Thursday, October 19, 2017

Zen Asian BBQ- October Specials are Very Special!

October is THE month to go to Zen Asian BBQ -one of my all time favorite Naples restaurants. Make your next dining out day a Zen Day!

WHY?  Every night, the entire dinner menu is 50% off from 4-6 p.m.. Yes, 50% OFF!!
 Hokkaido Ramen
 There's more. All ramen are 50% off all day  One of my top dishes is the Hokkaido Ramen and its 17 hour broth, with calamari, shrimp king crab, mussels scallion, corn, and oodles of noodles! Normally $22, it's a Deliciousl Bargain  at $11.

Also, every Monday from 4-close the Korean BBQ is 50% off. This is a must-try, as you sit at a special table with the grill built into the center of the table. Call ahead to reserve a spot for this.
Every Tuesday-Sushi rolls are half off all night from  4-12 p.m..
A-Zen Hot Pot
The newest dish at Zen is the huge A-Zen Hot Pot- the Asian version of fondue ($20 before discount.) It's enough for two or three people. First, a large metal bowl is set over a butane stove, and about two quarts of broth are heated. Then spinach, carrots, mushrooms, bok choy and carrots are heated. As it comes to boiling, teh heat is turned down, and the very high quality pork, wagyu beef, and/or chicken is added. In less than a minute, the protein is cooked! I like to add  the minced garlic, a spritz of lime,  and a touch of hot sauce to my portion.

                                                   Close up of pork and wagyu beef.

                                                                The butane stove.

                                                  Placing veggies into the hot broth.

                                      The finished hot pot, with meats under the veggies.

Crispy Gyoza

Start off with a serving of crispy gyoza, succulent chicken and pork dumplings, dipped in a just hot enough sauce ($7.95).  Add an ice cold Ichiban beet or Riff Pinot Grigio. Then try different dishes at these prices!

I keep coming back for the flavorful, tender octopus ($15 before 1/2 off discount) cooked on the robata grill, with karachi miso. The grilled cherry tomatoes and the fried bok choy are wonderful accompaniments.
Cocoa in a Jar

And desserts? My all time special is the Cocoa in a Jar, with luscious layers of vanilla ice cream, fruits, lychee boba, mochi, crushed Oreos and Belgian chocolate!

Zen Asian BBQ, 10823 Tamiami Trail North, Naples

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Steak Jeanmarie with Tequila, Kaffir Lime, Anchovies and Mushrooms

 This is the final result of cooking a marbled ribeye steak with a Tequila, mushroom, anchovy, garlic, lime juice and butter sauce. Have a look at the dish- start to finish!

It started like this. Garlic upper left, Kaffir limes and leaves, 'shrooms and anchovies.
I combined anchovy, garlic and butter to be a topping, crushing all in a mortar and pestle.
The garlic was too strong, so I tamed it by gentle heat. 
I sweated the 'shrooms in butter, added some of the sauce mixture, added Tequila, then set it all afire!

Voila! Steak topped with shrooms, and Tequila, anchovy garlic butter sauce
The sauce was decent, but the lime juice (from my Kaffir Lime tree)  just didn't complement the steak as well as lemon juice would have.
    Next time, I'll make a lemon, butter, anchovy and Tequila sauce, and add some cream to make a nice thick sauce!  I name this Steak Jeanmarie (Hendry Friend), in honor of a dear 10th generation Florida Cracker Hendry, who passed away 2 years ago. She could hunt, clean, and cook anything from fish, wild boar to deer. She would have enjoyed the concoction!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Dining at Fish Crazy during Naples' Restaurant Week

   It's Restaurant Week in Naples, and 49 top Naples restaurants offer special dinners at the $25 or $35 price per person.  My dining companion and I were in the mood for fresh Florida seafood, so we swam off to Fish Crazy  for the $25/person deal! Did I mention that Fish Crazy earned  3rd place in the Restaurant Week's Culinary Competition?  That's Quality!

The rules are simple-pick an appetizer, entree, and dessert from the choices. For only $3, one can add one choice of side garden salad, mixed fresh vegetables, sauteed spinach, or steamed kale.

We started with the Sesame-crusted and perfectly pan-seared Ahi Tuna with seaweed salad, wasabi, and pickled ginger. The tuna was a generous portion, especially at the price, and the drizzle of savory sauce made it a hit. 
The Firecracker shrimp are my favorite-10 medium sized lightly dusted nd fried Gulf shrimp with a mild yet zesty sauce. This portion could be a meal for many. Recommended.
We were quite happy with our choice of wines; a glass of  Maso Canali Pinot Grigio (Italy)  ($9.75), and The Show Malbec (Argentina) ($10).  Had we arrived earlier, during  3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour,  prices would have been $5 for margarita or mojitos, and $4 for house wines and well liquors. Still,  at 7 p.m., there were Mojo Mojitos, Southern Moscow Mules, and Fish Crazy bloody Mary for $9, and other drinks for $8.

Where else can one get a whole Maine lobster tail, a generous crab cake with true lump and claw crab meat and little filler, and a potato, plus appetizer and dessert for only $25 in Naples? No where else! 
The lobster meat was baked just to tenderness, and the  house-made crab cake with remoulade sauce hit the spot.

My dining companion made "all gone" with her baked onion encrusted Red Grouper, kissed with a sweetly tart lemon beurre blanc sauce.  The crisped onions give a great umami flavor accent to the flavorful, sweet local grouper. 
The sweet potato with honeyed butter was a welcome surprise. I'd order that again, in a heartbeat. Recommended.

We were just full enough to turn down dessert, however since one came with each meal, we made our choices.

The Homemade Key Lime Pie is pretty much "Randy's Original Recipe Key Lime Pie"  with a twist, and a dollop of fresh cream. This has been one of my favorite Key Lime pies over the last decade or more. Recommended.
Chef Hector's homemade mouth-watering coconut flan lives up to its name, with generous caramel syrup. It's so rich that two can share it. Some order the pie or the flan as take out! Recommended.

We also had a pair of the famed Hidalgo brisket tacos. My dining companion Annie said "Wow, the flavor is so rich! I feel like I'm eating the King of Tacos, and I'm only a princess." The brisket is slow cooked over two days, the fat is removed, and the poblano pepper sauce is concentrated and added back to the shredded meat. The result is a lusciously lean, succulent portion that's melt in your mouth tender, topped with avocado for a deliciously creamy mouth-feel, cilantro and sliced onion. This would make any BBQ  brisket lover happy!
The whole brisket before being slow cooked to perfection
There are few places in Naples where one can get delicious, ample food (and a doggie bag) for $25, and Restaurant Week at Fish Crazy is one of them. Based on the success of the Restaurant Week Menu here and at other restaurants, expect to find such specials continuing long after the June 14 end of Naples Restaurant Week. Best part? Naples Restaurant Week raised over $15,000 for the Humane Society!
Executive Chef Hector Hidalgo


Sunday, June 4, 2017

True Food Kitchen Charred Cauliflower Appetizer

My favorite appetizer at True Food Kitchen!  Posted in Naples Florida Weekly

Charred Cauliflower Starter

 “Delicious” and “healthy” are the duo of appreciative adjectives that servers often hear first-time customers delightfully pair at Naples' True Food Kitchen upon first bite. The words become a tasty descriptive trio when combined with heartfelt “wows” as guests taste a second, then a third of True Food’s organic and often vegan cuisines.
True Food might become your new lunch BFF with its selection of beautifully plated Dr. Andrew Weil-styled offerings that include the luscious wild mushroom pizza, savory turkey burger and the appealingly, sweetly tart sea buckthorn and wild cherry sorbet.
I flipped for the $8 starter medley of crisp, charred cauliflower florets, candylike Medjool dates, fresh-plucked dill, saucy mint and crunchy pistachios, lightly tossed with the welcome heat of a Moroccan-style harissa-tahini dressing. You couldn't craft this at home for $15, let alone for $8.
Nor could you craft True Food’s airy ambiance with the wide-open kitchen, or have selected a more attentive and friendly cadre of servers who exemplify the spirit of teamwork. Pair it with the $5 refillable cherry chia limeade with tart, sweet Italian amarena cherries, and you’ll come up with more than a trio of adjectives as you dive into True Food Kitchen delights. ¦
-From Naples Florida Weekly 4/20/17

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Wine Wednesday at the Purple Spoon

Where do I go for Wine Wednesday on the first of the month?

 To the Purple Spoon in Bonita Springs, of course!

Owner/Chef Kristina San Filippo, the well known creative SWFL chef, active over the past decade, has crafted a true Culinary Center, a healthy culinary magnet for folks from Naples to Fort Myers.

Whether it's wine education with Julie Glenn pairing wines with Chef Kristina's tapas-style bites, delicious organic 4-5 course meals paired with wine on weekends, a great cooking school, or a true farmers market on Wednesday afternoons, Purple Spoon is the only Culinary Center around.

 You haven't been there yet?!!  Check it out at:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Lee County’s Queen of Cuisine – Chef Gloria Jordan d’Cabral

Why is Chef Gloria Naples Herald’s “Chef of the Month?”  That’s easy!  While crafting two successful Fort Myers restaurants, Chef Gloria has always generously given back to the community through numerous charity events, including PACE Center for Girls, Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, Radio Daze, and Thanks-A-Lot. She personally trains each chef and staff member.  Only Chef Gloria has customers asking to be trained to be rockstar-like servers in her restaurants!
How did Chef Gloria get her start in Fort Myers? Well, she loved dining at her favorite “hole in the wall” 10-seat restaurant in Fort Myers so much that she wanted to buy it. Alas, they sold it to a couple, and she was very disappointed.
A mere two months later, after updating and remodeling it as ‘La Trattoria Cafe Napoli’… they had to put it up for sale. She bought it this time- that’s how it all began back in 2005!
Skipping ahead a decade...Seeking a new challenge, she decided to craft a second restaurant, Mermaid Garden Cafe,  decorated with soft oceanic greens and pale sea-foam accents, and walls bedecked with pretty plates,  teapots and tea cups in what she once described as an endearing “girly-girly” style. Unlike La Trattoria, Mermaid serves only breakfast and lunch-healthy fresh foods that a Mermaid would eat, of course!

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:

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:

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:

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,   

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