Cornbread Panzanella Salad w/ Blackened Shrimp

Tonight for dinner I accomplished many things: 1) I tried a new restaurant 2) ordered something unique 3) ordered something healthy 4) ordered something delicious.  These 4 simple goals are not easy to come by, believe me!  This cornbread panzanella salad with shrimp from The Floridian in St. Augustine served all my purposes and left me one happy camper.

For those of you not familiar with Florida geography, St. Augustine is about 4.5 hours north of where I live.  I am here [by myself] for one night to attend a Board of Pharmacy conference tomorrow morning.  What is a girl to do who is alone in a new city with only a few hours to spare?  Three things come to my mind: eat delicious local food, explore, and shop.  Shopping was out of the question because besides the fact that I am broke, I have no interest in buying “colonial” hats, I <3 St. Augustine t-shirts, or magnets with a lighthouse on them.  I explored as much of the historic town as I could, but I arrived at 4:30 and was limited to the few sites still open.  By 7 pm, I was left with one option and one option only: EAT!

After performing a very thorough search of St. Augustine restaurants and eateries, and consulting Yelp, Urbanspoon, and the like, I decided to try this restaurant called The Floridian.  This place was totally my kind of spot: cozy, homey, outdoor seating available, and decorated with local beachy trinkets in the cute, not tacky way.

This place is known for lots of gluten free and vegetarian options, as well as their seafood, but they have plenty of things for everyone on the menu.  Everything here is made with locally grown/raised/made  produce/meats/cheeses, which I find so wonderful.  I had a hard time deciding what to get, but I was in the mood for something on the lighter side, so I opted for the Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

If you are not familiar with a panzanella salad, it is typically made with croutons (preferably home-made), tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and mozzarella cheese with a vinaigrette type dressing.  The main caveat  being that there is no lettuce or leafy vegetable included.  The panzanella salad I got tonight had many twists to it.  They used cornbread to make the croutons, there was fresh arugula included, I opted to add blackened shrimp, and they served it with a homemade basil-buttermilk dressing.  Additionally, the salad included heirloom tomatoes, strips of red bell pepper, and freshly made tomme cheese.

The salad was really great.  Everything, from the produce to the cheese to the bread, tasted so fresh!   The cornbread added such a sweet taste and comforting aspect to the meal.  The only downside to using cornbread is that it naturally does not get as crispy as other bread types.  Not to say that it was soggy, but it was definitely softer than expected.  The shrimp was a bit on the salty side in my opinion, but still tasty.  Lastly, I prefer the traditional vinegerette to the buttermilk dressing they used (and I forgot to ask for it on the side), but that is just my personal preference.

Because this was a “me” night (did I mention the glass of wine I enjoyed?), dessert was a requirement.  I knew from the moment I walked in and spotted the homemade pecan caramel bars that I would be ordering one, and that is exactly what I did.

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

My foodie experience at the Floridian in St. Augustine was wonderful.  It made this undesirable, lonely trip way better.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone in the area, as well as the specific dishes I ordered.

Now, it’s off to bed for an early conference in the morning.  If only the complimentary breakfast were half as exciting as my dinner tonight.  A girl can dream!

XO

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$15 Caramels? Yes. Worth It.

I am so excited because last night I received a package that I have been waiting for all week.

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When Ryan and I were in NY over the holidays, we stopped at Chelsea Market Baskets, located in (surprise) Chelsea Market.  This particular store, like many in the market, is stocked with unique and drool-worthy specialty foods that make you want to buy everything in site.  From spices to cheeses to oils to sweets, the variety of hard-to-find-elsewhere goods is endless.  Luckily for my wallet, we were in a rush and didn’t have too much time to shop.  I did, however, see a cute display of all different types of caramels that I knew I had to try.

I was only allowed one free sample of one type of caramel.  They had about six different varieties to choose from including vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, salted, etc..  I decided to ask the clerk what was popular and what she recommended.  She responded that the sea salt is the most popular and her personal favorite.

Dilemma.

I am not a fan of salted sweets, with the obvious exception of chocolate covered pretzels.  But still, I decided to go crazy and try the salted caramel per her recommendation.

Four words: out of this world.  The salt is not at all overbearing- it is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the caramel.  Wow oh wow.  I ended up buying a bag of assorted flavors, obviously with a lot of salted caramel mixed in.  The funny thing is that the two best flavors, in my opinion, were the salted caramel and the cinnamon.  Those happen to be the two flavors I would have never tried without a recommendation from someone else.  Lesson learned: ask what is popular/recommended, and don’t be afraid to try new things.  I cringe at the trying new things line because it really sounds like something my mom would have said to me when I was young.  But inevitably, she was right.

With one persistent craving, an Amazon search, and $15 (inc. shipping) later,  these sweet and salty gems were mine.  All 20 of them.  Some may call me crazy, but I know fellow foodies will understand the priceless value in a perfect piece of candy.

Here is the link to heaven.  You may want to make sure your credit card is not within arms reach. Bequet Confections

Best food of NYC trip, and Welcome!

Welcome my blog, Bite Sized!  I am so excited to blog my food experiences to you, both good and bad as I learn more about the foodie world each day.  Rather than bore you with my whole story, check out my About Me.  Or, just keep reading the blog as more and more of my personality and life are bound to reveal themselves over time :)

I thought I would make my first post easy and simple by sharing with you some of the beyond amazing food I had during a recent trip to NYC in December (my first time there since I was a little girl).  The ever-growing foodie in me was in paradise on this trip.  Despite the thin blooded south Floridian part of me frozen solid.

We ate a TON of food, because for my boyfriend and I, that is what a vacation is all about.  For now I am just going to share my absolute favorites.

First thing to know about me: I have a ravenous sweet tooth.  Almost to the point where I need to have something sweet after each meal.  Yes I am one of those people who makes it sound like sugar is some life-saving medication that I need after food.  Like insulin.  Hmm ironic…

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Pictured is banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery.  This was hands down the best dessert I had in the city, and that includes Crumbs Cupcakes, Georgetown Cupcakes, the Doughnutery in Chelsea Market, and even Magnolias very own cupcakes.  My cupcake journey, however, is a post in itself.  This banana pudding had everything it should have: a creamy banana flavor accompanied by chunks of bread soaked within.  This is the only type of pudding Magnolia makes which speaks in and of itself.  The best part?  My boyfriend despises bananas, so this whole baby was mine.  Don’t judge, I ordered a “small”!

Second thing to know about me: I absolutely love breakfast food, especially those that are essentially all carbs or desserts.  French toast, waffles, bagels, yes please!  Because I do try to eat healthy, I limit those types of breakfasts to weekends and vacations.  Which leads me to:

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Pumpkin waffles with warm cinnamon-apples, candied pecans, dried cranberries, and a spiced butter at Penelope.  You would think that since I practically ate this butter by itself that I could remember the name of the spice inside, but I was too preoccupied with trying to remember to chew.  This breakfast was out of this world.  Each flavor component complimented the other to the point where adding syrup would have ruined it.  The atmosphere at Penelope was also perfect- so cozy and homey that you literally feel like you are eating in someone’s home.

Third thing to know about me (or really anybody with taste buds): anything with truffle is amazing.  I had one of the best mac and cheeses ever at Cafeteria: a truffle Mac and Cheese.  I am sorry to say though that I do not have a picture of it.  You are just going to have to take my word for it.

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do have a picture of a similar concept: black truffle ravioli at Seraphinas.  Are you drooling yet?  It was just as good as it looks, and probably gone quicker than it took you to read this sentence.  It was that good.  And that small of a portion.

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To prove to you that I do in fact eat things not drenched in sugar, butter, or truffle oil, I just had to include a picture of this vegetable soup from Exchange Alley.  This soup was insanely fresh and loaded with all kinds of vegetables that they grow in their own garden.  Unlike other soups which are broth with some carrots, this was essentially a bowel of all different vegetables topped with some broth.  They had brussels sprouts, kale, and other scrumptious veggies loaded inside.

IMG_0424Lastly, I had to include a picture of the BEST tzatziki sauce I have ever tasted, which was at Taverna Kyclades  in Austoria Queens.  I absolutely love Greek Food, and normally I could eat warm pitta bread by itself because it is so good.  I usually find no reason to smother it with fat-laden tzatziki.  But when our cousins told us that this was the best they had, I had to try it.  Oh my gosh.  This sauce has freshly shredded cucumber in it along with the perfect combo of spices.  It was out of this world and totally worthy of being drenched all over my pita bread and chicken kabobs.

Those are the top food highlights of my NYC trip.  I am so excited to launch this blog and further develop it.  Please bear with me as I learn how to navigate my way around and become more blog-savy.

I would love any comments and/or recommendations on restaurants, recipes, cooking tips, etc..!