Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tea-In-The-Garden at Fruitful Fields, Pompano, Fla.

How would you like to attend a fundraiser set in a six-acre garden? That's exactly what the Fruitful Field Community Garden arranged for a hundred or so people with their Tea-In-The-Garden event this past February. Along with fundraiser speeches there were garden tours, finger sandwiches, and chocolate tastings.

Table at Tea In The Garden Fundraiser, The Fruitful Field
Community Garden, Pompano Beach, Fla. 

"Would you like some hot water for your tea bag?" Maria, my table hostess asked. I was seated at one of the colorfully decorated tables, on the far side of the garden, near the United Methodist Church.

Kevin "Flavio" Sloat, The Fruitful Field Executive Director and founding member, stood up and introduced the theme to this year's fundraiser: grow, gather, give.

Steve Werthman, HOPE South Florida Director of Program Development, talked about gathering. He gave an inspiring speech on local food trends, Florida community, and what the Fruitful Field meant to him.

Sloat talked about giving by first thanking everyone for buying a ticket, adding the money would be put to good use. He spoke about past Tea-In-The-Garden fundraisers and how the contributions were used for the garden.

Sloat also spoke about the 2012 funding goals and request list: money to hire two part-time interns and a professional consultant ($12,000); money to buy more storage space for rain water capture ($2000); money to promote the Fruitful Field to the public, through seminars and other activities ($1000).

In keeping with the give theme. Everyone that attended got a gift bag and a package of seeds. Each packet contained several varieties of sunflower seeds. The idea was to plant the seeds either at home or in the Fruitful Field Garden and then watch the diverse mix grow together.

Fruitful Fields Community Garden started three years ago to help the homeless children, at the Parkway United Methodist Church's soup kitchen, get fresh fruit and vegetables into their diets.

Some money was collected on the day but more is still needed for the Fruitful Field Community Garden to continue. To find out how you can help go to


Monday, May 28, 2012

Schnebly's Beer: Tropical Fruit Meets Hops

Schnebly Redland's Winery, Homestead, branched out this year into beer brewing. But their brews come with a tropical twist just like their wines. They infuse their beers with tropical fruits like guava and mango.

Big Rod Ale, Schnebly Redland's Winery and Brewery,
Homestead, Fla.

On a recent trip with a friend, I got to take an $8 tropical tasting tour of: coconut, mango, passion fruit, and guava beer. We paid an extra $10 for a souvenir pint glass.

Big Rod Ale in front and Shark Attack in back, Schneblys
Redland's Winery and Brewery, Homestead, Fla.

The Big Rod Ale made with European hops and coconut was a delightful start to our tour. It had a nice toasted coconut flavor followed by strong hops after two to three sips.

Next was Shark Attack made with mango and European hops. It was a smooth, ruby colored beer. Unfortunately the mango flavor got lost in the brew. But it was still a good comfort-food/drink.

Passion Fruit IPA at the front, and Gator Tail Ale in back,
Schnebly's Winery and Brewery,
Homestead, Fla.

The Passion Fruit IPA beer was made with American citrus hops and passion fruit. It was pale in color like a wheat beer and had a very perfume like citrus taste upfront. It had a strong bitter finish and aftertaste. My friend did not mind this but I found too bitter.

The last type, Gator Tail Ale, was made with English hops and guava. It was the closest in style to an Irish Red. It had an earthy, chocolate, coffee flavor. It would go really well with meat dishes.This was a favorite.

Our bartender, Mauricio Mejia, asked what type of beer we wanted in the souvenir pint glass. We chose coconut because it was the most unusual.

If you find yourself in the Homestead area of Florida, drop into Schnebly Redland's Winery and Brewery. And if Mauricio is there, make sure you take a tasting tour with him, he is very knowledgeable when it comes to all things beer.

They are located at 30205 S.W. 217 Ave., Homestead, FL 33030
Phone 888-717-WINE

Friday, May 25, 2012

Higher Than Fair-Trade Coffee at Cool Beans Boquete Coffee Shop

I was not aware that there were higher purchasing standards for coffee than Fair-Trade. I dropped by Cool Beans Boquete Coffee shop in Ft. Myers, Florida, in mid-April and found out more.

Sherry Brennaman, the daughter of the owners, told me often companies that pay Fair-Trade prices are still paying very little money.

Her parents visited the high mountains Boquete area of Panama, over two years ago, to see how coffee was grown. They discovered several farms paying above average wages (higher than Fair-Trade), and sponsoring educational programs for their Ngobe Bugle Indian workers.

Her parents were so impressed they decided to open a coffee shop featuring shade grown coffee from this region of Panama.

When Brennaman found out I was not local to the area she gave me a web contact for the coffee at

Unfortunately, after just two years, the business closed their doors on April 21.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Friends Of Jupiter Beach: Wine and Food Fest, Fla.

The "Friends of Jupiter Beach Food And Wine Festival," comes with a twist. It is held under an intracoastal waterway bridge in Jupiter, Florida.

Intracoastal waterway bridge, site of Friends of Jupiter
Beach Wine & Food Festival, Jupiter, Fla.

This three-year-old festival is advertised as a "Rain or Shine" event, and yesterday it rained! But the water did not stop the crowds of hungry foodies. And it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the presenting chefs.

Coolinary Cafe chef explaining contents of his
Florida sourced salad, Friends of Jupiter Beach
Wine and Food Festival,
Jupiter, Fla.

For a mere $40 at the door ($35 in advance), guests were treated to as much alcohol as they could drink, and as much food as they could eat. But what was offered was more than just food. It was art. And some of it was made with local Florida ingredients.

Coolinary Cafe' summer salad made with Florida
micro-greens, watermelon, candied almonds,
and tangy yogurt, goat cheese, honey dressing,
Friends of Jupiter Beach Wine and Food Festival,
Jupiter, Fla.

My favorite was Coolinary Cafe's fresh summer salad made with watermelon, Florida greens, yellow beets, curried and candied almonds, and a tangy yogurt, honey, goat cheese, and pablano pepper dressing. It was sweet, spicy, crunchy, and refreshing.

Guanabanas' shrimp ceviche made with Delray
ingredients and Cape Canaveral shrimp at Friends
Of Jupiter Beach Wine and Food festival,
Jupiter, Fla.

Next on my list was Guanabanas's Florida shrimp ceviche. It was made with Delray Beach sourced ingredients like lime juice and chili pepper, and succulent Cape Canaveral shrimp.

Little Moir's Food Shack Grouper cheeks made with
Florida peach avocado salsa, and yucca chips,
at Friends of Jupiter Beach Wine and Food festival,
Jupiter, Fla.

There was also a dish by Little Moir's Food Shack made with Grouper cheeks, local Florida grilled peach avocado salsa, and crispy yucca chips.

Cod & Capers Seafood Marketplace's rock shrimp roll
with St. Fernandina Beach sourced shrimp, Friends
Of Jupiter Beach Wine and Food Festival,
Jupiter, Fla.

Cod And Capers Seafood Marketplace and Cafe, made a tasty Florida rock shrimp roll with dill. The shrimp came from St. Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Tequesta Brewing Co. BH beer flavored with
Loxahatchee, Florida, chili pepper honey,
Friends of Jupiter Beach Wine and Food Festival,
Jupiter, Fla.

I also enjoyed a beer called Big Hitter (BH) made by the Tequesta Brewing Co. It was a saison brune beer made with Belgium hops and flavored with chili pepper honey from Loxahatchee, Fla.

My only real disappointment was with the wines. I tried some of the foreign and out-of-state wines, and found many to be less impressive than Florida wines.

Maybe next year the festival will have more than just Florida food on the menu, maybe they'll also have some wines.

Proceeds from the Wine and Food Festival went to help the Friends of Jupiter Beach continue preserving their clean and dog-friendly beach.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kai Kai Farm-to-Table Dinner, Indiantown, Fla.

Kai-Kai Farm embraced al fresco dining this past March. Chefs Joe Scarmuzzi and Lenora Pinello of "In The Kitchen Now," created culinary magic, at this 40-acre organic-growing methods farm, located just east of Indiantown, Florida.

Chef Joseph Scarmuzzi and prep chef Kyle Hanson
at Kai Kai Farm dinner, Indiantown, Fla.
Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

"It took a month of preparation," said Diane Cordeau, the farmer, from inside a silver screened shade building near the entrance of the farm. "We had to clear all the plants out of this shade house for the table," she added pointing to the long table before us. It was set for 50 guests with real silverware, wine glasses, and colorful sunflower bouquets.

Table inside shade house at Kai-Kai Farm, Indiantown,
Fla. Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

Outside a sommelier poured glasses of chardonnay to go with delicate treats made with Kai-Kai produce, like chard wrapped country pate, homemade potato chips, and a green onion dip.
Sommelier serving chardonnay at Kai Kai Farm-to-table
dinner, Indiantown, Fla. Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

There was also baby-eggplant grilled capanata (like ratatouille), and a winter greens strudel made with goat cheese that reminded me of Greek spinach pie.

Guests gather at Kai-Kai Farm-to-table dinner,
Indiantown, Fla. Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

As the sun set, conversations turned to what was still growing in the ground. I followed Cordeau into the field with another guest. She showed us some Tatsoy, a spinach relative, saying, "It has planted itself amongst the weeds."

She also pointed to the sunflowers growing between the rows and explained they were used as a wind break. And added all the plants on her farm had to be hardy to withstand the strong winds that blew through the area.

The sun was nearly set by the time the dinner call came.

Sunset at Kai Kai Farm-to-table dinner, Indiantown,
Fla. Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

The shade-house was full of chatting guests when I arrived. Just as I settled into my seat, near the door, Chef Scarmuzzi called for silence. He thanked everyone for coming out to Kai Kai's first farm-to-table dinner.

He said he prepared the meal with little change to the ingredients because he wanted to showcase the flavors. He went through the menu, describing each course, and identified what items were from Florida.

Then Chef Scarmuzzi asked Cordeau to say a few words about her farm. As she talked, guests sipped a glass of sweet sparkling wine. When all the talking was over, Scarmuzzi encouraged all to enjoy. The only other dinner conversation interruption came from the sommelier describing the wines accompanying each course.

Polenta cake topped with local Florida swordfish, at
Kai-Kai Farm-to-table dinner, Indiantown, Fla.
Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

The first course was a lightly pan-fried polenta topped with succulent grilled swordfish (Jupiter Inlet) and warm heirloom tomatoes (Kai-Kai). It was served with Cotes du Rhone wine.

Warm beet salad with goat cheese, Kai-Kai Farm-to-table
dinner, Indiantown, Fla. Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

A warm beet (Kai-Kai) salad came next, lightly breaded goat cheese (St. Lucie County), with a light yet delicious vinaigrette. It was served with a Black Shiraz wine.

Country cassoulet with duck and rainbow carrots,
Kai-Kai Farm-to-table dinner, Indiantown, Fla.
Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

The next course was colorfully presented with four shades of carrot (Kai-Kai). It was a country cassoulet with duck confit, local greens, and melt-in-the-mouth grilled beets (Kai-Kai). It was served with Casa Nueva cab/merlot wine.

Butterflied lamb with farrow salad and Kai-Kai grown
vegetables at Kai-Kai Farm-to-table dinner,
Indiantown, Fla.Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

The next course was no less colorful, with purple cauliflower (Kai-Kai), red cherry tomatoes (Kai-Kai), pale yellow minted pear chutney, deep green spinach and greens (Kai-Kai), and beige deliciously chewy farrow salad. All this came with this slices of perfectly cooked, garlic infused, grilled lamb. It was served with Graf Zoltan wine.

Fruit, cheese, and brittle platter dessert at Kai-Kai
Farm-to-table dinner, Indiantown, Fla.
Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

Dessert combined four favorite food groups: cheese, fruit, sugar, and chocolate. Long wooded platters of tangy, honey drizzled Gorgonzola cheese, sweet Manchego cheese, toasted pear slices, crunchy almond brittle, and dark chocolate coated Kai Kai strawberries were served to delighted guests. Pineau des Charentes, a cognac, came with this course.

There were also Kai Kai carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and organic, locally roasted coffee by Oceana Coffee (Tequesta). 

When I asked chef Scarmuzzi to give his impressions of how he felt the dinner went. He answered with making a sweeping motion with his arm, "Just look at the table. It tells a story. People came from all over, out to the farm."

Kai Kai Farm plans to continue having dinners but not until next season. To learn more about them or to become a CSA member, you can call Diane Cordeau or her husband Carl at 561-797-7897 (cell), 772-597-1717 (office) or email .

To find out more about "In The Kitchen Now" go to

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tamarind Season: Sth Florida Style

If you like sweet and sour fruits, then tamarinds are for you. Kenari Groves in Loxahatchee, Florida, has seven trees ready for picking.

Florida grown Tamarind, Kenari Groves, Loxahatchee,
Copyright 2012 by Helen A Lockey

When ripe, tamarind pods have a brittle outer shell that cracks with just a bit of pressure. Inside the brown, paste like flesh surrounds hard black seeds. To eat, you can either nibble away at the flesh or pop a whole piece (including seed) into your mouth and suck off the flesh, being careful not to swallow the seed.

Some words of caution: be careful not to swallow or attempt to eat the seeds, they are very hard and you could choke on them. Also watch out for immature tamarind pods, they are very sour and can burn your tongue. Some cultures use these under-ripe tamarinds in pickling recipes.

Tamarind is a popular sweet and sour fruit of people from hot climate countries, especially countries near the equator.

The flesh can be preserved for up to a year by mixing it with sugar and making it into a paste. Jamaicans use this technique for making tamarind desserts.

To learn more about Kenari Groves tamarinds, call Rose Kenari at 561-313-7202.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Athena Cantaloupes: Sweetest in Florida

Florida grown Athena cantaloupes have an incredibly short season. Sometimes lasting just two weeks.

Athena Cantaloupe, Florida

They are the sweetest, most aromatic variety I have tasted. So run to your nearest farm or grocer and buy some before the season is over.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eden Vineyard and Winery, Alva, Fla: Dry Wines, CLOSED

Eden Vineyards in Alva makes some of the driest wines in Florida. And they are made with Florida grown vinifera grapes.

Eden Vineyards wine selection, Alva, Fla.

Eden is the oldest operating winery in the state. And the city of Alva, is on the West coast of Florida, just south of Punta Gorda.

Front entrance to Eden Vineyards, Alva, Fla.

Lake Emerald ($12.95) white wine is the driest, and can easily compete with California chardonnay wines. I bought a bottle on a recent visit. It went very well with a creamy chicken dish I made.

I also bought a bottle of Alva Rouge ($12.95), a medium-dry red wine similar to Beaujolais Nouveau. It has a robust flavor and ages very well.

I had a bottle that sat for four years before opening. It became a wonderful full bodied wine that went very well with spaghetti marinara.

Jay Vargo, winemaker and general manager of Eden
Vineyards, Alva, Fal.

I got to chat to Jay Vargo, wine market and general manager of Eden Vineyards and Winery, about the use of sulfites in his wines. "Eden Vineyards sulfite levels are 40 parts per million, an industry minimum. Levels are legally allowed to go as high as 200 parts per million." This gives Eden Vineyards wines a shelf life of approx five years.

They also have muscadine grape wines, a popular sweet-wine style in Florida.

I am looking forward to sharing my wine with friends and chefs on the East coast of Florida.

The shop is open every day from 11am to 4pm. Wine tastings costs $2.50 for seven styles.
Eden Vineyard and Winery is located at 19709 Little Lane, Alva, FL, 33920
To find out more go to

Unfortunately this vineyard and winery is now closed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Boer Goats, Brooksville, Fla: 370 lb male

A 370 pound goat lives at NatureWalk Ranch Boer Goats, Brooksville, Florida. It's a male South African Boer show goat named Braveheart. And its on the lean side according to ranch owner Jeff Huffman.

The Huffmans' goats are primarily for shows or breeder stock but they do have some commercial stock for meat.

"You can make more money per acre on goats than you can with cows," says Tammy Lodato of Soaring Spirit Ranch. And Huffman agrees. Last year he sold goats to a cattle rancher in Sanford who had 300 head of cattle. The rancher said he could make more money on 100 head of goat than he could on cattle.

Goat meat is the most eaten meat in the world, according to Huffman. In 2011, he saw goat meat for sale at Miami Publix stores but because of goat meat shortages they had trouble keeping up with demand.

Most meat goats have a 38 to 40 percent carcase yield (meat left after you get rid of all inedible parts) but Boer goats have a 60 to 70 percent carcase yield.

"The goat business is in its infancy in America," Huffman says.

Huffman offered one word of caution if you are planning to keep Boer goats on your property. "They have to have shelter. They cannot be out in the rain especially if it is cold because in four days they will have pneumonia and in six days they'll die."

To find out more about NatureWalk Ranch Boer Goats, Go to
To find out more about Soaring Spirit Ranch, go to