Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Road food

Good morning!

A recent “My Turn” column by Estelle Cade that appeared in The Recorder’s editorial page characterized me as a “sun follower” and chronicler of road travel who eats bad food and drinks bad coffee. She got the first part right — I bought a new Subaru Legacy less than a year ago and it passed the 36,000-mile warranty somewhere near Mayday, Ga., in late December.

I do, however, take exception to Ms. Cade’s remarks regarding my low culinary standards. My stomach isn’t iron, it can’t handle the beans that Juan Valdez leaves on the warehouse floor. My java must be freshly brewed and hot, easy on the cream and hold the sugar.

On the highway I’ll scarf my share of Cracker Barrel peanut brittle and woof down one too many Krispy Kremes, but when filling up at an Exxon Tiger Mart in High Springs, Fla., I eschewed the pre-packaged pound cake with the two-month expiration date. Who makes that stuff, Monsanto?

In Gainesville, a college student saw me pouring from a quart of real maple syrup I’d purchased from the Northfield IGA.

“That’s yours?” she said. “I was gonna say, this Waffle House really delivers.”

A wrong turn had taken me into that college town and I stopped at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and looked at the life-sized statues of the school’s three Heisman Trophy winners, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow.

Many Florida restaurants try appealing to a traveler’s roots with back-home names like “Big Apple Pizza” in Hobe Sound, “Chowder Heads” New England Seafood in Juno Beach, and “Best Philly Cheesesteak” at Baldino’s in Tequesta.

Baldino’s has good service and decent people run the place, but the Big Apple Pizza waitress kept calling me “Sweetie” and the clam chowder at Chowder Heads tasted like it was straight from a can of Jack August.

Caveat emptor could be the Florida motto, buyer beware, considering the waitress who convinced two elderly women to try the cheesecake at a place north of Orlando. I walked through the kitchen in time to see her take the Sarah Lee out of the refrigerator.

That said there are decent places to eat down here like Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza with its homemade dough, crisp Italian salad and greaseless chicken wings, plus the large black-and-white framed photo of Marilyn Monroe leaning against a wall next to the urinal in the men’s room. Taste Casual Dining in Hobe Sound has outstanding prime rib, and the Osceola Street Cafe in downtown Stuart boasts the best key lime pie in Martin County.

Friends on the Gulf Coast introduced me to their favorite haunts. Bob and Karen Diamond’s choice for breakfast is LeLu’s on Siesta Key. My college roommate Pete Dailey joined me for a prime rib buffet at the Sarasota Kennel Club, and Shelburne native Skip Smith wants me to try Yoder’s on Bahia Vista after an O’s game at Ed Smith Stadium next month.

It’s not all bad food and weak coffee down here Estelle, and I have the extra baggage to prove it.

Troubling news arrived from up north that my friend Rob Charboneau lost part of his leg in a railroad accident in East Deerfield, but he won’t be hanging up his softball glove for the long term. At Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter last month, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team took on a team of NFL and MLB All Stars. They ran, hit and caught the ball with aplomb.

Their roster includes 17 players who lost one or both legs below the knees. Thanks to new prosthetics technology they’ve resumed playing sports, and the day will come when Charboneau’s back behind the high school swinging a bat and robbing Chris Kalinowski of extra bases.

Six years ago Monday, New York Giants receiver David Tyree made the catch that helped beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. On third down with 58 seconds left, Tyree landed with an Eli Manning pass wedged between his arm and helmet for a 32-yard gain. It was Tyree’s last catch in the NFL, but one too many for the Patriots.

Miami coach Joe Philbin is the early favorite to be the first NFL coach fired next season. The Miami Herald reports that Dolphins players regard Philbin as “flat and unemotional” and think his assistants are clueless. Earlier this week the Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey to be the general manager, their seventh choice after the previous six candidates either turned down the offer or refused to be interviewed.

Squibbers: rates the 2014 UMass football recruiting class next-to-last in the FBS, 124th out of 125 teams. ... Mark Duffner is the new Miami Dolphins linebackers coach. Duffner coached Holy Cross during the Gordie Lockbaum era when the Crusaders were a I-AA national powerhouse. ... During a radio interview with sports host Sid Rosenberg on Thursday, Darryl Strawberry talked of the pitfalls of playing in New York City: “I could walk into a place at 8 p.m. and not walk out until 8 a.m.” ... Daisuke Matsuzaka has made $53 million pitching in America. He has 53 major league wins. You do the math. ... During the Winter Olympics you might see Russian fans turning their heads like they’re spitting. The gesture is the American equivalent of knocking on wood. ... Actor Ethan Hawke tells Esquire that his grandfather had two jobs. He was the GM of the Abilene (Texas) Blue Sox, and the lead sportswriter at The Abilene Reporter-News. “He would cover his own games, which I always thought was sort of fascinating.” ... Rolling Stone ranks the Black Eyed Peas’ 2011 halftime performance the worst in Super Bowl history, and everything from 1967 to 1989 as next to worst: “... a low budget blur of marching bands, Elvis impersonators and Up With People ... Cheese ball filler, but at least they weren’t the Black Eyed Peas.”

Cairo Prince became the Kentucky Derby frontrunner after his six-length win in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park last Saturday. The Kentucky-bred gray trained by Kiaran McLaughlin was ridden by Luis Saez. Earlier in the card, Todd Pletcher’s bay filly Onlyforyou won the Forward Gal Stakes under Javier Castellano as the odds-on choice, lining her up as the Kentucky Oaks favorite.

Denver offensive tackle Orlando Franklin told the media on Tuesday that his mother kept him in juvenile detention for 15 days until he made a written promise: “I, Orlando Franklin, promise my mother, Sylvia Allen, that I will never get in trouble with the police again. I promise to dedicate myself to football.”

Franklin kept his word and played at the University of Miami where he graduated with a psychology degree. He was Denver’s second-round draft choice in 2011 and is number 74 in your program.

Who wins the Super Bowl? The game’s a toss-up, so I’ll take what’s given and go with Seattle plus the 21/2 points.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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