Ta·pas -noun light snacks or appetizers, usually eaten with drinks.
Ta·pas to di·et for -FOTF phrase any/all of the shared plates at Bites. So incredibly delicious, may influence other dining options before and after to counteract consumption of one too many plates.
Bites, the newest addition to the culinary options at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples offers globally styled tapas in the elegantly updated Lobby Lounge. The Bites concept is centered around shared experiences in a luxurious setting with the unparalleled Ritz-Carlton service. Diners have options from seven categories including: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables, breads and desserts, to taste while relaxing in comfortable club chairs and listening to a range of Latin American and contemporary scores (Lady Gaga!) played on the nearby piano.
Each Bites experience starts with a gourmet breadbox. The contents vary as they are baked fresh daily. Ours included a sliced rye bread baguette, blue cheese and caramelized onion muffins, and prosciutto parmesan breadsticks. The rye baguette had a mild flavor and paired well with the olive tapenade spread. Served warm, the muffin was my favorite out of the box. Sharp blue cheese offset the sweetness of the caramelized onion achieving a delicious balance. The breadstick was crunchy and savory with a blend of prosciutto, parmesan, and a hint of rosemary.
Our first three offerings were chosen by Chef Caleb Lara, from the award-winning Ritz-Carlton, Naples culinary team. Beginning with a guest favorite, the Veal Cheek Pizza, a crispy flatbread topped with tender pieces of peppery veal cheeks, fresh arugula, white truffle oil, shaved parmesan (aged one year to bring out its caramelized notes), and a few diced tomatoes. FOTF agree, this pizza is a must-order item.
Next we were presented with the Cider Quail Breast and fresh green apple salad with crunchy pancetta. The quail was moist, delicate, and sweet. The accompanying apple was refreshing with a nice contrast of crunch to the tender breast. This small plate had us tweeting, “The Cider Quail Breast was so good, we want to hunt down the rest of the bird!”. Seriously, if we weren’t trying to tackle as many plates as we could this evening, we would’ve ordered another. The flavors, texture, and presentation was simply perfection.
Our final blind selection included the Pork Belly with grilled peaches and frisée salad. Pork belly, with a 92% fat content, isn’t a cut of meat this foodie would typically order, but since it was one of the chef’s top three I picked up my skewer and joined in the experience. The bite had a thin crispy layer on top, then alternating layers of meat and fat. The grilled peaches were sweet with a faint smoky flavor; the contrasting textures on this dish were ideal.
The first of our selections were the Marinated Artichokes. These delicate artichoke hearts were topped with a creamy lemon aioli and diced herbs. A perfect accompaniment to the previous dishes and a light start to round two.
Next we have another small plate from the vegetable section, the Polenta “Fries”, and another FOTF favorite. These upscale “fries” are free to accompany my humble burger any day. Reminiscent of a cheese stick, (in appearance and pairing with the tomato compote) these are created from a thick slab of cornmeal, aka polenta. Warning: Even though these are meant to be shared, you may want to get your own order.
Then came the Curried Chicken Meatballs with peanut sauce, an ode to India. These moist ground chicken meatballs were lightly seasoned with hints of turmeric, cumin, and coriander and soaked in a creamy peanut sauce crowned with crumbled nuts. This dish was sweet, spicy, and satisfying.
Just as we were quickly realizing we were becoming quite full, the last of our entree plates the “Gyro” Satay arrived. The presentation, a beautifully deconstructed gyro with grilled chicken satay skewers atop a greek salad, with small pita rounds and a tzatziki side sauce, encouraged us to keep sampling. This modified Greek dish is a light bite perfect for anyone seeking a healthier option.
Of course you know by now, the FOTF girls cannot pass up dessert. No. Matter. What. Care to take a guess what was on the dessert menu? Chocolate Cupcakes!, one of our all-time favorite foods. Serendipitous. Three moist mini chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and gilded chocolate pieces arrived on an elegant serving dish (<— sadly, only one made it to photo time) alongside our cappuccinos. But wait, there’s more! They were joined by three mini ice cream cones filled with velvety smooth dark chocolate raspberry ice cream. Our shared love (and respect) of chocolate awakened our dormant appetites and we completed this course, with pleasure.
2 Foodies on the Fly, 9 small plates plus bread box, and not a crumb left. These truly are Tapas to Die(t) For.
Check back here tomorrow for the final post of our Spa-Cation weekend, including The Spa and =H20+