Hot Dish

Hot Dish: Feb. 25, 2009

BY February 25, 2009
Inside the Gulfshore’s Dining Scene
The Gulfshore’s Other Wine Festival
Missed the Naples Winter Wine Festival? Come sample great food and fine wines at the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest this Friday and Saturday. Top chefs will join 16 wineries at chef vintner dinners at select homes on Friday. Seats are still available, ticket prices vary and the quality is tops.

For the public, do not miss Saturday’s Grand Tasting and Auction, starting at 12:30 p.m. at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club in south Lee County. This is a rare opportunity for you to talk, face-to-face with two dozen chefs, and try their savory creations. You don’t often get that experience while dining in one chef’s restaurant!

Have auction fever? Rare Robert Rauschenberg prints, exquisite experiences, to-die-for trips and great wine packages top the auction items. Tasting and auction tickets are $300 each, all to benefit kids via The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Some of the many participating chefs include:

From Fort Myers and the beaches—
Norman Love; Harold Balink, H2; Michael Ragusa, Sandy Butler; Jayson Rydell, Flipper’s on the Bay; Todd Johnson, Artisan Bread Company; Gloria Cabral-Jordan, La Trattoria Napoli; Melissa Talmage, Sweet Melissa’s; Richie Wilim and Josh Zeman, Crü; Shannon Yates, Bacchus.

From Bonita Springs and Estero—
Nick Costanzo, Angelina’s Ristorante; Jeffrey Lucas, Ruth’s Chris Steak House; Danny Mellman, Danny Mellman Catering; Kristina San Filippo, Robb & Stucky Culinary Center; Wade Lowe, Roy’s; Andreas Singer, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa; Thomas Pedit, Miromar Lakes. 
From Naples—Brian Roland, M Waterfront Grille; American Culinary Foundation’s  Dream Team of Frank Setera, Ralph Feraco, Wilhelm Gahabka and Chris Jones will participate in the Grand Tasting and Auction.

Juelle Fisher of Fisher Vineyards

Vintners include Juelle Fisher from Fisher Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars, Silver Oaks Cellars, Poni Vineyards and V Madrone Vineyards. Come sample with me! For more information, visit


Real Macaw Has Staying Power

Naples’ Real Macaw has been a romantic favorite for more than 15 years, now offering a new bar menu. One of my favorite dishes is the roasted lamb rack with lavender and pomegranate couscous salad ($30). The cashew nut-encrusted scallops with a ginger beurre blanc, served over coconut rice ($24), is also a hit! The restaurant’s new bar menu, attractively priced with lighter fare, is served from 1 p.m. till closing (midnight or later). A popular pick is the jerked pork burger ($8.75) with green apple slaw on the side.

Real Macaw

Come evening, proprietor Jeanne Harvey offers live entertainment, as guitarists, vocalists and colorful macaws serenades you under the stars. Inside or out, it’s a touch of tropical Key West. Kick back with live reggae, Wednesday through Saturday, and enjoy this hidden tropical paradise. 3275 Bayshore Dr., 732-1188.

Comings and Goings…
Fort Myers’ Crü is back in the saddle after briefly closing in December. Owner Liz Kagan says the restaurant and bar is open with a popularly priced menu that changes daily. Crü is here to stay; Liz just signed a two-year contract with the Bell Tower Shops. Executive Chef Richie Wilim, Jr.’s preparations are beautiful and tasty.  
Bajio (bah-HEE-o) just opened its second location in Naples, near the NCH Downtown Hospital complex. Its signature full-sized horn-playing hombre welcomes you into a rustically modern grill, decorated with colorful tile and large, burnished copper pots. 

Quesadilla at Bajio

The best part is its delicious, abundant, freshly made food at family-friendly prices. I had the enormous grilled chicken lime quesadilla, filled with cheese, and topped with very tasty salsa, for $5.49. Enough for two! With prices from $2.50 to $7, this is as easy on the wallet as it can be. 470 Tamiami Trail N., 263-4074.

Let’s broaden our dining choices together. Post your hints and experiences of great Southwest Florida restaurants below, as a comment, or email


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