Sunday, March 13, 2011

Homegrown is best

Hello my friends in food!

A few weeks ago I became motivated to grow a few things after my dismay at the lackluster, flavorless produce available in the market.  I grew up with fresh veggies being served almost daily and in the off season I was offered fresh frozen all straight from my Dad's garden. 

I hate to be sentimental but I miss the taste of a warm sun ripened tomatoes fresh off the vine or snacking on a fresh picked cuke.  I have attempted to grow veggies here before but with limited success.  The insects here have proven to be formidable foes.  My last years crop of tomatoes, eggplant and squash yielded very little and what it did was almost all infested.  I did have good luck with basil and oregano and they paired well with my homemade mozzarella and local fresh tomatoes.  I'll have a mozzarella lesson soon.  I need to order some rennet first.

This year I decided to grow a few things that I know grow fairly well here and one that I don't have a clue about.  I planted spinach, snow peas, grape tomatoes, crook neck squash, romaine lettuce and asparagus beans.

So after watching and watering I finally was able to taste the first of what I hope will be a continuous cascade of crunchiness!

Here it is in all it's glory!!!

I clipped only the larger outer leaves as I hope that it will continue to produce new leaves all season long. It was crisp without bitterness a great improvement over store bought.  My garden is limited to a few boxes.  I've only been gardening in Mississippi for a few seasons so I'm going to experiment to see what works before I go on to a larger plot.

Here's my little garden.

Out of sight are my tomato plants.  I plant them near the house so the warmth of the bricks radiates to them at night.  If you notice in the 3rd planter I have green onions popping up.  I planted them last year from seed and they spontaneously came back!

I recommend everyone try to grow at least a little something they enjoy eating.   It can take a little time and it can be frustrating but...the rewards of eating something you have grown on your own are immeasurable.

Ah the zen of fresh lettuce!!

"Chow For Now"


Friday, March 11, 2011

Half Shell Oyster House

Hello my fellow Freaks in food!

Tonight I had the pleasure of eating at the Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport.  We started the evening with Voodoo Shrimp.  A tasty combo of fried shrimp in a sweet yet spicy sauce.  I really liked the flavor and the shrimp were cooked to perfection.  Terri, my faithful culinary companion, really loved these and they are definitely on the must get list next time we go.

For our main course Terri had ordered the Half Shell Pasta with grilled shrimp and I ordered the Seafood Pasta and upon the recommendation of our waitress Brianna I orderd a crab cake on the side. 

Our pasta came with a nice salad with homemade dressing.  Terri went for thousand island and I went for ranch.

First I must say the greens in the salad were very fresh and the salad was a perfect size to tempt the taste buds.  The dressing was fantastic and not over seasoned.  This is very important to me because I love to taste everything as it should be, not masked by spice or salt.

On to the pasta.  There was a bit of an oops here as Terri ordered shrimp and it came with chicken.  No big deal since she had already gotten her shrimp fix.  Brianna was more than apologetic and offered to re-do the order or even take it off the tab.  We reassured her that it was fine and we proceeded to induldge.

My pasta came with shrimp, crab and crawfish tails in a spicy alfredo type sauce and mushrooms.  Terri's was also in a similar sauce.  I will note the dish normally comes with artichokes but Terri isn't fond of them so they removed them for her in the kitchen.

The crab cake was well seasoned and came with a wonderful sauce that I can't put my finger on.  Sort of tangy like tartar sauce yet with it's own personality.

The food was overall wonderful.  I really appreciated the quality of the food.  Everything was fresh and according to Brianna the restaurant tries to buy locally and also tries to introduce ingredients not normally on the food scene in this area i.e., microgreens etc.  I think it's very important to support local growers and establishments.  It's part of the personality of a town. 

On to the service which Terri and I agreed  was great .  When we arrived there was a little crowd but not too terrible.  Unfortunately the hostess wasn't there to seat people as she was with other customers.  Brianna to the rescue!!!! She sat a couple before us and quickly came to assist us.  Not only did she quickly get us a table, she even sat the other couple in another of the wait staffs tables.  This is a big deal to me because she could have easily loaded her own section to maximize tips but she shared the customers.

Our glasses were always full and the food came out like clockwork.  It's nice to see the kitchen staff and wait staff work well together.

Overall The Half Shell gets 2 big thumb up.  Quality food obviously prepared and served by people who care about their product and their customers!

We will definitely be back and will spread the word!

"Chow For Now"