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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lunch at Bella Maria Cafe (Closed)

Bella Maria Cafe

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is a Tapas Bar and restaurant in downtown Naples, FL. They have been at this location for 10 years which is in my book, a very good sign.

They had a very pleasant indoor

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and outdoor dining area.

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Dining companion (DC) and I were here for lunch and here is the lunch menu.

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southwest florida forks

DC and I decided to order from the abbreviated menu.

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I ordered the seafood salad. It was very nice, a variety of seafood over lettuce with a Vinaigrette Dressing. Wow!

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DC ordered a Langostino salad. This was served over lettuce, avocado, with hearts of palm and asparagus. It looked really good and DC seconded that observation.

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DC also indulged in dessert. This was a beautiful custard tart with blueberries, kiwi and strawberry slices and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Delightful.

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After eating here, I realized why they have been around for the last 10 years. I would come back without hesitation.

Another meal and another review on forks.

Bella Maria Cafe
489 5th Avenue S.
Naples, FL 34102

Bella Maria Cafe on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at Naples Flatbread and Wine Bar

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is a local restaurant with 4 Locations in Southwest Florida. My dining companion (DC) and I went to their Estero, FL location for happy hour.

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They have a nice indoor restaurant and bar area

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as well as an area to dine outside.

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Happy hour is only available at the bar and outside. Most of their beverages are 50% off, as well as their "Appeteazers".

DC and I sampled a number of the latter.

The first was "Fire-baked goat cheese". This was a sort of Fra Diovolo sauce topped with goat cheese.

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The second was a Bruschtta Martini.

This really was a bruschetta topping. In this case tomato, onion, basil, Asiago cheese and Balsamic Reduction, served with a different vehicle from traditional bruchetta. It was served with either an Erzatz Naan bread or an Unleavened Lavash Bread served with our other appetizers.

We also tried out the apple-goat cheese bruschetta. This was apples, goat cheese, pecans and balsamic reduction.

Again none of the traditional bruchetta vehicle in sight, but not a deal breaker.

Not bad food and a pretty good value. I would come back again if in the area.

Naples Flatbread and Wine Bar
10801 Corkscrew Rd. Ste. 520
Estero, Fl 33928
Naples Flatbread & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happy Hour at Two Meatballs in the Kitchen

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is an Italian-themed restaurant in Fort Myers, FL. I had heard from my dining companion that day that they had a good happy hour.
Crowds are a promising sign, and there certainly was one in both the restaurant

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and bar area.

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They had a number of happy hour specials on food and beverage.

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We ordered 3 specials.

The first was sausage-stuffed mushrooms, which were not bad.

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Mussels Fra Diavolo, or "brother devil", a tomato-chili sauce was also ordered. This was my favorite of the three specials, especially once bread was brought to the table to mop up the tomato sauce.

Finally, crab cakes were ordered and came to the table with lemon and tomato sauce..

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This was my least favorite of the three. I almost never order crab cakes out but against my better judgement did that day. The reason being is that most of the time, due to cost constraints, they are long in the cake and short in the crab. This can tend to make them a bit too greasy for my tastes. This is just what they were and if ever there again, would not order them.

Would I go back again? Probably but only if in the area due to Logistics.

Two Meatballs in the Kitchen
8880 Salrose Ln.
Fort Myers, FL 33912

Two Meatballs in the Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 21, 2014

Master Somellier Series at The Naples Wine Collection

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is a wine shop in North Naples, FL. They have a very interesting indoor space

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and a good selection of wines. The owner and his wife had developed an interest in wine through their families, who were very much into wines. They are also involved with the Naples Winter Wine Festival, one of the largest charity wine festivals in North America, and the vintners affiliated with them. They have a number of events through their business. These range from tastings, dinners and educational functions. A recent educational event is their Master Sommelier Series, running weekly through April.

The Court of Master Sommeliers is an organization founded to improve standards of beverage service concentrating on food and wine paring. There are 4 certifications by exam through this organization, the highest being Master Sommelier. As this examination process is extremely difficult, there are only 200 and change of them worldwide.

Naples is fortunate to have expertise such as this available in the area and even more fortunate to learn about wine from one of them. The goal of these courses, apart from having fun, is to be able to look at most bottles of wine, know what it is and where it comes from.

The topic that evening was wines from France

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specifically those from the Burgundy

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and Bordeaux regions.

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Wines from these regions can be differentiated from the shapes of the bottles

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with those from Burgundy always having a lower "shoulder" than those from Bordeaux. Interestingly, the bottle of Bordeaux in this picture has Clos on the label. This means enclosed in French so one could expect this vineyard to be surrounded by a wall.

We learned a bit about the districts in these regions and the wines that come from them.

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We also learned some useful information that would help us judge the quality of a wine by it's appearance in a glass.
As grapes macerate after being harvested, chemicals from their skins contribute to the color and flavor of the finished product.
The greater amount of stain the wine leaves behind as it is swirled in a glass, the better the Extraction. Cleanliness of glassware was also emphasized. Who wants a wine glass that smells like soap?

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The importance of proper Wine Storage was also addressed. Temperatures below 60-65 degrees F., humidity and darkness are all factors to consider should one want a great wine to stay great.

We were also made aware of a number of very good wine information resources. Kobrand, a wine and sprits importer, has an excellent series of Wine Education Tutorials.

All in all a very interesting and educational evening at Naples Wine Collection and another review on Forks.

Naples Wine Collection
2367 Vanderbilt Beach Rd. #810
Naples, FL 34109

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cooking Curry at The British Market (Market is now Closed)

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is a purveyor of British foods in North Naples, FL.  They have a nice indoor space serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on certain days.

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They also make in house a variety of sausages, meat pies and Pasties.

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I was there later in the afternoon and they were almost sold out!

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They also sell a variety of Dry Goods and other imported British Items.

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That evening the owner was giving a Curry class.

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His credentials are impressive. He initially trained at The Culinary Institute of America and followed with a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu.
After working in a number of corporate kitchens he decided to go on his own. Seeing a need for a niche market in British foods, the British Market came to be.
There were two curries made that evening, an Indian curry and a Thai curry. Typically Indian curries are anchored with chilli peppers, while Thai curries may use Lemongrass with cilantro.

The class started off making an Indian Curry, Butter Chicken. This is chicken cooked in a tomato cream sauce.

Traditionally the chicken is cooked in a Tandoori Oven, typically a clay oven that can get up to 700 degrees F. If you don't have that, a Pizza Stone in your oven at high heat can mimic one, just make sure the fire extinguisher is nearby! When the chicken is cooked in this method, Kashmiri Chili Powder is used. A good substitute is 1 part Cayenne Pepper to 3 parts Paprika.

A Wok was used to cook that evening due to it's even heating, and chili powder just added to it during cooking.

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Lemon juice was added to this. We were told this will bring out flavors like salt and pepper do.

Before cooking the Thai curry, the wok was rinsed and cleaned with salt. This is done to remove the impurities and also makes the pan not stick. This also works for Cast Iron Cookware.

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The second curry was a Panang Curry. This is a Green Curry. Thai curries are usually either red, green or yellow depending on their ingredients.

After blending lemongrass and cilantro among other ingredients,

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the curry was prepared

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finished with Udon Noodles

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and served.

The finished product.

I thought the butter chicken won, but it's just a matter of taste, isn't it?
All in all a fun and informative evening at the British Market and another review on Forks.

The British Market
2355 Vanderbilt Beach Rd. Ste. 131
Naples, FL 34109