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I just came back from the first mini dive excursion if the year. We chose to head back to Lauderdale by the Sea due to the close proximity and the familiarity of the reefs. Let me start of with saying, the viz and water conditions were not at all what was forecast! Super winding and a hell of a current ripping to the North on Wednesday and Thursday.
With that said, I drove down in my PR cruiser my teenager has kidnapped and modified with two 17 year olds. Oh joy, oh rapture…I couldn’t even drown out the music with my headphones. In the car a whopping hour, snail pace, not over 65 on I95 and as soon as the lanes open up and we go to a three lane highway, my girl of a son has to have a potty break. Jeez Louise!
We arrive about 9pm. Richard headed down midday with all the gear, luggage and went to the stores to load up. Nice to pull in and have a cocktail chilled and waiting for you! We stayed in a new place on the flip side of the road. No pool which was a bit bad on the stormy water days but the accomodations were very modern, extremely clean and tastefully furnished. Yes, it had a blender. Jan thought of the little extras. We always bring plenty of towels but there was a huge basket of fluffy big towels, beach chairs, a grill and even a patio fountain. It was a 2 bed, 2 bath. Priced nice at $610 f0r 4 nights. There was a $500 deposit that was needed as well. More about that later.
Monday am we head out for the first dive about 10:30 am. Water temp was a nice 77 with the 3 mil suit on. I decided to play with my weight a bit and dropped down to 16 pounds. This may not seem like a big deal but last time I used the 3mil over a year ago, I was at 22pounds. Much more confident and at ease in the water this year. The first dive always has it’s low points. If you haven’t read any of my posts before, Hubby Rich has overcome alot of fears and phobias to dive with me. The first of the year is always hellacious in my book. He is nervous, tempestuous and down right edgy. Considering I blew an oring first dive and had to adjust weights, it was pretty good. O-rings are no big deal, they blow on me at least twice aq season and Rich changes them in the water pretty fast. We had to get out, take the gear off and he had to force it out with his dive knife. Ease of entry was fine, he was not too cagey there, in and under within 10 minutes. And then low and behold, the O-ring issue and an enormous storm blew in with lightning.
Time in water 15 minutes…DAMN!
We head out, have a pitcher, whoops I mean glass of screwdrivers, wait for the storm to blow over and head back in early afternoon. Dive was nice. Viz was only about 15 feet. There was a pretty good surge on the cheese and a slight current out on the first reef. I think we headed a bit more to the North than we usually do and it took us a while to get our bearings. We headed out to the first reef and saw some nice schools of smaller blennies, hamlets, plenty of queen and french angelfish, queen parrotfish, striped parrotfish, bar jacks, rock hinds and even a huge trumpetfish. He was awesome, about 4 foot long just chilling out. Freaky long, super skinny and you just can’t help but picturing this guy in an underwater Disney movie, blowing on a trumpet. He let us swim with him for a while. I did not see any eels or hogfish the whole time we were there. Richard spotted some pretty nice size conch on the first reef.
We went around what we like to call the nursery area and saw an amazing array of fairy basselets, seargeant majors and bluehead wrasses. All sizes. The large kelp trees looked beautiful, much bigger than last time. We hunted and hunted for seahorses but didn’t see any. Neither did we spot any lobster on this dive. Wait a minute, I take that back, I did see a tiny little 5 or 6″ one. We had been in around 2 hours so decided to head back to shore. Dropped out tanks off at Gold Coast scuba for fills, headed back for afternoon cocktails and to relax for the day. I hope was to get another dive in but the weather would not be with us.
We head over to Pa Deggenaros located at 4331 North Ocean Drive, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea acorss the street from where we were staying. The Great Lou Colombo Trio was playing and as stated ”
Lou invites all of his friends from Cape Cod, New York & Chicago!” it was super busy in the bar area and the vibe seemed good. Classic older music. I was looking forward to a pleasant dinner. I will get to the punchline, it was an all around horrible experience. The server was extremely slow (over 10 minutes) to come and get initial drink order. The have some helpers to bring water and bread but come on. 10 minutes to say hello was ridiculous. We persevered though. The highlight of the meal was the Duck Liver Faux Gras pate($10). Nice rich and creamy. There were little capers, red onion a cranberry orange relish that went great on top of the little toast points. I also ordered the soup of the day($8). Some sort of fish chowder. The after taste was of rotten fish and smelled horrible. When Rich passes on my little adventures into something new, I know it is bad. Remember the Give it to Mikey, he’ll eat it cereal commercial. That’s Rich. He had a bite and pushed it away.
I am not one to be rushed through my meal. If I go to eat, I am going to share an appetizer, possibly have soup or salad, have my dinner and probably partake of coffee and dessert. I’m not cheap and I tip extremely well coming from over 25 years of hospitality, bartending and retail sales. I start at about 25% tip and it goes up or down accordingly.
So we ordered dinner. We asked for what the waiter recommended. I ordered as suggested, the Veal Ulrich($24) and Rich went with his recommendation of Chicken Picatta($21). I order veal, lamb or deer out alot because my family is chicken eaters and I simply cook it so much, I would not order it out. My dish was supposed to be the signature chef veal dish. The Veal Ulrich was veal scallopini in a light lemon, caper, white wine and butter sauce. It was served with angel hair pasta with plum tomato and basil. The lemon caper sauce was extremely bitter and way too lemony. It overpowered the flavor of everything else. The wine tasted like it had not been reduced to eliminate the alcohol taste. The veal was completely overcooked, dry and tasted like tough old bull. Nothing tender or baby cow about it. Being a veal lover, I have never had to chew my bite of veal over 10 times to try to swallow it. I think I made several faces and tried to wash a few bites down with my wine(Chile, Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc $7) when Rich offered to switch dishes. Again, super great fabulous guy, he doesn’t eat red meat to eliminate on human wastes (let’s not go there, email me if you need to know more)or baby cow due to a one day stint in a slaughter house on his travels in Australia. So I tuck into the chicken piccata which is lemon, butter, wine, capers. I have cooked this dish many times and with several different variations from breaded to not, with mushrooms or none, with cream and without. Again, dish was horrible. Pasta on both dished was much, nothing al dente about either pasta side. I ended up passing it back to Rich and decided to make due with a cold sandwich when we got back to the apartment.
All on all, we go with the flow and laughed about it up to this point. Go back, have a cocktail outside and walk on the beach. We aren’t working so life is good. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say. But we have been to Nick’s so many times and the food and service has always been topnotch and pleasurable. Our waiter never once in 30 minutes came to ask us how anything was or to even fill our water. Then we decide to go and ask for the check, it takes almost 20 minutes to get it. I also asked for a box for the chicken figuring one of the 17 year old beasts we had with us, would eat it. So, we decide to get the check. I asked 3 times to have him box it for me. Not once, not twice, but THREE DAMN TIMES!!! Hubby is smiling through it all because he knows that handing me a box to do my own food has just made your tip got down 5%. I am out to eat and do not want to do my own dished or box my own food.
To get to the end, he gets almost no tip. On a $80 bill that we would have tipped at least $15 for average service and as high as $25 for great service. He comes back and confronts my husband. Rich says, you have got to be joking…do we have to list all the grievances? He states that he was really busy and just got large party. It doesn’t excuse zero customer service. I needed a fork, he walked by and threw it on the table without even stopping. Well, for two people to be willing to tip $25 perhaps you should change your priorities from the group of 6. Needless to say, I would NEVER recommend this place to anyone if you wanted to eat. If you want to go and listen to the guy in the bar area that would probably explain why it was so busy there. If you want good Italian, great priced, unique dishes and fabulous service go to Nick’s further down the road about 3 miles. Order the daily mussel dish, it has always been superb. The garlic bread it to die for and you will find at least 6 dished to can’t choose between.
We decided to head out early in the am, about 9:30 we hit the water. We were the only ones in site. The water was a bit calmer on the surface but once we descended the viz was still about 15 feet. Lots of silt in the water and I hate not being able to see all around me. I could have had a gorgeous turtle right next to me and wouldn’t have known it. We persevered, saw a lot of yellow rays and a huge school of blue tang, about 200 or so. Still no bugs to be found. I didn’t see any other divers while we were in or flags when we came up. Dive time was about 2 hours 15 minutes. Love those steel tanks. I had about 1000 psi coming up but Rich is still working on getting rid of his inner AIR HOG. Really, I bust on him but he is so much better than last year. Not as much fear of the unknown or the accidents that may happen.
Today we saw a lot of four eyed butterfly fish and the yellow and black reef butterfly fish. I love these little guys. They look happy to me, swimming around in their little reef paradise. Last night we looked over our reef cards and resources to bone up on fish awareness. I saw a ton of white grunts. Before all the silver fish looked the same. These guys have a ridge like swordfish fin on the top. Lots of small sea life. No crustaceans, turtles,eels or hogfish on this dive. We started a the first buoy, swam out to the first reef, swam at 180 south till about 1500 psi and headed into the cheese area at that point. Nice leisurely current swim. Always makes me feel like I am parachuting. Just floated around. We swam with a school of blue tang for about 10 minutes. These guys are so graceful! The coral looked nice and healthy. Sea fans looked good, no noticeable asperigilos. A couple of smaller fans were broken off clean at the base but that could have been boat damage. It was low tide for this dive and it was highly noticeable the surge in the shallow areas. I found it enjoyable if you relaxed and jsut went with the flow. I do however think that newer divers may not have liked the lack of control. We swam the inner cheese area heading back to the pier and headed into shore at 900 psi for Rich, 1200 for me.
Tanks went to Gold Coast Scuba again for refill. When I picked mine up it had 3600 psi. YIPPEE!!!
Not another dive to be had for the whole trip. There was a hell of a southeast and east winds blowing in for the next 2 days. We chilled, the boys drove us crazy and headed back mid day Thursday right in front of a storm.
Next dive may be this week down to Pepper Park or Vero. Stay tuned.