Taste of Boca

Taste of Boca

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE

As we inch one week closer to the popular Taste of Boca event to be held on Monday, Feb. 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Boca Bay Pass Club, we will be defining a few more of the dishes you wil sample. Some of them are tried-and-true favorites such as Prime Time’s chicken sliders, while others are more exotic like The Pink Elephant’ s choucroute or the Boca Bay Pass Club’s gravlax.

Before we begin with this week’s litany it is important to remind everyone about the food barrels that have been placed around the island that benefit the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The Harry Chapin Food Bank is the reason we hold The Taste, so without them where would we be? Throughout the season a few hard-working people behind the scenes keep pushing for food and monetary donations for this very important organization, as they feed thousands of people in our region every year.

This year’s food barrels are placed at Kappy’s Deli at the north end of the island, at Sea Oats (a gated community that is also on the north end), at the Lighthouse United Methodist Church of Boca Grande at Gilchrist Avenue and 4th Street, at the Boca Grande Community Center by the entrance to the auditorium, and in the park across from the Boca Grande Post Office, by the GICIA Bike Path.

These barrels will be in place until April, so please help to fill them to the brim with non-perishable food items.

And now, on to Part Two of our introduction to the 2018 Taste of Boca menu …

Boca Bay Pass Club

Chef Michael Klocinski

964-0769

Beet Cured Gravlax: Granny Smith apple compote, cucumber gelée, Meyer lemon pudding and “Everything Bagel” crumble;

Five-spiced duck breast: Bing cherry farro risotto, red onion brûlée, pickled oyster mushroom and Fourme d’Ambert duck jus

Chef Klocinski at the Boca Bay Pass Club will be tempting our tastebuds this year at Taste with some very interesting items. His first offering of beet-cured gravlax served with apple compote, cucumber gelee, lemon pudding and bagel crumbles will be served in a small glass with the cucumber gelee on the bottom with the salmon and the apple compote and bagel crumbles in there with it as a garnish. Let’s explain what you’re getting into here before any further explanation.

If you’ve never heard of a gravlax, you might think it’s something from a Dr. Suess book. It is, in fact, a Nordic dish that is sometimes compared to lox and smoked salmon, created with raw salmon that is cured in salt, sugar and dill.

During the Middle Ages gravlax was a popular menu item with fishermen because they could literally bury it on the beach and dig it up later to eat, and it kept well for a long time.

The word itself is Scandinavian in origin, with “gräva/grave” meaning “to dig” or “to cure,” which goes back even further to proto-Germanic origins (“Graba or grabo” meaning “hole in the ground” or “grave”). The second syllable “lax” comes from Indo-European origins and simply means “salmon.”

Gravlax is no longer prepared by being thrust into a hold in the ground and left to rot, sorry to disappoint you there. Instead the fish is buried in a pile of salt, sugar and dill and cured for anywhere from a day to several days. Beets are incorporated into this recipe during the curing process, as they slightly enhance the flavor of the dish and give it a spectacular color.

Chef Michael’s offering of Granny Smith apple compote comes from interesting origins as well. These types of apples were discovered by a lady named Maria Smith in Australia in 1868. Because Maria had numerous offspring she became known as “Granny” to the residents around her home. As keepers of apple orchards, she and her husband often scattered a random smattering of foreign seeds around their home, and while the tales of origin of the Granny Smith apple take off onto two different tangents it appears as though Granny Smith apples were created more by accident than anything else. One tale has Granny dumping the remains of some French crab apples from Tasmania down by the creek on her property and a strange seedling springing forth from the pile, while another story explains that she often threw different types of apple cores out her kitchen window and a new breed emerged from that pile. Granny was very taken with these new apples, and used them so often and sold so many of them she became known for that particular strain.

‘I’m studying my family tree. You must be granny smith.’

Other benefits to Granny Smith apples is that they keep for a lot longer time than their counterparts, and have a generally sweet taste.

When you take your Granny Smith apples and create a compote, that means you’re simply putting them into a mixture with sugar syrup that is often seasoned with flavors such as vanilla or cinnamon. It has been served warm and it has been served chilled since its beginnings in the Middle Ages.

A rather marvelous Dutchman faced death to bring you the wonderful Meyer lemon that Chef Michael will be using for the pudding part of his first dish. In the very early 1900s a man named Frank Meyer traveled the world to feed his fascination with citrus. He eventually ended up in Beijing, Mongolia, North Korea and, eventually, Siberia, where he was threatened at gunpoint and apparently told, “You ain’t welcome ‘round these here parts” … which, loosely translated, is “bас не приветствуют в этих частях” in Russian.

Meyer found a particular strain of lemon he thought would work out well to grow in the Midwest, and sent a plant prototype home. We now know it as the Meyer lemon, though it has been slightly altered as the tristeza virus wiped out the original strain of plant he sent back to America many years ago. The version we know now was actually created in 1975.   

Chef Michael will also be offering a five-spiced duck breast sample, complete with Bing cherry farro Risotto, red onion brûlée, pickled oyster mushroom and Fourme d’Ambert duck jus, and it sounds just as interesting as his first offering.

While many people have heard of risotto, using farro is a new twist for some. Farro is an ancient grain grown by the Romans, and used in Italian cooking for centuries. It gives an earthy twist to risotto with its nutty flavor. Chef Michael’s farro risotto will be even more flavorful with his use of Bing cherries, a strain of cherry that was developed sometime around 1875 after horticulturalist Seth Lewelling created it from a graft from a black Republican cherry tree. Black Republican cherries are known for having a very sweet, intense flavor.

Combined with a red onion brûlée and oyster mushrooms, which are found in an autumnal forest growing on the sides of trees as a colorful shower of legumes, this duck breast should be truly kickin’. Topped with a jus made from the duck and cheese that is semi-hard and French called Fourme d’Ambert, this dish will definitely be one to taste.

Boca Grande Club

Chef Greg Foos

964-2211

Pan-fried crab and scallop mousseline, spicy remoulade, microgreens; Key lime sorbet with a gingersnap cookie and passion fruit rum

Chef Greg Foos from the Boca Grande Club has a habit of creating unique and very tasty dishes for the Taste of Boca Grande, and this year is no exception.

Seafood always gets our attention, with crab and scallops topping the list as favorites for many. Chef Greg has created a pan-fried crab and scallop dish incorporating a type of pureed, fluffy egg and cream mixture called a mousseline. He also adds a bit of remoulade, a condiment created in France that is often mayonnaise based. Remoulades are often used in Louisiana Creole recipes using seafood, by the way.

A seafood mousseline often starts out with a paste made from sea critters, then blended with egg and whipped cream and put into a mold. A seafood mousseline can also be served as an appetizer and served on crackers, or as a side dish or garnish. It is sometimes known as “Chantilly” as well. The word comes from the French and its literally meaning is “muslin,” and the word also describes a type of fabric.

The word “microgreens” is a puzzler for many. Basically the word means greens that is picked at a very young age when it is tender and its colors are vibrant. According to Wikipedia “A microgreen has a single central stem which has been cut just above the soil line during harvesting. It has fully developed cotyledon leaves and usually has one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves. The average crop-time for most microgreens is 10–14 days from seeding to harvest.”

Chef Greg will be using microgreens that have a citrus flavor in his dish. So no matter how you slice it, this dish will certainly contain a hint of lime.

Dessert will not be neglected on this menu, which is key to many. Speaking of key, Key limes are synonymous with Florida, Jimmy Buffett and pies, so Chef Greg’s sorbet should be a great hit at Taste. Interesting enough, sorbet was first served in the 17th century after being created by a man named Antonio Latini who worked for a Spanish viceroy in Naples, Italy. Sorbet, or “sorbetto” as it was called back then, was the first official ice cream of Italy.

Just so you know, it’s not easy to find a real Key lime. The original limes that called the Florida Keys home were wiped out in a hurricane in 1926, leaving only a few stragglers left to repopulate the islands. Many people planted Persian limes and call them Key limes … but alas, they are not.

As a complete and utter step away from the whole conversation above, the original Key lime pie recipe was believed to be found in a mansion built by William Curry in 1855 in the Florida Keys, called “Aunt Sally’s Key lime pie.”

There was no cream at all in the original recipe, it was created around the use of condensed milk. The original color of the pie, as many know, is yellow, but there are many cooks who insist on using food coloring to make their Key lime pie green.

As the dessert topper Chef Greg will lovingly place a gingersnap on top of his Key lime sorbet and drizzle it with fruit rum.

Yum!

Farlow’s on the Water

Chef John Mazza

474-5343

Trinidad Chicken: Free-range Ashley Farms chicken breast sautéed with our house Trinidad sauce made with coconut, curry, papaya & mango; St. Croix Seafood Pie: A seafood lover’s delight including lobster, shrimp, and scallops in a creamy white wine lobster sauce, served in a phyllo pastry; Dessert: Farlow’s bourbon pecan bread pudding

Chef Mazza from Farlow’s on the Water in Englewood always has a busy booth at Taste. His restaurant has become very well-known for an extensive menu, drinks as big as your head and a very welcoming atmosphere. This guy knows how to cook, and everyone around here knows it so it’s not easy to find a place at one of his tables on a Saturday night.

This year at Taste Chef Mazza will be creating a Trinidad chicken offering with free-range Ashley Farms chicken breast. If you’re wondering what the taste difference is between caged chickens and free-range chickens, here is your answer.

In the United States every day there are approximately 300 million chickens sitting in tiny cages on large farms. They have high stress levels, dirty cages which mean an increased use of antiobiotics for the chickens, and aggression issues.

Yes, that does sound like some human workplaces as well, I recognize that fact. So why should chickens get a better break than we do? Possibly because while we have the means to quit our job, while the chickens do not.

Free-range chickens, in theory, have access to the outdoors and room to stretch their legs. Having more room to move and more dietary options through pecking around on their own, stress levels are lowered and chickens are naturally fatter.

Ashley Farms is located in North Carolina and is a family farm. They are known for not using pesticides, hormones, growth stimulators or antibiotics when raising their birds, and have been in business since 1962. The family that owns the farm, the Joyce’s, have traveled the world over to figure out the most optimal chicken-growing methods, and call their birds “heritage poultry.” They have also branched out into raising beef, rabbits, ducks and other types of meat animals.

So what is Trinidad chicken? Chef Mazza will be cooking the supreme chicken described above with a spicy, zesty sauce from the land of the limbo and chutney, and finished with coconut, curry, papaya and mango.

The St. Croix seafood pie at Farlow’s is a house specialty and a staple in many locals’ diets. It is served in a phyllo pastry and contains lobster, shrimp and scallops mixed together with a white wine sauce.

Phyllo dough isn’t the easy medium to work with, which means it takes a special cook to make it perfectly. It was created in the Byzantine era in Greece, and is used in diverse dishes such as baklava and spanakopita. The dough is made by mixing flour and water with salt and a bit of olive oil, then rolled paper thin.  

According to history, the original phyllo dough made by the Greeks was a bit thicker than what was used in the neighboring country of Persia, and somehow the two types of dough combined throughout the years. After all, the Persians invaded Greece in 492 B.C. so it stands to reason they would push their paper-thin dough beliefs on the Greeks. The Ottoman family and their brethren invaded the peninsula in 1500, and their motto was, “The thinner the dough, the better” (I believe that was the phrase used on their family crest, but that could be heresay). However it worked out, today the thin dough we think came from Greek culture actually came from other sources.

For dessert Chef Mazza will be serving a pecan bread pudding made with bourbon, a dish known for its deep, rich taste.

The first bourbon was believed to have been mixed by a Baptist minister from Virginia named Elijah Craig in the mid 1700s. Another man, James Crow, introduced a more solid scientific method of quality control for bourbon, and was vital in making it a liquor that makes up about 15 percent of the American market. The first distillery in America was built in 1783.

Bourbon has become interchangeable with brandy in many recipes, particularly in confections and desserts. Chef Mazza serves his Bourbon bread pudding with pecans, vanilla bean ice cream and Maker’s Mark bourbon glaze (yes, the good stuff).

The Pink Elephant Restaurant

Chef Robert Plesh,

sous chef George Bacha

964-4540

Choucroute: Smoked duck, braised hog jowl, Kielbasa mustard sauerkraut and potatoes;

Asian barbecue salmon: Lo mein noodle salad, spicy Thai peanut dressing; roasted banana tartlet with salted caramel and meringue

I must tell you a choucroute! Actually, while the word may sound more like “chocolate” than “secret,” choucroute sounds more romantic than the word “sauerkraut. This dish has a fascinating history though, whether you like the sound of it or not.

Choucroute was brought to Alsace, France by way of the Great Wall of China by Attila the Hun (see, not everything he did was bad). On a web site called theculturetrip.com the long road from China that brought choucroute to our table was described:

“According to the Confrérie de la Choucroute brotherhood – an Alsace institution aimed at celebrating and preserving the tradition – the method of preserving the fermented cabbage in brine came from China. It was first recorded by the fearsome Attila and his Huns, who discovered this method when they came up against the Great Wall. The preparation was very effective to feed workers and soldiers in these hard-to-reach arid regions.”

The Huns weren’t well received in China so they headed west through Bavaria and Austria, and they reached Alsace in 451. Some time in the 1500s a recipe was written down by monks in a monastery and it became a popular food at their table.

Now if you’re in France and someone calls you their “mon chou,” that means you are loved. Cabbage is well loved by the French (heck, who doesn’t love a nice, firm cabbage?) because it can be grown there for so many months out of the year, and was a staple in the diet of poor Frenchmen for centuries.

The current-day recipe consists of sauerkraut braised in white wine as well as many types of meat, potatoes and flavorings and condiments to taste. Chef Robert’s choucroute dish utilizes duck, hog jowls, kielbasa, potatoes and mustard sauerkraut.

Another offering from “The Pink” will be an Asian barbecue salmon with lo mein noodles and Thai peanut dressing. This dish classically utilizes a teriyaki sauce and a garnish of sesame seeds on the salmon, with lo mein noodles on the side.

If you ask someone from Thailand how they make their peanut sauce, you may be met with a blank stare. In Thailand the peanut is not the focus of the sauce, rather just another ingredient.

Spicy peanut sauces actually originated further south on the Malay Peninsula and in the Indonesian archipelago, not in Thailand. It is in those places where peanut sauces are commonly found in bazaars and marketplaces. Peanuts actually aren’t really a Thai food at all, truth be told.

There are three main types of food items commonly called “peanut sauces” – a satay, which is a peanut dipping sauce made from red curry, coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind, sugar and ground peanuts; fried tofu cubes are served with a more granular peanut sauce; and tod mun sauce, which is made from cucumbers, vinegar, ground chilies, sugar and ground peanuts.

The Netherlands actually adopted their own peanut sauce and use it frequently in their dishes, and a combination often found at Dutch fast food establishments is a French fry dish smothered with mayonnaise and peanut sauce. Yes, it is a diverse sauce that has gotten around world wide … just not so much to Thailand.

For dessert Chef Robert will be featuring a banana tartlet with salted caramel and meringue. A tart was first served in Medieval times, and the term originated in the 14th century in the “Forme of Cury,” a cookbook of some acclaim, and the word “tartlet” can be found in that book as well. Before there were sweet tarts there were savory tarts, filled with meats and potatoes as well as some vegetables. As years passed more attention was paid to sweets, and a tart soon became popular when filled with egg custard and fruit.

Banana tarts in particular were very popular on the Mauritius, an island and state in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. It was settled by the Dutch in 1638 but abandoned in 1710. The French decided to make it their own in 1715, followed by the British in 1810. The island became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1968.

Ripe bananas work best with this recipe, by the way. So do salty caramel and meringue toppings.

Prime Time Steak & Spirits

Chef Andy Tobin

697-7799

Pulled chicken sliders with Asiago cheese and Cumberland sauce

Over at the Prime Time booth Chef Andy Tobin will be making his famous pulled chicken sliders with Asiago cheese and Cumberland sauce. They are pure, gooey goodness and are sure to be a hit with just about everyone.

It all started with a White Castle burger in 1921, some say, when Walter Anderson and Edgar Ingram opened their first shop in Wichita, Kansas. When the book “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair came out in 1906 it created a beef panic amongst the masses, but these two men wanted Americans to embrace the cow once again and they set out on a mission. The first White Castle “sliders” were five cents each, if you can believe it. The word slider was also used in the U.S. Navy commonly, as the greasy little burgers liked to slide around on plates when the ships rolled, and Anderson and Ingram decided they would put that name on their sandwiches as well.

Whether or not White Castle really helped beef make a comeback or not, sliders have been a part of the American diet for many decades now, and are created with all kinds of meat.

Chef Andy will be using pulled chicken, and smothering it with some prime Asiago cheese and something that is known as Cumberland sauce.

Asiago cheese originated in Italy, in the Asiago plateau in the Veneto foothills. This cheese is more than 1,000 years old (not the particular cheese Chef Andy will be using, don’t worry, we mean it’s been around that long) and was originally made with sheep’s milk.

According to the web site asiagocheese.it, “The oldest version of Asiago, most faithful to the traditions of the plateau’s cheese makers and with the fullest, most intense flavour, is the Seasoned cheese.

In the early twentieth century, Fresh Asiago was born from the traditions of the DOP region combined with innovative cheese making technology. The flavour of this cheese, sweet and mild, has led to its international popularity.”

Cumberland sauce is normally known as a fruit sauce used with non-white meats, but over the years has been adapted for all kinds of uses. It was named for the Duke of Cumberland who had ties to Hanover, Germany where the sauce was created. Today it is often thought of as more British than anything else, and is ubiquitous to the Cumbria region of England.

3rd Street Cafe

Chef Brandon Bunton

457-0090

Pork and veal meatballs with Parmesan Reggiano;

Smoked pork belly tostada with apple fennel slaw;

Orange olive oil cake with strawberries and toasted almonds

Is it parmesan or reggiano? This is a question asked through the ages, and Chef Brandon Bunton will be putting them together in his dish for Taste in combination with some pork and veal meatballs.

The best explanation we could find for the cheese question was from our old favorite web site, epicurious.com:

Just as there is—sorry, was—only one Brangelina, so only one cheese can be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It is Il Grande Formaggio, the King of Cheeses (actual nickname). Its rind alone is an umami-laden talisman, yielding soups and stews richer and deeper than you thought possible.

But there are others in this family of hard Italian cheeses that are more than respectable in their own right, not quite as pricey, and usually parked right next to the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Parmesan (two different things) at the grocery store.”

The site continues to explain that while you might say “Parmesan” and think of the real-deal Italian cheese, what’s labeled “Parmesan” or even “Parmigiano” in U.S. stores can be any cow’s milk cheese with a “hard and brittle rind” and “granular texture” that “grates readily,” the FDA says. In other words, it’s not necessarily real Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy.

“Under FDA rules, Parmesan doesn’t even have to be made from fresh whole milk. Reconstituted dry milk, skim milk, and/or cream also can be used. Bleaching the milk is allowed, too. As for what’s in the can labeled 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese?

“Also not real Parmigiano-Reggiano and, according to a memorably headlined Bloomberg report, not even 100 percent cheese at all—more like 91 percent; the rest is anti-clumping agents and other additives.”

See, cheese is important to some of us. This is information worth having at the ready when you go to your local cheese shop and are swamped with options.

Chef Brandon will also be creating a smoked pork belly tostada topped with apple fennel slaw, which sounds pretty amazing.

We hear the word “tostada” tossed around frequently, but it often gets confused with tortas, tamales and other types of foldable food items from south of the border. A true tostada is a flat or bowl-shaped tortilla that is deep fried or toasted, then filled with goodness like smoked pork bellies. The word itself means “toasted.”

Tostadas are a staple dish in Mexico and the American Southwest. You can put anything in these little suckers, from octopus to refried beans to ceviche.

Fennel is a very fragrant yellow flower found in the parsley family that is extensively cultivated in the United States, France, India and Russia. Some say that fennel protects against aging as it is a natural skin care ingredient, some say it protects against cancer as it contains an anti-inflammatory phytonutrient called anethole which is believed to stop some cancer cells from growing. Legend has it fennel can soothe colicky babies, relieve cramps, reduce obesity and prevent osteoporosis.

Wow. Hope Chef Andy puts a whole lotta fennel in his apple fennel slaw!

To top off his Taste table Chef Andy will be serving an orange olive cake with strawberries and almonds. You might ask who puts oranges and olives together, as it sounds infinitely stranger than apples and oranges, but the use of olive oil in cooking began in the Mediterranean and has become very popular in our country. It is a much healthier choice than butter or vegetable oil, and because olive oil is a natural emulsifier it improves the texture and moisture of a cake, and a cake baked with olive oil will rise higher than one made with butter.

We are looking forward to tasting this at The Taste … aren’t you?

Next week will be our final installment in the Taste of Boca menu breakdown. See you then!