Friday, September 26, 2014

Craving Fashion at Naples' Waterside Shops -Supporting Make-A-Wish®

Enjoying Fine Food and Shopping at Waterside Shops
Craving delicious food?  Craving Fashion featured over 35 restaurants contributed their time and food  costs to offer tastings and drinks to support the Make-A-Wish® event.  A special thanks to Waterside Shops. Naples Illustrated, Carmen Taylor of Entrée Magazine and Nannette Staropoli of MARKIT Group for chairing the event.  The generous restaurants include Artichoke & Co., Avenue 5, Bha! Bha!, Blue Martini, Brook's Gourmet Burgers (sans Dogs), Chef Brian Roland's Crave Culinaire, Flacos, Club Sushi and Fujiyama, Fleming's, Fresh Fit Foods, Fuse Global Cuisine,
FUSE - Lamb with Latka and Harissa
 Gordon's on the River, Happy Healthy Treats, Here's Howe Catering by Anna Howe, L’Angolo on 5th, Lamoraga, Roy's-Bonita Springs, Roy's-Naples, Seasons 52, Seminole Casino, Shula's, Saint Matthew's House with Chef Kristopher, Sushi -Thai of Naples, 
Sushi-Thai of Naples
Tacos & Tequila, Truluck's, Tsamma Water, Vergina, Waldorf Astoria, and ZiZi. Shops such as Lululemon, St John, Talbots and Tiffany's contributed portions of sales to the event. At only $50 a ticket, there was more food and fun than one could process in an evening!

    Below are highlights of the evening-I wish I could go into descriptions of each delectable dish. The terrific exposure certainly helped many guests to know which restaurants to support and make reservations with in the next weeks!         

Happy Healthy Treats- Erika's Gluten Free Creations
Seminole Casino
Club Sushi - Various Fish Tacos
Happy Folks
Artichoke & Co - Crab 3 Ways
Fresh Fit Foods - Korean BBQ
Fresh Fit Food's - Tuna n Cucumber
L'Angolo Making Mozzarella
L'Angolo Making Mozzarella
Limoncello at L'Angolo
Roy's Delights
Roy's Poke
Truluck's Fish Taco

Lamoraga Croquetas
Lamoraga Flan
Lamoraga Flan
Sushi-Thai of Naples
Sushi-Thai of Naples -Sushi Yacht, not Boat!

Naples Grande Tacos

Saint Matthew's House Ceviche
Saint Matthew's House Pulled Pork
Saint Matthew's Chef Kristofer

Gordon's on the River Quesadilla

Here's Howe Catering
Bha! Bha!
Bha! Bha!
Bha! Bha!

Walk This Way
Crave Culinaire's Chef Brian Roland and Nicole Black
Crave Culinaire's Duck Rillete
Seasons 52

Seasons52- Great Desserts
Vergina's Stuffed Clam And Ravioli

Friday, September 19, 2014

Araya Sushi Asian Grill - Delicious Thai and Japanese food in Naples

Holy Moley! my go-to Thai spot has been their original restaurant, Fuji Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro (by the Hollywood Theaters at 6355 Naples Blvd., #7, 593-5550) for years.  Now, new Araya Sushi Asian Grill is a touch more enjoyable, because of it's casual-elegant dining decor, larger size, and expanded menu. The food is super fresh, delicious, and each plate is pretty as a picture. From colorful appetizers to the amazing banana in fried wonton with green tea ice cream, this is one of SW Florida's top Asian restaurants. I will be back again!

Araya debuted in June, at the back right (southwest) corner of the Uptown Center just East of Sam's on Immokalee Road. It's next to CiCi's Pizza, where Dunkin donuts was. Chef Jon and On Augsondthung  have kicked the setting up a notch from Fuji, keeping the food quality and service high.
 The earth toned and orchid decorated interior has clean sleek lines. The sushi bar is on your left, wooden tables center, and tan demi booths to your right.   
Oh, back up a second...Before you arrive, check their Facebook page to see what freebies or specials may be tonight's bonus baby.  We enjoyed the order of two skewered yakitori meatballs dipped in freshly made Thai dipping sauce. 
 The slightly chewy balls were a good start. We wish we had more people with us to try more dishes during the night. There are happy hour drink and food specials from 3- 6 pm, with $2 yakitori, $5 small dishes and $7 selections, such as crispy calamari, salmon avocado roll and shrimp tempura rolls, with $3 16 oz draft beer, $5 wine and $7 large hot sake. Nice!

While we came for dinner, not lunch, we heard that lunch is a "steal" with the $8.95 specials served with an appetizer, and soup or salad, from 11 am to 3 pm daily. There's pad Thai, chicken cashew nuts, country basil chicken, and for a few dollars more, grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce, rice and vegetables.

I am very fond of authentic Thai cooking, and one of my companions, an amateur Thai cook, visits Thailand several times a year, trying traditional and cutting edge restaurants alike.

We started with a spicy Picante roll ($12) with tuna, scallions, tempura flakes, masago topped with avocado and a moderately hot spicy Sambal sauce, moderately hot jalapeno slices and Japanese pepper. It's an ample meal for one. 

We were happy with the medium (high for some) level of spiciness that met the description of "picante."  the menu lists a over 40 different rolls, from mango tango with shrimp, red devil with tuna and eel, hot lava and sex on the beach's tuna whitefish and asparagus, to spicy tuna loco, rainbow dragon's shrimp tempura with white fish and salmon, and blue crab with spicy mayo.

There's no shortage of sushi and sashimi alone or in a variety of bento boxes or boats. Check the website for the long list.

Tuna nachos are a new dish that's a play on Mexican food, with a generous portion of cubed tuna, diced avocado and crisp wakame atop freshly fried wontons.

 Deliciously recommended!

Hamachi carpaccio ($13) is a generous portion of Japanese yellowtail fish, with jalapeno and cilantro on the side over string cut carrots, with a sweetly tart yuzu ponzu sauce. 
Highly recommended for sashimi lovers.

The lychee duck curry  ($22) was my evening's most filling and  favorite entree. 
 A practically fat- free half duck is served with skin perfectly crisped, over a large portion of freshly plucked local lychees, heirloom tomatoes red and green bell peppers and basil leaves in a fragrant spiced curry. It's enough for two people! Highly recommended.  
We were getting full and  still wanted to order more.
 Much like at the suchi bar, the chef offered to make a small tasting plate combining two shrimp dishes (the photos are of the much smaller tasting portions-a normal order comes with  five or six shrimp). 
 One diner wanted the coconut shrimp- it features plump shrimp lightly battered with coconut, deep fried and served with a wonderful pineapple plum sauce.
 I almost never order coconut shrimp as most restaurants serve small shrimp with a gooey thick floury batter. Not Araya's coconut shrimp! Highly recommended.
 The other shrimp has the California roll type volcano mild spicy topping, with the shrimp perched atop a delicious piped sauce.
Very good!
We rested for a while, chatted then were ready for the piece de resistance-the banana Rangoons ($6)! 

 Tricornered wontons are lightly filled with banana slices, lightly fried and honey dipped, served with a huge scoop of green tea ice cream, fresh fruit and a light sprinkle of cinnamon-confectioner's sugar. The banana wontons are crisp, sweet, and luscious!  Highly recommended.
2650 Immokalee Road, Naples, 593-3344,