This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, he is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.
Every time I see this sign — on the side of a building in downtown Pensacola, Fla., — I always think it’s talking about my chosen-and-now-part-time field of journalism and how truly it is “citizen journalism” because reporters don’t have to earn specialized degrees or procure official certifications or register anywhere for anything. Can you write clearly, accurately, entertainingly and well? Good. You’re hired. Do you make things up, ignore the facts and don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your”? Sorry. Nice try. On the other hand, as journalism jobs disappear and the journalism landscape shifts almost daily, training and professionalism are key. Another thought: This obviously is my morning to ramble. Perhaps I should get ready to go to work? And kudos to the registered professional COURT reporters at Hitchcock & Associates in Pensacola. Love your sign.
We’ve made it three for three. For the past three years, my husband and I have driven down to Pensacola, Florida for the annual Crab Cake Cook-off. The food frenzy and fundraiser at Seville Quarter — a block of restaurants and bars in downtown Pensacola — benefits ARC Gateway, the local association that helps people with developmental disabilities. Our son-in-law is the one who found the cook-off three years ago during a family beach vacation, so Husband blames him for our annual addiction. But can you blame us? I mean, you get to help a worthy cause AND eat all the crab cakes you want. Let me say that again: All. The. Crab cakes. You. Want. I mean, you get to sample crab cakes from about 20 local restaurants and caterers. I’m only sad that it’s only once a year. I absolutely love having so many different crab cake recipes and techniques all in one place. And it’s such a diverse offering. You get everything from simple crab chunks with hardly anything masking the fresh crab flavor to artfully arranged plates featuring salsas and sauces. There are spicy crab cakes, sweet crab cakes, flat and crunchy ones, thick and soft ones — anything you can dream of, crab-cake-wise, you can find at the cook-off. Before we walked in this year, we agreed to learn from past mistakes and take it slow — perhaps sharing crab cakes instead of each of us having one from each vendor. I immediately dropped that plan, however, when faced with the treasure of unlimited crab cakes. Maybe next year … You can click here for cook-off results, here for info on ARC Gateway and here for more about Pensacola’s Seville Quarter. (Also, I wanted to show off that I finally figured out how to do links the correct way. Thank you!!!)
Word that the leaking Horizon well is under control is encouraging, and that is good. But damage has been done in ways we’ll be dealing with for years. Husband and I were in Pensacola, Florida, this past week for a quick couple of days. It’s one of our favorite vacation spots and we were anxious to check out the oil-leak effects. Here’s what we found: The Emerald coast was gorgeous, as always … but, sadly, clean-up workers seemed to outnumber tourists. We didn’t mind no lines at restaurants and no crowds on beaches, but that also meant no money coming in and no jobs for the folks who live there. And that is not good. At Joe Patti’s Seafood, there were more employees behind the counter than shoppers in front of it — and no local shrimp, grouper or oysters. The Boardwalk shops in Pensacola Beach practically echoed with emptiness. A local newspaper story quoted locals as saying it was “January in July.” And even though theoretically folks who’ve lost money and jobs to the oil leak will be reimbursed, what’s going to happen next year when all the tourists who got scared off by the oil this summer decide to stick with the new places they found? We’ll be back. And you should, too. You can order from Joe Patti’s online at http://www.joepattis.com and keep up with the latest Pensacola happenings at http://www.visitpensacola.com/.
1) Pretty much any sort of food that has any sort of Irish connection. Particularly if it’s chocolate and/or fried. Or bread. So I hit the jackpot this year at Kalou’s Corner Market and Cafe in Huntsville, Alabama, which was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with these treats. Who could resist a shamrock-shaped chocolate-covered chocolate brownie? And then there were two intriguing types of Irish beer bread — rye and cheddar. This bread was moist, dense, light and tender all that same time — and my bread-loving family did not let a crumb go to waste. Details at http://www.kalousmarket.com/
2) Guinness beer, but only for the first two or three sips. That’s about all I can handle.
3) McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida. This is my favorite Irish pub ever. Okay — I know that you know this is the only Irish pub I’ve ever been in. But it’s still my favorite. It’s on my must-go list every time I’m anywhere close by. This is the place that’s papered in customers’ dollar bills. McGuire’s has its own brewery and serves wonderfully fresh-tasting beers,ales, porters and stouts. And for my dollar bills, the best dishes are on the appetizer menu — boxtys (fried mashed potatoes), seared fresh tuna over mashed garlic red potatoes and the Irish Bleu Chips, which is homemade potato chips with blue cheese. And if you detect a theme of fried and mashed potatoes here, you are so right. Check it out at http://www.mcguiresirishpub.com
4) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I knew this was a memoir of a boy’s Irish childhood, but I didn’t read it until recently because I mistakenly thought it was sweet and heartwarming and sentimental — sort of the literary version of “Oh Danny Boy.” It’s not. It’s spare and harsh and ugly — and I couldn’t put it down. You won’t be able to, either.
I love crabcakes. When we go out and there are crabcakes on the menu, I’m getting them, no question. My idea of bliss? The Crab Cake Cook-off in Pensacola, Fla., where restaurants offer their best crabcakes for sampling. Imagine tasting 20 or so creatively yummy crabcakes one one evening. Paradise! (Also: Thank goodness for Protonix. ) Some of our favorites included a less-is-more version that was all fresh lump crab, a thin and crunchy cake with a wonderfully smoky Cajun type of sauce (I couldn’t convince the chef to share his secret recipe) from Appetite for Life catering and a tasty effort with roasted corn and mango salsa from 600 South restaurant. My husband and I also were impressed with the Crab Trap, which went over-the-top with a bonus fried softshell crab. The cookoff raises money for the non-profit ARC Gateway, which serves developmentally disabled children and adults, so it’s win-win-win for everybody. Read more at http://www.pnj.com/article/20090708/LIFE/907080311/1053/NEWS12/The-claws-come-out–
Here’s what I figured out yesterday while I was wandering around downtown and running boring errands: You can have a “spring break” anywhere. I was coming from the dry cleaners, juggling some winter clothes I’d picked up with a cappuccino and muffin from the coffee shop, when I saw this joyously fresh silk arrangement. It was brightening the corner of a florist’s and gift shop and I immediately wanted to exchange my jacket and sweaters for a beach bag and my coffee and muffin for shrimp and beer from Joe Patti’s — our favorite seafood market in Pensacola, Fla. Isn’t it amazing what a little bit of spring can do?