Taste of Boca – Part III

February 1, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
Here we are, mere days before the 2019 “Taste of Boca Grande,” and I’ll bet you haven’t bought your tickets yet, have you? Have you even shined your dancing shoes or pegged out another notch in your belt? Now is the time to do these things.
Just a reminder about the Brett Foreman Band performing at “Taste,” which will be on Monday, Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. in tents at the Boca Bay Pass Club. They proved themselves very worthy and danceable at last year’s event, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Many thanks must go out to all of the volunteers who make “Taste” happen every year, especially Kathy Hawken and Nick Kaiser. They work so hard.
Coral Creek Club
13111 Gasparilla Rd., Placida
Chef Timothy Fain
Rhode Island “Stuffies”: House-cured bacon, chorizo, homemade clam broth, artisan cheese; Louisiana smoked brisket
“Sayyyyy, I took the bullrake down to the watah this mornin’. Got a fine bunch of cherrystones, come on by for a beah latah, De boatayuz.”
If you speak Rhode Island, you know what that means. Someone went down and got some little clams at the shore, and they want company later on … that includes “the both of you.”
Stuffed clams have been a signature dish from Rhode Island – a state with a tiny area but a huge amount of flavor – for a long time. Rhode Islanders call them “stuffies,” which means they bake up chopped clam (often cherrystones or quahogs) and a bread stuffing on the grill or the fire pit.
For such a small state, there are many flavors of stuffies. You have your Silver Lake stuffies, which have been served there since 1970 and used to cost $2 a dozen. Then there is the International Quahog Festival, held in Wickford, R.I. for almost two decades. Thousands of people would come to pay their respects to an often-maligned shellfish featured in a stuffie contest.
Chef Fain will be using some of the finest ingredients for his stuffies, including some tasty bacon, some spicy sausage (chorizo), his homemade clam broth and some pretty fancy cheese.
Yep, Rhode Island stuffies are popular everywhere, but especially in The Ocean State, from Hartford to East Grenwich, or “Eas’ Grennich,” as they say … witches may live there, but they’re not pronounced.
If you haven’t heard of chorizo, or “chouriço,” it is spicy sausage that is cased in the intestines of the animal from whence it came. This has been happening since Roman times, so don’t think the Scots have the market cornered on eating strange meat encased in intestines.
The meat is fermented, cured and smoked before it is ready to go. The Spanish like to use red peppers in their chorizo, so if you see a reddish color you’ll know what it is. There are many native Floridians (and a few who aren’t) who hunt wild hogs here, and they quite often take the gamier cuts of meat and make them into chorizo.
Types of chorizo have been found in all parts of the world, including India, Asia, Central and South America and the Philippines. It can also be commonly found in states such as Louisiana, which leads us to Chef Fain’s next offering – his Louisiana smoked brisket.
The word “brisket” is a term derived from the Middle English “brisket,” which comes from the earlier Old Norse “brjósk,” meaning “cartilage.” The cut overlies the sternum, ribs, and connecting costal cartilages of the cow. It is cooked low and slow and usually basted frequently, as this normally tough cut of meat needs a little connective tissue tenderizing. The longer it cooks, the more the sinew gelatinizes. Some chefs also leave the fat cap on the big chunk of meat, which helps to keep the meat from drying out while cooking for hours.
In the words of one culinarian, “Brisket is one nasty cut of meat. It will fight you ferociously as you try to tame it. Once you do, though, it lays down like a cuddly puppy and rewards you with a big, delicious hug.”
FUSION Restaurant
5800 Gasparilla Road
Chef Alex King
Tuna Poke, Scallop Ceviche and Steak Seviche
According to the food historians, the poke we know and love became popular around the 1970s. Often served with Hawaiian salt, seaweed and roasted, ground nut meat (ask first before you try it if you have allergies), poke is all the rave in the health food crowd. One site I found even said, “Poke is one of freshest, tastiest, healthiest new food trends around. You can consume four ounces of poke for just under 150 calories, only 5 grams of fat and 24 grams of protein.”
In other words, it’s pretty healthy to get a poke now and again. But I digress …
Poke is a Hawaiian term which means to slice or cut raw fish crosswise into pieces. The two primary types of poke are aku (a type of tuna) and he’e (octopus). Sometimes people use salmon, too. Chef King will be using tuna for his poke.
As a sidenote, keep in mind that the pronunciation of the word is “poh-kay,” not “poke.” Hawaiians have lost count of the hours they have spent explaining this to visitors.
Chef King’s ceviche game is strong – so strong, in fact, that he’s bringing out the double-barreled scallop and steak ceviche surprise. You can spell it “ceviche” or “sebiche,” as both are  correct and interchangeable. However, the Washington Post took a lot of flak from the culinary community when they published an article using the spelling “seviche,” which apparently is also correct but only in certain countries.
The Post said the Royal Spanish Academy prefers the spelling “cebiche” and gives it roots to the words “assukkabag” (NOT profanity, but wow, it looks like it) and “sikbag,” (also a pretty strange-looking food term), which mean, respectively “a dish of cooked fish marinated in vinegar” and “a dish of sweet and sour stewed beef.”
The poor writers at the Post went rounds over this, so let’s give this dilemma a moment of silence.

OK, we’re back.
They say that if it is spelled “seviche” in a recipe, it is probably from Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico or Peru. Spaniards who brought citrus fruit to Europe are thought to have possibly discovered the dish in the Moorish culture, but most people know the history as Peruvian in origin.
We know that steak can be eaten flat-out raw if you’re a boxer or a lion, but what about scallops? Does the citrus juice really get it cooked well enough to be safe? Yes, say chefs. If the fish is fresh when put in the juice, you’re good to go, with no problems.
One of the most prominent tastes in a lot of ceviche is the cilantro. If you like it, you love it. If you don’t like it, you really don’t like it. So be prepared for that if you’re trying this dish. Other flavorings used in ceviche are chopped onion, salt and occasionally chili peppers.
Placida Grill
8501 Placida Rd., Placida
Chef Susie Gordon
Kobe beef short rib seared on a Himalayan salt block over potato cake and finished with a truffled Béarnaise; mini German chocolate cake, mini salted Irish creme brûlée
The popularity of Placida Grill has skyrocketed over the last few years. Ask any of your friends who eat there regularly what their favorite dish is, and more than likely each of them will give you a different answer … the menu there is that good. Chef Susie is that good. It’s all … good.
Know what else is good? Kobe beef. Yes sir, if you like to partake of the cow, then Kobe is what you wake up in a cold sweat about. You know those delicious, fleeting dreams that start to leave your collective consciousness as soon as you open your eyes? It’s hurtful to have the taste of this fleshy goodness on your tongue but for a brief, dreamy moment, only to have it slip away.
The history of beef in Japan is a rocky one. Prior to 1868 most Japanese held the Buddhist belief that humans were often reincarnated as animals, making it illegal to eat the four-legged in some places. The Shinto belief that eating the flesh of dead animals made one impure also played a part in this. But in 1868 the port city of Kobe became an international port of call, and foreign visitors were not down in any way with not eating some cow from time to time. The ban on eating them was lifted then in most places. To further that along, just after World War II Americans started a school food program for Japanese children. Guess what they served? Yes, bovine flesh. You can be sure the kids who tried it were seriously impressed, having eaten fish for most of their lives.
There is confusion about the difference between Wagyu beef and Kobe beef, too. Beef from Japan was illegal to import here years ago after a mad cow outbreak there, but now there are a few restaurants that serve 100 percent real Kobe. Most serve Wagyu. According to Chef Gerald Chin, here is the explanation: “Wagyu is a beef that comes from one of four breeds of Japanese cows, but are Wagyu and Kobe actually the same thing? The answer is yes and no. All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. Wagyu just means Japanese beef. You can’t call something Kobe unless it’s certified from the region in Japan. If you call the other Wagyus Kobe, it’s pretty much like calling California sparkling wine champagne.”
According to Japanese cattle producers, in order to be called Kobe beef in the most proper sense of the word, the cows must come from the Tajima-gyu breed of cow. Those cows have to be born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo district of Japan. Kobe is the largest city in that district.
So, why is Chef Susie searing this cow on a Himalayan salt block? Is that kind of like those crazy salt lamps? Actually it is. The lamps and the salt block are both from Himalaya, and they both are purported to have spiritual powers. The salt lamp allegedly takes in moisture and other matter from the air, and when heated it releases water vapor back into the room full of positively charged ions. The salt cooking slab not only works the same way (allegedly), it also keeps a stabilized, radiating heat after being warmed and adds natural salt to your food. The slabs are quite popular in kitchens all over the world.
Chef Susie will finish the Kobe with a truffled Béarnaise sauce. Many people wonder what the difference is between a Hollandaise and a Béarnaise sauce. The Hollandaise is created with lemon juice, while Béarnaise takes its acidity from white wine vinegar. Their sister, by the way, is mayonnaise. The key to each of these sibling sauces is to whisk each mixture vigorously while slowly and steadily pouring the other liquids into the bowl.
Truffles are quite expensive, as is truffle oil. It’s one of those splurge items that is definitely worth it, though, if you’re in love with mushrooms and all of their wild, pungent relatives.
Truffles are found underground at the root base of trees, and pigs were once commonly used to find them and dig them up. Now, though, the truffle-hunting animal of choice is the dog. If you can find a dog that can seek out and unearth white Alba truffles (think $2,000 per pound), you have just found yourself a new living, courtesy of your pet. Reasons for the departure from using pigs were easy to identify: They are easily trained to be scent hounds; they have more stamina than pigs; and they don’t want to eat the truffles once they find them. It has been said that those who hunt truffles with pigs often don’t have all their fingers. Have you ever tried to toss your dog a mushroom from the dinner table? They will gladly take it, lick the steak juice off, then spit that fungus out on your carpet at high velocity.
To many humans, though, the taste of fungi is an earthy, dirty, heavenly experience … and truffles are the ultimate prize.
After all of that, you have to have a bit of sweet to balance the savory, and Chef Susie is on it. She will be bringing mini German chocolate cakes and mini salted Irish crème brûlée to the party. German chocolate is a misleading name to many, as it seems to indicate a dish of German origin. In fact, this popular type of chocolate was created by a man named Samuel German in the 1920s. It was originally called German’s sweet chocolate, and that company created the recipe for the first German chocolate cake. This is a rich cake that incorporates caramel-flavored/coconut-infused frosting, three layers and, quite often, nuts.
While crème brûlée is obviously of French origin, if you add a little Bailey’s Irish cream to the mix, you might find yourself speaking with a bit of a brogue.
Prime Time Steak & Spirits
5855 Placida Rd., Englewood
Chef Bill Reid
Mini Ahi tuna tacos: Seared Ahi tuna with vegetable slaw and avocado mousse
Prime Time is known for its Mexican food, so we are really looking forward to this table at “Taste.” What simplicity Chef Reid brings to the mix, yet what perfection. Again we have an Ahi (which means “large tuna,” so saying “large tuna tuna” is a bit redundant) dish … but that dish is tacos, and tacos are GUD. Not good, not GOOD – they are GUD. It was meant to be said a bit gutterally, as your mouth is usually absolutely full of food when someone asks you how they taste.
Chef Bill is making sure we’re getting all of our food groups covered by providing us not only with some good fresh tuna, but also getting some vegetable action in the mix with a nice slaw. He’s also adding one of the best condiments known in all of history, avocado mousse. This is essentially whipped avocado with a bit of cream cheese added, and sometimes a touch of gelatin to keep it off your fingers and on the taco.
Avocados are fascinating little plants (technically berries with a single seed) that are reported to have been consumed by humans since around 5,000 B.C. in Peru. Incan mummies were buried with avocados for goodness’ sake, and can you blame them?
One thing you might now know is that the word “avocado” comes from the Aztec word for “testicle.” There is more to it than that, and a plethora of jokes if you Google what “guacamole” translates to, but I’ll leave that up to you.
Seminole Casino
506 S. 1st St, Immokalee
Sushi
This is the Seminole Casino’s first presentation at “Taste,” and from what we hear it should be a good one. In the three Seminole Casinos in the area (Tampa, east coast, Immokalee), Asian food is a specialty. The one that will be presenting at “Taste” has a restaurant called Lucky Mi Noodle House, which serves good, fresh sushi, pan-Asian and Vietnamese food.
In case you’ve ever wondered, the word “sushi” has nothing to do with raw fish, but instead means “it’s sour” in Japanese. That refers to the vinegared rice which tops the ingredients.
South Beach Bar and Grille
760 Gulf Blvd., Boca Grande
Chef Osmar Orozimbo,
Chef Mimi Carvalho
Limoncello sea scallops: Fresh day boat sea scallops pan-seared with a glaze of fresh garlic, shallots, lemon juice, and butter, finished with a sweet Italian limoncello liqueur; Grouper Gaspar: Black grouper lightly dusted with flour and sautéed with lemon, Pino Gris, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato, garlic and of course, butter, butter and butter
If ever there were a pair that should work together in a kitchen, it is Chef Osmar and Chef Mimi. Their names have become synonymous with fine Southwest Florida dining, and now they work together in one place … on our island!
Have you ever heard of day boat sea scallops? They are known as “dry” scallops, sometimes “diver” scallops, and are harvested in the winter in Maine. To keep the species viable and the populace up, fishermen are allowed to fish only one day at a time for these sweet morsels of the sea, and then they have to return to port within 24 hours. The scallops are immediately shucked and put on ice; they are rarely fully frozen.
Lemon juice, shallots and butter are quite often found in scallop recipes … but limoncello? This is a sweet Italian liqueur from the southern part of the country, and is also called “limoncino.” It is believed to be about 100 years old, and it has a very particular taste, as it contains essential oil of lemon – not just lemon juice. This has some pop, my friends, let me tell you.
Just as Botticelli’s fair maiden in “The Birth of Venus,” many very good things have come from scallop shells. If you’ve never had day boat scallops, you’ll find out just how good those things can be when “Taste” rolls around.
Grouper Gaspar … now that’s a name for a tasty black fish. Black grouper is considered to be one of the best-tasting fishes in the ocean, unequivocally. Its taste has been described as mild, and somewhat like a cross between a bass and a halibut. The meat is firm and holds moisture well. The farther out the black grouper is caught, the firmer the meat will be, as the water is colder and the fish are in more continuous motion. They are big boys and can weigh up to 179 pounds.
This grouper will be finished with a little wine, a little sun-dried tomato and artichoke heart … and a whole lotta buttah.
The Temptation
350 Park Ave., Boca Grande
Chef Kevin Stockdale
Burrata Salad: Burrata cheese with tomatoes and capers, basil, onion, EVOO, and balsamic glaze; blackened tuna with house kimchi sriracha aioli
EVOOOOO. It’s a great word to say. It’s also one of the finest olive oils you can find, and Chef Kevin knows that. When he adds an ingredient, it’s always the best; that’s why The Temp has such a huge following.
This Taste brings to The Temp table a Burrata cheese salad, complete with tomatoes, capers, a little balsamic glaze and, yes … EVOO.
So what makes EVOO so great? The most extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) are squeezed from the olives just one day after they are harvested. One day and no more. No heat or chemicals are used, either. The difference between swiping your bread through plain old olive oil and swiping your bread through an EVOO is vast, really.
Interesting fact: Burrata cheese comes from the Andria region of Italy, and was originally made with buffalo milk. Who knew? It is a pulled cheese, similar to mozzarella, and it is made in a different way. Once the cheese curds and the curds are cooked and divided into little pieces, they are thrown in very hot water and placed in a pouch. Cream is poured in the pouch, the pouch is pinched closed and you then have what looks like a cheese pear.
Burrata has a very fresh, spring-like flavor that many find buttery and mellow. It should serve the dish it is featured in by Chef Kevin very well.
Chef’s blackened tuna aioli will be served with something called kimchi, which many of you may not be familiar with. It might be one of the oldest foods in existence, but can still be found on fermenting racks on rooftops around the world. It has saved many lives with its nutritional content, and is so important to some cultures that brides are required to take a kimchi-making class before they are wed.
Kimchi – which is basically a Korean word for fermented vegetables – will also be in this dish, and has been eaten in Korea since ancient times. It was traced to the period of The Three Kingdoms, to be precise (37 BC – 7 AD). It was a time when a vegetarian diet was very popular (thanks to Buddhism), and the pickling and fermenting of vegetables (not to mention soybean paste and fish) allowed people to keep food stores that lasted them through hot and cold months. Vegetables in the winter when none are to be found growing are invaluable to keeping people healthy.
So if you’re walking through a neighborhood inhabited by a good many Korean people and you smell something odd, it’s probably kimchi rotting up on the roof.
If you are a srirachi aficiando you are most certainly not alone. This sauce has gained a cult following in the last decade, to the point that T-shirts have been made and blogs have been written. Those who love it say you can put sriracha on almost anything and make it palatable (my high school daughter says it even makes high school lunches taste good).
The L.A. Times said it best when they wrote, “Somewhere in the world, there is a Sriracha fan who has turned his beard into a bowl. It sags below his chin in the form of an elongated cup made of wiry brown hairs. He fills the beard bowl with ramen noodles. And before eating them with a pair of wooden chopsticks, he squirts them with Sriracha.”
This sauce was named after a town in Thailand called – you guessed it – Sri Racha. It is believed to have been invented there by a woman named Thanom Chakkapak, and her special recipe sauce is still sold in Thailand today. It is, however, a bit runnier and sweeter than the Sriracha we know and love.
Huy Fong Foods, the maker of our sauce, has never once advertised internationally, yet their sales continue to climb by almost 20 percent each year.
For those who don’t know, it has got some pep to it. Just be prepared.
3rd Street Bistro
310 E. Railroad Ave., Boca Grande Chef Don Kirkley
Mezze Plate: Tzaziki, taboule, hummus and Dolmades spinach and ricotta ravioli; sage butter island ginger cake with sticky toffee sauce
This offering from Chef Kirkley is an interesting one that originated in the Mediterranean as a snack tray. It is more than likely what they served in Turkey or Isreal centuries ago when the Super Bowl was on.
The meaning of the word “mezze” is basically “appetizer” in Greek. The premise behind it is not only to start a meal off right, but to encourage community through plate sharing … apparently they never really gave flu season a second thought back then. You won’t have to share your plate at Taste, so no worries there.
Many of you who are familiar with gyros are familiar with tzatziki sauce: It’s hard to spell but easy to make. Just combine yogurt, garlic and pureed cucumber and you’re all set. Tabouli, or tabbouleh, is believed to have come from Lebanon and is that country’s national dish. It’s ingredients are finely-chopped parsley, tomato, onion, mint and bulgur, and it is seasoned with a lemon-olive oil mix. It is often served on lettuce leaves.
For whatever reason on God’s green earth, in 2009 a team of 350 people worked for more than 10 hours to create the world’s largest bowl of tabouli, weighing 9,532 lb. 12 oz.), thereby breaking (and making) a record in the Guinness World Records.
Hummus – that worldwide favorite dip of mashed chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic and lemon – is on the menu as well. People have been fighting for years over its country of origin, but most believe it comes from 13th-century Egypt. Some say the word “hummus” so closely resembles a similar word in Arabic for the same type of dish, it must be from that culture. If you want to slug it out at Taste over this fact, please sell tickets and let us know in advance.
What is Dolmades spinach? It is also known as “Dolmadakia” spinach, and basically is spinach leaves rolled up with stuff in the middle … like a spinach burrito. That “stuff” can include (but is not limited to) rice, onion, garlic tomato, parsley, mint and other seasonings.
Almost everyone loves a little ricotta cheese lovingly hugged by a tender piece of ravioli. We don’t even need to explain the goodness there.
Chef Kirkley treats us even further by making his sage butter island ginger cake with sticky toffee sauce. This is a classic English dessert with a little tweak by chef to suit his entrée a bit better.
The Waverly Restaurant and Bar
2095 N. Beach Rd., Englewood
Chef Matt Haney
Asian-braised pork belly topped with pickled vegetables; lemon curd tarts with fresh berries
Chef Haney from The Waverly is bringing his Asian-braised pork belly, also known as “Dong Po Rou,” to Taste this year. This dish was created in the late 1200s – in the Song Dynasty – by complete accident. The man who is credited for first making this dish, Su Dong Po, was organizing a banquet in celebration of a massive flood being prevented from wiping out their village. When he told the chef to make “stew pork and wine,” the chef thought he meant the wine should be added to the meat. Po, who was a great writer and famous scholar as well as being a court official, fell to the most common of all human error – miscommunication.
But all was not lost, as the meal was still served to the guests, and much to Po’s delight they loved it. It probably wasn’t until years later he even admitted it was an accident at all.
When the meat is introduced to the wine and it stews for a prolonged period of time, the meat becomes very flavorful and melts in your mouth. The pickled vegetables should accompany the meat very well.
As far as dessert goes, Chef is making a very traditional (and yummy) lemon curd tart. In the late 19th century lemon curd was a very popular accompaniment to scones for afternoon tea. Back then, though, lemon curd was quite a bit more literal in its description that the sweeter variety we know today. In fact, it was the curd that was separated from the whey through cheesecloth, through the use of lemon acidulation.
Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury is credited for one of the first recipes for lemon curd, and it was published in a book written in 1844 called “The Lady’s Own Cookery Book.”
That wraps up your menu for the 2019 Taste of Boca, benefitting the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida. Remember to park responsibly when you come, and look for the Thoroughbred Golf Cart valet service (thank you for that service!) to take you up to the Pass Club. Wear your dancing shoes, your loose-fitting pants and bring your appetite with you … it’s going to be a doozy!