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Shrimp And Grits At Muddy Waters

If you read my previous post about my quest for finding a good meal of shrimp and grits in the Syracuse NY area, then this post won’t surprise anyone. Once again I decided to give another restaurant that purported to make this spectacular dish that I originally had in Memphis, TN the chance to impress me.

muddy-waters-wall

Muddy Waters is located on Oswego St in Baldwinsville, and truthfully I’d never heard of it until I decided I wanted to try something different and did a search on Google for restaurants in the area. I saw that they claimed to have a menu steeped in New Orleans cuisine, and even though I felt burned by a previous restaurant making that same claim, once I saw shrimp and grits on their menu I knew I had to go there.

The picture above is the first thing you see when you’re walking towards the restaurant, which is on the lower level of a building that houses a bar on the upper level. It has a pretty big space inside and also seating outside, and it’s possible that they have entertainment on the weekend. In the middle is a big bar with TV’s set on sports channels, but I always come equipped with my own entertainment. lol

When the waitress came over and asked me what I wanted to drink, I asked for sweet tea… and of course they didn’t have it. Folks, you can’t call yourself a Louisiana, southern or soul food restaurant if you’re not going to serve sweet tea! I ordered something else to drink, then decided to have the red beans and rice soup and of course the shrimp and grits meal.

red-beans-and-rice-soupred beans & rice soup

As you can see, the presentation of the soup was pretty special; I wasn’t expecting it to look like this. I took my first spoonful with just a bit of the rice and soup so I could see what I might be in for, since sometimes these places serve spicy hot food. Instead, this was very flavorful, although the soup wasn’t very hot. I mention that for people who like their soup steaming hot; personally, I like a soup that I can immediately eat and not only could I do that with this soup, but I immediately mixed the rest of the rice into the soup so I’d have a mixture of both with each spoonful.

If you liked the presentation of the soup, then I’m betting you love the presentation of the shrimp and grits as much as I did. This looked spectacular, and I have to say it’s the most shrimp I’ve ever had with any version of this particular meal.

shrimp-and-grits-muddy-watersshrimp & grits

Being me, I first wanted to see how the grits tasted on their own, as I’d never seen it presented in a square before… they tasted just right. Then I had a bite of one of the shrimp on its own and once again it was flavored perfectly, with just a minor kick of heat. Although I happen to like andouille sausage in my shrimp & grits, the flavor was such that it really wasn’t needed. Since the shrimp came on wooden skewers I pulled them off both skewers and cut them up so I could remove the tails and mix the shrimp and grits together; yes, that’s a pattern of mine. 🙂

I don’t think I can tell you how much I enjoyed eating this meal. Unlike the sampling I had at Laci’s (see the other article), this was a full meal and I wasn’t left hungry after eating it. That turned out to be a good thing because there wasn’t a single dessert on the menu that was calling my name… I’m picky about dessert.

This was a wonderful and enjoyable meal, and the best thing for me is that, since I live in Liverpool, it’s closer than any of the other restaurants I’d been to before. This means I’ll be going often to have this when I want something different than the norm, and I might even try something else on the menu… we’ll see. 😉  

What Are The Rest Of Us Missing?

I don’t watch a lot of TV, and I’m watching even less now that I haven’t turned pro wrestling on for weeks (don’t judge me lol). I missed almost the entire Olympics except for the last 2 1/2 men’s basketball games and, other than seeing some shows when I visit my mother, that’s about it, not counting watching a Star Trek Voyager DVD last Friday.

oberalp-house

When I do pop the TV on, it’s usually on the weekend, mainly Saturday, and that’s because for some reason I love watching either the DIY or H&G TV shows where they have people either looking to find new houses of different types or are showing a lot of skill in upgrading homes, something my wife and I hope to do with our own home someday.

As much as I love these shows, I have to admit that sometimes I’m watching a show that makes me wonder what’s wrong with my life. Actually, that’s not quite correct; I wonder what I’m missing, what most of the people I know are missing, and what are we doing wrong when compared to some of these people.

You see that house above? How many people who read this believe they’ll ever be able to afford something like that? This isn’t a question of whether you want it or not; it’s a question of if you could if you wanted it.

What makes me ask this question, or why am I thinking about it? Because one of the latest shows I began to watch had this couple who didn’t seem all that much different than my wife and I. They were looking to buy some waterfront property in California. They had a budget of $1 million… yes, you read that right. Their problem? Most of the homes in the area they were looking at started around $4 million. 4 MILLION?!?!? :-O

Just to make this clear, I’m not close to jealous that people have this kind of money. I’m one of those people who believes that most people get what they deserve, so that’s not the issue. The issue is that I want to be at a level where I can afford to buy something like this, whether it’s the dream I have for myself or not.

It’s not even the house that I’m talking about as much as the lifestyle. Imagine living a life where you have no issues with money, where you could decide to eat out every night or hire a dietician, build a media room with the best equipment, add a hot tub or Jacuzzi, fly around the world, or whatever it is you want to do without worrying about whether you can afford it or not and still pay your bills. Tell me that doesn’t sound wonderful!

Christmas-tree-houseChristmas Tree House

I also understand that the cost of living is astronomical in some places, so the idea of a $4 million dollar home in areas like central New York is a bit ridiculous. Still, what about this house, which sits unoccupied on Onondaga Lake, which was just reduced to around $550,000? How many of us living in this area can afford this, even though I have to admit that based on its interior design I’m not sure I’d want it either (except for the master bedroom; wow! lol)

One of the reasons I’ve always wanted to belong to a mastermind group in this area is because I’ve always felt that, while I like the idea of being a sole proprietor, what I miss is being able to talk to other sole proprietors on a regular basis to throw ideas around, be encouraged, give encouragement and help each other grow. After 15 years it’s the one thing I really miss from the days when I was an employee like all my friends, being able to talk to people about “business” and put things in place to see what we could achieve.

In any case, at least I know what I’m striving for and what I’m working towards. If I have to do it on my own then so be it. Maybe I’ll be the one to buy the house on the lake so I can renovate it to my heart’s content… nah! 🙂  

Shrimp And Grits In Syracuse

Some time ago I spent 18 months in Memphis. Although eating a lot of foods that weren’t indigenous to New York didn’t treat my system all that well, one that did was shrimp and grits. I mean, take two things I love, add andouille sausage to it; what can go wrong?

It turns out a lot can go wrong. Even in Memphis I only found a couple of places that made it perfectly. One place, which is part of a restaurant chain owned by the same people who own Red Lobster, made a very bland version of it. Another place that swore by its Louisiana roots made a meal that looked wonderful, but it was so salty that I ate less than half of it and my legs cramped up the rest of the day.

Still, the quest for shrimp and grits led me to see if there were any places in Syracuse purporting to make it, and I found two likely candidates. I’d never been to either of these places so I figured this would be a good opportunity to check each place out.

Laci's shrimp and gritsLaci’s shrimp and grits

The first place I tried was Laci’s Tapas Bar on Hawley Avenue. I went there for dinner and the place was pretty packed, so packed I actually sat at the bar to eat my dinner… if you know me you know that’s rare, and in normal circumstances I’d have walked out and maybe come back another day. This time I was on a quest so I decided to suck it up for the experience.

Based on my first observation I thought I was going to be eating cheesy grits, which isn’t what shrimp and grits is supposed to be, and I noticed bacon instead of andouille sausage. Then I tasted it… very nice indeed! The grits were cooked just right, which I don’t encounter all that often in central New York, and the use of small shrimp made it feel like I was getting more shrimp than I know I was. The bacon added a nice touch in flavor to the extent that I didn’t miss the sausage at all.

The only gripe I had was that it was a relatively small serving. However, since they tout themselves as more of a healthy option for meals that seemed to make sense, and for the price… I paid more for the same meal in Memphis and got more food so if I go back I’ll know to ask for two portions or indulge in an appetizer.

peanut butter surprise

Since I was still hungry I decided to order dessert, which was called Peanut Butter Surprise. It was a small chocolate cake the size of a cupcake and the surprise was peanut butter mousse. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste the mousse as it was fairly light and the cake was a bit soft and mushy, so I ate less than half of it before calling it a night.

Next on my quest was Creole Soul Cafe on East Jefferson St, where I went for lunch. It’s in the old Dey’s building just up the street from both Gannon’s and Cafe Kabul. It touts New Orleans style cuisine, which made me think of the one restaurant I went to in Memphis where my portion was too salty. Yet when I walked in the door, even though it was the peak of lunch time, I was surprised to see that I was the only client in the place.

The menu showed something called grits and gravy, which you could have with either shrimp, andouille sausage or alligator (?) or fish. I decided to have both shrimp and andouille, but worried about gravy in my grits, something I’ve never had in all my years of consuming grits. I also ordered a sweet tea, figuring a restaurant purporting to represent a Southern city must have good sweet tea.

grits and...shrimpCreole’s Shrimp & Grits

Let me say this; when I got home I couldn’t find a single example after doing a Google search of shrimp and grits looking anything like this. It didn’t look like it was going to be appealing… and it wasn’t. The grits were overcooked and the gravy was overwhelming, and neither had any flavor, to the extent that I had to keep adding salt to it. I usually don’t like this type of cheese on anything I eat and I didn’t like it here either.

Having the fried shrimp on the side instead of it being grilled and an actual part of the meal was very disappointing based on what I was hoping for. Even though it turned out to be tasty, it was way over-breaded so most of the flavor was in that. Those other things on the plate… that wasn’t sausage! lol It’s possible it was gator, and I bit into one, hated the texture and taste and didn’t try another one. Since I hadn’t eaten anything on the day I went ahead and ate it all, and its only saving graces were that it was a bit more food than I had at Laci’s and the sweet tea wasn’t bad… not great but not the worst tea I’ve had in town (at least it had some sweetness; thank goodness for McDonald’s sweet tea lol).

Obviously if I had to make a recommendation Laci’s wins hands down. I did mention to one of the proprietors of the joint as I was leaving that I enjoyed my meal, though I missed the sausage, but that the bacon added something that was a pretty nice extra. If I get the craving for it again I know where I’m heading.  

Wegmans Playground At Onondaga Lake Park

I’ve never had occasion to check out the large Wegmans Playground at Onondaga Lake Park before because I don’t have any children. I have walked around it but had never paid much attention to it.

Wegmans Playground entrance

Wegmans Playground entrance

That is until recently, when my wife and I got to spend a few hours with my great niece Shaniece. I thought it would be a great place to take a 3-year old and let her burn off some energy; man, I was right on that one!

It seems a bit cliched to resort to using the word “cornucopia”, but this area seems to fit the bill for all the little kids. There are a host of things I never saw when I was a kid, lots of things for them to climb on and under, as well as the usual number of slides (now plastic) and swings.

Frankly, it was astounding how much of everything there was, and how big a couple of the structures were. It had to be that big because of the high number of kids who were there with their families; I’m certainly not used to being around that many kids.

There were a few things I had to learn about kids that my wife had warned me about; after all, I’m an only child who’s not really used to kids and she was one of seven but babysat a lot as a teenager.

20160702_141351One is that children are, for a lack of a better term, “germy”. I couldn’t believe how many kids were licking poles; yuck! They would pick stuff up and put it in their mouths, rub their faces on all sorts of things… yuck! They also had no clue about all the goose poo, and if their parents weren’t quick enough (luckily I was), they’d be stomping it it and making it squish all over the place.

Two, the slightly bigger kids don’t really care that the smaller kids might be in their way, and sometimes their parents either don’t care or aren’t paying attention. There were many times when they’d just knock those smaller than them out of their way… that is, unless they noticed an adult looking at them, and trust me I was looking at them hard. After all, my niece was with me; nothing was going to happen to her on my watch because I wasn’t the one who was going to have to tell her I failed in my duty to protect her.

Puzzle game

Puzzle game

Three, there were actually some pretty polite children. One little girl asked me if I could please help her get down from something that was scaring her, and once she was down she thanked me; that was cute. Another was confused while playing this large puzzle grid game that I had as a kid (much smaller of course) and took my suggestions in a positive way (he solved it lol).

The funny thing is that it seems the park isn’t only a gathering for children. I noticed a lot of parents or guardians enjoying each other’s company, which reminded me of park scenes I’ve seen on TV and in movies (that wasn’t a part of my childhood, so I never knew it was a real thing). I found that intriguing, and realized that, some of those parents probably found the chance to be around other adults while not really needing to worry about their kids a bit relaxing.

Of course, if you’re watching someone 4 years or younger, or a bit smaller than the other kids, some of what awaits them is a bit dangerous. Shaniece wanted to try a few things that her little legs couldn’t quite reach, and though I applauded her bravery I also applauded her common sense. There were a few things I didn’t think she could (or should) do but she figured them out and turned out to be quite adept. It was fascinating to watch and I have to admit that I had a lot of fun.

sitting by the lakeWe were there a couple of hours, which included a walk over by the lake to get close to the water and the geese, and her enjoying some of those Dippin’ Dots (ice cream of the future) you always see at the Fair. It did end up wearing her down; too bad the nap only lasted 15 minutes. lol

I don’t know if they have anything like that anywhere else within the central New York area but if you have young kids and want to check it out, go into the Onondaga Lake Parkway entrance and follow the road to the large parking lot. Once there, you can’t miss it.  

Things I’ve Seen Lately In Liverpool… Some Of Them Old…

Come July I’ll have been living in Liverpool NY for 41 years. By now you’d think I would have seen pretty much everything there is to see in the area; after all, it’s not a metropolis by any stretch of the imagination.

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen some things that I’ve never seen before. It turns out that there are some new changes at the park and some existing things that I’ve either never truly seen or paid any attention to. I have picture of some of these things to share and others I’m just going to talk about.

Johnson ParkJohnson Park

The first thing to talk about is Johnson Park, which is right in the middle of the village. I’ve driven by it thousands of times and looked over every once in a while when there were musicians playing but until last Friday I’d never actually walked over there. I have to say that I was lucky to have a perfect weather day to see the beauty in the park. I walked over to the gazebo and the stage and wished I was still singing because I think it would be pretty neat to be up there in front of a lot of people.

While I was there I took a look across the street at the church with the purple doors. I actually was not only part of a wedding party there once but I sang a duet with someone else during the ceremony, Endless Love, which turned out to be the only duet I ever sang. Next door… when did they put that Masonic Temple in there? lol It’s been there for decades, way before I moved here, yet I’d never noticed it before.

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Next we have this barrier that’s been put up near the Salt Museum side of the lake. I’m assuming it’s there to bar anyone who’s not bringing a boat to put up at the marina from coming in. That almost makes sense except there are a few other access points where people could come in if they wanted to, especially the access road near what I call the yacht clubhouse, which is unimpeded. At this point it just looks goofy hanging there on its own, but maybe they’re planning on doing something with the other roads in the future.

IMG_20160521_131333

At the other end of the lake on the Salina side are these couple of shacks where people can rent kayaks. I never knew there was a place in the village where people could rent such a thing because one, I don’t swim and would never do it and two, because I’ve never seen anyone kayaking on the lake. I’m not even sure whether these are wood or some kind of plastic but I’m sure they weren’t there a couple of weeks ago… even though I’m not the most observant person in the world so it’s possible they could have been there as long as a week, even though I walked at the lake 4 days last week.

IMG_20160524_113333

From where I sit, a great reason to not kayak is because we all know that the lake still isn’t clean, no matter what the press covered last year when they allowed people to swim in the lake for the first time in decades. Other than the Syracuse crew team I haven’t seen anyone else swim in the lake. Based on seeing this thing today I’m glad I can’t swim. It’s the first time I’ve seen it, and I know it’s there to clean up the lake, yet I saw it dumping dirt in, which was confusing to me. Frankly, I’m not sure how that’s cleaning up anything but I’m not a scientist so I’m going to assume someone knows what they’re doing.

IMG_20160426_114601

The final thing I’m going to mention is finding out that the Clay Town Hall has solar panels providing around 80% of its energy usage, totally covering them during the day and only using what’s needed to power a few things in the evening. I was told that there’s only one other town in the area that has solar panels; how cool is this? Saving the town money and protecting the environment at the same time; who could ask for more?  

Copyright 2016