BY MARCY SHORTUSE -
“The cheese of the goat, the poutine with an “i,” the watermelon gazpacho will make you want to cry.Roll of tuna, crostini of sage, fish tacos with mahi will be all the rage.And cheesecake pops, a little belly of pork, dishes just not eaten with a spork.The Taste is back, we shall eat, drink and dance, and later on ... unbutton our pants.”
Welcome to Part II of the Taste of Boca Grande 2013 menu. This is a breakdown of some of the most interesting aspects of each chef’s dishes: a taste of culinary education, so to speak. We are so lucky to live in an area with many fine restaurants and chefs, and this year’s “Taste” will once again showcase some of the best.
The event, which benefits the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, will be held on Monday, Feb. 4 under the big tents at the Boca Bay Pass Club. Tickets are still available but going very quickly. They are $85 and can be purchased at the offices of the Boca Beacon, the Boca Bay Pass Club, the Boca Grande Club, BRC Real Estate, and from Nick Kaiser (964-0141) or Thor Johnson (964-0697).
Chef Patty KitchenThe Grapevine Gourmet and Gift ShopGourmet cheese and condiment selection: Thomasville Tomme Cheese made from cow’s milk at the Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia, Cyprus Grove Midnight Moon goat cheese, as well as house-smoked salmon pate, meaty Marcona Spanish almonds, Dalmatia fig spread made from Adriatic figs, Dealia's Hazelnut and Fig Biscuits, and some Bistro Blend olives.
Here’s a table many will linger at, overflowing with tasty morsels. The Grapevine will be serving up some of their favorite gourmet food items that are available for purchase in the store. Let’s start with Thomasville Tomme. This is an aged raw cow’s milk cheese that is straw-colored, with a mellow flavor and soft texture. This company even knows where the milk to make the cheese comes from, as the co-op that sells it is owned by the cheese company owners’ parents.
The Cyprus Grove Midnight Moon goat cheese is made in Europe exclusively for Cypress Grove. It is a pale, ivory cheese that is firm, dense and smooth. It is nutty, it is buttery, it has a few caramel notes. This is an award-winning cheese, by the way. It took “Best New Product in Show” at the International Fancy Food and Confection Show in New York in 2002, took “Best in Class” in the hard goat’s milk cheese category in the World Championship Cheese Contest in 2010, and was a finalist for “Best Cheese” in the International Fancy Food and Confection Show in New York in 2003.
Marcona almonds are really quite fabulous. Their rise in popularity of late is well warranted, but it brings about the question: Why? Well, Marcona almonds are from Spain, and are a bit more round and plump than the California almonds we are used to. Marcona almonds are a little sweeter, with a little more delicate flavor. You can usually find these almonds raw or toasted with olive oil and salt. If you ever get up to Sarasota, Trader Joe’s also has rosemary-toasted Marcona almonds.
It is recommended by connoisseurs that one either eat these almonds alone or with some Spanish cheese. They can also be used in salads or desserts.
The fig spread that Patty will be featuring is from a recipe straight from Dalmatia. It is an all-natural spread that requires only a bit of sweetening, and has an intense, dark flavor with hints of honey. Figs have always been connected with the working man in Dalmatia. A typical breakfast in that region would be a fistful of figs and a shot of brandy. Not that it hasn’t happened here, it’s just more prevalent in Dalmatia. The country is full of fig trees. They grow on islands, they grow on the mainland, they grow wild and in fields.
View More images >>There is a legend that says the first figs planted in California were by emigrants from Korcula. They were actually brought to the States by the Spaniards, and the missionaries planted them.
Chef Fran CasciatoLibby’s Cafe + Bistro Duck poutini, hash potato, cheese curds, mini-grilled Kim-cheese, half-shell steamed mussels, coconut Thai curried aioli
Libby’s may be one of the favorite local haunts in Sarasota, but their menu offerings are anything but regional. The items they will be bringing to the table at “Taste” are extremely varied and quite cosmopolitan.
Chef Fran Casciato's first dish is a playful interpretation of a Quebec favorite ... yes, poutine! Traditionally, it's french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. Libby's interpretations is duck "poutini" made with potato hash, cheese curds and topped with duck.
According to “Esquire” Magazine, “if bacon ate, bacon would eat poutine.” That is quite a compliment to this dish, one that said magazine touts as “One of the best late-night foods in the world.” Adding a bit of duck sounds like taking a good thing and making it even better.
Grilled Kimcheese can go vegan, but it doesn’t have to. This popular little sandwich is made with Thai Kimchi, and can include vegan cheeses or otherwise. It’s a healthy way to eat a grilled cheese, either way.
To round out their offering with seafood, they are also preparing steamed half-shell mussels with a coconut-Thai curry aioli.
Chef Myriam GloverCoral Creek ClubWatermelon gazpacho soup, sea scallop ceviche pomegranate grey goose, chicken and seafood paella
Ceviche is so popular, it has several of its own web sites. This South American dish is made from raw fish which is marinated in lime juice (or another acidic fruit’s juice), salt and seasonings. The acid in the fruit changes the texture of the fish, making it opaque and more firm, as if it had been cooked. The dish is light and refreshing.
As a sidenote, the leftover marinade from ceviche, which is normally quite spicy and very flavorful, is called “tiger’s milk.” It is used by some as a cure for hangovers.
Did you know the Inca Indians preserved their fish with fruit juice, salt and chile peppers? Little was it known then that their original idea would spread so well, and would eventually become a highly-regarded dish to be featured at the “Taste.”
Paella is a mediterranean food, coming from the “pan” of Spain, which is otherwise known as the “paella.”
Back in the old days of paella, in Valencia, there were more fresh vegetables than you could shake a stick at. The people there had to get crafty to come up with new ways to use them, so they made many dishes, such as paella, with vegetables and chicken, or rabbit, thrown in.
The people of Al-Andalus often made casseroles of rice, fish and spices. By the time the Catholics drove the Muslims out in the 15th century, rice had become a staple in the Moorish diet. Paella was well on its way.
At “Taste,” Chef Myriam will be using chicken and seafood, which sounds just as good as rabbit.
She explained her use of Grey Goose Vodka.
“I use the orange Grey Goose,” she said. “It’s my personal touch. When I was still in France I went to a seminar where they made fish ceviche and used vodka. It came out so good. I still use the lemon and lime juice, but with the vodka added it’s all in different proportions.”
She also explained the use of the pomegranate gives the dish a beautiful orange-ish color.
Chef Patrick VollmerPatrick’s Thai BistroCalifornia roll with crab, avocado and cucumber, tuna roll with tuna and cucumber, Thai red-barbecued pork with jasmine rice
Patrick, Patrick, Patrick ... when islanders think of savory raw fish, we think of Patrick. His menu at the restaurant cannot be beaten when it comes to all things Thai, and his booth is always popular at the “Taste.” Very popular. Like, get-there-early popular.
The history of the California roll is somewhat elusive. Many think that Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef at the Tokyo Kaikan in Los Angeles, invented the dish in the early 70s. Because so many people didn’t necessarily want to see what they were eating on the inside of the roll, Mashita decided to turn it inside out. Traditionally, they are also wrapped with nori on the outside. For the faint of heart when it comes to raw fish, many rolls substitute avocado and, in this case, crab.
An export in Thai cuisine named David Thompson once said, “Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it’s got to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what's happening underneath. Simplicity isn’t the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it’s a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that’s important, it’s the complexity they delight in.”
Grilling is a popular technique for street food vendors in Thailand. Mangrove-wood charcoal is normally used in Thailand for barbecue.
Jasmine rice is a long grain foodstuff, and it’s known for its savory smell and taste. Thailand has a long history in agriculture, almost 5,000-years-old, so they know what they’re doing. The best quality Jasmine rice is grown primarily in the northeastern provinces of the country, due to environmental factors like ample sunshine and lots of rainfall.
It may interest you to know that the DNA of Jasmine rice is formed by more than 500 genes. So if it calls to you and says, “I’m too deep for you to figure me out,” it might be right.
Chef JT TurnerPJ’s SeagrilleMaine lobster corn chowder with fresh sage crostini
It’s time to drop your “r’s” and replace them with “ahs”. Lobstah Chowdah, it rolls from the tongue whether spoken or eaten. It’s good. Real good.
Chowder is a thick, chunky seafood soup, which we all know. But did you know it’s name comes from the French word “chaudiere,” which is a caldron in which fishermen make their stews fresh from the sea?
Lobster chowder, in many humble opinions, is the creme de la creme of the chaudiere.
We covered crostini quite well in last year’s “Taste” menu wrap-up. It is, essentially, little pieces of toast. Put some sage on it and it’s good. Dip that in some Maine lobster chowder, it’s going to be, well, good-er. Lots and lots good-er.
As you will recall, Chef JT took top honors at the annual Pirate Coast Chili Cook-off last year. Let’s see if his chowder stands up to his chili and smacks it around a bit.
Chef Rob Plesh and Kono WendelThe Pink ElephantLobster BLT: Maple-braised smoked bacon, truffle parmesan mayo, slow-roasted tomatoes, grilled focaccia; Thai Shrimp: Asian pear salad with bok choy, Napa cabbage, cilantro. spicy peanut dressing; chocolate bread pudding with bourbon vanilla sauce.
Bacon. The word elicits the angels to sing, the clouds to part and the roosters to crow. It should always be in capital letters, as a matter of fact, especially in conjunction with lobster.
When you braise BACON in maple syrup, you are cooking the BACON on high heat, then finishing it in pot with liquid, like maple syrup. It makes the BACON taste like it’s been sitting on a plate with some good ol’pancakes and syrup, and that’s just OK with us.
Add a little truffle parmesan mayonnaise, some slow-roasted tomatoes and grilled focaccia bread? The angels really may show up and sing songs in praise of this sandwich.
An Asian pear salad brings fruits and vegetables together in a healthy union of delight. This is a unique blend in Chef Plesh’s dish, with Chinese cabbage and more Chinese cabbage. Both bok choy and Napa cabbage are considered to be lettuces of Chinese descent, by the way. Napa cabbage comes from the Beijing region of China. Bok choy was studied by herbalists with the Ming Dynasty for its medicinal qualities.
Spicy peanut dressing contains peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, some garlic, a bit of vinegar and water. Our Pink Elephant chefs may tweak this just a bit, but those are normally the base ingredients.
But did Asians really use peanut butter in their recipe? According to most of the research we did, yes. It’s essentially crushed peanuts with some oil mixed in.
So, on to bread pudding. The very early puddings were created in Medieval times and revolved around meat. This particular pudding, which revolves around chocolate, sounds a bit more palatable for dessert. Bread pudding became famous in Europe around the 19th century. While researching puddings, we came across a description in the culinary encyclopedia “Larousse Gastronomique.” It says, “Pudding is any of numerous dishes, sweet or savory, served hot or cold, which are prepared in a variety of ways.” So, essentially, some Saltines and chocolate syrup could constitute a pudding.
However, bread pudding was actually born in the 13th century and was known as “poor man’s pudding.” Waste not, want not was the key phrase when families were starving, and this was a way to salvage stale bread. Modern bread pudding, however, is made with a custard and other flavorings (such as chocolate, yum), which is poured over cubed bread and baked.
Chef John Feagans and Debbi CastleThe Waterside Grill at Gasparilla MarinaA Florida blue crab and smoked corn cake, served on a bed of micro lettuce with a Florida spiny lobster cream.
A corn cake is also known as a johnnycake, or cornpone, or Shawnee cake, or jonikin, or mush bread. The names are regional, and all mean cornmeal flatbread. They used to be cooked over the ashes of a campfire, or on hot stones, or on a griddle, or in the oven.
In other words, there are lots of ways to cook it, but it all tastes like corn.
Of course, adding crab to anything gives it amazing promise, but then by adding lobster cream you come out with a delicious dish of heaven.
Kudos to the chefs on this one. We can’t wait to try it!
Chef Greg BenoSouth Beach Bar and GrilleFresh local whitefish chargrilled with an island citrus rub and finished with a blood orange salsa; House-smoked pork belly sliders: Smoked pork bellies finished on the grill with their house barbecue sauce with shredded Gouda, topped with tabasco onion straws, served on mini chiabatta rolls.
A beautiful blood orange salsa on a winter’s night, just the thing to finish a fresh local whitefish, chargrilled with a special island citrus rub.
Also on the menu are house-smoked pork belly sliders. Now this will make you sit up and pay attention. According to coldhardfootballfacts.com, pork belly sliders are scientifically proven to make you more attractive! It doesn’t say why, exactly, but we’re inclined to believe them. These beauties are finished off with house barbecue sauce and shredded gouda, topped with tobasco onion straws and served on mini chiabatta rolls.
In case you were wondering, onion straws are super-finely sliced onion rings dipped in milk and tabasco sauce, lightly breaded and fried. Oh, yes.
Chef Justin BownsPrime Time Steak and SpiritsFish tacos with mahi, Prime sliders with beer-braised onions, raspberry crème brulee.
People in Mexico have been eating fish tacos for a very long time, and for thousands of years the coastal American Indians were wrapping whatever meat they could find in corn tortillas. However, leave it to Californians to make it trendy.
Sometime in the last four or five decades someone out there decided to take lightly-battered mild white fish and serve it on a tortilla with shredded cabbage, some salsa and, sometimes, a bit of lime.
Chef Justin decided that mahi would be the best fish for his “Taste” fish tacos, and we couldn’t agree more. Oh Mahi goodness, that's a delicious fish taco.
Prime sliders with beer-braised onions will bring tears of joy to your eyes. Known for their meat (hence the name “Prime” Time), their sliders are comparable to manna.
Though the British and the French fight over which country invented it, the only battle for the raspberry crème brûlée at the “Taste” will be if it runs low. Be warned, there will many sharp elbows and discerning palates under the tent for this treat.
Chef Kevin StockdaleThe Temptation RestaurantChilled Soba noodle salad in cucumber cups, BLT Bites (Cherry tomatoes with bacon, boursin, chives and parsley), New York strip crostinis (thin-sliced New York strip on grilled crostini with onion confit), smoked salmon with a red onion, caper, and parm Aioli on toasted pumpernickel rounds, Dolmas (gorgonzola, olives, tomatoes and fresh herbs) and peanut butter cheesecake pops.
Ah, Chef Kevin, you had us at cheesecake pops. The Temptation didn’t get its name for nothing. Everything on this list is going to be acrowd-pleaser, make no mistake.
We must begin with something other than dessert, though. Soba noodles are Japanese noodles made of buckwheat and wheat flour. They are a bit like spaghetti. They’re good for you, as they are filled with manganese, lean protein, carbs and thiamine. And we all need a little more thiamine in our lives.
New York strip with a bit of duck cooked in its own fat sounds like something The Temp could do very well. They are known for the cooked flesh, after all. The same goes for the smoked salmon. Put a little garlic mayo and parm on that salmon and add a bit of pumpernickel bread, and it’s good to go.
We don’t need to describe the peanut butter cheesecake pops. Each word in that description is good on its own.
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