Why Shrimp Cocktail Sucks

Ok, not all, just most.

Typically, a shrimp cocktail has no flavor. It doesn’t taste fresh and sweet like fresh seafood; it tends to taste like ice, and at best like good flavorful cocktail sauce.

Truthfully, you could dip just about anything in that cocktail sauce, and it would taste the same and probably be considerably less expensive.

The reason is that people, especially restaurants, cook the shrimp all wrong!

I have found that most places throw some seasoning into a big pot of water. If you are lucky, they throw in some lemon or a bay leaf too.

Once the water comes to a boil people dump in shrimp in the shell, bring it back to a boil long enough to change color and then drain the shrimp. The next step is running cold water and maybe dumping some ice on top.

As if this has not washed away any possible flavor they then peel the shrimp taking off the only part that picked up any real taste.

So, lets back this up.

Thaw, peel and devein your shrimp (this recipe works for about 2 pounds)

Take all of the shells and toss them into a small stockpot with about 1 tablespoon of oil

Sautee the shrimp shells until they change color

Pour in two cans of beer (you decide what kind)

Add in 1 small onion, medium dice

4 cloves crushed garlic

About 1/2c. Old Bay Seasoning

3 bay leaves

2 cups of cold water

Bring all of this to a good rolling boil to infuse the cooking liquid with the all of the seasonings.

Once this comes to a boil dump in your shrimp, stir, bring to a boil and wait for the shrimp to become slightly firm and turn white.

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DO NOT REMOVE THE SHRIMP!

Remove from the heat, stir several times as the shrimp will continue to cook a touch more. Add in about 3 cups of ice and allow the shrimp to cool in the flavored liquid.

If you have ever allowed a piece of meat to rest to allow the juices to be drawn back into the meat; this is the same principle.

If you dump off the flavored liquid and run cold water over the shrimp, it will taste like cold water!

Once the shrimp have cooled, about 15 minutes, remove the shrimp from the cooking liquid and refrigerate. I typically keep about 2 cups of the strained liquid in the container with the shrimp so more absorbs and so they stay moist.

I promise you this will be the best shrimp cocktail you have ever had!

Enjoy

 

 

Missing In China

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LOL, yes, sometimes life gets in the way. Who would have known that my new, full-time job as a blogger for the wedding, events and hospitality industry would have taken off so fast?

Wedding Ghost originally started off with me blogging for wedding professionals. Mostly wedding planners, decorators and photographers. Since its start, I’ve started working with a number of venues, cake decorators, and caterers.

I’ve always been super passionate about food. It was my first love and with a formal education in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America, and working in the industry for close to 25 years; blogging for restaurant groups, caterers, craft food companies and bakers was second nature.

Check out some of my food reviews on Yelp!

On top of keeping really busy, we just got back from an awesome trip to China. Gate 1 Travel was amazing again! We started in Beijing, flew to Xi’an, took a bullet train to Chengdu, took a trip to Chongqing and embarked on a three-day riverboat cruise on the Yangtze River ending in Yichang and then wrapped up with a few days in Shanghai!

We saw some AMAZING sites including two of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World – The Great Wall of China and The Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, and we spent a lot of time with Pandas!

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Not to mention some crazy food!

WHEW!

Honestly, we had a blast!!!

To see more of our trip to China and read some of my blogging check out In Search of Neverland!

authentically mark - st pete blogger- flower truck - tampa bay posies - unique flower shop- volkswagen van- st petersburg flowers

I Love St Pete!

On a daily basis, I fall more and more in love with St Pete. People laugh at me when I say I only cross the bridge when I have to.

St Pete has a beautiful big city feel with a small town mentality. The culinary, arts and culture here is AMAZING. It is easy to navigate, and you have several significant hubs with new art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants; whether it be downtown, on the gulf or off Central Avenue.

Recently I was driving down Central Avenue heading downtown to do some errands, and I passed a Volkswagen van parked next to a local coffee shop, I did a double take and had to circle back around.

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This remarkable, unique blue van is the Tampa Bay Posies Flower Truck!  The business was started by two friends who had a ‘little extra time’ on their hands.  They found this van and had it retrofitted to hold flower buckets and covered it with a canopy.

The buckets are full of unique flower blooms not found in dull supermarket flowers.   Today they had beautiful pink and white peonies, heather, HUGE King Protea, puffy green dianthus, and several varieties of roses and anemones.

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They are available in the Tampa Bay Area for weddings as a great photo op as well as offering small wrapped posies of fresh flowers for your guests as a favor. They have many standing orders they deliver, but most times, you can find them at local events and pop-up venues. They keep a calendar of locations on their website and you can find them on Facebook and Instagram as well.

The concept is adorable, the flowers are beautiful, and the ladies are too, too sweet.

I found them on my way to check out Brooklyn South on Central Avenue. They are a gourmet cheese, meat and sandwich shop, tucked into a fun, funky 450 square foot space.

authentically Mark - Sain Petersburg Florida - st petersburg cheese shop - Brooklyn South- saint petersburg sandwiches- st petersburg florida restaurants

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They offer an impressive selection of imported and domestic cheeses and charcuterie; unique scratch-made sandwiches and gourmet food products from Brooklyn and around the world. The shop is packed to the gills with beer, wine, unique sodas and soft drinks as well as specialty retail items.

I popped in for a sandwich and stayed for great foodie conversation with owner Matt Bonano.

I ordered the Italian, it is a pressed sandwich on locally baked ciabatta bread, but everything on the well-crafted menu and the daily specials looked exciting and delicious as well.

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mark kingsdorf- st pete food blogger- brookyn south- gourmet sandwiches in st petersburg florida

They offer after-hours cheese classes and work to promote local artisan meat and cheese producers.

This is my St Pete, and both of these businesses are exactly why we love it here!

 

This week starts a journey…

…that’s been quite a while in the making.

Somewhere, right after we moved to St Petersburg we heard someone from church talking about participating in the Smart Ride. Smart Ride is the southernmost AIDS Ride, in its 14th year that raises money for service organizations across the state of Florida.

Since 2003 they have raised over 8 million dollars and 100% of the money raised is distributed to organizations who provide services like:

  • Pharmaceutical Care
  • Residential Assistance
  • Psycho Social Services
  • Dental Care
  • Holistic Care
  • Housing
  • Medical Care
  • Prenatal and Child Care
  • Prevention & Education

All costs of the ride are covered by the riders and many, many sponsors:  everything from food, to lodging, medical, pit stops, etc..

The ride is from Miami to Key West, 165 miles over two days with 100 miles the first day and 65 the second with a group procession of all 400+ riders and 300+ volunteers through the streets of Key West, ending at the White Street Pier AIDS Memorial.

Chuck had been training pretty diligently, through really hot Florida summer.  He was side tracked a little with some family issues and then Hurricane Irma came to visit.  But he was back on track in November ready for the adventure ahead.

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Photo by Rhodes Studios

Unfortunately, the race originally scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving had to be pushed out into 2018 because of some of the severe damage in Marathon Key, the first night’s stay; as well as in Key West.

I’ll be tagging along driving from St Petersburg to Miami and then continuing on my own to key West stopping along the way to sightsee, try some great food and hopefully capture some images of the ride, cheering on riders along the way. Chuck and I will get to enjoy some time with the riders on Saturday and then head back the next day.

Here is a video with areal footage from a previous ride:

If you are able we’d really appreciate it if you could support Chuck and the ride – here is a link to Chuck’s Fundraising page with information on the local charities he chose. Any donation would be greatly appreciated.  If you are unable to make a donation, just keep him and the other riders and volunteers in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Stay tuned for more pictures and updates from the Keys!

Slightly Art Obsessed

When we moved to St Petersburg Florida earlier this year we knew that it had an amazing arts community.

What I didn’t expect is that I’d find myself hanging out in parking lots and alleyways along Central Avenue, the areas encompassing the Edge District / Warehouse Arts District / Grand Central District… honestly, it’s not like it sounds.

St Pete has an AMAZING and growing collection of public art; there are murals all over the district. On the sides of stores themed to go with their products, on amazing new restaurants, tattoo parlors, The State Theater, in alleys and parking lots.

They are easily accessible to everyone and walking this past week I encountered countless people: couples, small groups, people walking and on bikes all enjoying and photographing these awesome pieces of one of a kind artwork.

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The styles vary greatly from almost graffiti like, to geometric, cartoony and very realistic. Every style, color and design you can imagine.

One of my favorites is by Latin Pop Artist John Gascot; his mural of the Statue of Liberty is on the wall of a local club.

St Petersburg - Florida - Murals - John Gascot - Latin Pop Artist - Mark Kingsdorf - blogger - freelance writer - authentically Mark - wedding ghost

Not only is it a beautiful representation but I’ve known John personally for a very long time; and admire his work and dedication to making art accessible, showcasing local artists and encouraging LGBTQ youth to express themselves through art.

This beautiful piece adorns the side of NuMex, a recently opened restaurant featuring twists on New Mexico cuisine that is getting rave reviews.

St Petersburg - Florida - murals- NuMex - Authentically Mark

Down the block, a restaurant with an Old Key West vibe has a mural showcasing sunsets, funky wooden directional signs, crabs and shuttered windows.

St Petersburg - Florida - murals - Old Key West Bar and Grill - Authentically Mark

An almost photographic looking mural lines the side wall of a local tattoo shop, a colorful geometric pattern fills the wall along an office space and a fun cartoon representation sits across from a church.

I’ve found this amazing art form in doorways, flowing from walls onto trash dumpsters and across drainpipes, building arches and uniquely shaped facades…it’s everywhere!

While you can enjoy a lot of these beautiful pieces of artwork driving along Central Avenue or 1st Avenue North and South, or taking the Central Avenue Trolley; I highly recommend finding a place to park and enjoying a walk, some shopping, the Morean Arts Center, Chihuly Collection, and try one of the great local restaurants or breweries.

One visit might not be enough; you might just become as obsessed as I am.

Looking at 2018 Wedding Trends

As 2017 draws to a close and we start to look at the upcoming engagement season; I always enjoy looking ahead to wedding trends for the next year.

The wedding industry follows the fashion industry; truthfully, nearly everything follows the fashion industry… You only have to watch “The Devil Wears Prada” to learn that.

Bohemian (you know, Boho) started its emergence in 2017 and is coming on strong in 2018; we’ll see the 1970’s craft macramé showing up everywhere, knotted rope designs in beautiful patterns will be seen in ceremony backdrops, covering chuppahs and as decor on sweetheart tables.

macrame - 2018 Wedding Trends - Authentically Mark - Wedding Ghost - blogger
Macrame

Pantone picked “Greenery” as one of the 2017 colors of the year; and it’s not going away, we’re going to see foliage everywhere! Not just in rustic and garden party décor but in more classic, elegant, traditional décor design as well. Everything from green plants lining the aisle, to being incorporated into living bars and food stations. Unique leaves and ivy will show up in centerpieces, tablescapes and of course bouquets; flowering bouquets of dogwood with all of the greenery intact will be big this spring.

While romantic white weddings will continue to be popular, we’ll see bold, rich colors coming back again; making appearances in linen, flowers, stationery and candles.

Texture, texture in everything; not just macramé and foliage but in linen and gowns too… we’ll see lots of couples accenting tables with everything from velvet, to embroidery and pearls.

Pearls, are not just for earrings anymore; we’ll see them on linen, wedding gowns and other accents beyond jewelry.

2018 Wedding Trends - Pearls - Weddings - Authentically Mark - Wedding Ghost
Pearls

Two of my personal favorites… smaller wedding parties and incorporating fun, interesting food stations into the reception. Everything from upscale Mexican street food to Korean and Peruvian will be highlighted in curated stations and passed hors d’oeuvres.

With these predictions and trends moving forward… what is the one trend from 2017 you’ll be happy to see go?

 

There’s No Place Like Home

I’m a foodie, I fully admit it… when we travel we experience a new destination through its food; we LOVE food tours and eating where the locals eat.

Many of you know me as a Master Wedding Planner; but prior to that I worked a number of years as a chef and in food and beverage. I’m actually a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York.

When I got out of kitchens, professionally, I really started to enjoy cooking, entertaining and exploring food again. In wedding planning my love of food really helped me attract couples who were also foodies and wanted to incorporate food that reflected them in their wedding. My journey into my new blogging business, Wedding Ghost, has also attracted wedding venues, caterers and bakers as clients as well.

My wedding planning company was just a few years old when my husband and I met; we lived right at the edge of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The market is filled with amazing butcher shops, cheese stores, fresh pasta shops, coffee roasters, bakers and produce shops. Some are new startups; others have been there several generations, but all offered AMAZING artisan foods… all within walking distance of our house.

When we moved to Orlando, nothing like this existed… Italian ingredients were few and far between. I found one location but everything was prepackaged and it smelled like a strip mall, and not of aged provolone, olives or fresh bread.

Then a friend introduced me to Mazzaro’s Market (thanks Shannon!) in St Petersburg… the skies opened and the angels sang. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and I made the pilgrimage from Clermont, about an hour and a half drive, and stocked up for the holidays.

What took up several city blocks of small store front row houses in Philadelphia’s Italian Market is condensed into two large buildings here in Florida. The first is mostly teas, coffee and kitchen wares… but the main attraction in all under one roof in the second building.

You enter the building through gardens with marble statues, classic Italian murals, fun quirky photo ops and into nirvana.

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Mazzaro's Murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

You are greeted by a small produce area with things you don’t often find in supermarkets, an olive bar with both oil and salt cured olives, an awesome selection of mushrooms, things like fresh fennel bulbs, whole fresh artichokes, fresh herbs and seasonal things like chestnuts in the shell.

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Produce

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Olive Bar

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Florida Chestnuts

Just beyond that is a butcher and seafood counter with homemade sausage, braccole and beautiful cuts of meat not found in your average supermarket. They have refrigerated counters filled with premade homemade meals, soups and salads.

I typically cut a path to the wine and cheese room! Wines from all over Italy fill this cavernous room, to get there you pass by counters of cheeses, pate and condiments from all over the world with a huge assortment from Italy including fresh mozzarella, aged provolone, dozens of others and on my last visit there were three kinds of fresh truffles!

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The main space of the building is almost overwhelming… premade foods to take home, fresh made sandwiches, imported oils, vinegars and specialty foods. A counter with imported meats and sausages, fresh made pasta with dozens of varieties daily, a bakery with fresh breads, pastry, cookies and gelato, a coffee bar and roaster!

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Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Baked Breads

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Italian Pastry

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Pasta

It even has a taste of home with di Bruno Brother’s cheese spreads!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Philadelphia - Di Bruno Bros.

While nothing in St Petersburg is very far; having Marraro’s about 10 minutes away makes it feel like home. All the ingredients and food I grew up with helps me keep the feeling of family close, especially at the holidays.