Ed Chiles’ Heritage Seafood Project aims to educate, entice diners



Restaurateur Ed Chiles, next to a wine wall featuring Lola wines inside the renovated dining room of the

Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island.PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton HeraldPVIDELA@BRADENTON.COM

ANNA MARIA — Ed Chiles has a certain Zen when it comes to speaking about mullet and locally caught seafood.

"It is who we are. It’s how this area was started. The economy of Manatee County, back into its earliest days, was anchored in two things: agriculture and seafood," Chiles said.

He knows tourists, especially Europeans, crave his dishes, but finding a way for the locals’ taste buds to savor the flavor of the local gray-stripe mullet or having red snapper collar prepared like fried chicken is more challenging. It’s all about honoring what the sea gives you, he said.

"We’re working on a project that we kind of loosely termed the Heritage Seafood Project. That’s about taking our native heritage products and utilizing them and educating people about them. Mullet is kind of the example," Chiles said, and other Gulf of Mexico catches help support the mullet’s role.

The behind-the-scenes process doesn’t sound appetizing at first when you understand what’s used are parts of the fish restaurants typically decide not to use. It’s not because it’s bad meat — chefs haven’t figured out how to make something appealing out of it until now.

"We’re making it work and it’s fun. We’re taking and doing babyback ribs, if you will, of big swordfish and big tuna instead of throwing that away," Chiles said. "The ribs above that dorsal line, when they cut those filets off, there’s still a lot of meat left on there. The closer to bone, the better the meat. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use these proportions we’re throwing away for 34 years. It amazes me that I haven’t figured it out until now, but we’re figuring it out.

"At the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, diners will see a rotation on the featured dinner menu of swordfish ribs, tuna ribs and then snapper collars on the featured lunch menu. If Chiles is at the restaurant, he’ll be sure to talk up the new creations, and even offer to buy it if the customer doesn’t like it.

"We say look, the skin on the snapper is really good. So you scale it and when you fry it, it’s crispy, and you eat it exactly like you would a fried chicken breast. You don’t eat the bone when you eat a fried chicken breast. And the bone in the collar is scapula-like. It’s not pin bones, so when you’re done, you have less than probably 3 or 4 percent of the weight of the collar left in those bones," he said.

"You just pull all these pockets of meat off, more like a chicken than eating a crab where it’s cavities instead of pockets, and it’s fabulous.

"Maybe no fish needs an image makeover more than the mullet — the top Cortez export. To Chiles, the reason locals might not like the usually greasy fish is it’s not prepared right. He’s leading the way to serve the Gulf’s gray-striped mullet with new recipes: smoked, fried, grilled and blackened.

Filleting the mullet so it’s not bony when served is what you’ll find under Chiles’ direction, and the meat from the belly is almost like a foie gras, said Ted LaRoche, one of Chiles’ business partners.

LaRoche believes Cortez and Manatee has the opportunity to be like the lobster fisherman in New England, where his grandparents hailed from, having to advocate and support the local delicacy enough to make it en vogue.

It’s all perception, LaRoche said. To him, mullet is nothing more than a saltwater version of catfish.

"I think it’s just a question of presenting it to people in an attractive package instead of wrapping it in a newspaper at a yard sale," he said.

Overseas visitors are more likely to grab hold of the mullet now.

"Europeans get it immediately, and more and more people are getting it. Once they have it then they’re coming back because it’s wild, sustainable, native, fresh fish," said Chiles of sandy bottom mullet.

"It’s very good for you. It’s very high in Omega-3, and it’s one of the highest fat content of any fish, and it’s right behind sardines.

"Chiles recently had a chance to show off the mullet to a captive American audience. County Commissioner and Port Authority chairwoman Carol Whitmore decided to take out a group of Port Manatee officials celebrating a deal with Pasha Automotive Group from California.

He went through his selections and evangelized for the mullet. It’s something that still sits with Matty Appice, director of international sales for Port Manatee, who is planning a return visit.

To Appice, mullet was nothing more than a bait fish and he wasn’t sure how this was going to go down, but he and his fellow diners couldn’t stop talking about the taste and preparation of the fish.

"I really like salmon and, if I didn’t know any better, I thought I really was eating salmon," Appice said.

Whatever is leftover from the night will be trucked to Gamble Creek Farm, where Chiles is leasing farmland to grow organic vegetables for his restaurants and for wholesale. He plans to include the fish in compost buried 18 inches below the surface for crops to continue the cycle.

The money in mullet is especially in the female’s roe. Anna Maria native Seth Cripe started Anna Maria Fish Co. in 2007 where more than 1,500 pounds of Cortez bottarga is made from salt-curing and sun-drying roe sacs. The company is the first in the United States to be certified to process bottarga. Chiles came on board as a business partner.

Bottarga is the seafood equivalent of prosciutto, used for garnishing and dressing salads and foods in the way it’s sliced from umber meat.

It’s big business for overseas companies that buy the roe from Cortez area fishermen for $6 to $15 a pound, freeze it, process the roe into bottarga and resell it for more than $100 a pound.

"We have allowed somebody else to reap the benefits of our precious natural resource, which is the mullet roe. No. 1 export in the oldest continual fishing village in state of Florida by far is the eggs from the female gray-stripe mullet. Hundreds of thousands of pounds go out as export," Chiles said.

The Cortez bottarga has received attention on the "Today" show and the New York Times and is in the kitchen of Caragiulos in Sarasota in addition to Chiles’ restaurants, but remains a tough sell.

The operation is expected to kick up again when peak mullet season comes in November, and by Nov. 15, the Anna Maria Fish Co. should be curing mullet roe inside a kitchen at Gamble Creek Farm.

In the restaurant business, every ounce counts toward the bottom line, so why not take the effort while supporting the mullet?

"It helps me utilize more product and be more efficient, and this is a business of pennies, so it all makes sense," Chiles said. "It’s a beautiful piece of fish, why throw it away? Why not honor the fish? This is wild, sustainable fish. This is as good as it gets."

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cortez institution expands focus on state’s maritime history


By VIN MANNIX — vmannix@bradenton.com

John Beale files down paneling in the Florida Maritime Museum foyer. VIN MANNIX/Bradenton Herald

CORTEZ Up front, John Beale filed down the edges of wooden paneling along the foyer wall. Inside, Kevin Miner painted the finishing touches on a large mural of an old fishing village. Nearby, ladders remained around the main viewing area for more nautical artifacts to be hung.

Saturday’s reopening of the Florida Maritime Museum is mere days away, and Amara Nash was filled with anticipation as she walked around, checking off a mental to-do list.

"I’m eager to see what the public thinks," the museum supervisor said. "I have my fingers crossed for approval.

"Closed a month for renovations, the museum’s displays have been amplified to combine new exhibits with the old, enhancing the focus on the state’s maritime history and Cortez’s role in it.

Somehow the staff did it on a $1,500 budget.

"We did a lot of labor ourselves, painting and scraping, pulling things out of storage and rearranging stuff," Nash said.

Several new additions are geared toward the young, including:• The Samson Post, an interactive exhibit dedicated to lifelong Cortezian Sam Bell. It encompasses the roomwide seaside mural with an interactive area, where youngsters can navigate, raise and lower sails and load crates in a fish house.• A video game for children to pretend they are Cuban fishermen, plying their trade along Florida’s southwest coast in the 18th century.

Another new exhibit for the historically minded features a large depiction of 1920 Florida bearing the legend: The History of Florida’s Fishing Villages.

Railroad lines crisscross the peninsula like stitching connecting depots from Pensacola to Key West, with destinations from Mobile to Savannah.

Icons of fishing boats dot Florida’s shoreline signifying fishing villages that date back to the 1800s from Boca Grande to Cortez to Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic from Fernandina Beach to Sebastian.

“These are all the fishing villages in Florida when they were active, the progression of the settlements and the rail lines," said Beale, a staffer. "You really get a sense of how important it was.

"Still is for Cortez, whose proud presence permeates the place like the museum’s old cypress aroma.

To wit:

• A photo display of Cortez families — i.e., Bell, Culbreath, Fulford and Green — whose roots are intertwined with its 130-year history.

• An aerial photo of the fishing village in 1947.

• A photo essay of the 1921 hurricane.

• A collection of crustaceans, shells and sponges from deceased fisherman Blake Banks.

• A pole skiff boat donated by the late Alcee Taylor, the "unofficial" mayor of Cortez, whose nearby picture is framed by a boat hatch. "Alcee always wanted it over there," his widow, Plum, said of the museum. "It reflects who we are.

"Encouraging words for Nash as Saturday’s reopening nears.

"This is their history. This is close to home. They built this place," she said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/10/03/4752491/cortez-institution-expands-focus.html#storylink=cpy

Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 8:21 am  Comments (1)  

State sets hearing on Cortez Bridge



CORTEZ – While the seabirds glide over the roadway of the 56-year-old Cortez Bridge, engineers at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are studying whether to rebuild the venerable structure or replace it.

FDOT released an informational update recently on the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study the state is conducting. As that study continues, FDOT engineers are identifying the number and types of repairs and the cost of rehabilitating the bridge. They will soon begin evaluating the condition of the bridge deck, pilings, railings, piers and mechanical elements and how much corrosion has occurred. They are also trying to determine the repairs needed to avoid having to post a vehicle weight limit on the bridge.

Engineers are developing bridge replacement alternatives, including the cost and impact on the surrounding communities. They are looking at bridge heights and the alignment of the bridge as it lands on both sides. They are also collecting information about the environment surrounding the bridge. Divers have been in the water surveying sea grasses within project limits.

FDOT has released results of surveys turned in by the public prior to the initial public meeting this past spring. Nearly 850 replies were received. Fifty-one percent of the respondents favor rehabilitation of the bridge and 43 percent favor replacement. Of those wanting replacement, 38 percent favor a high, fixed-span bridge; 19 percent want a mid-level drawbridge; 33 percent prefer a low-level drawbridge; and four percent favor another option.

FDOT officials will hold a public workshop early next year to present bridge replacement alternatives, the rehabilitation alternative and the no-build option. Officials will conduct a formal public hearing next summer to present a recommended alternative and the no-build alternative.

FDOT will determine the recommended alternative with input from local elected officials, residents, users and other agencies. The Federal Highway Administration will need to approve the decision.

For more information, call Tony Sherrard, of FDOT, at 863-519-2304

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Homespun “Monroe Cottage” to become Cortez cultural center


By SARA KENNEDY — skennedy

The historic Monroe Cottage, built in 1946, is to be transformed into a cultural center.

GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

CORTEZ — A tiny Florida Cracker-style beach cottage dating from 1946 is finally ready to be transformed into a local cultural center in Cortez. The Manatee County Commission on Sept. 10 approved $5,000 to pay permit fees and other governmental charges related to relocation of the cottage, which has helped the project move forward after a temporary halt.

"We’re grateful for it," said Mary Fulford Green, treasurer of the Cortez Village Historical Society, referring to the county’s contribution. "It was our turn."

Four years ago, the homespun Monroe Cottage, which for decades graced Bradenton Beach, was moved to Cortez.

Its restoration, however, waited while the historical society raised money and planned a re-do, said Green.

The county’s contribution will be used to pay permit fees and governmental costs the society must cover in order to place the cottage on a new site, and install electrical service, said Green. About $15,000 collected during fundraisers will help pay for its restoration, she said.

She hoped a grand opening of the cultural center could take place in February, when Cortez holds its annual fishing festival.

Ohio native Basil Monroe, a plasterer, built the cottage from remnants of a military barracks at 304 Church St., according to information provided by his granddaughter, Alice Baker, in an essay dated 2006.Monroe became a local celebrity after catching a 400-pound fish from a pier with a rope and hook, Baker wrote.

"He lived the good life in the cottage in Bradenton Beach," she added.

Monroe died in 1954, leaving the cottage to his three sons and his widow, and it remained in the family through the 1990s, Baker wrote.

Finally, it was acquired by Bradenton Beach officials in order to preserve it, and because it was near public buildings that needed more space, said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a former mayor of Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach officials later gave the cottage to the historical society, and in 2009 it was moved from Bradenton Beach to Cortez.

Since then, officials from the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage have provided land under a leasing arrangement for a permanent site off Cortez Road at 117th Street West, Green said.

Exhibits planned for the cultural center will focus on family life and the contributions of local veterans, she said. The cottage’s age and architecture give it historical value, said Cathy Slusser, director of historical resources for R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller, Manatee County Historical Records Library.

"It was the typical Florida Cracker-style construction," she said. "It’s typical of a kind of fish camp

."Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031

Published in: on September 15, 2013 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  

This Ought to Win a Medal

From the Tampa Morning Tribune – October 21, 1932

Oct 21 1932

Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Museum Closed, but not Forever

Florida Maritime Museum: History * Education * Community
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The Museum is now Closed!
The Florida Maritime Museum will be closed for the month of September. Our grand reopening will be held on Saturday, October 5th. Come check out the changes and join in the festivities!
After October 5th, the museum will be open its usual hours. Come visit us Tuesday – Saturday between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.
Calling All Hands: If you would like to be a part of this exciting process, we will need help sanding, scraping, painting and moving some of the exhibit pieces and museum interior. Please contact us at 941-708-6120 to learn more and to find out how you can help as we set our course to the future!
Registration still Open for Paddleboard Building Class:
The Lanui is a 12 foot 9 inch stand up paddleboard, with a canvas skin over a wood frame. The class takes place at the Florida Maritime Museum over two consecutive weekends. (9am-4pm) Nov 2,3,9,10. The $500 class fee includes a paddle up to 8ft in length and white paint for the base coat and waterproofing. $250 deposit due at registration. Fees are per board, and teams of 2-5 people per board are ideal. Registration deadline has been moved to Oct 5th, but hurry because space is limited!
Save the Date!
The Florida Maritime Museum will be having a Boatyard Bash on Saturday, November 9. Come out to the historic Cortez Schoolhouse for a day of live music, boats, a movie, and fun for all! There will also be an Ice Cream Eating Contest sponsored by Tyler’s Ice Cream. (Contact Tyler’s to sign up 941.794.5333)
Space is filling up, but musicians, vendors, and volunteers are still wanted!
The Art of Valor:
We’ll be accepting submissions for our upcoming juried art show until Sunday, December 1. All veterans with a passion for art are encouraged to participate! If you or someone you know is interested in sharing their work, contact the Florida Maritime Museum at 941-708-6120 or ask for a submission form during your next visit.

This exhibit will be presented in partnership with the Legacy of Valor campaign. For more information, please visit FreedomPassItOn.org or check them out on facebook.

Community Bulletin:
We want to hear what you’re up to! Send short listings that you’d like to see in this newsletter and we’ll do our best to spread the word. (No guarantees, though, as space is limited.) Please include pertinent dates and contact information. Email Amara
Published in: on September 5, 2013 at 7:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Albert “Junie” Mora Jr.

Albert “Junie/Badge” Mora Jr. – 83, Bradenton, died August 29, 2013. Born in Cortez, FL he was a lifelong resident of Manatee County and was a Veteran of the US Army during the Korean War.

Survived by wife of 58 years, Judy of Bradenton, FL; sons, Scott, Mark and Tracy (Becky) all of Bradenton, FL; brother, Virgil of NC; sisters, Leatrice Eaton of NC and Nola Jewel of Ocala, FL; 4 grandchildren; 4 great grandchildren.

Visitation 5:00-8:00PM Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 43rd Street Chapel, 604 43rd Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209.

Memorial donations made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718. Condolences to http://www.brownandsonsfuneral.com.

Published in: on September 3, 2013 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

The Cortezian

Attached is the September issue of The Cortezian.

Coming up in Cortez:

Stone Crab Festival October 26-27, 2013

The second festival is scheduled for the property at end of 119th street. There will be special events and great food featuring Stone Crabs. Be sure to look for the CVHS Tent and for J.B.’s new book ”Nathan the Young Stone Crabber.”

Boatyard Bash November 9, 2913

On the grounds of the Maritime Museum offers many new activities and fun for all.

CVHS Membership Drive is on! – Please mail in your dues. If you are not a member now is the time to join CVHS.


The Cortezian 092013.pdf

Cortez Village Historical Society
PO BOX 663
Cortez, FL 34215
Web: www.cortezvillage.org
Blog: www.cortezvillage.wordpress.com

Published in: on August 27, 2013 at 8:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Most Unforgettable Villages in North America


Cortez, Florida Population: 4,491

This Manatee County fishing village comes with a side of historical local lore. Claiming to be the oldest remaining fishing village in Florida, Cortez dates back to the late 1800s, and many of its current inhabitants are descendants of original residents. Today, commercial fishermen in the village still make their livings catching fish, crab, and shellfish in Sarasota Bay’s blue-green waters. Learn more about the area’s proud history by visiting Cortez’s Florida Maritime Museum, which displays historic vessels, houses a research library, and even runs boat-building programs.

Local Eats: Star Fish Company takes a laid-back attitude toward eating, so don’t worry about peeling off those sandy clothes or changing out of your flip-flops before entering. Picnic tables right on the water provide casual seating to enjoy the day’s catch.


The website SmarterTravel.com, in a travel feature, listed Cortez Village as one of its “Most Unforgettable Villages in North America.”

In its comments about Cortez, the website says the fishing village in Manatee County “comes with a side of historical local lore. Claiming to be the oldest remaining fishing village in Florida, Cortez dates back to the late 1800s, and many of its current inhabitants are descendants of early settlers from North Carolina.

“Today, commercial fishermen in the village still make their livings catching fish and crabs in Sarasota Bay’s blue-green waters.”

The website says visitors can learn more about the area’s history by visiting the Florida Maritime Museum, which “displays historic vessels, houses a research library, and even runs boat-building programs.”

The website also lists several restaurants in Cortez that offer fresh-caught local seafood.

Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co. and the Star Fish Co. Market & Restaurant in Cortez, said she was surprised to learn of the ranking.

Bell, whose family roots go back to the early settlers, said she was pleased the village has been recognized.

“I was surprised and shocked. It’s quite an honor to be recognized as one of the great villages in North America,” Bell said.

“We’re glad to share our history with others who come to visit,” she said.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Deb Meihls said she found the ranking to be “wonderful and exciting.”

This confirms what we already knew, “what a special place Cortez is,” Meihls said.

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Regina Makes First Run

The Regina, which in 1940 wrecked on the beach of Anna Maria Island, made it’s first run with Cuban Molasses 108 years ago this week. In fact it was the first Cuban ship to deliver a load of Molasses to the US.

When the Regina ran aground in 1940 many Cortez residents played a part in saving the crew who were trapped aboard the sinking ship.  The Regina shipwreck is now a Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve.


This article is from the Philadelphia Record, dated July 9, 1905.

The Philadelphia Record - Jul 9 1905

The Philadelphia Record – Jul 9 1905

Published in: on July 13, 2013 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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