Category: Food History

Recipe: Authentic Florida Rum Runners

Our bartenders for this development: Bree, Kim, and Mary.

A habit we’ve started getting into the past couple years is vacationing on the east coast of Florida. As I write this, I’m sitting in a beautiful little duplex on the Indian River in Ft. Pierce. We had come here just over a year ago and fell in love with St. Lucie County and the surrounding area, along with really appreciating the people here, both the locals and those who are also habitual visitors. Arriving here from Michigan again last week, the duplex made us feel as though we had come home. Because of this feeling, we’re already making plans to come back next year as well.

The duplex is owned by our friends Kim and Bill. Kim and my wife Mary had gone to high school together, and Kim and Bill rent the duplex out to various people throughout the year while living in their own home up the river. Built in the 1950s or early 60s, this quaint little duplex is simple, with hurricane-resistant concrete block walls covered with stucco, and poured terrazo floors. But the couple has really warmed up the interior with just the right furnishings that give it that strong feeling of home.

On The Edge Bar & Grill, as seen from the Ft. Pierce Inlet, April 12, 2016.

On our first full day here last April Kim had driven us up the road a piece to the On The Edge Bar & Grill for lunch. Located on the north end of South Hutchinson Island along the Ft. Pierce Inlet that allows for boating and small ship access (Coast Guard cutters, heavy barges, small cruise liners, deep-sea fishing vessels, etc.) to the two-mile-wide Indian River, the restaurant is open-air with two levels.

My Hoisen-Glazed Yellowfin Tuna at On The Edge Bar & Grill on May 9, 2017: Sushi-grade Ahi Tuna seared rare, with hoisin glaze and wasabi mayo, topped with a seaweed salad and served with sides of wasabi mashed potatoes and grean beans.

The food at the restaurant is seriously good, especially the seafood. From their Facebook page:

“All of the fish served at On the Edge Bar & Grill is fresh, locally caught & never frozen. Our Mahi-Mahi, Swordfish, and Tuna, in particular, are caught in deep water, approximately 150 miles offshore to the northeast of Fort Pierce. These fishing boats consume about $6,000 in fuel for a round trip that can last up to 3 days.

If you don’t understand why fresh seafood can be expensive, read that again. But also understand the prices on the menu at On The Edge are extremely reasonable, and are actually comparable to those at better seafood restaurants in places like Toledo and Ann Arbor. The seafood at On The Edge is better though, and worth the trip.

It was at On The Edge during that lunch with Kim that Mary had her first-ever Rum Runner. Legend has it that the Rum Runner was first developed at a place called the Holiday Tiki Bar in Islamorada (“ah-lah-mor-ah-dah”) sometime in the 1950s when there was “an excess of rum and certain liqueurs that needed to be moved before the arrival of more inventory.” This makies sense, as a lot of dishes, from casseroles, to “Chef’s specials”, to Polish paczki for Fat Tuesday, were created this way and always will be.

Some of the Rum Runners from our trip here in April 2016.

Throughout our travels here over the past couple years, from here at the duplex through the 220 miles to Mile 0 at the southern end of US 1 in Key West 90 miles north of Cuba, Mary, Bree and I have tried quite a few Rum Runners at various establishments. There are apparently countless variations: One bar here in Ft. Pierce also has a package liquor store, and they specifically told me they use the Ron Corina 151 dark rum in their version, and sold me a bottle. This made for a Rum Runner that was far too strong, and not at all like Mary is used to.

In trying all those other Rum Runners though, the flavor profile we appreciate most goes right back to On The Edge. We ate there again yesterday evening with a friend of Bree’s from high school who lives down here now and came to visit. The Rum Runners were, to our taste buds of course, absolutely perfect.

Shish Kebab party! May 7, 2017, Ft. Pierce, Florida

A couple evenings ago we hosted a shish kebab party for Kim, Bill and their two sons. Bree and I prepped chicken thigh meat, 51/60 p&d shrimp, as well as fresh veggies from the renowned Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market. People made up their own kebabs on bamboo skewers, which I then grilled for them, serving with chips and hummus. One of the neighbor families also showed up, which was a good thing as Bree and I had prepped a lot of food!

Between us we had also put together the rather expensive list of ingredients needed for Rum Runners, as laid out on the Florida Keys Guide web site. Restaurants and bars with larger liqueur inventories will certainly be able to have most of this on-hand for various beverages. It does get a bit unwieldly for two or three people, but if you regularly enjoy Rum Runners this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Bree, Kim and Mary put together the Rum Runners, and the flavor was extremely close to what On The Edge serves. Yup, it made for a fun evening!

The ingredient list below is fairly specific. This combination comes quite close to what On The Edge is doing, but we make no claim to it being exactly the same. Make substitutions as is necessary or as you see fit. Your own recipe may be completely different. Amd that’s alright.

Authentic Florida Rum Runners
Add one ounce of each of the following to a glass, or add multiples of one ounce each to a pitcher, and stir well:

Add one cup ice to each glass, and serve.
If the frozen slush version is desired, pour the completed drink with ice into a blender and run until the desired consistency is reached.

Monster Candy, May’s Candy Shop, Mackinac Island, Michigan

The Monster Candy, about 4″ in diameter, from May’s Candy Shop on Mackinac Island in the straits between the peninsulas of Michigan.

It was just over a year ago Mary and I were on Mackinac Island a few hundred miles north of here. One of the shops I had wanted to visit for a few years was May’s Candy Shop. Normally I would visit a shop like that solely for their goods, in the case of May’s the fudge their family has been known for since the 1930s on the island. I didn’t go there specifically for the fudge though that day. Head Candymaker Lee May was a friend from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design, where I was video studio coordinator while Lee was a student. Unfortunately, during that week last August, Lee was in Chicago getting things ready for graduate school in the fall.

A weird thing happened. I left the candy shop after buying … nothing. And I really don’t know why.

Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago. On their Facebook page May’s Candy Shop wrote, “Happy September 1st everyone! We’ve reached our last SPOTLIGHT candy of the season… Monsters! Remember, all you have to do is like, comment, or post on our page and you’ll be entered to win!” Four people commented, and ten plus myself clicked the “Like” link. Five days later, it turned out a Monster Candy was headed my way!

The box showed up this morning:

The box itself is a classy thing on its own, being covered with foil-stamped white glossy paper. The old-style image of Arch Rock, a popular tourist attraction on the island, actually shows proper perspective of a sailboat on Lake Huron as seen through the opening in the rock from the correct height and distance. And while the box is definitely intended for use with May’s well-known fudge, the writing on the red tape holding it closed told what was actually inside.

When I opened the box I saw the Monster Candy as seen in the first photo in this post in a sealed plastic bag. It already looked amazing, the chocolate seemingly swirled on top as thickly as Lee’s people could get it on there without being sloppy. Flipping it over on a plate, it became apparent the foundation of the Monster Candy is dozens of walnut halves. But what’s that glossy stuff that had seeped through the walnuts? I had forgotten they had posted this particular photo from inside the main of their three stores:

I grabbed a sharp boning knife and, spitting the thing down the middle, found the utter deliciousness I was trying to figure out:

So why are they called Monster Candy when they’re so obviously a larger version of, well, something else? To be blunt, that term is actually copyrighted by another company. Besides, these are considerably larger and would have to be called the “sea” version of … that other thing. These are different though. I was concerned about Lee’s use of walnuts as I haven’t had good experiences with them and thought I wouldn’t like it. But these walnuts are certainly fresher than most others, not stale, and definitely not hard on the teeth. The soft caramel inside is amazingly smooth and not overly rich, having just the right amount of sweetness. And the chocolate is simply … It’s obvious May’s has tons of experience creating chocolate as this is some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

This Monster Candy tasted like I need more. That’s all there is to it. Thanks, May’s!

I think next time we go to May’s on Mackinac Island I’ll need lots of money. And maybe a flatbed cart.

Mother’s Day 2010: Kielbasa and Pierogi for Mary

One of our “standard” meals in the six years Mary and I have been together has been a fairly traditional meal of Polish Kielbasa and Pierogi. We served this meal at our small wedding in late 2004, our wedding reception in mid-2005, to the administration of the Village of Carleton, Michigan, during Luna Pier’s portion of the 2008 Mayoral exchange, and countless other meals around those.

Today, for Mary’s dinner for Mother’s Day 2010, I think I finally got it right.

Sautéeing the pierogi and onions is the simple part. I use Michigan-made pierogi from Polish Harvest, an old-style manufacturer in Hamtramck, Michigan (yes, where Paczki were brought into the U.S.) I sautée the pierogi in real, unsalted butter over medium-high heat and pay really close attention to which pierogi are done and which aren’t. As they’re done (not all at once) they go into a glass casserole in a 225-degree F oven for holding.

The Kielbasa has always been the rough part. Traditionally the sausage is braised in a German-style beer in a high-wall skillet on the stove. For larger groups, we’ve gone with slow-cooking in old-style roasters at about 225 degrees F, with plenty of beer included in the sausage. But to me, there was something else that might have been done to make it just a little more traditional for today’s “Americanized” tastes.

This morning, on a whim, I picked up a 6-pack of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. The Polish Kielbasa for this batch was handmade by our friends at Kilgus Choice Meats in Toledo, Ohio. Before noon I dumped a couple bottles of the lager in with the three pounds of Kielbasa and set it in the fridge. After draining it this evening, I simply grilled it over medium heat.

That’s really all it needs. With the casing nice and crisp, the tender meat of the sausage really let the lager come through in a good balance with the flavor of the pork. The pierogi were also crisp on the outside and, as they were potato and cheddar, were tender on the inside and worked well with the sautéed onions.

Will I cook this meal this way again? Absolutely.

Dad’s Eggs In A Frame: A Memorial Recipe Tribute for Downloading

A batch of dad’s Eggs In A Frame, made specifically for this memorial by my 14-year-old daughter Briahna.

As I’d written previously, my father Erwin F. Liske passed away on December 29th. Mom’s been in the hospital herself, so the funeral has been on hold. Visitation will finally be tomorrow with his funeral being on Monday. I’ve been working on two tributes. One is a digital photo frame with a slideshow of 80 photos of dad over the years, along with four songs I feel are fitting for him including Brad Paisley’s “Waiting On A Woman”. The other is this recipe of dad’s, the Eggs In A Frame he would make every Wednesday for whomever was in the house at the time. I’ve made a printable version you can download by clicking here. Just print it up on two sides of a piece of paper and fold it in thirds to have it just how it will be at the funeral home tomorrow next to the digital frame with the slideshow.

Following is some of the text from this pamphlet containing dad’s recipe plus a much older version.

Our dad, Erwin F. Liske, learned this recipe from a gentleman by the name of Larry Hagemaster. Erwin and Larry worked together at the General Motors stamping plant in Grand Blanc, Michigan, until Mr. Hagemaster passed away at the tender age of 40. Grandpa Erwin still made this for breakfast each and every Wednesday morning for decades for Grandma Joyce (after they completed a few games of Solitaire with real cards) and whomever else might have been in the Liske house at the time. He continued to make this breakfast as often as he could until he passed away at the age of 85 in late 2008.

My sister Barb reminded me of how protective dad was of how he made Eggs In A Frame. Dad tended to use quite a bit of salt on this dish as he was making it. If you didn’t want that much salt and said so, he would become quite indignant as he felt he knew best how to make this family favorite. But even though he insisted on using as much salt as he did, we always looked forward to his sharing this particular breakfast with us.

Today this tradition still stands, at least in my house. Dad’s Eggs In A Frame is the only reason I bought the biscuit cutter seen in the above photo. [This photo is in the recipe pamphlet.] The cutting board shown here is the one dad used for making this breakfast for quite a long time. I used it for the same purpose for a long while, teaching my own kids how to make this dish. My two middle kids Adam and Briahna love to make Eggs In A Frame. In fact, the image on the front of this pamphlet is of a serving made by Briahna at age 14. Briahna made this particular batch specifically for the image on the cover of this pamphlet, in loving memory of her beloved grandpa Erwin, whom she misses a great deal …

The back cover of this pamphlet contains a British version of this recipe from the mid-to-late 1800’s when the dish was called Ox-eyes. Online references give this centuries-old dish other names, such as egg in a window, egg in the hole, pirates eye, toad in the hole, Rocky Mountain toast, eggy toast, hobo toast, cave entrance, yolky pokey, o’johnnies, nest egg, toaster spurtals, egg-holey-o, submarine egg, gashouse eggs, eggs in a pocket, one-eyed Jack, baby in the hole, and bird’s nest. (partial source:

Sam’s Hot Dog Stand, Marmet, West Virginia

Update, Sept. 23, 2008 – The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog reviewed this stand on March 13, 2007, giving the location a “4 Weenie rating”. Click here to read the entire review.

A pair of hot dogs in grilled buns, with mild chili and coleslaw, from the Sam’s Hot Dog Stand in Marmet, a little burg south of Charleston, West Virginia. Click the image for a larger version.

Anyone who followed the stories of our Luna Pier Dog House over this past summer knows my affinity for a good hot dog, assembled well using excellents dogs and well-made condiments, and sold for a decent price that doesn’t screw the customer over.

Regular readers will also be aware of my feelings about the differences between a “coney” and a “chili dog” … and that you’d better know how to order one vs. the other.

This past Thursday evening after passing through the beautiful city of Charleston, West Virginia (in that city’s equally incredible setting within the mountains), we needed gas. Coming off the expressway in Marmet, we spotted the gas station signs, as well as a sign for a Sam’s Hot Dog Stand. Ok, so I spotted the sign for the hot dog stand … anyway … well … ya’ know, since running that hot dog stand this past summer. I’ve got a hankerin’ to find out what other people are serving.

We headed in that direction.

After getting gas, Mary and Caleb headed for the Subway inside the Exxon station. Meanwhile, I headed across the parking lot for Sam’s.

No, it doesn’t look like much. Why’s that? Ok, get this: It’s a hot dog stand. It’s not a full-scale restaurant. For that matter … you see that window to the far left? That’s an entirely separate room that’s not part of the hot dog stand. Something about video gaming … anyway, the stand is only the right 2/3s of the building. Three tables inside if I’m not mistaken. Yup, that’s a stand. Pretty big one if’n you ask me.

This is Theresa, who was operating the stand at the time I walked in. After ordering my two hot dogs with mild chili sauce and coleslaw, we got to talking. Theresa told me both the chili (there’s both a mild and a hot version) and the coleslaw (note to self; not “cole slaw”) are made at the Sam’s Hot Dog Stand headquarters in Huntington, West Virginia, and shipped to the 40 Sam’s locations. Theresa grabbed a couple split-top hot dog (“English”) buns, heavily buttered both sides, and laid them out on an open sandwich press. After grilling both sides of the New England-style bun, she loaded into it a skinless hot dog, then laid on the mild chili and the homemade coleslaw.

The resulting hot dog was very smooth indeed. The bun was reminiscent of a well-made grilled cheese sandwich. The hot dog, while apparently steamed (I like grilled better than steamed, but steamed them all summer long for my own customers), was apparently one made of good beef and had an excellent flavor. The chili was certainly mild with a solid flavor, and the slaw was just right; crunchy, not too sweet, while also being not too bitter.

Mary and Caleb each had a bite of these dogs, and really liked them. With no harsh ingredients whatsoever, and being inside those buttered, grilled buns, these hot dogs turned out to be like potato chips. My two dogs and pop (sorry, soda) cost just over six dollars. I ended up fighting with myself over whether or not to have two more. I lost (no, I did!), and I squelched those cravings …

There are some interesting thoughts going on in my head about this Sam’s place. No, I’m not going to open a franchise here in Luna Pier. (Although that’s not really a bad idea … I’d have to insist on using Koegel hot dogs of course … nah, couldn’t do it, Sam’s would argue the point … oh well …) Look at the menu for the Marmet, West Virginia, location I visited. (That’s it to the left. Click on it if’n you can’t read it.) At the Luna Pier Dog House we charged extra for the coney sauce we made from scratch. But at Sam’s they only charge extra for any cheese, or for the “English bun” mine came on. So instead of charging for the labor to make the sauce and cole slaw (sorry, chili and coleslaw), they eat that cost, and instead charge extra for the labor to grill the bun, or for the cheese a la Wendy’s. Interesting, that.

There’s something else I find uniquely interesting.

Check out the story of Sam’s Hot Dog Stand on the home page of their web site. Frank Lucente grew up eating a certain hot dog … a chili dog at a certain location. As an adult he would still go back for those. Later, after closing the place, the owner wouldn’t give up the recipe and had changed it anyway … but a woman had the original and was making that. Frank refined her version and that’s what he sells.

Now, head over to this page, download my own recipe or my Flint-style coney sauce from this past summer and read the history. I grew up eating a certain hot dog … a coney dog from a certain restaurant. As an adult I would still go back for those. The original owners won’t give up the recipe, and new owners have changed the recipe anyway. My aunt apparently snagged the original recipe some decades ago. My own version from this summer was a refinement of what she passed down.

Freaky …

Finally, this is the dining area that’s next to the building, just off the Exxon parking lot. This was a comfortable place to enjoy a couple nicely-made hot dogs in beautifully-grilled buns.

Oh, and a couple Subway sandwiches, too.

Did I mention Mary and Caleb each had a bite of those dogs, and really liked them?

Maybe I did …