Mr. Eugene and Beth Wood – Wow, a Maiden the Shade!

Beth wood6Can I actually get away with that? Attending a local Cattle Call L.L.C. event in the hills above my house with the very personal and personable singer-songwriter Beth Wood, was really a remarkable opportunity. Beth Wood’s website says it best, “Beth Wood is a modern-day troubadour and believer in the power of song. Her exceptional musicianship, crafty songwriting, and commanding stage presence have been winning over American audiences for sixteen years.  Beth’s music is soulful, organic, intelligent, barefoot, high-energy communication of joy. Picture a home-body with an ever-present wanderlust, an introvert with a passion for performing, a creative free-spirit with enough discipline to rework her dream year after year, calloused little hands and a big pile of curly hair…and you’ve got Beth Wood”.Beth wood5

Beth and Maiden the Shade (Ninkasi Brewing Company, Eugene, OR) provider (husband) were recently in town. She performed for a very small, intimate group in a quaint venue hidden on a picturesque property of lavish greenery that just seemed to call out the words, “put on a festival here!” Beth even asked for a chance to perform at such an event if ever planned. Well, now that ball falls on Jimmie (Cattle Call’s Trail Boss) to provide.

beth wood2Beth performed, this Sunday evening, songs she has written from the past and newer songs from her recent release. I was only able to see the first set, but what I did witness was exactly what her website cries, “a passionate, curly-haired, soulful, high-energy performer” that captivated each of us so honored to witness her musicianship that evening. A story-teller that enchanted and transformed each of us as she slowly turned the book’s pages.

beth wood1Accompanied by a local percussionist, Beth had each of us tapping our feet to her gripping performance. Fun. Enthusiastic. Powerful! She was good! I think all of us in that room wanted to really cheer, hoot and holler after a few of her songs. They were very well performed. I would like to see her play in front of a much larger audience. I can almost guarantee the crowd would let loose.

Here’s a sample of Beth’s performance similar to what she shared with us that evening.

Beth wood8The beer Beth’s husband brought in from Eugene went as quickly into my belly the next day, as it went into my fridge that performance evening. Oregon is one of the nations largest craft brewing regions, so I grabbed one of the Ninkasi’s summer IPAs before I left the show, interested in drinking something from that region not already available in our area. Not much of a craft beer snob, I give it an easy thumbs up. It comparatively measured up to the small finger munchies, wine and Stone Pale Ale being provided at the event. I was told to look for Ninkasi in San Diego area stores soon, as Beth’s husband (works for the brewery) said it is due to arrive within the next two months.

Beth wood4

A good beer, but a better performer . . . Beth Wood!


Cannonball – Mission Beach, La Jolla and HDOS

hdos9It wasn’t until about 3 months ago that my wife and I decided to take a brief trip to Mission Beach to check out where my son was to be opening Belmont Park’s new location for Hot Dog on a Stick (HDOS). I got the “HDOS” from reading my son’s notes to himself for setting up the restaurant. It was after that initial visit to Belmont Park, and strolling around the facility, we mentioned to him that we haven’t walked around the attraction for many years and there was a lot of construction going on. We also mentioned that the place lacked a finer, more adult-like area to have a nice cocktail secluded from the crowds of screaming, half-naked (not that flesh bothers me), younger adults soaking up the sun, watching the thrill seekers attempt Wavehouse’s FlowBarrel water ride or just watching each other. A couple months later he said they were opening a roof-top sushi bar that is targeting a higher-end clientele just as we mentioned.

hdos7My wife and I decided to make a day of the weekend and travel to San Diego to do whatever. I mentioned that we should pay a visit to the new HDOS in Belmont Park and that I would take her to a nice lunch to checkout the roof-top fantastic view/digs of Cannonball; a new bar atop the Wavehouse building overlooking the boardwalk and beach area of Mission Beach. Well, this Saturday of the grand opening for HDOS began awkwardly as the sun never broke through and it began to get cold and wet from the overcast. Our initial experience wasn’t turning out as I had hoped. Belmont Park is still currently undergoing extensive renovations so, at present, there is a bit of confusion as to entrances, pathways or what is open . . . or not open. We briefly stopped by the HDOS for a quick view of the familiar uniforms and the final set-up.


hdos3Once up on the roof top of Cannonball, we were promptly greeted by much of the staff (all young, good looking and polite), because we were one of the first guests this morning. I feel as thought the staff are still working things out mentally and physically due to their recent opening and ongoing construction that will extend the entire length of the roof top. Cannonball hosts a beach/pool like outdoor atmosphere and ambiance featuring décor, design and dress reminiscent of an earlier year’s day at the hotel/resort pool. There are many write-ups about the style and designs used so I won’t bore you with details except the bar-height strapped chairs are a bit narrow and not super comfortable. The glass surrounding the roof-top deck retains the music from the superior sound system while reducing the screaming kids on the beach to zero, yet still allows the omnipresent sound of the surf to sneak over top.

“What drinks can I get started for you?”, Jess (our server from England on a student visa) asks. hdos6We ordered two of their Far East Bloody Mary that had soy sauce, Old Bay seasoning, puréed ginger, wasabi and teriyaki. An interesting and very delicious combination.

The plate I saw
The plate I got

 I had viewed their website and Facebook to find some pictures and information about Cannonball before we visited so I already new what I was looking for. I was hoping to witness a very beautiful assortment of their sashimi so I  ordered the Sashimi Trio. A bit on the pricey end but I wanted to see their plating as I had hoped for an exquisite display similar to what I saw on-line. Cannonball’s menu is a bit quirky as most items are Pacific RIm inspired, yet there is a ceviche with tortilla chips and a skirt steak with Chimichurri. We ordered the Pork Belly (excellent), the Grilled Atlantic Scallops (excellent) and the Chicken Osso Bucco (meh); I guess we had hoped for the Osso Bucco to be of similar technique and consistency of the classic veal dish. Naw, it was four French-cut drumsticks (small bone was not removed) with a chili-teriyaki type of glaze. Not bad, just not that good, creative or distinct. What did show up was a neatly plated (not nearly as elaborate) sashimi ensemble similar to what I had hoped for. The fish was very tasty, just the pieces were a bit on the large size for one mouthful.

The remaining dishes that came out (the ones that did come out) were cleanly plated except for the Chicken Osso Bucco; one of the French-cut legs had rolled over from the trip up the stairs. I guess their kitchen is downstairs where another restaurant is beginning construction. Nobody seemed to know what was to go in; I however, think it may be an expansion of Cannonball, and they had opened the rooftop bar area to start drawing business. I understand they are doing pretty well up there. So why didn’t we order sushi? I’m not as much into sushi as I am into sashimi, and my wife will only rarely eat the stuff anyway; besides, any of the sushi plating I saw on the internet was less than impressive. One of our dishes came up at the end of our meal. The scallops must have been re-directed to another table, because Jess needed to make a couple trips downstairs to find it’s location. Her last trip up, she apologized with the deliciously prepared (two, large) scallops in tow.

My overall experience with Cannonball was good to very good despite the weather; but the ambiance, décor, view, sound system, cocktails and staff made up for any shortcomings in the food. They are quite expensive, but I guess that’s what we asked for to keep the drunken rowdy’s down below. I hope that if they are expanding to the below-deck area that their menu drastically expands and their food quality kicks up just a notch. Not bad, just slightly below what the price demands for the beach-front tourist location ($120, including tip and 3 cocktails). Yes, I expected to pay the premium.

As we left Cannonball, we could not pass up an opportunity to try an original (turkey) corn dog and fresh lemonade at Hot Dog on a Stick. hdos1There was now a line out in front as the kids and Moms and Dad’s towing the kids ordered up dogs, fries and other items on their menu. Another brief walk through Belmont Park noticing the HDOS is currently the only recognizable fast or slow food establishment in the facility. Combining the recognizable name, outfits, and the fact that it’s quick and easy for the families to grab and go, this HDOS should be a leader in the corporation. I think it was a good addition to the park. There is no McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell, or Pizza Hut to compete with when it comes to familiarity and convenience.

To continue our day, the wife and I traveled north to La Jolla to walk around and see what other things we could get into. Other than all of the Bentleys (I saw three) and Maseratis (I saw three), there were homes, estates, restaurants and other businesses to look at on our drive up the coast. About that time we needed something sweet to conclude our meal. We passed by several specialty bakeries and dessert shops including a Haagen Dazs. We settled for creating our own desserts at Cold Stone. Sure why not spend MORE money. We walked around a bit and were tempted to stop in George’s at the Cove Ocean Terrace for another cocktail sample , but we were already in a food coma and wanting to take a nap. We by-passed George’s. I would have liked to compare cocktails to Cannonball at that moment. Next time!!!

Hanging out with my best ever friend and life-long partner-in-crime was fun. We enjoyed each other’s company, love and humor. After getting home to take a quick refresh nap, I asked her out again to pick a movie (we’re almost empty nested). After quickly finishing a homework assignment, stocking up on candy at Smart and Final, grabbing a refillable large pop-corn and drink we sat to watch “The Heat” featuring Sandra Bullock, SNL’s Jane Curtin. Marlon Wayans and the funny-as-shit Melissa McCarthy. The movie was really funny and made for an excellent conclusion to a wonderful day.



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Living along the Autobahn

ferarriThe German autobahns (Autobahn, plural Autobahnen) form the nationally coordinated motorway system in Germany. In German, they are officially called Bundesautobahn (plural Bundesautobahnen, abbreviated ‘BAB’), which translates to “federal expressways”. German autobahns have no general speed limit, but the advisory speed limit (Richtgeschwindigkeit) is 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph).

Germany’s autobahn network has a total length of about 12,845 kilometres (7,982 mi) in 2012, which ranks as the fifth longest highway system in the world behind the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS) of China (95,600 km), the Interstate Highway System of the United States (75,932 km), the expressways of Canada (17,000 km) and the highways in Spain (15,152 km). Really? . . . Thanks Wikipedia!

I live in an area a bit out of the San Diego city sector. I live along a stretch of I15 north of Escondido that I refer to as The Autobahn. It is frequently traveled at high speeds by travelers and commuters. Traveling at high speeds means well in excess of 100 mph. Why . . . because it’s there. I know because I recently took the Touring Elite for a quick test at 115. I backed down because something about traveling in a mini-van at that speed just creep’d me out. She was in for more, but maybe the next time. One reason is because I don’t know what the tires are rated at. I have had the Avalon up to 122 before the governor starts to impede my progressive speed. It still climbs, but at a much slower rate; usually resulting in me needing to slow down before I start to encounter traffic at a safe distance and speed. I also know that my tires are rate at only 118. I guess I’ll never know how fast the Avalon will do.fish4

Why do I mention this? Because, I use my back yard a lot to just go out and throw something in the grill or have an afternoon cocktail in the sun. Just being in my back yard while lighting the “Q”, I get to witness these jokers getting up to speed without much effort from me or the car. My backyard pool  overlooks about 3 miles of the Autobahn in an area where traffic is minimal most times of the day and throughout the night. The motorcycle sport bikes are the most interesting because they gotta be going over 150. Whether I’m cooking that tri-tip, grilling the flounder or sipping a good cup o’ coffee at 3am, the viewing is often times quite thrilling. Turn up the outdoor sound system; now dip the sunglasses and sip the martini . . . there’s always something to look at.smokin

Having a view of the Autobahn also comes with many surprises and interesting viewing. Just this year on the 4th of July we got to witness aerial water drops on a flare-up along the freeway just by our house. Yes we kept a close eye on that one. Way too close for comfort. Two years before that on the 4th of July while hosting a celebration BBQ, we witnessed another hillside nearby that again played a threat on our celebration. Not nearly as close but much larger, again gaining the attention of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) aerial fire teams. We usually see one or two fires along the freeway in the general area caused by car fires. Sometimes they just seem to start. Dunno . . . lit cigarettes? Perhaps!

The location overlooking the Autobahn also matches my background and current lifestyle. I spent well over twenty years working around aircraft. Daily along the Autobahn travels one of the military’s various helicopters or tilt-rotocraft (USMC V-22 Osprey) that are stationed at one of the many nearby military bases. A lot of aircraft fly over our house, or just in front, using the freeway to trek north and south along an easy path. Whenever MCAS Miramar has its annual airshow, we get to see the final show on the Sunday when multiple historic aircraft travel northbound toward their home airstrips within the state or perhaps further. additionally, we can usually hear them coming from far away because the noise in the canyon travels quite well through that corridor.

Living along the Autobahn we see people getting pulled over all the time for who knows what. The Dept of Homeland Security Border Patrol making stops and the fire brigades making their way to the next freeway scorched vehicle. Then, as the traffic begins to thin and the day begins to quiet, you’ll hear a small internal combustion engine wind up quickly to somewhere around 14,000 rpm and take off to reach that new milestone speed, then another . . . and yet another racing each other until the safety factor drops below the good threshold. All this makes for another day on the Autobahn.fish5

So today out watching the Autobahn I made some Habanero and Smoked Paprika Halibut. It really only took a moment and the traffic was traveling quite slow so I finished the plate with Sautéed Rapini and Panko-Crusted Romano-Polenta Fries. All it needed was a nice Aioli (thought of it too late).



Ted Nugent and the House of Blues – San Diego

ted 1I have never seen Ted Nugent live (Uncle Ted). Seeing him was one of two performers of the past that I mentioned to my Brother-in-Law, and concert partner, that I would like to see before too long. I said this to my Bro-in-Law about 2 months ago during a casual visit. Three days later he texts (boy, have we come a long way?) me to tell me that Eddie Money is coming to a local community. I recently wrote about that evening. Shortly after that I noticed Ted was going to be in San Diego at a venue that I, again, have never been to, . . . the House of Blues. Well everything was set, I got several people interested in this show at this venue; but what started as a larger group of nine, ended up as just five. Of course my concert buddy, bestest girlfriend and a couple of contractors that share many of my same interests. This is a good group. We had fun!

I was to travel to the House to purchase the tickets on a Thursday.  Instead of paying the $11 sur-charge per ticket charged on-line, I had hoped to save a bit by driving the short distance from my workplace that day. Well, that Thursday, my boss decides to call a meeting that cut into my plans and I had to wait until the Tuesday before the show on the following  Monday night. Yeah I said Monday night. That alone was a difficult decision for all of us because of the work requirement the next day for each of us. I think that’s why the other folks bailed out on Ted that night.

Well, since my Thursday ticket buying attempt was parlayed until the following week, I decided to coincide the now Tuesday ticket purchase with my travel to school later that afternoon. I got downtown to the House of Blues and waited along the streets huddled together with some of the downtown street’s finest (nope, not cops) anticipating the box office to be open. The House of Blues also has a restaurant I figured would be open. Nope! The ticket booth said it was open Tuesdays at 3pm. Ok, just 45 minutes to wait. I would have taken a swig from the bottle of Boon’s Farm being passed, but I still had to be at school. I waited patiently.ted 2

Staring at the ticket window between frequent checks of the time on my cell phone, I realized it was now ten-after-three. Just then a gentleman came out of the restaurant door to have a smoke. As he lingered nearby, I asked him what time the box office opens. His disheartening reply was “only on concert nights, and there’s no show tonight”. SHIT!  He must have realized my displeasure and confusion as to how I was going to buy tickets now because he said, “how many ticket are you looking for?” I told him, “five”. He then said, “. . . I can help you out”. He escorted me inside to sell me tickets. That was way cool. I was now a happy customer with my first of great experiences with the House of Blues.

So the night started with a quick pre-game at my house followed by a trip in the Touring Elite listening to a pre-selected iPod music playlist to get us in the mood that concluded with Ted’s studio version of “Stranglehold” of course. Once we arrived at the parking garage, we quickly gathered our concert essentials and made our way past the same group of street Boon’s Farm sipping hopefuls. We waited only a couple of moments to get in the door. Our tickets were scanned and we were given the complimentary feel-up search of the contents in our pockets, legs, waist-band area and thighs . . . that’s what I like . . . right there. “He” was very thorough, feeling everything conspicuously encased within my hidden areas. He even felt extra well around the money wad to ensure there was nothing stuffed in there, like a small pocket knife . . . or something else small…! I felt reasonably safe as this was probably one of the most thorough searches I have ever experienced.

First order of business was to get a drink. I was designated driver so I could only have two within the first two hours, then on to water. As we made our way to the bar I ran into a friend that had attended the same school as I for culinary. It was good seeing him. The first band started and is known for kicking-off for Ted. Her name is Laura Wilde.ted 9 She is a very talented serious rocker similar to Lita Ford. Very hot, and rocked like hell. I toured the facility to check out the sound in different locations. It proved not to be the greatest venue for sound. It’s very small, two story with a lofted area for pre-paid seating, while the remainder of the venue is standing room only. The sound from underneath where the bar is located is covered by the second floor and the sound is loud and confusing. I turned to the bar to order the first of drinks. I quickly peaked at the very limited bar menu as it was explained thoroughly by the bartender. She was very nice and friendly. She made me feel as though the 6-second free-pour drinks we made specially for me. She was very good! She worked hard for her tips. I hope other patrons recognized her as well.

I had to try their menu and just witnessed another from our group foray through their order of the Chicken Fingers. Looked just like Chicken Fingers . . . how creative can those be? I took the opportunity between sets to order the Street Tacos. I figured those can be tailored to any chef’s dream. They were not great but they definitely had character and flavor aside from the ordinary. I just can’t help remembering to never order the “Rockfish”. Sorry, an inside joke that maybe someday I’ll give insight.

As Laura Wild finished her 30 minute set, the stage crew got the stage ready for everyone’s Uncle Ted. Ted came out and performed a calculated and anticipated politically fused set that just rocked the entire house. His performance was just as I anticipated and I think that’s why I got bored. He was good . . . even great. I just think, since I wasn’t delusionally hammered like much of the Monday night crowd, I got bored and fed up with the Mid-West dressed gun-slingin’ Ted supporters yelling, screaming and applauding his guitar solo covered political rants about the government. ted 8I never understood anything he was saying, but everyone yelled like crazy every time he mentioned the government and continuously played licks to blend with his political hollering. I didn’t look forward to his politics blocking the enjoyment of his full-blown rocking music, which was good. I’m glad I saw Uncle Ted, but shut up already and just play . . . !

Well I finally left to go outside in anticipation of the large crowd stumbling and gaggling up the stairs and out the doors. Once atop, I met a very nice door-man bouncer who was protecting the assets and watching the  street activity just outside the door. He was a big dude, aptly placed where he could seriously influence adverse behaviors. While atop, waiting on the street, I met the venue’s Operation’s Manager, Clint. ted 3Super nice guy and he was happy to hear that everything had met my level of satisfaction including the initial ticket purchase. While waiting on the street I also met and talked with Erin. She indicated to me she was the restaurant (I’ll call her) Operations Manager. She was quite young and I wouldn’t have expected her to be in such a position. Again, she was super nice and welcomed me back to the restaurant. She and Clint told me where to watch the show next time when inside to avoid the bottle neck of drunks by the bar area. I’m telling ya’, everything about the House of Blues make me want to go back. They even have live blues music performers in the restaurant performing nightly. I might just have to pay a return trip.

ted 5House of Blues gets a platinum record for their performance. But Uncle Ted gets this guy and a dog. I don’t know why but it looks as though his stay in the alley was disrupted. Damn dogs!!!


The hamburger challenge – Better than fast food?

This was a fun challenge that I just couldn’t let go without a strong offense.

My youngest claimed one day, “home-cooked burgers are just missing something . . . they don’t taste nearly as good as ‘fast-food’ burgers”. Well to this I had to take . . .or make the challenge. I just could not let this one rest.

Without the opportunity for a quick market run to buy another meat (e.g. pork, lamb, turkey . . . anything!) I found myself faced with the sole ingredient for my burgers being 93% beef. Good enough, because it still had enough fat to make the burger patties somewhat      flavorful.  I just could not ride on that sole ingredient to blow my son away with a home-cooked burger that could rival any fast-food type. I’ll be very honest, I had my doubts about this challenge but thought through the process and kept saying to my self . . . “I think I can, I think I can!”

I started with 2 pounds of ground beef. Knowing that I needed to flavor and tenderize the beef, I added a 1/2 cup of pineapple juice and 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar. 20130708_15400720130708_15405920130708_15430520130708_15414320130708_154220A handful of salt (about 1-1 1/2 table spoons . . . yes, good food takes salt), about a tablespoon of pepper, freshly ground. Mixed it all together and, after pulling a sample aside for poaching, covered the rest and let it marinade for a couple hours hoping for the flavors to build and the meat to tenderize.

The sample of meat was poached in clear liquid to test for flavoring. Yes I know the poaching thermometer is a bit hot, but I really just wanted to taste for seasoning before actually cooked the final product.20130708_160120 I think at this point I needed to add more salt.

Once I was satisfied with the flavor, I placed the burger mix in the fridge for a couple of hours to blend and tenderize from the acids in the pineapple juice and white vinegar. 20130708_182544 I rolled into 1/4 pound balls and readied them for the George Forman.  20130708_183134 I was searching for just the right grill marks (yeah, I know . . . where’s the cross hatch-marks . . . gimme a break!) and crunchy seared crust to give them just a bit of crunch under the bun. PERFECT! Just before pressing them in the George Forman, I topped them with a bit of Chimichurri and brushed the grill surfaces with the same.   20130708_184839 I built the burger with cheese, a perfectly toasted bun (just got a new toaster oven too), shredded lettuce, crisp Kosher pickles and red onion. Plated the creation with some parmesan/garlic fries and tots. You tell me . . . ? My son just smiled when he tasted it and commented “Ok, pretty damn good”, . . . but then went on to say “they’re still not the same”. “Good, but not better, . . . different!”

FINE! Friggin’ kids . . .

To this, I give the ol’ packaged and wrapped freezer burgers ready for the lunch sack the next day!


Lobster, what to do with the leftovers? (part 2)

For a couple weeks now I have been trying to come up with something creative to utilize the lobster shells that were leftover from the major lobster fest we had for Father’s day back in June 2013. 20130617_174625Back then, I feebly showed you how I made raviolis using up some of the left-over lobster, but I couldn’t just throw out the shells knowing that I have an opportunity to make a terrific stock to be used later for something special. ravioli2With the now frozen raviolis in mind, I have also been struggling at creating a sauce that would not over-power the lobster filling in the raviolis, but something that would enhance the delectable lobster and stimulate the taste buds.

Knowing that the lobster shells are only going to be properly utilized if they are the base of a stock; first I have to cut up and prepare a mirepoix (that’s 50% onion, 25% carrots and 25% celery). Now throwing everything in a pot and covering it with cold water, I now add the various herbs and spices necessary for the “aromatics”. Bring it now to a very low simmer for several hours and skimming the surface occasionally of the impurities (French . . . er, . . . uh, . . . I don’t remember). ravioli4The result was a very rich and flavorful lobster stock that I desperately tried in several applications for the sauce to be thrown on top of the succulent lobster ravioli. What I simply created was a lobster cream sauce.ravioli9

Finally topping the dish with parsley and Ricotta. What turned out was utterly amazing. I even had to taste it the second day (left-over) to make sure what I tasted was as good as it gets. I guess, not surprisingly, the left-over’s were better than the fresh.  It was amazing.

Sometimes, I think I might actually know what I’m doing . . . scary!


Deception Pass Bridge – Best NE style Clam Chowder

Depending on your dreams, tastes and desires, many directions will draw those dreams, tastes and desires toward your fulfilling them in precarious methods. As we all make our journey through life, often enough we envision ourselves being somewhere or perhaps doing something . . . like skydiving. No, I really have had no real desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. One day, while working with the Navy SEALS, I met a civilian contracted Jump Master for the teams. He was an ex-special teams dude for the British Air Force (or something like that). He offered me a chance, that was never fulfilled, to watch the SEALs jump during their training. When the subject arose about jumping, I threw at him, “why would anyone desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” He looked at me square in the eye, and knowing I have a strong background in aviation and aircraft maintenance, said in his thick British accent, “Mate . . . you and I know perfectly well, there’s no such thing as a “perfectly good airplane”!” To that, I had absolutely no comment . . .

Nowadays, many refer to their unfulfilled dreams and desires before they die, as their “bucket list”. When visiting great friends in Washington State, I was taken for an adventure ride through the Puget Sound. What was hoped to be an opportunity to fish the Sound for Steelhead or Halibut (neither in season), turned out to be just a joy ride on one of the only perfect days in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve never had a “bucket list” per se, but there have always been the “what if’s” or the “I wonder what it would be like”. More to follow.

coupevilleOn our second day on the Sound, we didn’t want to place ourselves in the way of our hosts (they were planning a wedding), so we made ourselves scarce to reminisce the areas of Whidbey Island where we spent almost 5 years of my military career. I met up with a couple of good friends that I had made while in the military, and have recently re-connected with through Facebook. Unfortunately, that was short lived, fun, but a good brief moment. My wife and I that day, visited some of the old areas and looked at some of the homes in which we lived. Coupeville, WA is just south of Oak Harbor and was used as a set for the making of the movie War of the Roses, featuring Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The town was totally transformed for the shooting as we lived just down the street. Facades were erected, store front colors were changed and older automobile were brought in to better portray the time and era for the film.coupeville1

One of our conquests for the day included finding just the right place to eat lunch on the island. My wife attempted to find “this fish place” the evening before, but was unsure of its location; so we attempted to find something suitable in the Coupeville area while re-visiting. We walked the streets but only one place looked familiar. Toby’s Tavern has been a Coupeville mainstay for years and is always frequented by the local Navy aircraft flying squadrons of the past and today. The front window has many decals from many visiting squadrons throughout the years. Toby’s is in the backdrop of the film scene picture and still there today. See if you can find your squadron’s decal. I found three of my old squadrons . . . not easy to see many, if any in my picture. They weren’t open when we stopped by, so we traveled back into Oak Harbor determined to find my wife’s recommended dining location.toby's

But, before we left Coupeville, I had to see the place where Penn Cove Muscles come from. Penn Cove Muscles were featured on many, if not most, menus in the area and are also sold in Costco locations throughout San Diego. I even prepared them, buying them from Seabolt’s (see below), at the barbeque hosted by or Whidbey friends. penn coveI steamed them in a mixture of bacon, shallots, garlic, white wine and tarragon. Everyone at the party seemed to greatly enjoy them, and most of them have never eaten muscles before. Kinda funny . . . live around fish, but don’t eat it.

Another place we stopped in while in Coupeville was this little breakfast bakery. We peered through the window to witness the pastry chef preparing some fresh berry scones. The place was packed and the breakfast’s looked good. We bought a cup of coffee and shared a sticky bun. I would have eaten breakfast if we weren’t saving our appetites for what was to come.knead and feed

Perusing every unknown location throughout Oak Harbor with the premise of “it’s the best clam chowder”, we finally found Seabolt’S Smokehouse. Seabolt’s is known, not only on the island,  but throughout the world, for it’s smoked and packaged salmon. The restaurant offers a very full menu that mostly consists of various seafood cooked and served in a variety of ways. Now Seabolts is not cheap as they exercise their right to premium pricing. We did order the Clam Chowder to share, my wife ordered a Crab Cake . . . to die for, and I had the Halibut fish and chips. seabolt1While the Cole Slaw and fries that accompanied our dishes were very acceptable, the other three items were outstanding. The Crab Cake was deliciously seasoned, as was the moist Halibut, but the Clam Chowder was the best I have ever had. We even tried to find any other on the Sound that matched up. Seabolt’s smokes, prepares and packages their products right on sight as they also prepare all of their fresh menu items in the location’s kitchen. seabolt2

So now I’m on this boat . . . and a pretty nice boat it is, we cruise from Oak Harbor . . . harbor. sound1And, since this was our last days in Whidbey Island, it just seemed like the perfect ending to a joyous time with our friends, as I can now say I can cross that boating trip on the Sound and under Deception Pass Bridge off of my “bucket list”.deception pass


Who the hell eats this stuff . . . the handicapped?

WOW! My Mom and Dad just celebrated their 68th, year of marriage. In an attempt to help them celebrate just a bit, we decided to pick them up and take ’em out away from their normal independent living facility’s elegant dining room, giving them several options. Today they could have chosen from Greek, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mexican, Seafood or Soul Food. These options were based on a list of restaurants in their area that we have never been to. My Father demanded that I choose the cuisine I preferred. It has been a long time since I have had some kind of southern soul food kind of American fair. What I’m talkin’ about is breakfast being served until 2pm, and lunch menu items like collard greens, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, Okra, red beans and rice, St Louis and Baby Back ribs, fried chicken and Gumbo . . . did I say Gumbo???

felix6The restaurant’s name seems just a bit out of place, but I guess I can’t necessarily judge a book by it’s cover. I certainly wouldn’t expect this very cleanly styled place in an improved industrial area of El Corazon in South East Oceanside, CA to be called Felix’s BBQ With Soul. I mean soul food . . . who the hell eats this stuff here in Southern California? Aren’t Californians all about healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. Foods like Quinoa, Sushi and farm to table produce and animals like organic chicken and organic herbs. Soul food . . . here?

Felix’s menu was quite diverse but sticks firmly to their concept. Everything I tasted, and it was many items across the table, was great. I was pleasantly surprised that everything was well seasoned and full of flavor. Not one item was disappointing, but the braised cabbage was excellent and a menu standout from the variety of sides we tried from their vast offerings.

Felix’s BBQ with Soul did get very busy this Sunday for lunch service. Luckily we arrived before the place filled up. felix4Now, my mother’s frail ability to walk distances has afforded her the opportunity to utilize a disable parking placard. My wife and I even gave significant consideration to my parents aging process and their ability to get into and out of the new vehicle we finally bought a year or so ago (a very bad ass 2012 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite). We have enjoyed the ability for my Mother to ingress and egress the vehicle with greater ability and comfort. When we travel with my folks we bring along a disabled placard so we can use the convenient “ADA” parking areas when needed. Today was no exception. As we approached the facility, we planned to utilize the handicapped parking spot directly in front of the entrance to Felix’s; only to find Felix’s catering van using the wheel-chair accessible ramp to load up for a catering gig that day. Their van was parked precariously close to the stall in which we needed to use; and the other non-ADA (regular) parking stall on the other side, was taken up by a larger vehicle, making our use of the designated handicapped parking area difficult at best. As my wife watched closely from inside the restaurant, the caterer that was using the van came out; and as I assisted my Mom, the caterer must have known we were displeased, because as he said hello and looked at us, he noticed our displeased situation and the poignant “stink eye” being delivered in his direction. Felix must do this often as their “double-wide” kitchen doors make for easy access for loading of their van.


Aside from the obvious ADA violation and our initial poor customer experience, the overall dining experience was good. The food came out very quickly and was very hot. We even commented to each other at our table at the speed of the service; but quickly realized the preparation of most of our food items has already been accomplished and just plate assembly was needed in most cases. The gravy for the biscuits is already simmering on a burner; the Gumbo too is simmering and just needs to go in a bowel; the ribs have already been cooked; the mac ‘n’ cheese, the awesome braised cabbage is on the stove right next to the deliciously spiced collar greens; and the red beans and the rice are already cooked and ready to plate. Only two items we ordered were freshly prepared; the (I’ve never had) Fried Green Tomatoes and the very large catfish portion my father had. Otherwise, everything was already prepared and just required plating. Thinking back and looking at their menu, how simple of an operation is that?  Felix3The fryer is quick for items like shrimp and the catfish; and the other items on their menu are mostly quick grilled items like pancakes, eggs, burgers and sandwiches. There are a couple of items on their menu like steaks and pork chops that take just a few minutes longer. I guess we could order them ahead of time to allow sufficient opportunity to get out of our van . . . or we could just have them cater. Sheesh! Where’s a good cop when you need ’em?

I give Felix’s BBQ With Soul, an alligator lending a helping hand to someone in need of assistance.felix5


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