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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dinner at Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill of Fort Myers

Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill


Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill
is a restaurant in Fort Myers, FL serving food from Central America, specifically from Honduras. Rinconcito Catracho means little Honduran corner, and I will abbreviate the name of this restaurant as LG (Latin Grill). LG has been at this location for 2 and 1/2 years. It's owner, Christopher, chatted with me for a bit about the restaurant and it's fare. Most of the recipes used here are from his family in Central America. Everything that we tried here was made from "scratch", even the tortillas, but more on that later.

As you enter LG, the interior of the restaurant is basic though somewhat homey, made even more so being there a few days before Christmas. Should you just want to grab a light snack and a beverage, there is a pool and foosball table in the back should you feel so inclined.

My dining companion and I sampled a number of items from LG's dinner menu. The first were the pupusas. These are masa cakes that are usually stuffed with cheese along with any number of other things and cooked on a griddle. In this case we tried the the pupusas with chicken and cheese, jalapenos with cheese and locoro with cheese. Locoro is a vine that is widely grown in Central America. The buds and flowers of locoro are widely used as foods there. It has a sort of nutty, "green" flavor and was very good, as were the other versions of this dish, the masa blending perfectly with the cheese and other fillings. There were served with curtido, a condiment made from pickled red onion, beets and cauliflower. Curtido is a traditional Honduran accompaniment.

We split a baleada, which was a large wheat flour tortilla, about the size you would use for a burrito but a bit thicker. The inside of the baleada was smeared with mashed fried beans, made that much better with a heavy dose of lard. Avocado, carne asada, egg, queso duro and crema, the latter sort of like a runny sour cream were piled on top of the beans (the works).  The tortilla is then folded in half to make a semi circle. This was absolutely delicious and an unbelievable bargain at $2.95.

Pollo con tajadas was next. Tajadas are fried plantain or banana slices, in this case green bananas. The foundation of this dish, tajadas, were like banana chips. Not greasy at all and delicious. These were topped with a minimalist slaw of cabbage and carrots, a mild Honduran aioli made from chili de arbol among other ingredients (which was a family secret), fried chicken and curtido. This was another absolutely delicious dish, and I really liked the breading on the fried chicken (another tightly held family recipe).

On another visit we sampled the ceviche. It was good, though flavored very differently from the Caribbean and Peruvian ceviches I am used to. I think the difference here was the lack of aromatic vegetables and cilantro that are used heavily in the latter two regional cuisines. What was unusual was the portion size, which was easily twice that one normally gets in Southwest Florida.

We finished with the fish tacos which were to say the least, remarkable. This wonderful dish featured in house freshly made corn tortillas, lightly breaded tilapia, minimalist cabbage and carrot slaw, sweetened Honduran aioli, and curtido. The tacos are served with really good beans (again, heavy on the lard) and rice with peas, corn and Lima beans. All for $8.00. These are hands down the best fish tacos I have had east of the Mississippi.

If these great flavors are not enough for you they serve really good in house made salsas with either a tomatillo (hot) or chili de arbol (mild) base.

The owner of LG has tried to create a little corner of Honduras in Fort Myers. Not only has he succeeded, but has given all of us an opportunity to try wonderful, fresh and authentic cuisine that is nearly an unequaled combination locally of flavor, quality and price. I rarely rave about a restaurant to this degree but LG is a true gem and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I hope readers will eat here. LG will not disappoint.

That's that for another post on Forks.


Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill
2096 Beacon Manor Dr,
Foft Myers, FL 33907
(239)204-9184


All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals served; Hours 9AM-10PM; breakfast, lunch and dinner served

Dining area, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill



Pool and foosball tables, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Papusas with curtido, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill


Baleada with beans, egg, carne asada, queso duro, avocado and crema, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill


Pollo con tajadas, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Tomatillo and chili de arbol salsas, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill

Remarkable fish tacos with rice and beans, Rinconcito Catracho Latin Grill








Friday, December 16, 2016

Windows on Wine: Wine and the Holidays

Here is another installment from local retired Master Sommelier Barry Larvin's wine blog, Windows On Wine. To read a bit about wine suggestions for the holidays, as well as other tidbits about wine, go Here.

Cheers!

Cafe Bistro, Nordstrom, Naples, FL (yes, this is my photo...)



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dinner at Pho Plus II (Closed)


Pho Plus II


is a restaurant in the Metropolis Plaza in Fort Myers, FL serving Vietnamese Cuisine. They have been open at this location for approximately 2 months. Both my dining companion (DC) and I love Vietnamese food. Having heard good things about Pho Plus II, DC and I felt compelled to check it out.

The interior of the restaurant is simple, and seating options include tables, booths and seating at the bar. Do not let the exterior or interior of this restaurant mislead you. Unknown to DC and I at this point, we were in for a real treat.

The first thing we tried was the Bo Tai Chanh. This is a Vietnamese classic, and is sort of an Asian Carpaccio. This dish was wonderful, the rare beef used here cooked ever so slightly by marinating in lime juice and sugar. Served on a base of vegetables and cilantro, this excellent dish was finished with chili, caramelized shallot and Nuoc Cham.

The next menu item we tried was the restaurants' version of pork Banh Mi. Banh mi is an ode to French influences in Vietnam as this is a sandwich served on Baguette Bread. It was very good, the caramelized pork melding nicely with pickled daikon and carrot, onion, chili, cucumber and cilantro. The sandwich would have been perfection if the bread would have had a bit less volume. I thought it detracted from the wonderful filling inside it.

We finished up trying one of the establishments' Hot Pot. There are many versions of this dish in Asia which all center around diners adding ingredients table side to a bowl of hot, boiling broth. We tried a "Mongolian" or beef hot pot. This was very good. Ingredients served table side were thinly sliced raw beef, onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, noodles and Cai Lan, a sort of Asian Broccoli. This is a very "hands on" dish and really fun to share with 2 or 3 people.

After the hot pot was brought out I wished we would have split a bowl of pho as the small version of the restaurants' hot pot is easily enough for 3 or 4 on it's own. At first thought, the proprietor seems very heavy handed on the heat with this dish. I'm sure that a good part of this is boiling spiced broth is just that much hotter due to volatilization of the pepper ingredients. If you are used to medium heat I would recommend doing mild to medium instead.

The food at Pho Plus II is very good to excellent, reasonably priced and highly recommended. I cannot wait to go back and try more of the establishments' offerings, like mo' pho!

That's that for another post on Forks.

Pho Plus II
12951 Metro Pkwy.
Fort Myers, FL 33966
(239)768-0051

Pho Plus II- Yelp 


Accepts all credit cards; Kids' menu; Private parking; Take out available

Interior, Pho Plus II

 
Table setting, Pho Plus II



Bo tai chanh, Pho Plus II

Pork banh mi, Pho Plus II


Beef hot pot, Pho Plus II







Friday, December 9, 2016

Sizzle, a Quartely Publication of the American Culinary Federation: Winter Edition 2016

The American Culinary Federation is a professional organization of chefs, cooks, food industry professionals, food enthusiasts and a food blogger or two.  They have about 200 chapters and almost 20,000 members. They offer training, accreditation, scholarship and certification to foster professional growth in the culinary arts.

They publish a free quarterly periodical, Sizzle


Sizzle Winter 2016

Sizzle features culinary trends, cooking demonstrations, features on leading industry chefs and recipes. It's also available as a free app on Apple, Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

For the Winter 2016 digital issue of Sizzle, click Here. I think you will find many things of culinary interest in this publication. 

It's a wrap for another post on forks.




Dinner at Alexander's

Alexander's 

Alexander's Restaurant


is an eponymously-named restaurant in Naples, FL owned by long time Naples culinary fixture, Chef Alexander Bernard. Chef Bernard has been practicing his craft locally for over 30 years starting Alexander's over 20 years ago.

As you approach the entrance to the restaurant there is a beautiful outdoor dining area.

Outdoor dining, Alexander's Restaurant
The interior of the restaurant is also very nice.

Interior, Alexander's Restaurant
Having never dined here before, the ambience of the outdoor and indoor dining areas made my dining companion (DC) and I that much more eager to try Alexander's fare.

Some very good bread was brought out before our order, made even better with the addition of whipped butter with chives.

DC has a sweet tooth and ordered the wild mushroom and cashew Strudel. It was absolutely delicious. Each bite of perfectly cooked Brik pastry yielding it's buttery flakiness to a filling of creamy cashews, herbs and sautéed mushrooms. Caramelized apples accompanied the strudel which was finished with a balsamic reduction.

I am a fool for roasted beets, so the roasted beet and goat cheese salad looked worth a try.

Mixed greens were topped with roasted beets, toasted walnuts, Granny Smith apples and a dollop of goat cheese. The salad was finished with a walnut vinaigrette. The crunchiness of the walnuts complemented the beets and greens. The flavors of these seemed to meld almost perfectly with the tanginess of the goat cheese and green apples. Another very good dish.

We decided to split an order of lettuce wraps. Crispy Duck, which really refers to the skin, pickled red onion and ginger were served as fillings for leaves of romaine lettuce. Hoisin and peanut sauce were served as toppings. The peanut sauce was interesting. This restaurants' version incorporates hoisin sauce and rice wine vinegar making it different from the Traditional Preparation This menu item was also very good. Dishes like this are great to share as it's really hands on and fun putting them together.

After all these great starters, DC and I tried something from the "mains". We decided on the Colorado lamb shank.

This was a huge, almost 1 and 1/2 pound portion of lamb shank. Slowly braised for hours in veal stock and Mirepoix, it was seasoned with rosemary and garlic. The dish was served with caramelized butternut squash and Farro sweetened with dried cherries. This to me was the highlight of the evening, definitely enough for two and highly recommended.

The fare at Alexander's is very good. It does not attempt to be "high art" but succeeds at being very solid, flavorful food prepared with quality ingredients The service is good and the atmosphere, well, just perfect for date night. Alexander's will have you coming back for more.

That's that for another post on forks!

Alexander's Restaurant

Alexander's Restaurant
4077 Tamiami Tr. N.
Naples, FL 34103
(239)262-4999

All major credit cards accepted, kid's menu, no valet parking. Closed Sundays.

Bread and whipped butter with chives


Mushroom and cashew strudel

Roasted red beets and goat cheese salad
Lettuce wraps
Braised Colorado lamb shank



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.