Coming soon – the first cold front
Maro Lorimer's paintings are on display
at the Sarasota Orchestra's Harmony Gallery through Oct. 25.
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It sure is hot… and it has been hot for a while now.
At two o’clock on any afternoon the light is eye-squinting, unrelenting, pure white.
The roaches are sitting in the shade sipping drinks with little umbrellas.
And nothing is moving but foreigners with tiny bathing suits.
The first couple of promising cold fronts stall on the other side of Tampa Bay. And then it comes.
Tropical winds and rain blow hot and fierce from the south and then relent and swing decidedly north. The rain turns cool …and so does everything else.
The temperature drops about 15 degrees and high cirrus clouds carry the wistful promise of cooler times.
Beach Bistro graphs show a huge upward spike in sales for the three-day celebration around that first cold front – like an electrocardiogram showing a dead man coming back to life.
Folks climb oyster-white and bleary-eyed from their air-conditioned caves. They come into the Bistro and eat red meat and wash it down with hearty red wine and then they go dancing naked in the streets.
Ahhh…that first cold front.
Cold front advice?
Dancing naked in the streets is not my strong suit, but dining and wining, I might be able to help you with.
Your first night of being cool – take the high road – eat out.
Favor a local eatery with your celebratory frame of mind. Local restaurateurs have been struggling through the hot lean summer times and deserve your patronage.
Island restaurants are like baseball teams – only the best ones survive to play in the fall. Favor those best ones that first cold front night and they will be delighted to see you.
Peggy at Duffy’s is smiling and cheery on cold front night, and Pauly at Hurricane Hanks is positively jolly.
Day two of the first real cold front should be grilling night. Overcome the dancing aches and pains of cold front night one and wipe the spiders off the grill. Cook up a big slab of superlative, aged, red meat – and the Chop Shop on Manatee Avenue has one waiting for you.
Open a grilling beer – because you can and because grilling is supposed to be done with a beer in your hand. Any sissy can grill with two hands.
Let the meat stand in its paper on the counter for about an hour.
The entire cut will come to a uniform temperature, and this will make your timing much more scientific. The meat will be 55 degrees right through and not 50 degrees on the outside and 35 degrees in the middle.
The secret to real flavor in cooking any protein is a seared and seasoned outer surface. All you can ask of your grill is a hot, fast, seared exterior. It is not designed to cook your meat through to desired doneness. That’s why you have an oven.
Sear the meat’s surface on an oiled grill over intense searing heat until you get flames and pretty grill marks and then move it to a platter and finish it to appropriate doneness in the oven (425 for meat).
How do you know when your steak is done right?
There are a kazillion tests for doneness.
The pros teach rookie chefs in training to use the "rule of thumb."
Push your index finger into the area of your thumb at its softest, thickest section where it joins the center of your palm. That’s rare.
A doneness like the area halfway to the first knuckle is medium rare, and a little higher is medium. Firm as your thumb knuckle and you have hockey-pucked it.
Everything needs salt and pepper. Everything. Red meat in particular.
Season and salt your meat – not with the food-killing iodized salt, bitter stuff - but with kosher salt.
The Chop Shop has dozens of seasoning salts and excellent rubs.
Season the meat just before you sear it on the grill – salt the meat too soon and it will dry out the natural juices.
Marinades suck – really. They derange the real meat flavors, pre-cook and degrade the protein tissue, rob it of its natural full flavors and juices, and provide an excellent medium for bacteria and food poisoning.
When amateur chefs start to talk to you about marinating just let your eyes glaze over and pretend you are listening.
Wining, dining and dancing
Lighter white wines are naturally favored during summer heat – so celebrate that cold front with a change to a liberating red.
Pop that big Caymus Cab you have been undressing with your eyes since the 4th of July. Pull the cork on that Shiraz you have been saving for a special occasion – because the first cold front is a special occasion.
For post-dinner, cold-front dancing this October the hot new wine is Lola. (Sounds like Layla – dancing music).
Lola is an exciting new Pinot Noir from Anna Maria’s home-grown winemaker Seth Cripe.
Cripe was bussing tables at the Bistro at 12, stealing sips of wine at 13 and making wine with Swanson in Napa at18. Cripe honed his wine skills in the vineyards of Australia, California and France before taking major responsibilities at Caymus. Now he is making his own wines and they are taking the country by storm.
His Lola is real pinot noir – pinot with balance, elegance and long fruit flavors – not the diluted M erlot we have been inundated with since that bad “Sideways” movie.
When that first cold front arrives, feel the cool rain on your face… and the take to the streets with a great dancing wine – Lola.
Sean Murphy is the owner of the Beach Bistro. Comments or questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.