Mokka and the Sunset Bar and Grill in Newport, KY

Goetta is somewhat of a mystery—Paul Tenkotee

Somedays turn into wonderful days when you aren’t expecting it, when the Almighty Creator gives us a glimpse of His Mercy in the midst of chaos and angst.

Today was one of those days and it came as a revelation to me at Mokka in Newport, KY on a revitalized Monmouth Street across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, over a delicious goetta frittata.

Let’s go back a few days. Cue the harp glissando…

Mrs. Big Surf and I have been in the midst of selling a house in one state and remodeling a house in another state. I am counting down to retirement, she will begin a new job. We have just been through losing parents, cleaning out houses of memories, trying to get someone to take over my business, and just recently dealing with a beloved family member going through a medical crisis, which brought us unexpectedly to Cincinnati.

My lovely missus spent a sleepless night to be with this loved one in a busy hospital room. We were both exhausted from the previous weeks, she much more than I.

We left the hospital late in the morning to eat breakfast before heading out on the two and a half hour drive home. We settled in a booth in the above mentioned Mokka in Newport.

We started with a spicy Newport Bloody Mary for me and a raspberry Mimosa for the sleep-deprived darlin’. Now I don’t advocate any alcoholic beverage before noon but we were celebrating the incredible answered prayers on behalf of our loved one and her improved condition overnight.

Our meal was so good.

The goetta frittata was just what I needed. She had a platter of French toast topped with creme brûlée cream, a biscuit and gravy, and cheesy scrambled eggs, and to my surprise she consumed it all…who’s the big girl?!

Now I realize most folks who aren’t from the Cincinnati/Northern KY area haven’t a clue about goetta.

Goetta came from peasant German immigrants who settled in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It was a way to make meat, usually pork sausage, last longer by mixing it with oats, onion, and spices. It is cooked and dried and formed into a loaf for slicing. It has the consistency of sausage and is usually fried crispy.

This morning as I sat in that charming cafe, across from my lovely wife of 36 years, both of us in the same clothes we put on yesterday, neither one of us had showered, me unshaven, and her without makeup, I knew what Sheldon Cooper meant when he said,”The Germans are such a comforting people.”

This spicy Newport Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever had.

This plate of a Goetta Frittata with breakfast potatoes reminded me of the comforting pleasures God allows on this earth.

Mrs. Big Surf in a rare eating frenzy consumed this plate of delicious breakfasness.

Rainy Day in Athens

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down—The Carpenters

Today it is raining. Sigh.

Some rainy days are met with relief, if you are a farmer and in the middle of a drought, or someone like me who is tired of doing yard work and are forced inside to take a nap.

Some rainy days are met with dread, if you are suffering angst from seeing flood waters creeping closer, or at your wit’s end because the kids are refusing to watch TV and play video games so you can get a few minutes peace and can’t send them outside, or like me who has put off the mowing for another day and the rain is causing the grass to grow exponentially.

Some rainy days are met with melancholy, like today. I don’t know why. Maybe because there are many changes taking place in your life, like retirement, like moving to another state, like getting older, like being the last one of your family left in a community that has lived there for about 240 years, like seeing so many painful changes in lives of people you care about, like thinking about people in places such as Afghanistan and Haiti who are going through so much suffering.

This rainy day, I am thinking about all of these things.

I took the above photo while Mrs. Big Surf and I were waiting out a rainy morning in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and looking up at this magnificent structure of antiquity. I think about all of the changes that have taken place in the lives of the Athenians since this structure was erected thousands of years ago. This helps me not to dwell so much on me.

I was thinking about the above song, about rainy days making me melancholy. Then I became more melancholy because Karen Carpenter isn’t with us anymore. I loved her voice, so rich and complex and pure.

It is ok to feel sad and melancholy, especially on rainy days. It is ok to think about those who are now gone and were a huge part of your life and miss them.

Maybe I have just been thinking too much and not living enough.

I will quote Job, who incidentally could have had the worst day in the history of mankind, while in the midst of his suffering and sadness said, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand on earth.” This gives me peace and hope in a troubled world and on a melancholy rainy day.

Cheer up world, Jesus our Redeemer lives. This Son will shine again.

Garden Tomato Pasta Sauce

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.—Miles Kington

It was a perfect storm, a garden tomato deluge…

I was experiencing a minor horticultural miracle of some sort as my tomato plants were actually producing this year. I had just picked some beautiful tomatoes when my cousin brought me a bucket of their beautiful tomatoes that I had requested and then I saw my neighbor bringing me some of his beautiful tomatoes. This took place in a span of about fifteen minutes.

It was a lycopene squall !!!

The dilemma now at hand was how to use all of these “love apples” and not waste any of them. I gave some to a friend of mine who I am always indebted to for his many acts of kindness because free garden tomatoes covers a myriad of paybacks.

Next I used one whole tomato in a blender with hot sauce, Worchester sauce, salt, pepper, and lime juice to create a mix for a Bloody Mary so I could ponder what to do with the rest of these lovely things.

I decided to make a tomato pasta sauce so I could use up four of the tomatoes and searched online for a good sauce. I settled on Chef Ray McVinnie’s sauce I found on YouTube, https://youtu.be/ctRo3pmFaKQ.

I was shocked at how much olive oil was used. But it was delicious. As I said I used four medium to large tomatoes and followed his recipe pretty close.

Since this sauce was made, I have also eaten about two tomatoes a day. Now I am ready for more. So if anyone has fresh tomatoes, my acidic levels have neutralized in my body, so I can introduce more acid into my innards. VIVA IL POMODORO!!!

St. Paul Tavern

The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook—Julia Child

Sometimes life gives you a little treat, my little treat came to me in the St. Paul Tavern.

This was not a Mediterranean Diet win for me, this was pure Americana pub food. Four guys having lunch after doing real man’s work. Well, two of the four did real man’s work, the other two watched real men work. However, I had a real man’s appetite.

This establishment evidently has been in the heart of this charming, small, southeast Indiana town since 1944. The place was busy for a late lunch with folks who enjoyed each other’s company.

The menu was large and honestly, I could have ordered anything. We had a hard time making a decision, for it all looked and sounded delicious, especially after a hard morning of watching hard work. We ordered an appetizer of fried mozzarella cheese balls with a cocktail sauce. There would have been a small utensil sword fight for the last remaining morsel if we weren’t so tired.

I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a bourbon and sriracha sauce, fries, and slaw. Everything was good on this plate. My friend next to me ordered Val’s Chicken and an order of onion rings. Now the onion rings were the size of a small tractor tire and sitting right next to me. It was so hard not to grab one of those because they looked incredible. However since my friend hauled about 3000 lbs of rock on a four-hour trip up to a new house for me, I let him have them all, all the while hoping one would be left. Alas, there was no food left on any plate.

This was a really good pulled pork sandwich, especially with the bourbon and sriracha sauce.

If Rembrandt would have had these onion rings there would have been no portraits hanging in the hallowed museum halls of Europe because this would be his subject in paint.

If you find yourself in St. Paul, Indiana a good place to stop and eat would be the St. Paul Tavern for a really good taste of America and not the Mediterranean.

Port St. Joe, Florida

And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop.’ —God to Job .

I am always humbled by the ocean. I love standing or sitting in the sand and just looking into the seemingly eternity of the endless sea. It gives me peace and I know that comes from the Eternal Creator.

So the next few paragraphs may seem like a living oxymoron…

In the paraphrased words of Clark W. Griswald, we packed up and headed out for a good, old-fashioned, family-fun vacation…six adults and five children, the oldest being five yrs old. Yeah, that’s right. Big Surf has guts, courage, lunacy, or a death wish.

It’s amazing how the synergistic effect of the energy of five children can overpower the synergistic effect of the tranquility of six adults. To make matters worse, the winds on the beach were above a soothing breeze and we adults were not allowed to go into the water due to the risks of riptides.

By midweek, I was ready to run up a white flag and replace the double red flags that blew as a constant reminder this beach trip was going to be different from all the others.

The locals kept telling us “This is so unusual for this area to have winds like this for this many days in a row.” As if somehow that was supposed to give me comfort. But nonetheless, Big Surf Daddy is still a beach animal and on the beach he must be.

We were able to spend two full days in the water out of six. One of those being at a lovely small beach called Windmark Beach near Mexico Beach. It was much calmer and we could swim.

Now don’t misunderstand me here, we all had a grand time, exhausting but grand. After all, we were on a beach in Florida for a week. Yes it was “breezeful” (to quote a former teacher), but we powered through and built castles and the kids played. We read books and talked and even built a few fires and roasted wieners and marshmallows and Big Surf wouldn’t have changed it for all the humid in Kentucky.

Port St. Joe is a beautiful small beach town just southeast of Appalachicola on the coast of the eastern Florida panhandle. There are wonderful seafood restaurants and markets. With the small children, we cooked a lot and ate out only a few times.

I will report of these food delicacies we sampled…

Our first night out, we had to go to plan B. Our first choice was, as always seafood, but there was a long wait. We went instead for some Mexican food at Pepper’s. We still had seafood, most of us had the Mahi tacos which were very good. So definitely no disappointments here.

These Mahi tacos were delicious and so fresh at Pepper’s.

Our go-to seafood market for the week was St Joe Shrimp Co. on Cape San Blas. This market had great service and selection. The tuna and shrimp were excellent. The frozen scallops were very good. The frozen crab cakes were good (but could have used a little more crab) and easy to fry up. The frozen hush puppies were great. They even serve lunch there daily of fried foods and sandwiches.

While our crew was eating lunch there one day, I bought some seafood for our dinner that night. I took a grouper sandwich basket and a bowl of seafood gumbo for lunch back to our house for Mrs. Big Surf and me.

There are two locations of the St.Joe Shrimp Co. One is on Cape San Blas and the other is in Port St. Joe.

One of our traditions on a beach trip is a Big Surf Low Country Boil. It is so easy. However in our rental house there wasn’t a pot to accommodate the size of the dish, so I had to divide it into three different pots. So not as easy as usual. This makes for a nice and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with our family.

And if you have some left-over shrimp, just throw them in with some scrambled eggs and salsa for a great breakfast dish.

We cooked scallops, crab cakes, and hushpuppies with sides. Of course there are an abundant amount of PB&J’s for the younger diners. The seafood and delicious hush puppies came from St. Joe Shrimp Co.

Mrs. Big Surf and I took a little sanity break and headed over to see Apalachicola and found this nice little restaurant that was so good, The Hole in the Wall Seafood and Raw Bar. If you make it to this restaurant, try to get a seat at the bar, you will have a good experience.

These butter and Parmesan oysters were very good at The Hole in the Wall.

The Fried Grouper Basket may have been the best ever at The Hole in the Wall.

Our final meal out was a wonderful meal at Provisions in Port St. Joe. We ate outside and the staff was very accommodating for our group with children.

Big Surf started the meal with the Sesame-Seared Tuna. This was incredibly good.

My entree at Provisions was the St. Joe Sauteé. I highly recommend this dish also.

Our final meal was a take-out from Uptown Raw Bar & Grill. This was a spur of the moment decision, a good one, after spending the day at Windmark Beach. This restaurant is owned by a nice young couple.

I know food doesn’t photograph very well in styrofoam take-out containers, however these oysters were so good. This is the Uptown Special. Big Surf was well pleased with his selection here.

There are many opportunities to eat good seafood in Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola.

To end this episode, I will show some of Big Surf’s beach scenes. I love beach photography and beachscapes. I apologize for the many photos.

Port St. Joe Lighthouse

Port St. Joe is part of the Florida Panhandle lovingly referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. I think this moniker is by design. After spending a week in this serene part of the Sunshine State, I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon.

Character’s Famous BBQ

Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it’s too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something.—Lyle Lovett

So we tested fate on our recent vacation to Port St. Joe, Florida…

We decided to drive through Georgia, north to south, not a short haul. Now normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive through Georgia, but at that time there was a gas shortage…or so we heard. But MapQuest said it would be a lot less time on the road than going through Alabama. And when my kidneys and bladder have to filter four cups of coffee and some sweet tea before 8:00 AM, the stopping time adds up. So Mrs. Big Surf said, “With all of your pee breaks, the odds are one of those gas stations will have gas.”

I was perplexed as we entered Georgia on I-75. For a state that seemingly had no gas, the folks were driving as if gas was in abundance. It does take more fuel to drive 90mph than 65mph, right? Someone seemed delusional here. Surely it wasn’t the media??

My worries would be calmed when we found Character’s Famous BBQ in Adairsville, GA.

From the time we pulled into the gravel parking lot, I knew this would be good. With BBQ joints, the less pretentious the better. It was obvious that the emphasis was on the food here. The ambiance was simple and clean but the aroma was so intoxicating.

OK so going back to the quote from above, there was nothing being hidden here, just good flavor from the sauce with a good balance of sweet and tang and a little heat. The helpings of the pork were more than enough. The sides were delicious. I had potato salad and slaw. They even served a piece of delicious pound cake with the meal.

Part of the wall art at Character’s Famous BBQ was a poster of Muhammed Ali. Of course being from Kentucky, I approved.

But alas, the stop in Georgia that gave us the most angst was in Rome, Georgia, but nothing to do with gas, of which we found plenty (however the Missus did not allow me to drive 90).

We pulled into a Krispy Kreme. From here the next few minutes are a little fuzzy. I heard the voice through the speaker say, “We are out of glazed.” I didn’t know how to respond. I had never actually heard that sentence at a Krispy Kreme in all my born days. Surely the speaker had a short, or we had driven into an alternate universe through the black hole of the unlit HOT DONUTS NOW light. Mrs BS had to throw the last cup of coffee from my half-gallon Contigo in my face to bring me out of my stupor. We ordered a dozen chocolate for the grandkids, and their parents, and Mrs. BS, then headed south, all the while Big Surf was in a state of denial over the glaze.

If you happen to find yourself driving through or past Adairsville, GA. on I-75 slow down and stop in for a wonderful meal at Character’s Famous BBQ. They got nothin’ to hide.

It Was a Mediterranean Kind of Day

I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.—Totie Fields

So yesterday was kind of a Mediterranean day.

No I wasn’t on a Greek Island, or on the Italian Coast, or the south of France, or dining in a Tunisian cafe, or on beach in Turkey…I was home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. My wife and I had just returned from the closest thing we have to the Mediterranean, the Gulf Coast of Florida.

So, yesterday I decided to reinstitute a new dedication to the Mediterranean Diet. I don’t know if it was the sea, the salty air, the breeze, or the fact that I ate everything in sight for a week and it hurt to bend over and tie my shoes.

Beginning with breakfast, a Greek yogurt with honey, walnuts, and berries.

For lunch (pictured above), a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, mozzarella, and topped with tuna. It was dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.

For supper (pictured below), Big Surf’s stuffed peppers. The peppers were roasted and stuffed with a vegetarian chili of crushed tomatoes, quinoa, cannelloni beans, and topped with cheese.

All of these dishes were very good and I loved them all. And the bonus, I felt so good about myself.

Until…

For lunch today, I made myself a bologna sandwich and chips. Hard to get away from that Eastern Kentucky DNA.

Hey!! Wait a minute, Bologna is in Italy, right? So Italy is on the Mediterranean…

So come on self esteem, get back over here. You can’t go anywhere yet.

Homemade Wheat Crackers

Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks.—Marilyn Wann

My name is Big Surf Daddy and I have a problem…

I am a snack-a-holic.

My snacking event each evening begins as a small wake and swells to a large tidal wave of power that can’t be overcome. I start with something as healthy as an apple, move on to grapes, and as the tidal wave crescendos…chips, salsa, peanut butter, crackers, and Cheez-Its all come pounding down on me in a calorie-filled billow of salt and fried breakers. Duuuude!!

Then I do the walk of shame to the bed and curl up in a fetal position and think about what I’ve done.

As I try to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into my everyday life, the Sea of Salt calls me back nightly, and the pounding of the calorie surf starts all over.

OK, enough of the metaphor.

I CAN’T STOP SNACKING AT NIGHT.

Mrs. Big Surf says I am a stress-eater. She is right, because I stress out if I can’t get enough snacks in me before going to bed.

Since the nightly Sea of Saltiness undertow drags me back into the calorie-infested deep (OK, last one), I decided to try to lessen my calorie and salt intake. I made my own crackers…less calories and less salt and less preservatives, right? Sounds like a good idea anyway.

I found Whole Grain Alice on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WyKzTJkGDCQ

This is such a simple recipe and easy to do. I added Everything but the Bagel spice, also extra salt, pepper, chia seeds and flax seeds. These are great with salads, cheeses, and just as a snack by itself.

I don’t know if it will lessen the shameful walks to the bedroom at night, but I feel better about myself and maybe I won’t be drawn into the seedy world of food porn.

Risotto with Lemon and Shrimp

I hate the opera. I think I must have a tin ear. No matter how hard I concentrate, it still sounds like a bunch of Italian chefs screaming risotto recipes at each other.—Aristotle Onassis

So, I had this crisis of morality…

Mrs. Big Surf found this incredible recipe of Giada De Laurentiis on line. I wanted to make this incredible recipe, for I love Giada’s recipes. Frankly I haven’t found a bad one yet. And risotto is one of my new food loves.

Growing up in eastern Kentucky did not provide a lot of opportunities to eat risotto, so let’s just say I came to this love affair later in life.

I love everything about risotto. I love the versatility of risotto, it is the utility player on the Italian team. I love cooking risotto and the time it takes for the creaminess of risotto to come to fruition. I also love the fact that this is included in the Mediterranean Diet and I can check that box to make me feel better, since we are having trouble fully converting to this diet. (The two pizzas and quarter pound of bacon we ate this weekend would have sent us spiraling into a pit of self-loathing if we hadn’t enjoyed them so much.) However, cheating on the Mediterranean Diet was not my crisis of morality.

This is my crisis of morality…if I did not fix the risotto exactly like Giada’s recipe says, do I have to give her credit or can I just call it mine?

Her recipe calls for fennel. I used leeks and fennel seeds.

Her recipe calls for arugula. I used spinach.

My attorney friend tells me there is a little thing called “intellectual property” I have to abide by. Since I am not very smart, “do I have to abide by this intellectual property?” He says, “nice try.”

So in light of the above conversation, I will not call this my own recipe and I will not post the recipe. However I will give you the link where I found it. I have enough intellectual properties about me to accomplish that.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/lemony-shrimp-and-risotto-recipe-2018344

Cauliflower with Turmeric, Lemon, and Caper sauce.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education—Mark Twain

The Mediterranean Diet has been my goal since this past holiday season. It is still my goal, so no, Mrs. Big Surf and I have yet to transform our diet. It’s like we are mired in this quicksand of calories and carbs and occasionally we find a vine from the Mediterraneanus Dietus plant that we can grab and pull ourselves out.

This cauliflower dish was the lifeline that may just save us.

This delicious cauliflower recipe came out of the New York Times Cookbook, called “Cauliflower with Caper Sauce”. We ate this as an entree with a salad.

Now Mark Twain may have thought cauliflower a bit too pretentious, but some would say cauliflower is the “Work-a-day-Joe” of veggies because it is so versatile and accommodating to your mood. I love the taste of cauliflower. I eat it raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, and sauteed. This sauce elevated the cauliflower to another degree. Maybe Mark Twain would have awarded it an honorary doctorate if he would have eaten this dish.