Shakespearean Idol

Last month, Barron Collier had its annual Shakespeare competition in which students had to memorize a 20 line monologue and a sonnet. Here's a trailer made in TV Production advertising this event.



Producer: Avery Segal
Editor: J. Sventek
Cameraman: F. Vitiello
Auditioner: C. Mansour
Paula Abdul: K. Marconi
Simon Cowell: F. Vitiello
Randy Jackson: Mr. Bolden
Ryan Seacrest: Mr. Partello


Cafe Normandie Restaurant Review

As I headed to Cafe Normandie, I didn’t know what to expect. My first taste of French food had not gone over well; I had the misimpression that all French food is drowned in  butter and cream and is essentially an excuse for Americans to go off their diets.

Cafe Normandie defied my expectations. When I opened the cafe’s door, the smell of freshly baked bread filled the air. This smell immediately lured me to the “sandwich” part of the menu, and I inevitably decided to order the salmon sandwich. My partner chose the “friand to order.”

The salmon sandwich was absolutely everything that a sandwich should be. The baguette was right out of the oven – crispy on the outside, while light on the inside. According to our waitress, the dough was imported directly from France. The baguette was filled with smoked salmon, fresh spinach, and tomato slices. The smoked salmon was top of the line quality – the best I’ve ever had- and was layered generously on the baguette.  The sandwich and spinach salad came with a very light balsamic vinaigrette that didn’t overpower the smokiness of the salmon.

The friand included a choice of 3 stuffings (meats, cheeses, and/or vegetables). My partner chose chicken, brie, and fresh spinach. The pastry was light, flaky, and “melt in your mouth” delicious. The amount of brie was perfect – enough , yet not so much as to overpower the chicken and the fresh spinach.

Chef and owner Benoit Legris, from Normandie, runs this cafe wonderfully. He greeted us, chatted with us, and, at the same time, completed multiple orders. He serves simple, delicious, yet not pretentious, French cuisine.

Both dishes were large enough to take half home. The only problem was they tasted so amazing that we didn’t have the self control to do so.

[easyreview title=”Cafe Normandie” cat1title=”Taste” cat1detail=”The ingredients were distinctly fresh, the bread hand-baked, and contained perfect amounts of brie and/or vinaigrette.” cat1rating=”3.5″ cat2title=”Atmosphere” cat2detail=”Cafe Normandie is a quaint little French eatery, with charming paintings and the smell of bread baking as you enter.” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Food Presentation” cat3detail=” A crisp spinach salad accompanied each of the well put-together sandwiches. ” cat3rating=”3″ cat4title=”Service” cat4detail=”Our waitress was friendly, hospitable, and the food service was fast and efficient.” cat4rating=”3.5″ cat5title=”Overall” cat5detail=”Cafe Normandie represents French food at its best with the absolute freshest and best ingredients available. I look forward to many meals here in the future. ” cat5rating=”3.5″]

Cafe Normandie

3756 Tamiami Trail North; (239) 261-0977

About Us

PRICE RANGE: Lunch $9 to $13, Appetizers $6 to $13, Dinners $17 to $23
CREDIT CARDS: All major ones are accepted
HOURS: Lunch 11 am to 3 pm, Dinner 5 pm to 8:30 pm

Lithuanian Vindaloo/Galangal Stew

One of my dad's housemates is Lithuanian. He is a renowned naturopath and physician, and knows about the beneficial health properties of many exotic foods and drinks known to man.

Yesterday, my dad told me that dinner had been prepared by his housemate for some friends from Lithuania and me. Actually, that's not what he said. He told me that he "felt awkward being the only English-speaker at the table", and requested my presence. The guilt trip worked, and I soon walked to the dinner table to see what meal awaited me. I stumbled upon this:

This self-named "vindaloo stew" incorporated a medley of fresh picked organic vegetables from the garden with an almost curry-like sauce. From far away, it actually looked pretty decent. We blessed our meal for 5 minutes, and began to eat.

From the first bite, all I could taste was a bitter, wasabi-like horseradish taste. The combination of spicy dried vindaloo and heaps of fresh ginger-like and peppery galangal stopped me dead in my tracks. My body begged me not to take another bite, and I began to tear up from the spice. I looked around the table to see everyone else's reaction to the seasoning, and couldn't help but notice that my dad was downing it with large bites. Lithuanian eyes gleamed at me in hope that I was enjoying this meal. I sheepishly smiled, and took a few more bites. I was reminded of a wasabi eating contest we had in Korea, when my "Hyong" (host family brother) ate a hunk of wasabi the size of a ping pong ball  for $20.

I couldn't continue eating, but I needed to show signs of politeness and grace since the meal was generously prepared for us. I quickly thought of three strategies:

  1. Angle my spoon towards me, so I could take empty spoonfuls, put them in my mouth, and smile knowingly.
  2. Pick out the butternut squash and broccoli and eat only those two ingredients since they masked the shoe-like flavor of the dish.
  3. Accidentally drop my bowl off the table onto my foot, and then politely excuse myself to leave and go to the hospital and get stitches.

Note: Strategy #3 was quickly discarded.

After the meal, my dad asked me what I thought of it. I responded truthfully about the seasoning, and he remarked how it would, "Clear my sinuses," and was very healthy for me.

The point of this post is that no matter how healthy a food or ingredient is, no matter the number of anti-cancer properties it contains, no matter the massive amount of energy gained from eating it; it only can affect you if it tastes good enough to finish the bowl.

I probably would've extended my life by several days if I had finished my bowl of vindaloo galangal stew, but looking back, it's definitely was not worth it.

Rehearsal for Murder Trailer

The Barron Collier Drama Club proudly presents…

Rehearsal for Murder

Evening performances are at 7:30 next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Special Matinee is at 2:30 on Saturday. Tickets are $7 at the door.


The play opens in an empty New York theatre. The playwright has supposedly brought in actors to read bits and pieces of a new play, a murder mystery. As the readings unfold, we begin to see that everyone on the stage was involved in the last play by the same playwright exactly one year ago—everyone, that is, except the lead actress who was engaged to the playwright and mysteriously committed suicide; or did she?



Vegetarian Tom Kha Gai Recipe

Tom kha gai (translated literally to mean chicken galangal soup), incorporates so many contrasting flavors that it can be intimidating for a new chef. When I first tasted tom kha gai at a Thai restaurant, I was so inspired that i wrote the following passage about its flavors:

Immediately the creamy milk hits your palate; transporting you to an exotic Thai beach. You’re lying down on a chase lounge; soup bowl in hand. As you slurp the broth, a hint of kaffir lime adds the perfect amount of tartness- enough so it plays off of the coconut milk, while not so much so that the tartness is overwhelming. Shreds of galangal root float about the bowl, each one permeating the broth with an earthy, citrusy flavor. Normally, the rice noodles would seem slightly overcooked and gloppy, but because they are coated in the broth, the flavors meld together to become one. With the last spoonful of broth, the elusive flavor of lemongrass- impalpable yet distinctly aromatic- lingers on.

This past week I attempted my own version of this Thai classic based upon a recipe found online. My variation follows:

Vegetarian Tom Kah Gai


The broth was perfectly seasoned by the combination of bullion, lime, lemongrass, and galangal. Every ingredient added to the flavor and texture of the soup.

Ease of Execution

About 20 minutes from start to finish, including prep time. While lemongrass and galangal root may seem intimidating to prepare, it’s simple once you get started.”


Moderately attractive in the bowl, particularly when sprinkled with chiffonades of basil.


Tom kah gai is an easy to make delicious soup definitely a try.


4-5 stalks lemongrass
2 cans (14 ounces each) unsweetened coconut milk
2 bouillon cubes (or 1.5 cups of vegetable stock)
1 galangal root (cut into 20 quarter-sized slices)
10 peppercorns (or ground pepper
Zest of 1/2 lime
1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes or butternut squash
1 can garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 scallions sliced
Basil (to taste)

1. Peel away the outer dry layers of the lemongrass. Trim the tops. You will use roughly 6 inches above the base. Using a blade/knife, bruise each stalk at 2 inch intervals at all sides.

2. Peel the galangal root and cut into 20 quarter-sized pieces.

2. Heat the coconut milk and water with bouillon over medium heat. Stir in the galangal root, lemongrass, peppercorns, and lime zest.

3. Cut the sweet potato/squash into large bite-sized pieces. Add to the broth, and bring soup to a gentle boil for 10 minutes.

4. Remove soup from heat and add the garbanzo beans, soy sauce, lime juice, and green onions. Serve warm with whole basil leaves or chiffinades of basil (see notes).


  • To chiffonade basil, simply stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them intro a tight bundle. Cut diagonally.
  • In Thailand this soup is served with the lemongrass and galangal root still in the soup. If you would rather not  eat around them at the table,  remove them from the soup before Step 4.
  • Basil can be replaced with cilantro.
  • Mung bean noodles can also be added.

2011 New Year’s Eve

Every year, I eagerly look forward to New Year’s Eve. Not for the typical reasons; but for food, mochi, and quality time spent with my one and only family (isn’t that corny enough to be  on a greeting card!?!)

Now – after  minutes, hours, days, years of scientific research conducted via the world’s most accurate encyclopedia (Facebook), I have concluded that the  typical New Year’s celebration consists of the 9 following stages…

Stage 1: Casually snacking.
Stage 2: Eating dinner with family or friends
Stage 3: Casually snacking
Stage 4: Making a New Year’s resolution of  snacking less
Stage 5: Resolving to make a change
Stage 6: Watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve
Stage 7: Feeling miserable about what has happened to Dick Clark
Stage 8:  Feeling so miserable about Dick Clark, that you snack even more
Stage 9:  Snacking so much that you forget what your resolution even was…

My family mixes this up by fusing together the following New Year’s traditions from around the world, and making them our own while doing so.

Southern United States : A dish of black eyed peas. An old saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s to have plenty of everything else the rest of the year.”

China/Italy: Red underwear. Proceeding our family  dinner, we read aloud a list of different New Year traditions. As soon as I heard that color red symbolizes success, loyalty, and happiness, I got so excited that I had to run out of the room and change my boxers.

Spain: Eating 12 grapes during the 12 seconds before midnight. Sweetness of the grapes determines how “sweet” the respective months will be. It ends up being a grape eating marathon, with little time to chew or swallow. But after the 6th one, someone usually starts laughing… and it all goes downhill from there.

And (most importantly) Japan:  Mochi. This one (or two, depending on how one pronounces it) syllable word sends every family member in the Segal household in a rat race, scrambling to be first to the kitchen. Mochi is a Japanese version of a pounded rice cake served in various sweet and savory dishes, including some types of ice cream. But we only eat it one way- sauteed it to a golden crisp, and then dipped in tamari (soy sauce) and sesame seeds.


Happy New Year!

The Art of Punning

Puns are a lost form of art.

  • When people watch a theatre production, they laugh and/or cry with appreciation.
  • When people see beautiful paintings; they gape, taking in every minute detail.
  • When people hear a symphony of music, they close their eyes and let the music flood their soul.

Puns, on the other hand, inspire a “different” type of response. As a longtime punner (yes, that’s a real word), I know that when I say a pun, I look for two signals that it was effective.

  1. The Groan. It should be from the back of the throat, hearty, and very prolonged. Ideally, the listener should sound as if they are in as much physical pain and discomfort as possible.
  2. The Facepalm. Face and palm unite in this epic form of pun appreciation. One palm signals enjoyment, but two palms signals twice as much pleasure! Combined with a deep groan of pain and misery, this is the pinnacle display of gratitude for a pun.
The ultimate reaction to a pun

NOTE: A slight modification to the facepalm involves slapping the person who delivers the puns. Not surprisingly, I get this often; and thoroughly savor the feeling of success.

You may be surprised that laughing wasn’t listed as a signal of an effective pun, but it’s rarely to be expected. “Punning is the lowest form of humor but the highest form of wit” holds true in this manner.

All puns posted on this website are 100{3a5a0fd47fd42b6497167aecc6170a94848f1ba936db07c4954344fcfff1d528} original. Each pun is painstakingly thought of, and I hope you have as much fun reading them as I do when writing them.


Hello world!

“Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!”

… What a beautiful moment. I now have the ability to instantly edit words, publish them on a website, and show them to the world… or at least the 2 family members which actually will read this (HI MOM!)

The greatest intellectual minds one century ago would marvel at this communication technology. I bet that when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity, he would have loved to Tweet about it, update his status, post it on his blog, and tell the world. That is… if internet had been discovered.

But what is the point of  this blog, and what will be on it? Will I used it to reflect upon my travels? Am I just looking to improve my writing skills? Do I simply crave attention?

A great English teacher once started the school year by writing the following questions which humans have been trying to solve for centuries on the board:

  • Why am I here?
  • Is mankind good or evil?
  • Is there a God/s?
  • Is there life after death?

He told us that by the end of the year, we would know the answers to those questions along with much more because of his class. I was amazed at such a proposition because I didn’t think those questions even had any definite answers, but I believed him nonetheless.

Throughout the year we learned much, but the answers to the questions still evaded us. On the last day of school, we realized we had been duped. A classmate raised his hand and told the teacher that he hadn’t explained the question’s answers.

“Of course I have,” our teacher replied with shifty eyes. As the bell rang the teacher winked, and quickly whisked us out of the room.

I thought about the questions over the summer, because he never explicitly told us the answers to the questions. But what he did was show us that the answers are different for everyone, and that what matters isn’t the answer, but how you arrive at your own individual answer.

So what’s the point of this blog, and what will be on it? To tell you the truth, I don’t know; and don’t ever plan on knowing. But I’m not worried; for what matters isn’t the final result, but the journey taken to get there.