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Monday, May 14, 2018

LowBrow Pizza and Beer in Naples

LowBrow Pizza and Beer (LB)

LowBrow Pizza and Beer
is a restaurant in east Naples, FL. As the discerning reader may guess, LB is focused on pizza and beer. Besides these two restaurant staples, other things are served as well. The restaurant, as of this writing, has been open less than two months.

LB proprietors, Chris (left) and Henrik (right)


The proprietors at LB are Chris Jones and Henrik Lagergren. Both of these owners are interesting in their own right. Chris has been a chef for many years, going through a number of reinventions. Chris started out with techniques such as molecular gastronomy, but quickly tired of plating out his dishes with forceps. He went back to basics locally with barbecue, drawing critical acclaim with his food truck, Porker BBQ. Pursuing that tack, he decided to focus on pizza which he cut his teeth on with his barbecue venture. Chris's business partner, Henrik, has traveled the world and is a great source on emerging culinary trends. The name LowBrow is tongue in cheek. It is really a quip on the perceived snobbery of some of the eating establishments locally in Naples. The food at LB is anything but.

Chris feels pizza is all about it's base, the dough. The Bakers Percentages, the water, fermentation among other factors if done properly, provide a wonderful substrate for the finished product.



Pavesi pizza oven, LowBrow Pizza and Beer

LB has a very nice wood-fired pizza oven, which is another sine qua non of great pizza. LB uses an oven from the Italian company Pavesi. The temperatures here range from 750 to 1000 degrees F.  Why should this matter? This causes the dough to expand rapidly, becoming airy and full of holes. This provides a wonderful contrast between a slightly crispy exterior and and a soft, puffy interior.

As you enter the restaurant, you may recognize it as a former Five Guys burger space, albeit much more crowded with the new owners.

Dining area, LowBrow pizza

I came here twice, the initial visit sampling some non pizza items. On this first visit, I tried the pizza bones. These were wood fired pizza crusts bits served with three different dips, marinara, garlic butter or ranch with blue cheese. This was not bad but I really meant to order the roasted bone marrow with gremolata, the latter a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs with citrus that is a garnish for this dish. Due to poor sales, this item is no longer offered at LB. In conversation, I told the owners that I usually pay for everything I eat and write about, but occasionally I am thrown a bone by a proprietor for my efforts. 

Roasted bone marrow with gremolata

This is exactly what happened and thanks for the bone Chris and Henrik!

I finished my first visit with the bovine love burger.

Bovine love burger

This was a wonderful hamburger featuring a bbq brisket blend, pimento cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun with in house tater tots. Ranch/blue cheese dip and in house made pickles sealed the deal. I was told I would be happy upon eating this. I can say that statement was very accurate.

I came back a second time to try some of the establishment's pizza offerings. As you walk in, their pizza selection is displayed on the wall behind the ordering station.

Pizza selection, LowBrow pizza and beer
Before our pizzas, we sampled another menu item,  the chicken parm sandwich.

Chicken parm sandwich
This was delicious, featuring breaded and fried chicken thighs topped with pepperoni/arrabiatta tomato sauce and aged mozzarella. Tater tots complemented this very heavy duty and excellent menu item.

A couple of the pizzas were sampled, all about 12" dinner size.

#meatfest pizza
Although the picture does not do it justice, the meatfest pizza was remarkable featuring bbq brisket, pork belly and pulled pork garnished with parmesan shavings. In a word, excellent.

Cortez the killer pizza was also sampled. Chorizo with roasted potato, sweet corn, crème fraiche with scallion, lime mayo, cilantro, cotija cheese and chilies topped another over the top, delicious pizza.

My dining companion really liked the tater tots so we tried an order of them.

Tater tots

The tater tots, as the other menu items were exceptional but at this point superfluous. LB also has a well curated craft beer selection representative of the local producers in the area.

Craft beer selections, LowBrow Pizza and Beer

The food at LB is exceptional and reflects the talents of the executive chef, Chris Jones. The pizza here is perfection, and the non pizza menu items tried were also excellent. The service however could and undoubtedly will improve. After many positive reviews, I think the establishment was unprepared and overwhelmed.  Nonetheless, I think you will be very happy eating here.


It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

LowBrow Pizza and Beer
3148 Tamiami Tr. E.
Naples, FL 34112
(239)529-6919

Open Sunday-Tuesday, 11AM-9PM, Wednesday-Friday, 11AM-10PM, Saturday, 12-11PM; All major credit cards accepted; No reservations accepted.

"Pizza bones"
Cortez the killer pizza




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dinner (again) at Table and Tap at Babcock Ranch

Table and Tap (TT)
Table and Tap, Babcock Ranch
is the initial restaurant on the grounds of Babcock Ranch, the first planned solar powered community in the US. I had Posted about Babcock Ranch and Table and Tap before. For those interested in the community per se please go to the Babcock Ranch Link. TT has been open for about 15 months and for the past 6, has had a new Executive Chef, Richard Howze. Richard has close to 30 years of culinary experience, is an excellent chef and has completely transformed the Menu and price points at TT under his direction.

Outdoor dining, Table and Tap
The restaurant has an attractive interior dining area, in addition to some very pleasant outdoor seating with nice views of the water on the property.

Again, TT's Menu has changed dramatically from our last visit. My dining companion (DC) and I decided to try a few of the items from it.

The first thing ordered was the pate and pork rinds.

Pate and pork rinds
This was a delicious and  a completely over the top introduction to the new menu at TT. All this was made in house, the sweetness of the onion jam perfectly complementing the richness of the pate on a pork skin vehicle. This dish is a must order, most highly recommended.

The heirloom tomato salad was next. This was another excellent dish. The smoked Neuske's bacon in this menu item was the perfect foil for the buttermilk dressing/feta cheese here. For those that do not know Neuske's bacon, this is smoked bacon at it's finest. It adds a delicious and complex layer of flavor to anything it's served with. This is another must try menu item.

DC is a big mac n' cheese fan, I am not. We agreed to sample this, and I must say I could easily become a convert after TT's take on this.

Pigtail mac "n" cheese

The "mac" in this dish is really cavatappi, a helical shaped macaroni reminiscent of a corkscrew. This was topped with smoked pork shoulder, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and pork rinds. This dish was delicious, and opened my mind to more contemporary takes on mac 'n" cheese. The cast iron skillet as a serving plate just added to, at least for me, the je ne sais quoi of this dish. Highly recommended.

The wild boar jambalaya was next, again brought to the table on a cast iron skillet. For those that do not know, jambalaya is a delicious meld of both Spanish and French culinary influences. It is generally a rice dish seasoned with meat and vegetables, the latter being the "trinity" of onions, celery and green bell pepper, the former at TT wild boar sausage and chicken. I could sense the craftsmanship put into this dish, especially with the use of Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice. Anson Mills specializes in heirloom grains, and their Carolina Gold rice is to some, the best they have ever had. It probably has something to do with the starch profile of this rice. Although used in many recipes for jambalaya, I did not care for the stewed tomatoes here which we thought detracted from this menu item. DC and I observed that they added an acidic, metallic note to this dish dissonant from the richness of it's other components. 

We unknowingly saved the best for last, ordering the pulled pork sandwich.

Pulled pork sandwich

This over the top menu item melds in house smoked pulled pork with a vinegar-based slaw. Sides included sweet potato fries and pickled tomatoes. This sandwich was unbelievably delicious, a culinary testimonial to the talents of the executive chef. The sweet potato fries were very good, more intriguing were the pickled tomatoes. These are a very unique and extremely flavorful addition to any sandwich, charcuterie or just about anything for that matter. I asked chef for the recipe as I wanted to try this at home. The technique here is what the chef calls a "quick pickle", submerging the tomatoes in a brine in the fridge for anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. One keeps them submerged with a weight such as a bowl or plate.

1 cup good cider vinaigrette
1.5 cups sugar or to taste
3 tablespoons toasted chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chili flakes
1/4 cup of curry powder or to taste 

Wash and dry tomatoes and prick them all over with a skewer. The above mixture is boiled briefly to meld all of the ingredients and poured over the tomatoes. The mixture (brine) is then cooled and placed in the fridge. This recipe would of course need to be scaled upward depending on the amount of tomatoes used. This is a very simple prep, and I think most home cooks will be very happy with the result.

Talking about sides, you will find a number of them on the menu ranging from sweet potato fries to sauteed rapini. Having tried both items, I can tell you that not only are they very good, but are priced using 1960's pricing at $2.00 each, something unique for fine dining in southwest Florida. This is a very interesting menu strategy which I am sure is paying large dividends.

Chef Howze also told me that they have about 700 head of cattle on premises and 5 acres of land for planting fruits and vegetables. As the cattle will be processed locally and the produce grown on site, this will be a very attractive selling point that will only add to the quality and desirability of the already great cuisine here.

Both DC and I thought the food for the most part at TT was excellent. The pricing is mostly, for now, in line with the demographics of the area as the population of Babcock Ranch starts to increase. One may think it's a bit of a drive from Fort Myers or Naples but it is totally worth your time to go here. TT is most highly recommended, and I think patrons will not be disappointed. I for one cannot wait to go back and try some of the other menu items.

View from outside dining area at Table and Tap
That's that for another post on Forks.

Table and Tap
42860 Crescent Loop
Babcock Ranch, FL 33982
(941)235-6906

Open Monday-Thursday 11 AM to 9PM, Friday and Saturday, 11AM to 10PM, Sunday 10 AM to 9 PM for lunch and dinner, a Sunday brunch is also offered, please inquire; No valet parking; All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals available


Interior bar and dining area, Table and Tap

Heirloom tomato salad

Chicken and boar sausage jambalaya














Friday, May 4, 2018

Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival

Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival, 2018
Smoke on the Water was a classic rock song released in 1972 by the band Deep Purple. Smoke on the Water (SOW) is also the name for many barbecue festivals nationally, and one held annually in Fort Myers, FL. SOW in Southwest Florida is currently in it's 5th year. It is hosted by the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center at the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin . As I had previously posted on local barbecue before, I thought a redo of this very basic barbecue primer was in order.

Nobody knows how grilled meats entered the food chain. Like coffee, anthropologists can only guess.The following is adapted from a posting of the history of barbecue from AmazingRibs.com, a site dedicated to all things grilled (by permission of the author).

Ancient man probably happened upon a cooked carcass after a forest fire and liked what they tasted. In good time, it was understood that meats tasted better held over or to the side of their cooking source. Eventually it was common practice for ancient societies to "spit roast", or use meats suspended by wood racks above a heat source. This progressed to the Iron Age, where "gridirons" or the progenitors of grill "grates" were used in ancient Greece. It was eventually realized that smoked meats were an excellent method of preservation, like salting or drying. There have been other influences from Asia (Tandoor ovens) and Japan (Kamado urns), both ceramic cooking ovens heated by an open flame.
In the middle ages spit roasting was widely used in Europe, but the explorations of the "New World" by Spain really brought barbecue to the United States. The introduction of pigs into the "New World" in addition to Native Indian migration brought barbecue, originally called barbacoa through a misunderstanding of Native Indian language by the Spaniards, into North America. Further colonization by the Spanish and Indians brought barbecue into the Gulf States and the lower Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Migration up the Mississippi River brought this technology northward. Smoke houses and pit barbecues started to proliferate, the latter becoming a popular social gathering in the middle to late 19th century. For those interested in a more complete accounting of the history of barbecue, go Here.



SOW focuses on food and music. As for the former, there were about 5 or 6 barbecue vendors. We did not do our due diligence, and gauged our preferences on the length of the line at any particular vendor.


There was a pretty good crowd towards the back entrance of SOW and we started there.
Crowd, Smoke on the Water
The first vendor we stopped at was Currie's Smokin Hot BBQ.


Currie's Smokin Hot BBQ
The rib tips looked intriguing. What are rib tips, and how does that differ from baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs and spareribs? For a really good diagram illustrating this, go Here. They were good, meaty and it's always fun gnawing around the cartilage on these.

The line was very long at an adjacent vendor, Big Smoke BBQ and Catering. The menu looked good, so we thought we'd try a few things.


Menu, Big Smoke BBQ and Catering
We ordered ribs (St. Louis style) and a brisket dinner.
Brisket dinner, Big Smoke BBQ and Catering
The ribs were a bit dry in spots, and just OK. The sides, mac 'n' cheese and collard greens, were much better than the brisket, which was run of the mill. The collards were really well flavored, and some of the best I have had. If ordering from them again, I would definitely get more of the collards.

There were other vendors there such as Skin and Bones BBQ, Jonesez BBQDeep Down South BBQ and Pig in or Pig Out, where you could purchase their famous "ribsicle" and eat them from their signature dining tables.

Ribsicles, Pig in or Pig Out BBQ

Signature dining table, Pig in or Pig out BBQ
Of the offerings we tried, the best was the BBQ sundae from Big Papa's Country Kitchen.


Big Papa's Country Kitchen
This was an extremely delicious 3 layer, 16 oz. serving of baked beans, cole slaw and pulled pork. Each of the components of this dish were excellent which synergized into this incredible flavor explosion. If you ever come across Big Papa's, order this and you will be very happy.

There was also a vendor selling a variety of very good looking roasted corn on the cob in addition to some very nice looking cup cakes from Tamu Cupcakery. Unfortunately they were mostly sold out by the time I got there.

If you wanted an adult beverage, there was that opportunity as well. What goes better with BBQ than beer?

Bar tent, Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival
As some of the crowd sat eating all this food, they enjoyed listening to a number of bands including The Electric Mud, playing very retro rock and roll.




All in all it was a nice day out at SOW. I hope to see SOW evolve into something bigger and better, becoming a showcase for great food, music and family fun in Southwest Florida.

Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival Website 

Rib Tips, Currie's Smokin Hot BBQ
 
Smoker, Big Smoke BBQ and Catering


Big Smoke BBQ and Catering
Deep Down South BBQ
Florida Skin and Bones BBQ
Roasted corn vendor, Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival
Cooking ribs, Pig in or Pig Out BBQ
Menu, Big Papa's Country Kitchen
Diners, Smoke on the Water Barbecue and Music Festival



 






Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dinner at Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery in Fort Myers

Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery

Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery
is a restaurant serving Italian cuisine in Fort Myers, FL. The bakery is a bit of a misnomer, as there really is no bakery besides that which serves the restaurant. However, with an advance request, they will bake you anything asked of them with sufficient notice.

The chef de cuisine, Barbara Storci, is  an extremely talented chef moving here from Italy about 2 years ago. Her grandfather was in the restaurant business in Rome for many years and she grew up learning her craft from a very early age.

Barbara and her uncle Robert, Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery
I had heard very good things about this establishment so my dining companion and I decided to take a peek.

The interior of the restaurant is intimate, probably accommodating 40 diners. We did not have reservations mid week in the middle of April, but no problem, they could accommodate us.

They have a very nice Menu. The offerings looked delicious, and I could not wait to sample them.

At first sight simplistic, we were brought some ciabatta and focaccia pieces to mop up the seasoned olive oil that was brought to the table. With the quality of olive oil and the bread that was served here, this was delicious, and a harbinger of things to come.

Antipasto Toscano


We tried the antipasto Toscano. It was very good, and featured bresaola and salami, seasoned olives, spinach with balsamic glaze and these exceptional pieces of focaccia bread with sauteed leeks and parmesan cheese. The leeks and focaccia bread were brilliant in their simplicity and a taste until then unknown to me. The plate was served with in house made cornetto bread, which is an Italian variation of the French croissant. Highly recommended.


Cornetto with ham and fontina cheese.

Seeing me maniacally taking photographs for this blog post, the owners were kind enough to provide a little lagniappe before moving onto our mains. The first was a delicious caponata. This was an excellent and very traditional rendering of that classic Italian starter with eggplant, olives, capers, celery and sweetened balsamic vinegar. We were also served a very unique off the menu item of cornetto filled with ham and fontina cheese. Both of these dishes are highly recommended.

I have been searching locally for a good ragu so we decided to try the fettuccine with bolognese sauce. Traditionally this sauce involves a mixture (soffritto) of onion, celery and carrot and finely ground meats, in this case beef. Milk, wine and tomatoes are added and the mixture slowly cooked to produce a very viscous sauce. Barbara told us this was her grandmother's recipe. I prefer a more complex ragu with a mixture of meats like beef top round, pork sausage and pork shoulder, but this was very good and recommended.

The restaurant has a weekly special menu featuring cuisine for one of the 20 regions of Italy. When we were there their menu had a Tuscan bent.


Veal scallopini with porcini muchrooms

We opted for the scaloppina di vitello al funghi porcini, which was veal scaloppini with porcini mushrooms. This was cooked apparently in a "Tuscan style" which is different that one would find perhaps in Rome. It was absolutely delicious, and featured veal scallopini in a sauce of sage, pancetta, wine, porcini mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes. With scaloppini dishes, the meat serves as the foil or vehicle for the sauce. This dish was exceptional, and perfectly executed as a scaloppini dish. Most highly recommended.

Tiramisu

My dining companion has a very sweet tooth and inquired about their desserts. The tiramisu was suggested by our server. After tasting this, I could see why. This was a very good, and perfectly prepared tiramisu, the richness of the coffee and chocolate flavors perfectly complementing the sweetened cooked egg and mascarpone cheese mixture. I am not a dessert person but thought this dessert delicious.

The food at Colleoni's is traditional, but very good. Most of what you are served is made in house, and it shows. This is very much a family run business and they take great pride in serving you quality Italian cuisine. Highly recommended.

Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery 
12731 Mcgregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919
(239)208-3114
Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch: 10 AM- 3 PM, dinner 5-9 PM
All major credit cards accepted; No valet parking; Kid's meals available


Interior, Colleoni's Eatery and Bakery


Caponata with cornetto bread


Fettuccine with bolognese sauce