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Your trip protection coverage may not be bona fide insurance

March 28, 2009

Fred Zemble suffered a major heart attack on a cruise ship last year, was rushed to a hospital in a foreign country, then airlifted back to South Florida for treatment. He figured his travel insurance would pay the bills.

About $33,000 later, Zemble and his wife learned the truth … read more on the Sun Sentinel website.

Gratzzi Ristorante St. Petersburg FL

March 16, 2009

Gratzzi Ristorante offers excellent Southern Italian Cuisine

Gratzzi Ristorante offers excellent Southern Italian Cuisine

NOTE: This is our review of the old Gratzzi that closed.
Gratzzi Restaurant Review: Favorite Pasta Dishes
Gratzzi Restaurant Review: Veal Marsala, Italian Wedding Soup

Gratzzi is re-opening as Gratzzi Italian Grille in December 2010, at 211 2nd Street South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 (near the corner of 2nd Avenue South where Pacific Wave used to be.) The new restaurant will have the same owners and chef with a revised menu. We convinced Tony to keep the Sicilian Meatloaf which is reviewed below.

Watch their new website here: http://gratzzigrille.com

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Gratzi means “Thank you” in Italian, and I am quite thankful that I went to Gratzzi Ristorante at Baywalk in St. Petersburg. (They spell it with an extra “z”). The food, atmosphere and friendly, attentive staff made Gratzzi a superb experience.

I started my evening at the bar with a perfect Hendrick’s Martini. Hendrick’s is a fine, smooth gin made with cucumbers. Many establishments don’t have it, so I was pleased and impressed that Gratzzi’s did. I sipped my martini and chatted with the very personable and attentive bartender, Christina while I waited for Laura to finish shopping at White House Black Market downstairs.

Gratzzi is located in downtown St. Petersburg at Baywalk, which is an outdoor shopping, dining & entertainment complex anchored by a 20-screen Muvico Theatre. There’s an art gallery, woman’s and men’s fashions, and several restaurants to choose from.

Gratzzi’s decor is classy. The low lighting and low noise make it a romantic setting. This is a great place for a quiet romantic dinner. Even so, Laura and I opted to eat at the bar as we often do. Eating at the bar is a little more festive and social, and Laura is the consummate social butterfly / people person.

I started with a Caprese Salad of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzerella, Bermuda onions, arugula, roasted peppers, basil infused olive oil, and drizzled aged balsamic vinegar. Laura had the Gratzzi Salad (she always chooses great salads) that consisted of mixed greens with marinated tomatoes, kalamata olives, Bermuda onions, carrots, cucumbers and house vinaigrette.

For the main course, Laura chose Margherita Flatbread and I went with a more hearty selection of Sicilian Meatloaf.

Margherita Flatbread

Margherita Flatbread

Sicilian Meatloaf

Sicilian Meatloaf

The Margherita Flatbread was made of fresh mozzarella, marinated vine-ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil. It was delicious.

The Sicilian Meatloaf is an authentic recipe with boiled eggs, ham, provolone cheese, spinach, onions, roasted peppers, and mozzarella cheese. It is topped with marsala sauce and served with four-cheese mashed potatoes.

It was completely amazing! This is not your mother’s meatloaf. My mother is of Sicilian descent and she makes great meatloaf, but I have never had anything like this. It was very dense and as chewy as eating a piece of meat rather than ground meat. It was super delicious and a great new experience, nothing like any meatloaf I have ever had.

Although they offer a decent wine selection, Gratzzi’s also offers personal wine lockers for regulars. You can order your favorite wines and have them stored for your exclusive consumption right there on the premises. It should be noted that the restaurant is run by two Italian natives, Carmelo Mangiafico, Executive Chef and Dominic D’Angelo, Director. This is why the food is authentic, unique and delicious.

I highly recommend Gratzzi’s Ristorante. The prices are quite reasonable for such high quality food, unique recipe offerings with a warm relaxing atmosphere, topped off by a friendly attentive staff.

See the 16-Picture Gallery of Gratzzi’s Ristorante or view the Slide Show.

Gratzzi Italian Grille
211 2nd Street South
Saint Petersburg, FL 33701
727 623 9037 (Reservations)
http://gratzzigrille.com

Florida’s Dying Natural Springs - Why Should You Care?

March 13, 2009

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Crystal Clear Natural Spring Water in Florida

I fell in love with the beauty, nature and tranquility of Weeki Wachee Springs, which I just posted about. Recently I read an article in the St. Petersburg Times about how many of the natural Florida springs are being destroyed by pollution. It was a great article written by Robert Knight, an aquatic and wetland scientist.

Florida has more artesian springs - 700 of them - than any other place in the world. Some are large and familiar, like Silver, Ichetucknee and Wakulla; others small and hidden away, like Fern Hammock and Shangri-La. But they all have a crucial role in Florida’s freshwater supply and environmental health, not to mention their recreational values … The concentration of nitrate nitrogen, a recognized pollutant in surface and groundwaters, is rising rapidly in most Florida springs in response to agricultural and urban development …

… Spring ecosystems are undergoing widespread and dramatic changes in natural flora and fauna, often evidenced by replacement of natural plant communities by filamentous algae and native fauna by exotic species …

… Relatively pristine springs with high flows help support local economies …

… Visitation numbers at springs are influenced by clear, cool water and attractive plants and wildlife …

A time for action

Springs are Florida’s canary in the coal mine: If we stand by while they continue to dry up and turn green, we’ll have missed one more opportunity to preserve ourselves.
You can read the article here.

Here is a breathtaking 4-minute video will inspire you to join us in protecting the Ichetucknee, the crown jewel of Florida’s natural springs.

Hernando County needs to keep fertilizer out of Weeki Wachee River

Kayaking Down the Weeki Wachee River

March 13, 2009

The Weeki Wachee River may be one of Florida’s best kept secrets.

Weeki Wachee Springs Offers Beautiful Views

Weeki Wachee Springs Offers Beautiful Views

If you want to see what’s left of part of the “real Florida”. You have to check it out Weeki Wachee.

Weeki Wachee is in Hernando County, Florida, located about an hour north of Tampa at the intersection of Highway 19 and State Road 50. It’s crystal clear waters twist through tons of stunning scenery to flow 12 miles west into The Gulf of Mexico.

The naturally beautiful springs are home to one of Florida’s oldest attractions, Weeki Wachee Springs, famous for its live underwater shows featuring beautiful mermaids. (Fun for little girls, and grown men.) It recently went from private ownership to become a Florida State Park. It’s still the same as it was when I went as a kid, which is not a bad thing. It’s a nice respite from today’s modern hyper-active world. They also have the Buccaneer Bay Water Park.

Weeki Wachee Springs Park dates back to 1947. I went there as a kid in the 70’s, re-visited in 2000, and made my latest visit in November 2008 over Thanksgiving weekend.

We spent a half day for the park, and half a day to kayak and canoe down the river. Going down the river was by far the most enjoyable for getting away from the hustle and bustle and seeing the real Florida.

The Canoe and Kayak rental says, “Your self-guided adventure averages about 2.5 hours”.

I feel sorry for the people that paddle through it that quickly. We took about 4.5 hours, stopped to enjoy the lunch we packed, took beautiful pictures and relaxed in the comfortable light breeze, warm sun, and tranquility of the Weeki Wachee river.

There were many people that just whooshed past us with their mouths just blabbering non-stop, missing half the sights and sounds, and breaking the tranquility like scraping of nails on a chalk board. We let them pass and then resumed our enjoyment.

Wildlife we saw included turtles

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Turtle Getting Sun on Weeki Wachee

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Comcast Broadband TV Commercial Rejects

There were snakes and racoons…

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Snake Swimming in Weeki Wachee River

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Racoon Drinking Crystal Clear Spring Water

We also saw many different types of birds, fish and ducks. There were Manatees too, but I missed the shot as too many people scared them away at the end of the trip.

This was a fun, interesting and relaxing day. It was great being away from the hectic world, enjoying peace and quiet, nature and stunning natural beauty.

Weeki Wachee River

Weeki Wachee River

Book your canoe or kayak trip at http://www.floridacanoe.com/

Learn more about Weeki Wachee at http://www.floridastateparks.org

See all 69 pictures in the full gallery - Weeki Wachi Kayaking

NASA shuttle launches are a good reason to travel to Orlando area

March 13, 2009

One of life’s most thrilling moments is to witness, in person, the launch of a NASA Shuttle from Cape Canaveral-Kennedy Space Center. What a great spring break or summer experience for the kids! Even if Orlando is your main destination, the drive to the east coast launch view area is just under 45 minutes from the theme parks of greater Orlando.

Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution

Central Florida Travel Calendar for April

March 13, 2009

Check out our list of Central Florida festivals and events for April.

See the full lists and details on SunSentinel.com

North Florida & the Panhandle Travel Calendar for April

March 13, 2009

Check out our list of North Florida & Panhandle festivals and events for April.

See the full lists and details on SunSentinel.com

What’s New in Restaurants from Miami to Palm Beach

March 9, 2009

Origin, a Malaysian restaurant, has opened at 1201 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale Is your Fort Lauderdale restaurant clean? - Click Here., 954-533-9347. Its menu reflects Malaysia’s various cooking styles including Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Maracas Mexican Bar & Grill, which promises “a fiesta every night,” has opened at 3001 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 954-537-2002. Owned by the creators of Oakland Park’s Lips Restaurant, which features drag shows, the original Maracas is in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

Senor Frog’s Restaurant & Bar, a Mexican chain that got its start in Mexico, has opened at 2275 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach, 561-266-8558, www.senorfrogs.com.

Read more on the Sun Sentinel

Ordering in a Restaurant

March 7, 2009

We are going to be having a lot of posts about different restaurants as the site grows. Although I love to cook and have a nice big kitchen, Laura and I also greatly enjoy going to different restaurants.

I love her dearly, and she is very special, so this is not to slight her, but just an observation about how cute and special she is. Just look.

My wonderful chica orders in a restaurant just like Meg Ryan’s character Sally, in the 1989 movie, “When Harry Met Sally”. And I love her like Harry loves Sally. Here’s a video clip of the scene in the movie to demonstrate how Laura orders in a restaurant.


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