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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sweet Ginger's Gelato

Sweet Ginger's Gelato

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is a gelato manufacturing facility a few minutes east of the airport in Fort Myers, FL. The owner started in Chicago with a food truck selling commercially produced gelato. A friend asked her if she had ever tried Italian gelato. On a subsequent trip to Italy she did and caught the "gelato bug". She went back to learn how to make gelato at the Gelato Professional School through Frigomat a company that makes gelato machines. She also attended Gelato University which is sponsored by a competitor gelato machine company, Carpigiani. She has also trained under Master Gelato Chef, Gabriele Scarponi, who periodically comes over from Italy to assist her in developing new gelato products.  

Learning about gelato was interesting. What is the difference between Gelato and Ice Cream? It basically comes down to 3 factors, fat, churning method and serving temperature. These 3 factors produce a product that is creamer and denser than ice cream. Fruit-based gelatos, which have a very low fat content, are popular in Southern Italy. Cream-based gelatos with, for example, chocolate or nutty flavors are popular in Northern Italy.
Gelato bases, or the vehicle for the flavoring, comes in 3 varieties. There is a milk-based or white base. There is also a yellow base, which is a milk base with eggs added to it. This produces a custard-like consistency. One would use this to produce a  Zabaglione gelato, also known as Italian eggnog. Fruit bases are high in water and low in fat.

They were experimenting with caramel gelatos that day in their preparation area.
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The ingredients were measured, in this case 70% liquid and 30% solids, mixed




and put into a batch heat treatment machine. This warms the mixture to 185 F and then cools it down to about 39 F. This is not about Pasteurization but more about melding the flavors together.

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The processed ingredients are then removed
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and placed into a gelato machine



where it is churned, cooled and placed into 5 L containers which can serve about 35 people. To finish the product, it is briefly flash frozen to put a protective and aesthetically pleasing shell on top of the gelato.

This was a batch of salted caramel and it was beyond delicious.
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Part of the reason the owner started this is to have this type of product prepared locally. She transports her product on food trucks, which have kitchens and display cases. She sells at wholesale, to country clubs and restaurants. She also is a retail supplier, selling to weddings, corporate and private events.

As her product is never frozen, she has a supply radius of about 100 miles.

They can produce virtually any flavor of gelato from Balsamic Vinegar/Truffle Oil, tomato/ginger or more traditional.
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I can't wait until local retailers start carrying this as it's such a great product.

For those that are interested, here is a short video on Sweet Ginger's gelato that was aired recently on our local CBS affiliate.



 

There you have it, another review on forks.

Sweet Ginger's Gelato
12811 Commerce Lakes Dr. Ste. 23
Fort Myers, FL 33913
(239)877-3280

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mote Caviar (As of 2015, Mote Sold Their Sturgeon Aquaculture Program)

I was recently invited to a food industry event at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club that was sponsored by an international food distributor. There were many food-related businesses there that the distributor bought from. One of them was Mote (pronounced like moat) in Sarasota, FL. They are a private non-profit marine research lab. They have a marine toxicology unit, research red tides, dolphins and whales, have a dolphin and turtle hospital, public aquarium, and perform tropical coral research in the Florida Keys in addition to Estuary research in Charlotte Harbor.
They also have an aquaculture research center where they grow Siberian Sturgeon.
I was fortunate enough to talk at this event with the director of Mote's Sturgeon Aquaculture Program  (DMAP) who is an expert on sturgeon and their eggs.


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Traditionally, caviar comes from the Black and Caspian seas, though many other areas produce it.
Caviar is graded mainly on the size of the egg, but Color and Other Factors play a role in the grading process. Size matters, as the larger the egg the more yolk and more flavor.
There are 3 classifications of caviar. Beluga is the most coveted and the most expensive. It is the largest-sized sturgeon egg. Importation of Beluga caviar into the United States is illegal as the wild-caught sturgeon that produce this grade of caviar are endangered.
The next grade down is Osetra. DMAP told me there were two species in the Caspian Sea that produce this grade of caviar which ostensibly is the grade Mote produces. The eggs range from 2.2-2.6mm in diameter. Wild-caught Osetra Sturgeon are facing extinction. Fortunately, they have the genetic capacity to handle higher temperatures and are well-suited for sturgeon farms. DMAP said these fish take 4-7 years of growth to become egg producers. The first harvest of eggs typically produces a low yield compared to a fully mature sturgeon. This increases as the fish becomes older reaching up to 10% of the weight of the fish. Some other fun facts about Mote Caviar.
Sturgeon farming is extremely expensive. The  capital outlay for energy, filtration technologies and water is tremendous. From what DMAP told me, Mote has done a good job of sustainability with their use of solar energy panels and water recycling. Even though at present day they farm up to 150 metric tons of fish they are a zero discharge facility due to their use of advanced filtration technology.
Sevruga caviar is the least coveted grade and has the smallest diameter eggs which typically are grey.They are very much more "fishy" tasting than their superior counterparts.
All of this was very interesting and it was very nice of DMAP to enlighten me on the world of caviar and sturgeon farming. I hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me.
That's that for another post on forks.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy.
Sarasota, FL 34236
(941)388-4441


 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cherry Hill Wine Tasting at Chez Boet

The Willamette Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Oregon. These were discussed in another Post. Briefly, AVAs are wine production areas designated by the U.S. Government. If a vintner claims to be from a particular AVA, 85% of the grapes used in their wine must be from there.
This area is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains. This climate, and flooding that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, has produced some extremely arable land. Again, though discussed in another Post, Terroir is the interaction of climate, geology and plant genetics. This area is know for it's superior terroir. As far as grapes go, the terroir in this area is similar to the Burgundy region of France. The Willamette Valley is known for it's wines, especially Pinot Noir. What really started the whole thing going in this area was Eyrie Vineyards. They scored 2nd in a prestigious blind taste competition in the Burgundy region of France in the 1970's. Fast forward to 2013, and this area produces world-class wines. Pinot grapes were explored in another Post.

Cherry Hill Winery is a winery in the Willamette Valley, specifically in the Eola-Amity Hills sub-Appelation. They grow Pinot Noir Grapes.
The tasting was held at Chez Boet, a restaurant in Crayton Cove near downtown Naples, FL.
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They have a very nice indoor dining space.

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Incidentally, Chez Boet is ground zero for Naples Originals, a consortium of about 40 member restaurants. This was discussed in another Post. One of the owners of this establishment is the organizer for this group. This individual has told me that the group was formed for marketing and philanthropic purposes.


I was fortunate to get to the tasting early to be able to talk to one of the vintners. During the winters, they stay in Southwest Florida.

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There were 4 wines that evening, and all were 100% Pinot Noir.


Dijon Cuvee Pinot Noir, Cherry Hill Pinot Noir, Vanda Pinot Noir Dry Rose and a Blank de Pinot Noir. All of these wines can be ordered Online.

As the tasting began
attendees really seemed to enjoy the conversation and the wines.
I could not stay, as I was off to the annual Christmas Tree Lighting in downtown Naples.


There you have it, another review on forks.

Chez Boet
755 12th Ave. S.
Naples, FL 34102
(239)643-6177
Chez Boet on Urbanspoon


Sunday, December 8, 2013

15th Annual Champagne and Sparkling Wine Tasting at Tony's Off Third

Tony's Off Third is the retail wine space adjacent to Ridgway Bar and Grill in Old Naples.


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Besides a retail wine shop, they also have excellent breakfast selections, pastries, coffees and teas.

Their veranda is very accommodating,

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and gets very crowded during the winter months and the 3rd St. Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

The holiday season at Tony's Off Third was in high gear, all the backdrop for sparkling wines and champagnes.
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The selections at the tasting were many, twenty two in all.

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Here is a listing of the wines.




As discussed in another Post, brut is the second least dry (sugar content) in champagne grading. NV, stands for non-vintage. This is where the wines need to be blended from different years to achieve a drinkable and standardized taste. Vintage Wines are those of a single year when everything comes together geologically and climatically to make the grape as best as possible. For those that are interested, here is all you wanted to know about Sparkling Wine .

The wines were in four separate areas.

The bar at Ridgway's Restaurant


inside Tony's Off Third



Tony's Off Third courtyard


and Ridgway private dining room.

The attendees were really enjoying themselves sampling the selections of wines and champagnes.

Merry Christmas everyone!
That's that. Another post on forks.

Ridgway Bar and Grill
Tony's Off Third
1300 Third St S.
Naples, FL 34102
(239)262-5500
Ridgway Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Hour at Blue Martini in Naples

Blue Martini is a chain of at present 12 restaurants that range from Bellvue, WA to Naples, FL. Happy hour is from 5-8 P.M.

 You can choose to eat inside


or out at the bar as my dining companion (DC) and I decided to do.


They allow smoking outside just as an FYI (DC has very reactive airways).

They have a very nice selection at happy hour with 50% off many of  their 

The food is really good as well and is discounted 25 to 50 percent.

I opted for the Ahi Tuna dish which came with calamari and seaweed salad. It was really good.

I also ordered the shrimp martini, also very good.
DC got the lobster salad

and we split a flat bread order of beef and portabella mushrooms.
All in all a very nice meal after a movie. By the way, went to see Dallas Buyers Club. Heavy, but excellent.

There you have it. Another review on forks.

Blue Martini
9114 Strada Place #12105
Naples, FL 34108
(239)591-2583
Blue Martini on Urbanspoon



Monday, November 25, 2013

Lunch at Sushi Thai

Sushi Thai is a restaurant that has 4 locations in Southwest Florida. My dining companion (DC) and I had lunch at the original location in North Naples.southwest florida forks
This location has been here for almost 10 years.

They have a nice dining area (I like booths)
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or you can choose to eat at the sushi bar if you like.

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They have a variety of lunch specials, all an incredible value.

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With most of these specials, you are served a bowl of soup and a spring roll. That day the soup was chicken noodle.
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DC opted for chicken in fresh ginger sauce.
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This came with green onions, mushrooms, pineapples and celery.

I ordered the beef red curry.

This is prepared with bamboo shoots, bell pepper, coconut milk and red curry paste.

This location is the only one that also delivers. Please call to verify their delivery area.

All of the food was great and again, an incredible value for $8.99/person. Would I go back? As I have probably been here 20 times over the years for lunch and dinner the answer to that question is yes.

Sushi Thai
869 103rd Ave. N.
Naples, FL 34108
(239)592-7575

Sushi Thai of Naples on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dinner at Citrus

Citrus is a seafood restaurant on 5th Ave. S. in Old Naples. They have been open for about 3 years.
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They have a very nice outside dining area great for people watching on 5th avenue. You can also choose to eat indoors, also a great space.
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Their menu is interesting and they have a good wine and beer selection.
The owners are big believers in using fresh, local ingredients and it shows. 
They came up with the name for their restaurant as they have always liked citrus notes on their seafood. What better place to appreciate citrus than Florida?

I opted for the fish cakes for an appetizer and they were delicious.

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The fish in these cakes was shredded cobia. It is a very firm fish and gave the cakes a really good texture. This dish was also very well complemented with it's topping of pico de gallo (salsa fresca) and a drizzle of lobster oil.

As an entree, my dining companion ordered the crab cake appetizer. These were topped with a citrus remoulade and orange wedges. The citrus zest in the remoulade went really well with this.

I decided on the hogfish entree. It was a really nice presentation with the whole fish on top of a bed of jasmine rice and a medley of corn, roasted red pepper and jicama.
 
To top it all off, the service was excellent. Not only are the servers very attentive but are also very knowledgeable about the food and menu. I would go back without a second thought.

So that's that. Another review on forks.

Citrus
455 5th Ave. S.
Naples, FL 34102
(239)435-0408 Citrus on Urbanspoon