Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Art of Sandwich and more: Heirlooms

Step into the sauce: Baked Goat Cheese Pomodoro


Soup of the day: Chicken Matzo Ball


Turkey Avocado


Cafe BLT: Look Mom - there's a Fritos in my san-wich!


If you haven't recently dined in Jacksonville lately; you must know there is a upward flux in restaurant chains and mediocre dining establishments claiming the fame of local mundane.

Fortunately there are pleasant additions recently taking hold in hopes of steering a proper direction to northeast Florida's waning dining scene.

Heirlooms recently opened in the past year right on San Jose Boulevard in the Mandarin area of town.

We needed a fresh, casual yet 'special' place to lunch right after my daughter's graduation and opted to try this new lunch spot.

I was longing for an alfresco sort of lunch spot similar to my haunts in Encino and L.A. days in SoCal.

The art of sandwich making is something I've cherished and was instilled in me as a child growing up in the city of San Francisco.

Recently someone in Jacksonville mentioned "it's just a sandwich".

What the heck kind of comment is that?

With that in mind, I do recall this person inadvertently (so he claimed) picked up selections of screw top wine when I asked him to make sure the wine selection for the evening I was planning should be far from pedestrian.

I remember stuff like that.

Heirlooms is lovely and you will be impressed with their refreshing menu including fresh produce and recipes highlighting an approachable global flair.

There is covered terrace dining which is a great option during the recent cool weather as well as inside the cafe.

We were greeted warmly by one of the owners; Chef Cheryl as she welcomed a generous lunch crowd that afternoon. Heirlooms is now open for dinner and I suggest you visit their website for an update www.heirloomsinc.com

Heirlooms: passion in action.....

Both partners/owners are accomplished chefs brandishing a culinary graduate from CIA, bb's in San Marco and the Pebbles Group in Orlando to name a few accolades.

They also offer catering and cooking classes.

Upon my second visit the only small glitch was in the timing of our lunch service.

We waited patiently with two five year olds both listless and active as we enjoyed the afternoon on the terrace. Yet by the time my husband's lunch arrived he had to pack it to go. It was quite a wait, but with that said the service was hospitable enough to garnish our attention for another return. It appeared our server and the management staff were extremely apologetic and swiftly attended to our dining needs thereafter. Which is a rarity among restaurants in Jacksonville.....and Paris too (the only similarities though).

The girls were surprised with a gesture of sweetness presented in the form of a chocolate cupcake......



Meet & Eat @:

Heirlooms
a culinary cafe and market
9545 San Jose Boulevard
Jacksonville, Florida
www.heirloomsinc.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Asian Fling @ Roy's Restaurant / Jacksonville Beach

An excerpt from Roy's springtime menu....


Temporarily satiated my west coast homesickness....


Fusion take on the classic crab cake....more similar to crab cocktail


Standard standby deep fried calamari.....loved the dipping sauce with a slight kimchi twist


What could go wrong here?.....only happy endings



Meet & Eat at:

Roy's Restaurant
2400-101 South Third Street
Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Tel 904.241.7697

What I really miss about Pacific Coast dining are progressive pairings in ingredients and presentation that seem to lack for the most part in the northeast region I've placated myself as of recent............

After my usual morning round of the Los Angeles Times food section I came across today's review of a new restaurant in Beverly Hill's HOKUSAI.

Hokusai is an inspiring take on Asian Fusion which has developed into more of a global fusion in the culinary landscape.

I'll be updating my HOT LINKS list today - so don't forget to dive into more indulgences about global food happenings at thepassionatecook and THE hot spot for food porn step inside TASTESPOTTING to start your day off the right foot.

I'm scheduled to post my recent visits VERY SOON at Bistro Aix, Tento Churrascarria & French Pantry all lovely culinary accouterments to Jacksonville!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The New Sunday Night Suppers that get the senses going: Tuna Tartare

Deliberate beginnings since Monday is looming......

Here's a first of many of one of my recipes via blog.

Tuna Tartare for starters and to follow that ever expected pot roast for Sunday Night Supper.....

Quickie Sunday Night Pot Roast Supper

The Roast

Marinate the pot roast the night before with light doses of sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, onion powder, paprika, thyme powder, oregano powder, dried tarragon and dried parsley evenly on both sides of the roast.

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil to moisten on both sides.

Chill overnight.

Next morning - pour about 1/2 cup of white wine or a rose over the roast.

Cover the roast and bake with the 'Going to church method' at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 4 hours -gives you time to fix your hair, lip liner, gloss, grab a bagel and get the kids ready and drive to 11 a.m. service (I live in the South; church starts later).

The agnostic cooking method is at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 2.5 hours.

Pot Roast is juicier with a slow cook factor.

Remember to let the roast sit for a few minutes before serving with three cheese baby potatoes(Parmesan, white cheddar and mozzarella) with chopped beets & chives and brussel sprouts sauteed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar & sea salt.

Also - this is my quickie Sunday Night Supper method - so there's less fuss with the ingredients as well as skimping on the gravy which I need less of anyways.

Here's the Tuna Tartare

I love this recipe especially after a crazy back to back weekend of things to do, places to go, people to see and too much food served with deep fried this and that; over sauced and over taxed.......

Tuna Tartare

½ lb. fresh sushi grade tuna
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tsp. of whole capers or 3-4 olives chopped (mix of Kalamata & green)
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Cut tuna in small bite size cubes. Be delicate with the handling and slicing of the raw tuna to help keep its composure.

Gently fold in chopped garlic and whole capers or chopped olives. Do a taste check for seasoning and add approximately 1 to 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, touch of sea salt and touch of fresh ground pepper to taste. Gently fold remaining ingredients into tuna. * Do not blend fresh lemon juice into the tuna mixture at this point; it will effect the coloration of the tuna from bright red to a dull gray.

Refrigerate while preparing the garnish.


Garnish

Freshly grated horseradish
Fresh basil finely chopped
Fresh lemons - juiced
Fresh Jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Fresh lemons - quartered

Toss garnish ingredients lightly.

Serve Tuna Tartare immediately with toasted baguette slices and the garnish accompaniments on the side with sliced lemons.


Approximately four appetizer servings

(c)2007 photo & recipe courtesy of Melt Into Arts Inc.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Clos du Bois: civilized passion reserved in a bottle

Publix Aprons Chef preparing Spanish Lamb Ragout


Erik Olsen/Clos du Bois (center) and the Southern Wine & Spirits team


I've experienced a diverse drama of wine tastings and I've found the wine tasting in itself is just as pliable as the diversity of the region the wine hails from.

More of the enlightened tastings have been our day trips in the Napa and Sonoma County regions. We recently had a surprising visit to the wineries in the Finger Lakes region in New York a summer ago. There were precisely two cabs in that region that beckoned the beginnings to a foreboding competitive edge against the notable California Cabernet Sauvignon (perhaps minus the marketing budget).

Last night's wine tasting presented by Clos du Bois and Publix Aprons was rateably a civilized, passionate yet a precisely intelligent wine tasting that I've experienced since living in Jacksonville.

At this time, I'm not going to discuss other experiences in town in fear it might taint this post.

Erik Olsen the Winemaker for Clos du Bois presented his case just as approachable as the vintages itself developed at the winery. His presentation was a delicate balance that highlighted the basic horticulture of the vines, definition of soil types, ways of discerning the pairing wines with food, as well as the phases of seasonality of vintages and the final tasting itself.

There were four tastings presented:

2004 Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc

2006 Clos du Bois Riesling

2003 Clos du Bois Briar Crest Cabernet Sauvignon

Cockburns 10 year old Tawny Port


I asked the winemaker what the standout vintages were in the past ten years at the winery; thus mentioned:

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (Briar Crest as noted above) - VERY GOOD: produced from a cool growing season and warmer towards the tail end

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot are great - the season was warmer than usual

2005 Cabernet Suavignon

2006 Merlot had a great year - the best season ever seen

Also in attendance: Southern Wine & Spirits. A quite exuberant representation of SWS and I only hope they continue to bring the same caliber of wine tastings to the area to match Jacksonville's growth of those in wine adoration demographics.

(c) 2007 photo credit Melt Into Arts Inc.

Monday, May 14, 2007

California Winemaker Visits Jacksonville: Erik Olsen/Clos du Bois

Entering Vineland.....


Eric Olsen, Vice President & Winemaker at Clos du Bois


Winemaking Elements


When: Thursday, May 17, 2007

Where: Publix Apron's Cooking School
10500 San Jose Blvd.
Jacksonville, Florida 32257
Cooking School: 904-262-4187
Reservations Recommended

It was right when the option of throwing my hands up in the air began to haunt me again that I heard news of California Winemaker Erik Olsen's scheduled visit to Jacksonville.

What have we done to deserve this gift? - I don't know, but I'd like to thank Publix for arranging this visit to the northeast Florida region that is known for lest I say the simpler of palates.

Clos du Bois located in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County, California. The winery is notably one of America's world-class vineyards and as mentioned in Mr. Olsen's bio provided by the winery, his visit here should definitely spark some excitement:

"Erik's resolute focus on wine and winemaking is evident in his multi-discipline dive into educating himself on the topic. With a BS in Fermentation Science from UC Davis, an MS in Food Science from Cornell and an MBA from the University of Washington, it is clearly Olsen's aim to understand and master both the technical and business aspects of wine......he made wine at some of the most prominent wineries in California and Washington, including Robert Mondavi, Simi and Chateau Ste. Michelle."

From a observant and well-fed p.o.v.(since I originally hail from the San Francisco Bay Area), options in dining and food are endless there. It still piques my thoughts why Jacksonville is still struggling in its culinary identity with so many transplants from outside of this region as well as itself being a beacon of intense historical character.

Anyhow, consider attending this Thursday evening's presentation & demonstration. Jacksonville has forever been at this cusp of cultural revitalization. Winemaking is both a historic and cultural art form that provokes us to step outside our comfort boundaries.

Another draw is that Mr. Olsen is an accomplished chef. Scheduled to be prepared and tasted among the attendees as mentioned on the The Aprons website:

"Pasta With Greens, Chickpeas, Toasted Breadcrumbs, and Pecorino Romano Cheese; Tandoori-Style Shrimp; Spanish Lamb Ragout with Roasted Sweet Peppers, Roasted Potatoes, and Sautéed Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes; Hazelnut Torte with Coffee Buttercream."

If you haven't already visited the Aprons Cooking School at Publix this is your opportunity to do so.

The gourmet kitchen is tucked away on the side of the supermarket away from the frenzy of the grocery itself. An impeccable professional kitchen has been installed with two cooking stations, video screens to watch the visiting celeb chefs at work and an upscale casual dining area with all the fancy accompaniments needed.

*Salut!*

(c) 2007 Photos courtesy Clos du Bois

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sweet Eats: Downtown Historic Fernandina Beach in Florida

Tantalizing beginnings: Berenjena Espana (Eggplant Espana)


Paella Marinera (Seafood Paella)


Can't get enough: Almejas Borrachas (Drunken Clams)




Now it's all about Espana Restaurant & Tapas @ Downtown Historic Fernandina Beach.

I can't seem to kick this Spanish grazing craze. I'd have to say Espana hooked me in with a profound use of one ingredient: cilantro.

I've always loved cilantro - but often enjoyed it served fresh and included in particular dishes to give it that twisted tang.

Espana's use of cilantro is most prevalent in their saucy et sexy seafood paella; the Paella Marinera complete with "clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari and lobster cooked with saffron rice".

The draw to this dish came from the generous yet perfectly portioned use of cilantro briskly simmered the paella blend. Then, what drew me in all the way is the preparation of the paella as it is traditionally predestined to be prepared: a 'quick draw' sort of way allowing the intimate gems of clams, shrimp, mussels, calamari and all that never ever result in overcooked rubberized flubber.

Perfectly seasoned and with each bite to perfection - it was the cilantro with the saffron that melded the entire dish with a smokey mist.

The only fine tuning necessary in the dish was its plating of the Paella. Bite to bite it was a stunning masterpiece - but some thought into tidying the presentation would have added more eye candy appeal. For 'zample: If the 'sides' of the platter it arrived upon didn't hold remnants of the food swirled about - this would have graced itself to wonder class efforts.

Another must try is the Eggplant Espana (Berenjena Espana)prepared with "layers of roasted eggplant and manchego cheese topped with sauteed mushrooms and creamy white sauce". When this dish first arrived all I saw was a blanket of cheese. I was worried about breaking through yet another Jacksonville cheese barrier, but found myself surprised when this was not the case at all.

The cheese was pillow soft and translucent. The amount of cheese was actually just enough and balanced cohesively with the tart of the eggplant. I highly recommend this dish if you want to savor a bit in the unexpected.

Another appreciation I have for Espana is the dishes arrive with ALL THE INGREDIENTS mentioned in the menu description - thank you for this.

Overall, we walked into a wonderful setting as we arrived from less than a block off the main street. The restaurant had an attachment to the main dining hall that gave it a feeling of dining outside yet shielded by a comfortable porch like setting.

There was outside dining too in their back garden area complete with an inviting running fountain.

Service was warm and personalized.

There was sort of a embraced feeling throughout that reminded me of a noble clandestine setting, yet complete with all the natural elements but hinting maybe something more.....

Dine, wine and visit:

Espana Restaurant & Tapas
22 S. 4th Street
Fernandina Beach, Florida

Tel 904.261.7700
www.espanadowntown.com