Table and Tap (TT) is the initial restaurant on the grounds of Babcock Ranch, the first planned solar powered community in the US. I had Posted about Babcock Ranch and Table and Tap before. For those interested in the community per se please go to the Babcock Ranch Link. TT has been open for about 15 months and for the past 6, has had a new Executive Chef, Richard Howze. Richard has close to 30 years of culinary experience, is an excellent chef and has completely transformed the Menu and price points at TT under his direction.
The restaurant has an attractive interior dining area, in addition to some very pleasant outdoor seating with nice views of the water on the property.
Again, TT’s Menu has changed dramatically from our last visit. My dining companion (DC) and I decided to try a few of the items from it.
The first thing ordered was the pate and pork rinds.
This was a delicious and a completely over the top introduction to the new menu at TT. All this was made in house, the sweetness of the onion jam perfectly complementing the richness of the pate on a pork skin vehicle. This dish is a must order, most highly recommended.
The heirloom tomato salad was next. This was another excellent dish. The smoked Neuske’s bacon in this menu item was the perfect foil for the buttermilk dressing/feta cheese here. For those that do not know Neuske’s bacon, this is smoked bacon at it’s finest. It adds a delicious and complex layer of flavor to anything it’s served with. This is another must try menu item.
DC is a big mac n’ cheese fan, I am not. We agreed to sample this, and I must say I could easily become a convert after TT’s take on this.
The “mac” in this dish is really cavatappi, a helical shaped macaroni reminiscent of a corkscrew. This was topped with smoked pork shoulder, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs and pork rinds. This dish was delicious, and opened my mind to more contemporary takes on mac ‘n” cheese. The cast iron skillet as a serving plate just added to, at least for me, the je ne sais quoi of this dish. Highly recommended.
The wild boar jambalaya was next, again brought to the table on a cast iron skillet. For those that do not know, jambalaya is a delicious meld of both Spanish and French culinary influences. It is generally a rice dish seasoned with meat and vegetables, the latter being the “trinity” of onions, celery and green bell pepper, the former at TT wild boar sausage and chicken. I could sense the craftsmanship put into this dish, especially with the use of Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice. Anson Mills specializes in heirloom grains, and their Carolina Gold rice is to some, the best they have ever had. It probably has something to do with the starch profile of this rice. Although used in many recipes for jambalaya, I did not care for the stewed tomatoes here which we thought detracted from this menu item. DC and I observed that they added an acidic, metallic note to this dish dissonant from the richness of it’s other components.
We unknowingly saved the best for last, ordering the pulled pork sandwich.
This over the top menu item melds in house smoked pulled pork with a vinegar-based slaw. Sides included sweet potato fries and pickled tomatoes. This sandwich was unbelievably delicious, a culinary testimonial to the talents of the executive chef. The sweet potato fries were very good, more intriguing were the pickled tomatoes. These are a very unique and extremely flavorful addition to any sandwich, charcuterie or just about anything for that matter. I asked chef for the recipe as I wanted to try this at home. The technique here is what the chef calls a “quick pickle”, submerging the tomatoes in a brine in the fridge for anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. One keeps them submerged with a weight such as a bowl or plate.
- 1 cup good cider vinaigrette
- 1.5 cups sugar or to taste
- 3 tablespoons toasted chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon chili flakes
- 1/4 cup of curry powder or to taste
Wash and dry tomatoes and prick them all over with a skewer. The above mixture is boiled briefly to meld all of the ingredients and poured over the tomatoes. The mixture (brine) is then cooled and placed in the fridge. This recipe would of course need to be scaled upward depending on the amount of tomatoes used. This is a very simple prep, and I think most home cooks will be very happy with the result.
Talking about sides, you will find a number of them on the menu ranging from sweet potato fries to sauteed rapini. Having tried both items, I can tell you that not only are they very good, but are priced using 1960’s pricing at $2.00 each, something unique for fine dining in southwest Florida. This is a very interesting menu strategy which I am sure is paying large dividends.
Chef Howze also told me that they have about 700 head of cattle on premises and 5 acres of land for planting fruits and vegetables. As the cattle will be processed locally and the produce grown on site, this will be a very attractive selling point that will only add to the quality and desirability of the already great cuisine here.
Both DC and I thought the food for the most part at TT was excellent. The pricing is mostly, for now, in line with the demographics of the area as the population of Babcock Ranch starts to increase. One may think it’s a bit of a drive from Fort Myers or Naples but it is totally worth your time to go here. TT is most highly recommended, and I think patrons will not be disappointed. I for one cannot wait to go back and try some of the other menu items.
That’s that for another post on Forks.