Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wine Wednesday, King Estate

It's Spring and although it might be a little chilly in Southwest Florida today, the heat is lurking in the wings, ready to pounce. So stock up on today's Wine Wednesday selection!

It's a fresh, delicious Pinot Gris from King Estate in Oregon. I was fortunate enough to visit this winery last summer and fell in love with the property, the people and of course the WINE! I'll be featuring King Estate and their wines in one of my upcoming column in TOTI Media.

This is a signature wine for King Estate and it sets the bar pretty high for a Pinot Gris. The 2011 vintage smells of citrus, is slightly effervescent in the mouth and is full of crisp green apple and juicy pineapple flavors. It's a beautifully balanced and affordable wine at under $20 retail.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bigger is Better at Buca

If you haven't been to a Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant, get on the website and find one near you. I attended the grand opening festivities at the newest location yesterday, in Fort Myers, FL.

It's not my first experience at Buca but my first in quite sometime. This space used to be home to a sports bar. It has been skillfully  renovated and divided into cozy dens that make you feel like you are eating in your Italian Grandmothers house, complete with kitschy photos and memorabilia.

The food portions make you feel like you are at Grandma's too; served family style. Owner/Partner John Thall calls the meatballs, "as big as your head." He sat down next to me at the bar and we shared a plate while discussing his wine list. The photo below is just one meatball, all by its lonesome. The actual dish comes with three, served over pasta.

Back to the wine list, it is full of Italian selections including a signature red and white, bottled specifically for Buca de Beppo. We selected a Zenato Valpolicella. The wine opened up into a nicely balanced, velvety treat. I enjoyed it with each dish that I tried and the pricing was very appealing for a restaurant list, $39 a bottle.


Besides the giant, moist and meaty balls, I sampled the pizza margherita, chicken limone, shrimp florentine, shrimp fra diavolo and the baked rigatoni. I love a good rigatoni and this was cooked perfectly; the cheese just a little crusty, the sausage full of fennel, the sauce fresh and acidic.

When the dessert tray came around I almost fell out of my chair. Tiramisu, dark chocolate cake and a cheesecake that had an amazing raspberry and hazelnut sauce. This is a place for a party, a business dinner, a big family gathering and a big appetite. However, they are serving single portions at lunch so you can dive in slower than I did. MANGA!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Chateau Montelena

It's Wine Wednesday! So excited to have Steve Hollister from Twisted Vine Bistro in downtown Fort Myers stop in for a visit. Especially when I saw what he was packin'?

Today we tasted a delicious, 2010 Chateau Montelena Chardonay (one of my favorite wineries). I thought it was especially appropriate considering the death, less than a week ago, of Jim Barrett. Barrett was the winemaker whose 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay is credited with putting Napa Valley and California wines in general, on the international map. His story was the subject of the movie "Bottle Shock".

This wine had a floral nose, a little citrus on the tongue and some steel rather than that buttery, oaky bomb that is signature of many CA Chards. It's still creamy and very food friendly. Twisted Vine has it both by the glass ($22) and by the bottle ($85). Stop by for some of the best food and wine you will find downtown Fort Myers. Plus Steve and his wife Denise are extremely fun hosts with great wine events!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bennett's Biscoff Latte

My favorite coffee shop is unveiling a sinfully delicious, new hot beverage this week. I admit that I got to sample the Biscoff Latte at Bennett's Fresh Roast in Fort Myers, FL, as he was perfecting it a couple of weeks ago. But I didn't blog about it because the photo I took was pretty crappy and I just couldn't post it. Yes I could've bragged about tasting it before anyone else, sans photo, but distractions ruled the day. Thanks Melinda Isley for this shot!

Biscoff cookies are typically served alongside of coffee, not in and on top of it; unless you are a "dunker". Owner Bob Grissinger starts with a couple of shots of bold espresso, steamed milk, then adds a rich, buttery Biscoff flavoring to complete the latte. The finishing touch; whipped cream and cookie crumbles. WOW! That's good stuff for only $4.60 a cup.

I'm not sure I could handle both the Biscoff Latte and one of Bennett's infamous made from scratch, hand cut donuts. So I ordred a great big bowl of oats and more steamed milk on the side. Try thenew latte for a special treat this week. Hopefully it will stay around for a long time

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Music: Ginny Blackmore

Love a Monday that starts out with a visit from an up and coming artist! Ginny Blackmore stopped by the 96-9 WINK-FM studio today to play her new single "Bones". She wrote this song when she was feeling down and out at her small apartment in LA. She said over a bottle of red wine, the song flowed and she recorded it right there in her living room.  Within eight hours of playing it for LA Reid, she had a contract. She's got a beautiful, clear voice and I can't wait to hear more from her. Thanks Ginny!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Airport Lounge?

This week, I got off of a plane in DC way too early for a Sunday morning, and headed straight for the ladies room instead of baggage claim. As the line moved up I saw a sign on the first stall that read “Nursing Lounge”.  I've traveled a lot recently and this is the first time I've noticed this kind of designation. If I didn't have breakfast, a Bloody Mary and a brother waiting on me, I would've investigated further.

I asked my sister-in-law, a new mom who frequents that airport, if she had crossed the threshold of this new "lounge". She was just as perplexed and inquisitive as me. Through her struggles, I sympathize with the precision planning it takes for nursing families to travel. From booking flights to coincide with naps, to negotiating traffic and airport security in time for the next feeding and THEN finding a place to relax so the feeding can actually occur. I need a nap just considering the logistics. 

Nursing moms, you will be glad to know, there is a place for you, at least in the US Air terminal at DCA.

On my way back to Southwest Florida a few days later, I found myself in the same bathroom,  only this time ready to gather intelligence. I was curious, just what was in that stall? A recliner? Another toilet? No one else in line dared peek in, for fear of retribution from a hormonal, lactating woman who had just been patted down by a complete stranger.

This space seemed much more sacred to violate than a handicapped stall when you’re not handicapped. But if the line is out the door and there's a toilet in the "Nursing Lounge", I'm gonna start packing a "Hush Little Baby" in my carry on to get in there.

I fidgeted and looked around. There was only one woman in line behind me so I took out my iPhone and snapped a photo of the door. As she wrinkled her nose at me I took a deep breath and said,  “I’m going in." 
The single girl with a carry-on, slowly cracked the door open only to see a plastic changing table and a hard wooden bench to sit on. What?  No lava lamps, blankets or even a decorative pillow to lean up against and NO toilet?

Disappointment immediately set in. I liked the cool, sexy bathroom retreat I had made up in my mind; complete with a hot, shirtless Latin man to rub a tired mom's swollen feet.

Oh well, at least my maternal friends have a somewhat private place to sit and feed their precious cargo without the curious stares of strangers. And without the harmless interference of elder women who want to peak underneath the nursing blanket to look at that adorable baby, then give unsolicited advise on how to raise him/her.....bless their hearts.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back To The Beach, Manasota Key Part 2

I was officially introduced to the Lock 'N Key Restaurant in Englewood about a year ago.  My first experience was so good that I was excited to go back and see if things had changed. Thankfully, I was just as impressed with the hospitality, the food portions and the quality, as the first time.

The greeting was just the kind I like, hugs rather than handshakes. This time I tried some of the new menu items like the Boom Boom Shrimp; lightly breaded and covered in a tangy, spicy secret sauce that owner Susan Atamanchuk admitted the staff had worked on perfecting for months. It was a heaping plate for $9.

The thick pieces of Calamari were lightly battered, not a hint of grease. The shrimp in the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail ($12) were twice the size of my thumb and tasted like they had just been caught.  The Oysters Rockefeller ($12) were rich and flavorful.

I was most excited to try the new Shrimp Vera Cruz ($20), because of the sauce; sliced jalapeƱos, red onion, black olives, diced tomatoes, cilantro and garlic in a wine butter served over a bed of rice with some freshly steamed broccoli. I loved the heat from the jalapeƱos, the salt from the olives and you can never go wrong with garlic and cilantro, in my humble opinion. Great dish!

The other new menu item that I would recommend to any seafood lover is the Tuna San Juan ($23). It is a lightly blackened hunk of Tuna, pan seared and served over a cusabi sauce, then topped with a  cucumber, tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil salsa.

Although seafood is the bomb at the Lock 'N Key, there are some great options for the meat and potato lover. We tried the Black & Bleu New York Strip ($24). It was devoured in minutes; a 14 ounce piece of meat blackened and pan seared, then topped with Bleu Cheese. The homemade desserts are famous locally. We split a piece of Peanut Butter Pie, it was like sharks going at a piece of bait. We couldn't get enough but didn't dare order more.

Go early for a great happy hour and "pull-tab" drink specials. Then walk across the street for a spectacular sunset on the beautiful white sand beach before returning for more food, fun and music. The Lock 'N Key is a hidden treasure for locals. It's worth discovering for the rest of Southwest Florida and the rest of the world when visiting the area. You will leave with a full belly, a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart.

Lock & Key Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 8, 2013

BIG Burgers

This week we celebrated the One Year Anniversary at Ford's Garage in downtown Fort Myers, FL, with a big street party. I saw WE because I am on the menu, I have a burger of fame. When my burger was unveiled last year, I knew I had truly made it in life! It was called the "Low Carb-Uretor", no buns. I often joked it was because I have enough of my own. It's a juicy, black angus burger with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, pickles and tomatoes, wrapped in iceberg lettuce. I loved that burger because I had no guilt when I ordered a side of delicious truffle fries. I put in a pitch for the "Birch Blue Cheese Burger" but appropriately enough, that one goes to the Sheriff. It's called the Black-N-Blue..

As we move into year two, I get to stay on the menu, just a slight change to an even more healthful dish, the Veggie Burger. It is moist and flavorful with arugula, sun-dried tomato, onion and pickle on a whole wheat bun. During the party, those of us who have a name-sake burger, posed for photos to be hung on the wall of fame or possibly shame.

While burgers are king at Ford's Garage, I really like the beet and goat cheese salad tossed in a tomato tarragon vinaigrette. The Chicken Henry is also a great dish; chicken breast, lemon butter, basil, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese. Belly up to the hand-hammered, copper top bar and order from more than 100 beers by the bottle and on tap. Don't be surprised if the model T hanging from the ceiling lets out a loud honk. The attention to detail in the decor of Ford's Garage is impressive, down to the gasoline pumps in the bathroom. Ford's is in the process of opening a second location in Cape Coral, with more to come. Congratulations!

I love it when my friends text me to tell me they are ordering my burger. What I really love is texting back in all caps BITE ME!

Ford's Garage on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Castoro Cellars

It's Wine Wednesday!!! Since it's a little chilly in Southwest Florida today I picked a juicy, spicy, comforting Zinfandel from Castoro Cellars. I'm thinking about a pot of red sauce, or a pizza delivery tonight with this one. It's a great find for under $15 retail. You can also find it on the menu at Yano's in downtown Fort Myers. Thanks Heather from Opici and Chris Riley, from Castoro! Chris talks about the winery, it's organic practices and the yummy wine here:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hangin' With Hemingway

I just returned from a FABULOUS trip to Panama, to attend the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival. I have some great stories to share, but first thing is first.

After getting home and plugged back in yesterday, I started looking to connect on Twitter and Facebook, with my hosts, people I met and places I visited; The Hotel Panamonte being one.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled up this flier and saw MY NAME on the bottom. Following those of my friends and TRUE superstars, Jeff Lindsay and Hilary Hemingway!

As a radio personality I have received lots of accolades over the years. However, as a freelancer and blogger, constantly working to be bigger and better at my craft; seeing the words "renowned writer" in print just sent my rocket to the moon. Not to mention the esteemed company it was mentioned in, regardless of chance or any other circumstances.

We all have dreams and find inspirations in the smallest place. I just found mine today, on the last line of a flier posted on Facebook. I claim those words! And I'm letting you know, thanks for listening.

Here's hoping you'll find a bit of inspiration for your dreams today.