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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

Jannus Live
200 1 St. Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chefs Collaborative Trash Fish Dinner-Fort Myers

Chefs Collaborative is a group of chefs and food industry professionals whose goal is to have sustainable culinary practices be second nature for chefs everywhere.
They believe food is fundamental to life, and good food arises from an environment of clean air, land and water. In addition, sustainable farming, fishing and animal husbandry are also part of their tenets. In educating themselves about sustainable culinary practices, chefs and food professionals can act as change agents in helping to develop a broader market for better foods.

To this end, Chefs Collaborative hosts a number of meetings and events. One of these events recently occurred in Fort Myers, FL and was the area's first Trash Fish Dinner. This is an effort to expose both chefs and the public to underutilized and underappreciated fish species. Why is this important? According to one Source, world fish populations have declined by 50% over the last 40 years. This is due not only to over fishing, but ocean pollution and temperature change, the latter two factors severely affecting the resiliency of sea life. Sea to Table, a company dedicated to better connecting fisherman and chefs as well as a sponsor of this event, had an interesting Article in the Huffington Post about domestic fish consumption and alternative fish species.

The Trash Fish dinner was held at Jack's Farm to Fork in the Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach.

I arrived a bit early to find chef participants busy preparing the evening's meal.

Chef participants

included Sander Bergstrom from Village on the Isle retirement community, Kristina San Filippo from Purple Spoon Culinary, James Fraser, Culinary Instructor for the Resort and Hospitality Management Program at Florida Gulf Coast University, Richard Howze from Summerlin Jake's Seafood and Steaks, Paw Mikkelsen from Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, David Rashty and crew from Jack's Farm to Fork, Brett Rayon from Callebaut Chocolate, Pyro Rodriguez and crew at Shangri La Springs, Brian Roland and others from Crave Culinaire and Melissa Talmage with Sweet Melissa's Cafe.

As attendees gathered for the event

they were treated to a variety of wines,

craft cocktails

and selections from over 10 chef stations.

These included Bonito Poke from Chef Sander Bergstrom

This was a wonderful preparation of spiced beets and cucumbers, yuzu, mirin, Sambal Oelek and Togarashi spice served with "winter greens" (kale, chard and Napa cabbage) and garnished with Ogo seaweed. It was so good I went back for thirds.

Chef Kristina San Filippo

served a very good mixture

of fish stock made from leftover fish bones and heads ("the trash of the trash") mixed with a coconut broth spiced with lime and lemongrass, bok choy and micro green garnish.

James and Courtney Fraser prepared fish battered in panko crumbs or beer batter, greens, rice and a choice of wasabi/cucumber, chipotle ranch, sweet chili or Hollandaise sauces. Very good!

Richard Howze served up smoked Silver Carp Rillettes with picked okra, quail egg and pork rinds.

Again, another thirds dish.

Paw Mikkelsen and Brett Rayon prepared this totally over the top dessert station

with mousses,


dark chocolates

and lava cake.

Chef David Rashty and crew served black drum with a miso glaze, and Anson Mills Heirloom rice

in addition to a nice assortment of vegetables and crab cakes.

Pyro Rodriguez treated diners to smoked mullet with Bearnaise sauce and king mackerel with a sherry sauce,

while Chef Melissa Talmage prepared Creole (Creole mustard) smashed potatoes, green beans and mullet cooked in brown butter, Pancetta and chopped pecans. Delicious!

Last but very not least Brain Roland and crew prepared Bouillabaisse with porgy, jack, lady fish and periwinkle with a traditional fennel/saffron broth, toasted coconut and thin slices of toasted French bread garnished with a squid ink Rouille.

This was very, very good.

Ken Ryan of Herban Gardens micro greens

and Michael Dimin, owner of Sea to Table

addressed attendees about sustainable farming and seafood.

Those that stayed late were treated to another spectacular sunset from the restaurant's veranda.

This was a wonderful evening and a great event. It's a must do for those that like great food, and I anticipate the next dinner will be a sellout. As an added plus, monies generated from these events goes to support the efforts of Chefs Collaborative.

This event would not be possible without the generosity of it's sponsors, Anson Mills, Callebaut, Crush Magazine, Florida Microgreens, Oakes Farms, Sea to Table, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and Sunset Specialties and Spices.

After attending Trash Fish, I can't talk enough trash about this event!

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Best of Taste in the Park 2016

The Association of Junior Leagues International was started in 1901 and is a non profit organization of at present, 291 chapters in 4 countries. They are an organization of women promoting educational and charitable activities to improve communities and develop the potential of women.

The Junior League of Fort Myers (JLFM) was established in 1966, and in 2016 are celebrating their 50th anniversary.  They perform a number of Charitable Functions for the community. One of these, started in 1982, is Taste of the Town, but more on that later.

I was approached by the JLFM to be a judge for their 2nd annual preview fundraising event for Taste of the Town, Best of Taste in the Park (BTP). At BTP, attendees voted on the food items served, participated in a silent auction, and were entitled to complementary beer, wine and spirit tastings. The proceeds from this event were split between JLFM and the charitable arm of the Boston Red Sox, The Red Sox Foundation.

The event was held at Jet Blue Park, the spring training facility for the Boston Red Sox.

The judges were instructed before the tasting as to how to evaluate the items served by Erin Snead, VIP Tent Co-Chair for Taste of the Town, 2016. Kara Sadjak and Amelia May also participated as co-chairs of the VIP tent.

Here were our evaluation forms for the 11 items served to us.

We were not told which restaurant submitted each entry, a "blind" tasting.

There were a number of dishes served to us

mostly in tasting portions exemplary of what one would be served for The Taste of the Town.

I will not tell you how I voted or give you an opinion of what was served but here were some of the entries for judging. Keep in mind these were the display items for the purpose of judging the aesthetics of each entry. There were starter items,


and desserts.

After the judging, the Best of Taste in the Park Started, and was capped at 200 participants.

There was a silent auction

with items that were mostly of a sports, food and lodging theme.

A number of restaurants provided food. This mentioning is not inclusive but included Black Salt, the catering arm of Fathoms Restaurant and Bar,

11:Eleven Cafe,

EE to LEET KE Grill at Seminole Casino

There was also beer and wine and craft spirit tastings.

This was a preview of Taste of the Town, which will be held Sunday, November 6, from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. at Jet Blue Park. It looks like it will be a great event, and over 25 restaurants and 10,000 attendees expected. I hope all will come to what promises to be a really good day out.

Taste of the Town 2016
Jet Blue Park
11 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Fort Myers, FL