Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Squeamish Squid

I was in Tampa last week for a media preview of the new Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Busch Gardens. The area around the park is loaded with chain restaurants, diners and fast food. I wanted to try something more local (and healthful) so I stopped at Tokyo Sushi on Fowler. Its just off of  I-75, about 10 minutes from the theme park.

As I walked in I heard the low thumping of music from the Zumba Studio next door. The five dry-erase boards haphazardly hung by the sushi bar caught my eye. They were full of special rolls named after patrons like: The JoJo, Dale, Brenda etc. It would seem Tokyo has a contingent of regulars but none were there when we were. In fact no one was. Its not the first time my party has been the only one in a restaurant but it's usually because we are closing it down. This was 7:00 on a Thursday.

I get a little squeamish about ordering raw fish in a place with no customers. It makes me wonder how long the fish has been in the case. That being said, I didn't try the raw items I would typically order. I went for something safe, cooked. The Nancy & Les had shrimp, crab, avocado and eel. It was good but we were uncomfortable so we paid for our roll and left. Didn't even have a cocktail.

The restaurant was clean and the staff was friendly but I doubt I'll stop next time I'm in the area. Let me know if you do.

A side note about the Cheetah Hunt, it was awesome and I'll be posting a video soon. I've been accused of staling since the video is a bit humiliating, but very entertaining. It is in HD and I've run into some problems formating it for the web, but help has arrived and I'm waiting patiently.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beet This!

I have fallen in love with the "B" word; beets. When you slice into a raw beet, the color variations are beautiful and vibrant. I prefer them raw but still dig them when roasted just right, not too soft.

I found a great recipe in Food & Wine Magazine that I want to share with my beet lovin' brethren. The beets are roasted with a little thyme, tossed in a dressing that has mustard and horseradish, then topped with Granny Smith Apples and pistachios.  I recently put a bit of goat cheese on top and the creamy texture and taste added a nice touch.

Lots of flavors going on here with the tart apple and the horseradish punch; it's a challenge to find a wine that compliments. I've tried various reds and whites and while many have worked to some degree, I still haven't found "the one". (sounds a bit like dating) Luckily this salad is not a main course but still; I love a good challenge. Would love your feed back.

Here is the recipe along with a much more appealing photo:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Big Boys

You've heard the rule about ordering raw oysters right? Only do it in months with an "r" in the spelling. I know it's May but sometimes rules are meant to be broken. For instance; at the beach, cold beer in hand, watching a beautiful sunset and a full moon rise (The Cottage, Fort Myers Beach). I'll have a dozen please.

Look at these big boys! I'm not sure the photo does them justice. The oysters were double the size I expected for this time of year, great texture and delicious flavor. I asked if they were farm raised but our server said they were local, from Pine Island.

Oysters spawn when the water gets warm. Spawning makes them watery, less firm and less flavorful. That's really the only drawback of ordering them in the non "r" months. Better refrigeration has solved the other obvious problems with raw seafood in hot temperatures. I'm wondering if these molluscs were still so delightful because of the cooler than normal spring in Southwest Florida? I suppose it really doesn't matter why, it just matters how long it will last. Get 'em while you can!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A "Duzer" of a Dinner

With tourist season over in Southwest Florida, it's much easier to get a seat in your favorite restaurants. Good for customers, not necessarily for the restaurants. Many, like Rumrunners in Cape Harbor, have events such as last week's Van Duzer wine dinner to keep the locals coming in for more.

I learned Van Duzer is not in Willam-ette valley it's Will-AM-it, Damnit! It's all in the pronunciation. I also learned that Van Duzer makes much more than just yummy Pinot Noirs. The whites were amazing!

We started the night with a sparkling wine that had an interesting, nutty flavor. It went well with the Foie Gras Pate and fig jam. But the smoked salmon with deviled quail egg was my favorite small bite.

First seated course was a Pistachio and Blue Cheesecake with orange roasted beets, served with the Van Duzer Pinot Noir Rose. The wine tasted of juicy strawberries and a little citrus rind with acidity that cut right through the rich cheese. Lovely combo!

The grilled Diver's Scallop in the next course was lightly wrapped in Chorizo, served with a creamy risotto and a decadent melted leek and Morel mushroom Fondue. I loved the garnish; a tomoato sliced super thin and roasted to a crisp chip. I wish I could've taken a bag home. The Estate Pinot Gris was bursting with apricot; a little melon and pear. It was crisp; once again cutting through the rich creamy dish as a delicious pairing.

Main course: Sous Vide Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin 'Saltimbocca' rubbed in Coriander, Fennel seed, sage and wrapped in a delicate slice of Prosciutto, with carrot mashed potato and Cherry-Port Glace. The Van Duzer Estate Pinot Noir had that typical, dirty Pinot nose. However, I could also smell some fennel and sage and immediately knew why Chef Todd used those herbs on the pork. The cherry really popped also (way too obvious joke set-up here).

Dessert was a chocolate mousse with hazelnut Anglaise and peanut butter and jelly chocolates from Norman Love with  Perplexity red dessert wine. Every course was spot on; perfect proportions and pairings.

From June first-fifth, Rumrunners is saying thank you for a great "season" by offering dining incentives. For every $100 gift card you buy, you get an addition $50. Too good of an offer to pass up, so think business deals, stocking stuffers, etc.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kale Cocktail?

I made a new breakfast cocktail today. As far as morning libations go, Mimosa's are my favorite, followed by Bloody Marys. Both are healthful in my book. Mimosa's have Vitamin C, Calcium and Folate among other nutrients. Bloody Mary's also contain Vitamin C and Calcium along with Potassium Vitamin A and lots more.

Today I experimented with Kale. Kale gets a lot of press for its great health benefits, however, I don't find it too thrilling to cook with. So I threw it in my blender (a couple of leaves, no stems) along with a banana (1/2), vanilla protein powder (big scoop), water and ice. I think a couple of tablespoons of yogurt would've added a nice creamy texture and sweetness if I didn't have the flavored protein. I know its green, however,Vanilla and banana were the dominant flavors. It was quite a nice surprise and an easy way to get in a serving of veggies.

A co-worker pointed out that I can't technically call this a Kale "Cocktail" without alcohol in the mix. After a serious discussion in the hallway (and some strange looks from passersby), we agreed a splash of white rum would do the trick. Standby for that review!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Afternoon Delight

His South African accent enamored the crowd as he poured wine. And those blue eyes; the pale color the sky gets when the sun shines brightly. The combination had the women swooning. "He" is Nick Gebers. His winery is Post House in South Africa.

Gebers was on a whirl-wind tour of The Sunshine State this week, promoting his wine. He made several stops in Southwest Florida, including a wine tasting at The Twisted Vine, downtown Fort Myers. The outdoor courtyard was perfectly set; flowers in bloom, white linen table cloths, a trio of musicians. Mother nature cooperated with lots of sunshine and a subtle breeze. Chef Daniel created delicious tapas for each of the four wines we tried.

First up was the Post House Bluish White; a blend of Chenin and Sauvignon Blancs. It's fruity but not sweet, and would go well with seafood or dishes with some mild heat. My two favorites were the Bluish Black and the Penny Black. The Bluish Black offers nice complexity at an even nicer price (around $20 retail). The blend of Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet and Merlot is full of dark fruit and drinkable with or without food. When I see it on a restaurant menu I know it will be a good bottle to share.

The Penny Black is an inky blend of Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet and Petit Verdot. It's a little more complex and would be good with a more robust meal. Penny Black is also the name of the very first stamp ever printed. All of Gebers wines are creatively named after stamps. He says he has more ideas for names of wines than he could possibly bottle.

The Post House Treskilling Yellow closed the show. The 100% Chenin Blanc and was a huge hit with the white chocolate dipped Strawberries! It was a treat that sent tasters back for seconds and thirds.

Twisted Vine currently serves the Bluish Black by the glass and Penny Black by the bottle. Oh, and if you want to see Geber's eyes in person, his winery does have a guest house.