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Monday, January 16, 2017

Lunch at Sydney's Pub

Sydney's Pub, Tiburón Golf Club

Tiburón is a residential and golf development in Naples, FL. Developed in the late 1990's, it is also home to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

Tiburón means "shark" in Spanish. It reflects the moniker "great white shark" given to the champion golfer, Greg Norman, who designed the golf courses here. Tiburón has two 18 hole golf courses. It is home to the Franklin Templeton Shootout, an off season event that hosts members of the PGA tour. It is also where the CME Group Tour Championship is held, the season ending event of the LPGA tour.

Tiburón has a 27,000 square foot clubhouse featuring many amenities. One of these is a restaurant, Sydney's Pub (SP). Although SP is part of the golf club, it is open to the public as is the golf course. Tiburón was taken over in September of 2016 by the golf management company, Troon. Troon's Director of Marketing for Tiburón, Ricky Potts, contacted me to try some of the new fare on SP's menu.

As you enter SP, there is an ample amount of seating indoors at either tables or at the bar. There is also outdoor seating offering a nice view of the golf course, which incidentally, is an Audubon Cooperative Golf Sanctuary.

Management at SP was extremely generous, providing food gratis and taking my dining companion and I on a whirlwind "Taste of Tiburón".

We were given a number of starters to sample, the first of which were fried dill pickles. I love fried pickles, and acquired a taste for them after spending time in Mississippi where they are almost considered a delicacy. The pickles were served with a cilantro-lime ranch dressing. These were very good.

Lemon-garlic grilled chicken wings followed, covered in a tzatziki sauce of cucumber and Feta cheese with Kalamata olives. The wings were moist and meaty and the cucumber and cheese a good accompaniment. This starter was good, but my favorite was yet to be served.

We finished our sampling of the appetizer menu with an absolutely delicious charcuterie and cheese plate. Finocchiona salami, a fennel seasoned salami, wild boar sausage tempered with cloves and juniper berries as well as sopressa comprised the meat portion of this dish. Beemster XO, a Gouda-type cheese aged at least 26 months, Manchego and Humbolt Fog cheeses, the latter being a soft, mild goat cheese and one of my favorites, made up the cheese portion of this starter. Fruit marmalade, whole grain mustard and grilled sourdough triangles sealed the deal, and made for a delicious and "will order again" appetizer.

A salad followed, with baby arugula, spiced pecans, roasted pears, Humbolt Fog cheese and a blood orange-sherry vinaigrette. This was a nice salad, and a good intermezzo in between our appetizers and the next two courses.

Beer battered grouper was next, and served with seasoned fries and in house made coleslaw and tartar sauce. The fish was extremely fresh and very, very good made all the better by it's accompaniments.

We finished the menu items with the restaurant's version of a Cuban sandwich. Their Cubano was served with mojo pork, Nueske ham, Manchego cheese, Dijon mustard and in house made pickles. I am usually a big fan of a good Cuban sandwich. Nueske's ham is considered a good cut of meat, however it is smoked and very highly salted. When used in this type of dish, I thought it tended to take over, minimizing the flavor of the other ingredients. If ordered again, I would ask the ham either be changed or left out.

We ended with an item not yet on the menu. Our dessert was a lemon-flavored panna cotta- inspired cream dessert with strawberries. This was a light and refreshing end to the meal, and a good flavor contrast between the panna cotta like cream and fruit. I say panna cotta-inspired as the cream in this dish was not solidified with any gelatin, making for a liquid consistency. None the less, it was very good and I really enjoyed it.

We were also treated to tastes of the pub's signature Tiburón Red beer and a sampling from their wine selection. All were good.

The food at SP was good to very good and I will definitely be back. It is a nice venue to have a meal after a round of golf, if staying at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, or if just in the area!

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Sydney's Pub

2620 Tiburón Dr.
Naples, FL 34109

Complementary valet parking; all major credit cards accepted; no kids meals, open 11-7 PM Mondays and 11-5PM Tuesday-Sunday; 20% gratuity added to all checks

Entrance, Tiburón Golf Club
Indoor dining area, Sydney's Pub

Bar, Sydney's Pub

Outdoor dining, Sydney's Pub

Fried pickles with chipotle lime ranch dressing

Lemon-garlic grilled chicken wings

Charcuterie and cheese plate

Slow roasted Bosc pear salad

Florida grouper and chips

Cubano sandwich

Lemon cream with strawberries

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ACF 2017 Season Kickoff Meeting at Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop

Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is a professional organization of chefs, cooks, food industry professionals and food enthusiasts. They have about 200 chapters nationwide and 20,000 members. They offer training, accreditation, scholarship, and certification to foster growth in the culinary arts.

The ACF Naples Chefs are the Collier County, FL chapter of the ACF more formally known as the ACF Caxambas Chapter of Naples and Marco Island. In January, they hold a season kickoff meeting in part to schedule upcoming chapter meetings and events; eat some finger food and have a great time. For the past few years at least, the chapter kickoff meeting has been held at Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop (MPS).

MPS is a manufacturer and purveyor of baked goods. These include pies, cakes, tarts, quiches, cookies and other items. MPS is located in Naples, FL. MPS has a retail space on site, but the majority of their business is providing pastries to commercial customers.
Retail section; Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL
Tarts and cakes,retail section; Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL
They have quite a brisk commercial business. On an impromptu tour of the shop I counted over 50 custom orders for the past couple of days. I can see why the owner told us they make 80 pounds of buttercream daily in house for all their pastry production.
Custom order board; Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL
It was interesting seeing the back end of the shop with some of the mixing equipment and ovens.
Mixing equipment

Revolving tray baking oven
This meeting, in contrast to most monthly chapter meeting, is purely social. There were a number of donors that evening kind enough to provide food and beverage for the event.

Landert Bread provided most of the baked goods. These included baguettes, Casareccio bread with olives, farmers bread and lye triangles (sort of a pretzel bread).

Landert Breads; ACF season kickoff meeting

Landert Breads; ACF season kickoff meeting
Boar's Head provided various meats, cheeses, hummus and condiments.

Boar's Head display; ACF season kickoff meeting

MPS provided beverages along with some baked goods including sausage rolls, and spinach/feta in addition to vegetable quiches.

Sausage rolls, spinach/feta and vegetable quiche; ACF season kickoff meeting

Felchin chocolate was provided by Swiss Chalet while red or white Bordeaux blends were furnished by PG fine wines.

Bordeaux Blanc; 50% Semillion/50% Muscadelle; ACF season kickoff meeting

With all this great food, beverage and conversation, everyone was having a great time.

Attendees; ACF season kickoff meeting

Attendees; ACF season kickoff meeting
Many thanks to Landert Bread, Swiss Chalet, Boar's Head Gulf Coast ProvisionsPG Fine Wines and Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop for providing either a venue and/or food and beverage for the evening.

This was, as always, a great night out with Naples ACF Chefs.

Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop
1068 Business Lane
Naples, FL 34110
Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop Website 

Naples ACF Chefs
President Chas Tatigian, CEC, CCA
PO Box 855
Naples, FL 34106

Naples ACF Chefs Facebook Page 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dinner at Mykonos Kuzina

Mykonos Kuzina 
Mykonos Kuzina is a Greek restaurant in Naples, FL. After a 30 year run as restaurateurs in Ohio, the owners decided to pull up stake and ply their craft here. The restaurant has been open for about one month.

There were 5 of us that evening, a good number to get a representative slice of the pie from the establishment's menu. 

The restaurant has an ample amount of outdoor seating should you be so inclined in addition to, of course, seating indoors. 

Before ordering, a basket of hummus and pita triangles was brought to the table. The hummus was quite good and a nice beginning to the meal.

My dining companions and I ordered a number of appetizers to start off with.  We started with saganaki. This was a plate of kefalograviera cheese set ablaze after a dousing of 151 rum. Kefalgraviera is a  somewhat sharp, hard cow's cheese that holds it's shape well when heated. Apart from the theatrics of a flambeed dish brought table side, this was a plate of heated cheese good for spreading on bread.

I love octopus, and had to try this establishment's offering.  A very nice portion of this Cephalopod was marinated in olive oil, basil, oregano and bay leaf for 24 hours, then grilled. It was served with lemon and a dollop of humus. Quite good.

Next was the marithes, or smelts. This is at the very least, a rarity on local menus. The fish was coated with flour seasoned with oregano, basil, salt and pepper and fried. It was served with a sauce of mayonnaise, white vinegar, oregano, basil and dill, not a traditional Greek sauce but a concoction of the proprietor. It was delicious and although an item from the starter menu, was the best of what was ordered that evening.

We finished our tour of the starter menu with a serving of melitzanosalta. This is an eggplant dip, similar to the Arabic dish baba ganoush but without the addition of tahini sauce. It was served with pita triangles. The melitzanosalta was not bad, but I really missed the savoriness of it's Arabic cousin.

Food in a clay pot seemed to intrigue our group, so we tried a couple of these items from the entree menu. Trying to mix it up a bit we ordered the lamb yiouvetsi (giouvetsi) and the shrimp Mykonos, or shrimp giouvetsi. Both of these dishes are classic Greek casseroles, with aromatic vegetables, tomatoes and orzo cooked in a clay pot. In this case, kefalograviera and feta cheese graced the lamb and shrimp versions of this dish, respectively. Both choices were good, but unfortunately, the only difference in taste here was mostly in the different cheeses in the dish. A bit disappointing. We probably should have ordered only one version of this dish.

How could anyone go to a Greek restaurant and not try their version of a gyro plate and moussaka. The gyro plate was deconstructed and served with gyro meat topped with onions in addition to fries, pita triangles and tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki is that classic Greek sauce made from strained, chopped cucumbers, yogurt, lemon and garlic. This menu item was good but no different from most other gyro dishes I have ordered.
The moussaka was good too, the layers of eggplant, meat sauce and Bechamel sauce blending well with each other. Unfortunately, the moussaka here fell flat on it's seasoning making a dish that could have been great, good.

We finished up with a couple desserts. I do not have much of a sweet tooth so I usually do not like to comment on desserts when eating out. Our table shared a galactoboureko and a kataifi dessert. The former is a custard filled filo pastry, the latter made from shredded filo, walnuts, honey and cinnamon.
As said, I do not have much of a sweet tooth but loved the kataifi. The walnuts, honey and cinnamon were not only a sweet, but a winning combination.

The food at Mykonos Kuzina is good, solid Greek food. I think with the addition of better spicing, some of the items we ordered could have gone from good to great. On the whole though, I think diners will enjoy their experience at this establishment which again, serves good, solid Greek cuisine.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Mykonos Kuzina
13510 Tamiami Trail
Naples, FL 34110

Open daily 4-9 PM; All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals available; Takeout available

Outdoor dining, Mykonos Kuzina

Indoor dining, Mykonos Kuzina
Flaming saganaki cheese plate, Mykonos Kuzina

Grilled octopus, Mykonos Kuzina

Marithes (smelts), Mykonos Kuzina

Melitzanosalta, Mykonos Kuzina

Shrimp Mykonos (Giouvetsi), Mykonos Kuzina
Gyro plate, Mykonos Kuzina
Moussaka, Mykonos Kuzina
Galactoboureko, Mykonos Kuzina
Kataifi, Mykonos Kuzina

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dinner at La Trattoria Cafe Napoli and Salty Sam's Pirate Cruise in Fort Myers

La Tratoria Cafe Napoli

La Trattoria Cafe Napoli (Cafe Napoli; CN) is a restaurant in Fort Myers, FL  serving tapas, pastas, salads, paellas and more. CN has been open for over 10 years. My dining companion and I went for dinner this New Years' Eve before boarding a pirate cruise to watch the fireworks that night, but more on that later (photos at the very end of this text).

The interior of CN is intimate and inviting, perfect for either date night or a night out with friends or family.

We started out with the plantain chips. These were delicious, made all the better with a sprinkling of salt and garlic-flavored oil. Like crispy pig ears, papadum or chicharron, dishes like this make a welcome alternative to traditional potato chips.

Stuffed artichoke hearts followed. This outstanding tapas plate was served with a Cabrales cheese stuffing. Cabrales is a cheese made from a combination of cow, sheep and goat milk, and turned "blue" during it's maturation process. With this tapas, it's sharpness (blue) was tempered with a topping of pesto sauce. Highly recommended.

CN was serving a few specials that night. One of these was a baked brie topped with roasted red peppers, caramelized red onions and a honey lemon sauce. Toasted pita slices seasoned with herbs and pesto sauce were served as vehicles for all this deliciousness.

Paella seemed apropos after all of these tapas plates. We split the paella De la Tierra, an order that came with pork, chicken, chorizo and pancetta. This was a richly flavored dish. Saffron and notes of aromatic vegetables added to the complexity of this entree,which was very good. The three tapas dishes and this order of paella were more than enough to keep my dining companion and I happy. Nevertheless, we had to try a dessert.

We finished with in house made churros with a chocolate dipping sauce. These were very good and both a light and perfect end to our meal made even better by the service and hospitality at CN.

After all this great food, some fireworks were in order. After all, it was New Years' Eve. What better place to watch them than from Salty Sam's pirate cruise out of Fort Myers Beach. Salty Sam's has a 65 foot long, 26 foot wide Spanish galleon replica named Pieces of Eight. Pieces of Eight rides out into the Gulf of Mexico for area tours and sunset cruises. Arrr Matey!

I would guess about 75 of us swashbucklers boarded that evening from Salty Sam's dock at around 1030 PM. As for the crew, they were very entertaining; no scurvy dogs here. There was also plenty of grog and snacks available in the ships' galley for those wanting to get into the spirit of New Years.

After a leisurely cruise into the Gulf, we were treated to the wonderful annual New Years' Eve fireworks display at midnight from the pier at Fort Myers Beach. 

Both La Trattoria Cafe Napoli and Salty Sam's pirate cruise are highly recommended for New Years' Eve or any other time for that matter. 

Happy New Year!

May the wind be at your back and the sea like glass beneath your feet for all of you in 2017!

That's that for another post on Forks.

La Trattoria Cafe Napoli
12377 s. Cleveland Ave.
Fort Myers, FL 33907

Lunch 10-3PM; Dinner 5-10PM; Dinner only Saturdays; Closed Sundays; Kids' menu; All major credit cards accepted.

Salty Sam's Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise
2500 Main St.
Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

All ages cruises and adult cruises - for times/dates call or visit the Website. Full bar and snacks; All major credit cards accepted.

Dining area, La Trattoria Cafe Napoli
Fried plantains with garlic oil

Cabrales stuffed artichoke hearts with pesto sauce

Baked Brie with honey/lemon sauce

Paella De La Tierra

Churros with chocolate dipping sauce
Salty Sam's Pieces of Eight pirate ship

Waiting to embark; Salty Sams's pirate cruise

Galley, Salty Sams's pirate cruise

Fireworks, New Years' Eve, Fort Myers Beach, FL

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dinner at Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill of Fort Myers

Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill
is a restaurant in Fort Myers, FL serving food from Central America, specifically from Honduras. Rinconcito Catracho means little Honduran corner, and I will abbreviate the name of this restaurant as LG (Latin Grill). LG has been at this location for 2 and 1/2 years. It's owner, Christopher, chatted with me for a bit about the restaurant and it's fare. Most of the recipes used here are from his family in Central America. Everything that we tried here was made from "scratch", even the tortillas, but more on that later.

As you enter LG, the interior of the restaurant is basic though somewhat homey, made even more so being there a few days before Christmas. Should you just want to grab a light snack and a beverage, there is a pool and foosball table in the back should you feel so inclined.

My dining companion and I sampled a number of items from LG's dinner menu. The first were the pupusas. These are masa cakes that are usually stuffed with cheese along with any number of other things and cooked on a griddle. In this case we tried the the pupusas with chicken and cheese, jalapenos with cheese and locoro with cheese. Locoro is a vine that is widely grown in Central America. The buds and flowers of locoro are widely used as foods there. It has a sort of nutty, "green" flavor and was very good, as were the other versions of this dish, the masa blending perfectly with the cheese and other fillings. There were served with curtido, a condiment made from pickled red onion, beets and cauliflower. Curtido is a traditional Honduran accompaniment.

We split a baleada, which was a large wheat flour tortilla, about the size you would use for a burrito but a bit thicker. The inside of the baleada was smeared with mashed fried beans, made that much better with a heavy dose of lard. Avocado, carne asada, egg, queso duro and crema, the latter sort of like a runny sour cream were piled on top of the beans (the works).  The tortilla is then folded in half to make a semi circle. This was absolutely delicious and an unbelievable bargain at $2.95.

Pollo con tajadas was next. Tajadas are fried plantain or banana slices, in this case green bananas. The foundation of this dish, tajadas, were like banana chips. Not greasy at all and delicious. These were topped with a minimalist slaw of cabbage and carrots, a mild Honduran aioli made from chili de arbol among other ingredients (which was a family secret), fried chicken and curtido. This was another absolutely delicious dish, and I really liked the breading on the fried chicken (another tightly held family recipe).

On another visit we sampled the ceviche. It was good, though flavored very differently from the Caribbean and Peruvian ceviches I am used to. I think the difference here was the lack of aromatic vegetables and cilantro that are used heavily in the latter two regional cuisines. What was unusual was the portion size, which was easily twice that one normally gets in Southwest Florida.

We finished with the fish tacos which were to say the least, remarkable. This wonderful dish featured in house freshly made corn tortillas, lightly breaded tilapia, minimalist cabbage and carrot slaw, sweetened Honduran aioli, and curtido. The tacos are served with really good beans (again, heavy on the lard) and rice with peas, corn and Lima beans. All for $8.00. These are hands down the best fish tacos I have had east of the Mississippi.

If these great flavors are not enough for you they serve really good in house made salsas with either a tomatillo (hot) or chili de arbol (mild) base.

The owner of LG has tried to create a little corner of Honduras in Fort Myers. Not only has he succeeded, but has given all of us an opportunity to try wonderful, fresh and authentic cuisine that is nearly an unequaled combination locally of flavor, quality and price. I rarely rave about a restaurant to this degree but LG is a true gem and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I hope readers will eat here. LG will not disappoint.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill
2096 Beacon Manor Dr,
Foft Myers, FL 33907

All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals served; Hours 9AM-10PM; breakfast, lunch and dinner served

Dining area, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Pool and foosball tables, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Papusas with curtido, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Baleada with beans, egg, carne asada, queso duro, avocado and crema, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Pollo con tajadas, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Tomatillo and chili de arbol salsas, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Remarkable fish tacos with rice and beans, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill