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Thursday, July 2, 2015

June Meeting of the Southwest Florida Chefs ACF Chapter

The American Culinary Federation  (ACF) is a group of chefs and food industry professionals. ACF has almost 18,000 members and 200 chapters in the U.S. Their mission is education, certification, scholarship and inclusion in international competition.

The chapter in Fort Myers, FL is ACF Southwest Florida Chefs. Almost every month they hold a chapter meeting. This one was unique in that it was held at the Mermaid Spice Corporation in Fort Myers. 


The owner and his story are very interesting but more on that later. It must have been over 100 degrees that day but a number of people donated their time and goods to feed those at the meeting.

Blue Crawfish Catering brought their food truck




 and generously provided shrimp and crawfish Etoufee,



Jambalaya



and chicken and sausage Gumbo.



Fontanini provided a number of meats for attendees including Chivalini sausage and pot roast,



breakfast sausage and meatballs



and beef Brisket and cheeses for sliders.



To help wash all this down, Fat Point Brewing



and Old Soul Brewing



poured samples of their beers.

We then got a tour of the spice company by the owner, Mike Assad.



Mike is from Morocco, and his family has been in the spice trade since the middle of the 19th century. After becoming a mechanical engineer and food chemist, he landed in Fort Myers and starting processing spices and spice blends in the 1980's.

We talked a bit about spices and as with any plant, Terroir, or the interaction of the environment with plant genetics plays a big role in the quality of the end product. For example, cinnamon from Sri Lanka comes from some trees that are 500 years old, fetching $300 per pound while other cinnamon sells for $1. The best Saffron comes from Iran and that grown in Spain regarded as a cut below.

I asked Mike if one wanted to get into this business how long it would take to know what you were doing. He told me 7-10 years!

He then showed us where his spices are ground and processed,



mixed





and packaged.



where else around here can you find 40 gallon barrels of steak seasoning

 or smoked Paprika.


At the end of the meeting was an awards ceremony


and everyone was given a gift bag with some mermaid spice blends.


Another evening of fun and food and another post on Forks.


Mermaid Spice Corp.
5702 Corporation Cir.
Fort Myers, FL 33905
(239)693-1986

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pig Roast at Cafe Figaro



is a restaurant located in the Wiggins Pass Crossing Plaza


in north Naples, FL. It's a bit hard to find as it's located behind the buildings in the plaza that are adjacent to U.S. Route 41. The restaurant specializes primarily in Mediterranean Cuisine.

They have an outside


and of course an indoor dining area that was very pleasant.



A friend ate there the other day and told me what a great meal they had.  After going to Figaro's Website, I saw they have an all you can eat pig roast every last Sunday of the month that runs from 12-5 P.M. As it had been many moons since I have had roast pig, I could not resist.

The pig is cooked on a rotisserie and I tried to get there early to get a peek. I was just on time.


The owner was very proud of the fruits of his labor and rightly so.


The meal also included Shopska Salad (Figaro Salad)


which was a delicious mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, bell pepper, Feta cheese, parsley and an Apple Cider Vinaigrette.

Baked beans


bread


and really great Scalloped Potatoes


accompanied an almost endless amount of roast pig.


I love Pork Belly and one of the best things I thought about this meal was literally Ad Libitum portions of pork skin.

This was a really great brunch, one of the best I have eaten in the area.


It is also unique as I do not know of any other restaurant in town that has roast pig on a regular basis. At $15.00 it is an unbelievable bargain.

I understand they will also be having their pig roast this July 4th.

Would I go back? Most definitely; and running back.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Cafe Figaro
13510 Tamiami Tr. N.
Naples, FL 34110
(239)594-2000.
Naples,FL 34110    

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blu Again

Blu Sushi is having a 13th anniversary celebration for lunch all summer long. It's all you can eat from their endless blu menu for $13.00, a real bargain. Lunch is served from 11:30 A.M.-2 P.M. (last order by 2:15) at their Mcgregor Blvd. and the new First St. location in downtown Fort Myers, FL. I wrote about this lunch special almost 2 years ago. It's exactly the same and every bit as good. Enjoy!

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One of the locations of Blu Sushi is in Fort Myers. They are located in Cypress Square at the corner of Cypress Lakes Dr. and McGregor Ave.

They have an all you can eat lunch special that is offered from 11:30 to 2:30 every day that they are open. If you peruse their extensive food and drink menu (Blu Sushi) you will find this special known as endless blu. Besides having good sushi, the ambience is pretty cool. It sort of has this South Beach club feel to it. If that's the vibe you get when you're here your impressions are correct. Thursday through Saturday they have a DJ in the evenings who rocks the house well past when the food stops being served until 1 A.M.

If you choose, you can sit outside to eat.
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As you enter, you encounter the bar

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and then enter the dining area

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to be seated at a nicely appointed table.

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Once your order is taken, the sushi chefs perform their craft.

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You are limited to two items per person/order and must finish these to place another order.

I started off with seaweed salad. The citrus note left by the lemon slices was good, and a flavor combination unknown to me until then. The new age music flowing through the restaurant was a nice accompaniment.

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 Round two was a spicy tuna roll and a sugar mama roll.

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The spicy tuna roll is made so because of a blend of mayonnaise and sriracha (Sriracha Sauce). It is finished with a dusting of sesame seeds.  The sugar mama roll is fried krab stick, cream cheese, avocado then finished with smelt roe (Everything You Wanted to Know About Smelt). The rolls were good, and the mayo and cream cheese definitely added to the richness of the rolls. My personal choice is a leaner, lower-octane variety.

The third order was a find what baby roll and two pieces of tuna sushi.

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The what baby roll consisted of salmon, scallions, asparagus and cream cheese. Then the roll is tempura (Tempura) fried, and finished with eel sauce (Eel Sauce). Both were good. Even though I generally avoid all that's fried, this was pretty good.

Somehow still having room left to eat more, I finished up with a mexican roll and two pieces of escolar (Escolar) sushi.

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The mexican roll had fried shrimp, avocado and was finished with smelt roe. Loved the presentation on this. The escolar was, as always quite tasty.

I originally was going to meet a friend here but my dining companion canceled due to a migraine headache. Poor thing! I originally thought the lunch ended at 2 P.M. and arrived late at 1:30. With such little perceived time, I really had to put it away to be able to order enough food to blog about and give the sushi chefs enough preparation time. I can tell you I ended up leaving feeling like I just ate Thanksgiving dinner.

Would I go back? Yes.



Well that's that. Another meal on forks.

Blu Sushi
13451 McGregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919
(239)489-1500
BLU Sushi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Windows on Wine

Hey all you Oenophiles! There is a new wine blog out there by retired Master Sommelier Barrie Larvin, a local resident. It's called Windows on Wine. Look for some great upcoming information on anything wine-related that will no doubt enhance your enjoyment and appreciation of wines. We are very lucky to have knowledge and talent such as this locally and luckier still to be able to share in that on the Larvin's blog.

Cheers!






Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June Meeting of the ACF Naples Chefs

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is a professional culinary organization with over 200 chapters and close to 20,000 members. It is the largest professional culinary organization in North America. It's membership consists of chefs, other food industry professionals, enthusiasts and certainly a food blogger or two.

ACF offers educational, training, certification and charitable resources to members. Additionally, they publish a number of online periodicals such as The National Culinary Review, and provide member discounts on various Goods and Services.

One of the chapters in Southwest Florida is the ACF Caxambas Chapter of Naples and Marco Island, or ACF Naples Chefs (ACFNC). With the exception of most winter months, ACFNC holds a monthly chapter meeting. These consist of a social/networking hour, followed by a discussion of chapter business and an educational component followed by a very nice sit down dinner.

This month's meeting was held at The Spring Run Golf Club in Bonita Springs, FL.


Social hour was great, and the Joint was Jumpin'.



This was in part due to the menu that evening, which was very much over the top.

I loved the presentations for the social hour. Cornet-esq containers were filled with Charcuterie,


veggies with Hummus,


Koolickles, or picked vegetables soaked in Kool-Aid


and Jicama Fries, though these were cooked in lime juice.


Some very tasty sandwiches were next.


These were grilled cheese sandwiches, but with Taleggio cheese (sort of an Italian Brie), venison Brisket, apricot/caper spread and pecan-raisin bread.

Pork Belly Hash was served with melted Raclette or Gruyere cheeses


and Lamb Belly on rosemary skewers with Micro Tangerine Lace/Mint Microgreens and Aji Amarillo-flavored Creme Fraiche.



There were also a variety of tropical and florida-grown fruit presentations like Mamey Sapote Ice Cream,


a beautifully carved watermelon full of carbonated fruit, the carbonation coming from dry ice,


candied Breadfruit (candied by cooking in Hot Tamale Candy) as well as Papaya or Mango shakes,




roasted Quince with rosemary and pine nuts and


Sangria with compressed melons. What is that you may ask? Before adding the fruit they compress the melon in some of the sangria. This helps the fruit absorb the flavor and stops it from getting mushy after it's been added. It's nice chatting with a chef from time to time!


Lychees, Rambutans and pickled Starfruit finished off this culinary Tour de Force of tropical fruits.



I was beginning to know what it felt like to live in The Palace of Versailles before the French Revolution!

The educational component of the meeting that evening was certification.

How does one become a chef? From what I am told, in the old days one could be self taught because all that was expected of a chef was to cook. That has changed with most professions including the culinary arts. Now chefs are expected to know about other matters including personnel management, accounting, nutrition, food safety and sanitation. One can learn these skills through cooking school, but a  full course of study at Le Cordon Bleu or the Culinary Institute of America is about $50,000 and $130,000, respectively.

ACF Certification costs much less than a cooking school, though there can be a bit of "sweat equity" in the certification process.

Here is a flow chart of the various certification levels,



the requirements,


 (CEH=Culinary Education Hours)

and the costs.



Once pre-approval requirements are met, applicants must take a written and practical exam.

Here is a sample from the Certified Executive Chef written exam,



and a video from a practical Master Chef exam (this video may be too large to play on mobile devices, 17 MB).


video

Well, all this talk about certification made me hungry as I'm sure everyone else was.


The starter was a Peruvian-influenced salad.



Here is how the Sous Chef, Jorge Villagomez, described it. "The spring roll had a blend of sauteed garlic, onions, jalapeño pepper, bell pepper, lime juice and  Aji Amarillo paste mixed with cabbage along with two aji marinated grouper cheeks. The salad was a take on a Criolla salsa which is thin red onion, lime juice, Aji Amarillo, and Ricotto pepper.  I added some minced garlic, micro cilantro, tangerine lace microgreens, and fried broccoli.  There was also a lightly fried grouper cheek accompanying the plate."

The entree was a Veal and Pork cheek dish.



Again Chef Jorge describes. "The second course was veal and pork cheek braised for 12 hrs at 156 in our CVAP oven. The veal cheek was served as is, the pork cheek was sautéed with pork belly, garlic, shallots, and grilled asparagus over a parsnip purée, topped with lightly fried onion straws, Cabernet Demi and micro arugula." Wow!

Dessert was a combination of a Panna Cotta and Tres Leche Cake with mamey sapote ice cream. As I took my last bite of dessert I closed my eyes and for a second really thought I was in Versailles.



Hats off to Chef Jorge and Executive Chef Steve Joynt for this wonderful meal. Additionally, thanks to the food purveyors, The Port Royal Trading Company, Cheney Brothers, Happy Foods of Southwest Florida, Halpern's and Swiss Chalet Fine Foods. This event would not have been possible without their largesse.

A member chef said those that host these monthly meetings put their best foot forward. Complete understatement.

Another totally over the top meal and another post on Forks.


ACF Caxambas Chapter of Naples & Marco Island (ACF Naples Chefs)
President Chas Tatigian, CEC
PO Box 855
Naples, FL 34106
239.304.6045