On the Menu: Tidbits from around town

I love the Taste of Collier on Third Street each May, because of the ambience and the amount of restaurants that get involved.

I often thought that Marco could do much better but we haven't had the proper atmosphere to pull it off.

Well, move over Naples, Marco has arrived!

This past Taste of Marco was a spectacular food event and the Esplanade was one of the reasons. What a perfect location to have a food festival — on the water, on a perfect day and plenty of space to sit. I don't know how many people attended, but I bet it was around 5,000.

Every one I chatted with said they were having a blast and thought it was the best Taste of Marco ever.

I know how much hard work the gals and guys of the many restaurants put in to prepare for this event. And to everyone else involved, too, congratulations to you all for pulling off the biggest and best Taste of Marco ever.

Everyone's booth displays were wonderful. I especially liked the gardmonzhay work by Bimini's. All the chefs put out their best, and it showed.

I was standing beside a lady in front of the Island Café booth, and she made a comment about some flies buzzing around the area. I said, "Well, we are outside," and told her not to worry about them because they were French flies.

Once again, congratulations to all — from the chicken satay to the crème brulee everything was perfect on this Sunday.

I was up in Naples the other afternoon, cruising around on one of my rare days off and stopped into Noodles Italian Cafe and Sushi Bar for an appetizer. Naples has so many good and different restaurants to choose from but I was in the Noodles neighborhood, so why not stop by?

Homemade spinach, ricotta and garlic raviolis at Noodles Italian cafe and Sushi bar in Naples.

Tiki Tim / Special to the Islander

Homemade spinach, ricotta and garlic raviolis at Noodles Italian cafe and Sushi bar in Naples.

I sat at the long copper bar and had the place almost to myself. It was around 3 p.m. — in between lunch and happy hour. Noodles pasta is all handmade, and the sushi bar is killer, too. The cafe also serves wood-fired personal pizzas that are rustic and delicious.

The menu is extensive — between the sushi and the fresh Italian fare — there are a lot of choices.

I chose ravioli. The raviolis were hand stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese and garlic, then laced with a flavorful and rich marinara sauce. I got five raviolis for $7.25. It was ample and delicious.

I was thinking about sticking around for happy hour because it really gets hoppin' around 4:30 p.m. or so. And on Thursdays, Noodles is the new hot spot in town. It transforms itself into a night club with entertainment, and from what I understand, the place is packed — and this space can hold a lot of people.

Then my phone rang. A friend was across town at Tommy Bahama's getting a late lunch, I told him I'd be right there.

There's only one thing wrong about Tommy Bahama's, every time I go for just a beer, I spend $105 because I always buy a shirt and a Tommy Bahama's shirt costs $100.

But, hey, I look good eating my lunch.

Macadamia nut crusted goat cheese with mango salsa, herbed crostini and sweet soy glaze at Tommy Bahama's in Naples.

Tiki Tim / Special to the Islander

Macadamia nut crusted goat cheese with mango salsa, herbed crostini and sweet soy glaze at Tommy Bahama's in Naples.

My friend had ordered a St. Bart's shrimp BLT, and I got a bite. It was made of grilled lemon shrimp, hickory smoked bacon, leaf lettuce, vine ripe tomatoes and garlic aioli, which means mayonnaise — all served on toasted sourdough bread with red bliss potato salad on the side ($15.00). What a great sandwich, but I wasn't that hungry so I opted for the Big Island Goat Cheese appetizer ($10.00).

It was made of warm macadamia nut crusted goat cheese served with mango salsa and herbed crostini (toasted French or Italian bread) with a sweet soy glaze.

The crostini was perfect, nice and thin and toasted crispy, it was delicious. Some places make it too thick and way too far in advance and it gets too hard. These were right on, just thick enough to hold the warm nut-crusted salsa with a soy sauce laden goat cheese bite. Wow! This was good!

I wandered into the men's store and got my shirt. I decided to do this after I ate, because it seems that if I get a light-colored shirt before I eat, I'm bound to get soy sauce on it and then I'd have a $100 stain.

My friend commented on how nice it is to have a late lunch and avoid the crowd, and I agreed.

When I'm shopping in Naples I like to check out different restaurants and sample a few appetizers in the afternoon. It breaks up the day and you end up eating lighter.

Now I wonder what the crowd at the Taste of Naples had to say about the Taste of Marco. I have only one word to describe it — brilliant!

Tiki Tim, a 1969 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has been a chef all over the United States and has lived in Southwest Florida for 20 years. Tim has a raw bar at Jack's Lookout during season. E-mail him at tikitim@marcocable.com.

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