Have you tried … Taste of Boca Part II

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE     

This week our taste buds turn to wonderful things such as such as sliders, somosas, salmon roulade and seafood. This is the second installment of three in our “Taste of Boca” menu series, which explains some of the things you might be eating if you stop by there on Monday, Feb. 6 at the Boca Bay Pass Club. The event is one of the biggest fundraisers in island history, and it benefits the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.

Here are a few more offerings that will be found at this year’s Taste.

Farlow’s on the Water
2080 S McCall Rd, Englewood
(941) 474-5343
Chef John Mazza Appetizer: A finely diced Gulf cobia filet marinated and chilled in freshly-squeezed lime juice with chopped tomato, avocado, onion and fresh cilantro. Entree: Mojo pork Jicama sliders: Straight from the island of Cuba. Pork shoulder marinated for 24 hours with mojo and Caribbean spices, then slow roasted and topped with house-made jicama slaw and placed on a brioche bun. Dessert: Farlow’s tiramisu Chef Mazza is back on the Taste scene this year with his cobia filet appetizer and a jicama slider entrée. The Farlow’s booth is always popular, as Farlow’s is truly one of the consistently best restaurants in our area. They come to this event not so much to offer a taste of some of their best dishes, but to literally feed their patrons a meal. This year they did not disappoint, as they’re serving an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. Hats off, Chef Mazza. The cobia is one of those fish you have to get to know if you’ve never eaten it. They are big fish, reaching sometimes up to 170 pounds. They are often mistaken for sharks because of their body traits, but they have way more social anxiety disorders than most sharks. Cobia are actually solitary fish, which makes them hard to find as they don’t socialize in packs or pods like other fish. Of course during spawning they suddenly find their voice, but isn’t that like a lot of introverts? They are also snowbirds, wintering in Florida and summering in Massachusetts, so they get a lot of flack down here and find it hard to socially compete up in Nantucket. They are delicious though, no matter what their social status is or how many times they have dined at Greydon House. The cobia will be marinated in lime juice, tomato, avocado, onion and cilantro. That last one, cilantro, is truly a gift from the gods. Its actual origin is unknown, but it is heavily used in the Middle East, in Latin America and parts of Asia. This sweet, pungent herb was referenced 31 times in the Bible, and is used as an aid to digestion. That might explain why it’s popular on tacos. Our entrée from Farlows is straight from Cuba. Mojo pork jicama sliders start out with a good marinade bath of mojo and Caribbean spices for a full day and night, then are slow roasted until the meat falls from the bone. Jicama (pronounced HEE-kuh-muh) is a vine with a tuber root that grows in central America, scientific name Pachyrhizus erosus. It is also known as Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip. It has a bit of a subtle, sweet flavor and could easily be used as a cabbage substitute in many dishes. That’s exactly what Chef Mazza will be doing for you at Taste. By the way, don’t think the food has a curse cast upon it with a name like “mojo” marinade. It is a Portuguese word in origin and it simply means “sauce.” It originated in the Canary Islands, which is fortuitous because we all know how little yellow birds love their spicy food. There’s a lot of pepper in it, some paprika, cumin, garlic, onion, lime and orange. When you read those ingredients and think of what it tastes like, you’re right. It does not necessarily contain a magic charm, but it certainly has its own appeal. Chef will finish his offering with a dessert of tiramisu. While many people have had the dish, not as many know what it is made of. Commonly tiramisu is a coffee-flavored dessert made from ladyfingers dipped in coffee, then layered with whipped eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese. It is also flavored with cocoa. It’s creator, Robert Linguanatto, realized that the name “linguini” had already been taken so he was bummed. Ironically he named his dish “tiramisu” instead, which means a “pick-me-up” or “cheer-me-up” in Italian (the first part of that was totally false, but that is what tiramisu means). If you use good strong Italian coffee and do this dish right, it is certainly something that would cheer up the common man. Chef Mazza is known for doing it right, so make sure you try the tiramisu.

Fusion
5800 Gasparilla Road Boca Grande
(941) 964-4443
Chef San Jay Patel Indian creations including: – Samosas: A crispy and spicy Indian snack with a crisp outer layer made of Maida and rich filling of mashed potato, pea and spice – vegetable or chicken – Chicken tikka: Boneless, skinless chicken marinated in Indian spices and yogurt Thai creations including: – Moodang – Lean pork loin marinated in Asian sauces – Chicken quesadilla Sushi creations including: – California roll: Crab, avocado and cucumber – Spicy tuna roll The island’s newest dining spot is Fusion, and they’ve picked a great first venue in which to explode onto the scene. Three offerings – Indian, Thai and sushi in nature – will be gracing the Fusion table at Taste this year. Let’s start with Samosas. This is a fried or baked little triangle-shaped pocket of goodness with a savory filling which can include anything from potatoes to macaroni noodles or meat. Chef Patel has chosen mashed potatoes, peas and spices, along with your choice of vegetables or chicken. The outer layer of these samosas will be made of Maida flour, which is a bit like Wonder Bread is to our culture. Maida flour is highly refined and is made by removing the bran from the wheat and using only the endosperm (stop it, that’s not naughty). The origin of samosas is not actually Indian, but Middle Eastern. They are Persian and their name comes from the Persian word “Sanbosag.” People were writing reviews of this particular food back in the 11th century, when they were served as snacks in the Ghaznavid Empire court. It became an Indian favorite after waves of immigrants descended from Persia into Central Asia, then to India where today it is a popular street vendor food. Chef Patel will also be making Chicken Tikka, which is chicken with no skin marinated in spices and yoghurt. Good stuff. For his Thai creations Chef Patel will be focusing on Moo Dang, which is also known as “red pork.” After all, “moo” means pork … doesn’t that make sense to us in America where cows moo and pigs do not? Perhaps in Thailand they do? The word “Dang” means “red,” so if you tell someone you love Dang hair they’ll probably be really confused but that doesn’t make it any less funny. Chef Patel will also be offering his own version of chicken quesadillas in the Thai genre, and for good measure he will create some California rolls and spicy tuna rolls for all of you sushi fans out there. It’s interesting to note that in a country where it’s the latest trend to eat raw sea creatures but not so much raw chicken, pigs or cows, it’s all about the sinew. That’s why our brains tell us that eating raw fish is pleasurable. While land animals are full of cartilage and sinew that needs to be cooked to be not as detectable to the palate, fish don’t have that problem. Cartilage is a big factor in the whole “mouthfeel” pleasure. Imagine if that lfirm, pink salmon meat in your sushi contained a foot or so of twine? Nah, let’s not. Fish don’t have much sinew, they’re primarily made of soft meat you can almost stick your finger through. The softest part of all is the fish belly because they don’t have to keep themselves upright. They also slack on the crunches, from what I’ve heard. Some speculate it’s because fish are lazier than earth animals, as all they do is float. I tend to find this presumption factual, but still a little bigoted. After all, not all of us can work out on a daily basis. I mean, we have lives, right? Stop pressuring us!

The Grapevine Gourmet & Gift
321 Park Avenue, Boca Grande
(941) 964-0614
Chef Patty Kitchen and Manager Lora Barmann Smoked salmon roulade, jambalaya & yellow rice, Patty’s special Mason jar salad and Louis Sherry chocolate truffles Every year that I have gone to Taste I have stalked The Grapevine’s booth. I could live on cubes of cheese, fish paste and Louis Sherry chocolates if I had to, and even amidst a sea of some of the finest food on earth I still want to eat a block of cheese. My American genetics are that strong. Chef Patty is a miraculous woman who creates some of the most wonderful dishes I have ever had (yes, aside from cheese – she doesn’t make the cheese). As far as her salmon roulade, I don’t have her secret recipe but I know it is made in a roll, then chopped into portions that look a bit like sushi pieces. Of course the word “roulade,” pronounced roo-laad, is French in origin and it literally means “the act of rolling.” Chef Patty’s special Mason jar salad is a lunchtime phenom when it is served. This dish is served in a Mason jar as you might expect, and inside are layers and layers of goodness. People love this salad, no holds barred. If you get to the shop around 10:30 a.m. and you’re looking for lunch you’ll have to get in line behind the others, and it could possibly turn into a cage match with a competitor for the last jar. I wanted to wax philosophical for a moment about the coveted Louis Sherry Chocolate. If you have never had one, you must. You haven’t lived yet, essentially. The tins the chocolates come in are reason enough to buy them from time to time, but the chocolates are some of the best. When I was young we used to stop in Water Tower Place, a mall in downtown Chicago, just to buy one or two pieces of Godiva. Now I have a place right down the street where I can buy one anytime I want! Life is good in Boca Grande. Louis Sherry started making his French chocolates in New York in 1881, and his key to success was being dedicated to absolute excellence. Whether the ingredients come from Ecuador or Madagascar, there is no skimping … and that is as it should be with chocolate. You can find many flavors of these chocolates, including coffee, Jamaican rum, Mexican vanilla, toffee, hazelnut, Sicilian orange and strawberry Romanoff. Did I mention the tins they come in at The Grapevine? They may not have them at Taste, but you need to go to the store and check them out for yourself if you are like me – a big fan of cassiterite square holding facilities mined from the crust of the earth.

Howard’s Restaurant
70 N. Indiana Ave. Englewood
(941) 473-0171
Chef Cyndi Sterling Ceviche Appetizer: Fresh shrimp and crab marinated in lime juice with tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, mango and onions. Mini Chocolate Cheesecake Tasting: House-made cheesecake, chocolate and caramel syrup topped with crushed pecans, chocolate morsels and whipped cream. Ceviche (pronounced Se-BEE-chay) is an amazing seafood dish that usually features seafood. Many think the Moors from Grenada created the dish, but Spanish conquistadors put their own twist on the dish and kind of claimed it as well. Some say the name came from the Latin word “cibus,” which means “food for men and animals.” Other’s say the word came from a Spanish-Arabic language and was originally “assukkabáǧ,” which means “meat cooked in vinegar.” Others still say the word ceviche came from Middle Persia where “sikbāg” was used to define the dish, with “sik” meaning “vinegar” and “bag” meaning “soup.” The latter is usually the one that historians refer to. All three are interesting. The dish was being served in northern Peru 2,000 years ago, if that tells you anything. Most Latin countries now have their own slightly-different take on the dish and it has become very popular. Chef Cyndi will be making it her own with a special marinade. For dessert she will serve a cheesecake make special to Howard’s, with chocolate and caramel syrup, topped with pecans, more chocolate and a little whipped cream. You would think we couldn’t find anything to make a big deal about when it comes to cheesecake, but oh how wrong you are. It has a truly fascinating history. It is believed the first cheesecake was made more than 4,000 years ago, believe it or not. Greek folks apparently had a craving for something subtle, yet creamy to roll around on their tongue and yogurt just wasn’t cutting it. Over on the island of Samos researchers have found cheese molds that were pretty ancient, and they had good cause to believe they were the first “cheese cakes.” It was documented in 776 B.C. that Greek athletes were given cheesecake during the first Olympic games, and brides and grooms in Greece ate cheesecake as wedding cake. The first cheesecakes weren’t quite the same as ours. They were simply flour, wheat, honey and cheese formed into a cake and dried. You can be guaranteed Chef Cyndi’s cheesecake will not be following those standards. According to an epicurious site called cheesecake.com, cheesecake was considered to be a spoil of war when the Romans conquered Greece. You can bet they swarmed that recipe like your grandma’s neighbor did at the county fair last year. However, the Romans started to get jiggy with it and added eggs and crushed – not pounded – cheese. When the Europeans got a hold of the recipe they did what they always do … they did everything in their power to make it as tasty and fat as they could, until it was what you know as cheesecake today.

Libby’s Café + Bar/ Louie’s Modern/MUSE Sarasota
(941) 487-7300
Chef Fran Casciato Louie’s Modern – Vegan carpaccio: beet /sunchoke/fennel/ chilied lime vinaigrette Libby’s Cafe + Bar – Meunster Mac: creamy shells/parmesan/ bacon & goldfish crust Louie’s Modern, Libby’s Café and MUSE have been coming to Taste for many years, which makes sense because their owner has strong island ties. Stephen Seidensticker is from the island, even though he now is a very successful restauranteur in Sarasota. Vegan Carpaccio (car-PAH-chee-oh or, in some cases, carr-PAH-choh) is on the menu from Louie’s Modern. It is, of course, normally made with meats such as beef or fish that is served with a vinaigrette or other piquant sauce, but sometimes it’s really OK to take a breather from the meat. I myself limit my meat intake to those days that end with a “y” and it seems to be working so far. Carpaccio is alleged to have come from a a place called Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy in 1961. We’re thinking at the time Harry thought he was getting away with a slick one by serving such thinly-sliced beef, but maybe he was just health-minded as well. Who knows. When you take the “f” out of beef you get “bee.” Then you add a “t” and you get beet. That’s how Chef Fran rolls; he will be using them as a meat substitute in his carpaccio. He also adds sunchoke, which is also called “Jerusalam artichoke.” It’s not an artichoke, though; it’s actually part of the sunflower family. Sunchoke has a nutty taste that is pleasing to many, particularly to Native Americans. They use it in cooking to this day, and grew it long before the colonists arrived. The dish is completed with some chilled lime vinaigrette and a bit of fennel. Did you know flies don’t like fennel? It’s true, they have a total aversion to it. I know that seems odd, considering their every day diet can include waste matter … but hey, everyone has that one thing they don’t like. Fennel is also believed to help eyesight, increase strength, attract success and help in digestion.

Loose Caboose Restaurant
433 4th St W Boca Grande (941) 964-0440
Chef Jacques Boudreau Seafood Crepes Bread pudding with cinnamon brandy Glaze Chef Jacques had me at crepes. He is a great cook who likes to keep things simple, yet unique, so no doubt his version of seafood crepes will be talked about for weeks after Taste. Crepes originated in France and the word is derived from the Latin “curled.” Their home region is actually Brittany, in the northwest region of France. Back then they were also called “galettes,” which means “flat cakes.” According to a web site called “Monique’s Crepes,” this delicacy was originally made with buckwheat. In 12th century Breton buckwheat grew prolifically, and people form the region called it “Sarrasin” or “blé noir” which translates to “black wheat.” Ironically, crepes are served in France on February 2 on a holiday known as Fête de la Chandeleur, or Fête de la Lumière, or “jour des crêpe.” That’s just a few days before Taste occurs, so let’s show those French people how to truly appreciate a crepe.15 Chef Jacques will also be preparing a bread pudding that isn’t just any bread pudding. He has a secret recipe handed down through the ages, from the first Chef Jaques who ever walked upright and cooked over fire. OK, that might have been embellishment but it is true that he makes a a great bread pudding. The idea originated in 11th or 12th century England, where frugal cooks used their stale bread bits, milk or cream and sometimes eggs to whip up something that could be either sweet or savory. Chef Jacques is pulling out the stops with the cinnamon brandy glaze, so he’s definitely going for sweet with this.

You’ll have to stop by Taste and find out!