Long Rough Roads That Do Lead to Somewhere

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Lighthouse Beach, Eluethra


I went on a fabulous trip with my wonderful, amazingly patient partner in crime.  We did some traveling along the roads of a small island in the Bahamas called Eleuthra.  There is one main road that travels the distance of the island that is paved.  Then there are tiny dirt roads that branch off if you want to explore towards any one of the many beaches.

One of our road trips was to a beach we had read was the most beautiful.  It was on the very southern tip and about an hour away.  After traveling the main road (about 45 minutes) we turned onto the this jarring and rugged road with tree limbs that reached out scratching the sides of the car and reaching inside the car to smack our faces.  We began our journey towards the Lighthouse Beach on this uninhabited dirt road.

Now, the tires on the convertible Chevy Tracker we rented were also so timeworn that they looked white.  I couldn’t tell if it was that color because of the sand or because the threads that were so exposed.  I was a little concerned our vehicle wasn’t up for the excursion.  It didn’t matter, we were on our journey.

This car ride to reach this amazing beach is like my own personal journey I’ve been on the last few years.  I feel like I have been on a road of rough terrain but believing this road will come to my own understanding, happiness and peacefulness.  I know people who have gone before me on this journey, which gives me some relief that I am not alone and a lot of gratitude for their stories.

My personal road seems to keep going on and on and on just like the road to the Lighthouse Beach with Stephen.  Is it ever going to end?  I feel car sick.  Will I get there?  Then, just when we level a hill and look out on the horizon, I think maybe this is it and then I see it goes on further.  This road seems to go on longer than I had anticipated.  Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten on this road had I known how difficult this journey was going to be.  Then I surprise myself with how determined I am.  Believing is what keeps me looking at the next hill towards the horizon.  Is it here?  No.  I keep going.  We keep going.  Another 45 minutes had to have passed.  I know that this road ends and a beautiful place exists.  It has to.

Just when I think I will crumble and I want to quit, I see it, a beautiful beach.  I immediately get out of the car and walk towards and into the water to cool off.   I touch the earth to keep my stomach from turning because of being car sick.  I am so glad to be out of the Tracker that any where would be better than the car.

I look over to Stephen and something is troubling him.  I have a feeling I know what is wrong but I don’t want to say anything.  Please just ignore it, I think.  It is a beautiful beach and I am happy to be here with him.  He says it.  “I don’t think this is it.”  Shit.  I really don’t want to get back in the Tracker.  I really don’t want to continue this journey.  But, the water is really rough.  There isn’t a lot of places to swim and snorkel.  It doesn’t look like what we had been told.  It isn’t what we believed it to be.  I saw myself starting to settle.  I was nauseous and satisfied to be “almost there”.

My sweet friend and lover says, ” we need to go a little further.”  I am so glad I listened and believed.  I’ve learned there are no short cuts and believe me, I have tried them.  I’d like to think my journey will become my story and those who travel it after me will know they too will get there.  And once we have arrived, we will know it.  It is breathtaking.  It is paradise.  It is heaven.  It is a state of mind.

We did get back in the car that day.  It was the shortest leg of the journey.  I thought our little Tracker would tip right over going through some of the holes in the road or those tires would just pop.  But we made it.  When we did arrive, we both knew we were in the right place.  We made it together.  We made it to our paradise.  The water was the clearest I have ever seen.  It was clearer than pool water.  We saw hundreds of fish, a sea turtle, and miles of coral and white sand.  It was really stunning.  And to think, I was almost ready to quit and settle for rough waters.

Now, after traveling so far, you will of course need some nourishment.  What better than a picnic lunch?  If nothing else, we all need a little food to keep us going.  Stephen and I loved this Beet Sandwich that we discovered at a cafe called Da Perk in Governor’s Harbour.  Here is my recreation of this healthy sandwich.

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Beet Sandwich from Da Perk

Ingredients

Multi Whole Grain Bread (cut into 4 thick slices)

2 Red Beets

Hummus

1 Onion sliced

1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Lettuce

Tomato

Goat Cheese

Directions

Preheat your oven to 4oo degrees Ferinheight.  Place your washed beets in foil paper with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of kosher salt.  Bake for around 20-30 minutes or until you can easily poke with a toothpick in it.  While your beets are roasting, saute your onions until they are wilted and carmelized.  Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to your onions and a pinch of salt.  Spread a bit of hummus on one slice of bread.  Stack your sandwich high with the slices of roasted beets, balsamic onions, lettuce and tomato.  Spread the soft goat cheese on the other slice of multigrain bread and place on top.  Viola!  Now you have a delicious, healthy, meatless sandwich!  This is perfect for a picnic to the park if a beach isn’t your destination.

Here is to going the distance!  For all of us who think on occasion we can not walk another step in our journey or that this is not the place we belong, I tell you, keep going, you are almost there.  Just pack a healthy lunch, it can be a long jaunt.  Cheers!

 

 

 

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Fireworks!

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Ice-cream with Strawberry Sauce and Fresh Blueberries

I am sitting at my new home in what I call my “Lady Parlor” (Lauren dubbed it this) or office/art space.  Haha!  I love it.  My desk faces a large window overlooking my front yard where Knockout Roses, herbs, and plants galore flourish.  It is so inspirational.  Last night we had a good summer shower, so this morning is quite fresh and green.

This weekend is July 4th!  Memories of family vacations abound.  Most all July 4th vacations include some type of water fun, fireworks, lobster rolls, corn-on-th-cob, watermelon, and home-made ice-cream. This weekend our family will head to Lake Jackson to join my childhood friend and her family.  There is nothing sweeter than joining up with old friends that you know so well and don’t get to see very often.  The bond seems to be just as strong as 20 years ago.  I feel absolutely rejuvenated after these rendezvous.  I don’t always give myself permission to take off with my girlfriends so we have to make the kids think it is their idea.  It’s a win-win!

One thing that I need for this weekend get-away is simplicity.  A little less fireworks if you know what I mean…  Now that the move is complete and work is rocking and rolling, I want a simple summer vacation to feel, well, lazy.  I am seeing a lot of lovely work on instagram for the 4th festivities.  But, it looks like too much work for me.  So, to make things a bit more calm, I have prepared a simple Strawberry Sauce to pour over some Vanilla Ice-cream (Lemon Sorbet would be good too) with fresh blueberries to top.  Now, that seems easy enough and I’m pretty sure the kiddos (and adults) will feel pretty special with this red, white and blue treat!  But, most importantly, I can relax and enjoy it too.  😉

 

Simple Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

1 Pint Fresh Organic Strawberries

1 Cup Sugar

1/3-1/2 Cup water

Directions

I began by blending my washed and trimmed strawberries in the blender.  I then mixed the strawberry puree, sugar and water in a sauce pan.  I did not strain my strawberries but you could.  I personally think it adds a little more fiber and again, I am looking for the simple road.  Simmer this on very low heat until it begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.  But, don’t burn it.  Let your sauce cool then refrigerate it until you are ready to pour over your ice-cream.  This sauce is great over pan-cakes the following morning too!

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Summer Time Ice-cream Break!

Next blog we are going crazy and making ice-cream to go with our Strawberry Sauce.  So, stay tuned… Have a fantastic 4th of July and I hope you too are having a wonderful time with your friends and family.  OR, at least being lazy!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Petit Pavot Biscuit

IMG_5670It is 2:30am here in France.  I can not tell if it is the late night petite café or the excitement I am having over the most glorious dinner that I have eaten.  We traveled about 30 minutes outside of Vaison-la-Romaine to a small town called St. Cecile Les Vignes.  After a couple of wrong turns my school mate from Patricia’s cooking class safely drove us to the wonderful restaurant Campange Vignes Gourmandises.

I would like to first say, a woman, who I believe is the chef’s wife, was the most kind French woman I have met thus far.  As we all know, my french is terrible.  Her English wasn’t perfect but she took the time to explain to me what she thought was the best thing on the menu when I asked her what she thought I should get.  I agreed with her choice and got the lamb for my main course.  It was by far the best and most perfectly cooked lamb I have ever put into my mouth.  I am still trying to figure out how exactly he made it so moist and also added those delicious roasted garlic and vegetables.  The kind woman said the lamb was from the region and I am sure that it played a role in the freshness that the meat gave.  It was divine.

What also struck me as devine were these perfect little, what I will call, Small Poppy Seed Biscuits.  They were brought out at the beginning of our meal with some olives.  These little biscuits where what I think all southerners are trying to perfect when we make biscuits.  They were the size of a quarter, they were moist with butter and sharp with parmesan cheese, and light with the right touch of kneading.  These same words rang true from last week’s eating while in California’s gardens.  Was I still in heaven?  I think so, just on the other side of heaven’s earth.

At the end of the meal, I couldn’t help myself.  I had to ask for the recipe and if not, could I have a bag of those little biscuits to take back to my apartment?  To my astonishment, the chef was obliged to give me the recipe.  He had no more biscuits, of course, for me to take home, because why would any be left?  They were that good.

I must share this with all of my devoted readers.  How can I keep something this good to myself?   I haven’t made them, as I am still traveling but how hard can it be?  Just remember to use fresh ingredients and the best butter and cheese that you can find.   I’ll let you know how mine comes out when I return.  When I do get this down, they will most definitely be on the menu!  

Ingredients

1oog parmesan

100g flour

100g salted butter

25g poppy seeds (could also use sesame seeds)

1 egg yolk

Directions

Mix the first four ingredients by hand and when incorporated, mix in your egg yolk.  Make little balls with the dough and place in an oven that has been preheated to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Simple and delicious just the way we like things.

At the end of the meal, I did ask for my petit café with dessert.  Note to self, the french do NOT take their coffee with dessert.  That comes afterwards, making yet another course.

Bon Appetit!

My GPS Guardian Angel

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Patricia Wells – Monday Lunch

I have flown for over 8 hours, been on a train from Paris to Avignon and rented a Fiat that I am driving to Vaison la Romaine.  Not only am I unsavy on technological stuff but I don’t speak any french.  I am really just now getting comfortable saying Bon jour and Merci.  So when I set up the GPS to guide me 40 miles to this beautiful place that I can’t pronounce, I was a little frazzled.  I just began doing everything the GPS said to do.  She directed me in with no problems.  She even spoke english!  I am forever grateful GPS Angel.

When I say, I hope I make it back home in two weeks, I really hope to be coming home.   If for some reason I am not home when I should be, please know I am lost.  Please call reinforcements.  I must look like a deer in headlights but frankly, I don’t give a damn.  I am having the best time and meeting some of the most wonderful people.  This experience has already surpassed what I could have imagined.  Tonight, I dined with 10 of the most amazing people from all over the United States, Canada and France.  Patricia and Walter Wells are two of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met but yet they exude brilliance and authenticity.  I want to absorb every word they speak like a sponge.  I love the fact that they are teaching these cooking classes as a team.  Both of them used to be journalists which I also find so magnificent.  Another one of my own aspirations that one day I will write something worth reading.  HA!   For now, I will do it for fun!

One of the things we all have in common here at Patricia’s  is the love of great food.   And, we get to sit under the Provençal Stars with a breeze of the Mistral and bottles of fabulous wine and talk about how we all came to this one spot in Chantanduc.  One of the students said what I was thinking – “it is like our souls have known one another and came here to congregate under the stars”.  This whole experience really is spectacular.

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Selfie in the Fiat

I personally wish that I could freeze frame moments because I don’t want to forget or miss any of this experience.  It is more than I could have wished.  I am super proud to say, I am doing it even though I have doubted my decision.  I have felt I couldn’t afford it, that I couldn’t get away from the girls, that I couldn’t leave my cooking in the states.  The list was long but I didn’t listen to the nah sayer in my mind (and some who said it to me) because I am doing it.

I can’t imagine how foolish I look here in Vaison la Romaine trying to pronounce anything in French.   But everyone has been so helpful and kind.  A father even hopped on his daughter’s bike as his family was walking and he led me to the driveway of Patricia’s home.  Her driveway is almost a mile long.  And, don’t believe a word people say about snobby french.  They may be in Paris but they aren’t here in Vaison la Romain.  Again, warm hearts all around.

I want all the Mom’s and women that may be reading this to please give yourself something wonderful.  Whether it is a trip by yourself for a weekend, a week trip with your significant other, a two-week trip with your children, a month summer trip with all the family.  This trip took three years to make happen and the planning and anticipation of the trip was just as much fun as the trip.  I know I am a better mother and person for it.  Not to mention, a better cook.  Here’s to saying  “Life is too short, I am doing this!”   Au Revoir!

 

 

Heaven on Earth

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Sonoma County

The saying “Ive died on gone to heaven” keeps coming into my mind. When we arrived in California, the air was the first thing to take my breath away.  It is so clean and crisp in San Francisco.  It brought me to the thought of if we are stuck in a place where we don’t experience anything more than the four walls around us, we may only think that those four walls are all that exist.  When I was growing up in the small town of LaGrange, Georgia, I didn’t know what else was out in the world.  LaGrange was a lovely place to grow up but it is also very sheltered from other parts of the country not to mention, the world.  My father wanted me to be close to home when I left for college.  I could have traveled over two states to Mississippi (I know, crazy far) to attend school but one of the reasons I chose not to was because my Dad didn’t want me so far away.  I really didn’t want to be far away from them either out of fear.  But, I remember vividly my first trip past the Mason Dixon line.  I had traveled to Nantucket and we were at a cute little restaurant in the town of Nantucket but, the waitress was from Switzerland.  I began a conversation with her and she explained to me how she and many of her friends traveled every summer over to Nantucket to work.  My eyes grew big at this new thought.  That thought was – there are so many beautiful places to see and experience in this world and there is nothing to be afraid of.  How simple is the thought?  This thought had never occurred to me and it isn’t something that can be taught, only experienced.  People are mostly kind and generous no matter where you go.  I feel lucky and grateful to have learned this.  I do know, not all of us get to travel to far away places, but if we can, I recommend it.  If anything, it teaches us to appreciate our home that we return to.

We began driving north on “the 101”  into the Alexander Valley.  The view alone is spectacular.  Our destination was a beautiful estate on a vineyard that is over 5,000 acres.  There really is nothing like it that I have seen.  In my mind, this is what heaven would be like.  Your eyes could look out in every direction and see beautiful rolling hills, blue sky, white clouds, and green grape vines.  The vegetable garden is probably 4-6 acres large with every food imaginable growing.  There are very few bugs because of the dry air.  We pulled strawberries that were the deepest red, different varieties of pears, peaches, and apples that were the sweetest, most flavorful, juicy fruits to ever come into my mouth.  I never understood the love of figs until I ate one from a fig tree and added a little almond butter and dark chocolate.  My eyes and my mouth are watering with the joy these simple things brought to me.  I want to cry with joy now as I write about it on a plane back home to Atlanta.  It was and is such a special place.  We broke off leaves of dinosaur kale and ate them right on the spot. They weren’t so bitter that you needed something to wash it down.  They were refreshing and warm with the taste of the sun that was just hitting it.  I believe we can have this in Georgia.  It inspires me to crusade for farm to table food and better food in our lunch rooms for our children.  There is no reason why we cannot have more of this here.

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Everything tangible was so heavenly, but what really hit me to be so angelic, were the people.  We were in Northern California for a wedding.  I had never experienced a wedding so beautiful before.  And I don’t mean beauty with the eyes, even though everything was beautiful to my eyes.  I am talking about two people, whom I had never met, exuding love to each other and to all those who had come to share with them their love for each other.  It was amazing.  When the female minister spoke, it was so soothing and more like a meditation than a service.  The wind that blew in the air and rustled in the trees while the couple made their own vows was like a whisper from god blessing them and all of us lucky enough to share in their moment.
There was also the family we stayed with during our visit.  Tara can make you feel as though you had known her for a lifetime.  She has this beautiful way of showing you a comfort and a feeling of being right at home 3,000 miles away from it.  She must have had a thousand other things on her mind and exhausted from being up all night with her little ones,  but she never showed it.   She inspired me to be a better woman, mother, partner and friend.

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Sweetness 

All of this experience, the vision, the tastes, the warm hearts, it is what heaven on earth is to me.  I was lucky enough to experience it.  This, I will bring back with me to Atlanta.  This, I look forward to sharing with all of you.

There is no recipe for this.  Here is to the simple tastes of eating right from the garden, to the mouth, and straight to the heart.  Cheers!

Whispers That are Hard to Ignore

The Best Staff Ever!

The Best Catering Team

I knew that 2014 was going to be a great and exciting year, but I had no idea it was going to be this good so early on.  We had a wonderful wedding that we catered on the 4th.  I love catering weddings.  I love it down to the smallest things.  They can be so intimate and it is, by far, one of the most important times in someone’s life.  It is such an honor to be asked and trusted  to help someone make their special day so wonderful.  Everyone enjoyed the food immensely and came back for seconds and thirds at the buffet.  One gentleman said he hadn’t had food at an event this good in a long time.  I was on cloud nine.  The very night the wedding was over, I received another email from a bride wanting to meet about catering her wedding.

It finally feels like I am back on track.  When I lived in Charleston I had a whisper in my ear to go to culinary school at Johnson and Whales.  I was not only accepted but asked to join an advanced program.  I was thrilled and scared.  The fear overruled the thrilled.  I ended up giving it up and moving to Athens, GA.  I was young and didn’t know my strength or courage, yet.   I didn’t fight for it.  I easily gave it up because if I had tried, I might have failed.  My young ego didn’t want to be seen as a failure.  Failure doesn’t scare me anymore and neither does what people think of me.  Lord knows, I have failed at many things up to this point.  However, I have learned failure is not trying.  You never fail from trying because you gain knowledge.   Maybe the knowledge is “I don’t want to do that again”.  Sometimes God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it, has had to push me.  I look back on experiences and think, that hurt, but it was the best thing that could have happened.  We all have that whisper in our ear that urges us to go forward in our lives.  It takes courage, strength and being patient.  I don’t think patient was in my vocabulary until this journey began.  Now, I say it with almost most every breath.

I have dreamed of going to cooking school for many, many years.  I have had my eye set on one particular place in France for over three years.  Patricia Wells has cooking classes that she offers in Paris and Provence.  I wrote the name of the school on a sticky note three years ago.  I wanted to see it when I thought about spending money on something else, like shoes.  I stuck it right next to my computer.  I turned down many vacations with girlfriends because I knew that I wanted to put that money towards this trip that I truly desired.  Now it is coming into fruition.

I am more than elated to write, I am going on that trip to France to take a week long cooking class.  I am not going with anyone- just me, my passion and love for food.  Yes, it scares me.  What if my pipes burst again from some cold snap and I need to spend money on that?  What if someone gets sick?   What if, everyone that loves me and knows me supports me to go?   What if everything works out beautifully?  I’ll never know unless I go.  I am excited for the challenge of learning another language, of being in another country and finally doing it.  I am following my dream and nothing feels better than that.  It is never to late to follow anything your passionate about.  Well, unless your dead and then it is probably too late.  It wasn’t the right time for me to go to school in Charleston.  I had a toddler and a 6 week old baby.  At the time, I was living that dream and wouldn’t trade that for any cooking school in France.  Timing is everything and there are whispers for that too.  We know when the time is right because everything feels right and we can no longer sit still doing nothing about it.

Today, I want to share my Lentil Soup Recipe.  Every time I make it, there seems to be a whisper of France.  While we are making it, let’s turn on Edith Piaf and we will feel like we are already in lovely Paris.

Ingredients

1 cup french green lentils

Whole onion diced

3 cloves garlic minced

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stems, chopped

baby portabella mushrooms chopped (1 cup)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 16oz can of diced tomatoes

6 cups water or broth

1 rind of parmesan cheese

Directions

Sauté your onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil until slightly soft- about 5 minutes.  Add your lentils, tomatoes, broth or water, and parmesan cheese rind.  Simmer this for around 30 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  The parmesan gives a meaty flavor so if you don’t have broth, you really don’t need it.  The flavors are excellent and the soup is very rustic, delicious, healthy and simple.  Double the recipe and have some during the week.  It only gets better as it sits.

I hope that after you chop your vegetables, you can simmer your soup, and smell all that goodness fill your home.  Then, curl up with a good book or magazine and start to dream.  Winter is for being still and dreaming, and letting go of any past pains.  Spring will be here soon enough, and those new buds will be coming up.  Sitting still is sometimes uncomfortable for me because I like to go and I love the warm sun.  Winter can be depressing and cold!  However, keeping still for a few moments can give us the opportunity to dream.  Then we can plan out those dreams.  And then, we can live them.  Here’s to living every one of our dreams in due time!  Bon Voyage!

me

Road Trip to Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, AL

I have found myself in Birmingham, AL with my friend, Margaret. Her mom is also a good friend and a long time running partner of mine.  I have catered Margaret’s graduation and her grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  They do feel like my family away from LaGrange.   Margaret helped cater a wedding last weekend and has babysat for my girls for many years.  We all worked really hard on the wedding, and I am feeling really restless, so we went to do a bit of research on other eateries, and let them do some of the cooking.

Marg and I in Birmingham

So, here we are in Birmingham being “foodies”.  I have been wanting to visit a couple of restaurants here for quite some time now.  One of the restaurants is Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill.  His cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, has beautiful photos and recipes but mostly I like his writing throughout that tells of his personal experience.  His cookbook is  a story of his journey throughout his culinary life which brought him back to the South.  I love that my life is continuously changing but this wonderful journey has this constant—my love for food and people.

His restaurant has been in the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Finalist for the last 5 years.  That is pretty impressive and I  don’t think any other restaurant has accomplished it.  It is beautifully decorated and the staff is very professional.  They had two suited maitre d’s. Our table wasn’t ready (we had forgotten the time changed as we entered Alabama to central time zone) so we headed into the crowded, but very classy bar area. The seats at the bar were all occupied by beautifully dressed young couples and posh old money Southerns. Small, two person high tables situated around the perimeter of the bar allowed for overflow patrons to still enjoy the relaxed bar setting. One table remained totally empty, embellished with  a simple brass plate that said “Mr. Hunter”. We timidly hovered around the table before finally asking a near by staff member about our seemingly important mystery man. “Mr. Hunter” was one of Highland Bar and Grill’s first costumers who had passed recently. It was like Mr. Hunter had been saving us a seat, oddly welcoming us to Birmingham amongst the business of the bar. We each drank a Manhattan and began our night. A fast moving waiter lightheartedly poked fun at us to stay at the bar as he whipped delicious smelling seafood under our noses. But when the proper middle aged host offered us a table, we agreed.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely, despite the stuffy presence of our waiter, who could have been an actor on Downton Abbey as a butler. with glasses that perched on the tip of his nose. We chose to have a bunch of small plates to try rather than one large entrée.  We chose a Manchester Farm Quail, Paradise Farm Dandelion Greens Salad, Smoked Sunburst Trout, Oyster Pan Roast, and Stone Ground Baked Grits.  My favorite was the Paradise Farm Dandelion Greens Salad.  It had a creamy dressing with chunks of salty house cured ham.  It was the perfect balance of flavors with the bitter dandelion.  I loved it.  The trout mousse came in a close second.  It really was mouth watering.  We finished with the Creme Brûlée. Every time I have it, I think of my Grandfather who ordered it every single time we went out to eat.  He would have loved it with the real vanilla beans on the bottom.  Delicious…

My conclusion to this jaunt- Yes, I would eat here again but in the more relaxed bar area.   Most people who dine out whether it is fine dining or fast food are searching for a type of service.  If you do it well, people will travel really far for it.  That is the goal!  Next stop: Hot and Hot Fish Club.