Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013 and thanks for the memories...

I had it in mind to do a list of the HappiTraveler highlights for 2013. This won't be a top 10 list exactly but please indulge me while I take a look back at the past twelve months.

Well, for starters, the Dining Companion and I spent time in four different parts of the country in 2013. Lots of moving hither and yon without a lot of downtime. That's actually a good thing but makes for a very hectic year.

Finally got out to the West Coast to visit family for a few days of laughter and fun. We enjoyed our visit to California and look forward to getting back there. Much fun was had by all.

Also got to visit my East Coast family. The trip became a whirlwind when airline delays lopped over a day off of the trip. It was a super quick trip but we had a great time.

This is also the year I finally ate, what for me, was the best BBQ in the country. I have no doubt.

We ate a lot of good food. Not all of it was great but we landed on that side more often than not. Some of it was even memorable. (see BBQ mentioned above)

 And last but not least we got a dog. She's a great traveler, a must in this family, and has brought more happiness to us than we could have thought possible.

We feel blessed and thankful for everything. Including the ups and downs, the high and lows and all of the in betweens we had in 2013.

I hope your coming year is filled with Health, Happiness and Prosperity and all of the people and things that bring you joy.

Happy 2014!

Note: We visited the San Jacinto monument this week. I'll be posting about that coming up.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays

Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and a belated Happy Hanukkah from the HappiTraveler family. The Dining Companion and I wish you Peace, Health and Prosperity in the New Year.

May the return of the light find you blessed with all of the things that make you happy and fill your hearts with love.

The happiest of travels to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Half Shell Oyster House - Gulfport, Mississippi

Lunchtime in Gulfport, Mississippi. What to do, what to do? Eat something right? So we asked the hotel staff for a lunch recommendation. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't, this time we did. The staff directed us to the Half Shell Oyster House. The restaurant is located in an historic building in downtown Gulfport. It was the first location of this small chain.

We sat with our menus and admired the beautiful surroundings. The interior is all hardwood, exposed brick and wrought iron. A big nod to New Orleans.

To start we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab Cakes and the Voodoo Shrimp. Both starters were good but the Voodoo Shrimp just edged to the front. Sweet and spicy, fried to a crunch, great flavor.

Voodoo Shrimp
The Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab Cakes had a nice contrast between the crisp fried tomatoes and the tender crab filled cakes. Great flavors that worked really well together.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab Cakes
Our entrees followed shortly. We had the Royal Reds (large shrimp) with drawn butter and the Seafood Pot Pie. The large shrimp were, well, really large. These shrimp have a flavor very much like lobster and the drawn butter only reinforced this. So good.
Royal Reds
Then there was the Seafood Pot Pie. It was a mix of seafood in a traditional pot pie filling covered with a buttermilk crust. The picture below won't do it justice. The buttermilk crust is hiding a rich, savory blend of shrimp, crab and crawfish with the standard mix of pot pie veggies. I'd order it again.

Seafood Pot Pie with Parmesan & Garlic Potatoes

Last but not least was the luscious Key Lime Pie we had for dessert. The perfect blend of sweet and tart. One of my all time favorites. 
Key Lime Pie

We really enjoyed our lunch at the Half Shell Oyster House and if we're ever back in Gulfport I have no doubt we'll be back.

Happy dining!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Como's Pete's #4 - Greenville, SC

Como's Pete's #4 combines two of my favorite things: diners and cheeseburgers. The story of Como's Pete's #4 is an interesting one that goes back to the 1930's. Pete's is a burger and hotdog place and quite a bit more. They have a pretty diverse menu but all of my diner favorites are there. However, the reason I was there was to try their Pimento Cheeseburger.

Pimento Cheeseburger
Somewhere in there is a very tasty Chicken Salad Sandwich

Steak fries are a favorite of mine so I was happy to see them on the menu. It's a toss up between crinkle cut or steak fries for me. "Shoestring" style fries make me sad. I could never understand the love but I know they have their fans.

The burger was a typical flat top cooked burger. True to its diner roots my burger was well done and basically seasoned. Nothing gourmet here. But I wasn't expecting anything else. It's the magic of the pimento cheese that transforms something so ordinary into something so damn good.

The Dining Companion had the Homemade Chicken Salad Sandwich. He said it was good. From what I could see it was an overstuffed sandwich on Texas toast, served with slaw and a small salad. Looked good to me.

I have no doubt that Como's Pete's #4 will be around for a long time. It's been around for a long time already after all. While I might not make a special trip to visit it is definitely worth a stop if you're in the area.

One of these days I'm going to compile a list of all of the burger places we've visited, There have been so many. A few clinkers in the bunch sure but a few gems as well.

Happy dining!

Note: We'll be on the road again in the next week or so. Heading back to the gulf coast and out of this area for a while.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sacha's Cafe - Greenville, SC

The Dining Companion and I were looking for something different for lunch the other day. We looked around a bit and settled on Sacha's Cafe, a local Colombian place. We've both had Colombian food before and really enjoyed it.

Sacha's has the feel of a local's neighborhood place. 

 We settled in and looked over the menu.
I think that translate roughly to Your Meeting Place

We decided on a stuffed arepa (Arepa Rellenas). We got the one stuffed with steak tips, onions, green peppers, cheese and jalapenos. While not the prettiest sandwich in the world it is packed with flavor. Delicious ingredients melded together with warm melt-y cheese, perfection.

Arepa Rellenas Asada - The picture does it no justice
Next we decided on the Paisa Bowl and something called a Picada. The Paisa Bowl is just that, a bowl full of tasty things. The one we ordered featured rice and beans, steak, chicharones, an egg, sweet plantains, avocado and a fried arepa.

While it looks a bit of a mis-mash all of it was wonderful. The rich egg and avocado, the savory steak and crisp bacon, so good. Not the lightest lunch fare by far so a siesta may be in order.

And there's still more. Last but not least is the Picada. Picada means chopped in Spanish and is another mixed grill plate. The one we ordered had some of the same things on it that were in the Paisa Bowl. Along with the steak and bacon there was also yuca fries, pork sausage, pork tips, potatoes, limes, tomatoes and some patacones (which I know as tostones, fried green plantains). All of it was great.

I didn't get a picture of it but there are three sauces on the table. A mild pink sauce reminiscent of a remoulade sauce, a white garlic sauce and a nicely spiced green jalapeno based sauce. The green sauce was my favorite and was the perfect foil for all of the richness of the food.

While not just a very filling lunch, dining at Sacha's reminded me that A I really like South American and also Caribbean influenced food and B how many different places there are to try if you just take a look around.

If you haven't yet tried Colombian food definitely look for it in your area. It may turn out to be a new favorite.

Happy dining!