Monday, October 21, 2013

Apollonia Mediterranean Grill - Delicious Greek Food

My wife and I have enjoyed at least three meals at Apollonia Mediterranean Grill ( near Lakewood Ranch. On one occasion, we celebrated my sister's birthday, and on two other occasions, we had lunch with the same three wonderful friends. We loved just about everything there except the dolmades, the stuffed grape leave, which were good, but not terrific. The bottom line is that like Apollonia and plan to return.

(We are probably not quite fair in our judgment of the dolmades - grape leaves stuffed with rice and sometimes meat, and generally covered with avgolemono (egg lemon) sauce. The Apollonia version was stuffed with rice and beef and dill. The leaves were poorly wrapped around the rice and the rice was not firm.

We prefer the Levantine-style stuffed grape leaves with lamb and firm rice, and with the leaves tightly wrapped. We have had this type many times and love it.)

At our most recent lunch with our three friends, my wife had  the dolmades as an appetizer for $8.99. Her main course was the gyro sandwich with gyro lamb in grilled pita with onions, tomatoes, and arugula, and french fries for $11.99.  Her sandwich was delicious.

I had the Gyro Platter for $13.99. It was very nice.

For dessert, she had Tiramisu for $7 and I had Galactoboureco - phyllo dough, custard, and honey -for $6. Both were excellent.

My wife enjoyed a glass of white sangria for $7.50 and I had Saint George Agiorgitiko wine for $10 per glass. Both were excellent. Agiorgitiko is the most planted type of grape in Greece. On its menu, Apollonia misspells Agiorgitiko.

At my sister's birthday, my sister and I both ordered the braised lamb shank with rice pilaf and roasted vegetables ($20 each). It comes with a choice of soup or salad. She chose a salad and I chose a soup - chicken, lemon, and rice. My wife had the "Classic Combo" - Moussaka, Pasticcio, Spanakopita, and house-made dolmades. She also had the salad.

Everything was mouth-wateringly delicious except the dolmades, which were decent. 

The soup was out of this world, and the lamb was fantastic.

For dessert, my sister and I had the galactoboureco ($4)  and my wife had the house-made rice pudding ($3). All were very nice.

The wine I chose was Atlantis Red ($10 per glass) from Estate Argyros on the island of Santorini. When I asked the waitress what type of grape was used in the wine, she checked and said it was Malbec. That surprised me because I was unfamiliar with any Greek use of Malbec, which tends to be used primarily in South American reds. I later checked the Estate Argyros web site ( and learned that this wine is made from 90% Mandilaria grapes and 10% Mavrotragano. The wine was decent.

Two of us had the Greek coffee ($2.50). It was delicious.

The bottom line is that Apollonia is a very nice addition to the local dining scene.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mei Mei Garden Chinese Restaurant - Edible Food

We recently decided to try Mei Mei Garden Chinese restaurant, in the hope that we could find delicious Chinese good close to home. It was a disappointment. Our two dinners could best be described as "edible." We did not even save the leftovers.

My wife's entrée was Shredded Pork with Ginger and Scallions - $12.95. She also had a shrimp roll - $1.95.

My entrée was Beef Chow Fun with Vegetables and Sauce - $11.95.

We also used a coupon for a pair of free egg rolls.

The restaurant is located 8310 Market St., Lakewood Ranch.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Asparagus Shandong - A Nice & Easy Side, Great with Salmon

In a recent search for an asparagus side to go with a salmon entrée, I found this winner at ( It was fast, easy, and tasty. It was a perfect accompaniment for the salmon. It serves 2-4.

Instead of 1 1/2 lbs. of asparagus, I used a pound because there were only two of us.


- 1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed and cut crosswise on the diagonal into 2" pieces
- 1 tbsp. Japanese reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
- 2 drops red chili oil
- 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus to pot and cook until tender-crisp and bright green - 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain, then immediately plunge into a large bowl of ice water. Set aside to cool - 2 to 3 minutes. Drain again, then transfer to paper towels, pat dry, and set aside.

2. Whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili oil in a medium bowl. Add asparagus and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with sesame seeds.

Super Simple Salmon

It's hard to believe how fast and simple some delicious recipes can be. I found a terrific salmon recipe in this category at This one is appropriately named "Super Simple Salmon" (

This recipe calls for four salmon fillets. I only used two 8-0z fillets because there were only two of us. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare and requires very few ingredients. I prepared it in a grill pan on the stove.


1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 x 6-ounce salmon fillets
2 tablespoons butter
4 lemon wedges


1. Stir together the garlic powder, basil, and salt in a small bowl. Rub in equal amounts on the salmon fillets.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the salmon in the butter until browned and flaky - about 5 minutes per side. Serve each piece of salmon with a lemon wedge.

Forage in Salt Lake City - An Incredible Dining Experience

On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, I had one of the most incredible dining experiences of my life. It was at a small restaurant called Forage (, where a colleague and I had a 15-course meal. Each course was small, but exceptionally creative and delicious. Moreover, each course was served in a very artistic way. At the end of the meal, we were delighted with the many different tastes we had experienced, but did not feel in the least bit full. We accompanied our meal with a nice red wine from northwest Italy.

It was my colleague who discovered Forage in Internet browsing, and suggested we try it. As soon as I read the reviews he forwarded to me, I agreed that we should try it.

Forage specializes in using local foods "from the wild and from small farms and ranches." It serves a single set menu of 15 courses for $87 per person. It also offers wine pairings for $65, or juice and other non-alcoholic pairings for $26. It also offers a small, but nicely constructed wine list. The wine we chose was a bottle of 2011 Pecchenino San Luigi Dolcetto di Dogliani DOCG (a red).

Forage was opened in 2009 by Chefs Bowman Brown and Viet Pham. Chef Pham subsequently left in 2012.

In 2011, Food and Wine Magazine included Chefs Brown and Pham in a very small group of the Best New Chefs in America.

In a January 2013 Iron Chef competition, Chefs Pham, Brown, and Luke Fowles defeated Chef celebrity Bobby Flay. Their most innovative dish then was a beef fat ice cream with cherries. It blew away the judges. (

Each course that we enjoyed had only a few bites and was served in a very creative fashion. In some cases, food was served in a way that it blended in with non-food items in the dish - so that one almost had to "forage" for the food. Of course, the server pointed out the actual food item.

The restaurant is located in what appears to have originally been a residence. It is relatively small inside.

Two servers waited on all the clients. There was a young woman named Brooklyn, and a young man of Nepalese ethnicity named Pratik. Both were very attentive, professional, and helpful.

After returning from my trip, I sent an email to Chef Brown thanking him for the terrific meal and asking him to review my descriptions of the dishes. He kindly responded and corrected a couple of my errors.

The courses we enjoyed were:


Juniper Soda and Sorrel Sorbet - with salt around the rim

Potato Crisp with Elderberry Caper, Shallot, House-Made Sour Cream

Burn Eggplant Crisp with Eggplant Purée

Elderberry Leather with Chicken Liver Paté


Grilled Dragon Tongue Beans

Smoked Cheddar, Malted Barley, Epic Beer Batter

Main Dishes

Smoked Tomato Broth, Corn, and Fresh Trout Roe

Idaho Sturgeon and Cabbage infused with Rosemary, and with Buttermilk Whey

Plum and Tomato with Sheep's Milk Cheese and Basil Purée

Vegetables with Roasted Chicken Vinaigrette

Smoke Trout with Rosehips, Wild Sumac, Apple Juice, and Rosehip oil

Aged Duck with Beets and Burnt Onion


Muscat Grapes, Celery Sorbet, and Sorrel Powder

Asian pear purée and Douglas Fir Mousse

Rosehip sherbet, vanilla meringue, sparkling yoghurt, dried raspberry.
At the end, we were served a couple of candies, probably home-made.


Dolcetto is a type of wine produced from a grape of the same name. It is from the Langhe area of the Piedmont Region of northwest Italy. The Langhe is one of Italy's greatest wine producing areas. Its star wine is Barolo. While Dolcetto is one of the Langhe's lesser wines, this one was very nice. I think the price was about $40.
Thanks Chef Brown!