Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hellas Restaurant

Hellas Restaurant
Tarpon Springs, FL - north of Tampa

kiwis: taste 5, ambience 4, service 4

This is the best Greek food I have ever had, period. Tarpon Springs is a Greek sponge-fishing village. Sounds funny right? I really did not know what to expect. You can go out on boat rides to see the sponges etc, but we didn't have time for that and besides, we were really there for the amazing food. We tried Hellas, which is right on the main drag and had the best aromas coming out of the kitchen. To start with, the spanakopita was amazing - huge phyllo triangles filled with fresh spinach and lots of cheese! Then Ryan & I split the combo platter that had gyro meat, moussaka, pastitsio, pitas, rice, vegetables, and dolmades. All of it was good, but very rich. I would definitely not be able to eat it all my own, as I could only eat a couple bites of the moussaka and pastitsio without feeling completely full. Ryan's favorite was the dolmades (stuffed grape leaves).

Then for dessert, the waitress recommended baklava cheesecake, saying that it would change our lives. She was right. It was a perfect cheesecake with honey and crumbles of baklava on top and inside the cheesecake. Oh wow. It makes me swoon just thinking about it. We got a picture of it right before it disappeared:

Unfortunately, the combination of being famished and the food being so amazing, we forgot to take a picture of anything else.

The atmosphere is cool, there are neon lights everywhere. You can sit on an open air patio. We saw lots of people getting the flaming cheese appetizer - will definitely have to try that next time! And of course, there were may "opa!" moments with guests downing ouzo. Really funny! And the service was also good.

Check out the bakery :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

O Holy Night

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day with family, and most of all that you would remember why we celebrate this day: God's Son coming to earth to save us from our sins...amazing!

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

And I'll leave you with the first verse of my favorite Christmas hymn:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Friday, December 19, 2008

epcot food & wine festival

Ok here is the rundown of our favorite food & wine from this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

First, a quick synopsis. I love Epcot. Growing up, my favorite park was (and is) the Magic Kingdom. I mean, c'mon! Cinderella's Castle?! I'm a huge fan. But a very close 2nd, like missed it by a hair, is Epcot. I love love love all the countries in the back of the park. The food, the costumes, the "educational" rides, the grandiose faux buildings, the shopping...did I mention the food? I just love trying food from all over the world. So imagine my delight when I grew up past the age of 21 and discovered through my amazing Aunt Debbie, a Disney connoisseur, that there was a FOOD & wine festival at Epcot!! Ever since I turned 21, we have made it a family tradition to go to the festival. And it's not just the permanent countries that have food - there are cute little booths everywhere with small plates & wine tastings. You can't go much more than 10 steps without running into another booth. And it's Disney, so everyone is super happy that you are there. No snobbery here! It's also really nice to have so much walking to do and other sights to see...all the walking makes you more hungry, so you can eat more food, and drink...and so on and so forth.

My advice on how to really enjoy the festival:
1. Don't eat the day before.
2. Wear really good walking shoes and elastic band pants.
3. Save up some money before you go, because each plate/wine taste ranges anywhere from $3-$6. And if you have 30 or so countries to hit, and you want multiple plates from each country, it very quickly adds up. (I spent about $100 on the festival food & drink this year, and then an additional amount of money on wine to bring home with me.)
4. Put your money on a festival gift card. Not only does it help you budget (limit yourself to spend only the amount you put on the card), it is very easy to use - it's the size of a matchbook and comes on an elastic spiral bracelet, so you have it handy at all times. No fidgeting through purses, wallets etc. Makes life so much easier!

Ok on to the food & wine, my top 8 favorites! (There is just too much to write about, so I am limiting myself to the best of the best.) There's no guarantee these dishes and/or countries will be represented next year, but if they are, these are your must-eats & drinks.

1. Salmon & arugula salad - Canada
Divine. This is the only plate I went back for seconds on. It wasn't exotic or crazy, but man, it was delicious. Cooked perfectly with a maple & honey glaze that wasn't overly sweet. Yummmmmm.

2. Mofongo, pina colada - Puerto Rico
I spent a summer living in Puerto Rico. I absolutely love the food there. Unfortunately, I have yet to find quality Puerto Rican food in Atlanta. Thankfully, Disney does Mofongo right. It's basically a heap of mashed plantains cooked with pork. When I was in Puerto Rico, people would add whatever else they liked to it - here at Disney they made a shrimp salsa to go on top. Soooo good. I also had the best pina colada in my life here. Puerto Rico was new this year, and I really really really hope they keep it for next yr!

Mofongo on the left

3. Crabcakes, Lobster Roll, Sam Adams festival tent - United States
Hey American food can be exciting too! And, I LOVE seafood. So I was delighted to have a lobster sandwich with huge chunks of claw meat and a very crabmeat heavy, light breading crabcake. And, you could spend a whole day just trying all the different kinds of Sam Adams - draft & bottles. I love America.

4. Potstickers - China
Unfortunately, we ate the potstickers so fast we forgot to take a picture. But they are extremely delicious, if not the best postickers I have ever had. China also has chicken sha cha skewers that are pretty good.

5. Bay scallops - New Zealand
I'm not really a bay scallop fan - I prefer the big sea scallops. But these chilled bay scallops were delicious & refreshingly light.

Plus, hello? Kiwi crossing. Gotta give a shout out to the land of the kiwis!

6. Airship wine - New York
Our favorite new wine this year - Airship White. I've never had anything like it - I guess you could compare it to a Riesling, in that it's sweeter than other whites, but it's an entirely different grape taste. And it has a very grapey taste, which I really liked.

7. Spaetzle with mushrooms
Buttery noodles with a creamy mushroom sauce. Mmm.

8. Frozen Irish coffee
I know, kind of gimmicky. Probably not even "authentic." But oh my, so very delicious. That and it became a joke to our family and caused us all to laugh for at least 15 straight minutes.

This was taken after mom tried it.

So that's my top 8. And if I had to name a "loser", it would be Austria. They had a bacon dumpling with goulash. I love bacon, and I love dumplings. How could that not be a heavenly combination? Well the dumpling was a small disk of super dry dough. I guess the stew was supposed to offset the dryness? I don't know. I really didn't like it, and I was sorely disappointed. It may be the one bacon dish that has let me down.

So it was a successful trip:

Don't worry, this will last me at least til next yr! :)

love you tom price

From CNN's ticker, our own Rep. Tom Price. Bold emphasis mine.

"It is deeply disappointing that the administration has chosen to use taxpayer dollars to delay the inevitable need to fundamentally restructure these companies."

"By bailing out automakers without real reform or long-term solutions, we are only protracting uncertainty and putting billions of tax dollars at grave risk."

"It is now clear that the creation of TARP was a rueful mistake which has failed to provide urgent market stability, yet has put our country perilously in debt for the foreseeable future."

Hindsight is 20/20. Or you know, maybe you all should have listened to the American public before you voted for the bailout!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

long time, no see

Yikes! been a long while...have been craaaaazy busy at work and after work. Life in general. I hope to get all caught up by the end of the year, and then I will make it my New Year's resolution to get back in the habit of posting once a day. (Or something like that).

So some quick thoughts...wow! Blagojevich! I want to believe that Obama had nothing to do with this, and I guess innocent until proven guilty right? But first, his silence on the issue was alarming to me. Then when you think about it, Obama's message of change didn't do much for his hometown. Anyway. This whole scandal disgusts me. What is happening to our country?

Give a quick clap to the Senate blocking the auto bailout. I'm sorry but I just can't bring myself to support any more of these crazy bailouts.

Then this moved me to tears. I couldn't believe this guy's response. I don't know if I could have responded with the same grace and love for the pilot who was responsible for the crash that killed his entire family. What a true testament to his deep love of our country, in giving thanks for the serviceman as one of the "great treasures of our country". And then what love this guy has for his Lord, in offering prayers for the pilot, truly giving God glory in a dark, suffering time that many would say "why me?"

And last...running has been going. I haven't been able to completely stick to schedule but I still feel pretty good about the marathon coming up. I will crawl if I have to across that finish line. I am a marathoner! Besides, I was so faithfully reminded last week that with God, nothing is impossible. I went to a Christmas concert at my church and our pastor was referring to the virgin birth of Christ. But after the talk, I smiled and thought, marathons are nothing compared to a virgin birth! So, I have faith that everything will be ok :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


So I just got back from Saxby's victory rally. Wow it feels good being a Georgian tonight! "Conservative Georgia values DO matter!" Either Saxby or Chairman Duncan said that...or both. I can't remember, I was just so pumped.

Yay for America! All is not lost. Our founding fathers are smiling tonight.