I happily drive with friends from Naples to Cape Coral’s Brew Babies Garden Bistro for a weekend evening of dining and live jazz in the beautiful enclosed courtyard. Proprietor Wayne Elam and singer-wife Valerie’s unique destination offers healthful, fresh food. My favorites include the luscious seared duck breast with Port wine and fig reduction, the cranberry Thai cod and delicious cioppino. 1520 Lafayette St., Cape Coral, 542-2224, mybrewbabies.com
Now a year old, Naples’ Flava European Cuisine continues drawing in customers with its comfortable take on continental cooking with modern twists on traditional German, French, Swiss, and Italian classics. Escalope of veal wiener schnitzel with German potato salad, seared pork tenderloin with cremini morelle sauce and Gruyere mashed potatoes, and Barolo-braized beef short rib are among my favorites. The Mediterranean- style sautéed shrimp and sea scallops and the hanger steak au poivre are not found anywhere else in town. Finish with apple strudel or gelati. 849 Seventh Ave. S., Suite 101, Naples, 331-7829, fl avanaples.com
Chef Brooke’s Natural Café is a relaxing oasis with the tastiest organic homemade healthful food around. Whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, or are on sugar-free or gluten-free diets, you can find something delicious. Start lunch or dinner with a rich soup or salad, then perhaps a tempeh, chicken or wild salmon taco. The tuna tabouleh melt and curried chicken salad with figs and almonds are tops on my list. 1850 Boy Scout Drive, Fort Myers, 332-2433, chefbrookeonline.com
What We’re Drinking
We ask local wine experts for the bottles they are bringing home.
The name Dave Phinney may not ring a bell, but just mention Orin Swift to a savvy wine consumer and the response will likely be “awesome wines!” Phinney is the genius behind such Orin Swift labels as The Prisoner— which I introduced to you in these pages last year—Papillon, Mercury Rising and Abstract, just to name a few. The Prisoner became so popular so fast that Augustin Huneeus, owner of Quintessa, jumped at the chance to purchase the label. Phinney decided to sell so that he could bankroll new projects, but no one expected him to launch wines from Europe. Yet his first two European wines have hit the market to rave reviews. The first—enigmatically called Locations E 1—is produced from three prominent Spanish grapes: Garnacha, Rioja and Carinena. It is dark, robust and fruit driven. The other—Locations F 1—is a blend of Grenache from Roussillon, Syrah from Rhone and assorted Bordeaux varietals. This wine is more subtle, with spice and plum flavors and soft tannins. To add to his genius status, Phinney priced these wines so that they retail for less than $20, a major departure from his Napa projects and a gift to those of us who love a great glass of red wine every night.
—Sukie Honeycutt is the co-owner and wine director for Ridgway Bar and Grill, Bayside Seafood Grill and Bar and Tony’s Off Third.