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.

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


A Taste Of SUGARCANE Raw Bar Grill – Miami, FL

With our reservations confirmed, we arrived at SUGARCANE raw bar grill slightly early and headed to the interior bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Elbow to elbow with what seemed like half of Midtown we were promptly served the Lemongrass: Zonin Prosecco cocktail with housemade thyme honey, fresh lemon and lemongrass infused rum and a custom Elderflower cocktail (off the menu). The beverages were both bright and refreshing, (with Prosecco, you really can’t go wrong) and the introduction of lemongrass and honey was an unexpected delight.

Cocktails at SUGARCANE

Shortly afterward, the iPhone rang (you are called when your table is available) and we were ushered to a bistro table adjacent the bar (reminiscent of ours- sans the signature candelabra & pink chairs). Our waiter presented us with menus and explained that the tapas style menu would be prepared in 3 separate kitchens: a robata grill, sushi station/raw bar, and typical kitchen, and thus all items would arrive when complete to ensure freshness. (Note: SUGARCANE supports local farmers and sustainability efforts. Always a plus when you can dine where local food was sourced.)

After reviewing the extensive menu we decided on the following: Tapas: Heirloom Tomatoes, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Goat Cheese Croquettes, and Kobe Beef Sliders. Robata Grill: Beef Short Ribs. Sushi Rolls: Crunchy Tuna.

Heirloom Tomatoes

The Heirloom Tomatoes arrived first with fresh burrata cheese, strawberries, mixed greens and pinenuts and were topped with a sweet balsamic. The crunch of the nuts and greens perfectly accented the smooth burrata and fresh tomatoes.

Goat Cheese Croquettes

Next to the table: Goat Cheese Croquettes with membrillo marmalade. Not your typical cheese sticks, these lightly coated and fried orbs were much less dense and boasted a mild flavor, accented by the quince underneath.

Crunchy Tuna Sushi Roll

The Crunchy Tuna Sushi Roll followed. This roll pairs rare tuna with avocado and spicy tempura flakes, sesame seeds and sweet chili jelly atop. Served with the requisite ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce on the side. The FOTF were torn with the sweet chili, one for, and one against. Being the pro-sweet chili (combines my love of heat & sweet) I gladly helped myself to more than half. Overall it was my favorite, but there was a close contention with the next plate…

Kobe Beef Sliders

The Kobe Beef Sliders were a close second for my affection. Presented on mini toasted brioche buns and adorned with a fried quail egg. Biting into these tall sliders was tricky, but when the yolk punctured and coated the premium beef with a rich salty glaze, all thoughts of propriety immediately left me as I focused on savoring every bite. (Note: I think it’s pretty much impossible to eat these without making at least a little mess, so focus on your plate, not your partner or date.)

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Speaking of dates… A signature creation of Executive Chef, Timon Balloo, the Bacon Wrapped Dates were a must-try. SUGARCANE’s version were stuffed with manchego cheese and linguica (Portuguese sausage). Another hit for this restaurant with the sweet and savory combination, these dates did not disappoint. Around this time, overheard by a nearby diner “I love SUGARCANE. I bring all my dates here.”

Beef Short Ribs

The final plate of the evening, was the Beef Short Ribs done Korean style from the robata grill. All robata items are traditionally prepared over bincho-tan charcoal and these tend to take a little longer then the other tapas. The short ribs were absolutely worth the (brief) wait and carried a wonderfully smoky flavor.

For two average diners, 6 tapas may be just about the breaking point. We would have loved to have tried more, and will on a return visit, but do recommend all of the above. This FOTF girl’s top three were 1. Crunchy Tuna Sushi Roll 2. Kobe Beef Sliders 3. Heirloom Tomatoes. We also recommend calling ahead or going online for reservations.

SUGARCANE raw bar grill
3252 NE 1st Ave. #115
Miami, FL 33137 (Midtown)
Ph. 786-369-0353
twitter: @sugarcanerawbar

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