Sunday, February 26, 2012

What are you getting?

Joe and I fell in love over a meal... or maybe a few more than that, but food certainly was and is a huge factor in our marriage. For this reason, we don’t take eating together lightly. We aren’t just going to swing through some franchise fast food place to grab dinner or worse yet, pour a bowl of cereal. Forget that noise. Oh, no. If there is food to be had, we want to eat at a place that we won’t soon forget.

The challenge? Minor league baseball teams are not in towns found in the Zagat guide.

First challenge: Clearwater, FL
Joe has Spring Training here. It is a short drive from Tampa, which is great in terms of getting to. The same cannot be said for the AA and AAA teams.

Below I have gone through the most important food stops in the Clearwater Beach area.


Lenny’s : Lenny’s is your typical diner. Big haired waitresses waiting for their cigarette breaks, syrup in the perpetually sticky pourers, signed baseball paraphernalia on the wall and eggs more ways than you can think of. The danish basket alone is worth it. They will make your omlette however you want and the waffles are delish, too. Joe and I usually team eat in order to get equal parts salty and sweet in our caloric indulgence. These people are beyond kind to Joe when he goes in alone about 5 days a week and does the USA Today crossword puzzle in a booth. 

Clear Sky Cafe: The French toast here is the best I have ever had. And I have eaten a LOT of French toast. Huevos Rancheros eggs are also amazing here. Notice how multicultural I am in my dining experience. I do not discriminate any food, except salad. Anyways, this place is great. Outdoor seating, which is nice in pleasent weather. Fill up a big coffee cup and eat till you start saying things like, “Merci beaucoup for la toast de France y los eggs de ranchos.”*  

The French Toast pictured is the Java flavor. No breakfast is complete without coffee. Heck, no day is complete without coffee.
Java French toast with cinnamon butter 

Lunch: St. Petersburg Italian Market is the place to go i
f you want bread with the consistency of a cloud and melted cheese and peppers in your mouth, than you need to go eat here. The Philly cheese steak with chicken is my favorite sandwich-- ever. Italians know food, they take pride in their food, and the Italian Market is very worthy of Italian pride. Get yourself some coffee made from the big copper coffee maker, sit at the bar and watch the pastry chefs make beautiful little sugary treats. 
Started eating the cheese steak before I thought to take a picture 

After your cheese steak or pizza panini (yeah, you read that right. It is a special item so cross your fingers it is there ), get a canoli and another cup of coffee and some gelato.  Real gelato, not ice cream that is calling itself gelato. Pisachio is a standard favorite (pictures below), but Nutella and Frutti de Bosco are other top choices of mine. Joe and I have sat here for hours. If there is one thing to look forward to in Spring Training, it is knowing I will go eat at the Italian Market. 

Pistachio gelato, don't let the color intimidate. Or do, more gelato for me than. 

Dinner: Ceviche
A totally random find, but a freaking gem. Joe and I Googled this place and thought, yeah, sounds better than Hooters (the original Hooters is in Clearwater, less than a mile from the field. Thank you for playing to stereotypes about athletes). It is tapas, meaning basically appetizers, meaning team eating at its finest. Get a sangria wine and begin a Spanish feast. The filetito is to die for. Beef, peppers, goat cheesed, toasted bread-- so simple, yet so tantalizing. Then get the piquenos rellenos. They are red peppers full of cheese, chorizo and veal. You just about want to get into the pepper yourself. The fish and garlic grilled shrimp is wonderful, though I personally think you have to get fish if you are in a place that you can see the ocean. Try the frog legs, too. I know eating Kermit sounds daunting, but it is totally worth it. They're fried and an old sock would taste good fried. So go to Ceviche if you are ever in the Tampa Bay area. Just tell them Jen sent you.

Actually, don’t because they don’t know who I am. But maybe one day I will be greeted at the door with a bouquet of stuffed peppers and a box of filetitos. 

After a delicious, gluttonous weekend, the time has come to return to Houston. You know when you don't care about PDA? When you're saying good-bye. Nor do you care about crying in public, Public Displays of Sadness? Of tears? Something like that. Even now, thinking about waking up tomorrow a thousand miles apart makes my eyes sting. 

Joe and I were very intentional on taking counseling classes with the church. We read stacks of books about being married and took compatibility quizzes. And they were very insightful. But I haven't found one that answers the questions we are faced with within this lifestyle. So tonight, belly and heart empty, I go to sleep praying to find a way to take on marriage from a distance and for sweet dreams of eating french toast and cheese steaks with Joe. 

* I am aware that this is a grotesque combination of two languages. I chose to write this for comedic effect, I don't actually think this makes any real sense.

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