Over my birthday holiday weekend Trader Joe‘s (TJ’s) opened in Orlando. I’ve heard lot of people discuss it – you’d have to be crazy to head over there – and all that. Last Sunday, around noon, I asked Z if he wanted to go to Trader Joe’s with me. He politely declined. Since it is about a half hour door to door, I packed a cooler with ice in the trunk and headed over. It’s easy to find and only about five minutes from probably what amount to my three favorite restaurants in Orlando-Cask & Larder, Tibby’s and Four Rivers. So, going over there will likely be combined with the occasional dinner out and won’t be a ‘weekly’ type event. Driving up the street I could see the lineup of cars and decided to park about a half block away in the non-workday parking lot of the Civic Center. That served well as I would stay out of the fray and also be forced to limit myself to what I could carry by myself in the 90+ degree heat back to my car. I’ve only been in one other TJ’s during opening weekend so I have only that to judge by. This store was busy but not as busy as the Sarasota store opening weekend and the wine section was about 1/3 the size. You can judge that however you like.
I eased my cart inside braving the mixed crowd of Winter Park locals, Orlando hippies (I’ve never seen much of them before -maybe they are college kids from UCF and I’m just getting old?), regular old hipsters and me. I navigated through the dry goods aisles picking up na’an, pretzel loaves, and coffee and then the outer edges for cheeses, meats and prepared stuff like Wine Country Chicken Salad before hitting the center aisle that is what I’ve never shopped before on longer drives to the Sarasota store-the frozen stuff. Many people want to compare TJ’s to something. It isn’t like anyplace that you regularly shop–except just maybe slightly like Aldi. I only say that for the chaos and sort of self defined mayhem in the stores. That and they mostly sell private labelled products. At TJ’s though, they tend to be organic and internationally and otherwise ‘inspired’ type stuff. People who shop there seem to have their favorite items that they just don’t want to live without. Ours have always tended to be things I would best classify as snack foods – pita crackers & pub cheese, halloumi cheese, sea salt caramels, powerberries – with a few staples thrown in for the relatively modest prices on organic products – olive oil, thai chile & lime cashews, spicy pecans and coffee beans. I made this first local trip about trying new things and items that we could actually make for dinner. I tried a handful of new items out of the freezer sections like shredded vegetable nests (B+), poutine with cheese curds gravy (B) and spinach with paneer (don’t ask). I tried some new chicken sausages with Korean spices and bought a handful of different cheeses. All in all it was what I expected. The customers were actually quite a bit more polite than my expectations called for and I can see that there is a demand for it which gives me some hope for my developing neighborhood (WAY) across town.
Z and I were out to dinner the other night (Tibby’s to celebrate the 4th of July/Hurricane Arthur departure weekend) and decided to make a quick stop in. It wasn’t as busy the second go round and I was floored to see many absolutely empty shelves and coolers. Looks like they had a little trouble keeping up with this fierce new demand they have created. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I was also excited to see a drop in under the TJ’s sign in the lot. Shake Shack is coming too. That’s another story.
I don’t really use the word epic other than in a judging way. But the truth will come out. I love to make epic meals. Here is a way way late image of our Thanksgiving meal. It was truly epic. You will notice the lack of turkey, stuffing or gravy. Maybe next year.Clock wise from bottom left
1. Pimiento Cheese Devilled Eggs
2. Bacon-wrapped cream cheese stuffed jalapenos
3. My mom’s awesome macaroni salad
4. Brisket baked Beans (4Rivers)
5. My Grandma James Recipe Twice Baked Potatoes
6. John Rivers Recipe Sweet Potato Casserole
7. Brisket with Hot 4Rivers BBQ sauce
We happily ate leftovers for a week. Would I do it again? HeckyesIwould.
I guess after blogging every day for a month straight I just fell off the wagon. I’ve thought about blogging in the last month and have had some adventures (good ones!) and opened up my trusty wordpress account but published nothing. Now we are hurtling headlong into Christmas. The gifts are bought (mostly) and the stockings hung (green velvet on a hook over the closet door since a fireplace would be folly in Orlando.) No tree though. I have a closet full of trees (8? 9?) and ornaments and haven’t managed to do it. I did put up a tree or three at work but haven’t done it at home. Kind of sad really. I have been missing cool weather this year. It was 80 degrees plus yesterday. I miss my sister too. I can likely plan my way out of that with a trip for later in the winter. It has been a season of terrible news. Does it come in threes? Quite a few people in and about my life have been struck down over the last year. Yesterday was filled to the brim at work with an office parade of lights and with joy from Santa’s Marketing Department. Everyone should work with a team like this and it is a privilege. Last night Z and I wrapped carefully chosen gifts that will fly to Colorado today while the sun shines. Yesterday I billed a project started 9 months ago for the 2014 Wycliffe Calendar. (If you like beautiful global images and amazingly matched Scripture you should order one-they are stunning and they support the work of Bible translation worldwide!) I feel like somewhere yesterday I turned a corner and got my cheer back. I was waiting for it.
this fat Tuesday we tried two new incarnations of the muffaletta that weren’t purely sandwiches. A muffaletta is a strictly New Orleans born sandwich of cured meats, cheese and olive salad that can rightly be called big mouth. The friday night before fat Tuesday we dropped in to one of our favorite restaurants, Tibby’s for a hit of dinner. We don’t usually have apps as we really want a beignet after dinner and apps and dessert are just too much. Our server talked us into trying one though – a muffaletta spring roll. Bizarre right? To me, a spring roll is rice paper and may or may not be fried. This came to the table as two large scale wonton wrapped bombs! The standard meats – capicolla, mortadella and ham, provolone cheese and a vinegar hit olive salad wrapped in a pasta wrapper and deep fried. I didn’t actually expect it to be any good at all. They served it with a kind of mayo based creole mustard dipping sauce. They turned out to be tasty in a bar food kind of way. I might order them again but likely not since I’d rather have a beignet and this put me over the top.
A few days later I shot a skype to Z with a slideshow of Muffaletta inspired foods that included this burger. He thought it sounded pretty good so we added it to the weeks dinner menu. It’s our standard turkey burger but topped with a slightly mod-ed pile of muffaletta toppings – I pan fried the salami to crisp it up, added provolone and a homemade olive salad that include gardiniera I made over the summer, a heaping spoon of capers and red pepper flakes. We didn’t follow the recipe exactly but it tasted perfect.