Splurging at Bern’s Steakhouse

Awhile back I saw a show on one of the food channels and it rated Bern’s Steakhouse as one of the top steakhouse’s in the country. It just so happens that Bern’s is located in Tampa and my friend Courtney had been there before so while I was visiting over the weekend we decided to go on Saturday night.

When you enter the lobby you will notice that the place is decorated like a bordello from the days of the Wild West. We didn’t have a reservation, but had no problem getting a seat at the bar. I began my adventure with a medium bodied Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay, Sonoma which was very good. The reason I know it was medium bodied is because that’s what the wine list said – ha !

Courtney said the place had awesome dinner specials and we both ordered surf and turf. Our meal started with a cup of some darn good french onion soup au gratin which included some little garlic toasts. For my salad I ordered the house salad with a macadamia vanilla bean vinaigrette dressing and it was phenomenal. In fact the lady next to me ordered the same on her salad cause she heard me raving about it.

The surf and turf was a nice sized filet mignon with meat was so tender I could have cut it with a fork and it was cooked to perfection. Also included was a small spiney Florida lobster tail that was very tasty. Our vegetable was shredded brussel sprouts that I had never had before with bacon bits. The potatoes were not so hot, but supposedly had white truffles in them.

We rested a bit at the bar and while doing so I decided to order a chocolate martini, mmmmm it was real good. For desert we had banana cheese pie that was out of this world. After dinner they took us on a kitchen tour where we got to see the cave du fromage that houses all kinds of cheeses from around the world and their huge wine cellar

Overall I would rate my experience there a ten out of ten and would definitely go back again. The only negative was a rather rotund man and his wife from Connecticut who sat next to us. He was loud and obnoxious and told us he was considering hair plugs while routinely dropping the “f” bomb. Oh well you can’t have everything, but check Bern’s out if your ever in Tampa.

Southern Hospitality

My good friend Courtney is in the process of moving his entire family up to Columbus from Florida and a few weeks ago he sent me an invitation to a party he and his wife Janine had planned for all of their Florida friends. 

Last Wednesday he and I were out having a few drinks and I said well it looks like I’m not going to make it down to your place in F L A, but a couple of days later what do you know, I’m in Tampa. I just love spontaneous trips.

The weather down there was fantastic (high sixties / low seventies) compared to what we were experiencing in Columbus (high twenties / low thirties) even though it was a little cold by their standards and there was a wonderful breeze.

At the party on Friday night I didn’t know a soul so I got to work on my social skills, but their friends made me feel right at home. I spent some time on the front porch relaxing and soaking in the sun. Pretty much every house down there has a front porch which we don’t have up North. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they are all so friendly. 

While I was there we ate a variety of foods, Cuban’s which are sub-type sandwiches with thinly sliced ham and pork, cheese, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. Saturday afternoon Janine brought home boiled peanuts which I’d never had before. They were soft and kinda spicy, not really my cup of tea. For lunch we had shrimp with grits and blackened grouper sandwiches. 

When I travel to another part of the United States I am often struck as to just how lucky we Americans are because there is so much variety within the borders of the good ole U S of A. So thanks Courtney, Janine, Cole, Graham, Roxy and Bob Roberts I had a wonderful time.

A Tough Choice

I’ve been unable to read through an entire news story about the recent congressional battle over the fate of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I become so incensed towards the Republican Party that I lose control of myself. It strikes me as a cosmic injustice that a party that shows such naked greed and disregard for the unfortunate swept the 2010 elections. How could a party that won by promising to reduce the deficit now insist on continuing tax cuts that will add something like a trillion dollars to our debt in the next decade? The fact that they earned the goodwill of voters makes me lose faith in the judgment of the American people.

The reptilian core of my brain tells me that Obama should let them block extensions of unemployment benefits and of the middle- and lower-class portions of the Bush tax cuts. The legislative stalemate would humiliate them by exposing the lengths they are willing to go to protect their millionaire constituents. Poll numbers for Republican members of Congress would drop, and Obama’s numbers would rise, putting Democrats in a good position for the 2012 elections. Finally, I would enjoy reading and talking about politics again. Justice would be restored to the universe.

The mammalian outer layer of my brain, however, gently reminds me that millions of Americans are jobless and suffering. It’s important to remember that casting the Republicans in a negative light is not the first priority of the Democratic Party, although it seems to be in this rancorous age. Instead, the Democrats were elected on a promise to work to end the recession, and, in the meantime, to lessen the hardship it causes. If they played a game of chicken with the Republicans on the issue of the Bush tax cuts, they might win the hearts of the American people, but they would lose sight of their real goals – to help the needy and to jump-start the economy.

Instead of being a moment of disgrace for Obama, this compromise represents a fulfillment of his 2008 campaign promise to rise above the bickering of party politics. It’s painful for a left-winger like me to watch Congress extend tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of a society that already suffers from a shamefully lopsided distribution of wealth, and already has way too much debt. But if that is what Democrats must accept to keep Republicans from blocking unemployment benefits, so be it.

Working On A Deal

President Obama announced yesterday that he had worked out a deal with Republican leaders in Congress on taxes and unemployment compensation.  The deal would extend all of the Bush-era income tax rates for two years, provide extended unemployment compensation for another 13 months, and reduce payroll taxes for a year, among other components.

The Bush-era tax cuts expire on December 31, so the deal needs to make it through Congress promptly.  There is some question about whether the “grand compromise” will be sufficiently well received — particularly among President Obama’s liberal base — to be passed in the lame duck Congress.  The concept of extending “tax cuts for the rich” is anathema to them, and they feel like President Obama weakly gave up far more to Republicans than he got in return.

It would not be at all surprising if there were many Democratic defections when votes are taken on the legislation needed to implement the proposed deal.  I know that Richard, for one, is so infuriated by the concept of extending the current tax rates for individuals earning more than $250,000 that he didn’t even want to talk about it at the dinner table last night.  I’m confident that many liberal Democrats share his disgust — and, more and more, the disgust is directed at the President.  If the deal does pass, we will see a significantly different political dynamic in 2011 than existed in 2010.  Not only will conservative Republicans control the House of Representatives, liberal Democrats will be increasingly likely to criticize President Obama as a sell-out who cannot play hardball with Republicans.