12.29.2013

Meet The Cheese Experts at Whole Foods Market

The first item on my list for our simple but elegant New Years Eve celebration this year is the cheese board. I love the way certain cheeses pair with sparkling wines and fruit. While I have developed a few favorites over the years, I recently was invited to try out a few more, in a cheese sampling / demo at our local Whole Foods Market, where, In my opinion, you'll find the best cheese selection in Jacksonville. 

It's not hard to understand why they excel in this area - Whole Foods Market has 147 Certified Cheese Professionals™ in stores throughout the country, who have mastered the art of cheese - from making to aging to handling it. There is always someone on hand to share their wisdom, including suggested accompaniments to complement your selection.

On the first of what I understand will be a series of cheese themed events, Jacksonville based experts Stephanie and Alice shared tips for assembling and presenting the perfect cheese board for holiday gatherings. 



Some of the crowd favorites:

Melkbus Truffle Gouda
·         Raw cow’s milk gouda from a single-source herd featuring pronounced aromatics. Deep, rich flavors of Italian truffles and cream.  -  Goes with dry sparkling wine, pancetta, rustic breads.

Mitica Pecorino Toscano Stagionato
·         Hints of nuts and butterscotch in this densely textured Italian cheese. Sweet sheep’s milk creaminess. - Goes with Chianti, fig spread, Marcona almonds, crisp pears.

Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
·         Blue cheese smoked over hazelnut shells. Savory caramel, array of sweet earthy complexity from raw cow’s milk. -  Goes with zinfandel, bourbon, walnuts, grapes.

Appleby Family Appleby’s Cheshire
·         Hand-selected raw milk cheese. Cows graze on mineral-rich grasses, creating savory, clean, tangy flavors. - Goes with pale ales, soft red wines, dried apricots, fresh apples, chutney.

Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche Ash-Ripened Goat Cheese
·         Soft-ripened goat cheese, hand ladled, aged more than a month.  Appealing notes of fresh earth and subtle hazelnut. - Goes with sauvignon blanc, apples, pears, walnuts, artisan honey.

More wisdom from the Whole Foods Market pros:

How to Create a Cheese Plate

  • Pick cheeses of contrasting textures and flavors: creamy, firm, sweet, pungent.
  • Contrast Old World cheeses with New World selections.
  • On a budget? Buy one or two fantastic cheeses, rather than five or six so-so options.
  • Two ounces of cheese per person is a good rule of thumb.
  • Let sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before serving for optimal flavor.
  • Serve with bread and crackers for different textures and flavors to accent the cheese.
  • Talk to your cheesemonger. They can offer suggestions on which cheeses pair well with others. 

Giveaway - We've Saved the Best For Last

It's our last giveaway for 2013! Whole Foods Market, who sponsored my visit to their Cheese Night event, want to share the love - so thanks to them, one lucky reader will start 2014 off with a $75 Whole Foods Market Gift Card - good at any WFM in the USA. That's a lotta cheddar! 

To enter the drawing, please leave a comment on this post answering the question "What's your "must have" item on a cheese board?" Mine is Marcona Almonds. MAD about them. Use the RaffleCopter widget to record your entries - including extras for likes and sharing on Twitter!
·        

12.24.2013

Christmas Eve Traditions


Last year, our family created a new Christmas Eve tradition. It started when my sister Maureen requested (and we created) a Mexican meal for her birthday, which falls on December 24.

Tacos, Taquitos, Enchiladas, Chile Verde, Tamales, Spanish Rice, Beans, Guacamole, etc. are in the standard rotation for family get-togethers at our house. We love making AND eating them throughout the year. Last year, when we were enjoying that special meal on Christmas Eve, we decided we liked it enough for it to become tradition. Today we'll celebrate my sister - and the season - with some home-made Chicken Enchiladas Suizas. I'm learning how to use my new Nikon, so you can expect more pics as the recipe progresses. 

Roughly equal numbers of Poblanos, Jalapenos, and Tomatillos were roasted for a salsa verde that I'll use for the enchiladas. This makes a HOT sauce. If you like it milder, change the ratio to include more tomatillos, or just make it with all tomatillos and add one or two peppers for a milder sauce. 

Roast or broil until they are wilted and skins are starting to peel.
Use whole washed peppers and tomatillos (stems removed). Slit with a paring knife, coat with olive oil, and roast in a glass baking dish or foil lined pan in a 450 degree oven until they soften and their skins start pulling away. (You can broil them  but you'll have to watch them closely and turn frequently.) 

Toss the tomatillos into the blender, cool, seed and peel the peppers, then add them to the blender with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a small handful of fresh cilantro leaves, and two peeled cloves of garlic. Blend until smooth. Salt to taste, but don't over-season as there will be cheese and sour cream added when the enchiladas are being filled and topped. I made this one a day ahead and refrigerated it, but you can make it on the fly and use it same day. 

Feliz Cumpleaños, Maureen!

12.21.2013

Heritage for the Holidays



Merry Christmas, Beasties!

Are you looking for a last minute holiday gift for the foodie or history buff on your list?  Gotcha covered! 

My friend Jeffrey Spear from Studio Spear wrote this fun and informative cookbook. It retails for under $20 and would make a great gift! 

The First Coast Heritage Cookbook is a collection of recipes influenced by the ingredients and food ways of the Indigenous Indians as well as the Spanish, French, British and African settlers who inhabited the First Coast from 14,000 BC (the time archaeologists tell us evidence of human habitation first appeared) to 1821 (when Florida became a U.S. Territory). The recipes have been modernized to accommodate today's available ingredients, so no need to search the WD meat case for Bears' Head or roam the aisles of Fresh Market in search of Giant Land Tortoise. 

Smoked Fish Dip - Page 54
You'll find Jeffrey's drool-inducing cookbook at our fave indy bookseller, The Bookmark in Neptune Beach, the Beaches Museum and History Park, or in Jax at Chamblin's, the Cummer Museum Gift Shop. 

In St. Augustine, it's available at the Castillo de San Marcos and St Augustine Visitor Center. If you prefer online shopping, there's always Amazon!

No need to pick one up for me, I've got my copy, signed by the author. Thanks, Jeffrey!

12.18.2013

Taverna San Marco Expands, Adds Craft Cocktails, Private Dining and Quick Casual Lunch Options

“The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about, and what you value.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Taverna San Marco has launched a new full liquor handcrafted cocktail program, along with an updated quick casual lunch service, lunch delivery and a private dining room available for special events and occasions.  

Southside - lemony, minty, lovely.
The restaurant added artisan and handcrafted cocktails to its award-winning wine and beer offerings, featuring all fresh, house-made ingredients and new twists on classics like the Ramos Fizz, Southside, and Sidecar. 

The new cocktail menu was designed by Brian Binniker, managing partner and bartender, who trained at Morimoto in New York. Binniker sites prohibition style recipes as one of his influences for the new menu. 


At a recent media event I sampled a complimentary cocktail called the Southside, a lemony-minty concoction that claims to have been invented at New York's famed 21 Club, and found it to be charmingly refreshing and light. 



Italian Grilled Cheese - housemade mozz, tomato, pesto, ciabatta - $8
Taverna lunch options now include quick casual (order at the counter, they bring to the table) and delivery service. 

If you prefer full-service that's still available as well, with the same quality menu and some new menu items, including seasonal sandwiches. Some of the restaurant's former special features have also returned. 


Recent Daily Lunch Special - Scallops with root veg puree and risotto - $15
Taverna arrived on Jacksonville's restaurant scene four years ago with the promise of high quality, fresh, handcrafted food, served in a sophisticated setting, at an affordable price. They've been delivering on that promise since day one. 

The culinary team makes everything from scratch - breads, pasta, cheese, sauces, etc., exhibiting a level of craftsmanship rare to come by in today's pre-fab, flash-frozen, mass-produced food world. Their traditional Neapolitan style pizza is a personal favorite, perfect to share at the bar with a Bold City Dukes Brown Ale on draft, or grab one to go, add a salad and you've got a light meal for two, no cooking required.

Butternut Squash Soup, with apples, bacon,
pomegranate molasses, creme fraiche, sage  -  $6
Jacksonville born Chef/Proprietor Sam Efron's seasonal menu features ingredients primarily sourced from local producers, who employ sustainable and humane farming methods.

The chef 
looks to our friends at Twinn Bridges Farm for herbs and a variety of seasonal vegetables, and uses all natural Angus beef, (with no antibiotics, no hormones, certified humane, and all vegetarian diet). The seafood is sourced from a local fish monger, and fish is caught locally according to the season. Efron's devotion to his craft and local, sustainable sourcing of ingredients have earned Taverna the Slow Food First Coast Snail of Approval.

Wine Director / Proprietor Kiley Wynne Efron brings an artist's sensibility and a firm passion for food and wine to the front of house operations at Taverna. A First Level Sommelier, she manages a 120+ bottle wine list (including 19 by-the-glass options) featuring Italian, Spanish, and California selections. Kiley can always be counted on to lend insight to your selection, resulting in the perfect pairing for your taste and price point.


Expansion at Taverna includes a counter for
ordering quick casual lunches, and a private dining room.
Expanding the space and increasing seating by 30% has been a plan a year in the making. The interior design includes a remodel of the existing restaurant, honoring their original farm-to-table theme. Reclaimed barn wood, live plantings and shimmering candles lend warm, rustic notes. The private dining room seats 40 in a dramatic yet intimate space.

Architect and interior design group DCOOP was employed for the expansion and remodel. The Jacksonville firm is noted for their award winning designs of Black Sheep, The Grape and Grain Exchange, and Ovinte’ at the Town Center. 

A grand re-opening celebration will be held at Taverna this Friday, December 20, 2013 from 5 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Guests at this open house happy hour will be treated to a selection of new lunch items as well as one complimentary handcrafted cocktail.

:: Stepping Onto Her Soap Box ::
When I was researching this post, I was stunned to note how many of my friends had either never been, or hadn't been to Taverna in some time. Many sited the trek to and construction (now complete at the Square) in San Marco, and the parking issues which plague so many local neighborhoods. It called into focus one of the emerging truths about our restaurant scene here in Jax. We're an expansive city, and we have more options for spending our time and money than ever before. But that's a good thing! What I urge you to do, is to consciously choose places (like Taverna) with engaged, involved proprietors (like Sam and Kiley) who are focused on local sourcing and creating real food, without pretense, in a beautiful space, at an affordable price. If these things aren't important to you, they should be. Don't MAKE me preach, now.

I suggest, if you've never been, or haven't visited Taverna in a while, that you make the trek (ok, San Marco is pretty centrally located, so let's get past that excuse) brave the traffic circles, find a parking spot (I've had no trouble finding rock-star parking since the construction added several spaces, but don't forget to check side streets and that lot behind the square) and enjoy a meal at Taverna. They are open seven days a week, lunch and dinner M-F, brunch and dinner on weekends. Happy Hour Tuesday through Saturday, 5PM-7PM. Seriously. Find the time. 

:: WIN THIS ::
To sweeten the deal, we're giving away a Gift Certificate - good for Lunch for Two at Taverna ($30 value), courtesy of Kiley and Sam!  Enter using the rafflecopter widget below - be sure to pick up extra entries for commenting / liking / following / sharing the news. I'll announce the winner December 26.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Taverna on Urbanspoon
Taverna
1986 San Marco Blvd 
JacksonvilleFL 32207 

904.398.3005

I will always disclose (as in the case of the cocktail, above) when I receive free food or swag, but I will not allow said gift to color my opinion or reporting of the food and experience. I will always share in plain terms what I do and don't like, and if I like it, I will urge you to try a place for yourself and form your own opinions. I'm not a trained chef or food expert, I simply appreciate the social and cultural aspects of good food and dining experiences, and I enjoy sharing them with you through my blog. Thanks for reading!

12.14.2013

A Holiday Giveaway - First Coast Magazine!


Our friends at the BEAUTIFUL
new First Coast Magazine are helping us
celebrate the holidays with a giveaway -

A FREE One Year Subscription for
THREE lucky Nourish The Beast readers!

Enter below - and like
First Coast Magazine on Facebook
for another chance to win!
We'll announce the three winners
December 22.

And keep watching for more
Nourish The Beast Holiday Giveaways!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

11.26.2013

A Recipe for Community Engagement: Whole Foods Market Lifestyle Center

"Begin with the End in Mind" ~ Stephen Covey

Put another way - Buy a big enough turkey and you'll be eatin' healthy for a week! 

Chef Rachel begins her presentation.
LIFE AFTER PIE

Recently I was invited to attend a cooking demonstration in the Lifestyle Center at our local Whole Foods Market in Jacksonville.

My participation was free (entry fee to general public was just $15), but I walked out the door that night having spent $70 on groceries and treats for the weekend, so I'm thinking they more than got their money's worth out of this bloganista!

The focus of the evening was Thanksgiving Leftovers. Now this is a subject I know something about, since my mom insists on procuring the largest bird that will fit in our oven. She loves a good turkey sandwich, and my oh-so-rich-and-creamy Turkey Tetrazzini, but this year, thanks to Chef Rachel and Whole Foods Market Jacksonville, we're going to expand our repertoire in the leftovers department.

Caribbean Turkey Soup
The demo turned out to be a fun way to spend an evening. After welcoming us into the gleaming, sophisticated  Lifestyle Center space, Chef Rachel presented three dishes using leftover turkey as the star ingredient. She made us feel at home - and shared with us that this was her first event here. She quickly made it her own space though, and won us over with her approachable style.

The first dish she demonstrated was a soup that blended Caribbean and Mexican influences for a sweet and spicy result. Sweet potato and spinach got a smoky-spicy kick from Chipotle in Adobo - one of my fave kitchen staples, a little bit is for enriching  the flavor profile of a dish.

Of course this version used turkey, but I have had a similar soup that used crab for the main protein, with equally sweet results. Either way, winner winner turkey dinner!

Turkey Enchilada with Mole
One of my favorite casserole dishes - not that I make many to begin with - is baked enchiladas. I love them all, but chicken is usually my go-to, so turkey is an easy swap. Expect some of these bad-boys to make it to the table in the week following Thanksgiving.

Chef Rachel included a recipe for a quick mole she whipped up before the demo, which uses 17 ingredients, so it seems like a stretch, but on closer investigation all were things I had in my well-stocked pantry. The revelation for me here - and the best tip of the evening - was using crumbled Feta cheese as the topper. The tart creaminess of the Feta cuts the richness of the mole, and the combo is magic. I was impressed. Chef Rachel also used Cream Cheese inside the enchiladas - a simple and fast way to up the creaminess quotient. Twelve enchiladas, just divide the block of cheese into twelve strips, drop one in each, add in the turkey w mole, and you're ready to roll! Thanks, Chef Rachel. Even an old... I mean "seasoned" home cook like me learned something new that night!

Again, she used the Adobo from the can of chipotles, which really helped pack in the heat and dimension of flavor that made it seem like she had been stewing this sauce up for hours. As easy as her recipe for the Mole looks, I'm gonna admit, I'll be using a convenient little carton of super-tasty pre-made mole along with some chipotle and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Turkey, Spinach & Sun Dried Cherry Roulade
The third dish of the evening was a Turkey, Spinach and Sun Dried Cherry Roulade. I was not as impressed with this one - mainly because of the dough-to-filling ratio. The accompanying Blackberry & Red Wine Pan Sauce took it across the finish line though. The flavors all blended well, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE cherries with just about anything, so I will be trying to work through this recipe, to see if I can make it conform to my own personal tastes - less bread, more turkey and cherries. Or cranberries, for that matter. Yum.

The Lifestyle Center is a great place for demos,  classes, parties and events. My friend Adrienne Cartagena is Whole Foods Market's Local Director of Marketing and Community Relations - a position she has thrived and grown in since 2011. She gets to play in this awesome space all the time - and yes, it's a dream job - but lest you think it's all about the glamour, that's Adrienne at the sink helping Chef Rachel keep up with the serving, prep and cleanup during her demo. She's hands ON, people.

Chef Rachel and Adrienne in the Lifestyle Center
"We have so much fun exploring and celebrating food in the Lifestyle Center" Adrienne told me recently.

"It's a wonderful way for us to showcase the culinary talent we have in our store, and it gives our team a chance to connect with our customers on a more personal level."  

LOCAL LUV

I love Whole Foods commitment to their customers as community. It's in everything they do. The store is a gathering spot for locals who want to shop for organic foods and products, or just sit and enjoy a quick and nutritious meal from the Prepared Foods section, where all of the ingredients are natural or organic and as many as possible are locally grown.


Fellow tasters dig in.
In addition to featuring local products in their stores, Whole Foods has made over 8 million dollars in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans throughout the US. Learn more about their Local Producer Loan Program, including how to apply. 

It's a given that the store donates leftover food to local food pantries and shelters. In addition, several times a year they hold community giving days (otherwise known as “5% Days”) where five percent of that day’s net sales are donated to a local nonprofit or educational organization. Part of Adrienne's awesome job is promoting this effort and deciding which local groups will benefit. Read more about Whole Foods Mission and Values on their website.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Check out the Whole Foods Market Jacksonville Events Page and sign up for something fun and informative. Chef Rachel and Whole Foods Healthy Eating Specialist Heather have plenty in store - some events are free, some cost a modest amount to cover food costs, and some, like their current series of Beer Dinners, are on a bit larger scale so may cost a bit more, but all are a great value. I LOVED the Brooklyn Brewery Beer Dinner, and might just have to check out the next one - the  Samuel Adams Beer Dinner Thursday, December 12, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM is just $40 a seat - and the space is limited so if you're interested I suggest you book it now.

 THE WHOLE DEAL

Want the inside scoop on what's cooking at Whole Foods? Pick up a copy or bookmark this link to The Whole Deal Value Guide - in stores or online. Deals, coupons, budget-friendly recipes, meal planner and money saving tips

Thanks to Adrienne and the crew at Whole Foods Market Jacksonville for all the invites to play along at various events. 


While my participation in this event was complimentary, it in no way clouded my judgement or influenced the opinions I have shared in this post. I don't make any profit from the links here, I just share them as a thank you to my hosts and to connect my readers to valuable information. 

11.25.2013

Fresh Perspective


I'm beginning a new chapter in my life story. Right now it's in the early draft stage, but I thought I'd share some of the process as it unfolds.

I've always been one to embrace change. Moving to a different home, city, or state is an opportunity to reshape your surroundings, meet new people, discover new places, it's an adventure! Finding a new job, however, can be a daunting task, one which invites soul-searching and introspection, balanced with networking and planning. It's a bit unsettling when there's a time clock on it, I'll admit, but it is still an adventure of the highest order - a prime opportunity for growth and change.

So, again I ask myself: What do I want to be when I grow up?

One thing I know for certain, I love writing this blog. I love that so many friends and acquaintances (aka friends I just haven't gotten to know that well yet) have shared with me that they enjoy reading my ramblings and salivating over my food pics.

I am passionate about food and its place in our culture. Every aspect - growing, harvesting, bringing it to market, cooking (another favorite creative outlet) and sharing food - and I've met some fascinating people who share this passion. So while I work and wait and trust the universe to provide, I'm going to share some stories of people I know and admire for their work and passion. I'll still manage to slip a few food pics in here and there. Would you expect anything less?


Grand-niece Lorien waits "patiently" while I snap a pic.
No one walks alone in this world. I am fortunate to enjoy the company of wonderfully supportive family, friends and mentors on this journey, and I appreciate each of you so much. Thanks for your time, friendship, words of wisdom, sage advice, laughter and tears. Oh, and thanks for letting me snap a pic of your food before you dig in. Seriously.

Your humble bloggess ~

Nancy

10.20.2013

The Tasting Room

Simple, Elegant Dining in St Augustine’s Historic District 

"With bread and wine, you can walk your road."  ~  Spanish Proverb

When asked to recommend a restaurant in St Augustine, one spot makes my list every time.

Popular with locals and visitors alike, The Tasting Room specializes in Contemporary Spanish Cuisine - with a seasonal menu inspired by regional and traditional Spanish culture. 

Their food, service, ambiance and impressive wine selection have garnered them many awards and recognitions, including Open Table's Diners' Choice Award as one of the top 100 Restaurants in the US with a Most Notable Wine List (2011, 2012, 2013); the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence (2013); and the St Augustine Record’s Best of St Augustine’s Best Chef, Best Upscale Dining, Best Tapas, and Best Wine List honors (2013). 

Recently I was invited to spend a few hours with Executive Chef and Managing Partner Michael Lugo and Arbus Magazine Publisher Cinda Sherman, tasting Spanish wines and nibbling our way through the new fall menu. 


Paella Mixta - $27
The Cinda's Cellar feature in the October/November 2013 issue of Arbus focuses on Spanish wine and the St Augustine Spanish Wine Festival (October 21-26), and features a profile on The Tasting Room, written by yours truly! 

Chef Lugo, who describes his cuisine as “innovative interpretations” of traditional Spanish fare, was particularly passionate about the two versions of Paella that can be found among the Platos Grandes (large plates) on the fall menu. 

Vegetarian Paella De Finca (the chef referred to this as a "Land" Paella) is a dish of Spanish saffron rice with sautéed artichokes, white beans, asparagus and fresh peas. Paella Mixta features sautéed local seafood, chicken, chorizo and fresh peas.


The chef shared the origins of the familiar Spanish classic, while we sipped a glass of La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2004 - a lovely silky red blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes that delivered a juicy mouthful of ripe cherries, with notes of citron, leather and tobacco, and just enough spice to provide depth and structure as it opened up throughout the evening.

Woah - clearly my table companions' experience with Spanish wines made an impression on me - when have I ever described wine with that level of detail? Did I mention it was aged 36 months in American Oak? OK, I looked that part up. It was good stuff.

Crispy Sea Salt Calamari - $12
The bread service featured a fine Spanish Olive Oil with a sprinkling of herbs and spices - a proprietary blend created for them at the nearby Spice and Tea Exchange. 

We also sampled a selection of tapas: 

Crispy Sea Salt Calamari is tossed with jalapenos, cilantro, onions and served with a creamy rocoto pepper dipping sauce. The Calamari are crisp and perfectly seasoned, and the sauce packs a creamy, fiery-sweet heat. This simple, straightforward creation turned out to be the most memorable dish of the evening, and one I would order again on my next visit.

Albondigas - $10
A bright and hardy piquillo pepper sauce makes Albóndigas a favorite dish as well. Classic Spanish comfort food, the lamb and sausage meatballs are baked and served in the sauce, with picks for solo snacking or sharing. 

Tuna Cruda - $14
Tuna Cruda is thinly sliced Ahi tuna on crisp chip with goat cheese mousse and garnished with an olive-shallot vinaigrette. The sweet, silky tuna contrasts with the slightly tart and creamy cheese, and the salty bits of olive bring a briny finish to the dish. 

The Tasting Room's seasonal menu changes every 90 days, so you may see slightly different versions of a classic dish, as well as new dishes added throughout the year.

Stephanie Lugo manages the restaurant’s catering and events business. 

Tasting Room on Urbanspoon
The Tasting Room
 
Contemporary Spanish Restaurant
25 Cuna St., St. Augustine, FL 32084
904-810-2400
www.tastetapas.com
LUNCH • Tues-Sun 11:30am-3pm
DINNER • 7 days • 5pm-10:30pm
SUNDAY • 11:30am-9:00pm
LIVE MUSIC • every night • 8pm-12pm

I will always disclose when, as in this instance, I have received free food or swag, but I will not allow said gift to color my opinion or reporting of the food and experience. I attempt to share in plain terms what I do and don't like, and if I like it, I will urge you to try a place for yourself and form your own opinions. I appreciate the social and cultural aspects of good food and dining experiences, and I enjoy sharing them with you through my blog. Thanks for reading!

8.11.2013

Fill The Grill at Whole Foods Market!

What are you doing the next two Tuesday nights?

Come join the fun at Whole Foods Market in Jacksonville for the second, then final round of their Fill The Grill competition - with host Eden Kendall of 99.9 Gator Country.

Celebrity chefs get $20 and 20 minutes to shop for a full meal to cook for three judges - all on the grill. The winners of the first two rounds face one another for the final round August 20.

Week one saw rowdy Mark Kaye from 95.1 WAPE edge out the lovely Melissa Ross from 89.9 WJCT by just ONE point. This after an early mishap which caused his grill to loose all heat! Amazing comeback. 

Melissa Ross made a wonderfully light
and flavorful marinated grilled shrimp
with a fennel salad, crusty bread
 and a grilled peach topped
with creme fraiche - superb!
Mark Kaye grilled a chicken breast topped with
prosciutto and cheese, grilled zucchini
and portobello mushroom topping a
simple salad, and garnished with a grilled
lemon and red pepper heart.

Both dishes were delicious and worthy of the win.  I am one of the three judges, so I can tell you that with certainty! Can't wait for this Tuesday - 6:30 pm - to see Julie Watkins from Action News Jax will face off against Steve Sutton from Gator Country

MAKE MY DINNER!

Did I mention the winner gets $1000 for the charity of their choice?

And did I mention the staff at Whole Foods Market will be passing free samples of their grill-worthy foods? Win-Win!

See you Tuesday!

If you can't make it - play along on twitter with the hashtag #FillTheGrill

7.04.2013

Nancita's Salt Life Summer

The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave. ~ Thomas Jefferson
If you really know me, you know I am most at home at sea-level. 

My heart beats to the rhythm of the waves coming ashore. In my adopted home at Florida's First Coast, there's a lifestyle brand that embodies this philosophy in two words: Salt Life

Welcome to Nancita's Salt Life Summer! You can bet there will be plenty of seafood on the menu, and plenty of Jimmy Buffet on the playlist. Frozen fruity concoctions with rum floaters will factor in somehow. 

But first, let's eat!

Sunny and sizzling Jacksonville Beach boasts at least nineteen restaurants that purportedly specialize in seafood. Add eleven in Ponte Vedra, two in Neptune, and twelve in Atlantic Beach, and you've got choices, my friend.

What draws you to select one restaurant over another? Is it their website? Location? Word of Mouth? For me, after great food, ambiance plays an important role. Comfort, service, and the predictability of a good experience (read: consistency) are all factors I consider. 

Then there's that one dish - you know the one - the thing you crave when you think of a place and when you go you want to get that over and over but you know you should try other things on the menu so it's a fight to the finish to decide will you get the craveable dish and satisfy that longing or try something new - something that will be judged not on its own merits but for how much you would rather have ordered the object of your obsession.... 

Or is that just me?

I present to you - in no particular order - my personal top ten most craveable seafood dishes from the First Coast Beaches restaurants:
Lobster Potstickers - Roy's - Jacksonville Beach
Poke Bowl (modified) - Salt Life Food Shack - Jacksonville Beach
Crabcakes - Palm Valley Fish Camp - Ponte Vedra
Clam Bellies! - Palm Valley Fish Camp - Ponte Vedra
Scallop Taco - Taco Lu - Jacksonville Beach
Oysters on the half shell - The Fish Company - Atlantic Beach
Crab Louis - North Beach Fish Camp - Neptune Beach
Espresso Blackened Fish Tacos - Corner Taco Food Truck - Various Locations
Conch Fritters w Lemon Aoli - North Beach Fish Camp - Neptune Beach
Thai Shrimp Curry - Simply Tasty Thai - Atlantic Beach
Are any of these your faves too? What have I missed that should be on the list? Let me know and I'll do some research of my own.  Check out Nourish The Beast on Instagram too.