Monday, October 21, 2013

Flipping Over "Flipper's"

Photo by Sharon Arnold 
People always ask me where to dine on Fort Myers beach. I typically ask, "Do you want barefoot beach food, fine dining or some crazy combination of both?"

While I wouldn't call Flippers On The Bay "barefoot beach food", it is a crazy combination of fine dining in a casual atmosphere. On Estero Bay, the al fresco establishment is all undercover, except for a small deck on the beach; perfect for those who come by boat. You can come in your shorts and T-shirt but people DO dress for the deck; at night it is even quite romantic.

I recently dined at Flipper's while writing a piece on waterfront dining for 10Best, a division of USA TODAY, and fell in love with Chef Juan Cruz; not just his food but his infectious laugh and inviting smile. Cruz has worked with famous chef's like Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller and has quietly been building a loyal following at Flipper's.

Chef brought out a bunch of small plates for us to sample so don't judge the portion sizes in the slide show below. Our appetizers included tender calamari prepared Mediterranean-style, with Kalamata olives and tomato; Yellow Fin Tuna Ceviche ($11.90) with a ginger avocado cucumber relish that was so fresh and had a nice little kick; a flavorful Spanish-style shrimp cocktail called Campechana that also had lump crab and avocado; and a glass of crisp Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Each was unique, well balanced and I would order again.

We switched to a Krug Chardonnay for the next round which included the Shrimp Sunset ($22.90); papadale pasta with shrimp in a creamy and delicious red curry, tomato basil and parmesan sauce. The popular Asian Chicken Salad was sweet and spicy, with a fresh crunchy texture. Two more hits!

About this time the breeze picked up, the sun started to set and the dolphins came out to play. Not only can you see the sunset from this dining deck, you can also see it rise in the east. Flippers serves breakfast and I'm dying to try the Lobster Eggs Benedict!

After pausing to honor Mother Nature it was on to red wine, Erath Pinot Noir, and one of my favorite dishes of the night;  Chilean Seabass ($32.90) in a citrus miso sauce. It melted in my mouth. The Bohemian Grouper was also quite good; served over mashed plantains, topped with a citrus pineapple relish then drizzled with a lemon beurre blanc. There are selections for land lubbers too, although not many.

Flipper's On The Bay is one of the best hidden gems in Southwest Florida. It is not well marked and not in the middle of the craziness of the beach. If you are visiting Southwest Florida you've got to seek it out, at the southern end of Fort Myers Beach, almost in Bonita Springs, across from Lovers Key State Park. If you live here, why aren't you there now!

ginab2u's Flippers album on Photobucket

Flippers on the Bay on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fab Finds; Sweet Ginger's Gelato

Have you ever had gelato? I mean REAL gelato! not the one that reads "gelato" in your grocery store freezer section.

It's one of the many amazing foods that Italians do so well. I remember being in Italy with my family years ago, drooling at the beautiful mounds of this sweet treat in gelateria's lining the streets; and my mother declaring with great enthusiasm, "I'm going to eat gelato every day!" And she did, sometimes twice a day. As a loyal daughter, I could not let her eat alone!

So when I heard a little buzz about a new gelato business opening in Southwest Florida, I was intrigued to say the very least. Now that I know the full story, I'm EXCITED.

Owner Denise Kulisz has a great story that you will be hearing more about; not just in SWFL but soon, nationwide. A former stay-at-home mom in Chicago, she decided to go into the food truck business to sell gelato. No, its not an "Ice Cream" truck it's a food truck; gelato is a food, a dessert food, but still food.

Success came quickly until someone pointed out that her "gelato" wasn't really authentic; a common problem in the US. So Kulisz went to Italy to see for herself. Long story short, she ended up in gelato school, bought the proper machines and then brought an Italian pro to Fort Myers to share his techniques and even some family recipes with her.

Kulisz then hired a well known local chef, Ruth Cohen, to lead her new, state of the art Gelato Lab in Fort Myers. Still practicing for perfection, I got to do a little sampling today and am in love. I tried cream, pistachio, hazelnut, chocolate and a non-dairy dark chocolate that tasted like a velvety mixture of mousse, ganache and pudding.....without milk or cream. Wow!

Gelato may taste rich but it actually has less fat than ice cream. Sweet Ginger's did not give me that sugary buzz and it was full of clean, distinct flavors. As of now Kulisz does not plan to have a local gelateria, but instead serve her cold elixir at special events, select restaurants and out of her food truck.

Nothing like a sweet treat to make all of your cares disappear. Welcome Sweet Ginger's Gelato! Can't wait to see your food truck roll up the next event I'm at!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stand Your Ground

Yesterday, I had a harrowing incident on bicycle involving a squirrel. I decided the best way to get over that trauma was to get back on the bike and ride. So today, I put on my backpack and rode to the grocery store for some staples.

My eyes darted left and right like a mad woman, on the look-out for rogue squirrels. I felt victorious as soon as I made it safely out of my community and once again tried to enjoy the sunny skies and low humidity. I made a slight detour into another neighborhood to get in some extra cardio when I saw another bicyclist coming toward me. I hugged the right side of the road as I had been doing since I departed. Funny thing, she was on the same side, doing the same thing. We were headed directly at each other. Did she sense I was an interloper? 

I thought, "Surely this woman knows the rules of the road and will move over." But not an inch. I double checked, yes I'm on the correct side of the road as all things with wheels move in the same direction; it's pedestrians that go against the traffic flow.

As we get closer she is still not moving over. Since it is more important for me to be right than to avoid another collision, I stay the course and maybe even pedal a little faster. Finally, she moves slightly and I cheerily bid her Hello while under my breath I say once again, "What the Hell?"

As I recounted this story to some friends over dinner, to my surprise they both said, "Yes, I ride against traffic so I can see what's going to hit me." Are you serious? Am I going mad?

Once again I'm left analyzing what I'm suppose to learn from this incident; besides the obvious idiocy in proving that I'm right. Its simple; STAY THE COURSE.  Just stay the course and eventually things will work out.

Good thing the lady coming at me didn't have the same philosophy.

Not sure I'm going to take out the bicycle again tomorrow, perhaps "it" needs a rest. However, it's given me such great stories and insight this week.....

Monday, October 14, 2013

Suicidal Squirrel

Photo from Lin's Domain
I have several friends who've been hit by cars while riding bicycles. But have you ever been the one to hit anything while riding? I mean other than random potholes, curbs or bushes?

After several hours behind the computer today, I decided it was time to move my body. I got on my bike and breathed deeply, enjoying the sunny blue sky and low humidity. About a minute into my ride, as I'm about to exit my neighborhood, my attention is strangely diverted to a squirrel ahead. He had moved quite quickly through the grass, paused and perched himself  at the side of the road.

"Don't you do it!" flashed through my mind. But the lil' bastard DID! He ran right in front of me so fast I had no time to brake. I felt a bump, felt his furry F-ing tail on my leg. I hit a damn squirrel on my bike! Who does that? I was horrified, didn't know what to do. I mean I couldn't look back and risk seeing that lil body jerking and writhing in pain from the impact of my powerful Mongoose. And if that was the case, what would I do? I certainly didn't have the guts to finish him off; kill him and put him out of his misery.
by George Coghill

I rode a few feet with my hand over my mouth, also wondering if any neighbors had witnessed the alleged squirrel massacre. Of course curiosity got the best of me. I just had to look over my shoulder; I had to know what happened to that furry guy. To my surprise, there he was sitting in the middle of the road upright, not twitching. Was it my imagination or was he looking at me like "What the hell?" Or was it really his mother looking at me like "What the hell, MY BABY"S DYING IN THE DITCH!!" My imaginary conversation continued with the mama squirrel, this time with me saying "What the Hell! Didn't you teach that boy not to play in traffic?"

Now my beautiful bike ride is mired in reliving the harrowing experience and analyzing what the near death experience with a squirrel was meant to teach me. When presented with openings in life you either have to make a mad dash, or wait for the traffic to clear and walk more calmly into it. But that moment of indecision, pausing on the side of the road, will get you smacked at best; more likely squished flat. I think I was being told to be patient, take a breath before making any more mad dashes.

Not completely satisfied with my conclusion I looked up the meaning of squirrel energy and found the power of the rodent is a "great gift" reminding us to lighten our load of things that are unnecessary and cluttering our lives. The last quote I read about squirrels on the website Lin's Domain confirmed what I had already figured out, "Take the time to stop and listen to your inner self, and don't forget to play." I got it! Hopefully you get it too!

If I ever decide to start a band, I'm calling it "Suicidal Squirrel".

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Everyday Finds

For Wine Wednesday this week I attended a fund raising, wine tasting for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer at Fresh Market in Naples, FL. They closed the store and put on a beautiful event with lots of good food to boot. Navigating the different tables set up throughout the store, I was reminded of some great everyday wines that I sometimes forget about like; Casa Lapostolle, Oyster Bay and Bogle.

But I really enjoyed bouncing between the Joel Gott and Ferrari Carano tables, thank God they were side-by-side and in the cheese section of the store; Heaven. I may or may not have ended up in the case at one point.

The Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc was not the citrus explosion you might expect from a California Sauv Blanc. It had lots of stone fruit and a nice $13.99 price tag.  In Florida, you can never go wrong with that one or the Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc ($14.99); peachy with a little spice on the finish. One of my long-standing favorites.

As for reds, my favorite was Ferrari Carano Cabernet ($24.99); cherry, smoke, tobacco, yum. And the Joel Gott Red Blend ($17.99). It was juicy and nicely balanced.

After picking up a few bottles of red, I picked up some chocolate in the bulk food bins. It was a beautiful sight to see this morning on my kitchen table! Is it 5:00 yet?

ginab2u's Making Strides Wine Tasting album on Photobucket

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wine Wednesday, Zaha

Ah, another Wine Wednesday and another maddening dilemma of what to write about, especially since I'm fresh off of the Fall Show for Opici Wines. I tasted so many amazing wines yesterday!

One of the things I love to do is let you know when something new is coming to the area, the area being Florida. If you are in other states or countries, I certainly hope you can find this fantastic Malbec, ZaHa.

It's no secret I'm a fan of Malbec from Mendoza and this is now one of them. Its not a typical Malbec though. While it has good fruit like black cherry, it is smoky with a bit of coffee and spice. While ZaHa is 90% Malbec, it has just a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot to round things out.

In the $40 range,  the 2010 got 92 points from Wine Advocate. ZaHa means heart and it got mine!