Scene & Heard
Attention, cupcake lovers: New sweets are coming to town. Grace Bolen, the fine hand behind those popular Gracie’s Cupcakes shops in Naples and Fort Myers, is teaming up with star philanthropist and socialite Shelly Stayer for a new sweet shop—Grace and Shelly’s—on Fifth Avenue South in Naples. Grace, a Wharton School grad-turned baker, and Shelly bonded over their shared love of cupcakes, Naples and their daughters. Shelly has an extensive background in food service and will plunge right into day-to-day operations when the store opens in November. I wish I could have joined Shelly for her recent research in New York—a cupcake tour to find the best frostings around. Batter up! Count on me to be following my sweet tooth to Fifth Avenue South and the results of her quest.
Fishing and Playing
It was a reel pleasure once again as dozens of Fort Myers’ oldest families gathered in July for the annual Lil’ Crackers fishing tournament on Useppa Island. The annual event drew such notables as Jen and Jared Hartley, Sawyer Smith, Sean and Kristen O’Halloran, and Anne and Will Wittenborn. The organizers invited their friends and families out to the barrier island for a weekend at the private Useppa Island Club for the angling competition, a cookout, and lots of poolside fun. The bonus: They also got to celebrate the birthday of Gulfshore Life ad executive Wendy Tooley, and her husband, Todd, even got the band to belt out a birthday tune in her honor. Useppa, which briefly served as a CIA training base in preparation for the Bay of Pigs invasion back in 1961, is a place you shouldn’t miss. The Collier Inn there is open to the public.
The ambiance of good food and goodwill made Celebrity Chef Night at Rumrunners restaurant last August a great deal for Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers. Renowned Naples chef Fabrizio Aielli made the trip from his Third Street South restaurant Sea Salt to Cape Coral, joining forces with chefs from Rumrunners, The Joint, CrÜ, Yabo and Chef Brooke’s Natural Cafe. Norman Love created a dazzling dessert display. Nearly 350 guests attended and got to sample delicious foods, fine wines and a lobstertini (yes, a lobster-flavored martini). And the auction pulled in $70,000 for Barbara’s Friends, more than double the total of the previous year. We got to that number thanks to the unscripted help from auctioneer Scott Robertson. I was emcee and he was a guest—and I implored him, successfully, to ply his trade to get the bidding up. The payoff was instant and big. Thanks, Scott. Kudos, too, to event organizer Al Kinkle for making this Rumrunner night a spirited affair.
Speaking of Chef Fabrizio Aielli… I just learned he’s opening another restaurant on Third Street South, right down from Sea Salt. Fabrizio’s wife, Ingrid, told me it will be called Barbatella and will offer fresh pasta, pizza and homemade gelato in a casual, Italian-style courtyard restaurant. Look for the opening this month or in November.
A Step Forward
They’re sure getting their Arts for ACT together, as the annual auction at Harborside Event Center in August was long on entertainment value and a step forward on the fundraising side. It was “Graffiti Night” with slogans everywhere. Guests entered on a Hollywood-inspired red carpet and were interviewed by the Downtown Diva. The broadcast went by live feed into the ballroom. “We made more money than last year,” says Jennifer Benton, executive director of Abuse Counseling Treatment Center. “We didn’t make our goal of raising $300,000 because of the economy, but everyone had a great time.” A one-of-a-kind painting by Captiva artist Daryl Pottorf and actress Sharon Stone drew the highest winning bid—$16,000 from Jeff and Marion Lenz. The momentum’s building for even another leap ahead next year.
So Naples and so glorious: With philanthropist Denise Cobb celebrating a big birthday in May, her devoted husband, Brian, and BFF Shirlene Elkins put together a beach party that blended elegance, warm camaraderie and some nice creative touches. This was a clambake featuring grilled Maine lobster and succulent clams along with a champagne toast from 16 of her dearest pals. Among those at the beautifully appointed tables lining the Naples shoreline were J.D. and Mary Susan Clinton, vintners Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo, Jim and Martha Figge and Sandy Stilwell. As the sun set, the guests moved indoors to be entertained by fellow guest and singer/songwriter Wendy Webb. Wendy’s soulful tunes delighted everyone, including her beaming husband, author Randy Wayne White. Just say this cool gathering clearly hit all the right notes.
Rising star alert! If you want to see the Collier County high school student who catapulted to national fame earlier this year on the hit NBC show The Voice, get your tickets to the Bayshore Festival of the Arts for early next year. The event is headlined by Voice finalist Casey Weston at Sugden Regional Park, January 28–29. That girl can really bring it.
What a Pair
You’ve got to rank Cassie and Moses up there among the oddest of odd couples. Cassie, a feral kitten, was saved by Moses, a crow, and they are the subject of a new children’s book by former Naples Daily News columnist Lisa Flemming. Cat and Crow: An Amazing Friendship comes out this month. Jack Hanna, host of TV’s Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, calls it “an amazing story of two unlikely animals that have been magically brought together. This heartwarming book will have you smiling.” It’s also heartwarming to know that Lisa will donate the proceeds from local book signings to area animal and wildlife organizations.
Is there some connection between newscasts and diapers? A slew of Gulfshore news anchors and reporters are expecting babies in December and January. WINK morning news anchor Lindsay Liepman and her reporter husband, Nick Spinetto, are expecting a boy. Fox 4 anchors Lisa Spooner and Amy Wegman are both expecting in December, too. At NBC-2, veteran crime reporter Meaghan Smith and her Cape Coral police officer husband will welcome a baby girl in November. And, finally, my husband and I are expecting a baby girl in January. Becoming a new mom in your mid-40s is a bit frightening. But our seven-year-old son, Jack, brings us so much joy, we can hardly wait for number two. The only downside is trying to find maternity clothes for the next four months. Family expansion, yes. Garment expansion, no, no, no!