Hot Dish

March 23, 2011: Good deals, hidden secrets and more

BY March 23, 2011

Best Deal on a Southwest Florida Wine Dinner
There’s a special type of food lover who seeks out the best of  restaurants’ wine dinners, paying $60 to $130 for four to five courses, each served with a different wine. I think the best deal on price and quality comes the last Wednesday of each month with the $37 dinner at Estero’s Hemingway’s Island Grill.


Hemingway’s Island Grill at Coconut Point


Creative Executive Chef Justin Fleming weaves classics with the avant garde. He first picks wines, then challenges himself with a unique food pairingthe reverse of most chefs! Some dinners have keyed on Italian favorites or Greek cuisine; one was on shellfish and another focused on Florida favorites. The venison with balsamic sauce dinner is highly sought after. The March 30th 7 p.m. dinner will feature tempura gator with citrus remoulade (Clos Du Bois Reserve Chardonnay), Chorizo, littleneck clams and mussels with sherry tomato broth and grilled garlic crostini (Estancia Meritage), braised wild boar with Mexican molé-style cured tomato and chocolate, with ancho rice ( Kim Crawford Pinot Noir). Dessert is sundried cherry crème brûlée with bourbon caramel, paired with Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Brut. 


Inside Hemingway’s Island Grill’s wine dinner

I’ve sometimes paid three times that $37 and have not come close to Chef Justin’s quality of food or wines. Come enjoy pairing that “work” in an attractive setting at Hemingway’s Island Grill, 8001 Plaza Del Lago Drive, Suite 113, Estero, in Coconut Point. Reservations at 495-7240,


A Hidden Find for Breakfast and Lunch in Naples


I’ve had some of the best breakfasts and lunches in Southwest Florida over the past 10 years at Naples’ Trail Café and Grill, and now it’s even gotten better. 

Trail Cafe owners Patricia and Christopher Jubinville


Trish (the manager for three years) and husband/chef Christopher Jubinville, Johnson & Wales Culinary graduates, recently bought the café, refreshing this hidden Naples delight. Its elegantly homey look and made-from-scratch cuisine satisfies even the picky eaters. My breakfast favorites include the luscious razzleberry-stuffed French toast with glazed pecans and cognac razzleberry compote; grilled peach croissant French toast; and eggs Benedict.

Trail Cafe’s razzleberry-stuffed French toast

Lunch is a magnet with Brittany crepes lingonberry, mandarin orange and mascarpone; pecan chicken salad; and the D’anjou pear and turkey croissant is a must have. Wallet-friendly prices range from $7 to $12. Bonus: Look for great microbrews. 12820 Tamiami Trail N., 598-2480,

Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille replaced Vincenzo’s on the Bay in Bonita Springs after a few months of renovations. Brad Lewis and Chef Jon Venuto (formerly at Fort Myers Beach Parrot Key Caribbean Grill) has created a new Caribbean-style menu  and added live music on Friday and a chickee hut with a wide water view. The Tequila Oysters Rockefeller has spinach, bacon and Asiago cheese sauce spiked with Jose Cuervo. $ 9.95; the $12 bison burger is a full half pound, and you can have the $25 Gulf grouper served your wayfried, beer-battered, grilled and BBQ-style. Big appetites go for the $50, two-pound Alaskan crab cluster or the $33 aged porterhouse steak. Top off your meal with a $5 coconut sorbet served with strawberry mango salsa, and you’ll be singing Jimmy Buffet favorites on the way home. 676-7777, 5370 Bonita Beach Road,

Feast Like Hawaiian Royalty with Wine Tasters of Naples’ Cheers for Charity


The 600 fun-loving members of  Wine Tasters of Naples will have their popular Cheers for Charity yearly benefit at 6 p.m. on Saturday April 9, at The Player’s Club at Lely Resort. The theme is “Some Decanted Evening,” so there will be a generous wine tasting, very good live music and a silent auction with great deals.


Cheers for Charity silent auction

They know how to dine, too.  Savor roasted kalua suckling pig and pork shoulder, huli huli chicken, grilled mahi with pineapple salsa, and manapua stir fried vegetables. Desserts includes mango crisp, coconut flan and a colorful ice cream station. I attend many fine charity events in a year, and this is a favorite. Dress Hawaiian, and dine like royalty. Tickets are $85; reserve at 404-0254.


Crowd at Cheers for Charity


Let’s broaden our choices of great Southwest Florida restaurants together. Post your hints and experiences below or e-mail me at

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