A Week of Celebrations

This was a week of many celebrations!

First, Zeke and I celebrated 18 years of marriage on June 5th. This officially puts us past the mark of my first 17-year marriage, so Zeke can breathe a sigh of relief. We drove down to the Keys on a sunny Sunday, grateful for sunshine after a week of rain. We stopped at Gilberts for lunch and got a Seafood Appetizer Platter.

Dinner was at Ziggy and Mad Dogs, an upscale (if there is such a thing in the Keys) steak and seafood chophouse. Our dinner and server was very good, but the table they gave us was awful- next to the restrooms and a service area. Ziggy and Mad Dogs is already a kind of noisy place, with terrazzo floors and this two-top was in the middle of everything, not ideal for a quiet, romantic meal.

I made the reservation through Resy and, even though I mentioned it was our anniversary, they stuck us with this stinkaroo of a table. The table next to us were also celebrating their anniversary and tried to get their table changed as well. The moral of this story? While online reservations are convenient (and sometimes there’s no other choice) it’s always better to call the restaurant directly especially for a special occasion. They are also usually more flexible with dining times (Open Table is notoriously bad for this). In this case, according to our waitress, I should have called and asked for a table “along the wall.” Live and learn.

We ordered a bottle of Albarino and split the Mad Dog Wedge ($12) to start. I got “Big Ben’s” Smothered Medallions– two filets covered in caramelized onions, blue cheese and au Poivre sauce. Zeke got the Crabmeat Stuffed Snapper ($36); Roasted Asparagus and Potatoes Au Gratin ($8) were our sides. Everything was very good and our waitress helpful and sweet.

Wyatt’s last day of school was Wednesday. A.J. asked me to pick him up, since traffic is a nightmare on the last day of school, so I walked there and got him; he was red faced and happy. On the way home, however, a deluge of rain poured down on us. Even my umbrella was no protection. Wyatt gleefully jumped in puddles and sloshed through flooded grass on our way home. I quickly dried his clothes and shoes, as he had an End-of-the-Year Party to go to and a dinner for his cousin Gracie’s Graduation from Kindergarten. They’ll both be big First-Graders soon!

I whipped up some Egg Foo Yung for A.J. and Phoenix that night, which I served with Won Ton Soup and Stir Fried Veggies. I had a craving for Egg Foo Yung, but that is one of those dishes that seemed better in my memory than it was in actuality.

The next night I had BOTH Wyatt and Phoenix, so A.J. could go out to dinner. It was pretty much of a S**t Show, with me trying to get dinner ready, Wyatt wanting dumplings to eat instead of shrimp and Phoenix opening up every cabinet in the kitchen, trying to pull out hazardous materials to ingest. Zeke came home (after drinks at Riviera) to grill the shrimp and veggies I’d skewered ahead of time. I tried to eat, while also feeding Phoenix little bits of food. We then hurried into the family room to watch Jeopardy, which had already started.

Wyatt had found a marble he wanted to make a marble game with and was whining no one would help him, Phoenix was pulling board games off the shelf at a rapid rate, as I tried to remove all breakable objects and prevent him from eating the marble Wyatt kept leaving on the ground (can you say choking hazard?). For some reason, I stubbornly tried to answer Jeopardy questions against all odds, while Zeke sat there drinking his wine, oblivious to the chaos.

Just to let you know, you’re losing.

Zeke said.

“Are you f**cking kidding me?” I answered. I couldn’t even hear the questions!

Don’t let the innocent face fool you. This kid is hell on wheels!

I’d watched the last episode of Grace and Frankie that day, so I was kind of in mourning. Dolly Parton makes an appearance in the last episode, as a receptionist in heaven, thus reuniting the whole 9 to 5 gang. I will certainly miss these two wonderful characters and their quirky families.

I read about a Jennifer Aniston Salad that she invented and that she, Courtney Cox and Lisa Cudrow ate EVERY DAY for lunch on the set of Friends, so of course I had to try it. Although I don’t know if I could eat it every day, it was delicious and would be an excellent once-a-week addition for lunch, especially on Meatless Mondays.

I shopped at Trader Joe’s Friday and tried some products which I can recommend. The Chunky Spicy Guacamole ($3.79), Kalua Pork Spring Rolls ($4.79), Organic Dark Chocolate Rice Cake Thins ($1.99), Hold the Cone ($3.79), mini Ice Cream Cones ( in different flavors) and Truffle BBQ Sauce ($3.49). I also bought prosciutto and melon to bring to Kelley’s house as an appetizer. the next night. Peonies ($9.99) are also at Trader Joe’s, which are only available for a short season.

On Friday, Kelley had a ceremony at Temple Judea announcing her conversion to Judaism and introducing her to the congregation. During the service, the rabbi told us to name something we were grateful for, and Elise and I agreed we were thankful for our family. Kelley choose the name of Ruth as her Jewish name, as she was the first Jewish convert. It was a lovely, uplifting ceremony with lots of music and blessings. We went back to Kelley’s house for a Shabbat Italian Dinner. Mazel Tov!

Emory Guilford, my niece, got hired by Delta airlines and starts training this week. Her parents gave her a going-away party (which happened to fall on her Dad’s birthday), which was at the same time as Kelley’s dinner, so Zeke went there after the ceremony. Becky made Gregg’s favorite dish- Chicken and Dumplings with Creamed Corn and Peas. Imagine my dismay when Zeke came home empty handed, after I had specifically asked him to bring me a plate. I do think I have a great husband though, because he made special trip down to Cutler Cay the next day to pick me up some Chicken and Dumplings, with all the fixings.

Saturday I had a lunch at Lan Pan Asian with friends Sara and Christian. We all ordered the same thing- the Lunch Special of Thai Basil Chicken ($11.95) with rice instead of Miso Soup. We split two Passion Fruit Creme Brulees, which I didn’t even know they had on the menu. Their lunch specials are a great deal! You get a big salad and California Roll with your entree. Pro tip: Arrive at 11:30 a.m., as we did, and the restaurant will be empty.

It was actually my second visit to Lan Pan Asian that week. I met Courtney there for lunch Tuesday before she left for Colorado. She needed her sushi fix (Sashimi Lunch Special for $11.95) and I needed my Liam fix. Both missions accomplished!

Saturday night, thankfully, was a low-key one at home where we ate Grilled Chicken Thighs, boiled Corn on the Cob and Faux Cauliflower Potato Salad I made from a Parade recipe. Now, you would never confuse this dish with actual potato salad- the cauliflower is firmer and has a different mouth feel- but it was really good and had the Potato Salad vibe to it.

We had to be at Key Biscayne bright and early Sunday morning to participate in the Rescue a Reef boat trip to harvest coral and replant them. As I mentioned in a previous post, 90% of our coral reefs have disappeared in the last 50 years, which is devastating for our environment. This trip was through U.M.’s coral restoration program, which conducts research and educates people about the importance of saving our Coral Reefs.

Zeke and I were “Citizen Scientists” on the expedition aboard the boat chartered through Divers Paradise. You could dive or snorkel; we choose to snorkel. The first stop was to the coral “nursery”, where coral is grown on PVC “trees”. The divers cleaned the trees with metal brushes and snipped small pieces of coral, to be planted at the second location of Rainbow Reef.

Since we were snorkeling, Dalton, a scientist from U.M., harvested coral pieces for us, which we secured into “cookies” with epoxy. I then free dove down about 20 feet to plant our precious cookie on the ocean floor of Biscayne Bay. It was a beautiful, sunny morning- a perfect day to rescue a reef. We had fun and learned a lot. If you’re interested, the organization is called Coral Restoration Foundation at http://www.coralrestoration.org.

I couldn’t wait to get home to my lunch of leftover Chicken and Dumplings! I only have them at Becky’s house for Gregg’s Birthday once a year and that’s if they’re in town and we’re in town, so eating them is a real treat. They were probably the best leftovers I’ve ever eaten and will have to keep me satisfied for another year. I could make them myself, but these Chicken and Dumplings and the Creamed Corn are truly a labor of love.

Chicken ‘N Dumplings and creamed corn and collard greens.

Love, love, love. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you sing that can’t be sung. Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy.

The Beatles

Love may be easy. Chicken and Dumplings, however, are not.

Up Next: The Jennifer Aniston Salad

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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