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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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lunch at Martin Fierro

Martin Fierro was an epic fictional character out of Argentine literature of the late 19th century. It is also a Parrillada, or barbecue Restaurant (Restaurant's Website) in Naples, FL serving Argentine and Uruguayan cuisine.

As you approach the entrance, there is a nice outdoor seating area.

What caught my eye was a display table of their menus

and lunch specials that day, which at the time of this writing are served Monday thru Friday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M.

What really caught my eye was the latter special for 2 with a beef and chicken skewer and 2 sides for $20.00. My dining companion agreed it looked good so in we went.

As you first enter the restaurant, you will notice their parrilla

and interior of the restaurant is long and narrow, sort of in a Shotgun style.

Our server encouraged us to order their bread, which at lunch is one dollar extra and is served with Chimichurri sauce.

I am not usually much of a bread eater, but this was very, very good.

We then decided on two sides. Grilled vegetables (green beans, yellow squash, red onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes) lightly seasoned with balsamic vinegar

and fried yucca with sort of a dill mayonnaise.

Both sides were excellent.

The skewers were then brought out.

Equally as good as the sides, both the chicken and beef skewers were served with more grilled vegetables, a grilled sweet pepper, edible flowers and a balsamic glaze. I don't know if the restaurant did this as they knew I published a food blog, but it was a very nice presentation.

One of the restaurant's owners was kind enough to let us try the Dulce De Leche crepes.

These were served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I am not much of a sweet eater but these were really good.

Both my dining companion and I really liked the food served at Martin Fierro. It was delicious and one of the better lunches I have eaten in Naples. On top of that, this lunch special was amazingly wallet friendly. It's a win-win no matter how you look at it. I highly recommend Martin Fierro and will be back to try some of their dinner items.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Martin Fierro
13040 Livingston Rd. 
Naples, FL 34105

Thursday, September 1, 2016

UF/IFAS Chef and Producer Meet and Greet at Shangri-La Springs

The  University of Florida Institute for Agricultural Studies (UF/IFAS) is a Land Grant college with branches in every Florida county. What is this you may ask? In the mid 19th century, states were apportioned land by the federal government. The proceeds of the sales of these lands were used to maintain an endowment that would support colleges teaching agriculture and the mechanical arts.

What is the mission of UF/IFAS? I cannot say this any better, and here is a quote from the UF/IFAS website. "The Mission of UF/IFAS is to develop knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life."

Recently the UF/IFAS Collier and Lee extensions sponsored a Chef/Producer meet and greet at Shangri-La Springs, in Bonita Springs, FL.

I recently published a Blog Post on Shangri-La Springs after eating lunch there.

The meeting was in a building off the courtyard here.

After registering,

we went around the room introducing ourselves.

The group included chefs, growers, merchants, a master gardener and a food blogger, among others.

We were then treated to a tour of Shangri-La's agricultural space by Millisa Bell. Millisa works the garden here full time and is also known by the moniker, The Unruly Gardener.

The whole property is Certified Organic, and they grow a wide variety of produce.

Okra, black eyed peas, egg plant, tropical spinach, peppers, passion fruit, herbs, Seminole Pumpkin and many other Cover and edible crops were growing here.

There is also a fruit orchard that was recently planted.

Lychees, Loquat, black and white Sapote, figs, mango, mulberry, Persimmon and pomegranate in addition to other fruits can be found in the orchard.

There are also multiple bee colonies on property facilitating the pollination of their crops.

They harvest twice a week here and the menu at Shangri-La Springs reflects the seasonality of their garden's offerings.

After the tour, there was a round table exchange with Shangri-La Springs Executive Chef, Pyro Rodriguez, and representatives of the Collier and Lee County UF/IFAS.

Topics of discussion were how to educate the public that quality ingredients cost more money which reflects in higher menu prices but provide for a superior nutritional and culinary experience.

It was interesting talking about the benefits of buying from a local grower rather than a large food conglomerate. As an example, a corporate food purveyor may charge $1.00 for a product, but that product may be 7-10 days old. A local grower may charge $2.00 for the same thing but is in all likelihood a much fresher product. This gives the end user much more flexibility in when to use this item and results in much less product waste. 

They also discussed market management considerations in farmer's markets. In addition, ideas were put forward for better ways to connect chefs with producers in terms of the product needs of chefs and producer product availability.

We were then treated to a few tastes of Shangri-La Springs such as lentil salad, eggplant Caponata 

and Malabar Spinach spring rolls.

The rolls were good, and were made from blanched Malabar Spinach, yard long beans, peppers and a sweet and sour sauce.

This was a really good meeting. Not only did we get a nice tour of one of the engines driving the culinary arts at Shangri-La Springs but this was also a great opportunity for chefs and producers to interact with each other. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the dynamics of food and food production.

Shangri-La Springs
27750 Old 41 Rd.
Bonita Springs, FL 34135

UF/IFAS Collier County Extension
14700 Immokalee Rd.
Naples, FL 34120

UF/IFAS Lee County Extension
3410 Palm Beach Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33916

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dinner at Bravo

Bravo/Brio is a restaurant chain of about 120 restaurants operating under the Bravo Cucina Italiana, Brio Tuscan Grille and Bon Vie Bistro banners.

There is a Bravo Cucina Italiana (Bravo) in Naples, FL in the mixed use commercial/residential space, Mercato.

I was recently contacted by a PR firm about their 2 course menu that runs through the end of September.

I thought it as very nice of them to reach out to me. I had been here a few times for happy hour (a great value by the way) but never for dinner. The menu looked ok so why not?

Bravo has a number of venues to dine in. You can be outside (a great place to people watch),

and either outdoors

by the bar or indoors there.

They also have a more traditional indoor dining area.

My dining companion (DC) and I were treated to a couple of appetizers from their regular Menu.

The crispy shrimp Napoli was brought out to sample

and something I really liked, the ricotta and ciabatta.

This was a great starter, with in house made ricotta, marinated red peppers, Sopressate, arugula and grilled Ciabatta bread. Very good and a great presentation!

We then got to choose a couple of things from their promotional menu.

The starters from here were a Bravo chopped salad

and the antipasti salad.

I liked the latter salad better because of the meats incorporated into it and the more robust greens. The chopped salad had a surfeit of iceberg lettuce which got a bit soggy.

We then ordered the grilled chicken with sun-dried tomato goat cheese

and the shrimp scampi pasta.

Both of these were very good and worth the maximum charge of $20.00 depending on what you order.

Bravo is a casual dining chain with food that, in the context of casual dining, is quite good. The venue, at least in the Naples, FL market is nice and is a pleasant dining experience. Their promotional 2 course menu through September is a good value, and I hope it brings them business in the off season.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Bravo Cucina Italiana
9110 Strada PL.
Naples, FL 34108

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Lunch at The Haute Enchilida

Monterey, CA is a city with an interesting past. Alta (Upper) California was a territory that included Monterey. It was owned by Spain and was acquired by Mexico after their independence from them. 

By Samuel Augustus Mitchell - This file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps, a specialist dealer in rare maps and other cartography of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as part of a cooperation project.

Monterey Bay was the sole entry place for goods in the entire region. After the Mexican-American War, Alta California became part of the U.S. Shortly thereafter, in 1850, California became a U.S. state.

Monterey Bay is a very picturesque area in Northern California.

It has an abundance of sea life, in no small part due to the Kelp Forests in the area. A robust commercial fishing industry spawned here. The most notable part of this industry was the large number of sardine canneries here. The canneries collapsed in the mid 1950's due to over fishing and other factors; the last cannery closing in the early 1970's. The cannery area of Monterey became famous with the publication of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

Today Cannery Row is a commercialized tourist area with shops, for the most part, full of quite unmemorable gee gaws such as t-shirts, fudge and sea shells.

There is one diamond on Cannery Row that makes this area worth a visit, the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA).

MBA was opened in 1984, largely through the largess of the Packards of Hewlett-Packard. Their daughter, Julie, a marine biologist, is currently Executive Director.

As you enter MBA, there is a large entryway with a gift shop and information center,

but the first thing you notice are the crowds that are there

to view the sea otter exhibit.

MBA had the first kelp forest exhibit of any aquarium.

The viewing area of this exhibit is 28 feet high, and the exhibit is in part made possible through the use of water from Monterey Bay. It is filtered for viewing clarity during the day but not at night allowing plankton and other organisms through which the kelp need to grow.

The Open Sea exhibit is also of note. Schooling fish

and a 1.2 million gallon tank with one of the world's largest single panes of glass

make this a very impressive display.

There are also a variety of interesting sea creatures at MBA including sea nettles (jellyfish),

tube worms,


tube anemones

and other sea life.

There is also a wave machine. It's pretty impressive to see the waves crashing over you from the observation area.

Looking at all this sea life made me hungry.  After a tip from another local,

we headed north up the coastal road to eat at The Haute Enchilada. There are 2 proprietors here, one is a chef and the other is a visual artist.

They have a very nice outdoor dining area

and if you go into the restaurant, a strikingly colorful indoor space.

It was a nice day out, so we ate outside. My dining companion and I decided to try a few things for lunch off their Menu.

We shared a bowl of artichoke bisque.

This was a first for me and it was very good. They use mostly a vegetable broth base for this bisque and just a minimal amount of creme. This preserved the delicate flavor of the artichokes. A reduced beet puree tops off this dish for color.

I ordered the tamale trio.

Mini artichoke/cheese, chicken and carnitas tamales were covered with salsa verde, mole and roasted Poblano chili sauce, respectively. This dish was very good.

Dining companion ordered the Haute Enchilada al Mole.

Chicken, rice, beans and locally grown veggies made the filling The enchilada was topped with a delicious mole sauce, sour cream and cheese. This dish was literally as good as it looks and absolutely delicious.

After this wonderful food, a short walk was in order.

Going around the interestingly landscaped property

behind the restaurant

was a nice collection of one of the proprietor's art.

The restaurant and gallery is almost like Frida Kahlo meets Rick Bayless.

For those who may venture to the area, these venues were a very intriguing mixture of nature and biology and the culinary and visual arts. MBA and The Haute Enchilida are both highly recommended.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940

The Haute Enchilada
7902 Moss Landing Rd.
Moss Landing, CA 95039