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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Naples Originals Quarterly Winter Gift Certificate Sale

Naples Originals is a consortium of almost 40 locally owned restaurants. The main purpose of Naples Originals is marketing member restaurants. To this end, they promote fostering an appreciation of local restaurants as well as other businesses. At the end of the day, locally owned restaurants and businesses enhance their environments by providing a diverse and unique experience for patrons.

Quarterly, Naples Originals restaurants and catering services donate Gift Certificates to be sold at a 30% discount from face value to the public. This is done to market member restaurants and to provide monies for charitable concerns. The face value of these certificates is generally $50.00, $25.00 and $15.00.

The next sale will be Thursday, February 22nd, 2018. Be sure to get to their Website early (6 AM or so) as this offer sells out very quickly.
Cheers and have a very pleasant dining experience at Naples Originals restaurants.
Turkey, Italian hoagie and Cuban (roasted pork) "sliders" served on parmesan ciabatta bread. Three60 Market, a member of Naples Originals.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lunch at Dorona in Naples

Dorona Italian Steakhouse (Dorona)

Darona, Naples, FL

is a steakhouse in Naples, FL. The owner's vision is to have premium, aged meats that are simply prepared mostly complemented by the establishment's interpretation of Italian cuisine. The meats here are aged for any number of weeks depending on the cut at about 35 degrees and around 20% humidity.

Dry aging locker, Dorona

The proprietors have a very long and successful culinary provenance stretching from Washington, DC to St. Petersburg, FL and Naples, FL.

The restaurant has been open less than a month as of this writing. Having sampled wares from the owners other brands, my dining companion (DC) were anxious to try this new addition to their dining armamentarium.

As you enter Dorona, the restaurant's space centers around the well thought out bar area, with booth and table seating adjacent to that.

Bar area, Dorona
 Here is establishment's lunch menu.

All of it looked really good, and here is what DC and I ordered from the menu.

We started with the fig and black truffle pizza topped with prosciutto and arugula.

Fig and black truffle pizza

This dish was excellent and DC and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We also sampled the wagyu stuffed olives; breaded and fried and served in a sort of deconstructed burrata sauce. This was not for DC and I. Recognizing our less than unbridled enthusiasm for this starter our server brought it back to the kitchen and took it off our tab. I thought this was great and customer service such as this will keep me coming back.
After our servers recommendation, we sampled the meatballs "affogato" in a tomato/parmesian gratin.

Meatballs affogato

As one of the owners explained to us, meatballs are very common in Venice but are mostly served plain; you get your meatballs there with a toothpick. The interpretation at Darona is affogato, or smothered in Italian. You then have these meatballs served topped in a very nice sauce. Although the meat portion of this dish is small it still is most recommended. 

As DC and I were waiting for our mains, we noticed that the table next to us ordered a Caesar salad. Refreshingly prepared table side, I was glad to see this mostly forgotten bit of restaurant showmanship brought back to life here.

DC and I ordered our main course from the reinvented sandwiches and burgers portion of the lunch menu. DC opted for the beef brisket sandwich.

Beef brisket sandwich
This sandwich was excellent, with ample amounts of hot/sweet brisket. It was topped with inoki mushroom tempura and cabbage slaw with a vinegar dressing. The vinegar note from the slaw was the perfect accompaniment to this exceptional menu item.

I settled on the dry aged beef burger. This was another exceptional menu item. The burger was topped with sopressata, caramelized onions, bourbon sauce and fried egg. The egg yolk drizzling over this wonderful aged beef patty after my first bite was incredible and a perfect foil for this dish. Most highly recommended.

The fries served with both of these items were very good. We were told this was due to a frequent oil change in their fryers. I wish more restaurants would do this as something so simple can make a big difference on the finished product.

At DC's suggestion, I took a bit of a closer look at Dorona's dry aging locker. One of their signature dinner items is a dry aged bone-in 140 oz. chateaubriand that served four.

Dry aged chateaubriand
I think you will agree with me that this menu item is a chateau "beyond".

From what was ordered for lunch, the food at Dorona is, for the most part, excellent. The service was also very good, our server being as accommodating as a server possibly could be. Our lunch experience here is highly recommended and was almost flawless. I think Dorona is a wonderful addition to the local culinary scene and a breath of fresh air from the luxury steak establishment status quo.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

2110 9th St. N.
Naples, FL 34103

Monday-Wednesday: Open 1130-230 for lunch, 3-10 PM for dinner; Thursday-Saturday: Open 1130-230 for lunch, 3-1030 PM for dinner; Sunday: 5-9 PM for dinner; No valet parking; All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals by request.

Dining area, Dorona

Dining area, Dorona

Table side Caesar salad

Crispy olives stuffed with wagyu beef

Dry aged beef hamburger

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dinner at Pho Kingdom in Fort Myers

Pho Kingdom (PK)

Pho Kingdom
is a restaurant in Fort Myers, FL serving Vietnamese cuisine. At present, they have been open less than a month and are in the space formerly housing Ruben's Smokehouse. I love a good bowl of pho, that delicious Vietnamese soup made from a richly prepared broth and rice noodles at it's most basic. That being said, my dining companion and I decided to check it out.

The interior of the restaurant is somewhat moderate and simple, reflecting the cuisine here.

Dining area, Pho Kingdom

The menu, at least for now, is minimal. That's OK I thought, perhaps they do what they do well.

Menu, Pho Kingdom
We opted to try a few things off the menu, the first being the cha gio tom and cha gio ga, fried shrimp and chicken rolls, respectively.  Four rolls come to a serving, and for $4, is very reasonable. The owner was really nice and brought to the table two chicken and shrimp rolls so we could try them both. Unfortunately, these were no great shakes. Just run of the mill fried rolls.

I wanted to try the beef rib dish (com suong bo) but they were out. We opted for the com suong heo, or barbecued pork with rice.

Barbecued pork with rice and fish sauce

Upon serving, this dish just seemed like a barbecued pork chop, at first glance unremarkable and I was somewhat disappointed. It was much more according to my dining companion who had traveled extensively in Vietnam. The pork was fairly sweet after it's condensed milk and honey marinade. The dish, once explained to me how it works, was very good. The pork, cut into bite size piece is topped onto rice and seasoned with the fish sauce-based condiment provided. To complete this meal, a small serving of the restaurant's chicken pho was served alongside. It was delicious and a wonderful compliment to this main.

We finished with the pho dac biet, a pho with brisket, meat ball and beef. This was a monstrous portion of pho and if I had to guess was about 25 oz. 

Pho dac biet
The condiments served were some of the usual pho suspects and included basil, bean sprouts, culantro and hoisin sauce. This beef pho was really heavy on the star anise/five spice powder so if you like this flavor this bowl o' pho is for you.

Having no more room for food we asked for the check. As of this writing, the restaurant is giving a 20% discount as a "carrot" to come and try their food. With our discount the above bowl of pho was around $11.00. I don't think you can find anything like this in the area for this price. For lunch, two people would have a fairly good serving of pho for not much more than $5.00. 

The food, from what was sampled at PK was ok to very good. I thought the pho hands down was the best of what we ate here. The prices, at least for now, cannot be beat and readers may want to take advantage of this promotion. If you have a "yen" for Vietnamese food, especially pho, PK may be for you.

Total with discount, Pho Kingdom

That's that for another post on Forks.

Pho Kingdon
11506 Tamiami Trail
Fort Myers, FL 33907

Open 11AM-8PM Sunday-Saturday; All major credit cards accepted; Self parking; Kid's meals available

Vietnamese shrimp and chicken rolls

Chicken pho side order

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Faith, Wine and Culture. Windows on Wine.

Another wonderful installment from local retired Master Sommelier Barrie Larvin's blog post, Windows on Wine. Barrie was president of The Court of Master Sommeliers for 20 years and developed many of their educational programs. For a brief discussion of Austrian wine and culture, go Here. As always, a great educational experience.

A non-nondescript glass of Gruner Veltliner somewhere in Naples, FL

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dinner at Namba Ramen and Sushi

Namba Ramen and Sushi (Namba),

Namba Ramen and Sushi, Naples, FL
as the savvy reader may surmise, is a Japanese-themed restaurant serving ramen and other items inspired by Japanese cuisine. The restaurant opened in December of 2017 and has a provisional menu for the time being.

Namba is a district in the prefecture (equivalent of state) of Osaka in central Japan. Koko Pitak, the executive chef, is from Thailand. After initially pursuing an electrical engineering career switched gears and trained in Japan mastering the art of preparing Japanese cuisine.

Chef Koko had previously worked at an Asian-themed restaurant in Naples and I really enjoyed his efforts there. As such, I was anxious to sample his offerings at Namba. For now, having just opened, his culinary repertoire is limited but many menu items will be offered in the near future from this extremely talented chef.

Interior, Namba
The restaurant, located in north Naples is relatively small, accommodating about 30 diners. They do not take reservations and for now, having just opened, the wait is minimal, at least the Monday night in January we were there.

We had a rather large party (6 diners) and were seated rather quickly. Having so many people in our group, we were able to sample a number of items from Namba's present Menu.

The first thing sampled was the restaurant's edamame. Edamame are soy beans, and once cooked, are meant to be squeezed from their seed pods when eating. Although not eaten and used as a flavoring vehicle, the edamame pods at Namba are seasoned with smoked soy sauce, garlic, ginger and for our order, mild chili pepper. They were very good, and kept the vegan contingent of our dining party happy.

Shishito peppers

We also sampled the grilled shishito peppers. These are a sweet Asian pepper, and at the restaurant are grilled and served with a ponzu (citrus) aioli. Besides again mollifying our vegan diners, this starter was also very good.

The gyoza were next, and most definitely passed muster from our dining group. In house made dumplings (fried) are stuffed with Wagyu beef, cabbage and scallions and topped with a yuzu (citrus)/tahoon sauce. Tahoon is an herb that has both a nutty and subtle onion flavor. Garnished with a carrot puree, this starter is served with a sauce made from black truffle on the bottom and covered with ponzu sauce. If you order this be sure to stir this wonderful condiment before eating!

Grilled octopus

I am a "sucker" for octopus, and had to order the octopus appetizer on the menu. Usuta (Japanese Worcestershire) sauce, pickled beet, grilled tomatoes and yuzu aioli finished this wonderful dish. No matter your point of view on eating cephalopods, this starter is a masterpiece. It is beautifully presented and one of the best, if not the best grilled octopus dishes I have eaten. Most highly recommended.

We finished our perusal of the small plate menu with a couple orders of the steamed bao buns. These were excellent, filled with Berkshire pork, lettuce, pickled cucumber and hoisin sauce. Berkshire pork is what is known as a "Heritage" breed. Like heirloom in the vegetable world, heritage Berkshire has been around for many years; this pork being produced for almost 300 years in the UK. As Wagyu is to beef, Berkshire is to pork, both prized for their heavily marbled fat content. Berkshire pork is also known as Kurobuta pork in Japan. No matter, this small plate was very much enjoyed by the carnivorous contingent of our dining party.

We then moved onto our "mains", which was a sampling of the ramen offerings here. Our vegan diners ordered, of course, the vegan ramen. The base of this dish was vegetable broth/soy milk and included inari (fried tofu skins), cashew and bean sprouts. It was delicious, and thought it had a heavy coconut note. Au contraire chef Koko said, it's flavor comes from the in house made soy milk. An excellent menu offering, this will keep any vegan diner happy.

The other ramen dishes here are based on tonkotsu broth, which is a broth made from simmering pork bones for many hours, in this case seventeen. It is milky white, the color developing only in the final hours of cooking. One of our dining party ordered the beef ramen, which came with thinly sliced beef sirloin sauteed in a shoyu (fermented soy) sauce with ginger, garlic and Asian pear. Seasoned hard boiled egg half and bean sprouts finished the dish. I did not sample this but as all the other ramen dishes here, looked great.

Classic pork ramen
I ordered the classic pork ramen, which was served with pork chashu slices. Chashu is braised pork belly, and is heaven. This particular ramen is also served with red ginger, wood ear mushrooms, nori, bamboo shoots, Japanese pickled plum, spicy bean sprouts and seasoned hard boiled egg. It was hands down delicious, another fantastic menu item.

Hokkaido ramen
Another member of our dining party ordered the Hokkaido ramen, which has a seafood theme.  Here, this wonderful tonkotsu broth is flavored with king crab leg, calamari, shrimp, corn, scallions and spicy bean sprouts. At Namba, one is able to order additional toppings for your ramen. In this case, kamaboko fish cakes were the supplement. This is a processed whitefish that has various flavorings added to it and steamed. It is similar to the Krab that is available in North America, but can be prepared in much more aesthetically pleasing ways. This member of our dining party said "this was the best bowl of soup he had ever eaten". Having tried another version of this before, I would tend to agree.

We finished with a couple shared orders of the green tea-infused creme brulee, the only dessert available on the maiden limited menu right now. It was good. Visually the dish had one, but I really didn't taste a pronounced green tea note here. Having said that, if you like creme brulee you will like this dessert.

The food at Namba is very good to absolutely wonderful. You will not have a bad meal here. Although there are many great menu items, the ramen is hands down the best of the bunch right now from what we sampled. I cannot wait for Namba's menu to expand and have many more offerings. With this extremely talented chef at the helm, only good things can come from this establishment down the road.

Namba, Naples, FL

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Namba Ramen and Sushi
8847 Tamiami Trail North
Naples, FL 34108

Open Monday-Thursday: 1130AM-10PM; Friday-Saturday: 1130AM-1030PM; Sunday: 5-930PM; All major credit cards accepted; No valet parking; No reservations accepted, seating on a first come, first served basis; Take out available; Kid's meals on request.

Wagyu beef gyoza


Berkshire pork belly buns

Green tea-infused creme brulee

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dinner at Silk Road in Fort Myers

The Silk Road was an ancient series of trade routes that were both by land and sea linking the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Although eastern silk exports were an early catalyst of trade, both economic goods and cultural concepts were exchanged through this global trade network.

Due to it's location, present day Uzbekistan played a key role in the Silk Road and was part of it's main Eurasian trade routes. For visitors to this area, there are significant archeological remnants of the Silk Road dating as far back as the first century C.E.

Silk Road, Fort Myers, FL
In present day southwest Florida, the Silk Road is a restaurant serving Uzbekistan cuisine. They opened recently in December of 2017. After reading some very favorable reviews on Social Media, my dining companion and I decided to take a peek.

Dining area, Silk Road

Although this area of the world is terra incognita to me, the interior of the restaurant seems decorated to reflect Uzbekistan culture.

I was unable to find a menu on line as of this writing. As such, I'll talk about what we sampled. We tried a few things off the appetizer menu. The first of these were Xolodets. If you don't speak Russian it doesn't matter, the video link will give you an idea.


Xolodets are a traditional Uzbek dish, and is basically chipped beef placed into a mold and covered with beef bone broth that has been simmering for about 8 hours. The molds are then chilled, jellying the broth. I thought this dish ok but a great introduction to Uzbek cuisine. If you like the pate de campagnes of France, you will enjoy this dish.

We then tried a couple of other starters, the Samsas and Blinchik. Samsas are a distant cousin to Indian samosas, though they are baked. Our samsas were filled with beef and onion, with a bit of cumin, salt and pepper.  The Blinchik are simplistically meat crepes. They are filled with beef, onion and tomato and spiced with cilantro and pepper. Both were good and increased my appreciation of Uzbek food.


We also ordered the markovcha off the salad menu. Although markovcha has Korean roots, it has been modified by the Russians much like the modification of fried rice in North America. This was an unusual but tasty dish. This is basically shredded carrot with a vinaigrette including garlic, coriander seeds, cayenne and honey.

We finished with a couple of entrees, the Plov and a couple of kebabs. Plov is supposedly the national dish of Uzbekistan, and is basically a pilaf with (at the restaurant) lamb, rice, carrots and chickpeas.

The plov was excellent, bringing back memories of the Indian biryani.  The lamb melded perfectly with the rice and other ingredients in this dish, which is cooked in a large cast iron pot. One of the owners told me everything here was made from scratch, and I believed her.

Lamb and lulya kabobs

The kabobs were good, but would have been outstanding if we would have opted to have optional skewered vegetables on them for an inconsequential $1.50 more. If you order these, please do this. The lamb kabobs were really good, but we also sampled the Lulya kabobs.  The lulya kabobs were made from ground beef and chipped beef fat, and were seasoned with cumin and cilantro.

We dipped our kebabs in chanti, an absolutely delicious meld of yogurt, cilantro and lemon. The chanti was so good, I could have ordered it separately as a soup.

They also have beer and wine with some wines being from Uzbekistan. With no wine list at the time of our visit, it was totally shooting from the hip but the Uzbek white I sampled was very good.

The items sampled at Silk Road were good to excellent. This cuisine was totally unknown to me but I was not disappointed.  I do not think you will be either.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Silk Road
8646 Gladiolus Dr. (Crossing Plaza)
Fort Myers, FL 33908

Open from 11 AM-9PM daily; No valet parking; All major credit cards accepted;  Kid's meals available

Dining area, Silk Road



Monday, January 8, 2018

Eat Local Lee

is a non profit whose focus is linking Lee County, FL food and beverage producers to restaurants and end consumers to facilitate the availability of fresh, local food for everyone. This will be beneficial to the community in many ways. These include, but are not limited to community education in food production, availability, nutrition and the culinary arts. Through these educational endeavors in addition to direct and indirect marketing because of them, demand will increase for locally sourced food and beverage benefiting area businesses. This will also enhance county wide agritourism efforts and the visibility of Lee County itself to both residents and visitors.

ELL is furthering it's agenda in a number of ways. From a grant from the Visitors and Convention Bureau of Fort Myers, the tourism marketing branch of Lee County government, and the largess of a local non profit, funding was available to create a Map of local food and beverage producers in addition to area farmers markets that will be distributed to local businesses and given out at ELL events. An app to this end is also in the works for your mobile.

There will be local tours of area producers coming up in addition to a free movie screening.

On January 20th, there will be a guided tour of two local producers, Pine Island Botanicals and Florida Microgreens. Both of these producers are top notch operations, and participants will learn more about local farming here. I have toured Pine Island Botanicals Before. They have a really nice and inventive hydroponic farming operation that certainly has become that much better since I was there over 3 years ago. Local spirit producer, Wicked Dolphin and craft brewer, Big Blue Brewing, will also be featured.

The next day, January 21st a poker run will start from Six Bends Harley Davidson in Fort Myers,

and feature four local producers and/or vendors. 31 Produce, Southern Fresh Farms, Roosters on Route 80 and Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm. The tour will end up at Babcock Ranch, the nation's first solar powered community. They have many dining options and are very much into " local farm to fork". It you don't have a motorcycle no worries, just follow along in your vehicle.

There will also be a screening of Wasted, a documentary of food waste produced by celebrity chef and journalist Anthony Bourdain. Afterwards, a question and answer session will be held with local chefs and food educators.

ELL members were recently at downtown Fort Myers Art Walk at their beer tent dressed as farm animals to promote their concept and events.

 Look for them at future Art Walks and help promote their mission in Lee County.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Eat Local Lee
Eat Local Lee Website
Eat Local Lee Face Book Page