Saturday, February 26, 2011

Swank Farm Tour and Luncheon with chef Dean Max, Loxahatchee, Fla

Chef Dean James Max, of 3030 Ocean Restaurant, proves it is possible to create a knock-your-socks off luncheon using local Florida ingredients. With produce from Jodi and Darrin Swank's hydroponic farm, and donations from area businesses, chef Max cooked an extravaganza of Florida centric dishes for 60 hungry south Florida foodies at $100 a person.

Festivities started with a Swank Shisho cocktail--made with bubbly Francoi Montand wine mixed with shreds of Shisho Japanese basil (grown at Swank's) and micro-marigold buds (also from Swank).

As everyone sipped their cocktails, Darrin Swank how things worked on his farm, from greenhouse to open container field. A self-guided tour of the shade house followed where the guests were treated to several tables heavily laden with fresh veg and dips.

Then it was on to the long white clothed tables at the back of the property. Each was decorated with fresh bouquets (donated by Seed to Bloom), crystal goblets, and shiny cutlery. Chef Max's team sprang to work as the guests settled into their seats. There was something for everyone in the 12 courses served.

For Seafood Lovers:
Creamy, lightly grilled, Togarashi Wahoo (donated by Gary's Seafood Specialties) was served with wilted mustard greens in a citrus dressing. Then there was the amazing Mahi Mahi, again grilled but this time dressed with a thick layer of buttery greens and then drizzled with a Swank vinaigrette.

Fresh tasting farm raised clams from Sebastian Inlet (donated by White Water Clams Farm of Sebatian) cooked in a spicy tomato broth with strips of smoky bacon (donated by Allan Benton Bacon of Tennessee) were served piled high on top of crusty French bread (donated by Old School Bakery of Delray).

Finishing off the seafood dishes was one made with Florida brown rice (donated by Sem-Chi of Belle Glade), and lightly salted, sauteed, Florida Royal Red shrimp from Cape Canaveral (donated by Wild Ocean Seafood Market of Orlando).

For Meat Lovers:
There were juicy Deep Creek sliders (made with grass-fed beef donated by Deep Creek Ranch of DeLand) with a side of pickled vegetables and basil aioli. And Palmetto Creek Pork Chops (donated by Palmetto Creek Farm of Avon Park), set on a mound of fresh potato salad.

For Vegetarians and Salad Lovers:
A Swank Heirloom gazpacho, made with tomatoes and other veg from Swank, came served in large glass goblets. There were also crunchy plates of tempura pole beans with a spicy side of ginger aioli.

The chili marinated cauliflower was too salty for my tastes as were the deep fried Shisito peppers but their crunchiness made up for it.

Two salads finished off the vegetable portions. One was a Swank heirloom salad made of colorful slices of heirloom tomatoes topped with chunks of Burrata cheese, Italian Salumi, fresh basil and L'Estronelli olive oil (all donated by Prime Line Distribution). The other was a rainbow of multi-colored beets and carrots, along with mixed field greens and goat cheese all tossed in a lemony vinaigrette.

For Dessert:
Spicy carrot cake lathered with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with marigold buds came with a side of chocolate chip cookies. There was also a very fancy lady fingers dessert with fresh cream and strawberries.

For Drinks:
There was a choice of beers from Florida brewing companies: Native, Inlet, and Gordash (donated by Fresh Beer Inc.) And a choice of red or white wine (donated by Pour-A-Sip-Savor) but unfortunately none of it was from Florida wineries.

According to Jodi Swank, Whole Foods Markets donated the water and other incidentals.

Part of the proceeds went to Slow Foods Glades to Coast chapter, a non-profit organization that educates and helps farmers in the south Florida area.

The luncheon with chef Dean James Max of 3030 Ocean was a huge success and many people, including myself, hope it will become an annual event.

Feb 2011 My South Florida Farms List continued

This Florida small farms list will add to my previous list back in August 2010
1. Terra Verde Farms, Certified Organic, Fort Pierce (CSA)
2. Farriss Farm, Organic growing practices, Palm Beach Gardens (CSA, and sells at PGA Sunday green market)
3. Kai-Kai Farm and Grove (772-597-1717), Organic growing practices, Indiantown, (CSA, and sells at PGA Sunday green market).
4. Farming Systems Research, Inc, organic growing methods, Boynton Beach (CSA)
5. Osceola Organic Farm, Certified Organic, Vero Beach (CSA, sells at Oceanside Farmers Market)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vegan Vegetarian Dessert Loves in South Florida

The words Vegan dessert and delicious often struggle in the same sentence. But I have found some south Florida shops that do a wonderful job of combining the two.

1. 4th Generation Organic Market, in Boca Raton, has a coconut vegan (and gluten-free) cake to die for. It is so luscious and creamy you'll never miss the cow ingredients. They also have a chocolate brownie (with gluten) that mimics the buttery version so well you'll find yourself repeatedly asking the sales clerk for the ingredients.

2. Christopher's Kitchen, in Palm Beach Gardens, makes their own raw vegan vegetarian chocolate bars and candies. They are a bit pricey from $3.50 to $9 a bar but worth it. They also have a fairly decent chocolate ice cream made with young coconut milk.

3. The Raw Kitchen, in West Palm Beach, has an amazing chocolate sundae with vanilla ice cream. Again you'll not miss the dairy version of the dish.

4.  Cupcake Couture Sweet Boutique, in Delray Beach, makes vegan cupcakes (with 48 hrs notice and Xtr$) in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet. I have not had them as yet, and it will be a little while before I do because they have a min purchase requirement: Six regulars or 12 minis.

5. Whole Foods Markets make some pretty decent vegan vegetarian cakes. They are best not ordered in advance because they can dry out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Top 3 Chocolate Crushes

With Valentine's Day fast approaching my mind drifts to thoughts of all things chocolate. Well at least all things dark chocolate without dairy if I can help it.

Of the bar chocolate varieties I've love, Hachez Dark 77 percent Chocolate with Orange, is my number one crush.  It caress my taste buds it molten chocolate ecstasy everytime I eat it. It is the closest thing in taste to fresh Belgian chocolate that has an expiration time, instead of date, on it.

Next on my list has to be the single origin truffles from Chocolate Gems in Black Mountain, North Carolina. These truffles are crafted using a chocolate made with just type of bean from one region of the world. Most chocolate is made using a combination of regions. The Kumabo is deliciously flavored dark chocolate truffle, at 81 percent cocoa solids, that has wonderful blackberry like flavors.

Monica's Chocolates, in Maine, comes in third on my crush list. Their blueberry wine truffle reinvents the idea of what truffles are supposed to taste like. Chocolate ganache is lovingly combined with wild blueberry wine and dried blueberries into a Northern Maine delight. I never knew blueberries could taste so good.

I hope you get a chance to try some of these chocolates, or ones similar to them, for Valentine's Day.