The Honduran Island of Roatan
Last summer, Don and I spent a week exploring Roatan. We had 2 evenings at the West End of the the island. Our B & B host recommended, The Lighthouse for one dinner.
During the day we wandered back behind the main street in search of the hidden place. The restaurant built over the water looked fun, but the boy climbing above the sign was having the most fun!
We wandered out on the deck and took in the view. We hoped the heat would lift by sundown, so we could return later and enjoy dinner at one of those purple tables.
Arriving in the Dark
It was trickier to find at night. Luckily there was an employee near the street, ready to guide diners to the restaurant. We were lucky to get the last outside table.
My camera flash lit up our table brightly, but the tiny flame of our candle was comical. When our laid back, local server arrived wearing a ball cap, I couldn't see his face. He propped the menu board on top of a chair. I acted like a little old lady tourist and pulled a tiny flashlight from my bag.
A Humid Feast
We both look a little slimy here, but the food was delicious. I ordered Lion-fish, since I'd heard some scuba guides talking about how the cute sounding fish are actually destroying the reefs. Don ordered 3 lobster tails. We had grilled veggies, salad, beans, rice, potatoes and coconut bread! Of course, I did use my flashlight to peek at my food before I dug in.
After attempting to photograph my lion-fish, the world got very dark again. Don and I were a bit jolted when suddenly a small person was standing near our table.
Selling Key Fobs
On our second night at the West End, we started a little earlier.
Since we'd tried some of the local Honduran food, why not sample a little Argentinian?
Drinks on the Sand
There were a few empty cafe tables set up on the sand, right across the road from the restaurant. Maybe it was the heatwave or maybe the bugs that kept others away. But we were getting used to the heat and we had a bottle of bug. A server from the restaurant, graciously crossed the road to deliver our drinks.
Where in the world can you watch the sunset over the water, while being entertained by youth on a boat? We watched kids repeatedly, climb the mast, swing like a pendulum and plunge to the water... until it was too dark to see!
We headed to the patio deck after sunset. I was delighted right away by the basket of bread sticks, olive bread and dip. Then we moved onto beef and chicken empanadas. All mighty tasty!
I just wish I'd gotten a photo of the open grill area, behind us. We worked up appetites, while smelling the sizzling meats!
Our plates arrived, looking very exciting! I had Shrimp and Veggies with Pumpkin Rice. The service was surprisingly efficient as well. Roatan is pretty laid back, so this was a nice surprise.
Don had Beef Tenderloin, which came with veggies and twice baked potato. I of course needed to help him.
There's something so satisfying about having a delicious meal and then strolling back to your home for the night.
As we turned down the dirt road to our inn, the night suddenly became lively. The quiet church we had passed before was spilling over with guests. The open windows shared the music and voices and the road outside gave young children a little roaming room. What a way to end our evening!
Old Brick House
In 2014, Don and I visited the old Missouri town of Ste. Geneveive. Since it was established in 1735 by French Canadian Colonists, it seemed like a good place to enjoy some historic dining.
We started with drinks at the Old Brick House, which is the oldest establishment in town... I believe. The locals were talking politics, but soon the discussion turned towards area history. One woman knew a lot of local history, since she was born in an old house just up the road. She and others talked about when the Mississippi River ran backwards, due to an earthquake in 1812.
It was close to 8:00 when we decided we better rush, before food service closed in the small town. We headed towards The Anvil, just a few steps away.
The building first opened as a hardware store in 1850. In 1855, the Vaeths bought the store and opened a Gentleman's Bar called The Anvil Saloon. The Vaeth family owned the business until 1978. I should have asked if there are still Vaeths in town.
We grabbed a table not far from the bar. I've been inside a lot of old saloons, so my eyes were actually more drawn to the framed image of The 3 Stooges and the sad clown art, mounted on the brick wall. But really, the bar was worthy of my attention.
In 1855, the heavy pieces that made up the bar and back bar, had been traveling down the Mississippi by steamship. When the ship became stranded on a sandbar not far from Ste. Genevieve, they needed to lighten the load. The bar pieces were unloaded and moved by ox cart to this location.
I have to thank "YELP" for the bar photo, because I forgot to get a shot. But I did capture a photo of the food on my plate. Mostly I wanted to document the fact I ate LIVER DUMPLINGS and gravy!
The grilled chicken, and German potatoes were very yummy. The roll reminded me of grade school lunch. (which is a good thing) and the dumplings... well, they did not get finished. That's because I hate liver. But I did enjoy the opportunity. And the gravy was tasty.
This is where I would have had dessert, had it not been dark and closed, when we walked past after dinner. All in all, our drink & dining experience was about the buildings and history. Our meal at The Anvil, was fine but we did feel rushed, knowing the kitchen wanted to close. The town was charming and well worth the stop!
A Hotel in Florida, from 1887
St. Augustine has more than its share of fabulous old hotels, thanks to Henry Flagler... who built at least 4 gorgeous buildings on this corner. The Hotel Alcazar is no longer a hotel, but we were able to at least have a meal there!
The entrance to the restaurant was on the side, away from the big towers at the front. It looked like we were entering a church, with that rounded wall. But our dining adventure would be more intriguing than dining in an old church.
A Simple Door
The door wasn't grand, but it invited us into the portion of the building that holds the cafe as well as some antique shops.
Nothing too odd sounding about that.
Here's the Odd Part
The sweet little cafe was tucked into the "deep end" of what had once been the hotel's indoor swimming pool! The pool was once quite the highlight of the hotel's health center, where guests could swim in a constant stream of fresh water, supplied by an artesian well.
Built in 1889
It looks like a flooded building at first glance. But this is the 120' X 20' space used by the male bathers. Women had their own private pool at the west end.
Then and Now
The rock wall near the stairs, would have been nearly covered in water.
The gallery on the second floor sometimes held musicians and seating for the guests who just wanted to stay dry while they watched the swimmers.
A Little Sunday Lunch
What a treat to meet up in St. Augustine with my sister Jennifer and her wife Kate, while we were on our travels. We joined up at this curious place and shared a meal... on a very tiny table.
It was nice to have a menu and not be forced into a big brunch. Don's Turkey, Bacon, Avocado Sandwich was pretty yummy.
He thought the Cajun slaw was kind of spicy, but I liked. My onion soup was piping hot and the crusty brown cheese was quite delicious. But hot soup, makes me want bread. It would have been perfect with a big piece.
We didn't have an orchestra, but the classical piano music added a bit of a Titanic feel to the place. Something about seeing those photos of the big space, filled with water...
As we dined and the music played, we just kept staring around at all the oddball features, trying to imagine being here in 1890, paddling around the arches and columns... hanging onto some of the metal rings... Too bad the skylight is no longer visible. They used to open that up for star gazing!
And after lunch, what could be more lovely than strolling through the shops, set up in the spaces behind the columns.
One shop had a dazzling ball gown, that was NOT allowed to be photographed. But this little store was my favorite. Books and magazines and all sorts of clutter jammed in so tight, the shop could only hold about 2 visitors at a time!
The rains from earlier had passed by the time we exited. As we wandered outside, we got to study the towers, the arched windows and so many chimneys! What an amazing building and we really only experienced a piece of it!
I love it that we ate lunch in what was once a pool. But I'd love it more if they brought the hotel back and filled the pool once again!
When you're driving through Iowa on a cold, fall day and you see a sign like this... you might as well stop.
Or Stop at a Casino
But it was a toss up. After all, when might we ever get a chance again to eat at a casino, in Iowa... a casino with a barn, silo and retro water tower?
But, the restaurant in Dyersville had a windmill. Well, it had what was left of a windmill. The winds were blowing pretty hard that day, so I could understand why it looked a little beat up.
The restaurant was an interesting shape. Is that supposed to be a silo?
Lunch in a Barn?
It would have been and adventure to have eaten lunch in an old barn. But at least the restaurant was built with old barn and silo boards, collected from farms around the state.
Lots of Stuff
And there was lots of stuff for curious people like me. I explored up on the loft and found quite a collection of antique farm decor. I could also peek down at our table to check to see if the food had arrived.
Since it hadn't, I had time for a trip to the Ladies Room. The stalls amused me with their barn doors. I expected to hear a horse snort back there. Then I got to wash my hands while peering into the mirror, framed by an old horse yoke.
Don was pretty pleased with his Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. The sweet potato fries were yummy, too. I also liked the tiny mason jar salt shakers. I hoped to find one for sale in their rather large gift shop. But no.
Comfort Food on Cold Day
It really was cold for October, so I had to go for the warmest comfort food I could find on the menu. My mac-n-cheese came with a side, so I chose chili. I could have stirred it all together, but I didn't. That was a pretty stick to your ribs, starchy and yummy meal.
I was a little sad that we didn't get one of the twin waitresses. They weren't twins really, but they both had matching, poof-y hairdos that made them look like they'd just whipped up lunch in their own farm kitchen. Our young server was nice, but her hair wasn't memorable.
No Room For Dessert
We were too stuffed for the delicious desserts that had lured us into the place. But we were also in a hurry to get on down the road to the place we had really come to the area for. "Field of Dreams" The wind and temps had our teeth chattering, so we were glad we had fueled up with warm food. We spent a little time enjoying the setting where the movie was filmed in 1989. Then back on the road!
Pre-Thanksgiving Feast 2015
It's taken me a half year to digest this delicious experience and put it in the blog.
Garden District Favorite Since 1893
This is the iconic landmark where I dined with family the night before Thanksgiving. It was dark when we arrived so I didn't see the "Commander's Blue" till I drove by the next day. That whimsical color didn't go on the old building until 1974 when the famous Brennan Family took over.
Party of 13
My brother and wife are frequent guests, so it was fun to see many of the waiters nodding politely and greeting them by name.
We were graciously guided upstairs to the Garden Room where our table awaited us. Since we were the first diners to arrive, I took advantage and slipped over to the window to take in the courtyard below, filled with white tables, trees and white lights.
The Garden Room
The head waiter greeted our table, then turned to my brother, " Welcome..." he said with a teasing smile, "It's been a while. I haven't seen you since... yesterday!" This of course cracked me up, because this was my baby brother who was being treated like a VIP. He used to ask for peanut butter and jelly in restaurants.
We were given menus and then napkins were placed in our laps. I was pretty impressed that we were given dark or light napkins, depending on our outfit. I took a quick snap of the table, then tucked my camera away, so the entering diners might think I was a regular, too!
Cell Phone Snaps
Luckily cell phones can be used to discretely capture a shot without being noticed. This pic reveals the impressive "Commander's Blue" ribbon, down the center of our table.
I'm not sure what you have to do to pull off the high ranking blue ribbon, but we had one. The photo also captures a glass or the famous Nola cocktail, Sazerac. There was no camera ready when the waiter arrived with some special drink holders made of twisted iron, which served up our complimentary rum drinks. Oh my!
This shot of the room, taken much later, shows the back corner. My brother explained the corner table was often booked for special guests. I kept an eye on the table, kind of hoping Sandra Bullock showed up. She lives just a few doors down, after all.
Time to Explore
After ordering our main course, I decided I needed to powder my nose. I headed down the stairs where I had a good view of the dining room and all the gentleman diners. I made sure they were following rules, since jackets were required. That's what you do when you are still angry since childhood about having to wear a swim cap when boys didn't.
I had to check out the Ladies Room, since I didn't want to be accused of lying. I was mighty impressed with the padded upper walls and marble lower section. Those mounted sconces added a retro touch.
I really had no powder, so I moved on to explore.
Yes and No Doors
The place was busy at this point, so I didn't feel like I was too obvious as I peeked around a bit. I loved the doors into the kitchen with reminder signs telling you which to use. I wasn't trying to go further, but a gracious waiter recognized a nosy customer. Suddenly he was inviting me in to see the kitchen.
Hard at Work
I felt like I was snooping around backstage during a Broadway play. Surely I shouldn't be there. But he encouraged me to take a photo and when a couple busy chefs took notice, what could I do but grab my cook book from my purse?
Not Just Any Chef
Maybe my Sazerac gave me a little nerve, but I hadn't really intended on intruding! Suddenly though, I was showing my 1950's Ford Motor Cookbook to Chef Roby (I think that's his name) and he was laughing at the page featuring Commander's Palace in the 1950's.
He got the attention of Chef Tory, who had his hands full but still had a good laugh as he looked and cooked. Ignorance is bliss, because I NEVER would have intruded if I'd known I was interrupting Executive Chef Tory PcPhail! I'm not sure if Emeril Lagasee or Paul Prudomme would have been so tolerant when they were Executive Chefs at Commander's!
The Head Table
Before leaving the kitchen I did notice The Chef's Table, set up with a view of the kitchen action. Yep, there were two ribbons on that table! The lovely blond woman at the table caught my eye and inquired about that book that was causing a commotion.
I Join the Chef's Table
She was curious, so I explained how the book from 1954, featured famous restaurants, most of which are gone now.
Rachel, who had been celebrating her anniversary asked me to sit right down a moment. She seemed intrigued to hear how my husband and I often travel in search of these old dining gems. We laughed about the old Commander's recipe for Remoulade Sauce. The illustration shows the wonderful building before it turned Commander's Blue.
Lally and Todd
Then Rachel asked their waiter, Todd to take our picture. And then Lally Brennan who is Co-Proprieter of Commander's arrived on the scene.
She had come to our table upstairs, earlier and my brother had introduced us to her. Then suddenly I was greeting her in the kitchen and she was having a look at the curious book.
One More Photo
Next, Lally, who has been working in the Brennan family biz since she was 13, was encouraged to join the gang for a photo. I promise you... at least I'm pretty sure... I was not obnoxiously inviting myself into all of this. Commander's is just a welcoming place and everyone was in an awfully good mood!
I returned to our family gathering and had to explain why I was gone so long. My relatives laughed and seemed amused that I'd been kitchen hopping. I'm guessing, my own kids might have been glad I did my restaurant socializing out of their sight!
This is a lot of chatter about everything but food. But the happy faces say it all. The food was indeed amazing, right down to the Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé finished table-side with warm whiskey cream. Before that, we devoured some turtle soup, gumbo, sea scallops, Autumn Mushroom Risotto and much more. There wasn't a dish or taste that wasn't perfect.
We stood under the glow of the neon sign and lamps for a while after. The old cemetery across the street added some good ole New Orleans eeriness.
Planning and Sharing
It was a nice treat lingering on the sidewalk, sharing what we liked best about our meal... and making last minute plans for our Thanksgiving feast the next day.
What a fitting name for a place that made us feel like Royalty. Maybe it was my brother's connection, or maybe the staff was all in the holiday spirit or maybe Commander's Palace is just an all around friendly place with decadent food.
Memorable and Delicious!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.