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I have started this blog, Southwest Florida Forks, as I want to share my dining and food experiences with you both textually and pictorially.
I love food and photography and it is my hope that through my dining/food/traveling combined with photos I can bring to you an accurate log of my experiences.
A fork can be an eating implement used to pick things up, as well as being a point where something disperses, perfect for a blog.
You can choose to use these postings as a guide, and if not, perhaps just see life through my lens.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Hour at Bistro 41

Bistro 41 is a restaurant in Fort Myers, FL. It is located in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers.

Happy hour is at their bar

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA FOOD AND RESTAURANT REVIEWS

or in their outdoor area every day from 4-6 P.M.
 
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southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

It includes half off any item from the Appetizer menu with the exception of their seafood or cheese plate. This also includes their selection of wines by the glass and  Well Drinks.

A very nice piece of bread and a dipping sauce of olive oil, Italian seasoning, Balsamic Vinegar and red pepper was brought to the table.
 
southwest florida food and restaurant reviews
 
Their calamari appetizer was then ordered. Lightly-fried calamari was served mixed with stir-fried Bok Choy, served in a crispy Wonton bowl and topped with a sweet and mild Sriracha Sauce. It was really good.

southwest florida food and resturant reviews

The Tuna starter was also ordered.  It came coated with black pepper/Sesame Seeds and lightly seared, served atop Seaweed Salad/Udon Noodles and finished with a Wasabi Aioli topping. Way great!
 
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The meal was finished up with an order of Mussels. These were served with a Sherry/butter sauce seasoned with Shitake Mushrooms, Scallions and Sambal for heat. The mussels were a bit anemic but the best part of this dish is mopping up the sauce with some bread. Crostini topped with garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano accompany the mussels just for that purpose. Our server was more than happy to bring more crostini to the table when asked.
 

The food here is excellent, the servers timely and knowledgeable. I would come back here again without hesitation.
 
That's that for another post on forks.

Bistro 41
13499 S. Cleveland Ave. #143
Fort Myers, FL 33907
(239)466-4141

Bistro 41 on Urbanspoon


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Hour At Da Ru Ma


southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

are restaurants in Southwest Florida serving primarily Japanese Cuisine. They have locations in Sarasota, Naples and Fort Myers, FL. It was da-ru-ma (sorry, couldn't resist) that they had a very good happy hour there. My dining companion (DC) for that day and I met at the Fort Myers location to see if the rumor was true.

As you walk into the restaurant,

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you can sit at the sushi bar,

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in a more traditional dining room,

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or in the Teppanyaki area in either a group

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or more intimate setting.

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The happy hour menu is available in all of these dining areas.

There is a good selection of starter-sized plates, 

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

in addition to reduced prices on selected beverages (only at the bar).

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

DC and I were starvin', so we tried a number of items from the happy hour menu.

The first thing ordered was a Krab meat asparagus roll.

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

The krab was mixed with a bit of Mayonnaise prior to making the roll. It was very good.

Tempura Cod bites were next.

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Balls of Cod were battered, fried and served with a pickled vegetable garnish and a sauce that tasted like mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha sauce. The sauce was not my favorite but the fish bites were not bad.

The next thing that was ordered was the spicy Calamari steak.

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

The calamari was Sauteed, topped with a soy-chili sauce and served with a soy/ginger sauce. It was very good.

A spicy tuna roll was the next order, and was tuna that was mixed with a bit of Sriracha sauce. Pretty good.

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Gyoza were ordered next. One can order then fried, which would turn them into Pot Stickers.

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews
These were topped with Seaweed Salad, Edamame and served with a traditional soy/vinegar sauce. Really good.

Being very full at this point, against better judgement, one more item was ordered. The Escargot Jalapeno Nippon, or Japanese Jalapeno Escargot,


was escargot in a mayonnaise/Masago/Jalapeno sauce, topped with miniature toasts to "mop-up" the sauce. Delicious.

DC and I had more than enough to eat, all for $15.00 each. All of the food ordered was good, especially for the price. I can tell you that da-ru-ma about happy hour being good here is true.  These items are available all night long,  from 5-10P.M. Although for most of these items, the restaurant is a bit mayonnaise-happy, I would come back here without hesitation.

That's that for another review on Forks.



DaRuMa
13499 S. Cleveland Ave.
Fort Myers, FL 33907
(239)344-0037

DaRuMa on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lunch at El Palacio De Los Jugos

El Palacio De Los Jugos (The Palace of Juices)


southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

are primarily open air, Cafeteria-style restaurants in the Miami, Fl area serving Cuban Cuisine.

They have an extensive Menu and also sell a number of fresh tropical fruits such as Mangos, Guava, Papaya and Rambutans.

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southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

Almost too numerous to mention, here are some of the things they were serving that day.


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baked salmon and Chicken Milanese,

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assorted roasted meats,

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sauteed shrimp and breaded beef,

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southwest florida food and restaurant reviews


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Whew, and that's not all of it!

They have a very good selection of Cuban Sandwiches

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in addition to a large selection of really, really good juices.

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Kiwifruit, Watermelon, Mango, Guava, Mamey and Guarapo, or Sugarcane Juice were some of the standouts. One would expect nothing less from a palace of juices.

My dining companion (DC) and I would have liked to sample everything, but that was not possible. Here are the things we tried.


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Paella, not bad but had better,

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sauteed shrimp

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and a Media Noche Cuban sandwich with a side of Cuban Expresso. I've had many imposters, but the sandwich was the real deal and was delicious.


Watermelon juice

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and fresh coconut water

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helped wash all this food down. The vendor selling coconuts had them chilled in a refrigerator and upon order, hacked a portal into it with a machete and provided straws.  Almost De Rigueur for an authentic Cuban restaurant.

As an after thought, a bag of Chicheron, or fried pork skins was ordered.


These were great. I had not had these since living in Central America. Swimming in grease and crunchy. That's why they're called the Cracklins. True Triple Bypass dining.

After all this food a walk was in order. My DC and I decided to checkout Fairchild Gardens. This is one of the best tropical botanical gardens in the world. It comprises 83 acres, and has been open to the public since 1938. I did not go there with a blog post in mind and do not have a cohesive set of photographs to post here.

Probably the standout to me was the Wish Peace exhibit by Yoko Ono.


You take a paper tag, write your wish on it and tie it on a vine.


I wished for someone I missed very much that day.

The food at El Palacios De Los Jugos is great and dirt cheap.  Their sandwiches and juices are fantastic, and I would go back without a second thought. Although having 7 locations presently in greater Miami, here is where DC and I went.


That's that for the 100th post on forks.

EL Palacios De Los Jugos
5721 W. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33144
(305)264-8662

El Palacio de Los Jugos on Urbanspoon

Puro Uno Wines

In a previous Post I had the pleasure of eating lunch with vintner Frank Baroudi (FB),

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews
 
owner of Puro Uno Wines in the Mendoza Provence of Argentina. The Mendoza Provence is ground zero for the Malbec grape, but more on that later. FB is very interesting, and so is his approach to making wine. He has family ties in Naples, FL which has been his base for over 30 years.

He developed an interest in wine through a roommate while in school, acquiring a taste for Premier Cru (First Growth) wines, the A++ wines from the Bordeaux Region of France. After earning a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science he undertook a number of entrepreneurial ventures which have culminated in the winery he runs today.

He told me he picked Mendoza for a couple of reasons. The primary reasons were affordability and the quality of the Malbec grapes here. Traveling to many wine-producing regions in the world to learn the craft, he felt that literally, the Fruits Of His Labor would be maximized in this region. Second, he was a long-time California resident and lover of red wine, specifically Carbernet Sauvignon (CAB) and it's structure. Unfortunately, good wines of this Varietal are very costly. The only other grape that not only had good value but approached the structure of CAB to him was Malbec. 

Malbec thrives here in part because of the Semi-Arid climate offset by run off from the Andes Mountains and the elevation here. At higher elevations, it is thought that the UV-Radiation produces among other effects, thicker grape skins which allow for a better Extraction. This is the process during which wine develops part of it's color, flavor and character through Natural Compounds extracted from grape skins as it is fermenting.

Having learned a bit about producing wine, he approached Catena Wines, a high quality and major producer in Mendoza. He always liked their wines, and approached them about developing novel wine blends based on the grapes grown here.

After about 18 months of trial and error, unique blends not previously combined were developed. However, Catena's distributor thought there may be confusion using Catena's grapes and FB's blends sold under FB's private label so the project was shelved. He then partnered with another Mendoza vintner and Puro Uno Wines came to be.

Many wine makers, when starting off, hire wine consultants such as Paul Hobbs and in a short time, perhaps 3 visits, have award-winning wines. The down side to this is the cost of their counsel which reaches into 6-figure sums. The blends at Puro Uno were all developed by FB, and consist of blending different varietals as well as a varietal (Malbec) from different areas. The Mendoza area has many Macro- And Micro- climates, which effects the character of the grapes grown here.

Puro Uno produces a number of wines. There are a number of limitado Malbecs and Gran Reserva Malbecs, all 100% Malbecs. The Gran Reserva is aged almost twice as long and even up to 3 years differing from the non-reserve product and aged in New French Oak (a bit more on this later).

A late harvest Malbec called Cigar Bar is also a very unique offering from Puro Uno wines.This won the Wine Stars competition at The London International Wine Fair; the world's largest wine trade fair.

FB prides himself on his blends, unique when first introduced and not reproduced to date. Why blend? Blending allows a master-blender to perfect the characteristics of the grapes far beyond what is normally attainable using only one varietal. Combining varietals such as CAB, Syrah and Tempranillo allows for producing a much more complex, round, balanced combination of flavors which creates a more enjoyable wine experience. 

In his red Quadro blends he uses Malbec and CAB for structure, sweet from Syrah and earth from Tempranillo.

The white Quadra blend melds Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the fruitiness of Viognier and Torrontes wines to combine structure, dryness, sweetness and earthy characteristics. In the end this makes for a balanced, easy to drink and  enjoyable wine.

Sparkling Wines, here blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,  are also produced at Puro Uno. They are crafted using the traditional method as done in the Champagne region of France, known as Methode Champenoise. Classic tight, small bubbles make for a very affordable alternative to the costly French product.

FB uses a number of different techniques when producing wine, and it was interesting learning about some of these.


For those more interested in these subjects,  Enologyaccess.org is an excellent resource. This is material culled from the lecture series Introduction to Wine Production.  It is taught at the Viticulture and Enology program at UC-Davis, one of the best in the world.

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) is used at Puro Uno. It is used to deacidify, flavor and provide bacterial stability to wine. Grapes contain Malic Acid. This compound imparts a tartness to the wine. Vintners use natural methods to convert this to Lactic Acid. Lactic acid has a softer "feel" when consumed.

MLF, if not done before bottling, can happen spontaneously with generally a negative outcome on flavor and other wine characteristics. For an in depth discussion of MLF go Here.

Other techniques used post fermentation are Filtration and Fining. After fermentation wine can contain various substances that affect wine appearance (cloudiness), bacterial stability and it's physical characteristics when consumed. Fining involves the addition of various compounds that bind to these undesirable components. This makes them insoluble, settling to the bottom of the wine facilitating their removal by filtration or decanting. Fining can be a delicate balancing act, as unlike filtration it can affect the taste and aroma of wine. Other byproducts of fermentation and MLF, mostly solids, can also be removed by decanting or filtration.

Last but not least the wine is aged in a number of different ways here. Depending on the varietal as well as the age of the fruit, the acidity, the Tannin structure and a host of other factors determine just what and how much aging will be required to bring out the best in the wine.

A Cooper is a maker of among other things, wine barrels. The things that they craft are known as cooperage. For an interesting video on cooperage, look Here. The composition of the cooperage, or barrel, is extremely important to the characteristics of the finished product. With wood, usually oak, the Provenance and the degree to which the Oak is aged after harvest imparts different qualities to the wine.

Puro Uno Wines employs primarily new French Oak for the higher-end wines and a combination of French and American oak for others in addition to stainless steel barrels. All of these aging methods produce wines with varying complexities and structure.

I have been able to sample the sparkling wines made here and a Malbec. All were excellent. I believe FB is destined to become a distinguished vintner in the world of wines. At this point I would like to acknowledge FB's editorial contributions to this blog post.


Researching some of these methods used in wine production was very enlightening and I hope you find the material presented here as interesting as I did.

It's a wrap for another blog post on Forks.
 

Puro Uno Wines
Ruta Provincial 15 KM 30 Agrelo (5509)
Lujan de Cuyo
Mendoza, Argentina 5509 ARG
(619)985-2022

         




 






Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wynwood Art Walk and Michael's Genuine Food and Drink

Wynwood is a neighborhood in Miami, FL.  This area used to be an industrial wasteland until colonized by the art scene about 10 years ago. The next game-changer will be the proposed Residential Developments here.

Next to Wynwood is The Design District, but more on that later.

Every second Saturday of each month in Wynwood they have an Art Walk and the galleries and vendors are open late. Although there are many of these on adjacent streets, it really all happens on NW 2nd Avenue between NW 22nd Street and NW 29th Street.

Walking up and down NW 2nd Avenue you would have thought you went to food truck heaven.

Sweet Sensations, making Funnel Cake among other things,
 


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Sugar Yummy Mama cupcakes,

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Palate Party, serving an eclectic fare,

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90 Miles To Go, serving Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisine,

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Mulberry 1965 serving wood-fired pizza,

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and The Lost Chefs food truck


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where you can get your Plantain fix.

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A turn off NW 2nd Avenue found a juice maker

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and even more food trucks. There is something here for everyone.

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Now for some of the non-culinary art.

Wynwood has a very interesting permanent Mural exhibit called Wynwood Walls.


It's right off NW 2nd Avenue, and as you walk through,

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southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

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you see a quite a bit of engaging art.

There are a number of galleries in this area, but being pressed for time could only see a handful.

There was Glassblowing at OG3 Gallery,

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 and interesting gallery spaces at Alberto Linero Gallery

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southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

The Best of New York Show at the Museum of Fashion

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had Haute Couture fashions from yesteryear from the likes of Halston and Yves Saint Laurent. Tres cool.

On the way out of Wynwood there were a pair of Conga players. If nothing else, I just really liked this picture, especially the kids in the belly of the whale.

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

After the art walk, my dining companion (DC) and I worked up a bit of an appetite. We decided to eat at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink (MGFD). Michael's is in the Design District adjacent to Wynwood, and is an area complementary to it having fashion and design themes. The restaurant has been around since 2007. Michael Schwartz, one of the owners, won The Best Chef South Award in 2010 from The James Beard Foundation. This is sort of an Oscar in the culinary world, and a very good sign.

After negotiating one of the parking meters in the design district, here is what greeted us, and it was very cool.  The sculpture was buttressed asthetically by images of Elvis Presley.

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Upon entering MGFD,

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you can choose to eat outside,

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inside by the bar

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or in the indoor dining area.

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After getting a table outside my DC and I decided to sample a few things off the Dinner Menu.

 After some really good bread was brought to the table,

southwest florida food and restaurant reviews

the first thing that was ordered was an appetizer, the crispy pig ears.

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Chewy and crunchy at the same time, and seasoned with Cajun Seasoning. With a bit of lime juice, perfect.

The Pork Belly was next.

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Kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage was served on the side with peanuts and a Pea Shoot. Really, really good.

Grilled octopus followed the pork belly.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA FOOD AND RESTAURANT REVIEWS

This was a fairly large salad with octopus, Gigandes Beans, roasted peppers, spicy tomato Harissa, olives and herbs. Another really good dish.

I am not much of a dessert eater, but decided to try some of the Passion Fruit pot de creme.



Coconut donuts were served with both a passion fruit creme and a Papaya jam. Although I have eaten all of 2 donuts in the past 10 years, I think these were the best donuts I have ever had.

The offerings at MGFD are excellent, and I would run back without a second thought. The food for it's caliber is reasonably priced and the service was excellent. What more could you want? Too bad it's not closer to Southwest Florida.

That's all folks for another post on Forks.

Michael's Genuine Food and Drink
130 NE 40th St.
Miami, FL 33137
(305)573-5550

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink on Urbanspoon