Sunday, January 25, 2015

Monday Motivation 01/26/2015

"If life gives you limes, make margaritas."

~ Jimmy Buffett

EAT: Market 17, Fort Lauderdale, FL

In Fort Lauderdale, FL for a cruise, vacation, or just live there? Market 17 is a delicious farm to table restaurant located right down the street from the Cruiseport and conveniently located near the airport.  All dishes are prepared from scratch, but no gluten free menu. Angus (from South Africa?!), our server was very knowledgeable about gluten free and was happy to check on any questions we had. None of our choices needed modifications to be gluten free. 

Our table ordered the charcuterie plate with a nice selection of meats and cheeses. You are able to select 3, 5, or 7 choices from the selection of various cheeses, sausages, salamis, and other cured meats. Almonds, olives, and pickled vegetables accompany the meats and cheeses. 

I decided on the gluten free Grilled Grassfed Beef Tenderloin. All of the entrees are offered as a Whole Portion and a Tasting Portion, a half size portion for lighter eaters or those who want to try more than one dish. I ordered the Tasting portion and felt it was enough after the appetizer. The tenderloin was cooked to a nice medium and included Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Sautéed Local Yellow Squash and Zucchini, Kale, and Avocado Chimichurri. Very tasty! 

One of my dinner companions chose the Heirloom Tomatoes and Local Stracciatella Cheese. It was very similar to a Caprese Salad and she said it had a good flavor. 

Another dinner companion decided to take advantage of the Tastings offering since two menu items were of interest to him. He chose the Rare Seared Florida Wahoo with Coconut Basmati Rice.
His other choice was the Grilled Florida Black Grouper with Crispy Leek Panisse (an interesting concoction that is pan fried to be crispy).

Market 17 has a great, eclectic selection. The menu changes daily, so be sure to ask your server about your specific dietary needs. The menu also lists the farms that provide certain foods. Most are in Florida, but some are from across the country. After a great meal at Market 17, I look forward to checking it out again on my next trip to the city. 

Market 17
1850 Southeast 17th St. 
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

Friday, January 23, 2015

EAT: Ocean Prime, Orlando, FL

Ocean Prime is fine dining and a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of Orlando and Disney. Located on busy Sand Lake Rd. in the middle of everything, Ocean Prime serves quality steaks and seafood, along with a great experience. It also has an extensive gluten free menu. 
We started the meal with the Surf N Turf appetizer, which was gluten free Sea Scallops and Slow Braised Short Ribs. It was an interesting combination and surprise mashed potatoes underneath. 
Ocean Prime has a large selection of beef and seafood on its gluten free menu. I selected the Chilean Sea Bass with whipped potatoes and Champagne Truffle Sauce. The sea bass had a great flavor. 
My dinner companion chose the gluten free 12 oz Bone In Filet. It was very tender, but FYI, it did not come with any sides. 
Since the filet did not come with a side, he decided on the Parmesan Risotto. It was very tasty and a nice size portion.

Ocean Prime is a great fine dining establishment in the heart of Orlando and Disney. There are 12 Ocean Prime locations scattered across the country in  large cities including Atlanta, Denver, New York City, and Dallas. With a large selection of gluten free menu choices, it offers a nice experience that leaves you feeling like you have stepped out of the fast paced life of Orlando. 

Ocean Prime 
7339 West Sand Lake Rd. 
Orlando, FL 32819

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

EAT: Burwell's Stone Fire Grill, Charleston, SC

Burwell's Stone Fire Grill is a hip downtown Charleston, SC steakhouse. With a large bar area and two levels of dining, its prime location near the City Market. Burwell's does not have a gluten free menu, but our server was knowledgeable about ingredients and checked with the chef on any questions we had. She pointed out several "safe" meals as suggestions. 

We had to start the meal with the "On the rocks" Flight of Flavor appetizer. A 700 degree lava stone is brought to the table where you cook your own filet tips. It was my favorite part of the meal! The filet tips did not have any rub on them, making them gluten free. You just placed the tips on the lava stone until they were cooked to your desired temperature. The sauces that accompanied the dish were also gluten free. 

I ordered the gluten free Holy City Hog, braized pork with Fuji Apple Butter, Winter Greens, and Blackberry Glaze. The pork was tender and the Fuji Apple Butter was amazing. Will definitely order a bowl of it next time!
My dinner companion ordered the gluten free Wagyu Hangar Steak that had been aged 35 days. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was tasty. 
As a side, we ordered the gluten free Baby Beets, Fennel, Vanilla, and Almonds dish. The beets were very good and the combination of flavors worked well together.

I am looking forward to my next visit to Burwell's. John Thomas, the owner, was making the rounds and refilling water, which is always nice to see upper management making sure everyone is enjoying their meals. I appreciated their knowledge of gluten free to prepare as safe a meal as possible. 

Burwell's Stone Fire Grill
14 North Market St. 
Charleston, SC 29401

Monday, January 19, 2015

EAT: Don Pablo's Mexican Restaurant, Orlando, FL

If you are in Orlando, FL, but want a break from Disney or are staying near the Orange County Convention Center for business, there are a ton of restaurant choices on International Drive. I checked several restaurants near my hotel, only to find either no gluten free menu or a gluten free menu with five items. I stopped in Don Pablo's, a Mexican food chain in 15 states, and found an extensive gluten free menu! 

I am always a little apprehensive with Mexican restaurants due to my corn allergy, but Amanda, the manager, came to the table, chatted with me about my allergies, and checked ingredients of the items I had questions about. She told me that the corn tortilla chips that are brought to the table when you arrive are not fried in a dedicated fryer and therefore could be contaminated. 

I decided on the Steak Fajitas with no tortillas. Amanda personally and promptly brought out the meal. The marinade on the chicken is not gluten free (soy sauce). The fritos (beans) and rice are gluten free, but the rice seasoning has cornstarch and therefore, is not corn free. The cheese that comes with the fajitas has cornstarch and is not corn free. The sour cream is Daisy brand and is gluten and corn free. The fajitas were tasty and the pico de gallo that comes with them had a nice flavor. I had a glass of wine with dinner and it was a generous pour for the price. 

I really appreciated Amanda's help to ensure I had as safe a meal as possible. With the fun, Mexican themed atmosphere and the offer of a free group photo to take home as a memory of the meal, Don Pablo's is a great family friendly option. The extensive gluten free menu allows options for those with food allergies. Be sure to check with the manager to ensure a safe meal. 

Don Pablo's
8717 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819

Monday Motivation 01/19/2015

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

EAT: Bistro 821, Naples, FL

Located in the heart of Downtown Naples, FL, Bistro 821 brings the flavor to the Gulf Coast. With a great outdoor patio located on the front side of the restaurant, it is the perfect spot to watch the world go by on a warm winter evening. Bistro 821 has a gluten free menu with a good selection, including one of my favs, risotto! With seafood, steaks, and risotto, a large portion of the menu is or can be made gluten free. 
We dined outside the evening we checked out Bistro 821. The large patio out front was packed. There was a street fair going on, so a lot of people were out on 5th Ave. Great people watching! Our server was knowledgeable about the gluten free menu and answered or checked on all of our questions. I decided on the Lemon and Garlic Shrimp with Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Risotto. Very tasty with a reasonable number of shrimp. 

My dinner companion ordered the gluten free Blackberry and Blistered Mint Lamb Rack with Goat's Cheese Potatoes Au Gratin and Asparagus with Port-Wine Blackberry Demi-Glaze. He said it had a good flavor and was cooked perfectly.

Bistro 821 is a Downtown Naples hotspot and is a fun place to dine outside. With its expansive gluten free menu to suit almost any tastebuds, it is definitely a spot I will return to on my next trip to Naples. 

Bistro 821
821 5th Avenue South
Naples, FL 34102

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

EAT: HobNob Kitchen and Bar, Naples, FL

Downtown Naples, FL is full of fun shops and restaurants. Often, the main street, 5th Avenue, close for events and street fairs. When in downtown Naples, be sure to check out HobNob. A bustling restaurant with a bar that stretches the length of the building, HobNob was packed the evening I dined there. OpenTable even listed it as one of "The Hottest 100 Restaurants in America!"
HobNob does not have a lot of seating inside and only four two-person tables outside, so reservations are recommended. We were able to get one of the tables outside on a beautiful evening.
HobNob considers its menu to be "American style, clean and fresh." Its entreés that are gluten free are listed right on the menu. I ordered the Gluten Free Sea Bass with Coconut Pesto, Butternut Squash, and Jasmine Rice. It was very tasty, but the sea bass was a little dry. 
My dinner companion ordered the Gluten Free Rotisserie Chicken with mushrooms and baby onions. It also comes with Honey Fingerling Potatoes that we found out were not in a dedicated frier (not gluten free), so he swapped it for Jasmine Rice. It still amazes me how many restaurants do not realize that fries need to be prepared in a dedicated fryer that has no wheat products or breading to be considered gluten free. A good reminder to always ask! Our server had no problem checking with the chef, and we appreciated her honesty. 

HobNob is fun, bustling restaurant perfectly located in downtown Naples. With so much going on downtown, be sure to stop in for an adult beverage at HobNob's expansive bar or for dinner. Tables inside can be close to one another and the noise level can get loud, but the seats outside are quiet and a perfect view of everything going on up and down 5th Ave!

HobNob Kitchen and Bar
720 5th Ave South
Naples, FL 34102

EAT: The Turtle Club Restaurant, Naples, FL

Want to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico while sipping a cocktail or having dinner? The Turtle Club Restaurant in Naples, FL is the place! With expansive outdoor seating under umbrellas and a front row view of the waves crashing while the sun dips below the horizon, The Turtle Club Restaurant has the view and the food.

I made two trips to The Turtle Club during my visit to Naples, and both times, the restaurant was packed. Located at the Vanderbilt Beach Resort, The Turtle Club has complimentary valet parking that was prompt both times. First visit was to enjoy New Years Eve dinner on the beach. Fireworks were going off up and down the beach, and the restaurant was packed both inside and out. My dinner companion and I chose to sit outside. Each table had a small light to see, but not bright enough to disturb the evening outdoor ambiance. My second trip was to have a drink while enjoying the sunset. Again, the restaurant was full (as was the beach) with people dining and viewing the sunset.
On New Years Eve, The Turtle Club was using its regular menu, not a price fix with limited options as other restaurants were doing. Filled with a good selection of seafood and steaks, the menu did not list gluten free options. Our server was very helpful and informed us that many of the items were naturally gluten free. We started the meal with the ceviche as our appetizer. A small portion (just enough for two to share) of shrimp, scallops, tomatoes, citrus, and jalapeno was brought out promptly.
For the main course, I ordered the Roasted Chilean Sea Bass. Our server said the dish was naturally gluten free and would not need any adjustments. It was accompanied with grilled golden pineapple, roasted carrots, coconut butter sauce, cilantro pesto, and jasmine rice. It was awesome! The sea bass almost melted in your mouth and had a great flavor. The sides gave the dish a tropical feel.
My dinner companion chose the most popular dish on the menu, the Petite Filet and Famous Oysters Turtlefeller, a play on Oysters Rockefeller. Some modifications had to be made for the oysters, as they are usually served with bread crumbs. Wilted greens and Parmesan potatoes rounded out the meal. The Filet was cooked to a perfect medium rare and my dinner companion said the Oysters Turtlefeller were delicious.
The Turtle Club Restaurant is a fun place for fine dining. Whether day or night, the outdoor seating is preferred. Despite no gluten free menu, they are willing to accommodate food allergies and make your experience enjoyable. Will definitely be back on my next trip to Naples.

The Turtle Club Restaurant
Vanderbilt Beach Resort
9225 Gulf Shore Dr.
Naples, FL 34108

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

EAT: Inca's Kitchen Fine Peruvian Cuisine, Naples, FL

Naples, FL and South Florida in general is known for its Peruvian food. Inca's Kitchen Fine Peruvian Cuisine on Collier Blvd does not disappoint. I had heard great things about Inca's Kitchen, so I was excited to check it out and eat some authentic Peruvian food. Don't let its location in a small strip mall throw you off, as the restaurant was packed on a Tuesday evening.
Inca's Kitchen does not have a large dining room, but has a nice vibe and a bar with wine and beer (no liquor). The dining room was decorated with photos of Peru and several TVs were rotating photos of beautiful scenes from Peru. The menu is authentic Peruvian cuisine with a large sampling of seafood. Even though there was no gluten free menu, we spoke with the manager and our server, both of whom said some of the dishes are naturally gluten free and pointed out some suggestions.
To start, we had to try the Peruvian Ceviche. Our server recommended the Wahoo Ceviche, and it did not disappoint. Marinated in tiger milk (lime juice, chiles, coconut milk), the ceviche was a tad spicy, but very flavorful. The dish was served with a shot glass of the tiger milk to finish off the dish. The dish is suppose to come with corn, but due to my corn allergy, it was left out.
With so many seafood options, I decided to try the Arroz Fruots Del Mar, the Peruvian Seafood Rice. It was one of the dishes our server said would be naturally gluten free. The saffron rice was cooked with calamari, scallops, shrimp, and yellow-red peppers. Is that a shrimp with the head on top?!? For some reason, I have a thing about cooked shrimp with the heads still on (weird, I know), so it was quickly passed off to my dinner companion! The meal was very good and was a large portion.
My dinner companion ordered the Saltado De Mariscos, the Seafood Saute. With shrimp, calamari, fish, scallops, and mussels, the dish also had onions, tomatoes, and yellow peppers. The dish had to be modified to be gluten free, as the seafood is suppose to be sauteed in soy sauce. Also, the fried potatoes that were to accompany the dish were not fried in a dedicated fryer. He decided to just have white rice. The seafood had a nice flavor with a touch of cilantro.

Inca's Kitchen does a great job of sharing authentic Peruvian food to the people of Naples. With the crowds that gather at Inca's, I highly recommend reservations. The service can be a tad slow when there is a packed house. Even though there was no gluten free menu, I really appreciated the manager speaking with us about food allergies, as well as the server checking on certain items with the chef to make sure we had the safest meal possible.

Inca's Kitchen Fine Peruvian Cuisine
11985 Collier Blvd.
Naples, FL 34116

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday Motivation 01/05/2014

First Monday Motivation of 2015! Let's make this a great year!

"An extraordinary person is someone who consistently does the things ordinary people can't do or won't do." 

~ Nido R. Qubein