masks than people in places like Seattle. When I walked in with a selection of masks in lovely fabrics, people were delighted to be able to choose something that pleased them. One lady, when I offered, didn’t hesitate, she said “Oh, I know exactly what I want, I can see it!” and chose a dark blue batik with turquoise stars. Another woman chose a Florentine style ivory print with cranberry and green, and gilt highlights. It was fun for me to see them choose, and I can only hope they will like them well enough to wear them as we work to protect one another from this lurking virus.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, color, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Tunisia, YMCA | Leave a comment

New Normal at the YMCA

“You think it’s safe?” my good friend asked me, not hiding her concern. “It’s not too soon?”

“It might be,” I replied, “And I really NEED to swim.”

There is a new system for the new normal, I discovered as I arrived a little early for my reservation. Yes, reservations open two days in advance for a 45 minute swim in the lap pool. Today, when I walked in, past the blue lines marked on the floor to keep us six feet apart, there was a man waiting at the door with a little thermal gun-like object which he pressed close to my forehead (I was holding my mask in my hand, LOL), before I could get through to the membership card kiosk. Chatted briefly with a friend who recently lost her husband (old age, not Covid) and then headed for the main desk, to check in for my reservation.

She pointed out the new entry for the pool, a door I had never seen anyone use before, and when I got into the pool area, I was greeted with more information on the new way things were being done. I dropped my bag, marked my lane with my equipment, and showered.

Even though I arrived early, there were two swimmers there before me, and it was still fifteen minutes before the reserved time – no one waited. We all went right to swimming.

 

I felt so blessed. This morning, as I opened my shades, the huge Flower Moon was setting over toward the west, the sky was clear and it was glorious. Now, in my favorite lane, as I swam toward the far end of the pool I swam into shimmering sunlight, and then back into the darker area, back and forth. My first lap was a little rocky, I lost my breath. It’s been two months since I last swam. With the extra 15 minutes, I might come close to my mile, a goal I had reached earlier this year only after months of build-up.

Slowly, the rhythm returned, and I was going back and forth, in and out of the sunlight, and building speed. Around eight, an old swimming comrade arrived and signaled to ask if it was OK if we share a lane. He is always considerate, and sensitive to boundaries, and I was happy to be sharing with him.

Six swimmers in four lanes, and two women exercising in the nearby exercise pool – eight people total, sharing this wonderful, clean, sunny space. What luxury. I felt safe.

I came so close! I came within one lap of completing my mile. It was 8:45 and while no one was pushing me out, everyone else was leaving, so good little lamb that I am, I left too, so the crew can do whatever it is they need to do before the next swimmers arrive, for the 9:00 slot. I didn’t go into the changing room, just dried as best I could and wrapped a Zambian kikoy around me for the drive home, using my towel to protect the seat of the car.

This is not me, this is a photo I found online to show how kikoy can be worn to get one quickly and modestly home rather than having to dry off and change.

I thought I would be tired, exercising hard after two months of no swimming, but no! I had energy! I tackled the linen closet, organized medical kit, linens, boxes of supplies for the upcoming move, and boxed up excess for people who might need them.

May 8, 2020 Posted by | Africa, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, YMCA | , | Leave a comment