May 10 2024

The Vineyards Trattoria and Pizzeria

250 Apollo Beach Blvd.
Apollo Beach, FL 33572

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp & TA

Will return

For Italian restaurants, this one is better than Joia.

We came for lunch. It’s empty and we chose the last booth.

At first there was only one young lady serving, who’s very pleasant and efficient, and very pretty – hope this last adjective isn’t going to get me in trouble with Yelp and anyone else.

Looking at the booth in front of us, we decided no appetizers. We’ve 3 main courses

Chicken piccata
Eggplant Parmesan
Veal Parmesan

The spaghetti is al dent and all are pretty delicious.

.., and huge portion: the reason is bec they’re off the dinner menu when we thought we ordered off the lunch menu (so many menus …) Maybe the staff should confirm it at time of ordering, to avoid any confusion. We were going to pay but they re-ran the bill. I think they put dinner menu out during the lunch time, is just to give dinners more choice.

We ended up with a few doggie bags – I took their bread too – they are warm and delicious, and probably will be threw away.

Btw, I’ve been talking about spoons (dessert mostly) – their pasta spoon is HUGE, has to be the biggest I’ve seen in a restaurant so far. Oh well, what do I know 😜

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend and a happy Mother’s Day 2024 to moms.

May 9 2024

Leipzig 莱比锡

Leipzig University, Germany


My last stop of the trip: spenting three nights in 2022, May 9 to 12.

I enjoyed it enormously.

The city has 605k people (2021 data), is the most populous in the state of Saxony, eight in the country. It was part of E Germany for a few decades. Their main train station Hbf is the largest in Europe, 100 miles (160 km) SW of Berlin, about 1:15 train ride.

I got there late in the night. Hotel Premier Inn is a short walk. When I tried to book one two days ago in May, most hotels were full. Around the train staton, which is at the NE of the city, there are many hotels.

day 1

day 2

day 3

day 4

… another one done by my iPhone

Apr 13 2024

Grateful Dead @ Yuengling

12499 USF Bull Run Drive,
Tampa, FL 33617

… more pix on Reddit.

A gorgeous Saturday, perfect for tailgating.

The venue is at Yuengling Center @ University of South Florida in Tampa, built in 1977, with 10,411 seats.

The musician is Billy Strings (1992-) – great performance, great music, great crowds.

Many young people among the concert goers – great news, ensure the longevity of the music.


Apr 11 2024

Whalers Bay @ Deception Island

Day 15 – Sunday, Feb 4: South Shetland Islands, 65 nautical miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula

… more pix & videos on Google Maps: Deception Island, & Whalers Bay.

Waking up to a rather overcast skies, I went to the bow and took some spectacular videos. As we’re sailing into Whalers Bay, the scenery is even more beautiful and tranquil. It did perk me up – for more than two weeks on the ship, I was a little weary.

This would be our last landing of the trip.

Deception Island is a small island in the Bransfield Strait, 620 miles / 1,000km south of Ushuaia, Argentina. It is close to Antarctic Peninsula but is in South Shetland Islands. Long video

This island is the caldera of an active volcano, that had ruined the scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. Because of its natural harbor, it was a whaling station in the 20th century, as early as 1906. Argentina and Spain have their research station during the summer months, but it’s administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Each year, it sees about 15,000 tourists. Walk the beach,  visit the ruins, climb up to Neptune’s window for the vintage view. I saw the cutest seal, playing hide and seek with me.

The group in red outfit is from Brazil. This is the only time that we ‘ve a company. We were the only one at all other landings.

I would love to go kayaking one more time but it was canceled due to the weather. By 10:20am, the wind was picking up, that forced us to return to the ship earlier than planed.


Apr 11 2024

What a thrilling conductor!


… more pix on Reddit.

WOW Wow wow … the violinist Julian Rachlin (1974-; Vilnius, Lithuania) is a conductor and, a better performer: enthusiastic and energetic – gotta to go to his concert, and bring your glasses or binoculars. His large and intense movement and facial expression are the highlight of the evening. I’d like to know

  1. if he does warm up
  2. if he gets tennis elbow

Oh gosh … everyone should go to his concert!!! Unfortunately at his age, he’s not going to have any break through and becoming that hot commodity. So do go while you can.

Tonight’s program:

  1. Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
  2. Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756-1791) Sinfonia Concertante, K.364 (320d)
  3. a surprise piece by ??
  4. Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) Symphony No. 9, From the New World or New World Symphony

Sarah McElravy plays both violin and viola. She’s pretty, with a narrow waist but lacks virtuoso flair: holding her viola very low, I feel she looks like a cowboy performer than a soloist of classical music. Up class, the stage light is harsh on her.

The surprise piece: every now and then, they insert a small piece in the program. This time, it’s Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020). Without prompt – like no applause, she returned, followed by conductor Rachlin, to give us the surprise – a contemporary piece. Can do without it. The reason of this piece: McElravy said she and Julian Rachlin performed at Penderecki’s funeral, per his wish.

Bathroom issue: the toilet water is brown, which is unfortunately … yucky.

One of our neighbors is volunteering as the usher and he found us from the second floor – we were playing bridge on Monday mentioned this concert.

The real surprise is after the intermission: a spectacular performance by Rachlin when he conducts Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, New World Symphony while he was in US, and was premiered Carnegie Hall in New York in 1893 – a lot of Americana in it. Rachlin is on fire … I normally listen to concert and tonight, I’m on the edge of my seat, watching! What a treat, his movement is dramatic and flashy (hence my tennis elbow wonder…) thank you conductor. I sure will come for more. As soon as the last note ends, a man yelled out: BROVA and the applause is thunderous.

They allow patrons to bring their glasses to the seats … and one broke. Someone has to come in with broom to clean it up.

Our dinner at Steelbach is good too: a good prelude to the weekend.

Apr 9 2024

Steelbach, steak house

1910 N Ola Ave
Tampa, FL 33602 @ Armature Works

… more pix n videos on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

Will return for the window alcove that looks out to the outdoor section.

High ceiling, exposed pipes; love the ambiance and decor, especially the brick walls and unique lighting features. Very good service, decent food, great wine. What not to love?

Out booth has a handsome door that sets against the brick wall. It’s pretty poetic -:). But it’s also next to the bar. When we first sat down, shortly before 6pm, the restaurant isn’t too busy. The this little area is the commingle place for the staff, who chat, and are affable toward each other, like back slapping. Pls just be mindful, that we’re inches away and seated, which means short distance with our eyes meeting their lower back …

The wine is awesome. They’ve two wine menus: Captain’s List with hard leather binding runs to 4 digit; and soft leather binding, which is for people like us, from the other side of track -:) We ended up with La Jassine, Côtes-du-Phône Village, 2021: it’s yummy.

Foods, we’ve

  1. buffalo cauliflower: good but wish they cut down the size (the Chinese way ha ha ha) so the sauce covers more. It’s not mushy or soft, which is good.
  2. crispy potato: good, the bacon bits are excellent, of high grade.
  3. NY sirloin: good, very lean, hard to cut (bad arms/shoulders from pickleball …)
  4. flat iron steak: pre-cut, good, very lean
  5. scallop: good. I also enjoyed the bed of veggies, even they’re bit too sweet for my taste, but it’s veggie sweet, so I ate a lot – be healthy for once.
  6. brown mutter mushrooms: my fave. I was too slow to scope up some before it was mixing with the sauce – starch (?) or mashed potato (?) I’m a believer that fresh ingredients shouldn’t need much of sauce, especially creamy ones: let them shine on their own. Cooked mushroom produces juice, maybe put them on a bed of shredded lettuce (?) … Stop here Irene, you’re NOT the chef!

Their beef is grass fed, which is leaner than usual. Both steaks came with butter in the ramekins. It’s definitely a personal choice. For me and my two companions, we prefer the fatty marbled steaks, even they claim theirs are marble too:

We partner with local producers to raise Steelbach’s grass-fed, pasture plus-nished beef. Our steaks have excellent marbling and premium flavor and are cooked over 1000-degree oak and mesquite open fire grills.

WebMd wrote .. 
: “No studies have proven that grass-fed beef is better for your health.”

I googled grass fed cow government, got the following

~ USDA grass fed: This program requires that ruminant animals be fed only grass and forage, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. Animals certified under this program cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
~ NIH: Grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef systems: Although many consumers perceive grass-fed beef as more environmentally friendly than grain-fed beef, there is a dearth of research available to address these consumer claims. … Consider environmental footprint (water, land, greenhouse gasses, and energy)

  • conventional beef finished on grain for 128 d: produced the lowest greenhouse gas footprint but required the highest energy input
  • steers grass-fed for 20 mo: used the least amount of water but produced the greatest greenhouse gas.
  • steers grass-fed for 20-mo with a 45-d grain finish
  • steers grass-fed for 25 mo.


~ American
~ Penn
~food insight

… afterward, we walked to the Straz center, for A SUPER thrilling concert!

Apr 6 2024

LongHorn Steakhouse

12974 S US Hwy 301
Riverview, FL 33578

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp

Will return.

Dark decor, decent service and great steak for that price range.

I don’t think they take reservations. When we walked in at 4:30 this Saturday, there are many people waiting. We were told: 25 minutes. I really doubt with the among of people waiting. But true to her word, our table for three was ready within 25 minutes.

I ordered namesake T-Bone steak, turned out to be excellent. It comes with two sides, salad and yam.
“Sugar and butter?”
“Butter only.”
The warm wheat bread is delicious but the butter tastes bit sweet.
Lava cake looks delicious but I was too full after the tbone.

The extras: one of diners in our group asked for an extra iced tea, bread and butter to take home. The staff said yes without missing a beat. What’s your opinion on this? Do share.

As we were leaving, I heard the hosts repeating the 25 minutes again – perhaps this is the result of their cooperate office’s research? Amusing.

Mar 20 2024

Coolinary & the Parched Pig

4580 Donald Ross Rd., Ste 100
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

A decent restaurant in a shopping strip that worths 4 but I’ve two strikes against them: seating us at the table right by the busy door for their outdoor service. And the table needs napkin at the foot to stabilize it. By the time we leave, the restaurant is still empty. #2, when ordering Pinot Noir, the server offers two choices. Since I don’t know any of the brands, I chose Oregon over California, as Pinot Noir is their thing. In my little experience with this kind of caliber, they’d offer me a taste, and they do, just not to me. The server returned and said, the CA one is drier. I ended up with CA, which is decent.

Modern decor with high ceiling, in dark hue. We get there a few minutes before 4, which is their opening time. Thinking we can ask if any openings for us. The staff inside remain inside. Finally when the host comes out, she said yes we’ve openings and will seat you once we’re open.
It was 3:56. Her demeanor made me think they’re fully booked …

There are few men in casual cloth inside the restaurant – who are they?

We’ve four small plates – in fact, they’re not small -:)
Corn – innovative
Tuscany fish bites – crunchy
Baked oysters – really good
Ceviche with taro chips – very good

All are delicious, and take the chip home – too much food.

Why do they serve the small plates all at the once? Our small table hardly can accommodate four plates. Is this an industry new norm – it has been this way for a long while.

Mar 19 2024

Helen Huang’s Mandarin House

2031 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, FL 33020

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

Are the bell pepper mold or from cooking?

We planned to have dinner at Miami tennis Open but I didn’t realize (so me…) that I purchased qualifying round which means they close shop early.

We’re hungry. And found this Chinese, on the way to home with 4+ star rating. So Chinese it is.

Meter parking. Upon entering, the fish tank perks me up. At 7pm on a Tuesday, it’s empty. There is only one couple. The decor is dated and dark.

I see two women, one serves us and one is working around the dining hall, like
restoring or the like.

I asked if they’ve Chinese menu, she said no.

We’ve ma po tofu 麻婆豆腐and shredded pork Sichuan style. We’ve been sweating under the sun at the matches and wanted salt. The hot tea is soothing. (at bill time did I know it’s free, so is the rice.)

They’ve wine by the glass but I didn’t order which is rare. Something isn’t right.

Both dishes are sweet. Ha … And as we’re winding down and I’m picking on the last few strains of bell pepper, I see the mold. Horrified, I told the woman who comes to ask if we’ve done.

She is defensive and asks me if I know how to cook and the ‘molds’ are the birthmark of the wok.

“But they’re so tiny and concise, how could a wok make such marks?”

The woman goes away and returns with a container full of sliced bell pepper, raising her voice, “this is what we use. We don’t use moulded bell pepper…”

To be fair to them, I showed the photo to a few Chinese friends who cook, mold or cooking marks. Their answers, without knowing the above story, mold.

Oh well. What do you think?

Mar 19 2024

Venice Restaurant

911 North Broadwalk
Hollywood, FL 33019

… more pix on Google Maps, Yelp, TA

Will return.

Fresh flowers.

We pass by it every time we’re on the boardwalk – next to our hotel, and finally find time to come – breakfast.

Their white furniture looks more Greek than Italian. Regardless, it’s inviting.
They’re on the boardwalk, is busier than their next door neighbor.

As we’re waiting for our food, (which turns out to be 30 minutes) watching people and pigeons passing by, I notice a tiny neatly folded paper, perhaps sugar bag or a receipt in the creamer tray.
To write about this is anal, Chinese has an idiom for it: picking bone among eggs – nitpicks.

When we finally get our food, toasts, sausage links, bacon and eggs are cold, so is my home fries, large and small pieces and brown, which I like. My husband’s fries, however is super hot and tidy. Our next table came much late but gets their eggs fries right after us. Ok, let me be Sherlock Holmes here: after they cooked our eggs, bacon, links and done toasts, the last bit of home fries is only enough for my plate. So they make more – that’s why all foods are cold, except the tidy fries … how is my detective skill?