Tapas to Die(t) For: Bites at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples

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.
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The Ritz-Carlton, Naples Lounge featuring Bites

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.

Bread Box Offerings at Bites

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.

Veal Cheek Pizza at Bites

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.

Cider Quail Breast at Bites

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.

Pork Belly at Bites

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.

Marinated Artichokes at Bites

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.

Polenta "Fries" at Bites

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.

Curried Chicken Meatballs at Bites

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.

Gyro Satay at Bites

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.

Chocolate Cupcake at Bites

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+

Click here for the previous post about Resort Activities at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

Click here for information on the Ritz-Carlton, Naples Spa-Cation deal.

Click here for information on Afternoon Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples

The Ritz-Carlton Naples
280 Vanderbilt Beach Rd.,
Naples, FL 34108 USA
Phone:  (239) 598-3300
www.ritzcarlton.com

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French Toast, Eggs, and Love: The National, NYC

The National, NYC

The logo etched in my mind, (a former graphic designer, fonts stick with me) I spied The National on the same block as our hotel the evening I arrived. The next morning BF and I walked over to have breakfast and remarked how we had already informally dined with The National, when we tested a burger  in February at the Food Network Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash event in South Beach.

We are both foodies and love to share, so we always request a booth or pull chairs beside each other as we are same side eaters. I know this is controversial to some, but it is much easier to share and converse on the same side. We were graciously seated in a booth and began perusing the menu. Ever strategic about our choices we always discuss our orders so we have a variety. 

Our selections:

French Toast, The National

French Toast: Brioche, Seasonal Fruit Compote, Maple Syrup
The French Toast was incredible. We both love brioche, so when we spotted it on the menu, the French Toast was in. The seasonal fruit was apples with rosemary. Such an amazing flavor together. In case you are wondering the maple syrup was, in fact real.

Scrambled Eggs, The National



Two Eggs Any Style: Local Farm Eggs, Roasted Potatoes, Grilled Country Bread    
We opted for our eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese on top. They were light, fluffy, and the perfect savory balance to the French Toast. Paired with roasted lightly seasoned fingerling potatoes, including the purples ones which we both love and shared potato for potato, and grilled bread that we topped with preserves.

We also sipped herbal tea (mine, with it’s own mini pot, which I always enjoy) and coffee (BF).

Final Thoughts: The breakfast was excellent and the wait staff charming and tolerant of our canoodling and (somewhat) excessive photo taking. We love food and can’t help documenting it. And the décor was fabulous as well! We will definitely be back when we are local.

Just as we were finishing up our meal, our waitress came over and dropped off this note:

The most touching note...

It was so unexpected and touching that we both were holding back tears at the thoughtfulness of our silent dining companion. What an amazing start to our vacation, an excellent meal and an incredible gesture.

Dine here yourself:

The National
557 Lexington Ave. (at 50th st.)
New York, NY 10022
Reservations T. 212 715 2400
www.thenationalnyc.com

The National Bar and Dining Rooms on Urbanspoon

NYC One of my favorite things: Frankies Spuntino

Frankies Spuntino

Serendipitous Event: BF and I were headed down Clinton Street to visit another eatery, when we spied Frankies Spuntino from the cab. We locked eyes and lamented it was such a shame it was our last day in the city and we wouldn’t have a chance to check out the little bistro with cool graphics and menuboard (we are suckers for a great logo). Upon arriving at abovementioned rival establishment, we were underwhelmed by the ambiance, so we backtracked to Frankies.

We were pleasantly surprised with only a 10 minute wait at 11AM on a Sunday, during which we chose to sample their mocha latte and cappuccino made with Stumptown Coffee beans. Both were strong, smooth, and very satisfying.

We were quickly escorted to our table in under the proposed 10 minutes and dove into the menu carefully planning our selections. (We love to share and strove to achieve the right balance of savory –vs- sweet ).

Our selections:

French Toast (utilizing Thick Cut Grandaisy Filone Bread) & Canadian Maple Syrup (Note: BF is a stickler. We’re only allowed Maple Syrup if it’s real, which this absolutely was!) Served with Fresh Seasonal Fruit.

French Toast

Avocado, Green Apple, Field Green Sandwich on whole grain bread with spicy mayo and a generous amount of cheese. (The menu item contains onion too, but we opted out of it.)

Sandwich filled with greens!

2 Crostinis: Cremini Mushroom & Truffle Oil and Ricotta with Local Honey & Black Pepper

Cremini Mushroom & Truffle Oil and Ricotta with Local Honey & Black Pepper

Oh. My. Goodness!
This was literally the best brunch either of us had ever eaten. EVER! The French toast was crusted to perfection with light battering over the artisanal bread. It had a satisfying crunch when cut and was pure heaven when dipped into the real maple syrup.

The sandwich, whose name I have forgotten in my post-food-coma, was a homerun as well. It included a generous amount of fresh avocado and tart green apples, balanced with a spicy mayonnaise. Presented between two soft slices of another artisanal bread, this one featuring oats on top, with field greens and several slices of mild cheese. The combination may sound slightly daring, but it was a phenomenal mouthful.

The crostinis were also delightful. Both were presented on crispy slices of French bread topped with oil and then mounded on top with their main contents. The Cremini Mushroom & Truffle Oil was a savory success, while the Ricotta & Honey was a sweet temptation. We spooned a tad bit of the ricotta onto a bite of the French Toast to create “the most perfect bite ever” and were not disappointed.

Dear Frankies, Phenomenal…..

At the end of the meal BF left a note advising that we will be back whenever we visit the city, and we most certainly will!

The service was as fantastic as the food. The wait staff is very polite and helpful and the kitchen staff extremely speedy.

Visit for yourself at:
Frankies
570 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Phone: 212-253-2303
http://www.frankiesspuntino.com/

Frankies Spuntino 17 Clinton Street on Urbanspoon

Sushi With A View: SAIA – Ft. Lauderdale

On Tuesday Foodies on the Fly headed over to B Ocean Ft. Lauderdale the newly opened hotel on the corner of Sunrise and A1A to try out SAIA, a fresh and modern sushi restaurant.

The stylish restaurant was tucked in the corner and decorated with fabulous lighting fixtures, sleek tables, and an incredible ocean front view great for people watching. The menu incorporates an eclectic mix of flavors and dishes are prepared to share.

From the moment we walked in the staff was attentive and offered excellent recommendations like the Fried Ripe Plantains (amazing) and the Palm Chicken (delicious). Their illustrative descriptions made choosing from the menu so much easier, especially since we’ve never been there and everything was new.

We started our dinner with fresh Edamame and a Vegetable Roll. Both were delivered quickly and presented on chic white plates. The edamame was served steaming and the roll was prepared inside out stuffed with asparagus, cucumbers, and arugula and topped with steamed spinach.

For an entrée we shared Palm Chicken, marinated tender and moist chicken, marinated in coconut, lemon grass, Thai chili, and citrus. Each bite was better than the next and bursting with flavors. The tiny pinch of curry added to the amazing experience and we could have each devoured another order!

We ended dinner with Fried Ripe Plantains served with a Honey Glaze dipping sauce (best part of dinner by far!). The plantains were perfectly battered and fried, light and crisp and the honey glaze added to their deliciousness. So, good in fact, we ordered them for dessert!

We couldn’t choose just one, although we tried! We started dessert with Lemon Grass Mango Crème Brule; the small dish was the perfect size for one and incorporated lemon grass and mango. The two flavors perfectly complimented each other, neither one too overpowering and the dessert altogether was light and refreshing. Perfect after a day at the beach.

As our second choice we tried the Coconut Ice Cream withFried Ripe Plantains. Our love affair with the honey glaze was obviously apparent because our server highly recommended the dessert, which had the glaze, drizzled all over it. The creamy coconut ice cream wasn’t to overpowering and the combination of plantains and coconut together was just amazing. Both desserts were perfectly proportioned for one, but sharing is highly recommended.

The Verdict:
If you are looking for a flavorful experience, new and innovative dishes, drinks, and desserts, this sleek and modern restaurant is a must try. SAIA is conveniently, located on the corner of Sunrise and A1A and is currently open nightly for dinner. You can reserve a table online at OpenTable.com or by calling the number below.

We’ve gone back to test out NEW items. Read all about them here.

B Ocean Ft. Lauderdale- SAIA
999 Fort Lauderdale Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL
954-302-5252

Bluefin Sushi and Thai – Parkland, FL

After driving all around Miami searching for Food Trucks on Friday and lunching at Rocco’s Tacos in Ft. Lauderdale there was only one way to end the long workweek. Sushi and Sake!

Livingsocial.com advertised a great deal for Bluefin Sushi and Thai but unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to participate in the special and opted to pay full price and I have no regrets.

Bluefin Sushi and Thai (6694 Parkside Drive) is located in a charming little shopping center hidden in Parkland, a quiet equestrian community in Broward County. We arrived around 9pm and the place was filled with patrons. Quickly greeted, we were seated within minutes and handed a menu that included sushi, Thai, and Japanese specialties. The extensive selection was overwhelming at first but without delay I started ordering from the menu.

First up, Spring Rolls ($6), crispy rolls stuffed with fresh vegetables and clear noodles served with sweet and sour sauce. The rolls were served hot and the portion was perfect for sharing.

Next, I ordered a simple Avocado/Cucumber/Asparagus Sushi Roll ($5), prepared with the seaweed outside, the roll was fresh and perfect for anyone who isn’t a fan of anything that swims.

As an entrée I decided to try the Chicken in Basil Sauce ($14), Sautéed basil, bell pepper, hot chili and onions. I ordered it with an extra kick, but all of the dinners on the menu can be prepared however you like (mild, medium, hot, or no spice).  Dinner was delicious, served hot, and left a lasting impression.

Aside from the food, one thing that really stood out was the staff. Everyone working that night was extremely helpful and polite to the clients as well as each other and that made the whole experience even more enjoyable.

The Verdict:
I will definitely return to Bluefin Sushi and Thai and highly recommend that you give them a try. Coupon or not, you will not be disappointed!

Side note: Try the Plum Sake-Tini. This sweet concoction is the perfect match for anything on the menu!

Bluefin Sushi Thai Grill on Urbanspoon