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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Holiday Dining in Southwest Florida


The holidays are upon us and celebration is one of our thoughts in the forefront for the majority of us. This of course, again for the majority, would be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years’ Eve.
I have limited this article to options available Christmas Day for a number of reasons. For the most part, a vast majority of area restaurants will be open Christmas Eve and New Years’ Eve. If you feel compelled to dine out either of these nights, just pick up the phone and call. Chances are your favorite restaurant will be open.
The real challenge then is to find somewhere to celebrate on Christmas Day as probably over 90% or more of area restaurants are closed.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

November Meeting of the ACF Naples Chefs at Lorenzo Walker Technical College

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is a national organization of almost 20,000 members and 150 chapters nationwide. They are made up of chefs, food industry professionals and perhaps a food blogger or two.

For the most part, here is what ACF is all about. I cannot say this any better so I am quoting from ACF's "About" page.

"We offer culinary competitions, certification, a national apprenticeship program, regional and national events, publications and much more to help foster the growth of professional chefs and the food service industry. If you are not part of our organization, we invite you to join us and gain access to the best culinary resources available".

The local ACF Chapter is The Caxambas Chapter of Naples/Marco Island and their moniker on social media is ACF Naples Chefs (ACFNC).

Almost every month from March to January, ACFNC holds a general meeting.  Generally, a chapter member volunteers to sponsor one of these monthly events. Most of the time ACFNC monthly meetings are held at country clubs as chefs at these facilities comprise the majority of chapter membership. The November meeting was a bit different and was held at Lorenzo Walker Technical College. (LWTC)


Lorenzo Walker Technical College, Naples, FL



LWTC is run by Collier County Public Schools as part of their adult and workforce education Program. They teach employment preparation skills for labor fields such as cosmetology, drafting and welding among other programs. They help provide financial aid through local, state and federal grants and scholarships in addition to career placement for graduates. LWTC has around 1500 students enrolled in its various programs.

LWTC also offers a commercial foods and culinary arts program. It is a 2 year program with 1200 hours of instruction. Students are taught various aspects of food preparation, hospitality, dining room operations, instruction on kitchen sanitation and restaurant equipment operation.

After socializing for a bit attendees lined up for a Thanksgiving themed dinner prepared by LWTC students.

Naples ACF Chefs November Meeting 2016

Menu, ACF Naples Chefs November Meeting

The dinner included sweet potato pecan casserole, butternut squash soup,



 assorted salads,


and a bar with condiments for biscuits as a side dish


or for sandwiches from carved turkey or smoked skirt steak


with various gravies and sauces.

After that we were treated to a variety of various mousse, macarons and chocolates.

 

After a brief discussion of chapter business Chapter President Chas Tatigian and Membership Chairs Andrew and Megan Somerville acknowledged new members that month.


This was followed by a tasting of Felchlin chocolate.


Chef Rob of Swiss Chalet, the sole distributor of Felchlin chocolate in the U.S.,


gave us a bit of history of the Felchlin company followed by a video of chocolate Cultivation, Harvesting and Processing.


Felchlin was put on the map with its celebration of Maracaibo 65, a Venezuelan cacao bean chocolate  that won world accolades in 2000.

After the presentation, some of the students and instructors at LWTC were given recognition by the ACFNC chapter.


This was another great meeting of ACF Naples Chefs. It would not be possible without the largess of Oakes Farms, US Foods, Swiss Chalet, Felchlin Chocolate and LWTC.


Lorenzo Walker Technical College
3702 Estey Ave. Naples, FL 34104
(239)377-0900

Naples ACF Chefs
President Chas Tatigian, CEC, CCA
PO Box 855
Naples, FL 34106
ctatigian@acfnapleschefs.org



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lunch at Osteria Tulia in Naples






An Osteria is traditionally an Italian restaurant that serves wine and simple local food. This concept continues locally at Osteria Tulia in Naples, Florida, operating since 2013.



There is indoor dining if you prefer, or outdoor dining all in a very simple, comfortable environment as an Osteria should be.

Read More

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cheney Brothers Inc. Food Distribution Center in Punta Gorda, FL



Cheney Brothers Inc. (CBI) are a food and restaurant equipment distributor headquartered in Riviera Beach, FL. They distribute their products mainly in the Southeastern United States, and are the leading food distribution company in Florida. They easily rank in the top 10 of food distributors nationally in terms of sales.

I was recently invited, as part of a chef's group, for a tour of their distribution center in Punta Gorda, FL which opened in 2015. It is approximately 340,000 square feet on 25 acres and employs upwards of 650 people. This center services CBI customers from Tampa to Everglades City.

CBI distribution center, Punta Gorda, FL






Having researched food distribution in the United States, I found little information on this topic online. What little there was is written by faculty of the Food Industry Management Program at Cornell University. Dr. Miguel Gomez, an associate professor there, was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his chapter, Gomez, M., and McLaughlin, J. (2014). Food Distribution. In. R. Neff (Ed.), Introduction to the US Food System: Public Health, Environment, and Equity. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.



Food distribution is defined as the system(s) that bring food from the farm to ultimate end user.




The chain of food distribution in the United States is quite long, employing upwards of 20 million, or about 13% of the US workforce.




It starts off with farm supplies (seeds, animal feeds) and branches out to various manufacturers and processing entities, ending up in the food service industry or retailers.



At the beginning of the 20th century, agricultural production was comprised of many different independent, family owned, loosely connected food producers and manufacturers. With consolidation and increases in efficiency, large scale farms comprise less that 10% of all farms, but produce about 60% of all agricultural products. Because of this, the number of farms has fallen about 50% in the last half century. This has had a very large effect on the agricultural labor force in the past 100 years. In the early 1900's, 40% of the US labor force was employed in agriculture. This has been reduced to about 2 percent as of 2010.



The next links in the food distribution chain are food processing and manufacturing entities, which account for 10% of all manufacturing shipments in this country. This would include bakeries, animal and specialty foods, among other goods.



Food brokers and food wholesalers follow next in this distribution system. Brokers facilitate the exchange of goods between manufacturers and retailers. They do not have physical possession of a manufacturer's goods though earn a commission on these transactions. Food wholesalers in contrast buy and store goods in bulk and sell them at a profit to retailers. These can either be merchant wholesalers, which buy from manufacturers, or manufacturer wholesalers, which sell direct to retailers.



Food retailers, such as grocery stores, wholesale clubs and farmers markets in addition to food service outlets, which deal with food preparation and service outside the home, are the final links in the food distribution chain.



These in many cases are not well defined boundaries. Grocers may have their own distribution centers, while selling prepared foods from their retail spaces. Merchant wholesalers may incorporate a retail space to sell to the public.



Now onto the tour. We were picked up by chartered bus, which I thought was a very nice gesture by CBI. After entering the facility, we were given a tour by Joseph Cino, General Manager for this CBI distribution facility.

There were many areas of this distribution center including storage space for slow moving and specialty items,a refrigerated receiving area interfaced with a refrigerated multi-temperature storage facility for things like flour and rice, produce, meats, seafood and frozen items.



They use very sophisticated tracking methods for metrics on their warehouse products. Bar codes transmit information as to point of origin, weight, contents and nutritional content while RFID technology tracks things such as location and ambient storage conditions.



CBI also has a Cheney Express at this facility, which is an area where the public  that may not have an account set up can purchase product. Distressed and short-dated products are also available here at quite a substantial discount. 

On the final part of the tour we had lunch at the test kitchen here. Run at this facility by Executive Chef Joseph Salvaggio, CBI test kitchens offer clients a chance to taste available or new products sold by CBI. They can also sample their own recipies made with CBI ingredients.

After a nice charcuterie and cheese plate of Prosciutto, Speck, milk-braised Coppa, and Serrano ham with Parmesan, Moody Blue, Irish Cheddar, Gloucester and Pecorino-Romano cheeses, Cerignola onions with a lemon-infused Balsamic vinaigrette and Roman long-stemmed artichoke hearts with sun dried tomatoes and Tribeca breads, we were served dishes buffet style. Maryland lump crab cakes in a lemon buerre blanc sauce, pistachio-encrusted lamb, chives and goat cheese mashed potatoes, baked wahoo with an olive tampanade, strip steaks with mushrooms and veal demi glace and assorted vegetables and desserts.



This was a very good tour of one of the cogs in the wheel of the food distribution system in this country.



Cheney Brothers Inc. Distribution Center

1 Cheney Way

Punta Gorda, FL 33982

(941)505-5885

Chartered bus, CBI distribution center tour

Entrance, CBI distribution center

Joesph Cino, General Manager and tour guide, CBI distribution center

Slow moving and specialty item storage, CBI distribution center 

 
Refrigerated receiving area, CBI distribution center

Refrigerated and humidity-controlled dry goods storage area, CBI distribution center

Cheney Brothers Express public sales facility

Cheney Brothers Express public sales facility

Test kitchen and dining area, CBI distribution center

Prosciutto, Speck, milk-braised Coppa, and Serrano ham with Parmesan, Moody Blue, Irish Cheddar, Gloucester and Pecorino-Romano cheeses, Cerignola onions with a lemon-infused Balsamic vinaigrette and Roman long-stemmed artichoke hearts with sun-dried tomatoes and Tribeca bread. CBI test kitchen.



Pistachio-encrusted lamb, chives and goat cheese mashed potatoes, CBI test kitchen.
Strip steak with mushrooms and a veal demi glace, CBI test kitchen.

Baked Wahoo with olive tamponade, CBI test kitchen.

Maryland lump crab cakes with lemon beurre blanc, CBI test kitchen.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Naples Originals Fall Gift Certificate Sale

Naples Originals is a consortium of almost 40 locally owned restaurants. The main purpose of Naples Originals is marketing member restaurants. To this end, they promote fostering an appreciation of local restaurants as well as other businesses. At the end of the day, locally owned restaurants and businesses enhance their environments by providing a diverse and unique experience for patrons.

Quarterly, Naples Originals restaurants and catering services donate Gift Certificates to be sold at a 30% discount from face value to the public. This is done to market member restaurants and to provide monies for charitable concerns. The face value of these certificates is generally $50.00, $25.00 and $15.00.

The next sale will be Thursday, November 10th, 2016. Be sure to get to their Website early (7 A.M. or so) as this offer sells out very quickly.

Cheers and have a very pleasant dining experience at Naples Originals restaurants.

A wine tasting at Chez Boet, a Naples Originals member restaurant.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Engine No. 9 in St. Petersburg, FL




is a sports bar in St. Petersburg, FL. They pride themselves on their burgers, beer selections and comfort foods. A local was raving about this place to me, and after a cursory look see on Yelp, I thought their menu looked intriguing. 



As you enter the restaurant their is a front end bar/dining section

and a back end dining area where my dining companion (DC) had dinner.


They had quite a number of different kinds of beer, this was not all inclusive.



Amidst all this ambience and beer choices, DC and I decided to try a few things from the Menu.

We tried a couple of the starters.

The first was the fried dill pickle spears.


I spent some time in the deep south, specifically Mississippi, and fried pickles were a delicacy there. These were tasty, but the breading a bit much for me. I am used to the more traditional lightly breaded version. They were still very good, especially with the Jalapeno ranch dipping sauce served with them.

More comfort food was next, and we sampled the macho tater tots, which were served with chili and jack and cheddar cheese.


Call it comfort food but it was full blown industrial strength! Not what I am used to eating but very good, in a filling sort of way.

I love short ribs, so I ordered the jerk-braised short ribs with 3 cheese tortellini. Another good, but industrial strength dish.


Engine No. 9 seems to like heavy sauces and cheese.

The real star of the evening was ordered by DC, and was called the demi-god burger.


This was excellent, and was a huge burger patty served with Cheddar, Swiss, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, horseradish mayo and sweet potato fries. Heaven!

After all this good food DC and I went down to Jannus Live, an open air performance space in downtown St. Petersburg to check out The New Mastersounds. They had performed in South Florida about 6 years ago and were fantastic. They do not perform very much in this area and I was thrilled they would be in striking distance.

The show was really, really good.


I do not have video of this performance but found a very representative Clip of them on You Tube which gets the idea across.

The food at Engine No. 9 was very good, comfort food to be sure. This was a great evening of oral and aural treats. Should you be up in the St. Petersburg area, or happen upon a New Mastersounds performance, both are highly recommended.

Engine No. 9
56 Dr. Martin Luther King St. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727)623-0938

Jannus Live
200 1 St. Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727)565-0550