Hot Dish: Dec, 10, 2008
Inside the Gulfshore’s Dining Scene
Goodbye to Crü
It’s the end of a brief, yet glorious era for Fort Myers’ Crü, which offered the last of its “Lush Wines and Pure Food” on Sunday in The Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers.
Launched in 2004 by owners Liz and John Kagan with then-Executive Chef Shannon Yates, Crü rode the crest of the housing boom, as affluent realtors, mortgage brokers, attorneys and others enjoyed the hip scene, dining on expensive, delicious and creative food, champagne and fine wines. They often arrived in chauffeured limousines and didn’t blink at $600 tabs for an evening for four. Heady stuff in heady times.
Shannon Yates left for other ventures. Brian Roland became executive chef for a while, leaving in October to start M Waterfront Grille in Naples. And fine dining took a hit from the economy’s implosion, especially in Fort Myers, as once-affluent realtors struggled to sell one house a year in a sea of foreclosures, and builders went bankrupt.
Crü’s Executive Sous Chef Josh Zeman and Executive Chef Richie Wilim, Jr.
Crü’s menu changed with the times—prices were lowered while still maintaining finer quality. Unfortunately the restaurant’s reputation as a watering hole for high rollers persisted, and business plummeted before it closed its doors permanently on Sunday. There are no immediate plans for a successor in that location, and it isn’t clear what Executive Chef Richie Wilim shall tackle next. Crü’s closure is a major loss for Fort Myers’ fine-dining scene.
Sur La Table brings cookware, not classes, to Naples
Sur La Table has opened at Mercato in Naples. This well-known national chain of kitchen and home supplies joins Williams-Sonoma and The Good Life, offering a generous assortment of mid- to higher-end cookware, bakeware and all sorts of tempting appliances and cookbooks, cutlery and housewares.
Stocking stuffers at Sur La Table
While other Sur La Table stores offer popular in-depth cooking classes, store reps have told me that due to the limiting floor plan of the 5,000-square-foot store, the Naples branch cannot offer in-house cooking classes. However it may soon partner with Whole Foods next door on cooking classes.
I’ve happily shopped at Sur La Table stores for years—a delight for home cooks and bakers! Sur La Table in Mercato, 9105 Strada Place, Naples, 598-3586.
Naples loses seafood and cheesecake delights
Naples’ popular The Tropical Reef Seafood Restaurant and neighboring Naples Cheesecake Company, owned by E. Bryan “Bubba” Sutton and his family, has closed. Located across from Albertson’s at 8050 Tamiami Trail North, Tropical Reef was a local favorite and a popular booth at Taste of Collier.
Tropical Reef owner E. Bryan “Bubba” Sutton
A posting on the restaurant’s Web site thanks their “Hot-N-Crunchy Grouper Fans” for the opportunity to serve them over the past seven years. It says they closed “with a heavy heart” and that “too many things were working against us to keep it going.” Alas, a familiar refrain in this difficult economy.
Great coffee, comfy couches and smooth jazz
The Bayshore Coffee Company is one of the few Southwest Florida venues combining varied, top musicians with the best coffee and good food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It does so with a very low cover price of $4 and themed entertainment nights such as bluegrass, alternative music, and my favorite, light jazz singer Kathryn Taubert. She’ll be returning with her band ALLTHATJAZZ from 8-11 p.m. Dec. 27.
Joey Dio, Kathryn Taubert and Woody Brubaker at The Bayshore Co.
The restaurant is a relaxed, intimate setting to listen to music with its fireplace, comfy overstuffed chairs and sofas. 3570 Bayshore Drive, Naples, 775-5676. Click on this link for December's entertainment schedule at The Bayshore Coffee Company: bayshorecoffee.com/calendar.pdf.
Let me know your thoughts— by posting comments below—on the closure of local restaurants, Sur La Table opening or great dining entertainment. Or e-mail your ideas to me at Diningscene@live.com.