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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Happy Hour at Kitchen

Kitchen, Naples, FL
Kitchen is a restaurant in Naples, FL. They recently opened in September of 2017. The restaurant promotes itself as serving modern American cuisine. Their menu offerings are a variety of dishes not really emphasizing any one type of cuisine. Kitchen serves from both a Brunch and Dinner menu. What really intrigued my dining companion (DC) and I was the happy hour Menu. There were about 70% of the dinner menu items on the happy hour menu for 50% off.

Indoor dining area, Kitchen

As to the design of Kitchen, there are a number of indoor dining options including the bar. The outdoor dining areas are also nice, the dining areas here being the typical sidewalk dining you find in the area.

With so many menu choices during happy hour, we wished we could try them all but that was not possible. Here are a few menu items DC and I tried.

The first was the burrata appetizer. A generous amount of this cream-infused cheese was served, along with some crostini and tomatoes. Although the burrata per se was very good, I really did not care for the crostini or the tomatoes. Unfortunately, the tomatoes were the less flavorful "hot house" variety and the crostini cut a bit small to hold the ingredients on this plate. This made a dish that could have been great into one that was only OK. This would be a very easy fix for the restaurant as the quality of the main ingredient is very much there.

Gorgonzola and pear flatbread
We then moved onto the gorgonzola and pear flat bread. This is a much different presentation than the usual flatbread.  Rather than the typical lavash-style flat bread this was in the spirit of thick crust pizza being about 12 inches long by 3 inches across. It was peppered with pear slices, gorgonzola, arugula and speck, the latter gracing the top of the flatbread. It was excellent, and a remarkable amount of food for the $7 happy hour price. My only complaint was the way the speck was laid across the bread. It was hard to cut to make it proportional to the flatbread pieces below it. Not a deal breaker by any means.

Baked ziti was next, and was very good. I am not usually a big pasta devotee and wanted to try something different. The dish was very good, incorporating Alfredo Sauce and tomato sauces, garlic, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Both DC and I described the flavor here as "bright", and probably due to a combination of the sauces and ricotta cheese. I would order this again.

Baked Ziti
We finished with the blackened grouper that DC ordered. It was served with broccoli and roasted carrots; the fish topped with an avocado butter. The fish was excellent and was definitely grouper as described. DC and I agreed this was probably one of the best pieces of grouper we have had in recent memory. Highly recommended.

Blackened grouper

For the most part, the happy hour items we ordered were very good to excellent. Considering the quality of the food, the most generous discounts and the happy hour being held daily (except holidays), I would consider the happy hour at Kitchen to be one of the best in town. Talk about sticker shock but in a good way. There are also drink specials but the food here trumps that.

That's that for another post on Forks.

878 5th Ave. S.
Naples, FL 34102

Brunch: 830 AM-230 PM; Dinner: 3 PM-11 PM; Happy Hour: 3-6 PM; All major credit cards accepted; No valet parking; Kid's meals available

Burrata appetizer

Outdoor dining, Kitchen

Bar area, Kitchen
Indoor dining area, Kitchen

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lunch at the Guenther House in San Antonio

The Guenther House, San Antonio, TX
The Guenther House (GH) in San Antonio, TX is the home of flour magnate Carl Guenther. GH was originally built in 1857. Carl Guenther was the founder of Pioneer Flour Mills, a business that still operates today on the grounds of GH. In contemporary times, GH functions as a museum, conference center, gift shop and restaurant. On a recent trip to visit friends in San Antonio, it was suggested we go there for lunch. They had never been, nor had I, so why not?

GH is located in the King William district adjacent to downtown San Antonio. This is one of the oldest historic districts in Texas, and was settled in the 1840's. It is a 25 square block area laden with oak trees and Victorian, Italianate and Greek Revival architecture. The north path of the Riverwalk of the San Antonio River runs through this neighborhood, and the area is very pleasant and scenic.

Riverwalk north path, King William district, San Antonio

The number of diners GH can accommodate is limited so there is frequently a wait, especially on weekends. Midday on a Sunday, we were told there was about an hour wait. That was OK as were were able to explore the neighborhood a bit and walk along the river. One of the entrances to the Riverwalk is across the street from GH.

GH has a number of dining areas both indoor and outdoor. The indoor dining areas were constructed in the early 20th century and still have the original floor tiling, light fixtures and stained glass. 

Indoor dining area, Guenther House

My dining companions and I were seated outside, which was also a very nice space. The shade and well-fanned area almost made you forget about the Texas sun.

Outdoor dining area, Guenther House

We sampled a number of items from their Menu, all being very good. I started with their champagne chicken enchiladas. You are offered the choice of fruit or salad with your entree, and I decided on the latter. The salad, although a very small portion, was good and was comprised of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and in-house made croutons.

Champagne chicken enchiladas
The enchiladas were also very good. The enchiladas (two) were filled with cumin- and garlic-spiced shredded chicken, onion, Monterey Jack cheese and a white chicken gravy made with sour cream. They were topped with more cheese, jalapenos and cilantro. What was striking about this dish was the freshness of the tortillas. They tasted as if they were prepared from scratch for each order. If they were, that would not be surprising with a commercial flour mill on premises.

The other two items ordered were from the breakfast menu, which is served all day. One of these was the breakfast tacos. 

Breakfast tacos

You are given a choice of 3 fillings for your tacos, though more can be added for an additional charge. Eggs, cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, country sausage (pork or turkey), refried beans or potatoes are among your choices. Salsa verde and a choice of sides, in this case fruit, finished the dish. This menu choice looked really good and my dining companion really enjoyed it.

Strawberry waffles

My other friend chose the strawberry waffles. These were topped with powdered sugar, fresh strawberries and cream, real maple syrup and apple wood smoked bacon. The waffles were made from scratch and everything was fresh and delicious.

The food at Guenther House was very good, recommended and served in a very pleasant atmosphere. If it's a nice day, I thought the outdoor dining option the best. If you are not in a hurry then the Guenther House is for you. While you wait for a table you may want to explore one of the most historic areas in the country. All in all, a nice dining option when in San Antonio.

That's that for another post on Forks.

The Guenther House
205 E. Guenther St.
San Antonio, TX 78204

Restaurant hours 7 AM to 3 PM daily; Reservations not accepted; Self parking; All major credit cards accepted, Kid's meals on request

Pioneer Flour Mills, Riverwalk north path, San Antonio
Riverwalk north path, San Antonio
Entryway, Guenther House
Restored sitting room, Guenther House
Interior dining area, Guenther House
Side salad, lunch

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Happy Hour Again at Ruth's Chris Steak House

Ruth's Chris Steak House, Bonita Springs, Florida
Ruth's Chris Steak House is a luxury steakhouse chain with about 150 locations. I had first visited this location in 2013 and loved their Happy Hour. I thought the food and value were excellent. I decided to go back, inviting two dining companions with me to hopefully have a similar experience as I did on my initial visit.

The ambience of the restaurant was essentially the same, with happy hour in the bar daily from 4-630 PM. 

Bar area, Ruth's Chris Steak House
The happy hour, at least for the food offerings, differed dramatically from my previous visit. Not only had the prices for each happy hour offering increased by about 25%, but the Menu had changed markedly from my initial visit.

Undeterred, my dining companions and I sampled a number of happy hour menu items. Initially, we split an order of crab beignets for the table.

Crab Beignets
These were OK, but as with most restaurant-ordered seafood fritters, they were long in the fritter and short in the seafood. Although nicely flavored, I thought they were just ok. Breaded and fried crab, jalapenos and cream cheese beignets (fritters) are served atop a spicy cucumber salad. Time to try a few more of the happy hour items.

One of my dining companions ordered the prime burger, presumably made with USDA prime meat. This was topped with Swiss cheese and  served with the usual condiments (lettuce, tomato and onion) in addition to fries. 

Prime burger
It was ok but nothing here would differentiate it from other burgers elsewhere.

My other dining companion ordered the steak sandwich.

Steak sandwich
It was good, and served with hollandaise sauce, onion and lettuce and fries. Although good, the meat serving was anemic compared to my initial visit four years earlier and 25% more expensive.

For a more well-rounded evaluation, I ordered the roasted artisan chicken sandwich. 

Artisan roasted chicken sandwich

This was a sandwich on pumpernickel bread, with cilantro-marinated chicken breast, brie cheese and a curry/peach compote. It was, as the other menu selections were, ok.

Having not been here for happy hour in quite some time, I was somewhat disappointed in the food offerings in addition to the price increases. This unfortunately is not an isolated incident. I have observed this trend in other national restaurant chains locally.

Although the service at Ruth Chris was good, the food offerings left much to be desired at their price points. With many other great happy others locally, I think it may be a bit before I return.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Ruth's Chris Steak House
23151 Village Shops Way STE 101
Bonita Springs, FL 33928

Happy hour 4-630 PM daily, Waiting list available, No valet parking, All major credit cards accepted

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dinner at LYNQ in Fort Myers

LYNQ restaurant, Fort Myers

LYNQ is a restaurant in Fort Myers, FL. The restaurant was opened in the Spring of 2017 by seasoned local restaurateurs Jean Claude Roge and Chris Whitaker. Blanc and Blu Sushi restaurants in Fort Myers are two of their other establishments.

Indoor dining area, LYNQ

In the dining areas, there are indoor and outdoor options. The restaurant links a number of materials on the patina of their indoor space. Glass, wood, metal in addition to lighting combine well to provide a very pleasant aesthetic. There are even a couple of lounge areas with cushioned sectional seating for more of a linked in experience. They also have a DJ some evenings linking entertainment with a very eclectic menu drawing from Latin, Asian, American and Latin-Asian cuisines.

Wanting to eat indoors early on a Saturday evening, my dining companion (DC) and I were told there were no available tables. There seemed to be many open tables at that point but that was ok so we were seated outdoors.

We tried to make our menu selections as eclectic as LYNQ's menu and ordered accordingly. The chef/restaurateurs seemed to like a deconstructionist approach with some of their menu items which showed in many of the dishes we ordered.

Pork Belly BLT

As a starter, DC and I split their pork belly BLT. Three thick slices of breaded fried green tomatoes are topped with garlic aioli and crispy pork belly. Chopped frisee finished the dish and served as more of a garnish. I have always been a fool for pork belly and that being said, the dish was excellent. It could easily be a meal for a light eater. Highly recommended.

We then moved onto a taco order. Of the many taco flavors offered,  we chose short ribs. This menu choice was also excellent, with 3 tacos per order. The tacos were loaded with shredded short rib, and were topped with pickled cucumber, avocado, red and green onion and hoisin sauce to make them all that more savory. Again, this could be a meal in itself but for almost any appetite.

Pork belly ramen

Despite a very nice selection of sushi offerings, we opted to split an order of pork belly ramen. The soup base was beef broth, unusual for ramen. Carrots, green onion, coriander, pork belly, soft boiled egg and of course noodles finished the dish. The boiled egg in this dish was perfection and the pork belly very tasty. Unfortunately, the ramen broth lacked the richness I have experienced with other bowls of ramen. I believe the restaurant's addition of 5 spice powder to this dish was an attempt to remedy this and also another unusual ramen ingredient. This menu selection was good, though not as good as other ramen I have had.

Whit's fried chicken

DC and I finished up with Whit's fried chicken. Two chicken breasts, breaded and fried, were served with mashed potatoes and a deconstructed green bean casserole. The chicken serving was interesting. I don't know if this was done on purpose, but one piece of fried chicken breast was boneless while the other served bone-in. If this was intentional, I thought it was a brilliant idea to accommodate those who like to slice their chicken in addition to diners who prefer to eat their chicken off the bone. The potatoes served here were really good, coarsely mashed with added cheese and plenty of butter. The deconstructed green bean casserole was also excellent, the green beans topped with a lovely mushroom sauce and onion rings.
The chicken was good, though not the best fried chicken I have had. I found the meat a bit dry than I prefer making this dish good instead of a standout.

DC and I were told they have a brunch menu on Sundays, with a DIY bloody Mary bar in addition to an endless mimosa bar. As far as the brunch menu goes it changes weekly and is not listed on their website. Call ahead for more information.

All in all I found the food at LYNQ good to excellent. Our server was also very good, making multiple trips to our table to accommodate our piece-meal ordering. She was also very knowledgeable about the items served to us.

With a very pleasant, hip atmosphere, eclectic menu and entertainment, I think the restaurant will do extremely well. It's close proximity to Sanibel and Captiva islands should also help the restaurant as it's the only establishment in it's class near these two communities. As Southwest Florida moves into the winter months, I would guess reservations would be necessary if not required to get a table here during peak dining times. I would recommend LYNQ as there is something here for everyone.

Menu, LYNQ restaurant

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

16230 Summerlin Rd. STE 223
Fort Myers, FL 33908
LYNQ Facebook page

Monday-Saturday: 4-11 PM, Sunday: 12-7PM; All major credit cards accepted, No valet parking; Kid's meals on request

Bar area, LYNQ

Sushi bar, LYNQ

Sushi bar, LYNQ
Short rib tacos

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mr. Greens Produce 6th Anniversary Party

Mr. Greens Produce (GP) is a food wholesaler based in Miami, FL. The company was started in 2003. It was purchased by former real estate equity manager of Greystone Capital, Peter Politis, in 2011. When the company was purchased, it had 6 employees and 4 vehicles in a 3000 square foot warehouse. Since Mr. Politis has been at the helm of GP the company has undergone a rapid expansion through a number of acquisitions. This has included acquiring a 65,000 square foot warehouse on over 5 acres in Miami and the purchase of Happy Foods, another food wholesaler, in 2016. At present, MG has close to 200 employees, a fleet of over 60 refrigerated vehicles and gross sales upwards of 80 million dollars. Not a bad accomplishment for a time span of 6 years.

Mr. Greens distribution facility, Miami, FL

Besides acquisitions, part of MG rapid expansion has been due to fine-tuning it's produce offerings to include on site produce processing that is made to order. In addition, many dry goods, meats, cheeses and pastries are also in their catalog offering a more diverse choice of products to clients. In the past MG has mainly serviced independent restaurants but is starting to provide food items to national restaurant chains.

Field trip to Mr. Greens Produce 6th anniversary party

Recently, I was invited as part of a local chefs group to take a field trip to MG 6th anniversary party. Being chauffeured to a party in Miami on a day off seemed like a really fun thing to do. Besides, I was curious about their operation and wanted to learn a bit more about the produce world.

Well, I didn't learn too much about the produce world but I did pick up a couple of tidbits about their operation. The sales people are all on salary which in my opinion fosters a much healthier working environment than those that offer commission only. They also have what I would call 11th hour service. If you call then up at 2 PM and need an item from their catalog at 5 PM for your dinner menu they are there. How cool is that?

Since I am not a commercial client, it was really fun seeing and sampling some of the goods Mr. Greens offers. Again, they are not all about produce but have a number of dry goods and other wares in their offerings.

They had wonderful cheese displays through their specialty cheese offerings. These included Humbolt Fog, a mild goat milk cheese unmistakably identifiable because of that grey vein down the center in addition to triple creme brie and assorted Maytag and Cheddar cheeses.

Humbolt Fog cheese


There was also a really good pasta station with some great pappardelle pasta with San Marzano tomato sauce. 

Pasta station, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party
What are these prized San Marzano tomatos anyway? They are very famous plum tomatoes that come from Italy. Grown under stringent conditions, they will have an official DOP (Denominazione d' Origine Protetta), or certification of authenticity by the Italian government. While the DOP certification is all fine and well in Italy, it means nothing outside of the country as their DOP is non enforceable. For a really good discussion of non DOP San Marzano tomatoes go here. It's quite eye opening.

There were also a good number of other food offerings but was really intriguing were the fruit carvings by master fruit sculptor Tomas Vida from Miami.

It was a real treat watching these being made. Tomas is an incredible talent. It sounds silly, but it's amazing what one can do with a leek.

There was also an interesting bread display by Pagnifique and dessert displays from White Toque among others.

White Toque desserts
The fruit carvings and displays really added to the product displays that day. They were wonderful and a beautiful combination of the visual and culinary arts.

This was a fun day out and really good exposure to Mr. Greens food catalog. I for one had a great time. I would suspect Mr. Greens had a number of new clients that day, in addition to that much more loyalty from established ones.

Produce display, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party

It's a wrap for another post on forks.

Mr. Greens Produce
7350 NW 30th Ave.
Miami, FL 33147
Mr. Greens Produce Website 

Fruit carving, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party

Fruit carving, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party
Leek ribbon with beet rose carving, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party
Maytag and Cheddar cheeses, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party

Prosciutto ham, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party
Pagnifique breads, Mr. Greens 6th anniversary party