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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Slow Food Southwest Florida Farm Tour Spring 2017

Slow Food is a movement started in Italy almost 30 years ago in response to a fast food chain wanting to open a restaurant near an important cultural and historical site in Rome. Since it's inception, Slow Food's present membership is over 150,000 in 150 different countries with 170 local chapters. They espouse a number of tenets such as the preservation of local foods and food traditions, seed banks to preserve heirloom food varieties, food education including teaching gardening skills among other beliefs. They really are a vision of everything fast food is not, hence the name Slow Food.

The Southwest Florida Slow Food Chapter was established a number of years ago though it's present iteration has been active for almost 1 year. They sponsor a number of activities and events in keeping with it's parent organization. These include promoting public awareness of locally sourced foods and producers, in addition to familiarizing the public about chefs using local products to make healthy and delicious foods.

One of these events will be a spring tour of local farms that will be held on March 21, 2017, the day after the first day of spring. This event includes tours of a local producer of micro greens, herbs and mushrooms, Herban Gardens (Farms), and a tour and tasting at Three Sons Ranch, local ranchers of beef and buffalo. The community restaurant Table and Tap at the first solar powered community in the United States, Babcock Ranch, will be open for a tour and tasting in addition to a tour of 31 Produce, a produce farm where patrons can pick their own from 31 Produce's fields or purchase from their retail store. Tickets are $65.00-75.00 pp and include tours, transportation, lunch in addition to food sampling and a raffle for participants. Attendance is limited to 45 people and the event is certain to be a sell out. For more information on Slow Food Southwest Florida and their spring farm tour, visit the following links.

Slow Food Southwest Florida Facebook Page

Slow Food Southwest Florida Farm Tour Spring 2017 Facebook Event Page

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Tale of Three Naples Barbecues

Nobody knows how grilled meats entered the food chain. Like coffee, anthropologists can only guess.The following is adapted from a posting of the history of barbecue from, a site dedicated to all things grilled (by permission of the author).

Ancient man probably happened upon a cooked carcass after a forest fire and liked what they tasted. In good time, it was understood that meats tasted better held over or to the side of their cooking source. Eventually it was common practice for ancient societies to "spit roast", or use meats suspended by wood racks above a heat source. This progressed to the Iron Age, where "gridirons" or the progenitors of grill "grates" were used in ancient Greece. It was eventually realized that smoked meats were an excellent method of preservation, like salting or drying. There have been other influences from Asia (Tandoor ovens) and Japan (Kamado urns), both ceramic cooking ovens heated by an open flame.

In the middle ages spit roasting was widely used in Europe, but the explorations of the "New World" by Spain really brought barbecue to the United States. The introduction of pigs into the "New World" in addition to Native Indian migration brought barbecue, originally called barbacoa through a misunderstanding of Native Indian language by the Spaniards, into North America. Further colonization by the Spanish and Indians brought barbecue into the Gulf States and the lower Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Migration up the Mississippi River brought this technology northward. Smoke houses and pit barbecues started to proliferate, the latter becoming a popular social gathering in the middle to late 19th century

The home barbecue cook really took off with the mass marketing of charcoal by the Kingsford Company in the early part of the 20th century. In the middle of the 20th century, portable barbecues like Hibachis and Weber kettle grills started to be mass marketed bringing portable charcoal barbecue to the home cook. Gas barbecues followed, and the rest is history! For those interested in a more complete accounting of the history of barbecue, go Here.

In Southwest Florida, there are many purveyors of barbecued meats. I have not sampled all of them but here are three I thought noteworthy.

Herb's Best BBQ

Herb Small, proprietor at Herb's Best BBQ
Herb Small has been cooking in Naples for 40 years. Starting off as a dishwasher at age 14 in St. Pete, he moved to Naples and has cooked at venues from Morrison's Cafeteria in the mid 1970's to private clubs and commercial venues, both personally owning the latter and/or working for them. Most noteworthy were his days at The Shore Club, the sole restaurant for a time in Venetian Village, The Port Royal Club and La Playa.  He presently cooks for the schoolchildren at  First Baptist Church of Naples. Saturdays, he cooks barbecue at Fogg's Nursery, East of Collier Blvd. on Immokalee Rd. He has been religiously cooking weekly barbecue along with his wife Ellen going on 6 years,

His barbecue features pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and even sometimes fish. Sides, such as baked beans, slaw and collards are also available. Homemade breads and sweets, in addition to Herb's homemade barbecue sauces are also served. This is good solid food, and is what I would call more "traditional" barbecue. Give yourself a little time when ordering at Herb's on Saturdays. This is a very popular event, and the wait can be up to 15 minutes for your order. Most patrons get food to go though there is limited outdoor seating.

Herb's Best BBQ
Fogg’s Nursery & Mulch Supply
10270 Immokalee Rd.
Naples, FL 34120

Saturdays, 11-630 PM; All major credit cards accepted; pet and kid friendly

Menu, Herb's Specialty Catering and Best BBQ
Racks of pork ribs, Herb's Best BBQ

Pulled pork sandwich, baked beans and mac n' cheese; Herb's Best BBQ

Porker BBQ

Chris Jones, proprietor, Porker BBQ Food Truck

The proprietor of Porker BBQ, Chris Jones, is an accomplished chef and has been known in town for more sophisticated cooking methods such as molecular gastronomy. With Porker BBQ, Chris had told me he was tired of plating out dishes with a tweezers and wanted to go back to more culinary roots. I can not think of any other better way to do this than with seminal cooking methods such as barbecue. Make no mistake, though perhaps simple on the surface, this project was close to 3 years in the making, and it shows.

Partially prompted by a visit to Kansas City, his style reflects Kansas City style BBQ, which centers on slowly smoked meats combined with BBQ sauces.
Chris's menu has evolved a bit, and though more traditional barbecue is served off menu, the present iteration of Porker BBQ adds a bit of culinary flair. When there recently, my dining companion ordered the pig tacos and the nachos texicanos.  Both items were delicious. The tacos (3) were made up of barbecued carnitas, cilantro-chipotle crema, pineapple and cotija cheese. The nachos were even better; the serving almost enough to feed 4 people. Layer upon layer of corn tortilla chips, barbecued carnitas, pinto and black beans seasoned with barbecued meats (frijoles gordo), pickled red onion, cilantro and queso blanco. 

We even sampled a side of in house made "porker tots", home made chorizo-cheddar potato tots covered with chipotle crema and cotija cheese. Another interesting and very delicious dish.
A variety of barbecue sandwiches are available, as well as a more traditional barbecue offering known as the "meatfest plate" (inquire as it is served off menu).

Chris serves out of his mobile kitchen at Naples Beach Brewery. The food and craft beer pairings are an almost unbeatable combination; highly recommended,

Porker BBQ Food Truck
4110 Enterprise Ave. #102
Naples, FL 34104

Fridays and Saturdays, from 530 and 1 PM, respectively, at Naples Beach Brewery;  All major credit cards accepted; Kid and pet friendly

Menu, Porker BBQ Food Truck
Porker BBQ food truck at Naples Beach Brewery
Pig tacos; Porker BBQ

Nachos texicanos; Porker BBQ
Porker tots; Porker BBQ
Pit Commander BBQ
Stephan Nedwetzky, proprietor, Pit Commander BBQ

Pit Commander BBQ is a Central Texas import to the area that has been here since November of 2016. Stephan had been flirting with barbecue for many years in between other endeavors and decided to jump in with both feet about 3 years ago. He had told me it's much too cold to cook outdoors during Central Texas winters. Having relatives in the area, he decided to set up shop here for the winter months.

His barbecue methods are unique in Southwest Florida, and are in the style of contemporary "gods" of Central Texas barbecue such as Aaron Franklin and John Mueller. Central Texas barbecue draws heavily on rubs, lots of smoke and low and slow cooking. Barbecue sauces are just gravy or condiments used on the finished product.

Mr. Nedwetzky has seemingly perfected his craft, even bringing 2 cords (i.e., a lot of wood) of Texas post oak with him so as not to "taint" his smoker with foreign flavors. He also sources his meats, which are USDA prime, from a Texas supplier. 
He prefers to cook beef, such as brisket and beef ribs, though pork items are also served. These include baby back ribs and pulled pork. A "Texas tornado" may appear from time to time. These are a tasty twist on a "jalapeno popper". Jalapeno peppers are filled with brisket and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and smoked. Very nice.
Nothing is forever; in this case 2 cords of Texas post oak and a smoker. Unfortunately, once the wood is gone so is Stephan. He anticipates being here until the latter part of March. He emphasized to me that he is "a barbecue cook and not a chef". That he very much is.  

Pit Commander BBQ
12 PM to sellout   
Peppers Deli and Butcher
4165 Corporate Square
Naples, FL 34104

12 PM to sellout
Millennial Brewery
1811 Royal Palm Ave.
Fort Myers, FL 33901

All major credit cards accepted; kid and pet friendly

Typical menu; Pit Commander BBQ

Brisket; Pit Commander BBQ
Beef ribs; Pit Commander BBQ
Texas pinto beans flavored with meat from the smoker, Pit Commander BBQ
Baby back ribs and Texas pinto beans; Pit Commander BBQ

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fort Myers Brewing Company Four Year Anniversary Party

Tap room, Fort Myers Brewing Company

The craft beer scene has been rapidly expanding in The United States since the early part of the 21st century. In 2015, craft beer sales were 13 percent of the total volume of beer sold accounting for 21 percent of all monies spent on beer in this country. Certainly, 2016 will prove to be an even better year for craft beer producers.

In 2013 Southwest Florida's first craft brewery opened in the Gateway area of Fort Myers. Since that time, Fort Myers Brewing Company has evolved into a major area beer producer offering at any one time up to 30 different styles of beer in their tasting room. In 2016, they also won a variety of accolades including not only recognition for two of Florida's best beers, but best large brewery at the prestigious Best Florida Beer Championships in Tampa.

On Thursdays, Fort Myers Brewing Company has a wonderful community event where the tap room is open late and local food trucks rally providing various dishes for patrons.

From Thursday, February 23rd through Sunday, February 26th, Fort Myers Brewing Company will be celebrating their four year anniversary party, virtually extending their Thursday night food truck rally all weekend. Entertainment will also be provided nightly. A beer drinking, 4 lap, mile long "Beer Mile" run will also be open to those interested on Sunday. Up to 12 different food trucks will participate in this event at various days over the weekend including The Nosh Truck, Organically Twisted and The Sizzle Truck. Up to 30 different craft beers will also be available for sampling.

This promises to be a great family- and community-oriented event. Seating is limited; bringing your own seating is highly recommended.

Fort Myers Brewing Company
12811 Commerce Lakes Dr., Ste. 28
Fort Myers, FL 33913

Hours: Thursday, Feb. 23rd and Friday Feb. 24th, 3-10 PM;  Saturday Feb. 25th, 12-11 PM; Sunday Feb. 26th, 12-8 PM.

All major credit cards accepted in the tap room; Either cash and/or credit cards at food trucks; Kid and pet friendly; Self parking.

Tap room, Fort Myers Brewing Company

Typical menu, The Nosh Truck

Korean BBQ tacos, The Nosh Truck

Organically Twisted food truck

Curry in a hurry salad; Organically Twisted

Crowd; Thursday night food truck rally

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Naples Originals Winter Gift Certificate Sale

Naples Originals is a consortium of almost 40 locally owned restaurants. The main purpose of Naples Originals is marketing member restaurants. To this end, they promote fostering an appreciation of local restaurants as well as other businesses. At the end of the day, locally owned restaurants and businesses enhance their environments by providing a diverse and unique experience for patrons.

Quarterly, Naples Originals restaurants and catering services donate Gift Certificates to be sold at a 30% discount from face value to the public. This is done to market member restaurants and to provide monies for charitable concerns. The face value of these certificates is generally $50.00, $25.00 and $15.00.

The next sale will be Thursday, November 9th, 2017. Be sure to get to their Website early (6 A.M. or so) as this offer sells out very quickly.
Cheers and have a very pleasant dining experience at Naples Originals restaurants.
Salade ni├žoise, Bleu Provence. A Naples Originals member restaurant.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Windows on Wine: The Coffee Culture

Here is another installment from local retired Master Sommelier Barrie Larvin's wine blog, Windows On Wine. To read a bit about how wine, coffee and though not mentioned here, foods, have seemed to meld, go Here.