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Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Very Generous Pour at the Capital Grille


Capital Grille, Naples, FL



Darden Restaurants is the world's largest casual dining operation in the world with over 1500 restaurants and 150,000 employees working under 8 different banners. These include Seasons 52, The Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Longhorn Steakhouse among others. One of these banners, The Capital Grille, was started in Rhode Island in 1990 and acquired in 2007 by Darden. The Capital Grille is a luxury steakhouse banner under The Specialty Group of Darden.


Wine Lockers, Capital Grille
As you walk into the restaurant at the Naples, FL location to talk to the receptionist the first thing you may notice is the rather commodious and well appointed bar area bustling with patrons. The second are the personalized storage lockers in the reception area. The hostess told me they are reserved for those that buy a case of wine from the restaurant and pay a $500 annual fee. This entitles one to be on a mailing list for VIP events, forgo a corkage fee for wine brought into the restaurant and also have preferred seating.

 
Wines featured in The Generous Pour, Capital Grille

My dining companion and I were there for their annual promotional event, The Generous Pour. The event features tastings of 7 different wines, 3 whites and 4 reds. All of the wines chosen for this event are rated 90 plus points on the rating scale developed by the wine critic, Robert Parker, for the influential wine periodical The Wine Advocate. The white wines featured were a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Gris. The red wines served were a Pinot Noir, a Zinfandel and 2 Cabernet Sauvignon wines. For a more complete description of each of the wines served for this event go Here.  The Generous Pour is $28 with dinner which can even be a salad if you like bringing this event into extremely generous territory.This seems to be a very popular promotion, as our server told us about 30% of diners order this.

We were escorted to our table and immediately brought water and a bread basket. The bread served was excellent with a wide range of textures and flavors. Lavash, pumpernickel with white raisins, ciabatta with herbs, Parmesan and egg wash and French dinner rolls, which are basically baguettes in dinner roll form. All of this made for a really good snack while we were perusing the menus.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

We decided to sample a few items, the first being the lobster mac and cheese. For mac and cheese per se, this dish was excellent. A mixture of Havarti, White Cheddar, Mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses graced our macaroni, which had a bit of a seafood note. I never thought certain shellfish like lobster and crab are a good idea in heavy sauces. Their flavor is so delicate it can be easily lost in a heavy sauce. Nonetheless, this was a very good plate of mac and cheese.
 
Cobb salad

Since I was able to, I really wanted to have a salad for dinner. Unfortunately, what really appealed to me was the Cobb salad that was only available at lunch. Calling ahead, the restaurant told me they would gladly make one for me by request, a real feather in their cap for service. This was a nice take on the traditional Cobb with sliced tenderloin, egg, avocado, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, bacon covered lettuce with a honey mustard dressing and blue cheese. Should you ever forget what is in a Cobb salad, remember the acronym EAT COBB (eggs, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and blue cheese).

My dining companion ordered the shaved Brussels sprout salad with toasted pecans, goat cheese and smoked bacon. Just more deliciousness. We also split an order of roasted wild mushrooms consisting of roasted crimini, oyster, shiitaki and portobello mushrooms. My dining companion did not care for these but I did. More for me!

One more thing about The Generous Pour. You are poured one ounce samples of each wine but you are free to revisit any and all wines as much as you like. I particularly liked one of the Cabernet wines (Mt. Brave) which our server told us was normally $30 a glass. The restaurant was extremely generous with their servings which made me very happy.

With price points in the upper range of the dining scene in Naples, The Capital Grille does not always have to be about capital, especially with this great promotional event.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

The Capital Grille
9005 Mercato Dr.
Naples, FL 34108
(239)254-0640

All major credit cards accepted; valet parking; kid's meals available, open Monday-Thursday 1130 AM to 10 PM, Friday 1130 AM to 11 PM, Saturday 5-11 PM, Sunday 5-11 PM

 
Bar area, Capital Grille

 
Dining area, Capital Grille

 
Bread basket

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dinner at Martin Fierro Restaurant

Martin Fierro Restaurant, Naples, FL

Martin Fierro is an epic Argentine poem describing the contribution of the gaucho, or the cowboy, to the development of Argentina in the late 19th century. The gauchos in this era were apparently instrumental in Argentina's secession and independence from Spain. In contemporary Naples, FL, Martin Fierro is an Argentine steak house.

Maestro de parrilla, Martin Fierro restaurant, Naples, FL


Martin Fierro is primarily a parrilla, or barbecue restaurant. It is different in a sense that they use wood, and very different wood than most to grill their meats. Besides the usual Florida Oak, they combined this with wood from the Quebracho tree, an extremely hard Spanish wood that imparts a very unique flavor. Quebracho is derived from the term "axe-breaker".

The interior of the restaurant is long, narrow and humble, but very accommodating. There are outside dining options as well.

My dining companion and I decided to try the sample approach here, and were pleased to find out there was no split charge. After a nice basket of bread and Chimichurri sauce, which is a very pleasant amalgam of parsley, garlic, oil, oregano and vinegar, we wanted to sample their ham and cheese empanada. It was unremarkable, but served with a homogenized Chimichurri sauce which was this dish's saving grace.


Grilled watermelon salad

We then moved onto the grilled watermelon salad. It was incredible. Grilled watermelon from the parrilla was served with arugula, almonds, cherry tomatoes, Feta cheese and a balsamic glaze. This was fantastic and definitely not one of those "do not try at home dishes". It's a priority now to experiment with grilled watermelon.


Meat lover's parrilladas plate


We finished with the parrilladas portion of the menu, de rigueur for the carnivore and/or the Argentine diner. We ordered the meat lover portion consisting of Churrasco steak, short rib, pork chop, chicken breast and chorizo. It was excellent and served with mixed vegetables in a balsamic glaze with fried yucca. The yucca was the best I have ever had; crispy on the outside but soft and starchy as a potato on the inside and served with a basal aioli. The mixed vegetables were green beans, asparagus, red onion, mushrooms and grape tomatoes sauteed with a mixture of soy sauce, garlic and vinegar then finished with a balsamic reduction. They love balsamic reductions here and they work well; the mixed vegetables were one of the best parts of the meal. The portions in the meat lover's plate, in addition to the 2 sides, are easily enough for two if not three. We even had leftovers which in my dining experiences is unheard of.

The food at Martin Fierro restaurant is for the most part, excellent. The service was great, the portions generous and the prices, for what you get, kind. If you haven't been here, go. There is a reason they have been in business for almost 20 years.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Martin Fierro Restaurant
13040 Livingston Rd.
Naples, FL 34105
(239)300-4777

All major credit cards accepted; Open Monday-Saturday 11 AM-10 PM, Sunday 12-10 PM; Kid's meals available; Self-parking available.

Outside dining area
Indoor dining area
Bread with Chimichurri sauce
Ham and Mozzarella empanada
Mixed vegetables and fried yucca


ACF Naples Chefs General Meeting July 2017


The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL

The Naples Art Association was started over 60 years ago. In it's present form, it is housed in the von Liebig Art Center (von Liebig) which contains it's administrative, exhibition and educational facilities. The von Liebig is also an event space which was home that evening to the July 2017 general meeting of The ACF Naples Chefs, but more on this later.

Watson Gallery, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL



Steve Augulis, "Best Laid Plans"

The Watson Gallery at The von Liebig was nicely appointed for this event, and included The von Liebig's annual national photography competition, Camera USA, which is now in it's 7th year. I was happy to see some local artists featured, such as Joseph Parisi, Karen Swift, Dennis Church and Steve Augulis, with his photograph, "Best Laid Plans".

Now for the event. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is the largest professional chef's organization in the US, with almost 20,000 members in 150 chapters. The membership of ACF mostly consists of chefs and food purveyors, but others such as culinary enthusiasts are more than welcome. Flush with pride from the recent annual National ACF meeting in Orlando, FL, local chapter members brought home a number of national recognitions. These included one member's induction into ACF Culinary Team USA which competes internationally in events including the "Culinary Olympics" held annually in Erfurt, Germany. This was not bad considering a total membership pool of almost 20,000 nationally.

The food served at the July ACF Naples Chefs meeting was prepared gratis by Sage Events and Catering (Sage). Sage was started in 2006 by local chef Amber Phillips. Chef Phillips is self taught, and worked at locally well respected catering services before breaking out on her own. Sage is near the front of the line of catering services locally, winning best of the best accolades repeatedly for their cuisine. Sage can address almost any dietary need with their products including their award winning pre-made meals delivered directly to you.

Gumbo, Sage Events and Catering
A number of passed heavy hors d'oeuvres were available and some of these showcased vegan options that were as delicious as they were healthy. These included "buffalo bites" made from breaded cauliflower florets, jackfruit sliders, teriyaki balls made with Voorn veggie burgers and a gumbo made from Oumph, a soy product hard to distinguish from chicken. Oumph is made by a company called Food for Progress, which also was at the meeting. A dip buffet was also available featuring white bean dip and kalamata olive, artichoke and sun-dried tomato tapanade.


Attendees, ACF Naples Chefs July Meeting
Tomato and balsamic braised short ribs with gorgonzola polenta and micro arugula, Sage Events and Catering


As guests mingled and socialized, Sage brought in a number of other bites of deliciousness. Crab cakes with mango remoulade, mojo pulled pork with fried yucca, tomato and balsamic braised short ribs with gorgonzola polenta and micro arugula, cilantro mint shrimp and carrot flan with goat cheese and amaranth microgreens.



Endive bites, Food for Progress


Food for Progress also had a station at the meeting featuring their Oumph soy products. These included endive bites with slaw, tacos and soy nuggets which were quite good.

Dessert station, Sage Events and Catering

Sage also provided a dessert station with gluten free and in some cases gluten free/vegan versions of chocolate mousse with chantilly cream, key lime cheesecakes and tarts, banana cream pie and macarons with strawberry consomme.

Florida Microgreens donated some of their wonderful product for the event, adding distinctive colors and flavors to many of the items served at the meeting.
Changing of the guard, Chefs Crisanti and Tatigan, ACF Naples Chefs July Meeting

It was both a sad and hopeful evening as the chapter President, Chef Chas Tatigan, stepped down after a four year term and passed the baton to the chapter Vice President, Chef Richard Crisanti, who will lead the chapter going forward. There is no doubt that Chef Crisanti will help maintain the high standards this chapter has maintained over the years leading to many local and national accolades.

At the close of the meeting, Chef Phillips was given a commemorative plaque to recognize her efforts towards the chapter meeting that evening.

Chefs Crisanti, Tatigan and Phillips, ACF Naples Chefs July Meeting


Purveyors such as Phillips Crabmeat, Food for Progress (Oumph), Florida Microgreeens, Vroon and Tia Jorge among others donated product for the meeting which would not be possible without their largess. The evening's event was another exceptional chapter meeting of ACF Naples Chefs and another post on Forks.

Attendees, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting


Sage Events and Catering
4584 Enterprise Ave.
Naples, FL 34104
(239)595-3453

Naples Art Association at The von Liebig Art Center
585 Park St.
Naples, FL 34102
(239)262-6517

Gallery open 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday June 1 to October 16; 10 AM to 4PM Monday through Saturday all other days; Admission free; Self-parking available. Camera USA runs through August 4, 2017. 

ACF Caxambas Chapter of Naples and Marco Island (ACF Naples Chefs)
PO Box 855
Naples, FL 34106
(239)304-6045

Rob Epple and Rachel Shemenski of Florida Microgreens garnishing carrot flan with goat cheese
Food preparation, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting

Dip buffet, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting

Carrot flan with goat cheese and amaranth microgreens, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting

Crab cakes with mango remoulade, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting


Sage Signature Martini, Tito’s, Organic Lemonade, Cucumber Puree, Fresh Sage, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting
Jackfruit sliders, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting
Soy nuggets, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting
Mojo pulled pork with yuca fry, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting
Mint and cilantro shrimp, ACF Naples Chefs July meeting



Friday, July 14, 2017

Lunch at Burma Superstar



Burma Superstar, San Francisco, CA
Burma Superstar is a restaurant in San Francisco serving Burmese cuisine. The contemporary name for Burma is Myanmar, and the food takes on influences from India, Thailand and China mostly because of geography. Burmese cuisine draws heavily on fish sauces and a fermented fish paste used for flavoring known as ngapee. The cuisine of Myanmar is complex and has many interesting flavor notes. Burma Superstar is a stalwart on the San Francisco culinary scene, serving food there for 25 years.

I had heard of this restaurant many moons ago and really wanted to try it as Burmese cuisine was terra incognita to me. During a recent trip to the area, I finally had the opportunity to dine here.

The restaurant does not take reservations, and the lines can be long. My traveling companion and I arrived there about 1 PM on a weekday. We were told a 30 minute wait. That was fine as I had not been to Clement St. where the restaurant is located in many years and it was fun looking around. This area is a Hot Spot for dining in the city.

Interior, Burma Superstar


The dining area is small, probably seating about 40 people. After getting seated, we were ready to sample some of the legendary food served here.

There are some menu items here that probably every food journalist in the area has written about till, well I don't know, the cows come home, whenever that is. One of them is their tea leaf salad.

Tea leaf salad, Burma Superstar
The salad base consists of romaine lettuce, dried shrimp, fried slices of garlic, toasted peanuts, sunflower and sesame seeds, jalapeno, fish sauce and lime. The dressing is made from fermented tea leaves, garlic, ginger, oil and vinegar and finished with a mixture of fried split pea and garlic. This was a very unusual and highly flavorful salad. It was excellent, worthy of being legendary and made me want to try more.


Mohinga, Burma Superstar

The next thing brought to the table was mohinga. This soup is billed as the national dish of Myanmar, and apparently is served for breakfast there. Another complex, and delicious dish.

The broth is made from lemongrass, ginger, bay leaf and catfish. The soup adds lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tumeric, paprika, red onions, fish sauce and rice noodles. The dish is finished with sliced hard boiled eggs, fried split pea crackers, cilantro, lime and red onion. Another intriguing and delicious dish.

Lettuce cups, Burma Superstar
We finished up with an appetizer, their lettuce cups. These were also great, sort of like Burmese tacos. Cured pork (marinated in soy among other seasonings) was mixed with pickled radish, carrots and water chestnuts. Another great dish.

The food at Burma Superstar is excellent and fully deserving of its reputation. San Francisco has a legion of food choices and there are many great, world class restaurants with 2 or 3 Michelin stars should one want. I thought the food here was very good to great, and would return even with all the other food choices available here. Burma Superstar has recently published a Cookbook which apparently is kind to the home cook inexperienced in Burmese cuisine. It's checked out at the library at the moment but it's on reserve and cannot wait to take a look. If you are ever in the city, go here. You will not be disappointed.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Burma Superstar
309 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415)387-2147

All major credit cards accepted; Lunch, Monday-Sunday 11 AM-3 PM; Dinner, Sunday-Thursday 5-9:30 PM, Friday and Saturday 5-10 PM.






Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lunch at Souvla



Souvla, Divisadero St., San Francisco, CA
Souvla is a restaurant in San Francisco, CA that prides themselves on spit-roasted meats with a Greek flair. They opened in 2014 and now have 3 locations. I read about this restaurant in The San Francisco Chronicle article, 20 Bargain Restaurants in Our Top 100. The restaurant will have very good things happening to them down the road, but more on this later.

Order station, Souvla
You have a number of seating arrangements after your order is taken. You can sit inside at 2 locations at the front or back of the restaurant, at the high tops outside or in their back garden area where your order is brought to you.

Garden Seating, Souvla

The menu here is limited but more than adequate. There are 4 choices of either meat or veterinarian items that can be served as a salad or wrapped in pita bread.

I started with the lamb leg served as a salad. It was exceptional and was a meal of greens, harissa-spiked yogurt, spit roasted lamb (about 1/2 lb.), cucumber, radish, pickled onion and feta cheese.




Pork shoulder wrap, Souvla

My dining companion ordered the pork shoulder wrap. It was served with minted yogurt, tomato, cucumber, radish and feta cheese. It was incredible.

Avgolemono soup, Souvla
We also sampled the Avgolemono soup, which is a traditional Greek egg-lemon chicken soup. In the past, I have avoided this as the flavors were not here for me and I wasn't really into it. The avgolemono soup at Souvla was excellent, the best I have ever had and I would run back there for more. The lemon flavors combined with the roast chicken were amazing. A word to the wise.

Most of the items were in the $11-14 range at Souvla, a bargain for the city and a delight to eat. They also had a excellent selection of Greek wines that they are more than happy to enlighten you with.


The food at Souvla is not to be missed and one could not ask for much more in a competitive market as San Francisco. This restaurant will be notable in the very near future, go here while you can while it still is what it is. I see a Chipotle thing happening here. If you don't know the Story, it's quite interesting.

Spit cooking, Souvla

That's that for another post on Forks.

Souvla
531 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415)400-5458

All major credit cards accepted; Open 11-10 PM daily.

Lamb leg salad
Indoor seating, Souvla
Indoor seating, Souvla
Outdoor seating, Souvla