Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Kitchen on San Marco

I've got a crush and it's going to keep me coming back to The Kitchen on San Marco. No, it's not one of their severs (though every single one has been adorable and charming) and it isn't the blue-eyed and food-passionate Chef Ryan. It's the beet salad.

Once, I was under the misapprehension that I didn't like beets. Most people, having only experienced the slimy, neglected pickled things that get thrown on to a salad probably feel the same way, but beets are a root veggie that benefits from the right kind of TLC. Here in Jacksonville the various preparations I've seen have made me into a beet cheerleader. (I'm going to take this time to recommend the beet fries from the food truck Funkadelic if you haven't tried those).

The crush-worthy beet salad at Kitchen on San Marco is mostly beets, some creamy goat cheese, vinaigrette, and leafy greens. Simple. Delicious.

Monday, August 25, 2014

More Than Soul...

The Chefs of The Potter's House Soul Food Bistro were eager to show off their culinary prowess at a blogger event this past Wednesday. Their scope goes farther than the soul food they're known for, and they excel at doing catered events. Most often they're asked to do soul, of course, but they love doing the fancier events. Executive Chef Celestia Mobley says she learned “how to cook” from her Grandmother and she learned “the whys in culinary school.” There and during her career, she's picked up different styles of cooking from French cuisine and beyond.

Assistant Manager Chef Ardelia “Ardy” Speed-Johnson cooks up healthy versions of soul food. I know, healthy and soul food seem to be mutually exclusive, but Chef Ardy proves that isn't so. For the event she did something that was a little more swanky than soul, the better to show off her range. She did a turkey ricotta meatball, no breadcrumbs, on a cooked kale bed with chipotle plum sauce. Garlic lead prominently, but it didn't overwhelm the other flavors, instead it seemed to frolic a bit with ricotta and the plum sauce, standing up well to the light bitters of the kale. With a pretty plating, this dish wouldn't be out of place at a fine dining catered event. If you're a bride to be, I'd say you need to be booking Soul Food Bistro for your wedding, now!

Chef Greg Fountain, who brings the flavor of the Caribbean to Potter's simply cooked up shrimp and rice seasoned with a lively yellow turmeric and an endearing little sprig of dill. It was another classy dish that looked as good as it tasted. And it looked like spring and sunshine.

We asked for dessert Chef Valerie Harris (known as Miss Val) to come out after a taste of what she could do, just so we could tell her, in person, how delightful all her selections were. My favorite of the bunch was the coconut cream pie, which for me, was life-alteringly good (your mileage may vary, of course).

I have no idea why Potter's hasn't been on Diners Drive-ins and Dives. Seriously, Guy Guy Fieri needs to make a trip back to Jacksonville to hit this place up, the mac and cheese alone would make it worthwhile. They have garnered some recognition on a more national basis recently, getting nominated just this year for Best Soul Food at the Neighborhood Awards (hosted and put on by Steve Harvey).

 Locations: 5310 Lenox Avenue suite 1, Jacksonville, FL 32205, 904.394.0860 + 11876 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32225, 904.394.2801 See website for full hours. Closed Mondays.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Did We Just Get Trolled by Councilperson Brown?

Trolling, for those who don't know internetspeak, is the art of saying something really heinous/shocking/over-the-top in an internet forum or comments in order to gain a response. Very often, trolls aren't espousing what they believe, they're just looking for outrage.

So when Councilperson Reginald Brown opened the meeting by saying he wasn't against food trucks after proposing an ordinance that seems to legislate food trucks out of Jacksonville, it was all I could think. Reginald Brown trolled us with a food truck ordinance.

I appreciate that he is willing to receive feedback from the community at this juncture. Sincerely and totally. If it were going to stay the same, I was ready to mobilize. The question is: did he just put a pretty anti-food truck ordinance out there to simply to form a committee? To gain a response?

If he was serious when he put it together, then, it's a worse problem as it was a woefully misinformed piece of legislation. I have to say: I hope Jacksonville just got trolled.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hawkers Update

Went back to Hawkers and had a different experience. This time, not as good. They are on only their fourth day of service and I will say that they went to a lot of trouble to make it right.

Some of it had to do with "team service", of which I have not been a fan. It means that lots of different people bring you your orders and no one person is responsible for you, even though you have a server. For it to work, everybody has to be in the loop. So, if for example, somebody is running out an extra order out to you to make up for a screw-up, you might turn them away because you assume it's a mistake. And because all they were told was to bring you the order, they'll leave.

It's true, this time around the difficulty level was raised. I brought someone with me who has coconut and nut allergies (but can do peanut) and they were very careful about it. The server wasn't incredibly versed as to ingredients, but he did take it seriously and so did the kitchen. However, this made us the sort of table that sucks the server's time.

The server assumed that all the orders came from one person. He left quickly after getting an order for the small plates. I didn't get to put my order in, but managed to be happy with the small plates. And my hungry husband, who wanted an entrée for himself, was left wondering why he was passed over. He was finally able to put his order in, but some time later, the server came back, telling us they were out of the item he ordered.

The server did not wait after delivering the news, but instead faded away into the crowded din. My husband was not happy about that. Sharing is kind of a big thing at Hawkers, so realize that if a server sees food on your table, they mainly come back when you're getting low. They will assume that you're happy with small plates, just like our server did. Unfortunately, what we had on the table wasn't what my husband wanted. The server needed to check with all of us, or even ask if we needed anything else. I realize that he was busy, and the questions about ingredients took a lot of his time.

Points for Hawkers:
--Once we were able to communicate what was wrong, they did their best to make it right and came by several times to make sure we were satisfied. Once in a while, stuff happens.

--They managed to get the allergy thing right! I know, because my friend is not in the hospital. If they had messed it up, she would be.

Things to know:

--Sharing is kind of a big thing at Hawkers, so realize that if a server sees food on your table, they mainly come back when you're getting low. They will assume that you're happy with small plates.

--Team service means that you have the right to FLAG ANYBODY down, not just your server. I'm not saying that's an easy thing to do, because they move at a high rate of speed.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

The soft open of Hawkers did not disappoint. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from a space that had doomed countless other ventures, restaurant and otherwise. But I was blown away by the food. Asian fare, so often, is done too broadly, flavors exaggerated, pushing them well past the delicate balance the dishes should have, when they're done right.

I brought along a dining partner that has spent some time in Beijing and knows the cuisine. The steamed dumplings, she said, would be her test. And they more than passed. My test was the roast duck. I love duck but am afraid to order it at most places, because it's a commitment. When duck is good, it can be very, very good, but when duck is bad it makes me very, very sad. The small plate of roast duck was cheap enough for me to take the risk. I'm glad I took it. Best. Duck. Ever.

The bok choy was tasty, but impossible to eat with chopsticks and problematic to eat with a fork and no knife. If you're coming in while it is still soft open, know this: they have no knives. Ask if they do. When they have them, you can safely order the bok choy.  The quality was good enough that I am perfectly fine with the fact that I looked a bit barbaric eating it. Om nom nom nom!

Also: great service.

We ordered three small plates, two entrees, Thai tea, coke and a small sake. Total before tip was about $50.

Things to Know: They take chopstick etiquette seriously. Don't worry, there's handy graphics on the menu to educate you!

Hawkers 1001 Park Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32204
(904) 508-0342

Monday, January 27, 2014

Eat here: Blue Bamboo

Five reasons why you should be eating at Jacksonville's Blue Bamboo:

1- It's a locally owned and operated restaurant on the Southside. In the commercial bustle of Southside, it's sometimes hard to remember that there are locally owned businesses that do a wonderful job. Blue Bamboo is one of those businesses.

2- There isn't anything like it in Jacksonville. This is Asian fusion at its finest, in a beautiful setting, with innovative cocktails and a great staff. Check out their menu to learn more!

3- It's a classier way to end or begin a night at the movies. Just down the road from Tinseltown, it's a way to get out of your dining rut.

4-Dim Sum Sundays. Once a month, they offer Dim Sum on Sundays. If you've had good dim sum, you're already making plans. If not, well, this needs to be part of your life.

5-Dennis Chan is part of Jacksonville's food legacy. His family has run about dozen restaurants in the past 60 years.

For more on what Blue Bamboo is all about, check out this interview at

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Floridian, St. Augustine

Bottom line: It was good enough I bought the t-shirt.

vintage lamp on the bar
The Floridian does have its peculiarities: beer and wine isn't served in the main dining area, but it is served in the tiny bar in the back, aptly named The County Line. It has something to do with booze licensing in Old Town. Basically you have to buy a bottle of beer or wine and then take it into the dining room after settling up. No individual glasses of wine or mugs of beers can cross "the county line" into the dining room. We got around it by simply sitting at one of the three high-top tables available within the Floridian's County Line bar. They serve up local brew here. Jacksonville's own Bold City and Intuition Ale feature on their craft-heavy beer menu.

some of their kitsch
You will be surrounded by well-curated Florida kitsch and served by contented hipsters who seem super-happy to work there. Like the Columbia House, it's touristy enough for out-of-towners. But I think it does more than its share of local trade.

As I am a big fan of shrimp 'n grits, that's what I decided to order. It was a great decision. But it wasn't easy, because there wasn't a single menu item that didn't appeal to me. I will, of course, be going back. Their 'N Grits menu item comes with your choice of tofu, shrimp or fish. I went with the classic shrimp and chose the remoulade instead of the blackened or grilled based on the server's recommendation. The unlikely flavor combination of salsa, feta and remoulade more than worked-- it soared beautifully over my delighted taste buds. This place definitely follows the localvore trend with farm providers such as the CartWheel Ranch out of St. Johns County and Wainwright Dairy, from Live Oak, Florida.

The menu is seasonal, so it can change. Check out their site to drool current selections.
over the

The Floridian 39 Cordova Street, St. Augustine, FL (904)829-0655

Things to Know: The weird bar rules. They're closed on Tuesdays Lunch is 11 am-3 pm everyday they're open except Sunday, when they open at noon Dinner is 5 pm- 9 pm going to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays They don't take reservations, but you can call them for "priority seating."