Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.
I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.
One year it happened. I give the credit/blame to Hunter S. Thompson of all people. After I saw "The Rum Diary" [a fine movie by the way]. Then, entranced, I bought the book and read that too. Then, there was only one thing to do. Declare the opening of Rum Season. A time of excessive heat and [even for the American sub-tropics] humidity. Seersucker. Poplin suits. Straw hats. And rum. Only rum. My bartender friends roll their eyes and laugh when I declare the season open. They seem intrigued when I declare it to be closed. Because it opens and closes only when I say it does. And why not? Why should there be only four seasons to the Epic year?
Along these [blurry] lines, I highly recommend Bacardi Select rum. A dark rum with great flavor drunk neat or on a few rocks. Or on crushed ice. Or, I suppose, in a pinch, out of the bottle or from a flask. HST style. You can buy a lot more expensive rum, and some of them, such as Ron Zacapa 23 [$50.00] are superb. But at around $14.00 for the bottle, this four year cask aged rum is a GREAT buy. Enough to get you through whatever season you find yourself in the midst of. Cheers!
As the loyal reader will recall, it is my delight and privilege to dine out a lot. I am pretty easy to please and rarely go to a place I don't like at least to some degree. Gourmands will understand this. That being said, it is pretty rare for me to go to a new restaurant that absolutely delights me. Yet this is what happened last week in Tampa, Florida when I finally followed a months-long pinging of my dining radar and booked a table at a new place, Eddie V's.
Eddie V's is part of a small chain of "prime steak and seafood" houses and it has been open in Tampa for just over a year. Plenty of time to hit its stride. And hit its stride it has. From the complimentary valet parking to the pretty young woman in a little black dress welcoming you through the front door. To the fantastic decor which is classic supper club and modern Scottsdale all at once. As The Chairman would have said "all aces baby".
Whoever set up this place has superb taste and likes a restaurant with the same features I enjoy. The dining room is moderately sized without being overly intimate or noisy. Two tables near me with six diners each didn't create any excessive noise at all, despite obviously having a great time. As you would be able to see in my second photo above if I were any good at photos, most people in the dining room have a view of the chefs at work in the kitchen although they are behind a glass partition, again to keep the noise level to a modicum. The furniture is pretty and very comfortable. The dining room is separated from the bar and lounge area by a gorgeous wall of glass inside which wine bottles are stored in racks. There is a semi-circular raw bar that will seat about ten in comfort.
I opted for [what else?] a Bombay Sapphire martini, up, with bleu cheese stuffed olives on the side. Perfectly executed in a nice sturdy martini glass. No dainty martini glasses with twisty stems here. The menu is a delight because it contains some old favorites like oysters on the half shell and many other items which sound so good the diner has a real struggle choosing each course. After a few moments consideration, my appetizer was really not that hard to pick. Steak and lobster tartare served in ample quantity with a pile of toasts. Oh, and did I mention the huge shavings of truffle atop the steak tartare? This was a sumptuous and lovely appetizer that went perfectly with the martini. The skilled and finely trained waiter complimented my choice and then silently vanished as only a great waiter can do.
The entree course was a bit more of a tough choice. I love steak au poivre which was a centerpiece of the card, but after a pretty stout appetizer I opted for pan roasted Haddock served over a succotash with beurre blanc and some andouille tossed in to make the dish even more perfect. The fish was perfectly fresh and perfectly prepared and pared very well with the succotash and the Piper champagne I had cracked open by then. A side dish? Sure. How about crab fried rice with scallion and mushrooms? Oh yes, my epicurean friend. The rice was so great I could have made a meal out of it alone. Well, perhaps out of two orders of it. All the side dishes are available in half orders so the solo or timid diner won't feel overwhelmed by the size of the dish.
Believe it or not, I don't usually order dessert. Not because of any fear of calories. Goodness knows I put that fear behind me long ago. I don't usually order dessert because there is rarely a dessert that I find tempting. But at Eddie's they had a key lime ice cream take on Baked Alaska which I have long maintained is the grandest dessert of all time.
Nothing like a flambe at the table, I always say. This was a good effort although I would not call it a true Baked Alaska. The most odd thing about it was the very hard disc of graham cracker crust serving as a base for the meringue covered ice cream. Altogether, the dessert was very tasty, not too sweet, not overpowering in lime flavor, and a great conclusion [along with coffee and a very good Armagnac] to the meal. When the manager popped by to ask if I was enjoying myself, I made him laugh by saying that I hated myself for not coming in sooner.
I strolled out of the dining room into the adjoining lounge and bar. Again, perfectly decorated. A big oval shaped bar with comfortable bar stools and a wide enough bar surface that you could comfortably eat dinner there [or put your head down for a quick nap] if you were so inclined. A good jazz combo was playing on a small corner stage. There are also good tables and some half circle booths in the lounge too so you could eat and drink with a date with great comfort while enjoying the music. Did I mention that Eddie's has live jazz every night? I pitched my usual after dinner curve ball at the youngish fellow behind the bar. The Stinger cocktail. A fine and simple drink that I have mentioned before. Equal portions of cognac and white creme de menthe, shaken and served on the rocks. Odd how few bartenders know how to make one in these awkward times we live in. In the event, the barman got a bonus point from me by saying "I can't make it for you sir, we are out of white creme de menthe". At least he knew what it was. I settled for an Old Fashioned which was just as it should have been. Then another. I was in the afterglow of a really fine meal, listening to jazz, at a very comfortable bar which was also inhabited by some friendly and interesting people. With a big smile on my face.
As I said. I would not change a thing.
Eddie V's. 4400 West Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa, Florida 33607. 813-877-7290. eddiev.com
In my mid 50s, husband, father and itinerant storyteller. I am a putative jazz singer, poet and novelist, dedicated to mining every minute of life for the veins of pleasure they contain. My motto is "Dum Vivimus, Vivamus"..."While we Live--LET US LIVE".