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Burritos, bourbon, Benedicts – JLB’s guide to the weekend – The News

It’s the busiest dining day of the year, the biggest horse race of the year, and the one day of the year when it’s (sort of) OK to swig tequila from a churro straw.

We’ve got a long weekend of eating ahead.

Cinco de Mayo is Thursday, the Kentucky Derby is Saturday, and Sunday is Mother’s Day — when some 80 million non-cooking Americans will take the moms in their lives out for eggs Benedict and mimosas.

You could kill all three birds with one stone: churros in bourbon sauce with a Bellini, a brunch burrito with a mint-julep chaser. Or you could take a more nuanced approach and give each holiday the dining respect it deserves.

That’s where I come in, with personal picks for the some of the best local places to celebrate each event deliciously.


For a drinko on Cinco

• Agave Bar Grill: The wide array of tequilas, the hand-crafted mixers, the hand-muddled add-ins. These are serious margaritas for serious margarita lovers. (2380 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples; 598-3473;

• Los Cabos Cantina: This downtown resto-bar makes its margarita mixers in house using organic sugar and fresh lime juice. It only serves tequilas made from 100 percent blue agave, which some health experts say is actually good for you. (2226 First St., Fort Myers; 332-2226;

For an authentic taste of Mexico

• Carniceria Monterrey III: Aguas frescas made from crates of fresh fruit, layers of al-pastor meat twirling slowly on a vertical spit, a bar of scratch-made salsas. Don’t let the barred windows and dusty parking lot fool you, great food is served here — and I hear the Lehigh location is even better. (11530 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers; 939-6992; locations in Lehigh and Immokalee;

• Tacos el Tequila: The chile relleno is excellent, fried in a puffy batter that crunches and melts. The tacos are great, too, little three-bite things sprinkled in cilantro and onions with the requisite sliced radishes on the side. Despite the name, there is no tequila. But there are cervezas and even micheladas, so don’t fret. (1751 NE Pine Island Road, Cape Coral; 242-8715)

• Tortilleria La Rancherita: This remains my taco heaven. Tender, made-that-morning tortillas wrapped around lush barbacoa or slow-braised carnitas — it doesn’t get much better than that. (26751 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs; 498-4633)


Eat and drink like a Kentuckian 

• Farmers Market Restaurant: That Kentucky colonel’s got nothing on this fried chicken. Fried to order, it takes a little extra time. But with 64 years of history here, what’s 20 minutes? (2736 Edison Ave., Fort Myers; 334-1687;

• Skillets: One of the rare local places where you can find a Kentucky Hot Brown — think open-face turkey sandwich doused in Mornay sauce with bacon and tomato. It’s Kentucky comfort food at its finest. (Five locations in Naples and Bonita Springs;

 Truluck’s: This place is known for its attention to detail, and its mint julep is no different. Served with the crushed ice and the fresh mint and the bourbon of your choice, all those just-right details make one great drink. (698 Fourth Ave. S., Naples; 530-3131;

• Nevermind Awesome Bar Eatery: Seekers of smooth, small-batch bourbon, this is your bar. Michter’s, Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s — all you have to do is remember which pony you bet on, and how to hail an Uber car for the ride home. (927 Cape Coral Parkway E., Cape Coral;


Somehow moms became equated with brunch. There are far worse associations. 

• Cork Soakers: Deviled eggs, risotto, shrimp and grits, and one of the best Bloody Marys, excuse me B!*# Slap Bloody Marys, in town. These guys don’t take brunch seriously, they just do it right. (837 SE 47th Terrace, Cape Coral; 542-6622;

 Courtney’s Continental Cuisine: The Bloody Mary is $4.50 on the everyday menu, eggs Benedict with creamy-rich Hollandaise start at $9. This is every bit a fancy, high-end brunch, just without the fancy, high-end price tag. (20351 Summerlin Road, south Fort Myers; 466-4646;

• M Waterfront Grille: There’s quiche for the traditionalists and a tartar of heirloom beets for the non. The smoked salmon, hot-buttered lobster roll, and steak and eggs fall somewhere in the middle. But no matter where a dish lies on the spectrum, know it will be good. (4300 Gulfshore Blvd., Naples; 263-4421;

• The Standard: Located at the base of Hotel Indigo, this place does brunch right: oysters Rockefeller, hash with house-made sausage, a full bar and bottomless mimosas. Your mom will thank you. (1520 Broadway, Fort Myers; 219-6463;

Combine two and give to mom

This drink recipe mixes the tequila from Cinco de Mayo with a Derby julep. Hand one to mom for a trifecta.


2 oz. Casamigos anejo tequila

25 oz. simple syrup

8-10 mint leaves

Garnish with mint sprig

Add ingredients into julep glass or tumbler. Muddle mint. Add Casamigos. Fill glass with crushed ice. Add metal swizzle spoon/straw. Stir. Add more ice to give a cone shaped top. Garnish with mint sprig.

Jean Le Boeuf is the pseudonym used by a local food lover who dines at restaurants anonymously and without warning, with meals paid for by The News-Press. Follow the critic at or @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram.

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Fudge Brownie Bites for Mother’s Day

A Baker’s Tale is a magical sounding and top-rated Chicago bakery with a storybook theme. The decor includes an all-white tree decorated with “blossoms” made from pages of Alice in Wonderland and upside-down teacups as lights. Cupcakes come in such flavours as Raspberry Lemonade and Orange Dreamsicle. Made-from-scratch S’mores include peppermint and peanut butter versions.

But what’s a cookie called “The Canuck” (studded with white chocolate and dried cherries and with the tagline “Don’t be a hoser, eh, try this cookie!”) doing in Illinois?

“It’s a nod to my Canadian heritage,” said Christine LaSorda, owner and baker, when contacted by email. “I was born in Windsor, Ontario, and all of our extended family lives in Ontario.”

Quebec cookware company Trudeau, which has an office in Chicago, turned to LaSorda to develop a recipe to showcase its new silicone mini muffin pans. The Fudge Brownie Bites that LaSorda came up with are easy enough for children to make, but are deep, dark and sophisticated-tasting. The texture is wonderful: slightly crisp on the outside, but meltingly fudgey inside.

The tiny size, if made in a mini muffin pan, is just right since they’re rich. But you could also bake the batter in an 8-by-8-inch (2 L) square glass pan baking pan — just be sure to cut the brownies into small squares.

Any way you slice them, these chocolatey creations would make a great treat for Mother’s Day. 

Fudge Brownie Bites

Makes: about 28 bites

Preparation time: about 40 minutes

½ cup (125 mL) butter

1¼ cups (310 mL) sugar

¾ cup (180 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp (2.5 mL) salt

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/3 cup (80 mL) all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C.) Lightly grease 28 cups in mini muffin pans.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, or a glass measure in microwave, melt butter.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, cocoa and salt together.
  4. Pour in melted butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in each egg, one at a time, then vanilla.
  5. Gently stir in flour just until combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  6. Using a heaped teaspoon, drop batter into prepared pans (cups should be about two-thirds full). Bake for 20 minutes, until brownie bites are firm on the tops and sides, but still slightly fudgey in the middle. Cool until firm enough to pop out of pans. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cool completely and decorate with icing or ganache and toppings if desired.

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WRITING OUT LOUD: Learning to be content

Posted May. 3, 2016 at 12:32 PM


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Did this Renaissance superman invent the modern wine bottle?

If you’ve ever heard of Sir Kenelm Digby, you’ll probably know him as a seventeenth century courtier, diplomat, philosopher and all-round Renaissance superman, with a wife who died in rather mysterious circumstances.

But few people realise that this talented figure was also a trailblazing cook, who nagged royals for their family recipes, published the first Chinese recipe in England and invented the modern-day wine bottle.

Here are nine fascinating food facts about Sir Kenelm.

1.  His kitchen was better-equipped than Nigella’s

When Kenelm Digby died in 1665, in his rooms on Covent Garden Square, he owned one of the best-stocked kitchens in London: it boasted eight ‘Pye plates,’ seven ‘smale silibub glasses,’ forty pewter dishes, and a dizzying array of skillets, spits, knives, weights, and tins.  Four years after his death, the fruits of Digby’s lifetime of culinary labours were made available to the wider world with the publication of The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby, Open’d, a collection of his recipes.

2. He fell in love with food on his gap year 

 Digby’s interest in food had been formed by his youthful travels. In his teens he journeyed to Italy, spending two years in Florence. His recipe book recorded a preparation for ‘Sucket of Mallow Stalks,’ which involved soaking the soft young shoots of this leafy plant repeatedly in ‘a high Syrup of pure Sugar’.  As well as being delicious, their medical benefits hinted at the naughtier pleasures of Italian travel: ‘These tender stalks of Mallows,’ Digby wrote, ‘are called Mazzocchi,’ and ‘in Italy they eat much of them…in Gonorrhoea’s to take away pain in Urining.’

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Power of Prayer: Athens Thrift Shop


East Texans are discovering much more than deep discounts and nick-knacks in the Athens Thrift Store.

The shop, which first opened in August 2010, has become a starting point for helping those in need.

Thrift store founder Drew Douglas says he was inspired to fill this void in the community after visiting a similar project on a church mission trip to Brenham, Texas.

“I put a great deal of personal prayer into the situation before I ever started. I felt like those prayers were certainly answered.”

It’s been a bigger blessing for Henderson County. 100 percent of the profit supports 19 charities and ministries in the area, including: ETMC Auxiliary, Henderson County Food Pantry, Meals of Kindness, Helping Hands Furniture Ministry and Clothes Closet, Ruby’s Safe Haven, Family Peace Project, East Texas Crisis Center, The Disciples Clinic, Henderson County Young Life, Help Center, Meals on Wheels, Athens Soup Kitchen, The Rainbow Room, CASA of Trinity Valley, Lila Lane Outreach, First Methodist After School Program of Mabank, and Henderson County Drug Rehab.

Douglas estimates the store brings in about a thousand dollars in sales each day.

The location on East Tyler Street has expanded in the last five years by purchasing of four surrounding buildings. Most days, workers say there is a constant stream of customers hunting for hidden treasures.

Shoppers can find an outfit for every occasion, sets of dinnerware, even church pews. There’s an extensive selection of books, toys, furniture, sporting goods, and home furnishings.

The bottom line isn’t hard to miss — serving the community through Christ.

“I don’t want to be a goat. You know the scripture says, ‘goats on one side and sheep on the other.’ We have an obligation to do a number of things for our fellow man and this is only one of them.”

Four dedicated employees have also found work through the store. Inventory manager Scott Hendrix says he’s proof the store is changing lives.

“Probably the most remarkable thing I ever did in my life was turning my life over to Christ and knowing I have a place to come to and work and help others. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”

Struggling with drug problems, Hendrix served more than four years in prison. Upon his release, he says Lila Lane Outreach was there to help, when no one else would.

Now, he’s working full-time for the thrift shop, which supports that same ministry.

“I have a chance to give back, you know,” Hendrix said. “Because I know back in the past, I have taken and taken and now I can give.”

This circle of giving is spreading throughout Athens. In just five years, more than $250,000 in donations have allowed non-profits to continue their critical work.

Douglas, who is also a real estate broker, says he takes great pride in seeing the impact the business is having. “I can’t accept credit, because I know where the credit goes. I think God’s hands have been on it the whole time and I’m very proud to be used as a tool.”

The thrift store also provides opportunities for job skills experience for special needs students from Athens Independent School District.

Volunteers and donations of household items are needed.

The shop’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Copyright 2016 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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