13 Gypsies – Jacksonville, Florida


With a heritage firmly rooted in Spain and dating back more than 35 years, 13 Gypsies strives to bring you a taste of true mediterranean flavors. As many restaurants push food innovation, 13 Gypsies proudly work and strive to preserve traditional recipes and flavors before they are lost. Staying true to his roots, Chef Howard runs his kitchen with a passion for the simple and elegant food of the old world – passing on his love and passion to young new cooks.

887 Stockton Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32204

Land – 904.389.0330

Fax – 904.389.0220




Kaiseki-Ryori (会席料理)

Kaiseki-Ryori (会席料理)

Prepared by specialized restaurants and also served at dinner in ryokan (traditional inns), kaiseki typically features between 10 to 12 dishes enjoyed over the course of a couple of hours. From the traditional teahouse-like interiors to the kimono-clad staff and the tranquil atmosphere, it’s a deeply Japanese experience before you even begin to eat. While the course progression and dishes will vary, the focus on seasonal ingredients is always paramount. Dishes appear like works of art and delicately garnished with seasonal motifs like a cherry blossom bud in spring.

At the heart of kaiseki dining is the Japanese principle of shun, or taking ingredients at the peak of their freshness. Dishes are presented simply, without artifice. This is done not only to ensure that the true flavor of each ingredient be expressed, but also to properly display each and every one and the height of their natural beauty, thus creating the perfect synergy between cuisine and artistic expression.

Kaiseki-Ryori is the most refined form of Japanese cuisine, and as such requires the highest etiquette. It is important to observe a few basic formalities:

Show Respect —> Before the meal, be sure to say “itadakimasu” to show respect to the chef, the restaurant staff, and the wonderful bounty itself.

Use Chopsticks Properly —> Chopsticks should not be used to poke or cut food into smaller bites. When not using them, place chopsticks back on the hashi-oki, or chopstick rest, provided rather than placing them across the top of a bowl or sticking them into a dish.

End of the meal —> At the end of the meal, remember to thank the chef and restaurant staff with the common phrase, “Gochiso-sama deshita,” which essentially means, “It was a feast.


Kaiseki-ryori menus often begin with the sakizuke course – a small appetiser or amuse-bouche.


This light, clear soup, presented with minimal garnishes, is served as a refreshing palate-cleanser.


The most attractive and artistic of all kaiseki-ryori components, the hassun is a seasonal platter of four or five hors d’oeuvres.


The otsukuri course is comprised of a selection of sashimi, which varies by season and by region.


A lightly simmered vegetable dish served with fish, meat, or tofu.


A grilled dish that showcases seasonal fish (either fresh-water or from the sea) or meat such as local wagyu (beef).


A deep-fried dish, often featuring tempura and served with a dipping sauce or salt seasoning.


This steamed dish can contain fish, chicken or vegetables, and may also include a savoury custard.


The sunomono course is a small vinegar-based dish designed to cleanse the palate. It usually features vegetables or seafood.


A trio of dishes – rice, miso soup and pickles – that are served together towards the end of the meal.


The meal concludes with a dessert, such as seasonal fruit, ice cream or a traditional sweet.

Japanese Table Manners 101

Before you begin eating, say “itadakimasu.”

As a rule, Japanese always say “itadakimasu” before they eat. It literally means “I partake.” There are many stories behind it, but it is considered to be a way of expressing gratitude to the chef, the people who grew/raised the ingredients that make up the meal, and the ingredients themselves since everything on one’s plate was once alive. 

If the chopsticks are disposable chopsticks break the chopsticks by pulling them apart vertically.

Proper etiquette states that the chopsticks should be held horizontally, and pulled apart vertically over your knees.  Do not pull your chopsticks apart horizontally.

If there isn’t a chopstick rest, make one with the paper your chopsticks came in.

Since it is rude to place your chopsticks over your bowls when you’re not using them, if there isn’t a chopstick rest, please make one using the paper sheath. 

When you’re eating rice, hold your rice bowl in front of you in the opposite hand you use for chopsticks.

When you eat rice, make sure to lift your bowl in front of you. Not lifting your bowl is considered poor etiquette.  The same rules apply to soup bowls.

Clean your plate.

Most places in Japan will not let you take food home for hygienic reasons, so please clean your plate.

When you finish eating, put your disposable chopsticks back in the paper and fold the end. After meals, please say “gochisousama deshita.”

“Gochisousama deshita” literally means “I feasted.” It derives from the word “chisou” which means “feast,” and is written with two characters that mean “to run,” it implies that the meal was created as the result of many people running around and working together. “Go” and “sama” are honorifics that take the phrase to politer level that implies thanks to the many people that came together to create this meal.

Many people say “itadakimasu” and “gochisousama deshita” with their hands put together as though in prayer, it’s not required and is often a regional behavior.

If at a restaurant saying “gochisousama deshita” to the staff when you exit is considered to be good manners as well.

Nodaiwa: Unagi Restaurant


Nodaiwa is a traditional unagi restaurant (grilled freshwater eel) established during the late 18th century in Tokyo. This michelin-star restaurant has 4 locations in Tokyo and one in Paris. Its main location is in Azabu, near Tokyo Tower. The 5th generation chef, KANEMOTO Kanejiro, is running the restaurant.

The building in Kamiyacho is an old style kura (storehouse) brought to Tokyo from Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. the restaurant stands out juxtaposed to the tall office buildings around it. The shop in Azabu dates from the 1970s, but the history of the restaurant goes back 200 years with the first chef opening a restaurant called “Nodaya” in Azabu during the Kansei years (1789-1801). Many articles throw around the year 1850 around as the year of establishment.  The Japanese articles just state late Edo period (1603-1868) or the Kansei years (1789-1801).

Le Bistrot Paul Bert (18 rue Paul Bert, 75011)

Le Bistrot Paul Bert (18 rue Paul Bert, 75011)

Opening the year I was living in Paris and was literally a few blocks from where I lived. I dined there a few times and obviously didn’t fully appreciate and realize how good of a bistro I had almost literally in my backyard. Now considered by many to be the very best bistro in Paris.

“You’ll hear plenty of English and French in the dining room because everyone—local and foreign—loves the place for its time-honored classicism.”
~ Alice Waters

“Although it opened in 2000, it has the feel of a place that’s been around forever. The wonderful steak is served with Cognac and peppercorns, or you can get a single fried egg with truffles.”
~ Dorie Greenspan

“You’d think it would be easy to create a ‘new’ classic bistro in Paris, but no one’s done it as well as Bertrand Auboyneau, who makes it look effortless.”
~ Patricia Wells

Palm Valley Fish Camp: An Afternoon Lunch (Ponte Vedra, Florida)

Originally published in 2013:

Recently I stopped by for lunch after being out shooting some photos, my other passion.  I was immediately greeted with a smile and an eager server.  I was asked if I’d prefer to sit at the bar or a table.  I don’t sit at the bar often these days after my liver transplant, as it brings back memories of a time in my life I have put into the past.  I chose a booth with the sun nicely warming my side of the booth.  I read down the daily specials board as my waitress went to get me my soda.  My plan had been to order an appetizer as I didn’t feel I was starving.  I was quickly drawn to the fried green tomatoes and maybe a side of their bacon butter beans which I love.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Bacon Butter Beans

Ready to order the waitress returned with my soda and offered to explain the specials.  I agreed even though I was certain I knew what I was going to have.  I smiled and said, “I’ll have the cod special.”  She had sold me on the roasted cod knowing I could have the fried green tomatoes and butter beans anytime.  I realized this would be my first time here not having the bacon butter beans in nearly a year.  I love them that much.  I waited and watched the interactions of the staff as they took orders, filled drink orders, interacted with the cooks and delivered each meticulously designed plate.

Specials Board

Soon my meal arrived, roasted cod with black-eyed pea succotash, and squash puree all resting on a fried green tomato.  I instantly knew I had ordered the right meal today.  There was a voice in the back of my mind screaming out for a side of butter beans, but I ignored it on this occasion.  It is rare when I am at Palm Valley Fish Camp that I will order anything that is not a local wild sustainable fish, but the cod was very fresh and flown in from the west coast.  The cod was lightly roasted with just a bit of color and flaked off easily so you could see how moist it was.  One of the things that keeps me returning over and over again is that they hardly ever overcook a piece of fish.  It sounds easy, but I’ve lost count at how many seafood restaurants server a dry tasteless and thoroughly unsatisfying fish fillet.

Roasted Cod

The cod had a nice salt balance which was perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the fresh corn and black-eyed pea succotash.  My first bite was of the fish alone.  It was very pleasant, but did not blow me away.  When eaten with the succotash the flavors melded into a delightful light tasting lunch.  The squash puree was richly sweet and left me perfectly wanting more.  Then there was the thick sliced fried green tomato upon which the cod rested.  It was nicely crisp and hot inside with just the right amount of breading.  The tang of the tomato was a nice counterbalance to the lightly roasted cod.  After all the fried green tomatoes was what I had planned to order the whole time anyway.  I was very pleased that my waitress had enticed me with her suggestion of the special today.  I would go away with only a slight yearning for their bacon butter beans, but I’ll be back and quite soon I am sure.  It was a great lunch for only $16.00 with the soda.  As I left I made reservations for the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I wonder if I’ll make it the two weeks between visits.  I know those bacon butter beans will be calling me to return sooner…