A few weeks ago my husband Chris and I packed up to visit my 87-year-old grandma in Port St. Lucie, Fla. My Grandma Rita had been unable to come to our recent destination wedding in Jamaica or our reception in Austin. We decided to pay her a visit. My parents drove down from my hometown of Tallahassee. So it was a nice little reunion. My grandma is not your typical 87-year-old. According to my husband she is quite a “pistol” (no, I am not married to an aging Englishman). I also believe I inherited most of my smart ass, irreverent personality from her. And one thing she likes to make fun of me, her son (my father) and my mother about is our LOVE of food.
And boy, this trip she sure had a lot of ammunition. We ate our way through Port St. Lucie. My husband and I arrived Friday, April 3rd and drove from the Fort Lauderdale airport to my grandma’s, about an hour and a half away. When we got there everyone was hungry so we headed to the neighborhood Italian restaurant at the Publix strip mall – Ruffino’s. Now, I usually hate restaurants in strip malls, but I have noticed some of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to are in strip malls. Ruffino’s is one of these gems. I ordered the chicken portofino with asparagus, mushrooms and artichokes in a garlic, white wine sauce – excellent! My grandma ordered eggplant parmesan (it was a Friday during lent! No meat for her), and it looked divine. It was thick with a bubbling coat of cheese on top. My dad ordered the mussels with a side of pasta and my husband ordered the chicken and eggplant parmesan. My mom ordered the antipasto for one and their tortellini en brodo soup. And of course we ordered a carafe of wine and a piece of homemade tiramisu. It was a bit heavy to start off the trip, but it was wonderful and we did not have to pay for it – poor dad.
The next day (after I went for a long jog to get rid of the previous night’s excess) Chris and I went to Jensen Beach for some swimming, laying around and boogie boarding. The rip tide was pretty strong so I opted for the laying around. After a couple of hours we decide to head to a local beach bar – Conchy Joe’s. A good seafood meal is always on my agenda when I head home to Florida. I love Austin, but it’s only good for Mexican and Barbeque food. It is sorely lacking in fresh, good seafood. We sat down right away and ordered two 16 oz. Yuenglings, the conch fritters and the raw bar sampler. The sampler included oysters, coconut shrimp, fish dip, crab fingers and clams. It hit the spot. It’s a great family restaurant right on the water in Jensen Beach – not a super classy joint. But it has solid, cheap food.
When we got home it was nap time (another perk at grandma’s). When we all awoke it was dinner time. Another cuisine I make sure to taste when I am in Florida (more specifically south Florida) is Cuban. Authentic Cuban food is one of my favorite things in the world. I love that the food is basic, yet intense. And one of the best Cuban restaurants in Port St. Lucie is El Cubanito. Once again, it is in a strip mall. But do not let this stop you from coming in and dining. El Cubanito is a fairly small restaurant, well-lit with a friendly staff. Our waitress was charming and she did a great job. We started off with a carafe of sangria, yummy Cuban bread and a stuffed yucca. I will be honest the yucca was not great. It was the only downside to the meal. It was stuffed with what appeared to be ground ham. So it was very heavy and not very tasty. But my entree was a different story. I ordered the flank steak with chimichurri sauce and shrimp – WOW! It was incredible. So much flavor and it never felt too fattening. Chris and my dad ordered the half chicken – a very wise choice as well. The meat was a combination of white and dark and was incredibly moist. My mother ordered the bistec with grilled onions – very tasty. And my grandma ordered the grilled grouper, another flavorful option. None of us were disappointed in our meal. But the real masterpiece was the flan my grandma ordered for dessert. It was hands down the best flan I have ever had – very creamy and dense.
On Sunday, my parents packed up and left to head home. But my aunt Lou-Lou, her husband Ed and their daughter Emily rolled in to town. My grandma does not get much down time. Instead of going out to eat Chris and I decided to cook our last night in town. Chris and I are compatible at many things and cooking is no different. We love to cook together. For dinner we wanted to cook healthy and on the grill. So we made meat kebabs with shrimp, pork and chicken as well as veggie kebabs with bell pepper, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. We also served up yellow rice and a light shrimp and avocado salad. For dessert I made my favorite – biscuit strawberry shortcake. The world is usually divided into two different camps on a variety of topics – cat or dog person? morning or night shower? cake or glazed donuts? Well strawberry shortcake is the same. Some prefer the (horrible) angel food cake and then others (smart people) prefer the biscuit version. I happen to like the latter option. And considering there was nothing left afterwards, my family appears to feel the same. I think my cousin Emily actually ate the entire bowl of whipped cream (ah, to be a thin teenager with a fast metabolism again!). Below is a picture of the shortcake and the recipe.
2 1/3 c. Bisquick or other all-purpose baking mix
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. milk
1 quart strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream for topping
Rinse the berries under cold water. Slice the berries; place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, cover and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. Whip the cream (sweeten with 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar and a dash of vanilla, if desired) until it holds a soft peak. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
Heat oven to 425°F. Stir baking mix, melted butter, milk, and 3 Tbsp of sugar in a mixing bowl until soft dough forms. Put dough in a baking dish. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.