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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Lunch at Catch 41 Bar "n" Grill (Closed)

Catch 41, Naples, FL
Catch 41 Bar "n" Grill is a restaurant in the Ramada Inn in Naples, FL. The Executive Chef is David Lani, and he was kind enough to invite a dining companion and I to sample some of the items served there. As of this writing Catch 41 has been open for about one week. David has been in some very good kitchens, and was kind enough to tell us a bit about it.

After working at La Côte Basque as a Poissonier, or cook of fish and shellfish and their sauces, David attended the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. This included an internship for celebrity chef David Burke at Park Avenue Cafe. He then moved on to Aureole at Mandalay Bay and Postrio at The Venetian in Las Vegas run by chefs Charlie Palmer and Wolfgang Puck, respectively. 

After furthering his business skills as Executive Chef of Aramark, a global food service corporation, Chef Lani undertook an entrepreneurial venture as Executive Chef of Skinnyfats. Skinnyfats was a unique restaurant concept, with items that were 150 calories or up to 10 times that on the menu.

Having moved to Naples, David developed the initial menu at 7th Avenue Social, winning numerous accolades for both himself and the restaurant. Now at Catch 41, I think he has incorporated bits and pieces of these experiences into the restaurant's menu. One of Catch 41's concepts is quality food at reasonable prices. I could not wait to try some of the establishment's fare.

The restaurant has a nice indoor dining and bar area best described as Florida casual. Even better is the outdoor seating poolside, perfect in the winter months.

The first thing served was a recent signature dish, fried burrata in Puttanesca sauce accented with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The flavors and textures of this dish almost hit you over the head with the cast iron frying pan it is served in. This was a lovely dish; comfort food to the nth power. 

Catch 41 smokes meats in house. My dining companion and I sampled the in house cherry wood-smoked ribs with a bourbon barbecue glaze. Tender and falling off the bone, the ribs were nicely complemented by garlic Hawaiian rolls to seal the deal. Another very good menu item.

More comfort food to the nth power was next. Multigrain bread was topped with spreadable Brie cheese, an avocado shmear, pastrami smoked salmon, poached egg, capers and a jalapeno Hollandaise sauce. Terrific, terrific, terrific; another wonderful meld of flavors and textures.

An appetizer followed, deviled eggs in 3 "flavors". Maple bacon, spicy crab-flying fish roe and white truffle-chive. These were also "egg" cellent in both appearance, texture and flavor. If you are an egg lover, this is a must order!

Despite the threat of acute hyperglycemia at this point, we sampled a bit more of Catch 41's menu items.

The steamed bao bun trio served to us was very good. Wild mushroom-hoisin, shrimp-kimchi and bourbon bbq-glazed pork belly with garlic aioli were the 3 fillings for this dish. There is something here for everybody. One caveat, this dish was hard to share. If you have this in mind, order two!

We finished our taste of the appetizers and mains with a ceviche duo. This was the kitchen's take on a Caribbean-style ceviche (shrimp) in a sweet tomato cocktail sauce and a traditional Peruvian style ceviche (mahi/shrimp) in a more citrus/cilantro base. Separated by perfectly ripened avocado slices, these dish was terrific and served with in house made tortilla chips. If you are a ceviche lover, this dish is for you.

We finally finished with a strawberry shortcake cheesecake which was remarkable. Another great meld of textures and flavors.

They also serve a number of craft drinks. In house made lemonade and a key lime martini were two of the items we sampled. The latter was made from vanilla vodka, coconut milk and lime, finished with graham cracker crumbs on the rim of the martini glass.

The food sampled at Catch 41 is both unique to the area and for the most part, excellent. Chef Lani and crew have seemed to perfect the notion of "comfort food". The food served to us on our visit was aesthetically and texturally appealing, the likes of which hard to come by if at all locally. As an added plus, most menu items can be had for under twenty dollars. The price points here are close to 60% of most local establishments for foods of this caliber. I think Catch 41 is a real winner on the local food scene. I cannot wait to go back and hope readers will dine here. The food served at this establishment will not disappoint both in price and quality.

There are also good happy hour specials in addition to entertainment; please inquire.

Catch 41 Bar "n" Grill
1100 Tamiami Trail N.
Naples, FL 34102

Open 11 AM-Close; All major credit cards accepted; Lunch and dinner served; Kid's meals

Bar area; Catch 41 Bar "n" Grill
Outdoor dining; Catch 41 Bar 'n' Grill

Fried burrata in Puttanesca sauce

In house cherry wood smoked ribs
Multigrain bread,avocado, Brie cheese, smoked salmon, onion, capers, poached egg and jalapeno Hollandaise sauce
Deviled egg trio
Bao bun trio
Ceviche duo
Strawberry shortcake/cheescake

Key lime martini

L-R: Executive Chef David Lani; Owners Heather Leek, Lawrence Merlino and Samantha Leek

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dinner at Triad Seafood Market and Cafe in Everglades City (Menu changed dramatically at Triad after the hurricaine)

Triad Seafood Market and Cafe, Everglades City

Triad Seafood Market and Cafe is a restaurant and market in Everglades City, FL. Triad specializes in, as the astute reader would guess, seafood. Having read good reviews online my dining companion and I decided to stop here on our way to a night sky outing at Big Cypress National Preserve, but more on that later. Triad has been serving in the area for over 30 years, a very good sign.

The seating at Triad is mostly outdoors, though they do have a screened area in back overlooking the Barron river. This helps to keep the bugs at bay, especially during sunset.

The first thing we tried was the restaurant's conch chowder. This was very good and nicely spiced with aromatic vegetables, bay leaf and oregano. I could have had a second bowl, but there were many other things to try on the menu.

We split an order of blue crab fingers. These were blue crab claws that were breaded and fried. This dish was absolutely delicious, made even better by the in house made tartar and cocktail sauces served with it. Once we started eating this, it was very hard to stop!

Triad is known for it's all you can eat stone crab specials, which are priced at $80, $120 and $160 dollars for medium, large and jumbo sizes respectively. I thought this a bit much and at retail prices, you would have to eat almost 5 pounds of jumbo crab claws just to break even. As such, we opted to buy a couple of the large claws from the market to eat later. Expertly cracked and very sweet and meaty, the claws were very good and highly recommended.

We finished up ordering a fried oyster sandwich and a fried seafood basket. The oyster sandwich was delicious, and came with about 8 large fried Apalachicola oysters. Fries, hush puppies, lettuce, pickles onion and tomatoes completed this dish. The fries and hush puppies served here were also very good; the exception rather than the rule.

The fried seafood basket was also very good. Grouper, shrimp and clam strips came with fries, hush puppies, tartar and cocktail sauces. Both the sandwich and seafood basket were excellent.

With it getting dark, my dining companion and I continued on to the night sky outing at Big Cypress National Preserve. These are ranger guided tours of the night skies over Big Cypress by laser pointers and telescopes. Being in between Naples and Miami, Big Cypress has some of the darkest skies in the Eastern United States. It was recently granted Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Sky Association, a group dedicated to the protection of night skies from light pollution and maintaining the fragile ecosystem of the areas.

This was a very good night out and highly recommended. I am not much of an astronomy aficionado, but appreciated the night sky over Big Cypress and really being able to see the stars and constellations. We were even able to see a few satellites passing by. These could be differentiated from a plane as it was traveling across the sky without any anti collision lights. Views like this are something not possible over virtually all urban areas. Even better, the tour is offered at no charge and is open to the public. The remaining two tours for the 2016-2017 season will be given February 10th at 7 PM and March 25th at 8 PM. As a courtesy to others, try to bring red lighting. This will not affect others light/dark adaptation when star gazing. Chairs and insect repellent are also helpful.

Triad Seafood Market and Cafe
401 School Dr. W.
Everglades City, FL 34139

Open 1030-6 PM Monday-Saturday, 1030-5 PM Sunday; All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals served; Closed in the summer months, please inquire.

Big Cypress National Preserve
33100 Tamiami Trail E.
Ochopee, FL 34141

Enclosed dining area, Triad Seafood Cafe

Fried oyster sandwich

Fried blue crab fingers

Large stone crab claws

Fried seafood basket

Ranger guided astronomy tour; photo courtesy of The National Park Service
Night sky, Big Cypress National Preserve; best viewed full screen

Friday, January 20, 2017

Happy Hour at Ocean Prime

Ocean Prime, Naples, FL

Ocean Prime is a restaurant in The Inn on Fifth in Naples, FL. It was once part of The Inn on Fifth as Avenue Five, but was leased out to an independent restaurateur. Ocean Prime has about 14 locations nationwide, and looks to be an upscale dining destination somewhat like Darden's restaurant brand, Capital Grille.

Aesthetically, the restaurant is beautiful and retains the charm of the former Avenue Five. After a perusal of their menu, their happy hour offerings looked intriguing. My dining companions and I decided to take a peek.

Please keep in mind for happy hour, all their bar menu items are fair game and $5.00 off from their normal price. There are also reduced prices on select drinks along with beer and wines. Happy hour is served in the bar area, either at the bar or at the tables and booths adjacent to it.

Initially, we were brought a bread basket. The breads were very good, with both cracked wheat sourdough and pretzel bread. Popcorn was next, and was seasoned with truffle oil.  Although tasty, the vast majority of all truffle oil is synthetic. That being said, it kind of bursts your bubble. Curried popcorn may have been better.

The first item ordered was the lamb lollipops. These were delicious, easily the best of what was ordered. These were served with a soy butter sauce, and a slaw made from cilantro, bean sprouts, carrots, sweet red pepper, carrots and snap peas and seasoned with a wasabi mayonnaise dressing. Highly recommended.

The tuna roll was next, with avocado and cucumber inside, and finely chopped spicy tuna on top garnished with fish roe seasoned with wasabi. A nice plating of eel sauce and spicy mayo finished the dish. I thought the roll was OK, my dining companion didn't really like it. That's alright, more for me!

We finished up with the fish tacos. The tacos were filled with a jalapeno slaw similar to the one described above, and breaded fish. Unfortunately, the breading on the fish was so heavily salted both my dining companion and I thought there may have been an accident in the kitchen. We ordered a replacement but to no avail. We both agreed next time we would try something else.

My other dining companions ordered the crab cake sliders. Too often, crab cakes ordered out are long on the cake and short on the crab. Not at Ocean Prime. The crab cakes were made as they should be with mostly lump crab meat and very little binder/filler. My dining companions gave these two thumbs up,  and the sliders were made all that much better with Cheddar cheese, tomato and a jalapeno corn tartar sauce.

The happy hour at Ocean Prime is not bad; the food served in one of Naples's most aesthetically pleasing restaurant spaces. Although pricing here is at the high end of the spectrum for Naples restaurants, the happy hour discount does give some relief from this. Should you want to try the happy hour here, I would suggest getting here fairly early, as it does tend to be crowded, especially in the winter months.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Ocean Prime, Naples, FL

Ocean Prime
699 5th Avenue South
Naples, FL 34102

Happy hour daily from 4-7 PM; All major credit cards accepted; No kid's meals for happy hour; Valet parking at The Inn on Fifth, or at 6th Avenue South behind the restaurant.

Bar area, Ocean Prime
Dining and bar area
Dining area

Bread basket, happy hour
Popcorn with truffle oil, happy hour
Lamb lollipops, happy hour
Tuna roll, happy hour

Fish tacos, happy hour
Crab cake sliders, happy hour
Happy hour crowd, Ocean Prime

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lunch at Sydney's Pub

Sydney's Pub, Tiburón Golf Club

Tiburón is a residential and golf development in Naples, FL. Developed in the late 1990's, it is also home to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

Tiburón means "shark" in Spanish. It reflects the moniker "great white shark" given to the champion golfer, Greg Norman, who designed the golf courses here. Tiburón has two 18 hole golf courses. It is home to the Franklin Templeton Shootout, an off season event that hosts members of the PGA tour. It is also where the CME Group Tour Championship is held, the season ending event of the LPGA tour.

Tiburón has a 27,000 square foot clubhouse featuring many amenities. One of these is a restaurant, Sydney's Pub (SP). Although SP is part of the golf club, it is open to the public as is the golf course. Tiburón was taken over in September of 2016 by the golf management company, Troon. Troon's Director of Marketing for Tiburón, Ricky Potts, contacted me to try some of the new fare on SP's menu.

As you enter SP, there is an ample amount of seating indoors at either tables or at the bar. There is also outdoor seating offering a nice view of the golf course, which incidentally, is an Audubon Cooperative Golf Sanctuary.

Management at SP was extremely generous, providing food gratis and taking my dining companion and I on a whirlwind "Taste of Tiburón".

We were given a number of starters to sample, the first of which were fried dill pickles. I love fried pickles, and acquired a taste for them after spending time in Mississippi where they are almost considered a delicacy. The pickles were served with a cilantro-lime ranch dressing. These were very good.

Lemon-garlic grilled chicken wings followed, covered in a tzatziki sauce of cucumber and Feta cheese with Kalamata olives. The wings were moist and meaty and the cucumber and cheese a good accompaniment. This starter was good, but my favorite was yet to be served.

We finished our sampling of the appetizer menu with an absolutely delicious charcuterie and cheese plate. Finocchiona salami, a fennel seasoned salami, wild boar sausage tempered with cloves and juniper berries as well as sopressa comprised the meat portion of this dish. Beemster XO, a Gouda-type cheese aged at least 26 months, Manchego and Humbolt Fog cheeses, the latter being a soft, mild goat cheese and one of my favorites, made up the cheese portion of this starter. Fruit marmalade, whole grain mustard and grilled sourdough triangles sealed the deal, and made for a delicious and "will order again" appetizer.

A salad followed, with baby arugula, spiced pecans, roasted pears, Humbolt Fog cheese and a blood orange-sherry vinaigrette. This was a nice salad, and a good intermezzo in between our appetizers and the next two courses.

Beer battered grouper was next, and served with seasoned fries and in house made coleslaw and tartar sauce. The fish was extremely fresh and very, very good made all the better by it's accompaniments.

We finished the menu items with the restaurant's version of a Cuban sandwich. Their Cubano was served with mojo pork, Nueske ham, Manchego cheese, Dijon mustard and in house made pickles. I am usually a big fan of a good Cuban sandwich. Nueske's ham is considered a good cut of meat, however it is smoked and very highly salted. When used in this type of dish, I thought it tended to take over, minimizing the flavor of the other ingredients. If ordered again, I would ask the ham either be changed or left out.

We ended with an item not yet on the menu. Our dessert was a lemon-flavored panna cotta- inspired cream dessert with strawberries. This was a light and refreshing end to the meal, and a good flavor contrast between the panna cotta like cream and fruit. I say panna cotta-inspired as the cream in this dish was not solidified with any gelatin, making for a liquid consistency. None the less, it was very good and I really enjoyed it.

We were also treated to tastes of the pub's signature Tiburón Red beer and a sampling from their wine selection. All were good.

The food at SP was good to very good and I will definitely be back. It is a nice venue to have a meal after a round of golf, if staying at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, or if just in the area!

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Sydney's Pub

2620 Tiburón Dr.
Naples, FL 34109

Complementary valet parking; all major credit cards accepted; no kids meals, open 11-7 PM Mondays and 11-5PM Tuesday-Sunday; 20% gratuity added to all checks

To view properties for sale in Tiburón click here 

Entrance, Tiburón Golf Club
Indoor dining area, Sydney's Pub

Bar, Sydney's Pub

Outdoor dining, Sydney's Pub

Fried pickles with chipotle lime ranch dressing

Lemon-garlic grilled chicken wings

Charcuterie and cheese plate

Slow roasted Bosc pear salad

Florida grouper and chips

Cubano sandwich

Lemon cream with strawberries
To view properties for sale in Tiburón click here

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ACF 2017 Season Kickoff Meeting at Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop

Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL

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

The ACF Naples Chefs are the Collier County, FL chapter of the ACF more formally known as the ACF Caxambas Chapter of Naples and Marco Island. In January, they hold a season kickoff meeting in part to schedule upcoming chapter meetings and events; eat some finger food and have a great time. For the past few years at least, the chapter kickoff meeting has been held at Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop (MPS).

MPS is a manufacturer and purveyor of baked goods. These include pies, cakes, tarts, quiches, cookies and other items. MPS is located in Naples, FL. MPS has a retail space on site, but the majority of their business is providing pastries to commercial customers.
Retail section; Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL
Tarts and cakes,retail section; Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL
They have quite a brisk commercial business. On an impromptu tour of the shop I counted over 50 custom orders for the past couple of days. I can see why the owner told us they make 80 pounds of buttercream daily in house for all their pastry production.
Custom order board; Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop, Naples, FL
It was interesting seeing the back end of the shop with some of the mixing equipment and ovens.
Mixing equipment

Revolving tray baking oven
This meeting, in contrast to most monthly chapter meeting, is purely social. There were a number of donors that evening kind enough to provide food and beverage for the event.

Landert Bread provided most of the baked goods. These included baguettes, Casareccio bread with olives, farmers bread and lye triangles (sort of a pretzel bread).

Landert Breads; ACF season kickoff meeting

Landert Breads; ACF season kickoff meeting
Boar's Head provided various meats, cheeses, hummus and condiments.

Boar's Head display; ACF season kickoff meeting

MPS provided beverages along with some baked goods including sausage rolls, and spinach/feta in addition to vegetable quiches.

Sausage rolls, spinach/feta and vegetable quiche; ACF season kickoff meeting

Felchin chocolate was provided by Swiss Chalet while red or white Bordeaux blends were furnished by PG fine wines.

Bordeaux Blanc; 50% Semillion/50% Muscadelle; ACF season kickoff meeting

With all this great food, beverage and conversation, everyone was having a great time.

Attendees; ACF season kickoff meeting

Attendees; ACF season kickoff meeting
Many thanks to Landert Bread, Swiss Chalet, Boar's Head Gulf Coast ProvisionsPG Fine Wines and Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop for providing either a venue and/or food and beverage for the evening.

This was, as always, a great night out with Naples ACF Chefs.

Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop
1068 Business Lane
Naples, FL 34110
Mikkelsen's Pastry Shop Website 

Naples ACF Chefs
President Chas Tatigian, CEC, CCA
PO Box 855
Naples, FL 34106

Naples ACF Chefs Facebook Page