Sunday, May 01, 2011

eating my way to italy

I like southern Florida.  A lot.

I have been here for political conventions.  Hurricane recovery.  Military assignments.  And as the embarkation point for several cruises.

Today I am in Fort Lauderdale – waiting to board a cruise ship on Monday to cross the Atlantic to Italy. 

I flew out of Manzanillo To Los Angeles on Friday afternoon – and then flew overnight to Florida.  I have this thing about sleeping on airplanes.  I just don’t.  On buses, I snooze the sleep of the innocent.  On airplanes I am as wide awake as a B-52 gunner.

For this trip, I decided to arrive in Fort Lauderdale two days early.  For once, I wanted to arrive on board a cruise ship fully relaxed.

On Saturday morning I arrived at my motel at 7 – fully expecting to be told I would need to wait until the check-in time of 1.  But my lack of faith was rewarded.  My room was ready.

It is nothing fancy.  I chose this $60 motel over the $250 hotels on the beach knowing that I would merely sleep and post here.  For that, it is adequate.  Even with its lack of air conditioning.

And nothing more than adequate.  Location is its primary advantage and disadvantage.  It is close to the airport and the cruise terminal.  But it is also located amidst primarily commercial property and bisected by carotid traffic lanes.

The fact that the local sheriff appears to have a reserved spot for a patrol car is only a bit unnerving.

I took a quick nap, and then my friend, Roy, (who is going on the cruise along with his wife, Nancy) stopped by.  We had a serious mission to accomplish.

We were in Miami.  We were hungry.  And that adds up to one thing.  We needed to make a trip to Versailles – our favorite Cuban restaurant in town.


And it did not disappoint. 

I ordered ropa vieja – the same Cuban beef dish I enjoyed in Mexico City just before the onset of my stomach episode.  But I knew the Versailles version would be better.  And it was.

In celebration of dining with my good friend, I did something I have not done in a long time.  I ordered dessert.  A traditional rice pudding.  It was fine, if a bit too sweet.  But it topped off a great dinner.

We picked up Nancy at the airport and they then returned me to my motel.  On the drive back, I noticed a barbecue joint just over a mile away.

Coming to Miami and not having a Cuban meal would be a shame.  Coming to the south and not having barbecue would be a travesty.

So, I walked over to Li’l Red’s for supper. 

The presence of that apostrophe was enough to let me know I should be getting the real deal.  Plus the fact that the place does not look like much from the outside.  Show me a shiny barbeque joint, and I will show you the site of the next Starbucks.

Now, I know there are southerners who believe southern Florida is no more part of the south than is Brooklyn.  But they are wrong.  It may be more sophisticated than Tallahassee, but it still knows how to do the basics.

I had a barbeque pork sandwich with the inevitable choice of two sides.  French fries and baked beans.

As is often the case with southern cooking, the plate arrived with enough food for two people.  But more than quantity, it was the quality that still sticks with me as I sit here writing.  And all for just over $8.

The down side is that on the walk back to the motel, I felt as if I should be rolled up over the freeway overpass.  It is not a good sign to be stuffed before a cruise begins.

Tomorrow, Nancy, Roy, and I are going to have dinner with one of his high school buddies.  And I will then have supper with some of my fellow cruisers.

When we sail on Monday, I will do my best to keep in touch with you.  That much I promise.  I will try.


Felipe Zapata said...

Cruising to Italy, yet staying in a fleabag hotel beforehand in Miami with no air-conditioning! I am trying to sort this out.

lauriematherne said...

I have been to Versailles in Miami, too! Good stuff.

tancho said...

I can just picture you in Fort Lauderdale, wearing white patten leather shoes, matching belt, holding up yellow and blue plaid slacks ending 5 inches below your chest, and of course wearing those small brim straw hats, perhaps with a seersucker pink shirt..... Getting ready for the cruise.

Have a great time, don't stay on the Internet on the ship too much, I hear they charge a fortune for the connectivity, and rip you off if you leave your cell phone on also.

jennifer rose said...

Versailles on Calle Ocho is one of my favorites in Miami, too. Are you sure you didn't arrive in Miami 2 days early just to get a head start on eating?

So, what are you bringing us all back from Italy?

Nita said...

I'm anxiously awaiting the posts from Italy. Or you can tell us after you return.

John Calypso said...

Do not worry about the Interest usage fees on the luxury liner - it is a well worth it expense as we live vicariously through your world travels. Have a great trip!

Rick said...

B-52 gunner - haha

I agree that dining in the USA has really eclipsed just about anywhere but you should do well in Italy.

Bon voyage Steve and keep us posted -

Babsofsanmiguel said...

I'm amazed that there is a motel in Fla. without airconditioning.........unheard of!

Steve Cotton said...

Somer of the best Cuban food I have eateb. Even better than in Havana.

Steve Cotton said...

You should know by now that I am a mass of social incongruities.

Steve Cotton said...

Internet costs on cruises are almost criminal. On the other hand, I am amaszed at the technology that allows me to sit in my cabin and write to friends.

By the way, you must have been peeking in my suit case to know so much about my sartorial splendor.

Steve Cotton said...

Afrter my experience in Mexico City, I had a yen for true Cuban food.

As for what I am bringing back friom Italy for everyone -- that is something I may share only with my doctor.

Steve Cotton said...

One way or other, you will get a dash of Italy. I will be staying in Rome for only two days, but there will be some tales there. I am certain.

Steve Cotton said...

I should use all the money I am saving by staying in this motel to buy internet time. Of course, I have spent most of it on my eating spree in Miami.

Steve Cotton said...

This cruise ship has one of the best steak houses in the world on board. If I eat there each of my 13 nights, I may never want to see another steak as long as I live -- which may not be very long if I eat that much meat.

Steve Cotton said...

Well, it is supposed to have air conditioning. It simply is not working. But I am fine with that. After all, I have none in my Melaque house, nor do I know many people who do. This is just a natural circumstance for me.

LeslieLimon said...

I just returned from a hearty lunch at my in-law's, but after reading this post I am starving! :P I would not mind a plate of ropa vieja or bbq.

Chrissy said...

Best sleep I have ever had was a trip on a DC3 from Fairbanks to Whitehorse Yukon. They served us lunch, then climbed to 9K and told us to have a nice nap. The crew put on their oxygen masks and we all woke up some time later on the ground and handing over our passports to some nice Canadians. Have a great trip.

Steve Cotton said...

And every bite was worth it.

Steve Cotton said...

I have ioften wondered why the airlines do not use that technique more often. (In fact, we were discussing that very topic at dinner tonight.) I suspect it is one reason I fall asleep so easily on buses in the Mexico mountains.

Tafreeburn said...

the maduros on the side of the ropa vieja look wonderful! i love plantains-cooked any style. had some fried pl. chips on my hike today. of course they're not as good out of a bag as they are fresh but they make a good snack.

i'd never heard of li'l reds' so i looked it up and see that it is in ft. lauderdale, not miami like i thought. we love barbecue and as you know it's not something that is that easy to find in the nw.

have a great time in italy. have a cannolo for me. (yes, that's the singular of cannoli ;-) of course you can have more than one since you'll be there for 13 days-lucky you. by the way, how long does it take to cross the atlantic?


Steve Cotton said...

I am going to be in Rome for only 2 days -- more like a day and a half. The 13 nights are the time it will take for the cruise ship to get there. This is really a trip on the seas rather than a trip to Italy.

Tafreeburn said...

guess you must really like being out on the water. with all the activities on the ship, i'm sure you'll have a great time. and as for exercising, i always walk on the ship, at least an hour a day. even with that, i still manage to gain wieight.

bon voyage or perhaps i should say, que tengas un buen viaje!

Irene said...

Thank you for the image of Mr. Cotton I have just conjured. It made me laugh out loud.

Steve Cotton said...

It was a good time. I am now resting up in Reno for a few days.