Apple Day: Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Creamy Apple Cider Sauce

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Blogging Event, Food Porn, Produce, Recipes

apple day - September 28, 2007

One sure sign that autumn is upon us is apples (and apple cider!) everywhere you look, and apple is the scent that more than anything else, just completely rips me out of summer mode and starts my obsession with squash, pears, and everything else autumn.

So when I found out that one of my favorite food blog event organizers, Zorra, was hosting Apple Day, I really wanted to participate. The only requirement is preparing an apple dish.

I usually go sweet for these sorts of challenges, but this time around, I wanted to do something a bit more savory.

We didn’t have any pork chops on hand at the time, so we decided to make a recipe with pork tenderloin which was adapted from this wonderful recipe over at Anne’s Food. It made 3 very generous servings, when served along with israeli couscous and a cauliflower au gratin.

 

ciderpork

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Creamy Apple Cider Sauce

1 lb. pork tenderloin, sliced into 1″ thick medallions
1/2 stick butter, divided
1 tbsp. oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed
1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 large apple, medium dice
3 tbsp. boysenberry jam

Heat 2 tbsp. butter and oil in a saute pan, and fry tenderloin medallions seasoned with salt and pepper until lightly browned. Set aside on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Whisk the apple cider with the flour, and bring to a boil in a saucepan. When boiling, add crushed bouillon powder and cream, and then add soy sauce. Add the medallions to the saucepan, and let them cook in the apple cider sauce for five to ten minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, peel and dice the apples, and fry in remaining butter until softened. Add the apples to the sauce, and stir in a bit of boysenberry jam to add complexity. This dish goes really well with israeli couscous.

Inadvertent Hiatus

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life

You know, I just now noticed that I haven’t posted for 9 days? Sorry about that ::sheepish grin:::

No excuses, other than the general “haven’t felt up to it” and the fact we’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the past month or so. So I still haven’t really settled down and let things get back to normal. And it isn’t that we stopped cooking, because we definitely have been cooking. I’ve just been really bad about posting.

So I’ll be posting quite a few things in the next few days – our review of “Melt Bar and Grilled” up in Lakewood (a suburb of Cleveland), quite a few meals that we’ve cooked in the past few weeks, a couple of apple desserts we’ll be baking today, the August (and hopefully September, not too long after that) roundup, etc. In the meantime, check the menu section – I’ve made quite a few updates and removed some menus of places that up and closed since the last update.

I also apologize about no farmer’s market updates. To be honest with you, I’ve only gone once in the past 5 weeks. I didn’t go this week because I already have everything I need to cook in the next week and it would have been wasted money to buy anything else. I hope to be back in the swing of things next week. Thanks for your patience. :)

Review: Juergen’s Bakery and Restaurant

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Ethnic, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

Since my husband is working from home today, we decided to go out together for a late lunch – it was almost 2:30 before we even made the decision, so most lunch spots were out of the question because they stopped lunch service at 2. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I suggested Juergen’s. After all, it was one of the places that is on my short list to try asap, plus they didn’t close down between lunch and dinner? Bonus.

When we got there, it was fairly dead, so finding parking on the street right in front of the place was a breeze. Since the restaurant was pretty much empty, she directed us to seat ourselves, and we found a nice little two-top table by a window. She let us know that they were out of schnitzel, and only had goulash sauerbraten, and gave us a few minutes to peruse the menu (just an FYI: this is an older menu, some of the prices have increased since then).

All lunch entrees come with a basket of their bread, so she brought out a overflowing (quite generous for two people, actually) basket of assorted breads, including brotchen (rolls), mischbrot (my favorite!), a multi-grain bread with nuts and dried cherries, some butter, and some of their homemade raspberry jam. Yum. I could have munched on bread all day. It was very reminiscent of the breads that Oma (my great-grandmother) bought when I was younger, or ones that she would make herself at home.

juergensbread

Since they were out of some of the items (and since it was pretty quiet at that time in the afternoon), the waitress (who also does the cooking as well, I think) was kind enough to allow my husband to order a Kraut Omelette ($6.50), which they usually stop making at noon. It was huge and filling and an amazing combination of flavor – it was stuffed with swiss cheese and sauerkraut and bratwurst. It came with a couple slices of canteloupe, which I think is a good thing. As it was, my husband couldn’t finish it in one sitting.

juergenskrautomelete

I went for something more traditional, their Goulash Sauerbraten ($11.75), which is a flavorful, sweet and tangy gravy over their tender chunks of beef, served with a bread dumpling. This is pure comfort food for me, and the most authentic I’ve been able to find in Columbus to date. If I didn’t know any better, I could close my eyes and swear I was back in Oma’s kitchen. On tasting it, I knew exactly how they made it, as it is the same recipe my family uses.

juergenssauerbraten

I also got a side order of spaetzle ($2.50) to soak up the extra gravy. Their spaetzle are easily the best in Columbus – substantial dumplings that they pan fry to give them a bit of nuttiness and crisp.

juergensspaetzle

The Sauerbraten also came with their red cabbage, which was a bit sweet for my tastes – next time around, I’ll know to substitute the spaetzle for the cabbage to make the dish exactly how I want it to be.

juergensredcabbage

Stuffed to bursting and already at the point where we were boxing up half of our meals, we also stopped at the bakery counter to get a few pastries for later.

This is a little gem of a place, right in the middle of German Village. If you find yourself out that way, walking or driving by the place, take a few minutes to stop in, either for a pastry and coffee or an entire meal. And on your way out, check out their German deli area, which carries a lot of German deli meats I usually have to drive back to New Jersey to get.

If you’d like to go: Juergen’s Bakery & Restaurant, 525 S. 4th St, Columbus (German Village). 614.224.6858.

Update 6/8/08: I’m going to have to rescind my recommendation of Juergen’s, as the quality of food/service has gone way downhill. Our wait for food was LOOOONG (hard to believe as it was just us and one other couple in the restaurant), I ordered gulaschsuppe with bread dumplings and spaetzle, but they were out of bread dumplings (at noon), so I ordered a double order of spaetzle. I got my gulaschsuppe after 20 or so minutes, and then it was another 20 minutes later that I got my first order of spaetzle, then another 10 or so minutes until I got my second). By this time, my gulaschsuppe was cold as could be. My husband got the sauerbraten and was in the same boat, also ordered a double order of spaetzle, and got maybe 1 cup total (should have been more like 2 cups), and was told what he got (a single order, I’ve ordered that dish before) was a double order. Our server didn’t refill water, they didn’t have the AC on during a 90+ degree day (it was sweltering in there), the whipped cream for our apple pancakes was rancid, and it was just horrible all around. We left there with a $30+ bill feeling extremely ripped off. When we approached them about the issues, they shrugged them off and didn’t seem to care. You all know that I usually give restaurants the benefit of the doubt, but given how abysmal this last visit was, I *won’t* be returning, ever. I love German food, but the dreck I received yesterday was baaad.

Juergen's German Bakery on Urbanspoon

One Local Summer – Farewell to Summer Feast

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Food Blogging Event, Food Porn, North Market, Produce, Recipes

I unfortunately missed the last week of One Local Summer because I was travelling, but I didn’t want to finish out this year’s celebration of local food without having one last blowout. So armed with Saturday’s farmers market purchases, I made a farewell to summer feast that was almost 100% local.

I made a tomato-corn salad, topping sliced heirloom tomatoes that I got at the Buckeye Bounty farmer’s market with roasted sweet corn (from the North Market farmer’s market), and topped with homemade basil oil (non-local olive oil steeped with basil from my back deck).

tomatocorn

And using the fingerling potatoes I got from Arbor Hill Organics, and the Blue Caribe potatoes I got at Buckeye Bounty, I made this Potato Salad with Vinaigrette that I found over at Serious Eats. This recipe also used parsley grown on my back deck.

eospotatosalad

What brought on this feast was my realization that this was probably the last week I’d see both sweet corn and tomatoes at the farmer’s market, and I wanted to prepare them in a way that would bring out the great taste of tomatoes, potatoes, and corn without overpowering them. In that respect, it was a huge success. The simplicity was exactly what these ingredients needed. The basil oil accented without overpowering. The vinaigrette was enough to moisten the potatoes and give it a touch of pucker, but the delicate flavor of both types of potatoes came shining through.

So what does one serve these wonderful sides with? Easy. A *beautiful* (and I mean better than I’ve had before) ribeye from OMC Farms grilled on the charcoal grill, along with brats from Speckled Hen Farms.

summerfeast

This feast marks the end of summer here in my household. I just realized that next Saturday’s farmers market marks the first day of fall. But even though I may post a few summer holdout posts for a while (things I’ve already made, but not blogged about – or things that will use up the last of the summer veggies), from here on out expect the tide to turn. Apples and winter squash, here I come! :)

Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 9/15/07

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Farmer's Market, North Market, Produce

Today was the first time I went to the farmer’s market in three weeks. Last weekend I was on my way home from Florida, and the weekend before that, I knew I was going to Florida, so I didn’t want to buy anything because Paul won’t cook if I’m not around.

But oh, what a beautiful day to do some marketing. It was in the 50′s this morning, the first time I can remember it being a bit chilly, which in my opinions is a good thing. There were so many days this summer that it was unbearably hot, this early chill is most welcome right now. Plus, who wants to buy apple cider when it’s still hot out?

Unfortunately, my car didn’t quite agree with my enthusiasm, and out of necessity, I got a late start because the first order of business was getting a leak in my tire plugged. Back in action and with all morning to kill, we stopped first at the North Market. Oh, my beloved North Market. Florida has a lot of things going for it, but no North Market. I got a ton of produce staples that I was out of – onions, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. along with some lovely romaine lettuce, eggplant, some apples for making applesauce (Bill says a mix of several different kinds works best, and he mixed me up a killer bag that I can’t wait to cook down), more Yellow Delicious for baking, apple cider, shiitake mushrooms (oh, only two more weeks to go. I’m half tempted to get a couple of pounds the last week and dehydrate them to get me through the winter), peppers, some sweet corn for putting up, and a few other things (I can’t remember it all). I have an empty fridge to contend with, so today was a big trip.

Not sure who had these tomatoes, but I noticed that the price for tomatoes has come down considerably now that we’re at the end of the season. I held out for heirlooms, and ended up getting a nice selection (3 over at Worthington, a quart at the farmer’s market at Whole Foods). I’ve already got plans for all of them.

091507tomatoes

And almost everywhere I went today had peppers of all kinds – here’s what I found at the North Market:

091507peppers

I ended up getting a few poblanos here (4/$1) (along with 10/$1!! for poblanos!!) and at Worthington. In Clintonville, I got enough hungarian red peppers to make my own paprika using a my dehydrator and a mortar and pestle.

But back to the North Market. NMPG had cassoulet today, a sure sign that cold weather is right around the corner.

After leaving the North Market, we headed to Clintonville. Now that we’re later in the season, there seems to be a lot more going on there. Since I hadn’t seen Denise from 2Silos for quite a few weeks, I loaded up on eggs – 6 dozen. And I noticed the first pumpkins of the year. Between the apple cider, the pumpkins, and the chilly weather, I got hit with the fact that it’s just about time to retire the shorts and sandals, because fall is here!

091507squash

I couldn’t help myself – I broke down and bought a quart of fingerling potatoes over at Arbor Hill to go with the ribeye steak I had got at Oink Moo Cluck right next to them.

091507potatoes

I was going to bypass Worthington altogether because it was getting late (11ish or later) already, but since we were driving up High St. anyway, I had my husband drop me off at the corner and I at least hit one side of the street. I’m glad I did, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get all those poblanos and the shallots I needed, along with the heirlooms.

And I definitely wanted to hit the Buckeye Bounty Market at Whole Foods – I’ve gone to every one so far, and some days I’m pleasantly surprised, some I’m slightly disappointed; this was one of the days where I was happy I went.

I got more heirloom potatoes and garlic, and a bunch of onions. And I got a bunch of pears for baking.

091507pears

And at the same stand, they had these beautiful grapes. I passed them up, but aren’t they pretty?

091507grapes

So with coffers full, I have a long week of cooking ahead of me. Keep reading to see what I end up making.

Grow Your Own #2: Cuban Feast

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Ethnic, Food Blogging Event, Food Porn, Gardening, Produce, Recipes

After being inspired by the fantastic meal I had last week at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, we proceeded to take recipes from here and there and ended up with one of the best-tasting home-cooked meals we’ve ever made! Just like having a restaurant in your own house, but with a lot less hassle. ;)

cubanfeast

While Adobo Pork is more of a Pinoy dish than a Cuban one, it paired wonderfully with the yellow rice, black beans, and maduros. This combo of flavors is going in the “repeats” file.

And I’m also submitting this as part of the Grow Your Own #2 foodie event, hosted by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes. Both the peppers (I used fajita bell, which are just a slightly hotter variation of sweet bell) and the tomatoes (Better Boys and Romas) were grown on my back deck.

Without further ado, here’s the recipes:

Traditional Adobo (Pork in Vinegar and Soy Sauce)
courtesy Recipezaar

1 1/2 lbs. pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 c. vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bay leaf
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. cooking oil

Combine all ingredients except cooking oil in a pot and let stand for 30 minutes. Simmer covered for 1 hour or until meat is tender (It took mine almost twice that amount of time to get it really tender). Drain and reserve the sauce. Heat cooking oil in a skillet. Brown meat on all sides. Transfer to serving dish. Pour off all remaining oil from skillet. Add reserved sauce and cook for a minute or two scraping all browned bits sticking to pan. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

Arroz Amarillo (Spanish Yellow Rice)
from The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 medium-size green pepper, cut in strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, seeded, peeled, and chopped
2 c. long-grain rice, uncooked (I used medium-grain instead)
1/2 tsp. saffron or yellow food coloring
2 tsp. salt
4 c. chicken broth
Green peas (cooked), pimento or roasted red pepper strips, and parsley for garnish (didn’t use these)

In casserole or ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil. Saute onion, green pepper, garlic, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Add rice, saffron, salt, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook for 18 minutes, either on top of stove (medium-low) or in oven (400 degrees). Garnish with peas, pimentos and parsley. This is a very good side dish for fish, chicken or meat. Serves 2 as main dish.

Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans)
courtesy Recipezaar

2 (10 oz) cans black beans, drained (with liquid set aside)
1 medium onion
1 green peper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Fry the onion and pepper in a little oil. Add the garlic and saute a little. Introduce a little of the bean liquid until all previous ingredients are soft. Add the beans with the remaining liquid. Add spices and simmer about 30 minutes (mine were done after 20). Add the vinegar just before serving.

Maduros

Maduros (ripe plantains) are simple to make. Go to your local Mexican grocery (some mainstream supermarkets will carry them too) and look for plantains that are black or almost black. This means they are ripe. Figure 1 whole plantain for each person. Peel, and then cut on the bias about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in frying pan until hot, and then fry plantains in batches, careful not to crowd the pan. Look for the edges to brown, and flip them over until done. When they are finished, they will be dark brown and caramelized (you can tell this because you will smell a sweet smell instead of a starchy smell when they are caramelized). Take them out and put them onto a plate with a paper towel to soak up excess oil. Salt them while they are hot, and enjoy.

Event: Taste the Future 2007

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Events, Food Porn

Back at last from another successful round of Taste the Future, *the* foodie event of the year that provides scholarships for up and coming culinary arts students at Columbus State.

I cannot put into words just how fantastic most of the food was, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Add to that fantastic weather (sunny, in the 70′s), and it was a perfect evening.

Taste the Future 2007: Oakhurst Country Club

Taste the Future 2007: The Burgundy Room

Taste the Future 2007: The Crowne Plaza of Dublin

Taste the Future 2007: Heritage Golf Club

Taste the Future 2007: Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

Taste the Future 2007 - Westin Hotel

If you’d like to see more pictures, check out the Flickr sideshow. Hope to see some of you there next year!

Road Trip Edition: Sweetwater, TN

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

The trip driving up I-75 had to be one of the longest of my life. Exit after exit of the same old fast food joints, gas stations, and hotel chains, with no way to differentiate one location to the next. Yuck. So homogeneous, so friggin sterile. So when I saw a billboard advertising “real pit BBQ” at the next exit, my interest was piqued.

Turns out that the exit was for a little tiny town in Tennessee called Sweetwater, with a total population of 5,586 people. I followed the signs and came upon a place called Bradley’s Pit BBQ and Grill.

Bradley’s is a hidden gem – owned by one Tom Bradley, who is on premises and acts in a multitude of roles – sometimes host, sometimes cashier, and always in the kitchen. The restaurant itself is unassuming, attracting both local folks and passing travelers who were as enthralled by the prospect of eating something good as I was. The service was saccharine, with true Southern lady waitresses who dropped the words “honey” and “sugar” like it was going out of style.

The menu offers all of the usual barbecue fare – pork and brisket and ribs and a few other things, along with all of the usual sides. Wanting to experience a little of everything, I went with the the Pork Sampler ($11.95), which consisted of both ribs and pulled pork. For my sides, I chose a baked potato and green beans.

Bradley's Pork Combination Platter

The meat? Just fired on all cylinders. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, full of flavor and finger-licking. The pulled pork was moist and a bit smoky, and with the additions of their sauces, went from good to great. The baked potato was swimming in butter and sour cream, a outright fat bonanza. A little to rich for my tastes, but I ate what I could. The green beans? Right out of the can, without the benefit of seasoning. Some added seasonings, bacon, and onions could take these from blah to edible. The Texas toast? An afterthought, mostly there to sop up sauce.

Now, about those sauces. Bradley’s makes three different kinds, two of which I tried and loved. The sweet sauce is your basic barbecue sauce, with (I’m sure) his own secret ingredients that set it apart from the others. It worked extremely well with the ribs, and almost as well with the pork. But where it was really at was the vinegar sauce. Oh my goodness, the tang and the pucker were just what that meat needed to elevate it to something really special. My favorite was a combination of both, about 33% sweet to 66% vinegar.

Bradley's Sauces

Full of protein, and fat and happy, I went about my merry way, but not before ordering a boatload of pulled pork and sliced brisket to take home with me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get down that way again, but if you’re traveling through Tennessee on I-75N, keep an eye out for the Sweetwater exit. It’s an oasis in a desert of mediocrity.

If you’d like to go: Bradley’s Pit BBQ and Grill, Exit 60 off I-75, 517 New Highway 68, Sweetwater, TN, 423.351.7190

Bradley's Pit Barbque & Grill on Urbanspoon

Road Trip Edition: Tampa, FL

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

On Thursday, I spent most of the day driving back to Ohio, but even a driver has to eat sometimes. I had skipped breakfast and lunch, so by 4pm or so, I was starving. By that time, I was about two hours into the drive, and around the Tampa area.

For some reason, I had the bright idea to have my husband ask his boss for recommendations, since his boss lives and works in the Tampa/Brandon area. Without hesitation, he told my husband to tell me to go to The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, a historic district in downtown Tampa.

This restaurant has been around pretty much forever – since 1905, actually – and has seen five generations of the family being involved in running it. Because of this, The Columbia Restaurant is a Florida institution, with people coming in from all around.

The building itself is imposing – it takes up a whole city block, and has 15 dining rooms that seat 1,700 people. Once you find parking (in the parking lots either across the street from or behind the building), it’s very easy to go in the wrong door like I did. I entered through the bar area, and in many ways I’m glad I did. I was definitely underdressed for the place (I was wearing shorts, a shirt, and sandals), and felt a little out of place among the tux-sporting waiters and men in business casual garb, but decided to eat at the bar since I was dining alone. Good choice. The bartender who took my order and waited on me made me feel very comfortable and right at home. Let me apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures, I was trying to take pictures on the down low in a low amount of light, and some of them came out blurrier than I would have liked.

The bread service consists of Cuban Bread, nice and toasty and served with butter. While great on it’s own, I think it pairs with their salad (more about that later) perfectly.

Columbia Restaurant - Pane Cubano

As an appetizer, I got their Croquetas y Croquetas, which is 4 each of both the Croquetas de Pollo (Chicken) and Devil Crab Croquettes. The chicken ones were delicious – each crunchy nugget containing a creamy concotion that reminded me of chicken pot pie. The delicate flavor of the crab in the other croquettes got a bit overwhelmed by the spices, but even these were quite good.

Columbia Restaurant Chicken and Crab Croquettes

Now, about that salad – their 1905 Salad is absolutely amazing, which I find hard to believe considering I’m not a big iceberg lettuce fan. But the combination of flavors? Julienned ham and swiss? Tomatoes and olives and a fantastic vinaigrette? Rocked my world. I’ve already found the recipe for it online and am planning to make it at home soon. I opted for a side salad, which was huge! About the size of entree salads in these parts. This pic does not do it justice at all.

Columbia Restaurant 1905 Side Salad

For an entree, everything on the menu looked so delicious that I had a hard time deciding. I settled on the La Completa Cubana platter, which is a sampler of several different things – roast pork, boliche (chorizo stuffed eye round), empanada de picadillo (ground beef turnover), platanos, yuca root, black beans and yellow rice. I can honestly, without a moment’s hesitation, say this is the best Cuban food I’ve ever had. The meat was tender and flavorful, the sides inventive while staying true to the traditional, and was a great way to sate several cravings at once. The yuca root didn’t do much for me, but I think it’s a texture thing that has nothing to do with their preparation.

Columbia Cubano Completa Platter

I would have liked to say that I tried something from their dessert menu, but I didn’t. I was full after the salad and croquettes, and was only able to take a few bites of my entree. I opted instead to box it up for eating in my hotel later (and it was just as tasty cold as it was hot).

I did, however, get a to-go order of both the ropa vieja and the paella campesina to take home to Ohio with me so Paul could share the experience with me. I cannot express in words how helpful the bartender was in getting everything packaged in microwave-safe containers and steady in the bags for the long trip. And the food survived just fine, and made for many delicious meals in the days to come.

I hear tales of flamenco dancers and cigar rollers, but unfortunately I was just passing through and didn’t get to experience either. I do know that on a return trip to Florida, this will require a day trip to experience the right way. If you’re lucky enough to live in Tampa, I probably don’t have to tell you how awesome this restaurant is. The fantastic food got me through another 10 hours of driving before I stopped for the night. And the leftovers got me through the next day. It sure as hell beat the fast food joints along the interstates.

If you’d like to go: Columbia Restaurant, 2117 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, FL – 813.248.4961

Columbia on Urbanspoon

Road Trip Edition: Fort Myers Beach, FL

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

By Wednesday, I was definitely craving some real Cuban food. Not wanting to make the two hour drive to Miami, I figured the Cuban food I could get in the Fort Myers metro area would be at least as authentic as the Miami stuff, and definitely more authentic than I’m used to in Ohio. I would be correct.

I chose to stop at the Cuban Tropical Grill, a little place on the second floor on Estero Blvd in Fort Myers Beach, about a block away from the gulf. We drove by it a couple of times, before seeing the tiny sign – they really need to do something about that to make themselves more visible. Here’s the view we had from inside, looking over the patio and toward the Gulf with a storm rolling in from the east. I really would have liked to make the short trek to the beach, but it was good and pouring and lightning all around by the time we were done eating, so I thought better of it.

Cuban Tropical Grill - Ft Myers Beach

The husband and wife running the place just took over in April, so they’ve only seen a moderate amount of business in the off-season, and are looking forward to a much bigger crowd in months to come.

I’ve had many Cuban sandwiches at the Starliner Diner in Hilliard, but I really wanted the real thing – someone told me that when I had an authentic Cuban, I’d know it. I now see what they mean. This Traditional Cuban Sandwich ($6.99) was made on Pane Cubano bread, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, with three kinds of pork (sweet ham, salty ham, and roasted pork), cheese, pickle and mustard, and then pressed. It had this amazing crunch when you bit into it, unlike any sandwich I’ve had before. It came with decent fries, and I also added an additional side of Platanitos Maduro ($2.50), the fried ripe sweet plantains that I’ve come to know and love in the past few years.

Cuban Tropical Grill - Cuban Sandwich

My dining companion had the Fried Oyster Platter ($9.95), and chose Maduros and Congri (a spiced mixture of black beans and rice cooked together). I can’t speak to how it tasted, as I don’t like oysters or fried seafood. But she seemed to be quite pleased with her choice, so I’m assuming it tasted good.

Cuban Tropical Grill Fried Oyster Platter

Service was attentive, even though it took quite a while for our food to arrive. But considering they were cooking everything from scratch, it was well worth the wait. :)

I would have loved to indulge in an order of flan for dessert, but they had not made any that day. And the ropa vieja that I love so? Would have been the special the next night. I had fully intended to go back the next night for the ropa vieja, but ended up leaving town early so never got a chance. Sigh.

But I know I’ll be back to eat here on my next trip to South Florida, so all is not lost. In the meantime, run don’t walk if you’re in the area – I want this place to still be around when I visit next spring.

If you’d like to go: Cuban Tropical Grill, 1901 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL, 239.463.2700.