Here is the premise of my guide: When I go to a new place, I like to try local cuisine and flavors and search for things that I cannot readily find where I live. Another bonus about this is that local specialties are always fresh and prepared fresh, and do not come in frozen bags in the back of a container truck. So if you want to read about unique foods local in the area (and where to eat them and the preparation variations) read on (and I promise that there is a bonus entry at the end, which will worth your time - If you really want to create some of those delicacies at home, you can also check out preparation tips from online culinary classes) :
There are 3 fish local to the area, two of them you can find aplenty and in a variety of preparations and a third one that is for the adventure loving crowd.
Grouper is to South and South Central Florida as Cod and Scrod is to Massachusettes, Lobster to Maine and Pacific Salmon to Seattle. A mild fish with buttery flavor is prepared in many ways in Fort Myers.
For traditional preparations, Clancey's, on McGregor Blvd (closed on Sundays and Mondays), offers a grouper sandwich with the grouper either blackened, grilled or fried for $12.95. You can also add the fish prepared in any of those ways on top of any of their salads, opt for the dinner entree for $24.95 or get their "Famous stuffed Grouper" (stuffed with lump crab meat, peppers and onion and finished with a lobster sauce for $26.95. A little further away on Fort Myers Beach, the Beached Whale, in addition to a grouper sandwich ($13.95) and grouper entree ($22.95), offers grouper tacos for $12.95. Pincher's Crab Shack in several locations, offers a grouper basket for $12.99 as well as a sandwich at the same price, in addition to grouper nuggets, grouper tacos and grouper reuben. Grouper Paradise. 3 Fishermen Seafood at South Cleveland Ave, offers their lunch grouper filet or sandwich for $10.99 and has a special "Captain Paul's Grouper" for dinner, which is stuffed with crab meat and topped with Monterrey Jack cheese, for $14.99. Another place that offer grouper and grouper sandwiches in the $10-13 range are Skip One Seafood Market at South Tamiami Trail.
If these prices are high for your budget, the best bargain for grouper is Red Bones Bar and Grill on Palm Beach Blvd. You can get grouper fingers for $4.75 and a grouper sandwich basket for $5.50. Probably the most interesting grouper preparation is at the Prawnbrocker at McGregor Blvd. They serve grouper matanzas, which are filets of grouper dipped in egg, sauteed in lemon butter and topped with lump crab meat. Those will set you back $24.95.
Red Snapper is another mild fish with a bit of a firmer texture than grouper. Almost like sole/flounder firmness but thicker. You can find snapper filets in many of the aforementioned places, but for a treat, you have to look into Asian preparations.
Thai Gardens on College Pkwy and Welcome To Bangkok on S. Cleveland Ave, both offer four traditional Thai snapper preparations (all at market prices) which involved whole de-boned fish that is steamed or deep fried and prepare in a variety of sauces or curries that range from mild pepper and garlic, sweet and sour and spicy green Thai Curry. If you prefer Japanese flavors, Mr Mees on S Cleveland Ave, offers Snapper teriyaki, snapper tempura or Korean spicy snapper steamed with vegetables for $15.95 each.
Mr Mees also is a sushi bar and one of the few places where you can eat snapper sushi. They brilliantly use it to substitute for yellowtail in several rolls. Mr. Mee Roll (spicy tuna and cucumber inside topped with red snapper and avocado) for $9.95, Yami Yami Roll (with imitation crab, red snapper, carrot and green onion, all deep fried and served with eel sauce) for $6.95 and Puerto Rico Roll (tempura snapper, cream cheese, eel and cucumber topped with avocado) for $9.95. Snapper Nigiri sushi is $3.95, and other than the Puerto Rico Roll, snapper is raw. Blu Sushi, on McGregor Blvd and Town Center Drive, has only one snapper offering, snapper sashimi (or Nigiri) for $4.50. The third Sushi place in Fort Myers, Osaka Steak House on San Carlos Blvd does not have any snapper offerings, but we will talk about them in the next session.
I bet you have not heard of Escolar before and there is a good reason (other than the fact that you can only find around Florida and the Caribbean) : Its consumption has been banned in Italy and Japan and in the US FDA does not allow it to be traded interstate. The reason is that its meat, other than the tail meat can cause severe food poison and diarrhea (rumors that it causes bilateral leg weakness have not been substantiated.) Escolar also goes with the trade name of "white tuna". It is a mackerel relative and thus fairly oily.
And the only way to eat escolar is raw, as in Sushi. Blu Sushi serves Escolar sashimi for $4.95, their It's All Good Roll (escolar, asparagus and avocado, topped with roe) for $8.95, their Blue Lightning Roll (eel, cream cheese, cucumber and tempura flakes inside, escolar and avocado with eel sauce and spicy mayo outside) for $11.95 and what they call "No Soup For You", a ponzu soaked raw escolar salad with sliced cucumber and daicon raddish for $9.95. Osaka Steak House also has escolar sashimi or Nigiri sushi priced at $5 for two pieces.
I will focus only on two shellfish, one that you can only pretty much find in Florida in the US (conch), and the other that is omni-present, but it is fresh on the Gulf Coast of Florida (shrimp)
Conch is a Caribbean delicacy that is rarely found in a menu outside south Florida, unless you happen to be in a Caribbean restaurant. It is a clam-like shellfish that can get pretty large and tastes a lot like clam.
The most common preparation (and there are as many variations of this as there are variations of crab cakes) and the one that you at least have to have a bite of, is conch fritters. Usually on the appetizer menu, you can find them on pretty much all of the places mentioned in the grouper section and cost from $5-9. Usually served with Remoulade. If you are looking for the raw variety, Blu serves Conch sashimi for $5.25 and their Bahama Roll (Spicy conch, cucuber and lemon) for $9.95 and Osaka serves conch sashimi and nigiri sushi for $5 for 2 pieces.
As I said, shrimp is omnipresent. One thing that it is not, is local Gulf Shrimp. If you are looking for Shrimp, look for dishes that mention gulf shrimp on the menu or ask your server whether the shrimp is gulf shrimp. Worth to try in any of your favorite preparations, but make sure you are not get Chinese frozen shrimp. For a southern variation try shrimp with grits.
This might not settle well with some, but 2 kinds are common in Fort Myers' menus: alligators and frogs. As far as gator goes, it is always fried and it is always an appetizer, unless you go to the best place in town to have gator, the Gatorbites Tail & Ale on Summerlin Rd. They offer gator bites in five ways (blackened, breaded, buffalo, grilled and bloody mary) for $7.95 any way, gator tail (blackened or grilled) for $12.95, gator roll for $10.95, Gator quesadillas for $9.95, gator nachos for $11.95 and a variety plate. They also have other food, but they are famous for Gator, so your non-gator eating friends will survive.
Frog leg appear in the Thai restaurants' and the Osaka steak house menu serves with a couple of different sauces over rice and usually for $15-17. Some places around town have deep fried frog legs. Eat at your own risk.
You can find grits (and cheese grits) for breakfast or sides pretty much in every place and it is worth a try and some southern staples, like fried okra and collard greens are in a lot of the diners in the area. But if you are looking to experience an authentic southern dinner or lunch, you have to go to Farmer's Market Restaurant. It is a real Southern chain (not like Cracker Barrel) that offers pretty unique southern/soul food, including Fish and Eggs for Breakfast, Fried Pork Chops, Fried Chicken Gizzards and the such at reasonable prices.
Here is the price that the patient readers who have been reading this long list get:
The best place to rub shoulders with Twins' major and minor leaguers. It has been a little secret, but now it is out in the open, and it is close to the Lee County Sports complex: Patinella's Chicken Grill or "The Chicken Grill" on Plantation Shoppes Drive. They offer grilled cut chicken on rice bowls with a bunch of veggies in different flavors or flatbread sandwiches. Pretty healthy fare for ballplayers. If you go to the web site, there is a buy one get one coupon for their sandwiches that can be printed and downloaded on a daily basis.
If anyone has any suggestions about food in Fort Myers, please add them in the comments section. I would super appreciate it!
If you are interested in all the 2012 Spring Training content in this site, you can find it here
(image source: wikipedia)
And unless there was something wrong with his pointing finger, this is nuts. And I suspect that this is his curve grip. Adam Wainwright is using somewhat of a similar grip on his curve, but in his the seams are held much tighter and the middle finger is holding the outside of that vertical seam, thus inducing spin... Wonder whether there was an issue with his pointing finger or whether he did not feel comfortable graduating from little league curve grips. Nevertheless Andy has his work cut out for him...
(edit: Good catch, Jeremy. Both Zumaya and Dumatrait are listed with 54. I suspect that one of them, probably Dumatrait, might wear a different number)
(edit: with Valencia's number change official in Spring Training)
On the 40-man roster:
30 Scott Baker
53 Nick Blackburn
31 Alex Burnett
55 Matt Capps
58 Scott Diamond
56 Terry Doyle (*)
52 Brian Duensing
60 Jeff Gray (*)
76 Deolis Guerra
72 Carlos Gutierrez
62 Liam Hendriks
47 Francisco Liriano
44 Matt Maloney (*)
49 Jeff Manship
21 Jason Marquis (*)
17 Lester Oliveros
48 Carl Pavano
15 Glen Perkins
64 Tyler Robertson
51 Anthony Swarzak
57 Kyle Waldrop
54 Joel Zumaya (*)
41 Drew Butera
18 Ryan Doumit (*)
7 Joe Mauer
8 Jamey Carroll (*)
12 Alexi Casilla
38 Luke Hughes
33 Justin Morneau
1 Tsuyoshi Nishioka
27 Chris Parmelee
22 Danny Valencia
80 Oswaldo Arcia
63 Joe Benson
19 Darin Mastroianni (*)
24 Trevor Plouffe
11 Ben Revere
2 Denard Span
23 Rene Tosoni
16 Josh Willingham (*)
50 Jason Bulger (*)
61 Jared Burton (*)
69 Samuel Deduno (*)
54 Phil Dumatrait
85 Casey Fien (*)
67 Luis Perdomo (*)
65 Aaron Thompson (*)
68 Daryl Thompson (*)
59 Esmerling Vasquez (*)
74 P.J. Walters (*)
66 Brendan Wise (*)
82 Chris Herrmann
81 Danny Lehmann
32 Rene Rivera
84 Daniel Rohlfing
5 J.R. Towles (*)
70 Aaron Bates
37 Sean Burroughs (*)
83 Ray Chang
26 Brian Dinkelman
77 Brian Dozier
71 Pedro Florimon (*)
73 Mike Hollimon (*)
39 Steve Pearce (*)
79 Matt Carson (*)
78 Wilkin Ramirez (*)
A bobblehead of Tom Kelly on the announcer booth (like when he filled in for Bert Blyleven last season,) which did not move its head up and down, but sideways. Like in the same motion every Twins' fan (and I bet Tom himself) did, when watched the Twins botching plays after plays last year. And I cannot think of one Twins' fan who would not love to have that trinket with him or her while watching a Twins' game even from their comfort of their home or their work cubicle and to silently move TK's head when Nishi boots a play or when Plouffe throws to the second deck (and I do not mean to pick on those guys.) Beats throwing the remote to the wall or shouting profanities and all of that. That thing would had really made people line up the streets and camp in front of Target Field the night before. iPhone 5 eat your heart out.
But it would have taken humor, creativity, a sense of self-deprecation and would had been the best way to bury that 2011 season. And there has been a lot of negativity with the fan-base and that would had been an absolutely amazing way to break that.
They blew it. Too bad. Maybe I should start my own line...
- A recent Twins' acquisition is among those who do not know that the collective name for the games after the season is over is called "post-season" in baseball and not "playoffs". What's next? Calling the World Series, "Super Bowl"?
- Forbes released their list of America's Most Disliked Athletes. If you are interested, it is worth a look. And 2 athletes tied for first (Actually one athlete and a recreational sport player.)
- Recent Twins' signees C J.R Towles and 3B Sean Burroughs were listed as their teams' (Pirates and Padres, respectively) top prospects in 2002 by Baseball America. The Twins' top prospect that year, according to BA and everyone pretty much was Joe Mauer.
- Former Twins' pitcher, R.A. Dickey, has written a book that will come out just before opening day; I bet it will be a good read: Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball
- A particular Twins' pitcher was planning to get a vasectomy, until he discovered a particular product, he tweets
- This is a great article by Lincoln Mitchell of The Faster Times, about Rod Carew and his unusual baseball accomplishments.
- A new Twins' player threw the first pitch in a collegiate game last Sunday
The parting shot today is actually a video featuring someone who Twins' fans will soon start to fiercely dislike, and speaks tons about childhood obesity:
4/15: Jackie Robinson Day
4/23: Twins' umbrella giveaway by Pentair
4/25: Twins' drawstring bag by MLB Network
4/27: Twins' fishing Lure
4/28: Energy efficient lightball by Xcel Energy
4/29: Ben Revere bat by Old Dutch Foods
5/12: Twins' baseball cap by DQ
5/13: Twins' Mother's Day pink pashmina byt Pepsi
5/25: Post-game fireworks
5/26: Twins' cowboy hat by WE Fest
6/10: Joe Mauer kids' jersey by US Bank
6/10-16: Hope week, a week dedicated to community service
6/17: Twins' Father's Day golf club cover by 1500 ESPN
6/30: Turn back the clock day; Twins wear 1951 Millers' Uniforms & Royals KC Blues' Uniforms
7/1: Armed services appreciation day
7/14: Twins' HOF Induction Ceremony
7/14: Camilo Pasqual HOF pin by Fisher Nuts
7/15: Twins' baseball cap by DQ
7/27: Post-game fireworks
7/29: Bike and walk to the Ballpark day by Optum
8/10: Post-game fireworks
8/11-12: Back to school weekend by Target
8/14: Twins' beach towel by Delta Airlines
8/29: Celebrate Diversity day by Treasure Island resort and Casino
8/29: Twins' Territory mug by Treasure Island casino
9/8: Tom Kelly day
9/14: Twins' outdoor bomber hat by Pepsi
9/15: Roberto Clemente day
9/28-29: Fan appreciation weekend
9/30: Kids appreciation day
How to get there:
Unless you want to have a non-rental car with you (a good choice if you are a player or will be there for a month or so, or you live close to Fort Myers) flying is probably the best choice. There is a local airport (Southeast Florida International, code: RSW) served by a variety of airlines, but there are a total of about 75 flights a day into and out from there. Alternative airports are the larger Tampa International (TPA) and Miami International (MIA), about 2 and 2.5 hrs drive respectively. Orlando could also be a choice, but the drive is 3 hrs. The Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is slightly over an hour drive from Fort Myers and slightly larger airport than the Southwest Florida International at Fort Myers.
If you want to drive, the fastest was to get there is via I-75 that goes through the town. From most points of the Midwest or Northwest, the best way is to catch I-75 around the Metro Atlanta area. From South and South West, I-10 hits I-75 in North Florida about an hour east of Jacksonville. From the East Coast, the best bet would be I-95 all the way to Daytona Beach, then I-4 through Orlando and catching I-75 at Tampa. If you live at the Twin Cities area, Minneapolis is about 1700 miles away from Fort Myers, which means about 3 days of 8 hours driving each, each way.
This is a map of South & Central Florida, to let you see where Fort Myers is situated in Florida (all maps and satellite images used in this post are screen shots from Bing maps) :
The Metro Area and the City:
Fort Myers (and, btw, it is not Ft. Myers) is the smallest of 3 cities in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral Metropolitan area. It has about 62,000 people, whereas the Metro has about 650,000 people most of them living in Cape Coral, a city planned and started in the late 50s as a huge retirement community. Interestingly enough the planners wanted to make every property close to water, so they created and extensive system of Canals. Cape Coral has more miles of navigable waterways than any city in the world, including Venice (Italy, not FL) and Amsterdam. About 400 miles of canals. Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island and Pine Island are popular beach front communities with a lot of beach-related tourism.
Here is a photo of the Cape Coral- Fort Myers metro:
An important note, especially to people from northern climates: Average temperatures in March are 80 for high and 60 for low, so make sure that you pack sunscreen, hats, glasses, shorts, t-shirts and a swimsuit, if you are so inclined.
The city of Fort Myers itself is very easily navigated. Here is a map of the City with the Twins' Spring Training Headquarters noted with an orange Marker:
You can click here for a larger picture in a new window.
The Airport is about 6 miles due west from Hammonds Stadium and the Spring Training Complex. Daniels Parkway (that becomes Cypress Lake Dr in the City) will take you from the Airport to the town and the Twins' complex. If you are on a budget and looking for a hotel, the ones on Daniels Parkway and that area west of I-75 offer good bargains and are fairly close to the Twins' Spring Training Complex. Another area for reasonable accommodations is the S. Cleveland Avenue North of Page Field.
Mostly everything can be found within a large triangle defined by S. Cleveland Ave to the West, Colonial Blvd to the North and the Ben C. Pratt Pkwy going Northeast to Southwest. The Twins' Spring training complex is on the South part of Ben C. Pratt Pkwy, just South of Daniels Pkwy.
The Twins' Spring Training Complex:
Here is a satellite image of the Lee County Sports Complex:
The complex is accessible via the Miracle on 34th St, either from Ben C Pratt Pkwy or from Plantation Rd. The best was to go is via the Parkway, esp. if it is busy. Miracle on 34th St divides the Twins' part of the complex from the four county softball field. Hammond Stadium, the site of the Twins Spring Training home games and the home of the Fort Myers Miracle (the Twins' high A, Florida State League affiliate) is on the Northeast corner of the Complex. Those parallel lines is the parking lot that can fit about 2000 cars. The stadium seats about 8000 people, so parking can be tight. In addition to Hammond Stadium, there are four full size practice fields and two infield practice fields. You can find Twins' major and minor league players working out in those fields throughout the day, so it might make sense to explore the whole complex or even catch (a free, other than parking) minor league game or two. Some Hotels offer free shuttle service to the Complex, so make sure you explore this option if available.
Hammonds Stadium (and the Lee County Complex) was officially opened in the Spring of 1991. (The year of the Twins' last World Championship.) It is the home of Fort Myers Miracle, a franchise that has Jimmy Buffett and Bill Murray as part-owners. It has been recently renovated and is one of the largest Ball Parks in FSL, sitting up to 8500 people.
As with most minor league stadiums, most sitting is on the infield between the two dugouts. Hammonds Stadium has a nose bleed 2xx level as well and a small grassy field on short right field for fans to sit picnic style. Spring training tickets cost from $25-28 to $10 or so, depending on the opponent.
One thing that you MUST note: bottled water in unopened containers is permitted in the stadium, as are bags uo to 16x16x8 (think reusable grocery bags), so please take advantage of that. That said, the stadium has one of the best selections of beers, including more than 20 mainstream, import and microbrew beers and ales. They only sell Pepsi products as far as soft drinks go. I will have a food guide within a week, but I have to mention that there is an interesting variety of food, including pizza, sweet potato fries, fish tacos, deep fried nachos on a stick, and two artery clogging specialties: the Carolina Dog, a hot dog topped with pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw and the Richard Simmons burger a behemoth featuring a 1/4 lb burger, a 1/4 lb chicken, a 1/4 lb brat, held together by 3 slices of cheese and six strips of bacon and contains more calories that the average developing world person eats in a week. There is an annual concession guide, for the stadium that yet has to be published.
Last but not least, the Twins do not play home games every day. So what to do in an off day? I would chose from one of the following two things: Either drive to the Complex trying to catch minor leaguers and non-traveling major leaguers in action in one (or more) of the fields, or drive to watch the Twins in an away game. Here is a map of Florida that shows all the Grapefruit League home team locations:
The Rays play their home games about half an hour away and the Pirates and Orioles about an hour away or so. The Red Sox play in Fort Myers. Those are the most convenient ball parks to visit.
The next installment will be a food guide (of sorts.) Please feel free to comment and/or share any experiences you had with Spring Training in Fort Myers.
I will try to cover the Twins' Spring Training in depth and more than I did in the past seasons. Here is what I have planned so far this year about Spring Training coverage:
- I will look closely at the battles for positions in the Twins' roster, pretty much a couple times a week. I have already posted what I think are the four questions that the Twins need to answer this Spring and I will keep track of those; however, I suspect that new things might arise and will cover those as well...
- There are a lot of prospects there, as a matter of fact, all players in the organization will be at spring training, so I am in the process of making a Twins' top 40 prospect list. It will be slightly different that what is out there (from a methodology perspective) and I will probably have it up some time during Spring Training. Meanwhile, I cannot even begin to tell how useful Seth Stoh's Twins' Prospect Handbook is for anyone who wants to know who the players in the organization are. You can also check out the bulletins of online sports colleges to get additional information on some of the players who will be at spring training.
- I am actually going to Fort Myers for Spring Training this year for a week, and planning on attending games and blogging my impressions from these games on a nightly (or daily) basis. I will probably add tidbits about the city and the area as well...
- Speaking of going to Fort Myers, the city and the area, I am working on two separate guides on Fort Myers. One will be kind of a practical guide about the ball park, other close ball parks, tickets, etc. The second one will have a twist. La Velle Neal posts his annual food guide every year on his Star Tribune blog (and he will do so soon this year;) I am planning a different type of food guide: foods (and places to eat them) that are local to the area and you cannot find fresh in other parts of the country or special dishes that are signatory to Fort Myers. Not planning to cover any food or restaurant you can find or where is the best place for Ribs (La Velle has the Market cornered on that one,) just where to find unique foods local to the area.
- And I will also have a (weekly probably) stat update of the players there, and I suspect that there will be a lot of other topics that will come up...
This is the plan. Please let me know whether you might be interested in seeing any else and will try to accommodate.
Spring is near. Hope springs eternally.