Monday, July 18, 2011

Mounts Botanical Garden, FL: Tropical Fruit Festival

Tropical fruit is always a treat especially when it is ripe. Recently Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach, Florida, had a tropical fruit festival. There were tropical fruit, tropical fruit trees, and tropical fruit products like lychee ice cream for sale. There were also tropical fruit on display like this table of mangoes.

There were cooking demos with Chef Allen Susser (below, showing the audience what a Mamey looks like).
He told the audience how to cut mangoes, and make a shrimp and lychee ceviche. The shrimp has to be pre-cooked before combining with vodka and lime juice in ceviche mixture. Chef Allen served his in martini glasses (below). Too bad there were only two glasses worth, not enough to share.
Chef Allen finished by encouraging everyone to eat local Florida seasonal fruits especially lychees and mangoes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Florida Nightime Green Markets: A Partial List as of July 2011

Nightime green markets are a fairly new trend in Florida. I wish there were more.

I listed just the markets I've been to or heard about in my travels across the state of Florida. This is by no means a complete list. These run all year long unless otherwise indicated.

Monday Night
Audubon Park Community Market
1842 East Winter Park Rd., Orlando
6pm to 10pm

Tuesday Night
Dunnellon Green Market
Historic Train Depot: 12061 S. Williams Street, Dunnelon
2 to 6pm summer
12 to 4pm winter

Wednesday Night
Union Street Farmers' Market
111 E. University Ave., Gainesville Community Plaza, Gainesville
4 to 7pm

Titusville Farmers Market (closed in summer)
101 N. Washington Ave., Titusville (The pavillion at Sand Point Park)
3 to 6pm

Thursday Night
Melbourne Farmers Market
Wickham Park Main Pavilion, 345 Wickham Road, next to Brevard Community College
3 to 7pm

Farmers' Market at Ellenville Garden Center
220 NE 11th Street, Boca Raton
4 to 8pm

Friday Night
Ocoee Farmers' Market
Bill Breeze Park, 125 North Lakeshore Drive, Ocoee
3 to 8pm

Friday, July 1, 2011

South Florida Foodies Feast at 3800 Ocean Restaurant, Singer Island

Chef Dean James Max knows how to cook a feast with local Florida ingredients. Recently he wowed about 40 members of the South Florida Foodies group at his 3800 Ocean Restaurant and Bar, in the Singer Island Marriott, Florida.

I was one of the lucky guests treated to an extravagant seven-course meal, including dessert and wine for just $60 a person.

Other guests included Darrin and Jodi Swank, hydroponic farmers from Loxahatchee who provide fresh ingredients for Chef Max's restaurants. Along with them was the leader of Slow Foods Glades to Coast, Diane Campion.

First course: Ahi Coconut Tuna Ceviche (seen below) served in a half coconut shell on a bed of ice.
The ceviche had a Thai twist to it with lovely flavors of Kaffir lime leaves, Cilantro (Swank Specialty Produce), Serrano peppers, green onions, and creamy coconut milk.

Second course: White Water clams (Stephen Garza, Sebastain Inlet, FL) B.L.T. .
Small half-dollar sized clams tossed in a light briny broth went well with wilted romaine (Swank), chewy bits of bacon (Benton's Country Ham, TN), and spicy tomato halves.

Most of the courses  were served family style meaning they came in large communal platters for everyone to share.

Third course: Salad.
Deliciously grilled nectarine halves decorated mixed greens (Swank), toasted pine nuts, crumbled blue cheese (Winter Park Dairy, FL), and raspberry vinaigrette. The Winter Park cheese was surprisingly smooth considering it was made with raw milk. It had been aged 60 days.

Fourth course: Seafood Pasta.
I inhaled this dish so fast I forgot to get a picture of it. It was made with Cinnamon stick shaped fresh pasta called Rustico al Ceppo. It was tossed in a yummy light basil broth with Keys pink shrimp (The Keys, FL) and mussels (Ingrid Bengis Seafood, Maine). There was supposed to be fresh catch of the day (Wild Ocean Seafood Market, FL) mixed in, but my plate did not have any.

Fifth course: Alaskan Day Boat Halibut.
A succulent halibut filet cooked in Lobster Nage (tasty boullion), came with meaty pieces of wild mushrooms (Milkuni Wild Harvest, Canada), tasty wilted swiss chard and truffle foam. Side plates of curried cauliflower (Swank) and organic polenta accompanied the fish. Servers finished the plates with small spoonfuls of black Siberian caviar (Caviar and Caviar, FL).

Sixth course: Intermezzo.
Cucumber (Fresh Point, FL) granita made with fresh cucumbers, crushed ice and a sweetener was served in Asian style soup spoons.

Seventh course: Key lime pie.
Dessert stole the show with both amazing presentation and flavor (as seen below). Tart Key lime custard was baked into a toasted coconut crumb crust, slathered with rich coconut flavored cream and topped with fresh berries, edible flowers, and ribbons of fresh coconut.
All the dishes came with donated wine from Chateau Saint Michelle Winery. I chose not to describe them because even though they were good drinking wines, I did not feel they were paired well enough with the courses to mention.

The meal was an extravagance I will remember for some time thanks to Chef Max, 3800 Ocean staff, and the South Florida Foodies group.