Monday, January 26, 2015

Bar Tulia in Naples, Florida

Bar Tulia is a relaxing 50 seat nook on Naples 5th Avenue South. It is a unique watering hole to enjoy lunch or dinner with a creative menu. Bar Tulia is also one of the few spots open after 11 pm in Naples, when many other dining sites are closed. (Weekend Willie’s and Alto are hopping then, too.) This self described “gastropub” is next door to its older, larger and quite successful sister, Osteria Tulia. Both restaurants are meant to be “osteria” casual. That means as if you were eating in someone’s home in Italy. Here in Naples there’s a welcome blending of  Italian style with Florida’s locally sourced fish, shellfish and produce. 
I was invited to a recent media event to sample some of the menu. I like the intimate bistro feel, with dark wood beams overhead, a beautiful wood floor with a central brick path, and matching wood tables. 
The walls are decorated with black and white photographs. The front half of the floor plan has tables and chairs, and the back part is the long white Carrera marble bar, rimmed by a dozen or so tall chairs. While seated at the bar, you may watch pizzas emerge from the oven and young bartenders' sleight of hand.
When I open a menu at most restaurants, I seek dishes that are not found on the menus at nearby restaurants. I didn’t have to look far to find evidence of Chef Vincenzo Betulia’s unique creations, such as: crisp fried pig ears; wood charred octopus; fried rabbit wings; fried veal sweetbreads with toasted waffle and maples syrup ( a riff on chicken and waffles), and braised lamb neck sugo & sheep cheese pasta. Top that for creative and unique!

Relax, there’s also a good assortment of less adventuresome dishes, too.  Chef Betulia, the former Executive Chef at Campiello,  has succeeded at creating  “a fun and laid back neighborhood hangout where guests can experience great wine, craft drinks and modern pub food late into the evening.” 

 The prices are quite reasonable, considering this is smack dab along the center of often pricey 5th Avenue South.

We started with charred shishitos with grated foie gras ($12), which are 3 inch long sweet green peppers that are lightly blistered. 
Eat them like candy or toasted green bell peppers-there’s just no “heat” to them-I wish the dish instead used peppers with a little “heat.” We couldn’t really detect a subtle foie gras flavor.

The fried rabbit wings ($14) were a delicious treat, the quintet was nicely crisped and tender, topped with slices of pickled radish, nicely complemented by a rich Gorgonzola dipping sauce. 

The hogfish ceviche ($16) is a generous portion of local fish, with bits of shrimp, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, red onion and cilantro with lemon and lime juice, paired with fried pizza dough. 

We had a hands-down favorite-the healthy fresh cauliflower salad ($6), with crisp florets mingling with currants, Marcona almonds and scallions, topped with grated  Pecorino cheese and a light  mustard vinaigrette.
 Highly recommended.

Have a drink! With over 50 wines, craft beers, mixed drinks or the homemade Tulia Limoncello,  there’s no shortage of choices. I had a refreshing Savoy Swizzle, with two rums, Absinthe, Demerara brown sugar, Peyraud’s Bitters and muddled mint.
 There’s plenty of  traditional items too.  The rigatoni with Bolognese sauce ($10/20), grated Parmigiano cheese and flecks of fresh parsley fits the bill nicely.
There’s something almost primal about a fresh baked pizza, as fellow diners tug slices away to their plates, dripping strands of melted cheese and toppings along the way to their mouths. We loved  the Modena ($12) pizza with pancetta, house-made  ricotta cheese, Brussels sprout petals and garlic chips.
 The  Spilinga pizza’s ($12)  a treat with  N’Duja salame, cavolo nero (black leaf kale) , San Marzano tomatoes,  Mozarella and fennel pollen.
Next time, I’ll try the “Roman Ramen” with pork shoulder, shrimp ,carrots, scallion and clam-kombu broth, and the colorful sepia spaghetti with clams, smoked butter, guanciale (pork cheeks) and leeks. The grilled house sausage with stewed white beans, garlic and rosemary is perfect for a cool day.

Dine inside or outside- I prefer to people watch, especially when the weather’s cooler.

Bar Tulia
462 5th Ave. South, Naples, FL

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zombicon 8 - A Deadly Nightmare in Fort Myers, Fl.

The undead of all ages terrified the citizens of Fort Myers
The undead besiege the SBDAC
Fort Myers was squirming with the undead and dying littering the streets. They crawled from Fort Myers' Swamp, artfully assisted by Pushing up Daizies, Inc. . Drawn by bright lights and the healthier smell of the living, they surrounded the musical band stages. The Dead Kahunas and others took over the chaos.  Hordes of zombies clumsily tried to attack the living; their oozing brains could not muster a coherent thought.They hobbled on decaying limbs down streets and sidewalks. SWAT team weapons had no effect on them.

 Mindlessly, they were drawn as a seething stench down First Street to huddle at a gathering point at the SBDAC. The brightly dressed corpses of  the Calendar Girls Florida seduced then ate the few living spectators that approached the spectacle.
Uuuurp.  The crypts of the SBDAC  were flung open, and hundreds more emptied out upon the street and the stage area. What could normal, law abiding folks do?  Judge them, of course!
 And a bevy of slender, alluring ZombiQueens maidens didst judge the zombies couture, placating the crowd. McKenna joined them by the stage. The Queens then dazzled the dead with a dance against the darkness.  The Hot Flashz squirmed with delight as the zombies writhed uncontrollably to their dancing and music.
The Hot Flashz

Ready for you last kiss forever?


Ho, Ho, Ho!

Monday, October 13, 2014

American Culinary Federation (ACF) Caxambas Chapter's 2014 Culinary and Foodservice Vendor Showcase

The American Culinary Federation's (ACF) Caxambas Chapter of Naples and Marco Island, held its annual Culinary and Food Service Vendor Showcase  at Estero's  Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa today, Monday October 13, 2014. The ACF This, and other events have funded culinary student's scholarships for 25 years.

There were over 70 vendors at the Showcase, from organic farmers to chocolatiers; honey producers to Wagyu beef purveyors. Seafood from Maine and Spain caught my eye...and palate. 
       OK. So what do these vendors and their presence mean to you? A lot, if you eat at  restaurants or country clubs in Lee and Collier counties-these vendors supply a good portion of your food!  Judging from my dining at the restaurants that select their foods, and what I tasted and saw today-you are in very, very good hands.

  Event Chair, ACF Caxambas Chapter Board Member and Shadow Wood Executive Chef Richard Crisanti spent months organizing the event, which featured  a "Ready, Set, COOK!" competition where students are paired with chefs in cooking competitions.  ACF Caxambas Chapter President and Twin Eagles Club Executive Chef Chas Tatigian was active meeting and greeting attendees.
Chefs Chas Tatigian and Richard Crisanti
 The ACF is the  national culinary professional's organization for current and future chefs and pastry chefs with apprenticeships, continuing education and  certifications.
Internationally regarded Chef Alexander Talbot, known for his pacesetting blog- demonstrated cooking "off the cuff" with products he sourced in a quick walk around the Showcase area.

 He paired  Halpern's Seafood's Alaskan King crab with zucchini, and sautéing sous vide prepared short ribs paired with other ingredients. Taste test? The results were over the top.  "Bursting with flavor" a phrase we hear too often, truly describes his creations (More photos towards bottom of post).

Below is a sampling of just a few of the vendors. Next time you dine out, chances are pretty good that these vendors sourced your produce, meats or seafood.
Jabba Fine Food's Seafood- Ready for Smokin'
Jabba's Smoked Salmon, Scallops, Duck, and Various Spreads
Rational's Chef April Shaw
Chef Shaw's Super Tender and Flavorful Pulled Pork
Halperns' Amazingly Fresh Steaks and Seafood, Including 6 Foot Wide Alaskan Crab
A HUGE Puppy- Larger Than Caroline or Billy
Freshpoint's Produce
Still Life with Cape Gooseberries
Freshpoint's Cornucopia
Happy Foods' Michael with Romanesco Broccoli
Happy Foods Fall Treats
Happy Food's Great Aged Gouda
Raisins- fresh from the Raisin Tree
Culinary Judges Consultation
Chef Gahabka's Autumn Salad with Cranberry-Cheddar Butternut Squash Croutons, Pumpkin 'n Cranberry Crystals Drizzled with Apple Cider Pumpkin Chia Vinaigrette
North Star's Diver Scallop Stars in a Riff on a BLT- by Chef Dan Kniola
Chef Kniola and Cecelia Rosen

Chef Gahabka, Chef Joel Barnes, Al Levine, Cecelia Rosen, Chef Kniola at North Star Seafood
Chef's Warehouse
Wagyu/American Style Kobe Beef From Pilotbrands
Braveheart's Meats
Florida Urban Organics
Boar's Head Cheeses
Boar's Head Charcuterie Plate
NY Strip Steak, Diced Guanciale, Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, Lingonberries and Zinfandel from Grand Western (Cheney Brothers)
NY Strip Steak, Guanciale, Squash, et alia -Fall Flavors at Their Best
Sysco's Garden Fresh Kale and Vegetable Blend ( Their Mozzarella Cheese-Topped Pizza is Tops)
Saucy Sauces from Naples' Own Sunset Spices and Specialties, Inc.
Chocoholics' "Holy Grail"- The Cacao Pod-Shake, Rattle and Roll It
PolyScience's Dual Sous Vide Set Up- The Perfect Stocking Stuffer for Your  Chef
Melt in Your Mouth Tender Pork Belly after 30 Hour 65 Degree C. Bath-Thanks to Chef Chris Jones
Landert Bread's Artisanal Baked Goods from Switzerland and France
Landert's Pretzels, Rolls and Breads
Landert's Fresh Baked Pies Rock!
Students Intently Listening to Chef Alexander Talbot
Chef Talbot Intently Cooking on Stage
Chef Talbot's Intently Savory Short Ribs
Chef Talbot's Zucchini and Alaskan King Crab- The Taste is Over the Top

Why Would People Take Photos of Food, When They Could be Taking 'n Posting Perfectly Good Selfies Instead?
Today's Take Home Message:  Think "ABC's" - Always Be Creative
Palms In Front of  The Hyatt Regency -Life is Good,Especially in Florida