Friday, March 30, 2012

Vesuvio, San Francisco


Another San Francisco classic, a North Beach legend. Vesuvio.  An traditional bar, with non-traditional style.  An old Jack Kerouac hangout, on Jack Kerouac Alley.  Across the alley from City Lights, the fantastic bookstore (which deserves its own entry in this blog).


Here’s my suggestion, wander over to City Lights, buy a book.  A made-from-dead-trees book.  Walk across the alley and into Vesuvio.  Order a drink- I recommend the “Jack Kerouac”, it sounds like a fruity rum drink, but it is not hyper sweet like a lot of tropical drinks.  (Rum, tequila, orange/cranberry juice, and lime- it has a few different things which have bite).  If you are feeling daring, go for the absinthe, but be warned people have been known to get bizarre cravings after drinking it.  Or maybe that was just my friends.  Now, take your drink and book upstairs and watch the world, read, and drink.  Or maybe just sit at the bar, be a little more sociable, and read a little less.


One last thing, the Vesuvio blog is not very well populated, only two posts.  One is quotes about drinking, some amusing, most you have heard if you are the kind of person who reads this blog.  The other post is Leo’s Short Guide to Good Bar Behavior, one of the best guides to bar behavior I’ve ever seen.  I’ll leave you with this quote from that post:

“The customer is always right; however, the bartender determines who is still a customer.”



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Disappointed? That’s great.

I had some disappointing meals and drinks on a recent visit to one of my favorite parts of the US.  And they were fantastic.  What’s that Jack, drinking heavily already?  Nope, bear with me here…

This is travel and dining philosophy, not my usual “some bar I went to” kind of post.  A few things have been nagging at me about travel, dining, drinking, the internet, television, and just about all of modern life.  Let’s just focus on those relevant to this little blog, though.

First: have you been disappointed by a new place, a meal, a drink, or travel experience lately?  If so, that’s great.   If not, you need to try harder.  Food, drink, travel- even life itself should be an adventure.  Most of us prefer safe little adventures, but adventures nonetheless.  That means trying new stuff, and that means finding things that you don’t like as well as finding the gems.  I’m not an adventurous diner, but sometimes you have to try things because it’s the right thing to do.  I recall dining at Commander’s Palace many years ago- most of the folks in our party ordered steak.  I’m sure they had fantastic steaks, but to be at a restaurant like that and ignore the chef’s recommendations is frankly stupid (allergies, religious reasons, etc. excepted).  And you don’t have to be at world renowned venues to benefit from the chef’s (or bartender’s , or waitstaff’s) wisdom.  Try it occasionally.  Go ahead and be disappointed occasionally, as long as it is not in your lack of adventure.

Second: the whole intercoursing internet.  Yelp this, TripAdvisor that, why is it called OpenTable if there isn’t one, etc.  News flash, those sites have some great insights, but like the entire rest of the internet they are full of idiots and assholes.  Worse yet, idiots and assholes without a sense of adventure, or context.  People lie and rate their own restaurants high and competitors low.  If you use these sites, apply your own filters- the woman complaining that a restaurant is overpriced and the staff was inattentive… in the high season in the Florida Keys… lacks the judgment required to trust her dining recommendations.  The guy whining that a place is a dump may be right, but if it is a dump with great food and drinks he needs to shut up and enjoy himself.

Finally for this philosophical rant: Television.  I’m mentioned before that I like “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” but can’t stand the host.  Do you really believe all of those hundreds of places are winners?  Yeah, me neither.  But as obnoxious as Guy is, he’s not going to chains, and he is encouraging some adventure.  I do not get the people following his recommendations around the country- grab a few and use them as backups or starting points for your own adventures, but put some effort into finding your own way.  Ask those chefs (better yet, ask the cooks and bartenders) where to go.  And speaking of assholes, Anthony Bourdain is one- but the kind of asshole worth learning from.  Willing to try things, unapologetic in expressing what he likes and doesn’t like, and opinionated.  Some things in his shows do not appeal to me, some make me want to hop on an airplane immediately, but the spirit of dining-centric adventure is really what I like.  Most of everything else in the realm of travel and dining on TV seems to be crap, with obvious lack of curiosity, or even more obvious contrived situations, and of course some non-subtle financial arrangements to get places covered.  You deserve better, make it happen.

Go forth and be somewhat disappointed occasionally.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish

We didn’t discover this one, we’ve heard about it a few places- including Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (BTW, like the show, love many of the places he goes, but Guy is truly obnoxious).

They have a limited menu, if you want smoked fish, maybe with a side of hot German potato salad, or possibly a burger- go there.  If not, do not.  Not fancy, not stylish.  But it you want great smoked fish, go to Ted Peters. 

There are two ways to get the smoked fish- as a meal of one of the four types of fish they carry (subject to availability, if it isn’t fresh, you can’t have it), or as smoked fish spread.  The fish options are mullet (local and traditional), mackerel, salmon, and mahi-mahi (which is really dolphin- the fish not the mammal).  The smoke flavor is great- strong, but not overpowering (unless you don’t like smoked foods, in which case you shouldn’t be here).  The spread is available two ways: in a sandwich (really just mountain of smoked fish spread on toast) or with saltine crackers.  Old school.  Prices are reasonable- within the context of popular, in a tourist state, and labor intensive.  If you are on a tight budget, go for one of the fish spread options.  Interesting tidbit: they use southern red oak, which imparts a very hickory-like smoky flavor to the foods.


Ted Peters is an unassuming place, outdoor dining at picnic tables under a roof, a simple indoor dining room, no fancy silverware, and an outdoor bar. (Note: this is not a “bar”, it is a restaurant with a bar-like seating place, you can only have beer with your meal, no sitting at the bar getting tanked).  It is at 1350 Pasadena Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL, a bit out of the way for most folks visiting Tampa, but worth the trip.