Creating a Stir - 27th Annual Caring Chefs

Wow. Last weekend was one for the books. The 27th Annual Caring Chefs event at The Avenues Mall in Jax - featuring scores of tastings from local restaurants - raised $104,220 for the children and families served by the Children's Home Society of Florida's Buckner Division.  Want an idea of how many people it takes to get a project like this event off the ground? If you were there - congrats for a job well done. If you missed it, get it on your calendar for 2011. Seriously! Check out their list of sponsors and participating restaurants!

I love this event - I always find new places (and old favorites) to visit based on who we met and what we tasted there. Because they cared enough to take time out of their busy weekends to really embrace the spirit of this event, I am looking forward to my next visits to culinary standouts Bistro Aix, Blue Bamboo, bb's, Cafe Nola, The Grape, Galangal Thai, The Reef, Soul Food Bistro, Tacolu - and more! 

Chef Tom Gray and the Crew from Bistro Aix served a luscious lamb risotto  with butternut squash puree - a pure taste of autumn.

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion delighted me by bringing along my new fave appetizer - Golden Lobster Potstickers! According to a fellow taster - it's like a little lobster doused itself in butter and exploded in your mouth.

The folks from The Grape brought these amazing lamb chops and their killer Lobster Mac & Cheese. I almost had to wrestle someone to make sure my friend Jodi from Eat Jax got a taste of this. If you haven't tried it, run, do not walk to The Grape, at the St Johns Town Center.
Shellfish stew from The Reef was salty-sweet and generous. LOVED the brothy, briny goodness.

Taco Lu was out in full force with a fabulous beef taco - such great, fresh flavors. GREAT to see the BEACHES rep'd so nicely there!
Tacolu gets into the spirit with their Dia de los Muertos display. Looking for a place to honor and celebrate lost loved ones this weekend? Taco LU!
bb's proffered this elegant bite of braised meat with pearl barley and pomegranate "risotto" - another harbinger of fall.

Galangal Thai offered tastes of their Chicken Yum Salad and lovely Steamed Sea Bass.

Blue Bamboo's Dennis Chan was serving his Hip Asian Comfort Food - I loved the sweet heat in this cold noodle salad.
Jacksonville Golf and Country Club chefs brought their molecular gastronomy exhibit, and among the standouts in the dessert category was this little semifreddo cone - flash frozen on demand. Yum!

See you next year, beasties!


Farm To Table Dinner - Supporting Beaches Local Food Network

There are a few spots left - Join the Beaches Local Food Network at their Farm To Table Dinner Fundraiser to support their proposed Children's Gardening Program! 

This celebration of local foods will be an evening to remember. The five course meal will be created by five outstanding local chefs using locally-sourced ingredients.  Also included are hors d' oeuvres and organic wines and the opportunity to get to know your farmers personally!

Saturday, November 6th 
Augustine Grille, Sawgrass Marriott 
$150 per person
Supports:  BLFN's Children's Gardening Program
Contact:  Gretchen Ferrell, beachesgreenmarket@yahoo.com; (904) 270-0273


Mambo's Cuban Bistro - Eat Your Heart Out, Fidel.

Thanks to Amy Lyn for recommending this great new Cuban joint in Jax Beach! LOVED the Media Noche De Pierna - I'll be back soon to try the Cuban Sandwich!


Octoberfest at RAM

I'm off - to stalk (in a nice way, natch) Celeb chef La Moulton at the Aetna Healthy Food Fight cookoff at the Riverside Arts Market 

PLUS - it's Octoberfest, so BEER ALL DAY at the market - the good kind, too!

Woot - see you there, Beasties!  


Aloha Roy's - My New Happy Place

Aloha Hour at Roy's - Fresh Hawaiian Specialty Cocktails are $5 each!
Earlier this week, someone suggested that blogging about food must be a glamorous job. First, let me say, the food is great, but sitting alone at the keyboard, nibbling on toaster pastries and trying to conjure up the words to describe last night's dinner is far from glamourous. And then there is the fact that this isn't actually my job. While some people do make a living at this, I am not one of them. That having been said, it is not without its rewards. Like the opportunity to visit with a friend while we sample our way through an entire appetizer menu, sip some swanky cocktails and snap pics of absolutely everything without fear of our fellow diners looking down their noses at us.

Even better, nirvana, in fact, is when each and every item we sample is spot on super-fabulous. The highlight of last week was just such an experience - courtesy of the fine folks at Roy's in Jacksonville Beach.

General Manager JP Diedrich and Chef Patrick "Opie" Crooks made us feel like a couple of culinary queens as they treated us to a taste of Aloha -  samples of every dish on their Aloha Hour menu - specialty cocktails, glasses of featured wines and menu items for just $5 each - served Sunday through Friday 4:30pm - 6:30pm in their bar. My thanks to them, the amazing Jodi behind the bar, and the whole Roy's crew for a great, dare I say even glamorous experience! From the minute the invite came, we were hotly anticipating the event - in large part because two of the items feature one of our favorite ingredients - the humble LOBSTER. Yes, it deserves all caps. 

LOBSTER California Roll sounds sweet and luscious - and it is just that. Beautiful little rolls of sweet chilled LOBSTER filling, smooth avocado, the cool crunch of cucumber - the textures combine to create a great little bite. As is true of most of the items in this post, but let's just say this once, this and a cocktail would make a great light meal. 

HOWEVER - you might want to go with both sushi offerings on the Aloha Hour menu - just to experience the great contrast in texture and tastes.

The Tempura Crusted Ahi Roll is so rich - still  slightly warm from the fryer - the soft, savory crunch of the crust and the sweet sticky rice, the richness of the Miso butter sauce - I'm looking at my watch right now and wishing it were closer to Aloha Hour.

Crunchy Golden Lobster Potstickers, Togarashi Miso Butter
Once we got through with our "sushi course" a lovely duo of Calamari and Crunchy Golden LOBSTER Potstickers graced the table. Pardon my use of all caps when referring to LOBSTER. Have you ever ordered a dish with LOBSTER as a featured ingredient and finished it wondering where in the heck they stashed it in the mix? This is definitely NOT one of those dishes. It's a mouth full of buttery, delicious warm LOBSTER. When I got my first full taste, my eyes flew wide open and my mouth sang the Crustacean Chorus. The only disappointment is that they come three to a plate, which is plenty because they are so rich, but when you're sharing, the temptation to stab your table-mates with a fork to keep them from nabbing that last one is just too great. Luckily my friend Jodi from EAT JAX was resourceful enough to suggest we split it. They are just that good. Seriously, if you love LOBSTER as I do, get your own, and guard it with your cutlery.

Sharing the next dish was much easier and quite enjoyable. The Salt and Pepper Crisped (fancy culinary speak for fried) Calamari surprised us both with its light, tender texture and the savory, citrusy sauce that just coats it without collapsing those lovely crunchy rings. It was billed as "Unique Hawaiian Fusion Sauce" so naturally we were compelled to ask for details.

Apparently the sauce can change with the season and may be different from location to location as well. Chef Opie makes this one with a combination of lemon and lime juices, fish sauce, Thai chile sauce and water, then hits it with some sliced red onion and an herb chiffonade. I was more than pleased with the result but I won't be attempting to recreate it at home any time soon, since I can just pop in to Roy's at Aloha Hour and get more!

Roy's Exhibition Kitchen - it's like porn for foodies!
 One of my favorite aspects of Roy's is the open "exhibition" kitchen - glowing and sleek - it is the heart of the room. I love to watch my food being prepared whenever I have the chance - it gives me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the dish.

Our knowledgeable bar manager Jodi (I didn't get her card,  so I don't know if I'm spelling her name right) walked us through most of the preparations and suggested pairings from the extensive wine and specialty cocktail list. Indulgent offerings, yes. Expensive? Not during Aloha Hour! At just $5 each, most of the specialty drinks are more than half-off from 4:30 - 6:30 pm. I'm seriously putting Roy's on the rotation for at least a weekly pop-in.

Szechuan Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers, Kim Chee
Should the dishes described thus far leave you wondering "Where's the beef?" - this next section is just for you.
Roy's Szechuan Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers rest on a little pile of freshly prepared Kim Chee - and the meat is some of the tenderest tenderloin you'll ever taste. Savory and sweet from the light glaze, they are complimented by the peppery-hot-salty-tangy bites of Kim Chee. I'm thinking a robust red wine or a craft beer would make a great pairing here. I polished it off with a Pomegranate Patrón Mojito - Tangy pomegranate shaken with Patrón Silver Tequila and mint. 

Wagyu Beef Sliders with Garlic Sweet Potato Fries
Lastly, as if we had room left in our stomachs at this point, came the tender and flavorful Wagyu Beef Sliders with Caramelized Onions, Chipotle Aioli and Garlic Sweet Potato Fries.  The beef in these little gems just melts in your mouth. Here I go again, but for $5 - this is a meal in and of itself. I couldn't help thinking "suck it, Mickey D, I'm eating Roy's Waygu beef sliders from here on in." Ask for some extra Aioli for the perfectly cooked and seasoned fries - it takes them over the top.
Well, what's left to say about the whole Aloha Hour experience? Just get there and get yourself to a happy place. Don't worry about trying to choose the right thing - they are all good - or as Jodi put it - "there's not a clunker in the bunch." It had been a while since I've been to Roy's, despite the fact that I live close by. Yet always in the back of my mind lurked the pleasant memory of Roy’s Original Hawaiian Martini - with those luscious infused Maui pineapples, SKYY Vodka, Stoli Vanil and Malibu Coconut Rum. The Aloha Hour menu will keep me coming back. 

Treat yourself to a taste of Aloha soon, and say Aloha to your friendly neighborhood blogger-chick if you see me in there sipping and munching away - and you will.

Roy's on Urbanspoon

2400 3rd St S
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250


27th Annual Caring Chefs

 THE food-tasting event that started it all! 

Proceeds benefit the Children's Home Society of Florida.

Visit more than 50 of the best restaurants in town all in one night - Besides some great food and wine, there's much more entertainment including three live bands - be there or be a dodecahedron!

Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010
7-9:30 p.m.
The Avenues Mall

Get your tickets NOW!