October 31, 2014

Appetite

Small bites, big flavor: Appetizers, such as the Sicilian meatballs, left, and the tuna tartare, right, are good enough to make an entire meal of them.Hitting the High Notes

“Wasn’t stillwater the band in Almost Famous?” Tom asked as we crossed the threshold into the new Stillwater Grille. It’s a familiar threshold: If you’ve ever eaten at Cin Cin or Lush on MacGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers, you’ve crossed it, too. The kitchen staff remains the same, but the new owners have revised the menu, doubled the portions and given the dining room a face-lift. We were seated in a high-backed, secluded corner booth.

“I loved Almost Famous,” I said. “For the rest of the evening, please call me Penny Lane.”

Our server was handsome enough to be in pictures, but undoubtedly too young to know that “pictures” refers to movies. Cory Richardson helped me choose from a list of 42 “Delectable Martinis” ($10.50 each). I was intrigued by the Cake ’N Frosting, the Flyin’ Hawaiian, the Fly Me to the Moon and the Swedish Fish, but I went with the Tres Chocolates: “Three Olives Chocolate Vodka and Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur and cream, served in a chocolate swirled martini glass.” You can never go wrong with chocolate.

“Careful, Penny Lane,” Tom said. “Don’t forget what happened to Kate Hudson’s character.”

“What a great scene that was! The young Cameron Crowe finds Penny totally bewitching even while she’s retching from an overdose. Remember? Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour plays throughout.”

Sensational solo: The chocolate pecan tart had our reviewer ready to burst into song to sing its praises. “You know, I could happily make a whole dinner out of these appetizers.”Tom shot me a look as if to say, “If you make yourself sick, I will not find you bewitching,” so to be on the safe side, we placed our food order. We requested the goat cheese, spinach and artichoke dip with flatbread crackers ($10) and the Sicilian meatballs ($11), and Cory encouraged us to add the seven tuna ($15), seven bites of seared Ahi tuna with dipping sauces. All three appetizers were excellent. 

“You know, I could happily make a whole dinner out of these appetizers,” Tom said. “The dip is so fresh and creamy, and the tuna is really good.”

“I’m amazed by how light those meatballs are,” I agreed. “And the red sauce is superb.”

We peered out from our little corner and took note of the other patrons, all of whom seemed to be enjoying their evening as much as we were. We saw several games projected and an ever-increasing number of sports fans enjoying martinis and appetizers around the bar. Stillwater’s website makes it clear that it take sports seriously, saying “You’ll find all the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB games on, in high definition, at Stillwater.” We also heard live jazz, a nightly affair at Stillwater.

In a fairly common role reversal in our household, Tom ordered the vegetarian flatbread with homemade red sauce, mushrooms, onions, kalamata olives, green peppers, fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, pecorino romano and mozzarella cheese ($14.99), while I had Cory bring me the 10-ounce, fresh-cut ribeye steak, which came with a salad and a fresh potato side ($28) in this case, mashed sweet potatoes that could have doubled as dessert. Perhaps our expectations had been raised a bit too high by the quality of the appetizers, but somehow, the entrées, while good, seemed to add up to something slightly less than the sum of their parts. 

Our faith was quickly restored by Stillwater’s desserts: the chocolate pecan tart and the peanut butter blast ($7.95 each). 

Envious entrees: With the desserts and appetizers setting the bar so high, the entrees, such as the fresh sea bass, had a lot to live up to.“Is that good enough to make you sing?” I asked Tom, pointing at his peanut butter blast. “Because this chocolate pecan tart is making me want to do a spontaneous aria right here and now.” 

“You know I make a point never to sing in public,” Tom said, “but the answer is yes. This might well be worth a tune or two.”

The new Stillwater Grille is hitting some high notes in south Fort Myers. 
 

Stillwater Grille 13451 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers; (239) 791-8554. Open Monday through Thursday 4 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Live jazz music. Friday and Saturday dance party at 10:30 p.m. Private events up to 42 guests. Reservations recommended. Free valet parking Thursday through Saturday. Credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible

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