Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Taverna San Marco

I'm lucky enough to get emails from Groupon on a daily basis, alerting me to special deals around Jacksonville. One afternoon, I saw that they had a deal going on for Taverna so I grabbed it and made plans to visit with an old friend of mine.

I made reservations for 8:00pm on a Friday night, which may have been a crazy mistake of mine.... the San Marco area on a Friday night has a serious lack of parking! After a few rounds up and down the boulevard (cue "Don't Stop Believing here) I finally found some parking and made my way in. So just a heads up if you plan to visit, get there way ahead of schedule so you can find parking.

The decor is very nice, the bar has rustic wood accents, the lighting is chic, and the layout is cozy. Our waitress came right out to present us with the charcuterie and cheese menu, along with the dinner menu, and described to us the specials of the day.

After a good look on the menu, my friend and I decided on the Gambas al ajillo ($9) (Prawns with garlic and chili), and the House-made mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma, grilled peasant bread platter ($14) to start with.


The prawns arrived in a mini skillet, and were perfectly cooked. The tender shrimp were covered in a chili dry rub, then cooked in a sauce of sliced garlic, chili oil, and a squeeze of lemon. These were a great choice, and both of us used the rest of our peasant bread to soak up the rest of the juices.


Our platter came out on an aged wooden board, and was artfully presented. The slices of fresh mozzarella were drizzled with olive oil and smoked sea salt. The peasant bread was grilled and had a slight smoky flavor to it. The platter was even served with dried figs, which was a key element. The combination of these flavors with the silky prosciutto were marvelous.


My friend ordered the Skirt Steak a la Plancha ($22) for his entree. This skirt steak was served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a chimichurri sauce on top. This steak had such incredible flavors going on, with a bit of chili rub on the potatoes and steak, and the chimmichurri sauce was delicious.


I ordered the fish special of the evening, which was Tuna, so I got it Pesce style ($28). The tuna was seared, and then served with haricot verts, fennel, fingerling potatoes,
nicoise olives, tomato confit, fresh picked herbs. I chose to leave out the olives, but all of my other veggies were so fresh and amazing. The crisp fresh green beans and a perfectly seared piece of tuna was a good choice.


Not to be missed are the Patatas Bravas ($5), which are fried fingerling potatoes with spicy paprika served with a garlic ailoi. I would have been so happy having just these and the platter as my meal. Their garlic aioli is to die for, and if you want more to dip in, just request it and they will gladly bring you more!

We finished off the evening with a glass of Sorracco for me and a Sam Adams Oktoberfest Brew for him. An overall great evening trying out a new place that will definitely be added into a rotation for me!

Taverna on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Maple Cream Cheese frosting

This recipe is so delightfully simple and perfect for a lazy Sunday when the weather has cooled off. Make some of these, brew a pot of coffee, and grab your nearest book. I promise you'll have a good day.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 15oz can of pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Mix all ingredients on low for 30 seconds, then mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scoop into cupcake liners and bake for at 350 degrees for 17-19 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Place on wire rack to cool.

1 8oz block cream cheese
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 of a 1lb bag of powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients until smooth and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Salt Life Food Shack

No matter where you go in Jacksonville you're bound to see the phrase "Salt Life" someplace. Whether it be a decal on the back of a car, or on a t-shirt or hat, just look around and you'll see it. What is Salt Life? It's about living a passionate life of enjoying saltwater sports. The company was founded 6 year ago here in Jacksonville Beach and has grown to a massive line of products featured in all types of surf shops around the globe.

Earlier this year, the folks at Salt Life opened up a restaurant in Jacksonville Beach named the Salt Life Seafood Shack. With a menu that heavily features seafood, there's also delicious choices for those "land lovers" as well. I felt like taking advantage of the gorgeous weather we had this weekend and decided it was high time I pay a visit to the Shack.

The decor inside is all aqua tile with wood accents. There is a salt water tank in the middle of the room. It's quite nice and casual all at the same time. Since I was alone, I grabbed a seat at the bar. I was greeted by a friendly waitress, who suggested I try the Tuna Poke bowl, which has been previously recommended to me by many people. Sounds right up my alley, I'll take it!

Tuna Poke Bowl

The Tuna Poke Bowl ($14.99) is a house speciality, served in a generous portion, with beautiful chunks of raw tuna avocados. Served on a bed of sticky rice and sauteed spinach. The top is sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions. The soy based sauce has a slight kick to it, and any one that's a fan of spicy tuna rolls, this is a dish for you. It's such a refreshing dish, so light and filling. Perfect after a day on the waves!

Other menu items include:

  • Beer Can Chicken ($9.99): smoked chicken with a maple glaze and served with roasted corn.
  • Beach Boil ($11.99): shrimp, crab legs, sausage, corn, and potatoes. Similar to a low-country boil.
  • Ensenada Taco ($8.49): You choice of grilled Mahi or shrimp and chorizo, served with cabbage slaw and cilantro lime sauce.

They have specials featured every day of the week, so stop by next time you're at Jax Beach and "get Salty!"

Salt Life Food Shack on Urbanspoon