Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gourmet Grocer in Northeast Florida

solo wine flights

gorgeous & avid rows of cheese

more than you could know

The other night I was in movie mode thanks to my infinite connections with netflix.com.

I watched JULIA with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.

I'm not sure what brought that on for me to put that order through for such a film.

It might have been the past trailers I've seen during my video distribution a la print-marketing daze in L.A. with photo montages of Fonda perked with red lipstick and a fur lined coat somewhere in Berlin.

Berlin: yeah, that'll get me everytime.

A friend of mine went to Berlin decades ago RIGHT WHEN THE WALL fell.....remember when?

I have a chip of that graffiti strewn wall in my basket of 'rocks' collected around the world. Yes; I was also an avid rock collector, but that's something else now.

The point here is food.

There was a scene in the movie (without giving it away) whereby Jane Fonda's character Lillian arrives to 'the' destination to meet a certain person.

The scene took place inside a smokey tavern - rustic bistro type local haunt in a European city.

Lillian arrives completely overwhelmed, exhausted, stress ridden yet delighted to see this person.

Remember the setting is rustic, smokey and it is set right before the prompt of WWII.

The certain person Lillian is meeting with has ordered caviar with all the pre-war fixings.

It appears to be slices of some sort of crusty loaf and a side platter of butter.

The scene is extremely emotional; mix in caviar with rustic country bread alongside a platter of butter and glasses of what appears to be room temperature white wine really makes you reflect on the 'scene'.

In haste they eat, talk and drink.

The wine inside the glass appears to be the near to the last or LAST DROP of wine as they are drinking and talking; that it leaves me the viewer thirsty.

I don't think Fonda's character Lillian even had a full bite when the scene had to ultimately change again.

The combined effort of emotional upheaval, caviar, unfilled glasses of temperate white wine, eating in haste with tears, smokey setting and rustic bread proved way too much for me.

For me it comparable to my billionth art history class in art school at CCA in Oakland California.

My art history professor would COMPLETELY in Freudian manner analyze a still life painting of oranges, figs, grapes, cheese and bread.

That scene in JULIA was exhausting.

With that said; I discovered a delightful and refreshing little gourmet grocer in St. Augustine Beach.

the cutest frogs legs and clams all in a row

It reminded me of the boutique urban grocers in Manhattan and San Francisco.

They even have caviar......

Bummer news.....since this post, I recently found out that CHEF SAYS HAS CLOSED! Another one bites the dust. I went back there a few weeks ago (@January 2008) for a cuppa Jo' and perhaps a bite to eat and NADA - nothing was there! :( !!!

Yours truly,
Girl About Town

Chef Says Specialty Market
Intersection of S.R. A1A and "A" street
In the Seagrove Town Center
St. Augustine Beach, Florida
Tel 904.471.FOOD (3663)


a pretty dress a pretty face: Giovanni's Restaurant

Tuna Tower: *bless my soul* diced sushi grade tuna layered with lump crab and surrounded with fresh avocado. Alongside wasabi aioli & dressed with Atlantic caviar.

Insalata Alla Sicilian: *disguised to cross the asian border* big bites of roasted eggplant, red peppers, fresh mozzarella; lovingly blanketed with arugula & our dear friend prosciutto.

Capesante Veneziana ;- wake me up when we get there: Pan roasted scallops & orecchiette pasta tossed with cherry tomato, black olives and capers with fresh basil.

Chocolate Creme Brulee - a reflection of my past

Limoncello speak easy: now why did clooney & devito just kept going.....?

Living in both San Francisco and Cleveland gave me a deep appreciation for Italian food.

I moaned and complained about the eight months outta the year of black skies, snow, sleet, ice(is that the same as sleet?) and absolutely no sight of an ocean those bleak years in northeast Ohio.

I ate a lot too.

Cleveland's Little Italy was our safe box for date night and now I wonder why I didn't appreciate the brisk walks on Mayfield Road to Guarino's as the lake effects wind would slather my neck on those endearing January nights.

*btw* the historic Tremont district in Cleveland was another FAV enclave where suburbanites dared to go.

But here I was in the middle of the Midwest (not really the middle) but dying formidably for culture and my 'city' fix so with pioneering efforts I discovered refreshing hubs of areas like the historic Tremont district, Coventry, Little Italy and also the Warehouse District in Cleveland just baring their sole in art studios and offbeat fixings.

Which reminds of my first confrontation with limoncello.

My in-laws brought us a bottle back from their trip to Sicily and said, "THEY SAID to keep it in the freezer - keep it in the freezer".

So I kept it in the freezer.

One night after the house finally closed down; I decided to see what it was about.

It very well reminded me of sucking on fresh lemons (flesh & rind altogether)with sugar drenched atop when I was a kid.

Alas, with a shotgun stance: this had a strong aftermath that plunged through your throat and nostrils all at the same time.

Was that the sicilian kiss?

Giovanni's Restaurant
1161 Beach Blvd.
Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Tel 904.249.7787


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jacksonville's first & only personalized food blogger reveals thyself....

Okay * * * * I'm flaunting somewhat

There are definitely lots of blog smiths extraordinaire in this town. Hey - any foodie and lushly culinary fanatics?

Let's join the party and get IT ALL GOING . . . . .

What the heck are we waiting for????

I'm lonely in the middle of this big WHITE PLATE - join me . . . .

Okay my darlings . . . . . . . . this week I'm gearing up for the beloved ART & WINEFEST which I must confess a la stiletto that TasteMemory.com is a gracious sponsor to amuse-gueule you tidy.

I feel love....love to luv ya bby


Monday, August 20, 2007

mid-week dinner woes to I WANT INDIAN: Cilantro's Indian Cuisine

Chicken Lolly pop goes with my lolly pop girls

One *SMASHING* looking chicken in chartreuse.....too eighties....?

Garlic Nan

Tika Chicken begin counting the ways.....

Since I'm lost for words to find that ULTIMATE neighborhood Chinese; I have surprised myself (again) and discovered a back up for 'those' kinda nights.

Cilantro Indian Cuisine on San Jose Blvd. in a recently revamped strip mall familiar to many Jacksonvillanese types will find this place homey with a suppertime feel alongside the vibe you are 'out for dinnah' Tuesday night.

That's what I need every so often with this glamorous life of dining and blogging which has jaded my taste buds and when I opt to return to the familiar.

But with moi; perhaps it's the familiar with a soulful mix of humm and throat tingling spices to save the day.

I do love Cilantro's dinner menu that plays also on northwestern Indian cuisine. The other night; the chef was delighted to go over the menu with us detailing a host of their dishes.

Forewarning us of some of the spices - "HOLD ON" I exclaimed - I'll GO for the HEAT and just bring it on!

It was an awesome dinner contrived of:

A glass (& two) of the Nobilio New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Each sip had a nice bite. Reminded me of late summer northeast Ohio vine ripened grapes but not sweet - slight fruit forward and oak less with an ease of minerality in between.

Mulligatawny soup - a lovely delectable blend of softened ground lentils with lemon, peppers and faint spices.

I love this soup and always order with a side of their garlic nan studded with roasted garlic and fresh cilantro.

It is a savory mix of fresh, earthy and feisty resistance on the palate and proceeds deep throttle.

Chicken Madras - dolled up pieces of chicken cooked in creamy coconut curry that is tempered with mustard seeds, spices and my ultimate favorite: CURRY LEAVES.

Remember those afternoons eating sunflower seeds on the sidewalk?

Well, I can sit all day chewing on curry leaves - not too sure what it will do to me; but I do love the texture and faintness of it.

Of course this is served with basmati rice; our fluffy & nutty confident.

I also recommend the Balti Baingan which is fresh eggplant precisely simmered with bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and balanced seasonally with ground spices.

The Balti reminds me very much of the sofrito in Spanish restaurants.

Cilantro Indian Cuisine is very popular for the Sunday buffet brunch as well as their lunch time buffett service.

But I highly recommend them as a dinner destination as I have found their dinner entrees handled with enticing loving care.

The buffet is generous and tasty; yet the taste memory itself of their dinner menu flaunts great care that I often return as I earlier mentioned when seeking comfort, an ease of service & excitement on my dulled palate!

Cilantro Indian Cuisine
9825 - #6 San Jose Boulevard
Jacksonville, Florida
Tel 904.262.9577


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sensory Action: Part 1 of What is TasteMemory.com?

Herb Butter made with sweet cream unsalted butter, fresh basil, parsley, dill & slight hand o' sea salt laid over slices of fresh baguette a la radish on top.....

I grew up with this savory snack after I discovered the 'makings of it' in my parents old TIME-LIFE BOOKS series entitled The Cooking of Provincial France via 1968.

I recently discovered the book was written by M.F.K. Fisher THE FOOD WRITER of our century!!!

I have this sacred book in my kitchen bookshelf :)

As you know, I have this Magnificent Obsession for food.

I also have this infinite Magnificent Obsession for the concept of taste memory and food.

Consider taste memory a total recall or in other words a deja vu that delighted you in earlier years or perhaps in the recent span of a decade or so that stills your senses toward a minute moment of enthrallment....*sigh*

Portrait of my basil earlier this spring. A must have for anyone that enjoys her intoxicating scent.....at least for me; she reminds me I'm alive!!!

Also eloquently mentioned by James Beard himself about taste memory:

"The ability to recall a taste sensation, which I think of as "taste memory," is a God-given talent, akin to perfect pitch, which makes your life richer if you possess it. If you aren't born with it, you can never seem to acquire it....And naturally good chefs and cooks must depend upon memory when they season or when they are combining subtle flavors to create a new sauce or dish."

-- James Beard, excerpt from Delights and Prejudices, 1964

For so many reasons; I've entitled this website-blog TasteMemory.com to capture those moments I savor and perhaps many of you have as well.

One of my fondest taste memories is actually related to the sense of smell.

I grew up in San Francisco and in my early years my family owned a delicatessen in the heart of the Mission District.

To be exact it was at 24th and Potrero near San Francisco's General Hospital. If anyone out there remembers my family owned deli - it was called Purity Delicatessen. We were one of the first families to revitalize that part of the neighborhood during it's *slump*. Back then it was the undeveloped 'inner city' and today it's the city's hub of culinary excitement.

It was an exciting time during the Bay Area's food revolution and my family jump started scores of revitalization projects via culinary establishments throughout the Mission District, Haight-Ashbury & later the Castro District.

I feel my blood reviving just describing that time.

Going back to the sense of smell memory by taste memory has to do with my first encounter with San Francisco style french bread and sourdough bread.

Franco Bakery (I can't find them on the web and they may be retired/defunct as many of my old haunts have) would deliver the loaves still warm from the brick oven in giant paper grocery bags everyday except Wednesday. The bakery closed Wednesdays so my parents always ordered double the amount on Tuesdays.

The bread man arrived first thing in the morning when the deli opened and I would wait for him (at a distance)to come through the front door.

He was a real crusty looking guy too; kinda like Popeye the Sailor but scarier.

I never got too close to him as I would always wait for him to leave so I could stake out my claim without him getting too close or asking me any weird questions.

Garlic & Olive drenched toast points made from Jacksonville bread

The Franco Bakery 'loaf' itself was about 3 feet long with two slits equally apart; thus recognizing three rolls of bread one ft. long each.

My parents deli specialized in sandwiches - real sandwiches that fought back with every bite; yet you just wanted more. Think meat, think sweet, savory, fresh; think love and fog while trying drive in the sun in pleasure....hmmmm.

Anyways, often times during the lunch hour; there would be a line of people streaming from the sandwich counter all the way out door to the corner of the sidewalk on 23rd Street......just waiting for a personalized sandwich to be made!

Since then; my poor soul can be found at Publix grabbing a lean baguette in the bakery section.

I'm pretty much there every other day to buy a fresh baguette and if the kids aren't screaming too much I can make my way over to Fresh Market for a step up better baguette.

So if you see me there; I'm the crazy lady that's slowly cascading through the stack of baguettes (no one in their right mind in Jacksonville would careless for one over the other).

I'm also the same crazy lady that lifts the chosen loaf right under my nose to make sure it has THAT scent.

It's a certain scent that combines in the dough with the right enough snapf and smoke with air; but forthright enough that I'm somewhat assured that more than a fluff of Styrofoam awaits inside.

On a couple of occasions the guy behind the meat counter at Fresh Market caught me doing that. He just gave me a look like 'whatever your thing is lady' ; then went back into the kitchen I suppose to hack some meat.

The lady at the bakery counter at Publix saw me doing that too and gave me the same look.

I've seen euro-types and other cultures doing the same thing I do.

I have to admit I sometimes do it with melons too; even grapes (farm grapes from Ohio) & especially fresh chives.

A recent lovely 'take' from Bistro Aix here.

When we went out to dinner during the seventies, Yorkshire Pudding was the rage in San Francisco. They would always serve it at restaurants when you ordered a T-Bone Steak while Al Martino crooned in the background. Hey don't forget the short order of smith and wesson.....

What I've come across here hasn't been too similar to San Francisco style bread. The closest has been French Pantry off Powers Avenue near University Blvd.

My next adventure awaits.....hopefully something with a crust on top!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Botan Restaurant: This review no longer applies due to management change since original post

Do you recall ONE SIZE FITS ALL? This one absolute does.......

Can't stop raving.......ask Chef Andy for HEART SUSHI

My design professors at CCAC would love this divine presentation

Too sexy to......fry me amiable

photo courtesy *m*: guess what luv? this is what started it all........

Dear TasteMemory.com readers - ownership has changed since I have written this post earlier in August 2007. I returned to Botan in October 2007 to find the management had changed, the sushi chefs mentioned in this post have changed as well as a different menu.....

Hello darlings......

I'm actually out and about eating around far far and away from Jax'ville...........

Will report about that later (upon return from chain central....)

Here's a *close up* though on Botan Japanese Restaurant; hey.......ya think I'm obsessed about sushi?

I think I'm more into the challenge of it.

Kinda like biting into olives.

Have you been to those Manhattan delicatessens with like THE abundant 20 something some odd olive varieties?

I've always said "A man that won't bite into OLIVES; is afraid of RISKS......"

I guess it could apply to women too....but t'hink about that one......esp. if you know someone that will not BITE into an UNFAMILIAR olive.....hmmmmmm (perhaps I have too much time on my hands to think about things like this; but wanted to share this passionate insight with you).

Grocery story black olives and generic green olives need not apply.

I'm into exotic olive biters (another story).

Anyways; this place BOTAN floored me though - most of all because it was completely unexpected and *m* hauled me out; reminding me it would be a formal 'review' on my part.

Which meant I had to haul my camera equipement; and I COULD NOT eat in a relaxed state of mind realiSing I was AT WORK.

So with that last stoke: I AM OBSESSED and must go back THERE; so as I rouse back into Jax'ville......for the best RAW sushi in town.

Dear TasteMemory.com readers - ownership has changed since I have written this post earlier in August 2007. I returned to Botan in October 2007 to find the management had changed, the sushi chefs mentioned in this post have changed as well as a different menu.....

Botan Japanese Restaurant
4076 Belfort Rd. #9
Jacksonville, Florida 32216

Tel 904.296.0770

Monday, August 6, 2007

Botan Restaurant post #2: This review no longer applies due to management change since original post

My Heart goes out to you.....

A personalized Salmon Bake reminded me of pacific rim 'volcano' sushi but in pretty bites......

Sushi & Sashimi platter: a visual reminder that sushi is an art form as many try and not many achieve. Achieved beautifully here.....

Jalapeno Poppers - even if you don't like spicy; this one beckons......

Ice Chilled Organic Sake: you don't have to twist my arm

Dear TasteMemory.com readers - ownership has changed since I have written this post earlier in August 2007. I returned to Botan in October 2007 to find the management had changed, the sushi chefs mentioned in this post have changed as well as a different menu.....

I am convinced and my senses are finally stirred.

BOTAN JAPANESE RESTAURANT has arrived to town and may be the ONE savior and sanctimony to Jacksonville's dining scene that needs *oh so much* to strategically define this city as a hopeful dining & cultural destination that is GLOBALLY SAVVY and someplace to come back too.....

It was Wednesday night and my scheduled girl's night out with a gal pal *m* had taken an unexpected turn (which I'm used to btw....). I had a rough week of dining profiles, unexpected darts thrown and recovering from some food experiences so was looking forward to a play date at a "tried and true" spot (defined by consistency, able to produce a quality dining experience with exceptional produce/product, savvy details and awesome client service); so this meant either crush, bistro aix or bb's.........but NOOOOOOOOO my pal *m* had another GREAT IDEA.

Apparently she had discovered the BEST SUSHI in Jacksonville "ahem* as well as northeast Florida according to her comment on my voicemail.

With ABSOLUTE reluctance and my stomach fearing in cringe (please understand I've been dragged to the "best sushi" excursions since living here on so many occasions - and understand I'm from San Francisco et SoCal and shed time in Hawaii for the BEST SUSHI and have been literally blown out of the water by pacific rim sushi masters; so what I've experience here in Jacksonville thus far is well.....never mind.....)


If you have only tried sushi in Jacksonville and think you don't like sushi - think again and think outside of the box and sway over to BOTAN; esp. if you need a little tingle on the tongue and some excitement on that palate.

I had *m* try several things she said she normally does not like; and she tried it at BOTAN and experienced the fiery baptism of a new palate.

I am convinced if BOTAN continues to present and produce the finest they presented moi and *m* last Wednesday night - they will help launch a much needed food revolution required to elevate a standard & quality for not only sushi but the experience of 'dining' in ethnic cuisine to a high standard for this area.

I pray for consistency and longevity.

The master sushi chef at BOTAN is Andy Chen. Chef Andy is an artist and extremely gifted in the art of sushi. He has trained with SUSHI MASTERS on the California Coast, Las Vegas and Manhattan before making his arrival here.

His work is consumate, detailed and did I say FRESH?


To make a long story short: we did not order off the menu. To make a long story short Chef Andy created the dishes pictured here off the menu.

We gave him a list of our favorite items, typical girls stuff: maguro, yellowtail, salmon, roe & black caviar, etc.

I also challenged him with materials rare or not found in Jacksonville and I was shocked when he included: daikon, baby pickled carrots and white tuna.

Here's a brief descrip:

HEART SUSHI - lovely with tidbits of magura with finely diced daikon and japanese pickled carrots topped with delicate fish roe and black caviar

SALMON BAKE vs. THE VOLCANO - sweet baked salmon with delicate cream sauce, caviar and finely shredded scallions

SUSHI & SASHIMI platter - too pretty to eat but the damage has already been done

JALAPENO POPPERS - refined preGame eating; perfect for tailgating crowd

COLD SAKE - mild & wild in a globally blue chiller

There is also a full Japanese cuisine menu aside from the sushi menu.

The restaurant is located where the previous Lily Bistro hailed and right next to the former Sierra Grille. There is no website as of present yet details below.

Dear TasteMemory.com readers - ownership has changed since I have written this post earlier in August 2007. I returned to Botan in October 2007 to find the management had changed, the sushi chefs mentioned in this post have changed as well as a different menu.....

Please find and dine at:

Botan Japanese Restaurant
4076 Belfort Rd. #9
Jacksonville, Florida 32216

Tel 904.296.0770