Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fab Finds; Desserts, Diners and Dining in style

There is a sweet new addition to the shops and restaurants in downtown Fort Myers. This week Irresistible Confections owner, Justin Shafer, finally opened the doors to his new Broadway Factory.

Besides the beautiful treats on the right, Broadway Factory serves up old favorites like haystacks and chocolate covered pretzels. Next week he will be adding adult beverages to the line up, as chocolate and champagne make for one heck of a happy combo.

There is also a yogurt wall with more than half a dozen self serve flavors. The do it yourself toppings bar has an abundance of sweet and crunchy toppings as well as syrups. You pay by weight. I was trapped inside by a raging thunderstorm, it was delightful torture.

Doing research for a story I'm working on about breakfast spots in the area, I ventured to a new place (at least for me) in Cape Coral called Jill's Joint.

The diner is not easy to find, sitting behind the tall fences of an industrial park. I felt like I was somewhere I wasn't suppose to be, especially for food.  Several blue collared workers sat at the small counter, a salesman with his computer at a small table, a cop in the corner reading the paper and now me, in my high heels and Black House White Market dress.

Everyone was minding their own business until I showed up. I polled the crowd on what to order, announcing it was my first time, as if it wasn't obvious. I was given a styrofoam cup for my coffee that was more suited for a soda, and helped myself at the drink bar. Have I ever mentioned that I hate styrofoam?

With the help of the very nice staff, I decided on the Strangled Eggs Supreme. It's described as a gastronomical adventure on the menu and I'm always up for one of those. A mash of meats, cheeses, veggies and home fries; covered in sausage gravy and topped with two eggs; I could not conquer the breakfast beast but gave it a good try.

Perhaps the best Fab Find for me this week was in Naples; it was two-fold. One of my favorite wine reps invited me to have lunch with her at Mereday's, where we were to taste wines with National Sales Manager Edd Lopez from Whitehall Lane.

When I walked in the door and spotted chef, I had a moment of confusion. I first met Charles Mereday when he was hired as Executive Chef at Southseas Resort on Captiva Island. Now he has his own spot in Naples and it is beautiful.

The Salmon Tartare with olives, capers and shallots was fantastic with the Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was crisp, the acid moderate; it was a bit floral with apricots and lots of stone fruit. It's a great bargain at under $20 a bottle. Loved both.

We continued to taste a brand new blend called Tre Leoni, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Reserve Cab. Chef Mereday served a perfectly cooked duck course with blackberries and chèvre over a butternut squash puree. I tried it with all three reds and it worked each time. These reds from Whitehall Lane are all fantastic and extremely affordable considering where the grapes come from in Napa.

I love the concept of Mereday's. You get to pick from three to five courses with the option of a wine pairing. Each course offers you several choices and the prices range from a flat $55 to $115. The restaurant is full of natural light, sitting along the marina at Naples Bay Resort. The decor is trendy and the food is spectacular. Mereday's has a great Wednesday wine event too.

Check out these Fab Finds when you get a chance and be sure to share yours also.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wine Wednesday; NEW from Whitehall Lane

I've been a long time supporter of wines from Whitehall Lane in Napa Valley, California. So when I found out National Sales Manager Edd Lopez would be in Southwest Florida for a wine dinner at Cru tonight I was super excited. That is until I realized I couldn't go.

When I was invited to join him for lunch at Mereday's in Naples, the car on the roller coaster was back at the top of the track. Just as exciting, finding out Executive Chef and owner, Charles Mereday, is the former Executive Chef at South Seas Resort on Sanibel. I interviewed him when he first came to town. More on his new joint later this week, it is Wine Wednesday after all.

Whitehall Lane is well know for it's outstanding Cabernets among other things. However, they've never produced a blend with all of that good fruit, until now. Tre Leoni is a Cab based blend, made from estate fruit grown in Napa. Seven grapes flow together seamlessly in this new project. It's just being introduced to Florida this week.

Lopez said women were the inspiration for this wine. He used the words finesse and elegance, and that's all I needed to hear. I immediately smelled vanilla in the glass and tasted it too; along with plums and red fruit. There is a hint of cedar on the finish, it is fresh and darn good. Tre Leoni is already sold out at the winery so don't bother trying to order it. You can, however,  find it at Decanted in Naples and Mereday's will be serving it as soon as the delivery truck arrives.

Big thanks to Chef Mereday and his staff along with Heather from Opici Wines for pulling it all together. Happy Wine Wednesday! CHEERS!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fab Finds; New food and new designs

Pot Roast French Dip and Hogfish Rueben 
New food and new decor arrived at two of my favorite Southwest Florida Bistro's this week. Twisted Vine Bistro in downtown Fort Myers is in the middle of revamping it's menu and rolled out some new lunch specialties that are not just filling but fulfilling on every level.

The Pot Roast French Dip was among my favorites, stuffed full of flavorful meat and cheese. You could share one with a friend and each try a salad or soup too.

Twisted Vine's new chef now smokes his prime rib for another meaty and delicious new sandwich and the Fried Green Tomato BLT was perfect.  Yes, I tried all of them and then some.

A little further south in The Bell Tower Shops, Bistro 41's doors have been closed for two weeks for a facelift. I had to check it out the day it reopened and it feels good. Gone is the carpet, the blues and golds in the dining room; replaced with wood and warm, earthy tones. The bar is back lit and the lighting has been updated.

They were still working on a few finishing touches and hope to have all the "little things' taken care of by this week. New decor, but thankfully the same great staff.

One more find, one more Bistro. I stopped in Blue Water Bistro at Coconut Point in Estero this week for a little happy hour libation; BTW they have some really good, early dining specials right now.

When the oyster appetizer arrived, even the bar tender marveled at one of the massive molluscs on the plate; it clearly dwarfed the others. After some blue humored remarks, the negotiations began on who would tackle the big boy. As my friend and I began to eat around it, it seemed other patrons were now taking note, watching and waiting for the final, big slurp. This would not be a problem at the beach,  but it takes some finesse to do these things at a fancy restaurant. For the record, it was a success and it was delicious.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Seeking Seafood Suggestions

I'm very excited about my newest freelance gig; local editor/local expert for USA Today's 10Best. I get to help steer visitors to some of the best places in the Fort Myers area; from beaches to restaurants and everything in between. I'm just starting to update a couple of categories but none are complete yet. 

While working out of my second office this morning, Bennett's Fresh Roast, I was discussing the difficult task of updating the Best Breakfast category. There are sooooo many amazing breakfast spots, how do I narrow it down to just ten? You can bet Bennett's will be on there.

Pan Seared Scallops at Brew Babies
One of the other categories I'm currently working on poses the same problem; Best Seafood Restaurant. I live in a beach community, there are dozens. I stopped by Brew Babies in Cape Coral recently for a little nosh and glass of vino. The scallops were phenomenal but I can't classify this place as a seafood joint. I just wanted to take a minute to brag about how fantastic this dish was and post a photo.

Back to the problem at hand and a call for help. If you had to pick the best seafood  restaurants in the Fort Myers area. Which ones would be on YOUR list. You don't have to give me ten, just a few.

You can post here or email my trusty AOL account,

I can't wait to see which are your favs! Thanks and stay tuned for the update.