Nathan’s Famous Fort Myers holds Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier

Enjoy live music, giveaways, free hot dogs and a chance to make history

Registration is now open for a sanctioned qualifier in Southwest Florida for the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Contest at Coney Island, Brooklyn. The event is free for participants and spectators, and will be held 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 at Germain Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway in Estero, Fla.

The men’s and women’s division winners will receive airfare, hotel and per diem expenses to compete at the ESPN-televised finals at the original Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island on July 4, 2017. Visit the registration link to compete at bit.ly/FortMyersHotDogContest.

All hot dog contest qualifier attendees will enjoy live music, free hot dogs and giveaways. Leading up to the event, visit Nathan’s Famous at 11150 S Cleveland Ave, Suite 100, Fort Myers to register to win a three-day cruise for two to the Bahamas. No purchase is necessary, but purchases qualify entrants for additional chances. The winner will be announced at the March 25 event.

In recent years, an estimated 35,000 fans have made the pilgrimage to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island to watch the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest in person. In 2016, Joey Chestnut set a Coney Island record on the Fourth of July when he ate 70 Nathan’s Famous hot dog and buns in 10 minutes to reclaim the Mustard Yellow Belt and earn his ninth title. Miki Sudo of Las Vegas won the Ladies’ Title with 38.5 Hot Dogs and Buns—her third straight victory.

Nathan’s Famous Fort Myers owner Ray Masciana said, “The warm welcome we have received from Southwest Florida since opening last year has been overwhelming. As a thank you to the community, it’s thrilling to present an opportunity to qualify for the Hot Dog Eating Contest. Will we send a contender to Coney Island in July? I can’t wait to find out.”

The Nathan’s Famous qualifying tour is conducted each year in cities across the U.S. and beyond. Do you have what it takes to be a champion? For more information, visit the Fort Myers restaurant, call (239) 277-5600, or visit NathansFamousFortMyers.com.

Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket Presents iRecycle Workshop on March 25

Workshop will offer solutions for repurposing and recycling unused electronics

The Alliance for the Arts GreenMarket will host a free iRecycle workshop on Saturday, March 25 from 10 to 11 a.m. at 10091 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers FL 33919. A collection drive of unused electronics will take place during GreenMarket hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Visual artist and technology enthusiast Gerard Damiano will offer solutions for reusing, repurposing and recycling eWaste during the 10 am free presentation. eWaste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their useful life. Computers, monitors, mobile devices, printers cables and other electronics will be accepted during the eWaste collection drive. Members of the Southwest Florida Hackerspace will be on hand to answer questions and ensure that all data is safely removed from the donated devices. These items will be re-purposed or broken down into essential components, which can be recycled in an earth friendly manner.

Appliances such as microwaves and air-conditioners will not be accepted. All items collected will be used to benefit the Southwest Florida Hackerspace to help them secure a permanent location in Fort Myers, where they can educate, experiment, and develop new technologies. Web developer and SEO Specialist Russell Benzing, founder of the group, will speak about their mission.

This event is sponsored by gerardist.com and the Southwest Florida Hackerspace.

For more information, call 239-939-2787 or visit www.ArtInLee.org.

About Alliance for the Arts

The Alliance for the Arts is a nonprofit community arts and cultural center located in the heart of Fort Myers, Florida. For over 40 years, the Alliance has been charged with the mission to facilitate and nurture the creation, development, promotion and education of arts and culture in southwest Florida. The Alliance campus and galleries are open to the public from 9AM to 5PM Monday through Friday and from 9AM to 1PM on Saturdays, located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard just south of Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers. For more information, please call 239-939-2787, visit us at www.ArtInLee.org, find us on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/ArtInLee.org), or follow us on Twitter (@ArtInLee).

Free Professional Advice for Neighborhood Ponds

At this time of the year, many of us living on neighborhood ponds are looking at ugly brown rings around the water. Do you know why? Is there something you can do about it? Do you know what a healthy pond on southwest Florida looks like? Are you looking for ways to lower your HOA costs and delay costly dredging events? Great news. A group of experts is available to help you manage your neighborhood ponds. Whether you are a resident, snowbird, board member or landscaping professional, you will learn important information about how your pond affects our water quality. Licensed aquatic applicators can earn CEU credits, too. The classes are absolutely free with free refreshments, too.. The next class is Thursday, March 16 at 1 pm at Holton Eco-Preserve at Unitarian Universalist Church, 13411 Shire Lane, Fort Myers, FL 33912 (off Daniels between Six-Mile Cypress and I-75). Visit www.wetplan.org for additional classes and information or call 239-273-8945. Reservations are welcome, but not necessary.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

by Susan Barnett

Below is a simple recipe for corned beef and cabbage. I like to use the leftover corned beef for a Rueben dip or corned beef hash; see the extra recipe at the bottom.

INGREDIENTS:

3-4 lb – Corned beef brisket with spice packet

10 – Small red potatoes

5 – Carrots peeled and cut in half

1 – Medium onion quartered

1 – Large head of green cabbage, cored and cut in wedges

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place corned beef brisket in large pot or Dutch oven. Add water to the top of the meat and add spice packet on the meat. Cover and bring to a simmer cooking approximately 1 hour per pound.
  2. After cooking 2 hours add potatoes, onion and carrots and cook about 45 minutes until vegetables start to get tender. Then add cabbage on top of the corned beef dinner, cover and cook about 20-30 minutes longer.
  3. Place all vegetables in a serving bowl. Remove corned beef and place on a cutting board. Remove excess fat. Always cut the corned beef across the grain. Serve immediately.
  4. Chill leftover corned beef to be used for Rueben dip, sandwiches or hash.

TIP: You can also use your slow cooker. Follow slow cooker directions, add the carrots, potatoes and onion 2-3 hours before serving, and add cabbage the last 30-45 minutes.

 

RUEBEN DIP

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup – Sauerkraut well drained

½ cup – shredded Swiss cheese

6 ounces – corned beef, diced

2/3 cup mayonnaise and 1/3 cup Russian or 1,000 Island Dressing mixed together

½ cup shredded Swiss cheese

2 – Green onions chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Layer all ingredients in a 9” pie plate or an 8” square pan in the order listed.
  3. Bake covered for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Serve with Rye crackers or party rye.

 

 

 

Special School Meets Special Needs

De LaSalle Propels Exceptional Students to Success

by Yvette Schultz

 

De LaSalle Academy of Fort Myers opened in 2012 to meet a growing need for specialized education for students with learning disabilities. The school, located on Plantation Road, grew from 69 students in its first year to 140 its first three years. That kind of growth happens for a reason.

Unassuming on the outside, inside the walls of De LaSalle a palpable feel of joy and goodness can be felt. That is largely attributed to the leadership and passion of director and Principal Lori Riti and her highly trained education professionals.

The school educates students in grades 1-12 who have a variety of needs. Some kids have high IQs but struggle to learn, while others struggle in the social arena. Other children have lower cognitive functioning and need a unique and specialized program to help them learn. Focusing on the individual students, getting to know them intimately, and ascribing a specific education plan for each one is De LaSalle’s mission. By the smiles on the teachers’ and students’ faces, the school appears to be succeeding.

Riti, who worked at another local school for children with learning disabilities prior to opening De LaSalle, is passionate about the school’s mission and students. Offering a “beacon of hope for students with learning disabilities,” Riti does not sidestep the statistics about children who fall through the cracks.

“In our country, roughly 75 percent of the individuals who are incarcerated are individuals with learning challenges. That tells you something,” said Riti. “Our educational system is struggling to meet the needs of students who learn differently, and it’s not for lack of trying. I will never speak badly of public schools, but I feel it is so challenging to meet the needs of kids who learn differently. It is clear they are really struggling.”

Riti states those facts to highlight the success of De LaSalle. “We have the ability to create a program that fits the needs of the kids instead of the kids fitting into a program. I think that’s the biggest difference.” Students are referred to the school by parents, family friends, teachers in both the public and private sector, speech therapists, doctors and counselors.

Without specialized education, statistically a significant portion of kids with learning disabilities ends up being unemployable. However, Riti estimates that 95% of her students will live productive and independent lives, with many heading off to college.

“Our motto here is, ‘No couch potatoes.’ When you leave here you need to do something that promotes your own independence,” she stated.

In addition to failing in the traditional systems, many students with learning disabilities are bullied and have built up unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive.

“Kids come in like an onion…you have to peel away the layers to get to the heart of them,” explained Riti. “Once they get here, we see their shoulders drop, they open up. They realize they are in a safe place. Nobody is going to make fun of them because they learn differently. They realize that the real issue is not so much how they learn, but how they were being taught.”

GerriAnne Duke’s 17-year-old son, Robert, has been a student at De LaSalle since it opened.

“I’m no longer worried if Robert is in a safe environment, being ignored by his teacher or bullied by other students,” says Duke of her son’s experience at the school. “The safe and nurturing environment of De LaSalle Academy has been pivotal in helping Robert develop a passion for learning, a strong desire to work hard and confidence to simply be himself.”

The student body at De LaSalle is broken up into 12 homerooms. There are 20 full-time teachers and 4 full-time therapists to address the students’ occupational, speech and therapeutic needs. This gives families access to several trained professionals in one setting; not only alleviating the stress of having to find those resources on their own but also helping parents and teachers integrate and address the student’s specific needs inside the classroom.

Todd and Amy Genzlinger’s 16-year-old daughter, Maddy, has been enrolled at De LaSalle for four years. In her public school, Maddy was failing several subjects and being told she was learning as much as she was capable. However, with the specialized approach at De LaSalle, Maddy is thriving.

“She is not only on grade level for every class, she is reading at a 12th-grade level in 10th grade,” explained Amy Genzlinger. “De LaSalle recognized that Maddy was smart, but needed extra help and alternative learning strategies.”

Maddy’s dad, Todd, added, “It has given us hope for Maddy to have a bright, independent future. We know that she is in a school with teachers who know her and love her. They work closely with us on at-home strategies to help her academically as well as socially. We feel thrilled that she is in a place that challenges her and is helping with the life skills she will need as an adult.”

Maddy is on schedule to graduate with a standard diploma, and is even talking about college.

Many people are surprised to discover that students with learning disabilities can succeed in college, and don’t know that students with documented disabilities will continue to receive the support they need in college. De LaSalle prepares students by helping them be emotionally ready for the high stakes environment of college, and to equip them with the organizational and study skills necessary to succeed.

“If we can get those kind of nebulous skills nice and tight before they leave here, their learning disability will not keep them from achieving,” affirmed Riti.

Though De LaSalle is a private, nor-for-profit school, over one-third of the families enrolled are at or below the poverty level and their kids receive free or reduced lunch. About 85% of those enrolled qualify for McKay or Gardiner Scholarships from the state of Florida. Often, the school provides families with financial support for the remaining balance; annually, the school grants over $250,000 in scholarships.

Currently there are waiting lists for the elementary and middle school grades, with a few openings available for high school students.

Now that the school is established and running at almost full capacity, Riti’s next focus is making De LaSalle a resource for the community. She envisions a “lab setting” where public and private sector schools are educated in ways that help the whole community lift up these special kids so they can be independent adults.

“We want to sponsor a big educational conference once a year and next year will be the first. We will have an opportunity to educate teachers as well as students and adults with disabilities,” she noted. “Eventually, we want to provide therapeutic services, workshops to help public school teachers meet needs in their own classrooms, and other staff development programs.”

Autism numbers are up and getting higher every day; currently one in 70 children are born with some level of autism. That’s a big impact on our community. “We need to be ready for that,” Riti said.

De LaSalle is an important asset to the Fort Myers community; words can only convey so much. If you’d like to visit the school to get a true feel for what they are doing for these exceptional students and families, call Riti for a tour. There are many ways to partner with the school to help it advance its reach in the community. Visit the school online at www.delasallefm.org or call 239-245-8212.

 

Restaurants on the Daniels Corridor

by Susan Barnett

Between Metro Parkway and Gateway Boulevard there are over 25 individual or small local chain restaurants. Yvette and I met early this year and discussed how there are so few chain restaurants along the Daniels thoroughfare. Given we are easily accessible from I-75, one would think Daniels Parkway is a natural area to see more chain restaurants. Personally, I think we are lucky to have so many individual and mom-and-pop restaurants with great quality and variety. We have a lot of Italian, but also sprinkled in the mix are Thai, Korean/Japanese, Vietnamese, Greek/Italian, and Mexican.

Listed in this issue are the restaurants and their ratings from Trip Advisor and Yelp, and also a list of my top ten favorites. If you are not familiar with the Trip Advisor and Yelp apps, I highly recommend you download both on your phone and tablet. I use both all the time for local restaurants, and especially when traveling. Both apps give you an option to load your current location. I do find that Trip Advisor reviewers are a bit more sophisticated. Yelp tends to lean towards a younger crowd. There is one other restaurant app I like: Open Table. I use this app for reservations, but not all restaurants use this app. Open Table is particularly useful when you are in major cities.

We are working on a complete article for fall featuring restaurants in The Corridor. We welcome your feedback and recommendations. Feel free to email me some of your favorite Daniels Corridor restaurants and dishes at sbarnett@embarqmail.com.

Susan’s Top 10 Personal Picks & Suggestions

  1. Fat Katz: try the OMG Tuna Sandwich
  2. Origami: try the Bibimbap
  3. Norman Love Confections: for fresh daily desserts or pastries
  4. Shrimp Shack: any shrimp dish
  5. Thai Star: Pad Thai is a must
  6. Fresh Bagel: go for the bagels but stay for the lunch
  7. Nino’s: best pizza
  8. Da Vinci’s: new and cute with some Greek dishes
  9. Ft. Myers Brewery: food trucks on site every Thursday
  10. Nemo’s at HeadPinz: best Happy Hour

Yelp Top 10 Restaurants on the Daniels Corridor

NOTE: These are listed in order of popularity from Susan’s location in Eagle Ridge.

  • Fancy’s Southern Café
  • 3 Pepper Burrito
  • Origami
  • Fat Katz
  • Trattoria Mia
  • Metro Deli and Café
  • Potts Sport Café
  • Two Meatballs in the Kitchen
  • Fresh Bagels and More
  • La Grotta

Trip Advisor Rankings of Daniels Restaurants

NOTE: Trip Advisor ranks the entire Fort Myers area; the ratings below are out of 850 restaurants and may change day to day; these rankings were compiled mid-February.

  • Fancy’s Southern Café, #23
  • Fat Katz, #26
  • Two Meatballs in the Kitchen, #28
  • Shrimp Shack, #31
  • Origami Restaurant, #63
  • Trattoria Mia, #66
  • Rock’n Sushi and Asian Bistro, #81
  • Stevie Tomato’s Sportspage, #85
  • La Grotta Italian Grill, #87
  • Norman Love Confections, #94
  • European American Bakery, #148
  • Thai Star, #154
  • Artisian Gelato, #159
  • Nino’s Italian Restaurant, #175
  • Pizza D-Lux, #176
  • Fine Folk Pizza, #179
  • Casa Lupita Café, #208
  • Potts Sports Café, #262
  • Da Vinci’s, #321
  • Rib City, #332
  • Patinellas Chicken Grill, #340
  • Boulevard Deli, #456
  • Metro Deli & Café, #458
  • 3 Pepper Burrito, #545
  • Pho Plus 2, #640
  • Ft. Myers Brewing Co., no rating
  • Nemo’s at HeadPinz, no rating

Susan Barnett is a food industry veteran who graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics. A self-proclaimed “foodie”, Susan’s philosophy is: “It’s all about the food!” Contact her with your food questions at sbarnett@embarqmail.com.

Dining in the Dark

A Farm to Table Country Affair

Lighthouse of SWFL and Mike Greenwell’s 31 Produce invite you to a fun and unique dining experience. The 7th annual Dining in the Dark fundraising event will be held on Saturday, April 1. Attendees will enjoy a Country Corral complete with carnival games and carriage rides with Clydesdale horses. Bid on travel packages and experiences during the live and silent auctions while enjoying an evening under the stars. The main event will feature down home cookin’ prepared by local celeb and former Red Sox left-fielder Mike Greenwell at his 31 Produce farm. By wearing a blindfold while dining, the goal is to heighten your other senses, experience great food without the help of sight, and bring awareness to daily life for individuals living with blindness or vision impairment.

Since 2010, “Dining in the Dark” has raised over $296,000 for programs and services for babies, children, teens, adults, and seniors living with blindness and vision impairment.

Tickets are $75 per person or $500 for a table of eight. Order online at dininginthedarkswfl.com, call 239-997-7797 or email info@lighthouseswfl.org.

 

Soups and Stews…Comfort by the Spoonful

Eagle Ridge Author Releases Second Cookbook

Soups and Stews…Comfort by the Spoonful is all about creating great soups and stews for you, your family, and guests. It has sections on Chicken, Beef, Fish and Vegetable soups and stews. With 220 pages, 260 recipes, and over 470 colored photos, Soups and Stews…Comfort by the Spoonful is a great addition to any kitchen cookbook line-up. The book also includes a section on International Flair and on cooking with crock pots and slow cookers.

“Do you know what to do with that roasted chicken leftover? I give many recipes for that. How about what to do with a beef roast? I offer many beef stews and ideas,” says Connie. “I even include tips on how to remove the paper skin from garlic, and tips on the different types and tastes of onions.”

The cookbook includes an in depth index and an appendix with information on spices and going green in your kitchen, and grades the recipes’ difficulty with hats: one hat is easy, two hats has more ingredients, and three hats takes a little more time to prepare.

Soups and Stews…Comfort by the Spoonful is $20 plus $5 for shipping; order directly from Connie Hope. Email conniehope4@gmail.com or visit www.CookingbyConnie.com.

DIG IN: Companion Planting

by Adrienne Diaz

An easy way to make efficient use of your growing space and attract beneficial insects

When I hear the term companion planting I always think of my loyal garden buddy, Daisy. She is a little rescued black and white Shih Tzu that loves to accompany me in the garden. Other companions we have out in the backyard are frogs, lizards, butterflies, all sorts of birds, and our newest friend, a little Florida box turtle. From time to time we even have other people join us, neighbors or beginning gardeners, as my little garden oasis is always open for visitors!

However, the term companion planting really refers to the practice of planting different plants together with the specific purpose of increasing pest control, pollination, and plant productivity. While not supported by research, numerous examples of companion planting can be found in many ancient cultures as well as in many current garden communities. As an example, companion planting was practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas with the planting of corn (maize), pole beans and squash together in the Three Sisters technique. It was widely used in Home Gardens in Asia, and in Cottage Gardens in England. And companion planting is currently enthusiastically promoted in the organic gardening movement and is especially popular in permaculture.

How does companion planting work?

Companions help each other grow. Tall plants, for example, provide shade for sun-sensitive, shorter plants.

Companions use garden space efficiently. Vining plants cover the ground, upright plants grow up. Two plants in one patch.

Companions prevent pest problems. Plants like onions repel some pests. Other plants can lure pests away from more desirable plants.

Companions attract beneficial insects. Every successful garden needs plants that attract the predators of pests.

Winning combinations you can use in your edible garden:

Roses and Chives: Gardeners have been planting garlic with roses for eons, because garlic is said to repel rose pests. Try garlic chives, their small purple or white flowers look great with rose flowers and foliage.

Cabbage and Dill: Dill is a great companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The cabbages support the floppy dill while the dill attracts the tiny beneficial wasps that control cabbageworms and other cabbage pests.

Radishes and Spinach: Planting radishes among your spinach will draw leafminers away from the spinach. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn’t prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.

Cauliflower and Dwarf Zinnias: The nectar from the dwarf zinnias attracts ladybugs and other predators that help protect cauliflower.

Marigolds and Melons: Certain marigold varieties control nematodes in the roots of melon as effectively as chemical treatments.

Tomatoes, Carrots and Basil: Carrots share space well with tomatoes. The carrots can be planted when the tomato plant is still quite small and can be happily growing and ready to harvest by the time the tomato plants take over the space. Basil helps tomatoes overcome both insects and disease and also is reported to improve growth and flavor.

Adrienne Diaz is a Certified Square Foot Garden Instructor, a Lee County Master Gardener and the Project Director of the Six Mile Charter Academy School Garden. She grows numerous fruits, vegetables and herbs year round. She offers free workshops & classes monthly, gives garden tours and can speak to your group. Contact her on Facebook at Miss Potters Place, apdwith5@gmail.com, or 239-464-5754.

 

Other Green News:

Butterfly Gardening at the Slough

Take advantage of a free opportunity to learn the basics of butterfly gardening from a Master Gardener at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in the Rock and Stroll Garden at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. This program includes a casual tour of a butterfly garden composed of native host and nectar plants for Southwest Florida butterflies. Come prepared with questions about creating or maintaining a butterfly garden to get the most out of this free program.

Upcoming dates include March 14 and April 11. Parking is $1 per hour. Carpooling is encouraged. Meet at 10 a.m. in the Rock and Stroll Garden in the center of the parking lot. Learn more at LeeParks.org.

Letter Carrier Food Drive

Seasonal Residents Urged To Leave Food for Annual Letter Carrier Food Drive

Summer is coming, school will be out, and the need for food assistance will be greater than ever. Letter carriers are gearing up for the 25th annual national letter carrier food drive. Food collected will be distributed to feed needy families in the area.

The nation’s largest single-day food drive, “Stamp Out Hunger,” will be held on Saturday, May 13. This is the one-day when letter carriers collect non-perishable food that has been left by mailboxes. To date, 1.5 billion pounds of food has been collected on the previous food drives.

Northerners and seasonal residents who are returning home prior to May 13 are encouraged to check their pantries for unopened food items; they may drop off their contributions at any Post Office.

Businesses can set up collection boxes for employees and customers who may not be able to leave food by their mailboxes on May 13. Virtually any kind of food may be donated in unopened, nonbreakable containers. Items especially in need are peanut butter, tuna, rice, beans, and canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and soups.

Additional information about the letter carrier food drive and early food drop-off may be obtained by contacting George Sciascia, Letter Carriers’ Food Drive coordinator, at gsciascia@comcast.net, phone 239-218-1147.