A late evening arrival made for a weary traveler, in the mood for something cold and creamy, preferably from a plastic dish, and sleep — the wine, Brie and baguette he bought had to wait.

The next morning we got an early start. My visit was only two weeks – we had to cram every last minute with something, right?! His agenda for the day was to buy a smoker and wood chips, pick up some fish and wine [okay, the wine was me], then set to work on his new toy. We trolled the home improvement stores all morning; he ultimately decided on the mini-fridge look-alike from Lowe’s.

Quick stop home: him assembling on the balcony, me putting lunch together. The goodies meant for last night became toasted baguette sandwiches with Brie, ham and basil, black grapes on the side.

What did we smoke? Perhaps the better question is: What didn’t we smoke?

After lunch we stopped in at my second favorite place in Pensacola – Joe Patti’s – for a tuna steak** and wild-caught sockeye salmon. Winn-Dixie on the way home brought us a “London Broil” cut of beef [aka top round roast], a 9-lb. pork shoulder, and a hunk each of sharp cheddar and whole milk mozzarella for smoking later in the week.

But before I go completely off topic…

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The 1/2 to 2/3″-thick tuna steak took about 2.5 hours, the salmon stayed in for about 5 hours and possibly could’ve smoked a bit more. We reveled in the fact that the condo [and us] now smelled like campfire.

We took a walk to pass the time before supper, and when we returned, we could smell the hickory smoke wafting on the air. One of the perks of owning a smoker!

p1030455What they lack in looks, they make up in flavor. Tuna tonight, salmon into the fridge for lunch tomorrow.

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Last time I visited, we shared a smoked tuna roll at an eatery on the Gulf. That was delicious; this steak was better. Slightly dry because we weren’t sure how long to smoke it, but that certainly didn’t detract from the overall quality.  If memory serves me, we also had a pesto bulgur salad and oven-roasted lemony green beans with our meal. A peek into one of Pensacola’s only legit wine shops, tucked in the back of Joe Patti’s, led us to bottle of 2005 Casa de la Ermita Crianza Jumilla – a toasty and smooth blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. A year ago I never would’ve been able to handle a powerful red, but when it’s this good, there’s no denying it. Great with meaty smoked tuna.

*I was drastically overdressed for the warm, humid evening.

**Does anyone know why they gave us those three little pieces? We watched everyone before us buying tuna get the same thing. The lady would slice the steak from the meaty end, then lop off a few tiny chunks from the opposite end and throw it in the bag gratis. We’re baffled.

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