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Musings: Re-Entry

I’m recently back from an unexpected trip to the UK to visit family.  It has taken me almost a week to feel truly over my jet-lag.  I guess this is about normal because it is said that it takes one day for each hour of time differential, and there’s five hours between here and the UK.

The first couple of days are usually the worst for me.  My body clock is so off kilter that I’m never sure when I’m going to sleep and when I’m going to be awake.  But this time was different and I thought perhaps I was going to get back on track quickly – but it didn’t happen. 

I didn’t sleep at all on the return flight which was almost nine hours long.  This would have been understandable because it was a “day flight”, leaving London at about 9am.  However, I had only slept for three hours the previous night, the three days prior to departure were extremely emotional, and I was still recovering from jet-lag from the flight over there!!  I felt sure I would sleep.

I got into Atlanta, GA at about 1.35pm local time (already 6.35pm by my body clock!).  I was very pleasantly surprised at the ease and speed of the immigration (I’m a green card holder), baggage claim, customs, and re-check in process for my final flight home to Jacksonville, Florida.  We had plugged in a good five and a half hour layover for me here to allow for any hold-ups, but I was already cleared and through by 2.30pm.

Because we had only had brunch and a snack on the flight from London, and I knew there would be nothing served on the one-hour flight to Jax, I decided to get a decent meal before heading to my gate.  If ever you are passing through Atlanta airport and you’re near Concourse B needing a meal, check out the Intermezzo Cafe.  Great menu choices, excellent food and presentation, terrific service from super-friendly staff. 

Once my tummy was happy I headed over to my departure gate.  There were plenty of empty chairs and not too many people.  I made myself comfortable took out my book and settled in.  An hour later I could feel the waves of sleep wash over me but there was no way I could sleep in an airport chair without ruining my back or my neck – or both!  So I figured I’d take a walk around, get some water, and clear my head a little.

It was coming up on 5pm when I settled back into the gate area and I thought I’d make it through to the 6.30pm boarding and 7pm departure. (Keep in mind that’s midnight by my body clock; I’d been up and on the go since 2.30am!!)  But fate was not working well with me.  A delay announcement was made for the flight pushing it back to 8.49pm.

I was about to get frustrated when I suddenly remembered seeing a sign for “Minute Suites” at the entrance to Concourse B.  I decided to go and check out what that meant. This is another recommendation coming: if you’re passing through Atlanta airport and you have a long layover and want some quiet rest time or just some privacy to do some computer work or watch TV, go and check into “Minute Suites”. 

It costs thirty dollars for an hour then you can add on in increments of fifteen minutes.  You get a small private room with a comfortable pull-out couch with blanket and pillow.  There’s a TV, a work station, an alarm clock, and a white noise machine.  The light is on a dimmer and you can control the room temperature.  It is an absolute God-given gift for the weary traveler.  I managed to get a wonderful 50-minute cat-nap and I was good to go.

We finally got off the ground at 9.30pm and landed in Jax about an hour later.  By the time I got through baggage reclaim, made the shuttle, and got into my car it was 11.15pm.  Thank the Lord attendant at USA Park, which is the parking lot we regularly use at the Jax airport, hands out small bottles of water as you leave the lot.  I was running on fumes by now (4.15am of the next day on my body clock!!) and, with all the windows open, headed home.

I walked in my front door shortly after midnight.  My beloved husband had a plate of fresh fruit ready for me and he put on the kettle and made me a nice cup of herbal tea.  I fell into bed about forty five minutes later and thankfully slept until morning.  But it has taken my body until now, making small adjustments and taking the occasional nap during the day, to truly get back on track.

Self Nurturing: GrillSmith Of Tampa, FL

Well I just don’t care what others may think, I think that eating really good food falls into the “self nurturing” category!  There’s no denying that I am a “foodie”, whatever that may mean.  To me it means that I take absolute delight and pleasure in eating exquisite food, especially when it is perfectly presented and superbly served.

So let me introduce you to GrillSmith of Tampa, Florida.  My husband and I ended up there by “default”.  Best default I’ve experienced in a long time!  We were on a trip to Tampa (Musings- The Muse Is Back) and needing to go to Mass, we googled to find out which Catholic church was closest to the Westin Hotel where we were staying. We found Christ the King on South Dale Mabry Street.

Next in order was to google and find out what restaurants were close to the church.  There were a couple, one name that I recognized from a chain across Florida and which I wanted to try, and the other was GrillSmith. (I remember thinking “Oh, that sounds like your typical ‘sports bar’).  When we came out after Mass, we looked around and Richard saw GrillSmith just down the road.  I had a moment of disappointment but decided it wasn’t worth making a fuss about.  Was I glad!

When we walked in we were greeted by the hostess and the shift manager.  The ambiance was low-light (not dark) and warm.  It was very spacious inside and although it was quite full it did not give the appearance of being crowded.  Glancing quickly around me as we were seated I noticed that there was a wide cross section of all ages: young people, young couples, families with children, older couples.  Spanning the width at the end of the restaurant was an impressive bank of “grill stations”.

We were quickly approached by our server, Tom, who soon let us know that he had a sense of humor and a good sense of service.  The menu was extensive but not overwhelming and offered such a unique variety of dishes that I was salivating moments into reading it.  We needed more time to make our selections so Tom delivered the drinks and gave us our space.

Segments of the menu were labeled Small Plates (appetizers), Grilled Tortilla Pizzas, Fresh Salads, Fitness Plates, Steakburgers and Sandwiches, Pasta, Food On The Fire, Steaks and Chops, and Desserts.  There were maybe five or six offerings in each segment.  Each one sounded more succulent than the other.  I would mentally choose one then read another and change my mind!  Everything was so tantalizingly described.

We eventually narrowed our choices down, choosing to share an appetizer – Sticky Thai Wings (we chose the smaller portion; six rather than a dozen, and lived to regret it!!).  You’d think that wings were wings?  Not so my friends.  Some wings are good, some are excellent, and some are pure heaven – as were these.  They were served to us in the form of an artistic mini-mountain, abundantly drizzled with a sesame-honey sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds.  However, because they had been marinated in a citrus five spice hot chili there was the most marvelous under kick to the overall flavor:-).  

You remember at the beginning of this posting I declared myself to be a “foodie”?  Well, my husband is the opposite.  Don’t get me wrong; he enjoys good food, but he doesn’t “rave” about it!  Some dishes elicit slightly more excitement than others for him but he’s mainly an “it’s fine” or it’s good” kinda guy when you ask him how his food is. Very, very occasionally he’ll pronounce a “really good” about the food.

By the time he’d finished his first wing he was “mmm-mmmm-mmning” it.  After the second wing he was licking his fingers and said something like “gosh these are soooooo good” followed by “this sauce is reeeeally good”.  And as he polished off his third (and last!!), he made a comment along the lines of “Babe, you must dip your bread in the sauce”.  High compliments from the likes of my husband!

Our main courses arrived.  Richard had decided on the Margarita Grilled Tortilla Pizza. It arrived sizzling and looking delicious.  I think (I didn’t check this out with him) that he was a little disappointed when he saw it.  Maybe he was expecting something a little more substantial looking.  I know I was.  But when he bit into it all disappointment (real or imagined) and doubt disappeared.  He was back at that “mmm-mmmm-mmning”, and as he finished it I heard another, “This is reeeally good”.

My final choice had been from the Fitness Plates.  I figured if I was going to indulge I might as well make it healthy indulgence!  Tom served me the Avocado Salmon.  This was the best grilled salmon I have ever tasted, and laced over the top of it was a divine crushed avocado and wasabi concoction.  The salmon was accompanied by smashed cauliflower and fresh grilled vegetables. I have had mashed cauliflower before, and it was OK.  This was another one of those “heaven” moments; it was delicious!

In between our courses and as I was enjoying each bite of everything, I had been discreetly eyeing the various dishes that were being served to our fellow diners.  The presentations were wonderful and some of them quite curious.  I totally forgot to ask Tom what the small bamboo baskets were piled high with something – delectable I’m sure.  Perhaps a mountain of lightly battered calamari??

For the moment GrillSmith is only located in the Tampa area.  I’ve checked out their web sight and there are five existing restaurants in the Tampa, Clearwater, Lakeland area.  A sixth location will open up this fall in Brandon.  I’m hoping that they will eventually expand out across the State.  In the meanwhile,  if you’re in the Tampa area don’t miss out on this fine and exciting dining experience.  And for those who are wondering, prices are very reasonable for this kind of quality and service. (Our bill for an appetizer, two “mains”, freshly baked breadsticks, and unlimited soft drinks was $42.)