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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Best of Taste in the Park 2016

The Association of Junior Leagues International was started in 1901 and is a non profit organization of at present, 291 chapters in 4 countries. They are an organization of women promoting educational and charitable activities to improve communities and develop the potential of women.

The Junior League of Fort Myers (JLFM) was established in 1966, and in 2016 are celebrating their 50th anniversary.  They perform a number of Charitable Functions for the community. One of these, started in 1982, is Taste of the Town, but more on that later.

I was approached by the JLFM to be a judge for their 2nd annual preview fundraising event for Taste of the Town, Best of Taste in the Park (BTP). At BTP, attendees voted on the food items served, participated in a silent auction, and were entitled to complementary beer, wine and spirit tastings. The proceeds from this event were split between JLFM and the charitable arm of the Boston Red Sox, The Red Sox Foundation.

The event was held at Jet Blue Park, the spring training facility for the Boston Red Sox.

The judges were instructed before the tasting as to how to evaluate the items served by Erin Snead, VIP Tent Co-Chair for Taste of the Town, 2016. Kara Sadjak and Amelia May also participated as co-chairs of the VIP tent.

Here were our evaluation forms for the 11 items served to us.

We were not told which restaurant submitted each entry, a "blind" tasting.

There were a number of dishes served to us

mostly in tasting portions exemplary of what one would be served for The Taste of the Town.

I will not tell you how I voted or give you an opinion of what was served but here were some of the entries for judging. Keep in mind these were the display items for the purpose of judging the aesthetics of each entry. There were starter items,


and desserts.

After the judging, the Best of Taste in the Park Started, and was capped at 200 participants.

There was a silent auction

with items that were mostly of a sports, food and lodging theme.

A number of restaurants provided food. This mentioning is not inclusive but included Black Salt, the catering arm of Fathoms Restaurant and Bar,

11:Eleven Cafe,

EE to LEET KE Grill at Seminole Casino

There was also beer and wine and craft spirit tastings.

This was a preview of Taste of the Town, which will be held Sunday, November 6, from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. at Jet Blue Park. It looks like it will be a great event, and over 25 restaurants and 10,000 attendees expected. I hope all will come to what promises to be a really good day out.

Taste of the Town 2016
Jet Blue Park
11 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Fort Myers, FL

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Dinner at Garibaldi Restaurant and Bakery

is a restaurant in Naples, FL serving Mexican Cuisine specifically that of Puebla and Central Mexico. They have been in business since 2003, a very good sign.

The interior of the restaurant is extremely bright and colorful

but what really gets your attention when your enter Garibaldi's is the extensive variety of baked goods and desserts all made in house.

There are a variety of breads

and other desserts such as flan, Gellatinas de Mosaico, Arroz con Leche, Chocoflan and Tres Leches Cake.

I do not have much of a sweet tooth but their armamentarium of baked goods and desserts was very impressive to say the least.

I usually have a dining companion or two in tow but this time I was by myself.

Before my order, really good tortilla chips and Salva Verde was brought to the table. 

For reasons alluded to below, I mainly used the chips as a spoon to eat this delicious salsa, but the few that I ate were really good.

The first time I was there I tried a couple of things.

The first was a Chicharron taco

followed by a Barbacoa Torta, or slow cooked beef in a soft bun served with fries.

The torta (sandwich) was topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado and jalapenos.

The latter dish was much better than the former, but both did not really do it for me. I guess the main reason was some cognitively dissonant notion that I was trying to be carbohydrate averse in a restaurant such as this. 

As such, I came back the next day to try a few other things.

The first thing I ordered, as a starter, was the Carnitas tacos and the beef tostadas.

Having finally surrendered somewhat to carbohydrates, both of these dishes were excellent. The beef tostada was exceptional, and was topped with lettuce, avocado, Queso Fresco, sour cream, salsa and jalapenos. I cannot say enough great things about these two menu items.

It got even better.

I ordered the pork and cactus Gordita.

This was fantastic, and the pork and cactus was complemented by copious amounts of cilantro, onions, queso fresco and a chipotle sauce. Absolutely delicious.

The owner, Maria, wanted me at this point to embark on a tasting odyssey of her establishment's food once she realized what I was doing. I could only embrace her generosity to a limited degree at this point, as I was getting very overloaded with the amazing food Garibaldi's can offer.

I was treated to tasting portions of their guacamole

and their Mole Poblano, which came with rice, beans and in house made tortillas.

The guacamole was excellent, but I have always been a fool for mole. What was served here was exceptional and highly recommended.  I was suddenly happy I came back for a second visit. Please keep in mind this mole dish was for personal tasting. My server told me a standard portion was 2 or 3 times this.

As an added bonus, if you dine here on a Sunday, you will be treated to entertainment that ranges from traditional Mexican Music to Karaoke.

For the most part, the food at Garibaldi's is very good to exceptional. I did not try any of the dessert items, but from the look of them, it seemed hard to go wrong. With the variety available here, there is something for everyone. The owner, Maria, invited me back for more sampling and I may take her up on that. If so, look for a dinner at Garibaldi's II installment.

I have not been to every Mexican restaurant in the area but of those that I have, this is the best one as of this writing. Their Dolce selection is extensive and the food can be exceptional. I hope readers will check Garibaldi's out.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Garibaldi's Restaurant and Bakery
11150 Tamiami Tr. E.
Naples, FL 34113

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lunch at Simpson's Tavern

is a restaurant and pub in the Financial District of London and is the city's oldest chop house. It is about 1 block away from The Royal Exchange

which at one time was the center of commerce in London. At present, it contains upscale shops, offices and a dining area and is perhaps a topic of another blog post.

As you walk into Simpson's Tavern there is an outside space

where patrons can enjoy a beverage from one of three satellite bars. One outside of the restaurant,

one in the basement

and one associated with the dining area.

The latter bar was most remarkable due to the barmaid staffing it, Margaret. She was 82 years old and has been working here for 46 years. This was amazing to me due to the mutual loyalty that seems to be present these days between restaurateurs and their employees. 

As you walk into the dining area it is very much in the style of how it was when it first opened in 1757.

Dumbwaiters bring up fare from the basement kitchen to the dining area. The original brass stands for hats and such still are attached to the backs of the bench seating at the tables.

I was fascinated by the lunch Menu here, but breakfast is also served. In terms of food, I do not think much has changed in over 250 years.

The server was excellent, and chatted at length about the menu items. I am a fool for pork belly and there it was on the menu.

This is probably one of the best pork belly dishes I have had, with greens, Cracklings and a mustard mayo dressing. Heaven.

I then tried out their steak and kidney pie.

This was absolutely excellent and it had been many moons since I have had this. I was told by the server that I would not walk away hungry. He was right.

The food at Simpson's Tavern was beyond the pale. They really know what they are doing with British food. They should, as they have been at it for over 250 years. The server was exceptional, and the ambience remarkable for it's history. I can't say more great things about Simpson's, and if in London, I hope you will take the time to eat lunch here. They are also open for breakfast, but not dinner.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Simpson's Tavern
Ball Court
38 and 1/2 Cornhill
London, UK EC3V 9DR
020 7626 9985