How Far Does Charm Go? Jacksonville FL 9/2011

For those of you keeping track, yes I was in Wichita, Kansas last week, and no, I didn’t post about it here.  There was nothing to say.  Not good, not bad, not even funny. Ok, ok there was one incident where a margarita was ordered and a glass of Mountain Dew with salt showed up.  There, that was the trip.  So you can see why I was worried that with my fresh “Screw Wichita” attitude and my reluctance to blog about the mediocre, I was fearing becoming a food snob.

I had a frank discussion with myself and my snug pants and realized that it wasn’t that I’m a food snob, I just don’t feel the need to share unless it is great.  This leads to the need to top my last meal constantly. That’s not what this started as.  This was supposed to be me sharing my adventures with my friends, in my style.

So let’s start again.

My Fall whirlwind tour brings me to Jacksonville, Florida. My adventures in the cab on the way in started my doubts about the city.  The first cab I was in never left the airport – he couldn’t get it started and was explaining to me, the other cabbie and the world in general that there was something wrong with the starter.  No he didn’t want a jump, he wanted a new cab.  The second cab I got into was grateful for the fare as there was a long line of bored looking cabbies waiting for a passenger.  He was chatty too.  Wanted to know where I came from, what kind of bugs we had in Ohio etc.  He let me know twice during the trip that the city is excited for the convention I was attending – they needed the convention I was attending.  I started to wonder if the trade show was much larger than the ones I attend in the past as I saw the welcome banners through the town.  The town was clearly excited for the influx.

Hyatt Regency Riverfront  

My booth has arrived and after I set it up I realize how hungry I am.  Off to the hotel restaurant for a bite.  I’m starting to feel the stress of my life on the road and craving something fresh I review the salads.  The Spinach and Strawberry Salad calls to me.

Arriving with a cool glass of iced tea this was exactly what I needed.  An appropriately sized bowl arrives mounded with fresh tender baby spinach.  There are 6 strawberry halves around the perimiter of the salad, a handful of almond slivers tossed in and an arrangement of enoki mushrooms on the top.  The plate was beautiful and tasted as fresh as I’d hoped.  The spinach was fresh and crisp no need to wilt and the touch of viniagrete added a bright slightly sweet note.  The almonds added a touch of crunch, but the strawberries!!!!  Oh the strawberries were perfectly sweet and firm.  They have not been good in Ohio all summer so I was falling short of my strawberry quota for the summer.  Long before I was ready to see it go I was out of spinach.  Rest assured I did save two of the strawberries for the last few bites.  Berries that perfect deserved to be treated like dessert.

Refreshed from my salad and booth set up I return to my room to review email, read and nap.  Jacksonville was looking pretty good no matter what the cab drivers thought.

Email – Check

Finish book – Check

Nap – Check

Workout – Check

The American Cafe

Good day!  Let’s explore for dinner.  The consierge directs me towards a cluster of restaurants a short walk away.  He highlights three he admits he’s never gone to but has heard good things, points out one he’s heard bad things about and a Hooters. Yep Hooters.

The American Cafe was very empty for 7:30 at night and I take my place at the bar.  The bartender seems startled to see me, a little confused even.  It was almost as if he had been a good bartender somewhere else long ago, realized that he had to find that person and bring him to work today.  He went from a greeting of “Uhhhhh, hi?” to “Umm do you want a menu” to “Oh you should try it.  It’s a local brew, much like a dark bock.”  The transition was amusing to watch.

Dukes Bold is a local brew, dark in color but lighter in flavor than you might suspect. Light caramel notes on a basic toasty malt.  Nothing fantastic but I would order again there. To accompany my beer I wanted something a little more substantial than my lunch but with the same light feeling.  I ordered the Spinach and Goat Cheese Pizza, but asked them to hold the mozzarella.

While I waited for my pizza the bartender and I chatted about what I could do in the area while I was here.  Concerts, plays, art festivals etc.

My hopes for a relatively light dinner dissolved as a greasy mess was set before me.  The flatbread pizza topped with pesto, spinach, goat cheese and red peppers sounded delightful.   There was supposed to be a layer of mozzarella but I can’t imagine more grease.  I picked up the first soggy piece and saw a pool of oil.  I took a bite and the oily mess gave way to over cooked spinach and ghhhaaaarlic.  Wow, I feared no vampires on my way back to the hotel.

I was being woed by the charm of the place.  My Bartender and his server friend were trying to find a selection of events. The bartender was telling me about other local beverages and specials. The server was excited to tell me about local history.  I couldn’t help but think of that scene from Pulp Fiction where it is decided that charm goes a long way but maybe not long enough.

If I end up back at The American Cafe I will choose my dinner carefully.  The flavors were there but very heavy handed.  I wondered if this was because the chef didn’t know how to balance or if he was trying to use the last of the ingredients.

I rolled around my possibilities for the next few days in my head as I walked back to my hotel sure that other pedestrians could smell me in a 20 foot radius.

I need to brush my teeth. 

Until we eat again,



About Jen The Nerd

Nerd that likes food - What else do you need to know?
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