Thirty eager coffee-aficionados joined Folio Weekly Bite Club host Caron Streibich at historic Riverside’s Bold Bean Coffee Roasters on the evening of September 25. Bold Bean partnered with nearby wholesaler and caterer, Bakery Moderne, for an intimate evening of coffee technique demonstrations (Chemex, cold-brew method, latte art) and a sampling of Bakery Moderne’s bite-sized treats: mini Cuban sandwiches, mini roast beef sandwiches with horseradish sauce, mini beef wellingtons paired with potato leek tarts and a fall-themed quartet of “dunkable” desserts which featured a popular handheld pumpkin whoopee pie. Two courses were paired with local beers from Pinglehead in Orange Park and Intuition Ale Works in Riverside while three coffee samples - chemex, cold-brew, iced ginger latte - were sampled. Guests asked questions about the processes, where the beans originate, and how easy it is to replicate some of the processes at home (it’s easy).
Bold Bean, open for almost a year now, is owned by a passionate father and son duo, Jay and Zack Burnett. The duo has been roasting organic grounds locally since 2007 but the storefront opened its doors in December of 2011. Jay’s second son, Adam, bakes fresh bread on-site and other assorted goodies (breadline pie, artisan sandwiches, homemade jellies/jams, scones). Nathalie Mockler, Bakery Moderne’s owner, recently moved her storefront spot on Stockton to a nearby street in Riverside. She now specializes in catering and wholesale business.
Mini roast beef sandwich, cuban sandwich and shrimp tostone compliments of Bakery Moderne and Chef Nathalie Mockler.
A few of Bold Bean Coffee Roaster’s creations by Adam Burnett: datil jelly, fig preserves, fresh artisan bread and miniature tomato pies in a flaky pie crust.
Bold Bean owner Zack Burnett demonstrates the science of a perfectly timed Chemex brew method.
Folio Weekly Bite Club host Caron Streibich ready to dive into her Bakery Moderne desserts.
Our September Bite Club is a special double treat. We’ll travel to Riverside to enjoy gourmet sandwiches, salads, artisanal breads and desserts — along with local beer and wine and freshly roasted organic coffees at 869 Stockton Street, the home of Bold Bean Coffee Roasters.
1. Check your calendar! Confirm you’re available Tuesday, 9/25 at 6 p.m.
2. This month’s question (comment on this post by 9/15): “What gets your motor running in the morning? Is it traditional java, a special latte, a fruit smoothie, or a huge hunk of icing-encrusted, food coma-certified cinnamon roll? Where do you choose to rev things up? Is it a favorite coffee spot or bakery, or do you keep fill up at home or work?” Be detailed. Be fun. With your comment, leave your first and last name, and e-mail address.
3. If you’re not already a Bite Club member e-mail your full name, e-mail address and phone number to email@example.com.
Sign-ups are not first come, first serve. Folio Weekly selects attendees at random, based on the number of seats the restaurant grants. Selected attendees will be notified before 9/20 via e-mail. After confirming, you’ll attend the event and afterwards I’ll post an event recap on the blog. You are required to leave your feedback in the comment section.
With six locations throughout the United States, III Forks Jacksonville proves to be a solid addition to Southside’s Tapestry Park.
Our five-course Bar Bites tasting began with a generous serving of blue cheese taro chips with creamy rich Point Reyes blue cheese sauce and crumbles. The thinly sliced taro roots, and crispy gold and red beet slivers, were finished with a dusting of sugar, cayenne, paprika, and III Forks’ seasoning. Crunchy meets savory meets sweet.
A unique take on the wedge salad are the wedge salad wraps: delicate lettuce, crisp bacon and creamy blue cheese proved to be the perfect trifecta. We sampled them with the Chamisal Chardonnay, which our sommelier Jeremy Vass said is, “a chardonnay mascarading as a sauvignon blanc.”
Next up was the blackened ahi tuna served over Asian slaw with a criss-crossing of black pepper rum hoisin sauce and lemon wasabi cream: slightly sweet and slightly spicy. Verdict? Ample portion size, fresh tuna, and delicious flavors.
Do yourself a favor and order the duck and waffle plate from the new bar bites menu. Bite-sized duck breast served atop miniature waffle crisps with port wine cherries, a dallop of crème fraiche and pistachios? Winning combo. Certainly a unique menu find and fun twist on traditional chicken and waffles. The Chandon Pinot Noir complimented the fowl nicely.
The USDA prime beef burger served with crispy thin fries and the III Forks Kobe beef sliders served with a horseradish pickle disappeared quickly. The sliders are touted as III Forks’ best-selling bar bite menu item. The star of the meat dishes was the French dip sandwich accompanied by a salty au jus. Shaved prime rib meets balsamic-glazed caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and a creamy horseradish sauce and is served with fries. Yes, please!
The artisanal cheese plate was a carefully chosen platter of Sweet Grass Dairy (from Georgia) cheeses. Available in flights of three, or five cheeses, the platter comes with thinly sliced granny smith apples, candied nuts and fresh colorful berries. My personal favorite was the creamy Green Hill brie. Love III Forks’ emphasis on local cheeses.
Served in a Himalayan pink sea salt bowl, the steak tartar was a sight to be seen. Chopped USDA prime tenderloin filet diced with egg yolk, shallot, capers, Tabasco, thyme, rosemary and dry mustard and carefully formed into a cylinder shape, and served with crunchy toast points around the perimeter.
We tried three desserts (one for each of our three “III” forks?): crème brulee with a caramelized top and garnished with mint sprig and fresh berries, a dense bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream and a bourbon sauce, and chocolate ganache cake with toasted coconut. While good, none of these really stole the show for me.
III Forks pairs quality food with a relaxed upscale atmosphere without being too stuffy. With more than 1,500 wine offerings, it’s a wine lover’s safe haven. A special kudos to executive chef Dylan Hauge and sous chef Andrea Williams, along with general manager Pete Nebrich and sommelier Jeremy Vass for the stellar hospitality, excellent spread of items, and full stomach!
Springing into summer, ahhh. As each new season begins Seasons 52 rightfully updates its menu to focus on the freshness of seasonal ingredients. Season’s 52 emphasizes a simple, approachable cooking style that strives to make healthy eating fun. And in true Seasons 52 fashion, no menu item tops 475 calories.
Perhaps my favorite new summer item were the lobster and shrimp spring rolls served chilled and accompanied by a trio of colorful sauces: cool salsa verde, aromatic lemongrass and a sweet-hot red chili sauce and two sprigs of mint for garnish.
Muddled watermelon, rum, and agave nectar joined forces in the Watermelon Refresher, a new summery cocktail perfect for a warm Florida evening. We also tried the Strawberry Lemon Euphoria, with hand-crafted Atlantico Rum.
The organic arugula salad was carefully plated with chunks of sweet watermelon, earthy wedges of grilled yellow beets and creamy goat cheese, then tossed with citrus mint jicama slices, toasted pistachios and a cumin-lime vinaigrette. Two thumbs up.
The summer vegetarian tasting platter was hearty: a soft taco, spinach and mushroom chili relleno with lemon zest, asparagus spears, cedar plank roasted tofu topped with a apple mango chutney, a roasted tomato slice and the start of the show: “grains of life” - a combination of farro, a denser, chewier grain, and fluffy quinoa (that’s “keen-wah” not “quin-no-uh”). Quinoa is also the only grain that contains all eight amino acids, making it a complete protein.
The wild Alaskan Copper River salmon is fed an all-natural diet and roasts in its own skin during the cooking process. Served atop creamy corn risotto and accompanied by thick asparagus spears and colorful roasted red pepper, I found the lemon-infused mustard dill sauce for dipping to be a great addition to this dinner. The Chehalem INOX was served alongside our salmon and with no oak influences it had a crisp clean flavor reminiscent of apple and pear that nicely cut through the salmon’s omega 3s.
The big kahuna (still under 475 calories!) was the 11-ounce Piedmontese all-natural bone-in strip steak that’s grass fed, range-raised and carefully cooked on a wood-burning oven.. The meat is lower in fat and has a double muscle structure, like a buffalo. Crusted with black pepper, freeze-dried molasses and lavender – an unexpected trio. Our steak was paired with the Marham Cellar 1878 that was rich in tannins and a blend of three grapes.
The Jam Jar Moscato (Western Cape ’11) was juicy, fruity and has a hint of sparkle, which is a great aperitif or with fruit-based desserts. We enjoyed it alongside our new summer mini indulgences flavors including a raspberry chocolate chip cannoli and summer blueberry cheesecake.
I took part in Jacksonville’s first 10-truck food truck rally on Saturday at Burrito Gallery’s parking lot downtown. (I was even on First Coast News at 8 a.m. in a segment with Chris Dickerson from Corner Taco!) Food trucks aren’t permitted on public property (or private property, really) downtown or at Jacksonville Beach, however the demand for food trucks around the country is skyrocketing. Cities like Los Angeles and Santa Monica host food truck lots. When I vacationed there earlier this year I made it a point to visit the two big lots in LA for their Downtown LA Art Walk. People line up at their favorite truck before the trucks even open their doors! (I sampled from the much acclaimed Ludo Truck - fried chicken, lavender biscuit with honey, jalapeno slaw and bernaise, Kogi BBQ, White Rabbit, Cool Haus, Slummin’ Gourmet, and Komodo) Even our northwest friends in Tallahassee have a food truck hub on Thursdays! Tampa hosts regular events and there are a growing number of trucks serving all types of fare just two hours south in Orlando. So why not Jacksonville?
Eight Jacksonville-based trucks and two from St. Augustine (Sprocket’s and Mother Fletcher’s) joined forces as Jax Truckies collected $1 from each attendee and donated it to area food bank, Second Harvest. More than 2,000 hungry fans turned up throughout the day. Thankfully the rain subsided and it wasn’t too hot. Yes, some of the lines were long but it was reassuring to see the patience and excitement in people’s eyes. Food trucks…in Jacksonville? Yes.
The lineup included Corner Taco, Driftwood BBQ, Gourmet Aviator, Mike B’s, Monroe’s on the Go BBQ, Mother Fletcher’s, On The Fly Sandwiches and Stuff, 3 Moms Ice Cream, Sprocket’s Food Truck and Super Food Truck. Many of the trucks cook everything to order so you know your food is fresh and delicious. There was something for everything, ranging from the creative duck confit quesadillas and warm bread pudding in a waffle cone (both from Monroe’s on the Go BBQ) to smashed fried tostones topped with Puerto Rican roasted pork, cilantro slaw, Aviator BBQ sauce and spicy mayo from Gourmet Aviator. Kids loved the sweet potato tots. Vegetarian offerings ran the gamut: grilled cheese with pesto on parmesan-studded toast from On the Fly, tempeh tacos from Sprockets and Corner Taco, orzo salad with feta pita from Mike B’s, and homemade falafel pita with tztiki sauce from Mother Fletcher’s. Corner Taco’s full menu is gluten-free, and they craft their corn tortillas fresh daily. Newcomer Super Food Truck had some diverse offerings: a green onion and dill snapper patty with cucumber, arugula and tomato on toasted sourdough bread with mango ketchup and fried orzo mac and cheese balls. Desserts proved to be a hot ticket item too: On The Fly crafted a peanut butter chocolate caramel pretzel bar that sold out fast, Mike B’s had cake pops and Boston creme pie cupcakes, Driftwood BBQ had “not your momma’s puddin” and Mother Fletcher’s had a warm hand-held fried cherry pie dusted with sugar. (where are my Spandex pants?) Burrito Gallery served cold beverages at an outside bar and those wanting to avoid the lines at the trucks grabbed tacos and burritos inside. Can’t wait for the next event!
Soon-to-be Riverside gastropub, The Salty Fig, has its food truck in the works and the Smoked Meat Militia Food Truck is outfitting its truck as I type.
If you could have any kind of food truck in Jacksonville, what would it be and what would it serve? I want a gourmet grilled cheese truck. And yes, I wish it parked outside my house. For now, “like” Jax Truckies on Facebook as they post the daily whereabouts of the trucks in town.
(Clockwise from left: edamame duplings with white truffle, sweet sake and brown butter sauce, raw seared kobe beef tataki, black widow roll, Valentine roll and braised short rib. All photos © Caron Streibich)
Sakana Fusion Bistro and Blue Bar are the latest venture from the guys behind Escape Restaurant Group, which currently owns Nipper’s Waterfront Beach Grille on the intracoastal. It will occupy the former Atlantic dance club in Jacksonville Beach and will have seating for 160 inside upstairs and downstairs and room for about 100 patrons outside.
Escape’s motto is simple: “come for the food…stay for the experience.” Sakana hopes to open its doors June 4 to the public and will position itself as contemporary pan-asian cuisine with live music.
Behind the scenes is a culinary powerhouse including Executive Chef Scott Ostrander, formerly of Avondale bistro ‘town and Sous Chef Steve Macrina formerly of Philly hot-spot Morimoto. Austin Katoh, executive sushi chef, rounds out the team. A pastry chef will be named soon.
At a recent food blogger sneak peek lunch, I sampled several of the evolving menu items. We eagerly gave feedback, ooh’ed and ahh’ed at some of the offerings and enjoyed the variety of ingredients and creativity. Among the group’s favorites were the edamame dumpings and raw kobe beef tataki. The triangular-shaped dumplings were stuffed with a creamy blended edamame filling then generously topped with a white truffle, sweet sake and brown butter sauce. Light, but packed with flavor. We devoured them all and raved so much we were greeted by an extra plate.
The raw seared kobe beef tataki with jalapeno ponzu sauce served with bahn mi-style pickled daikon, red pepper and julienned carrots topped with cilantro sprigs was another winner. The tender braised short ribs with a wasabi-butter reduction crust over watercress and spinach received a similar high praise.
We also tried the angry fish — an entire crispy fried fish (teeth and all!) with a citrus chili glaze and side of asparagus and shitake mushrooms. All I can say is this: never judge a book by its cover.
Sakana will offer specialty sushi rolls, including the Green Buddah ($9): edamame hummus, roasted tomato, yam and artichokes wrapped in soy paper and topped with Japanese eggplant, goat cheese and almond slivers. There will be a featured vegetarian roll each week.
Executive Chef Scott Ostrander (formerly of ‘town in Avondale) explains the preparation of the Angry Fish. Photo by Caron Streibich.
Complete photo gallery here.
Made the front page of Thursday’s Florida Times-Union Taste section with fellow Jacksonville food bloggers, Devon Stiles of The Food Bitch Blog and Jessica Taylor of First Bite. The T-U’s Dining Notes columnist Gary Mills was the man behind the collaborative effort.
A few weeks ago we stuffed ourselves at the Riverside Arts Market by sampling many of the items from the various vendors and then selecting our “must try” list. This was tougher than it sounds because most everything we tried was crave-worthy. That’s my photo of The Alligator Pear’s sweet potato and swiss chard taco (my personal RAM favorite). Devon’s bacon bluez burger will probably make you start drooling in 3…2…1.
It was a very good week of eating (and to think this isn’t even everything I consumed). Must get back to the gym soon. Clockwise from top left…
1. This warm curried tofu wrap from Chamblin’s Uptown was the special of the day and it quickly caught my eye. This beauty was packed with spinach, juicy roma tomatoes, curry sauce (spicy but good), curried tofu, diced red onion and crunchy cucumbers.
2. Our first stop on Saturday’s 2nd Annual Slow Foods First Coast Tour de Farm was Terk’s Acres in St. Augustine, where we stood patiently in line for these carnitas tacos from The Corner Taco, which serves “semi-swanky street food” from an airstream trailer. The soft corn tortillas are made fresh daily. I like how colorful these tacos are with the sprigs of cilantro, lime wedges and crunchy purple cabbage.
3. Riverside’s Whiteway Delicatessan is one of my favorite spots in town for breakfast and lunch. Touted as Jacksonville’s oldest deli (it’s been around since 1927), I love how everyone knows my name - and my order. The Late Bloomers is an absolute must if you’ve never been: turkey, crisp bacon, banana peppers, homemade tabouli, and creamy avocado spread in a pressed pita. I excessively douse mine with Crystal hot sauce. So good!
4. Dessert is my favorite part of any meal and Mochi Frozen Yogurt never lets me down. Self-serve is the way of the future and Mochi offers six or more flavors daily at its three area locations and tons of fun toppings. On this visit, a new (to me) flavor - passionfruit - made its way into my cup with standby flavors, original and taro. I add fresh mango, kiwi and blueberries and white chocolate chips, coconut shreds and squishy mochi pieces (think gummy bears but not primary colors and not super chewy).
5. First time trying Jersey Mike’s Subs and I was impressed. It’ll go neck-and-neck with Jacksonville-based spots Larry’s Giant Subs and Firehouse Subs. Jersey Mike’s is new to town and its first location is on Roosevelt Boulevard. With hardwood floors, soothing colors, and large windows, it’s an inviting space for a fast-casual sub shop. The chipotle cheesesteak (added banana peppers) was piled high with beef, sauteed peppers and onions and chipotle mayo. The bread was fresh and pliable.
6. At a friend’s birthday Saturday evening at BlackFinn American Grille I ordered the ahi tuna salad served with crunchy wonton strips, cucumber slices, sushi grade pepper and garlic crusted ahi served with soy sauce and honey-cider vinaigrette. It was good but the pepper was overpowering. I requested chop sticks to eat my dinner…there’s something wrong about eating ahi tuna with a fork.
7. Trailer Trash bites from Short ‘n Sweet at Riverside Arts Market were amazing: slightly salty saltines, covered with chocolate chips, fluffy slightly-burnt marshmallow and a layer of sweetness. Aside from RAM, S ‘n S now has a storefront (in the shape of a large ice cream cone) off University Boulevard. It sells (and delivers) cupcakes, cakes, brownies, muffins, cobblers and cookies.
8. This tasty little machiato was from Bold Bean Coffee Roasters in Riverside. Everything about Bold Bean impresses me: the knowledgeable and friendly staff, the attention to detail in the interior space, the selection of great Pandora stations playing, the assortment of craft beers on tap that are forever rotating, and most importantly, the coffee. Bold Bean makes its own sauces in-house so you may prefer your machiato with caramel, or vanilla.
Local bakers from Baking Under the Influence and Tri-County Rolling Militia partnered with Bold Bean Coffee Roasters in Riverside to host a bake sale in support of the Great American Bake Sale. This nationwide initiative raises money for Share Our Strength, which aids in the battle against hunger within the U.S.
Supreme nut brownies, blueberry lemon loaf and vegan cupcakes were among the offerings.
Also worth noting: Violet of Baking Under the Influence (aka BUI) will begin a free Urban Core cupcake delivery service in May on Thursdays and Fridays. Whether you’re pining for one cupcake or one hundred, there will be a rotating flavor selection. $3 for regular-sized cupcakes and $1 for the mini “Shot”-sized cakes.
If you weren’t able to attend and still would like to donate, head to http://join.strength.org/goto/BUIandTCRM
I eat a lot of great food around town and it’s time I start sharing these culinary adventures with my fellow food lovers. Each week I’m going to post a few highlights from the past seven days in a section called Weekly Bites.
(from top left)
1. Tacos from one of my favorite vendors, The Alligator Pear, at Saturday’s Riverside Arts Market. I crave these flavor powerhouses: fresh, piled high, unique ingredients and textures (hello, avocado, cilantro and peanuts!). My favorite is the sweet potato and swiss chard.
2. Tried new Avondale spot, Ginjo Sushi, on Saturday night. It opened a few weeks ago across from The Brick and touts the same ownership as Sake House in 5 Points and on the Southbank. My three rolls were good and I really enjoyed the spicy tuna with seaweed salad roll.
3. Murray Hill’s Moon River Pizza opened its doors Sunday mid-morning for a special treat: two breakfast pizzas (I went with the egg, feta, spinach and tomato) were offered along with beermosas and the release of Bold Bean Coffee Roasters and Bold City Brewery’s latest collaboration, the “L” Coffee Stout.
4. Food trucks are becoming all the rage around town and Mother Fletcher’s is no exception. MF’s hails from St. Augustine but has been setting up shop in Jacksonville during the week. On Monday I snagged a delicious piping hot Black and Blue sandwich and hand-cut potato chips while parked in Riverside at Everbank Plaza. Next time I’m trying Moma’s homemade falafel with tztiki sauce! Follow the whereabouts of other local trucks on the Jax Truckies site.
5. Grabbed this chewy almond macaron from Riverside’s Bakery Moderne on Saturday morning. Love that at Bakery Moderne is made from scratch.
6. Pear puree and Hendricks gin at Avondale spot, The Blue Fish. Love the 3-7 p.m. happy hour offerings: Gulf oysters on the half shell, PEI mussels, panko-fried bleu cheese and bacon stuffed olives, and mini baked brie with white truffle oil. Don’t forget to visit Elevated Avondale upstairs for live music Wednesday through Saturday.
7. Saturday afternoon was spent perusing beer offerings at Gainesville’s first annual Hogtown Craft Beer Festival. It was great to see local favorites Bold City Brewery, Green Room Brewing and Intuition Ale Works. Enjoyed sampling St. Augustine’s Mile Marker Brewing IPA.
8. Grilled pear salad with gorgonzola, spiced pecans and raspberry vinaigrette at Neptune Beaches’ Mezza Luna, which serves everything from old world Italian to new world American dishes.
So get out there, try something new, and support local businesses!
Flaming cheese. A belly dancer toting a sword. Dancing on the tables. Napkins being thrown in the air. Shots of Ouzo.
That’s just a glimpse of the first Folio Weekly Bite Club dinner of 2012. Oh, and then there was the food: an amazing assortment of traditional Greek and Turkish fare!
After a performance from one of Taverna Yamas belly dancers, guests started with cold “pikilia” or appetizers, in a family-style setting: tzatziki (homemade yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill), taramosalata (caviar spread), melitzanoalata (roasted eggplant spread), hummus (chickpeas, olive oil, and garlic), pita and dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice). The taramosalata and dolmades were instant hits. Next up was the Greek Village Salad. Taverna Yamas offers this version in addition to a more traditional Greek salad, which contains romaine lettuce. The Village is a lettuce-free colorful bouquet of ripe tomatoes, cucumber wedges, thin slivers of red onion, crunchy peppers, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil and oregano.
You can’t have cold appetizers without their warm counterparts. Platters of hot pikila including spanakopita, baked phyllo dough with layers of feta and spinach, keftedes (ground beef and fresh herbs), calamari and a red dipping sauce, and lamb ribs with ladolemono sauce, were distributed. Within minutes, plates were cleaned!
A surprise of flaming cheese with brandy, or saganaki, was served on sizzling pans to each table. The salty cheese spread perfectly atop chewy pita wedges.
As pants began to tighten, friendly waitstaff donned plates of chicken kebab, filet mignon kebab, pork tenderloin with spinach and leek rice and lemon potatoes. And a complimentary shot of Ouzo: Greece’s famous anise-flavored liquor, was passed around. Opa!
More belly dancing and dancing atop a table took center stage between courses. Guests enjoyed the combination of music, dance and cheerful ambiance.
Last but by no means least was a trio of desserts. The baklava, layers of phyllo dough, honey, walnut, cinnamon and cloves, was joined by ek mek, or shredded phyllo dough with walnuts, a custard creme and whipped topping, and galaktoboureko (say that three times fast, I dare you!): honey phyllo with custard.
Joining the hustle and bustle of Tinseltown in December of 2010, Taverna Yamas currently seats 350 patrons but recently broke ground on an expanded area that will soon be home to a hookah lounge with tapas-style menu and more outdoor seating.
Taverna Yamas offers happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. (half priced well liquors, house wines, beer, and a large selection of appetizers), daily lunch specials, $4 Martini Wednesdays and live entertainment on the weekend.
Located on the Southside (9753 Deer Lake Court at Tinseltown), Taverna Yamas serves up a wide variety of delicious traditional Greek offerings from hummus, dolmades, to spanakopita, souvlaki, lamb shank and mousaka, for lunch and dinner. Part of the fun at Taverna Yamas is the dancing on tables, and the music and live belly dancers at dinnertime. Come late night there’s a DJ spinning European and top 40 hits. Taverna Yamas will host our next Bite Club dinner tasting event on February 7 at 6 p.m.
1. Check your calendar! Confirm you’re available Tuesday, February 7.
2. This month’s question (comment on this post by 1/29): “What’s the most expensive item or dish you’ve ever ordered? Do you recall where it was from? Did it live up to its price tag? Who footed the bill: you, a date, your work, or a vendor? (If you’ve never ordered something more expensive, why not? What do you want to try that you’ve never had that is pricey?)” Be detailed. Be fun. With your comment, leave your first and last name, and e-mail address. Your e-mail won’t show up publicly and is required so you can be notified if you get selected.
3. If you’re not already a Bite Club member e-mail your full name, e-mail address and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign-ups are NOT first come, first serve. Folio Weekly selects attendees at random, based on the number of seats the restaurant grants. Selected attendees will be notified before 2/1 via e-mail. After confirming, you’ll attend the event and afterwards I’ll post an event recap on the blog. You are required to leave your feedback in the comment section.
“Do you have any camping experience? How do you like working with fire?” These are two very important questions asked to candidates during an interview at Riverside’s latest hot spot, Pele’s Wood Fire. Two large hickory and oak fire ovens demand center stage, with Madame Pele - the fire Goddess - beaming from above. The dome of each oven is a fiery 1,400-degrees and the cooking area is closer to 900, and after a mere two minutes to stretch the dough and top it, baking time for a pizza clocks in at just 90 seconds! You can see where those camping questions come in handy.
I was lucky enough to snag a sneak peek and stuff my face with seven delicious courses prior to Pele’s opening its doors to the masses on new year’s day at the corner of Park and King Street in historic Riverside. The space comfortably seats 160+ patrons and upon entering, you’re greeted by large windows, an elongated bar area, complete with 30+ beers on tap, full liquor, and wine list, and the scent of deliciousness wafting through the air. From the rustic bread baked in-house, to the hand-pulled house made mozzarella, touch-free restrooms, free wi-fi, to an upcoming loyalty card (think beer passport!), wet naps served for wing clean-up to to the mortar and pestle used to whip up a fresh pesto, Pele’s already has a laser-focus on attention to detail.
We sampled the seasonal selection of iced seafood and the presentation of raw oysters, Mayport shrimp and crab claws was beautifully complimented by lemon wedges and tangy cocktail sauce. The lemoncello wood-fire wings topped with fresh parmesan shavings, chilis and olive oil were a hit. And the basket of rustic, fresh baked bread with olive oil and fire-smoked spices was heavenly.
The arugula with Sweetgrass Dairy brie, roasted red pepper, pistachios, roasted onion vinaigrette and truffle honey was perfection in a bowl. Colorful, peppery arugula, creamy brie, bold red pepper, crunchy pistachios and sweet honey? A favorite.
Pele’s began as a catering business, and Pizzaiolo Matt Tierney gained fans by cooking up pizzas nearby at both Riverside Arts Market and Intuition Ale Works. This was my fourth time sampling the pizza and the margherita (buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil) was delicious as were the proscuitto and artichoke and mushroom formaggi (that’s “cheese” in Italian) topped with garlic ricotta, roasted seasonal mushrooms, fontina cheese and fresh thyme. You can craft your own as well, so there’s something for everyone.
Rivaling the arugula salad was the standout of the evening: black pepper spaghetti carbonara with smoked pork bellies, parmesan, tomatoes and egg-yolk cream: a home run! Kudos to Executive Chef Micah Windham on this one, and his encourage of Senior Sous Chef Mark Williams and Sous Chef Andrea Soccoro.
The coal-fired, dry-aged Manhattan ribeye was tender, well-seasoned and packed with flavor. Cooked directly on the coals of the fire, it’s served with sauteed spinach, whipped potatoes and a side of au jus and horseradish.
Three offerings from La Dolce Vita, or “the sweet life,” rounded out the meal. Traditional tiramasu, zeppoles (italian donut holes) and white chocolate cheesecake with cherry glaze accompanied by a chocolate-espresso pot de creme (like creme brulee, sans the sugary top). The contrast of smooth, decadent cheesecake to rich custard did me in. Three sauces accompanied the zeppoles - hazelnut-chocolate (reminscent of Nutella!), orange sea salt caramel and lemon custard. The first two were amazing, but I wasn’t impressed by the lemon. We received a cappucino featuring a stencil of Madame Pele dusted atop our Segafredo coffee from Italy.
Pele’s soon boasts service seven days a week starting at 7 a.m., serving up coffee, fresh breakfast pastries made in-house by Pele’s pastry chef, wi-fi, along with full lunch and dinner service. Welcome to the neighborhood!
Bite Club guests traveled to Valencia Condominiums’ Clubhouse, just minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal, for a sweet dessert-for-dinner (how daring!) tasting event. Sharing its spice-flavored cupcakes and squares of moist pumpkin cheesecake was Cinotti’s Bakery, located off Penman Road near the Intracoastal. Murray Hill’s Edgewood Bakery (in Jacksonville since 1947!) served up a variety of delicious two-bite treats: mini key lime tarts, pecan pie tarts, cannolis, brownies and petit fours. Avondale’s Let Them Eat Cake, set up by Valencia’s pool area, served pumpkin cupcakes with maple buttercream, cheesecake squares and a flourless melt-in-your-mouth chocolate torte with spiced creme anglaise. Newcomer Bruton’s Macarons, out of San Marco, treated guests to a Bailey’s Irish Cream and pumpkin macaron. The crunchy but chewy sandwich cookies were a hit as many guests had never tried one. (it bears no resemblance to the “macaroon” which has coconut) Sweet by Holly, located at the St. Johns Town Center, served a wide variety of its signature mini cupcakes, and an appearance by two-time Food Network Cupcake Wars champion Hollis “Holly” Wilder surprised guests. Crowd favorites were the white chocolate cranberry, a seasonal offering, and the dulce de leche, pumpkin, black and gold, red velvet and blackout (yellow cake, dark chocolate frosting and a caramel-filled center). Many lucked out and left with to-go cupcake boxes, perfect for breakfast. Jacksonville Scene provided SweetWater Brewing Company’s seasonal Festive Ale and Riverside’s soon-to-open (November 25!) Bold Bean Coffee Roasters served organic certified Peru La Florida coffee. Top Chef Season 7 Cheftestant Kenny Gilbert’s Intracoastal eatery, Nippers Beach Grille, provided cranberry sangria. Valencia provided tours, giving guests a peek at the property and condo units, between bites.