Friday, January 28, 2011

Rotten's Ralph's Restaurants

Rotten Ralph's Restaurant from the Bradenton Beach Pier

Rotten's Ralph's Restaurant sits on the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach, Florida. Not the kind of place you'd expect to find Crabcake Benedict on the breakfast menu. Nonetheless, take my recommendation and devour the yummy house specialty for just $7.99. Or you can build your own omelet, starting at $5.99. Those with a hankering for real Canadian bacon, the kind from Canada, are in luck, the ham-like meat remains a staple on the menu.

Crabcake Benedict
Recipe inventor, Mrs. Rotten or Mama D for Doreen hails from West London, England. She moved to Canada, married Ralph but kept cooking the British way. She claims an addiction to cookbooks and desserts. I bet her English Trifle is smashing and her creamsicle pie sounds like a luv.  However, Fish and Chips became Rotten Ralph's signature item; all you can eat, all day, every day for $9.99.

I went for breakfast which was a blessing for my waistline because the Rotten au Gratin may have done me in. That tantalizing concoction is a mixture of shrimp, crab, alfredo sauce with extra melted cheese.

And how did this place get its name? Seems back when owner Ralph lived in Ontario, he was elected treasurer of his local Lions club. First thing he did was collect all the outstanding dues-- earning the endearing nickname

He and Mama D have always been in the restaurant business. When they visited Anna Maria Island in 1988, they looked around and thought "what a wonderful world", just like the song.  So, they decided if Fast Eddies could advertise "warm beer and lousy food", why couldn't they name a restaurant Rotten Ralph's. Brilliant, I'd say.

They purchased what used to the Oyster Steamer and christened it Rotten Ralph's. The  family, known as the Rotten crew, runs the place and son Dave is now the manager. Business has been so strong, they opened this second location.

If you find yourself on Anna Maria Island or Bradenton Beach, near Longboat Key and Sarasota, hungry for  delicious seafood, crumpets that are a tad British, or an American burger- motor to Rotten Ralph's and you won't be disappointed. Why you'll leave ripe to return. 

Read this and other food blog articles posted onWanderfood Wednesdays.

Mama D or Mrs. Rotten and son, Dave

Rotten Ralph's

200 Bridge Street - on the pier
Bradenton Beach, FL
941 778 1604
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

902 S. Bay Boulevard
Anna Maria Island
941 778 3953
Open for lunch and dinner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Steak San Marco - An Old Family Favorite

Steak San Marco on noodles.

I have no idea why this recipe is named San Marco. The dog-eared file card is written in purple ink, must be at least 20 years old, possibly 30. The tried and true,old family favorite entree has been one of those I cook  when I've gone through my usual repertoire. I, not chicken again. Then I remember-- I could make Steak San Marco.

Best part is the ease: a no-brainer, no stirring, no mess meal. Very economical, too.The dish simmers on the stovetop about an hour and a half. A Mediterranean- -garlic and oregano-- aroma develops, hence the origin of San Marco? The beef becomes very tender and falls apart in your mouth. I hope you'll try it.

Steak San Marco
From the files of Debi Lander
Serves 4

1 1/2 to 2 pounds round steak, cut up (can use stir-fry beef)
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 one-pound can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dry oregano
Freshly ground pepper and garlic powder- to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic(or wine) vinegar

Follow these directions in order and don't stir.
  1. Spray the bottom of a large skillet with Pam or oil, then arrange meat.
    Arrange meat in pan.
  2. Sprinkle dry onion soup mix over meat.
  3. Sprinkle the dry the onion soup mix over the meat.
  4. Add the can of tomatoes on top.
    Add the tomatoes
  5. Sprinkle spices on top of tomatoes.  I use about a 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
  6. Ready to Simmer
  7. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar on the very top and do NOT stir.

Simmer on low, covered, one and one half hours or until meat is tender.

Here's a look at Steak San Marco when it's done.

Serve on top of noodles with a side salad. 

And, if you feel you need a green vegetable, green beans or sugar snaps go well.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm Just Wild About Harry

Hal Christensen
Restaurant Review: 
Harry's Continental Kitchens
Longboat Key, Florida

As Judy Garland sang :

I am here to state
I'm here to relate
To explain
and make it plain:
I`m just wild about Harry...

Harry's Continental Kitchen's opened on Longboat Key in 1978 and numerous customers must agree because Harry's remains a wildly popular eatery. The restaurant corner buzzes as a beehive of activity with local residents, returning snowbirds and visitors to the Sarasota area.

Harry Christensen first opened Harry's Deli, then two years later added the restaurant located off Gulf of Mexico Drive, about mid-island. The thriving establishment is now managed by Hal, his handsome, body-guard built son. Hal became a hospitality major at Florida State University, then worked elsewhere after graduation, before returning to Longboat Key and the family business. That's a good thing for the family and hungry tourists to the upscale Florida isle. 

Hal manages to keep the tropical themed 75-seat dining room open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although not luxurious on the exterior, the inside exudes freshness, warmth and relaxation. You'll find a lovely little bar, laid-back island feel and fabulous food.  But, that's not all-- Harry's Market (across the street) sells gourmet take-out, Harry's Catering prepares parties for 8 to 400 guests and Harry's Corner Store sells whatever. You could say Harry has truly cornered the market. 

My group recently attended a dinner in the more sophisticated side dining room. I started with the fresh pear salad, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, glazed walnuts and spring greens drizzled with mango basil vinaigrette. Perfection. The other starters at my table were photo-worthy gorgeous: escargot with garlicky butter, sushi presented with decorative flair and purple orchids on most plates.  Lovely indeed with a deliciously French flair and consumed in their entirety. Clean plates awards mean happy diners.
Pear Salad with mango dressing
Afterward, I was treated to the catch of the day: Hog fish, a delicate white-flaky fish. Each bite just melted in my mouth; the taste was so smooth. It paired perfectly with a bottle of San Telmo Esencia Torrontes, a light white wine with hints of fruit. As if that wasn't enough, other group members and I shared a decadent hot fudge sundae for dessert, although the Key Lime pie sounded luscious.
Harry's Terrace Room

I was thrilled to return another day for breakfast. This time I was seated in the terrace room overlooking a lush verdant garden. Hal told me the kitchen is known for their German apple pancake, so I had to try one. The specialty is fluffy, with crepe-like goodness and the apple slices are just tender enough to retain their shape and flavor.  The pancake (order large or small ) is served with crimson Lingonberry sauce and maple syrup. What more could I want? Well...actually one egg over easy and a strip of bacon.

A German Apple Pancake, eggs and bacon

Others ordered the huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, omelets and granola.  Before our plates arrived the most scrumptious pipping hot mini muffins appeared in a basket. These could easily become addictive.

Oh yes, I'm just wild about Harry's.

Harry's Continental Kitchen
525 Saint Judes Drive
Longboat Key, FL 34228
(941) 383-0777     

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

5 Minute Spicy Shrimp and Scallops- - Nom Nom

5 Minute Spicy Shrimp and Scallops

Both scallops and deveined shrimp were on sale, so I bought a half pound of each. Now what to make?  Time was of the essence so I searched via Google for shrimp stir-fry recipes. Rachel Ray's 4 Minute Spicy Garlic Shrimp came up and sounded tasty.

Okay, I could easily adapt the recipe to include both shrimp and scallops. Whizz-bang- It was so easy and quick and what a winner! The garlic adds pungent flavor and smells of intrigue. If you care for a hotter, more fiery dish, add additional red pepper flakes.

Beginning to cook
Debi's 5 Minute Spicy Shrimp and Scallops
(with thanks to Rachael Ray)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or enough to coat pan
4 cloves of garlic, crushed fine or minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
24 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails in tact (I used a total of 1 pound)
2 teaspoons grill seasoning blend
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I had to substitute dried but fresh would be better.)

Almost done!


Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add extra-virgin olive oil and turn around pan.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, shrimp and scallops.  Season with grill seasoning or salt and pepper.  Cook about 3-4 minutes until just pink.  Toss with lemon zest, juice and parsley.

I served this with grocery made mashed potatoes and fresh sugar snap peas. Nom nom!

In case you are wondering, the word "nom" was added to the New Oxford Dictionary in 2010- coming directly from Cookie Monster's mouth.

nom nom (informal) exclamation an expression of delight when eating.
plural noun (nom noms) delicious food.
verb (nom-nom) eat delicious food with obvious enjoyment.
adjective (nom-nommy) descriptive of delicious food.
[origin — imitative; popularized by the noises made by the character Cookie Monster on Sesame Street (usually as “Om nom nom nom”)]

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Flavor: Spicy Hoppin John and Greens

New Year's Day Spicy Hoppin John

After living in Florida for 15 years, I have learned the ways of southern cooks by trial and error:  use lots of butter and sugar; when in doubt - fry; slow simmer for hours. I droll over many of the specialty dishes (read about my Caramel Cake attempt) but I'm afraid southern vegetables remain aloof. Haven't acquired a taste for the mushy concoctions.

One of the New Year's Day traditions that has crept into my lifestyle is eating black-eye peas for good luck and greens for money. Come on, who doesn't desire luck and prosperity in heaping quantities? Therefore, I prepare and serve the dishes in a way my family will tolerate- mind you, they aren't big on anything green. 

Hoppin John is a mixture of black-eyed peas and rice with chopped onion and sliced bacon. Some people substitute ham hocks for the bacon and others add green peppers or vinegar, but I spice it up. (Seems I am doing a lot of that since I took that trip to New Mexico last fall.)  I added a bevy of colorful orange, yellow and red peppers, a fresh Jalapeno pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and a bit of cumin. The kitchen teemed with the fabulous aroma of caramelized onion and spices. I also switched to turkey sausage in place of bacon.

Just before serving I sauteed turnip greens in olive oil and mined garlic- more like a Japanese stir-fry than the genteel Southern method. Sorry Popeye, my veggies were served a crispy Wizard of Oz emerald green. 

Below is my version of   
Spicy Hoppin John:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 scallions, white bulbs and green tops sliced
1 small Jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup mixed red, yellow or orange peppers
1/2 pound Italian Turkey Sausage- the large links --   later cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes Mexican flavored - slightly drained
1 container fresh black-eyed peas (the kind that requires just 10 minutes of boiling or a 10-ounce package frozen black-eyed pea, cooked
1 1/2-2 cups cooked  long-grain rice

1 teaspoon cumin (or more)
Chicken or beef broth or homemade stock

1.   If not already cooked, boil the rice and black-eye peas.

2.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, scallion bulbs and peppers; cook and stir occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and tomatoes and cook approximately 10 minutes longer.

3.  Remove the sausage and cut crosswise into 1-inch or bite sized pieces. 

4.  Combine all  by adding the black-eyed peas, rice and sausage into the onions and peppers. Stir in the cumin and add additional broth --as needed to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the sausage is done.

5. Before serving add green onion slices on top.

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