Dining Outside the Home: First Watch in Estero, Florida! You can always tell breakfast is going to be good when you know the workers get up with the chickens, which means the crack of dawn. The oven heats up for freshly-baked pastries, the cage-free eggs get whipped for super-light lemon ricotta pancakes, and the smell of hardwood smoked bacon stimulates the appetite as succulent fruits and garden vegetables are chopped, sliced, or diced for the menu of the day. But that’s not all. Smell that coffee. Once you place the order, an aromatic pot of steaming coffee is set before you to drain at your leisure. This is how to enjoy the morning cuppa joe. As you can imagine, word has gotten out, so sometimes there’s a wait. No worries, it takes that long to decide what to choose. Besides, this is Florida and the weather brings a healthy disposition.
Dining Outside the Home: Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida! There’s nothing that makes me feel more special than dining on white linen tablecloths. Call me crazy, but I simply love it. Now, imagine this table in the mountainous part of Northern Italy where the chef is transforming ordinary food into spectacular dishes. The secret, you wonder? Fresh, local vegetables, pasta, and seafood with fewer processed ingredients. Traditions are important, cutting corners is not. Each dish is a form of art. Creamy mozzarella, salty prosciutto, and fresh basil leaves will literally drive your tastebuds crazy. Listen to the chatter. Crowd-pleasers are everywhere. Linger over the delicious Italian balsamic vinaigrette drizzled over a garden salad. The aromas seduce the palate with a slightly spicy taste. Aging is the secret, of course. But it doesn’t matter what I say, it’s the velvety texture on the tongue that is the judge. Take smaller bites to enjoy the meal longer. It has profound effects that will find you enjoying the meal with satisfying results.
Dining Outside the Home: Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii in Naples, Florida! When the mascot for Kona coffee is a legendary donkey that carried the precious coffee beans down the mountains of Hawaii, it’s only natural to name the cargo after him. That’s their story and they’re sticking with it at Bad Ass Coffee. Seriously, though. Coffee is grown and harvested with Aloha Spirit, making it an authentic brand of Hawaiian-grown coffee. Taste and See. What makes it different, you wonder. Because of the rich earth on the island of Kauai, the coffee has a bright acidity without tasting bitter; you know that feeling when your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth? Instead you’ll detect a slightly nutty, floral sweet flavor that makes each sip a smooth, rich, full-bodied distinction unique to the region. Now that your curiosity has been piqued, grab a cup of coffee and soak up the island spirit.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream! Years ago my best friend was a specialty brand of Turkish coffee ice cream. I was working two jobs, averaging mostly 70-hour work weeks, seven days nonstop to support myself, and help my kids through college. I also admit I was hiding out from “Life”. Many evenings I’d come home, crash on the sofa, and open a pint of the creamiest concoction laced with butterscotch topping I’d ever tasted. It was bliss. Since then, the company stopped making it in favor of more popular flavors like banana chocolate chunk and coconut almond chip. Seriously? Oh well, that left me with no recourse but to make it myself. Between you and me…I think I knocked it out of the park!
NO-CHURN COFFEE ICE CREAM
2 1/2 tablespoons espresso instant coffee
2 tablespoons warm water
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped
Butterscotch Ice Cream Topping
In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in warm water. Stir well. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract on High speed for 4 minutes until smooth and thick. Reduce speed to Low. Add the prepared coffee; continue until blended. Fold in chopped espresso beans. Spoon ice cream into a loaf pan. Cover tightly and freeze overnight. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with espresso before serving. Drizzle with butterscotch topping, to taste.
*The secret to my success was chilling the utensils overnight in the freezer and making sure all the ingredients were refrigerator cold.
Dining Outside the Home: La Sorpresa Latina Cuban Cafe in Naples, Florida! For the real taste of Cuba, you go to the source. But if a journey 90 miles from the southernmost point of Florida is not in the near future, no worries. Thanks to La Sorpresa, a family-owned place for a quick bite and a signature coffee, you can get a killer Cuban Sandwich stateside. This popular sammie is stuffed with shredded pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. Go ahead and add some hot sauce for extra kick. Everything is pressed together like a panini, making it the perfect handheld option. Because the crusty bread is bakery-made, you might think about sharing. Cuban bread is formed in the shape of a baguette, only with plenty of air pockets, so it could be over twelve inches long. It has a touch of sweetness that makes you crave another bite. We ordered two Cuban Sandwiches the first time and ended up cutting one in half for lunch. ‘Course that meant we got to eat the same thing the next day. By the time we left the café, we had an order of plantains and an extra loaf of Cuban bread. After all, dreams do come true. You just have to believe it.
Dining Outside the Home: Three60 Market in Naples, Florida! Ever wonder how a business chooses its name? Word is, Three60 Market is the talk-of-the-town for “offering world class wine for sale by only marking up each bottle $3.60”. Their website confirms it. As if that isn’t enough of a reason to drop by, imagine this. As you pull into the parking lot, you are greeted by swaying palm fronds bordering a charming plantation-style cafe with a backdrop of Haldeman Creek. Freshly prepared meals can be enjoyed under shaded umbrellas on the open-air decks. Because who doesn’t love waterside dining? Might I suggest a pecan sticky bun to accompany your morning cuppa joe? The buttery cinnamon and brown sugar sweetness is perfect with the nutty crunch. Dress is casual in this cozy pet-friendly environment. Before you head out, better pick up some wine and cheese for later on. Island getaways are hard to find.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Bird’s Nest Breakfast! For something fun, take an ordinary poached egg, lay it on a bed of greens, and turn it into a festive meal nestled in a coffeehouse cup. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But you like toast, you say. No worries, it’s in there. Think about this attractive alternative when serving a mid-morning brunch for two or breakfast in bed on the weekend. This is how we cruise through life.
BIRD’S NEST BREAKFAST
4 large romaine lettuce leaves, washed*
2 slices baguette bread, toasted and buttered
2 extra large eggs, poached or fried sunny-side up
2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressing
Red pepper flakes, for garnish
Gently tear romaine lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces and divide between two large coffeehouse cups. Toast artisan bread, butter, and cut into cubes. Add to each lettuce cup. Gently toss. Poach or fry two eggs, leaving the centers slightly soft. Transfer one egg to each bowl. Drizzle with Caesar salad dressing. Garnish with red pepper flakes. Enjoy!
*Add alfalfa sprouts, if available.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Nutella Espresso Rollups! French toast makes every day a wonderful day, doesn’t it? Now you can take a few basic ingredients, follow a super simple recipe, and create a treat that tastes like a chocolate-filled donut. Each sugar coated flute is perfect as a finger food for weekend breakfast, lazy day brunch, afternoon snack, or late night dessert. Ambitious cooks may choose to make more than one variation. I’m thinking flavored cream cheese and strawberry filling, for one. Peanut Butter Banana is another. Meat lovers may decide to use sausage links, then drizzle them with maple syrup. You’re thinking holiday buffet. I can see it in your eyes.
NUTELLA ESPRESSO ROLLUPS
6 slices honey wheat bread
1/2 cup Nutella spread*
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons fine sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Nutella, for drizzling
Powdered Sugar, for garnish
Trim the edges of the sliced bread and discard crusts. Flatten bread with a rolling pin. Spread 1-2 teaspoons of Nutella on each slice. Sprinkle with espresso powder. Roll up the bread tightly and place seam side down on a plate. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Set aside. On a plate, combine cinnamon and fine sugar. Set aside. Warm butter over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Do not scorch. Dip bread roll in the egg mixture, coating well. Place in the nonstick skillet, seam side down. Cook in batches until golden brown, turning often to brown all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove immediately and roll in cinnamon sugar. To serve, drizzle with Nutella and dust with powdered sugar.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Java Chip Cookies! Anyone will tell you the aroma of coffee triggers good feelings. If you don’t believe me, check out the neighborhood coffee shops and you’ll find a local place where people hang out. It’s not just the free Wi-Fi either. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages around, especially now with intense flavorings topped with a mound of whipped cream. Transform the blend of coffee and sugar into a cookie, charged with caffeine, and you’ll be as popular as the Pied Piper. People will follow you anywhere!
JAVA CHIP COOKIES
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons espresso instant coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup toffee bits
1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a food processor beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, espresso instant coffee, and vanilla extract until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended. Combine flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until it forms a dough. Fold in toffee bits, chopped espresso beans, and mini chocolate chips. Chill dough slightly. Using a melon ball scoop, drop cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Do not burn. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes. Dredge java chip cookies in sugar, if desired, before transferring them to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 3 dozen, large cookies.