On Tuesday, March 15, 2016 Thasos Taverna opened its lovely doors to host local news reporters & bloggers for a tasting of the Island Gems of Greece luncheon and presentation, which I had the distinct pleasure of attending. Special guest Chef Athinagoras Kostakos was flown in for the occasion all the way from the island of Mykonos, Greece where he has worked for the past eight years as the executive chef of Bill & Coo Suites and Lounge.
Before we were formally invited to take a seat for our lunch and presentation on the Island Gems of Greece, guests were treated to some signature cocktails made with Greek FOS Mastiha Liqueur. The Mastiha tree is a small evergreen shrub, also known as “lentisk”, with a lifespan of more than 100 years. Apparently this tree can only be found on the Island of Chios Greece, which controls 100% of the world’s production of Mastiha. FOS Mastiha liqueur is a clear spirit with a sweet taste – a full range of herbal tones and tree essences, which are really enhanced when served in a chilled glass over ice. I had the pleasure of trying “The Detox” cocktail made with cucumber puree, thyme, lime and ginger ale. This tasty cocktail was created by Lef Kraounakis, head bartender at La Mar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami.
During the four course lunch, guests were able to get a real taste for Chef Kostakos’s passion and flare for authentic Greek food with a twist. Our first course was a delightful cup of Chilean sea bass soup with mussels and rice. I love Chilean sea bass and never had it served in such a way before. My tastebuds were jumping up and down in joy!
Next, Kostakos served what appeared to be a Greek twist on a traditional Italian Caprese salad made with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, capers, thyme and olive oil. This dish was packed with flavor; one of my favorite courses of the afternoon for sure!
The main course consisted of an herb crusted lamb chop with lamb baklava cooked slowly and presented inside a flaky pastry with yogurt cumin sauce.
For dessert, the chef presented the guests with a strawberry and mastiha soup topped with almond meringue. Having soup for dessert was a definite first for me and I have to give kudos to the Chef for enlightening me to this concept through this perfectly executed dish.
The unique combination of flavors in each course as well as the attention to detail conveyed through each item was impressive. Kostakos’s dishes represent a new breed of Greek cooking that is influenced by old world styles, which has evolved into a hybrid that merges tradition and ingenuity. His culinary creations make food look like an art form. Kostakos prides himself on using only the best ingredients, “The most important thing are the ingredients. They come together to create pleasure in your mouth.”
Although Chef Kostakos has since left Thasos and returned to his home in Greece, co-owner and Executive Chef Sophia Mylona ensures guests will have a special dining experience at Thasos that embodies Greece’s customs of using top quality fresh ingredients, with a menu that emphasizes herbs and spices complemented by simple preparation that lets the flavors stand out.
In addition to their made to order craft cocktails, Thasos offers more than 250 labels of wine from Greece and the rest of the world. The restaurant is a two-time recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
Thasos is located at 3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant and bar are open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 11pm and Friday and Saturday from 5 to midnight. There’s live music nightly. Complimentary valet parking and self parking are available. For reservations or more info, call (954) 200-6006 or visit: http://www.ThasosTaverna.com.
After being a sponsor of this event for a couple years now, I finally made it there in person this year. I can’t even begin to describe how super generous the organizers of this event are to their sponsors. Not only were we invited to several events leading up to the Grill-Off but following too. We also received a gorgeous box customized with our company’s logo placed on some cookies, some commemorative glasses and a lovely bottle of Cab personally signed by John Offerdahl himself. First class all the way.
The Gridiron Grill-Off in case you are not familiar with it is a Food, Wine & Tailgate Festival & Culinary Showdown that pairs up celebrity athletes (former Miami Dolphin legends) with some of the best local chefs to compete for the judges choice and the people’s votes for best recipe. Festival participants are encouraged to download the Gridiron Grill-Off app to vote for their favorite. Grill-Off proceeds benefit kids who are parentless (4Kids of South Florida) and homeless (HOPE South Florida) as well as these additional benefactors: Here’s Help, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Educational Programs, Miami Dolphins Foundation and the “Taste of the NFL” Feeding South Florida.
Kicking off the sixth annual “John Offerdahl’s Broward Health® Gridiron Grill-Off Food & Wine Festival with a special early access from 12pm – 1pm, VIP ticket holders and media had a chance to do a Meet & Greet with this year’s national celebrity guest Adam Richman, author, actor and television personality.
Adam Richman grew up in New York and began his love affair with food early on, sampling all of the diverse culinary specialties the Big Apple has to offer. After years of travel and invaluable on-the-job experience in the various restaurants, Adam began hosting “Man v Food” for Travel Channel, which quickly became their highest rated show. Richman has returned to television to host Travel Channel’s “Man Finds Food” and NBC’s food competition show “Food Fighters.” Adam’s first book, “America the Edible” (Rodale Publishing), hit stands in 2010 and his second book, “Straight-Up Tasty” (Clarkson Potter), came out in June 2015.
Gridiron Grill-Off VIP ticket-holders received signed copies of “Straight-Up Tasty”. In addition, Adam cooked a recipe from his new book with John Offerdahl at 4 p.m. in the Toyota Cornhole Stadium and Festival Stage.
The event was held on the grounds of the Pompano Beach Amphitheater and despite the rain ascending upon the crowd pretty much most of the afternoon, it didn’t appear to dampen the spirits of those in attendance. I would not consider myself a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a father and a brother who are fanatical. So as I made my rounds from station to station, I made a point to take a picture with as many of the football pros as possible to share with them. They were all so nice and of course so tall compared to me, lol!
Chef Chris Miracolo from S3 Restaurant at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort was back again this year to defend his title of 2014 Judge’s Choice Winner. Chef Victor Franco from Oceans 234 was back as well to defend his title of 2014 People’s Choice Winner. Did either of them nab this year’s coveted titles? You’ll just have to wait and see. Here were this year’s teams and what they created:
Bob Baumhover (’77-’86)
Chef Steve Zucker
Alabama Gulf Shrimp
Marco Coleman (’92-’95)
Chef Andres Avayu
Feta Stuffed Lamb Burger
Jeff Cross (’88-’96)
Chef Nicole Rhone
The G-Bar, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina
Donut Bourbon Bacon Burger
Channing Crowder (’09-’11)
Chef Chris Miracolo
S3 Restaurant at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Grilled Lobster & Pork Belly
Troy Drayton (’96-’99)
Chef Zhongbo Zhang
AJ Duhe (’77-’84)
Chef Jeff Pfeiffer
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
Mark Duper (’82-’92)
Chef Victor Franco
Thai Chicken Wrap
Jay Fiedler (’00-’04)
Chef Michael Saperstein
BBQ Lamb Spare Ribs
Roy Foster (’82-’90)
Chef Oliver Saucy
Darrel & Oliver’s Cafe Maxx
Grilled Wagyu Steak Tacos
Mark Higgs (’90-’94)
Chef Ralph Pagano
Key West Shrimp Tacos
Jim “Crash” Jensen (’81-’92)
QB / WR / RB #11
Chef Rick Schwager
Crusted Beef Tenderloin
Larry Little (’69-’80)
Chef Ulises Mar
15th Street Fisheries
Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas
Sam Madison (’97-’05)
Chef Heather Waid
Beauty and the Feast, The Atlantic Hotel & Spa
Dr. Pepper Pork Sliders
Don McNeal (’80-’89)
Chef Kenny Velsor
The Grill, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
Eugene “Mercury” Morris (’69-’75)
Chef Gary Klinefelter
Diplomat Prime, Diplomat Resort & Spa Hollywood
Mojo Pulled Pork
Tony Nathan (’79-’87)
Chef Dustin Gordon
Chef’s Palette Café and Grill, The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
McCoy’s Oceanfront, Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa
Wagyu Beef Tostones
Shawn Wooden (’96-’99)
Chef Anthony Fiorini
13 American Table
While there were so many wonderful dishes being turned out, there were a few stand out dishes in my opinion. I really enjoyed the taste and presentation of the Grilled Octopus from Team Wooden/Chef Anthony Fiorini 13 American Table. I also enjoyed the pork belly dish created by Team Crowder/Chef Chris Miracolo S3 Restaurant. And last but not least, I thoroughly enjoyed the Thai Chicken Wrap created by Team Duper/Chef Victor Franco Oceans 234.
This year’s esteemed judges were Chefs Michelle Bernstein, Allen Susser & Mark Militello along with Burger Beast’s Sef Gonzalez and Jack Kane, the culinary academic department director at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. So….who does the 2015 judge’s choice trophy go to???? Chef Greg McGowan from Pelican Landing and #23 Troy Stradford earned it with their Grilled Spanish Octopus. And the People’s Choice???? Chef Ralph Pagano from Naked Taco and #21 Mark Higgs nailed it with their Key West Shrimp Tacos. Congrats to them and to all the participating contenders for an awesome day; one that will undoubtedly enrich the lives of many children in need. Here are some of my highlights from the day. Enjoy.