Archive | 5:44 pm

Cilantro Tamales in Naples, FL

25 Aug

We had dinner this past Saturday night at Cilantro Tamales in Naples

The tamale platter features two big fat tamales

The chatter on the web looked pretty promising. Several Naples area blogs recommended this small, unassuming cantina on the north end of Highway 41. Cilantro Tamales was started by a former chef at the Ritz-Carlton. The story goes something like this: The chef wasn’t totally satisfied with his ability to create authentic homesyle Mexican cuisine, so he ran a newspaper ad and recruited several local Mexican homemakers to share their best family recipes. He picked the best of the best recipes, hired those ladies to work in his kitchen, and opened the restaurant. That was several years ago and by all indications we were in for a memorable meal. However, I must report that our dinner was far from perfect.

The complimentary tortilla chips were thick and chunky. The salsa was really tasty and had a nice citrus edge to it. My tamales were mostly masa (corn meal) and somewhat dry. The fillings (chicken and pork) were flavorful, but not exactly piping hot. The accompanying Mexican rice was obviously warmed with a microwave oven and the refried beans, topped with some chopped and flavorless cilantro, were most likely out of the can. Not what I was expecting given the unique story behind this restaurant’s opening. Cilantro Tamales’ slogan is something like “The Best Mexican Food You’ve Ever Eaten or It’s Free.”  I could have called them on this bold claim, but decided to be nice and let them slide. Maybe they just had an off day. The best I’ve ever had??? Not even close. I have made better tamales in my home kitchen and I have zero Mexican ancestry in my bloodline.

We finished our meal by sharing a plate of flan (caramel egg custard) dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. The custard was just a bit on the rubbery side, but otherwise not too shabby. It failed to achieve the lofty heights of my gold standard, which is the wonderful flan served up at Danny’s in Laredo, TX. Wish I could have that stuff shipped in on a monthly basis — it’s that amazing. Light and airy custard topped with a crackling caramel crust. Mui bueno!

www.cilantrotamales.com

Michelbob’s BBQ Ribs in Naples, FL

25 Aug

“Best Ribs in America???” — What is with these people?

I don’t understand all the hyperbole that exists in the Naples dining scene. Why not just say “Our Ribs are Awesome?” Or maybe “The Best Ribs in Town?” Or perhaps “Florida’s Finest Ribs?” Best in America is an incredibly bold claim — and one that is virtually impossible to live up to.

Michelbob’s — Where catfish take a backseat to their baby back ribs

This tangle of homemade onion rings didn’t last long

We started off with a Onion Ring basket. The hand dipped rings were good if a little greasy. But hey, I guess they are supposed to be! The baby back ribs (said to be imported from Denmark) and the thinly sliced pork were no doubt enjoyable. The ribs were mega-tender and you could see the smoke rings on the edges of the sliced pork. The ribs were not as good as those we have gnawed in Memphis or the Texas Hill Country. I like a little char on the outside and maybe even a little crispiness. These babies were soft to the bite with just a hint of deep dark smokiness. But let’s not dwell on the negative. The meal was really good and the BBQ experience pretty decent when you compare it to the overall bleak BBQ scene that exists here in the Sunshine State. I’ll add that the best ribs I have had since arriving in Florida are served up by our old pal Perry’s BBQ right here on Siesta Key. Boy, we are lucky little devils, huh? Perry’s aren’t baby back ribs, but they are surely dee-lish, baby.   

The portions at Michelbob’s are generous – you won’t leave hungry

The sides at Michelbob’s — especially the cole slaw and baked beans — were indeed world class. In fact, the beans were tremendous … sweet and quite smoky. I loved them and could have easily devoured another helping or two. We are pretty picky about our cole slaw, but we found the slaw here to be cool and creamy. Good job, people. The Texas toast was a nice touch too, although it could have been taken to another level with a little smear of garlic butter. My meal even came with a baked potato and sour cream. That was the proverbial belly buster. No dessert was necessary — we left with full guts and smiles all around.

www.michelbobs.com — It’s pronounced “Mickle-Bob’s” in case you’re wondering

Luzianne’s Bottled Southern Tea

25 Aug

I haven’t tried this product yet, but I am very interested in tasting it.

Here is a recent review from the folks at www.bevnet.com

If Southern “sweet tea” has ever been part of your diet, you’re probably familiar with the Luzianne brand of tea. So, of course, the first flavor of this line that we reached for was the plain Sweet Tea variety. In terms of the tea flavor and sweetness level, this stuff is dead on accurate. However, they’ve added some citric acid to the mix, which makes the flavor’s finish a bit unexpected. Specifically, it doesn’t have that sugary finish that we’re used to, instead being cut with a bitter bite of acid. Packaging is a 16 fl oz plastic bottle, which has a sleeve wrap around its midsection. The design definitely fits with the Southern theme, although it seems like it’s geared towards grocery more than other retail channels. Overall, a decent first effort that could be improved with a few minor tweaks. www.luzianne.com

RC Otter’s on Captiva Island

25 Aug

 RC Otter’s is a fun little joint in beautiful Captiva, Florida

We made our first family trip to Sanibel and Captiva Island over the weekend. Using Naples as our home base, we had a great time seeing the sights, shelling, swimming in the Gulf or hotel pool, and scoring some good eats. We grabbed lunch on Saturday at RC Otter’s Island Eats on Captiva. Nice little place — very colorful.

My two boys standing out front – and hungry!

We decided to sit outside on the shaded porch. Fans spun overhead — keeping us comfortable. I ordered the Cuban sandwich and it was expertly prepared. The meat (pork and ham) was tender and flavorful. The bread was just the desired crunchiness. The cheese was nice and gooey — just like it is supposed to be. Not too much mustard and the dill pickle slice was right in its proper place. Nicely done, folks.

The Cuban Sandwich was very good served with Sweet Potato fries

I substituted the standard side of black beans and rice with some sweet potato fries. I couldn’t decide if I was happy or not with the presentation. The fries were sliced into thick coin sized pieces, breaded and then deep fried. I guess they were OK, but I would prefer more tradition sweet potato fries minus the breading and the tropical mango dipping sauce. The sauce wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t a good match for the soft and rather dense sweet tater slabs.  

 We spotted this humorous sign on the wall as we entered Otter’s

Live music accompanies lunch on Saturdays

They offer live music at lunch each day and the gent playing the guitar was very talented. He picked out his own interpretations of tunes like Stormy, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, and Chitlins Con Carne. He seemed shocked when I walked up to him and named all the tunes he had just performed for us. That got a hearty laugh out of him. I handed him a couple bucks and thanked him for keeping us entertained. He was quite appreciative.

It’s pretty clear that Travis enjoyed his meal