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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Take a Spa-Cation at the Ritz-Carlton – Naples, FL

SYMPTOMS: Excessive checking of your smartphone/iphone/blackberry, dreams of uncompleted projects or a continuation of your work day, tension in your back, neck, and shoulders from carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders (or just an uncomfortable desk chair)…

DIAGNOSIS: In dire need of a relaxing weekend… and some pampering.

TREATMENT: Spa-Cation at the Ritz-Carlton – Naples, FL 

Relaxation is waiting at the Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton is now offering a summer Spa-Cation package until September 30,2011. You are invited to relax and restore your senses with their unparalleled service coupled with rejuvenating treatments at the Spa.

The package includes: Overnight accommodations in a coastal view room, a $200 Spa Credit per night, and Lunch for Two in the Spa’s new =H20+ wellness eatery (per night).

This weekend we will be heading to Naples to test drive this offer for you. Stay tuned for live tweets on the hotel, accommodations, spa, and of course the food! Can’t wait to hear more about this resort, check out our review on the Ritz-Carlton, Naples High Tea service.

The fine print: Rooms starting at $419 per night. Package is subject to availability and cannot be combined with any other offer. Advance reservations are required; rates do not apply to groups. Rates listed are per room, per night, single or double occupancy, and exclusive of taxes, gratuities and other charges unless otherwise noted. Hotel and resort credits cannot be used toward room rate, tax, resort fee or gratuities. Credit cannot be reimbursed or exchanged if not used. Credit must be used during stay.

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

Afternoon Tea: Ritz-Carlton – Naples

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Henry James

I started my journey of teas at a young age, influenced greatly by a mother and grandmother who always hosted tea and dessert about an hour after dinner. As I grew into my own, my love for tea only grew deeper. I went beyond Lipton Orange Pekoe and began sampling English Breakfast, Earl Grey (still one of my favorites!), Chamomile, and Green teas. Today, I get excited about new blends (especially ones including mate) and mix my own varieties of loose leaves depending on my mood, meal pairing, or energy level.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do: Have high tea at the Ritz. Joined by my fellow tea enthusiast boyfriend, it was everything I always pictured it would be.

Upon arrival, we were led to a precious little table set for two with Wedgewood china and signature Ritz Carlton silverware. The afternoon tea menu we were presented with was quite extensive and after some contemplation, we decided on a pot of each: Eros (sweet mandarin orange and warm vanilla with ceylon leaves) and Shanghai Rose (black tea leaves infused with lychee and rose) with the full high tea service. Arriving to the table first were crystal flutes of perfectly chilled champagne for our “high tea toast”. A few minutes later they were followed by two aromatic pots of freshly diffused tea. Once our tea had time to steep to the correct temperature we were greeted with a three tiered tray of deliciousness including: assorted tea sandwiches on the top tier (prosciutto, egg salad, classic English cucumber, and smoked salmon rosette), followed by two freshly baked raisin scones with Devonshire cream and preserves on the middle tier, and lastly a decadent display of assorted sweets (fruit tartlets, puff pastries, shortbread and ginger cookies and a perfect chocolate espresso bite) covering the bottom tier.

The attentive staff stopped by our table often to check on our progress and perfectly timed each “course”. After every one of the tiered indulgences (each more lovely than the last) was sampled we were treated to a (by this time, forgotten) parfait of strawberries and fresh whipped cream with Grand Marnier on top.

At this point I did not feel I could sample another morsel but after one spoonful of the luscious cream I realized I was mistaken, and promptly finished the parfait, and some of my boyfriend’s as well. (Justification: I graciously gave him more (most) of the tea sandwiches in the beginning. I knew I wanted to save for the sweets!)

Indulgent: Yes! A must see/do: Definitely!

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