Friday, September 30, 2011

"ART IS NOT WHAT YOU SEE, BUT WHAT YOU MAKE OTHERS SEE." - quote from the wall of Mango Bistro

It's time for me to do some more bragging on my hometown of Englewood, Florida.  I can go on & on about our beautiful beaches, shark's teeth, & shells but a girl's gotta eat sometime.  I about wore poor Tennessee Sister out. We went to the beach every day & sometimes twice a day. She deserved a nice lunch out.  If possible I like to frequent local business when I shop or eat out. Supporting local businesses is the best way to help the local economy. Englewood has a rejuvenated downtown district on Dearborn Street with lots of fun restaurants, quirky shops, & artist galleries called Olde Englewood Village. 

 It was the perfect day to eat outside and the colorful porch of the Mango Bistro caught my eye. How could we not sit on the porch with it's zebra-striped bench and tropical colors.  It down-right beckons you in. We were greeted shortly by a very friendly server who guided us to her favorites on the menu of authentic French crepes, grilled paninis, gourmet wraps, & homemade soups. The Mango Bistro serves breakfast from 9am - 11am & lunch from 11am to 3pm.  We arrived at 11am but were told "no problem" - order off of either menu.

 While waiting for our food we chatted with several other diners who were enjoying their meals al fresco on the porch.  Everyone was amiable & Tennessee Sister got every one's life story and turned every stranger into a new FB friend. All agreed that the Mango Bistro was one of their favorite places to eat on Dearborn Street because of the atmosphere & the original food.  I slipped inside to discover an open kitchen that was a piece of art in itself. One of the owners Marie Laforge was cooking.  She was nice enough to stop & chat with me for a few minutes. Mango Bistro has turned a small place into functional art from their drink & desert displays to the wine shelves that line the walls. Every nook & cranny has been painted to be pleasing to the eye.  There is also an area that displays local art for sale. Marie's creative skills extend way beyond the epicurean. Her line of original art silk pareos are displayed for sale also. With so much to see & so many gastronomic choices to indulge in, Tennessee Sister & I left the Mango Bistro with all 5 senses full to the brim.

The owners of Mango Bistro admit they have not resolved if they are a European Cafe or an Island Bar....they have left that up to the customers to determine.

Unwinding on the colorful porch couldn't be more alluring especially now that the humidity is below 95% & the Florida fall is in the air.

Every inch of the Mango Bistro is covered in vivid color.

This looks like a comfy spot to meet some friends and listen to some live music on the week-end.

Tennessee Sister has never eaten a crepe before so she's not really sure where to start. Hers was a ham & cheese with a  side salad of fresh greens with the house dressing. TS loved every bite.

My wrap was a yummy combination of Prosciutto, imported Brie, sliced apples, arugula, & pine nuts.  The Lobster Bisque was creamy with just the right touch of Sherry.
Owner & artist Marie Laforge smiles from the open kitchen as they prepare for the lunch rush. She & co-owner Ricardo Roggero combined influences from their native countries of France & Brazil to create their own brand of European Cafe & tropical fusion.

Having an open kitchen is a brave move.  You are on stage all the time. As a former waitress I find it fun to watch.

Marie's handmade pareos or beach cover-ups are are for sale as well as jewelry from local artists.

The color palette is either Englewood sunset or Mango sorbet.

And there are books.....

and beer......

and wine....oh my.

It's no wonder the Mango Bistro was voted a favorite by the locals.  They make pure fruit smoothies and have large selection of coffee drinks and teas.

On the hunt for the perfect gift?  I like gift certificates because you don't have to wrap them.

Visit the Mango Bistro's Trip Advisor for more reviews.  

For a schedule of live music visit Mango Bistro's FB page.  Every Friday & Saturday night from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm (or later) come sit on the porch & enjoy live World music ranging from Bossa Nova, Flamenco, Rumba, Spanish Popular, Salsa, Jazz, & Classic Rock.

PS - I have not received any compensation from the Mango Bistro.  The post is all my own thoughts & opinions.  I always like to spread the word about great places to visit in Englewood, Florida.

Monday, September 26, 2011

If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Darn Thing A Honeymoon - title of Jenna McCarthy's new marriage book

The park is located at the extreme western end of Curlew Road in Dunedin, Florida.

It is very helpful to bring a Honeymoon old-timer like Cousin Joannie along to show you what the agatized coral looks like.

The sister from Tennessee is in town. All year long she waits out the frost, ice, & snow by vicariously beach combing, shelling, & picking-up shark's teeth on my FB page & blog (interspersed with some Farmville & Zenga Poker).  Once a year she migrates south for a few weeks via a cheap Allegiant Airline flight that goes non-stop from Knoxville to sunny Punta Gorda, Florida. She usually steps off the plane legs shaved & adorned in tropical attire ready to head for the closest beach. I can't let my little sister down.  We have been to the beach every day since she has been here (& sometimes twice a day)

 This visit we have shelled Stump Pass, Blind Pass Beach, Manasota Key, Casey Key, Caspersen Beach, Venice Beach, Nokomis Jetty & a big rock pile that wasn't even on the beach.  We have shelled in sunshine with crystal clear water, in the rain, & at night with little flashlights (sorry turtle patrol peeps).  When I asked Tennessee Sister (TS for short) where else she wanted to go it was decided we would travel up to our old stomping grounds of Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, Florida.  Like a Florida Cracker version of Tom Sawyer, we grew up swimming & shelling our childhoods away on Honeymoon Island.  It was paradise then & even today it is still a great place to go shelling.

After making the rounds around town to family & friends TS & I made our way to our beloved Honeymoon Island.  The park closes at sunset so we had about 3 1/2 hours to do some damage. We had picked up cousin Joannie to join us.  Joannie kept telling me to slow down on the causeway or the trip would be more expensive than the $8.00 to get into the state park.  I was so excited to get there I didn't realize I was speeding so I slowed down and we arrived safe, sound, & ticket-free. It had stormed all day & was low tide, unfortunately the wind had been blowing East which doesn't help the shelling at all.  It blows the shells out to sea instead of to shore.  We still managed to score lots of turbans, a huge moon snail, & a fair amount of agatized coral.

Honeymoon Island is like any marriage - you have to take the good with the bad.  The main beach just up the beach is smooth & sandy. The rocks were used back in the 1960's to help with the errosion problem.  The rocks are also where the best shells & agatized coral are found.  Bring an old pair of sneakers to protect your feet.  Clearwater Beach is looking south at the top right-hand of the picture.

The best place to park is the most northern parking lot.  Once on the beach head north towards to mangrove clumps.  You can walk the  2 miles to the pass at the end.  

Joannie is an expert at looking through the rocks.  

She found this moon snail up against a rock.  It measures about 5 inches across.

Once past the big black rocks you end up on the big white limestone rocks.

Joannie leaves no stone unturned.

TS taking a break on the swing.  It's a wonderful place to watch the sunset from.

The beach erosion is an ongoing battle.  The park is re-doing this area where the old bathrooms used to be. This is also the best place to concentrate your shelling efforts.

The parking lot has faced one storm too many.

This is a pile of potential agatized coral rocks gathered by a beach goer.  If you think carrying a shell bucket is heavy - go collect some agatized coral.  These folks will carry the rocks home where they bust them up with a mason's hammer to reveal the crystals & geodes inside.

Cousin Joannie & a sweet local lady who shells Honeymoon Island frequently.  They both found gigantic moon snails.

Later in Cousin Joannie's garage she shows us how she answer's the age old question put to every beachcomber - "What do you do with all those shells?"

Joannie calls them "Honeymoon Island Starter Kits".  She gives them away to friends & family.

Honeymoon Island can always be counted on for lots of turban shells.  Here's my treasures all cleaned up.

Nice piece of agatized coral.  It is the Florida State Rock.  It's very popular with the rock hounds.

Joannie called this piece "Unicorn Poop".

Another glamorous day on the beach digging through the rocks & walking in the rain. TS (in the middle) has a few days left to shell but how she's getting all her shells home is another story.

Friday, September 23, 2011

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart...pursue those. ~ Michael Nolan

Even my shell sistah Pam of iLove Shelling couldn't resist a road trip up from Sanibel to Manasota Key for a little shark's tooth action.
All hobbies & interests have different levels of dedication.  Shelling is the perfect example of this.  You have the average beach goer that doesn't know anything more about shells other than "it's pretty".  Then the next level would be the enthusiast.  This person  knows to shell at low tide, has some basic shelling equipment, & they know what a junonia is.  Then there are the fanatics  who are willing to travel to the good shelling spots,  they knows the Latin scientific names of most shells, & are into quality not quantity because their shell collection has now taken over their garage.

  Collecting shark's teeth is no different. On any given day on Manasota Key there will be hundreds of beach-goers walking the shoreline looking for shark's teeth.  The casual shark's tooth hunter  is usually looking in the  shallow water and  on the surf line for shark's teeth. They are not really sure if what they are finding is a rock or a shark's tooth but it doesn't matter because...Hey,  I'm on the beach and not at work.   Once their passion grows for finding shark's teeth there is a need to aquire equipment. The enthusiast now has a sand-flea rake aka shark's tooth shovel to really get in the game.  Now they are digging & sifting on the water's edge making some real progress.  Then we have  the fossil big dawgs that scuba dive off the coast of Manasota Key to find the big Megalodon shark's teeth.  Some have their own boats or kayaks.  Others hire a charter that takes them out to dive The Boneyard.  The Boneyard is an ancient riverbed off the coast of Manasota Key that holds an amazing amount of fossils especially shark's teeth.

 Personally, I love my shark's teeth but I am a casual collector.  I enjoy the walk on the beach & the sunset as much as I enjoy finding the teeth themselves although I do visit the beach more than the average person.  But I sure enjoy the video clips & fish tales of the more serious divers.  Would I love to find the big 6" Megalodon?  You bet but I'm not a scuba diver.  I have too many dental fillings that under 10 feet of water feel like they are about to explode in my mouth and I am also somewhat claustrophobic.  And Hello.  Shark's teeth come from....... sharks, big duh!  I'm happy to walk on the shore & pick up a handful to dump in my jar.

Located out of Englewood, FL is Man Overboard Charters. Capt. Rick Warren is available for scuba, fishing, or just sight seeing charters.

Capt. Jamie Bostwick of Aristakat Charters has been on the local waters most of his life. Even when he is not working you'll find him on the water fishing or diving - He does what he loves.

I met Devorah today on the beach. She is an artist that lives in the Englewood area.  She picked up her bag of shark's teeth in about an hour on Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key.

She has no fancy shell shovel or digging tools.  Heck, she didn't even wear a bathing suit.  She's just enjoying a nice walk up the beach and finding a few shark's teeth in the process.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. ~Desmond Tutu

Eat your heart out Cake Boss!
All it takes is that one phone call.  You know, life is good.  The plan is being followed then ring, ring, ring (or whatever snazzy sound or song you have for a ringtone) everything changes.  This time for me nothing major - just my cousin the cake decorator calling to tell me I'm on my own to make the baby shower cake for my niece Shweekie because she can't get the time off from work. "No problem" I say to her. "RATZ!!" I think as I hang up.  Publix is right across the street. Joan & I had been planning to make cupcakes.  Our illusions of baking grandeur were probably bolstered by watching  too many episodes of Cupcake Wars.  We were making Key lime cupcakes & Chocolate with coconut-filling cupcakes surrounding a sandcastle centerpiece that we were going to create out of foam board. The baby shower was a beachy theme and we thought easy peasy as we high fived each other over the phone.

 I know when to surrender.  I know when to wave the white flag.   I have too much to do with family coming into town & all the other decorations & food/drink preparation.  Ordering a cake is the sane thing to do. Unfortunately, sanity does not travel upwards past my limb of the family tree. Later that night GeeGee plops her hand-drawn schematic of a sandcastle cake in front of me. (note to self - cancel the Food Network from our cable package) "No, Mom, No! I can't. I have too much to do already" I whined to her.  But her eyes were bright with optimism & she pleaded her case for the hand-crafted sand castle cake as opposed to my predictible store-bought vanilla-chocolate marbled sheet cake that could possibly be the scandal of the family for many years to come.  

Oh.  All.  Right.   I spent some time looking at other sandcastle cakes on the web and formed (yet) another plan.  We decided on Hummingbird cake minus the pecans in case there was anyone present with nut allergies. I wanted an orange cake but GeeGee assured me citrus allergies were running rampant with the nut allergies so I succombed again. GeeGee also chose her punch because of color not taste. No red punch because it stains. Don't any of you people own Shout & a washing machine. She finally wore me down with the nuts, citrus, & red-colored punch. I would have agreed to anything at that point. GeeGee was right again.  The family honor remains (somewhat) intact.  The sandcastle cake was the hit of the shower. The momma-to-be was thrilled with her beachy-themed party and especially her cute cake. Love is an action word.  Love looks like something.  This time it looked like a sandcastle cake.

The ingredients to make a cake for 50 people

GeeGee has some design skills.

Looks like the towers & turrets are ready to bake
Hummingbird cake is a southern favorite. Pineapple, mashed banana, cinnamon, & vanilla make for a tasty cake.

The crumb coat or dirty icing is the most disheartening. It looks much better after the second layer of icing. The layers are stabilized by pushing straws through the layers.

Ready to be sprinkled with the sand which consists of crushed cinnamon graham crackers & raw sugar.

I have a food processor but the idea of wacking the tar out of something just appealed to me.

Now I just have to get the cake to the venue in one piece.  Good thing I watched Cake Boss too.

Her smile makes all the effort worth while.