Sunday, August 25, 2019

Table & Tap at Babcock Ranch

Table & Tap at Babcock Ranch –put it on the top of your “To Do” list for top dining in SW Florida!

Yes, it is off your beaten path, being out in the open country at the edge of Lee and Charlotte Counties, where the stars shine brightly in the night sky…and it’s well worth your lunch or dinner visit, for two reasons! First, to see visionary Syd Kitson’s self sufficient  solar energy powered , well-planned multi-generational community on 19,000 acre Babcock Ranch unfold, and second, to experience the  culinary creations of Executive Chef Julian Cardona  and Executive Sous Chef John Innarelli. 

Executive Chef Julian Cardona
A good deal of the produce already comes from Babcock’s farm, sourced within a minute or so drive of the restaurant; soon much will be grown hydroponically at the restaurant--top That for Farm-to- Table dining!

A new menu will appear in Fall, keeping some of the current menu favorites. Chef Cardona masterfully adds some Hispanic touches of Mexican and Cuban cuisines to the dishes, and Chef Innarelli works his magic with smoking meats and charcuterie.  Daily specials are the magnet for many to drive from a 50 mile radius to savor what’s new. Some days the main dish special have been smoked and seared duck breast, or “sticky” ribs; your specials will vary as well. I’ve driven the 45 minutes from Naples to Table & Tap a few times in the past, and can say that the food only gets better and better, or else I’d not make the drive!  I went with several  dining companions for this visit, and here’s what we enjoyed.
We started with over a dozen Mussels with crumbled mild chorizo, garlic, and shallot in a white wine sauce ($12); it’s very flavorful, and, in a very good sense, unlike any mussels dish you may have had. Highly recommended.
The wonderful smoked fish dip special appetizer is an artful presentation with pickled fruits and vegetables, hot sauce, and crisp bread. Save room for the entrees!
I hope the special pulled pork lomo with cotija cheese and pico de gallo goes on the new menu–this is a “wow” mix of American smoked pork and Cuban mojo sauce, served atop Mexican-style tostones.
The red deviled eggs ($10) has the Sweet Cypress Farm egg whites pickled in red beet, with crisp  candied bacon and pickled beet batons-a welcome twist on a Southern delight.
I savored a snifter of Founders Dirty Bastard beer ($5), while my companions enjoyed the Hendricks martini ($9), and the generous pours of the Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc ($10), and the ($5) Babcock Chardonnay. Good selections and good prices. On to the main dishes.
Lead cook Micah Tedros crafted a green onion and Andouille sausage risotto-based etouffée , instead of using the usual rice, with a sextet of grilled shrimp and a New Orleans-styled sauce (~$22).The risotto is lusciously tender and flavorful with the smoky sausage highlights, and the shrimp are perfectly cooked.  Highly Recommended.
My all-natural skirt steak from Harris Ranch ($26) with chimichurri sauce (from parsley grown on the Babcock grounds) came with sweet plantains, grilled asparagus, Carolina Gold rice, and a touch of garlic oil. This was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had-perfectly charred with a medium-rare interior. That’s not easy to do on a thin skirt steak.  Highly recommended-and well worth the drive.
The wild game-balaya ($21), is a savory mix of tender alligator, boar sausage, Carolina Gold rice, trinity, and smoked tomato. It’s a delicious and generous portion.
Shrimp po’-boy ($12) is a filling sandwich with a choice of fried or blackened large shrimp, remoulade sauce, and lettuce and tomato on a toasted French roll with fries. Recommended.

Other current “must-haves”  are the watermelon herb salad; wild boar rack; tomahawk pork chop; Elton melt of braised short rib and Provolone cheese; seafood tropicales with mahi, blackened shrimp and plantains,  and a side of roasted exotic mushrooms. Look forward to duck or chicken confit, and a variety of smoked meats.
For dessert, we shared the large mixed berry cobbler ($12), with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, fresh whipped cream, and raspberries, blueberries and strawberries in a delicious sweet crust, baked in a cast iron pan. It easily serves four people.  Highly Recommended!

After dinner, we walked around the Babcock community. Kids were fishing for bluegill, freshwater snook, and 5-8 lb bass-all catch and release on the stocked Lake Babcock that the restaurant overlooks.

 Mr. Kitson is creating a truly interactive community of all ages-may this be a model for other developers across the country.

We will probably be back again, before the new Fall menu comes out. Table & Tap may or may not  take Open Table reservations. If not, that could be a problem on a Friday or Saturday night in Season, it’s not in the off Season. The restaurant seats about 70 inside, and can seat another 200 or so outside! Check out the plates-my photos do not do them justice-some look like the rings of a large tree stump, other plates have an “earthy” look to them-more evidence of the culinary team’s attention to creativity and detail.

42860 Crescent Loop, Punta Gorda, FL.  (941) 235-6906,

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