Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Naples’ Newest Saloon: New Orleans-inspired Whiskey Park


Whiskey Park  is the popular new Naples restaurant/bar which resembles a Wild West Saloon, and serves New Orleans-accented food.  It's offerings are definitely a step or two up from bar food, and priced just as wallet friendly.

It's  fairly easy to find,  at the southeast corner of Airport-Pulling  Road and Mercantile Avenue, occupying  the  East end of  the same building that houses  Sandy's Cuban Cafe.   Chef/co-owner Chris Prattini, born in New Orleans was the executive chef at Trulucks. Co-owner Larry Hoelzer owned Grumpy's ale House at The Pavilion shopping center. You're in experienced, good hands here.


Enter and let your eyes adjust to the light and decor. It has a tall  ceiling with exposed HVAC ductwork that looks down on a brick wall, a  large horseshoe-shaped bar in one corner, four top tables with whiskey barrels as bases, tall nicely padded  booths,  and faux -weathered table tops.  Chill at the separate lounge,  rack 'em up at either of two pool tables, or watch a game on one of a half dozen large screen TVs.  It's easy to find your fit here.



Order a beer from nearby Naples Beach Brewery, sip a Stella Artois, Guinness,  Ballast Point, Delirium Tremens, or one of many IPAs ; there are dozens on tap. Try a  craft cocktail, shot of vodka,  or choose from  a couple dozen other spirits.  Have a pour of on- tap Jameson Irish whiskey or Jack Daniels.  With a name like Whiskey Park, perhaps a flight of whiskey from over 50 whiskeys  is the ticket!

Service is tops! 

Read the whole story at:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Three Times a Charm at Naples’ Coastal Peruvian Seafood & Grill



 I’ve been to Coastal Peruvian Seafood & Grill three times, and each time, the food and service have been consistently spot on.  Attentive owner/Chef Christopher Albert Santos in the kitchen,and his wife, Fabiola Rivera at the front of house, truly put you, the customer, first.
 

  

While open every day at this time for dinner, Chef Santos offered a one day “pop up” lunch special of $15.95 for choice of three appetizers, three entrées, wine/beer/soda and… a surprise!

Well, surprise for him, twenty people showed up for the offer, who had gotten the word from Paradise Coast Foodies and Chef Santos‘s respective Facebook pages.

Cebiche and other sea foods are the litmus test of a great Peruvian restaurant, and Coastal has eight cebiches to sample.  I ordered the cebiche natural, a traditional dish with fresh fish, calamari, green onion, red onion, sweet potato, and large corn kernels, all bathed with leche de tigre. The sharp citrus juice, salt and pepper lightly “cooks” the seafood and wakes up the palate!

Read the rest of this article at:
  
 Check the Coastal Peruvian website, as other lunch special days are sure to follow!
 

Rosy Tomorrow’s Hundred-Acre Jazz Brunch


Your summertime will swing, swing, swing, as you first experience Live Jazz and a bountiful country brunch at Rosy Tomorrow Heritage Farm-a truly working farm set on picturesque pastures.  Come to a monthly Hundred Acre Jazz Brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; it may well be one of the most memorable and fun Sundays you’ve ever had!

Rosy Tomorrow is unlike any other farm you could imagine, for several unique reasons. Adults and children alike gape in wonderment as they tour this hundred-acre Lee County farm, coming almost cheek to jowl with 500-pound heirloom Red Wattle pigs and their piglets, Texas Longhorn cattle that could star in a Western movie, hundreds of  chickens pecking in their shaded pasture, and proud turkeys strutting and gobbling for all to admire!

Read the whole article at:
http://naplesherald.com/2016/06/16/rosy-tomorrows-hundred-acre-jazz-brunch/


Monday, June 20, 2016

Palladio Trattoria: A welcome Addition to the Bonita Springs' Italian Scene


Palladio Trattoria, opened in May, 2016, and some of its dishes are considered foodie favorites in the  SW Florida dining scene.

My table of eight Italian food lovers were wowed with most dishes. We savored robust sauces, flavorful al dente pastas, meat lasagna and desserts,

Emanuela “Emma”  Calcara, has now set down roots in Bonita Springs as the owner/chef  of Palladio Trattoria. It is on U.S 41, a few blocks south of Bonita Beach Road at the previous site of Anthony’s Trattoria, then Fabio Trattoria.

Read my story, with photos, on Palladio Trattoria at:

http://naplesherald.com/2016/06/20/palladio-trattoria-breath-fresh-air-local-italian-scene/

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Naples Stage Deli Stays Ahead of the Pack!



“As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world; People who love delis, and people you shouldn’t associate with.”   – Damon Runyon
Stage 62 Deli has recreated itself, with fresh branding  as The Stage Deli Fine Foods, offering  additional choices of new dishes and a sleek decor to this Mercato magnet.
 Owner/executive chef Steve Goldberg has taken the Stage up being one of the top in South Florida. If you ever went to classic Miami’ Deli's like Pumpernick's,  Wolfie’s, and Rascal House, you've had some of the best!
The decor features lush blue leather booths and banquettes. The walls delight the eye with movie  and stage star photos There's with new fare including chicken shawarma, falafel, huevos rancheros, English fish and chips, the Cubano, and blackened Florida grouper.  Prices are family-friendly, with vegan and gluten-free options. 
To read the full informative article with delectable photos, click on:  http://naplesherald.com/2016/06/06/naples-stage-deli-stays-center-stage/


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

1500 South, Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay at Naples Resort


1500 South

1500 South is an elegantly casual dining spot with delicious food.  Perched with a great view of the yachts coming and going, It's a beautiful spot to sit on the marina's dock and watch the tide and the boats go by.

You may perch on the open deck, or indoors at the curvaceous bar,
or the dining room, overlooking the open kitchen.  

I missed meeting Chef Art Smith on my visit. He was  opening a Disney Farm to Table restaurant.  This two-times James Beard Award recipient pairs Southern American food with Italian accents. Think you have a busy life? Well, besides having 20 some restaurants to keep track of -some his own, some  in partnership- he has also adopted four young children. Now, That's busy!  

His Chef De Cuisine, Dagan Stocks, presides over 1500 South with a quite capable hand.
Carol, and Chef Dagan Stocks
He was formerly the Chef de Cuisine at the noted J&G Grill at  the St. Regis Bal Harbour (as in Jean-Georges Vongerichten), and Chef de Cuisine at the Vail Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.   Chef Stocks actively sources fresh local produce , supplementing this bounty from Ohio's The Chef's Garden. 

My guest and I were promptly seated. Drinks were ordered. There's a reasonably priced good wine selection, and a varied selection of  mixed drinks. A basket of hot buttered rosemary biscuits quickly arrived (I had walked by the open kitchen a minute earlier, and watched them come hot out of the oven, and be anointed with butter.)  
There are many ways to make biscuits in the South; these authentic ones happen to be firm, not flaky, and better with a dollop of honey. I just happen to prefer a lighter, flaky style of Southern biscuit. Whatever your preference, save room for what's to follow!

We were amazed at the superb flavor of  Chef Stock's special Springtime treat- slow roasted duck risotto with Arborio rice, served with roasted fresh morel mushrooms, Miner's lettuce and a fresh ramp gel.
The risotto is spot on, both creamy and a little crunchy. the duck is essentially a 10 hour slow cooked made with a morel mushroom stock. The  stars of the dish are only available for a few weeks out of the year-the fresh morels and the tangy ramps, which are accented with Meyer lemon. Miner's lettuce is well named-it's usually grown in caves. this round-leafed plant has a hint of green apple flavor! Highly Recommended.

 When I told our server that I'd never seen a ramp in the wild, guess what Chef Stock sent over! Have you had ramps? 
They taste in between a leek and an onion, and are more pungent than a scallion.

Next we savored the 25-hour slow braised oxtail hoe cake ($16). The braised oxtail's  rich layers of flavor are unbelievable! This component  alone could be a meal! It only gets better with caramelized Vidalia onions,
  Gorgonzola Dolce ( a savory buttery blue cheese that's not "dolce" or sweet), and the welcome slight sharpness of  baby arugula craft a tasty trio!  Hoe cake is a delicious foil for the toppings-think of it as a flat cornbread pancake.  Highly Recommended.


We then slowed the pace with the vegetarian-friendly  "farm to table" seasonal roasted vegetables, featuring purple, orange and green cauliflower from Oakes Farm, baby green pepper,  celery root, broccolini,
The Chef's Garden heirloom slender carrots, baby Portobello mushrooms over saba noodles, with a splash of balsamic  vinegar, and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ($16). Such a beautiful and flavorful assortment of colors and textures!  Chef Dagan Stocks clearly has fun crafting these dishes.

Salt & pepper are not on the table; lemons are.  I only added salt to my veggies-just personal taste.

Chef Smith's fried chicken ($27)  is one of the most tender I've EVER had. Don't balk at the price for 3 pieces of chicken-you're not at KFC-just order a plate!

It starts with the finest chicken, which is then brined for 24 hours, soaked in buttermilk for 24 hours, then dipped in a mix of White Lily flour and various herbs and spices. This epitomizes "succulent" with its  juicy tenderness!  Chef Art perfected it for Oprah's table; you too get to savor this, while overlooking the harbor. Try a dip in the house-made hot sauce It's not too hot, with Fresno peppers,  chile de arbol peppers, and citrus. Highly Recommended.

There are over 15 different gelati and sorbets made in house.  I opted for the blood orange sorbet, pistachio gelato, and chocolate gelato trio.
The chocolate gelato with 62%  dark chocolate cacao is my fave!  The blood sorrel leaf/red ribbon  looks like a coleus leaf, however, only the sorrel leaf is edible.  

My companion chose vanilla bean crème brûlée, served atop white chocolate, and topped with mixed berries and strawberry- balsamic sorbet.
This is a VERY good custard, with a crisp sugar crust that demands to be cracked! This version started with Chef  Antonio Bachour at the St. Regis. I really respect Chef Stock..not many chefs credit another's creation.

On our next visit, I'll try the fried green tomatoes with classic chow chow remoulade, the "Three Little Pigs" ham sampler, chicken and dumplings, and the grilled shrimp and octopus grits with aged Provolone.  All the pasta is made in house. Chef Stock enjoys making his own pizza crust.

Happy hour  menu items should be ready by the time you visit...that could be another reason to make 1500 South a favored watering hole. Parking can be a signficant problem in season, as Bonefish Grill has the majority of parking spaces. This is when you hand the keys to the parking valet, and grandly walk off.

Time will tell if this is the dream career for Chef Stock- he gets to order the best ingredients and equipment, craft specials, while enjoying living in Naples-what's not to love?! Restaurant competition?  None really. 7th Avenue Social comes to mind for its varied offering of Southern dishes as well as Latino treats. It doesn't have 1500 South's waterfront setting, or signature dishes like the braised oxtail, fried chicken, or unique grits. 


This is delicious Southern cooking, straight from Oprah's own private chef;  Chef Stock channels it directly to you. Dig in!

(Note: During my visit, (in tourist season)  breakfast buffet was served from 7-11 a.m. daily- that has been discontinued, as of today, 5/18/16; that service may resume next season. Dinner is served Tuesday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m. No lunch is served. Call and check; days and hours may seasonally change for 1500 South as for many other spots.  BTW, If you click on a photo, it and others will appear much larger and flavorful!

I was fortunate to meet Chef Art Smith later by chance, in another setting. What a great, friendly down-to-earth guy! We talked for over an hour, comparing our respective childhoods in Florida, to experiencing travel to cities across the globe.  He is passionate about giving back to his childhood community in a truly generous way. He grew up in Jasper, Florida, which, to be kind, is now long past its glory days. He is partnering with Walt Disney World and others, revitalizing parts of nearly forgotten Jasper with a cooking school, bakery, and school for meteorology.)


1500 South, at Naples Bay Resort.  1500 Fifth Avenue South, Naples,  530-5105, 1500southnaples.com   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Food Truck Wars at 6 Bends Harley Davidson's Top Rocker Field in Fort Myers, FLorida


This is an optimistic Post Mortem on the April 16, 2016 Food Truck Wars at 6 Bends Harley Davidson's Top Rocker Field in Fort Myers, Florida

"Half a league, half a league,  Half a league onward,
Into the valley of the Top Rocker Field
 Rode the Six Thousand.


"Forward, to the Food Trucks!
"Charge for the craft beers!" he shouted.
 "Get on line now, dear,  for the pork sliders and fish tacos," she pleaded.

Into the valley of Dehydration
 Rode the Six Thousand.


The Good News is that the attendance by the well behaved crowd at the goodly assortment of nicely chosen food trucks  exceeded the promoter's expectations. (Note: 6 Bends Harley Davidson was NOT the promoter.) Many are willing to attend next year, IF some much needed changes are made.


The Bad News can be listed on a few Food Trucks' long chalk menu boards. I'll cover the highlights. 


 No one correctly estimated the crowds that would arrive. The saying "Piss Poor Planning Prevents Proper Performance" comes to mind.  Those who arrived by car at the start, 11:00 a.m., were guided by police and volunteers into one of two pathways-to the left, or to the right. There was no walkie-talkie communication among the parking attendants  for coordinated parking. There was No back up system to handle the increasing flow of cars already trapped in the long one-way parking routes   when the parking  spaces ahead were already  overfilled. Soon, as the lots filled, people spent 20" en route to an already filled lot on the left side, then 20 minutes later, were directed into yet another filled lot on the right. Thus parking could take 45"+. There were a lot of unhappy campers.   Piss poor planning, or inadequate expectations?  I favor a bit of both.




 The small Top Rocker Field was maxed out with  about 40 food trucks. Planners  intended it  to hold perhaps 3,000 people, spread over 7 hours, from 11 am to 6 pm . The promoters were not prepared for the crowd of perhaps 10,000+, concentrated instead over 4 afternoon hours.  What a "Cluster Truck" mess ensued.  Once parked, it was yet another 45" line to just get in the gate. People were NOT happy, and that was before entering!



 Once in the Field, they were told that craft beers were sold out. That was the vendor's responsibility, not the promoter's, as back up kegs could have been planned.  Free water was not available in the heat, only $3.00 small bottles. Those fortunate to had had a beer or two were likely to have a touch of dehydration.  There was not ANY shade to escape the sun. That's POOR planning. There were no Porta Potties at all in Top Rocker Field. NOT SMART, guys. Nearest bathrooms were a few hundred yards away in the beautiful 6 Bends Harley Davidson dealership.  A steady stream of ambulances lined up to take away a steady stream of people, aged  from 40's to upper 70's,with heat exhaustion (not the more serious heat stroke.)  




  Once in the small Top Rocker Field, the wait time on lines for each food truck ran from 20" to 50 minutes!! Fifty Minutes! There were insufficient order takers. Orders were written by hand on paper tickets, instead of using multiple order takers with iPads for more efficient order taking.  Groups of 4-6 friends, or families, hoping to try the wares from 4-6 different food trucks realized the absurdity of the situation. Then, instead of ordering one top item from each of several  food truck, they backed off and wisely instead ordered 3 or 4 items from one or two trucks, and called it a day.


My group of friends struck culinary gold at famed Robin Almodovar's Palate Party Gourmet Food Truck, truly "A Party in your Mouth." We had read in advance of that she was a Hell's Kitchen Top 6 Finalist, and won Best of the Best Food Truck from Miami New Times.

That whet our appetite.
 
Robyn's tacos on left , Short ribs on right
The  BBQ short rib grilled cheese ($10) came on deliciously crisped bread enclosing hot crispy onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, with roasted garlic aioli. HIGHLY Recommended!

The Slow roasted pork sandwich with caramelized onions, arugula, tomato jam and garlic aioli ($9) was juicy! Most added a fried  egg on top, for $1 more! Recommended.   With such competition for a palate, the quite nice Crab cake sliders with sweet chili tomato jam , aioli and mixed greens offered goodly crab, however the taste of the sauces were not sufficiently different in ingredients to stand out from their more highly regarded brethren. The Soft shell crab, and fish tacos were other top sellers.
  

Cucina Bambina Gourmet Italian Eatery was manned by friendly efficient folks. Only in service for 3 months, the tiny truck did not have a following yet, and the line was just 5 minutes long. Hallelujah! 
We enjoyed their "Bambina Sandwich" ($10) with a big hunk of fresh mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma, salad with arugula, roasted peppers and balsamic on a torta roll. Recommended.
 
Food was inspected by the pros


Red Zeppelin Rockin' Lobster Roll was tops with a generous amount of real Maine Lobster on a roll for $15. Highly Recommended.


Moca Loca had a great chocolate shake.


We tried 3 items from another truck. Let's just say that we left most of the forgettable pulled pork and other items on their plates. Yuck. Better vetting of a truck's wares before accepting them to the Food War is in order.


The judges had it a little easier!
Guy


Shana

With the long waits for food at each overwhelmed food truck, one of our group bugged out early. We left earlier than anticipated, having tried far less food trucks than we wished. Bummer.

Attendees dodged the rain
I'd go to the next Food Truck War/Rally. Really, I will. This was the inaugural event-a first time for the promoters, trucks and attendees. Hopefully lessons were learned. Next time have it at Jet Blue, with oodles of parking spaces, bathrooms easily accessible, free water to avoid dehydration, and better crowd control. Did I mention SHADE?  Many table and chairs are needed for tired customers.  It's an endurance contest standing on lines for hours.


 So cut customers a break, and give them ample table spots (in and out of shade)  to put their food, drinks and tired bodies, PLEASE!! Vendors need  more efficient order taking. They need to create dishes that are quicker to prepare. Better vetting of trucks to maintain high quality of food across the board is hoped for- this is subjective.

Thank you 6 Bends Harley Davidson, for letting the promoter use your Field!




PS, my car-ful of friends were so emotionally distraught from the experience (and lack of beer)  that we cured it with  Norman Love chocolate therapy, followed by

Fort Myers Brewery's "medicine!"

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