Thursday, April 3, 2014

Four Artists Four Countries at Up Art and Design Gallery Opening April 6th, 2014

Up Art and Design Gallery is the home gallery and studio of  nationally known artist John Carroll Long. His work is in quite a few museums and private galleries. His openings  draw a standing room crowd for both his art, and the exhibited art of other quite talented artists. If you line up five of his pieces, you'd swear they were by five different artists! There's a whimsy to many sculptures, and a seriousness to some, with a good sprinkling of double entendres and "found art" that will have you going back for another and yet another look at a painting, or at sculptures that range from 3 inches to to 13 feet tall.

And, he's a very funny and incisive cartoonist.  Stop by and pick up some cartoon cards.

Here are some of Mr. Long's creations.

Artist John Carroll Long with The Peacemaker (detail)

The Peacemaker (Colt)

A Brush with Nature

International Artist Jose del C. HR from Bogota, Colombia:

Sculpture and mixed media of  Swiss artist Jean-Denis Cruchet:

Come to see these artists' works, and the works of  fourth artist, Gustavo  Gruning, with a special reception 4:00 pm,  Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Up Art and Design Gallery, 340 8th Street South, Naples  (200 feet North of the parking garage that is just North of 5th Avenue South)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Art After Hours at Artis-Naples

One of the best cultural experiences in Naples is free, providing world class art and live music on the last Wednesday of each month, from 6pm to 9 pm, in Season. Some event ticket prices may have scared off those who have felt that  the entity formerly known as "The Phil", was priced for the "1%' ers". These free Wednesday evenings welcome those from 1 year old to centenarians alike. Come to The Baker Museum and listen to live music like Stu Shelton's Jazz Fusion Trio, video below,

  and get nose to nose with works by famous artists you've read about in books or saw in other media.
 Yes, powerful stuff, well worth your time. Bonus-they also sell soft drinks, wine, and tapas- like bites at reasonable prices.

Set the last Wednesday of the month on your calendar, and get ready to enjoy a changing display of art. This month features Florida Contemporary artists, with several Naples artists works by John Carroll Long, Veron Ennis, and Marcus Jansen.

By John Carroll Long, Naples
 A must see is "Museum to Scale 1:7"  - a truly amazing collection of over 50 mini-museums, each by one Belgian artist, who puts his/her work in a roughly 3 x 2 foot glass box to represent a gallery within a museum, a la "Honey, I shrunk the kids, er, museum."

     Do come and get tickets for some top quality current events at Hayes Hall at Artis-Naples.

Opera Naples' performance of "The Barber of Seville," with the Philharmonic musicians is one night only, this Saturday, March 29th, at 8 pm.   www.

  "Evita" will run April 1 -6th.

The Baker Museum at Artis-Naples,  5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, 239-431-8259,  6:30-9pm.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Delicious Bites at Naples Ritz-Carlton

Some things, like fine wines and musicians Steve Uscher and Winnie Purple, just get better with time. I last reviewed Bites at the beachside Naples Ritz-Carlton Hotel in 2010, and visited a few more times since then.It's a unique setting to wow appreciative locals and guests alike.

    Bites is directly ahead as you enter the spacious lobby, with the tall windows on its west side. Though open to the lobby, as sunset becomes night, Bites gains intimacy and romance as the overhead light level similarly diminishes. You are promptly greeted, asked if you have a reservation, and escorted to your table or comfy couch. If you’re there before 6 pm in Season, you’ve a decent chance as a walk-in to score a spot.

My favorite entertainers are there five out of seven nights- Steve Uscher on the acoustic guitar, and Winnie Purple with velvety vocals and percussion. The pairing is a must- hear; they’ve been chosen to perform at Bites for at least 5 years. 
   Their empassioned Spanish and Brazilian  musical selections are my favorites. Music transcends languages-you don't need to know the lyrics to feel a song's emotional impact. Do reserve a spot closer to the musicians, otherwise you may strain to hear them over intermittently loud talkers.

   The menu’s thirty five offerings are bite-sized, tapas-style, with orders having odd or even numbers of items. As all but one of the tables had two or multiples of two persons, having an odd number of portions made it slightly awkward to split up the odd item.

   The wine selection of reds and whites is sufficient, with pricing by the glass from $16 to $19, and bottles ranging from $55 to ~ $150. My dining partner and I were very pleased with the smooth  $55 Sean Minor 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros. 
The house started us with two small porcelain bowls of delicious stuffed olives, and mixed nuts. 
(Alas, years ago, an accompanying wonderful selection of breads was a most welcome treat…)

   Our personable and attentive server Mary was spot on with her recommendations. She let us set the pace of the dining-leisurely- to savor the live music. We were never rushed, even though walk-ins arrived; they were happily seated a few feet just outside Bites on couches.

We started with a stellar home run;  the short rib slider ($14) is a BBQ chef’s holy grail! Oh-so tender, it truly falls apart on your tongue. 
The red wine-marinated beef’s richly savory flavor is accented by melted Tallegio cheese and caramelized onion. Nestled in a crisp sesame bun that is topped with speared pickled onion and a gherkin. This  culinary marriage of top flavors and textures has been my favorite for years. Highly recommended.

The foie gras royal ($12) comes as an elegant  trio of three brown hen eggs, their tops neatly removed, revealing a firm, cold yellow foie gras mixture, topped with a rich Port wine glaze and some diced nuts.
Yellow foie gras???  Yes, the chef mixes egg yolks with the creamed foie gras, crafting a chilled firm emulsion of pure goodness, served with crisp toast!
I wouldn’t mind if it were served a little warmer.  Recommended.

After a leisurely spell listening to Steve and Winnie, we devoured the steak and fries ($14). 
This was excellent, with six speared filet mignon bites cooked to perfection, accompanied by wonderfully crisp golden-brown fries. The porcelain bowl of Béarnaise sauce was enlivened by generous bits of fresh chopped tarragon. Highly recommended.

We were comfortably satiated, and ended the meal not with a dessert (next time!) but with an order of sambal sea bass ($12) graced with a lightly spiced chili, tomato sauce, all atop coconut rice. 
The three pieces of  perfectly cooked bass were a tender delight combined with the rice-we wish we had room to have had another order!  Highly recommended.

Desserts are $8-12, with gingerbread cup cakes, chocolate fondue, bananas cup cakes with Nutella, blueberry cobbler and orange flan. I’ll go for the chocolate fondue with mint marshmallow.

   We could not have asked for a more relaxing evening of great music in an elegant setting with a fine assortment of hot or cold tapas, er, bites. The evening was enhanced by top server Mary, who orchestrated our selections and their leisurely timing. I’ll be back again and again, as selections may change with the seasons. The popular ceviche tacos, shrimp pot stickers, tomato tartar, baked brie, and burrata with pesto are high on my list.

Competition? None, with so unique a gem. There are fine Ritz-Carleton restaurants at  both the beach and the golf properties; this is my favorite for the casual  intimate setting, delicious cuisine and fine musicians. Music lovers may enjoy a wonderful  dinner and live jazz at Alto Live Jazz Kitchen, down at Bayfront. This larger restaurant setting features superb cuisine and a stage for nationally known jazz musicians. That’s pretty much it-two places that pair creative fine food and music in Naples. It’s a start... 

 Bites, serving 5 pm to 10 pm every night. 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, 514-6001.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Spirit Art Show at Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs with Artist Levi Hayes


Opening night of The Spirit Art Show at beautiful Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs.
 The Spirit Art Show presents wonderful paintings by internationally collected artists Levi Hayes, and Bonny Hawley.
 The property's green acres are perfect for meditation, drumming, and a magical retreat. People, starting with the Calusa Indians, have sought the spring's natural aquifer fed healing waters for centuries.

Children danced at separate men's and women's drumming circles, which merged at dusk with a mesmerizing synergy. Sayer Ji,  Zawi Kimberly, Borsa Dino, Carlo Jagarnauth and  Jeanie Williamson contributed to the drumming's enthusiasm. 

Artist Levi Hayes has over twenty of his paintings on display in the galleries. From his Greek and Russian style Icon painting to amazing multidimensional resin crafting, this is a must- see collection.  His paintings aer below.


 This infant is inspired by The Infant of Prague.

Levi Hayes' Artist Reception shall be on April 15th, 6-9 pm. Be there! The show will be open until May 15th. The Shangri La grounds are now open to the public for a full day of art, drumming and meditation on Wednesdays, 10-4 pm, for only $10.

A Special thanks to Addison Fischer and Heather Burch, who are mindfully protecting and preserving the site via the Lama Hana Land Trust.
  This tree-shaded sacred land truly is Shangri La.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sous Vide or not Sous Vide…There’s No Question for Me!

I’ve been reading for over 20 years  about the sous vide cooking technique, and decided that when a sous vide machine dropped below $200, I  would buy one.  Sous vide (pronounced “soo-veed”) means “under vacuum” in French, and is the way to cook things pretty much to the same degree of doneness from the core to the surface. French chefs started using the technique during the 1970’s. Food is sealed in a thick- walled plastic bag under vacuum. It can be cooked at lower temperatures than usually used, and kept at these temperatures for hours to  even days. Temperatures of 131 degrees and higher are sufficiently high to kill bacteria in safely prepared food.

   The key is to keep the temperature at a precise point via the "trinity" of a heater, temperature sensor, and a device to circulate the heated water around the bagged food. You are poaching the food well under the boiling point, so food does not get overcooked. The only drawback is that at these temperatures, no surface browning, or Maillard reaction takes place to give a crispness or crust. Solution-pan sear it or grill it briefly after sous vide, to give the usual seared taste. Until recently, water baths were scientific grade devices for around a thousand dollars, then Sous Vide Supreme made just a water bath for a pricey $430+, but it sadly lacked a water circulator. That's as useless as a rowboat without oars, as you need a circulater for the water to avoid having hot and cold spots in the Supreme's stagnant water bath. Next!
     Now, competition has heated up, ahem, with Anova and several others making heater/water circulators for $200. Don't pay more. All you add is an 8” tall container for the Anova (less height for others) water, and vacuum-bagged food. The food is essentially pasteurized at 131-135 degrees or higher after 4 hours. When it is promptly refrigerated, food tastes fresh for days after cooking.

 I’ve tasted food prepared professionally by sous vide, and was amazed at the desired uniformity of the degree of doneness throughout the food, from surfaces to center, stem to root, and fat to bone.  Rather than steam or poach fish, or grill or pan sear steaks as I've happily done for decades,  I decided to  spring for an Anova Immersion Circulator for $199 plus $15 shipping. Upon the Anova’s arrival, I cooked a steak at 135 degrees to make it medium rare. I was influenced by watching innovative Executive Chef Domenico Bosco of’s  technique. He crafts dozens of orders a day for both takeout meals and in house lunch and dinner dining, and can barely keep up with the demand for his delicious Mediterranean-healthy food! 
Chef  Domenico and Barbara Bosco at Restaurant in Naples
All is fresh, locally sourced and organic when possible, and that's 95% of the time. Well worth a visit, a second visit, and another...! 2500 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, 239-263-8009,

 Vacuum sealing your food? Huh?  I’ve been cooking, chilling, then freezing all sorts of things for years in Foodsaver brand vacuum sealers that I bought at Goodwill Industry and other thrift stores for $10-$15. They retail for $50 to $200. Food can stay tasty for months to years when vacuum sealed, as things are less likely to turn rancid or get freezer burn in the absence of oxygen. That's why freezing in Baggies, Ziplocks, tin foil, etc doesn't keep food fresh for long!  As with canning, simple cooking techniques must be taken to avoid botulism spore growth in a relatively anaerobic setting.

 I bought a one pound, one inch thick nicely marbled steak that I vacuum sealed,  then let sit for 30” till it was closer to room, or ambient temperature.While that really helps for grilling or searing proteins, I can probably skip that step in the future with sous vide cookery.

I clamped the solid 15" tall Anova device to my 8” tall large "spaghetti"  pot, then added warm water to kick start the cooking process. The device is easy to use, professionally constructed by clever engineers, and easy to clean. Guys, you can get by without reading the manual! Plug it optimally into a ground fault circuit  interrupter (GFCI) - protected kitchen outlet. Then select Centigrade or Fahrenheit, set temperature and cooking time on its large display face, and press start.  That's it! In less than 20”, the Anova heated the water bath from 102 to the target 135 degrees, and kept it there.
I plopped in the vacuum-bagged steak enhanced with salt and pepper, made sure to cover the water bath to avoid evaporation, set the timer for 1’ 15” at 135 degrees, and wandered off till the quietly purring Anova beeped that time was up, and demurely turned itself off. 
The steak had a beautiful medium-rare interior, with a pasty-looking exterior…just as expected.
The steak yielded 3 tablespoons of liquid which I later reduced with red wine and garlic.
I heated a pan on the range top to medium high, added canola oil, then seared both sides of the steak for a minute or so on each side to really bring out some flavor.
Now the steak’s exterior looked right, and the interior stayed a uniform medium-rare.
Center on the left slice, nearest the exterior on the right side slice.
Taste test?  Wow, sooo very tender, juicy and delicious!   
    Next time, I'll heat up the grill to 450 degrees, toss in some water-soaked mesquite chips, and try that for a different finish. Hmmm... perhaps cooking short ribs for hours in BBQ sauce may come first...who knows?

Is this $200 device, with ~$50 vacuum sealer and water bath for your daily cooking?
Probably not, as most home cooks cook just fine with time honored techniques. This is for “foodie”  home cooks- those that want to try various aspects of “molecular gastronomy” with dishes that are optimally prepared at precise temperatures. It’s a small percentage of restaurant chefs that need or want this…till they try it! It’s great for preparing multiple portions of food at a precise temperature, then searing, or chilling till later needed, and quickly reheating. The water bath setup takes up a bit of counter space with a few gallons of water in the bath-it's not too moveable on a daily basis to put away, drag out, and fill again. While it's quicker steaming some veggies and fish, sous vide is excellent for precise cooking of fish, meats and veggies.

    I sometimes cook with other cooks, preparing six course meals for 6 to 24 people at charity benefit dinners. Sous vide is a great way to “prep” or cook food ahead of time for multiple people, then just reheat, sear and sauce just before serving.    

Bon appetite!

*****************Addendum 3/18/14  ***************

I didn't like not being able to see the food being cooked in the steel pot, so I ditched the steel pot, and  bought a clear lexan-type storage container for ~$19 plus tax at Williams-Sonoma.  Restaurant supply stores have loads of these for food storage..Any one want to try cooking verdant fields of dollarweed?